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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm Ignoring You

I've dealt, for many years, with numerous issues. From being mute until the age of 4, then having extensive speech therapy, so I knew how to shape words and sounds, in an environment where my parents were to emphasize speech only (A friend was born deaf and had numerous surgeries and the heavy duty hearing aids. We had classes together. To this day, while I'm still learning, I know more ASL than he does. Because the Montessori we went to wanted to integrate us into society and forgot about allowing individuality and culture. They did great things, but did stilt language until, when nervous, stutters and qualifiers, such as "Ummmmmmmmm" are all I can do, and when I know what I want, but can't find the word. I'm reminded of Ann Sullivan in the Miracle Worker: "Everything has a name! What is it?" New people? Bureaucratic missteps? Expect "Uh, I need... uh.." or for me to forget speech and go back to my first language: a combination of sign and pantomime. But I will fight for myself too... I worked my ass off to survive and communicate, to be able to write so that I can get information across... I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm angry, I'm scared, I don't like this relationship. No, I won't say I love you, because I don't. I won't lie to make you happy. (In word and in deed). No, I will not drop all and make myself your happy little slave girl. If you don't know what I like, ask me, I'll tell you, somehow. Don't talk AT me please. I'll pretend I'm worse than I am and merely find patterns in the cloud, the foam in my coffee, cracks in the ceiling, a bouncing, red balloon, things like that. Don't assume how I feel. Don't shove me. If I ask you not to mention something, especially in public, or force me to communicate with people I don't know. I love people, but sometimes, they frighten me.
To Mrs. M., this one's for you, darlin':
You assume that HOH, HI, deaf, whatever, are mental retardation and mean that a person should not go have fun, not have children, whatever. Be institutionalized. Sign language scares you- fingers flying make you dizzy. You mock efforts by a terrified person to communicate or answer questions you shout in their ear. This is for you and people like you. Fuck off.
I know what I want to say. I can seem normal. I know how to read things off a script of sorts on the phone. I can sing, and know the basic length of the notes- whole =4 and whatever, but only read script on music sheets, figuring the beat out later, and using my body to lead me. So in a way, I thank my music-lover father, my speech and physical therapists, who let me play with old wax Beethovan records...the big 45s. And to ASL teachers. Thanks for your patience while I fight to reclaim my first language.

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