Dont you just love holiday parties? You greet old friends, and you meet new people, and you get to sample all kinds of yummy treats. For a visually impaired person, or for anyone who is not skilled at interjecting herself into others conversations, it can be a challenge. Speaking from the point of view of one who fits both categories, I have to share my experience of how yesterdays party was a satisfying and successful one, due to the sensitivity of my friend Eve.
It was her traditional New Years Day brunch, and many of her neighbors and bike club friends gathered for a scrumptious meal, snacks, and Mimosas. Typically, the first thing a host wants to do with a blind guest is to find her a chair. As my dear friend Deborah Kendrick says, this is a deadly mistake. Never sit down, because, in doing so, you have just been plunked down like a package. Keep standing, preferably near the food or beverages. Thats where people will have to pass you and maybe talk to you. You are then recognized as a person who might have something interesting or entertaining to say. When you are plunked down, you become invisible. If you cant catch the eye of someone who comes near you, you are ignored. Ive found that people are reluctant to start a conversation with someone who cant make eye contact, and if Im the one trying to start the conversation, its only a successful interchange if you can keep that persons attention without eye contact. The sensitive sighted person will contribute to the success of the conversation with verbal responses or an occasional touch on the arm or shoulder to make a point. On the other hand, the unthinking sighted person might see someone he or she would like to speak to across the room and not let the blind person know verbally as in Excuse me, I want to go say hello to Joe. I cant tell you how many times I have been left talking to the air, because I didnt know the person I was talking to had left my side.
Yesterday, at Eves party, I was not an invisible woman, and heres how Eve prevented that from happening. She brought me into the kitchen, where all the action was. I took a seat at the kitchen counter, mostly because of my sciatic nerve pain, which prevents me from standing for more than 30 seconds. This was the next best thing to standing near the food and beverages. I was in the middle of everything and yet I wasnt in the way. I could chat with people as they brought in dishes to share and to Eve as she bustled to and fro, doing hostess things. Now and then, shed perch on another stool beside me, to take a sip of her own mimosa, but when she had to leave, she always said, Ive got to go do this or that. Ill be back in a minute. Another plus for me was that she took me through the buffet line herself. She was the one person who knew what every dish contained. Not once did she say, Heres some green stuff. I dont know what it is. Do you want some? After the main meal had been consumed, Eve offered to take me to a more comfortable chair, but I was very happy to stay there in the kitchen, as thats where my bike buddies had clustered. It was fun to hear their stories and plans for future trips. My bike buddies, Tricia and Sharon, were also very attentive, making sure my glass wasnt empty and offering to let me know what the choices were on the dessert table.
Once, I went to a birthday party, where the only person I knew was the guest of honor. Never again. I was the very definition of the invisible woman, even though I had my guide dog with me. Educated people know that they should not talk to the dog, so they tend also not to talk to me either, thus making me feel invisible. Im so happy to say that yesterday, I was not the invisible woman.