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.
4.07pm On the way home on the train
Just messaged the group chat—pals!—what a day. “I have just flirted successfully!!!! Stop the world, I want to get on.”
Positive reinforcement from C: “Wooooooooo, yeah!”
Positive reinforcement from June: “Yessss, (wine emojis, dance emojis)”
3.2.18 3.15pm Home, on the couch
The worst thing abt dating? I don’t do it. Almost, can’t do it. When I’m into someone, I clam up, can’t talk properly, run into things… trip over things. Once, I tripped, and this guy had to catch me. Once, in the backyard of Ric’s, an acrobat asked me why I didn’t want to dance.
At lunch w my pals yesterday, they were brainstorming ideas for me e.g. tinder etc. but I am v bad online @ texting etc., not at all a fan.
So much of my brain is destroyed I wonder how I’ll get it back.
5.2.18 On the walk to the train, maybe, 6.45am
You know, the trees around the train station are picturesque. It’s so fcking nice this morning and my legs are so fcking tired. I’m thinking, on the walk, abt the pain in my legs, mainly my feet. Thinking abt how, from a young age, I was taught to ignore signs of pain and exhaustion, not to cry when I felt like crying, not to ask for help if I needed it (unless I were asking for help from Mum, the one who listened w/out judging), never to ask unless I was certain that I needed it, lest I be rejected.
Flirting!!! In the kitchen just before. I forget what I said. Think my whole body has gone numb. Yayyyy flirting.
9.00pm In my bed
Bed time, please. Questions from the doctor today: How are you feeling?
Questions from the Disability Services lady at university: What is the functional impact of your disability on your studies?
I basically laughed in her face bc it’s like asking a teacup how its shape affects the way it holds tea (the answer, if u were curious, is, of course ‘in many ways’). Except that the teacup has never been anything but a teacup & is thus lacking the momentum & experience to articulate in just one sentence how an integral part of its form affects its function.
I wonder what would happen if I were to ask a person who does not have a disability what it is like for them to navigate the world.
I only laughed bc was very embarrassed, severely, was shocked to have that question thrust upon me. Did not know what to say. Who does know what to say? Do people go around carrying an alphabetised list containing the impacts of their disability in dot points? For just this matter? Perhaps I should look into that.
I hope I get to flirt tomorrow.
8.2.18 Leo’s birthday
6.30am In the car
Tired in my bones. Walking out of house this morning, standing at the front door. Dean has just finished in the shower, and I see him as I’m abt to leave. ‘Bye darling,’ I say, ‘Have a good day.’
‘Conquer the world!!’ Dean says.
I laugh a little.
‘Okay,’ he says, and cocks his head a little. ‘Maybe just conquer the street then, that should be easier.’
I just did some more successful flirting!!!!!!!!!! Amazing. My co-worker has overheard everything I said, and is now wanting me to describe every detail that she missed.
Tonight, Leo’s birthday, we are going to go to Pub Choir. I’ve never been before, but she has, and she loves it. She called me a few days ago, bc the Choir is singing Zombie. RIP Dolores. Texted Leo. ‘What time r we meeting? I just got home, will make my way in soon.’
Leo replies, ‘We are at bus stop now. Will be in Valley at 6pm—all going to plan. Will stop somewhere for food before the singing.’
6.21pm At Dinner
With Leo and her housemate, Mel. Talking w them abt the flirting & possible success or failure of the flirting. Leo glowing, v happy for me. Mel calm, v good w advice.
7.48pm The Elephant Hotel
In room of sweaty, semi-inebriated pubgoers who are learning the parts to Zombie for Pub Choir. Raucous, joyful. Leo’s necklace is swinging around her neck as she sways to the music. Mel & I are smiling @ each other as we get the notes or pitch or timing wrong. Who knew singing… In a pub… could be fun?
4.43pm Home, on the back couch
We have found a place to live! The last couple of weeks have just flown past. This new apartment—actually, don’t know that it’s new, but new to us—fits Dean & Grace and me.
I did not get moving today until 11am & Grace cast me a cursory, concerned glance. But still, I move.
