The motherhood gig has some perks. I was fortunate enough to deliver a boy that can almost always make me laugh, and I love me some laughter. He has been known to fetch a cup of coffee or 3,000, since I last blistered my legs trying to ferry hot beverages in a wheelchair. Rarely will you find me unloading the dishwasher, and often will you find him letting the dog out to pee. I have to say, though, the downsides are LEGION.
My current, and frequent, complaint is the expense. I did read the statistics, and I had resigned myself to parenthood costing a bit. Current estimates put the price at a quarter-mil, getting the little suckers to age 17. What they don't tell you is-That's just what it costs to get them past the sweet stage!
My kid crashed his car a few months ago, going a bit too fast on an unexpectedly icy highway. Yes, I know we were lucky nobody was injured. I know way too many men in wheelchairs because of a poor decision made while driving at 18. I've met far too many of their mothers, and I've met the ones that would have settled for that as a happy ending, too. It was a sweet ride we'd bought him though, a Chevy Cavalier that met all of my requirements...Good gas mileage, not too fast, multiple airbags. It also met the bare minimum of his...4 wheels that would take him away from his mother. We had full coverage insurance on that car, which guaranteed the funds to replace it. Apparently all the decent cars in our price range have been purchased for graduation gifts for this year's crop of kids, because I'm sure not finding one. I refuse to grant him a vehicle upgrade for wrecking the last one, but I am paying for that resolution.
He wants to drive my van.
As I may have mentioned, I have special needs. There is one vehicle on earth that meets them, a sexy Dodge Grand Caravan minivan. (Hah! Oxymoron, get it? There are no sexy minivans!) I am quite pleased to be its owner. The back seats fold into the floorboard, which means I can roll my wheelchair up into the place behind the driver's seat. It has an electric sliding door for me to easily access that spot. It has a left-foot accelerator. It has little niceties like electric windows-Oh, so nice on the turnpike!-and a CD player. I've been known to carry my family, my wheelchair, and various assorted accoutrement such as surfboards, fishing poles and 4-wheeler ATV's in this all-around vehicle, as well.
See what I mean? It's a very special van for a very special lady!
An hour ago, the boy brought that van back from an outing, an hour and a half late. Undaunted, he, his friend and I loaded back into it. We were off to support my stepson while he played with his new band, Severed By Sin, at some stinky nightclub. Hopes were high! I was to take pictures, the boy was to initiate the moshing. I backed out of the driveway, then proceeded forward 100 feet or so. I slammed on the brakes and screamed "What is that sound?" "Oh, it's just the brake pads." "No, maybe it used to be brake pads. That sound is what is left when the brake pads are gone, it is what is behind the brake pads, and it is rotor on metal or some shit!"
Swear to God, it was an embarrassing drive back to the house. Every neighbor on the block was outdoors washing their safe, silent, unsullied vehicle. We crawled along accompanied by a metal-on-metal squeal that was highlighted with clanks. It amazes me that those boys were out in that van, merrily clanking away. They just turned up the radio to drown out the racket. I bet they turned heads! Cruising so cool in a filthy, handicapped-adapted minivan, 2 good-looking blond young suburban men ajammin' to the hip-hop:
"I got a nine-millimetuh Because of the law, I have to conceal it Don't fuck around, you gon' make me reveal it I got a nine-millimetuh."
Yeah, you just know THAT was convincing. Hard core. Gangsta style. Thug life. That's my boy.
Again, I'm grateful nobody was injured. The brakes didn't fail, nobody was T-boned by an out-of-control minivan careening through a stoplight. But dammit boy, I need a new computer and now I have to get new brakes instead. Something tells me the price of repairs went way up because you just had to drive an extra hundred miles. The teenage girls of Yukon, Oklahoma could not be deprived of your presence for one day, and my van pays for their joy. Somehow, Mom always pays the price, doesn't she? (The answer is: Yes, because Mom is the only parent stupid enough to loan you her vehicle.)
Tomorrow we go car-shopping in earnest. Wish us luck!
I know what you're thinking. We all know, those of us mobilized via wheeled chairs. We see the calculating glances, and hear the timid whispers. We laugh with the bold ones that are drunk enough to ask.
For some reason, the adult human brain always goes to this place. Little kids are different. They ask "How do you use the bathroom?" "Can you take a nap by yourself?" "May I push?" The inquiring minds of adults, though, want to know-If you're disabled, can you have sex?
Response: Some of us even have T shirts!
(That's not me, by the way.)
I can really answer only for myself. Short answer: Yes, I can. Yes, I do. And thanks for playing!
Speaking for those with spinal cord injuries at large requires a bit more thought.
It might help to know the statistics. 11,000 people are spinal-cord injured in the United States per year. 78% of those injuries are incurred by the male of the species. The predominant age group is 16-30. Now, think to yourself what you know about men of that age group, especially those with a risk-taking tendency. What would motivate such a crowd? Always, forever, world without end, amen, the answer is SEX.
