Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Just One Too Many

Photo Description: A poster reading: SILENCE the Violence
Today's blog will contain swearing. I try not to have too many cuss words in my writing, although I think my definition of a cuss word may be different than a lot of other peoples, but, without question, I'm going to use a word that everyone agrees is a cuss word. I'm going to drop the f-bomb. So, be ye warned.

It's awful to say but I am accustomed to street harassment. While my wheelchair is a magnet for social inappropriateness, my weight is a magnet for social violence. I know the use of the word 'violence' in this context may be shocking to some, but I don't think that the word 'bullying' conveys the sense of what it's like on the receiving end. It feels like an act of violence so, in my mind, it is an act of violence. That it is violence most often done with words doesn't diminish the impact. So, I am accustomed then to the consequences that come from being different, from living out loud.

Sometimes, though not often, I simply forget. Like yesterday, I was sitting in the car with Joe driving and I was excited. I'm starting a new project that I've wanted to do for over 15 years. The universe aligned, and because of a talented teenaged girl, it's going to happen. So I was chatting wildly about what had just happened, the meeting, the people, the project, the everything. I forgot, which I don't usually, that I am in a car with windows. As I was talking I noticed movement in the passenger seat in the car next to me. I glanced over and saw a man, who looked to be in his seventies, he'd written a message in pen on a piece of paper. It said, "You are disgusting!" As I looked he was pointing at me and my body. Well, gosh, thanks.

But I want to tell you about the day before, we were going down to meet with Luke, a fellow from the office, who we were going to map out our agency 'Accessiwalk.' We were both excited about what we were doing and talking about it. I forgot, in the excitement of doing something that I'm really happy about, that I was out that I could be seen and that the world isn't ever, not ever, really safe for me. I rolled by a young man, all cool, with a bunch of his friends just outside the Ryerson University building. I don't know if he was a student there, but there are lots of young folks around that area. I say this because he could be heard and spoke as if he desired to be heard. He made a crude comment about my weight, forgive me, after writing what was on the piece of paper in the paragraph before, I can't write down another hateful epithet.

It stung of course. It also drew the attention of all the other young people in the area. All of whom presumably had been in bullying classes, all of whom, I'd guess, had learned not just to be a silent bystander. Well, if they had taken those classes, what they learned didn't stick. Their response was silence and staring. Staring not at the person who openly and without fear of reaction, threw abusive words at a stranger, but staring and me for being a stranger with a difference. But that day it hit me hard, I spun around in my chair and said, "Fuck you! OK? Fuck you, you asswipe!!" He was shocked. Not embarrassed, but shocked. He tensed as if he was going into fight mode and I saw no more because I had turned my chair and was on my way.

And you know what?

It's a big secret.

It felt good.

Really good.

I don't want to become like that and I don't want to do that often. But it felt like I was saying it to all the people who'd done similar things before. Like his was just one too many to bear. So, I don't apologize. I don't think I should have too. So the clock is ticking, the sign in the car window the next day is tucked away and, I'm guessing, I'll tell him off in a few months through a good and well placed 'Fuck You!' to someone who hits me when the bruises are still to tender to bare one more punch.


Belinda said...

You did him a favour. You told him the truth. I am praying that it shocked him out of his cruel and thoughtless behaviour.

Kerima said...

You may have saved another person insult by fighting back. No one has the right to do what is routinely done to you. I hope everyone reads this and learns from it.

Amy JD Hernandez said...

I love that you said that! I wish you didn't have to defend yourself, though. Ugly people.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you did that.

Andrea S. said...

It's awful that so many people do these things to you. Nobody deserves being targeted like that. And in the second story, it's also awful that the guy didn't show any hint of embarrassment or shame even after you called him out.

clairesmum said...

Sometimes you have to use the language that will be effective in communicating your point. You did.
Anger expressed outward to the cause of the anger means that the anger does not remain inside of you and become shame or anxiety.
Like Anon 9:56, I'm glad you did that.

Anonymous said...

I am baffled. I do not understand what could possibly be going on in someone's head that they'd actually look for a pen and paper to insult and demean a complete stranger. What would he say if I asked him why? Does anybody have any clue what is going on here?

I can just about accept that people might be genuinely clueless about accessibility, or genuinely clueless about how to interact with a disabled person (if they've been "taught" that it's difficult), or that maybe they're so blooming insecure that they need to belittle someone else to make themselves look good (which doesn't make it okay, but at least explainable), but this doesn't seem to fit any of those boxes.

