October has been flying by and I haven’t posted as often as I’d like, so Dwarfism Awareness Month may turn into a season, because it’s not about educating for only a month… it’s about educating wherever you go, every month, and treating people the way you want to be treated. This post is about being real, raw, and giving a glimpse into what real life is sometimes like, without all of the sugary toppings.
There are physical challenges that come with having dwarfism, but some of the biggest struggles are the social challenges. Dealing with the judgement, bullying, and insensitivity of others. My home is the safest place to be. Mr. Little and I are allowed to just be. We don’t have to “perform” or be “on stage” for the entire world to observe. At home we can have bad attitudes without protecting the stigma that all little people are angry. We can also just be goofy and not be embarrassed by what others think.
Growing up in smaller towns, I always felt drawn to bigger cities. Bigger cities are full of diversity, so if you have a slight difference, you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. People tend to leave you alone and you can mind your own business, without getting hassled or bullied by bystanders along the street. The community in Redding is pretty fantastic for being a smaller town. The Bethel Community probably plays a huge role in the honor, love, and acceptance that we encounter in everyday life. However, earlier this month we were going to San Francisco and from past experiences, I was sure we were going to be embraced even more as it is one of my favorite cities to visit. Maybe it was my awareness to it being Dwarfism Awareness Month and the need for others to be educated, that when we were faced with ignorance, my blood began to boil and I couldn’t wait to go home.
We were staying overnight in the financial district and within the 10 minute walk from our parking garage to our hotel, we had at least 6 different encounters by strangers. From the moment we got out of our car and started walking down the street, all eyes were on us. People would stare, people would make loud remarks in response to seeing us, there filters were completely gone. There was one woman who started to follow us down the street. Sensing her behind us, I grabbed Mr. Little’s hand a little tighter and started walking a little faster. She then exclaimed, “Y’all are just so f-ing cute! I just love me some midgets!” The injustice started to rise inside of me as Mr. Little tried to calm me down. She basically just stabbed a huge hole into my heart, creating an open wound. I wanted to call her out. I wanted to tell her the correct terms to use. Let’s be real, I wanted to punch her in the face. But then Mr. Little was so patient, he squeezed my hand like he always does, and told me that he loved me. He reminded me that she probably had no idea that she was being insensitive and that her words were hurtful. He reminded me to love those that don’t know any better. So I took a few deep breaths and tried to ignore the sting.
The next day we decided to go to a nearby coffee shop. Walking down the street again, there were people staring everywhere, making comments, and even taking pictures. I tried to keep my ‘blinders’ on, to only look forward and to not acknowledge or notice everyone that was looking at us. But for a moment my blinders came off. I saw someone sitting at a breakfast bar up against a window, facing the street we were walking down. There was only a window between us and he was literally only four feet away. He probably thought that the window made him invisible and we wouldn’t notice him. When he saw us, he hit his neighbor in the arm to get their attention, and then proceeded to take our picture as we walked by the storefront. I caught him and I wanted him to know it, so I stared back at him until he noticed. Then there was a brief second that his face became white, his mouth dropped open a little, and he looked like he had a sense of guilt. For a split second, the tiniest of seconds, he realized that we were humans and I could see it in his eyes. He realized we actually had feelings like any other human being. But sadly, it only lasted for a split second when his buddy cracked a joke and they both started to laugh again.
We then walked through the Farmer’s Market, minding our own business and looking at all the goodies available for sale, when a vendor asked if he could take our picture. We politely said, “No, thank you.” and continued to walk by. At least he asked our permission and gave us the option to say no. We had a choice, whereas most times we don’t. People think they have the right to use our bodies and our lives at their own expense, whenever they want. Peter Dinklage once said, “Dwarves are still the butt of jokes. It’s one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice.” I couldn’t agree more. When the average person goes to get coffee or goes to the grocery store, they would NEVER take a picture of someone that was a different race, just because they were different. If they saw someone in a wheelchair, they wouldn’t take their picture to then blast on social media with an insensitive hashtag. Yet this still seems to be ok when it comes to seeing little people in the every day world.
Right after this experience in SF, I came home to a question on my blog… How do you maintain such an open attitude and not become frustrated or offended at questions or comments? And to be completely honest, I laughed and almost cried, because there are some days that I don’t do this well. It is a journey. There are some days that dealing with others is easy and others where it is extremely difficult. It depends on my current mood, how loving of a response I want to give. There are times as an introvert where I just want to go to the store and not be seen, needing some extra 'alone time,' when I’m then followed throughout the entire store by a child. This child won’t stop following me or staring at me, and her parents are no where to be found. It’s in those moments that it’s difficult. But then there are days where I could care less, where my heart is full, my introverted tank is full, and someone’s question or curiosity doesn't bother me at all.
Having a partner to go through life with helps a ton! When Mr. Little and I first started dating, I had to get used to the doubling of stares and scenarios of things that would happen in public. When there was just one of me, I was able to blend in slightly, or at least try. However, now there are two of us, which attracts even more curiosity and attention, and I know that this will increase as our family increases. Having Mr. Little by my side helps though as he is the calm one. He’s the one that is incredibly patient, caring, and understanding. His strengths are definitely my weaknesses, so I pull from him a lot.
Knowing my identity has also helped. When you live every moment of life outside of your home, “on stage” with all eyes watching, it’s easy to pick up and believe lies that you don’t even know you’ve picked up. Growing up, the constant stares and comments made me believe that I was a mistake, I was a birth defect, I was just a reject. But then there was Jesus! Now I have freedom from those lies, and gaining that was huge! I know exactly who’s I am and who I was created to be. Knowing these truths, I try to flip the scenarios. Instead of thinking people are staring at us and mocking us, which maybe they are, I try to think that the reason they are staring at us is because they’ve never seen a husband love his wife so genuinely and so tenderly in public before. They’ve never seen Jesus’ heart for people before until they see us, and instead they’re just in awe. We want to love well and love others well. We want to educate and be shining examples, so if we can point the world towards something that’s genuine, to love, to honor, to respect, to Jesus, with the platform we were automatically given when we were born as little people, then so be it.
Each day I would say is a journey, it’s all about attitude and perspectives. Some days are easy. Some days are hard. In the end, we are all humans.