The Fallen Woman

‘I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet and falling head first into the office.

Double crap – me and my two left feet! I am on my hands and knees in the doorway to Mr Grey’s office, and gentle hands are around me helping me stand. I am so embarrassed, damn my clumsiness. I have to steel myself to glance up. Holy cow – he’s so young.’

– E L James, Fifty Shades of Grey

I didn’t get that worked up when Ana fell at the start of FSoG. According to a friend, that was as it should be.

‘Bella is clumsy in Twilight. That’s the whole point.’

Maybe it is the whole point of Twilight. I don’t know. I haven’t read/seen it. What I do know, though, is that Ana’s clumsiness is completely fucking irrelevant to Fifty Shades.

I’m not sure that E L James thinks it is, however. I think E L James thinks it might be how Christian spots that Ana would make a good sub. After all, there’s lots about BDSM that confuses E L James – the fact that it’s not born out of a disturbed childhood, the fact that the love of a good woman can’t ‘cure’ somebody of it, and the way no fucking helicopter can make up for the fact that nowhere in the book does Ana suggest she might have submissive leanings.

Anyway. I wasn’t that bothered at the time because it was just a book. Not a book that had sold millions of copies. Not a book that had changed the landscape of erotica. Just a book. And then this happened:

He sank into an elegant crouch in front of me. Hit with all that exquisite masculinity at eye level, I could only stare. Stunned.

Then something shifted in the air between us.

As he stared back, he altered … as if a shield slid away from his eye, revealing a scorching force of will that sucked the air from my lungs. The intense magnetism he exuded grew in strength, becoming a near-tangible impression of vibrant and unrelenting power.

Reacting purely on instinct, I shifted backward. And sprawled flat on my ass.

– Sylvia Day, Bared to You

I’m a big believer in the power of chemistry. But I can honestly say I’ve never sprawled on my ass due to a guy’s ‘elegant crouch.’

I did a bit of Google research earlier this year, when I first started thinking about this. Surely, I reasoned, women falling must be an established trope in romantic literature. I couldn’t find anything. And then it occurred to me that maybe falling/injury is a modern update of this:

“MY DEAREST LIZZY,—

“I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones—therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me—and, excepting a sore throat and headache, there is not much the matter with me.—Yours, etc.”

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness—if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Romance relies on a weak heroine almost as much as it does an alpha hero. In the past, illness was enough to create a situation in which the hero and heroine are thrown together. These days, it’s harder to convince the average reader that a woman ‘needs’ a man, and so romance does everything in its power to recreate that situation of old. There are various approaches – the heroine can be pregnant, sick, young, poor or just plain clumsy. Because if she doesn’t need rescuing, the author is (ostensibly) breaking the pact they have with the reader.

I’m a cynic, but I was a sucker for Mills & Boon in the past. I loved these women who needed saving so much, I didn’t just read them; I made some shoddy attempts at writing them, too:

He knelt beside her and kissed her gently. She opened her eyes and gave him a sleepy smile. “Bedtime?” he asked.

She nodded, but made no attempt to move. He stood up and gathered her into his arms. She kicked off her stilettos and snuggled up against his chest. He handed her the warm mug, and headed for the stairs.

In their bedroom, he sat down on the edge of the bed and set about undressing her. He slid the straps of her satin dress down and placed her briefly on her feet so that she could step out of it. He unsnapped her suspender belt, removed her stockings and unclipped her bra. As he pulled her white cotton nightdress over her head, she gave a contented sigh, still half asleep. He pulled back the duvet and laid her down.

I think I excelled myself with that particular piece (in my defence, I was eighteen when I wrote it). The FMC has a minor case of being a bit tired, but it affects her so badly that she gets carried upstairs by the hero, undressed by him, and even ‘laid down.’ She couldn’t be more passive if she tried.

Looking back, it wasn’t the passivity that attracted me to writing these kind of women. It was the bodies that they’d need for these kind of scenes even to work. Women who get carried up to bed must naturally be willowy and feather-like. Not only that, I think I thought they were also easy women – if you could simply scoop a woman up and literally put her exactly where you wanted her to be, she wasn’t exactly going to cause you many other problems. And god, I wanted to be that kind of girl.

Luckily, I’ve grown out of that. A bit, anyway. But I’m still writing women who fall.

