ENIL is pleased to present you a blog article by Bojan Tarabić – aged 28, born in Priboj, Serbia, according to him: “currently living in small universes between Serbia and China”. Bojan is a philologist, majoring in Chinese language, who is doing a masters degree in Diplomacy. He enjoys writing in all forms, be it prose, music composition or scenarios and dreams for the time when his first novel will be finished. In his article below, he shares his views on living independently as a disabled person, on attitudes, prejudices and bluffs. We hope you enjoy it!
Calling the Bluff
“Medical science does not know the way to your cure at the moment”, said a handsome man, he was clean-shaven, and well into his forties. (Un)Fortunately for me, this man was also my doctor. And he still is.
Looking back on this, I can say that this was one of the first instances of someone being utterly honest with me, and not trying to sugarcoat the fact that I’m stuck with cerebral palsy for life. The doctor didn’t bluff, and it took me a fair share of thinking to figure out why, but years later, I think it comes down to being in the zone of knowing what it’s like (you can’t truly know, unless you have experienced the same ordeal, and this applies to pretty much everything in life, but you can be in the zone).
So, what is bluffing and what is, as I would like to call it, being in the zone?
Being in the zone means you don’t have to waste too many words (sometimes no words at all) to convey a particular experience. There are people in my life that know me so well, that they have cast all social conventions aside. Folk of the zone mention your handicap as if they are talking about a pair of shoes, or a tattoo. A quirky pair of shoes could make you stand out, but it does not really define you. In other words they send me marching off to the store, and why wouldn’t they? It’s not like they are asking me to do a somersault. Just like the doctor earlier they don’t patronize me. They know that I would be offended if they did, because sometimes polite behaviour is just as bad as its impolite counterpart.
Because it’s excessive. And that reeks of bluff and fallacy.
Allow me to share a rather reoccurring theme from my life. Back in the day, if I would walk into a building, or a store, with a relative besides me many times the clerk would ask them what would I like (even though I’m old and sane enough to speak for myself). If you want to know what I like, ask me. Don’t go the other way around. Physical disability does not equal mental disability, and even if I was mentally different, would it hurt them to try? The answer is yes. Because people project, we are afraid, and there is nothing wrong with that, but this is a way through which many of the disabled feel bad about themselves, and feel as if their personal integrity seeps right through their fingers. What’s worse is that most of the times the other party is doing it unconsciously or unintentionally. Sometimes people don’t know how to cope with the presence of a disabled person, so they adopt these excessive forms of behaviour. In other words, they bluff that they are fine with it. It’s ok not to be fine. It’s ok not to be excessively polite, and it’s ok to be shocked, and to show it. Because who would understand you better than those who are living and coping with it daily? I still remember one of the first things I’ve been told by a person that was to become my very close friend later on – that if she were in my shoes, she would have taken the easy way out. I still love her for the honesty.
But most of the times, it’s either socially unacceptable or improper to act like this, so every now and then some people resort to bluffing, and most of the times the disabled person can call this a bluff, then again, most of the times we choose not to and opt to stick to the game, even if we can smell things as loathing or just plain old pity (which is the worst thing on my list). Why? Because we know that it would serve no purpose.
Many disabled people bluff their daily pain away in the presence of the people they care about. They also bluff the fact of how restricting these bodily states can be. Don’t bluff the kings of this trade, it’s pointless, but rather try to treat us, and our situation, the way we handle it ourselves, as nothing out of the ordinary, because for us it’s a day-to-day thing, and as such we consider it pretty mundane. Unlike some people we have no choice. But if there is a choice, I’d appreciate the shock, and the honesty, as opposed to the things hidden beneath the bluff umbrella.
Photo: Bojan Tarabić