Dirty Looks

I remember dirty looks as well as I remember unkind words.

When I was a young child I remember staying at my grandparents.  They lived across the street from the grade school and there was some sort of school fair event.   I remember being there.  And having cotton candy.   I remember walking back ‘home’ to the grandparents and passing  a woman who gave me  a very dirty look.  You know that kind of “disgusted” look people can give one another with the sneer on their face and a look down their nose at you.   I didn’t know why.  When I got to my grandma’s they didn’t give me dirty looks.  They kind of chuckled.   Apparently I was covered in cotton candy.  Clothes.  Hair.  Arms.  It occurred to me that the lady thought I was a dirty little kid.  I remember feeling like a dirty little kid.

When I was  in grade school I remember being at a school holiday program.  After the program there were many of us still there.  Hanging out.  Enjoying being at school when it wasn’t really school.  A group of us gathered around a piano for someone who was playing songs.   I look across from me and one of my classmate’s sister was standing there.  She was Down Syndrome,  I think.  I’m not sure.  I remember she was one of the “Special Children”.   I smiled at her.   We were all there in the Christmas spirit.   It was a happy setting.  The principal of the school was there, next to this young girl.   The young girl pulled on his sleeve, and to my horror, told him I was laughing at her.  He soothed her and shot me dirty looks.  My heart still hurts thinking about that.  That she thought I was laughing at her.  And that he thought I was capable of laughing at her.

After high school I moved away from my ‘home town’.   I got married.  I got heavy.  I got very heavy.   I can’t tell you how many dirty looks I got when I was at my heaviest.   And I can’t tell you how many times my world seemed full of faces frowning at me.

That’s what I saw looking out.

And what was seen looking at me?

I am sure there are those who have crossed my path in life who when they were looking out from where they were, I appeared to be looking in, to where they were.   And I know that having lived as long as I have, I have shot from my face, my own fair share of dirty looks.

I try very hard to reflect on what it is I do, and who it is I am, and want to be.   For every hurt or wrong I feel I have encountered I want to stop and pay attention.   I don’t want to be righteous and indignant about wrongs inflicted on me.   Not as much, anyway, as I want to pay attention to what hurt me to see if I have done the same to others.

And those dirty looks I received in my life are not near as painful to me as the dirty looks I gave.

38 thoughts on “Dirty Looks

  1. It takes a strong person to responsibility for their own actions. Sometimes though people misunderstand our looks. I know I’ve been accused of a dirty look when it was just a plain old look. Sometimes a look is just a look.


  2. I have t-shirts with various sayings if people have a problem with how I look. I have had a librarian give me a dirty look and then was rude to me when I needed help with something. After that I refused to let her help or check out anything for me, when she would start to ask if I needed help I would walk away from her in mid-sentence.


  3. And *sob* it’s so easy to give the dirty look accidentally. Somebody emailed me yesterday apologizing for offending me, which he hadn’t. But I fretted and fretted all night. What had I done to make him think I was offended? Do I need to work on my friendly people face? I agree with you that the dirty looks we give are the most distressing to think about.


    • That was nice of him to email you. I’ve often fretted about upsetting someone-do I apologize? Is that going to help? What if it’s just me being paranoid? Our faces certainly give us away don’t they? 🙂


  4. Sometimes a dirty look is my scape goat for the tongue not moving.Later I am usually glad that all they got was a look and not a tongue lashing.I wear every emotion on my face and it can be horrible.


    • The face betraying us isn’t just when it’s a dirty look, it’s when we are vulnerable, pained, confused, happy, surprised, you name it. It’s no wonder we can’t control it all of the time, it’s constant!

      I don’t want a poker face. But I know I need “some” control!


  5. Oh, this post was convicting. I echo what lexiesnana says about “wearing every emotion on my face.” I need to exercise more discretion so my facial expressions don’t get me in trouble. Another thought provoking post, Colleen!


  6. I can not believe you wrote this! Just last night when we were in Taco Bell there was this old woman who kept turning in her chair to look over at us every single time Mason made a noise and she kept giving us “weird” looks. I dont know if she was checking on Mason to make sure we weren’t strangling him in the middle of the restraunt or if she was angry that he was one and made all kinds of noises in public but whatever reason it made me angry! So I gave her one back after I made eye contact with her and she still didn’t look away. Mature I know.


    • Oh Nessie, I am The Mom. Don’t I always know what you need? 😉 People sure get fussy about kids. Lets just assume she was wanting to make sure you weren’t hurting him. That way her intentions were good!


  7. Yet another mind ponderer for me! Thanks Colleen, you always have my mind in a whirr!! I can’t stop thinking about if I have given the “right” looks. People always tell me that I don’t have to say a word my face says it all….now, I’m trying to think if that is a good thing!


    • Husband and I have talked about this before. I know I don’t always control my face, but I try. He thinks I over read people’s faces. Maybe I do. But sometimes I don’t! 🙂 I think our friends being able to read our faces is a good thing!


  8. Was just thinking that – I have given some dirty looks in my days too – and a look can say a lot more than loads of words can. The funny thing if somebody give me a dirty look .. I just smile back or shake my head and walk away from it all. A dirty look don’t bit on me at all .. *smile


    • I was quite the sensitive and insecure person Viveka. Of course if anyone was looking at me at all, I had to interpret that look. I didnt’ always think it was a “bad” look. But sometimes, I know it is. And there were times I did feel wounded. Not so much now. But it made me wonder if I had ever done the same to others. I am a little jealous of Husband, who like you, those things don’t bother him. 🙂


  9. great article, it got me thinking too and hope I have not given off “dirty looks”without realizing it, because I know the hurt those looks can cause.


  10. Oh, my dear Colleen, I so love your heart. I swear you are one of the most precious people I have ever known. You make me smile. You make me believe in a better world.

    And guess what we got in the mail?!!!!!!! Yes, yes, yes! What a treat! I am so delighted you sent the book. I simply can not wait to read. I’ve read the first few pages and love the narrator’s voice. I find it compelling. Love her inner life.

    Thanks again, my friend.

    Love and hugs to both of you from both of us!


  11. Hey Colleen, It’s funny how you’ve come up with these memories.
    Re the Downs Syndrome girl, I can understand how you would have felt. There really is nothing worse than being misunderstood & not able to explain your actuality. At times like that, I have internalised & thought, ‘I know my motives, what I meant; & in the purest form, that is all that matters’. So the world may think whatever, but I know the reality of me.

    You’ve quite a conscience, Colleen. But I bet you get all great looks these days.


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