Worth

I’ve been thinking lately about the messages of worth we receive. From the media, from others. I’ve been thinking about focusing on problems, something that our North American society is wont to do. Talk shows everywhere delve into problems, papers and magazines poke at the wounds and I’m starting to wonder how healthy it is. Which is a fine thing to say for someone with a Master’s degree in social work – kind of ironic, don’t you think? It’s not that I don’t think problems often get better with talking about them, I do and not just because of my professional indoctrination. My point today (and to borrow a line from Ellen Degeneres, I do have one) is not so much a rant about the picking at scabs, but thoughts about the quest for perfection behind the prodding and digging.

Because, unless you’re talking serious issues, that’s what’s hidden behind the unceasing focus on what’s wrong, isn’t it? That somehow, if you’re not the best that you can be – physically, emotionally – then you’re not good enough. I don't know anyone who isn't on some level worried about a flaw, obsessed with improving their looks or lightening their emotional baggage. Of course, if you been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am on a sort of self-improvement journey myself, although I finally figured out that what I need to 'fix' is the feeling that I'm not good enough. Progress, of a sort. Or so I tell myself.

And so, I’ve meandered my way to the current focus of my thoughts: messages of worth as they apply to disability. Well, actually, I've yet to see any. Whether it’s the 'evil-saintly' image in the media or overhearing people say 'if I lost the use of my legs, I'd kill myself', the greater picture is one of abnormality to the point of being unacceptable. And when it comes to physical appearance, well, that’s just icky, ain’t it? Women, especially, appear to require at minimum working legs and arms in order to be attractive - how many of the world’s "beautiful people" have disabilities and how many of those are women?

Once, a long time ago, I read what has been a rather infamous study in the disability field regarding the break-up rate in marriages where one of the partners acquired disability. If the man became disabled, 50% of the marriages broke up. If it was the woman, the figure was 99%. Shall we pause for a moment to let that number sink in? Granted, this study is likely at least 20 years old, but I would suspect that although it might have changed a little, the trend is the same. My personal experience certainly seems to indicate that most men find it completely impossible to see a woman with a disability as a prospective lover/girlfriend/wife. There are some and I’ve enjoyed their company every now and again. Of course, first you have to weed away the ones who have a fetish about disability (yes, I know I'm picky, but I would like to be liked/loved/lusted after for who I am, not for what I am). In general, though, they're pretty thin on the ground.

And so we are back to appearance and imperfection and the ceaseless quest to look better, closer to the ideal, perfect and some days, I am struck by how hard women work to live up to an impossible goal. Some days, I can’t help but internalise those ideals and feel nothing but ugly – no matter what I do to my hair, face, clothes, etc., the disability will always override the rest for a lot of humanity. Some days, I know I'm hot. And other times, I am almost grateful for my disability, for the disease that has made my body twist and turn in ways that forever will prevent it from coming close to the ideal and so, since I cannot hope to reach acceptable in the eyes of “society”, I can focus on other things.

What is it with the need to fit in and, conversely, the urge to judge/punish those who don’t? Is it some sort of herd mentality?

This post isn’t exactly a smoothly-flowing essay on the implications of being imperfect in a world striving for perfection, but currently, I’ve got more questions than answers and…. well. I rely on you for intelligent discourse. Clearly, I’m a little wonky in that department today.

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