20 Top Strange (and Actually said!) Things NOT to Say to Amputees
We all have moments where we stick a foot in our mouth (pun intended). When you have only one foot the moment can be even more awkward. Here is my top 20 list of things that are said to me, an amputee, which I rhetorically/sarcastically respond to below. I must note here that the intentions of the speakers are typically not rude or heartless but just because I do not believe most people have ill intentions in saying these things doesn’t mean I shouldn’t and draw the line in the sand for basic conversation etiquette. Take a moment to read my humor-inspired top 20 list below and feel free to add a few of your own in the comments!
Humor Disclosure Statement: My rhetorical responses (in italics) are to be humorously interpreted by other amputees and may sound extra harsh to make a point. Some humor may not translate for my two legged counterparts. Reader Beware!
- “Mmmm…I don’t see another leg there…” – Well I’m really glad you aren’t seeing double.
- “It’s such a shame…you’re so pretty…” – Can someone explain this one to me? When did having all your limbs become a requirement for a pretty face? Last time I looked at someone that was pretty it wasn’t because of her pedicure.
- “You have so much courage to wear a bathing suit and come out here like that” – I hadn’t really thought about it until you pointed out what a freak I must look like. Should I go slit my wrists now…or after our water aerobics class?
- “Thank you for your service to our country…or, well, um…seeing your tattoo was it a motorcycle accident?” – Tattoos do not mean I was a biker babe (note the past tense) but seeing that mole on your chin I did wonder if you were the wicked witch of the west at one point.
- “Come away kids, we don’t ask questions!” – First of all, let them ask. It is better for a kid to ask and then leave it alone than for you to loudly correct them in a way that insults me by assuming I am also deaf.
- “Can I get the door or are you going to snap at me? SOME PEOPLE get mean, you know…” – SOME PEOPLE are rude enough to slam the door in your face too but it doesn’t mean you should! I’m a lady with two crutches in my hands, a smile on my face, and a bag on top of it: open the door for me. I can’t help other people have issues but now that you are projecting their attitudes on me I am tempted to get snippy.
- “Where did your other leg go?” – It rotted in the grave twenty five years ago. Do you really want to know? Or perhaps I lost it and if you find it be sure to let me know.
- “Maybe someday you will find a young man that will love you in spite of this.” – When I was single this was said to me more than any other comment. I don’t care what was “intended” by this statement it is rude. It always made me want to say “well looking at you (knowing you got married) I find hope.”
- “How OLD were you?” – Is there an age prerequisite for amputation? Yes, yes, it’s a shame that I was only four years old but what are you getting at? No, amputation as a child isn’t any easier than for an adult. Disability means you must motivate yourself to move and be healthy regardless of the age. Speaking of age, how old were you when you lost your manners?
- “I guess I shouldn’t complain about my problems to YOU…look at YOU!” – The truth is that we all have problems no matter how great or small. My biggest problem is not on the same wavelength as that of a bilateral amputee. But really, stop comparing and assuming that I must be doing awful just because I am missing a leg. Seeing you missing your brain through these comments makes me feel sorry for you instead.
- “I wasn’t sure if that was you and then I realized…duh!” – It’s always nice to know your friends recognize you by your number of feet. I wouldn’t mind this comment if I was with a group out drinking and there was no other way to identify Ashly Ash, but since you more than likely aren’t incapacitated this is a comment you can just keep to yourself.
- “You should wear your leg, you seem so weak with only one.” – Weak = missing body parts? I’m sorry but to me weak = your limited perception of true strength and courage. End of.
- “Well, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?” – Actually that is not always true. It almost killed me and it killed many others that were there with me. I’m not here because I’m strong I’m here because God ordained it and He kept me alive. That being said do you have any idea how hard my life is or has been? Don’t brush my sacrifices off with a petty silver-lined comment that says you feel you have rationalized and justified my entire life in seven words.
- “Why aren’t you wearing your leg?” – Not sure, why aren’t you wearing red underwear? Why aren’t you wearing a hat? Hey, a pair of spanx could really dress you up a little! I have my own reasons do I really need to explain them publicly? Move on!
- “If I were you I would kill myself” – Nothing motivates and encourages me to face another day as a handicapped woman like this comment. Really?
