Are You Stinky?

Are You Stinky?

Funny story…

A couple days ago I was in Portland, and I was flying home with my friend and sister. On the flight we got separated, so I sat toward the front of the plane while they sat toward the back. In order for them to sit beside one another, they asked a man if one of them could switch seats, and he obliged. Not only did he oblige, he also made a comment along the lines of how grateful he was didn’t have to sit next to me because I look like I smell bad. Apparently he had made note of the three of us in the airport and decided it would be very bad to sit next to me on the airplane.

When my friend and sister got off the plane, they ran to me to tell me this story. “How crazy!” “How funny!” These were the things we laughed about as they told me what had happened. And yet, the more I sat with the story, the more I started thinking about the complete lack of tolerance and kindness that was displayed throughout the occurrence.

I dress a little bit differently, it could be said. That day I was wearing brown boots, a gray baggy skirt, a tan shirt with big sleeves (my favorite!) and a brown sweater with a headband. I layer a lot most days when I travel (and even when I don’t…my friends joke that I am slowly disappearing) so that I can fit more in my suitcase and carry the bulk with me, plus I get cold a lot. I had noted that morning that I was looking a little more…bulky…than usual because of how much I had to fit in my suitcase. But that said, I love the way I dress. It might be a little different and I might get frisked at airport security a lot, but it is me.

I can’t help but think of that man’s snap judgment, that because I dress differently and because I had a lot of layers on that I must be an awful person to sit next to on the plane. My sister and friend both mentioned how he was completely serious, looking very relieved that another situation did not transpire. And yet…

Think of how much we can change people’s minds. Think of that incredible ability we all possess to change how people see us, how stereotypes are perceived, and how we treat each other, too. We are all powerful beings. We all have a story inside worth letting out, no matter what our circumstance.

This whole experience makes me want to be so much kinder to strangers I meet. After all, strangers are friends we have yet to make. I believe in my ability to change someone’s life just the same as I believe in anyone’s ability to do just the same. I believe it is possible because I’ve seen it happen; I’ve had my life changed. A stranger can help you see perspective.

I imagine I’ll be more aware of how others perceive me, since that is something I have rarely considered before. But instead of changing how I look or covering myself up or revealing more skin, I’m going to be totally, completely me to everyone I encounter. I’m going to say what I want to say, and remember that kindness breeds kindness. The only way we can fully understand love is to give love.

Even if someone doesn’t see you for who you really are, or if, by chance, a stranger on an airplane calls you stinky…take it as a challenge to be the better person. Take it as a challenge to show them a side of you they might not have seen immediately. Take it as a challenge to show them love. Show them kindness. Show them change.

So, dear man on the plane, who happens to think I’d be a terrible person to sit next to, if ever our paths cross again… I will be sure to wear an air freshener around my neck so as not to scare you off. I will sit with you and share my story and listen to yours, and prove to you that how a person looks just might be secondary to how a person feels, and certainly what a person deserves. And how a person feels just might be enough to change the world.

With love,

30 thoughts on “Are You Stinky?

  1. That was a beautiful read. I wish more people would think like this. You have to believe they have bigger issues going on in their lives..and yes the bigger person is the best road traveled because at the end of the day its you and God..and that’s t the best feeling knowing you were your best.

  2. It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where people are judged by their outward appearance, and it is so wrong. If we were all non sighted then it would be completely the opposite. I think that TV programs promote this too as most are judgemental and some very cruel indeed.

    Changing peoples perception of who you are to who they think you are can only be done as you say through communication. Not always easy lol but if you can turn the other cheek so to speak then you are the stronger person by far. And that in turn will make it easier on the next person they make assumptions about, maybe someone not as strong inside to deal with it.

    In many ways it’s kind of funny but sad at the same time. Modern life is a very strange beast. Being a larger person I come across it quite often peoples perceptions of you being lazy and stupid, but I’ll make conversation anyway and prove them wrong, which is quite liberating and entertaining at the same time.

    Well thanks for letting me vent “Stinky” lol lets challenge pre-conceptions on a daily basis from now on…..

