Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Storey Man
So how many animals can you fit into a condom? One cock and a couple of hares. Yes that's the level of humour we men fall to when drinking beer in each other's company. We met Nigel Divine and Steven Storey at the pub here in London. Steven and I are presenting at the same workshop tomorrow on the subject of sexuality, so we began swapping stories and stories became jokes and Stephen is the master of the quick joke.
As is the nature of such evenings the topics became more serious and we talked about relationships. Steven, a man with Down Syndrome, talked a lot about his love for his fiance Julie and shared a bit of his journey towards adulthood. Like all good speakers he didn't want to give away too much of what he was going to say the next day.
Steven spoke frankly about having Down Syndrome and told a story about how he first learned that he had a disability and what that insight did for him. He has decided that Down Syndrome is something he needs to be proud of, others need to learn about and he has a mission to ensure that he is never silent about what it means to live in the world with a disability. I sat in awe listening to him talk. This guy may be the most grounded person with a disability I've ever met. He is utterly and completely plainspoken about his life, his dreams and the challenges he faces. There is no self pity in him and he would recieve pity with distain.
Not only does Steven see himself clearly he sees others clearly as well. He told a horrible story about walking his girlfriend (who often stays over in his flat where he lives - alone) back to the bus stop. A car sped by, the window was down so Steven and Julie could hear the music play. Someone in the car saw him and yelled out, louder than the music, "Mongol!!"
"I was gobsmacked," Steven said and you could hear the vestiges of pain in his voice as he remembered that evening. The evening he was walking with his girlfriend, the evening that was warm enough for summer breezes, the evening when some passing stranger tossed cruetly out the car window.
"Some people are just cruel and mean, there is no excuse for it."
When he said that I grabbed his arm in agreement. No more making excuses for these jerks. No more with the myth that 'they need education'. No more. It's time for accountability.
Seeing that we had much in common we swapped stories about being stared at, about the rude treatment by others. It was as if we both needed to say 'Hey, You, World, Get It or Get Out."
Joe, Stephen and Nigel had a few pints and I drank my green tea, we moved away from the subject of the casual brutality of others - why - because it became boring. Because what they did couldn't affet what we do. Because the behaviour of others became a place where the two of us could connect, where we could nod in agreement at the horrid behaviour of assholes, but that's all it was.
That man who hollared out what Stephen called the M word, tried to hurt Stephen. Well, he failed. Stephen was angered. Proud people do not crumble in the face of bigotry, mean people can't throw stones high enough to hit the heart of someone who lives with dignity and integrity.
I am more because I met Stephen.
I suspect he has that affect on many.
Even after a beer or two and a bad joke.