Bear in mind, these guys aren't brain-damaged, or no more so than the average testosterone-fueled beast. They are people with altered bodies, still determined to live full lives. Spinal cord injury generally has a detrimental impact on a body's moving parts. Tragically, the devastation always seems to be directly proportional with the significance the owner places upon any given part. However, sex is a strong motivator, the pharmaceutical industry is dominated by men, and we are sexual creatures. There are pills such as Viagra and its stream of new-and-improved offspring. Cock rings, vacuum pumps, penile injections, even implants that are like peter-shaped Gumbys!
Odds are good, one way or another, the guy can get it up.
Sensation is another matter entirely. I don't know many of us that can claim to have the same level of genital sensation we enjoyed pre-SCI. Men are so visual that they can often have a mighty good time just watching some lady ride them. They may or may not be able to reach climax that way. I hope any curious young ladies out there, casting an eye upon a hot spinal-cord injured guy, will consider it a challenge. Some of those guys are my friends, and I like to see them happy. :)
We gals are a little luckier. Our successful participation is less critical; we can always lay back and take one for the team. Do it for England, right? It's not that hard to fake! Better yet, research has proven that an alternate pathway in women can have orgasmic results. That's right, ladies. The G-spot doesn't transmit via the spinal cord. We have a backup mode. It's like AM radio! Able-bodied women are 57% orgasmic, and our spinal cord injured sisters rank a respectably close 50%. (Shout out to whomever engineered that shit. Props, baby!)
It's also been said that with the loss of sensation from one region comes increased sensitivity in another. You can't prove it by me, but people claim to fully get off via stimulation of ears, neck, etc.
No declaration about spinal cord injury is final. Every single injury is different. Imagine a bundle of fiber optics supplying cable and internet to Houston. That is your spinal cord. Your brain is the transmission tower, your entire body is Houston. Taking out any lines is going to disrupt somebody's cable and/or their internet. With a spinal cord injury, terrorists bombed a waystation that distributes data to a neighborhood. Whether they impact 1 house, 1 block or a whole subdivision is the luck of the draw. Only by playing around with the switches will we know if we can still cyber via IM while watching Rock of Love.
If you have a new spinal cord injury, or your mate does, or you're checking some dude out, I recommend reading Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs and Declarations of Independence by John Hockenberry. For one thing, it will make you smarter. Also it is an unflinching account of one man's journey on wheels. It's amazing and it saved my life when I was in rehab. Just remember, progress has been made on the sexual front since he wrote it. Hockenberry now has 4 kids. Another great source: The Relationships and Sexuality forum at CareCure.org. You may have to wade through some crap but there is priceless info and mucho honesty to be found.
Little known fact: There is a breed of person that is attracted only to people with disabilities, or to their equipment. They might cruise the net looking for "skinny legs". They might want to wank on your wheelchair. They might be taking your picture at the mall. We call them "devos". Don't you feel special now?
I have a friend who is an amazing photographer. He's bold, and brash, and sometimes quite offensive. He used to recommend that I do one thing I fear, every single day. He's a quadriplegic, like me, but with a more complete injury which wrought even more destruction. Since we met, his transformation from weak and fragile, dependent, vulnerable and lonely to a larger-than-life, successful, strong man in love has been a sight to behold.
What is interesting to me about this man (let's call him C-spine, since that is who he is) is that I don't think he changed into a different person. He just put a lot of effort into reclaiming the man he used to be. He set himself a series of goals-lift 1 pound weights, get a date, travel across country, move from Texas to the Pacific Northwest, promote his photography. As each goal was accomplished, the next was assigned. Inch by inch, he progressed.
Adversity can break you. If you think it can't, you haven't yet experienced enough of it to know. Whatever form the adversity may take-and the permutations are infinite-the common denominator is the shivering wreckage left of you at the end. Some are reduced to such a state by a divorce or the death of a spouse. Losing a a child stands as my biggest fear, the thing I think I might not survive. Yet people survive these things, and the myriad of ways a human body can be broken, every single day. How the hell do they do it?
Seems to me, the only way to leave behind that slobbering slagheap currently impersonating you, is to challenge yourself.
The challenges start small. You go to the grocery store. You get your wheelchair out and pump your own gas. You get a job or find some fulfilling volunteer work. You make a friend, or cultivate an old one. You find the small thing that scares you, whether your fear is of embarrassment or shame or failure, or pissing yourself in public. You embrace that fear, and you make it your bitch. You'll never fear it quite the same way again.
A rare non-Suicide Girls shot by C-spine:
Yesterday, I took myself to the movies to see Juno. Some people recoil at the thought of attending a movie alone. I've always enjoyed it. No distractions. If you cry, there's nobody to tease you afterwards. It the movie is a stinker, you leave. The process IS different in a wheelchair, though. It's harder. (When I told my husband this nugget of wisdom, he scrunched up his face and said "Duh!") The days that I venture out to a theater by myself, I count that as my daily dose of one-thing-I-fear. In a wheelchair, you can't carry popcorn and a soda, you must choose. Whichever you choose, the odds are good that you'll spill it, so hot beverages are off the menu. Better cold and sticky than scalded! Theater doors are heavy, the incline is decidedly steep, you must find where you're supposed to sit while effectively blinded by sudden darkness. Each theater is different. Yesterday's was an older one; that's what you get for a buck and a quarter. It did have the "handicapped" seat labeled. Unfortunately, the step behind the empty space intended for me was not. I entered my spot with an audible thump, a gasp and a giggle. I settled in with a prayer of gratitude for the seat in front of me, the one that kept me from hurtling ass-over-teakettle down the long vertical ramp which, in movie theaters, is the aisleway. The moral of this story is, get to the theater while the lights are still on, dummy. Someday, I hope to try that.