  3. Wow! How incredibly unfortunate for him to not sit next to you. I’m shocked that he had the nerve to say those awful things about you to YOUR FRIENDS. You absolutely are the bigger person. He must be very sad to be so judgmental. P.S. I love the way you dress!

  4. You should see how people on planes act when you are overweight. It doesn’t take much extra padding to experience every negative quality a person has to offer. And it doesn’t matter how you respond to them. Because the simple fact that you ARE is what sets them into that tailspin of derision. Put on a few pounds and you’re no longer a person. You’re a punching bag.

    For what it’s worth, I’d LOVE to sit next to you on a plane. I love your outfits!

  5. Hey Stinky…I would gladly sit beside you on a plane…talk to you in the park…or approach you on the street…no matter how different you may look…I am always interested in other people’s stories….but I think sometime in most of our lives we have judged or were judged on how we look…I remember walking into a clothing store…there were no other customers in the store there were 3-4 salespeople in there…and I was in there 10 minutes rummaging through garments …and no one came over to ask if I needed help…I too dress a little differently…but I ventured out of that store…did not buy anything…and I came across another store…I entered…I found a sweater and a pair of corduroy slacks…and I was still looking… a young woman came up to me …asked if I needed help…we chatted…and then she said to me…”May I start a room for you ? ” I had never been offered to have a room started for me…of course I said yes….When I had gathered what I wanted to try on…went to the room and selected what fit me best…but this young woman made my day…and needless to say I do not do business with the 1st store…on that day…she made me feel special

  6. Can you believe how life is.???..many of Us would pay extra to sit next to you..have a great conversation,pic your brain,and just enjoy the company of a beautiful Human being like you…his lost..We all would be so happy to Hang out with Stinky…hehehehe..xxxooo

  7. Brooke,

    I happen to love how you dress!! I was actually wondering during your latest Creative Live where on earth you find these amazing clothes?! You made me think of a beautiful elf from Lord of the Rings… Which I am totally obsessed with by the way. In tenth grade I made myself one of those awesome big sleeved dresses to wear to a school dance. I remember getting a lot of strange looks and comments about how wierd I was. But that was ok, I felt awesome in that dress and that was all that mattered. I wish that more people would think about what a profound effect their words and actions could have on people. Thankfully you are a strong person who can take what this man said and turn it into something good, but that is not always the case. 6 months ago I lost the man I loved with all my heart to suicide. Though his situation was quite different, I have since met many families who have lost loved ones to suicide because of the way people looked at them and treated them. This entire ordeal, as awful as it was, has taught me so much. It is just so important to show people love, no matter how they treat you, for you just never know what they may be going through. Your love and kindness might just be the very thing they need. Much love to you! Keep being amazing!!

  8. I love your style, your art, and your honesty. Lately I have had some personal things happen to me that make me wonder what the world is coming to. Then I was reminded me that I need to focus on the positive people and events in my life. I will remember that the people who are negative or hurtful have lessons to learn and I simply don’t understand their journey. Obviously, the man on the airplane is on a journey too and we don’t know where he has been or where he is headed. We can only hope that his journey will help him become more tolerant and less judgmental of others.

    Keep up your wonderful work.

  9. Its hard not to judge people, all we know in this world is what we are exposed to. When we see someone who doesn’t fit into our ideas of what/who/how they should be there is an almost automatic response to put them down. To make ourselves feel like we are better than they are in some way. I’ve done this so many times without even thinking about it. So much that it wasn’t only strangers, but coworkers and friends too. This kind of thinking is insidious, because on some level it feels right. Fortunately, I have had those assumptions about certain people shattered in a humiliating way. This was a good thing as it made me hesitant to judge people so quickly and take a moment to put myself into their situation. There are few things as humbling as realizing that the reason someone annoys you so much is because they do that thing that you do that annoys you about yourself.

    I would have sat next to you, even if you were stinky, because you would have struck me as a person who had an interesting story to tell. πŸ™‚

  10. What? How can it be? So many people who would like to sit next to you and talk and enjoy the moment (me, me, me… πŸ˜€ ). How is possible? When someone does not know how to enjoy the advantageous position in which it is toward others, here in Portugal, we say: β€œGod gives nuts to those who have no teeth!” I hope someday to have this opportunity! And certainly, I will not mind me with the clothes that you are using. Have a good week full of inspiration. Adore you Stinky.