Falling is seriously grim. I know that not only from my own extensive experience, but also because I’m hyper-alert to other people falling. When I did the Moonwalk back in May, I witnessed a horrific one – an elderly lady tripped over a tree root and gained momentum as she attempted to right herself. Just as I thought she’d regained her balance, she went absolutely flying. And the smack of body hitting concrete, of other people’s gasps, they bring back every fall I’ve ever suffered. I hate seeing it almost as much as I hate doing it.

So we have to stop writing falls as though they’re romantic. They’re not. They’re painful, humiliating, scary. But those things can all be sexy. There’s one particular scene that’s stuck with me from Unfaithful with Richard Gere and Diane Lane, where she falls and we see the aftermath as a series of vignettes designed to foreshadow the risks and pain inherent in the affair she’s embarking on. She eases her tights away from an oozing graze. There’s a flashback to a boiling kettle hissing as she does. It’s all a bit predictable, perhaps, but it turned me on.

I’m fascinated by cuts, grazes, bruises. And not just the ones caused by kink, either. Watching skin knit back together, or blood bead, waiting to spill. The stickiness of it as it clots. The metallic, iron-rich taste of it. I completely accept that these things won’t work for everyone, though. They’re fairly dark, I guess.

Essentially I feel much the same about falling as I do about disability. We need to write it, to see it in the media, to acknowledge that it’s part of many people’s reality. It’s not kooky, or adorable, or cute. What it could be though, if we wrote it well, is really, really fucking hot.

Advertisements

Wicked Wednesday: Crumpled

She’s lying in the surf, unexpectedly. Or perhaps not so unexpectedly.

This has happened many times before. One minute, she’s negotiating her way across steeply banked rocks into the shallows, the next she’s an untidy heap in the water. Usually, it’s a particularly vicious wave that takes her down; today a small child on an inflatable has crashed into her legs and toppled her.

And the whole time, he’s standing there, watching.

It’s moved fast. They’ve only been together three months, and the holiday’s been planned for two. Summer was a bad time for it to start – she’s more vulnerable from June to September.

It sounds ridiculous when she thinks of it that way, but it’s true. On their first date, he suggested a walk. She was glad he saw that as an option, but fuck, she agonised over shoes for hours. Flat sandals make her tired, and wedges are too much of a risk. Trainers would make the most sense, but she knows they do her no favours. She’s seen people who’ve never batted an eyelid when she’s wearing sturdy boots look down curiously when she’s wearing trainers. They make her ankle lazy. She wears the wedges. She’s nothing if not stubborn.

On the beach, he helps her up; holds her hand as they move into deeper water. She wishes she could tell him some of this stuff.

Every time she falls, she tries to think of crumpled things that she loves. There are lots. Slept-in beds, still warm. The Sunday papers, read from cover to cover over a lazy breakfast, or a few days later, screwed up tighter and nestled into a pile of kindling, waiting for someone to strike a match. Sweet wrappers. A surprise £20 note in the pocket of her jeans. Crunchy, orange leaves in autumn.

The holiday ends, as does the summer. Shortly after, he moves in, and adds new crumpledness to her life. His shirts on the ironing pile. Condoms wrapped in screwed up tissue in the bathroom bin. And a receipt that she finds in the hallway one morning when she’s tidying. There’s something written on the back, and she flattens it carefully so she can make out the words. In his sloping, squished up handwriting, he has written

Will you marry me?

Marry me?

I love you.

Any of those would do.

rainbowcircle1-150

On language learning and sex

On Thursday nights, every other week, I teach English to foreign workers. A few weeks back, with the rest of the class absorbed in a pretty basic exercise, I found myself perched on the desk of a Spanish student whose level of English is well above that of the average student in the lower-level group.

‘I thought we talked about this a few weeks ago,’ I said. ‘You were going to try the higher group, remember?’

This particular student is a real sweetheart. We’d talked previously about whether her grammar was good enough for her to move up a level – I was adament she was, her argument to the contrary was that she occasionally makes mistakes with her tenses. Of course, she could stay in the lower group – it doesn’t make a huge difference to me – but the more I thought about it, and I did think about it a lot, on my way home, the following morning, the more I realised that what makes me sad about it is that she’s letting her fear hold her back.

