We had stopped for a cup of tea on a busy Vancouver street. It was a bit cool, a bit damp and a bit expensive. But the tea was hot and the street was busy. It was the perfect perfect stop for a couple of people watchers. Joe wanted to bet that by the end of tea, I'd have an idea for a blog post. I refused the bet. I'm glad I did.
I noticed them long before I saw them clearly. Two boys, same height, same age, walking down the street. They were, oddly as it turns out, noticeable because of their difference. One walked along looking up, fully engaged with being out. The other walked with his head down, seemingly disassociated with where he was and what he was doing. When they got a little closer, I noticed that they were despite their difference, identical twins.
As they walked by, I stopped noticing them and started noticing others noticing them. People did the nudge, nudge thing, along with the chin points and, of course, the open stares. All things I am, in fact all disabled people are, familiar with. One boy greeted the stares with an almost brazen attitude, a 'yeah I'm here, yeah the kid next to me is an exact double, yeah, go ahead, take a look at me'. He had an, 'I'm more because I'm different' attitude. He saw his brother, the guy who's appearance made him different, as part of his personal cachet.
The other boy simply refused to look up. He didn't see the stares but you could tell that he felt them, that he was stung by them. When his brother spoke to him about something, he glared at him, didn't answer him. He walked angry. He had a 'I'm less because I'm different' attitude. He saw his brother, who's appearance mirrored his own, as something that robbed him of individuality.
They came and went. In the two of them I saw, essentially, the only two choices someone has in dealing with difference. Either embracing one's difference or loathing one's self. That's pretty much it. I realized that I veer between those two extremes. Well, not so much veer but I find myself attempting to live 'embracing' but cannot stop myself from visiting 'loathing'.
It was instructive for me to see these two boys. They've taken a spot in my mind and captured a piece of my imagination. They make real the choice that I have to make. Seeing that unadulterated pride and self acceptance, walk down the street with both defiance and determination was strong stuff. Seeing that angry, bitter, step, walking like pride's dark shadow, was startling stuff. Attitude takes physical form. It changes twins into polar opposites.
We finished our tea just as a group of young school children congregated around a street vendor ordering food and laughing with each others. Often these kinds of groups scare me - they can be so open in their stares and unsubtle in their notice of me. But I set the cup down and said let's go. I simply let their stares glance off my attitude. I returned fire with attitude. Oddly, they lost interest in me quickly.