Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Lesson Learned

It is one of our fears, I think, all of ours about using the "d" word. We are afraid that we will use the "disabled" word, and someone will look us square in the face and laugh their heads off.

And it happened.

To me.

This week.

I started tanning. It is something I do about this time every year. I find that I can no longer wait for Spring to start, so around the end of Februrary, I attempt to jumpstart my Spring by lying under some lamps for 10 minutes every other day. I only go for a few weeks, and in that time, Spring starts, and I blend seamlessly from taking in my sun indoors to taking it in outdoors. Try it sometime. I bet you'll find the Vitamin D boosts your mood AND BONUS: I ALWAYS feel like my RA pain is lessened. No lie!!! There is something to the whole boosting of our Vitamin D levels!

But I digress.

Anyway, anyone knows that the only problem with indoor tanning is the dreaded "Prom Season." Which is now. Right now. All those high school girls lining up daily for days upon end trying to, in effect, change the DNA of their skin-tone from some sort of Euro-ancestry to that of the Latin descendant type. That is how dark these girls get!!!

Anyway, as a tanner, you know that in the prom season you MUST book your days a week in advance if you hope to steal 10 minutes from these prom queen hopefuls. And God forbid you arrive late one day to your appointment because your husband gets caught late in a meeting, and you almost break down in tears at the thought of NOT getting your 10 minutes of sunlight because you have come to depend on that little bit of sunshine in your day to break up the gray drudgery of these winter months hanging on way too long.

So you approach the nineteen year old, gum popping, orange streaked desk clerk and you BEG...you BEG for her to fit you in anywhere!!!

But she says the thing we all fear, "All we have is the stand-up."

Ugh. The dreaded stand up. No one can say why, but standing in a tiny bright room full of lamps feels way too much like actual work, while lying down surrounded by those same bright lamps feels like a mini-vacation. And why do those tanning salons even CARRY the stand up beds??? Everyone I know hates HATES the stand-ups, and they are NEVER booked.

So, like you, I said what you might when confronted with the fact that I would have to stand, STAND, for a full-ten minutes on very bad knees (did I mention that my knees are VERY bad right now), and I wouldn't have ANYthing to lean on in that hell-hole hall of light to take the weight off of those very swollen knees.

I said, rather quietly, "I cannot use the stand-up. I'm disabled."

And that is when it happened.

This 19 year old, going on 49 due to her year round exposure to sun lamps, literally cackles, CACKLES in my face!!! She laughs wickedly as if I just told the funniest joke she ever heard.

Evidently, the fact that she has witnessed me WALKING into the tanning salon on several occasions means that she cannot rationalize the word disabled as it applies to me.

I stood there, blinking. Stunned.

As I said, we have all feared this day, but not one of us ever mentioned how we would react if it actually happened.

So I did the only thing I could think to do in the face of such a nightmare, I took the cowardly way out. I silently took the keys to the stand-up room, knowing that I'm tiny enough to actually sit on that lamp-lit room's floor without touching the walls. I sat Indian Style, not really getting a great tan that day, but at least not torturing my knees.

I sat inside the bright room contemplating what it meant to be me, having joints damaged to the point that drs. are telling me I will not return to work, and yet walking into a place looking to the whole world as if my abilities are no different than their own.

As I sat, I formed an idea. I knew it was going to take courage to pull it off, but I also knew that if I could do it, I could make a statement that would be far mor effective than my wimpy, "I'm disabled" explanation, which I see now lacked the power of my own conviction.

I returned the next day to the salon and did something I have NEVER done before in m life. EVER. I wore, in public, my very UGLY, EMBARASSING TO ME, NO WAY TO GET AROUND 'EM KNEE-BRACES, the ones the dr. ordered with the bars on either side, that on football players look tough, but on my small frame, dwarf me and make me feel about as sexy as a young Forrest Gump. Even my husband has not seen me wearing these things.

I wore them to the salon, and before the girl even registered my face, she was holding doors for me and asking if I needed help. And she looked so lost as to what to do with me and my braces, that I took pity on her and said simply, "I need a bed, but I cannot use the stand-up because my knees are bad."

She said, "Of course."

And it was then I realized that I never needed the knee braces, I only needed to find my voice, my ability to explain in the face of the ugly laughter.

