A kiss, a snog, a smooch, a smacker: whatever you call it, kissing really does make the world go round. But if you’re disabled, kissing can be seriously awkward.
We talked to Marie about what happens when she puckers up in public with her husband Dan. Marie’s story is shared as part of Scope’s End the Awkward campaign.
So here’s the scene. Dan and I had just started dating. It was midnight and we were on the way home from the pub, holding hands. Dan’s into astronomy so we stopped to look at the stars. What could be more romantic on a beautiful evening? A kiss seemed like the natural thing to do. After a moment, I became aware that a police car was driving past very slowly.
The officer was staring out of the window – eyes on sticks – like we were committing some kind of crime. He was concentrating so hard on us that he ended up mounting the pavement and crashing into a street sign. We couldn’t believe it! A few seconds later we heard the wail of the sirens and he sped off, clearly embarrassed.
We have to laugh, we really do
We still laugh about that incident now. We have to laugh – if we took these things too seriously it could start to mess with our heads. I can’t tell you the number of times people have bumped into lampposts or tripped over on the street because they are too busy staring at me. I can only assume the stares are because they are weirded out by disabled people.
There’s this assumption that we should all be lumped together in some big institution and not let out in public. So when they see us, they can’t quite believe their eyes that a guy who isn’t disabled could have fallen in love with me.
A couple of months ago, Dan and I were somewhere, I can’t remember where. We were minding our own business, when we overheard a lady in her 50s talking to her friend about us. She said, “That just isn’t right, she’s the size of a child”. It hit us quite hard, Dan especially. Being seen as a paedophile simply because you’re holding hands with your wife… well, it’s awful isn’t it?
We often hear people making noises when we’re affectionate, like “ugh, what are they doing?” It should be fairly obvious, right? People don’t blink an eyelid if they see any other couple kissing in the street but because I’m in a wheelchair and Dan’s not, we become an immediate target.
If Dan and I aren’t being affectionate, it’s a different story. Trying to convince people he’s my husband takes some doing. One time, a hospital consultant asked me if Dan was my dad! When I said no, she presumed he was my brother, then my uncle, and finally my carer. I let her go on and on before she petered out. It’s that absolute assumption that because I’m disabled I couldn’t possibly have a love interest.
It is an interesting British prudishness, I think. On the continent no-one seems to give it a second thought. On a trip to Holland, we booked a disabled hotel room and got a complimentary bottle of wine and chocolates left on the bed. In the UK, we usually get two single beds in a disabled room, or a single bed and a pull-out bed for the ‘carer’.
If you’re reading this on International Kissing Day, I hope you get to kiss someone you love today. I’ll definitely be kissing my hubby. And I won’t care if people look because I’m in love and I’m happy.
Find out more about how Scope is ending the awkward this summer.