Kim Webster: How to get involved in Christmas family arguments when you’re deaf (and don’t know what’s being said)

Posted on January 2, 2015

Christmas time is a time for exchanging gifts, good food, an abundance of plastic and cardboard everywhere and cinnamon vodka. That’s the true spirit of Christmas.

And of course, family get-togethers – which lead to Great Christmas Arguments.

Those arguments that are the reason Great Aunt Maud can’t face coming to family parties any more, and why Uncle Bert is no longer invited.

The truly amazing Great Christmas Arguments are the ones that are retold at every family gathering, embellished more and more, until finally the story that is making the rounds is that Cousin Richard concluded the last Great Christmas Argument using a nuclear warhead.

But when you’re in a family full of hearing people, how can deaf people fully participate?

We all know the feeling, you’re sat small-talking (concentrating really hard on lip-reading and mostly failing) with someone you haven’t seen for 364 days, and you notice all the hearing people prick up their ears and stare towards an invisible spot near the door.

“What? What? What’s happening?”, we say, swivelling our heads like ageing punk rockers. CRASH! Well, we certainly felt that through the floorboards, so off we charge into the other room to enter the scene of this year’s Great Christmas Argument.

Scene: the antagonists are in a fighting stance, people are on either side are posturing.

Enter us, the deaf person. We look wildly around trying to understand what the bauble is going on.

The antagonists are wildly distorting their mouths screaming at each other, how incomprehensible, everything they are saying lip reads like Dory talking Whale in Finding Nemo.

Let’s stare at the people either side to see if we can understand what’s caused this Great Christmas Argument; why are they swinging their heads from side to side like that?

What is WRONG with these people?!

Where has all their Deaf Awareness gone?

(Side-note: it is a lamentable fact that no-one provided subtitles for this Great Christmas Argument, and we will be complaining, quoting the Equality Act 2010.)

Right, well this clearly won’t do. We need to GET INVOLVED. Let’s shout, “Get out of my house!”, and then we can silently self-congratulate ourselves on our best Peggy Mitchell voice, as it sounds in our heads.

We may have sounded slightly Scottish to everyone else, but anyway they’re still arguing, this is not the time to nitpick!

Everyone ignores us, so from now on, we’ll just shout intermittently until it all blows over and we can find out from several people that our version of events was entirely wrong and it wasn’t the prawn sandwiches that started the argument.

In conclusion, I’ve learned that when your Great Christmas Argument starts but there is no interpreter or stage captioning provided, the best thing to do is stamp your feet, shout plenty, and find out the finer details later.

Next year you’ll find out that Cousin Sophie halted the last argument using the Panzer tank that is kept in the shed just for Christmas time.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas (without too many arguments!).

Kim Webster born moderately deaf, and went profoundly deaf in her teens. She’s a mother of two young children and works at Derby County Football Club part time. She enjoys reading, baking programmes and wine.

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Posted in: christmas