Friday, August 22

boys like girls

I met my friend Peggy for a coffee date.

Peggy survived polio as a child and we've both lived in bodies that people notice. Fueled by caffeine, we engaged in conversation like new recruits in warfare, swapping stories as if we might explode before we got them out.

Then we got to adolescence.

"I asked my mother if boys would like me," Peggy said. "And she said, 'The right boy will'."

I smiled. 

"Did you worry about boys liking you?," she wondered.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this. I've written an entire essay about it for my memoir. And I feel like a total traitor saying this, but the answer is no, not really.

Truthfully, I have never worried that my physical differences would keep boys away, much the same way I never believed anything else was out of my reach because of my lacking arm. And I don't know why, because I've worried about nearly everything else my entire life.  

I have certainly suffered unrequited love for specific boys, but lots and lots of girls worry about not being good enough to love (boys too, for that matter). So I'm tempted to think physical difference is just one reason we give to excuse ourselves for lack of interest from the opposite sex.

Plenty of boys have been friendly toward me throughout my lifetime--and most of them have not interested me romantically. If I was interested and he wasn't, I usually told myself he was missing out or that it made no sense to like someone who didn't like you back (I was a child strangely grounded in logic).

I haven't had many boyfriends...some might argue no boyfriends...but it isn't for lack of interest. In fact, my arm seems the opposite of a deterrent, often the very thing that makes me approachable. 

I used to think only quality guys would want to be with me because they'd have to settle for minus one on the arm ledger. But as I've discovered recently, I am also attractive to selfish jerks who could care less about my amazing personality. So, apparently, you can have that too if you like, arms or no arms.

Peggy's mom might have told her any boy should be so lucky to capture her interest.

"I found out boys do like me," Peggy says now, a twinkle in her big brown eyes, looking back over more than forty years of life experience.

Of course they do.


Thursday, August 14

legs in the way

I happened upon a radio show this week where folks were calling in with their lamest excuse for not having sex with someone. One guy said he once told a woman that the battery in his prosthetic leg was dead.

The show's DJs found this fascinating, peppering him with questions like, Do you need your prosthetic leg to be charged for sex?, Do you wear your prosthetic during sex? and, If you don't wear it, do you fall off the bed?

The caller made it clear that not only was a full charge not necessary, but neither was the leg when it comes to happenings in the bedroom.

And for those of you who might be considering using this post in lieu of a bedtime story for your children, you may want to reconsider.

According to a statistic I ran across recently, quite a few people don't need or use their prosthetics for anything after a while. I don't remember the actual statistic or where I read it, but that's why I'm a writer and not a statistician.

I was relieved to hear this, actually. As a lifelong prosthetic deviant, I didn't want to think I was the only one who's fake arm was packed away at the back of a closet.

I've tried to wear a prosthetic arm for various reasons over the years--much like one wears orthodontics--hoping it will somehow improve appearance or social prospects.

Ironically, I called my first prosthetic arm my 'Helper' though I can't remember anything it actually helped me with. My mom had to bribe me to go to occupational therapy, where I learned to slowly place toy blocks on top of one another with the Helper, like a tiny crane. Unfortunately it was way more efficient and faster to do twice the work with my good arm. Even as I write this post, one hand sprints around the keyboard, a typing prosthetic still a very distant invention.

Fake body parts are certainly no friend of lovers. A boyfriend of my mid-twenties told me that my prosthetic arm creeped him out. And I'm pretty sure getting intimate with prosthetics is likely to end the night in the ER.


Monday, July 28

tying my shoe

Per a recent request, here is a short video of OneArmGirl tying the laces of her hiking sneaker...


Hope you found that enjoyable. There are actually several variations on this, involving my mouth, Finneas, and sitting down, but I'll save that for another segment of Ask OneArmGirl. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I think these are one of maybe two pairs of shoes that I own with laces. My closet is full of slip-ons.

[Note Keeper the Dog's close attention to the proceedings. She could care less how I tie my shoes as long as it means we are going out for a walk.]

Monday, July 14

Ask OneArmGirl...the answers

In the latest edition of Ask OneArmGirl, we received three whole questions...well, two questions and one request.

Balloons and confetti are currently falling from the ceiling at OAG headquarters as a result of this great success. We are thrilled at the response considering our recent neglect of this blog and our shameless resort to threatening our mother...I knew referring to myself in the third person would eventually backfire--I just like feeling like I'm working with a team.

Question #1 comes from reader 'summerrains':
"I was wondering if your engineers ever came up with a ponytail contraption?"

This question refers to an assignment taken on by engineering students of my former college buddy, now professor, Mike. They accepted my challenge to find an efficient way for someone with one hand to put a ponytail in her hair. They took on the task with gusto, emailing frequently for my consultation, but sadly this project (to my knowledge) never came to fruition. The end of the semester did, however, and I was notified that Project Ponytail would be tabled for the next year. And that was the last I heard. Can't blame them, really. They just needed a good grade and, while a one-handed ponytail seems innocent enough, it's a dilemma that's plagued me for years.

Question #2 comes from reader 'Gray':
"Did you ever try using the 1-Up hair tie to help do a ponytail? I think I may have mentioned it before in some ancient post. I have a friend who likes them a lot."

Gray, I did indeed. In fact, 1-Up hair tie creator Sara the Hand Therapist was gracious enough to send me a whole set. I detailed my experiment with the 1-Up hair tie in a post you can read here

Though I only spent one day playing with 1-Up, and am sure I could improve, I have found some rubber ties from Goody to be just as handy for me. They are a little sticky, so they cling to my hair better while I maneuver them into place. Plus the design couldn't be simpler as they look just like other hair ties. That said, as my hair has gotten longer this summer, I've started opting for clips over ties anyway.

