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.

 

Body Image and Disability/ My Diary.

Most times, when we read or discuss body changes, it’s around puberty, pregnancy, menopause, or aging, and it has an “it’s all downhill from here” feel to it. What we don’t see are articles on disability and changing bodies. Somehow, it all gets lumped under “aging” even though the circumstances of bodily growth with a disability can be vastly different than your average ablebodied Joe’s. Let’s talk about the way people situate themselves in relation to their body changes, when disability is a factor. And by ‘let’s talk about,’ I mean I’ll clobber you with personal examples..

Everyone creates a story about their body—how it looks, what it does, whether or not it is of use to them. Body image is extremely underrated as an impacting factor of self-esteem, self understanding and growth for people with disabilities. My body narrative has always relied heavily on my petite body type—small enough to carry, small enough to meet standards of socially acceptable thinness, small enough to fit in my dad’s hand as a baby, but just big enough to keep on living. (This isn’t a brag; in fact, the “You fit in the palm of your daddy’s hand,” story that my family tells, seems to solidify my spot as Miracle Child.)

This isn't me or my dad, I stole this.

This isn’t me or my dad, I stole this.

Being tiny was great for everyone, especially me. At my 7th birthday party, we played Piggy-Back: a fun game where I took turns riding on backs of other 7-year-olds, as they ran up and down the hallway of our apartment (it ended in a concussion, still worth it). Later on, If I decided to do something crazy, like walking, or climbing (falling) off of a chair, or crawling up a flight of stairs, everyone would just let it happen, because I was small enough to rescue. Inevitably, someone would end up yelling “Come get Kristen.” to which either of my parents would magically appear and scoop me up.

At 13, I loved sun-tanning and looking at my own abs. I really thought I was hot shit, in my tankini and tear-away Addidas pants, with a mouth full of purple and blue braces. I could bask in the rays for hours, thinking about life, and whether or not I was really as pretty as I thought I was.

At 14, I grew (small) boobs and a (small) butt and everything went to shit, seemingly overnight. My body started to hurt, it became heavier, and more work for me to drag around. I felt like I was moving in slow motion, like gravity was impenetrable resistance. My spine became crooked from my natural weight gain, and the pain was pretty constant. My stomach jutted out because of my spine issue, and I soon looked pudgy. I didn’t feel like a silly, vain little girl anymore, I felt I was in a body that wasn’t supposed to be for me.

Within 6 months, I had a huge torso brace. I was slightly relieved, it held my body in place, so every move no longer felt like I was making my back curve worse. It also resembled a corset, except plastic, so my stomach was confined and I looked somewhat skinny again. On the other hand, the brace also caused a lot of skin sores and I was in a lot of pain whenever I took it off. I started measuring my thinness by how many fingers I could fit in-between the space where the brace closed. Half a finger was fantastic, I told myself that if ever I didn’t need the brace anymore, I could reward myself by wearing Britney Spears’-style shirts, baring it all because I’d earned it.

Kinda like this piece of body prison.

Kinda like this piece of body prison.

I don’t have enough discipline to develop an eating disorder, but I guess I played with fire. When I turned 16, I hated everything about my body. I would go as long as possible on fruit or half a sandwich. It felt good, I felt I was doing what I could to minimize my pain and the finger-gap where my brace closed.

Somewhere in this span of time I read an autobiographical book about the only other disabled person I knew about at the time: Joni Erickson Tada. Tada is a super-Christian, who became a severe quadriplegic at 17, after a diving accident. I don’t remember much about her book now, except that living in a Stryker frame for 6 months (maybe more?) sounded like absolute hell (I bawled and re-read that part many times, trying to figure out how anyone managed not to die from depression during that phase of recovery). I also remember that boys treated her like garbage (her first love ditched her soon after her neck broke), and that she loved Jesus. She loved Jesus a fuck ton. And now she has her own ministry, and paints really nice things, using only her mouth.

jonipainting

Painting Mary?….with watercolours.

In my desperation, I wrote a letter to Joni Erickson Tada, or more specifically, her big fat inspirational ministry. I wrote her the most personal, sad-sack letter, which went on for pages, but can easily be summed up as: “Dear Mrs. Tada, please help me. I hate myself and my back hurts a ton and I cry a lot in secret. Also, God hates me.” In fact, if I remember right, it was five front-to-back pages of handwritten self-pity and begging for answers. I cried a lo t while writing it, I still remember my fucking tear blots on the pages, which I’m sure I left there for dramatic effect.

Oddly enough, I also won the Optimism Award during this time, for being disabled and existing still. What a confusing time.