- “My brother’s, nephew’s, sister has a niece that is cousins with a girl dating a guy that lost his pinky and still runs a marathon!” (Exaggerated family tree …but surely everyone knows SOME distant connection) – I don’t care. Really. As bluntly as I can say this I will repeat myself: I don’t care. Each amputee is different. Each level of amputation is different and we don’t all carry some membership card stamped that we joined a club. We are individuals. I also don’t care if you saw the latest technology on television. Truthfully, my insurance won’t cover any of that stuff for another 15 years anyway. It’s like me reminding you that my sister’s husband has a brother that married a white woman. Just sayin’…
- “You are so brave, I wouldn’t even leave the house, I would curl up in a ball and die” – Maybe that would be best for you then if your entire self-worth is wrapped up in what you look like when you walk out your door. Life goes much deeper than looks.
- “Wait, you are married like that?” – Yup, freak girl with one leg and metal rods managed to snag herself a man. And not one that felt sorry for her either…imagine that. This comment makes me sad for people because they must not understand what true love is about.
- “I wonder if you can have kids like THAT?” – Well, I don’t have any yet. How do you know that isn’t a sensitive topic that may cause me to burst into tears? How rude! I don’t ask you if you can have kids like THAT…
- “Does the bone still stick out?” – C’mon don’t be stupid. Educate yourself. Moving on.
That about sums up the most frequent comments made to me. I am sure that if you are reading this and you are an amputee you have a few of your own, and I would love to read them. Leave a comment below the article to share with all of us or send me an email at email@example.com and I may add it for you!
To my two-legged compadres that have suffered and probably even found yourself in the above list: I love you and wouldn’t have had an article if it weren’t for your clumsiness! Thank you for being you and I am more than sure you have experienced plenty of inconsiderate statements directed at you. Share those stories with me as well!
36 thoughts on “20 Top Strange (and Actually said!) Things NOT to Say to Amputees”
I usually get ‘so how long have you had your leg?’ To which I reply ‘about the same length as the other one’!!! Numpties so folk.
I had to really laugh at number 16!! That happens to me all the time!! I will think of some and send them to you!! This is GREAT!!
I just love this and I can so relate! Most of these things have happened to me as well.
Here’s one of my experiences: “If you just had enough faith then your leg would grow back” Someone stopped me while I was shopping one time and prayed for my leg to grow back, telling me that “God has all sorts of limbs waiting in Heaven for people who just asked.” So basically, I am still missing my leg because I forgot to pray for it to grow back? Hmm. I mean, I love God and I fully believe nothing is impossible with Him, but I’m pretty sure the fact that my leg is still gone is not an indication of my level of faith. And honestly, I have learned to accept and embrace the amputee life, so I don’t really wish to have that limb back. This lady expected to watch my leg suddenly reappear right then and there. Weird.
Were you in the War? Ok I am a 54 year old woman, what war do you actually think I might have been in?
Did it hurt when they cut off your leg? Um…..they generally use anesthesia now during surgeries.
Did you get lots of money because you lost your leg in an accident? Do I look like I got lots of money? I am driving a 5 year old car, and not wearing designer sunglasses…..
I bet you are glad that they have disability benefits for you. Uh…..I work a real job, and I never even considered going on disability…..
And yes, disability is nice to cushion the fall slightly, but that is all! It’s nothing to brag about or live lavishly off of……unless you know of somewhere that 1k a month would make you “high status.” Thanks for sharing!
Wow, those are really bad. But then, the types of questions people feel they have the right to ask complete strangers has always boggled my mind.
Great post. I cannot believe some of those, good grief.
I read this because my sister’s boyfriend (Oly, who has multiple limb deformities/amputations) posted a link on Facebook.
I think the bloke is truly inspirational and I asked if he’d agree to co-writing a piece, to tell his story on my blog, Diary of an Internet Nobody.
Here is the resulting post, I hope you don’t mind me posting it here and that you find him as inspiring as I do…
• “Mmmm…I don’t see another hand there…” – What…waaaahhh!!!!??????
• “It’s such a shame…you’re so pretty…” – True that.
• “You have so much courage to wear a bathing suit and come out here like that” – True that. But watch me swim. So much water, so little time.
• “Thank you for your service to our country…or, well, um…seeing your tattoo was it a motorcycle accident?” – You must confuse me with someone else. Happen to you often?
• “Come away kids, we don’t ask questions!” – True that. Off you go.
