How to retain a disabled stereotype.

There are many stereotypes and ignorant assumptions that I’ve been subjected to over the years. Some, I guess, can be positive and quite nice to hear. Then there are some which never fail to antagonise and rile me. And because I am genuine disabled person, and therefore it is the only thing I’m allowed to talk about, I thought I’d go through some of these delightful assumptions.

1. Don’t have a job. You are disabled. Don’t be so greedy, pick one, not both.
This week I was filling in an online questionnaire and was genuinely baffled by this conundrum:

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Which selection do I pick? If I correctly identify myself as employed (shh, don’t tell the fundamentalists) then am I being a disabled deviant? Am I going to get dragged back to my house and given a jigsaw puzzle to complete?

2. Don’t have children.

3. Don’t even have sex, or a partner. You’re not going to reproduce anyway, so if you must engage in anything in the boudoir, it must only be of the freaky sordid fetish kind, nothing normal.

Aside from this, the only partner you’re allowed is a carer. Just ask Premier Inn.

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Silly Billy! You can’t have a disabled family room! Whose children would you steal? You might scare someone into thinking you have offspring.

4. Take up a hobby. Painting with your toes or something will suffice. Nothing mainstream.

5. Talking of mainstream, step away from the local comprehensive school. No associating with normals. You surely didn’t have an ordinary education did you?

6. Don’t be tempted to step (I mean roll, apologies) into a children’s clothing aisle alone. You’ll confuse the locals.

7. For convenience in conversation with passers-by, you need to acquire your disability in an accident. Usually a car accident or bungee jumping blip will do. Don’t try and claim that you inherited your condition, or were born with a defect or something. It just won’t work.

8. Visually impaired or deaf? Please use a wheelchair to inform people of your disability. Easy peasy.

9. Don’t answer questions for yourself in restaurants or theatres. Gesture impatiently towards your partner (carer), or friend (carer) or sibling (b*tch) to answer for you. It’ll save the awkward confusion when ‘Hi I’m Denise, how can I help’ is wondering who to address when she asks if you’d like to sit on a chair or remain in your wheelchair.

10. Don’t be tempted to initiate your first sip of drink in a restaurant. It is your drink, indeed, but the waiter might want to adjust your straw a few times to his own specifications before you proceed.

11. Don’t worry if you can’t access certain levels or areas in a high street clothes shop. Charity shops are ALWAYS accessible. Fact. Problem solved.

12. Be willing to disclose your entire personal life, home life, morning routines, maybe even your weekly shopping list, to anyone who asks. It might be handy to rehearse some answers. It would be just rude to ‘prefer not to’ detail how you go to the toilet.

And finally 13. Don’t have a personality. Don’t need one. Just unnecessary. You’ve defined yourself by having a disability.

Good luck with that.

Footnote. Just re-read number 3 and realised my mum reads this blog. My GRAN reads this blog. Help.

@shopgirlygm

I’m not going to steal anything. Promise.

I used to love shopping. I could never get bored of it. My stepsister Charlotte and I had a commitment to shopping like no other. As young teenagers we would get on the bus in the morning from Helston to Truro (the metropolis that is the capital of Cornwall) and spend all day traipsing around the cobbled streets and routing through the sale-rails in all of our favourite high-street stores, not a care in the world. We’d stop for lunch in Burger King, and get the bus back home in the early hours of the evening, ready to showcase our shopping loot to our respective mums, who were by then best friends (weird, yes, but totally normal to us). That is, of course, providing the Truronian bus company had stuck to their published promise to provide an Easy-Access bus when we arrived at either stop. I think they were under the impression that disabled people in need of ramped buses were just asking for the jolly fun of it. In reality we can all get out of our chairs, fold them into a tiny pocket like you get on a cagoul (kagoul?) and saunter up the steps of the bus exclaiming ‘I was just feeling lazy, I don’t really need the wheelchair! One return ticket please’. Anyway, bus rants are meat for a whole other blog post, (I do indeed have some tantalising and gripping stories involving bus journeys. Contain yourself please).

Those were the good old days. I loved shopping.

These days, I’m close to divorcing myself permanently with the activity of going shopping. Our relationship has hit a rocky patch, we just don’t have the chemistry we used to have. It’s not shopping, it’s me.

When I’m shopping with someone else, I don’t feel quite so uneasy but when I’m alone I get this overwhelming sense that everyone is looking at me, wondering what I’m going to buy, wondering why I’m looking for fashionable clothes, wondering if I’m a fake and am going to steal something.

It is paranoia, I’m sure of it. I’m pretty sure people don’t think I’m about to steal something. But I carry my handbag on my lap with my hand on it so it doesn’t fall off, and because I have to look down at the floor to ensure I’m not going to flatten a small child, I can’t help but think I just have a suspicious look about me.

I am however, fairly convinced that people might be scrutinising my shopping in children’s clothing or toy departments. I know, I must be buying a present for my niece or nephew, or a friend’s child. Everyone buys nappies and toddler-sized knickers for their friends’ kids, right? Er, no, I’m pretty sure they don’t. Those duties are usually solely a parent’s role. Which makes for more wondering in the nosey minds of other shoppers and store staff. I couldn’t possibly have my own children. Surely! I probably don’t even have a uterus!

Ridiculous aren’t I. ‘Get a grip, Lizzy’ I hear you say in your head, or out loud, whatever. Yes I probably am coming across as a paranoid idiot right now, but what has changed as I’ve grown up that has selfishly caused me to loath my favourite pastime? I have just been into Mothercare on an unsuccessful hunt for nappy-liners, I couldn’t find them so I had to ask a lady-staff-person to see if they had been put somewhere else. I then went to look at kids shoes, all the while wondering to myself who and how many people are wondering why I’m in Mothercare at all, and if the shop assistant might be under the impression that the nappy liners might be for my personal use, seeing as I had no children accompanying me!

The other reason I am beginning to hate shopping is because of the other shoppers. People should know better than to choose to be out shopping at the same time as me. They get in my way and then realise they are in my way and leave me a three-inch gap to squeeze my wheelchair through. Or they are walking in front of me down the street and decide to just stop walking. What is the deal with that? You wouldn’t do that on a motorway and just not expect to get driven into. Or even worse, they are not at all in my way and start apologising profusely for being in the way and ruining my entire life, and ‘oh sorry sorry sorry, I’ll move out of your way dear’. Fine, move however you like. Do the Macarena. You weren’t anywhere near me.

This year, the majority of my Christmas shopping will take place in the bustling aisles of the Amazon warehouse. Carried out by someone else.

Regretfully, Bah-shopping-humbug.