Fear and Loathing

Acting scary and being scary are very different things. I noted this the other day when Joe and I went out for lunch. We’d finished our meal and decided to stroll around the mall window shopping, otherwise being described as ‘between paydays’. I noticed a young woman of maybe about 14 sitting on a bench, rocking, flapping her arms, and making what I would describe as happy sounds. She seemed overwhelmed by happiness. A woman stood beside her, not in the least trying to stop her, but she was smiling broadly too.

Now, let me tell you what brought this little scene to my attention. It was the looks of horror and fear on the faces of others who rushed by them, as if they fled contagion. They feared her. I have always liked the term ‘disphobia’ because I think we, as a community, have never really addressed the deep fear and loathing that disability generates in a remarkably high number of alt-normal community members. This word says that much more profoundly that ableism in my mind.

Her presence, her manner, her sounds, her public presentation was evaluated through a lens of panic at who she was and what she represented and what they feared for themselves or their family.

People were afraid.


We stop at the food court for a cup of tea. His black, mine green.

At a table, two down, and three to the right. Sits a young teen woman, interestingly about the same age as the woman instilling fear into those who receive it openly. She is alone. She is pretty. She is quietly eating a burger.

No one fears her.

But, yet, moments ago she said something unbearably cruel to a girl who had been sitting with her. She said it loudly. She said it intending to be heard. The other girl fled the table in tears. I don’t know where she went. She didn’t come back.

Sometimes acting scary and being scary are very different things.

Sometimes acting scary is really just acting differently, and it’s difference that’s scary.

Disphobia, the weight of prejudice ladened by fear and loathing behind the word, is dangerous – they would have wished her away.

And scary people, those, most often, get a free ride.

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