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Why are guys with Cerebral Palsy such egocentrics?

In Mpower’s first issue, Ted Shiress, stand up comic and Cer- ebral Palsy sufferer (though by no means suffering) wrote for the magazine about how he found day-to-day life. In this issue he writes for us again, this time delv- ing into an unspoken aspect of disability: the ego.

just going to do it. However, before I continue I feel I should add that I am including myself in this too.

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It was the other day that I thought I’d send emails to Francesca Martinez and Laurence Clark, two relatively young and new comedians with Cerebral Palsy, asking them for advice on how I could progress my comic career. Within two days I received a lovely warm and help- ful reply from Francesca, and a few days later I received an email that I found somewhat cold and stubborn from Laurence. It was a short email basically telling me how he manipulated numer- ous transport schemes to allow him to get to venues and how proud he was of doing this. This attitude in guys with CP seems to be alarmingly common; I know I have it, and to all my close friends that have to put up with it, I am forever in debt to you. In fact, it was about a year ago that a very good friend of mine, Mel, pulled me aside and gave me a very delicate but honest word about my conversational behaviour. She suggested how maybe there are times when I need to ask more questions and pay more in- terest in people, and I really hope I have improved since.

In my third year of university, my flat- mate, Jamie, had CP and I can’t help but admit I did not take to him at all; admit- tedly he was a conservative Christian, and as a liberal Atheist that immediately created a barrier. However, that clearly wasn’t the only reason why we failed to bond. When chatting to him you were always talking about his agenda, Christi-

k, I might get into a lot of trouble for writing this, but, anyhow, I’m

anity or extreme right-wing politics, and when you weren’t you were less than a minute away from him initiating a gen- ius turn in the conversation so it would almost magically swing back to him. Also it was not only the conversation he would hog, despite having a clearly unjustified 24-hour carer he would quite often ‘ask’ (read: demand) my helpers, who I had in total for a mere sixteen hours a week, to do a task for him. I made a note that his attitude seemed to have something in common with that of someone with Autism; he simply was blind to the fact he was doing anything wrong and assumed this was routine acceptable behaviour.

To use but another example, there’s a guy out there called Simon (and I don’t care if he tries to sue me for this) who considers himself somewhat of a disability guru. He is an MSN contact of mine and we were up until recently (when I deleted him) Facebook friends. I just became irritated with his behaviour over Facebook, he had thousands of friends, mostly able-bodied, who some- how thought he was a god and used to praise him continuously. However, he never interacted with them, to even say ‘thank you’ or enquire what they were up to. Plus when we’d ‘chat’ over MSN he was exactly the same, telling me long stories that he somehow thought I’d benefit from and when I’d try to tell him about something that happened to me he’d dismiss it by saying ‘OK’ and move on to a tale which he considered better than mine.

So, why are guys with CP often like this? Well, to start, if we’ve got anywhere in life it’s hard not to think of this as a great achievement, because, I can’t deny, it is! Also, I guess this may be the same for a lot of people with CP, it wasn’t until relatively recently in my life that I started to feel close to my peers. For most of my life it was relatives and other people of that generation who I felt the closest to. Those people were there to protect and support me and they were ‘bigger’ than me so by nature of our relationship they wouldn’t expect reciprocation.

Also, if there has always been a number of caring figures in our life, sooner or later it is hard not to expect this from almost anyone. As I mentioned I saw this a lot in Jamie and various people with disabilities I’d bump into at music festivals; and I know for a fact I used to be like this a lot and unfortunately can still be from now and then. I guess the

lesson that I’ve learnt, and sadly has to be learnt, is when you have a disability you can’t have all the opportunities people without disabilities have. Yes, it sucks, it sucks a great deal, but it’s just something we have to live with. For

instance, I am quite sure that I would get many more gigs if I didn’t have CP and was more mobile; however, that’s just life and I feel it is unreasonable to expect others to be there to make up for that.

Also, why men particularly? I have quite deliberately spoken quite exclusively about guys in this note. Sadly I can’t answer this without using gender stere- otypes so unfortunately I am about to. I guess males are by nature more com- petitive than females and possibly to us guys it is more important to prove to the world they can ‘out-do’ their disabil- ity. Plus, as someone who has studied language and communication for many years, studies have illustrated that males are naturally more competitive in conversation as a whole, it just seems that we seem to go into overdrive when we have a disability.

Lastly, I guess I should tie up a few ends. I am making a big generalisation based on a few particular individuals and myself. I do know a number of men with cp that are incredibly humble in their conversation and lovely to talk to. I’ve recently acquired a really nice friendly Facebook friend called Ciaran who has always come over as incredibly modest and friendly in conversation. Lastly, I guess I must thank all my lovely friends that have turned a blind eye to when I behave like this, and those, like Mel, who have felt confident in letting me know how I could improve my behav- iour. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36
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