Few words can trigger an eye roll/sigh/gesticulation combo like “inspiration.” There are very few contexts in which this word isn’t patronizing (and infuriating). I work as a stage manager in the Atlanta area, and on one production I was asked about my vision (or lack thereof) and when I explained that I have low vision and was born that way I got a response of: “you are such an inspiration, I can’t believe you do THIS job.” I rolled my eyes so hard at that I’m shocked they didn’t pop out of their sockets and roll up the hallway. I’ve been told (along with my roommate) that I’m an “inspiration” for going out to a bar or club. I apparently missed the memo that said I was supposed to say indoors and avoid contact with other people. I tend to find situations or events inspirational, but never people. I think disABILITY LINK can be inspirational to our peers because it’s such a unique environment. ADAPT actions are inspirational because they send a powerful message and can enact change.
“Cute” is another term that will get you on my list. I live in GA and terms of endearment like “sweetie,” “sugar,” “hon” and “punkin” are tossed around and generally no offense is taken. Having your heart blessed (“bless your heart!’) can, depending on the user, be a good or bad thing. This is when tone has to be taken into account. I once got a double dose when waiting on the bus. It was hot, I had my Ray Charles-esque glasses on when a another bus rider steps up to me and says (unprovoked and unprompted) “You’re so cute, waiting out here on the bus all alone. Bless your heart.” I smiled and tried to stop the steam from coming out of my ears. It was a combination of what she said and how she said it. Once, when I told someone (not a member of the disability community) that I create a majority of the visual materials that come out of my office I was told: “They let you make the posters? Isn’t that cute?” My response was more than a little passive-aggressive: “No, not really. It’s more practical that precious, I have the skills and desire to make these things and I work in a place that understands that I’m more than capable of creating a quality product.”
What words get on your nerves? Any similar experiences? I’d love to hear them.