my boyfriend is lucky to have me

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I know, I know – the title of this post sounds ridiculously arrogant and narcissistic. But hear me out! Just the other day, I overheard someone (hi, Mom) gushing on the phone about how sweet it is that my boyfriend Daniel loves me with or without my arm. I knew she meant that he doesn’t care whether or not I wear my prosthetic, but her comment made me think about similar things I’ve heard all throughout my life. It reminded me especially of an email a church community leader once sent out in an attempt to inspire its recipients. The email featured a series of photos of a married couple and their children doing various everyday family activities. The wife and mother in the images happened to be missing both legs, and her husband’s marriage to her was being touted as an example of “true love.” It was supposed to be a “heartwarming” message, but it had the opposite effect on me.

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Equals

The idea that a disabled person is somehow less deserving and less likely to find a partner is one that our appearance-focused dating culture and media unfortunately perpetuate when they publish stories like the one I mentioned above. And when well-meaning people share these faux-inspirational love stories online, they are unwittingly contributing to a belief that demeans people society considers less-than-perfect and ultimately devalues the concept of love as a whole. A good relationship requires the two people involved to view each other as equals. So when we are encouraged to see an able-bodied person as a saint or a martyr for dating/marrying someone disabled, that relationship becomes severely unbalanced and puts the latter person in a place of disempowerment and dependence. A healthy relationship is a two-way street, and love needs to be present at both ends for it to work. If we praise one person for loving the other, we imply that the other person is less deserving of affection and that their love means less. That’s just not okay, nor is it accurate at all.

IMG_20140524_110609Unfortunately, this idea has so saturated society’s minds that I feel the effects myself all the time. I can’t explain how rude it is when someone tells me that they’re so glad I found someone or that it’s great that my boyfriend isn’t shallow. Ouch. That can be a huge blow to anyone’s self esteem. (Do these people even think it’s a compliment when they say something like this???) In any case, they’re wrong in their assumptions about my relationship. My boyfriend is not selfless or saintly for loving me. He is not with me because of any sense of pity or self-righteousness. Dating me is not a sacrifice, and I am not a charity case. Yes, I’m incredibly blessed that I found an amazing man I’ve grown to love deeply. But my boyfriend is equally lucky that he’s with me. We both have a lot to offer each other, and our relationship is based on love and trust and caring and attraction (both mental and physical.) It’s an insult to both parties in a relationship for anyone to assume otherwise.

So I leave you with this: the next time you read or hear about one of these “inspiring” stories of “true love,” be happy for the couple (because yes, all love is beautiful) and then roll your eyes and move on with your life.

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being a good girlfriend

When I was younger, I was obsessed with the show Project Runway. And what girl wasn’t? It was a reality competition series featuring several talented fashion designers competing for the ultimate prize: $100,000 to start their own line and the chance to show their collection at New York Fashion Week. Of course, my impressionable teenaged self decided after the first season that I wanted to be a fashion designer. But when I announced this to my father, he told me it was a stupid idea because I would never be able to sew or make the clothes like a two-handed person. (Yeah, my parents are big believers in “tough love.”)

One of the pockets I sewed up for Chris

Although my dreams of becoming a designer eventually faded (along with my desire to become an actress and my goal to become a lawyer), I have always loved clothes and style. Up until recently, though, I was in the habit of throwing an item away if it had a rip or tear. What was the point in repairing it if I could just buy a new one of whatever it was? My boyfriend is way more practical and money-savvy. So when he ripped the side seam (and both side pockets) in his pants, he turned to me and asked if I knew how to sew. I didn’t, but I lied and told him I did. I figured I’d give it a shot.

