Monday, April 09, 2012

Love Lounge: Who are you?

I'm many things to many people: daughter, sister, friend, coworker, writer, quirky comedian. All these parts of me harmoniously exist together; in fact, people are amazed at the sheer fact that I don’t topple over from wearing all these different hats.

But sometimes, two pieces of me -- my womanhood and my physical disability -- don't fit into the puzzle so easily. Sometimes, I feel like I can be one or the other, apparently, but never both. I can be a woman. I can be someone with a physical disability. But I can never be a woman with a physical disability. Now, maybe this is how I've built it up in my head, but nonetheless, these sorts of thoughts of creep in.

But why? You wouldn't think it would be so hard to have the two coexist. Yet sometimes I picture them in this battle with each other -- each trying to be "top dog" and shine brighter than the other.

That's why I've always been a huge proponent of people-first language. I'm not a disabled woman. I am a woman with a disability. It looks like a small thing, those two ways of identifying someone with a disability, but the latter does something with first one does: Emphasizes the person. It doesn't mean you're negating the person's disability. It doesn't mean you're pretending said disability doesn't exist. I suppose it just means that I'm embracing all of me.
In conversations with people, and in posts on my blog, I’ve begun trying to reconcile the two. I know they can peacefully coexist, but I can't wrap my head around it sometimes. Or maybe I don't want to? I'm not so sure. But I do know that I am a woman with a disability.

The truth is, this womanhood is something that is mine. And my disability is something that is mine too. I own them. Both of them.

So, friends, tell me: Who are you? What hats do you wear in your family? Among your friends? At work? Do you ever find that you have competing hats? Are there parts of you that sometimes don't go too well together? How do you deal with that when it happens? xoxo

[Photos via Le Love]


  1. Preach it sister!!! you are a person first! I always say I have much more in common with people with disabliities than not! We aren't all that different. We all want places to live, friends, family, relationships, ways to get places etc. We're ALL people! get to your questions, we do all have different hats, it's true. I think a lot of times it's actually just ME that is making the distinctions and no one else, and that's what holds me back, you know?

  2. Most of the time, I also find myself having conflicting hats. The thing is in the end, we somehow find a compromise for those hats. :) And the process just turns into a cycle just a shuffled version. LOL

    I love this post. Your use of words (it just kinda plays like a song so smooth ^_^) just confirms my idea of its power and I am glad you have discovered it too and shed some light on your thoughts also. Very enlightening post. ^_^ <3

  3. Jenny, that's a great point. It's a very, very rare person that only wears one hat. Most of us play a number of different roles day by day and even minute by minute. It's totally normal and doable. Sometimes other people do have trouble seeing us in different roles. I thought it was funny when one of my high school friends couldn't believe I was a manager at work. Have you ever known a sweet, meek, professional guy who is a biker in his free time? I have. Or conversely, have you seen a tough looking guy or gruff woman melting like butter when they see their child, pet, or other loved one? It happens all the time. At work and in life, most of the time we're expected to be more than one thing.

    Melissa, I think most of your readers see you in many different roles. Yes, some can't get past your disability and post some odd comments at times. Most of us know plenty of women and men who have disabilities and they play as many or more roles than folks who don't have an obvious disability. I only know you from your writing, but in some ways, I don't see your disability as the big that gets in the way of you being seen as woman or finding love. I suggest thinking about it that way yourself. What is really the barrier?

  4. I definitely used to struggle a lot with separating being a woman and being in business but I've put a lot of energy into changing that story, and found that to be the most helpful thing. Hope you're off to a wonderful week!

    xo Mary Jo

  5. I am a woman, an employee, a mom, a wife. Sometimes I feel a little lost, because I'm juggling all of those things...but then all of those things are me. Life is a funny thing. And it's funny how we perceive it.

  6. I love how Jenny put it there, we are all people. With different backgrounds,stories to tell and burden to carry. I'm trying to start living with the idea that someday I could be a mother and a wife, it's kinda scary sometimes.

  7. I followed you back from my blog - thank you for stopping by!

    I appreciate your honesty and your winsome words, here...the flurry of hats have often threatened to overwhelm me since moving to the Netherlands. I'm no stranger to dipping my feet in different cultures, but this was really a plunge. I'm learning how to be American/Indonesian/Dutch while floating in a bit of a purgatory in between. There's something very beautiful in this identity mess.

  8. Around my friends and family I'm pretty much a clown. I don't mean that in a bad way. But you know how comedians say how the feel pressure to always be "on"? It's sort of like that. The baby of the family, and the funny one.

