When I was a teenager, Pa bought me a T-shirt with the words, ‘I'm blonde, please speak slowly!’ written on it!
I loved that T-shirt! It signified that start of me laughing at my deafness. Until then, I'd been a teeny, tiny, wee bit stroppy about it!
But what really got me, was that people are more likely to observe the instructions on that T-shirt to do with my hair colour, than if I actually tell them I can't hear and they need to speak more slowly!
And so, it got me thinking about what would happen if I had a T-shirt made in my Deafinitely Girly shop with ‘I'm deaf, please speak slowly’ on it. Would anybody buy it? I'm not sure I would really, as only I can laugh at my deafness, while other people can laugh with me. With blondes however, it seems it's acceptable to laugh at them, too!
Quite often, if I'm in an environment where I've made a total tit of myself from mishearing something and there isn't time to explain, I will roll my eyes and say, ‘Tsk, I can be so blonde sometimes!’ and the situation is defused! It saves my face when people think I've been rude, and saves their face when they're rude back.
But just occasionally, I relish in telling the intolerant/rude/tutting person that I'm not deliberately ‘acting like a moron’ – their choice of thought, not mine – and I am in fact deaf.
I did it the other day in a Central London store. I'd missed the mandatory bag question, fluffed an answer for the would-you-like-a-storecard question and totally ignored her, it seems, when she asked me to enter my PIN. She huffed and she puffed and threw my shopping bag at me, and that's when I'd had enough.
So, I smiled sweetly at her and said, ‘I’m terribly sorry if I came across as rude just then, I'm actually hard of hearing.’
Her jaw hit the floor and she mumbled incoherently to try and backtrack on her actions. But it was too late – the rest of the queue thought she was a rude shop assistant being nasty to the poor deaf girl.
Hmmm, was that really fair? I mean she wasn't to know I was deaf – but should she have been so rude even though she didn't? I think she should have given me a break before assuming I was the rude one.
And so, from now on I'm going to do that, too. If someone's walking slowly, bumps into me, or doesn't answer me when I speak to them, I will try and give them the benefit of the doubt, try and have a little patience just in case I'm missing the bigger picture. And maybe, eventually, I'll get the same in return.