In a relationship on wheels, you have to learn how to laugh at the things you can’t control. Semi-embarrassing moments are bound to happen, but you and your main squeeze can become even stronger by laughing them off or learning from them. A real relationship is one that doesn’t let anything chair-related get in the way of loving each other.
I’m going to come right out with this: My boyfriend and I were in the midst of the most intimate of moments when I farted. A really loud, in-your-face, unladylike fart. We certainly couldn’t ignore the earth-shattering sound, but I also didn’t want to draw attention to it right then and there. Way too embarrassing! There was a pretty big burst of laughter from the two of us and a simple, “Hey, I’m so sorry. I have NO control over that kind of stuff.”
I figured I should put it out there because it would probably happen again when we were between the sheets. My guy didn’t let it faze him; he knows that it’s just a day in the life of his gal on wheels. He told me not to apologize, too; there was no reason to do so. This is why he is a keeper — making me feel comfortable and understanding that farts will happen when they want to.
Take my other friend in a chair. She doesn’t have a lot of fine dexterity in her hands, holding heavier glasses isn’t the easiest for her. A few dates into her new relationship, she was drinking a filled-to-the-top martini. Although she thought she had the drink under control, her hands gave out and the drink fell … onto his lap. Red Cosmo all over his khakis. Several napkins and apologies later, they were back to a regular date (and future ones, too!). Why? She gave him the scoop on her strength and a little more about her disability; he completely understood and wasn’t about to let a crotch Cosmo get in the way of a good thing.
Another reader shared an equally embarrassing spill that tested her relationship.
Her Foley bag came unhooked one evening in bed while she was cuddled up with her significant other. When they both woke up, there was quite the mess all over the sheets. She was mortified beyond belief, and it took her main squeeze a moment to collect herself, but they both recovered from the incident. How? Well, they cleaned things up together and made jokes about the whole thing. Her partner was comfortable
enough to sleep in the same bed with her bag every night, so she was also just as comfortable
knowing that pee happens.
Sure, these stories end better than they started. I think that finding out you can trust your guy or gal in the most embarrassing of situations is the key to a solid relationship. We all know that wild wheelchair things happen — sometimes completely out of our control and sometimes rather frequently — but we need someone that can “roll” with the punches so to speak. Let me caution you: It might not always end so smoothly —the person you are with may not handle it well. That’s why it’s important to find and stay with someone who can rebound from your uncontrollable fart or gimpy hands and still find you unbelievably attractive. Because let’s face it, you are!
Embarrassment is a product of the unfamiliar — and let’s face it, a lot of things that happen with disability are a bit unfamiliar to most folks. We can expect to have a few more nervous laughs over the course of our lives than most. On top of that, when it comes to dating, getting embarrassed is a bit more likely when you’re just getting to know somebody — especially when you’re crushing a bit and trying to put your best wheel forward.
The combination of trying to show off, then having some ridiculous disability thing show itself and all your vulnerabilities, is enough to get anybody in a funk. Just remember, everybody has embarrassing moments and everybody — spinal cord injury or not — should be able to commiserate and laugh it off. If an embarrassing moment does get in the way, sometimes a solid “oh well” and moving forward is the best we can do. On the flipside, embarrassing moments can lead to more bonding than distancing, and often turn into fun stories to tell friends.
For my 22nd birthday some friends and I hit up a show and a bar and eventually wound up at a dance club. Now, I’m a pretty good dancer for a power chair user, and don’t shy away from doing spins with a friendly lady in my lap. I asked a flirtin’ partner for a dance, and she happily obliged. A fun song came on, we did some circles on the floor, and both of us were smiling ear to ear.
Then, I felt my leg. Turns out her thigh rubbed my suprapubic cath off the leg bag tube, and leakage ensued. Of course, I went into panic mode pretty quickly, but then remembered that a suave response works better than freaking out. Noting that my new friend hadn’t noticed (and, thankfully enough, had shifted to my other leg before anything got on her jeans), I quickly asked her to hop off the left side. I excused myself and asked a buddy to join me to help out. We cleaned up, and I sadly had to call it a night.
Now, in the end that was a story about shutting down internal embarrassment in time to avoid something a bit more public, but embarrassment is often more about our reactions than our partner’s. Being confident in the face of trouble is crucial. But it’s also a story about that embarrassment getting in the way of something good – and in that case, I had to shrug, chock it up to bad luck, and use it as motivation for the next dance night.
Of course, tricky moments can happen on a first date just as on a first dance. My buddy Joe was on a great first date and decided to stay out past the last train, agreeing that they’d just catch the late-night bus. At about 1:00, they started on a 20-plus block walk to the bus station, chatting merrily, when Joe’s chair broke. Frustrated and embarrassed, Joe apologized to his date and offered to call a cab to get back. Instead, his date offered to push Joe and his 250-pound chair another 20 blocks to the bus stop.
Exhaustion quickly set in, and they both decided to call a taxi. For Joe, the inconvenience and vulnerability were embarrassing, but his date understood. They actually went on a second date the next weekend. It ended up just being two dates total, but Joe assured me that it was about personality not matching up — not the embarrassing event. “If anything, that was a bonding experience,” he said, “and it made that first date that much deeper, which we both appreciated.”