Poster Children

I saw a man at the mall the other day, while I was working. I recognized him from an interaction Abby and I had with him at Goodwill about a year ago. He happens to be in a wheelchair; I see that at the mall most days, though.

I remembered him because he talked to us. Abby pointed him out, wondering why his wheelchair wasn’t like Grammy’s; as I was saying that there are different kinds of wheelchairs for different people, he came up to us to talk for a minute. I’m sure he thought I was telling her not to stare, because his first words were that it was okay to look, that he doesn’t mind. Abby was confused that his chair didn’t have any handles for someone to push. He told her that he didn’t need anyone to push because he can push himself. That was plenty good enough for her. I smiled and thanked him, and we went about our business.

I truly appreciate that bit of chat. It’s not everyone who’s willing to be the poster child for whatever’s applicable. And I certainly don’t expect anyone to volunteer to do so. It’s a thankless job, for the most part. And it’s hard.

It’s hard to deal with ignorant comments. I do it to myself; nobody knows I’m depressed or infertile without my telling them beforehand. I don’t have to tell anyone. But I tell people so that I can respond to their comments and questions because I’m prepared for them. I’m ready. I do it so the people who aren’t prepared can maybe have one day in which they don’t have to listen to hurtful comments. Offhand comments that the average joe doesn’t think twice about before blurting out.

Smile.

Just don’t be sad.

When are you going to have kids?

Don’t you want kids?

But this guy has to deal with it every single day, without ever saying a word. He calls attention to himself by living his life like anyone else.

There has to be a huge difference between a preschooler asking why your wheelchair doesn’t have handles and an adult asking if it was a car accident. I know there’s a huge difference between a preschooler asking why I’m sad and a complete stranger passing me on the street telling me to smile.

Obviously, it’s none of anyone’s business. In any case. But there’s no escaping the sideshow freak mentality of the general public as long as you’re a part of the general public.

I’m not scolding, not telling anyone to keep their big mouths shut before they offend someone. I can’t stand walking on eggshells. What I want is simple consideration. Everyone is sensitive about something. Everyone has a button to waiting to be pushed. For the most part, anyone can have a civil conversation without hurting the other party’s feelings, as long as there’s that tidbit of consideration.

And there’s only one thing to be considerate of.

Autonomy.

That’s a serious concept for a three-year-old to understand, so we don’t expect it of them. An adult, now. Surely an adult can understand that it’s my choice, and my choice alone, to smile or not. Surely an adult can understand that, to put it snidely, they’re not the smile police. Hopefully.

Because there’s no such thing as the smile police.

So piss off.

Sorry, I meant to say so don’t presume that an autonomous person will smile on your command. Just don’t presume. If you have a legitimate concern, sincerely ask what’s wrong, and pay attention to the answer. If you’re one of those ‘but they’re bringing me down by not smiling’ people, then yeah, piss off. Because no, I’m not.

And if you absolutely, positively, will just burst at the seams if you don’t know why that guy buying cold cuts and sliced bread is in a wheelchair, well, I guess you’ll just have to burst.

But if anyone listened to me, I’m sure I don’t know what people who read the comments on YouTube would do for fun.

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One Comment on “Poster Children”

  1. susieshy45 says:

    Dear April,
    I am with you- don’t know what else to write.


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