“All Animals are Equal but Some Animals are More Equal than Others.”

After a couple of days of looking at different stores, MiL finally found an oven today.  It’s a convection oven, with a ceramic/glass top.  It’s got way more bells and whistles than I’ll probably ever use, but MiL’s niece convinced her to go with the convection, saying it’ll help the resale value of the house.   It just might at that.

One thing that got to me, though, during this whole process, was how people treated MiL.  My MiL is an elderly woman (nearing 80), who has physical disabilities and limitations as well as just being “old”.  On top of the physical effects of a stroke she had over ten years ago which partially paralyzed her left side (she can walk short distances, but that leg is weaker than her right leg, and she can move her arm but grasping and fine motor control in her hand are beyond her capabilities), she has been diagnosed with Lupus since the 1960s. 

Yes, she knows how lucky she was she had a doctor who believed in lupus back in the 1960s.

Sometimes, she has lupus flairs that make her other disabilities worse (the pain from the lupus can cripple her at times).  And there are times when she has these “weird” red marks show up on her face or hands for no reason.  Unfortunately, she’s in a lupus flair and has been for a while.  And unfortunately, she’s got the weird red marks on her face right now.

Going into stores, I was the one being talked to, and MiL (who either used the complimentary cart provided by the store, or was pushed in her wheelchair by me) was completely ignored.  Even though I specifically told the salespeople I wasn’t the one to talk to.  When I was finally able to get the salespeople to talk to MiL, they just assumed, because she’s old and disabled, that she had no money.  In two of the place we went to, the only oven they offered her was the bottom line oven (which, for a “slide in” is still a bunch).  When she asked for more options, she was told other ovens would be way too expensive for her.  Of course, the salesperson didn’t ask her what her price range was, just assumed they knew what she wanted because of her looks.

I have a problem with this.  I have a major problem with anybody who is minimized just because of how they look.  It so happens that MiL, while not rich by any standards, is comfortable and could easily afford twice the amount on a new oven than what she was being offered.  I mean, she wants to replace her existing counters with granite, not a cheep replacement at all.

At the first place we went to yesterday, I had to keep redirecting the the kid to talk to her (okay, he was probably an adult, but he looked like a kid to me, does that mean I’m getting old).  And by “keep” I mean every single thing he said.  Every question he asked.  He’d ask me a question, and I’d say, “You’ll have to ask MiL, as it’s her oven she needs to replace.”  When she’d ask a question, he’d answer me as if I asked.  It was frustrating to MiL, and to me as well.

The second place was a little better.  After being told twice that the oven was for MiL, and that she knew what she wanted, the older gentleman who was helping us did finally talk to her.  But then he also offered her the exact same oven as the first place offered.  She asked if there were any other options, ovens with more features, so he offered her the exact same oven as his previous oven, only in bisque, not white as she said she wanted, and was going to discount the bisque one $300 for her.  What she wanted was to see a range of features on different ovens so she could decide what one she liked the best, and how much she was willing to pay to get the options she wanted.

What she got was the salesperson assuming she just wanted cheaper.

Today we went to another store.  The difference was immediate.  The store didn’t have complimentary carts, so I got MiL’s wheelchair out of her car and wheeled her in.  We were greeted in the appliance section by a salesperson, who greeted both of us, not just me.  When MiL started talking about what we needed and what she wanted, he listened to her.  He tried to draw me into the decision once or twice (not ignoring MiL, but feeling me out to see if I was going to be part of the decision making process) and when I made it clear that, while I’ll be the one cooking and baking with the oven, the decision was all MiL’s, he proceeded from there.

The end result of him treating her like a human being, listening to what she wanted, and finding a couple of ovens with most of the features she wanted in a variety of price ranges got him a sale. 

It amazes me to see the hierarchy of how people are viewed in this society.  As a woman, I have been marginalized when I was trying to buy a car.  My then husband and the salesman started talking about the car “the little lady” wanted, and they forgot to include “the little lady” in on the conversation.  They didn’t realize I wasn’t involved until they were at the door of the building, ready to fill out the paperwork, and I was still standing by the car, not with them.  Obviously, that salesman didn’t get the commission that day.  As a fat person, I’ve been marginalized in too many ways to recount in this post (which is already getting wordy).

