8.27.2016

Friends Don't Let Friends Buy Ugly Mobility Aids

I never thought I could get excited about a mobility aid. Obvi. I love shopping, but of all the packages I’ve welcomed into my life, this isn’t one I ever thought I’d sign for.

Recently, I’ve had to accept that multiple sclerosis has caused me to need a little help staying vertical. A cane isn’t cutting it so I’ve been experimenting with rollators (formerly known as walkers). But on long days when my legs straight up quit, a rollator just isn't enough to keep me on the dance floor (okay, the regular floor). Luckily, we live in The Future where rollators exist that, with a few slick moves, convert to pushable chairs for just such occasions — like real-life Transformers but with less fire power. What? This blew my mind. 


Until I actually saw them.

Because BMW doesn’t make them yet (and neither does Hasbro), most are not designed with style in mind. After much research, I narrowed my choices to two. Frankly, there aren’t many on the market.

Option A

Pros: Reasonably Priced

Cons: An electric-purple, clunky assortment of cables complete with side bags, front bags, rear bags (wtf does anyone put in all those bags?) plus an unnecessarily wide seat belt and a Super Big Gulp sized cupholder. Had it come to this? What would attachment to this device say about me? Were all those bags just a sneaky stepping stone on the road to becoming a full-fledged Bag Lady? Despite its accessories, and its overwhelming purpleness, it looked so medical. I hated it. If this were indeed a Transformer, it would surely be a Decepticon.

Option B

Pros: Sleek, streamlined, European (natch). Comfortable and easy to maneuver. Available in colours like ice blue and cloud grey, for the born after the 1930s crowd. Almost cool. I mean, it’s still a walker, but it was a lot closer to Optimus Prime than Option A.

Cons: It costs all the money

Ignoring some functionality concerns and the obvious style ones, I decided to suck it up and go with the morally sketchy Decepticon. The Banker looked at me pityingly as I held back tears and told myself I was gonna need some killer outfits to distract from its heinousness. I was desperate to get the purchase over with but the hunk of aubergine anxiety wouldn’t fit in our car. (NB: Calling it ‘aubergine’ didn't make it suck less. I tried). We left frustrated and empty-handed.

That night, I sent my ginger bestie a pic of the twisted piece of purple scrap metal and shitty nylon bags. My phone rang immediately. “Absolutely not. You cannot take that to Barcelona.” (I’m going to Barcelona.) The next words out of GB’s mouth were, “What happened to the sexy one? Why aren’t you getting that one?” Sexy walker; her words, not mine.

My ginger bestie and I have been informing each other’s shopping decisions since 1998. Our post-work retreats to unwind and gossip about that B who was always trying to steal our boyfriends were a critical part of our early friendship. A sideways look, and we knew we were headed to the mall as soon as 5 o’clock hit. And not just any mall. We happily drove the extra 40 minutes to get to the good mall. The history of our sisterhood is marked by our most memorable scores. The lavender python boots of Amsterdam. The lemon yellow silk skirt. She even helped me buy my four poster bed, which I later gifted to her after I got married.

We are experts on rationalizing each other’s extravagances; easily coming up with a quick 10 reasons to justify a splurge. We’ve cultivated a legit fear of the outfit that got away. Most recently, "You don’t have red patent leather ankle boots. That is a glaring hole in your fall wardrobe," helped push the plastic to the register.

If this sounds materialistic and irresponsible, it’s because it totally is. Fortunately, we’ve matured some since the early aughts and are less likely to haphazardly wreck our credit scores. But these are life skills that die hard. After years of friendship, she was qualified and well within her job description as bestie to question the Decepticon purchase so ardently.

I also consulted with my barrister bestie (because every modern girl needs a good lawyer). My BB is decidedly more practical and way less likely to encourage a wallet apocalypse. Even she said, “You HAVE TO buy the nice one. Who CARES about the money? What if you have an event?”

Oh my God. Events. I hadn’t thought of that. I imagined myself struggling with the purple beast in a chic restaurant. Suddenly it seemed ludicrous to even consider taking a saddle-bagged Decepticon anywhere. This thing is going to be an extension of me, in a way. An expression of me. And everyone knows Decepticons are notorious douchebags.

It’s hard needing a mobility aid. Really hard. There's so much beyond my control that I must sacrifice because of MS, but there is no need for me to give up style. I accept that using a mobility device adds a certain je ne sais quoi to my image. But I don't accept that we can't do better than this. So how about designing a few more of these things with the cool kids in mind? Shallow or not, our stuff helps us establish our identities and Option A was crushing my soul.

In the end, our tribe sometimes knows us better than we know ourselves, especially when we get overwhelmed with change. Ultimately, Optimus Prime maintains several functional advantages in addition to the superficial style ones. (For one, it fits in the damn car). I know how fortunate I am to be able to find the scrilla for this purchase, and the fact that these items should be more affordable for everyone is an angry argument for another day. The sexy rollator has been ordered and truth be told, I’m actually kind of excited about it.


ooh, nice shoes

Geriatric purple would have been a disaster with my red leather ankle boots.


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8.16.2016

What I'm Reading

A couple of weeks ago I received a package in the mail. Fellow writer and Tripper Jennifer Evans, had sent me a collection of poems she had compiled, penned by MS’ers about their experiences, called Touching MS, Poetic Expressions.

My first thought was delight; how nice to have received such a thoughtful gift from a stranger.

My second thought was Oh God, amateur disease-poetry. This is going to be terrible.

I poured myself a big glass of wine and decided to give it a peek, because these are my people. To my surprise I ended up reading the whole collection in one sitting, cover to cover. It’s not all Tennyson but some of what I read rang so true to my own experience that I easily could have signed my name to it. (I mean, not enough swearing to convince you I’d actually written any of it, but that is why I don’t write poetry, bitches). 


Don’t be fooled by the flowery cover. There’s nothing sugar-coated about what’s inside. At times hopeful and at times raw, it will remind you that you are not alone.

Like this one from Marie Kane:

Unsinged
Marie Kane

Charcoal fire lights our patio bricks. You turn the steak,
     reveal crosshatch pattern of the grill.
I sit above you on the porch; we are silent as we often are.
     Perhaps you regret serving steak, which you have to cook
and slice, and regret having to clean up this dinner
     with its vegetables and rice, and even rue the decision

to marry me now that I am crippled, not able to do
     as I used to - 
anything, really - and you are so quiet I want to
     make as much
uproar as I can, rail against you for being so
     confoundingly stoic,
You finish grilling, climb the porch stairs, kiss my shoulder,
     and enter the kitchen. I follow, my cane catching the metal
strip at the entrance. I grab the door jamb to keep
     from falling.

“Are you OK?” you ask. There is nothing in the world that
     could make me tell you the truth. You      remove the red 
cowhide grill gloves, fill the white plate with asparagus 
     and rice,
thinly slice the London broil, reserve the most tender for me,
     and with the same steady hands, help me into my chair,
guide it to the most suitable position at the table, present
     my plate,

and light the candles. We eat by their faint glow, and 
     my most
secret self responds to your generosity with embarrassed
     compliments about the food. Later, I watch you sleep,
scent of the grill in your hair, while your hands - 
     unsinged, wide, loose on my breast - 
claim me this night as your own.

Originally published on multiplesclerosisnewstoday

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