  11. It is so good to know there are people who exist that can be insulted and not shoot back anything but kindness. I know if I’m ever caught making a face at someone who didn’t say the “thank you” I expected and then they *do* say “thank you” in the end, it makes me feel so guilty. Being kind to mean people is such a perfect way to call them out without being rude. πŸ™‚

  12. What an unnecessary bit of rudeness on the part of that man!

    It’s kind of funny since I was just watching your most recent creativeLIVE class and recommended it to another designer while including a description of you as very talented and looking like “a fairy-tale princess.” (Not that it matters, because you would still be just as talented wearing a garbage bag.) I guess I was admiring that you looked elegant even under the pressure of shooting and teaching live. I wonder if his presumption would change if he walked into a gallery full of your images where you’ve modeled and realized it was the same woman he dismissed on the plane.

    “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” – Dita von Teese

  13. Stinky is such a cool nickname though :p

    You’re always so inspiring, Brooke. Most people would’ve been furious or upset but it always amazes me how you continuously turn the negatives into positives and new lessons.

    lots of love <3

  14. That’s one heck of a story, but people can be ridiculous. The problem I face is having become invisible. It seems many of the younger generation (or perhaps it’s a California thing) have no interest in even greeting someone who’s older or overweight. I’m both and although I’m only 43 here that’s old. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed someone on the street and said good morning and heard nothing back. Nothing. I just don’t get how people can be so dismissive of the opportunity to interact with another human. That’s guy’s loss, for sure. But then again he’s probably the type whose too good to say good morning to a stranger, too.

    1. So true. I go out of my way to smile and greet people during the day just to see the occasional startled look. More times than not though, people smile and say hello back. Truly a small, pleasant experience.

  15. hi Brooke

    I am ashamed that so many people have prejudices. It’s not that you’re dressed differently or that you are so different that you should be so assessed.

    I do not know you Sir but I have lived together for five days with Brooke during a retreat in Norfolk. She is such an open person. She gives so many hugs. As well, we had a movie night where I was sitting next to her all evening. And it is certainly not true what you claim. And may there worms come out of my mouth if it is not true what I’m saying. And no I ‘m not biased!

    Sir if you meet her again you should definitely let tell her story. She will listen to yours. Then you can apologize .

    Brooke certainly do not change your style for this one person. These clothes are very good and attractive. I also your new hair. But this is not important, you need to feel good in these clothes.

    πŸ™‚ Stefan Ladang

    And no, there are no worms in my mouth.

    1. I have been pleasantly surprised in the last few months that people hold open the door of the local convenience store for me. Sometimes they’re in their pajamas. Some of them look like hoodlums ready to grab my wallet and run. And of course I say “Thank you!” and smile. It always helps keep things in perspective!

  16. Brooke,

    What a story. I am always amazed at how individuals can be narrow minded, close minded, prejudice, or just ignorant. This said, you continue to amaze me, how you took something that could have been insulting and changed it to an opportunity to broaden someone’s viewpoint in the future. I actually prefer lemonade over lemons too!


  17. What an amazing opportunity that man passed up! I watched your last Creative Live course Brooke, and I was so inspired by how much you shared of yourself. I would love to sit next to you on a plane and talk to you!

    Thank you for your uplifting story and your kind response to someone’s rude snap judgement. Keep being you! πŸ™‚

  18. A perfect example of how shallow and judgemental some people are. Sometimes not a further thought given past first glance impressions, fortunately most people look a little deeper, that is where all the best discoveries lie.

  19. This TOTALLY resonates with me because I have a limp (I was born with Spina Bifida and walk with a cane, which is REALLY amazing for someone with my particular disease, plus I’m a kick-butt swimmer…) and I can tell that people sometimes make the assumption that because I walk a little funny, I must be “challenged” in other ways, as well. Or drunk. Or both.

    Then, when I open my mouth and speak, they act like I’m a genius. Their relief and happiness at the normal words coming out of my mouth is palpable. I suppose it makes them feels much better that I’m not going to lurch on them or whatever.

