The Crinoline.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was dressing up in the treasures I found in the Costume Box.  The Costume Box was a large cardboard box, about half as tall as I was, stuffed with dress-up clothes and the remnants and makings of past years’ costumes. There was a little bit of everything in that box. 

Digging through the Costume Box was a lot like shopping at the thrift store; the clothing even had that same musty smell.  There were rips and stains, broken zippers, missing buttons, and worn-out elastic.  But that didn’t matter, because inside that box lay nearly infinite potential.  Inside that box were dancers and witches and hobos and ghosts and loggers and eccentric old aunties; monsters and princesses and soldiers and cowboys and even the Devil himself.  The only limit was our imagination.

One of my favorite finds in that box was an itchy crinoline slip with a torn seam.  In their younger years, my parents had been members of a square dancing club, and my brother and eldest sister also danced.  This was way before my time, but I’d seen photos of them in their finery, and I loved the look of the stand-out slips under the full skirts. I would shimmy into that crinoline and spin around until I was dizzy.  It made me feel like a princess.

When my middle school gym teacher announced that we would be learning to square dance, I begged Mother to make me a square dance skirt.  I pictured myself in a fancy skirt that swished as I swung through a do-si-do.  I just knew I would be the best dancer in the whole class, because I would have the best outfit. 

Mother made me a lovely circle skirt of blue gingham check.  When I tried it on with the crinoline I was so happy!  It was gorgeous, and I couldn’t wait to dance in it.  I would have slept in it, if Mother had let me.

The day we were to begin square dancing in gym class, I proudly donned the skirt and crinoline and a white, peasant-style blouse.  Mind you, I was probably eleven years old and not fully acquainted with what was ‘cool’ and what was not.  (I’m still like that.)  By the time I arrived at school, the kids on the bus had conveyed to me in no uncertain terms that my beautiful skirt and itchy slip were most definitely not cool.  I tried to ignore their laughter, but they weren’t the only ones; many other kids were happy to inform me, as well. 

I arrived in class with my spirit dampened and my enthusiasm trampled, but I still looked forward to dancing.  My teacher, bless her heart, complimented me on my outfit, encouraging me to stand and twirl to show it off.  She then had me demonstrate some of the moves we would be learning, which effectively silenced my critics and allowed me to salvage some tatters of my pride.

I never wore that skirt to school again.  The memory of the ridicule still stings a little.  Before long I outgrew it, and it was forgotten with the other clothes that were now too small for my awkward, adolescent body.  I like to think the skirt made its way to the Costume Box to join the crinoline, but I don’t know for sure. 

Perhaps it went to the Salvation Army so some other little girl could feel like a princess in an itchy crinoline and twirly skirt.  I can only hope.

Thanks, Mom.

 

photo credit Pink Sherbet Photography (D Sharon Pruitt)

Part III – Lend Me a Hand.

new glasses
My new specs. Stylin’!

My eyesight is poor; I have one myopic (near-sighted) and one hyperopic (far-sighted) eye.  I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 7 years old, and bifocals since age 35.  Nobody makes fun of me for wearing glasses, nor should they; it is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Before I had my hips replaced, I used a cane to get around.  Nobody made fun of me for that, either; they recognized that I had a need for it, and that was that.  No shame necessary.

Yes, that's me.  That zipper is on my jeans.  ;-)
yes, that’s me.

But because of the stigma attached to hearing loss, people won’t admit they need help.  Often the perception is that wearing a hearing aid makes you appear less intelligent.  Hearing aids are assumed to be for old or disabled people, and that stigma is a very real reason that a lot of hearing loss goes undiagnosed and untreated.  It didn’t help that older hearing devices were large and bulky; people did not want to wear them because they were ugly and awkward. 

The irony is, though, that untreated hearing loss is far more noticeable than today’s hearing devices.  Chances are good that you have chatted with a person wearing hearing instruments and never noticed them.  On the other hand, constantly asking someone to repeat what they said, turning the volume up on the radio and TV, and speaking loudly are tell-tale signs of hearing loss. 

Sufferers struggle on a daily basis to hear and understand their environment; it can be exhausting and socially isolating.  The hearing-impaired person feels frustrated, angry, defeated, embarrassed and ridiculed.  Eventually, many drop out of life, in a way.  They stop trying and withdraw, because that is easier.  As for me, I resigned myself to a lifetime of permanent hearing loss.

A dear friend of mine has a rare gene mutation that causes, among other things, eventual deafness.  She also attends a lot of concerts and shows, and had worked for many years in an industrial environment.  She had been having difficulty when more than one person was talking or where background noise like television would mask the softer sounds of conversation, just like me. She got hearing aids, and she told me she loved them. 

Even after she told me that, I rationalized that her case was different, and my hearing loss was untreatable, because that’s what I had been told as a child.  It wasn’t until Mr. Stuck talked candidly to me about my hearing – telling me that even my sons and my friends were noticing that it was getting worse – that I agreed to go see an audiologist again.  I warned the Mr. that it would probably be a waste of time, but I would go.

Continued in Part IV...

photo credit Ephemeral Scraps