When Ableism Shows up Late

God, I’ve shied away from this topic for so long because I want one ounce of my life to be free of sad, inescapable b.s. dictated by others. But alas, here we are: it’s Monday morning and people are putrid.

I’ve been dating this guy for about 6 months now,  A comprehensive list of the reasons we are/were dating is as follows:

  • he likes having a gf
  • we both like sci-fi movies and talking about the ever-approaching apocalypse.
  • I like hugs
  • we’re both staunch losers, who eat and sleep way too much
  • we both hate people
  • he tolerates me laughing at my own jokes
  • i tolerate his inability to laugh at said jokes

There are a couple other reasons on my end actually, including some instances where he’s said the right stuff at the right time about my disability-like, that he wishes he were better at helping me. It might not sound like much, but all my other partners have leaned more towards the “I wish you were less disabled but oh well” train of thought. Say it with me: low bar.

Slowly though, the good responses to disability became little more than stock answers and ableism made its grand, relationship-ruining appearance. He is a person with naturally low empathy, who tries to be good on a cognitive level, not an emotionally driven one. When my disability would come up over text, he’d say something defensive like, “Well,  you don’t like your disability either. It’s just something that’s happened to you.” A fact which I cannot readily deny or even confront.

All the while, he continued being somewhat helpful, and saying other things like, “You don’t have to be afraid to be honest with me.” Which, really, felt like shit most of the time, because his subtle ableism was getting more and more overt, and yet, I could not risk confronting it.

Until of course, it happened so blatantly, I had to put an end to it. Recently, during some foreplay stuff, he pulled a move that had nothing to do with my pleasure, and I told him to stop. He did, and we laid there for a bit, while I explained (with his prompting) that I didn’t enjoy his move because I was not an active participant in it; it barely mattered if I was even there for it or not. He took a minute with my answer, as if carefully thinking out his reply, when he said, “You’re never really an active participant.”

I felt his ableist put-down stab me straight in my overly-sensitive heart and was stunned into silence.

Instead of using this space to, I dunno, take back his bullshit or leave me the fuck alone he continued, “If you were able-bodied, you would’ve allowed it” (that sentence has been changed to keep the specific sexual move private, but the sentiment remains). Jolted by the fact that he had the nerve to keep speaking to me–and insult me further, at that–, I said, “Stop talking.”

Here’s the thing about ableism: it’s slippery–difficult to confront because it’s often deeply internalized, impossible to talk-through because it automatically rigs things against you, assigning blame to things that are out of your control. It’s the cheap shot of all cheap shots, but still has the power to make you feel like shit.

Abelism or no, I no longer empathize with people that refuse to empathize with me.

1 Comment

  1. Oh, I do empathize. Been there, done that. Only, I told the man in question to get out of my bed and get out of my house. I’m sorry this happened to you. Thank you for writing about it and sharing it with others who might now know this can happen.

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