This site is an intellectually witty, cringingly honest forum for discussions of taboo subjects especially as they relate to Hawaii. That’s a wonderfully broad spectrum. Today I propose adding “crazy” to the list of taboo names. I have been called that all of my life. The people who adopted me eavesdropped on the social worker and found out my parents met as patients in a psychiatric hospital. Ordinarily no information accompanies the prospective adoptive child. Info like that could be off putting and ruin the child’s chance for adoption. Or worse, info like that is used as a weapon against the child with a smug undertone–I know something you don’t know! And I’m not telling!
Were my issues interpreted through that lense and no matter what I did my behavior was labelled “off.” In a famous psych experiment medical students were told to observe psych patients and to write down any abnormal behavior. The “patients” were doctors who were placed in a room. I think they were told they had to wait for something. The students watched medical doctors biding their time in a waiting room and the students wrote copious notes after observing abnormal “reading behavior” and “writing behavior.” You see the point. If people expect something they will interpret observations to fulfill expectations. If I had come with a record of circus acrobats for birth parents, imagine how different I would have appeared.
As it was, the label crazy stuck. Growing up on strictly segregated Long Island I had extremely ugly incidents on the bus that picked each kid up at home and delivered them to summer day camp. Five days a week for 8 weeks I was called horrible names by the older boys. I was 9 and small for my age.
As bad as that was, now that I am an adult, I don’t take racial slurs to heart. Those words don’t reveal anything about me as a person. Quite the opposite. The use of racial slurs proves the users don’t know me, can’t even see me. Children use these words. The words have nothing to do with the real me. I am safe inside myself where no one can see me.
But if I am called crazy I feel exposed. People are nudging me, the actual person. Racial slurs are more traumatic in the moment but being called crazy hurts more in the long run. I would like people to hesitate before they fling the word crazy in my direction. It would be pleasing to me if people felt like they were doing something wrong. It would be great if crazy became like n****r, a word only the lowest classes actually used. This v