I am not your nurse to your disability, I am your friend.

It seems that over the years I have been misinterpreted as a home-nurse or mommy or happy helper to my friends.

The most classic instance of this misinterpretation is a friend I had in high school. We were joined at the hip, always around each other. We were on the outdoor track team for one season. We loved art, and often worked on projects together in our art class. We liked a lot of the same television shows and video games. Overall we were friends because we had a lot in common and we thought well of each other.

People didn’t see it that way. People saw that I was always around her because she is visually impaired and therefore I pity her and I’m only putting up with her. People saw me as some volunteer aide, someone who helped her in addition to her actual aide. The aide who brought her her braille books, helped her print things in braille for her classes, converted things from braille into type, and occasionally scolded her if she forgot stuff. I never did those things because that was not what I was there for. I was there to hang out with her, enjoy her company and be her friend.

To this day, eight years after graduating from my high school, some people from my class still believe I was Ashley’s happy helper.

This says a lot about society’s perception of people who have disabilities. This also says a lot about what is expected of women.

Most of my friends who have known me for a long time will say that when it comes certain things, I am the last person they can ask for “help”. I am not going to come to your house and do your laundry, or various other chores. I hardly do those things in my own apartment! I may vacuum my bedroom once a month, if that! Some women are hip to constantly cleaning and popping out babies. I am not one of those women. I don’t expect other people to do chores in my home, either. I’ll do them, when I feel like it.

Now, if someone has a serious issue in their family or living situation, if someone has been hurt emotionally or physically, if someone is moving to a new place and needs an extra set of hands, that is a whole different ball game. There is nothing gender specific about being a good friend to someone else.

Ashley is not the only friend of mine who has a disability. I don’t even like using the term “disabled”, but I don’t know a different word. Disabled sounds like saying someone is not able to do something for themselves, like they are a baby. I don’t like babying babies, let alone adults! When it comes to another friend of mine, I swear he has tried to label me as a home-nurse to him, and one of these days I am going to look him in the eye and say to him very loudly, “When it comes to my friendship with you, ALS is a non-fucking factor!”

Granted, I care about the well-being of all of my friends. But what I care about most isn’t whether or not they have a disability. What I care about is what makes them who they are. Disabilities can take away many things, even dehumanize us, but they will NEVER take away what makes you who you are. You will always be you, no matter what anyone says to you or does to you. I may get very emotional sometimes about who you are, but that is because I take you as you are, and for me, that is all I will ever need, and it is perfect.

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