I had to accept/learn that I was “different,” from a very early age; I want to say I was probably about 5 years old when I had the first incident in public. As a small child, I was always “stuck up my mom’s butt,” and went everywhere she went; this included grocery shopping. One day we were at the grocery store, but my legs or maybe it was my back, I just remember I was hurting or too tired to go walk the aisles with her, so I asked if I could go to the movie section to find a movie to rent; to which she agreed. The movie section was right near the entrance of the store and was the first thing anyone saw upon entering the store. I had my back to the entrance while browsing titles to find a movie when a mother and her young daughter walked in; her daughter was probably two years my junior (younger than me), if that much age difference. Upon their entering the store, I heard the young girl say (really loudly, I might add), “Mommy! Mommy! Look that monster mannequin! It’s scary.”
Being the curious five-year-old that I was, I also wanted to see what had the little girl’s attention; I turned around to see her pointing, but her finger was in my direction. I looked around near me to see if there were any posters or anything nearby; not a thing, just me. I would like to point out that before this incident, I never realized that I was different; I thought all kids went to the doctor as frequently, that all kids had aches and pains, everything I had or did, I thought all kids did the same. In embarrassment, the mother quickly ushered her child out of that embarrassing, awkward situation and into the store with her daughter whining “but mom, I wanted to rent a movie!” I was left alone in the movie section, alone and confused; the mother hadn’t even bothered to apologize for her daughter’s misunderstanding of my difference. I stared at my reflection in the glass case that held the movies and for the first time, I saw what others saw, my back sticking out; “I guess I kind of do look like a monster.”
With an empty feeling left in my stomach, I no longer had the desire to rent a movie. I wandered off to a nearby bench, propped my legs up to my chest, and laid my head on my legs. Later, I felt Mom nudge me to look up; my face was splotched red, I had been crying. I asked her all these questions: “Mom, why do I look weird?” “Why does my back stick out?” “Why do I look like a monster?” “Why can’t I look like the other kids?” “Why did God make me this way?” On and on, the questions that had never once crossed my mind before came; it was like someone had opened a floodgate. Mom’s reply “because God loves you,” which later became “because God has a special plan for you,” because one of her neighbor’s special needs children had replied “because God loves you” with “I wish God would go love someone else.” Mom didn’t want me resenting God for what I was born with. It was also after this incident, my world was completely altered and I became slightly more self-conscious.
Sometimes, I would sit in my room playing on my brother’s keyboard, despite not knowing how to play a keyboard; I’d just play random keys, but I’d make up words and sing something like this,
“God, make my back straight,
I want to run and play,
With kids who won’t run away,
Because they are scared of me.
Fix my back,
I want to make friends,
I don’t want to sit alone here,
Crying and feeling
‘Poor pitiful me.’
God, please fix me.”
I may have not written all the correct words that I had said since I was only 5 years old, but I don’t remember how it truly was written, but that was the gist of what I was trying to say.
Another incident, but it turned out great in the end, happened when I was in 1st grade. My class was right across from my former Kindergarten class. There was a small girl who had my former kindergarten teacher, who at the beginning of the school year, was also scared of me because of not understanding my disability. It was so bad, that she cried anytime I came around by her. I couldn’t go visit my former kindergarten teacher, except during their nap times, so that the girl wouldn’t cry. Eventually, though, she warmed up to me, got to know me, and we soon became friends. In 1st grade, I want to say around springtime, despite being told numerous times, “don’t’ go in the back of the school,” I did anyway with the little girl who was now my friend, and we both ended up with poison ivy. As we blossomed into teens, we both hung out at the local skating rink, and as my self-esteemed lowered and lowered through the years, this girl would try everything to help me feel beautiful and like a “normal” teenager: trying to teach me how to dance sexual/flirty, trying to teach me to flirt, she would help me with my makeup, anything to try to get me to ‘loosen up’ and not feel so “different.”
I also had to deal with teasing as I got into the 5th and 6th grades, especially boys. For some reason at that age, boys think its “funny” to call people out on their disabilities/downfalls, whether it be glasses, short, super tall, etc.; Mine was my Scoliosis. I got called “weirdo, freak, humpback of Notre Dame,” probably a few other names, but those were the most
Popular, especially Humpback of Notre Dame,” by one boy in my class in particular. It was around this age, that I started getting “fiery” and “feisty” and had anger management problems. I’d chase this boy and try to hit or kick him, to try to make him stop. These emotions escalated into Jr. High when I became a total witch (but replace the ‘W’ with a ‘B’), but I felt I couldn’t be soft and innocent anymore or they’d “walk all over me,” I had to be hard, and not show any sensitivity or softness, but I took that to the extremes, a bit. One thing is for sure, I never want to go back to being that person I was in Jr. High!
I don’t mind if they (kids) are curious or scared, but if they would stop staring and making me feel awkward and “different,” and just ask what’s on their mind, I would understand and then maybe just like with the girl who became my friend, they would make a new friend in me too. That’s all I want, is for the staring and whispers behind my back, to stop. They might not want to be my friend, and that’s okay, but if they just want to know, then just ask; don’t stare at me like I’m at some sort of Freak side-street show; because when you stare, that’s how I feel, especially when whispers accompany the staring. Now, I want to address parents; instead of telling your kids not to ask questions, encourage them to do so. More than likely the person will feel relieved and somewhat happy they asked, instead of being constantly stared at and whispered about. I know parents don’t want their kids to accidentally offend people, but usually, people who have disabilities are hard to offend unless you say something extremely mean to their face, but usually, if it’s a curious little kid, they won’t get offended. Just try it that is all I am asking.