10 November 2005

you don't LOOK stupid

by Cecily
On Tuesday I went to see Noam Chomsky talk about language origins at Georgetown. At several points during the talk he mentioned ASL and directed everyone's attention to the interpreter and/or the "signers" in the audience.

That was fine; he was open and respectful and there was no problem. Sadly (in many ways), not everyone is Noam Chomsky. As I was making my way down the stairs after the lecture ended, I happened to be immediately behind one of the interpreters. Some boy came up and started asking the interpreter something. The interpreter turned around and (I guess) recognized me. "Are you deaf?" he asked. "yes" I said. Then we all started interviewing myself about if my internal monologue is in ASL or English.

That part was tedious and annoying but this is the best part: at the end of the conversation when I was trying to look like I had somewhere to go, the boy said this: "It's always been a dream of mine to learn to do sign language."

That's quite a dream, there, buddy. Keep your feet on the ground!

People say some weird things when they are confronted by deafness for the first time.

My main favorites are:
-Oh, I'm so sorry.
-Oh, that's great!!!!
-No, you're not.
-You don't look deaf
-When I was in 2nd grade 20 years ago there was a kid in my class with a hearing aid. We weren't really friends though. But he was cool!

One of my friends was once given a wheelchair during check-in at the airport. She doesn't use one. Several other friends have been given Braille menus or taken by the elbow and guided across the room. Or told (loudly) that they would for sure be going to Heaven, and in Heaven everyone can hear.

I understand that people are not familiar with disability in general in our culture, and with deafness in particular, and that people are just trying to be nice, and that they mean well, and they probably are actually really great people deep down, just like me.

I don't really care. Think, just a LITTLE bit, before you talk. That's all I'm asking.


  1. yeah, cecily, you don't LOOK deaf...
    maybe i'll just start gesturing wildly to get my point across. b/c i'm sure THAT is charming.

    you are pefectly lovely, cecily!

  2. I don't look mean, either, but I am. VERY mean.