Last week, I had just arrived at one of my classes and was getting the sound system set up when one of my favourite students came in and said hello.
Honestly, she’s one of the nicest ladies I teach. She has energy and enthusiasm, and she doesn’t let inhibition stop her from always trying her best and just having fun. I really like having her in my class.
“Hey, Andrea – is that tattoo on your neck new?” she asked me.
“No, not at all. It’s…almost eight years old now – one of my oldest!”
“Oh, get out of town! I’ve never noticed it before!”
This isn’t all that uncommon, believe it or not. A lot of people don’t notice any of my tattoos when they first meet me. It still surprises me when people don’t see the neck one, because it’s in such a visible spot and I have short hair, but I had to admit, I like that they don’t. My tattoos are just part of my skin to me, so I appreciate when others find them natural.
We deduced that she had never noticed it because of where she typically stands during class. No big deal.
But then the conversation went on two sentences too long.
“You sure have a lot of tattoos. You’ll be a great market for laser tattoo removal in the future!”
I honestly think I looked like this for a second:
Even though what I felt inside was a combination of
(I know, I’ve used that one before, but I feel like that a lot, so deal with it.)
I think I managed to laugh and ramble out something like, “Oh, I’d never get anything tattooed on me if I feared I might regret it…” but on the inside, I felt broken. Was she implying my tattoos are regrettable? Was she subtly expressing her disapproval? Was she just trying to make conversation?
I believe in my heart that she meant no ill with the comment, but it was enough to shatter my confidence for the whole 60-minute class and throw me completely off my game.
So I re-learned something I feel like we’ve all learned many times: sometimes people don’t put their thoughts through the “is this appropriate/what I mean to say” filter before the words escape. And sometimes those little slips are mighty hurtful.
What was your last experience with this? (Because I know we’ve all had many.)
P.S. Another quick example: when I was out of the fitness instructing game for two weeks due to my leg injury, I still had to attend my private class in order to let my friend into the community hall I teach at to sub for me. I didn’t have to stay for the class, but I wanted to be there for my students, and I was feeling so down in the dumps about being injured, I thought being in the room and hearing the music and watching people have fun might lift my spirits.
Instead, I heard the music and felt even sadder that I wasn’t dancing along to it. So that didn’t work.
And then one of my students walked up to me and said, “Well, you’re taking it nice and easy tonight – must be nice to have the night off, huh?”
And I wanted to curl up into a ball and die. Because I would have much rather been teaching the class, not sitting still in excruciating pain with an ice pack on my knee at the demand of my doctors and physiotherapist (and, let’s face it, my body). So…I’m just gonna leave that story where it is.