I’ve often wondered if people with disabilities are more likely to be extroverts or introverts because I like being by myself. It’s true I’m an only child so I’m used to being alone. I’m also used to being stared at by passersby, so much so that it’s really easy to ignore, and think I’m in my own world.
I hate getting up early but I like getting places early (or late at night) to have the luxury of interacting with as few people as possible. I don’t hate people but I certainly have a limit, and it’s about the time when people I don’t know outnumber the people I do know in any given space.
There’s this thing that happens when you have a visible disability, people feel that they can come and talk to you for any reason at all (it has it’s good and bad points).
Then there’s another thing that happens, you feel like you’re forced into phases.
For me both of these things have a lot to do with being called “cute.”
In my 3+ decades on this earth I have never been called, attractive, pretty, or beautiful (by anyone outside of my family). I’m always “cute,” and although it’s usually well meaning (I hope) it gets tiring after a while, especially when a compliment is about you but not directed towards to you.
There’s this lady in particular that comes to mind now when I think about being called cute, and why I don’t like it, and how it comes off as insulting.
I see this lady almost weekly in the locker room, once I saw her in the parking lot and didn’t get out of the car until she was in her car, and it’s like a scene out of Groundhog Day.
The first time was nothing unusual, although rude. I had gone into the bathroom stall and I heard her ask my mother if I was her daughter and that I was cute.
The next time we saw her she repeated her sentiment, except this time I was in front of her and she didn’t talk to me. Instead she spoke only to my mother and only smiled at me when my mother told her how old I am.
The next week I saw her and tried to avoid eye contact. I was wearing a new suit and I knew it was highly likely that I’d attract her attention. She did talk to me, but like I was a toddler, telling me that my suit was “very pretty” and getting into my personal space. In fact, if I didn’t back up (another benefit of using a wheelchair) she would’ve touched me, which is never OK. The talking is one “no” the near touching is another “no.”
This lady isn’t the only one who has ever treated me like this, especially lately, but she’s one of the not-so-few that stands out the most.
Her, and being picked up, literally, by an associate. As in “I bet I can pick you up” .5 seconds later I’m in midair.
One incident really has nothing to do with another, other than the being treated as “the other.” Because when you think about it would any of this have happened if I were able bodied? Maybe, but unlikely.
Which led me to think about how I’ve been referred to over the years. I can’t ever remember being called attractive, or beautiful, or pretty, or anything else. Then I pretty much ranted for days on the subject.
I won’t go as far as to say that I live for the day when someone calls me something other than cute. My worth isn’t solely based on what others think of me, especially people I don’t know well enough to trust their opinion. But cute isn’t a compliment when you’re hearing the same thing, and in the same way, in your 30s as you did at 3.
At some point “cute” isn’t as much of a compliment anymore (and someone in their 30s is well past that point, if you ask me).