Excuse Me, I’m Deaf!
When she wrote this story, Christine was eighteen and about to graduate from the EDCO Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts. A year later, when I asked her to describe herself for this anthology, she wrote, “Right now, I go to Northern Essex Community College, taking the Deaf Cluster Program1 there. It’s only for two years and afterwards I have no idea. What I’m doing for a living is working part-time for North Shore ARC Deaf Services. I’m helping people with daily-living activities in their homes and watching them as a relief worker. My friends are both hearing and Deaf.2 I have a hearing boyfriend.”
Christine’s first language was English, since her parents were both hearing and neither of them signed. However, her natural language — the language with which she communicated most easily — was ASL (American Sign Language). That English was not Christine’s natural language was apparent to me when I read the first draft of this story: even though the overall story line was clear and strong, and her spunk and humor unmistakable, many of the details were fuzzy. For the sake of clarity, I made various changes to sentence structure and word order. I kept as close to the original as possible and never finalized any changes without Christine’s approval.
One Saturday night, my hearing friend Christy called me up through the relay and asked me if I wanted to go to the Spot. I said, “Sure, why not?” The Spot is a dance club in Boston for people 18 and over. Christy came over and picked me up, and we went to the club.
After a long wait, we got in and looked around. We enjoyed it when we saw so many cute guys walking past us. Christy said, “This music is so loud,” and I said, “Really? That’s interesting.” Christy went on, “Good thing you can’t hear anything, but I’ll bet you can feel it!!” I said, “Well, that’s true!!” She laughed.
There were five different dance floors. I went up to the third floor with Christy and said, “Hey, why don’t we dance?” She was, like, “You?” I said, “Oh come on, you’ve known me for the past five years already. You know I love to dance. Let’s go.” She goes, “Oh, all right, Christine, let’s go!”
We went onto the dance floor and were surrounded by crowds of people. I was dancing with Christy and a couple of guys came up to us. I danced with one of them until the song stopped. Then he asked me, “What’s your name and where are you from?” I said, “Christine and I’m from Peabody.” He was, like, “Huh??!!” He didn’t understand me. I grabbed Christy and explained to her what happened. She was, like, “Okay!” She told him, “Her name is Christine and she’s from Peabody.” He was, like, “Oh, hi.” He was whispering in my ear!! I said, “Excuse me, I’m Deaf!” He said, “Huh?” and backed away from me. He was, like, “I’m sorry that you can’t hear.” I said, “Don’t be sorry. It’s okay!” He walked away from me, and I screamed, “Fine, go ahead!!”
Later, I went downstairs to the first floor and saw the guy who had walked away from me. I was, like, “Oh, God” to him and went onto the dance floor with some other guys. He stood there and stared at me. I got fed up and went up to him and said. “Do you have a problem?” then, “Shut up!” and slapped him right on his face. The reason I did that is because I hated the way he said, “I’m sorry.” It made me mad. I went and grabbed Christy. Christy said, “Whoa, I saw that!!” I said, “Good, he deserved it!” Christy laughed hard on our way out the exit door. I went on saying sarcastically, “What a great night I had.” She was, like, “Cool. Oh, Jeez, it’s been a long night. Time to go home!” I was, like, “Yup!!” and we got in her car and started back home.
I asked her, “Christy, do you think he was worth bothering with?” She was, like, “He wasn’t worth it, but he did deserve what he got!” I said, “Someday he will realize Deaf isn’t a disease, and he will feel sorry about this.”
This situation happens to many Deaf girls all the time. It’s time to tell the guys to stop making this same mistake! Deaf people are human beings, and we’re not dumb. There is no reason for people to feel sorry for us.
1. Editor’s note: The English Language Cluster
for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students at Northern Essex Community College
is a series of English courses taught in American Sign Language to students
who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Linda Hillyer, compiler and editor of Listen to Our Stories
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