Sunday, November 21, 1999

Weight loss pointed out shallowness




BY DEBORAH KENDRICK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It has been a while since I've included letters from readers in my column. Here are a few recent ones that warrant sharing.

        Dear Ms. Kendrick,

        I always have enjoyed reading your column, which is always thought-provoking. This one, about the EDI Awards and how we perceive people with outside differences (Oct. 10) is letter-provoking as well.

        I must agree with you about people's perceptions of people with disabilities. Although not physically handicapped myself, I had recently lost about 50 pounds in a short period of time. It is very interesting to watch how both friends and strangers treat me differently now, even though I am still the same person I was when I was heavier.

        Why is it that all of a sudden doors get opened for me? And why do I seem to garner more respect?

        It makes me angry that people are so shallow! I am the same person! Or, am I?

        You could make the case that my outlook has gotten “rosier” and thus makes me more attractive. But I am convinced that with our society's love of celebrity and perfection we gravitate naturally toward those ideals.

        I have even lost close friends over this issue. It makes me sick to think that I almost convinced myself to gain the weight back so I wouldn't have to deal with changes in relationships. No matter how hard we try, there will always be people who see only the outside layer of the person and not the soul that lies within.

        God knows that I am always searching for those inner souls with which to connect. Thank you again for providing perspective and connection.

        — Fran Baker, Clifton

        Dear Ms. Kendrick

        I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your columns through the years. I think it's great that you are contributing to the public's understanding that “disabilities” are those in name only. We all have disabilities, but some are more obvious than others.

        My first contact with a “disabled” person was a blind fraternity brother. Some disability! He learned his way around campus in two days, was a character and could tell each one of us all manner of amazing things.

        I did graduate work at the University of Illinois in the early '60s, when it was the only campus set up for paraplegics and quadriplegics. I was amazed at how “able” they all were.

        When we moved to Ohio, our neighbor had a child with Down syndrome. What a treat! He made a great playmate and friend for our kids, and they learned not to fear those with differences. I gained enough interest to become a board member of the local chapter of the Association of Retarded Citizens.

        Sorry to ramble so, but it goes to show how exposure removes fears and presents challenges.

        — Tremain “Trump” Bradley, Granville, Ohio

        Cincinnati writer Deborah Kendrick is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, Tempo, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202. E-mail: dkendrick@enquirer.com.

       



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