Sorry to rant, I am genuinely freaked out by this. I have been bullied myself, the way I deal with it is by rationalising it and making it about them, not me.

Dave, I'm sorry you have to put up with this crap.

Gill, regular reader.

imfunnytoo said...

As someone who uses that kind of language entirely too much, I have to tell you that you used it in just the right amount in just the right place in just the right time.

Unknown said...

I cannot fathom WHY a person would feel entitled to write a demeaning message nor verbalize a demeaning message to another human. Your continued education on this topic really will change the world, I simply must believe this.

Kris S. said...

Dave, would it be okay with you if I shared your post with a Facebook group on Street Harassment that I participate in? Thx. And good on you for giving that asswipe what for.

Anonymous said...

sorry . . . need to weigh in on this one . . . and agree with what Patricia Wright said . . . "I cannot fathom WHY a person would feel entitled to write a demeaning message nor verbalize a message demeaning to another person . . ." - that includes retorts in my thinking.

I know about the straw that breaks the camel's back, but hatred only begets hatred. Is there a strategy that puts you closer to the high road on this one?

(and my sincere sympathy for the terrible attack on your person . . . it signifies an uninformed, thoughtless individual who has certainly never walked a mile in the shoes of someone who is disadvantaged in any way)

Anonymous said...

One has to wonder about a person who takes the time to get paper, pen and to write (in a car)a demeaning and cruel message. If only they would take equal effort to write or do something for the encouragement of another person.

Of course verbal words said to another are cruel, whether from your mouth or another. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Anonymous said...


I think you had a very human reaction to a very unhuman acting individual.

Technical it would be called "authentic reply". And sometimes we can not stop this from happening.

I am so sorry, someone targeted you like that. It was very hurtful and I guess it will take time to heal.

Hugs, Julia

Laura said...

Here's what I don't understand and I will never ever understand this because it happens to me more often the I like to think about as well. Though the majority of the comments are about what was said to dave and not about what he said in defense of what was done to him. What the heck is with people who say things to the affect of two wrongs don't make it right? Sometimes it is entirely right. I'm not big on cursing I'm not a fan of telling people off in in public, because I feel like people who say those things loudly and to be heard are too stupid to understand why that is morally and ethically wrong and no matter how much I might want to tell them so they don't have the higher order thinking to understand why is is not ok. So usually if I am going to say something I just point out that I heard them and that and I don't think its ok. Here where I live the fact that I would call them out shocks most idiots into silence. But on more then one occasion I have had someone come back and me that I am rude and need to remember my manners most often this happens after someone has just did something obnoxious and inexcusable in my face so I could hear it to have some fun at my expense (why do they always yell at me like I am in the wrong??) In that case all bets off. It is not our jobs as people with disabilities to consider every other persons point of view or to educate or to make what they did Ok for them. Sometimes its not about two wrongs making a right sometimes its just because today I have had enough. Today I don't have the strength to let one more thing roll of my back Today I was calm and nice to the first 20 people who were asses to me and I just cannot take it any more. No wrongs don't make a right but sometimes it Ok to be less then cam educated and forgiving too. No one was put on this earth to teach people how not to be a bully. It comes with the territory of being different in anyway from the people around you, most of us accept that as part of our life and some of us even hope to make it better for those who come after us but we don't have to do it all the time. Its not right to expect that we should.

apulrang said...

Sometimes, only a "Fuck you!" will do,

I think it's partly due to a huge failure on the part of the various campaigns against "obesity" that are popular right now. They don't say nearly often enough that efforts to improve diet and exercise have nothing to do with "fat shaming." It still doesn't quite explain the naked hostility, but maybe it gives some sort of tacit permission for peple to indulge their nastier side.

Unknown said...

If you run your mouth at a stranger for no real cause other than your own entertainment, you might get some push-back - sometimes in the form of a sentiment as completely unmistakeable as "fuck you, asswipe." That's what community disability service professionals call a 'natural consequence.' It's not perfect - but it has impact. Someone in that moment needed to say it - and someone needed to have the ugliness in their words revealed to them (if for no other reason than to give them pause the next time they would choose to entertain themselves at another's expense).

Cynthia F. said...

Those jerks, I am so mad at them for doing that. Karma's a bitch and I hope they get theirs! And very (of course secretly) glad you told that asshat off...