Butts and Bellies
"We've been invited to a party Saturday. Want to go?" my boyfriend asks me over dinner one night.
I like people. I like food. What's not to like about parties?
Lots, if you're in a wheelchair.
Many houses are not wheelchair-friendly. Often the main living areas are upstairs, or worse yet, on multiple levels. I use a power chair most of the time, but it is close to 150 pounds without me in it. So, when stairs are involved, the power chair is not practical, and I use my manual chair. The manual chair is lightweight, but I cannot propel it myself. This means I must ask someone else to wheel me around, or risk being trapped by an inebriated guest who wants to share an eye-glazing description of his hockey stick collection.
This brings up the matter of escaping. When you're mobile, it's relatively easy to track down whomever you came to the party with and to whisper into their ear that it's time to leave—NOW. That's harder when you have to wait for your friend / date / partner to wander within viewing range—especially if your view is blocked by tall people, coat racks, or potted palms. Developing a non-verbal signal is vital, as hosts tend to be offended when you yell across the room "Geez ... Aren't you ready to leave YET??"
But even if I can take my power chair, there's yet another factor to consider. What type of party is it?
Some parties are great—sit-down dinners either at someone's home or in a restaurant (a wheelchair accessible one, preferably). Or small parties where there are sofas and chairs for people to sit on. But then, there is the other kind—the dreaded B&B affairs. No, not Bed & Breakfast.
Butts & Bellies.
These are stand-around-talking affairs, where people cluster in groups, catching up on what's been happening in their lives, trading news and jokes. When you're two feet shorter than everyone in the group, it's hard to hear, and hard to be heard. Sometimes, it's hard to be seen. And what you see from down here is not the same as the typical eye-level view.
When you're sitting while all around you are standing, you don't look soulfully into others' eyes—or at least not for long if you value your neck. Instead, you end up looking at a lot of butts and bellies. And believe me, most are not worthy of that much study.
Do I go to parties? Yes, I do. Do I enjoy them? Sometimes. If it is one with places for people to sit, one where I can take my power chair, I tend to enjoy myself more. But if it's a B&B affair, you can be sure I'll be frantically signaling my partner that I'm ready to go sooner rather than later.
Now maybe if it was a party of the Men's Gymnastics team ...
© Copyright 2000 by Karen Babcock