The Others: The Disabled and Hot Tubs

Part of being disabled is living your life as if you aren’t and then dealing with the challenges of the juxtaposition as they arise.

A few years ago, I had a crush on this girl named Dana. Dana was an international student from Kuwait that was curious about my disability, and as a person with few social filters, she walked up to me one day and just started talking to me about my disability. From that moment on, we were always together. Even though I’m not Muslim, I joined the campus Islam club with her. When I told her I felt a little awkward about joining a club for a thing that I didn’t do, she simply said, “Wait until you try the food.” I actually almost converted for that reason alone, but she informed me that I didn’t actually have to convert to eat the food. I could just have it.

As an interesting aside, a lot of her friends were Jewish, so we both joined the campus Jewish club as well. What I’m trying to say is I spent a strange amount of time in clubs I didn’t belong in, and I ate way better than most college kids as a direct result.

One day, I let it “slip” that my parents got a new outdoor hot tub and she asked if she could come over to use it. In my head, I went to panic/self defense mode. My brain told me to be smooth and whatever was about to come out of my mouth had better not be douchey. What I forgot to do was stop talking as I considered what to say.

“Oh God, yes,” I said. I don’t know how it happened, but I actually felt my body punch itself in the stomach.

Anyway, a few days later we were in the hot tub together. I was terrified, but for reasons most people don’t have to worry about. What’s supposed to happen in this type of situation is you sit next to the person and talk/flirt. However, my body has very little muscle mass and my bones have terrible levels of density. While other people get in the water and sink, I float. In fact, I float so well, it’s actually hard to push me down into the water. Sitting next to her wasn’t really an option.

The other problem is that the only part of me that doesn’t float is my head. That thing sinks like a rock and I don’t have the neck muscles to hold it up.

At first I felt really awkward. The discomfort of having my date hold my head up so I didn’t sink turned into casual conversation … with a head massage.

So far, so good. This was totally working.

New problem. “Hey, so, Brian,” she said, “my arms are getting tired and I don’t know how much longer I can hold you.”

Shit. The night was going so well and my disability was about to ruin it.

“Would you be uncomfortable if I rested your head on my shoulder for awhile? We’ll have to be a little close, if that’s okay with you.”

While my response was, “I mean, yeah, sure, that’s probably okay,” all I could think was, “this is so accidentally romantic. I love being disabled.”

We talked/flirted for awhile when I saw her expression start to change. She got a little nervous.

“I have something to tell you,” she said.

Holy bananas. This was happening. I looked straight into her eyes. “Oh? What’s up?”

She hesitated a little before she spoke. “Well,” she said, “I’m slipping off the seat and I don’t know what to d…”

And we sank.

I mean, it wasn’t long. She hopped back up and pulled me out of the water, but it definitely changed the tone of the evening.

Normally, I write articles to bring awareness to a situation. But I often feel like part of the challenge isn’t teaching people what’s wrong with the system or what’s wrong with social stigmas. It’s about telling people why you’re different. And why that’s so fun.

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