"The first time I taught her how to lift me, that was like a big step in the relationship! She was nervous but she wanted to try it, because we couldn't really be intimate with me sitting in the wheelchair," said Shane. "So I told her it's fairly easy. I don't weigh that much. I kind of assessed that she was fit enough to be able to do it. [It's] something I have to think about when I'm talking to new people. I immediately size them up and figure out if they'll be able to lift me or not. I don't have any type of lift device in my house or anything."
I asked if this girlfriend had any kind of experience with people with disabilities of any kind. "None at all," he answered. "She was in one relationship before me. But no one who had a disability."
Though it was a new experience for both of them, in different ways, they managed matter-of-factly. Honesty, open-mindedness, patience, and perseverance got them through. "We were able to be intimate once I was out of my chair," Shane continued. "I was 19, and that was the most amazing experience of my life. It was different [for her], obviously, but she didn't mind it. I was able to do enough on my own that it worked out."
But that's not the end of Shane's story. As if in answer to my unspoken question, Shane told me that good sex alone wasn't enough. "A few months later," he went on, "I was really thinking about us, and all that, and I realized that I didn't really connect with her. The only reason I jumped on it was because she was the first person who really wanted anything more than friendship with me. That was really tough. I didn't want to break up with her if I was never going to find someone else. I didn't know if she was, like, an oddball. … At first I lied to myself and said, Oh yeah, it's much deeper. But over time I admitted or realized that she was not a person I enjoyed being around. So yeah, I had to let her go."
He said his "conscience wouldn't allow me to be with her if it was only for the physical stuff." Which struck me as a mature observation for a guy who was at the time only 19. "She understood that I was young and inexperienced and didn't really know what I wanted yet," he reflected, adding that they still talk occasionally. They're still friends.
The woman was 22. I began to wonder if an age difference was a key element to interabled attraction. After all, ML is three years older than I am.
Shane soon put me off this thought. "My second relationship was kind of the opposite of that one," he said with a chuckle. On his blog, he'd requested volunteers for a nonprofit video project. "This one girl from Florida was one of the people [who responded] that I selected—and really it was completely business," explained Shane. "We worked together that summer from a distance. She stayed in Florida. And we worked via Skype and texting and email and all that."
She was only 18; Shane was now 20. Working together, they became close friends. "Probably my best friend, I would say, that I had at that time [though] we had not actually met in person."
Even after the video project was done, they kept in touch. "We Skyped every night, pretty much, and it got to a point where I told her that I liked her and she told me that she liked me, more than friends," Shane recalled. "But because of the distance and some hesitations that she had about everything, including my disability, she just finally said I'm not ready to be in a relationship yet so let's just hold off. It hurt but I understood and I didn't want to push her."Then came a surprise ...