Sunday, July 25, 2010


“Mom, why is everyone staring at us,” my daughter asked me the other night, as we were eating at Cici’s Pizza.

“I’m guessing they’re seeing us sign to each other and are curious,” I responded.

After all, sign language is such a beautiful language, right? (groan)

Day in and day out, I am inevitably approached by hearing people who claim, “Oh, I wish I knew how to sign. It’s so beautiful!” And it is. I love my language, don’t get me wrong. But, man, oh, man, I just get so tired of having people say it to me. I mean, how many people, when noticing two people speaking, say, Italian, to each other, approach them and try to tell them how beautiful the language is? And come to think of it, how many people in that same situation would go stand within hearing distance and eavesdrop on the two Italians just because “it’s so cool”? Comparatively speaking, I’m betting it is few.

I’m guessing that, because ASL is visual, we get more attention when using it than people who use other foreign languages that are spoken. That’s totally understandable, too. And then there’s the “unusual” factor. Many hearing people have not knowingly encountered a deaf person. So, when they actually get to see one—using their language, no less—it’s captivating. “Wow! It’s an actual, real-live deaf person!”

I suppose I can’t be too judgmental here, because, I’ve done the same thing. When I see people who are “different” than the “norm,” I’m apt to look. I’ve even found myself staring once or twice. Was I embarrassed? Absolutely. Was I wrong? Absolutely.

Although I can understand the curiosity of seeing something that you don’t see often (or possibly have never seen before), it gets so tiring to always BE that thing. I’m sure other groups feel it, too. How many Amish people, when entering a city, get tired of being the center of attention because of the way they’re dressed? How many quadriplegics get frustrated when they attempt to go out with friends and family and everyone in their vicinity wants to watch and see how they do, well, everything? And how many little people become angered because everyone wants to see what they look like and how they accommodate for their size?

It’s no different with us deafies. Just once I would love to go out with my family into a public place and not feel like we’re the Saturday matinee. I feel like I should be selling popcorn, for Pete’s sake. I know it’s beautiful, people. OK? Thank you! But please stop staring!

I think I’ve decided what I’m going to do about this, though. I try to be lucrative, you know. So I’ve decided to start stocking up on disposable cameras. Now, when I do venture out and get as much attention as the five o’clock news, I can simply approach the person(s), hand them one, and charge them ten bucks. Seems fair to me.


  1. Actually, they do say that about other languages -- that it is beautiful. French is one of it.

  2. I got caught staring once. I saw a mom and her son signing at the local Target store (Department store) in Virginia. I could tell by the way the mom was dressed that she was from India or Pakistan and I was curious to see if they used ASL (American Sign Language) or BSL (British Sign Language), well the mom saw me staring at them and she looked at me very harshly. I signed "Sorry I was eye dropping". Well when she saw that I use sign language we had a very nice conversation after.

  3. I find that if I wave and smile to people who are staring, they will either get embarrassed because they've been caught staring, or start a conversation with me.

  4. Art, I'm glad your experience was a positive one.

    Anonymous, I simply *love* your response of waving. It's pretty much what I was saying when I said to give them a camera. Waving would be very effective.

  5. Wow, to think I actually want people to engage me, learn more about Deaf and ASL. Deaf people get so angry because of so much ignorance, but what chances do Hearing really have to learn more about Deaf culture. It is highly interesting to watch people sign, why react harshly, causing more Hearing people to gain a bad opinion of Deaf??

  6. Hi, Aaron. I totally understand what you're saying and I don't react harshly (although I will probably take the advice given above and start waving at people who blatantly stare for long periods of time). In my rant on this blog, I only meant that it would be nice once in a while if I could go out in public and not be stared at. I understand *why* it happens, but it sure would be nice now and then to just enjoy my privacy and the company of whomever I'm with.

  7. I just stumbled upon your blog, and am enjoying it immensely. I do have to say, though, that people are equally invasive with other languages, as well. I'm one of them. I'm a novice Russian speaker, and have often loitered around native speakers just for the thrill of making out words here and there. I try to be subtle about it, and am convinced that I'll stop if I ever get to the point of actually understanding them. On second is a little creepy, isn't it?

  8. Hey JM! Glad you like my blog. :v) Yes, it is creepy, but it seems to be the norm. I was just asking my friend the other day if people who are in first-year Spanish actually approach Hispanics and starts saying things like, "Hola!" Or if it's just ASL students doing it to Deaf people. You've just answered my question. Thanks!! Hope to see more of you here!!