Last weekend, the husband and I got ourselves dolled up for a wedding reception, the first wedding we’ve been to since our own special day. It was nice going as a Mr and Mrs officially!
The reception was in a quaint pub in Hackney, with the bride wearing a beautiful 50′s light green dress. Her family are family friends of my husband’s, and they also came to our wedding. I hope my friends and I will be able to do that in 30 odd years – attend our children’s weddings!
As I walked in, I was really looking forward to a fun evening. But then disaster struck. My batteries died on me as soon as I walked into the pub. Balls, balls, balls!
I wear a cochlear implant, and it really, REALLY aids my listening, especially in a hearing environment. BALLS. I haven’t been without a CI in a hearing environment for about 6 years, so I knew my lipreading skills were really rusty.
I had no spare batteries with me, and no one else had any on them either. BALLS. As people started talking to me, it dawned on me that it was going to be a looooooong night.
Obviously, if I was at a deaf party, or at a party with lots of people who knew BSL, it wouldn’t even be an issue if the batteries went dead. I’d pop my CI in my bag and get on with the evening. But at hearing parties, I absolutely rely on my CI, and having it non-functioning made me realise how far I had come with it.
I remember going to hearing parties with hearing aids and I would still have great difficulty following conversations. The CI has made life in a hearing world a lot easier.
I came up with a plan. I asked the husband to make sure he signed around me so that I could pick up conversation topics, and with lipreading and guesswork (and plenty of alcohol) I was sure I would be fine.
I was a bit annoyed I wouldn’t be able to follow the speeches, but the husband said he would try to interpret for me. He’s deaf too, but hears really well. However, in a chatty pub with no microphones, even some of his hearing family were struggling to follow what was being said.
When people started talking to me, especially new people, I quickly worked out how easy it was going to be to lipread them or not.
A family friend who grew up with the husband had come all the way over from Australia and I was meeting him and his children for the first time. BALLS. Just not ideal to have a CI defunct! But he was relatively easy to lipread, and it really helped that he was so nice looking too (if he’s reading this, erm, hi) so I was happy enough chatting away with him. He knew I was deaf and knew I had flat batteries.
I spotted the husband telling people his “robot wife” had powered down without her batteries, charming!
As more and more people were talking to me I quickly realised my lipreading stamina was about to expire, and quickly.
My husband isn’t so great at using SSE (signing while he is speaking English), he can either only speak orally or use BSL. When he uses BSL he is literally using a different language as his voice is off, and the grammar and structure of BSL is very different to English. There were times when I had no clue what a conversation was about unless someone filled me in.
Just like the old days…
Then the speeches started, and I couldn’t find the husband.
I scoured the room for him, but he was nowhere to be seen. Everyone was smiling and laughing with the speeches so I made sure I smiled and laughed at the same time, an old habit of mine coming back…
The father-in-law saw me looking for the husband, and signed “I feel sorry for you”. He signed the sorry bit and I lipread the rest. I was a bit puzzled, but then again, he is so used to me having a CI in all the time I’ve known him so in his eyes he felt I was missing out, and I hate to admit it, but I was. I did feel like I was putting part of my personality away. I responded that I was fine, that he can sign, and I could lipread, and that was that.
I still couldn’t find the husband.
He knew I was going to ‘fow’ (BSL for ‘I don’t understand’) the wedding speeches so I was getting irate with him for not being there when I really needed him. Isn’t this what marriage is meant to be about? Being there for each other in times of need? This was my time of need, where the heck was he!
He was still nowhere to be seen when, just as the speeches ended, my mother in law told that he had gone to Tesco’s to get me batteries for the CI.
Oh.*rewind and delete the cursing of the husband*
I love that he knows me well enough to know I just wanted the CI to work and to get on with it – I think if I married a hearing man, he probably would have just become an interpreter for the night, which is what I don’t really want!
The next morning at a family dinner (hungover, really hungover. I felt better when I saw the brother-in-law’s girlfriend who looked as rough as I did, how many Jaegerbombs did we do?!) I reminded the father in law what he said the night before. He looked at me with a contorted look and said he didn’t mean it like that, but he could see I was really quiet as the evening had progressed.
To be fair, he was right. I always read/hear about hearing people saying stuff to patronise deaf people, but sometimes I think we need to take a step back, and try to see it from their point of view.
He was referring to the idea that without my CI, my personality is almost powered down for the night, especially around hearing people. As much as I hate to admit it, I do rely on the CI in a hearing world. Saying that, I know some of my Deaf friends will feel reel at this and feel sorry for me that I rely on my CI so much!
He ended the conversation saying the pub was so noisy last night he was struggling to follow conversations anyway, so he was nearly in the same boat as me.
On that note, I really must brush up on my lipreading skills in case my batteries fail again.
And plan a nice dinner for that Tesco walking husband of mine…
Martine is a primary school teacher, teaching deaf children in a mainstream environment. She recently got married and decided to blog about it because she “can’t find enough stories about the happily ever after!” She’s also “deaf, or Deaf, depending on my mood and attitude that day.” At 19, she got a Cochlear Implant, and she is bilingual, communicating in BSL and English (spoken and written). All her views are her own, and she says they “probably have an expiry date of about 1 week before I find something else to get worked up about…”
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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