Don’t Laugh at Me

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings
Don’t laugh at me
– Mark Wills, Don’t Laugh at Me

Something happened last Friday night, and though I vented about it on Facebook that evening, I still can’t shake it.

There is an elderly man in my neighborhood who has some kind of spine or neck curvature that causes him to walk with his head and shoulders hunched over and facing the ground.  I see him out on walks fairly regularly, and I always worry about him.  He shuffles slowly along and has to turn his whole body to look both ways before crossing the street.

Last Friday evening, David and I were at the gas station where the entrance to our subdivision meets the main road.  I saw the man walking on the sidewalk parallel to the main road.  When he came to the entrance/exit to the gas station, he stopped and turned his whole body both ways to check that there were no cars coming before continuing on his way.

As he made his way slowly, a white van on the main road slowed down, and the woman in the passenger seat stuck her whole body out the window and took a picture of the man with her phone, then the van sped up and drove off.

As I realized what was happening, I felt shock and sadness and, more than anything, anger.  I was sitting in our car and I yelled out, “You fucking bitch!  You goddamned asshole!”  Hot tears filled my eyes and fell down my cheeks.  I’m crying now just thinking about it again.  I was in the car with the windows up and it all happened so fast that she wouldn’t have heard me anyway, but I just wanted to keep screaming and throw things at the van.  I felt so, so helpless.

I don’t think the man saw her or knew what was happening, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.  Like I said, I worry about him when I see him out, because people can be so terrible, but I hoped that he was always ok.  Having seen what that woman did – took a picture of him for no other reason than her own sick amusement, surely to be shared with others and laughed at later – I’m reminded that there are people in the world who don’t seem to understand that every single person is a human being entitled to his or her dignity and to be treated with compassion and respect.  And I’m angry about that.

Buyer’s Remorse

I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.
– from The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard

I wasn’t really into today’s Writing Group prompt (which is too bad, because I had the perfect opening quote).  I’m kind of having a hard time at the moment and wasn’t going to write at all, but since I committed to a post a day, I’m just going to write anything.

I feel anxious about a lot of things and it’s making me very uncomfortable.  It’s not fair to talk about it all here, but I will talk about one thing.  I’m afraid we made a mistake buying our house.  I think we rushed into it, largely at my insistence, and I think it is not really working out the way I hoped.  There are so many things that I loved when we looked at it, but now that we’ve lived in it for 7 months, it’s clear that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  The people who lived here before made huge changes to the floor plan, and since we never saw the house fully furnished, I can’t visualize how they used the space, which makes it harder for me to see how to best use the space.  There’s SO MUCH SPACE (which is not a humblebrag complaint about how my house is too big; they created a great room/dining room/entry way/built-ins/etc. space that just makes NO sense and seems to leave a ton of wasted space).

The house doesn’t get a ton of natural light, which I didn’t realize – and I’m not sure how I could have known that before we bought it – and it makes me really sad.  In fact, it makes me wonder if the lack of natural light is contributing to how down I feel.  We have lots of windows, but our lot is wooded and we have long eaves, and so we just get indirect light, except in the great room, but you can’t grow plants in there because the direct sunlight falls in the middle of the room.  This really bothers me.

There are, technically, four bedrooms, two upstairs and two downstairs.  The more I think about it, the more I think we should have looked for something with at least three bedrooms on the same floor.  I worry about once we have kids.  You can’t move a little guy downstairs while the baby stays in the room we’ve dubbed the nursery, next to the master.  It’s not safe.  And the plan to move both kids downstairs in the future seems like it’s not really a good idea; the office, which would be the second bedroom downstairs, isn’t really set up to be a bedroom, what with the French doors that lead out under the deck and a fireplace.  And of course, this all so very cart-before-the-horse (which is another post altogether), but that doesn’t seem to matter when my mind starts racing.

I hate the paint color that we paid to have put up in the family room; we made a mistake when we picked the swatch.  We thought it would be super, super pale purple, but it’s actually lavender.  With the ugly sage/teal green carpet that’s down there – and which we’re not in a position to replace for the time being – it looks ridiculous.  I also sometimes think we picked the wrong gray for our bedroom.  David’s against repainting.

