To dance or not dance in publicAug 29 03:51
I grew up in love with dance. It set me free. I still love to dance even now, despite my injury, using my newly acquired chair dance moves. But now when I dance anywhere in public, and I mean anywhere outside of my living room, the entire experience has soured. I’m now overwhelming pitied every time I go out dancing. To some, seeing someone in a wheelchair try to dance is like watching a short person reach for the top shelf.
The good news is that not everyone feels this way. I’ve met a few good apples along the way who actually felt good things about seeing someone in a wheelchair bustin’ a move. There were like, “Damn you rock,“ or, “Pop a wheelie and I’ll spin you.” Super fun stuff. Sure, they were all probably drunk, but at least they saw the glass half full like me. But the looks I get from the “pitiers” I’ll admit, can really put a damper on your spirit.
A look of pity sears into your mind. They don‘t go away. And despite mentally suffering from the way they think, I don‘t blame them. I was once able-bodied. I know how the mind goes to that place. But here’s the thing - them feeling pity is what crosses my mind whenever I dance in public now. Case in point, a wedding reception I went to over the weekend.
It was a country wedding, meaning the guests were not used to seeing a woman in a powerchair, let alone one in a tight black dress. I’ll sometimes shrug off looks and relish making a statement, but in some instances, like this one, my shyness got the best of me. I felt their eyes on me all day. So instead of dancing at the reception, I watched from my table. I’d rather be dancing at a club downtown.
When they finally got to the Chicken Dance, a drunk woman came up to me and said, “It must be hard being in a wheelchair, not being able to dance and all.” I wanted to correct her, tell her it was still possible, that I could still most certainly dance, but I had no energy to care. If I had told her what was really going on, that I didn’t want to feel looks of pity, what would she have said?
Sometimes its time for deep discussions when you have a disability, and then there are times to simply withdraw, and to dance alone to Run DMC when you get home.
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1. Tara | Oct 11 01:56
I've been the "wheelchair girl" sitting at the table watching all my friends dance and then I became the "wheelchair chick" who dances on the dance floor and I don't care who's watching. I want to live life not sit and watch everyone else have fun and I just watch because I feel strange dancing or don't want to be watched. DANCE... be happy and ENJOY! In public/In private/ all the time!
2. Debake1 | Nov 25 01:08
I would suggest a creative sign on your chair that says "Don't Pity Me, I'm Having Too Much Fun!"
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.