Everywhere I go I find at least one person watching me. Even in normal everyday environments like the workplace, but I attribute those instances to employee turnover. Everywhere else I think its genuine curiosity, or at least I hope it is.
I’m sure if I saw the same faces everyday the intense people watching would stop. The only issue I have with that is I don’t like seeing the same people every day, in fact it gets on my nerves. So the only solution is to deal with the looks, the eye daggers and occasional questions.
I’ve heard it said that having a disability, or just being too different, is like being a celebrity without any of the good benefits. Although this wasn’t an earth shattering statement I have to agree.
There was a time when being a celebrity was my ultimate goal. What I didn’t realize at the time was I had already reached my goal. I was basically born into it (my CP is a result of birth).
The difference is I wasn’t the type of celebrity I wanted to be; which is one of my own making, not for just existing. These days I’m trying to find a balance, because my career path depends on it.
People have been watching me for most of my life; so much so that I don’t notice it most of the time, or choose to ignore it when I do. If I let every stare get my attention I’d end up homebound, it’s that exhausting.
I’m not made of iron however. There are instances when lack of a “Que Sera, Sera” attitude get to me. I have had a good cry in the parking lot, or the shower, or just walking in the back door. It happens. To try and deny that would be a disservice to all.
The funny thing is I think I always knew someone was watching me. I never (that I can remember) asked my parents why someone stared at me when all I was trying to do was get milk out of the dairy case.
Although it used to really get on my nerves. Especially if parents said ignorant things to me, like “It’s too bad your legs are broken.” My legs are not broken. If they were I would not be able to walk on them!
Note to parents: If you have a question about a child’s disability ask the parent (still involve the child, be polite after all). If your child has a question about another child (or person) encourage them to ask for themselves (or assist them).
I try and treat my celebrity like a duck with water on its back, just let it roll.
However I also realize that I have a responsibility to the world. I will get noticed. It comes with the territory. I have to put on a good face for the world at large. That’s why you won’t find me dancing on top of anything while drinking on the internet. But it’s not like that’s my thing anyway, it never was. Any “socializing” like that occurs with a group of close friends privately.
I have a reputation to uphold. Not just for myself, for the disability community as a whole. Too many times I get treated badly or just differently based on someone’s previous experience with another individual with a disability, and most of the time the disabilities aren’t similar in any way.
If you see someone with a disability out in public treat them how you would like to be treated. Would you mind if someone came up to you and asked you questions about your life? Realize some people take questions more personally than others.
If you’re really curious there’s always the internet. A whole new world has opened up for people with disabilities and people who want to know more.
There’s also events just for people with disabilities, their families, and friends. Go to one, or two, or as many as you’d like. You’ll get to know what it’s like to be “different.”
And that’s just my life on my own two feet. When I’m in my chair there’s a whole other aspect to consider.
“I have 26 inch rims on the side of my ass it’s hard not to get attention.”
I like this for two reasons, the first being it’s funny. The second being it’s just as true as it is funny. The world as come a long way in terms of acceptance but there’s still gains to be made.
I could really do without the dirty looks I get when I’m trying to get to the assessable bathroom in the airport when a mom with a SUV sized stroller wants to use it first, and let’s not forget the business woman who wants the extra space for a layover wardrobe change. People who use wheelchairs have to pee just as much as everyone else.
And can we discuss how people stop dead in their tracks and then complain that I almost hit them in my chair? If you must stop to look around don’t do it dead center of ongoing walk/roll traffic.
And please, you don’t have to jump out of the way like I’m an out of control car coming at you at 90 miles an hour. Simply step aside.
It’s hard to not feel like you’re special when you’re given privileges like pre-boarding an airplane, having the closest parking spaces, or pre-registration for classes, when we’re really more like anyone else than we are different. Please do us all a favor and treat me (or anyone else) how you’d like to be treated, and I’m pretty sure that means no staring.
*A similar version of this post was written on March 8, 2013