From a Guy with a Disability in a Motorcycle Shirt
If you think I look bad, you oughta see the other guy! The guy I was before I got MS. He was a little taller, had some different skills, he could reach the peanut butter jar on the top shelf. He would lift heavy stuff to impress the Girls, break stuff to look tough. But trust me, you wouldn’t have liked him as much as me. He was a little shortsighted, a little selfish, a great guy, don’t get me wrong. But not the hunk a burnin’ love that I am now! As you probably guessed, my disability is not my MS, it’s my winning personality. (I usually don’t talk about myself in the 3rd person, but I get a little ‘looney tunes’ when I meet someone like you.)
But I don’t need to be buzzed or have you buzzed to give me the courage or self-esteem to say to you what I want to say to you. That didn’t happen overnight, cause I’m a slow learner. But I understand myself better now.
Thanks for looking at me, not down at my chair. I’m sure that guys sometimes don’t always look in your eyes, they talk to your chest. Sometimes people talk to the chair, and I wanta go “Hey, over here! Here I Am!”
To get it out of the way: the chair is a hassle sometimes, but I’m fantastic in it, I’m a ballet dancer, I’m Baryshnikov in this chair! It may sound contradictory, but it’s how I physically move with grace through the world. There may be metal in the chair, but there’s steel in my soul. (God, That’s Dramatic. And Corny!)
I know as a Guy, I have my own unique vocabulary, and sometimes it seems as if I need a translator. But usually it’s pretty simple:
Guy: “I’m hungry.” Translation: “I’m hungry.”
Guy: “I’m sleepy.” Translation: “I’m sleepy.”
Guy: “Nice Dress.” Translation: “Nice cleavage.”
Guy: “Would you like to go out for dinner?” Translation: “Let’s have sex.”
Guy: “I love you.” Translation: “Let’s have sex.”
Guy: “Nice Bike.” Translation: “Let’s sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids, sell my, er…your mother into indentured servitude on a farm in Mississippi so I can buy that new Harley.”
Guy: “I’m all for women’s rights.” Translation: “Women were put on this earth to cook, clean, bear children and pose for Maxim Magazine.”
I do have some walls, but they hold up the roof. I’ve been beat on, but never beat. I may have a “handicap” but I don’t live anymore in “handicaptivity.” Some things are tough, but a life without difficulties is like sleep without dreams. And anyway, catastrophe has gotten a bad rap. It’s those hard moments that give me the insights that are most important. Nothing wrong with happiness, but I need the light and the dark.
The demons do come out at night, but so do the muses. My eyes might be failing from the MS, but I see things clearer than I ever did before. Clear enough to want to see you, talk with you, spend precious time with you. Sometimes I have a hard time standing, but with each person I love, with each person who loves me, the “weight” gets lifted bit by bit. I may have a “handicap sticker,” but I look at it as a kind of “chick magnet:” I can go anyplace, anytime, busy or crowded and park right outside the door! Able-bodied guys don’t stand a chance!
I’ve learned to live in the moment, but also understand that one great thing about a committed relationship is that there’s time. Everything doesn’t have to be decided right now, there’s another day, another chance to get it right.
Some guys are looking for procreators, some for recreators. I’d be happy with a passionate hand-holding. But don’t get me wrong, I have all the sexual energy of a fierce jungle beast. (God, that’s dramatic!) I may see you as a sexual object, but I promise you that’s not all that I’ll see you as. I’m still me, I’m fiercer and more fearless than I’ve ever been.
Please see me! People sometimes don’t see me. They don’t take the time to learn my name. My name’s not “Wheelchair,” or “MS,” or “BiPolar.” My name’s “Motorcycles,” and “Shakespeare,” and “Travel,” and “Love” and “Culver’s Milkshakes.” Those are my names. And many more.
Please, please see beyond the wheelchair or the walker or the cane or the limp or the braces or the burns or the scars or the stutter or the shyness or the sadness. I’m here. I’m right here. I’ve never left—OK maybe stepped out for a while, but I’m back and I’m as passionate and real as a person can be. I may make your life harder, but I’ll definitely make it more interesting.
Umm…that’s no good…I”ll definitely make it more exciting…no, umm…I’ll definitely make it more…Oh, God…here she comes…
“Uhhh…Hi!…Cool Harley sticker on your chair! Uhh…Nice Dress!”
Pete Feigal has just been voted into Minnesota’s Aviation Hall of Fame, one of three artists in MAHF’s history. The honor was in recognition of the aviation art he started doing after getting MS, and the work he does with high school kids, often using his art as part of the story of how sometimes curses can be gifts. Feigal can be reached at [email protected].