Saturday, November 29, 2014


Like all romantic entanglements, the reasons for their tensions—tensions, which eventually led the invisible rubber band between them to snap—weren't quite clear.  Or maybe they were entirely too clear.  Telling me about it, Shane struggled for the right words, but his meaning rang with the clarity of breaking glass.

"For a while, she was planning on moving up here to be with me, to be able to help out with all my stuff," he explained.  "She wanted to be the one that takes care of me.  And for an 18- or 19-year-old to be committing her life like that, it's not, I mean—when she asked me for the breakup I was upset, obviously, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  I can't expect her to give up her life for me at this point in her life."

I asked Shane the question he seemed, to me, to have been hinting at: Did she get flak from her family or friends?

"Yes," he replied without skipping a beat.  "Okay, that's another thing.  Probably like three or four months into the relationship, she started telling me about how her sister and the woman they live with [a close family friend/guardian], how they didn't really agree with her being with me.  I've met them, and they're not evil people.  But, like, for instance, once the woman said something like, She's not going to be able to take care of you and provide for you, and all that stuff.  Her aunt was also kind of against it and didn't really understand what she saw in me, because of the wheelchair.  It made [my now ex-girlfriend] so mad.  She was livid at them.  But I think honestly being around them all the time, like, some of their thoughts kind of slipped into her mind.  And she started to see their perspective more than she used to."

There was peer pressure as well.  "Her sister … has an able-bodied boyfriend," Shane explained.  "At their age they're running around having sex all the time.  They drink, they go out.  I think she sees that and even though she doesn't want to be that shallow, she also kind of wants to be a young person.  And I want to give her that."
            It forces you to mature fast—or at least it makes you act mature, whether you feel it or not—having a profound disability. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Then came a surprise Christmas gift.  "In December, I was in my bedroom and my brother was home for the holidays—home from school—and he was like, Hey, my friend is coming over tonight, just so you know.  I was like, Okay, that's weird.  He was being a little weird.  And it turns out she comes walking into my bedroom!  She had, like, planned this all out with my family to come visit for Christmas.  I didn't know.  It blew my mind.  So we spent like four days together, which was awesome.  But still just as very close best friends.

"Then she went home and we–I'm trying to remember how it all happened–she came back for her spring break.  So she was here for, like, another week.  And during that time we kissed for the first time.  And it was like a big moment or whatever.  But still … her fears were, she'd lost her mom to cancer when she was, like, 14, and knowing what she knows about SMA she was worried that something would happen to me and she would lose someone else whom she loved so completely, so it was hard for her.  And I understood that.  I can't say to someone honestly, I guarantee nothing will happen to me.  'Cause, you know, I could get sick tomorrow and that could be the end.  So it's tough.  It was probably the toughest part of that relationship with her."

Or at least up until that point.  Tougher moments lay ahead, but not without interludes of sublimity.  "That summer she was here for a while, like a month," said Shane.  "And early on in that trip she finally said, You know what?  I've kind of forgotten my reasons for wanting to hold off on the relationship.  So let's just do it.  So we made it official."

The next eight months were "seriously the best time of my entire life," he told me.  "She came up here, like, once a month. … I taught her how to lift me, so we were able to be intimate.  So that was cool."

Cool though it may have been, there was soon trouble in paradise.  "We had our fair share of problems," Shane acknowledged.  First, there were mobility/transportation inequities.  "Sometimes she would kind of say, like, you know, I'm giving up so much of my life to be with you.  She would say, I know it's not your fault but, like, you don't ever come down to Florida.  And I'm like, it's just difficult.  And she was like, I just want someone that can be here for me and, like, help me and hold me.  Stuff like that.  That was really tough because she knew—we both knew—that there was nothing, it wasn't my fault.  It was just the way things were. 

"We always found a way to work through it.  We had our moments where, intimately, I wasn't able to do everything as good as an able-bodied person might be able to do.  So we had our late-night fights where I'm apologizing and she's telling me not to apologize, but I feel bad and she's saying don't feel bad, but she's obviously upset.  That kind of sucked.  But we got through it. 

"I've never loved someone as much as I loved her.  And I think she would say the same thing about me."

          But happily ever after it wasn't. 


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Conversations about Inter-Abled Romance, part 3

"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 ...