It seems that, whenever I having a conversation with somebody I just met, the conversation always migrates to my amputation. After meeting somebody new, and if my prosthetic is visible, I can almost see the brain synapses searching and connecting. And then, they say it. "My Great Aunt Betty's next door neighbor's brother-in-law was an amputee. He got around great!"
There needs to be a section in manner books dealing with these situations. It is human nature to want to reach out, but it is also human nature to feel uncomfortable around anything foreign.
Attempting to demonstrate acceptance through association seems to be a universally employed conversation starter. I always strive to be polite and engaging. On occasion, I have a different reaction privately, depending on my mood. Sometimes I wonder what Aunt Betty's next door neighbor's brother-in-law was using for his prosthetic. Sometimes I chuckle at the stretching of a "friend circle" in an attempt to demonstrate that they are accepting and open. Sometimes I am annoyed. And someday, I am really worried that I'll respond by saying, "My Uncle Jake's ex-wife had a sister who was almost as ugly as you!"
Occasionally, I run into the "give me all the details" individual. These people quickly bypass all social etiquette by pressing me for details. "How did I lose my leg?" "How far up did I lose it?" "How long have I been an amputee?" "How do I take a shower?" "How do I have sex with one leg?" Other than directly telling the person that I don't feel comfortable talking about my leg at the moment, very little works to dissuade the "give me all the details" individual. I hate it when I encounter these types of conversations.
Although rare, I always appreciate the direct approach. These are the individuals who say, "I can't help but notice that you are an amputee. If you don't mind my asking, what happened?" I like talking with these people, because they tend to accept any information I offer, without pressing for details I may not want to discuss. Acknowledging the "elephant in the room" opens up the conversation to different topics. After all, there is more to me than just being an amputee.
I don't mind people asking me about my amputation, and most of the time I don't mind answering questions. I know that it is difficult to approach the topic, and I try to make people feel as comfortable as possible. Conversation starters are difficult for all people, amputees included. Most people seem thankful when I bring up the amputation first. Sometimes I do this to relieve the nervous shuffle or hand wringing before me.
I am lucky because I have the best conversation starters ever. I can bring up my leg and prosthetic.