I’ve always prided myself on being a pretty fearless person. I was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder, and spent much of my childhood in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals. I’ve survived some 26 surgeries. I’ve worked through the dark days following my father’s suicide. Oh, and let’s not forget about the time I went on the Jaws ride at Universal Studios and managed not to have a heart attack, despite my unnatural fear of sharks. Totally fearless, right?
But still, even though I’m in my early 30s and have it together (mostly), I’ve never really been able to shake those love and relationship hangups that most people seem to leave in adolescence. In some ways, I’m still that awkward 16-year-old girl, trying to muddle through all those confusing questions. (Full disclosure: I don’t have any dating experience yet, but enjoy living vicariously through sappy romantic comedies…) I know that my disability will help me weed out a lot of dud dudes, but I also know that it will raise a few questions. Questions about the role my disability will play in my life and in my future relationships. Questions that, honestly, I’ve been too afraid to ask, even of myself. Maybe I’m too scared of the answers. Maybe, deep down, I already know the answers. So many possibilities are swirling in this little head of mine, so I suppose I might as well just ask them…
1. What would you think/do/say when you saw all my scars?
Let me tell you: I’ve got scars. I’m not talking about those ‘scars’ like the ones you got when you had chicken pox as a kid or the teeny, tiny knick on your ankle from when you fell off the slide in third grade. No, no. We’re talking big, huge, honking scars here. Picture one of those foldable road maps with a bunch of highways connecting the towns, and well, that will sort of give you an idea of how my body looks. I’ve got long, winding and curving scars — the results of my 26 surgeries — and each one of them tells a story. On more than one occasion, I’ve even played out the scene in my head of what you’d say when you saw one for the first time. Would you just brush the whole awkwardness off and try to act like you don’t see it? Would it bother you? Would you want to know the story behind that particular scar? Would all my scars scare you away? I sure hope not.
2. How would you feel about a woman with a disability asking you out on a date?
Would it not even be a big deal to you? I suspect that I’d be the one making it into a huge thing, and you’d be pretty laidback about it all. But I don’t think either of us can deny the fact that you just might be a bit caught off guard by the whole thing. I suppose my biggest fear is that you’d be holding these preconceived disability stereotypes in your head and would have a hard time getting past them. Maybe I could change all that? I like to think I could — or at least try to.
3. What scares you about dating a woman with a disability?
Allow me to turn the tables a bit. What are you afraid of? I can’t help but feel like something is holding you back, but I just can’t seem to figure out what that something is. Fear of everything my disability might entail? Fear of me being too much work? I’ve met far needier girls than myself. Trust me, it could be a lot worse. Just think about that the next time you see me rolling up to you in my blazing-red wheelchair.
4. What are your expectations concerning our relationship?
I saved the most important question for last. Why? Because it has everything to do with myself as a person and virtually nothing to do with my disability. You see, my disability is only a part of who I am. When you strip everything else away, I’m willing to bet we’re looking for the same things: Love, trust, stability, support, someone who loves “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” as much as I do and will DVR every episode for me. I may not know much about dating, but I do know that love is all about finding that one person you can be yourself around – completely and without apology. That’s not too much to expect, is it? Do your expectations look different from mine?
Love is complicated enough. Will he like my parents? Will he accept my unhealthy relationship with my cats? Will it be awkward when we try to kiss and my fused neck makes things, ummm, challenging? But when it comes down to it, like Julia Roberts said in “Notting Hill,” “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” Indeed, I am just a girl, asking these questions, fused neck and all.