Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Don't use that word, it is so outdated!

Although I don't recall the date, I will never forget the time or place. I will always remember that the use of the word 'retarded' cut me deep to the core. That the use of this word was used by someone I know, in front of me, without any consideration or thought for me or my family.

The word was used as if it was part of regular day vocabulary. It was used by an adult who should know better. It was used in front of teenagers..... young and impressionable future adults. Tell me, what message is that giving? That it is okay to use the word 'retarded'?

Before this incident, I had never made an issue of the use of this word. I heard it frequently, used by kids and teenagers. Perhaps they didn't realize the connotations behind the use of the word. I didn't like that they used the word retard/ed, however, I just couldn't take on board the process of enlightening each child, surely their parents should have some say in this matter. Or perhaps their parents are like the woman I speak of... thoughtless.

For the first time ever, I spoke up. "Hey, come on. Don't use that word, it is so outdated".

No response .

I felt sick to my stomach. I had spoken out. Me, the non confrontational me.

No response.

Fast forward an hour later......

I left the room to go and move my car. As I walked down the corridor, I heard three words. The words were said in the voice of a teenager using an extremely sarcastic tone and in a sing song voice.

I shook my head in disbelief. No, I must be imaging things, surely a person wouldn't be speaking in that manner and saying....

 "Retarded. Retarded. Retarded".

A friend came out of the room and walked towards me, her head was down and she looked extremely uncomfortable. That's when I knew, without a doubt, a woman, an educated woman in her 40's had objected to my remark by retaliating with a snarky comment.

I dissolved. It was as if every little thing about my life was parcelled up into those three words, by a vindictive woman who should have known better. I left without telling anyone. I couldn't make it home. I had to pull over onto the side of the road and just sob uncontrollably.

Eventually, not long after I got home, I received a call from my husband "where are you?". I stumbled over my words, crying so hard that he could barely understand me. My mild mannered husband lost his cool, this man of mine who is always even-tempered and calm. I found out later that he pulled the woman aside into another room and gave her what for. Anyone want to hazard a guess what her reaction was? She told my husband that we were too sensitive!

All of this because I said "Hey, come on. Don't use that word, it is so outdated".

The next seven days were hell. I cried. My husband ranted and raved. My first born was also affected by what had happened and his demeanour showed his immense sadness.

Slowly we began to heal.

Then... I saw her in the supermarket. She saw me first and I caught sight of her out of the corner of my eye as she ducked down one of the isles. She blanked me. I felt sick and absolutely furious all in one.

Over the next few weeks we crossed paths here and there... each time she blanked me!

Do you know how that feels? Each time I went out into the community I would feel nauseous and extremely anxious. What if I saw her? What would I do? How dare she blank me, I am not the one in the wrong here. The dread became all consuming and my anxiety was eating into my family life.

All of this because I said "Hey, come on. Don't use that word, it is so outdated".

One day, not so long ago, I had arranged to meet a friend for coffee at our local mall. For some strange reason I decided to sit towards the back of the room at our favourite coffee spot (we normally sit at the front!). My friend was running late but it was okay as I had my laptop with me and I was mucking around doing something on it. 

I happened to look up and who should be walking into the coffee shop..... *HER* and her husband! I ducked my head down quickly, frantically thinking to myself.... oh shit, oh shit. 

And then something happened. I thought to myself, "stuff it, this is not my fault. How dare she take the high road and make out that it is all my fault". I sat up straighter in my chair and I put a big smile on my face. 

Her husband saw me and whispered to *HER*. She turned to look at me.... well, I put an even bigger smile on my face and gave a big wave and called out "HI". She turned away from me so fast that I thought she would get whiplash! Her husband looked at me... so I did it again. I plastered a big smile on my face and gave a big wave and called out "HI". He gave me a glimmer of a smile ~ coward!

I can't tell you enough how good I felt. It was as if a burden had fallen away. I felt liberated, free and so relieved that my angst had disappeared.

She no longer has any control over me. What does it matter if she blanks me.... she means nothing to me. I am not going to waste my head space on a small minded bully. To quote a friend "Be kind to dumb animals".

What will I do next time I see her?

Smile and wave! (she is going to hate it!)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Di is the proud mum of two gorgeous teenage boys, one who just happens to be autistic. You can find her over at the Bright Side of Life blog. 


  1. I reckon good sense wins...
    She's avoiding you, she knows she did something 'wrong'.
    The moral high ground of the smile and wave is just icing on the cake.


    1. Thanks for the support, Valerie. I appreciate it.

  2. Good for you. I don't mind people making the odd slip-up with thoughtless comments (humans are essentialy extremely self-absorbed creatures who can't help themselves) - but I cannot abide by cowardice & snarky comments when they could have just said sorry & left it at that. Stupid cow!

    1. Karen, a *sorry* would have been perfectly adequate. I so agree with your last two words! :)

  3. Why can't people just admit they are wrong? Glad you found a way to feel better about it, I would have been upset too: something similar happened to me a few years ago over something different and I found it horrible too x

  4. Good.For.You.

    Well done, perfect response. I would like to think she's blanking you because she feels shame at her reaction to your comment and is too cowardly to apologise. Then again the word 'retarded' has become so entrenched and accepted in some people's vocabulary they don't realise the hurt it can cause. My own son, yeah the one who has ASD, has used that word in my presence. He hasn't done so in a while ;-) Sadly his friend used it at him a while ago. The cycle continues.....

    xx Jazzy

  5. @Blue Sky ~ I am sorry to hear that something similar happened to you. As if we don't have enough to deal with!! I guess it is human nature, a lot of people don't like to admit when they are in the wrong.

    @Jazzygal ~ Sadly she feels no shame.... so I will just keep on smiling and waving! :). I get that the word is used widely and kids don't think about what they are saying. I don't generally stress about it too much.

    Thank you both for your comments. xx