Recently, I got offended.
I am generally quite mellow. Not to the extent that anybody would write a song about it, but it generally takes a lot to ruffle my feathers (cough).
However, having something very simple explained to me by a complete… stranger… in a manner implying I would struggle to put my pants on by myself, was a little irritating. When the stranger proceeded to repeat the instructions, Even More Simply, followed with, “Do you see now?” I’d had enough.
I’d love to say I turned huge and green, towering over the stranger in my shredded white vest. Alas, all I actually did was say, “Yes. I see. I see dead people.”
I know. Not the wittiest, but it worried the stranger enough that they scuttled off and left me alone. Left me, all offended, with nobody to take it out on. So, I brooded on it instead. And decided I was completely justified in my feelings. How dare anybody speak to me like that just because I was Deaf?
Fortunately, my mood was sure to improve as I was off to see one of the many small children who have inhabited my life since I reached the grand old age of twenty-five, some time ago. (I am unsure what it was about my twenty-fifth birthday that inspired all my friends and relatives to suddenly start having babies, but I remain convinced of some meaningful connection.)
This time, it was the five-year-old, who was waiting on her front step to meet me. She was accompanied by a brown thing which, at first, I thought was an elderly, brown pineapple but which turned out to be an elderly, brown cat. I was right on two counts.
“This is Blitzkrieg,” said the five-year-old. She must have seen something in my face (these small children can be very quick on the uptake) as she sighed. “No. Not whatever you’re thinking. Blitzkrieg. You know?” And realisation dawned, as she signed ‘biscuit’.
I don’t know what it says about me that I lip-read ‘Blitzkrieg’ in place of ‘Biscuit’, but anyway….
“Hello, Biscuit,” I said. “You look… catty.” I’m not a cat person.
“You see, Emily,” said the five-year-old oracle, “she’s very old. Some bits have fallen off. She’s got an eye on one side, that eye is fine, but on the other side…” She thought hard. “On the other side, that eye is deaf. You see?”
I saw. I smiled at how cute this five-year-old was. I went in for a cup of tea, and I told her parents how cute she was. I went on Facebook, and told the world how cute she was. And it was quite a while before I realised, by my previous standards, I should have been offended all over again. And I really wasn’t. Damn.
I may need to rethink my politics. In the meantime, in case a stranger should ever ask; I don’t actually see dead people.
And I can put my pants on by myself.
The Rural Chicken is Emily Howlett, profoundly Deaf actress, writer and horsewoman. She describes herself as being “equally fluent in English, BSL and Gibberish, and completely rubbish at French.” Emily can be found all over the place on various escapades, but divides her time between Derby and London. She can often be found behind a large packet of crisps or any halfway decent book, and insists she can still play characters in their early twenties despite having a grey eyebrow hair.
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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