Anyone who has ever seen my mother and me together says that we look alike. With some very minor differences, this is true. Her skin is yellower and fairer than my mocha-based skin tinted with red and yellow. She also has a conspicuous fingertip-shaped birthmark that I think is adorable and a gap in her front teeth that gives her face character. With the exception of the additional shades of melanin added by my father, I almost look like my mother’s clone. However, that’s about as far as the cosmetic similarities go. Where she wears vibrant colors and prints, I wear earth tones. Where she wears larger, colorful jewelry, I tend toward simplistic gold, silver, white and some blue smaller pieces. Neither of us has ever worn much makeup–until recently.
It is not unusual to hear disabled people complain that they are invisible to the able-bodied world. In many instances, I think that’s true, especially if you’re a woman in a wheelchair. Those of us in wheelchairs are looking at everyone else’s navels (or something lower on the male body) as we try to make it through a crowd. Able-bodied people walk, talk, eat, daydream or generally don’t pay attention as they go from Place A to Place B and expect everyone else to inhabit the same general vertical space. However, if a person is in a wheelchair or on a scooter, they’re not in that space. They are somewhere else that can be blocked out of the conscious brain of the able-bodied person. Usually, a loud, “Excuse me!” will get their attention. But absent a polite (or impolite) exclamation, the wheelchair- or scooter-bound person doesn’t exist. And sex?! Most able-bodied people (read “men”) don’t think of the disabled as sexual. Again, we are invisible unless it’s for all the wrong reasons.
Some weeks ago, I realized I was tired of not existing. I think it was probably around my birthday this past March when I began to think of how long ago I was born versus how old I feel. I don’t feel older than my mid-30s. My body worked a whole lot better then than it does now. Nevertheless, in my mind–indeed, in my very being–I am that 35-year-old woman. Better yet, I am beginning to think of myself as a 35-year-old woman who is very sexual and very sexually attractive. I made a conscious decision to feel this way because, truth be told, getting laid was never a real problem for me. The problem was getting laid by the right person. I didn’t have the confidence and so I didn’t get the attention I wanted from the right people. It was as though my pheromones told people to “Stay away!” In truth, I think it was my desperation.
I have been ill for nearly seven years straight. My life has changed dramatically. People I thought were friends, really weren’t, and; people I thought were family were only related to me by chance DNA. Part of this time has been deeply painful. It has been so painful that at times I’ve wanted to leave this world forever. The only thing that stopped me was three days in ICU. But from there, I began to heal. I’d already begun some parts of my healing years before, but the last suicide attempt resulted in me finding the very best therapist I’ve ever had. If it weren’t for her helping me make sense out of something tragic, I doubt I’d be around today to write these words.
I have a birth defect called proximal focal femoral deficiency, (aka PFFD), that is the result of exposure to the drug thalidomide in utero. My right leg is significantly shorter than my left and I have to wear an above-knee prosthesis to walk. I am different. I have always been different. That difference didn’t physically effect me until I was in my mid-20s. From there, things began to slowly go to hell in a hand basket. But today, at this moment, there is a tremendous sense of hope. I think it is the hope that has unleashed my desire–my sexuality–and my yearning to be noticed. You see, part of the desire to blend into a beige wall stems from being a rape and incest survivor. We never want to be noticed. But part of it stems from being disabled–different and vulnerable to predators. So, there are two very strong instincts fighting me and telling me to go back into my cave where it’s safe. I won’t do it. I want to look and feel pretty again. I want to be noticed again, even if I’m using my wheelchair at the time.
In that vein, I’m buying accessories to brighten up and enhance the clothing I already have and I have my eye on some really cute, sexy underwear. I’ve also gone through all of my jewelry and realized that I’ve got some exquisite pieces that only need the right clothing and makeup. Yes, I have begun to wear makeup far more often. I’ve purchased two types of mascara that I’ll wear depending on the occasion and I am searching for diverse, colorful eye shadows that make my eyes POP and lipsticks. I think the eyeshadows I want are only to be found at a department store, but I’ve discovered a lipstick vendor with many varied shades at my neighborhood drug store. To be blunt, I want to be so fucking attractive that I don’t have to sit and wait for ANYone to call. It can and will happen. In fact, I think it might be happening now. But, for the moment, I think we’re playing a game. I am amused, no doubt, but this person won’t be the only suitor if they play too long. Yes, I am here!