12.2.18 Early morning, just woken up
I have to do nothing today. It is 12 February. It is time for grief. It is time for extreme grief.
2.31pm In the darkness
It is v dank in here. I have not done a thing today. I realised, just now, have not eaten bfast or lunch. That is a problem! That is big problem. Need to maintain good eating habits to ensure brain is working at full capacity.
Spoke w Mum this morning. Do not remember what we said to one another. Tried to talk to Bebe, but there are no words.
3.11pm On way to Leo’s
Been longest day. Been longest day. Did not tell Leo today is day the baby was meant to be born. Not meant to be meeting her until about 5.45pm, but there is no food in my fridge and I cannot move and am feeling faint. Will get some soup from cheap takeaway place, and hopefully feel better soon.
Have just received word from Leo! She has finished work early (yay) and so will meet me at cheap takeaway place.
4.47pm Cheap takeaway place
Have ordered the soup. Wonder if the soup will live up to my expectations.
Leo has arrived! Thank god. She has this look on her face, scrunched up eyebrows, bright eyes. She says, ’How are you doing?’
I say, ‘Don’t look too crash hot, do I?’
She says, ‘Errrrr… no.’
‘Thank you, Leo. V kind.’
‘Errr,’ she says, ‘did you order your soup?’
Soup has arrived!
Soup does not live up to expectations. But, good to be here w Leo. V revitalising. V important to be seeing her and unloading the grief. She has her power suit on today—must have had a powerful day @ work. I say this to her and she agrees, yes, was v powerful day.
13.2.18 3.59pm Home, on the couch
Have done three kinds of crying today: ugly crying, quiet crying, & Complete Mayhem crying. Complete Mayhem crying is my fave bc u can really let go. I did some wailing today that would make me the envy of Celine Dion.
My hands are so sore. My feet too. There is maybe no reason why. Tired body. Have not been for a swim at all this week.
Yesterday was the day my nephew was meant to be born. I keep saying that, but it doesn’t sink in. I spent the day watching Mozart in the Jungle, the show that Bebe & Mum & I were watching in the hospital, waiting for the induction to take hold, waiting for Bebe’s cervix to dilate.
5.20pm Donna’s house
Okay. We’ve moved to the new apartment. Grace has gone to Cairns to see her sister. Dean is dead on his feet. There is nothing like moving to promote minimalism. It’s not that I have that much stuff anyway, but… moving sucks.
Donna told me I could come to her house tonight, so can get to work early in the morning.
Eating dinner w Donna & Terry & Han out on the verandah. The breeze is stunning & I’m tired in my bones from the move, but the table is chock full of food. Terry is ripping into me in my romantic state.
‘My coworkers are completely rapt w my story, it’s like Days of Our Lives,’ I say.
Terry puts his wine glass down and picks up his fork. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘that makes one of us.’
I laugh a little. ‘Shut up Terry. You’re just jealous you don’t have hot date this weekend.’
‘I have a hot date every day of the week,’ he says, winking at Donna.
‘Yeahhhh, Tezza,’ Han says.
The rest of the night, Donna tells stories from my childhood, when Han & I were little. It’s a relief to be here tonight, to be able to rest after such a weekend.
Bed time. At my lowest point today, I was standing in paradise (the new apartment has an urban forest around it, maintained by the body corporate), imagining my body w the forearms missing. I stood at the foot of the stairs, sweat running down my front, & imagined blood spilling from my chest onto the concrete pathway ahead of me.
No, don’t really know why. Perhaps exhaustion. Whenever I talk to my GP abt these thoughts, they get this sad look on their face, & apologise to me, as if the pain of this is stunning. But I don’t feel stunned. I just feel grateful to be in a safe bed @ Donna’s house, resting my fire-sore, tired limbs.
6.42pm At the house (now dubbed the ‘old house’ since we are moving out)
I am lying on the floor of the verandah, watching the clouds move past as the sun sets. On the phone to Bebe. She is convinced she has an autoimmune disease, or something wrong w her thyroid.