    My boyfriend and his family see me as more of an adult - I am 27 - because they didn't grow up around me being a total goofball. I do enjoy that, but it's a little scary. We've been dating for over 3 years now and it's still a little weird to me that he loves me. We've talked about getting married which is exciting, but I'm thinikng "I went the whole day wearing my shirt backwards and didn't notice. It takes me 20 minutes to make a bed right. I haven't earned my adult card yet, I can't be somebody's wife!"

    Even though there is a paper list of things I've done (Traveled, graduated college, becoming a manager at work, being in a relationship) I still feel like there's something missing. Like a switch will flip and suddenly I'm an adult.

    I think most women feel something to this extent. Maybe men too, but women overthink it especially.

  9. Melissa,

    It sounds like you mean men you are attracted to cannot separate your womanhood from your disability. I believe this is the dilemma of many a PWD. Our species is hardwired to seek out the most attractive mates in order to propagate our kind. That's partially explains why women put on makeup and wear shoes that hurt. Or why men lift weights and drive flashy cars. There are many more examples, of course. I agree with your readers that you should not be alone because you are physically unattractive and disabled. Perhaps you should cast a wider net. Are there dating options you have not explored? Maybe a website that caters to PWD?

  10. I think it's very sad that after all this time....your entire life, in still haven't fully accepted your disability as a part of who you are. Even though you have stated many times in past posts that you are indeed comfortable with it, so this post really has me confused. I think that you need to embrace it for what it is, deal with it as necessary, recognize that it is just another component of who you are, but certainly don't give it "top billing" or use it as an excuse for not reaching your full potential. Everyone of us has obstacles, yours are just a little more obvious than the rest of ours. I don't see why one has to lose one ounce of their femininity simply because they are confined to a wheelchair.

  11. If you're willing to spend the better part of each day "chatting" on-line with people you do not know personally.....why are you so opposed to chatting on-line via a dating website??? And that features men with disabilities would be absolutely ideal! Those men would probably be much more willing to look at any disability in a different frame of mind, having experienced it themselves to some extent. Let's face your life as you are, wishing and hoping for Mr. Melissa Blake to appear and carry you off into the sunset just isn't happening for you. Why not change course and see where that takes you?????

  12. First Anon -- good question about figuring out the barrier.

    as far as accepting my disability goes, just like any part of ourselves, my feelings about my disability may change over time. there may be periods in my life where i'm more comfortable with it than others. that's not to say i haven't dealt with it...that's just the way we feel sometimes about all these different components of ourselves.

    p.s. and i actually don't spend the better part of each day chatting online. it's just one part of my day, and i don't do it outside of blogging.

  13. everywhere and everytime be as Love. ask what love will be do? if u have a problem and wanna choose. BE LOVE! :)

  14. i funny it funny how some people can go judge so strongly a situation that they have not been in. we all have things about ourselves that take time to accept and come to terms with before we feel comfortable. some days are better than others in how we deal with those things - it's not just set in stone and life isn't easy peasy all the time.

  15. I can see the difference. It's much ncier to think of yourself as a woman first.. and anyway, a disability is a part of who you are, not all of it, and by saying you a a woman before mentioning your problems shows that you are embracing that.

    I am a sister, daughter, girlfriend, best friend, co-worker, enemy, animal lover, writer, good girl, bad girl.. the list goes on. I kind of just go with the flow of it, I am me and each and every hat applies.. how others perceive me is up to them!

  16. Melissa,

    First I wanna say I think you're such a brave human being.

    I don't have a physical disability but i've been having such a hard time trying to deal with my distorted perception of my own body. It's just so hard. And I'm with you when you say there are moments when you love yourself completely, but there are also those moments when you (and maybe that's just me) just wish you had been born in a more beautiful, normal, hot, sexy, whatever looking package...

    In my life I feel I have so many parts to play and so many raw and truthful emotions to hold back that I'm almost disconnected from reality sometimes. I just have to BE who people expect me to be and that's been really hard. I admire you for being able to just naturally carry all those characters without feeling you're never yourself.

    And trying to hide from people your true feelings is one of the hardest parts for me. You see, in my family I'm the sweet one, the princess, the cute, smart, marriage-material girl. And that's ok. But in my heart I'm also strong willed, lazy, relaxed, extremely critical and selfish... sometimes. But those sides of me, I can't let anyone see. And that's sick... right? I mean, people will still love me, I know that.

    Ok, I'm gonna stop now... But know that I'm with you!

    Kisses from brasil!


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