By Guest Writer | September 29, 2009
I was leaning against a sign that read “Bus Stops Here” and jamming to some Dresden Dolls, my trusty guide dog sitting politely at my left leg. He laid down impatiently as the minute hands ticked and still no bus in sight. Then, out of what most docs wouldn’t call peripheral vision I spotted a figure stooping for a pet-by.
What is a pet-by, you ask? It’s when a knowing pedestrian sneaks in a pet or smooch or otherwise grossly boundaries-crossing form of affection at an unsuspecting service animal. Not to be mistaken with human grabbings or other forms of harassment but nonetheless devious and irritating for both animal and human handler.
Without missing a beat and sans usual snark I said loud enough for passerby to hear that “that was a shitty thing to do.” There, I said it. That was a shitty thing for person to do. Ask first, respect my answer, move on. Clearly knowing petting wasn’t allowed, ze sneaked on by, hoping I wouldn’t notice. Too bad my dog alerts me, not liking unknown human touch too much.
Dude was having none of it. He turned around and screamed at me until I took my headphone out of my ear. “What?” I asked, hands outstretched in that “you were hoping for cookies” pose. “You fucking fat bitch, I’ll do what I want.” He then stepped toward me and my dog, reaching around me to get at said dog now cowering behind my legs. Nice guard dog, there. Mama bear instinct roared to the front and I in my 5′5 frame stepped between him and dog, pushing him away. Don’t get between me and my dog or I’ll cuttabitch, right? Except I didn’t. I pushed him back and said “don’t you ever, ever touch my guide dog.”
Now it gets interesting. Like any high school bully he looks around for witnesses. Like any blind fool I don’t, I can’t tell. No one is rushing to my aide so I assume we’re alone to duke it out. Incredulously he turns around, starts to walk away and skips a beat. Returning to face me he says “you fucking fat cunt, fuck you. I’ll do what I want.” He then spits directly into my face – hitting my nose and mouth. Stunned and disgusted I reach out with my right hand and slap him in the head. Hardly enough to leave a mark, not nearly hard enough because I well, I don’t hit people. He comes back into my face and says “fat fuck, take a jog.” He reaches out, punches me in the arm (ooooh no visible marks!) and walks off.
That’s it. His manhood is preserved. A stranger from across the street walks over to me and asks if I knew the guy. Clearly, since we were fighting and all. If I had known him it would have been ok. Since I didn’t….well he felt bad. Luckily the bus finally came, I grabbed my dog and dignity and left.
You fat fuck. You fat cunt. Not once was my vision or disability a part of our interaction except in the objectification of one of the tools of managing my disability. But my body, the tomb encasing who I am was grounds for insult and injury. I walked out of the house in my favorite shirt and brand new favorite green skirt, wearing fun shoes and jamming to some fun tunes. The sun was out and I was donning pigtails. Then dude came along and suddenly I felt ugly and unworthy and fat. Not fat in a two-whole-cakes sort of way, in a fatabulous fatshionista sort of way, but in a bumbling, poorly dressed, eats too many cupcakes and drinks soda sort of way. In that I’m a waste of humanity taking up too much space sort of way.
Rarely do people comment on my fatness. Perhaps it’s because they first have to acknowledge me as human, and as a person with a visible disability so rarely does that occur. But when it does I’m struck by how on-target the insult is for me, how sharp that word is. The word I use every day, the word that took years of unpacking for me to allow to roll off my tongue. That word that is so little of who I am, outshone by blindness, queerness, poorness and yes, first-generation-American-ness. Yet here it is, the first line of attack in the most ableist and sexist of situations.
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