Hi, Subterfuge readers. Today we welcome our first special correspondent, T.
<3 your editors, D & F
I started dating a great new guy this week, let’s call him P. I’ve been talking to him for over a month, and we finally met in person the past week. He’s nice, sweet, and speaks with an accent. The accent isn’t from some exotic locale, but because P is deaf. He can hear with the use of hearing aids and fills in what he can’t catch with lip reading. This doesn’t bother me at all: just an excuse to learn some sign language on top of being around someone wonderful. To me, it’s just another interesting thing about him.
While talking about P, I mention that he is deaf/hard of hearing, that he can hear using hearing aids, and that he has an interesting accent because of it. I don’t really think much of it because it’s just a basic, interesting fact about him. Sometimes people have a question or two about it, I answer them, and the conversation goes its merry way. However, something I’m noticing is that some people /pity/ me for this, and they feel bad that this guy I’m seeing is marred significantly by the fact he has trouble hearing. I can’t stand it.
I admit it: I am someone heavy into sound activities. I love listening to music, singing at karaoke, I can play several instruments, I collect headphones, and can tell you just why a VBR mp3 is much better than a 320k mp3. These are things I enjoy sharing with friends and family, but you don’t have to be into this stuff to be my friend or anything. Yes, it’s a little sad I won’t be able to share these things extensively with P (though I do want to help him find a good pair of headphones he can use with his hearing aids without interference), but it’s not the end of the world. It’s absolutely fine with me.
Becoming close to someone with a disability makes you realize what they go through. P asks that people speak without covering their mouth and facing his general direction so that he can read their lips if he needs to. Even when he’s not around, I’m so much more aware of what direction I’m facing in relation to who I’m talking to at any given time. I’ve also gone from having to consult a finger-spelling chart for ASL to being able to easily (though somewhat slowly) spell a new name or a word P is having trouble catching (apparently I say “tourists” strangely and I’ve had to spell it out most times). I’m really enjoying learning ASL and some of my friends have also been learning some signs. In reality, though, these “accommodations” aren’t intrusive or anything; they’re just courteous, which we should all be to each other anyway.
There’s no reason you should feel sorry for me for dating someone with a disability. The fact that someone might have trouble hearing or seeing or walking doesn’t make them any less awesome a person. It’s just distressing to tell a friend that I met someone great and be met with pity. The ones that should be pitied are those who can’t see that someone who has trouble hearing or seeing is just like everyone else.
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