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  • Writer's pictureBen Pechey

Under the spotlight

Oh hello darling, and welcome back to focus month. All month long I will be bestowing articles pertaining to focus, today I want to talk to you about the focus being myself can pull in public.

I recently sat down for a phone call, which was essentially a fact-checking call to make sure an interview I had given for a magazine was correct and accurate. You can see that article in the April 2020 edition of Women's Health. However, that is not what I am here to talk to you about, no, instead I was struck by some of the things I said. It can be hard hearing your own emotions and thoughts when they are emotive, bleak, being spoken by a stranger.

One strain of the interview focuses on the attention my outer appearance receives in public spaces and the way I deal with that. If you are familiar with my visual outputs, then you know what I look like. It will come as no surprise that this assimilation of self that makes me so so happy, causes shock and hostility in those around me.

Over time you notice it less, I am used to pensioners parting like the red sea before me in M&S as I happily trot through the swathes of dresses and coats that delight me. Aware but unbothered by the double takes when I go food shopping, trollies coming to a standstill as I reach for pasta or tea. Unfazed when dental assistants call my name in the waiting room, only to pause when I stand up unsure what to do with me.

This negative attention used to feel like a blow to the stomach, leaving me winded and unsure. I cannot tell you how many times in my past I treated these public rebukes as a personal reprimand for being different. When you are treated in this way, you feel unworthy, your sense of self is distorted beyond belief. There is so much strength in being your true self because in most cases we have had to overcome so much.

Fast forward to the here and now. The effect of this negative attention has not reduced, far from it, I am always aware of it. It is more that I have personally come to terms with it, and have realised that in that moment, place and time, a response from me would be more draining on my resources and would leave me feeling more vulnerable. Thus I let it simply slip by, unnoticed.

I find this harder to do when I am with others because they find it harder to leave the stares, sniggers and muffled comments unchecked. I am more aware of the focus on me, and the secondary burden on those around me. I am still working on a way forward with this, it’s all a process.

This is a narrative that anyone who sits outside of the norm will be aware of, and to you, I offer these words as a token of solidarity. We all go through this, and one day our struggle will result in the reduction of this burden for future generations. This would be a welcome pay off for some of the hardship we have all been through.

I wanted to take the time to share my journey with the focus in public spaces, to let you know that if you're going through this, you're not alone. This doesn't make it right, but it can make it easier to bear. We are all human, so we have to share our experience to help each other, and that's why I write.

Thank you as always for sharing this journey with me my darling, I will be back next week to continue focus month.

Shot by Rachel Pechey

Shop my Lewk:

Jumper: M&S Sold Out

Trousers: M&S Sold Out

Shoes: ASOS

Earrings: Zara, very old

Glasses: Céline, here in black


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