Yesterday was a beautifully sunny day and so I decided to gofor a walk to get the things I needed to make curry that evening.
On my way to the supermarket I walked past Gap's window and– as I am blessed with four fabulous godchildren – I took a look in the windowto see what spring offerings were on show and what winter sale bargains theremight be.
And this picture in the window caught my eye.
I stopped still and stared at it for about 10 minutes,grinning like a loon.
The child is gorgeous. She has those amazing eyelashes thatsome kids are just born with, the sweetest expression, she also looks lovely inthe clothes she has on. But that's not what caught my eye. What caught my eyewas the fact that this child was wearing hearing aids. And they lookedfabulous.
I wanted to grab passers-by and point this out, and then Irealised that actually, all the passers-by were walking past and probablythinking, 'What a lovely child' and not even noticing the hearing aids...
Indeed, when I put my first tweet about it on Twitter anddidn't point out the hardware in the the child's ears, even FJM thought that Iwas getting broody (*blushes).
But for me, it released a wave of emotion I wasn'texpecting. It released the emotions of being 10 years old and being givenhearing aids and being different. Of wondering if I would ever be as pretty asmy non-hearing aid wearing friends. Of catching sight of myself with glassesand hearing aids and thinking, 'Wow, all I need now is the braces and frizzyhair' and sighing sadly at the poster of some Home & Away star on my wall.What 10 year old doesn't want to be someone else though?
Twenty-six years' later, a lot has changed. I spent the bestpart of 10 years choosing not to wear hearing aids. Not because I wasembarrassed but because I couldn't find a pair to help me. Now, I am incrediblyproud of being a hearing aid wearer and I will shout until the cows come homeabout how, while my hearing aids don't give me back my hearing, they add a thirddimension that I didn't have before.
But sometimes I still have days where I plan my outfit, tiemy hair up and as I'm adding the finishing touches such as earrings or anecklace, catch sight of my hearing aids and think, 'Wow, I wish you were a bitprettier.'
Sure, there are things I can do about this myself. I can getmy tubing replaced, newer moulds to replace the discoloured ones I currentlyhave. Or sparkly moulds like the ones in the GAP advert – does the NHS dothese? There are also fabulous businesses like Tubetastic Pimps thatallow you to cover your hearing aids with patterns and decorations. But for mepersonally, I guess I never considered that I might still be pretty with my hearingaids in.
That is something I am a bit sheepish about admitting. Butwhat I am even more sheepish about admitting is that fact that, yesterday whenI walked past that picture, I wasn't actually wearing my hearingaids.
I had put them in before I was about to leave but then takenthem out again. I was feeling self conscious about wearing my hair up and myblack thick-rimmed glasses as there're not a lot of room for hearing aids, tooand my ears sit differently and I don't like my face anymore.
I chose to go out and struggle to hear what was going on, tomake a fool of myself in Waitrose when I couldn't hear the woman at thecheckout because I felt self conscious about my looks and I wanted to look likethe me I had in my head not the one in the mirror.
*looks at feet shamefully
But I don't even think I had really admitted any of this tomyself until I was faced with a picture of someone who looked amazing and waswearing hearing aids.
Looking at that picture yesterday reminded me that hearing aidsdon't matter when it comes to what someone looks like and that no one elsegives a damn about whether my face looks different with my hair up, glasses andhearing aids. Heck, someone might think I look lovely.
But adding them to advertising and bringing them out intothe public eye, in the same way as glasses are completely the norm, and quiteoften a fashion statement, might mean that a 10-year-old girl grows up feelingconfident and happy with her hearing aids in. Bold and clear about who she is andwhat her needs are. Brave and fearless about what she can achieve and whereshe's going.
Heck, there's a 36-year-old sat right here feeling all ofthose things with renewed vigour... wishing her 10-year-old self had had thatchance.
So bravo Gap. Thank you for making my day. Thank you forreminding me of a few things I'd forgotten.
I am Deaf Girly. I wear hearing aids. I am fabulous.
And so are you lot.