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October 13, 2007

Out of Sight, Out of Sound

woman using sign language

Photo Credit: Alessandra Petlin

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In a weird way, it made sense to me that things were wrong. I could already tell I wasn't like my mother. She was flawless — even her singing voice and handwriting were perfect. I was sloppy. I lied. The diagnosis felt like proof of my inadequacy.

My family puts a lot of emphasis on being attractive. My mother taught us to be impeccably groomed at all times and well mannered, like mini newscasters — which, surprise, is exactly what my older brother grew up to be. But I didn't understand how I was supposed to be attractive and disabled.

As for my difficulties seeing, I was fine in small groups, like at home, where my brothers didn't treat me differently. But by the time high school hit, it was hard to decipher what I was and wasn't hearing and seeing, since I still thought I was catching everything. In reality, I was missing a lot; my teachers were always accusing me of daydreaming.

I got my first hearing aids in high school, but I would only wear them with my hair down, and only in history class because the teacher mumbled. At least I had the built-in coolness that came with being a twin. I was good at sports (so long as it wasn't a game with a small ball — those were becoming hard to see). And yet, I was starting to feel I didn't quite belong.

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