Hi everyone! It’s that time of year again, I guess. That time when I see a bunch of articles and blog posts floating around about how the people who call cripples “inspirational” are basically ableist asshats. It seems to come in cycles, usually popping up around the holiday season when people are more likely to try to spread the love (it’s actually starting a little early this year). Anyway, I feel like I’ve mentioned this before, but it needs repeating: they aren’t the asshats in this scenario, you are.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand what most of these posts are trying to say, and I even kind of agree with the most basic message they’re attempting to convey. I know I’m not actually inspirational, that I’m just doing what everyone else is doing (also known as living my life the only way I know how). Yeah, I totally agree with that sentiment. My problem with these rants about not being inspirational is that these people are being rude to people who are only being nice. That is what I can’t get behind, so to speak.
Imagine (or if you’re a cripple/physically different in any way, you’ve probably lived it): you’re at a restaurant and some happy-go-lucky cheerleader type comes up to you and says “OMG! I just had to tell you that I think you are so beautiful. It’s such an inspiration to see you out and about. I don’t think I’d even be able to get out of bed if I were in your position.” Now, keep in mind that this is the fourth time you’ve heard something like that this week and no one could keep track of how often you’ve heard it in your *insert age here* years on the planet.
What she literally meant: “You’re an awesome person!”
What your jaded ears heard: “You’re so disgusting. How can you even leave the house, let alone your room?”
There are a number of ways you can respond in a situation like this. For example, you can simply say thank you (my go-to response). This usually results in a smile, possibly some small-talk, and a polite parting of the ways. If you’re feeling particularly argumentative, you could respond with “Thank you. I’m really nothing special, but you’re sweet.” This could backfire into the lady listing the ways you are special, but at least you were nice about it! Or you could let your cynicism reign and tear down someone who was only trying to let you know she thought you were cool, which makes you a douchenozzle.
What I’m getting at is that it’s nobody else’s fault that you’ve grown so cynical that you can’t take someone’s kind words at face value. No, they aren’t being ableist and they aren’t making fun of you, they’re being nice. Believe me, I’ve been in enough of these conversations to know that people don’t think that much when they speak. It’s a unique experience for them, so their words simply mean what they mean, there’s nothing hidden underneath. You only think there’s negativity in the words because you’ve had years to analyze a plethora of these conversations. Stop overthinking it. Nice people do exist.