As soon as I decided I wanted to be good at French, I got good, pretty much. In class, at least. On a holiday to Australia aged 16 I took a grammar workbook which I realised later was aimed at university students. There were no explanations or examples, so I worked through it to the best of my ability, only to find that more often than not I was getting the answers wrong and I had no idea why. I couldn’t recognise how far I’d come in a couple of years, only that I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be.

And I made my life, and a lot of other people’s, an absolute misery.

For two years running, my best friend won the end-of-year French prize and it seemed so bloody unfair, even though, looking back, I can see exactly why that was the case. She was a meek, obedient, disciplined student, good across all four skills, while I, despite being the one with the offer of a place at Oxbridge and the one who spent all her free periods reading French novels, applied myself only to the things I was comfortable with, namely Reading, Writing and Listening. Not speaking. God, no.

It wasn’t all my fault. I had a filthy temper, which I could now tell you was born of anxiety, but at the time I, and everyone else, just assumed meant I was a stroppy, difficult bitch. My French teacher, with whom I thought I was desperately in love, believed that speaking skills were improved by filming class discussion or debating activities and then playing them back to us, so we could identify our errors. I know a bit about language teaching now, and it’s not a terrible method, but his major failing was not recognising just how much it didn’t work for me, and mixing it up a bit.

We had an agreement: I knew that what bothered me was seeing myself move on camera; the jerky movements that to me screamed ‘disability,’ so I sat out of shot. You could hear me, but not see me. And still I hated it. It made me cry, it made me shout, it made me anxious as fuck in the run up to lessons where I knew we’d be being filmed. I know now that disability has coloured my views about every aspect of my body – I don’t like seeing myself move, hearing my voice, still photos that I can’t control … the list goes on. I wish I’d been able to tell him that calmly.

I owe the change to my Cambridge interviewer, who recognised I was too young and too lacking in confidence to be able to handle the challenge of a Cambridge degree straight after leaving school. My gap year was obligatory. Learning to speak French was not. Not for them, at least, but my mum wouldn’t let me get away with just working my summer call centre job for another year.

And, to cut a long story short, in a bakery in Switzerland I really learned to speak French. I doubt, even when I was pretty much fluent, that I was ever grammatically perfect. But I was revelling in the language, really enjoying it in a well rounded manner for the first time ever. I got a job abroad because they needed someone to speak English with the tourists: I spent most of the Winter letting the Brits struggle on in pidgin French before switching to English once they’d reached maximum fluster.

I was so immersed in the language that when things went wrong ‘Putain!” was more instinctive than ‘Fuck!’ I delighted in the fact that the French for ‘pussy’ is ‘chatte’ and that I could drive my boss crazy by answering with a slangy, drawn-out ‘Ouais,’ rather than the crisp and polite ‘Oui, Madame’ that she expected. All stuff that I picked up by just throwing myself into the language, and not overthinking it.

I’d love to say that that was the last time I feared throwing myself in at the deep end, but of course, it wasn’t. I never worked in Italy, or found an equivalent way to immerse myself in the Italian language and as a result the Italian I picked up during my degree has pretty much wilted and died. And I certainly haven’t lost that fear when it comes to sex – even when I’m doing something I love, like giving head, I still worry that my technique could be better. There’s a balance to be achieved here somewhere: if I love the act despite my worries I’m not letting it hold me back. And technique, like grammar, has a place in sex, certainly, which is why I’m always sorely tempted to go and do this.

The girl that I teach moved herself into the higher group after we had that chat. I’m pleased for her, because I think she’ll be having more fun. And fuck, just like sex, when language is fun, it’s *really* fun.

To read more Wicked Wednesday, click below.

rainbowcircle1-150

*I realised halfway through this, that it’s kind of an extension of/development of the thoughts behind this post. That’s ok though, right?

Disabled characters: who do I really write them for?

A few months ago, I tweeted about the huge disparity in follower numbers between the @EverydaySexism and @EverydayAbleism Twitter accounts. And somebody random came back to me and said something like ‘Well, there are lots more women than there are disabled people.’

I accept that that’s true to an extent, but probably less so than you imagine. Factor in all the people with invisible disabilities, who tend to get ignored, and I bet the number shoots right up. Plus, it’s a pretty fucking limited view of who can care about these issues, isn’t it? Only women give a damn about sexism and only disabled people fight against ableism. And yeah, sometimes it feels like that. Which is a good enough reason, in my book, to pepper my erotica with my own experiences of disability. So that other people, able-bodied or otherwise, get it. That they see the challenges, the unexpected triggers, the psychological battles. I’d like to say ‘so they see that disability can be hot,’ but if I’m being totally honest, I often don’t care whether readers think what I write is hot or not – I just desperately want to share my own experiences.

