Naturally, this isn't the first time—in over 30 years—someone has said something of this nature to me. I regularly get people asking me, "What's wrong with you, anyway?" Even more people say nothing at all. However, every time it happens, I have to check myself; it makes me hyper-aware of how I do things and sets up a lot of cognitive dissonance in me.
The backstory: One or two days a week I walk and feed a dog for a disabled elderly person named Larry, plus feed and inject his cat with insulin. There are different health aides for Larry on different days; I've been covering an additional day that an aide named Vadalyn works; she's from Trinidad or one of the islands, and apparently because she changes adult diapers for a living, she feels a need to distinguish herself by calling other people "retarded."
My lesson here is to consider the source, but still it stings to be called "retarded," even indirectly. Because Larry is developmentally-disabled even before the stroke a few years ago that made him require 24-hour attendant care, he can't be trusted to keep a secret. If you tell Larry anything, it's because you want everyone to know.
My reaction to this has been to do a slow burn, but as regards Vadalyn, all bets are off. I've been aware certain things I was doing—leaving utensils in the sink, for instance—weren't acceptable to her, but I wasn't aware she considered a symptom of my mental retardation. Now, I'm not going to bother apologizing or saying "Good morning" to her; after all, if I'm irreparably mentally defective, why bother?
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