Flawed

In the comments on my last post, someone suggested that maybe I should try to write a ‘flawed’ disabled character in two hundred words. It was a good suggestion.

It’s also, as I acknowledged in the post, really damn hard.

Plus, I think my real flaw, as a disabled person, is not my disability. It’s all the toxic ableism I’ve allowed myself to internalise. That internalised ableism makes me hate my body, it lies to me, it tells me I won’t be loved, won’t be desired.

And I think – hope – it’s a flaw that will resonate with other disabled people. We’ve all done shitty stuff in our time – lied, been mean, pushed someone away – because of shit of our own that we’ve not yet learnt to deal with.

That was what I wanted to write about. The problem is, I already had.

In my novel, which is still a work in progress, the main character does exactly that. She jeopardises a prospective relationship because of the ableism she’s internalised. Right now, I can’t envisage writing anything that captures that more vividly than the bit where I wrote it in the novel, so I thought I’d share that with you instead, being careful to stick to the two hundred word limit.

***

He sits a little too close, my knees between his. We share a cheeseboard, get another bottle of wine. I’m wary, because I like him – I’ve liked him since we started talking online – and I don’t want to make the mistake I always make with guys I like. I don’t want to sleep with him tonight.

We’re a bottle and a half down when I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I almost have to stop myself from shimmying across the bar. I feel invincible, beautiful, fuckable. When I return, he’s watching me.

‘You’re limping?’ 

Oh, bugger.

I limp because I was starved of oxygen at birth. It’s not a big thing in the scheme of things, I guess, but it’s a big thing to me. In fact, it’s a little more complicated than just a limp – the whole of my left side is weaker. Although my body has learned to compensate, there’s an awkwardness, a lack of dexterity, a clumsiness to my movements that I’ve yet to reconcile myself with. 

‘I twisted my ankle.’

‘Ouch! How?’

‘Dancing at the weekend. You know, stupidly high shoes, too much wine …’

I can’t wear stupidly high shoes.

He buys the lie.

***

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3 thoughts on “Flawed

  1. This is where you get it and others don’t (IMHO). The flaw is not the disability but the way you might feel obliged to hide it and to lie. But is that a character flaw or just a coping mechanism you develop over time. Or is that what a character flaw is anyway? Whatever, I think you have done what you set out to do.

    • That’s very kind of you. I think a character flaw and a coping mechanism can definitely be similar. In fact, when my writing group first saw this piece they had to remind me that it wasn’t normal that the ablebodied guy didn’t get angry when he found out she’d lied to him – to me, it’s so obvious why someone *would* lie about not being disabled (although I never have, not in a date situation), that I’d forgotten that lying is also bad!

  2. I read the piece several times and kept on thinking how much I like your writing. I will be the first to jump at an opportunity to buy your book!
    Your piece made me think… I know some people who deal with disabilities and yes, I can now see how some of them have internalized ableism too. Then I look at my husband, who is always honest about his disabilities. He never hides it from anyone. I think that there are many factors that come into play how someone handles or talks about their own disability, how they view it, but I will never really know, as I am talking as a fully-abled person. I try my best to understand my husband, who has to come to terms that his disability is ‘increasing’, I try to understand his thought process, his fears… but will I ever really understand?

    Rebel xox

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