This is the tale of a woman who had accepted her fate as a single old crazy cat lady. She would live out her days alone with her books, television shows and a faint smell of urine in the air. However, something happened that could shake up this slightly pathetic future.
Obviously this woman is me; Holly. Hi.
I have managed to trick a grown, lucid man from earth to be my partner. So what? It’s hardly a major achievement, people get together every day. I understand this, but to me, it was a major shock.
I’m a bit special in that I use the internet. Have you heard of it? I hear it’s especially good for finding dyslexic cats. Having utilised the internet for some time, I found that I could connect with people without leaving my room and changing out of my pyjamas. I joined chat rooms, forums, social networking, and for shits and giggles; some dating websites. I liked the dating websites because you could check out someone’s profile and then decide if you wanted to interact with this person. For example, if their profile said ‘I’m fun loving’, I would not talk to them because I assumed they liked making stupid redundant comments because who doesn’t love fun? I genuinely wasn’t interested in meeting up with men and dating them, I just wanted to make some friends online. Meeting means I’d have to look them in the eyes and brush my hair. Plus being in a wheelchair makes you hyper-aware of people staring at you and making assumptions about you, and I didn’t want that. The beauty of online communication is that if you don’t tell them, the person on the other end of the line has no idea that you’re in a wheelchair, and therefore they treat you as a ‘normal’ person. I crave normality. I’m not proud to be disabled, I don’t revel in it, it isn’t who I am. So the format of internet dating worked well for me. I’d be upfront from the start of conversations saying I’m not interested in anything romantic or physical, and if the guy wasn’t happy with that, he’d soon leave.
Admittedly, there were a couple of guys I came across online that I developed crushes on and became quite close to. I’d tell them about my disability and they’d be surprised, but usually take it well. With the exception of one guy who got very angry and claimed that I’d lied to him and led him on. This reaction proved he was a wankbadger, so I quickly moved on.
I was never brave enough to meet up with them in person. My mind was flooded with imagined scenarios where he’d arrive, take one look at me in my wheelchair, contort his face into one of absolute disgust, scoff, and leave. When you’ve lived your life being avoided because of what you look like, it’s difficult to let go of these fears.
So this went on for about 2 and a half years. I was the girl who’d rather trawl dating websites, laugh at pretentious profiles and contact interesting people than go to the pub and actually talk to a real human being.
I’d get about 2 messages a day and 90% of the messages were boring, stupid or rude. This isn’t me being picky or arrogant, I think any woman who has made an online profile will back me up when I say that the majority of messages consist of ‘hi how r u?’ or something equally as banal. The other 10% of messages were interesting, but conversation soon fizzled.
So on May 21st when I got a message from a guy with a dinosaur themed username, I wasn’t exactly hopeful that this would be the guy that I could have a great online friendship with. Not because I don’t like dinosaurs, I love them, but because statistically I hadn’t been lucky in the past. Reading through the message I thought he was friendly, and used correct grammar and spelling (a BIG deal for me). It was when I got to the end of the message that I really got a flutter of hope. He had read my profile and in his message, had acknowledged that he knew I wasn’t looking for a relationship, and was happy just to talk. Hallelujah!
Looking back, it’s ironic that he was the only one who ever acknowledged this, and SPOILER ALERT we ended up being in a relationship.
We started conversing and I unexpectedly began to look forward to his replies. I didn’t think anything of it until I found out that like me, he was a massive fan of Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant, and the rounded headed Karl Pilkington. I’d never talked to anyone else who knew of their podcasts and was as obsessed as I was. Romantic, right?
After only a few days of messaging, we moved onto chatting in real time on Skpe, then before I knew it, I had given him my mobile number. It was completely out of character for me. I was starting to like him and I was shit scared. My brain had completely forgotten its rule about never meeting up with internet buddies, so I just told him I was interested in being more than friends. Through a text of course. I’m not a grown up.
Luckily, he admitted the same. We progressed to talking on the phone, which I usually HATE, so I knew something a bit special was going on when I agreed to that. I mean, the amount of times I’ve mimed ‘I’m in the shower’ to get out of talking to someone on the phone is ridiculous.
We had serious talks about my disability. By ‘we’ I mean I brought it up a lot, hoping to scare him away so I can dust my hands in a dramatic fashion and say ‘phew, glad I dodged a bullet there and didn’t have to have real feelings’. Fortunately he stayed strong during my attempted self-sabotage and assured me that it wasn’t an issue for him. I thought he was lying and just telling me what I wanted to hear. I also thought he was in on a big joke much like the popular movie plots involving daring the high school jock to date the awkward unpopular girl, except in my case, I was the cripple girl who didn’t get a make-over in the end.
When you genuinely don’t believe that anyone could find you appealing in a romantic or sexual way, it’s difficult to accept the fact that someone likes you. But I couldn’t think of any other reason he’d want to be with me, I’m not rich, famous, or a Victoria’s Secret model. I slowly came around to the idea that there was nothing sinister in his intentions to be with me.
Two months after we first started talking online, we met up in Brisbane. I brought my best friend along for moral support (and to judge him of course). I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my whole life. I was incredibly close to saying ‘NOPE. I need to leave right now’. Luckily I didn’t because it was a very enjoyable night. He was exactly the same person that I’d been getting to know online, with no nasty surprises.
On the way home with my friend, I was expressing my concerns about starting a relationship and my constant fear that he’ll wake up one day and realise ‘oh shit, she’s in a wheelchair, what have I gotten myself into?’. She then said something that my anxiety riddled brain hadn’t considered. She told me that he was a grown man and that he could make his own decisions, and that he might decide to be with me and that I shouldn’t question it. I’d been so wrapped up in my own deeply entrenched worries, I’d forgotten that he was a human being capable of thought, reasoning, logic and decision making.
A few weeks later we’d organised that he come and see me, so I’d have the home advantage. I thought I was mentally prepared, but the night before he was due to come up it all got too much and I had a big snotty breakdown. It wasn’t pretty. There were tears, heaving breaths, shaking and questionable noises. I was convinced that when he saw me in my natural habitat he’d run for the hills. Obviously, this did not happen, but it was hard to ignore 10 years worth of built up anxiety about being judged and then rejected.
He stayed for the day and by the time he had to leave at about 9pm, I was so relaxed and happy that I didn’t want him to go. From then on we’ve see each other every 2 weeks. He stays at my place for the weekend. He’s survived the scrutiny of my family and friends and already has a nickname thanks to my 12 year old sister.
We’ve officially been together for 7 months now. I still have my disability-related worries, but I don’t think they will ever go away as I don’t believe my clinical depression and GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) ever will either.
Regardless of whether we’re together for 10 months or 10 years, I will definitely consider this experience as a positive and life changing one. Noone ever equates being in a wheelchair with being desirable. I certainly didn’t. It has taught me that I can be desirable, in all senses of the word.
As corny as it sounds, I think that that’s what everyone craves; to be wanted. We seek external validation of our existence, someone who’ll say ‘I’m glad you’re here’.