Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Disability mean

When a friend of mine joined me for dinner last week he had a story to tell. There's a young woman  in a wheelchair that frequents the same areas of downtown Gainesville that I do. I don't know her name, I don't know her age- and we always see her surrounded in a group of hipster.  My friends always thought I should introduce myself to her as if- wheelchair aside - we have anything in common. The only interaction we have is that awkward moment when one of us tries to get by an the other one in the way. -I think she's really cool- that one particular friend said to me one night.- I will say Hi to her. -If you want to I think you should I said thinking that it might be a little weird when  an older   man approaches her to say hello, but then again, this is Gainesville. Strangers interact here and become friends all the time, and my friend needles to say likes younger girls. As we were having dinner a few nights ago the young woman was eating there too, so I decided to ask my friend if he ever came to her. It's a weird story- he said and he begun to tell me. I could've guessed something was up- we were sited by the door and the restrooms and she ended up rolling by our table quite a few times uncomfortably, avoiding eye contact and never saying a word. - She's mean- my friend said. I tried coming up to her, but she said "Don't talk to me" when I tried to say something. For a second I tried to think about what was going through her mind. Maybe she thought my friend thought that he pitted her and tried to have one of those weird conversations "with a cripple" that I'm all too familiar with from Warsaw. Maybe she had a bad day. Maybe she thought my friend was weird and she didn't want to talk to a stranger. I do it all the time and that's how I meet some of the most interesting people. I'm just never afraid to say something funny to the table next to me. But that's me. We're all different. Just because she's in a wheelchair doesn't mean she has a touching story she needs to share and a heart on her sleeve. We are not looking for friends, nor do we need saving. Popular culture often presented characters in wheelchairs as bitter, miserable or shy- in need to be reached, have their walls and defenses broken. But maybe she's just mean. Maybe she's an asshole. People in wheelchairs are after all just like everybody else. We could nice, outgoing, introverted, extroverted, kind, superior, mean spirited, bitter, shy or fun. The chair has nothing to do with how we are as human beings. I often wonder if people make the same type of assumptions when they see a wheelchair as to what kind of person the one in it is as they do  based on glasses and accessories. My friend saw her interact with her group and he wanted to share in the blast they were having. She may have thought his intent was different. Either way I hope he didn't conclude that she's mean because of the wheelchair or her life that he knows nothing. She has the right to be mean the same way a able-bodied  woman would. Trust me that happened to my friend quite a few times before.

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