What is it really like to be Deaf?

Thanks to a nap I recently took, approximately from 5 pm to 7 pm, I couldn’t sleep despite the fact I finished reading a new book I started two days ago, Freakonomics, which is a fascinating book btw. Thanks to my little friend in my head, I thought about a few things and thought I’d write a few words about what it’s like to be a Deaf person.

A good start to this would be to ask, “how did I become deaf?” Well, pathologically, the cause is unknown but it is possibly hereditary because I was born deaf, and so was my older sister. However, we’re the only ones who are deaf in our family. So, I’ve been deaf since I was born. Ironically enough, it’s my deafness that has brought me here in America. Otherwise, I’d be still in Korea with my family and probably would be working on some rice farm or studying to become a priest. My sister’s husband is a priest, so to speak. I don’t know which is more blessing: being deaf and here in America or being hearing and stay with the family in Korea. Either way, I’m happy with who I am and where I ended up in.

Now, onto being a Deaf person, it annoys the hell out of me when a hearing person says “Oh, I wish I could be deaf like you, so I don’t have to be bothered by all those noises or having to hear those awful things.” Bull$hit. That is like telling a blind person that you wish you’re blind so you don’t see awful things (would you say porn is an awful thing to see?) on TV. I’m not gonna pretend/lie here and say that I embrace every moment of being Deaf or that it’s the best thing ever happened to me. I’m telling you right now, being deaf is HARD and if I were to be hearing, I have no doubts I’d be a lot different person than I am now. But again, I do not know if I’m actually better off being Deaf or hearing. I might end up being a drug lord, being homeless on the street or getting killed in Iraq (people with hearing loss can’t serve in army). I could be anything else in such a way that I won’t find myself writing this entry.

Since Deaf people only account less than 1% of the entire U.S. population, Deaf world is a lot like a high school except it’s a lot smaller. We keep bumping each other and everyone knows who f*cked whom. It sucks when you’re trying to date someone; that someone is also your ex-girlfriend’s best friend or roommate. And when you do that, everyone back-stab you and call you a player. Much unlike Hearing world where you could meet a person at a bar, get some alcohol going, having a good time and you both decide to have a little extra fun and spend a night together. The next morning, you may realize it wasn’t what you thought it’d be, you simply walk out and never expect to see her/him again. Case closed. Unfortunately, that isn’t so with the Deaf world.

I take the metro to work everyday so it’s not uncommon when tourists come up at me and ask where the f*ck are they or where they’re supposed to go. Depends on my mood, I may act nice and try to lip-read, which I guess more than I actually lip-read, their mouths. It looks like they want to go to the Washington monument or Union Station, whatever. But admittedly, most of the time, I simply point to my ear and shake my head as to say “sorry, I’m deaf and can’t understand what you say.” Nothing harm, right? Except when tourists happen to be a hot-looking lady in a short shorts with long legs. I’d be more than obliged to be her tour guide and if she’s visiting just for the weekend, perfect. I can show her around the city and she’d be out of my sight by Sunday. (Think of Adam Sandler in “The first 50 dates” with Drew Barrymore).

Food. I can’t really customize my meal as much as a hearing person can. “Hey waiter, this isn’t what I want. I said no condiments on my burger but I want a Swiss cheese and onions. And this is overcooked; I want mine medium-well. Oh, these buns are overburned too.” Or whatever the hell like that. I suppose I could write on some napkin to tell him what I want but he’d still f*ck it up and got my order wrong. So I just mouth, “everything” and when I get the burger, I have to customize it with my fingers or spitting it out of my mouth barbarically. If I’m allergic to something, God bless me.

So, that’s what I have to deal by being Deaf. First of all, you may notice why I keep using capital D, instead of just deaf. Well, you know, being Deaf doesn’t simply mean you cannot hear and still be able to function within the hearing world as if there’s a perfect harmony between us. When you cannot hear a f*cking word since you were born, you perceive the world differently. You learn the language differently. You can only imagine the sounds but never actually hear it. You end up interacting with similar people, not those who could hear. When you have more than one generation who’s also Deaf, the pattern continues and gradually becomes into this world we all have come to know—the Deaf world. We’re not just deaf; we’re Deaf. When we say that, we don’t mean we’re perfect; we all have shortcomings like everybody else and we dream what it’d be like to be a hearing one day, as much as you’d dream abt being a Spider-man, the next U.S. President, or even Bill Gates the Geek. But don’t ever tell us you wish you’re deaf.