A Disability “Rough Patch”: The Shit No One Tells You

So. It’s 3:45 in the morning. And I’m awake because of a “disability rough patch,” which is a term that I made up, to describe those weird moments–days, weeks, or months–when your disability seems to be getting worse, only to have things return to normal at some arbitrary point in time.

When you live with a boring old “non progressive, largely not yet understood” disability, these rough patches can make you feel like you’re losing it. For weeks your sleep can be irregular, your bladder can stop bladdering, everything can suddenly feel like your moving through all the spasms, just to do one little, stupid, fucking thing–and then poof, your mojo is back and you are back to regular programming. And because you barely know what’s happening, it can be hard to explain to others. So, as a person who’s had 10+ years in disability rough patches, here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Disability rough patches are real, you didn’t make it up. Just because the heightened symptoms are temporary (with non progressive disabilities), doesn’t mean you’ve imagined them. As disabled people, we often have to explain ourselves to everyone, because unless you’ve got it, you just don’t really get it,  so , on a base-level, it’s crucial that we validate our own, and each others’ disability rough patches.
  2. Disability rough patches usually have an end. Don’t worry, soon this will all stop and you can totally avoid the doctors’ in good conscience.
  3. You really do deserve extra self care when this happens. Something’s up with my emotional regulation thanks to brain damage, and that amplifies in times like these. Yesterday, I cried while reading a book I barely like, because one of the characters I barely know had a friend die. I straight up bawled my eyes out. It was 7:45 in the morning and the book is fiction. Please rough patch, end soon. (If that doesn’t scream step back and take care of yourself,, I don’t know what does).
  4. New problems show-up sometimes. And then they vanish. This time around, I’ve been waking from my sleep gasping for air. In the past, I’ve slept way more than normal, but then gone back to my regular sleep schedule weeks later. I think it’s normal that new and exciting problems show up and then leave again, just too keep you on your toes.
  5. I am not a doctor. There’s a chance that the “disability rough patch” is just my way of coping with the unknowns of my disability to avoid doctors. So, if you’re going through stuff that’s totally unrelated to your disability, maybe ignore everything I just wrote and go to the doctor.

Ways I take-care of myself during a rough patch:

  • Disconnect from social media and email as much as possible, and give myself brain-space to actually think about what I need instead of people’s dumb, ableist, never-ending schedules and demands.
  • Netflix. Hahahah, whatever, I do this when I’m great, too.
  • Naps. Because, when you have no idea what the fuck is going on, why not sleep on it
  • Forgive yourself. I know this one’s all cheese,but often because we have to justify everything re: disability to others, we have to justify it to ourselves too. Forgive yourself, you don’t owe an explanation and you didn’t do anything to bring this on.
  • Hang out with other PwD. Or stay home with the cat. Your call.
  • Go to the doctor? Make sure you’re in a solid enough place first through, this one’s usually terrible.

 

Dating A Hippie Who Isn’t Actually Very Hippie.

I just got out of this shitty relationship. Shitty because, when it was good, it was really good, and when it was bad I wanted to stick my head in an oven. The guy? Dude’s name is actually Tim Kitz–I won’t be complicit in the protection of abuser’s identities. Stay away from him, friends.

Anyway, Tim seems like a hippie in the hippiest of ways, with trademark unkept hair and a commune-like living style. The type that cleans out plastic cups so he can recycle them, and turns dinner conversation into a deconstruction of capitalist ideals.

On paper, Kitz seems fantastic.He knows all the relevant feminist-progressive ideals and when to slip them into casual conversation. He, like me, seems to have a huge hard-on for radicalism and equality, and enjoys analyzing the places where the two intertwine. He’s also super affectionate, and spends more time touching me than, well, not touching me when we’re together.

When push comes to shove though, he is not even close to being the things he portrays and purports to care about, and it’s become more and more evident that a lot of his radical thought and progressive beliefs in things like “listening and validating others” and “not being a manipulative fuckhead to women that you’re sleeping with.” are nothing more than lip-service that he spouts when it suits him. Yeah, remember that part about wanting to stick my head in the oven?

