What I watched most carefully in that mirror was my own just-married relationship with a hearing man and the various reflections of my newfound friend, whom I’ll call Lynn, in her relationships with men, both deaf and hearing, past and present. It was not always a pretty sight—on either side of the mirror. What I saw in watching Lynn and in sharing many conversations with her about the dilemmas of life with a hearing man or life with a deaf man was as inspiring as often as it was scary. Either way, the specter of dependence, never really tangible in that mirror, always lurked: to marry a deaf man meant she (we) would be the one(s) that might be most depended on (especially because as late-deafened and exquisitely literate persons we had skills and experience well worth depending on)—and this, then, would leave us little room for the sometimes necessary dependence of our own; but on the flip side (the magnified side of that mirror?), marrying a hearing man might well mean we would come to be too dependent and would, therefore, put at risk our ability to pass on our own, as our own.
When the woman is deaf, in a culture in which the woman is still seen as typically more “dependent” in a male-female relationship, her further dependence on a hearing partner can dangerously diminish her autonomy. Yet at the same time men typically depend on women in certain specialized areas; as Bonnie Tucker has written in The Feel of Silence, her controversial autobiography about her deafness, men expect their female partners to carry out an array of social functions that demand precisely the kind of communicative competence that is challenging for the deaf.
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