We still don’t have furniture or rugs for the great room, so we haven’t been able to have the open house I’ve dreamed about having ever since I imagined having a house.  We had a giant sofa all picked out – we used to go visit it at Z Gallerie – but then David decided he was having second thoughts and wanted to try it out again, but the last time we went, they’d taken it out of the showroom and it won’t ever be back, so now we can’t buy it because it’s too much money to spend on something we’re (he’s) not sure about.  Nothing else we’ve looked at has come close to being as perfect as that couch.

Our commute is at least an hour each way, sometimes longer.  That means I haven’t been able to find time to work out during the week in basically six months, and we rarely eat dinner before eight, which I really, really hate.  I often think we should have found something closer in, even if it meant settling for something smaller.  I worry, especially, about what will happen when we have kids.  When will we have time to see them if we’re spending all our time commuting and it’s basically bedtime by the time we get home?

Everything feels completely unfinished.  I mean, even after seven months, we still don’t have a workable (in my opinion) solution to where the mail goes when we bring it in.  The guest room still has shit everywhere, you can’t turn the stove down low enough, the bushes in front were planted too close together, it’s fucking impossible to keep the hardwood floors clean, and I’m an asshole who can’t do anything except keep a running tally of all the shit that sucks about her house.

I can’t talk to David about this.  He doesn’t worry the way I do, and he doesn’t see any of these things as problems (and I recognize that some of the things I listed are not actual problems, yes).  I also can’t bring myself to tell him outright that I think I regret buying this house.  And there’s nothing I can do except try to accept that it’s basically always going to be a work in progress (and therefore never perfect, which is problematic for me) and try to make the best of it.

Departure

“Try not to associate bodily defect with mental, my good friend, except for a solid reason.”
– from David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens

Disclaimer: This is a real work in progress.  I can’t seem to fix it so it doesn’t come across as a lecture, and that’s not my intent.  Please keep in mind that the “you” here is the general “you,” and is not meant to refer to what you personally might have done or said or thought.  Please also feel free to tell me to get over myself in the comments.

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I’m bailing on today’s prompt – my very first kiss was entirely forgettable and nothing to write home about (but if you want to know about a first kiss, you can click here – this is one of my favorites, despite the ending).  Instead, I want to touch on something that’s come up in a few comments lately but is by no means a new “problem” for me.

My hearing loss doesn’t make me special, you guys.  Here’s what I mean:

Toward the end of my third year of law school, a classmate I only knew in passing randomly came up to me and told me earnestly that she was “so impressed” that I’d managed to get through three years of law school despite not being able to hear.  This was clearly meant to be taken as a compliment.  And this happens a fair amount; in fact, it happened just yesterday in the comments section.

The other way it comes up is, “That sure must have been hard, but look how strong it made you.”  I call that the Magic Cripple.  This also just happened, on someone else’s site.

Let me be clear: I know there’s no condescension intended in these statements, that the people who say these things mean well.  I get that, and I appreciate it.  But the only thing statements like that do is reinforce the idea that I shouldn’t have been able to come through a thing like losing my hearing overnight, that I shouldn’t have been able to succeed at law school (or anything else) because I can’t hear normally anymore.

Having a disability and being successful are not mutually exclusive, and to imply that they are (even if you don’t realize you’re doing it) is harmful.  It perpetuates the stereotype that people with disabilities are less than and can prevent them from even being offered the opportunity to show what they are capable of.  It happened to me.  When I was finally ready to try to find a new job after losing my hearing (and my old job), I sent out hundreds of resumes (which stated that I needed to be contacted via relay) and called so many places (via relay) and was offered . . . three interviews.  And even each of those three places more or less openly doubted that I could do the job once they learned of my hearing impairment, even after meeting me.

The way I see it, there’s no magic in “overcoming” a disability.  It doesn’t make you brave or inspirational or strong.  You were either already brave and inspirational and strong before (or, at least, had it in you to be) or you weren’t.  What I mean is, some people will succeed after, say, losing their hearing or the use of their legs, and some won’t.  What determines that is who you were before, not the fact that a terrible thing happened to you.  I’ve talked about this before:

Sometimes people say, “You’re so brave,” or “I don’t think I could have handled it as well as you have.” I rarely think of myself as courageous, and people only see me that way because they think what happened to me is unbelievable.  They ask, “How did you ever get through it?” I say, “You do what you have to do. You get up every day, even when it’s hard, and you take it hour by hour – minute by minute if you have to: Get out of bed now; go to the gym now; eat lunch now; read this book now. Then you go to bed and do it again tomorrow.” Eventually, it isn’t so hard to get out of bed, and one day you realize that life can still be good and that you want to be a part of it.

