Dear Stranger

Dear Stranger

Dear Stranger,

You flashed my friend and I the most condescending grin as we were enjoying our lunch. Then, you praised my friend for “getting me out of the house.” It’s no surprise as to why we both glared at you, as my friend sarcastically praised you for getting out of bed this morning. First things first, I’d like to apologize for his rude (although, admittedly funny) retort. You seemed taken aback by it and frazzled, but he was just letting you know where it is we’re coming from.

My friends do not deserve praise for being my friend. They do not deserve gold star stickers, or the pedestal that you have placed them on. They are simply my friends. I’m a person with a different way of life, but I’m not your teachable moment. I’m not a game of comparisons. I’m a normal person, and any one of my friends can tell you this. They can also tell you that despite not being able to handle my gin like I used to, I will do my best to try. That I have a really sarcastic wit, I bake better than your grandmother and I also curse like a sailor. I can be unearthly quiet, locked in my own head and jump to this awful conclusion that nobody really enjoys my company.

You though, you know none of this about me. You assumed my friend of many years was not someone who cares for me, but rather, someone who takes care of me, and that’s why he responded in the way that he did. He doesn’t deserve praise for being my friend. The reward he gets in our friendship lies within me being able to understand his obscure video game references and me knowing exactly what he should give his girlfriend for her birthday.

He’s my friend. He’s human too, and he’s always waking up late, wearing sweatpants 24/7 and I actively have to drag him places if I want to go on an adventure. He also has an issue with biting his tongue (which I think you gathered), but we’re friends.

Two lovely individuals who enjoy putting up with one another from time to time. It is a give and take.

I’ve encountered this an awful lot in my life though, at first it was stickers handed out for general kindness toward me because I was different, it was praise and favoritism from teachers. It was overheard conversations of, “I wonder why they like her?…” I was never an asset, or known as the redhead with a killer sense of humor. It’s always been wheelchair first, person-hood second. And despite the fact that I’m now twenty-five, it’s still that way the majority of the time. People belittle my friendships to nothing but pity or demote them to nothing more but “caregiver” and “helpless cripple”  and due to this societal doubt of my value, I begin to doubt my worth as well and that does hurt my friendships. It does drive a wedge between my relationships, and for full disclosure, it’s something that kept the individual you saw me out to lunch with away for several months.

So the next time you see me or anyone else like myself out and about, please don’t make assumptions, because, believe it or not, I’m just like everybody else, and just like everyone else I don’t want someone devaluing my friends, my relationship with them, or interrupting my meal.


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