I’m currently writing a short story featuring a disabled female character, with the intention of submitting it to an anthology. The character in question is freaked out by a physical challenge that would seem relatively insignificant to anyone able-bodied, but it’s a big deal to her. In this particular case, she overcomes her fear, but I don’t want that to be the narrative of every story about disability that I write. It’s just not realistic. But my biggest problem with this story is that she overcomes the fear with the help of a man, she doesn’t manage it all by herself. And in today’s climate of sex-positive, strong women, that feels like a failing.

The pressure I feel to write strong women, a pressure that causes writer’s block like nothing else, is equally applicable to characters with disabilities. In the story I’ve just had published in the For Book’s Sake anthology Tongue in Cheek, the (able-bodied) FMC cries during sex:

He’s losing me, and he knows it. Neither of us can gain enough purchase here on the cushions for him to up the tempo of his thrusts and re-centre me in the moment. So he takes me upstairs, and we fuck like we’re fucking, not kissing, and I give up the pretence completely and start to cry.

Until recently, I’d have found it hard to write a disabled character who cried during sex and not feel like I was perpetuating myths about disabled people being weak. But the truth is, if we write disabled people who are all happy and cool about their disabilities, who’ve dealt with all their issues, and are basically disabled only in a physical sense, we’re doing people who identify as disabled a massive disservice. I think the able-bodied world is often guilty of holding up as role models disabled people who’ve achieved way more than the majority of us could ever hope to – Paralympic athletes for example. While I find what they do hugely impressive, I can’t relate. Partly, it’s about finding it easier to relate to people whose condition is very similar to my own and whose strengths are similar too (Conservative MP Robert Halfon, for example, who mouths off about anything he feels strongly about). But it’s also about feeling immense pressure to be above average – I’ve done it in some areas of my life, and it frustrates me hugely that my body prevents me achieving what I’d like to physically. I want to write erotica that shows it’s ok to be weak, to be scared, to be angry. Because I think those are universal emotions – felt by able-bodied people as much as disabled people, men as much as women.

But universal though the emotions I’m writing may be, the writer’s block on the novel continues. Weak, scared and angry might be ok in a 3k short, but they’re pretty relentless in a full length piece. When I posted an extract on here, I got detailed feedback from several people who I like and whose opinion I trust. One pointed out that the female lead was clearly me, and that that was a risk – no one expects to get 100% positive feedback on a novel and I’d have to be prepared for readers to potentially criticise or dislike a character who is a barely veiled version of myself. And because she’s a barely veiled version of me, she spends the majority of the novel beating herself up. I’m not always sure I like her: how can I possibly expect readers to?

Perhaps readers won’t like her, but if the novel does get published, it should be a pretty good sign that some, at least, do. All my hang-ups when it comes to writing are not caused by other people’s opinions. They’re caused by my own. *I* worry that to turn to a man for support when I’m scared makes me weak. *I* worry that a heroine with a disability that she hasn’t fully come to terms with can never be sexy.

I write to make disability less scary. I write to reduce the stigma that surrounds it. I write to show that you can be disabled and still be sexy.

But right now, it’s not readers I’m trying to convince. It’s myself.

‘The Theory of Everything’ or ‘Writing Disability’

‘Yeah, she liked it. She thought maybe it glossed over his disease a bit, but yeah, good.’

So said a friend about a friend of hers who’d already seen The Theory of Everything, the film about Stephen Hawking and his first marriage, when I told her I was going to see it at the weekend.

And you know what? I thought it was bloody good.

I think you’d be hard pressed not to like it, if Rom Coms are your thing (although, admittedly, there’s not that much Com). Eddie Redmayne is amazing as Hawking, Felicity Jones is perhaps even better as his wife, and well, it’s set in Cambridge, and when is Cambridge not beautiful? Certainly not when a huge budget has clearly been spent on giving it extra soft lighting and sparkle.

But the motor neurone disease needs that soft lighting and sparkle, right? To make it watchable?

Well, no, I don’t think it does, actually. And that’s exactly where the film triumphs.

