Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a cis, demisexual woman navigating the world in a nontraditional body? In this ongoing column, Nina shares the interior monologue of everyday, the one just for herself, to help her understand what’s going on in her mind. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad—life can be awful—sometimes it’s about how her disability affects her day-to-day social interactions. We are very excited to share it with you.
12.08pm Donna’s House
Moving house is so fun bc you can never get anything done right when you need to—we have no washing machine atm… the apartment, while glorious, needs a front loader. I am at Donna’s, thank goodness, to do my washing. I brought her scones as a thank-you for letting me come over.
Donna has to pick Terry up from the airport, but she’s in the middle of a work day. Being here makes me feel at home bc of a lot of things, but mainly bc Donna shows love in the way she moves around the house, in the way she speaks. She’s running around the house, getting ready to go. She says, ‘Lovey, can you get the water bottle out of the car and fill it up for me please?’
I pick up Donna’s handbag, her keys, and the scones, and take them to the car. The water bottle is blue, the water tepid. I tip it into the garden and fill it up again. Donna follows me, and says, ‘Do you want that desk of Terry’s?’
‘The white one?’
‘We’re going to throw it out if you don’t take it,’ she says. ‘I don’t think Vinnies would accept it, do you?’ She pauses and raises her eyebrows at me.
‘Mmmm…’ I say. ‘Too wrecked you reckon?’
‘Yes, lovey.’ She gets in the car. ‘So you’ll take it?’
‘I’ll come by this weekend, while you’re away, is that okay?’
I have…. the house to myself!!! Waiting for washing to finish so I can go home. Glorious.
11.41am At the shops w Dean
We are getting groceries (the first real grocery shop in the new place)! Dean has been dealing w the realtor this week and he has to send them an email. Today, Hot Date is coming over.
Was his birthday yesterday, so I hope that he is feeling okay today (a.k.a. not too hungover). I’ve told him we’re going on an excursion to Donna’s place but he doesn’t really know what he’s in for.
Do I know what he’s in for?
5.28pm In the car
Going to Donna’s house now. Hot Date is driving!!! Although I can drive, I have to limit it. Driving makes my hips and legs tighter. Driving increases my pelvic tilt, makes me tired. Driving makes me get pins and needles in my arms and legs, pins and needles so bad that I lose consciousness if I’m tired. Driving makes it harder for me to walk or mobilise or navigate the world.
I haven’t told Hot Date this. I haven’t actually told anyone this, apart from Dad, one horrible, horrible morning as he was driving me to work and I was curled up in a ball in the front seat bawling my eyes out, and Mum, a number of times, and she could not hear me some of them. I cannot drive the same way that other people drive, but because my disability is sometimes not that obvious, these things are hard for me to explain. The response I get is, ‘But you look fine!’ or, ‘You’re okay now, though, right?’ and because of confirmation bias or whatever it is, I generally nod and smile and say yes the same way people say ‘I’m good’ when you ask them how they are.
I ask Hot Date how he feels about driving, and he is very okay with driving, he says.
5.43pm Arrive @ Donna’s House
Donna is not here but that is okay. Terry’s daughter Liss knows I’m coming. She’s upstairs, and she helps me find the desk, and I introduce her to Hot Date and it’s not weird at all, thank God.
She is all charm and grace. It’s lucky that Donna and Terry are not here lol. Have not told them much about Hot Date.
Hot Date has decided that the desk will not fit in the car as it is, and he wants to take the desk apart. He asked Liss for a screwdriver!!!!!!!
Hot Date is picture of underrated masculinity, lying on Donna’s floor, taking the desk apart. I don’t think he knows he is picture of underrated masculinity.
6.31pm Back @ the apartment, in my room
He is now lying on my floor, putting the desk back together. I am sitting on the ground with him, helping (actually, I’m doing nothing, I’m just looking at him as he works).
He has no idea of the significance of this, and true, to most people it would be just a favour or a courtesy. But I can’t ask people for favours that often, and putting things together is really daunting for me, bc of the weakness in my hands. He doesn’t know this, and I don’t say it to him.
Very, very hard to explain.
