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.
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!