The idea for this post came from a night out I had last night.
There were a few bands playing in our town, and I really wanted to hear one of them. They are friends of a friend, I’ve seen them a few times before, and wanted to support them as they will release their debut album soon. A group of my friends said they’d go, then pulled out one by one. Some genuinely had no money to go out, while others made excuses.
A girl I know, who I get on well with but wouldn’t go out with often was working in the venue, and told me to come along anyway, because I could stay with her friends while she was busy. I didn’t want her friends thinking they had to bring me around all night. If they weren’t comfortable with doing it, it wouldn’t have been fair. At the same time I didn’t want to miss out, and am sick missing out on things because my usual group of friends aren’t interested.
In the end I decided to be brave and go, and had one of the most random nights I’ve had in ages.
I started off being with the people I had planned to be with, who were lovely. A friend from school came up to chat, and we talked about primary school and had a great laugh. Then my sister’s friends asked me to come and sit with them. This was fine because I get on well with all of them, but I ended up being stuck in the same corner while the band I liked were playing. This is the disadvantage of being blind, not knowing your way around a place and having no dog. You can’t just walk around and find people on your own. Sometimes with the best intentions in the world, sighted people bring you to a particular place because you can sit where it’s less busy, but you don’t get a chance to talk to anyone else, and other people can’t find you. The friend I came in with texted me during the gig to see where I was, appologised for being so busy but wanted to make sure I was OK.
I ended up getting a taxi home after 4 A.M, with completely different people from the ones I’d been with earlier. It was all very strange!
I’m very lucky because I’m well-known in our town, so will always meet people I know when I’m out. Some of them (especially males) are less shy with a few drinks in them, so it sort of breaks the ice and as long as they aren’t too drunk I don’t mind. I can be shy too, but realised when I went to college that being very shy and having a disability doesn’t get you very far. I can instantly tell if people are uncomfortable talking to me because I am blind, and I think its up to me to use humour or some distraction then to make it easier for them.
I am very lucky that I have a close relationship with my parents and family. They are like my personal taxi drivers if they think I’m missing out on something because of the cost of transport. If I’m stuck for people to come to a gig or something they will often offer to go, even though they will more than likely hate it. My dad came to Des Bishop with O.J and I last Friday (probably not the best thing to bring your dad too!) This probably makes me sound very spoilled, but they know that being blind has its challenges, and from a young age they never wanted me to miss out on anything socially.
I also have some amazing friends. We’ve done lots of brilliant things together, and even gone on holiday a few times. Some of us have very different music tastes, but we are all going to Kings of Leon in Slane next year, which will be our first concert together.
I know from personal experience and from reading other blogs that other blind people don’t have the opportunities to socialise like I do, and it is something I never take for granted. People shouldn’t think that their disability means they have to have few or no friends. It shouldn’t mean they should just stay indoors unless they have to go to work or to get their shopping, and stick to their routinely activities. They shouldn’t accept that this is normal just because they have a disability, and convince themselves they are happy and things can’t be any different. I understand it can be difficult to start conversations with people if you can’t make eye contact or use body language the same way sighted people do. There’s nothing worse than being in a group of people in a noisy environment, not knowing exactly where the person you want to talk to is. I think it takes a certain amount of participation and common sense from everybody to make socialising between blind and sighted people work.
Having a guide dog makes going to new places with people I wouldn’t normally go out with much easier, because I feel I can be a little bit more independent. However, going out last night without O.J taught me that sometimes people are much more accepting than I expect them to be. If we are going to the same place then we must at least have some similar interests. If we can talk about things easily and have fun, then the fact that I am blind isn’t the main thing on their mind. It definitely takes a bit of guts to force yourself to go out with new people, but if you give it a go once, you might be surprised at how enjoyable your night is.