Anyways, weeks later one of Joni’s minions replied to my letter. They told me to “Lean not on my own understanding” and spent the rest of the reply expanding on Proverbs 3:5, as if I’d never read a fucking Bible in my life (which, if they’d even read my letter, they would see that I definitely had, and that it was causing me grief). I realized that no one gave a flying shit about my heart-felt letter, and that my last straw– the only disabled person I’d known about– didn’t have time to care.

Fast forward two (three?) years, after my digestive system started failing, and I eventually had surgery to straighten my spine. This meant much less pain (after intense recovery), and that I went back to being small. I have two memories after waking up from nine hours of anesthesia: One is my dad saying “Hey Kiddo,” and grabbing my shoulder as if to say, ‘glad you made it out alive,’  and the other is feeling my stomach, to make sure it was flat for real.

Achieving my ideal meant I could go back to being vain and focusing way too much on how I looked. It also meant I could eventually start eating like a human being again, and work with my body to be as able as possible. It was really fucking great, when it all turned out.

My wish from this self-concerned diary-like entry is that we talk about these body issues more readily. Those 5 years that I wore plastic were torture for me. I couldn’t think about much outside of my physical circumstance and my pain. I didn’t see a future for myself, I tried to eat as little as possible, and I didn’t know how to talk about it beyond crying and over-analyzing. I felt very much alone, scared, and insignificant.

Truly, I want there to be more (or any) ways for people with disabilities to discuss their body differences, and how they cope (or don’t cope) with them. Here’s a list of things I want to do/wish existed:

  • Reframing: As in, someone had suggested a different way for me to see myself, other than “disabled but somehow still small/pretty enough.”
  • Suggesting support for coping mechanisms for pain and discomfort, and the way we think about that.(I know there are specific support groups, for certain degenerative disabilities such as MD, and I have so much appreciation for that.) But It makes me super sad to think that some wheelie somewhere is mistreating their body because they can’t talk about it.
  • Safe spaces, that include others with disabilities, where discussion is encouraged. The amount of disabled people that commit suicide is heartbreaking (American link, but interesting to note). The issues are complex, but being able to relate to another on the basis of physical circumstance, makes things that much easier.
  • Fucking life-panning: I just recently heard about a program that helps disabled people (mostly people with developmental delays), gain essential life skills, like riding the bus, writing cheques, and cooking. Two of my best friends went to these gigs, and I envy them. I didn’t learn to bus alone til I was 21. Oops. I think that some of this life-planning stuff should be mingled with self-esteem/body image stuff, in that it’s all somewhat related to quality of life and general “success”.
  • Disability-Centred Grief Counseling : Your body changes differently than others. Shouldn’t counseling be adjusted to reflect that difference?

Wheelie solidarity is important, especially around issues like bodily change. Thoughts are welcome, if you’ve actually read this far.

How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Not a Loser

If you’re a mildly good-looking, generally successful human being with good family and friends, stop reading this post, you don’t have to fool anyone.

For the rest of us, who spend our time binge-watching TV from 10 years ago and pretending not to like 50 Shades, here’s a list of other things you can do to cover up the fact that your life is a huge hole of Nothing Important. Because actually changing your circumstance is overrated. Most of these tools are ones I like to employ on first dates. By no stretch am I good at relationships, but I do get asked on second dates somehow.

1. Lie about your job.  Repeat after me: I love what I do. I’m just so passionate about it. All my coworkers are wonderful people.

2. Lie about your ambitions (and the fact that your favourite part of the day is Wine Time.) Like I said, I’m really passionate. In 10 years I hope to have my own practice and be changing social policy. Translation: In 10 years, I hope I’m still able to get out of bed in the morning, given the direction these eye-bags are headed in.

rainbowlielife

3.Only talk about the future, not the present. Nobody can debate your future, ‘because nobody’s there yet. The future is a big, snazzy question mark that you can make sound as cool as you like: “I think I’ll take a belly-dancing/zumba/poll-dancing course and maybe make a documentary on the development of Selfies.” Ok, so maybe it’s still apparent that you’ve got nothing going for you.

4. Ask them about themselves. Everyone likes to tell you about themselves, especially if can’t they stop thinking about your vagina. They’re usually just waiting for that moment to say, “Here’s why I’m worth your time.” So give it them, and receive them well.

If you ask them about their life passion, or their favourite colour and they squirm with discomfort or say something grandiose like, “I want to be the Prime Minister,” you should either marry them or run, because they are loser-in-disguise just like you–which either makes them your soulmate or a waste of time. It’s all relative.

5. Talk as little as possible. Once you’ve gotten over the heap of starter lies about your lifestyle and goals, you’ve bought yourself some silent time. This is when active listening and solid one-liners come in handy. “You like Pizza? Me too! Be the pepperoni on my cheese”. Wait, no.

