The summer before last, when I worked at a drive-in/flea market and practically had a nervous breakdown because they would occasionally send me up to work at the movie theater they also owned, where everyone was sort of an asshole and they did things really fast, this guy would come through the line to my register at the flea market, and when I pressed the button that made the cash drawer come shooting out of the counter, he would say, "Whoa!" and make a show of being concerned for my safety.
I thought this was pretty cute and enjoyed my interactions with him. One day he put two dollars in my tip jar and he had only bought a drink, which was probably one or two dollars. "You shouldn't give me that much of a tip," I said, taking out the money and giving it back to him. "You didn't even spend that much money."
Then he came back around again and stuffed like five dollars into my tip jar, while I protested and tried to give them back to him, which he responded to by stuffing them back in. I asked why he was giving me a tip and he said for being a nice person. I said that wasn't a reason to give someone so much of a tip. He laughed at me. After a while, I thought that I was being sort of a jerk by acting like it wasn't his decision to give someone a tip or not. He was obviously having a good time flustering me so it didn't make sense for me to think I was actually the more capable person in our relationship. So I stopped trying to make him take the money back.
And indeed, he continued to be friendly to me in the future, but he never tipped me, or he just gave me change like most people; so in the long run, he wasn't spending any more money on tips than anyone else, he had just chosen to spend it differently.
Last summer, I was sitting and writing in the gym my mom goes to, while she was taking a yoga class. A guy who worked at the gym made his way over to me and asked how I was doing. He asked if Diet Coke was my favorite drink and I said yes. Then he went to talk to an older couple who he was obviously on friendly terms with. They kept telling him that he was too skinny and needed to eat more ice cream. He said, "I don't want to be as fat as a stress ball."
What the FUCK? I've never heard anyone say anything like that in my whole life!
Also, I assume that some people think it's stupid or a problem that I have blue hair, but the only person who has ever told me this is a guy who lives in Oberlin named Mike, who said, "What is WRONG with you? Why would you do that? What does your mom think?" the first time he saw me. He also took a picture of me to show to his dad.
Later, Mike stormed out of the room because my friend and I were asking him questions about his mom and it upsets him to talk about his mom. I followed him and said I was really sorry and that I'd been being rude and not listening to him, and he hugged me and said, "Don't worry, I like you." Because Mike has no problem being mean, this meant more to me than any other time a person has told me that.
Also, the first night that I worked at the awful movie theater, the other employees were being really nasty about this teenage boy who kept coming out of the movie and announcing "I need to stretch my legs" and talking about how great he thought the movie was. When he went back into the movie, they looked at me and said, "That boy--he's special," and then they repeated all the things that he said.
Later he came out of the movie where I was sweeping the floor, and we were talking about how good the movie was (it was Iron Man, which I think is worthy of most levels of exuberance), and I said, "So you like movies a lot?" and he said "GOD YES!"
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think profiles of cognitive strengths are really boring, and I know anecdotes are not politics, but I would really like to spend the rest of my life hearing about people being as fat as stress balls, and having Mike tell me how he hates his workshop director (who he calls "the boring boss"). I enjoy having some anxious reaction about how I shouldn't let someone give me a five-dollar tip, and then realizing that the person in question thinks my anxiety is hilarious and is perfectly capable of deciding how to spend his money. I seriously do not care to have anyone display their engineering genius to me, I'm just not very interested.
When I'm talking about how people with disabilities are all interesting and have valuable lives, I'm thinking about all the disabled people I know, but once the conversation starts being about "disabled people's unique strengths," Mike and all these other people disappear because I don't know that anyone could make a chart showing what is valuable about them. I feel like the only way to explain that they're valuable is to make a post like this, or a show like How's Your News. I feel like you need examples.
And now I feel like I sound awfully patronizing like I think intellectually disabled people are Unique Bunny Rabbit Snowflakes of Jesus, but at the same time, what is life but a collection of moments, and look at all these awesome moments that I wouldn't have experienced if science had progressed a lot more in making everyone have "cognitive strengths." That would be a horrible life even if you couldn't make a study explaining why.