I’m many things to many people: daughter, sister, friend, coworker, quirky comedian. All these parts of me harmoniously exist together; in fact, people are amazed at the sheer fact that I don’t topple over from wearing all these different hats.
So when I recently tried to seamlessly insert just two more ‘dimensions’ of myself, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of resistance. Eyebrows raised. Noses scrunched. People stood utterly perplexed by my recent admission, as if I were speaking a foreign language.
The two pieces of me: My womanhood and my physical disability.
Oooh, the two most polar opposite things in the world [insert sarcasm]. The two, it seemed, could never, ever, under any circumstances, intersect, or, as people have led me to believe, the entire universe would implode.
I myself actually believed that – for far too many years, actually. Now, at 28, just when I’m on the brink of bridging that lifelong gap between the two, I feel hopelessly torn. I can be one or the other, apparently, but never both. I can be a woman. I can be someone with a physical disability. But can I ever be a woman with a physical disability.
And what’s more, why is it that I’m beginning to feel that I’m somehow being held to some sort of higher standard these days? Why do people get so offended when someone with a physical disability notices – and worse, comments – on another person’s physical attractiveness?
It’s as if I’ve let them and the entire world down.
It’s taken me years to embrace my physical disability. It’s a journey I’ve been on since adolescence, back in the days when I used to write pages and pages in my journal about how everything would be different (translation: perfect) if I didn’t have to deal with the awkward stares, the endless questions and the assumptions people formed in their minds before they had even met me. But lately, I’ve found myself in a place where, though it’s come a few years after my peers had their own self-revelations, I’m finally feeling comfortable in my own skin. It feels freeing, honestly, as if I’d suddenly burst out of that cocoon and blossomed into a colorful butterfly. I feel a huge sense of release in being able to say – and feel – that I could now show the world a confident woman who had risen above those obstacles placed before her, who doesn’t let her disability stop her and a woman who has made a life for herself.
The way I saw it, that life naturally included that other ‘part’ of me – my sense of being a woman. I had always felt that my disability squelched any little fragment of womanhood I’d ever had. Needless to say, it’s taken me even longer to embrace that inner womanhood. I’ll admit, my scars and other deformities didn’t exactly make me feel like a woman, yet when I embraced my physical disability, I found myself viewing those scars a bit differently – unique, distinctive, even a bit sexy.
I loved this new me – an in-charge, confident woman. I suppose that’s part of the reason I started this column; I saw it as a way to shatter that stereotype, to give people a glimpse into inner sexiness.
The fact that my physical disability had virtually nothing to do with my womanhood seemed obvious – obvious to me, but apparently not so obvious to the rest of the world. They hadn’t received the memo on that one yet.
In conversations with people, I’ve begun trying to reconcile the two. I know they can peacefully coexist, but people seem to have a problem with it. The line of thinking is like this: “She is physically disabled, so she’s learned to see beyond physical attractiveness. That means she is above even noticing a guy’s physical hotness.” And if I should happen to notice it, maybe even (gasp) comment on it, then that makes me some sort of raging hypocrite.
If I find someone physically attractive, I’m betraying my physical disability. Yet if I dismiss someone just because he has the thick, broad shoulders of a marine, then I’m betraying my womanhood. I feel like I’m in a lose-lose situation.
So why is it that after a few months, I feel trapped, like I can’t even comment on any aspect of a person’s physical features? Why now is it such a bad thing if I even comment, ever so little, on whether someone is easy on the eyes?
There’s this misconception that women with disabilities are expected to somehow be above seeing physical attractiveness. as if even mentioning the phrase ‘physical beauty’ is our death knell. So when we do notice someone's looks, we catch some grief for it, as if we're betraying something so important.
But we're human, remember? Of course physical beauty isn't the be-all and end-all, but at the same time, I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I don't notice if a gorgeous guy walks past me. I can’t help noticing a gorgeous guy. It’s human nature, and the last time I checked, I was indeed a human. It’s in my DNA. As smart as I am, I don’t have the power (or the medical clearance) to alter something as mighty as one’s DNA.
Honestly, it makes me feel like people want to snatch this new sense of womanhood away from me. Maybe they’re intimidated, as if I’m in some place, some sort of club, where I don’t belong. As if someone with a physical disability should not also be classified as a woman. Oh, the horror of it all.
But the truth is, this womanhood is something that is mine too. And by embracing it, I am in no way denying my physical disability. By the same token, by recognizing a man’s physical beauty, I am in no way saying “the buck stops here. This is ALL that matters to me.” On the contrary, I’m merely making an observation. I of all people know all too well that beauty is only skin deep, so do you think I would really prize someone’s number on the sexy scale over his humor, his sweetness, his generosity, his pure kindness?
I want people to appreciate my differences, of course I do, but really, sometimes I just wish the world would see that I’m just like any other woman, My disability doesn’t place me in some out-of-reach category
After all, I may be on a diet, but that doesn't mean I can't at least look at the eye candy, does it?