Hey, you wanna hear a funny joke?
A girl with CRPS tries to go out on a date…
Seriously, though, the struggle is real.
I am friendly, attractive (enough), and I still look many years younger than my age. I have (so I’ve been told) an award-winning personality: funny, smart, quirky, blah blah blah.
Curiously, I don’t have any trouble meeting men. I meet people wherever I go (whenever I go anywhere, that is…). Something about my striped tube sock peeking above my boot makes me undeniably approachable. “What happened to your leg?” is an obvious and easy opener. Lonely and in need of social interaction, I rarely shy away from the conversation.
So, let’s pretend that I advance past “my cat and I moved in with my parents,” past “I am middle-aged,” past “I am disabled with a chronic, degenerative, progressive nerve disease,” and someone asks me out on a date.
(Don’t laugh, it has happened more than a handful of times in the past couple years.)
For the most part, men are kind and accepting of my “rules” for an evening’s activity. Nothing physical (read: nothing fun that I would normally suggest like bowling or mini golf), movies are out of the question because I can’t sit down for two consecutive hours, some place not too loud or crowded because noises bother my leg, after my afternoon coma is the best time, and there will be a time limit that will be solely determined by my leg’s willingness to cooperate. This pretty much leaves us with an early dinner. Supper, if you will.
It goes a little something like this:
I’m looking good, feeling good(ish). I fix my hair, I put on make up, a spritz of perfume. I wear a blouse and a skirt in sharp contrast with my tube sock/boot/athletic sock/trainer combo.
He picks me up. He tells me I’m pretty. He compliments my hair. He says I smell good.
We go to a nearby restaurant. He helps me navigate and negotiate my way to our table.
“I have to prop up my leg, does that bother you?”
“An extra chair for the lady, please.” I can’t help but be distracted by the ridiculousness of the situation. How did this become my life? It’s hard to focus on making conversation.
“Anything to drink?”
“Water, please. No ice, but a lot of lemon.” A glass of water arrives with two thinly sliced rings on the lip.
“May I please have more lemon?”
Ugh. When did I get to be so weird and fussy? I have to think about my kidneys, though. What was he saying? I think he made a joke. I should laugh. Ow. My leg. Jesus. Please, oh God. My leg. My leg. I hate my leg. College? Yes, I went to college.
“University of Chemistry, Santa Cruz. I majored in California.” Crap. It’s OK, just giggle and flip hair. Did he notice? Yes. He looks confused. Giggle. “Uhm. Sorry, I meant to say University of California, Santa Cruz. I majored in Chemistry. I used to be sort of smart before I had to take all these drugs. My words get mixed up sometimes.” Giggle more and flip hair again.
Food comes. I become hyper-focused on pacing myself so that I don’t become nauseous. I go through no fewer than four pints of water, no fewer than two full lemons.
We are talking, but I have no clue about what. I have perfected my grimace to appear very smile-esque. He doesn’t seem to notice that I am praying (to God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Mary, Moses, Abraham, Zeus, Apollo, Thor, Benny Goodman, and all of my friends, relatives, and ancestors on The Other Side), begging under my breath for my leg to please just stop hurting.
Oh, it’s 7:45. Time to medicate. Pill container comes out. I try to be discreet. So does he. He looks away. I appreciate that.
At some point the bill comes and goes without my knowing. I am in a daze. The world has closed in around me. I feel warm, with the exception of my perpetually cold foot. He helps me navigate and negotiate my way back to the car. He takes me home, er, to my parents’ home.
Next comes the awesomest part of the evening: the goodbye. It has been a pleasant evening. I delighted in getting out of the house despite my leg (everything in my life nowadays is despite my leg). We enjoyed ourselves. I know it’s coming. I want it to happen. Gah. No, no, no, not now. My stupid, God-forsaken leg decides it’s had enough. Full spasm just as this sweet, patient man is leaning in.
“Aw. You’re shaking. Are you nervous?”
“No, I’m not nervous. My leg shakes when it’s tired.”
“Tired? You had it propped up the whole time…”
“Yeah, it’s ok, don’t worry about it.” I try to salvage the moment and start to lean in again.
Nope. Mood. Killed.
“I’ll walk you to the door.”
We hug, kiss on the cheek, I thank him for a lovely time and tell him I hope to see him again. I know he probably won’t call…
…but, sometimes he does call, to be polite, to “check in.”
I’ve made a few “friends.” We text. It’s great. Really great.
But you know what what would be really, really great? A second date.