We've all been taught that it's not polite to stare at people. And then there's the golden rule, to treat others the way you want to be treated. These basic kindergarten rules then grow up to become a sense of political correctness when we're adults. My sense of political correctness, specifically the "do not stare at the minority person" rule, has been drilled so far into me that I'm pretty sure I fail to make equivalent eye contact with the disabled person in the room, for example, as I do with everyone else. Then I realize that I'm overcompensating for the risk of staring, so I look over and smile at them, but it's calculated, a bit belated, and therefore unequal. I think that this scenario demonstrates that at the core I am missing the mark on equality, although I like to think that at least the spirit of political correctness is captured in my over-thinking.
I've been thinking about these things this evening because today I was a victim of staring. Yep. A table full of 6-year-old girls, with heads tilted and jaws dropped, were blatantly staring at my bald head. I wasn't intentionally rocking the baldness; my scarf came off when I removed my winter hat. Their stares were instantly hilarious, so I gave them a huge grin before reapplying my scarf and returning to my girls and our party (happy birthday, Mazzy!). With my scarf in place, they lost interest in me, but their stares had made an impression.
I do not anticipate any self-esteem issues resulting from this encounter because I am emotionally comfortable with my baldness. Also, the perpetrators were six. Instead I have learned a valuable lesson: sometimes people don't behave in the most polite manner, but as long as the error is coming from a naive or good-intentioned place, perhaps it's okay. Perhaps it can even be funny to watch people fumble with their political correctness. This lesson is not to say that good manners are unnecessary; rather, I'm hoping that this experience will help me to stop over-thinking my interactions with the minority in the room and to simply treat people like people. I also hope that when I fail, I will more readily laugh at myself for how ridiculous I must have looked.