She Can’t Remember A Day When Any One Didn’t Stare At Her At Public Places.
Everyone is different. Isn’t that the great thing in life? Everyone has their own unique looks and personalities. Things would get pretty darned boring if we were all the same, don’t you think? Some are born with incredible beauty, while others are born with beautiful hearts. Either way, people can shine their own light when it comes to being a good person.
This past year has been crazy and downright scary for all of us. We have to wear masks to help prevent the spreading or receiving of the deadly germs. And if you’re not wearing a mask when out and about, please do so. It’s vital to try to stop this thing in its tracks.
Although these masks may seem a nuisuance to some, Hannah, who lives in Virginia, is quite comfortable wearing one of them, as it hides her face from the world.
She was born with a severe facial anomaly that causes stares and whispers from people everywhere she goes. Her lips are stretched open from each other, constantly exposing her teeth and gumline. The 30-year-old has gone through numerous surgeries – more than 50, actually — to fix the deformity. But to this point, nothing has worked.
She also has a treacheostomy tube sticking out of her neck and makes what she describes as a funny sound when she talks. Used to be that Hannah could only find at least some degree of comfort around others during Halloween get-togethers, when she could get away with wearing a mask. But, of course, that is here and gone in no time and she must face the world for another year with a look that others tend to talk about.
She and her husband make and sell elderberry syrup at various farmers markets. She often wonders now if wearing Covid masks drive more business to their setup than before, when her face was exposed. She recalls all the whispering and pointing from others, and how many would come up to her and immediately turn and walk away when they saw her face. So many people seem to be scared of her.
There are also those who pity her and try to give her sympathy. They do this while believing that her deformity somehow affects her intelligence. It doesn’t.
Says Hannah: “The other day I was at a store asking for firewood and the employee couldn’t understand me, despite me speaking slowly and enunciating my words to the best of my ability. I finally wrote down “wood” on my hand and the second he understood what I was asking him he started speaking slowly to me and enunciating all his words, as if I couldn’t understand him or because I had to write my request down that made me less intelligent.
Essentially, he equated my perceived lack of intelligence based on how I looked and how he interpreted my voice. He was very kind and doing the best he could do, and was trying his hardest to help me, but he didn’t slow down and change his demeanor until after an accommodation had been needed. Only then did he seem to assume my ability or intelligence level.”
Although Hannah has tried to have her facial deformity fixed over the years, she is not ashamed of herself in any way, saying she loves herself and she loves her body. And she claims she has gotten so much further in life than all of her doctors ever gave her credit for.
Here is just a short list of her accomplishments: She has received her master’s degree, she has lived overseas, she is the foster parent to some teenagers… just as wild as teenagers tend to be. And she believes she has taken on all of the adventures that she could ever hope for in life. But her biggest setbacks come when she’s pumping gas or attending one of her foster children’s karate classes. The stares are constant.
Says Hannah: “I know the stares are often times people trying to understand or creating narratives in their own heads as to what could have happened to me to result in various tubes and an atypical looking face. I do not speak for all the people with medical conditions, or disabled people, but I know that I would much rather be asked a question about why I look the way I do than be whispered about as I pass you by. It’s ok to ask questions! Human beings are curious and instead of silencing that curiosity we need to learn to embrace it.”
One of Hannah’s favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, which goes: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
She would love to “normalize” everyone into knowing that there is no normal. Everyone is different and we all need to appreciate those differences as others appreciate ours. And just because someone looks different than us, we do not have to treat them any different at all.
Says Hannah: “Instead of worrying about that, we can choose to celebrate those differences and remember how vibrant and diverse our world is. It is such a privilege to learn, grow and share from those different than us and every day we can choose to embrace those opportunities. … Teach your kids to love, accept and affirm all bodies.”
Sounds like a pretty good idea.