Tuesday, July 29, 2014


"Alone??" he said, and then to clarify, "All alone?"

I had been making my way north on Church Street, headed towards the pub. I ran into an acquaintance who, actually, we see most often at the pub. After a brief hello, he commented on my state of being 'alone' on the street at that moment. I told him that I was indeed alone and before I could continue to say that I was meeting Joe at the pub, he said, "Are you allowed to be alone?"



This guy has seen me in a pub, chatting with people. This guy knows from conversation that I go to work every day. This guy knows all that and he asks me if I'm allowed to be alone. I said, "Of course I'm allowed to be alone!" I'd answered before I realized that I didn't need to answer - I don't have to check in with him or explain to anyone who I am or what I'm doing or why I'm freaking alone. He didn't drop it, "Where's Joe right now?" he asked.

"Listen," I said, "this is silly, you see that right?"

"I just want to make sure that you are OK being all by yourself."

This guy KNOWS me.

"Fuck man, give me a break here," I said, "just because you walk and I roll doesn't automatically make you responsible for me, you are not my minder."

"Well, if you're going to be like that, go head, get run over," and off he stalked.

For those of you who are worried, I didn't get run over.

I recognize that many people who know us casually pretty much always see Joe and I together. But that's because we do stuff together, we go places together, we live with each other and we like each other's company. I assumed that people had that figured, now after two or tree variants of this 'alone' conversation, I wondered if they think we are together all the time because I need care taken of me all the time. (I don't.)

So, at the bar, which, inspirationally, I arrived on my own, I asked Joe if people ever comment on him being alone when I'm not with him. He thought for a second and said, "People will say, 'Where's Dave?' or 'Where's the big guy?' but they don't often make a comment about him being alone.

The strength of a stereotype: disabled people as constantly needy and as constantly requiring care - can be measured I think in situations like this. Even though this man knows me as a working adult, who does adult things like hang around in pubs, the disability shouts while familiarity whispers. Stereotypes can be, I discover, stronger than actual interpersonal experiences.


That makes this work so much harder.

But at least I'm not in it alone.


Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Just who does this guy think grants a person permission to be "alone"? Is it your Mommy or the guys in the white coats?


Laura said...

It happens to me all the time. I live alone, well me and my dog. I have people ask me all the time if I am allowed to be alone and once in a movie theater I had an employee come up to me as I was exiting the bathroom and ask me if I had lost my mom and insist she should call someone for me no matter what I said . That made me cry. Because I didn't even know how to deal with that. I didn't cry in front of her but once I got to my friend's car I lost it. I was shocked. He went in and spoke to the manager because he was so angry. We did get free tickets but I don't think any sort of training helps with that level of stupid. I'm not sure how I would react if it was someone who knew me did that. Just like a kick in the gut.

Anonymous said...

I'm watching the Commonwealth Games, with para-sport on an equal basis (outwardly, at least) with able-bodied sport. The crowds and cheers don't seem much less for the para-sportsmen.

Still people have the idea that a piece of equipment renders you incompetent and to be policed.

Mary said...

Ouch. I'm so sorry that happened to you.

For myself - it depends what I'm doing and what sort of a day I'm having and a bunch of other factors. Some times and for some activities I'm okay on my own. Other times/activities, I really do need someone with me (and I'm aware of how fortunate I am to have friends and a care package and so on that can facilitate that). But so long as I'm conscious and communicating, I'm still the one in charge of assessing each situation and making the decision for myself about how much or how little support I need. "Allowed" doesn't come into it.

Anonymous said...

Golly! It is one thing when a complete stranger makes rude comments, but it is more hurtful when someone who "knows" you has made such long term erroneous assumptions. Kick in the head or what!?!?! I put "" around knows, as if he really knew you, this would not have been such a bee in his bonnet. Honestly. What an uneducated and uncouth fellow! I wonder if he should be left alone to wander the streets displaying his naked and offensive assumptions. He needs "help".

Anonymous said...

okay . . . repeat after me: "you seem to be mistaking me for someone who owes you an explanation." We get so hooked into explaining ourselves, don't we???!!!

Laura said...

Ohhh I love that I'm going to start using that one about owing explinations ... thanks :D

theknapper said...

omg.....I have a friend who also gets this type of question/concern from her family.....even tho she's educated,, married (she left him) has 2 lovely grown children, has travelled,has had ex director type jobs etc.