I've been asked, many, many, times, how it is possible that I have enough stories, from my life as a fat, disabled man, to write a daily blog. The question always is asked with a tone that suggests that maybe I should just admit that these things I write about are more fiction than fact. For me, I always wondered how people could go through a whole day and NOT have a story to tell at the end of it, but then, we're all different.
I knew that I might have the 'story advantage' for a few reasons.
1. Visually, I'm 'dually different' I'm really fat, and I use a wheelchair. Right off that sets me up for interactions that are founded in one of those two differences. I have come to believe, from my own personal experience, that the most common social experience of those who are visibly different is social hostility in one form or another. That's not to say there aren't positive experiences, but if you added up every experience and placed them into two categories. Social violence would top social welcome every single time, every single day. I had an argument with someone with a disability who sees me as being 'too negative' about this fact. When I said this, she said that wasn't her experience. I asked her if in her calculations of her days, did she include the staring, the inappropriate comments, the annoyance of the space she takes. She said, dismissively, 'oh, I've gotten used to all that.' Well, maybe, but they still count.
Stories arise out of these kinds of interactions if you stay open enough to still see them, which I do, even years later.
2. I require help from others. My need of assistance pulls me into an odd kind of intimacy, even with strangers. Even the briefest interaction, like asking someone to reach something for me, results in a story pretty much every single time. I don't tell that story, to anyone other than Joe, to everyone all the time. Asking is an act of both bravery and vulnerability and establishes a dynamic that is entirely different from person to person and situation to situation.
3. By nature, I am a story teller. By nature I am introspective.
All of these I had realized a long while ago and I realized them all through the writing of this blog. But I wondered if those were the only reason. On a whim, I decided to try an experiment. I didn't tell Joe of this until after it was over because he was part of this little test. We were heading down Yonge Street, from Bloor to Dundas. It's a fair walk. The day was one that felt warm because the temperature was up to -8. I decided to count the number of interactions I had with random strangers on the street versus the number of interactions that Joe had. Joe is an affable guy so this was a very fair measure.
By the time we were down to College Street, in my mind this is about the half way point, I had spoken to 17 people and had non-verbal conversations with 3. Now the speaking to was mostly, 'excuse me' or 'sorry, can I get past please.' The non verbal conversations were about negotiating space - who's going which way and when. Joe had had 1. He's said hello to someone he recognized from the building we live in.
By the time we were down at Dundas, I was up to 28 verbal and 7 non verbal. Joe was still at 1. This means I had interactions with 34 more people than Joe did. Thirty four! That's a lot. I admit that I was surprised at the numbers, I expected that I had more interactions, I just didn't know exactly how big that number would be. I suspect it would be higher in summer with more people out on the sidewalks walking.
So clearly, at least to me, the more interactions you have, the more likely a story results.
However, this little study answered two questions. One we just looked at. The other? I'd wondered why I was always so socially tired when I got home from being out. Why, since I became disabled, I seemed to have a much greater need for privacy and quiet when I got home. I guess that's understandable now.