Tuesday, June 19, 2007


*Sigh* - every once in a while I go off on my serious tangent about something that is either A) bothering me, or B) offending me. Today would be a little of column A and B.

I recently became re-acquainted with an old friend from high school. Actually back that up a bit. We were the only girls in a classroom of 10 students (small town ya know). We were the best of friends for 6 years of school. We have a lot of history. After high school went our separate ways. She was making choices in her life I didn't approve of, and then I went to the States to go to university. The last time I really saw or spoke to her was at my wedding in 1998.

Anyways, about two weeks ago, we found each other again on Facebook. I thought it was nice to catch up and see how things were going. I hadn't, at this point, mentioned Kierra's disability. Not because I'm embarrassed or anything - but it's not something you exactly just blurt out all of a sudden. It's a private matte rand I usually want to feel connected to people when I discuss it. Funny huh? Especially since I rant online for the world to read. Anyways... We have mutual friends of ours that do know, so I thought there was a good chance she knew through one of these friends. Apparently not.

Herein lies the situation: her husband recently participated in a 13.5 km run this past week-end for a marathon. Any of you that have Facebook know that if you have mutual friends, that comments made on each other's page will show up on your homepage as well. One picture was of her husband and this other mutual friend after the marathon. Her husband had a goofy smile and a medal. She commented to the picture, "Thanks for putting this picture of my autistic husband up ... with his medal."

First off, her husband is not autistic. I went to high school with him as well. He once claimed to have felt me up (not true in the least), and he also cried when a bouncer at a bar punched me in the face (this is another story for another time).
Second, I couldn't imagine making a comment like that knowing something like this. I mean, I'd hope not! But I'm torn now. I don't want to embarrass her or make a huge spectacle of this... but part of me feels that how could I want to associate with someone that thinks it's okay to make derogatory remarks about a disability? Of course, I may just be very sensitive on the matter. I mean had Kierra not been autistic, I probably wouldn't be as offended. So I figure I have a few courses of action I could take. I could ignore it and not say anything. I could mention in passing that Kierra is autistic and let her connect the dots. Or I could bring it up and say that I was a little hurt and why.

I must say, I hate scenarios such as this. I hate to be the one jumping down someones throats. Especially when I don't believe it was said to be malicious in any way. However, the protective mom in me doesn't want to let this go. Any insight here? It would be greatly appreciated.


Jolene said...

I don't know if it would be a deal breaker or not, but I think her choice of words was horrible.

When I first read your post I felt all righteous, like "I'd never do that!", but then when I thought about it, I thought "I'm not much better." I use "That's retarded." way too often. I'm obviously not referring to a mentally handicapped person when I use the phrase, but it's still offensive and I shouldn't.

I can say, however, that I've never heard anyone that I know make a comment like that.

Anonymous said...

That's a tough one Elle. I would guess (and hope) that she didn't mean to offend you personally, but I can certainly understand why, as a mom of a beautiful autistic daughter, you would take offense.

I have heard jokes made about autistism, and honestly most relate to the movie "Rainman." I've been guilty of joking about scenes from that movie, too because some of it is just so funny. But I think that's the problem - it opened a door for people to joke about autism when people are acting "weird."

I think that you could certainly say something to her about Kierra. You could even say that you saw the caption on the picture and wanted to let her know that your daughter is autistic so that she didn't find out from someone else and feel bad. Or you could just mention it in conversation like you would have eventually anyway. No matter what you say or when you say it, I would think she'll probably feel bad.

I hope you get it resolved one way or the other so that you feel better about it. I hate situations like that, too, but I'm sure you'll do the right thing. :o)

Burg said...

Oh Elle.. I hate it when things like this happen. Sometimes people are so ignorant of these matters it's scary.

I have a severly handicapped sister and find the word "retard" offensive because it's usually used in such a derogatory way. Like Jolene said, most people don't use it in reference to the handicapped, but it doesn't stop it from stinging. Unfortunately, I've seen many things on television where someone with a mental disability is the butt of a joke.. It makes me very angry, but I don't think it's going to stop. Most of these people are some of the most loving, caring, and innocent people on this planet and I guess it's a blessing that they don't quite understand what some people in the world say.

She surely didn't know. I think I would mention it to her though. If she's worth a salt she wouldn't want to hurt the feelings of someone she cared about..

TK the Shrink said...

I, personally, would try to be subtle first. Like maybe put up an autistic ribbon on your page (can you alter those like you can MySpace?) or find a blinkie or something that says "Mom of Autism"... Then when she sees it she'll know and you don't have to put her on the spot or anything. If that doesn't work, pull out the frying pan and thump her one! LOL

Sunshine said...

I agree with Burg, use of a slang term or an term used for special needs individuals as an insult is the lowest form of humor. "Retard" is my most hated and despised of stupid things people say and I don't know why after so much time, it's suddenly super cool to say that.
If people start using "autistic" as another version of saying "retard", I'm going to come completely uncorked.
It's offensive. And to go on TK's idea....maybe even send a post inviting the woman to join an autism group or something for people who have family members with autism. That'll make her feel like an ass.

k8 said...

send a private email explaining what you're feeling. if she gets ticked off, so be it.

Catwoman said...

Yeah, I'd just send her an email and say "I thought you were aware of this, but from your comment, I've come to realize you probably don't..." and then let her know about Kierra's autism.

And then when she emails you back apologizing profusely (as she should!) tell her that you knew she'd want to change the comment when she found out. (Hint, hint!)