“You’re really pretty for a girl in a wheelchair.”
“If your body was ‘normal’, you’d be the hottest girl in the world.”
“I really like you but I don’t know if I can deal with the permanent wheelchair.”
These are just some of the examples of things I have heard throughout my dating life. Needless to say, these memorable quotes did not make my heart flutter with excitement. On the contrary, they left me feeling absolutely devastated.
First I would feel furious with the jerk who uttered these words. Then the next day I would feel worthless when I looked in the mirror and remembered his words. Yet when the same jerk would call because he “just had to see me,” I would hang up and rush out the door to be with him. I would justify it by telling myself that this person was the one because, in spite of what was said, he was somehow more virtuous because he was looking past my flawed body.
This cycle happened more times than I care to admit throughout my late teens and twenties.
There is also a second part to this cycle: the one that would happen in between my relationships with these fine pillars of society. This was the scenario where I found a guy who, from the start, looked past all my outer differences. These were the men that, even if we had nothing in common, I dated for years until it was crystal clear to both of us that it wasn’t going to work out. Even though I realized this, I was still left devastated and heartbroken because I thought that he was the only one who could ever accept me.
Now in my mid-thirties, I realize that I had it wrong all along. I now see that the only way to find true happiness is for me to look past my own imperfections. Once I was able to do that, I could focus on the things that I love to do, like writing, surfing, and – most of all – being an advocate. I finally stopped searching for “the one who would accept me physically.” Now, in my rare free time when I am not out changing the world (and even sometimes when I am), if I meet someone I first see what kind of life they live and if it could match well with my life now and the one I am building for my future.
I’m happy to report that, after all this, the girl who would jump at the chance to date someone who saw past her wheelchair and not-so-perfect body is now calling the shots and picking and choosing the right people to have in her life.