Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That word.

Yes, this is almost copied verbatim from a post I put up at Ouch earlier. Yes, I still have to do a comple update on my rather fabulous Ireland holiday (maybe tomorrow). Yes, I am crap at updating. But look at me trying! Look look look. Thank you.

There's a word that I hate. Not because there's anything wrong with it, in itself . Just because it doesn't apply to me or my partner or our relationship. And that word is 'carer'.

Today, The Girl and I were at the cinema. (Two films in one day, because we are odd like that. Wall-E is awesome. Take your children, or indeed random kids you found on the street outside the cinema. Also Prince Caspian, a film which I liked immensely for nostalgia reasons, but also a film which The Girl crapped all over on the way home. Silly Girl.) Anyway, I was on crutches today, as we were able to park near the cinema. The height of the reception desk was so high that the cashier couldn't see that I was using crutches; to his view, I was invisibly impaired. I wonder whether this is the reason for what came afterwards, or not. I think so. The Girl thinks not. We are ever in opposition. It is the wonderful way of things on which our relationship is based. (We bicker like an old married couple. Seriously.)

But I digress. So I'm at the cashier's desk, and I hand over my Cinema Exhibitor's Association card, which entitles a friend to go in free with me. And they proceed to ask two very odd questions - both times. First, "Where's your carers' card?" (whatever that is - we wonder whether the guy was actually asking for more 'proof', which is fucked up and also just irritating, as my friends don't exactly travel with proof of their friendship status in relation to me). Second, "Which of you is the carer?"

I was insulted by the way the question was phrased, but on the first occasion I was floored by it, so I pointed out The Girl. Second time around, however, I decided to take a stand. "I don't have a carer. This is my assistant*. A better question would be, which of you is the disabled person? So perhaps you should ask this next time." (Although I have since realised that even that question would be stupid and irrelevant, since the cashier can never decide which of us gets to sign off on the use of the card.) The cashier was apologetic, but said it was the language he had been taught to use. (I have sent a slightly sarcastic complaint suggesting Disability Equality Training, in response to this. Let's see if they ever reply.)

So we get home, and we look up this "Carers' Card". I'm really not sure if it's something separate to the CEA card, or the same thing but they didn't recognise my card as this. Or if it was the weird 'more proof' thing I mentioned above. Which is still fucked up. Either way, though, I am not happy. I am TIRED of many things. Tired of being spoken about as though I am stupid. Tired of people talking to the person with me, instead of to me - and this happens regardless of whether I'm usig my wheelchair or crutches. And most of all, tired of that bloody word, which my partner and I continue to fight against, because she is NOT my carer, nor does she wish to be, nor do I wish her to be. It is not that she doesn't assist me; of course she does. But that's just a regular part of our life, as far as we're concerned. I am lucky enough to have PAs (for a paltry few hours a week), but even if I didn't, she wouldn't be a carer. She's my partner. That is the end of it, as far as I'm concerned. Not, sadly, as far as everyone else is concerned.

As I walked away from the counter, I pointed out to TG that I used to be a middle management-level teacher with several years of professional experience to whom people spoke to directly and often with slightly less of a patronising tone. Not that my job, former or present, is important; just that I can't cope with the shift to a general assumption that I am stupid and need constant looking after. Half the time these people are surprised I even manage to leave the house...

On the Ouch board after I posted this, Lisy amusedly reminded me that we are going to an REM gig together in August, and she is going as my 'free ticket', mainly because she's driving so she's going to be the nearest thing to a PA that there will be. We just can't wait for them to ask "Which of you is the carer?" Heh.

Note: I in no way wish to disparage family carers here. I know that many people are out there doing a fantastic job of supporting disabled people, often with little support themselves. But that's not my point. This is about my relationship, and assumptions made about me and my partner - on many levels. Oh, and about the utterly crappy service at Vue Finchley Road. Don't go there. Just don't. Both lifts will be broken down, you'll pay a fortune for parking despite having a blue badge, all the accessible spaces will be full with cars which are not displaying blue badges, and the cashiers will ask you really stupid questions.

*Saying "This is the woman I sleep with" instead might raise eyebrows...


grace said...

"which is fucked up and also just irritating, as my friends don't exactly travel with proof of their friendship status in relation to me"

Exactly. It's as though caring is incompatible with relationship... and it's common sense flung out of the picture. I've travelled on friends disabled railcards as a "carer" before, though, and have never received anything other than courtesy from rail staff...

andrea said...

This story reminds me of a routine that a couple of friends used to do ... two gals and a guy lived together, and one of the gals was partnered with the guy, and the other gal was simply a roomie.

Every now and then they would get one of those annoying sales phone calls asking for Mrs. Guy's Name. Of course, technically there was no Mrs. Guy's Name; even after the gal and guy got married, she was still herself. So one of the three would answer the phone, and holding the mouthpiece slightly away, would (most scandelously!) holler out, "Who wants to be Mrs. Guy's Name today?"

To which the two of you could simply ask each other, "Which one of is us the 'Carer' today?" :-D