Asking the delicate questions

There are times when I actually do have to venture out of my cave and emerge, (hopefully not) naked and blinking into the sunlight. So you might see me in the grocery store. Or at the gas station. Or at your local coffee place.

And you might think, “Gosh, what’s up with that person? How do I find a way to delicately ask them?”

Here are a few ways NOT to start that conversation:

1. “OMIGODWHATISWRONGWITHYOU????” In a voice loud enough to make everyone else in the store turn and stare. Because there is nothing those of us with visible disabilities love more than *having unwarranted attention called to our disability.*

First: Use your inside voice. There is no need to shout at me. I have a skin condition. I am not deaf.

Second: I am not a sideshow freak. Save it for the next time the circus comes to town.

Third: Dial back on the demanding. I am not obligated to tell you anything about my medical history. In fact, federal law backs me up on this.

2.  “You should see a doctor about that!” Really? That would never have occurred to me! This is usually offered as an attempt at humor. Which is mildly funny about the first time. And then not so much.

Here’s a hint: No, you are not the first person to have said that to me. You will not be the last. You may only have said it once. I’ve heard it hundreds of times. Forgive me if I am less than amused by now.

3. “I’m just dying of curiosity. What’s that you’ve got?” This line got used on me at, of all places, the dog park. Lots of happy dogs running around in the sun, and *I’m* the most interesting thing there?

I’m curious about lots of things. I’m curious as to how Jersey Shore is such a popular TV show. I’m curious as to how David Caruso still manages to get work as an actor. I’m curious as to why anybody considers Robert Altman a great film director. But, see, here’s the thing — Nobody is required to satisfy my curiosity just because *I’m curious.* Some things are best left a mystery. Although, if somebody could explain that Caruso thing to me using very short words, I’d be grateful.

So there you have it. Use some tact, diplomacy and (if all else fails) whatever common sense yo’ momma done whapped you upside the head with. You’ll be happier and I won’t have to publicly humiliate you.

This entry was posted in chronic pain, not your teachable moment, visible disability. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Asking the delicate questions

  1. Doug Jones says:

    May I offer a template?

    Step one: strike up a conversation without any reference to The Spots(tm). Some thing like, “Isn’t it a joy to see so many happy dogs? I can’t help but grin back at them.” Chat for a while.

    Step two: Acknowledge the imposition. “I don’t want to offend, and I’m sure that you get obnoxious questions, but I must admit I’m curious- and a bit worried- about your skin condition. If you don’t mind, can you tell me about it?” Then be prepared to accept an answer of “No, I don’t want to talk about it.”

    Seems pretty simple to me, but then, in social situations I try to keep it simple ’cause I’m such an egghead.

  2. syona says:

    Me, I just wouldn’t ask…but I’m English, we don’t do that sort of thing.

  3. John says:

    This is all eminently sensible. But then, coming from you, I would expect nothing less…

  4. Pau Amma says:

    “I’m just dying of curiosity. What’s that you’ve got?” deserves the occasional “An allergy to idiots” answer, IMO.

  5. Violet Tigress says:

    Love it! I always wish I could think up better sarcastic remarks when people ask me what happened to my face.

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