6. Laugh at their jokes. Their horrible, awkward jokes. Because then they feel funny and chemistry is forged. And you show off those pearly whites of yours.

7. Lie about what you want from them: You seem nice! Let’s text. A simple way of either saying, “You’re way beneath me” or “I want your children” Life is confusion.

This post could alternatively be called, Faking your Way to Second Date, or Everybody Lies, or Who You Are Sucks, Lie Harder.

When You’re Not Seen as a Full Person

Usually when I’m talking about the “lived-experience” of having a disability on my blog, to a friend, or to my mother, I’m talking about people’s outward ignorance, or a physical challenge. This often translates into some story about some average joe telling me I’m an inspiration, or about how it took me 25 minutes to get out of bed that morning, or that I almost died going over a curb downtown.

What’s less discussed is the impact of being not quite fully seen by society. Yes, disabled people have rights. But as a country, we have a long way to go before our biases and internalized beliefs about PwD being scond-class citizens is entirely erased from social thought. Here’s a list of ways and situations  being seen as less-than-fully-human continues to impact my life. Bare in mind that I in no way speak for other PwD, only myself, and maybe my friend Andrew:

– When you’re rarely included in friend getaways because the venue is inaccessible and your friends are embarrassed by this, so they simply don’t invite you. You have other friends right?(It’s great when all your friends think this, resulting in a total of 0 people to go out with). Think: school prom, house parties, vacations, spring break trips etc.Or they do, and then you have to comfort them when they realize not every inaccessibility hurdle can be overcome with wherewithal and positive thinking.

– When you’re only ever invited to short coffees or the pre-drink but not the actual event, because the event isn’t accessible. (Sorryyy! OMG next time I promise!)But the inviter has other friends, who don’t constantly ask if things are accessible, and then look sad when you say it’s not.

Oh-boy-here-we-go

– When people give you unsolicited advice, not because you’re particularly close and you asked, but because they’re in a real or perceived place of power and you weren’t doing things in congruency with their opinions. Suggestions like: “you should eat more,” “You should go out more” and “You should kick that French guy out of your house,” are my faves. Yes, they might’ve been right about the guy. No, they shouldn’t have said anything–that’s for me to figure out. Because I’m a full–even if a little dumb at times–human being.

– When people make up rules about what can and cannot be accommodated in terms of accessibility, your personal care, or your financial situation because they are uncomfortable with you challenging the way the system functions, or believe your life, on some level to be less valuable than theirs, and anyone else’s. Read: I can’t help you shave your body, I have to go for a smoke/eat pie/go complain about my job to my coworkers, all encompassed in “Sorry, we don’t have time for that.” Get back in your place, bitter cripple.

-When the government gives you a pretty sick ass apartment, that they help you pay for, in some corner of the earth so that you can exist for longer than nature might’ve otherwise allowed. No, you didn’t do anything to earn it, except keep living. The government just doesn’t know what to do with you. Here: have this call centre job also. Of course you’re a full person. Here’s $100 bonus to reward you employment efforts and prove we really do like you. The ultimate financial headpat. Now calm down, and lower your employment expectations.

– What, you want to travel? You’ll lose your government money, don’t do that! Stop being so ambitious. You have everything you need, stop pushing it. Of course we see you as a full person. If it wasn’t for us, you’d be homeless.

– When you pee your pants because the nearest wheelie bathroom was four blocks away (But the waitress at the non accessible restaurant was really sorry her bathrooms only work for ablebodied people, though). Also, why aren’t you a super-human who dehydrates yourself or has somehow learned to hold their pee for an eeon? Isn’t that what all disabled people are?

– When you tell your family/friends about your new boyfriend/girlfriend/sexfriend and they’re all a bit too excited that someones agreed to satisfy your basic human need. Like, they’re literally grinning over the words “What does he want from you, really?” instead of thinking someone might actually consensually agree to seeing you.

– When the people who help you with care mistakenly assume your life for a soap opera, in which they are the main character and you and the other clients are their puppets. And that they have the right to know why you don’t want to be their friend and gossip with them about Wheelie Universe. Calm down, it’s not like your drama actually matters, you shouldn’t be so rude with all your…boundaries.

Yup. Now stop bitching and go be your best self, until it starts to bug everyone. Then do it more.

Should We Make Disability Sexy?

This morning I stumbled across an article on reclaiming your womanly body and attractiveness after 50. Yeah, I’m 26, but I figure there’s no harm in hoarding advice for the future. This article was surprisingly personal and came to only one simple conclusion: Aging and wrinkles are our battlescars of a life well lived, and they are beautiful.

To me, this reclamation of aging seems rather common-sense, and follows the same formula as many similar “taking-backs” of traits or circumstances that were and are frowned on by society. The article said, in many more words, “if you are put down for a part of who you are, find a way to reclaim that part, and be proud of it. You hold that head up high, you.”

