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The other day at work, I walked a young man to the office (for the school’s safety sake, we have been asked to walk “strangers” to the office). This young man was somewhat of a hippie, round glasses, hair pulled back in a pony tail and a tie die shirt. He seemed friendly. I think he was a volunteer for an after-school program.  I was doing my small talk~ sweet, friendly and welcoming. And, he signed back to me.

As I’ve gotten older, I don’t react as much. I used to get so angry. Angry because I know far more Spanish than I do sign language. I even know how to read and write in Hebrew. I know very little sign language. My parents chose to raise me as an oral speaker. Angry because I may still have that “deaf tone” and many kind strangers hear it and automatically start signing to me (if they know sign language). How dare they assume that I know the language. Not that signing is a crime. In fact, it’s very controversial which requires a whole different blog itself.

Assumptions are dangerous. It creates ignorance. According to Mirriam-Webster Online, ignorance means a lack of knowledge, understanding, or education. I’m sure the young gentleman wasn’t trying to be mean~ I’m sure he was a very nice man~ I’m sure he didn’t mean to make me feel angry~ I’m sure he would have felt bad if I told him that his assumption bothered me~ but whatever it was, it’s still ignorance.

All my life, I’ve had many comments about sign language: I want to learn sign language, it looks like ballet (I wonder what people who actually sign think of that statement); Oh, my baby know sign language, we’ve taken baby signing classes together. (Oh, I see); Oh I want my students to learn a song in sign language, can you help us? (Um. I don’t know sign language); It’s a shame that your parents didn’t teach you sign language, it makes me so sad (said one deaf woman to me).

I don’t mind if you ask me if I know the language. That’s probably a better thing to do instead of assuming.

I’m much more than a “hard of hearing” person. I don’t wake up in the morning reminding myself that I’m hard of hearing. Nowadays, my morning consists of nursing my little baby. I’m a mother first. Then the rest of me follows~ a woman, a wife, a teacher, a photographer, a write and back to being a mother again (because motherhood never really leaves me).



About Amy Pogrebin Bremenstuhl

Life is noisy~ in a messy way. I thought I'd try writing about surviving the hearing world every day for 365 Days.

6 responses »

  1. And a bestbian. I know a sign…it only takes one finger though ;). Hehe. I have always thought your parents were selfless (moving across the country for you) and brilliant to go the route they did. And from knowing you, I much more educated than I was prior. I laugh more, too!!!


  2. Amy Pogrebin Bremenstuhl

    I’m glad that we’re such a good influence for one another. You do make me laugh in ways that no one else can!!!
    And, yes, cheers to my parents!


  3. Selina Bremenstuhl

    Thank you so much for what you write and for sharing your knowledge with us. Those who sign need to read your blog and understand when it is appropriate to use sign language. It would be like my knowing Spanish well (which I don’t) and using Spanish with everyone in Riverside who appears to be Latino/Hispanic. It was extremely kind of you to help him find his way at your school. It sounds like he needs additional help finding his way in life.


    • Amy Pogrebin Bremenstuhl

      You are so right about assuming that someone speaks Spanish just because s/he is Latino! It’s really the same thing. Thanks for you sweet comments!


  4. Oh geez now I’m reviewing my life to see if I’ve ever done that. I don’t think I have. It is funny, though, as a hearing person who has at one time known sign language (all I remember now are the signs for “toilet” and “I’m fed up!”), how you can feel so savvy and magnanimous toward deaf people, like you’re doing them a great favor by unleashing some signing on them. You’re right Amy, it IS ridiculous. Still, at the heart of it, I have to believe, is an interest in connecting. We want to connect. I want to connect. Sometimes we just do it so stupidly, don’t we?


  5. I honestly have never thought about that before but I can see how someone making this particular faux pas would probably be only doing so from a good place. I can see now how it is offensive (particularly after reading the comment re Spanish speakers/Hispanic folks. It is amazing of your parents that they worked so hard to help you so you could communicate with many instead of some. That is incredible.



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