Posted in Developmental disability service system

Smiling teeth with fangs.

Black and white photo of woman sitting at a desk smiling insincerely.
A picture from an article in Mouth Magazine, of a Nice Lady Therapist with allllll her teeth bared in a terrifying smile.

I didn’t want to get into everything my last post on Nice Lady Therapists and their war on human emotion.  But I want to say that my (mostly working-class, mostly Okie, mostly disabled) family has clashed with Nice Lady Therapists since the moment we came into contact with them.  And I’ve been in contact with some part of the psychiatric and developmental disability systems (different amounts at different times) since the age of seven.

By which I mean, there’s this way that Nice Lady Therapists, acting together, determine that their idea of correct behavior is the only possible idea of correct behavior.

So I lived in a residential facility for part of my teens.  And they had… problems… with my manners.  All kinds of problems.  Inappropriate happiness.  Table manners.  They actually told me I was completely disgusting and that nobody wanted to be in a room with me.  It went on and on.

The thing was, nothing they were getting on my case for was out of the ordinary in my family.

And then they’d get on my family’s case too.

It never occurred to them — or maybe they just didn’t give a shit — that my family came from a different cultural and class background than they did.

They just decided we were wrong and did everything they could to shape my behavior into something more acceptable to themselves.

Mostly they failed.

And the conversations that happened when my parents were like “But our kid isn’t doing anything wrong, we do that stuff too!” were every kind of condescending.

They acted like they were teaching me social skills.

They were actually more like trying to teach me their cultural norms as if they were the only cultural norms.  Or the only good ones.

And mind you, I’m always up for learning about cultural differences and how to bridge them.  That’s valuable information.

But I’m never up for being told that I and my entire family are disgusting, mannerless people with no redeeming value to our social skills until we can behave like something we are not, can’t be, and never were.

See, I value a lot of things about my culture.

I value being an Okie.

I value the things passed down to me by generations of poor and working-class Okies.

It doesn’t mean I think my culture is the best or that there’s nothing messed up about it, or there’s nothing valuable about other cultures.

But holy crap people, there’s nothing wrong with who I am to begin with.  And it’s ages of being told there’s something wrong with me that made it so hard to accept that I’m an Okie.  And accepting I’m an Okie has helped me work from a place of strength instead of always trying to be something I’m not.

And this stuff just starts to look like snobbery.

But in the developmental disability system and similar systems, it’s snobbery with a lot of teeth behind it.

A lot of smiling teeth.

With fangs.


For more where the photo at the beginning of this post came from, read Joe Ehman’s classic Mouth Magazine article, My Contaminated Smile.