• “Can I get the door or are you going to snap at me? SOME PEOPLE get mean, you know…” – Yeah hold that door will you. Thanks.
• “Where did your other hand go?” – Shit, what…. YIKES WAAAAHHHHHHH!!??
• “Maybe someday you will find a woman that will love you in spite of this.” – Yeah, who knows.
• “How OLD were you?” – Younger of course. Rarely stuff happens to folks when they were older. Time as concept confuse you often?
• “I guess I shouldn’t complain about my problems to YOU…look at YOU!” – True that.
• “I wasn’t sure if that was you and then I realized…duh!” – Yeah it was me all along. Who are you though? Do you address yourself by first name, or by Mr/Ms?
• “You should wear your prosthetic arm, you seem so weak without it.” –You should see me drunk..
• “Well, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?” – There is a typo. What does not kill you makes you STRANGER.
• “Why aren’t you wearing your prosthetic arm?” – I am ….WHAT??? AAAAHHH!!!???
• “If I were you I would kill myself” – Forgive me as I am curious … HOW, if I may ask?
• “My brother’s, nephew’s, sister has a niece that is cousins with a girl dating a guy that lost his pinky and still runs a marathon!” (Exaggerated family tree …but surely everyone knows SOME distant connection) – How does he drill is nose though?
• “You are so brave, I wouldn’t even leave the house, I would curl up in a ball and die” – True that.
• “Wait, you are married like that?” – True that.
• “I wonder if you can have kids like THAT?” – Yeah, me too.
• “Does the bone still stick out?” – That would probably not take much.
Here’s one for you:
“Oh, the doctor took your leg off just because you had cancer growing in your foot? Can you imagine what I felt like when asked that question? I felt like saying: No, he took it off for the hell of it! But I didn’t because my Mom raised me to have more manners than to ask such a STUPID question like that! It’s like, no – I really wanted to keep the cancer to see if it would keep growing up my leg too!!
The first time I went to the pub after my amputation, a older man came to me as I was returning to my friends from the toilets. He said he really admired me coming out to the pub with my prosthetic on display (it was summer), no matter how many times I said thanks and tried to move round him, he kept stepping in front of me and saying things like it really takes guts going out like I did and his army friend lost his leg and was a mess, depressed and wouldn’t leave the house. In the end I had to say that if he didn’t leave me alone I would call the bouncers (security) and he got offended by that. ha! People really need lessons how to converse with others and how not to gossip about other people especially supposed friends and family.
I’m a lbk. my bff and I were joking with each other on Facebook. you know the photos we see where amps make fun of themselves with their prosthetic in the sand or a Halloween costume in blood and a ‘knife’ minus limb. My bff’s aunt managed to turn the joke into us attacking and bullying her because she had been burned in a fire as a child! If anything we were saying how ingenious and creative the amps were, and absolutly nothing to do with her or anything nasty.
I suppose some people can turn any issue from innocence to nastyness in a split.
BRAVO!!!!! This was perfect! I am a DBK, oh WOW I get 90% of these all the time. Amazingly enough #19 I get from other amputee women…which dumbfounds. #5 is my biggest pet pev…don’t pass your uneducated, bias, embarassed, close minded, ignorance onto the next generation. Let them accept differences by ASKING. Asking is the only way they won’t be scared of differences, and accept all for who they are.
“I know the leg is fake, but is the foot real?” Think about it, how would that work. From a grown woman. Haha
Possibly a cultural thing but last time I was on holiday, whilst sum bathing, I had 3 separate German families ask if they can pray for me!! I’m not religious I don’t answer to a single God no matter the religion! Why would I want you to pray for me! The way I see it, If their is a God(s), The reason they took my arm away from me was to give the rest of the world a chance to be as awesome!
Thanks for writing this article, it’s very eye openning to hear from the community. My brother deals with this and it irritates me when bystanders stare or ask questions which at first always bother me. However maybe it’s hard to assume they have any understanding of an amputees situation or empathy to educate others? It’s hard, but maybe our chance to enlighten bystanders of life as an amputee, the misunderstandings, discomforts and inappropriate social conduct. I wish nothing more than for the public to accept my brother and the amputee community not as disabled but living life in a different way. How might we merge humor, enlightenment and empathy to bring us closer together as a society?
