The Front Row Dork

School, meetings, conferences, speakers. I felt like a dork having to sit in the front row in school by choice. I was grateful to teachers who did assigned seating saving me from “making the decision” to sit in the front.
Dorkier than sitting in the front row in a class: sitting near the front when coworkers and I went to listen to a speaker. I’d be up front alone while my team sat in the middle or back row. Occasionally, a team or a few members sat with me in the front row without a thought and I appreciated that.
One time a manager motioned for me to come sit in the next chair. I did something stupid. I rolled my eyes in frustration. Not at the manager, but as a reflection on the whole “front row” thing I’ve done all my life. More like “Here we go again… to the front row!” The manager naturally and understandably thought I was being rude.
I don’t automatically go for the front row as I’ve learned over the years, the front row isn’t always the best place to sit especially when dealing with roamers, neck pain, or angles. The roamer is a speaker who likes to walk around. In this case, I scoot back to the middle row.
The neck pain comes from looking straight up when the speaker is on a stage or platform. The angle is when the speaker is on the left or right side and I have to turn my head to one side for the entire time eventually cramping. Of course, everyone knew when I wasn’t paying attention when I turned my head the other way for relief. Shame on me! My eyes aren’t on the speaker.
Generally, I try to tell the speaker that I’m a lip-reader and then ask about the best place to sit. But sometimes the situation doesn’t allow me to do that like when I went to 6th Grade Parents’ Night. We went to the auditorium and I sat between the front and the middle of the auditorium. Well, we got a deep roamer!
Lucky for me, a friend of mine spoke up in front of everyone, pointed in my direction, and said, “She can’t see you” and the rest was a blur as I imediately started blushing like the child who has been caught red-handed. I knew she meant well, but it was embarrassing when someone else speaks up like a parent does for a child.
My friend also tells other people and kids to look at me when they talk. I haven’t even done that with my toddler. When he talks to me, I simply remind him I can’t hear with his hand over his mouth or to speak up (when he’s too afraid to ask for something). When I put him to bed last night, I left the bathroom light on and explained to him that I can’t hear him with the light off. “My ears don’t work like yours. So I use my eyes to listen.” Don’t know how much he grasped.
My 12-year-old understands. My 7-year-old knows I can’t hear without my implant and that he should look at me when he talks. But he forgets like when his friend or friend’s parent calls and he tells me to talk on the phone. Besides, looking at someone when you speak is a good habit, isn’t it? When someone doesn’t look at me (and I can still see their lips), I feel like they’re not talking to me.
I just work with my kids based on their age and situation. Mainly, I tell them to look at me when they talk. It’s rarely an issue.

2 comments

    • lette on August 12, 2006 at 7:10 am

    hi there, Im a fellow Deafie, (some take offence to that, i dont mean offence) 🙂 Im in art college at the moment and I found ur bloggy trying to find out more about deaf photographers, Im a lipreader too, I have gone and still go thru this, it isnt easy, but i think of it like a super power !! :p haha my way of dealing!! 🙂 would you mind if I linked to here from my blog?? 🙂 thanks
    Lette 🙂

  1. Hi Meryl:
    I want to tell you how much I can identify with the “good ole days” of having to sit in the front row in school. Even though I’ve been out of school all these years, I still have to sit in the front row whenever I’m at a public event.
    I was recently at the National Speakers Association convention (pictures posted at my blog – just scroll down and you’ll see em). For each event, I sat in the front row (even though I had an interpreter with me).
    This has its advantages because you get to see some of the action right up front (i.e. if you’re at a show of some kind with a performer or speaker on stage). Also sitting up there gets you noticed by other people who are normally VIP’s sitting at reserved tables. 🙂
    I’d love to correspond with you.
    Stephen Hopson
    http://www.sjhopson.com

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