Guest blog by Grace Stratton from Letters to Corey
When I was a young girl I used to love baking, but I really disliked following a recipe. Don’t get me wrong, I follow instructions but I have always struggled with the concept of doing something for an outcome somebody else designed.
I wanted to make cupcakes that were entirely my own. Yes, they would have the fundamentals: butter, sugar, baking powder and so on – but if I wanted to make them pink, that’s what I would do. If I wanted to add chocolate chips, then so be it.
I have always believed that I could be my own person and design my own recipe. A part of me believed this out of need, I learned quickly that using a wheelchair meant adapting to the world and dealing with different dynamics, and it also sometimes meant dealing with people assuming things about me and my body that were untrue. I had to learn to blaze my own trail, to do things my own way, prove I could do them and be brave. I did that successfully – but body image proved trickier.
I can honestly tell you that I personally have never had a problem with my body; I have never had a problem with using a wheelchair. I have been lucky, in that as a child I was taught that the most powerful opinion formed about you comes from you, and so I always did my best to form positive opinions about myself and my body. I like the scars on my legs, I don’t really care that I have no calf muscle – because I have shoulder muscle that makes up for it. In my own head, my body was mine – it was pretty bad ass and I was proud of it. Personally I liked me, I knew I was a woman who was capable, strong and powerful, the wheelchair was simply a part of that.
And then one day, two years ago when I was 16, I was out Christmas shopping and a lady who is processing something for me at the counter asks, “can you have children?”
I looked at her, I was taken aback. I didn’t know what to say, so I said “yes” – because I can. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t given her the satisfaction of an answer. When I think of that moment, many questions come to my mind, but my main challenge to her is this: why is my body questioned, because it is different to yours?
Odds are, if I walked into that shop and stood behind the counter I would not have been asked me about the level of function my uterus has. But because I appeared different, this lady believed her question validated or necessary.
Why do some people question differences instead of accepting them, and why do some think that differences between individuals equate to being less capable? Those are the questions I asked myself after this happened and I am yet to find an answer to them, because I have stopped looking for one. I have learned that these questions are not worth my time. What is worth my time is the pursuit of being the best I can be; loving myself and those around me; working to contribute to this world; and showing others that they are worthy to undertake the same pursuit, no matter what some might say.
You may be thinking that the infamous uterus incident didn’t seem to affect me at all, but don’t get me wrong – that was the first time I truly questioned my own body. It was damaging to my subconscious, years after it’s occurrence, when I found out that the person I liked was seeing someone. The first thing I thought was “maybe it’d be different if I could walk”.
I have learned now that that is entirely wrong, because one aspect of my body does not have the power to make me less of a woman, nor does any person have the right to make me love myself less. This lady who asked me if I could have children, she asked the question acting like child carrying was what would make me a woman, like I needed to be validated – but that is completely inaccurate.
Just like those cupcakes, we do not have to follow another persons recipe to make a ‘woman’, we can craft our own. We can decide what we do – I may not want children or I may end up with a baseball team, but none of us ever have to justify our choices or our beauty to anyone. All we can do is undertake a pursuit for love.
Every woman has her insecurities or different dynamics – some more visible than others – but none of them work to make us less worthy or our bodies any less valid.
Guest Blogger: Grace Stratton
Grace is an 18 year old from Auckland who writes a blog called Letters to Corey. Her creative inspiration is Kate Albrecht (Mr Kate); she drinks way much too much coffee; and when she’s not creating or writing, you will find her listening to Lemonade by Beyonce.
Cupcake Vector Art by Vecteezy