Alexis went to the doctor this afternoon. While she was waiting on transit to come home, someone asked her where her dog was and then said, "Oh, you must be the other little girl."
First of all, Alexis is several inches taller than I am, and her hair is short and curly. Mine is long and straight. Why do people assume that a blind person is a blind person is a blind person? When I was in college, I was actually mistaken for a Black person because we were both blind! I'm waiting for the day that I'm mixed up with a man! Besides the fact that this irritates me because it demonstrates that all people see is my disability (and maybe it communicates to some readers that I despise my disability), it irritates me because it demonstrates to me that I as a person simply don't exist. This is something that angers me so much lately that I don't really know how to describe the anger. When people ask about Meghan, I find myself becoming very hostile, even when I really don't mind the question. Something inside me is screaming, "What about ME? I'm remembering an incident from sometime in 1996... A couple was transporting me and my husband to church, and one of them made a comment about my dog enjoying the cool weather. That something inside me screamed, "Do you care how WE enjoy the weather?" Sometimes I wonder whether people would speak to me at all if I didn't have a dog... Oh, if I didn't take Meg with me, they would ask about her. But if I had never had a dog, would I just be a shadow, a nobody, "the blind girl?"
Someone made a comment last week when I was discussing my seminary plans. She said that I was very impulsive. This was a very painful thing to hear, and I've spent a good deal of time since then wondering how impulsive I am--wondering it so much that it's scaring the people who are close to me. I've certainly done some impulsive things in my lifetime, like most people I know. However, there are other significant factors worth considering. I tend to mull things over in my mind for quite a long time and then reveal them after a long time of private consideration; and when I decide to act, I have decided and I do it. It probably does appear impulsive because by the time I get to the point of announcing my decision, I have been planning privately for a long time.
There is also the matter discussed above. People don't know me. They might think they do; but they don't take time to really know me or ask about what's happening in my life on a regular basis. Perhaps they assume that I will share it because I'm part of a class or Bible study group and the group seems close-knit; but relationships form through chatter that occurs after the study time is over. If I am not included in that chatter, I don't feel that or if I am only included as an aside, I am truly a part of the group. If I don't feel that I am truly a part of the group, then I am not likely to share many details of my personal life; and in this case, my actions will seem impulsive because the group is left out of my decision process. Yes, it was my choice not to share details with the group; but it is also the group's responsibility to foster relationships with me. Community works both ways; and I am tired of being the lone initiator, especially when people make it hard by over-focusing on my disability and my dog.
Now for the second gripe... I am aware that I look and sound young. But there really does have to be a point in life when I earn a bit of respect as an adult. kl1964 told me about an incident that occurred when he was returning from a professional conference. The airline assistance person was paged over the radio and responded, "I have to help a blind boy." I had a very demeaning experience in Knoxville in March. While I wasn't called a child, I was treated very much like a child by the security gate attendant.
My mom's suggested remedy for this problem is that I have my hair cut short. There is only one problem. I don't WANT my hair cut short, and I don't really believe that it would do enough to counter the problem. Part of the problem is that for many people disability simply lowers a person's status to that of a child. Another part of the problem is the fact that American culture as a whole is just plain familiar now. People assume that it is ok to treat a person like a friend or child when little is known about them, and sometimes it is offensive to the other person. Calling a stranger "sweetie" or "dear" or "hon" really is not appropriate, even if it's the norm for an area of the country. Those are terms of endearment; and the quickest way to upset a professional is to familiarize her that way. Professionals need dignity, and so do people with disabilities. I'm not a "little girl." I'm a lady, a person, etc. "Girl" might suffice--I'm aware that in some areas of the country, people use "girls" to refer to women at the office. But I am most certainly not a "little girl." When I'm traveling, I am as likely to be presenting at a conference or giving a concert as I am to be visiting; and I don't like people asking in that syrupy voice if I'm visiting. Please, if you must, ask if I'm on vacation as you would ask of any other seatmate who is an adult!