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What is it Like to be a Mermaid With Legs?

Able bodied people make most common movements in pretty much the same way: getting in and out of a car, walking through store entrances, swimming and playing most sports. All of these motions are executed without giving them too much thought. Our central nervous systems work automatically. Until they don’t. The moment when they don’t is the time we are forced to think about how to accomplish these once automatic movements.

I have lived with a movement disorder that has stemmed from an injury that wreaked havoc on my brain function. Our brains are the center of our central nervous systems. For 19 years, I have adapted every motion that had always been automatic. I know it always looks weird to see me get in and out of a car, walk, try to carry things, and keep a door held open long enough for me to walk through. At this point, I’m completely used to people staring at me and am unfazed by it.

One of the most unusual adaptations I’ve made is getting in and out of bed. Fortunately, this is usually done in private however, there are occasions when I have stayed with people and it is always kind of strange. I have grown accustomed to accepting help from others because of my physical limitations and it generally doesn’t bother me. I do, however, sometimes feel awkward accepting help getting into bed.

I went traveling with my sister once and we shared hotel rooms. She didn’t miss the chance to make fun of me trying to get in bed. If your own sister can’t make fun of you, who can? My left leg is much weaker than my right and needs to be dragged along to follow when climbing up on a bed. She told me I looked like a mermaid once, with my legs kind of stuck together, moving in tandem. We had one of those great, only-with-your-sister kind of laughs. I often thought about how ridiculous I looked in the eyes of those for whom this motion was automatic. I have had a few chuckles of my own when I’m getting in bed by myself thinking about looking like a mermaid.

I do walk like most people do, putting one foot in front of the other. I have a pronounced limp, and carry a cane. I don’t look like a mermaid unless I’m trying to get into bed. I wasn’t sure what it was about my condition that led a gentleman to ask me if I am able to have sex on our second date. I suppose he just wasn’t sure what the extent of my injuries were and wanted to make sure before he invested more time, money and energy in me. Another date friend told me he had thought about this, but didn’t ask.

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