Interview: Alexandra Sivtsova
My name is Maria Chertkova, I am 35 years old, and I am the curator of socio-cultural projects. All my adult life I know myself with a squint, I have it from birth. But my parents didn’t raise me as special, so I didn’t feel like that. Since childhood, I wore glasses, went to the Research Institute of Eye Diseases. Helmholtz. Then the severity was more: the eyes looked completely in different directions. It is believed that strabismus is not corrected until the age of 18, since in childhood and adolescence the muscles are very plastic - if an operation is performed at this time, they will stretch. So, there was no urgent task to get rid of him: I wore glasses and did the exercises.
During school time, children quickly begin to notice features. I was wearing glasses then and they teased me with my beloved "A bespectacled man, a ball in his butt, went to football." I will not say that it was traumatic. If they shouted to me: “Masha is a scythe hare!” I would not be offended. I even walked with my eyes glued down, no one mocked me. Interestingly, there was never a direct reference to the fact that I was cross-eyed: the glasses worried more, they scoffed only because of them. I did not suffer from strabismus and am glad about it: I understand that it could have been different. As a teenager, my nose bothered me much more. And when the question arose whether to have the operation or not, I refused - I liked wearing glasses. Later, the fear of anesthesia stopped me.
I have good eyesight - it's good that strabismus does not affect him. But some things are not available to me. For example, I cannot watch a movie in 3D - everything is doubled, and I see a projection of the original image. Therefore, when I put on stereoscopic glasses, I see not the whole picture, but separate parts of it, intended for the right and left eyes. In everyday life, everything also doubles a little.
I noticed that if something is wrong with you, then others are sure that you definitely want to fix it
Sometimes people ask: "Oh, when are you going to have the operation?" I noticed that if something is wrong with you, then others are sure that you definitely want to fix it. Strabismus is the same. At the same time, when I say that I will do the operation, the opposite effect is obtained. They object to me: “What are you doing, this is a trick. And so you will be like everyone else! ". It’s strange if you’re only interesting because of your squint. This reaction does not offend, but it shows that now you must be “not like that”. So you find yourself trapped in your peculiarity. Therefore, I do not like it when they insist on preserving the physical peculiarity, when instead of you they see your shell, identify and mark only because you are different.
After a while, I looked at myself from the outside and realized that my character and my squint are the unity of form and content. I strive to break stereotypes, get out of my comfort zone and not be afraid of unusual things. When I paint, I intentionally add asymmetry, because the moment everything follows the rules, the form and content die. Strabismus is close to my philosophy. I have such a character that I often provoke, and in this case, strabismus works for me. It happens that a person nervously, angrily asks: “I don’t understand at all where you are looking ?!” It sounds like a challenge. And, as a rule, I answer: "It's already three minutes on you." The interlocutor begins to get embarrassed - but I can't see myself, I, in fact, don't care.
The reaction to my squint convinces once again that people are static in their form, they want the world to stop, to be understandable and familiar. Children react differently: once in the subway, a five-year-old girl first looked at me for a long time, and then began to portray me. She brought her eyes to her nose, rolled them funny. When she noticed that I was smiling, she began to grimace even more. It was funny - after all, we do not take offense at the comedian.But if an adult did so, then I would simply think that he is a fool.
We are born with different physical characteristics and are dependent on what we are used to. People want unification all the time. Of course, everyone notices the differences, and the main thing here is to learn to react correctly, and not to cultivate a painful perception. Because it can be argued for a long time that physical features do not affect our reaction, but more often than not this is not the case. The people around them, out of fear, try them on themselves and change their attitude.
The reaction to my squint convinces once again that people want the world to stop, to be understandable and familiar
Now more than ever, there is talk of difference. At some point, the exaggeration of the situation became a fetish: "It's good that you are not perfect, because we have already passed ideality and caste." Those who think more broadly understand that at the moment we are at the stage “we have noticed 'others' and will work with them”. But there is no further awareness yet. Apparently, through these poles we will come to acceptance: we will stop dwelling on physical features and when talking with a person we will stop emphasizing that he has a squint or, for example, a limb has been amputated. We will not use this as a flag and distinguish a person according to this principle. However, there is a lack of development on the other side. A person with a physical disability often experiences aggression due to the fact that they feel misunderstanding from others. We must learn to accept people who have what you don’t have.
To "pull" the world and constantly notice all the imperfections, or, conversely, not to provoke and accept - this is the personal choice of each person. I did mine: at some point, there was more tolerance in me, I began to react more calmly. I understand that I could have done the operation now. After that, most likely, nothing will change in my head. However, I’m curious if I’m not going to stop being interesting if I change outwardly.
Photos: Natalia Gafina