17 May 2013

Rubber neckin'

An open letter to all you rubber neckers out there:

We can see you staring. I can see you out of the corner of my eye, that place I don't want to look because I know you won't stop staring. Even though I don't give you direct eye contact I can still see what you are doing. I won't look at you because I don't want you to think that by my meeting your gaze I have approved of your irreverent stare. It is times like this that I am thankful my son is so near sighted and doesn't care about social eye contact. But you see, I don't have vision issues and I can see you staring, practically gawking. Do you think we can't see you or did no one ever teach you manners?

 If I hadn't had to throw my trash away I wouldn't have even given you a second glance, but I had to walk by you to get there and you just couldn't leave well enough alone could you. You just couldn't stop at staring. You had to go to the next level and ask a stupid question. Why? Do you have the same disorder? Then you should understand and start out by saying so and after relating to me I might be inclined to carry on a conversation with you. Does your sister, brother, uncle, friend, or cousin have a condition that looks similar? No? Then you are just asking to satiate your curiosity.

We are not out in public to answer your questions. We are out as a family, even though it's difficult, so we can experience some normalcy like everyone else. We are not here to answer your questions about what disorder my son does or doesn't have. I am all for education but not when we are at dinner. And not when you have been staring so impolitely. And not when you say, "What does he have?"  How insulting. How about a hello first? What do you mean what does he have? That is a big box of alphabet acronyms that you couldn't even translate let alone understand.

If you are so inclined to indulge in your curiosity, might I make a suggestion? In the future, when a person who is different catches your eye, they would be more interested in talking to you if you didn't stare so openly, if you didn't talk about them where they can hear and see you, and if you approached them in a manner they wouldn't find offensive. How about beginning a conversation with one of these starters?
  •  A simple hello is a perfectly normal, typical, conversation starter. It goes a long way.
  • What's his name?
  • How is he doing?
  • How old is he?
  • My friend has some issues very similar to your son and I was wondering if they were the same.
  • I noticed your son was having trouble, is he alright?
  • Your son is adorable! I don't mean to sound rude, but I was wondering if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about him.
  • Ask my son something yourself! He might not be able to speak back to you but you just acknowledged him as a fellow human being and that goes far in my book.
This note might sound snarky and while in a way it is, it is almost certainly an acknowledgment of the fact that I wouldn't ever mind speaking about my son and educating others about what issues he faces if I was approached in the right manner. Don't just blurt out *"What does he have?" as I'm walking by. You would never approach someone with no hair and assume they have cancer and shout out, "Whatchu got?"

* After he asked me what Liam had I asked back, "Who?" He then replied again with the exact same question. I felt like I gave him an opportunity to converse with me in an appropriate manner by giving him a second chance to rephrase or engage but all I got was the exact same question again. Liam was holding a stuffed otter and I reallllly wanted to say, "He's got an otter!" and walk away. Obviously I knew that wasn't the info he was after and I felt a tiny bit of education was in order. So I gave a very simplified response and said, "He has cerebral palsy." He immediately turned to the other guy he was with and that guy said something about so and so having that too. I waited. He didn't say anything else to me and frustrated, I just walked away.

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