In general Paul Carter is comfortable with his limitations but when it comes to trousers he finds the exercise in arse-covering one stride too far…
Having recently hurtled past another birthday at seemingly breakneck speed, I’m fairly set in my ways. I know what I like (eating) and what I don’t like (people). I’m fairly content with my lot and set in my ways. This, I assumed, was it.
Now, up until a few days ago, I’d assumed that as someone rooted firmly in my mid-thirties, I had a fairly firm grasp on my abilities and limitations. I’m not talking about skills I haven’t acquired yet, there are millions of those – learning Swahili, flying an aircraft, being able to iron to name just three.
I’m talking about things that my particular impairment makes it impossible, or at least impractical to do. I should clarify here that I’ve never been one of those people who subscribes to that whole ‘you can achieve anything if you want to!’ hogwash, principally because it’s not true. I don’t have hands or feet, therefore, there will always be things I can’t practically do that require those bodily parts. I will never be a classical harpist for example. Neither will I ever perfect shadow puppetry. I am at peace with these things. I can however fit easily into overhead storage bins or use my prosthetics to kick through plate glass should I ever be locked inside a greenhouse or conservatory. Swings and roundabouts (ironically also both things I can’t use).
Of course as a child this attitude was completely different. I was an obnoxious, independent little git who refused to accept I couldn’t do anything. Until I couldn’t do it. It’s how we learn. Before I get letters accusing me of being negative and defeatist, there are plenty of things I can do that people said I couldn’t – typing, learning to drive and countless others.
On the whole, as disabled people, I think we all know what we generally can and can’t do – we understand our abilities better than anybody else. Having said all that, just recently, I got the shock of my life. I discovered that I am unable to do something that I thought would be the most straightforward thing on the planet: ladies and gentlemen, I can’t buy trousers.
It turns out that not only are they extremely complicated (more on that in a minute) but they’re also totally inaccessible. At least if you’re me. It turns out the whole way in which I put on trousers doesn’t translate very well into dressing rooms seemingly designed to be either anti-shoplifter or pro-pervert. There’s nowhere to sit, except the floor, and the curtains don’t reach. Also waist sizes bear little relation to real life when you have to factor in getting them over prosthetics and a fat arse.
None of this even begins to factor in the extraordinary general ineptitude that stems from me simply being a man and not understanding the basic principles of shopping. I have no idea how it works. (What does the person do who stands outside the cubicles? Are you supposed to give them the hangers? That kind of thing). Also – there are all these *words*. Skinny, spray-on – I wasn’t sure if I was buying clothes or going on a spa weekend.
It’s also terrifying to suddenly discover I’ve made it substantially through adult life without buying leg coverings on my own before.
I was so intimidated by both the entire process and my own mind-blowing crapness that I just bought all of the pairs I’d picked up off the shelf to try on. Literally all of them. On the off chance that they ‘might be different when I got them home’. They weren’t. Now I have three pairs of jeans that show off my backside to the world and a pair of short trousers in which bending would definitely not be advised.
Tail between my legs, I’ve gone back to letting others sort these things for me. With my equilibrium rocked, I’ve returned to my comfortable little world where I know my limits. After all, there can’t be anything else I haven’t learned yet. Can there?