10 Things You Should Never Do When Talking to a Person With Dwarfism
In the spirit of the new year's message, I thought we could have a quick refresher on the appropriate and inappropriate interactions with a person of short stature. I received a great amount of positive feedback from my original piece that ran on The Mighty last March, so I decided to update it and share it with you wonderful people.
Of course, this doesn't reflect the views of all people in the dwarfism community (some actually get paid to serve nachos out of a sombrero on their head as they walk around a club, but that is neither here nor there.)
However, it can be used as a template for mutual respect through positive interaction.
Back in 2016, my husband and I partook in the mundane activity of grocery shopping for the week. As usual, I perused all of the domestic and imported cheeses while my husband scrolled through Facebook blissfully unaware of the supermarket experience.
As we made our way to the frozen foods aisle, searching for puff pastry sheets for a delightful dinner I had planned, a gentleman stopped in the aisle and stared at us. Not a big deal, most people gawk at least for a moment or two. As we walked past he said something to me that I didn’t quite get, so I replied, “What?”
“Do you want to hear a joke?” he asked.
“Sure, why not,” I replied, sighing.
“OK,” he said, as he bent down and placed his hands on his knees with his eyes a little too close to my cleavage, “Why do midgets love soccer so much?”
I let out another sigh, “I have no idea. Why?”
He could barely contain his excitement for the punchline he knew I was going to love: “Because the grass tickles their balls!”
We started walking away, sans laughter, and I dryly replied over my shoulder, “Wow, maybe if I had balls I’d find that funny.”
He shouted after us: “It’s a joke! Can’t you take a joke?! (gaslighting) All right, all right, how about another one? Why am I a giant?”
(Let’s pause for a moment, because I need to let you all know this man was maybe 5-foot-4 — on a good day!)
We didn’t respond and were already in another aisle when he shouted out, “Because I’m an idiot!!”
After this particularly sigh-inducing encounter at the grocery store, I decided to write my own list of actions and discussions that should be avoided when interacting with someone in the dwarfism community.
1. Bend over to talk to us
Trust me, I can hear you. If LeBron James were standing next to me talking, I would be able to hear him, too. And why is it always the shorter men and women who do this to me? Literally, sir, you’re maybe a foot and two inches taller than me. Please stop embarrassing yourself.
2. Assume we want to hear your latest and greatest midget joke (full disclosure, don't ever use the word midget...unless you are a dwarf, it's our word)
No, I do not. Just stop yourself before you even think of asking if we want to hear your joke. Trust me, I am very good at using the internet, if I so desire, I can find a midget joke any time or day.
3. And then criticize us when we don’t laugh at your sub-par midget joke
My apologies, was I supposed to find that insult packaged as a joke about me and my existence humorous?
4. Tell us you are “twice our size!”
I am assuming you failed high school geometry, because unless you are more than 8 feet tall, no, I can categorically say, you are not twice-as-tall as me.
5. Pat us on the head
Seriously? I am appalled I even have to add this to the list. But since it's on the list, what I have observed over the past couple of decades is that - adults who do this to other adults are trying to assert dominance. As in, "I am the dominant person in this interaction, so I will pat your head to show your stature and place." When done to children, I get it, it's a sign of affection...kinda like petting a dog.
6. Reach over our heads
Like the airspace above my home, I own the immediate space above my head. Do not reach over me to do anything: grab a door, shake someone’s hand, high-five someone, nothing. Never. It is dismissive of my presence and condescending. For example, I was once in the middle of a conversation between two people in line while waiting to order a sandwich. One person was in front of me, the other was behind me. Neither acknowledged my presence, and neither moved to one side, to converse around me, and at the end they both shook hands over my head. It was if I didn't exist.
7. Put your hands on me for any reason
Do not, let me repeat, do not touch me or maneuver me physically because you perceive some sort of threat ahead that you don’t think I’m aware of. As we all say to small children, “Use your words!”
8. Tell me I’m "inspirational" when I’m…
…pumping gas, grocery shopping, walking my dog, waiting in line, ordering a smoothie, shopping for lingerie, etc. For more information on Inspo-Porn please see Stella Young's Ted Talk, "I'm Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much."
9. Take my picture.
No, not without my consent. You know what your doing, you are using my existence as a way for you to be the popular jokester on Instagram or SnapChat or Facebook. You need to get a life, at least a better one that does not involve taking pictures of disabled people just to make fun of them. You need to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, "Is this who I really want to be?"
10. Take a picture of my child or any child with dwarfism.
See previous bullet point, and involve the authorities, you sick perv.
Originally posted on The Mighty.