For a couple of months now there has been a young woman selling the Big Issue magazine outside my local supermarket. Small shop on the High Street, you know the kind of thing. During these months my feelings towards her have spun out of control, from rational to downright, certifiably crazy. And I ask myself why?
My first objection was the manner in which the seller approached me, I found her aggressive, and her evil looks at my failure to purchase did not go unnoticed. As if this wasn't bad enough I would get asked again when I left the shop, twice, the same thing, every time.
Due to the 'hard sell' it was impossible to scuttle past deliberately blanking, or pretending to be looking for something in my bag so I wouldn't have to meet her eye. I was forced to respond with a , "No thank you". I had to be polite in case she followed me home to punish me and my comfortable life for ignoring her and her needs, which were clearly greater than mine. At this point I became aware that I am angry at her for making me feel guilty, guilty for not buying the magazine. But angry because her manner is forcing me to address my selfishness and guilt on a daily basis. I started complaining about her manner in the local shops,
"cor she don't half give you evils if you don't buy the magazine".
"Isn't she aggressive?".
Then I feel like an even more horrible person. I clearly think that with the more people I tell, one day one of them will tell someone else who has the power to make her and her guilt tripping go away! I want to be able to go from home or work to the shop without this burdening guilt. I also want to shout at her,
"NO! I still don't want one, same as 90 seconds ago when I didn't want one!"
Today on the approach to the shop my heart sinks, I say to myself, "Oh God, there she is", out loud I say, "No thank you". I leave the shop and she isn't looking my way. "Ha!" I say in my head as I feel as though I have won some kind of battle. Then I question whether I am a grey person. It is not possible for me to be a grey person. I either wear a bright red coat or a bright pink mac with pink scarf. And I scream in my head,
"Are you stupid? You MUST notice that I am the same person you asked 90 seconds ago. Look at me! I'm not grey, I am colourful, you must remember me for my colourfulness!"
You could be forgiven reading this for thinking I am completely insane. Or you may suggest I buy one of the magazines and it will all stop. I doubt that, I could buy the magazine and still be asked 90 seconds later if I want "BIG ISSUE". I could stop and talk to her, and be honest.
Here is my open letter to the lady who sells the Big Issue.
I feel very bad when I walk past and don't buy one of your magazines. I feel guilty. I feel you will judge me. Hate me even. But the truth is I can't afford to buy it, the cost of that paper is more than a third of my daily budget for food. I might not look poor, I wear nice clothes and carry a designer bag. But all my clothes and my bag come from charity shops and car boot sales. I don't want you to think I don't care about where you came from and where you are now, because I do. But I can only afford to help people with my time and not with money. Please don't judge me because of how I look, in the same way I won't ever judge you or anyone else by how they look. Maybe you appear aggressive because you are desperate, I'm sorry that I don't know your story. Maybe one day I will stop and ask you.
With Kind Regards,
The Lady in Red (and Pink)