The fact that our men are in wheelchairs comes up in conversation almost daily. And soon after follows, “bless your heart,” or “you're such a good person.”
Of course I'm a good person. When I met James I felt sorry for him. I instantly pushed my dreams and aspirations aside and made the decision to date him. I mean, if I didn't, who would?... The poor soul. So now I have dedicated my life to taking care of him and loving him because of my charitable (get it...chair-itable...) personality.
Wait, WHAT?! Let's be real here.
This is one of my biggest struggles dating someone in a chair, hence why this is our first blog post. I am not an awesome person for being in love with my boyfriend. I'm a lucky person for finding love. You can bless my heart all you want, however he is not lucky to have me, I am lucky to have him. You may think I am saying all this just because I am a “nice person” but this is simply not the case.
James has dragged my ass all around the world when I had never travelled before. He continues to kick my ass in tennis, bike riding, bungee jumping, yoga,waterskiing... pretty much everything really. He gets my ass home when I've had a few too many and slaps my ass when he thinks I'm pretty. And sometimes, emphasis on sometimes he can be an ass himself. Shocking, I know, calling my disabled boyfriend an ass. Still think I'm a nice person??
Here it is, plain a simple. I love my man disability or not. We have a real relationship that requires some minor adjustments, but his wheelchair does not make ME awesome. It makes him awesome.
There is a stigma around disability, a stereotype that someone in a wheelchair is not as capable as an able bodied person. They are seen as victims who are incapable of participating in every day life. They are either weak and sad, or bitter and angry. They are seen as a burden, someone who needs to be taken care of. These stereotypes get perpetuated mostly due to the fact that society in general just doesn't know any better.
Who helps him get dressed, or transfer in and out of his chair? Who cooks and cleans? Who drives him around? Wait, you're his wife, not his care aide? “You have such a big heart,” or “you're such a great person!”
It's time that we change this.
Sure there are some things my husband can't do...like walk for example. But I can't do a chin up and nobody tells Shawn that he must have such a big heart because he's with me. I'm not his care aid. I don't help him in and out of his chair, I don't help him bathe, or get dressed, or use the washroom. Why is he suddenly deemed incapable because he sits instead of stands?
Want to know what he can do? Pretty much anything he wants. He has a job building houses, he plays sports, he drives a lifted F-350 truck. He has friends, and goes out with them. He hates getting up early and enjoys a cold beer after a long day. He loves to camp and ATV and has a passion for working with tools. He's a big family guy and loves to travel. Sounds like 3/4's of guys out there right?
So what is it about Shawn's wheelchair that makes people think I'm so great? That I have “such a big heart”?
Am I a better person because of him? Definitely. But that's not because of his chair. It's because of who he is as a person. It's because of his passion for learning new things and then attempting to teach me. It's because of his patience with me when I'm being a blonde. It's because of his sense of humour and how hard he works to make me smile when I'm grumpy. It's because he can do or make anything he wants and can fix anything. He's artistic and he's a dreamer and above all else, he loves me.
Because of him I have been introduced to a whole new world of amazing people and amazing adventures. He pushes me to be a better person (get it...pushes...), not his wheelchair. I'm just a regular girl (albeit moody) who fell in love with someone. This doesn't make me a great person with a big heart. If you were to ask me which one of us is the better person, my answer will always be him.
So next time you tell me I'm a nice person, I'll smile, and I'll say thanks because in all honestly, I still don't know what to say...
Sam & Chelsea