Friday, January 18, 2008

Vanity of a Cripple

I refuse to look as lousy as I feel sometimes. Some things I can do nothing about, like being in a wheelchair, wearing sensible shoes and elastic waist pants with no buttons or zippers. I choose to concentrate on the few things that are still under my control. For example, today I got my hair colored and cut.

This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but to me it is significant. First of all, it's an effort just to get me to the salon and into the hairdresser's chair. I make a spectacle of myself without even trying. I always go to the same place, so the staff all knows me but the customers are different. I can tell that they're watching and wondering about my wheelchair and why I'm in it. This process of coloring my hair means many steps and transfers from my wheelchair to the hairdresser's chair back to my wheelchair and to the shampoo chair, etc. My aide and I get a good workout before it's all done.

So why do I do it? Because it makes be feel normal. Also, since I'm always sitting down and lower than everyone else, I am self conscious about the gray hairs on top of my head. I can't see them, but everybody else can. My wheelchair ages me enough. Knowing that I look OK makes me feel better mentally and I have often been told that I am very lucky to be cared for so well. When I got my last MRI, the technicians told me that most of the women who come in with my level of disability are in pretty rough shape. Their hair is dirty and matted, their teeth the rotting out of their head and their skin is scaly. That makes me sad knowing that some people have to live like that. Having MS is depressing enough when you're well groomed.

I can't say that I look at myself in the mirror very much but when I do, I don't want to see a scary old woman looking back at me. Thanks to time and some chemicals, I won't have to.

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