How has this affected me?

As you would expect, the DMV really does discriminate on the basis of visual imparements when they hand out driver's licenses -although you certainly might not have guessed that from the way some people drive. Ditto the FAA, pilot's licenses. At least with them it appears more realistically enforced. :o)

Yet another picture of me

When I was growing up, I found that it was a lot easier to interact with people if I could make myself -at least for appearances' sake- what they expected of me. In particular, people seemed to understand the concept of being either (a) fully sighted or (B) fully blind but it didn't occur to them that there were any other possibilities.

Naturally, for those to whom I was introduced, the idea was most often absorbed -but not always. Many people can hear that I have poor eyesight but do not immediately connect that they must speak their feelings rather than assume that I will understand them by seeing their eyes -which, of course, I cannot.

I do remember a few people reacting with, "Oh- YOU - ARE - BLIND --- I - WILL - SPEAK - VERY - LOUDLY - AND - CLEARLY - AND - SLOWLY - SO - THAT - YOUR - SIMPLE - MIND - (?!) - MAY - GRASP - WHAT - I - AM - SAYING..". But most people are not that clueless.

But we don't just interact all day with people to whom we've been introduced. Especially when one is travelling, one meets lots of people throughout the day with whom one must communicate - "Where's the men's room?" etc..

It is for this reason that most people with eyesight which is less than perfect and greater than none find it most convenient for public interaction to make themselves appear either completely blind or completely sighted. Most people with vision like mine go the completely blind route. I chose completely sighted.

One may rightly argue that this is a bit dishonest. While I agree, I respond this way: As humans, we all would love to be completely understood and to understand each other completely. The only thing that really gets in the way of this are our differences. Unfortunately, the wonderful beautiful diversity of human existence causes us to be so diverse that there are some people who's very existence demands beliefs and feelings which are either insulting, dangerous or otherwise inapprpopriate for others. This is why all humans require some privacy. In order for us to exist on the same planet, and indeed, in relationships with each other, we find that we cannot share all of our feelings with even people to whom we're extremely close- except occasionally. :o)

For example, I once met a fellow at a local neighborhood community meeting who was much more involved in city politics than I was. Among his skills and talents, he was much more heavily into awareness of people's facial expressions and minor body movements than I and as we talked, it became clear that my predisposition for total upfront honesty and his subtlty and guile were at odds. Although we parted friends, he explained that he did not even want to be around a person who did not have good eyesight because such persons could not be relied upon to be able to cope with the subtle forms of communication which were -for him- paramount to survival in the political scene. I understood him. I prefer not to be around people for whom extemely subtle behavoir has enourmous meaning because -quite frankly- having lived a lifetime of unawareness of many social subtleties, I have not learned to recognise them even when I can see them. I much prefer direct verbalization. I realize that there will be times when even that is a pain, and I, like everyone else, do the best I can, but that's how it works best for me.

Since there just isn't time for me to explain verbally to every single person I meet every day that I can see but I cannot see this and I cannot see that and I cannot recognize their face and I cannot see that sign and I don't need their help crossing the street, but 'No, I cannot read the sign from here...'. It is far easier to allow them to think I am just another person. If they thought I was completely blind, things would be even more confusing for us all. Really. I've tried it.

Anyway, the point is that eyesight is a very important part of how many people make decisions and choose who to be with and where it is safe. These are some of the fundemental decisions that each of us must make all the time. The very idea of not having complete eyesight is quite scary to many folks. Me, too, but my standards for what is complete eyesight are different. :o).

An important arena in which we greatly value our eyesight for making important decisions about our lives is to which strangers we choose to introduce ourselves. This greatly impares my odds at flirting.

For this reason, unless I am introduced by mutual friends, I usually do not meet very many women. Since I am heterosexual and actually, quite passionate, this has been a problem lately.

How else has this affected me?

My father, a nuclear physicist, private pilot, rabbi, amateur gormet chef and several other over-achieving sorts of things, thought at the time that the best way to teach a blind kid to survive in a harsh world was to make him -through, among other things, tough standards- able to do much more than was expected of normal people. While this somewhat backfired in the self-esteme department, it did actually afford me well in terms of being able to do things in the world, and take care of myself and my friends. I can trim rose bushes, fix cars and bicycles and do minor plumbing and major electrical work.

When I was very young, I stole some cookies from the cookie-jar. I was very proud of myself. I thought that I had exhibited guile and stealth and no one would ever find out. Not only was my bubble burst when they asked me to put the cookies back, but I was shaped greatly and for ever more by the fact that they didn't even seem to notice that I was trying to keep it a secret. From then on, I always assume that I cannot only never get away with lying, but I can never tell who's in the room, who can see what I'm doing and I have a pervasive feeling of lack of privacy quite often which periodically brings out of the city to long hikes in the country where one can feel truely alone with nature.

Mostly how I react to this is that I have a completely open life and do not try to hide how I feel and what I do. I also find it much easier to live by being as completely honest in all ways and at all times as is within reasonable limits of discression. (and sometimes, not within such limits- we all have our faults) :o)


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