His and Hers: Handicapped Style

February 27, 2011

by The Plain Simple Tailor
 Being part of a couple where both parties have diabilities can be interesting. The one thing I’ve found that I can point to is that it makes compromise and agreement between my fiance and myself much easier. This seems to occur for one of two reasons. Usually, it’s because we have such similar mindsets due to our shared experiences that we can see what the other is thinking. Sometimes the more entertaining way happens. It’s like we’re so tired from having to go out of our way to do the things able-bodied people take for granted that we’re just sick of fighting and meet in the middle.
 As a couple that considers themselves “casual outsiders” in many respects, we’ve noticed some funny things about how we’re perceived by others, particularly by the able bodied. Once people get past the idea that Kory and I are not “inspirational” just because we lead regular old lives, it can even break down in other ways. I tend to counter the “inspiraitonal” stuff with something along the lines of “Dude, we’re perfectly normal people, we just walk funny.”
 The thing I find oddest is that it occasionally seems to break down along gender lines as well. Kory has a very rare disability which I won’t try to explain here (the full pronunciation of it makes my brain hurt). But she started to exhibit symptioms at the age of 19, well before we met. I have cerebral plasy, which is far more well known.
 What we’ve noticed is that she tends to get much more sympathy based on the things she can’t do than I do. I’ve heard people refer to her disability situation as “sad,” “tragic,” etc.
 Why do I think this happens? Inherent social programming. This occurs for three major reasons, and yes, I’m aware I’m generalizing. So are the people who think this way:

  1. Kory is female
  2. Kory is extremely attractive
  3. Because her diability hit her later in life, she had a period of being able-bodied. This makes people believe the loss of ability to be more profound for some reason. 

What people seem to fail to realize is that Kory has done more with her life than many able-bodied people even consider doing. She works a full-time job, something which a lot of people are conditioned to believe the disabled can’t do. She’s travelled a ton (France, Africa, many other places) and seen more of the world than most people. She is a major force in the community here in Madsion, particularly serving as vice chairperson for the city commision for people with disabilites.
 A lot of how I deal with disabilty is through my sense of humor, one that has been called anything from sarcastic to caustic to downright brutal. While some people have said that it can make me look like a stereotypical bitter handicapped person, I disagree. I believe that humor can defuse akward situations more easily, hence my making jokes about having a limp or whatever.
 I’ve found that people are less inclined to exhibit actual pity in my case. This is fine, I hate pity. But because I have something that I was born with, many activities that able bodied folks take for granted aren’t really on the table for me. This leads many people to take an attitude of “You’re a tough guy. It’s not like you really know what you’re missing anyway, right?” Actually, hypothetical person, I do realize what I’m missing. Having physical difficulties doesn’t make me an idiot.
I think this happens because men in our society are viewed as tougher and more able to handle such difficulties than women. This is not true. Not to say that I’m a sniveling loser when it comes to this stuff, but I’ve learned to deal through experience, not the inherent gift of a penis.
 The thing that Kory’s taught me in the almost two years we’ve been together is that many things in life can be harder when you’re diisabled and there may be some things that you end up logically deciding “Hell, I can’t do this.” That’s acceptable if need be, but never let yourself think you can’t do something just because someone says you can’t. You’ve already lost if you do that.

14 Responses to “His and Hers: Handicapped Style”

  1. bluedelakanluran says:

    Is your name Josh Blue?

  2. SusanJBigelow says:

    I think perhaps some of it may be that people may see themselves in your fiancee. After all, if disabilities can happen to other formerly-able bodied people, it can happen to them, too! Most able-bodied folks assume that this would be the end of the world for them, since they have no idea of how they'd deal, and an important piece of their self-image revolves around doing stuff able-bodied people do.
    It's still very, very interesting that her situation is seen as more tragic or sad. It's easier, somehow, for us to stick women into the "tragic/pitiable" slot (even when it's clearly not deserved), and expect men to be tougher–or, in some cases, invisible.
    I really liked this piece, thanks for writing it!

  3. The Tailor says:

    Geat points, Susan. Thanks for the insight.

  4. B.Macy says:

    great article i dig it

  5. lwerling says:

    Good article. Glad to see you are still writing. Looking forward to reading more of your fiction too!

  6. The Tailor says:

    Thanks.

  7. Red says:

    Very well written. I really liked your statement “Dude, we’re perfectly normal people, we just walk funny.” That's kind of the essence of seeing through the disability: regular folks with extra apparatus (I'm referring here to mobility apparatus).
    (Full disclosure: I'm speaking as someone who knows this couple.)
    My best to you and Kory. 🙂

  8. The Tailor says:

    Thanks, Red. 🙂 It really is as simple as you make it. I wish more people followed your example.

  9. disperse says:

    It isn’t that men are better equipped to deal with adversity; it is that we are culturally expected to put on a brave face and ‘deal with it’. I find it frustrating being expected to ‘hold it together’ all of the time and this is without a disability to cope with.

  10. The Tailor says:

    This is true. I just think that one's capacity to deal should be judged by the actual person, not some bullshit cultural expectation of the person.
    Thanks for reading.

  11. Aim says:

    John, this is great. So glad that you are writing 🙂 Hope you are well.

  12. The Tailor says:

    Thanks

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