If it glosses over the grim reality of the disease, and certainly my friend’s friend was not the only one to think it does, it glosses only over the physical side, not the psychological. Personally, I’m ok with that. I don’t want this post to become a debate about whether the primary purpose of showing more disability in books, films and the media in general is to ensure people with disabilities are sufficiently represented in those areas or to educate the wider population (although I’m happy to discuss this in the comments), but I do know that I don’t think the representation of physical pain/distress tells us much. What it’s important to show is the psychological damage that disability causes – the shame, the frustration, the anger – and without a doubt, The Theory of Everything doesn’t hold back here. It’s in the inability to match finger to thumb (I’ve been there), the inability to eat unassisted, the gradual triumph of the flight of stairs over the able-bodied man.

I don’t have motor neurone disease, or anything remotely that severe. I’ve never been told that my disability will cut my life short. I’m not in permanent, irreversible decline. But I do know what it’s like to watch your body let you down – for years mine steadily overcame its own issues – I was told I might not walk, and then I did, my limp became less pronounced, my left hand ceased to want to ball into a fist at all times – and then all of a sudden, it didn’t. I had hip pain, knee pain – neither of which I’d had before – and I was back in the MRI scanner for the first time in eighteen years. A day at a craft fair bizarrely threw my hips so out of sync I could barely walk. I had frequent neck ache, back ache and indigestion – caused, the physio said, by the fact that my rib cage was likely twisted because my right side was pulling too hard when compensating for my left. But I care less that people understand the physical issues than that they understand how I feel – why I’m scared, why I’m angry, why I’m ashamed. If I’d started life able-bodied? Yeah, I can’t even imagine…

But this isn’t the first thing I’ve watched about Stephen Hawking, and I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s not that nice a guy. Sure, the film is based on his wife’s autobiography, and he left her for his nurse, so she was never going to paint him as a saint, but it’s such a relief to finally see something that shows you that someone can be hellish in spite of their disability, and that the physical difficulties just exacerbate the problems of excess pride, stubbornness and selfishness. I’m so, so tired of seeing disabled people described as role models, ‘inspirational,’ or worst of all ‘cute’ (yes, Channel 4, I’m looking at you) – they’re *people*, and as such they come with a full range of emotions, hopes, dreams, fears and faults.

It’s why, in a way, I think erotica is an interesting genre in which to write disability. i’ve touched briefly before on my belief that the best erotica delves into the psychology of its characters and I think the psychology of disability is fascinating – how do you develop sex positivity, body positivity, healthy relationships, when living in an ableist world that does its best to remind you, often, that you’re not *normal?* Too much focus, at the moment, is put on disability as difference, when really, it’s not – it’s often  just a magnifying glass on the physical insecurities that everyone suffers. As such, it deserves to be written not just for the sake of fair representation but because it highlights universal fears and concerns.

I have two concerns though, when it comes to writing disability, and the first is personal. I’m revising the first draft of my novel at the moment, and there’s no doubt the FMC is pretty much a carbon copy of me. I don’t regret that, because it’s important to me to see physical disability depicted in sex writing for all the reasons I’ve given above, and doubtless she’ll stay disabled right up the final draft, but ultimately I think as you mature as a writer you hope to move away from writing your own issues and insecurities, and I think this is an issue I’ll always be too close to to view it impartially. Nor do I think you have to have experienced disability to write it well. I have no issues with able-bodied people writing disability, provided they do their research properly, just as I hope that ‘cripping up’ (ugh) will never be widely seen as equivalent to ‘blacking up.’

My final concern, and my final point, for that matter, links back to disability as ‘cute.’ It’s not cute. It’s equally not sexy (which isn’t to say disabled people can’t be hot, just that that hotness is about the person, not their disability,) but judging by the way erotic romance is currently portraying mental health issues, you’d never know that. Take Sylvia Day’s Captivated by You as an example (and a longer post on this is coming soon.) The MMC (there’s no way I’m calling him the hero), Gideon Cross, has a history of being abused, and as such, some pretty severe MH problems. Can he be sexy nonetheless? Of course. Is he sexy because he’s ‘damaged?’ No, FFS.

Writing disability isn’t something that needs doing because it’s ‘cool.’ Physical disability and mental health issues aren’t having their fifteen minutes of fame, they’re the reality of the world we live in. We need to stop writing disability as a quirk that makes characters interesting and start writing interesting characters who also have a disability. And please, if you do, spare me the cute…

On connecting and loneliness

If you only read for the hot posts, look away now.