It's interesting to me how popular this ponytail thing has gotten. I feel buoyed by the number of people concerned about my hairstyle, determined to make a way where there seemed to be no way.

Many thanks for that, and for another successful installment of Ask OneArmGirl. Tune in later this week for a special video response to a reader's request.


Thursday, July 10

an apologetic post

I am so behind in posting that it's started to hang like a guilty haze just behind my ears. I fall asleep wondering if I will write the next day.

So here I am, ready to post. Ready or not, here I post?

There's been a lot going on, though I'm sure, on the spot, I couldn't tell you what. Summer is in full tilt and I'm just trying to hold my own against the centrifugal force.

Did I mention painting the living room?
I feel like daily tasks are just whirling around me. If it's not exercising the dog, planning a riding lesson, washing the dishes (how are there so many dishes?) or watering my sun-wilted plants, it's something else.

This week, my dad came into town and I got sick (simultaneous but not correlated). Nevertheless, we're making the best of it: walking the acequia path with Keeper the dog, having beers with monks while discussing theology, taking afternoon naps.

So, while my brain is flustered, let's do a long-overdue segment of Ask OneArmGirl. This is where you (my long-suffering readers) get a chance to ask me a question, or two, or three. What would you like to know about me, my life, or the one-armed life in general. Perhaps you've been wondering about a sometime regular character who has not recently appeared on this blog. No question is off limits, though my answer may be limited.

What do you want to know? Leave your question in the comments and I will dedicate a shortly upcoming post to answering them.


*Mom, if no one asks a question, you are required to do so...

Wednesday, June 25

bad with your good

On one of the longest, hottest days of the year here in my corner of the Southwest, my air-conditioner decided to take the day off. My hypotheses: it's been feeling overworked as it is also the heating unit--or, it is having an identity crisis.

Either way, I am currently sitting directly under the ceiling fan, contemplating an escape to the sanctuary of the closest movie theater.

I've been struck lately by the necessity of taking the good with the bad. What's really behind the pithy statement? What does it mean to 'take' what life hands out?

As you may recall, a few weeks back, I was excited to get a call from Heidi Latsky about an upcoming film exploring disability in dance. She asked me to send audition tapes. I cleared out my entire living room to create a makeshift dance studio, only to find, several weeks and phone calls later that the film is already way over budget with too many dancers.

"I promise you will be in the next movie," Heidi tells me apologetically over the phone.

"Ok," I laugh, thinking she might have said "I promise you can go with me the next time I get an invitation to the White House."

But who knows?

No one knows about a next time, or a first time for that matter. Am I sitting on the floor crying, listening to Sarah McLachlan? Not yet. As I mentioned, I'm sitting under a ceiling fan, sweating.

So, I've had some disappointing news. So what? The older I get, the more I realize that sometimes dreams come true, and sometimes they don't. And sometimes they come true later, much later than we wanted.

And it's not that it's not a big deal; I was over the moon with the prospect of working on a film like that. It was a perfect opportunity, in one fantasy, launching my platform as a celebrity disability advocate. I imagined myself on the Today Show.

But it is not to be. And it's ok, something else will come along.

Meanwhile, I will keep enjoying my morning coffee and dog park visits with Keeper the dog. I will keep learning how to teach a little girl to communicate with her horse. I will keep trying new dance inversions with my fellow acrobats. These are the dreams that come true again and again each day.

I don't think taking the bad with the good means denying your attachment to feelings that arise. It's OK to be ecstatic, and it's OK to be heartbroken. You take each development, each emotion like you would waves as you make your way deeper into the ocean. You let them wash through, past, and sometimes overtop of you, but you keep going, never forgetting how good it feels to swim.


Monday, June 9

erasing the line

At the dog park recently, I met Tom from Guam. Almost as soon as I met him, he asked about my arm. No, this is not Dr. Seuss. If it were, I would have said he asked about my 'aam.'

Interpretation by friend Noam.
While this question still catches me a little off guard, I am always happy to meet someone willing to be honest and straightforward in their curiosity. I explained that I was born with one arm and that I think it is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

"Really? How do you mean," Tom asked.

"It's allowed me to see the world in a different way, to think outside the's also opened many opportunities to talk to people."

I didn't mention, talk to people like Tom who is now a regular follower.

In case you haven't noticed, I like to talk about disability. It's often the superficial starter to some very deep conversations. One can hardly bring up disability without finding out where another stands politically, spiritually, and socially; whether he or she is more of a half full or half empty glass sort.

"Do you consider yourself disabled," Sarina (another dog park colleague) asks me as we walk together around the Old Town plaza. She is clearly unconvinced.

But that's just it. Where is the line between disabled and able-bodied (both terms I detest, for the record). It's strange to me that someone would question my handicap when everywhere I go, people stare at me.

I was recently at a large theme park with Dragon Boy and Mama. Standing in line for the next ride I was sure to regret going on, I was surrounded by a sea of children whose parents, regretting their unlucky position near me in line, attempted to divert their children's curious eyes.

If I'm not disabled, what am I? Do I exist in some gray area between normal and disabled? The town freak, perhaps? If I don't seem to have a disability, try going just one day using only one arm; and maybe the other arm above your elbow--just to keep things fair.

But do I have a disability? Maybe. Maybe not.

This blog is less about claiming a label than taking the piss out of pariah. [Someone who is British tell me if that sentence made any sense]. Even more than celebrating my own freakishness, I write to show our great commonality--as people. But I have to highlight the line before I can erase it.