Com­bat­ing un­war­ranted stares

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Maria Gant Page Editor: li­u­meng@glob­al­times.com. cn

My friends and fam­ily have al­ways told me that my hair is mas­sive and fiery red. Peo­ple would look in the US, but noth­ing could have pre­pared me for Bei­jing. I stepped off the plane at Bei­jing in­ter­na­tional air­port, and as soon as I was in the im­mi­gra­tion line, the stares were ap­par­ent. They weren’t quick glances ei­ther. They were full-on star­ing with no shame. I re­mem­bered my time in Bei­jing when I stud­ied abroad two years ago, but maybe my hair got big­ger be­cause I had tod­dlers, teenagers, adults and the el­derly break­ing their necks just to con­tinue star­ing.

For Spring Fes­ti­val, I went to Di­tan Park with my room­mate and a co­worker. At the time, I had long dark red twists in, and my co­worker has locks, so we were a sight to see. Of course, peo­ple stared as we walked by, not only be­cause of our hair but be­cause we also had Mon­key King an­ten­nas on. One brave soul asked us for a pic­ture, and then a mob of peo­ple started wait­ing in line for their turn for a photo with us.

Many of them asked if my hair was real or ex­ten­sions and were even more shocked when I could an­swer them in Chi­nese. Most days, the star­ing gets to be an­noy­ing, but that day, the stares were filled with won­der, cu­rios­ity and pure joy.

I started work­ing at a new school af­ter Spring Fes­ti­val. Most of the kids stared and gasped when­ever I walked by. I de­cided to face the stares head on in the class­room right from the be­gin­ning. I put a slide on my in­tro­duc­tory Pow­erPoint ti­tled Big Hair, Don’t Care which showed me in the many hairstyles that my stu­dents will see me wear­ing through­out my time at the school. I told them that it was okay to ask me ques­tions about my hair and say what they thought about it. How­ever, I made it very clear that you can look, but you can­not touch, which was nor­mally fol­lowed by the class laugh­ing be­cause they all wanted to touch my hair.

I still get a lot of stares and com­ments from my stu­dents, but I am quick to ask them why they are so shocked. Some days it is re­ally frus­trat­ing to have ev­ery­one star­ing at you. But a stu­dent once told me that their be­wil­dered looks are not be­cause they think my hair is weird but that many of them have never seen hair like mine and wish they could get their hair as big as mine. My stu­dent’s re­sponse was cute, but how can I nor­mal­ize my stu­dent’s re­ac­tions when ev­ery­where I go I am met with the same re­ac­tion.

I know I can­not get an­gry ev­ery time some­one tries to take a photo of me or stares at me for long pe­ri­ods of time. So now, I act like I am tak­ing a pic­ture of them and be­gin a star­ing com­pe­ti­tion with those who stare at me for more than five sec­onds. It’s now a game for me, and I al­ways win.

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