Saturday, March 31, 2007


We flew into London last night and were grateful that the hotel bar was still open. We wanted a drink and a bite to eat. The flight had been fine, but long. Joe took the luggage upstairs and I ordered drinks and got set up at a table. While the bar was not crowded there were a number of other travellers gathered at different tables. All looking tired.

Beside me was a young man, clearly looking distraught. His friend was at the bar getting a couple pints of Stella. When he returned they dove back into a conversation that had obviously been running for some time. The guy who I had first noticed sitting alone had just been dumped by his girlfriend - that wasn't all the guy she dumped him for was another mate. He was devastated. They talked and the emotions felt were the stuff of opera - classical and soap.

I was reminded of a while back doing an abuse prevention workshop for people with disabilities. When we were talking about emotions one man with Down Syndrome got up and pointed at another guy in the group. He talked about being angry and sad. About his former friend running off with his girlfriend. She, the woman in dispute was sitting in the front row, and like most women in this situation looked both troubled and pleased that these two men wanted her.

Even though I have worked in the area of sexuality and disability for years, I have to admit that I needed to stop myself from thinking that this was cute. If it was tragic to be betrayed, to lose love for the guy in the bar - it was tragic for this man with Down Syndrome to be going through the same thing. His heart was broken. Truly broken.

Real lives have led to real joy but it's also led to real pain. Pain that we must take seriously. Pain that's understood. Pain that's comforted.

I wonder if that young man with Down Syndrome had a friend who would sit and let him cry into his beer like the guy beside me. I wonder if he would be taken seriously as he spoke of his past girlfriend and his former friend.

I hope so.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if an ice cream on hot day will come his way too.
it's tough caring about people isn't it.
these days I want to cry when I hear about people just being 'nice'.......

Maybe it's the curse of working in the LD feild - you get used to people not being nice - when you find them - you think you're lucky....

Anonymous said...

The extra mile- anonymuous blogger I agree. You hear it spoken about all the time like it is some wonderous thing that someone has done. Wouldn't it be just great if there were no extra miles and that what is described as something out of the ordinary was just what people do normally.
Imagine that!

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience the other day, when at an event i noticed a young lady who has Downs Syndrome in floods of tears having thrown her arms around a man who also had Downs Syndrome. I found out that it was because she had just bumped in to him 'her boyfriend' who she had not seen for years.He had moved from the area and had come to the same meeting, they had met unexpectedly. I wonder if anyone had thought about the meaningful relationship they had before he moved and how the move would impact them or did people just think it was cute and then not give it another thought. It was clear by the depth of emotion upon their renunion that for them it went far beyond cute.

Unknown said...

I must be the odd one out for not seeing the couples in a different light. I can't even figure out the logic behind seeing them as "cute" since DS people haven't seemed childlike, either. (I wonder which supposed deficit in being Autistic that's supposed to be?)

Though if "cute" is the worst they encountered, they're relatively lucky. I learned a while back that most people are disgusted and even hostile towards the idea of a couple sharing a disability. Not that being seen as "cute" is good, either, but it's better than verbal abuse. :-/

n. said...

moggy: i think it's lack of imagination AND lack of theory of mind. i forget the 3rd one, oh yeah, communication. well, it's not that one, i guess.

as a socially-conservative (is that the right word?) autistic i have been not taken seriously because the relationships that nonetheless broke my heart were 'not well-defined' because, for both reasons, i never actually dated some guys in a standard manner, before they broke my heart. but the same emotional involvement happens, no matter how socially clueless and/or reserved one is and no matter how non-standard one's behaviour is to the current culture. i hope this makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Moggy - Thank for your comment. I appreciate your point fully. I wanted to just clarify my previous point where I used the term cute. I meant it to represent a total disregard for the real emotion and depth of feeling the couple had for each other, the fact that it had not been even considered.

I have also seen some other very disrtuctive intervention in peoples relationships which had caused them to believe that they were wrong and even bad to want a relationship with another person.

It makes me remember a story Dave wrote in February about someone with a learning disability almost seeking permission to love as he was led to believe that God did not want him to have a girlfriend.

It makes me wonder whether this disregard and fippant approach may become equally as damaging as a more overt hotile attitude in the long run?

n. said...

am i the only one confused which anonymous is which?
sorry, not my place to say this probably, but still...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Natalia that all these different "anonymouses" are confusing. Though I probably shouldn't really speak given that I've often posted here under "anonymous" too (because I'm too lazy or too confused or both to figure out how to "register" under some kind of screen name).

Perhaps us "anonymous" people should still end our posts with some sort of screen name, even if it's not the real name, just so readers can distinguish one anonymous poster from another.

--Andrea Shettle (posts at blogs as andreashettle)