In response to an email last week I arranged to meet someone who also has a facial disfigurement in Clonakilty. Tony was just 16 when he was badly burned in a shed fire. Most of the burns were to his face and hands, but he’s a very positive guy.
We were seated in the restaurant of a local hotel, a pretty busy place at lunchtime, but we were so engrossed in conversation I barely had time to register who was present. The only one who seemed mildly curious about us was a little girl who stole glances in my direction every so often, but that’s to be expected and that never bothers me.
In telling his own story, Tony reminded me how he came to terms with the staring and name calling he suffered. And I have to say his attitude is very refreshing. He simply faced down the taunters and told them to get lost. Simple and effective as it turns out.
It takes a lot of guts to stand up to people, to insist that you are as good as others and deserving of the same respect and dignity. Your facial difference shouldn’t appear threatening to them, nor be the object of ridicule. Why is it children are the most tolerant and teenagers and adults less so? Where do the prejudices spring from? And why pick on those of us who have either been born with this face or were left with it following an accident or disease? God knows life is hard enough dealing with facial disfigurement besides other people adding to our problems.
We deserve to be respected, to be allowed lead normal lives like everyone else. So don’t point or stare when you see us. Try not to show your real thoughts – we are pretty good at reading them. It comes from years of practice and having to endure daily humiliation. Don’t make our lives harder than they need be.