But as an able bodied fat young-looking woman, pushing an old woman in a wheelchair, I rank higher than she does.  Even when they are told repeatedly that I was not the one making the decision, they needed to talk with MiL, they would rather talk to me instead of her.  Knowing how much OMGOBESITY!!!111!!! is denigrated in society, it makes me realize how much more being unfortunate enough to live past 30 is denigrated. 

In two weeks I get to learn to cook with a stove an oven the type of which I’ve never used before.  I’ve no clue how convection ovens bake and cook verses regular ovens, but I’ll learn.  The important thing is MiL got the oven she wanted, and, today at least, got the respect she deserves for just being a person.

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9 Responses

  1. I am glad that you finally found someone who had the brains & common decency to treat your MIL properly. I hope you enjoy the new oven. And this serves as a cautionary tale & a reminder to us all. It hits home with me especially, since I am 59 & I do look closer to my early 40’s, but I am definitely aging, I have had cerebral palsy since birth, have had some degree of arthritis setting in ever since I broke my left knee (the same side where the CP is, since it is hemiplegic C) at 30, & have had a fair number of experiences of being condescended to, patronized, told how ‘remarkable’ I was for living a normal life & being independent enough to do things for myself, etc. I can only imagine that, as I grow older & perhaps start to look like an older woman more & as I also perhaps more somewhat more disabled with time (I have only lived one lifetime in this body, so do not know exactly what to expect), I will be more ignored & marginalized, & that it will be more often assumed that anyone who may accompany me…anyone who is younger, more able-bodied, or more male perhaps…will be expected to speak for me & make decisions for me. Indeed, some of us are more equal than others.

  2. Wow, I feel you here. I have often had similar experiences when out with my dad and my in-laws. The tricky thing with my dad is that in addition to being 81 and having arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, he also has some pretty acute nerve deafness (as in, can’t be addressed with hearing aids), so I often do have to “interpret” for him in health care or shopping situations.

    Thanks for taking this issue on so thoughtfully. And I’m glad your mother-in-law found a stove!

  3. wow i feel you man some serious stuff

  4. Gah, manners, people, manners; you address everyone in a group, not just ignore someone. Well, actually if you had a baby along, then a quick greeting but ignoring for sales purposes would be okay; but not an adult for goodness sake.

  5. This was a really interesting post. I’m sorry you two had to go through so much just to get an oven!

    Have you thought about maybe writing a note to the manager of the store where the associate did a really good job helping you? Like you said, it’s not easy to find someone like that, so maybe you could make his day a little brighter in return. 🙂

  6. Yeah, marginalization. Many varieties of this nasty cultural version of mental venereal disease. Thanks for ranting for me….I am resting, lol! Seriously, Woman…..old folks, fat folks, women, teen-agers….I get wrapped round the axle in ways that are bad for my messed up spine! I am so glad someone else is doing it just now. I write letters to the stores that piss me off doing this and tell them how much money I spent ELSEwhere!

  7. I’ve had a very similar experience trying to buy a car. I was 20, probably looked 17, and by myself. At one dealership no one even came up to greet me. At another I was treated like an idiot. Needless to say, I bought a car from a dealership where I was treated with respect.

  8. I have an ’empirical’ study on disabled people in wheelchairs (manual or not) – this took place over a few years, and occasionally still happens now.

    The first time, Storm and I took my best friend to Orlando for his birthday (we were still in FL at the time) and went to Islands of Adventure (part of Universal) – my ankle was bad that weekend, so he lovingly pushed me around in a manual ‘chair. A couple times I was left on my own while they rode rides (I do not do roller coasters) – I was ignored the whole time. No biggie, I think. Except this isn’t the only time it happens.
    The 2nd time is when we went to Dollywood with his parents. I had an electric one that time, so it was easier on him 🙂 I tried to leave the restaurant we had lunch in and I couldn’t get past this group of older ladies. They didn’t hear me say “Excuse me” and they didn’t hear the pitiful horn the thing was equipped with. I went around them, going over the curb 😦 Yes, older ladies! who are supposed to be better about these politeness things…they weren’t.

    When I use the electric carts in WalMart, I get a lot of O.O when I come out of an aisle, or around corners. I do get ignored. Out of sight (line of sight), out of mind. It sucks. I feel empathy with those folks who spend all their time in chairs.

    I do not ignore easy 🙂 you know that (for other readers, we’re family), but damn. We the disabled are human too!

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