May 3, 2010

My leg and me

I'm starting to get really sick about random people asking me about my crutches. It's not that I'm embarrassed, but it's annoying because it's getting so repetitive. I feel like they expect me to say some simple story like "I fell while skiing," but it's not a simple story. It's a story 12 years in the making. And it's a little disrespectful to me and my pain to just say "hip replacement."

Not that that's much better anyhow. When I say "hip replacement" they want to know why. Here's a typical conversation I've had to have with strangers since my surgery, which is just a variant of the conversation I've had for 12 years.

Stranger: Why the crutches?
Me: I had a hip and knee replacement.
Stranger: Oh, my. Why is that?
Me: I had cancer 12 years ago and they had to replace the past metal leg. The metal knee and femur broke the hip so they had to replace it too. (Not entirely accurate, but I know I'm involved in this conversation, and so are they. I don't want to spend the time explaining the shape of the prosthesis and how it broke.)
Stranger: Oh, I'm sorry. And the cancer is all gone?
Me: yes, the cancer is all gone now.
Stranger: Well that's good.
Me: Yes. Thank you. Now have a nice life, I have to get back to buying yogurt now.

I'm not sure why it bothers me so, but since you're nice enough to read my blog, here are some of my theories.

Theory the First: It bothers me because it's a bit of an invasion on my privacy and time. When out to dinner with Tracie I wanted to blurt at our waiter something like "I know you're trying to make conversation and that you're a very nice person, but I'd like to spend a day where nobody calls attention to the fact that I'm handicapped. Is that too much to ask?" But I didn't, because then I'd probably have to tip him really well, and he didn't deserve it.

Theory the Second: After over 12 years, I'm just sick of talking about it. Not to friends and family, but to people in passing and strangers. (Please don't think I'm saying to any of you that I don't want to talk about it. It doesn't bother me at all talking about it with people I know. It's the introducing it to the strangers making conversation that I'm just tired of.)

Theory the Three: I'm afraid that my story inconveniences them, that they're just looking for an anecdote and they get cancer. (The story, not the disease. If only ;) ) Then they often apologize, which is just ridiculous.

Me: I had cancer 12 years ago.
Stranger: I'm sorry.
Hypothetical Me 1: Finally! I've waited years for you to apologize, now I can finally move on with my post-cancer life! Thank you.
Hypothetical Me 2: You're sorry? Why should you be sorry? That's just silly. Did you infect me with cancer? Did you know that when asking a mostly healthy looking guy on crutches that he'd say he's a cancer survivor and has a metal hip/femur/knee? Don't apologize, it belittles me and cheapens you.
Hypothetical Me 3: I forgive you. Let's hug while the music plays. In my head it goes like this: "badda ba da ba, baaa. badda ba da, ba, ba, baaaaa."
Real Me: Hey, it could be worse.
Real Me 2: It's ok.
Real Me 3: I'm a real boy!

I feel guilty that I'm upset about it, but I wish strangers would leave me alone about it.

Of course, Hypothetical and Real me wouldn't be complete without Hypocritical Me. (which some may say IS real me, but I digress.)

I ran into an old friend from a past job at the grocery store. I was on crutches (conspicuously so) and everything, and he didn't ask about them. However, I also asked about his new job, he didn't ask about mine. True, he wasn't the most talkative person in the world when I knew him, but it still kind of upset me that he didn't ask about the crutches, or my health. I know, I'm a hypocrite. I don't expect you to understand, just to listen.

So, to sum up, I want what I've always wanted: for some people to leave me alone, and others to be concerned and want to know what and how I'm doing. As someone very wise once said, "The world would be a much better place if everyone did what I wanted."

I'm aware that these people, these strangers who ask about my crutches, my cane, my limp or whatever, are just being curious and polite.
I also know that while it's the trillionth time I've explained it to:
someone at the checkout counter or someone just walking past me,
someone holding the door or bringing me my food,
while I already explained it to someone behind me in the waiting line (it's the one behind me, because the person in front of me took advantage of the situation and cut in front of the slow moving cripple), or
someone who's a friend of a friend or random nice stranger-- it's the first time hearing about it for them. And no I'm not going to become an angry cripple or a rude cripple, I'll still answer the questions and have the conversation I memorized quite some time ago. But still, I think I have a right to feel exhausted by it, don't I?


lynette said...

that must be frustrating. and now i know... stranger--don't ask, old friend--ASK!

HailerStar said...

I think it's possible, like you said, that someone may ask about the crutches to just make conversation ... But I also think that if you've had people come up and ask you WHY you are LIMPING that that's just rude on their part. I don't think i'd ask someone why they have a limp, unless it was a member of my family that I saw day in and day out and knew that wasn't their normal walk. (Maybe my definition of rude doesn't work for most ppl but I think that's rather ... butting in on our life to ask that ... like if I walked up to a random stranger and started asking 'Hey, how'd u get that giant scar on your face, man?')
End of my two cents.
PS. the captcha for this was rigged ... you rigged it, didn't you? I kid you not, it says 'bards' ... tho perhaps if you'd rigged it PROPERLY it'd say something like 'rogues' or something?

Heather said...

I kind of get how you feel. I have put up with stories/conversations of: (notices hearing aid) Oh, you are deaf? How long have you been deaf? Why do you wear only one hearing aid? How did you become deaf? Can you talk? Can you sign? Can you read? Can you drive? How can you stand being a deaf mom? Why don't you sign to your kids? (lots of staring and staring at me while I have an interpreter with me) etc etc. Are your kids deaf? blah blah blah. Yeah, whatever. I have learned to say MYOB rudely back.

Charlo said...

you could wear a shirt that says

"long story short,
I had cancer, now I don't.
Now you don't have to ask me
about my crutches. "

Charlo said...

I think it also comes with constant asking, regardless of the "ailment." I had a friend with this gorgeous redish brown hair. Some red hair is obnoxious, her's was beautiful. People would always tell her how pretty it was (I overheard it many a time).

she once confided to me that it was really annoying when people complimented her hair.

one day, I noticed she had put blonde highlights in her hair, and it didn't look as pretty

I wondered if she did it just to get people to leave her alone

Moral of the story: paralyze your self from the neck down, and people will stop asking you about your crutches

JanB said...

Yes, it is exhausting!
I got the same thing about Ivan & Andre (well...not the SAME, but the same kind of annoying attention from strangers).
It got so intrusive one day that I actually tried to hide in a department store and found myself face-to-face with another mother with a stroller full of twins trying to hide, also!
It was pretty hilarious when we both realized we were both hiding.

Charity said...

I read my sister this blog post and she laughed so hard, and then said "You need to tell him to write a book." :)

Mark said...

I guess the Lord is trying to teach you to be patient with others. Just tell them "thank you for asking"
Nice picture of your metal bones, tho.

Teacher Eli said...

I vote that we begin a campaign to stop all frivolous ice-breaker questions--they always end up being tedious and/or judgmental. Here's a list of new ideas for that friendly person behind you in the checkout line:

"Hi! I see you like gum. I do, too. We should be friends."
"Remember The Truman Show? I wonder if they're watching us now."
"I'm going to the beach and I need a great book to read. What's the most life changing book you've read lately (that you wouldn't mind getting wet?)"
"I don't think it should be required by law for adults to wear their seat belts. We have the right to be stupid if we want to. Discuss."

See? Friendly people just need to get more creative.