The once-ripped/now-stitched side seam of Chris’s pants

And so began my first adventure with sewing. Granted, I wasn’t creating a dress for Versace; it was a simple restitching. But still, I was glad I proved to myself (and to Chris) that my lack of an arm doesn’t mean I can’t be a domestic diva. I’ve read and heard about people saying they wouldn’t be willing to date someone with a disability because of the lack of functionality rather than a more superficial reason. And while I understand the concern, I know first-hand (sorry about the pun) that someone with a physical limitation can still find a way to do almost anything and live independently. So am I concerned about being a good clothes-mending/dinner-cooking/floor-sweeping wife someday? Not at all. I’m already getting my practice. And to be honest, I’m way more nervous about finding a way to balance my career and my home, just like most “normal” young women my age.

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

 

(Mannequin photo from Pinterest; other photos my own)
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2 years later

On this day two years ago, my boyfriend Chris took me on our first date and a love story was born. It’s been a crazy ride with its ups and downs, but through it all, we’ve never let go of the love we have for each other. Chris is my rock and my biggest supporter in anything I do. He’s my dance partner and best friend, and I’ll always have his back no matter what. He’s the most amazing man I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I hope we’re blessed with many more years together.

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

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style

You know what they say: another day (or week in this case), another discovery. And this week’s discovery was more of a reawakening than a realization. In addition to working on Oxygen’s upcoming fashion-based shows, I’ve been styling my friends and helping them shop for the outfits that I know will make them look best. I’ve always loved shopping and clothes and all that fun stuff that comes with being a girl living 20 minutes from New York. So it’s not like my boyfriend Chris had to twist my arm to get me to help him buy new clothes for the Fall. It’s become a relationship routine of sorts; with every major change in weather, we head to the mall and I pick out some basic pieces and cool accessories to supplement his seasonal wardrobe. He ends up looking quite put-together and handsome, if I do say so myself. This autumn I was going for a sleek look with button-downs, sweaters, and vests (think Justin Timberlake circa 2007), so I was running around the store looking for the clothes and then running back to his dressing room to deliver the next piece for him to try on. Then just a few days later, I hit the mall with my friend Lyss to find her new outfits for Fall. And yes, I must say I enjoyed these shopping outings immensely, especially since I believe that what a person wears says soooo much about him or her.

One glove only

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t love fashion for the reasons that non-fashionistas (is there even a term for people who aren’t into clothes?) may think. I’m not shallow or all that materialistic, and I certainly don’t judge people solely on appearance. But whether or not you’re pretty/plain/rich/poor/disabled/all of the above, you have the freedom to choose exactly how to decorate and present your body to the world. And how awesome is that? As a writer/creative/media professional/artist/20-something/whatever you want to call me, I’m really into personalizing everything. From the background photo of my baby cousins on my iPhone to my hot pink and zebra print bedroom (rawr), it’s all about self-expression. And what better canvas than the body that takes me through every moment and every action to showcase who I am?

Now let’s get one thing straight: I don’t buy into the “ideal figures only” approach to fashion. Having a disability doesn’t preclude me from celebrating the way I look and wearing the clothes I want to wear. And over the past few years I’ve found a handful (haha, I love puns) of ways to highlight and prettify my asymmetrical figure. Sadly, though, the computer that was home to the majority of my photos crashed a while back. So I hope you don’t mind if I post pictures I found on Google or store websites instead of pics of me in the completed looks. Anyway, I type too much. So without further ado:

1) One-Shoulder Tops/Dresses – I LOVE asymmetrical necklines because they mirror the unevenness of my arms and make the statement that strange or different proportions are beautiful. There’s a lot of talk in the science world about beauty and symmetry being synonymous, but this look proves that it’s the unique and the off-kilter that strikes the eye and holds attention.

Subtle but lovely

2) Upper Arm Bracelets/Cuffs – When I’m not wearing my prosthetic hand, I don’t have a wrist on my left arm to wear a bracelet. But I think that arm deserves to wear pretty accessories too, so upper arm cuffs work particularly well. Plus, it’ll go just as great with a party dress as it will with casual jeans and a tank top. If Cleopatra could pull it off waaaaay back when, then I say why not?

