B is for…

Wow! August already folks! The summer is certainly flying, as are the remainder of our days in lovely Essex! It’s been a little manic organising the ‘big move’ and to be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in as actually happening yet! We are down to weeks now. Exciting, scary and sad all rolled into one!

As always, a sincere thank you to everyone for liking, sharing and commenting on my blog! It’s so lovely to hear back from you all in my quest to raise awareness of ‘The F Word’!

So lots has been happening in my world this month. The words packing, sorting and removal have become engrained in my brain! In amongst all the chaos though, I’ve been making time to meet and greet lots of friends before we leave.

The end of July marked my last official days working at my school. The end of term, right before summer break, is always mixed with emotions but this year it was a huge rollercoaster! Who knew that saying goodbye would be so hard?! Since moving to Essex, I’ve trained and worked in that same school so as you can imagine, it was like saying goodbye to a second family!

As part of the goodbye parting though, we planned a lovely night out with a meal and a few bevies. We all dawned the glad rags and got into the party mood. It was a great evening right up until that dreaded ‘F Word’ struck. Well that’s not totally true; it wasn’t really ‘The F Word’s’ fault this time. Remember the ‘I’ for ignorance I spoke about last month? Well it reared it’s ugly head and boy was it ugly that night!

So with that night still raw in my memory, I couldn’t bypass it as the theme for this month’s column.

With that in mind, I’m going to concentrate on the letter ‘B’ this month but i’ll get back to that bit later.

In order to help you to understand how I was feeling on that night, I need you to take a little step back in time, with me, to that very night…

Imagine that you had met up with your friends for a night out. As many of us do, we’d chatted about our outfits and how we’d got our hair or make up to look so nice. We’d commented on each other’s shoes and tops and I even got a few compliments on my own footwear (which I was chuffed about as I looked on enviously at some of the fabulous heels on show!) We had eaten a lovely meal and chatted at length with each other; reminiscing, planning our summers and of course throwing in a few photographic opportunities for good measure.

All was good, perfect even. One of the joys of ‘The F Word’, as many of you know by now, is that my balance and walking, on a good day might be mistaken for that of someone who might have had a tipple too many. As a result, I tend to literally only take 1 or 2 drinks spread across a night, especially if the night involves moving around, otherwise the word ‘bambi’ might seriously come into play! So I didn’t have a drink with my meal that night.

It goes without saying, I now also have to wear flat shoes whether it’s a daytime event or a night time gathering it’s flat, flat, flat all the way for me now. As I’ve said before, this proves tricky. No, scrap that, it’s actually virtually impossible sometimes! Especially when historically, like me, you’ve had a major ‘thing’ for shoes. In the past, I’d have provided stiff competition for Carrie Bradshaw from the movie, Sex In The City, having owned shoes in varying colours and styles. In fact, I think my poor mother had to have a clear out recently and she counted nearly 40 pairs of my shoes, all heels, all fabulous but sadly, none of them any use to me anymore!

So back to that night. I hadn’t taken a drink with my meal and I was wearing my flat shoes. Which although flat, were sparkly and dressy- remember, I’d even been complimented on them! So when we finished our meal, we popped into the pub next door and there I had 1 drink. I need to emphasise this because I was not drunk, by any means. Being in the party mood, we then all decided to take a short walk to another bar where we could dance. (Well where the rest of the gang could boogie and I could tap my feet along whilst propped up- another thing that silly ‘F Word’ has robbed me of, my love of a good old dance!)

Anyway, off we strolled, chatting and laughing and having a wonderful time. My friend and I linked arms partly as a ‘girly thing we do’ and mostly because I need a little help to walk. We were looking forward to making a night of memories until, boom… there it hit us. That horrid, blinkered, cruel word. Ignorance.

“I’m sorry, we can’t let you in here in those trainers.”