1.37pm On my bed
On phone to Bebe. She is talking abt the feels in Land of Tragedy. There are times in the call where I can hear her crying without warning. She says, ‘It’s just… they talk about recovering from their grief by having another baby.’
‘Who’s this?’ I ask.
‘The women at Sands,’ she says. Sands in the community org that helps people who have been through what Bebe has been through.
‘There’s darkness all around me. There is no light.’ Bebe starts sobbing. ‘I see nothing in my future. Absolutely nothing.’
I let out a huge, audible sigh. Bebe talks some more abt the feeling of nothingness like a cloak around her that’s wrapped too tight, her words broken by weeping. I imagine the two of us atop a very large, very cold snow-capped mountain. Dawn is peach on the horizon and we are naked except for our tears. The air is still and we look out across the vast nothingness; she continues to sob and I eat the air.
There is nothing for me to say except, ‘Yes, Bebe… it is hard.’
‘Don’t tell me it’s going to get better.’
‘I wasn’t going to.’
‘Good.’ She says, ‘Everybody keeps saying that.’
‘Just, honey,’ I say, ‘you’re doing everything you can, every single day. You are.’ We hang up and I want sleep to consume me.
About to go to sleep, night time
John Hughes writes, ‘A man shouldn’t believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.’
While I don’t subscribe to antiquated gender binary bs (gender is on a spectrum & if u want to fight abt it do not @ me), I do want to believe in myself.
Ableism makes it hard to believe in myself. I had two conversations today w two separate, unrelated men who do not have disability and do not have lived experience of disability, apart from, of course, spending a lot of fcking time w me.
Here’s the thing abt inherent privilege, which can lead to ableism. Those with inherent privilege do not always recognise that they have it. They may not recognise how their thoughts, attitudes, behaviour & communications impact others. Yes, this afternoon was very bad for me, and yes, this evening I imagined taking the shampoo bottle and opening my skull with it. Blunt force trauma: blood congealing along the bottle’s edges.
But now I am here writing this gd interior monologue. It is tiring to, in the middle of these conversations, be the one opening a dialogue abt what it means to be healthy and what it means to live in an abled body. For once I want to say to my well-meaning normie friends that I do not have to justify my existence. I want to say: please listen to other ppl before u assume what their disability is and how it affects them. Please do not place ableist restrictions on me.
Right this very minute, I can hear my Dad saying, ‘But what is an ableist restriction, Nina? I haven’t heard of that.’
(Sorry Dad, this is news to u but ur not a normie & I promised you your story would not be told here. Call me and I’ll explain the word ableist if u want.)
I will not try to explain ableism in just one interior monologue. Maybe I will promise myself to come back to it at a different time.
4.38pm At home
With the Hot Date. Text the pals, say, ‘I’m going to be late. The boy is still here.’
5.23pm Southbank Parklands
Hello glorious afternoon, hello glorious pals. We are sitting on the water’s edge w a picnic. They have brought snack food and a wine of some kind.
The sun is kissing the water as it dips, almost dusk. Another friend messages me, says, ‘I can see you!’.
She is here! She is at Southbank also. She comes over for a chinwag and we talk abt her weekend and my weekend and the beautiful dusk. She rounds on me bc the only thing I have told her about Hot Date is that he is gentle. Apparently, according to her, that is not enough.
6.01pm By the water’s edge
What can I say? Hot Date is gentle. He’s v kind also, which is good. I don’t know, really. We’ll just see how this goes. What I do want to do is spend time w my friends, spend time w kind ppl, and live my truth—in that corny way that ppl say, ‘live ur truth, honey!’. I hear the bone dice / Of blown gravel clicking.
Don’t @ Me Questions
Hello, if you (or anyone you know) has questions about what it’s like to live in this body—my body—pls feel free to email me. At the end of next month’s column, I will answer questions as best I can. If you would like the questions to be anonymous, that is okay!
My email is nina [dot] baldotto [at] gmail [dot] com
Nina is a poet and writer living on Turrbal Land. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was four years old. She tweets @ninabaldotto mostly about poetry and the weather.