R and I were out for lunch. When she’s had a particularly shitey week only sushi and bubble tea will make it better, so off we drove to the nearest town.
We’re sitting in itsu and eating and bickering about having to share soy sauce and who gets to decide how much wasabi goes in the soy when a woman says “oh dear, that looks horrible. Poor you.”
She wasn’t talking about the sushi. That sushi was good. The woman is looking at R.
R looks down and the blanket covering her leg has slipped. She quickly covers it up, then smiles at the woman. I’m fit to be tied and ready to jump, but we’ve discussed these situations with the psychologist and he says it’s important that R handles them, and calls me in if needed. So I sit and wait, my Rictus Grin combining with my Paddington Bear Stare and let me tell you, the effect is not attractive. Oh no.
But R is a star and implements the “Explain, Reassure, Move On” method.
“Hi, I was in an accident. I’m getting better. We’ve just come out for some sushi.”
I’m watching like a hawk for R’s secret signal. R is so damn polite that she doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings by saying she’s too tired or needs out of a situation so we have an agreed signal. Over time she became annoyed by me asking if she’s OK or needs me so then I made a signal too.
No signal from R. Then the woman carries on. “Are you seeing a doctor for that?”
Still no signal from R. Rictus Grin and Paddington Bear Stare are now combined with Martin Freeman Are You Fucking Kidding Me Face. R’s Martin Freeman Face Game is strong too as she replies,”Yes, he’s very good and pleased with how it’s going. He doesn’t think it looks horrible. I need to eat my lunch before it gets cold.”
Ooh, sarcy R. She’s eating sushi. But her sarcasm was delivered with Explain, reassure, move on and a smile. Then the woman says,
“Have you tried homeopathy or reiki?”
Now. R’s legs are scarred from hip to ankle. One of them is purple. Oh yes, and huge external titanium frame holding one of her legs together. Ffs.
The secret signals are flying by now. I want to jump in, R’s telling me to sit, I’m getting more emphatic, R’s holding her ground. We looked like extreme tai chi practitioners.
R cuts me off and shifts in her wheelchair so her leg is well out of sight of the woman. “No we haven’t tried homeopathy. We do science. Now I’m not allowed to be rude to an adult but …” and then just turns her back and carries on eating.
I’m absolutely bloody DESPERATE to say something to this woman but I don’t want to stomp all over R’s full stop to the conversation. I follow R’s lead but no lie IT’S KILLING ME and the two of us carry on eating sushi. Eventually the woman takes the hint and goes away.
I don’t mind people looking. It is shocking, and the psych doc has explained why people look and how to handle it when they do. I don’t mind people commenting. I know it’s a way to express empathy and to acknowledge what she’s going through. But I wish some people would think about the language they use. “Poor” and “horrible” and “awful” aren’t positive words and don’t help R’s mood. The wee old wummin that nodded at R and said, “Good girl, it will be worth it on the end” in the queue at fabric shop cheered her up for that day.
R goes for the soy.
“Are you mad at me, mum?”
“No! I’m proud of you. You weren’t rude, you were polite twice when she didn’t deserve it, and then you removed yourself from the situation.”
“OK. Thanks. Can I have the rest of the maki?”
And finally she smiles.