I had my first “boyfriend” in the 6th grade, so that should tell you our relationship consisted of him sitting next to me in class and calling me his girlfriend. That’s it. It was all kind of perfect actually. I felt like I was catching up to something everyone else was already a part of. Rekindled crushes and dates to the arcade. It was like dating without all of the pressure of what relationships are like when we grow a bit older and become more serious.
Then one day this “boyfriend” decided I wasn’t his girlfriend anymore. He declared it like he was telling me what he was planning on having for lunch. I wasn’t heart-broken, I wasn’t even remotely upset but I was just curious as to why and when he had decided that.
*HERE COMES THE KICK IN THE TEETH*
“Boyfriend,” says that he has some friends that saw us together and while they thought I was pretty, I was too weird. When they made fun of me, and in turn him, that’s when he decided I was no longer his girlfriend. For clarity’s sake what “boyfriend” meant by “too weird” is that he found my handicap embarrassing. Being seen with me made him appear less cool, less popular, and less likable. I know what he meant because I learned to read between the lines early. I learned to understand unconscious mannerisms. I know what he meant because I had heard it before. These boys deemed me as unworthy of relationships because I didn’t fit their acceptable spectrum of normal. I made them uncomfortable. While it didn’t bother me at the time, that sentiment rooted deep in my psyche only to appear later in life like a voice, a whisper of doubt on whether or not I could trust another person.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have an easy time with relationships, platonic or otherwise. I get in my head more than I should. I admit that this can sometimes hold me back from some potentially great relationships. But sometimes I am right on the money with some people, so color me confused, am I right?
I am so weary about how others might perceive me. I feel like I’ve had to apologize for my disability for so long that it’s almost second nature. I can’t help but catch myself sometimes trying to oversell all of my other qualities so that I am not viewed as unworthy. I overcompensate so as not to make anyone uncomfortable.
If I were a perfect person, I’d say F*** your comfort, this is me, take it or leave it. I am getting better at it though. The one place I need drastic improvement is in the realm of dating. For years I convinced myself I didn’t want to be in a romantic relationship because I felt I had evolved past it. The truth was I was terrified of putting myself out there just to wind up feeling judged and scrutinized. The anxiety of it all stopped me dead in my tracks.
The few dates that did follow were finessed so that I could feel more comfortable, it was all premeditated. I made sure the date didn’t require too much walking because if I was sitting I felt like any other version of normal. My handicap was unseen. If the date did have some walking involved I was always just a half step behind the other person, that way I couldn’t be watched. I did away with many opportunities to be judged on my handicap. I tried to hide it like a dirty secret because I was too anxious to let anyone know the truth. I didn’t want to feel vulnerable. In my effort to conceal my handicap I never gave myself the best chance in letting people get to know me. I didn’t trust that my personality would be enough. That was my biggest mistake.
After my car accident, I transitioned from a wheelchair to a walker. I am talking four wheels, bright purple metal frame, and a vinyl storage compartment that doubled as a seat. I loathed the thing, but I couldn’t exactly do without it. During that time an old friend asked me out on a date and 99% of me wanted to turn him down, not because I didn’t want to but because it would have just put me so on display. I would be an open target for the unconscious staring and the pitying looks. The judgment. The anxiety sprang from the thought where I was convinced that if he went out with me that he would feel uncool and uncomfortable; embarrassed and I couldn’t bear it.
I agreed to go in spite of these overwhelming feelings but made absolutely certain he was comfortable with the fact that I’d have to have my walker with me. He called me ridiculous. I called me terrified. All in all, the date went great, well except for when a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses wanted to cure me but that was another thing entirely.
That date showed me that I am able to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I don’t always have to be in my own head. The whispers of doubt make fewer appearances nowadays. Most importantly I learned I shouldn’t subscribe to live my life for another person’s comfort. I am worthy to be loved just as I am. The person sitting beside me in life will find me priceless.
Until next time readers…