So anyways, both of us have known for weeks now that things between us should be over. On my end, things are done because he’s incredibly manipulative. On his end, I don’t fucking know. He says I don’t listen to him. On our Last Night Ever Getting Back Together, he just kept saying that–over and over, in between other shit about how I’m a liar and a hypocrite and a user–“You don’t listen to me.” Even though I’ve spent hours upon hours listening to his rants about how I’m actually awful. Even though he guilts me for doing the very things I should be doing– hanging up, kicking him out–I should’ve never listened.

Before he derailed every one of my concerns into being about how don’t listen to him, he made it about how I always give up too easy. He said I never have ever given him a chance, and that when I ended things (which, I tried to do on average once a week), I was just giving up again. During one of his worst railroad rants he told me I’m a quitter, among other things, for ten minutes straight. No exaggeration.

O

All said, I’m sure you see the toxicity here.  Label it what you like–I’ve tried to compartmentalize it under “bullshit that seeps in to my soul, even though I’d rather never think about again ever,” but it’s tough. It’s tough because the first few paragraphs of this post still remain true.And those hooks, they’re deep.

Even though every fight somehow became about him and his pain, he’s the only guy who’s walked around the city with me, holding my hand. He’s the only one who gives me space to talk to strangers who assume I can’t talk, or talk to him first. The only one who said, “Fuck you,” to a passerby that said he was a “good man,” for holding my hand.

They’re are countless reasons why people put up with abuse. As a disabled woman, I think one of my reasons in this scenario was the way I simultaneously felt totally seen, and not seen at all. I felt a lot of love, and then I felt the rug slip from underneath me. I felt like people had no choice but to confront their ableism when we were out together, and that felt a bit like crack. I loved feeling like a real person.

Maybe one day I’ll feel it again, without a price.

 

This is what it feels like

I don’t know about you, but my last few months have consisted of men’s bullshit, and my minimization of said bullshit, as a means of survival.

But today, today I say fuck your bullshit.

Fuck the time you laid in my bed, right after I clarified that none of the hanky-panky would be had, stuck your fingers inside of me and said, “I want this.”

Not, “I want you” Not, “I’m attracted to you,” and definitely not, “I want your consent,” just this, and your stubby fingers in my beautiful vagina.

Fuck the night leading up to the morning of your intrusive fingers, when I said I was too tired to sleep with you, and you kept kissing me anyhow. Fuck the fact that I said at least 3 times that I was sleeping, and kept my eyes shut as you penetrated me with your penis regardless.

Fuck the fact that when you left the next morning, after your fingers had been inside of me and your penis had gone soft twice, (to which you blamed the speed crash you were having, and not the fact that you were trying to fuck someone who wouldn’t even open her eyes for you) the last thing you said was “You could’ve been more playful, you know.”

Fuck the likelihood that many of you will read this and wonder why I said “I’m tired” and “I’m asleep” over and over, instead of “No.”

Fuck the reality that I wonder that too.

Fuck the fact that you still text me.

Fuck the fact that you don’t know what you did wrong.

Fuck the knowledge that I’m a statistic.

Fuck the way that knowing you for a year changed nothing.

Fuck the way that all my wisdom on consent, and violence, and self-care couldn’t change a goddamn thing.

Fuck the perception that I’m vulnerable, as a disabled person,and its tangible, undeniable, non-socially-constructed truth.

Fuck the fact that after you’d left, all I could do was lay there, with my face in your pillow and your smell lingering, thinking about how it was bound to happen to me sometime.

Fuck the truth that so many girls have been here, and can’t read this without crying.

Fuck the fear that this won’t be the last time I experience this.

Fuck the fact that this isn’t even what I wanted to write about.

