Yesterday on our usual evening walk, an acquaintance approached us to say hello. Something about the way she moved as she came toward us alerted me and without thinking I stepped in front of Moy Moy just as my neighbor was about to lean down and stroke her face . . . Moy Moy HATES it when people touch her face, even people she knows and loves. How must it feel to be pounced upon by a relative stranger?
The woman looked surprised and somewhat offended by my guerilla defence move, but I am past caring about what other people think. I’m more concerned with Moy Moy.
I fumed all the way home, in fact, thinking about the ways people behave with Moy when they see her on the street. I was so annoyed that Moy finally suggested I should write a note on her behalf.
So here it is:
My Mom and I go out for a walk almost every evening. We take pretty much the same route every time. Maybe you could get used to seeing us by now? Some of you stare at me so hard I feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.
I know I’m small and I know I ride around in a stroller. That doesn’t make me a baby and it doesn’t give you permission to touch my face, stroke my hair or to try to hold my hand (Come to think of it: I didn’t like it much when I was a baby either!).
It doesn’t give you permission to talk about me as if I’m not there, either. It doesn’t give you the right to ask personal questions like “What’s wrong with her?” “Is she this way from birth?” “Is she toilet trained?” “Does she get her periods?”
I know you think you are well-meaning and that you are just trying to understand me, but I am not an encyclopedia and I’m not a walking awareness machine. I’m a person! If you want to know more about disability, go on the internet. Do some research. Don’t be lazy and expect me to answer all your questions.
You know what a lot of you do when you see me? You shake your heads and you look sympathetic and sad. You turn to whoever you are walking with and you say things you probably think are profound. Then you turn your heads to look at me one more time (my Mom catches you doing it all the time).
I don’t do this when I see you. A lot of you are overweight and I know you are walking every evening hoping to get slim again. A whole bunch of you are very old and you don’t hear so well and your balance isn’t reliable any more.
I could shake my head too. I could also look all holy and sympathetic and I could turn to Mom with some clever, sympathetic remark about how you must be living out your karma as a fat person or as an old fuddy-duddy.
I don’t do that because I think it might discourage you. You are out there on the street getting on with your life! Who am I to question you? Who am I to point out that you are 30 kilos past your ideal weight? What right do I have to mention that you are nearing the end of your life, that you are no longer useful and that you really have nothing of value to add to the world?
I would never say any of those things to you!
Yet you say those things to me all the time.
By your silence. By your staring. By your sympathy. By your assumptions.
This is me, Moy Moy, right now, asking you to stop.
Just like you – you who are overweight, under-exercised, elderly, smart-alecky – I’m out here on the road for some fresh air and some inspiration. I walk these streets hoping for ideas and community. I’m here, just like you, looking for answers. I’m here just like you. I am just like you.
I am really just like you.
That’s all there is.
I am just like you.