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Georgina Kleege

On Being Who I Am: My Life as a Tall Blind Woman

This is the first installment of LightHouse Interpoint — the new weekly literary supplement from LightHouse for the Blind. It also marks the start of ‘A Month of Blind Women,’ a four-part essay series that will also appear on The Toast.

Image of a Paris Taxi Cab

By Georgina Kleege

When I was about nineteen, I got into a cab in Paris and the driver commented on my height. This was not unusual; I am tall, have always been tall, and was accustomed to people commenting on it. But then the taxi driver told me that in Sweden they have an operation to fix that.

“To fix what?” My French is good, but the reference to Sweden caught me off guard.

“Your height,” he said. What they did, he explained, was to cut out a section of the thigh bone, just a few centimeters. Then they’d pin the bones together and sew up the leg, and I’d be good as new, only shorter.

I should have let it go at that; should have said, “Sounds great. I’ll pack my bags and leave tomorrow.” But I was too stunned to let it go. “If they cut out part of my thigh, my calf will be disproportionately long,” I said.

“So they can take a piece out of the calf bone, too,” he said. “Then they could take a little bit out of each arm bone, and remove a couple of vertebra as well.”

I was fascinated and horrified. In my mind’s ear I could hear the sharp, metallic clink as small sections of my bones dropped one by one into a stainless steel receptacle, to the accompaniment of the melodic but muted commentary of my Swedish surgeons.

And why Sweden? I wondered. At the time, Sweden was universally associated with sex change operations, so perhaps it was natural for the taxi driver to assume that the Swedes would be able to handle this comparatively simple dissection and reassembly job. But the Swedes are, on average, tall people, certainly taller than the French, so is it likely that the Swedes would come up with an operation for a physical condition they would not define as abnormal?

I snapped out of it. “They can’t do that,” I said. “They can’t remove parts of your spine for cosmetic reasons. And anyway, even if they could, that would make my ribs too close together, and my inner organs would get all squashed. And when they sewed me back up there would be too much skin. I’d be all lumpy.”

“It would smooth out,” he assured me. “Anyway, the point is not to be in proportion. The point is to stop being so tall.”

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