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Deborah Caulfield's blog - disability arts online
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The consequences of praise: Bafflement, weirdness and wondrousness. / 6 January 2016

me standing with bike

Me, bike, weird hair, clothes they made me wear and smile they made me smile. 1962.

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Today I received praise for my writing. It felt good. And weird.

I wonder why ...

My earliest memory of being praised was a teacher congratulating me for passing the eleven plus exam. I was baffled. I didn't even know I'd taken it. Then I remembered the strange test we'd all been made to sit.

However, I still didn't understand. Why had I passed and others not? It was a mystery. It also changed my life, and not for the better.

Bafflement was followed by weirdness.

The first weird thing that happened was TB meningitis. It nearly killed me. I was out of action for the best part of 1962, the year the world wasn't nuked off the map of the universe.

The next surprise was  the bike my parents gave me, a present for passing the eleven plus. It was their way of saying well done for not dying, now go away you little shit.

This photograph, taken at the insistence of my mother to mark the momentous occasion, shows me standing with said bike, wearing a horrible new hair cut and tolerable new clothes.

A few months later, my best friend died during an operation to save her life. This weirdness was just God's way of saying well done for not dying, now go away you little shit.

Then one day my parents found a photograph of me kissing my boyfriend. They told me I was a whore and I'd end up as a teenage pregnancy statistic. Was that what I wanted? It was just their way of saying ... blah blah blah you little shit.

So when some of the Chailey staff ganged up on me and told me I was a pig and an ungrateful nuisance and if they had their way I'd be expelled, I knew the score. I was a little shit but I wasn't going anywhere.

There followed decade after decade of weirdness.

Until today.

Yes, today marks the end of weirdness and a new dawn of wondrousness.

Why not?