“The handicap of deafness is not in the ear; it is in the mind.” quote by famous American Deaf actress and author Marlee Matlin. The point Marlee Matlin was trying to get across by saying this was that being Deaf does not handicap you, but a closed mind does. After participating in “Deaf for a Day”, I have a richer understanding of Mrs. Matlin’s words. Being Deaf for a day has challenged me both emotionally and mentally. Here I hope to inform you of the joy, frustrations, and understanding that being Deaf for a day has brought me.
My day started off pretty well. The night before I informed my husband of the project I had to participate in for my Deaf Culture class. I told him I would be mute for the majority of the day, and that I would wear earplugs throughout the day. He was excited to see me take on the challenge being that I can “talk off someones ears” according to him. I woke up excited for the challenge.
Throughout the morning I went on with my normal routine which consist of: brushing my teeth, showering, making breakfast, and taking my dog out to play. I usually do all these things with music, or with Netflix on my phone, or while talking with my husband. None of the above accompanied me that morning. I found myself lost in my thoughts. I found myself reflecting on my life. I found myself enjoying the scenery of my front yard. I was amazed. My husband and I were luckily able to communicate through “lip reading” and speaking. I found it kind of funny how he would exaggerate his words and mouth in slow motion as if that made it any better. It was interesting how loud I was being (again, according to him). I had no control of my voice volume. What I thought was a regular volume, was actually a bit louder than a normal “inside voice”. The morning was a success to say the least.
Next came my afternoon, and it brought some frustrations with it. I needed to go to the super market to buy a few groceries to survive the next week. After a few minutes of convincing, my husband finally agreed to let me go alone. I explained that this was the purpose of this assignment, to do every day things as a temporary member of the Deaf-World. I was a bit nervous I must admit. I had feared that I would not be able to see a car in time to avoid an accident because I could not hear the tires squealing or the horn honking. I also feared I would not see firetruck lights until it was too late. Luckily, the car ride to the store went very well. I got a bit restless about ten minutes into the drive and decided to put my window down to feel the wind; that helped a lot. Putting the window down also allowed me to use my other senses.
When I finally got to the store, I very carefully crossed the street. I was shopping like I normally would until someone tapped my shoulder, and my heart dropped to my stomach. When I turned it was a sweet elderly lady asking or telling me something. It was hard to read her face. I had no idea what she said, but I just signed NO and shook my head. I resumed my shopping, and found everything on my list except “kasha”. I had no idea what that was or what that looked like. I searched the grocery section for a good forty minutes, before I texted my husband saying that I could not find it anywhere! His reply was simply, “Ask someone”. (REALLY?!?!) Easy for him to say.
I refused to ask someone. To me, that was my last resort. I texted my friends, my mom, a cousin or two and no one had any idea what kasha was. “Great” I thought to myself. After a few seconds of a panic attack, I finally found the courage to go ask an employee about my kasha. I pulled up a picture of the product on my phone. He was stocking some shelf so I stood by him until he noticed me and smiled when he looked my way.
I was hoping he would tell me “Hi, how can I help you?”, but he said something else and I had no idea what it was. I was confused and I think he was able to tell by my face and said something else. This time I am 100% sure he said something in Spanish. I felt my face turning red, I was so nervous! I gesture with my index finger to “hold on a sec” and pull out my phone. I show him the picture and sign WHERE with my eyebrows low. Now he is looking at me confused. I clear my throat (force of habit) and point to the kasha, and gesture “what/huh”. Then he got it. He looks at the kasha long and hard and signals me to follow him. We go through the pasta aisle, the grain aisle, the cereal aisle and no such luck. I follow him quietly as he searches. He starts talking to me and I just nod. I am able to read “Sorry” off his lips, then he leaves. I continue my search when I see him again, but this time he isn’t alone. He and another person start walking towards me and my panicking starts again. They come up to me, and I am able to read the new persons name tag. It says “Manager”. The manager starts rambling, and I think to myself that is pointless. I stop them. I sign ME DEAF ME. They just stare. “Oh goodness”, I think to myself, “Ok how can I dumb this down for them?”. I once again clear my throat as if I was going to speak. I slowly point to myself, then I follow that to pointing to my ear, then I shake my head no, after this I point to my ear again and use my index finger to wiggle no. The manager got it now. She ridiculously loud says “Ooh, you can’t hear?” (I know it’s what she said because I could hear her past my earplugs) I shake my head no. She pulls out a crumbled receipt from her pocket and a pen. She writes that they do not carry kasha in their store and to try an organic store or something. I sign THANK-YOU and walk away. I pay for my things and head home. An hour trip ended up being a three and a half hour trip; very annoying.
When I get home, I tell my husband about my experience. He pitted me, and I told him to stop right there. I do not need pity, people just need to understand. The rest of the after noon goes well. I relax, do some laundry, watch low volume, which I couldn’t hear, tv with my husband (we already watch tv with captions on). My mother called me, but I texted her about my assignment and she agreed we would just talk the next day.
As the night came, I started winding down and had to fight the urge to talk. Something inside of me just wanted to explode. I had so much to say to my husband, but I wanted to hear him too. I wanted to talk without struggling to understand. I wanted to talk about the show we were watching, about a video I saw on Instagram, about the plans for the next day, and a million other things. But I did not give in. I did not want to have to do the “Deaf for a Day” again. The rest of the night I just watched tv, and did homework until I was tired.
The next day I woke up feeling so accomplished and relieved. I can speak, and do not have to wear those painful earplugs! I was proud of myself for being Deaf for a day, until I realized that my frustrating day does not compare to a Deaf persons life. I could not imagine going to the store again deaf. I could not even picture myself going to a restaurant and ordering food. I know it is possible, I am just too cowardly to do it. Before the assignment, I thought I was going to crazy within the first two hours. I learned that I can literally do everything that I normally do, but now it’s just done in silence. “The handicap of deafness is not in the ear; it is in the mind.”
This challenge is not for everyone. It is frustrating and intimidating but the understanding that comes after is so rewarding. I have taken a couple of classes pertaining to ASL and Deaf culture. I have some hard-of-hearing family members, and very distant Deaf family and friends. Their world intrigues me. Do some research on the Deaf, you will not regret it!
If you do the challenge, let me know it goes! I would love to hear your experience.
Thank you for the love and support, and remember to always stay rosy!