Many think it’s always necessary for disabled people or people with facial differences to take every opportunity to educate. Curiosity doesn’t need to be satisfied.
People forget their manners when talking to me and others with disabilities and facial difference. They unleash their thoughts and prejudices before engaging their brains.
“Excuse me, can I ask you something?”
That’s the most predictable question I’m ever asked.
It’s often followed by the variations of these questions:
Have you been sunburnt?
What did you do to yourself?
Are you ok?
Are you wearing traditional African makeup?
Is that a Halloween costume?
Did you have micro dermabrasion?
Is there a cure for that?
That’s eczema, isn’t it?
Is it fatal?
Can you have children?
Have you been on Embarrassing Bodies?
Will you pass your condition to your children?
Do you resent your parents for giving you a genetic condition?
Can you have sex?
Have you been licking lollies? Is that why your face is so red?
Don’t you wish you could change your appearance? (I would)
I‘ve been asked all these questions and more. These questions were mostly asked by strangers. Often accompanied by the universal ‘I’m not sure what to say about your face’ wave – except they’ve said it anyway.
I often want to unleash similar questions back to them. (Of course I’d never ask.)
How much do you earn?
Did your poo float or sink?
How many times did you have sex this week?
Did you have a vaginal birth?
What’s your favourite porn site?
How much do you weigh?
Are you really happy with your face?
Which child is your least favourite?
Do you masturbate?
Would your consider plastic surgery?
I’d like to watch them squirm. I’d like them to think about their actions so hard they apologise and then pass on the message to their friends: never ask a stranger about their appearance. Unless it’s to compliment them. Like an etiquette know-how pay it forward arrangement.
Here’s the thing. When you look different, your appearance is public property for other people’s comments. Kind of like being featured in the hot or not section of a tabloid magazine. Only in real life. In the street. On a tram. In an African restaurant. In the queue for a band. At the supermarket. In the public toilet. Unrelenting.
And the questions come from all types. People who look like they should know better. People who probably don’t. People who just need to know.
But they don’t need to know. They’re not entitled to an explanation if we haven’t got the formalities of saying hello out the way.
A version of this was performed at Quippings in December 2015.
(Image description: woman’s bottom and legs on a bed, she’s wearing short denim shorts and bunny slippers. Text: “What if I asked you whether you can have sex? carlyfindlay.blogspot.com”)