You can’t imagine it happening to you, and if you tried, you’d assume that you wouldn’t be able to survive, let alone succeed.  God knows that’s how I felt when it happened to me.  But the truth, for almost everyone, is that you would.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I appreciate where you’re coming from, and I know you mean well.  I’m just asking you to think about the way you see me, and other people like me.  All I’m saying is, what I’m capable of with a hearing impairment is generally not more remarkable than what I would be capable of with normal hearing.  I’m different, but I’m not special.

Warning: Wedding Ahead

Unless you plan to elope secretly in the dark of night, or have planned a small intimate wedding, you may soon find your wedding plans escalating out of control. This one-sentence wedding mantra may be helpful. Recite it to yourselves in those moments when everyone about you seems to be going crazy with the planning details: The point of the wedding is to celebrate our love and make a public commitment to each other for life. Everything else is extra.
– from Wonderful Marriage, by Lilo and Gerard Leeds

This is long, self-involved, and wedding-related.  You’ve been warned.

As most of you know, David and I got engaged just before Christmas.  Individually, before we got engaged, both of my parents told me individually that they would pay for our wedding.  Once we got engaged, the battles started almost immediately between my mother and me.

She is, to put it mildly, pretty old-fashioned when it comes to weddings and other kinds of events.  Or, more accurately, she has a distinct idea of what is “appropriate” and what is not.  Our first trip to my parents after our engagement, my mother said to us, “I think this should be a collaborative event.  I think we [meaning her, my dad, David, and me] need to collectively figure out what kind of wedding we want and go from there.”  My dad said, “Um, I think Melanie and David need to figure out what kind of wedding they want, and then we can go from there.”  My mother was not deterred.

In January, David and I sent my parents a guest list with 181 people on it.  This included all of David’s family, all of my family that I know and am close to (my mom’s side is huge, and I included my grandparents, my 5 aunts and uncles (plus their spouses), and all of my cousins and their families – a total of 22 people), David’s and my friends, and some family friends that I am close to.  I knew my parents would want to add some people that I had forgotten or overlooked, and David and I thought we’d end up with a list somewhere in the neighborhood of 200.

Late in January, David and I went up to my parents for the weekend to look at venues.  We saw a ceremony venue and a reception location that we really liked, but we didn’t make any decisions.  When we got back to my parents house, we started talking about the guest list.  My mom gave me a list of people to add, and then as we were discussing it, more and more people were added.  In the end, the guest list ballooned to 265 people.  She added people I have never met, and cousins of hers whose married last names she can’t even remember.  David and I protested, but she said, “It’s important to them [the cousins] to stay close to their family.”  Well, if it’s so effing important, why have I not seen them since I was 6, and why don’t you know their names?

Anyway, David and I were up for hours that night, talking about how much this was not what we wanted.  He does not like to be the center of attention; if he had his way, we’d elope, but he knows I really want a wedding.  He was very, very upset, and I felt like things were completely out of control.

The next morning, I went downstairs to talk to my parents by myself (David knew).  I felt like I had to talk to them as their daughter, you know?  I said, “You keep saying we need to figure out what we want, but I feel like we keep telling you what we want, but you’re not listening.”  My mom asked what the difference was between being the center of attention of 180 people versus 265.  I said, “David has literally met everyone on the 180-person list.  It’s a big difference.”  Then she said, in response to my complaints that she added people we have never met, “I haven’t looked closely at the list you and David sent, but I’m sure there are friends of yours on there that your father and I have never met.”  I said, “Yes, but it’s OUR wedding.”  She said, and I’m not kidding, “Stop saying that.”

She finally left the room and I said to my dad, “Would you be hurt if we just paid for the wedding ourselves?”  He said, “It’s not about the money.”  I said, “I know, but if we pay for it ourselves, we can have the wedding we want.”  He said, “Why don’t you plan the wedding you want and we will still pay for it?”  I said, “Obviously we can’t do that – she is not letting that happen.”  We were so frustrated.  We left it at my parents agreeing to look at the guest list and try to make cuts.