My review of Juno: 4 stars of 5-YMMV
Juno = hilarious. I think even the menfolk will like this one. My favorite part was Juno's parents, they weren't stupid as in most teen movies. They are long-suffering, ultimately supportive and smart as whips. The actors are amazing. Ellen Page, of course, everyone knows she's a talent to be reckoned with. But Michael Cera? Rolling Stone called him "a young Jedi knight" and that summed it up. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman nailed the prospective adoptive parents. Bateman is esp. good, not surprising, he's been acting well for a long time. It's a nuanced part and he acts the hell out of it. Juno's dad is JK Simmons, who was CHILLING as Vern the Aryan leader on Oz, and is equally good, if opposite, here. The stepmother, played by Allison Janney, was my favorite part, because it's a role I play in real life, and she was so much like me that it was insane to watch. She refers to Juno as "My dumbass stepdaughter"-and she will figuratively cut your throat if you try to hurt Juno in any way. I've raised a boy from the age of 4 to 27, and that's exactly how we are. When Juno gets whiny and snotty to her, stepmom points out considerable sacrifices she's made. When an ultrasound tech gets judgmental on Juno, stepmom puts her in her place...and then nails her there.
The ending was a bit of a surprise to me. Nothing ever works out exactly as we planned. The Juno writer, former exotic dancer Diablo Cody, knows this very well. She also knows that plans are just based on hope, and sometimes how things work out is better than we'd planned on, anyway. The only complaints I've seen about this movie are that the dialogue is so good it's unrealistic. But I know some witty, articulate teenagers, so I didn't think so.
A surprise hit that grossed over 100 mill, this darling of the indy film festivals reminds you what good writing and acting are all about, and reminds you why you started going to the movies in the first place. If you don't have anybody to go with you, this is one of those movies worth going by yourself. Although it does suck that we can't carry popcorn and soda in these darned chairs!
PS-If you require action and special effects, skip this. It is simple sets and the directing is low-key. Also, you need to set aside any pre-judgments about premarital sex or what you think the consequences should be. If that raises your blood pressure, you won't enjoy this movie. (Also, I doubt you have made it this far in an entry entitled "Fear and Adversity-Fuck 'Em"!)
Yep. I am, as we say in the 'hood, rockin' a wheelchair. I have been for lo, these nearly 8 years, since I fell in a fountain in Houston one hot August night. Sober, as it happens. Uh huh, I was too! OK fine, jump to conclusions, everybody else does.
My friend Jill was with me that night. Bless her soul, she's still willing to hang out with me, although I had the poor form to break my neck on her birthday.
A few years later, Jill and I were shopping at the Plaza, in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico. We were in the "white ghetto"-the hot, sunny, center part of the Plaza, where the white folk are forced to hawk their rubber tomahawks, blankets from Guatemala and authentic Native American jewelry made by genuine Caucasians. (The northern, shady part of the Plaza, on the sidewalk, under the awnings of the Palace of the Governors- this is the merchandising territory of Native Americans, by decree of the Governor of New Mexico. Errr, I cannot document that factoid. I read it in a book, I swear to you. I would not invent that nugget.)
Commerce is well underway. Attempts to negotiate with salespeople are being shot down. Why do Americans refuse to bargain, when they're selling goods on the street?
I'm down where I always am, at butt-level with other tourists from around the world, united as one in our search for a bargain. I'm doing what I always do, hoping no polyester-clad ass will see fit to unleash a burrito-fueled fart within my personal space. Or face, for that matter.
Jill was wearing her gullible face. I'm surprised someone wasn't compelled to steal her wallet, that's how innocent she looked. She waits until we are surrounded. The polyester-clads are thick on the ground. Jill, like a stalker of rhino, knows to time her shots with care. She takes a step back. Clears her throat...
"Beth? I think that wheelchair makes your ass look fat!"
Oh, now you've done it. The polyester-clad hordes froze as one. Heads were raised, jaws were dropped. Even the jaded purveyors of healing copper bracelets were petrified in horror. Who was this woman? What was she thinking? Did she not know, it is simply not done, mentioning the wheelchair to the actual wheelchair user; perhaps I would never have known there was a wheelchair on my ass, if she had not breached all standards and SPOKEN OF IT!
We don't know what happened next, we were fully engaged in that paroxysms-of-laughter bit. When we recovered, we got to the front of the line. I even got $20 off! I needed that liquid silver necklace, and it's cheaper to buy from whitey than to shop in the shade.
Liquid Silver, Liquid Sexy
For your viewing pleasure: New Mexico, Land of Nuclear Rainbows