 

Please Stop Talking About That #Qdoba Restaurant

You’ve seen it; the viral video that shows a Qdoba restaurant fast food employee helping a PwD eat their meal.In case you live in a blissful world where people don’t have social media, here it is:

This video has been trending on-and-off on Twitter and Facebook since this afternoon, and it’s annoying, because the rhetoric around it is all wrong.

Qdoba

News reporters and common folk alike are calling this happening an “act of kindness” and the uploader of the video said the instance was proof “that there are still good people out there.”

I will be that person, to state that this is a very well-accepted form of exploitation of PwD. Many ablebodies are watching the video with butterflies in their stomachs, wiping stray tears from their eyes, as their hearts grow three sizes.

Stop the madness. Wipe your tear. Think about the facts:

– A disabled woman needed to eat.

-This woman made an order at a restaurant.

– She then asked for help eating.

– The guy decided he could assist her, put on gloves, and she ate.

That’s it. Sorry to bore you. Nothing to see here.

As I’ve been the girl to both need help and give others help with eating, I can tell you that it’s nothing to fuss over. As someone who can usually eat without assistance, I can tell you that it sucks when circumstance demands that I need help with it. You know what makes it worse? MAKING A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT, at the expense of my dignity.

Please stop reiterating our over-glorification of human kindness, at the expense of others. It’s  oppressive to those needing help.

Goodnight.

#WheelieAttachment Rd 2

stairs

A couple of nights ago I wrote a post detailing wheelies’ need to be incessantly clingy. It was full of self-negativity and became a scapegoat for my personal attachment issues. My attachment issues still exist–very much so– but below I’ve tried to reconcile with that post by providing a more systemic approach to the attachment issues PwD face. More specifically, I’ve looked at the ways in which the vulnerability stereotype, combined with society’s tendency to blame loneliness, and wheelies themselves, have created unhealthy attachment environments for PwD. Take from it what you will.

Vulnerability Reinforced

It’s my belief that solidifying vulnerability as a part of a person’s identity contributes to a life of overcompensation and clamouring after validation from others. Media stories on disability (few as they may be) generally have 3 subcategories: Inspiration, integration and abuse. The third category portrays us as helpless, unknowing, lonely people, who simply crave connection.

Reports depicting the abuse of people with physical and/or developmental disabilities enforce the idea of disabled people as vulnerable and perpetually lonely. In this news story from October, CBC details the sexual assault of a woman with an intellectual disability, on a bus in Winnipeg. Do me a solid and count the number of times they refer to this woman as vulnerable in the video segment. Seriously, try it. Notice how the first word used to describe the woman, after mentioning her young age, isn’t intellectually disabled– it’s “vulnerability”. The word is then repeated in different tenses by different people throughout the piece, followed by an assault statistic and a quote from an “advocate of the disabled.” (hehe, can I be an advocate of the gayed, please?). If by some form of amnesia, you forget the details of this assault, you can be sure not to forget this woman’s vulnerability, in relation to her disability.

There are a slew of other articles which also focus on vulnerability, but don’t take my word for it, Google ‘disability’ and anything and you’ll see what I mean. There’s this article, describing a number of abuses in ‘care homes’ in Alberta, this stat sheet on abuse of women with disabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador  and this statistical myriad, exposing that 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

What does all of this say about vulnerability and disability? Well, for starters, that it’s a stereotype that holds truth. Some stereotypes are out in left field, used for oppressive, manipulative purposes. But the disability + vulnerability stereotype originates from a place of honesty—you can see from the statistics, that disability and vulnerability are extremely correlated.

It also demonstrates that vulnerability often overshadows the other realities of people with disabilities, like stereotypes often do. The internet is overwhelmed with disability and abuse conversations, depictions, and coverings. What it lacks is the other aspects of disability—or more accurately, the humanity, to be seconded by the disability. There’s a reason the woman in the CBC story was only described as young, vulnerable and intellectually disabled. There’s a reason vulnerable was used at least a dozen times, and was by far, the leading descriptor. The truth is that, while abuse IS rampant within the disability community, so too is our loss of humanity in the name of sensationalization and stereotyping.

