The first time I met my Jewish mother-in-law, I delivered a carefully rehearsed Yiddish greeting I thought was hilarious. She and my husband were speechless. That day I learned a “shiksa” should never attempt Jewish humor.
With that memory branded in my book of social blunders, I have never told a blind joke. (There aren’t that many good ones anyway, and all of them involve Helen Keller.) But one Halloween, when a blind friend of mine and I were talking about dressing up, I shared a fantasy I had: Wouldn’t it be funny to go as Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan? My shadow side wanted to challenge people’s notions that blindness is a “serious” subject:
Who are they?
I think they’re Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
Yes, but the one dressed as Helen Keller appears to really be blind.
I don’t know. Are they making fun of blindness?
That’s terrible. I think that’s terrible.
My friend and I hooted with laughter at the thought. But Victorian costumes are expensive, so we went instead as the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter, and the following year as the Lollipop Guild (complete with dance routine). This year we’re rehearsing our lines as The Blues Brothers: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”
Ironically, it turns out we have shifted some attitudes about blindness by not pulling the blind card. Neighbors and local establishments now wait expectantly to see “who we are” each year, delighting in the fun. And when passersby stared at the Mad Hatter’s white cane? We shouted with glee, “Off with her head!” It was funny, really it was.