Wednesday, September 19, 2018

When An Aerie Employee Made A Shocking Comment

About a week ago I had an encounter while I was shopping at Aerie that had me fuming. At that time, in the midst of my anger, I posted this on Instagram.

"“I’m jealous! I’d love to be sitting and be pushed around.” *laughter ensues*
No. I’m not kidding. And this isn’t the first time someone has said something along those lines. Today I had a hospital appointment and my mom has an easier time assembling my manual chair so we took that one instead. Afterwards, we made a pit stop at the mall to grab something. Enter one of my favorite stores to be greeted with the exact sentence I started this with. Don’t people realize how insensitive this is?! Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but I think it’s such a slap in the face to be in a wheelchair that I’m FORCED to be in and to be told that I’m “lucky” to be sitting?! Girl, you can have my chair and my disability and I’ll take your job! Even worse, I hate to say this happened at @aerie. With all their all-inclusive campaigns, I really think that maybe their staff should be trained on proper “etiquette”. I feel bad because this employee is always nice with a smile on her face but I just thought this was so inappropriate and feeling pissed off. How many of you have had encounters like this?!”

I received so many supportive comments validating my anger.

I could not believe that someone told me they were jealous of me sitting in my wheelchair. If only she knew. If only she knew how quickly I’d trade places with her. If only she knew the pain and suffering that landed me in that wheelchair. If she knew that I had simple dreams of working a retail job. If she knew what I’d give to be walking around the whole mall, instead of being glued to that seat. If she knew how devastating it is to be robbed of your full mobility. If she knew how it felt to be young and sick. If only she knew.

But she didn’t.

And so as I had time to reflect on what had happened, I thought about why she might have made that comment. I shop there a lot so this employee may have just felt comfortable to make what she thought was a joke with me. Maybe she didn’t think before saying it but maybe she thought about it for the rest of the day. Or maybe she just had no awareness of invisible illness. Because you know... sometimes you really don’t know that something’s inappropriate until either you or someone you love are put in that situation. Had she known the devastation that chronic illness causes, I doubt this situation ever would have happened.

But you know what? Even though the comment was totally wrong, I also choose to stick with a philosophy that everyone is constantly growing and learning. We’ll all make mistakes until we learn that they were just that, mistakes. So as long as a person is willing to learn and grow and has good intentions, I think the world can keep spinning. Life is about growth, and if we don’t give people space to grow, how can people evolve? And how do we help solve this? We keep raising our voices. We keep raising awareness. We keep educating the world about invisible illnesses. Because the louder we shout, the more of an understanding world we will live in. And hopefully people experience situations like this less and less.

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