Emily M. DeArdo

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Be Like Briony! (Or: Disability and Reality TV)

essaysEmily DeArdoComment

So, I love the Great British Bake Off. Do you? :)

(For those of you who have no idea what it is: 12 bakers in Britain bake three challenges every week—two they can practice, one they can’t—they don’t even know what it is. The bakes cover pies (their pies, not American pies), cookies (biscuits in England), bread, patisserie, all sorts of things. At the end of each week, one person is “Star Baker” and one person is sent home.)


Anyway, I was watching the 2018 Bake Off on Netflix over the weekend, and I was super happy to see Briony, one of the contestants, on the show. Why? Well, first, she’s just great, but second, because she has a disability and she didn’t make hay about it!

She has what she calls a “little hand”—it’s a birth defect where she only has six fingers:

Explaining why she and Channel 4 chose not to mention what she has dubbed her “little hand”, the 33-year-old said: "I specified early on that I didn’t want them to make a big deal out of it because I just wanted to see how people would view it".

Williams went on to say that her disability is “a part of me, not all of me” before adding: “It’s not that I’m embarrassed about it or ashamed of it in any way. I want to be there on my own merit and I don’t want people to think that I’m getting special treatment.

Think about this. BAKING! With six fingers!

But what I love is that it’s never mentioned on the show. Never. She just bakes. She doesn’t use special equipment, there aren’t any “special moments” where she has a tender music fueled close-up where she talks about “overcoming”. She just does her stuff! And it’s great stuff!

When I was on Jeopardy! I didn’t really want to talk about my transplant. But….I did. Because that was the most “interesting” thing about me, apparently (eye roll). And they did make accommodation for me—but I didn’t ask for it—they did it in the interest of fairness, because they wanted to be scrupulously fair. So there weren’t any video categories for my game, or any music clues (even thought I might have done OK with that!).

The reason I like this so much is because I HATE a lot of reality TV—especially the talent/singing shows, where the singer comes up and does her bit and then spiels all about her issues.

Look. THIS DRIVES ME NUTS. I have always wanted to be judged solely on my abilities. I would never enter a contest and then pay the pity card. EVER. I didn’t do it for Jeopardy!, I don’t do it when I audition for shows, I don’t do it, period. Because I don’t want to get pity. I want to get respect for what I can do. So when I see people talking about how “Oh, this person with X was crowned Homecoming Queen!” or “this person with Y is on X Factor!” I want to scream. Because it makes it sound like that person only did these things because of pity. Not because of their excellence, their human qualities, their goodness, etc., but they become like side shows. “Oh, look, this person can be like anyone else!” these shows croon. Whereas Briony (and I hope, me) just go out and do it. We don’t have to draw attention to it. It just is. Not everything has to be a Special Inspirational Story of the Day!

Briony is my sort of person. She has an issue, yeah. But I mean, it’s not her whole identity. I’ll tell you I’m hearing impaired. Blog readers know it. But if you met me in actual life, you might not know. The people on Jeopardy! didn’t know until I told them. That’s how I like it. If I need accommodation, I’ll tell you. But I want to be judged on my merits, not on the pity you feel for me. I do not want pity votes.

Briony got on the show because she’s a kick butt baker. And that’s what matters!

Thirteen

CF, family, essays, organ donation, transplantEmily DeArdoComment

The annual transplant anniversary post tends to change, in form and shape, every year. This year, a lot has happened: 

Catholic 101 was published in November (buy it here--on sale until Friday!) 

My brother got married

(c) Erica Kay Photography , http://ericakayphotography.com/home

(c) Erica Kay Photography , http://ericakayphotography.com/home

 

My sister got engaged

Melanie and Jason (her fiance) leaving Bryan and Sarah's wedding (c) Erica Kay Photography, http://ericakayphotography.com/home

Melanie and Jason (her fiance) leaving Bryan and Sarah's wedding (c) Erica Kay Photography, http://ericakayphotography.com/home

I saw the Stanley Cup with my parents

I went back to Williamsburg and Duck 

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I started writing and editing for Take Up & Read. 

I celebrated my grandma's 88th birthday with my family

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I knit my first shawl. 

 

None of these things would've happened without my donor. 

It can be tempting to look at life in terms of productivity, what we do,  and I'm not trying to list my productivity. Look at what I've done! Rather, it's more like, these are things I never would've done, enjoyed, even conceived of, thirteen years ago. These are things that never would've happened. 

I would've missed my brother's wedding. 

I never would've met my new future brother-in-law and sister-in-law. 

13 birthdays, Christmases, holidays....all those things would've passed without me. 

In general, women post-transplant don't do as well as men. There isn't a lot of data, period, on women who have survived a transplant longer than 10 years. I'm in new territory here. 

I try not to think about that. 

Instead, these things I get to do are gifts, even when life is sort of sucky, because life is never totally perfect. I mean, things are overcome, yes--but just because something is overcome doesn't mean that everything is suddenly perfect. It doesn't work that way. 

Someone said, life is full of suffering, but it is also full of the overcoming of it. 

And that about sums it up. 

Thirteen years of overcoming is pretty good. 

With the cousins on my mom's side at my brother's wedding. This is not all of them, btw! 

With the cousins on my mom's side at my brother's wedding. This is not all of them, btw! 

To be an organ donor, go to donatelife.net/register