Disability and Hybrid Expression

In his excellent novel Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides offers the following resplendent passage:

“Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy.” I'd like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I'd like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever. ”

There’s a hint of Mark Twain here—Twain who once said: “…mastery of the art and spirit of the Germanic language enables a man to travel all day in one sentence without changing cars.”

But emotion, which is necessarily complex should absolutely require hybrid expression. Any true account of feeling must be composed of elaboration. Disabled people know this and live it. “The disappointment of finding an auditorium is inaccessible, when the talk for the evening is about human rights.” “The misery of being asked by concert security to leave the theater because your wheelchair is blocking the aisle.” “The humiliation of being told we just filled that job when just this morning you were encouraged to come in for an interview and now they see you’re blind.” Compared to these, Eugenides hybrids are tame, even quaint.

Disability is both corporeal in-pleasure and un-pleasure, which is to say embodiment is diverse and dynamic, refined, lovely in the mind itself, and yet, whatever is not enabled becomes transitive and dislocating. There's a simultaneity to ableist narrations of un-belonging and my crippled friends know the phenomenon quite well. Hybrid ableism reduces one's affect, bleaches the mind, and it's tedious. “The loss that occurs when you're told your protests for inclusion are tiresome to the normals.”


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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