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Do you have snapchat?
This is the question that so often literally snaps me back to reality because, well, no I don’t. For those of you who might not know, I’m blind.
Let me tell you how we got here first. Last month, I went clubbing with a couple of friends. It was a pretty chill girl’s night. We were all sitting around talking when we spontaneously thought it would be really fun to go out since we hadn’t in a while. We all got ready, did our makeup, and after double and triple changing and re-checking all of our outfits, ordered the uber.
When we got there, we jumped out eagerly and approached the booming base of the music and stood in line. The bouncer ushered us through and we shuffled on past the packed and sweaty mass of people to get inside and away from the cold.
When I go out, I always make sure to let one of my friends know to keep an eye out and if it looks like I’m in a bad situation to intervene. Obviously, it’s mutual and if I notice that any of my friends are uncomfortable I make sure to step in, too.
As soon as we entered and made our way onto the dance floor, the music changed to this really intense and rapid beat, which I was totally feeling after a super stressful and homework-packed week. Dancing is one of my favorite things and even more so with my girls! As to how I learned to dance as someone who has been blind basically all their life… we’ll save that for a different day.
Anyway, after a while of dancing and laughing and simply just having a good time, I felt the familiar hand on my shoulder spinning me around and away from my friends. It was gentle and lingered there questioningly, giving me a chance to say no if I didn’t feel like dancing with him. But, my friends were getting themselves dances too, so I didn’t see anything wrong with spending a couple of songs with this guy. We started dancing at around 1 and finished at around 2:30, about the time that the club started to close. In between the pauses of the music, and taking breaks from dancing we kept asking each other questions like, “where do you go to school?” “How old are you?” All the ordinary questions anyone would ask if they were trying to get to know someone. And in all of the curiosity, there was not really a good lead-in question that gave me an opportunity to slide in the fact that I couldn’t see. So the conversation smoothly continued to progress. Honestly, that’s not the first thing on my mind when I’m telling someone about myself. Blind just isn’t one of those things that pops up in conversation because it doesn’t by any means define me or who I am. So time passed by and for a second, just for a second, it’s like I forgot who I was. Then, after hours of dancing, and conversation he finally asked the question that makes my heart start beating just a little faster and sends my thoughts racing every single time, without a fail! “Do you have snapchat?”
Ok, so I don’t get anxious because I’m insecure and uncomfortable talking about my disability, or because I have this strong desire to use snapchat, and can’t. I become anxious because I know that the second I reveal something that he didn’t know about me before, he was going to start making judgments about me that I wasn’t ready for him to make yet. Preconceived judgments that to him would be his perception of the truth. A perception that once made, is unlikely to change. And sometimes, just sometimes, I don’t want to find out what kinds of misconceptions people have about blindness. Incapable, vulnerable, innocent, helpless, and a bunch of other wrongful, assumptive, and degrading words are far from the truth. I want people to see my true personality shine through before they focus on what to them is this huge reveal, and to me is just another descriptive word that is at the bottom of my list. In fact, it’s so down there, that blonde, short, Russian, optimistic, extroverted, a friend, a daughter, a girl who is passionate about traveling and life, and many other words come to mind before, blind.
This is why often times I shrug the question off and say something like “Sorry. I don’t really use my phone much.” It’s not a lie, but it’s not the full truth either, and I get that some people may find that dishonest. I won’t disagree with you there. I fully support the idea of educating and opening people’s minds to difference and diversity, though, but there is a time and place for it. The club, for me anyway, most of the time just isn’t one of those places. Educating comes with its fair share of exhaustion and at the end of the week, I just want to get lost in dancing and losing myself to the beat of the music and the rhythm of the movements.
But, I did want to get this guy’s number, and if I’m going to do that I give nothing other than the truth. It is never my intention to lead anyone on by withholding information that might make or break a date that we haven’t yet gone on. So, over the music, I screamed, “I can’t see, so I don’t have snapchat.” Then, everything stopped. Not for him, not for my friends dancing off in the distance, but for me. The feeling of the unknown lingered in the air as I held my breath for his response.
And then he said, “Wow! Wait! You are?,” He paused and then proceeded to follow that up with, “Well, even though you might not be able to see yourself, you’re really pretty,” And I let out a breath that I didn’t even realize I had been holding until then. Some people might see that as an offensive answer, like I don’t need to see myself in order to be confident with my body, but in my opinion, this is something I can work with. Nobody is perfect, and especially not if they’ve never met a blind person in their entire life. It was an attempt at a compliment and I appreciate that more than he’ll ever know because it was an indication of open-mindedness and a carefree attitude. I mean, in retrospect compared to other people, he took it pretty smoothly and that’s all I can ask for from a random dance partner at a club. He ended up putting his number in my phone because voice over is nearly impossible to use in such a loud setting.
The rest of the night flew by, we got back safely. We both took chances that night. I told him something that was personal and he took the first step to what I see as acceptance. Keeping an open-mind can truly go a long way. Although the snapchat question always brings me back, it is also a reminder of how many lessons I’ve learned from living with a disability all my life. It is a reminder of my parents pushing me out of my comfort zone and to be my absolute best, and firmly, yet not overbearingly encouraging me to keep a positive outlook on the world. A reminder of strength, determination, and self-acceptance. A reminder of the first time I realized that I would never drive like the rest of my high school friends, but a reminder that I could get to the same destination if I just figured out a different way of getting there. All of these things are so much more worth it than fitting in at a club, or any social setting really, and I couldn’t be more greatful to my blindness about what it constantly teaches me about myself, and life in general. Going out isn’t forever, and the guys who don’t accept you for who you really are aren’t worth your time, but the lessons you learn and take away from these experiences are unforgettable, making you stronger and stronger with every one.