At the base of the excalators, and just to the right of the elevators, there is a gathering place. People sit and have a tea or a chat while they rest up for more shopping or wait to meet others. It's an informal spot, seems perfectly designed for those who need a moment. I often pull up there when I'm waiting for Joe, he often sits there while waiting for me. It's one of those treasures, tucked away, known by locals, stumbled upon by strangers.
Sitting alone, she was preparing for the arrival of another. Her purse was open on the table in front of her, she had a small mirror in one hand, with the other she was deftly touching up her make up. I don't know who she was meeting but she obviouisly wanted to look her best. She wore a tight top, displaying her curves. One simple chain, with a heart locket hung round her neck. As I drove by in my chair, she put the mirror away, clicked the purse shut, and resumed watching for someone's arrival.
I'm guessing a man.
It was only later that I realized that yesterday, the day saw her touch up her make-up, was International Women's Day. With so much travel, I get a bit lost in time. I always mark that day in some way and was annoyed that I'd missed the opportuntity to write about it. Seeing her, there, in that spot, waiting for someone, all dressed up, all made up, though, was celebration enough for me.
I know that International Women's Day is traditionally celebrated as a means of marking the struggle women have had for rights, for safety, for political power, for a voice on the world stage. But I also realized that for many people with intellectual disability, like the young woman with Down Syndrome, with the mirror in her hand touching up her lipstick, it might mean something a little different. Women with intellectual disabilities, and those with physical disabilities as well, still fight for the right to womanhood. The right to be a fully adult woman. Gender, maleness and femaleness, is a concept often accepted only in children with disabilities. It's possible to be a cute little girl but seldomly do people say of the cutest girl - she's break hearts one day.
As people with intellectual disabilities begin to approach teen years, the freedom they anticipate is often denied them, their adulthood will be made dangerous is they fully adopt their feminity, their masculinity. Little girls who manage to negotiate all of parental., system and societal fears to become fully realized adult women, are few. Helmed into a lifetime of restriction, for their own good, they experience oppression and victimization, ironically, because the world is seen as too dangerous!
I saw a woman with Down Syndrome on International Women's Day. This is cause for celebration. It is also cause to remember that like women repressed for reasons of culture or of faith or of simple brutality, women with disabilities experiencing a fear and, sometimes even loathing, of their feminity. Lipstick being artfully pushed against lips may not seem like an act of victory, or an act of revolution to you, but it does to me.
I don't know who she was waiting for, but it was a woman who waited.