Many times, I’ve attended a dance recital, sports event, or appreciation luncheon where I stood in the crowd talking to each other — feeling anxious and isolated. “Why doesn’t anyone talk to me? Someone has to make conversation,” I think to myself. Oh sure, I could start the conversation, but that fear is explained.
Some of these people know me. Do they not like talking to me? They can’t be uncomfortable based on past meetings. Uncomfortable with standing alone, I might go find a group where I know one person, squeeze in the little circle and listen. At least, I’m not alone anymore although I feel isolated from the conversation.
I don’t want to speak up because I might interrupt someone thinking she’s finished talking. Or I might misinterpret the topic of the conversation. Some supporters of the deaf culture and ASL may claim this is my fault because I choose to stay oral. I’m not looking to start another oral vs. ASL war.
No one wants to blame deafness as the cause for isolation, but I’m a realist. I’ve seen enough situations where kids and adults don’t want to talk to the person with a disability or become friends. When I try to slowly build a friendship with someone and she doesn’t respond, I wonder if it something about me? Or our situation?
In today’s society, people are becoming more closed off from each other. So I know I have to take the first step though I despise it. This situation is much like two people in a potential relationship — Is it OK to hold hands? Or will she not share the same feelings? Are we both thinking the same thing, but too afraid to make the first step?
All is not bad. At my daughter’s bat mitzvah party, I couldn’t stop talking to people and moving around. It was our party and we knew everyone. That was a fabulous experience. I’m in no hurry to plan the next one though!


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  1. I think the reason why some people may not want to have a conversation with us deaf people is that it’s not easy to communicate period.
    The hearing person will remind him/her self that 1) they are clear, 2) do not mumble or whisper, 3) make eye contact, and 4) do not cover the mouth unintentionally. In the hearing culture, eye contact is not consistent. Some do it all the time. Some do it some of the time. Some don’t.
    Let me be brave to compare us to speakers of foreign language with limited English. How often do English native speakers interact with them? Not often. They, too, are isolated. Because it’s not easy. The native English speaker has a responsibility to make sure he or she is clear and is using idiomatic-free English.
    So it’s not you… it’s the communication isn’t easy. Not all of us are in the mood to work hard on the communication. Some of us may have bad days, which isn’t a good time to try to have a conversation. 🙂
    Like you, I’m a realist, too. I wear a hearing aid, and I communicate fairly well with the hearing community using speech. But there are days that I just don’t feel like it. I use gestures and pencil/paper with people I haven’t interacted with before.

  2. I wrote a post similar to this several days ago (see “Reflections” on my blog). It’s particularly difficult to me to be isolated because I love being around people so much. I know people like me, deep down, but it’s such a struggle sometimes to interject myself into a conversation, knowing that it might be difficult to follow along, or I might say something that’s already been said, or any number of other things that might result in my feeling foolish in the end. I usually try to approach people either one-on-one or in groups of two…anything larger than that is just downright scary. Love your thoughts…I think I’ll link to you on my blog, if that’s OK?

    • Meryl on July 12, 2007 at 1:20 pm
    • Reply

    I believe I share your love of being around people and that’s why it’s hard for me to just let it go and not bother.
    By nature and Myers-Briggs, I’m an introvert. This does not equate to shyness, but rather I get more energy when I am alone and my energy drains when I am around people.
    That’s why I loved playing sports as a kid — something about the energy made it easy to interact with others. Glad I took up tennis a year ago.

  3. Yeah iv been in this situation, In college mainly, because there are always guest speakers and Tutors and exchange students coming and going, and I find I have to repeate my difficulties so often, that I just give up!! I have a good few friends in college that know and understand I have good days and bad, and thats great when I just want to take a time out from talking 🙂 But I think its safe to say thats not you or us D/deaf in general, its up to the day thats in it!! and the people who you want to converse with, if they dont want to understand thats their loss!! your true friends and family are all that matter, experience dictates this 🙂 🙂

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