Ever get unsolicited advice? Sure, everyone has.
And it can be really annoying, even when it’s well intentioned. Because the truth is that it’s unsolicited. The person giving the advice does so without asking or maybe even considering whether you want it – or need it. (Those are two separate issues, but as adults, we have the right to determine whether we want to hear it anyway!)
Before I acquired quadriplegia (ebay Item # 34890), I received some unsolicited advice. It didn’t happen frequently and it really wasn’t an issue in my life. I would set a boundary and the other person either would or wouldn’t back off, but it just didn’t occur too often.
However, since I’ve been disabled, unsolicited advice from relative strangers occurs more frequently. It often comes in the guise of “If I were you, this is how I would handle being a quad”. And this coming from people who walk and can move their arms, hands and fingers appears ridiculous to me. Especially when you add the factor that this person may just have met me or only has occasional contact with me and really knows nothing about what my life is about.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I never need advice. It’s just that I have certain people whom I will ask advice of – those I’ve selected over my years of living. Some of those people are able bodied, so that’s not the only criterion I’m using. But certainly they are people who know me intimately.
It’s a privacy issue. I don’t really want to hear what someone thinks she would do if she was a quad. Nor do I want to hear how she disagrees with the way I handle my disability.
Yesterday a woman approached me in the grocery store while I was shopping. She said “I really think, if I was you, that I would use one of those scooters to shop. Why don’t I go with you and we’ll get you one?”
Now I can’t use a scooter because I don’t have the trunk control to sit up in one. Nor can I transfer into one in the first place. I always get a mental picture of myself draped over a grocery scooter cart and someone on the intercom saying “Pickup in aisle three – quadriplegic down.”
This is not the first time someone has approached me and told me I should use a scooter. In fact, I call these folks the Scooter Police. I wonder what their deal is – have they raised money to buy these scooters so they want to make sure they’re utilized fully? Do they sell these scooters?
My reply to her was a simple “No.”
Like others before her, she continued on. She had everything but the Scooter Police badge. “But those scooters are meant for people like you to help you. If I were you, I’d do everything I could to make things easier on myself.”
“This is none of your business,” I replied, meanwhile trying to decide if I wanted cherry or strawberry yogurt.
When I looked up she had left. Boundary set, encounter over.
And I’m thinking “This is why I use Peapod.” But it’s interesting, I suppose, to watch able bodied people imagine how they would handle my disability.
I just wish they wouldn’t share.
Copyright 2007 Ruth Harrigan