So this weekend brought me down to earth a little as some of the changes and new challenges I am going to have to face became glaringly real. I consider myself to be strong, but I think I still need to become a little thicker skinned and more resilient because I realised that while I talk the talk, when it comes to holding my head up high and letting things roll off my back, I can’t walk the walk. Not properly yet anyway.
A little context to my weekend then. I went out on Saturday night with a girlfriend, my first real night on the town as single gal. It was both a fantastic night out and a real knock to the confidence, and it has left me feeling a little low this week. So much so that today walking back from the shop, all it took was some old man with no filter to stare at my hand, well I guess lack there of really, to reduce me to tears.
I don’t like to use the term stump, it sounds so derogatory but I am yet to find a replacement term that I feel comfortable with -my first boyfriend used to call it bottlecap, it was our name for it, that’s the closest I’ve come to finding a name that make me feel like it is a special part of me, a part of my identity. While I cherish this, it is a little abstract to use as a general term. But I digress.
After the incident on Saturday night and today’s moment, combined with exhaustion, an early 6am jog, and a very long day at work, in that stare I felt the crashing burden, which when I’m low, just feels too much to bear. The feeling that I am always going to be seen as different, I will always be stared at, I will always sit on the outside of society’s norms, unable to live separately, but never really being able to be fully included and integrated in a world tailored to the able-bodied, to the normal not the abnormal, both by the things I can’t do and by the people who rudely stare, living in ignorance and fear of what they don’t know.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about everyone, and I when I refer to staring, I mean staring not a curious glance- I am not ignorant of human nature/curiosity. And I am not claiming that the world is against disabled people, but all it takes is a couple of shit people to make you feel like the world is stacked against you, like it is never going to change, and that you have to live 60 years in this isolated and alienating place. Even when you explain to those who love you, empathy from those around you just doesn’t quite cut it, but I love them for their efforts and do, of course feel better with their support, I would truly be alone without them.
But even then comes a guilt from making a fuss, just get over it already, I know they are sick of hearing about it. I wish I could let it go. It feels like a constant battle just to get the confidence to walk out the door in the morning, even more so not to hide my ‘hand’. Although I’ve come to the conclusion I’m not going to make tasks harder just because I feel I want to hide it, and I won’t hide a part of myself. I mean I do, just not all the time.
And then a moment like today happens and all my strength just dissipates and I feel like a lost tired child who just wants to be like everyone else, who wants to stop fighting and trying so hard to survive. It’s no wonder I already have grey hairs, survival seems to be a bit of a bitch! Kidding! Writing this, I already feel like a tit for being so bloody whiny.
Anyway, you must all be wondering (or not) – What the hell happened on Saturday???? Now it’s going to be a bit of an anti-climax. So as I said, I went for a girly night out on the town, suited and booted for my first single night out. I looked ok, I felt pretty, confident, thrilled to see my friend. We had some drinks, we chatted, we laughed, it was a fantastic start to an evening. We went to a club that was playing 50s and 60s music, it was fantastic. Swing music, great atmosphere, my friend and I were all arms and legs, dancing like crazy women having the time of our life. This for me is when things started to go a bit south.
A guy we were dancing with (all PG with swing) inevitably saw my non-hand. I witnessed this realisation, and for me, that was a bit of a horrific moment. Knowing that he had just seen that I was different. So obviously the following moments are pretty key in this situation, I carried on dancing as if nothing had happened, we were not ‘dancing’ dancing, just close by dancing (if that makes any sense) and then he inched away and left the dance floor.
Yup, my super power is being able to send men running in the opposite direction. Yay for me. Sucky moment of the weekend, made worse of course by alcohol. To be fair, the rest of the night should have made up for this one sucky moment that I definitely need to let go of and move on- this isn’t the first time (my previous experience was actually more horrific, I was 14, dancing close with a boy and he ran his hands up my arms -both suspended above my head- only to find there was a bit missing, the jerky shock and step back he took was enough to send me running far far away) and it won’t be the last time this happens on a night out. I proceeded to the bar to drown my sorrows where I started chatting to a very lovely guy who did not give a toss about the fact I was missing my right hand and generally I had a great rest of the night talking his ear off as well as a wonderful time with my friend.
I can’t shake the horrible feeling that dating, being out on the town is going to always be a bit of a challenge. The new Scope End the Awkward campaign (which is incredible) quotes that only 7% of people have been on a date with or been asked out a disabled person. I can’t get that out of my head. I can’t stop thinking about that ratio, that I will come under that category, that potential dates will see me as just that, a disabled person. My confidence is going to have to be unshakeable, indestructible. Urgh and that seems like an unfair trade, I want to have fun, not be self-conscious worrying about the moment when the guy I’m dancing with finds out and runs away. Pfft. Being single was an exciting adventure before. Now, after this weekend, it feels like it’s going to be an uphill battle with my confidence and self-esteem. Yay for me. Again.
However, I may feel very differently tomorrow, or Friday, or next week. I guess the beauty of something like this, is essentially, perspective. I’ve had a knock, a feeling of lowness has ensued. I may wake up tomorrow and shake it off. Find my strength within and say fuck it! Why should I care what the world thinks, what that guy thinks, what all the guys think. This is me. I can’t change it, can’t fight it, I have to live with it. I guess it all boils down to my mood, how hard the day has been and how much fight I have left in me. Let’s face it, I can’t let it get the better of me for too long, that much self-pity is just plain self-indulgent.
It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be a rollercoaster- sometimes on top of the world and I’ll have confidence coming out of my ears, and sometimes I’ll be so low I’ll want to scream and curse the world for making me feel so alone, ugly and different just because for whatever reason I was denied my second hand from birth. Either way I have one choice, suck it up, hold my head up high and get on with it, and stop complaining. I could be in a worse situation and I am lucky that I can do all the things I can, anyone who has more restrictions and/or worse treatment by others than me is probably wishing that I’d shut up and be grateful for all the things I can do. So I guess I should stop whining and leave this sucky incident as another notch on the character building belt.