For Heather Hardy, Ramona Smith Preston, Angelina Scarletti Reeves, Zach Willis, and Robyn Ronen.
Thank you all for loving me, and not just my perks. I love you all, too.
Being disabled from birth—for twenty-nine years now—I know there are perks of being disabled. You may think of the obvious, like handicapped parking. Thanks to the little white stick figure in the wheelchair, in front of a background of blue, I have the privilege of primo parking. If you thought of this, I regret to inform you that you’d be wrong. You haven’t accounted yet for what I already have: the fat people.
Growing up in Georgia, that’s another thing I have come to realize: there are a lot of fat people. At Walmart. At Target. At Costco. They are everywhere. And not just everywhere in Georgia, but everywhere in this wonderful country, wherein it, there exist perks for being disabled.
Moving on to the second most obvious perk of being me, you would, of course, think of that innovative and helpful purveyor of shopping independence: the Amigo Shopper. After all, amigo means “friend” in Spanish. I have my own personal shopping friend at any major store and retailer, complete with a horn and a basket to hold anything I wish! What more could I want than the Amigo Shopper? To actually be able to use one. Why can’t I, you wonder? The fat people. So, regarding the second most obvious perk of being disabled, you would, of course, be wrong again.
Obviously shocked and dismayed by what I have just divulged, you ask, what then, are the perks of being disabled? I’ll tell you.
The first perk? Notoriety. You may not know me by name, but you know who I am. I’m instantly recognizable, easily identified in a crowd, described with an epithet. Celebrity? Close: cerebral palsied. I, on the other hand, have no idea who you are. And I know you don’t expect me to. Why? Because I’m me, and you’re not.
Perk two? Michelle Obama arms. We’ve all seen them. They’re unavoidable. Our First Lady is a brazen wearer of all things sleeveless. Her guns, flexed effortlessly. All. Day. Long. C-SPAN has never before been so revealing. The thing is, though, I had her arms at five years old, long before even she did, all thanks to the toning and sculpting power of walking on hot pink Canadian Lofstrand forearm crutches. Michelle Obama, 2008 First Lady, who? Kelley A Pasmanick, 1991 Foxy Lady. Baby got back? No, baby got biceps.
The Canadian Lofstrand forearm crutches bring me to the third perk. What are crutches, if not poles? And what do you associate with poles? Strippers. You guessed it. The second perk of being disabled is that I can outstrip the best of them. My crutches—first and foremost, a means of transport—double as stripper poles, allowing me to strip anytime, anywhere, whereas all of the other stripper poles I’ve ever seen are stationary and bolted to the wall. Move over, flash mob. The next big wave in spontaneous, synchronized movement is the insta-strip. And my poles, unlike those of other strippers, have handles, making it all the better to work them with. You may be asking yourselves, how is having crutches act as stripper poles a perk of being disabled? I’ll tell you. Since my crutches come two to a pair, I always have a backup pole unlike other strippers. Encore? No problem.
What other perk of being disabled could be better than being able to strip literally at the drop of a hat, you ask? Two words: handicapped seating. Here’s how it works. I get better seating than you for less money at plays, sporting events, and concerts. And you don’t. Plain and simple. What you must understand is that handicapped seating is gateway seating to the better seating, ultimately seguing to the best seating. Case and point: my sister Annie and I saw Phantom of the Opera at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I had handicapped seating, and Annie sat next to me. All of the other handicapped seating was empty.
“Let’s move up,” I whispered to her. I could see Annie smiling under the ceiling of stars. As stealthily as a cerebral palsied foxy lady and her sister could move, we inched our way closer, one row at a time, sitting in two seats in each respective row for a moment or two before moving on, soon being able to see the stage without our binoculars. “Keep going!” I urged her, giddy with anticipation. And we did, a short time later reaching the Holy Grail of seating: front row center. Annie and I, close enough now to see the face of the ballerina playing Christine Daae, high-fived each other at our ingenuity. The moral of this story? With handicapped seating, you can achieve great things.
What’s the last and fifth perk of being disabled, my favorite of them all? I’m the original Fast Pass, bitch. That’s right. 20 years before it existed, I did. I’d visit Six Flags over Georgia with my family every summer as a reward for completing the Book-It Program after reading a total of ten hours through DeKalb County Public Library.
Ten hours of reading is a lot of reading for anyone, let alone children with naturally short attention spans, so when my family and I arrived at the park, we were raring to go. Armed with our free admission tickets and my manual wheelchair, we’d created the recipe for a Golden Ticket. We hurried to the exits of the rides, perplexing the other patrons until they put two and two together. The exits were my entrances, and because I was with my family, the exits were their entrances, too. Were they my entourage? No, they were my Palsy Posse. Not only would I enter and exit each ride through the exits, I’d ride each and every ride two times in a row. And just as before, because I did, my family did, causing the other patrons looking on to be spurned not once, but twice. I knew this because their expressions were all the same: their eyes shot daggers. They growled at me. There was gnashing of teeth. The little redneck children, shirtless and barefoot, making sure I saw, pointed their middle fingers toward the sky. I smiled, loving this. My wave to them all—slow and calculated—mirrored Queen Elizabeth’s at her Jubilee before I was whisked off in the direction of the rides. They balked. But I didn’t care. I knew the thought in their heads was the same as the look on their faces: we wish we were you. I just continued smiling and waving at them, knowing that they, like you, could never be me. Yippee ki-yay, motherfuckers.
And even now, years later, after the advent of the Fast Pass, I still ride each ride twice in succession, and so does whomever I’m with, just as before. Not even patrons who pay extra for Fast Passes can do that. They’re restricted to riding each ride only once and are assigned times to return to each ride if they want to ride it again. Fast Passes are and always have been for suckers.
So, while it’s hard out here for a pimp, it’s easy out here for a gimp, thanks to the perks of being disabled.
Kelley A Pasmanick is a twenty-nine year old woman with cerebral palsy, living in Atlanta, Georgia. Pasmanick holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Denver. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Georgia College & State University. Pasmanick’s work has appeared in Wordgathering and Squawk Back. Email email@example.com.