Excuse my choice of wording, it’s intense and maybe some of you rolled your pretty eyes, so let me explain. It’s 2017, and we’re finally at the point where we can finally talk about ableism semi-openly, and kinda-sorta-sometimes be understood. In the wake of this progression, many PwD have taken to the internet to explain specific kinds of ableism as they show up in dating and intimacy. We scramble through our experiences and horror stories, trying to describe with accuracy all the very specific bulshit that’s happened to us, wading through it in written form, trying to make sense of being treated like garbage more often than not. One such blogger, Spice and Crutches, does this with the bluntness and clarity that seems to only grace most people in the minutes right before they fall asleep at night.
Her most recent post, “My Disability Doesn’t Make Me Difficult to Love, it Makes it Harder for Me to Accept Ableist BS,” talks about the protective armor life with a disability has given her:
“Throughout my life, I have cultivated a well learned, low threshold for bull–it’s what has gotten me this far. For better or for worse, I can assess a person’s character in seconds with a precise level of accuracy. I don’t get tripped up, so I don’t fall”
The way she writes about her bullshit detector makes her sound pretty badass, but I wanted her to go further. I wanted her to talk about to talk about how lonely, “Not-Today-Ableism, Not-Today,”” life actually is. I wanted her to explore what happens when we accept ableism, just a tad, in the name of achieving intimacy. Because, from where i sit, accepting ableist BS in the name of love and friendship is heaps more likely than living life alone.
Since ableism is part of disabled life, it’s easy (and common) to become complacent towards it, especially in dating situations. One morning last summer I was out for breakfast with this guy, Tim Kitz (of whom I’ve written previously). At the time, our relationship was fresh and I still felt a lot of hope, mixed with the pesky desire to confirm that he was genuine. We had just finished coffee and making fun of others, and he was pushing my wheelchair in the direction of his truck, when he sighed and said, “Kristen, is it bad that I kind of like going out with you because it makes me feel good? I just, I know people are looking at me like I’m some sort of saint right now.”
I paused. Why did he have to wreck an otherwise great date? Omg he thinks I’m a prop. I thought of all the ways i could reply, and about the fact that it was still another block to his vehicle and said, flatly, “If that’s the only reason we”re hanging out, we need to re-evaluate.”
And just like that, my BS-filter sputtered a little, and the first bit of ableism was apparent. I look at the way I replied now, over a year later, and I don’t feel angry at myself. I don’t judge myself. I know that often, ableism is the price for intimacy, and I’m used to that reality. In an ideal world, I would’ve been able to say “No, that’s not okay you fucking dick,” but then we would’ve had to fight all the way to his truck, my wheelchair under his full control. So the ideal response wasn’t even possible, no matter how desired.
We accept ableism because it is everywhere–and to not accept it is to assume even more vulnerability. Often, saying no to its manifestations is simply not an option.