Yes, you read that right. The doormen called my flat shoes, which I’m already massively paranoid about, trainers! “How dare they?!”, I thought jovially, laughing to myself at the thought of me with my shoe obsession, ever going out in my gym trainers and at the same time thinking they would be grand once we explained why I was wearing my so called ‘trainers’. I explained that I was wearing my shoes, not completely out of choice but more out of necessity owning to my disability. So you’d think at this point they would have said, “Ah no problem, we get that. Go on in and have a good night.” You’d think that I might have even got an apology of sorts. Well no. On this occasion there was no happy ending. There was no admission and there were no reasonable adjustments made. The reply was “Sorry, it doesn’t matter to us what you have, you aren’t getting in here wearing those trainers.” (They were not trainers, they were silver, sparkly,pump style shoes.) Granted, if I could wear heels, I wouldn’t have been wearing these flat alternatives but I CAN’T WEAR MANY OTHER TYPES OF SHOES! (Sorry for shouting, but in my head, that’s what I was shouting at those doormen that night.)

I, myself couldn’t actually argue my point that night. I genuinely believed that once I explained things, I’d get in. I was utterly gobsmacked to be told “no”! I had to walk away, totally heartbroken, whilst my lovely friends pleaded with the manager.
You might think that heartbroken is a bit dramatic but for me that night, I wasn’t just being told that I couldn’t come in. I was being told that I wasn’t good enough, that I stood out as ‘different’ and that I wasn’t ‘normal’. The manager did come out on the end but to worsen the blow he mentioned something to the effect of how the establishments image might be put into disrepute had they let me in.

That night the treatment I received from that pretentious establishment was the epitome of Ignorance, discrimination and rudeness all rolled into one! One of the hardest things I struggle with when battling ‘The F Word’ is how it works hard to ensure that I stand out as ‘different’ and in some ways ‘not normal’. That night I stood out in many ways like a sore thumb! Imagine standing there having to listen to your friends getting upset that their friend is being singled out. Imagine the feelings of embarrassment you might feel if your friends had to leave a venue all because of you. Imagine really wanting to wear the hugest of heels but HAVING to wear another, perhaps not so glamorous option, and then being told that it was because of this that you could not come in. People talk of times they wished the ground would open and swallow them. Well that was one of those times for me. I longed for a sinkhole!

I can’t deny, I was gutted. My last proper night out with my lovely work friends before moving home, ruined. One of my worst nightmares coming through and being made to feel like a second class citizen. All because of ignorance. Pure and simple. It angers me, infuriates me even, that notions which are backward and so narrow minded, still exist in an era where we should be able to embrace differences. To some, a rejection like this may seem trivial but for me on that night it was huge. I hope that the ‘decision makers’ on that night never have to join the disabled population for I fear their lack of understanding and empathy may not bode well for them.

But back to the letter ‘B’ and at this point you may be wondering, where is the ‘B’ in this story?! Well, hopefully you know me enough by now to realise that, despite how rubbish the obstacle is that is thrown in front of me, I will always at least try to find a positive. On reflection of that night one big positive was that of ‘brilliance’. The whole, horrid saga just reaffirmed how brilliant my friend’s are. There was a significant group of my friend’s out that night and each and everyone of them were disgusted at what happened. They spoke up for me and they, like me, were truly upset at how I had been treated. That in itself just reminded me how important it is to have good friends and a good support network, especially when dealing with your own ‘F Word’. That night my friend’s didn’t only stand up for me, they stood up for what is right and they helped to erase the damage already done through ignorance.

So as the song goes, I really do get by ‘with a little help from my friends’.

I deliberated long and hard on the letter for this month but in the end, ‘B’ had to win. In this instance, ‘B’ is for brilliant friends. ‘B ‘ is for the best friends and overall B is for boo to those who fail to see the bigger picture, who continue to discriminate and those who think looks and image are the ‘be all and end all’.

Yes, that night was a low point but as with lots of other aspects of ‘The F Word’, such incidents serve to remind me that, whilst it not be right, we will always meet people who may not accept us for who we are. Unfortunately, we might also have to deal with horrendous situations such as this, especially if you are disabled in any way. But you know what? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that. So rubbish as it may sometimes be, we’ve got to always remember the bigger picture.

Remember what you have, don’t concentrate on what you have not got.

Remember what you can do and forget about what you can’t.

For me one of the things I am lucky to have is friends. Friends in all shapes and sizes. Friends who understand me and support me. So how could it not be ‘B’ this month? In my mind, that in itself is simply brilliant!

To all the friends who helped me on this night or during the ‘aftermath’, please know how very thankful I am and I dedicate this month’s column to you all because you are all in your own, unique ways; brilliant!

Until next time folks…keep an eye out, we shall hopefully be back in Fermanagh soon!

Love,

Michelle. X

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