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A letter to my able-bodied partner.

Dear able-bodied partner,

At your predecessor’s apartment, I always took my shoes off as soon as I walked in. It wasn’t a house rule, but an effort to speed things along. My orthotics make shoe removal a complex procedure involving clasps, straps, and — much less sexy — a foam pad that looks like a Pringle. (If you don’t flinch at the Pringle, you’re a keeper.) It’s a clumsy detour to take once you’re making out so, as usual, I thought ahead.


That’s a habit cerebral palsy forced me to form.

The ultimate mood-setter. Photo via iStock.

One night, I forgot until we were already in her room. She waited on the bed while I sat on the floor to unlace my sneakers, and I’d just pulled the left Pringle free when I heard, "Um … do you need help?"

We need to talk about that question, and all the ones like it that I imagine you have.

What if you say the wrong thing? Do you acknowledge my disability right away or not at all? Should you just ask? Is that weird? How much are you responsible for? And where is it OK to touch me? Should you even want to? What does it mean if you do? Or if you don’t?

Do you need help? Thought so.

There are expectations for couples like us. Namely, that I will be grateful, that you will protect me, and — most importantly — that we will "overcome disability" together because that is what love looks like. No one says as much outright, but they reinforce it in smaller, sneakier ways. I can guarantee, for example, that you will earn praise for being with me. The truly bold (usually strangers or well-meaning relatives) will actually tell you how "nice" it is that you’re dating "someone like her." But more often, your friend will get too honest one night, admit "I don’t know if I could do that," and then ask you "what it’s like."

Someone will admit, "I don't know if I could do that." Photo via iStock.

Your panicked questions, the constant pressure, and those backhanded compliments all imply that my disability is a problem I need you to solve. That’s kind of the only language we have for when able-bodied and disabled people get together. And I, for one, am pretty bored of it. So let me offer an alternative:

I don’t need you to save me. I need you to see me.

Notice what I did not say just now. I didn’t ask you to "see me, not my disability" or to "see past cerebral palsy."

Lots of people are on the "see past" bandwagon, and I understand why. Being disabled can feel like not even having a shot at independence, connection, or being taken seriously, so of course there’s an impulse to distance yourself. That’s what happens when the world caters to somebody else. But personally, I don’t want you to separate cerebral palsy from who I am. Because (you ready for this?) it is who I am. I don’t even know how it’s possible to "see past" something so fully baked into my experience. Instead, I need you to work a little harder and understand disability as part of my value rather than a caveat on it.

What does that look like? The best answer I have is that it looks like letting go. Instead of putting my disability in a vice grip, accept that it takes up space. Don’t try to defeat it; that is neither possible nor your job. Reconsider the assumption that I don’t want it and that you shouldn’t either. Because if you want me, you want it, too. There is no me without it. The fact is that vilifying cerebral palsy doesn’t make it count less. So acknowledge that it matters, and that’s not a bad thing.

Instead of putting my disability in a vice grip, accept that it takes up space. Don’t try to defeat it.

On a practical level: Maybe don’t ask if I need help with something I’ve been doing without you for 27 years. Trust that if I want help, I will say so. I’ll tell you right now: You will need to carry the drinks to our table, offer your arm when the stairs have no railing, and hold my hand through at least one major medical event. If you want to be the hero, there’s how. Otherwise, though, back off and listen. Give my body the room and time it needs. (It’s been through some things.) Find a better compliment than "you’re not like most disabled people." When you tell your friends, resist the urge to clarify that I can walk. And most of all (this is the hard one), let me fail.

No one likes to see disabled people struggle. I think it’s just too much, like watching a turtle get stuck on its back.

But when you respect someone, you let them make mistakes in front of you.

Photo via iStock.

You let them try things you’re not sure will work — or that you’re sure won’t. You let them drop the defenses, screw up, and speak honestly. And that, more than any kind of help, is what I need from you.

That, to me, is what love looks like. Respect.

I don’t want to take my shoes off first thing anymore. I don’t want to apologize for my body or downplay its uniqueness. I don’t want to worry about whether or not you are afraid. I want to be all of myself. And I don’t want you to "love me anyway."

I want you to love me because.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

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Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

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Pop Culture

YouTube star MrBeast sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery to help them see again

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up."

YouTube star sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery

Blindness touches people's lives around the world and YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, more popularly known as MrBeast, is trying to do something about it. Donaldson made it his mission to help 1,000 people regain their eyesight with the help of Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida.

Levenson has been operating a program called "Gift of Sight" for over 20 years. The program provides free cataract surgery to uninsured people who are legally blind for free, so long as they meet certain criteria. Levenson had never heard of Donaldson, and he almost hung up on him when the YouTube star called to ask about a partnership.

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up," Levenson told CNN.

After figuring out that Donaldson was indeed a real person who wanted to help others, the duo called around the Jacksonville area to determine the people who needed help the most. They got their list of clients from free clinics and homeless shelters, which covered the United States portion of the surgeries.

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A mom makes sensory sand by putting Cheerios in a blender.

A parenting influencer who goes by the name @ellethevirgo on TikTok has shared a brilliant hack that can turn a simple box of Cheerios into a fun sensory sand experience. The great part is that the sand is edible, so you don’t have to worry if your child puts some in their mouth, which they will inevitably do.

The recipe for Cheerios sensory sand is pretty simple:

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Gaël Monfils makes tennis a must-see.

Tennis isn't always the most entertaining sport to watch, especially if you're not particularly interested in seeing a ball get slapped across a net at 1,000,000 mph approximately 17,000 times. You could probably get whiplash or eye strain if you focused too hard on it. While some people love the sport, others need a little more than grunts and sneaker sounds to capture their attention.

If you're in the group of people who need to be entertained, look no further than Gaël Monfils, a professional French tennis player that has earned the nickname, "The Entertainer." Monfils turned pro in 2004 and has multiple championship matches under his belt, and yet he still takes the time to be...extra while playing.

In a compilation video uploaded to TikTok, we see the 36-year-old tennis player dancing after hitting the ball across the net just out of his opponent's reach. But of course, he also doesn't hit the ball like your average player, either. In one part of the video, Monfils jumps up extremely high and bicycle kicks as he hits the ball with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

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