Thu 15 Dec 2005
Today I took my second trip to the Carlisle House. I had to go alone because other people were busy with finals and work. I was a little apprehensive about going alone. However, as soon as I walked in the door, I was greeted by many people that I met last week. Many of them remembered me and my name, and I felt very welcomed. After I hung up my coat, I was invited by Scott to sit down on the couch and talk with him. He was concerned because I told him that I was very cold. For the next few minutes we talked about his pet dog, a Jack Russell Terrier. He told me how attached he is to her and what he feeds her every morning. Then Chris, who I met last week, came in from outside. He also was very welcoming and said it was a good surprise to see me again. Scott, Chris and I then talked about all of the snow, the cold weather, and the approaching storm. Then I walked over to the Christmas tree where Sam, another man I met last week, showed me the ornaments and lights that they put on it. He was very excited about all of the decorations around the building and told me that he was very excited for Christmas. I asked him if he had any exciting plans, and he said he would be with his family. Then Scott and Chris invited me to go outside with them while they smoked. Even though I don’t smoke, I went with them to talk. Once outside, they asked me a lot of questions about where I was from and school. They were interested in what I was studying and asked me about my tests. At this point we went back inside. Chris and I sat down in the kitchen to talk. He asked when I would be going home for Christmas. I told him, and he said that it must be hard for all of the parents when the Dickinson students go home. I was confused, and asked him why. He said it was probably hard because all of the Dickinson students “mooched money from their parents all the time and never did any work.” This statement struck me as very obvious as to how the Dickinson students are viewed. After this, Chris invited me to play pool. Scott came with us. During this time, Scott told me about living in Georgia, threatening to commit suicide, being put into a mental institution, and then being diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I also found out that he still lives with his parents. After this, I met with a woman named Kathy. She was working at the craft table. I sat down with her and we began talking. She told me about her cats, and how one of them had run away. We then spent a long time talking about our respective pets and love of animals. She then talked about her past—her jobs, relationships, and her childhood. She told me that she liked the Carlisle House a lot. After some more time watching her do crafts, I realized it was time to go. I said goodbye to everyone, and wished them all a Merry Christmas.
The overall mood at the Carlisle House was very pleasant and happy today. Everyone was relaxing and genuinely enjoying themselves. I was very nervous because I had to go alone, but when I walked in and realized that many of the members that I met last week remembered me, I felt completely at ease. It was very apparent that I was establishing worthwhile relationships with the people at the Carlisle House. Last week, I felt that I was desperately trying to make conversation and interact with people. Today, I had members calling me by my first name, asking me to sit and talk with them, and inviting me to do activities. My visit, on the whole, was much more comfortable and I was able to be more personable with people. I was particularly impacted by Chris’s statement about the Dickinson students being mooches off of their parents. This told me that many Carlisle residents think very poorly of the type of students that go to Dickinson. I knew that certain stereotypes of the students existed, but I had never heard anything first hand. When it was time for me to leave, many of the members wished me a Merry Christmas, asking me to return after the holidays. It was very fulfilling to feel that I had established real relationships with some of these people and in doing so, I was able to learn about their backgrounds and dispel some of my own false thoughts.
In her book Extraordinary Bodies, Thompson discusses how the terms “abnormal” and “extraordinary bodies” do not necessary reflect a person with physical flaws. She proposes the idea that “abnormal” is a term that is established and used by a particular sect of society that has raised itself or separated itself and feels that it possess a desirable characteristic. This translates into the idea that stereotypes can permeate into any and all aspects of life, not just physicality. I feel that my experience at the Carlisle House has illustrated this theory first hand. We can assume that individuals like those at the Carlisle House are stereotyped by general society because of their mental disabilities. However, it was proven to me today that this stereotyped group holds their own stereotypes against others. Not only are these stereotypes present, but they have nothing to do with physical flaws or abnormality. Chris’s comment told me that the Dickinson students are looked at as being worthless, rich, and spoiled—quite a strong stereotype. I realized that I had been ignorant enough to think that a stereotyped group of people were unable to hold stereotypes against others. These visits to the Carlisle House have helped me to understand some of the theories and ideas discussed in class, as I was able to see them first hand. I was able to learn about people that had experienced much different things than myself, but also connect with them on other levels.