My left eye is what’s commonly called “lazy.” I’ve had the condition since birth. As a kid, I was teased a lot, but even now, at 36, I get stares and insults. People think I’m glaring at them, that I have a mental disability, or that I’m high. Doctors say I can’t get it surgically straightened. How can I address this issue if, say, I’m in an elevator with people who are staring, pointing, and whispering, or God forbid laughing? I’ve experienced all that and more.
—Chagrined in Chicago
I’m sorry you have to put up with such lowlifes. Part of the problem may be that people with a lazy eye, or amblyopia, are unfairly portrayed in pop culture. From Saturday morning cartoons to raunchy comedies, a lazy eye is shorthand for stupidity or outright insanity. Not helpful. I understand somewhat what it’s like to present an atypical appearance: I once broke my jaw and had to bartend for six weeks with my mouth wired shut. (Some of my worst customers thought it was hilarious.) My best advice is to use humor to defuse the situation. If someone is giving you a funny look or actually tittering about your eye, try pretending you have no idea it’s unusual. Ham it up and act like you’re just now discovering that your eye is misaligned: “Oh my God, really? No way!” Another approach is to tell people, “My eye is not lazy, just unmotivated.”
The Manners Guy is a former bartender who knows his way around awkward social situations. Send your questions to [email protected].
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