Dumb Things People Say
People can be ignorant, cruel, insensitive and self-righteous when dealing with others but especially so with anyone who has some physical trait that makes them different to 'normal' (whatever that is!). You expect little children to know no better and while they can be cruel they are usually just curious and don't realise they are causing someone else to feel bad so they are much more easily educated than adults who really ought to know better. How we respond to insensitive, stupid questions, comments or stares depends very much on the situation and mood at the time but we do try to be gently informative.
Maybe people watch too much television, where anything other than the Hollywood stereotype of beauty is out of place and all villains have some physical trait that makes them obviously evil or different or to be feared, and albinism features regularly in this genre (see Albinism in Popular Culture).
Whatever the cause, people can say the most insensitive and DUMB things without a second thought. I have kept a note of some of the things people have said to us regarding Alana's appearance and while not all of it is negative, its nice to have a sense of humour about it all so that you don't take it all to heart.
All that a parent of a newborn or any child wants to hear from someone else is how lovely their child is, be it for their beautiful eyes, mother's nose, father's noble chin or delicate long fingers that will serve them well in piano-playing or something nice - instead you get someone give a comment that obviously didn't even slow for a brain check before it flew out of their mouth. (Someone once felt an absolute compulsion to tell me how odd the shape of my 6 week old Scott's head was in great depth, several times before she had even seen his face! - nice thing to say to a first time mother on her first real social outing with her new baby). But if nothing else dumb things said make great humour once you can learn to see the funny side of it, such as:
"Ahhh, so she's an albino, yeah, I know about them....."
This would be great if it actually were true, except everyone is an expert on albinism just because they've seen an albino kangaroo/koala/lion/whale/rabbit/lizard or something on television or in a zoo or book. Yeah, well, as a child I had pet rabbits and mice that were white with red eyes and yet strangely they didn't tell me a lot about albinism, yet the above statement leads into wonderful rantings of YOUR child's afflictions - they are nocturnal, should never go out during the daylight (much like a vampire), have low intelligence and will need a guide dog or white stick for mobility, etc., etc. - nope, nope, nope and nope! Said with such conviction and backed up with knowing nods of their head (which I might add is empty). These people are much more interested in what they can tell you than what you can factually tell them, they are most fun to educate when they realise just how silly they must sound.
"Albino... white hair - then she's deaf"
No. I think you are confusing her with a blue-eyed cat.
"You'll need to keep her away from windows and have all your curtains drawn during the day to keep your house very dark"
Why? Is she likely to photosynthesize and sprout leaves?
"Oh, so is that white YOUR real hair colour, too, and you dye it brown?"
This one, from someone I had known for several years, made me laugh and in hindsight it was either a bit of a dopey assumption or a smart one. It actually made me feel quite good that someone accepted that my daughter must just take after me and was completely 'normal'. It did make me wonder how many grey hairs I have though.
"Wow. Look at that colour. Did you dye your baby's hair? "
Use peroxide on my infant (about 4 months old) daughter's head, including eyelashes and eyebrows? Why would I do that? So that my baby would be blonde and have more fun? Maybe to coordinate with my outfit? Lucky I wasn't wearing green...
"And so she gets the hair colour from..." or "So your Milkman/Postman is blonde!?"
Those really awful nudge, nudge, wink, wink innuendoes suggesting that the father of this child is obviously.... (not your husband but some very, very blonde guy) and this is said in front of David! Said in jest, haste or just without thought - it doesn't matter, these are incredibly insensitive people - especially if its the first time you have met them (and it usually it is). These people generally receive my most cool, calm but equally insensitive replies in return, then they don't normally say anything else insensitive, funny enough.
"Hey, kids, come and have a look at this. Bet you've never seen hair/eyes this colour before"
Bet you kids have an insensitive buffoon for a parent! Saying ' Oh, look at your baby's lovely hair-colour/beautiful coloured eyes' would have been a far less life-endangering approach. Its no wonder kids are rude and stare when their parent invites them to do just that. Usually its just an unthinking response and the kids aren't even that interested in a baby with light coloured hair. There are some parents who deserve a tongue-lashing in front of their kids for their complete lack of manners and understanding but are sometime best handled with a gentle education. While someone might get away with it while my child is a baby, I doubt I will tolerate it when my child is old enough to understand they are being treated like a circus curiousity.
"My son/daughter's hair was EXACTLY the same colour when he/she was born"
Yeah right. There's blonde and there's blonde - and there's WHITE! No matter how much you explain that this actually is pure white with no colour, they won't accept that your child's hair won't turn darker and darker until its a mousey brown like their child's.
Maybe saying absolutely nothing can be less dangerous than saying wrong (dumb) things - unless you are just waaaaaay too obviously avoiding the whole subject. When people have already heard news via another source and then go to great pains to NOT say anything to the point of ignoring a baby like its invisible, its probably going to be taken as a huge insult. One set of 'family friends' (former if you ask me) made sure to not even look at my beautiful baby and certainly not mention anything to do with albinism or her eyesight. It made me feel that they were expecting me to be disappointed in my child (which I certainly am not) by excluding her to the point of denial or avoidance (but they did mention how lovely my son was!). If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all... ?? Give me a break - there must be something inoffensive you can muster up - How about a 'Awww he/she is lovely/looks like you/is so well settled/looks so healthy/is adorable/has your nose/looks great in that colour.' Anyone who can't make one tiny compliment about a newborn has real issues!