(title is a lyric from the Meredith Brooks song Bitch)
A couple of weeks ago I was asked how I’d enjoyed a show I went to by a member of staff there who I know. I had enjoyed it but there had been one thing that had happened – which was tangentally access related – that had really irritated me. It was totally inconsequential and unlikely to be repeated but it had had an impact on my enjoyment and they asked so… I said “If I could just make one slightly bitchy point….”
More recently than that I discovered that the actions of someone else have left me with a huge mess to sort out. I feel more than a little screwed over and beyond frustrated as I did everything I was supposed to do but the person who was supposed to do the next part didn’t and because they didn’t do it at the correct time they now can’t. And I’m the one who will lose out if it’s not done so I need to do it. Their failure makes me look bad.
I was ranting to a good friend about that and I said “I know that this is really bitchy but I hope X happens because of this”
She stopped me and said “that’s not bitchy at all.” and made some other comments about thinking I’m acting like a bitch when I’m not.
I say stuff like that all the time when I complain or raise issues. Phrases like “I don’t mean to be a bitch but…” cross my lips all too frequently. And really they shouldn’t.
Complaining or raising issues in a constructive or fair way is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s only right and I’m sure that if able-bodied people had to deal with half the crap I have to they wouldn’t be half as calm and dismissive of it as I can be. Recently a few things have happened which have made me realise just how abnormal my version or normal really is.
A third issue – one of disabled toilet accessibility – reared it’s ugly head. I really thought all the able-bodied people around me were blowing it out of proportion. It was just one of those things. It happens and it’s irritating as hell and it really shouldn’t but what can you do?! There were a couple of ways I could work around it and I’d almost never go there again anyway as I was unlikely to have a reason to. I knew I should complain about the issue and have something done but it happens a lot of places and I was in the middle of dealing with the second incident I mentioned above and just didn’t have it in me to do anything about it.
When one of the people running the event (not the venue) asked me about it I did tell her about it. I told her it both was and wasn’t an issue and had to stop myself talking it down. I don’t think I did a good job of that. And one of the things I told her about was how I worry that people will think I’m alway moaning or never happy. That I’ve heard those phrases along with “ungrateful” and “argumentative” many times and “you have to understand we’re doing our best” and “we don’t really get many wheelchair users” are among the stock excuses. It grinds you down. I wonder, sometimes, if part of the way I so often almost apologise for my complaints or put myself down by phrase it as “being a bitch but” is because subconsciously I think that’s the only way I’ll be taken seriously. I think the person I was talking to go it and she reassured me they don’t think that about me.
Later in the session another member of staff wanted to ask me about it. Fine. They wanted to know – was there actually a problem or was the problem that I have a new wheelchair and I’m not used to it yet? I took her and showed her how it wasn’t big enough for my chair and she got it. But talk about proving my point!
I wish that was my only example of that sort of thing from recently.
It’s not – last Sunday a well known pizza chain refused to serve me because they had a booking for a short time later that they’d chosen to book all of their (small) downstairs for and they had no lift. They had no desire to come up with a solution (I could see from how they had it laid out that a small rejig could have fitted a table for me and my friend in too) and didn’t even apologise. It was clear that they considered I had the problem not them. And a request I made early this week to another organisation for an explanation why something had happened resulted in my receiving an email Friday that didn’t explain it and basically suggested I should put up and shut up. Again, I was the one with the problem not them.
My friend above who made the comments about thinking I’m being a bitch when I’m not is right, I should stop doing that. But it’s a bloody hard habit to break when society is desperate not to take me as I am but to blame me for it instead.