I seem to be coming out of the horrible depressive episode, which is nice, and I’ve managed to Get Stuff Done, which is a very good sign; Went to the dentist last week (Verdict; I have a fine set of working-class British teeth. They’re yellow, they’re crooked, but they’re unlikely to fall out of my head any time soon) and have physio scheduled for the 2nd of December (Funnily, almost exactly a year after my last course of physio started) to which I will take along a photocopy of the fabled Physio Pack.
And, best of all, today I went swimming. Worked hard – Pulse didn’t drop below 140 for the entire session, lungs at full capacity, and although after a two-week break my sartorius is a bit noodley rather than being reminiscent of a mainbrace, my legs and chest have an appropriate amount of warm, heavy pain. So I felt good when I was getting out of the water, on wobbly legs, panting, hands shaking a bit as I knocked back the last of my waterbottle and chased it up with some morphine. Limped into the shower on a single crutch, propped my arse up on the tap, and gently soaked in the hot water. And listened to my fellow swimmers’ conversation;
A- “…Oh, well I just didn’t know what to do. You know that funny lass? The one with Tourettes or something?”
A- “…Well, when I was on the way in, she asked me if she could borrow my hairbrush. Poor thing, I mean, she just didn’t know that you don’t do that sort of thing…”
My eyes opened.
B- “Oh, that’s awful. So embarrassing. What did you do?”
A- “Oh, well I didn’t know what to do, it’s just such a shame that she didn’t know that you don’t ask to borrow things like that.”
I had to interject.
“Or she could have done a bit of competitive sports.”
All eyes suddenly on me, at the temerity of suggesting a reason other than “poor invalid”.
“You know” I continued “How everyone on a team tends to borrow stuff off each other in the showers. Shampoo, goggles, hair ties. Brushes. It’s pretty normal, really.”
A got a bit flustered.
A- “But you know, all I could think was that she probably had nits. My kids had nits. Urgh.”
Well, thanks A, for assuming that an adult woman is going to have a parasite that’s usually confined to the heads of small children.
B continued washing her hair, now in silence. I think that she saw that this was not going to go anywhere good. I went back to washing, since I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with arseholes. I’d hoped that my silence and sudden fixation on my fingernails would do as a “don’t talk to me” signal. But no, A continued;
A- “So, what’s wrong with you then? Have you been in an accident?”
Me- “No, just very, very unlucky.” (Said with a very deliberate “please stop talking to me” downward note.)
A- “So, can I ask what’s wrong?”
I looked up from my fingernails, which I’d now been theatrically cleaning for about three minutes – Actually a really long time to pick your fingernails for – and decided to give her the potted version that basically leaves no room for further questions. What I wanted to do, however, was to tell her that asking that was about as invasive and upsetting as asking “Hey, why are you so fat? What made you fat? Is it genetic? Are you trying to lose weight?” but, no, I am inherently a gentleman, so didn’t.
Me- “It’s called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It basically means that all my joints dislocate all the time. There’s no treatment, other than painkillers. I’ve always had it, but it only got bad a few years ago. You get used to it, eventually.”
And I hoped that that would be the end of it. Instead, I got this;
A- “Oh, that must be horrible (fine, whatever. Thanks, if it’s sincere). I suppose that swimming must be good for you though (It is, but that’s not why I do it). It’s like the one way that you can keep up with us, I suppose, like, look at all the things that we can just take for granted, but even in here in the showers, and you’re standing on a crutch – Is that because it’s slippy? I suppose you mustn’t be able to walk very far, it must be really difficult for you. But you can go really fast in the water so its almost like you’re really fit, but I suppose that’s just about the only thing you can do… You mustn’t be able to do very much else, I suppose you can’t go for a run. All this stuff that I take for granted. Have you got short hair because you can’t wash it yourself? It’s funny that you never think of things like that, like that you can’t get your own meals or tie your own shoes… But you’ve got all them tattoos, so you can’t always have been handicapped, it must be horrible not being able to look after yourself…”
By this point, I was gripping the handle of my crutch so tightly that I’d dislocated most of my fingers, which is good, because otherwise I’d have probably clocked her. My brain was filling up with static, to the point that I couldn’t really hear her. She was definitely going on at-length though. Just constant, long, repeated thinking-out of how hellish and pointless my life must be. No offer of help, either. When I got out of the shower, B offered to help me across to my bags, but A didn’t. A was perfectly happy to just dwell on how horible the life of a cripple must be, at a captive-audience of cripple who didn’t have the energy to tell her to fuck off.
Worst part is, I bet that she thinks that she was doing something good. I bet that she thought I was empathising. Or showing understanding. Or something.
That’s pretty much the nail in the coffin for me going to Sunday swims, though. I know I’ve joked in the past about how I was annoyed that my private coaching had somehow turned into Ladies’ Float And Flab Hour, and that I was the only one who seemed to understand how you get the most out of an exercise session (It does concern me that, even crippled, I’m as quick on my feet and more able to do static exercises like sit-ups and press-ups than anyone else who goes to these things) but there are more people who benefit from gentle exercise than there are who benefit from getting to do a proper coached swim, so it looks like I’m not doing those any more. Back to Thursdays and maybe Tuesdays, where everyon seems to understand that opining at someone about their life isn’t fair game.
But really, how advanced is that, as a social rule? I’m fairly sure that I knew by about age four that I wasn’t allowed to go up to people in the street and say “I bet that hurt” or “Why are you so tall?” or “Since you’re so ugly, I bet nobody likes you”. Why are some people so fucking rude?