Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shout Backs for Shout-Outs

I'm trying to teach Emerson how to deflect annoying questions about albinism. This is how our teaching sessions have gone so far:

Me: Emerson, where did you get that white hair?

Emerson: Where did you get that white hair?

Me: No, you say, "From the postman!"

Emerson: You say the postman!!

Me: No, just "the postman."

Emerson: Postman!

Me: Great! Let's try it again. Emerson, where did you get that white hair?

Emerson: Where did you get that white hair?

Me: sigh

I suppose we're making progress considering he now walks around the house randomly shouting, "The postman!!" with great glee.

I got the idea to give him some coaching from a recent NOAH webinar called "Stares, Smirks, and Shout-outs" given by a young woman with albinism. She suggested creating a "comeback bank" and helping kids to practice so they can respond quickly on the days they just don't feel like educating every person and entertaining every ignorant question.

Since I am their spokesperson right now, this exercise would be equally helpful for me. Most of the time I do end up entertaining every question or stupid comment due to a combination of feeling obligated and not being fast enough on my feet. Let me be clear that since the boys are still innocent (and clearly adorable in my unbiased opinion) little kids, no one has been purposely mean. While I would like to respond to stupid questions and comments by punching the person in the face or shooting back some searing insult, it just isn't appropriate. Not to mention I have to model for the kids how to be civil and thoughtful citizens - even when we're having a bad day.

During the webinar many participants wanted suggestions of what adults with albinism use for their own comeback banks, but there were not a ton of suggestions. Probably because coming up with standard answers that are effective without being too insulting is a fine art.

If you want to educate someone, you are going to have to give a standard explanation and then buckle down for the numerous questions that will follow. We've tried handing people a business card with info about albinism to get around this, but usually they will follow you and continue to ask questions about what's on the card. Or you find yourself unable to leave (i.e. on a bus, elevator, etc) and there ends up being an awkward silence while they read it and decide how to respond.

On the days you don't feel like talking, the comeback has to effectively and politely shut down the conversation...or else you might as well have started with the education answer in the first place.

If it can make us chuckle about our strange lot in life at the same time, all the better. Hence, the postman.

I know many of my readers are far wittier than me, so I am putting out a call for suggestions to complete our comeback bank. Here is a list of the common remarks/questions we get so far:

Where did they get that white hair?
(I say "The postman." Robbie's suggestion is, "Yo mamma." Feel free to vote on which answer is better, or come up with an even better answer.)

Why do they have such white hair?

I used to have hair that white! (Sometimes they add: Don't worry, it will change when they get older.)

Is that their natural color?
Or...Do you dye their hair? (You might think these people are being sarcastic. Let me assure you, they are not.)

Why do they have red/pink eyes?

Are they one of those albinos?

From children, who are the right size to make eye contact and thus focus more on eyes than hair): Why are their eyes so weird?

We don't get this one yet, but apparently it's the most common shout-out that adults get:

Hey Caspar!
or Hey Albino!

It may be hard to believe people have so little creativity, but considering some guys once drove by and shouted: "Hey Bookworm!" because I was reading a book on a college campus, I believe it.


  1. Inside jokes with your parents can be a lot of fun for kids, we had a bunch when I was little. My favorite one was when the waiter would ask if we wanted "Smoking or Non-Smoking?" My dad would say "Non Smoking" and then I would add, "I'm trying to quit." It was hilarious until I became a teenager. I was super bummed when we had to retire that bit.

    How about this one, for when they get older, "Yeah, well my Mom is Irish and my Dad is the Stay Puft Marshmallow man."

    Or, "Turns out you are not supposed to drink Whiteout, who knew?!"

    Or, " can see me? This disappearing powder is a total rip off."

  2. Ok, after much thought, my consistent comeback to adults, no matter the question, would be "My sons have albinism. Google it." If they continue to ask or comment I'd tell them to f-off, but that's just me. For anything that a kid says, I'd do the whole education bit "His eyes look that way because he has albinism etc etc etc because I think it's really important to educate kids about differences, respect and kindness. IME, kids respond best to honest, frank information. I really hope that with all the media attention and subsequent education about bullying, we'll start to see a decrease in kids being a-holes.

  3. With the sunglasses we get "Hey look at the baby movie star!" , "Oh, are you a movie star?" and once, "Are you ready for the red carpet?".

  4. We have an advantage in that our entire family looks like we have never missed a day of sunscreen:P The funniest comment we have received, was when a three year old little girl yelled at the top of her lungs, "that's the whitest boy I've ever seen!" Her mom was soo embarrassed and I quickly said, "you should see him jump!"

  5. I love this post! I love the comebacks you've come up with! Especially 'yo mama!'' I have a one year old with ocular albinism (she wears super thick glasses) and some of the ignorant, insensitive things people say blows my mind! I need to come up with some awesome comebacks like that! I love your blog!