As I read, I nodded in agreement as I pictured the woman writing the blog pulling at her skin and her wrinkles and thinking how great she is, in light of her age lines. But, like always, my mind soon started making parallels between how we view age and how we view disability. Of course, they’re many similarities between the two, namely that both are seen by our cultures as sad realities.

But disability and aging differ in the narratives we offer for reclamation. It’s tough to say that disability is a result of a life wel-lived, of trials overcome, especially if that disability is life-long (as opposed to acquired). As a society, we’ve tried to award disabled people for simply living, (that link is totally worth clicking, btw) and often refer to them as an inspirational, but this perspective is highly problematic too, as it erases the person and forces them into some awkwardly fitting frame of who they are.

You’ve heard me talk about it a zillion times, but, in case you’ve forgotten, I once was in a really shitty relationship. I remember one night, after a particularly brutal fight, (like, more brutal than the other brutal ones) I sat in front of my mirror, staring at my puffy face and tiny body. I decided to take my nightgown off to remember what I look like. It took twenty minutes to get free of the damn thing, but I was glad I did. I saw all of myself, and remembered, for a wonderful fleeting moment, that I’m really fucking awesome.

Dead sexy.

Dead sexy.

Everyone has that angsty period in highschool where they hate their looks and their body, but aside from those 4 or 5 years, I’ve mostly always liked the way I look. I never took issue with it, until the person being intimate with me did.For the most part, I’ve always been pretty grateful of having a body that “passes” most societal standards, and weirdly, have largely disassociated my disability with how I view my body.

But I often wonder how we make disability empowered, if at all. I don’t think it’s a simple as declaring our deviations from the norm as “battlescars” as we often do when fighting ageist ways of viewing the body. My disability is not a signifier of anything, it just has always been and will always be my circumstance.  So should we try to positively back disability, the way some have done with wrinkles and aging? Or does doing so lose the person in the narrative?Feel free to leave your thoughts or suggestions below.

Disability, Sexuality and Acting Like You Know What You’re Talking About.

Yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m one of those wheelies that speaks openly about their sexuality. Ask any of my friends, acquaintances, or some of the regulars at the mall–my sexuality is rather well-spoken for. Sometimes I blab loudly about my recent sexcursion on the bus. I wear crop tops. I dye my hair purple (what? Those things aren’t indicators of sexual activity? But this shirt cost me $5 dollars less than if it were a full shirt. Damnit.) So do you have a minute? I’d like to tell you how sexy I am.

As you can imagine, this “openness” can have many pitfalls. Presenting oneself as overtly sexual carries strong and often  erroneous assumptions about desire. As in, “you’re flaunting it, so you must want it, from whomever”. Add visible disability to the mix and you’ve got a bitter cocktail of misguided ideas or projections about what is sexually appropriate and/or wanted from a sexual partner.

As is such, I’ve gotten pretty good at swatting away direct (and weird) questions about my vagina, how my sex organs work, what positions I can do, etc ect, on and on forever. It’s not because a cat has my tongue, or because I’m bitter.  I shut down these questions for two reasons only: 1. I’m still unsure about myself down there, and 2. My “different situation,” is not a right of passage to ask me whatever the hell you’d like.

Reason 1 is strongly linked with Reason 2, in that perhaps I don’t know more about myself sexually, because I crush people with a dose of sarcastic angst before they’re able to…be intimate with me. Because, I don’t want you to ask questions I don’t have the answers to, and I sure as fuck don’t want to admit that I’m a twenty something who doesn’t fully understand what’s up down there.

Not long enough ago, I cried because I realized my sexual preferences/appetite, would never match my ability level. Ok, so I’ve actually lost my cool about this more than once. Paired with this revelation is this nagging voice that tells me my sexuality isn’t as valued, because it is dependent on someone else’s patience.

My whole life revolves around other people’s patience, and the bedroom is no exception, though in my experience, it is the place where people are most unwilling to possess it. (Besides maybe in the bus pass line– up in there it’s every asshole for themselves.). I guess then, my experience with my sexuality has been one that can be analogous to getting a job–You need experience to get experience. Which is hard to get when that experience relies heavily on someone  looking good and putting up with  all your unconventional unconventionality between the sheets. Needle in a haystack.

I’ve mentioned before that I became aware of my limited sexuality/ability level at a young age. When I was a kid, this sad fact was balanced with the hope of some patient knight seeing my inner beauty and climbing up my Rapunsel hair to our marriage bed. At my age, this rescue-plot is less appealing and more tragic than my current lack of self-knowledge.

And once again, you know way more about me than you knew you asked for.