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American Annals of the Deaf

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Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School

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In the following excerpt, the young girl was not specifically teased for her hearing loss but was singled out for ostracism because of her differentness.

I was invited to a sleep-over birthday party in the fourth or fifth grade, attended by the most popular girls in my class. My mother had bought me a new outfit for the occasion and I was excited. Late in the evening, for some reason, the group of girls turned on me. I'm not sure how it happened but one of them stepped on my head as I was sleeping, and this was soon followed by another act of physical violence. I remember the girl whose party it was asking me, "Does it bother you when people are so mean to you?" F 93

What is a child to do when beset with such odds? I actually hosted a slumber party when I was in the sixth grade, knowing full well that it would be a difficult situation for me because the girls would talk incessantly in the dark. Regardless, my desire to fit in was so intense that I didn't care about that. I just wanted them to like me for inviting them to my party.

This was the first of actually several parties I hosted fully cognizant that I would not be a part of my own party! I am almost embarrassed to tell of these attempts to fit in: They reek of the lack of disclosure that pervaded my life, an example set by my father and the time and place in which we lived. Today, I think of these attempts as pitiful. I really hope that deaf and hard of hearing children today don't feel compelled to become complicit with such pretense.

In sixth grade, there were several girls in school who I really wanted to befriend. They were a tight-knit group, and one day they "let me" sit with them in the cafeteria. I clearly remember being so excited at the possibility of being let into their circle. At the same time, I was frightened that they wouldn't like me. I convinced my mother to let me have that slumber party. I distinctly remember one day at lunch asking, "Would you like to come to a slumber party at my house?" They looked at each other and giggled and laughed, and then said yes.

Later, at the actual slumber party, the five or six girls, whom I invited and really wanted to be friends with, stayed up all night talking while I laid in the dark, hearing their voices but not understanding one word they said.

That sixth grade party was not the worst of it. As a teenager I held at least three parties that I can remember where I invited all the "cool kids" even though I was not one of them. They would come to my house (or to where I was babysitting), and proceeded to party in their usual way. I was left alone. They were all paired off, doing what high school kids do at parties. I would busy myself with setting up food, putting away food, getting more food, or pretending I had something to do upstairs. For the entire party. I tried to escape the stark difference between their paired off activities and my solitary hostess role by frantically keeping busy.

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