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Social Graces: Fielding Personal Questions in Public Places

An Open Letter to The Friendly Stranger

By Kimberley B.

Dear Friendly Stranger,

I just wanted to drop you a note to remark on our wonderful encounter over the weekend.

I must apologize for my extreme rudeness. Had I not been in such a rush, I would have taken the time to answer your questions about my sex life, my disability, how I go to the bathroom and the countless others that you shouted at me in slow motion while I was shopping.

Your shocked awe at my presence was a wonder to behold and I sincerely thank you for being so proud of me for being in public. I also enjoyed the attention of all the other shoppers who stopped to look after you loudly pointed out to your children that I didn’t have any legs. Had you not done that, I most likely wouldn’t have even been noticed by anyone. The crowd that gathered to look at my legs and blocked my path gave me a pleasant opportunity to rest.

I know, it’s hard to believe that I can do anything at all considering my lack of legs - something that you pointed out both verbally and physically five or six times. Although I ignored your questions, please know I did hear you as my amputations have not affected my hearing. Thank you so much for speaking as loudly as you did. It wasn’t necessary however to speak as slowly as you did.

It was so nice of your children to climb onto my lap. That final touch, when your wife patted me on the head and ruffled my hair - well, you can just imagine how “special” I felt.

Again, I apologize for not answering you on the spot. It was unforgivably rude of me considering you took the time to crouch down and smile so sweetly at me. The baby voice was an especially nice touch.

But to answer your questions: yes, even with this wheelchair and all, I can have sex. I can also count small change, pet puppies and generally muddle my way through life. Yes I can use the bathroom, I can read and I in fact, drove myself to the store. No, I don’t know the food bank hours; I don’t live in a hospital; I don’t know Lennie down the street who “gimps around town” and pardon me, but I do not care at all about the time you fell out of the hayloft and had to ride in the wheelbarrow for a week.

I do have a job (unlike yourself, but good luck with that) – and thank you for the tips on how to get soda using Food Stamps, but I pay my own bills.

And although you didn’t ask, my name is Kimberley.

Sincerely,

Me