That’s the question everyone asks me right before they start enunciating their words and cutting me out of conversations and pretending they don’t understand anything I say suddenly. They tell me I’m not the “typical deaf girl” or that “I don’t look deaf” but honestly, what does a hearing loss look like? I mean really?
I looked at my classmate Amy, with a forced smile “well, yes, that’s why I have a sign language interpreter…” She sat extremely still as if afraid that one wrong move would somehow make me…deafer?
“wow….” she finally said, “I was under the impression that you understood me when I spoke, you laughed at my jokes, answered me when I spoke to you…wow, I can’t believe the entire time you couldn’t hear me” let me not add that this was said with a heavy dose of enunciation and a voice loud enough for the entire campus to hear her. People were turning their attention to us and I felt my skin heat up from being so embarrassed. Some people’s ignorance is annoying.
“I do hear you. I hear your voice and how loudly you’re speaking right now,” I pushed my left hearing aid in for visual effects “as you can see, I can also speak clear enough for you to understand me but somehow after most people realize that I am indeed deaf, they go deaf as well and suddenly can’t understand anything that I say–” I noticed she was looking over my shoulder at my interpreter and did a mental eye-roll, “so I’m not going to waste anymore time here trying to help you not fall into the dumb-hearing-folks category, so it was nice knowing you for the past three weeks” I waited a few beats and waited for her inevitable “wait…what?” to which I shook my head and faced the front of the room.
I felt like a total bitch but after 19 years of life, it just seems that the older I get the dumber everyone else around me becomes.
My interpreter gave me a sympathetic smile and using sign language, informed me that Amy looked like she felt embarrassed, I wanted to turn around and apologize but a part of me refused to. I refused to get any closer to another person just for them to see my deafness as a barrier; just for them to see me like I’m broken or something, like I don’t matter.
I just wish that people would see me for me beyond my hearing aids, is that too much to ask?
Once class was dismissed, I opted to make myself “busy” and wait until the majority of the class left the room–including Amy, I did not want to look at her. Just as I stepped out of the room two familiar faces approached me. As I stood trying to figure out where I knew them from I was thrown off by their…signing.
“My…name…is….M-a-r-y” signed the taller of the two awkwardly
“My…name is…R-o-b-e-r-t-a” signed the other, a little more fluidly. “And that’s all we know–oh! we know how to say ‘what’s your name’, too” she said with a little giggle.
I was impressed and before I could express that, Mary told me that her little sister’s best friends parents were deaf and she taught them some signs.
“By the way,” she added, “I’m sorry about what happened in there with Amy, I found out a little while ago that she grew up on a farm so basically if it doesn’t cluck it doesn’t click in her mind.” Ah, yes! These are the girls who sit towards the back of the room and are always finding something funny to laugh about during the class discussions.
We all laughed at her farm-girl reference.
“Well, I’ve been dealing with that and other misconceptions of being deaf all my life, you would think I’d have gotten used to it by now”
“Yeah, people are dumb” said Roberta, “I was on Facebook the other day and there was this article talking about a baby who was born deaf and got some type that implant surgery and someone commented and said ‘poor girl, at least now she’ll be able to do normal-people things like drive a car some day’ and I just wanted to break my phone, Kris, I swear”
At her mention of my name I realized I didn’t even formally introduce myself but she didn’t seem to mind, “Girl, don’t get me started”
Once again we burst out laughing and made our way to the school cafeteria for coffee.