Friday, October 08, 2010

On the Backs of Men

I have been confronting recently this ever haunting issue of dependence, and realizing my need for inter-dependence. Similar to most people with disabilities, I have trained, rehab-ed, struggled and fought for every ounce of independence I now have. So the idea of hiring someone to come in to assist around the house a couple times a week is just simply heinous, and I have been quietly throwing some adolescent tantrums after succumbing to the inevitable…. That Megan Smith is not an island surrounded by vast, empty, person-less bodies of water, despite all efforts to be so. Though I do believe with enough money this very well could be my future. Someone else coming into my house to vacuum has suddenly made me reflect on my fascist like desire to be independent, and how country specific this fervency is. On reflection I realized how willing I was to be completely and absolutely dependent, physically, on relative strangers in Nepal, Peru, Morocco, Costa Rica, and Algeria etc... I mean I allowed three men to carry me up a mountain, without my chair, and I allowed myself to be utterly dependent on them even in going to the bathroom. But here in America, allowing someone to vacuum my floor makes me cringe.
I realized, especially after re-reading my thesis, that my interaction with others is defined to a greater degree by public opinion and societal view of disability. To clarify, when I had such assistance in Nepal and other nations, I did not feel like charity or eternally indebted to them. Their assistance to me was equally balanced by the work I did with them, so no one was put on a higher, lower pedestal than the other. In America, no matter how kind hearted the person assisting you are, there is a general view of needing assistance as disdainful. When I go out with my mum or really anyone, they are generally viewed as my caretaker, and as such people will talk to them instead of myself. Consequently, wherever I go, I feel this constant need to exhibit myself as completely independent, even if that means telling a friend to wait in the car or even walk a little away from me so people won’t assume his/her caretaker status. This is ridiculous I know, but when someone like me struggles and works incredibly hard to live a life completely independently, it’s a slap in the face whenever I go out to have the assumption made that I have a caretaker.
In this way, I realized that this is the reason for this militant type effort to be and maintain independence in America, and how I must evolve and realize that my life is a hell of a lot easier with people on my island.
On an additional note I have realized what an amazing, philanthropic service I have been providing for the male species. After a man recently carried me into a restaurant, he appeared quite pleased with himself and all puffed up, with his wife and friends congratulating him on being such a great Samaritan, and I realized that if I have done nothing else in this world, I have done absolute wonders to a great many male egos. (and perhaps to the businesses of many chiropractic practitioners)


Blogger Kay L. Davies said...

Meg, I have been trying and trying to figure out what to say. I just can't wrap my mind around the idea of people speaking to your companion instead of to you. It must be bloody awful.
I can understand why you would react to such treatment by insisting upon your independence, but not when it comes to housekeeping. Household help is a good thing! Nobody wants to clean her own toilets or wash her own floors.
Oops, I take that back.
I have had friends come to help me out when I lived alone on a disability pension, and couldn't afford to pay for help, and I wouldn't let them clean my toilet. But I happily let them vacuum and wash floors, clean the oven and dung out the fridge to their hearts' content.
I'm sure that by now, because you're an intelligent young woman, you've figured out you can ask your friends and family members to say, "I don't know, you'll have to ask Meg" when people address them instead of you. You can even suggest they say, "I beg your pardon, but Meg is right here, ask her" in any tone of voice they prefer.
And you have already mentioned how much men like to be seen as big and strong and helpful, so you probably suspect women like to be seen as helpful, too, and strong as well (although we seldom like to be seen as big).
Give 'em hell, Meg, and be independent, with certain exceptions, like housework. ;~)

7:30 PM  

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