When someone says my outfit is too revealing, is it really? Or are they just more conservative than I am?
When I hold out my hand to shake someone else’s, and all I encounter is empty air. Are they ignoring my hand, or did they simply not see it?
When randoms give me compliments. Are they filtered through the stereotypical lens with the unspoken phrase: “for a blind girl”?
When I make a simple mistake a sighted person might easily make. E.G. dropping my keys, missing the bus, or spilling an overfull drink. Do people automatically assume this happened because I’m blind?
There are no easy answers to these questions. Many reactions and assumptions are situational; others are leftover paranoia after years of trying to prove myself equal to my sighted peers. But let’s discuss!
The Opinion Filter
In my world, everything singularly visual is filtered through someone else’s eyes, someone else’s opinion. This includes my clothes, my hair style, other people’s looks, and many aspects of my own appearance. Because of this, I often try to get multiple opinions on the important visual things in my life. I am never devaluing the first opinion when I ask for a second one, I am simply going with popular consensus.
Asking for multiple opinions is my way of bypassing the opinion filter with most visual things, but when it comes to my own appearance, there’s a bit of a breakdown. I tend to believe more negative remarks and disregard the positive ones. I shrug off compliments as someone just being nice, but take the negative ones to heart because: “it’s gotta be serious if they’re bringing it up, right?” This could totally just be a Jenna thing though, and not a blind thing. My point is, always having things interpreted by others is shaky ground to stand on. It’s important to surround yourself with people you trust, who can be totally honest without being rude.
Misinterpreted Social Snubs
Have you ever sent a text, been left unread, and gotten self righteously angry, only to find out your message never delivered? That’s what it’s like when I make a visual gesture that is not reciprocated, like holding out my hand when the other person doesn’t notice. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and you’re left a bit confused. For my intuitive, spiritual readers, Mercury is retrograde a lot in my life.
Strange Compliments from Strangers
There’s something about being a blind woman that makes total strangers spontaneously claim that you’re beautiful. It’s kind of sweet, and kind of creepy. My theory is, they’re trying to balance out the opinion filter, but it’s just plain odd most of the time when “Ms. I just wanted to tell you you’re beautiful” comes out of the crowd as a disembodied voice. Like, thank you? I don’t quite know what to do with that? You’re beautiful too? Please don’t follow me home?
So this one is a major curiosity for me, probably because it largely depends on the person. When you’re blind, people watch you. To put it less kindly, people stare, a lot. I know they stare, but they don’t know I know they stare. This probably sounds super paranoid, but it sometimes feels as if the world is watching me with uneasy trepidation, just waiting for me to mess up. So when I make a simple mistake in public, it is viewed as a catastrophic occurrence that many people expected, which must be attended to at once. A lot of blind people, myself included, feel pressure to be the perfect blind person. It feels like if we mess up, even in the smallest ways that sighties do every day, our mistakes are perceived as happening because we can’t see. That being said, I have encountered many strangers who are totally chill and don’t freak out trying to help me. But, the feeling of being evaluated and scrutinized never really goes away. Blind people are ironically very visible in the sighted world, and assumptions and stereotypes run wild. No one wants to encourage negative stereotypes, but no one can be perfect all the time.
Blind girls are complicated, right? But our lives are spectacularly interesting, so please keep reading and keep learning!
Be kind, and be aware.
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