10-3-11: Dealing with Condescension
Dudley Clendinen is an award-winning author and journalist who lives here in Baltimore. A former reporter and editorial writer for The New York Times, he found out in November, at age 66, that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, more popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
There is no known cure for ALS, and once a person is diagnosed, they usually live between 1.5 to 3 years.
Over the past few months, Dudley has been speaking with Tom Hall about living with ALS. In this conversation, Dudley talks about having a terminal illness–and dealing with the general public. The disease has affected both his response time and the clarity of his speech. That means during interactions with strangers, such as when he buys something at a drug store, people will become impatient with him — or even think he’s drunk.
“I realize people begin to treat you differently when they see that you’re not functioning–you’re slow,” says Dudley. “They think: ‘maybe he’s had a stroke.’ I don’t know what they think. But they think I’m incapacitated. That I can’t think clearly. Well, I think very clearly. But I can’t speak clearly. And they can’t make the distinction.”
“The other thing it told me is, I get irritated when people treat me as ‘less than.’ I get aggressive, and then that gets me in a jam. The more aggressive I get, the less well I can talk. It ends up being a kind of Catch 22, a straitjacket. That’s happened several times in several ways. I don’t deal well with condescension. And there are millions of people like me.”
You can listen to all of our conversations with Dudley Clendinen at this link.