This is always a tricky subject for me. I'm sure most of you can agree that we, as people with disabilities, want to be treated with respect and as equally as possible. This, for me, means I understand that people get freaked about the fact I'm in a wheelchair, but.. suck it up, people! I understand people looking at something that is different, and not wanting to offend. What I don't understand is people's undeniable need to help. And this regardless of whether I actually need the help or not. I call this the Good Samaratin Complex. The "I really want you to think I'm a good person, and you're a person in need, so I'm going to help you, dammit". They can't hear the part where you say "um, actually, I don't really need, or want your help". I REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REAAAAAAAALLY HATE when people don't freakin' listen to me. I HATE those people who ask if I want help, and when I say no, help anyfreakinway! GRRRRRR!!
How I react in situations like this depends, of course, on my mood that day. Sometimes I can just shrug it off good naturedly. Other times, beware the poor soul who crosses my path! I have never actually set someone down and explained how their actions are actually very partonizing and demeaning, even when meant to be helpful. The truth is these situations make me extremely angry and uncomfortable. I usually end up just looking at them as if they're nuts. If someone asks me if I need help, I usually say no, politely. If they ask me if I need help when it seems pretty clear to me that I don't, that starts to tickle my irritation bone. One of the more obvious ones is when I'm waiting indoors for the Adapted Transport to pick me up. I often have a book with me, but even if I don't, I'm sitting there, looking out the door or window. Many people who go buy will ask me "do you want to go out?". That's when I scowl and say "No" and look at them as if they've just asked me if I have an extra squirt gun they could borrow. I react badly, but not as badly to other forms of the question. There's something about "do you want to go out" that is too close to how we talk to our pets. "Sparky! Want to go out Sparky? Want to go out? Ooooooh, that's a good boy! Let's go out, Sparky, let's go out!".
What is it about a disabled person doing almost anything, wheeling, walking, looking at something, waiting for someone, reading a book, going to the bathroom, buying something, that makes people want to ask if they need help? Another thing I hate is when people drop what they are doing and run over to where you are to open the door for you, pass you that thing on the store shelf, carry your take-out tray. If someone's right in front of me and going out the door, it's common courteousy to hold the door open for me, and I appreciate that. When someone runs 60 feet to open the door for me, I don't appreciate it. It gives me a wicked sense of pleasure to know that most of the times I get through the door way before they can even reach it. I've also held the door open for people behind me and have been told "I should be doing this for you?" To this, I usually reply something like "I think the honour goes to whoever's first and faster".
I'm really torn most of the time as to whether to accept, educate, or just scowl. Ok, well, scowling is probably not the most productive solution, I admit, but educating every time can just be too draining, and being accepting of a situation that is patronizing makes me feel small and powerless. Remaining angry about it, even if I'm not sharing it, validates to myself that I'm right in at least feeling that this needs work. My mother and my brother just don't get it. They say they'd love to have people open the doors for them and I should just accept it and embrace it.
I've talked to a lot of people with disabilities and found it very interesting, considering my own experience, to hear that others have similar ones regarding family. Family members are often just a clueless, and sometimes more due to denial, as your average Joe out there. But that's a blog for another day. The older I get, I find the more clueless I seem to be about how to deal with this strange world around me. People tell me I am very independent and feel I'm successful despite my disability. Ok, so that's great. Yes, I've done a lot. True. However, there's so much more they don't see, including all the insecurities I have about my own abilities and how others see me. Situations with strangers who pat you on the head, start pushing you without asking, and freely ask you personal questions certainly make it hard for someone to maintain a strong, assured identity. I had this one situation once where it was winter and I was going home from the store. The sidewalks weren't great, so it was slow going, but I was managing, and getting a cardio workout along the way. All of a sudden I am being pushed. My frist instinct was to put my hands on my wheels and block movement. I look around, startled, and say "It's ok, I'm fine". The guy continues to push saying "Oh, I don't mind". I say "I don't need your help, I'm fine". The guy leaves me at that point swearing at me saying "I hope you get stuck in the f***ing snow". Yep. The Good Samaratin Complex. See your doctor immediately.