I am constantly learning that for most non-disabled folks the default mindset regarding disability is tragedy. There seems to be some kind of genetic need to understand difference as abhorrent and wheelchairs as the symbol of captivity. I keep running in to these attitudes, the attitudes that completely shore up the hierarchy between those who walk and those who roll, or those who talk and those who sign, or those who think quickly and those who ponder slowly, or those who love chaos and those who require sameness. A hierarchy that leaves one feeling somewhat pleased to simply not be the other. And it always surprises me.
Perhaps because I am so introspective, which is a fine way of saying 'completely captivated with the experience of being me' that there is little room in my life to look at the lives of others with either a sense of superiority or a sense of envy. Others lives are simply others lives, they become fascinating to me only in the degree to which our lives overlap. Other than that they are just foreign things. Most people's lives are simply movies I have not seen. This may sound cold, but I think it's more common than people will admit.
Anyways, this is all to say, 'I don't get it when people don't get it.' An example. I am in a store yesterday. I am reaching for something quite within my grasp. A fellow shopper approaches, eyes full of helpfulness, and says, 'May I give you a hand?' I was feeling the spring in the air and answered jovially (as only fat people can truly do) 'No, but I'll take your legs.'
I thought that funny and mentally noted to tell Joe. But the person who was at the receiving end of Hingsburger Hilarity didn't laugh. She said, 'Oh, my, I'm so sorry.'
It was a joke. Clearly. A joke. Didn't she see the delightful twinkle in my eye. Those who know me can attest that I have a marvellous and unmistakable twinkle, and my eyes were twinkling like a diamond in the freaking sky. Didn't she notice the devilish grin? Those who know me can tell you that I love my own humour and have this little grin when I get off a good line, and I had that grin, the one with the vague hint of dimples. So it was a joke in tone, in body language, a joke.
But instead of joke she heard, her internal prejudice jumping up and down saying 'HE HATES HIMSELF AND ENVY'S YOU, HE WISHES HE HAD YOUR LEGS, HE SPENDS HIS LIFE WATCHING YOU FROM THE WINDOW AND WORSHIPING THE WAY YOU MOVE IN THE WORLD G O D TRULY L O V E S YOU'.
Man. She walked away practically wanting to hug herself.
Shit. She walked away not challenged to think differently but reinforced to think stereotypically.
Harumph. She didn't get the joke. And this is perhaps the saddest thing of all.