This section directly follows the first segment from this essay.
A few months ago, a similar thing happened to me. I was out at an event with some friends, including a guy I had a met few times, had lots of great talks with, and who was, that evening, flirting with me. To some extent he knew me, knew about my blindness, had seen me at several different events and get-togethers before this. That night, our group took a bathroom break and the guy asked me, “Do you need help in there?”
The crazy part? This was not a total anomaly. It’s happened before this particular instance. And will probably happen since.
He didn’t mean it this way, I’m sure, but it felt dehumanizing. I suddenly saw that though we’d had great discussions about science, censorship, and talked about our lives and our histories, he saw me as someone who couldn’t find her way around a bathroom. It made me seriously question his intentions in the flirting. Like many other women with disabilities, I get hit on by a lot of guys who want to feel like they’re your savior or the only one who’d want you so you’d always be indebted to them. Even though I don’t think this particular guy was consciously doing this, it did make me think back to times when it had been more clear and obvious.
I’ve tried to discuss this with sighted friends, about the power dynamics that come along with getting hit on by the types of creepy guys who are attracted not to individual people who happen to be blind or disabled, but to the disability, like they’re looking for someone, something, helpless. Some get it, some don’t. Some say we all get hit on by creeps. It’s true, everyone has experienced that, but it takes it to a new level of weirdness to be hit on by someone who thinks you need his help to use the bathroom.
This is the second installment from this essay. I worry that it’s too bitchy, but you know what? When you have to deal with ignorant shit on a daily basis, sometimes you get bitchy. This essay addresses the central thought that sometimes, as a blind person, I don’t feel seen as fully human. Funny, “3 Libras” by A Perfect Circle was just playing on my iTunes, with the line repeating line, “You don’t see me at all,” and there’s some ironic truth in that.
More to come.
Read more about Blind Alien Nation and other essays, and check out other Samples, including Older Works and Published!
P.S. Other excerpts from Blind Alien Nation:
I shared this post…I think the biggest point is the courage to see that some people are just looking for someone helpless to get into their clutches…for any of us and likely more for those w a disability. What this says about them is a whole other story.
I’m glad that you are writing about this. I wonder what kind of help people think that you might need in bathroom…my first guess has more the issue of knowing where things are than wiping your ass! It’s a delicate subject. And a good one to be addressed.
When I see a post that i like, your blog still asks me to sign into WP w user name and password…and I never can remember them…I have too many!
I hope things are wrapping up well at school! Where are you in the process?
Or it could be “broken wing syndrome,” which is basically people who go after someone who’s hurt or damaged in some way (I don’t want to liken blindness to being “damaged,” but hopefully you can substitute your own term to see what I mean), because they think they can fix things. You see it more with women who are attracted to bad boys because they think they’re “sensitive” and can be fixed with just a little bit of love and kindness–when really they’re just assholes with legal/drinking problems. But I guess it can work for guys, too. I think it’s less about control and more about feeling wanted or needed, that being overly altruistic and not going after the “simpler” catch somehow makes you a better person.
That or he could just be ignorant. Many people bend way over backward for the disabled lest they be accused of being inconsiderate.
There are some males that have the desire to rescue females with disabilities or any female. Then there are others who think they are doing you a favor by flirting with you because as they see it you should be appreciative. In their eyes you have the participation of desperation following you. Those coming to you in truth will get to know as a person not a disability. We have to look at life in reality not as a game. But life is played as a game by many people. Dating is a complicated course to run through. Marriage can even be a challenge when children are involved. Our self-esteem should never be compromised by anybody. People do what we allow them to do to us. I have dealt with ignorance on a daily basis for decades. Lessons learned!!! Enjoyed the article! It was a blast from my past that you experienced.
OMG. o__o *crickets chirping*
I’m trying to think of a worse line than “do you need help in the bathroom?” for someone you’re flirting with, but that’s pretty much top of the list.
I think I just posted the same thing twice because the other one wasn’t showing up. Apologies. You can delete.