At dinner last week, I was talking to one of my friends about the drama department. Across the table, another friend – I’ll call her Melanie – covered her mouth with her hand as if she had just cursed inappropriately. “Oh no!” she moaned.
My girlfriend leaned towards her and patted her on the shoulder. “If you start to say it, just say ‘ridiculous’ instead,” she advised.
I realized what had happened – Melanie had used the r-word, and then realized that she had done it. She looked up at me and said “I’m sorry! I feel like I let you down.”
I got up and walked around the table to give her a hug.
At first it was hard for my friends to remember even to avoid the r-word around me, let alone to cut it out of their vocabularies entirely. But gradually, they all stopped saying the word. They started telling me that now, they cringed when they heard someone else say it. I saw them explain to other people why using the r-word was wrong. My old roommate even asked his colleagues at his summer job to stop using it.
I think that now, they all understand that the r-word has real impact, that it hurts me and other disabled people. They didn’t all think that last year. But they got where they are now because they took me seriously when I said I didn’t want to hear that word from my friends.
I have the best friends ever.