Let me tell you about Joe, who I met in a shop in France. He said something to me, which I didn’t understand, and my friend Jenine explained to him that I’m Deaf. No worries. Conversation with Jenine goes on. He asked her how we were enjoying the music festival.
She explained that actually we weren’t attending the music festival. “But why not? It’s free. You should go to the concert tonight.”
“Well, Asphyxia can’t hear it.”
This hit Joe hard. Hand to his heart, sorrow on his face. He turned to me. “You can’t hear MUSIC?! But what is life without music?” (Or something.. the facial expression said it all – I didn’t catch his words.)
I shrugged. “It’s ok. I’m happy as it is.”
Then Joe has a deep idea. “You know, you could get a bionic ear. Have you thought about that? Then you could hear music.”
Let’s just pause here for a moment. Does Joe really believe I’ve gone my entire life, without it occurring to me until now, that the bionic ear (or a cochlear implant) is a possibility? Does he really think that now he’s suggested it, I’m going to go home and look into the idea? And, for that matter, does he think he’s the first to come up with such wisdom?
In fact, this is something I find intensely irritating, the need to discuss, regularly, with perfect strangers, the intimate details of what operations I might choose to have. I have, in the past, explained to people like Joe, that actually, a cochlear implant or bionic ear would do nothing for me since my ears work fine. It’s the nerves connecting my ears to my brain that don’t work. Which means I’d need a nerve implant in my brain. Forget it – I ain’t letting any surgeon poke around in there. But I’m sick and tired of explaining my medical situation to strangers.
My friend Anna came up with a marvellous response:
“Have you thought about having botox? I feel it would really help your situation.”
But sadly I can’t bring myself to use it. Joe meant well. He just hadn’t thought about Deafness before and I had the great joy of participating while he had his first, elementary encounter with the concept.
Yeah, so that’s Joe, in France. There’s Joes all over Australia too. If I had a dollar for every person who has suggested I get a cochlear implant (or a ‘bionic ear’) I would be rich indeed.
This is a little abstract painting I did in protest. I’m protesting constant need that complete strangers feel to discuss my medical condition with me and make recommendations to me. It’s patronising, intruisive and insulting.
This painting is one of the pieces I’ve done for my exhibition, Looking Out… Looking In… which is is up at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne until 28th Sept and this Sunday we’re having a wrap up brunch. Come along if you’d like. Event details here.
Feel free to share this post to raise awareness of this tricky issue.
(And this painting is for sale – you can buy it online here.)