3) Opera Gloves – Yes, they look super fancy shmancy over the prosthetic and paired with a cocktail dress, but I think it’s also pretty cool to wear just one on any given day. (Note: For me, it started for practical reasons rather than as a fashion statement. The “skin” on the prosthetic was easily stained by ink on newspapers and books, and I hated how it looked “dirty” so I just wore the glove over it.)

4) Grecian/Roman Goddess-Inspired – The famous Venus de Milo statue has long served as a standard of beauty for all women, in spite of AND due to her lack of arms. So it’s always fun to channel this icon with a Greek/Roman-inspired piece or full outfit.

So there you go – just a few ideas on how I like to use clothes and style to my advantage. I hope this has been an interesting post. And I promise I’ll start taking more pics of what I wear so I can post them on this blog. Do you want to see more style/fashion content on this blog? Let me know what you think.

Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

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little ones

My family’s been doing a lot of growing lately. And I don’t just mean we’re getting older; there are a couple new additions in the form of little Emma (who is almost 3 months old) and Natalia (who just celebrated her first month.) My two cousins gave birth to beautiful baby girls this summer. Now I don’t know if it’s just because I’m female, but I looooove babies. They’re so cute and tiny and innocent. And the way they trust you so completely is so sweet.

Other people’s kids are adorable. But when your relatives have babies, it’s like those little cutiepies are yours too. So I’m over their houses as often as I can be, changing diapers and pushing strollers and dressing them in the latest baby fashions. I just can’t get enough of these newborns though, of course, Emma’s older brother Luke will always be my first baby. 

Speaking of Luke (whom I blogged about a while ago), he’s just discovered the fact that the reason my left arm looks different than most people’s is because I don’t have a hand. Here’s a brief transcript of our conversation a few weeks ago:

Emma in her ballerina tutu

Luke (matter-of-factly): “KT, you have only one arm. ”

Me: “Yes, Luke, I do.”

Luke (grabbing my right hand, which I do have): “Everybody, I want to hold KT’s hand because she has one arm.”

Me (not quite understanding his 3-year-old’s logic): “Okay.”

Luke: “KT, can I have your phone so I can play a game?”

Me (making sure my iPhone is sealed within an indestructible Luke-proof case): “Sure. I just bought some new games for you.”

Luke: “Aw, shucks! Thanks, KT! Can you help me beat them?”


What I love about this exchange is that he realized the whole one-hand situation but still took for granted that I could help him win the games like anyone else. That’s the kind of attitude I wish more adults would adopt. Note to everyone: take a hint from this adorable 3-year-old and just assume that I can take care of myself. In fact, you should assume that of all people with physical differences and at least pretend not to be shocked when they tell you about how they play guitar with one hand or run their own company or were formerly married to a Beatle (ever heard of Heather Mills?). Luke acknowledged the difference, but he didn’t make it a huge deal or change the way he acts towards me.

Princess Natalia the daydreamer

Anyway, that’s my little Luke for you. He’s a happy-go-lucky boy who’s a bit precocious and way too smart for his age. I love him with all my heart, even when he openly admits that he loves my boyfriend Chris more than he loves me. Chris is really good with Luke, playing along in his many imaginative epic sword-fighting and gun-shooting adventures. He also loves kids and has no problem looking silly if it means getting a smile out of a toddler.

One night after playing with Luke, Chris and I stopped for coffee when I felt the need to tell him something that had just struck me as extremely important. I blurted out to him that my disability is not genetic and that my children would be completely unaffected. He seemed surprised. “Oh, okay,” was all he said. Wait….I thought. He hadn’t known this? Curious and somewhat confused, I asked him why he had stayed in a serious relationship with me if he thought that his future babies could be born with a missing limb. I have to say, his answer was a pretty damn good one:

“Because I love you and I don’t care. And I know they would be fine, like you.”

Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

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