Emily Howlett’s Diary of a Deaf Mum: The question I don’t like being asked

Posted on June 21, 2013



Since the dawn of time, or since the dawn of me, there has been The Question.

Sometimes, The Question is asked ten times in the same day. Sometimes, I can go three or four months without any mention of The Question at all, but it always reappears, and often at the most unexpected moments (such as while washing my hands after attending to Nature’s call, or, on one singular memorable occasion, while in the second loop of the old Corkscrew rollercoaster at Alton Towers).

The Question in question is this; how do you speak so well for a Deaf person?

Beg pardon. I don’t speak well for a Deaf person, or a deaf person, or a passing sheep. I speak well for a person. I can speak English, and I can mutter French very badly. I can change my accent and ‘posh up’, but generally I stick to the common Derbyshire flattened-vowel mumblings I grew up with, my duckys.

The same is true of my signing; I can use BSL, or SSE, and I can flail through cued speech very badly, but I still have a Midlands lisp even with my hands.

I’m sure that little insight into my accent has fascinated you to distraction, but hold on! There is more to come! For ever since I came out from under the cover of various nom de plumes (that’s French, and I could speak it for you very badly) and began writing for our beloved Chicken, The Question has transformed; how do you write so well for a Deaf person?

Well, again; I don’t. I just write. If you mean my grasp of English grammar and stuff, well… I should first point out that I just wrote that as ‘grammer’, and then I should also point out that learning to use written English is a lot easier than learning to use written BSL, mainly because the latter doesn’t exist… And there’s far too much jollop in my head for me to never get any of it down somewhere.

Picture 2Anyway. As ever, I am going as far off the intended point as my little man’s recent first bowl of porridge (intended point; his mouth. Actual destination; curtains, carpet, sofa, dog, fish tank… And we don’t even own a fish tank. Next door don’t even own a fish tank).

The Question, in any of its forms, has never really bothered me. I sometimes answer a bit sharply, or a bit sarcastically, but that’s just because I get asked so often that I like to inject a little variety. I have to remember that for this person asking, it’s the first time they’ve ever thought of it, even if it’s the ten millionth time I’ve answered…

So, I don’t get upset, even if I do get cheeky (“Well, having been brought up by wolves, at the back of the Industrial Estate, living on rats and Spam, the only way was up….”). In fact, I’ve grown to quite like questions in general. “How are you?” is a lovely way to start a new friendship. “Would you like some chocolate?” is even better. “Can I bow down and worship you for your skill at nappy wrangling?” is probably the ideal.

Can you feel a ‘but’ coming on? ‘Cause there is one. And it goes totally against my theme thus far of everything being ok!

Something is not ok. Something is rotten, not in the state of Denmark, but in the minds of people who perhaps don’t know better, or don’t want to know better, or simply can’t think outside the box enough to actually look at someone else’s life from that person’s perspective, instead of their own.

These people should probably be taken by the hand and shown the light, but actually they make me want to vomit on their shoes. They make me furious, and then I have to waste precious time calming down. Because it isn’t worth getting upset over, but sometimes you just can’t help it.

Forgive me if it offends you or you wanted something more whimsical from today’s Diary, but unfortunately life isn’t all whimsy and I guess, in order to be honest, I have to note down the junk as well as the jollop. So, forgive me, but today I basically want to say; No. That’s not ok, actually.

It’s not ok to notice I can’t hear my baby crying and tell me that makes me lucky.

It’s really, really, really, bloody not. OK?

Emily Howlett is a Contributing Editor to this site. She is a profoundly Deaf actress, writer, horsewoman and new mum. 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.

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