In these heady days of wireless headsets and Bluetooth devices, you would think people would be getting a bit less judgemental about those people who casually walk around muttering to themselves.
But as a person who owns neither of those pieces of tech, yet can frequently be found walking around grumbling to myself, I can tell you that this is not the case.
Also, as a library worker who works with students with various disabilities, and watches the reactions of neuro-typical students when they pass someone happily chatting away to themselves, I can tell you that this is not the case.
At least when people give me odd looks for it they are usually simply looks of surprise, perhaps some confusion, even vague amusement (but their smiles never seem vindictive).
If I was wearing a big coat, or a floppy hat, or was older, or larger, or anything which somehow marked me out as ‘out of the ordinary’ by our narrow, rubbish conceptions of ‘normality’*, I would be on the receiving end of the same level of social displeasure I see aimed at, for example, the loud woman on the bus, or the muttering, shuffling man in town, or the disabled boy in the library.
I’m not talking about a glance. I’m not talking about a smothered frown, or smile, or other briefly visible facial reaction. I’m not even talking about crossing the road, or detouring slightly out of avoidance, although that too can be a micro-aggression.
I’m talking about the look, then the double take. The nudging of the companion, and then the pointing. The laughter, with cruelty etched in around the eyes. The falling in step behind the person, in case the opportunity for further mockery should arise.
I hope I don’t have to explain why this is wrong. I’m sure most people who happen upon this blog and think it worthy of their time don’t behave in this way. But there’s a good chance that there are people who may read this who don’t understand this behaviour, who find it confusing, or strange, or difficult, or even threatening. It is understandable. If our society didn’t segregate children with disabilities into ‘special’ schools, and develop infrastructures which consciously and unconsciously exclude people with disabilities, maybe these misunderstandings wouldn’t exist. We would live in the same world then, and differences would be seen as what they are; completely natural.
When I am out and about, I often mutter to myself about my shopping list, or the order of places I’m going to go. It helps me stay focused, and productive, and relatively calm. I can also get a bit panicky in crowds, and so I mutter to myself about how scary people are, how much I want to get out of the crush, how it’s going to be okay once I get home. Getting stuck in a bottleneck alley is a personal nightmare of mine, and one which happens frequently in this town. But it’s okay, because I have myself, and myself can mutter soothing words to myself, so all the anxiety and fear and stress doesn’t stay bottled up in my brain and lead to a panic attack. A wall of school children coming towards me with no visible human size gaps within it can lead to me saying things out loud, such as ‘oh my God there’s so many of them, anyone gonna move? No? Just gonna keep walking at me aren’t you? That’s fine that’s fine I’ll just..’ and then I stand perfectly still and let them wash around me like an incoming tide. These kids barely even see me, and I’m sure many people in a similar situation would be able to take it in their stride and not be perturbed in the slightest. It certainly wouldn’t send such people into a relatively audible soliloquy.
And then this monologue which comes, unbidden, out of my mouth, may be overheard by a passer by, who responds by looking at me, a little concerned, frowning perhaps, before carrying on about their day. Which leads me to say things like ‘Yes?’ and ‘What.’ at their receding back. I’ve spoken out loud as a self-soothing device, or as a defence mechanism, or to keep my mind focused, and this is already enough to deal with without receiving further judgement from my surroundings.
So that’s me. Just imagine the infinite possible reasons someone might have for chatting to themselves. They might be terrified. They might be having the time of their goddamn lives.
So, in summation, if people talking to themselves freaks you out, because you’ve been told it means that that person is ‘crazy’, or ‘unstable’, or whatever, just cool your beans and hold your horses. It ain’t your problem. It ain’t an issue. It is simply a difference, and difference is what? *Say it with me!* Completely natural.
*Isn’t it interesting how many of these ‘markers’ come down to ‘taking up more space’. People are apparently very worried about your exact dimensions and whether or not you deserve to have them. Which isn’t very nice, to say the least. I imagine I’ll come back to this at some point in the future. This aside was originally in brackets, can you imagine reading all this and then coming out and finding yourself still within another sentence? Not good. So now we’re down here. Did you check the asterisk immediately or wait till the end? So many questions. Do let me know. It’s for science. Bye then.