    I have had *so* many people compliment me on how articulate and intelligent I am throughout my life. I’m no braniac, I’m just NOT what people expect or assume, and therefore my “normal” behavior becomes exceptional.

    It really really REALLY hurt me for years, but then the past few years (I just turned 40 in May…) it’s switched from embarassment and self-consciousness to an awareness with compassion. But, still… hard. Very hard stuff.

    One thing that’s good is that its made me conscious of my own habits of “reading” people. I will be the first to admit that I have a habit of immediately looking for the faults in other people- not to tear them down, but to reassure myself that my “faults” are just part of the normal variety of life. But it’s not really a great thing to be doing, you know? So when I see someone judging me, I try and remember they are likely “scanning for faults”, like I do, just to maintain some sense of okayness in this crazy world.

    Hopefully someday we’ll all evolve to a level where we look at a person and see more of “them” and less of who we think they might be based on their appearance.

  20. I, for one, am guilty. With unkempt beards, I always have to remind myself that perhaps they’ve not been living stinkily under a bridge but have access to a shower and they LIKE their face that way. While I would never, ever in a million years SAY something, I have to constantly work to remember to look at people’s hearts, not their bodies, shaving habits and clothing choice. When I was in college, I used to dress like a “bag lady” (according to Mom), and I have to wonder what people thought of me then! πŸ˜€

  21. Granted the man was clearly an ignorant ass but perhaps it would have been kinder for your sister and friend to not have repeated his idiotic comment to you or even better still to have taken him to task about it and said “hey Mr fellow traveller, that’s my beloved friend/sister you are talking about and I don’t appreciate your comment.”

  22. This was definitely a great and funny read. People are so rude sometimes. I’ve definitely been misjudged before and I actually talked to some people about this recently. I dated someone a while back who I cared a lot for but was constantly judged by his family and called trash because I didn’t live in a huge house with nice things. I in no way live like trash and have always taken great care of the things I own. Anyways, it hurt pretty bad and I wish I was older when I was told these things because I could of laughed about it now, but then I was young and really sensitive. I’m glad you could laugh about it! He on the other hand missed out on an amazing person just by being judgemental.

  23. if you ACTUALLY smelled i would have probably had the same reaction…..cause there is nothing like trying to breathe in things that tear up the nostrils….for however many hours u are on a plane. lol But judging someone only by looks? MEH! oh well. πŸ™‚ i’ve hardly ever asked to be switched in any scenario on a plane…regardless! πŸ™‚ But this is a great funny story – and of course, always great chances to make memories, learn lessons and see the world for how it is and could be. πŸ™‚ woot!

  24. you not stinky I’m sure! Just eccentric! Unique and as you say not a stereo type! My whole family are an eccentric bunch we all a artistic creative people! And u wouldn’t change it for the world! My grandfather has been my biggest inspiration he was a walking ball of knowledge! He taught me so many thing from the cosmos to the occult religion or even some fanagalo! A language made up by miners in Africa! So brace eccentricity and if it looks like we stink so be it haha

  25. As artists we dress for the day, the way we create ourselves. Non artist people don’t get that at all. I dressed very much a mix of Molly Ringwald “Pretty In Pink” and the blond girl from “Some Kind Of Wonderful” with a hint of Madonna in college. This was 1984 to 1989. I had my hair asymmetrical and shaved on one side. people would make me feel horrible walking to the art building at my university, but once I was in those safe walls, the walls protecting the artists, I felt at home with my crazy clothes, most of which came from Goodwill. I heard a nun say to another nun on the bus one day, “she must have cancer” I told my mom and we laughed about how because my head was partly shaved they assumed I was dying.

  26. Brooke!
    From the moment I saw you on Creative Live I said to myself…….. she is a person who I would really love to meet and get to know. I love the fact that you are truly who you are!

    Thanks for the great blog! I love reading it. Never change who you are. I am hoping that our paths will get to connect someday.

  27. Brooke, you are pretty awesome. I work in an E.R., and see the worst of this world. Promoting kindness and understanding is so much better than becoming jaded and effected by peoples misunderstanding. I love your compassion.

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