I have always been visible. Part of it from an early age has been because of being interracial. Especially when I was a child, people look at you and your parents. I come from a strong maternal line. My cousins and I range from blonde to deep brown. We have the same face. On the rare occasions when we were together as teens, people would do double takes. The eyes processed what the brain could not.
My mother, being a colonial of a certain age, brought me up with certain attitudes and expectations. A lady did not leave the house without hat or gloves. So yeah, there I was in NYC, in the summer, in the subway, with gloves. And a hat. Actually, not such a bad thing. I have to tell you though those gloves were a bitch to keep clean! The hats. I love hats and used to look really good in them. My mum wore them, too. So, we could be out, at the grocery or mall, hatless and someone would walk up to us and say “oh, you’re the ladies (girl) with the hats.
Fashion has been my life and consuming interest. I used to work in it and have been privileged to attend pret a porter. Can I tell you, I was noticed there, too? Very proud of that one. I used to go to Europe regularly for a job. I went after losing it and had a call when I returned home from a former colleague ” You were in Spain and Italy a few weeks ago” Yes, I was noticed.
Another thing I am known for is my smile. I like to share my joy. When I returned to another job I was approached numerous times because my smile was missed.
So yes, I am used to being noticed but now is different. Now, I am noticed because of the cane ( I hate that word) and the spectral leg. That has become what makes me stand out.
When I was still working, I worked in a JP Morgan Chase building. The security guards watched out for me. One used to see me walking in the morning and help me cross the street. It made me feel like a fragile little old lady which I am so not, at least in my mind. If I went out to lunch at the rear of the building, he’d make sure I got on the escalator safely then run down the stairs to help me when I came off. Another one, a woman, who went to another building, would see me crossing and yell at cars and people and help me. One that saw me in the building always worried when I was on vacation or out for a few days. She too, would help me up the stairs.
I have been out of work in NYC for over a year. As I said, the newspaper hawker was glad to see me a few weeks ago. In December and January, I had to go in and take the same bus and train that I used to. My husband was overwhelmed by the people who came up and spoke to me and were glad to see me.
I don’t like being visible in this way. To me, It’s not positive. I don’t like being recognized for disability; I’d rather be known for my smile or my style. I understand that people respect and admire my grit and determination. This too, is hard for me. I am just living my life the only I know how to and the only way I can. It’s not inspirational; it’s just life. My issues are visible. Others confront much worse things just not as publicly.
I guess I need to continue because I demonstrate the possible. I can be a voice and a face against discrimination. I hate when people speak loudly to me. I want to say, “It’s my legs, stupid. There’s nothing wrong with my brain.” I suppose if my visibility with disability helps others, it’s worth it. Visibility is here to stay.