Tara Nanayakkara

Social Eyes

Last week I read an article in the paper that resonated with me. The theme was about social acceptance or lack there of.  A few years ago, a mother took her small son to a neighbourhood play group. With the exception of the mother being offered a cup of coffee, they were both ignored. The little boy had cerebral palsy. The crux of the story was that parents of special needs children are not alone because this type of social exclusion seems to be routine behaviour in our society.

As I read her account, I decided I had to tweet this mother and let her know that I could relate to her situation. I can not tell you how many times, even as an adult I find myself out of the social loop due to my visual impairment. For one thing I can't make eye contact with people nor can I read facial cues. If I am in a group of more than two or three people, I have no idea who they are directing a general comment to, unless of course they say my name or they are making a direct reference to something that relates to me.

Yes, I have been that person who's walked into a social setting with people I didn't know well and have been completely ignored. It's happened to me at writers' events, church functions and at other gatherings both large or small. I have all but stopped going to most events by myself because I stand alone. For this reason I don't even like to take a writing course or attend a seminar.  Been there, done that, hated it.

A few years ago I was invited to a writer's meet and greet that was being held for some of us who had been offered a publishing contract. There were some hors' d'oeuvres and short eats on the coffee table. I had to lean forward and fumble around because no one offered to help me make sense of what was there and you don't want to ask for help everywhere you go. On another occasion, when my daughter was in grade seven, the teacher addressed his comments to her during parent / teacher interviews while I stood by waiting to be acknowledged. Then there are those who think my friends are doing me a service by "taking Tara out" when they pick me up in their cars so we can have lunch and go shopping like everyone else.  Oh well.  Sadly I seem to do best when I socialize with my family and friends because when we are out and about, they become my social eyes and then I am no longer left out of the loop.