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Image description: Man stepping out of car onto a striped carpet

(May I ask, before I begin, not to be given advice about my feet, my use of socks, types of shoes or any other helpful hints. I implore you to let me simply assure you that the solution we have found, works.)

There is a difference, I think, or maybe I just tell myself, between being shy and being ashamed. One of those things, for me, has been the fact that I do not, because I can not, wear shoes. That’s not quite true, I do make jokes about wearing socks, and about the slippers I wear through winter. I guess it’s more about some of the adaptions that not wearing shoes mean. Mostly, I don’t like things that needlessly draw attention to me, I guess.

I’m not being clear and it’s probably best to just tell you what happened.

I was getting out of the car at a venue where I would be speaking. Joe and I always get places early so that we can get in and get settled. This time we were a little late due to the consequences of a wrong turn. It was rainy and the parking lot was wet, snow covered and with sharp bits of salt tossed into the mix. As I wear socks, this isn’t the best thing to step down onto. Joe and I, therefore, have purchased a small mat that we can put on the ground for me to step onto and then turn and sit down into my chair. It’s hard to buy a really discrete mat so we have one that’s striped, dark blue and dark green.

Joe had just put the mat down and was getting the chair as I was stepping out onto the mat. A woman, who I know and who I know absolutely detests me and the ground that I walk on, came by and turned to stare, with hostility, at me as I got out of the car. I don’t like to be watched getting out of a car on a sunny day with dry pavement, I really don’t like being watched get onto the carpet. But she stood there. She has let me know that my stances on sexuality and self-advocacy have been ‘the death of innocence’ for people with disabilities. She gets sent to my training ostensibly as punishment for her but in reality it’s punishment for me. Then she said, loudly to be heard, “I’m surprised it’s not a red carpet.”

I know she was making a remark about my ‘ego’ and my supposed ‘fame’ as a speaker. I know that. I know that she was mocking me. But I also know that she was mocking me physically because she hadn’t successfully humbled me in a battle of opinions. I know that she was using any weapon she had at hand, and my disability, and my lack of shoes, and my use of carpet seemed a perfect way to goad me.

And she was right.

What she said hurt.

It hurt partly because it was meant to. Purposeful hurt is successful often simply because it’s purposeful. It also hurt because she caught me in a vulnerability. That carpet, those socks and the disability that makes it all necessary – these are things I live with, but they aren’t things I want called into public view and used for public humiliation.

I turned to her. I said, “You think I should shut up because you don’t like my opinions. Well I think you should shut up because you use words to hurt revealing a heart that’s simply mean.”

She huffed into the building.

And I stepped onto my sat down in my chair raising my feet onto the foot pedals from the, not red, carpet.

I don’t get it.

Joe, who had been gobsmacked by the encounter, took hold of the back of the chair and began to push me towards the door. “The next carpet is going to be so fucking red,” he said.