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It was only a chair.
It was just the placement of the chair that “told” others I was an – ahem – inbetweener.
I was at a children’s party, feeding my daughter while my son danced about when I noticed a Deaf guy pointing at me.
He was asking others who had congregated in a corner, “Who’s that? Is she hearing? She’s not Deaf is she?” They all looked. But before they could answer I piped up.
“I’m Deaf, and I’ve seen you around before.” I signed to him. He looked at me quizzically. His wife wandered over to see what the matter was then proceeded to tell him how they knew me.
“Oh! I remember now!” The guy exclaimed. “You’re one of them people, you can do both – fitzafitza and sign.”
Fitzafitza – he was referring to my speech.
“Erm, yes,” I replied, feeling flummoxed. “I suppose I can.”
“That’s why you’re sitting there then!” He concluded, as though the placement of my chair really mattered.
I looked around. To the left of me was four hearing mothers and to my right was a group of deaf parents.
How ironic. If ever there was a visual explanation to describe my place in the world, this was it. Bang in the middle.
Suddenly I felt awkward and self conscious. Is this really how people see me? Not quite fitting in?
Sure, that day I did chat jovially to my Deaf friends and I love their company but it’s true – I do feel a bit different. And whilst I’m happy to get to know other hearing people there’s usually the initial communication stumbles.
And of course there’s the hearing people who run a mile because they’re scared of Deaf people – so I don’t get the chance to know them anyway!
It’s a bit of a conundrum really.
I’m not quite this but I’m not quite that. In the Deaf community’s eyes perhaps I’m not a true ‘big D’ deaf person. But then maybe to the hearing world there’s no denying I am deaf.
Although I’m obviously, slap-you-in-the-face, clearly deaf, I’ll never be able to hide my “hearing-ness” or Hearing Culture I should say.
The oral use of English, SSE based signs, love of music and the little quirks that my Deaf friends say make me “look hearing” – the polite, reserved nature in social settings.
And then in opposition to all that, there’s no denying my Deaf culture either. The visual humour, noticing things others wouldn’t, love of sign language and of course the exaggerated lip patterns or animated facial expressions when in conversation.
It’s just who I am.
I didn’t want to be an inbetweener growing up. Oh no. I wanted to fit in one camp only. I thought maybe if I was more deaf the support at school would be more straightforward and I’d have more deaf friends. I’d be going to the Deaf club instead of dance lessons, not missing out on the youth activities at the deaf club like I always did…
But then in the privacy of my bedroom I’d wish that I was hearing so I could go on Pop Idol (the show before X Factor 😉 ) and follow my dreams to work in the West End. Singing into my hairbrush with the stereo turned high and dreaming of a musical life.
But those simple, straightforward dreams weren’t meant to be, were they? This is my plan.
So, to the guy who pointed me out and asked – in a beautifully blunt Deaf culture way – why I was sitting where I was… Thanks. It may have been purely coincidental but I believe that awkward conversations such as the one with yourself are only catalysts for getting us to accept or move on from something.
So yes, I am sitting in the middle. And yes, I do go in both worlds – not fully perhaps, but it’s okay with me.
I can work with it.
And it’s Rebecca, by the way. I do hope you remember me next time.
Any more inbetweeners out there?
Rebecca-Anne Withey is an actress, sign singer and tutor of performing arts. A black country girl at heart, she now resides in Derby where she works in both performance art and holistic therapies. She writes on varied topics close to her heart in the hope that they may serve to inspire others.
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
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