Last week a friend told me that I should try to hide my disability better because otherwise I will embarrass my kids. She suggested that I needed to learn to walk better–without any limp. She encouraged me to wear clothes that would hide my prosthesis.
I really didn’t know how to respond. Then I thought for a minute. These comments were from a woman who is overweight. She wears high-heeled shoes despite some serious back problems that are exacerbated by her choice of footwear. I have never seen her exercise.
OTOH, I go to the gym often and lift weights or swim. I eat healthily. I walk several blocks/day. I wear athletic shoes and clothing that makes me comfortable.
I may walk differently, but I can still get where I need to go. And my kids don’t seem embarrassed.
Blah. I get so angry about things like this. And it is not a self-righteous “in defense of others” anger. It is just that what people consider “normal” is often a subjective ideal.
And then I think more about it.
And I am even more angered about the kids portion of the comment. “For the kids?” What? Seriously?! I am sorry, but if I am parent, I would like to think that I could manage to bring up kids who are not so short-sighted and ignorant to be damaged, scarred, embarrassed, or make fun of a disability. And, I have to say, from what I have seen your kids are great and, if anything else, they are lucky to have parents who are not only unique individuals intellectually but also physically.
I mean, it seems reasonable to me that kids who are not raised ignorant are better served by a constant reminder that something which makes a person “different” does not make them less, whether it is a disability, gender, race, lifestyle, or choice of soda.
Or, even better, they are raised without the distinctions that make people thing others are “different.” Everyone’s an individual and, by definition, different. Right? You are an amputee and I’m ogrishly tall. These things affect us, but they do not define us.
I am, of course, simplifying things here, but I think the points have validity. It is just too easy to categorize and prejudge and, if anything, parents, disabled or not, should not be placating to any idea of “normal” that does not include some place for individuality–mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Isaac you certainly don’t seem ogrishly tall. But maybe I’m biased given that at 5’9″ I’m the shortest person in my natal family…
Oh, and thanks for your thoughts on this topic, too!
Haha.. yeah, my pleasure.
As far as being tall, I honestly don’t think I’m ogrishly tall, it’s just a good way of saying I am tall and being funny.. plus, a lot of my height is in my legs, so I need to be standing to really get the effect. I actually have a self image of a much smaller person, it’s strange.
I hope it is obvious in my simplified argument that I do not presume the social ramifications / typical stereotyping of being tall compares to being an amputee. My height is often a boon, but on the other hand, I do scare young children, so who knows. But I do think it is effective in helping make my point.