Jen Dodds: Why I’m not doing embarrassment. Really

Posted on July 25, 2013


photo (2)Don’t panic! The chicken is fine!

OK… that was a bit rubbish as emergencies go – I don’t really think you’ve been sitting here on the edge of your seat for a whole month wondering how my shared chicken’s foot was. Or maybe you have? If so, I do apologise. That was careless.

But, anyway, I’m not here to write about chickens this time, which is probably a good thing. Today’s burning issue is embarrassment… or the lack of it.

When my daughter was born, I decided quite firmly that I wasn’t going to be embarrassed about breastfeeding her in public. If she needed feeding, she needed feeding, and I was just going to have to deal with it. And after all, nobody’s really interested in my boobs, anyway. No, really they aren’t.

So, once I’d had that stern little confidence-building chat with myself, I was fine. A bit too fine, actually, because in a few sleep deprived moments, I accidentally showed a few passers-by a bit more than they wanted to see.

But whatever! I’m not doing embarrassment!

On a similar theme, I realised quite early on in parenthood that I was going to be meeting loads and loads of hearing people who can’t sign, simply because I’m a parent. They’re everywhere! Midwives, health visitors, doctors, nurses, random people in playgrounds who ask you silly questions (like “Is your child a boy or a girl?” – why they need to know is beyond me), enthusiastic mother-and-baby group leaders who are clearly getting more sleep than you are, nursery staff, teachers, dentists, clowns, other parents, other parents’ friends, other parents’ parents, and… you get the idea, right?

The thought of this, quite honestly, scared me. Because all of these hearing people who I was going to meet but had never met before couldn’t sign (actually, that’s not true, but I didn’t know it then) and I wouldn’t be able to lipread anyone (also untrue) and my children would be sucked into a giant hearing-world vacuum, never to be seen again (a whopping great lie).

Whew.

Once I’d felt the fear and done it anyway, I learned something else – hearing people often get embarrassed when they’re trying to talk to a deaf person who doesn’t understand them. This is really quite silly because, as a friend of mine used to say, deaf people are experts at communicating with hearing people! We do it daily! So, they should relax and let deaf people show them what to do. My friend was a bit optimistic, but had a point.

Instead, hearing people often clam up and kind of laugh to themselves, not knowing that we deaf people are MASTERS of facial expression and body language, and know full well that they have no idea at all what we’ve just said. They’re rubbish at bluffing, sorry! Oh dear. Usually, we’ll take pity on them and write it down, but in worst case scenarios, they’ll actually just walk off, in a terribly British manner of extreme embarrassment.

But really, life’s too short for all that, isn’t it?

The other week, I asked my son’s lovely teacher what the new security door code was. She looked blank. I repeated myself. She looked confused. I gestured, which didn’t help at all. I couldn’t be bothered to write it down, so I tried my Best Speech (which isn’t actually that great) instead; THE DOOR CODE? Suddenly, she looked thrilled and led me down the corridor to the bathroom, where it was my turn to be confused, until she pointed to the coat hooks.

Oh. Door code apparently sounds like coat hook; well, at least the way I say it anyway(!)

So, I laughed, changed tack and asked for the NUMBER for the door and she wrote it down on a piece of paper. Win! During all this, there were other people around us, but I refused to be embarrassed, which helped her not to be embarrassed either.

Because, whatever! We weren’t doing embarrassment!

This kind of thing happens almost every day, with mixed results. I’m used to it now. My very favourite anti-embarrassment story is the one where I’d just joined one of the world’s friendliest playgroups with my daughter, and was explaining to two women that I also had a son. It went a bit like this:

Me: I have a son, too. His name’s Sidney.

Woman 1: Sorry, what was that?

Me: My son’s name is Sidney. Sid.

Woman 2: Sorry, what? (They look at each other, confused.)

Me: Sidney. (At this point, I REALLY should have got a pen and paper.)

Woman 1: Oh, Sicily?

Me: Sidney, yeah!

Woman 2: Wow.

Woman 1: Well, that’s very unusual. Wow. I really like that.

Me: (Taken aback) It’s not unusual, really?

Woman 1: Oh yes it is! Ooh, was he conceived in Sicily?

Me: (Totally thrown) You’ve lost me.

Woman 1: Was he conceived in Sicily, in Italy?

Me: Sorry, could you…

Woman 1: OK, when he was in your tummy, were you in Italy…?

Me: Right, well actually, I didn’t give birth to him. My partner did that.

Woman 1 and 2: Oh! Oh right.

Woman 1: Let’s try this again?

Me: OK… Why are you talking about Italy?!

Woman 1: (Gesturing heavily) Was your son conceived in Sicily?

Me: No! Oh!

… And this is the part where Woman 1 produced a notepad from nowhere and thrust it at me, I wrote down “My son’s name is Sidney! He was conceived in Manchester!” and we all had a good laugh.

I’m proud to say that Woman 1 is now a friend of mine. (If you’re reading this, er, hi! You know who you are!)

We sometimes get mixed up or miss things, but we mostly have a great time together with our kids, and I’m in the middle of organising for a proper BSL teacher to come and teach BSL in my area.

Because… you got it. We’re not doing embarrassment!

Jen Dodds is a Contributing Editor for The Limping Chicken. When she’s not looking after chickens or children, Jen can be found translating, proofreading and editing stuff over at Team HaDo Ltd (teamhado.com).

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