An Experience I Never Saw As An Experience:

So yesterday I’ve felt something in myself that I hadn’t had around in awhile: self-disappointment. AND it totally came from an unexpected source!

You see, I only know how to say this bluntly, so I am just going to go for it here and hope I am somehow saying it all right. I had my first conversation with a person that was deaf. I had been around people that were hard of hearing before, but I have never actually met someone who was deaf. Let alone attempt to have a conversation. And my conversation partner seemed to not speak orally, but only sign. That’s why I have to say that this was an unexpected experience for me. And now I am going to try my best to explain why:

Do you all remember that show Switched At Birth? The one that showed a nice portrayal of seemingly easy communication between people of hearing and those who are deaf. It was the really good show that for SOME REASON ended without Bay and Emmet being together! Well, even if we know reality isn’t exactly like that, being in that situation for the first time sucked…BUT before you prepare yourself to yell at me for saying that here’s why: Being around someone deaf didn’t (AND SHOULD NEVER BE A REASON) make me uncomfortable. It made me disappointed with myself for not being able to properly communicate with the person in front of me. AND I HAVE A PATHOLOGICAL NEED TO ACCURATELY/PERFECTLY COMMUNICATE.

When I was a kid, my mom had this thing for very very very beginner Sign Language (ASL) for her teacher’s certification. And one of the few parenting moments I can remember is her teaching me the alphabet. She was OBSESSIVE with making sure we both knew it at the time. As a kid, I had gotten p-r-e-t-t-y fast at it if I must say so myself. However, flash forward to 21 years old and I’m painfully inflicting my forgotten and horrendously slow spelling on my polite cashier.

I just feel awful. Awful for only being able to spell out every word to a guy who was probably just trying to be polite as he wrung up my goods. But more then awful, I meel MAJOR disappointment in my self. Because, in a way, ASL doesn’t really feel like a foreign language to me. It sort of feels like…Extended English?

Think about it. Languages have always been comprised of both verbal and non-verbal cues. And, if we, those who are on the side of ‘verbal’ tendency, are to be honest, we still recognize and initiate non-verbal communication. Wouldn’t then many deaf people being doing sort of the opposite in reverse? Just because someone might not hear the sounds being made they can still feel vibration or are still reading lips. Isn’t that still taking cues from verbal communication?

It’s like we have two sides: Mostly Verbal vs. Mostly Non-Verbal. And thinking on it…it sort of feels like both sides aren’t getting the full extent of ‘English’? So…I guess I am trying to mean that Sign Language is more of a part of the whole piece of what makes up the English language instead of its own separate foreign code. I think I was too comfortable my entire life with the part of the English language I could use to communicate, because I never had any problems with it. Now that I have been in a situation were I can’t comfortably communicate, because I can’t give the right cues, I have to feel self-disappointment, because I was okay with not really knowing my own language. The Verbal and the Non-Verbal…

I was okay with signing F’s as D’s and having such crappy pronunciation of words that reading lips would be a challenge. I ULTIMATELY denied myself the ability to really communicate with certain beautiful parts of the English language? Or even just the American English version of Sign Language.


Kind of a funny thought when you realize the cashier will probably not even remember me,

I.L. Knight


ASL Alphabet