Yesterday arvo I was looking at the old facey (the social media not the one on my head) and felt great rage and that awful sinking feeling when I saw a picture of a man my friend posted. The rage didn't come from my man-hating lesbian status - I'm generally ok with anyone who isn't a jerk. This man had his face buried smarmily in the MX newspaper and was sitting in a spot reserved for people who need it. You know the kind, pregnant people, disabled people (or people with disabilities or however you're comfortable to read those words - I quite like the term crip, and refer to myself as such), elderly people. This lady I know is someone who needs one of these seats on a daily basis. That means usually having to ask people to move and all the feels that go along with that. Jerkface in the photo refused to give it up for her.
I know, right? What a tool!
The thing is this isn't an isolated incident. Happens quite a bit, to people with visible requirements (prosthetics, walking sticks, crutches). What a world.
I've been thinking about visibility a lot lately. A month or two ago my invisible crippledom turned a bit visible when I've required a walking stick to get around. It's all good - not a lasting symptom, although it's a pain the arse I should be ok soon, and I don't need it all the time, but when I do use my stick it's pretty amazing what happens.
Firstly, I turn into a wise elderly English gentleman with a pocketwatch, wearing a suit comprised entirely of houndstooth.
Just jokes - but really, initially I felt embarrassed. I'm so used to passing as just another person who yawns and sits a lot. If a friend was ashamed of me or anyone else for being criptastic, I would drop that friend like a hot spud - and how. As an aside - how ridiculous to drop a delicious hot potato. Put that sucker on a plate and eat it!
So I got over my misplaced ego attack, and using the stick in public resulted in things happening that have never happened to me before. Got on a plane using the lift, instead of struggling up the stairs and feeling like crap for days. Got moved to the front of the queue, less waiting on my feet. Went to the comedy festival and a lady walked with me to show me where the lift was at Bella Union, accompanied me to the room the gig was in, and made sure I had an aisle seat.
None of this was done in a patronising manner. It was all just friendly and nice and helpful. I turned up, whoever was in charge of herding people clocked a brief look at my walking stick and made good shit happen. This may be controversial, but I liked the help I received. Oh my lawd, just a bit of assistance makes such a mega difference sometimes. The lack of waiting on my feet, and walking up flights of stairs, and carrying heavy stuff means I get to enjoy the next hour or two instead of starting to recover from those simple things that create such complex issues. It was assistance with dignity, and that made all the difference. I didn't have to seek it out and get worked up thinking about the rejection that could occur.
Doing a bit of navel gazing about this leads me to believe that I'm a bit tuckered out from nigh on ten years of the crip. I've never asked anyone to give up their seat for me on the train. Nor have I been at the front of the queue for the plane before. Just how I would navigate those things happening on a regular basis sans walking stick is beyond me.
Thinking of my friend on the train, it's a gutsy move to ask someone to vacate their seat for you. They definitely should - but I wonder how many people consider what it's taken that person to ask. I still get very emotional, and it takes me by surprise, when I'm in the position of needing to explain myself to people. Is it shame? If so, it's misplaced. But it's there nonetheless. My friend on the train? After the man refused to give up his seat, she cried. And stood, in pain after a shit day with a shit end. I hope he saw her tears and felt ashamed of himself.
Over the years I've formed the opinion that there's nothing wrong with a public cry. If I'm sad, and my face squirts water from my eyes as a sign of this, then it's not a problem. I actually love it when people cry when they're talking to me about real stuff. My bestie Cat cries ALL the time. I love it! I don't want people to feel bad, but if they ARE feeling bad, I'd prefer their face explodes with tears than to hold it all in and feel worse for longer. You dig?
Recently Tracey and I did one of the most visible things you can do. We got hitched. We did it our way, with recognisable elements of a celebrant and a winery and a brilliant band and a great big crowd of friends and family and a photographer and a videographer. I think I need to write a post just about that, with mega plugs for all the amazing people who helped us to get it all happening. Hot dog, what a great day! It was like love Christmas.
By all accounts everyone had a really great time, and the love in the air was palpable. It's quite amazing to be smack bang in the middle of a love tornado - everyone's there to celebrate and acknowledge your relationship. It's pretty spesh.
Anyway, this somehow links back to the point which is visibility. I'm not sure how to say this so blurting it is probably best. But before I do - please know that I'm not saying this as a request for argument with my thoughts. Feel free to say and think what you like, but this is not a cry for "tell me I'm pretty" messages. It's painful to be honest sometimes, but adding light to dark thoughts often changes them.
There have been very few times in my life where I felt like I looked good, but on the day that Tracey and I got married, I felt beautiful. I was so happy. We both had the dresses of our dreams made by a very nice lady, the place was dripping with colourful flowers, and I had the biggest, gooniest smile on my mug the entire day. It was ace fun.
I grew up believing that I was the only ugly person in my primary school, and then my high school. I thought it was a secret that everyone knew but nobody talked about. So I just wanted to say, it gets better. Even now when I look at the photos that I'm in the first thing I see are my imperfections and faults, but I remember the feeling of being beautiful for that whole day. Tracey encouraged me to remember that feeling when I look at our wedding photos, and I can do that when I try.
This is what I look like in my dressing gown and jammies, with my wedding hair and makeup done, when I'm holding my chicken.
Here I am all dressed up with Clem in his tux. We didn't bring our menagerie to the wedding, just dressed up the boys at home for photos like this.
What I'm trying to say, is that it's ok to feel beautiful even if the conventional world or your own nasty self-talk are not necessarily in agreement with you. It's great to go all out and be seen being proud of yourself and expressing love for your partner and your family and your friends (and your chicken).
If the parts of you that hurt are invisible, you're worth it enough to speak of them and as a result, move around in life a bit easier. And if the parts of you that hurt are visible and the guy on the train is an asshole and won't offer you a seat when you need one, he has every reason in the world to feel shame - and even though you have none, let that misplaced shame out through exploding water face and hopefully some of it will land on him.
All photos in this post were taken by the astoundingly talented Tajette O'Halloran.