Maybe it’s just a Laura thing.

Attending a social gathering, especially one composed of mostly Francophone hearing people, is decidedly not a Laura thing. But if it’s a friend’s birthday, I try to give the gift of my presence at their party.

At last Sunday’s party, the birthday boy, Paulo, looked at me in the eyes and challenged me to the “Circle Game”. This is the game where someone dupes you into looking at their hand as they press thumb and index finger together to form a circle, which happens to also be the sign for “asshole” in ASL.

Circle gamer.
My dirty fingernails are a side effect of being a bike mechanic.

I lost. I let Paulo call me an asshole… again. I work with Paulo, which means I get tricked into playing (and losing) the Circle Game all the time.

That evening, I finally confronted him. “You’re taking advantage of my deafness! Of course, I am naturally drawn to handshapes! That’s how I “listen”!”

I could see the guilt flash in his eyes. He knew there was truth in what I had just told him, but he didn’t realize I wasn’t truly upset. After having called me an asshole many times via the Circle Game, I finally made Paulo feel like an asshole. On his birthday, no less.

I assured him that I wasn’t upset, but he has not played the Circle Game with me since.

It’s a Deaf thing to look at people’s hands when they appear to be signing. It’s even more of a Deaf thing to refer to this as a “Deaf Bing”. For further explanation, watch this short captioned video by The Flipside.

I am fairly confident that performing poorly at the Circle Game can be attributed to my deafness, but I can’t blame all my quirks on being deaf. I have been somewhat absent from the Deaf community since graduating high school in 2001, so sometimes I ask myself, “Is this a Deaf Bing… or just a Laura thing?”

For example, I have a skill that isn’t really useful for hearing people but is beneficial to deaf people who communicate by paper and pen often. Years of communicating with hearing people by passing a piece of paper back and forth across a table has made me extraordinarily good at reading upside-down. I can read entire blocks of text upside-down in the same way many avid readers can absorb full sentences at a glance.

Deaf Bing? Laura thing? Bookworm skill?

If the piece of paper is big enough, I sometimes interject with an answer by writing upside-down. Of course, most people tilt their head expecting to have to read an upside-down sentence. “What the fuck?!” is the usual response once the person realizes that I have conveniently answered right-side-up for their hearing brain.

Advanced mindfuckery.
Advanced mindfuckery.

As you can sort of see by the above gif, I can handwrite upside-down at a fluid pace. It is admittedly much sloppier than my already sloppy regular handwriting.

A teacher once told me that I had nice handwriting. I never trusted a teacher again.

Yann gave me a little experiment the other day that had me write: normally, upside-down, left-handed, and finally, upside-down and left-handed simultaneously. My upside-down left-handed text came out looking pretty terrible, yet still neater than the right-way-up left-handed version.

Deaf Bing? Laura thing? Artistic cognition?

How about strategic seating? I have the tendency to take a seat where there won’t be people behind me, whether it be against the wall or in a room corner. I can’t have my back to a doorway, nor do I care to face away from a window.

At my old job, my desk was placed against the wall, forcing me to have my back to about 50 co-workers. It bothered me so much that I set up a mirror next to my computer monitor. This makeshift rear-view mirror made me feel so much more at ease knowing that nobody could peer over my shoulder and realize that I had no idea how to do my job. (Just kidding, I had some idea.) I briefly considered cutting a hole in the ceiling to stick a periscope though. If I can hear nothing, I should be able to see everything!

Deaf Bing? Laura thing? Extreme paranoia?

It takes me a very long time to feel comfortable enough to use my voice around a hearing person. I had some speech developed before I became deaf at the age of three, but because it’s been over 30 years since I last heard my own voice, sharing it is the most intimate thing I can do for someone else.

When I verbalize my first word around a hearing person, their eyes light up as if I were a baby saying “mama” or “dada” for the first time. Except, I usually say something brash like “heeeey!” or “fuck!”

The thrill of hearing me speak wears off as soon as I get so comfortable that I start making random noises for the sake of asking the poor hearing soul to describe them. This is how I came to learn how to sound like a horse, pig, elephant… and a motorcycle. One day, I’ll happen upon the quacking sound effect, and my hearing friends are going to long for my silent era.

Deaf Bing? Laura thing? Bored child syndrome?

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