excerpt from Lend Me Your Ear continued…
In a bit of conversation that jarred my very bones, her mother asked me if I was married. “Yes,” I replied tentatively, not sure why this question had come up.

“Is he hearing?” she probed further. And then I knew just why the question had come up and where it was headed.

“Yes, he is,” I confirmed.

“Are you happy—married to him?”

I sputtered a little, I remember, not quite comfortable with the suddenly personal tack that this conversation with a stranger some thousand miles away had taken. But I didn’t know how to turn either back or away (mirrors are like this). “Yes,” I answered simply.

“Well, good—then there’s hope for Lynne, too. Would you tell her that? Could you tell her that she could be married—and happy—with a hearing man?”

I don’t know what I said then. Stories and memories are selective, and, as Benedict Anderson has written, “all profound changes in consciousness, by their very nature, bring with them characteristic amnesias”; mirrors simply cannot say and show it all. But I do know that I felt deeply the pain of a shattered mirror—the pain of trying to be Lynne’s inspiration, her role model, her fetish, her whatever. I could barely get it right for myself, could barely pass either as clearly and securely “d/Deaf” or as “h/Hearing”—how could I ever show someone like Lynne which, if any of those, to be?

I felt very much nailed to the threshold with several tons of doors, from both sides, closing on me.


When I get to feeling this way—trapped, nailed, stuck in between overwhelming options—I tend to get frantic, nervously energized, even mean. And my will to pass, to get through and beyond at all costs, kicks in ferociously. Some animals freeze in fear, shut down in fright; I run—harder, faster, longer. I run until I pass—until I pass on, or out.

And that running always seems to lead me to stories. I have always been a storyteller, a writer, a talker. These “talents” pass me off as “hearing” even as they connect me to “the Deaf way.” “The Deaf way” revolves around narrative, around sharing stories—and the narration itself is, in Deaf culture, far more than incidental to the experience. Using sign language, Deaf culture prides itself on its “oral” and “narrative” nature. And for Deaf people, who tells the story and how they tell it is every bit as important as what the story is. The narrator, then, is in control of the experience instead of vice versa.

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