If you see me at #RT14, say hello

A thin white woman with chin length wavy brown hair with bright orange streaks sitting in a power wheelchair and wearing a teal dress, orange heels and a silver cardigan.I’m going to be attending the RT con in New Orleans next week, where I hope to meet many of the wonderful people I’ve talked romance with over the years. While it’s absolutely no secret that I’m a disabled woman, I don’t think many people realize *how* disabled I am. You know I’m disabled, but you don’t know. It’s like knowing the Grand Canyon is big, but it’s not until you see it in person that you realize that the Grand Canyon is BIG.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take pity on you guys and try to give you some idea of what to expect if and when you bump into me. Maybe this will keep the awkward surprised silences to a minimum and let us get right down to the chit-chat.

  • That’s me in the picture. I’m getting my hair done the Friday before RT so the orange will be nice and bright and I might even bring that teal dress, so I should be pretty easy to identify. If there’s another orange-haired woman in a wheelchair at RT, I’ll have to fight her. There can be only one.
  • My hands, arms and shoulders are pretty wasted thanks to muscle atrophy. I have a difficult time lifting my arms up and my thumbs are basically decorative. If you go in for a handshake, it’ll take me a bit to lift my arm and I’m just going to flop my bony hand into yours. You won’t break me if you shake my hand. If you skip the handshake, that’s cool too.
  • Muscle weakness and spasticity slurs my speech. I sound like someone who’s both drunk and stoned. I’m also kind of quiet, since I don’t breathe very strongly either. I’m hard to understand and I know it. If you don’t understand something I said, I’d rather you ask me to repeat it than have you pretend you heard me.
  • I eat like a savage animal. Again, muscle weakness makes eating difficult. If you have the misfortune to eat near me while I’m eating, I chew with my mouth open, eat with my hands and cough, gag and straight-up choke on my food. (Ask Olivia Waite sometime. Poor thing watched me choke on some sushi rice I inhaled and didn’t know where to look.) Making me laugh or talk during a meal makes it much more likely I aspirate some crud and start choking. Just FYI.
  • If you see me struggling with something and want to help me, please ask first. I’m not shy about asking for or accepting help, so I’ll answer truthfully. If I say I don’t need help, I’m not just being nice. (I’m never just being nice.)
  • I am a hugger. Head pats are a no-go, however.
  • Last but not least, please walk responsibly. Don’t walk backwards or stop suddenly when you’re in a crowd. My chair weighs 350 lbs with me in it and my metal footrest will not feel nice on your achilles. My face is also about hand and elbow height, so watch your hands while talking or smoking as well. And please don’t textwalk into my lap. It’s super awkward for everyone involved.

Hope to see you at #RT14, and don’t be afraid to say hi. I don’t bite. ;-)