Katherine’s my only Deaf friend.
Since she’s become a teacher, her signing has really shot off, but before that, she did a hell of a lot of lip reading and captioning.
Since I’m also a fierce lip reader, I had lots of fun having complete conversations with her without uttering a word.At restaurants, office parties, whatever. I had even more fun when I realized how few people actually lip read! But, like speaking English on a crowded train in Japan, you better be careful – never know when that person might understand you.
I feel all kinds of levels of relief when I’m talking with Katherine, and I felt a wave of a portion of that relief when I logged onto DeafRead for the first time. It was this instant sense of identification: my tribe! my people! They get it.
And the discussions! Advice on fixing hearing aid molds, hacking a bluetooth so it’s hearing aid compatible! Hearing dogs! Rants about captions!
I never knew how much I missed my own.
It feels so freakin’ good to not have to apologize for not hearing something, to pretend I heard it, to have to say yet again that I’m deaf, I can’t hear that, can you please repeat it? And then say oh no, it’s okay when people invariably apologize (what are they apologizing for anyway?). It feels so good to laugh over the lack of captions while bitching about it. It feels so good to talk about battery power, longevity and which loops pack more bang for the buck. Or talk about which companies treat us badly (apple – i-phone) compared to others that are better (verizon).
It’s like every other kind of coming out, I think, this here embracing of my deafness. I was so deeply ashamed for so very long. Did my part in destroying the ozone layer by using whole cans of aquanet to strategically place my hair just*so over my honking doo-dads and my ears. Loved going to bars and out dancing because among other things, it was a place that I actually ‘heard’ better than anyone else, thanks to my lip reading.
I’ve felt that sting of shame for being chastised because I couldn’t do things because I couldn’t hear. The overwhelming sense of worthlessness. Being let go from a job because it wasn’t “working out” because I couldn’t hear someone’s loco moco order. Straining to hear some speaker, some subject, some-thing and feeling deeply inept when I couldn’t. I just.could.not.
Trying to “pass”. Distancing myself from deafness, disability. I’m not “one of them;” Take me for a cool cat, please! Old friends, if you are reading this, you know. You know... and thank you for putting up with my hours of angst, my rage and my deep insecurity.
I wish I could turn around and grab that young Meriah by the shoulders, look her in the eye and tell her that everything is going to be so amazing: she is going to marry the most beautiful man in the world, she’s going to have two of the most beautiful babies ever to come into existence. She’s loved. All that drinking, smoking, starving, purging, hurting won’t heal any wounds. Have faith, because that brighter tomorrow will be hers.
And in that bright tomorrow – my here and now – it’s a wonderful thing to be deaf. It’s eminently enviable by my gorgeous, beautiful husband as I reach up and turn them off and enjoy my silent world as Micah insists on testing his operatic glass-breaking-worthy skills in the car. It’s lovely to be able to tell the annoying phone lovers that email must be the way to go for me (and legally, they need to comply, thank God). I take delight and comfort in knowing that just as I believe that God does not make mistakes in creating any human being, I too, am how I should be, deafness and all.