This week in Australia, a comedian decided to open her act at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala (an event I’ve attended and watched on TV a number of times) with a line about how she hates when people tell her they have mild Aspergers or have celiac disease or are alcoholics.
'Because really, these people are just f'ed up idiots with behaviour problems.'
Cue: 2000 people laughing uproariously.
Sadly, apart from a brief discussion on Facebook, barely anyone batted an eyelid. I’m not going to give the woman any more publicity by saying who she was… but she’s not young, she’s not particularly controversial and she actually used the line to start a story about how embarrassed she was about mishandling a conversation with a woman with an intellectual disability.
It’s on YouTube, for posterity, but not as an example of vilification, just as a promotion for the Comedy Festival.
I’m somewhere between surprised and appalled.
My first thought was, Billy could be in that audience. OK, he’s seven now, and attending a comedy gala alone is a little beyond his capabilities. But, if the promises of Star Trek had come to pass and we were able to mess about with the space-time continuum a bit, adult Billy could be in that audience.
I thought about how he would feel having a room full of people laughing about how they really secretly agreed that he was indeed a busted unit. That his disability, an intrinsic part of him, made him a joke to the person next to him and the person next to them… in fact the whole theatre full of people.
And those thoughts bring out the fighter in me.
It reminds me again, that autism has turned me into that parent.
I’m the one explaining my kid’s behaviour all the time. I’m the one waiting to talk to the teacher or the doctor, again. I’m the one reminding, redirecting and refocussing all the time. I’m the one apologising. I’m the one behaving oddly, even though there are good reasons why.
For example, We are driving down the street, dog and boy in the car and we see friends. If I pull over and get out of the car to say Hi, the dog will bark, Billy will cry and the whole point of having a positive social encounter will be lost. So… I wave vaguely and try to sign, “I’m-sorry-can’y-stop-Boy-and-dog-in-car-means-I-can’t-stop-because-of-barking-see-you-soon-preferably-without-either-the-dog-or-the-boy.” To the untrained eye, I look like I'm swatting flies while trying to drive past someone I know without saying hello. Awesome. Really.
I am the one who won’t take no for an answer. I am the one who can’t come to the appointment alone, I’ll have my son with me because we don't have family here. I am the one who stays at the birthday parties, who sits on a knife edge at the cinema, and who feels guilty even saying things like this because I know how lucky I am to have a kid who can attend birthday parties or movies.
I’m the annoying one. The clinger. The over-protector. The one who makes excuses for her kid ALL the time.
And… I am the one who will not give up. I am the one who won’t stop hoping. I am the one who will never think it’s OK to take cheap shots at vulnerable people.
Why am I this person?
Because, in the future, teleporting or no teleporting, I hope Billy can sit in a theatre and not have to face a wall of laughter that is about him. I hope he can watch TV and not have to wonder why people are using him as a punchline.
And I really hope people will have evolved onboard weapons systems that can transform the process of heckling inappropriate comedians into serious business.
FWIW: The comedian's 'apology'. I know I said I wouldn't give her publicity, but...
Valerie’s increasingly random ravings can be found at Jump on the Rollercoaster.