Will you please look at my face (or my tits) when you’re talking to me?

I walked around all day yesterday in scorching heat, and by six o’ clock I was knackered. I was browsing through dresses in Jigsaw and as I moved from one rack to the next, the shop assistant looked at my feet and said ‘I can tell you’ve had a tiring day.’

Ah, well yes, but that’s not why I’m limping. I look like I’ve had a tiring day just as much first thing in the morning as I do last thing at night.

People’s comments are well-meant, mostly – I know this. Women comment more often than men, middle-aged women comment more often than younger ones. I get it. It’s a motherly concern for me, probably – thinking I’ve twisted my ankle or that I’ve been wearing silly shoes again and I just need a plaster. Except this is my life all the time, and those silly shoes you think I’ve been wearing? I haven’t. I never get to wear flip flops, or stilettos or pretty court shoes, and I would kill to.

You’d think, after knowing me for 29 years, my parents would get me better than the average stranger, but that’s not always the case. Last week I went out with my mum wearing wedge sandals I haven’t worn since the summer and I tripped. This is common with the disability I have and while I hate falling, I can deal with it much better if people ignore it (if you’re worried I’ve hurt myself, ‘You ok?’ is fine, but if I say yes, drop it.)

My mum can never drop it. My mum says ‘Right, they’re clearly not supporting your ankle, let me buy you some new shoes.’ It might sound like a dream; it’s not. I hate shoe shopping, a) because I can never buy the shoes I really want and b) because it takes me ages to wear new shoes in until they’re comfy. Often, when I fall, one or other of my parents will keep on and on about it until I end up crying. All I want is for them to understand and accept that tripping and falling frequently is just part of who I am – it’s not a bit I want to focus on, that’s all.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Guys my age don’t often comment on the way I walk (apart from one guy who hit on me, realised I was limping and then asked if I’d be this way for life – he nearly got punched), but I notice them looking at my feet all the time. Nothing to see there boys – all my limbs are intact and I don’t have some huge, gaping wound that’s causing me to walk this way. Why not look at the good bits instead – my tits are amazing and I did nice eyeliner today. Plus, you not looking at my feet will make me feel so much better about myself.

This would be an easy post to write if it was as simple as ‘Let’s all pretend there’s nothing wrong with my body,’ but sadly, it’s not. People give me evil looks for sitting on the very front row of seats on the bus, the one that’s meant for old and disabled people, all the time. Why do I do it? Because my balance is shit and when was the last time you saw a bus driver wait until someone sat down before he pulled away? This might make you think that you should give me your seat on public transport, but don’t. If the front seats are free, I’ll sit there because it makes my life easier, but I can stand, as long as I’m holding on to something. Offering me your seat just confuses me – you might have spotted my disability or you might just think that my rounded tummy is a sign that I’m pregnant. Either way it doesn’t make me feel good about myself.

So boys, here are my guidelines – if you like me, try to turn a blind eye to my disability (that includes surreptitious glances at my feet) except in the following two situations. If a) I’m standing at the top of something steep and uneven, looking at it with terror or b) we’re walking along a road that’s icy as fuck – in either of those cases then please feel free to offer to hold my hand.