Today, in one of my 10 trillion classes, we had a guest speaker who presented as having ARND. To those who don’t make a habit of memorizing acronyms in their free time, ARND stands for Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder. My extremely shallow understanding of this is that ARND represents the spectrum of disorders caused by alcohol ingested during pregnancy, most commonly manifested as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
So anyway, our speaker gave a small testimony describing her experience living with ARND, depicting such symptoms as Dyslexia (which, I assume-but could be wrong- is commonly comorbid?), hypersensitivity( which, as she told us, is a difference in perception of the world–higher sensitivity to sound, light, and an innate opposition to being touched), and differences in learning abilities. At one point, when discussing employment and its difficulty for a person with ARND, she said, “We just get warn out. Everything that ‘normy’s’ take for granted, takes us twice as long, it takes our brains twice the effort to do what other brains do normally” Of course, one of the nit-picky social work kids in my class pointed out her use of the word ‘normy’ (“What is that?”) Context means nothing to kids these days.
As this woman unfolded her story for us, she spoke wisply, reading from the paper that held the essentializing facts of her struggle. Some asshole girls behind me kept loudly insisting that she was “Saaaa cayyyuuuute!” and proclaiming their love for her, this woman they’d never met that was easily 30 years their senior. Side note: I’d like to start a word revolution where everyone drops the word “cute” from their vocab and replaces it with something else equally useless and airy with a hint of condescention, just so they can feel the gravity of their words. Like…. hmmm…”She’s saaaa rosey. What a muffin.” or “Love that little Strawberry Shortcake”. Actually, I knew someone once who often called me Strawberry Shortcake. It took me a bit to warm up to, and I never really understood it. Words like “cute” especially when applied to people we respect, can be patronizing/confusing or both, and can actually get in the way of whatever grain of endearment is intended. Said the spinster.
Eventually it was time for questions, and the speaker stood patiently at the front of the class looking like Exhibit A, playing with both drawstrings on her sweater-vest at once and waiting for us to throw our ignorance at her. Someone asked for clarification on the categorization of her condition, and I thought maybe people would let her off easy, when someone started with, “Uhm, maybe this is too personal but….” the woman smiled sheepishly and told the bozo to speak. “Well, do you find that your condition gets in the way of finding a partner?”
Eeeyo. Idiocy reared its head.
The woman answered gracefully, explaining that a partner was never on her priority list, that she found relationships work and had “never had kids, thank god”. She admitted that her invisible disability probably had a baring on her ability to sustain intimate relationships, just because she’s naturally impatient and easily frustrated.
This killed me inside. I’m pretty much dead already, but this broke my straw on my humpty camel, firstly because it speaks to the incessant belief that other’s love is a valid cue for societal acceptance, and also because no one should be asked that ever.
It kinda comes off like this: “So, are you worth loving, er…?”
My sadness was amplified when she closed her answer (to the original question of her condition being a barrier to companionship)with, “Surprisingly, I get asked that all the time.”
Clearly, I don’t find this an acceptable lens with which to view a person’s situation. Even more clearly, I am bitter. Maybe I should just end this blog by cutting and pasting the words bitter and spinster 40x.