are you fucking with me?: a guide to modern manners

sometimes i really wonder what in the hell is the matter with people. i’ve had a few brushes lately with staggering (if unintentional) rudeness.

it started with a comment on this very blog. so, it’s not a secret that i have some physical disabilities. i was born missing some of my lumbar vertebrae, which led to scoliosis, & eventually the breakdown of a lot of my joints. when i was seventeen, i was in a workplace accident & suffered significant nerve damage in my spinal cord. i now have limited mobility in the right side of my body & have lived with severe chronic pain for half of my life. naturally i have wondered how these issues will impact a future pregnancy & how i’ll integrate parenting responsibilities into my life when the time comes. i started seeking out resources on parenting with disabilities, but mostly all i have found is stuff on parenting children with disabilities. i’ve written about it a bit on the blog.

someone–a stranger to me–found that old entry & left a long & obviously well-intentioned comment trying to encourage me. she wrote that she has some of the same physical issues i have, as well as two children to whom she feels she is a great, involved, & active parent. but the comment struck me as incredibly condescending. she included lots of tips on eating well & managing pain through exercise–because clearly, having lived with these issues for two decades, i have no idea how to take care of myself.

it struck me that disabled people are constantly subjected to other people’s scrutiny when it comes to their physical health. a (seemingly) able-bodied person can bop through life doing whatever they want in terms of diet & exercise (provided, of course, that they appear slim, because fat people are subject to this same constant oversight on the part of strangers), but the second you mention that you live with physical disability, everyone comes out of the woodwork to tell you how to best manage your condition. the general consensus seems to be that you obviously don’t know how to take care of yourself physically if you are so dumb as to be disabled. she capped her tips with a little aphorism she used to use with the kindergartners she worked with: “can’t = won’t = impossible; but can = endless possibilities.” it’s like keeping tinkerbell alive with the power of your thoughts–obviously, if i just BELIEVE that i don’t have pain & mobility issues, if i just TRY A LITTLE HARDER & of course eat lots of snacks high in antioxidants, everything will be magically fixed!

she also took me to task for referring to myself as a “disabled person” as opposed to more “people first” language of “person with disabilities”. because clearly the semantics are really the issue here. not the disability or the culture of oppression that makes it okay for strangers to condescend to me & treat me like i’m an idiot who probably disabled herself with poor snack choices & self-oppressing language.

another incident took place on one of the TTC messageboards i frequent (where i have admittedly met some really awesome ladies, including several that share my politics & subcultural interests–pretty cool!). i was telling some of the ladies about all the confusion regarding the positive-looking test i had last week, followed with the negative blood test. several of them thought it was likely that i had a very early miscarriage–not that i’ll ever know for sure. one of them (who is already in her second trimester) said, “well, at least you know you can get pregnant.”

can we all just sit down & come to an accord about how you should NEVER EVER say that a person who is struggling to get pregnant? it doesn’t matter that you CAN get pregnant if you can’t carry a pregnancy to term. suffering repeat miscarriages is just as devastating & not getting a positive test at all. plus, i already knew i could get pregnant because, hello, i had an abortion four years ago. (not that i bring that up too often on TTC forums–lots of those women are incredibly religious & have a lot of fucked up feelings about abortion. i’ve mentioned it a few times though, & bonded with a few ladies that are also TTC after abortion.)

in another recent incident, a woman with whom i’m acquainted got engaged. she invited me to her bridal shower but not to her wedding. i’m not upset about not being invited to the wedding–we don’t know each other that well, we’ve never hung out as a one-on-one duo, i’ve only met her fiance once or twice. but i felt weird about being invited to the bridal shower. my understanding is that the bridal shower invite list should be limited to people that are actually invited to the wedding. complicating issues is that it was a “crafty” bridal shower, with all of the guests making origami swans & tissue paper flowers for the wedding ceremony & reception. you know, the events to which i’m not invited. i think it’s a little bit rude to try to press someone into service making decorations for an event they have not been invited to attend. i did not go to the bridal shower.

& then we have the most recent incident. i have been doing a goofy little project in which i take a photo of jared & charlotte every day & post it to facebook. i kind of expected a lot of people to drop me as a facebook friend or remove me from their newsfeeds because–you know. a daily post in which i just say, “look at my boyfriend & my cat”? kind of weird. kind of exactly the solipsism that makes facebook so annoying. but to my surprise, people have been really into these photos. i’ve only gotten positive feedback, & rather a lot of it, so i keep doing it.

i posted a photo this morning & got a comment right away from someone saying that the photos gave her “an intense need to redecorate [my] home.” she also referred to the wooden folding table we use as a bedside table as a “TV tray”.

i have no interest in enlisting anyone to redecorate my home. i think my home is gorgeous & perfect just the way it is. all the art on the walls was made by our friends or artists we like. the furniture is old & doesn’t necessarily match, because we live on a disability income combined with a grad student TAship & get most of our furniture from thrift stores or friends. everything is generally clean & relatively tidy, save for the teetering stacks of books & papers that come out when jared is immersed in an intense school project. our house is a well-maintained little cottage built in the 1920s, & some of the floorboards are warped & sometimes the paint cracks. our quilt is handmade, i try to keep fresh flowers in the kitchen, & everything is mismatched, but it’s all utilitarian, practical, & functional. it’s a home where people live, not a spread in a shelter magazine. i can’t imagine what exactly this person would want to “redecorate”. it’s obvious that we don’t have a lot of money for new furniture, & what we’ve chosen isn’t exactly modern, but it works for us & makes us happy.

none of these incidents was in any way a personal attack. all of them were comments or actions from people who felt they had the best of intentions, i’m sure. but all of them made my jaw drop because i couldn’t believe how rude people could be under the guise of being helpful, or friendly, or polite. it’s no surprise that people don’t think before they speak, but maybe we could all try a little harder on that front? i’m sure i have said some seriously goofy things to people that made them cringe & grit their teeth. just a month ago, i was talking with a woman who had been trying to conceive for several years. her most recent medicated cycle had failed & i, like an idiot, asked if she had ever tried an IUI (intra-uterine insemination). what was i thinking? of COURSE someone who has been trying to conceive for like four years has tried an IUI! i felt like a total asshole.

hopefully these people also kind of feel like assholes for their remarks & actions. but hopefully we can all take those feelings & learn from them, think before we disgorge our unsolicited opinions & stop snacking on our feet all the live-long day.

About these ads

One response to “are you fucking with me?: a guide to modern manners

  1. weird…i just commented to my fiance a while back that your house looked like my dream house. all those books!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s