Honestly. None of us are EVER going to be able to control how others act, so all we can do is control how we react.

I know this now.

And I have a killer tan.

Watch out, world!


  1. May that 19-year-old, self-absorbed child one day remember you and the way she reacted to your statement, "I'm disabled" and feel sudden, overwhelming remorse. I'm not wishing RA on her -- I wouldn't wish it on anyone -- but I hope that maturity, or eduction, or witnessing the effect of an invisible disease upon one of her friends or family members will prompt in her mind the memory of the time when, as an immortal, she laughed at the woman in the tanning salon for saying she was disabled when, clearly, there was nothing "wrong" with her. But I won't hold my breath.

    I've had RA long enough now that wearing splints or walking with the help of a cane or even crutches doesn't embarrass me, SB. But I also remember a time when it did. One of the hardest aspects of dealing with this disease is the fact that one day you can go without the splints, but you'll need them the next, and it confuses people. It makes them think you're faking for attention. YOU know better ... but how to explain it? Well, you just do it. Explain it as best you can. You might even provide someone with an education. But don't be embarrassed by it. It's a waste of energy and emotion.

    All that said, hooray for pretty suntans. And hooray! One of my favorite bloggers has broken her long silence! I hope you're feeling good today. And if you're not, well, I'm sending some lurve and grit your way through the ether.

    Oh -- and I DID get your email, way back when, and responded, but it was kicked back to me. Gmail didn't like your email address, for some reason. Try me again at bluewren56@comcast.net. I'll be waiting ... :o)


  2. Someone laughed at you for being disabled? I find that appalling!

    So glad that you found your voice. Have you asked her why she found that funny? A letter to the owner might get her fired, which you might or might not want. A letter directly to her (maybe cc the owner) could provide a little education so that at least the next person is spared.

    I'm so sorry that happened :(

  3. Oh man. That had to be awful. Hopefully she has learned a lesson from this (she's so young - who knows!).
    Sorry your knees aren't doing well. Take care of yourself sweetie!!

  4. Kids these days (shaking my head)....was it more like a nervous laughter? THey just have no idea and really aren't taught how to treat people with respect. I hope I'm doing a better job than that with my daughter. I've been thinking of tanning but everybody is talking me out of it cause of skin cancer...My mom had a place on her leg removed and my aunt has quite a few on her arms. But, I have RA and I think it would feel good!

  5. Wren - I had been feeling calmer about it, but seeing your reaction, I do remember being SO upset the first few days. My husband couldn't really understand why it hurt so badly. He is never one to worry about what others think anyway. But he almost had me thinking it was no big deal, but hearing everyone's reaction, I see it really is a hurtful thing.

    And you are one of my fav. bloggers too!!! You are so sweet. I will write soon.

    Warm Socks, I will think about your suggestion for sure!!!!

    Leslie, I find that tanning always does make my joints feel better, but I don't have any history of skin cancer in my family. I don't want to tell you what to do, but I guess the trick is like everything, to do it in moderation. I only do it a few weeks a year so as not to expose myself to the rays all year. So maybe you could start with that.

    Thanks as always to all of you for your support! I think the best thing about having RA is finding such a supportive community!!!

  6. Many years ago I used to tan....just through springtime to get me a tint going before summer as I have fair skin and always burn no matter how much sunscreen I put on unless I get my "cells" going with tanning. I haven't tanned in many years but I do miss the warmth and how it makes you feel. I take Vit D3 out of a bottle but its just not the same. It's something I've been thinking about doing..

  7. You know, one of my college friends has psoriasis and her doctor prescribed the tanning bed for her and it was really beneficial. (I wonder if you can bill that to insurance....haha) I may have to try that too!

    As for the 19 year old, WOW. WOW. WOW. How dare she- I'm with Wren that I would never wish RA or anything on her but I do wish some humility her way. I can't even imagine how you kept your composure- I probably would've cried or leapt across the counter at her or both. I think she owes you some free tanning sessions. Oh, that makes me mad!

  8. (((((SUperbitch))))) I am glad you found your voice. As for that 19 year old.....I'm a firm believer in what goes around comes around.

  9. That makes me fuming mad.

    One day, hopefully, she'll learn to be more understanding. Unfortunately, we often have to be the ones to teach.