If you know me at all, you know that I'm a peacekeeper. I'm pretty quiet and I typically try to fly under the radar-- especially in public. I hate causing a scene, because I know that my appearance alone draws enough unwanted attention, so I usually try to balance that out with a calm personality. However, I use the words "typically" and "usually" because there are always exceptions. And this is one of them.
Since turning 21 earlier this summer, I have come to learn about the whole new world of the bar scene. Like any other senior in college, I enjoy going out with my friends on weekends and catching up over a drink or two and dancing. Always dancing. But along with the fun comes a lot of intoxicated people and I know all too well the results of combining alcohol and dwarfism-- or any difference for that matter. At the beginning, I learned to just accept people's rudeness and move on and try to focus on having fun with my friends. My parents raised me to not let my disability stop me from enjoying life and going to the bars is definitely part of enjoying life-- can I get an amen from someone in the back?
This whole new experience has brought a lot of ups and downs, but for the most part the good has outweighed the bad. And I believed it always would. And then last night happened. Some friends and I set out with the "work never ends but college does" attitude, determined to have a great Thursday night. But it was ugly, due to some unwanted and rude people saying very inappropriate things. I have spent the day reflecting on the things that happened and that I should not have to accept.
Here are the 5 things that you (read: probably not actually YOU, but people in general) do not get to say to me anymore:
#1 "HOLY SHIT I LOVE LITTLE PEOPLE!"
Not one single conversation that has started with this line has ever ended well, yet people keep using it. On any given weekend night, I hear this line shouted from across the dance floor or bar as a sad attempt to gain my attention. Don't even bother asking, because no, you cannot take a picture of me to put on your snap story. I came to have a drink with my friends and have some fun after a long week of work. I do not care to hear about how much you love Little People Big World. And no, for the love of Jesus himself, I am not a cast member from Little Women: LA. Also, might I add that there would be a problem if I entered a bar and approached a group of people, shouting, "I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE!"? It is not-- and never will be-- ok to refer to people only by their appearance. When you acknowledge me only for the fact that I am a person with dwarfism and you, for some reason, think that's awesome, then you have objectified my physical disability to mean more than the other things that make me who I am-- my personality, my dedication to my education and future career, my friendships and willingness to meet new people, and probably my really embarrassing laugh. Yes, I do wholeheartedly believe I am an awesome person who… also has dwarfism. You can leave it at that.
On the other hand, if you enter the bar, see me from across the room, and run towards me yelling, "Oh my god it's Courtney!!!!" followed by a hug and more screaming, chances are you're one of my sorority sisters and we haven't seen each other for like the last 18 hours, so we're about to take a photo for Instagram. That's fine.
Alternative option: Wave, ask my name, and come dance with me and my friends. We are some great people who know how to have a great time and it doesn't really matter that I am a little person.
#2 "You're every guy in here's dream."
Nope, I'm just going to stop you right there. I don't want to hear about your fantasies of having sex with a little person-- or midget, the term you probably used. You only feel that way because of the disgusting things that you have seen in the media. Having sex with someone who is smaller than you will not make your penis appear larger. Your comments are objectifying, offensive, and way beyond intrusive. In response to any variation of this line, I will probably just turn away from you and towards my friends, because I really suck at coming up with something to say to your face. Please don't offer to buy me a drink if I've already stopped conversation, because then I'm really going to have to find something to say to make you leave and you won't like it. You'll get a little butthurt and that leads us to #3.
Alternative option: If you want to approach me at the bar and tell me that I'm beautiful, cool! I already know that I am, but it doesn't hurt hearing it respectfully from someone else. Introduce yourself. And if we vibe well and you care to offer to buy me a drink, I'll probably accept. I'm not scary.
#3 "What, you don't like me because I'm (insert a race, religion, or other identifying group here)?"
Yes, exactly! I'm trying to end this shitty conversation with you because you're Mexican! No, actually, I don't like you simply for the fact that my asshole meter is alarming right now and you stink of complete, utter bullshit. I like to consider myself a very friendly person. I will carry on a conversation with literally anyone-- people waiting in line at the grocery store, my pharmacist, cute elderly people at church, the mailman, you name it. I got that trait from my mom, the lady who will tell her life story to anyone who will listen (even if they didn't want to hear it). THEREFORE. If I am acting in anyway that indicates that I do not want to talk to you, you probably did or said something to piss me off, whether or not it included points #1 or #2 and NOT because you have purple hair, are Atheist, speak a different language, are wearing a Packer's jersey, etc.
Alternative option: "I'm very sorry that I offended you. Can you tell me what I did wrong so that I may fix it?" I'm a super forgiving person and I understand that some people make mistakes due to being uneducated. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt if you seem sincere.
So if you're like my mom, you've probably read this far and are thinking, "Gosh, Courtney, maybe going out to the bars is not the greatest idea. How about you find somewhere safer to hang out?"
I'm just going to hit you back with a big NO. Because I have heard this line too many damn times:
#4 "Well, that's what happens at bars."
No. I refuse to believe that. I will not believe that. Saying such a thing puts the blame on the victim-- ahem, me-- suggesting that I shouldn't go if I don't want to be offended or violated. As a 21-year-old female college student, I have every right as the next person to go out with my friends on the weekend and grab a couple drinks, dance, and maybe even talk to a cute guy or two, then eat leftover pizza for breakfast the next day with my roommates and binge watch Netflix as we recover.
So, no, the things I have experienced is not what "happens at bars." That's what happens when people are uneducated, rude, and haven't been raised by their mamas to love and accept other people for their differences. I won't stop going out with my friends because of my bad experiences. I do not have to sacrifice my fun weekends because of the actions of others. Instead, I will fight against it and hope that maybe one day, these people will understand that I don't have to take their shit.
Alternative option: "How about we try a new bar and see if we can meet some new people elsewhere?" You can't run from bad experiences, but I am always up for trying something new. Even better? "Hey, I know when we go out tonight, there may be some rude people out there, but we are still going to make it a fun night." Damn right we are.
Last, but definitely not least, here's the kicker of them all. As my friends and family and people who love me, you have probably said this to me as an attempt to help, without realizing that it's not helpful at all… but that's ok. We're all learning. In the future, just try to please take this off your List of Things to Say to Courtney When She's Upset:
It bothers me. That's why we're here. That's why, at 10pm on a Friday night, I'm laying in bed writing this instead of hopping on the bus to The District to order another Funky Monkey at Daiquiri Factory or dancing on the speakers at 2nd Ave. I'm not going out tonight. I'm speaking out tonight.
Unless you are a 4'2", blonde hair, blue eyed, 21-year-old, female, Communication Sciences and Disorders major at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois with Achondroplastic Dwarfism, YOU do not get to tell me that I shouldn't let it bother me. Unless you are Courtney Lynn Simross, YOU do not get to say that those people don't matter. You've never cried on the bus ride home because you overheard guys laughing about how they'd love to "f*ck a midget" but that they'd make sure to wear a condom because they "don't want one of those kids."
Alternative option: "Yes, this hurts and it's unfair. What are we going to do so that it hopefully doesn't happen again?" Hint? Education and awareness. Always. If you love me, you'll join me in this fight. It's not fun. But I know that one day people will catch on and stop being so rude. One day.