In my daughters class, there is a little girl who has very limited hearing and to facilitate her participation in lessons the teacher uses a microphone. This little girls best friend recently moved back to Poland so she has been without a chum in the play-ground. Some of her classmates have been under the impression that if they play with this child, her hearing difficulties will become contagious and they will "catch" it. E has been very annoyed at this and has insisted that this girl join her 'best-friends club' and has been busy correcting her fellow pupils misunderstandings.
I feel sad too that it seems to be a human default position to become suspect of difference. That instead of reaching out, we wish to avoid, to classify, to exclude. The Open University has been running a question on their social science Facebook page that asks "What one thing do you wish people would notice about you that maybe they don't see right away?" From the responses, it surprised me at just how often people feel that others are continually making snap judgments about them often based on very flimsy evidence. One of the great quotes from 'The Great Gatsby' and one that I have tried but sometimes failed to carry in my heart is
"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. 'Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.'"
F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I think that one of the benefits of reaching my forties (although that word is still painful to type) is that I am beyond those vulnerable years, I just don't care anyone. I have become somewhat immune, although I wish that for my daughters sake I cared a little more about my appearance. I don't think I would be admitted to the best friends club. On viewing my feet pictured below, E gave a howl of derision and ordered me to "Take those ugly feet off, at once!" She did give me a little squeeze of consolation but it was too late, I had seen her face. There was no hope -in my daughters eyes I was beyond redemption - I was embarrassing; a relic of ancient dowdiness.
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