Don’t misunderstand, this post is not about to minimize the horrific problem that is abuse and assault of people with disabilities, my point is not about the assaults, it is about our one-dimensional focus on this vulnerability. It’s my opinion that no matter how much truth there is to a statement regarding a certain group, that statement becomes a stereotype when it allows us to lose sight of the group’s humanity.

By way of challenge, I suggest re-framing thoughts around disability and vulnerability. I think we should do what we’ve done for other experiencers of violence and assert that they are, in fact, survivors. This not only blows stereotypes out of the water, but it illuminates the fact that we—PwD and people who have experienced violence—are people….people with strength, even.(I know right? Stop the insanity).

Blaming Loneliness

People often believe loneliness is to blame for the prevalent abuse of people with disabilities, thinking that PwD’s hunger for companionship make them more susceptible to mistreatment—but to blame loneliness is to blame a symptom, not a root cause.

Loneliness is a hated part of human existence, well-understood by everyone on this planet, and probably by intelligent life galaxies away. Here’s a list of the contributors to wheelie-specific loneliness:

  1. Currently, I’m pulling a number out of my butt that says 60% of people won’t really be close with a wheelie because, “yikes what are you?!” Anyone want to do a ‘Would you befriend a wheelie’ poll?
  2. Wheelie’s Personality. So out of the 40% that will even consider being around you in public, only 15% jive with your brand of weird.
  3. Walkie’s Personality: You only care about 10% of those 15% that like you. What number does that leave us at? This blog doesn’t do maths.
  4. Money—All the wheelies I know are broke, except for one, and he’s one of the smartest people I know. Just one of those terribly resourceful motherfuckers that everyone and their mom envies.

Anyways, majority of wheelies are broke for most, if not all of their lives. Google              poverty rates and disability. It’s hard to be social without money.

  1. Accessibility—Nobody wants to kick it with you when you can’t meet them at their friend’s apartment, or go see their friend’s band, or join the after-party that’s atop 3 flights of stairs. You remind them that the world is unfair, that they are not into you enough to carry you around. You make them feel like shit.

The above list is incomplete, but you get the idea (Other contributors: Limited/no access to education, no access to supportive housing, struggles adjusting to social norms, after x number of years of being excluded). The problem is so much bigger than lonely wheelie who just wanted a friend. It’s systemic. And yet, PwD are still blamed for out lack of ability to find ‘normal,’ consistent, securely-attached friendship. Just the other week, The Telegraph published an article promoting, (among other things), that disabled people have help making relationships work. The article focuses on Tibby Owens, an“advocate for the sexual lives”of people with disabilities” . Owens is in her 70s, and has released a book for the caregivers of PwD called Supporting Disabled People with Their Sexual Lives. Her belief is that disabled people ‘mess things up,’ in the realm of dating. She’s positively oozing condescension and wheelie-blaming (that’s a thing? It is now.). Read:

“A lot of what we’re doing is helping disabled people gain the sexual confidence so that when they do meet someone they like, they don’t mess it up,” Owens says. “It’s all about being positive and enjoying it and achieving some sexual fun for the first time in their lives.”

Mess it up? Sexual fun for the first time in our lives? Lady, you and I need to have a sit down. Buy me a coffee ASAP.

The insinuation here is that someone might be able to bring PwD sexual joys for the first time EVAR because we are too lonely, isolated, and socially inept to figure it out ourselves. And again, while I recognize that this is a reality for some, I see no positives in acting like disabled people are to blame for not having all the awesome sex. We’re not. Stigma is. People’s misunderstandings about how our bodies work, what our limitations mean, and what they can offer, is certainly another area where my finger points. But me, my loneliness, my tendency to “mess it up”—damnit lady, if I could solve that, I would have a husband on a ranch by now (just kidding, manure is fucking gross). Please stop blaming me, stop blaming us and our lonely, it’s unproductive. And truly, Ms. Anointed to Help Wheelies Fuck, we were doing that long before you got here.

