Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Benefit of the Doubt

Out of the excellent posts written for Blogging Against Disablism Day, two in particular stuck in my mind: Sandbox Lessons, by David, and 2nd Annual Blogging Against Disablism Day, by Attila the Mom. I don't want to spoil them by describing how they end, so I'll just say that the general theme is how to respond when a person says something that might reflect ignorance or prejudice about disabilities.

Reading those posts left me thinking about an incident many years ago, when I was getting my hair cut at a beauty salon. The stylist was making the usual chit-chat and then, all of a sudden, asked me "Are you on medication?"

I was completely taken by surprise and just said "no" because I couldn't imagine where that question had come from. I hadn't been talking about any health-related topics at all. After I left the salon, it occurred to me that she might have been referring to psych meds—that she might have thought something I said was weird. As far as I knew, though, I hadn't said anything out of the ordinary. It was puzzling and annoying, and I decided to start having my hair cut somewhere else, so as to avoid any more personal questions from her.

Years later, I thought about it again and realized that in all likelihood, she was referring to the sound of my voice, rather than the content of the conversation. She probably thought that my voice didn't sound "normal," and maybe her question was a roundabout way of asking what was wrong with me. I wished that I could've thought up a snappy comeback or two in real time, or that I had pointedly asked her to explain what she meant by asking such an intrusive question.

That conversation percolated back up into my consciousness again yesterday, and a few other, more benign, possibilities came to mind. Maybe the stylist had a friend or family member who took some sort of medication that affected their speech. Or she might have had other customers who frequently talked about their health issues in great detail. (You know what I mean if you've ever had the misfortune of being in a beauty salon while several women of a certain age are having a lively discussion of their change-of-life woes.)

Now I'm thinking that perhaps a simple "no" was the best answer to give, after all. Considering how much obvious hate and prejudice can be found in the world, it's probably best not to waste time and mental energy stewing about the ambiguous stuff.



  • Thanks for the link.
    You're right - sometimes it's hard to tell the meaning behind the comment.
    I've enjoyed reading your blog - I've learned a lot.

    By Blogger David, at 8:15 PM  

  • By Blogger Pedro Morgado, at 9:34 PM  

  • I do agree with your observation that personal stuff often seems the norm in hair salons. Sometimes the salon seems more like "group therapy" than a place to get your haircut! But, one other possible reason for the stylist's question - maybe she saw some effect in your hair that occurs with a health or medicine issue. Seems far-fetched, but a possibility. If so, she asked the question in an odd way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:52 PM  

  • One can only wonder what her next question would have been had you answered "yes."

    Judge Judy, of all people, has asked that exact same question of some of her litigants. It struck me as entirely too personal and invasive a question to be asking someone, let alone on national TV. I suppose it was her way of finding out if one of the litigants had some sort of neurological condition she should be aware of, but it seems to me that this roundabout way of asking is no better than just being direct about it.

    By Blogger Chasmatazz, at 10:58 PM  

  • Thanks for the link!

    You know, I've been asked if I've been on medication before (I was---on a 6th month course of antibiotics) by a stylist. I can't remember why she asked it---it was nearly 20 years or so ago, but it had something to do with my hair. It was weird. LOL

    As always, loved your post...

    By Blogger Attila The Mom, at 12:45 AM  

  • Commenting a bit late, but I'd be surprised if it were because she noticed something "off" about you. I've been asked the same thing more than once, and was puzzled the first time. (I was also on some psych meds at the time, which did make me wonder about the motivation there.) The second time another stylist mentioned that certain medications, including some common ones for high blood pressure, can affect one's hair and what chemical processes are appropriate to use on it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:25 PM  

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