Evil Little Girls

Today Lilia had physical therapy after lunch, and then I rushed to pick up Jio. She was in her purple wheelchair, wearing her red braces,and of course she had this coil sticking to her head and her hearing aid. Some older kids were speculating about whether she was a baby, and I patiently explained that she is six and she wore the braces because she can’t walk, but she’s practicing walking.

Then, Lilia got out of the wheelchair and started crawling on the cement, and some little girls cried out, “Ew! How dirty!” I was annoyed, but I said, “After she washes her hands she’ll be fine.” I don’t know if they were paying any attention to me or not, but they came closer to Lilia and they asked what was on her head. I explained that it was a hearing aid. (I wasn’t in the mood to try to explain cochlear implants to six year olds.) And then, they started saying, “Kowai!” I tried to remain patient, and asked “What is scary about her?” But they are only six and they can’t articulate that. They came closer and closer to Lilia and one of them was holding a stick. At that point I became pretty pissed off. One of the foreign English teachers appeared right about then, and I said, “These kids need some sensitivity training” and I explained to her what they were saying. Then I did my best to hustle my kids out of there.

I had this vision of Lilia in public school, being tormented on a daily basis by little girls like those, who are probably sent to piano and English conversation class and swimming so that they will be high achievers and make good wives and then fashionable education mamas with Chanel bags, like the ones I saw at the entrance ceremony. I imagined their parents feeling sorry for me because they have such perfect little girls and I don’t, and I hated them all.

I write essays and stories and articles about disability issues and I try to be open about Lilia’s disabilities, but my intense anger toward those little girls made me realize how far I have yet to evolve.

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6 thoughts on “Evil Little Girls

  1. I would be angry too. When my son was a baby, I was at the park with my friend and two big girls (8 or so, seemed big at the time) were hanging around telling my friend how cute her baby was, then they just stood and stared at my son for a while till one of them asked what was wrong with him. The other one said, “He has a harelip,” in such a disgusted voice I really wanted to give her a shove. I came an inch from telling her she was no great beauty herself. I know the only reason I held back is because I was too ashamed to be mean to a child in front of my friend.

    In Korea, I rarely see disabled people, and accessibility here is extremely limited. I think awareness is very low, partly because of the culture’s emphasis on conformity. From what I’ve read, parents of disabled children feel somewhat shunned.

  2. Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s awful.

    I remember my Japanese students telling me how surprised they were to see the disabled-access buses in the U.S. They told me that they rarely saw people in wheelchairs on the street in Japan.

  3. When I first started dating M., I found myself getting really riled up at all the stupid things he had to deal with on a daily basis – people not looking him in the eyes (although, in Japan, people were pretty much stumped when we were out together, since they didn’t want to talk to me – looking foreign – and didn’t want to talk to him, either), not making way so he could get by in a wheelchair, telling him how ‘brave’ he is, *touching* him (which he hates), etc. He’s long since learned a lot of coping mechanisms, but I hate that he’s had to learn them in the first place.

    If it helps, my experiences with 19 year old spoiled tandai-sei in Osaka was pretty similar; if it wasn’t a disabled child they were pronouncing “kowai” over, it would be something else. That Chanel-and-Vuitton crowd really, really irritates the hell out of me. There should be a good Japanese word that means “bite me.”

  4. The teacher apologized to me with tears in her eyes. Later, the first grade teacher and principal came to my house to reassure me that they would teach the first graders to be sensistive to the disabled. I loaned them “I Have a Sister, My Sister is Deaf.” Those kids are young, so malleable. But I know that the world may be cruel to Lilia.

  5. When I was little, I was afraid of my uncle, who was born with one arm that ends just below the elbow. Though my fear was irrational, it was sincere. Of course, that fear went away as I spent more time with him, and I guess that’s the key. Most of us don’t ever get over our awkwardness around people with disabilities because we just don’t have enough experience.

  6. My heart ached reading this post… I so wanted to give Lilia a big hug while shooing away these other girls. Here’s a kiss for Lilia…

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