This post is so long and garbled, who knows why I started. The bottom line is that, stereotypes hurt, and when society perpetually sees us as vulnerable victims, and people who are all about the lonely, or people who don’t know how to fuck, well fuck you. Not in the fun way. Let’s rethink these beliefs and the blame that commonly accompanies them.

Stage 5 Wheelie

wheeliedog

Cute wheelie dog attaching to cute human=cute overload.

Gals, I want to talk in-depth about an issue that is under-discussed in the disability ‘community’: Attachment. Attachment describes the way people connect with others, in terms of speed, intensity, and patterns of behavior, once the connection is made or lost. It has been my experience that many PwD tend to attach quickly, and somewhat insecurely, to others. Having said that, wheelies are diverse, so not every PwD has an issue bonding securely with people, and if you feel offended or excluded by this assertion, scrap this window and write me an angry letter on the dangers of discussing truths within stereotypes. Or try watching that new show Broad City, it’s quirky and conveys everything friendships lack these days .

I don’t really know how walkies attach, I’ve never been one, and I’m sure many ablebodies attach in different ways (Google attachment styles if you feel like driving yourself nuts with self-diagnosis) . What I’d like to explore are the ways in which wheelies have a tendency to form intense and potentially unhealthy friendships, and the possible reasons behind this dilemma. Cringe at my generalization, but as someone who has had attachment troubles since childhood, and a person who has many friends with disabilities who have similar issues, I believe disability and insecure attachment are at least somewhat correlated.

In case my vague personal examples aren’t enough proof that a wheelie attachment issue exists, Ottawa has a social agency and a few day programs dedicated to the social lives of people with disabilities. These agencies tend to take the stance that PwD are in need of socialization and cannot find social networks without assistance because of stigma and lack of knowledge about their disability. While stigma plays a large role, I think this issue is much more complex than this, hence why I’d like to discuss over-attachment for PwD here…

The Roots: A bit of control

Being a PwD means many things for many people, but most of us play with notions of control; Loss of it, realigning with it (over and over), finding new ways to navigate it. When your body doesn’t do what you ask of it, you must negotiate with your reality. A common way of doing this is to take things while you can get them, in abundance, because who the fuck knows when you’ll get them again. My friend Andrew does this with beverages. He needs assistance when knockin’ ‘em back, so when he does, it’s as though he hasn’t had water in a week. It’s a similar experience with food, like every bite might be his last, and therefore must be the biggest, dirtiest, most unmannered bite ever (Sorry, Drew). Since he can’t consume most food or drink without help, every ounce of help is optimized My feeling is that this ravishing of resources extends beyond Andrew, and food and drink. It contributes to how PwD see our assignments, jobs, friendships, relationships. Anything that has risk of loss associated with it is fair game to be clung to, because who knows when opportunity will show its face again.

Another aspect of control that’s a component of clingdom is physical dependence on others. Boundaries are hard to maintain, when your personal well being relies fully on other humans. This means, again, taking personal care while you can get it, working around the schedules of others regularly, and accepting limitations of available assistance. This negotiation is constant, and gives many PwD the ingrained (somewhat true)idea that much of their existence is dependent, and secondary, to the lives of the ablebodied people that help them. Lack of boundaries and a missing sense of control is a major player in the self esteem of many people with disabilities, as our lives, our bodies, and our choices, often don’t feel like our own.

All this to say, when a person who we enjoy gives us the illusion of control—over anything from movie choices to sexual positions—we are all balls in. We may hmm and haw for the sake of societal norms, but Jay-sus, we are happy with you in that moment.

How This Attachment Unfolds

In the context of friendships and sexships, unhealthy attachment in wheelie life usually sounds something like:

: “If you take the time to get close, to give me some control, you should stay, because not a lot of people get close tom me, much less give me control.” As sadsack as this may be, it’s undeniably true in my experience (oh boy…), and I believe it plays a part in the way some wheelies connect full-throttle with peers, sometimes at the expense of their dignity and best interest.

