Feel like I should really say something about the current debacle around a mother of a 5 year old with Downs who found jokes about people with Downs Syndrome and their parents or carers or whatever the politically correct title is for the family and friends of said folks, to much to take and was brave enough to stand up and say what she thought. I can't begin to say how much I felt for her when I read her blog: I live for glitter: Well that was rather unexpected I could give you a list of similar occurrences a mile long that I have encountered over the last 24 years of trying to make life for my daughter and my family as 'normal' as possible. It's all a matter of give and take.
Jokes about disability and difference are commonplace, they are a defense against fear and ignorance, or maybe I've just developed a thick skin. I've been watching the argument raging on twitter. Don't get front row tickets to see an edgy comedian if you are not prepared to be ridiculed, got to admit that was my first thought. My second thought was that she wasn't expecting to actually find herself confronted by comments that hit home as personal and offensive and why should she? she has paid to be entertained, not to be insulted. Back to give and take.
I remember an occasion several years ago now, when some inarticulate young 'chav' girls started pointing and laughing at my daughter while we were waiting in a bus station one evening. They seemed to take exception to her shoes, Rocket Dogs, very trendy at the time, but a trend that had not quite reached Aberdare. Fortunately our bus arrived and Sarah was oblivious to the attempted ridicule. My blood was boiling and if I had had some support to call on I would have turned the tables and ridiculed them. That particular year was a bad one for fashion in Aberdare, awful hair, mostly peroxide, pulled back way too tight in a 'council estate face lift', tramp stamp tattooed on the lower back and a grubby thong emerging from Primark joggers (usually grey with pink piping, see how observant I am!), vacant expression on the face, mouth permanently open, looking as if they have more special needs than my autistic daughter. But let's face it, you still see the odd shell suit out and about in Aberdare and I am still struggling with the concept of bare midriff and pants cut so low you have to keep pulling them up and ridiculously small bomber jackets in the middle of winter, don't these idiots feel the cold? Oh, sorry, was I a bit harsh there? Give and take, give and take.
Since my little girl has been grown up and we go to grown up venues and events we generally only encounter the odd 'funny' look, mainly because people tend to approach Sarah first. In restaurants for instance, who in their right mind is going to talk to the middle aged old biddy when there is an attractive blonde to talk to? Most people cotton on fairly quickly so there is no issue. Give and take in action.
I've spoken here before about the service users monthly disco: Dealing With The Day: Ah, It's The 1st Wednesday Of The Month, That Means Disco. An event that would confound and confuse the sensibilities of any number of edgy comedians. I do believe I made some sharp remarks about the style sensibilities of some of the residents of Aberdare, and in particular the bus station users in that post as well! Being the subject of a bad joke isn't very nice for anyone and I'm pretty sure the good people of Aberdare will be seeking me out and chucking eggs at my windows for thinking their fashion sense is a bit off. But then the sharing of a silly moment or event is an amazingly positive experience. More give and take.
In my twitter bio I say that living with autism is a bit like being in a Monty Python sketch only more surreal. I stand by that. Without comedy what would we have to laugh at? Rhetorical question of course, but I guess you have to choose your comedians with care, knowing how ascorbic comedy can be these days, if I was feeling a bit vulnerable I wouldn't choose the likes of Frankie Boyle. On the other hand, one of the most memorable evenings of my life was spent aching with laughter at the far from politically correct Mighty Boosh live in Cardiff. A bit more give and take.
So, to conclude, (you'll be pleased to hear). The lady who was offended by the bad jokes about Downs Syndrome, the people who have it and the people who care for them, has every right to be offended and to say she is offended, and I would doubt that Frankie Boyle has ever spent any time with with anyone with Downs or bothered to get past the speech impediments he should be grateful he hasn't got, since he probably wouldn't be earning the money he is now by using his voice to ridicule them. I would love to invite him to our little service users disco to experience the fun and laughter that is generated by the very lively bunch of young (and not so young, actually) people with all manner of differences from what is considered normal. We are all just trying to live our lives as well as we can, and I guess that those who have limited or no contact with disability will probably never understand how that disability becomes your life and almost everything you are. This is where give and take changes its meaning, you are given a disability to deal with and your life as you knew it is taken away. So, lady who lives for glitter and is a Mika fan, you have my empathy, my admiration and my best wishes for you and your family. Frankie Boyle, this isn't going to make a blind bit of difference to you is it, you just touched a nerve and it hit the internet, if I had any I'd put money on you performing to packed houses for the rest of your tour. Give and take is the key, what are you going to do about it? If you live with a disability you have to be prepared to be singled out for ridicule, you are supposed to be weak and defenseless, so deal with it. If you like to make bad taste jokes about disability, if you must, go for it, you are hard enough to take a bit of criticism, you're a professional. A little bit of give and take is all it needs.