How different is Different?

Adults with Down Syndrome, Community Participation, Down Syndrome, Mother of an Adult with a Disability 9 Comments »

Just when I think I’m over it, it happens again.

Billy and I are in a waiting room; across from us are two girls in their early teens. As we sit down, they look up and stare intently, unabashedly, at Billy. He doesn’t seem to notice, but I feel the blood rising to my face. I wait a moment, they are still staring. What do I do? I stare back until they realize I am looking at them and they turn away, embarrassed.

This is an issue I address in Grown Man Now, an issue that continues to bother me. Somehow I always feel that I need to make them aware of their rudeness. One strategy I adopted a few years ago was to say, “You seem interested in my son. Would you like to meet him?” That generated some interesting reactions and probably gave me some satisfaction.

We like to be different in many ways; that makes us interesting. We hate to see someone wearing the same outfit we have on, but where do we draw the line? Teenagers want to have the same shoes, the same hair styles. We want our yards to look like the one next door. When does the difference start to attract adverse attention?

I guess what I’m feeling is that it is impolite to stare at anyone, for any reason. Billy’s facial characteristics are noticeably different from those of most people. Does that give them the right to stare, or am I overly sensitive?

There was a young man working at Food City who asked me, “Does Billy have Down syndrome?” I answered in the affirmative, not knowing what his point was. He continued, “I like the way he looks.” Now he has my permission to stare!

What do you think?

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