Bare with me, but making new friends is tough when you have a bunch of metal under you butt. People are confused by you. They don’t know whether to stare, or avert their eyes, often they even have trouble knowing where to stand when talking to you, if they can even bring themselves to do so.

I’ve written about the issue of ablebodied awks 3,067 times, but I bring it up again because it contributes to the wheelie cling-on tendency. Think about it, when a large majority of people with whom you interact feel uncomfortable around you, the ones who aren’t become disproportionately important, by default. When a solid chunck of the people I see are asking me about my limitations, or looking away avoidantly, or smiling ear-to-ear in disability-related condolences, the ones who act normal around me become shining stars way too quickly. I breath a sigh of relief that I’ve found one less person I have to comfort over my disability. I feel thankful for this non-ignorant person, they have solidified my nagging suspicions that I am not an alien after all. And suddenly this person means more than I ever wanted them to.

Missed Attachments/Breakups/ThingsWherePplHateYouAfter

Other people, specifically ablebodied people, often just seem to bounce back from missed attachments, wrecked friendships and sour relationships. They’re all “Cha! Tally ho,” and they move on briskly, vodka flask in-pocket and guns ablazin’. New relationships will take awhile, but they’ll come in due time, rarely are others blatantly afraid to be in their presence. Does that seem overgeneralized? You’re right, attachments are a struggle for ablies too. Here, as contrast, I made a chart of disability-specific attachment manifestations:

Pretty colours

Whatever guys, computers are hard (Sorry).

As you can (not really) see, it  isn’t so simple for myself and some other people with disabilities. Since our rate of acceptance from others is drastically low, breakups of any kind also seem to take monumental tolls. Example (This is my way, I’m not sure it resonates with other wheelies whatsoever): I dread the end of acceptance so much that I often sabotage everything, because being alone is so much easier than my needy brand of connection. I don’t want to put anyone through that, so I blow everything up, and try to make them think it was their idea (And hey, sometimes it is). Because fear, like wheelies, stigma, and lonliness, is also a clingy, gut-wrenching bitch.

Solutions? Eeeeek. I’ve gone to so many people for solutions, on a personal level. My last counsellor said, “Kristen, what if you’re just a lone wolf?” Hmm. If I was a lone wolf– if many wheelies were just lone wolves,–would we try so damn hard to form connections that validate us, in whatever capacity we allow? Are the solutions for this individual? Systemic? I’m not a fan of imposing blame on oppressed groups, but because I struggle with the wheelie attachment issue, it seems I have done just that, here.

Where do we start in addressing this?

On Falling in Love With (Other) Wheelies

Ableism prescribes that wheelies marry each other, because that’s all we deserve—which simultaneously implies that we are both less than ablebodied people, and socially confined by our disabled circumstance.

wheelieheart

Then of course, there’s the issue of what to do when love between wheelies actually happens, which it does sometimes, because love is stupid and has no consideration for sticking-it-to-the-man or physical barriers.The intricacies of wheelie love and sex are rarely discussed–society has a hard enough time acknowledging it happens between a person with a disability and an ablebodied person, nevermind between two people with disabilities. Today, I’d like to go off on a million tangents about why it’s worth it to consider dating a wheelie if you are one, and to stop calling wheelie relationships ‘cute’ if you’re a walkie..

  1. The Hows of it All–Disabled sex doesn’t look like this: 

Family Guy is largely defined by its willingness to make fun of everyone equally, disabled people included. Here, Stephen Hawking is caught in the coils of coitus with his (fictional) severely disabled partner, and it’s hilarious (though questionable, on-par with Family Guy’s satirical trademark).

What makes this clip funny is that it’s two parts ridiculous and one part relatable. By relatable, I mean, many people have seen a wheelie couple and wondered how their sex life works, the same way that I wonder how frothy milk comes out of my coffee machine every morning—I know it happens, but the hows remain a mystery.

