What the World Gets Wrong About My Quadriplegic Husband and Me
They imagine I’m his “caretaker,” a loaded word, veritably stuffed with presumption.
He lived alone long before I met him, He’s a theatre professor,
me, Me Before You
Now that I’ve disclosed his quadriplegia to yet another stranger, added his image to the stack in my coworker’s internal card catalog, my husband is no longer afforded idiosyncrasies or individual traits—someone who writes me love letters and teaches improv and is very Virgo about our towel situation, and who, unlike me, is quiet and unassuming in grad seminars. As we parted, I wondered: Would my colleague go home, now, and express gratitude to his wife, “Thank God we’re not them” the subtext?
where are they supposed to go?—What’s so special about you?
Is the usher going to know where to seat us? Will we be turned away? Will the doctor actually speak to him, or will she look over his head and into my eyes instead? It’s watching someone else be hurt and disappointed—not by an internal source, like my depression, but by others, by buildings, even—over and over again, and being powerless to do anything about it, to unwind the tension that coils in someone’s back when they are expected, day after day, to prove they are not a burden.
It’s your own sadness, your own needs, all being retroactively attributed to something from which he has recovered every way but physically—which is the only way that matters in the cultural narrative you’re expected to play out.
So? What did you expect?
Don’t look at me like thatJust build a damn ramp.
Laura Dorwart is a PhD candidate and Fletcher Jones Fellow at UCSD focusing on mental health and media studies. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles and a BA from Barnard College, along with bylines at VICE, Bitch, SheKnows, McSweeney's, Dazed, Dilettante Army, and others. Laura blogs at girlreads.com and https://medium.com/esoterica. Her husband, Jason Dorwart, is a theatre and disability studies professor, and together they had the cutest baby ever. They are biased.
Twitter: @lauramdorwart, Instagram: @girlreadsblog
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I grew up with food stamps, latchkeys, Lee jeans from an outlet, Campbell’s soup, three deadbeat dads, and a mother who wrote letters to a TV evangelist praying for a husband.