The following Tuesday, I called my mom and told her that David and I had settled on the ceremony and reception locations we wanted and asked her to take care of booking them and paying the deposit.  She agreed.  When I called later in the week to follow up, she told me she had booked the date with the ceremony location and had contacted the reception venue and they would hold the date for us, “and if anyone else wants that date they will call us before they give the date away.”  I said, “Why don’t you just pay the lady her money so she doesn’t give our date away?”  She said, “They’re holding the date for us, don’t worry,  I just want to look at some other places.”  I explained to her that that was not what we agreed on the phone on Tuesday and that I felt she was trying to do an end around what David and I chose because she’s not 100% satisfied with the reception location.  She insisted everything would be fine.  To this day, she has still not signed a contract with the venue, and she still has not looked at any other places.

I went shopping with my bridesmaids a few weekends ago and they found two dresses they really loved that looked good on all of them (strapless).  I sent the links to my mom to ask her thoughts; she said she liked one more than the other, and I agreed.  I thought we were golden.  Later, she said, “I want you to ask them to have straps added to the dresses, at least for the ceremony.  I don’t think strapless is appropriate.”  I told her I had no problem with the strapless dresses and that I was not comfortable asking my bridesmaids to have straps added to accomodate my mother.  We still have not settled this, and I’m currently back to the drawing board on their dresses.

I bought shoes months ago that I want to wear with my dress.  (If we’re FB friends, you’ve probably seen them; if not, here they are:

So hot, right?  Our wedding colors are this color pink and dark orange, and I thought these shoes would be a fun way to add to that.) When I first showed the picture to my mom, she just rolled her eyes and said, “That’s not appropriate.”  I let it go.  This weekend, after we bought my dress (!), we were sitting in the bridal salon waiting for our contract and she said, “Melanie, you are NOT wearing those shoes.”  I tried to find some common ground – “Would you be more amenable to my pink shoes if they were in a fabric other than suede?”  “No.  It’s not appropriate.”  I dropped it.  But I’m pissed.  I’m 34 years old, I don’t need anyone’s permission to wear whatever shoes I want whenever I damn well want to, especially not on my wedding day.

David and I ordered save the date magnets shortly after my parents booked the ceremony location and our date was set.  I told my mother we were going to do it.  Since it’s, you know, OUR wedding, I put our return address on the envelopes we ordered.  When I told my mom, she said, “These are the kind of things we need to talk about.  I didn’t know you were going to order them.”  I reminded her that I told her we were going to do it.  She said, “Your father and I are hosting; if save the dates are sent, they should come from us.”  I said, “You can send the invitations, but the save the dates are D and me asking the people we are closest to  to save the date for OUR wedding.”  She wasn’t budging.  I offered an olive branch, saying I could order new envelopes for the save the dates with my parents return address on them, and David and I could use the ones we have for thank you notes or something.  She just sighed and said, “I’ll think about it.” She also thinks save the dates are stupid.  I explained that David really thinks that they’re neat, and it’s one of the few things he has an opinion on, so we’re sending them.   She’s not happy.  “No one on my side needs one.”

Finally, last week, I sent my parents an updated guest list that contained some cuts my mom gave me the week before.  I explained that the list was down to 225, which was a good start, but that David and I wanted a list of approximately 180-190 people, and that we felt we’d already cut everyone we could.  I asked my parents to look critically at the guest list and to please make some cuts.  I have not seen a revised guest list.

If you’ve read all of this, I appreciate it.  I am at the end of my patience with her.  I keep reminding myself to choose my battles, but I feel like she is fighting me on everything.  I know she wants to be a good hostess, but as someone said to me elsewhere when I was venting over this, if I were throwing my parents an anniversary party and I invited a ton of my friends that my parents didn’t know and tried to insist on all the things I like instead of focusing on what would make my parents happy, I would be a shitty hostess.

I know she wants to include people that are important to her, but is it too much to ask that I have at least met/seen these people in the last, say, 5 years?  Can’t some of these people make do with wedding announcements after the fact?  I hate the idea that people David and I do not know are going to get an invitation and feel obligated to send a gift even though they would never dream of coming to the wedding.  It makes us very uncomforable, but no matter how many times we say that this is not what we want, she does not budge.

I don’t know what to do anymore, and I still have 6 months and a lot of planning left.