I remember first hearing the question  “How do you ‘do it’ if you’re both disabled?” In a friend’s car, as a group of us headed to the movies. The (ablebodieded) guy asking was a friend of my friend, and he had been stealing sideways glances at me since meeting me a couple hours before. We got along well, he had a bluntness that blended with me, and I found his genuineness refreshing.

His bluntness didn’t disappoint when he worked up the gull to ask the how-tos of my sex life with my known disabled boyfriend at the time. I laughed and sighed, “It’s hard. We can’t do things the normal way.” I then moved away from the topic, but his curiosity was not lost on me, and I realized wheelie-wheelie sex is just another thing a lot of people are confused about, but, (usually) too afraid to ask.

How it’s done ain’t really your business. But I know people are gonna wonder anyway, so in hopes of dodging ignorance, I will say this: Sex for people with for two people with physical disabilities is roughly as different as your last two lays were. No situation replicates itself in the bedroom, disability or not. Disabled people are really underrepresented in media, and porn, and life, so we do often have to get creative and resourceful when it comes to fucking each other. Sex toys with titles like “The E-Z Rider”  are apparently making a name for themselves when it comes to sexual partners that have disabilities (I don’t really know why, I’d definitely fall off that quicker than Raggity Ann. I’d think more wheelie-friendly generic helpers like this wedge make more sense).

Just as people adapt to winter by buying long johns and complaining more, people with disabilities adapt to sex through figuring out their limitations, differences and similarities, as while as their sexual interests. Sex is like a fun puzzle, provided the communication is good and both parties are eager.

  1. The learning that can occur is irreplacable. When it comes to relationships and physicality, I think PwD have a lot to teach and give to each other. The first guy I every really cared about is in a wheelchair. Without exposing too much about him, I’ll say that he has a relatively severe acquired disability. When I first knew him, I tried hard to ignore that I was really super attracted to him, because I felt I was too damn good for all his wheelieness. This meant that I regularly avoided him, and when we got stuck in the same area in some student space, I started to shake, and ramble and laugh at nothing, so naturally he asked me to dinner. And naturally I coughed and laughed and mumbled “yes,”  before jetting, to go breathe into a bag.

Eventually I relaxed a bit, and the more time I spent with him, the more I learned. I watched how he did things—the way he worked around his physical limits, the way he advocated for himself, the way he negotiated so many aspects of his life. I saw how he worked around certain people’s ignorance and always cared about his best interest, even if it meant having long discussions with superiors and finding alternative solutions. I learned that he didn’t think himself lesser-than, ever, and it gave me hope.

I also saw how he looked at me, as if I was pretty for real. I never saw him look at me with confusion or disdain, or like he was hiding a moment of discomfort about my body. Once, I can remember standing up to grab something, and he looked at me with a cheerful smirk, “You’re lucky you can do that, you know,” he laughed. In that moment I felt so much gratitude, for both him and my body. It was the first time anyone had ever told me my ability-level was a blessing (besides my mother, Hi mom, hope you’re not reading this!).

As with all relationships, every dynamic is different, and while there are many great things disabled people can learn from each other, prejudice and oppression is also somewhat contagious. The happy examples to which I’ve referred were able to occur because this guy had worked on a lot of his disability baggage by the time I knew him. It’s my dreamy hope that PwD allow for the possibilities of friendship and intimacy with other PwD, without being frightened by ableist norms and society’s condescension toward wheelie couples. If the dynamic is healthy on a basic level, it’s worth the risk.

Lastly, all my current closest friends are also wheelchair users, and there’s nothing cute about it. We bad mouth each other every other word, and our ‘I love yous’ all sound closer to “You’re such a piece if garbage, but I hate life without you.” Their general distaste for my frequent need to talk about my feelings was the original fuel for this blog, in its entirety. They are the worst.

Hug a wheelie ❤