Things Just Got Complicated.

Relationships are complicated. Relationships while one or both partners are chronically ill or disabled results in an explosion of chaos that equals filling a volcano with Coca-Cola and Mentos mints, and then making it angry by filming it with a phone rather than living (and probably dying) in the moment.

Finding wheelchair-friendly date venues is like looking for a needle in the worlds’ largest haystack while blindfolded, and only being allowed to search with your nose and mouth. Lots of places have steps in the door and the members of staff at such establishments don’t seem to grasp the concept that no, I can’t take a bleeding run up. Sometimes the rarest of all luxuries will be provided in a ramp, or even more special a level entrance. Even then the accessible entrance may require unlocking by a member of staff who is distinctly inside the building, and once inside the tables may be so tightly packed together it’s impossible to get around. I have even known cases where the tables are very tall and I need a periscope to see my drink. Best of all the inaccessibility is usually put down to “well, no one in a wheelchair ever comes in here”, having failed to understand that we can’t get in. So the same few cafes, bars, shops, and the cinema become second, third, fourth, and fifth homes, and I have loyalty cards for every single one. It’s got so bad that the café usually has my order ready for me by the time I get to the counter, and they are on first name terms with me.

Once we’ve embarked on a date the second complication rears it’s rather ugly head. No one thinks it’s a date, probably because going on a date is so damn complicated in the first place. Jarred is mistaken for my carer so frequently I’m considering buying a bell to summon him when I need his assistance. When he puts his arm around my shoulders or pecks me on the cheek, the looks of shock and disapproval he receives is something quite extraordinary. They seem to think that he is taking advantage of an innocent disabled girl to get laid, and that I couldn’t possibly figure this out and defend myself if this was the case. It’s not possible for someone disabled to be in a relationship of their own accord is it? Spoiler alert – it is.

Eventually the relationship progresses to the stage where the two families wish to inspect your partner and their family. Since trains don’t appear to know how wheelchair physics works travelling any sort of distance is difficult, and sometimes the cost of travel or their work and family commitments prevents other family members from travelling up to see us. While to some couples this would be music to their ears because Mother-in-law being an anagram of Woman Hitler wouldn’t be so funny without the Mother-in-law clichés, most members of each respective family are actually nice people. Quite a few of Jarred’s family have managed to travel up to the north of England to see us, and we’ve managed to travel to London for a central meeting point on other occasions. Unfortunately moving closer to them would distance ourselves from my family, and the problem would simply affect different people.

After a while Jarred and I moved in together. The challenge here started when none of the letting agents that weren’t exclusively for student accommodation were accessible, so Jarred ended up doing the leg work there. Then we had to find an accessible home near the city centre within our budget, which was about as likely as an Oompa Loompa being elected for the US presidency. Oh… We found an apartment that was so central to the city that it confused Google Earth, and I could access it by entering the garage and going to the rear of the building. It came within mere pounds of our calculated budget, so I put the deposit down on the flat quicker than Usain Bolt after drinking 10 cans of Red Bull before anyone else tried to steal it, and it is now fully christened with tyre tracks on the floor.

Now I just have to organise an accessible wedding…

Diary of a Disabled Persons’ Fiance; by Jarred Triskelion.

If I did not fixate on the wheelchair the first time I met Mini, it was only because I am a bloke, it was a freshers week party, and she was a busty blonde. I am no saint and, though my intentions were honourable, some of my thoughts were decidedly not. Most people that find out I have a disabled girlfriend treat me like I’m some kind of hero, but I am no better or worse than any other man. Truth be told, Mini is the hero for putting up with my many faults and failings. At the other end of the spectrum people tended to assume I was only with her because I saw a disabled woman as an easy lay, and was taking advantage of her.

Truth be told, I was so nervous and awkward that it was only because of Mini’s persistence that I ever found the courage to ask her out. It was often the people who thought themselves the most virtuous that assumed the poor, helpless disabled person must have been manipulated into wanting an intimate relationship. They were so determined to keep her safe, it never occurred to them that she might be capable of making her own decisions. Do not get me wrong, there are vulnerable people out there, but Mini is not one of them. Since we got engaged, people seem less likely to question my motives, but the hero worship has only got worse.

It is hard to say how being with a disabled person has impacted my life. For one thing, Mini was already disabled when I met her. I can only imagine how hard it must be to plan a life with someone, only to have everything change in such a dramatic way. For us, the wheelchair has always been a factor, which has shaped the places we go to and the things we do. We often go for a pint in The Griffin because it is accessible, but also because I like a pub with some history behind it. Had Mini not been disabled, we might have ended up making The Three Legs our regular watering hole. Given that they are both decent pubs, which one we go to is somewhat arbitrary. There are a few things that being with Mini stops me from doing; camping and hiking come to mind. Any relationship requires compromises, and a relationship with a disabled person is no different in that regard.

There are ways my life is negatively affected, of course, and this would not be an honest account without mentioning them. When you love someone, you feel a primal drive to keep them safe from pain and suffering. It is hard to put into words just how powerless seeing Mini at her worst makes me feel. There is also the practical fact that everything requires advanced planning, which makes spontaneity impossible. When Tidal Championship Wrestling changed venue recently, we could not just turn up at the next show like everyone else. I scouted out the accessibility of the venue itself, plotted a route there that took curb drops into account and, when we got there, had to hunt down the proprietor so he could let us in the back door. Finally, there is the nagging fear that Mini might have found someone better than me were it not for her disability. I realise that is my depression getting the better of me, but the fact that she would have had more dating opportunities, were she not disabled, means it persists.

That Mini is an intelligent, witty and beautiful young woman is in no way diminished by her disability. She is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best thing that has ever happened to me. Any negatives impact that her disability may have upon me is more than mitigated but the positives that come from being with a woman as wonderful as she is. I love her and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with her.

Red Backdrop