It's constant. Being stared at. I can't go into a mall, into an office, into a store without people swinging their eyes over at me and stopping, frozen by what they see, staring. It's always been thus. Before it was because of my weight, my size, now its because my bulk moves on wheels. There is a part of me. A strong part of me that knows how to slap those eyes away. Knows how to understand their need - standing on the top of normalicy - to look down upon me, catagorize me, label me. I honour that part today. It's blogging against disablism day. I hold that part of me up to you - acknowledge it, applaud it, accredit it.
(But what about the times, the few times, when I look in the mirror and wish to see something else? To be someone else? To have something else?)
It's constant. The tone of voice that judges. The high little girl tones of 'sweetie' and 'pudding' that people now call me. Like being in the wheelchair has taken away from me my adulthood, my manhood. The tone comes with the touch that belittles. The unwanted hand on the shoulder, the pat on the back of the head, the 'big hug for the big guy' - all things done, not for me but to feed the self esteem of others, to reinforce their relief at not being ... me. I know how to understand this. I know how to respond. To brush the hand away, to engage them in ways that morphs that tone from 'talking to a child' into 'talking to an adult'. I know how to use humour, to use wit, to surprise the world with intellegence. I honour that part today. I proudly place it before you. It's the part of me that maybe I most cherish. It fights a battle that's not even acknowledged. And it wins, mostly.
(But what about the times when my inner voice diminishes? When the tone I use to speak to myself assaults me? When the only ears that hear the words are mine, and a tone of loathing escapes hidden from the pen it's held in?)
It's constant. The assumptions of incompetence. Do you need me to do that for you? Here let me help? The worst ever, waiting for Joe to return from the washroom. We are at a coffee shop, having tea, we'd each gotten a slice of banana bread to go with our tea. A woman at the next table, seeing me sitting and waiting asks, "Do you want me to cut that for you?" I say no, thanks, but no. I know how to understand this. I do. I know what to do with it. I do. I know how to 'be in the world' to act with dignity when being diminished. I know how to quietly push away offers that look kindly but are there to reinforce the heirarchy between the priveleged and the pitiable. I know when manners work to reassert equality. I'm good at it. I honour that part today. I'm glad of it. I feel good after such interactions. Good about my ability to restrain anger. To rise from 'less than' to 'more than' with only a few words.
(But what about the times where I just don't try? Where I give in to my own preconceived notions of disability? Where I figure giving in is just easier? Where I just don't want to push at the boundaries of my incompetence?)
The oppressor without - I'm good, I've got that down, I know what to do.
The oppressor within - that's the real battle, the hard battle, the one I ultimately need to win.