One time during college I was with a good friend of mine, Margaret. We were waiting to see a dance show. Turns out that I ran into another friend of mine (let’s call her Polly) during the show and she sat next to us in the second or third row. Since there wasn’t a lot of room for me to move between rows, I struggled to get to my seat.
Polly proceeded to say, “Stop faking it. You’re fine.” Yes, she actually said that. I could tell by her tone of voice, and because I know her, that she was joking. Still though, it was a joke made in poor taste, because I actually was struggling to switch seats.
Needless to say, Margaret overheard and was not happy about it. She was right to be unhappy. I feel like there’s much to be said about people who think those who are disabled are faking it. Speaking for myself, I can say with 100 percent certainty that I am not, in fact, faking it. You know what, though? Even if Polly was joking, just because I am disabled doesn’t automatically make me the brunt of a joke. Not now or ever.
I’m reminded of an instance from a long while ago, also during college. I invited a guy I’d went on just a few dates with to an event at school. It was a similar situation in that I was struggling to get up from a chair. It was one of those soft chairs with a cup holder built into one arm. You would think that the type of chair wouldn’t even matter, but in this scenario it mattered a lot, because I was seriously struggling to stand up from sitting in one of those chairs. This guy, who we’ll call Frank, said the following as he stood there and watched me struggle: “No need to be over dramatic.”
I remember thinking for a split second that perhaps this was just Frank’s sense of humor, like what happened with Polly. In just the few dates we’d been on, he seemed to joke in that way (which was a trait I didn’t like) but at the time I suppose I didn’t have enough experience to actually know what to do with that realization. I soon came to the conclusion that Frank was just an arrogant jerk, whose sense of humor seemed cruel. Here’s what I think Frank–and Polly–could have done in their respective situations:
- Polly could’ve easily assisted me in getting to my seat. Or, she could’ve just not said anything to me. Sometimes silence is just fine.
- Frank could’ve easily assisted me in getting out of my seat. It’s as simple as literally offering your hand out so that I could grab it and pull myself to my feet. Except Frank didn’t do that.
I know, I know, I can’t always expect people to help me out. I have to know how to do things for myself, and I honestly think I do well with that most of the time. However, Polly and Frank, if you see me seriously, honestly having a rough time, would it really be the worst thing if you asked me if I needed help? Even if I say no, which I admittedly do a lot, at least you’d have thought to ask instead of responding with shallow humor. That response is one I truthfully don’t appreciate and never will.
Another thing: even though I refuse help, even when deep down I might very well need it, does not mean I’m faking it. Answer me this, please: why on earth would I ever do something like that? My disability is a serious condition that in my case has required a great deal of medical attention over the years. Sometimes I need the help. Sometimes I don’t. I assure you, I am very vocal about living while disabled and would let someone know whether or not I require assistance.
Needless to say I lost touch with Polly a long time ago, and kept Margaret around. As for Frank, a friend of mine’s reaction to his thoughtless remark sums it all up quite well when she said, “I hope you dumped him right there.”