Pity me? No thanksOct 02 07:04
Pity. Four letters that can piss people off, maybe more than other common four letter words (if you're on the receiving end that is). When you're disabled, pity is as common as doing laundry, but I've still never gotten used to it.
Reason #1: I don’t like it: I am a girl who doesn’t mince words, so, to put it succinctly, pity pisses me off. I didn’t plan on being disabled growing up. I had a mind and body completely set forth on a having life that very much included a body that fully worked, and you know, listened to me when I wanted to move it, basic stuff.
But….since life is rarely ever what one plans it to be (it’s crazy I’m even typing this, even 18 years after the fact, that yes, I am a woman with a disability). I find myself living a reality that really isn’t what I planned it to be. A bit out of body? Yup. Everyone can relate to this though, even if you’re completely healthy and have never known someone with a disability.
Take this scenario: Have you ever spilled milk? You know the feeling when you’re watching it spill right before your eyes, and you’re unable to stop it, so you just accept that it’ll spill? That is my reality, everyday. So please, understand/relate, remember this and refrain.
Pity is rudeness, like spitting in public, staring at people with eye patches, not minding your please and thank you‘s. I know that people are human and that our collective gut reaction IS to feel pity when we see a disabled person, but try to teach yourself not to feel it from here on out, mmkay? It is a conditioning process though, so get ready for a bit of work. But change if you care (I hope you do).
Reason #2. Would you like it?: While I think it's understandable for people to feel pity when they see someone in a situation not as powerful, or strong, as theirs (or assume it to be the case at least), it's always prudent to put yourself in the other person’s shoe's whenever you have an inclination to feel pity that you just can‘t shake.
Imagine if you're a veteran with a missing limb at the mall shopping with his/her daughter. Would you want someone to gawk at you with an obvious look of pity? Believe me when I say, it can and will, ruin someone’s day. I can be in a great mood, shopping at the store, doing my own thing, and then be completely sat aback after having someone throw a wave of pity my way (usually it's a overwhelming sad look from across the aisle, but sometimes it'll include a condescending remark that intended to be nice, like "Good for you.").
Waa? Wait? Oh that’s right. Thanks for reminding me I'm disabled, and less than. Now back to shopping.
In the words of brilliantmindbrokenbody, one of my favorite disabled bloggers, pity dehumanizes us. It makes us an object, we became a sad story, something you tell your friends about. Yes, give a damn, but pity makes us a disability. Always remember that when you feel pity towards someone, it never ever helps the situation, ever (and please turn off those telethons around your children each September; bad conditioning there too).
How do you get past pity? Do you let it get to you?
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.