Finding himself in confessional mood, Paul Carter comes clean about some of his quirkier personal habits

By Paul Carter — first published in Disability Now

It’s par for the course when you’re a disabled that there are certain quirks and foibles in our daily lives that normals don’t usually have to consider. I’m not even talking about things we take for granted, in my case for example, needing a special box just to reach the kitchen sink. I mean the things that we do as disabled people that we don’t even normally think about or consider as being different.

A couple of these have been brought to my attention recently by my housemate. The other morning we were talking about something when she casually remarked “I was going to ask you a question when you got home last night but I could tell you were drunk by your level of flappiness.” I was slightly startled by this. I feel I should explain. Ever since I can remember, whenever I’ve been excited (not in that way) or happy, I’ve always sort of, for want of a better word, flapped a bit. I just did it then after writing that last line because it was a good one. And again. Oh god I’m risking getting into an infinite flap loop, which incidentally, is a great name for an experimental prog-rock band. No need to thank me.

When I say I flap, I mean I jiggle my arms a bit. Sort of like a distressed heron. Also, because of post-Christmas food binging, it means I now genuinely have bingo wings. I don’t know why or where it comes from, it’s just always been there. My Mum used to tell me off for excessive flapping when I was a kid. Usually followed by being told I “look like a penguin.” The thing is I met another stumpy a few years back and they did exactly the same thing and we’d never met before, so it couldn’t have even been a case of them thinking ‘look at him flapping about, I fancy giving that a go’. It’s obviously an armless thing for some reason. It’s just always been a part of my life, and realising that in actual fact other people notice it occasionally felt a bit strange. What’s worse was that when I asked her if I do it often, she said that not only do I do it quite a lot, but there are ‘levels of flappiness’ depending on the situation. I should point out that I do not run around waving my arms like a demented buzzard on some sort of methamphetamine as this makes me sound.

The other fact that was pointed out to me recently that I’d never really noticed was that I really enjoy a good lean. I lean all the time. Anywhere I can. On trains, in pubs, at museums. I even lean sitting down which is a considerable talent, and despite what you might think, entirely possible.

Frankly, I enjoy a lean so much that I’m going to ask in my will to be buried standing up. At a slight angle of course. (Can you be buried standing up? I don’t know, just humour me.) My epitaph would say ‘here’s Paul. He loved a good lean.’

It’s partly an impairment thing. My balance can be a bit slapdash at times so I always like to have the security of something to rest against. It’s a comfort thing quite often; as a lot of the time I don’t even need the thing I’m leaning on to bear my weight. It’s moved beyond that though. I’m now so conscious of the fact that I like to lean that I do it even when I don’t need to. I was giving a speech the other day to a room full of people leaning over the back of a chair, simultaneously managing to look both drunk and disinterested, when only one of them was true.

On a night out if we’re in a bar or something my friends will know without needing to ask that I need somewhere to lean and will head for suitable lean-friendly areas. It might sound like an odd thing to say but not having knees means I don’t get tired standing up, so leaning is actually more preferable to the effort of having to drag my bloated husk up onto a seat that is almost always higher than me. Which is why I get strange looks from people on public transport when I (rarely) get offered a seat. I might get a badge made in one of those ‘baby on board’ styles, with Happy To Lean’ on it or something. Or Lean, Mean Killing Machine. That would be good. Oh god I made myself flap again.

Anyway, such is the nonsense of living with an impairment. I’d be interested to hear if you have any strange elements in your life. Mainly to make myself feel better, because you know, sharing is caring.

Until next time. I’m off for a lean.

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