Saturday, June 4, 2011

Standing Out

I am officially okay with the fact that total strangers stare at my child, trying to figure out what's "wrong" with him.  I'm not actually okay with this, but I resigned myself to it a long time ago.  He has large pieces of plastic and metal hanging off his head.  People are people.  I'd stare, if I didn't know what it was.  When I see something I don't understand, I look a little longer.  We're hardwired to do that.

But it still gives me a very strange sensation when I notice people staring -- which, in a crowded city like this, is every few minutes.  A strange combination of fierce mama bear defensiveness, pride, and slightly dizzying self-consciousness.  Adults don't stare for long, because it's rude, and most of them come to their senses very quickly and avert their gaze -- having pegged him as a child with some sort of disability, probably deaf (if they recognize the hearing aid), they feel pity for him and for me.  It's really weird walking down the street or hanging around a playground and knowing that you are the object of other people's pity.  It's kindly meant, but it just feels weird.

It's a very fleeting sensation and we've learned to ignore it most of the time.  For all I know people have been shaking their heads in a vague sort of pity over me all my life, and I never noticed it -- I am after all a math geek with particularly weak fashion sense.  Weird.


PinkLAM said...

I haven't commented in a while, but I've keeping up with your posts :) I guess we all stand out in our own little way! When I was in my pre-school/elementary years, I would always get self-conscious when other kids asked me "What are those things on your ears?"

Now I couldn't care less. If people are staring, I certainly don't notice. I guess being little just draws a lot more equipment to it. Now I have the added bonus of hair to cover it all up if I feel like it, which is nice on those I-just-want-to-blend-in days.

krlr said...

I've been thinking about this... Is it always pity? curiousity? My son's kindergarten "math" was a lot of "pick the thing that's different" - and one of the first things kids notice is the difference btwn boys/girls. So spotting "differences" seems deeply ingrained - either with extra hardware or, say, my girl's eyes. No hard opinion yet, just wondering about it all.

(and, for the record, I descend from a long line of engineers so math geek fashion IS normal)

leah said...

It is interesting - in Jamestown we don't get a lot of stares, etc. because it is a small town (and a lot of people know Nolan and are used to hearing aids). Plus, hearing aids aren't quite as attention-grabbing as a CI (no lights on our hearing aids, and they're much more commonplace). We did notice it when we flew to Park City and were in the Las Vegas airport - we got a few more stares (mostly from kids in the play area). I think it is definitely more curiosity than pity, though we do get some comments from adults along the lines of "oh, poor baby."

I think they have preconceived notions of what "deaf" (or hard of hearing) means. I'm always happy when Nolan starts speaking, and he talks better than their (hearing) four year old, lol!

Kathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathy said...

Bull Patooties! Your fashion sense is excellent.

As for the other bits, well, I'll do my best not to stare too much but he is The Most Amazing Nephew In The Entire World so it is pretty hard not to gawk and ogle every chance (not enough) that I get.
Your very biased sister.

(OK, posting this a second time in order to correct an egregious spelling/grammatical error.)

Smilen Champ said...

My name is Jenna and I came across your site. He is an inspirational hero. I often get stared at, I beause I act and look different, So I stand out a lot too.
I was born with a rare life threatening disease, and developemental delays. I love when people signed my guestbook.