“Here, I’ll help you cut that.” (1975)
“Meg, do you want some help carrying your trombone case to band practice?” (1980)
“Let me help you open your locker. I can do it more easily.” (1986)
“Welcome to Kappa! Will you need any special accommodations to live in the House this Fall?” (1988)
“Congratulations on getting our legal internship for the summer at our Firm. Will you require any special accommodations when you arrive?” (1992)
“Miss, let us know if you need a different type of lock or need our assistance getting into your apartment. We pride ourselves here at 220 East 86th street with strong, hard doors for purposes of your security.” (1995)
“Can you sign that receipt? Here, let me take care of that for you.” (too many dates to pinpoint)
“Here, let me put these groceries on the conveyer belt for you.” (too many dates to pinpoint)
“Spare some change for the homeless? Oh, let me help you take the money out of your wallet for you.” (2009)
“You are going to love driving this car. Congratulations! Before we sign on the dotted line, are there any custom adjustments that you might need?” (2013)
“Need some help with that?” I chuckled to myself as I wrote this post, since the conductor on my morning commute had asked me that question when he walked by and noticed I was simultaneously carrying my work iPhone and texting on my personal iPhone. “Huh?” In truth, I still can’t figure out how he thought he was going to help me. Regardless, I looked up in his direction and offered a sincere smile. “Oh, no thanks….all good.” But I’ve grown quite used to getting frequent offers of help. Just the other day, on my way back from a conference in Florida, I was sitting next to a middle-aged woman who was accompanied by her elderly mother. Never wanting to wait for in-flight service, I had purchased a water bottle before boarding. As I struggled to unscrew the cap, the woman looked over and said, “May I help you open that?” I readily accepted the offer, making sure to offer a grateful grin in return. In fact, as I stated in my DHIFI Facebook posting that same day, the only thing that came to my mind was, “Thank you.”
With the above in mind, something momentous has happened to me, and I really am over the moon about it. Not only do I no longer mind when someone offers to help me (even when I don’t need it, which is much of the time), but now I am genuinely appreciative. To put it in perspective, throughout my life people have taken one look at my physical difference and have offered to help. Sometimes they insist without realizing how unwelcome and even humiliating their offers might be to me. For example, when the summer hiring attorney asked me after my 1st year of law school whether I would need special accommodations for work, I couldn’t wait to leave the room and run home to cry. How dare he ask me a question like that? Did the Firm really perceive me as disabled; as “less-than?” And even after I got married and had children, I still resented many offers of help. For example, when people used to try to help me with baby Ethan (and later Charlie or even Savanna), it made me angry and resentful. My pride in my role as mother couldn’t allow others to do for me what I felt I needed to do myself for my baby. And when I have been asked on repeated occasions whether I needed someone to sign my receipt after a purchase, I have admittedly retorted with a sarcastic, bitchy and even acerbic comment like, “Why?” Do you need me to help you sign something? Why would I need your help?” I am ashamed to admit that I actually felt a bit victorious if I ended up making that person feel as badly as they made me feel.
When asked about the reason I began Don’t Hide It Flaunt It., I would always offer that… “It seemed that there were a lot of unhappy people out there and I walk this earth with two fingers and am truly happy….. I want to help others feel happy too.” After all, I have had a blessed life, with a wonderful husband, amazing kids and a fantastic professional career. People have also discussed how much my website has helped my kids (our boys in particular). This comment has always taken me aback, since I can’t help but think that neither Ethan or Charlie are hardly trolling on my site or Facebook page for updates. I have always believed that I would be the same person and Mom to them, with our without DHIFI.
Was I wrong.
By interacting with others on a daily basis, encouraging self-love and acceptance especially for my own children through my DHIFI site, I have truly morphed into a different person, at least on the inside! I am not only the woman and mother that can freely flaunt my physical difference. More importantly, I have also learned to accept how others that meet me choose to perceive me. And so, it seems that one of the biggest benefactors of my site has been, well……me. Now that makes me feel like I’m in a room without a roof. Most importantly, I feel beyond happy. I feel content.
End of day, sitting on the train and about to edit this post. The person sitting next to me just noticed I was getting out my laptop. Glancing over, he said warmly, “I know you probably don’t need it but would you like some help?” I smiled back and decided to see what was possible. “Sure! What do you have in mind? How about an end-of-day Margarita?” We laughed, and chatted the entire way home. His name was Carl, spoke fondly of his two granddaughters, and was extremely bright and witty. It occurs to me that although I may not need all this help, I still appreciate that my difference continued to attract new people worth meeting.