(Otherwise I feel this divide will sadly continue to widen)
my fav did it hurt (hell no I passet out from laffing)
Where shall we get this and cost ?
When children start staring at me and my left aka I just say to them that it’s not nice to stare and make them go away. Although I always make fun of myself. I tell people my name is Eileen and that I live up to my name. What do you call a girl with one leg shorted than the other. Eileen. People don’t believe me that that is my real name. Some have asked to see my license. Haha. Yea that really is my first name. Some people are just so ignorant.
I have had people not want to talk to me for fear of their leg falling off. Which makes it really hard to find a boyfriend when you live in a very small town like I do but I did find a great man about 18 months ago and my leg had never bothered him.
The best one I have had said to me was I know an amputee and he has no problem walking up and down a ladder. But wait he is a below the knee and I am above the knee. Some people don’t realize that they are like apples and oranges. Two completely different things.
I don’t get it… Why is it funny that your name is Eileen???
I lean (Eileen) to the left!
What do you call a girl with one leg shorter than the other.
As in I Lean.
This stuff is awesome! I am not an amputee myself, but my husband is. I especially love the ones about self worth, and the fact that people mention beauty, etc. It’s so ridiculous. I especially LOVE your responses! I swear, some things people come out with are so insane. I just wanna go, ” here’s your sign!”
I hear “oh my, you are just such an inspiration to us all, god bless you.” These people have no idea who I am or what I stand for. I’m so much more than a woman on crutches with no left leg going Into a store and I do not want anybody to get me one of those electric damn shopping carts!
Oh I hear you on that on. I always hear you are such an inspiration. I am thinking yea not really I am just happy I got out of bed this morning.
They were great and supper funny .
I’m a hemi pelvetomy amp from mv accident and have some crazy scares on my arm and I’m a huge guy walking around on crutches. So needless to say I stand out lol
I have watched children walk into a pole as there walking down sidewalk with there eyes completely glued to me . I personally love it and try hard to talk to anybody that I see.
I get the regular stuff like what happened and kids asking were my leg went . But I don’t mind
I try to correct people when they say stuff like take off shoes or were is your boots lol
But that’s it.
Enjoyed your list
Applause for Gary. That’s the way to handle it!
I get asked silly questions for quite a different reason. I have psoriasis. And you won’t believe what people say to me sometimes. “Is it contagious?” “Did you lie in the sun for too long?” “Why don’t you wear long sleeves?” (Because it’s too hot for that!)
I seriously hate the commercials about skin problems. “See me See me”. The way I feel is that they are basically calling them people ugly and I think it’s very rude. Also how they ALWAYS have the long sleeves on. Like give me a break and stop saying these people are ugly.
I’ve been a right bk amputee for 45 yrs now. These list and stories I have experienced nearly all.. Kids are great and curious and never fail to respond to their interest.. If only I had started charging 5 cents every time I have answered the “How did you lose it?” I’d be rich.. nearly every person you speak too will ask it fairly quickly, and no, I’ve never experienced anyone being rude about it.. just ignorant of it. Some do lose their limbs in the most violent ways possible.. Think before you ask.. Every time you ask they are forced to relive that moment.. Just treat them like any two legged or armed etc person.. There really isn’t any difference..
When kids stare at my leg (AKA) and parents shoo them off I tell them its alright and then explain it’s my robot leg and mine got sick and they gave me this one. Kids are curious and true it’s rude to stare but it’s even ruder for parents to shoo them of and not explain. Off topic but same concept. Before amputation I was a cop and it would burn me up when parents would tell kids that would stare at me that they better not because I would throw them in jail. Come on really parents your just teaching your kids to be afraid of things they shouldn’t be.
I have been a B/k since July 4, 1999 and 6 mths later a young gentleman said to me ” Can you still make LOVE, Like fool around ? I look at him & said ” Do I look Dead to you ?
How soon can you come in and run the bingo? Uh, I don’t have the stitches out yet nor do I have a prosthetic to walk with.
2nd ? By same person: can someone come pick you up and bring you over. Seriously? Do you have a hearing or comprehension problem?
While I want to say I am shocked, I am not! It is appalling! Good thing phones no longer have cords, you may have strangled her! I wonder if people could read some of their own foolish requests of us what they would think? I am frequently asked to help decorate venues…using a ladder. What?! Thank you for sharing that with us, Wanda!!