Over the past few weeks, she has been to the GP, the emergency department at the hospital (a number of times), two different specialists, & my physiotherapist. Mum is freaking out bc Bebe has exhausted her finances and has no cash flow bc she has not yet returned to work. Land Of Tragedy v strong today.
She went to Nonna’s place w Mum this morning, to see the baby’s grave & put the plaque down. It’s a beautiful resting place; the baby is buried next to Nonno. Bebe says, ‘I went up to the shed, and imagined Nonno holding the baby, cradling him.’
For a second I think I’m okay. I too imagine Nonno holding the baby, and then am in Complete Mayhem. Bebe keeps talking as if she can’t hear me crying. That is probably the best way, rn.
Eating a ‘bowl’. Brand new experience to me. Never been here before but am in state of desperation bc no food in fridge. $12 for a bowl of fruit is bourgeois waste of money.
11.12am In the car after a long, hard morning
This morning has not been easy. I feel unsure of everything. You know what?
Giving a person space to self identify is important.
I don’t mind when ppl assume things abt my disability. Though, sometimes it’s hard to verbalise what I need to say to best communicate what I need, but if you give me some time and treat me w respect, it’s a good place to start.
3.01pm Leo’s place
Leo told me I could come to her place for a bit of a rest, given that my place is full of boxes and plants and packed up shit that I have yet to unpack. Called Mum, ugly crying. She put me on loudspeaker. There is no dignity allowed in this family!! Mum and Dad told me latest abt Bebe’s doctor appointment.
‘This doctor today was v thorough,’ Mum says, ‘paid attention to Bebe and really listened to her.’
‘Okay,’ I say. ‘And?’
‘He said, without doubt,’ Dad says, ‘there is no evidence that the baby was unhealthy. The technical term is a failure of the placenta.’
‘What does that mean? What abt Bebe’s autoimmune disease?’
Mum says, ‘This doctor has seen many things in his career, and the tests have all come back saying everything’s okay. He said that a woman’s body changes after she gives birth.’
‘So?’ I ask.
She says, ‘Bebe’s body may not go back to the way it was before.’
I say, ‘The pins and needles—’
‘They may stay w her from now on,’ Dad tells me.
Chronic pain for Bebe, well. ‘For the rest of her life?’ I ask.
‘Maybe, Nina. We just don’t know,’ Dad says.
6.10pm In transit
Abt to go to dinner w the pals. In surprise decision, C is moving to Adelaide! On Monday! So, going to dinner to farewell beautiful C & wish her luck in voyages of career & heart & life. Raining like a monsoon is on the horizon atm, so don’t know how I will fair getting to the restaurant w/out looking like a bedraggled cat.
6.45pm Punjabi Palace
Definitely looking like bedraggled cat. Everyone here except June, who will be arriving soon.
The pappadums are on the table! And the menus. Everyone looking fab 2night, even if it will be sad to farewell beautiful C.
June has arrived. Still raining excessively, so her umbrella is soaked and splashing everywhere. Everyone except me on the wines. V nice celebratory times.
8.06am In apartment (now, ‘home’)
Today, two things: bed shopping w Leo; & ~~~~hot date~~~~ w successful flirting conquest!
2.39pm Fortitude Valley, in some huge furniture store
The huge furniture store has an overwhelming amount of huge furniture in it. Bed shopping consists of wooing the shopkeeper, finding out how the bed is made, and if it is environmentally friendly. One may think it might be hard to discover such things, & under that assumption, the following Qs can be asked: ‘What is this bed made of?’, ‘Are the materials biodegradable?’, ‘how do you dispose of this mattress?’, ‘do you upcycle the materials?’, ‘Where do the fabrics come from & how are they sourced?’ & ‘Is there plastic in this mattress?’
Tbh I don’t know if the salesperson is bemused or affronted by these questions, but, such is life.
9.07am Having slept in @ home
Can confirm, ~~~~hot date~~~~ w successful flirting conquest v good.
7.00am In new kitchen
Fck me this place is a mess. Today, sorting out furnitures, trying to sell old shit, seeing flirting conquest, trying to curb urge to jump in front of traffic (perhaps seeing flirting conquest will be welcome distraction). All in a day’s work.
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.