Saturday, April 10, 2010

So there was an Asian, Polish and Deaf guy

Since my son mainstreamed at the beginning of the year at the art school I have been in a state of shock, a good shock. We have, as a family been invited into a magical world. My son has transformed from a bored slightly depressed kid to an emerging young man full of hope, talent and promise. We have had some challenges and I suspect that will continue but it is worth it. I have also been scared. Scared of the unknown.

So tonight I will venture out with my family to watch my son's high school friends do stand up comedy show. I will interpret. I posted about this before and to prepare for this I am chugging energy drinks. *well carrot juice and tofu but you get the point*

Hearing humor is different from Deaf humour but he loves it so of course I want him to enjoy this. To be honest the kids are so funny I am looking forward to it. This got me thinking about jokes and teasing. For us teasing is scary, it means someone gets hurt. It got me thinking about myself and how sometimes I am not really understanding the world my son lives in.

This is complicated so I hope I frame it correctly.

When my son was cast in a dinner show I noticed the kids were always joking around. They became so close that nothing that was different about them was a reason for conflict. What I mean by this is they have an intimacy that allows for a feeling of family. They have to expose themselves to be good at what they do so they are all vulnerable.

There were two boys one Latino and one Jewish who were best friends. They would tease each other and themselves about this.

My family jokes about hearing and Deaf stuff so that is similar but we would never joke about a group that we did not belong to.

This school environment has it's own culture that just happens to have kids from every walk of life. It is a lot like Deaf culture. Deaf people come from every corner of life and come together to share a culture. The kids at school are artists often from non artistic families. They are interested in things that set them apart from other kids. They are geeks or nerds to many but to us they are geniuses. They have a community and culture.

So here is where I am going with this. I was afraid they would tease my son about being Deaf.

This group of theater kids were so close and my son was part of this family. It turns out they don't view him as lesser or disabled. It turns out they admire his talents and enjoyed his company. It turns out he is part of the family.

It also turns out though that this cannot make them really know what deaf means yet. Because they feel so at home with him they also feel free to include Deaf into their culture and sometimes miss the mark. The point though is Deaf is now part of the school culture. The whole school includes it as a normal part of the community.

A film focus kid just wrote a script about a Deaf kid crushing on a hearing girl. He wants my son to act in it. Cool but in the script the interpreter hugs my son's deaf student character. Well not good. In the script my son's interpreter doesn't show up for work and then later tells the boy that she can't come the next day.
"Do you want a replacement she asks? "
"No he replies, it is OK"
So the story itself is good but the technical stuff is really bad. I will see these kids tonight and need to find a way to broach this.

*please don't jump on this*

Something else happened yesterday that showed me this new culture. I was instructed by my son to meet him after school. He has hatched a plan with a teacher and Senior to go to the Deaf school to teach some acting workshops. He wanted me to go and help. Cool. After the meeting I stayed to help the teacher. We chatted and cleaned up a project.

While we did this my son and daughter hung out with the Senior. The craziest thing happened that opened my eyes so wide I saw the light.

My son and this other boy were telling each other they were fat.

* OK settle down. So they both have flexible dancer bodies and zero fat. They have nothing against folks who have different body types in fact part of their tribe could be viewed as obese. These are kids who live outside of the norm in a rainbow tribe. Please stay focused on the point. *

What they were doing was so interesting. Using sign the other boy would say maybe, "You are so fat that when you are around the house it means you you surround the house" my son would come back with a clever response, " You are so fat that when you step on a scale is says "one at a time please". They were doing this back and forth for 30 minutes. They love comedy and improv so this was a moment of social fun for them not a moment of hate or prejudice. Sometimes my 7 year old would help the hearing boy with a sign but not much. This boy learned to sign from my son. The give and take was natural. They were laughing so hard it took over the room.

It was hard for me to see this but then I saw that there was no malice. What does this mean?

Meanwhile the teacher and I were sharing time as two parents enjoying mutual support about real life things as all parents should do. Think about that.

So after the joking stopped my son asked his friend about dance Focus. His friend is 18 and mentor to him. They became serious. His friend coached him with his signs. He calmed his fears like a big brother. It was much the same as the Deaf adult mentors my son has had. I think about that....

Oh, one of his friends posted this video and I think it is so funny. It is a school project that is "A letter to me in 10 years". He made it before he knew my son.Now there is the caption option. The problem is the new YouTube caption option doesn't even come close. The comedy is so English and the references are from classic movie lines. I love that things are changing but geez the captions ....... sorry Deaf folks my son was confused too. I had to go back and sign the whole thing for him.

So I am learning that all of these kids expose themselves with their fears and weakness and learn from each other. They don't judge their differences. As a result they have a community. As a result they become family. what if we all did this? I think about this. What if?.....

Anyway, time for dinner and to get creamed at an acting game by my kids. Then off to the comedy show.....wish me luck.

This blog is very personel and I try to be frank and honest. Some of the topics are not easy to share but I found in our travels people are so nervous about being judged we don't get the gift of learning from others.

In order to respect my son he reads each post and has the final say in what gets posted.


  1. The exchange between your son and his friend trading fat jokes is called "signifying" in the Black community. The object is to be clever with wording, even rhyming, and creative in insults. Deaf people do it too, in ASL using exaggerated gestures often referring to body parts. All in fun, tho embarrassing or outrageous.

  2. Hee hee Dianrez! You always have the best insight. Come to think of it I have seen my son doing this with his Deaf friends.