Today’s post has been inspired by an exciting announcement on one of the blogs I follow. Over at Bringing the Sunshine it has been made known that the author’s 10 y/o daughter is going to start her own blog.
Big deal, you might say, but the thing which made my day about this is that the girl in question has Cerebral Palsy, and is open to taking questions from readers of the blog as ideas for posts which she might write.
In Real Life, I have no close relationships with people who have a physical disability, nor have I ever. The sad result is that I just don’t know how to act around someone who has one. If I pass a person in the street who has an evident physical disability, I’ll notice, then immediately start a cycle of thought in my head which just leaves me anxious about the encounter and irritated at myself.
Before you start to think I’m a terrible person, let me talk you through it.
I’m rather a people-watcher, so on average, when wandering along, I’m looking at my fellow pedestrians and running some kind of ‘stream of vision’ thinking, mulling over what I’ve seen – Nice shoes, wouldn’t be able to walk in them myself; I wonder how he gets his hair to stay like that; Wish I could talk in their language, it sounds so nice; funny how so many of the Polish ladies here have their hair dyed red like her; Not sure I would’ve worn that; That kid looks like he’s having fun. But in the instance that I notice someone coming towards me has a physical disability, a klaxon goes off in my head and it all gets messed up
Now I’ve noticed, I look (briefly) at whatever it is about them that gives the game away – they are put together differently than me. Dammit! Now I’m looking! What if I look for too long? Staring is rude, so I won’t stare, but I want to sneaky-look out of the corner of my eye just to see what it is – once I know what it is, I can just walk on past.
But what if they see me looking! They’ll think I’m so rude!
So I won’t look.
Then they might think I’m ignoring them and that’s rude too. If I make eye contact with someone I usually acknowledge them, don’t I? Or do I? If I do it this time, with this person, will they think I’m being patronising or condescending? Oh no!
So just ignore them – that’s probably best, right? But no, that’s rude!
By the time I get to the end of this internal monologue, I’ve usually passed by whomsoever I’ve noticed and have been so wrapped up in my own thoughts, I’ve done precisely nothing except carry on walking. I sincerely hope that this maelstrom of confusion isn’t evident to the observer, or every physically disabled person who I’ve ever come into contact with will think I’m a complete prat.
I just don’t know the appropriate way to engage and it’s pretty embarrassing.
So I blithely posted my questions on the comments box of the original blog, and am expecting that either the young lady will graciously give me some pointers or I will be summarily asked to leave and never return.
The thing is, I don’t know if this is one of those times where my whole attitude and demeanour is just hideously inappropriate on every level and I should be keel-hauled for my ineptness, or whether this is something which can be explained by (for want of a better term of phrase) my lifelong lack of exposure and subsequent uncertainty about how to behave.
I can only hope that this young lady takes pity on me and answers my questions.