When I set this blog up, I had no idea what it would turn into. My Twitter bio quite clearly says that I write about ‘sex and disability,’ but whenever I do, I feel slightly guilty, like I’m somehow letting down my readers. I lose followers, too. But I fully buy the argument that you should blog first and foremost for yourself, so this post, as you might expect of one written at 4am, is really a post for me. To help me make sense of things.

I have a friend who also has a medical issue that dates back to birth. In the last 5 years or so, she’s on occasion expressed frustration with doctors, saying that they never really understood her condition so what’s the point of expecting them to find long term solutions to pain and other problems that flare up. My answer has always been that things have changed since the early 80s. Doctors *do* have knowledge and solutions now that they didn’t have then.

What I didn’t realise was that that applies to me too. Naively, I thought that because I have a condition that affects 1 in a 1000, it was common enough that doctors understood it inside out, and always had.

That, of course, is not true. And it’s frustrating, given that I last saw a consultant at the age of ten. Since then, my only contact with medical professionals around the whole issue has been when something flares up. Knee and hip pain might get me referred for an MRI. It might get me onto a waiting list for a handful of sessions of NHS physio. I no longer get to talk to specialists about it.

Which means that occasionally, I stick whatever symptoms I’m having into google with ‘+ hemiplegia’ tacked on the end. ‘Depression + hemiplegia,’ ‘Anxiety + hemiplegia,’ that kind of thing. And HemiHelp, which is what that link above leads to, is a massively useful source of information.

Last night, I was talking to someone about why I feel so low, or, more specifically, why I feel so lonely. Part of the problem is that I feel like I don’t know how to connect with people – I have problems with small talk, bonding on a superficial level and making new friends. Sometimes, I said, it feels like I might be borderline autistic.

Well, she said, perhaps that’s true. Have you looked it up? So I did. And here’s what came back:

The answers to ‘does your child have associated conditions?’ were as individual as the children themselves. ‘Yes’ is the short answer, for 69% of parents. A majority of parents said that in addition to the visible physical effects of their hemiplegia, 67% of their children have learning difficulties, while 42% have epilepsy, 40% have visual impairments and 34% have speech impairments. Autistic Spectrum Disorder was also reported by a significant minority of parents (14%). Even more parents (86%) told us about other associated difficulties, with the main problem being irritability (61%). This is followed by attention span (59%), anxiety (55%), visio-spatial issues (50%), maths (49%), obsessiveness (44%) and reading (38%) (Parents’ survey: the findings. http://www.hemihelp.org.uk)

Ah. Suffice to say I think I have a fair few of those issues. Irritability? Definitely. Obsessiveness? Yes, that seems fairly accurate too. And the Visio-spatial issues and maths problems are also relevant.

So perhaps that’s why I have problems connecting. Perhaps that’s why I’m bossy, self-absorbed, selfish, and bad at friendship. It’s not a get out of jail card, but it helps to know there might be a reason for it.

Inexperience

When I was six or seven, I got a bike for Christmas. I don’t recall much about it, other than that it was almost certainly pink, that I spent a lot of time pimping it with plastic shit from packets of Frosties, and that by the end of the winter I was regularly in the habit of pedalling so fast that the stabilisers didn’t even touch the ground.

And then my dad took the stabilisers off.

Continue reading

On giving up

I don’t think of myself as a massively determined person. Goals that I think are within my reach, sure, I’ll stick at them, but when I don’t think I have a hope in hell of achieving something, I’d rather just walk away.

I say walk away. In reality, I’m not that calm. Take cross country in PE at school as an example. This is my total idea of hell – not only are you asking me to do something that I’m going to find incredibly difficult, you’re asking me to compete against, and to be watched by, other people. The result in this particular case was usually complete meltdown: I could work myself up into floods of tears and hyperventilation in what I’d now recognise as a panic attack, but at the time even I kind of assumed was just teenage melodrama.

Continue reading

Watching ‘The Undateables’ (kind of)

I should’ve known this was going to be a shit week. On Friday night, I left the office and promptly burst into tears because I’d missed a deadline and let the designer down (in my defence, the designer is *hot*). Then, I went to M&S and bought steak, which was the only thing I wanted for dinner – something which only happens when my body is screaming for iron. I got home and my period had started. Obviously.

Continue reading

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.