As an amputee I have been exposed to many "inappropriate" or "thoughtless" comments by others. I understand that my amputation could make others uncomfortable, especially if I am their first exposure. I try to remember that the individuals are probably not trying to be rude, rather they are merely awkward.
However, I am tired of so many people referencing pirates. "Are you going to be a pirate for Halloween?" seems to be a common icebreaker. Robby has also been told, on more than one occasion, that he needs to be careful lest his Mommy "make him walk the plank." My all time favorite pirate reference came from an elderly man at the grocery store. Every time he saw me he displayed a huge toothless grin and said, "Argghhhh. Ahoy there matey."
Our culture certainly perpetuates the Pirate-Amputee link. Actually, amputees are often depicted as either helpless or evil in movies and on television. As a confident, active amputee, I find this frustrating.
The other evening I was watching cartoons with Robby and The Backyardigans came on. To be honest, this is not a favorite show of mine, but for some reason Robby likes it. I was doing what all good Mommy's do: I sucked it up and watched.
On the episode, the Backyardigans were pretending to be pirates. You guessed it-- the main pirate was depicted as a clumsy, intellectually-challenged amputee. My ire immediately increased as I thought about passing on this stereotype through a cartoon developed for toddler.
Up until this time, the only pirate that Robby has been exposed to has been Captain Feathersword from The Wiggles. I like Captain Feathersword because, although he does wear an eye patch, he is not an amputee. I suspect that individuals who have experienced an eye enucleation dislike the pirate reference as well.
As the blue penguin was hobbling around the pirate ship, Robby was laughing and enjoying the show. All of a sudden, he paused. It was as if he had made a connection. He crawled down and patted my prosthetic. He then smiled as he looked at me and said, "Mommy pirate leg. ARRGGHHH!"
I never imagined that I would ever need to explain that Mommy is not a pirate. Despite my efforts, Robby refuses to accept that his Mommy is not a pirate. Robby is insistent that my "special leg" is really a sign that I was a buccaneer. He asked to go on the big pirate boat, and now he wants a sword. I miss the sweet, "Hi Mommy" that used to greet me whenever Robby saw me. Now I am greeted with an enthusiastic "ARGGGHHHHH!"