Why I Choose to Educate When People Mock My Dwarfism
The road forks and I stand staring. From the beginning, I’ve said “no boundaries.” But this, this is hard. Am I doing the right thing? My heart and mind are intertwined in a wild game of uncertainty. Just when I think I have made strides towards progress, someone or something pushes me to the ground. Once I’m down, they give me a good kick or two. Good thing I have learned to bounce back.
Not long ago, I put my fear of judgment aside and went to happy hour (at a whiskey bar) with someone I didn’t know. Call it what you will: a date. After moving to a new city, I needed to get out — to breathe, to communicate to have conversation that didn’t surround bone healing, x-rays and injections. “Normalcy.” Two people, transplants from the Northeast, different stories, enjoying an Old Fashioned and getting to know one another. I was proud of myself. The simple act of leaving my apartment has being challenging due to pain levels and getting a little too comfortable with discomfort.
While in the middle of our conversation, my attention was drawn to a gentleman staring at me as he walked down the sidewalk (we were sitting outside) and the look on his face was one I knew all too well. Despite his attempt to camouflage his motive by asking for a quarter, my heart began to race. I barely know this person sitting across from me. Dear God, why now?
Looking me straight in the eyes with a grin on his face, the stranger said, a little too loudly, “You’re a midget.”
Gee, sir. Thank you for the compliment. Please tell me something I don’t know.
My reply was something along the lines of, “I find that word offensive. I am a little person and my name is Kristen.”
“Kristen the midget.”
At that point, I told him, “No, thank you,” turned away and ignored him. Only to see the look of horror and awkwardness on my friend’s face.
“Midget, midget, midget.”
Apparently, repeating the word over and over made him feel better. And he continued to taunt me until my “new” friend forewent the ignoring tactic and told him to get lost. People were staring. One woman mouthed “I’m sorry” to me and then went back to her conversation.
Embarrassed as all hell, I looked up at my friend and simply said, “Society can be very cruel.” He nodded and we quickly changed the subject.
As upset as I was that night, I was also proud of myself. For one thing, I didn’t appear visibly disturbed by the man’s ignorance. And I didn’t cry or dwell on the situation when I got home. That’s huge for me. Moments like that have been known to ruin my days.
The next morning, I walked across the street to watch the sunrise. Joined by a manatee, the events of the night before swirled in my mind.
I have had the conversation with so many people — what is the “right” thing to do in a situation like that? Many have told me it isn’t my job to educate ignorant people. Really? Then whose job is it?
For so long I struggled with a misconstrued image of myself due to misconceptions, negative ideas and judgments based on society’s ignorance. Because of how some little people are portrayed in the media, society assumes we are objects of ridicule.
Those who have told me to just ignore the laughter and harsh comments have no idea what it’s like. So in the moments I am targeted for others’ amusement — moments that make my heart ache — I am supposed to sit back and act like everything is hunky dory? Ignore the person laughing, jeering and pointing in my face? Just do nothing? Accept defeat knowing well that I have the power to do something?
To those who believe it is not my purpose to educate, I say, “You’re mistaken.” You are entitled to your own opinion, but please don’t tell me what to do. Until the day I die, I will stand behind my belief that denial doesn’t help the situation. I will never go quietly.
Erase boundaries. That is what I and so many others are here to do. We are messengers of perseverance, tolerance, compassion and love. We deserve to be respected, we deserve to be heard and we deserve to be loved. No one’s differences should ever warrant ridicule or discrimination of any kind.
Erasing these boundaries of adversity doesn’t happen by sitting back and watching. You have to be the facilitator, the doer, the educator. So this is my fight. My purpose. This mountain, the same one so many others face — I’m here to prove it can be moved. Because I believe that the greatest love comes from those who know no boundaries.
You have two choices: turn on your heels and walk the other way, or join me.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo by OGri.