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Damon Rose

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Ouch editor Damon Rose has been submersed in disability culture since 1996, working as Assistant Producer on BBC2's From The Edge, Radio 4's In Touch, alt performance poetry and freelance writing. He is also co-founder of the cult website

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From the Editor: Somebody's watching me

4th July 2005

Disabled? Ever wondered what people think about you when you're out in public?
Do you worry people might be staring and thinking you're a bit of a freak? Ever been told that you're just being paranoid and getting needlessly distressed? Well, thanks to the internet, this morning I learnt that not only do people talk about me when I'm out but believe I'm peculiar enough to post about me on a notorious gossip website. I'm trying to work out what I think about it. Read on ...

Last night I went out for a beer to a cool pub in West London. It was a nice warm night and we bagged an outside table. What luck! I was meeting up with four other disabled pals who I'd not seen for a while and was really looking forward to catching up with them all.

Three girls, two boys. One of us had recently had a baby, another had just been on a hot date and I was keen to know how she got on, another (a former colleague) is now working for a big mobile phone media content company and the other is currently between jobs. We're a smart bunch, we've all got degrees n'everything. These are my pals and I commit them to you.

It was a really good night. We ate, had a couple of beers, and did what thirtysomethings do. At quarter to ten, we split the bill 5 ways - £14.28 if you care - left and resolved to see each other soon. It hadn't crossed my mind that I was doing anything particularly spectacular or out-of-the-ordinary. It's one of those pubs you feel comfortable in, not all that many people know about it and it's not full of people egging each other on to drink more and more. At ten I called a cab and went home.

This morning one of our group received a text message from a friend: "Did you and Damon go to a pub with some disableds last night?"

She texted back saying: "yes, how come?"

His two word response was: "popbitch messageboard."

Here's the full text lifted from Popbitch:

was in the pub last night and someone mentioned that there was a table of 'weirdos' behind us.

I thought he was being rude about a table of idiots but looking round I saw a table with...
2 albinos, a dwarf, a facially deformed 'pinhead' type woman and an ordinary bloke...

I laughed but said "they aren't *all* weird, one of them is just an ordinary bloke.."

"no mate.... he's BLIND!" and right enough, he had a guide dog at his feet

it was a bit Geek Love and a bit like that bar in Star Wars

... it's a good job he didn't notice that a couple of us wear hearing aids too! There is no doubt at all here, he is definitely talking about me and my friends.

As I said at the top of the page, I don't quite know what to think about this. Last night I went out for a beer and this morning my night out was mentioned on an infamous celeb-spotting website. Me and my mates made such an impression on the poster of this comment that it stayed with him until 9:35 this morning when he felt moved to tell thousands of other peple about his weird experience.

Presumably he thought that the 'table of weirdos' story was funny enough to make others laugh too; a good story to share. We certainly made him laugh.

In case you're wondering, I was the blind bloke with the dog he mentioned. Course, I'm half thinking about emailing the other four to just rub it in that I look the most normal. But no, if you look a little closer, I'm not at all! Ha, nearly fooled him. Maybe it was the dead ordinary black T-shirt and jeans that threw him off the scent? But I mustn't do this to my friends, that would be wrong, wouldn't it. (it would, right?)

Would we have stood out so much if we weren't in a group? Why wouldn't 'normal' people want to come out for a beer with us? Should we not have gone out together?

He posted his message because we were different. Our little gathering amused him. A bit of a freak show. Evening entertainment. And yes, in some ways, I guess we are. Sometimes we joke about it between ourselves because it's just an obvious thing to do. Lots of disabled people out there call themselves 'freak' to reclaim dignity and smash negativity around their identity. But seeing this on a much-read messageboard? Makes me feel a bit weird, well, weirder than usual.

Do people talk about you behind your back? Unquestionably. I would have preferred it if this bloke had come over and laughed in our faces than post it on Popbitch which, incidentally, costs ten quid to join before you can post.

If you're reading this Hawkus, we often go to that pub during the summer. Why not come over and say hello? Do you think you could? Oh and thanks for giving me something to write about this week.


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