Saturday, May 12, 2007


I had an opinion. And it upset me.

This is odd because I have opinions about everything. But this time it bothered me.

The bar had a patio and it was a nice evening so we took our drinks outside. It was nice to relax and just sit and chat. Then I saw her. Right across from me. Knocking back a beer with ease and efficency. Then she picked up a cigarette and took a long drag stubbing it out in the ashtray when she was done.

Nothing unusual.

Except I'd never seen it before.

She had Down Syndrome and she was having a helluva time. She was with two other people, one of them obviously her boyfriend. They were partying. I did what I condemn in others. I stared. I couldn't take my eyes off the group. I figured that her boyfriend also had a disability but that the other guy did not.

Another round of drinks arrived at their table and she picked up her pack of smokes knocked one out and lit it quickly. In shock I realized that I had never, ever seen someone with Down Syndrome smoke. Or drink beer in a bar.

Never. And I've been in a lot of bars.

I tried to distract myself with chatter buy my eyes kept going back to that damn table. She was getting drunk for heaven's sake. She had that slurr of words that I've heard all to often coming out of my own mouth.

It bothered me. Weird. I've fought for the right for people with disabilities to grow up and become sexual beings. But somehow drinking and smoking just weren't really part of the equation.

I'm a hypocrite.

But I'm dealing with this. I realize that I have no right to an opinion over another person living their life fully in the community. None. The fact that I had 'caregiver brain' watching her pound back the beer and tuck into a couple of shooters while smoking a wack of cigarettes is just part of my heritage. That 'I know best' mantra that we all bring into this field.

Sometimes it's just none of my business.

Sometimes an opinion is really just prejudice.

Sometimes it's me that needs to be challenged and change.



Anonymous said...

Dear Dave-No way.Making judgements is wrong.Having opinions isn't.Smoking?Causes cancer.That's a fact.People who choose to smoke are making a bad health choice.That's an opinion I have that is based on facts.Nuttin' wrong there.Getting drunk?Renders you unable to control your own body and brain.Good idea?My opinion based on the facts-no.These opinions based on fact I would apply to anybody,disabled or not, because I am not prejudiced .There is such a thing as knowing what's best-that's why we have laws.Did it ever occur to you that people who couldn't care less have also adopted that "sometimes it's just none of my business" attitude? And although it would be wrong to force my opinions on someone or worse, make someone do what I wanted not what they want, the rootword of 'care-giver brain' is care.The fact that I would want for anyone that which I want for my own children proves that I am NOT a hypocrite.Or prejudiced.Frances

Jenny said...

I just want to say that I've been reading your blog, and I enjoy it a lot. I am one of the many people who don't get to interact with people with disabilities that much, so when someone who is disabled is by me, I don't know what to say/do that wouldn't make them uncomfortable. I try to give a friendly smile, and go from there. I enjoy your blog and reading what you have to say. Every entry opens my mind a little more.

Anonymous said...

Frances - Dave's not saying that smoking or drinking are good things. But if it's okay for him to drink, and the other normal people there to drink and smoke and whatever, then it should be perfectly okay for someone with a disability to do the same thing, and his knee-jerk reaction was that it was not. That IS discrimination.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous-good point!Guess my horse called "No way" ran away with me.OK,forget all that other stuff,good disguise Miss Jackson:as you were.Frances

rickismom said...

I am adding this long after the original post was made, but felt I needed to comment.
The question is, was she doing an acceptable "safe" behavior? If so, this post is right. But I am not sure that this is what is going on. I suspect, Dave, that your gut reaction was a reaction to a situation where this young woman was NOT cared for enough to be educated carefully about the dangers drinking can pose to anyone, let alone to a young woman with Down syndrome in a public bar.