I’m an attractive, highly accomplished professional woman who sustained traumatic injuries in a car accident as an adolescent. I’ve suffered from RA (in silence) most of my life, and now that I’m approaching 50, my once sultry wiggle (a clever disguise for a badly crushed leg) has morphed into a not so subtle limp. The worst part is, Ms. Meniscus, and my raison d'être for writing, I find I’ve become a target for every post-menopausal crackpot who’s itching to engage in a groanfest. THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Keep your plantar warts to yourself! I do not want to bond with you nor your disease! If you see me mounting the treadmill at the gym à la Tiny Tim, I’m not looking for a shoulder to cry on nor to swap war stories. I’m looking to reduce inflammation…. I suffered in silence most of my life because, bottom line, there’s no dignity in yapping about it — except to one’s licensed psychotherapist — and now that I’m entering a new and important phase of life, I fear a pall of herniated disks hangs in the air.
— Desperately Dodging the Groanfest
Dear Desperately Dodging,
Oh hon, Ms. Meniscus cannot say exactly why people do it, but for some reason when someone walks with a limp—no matter how subtle or slight—way too many people react to the limp as if were something they actually have a right to comment on.
For example, some people notice a limp and say to the person with the limp, “You have a limp.”
Yes, some people when they see someone with a limp will actually say this as a declarative statement. It’s hard to say what these people are thinking (if they are thinking at all). Are they assuming the person who has a limp is not aware they have a limp and they need to tell them?
Then my dear Desperately Dodging, there are those who notice someone has a limp and actually ask, “You have a limp?” A friend who has a limp told Ms. Meniscus that when asked if she has a limp, she has decided that the best response for her is to say, “No. Why?”
And then, there are those who notice that someone has a limp but instead of saying, “You have a limp,” or asking, “You have a limp?” they will say nothing about the limp—not even use the word limp at all.
Instead, seemingly out of nowhere, they may suddenly bring up their own physical issue in an attempt to connect via forced empathy:
“I have really bad bunions.”
“I need to lose twenty pounds.”
“I have bursitis in my left shoulder.”
“I need to have extensive oral surgery.”
Ms. Meniscus would suggest that your “crackpots” at the gym may fall into this odd personal revelation/pity party category.
So what should you do about it? It’s up to you my dear. Since you are not looking to make friends at the gym, Ms. Meniscus would suggest that when approached by those looking for a mutual groanfest, to politely say you are there to workout and cannot talk and exercise at the same time. Or plug yourself into a music player so you don’t have to hear them at all.
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