Well hello

Welcome to the blog of me, Paige Tabone; student, writer, nerd, self-critic, telly-addict and self-confessed Cerebral Palsy-er (or wobbly if you will). It is the latter that has brought me to blogging. Ramming my way through the bullshit stereotypes that surround disability, showing the undiluted truth of someone twenty-two years into living on the often bumpy and unpredictable road against what's seen as 'normal'.

I'm aware you might have just got lost trying to navigate yourself to a hilarious cat video; now you are looking bewildered as you see nether a ominous looking jump or an unwittingly naive cat. Yet whether you find yourself here by purpose, mistake or luck I welcome you and offer you to get yourself comfortable, grab a nice cup of tea or a strong, stiff drink and stay for a bit. You see this isn't a story about some poor, unfortunate girl with a disability; it's simply a story about a girl with a set of tits, a set of tires and a mission to set the disability misconceptions record straight...

Friday, 21 August 2015

Only Fools Enter The World of Fashion but 'Only the Brave' Dare to Make a Difference.

It sees like I'm forever starting my blog with some version of an apology; I really am going to have to get my blogging act together! Yet I have no one else to blame other than myself for the lack of blogging that has happened recently and I realized that is lame of me. Okay really lame but life has just got in the way, as it so inconveniently does, and stopped me from treating you to an ever so carefully constructed rant about daily life. That said you're probably relieved for the break, so whatever your view on my blogging absence I either apologizes or accept your grateful hug of thanks and bring you an update. Well rather a counter-entry to my last post 'The Unrealized Struggles of a Disabled Fashionista'. Last time we spoke, let's be fair, I ball-bashed that fashion industry and took on a well-meaning rant about acceptance and its archaic view about fashion only being for one type of person; for the most part I stand by what I said. Last week though I realized that might have been a bit narrow minded of me to group all fashion houses under that same self-obsessed, Swarovski crystal encrusted umbrella. Where did this epiphany come from? Well, it was all due to a little Italian company known as 'Diesel'.

I won't lie, when I got the phone call to say I'd been doing work experience at a fashion house my heart plummeted and I genuinely felt sick. The thought of stepping into the world of fashion terrified me. I immediatly began conjuring images up in my head of rolling into and overly elaborate building, the kind that has endless glass windows, apparently to let light in but really you know it's to make the place look granter than it actually is. Being confronted by a patronizingly chipper receptionist, whose snobbery radiated from the top if her perfectly groomed hair to the tips of her £15,000 Christian Louboutin's; before being  greeted with a sea of size zero fashionistas draped in Channel and doused with the smell of condescendence and Marc Jacobs.  All the while my blatant unsuitability for my surrounding,  as a plus-sized wheelchair user, sitting painfully on my face like a unwelcomed spot that no-one wants to point out. Nevertheless I grew some woman balls and walked into this unassuming building in King’s Cross. I could feel the effortless rawness of the place hit me as a walked in, like a big slap in the face that I wouldn't fit in here. I readjusted my Primark shirt and braced myself for a soul destroying ‘Devil Wear’s Prada’ sequence to begin. I couldn’t have been more wrong and this is where my view on the fashion industry started to change. Instead I was welcomed by a room of smiles and kindness and I soon began to realize, as judgemental as I thought the fashion industry would be about me I was equally about them. Forgive me, but for this reason I’m going to big Diesel up a bit.

I meet some of the most genuine, down-to-earth people I've ever meet and had one of the best weeks ever. Diesel is a glitch in the conformity of fashion and by god it’s amazing! I was confronted with a brand and company whose acceptance of individuality, rebellion, honesty, talent and endeavour to push boundaries stomped over the bullshit bravado of most fashion brands. Plus they do make some kick-ass denim. I was told by someone who knows that brand better than most that ‘Diesel is a company where employees take their jobs and passion for the brand very seriously but not themselves’ and I couldn’t agree more. I have never been in such a fantastic working environment.  I mean, you know your in a perfect working environment when you can have a business meeting in a fashion showroom in front of a table full of Nando's...

Seriously though, I felt completely equal and accepted. That sounds pathetic and annoyingly corny I know but it's true. My disability wasn’t relevant, a small insignificant side-note to a largely individualistic brand. I can’t really ever thank Diesel enough for the confidence and love in fashion they have instilled in me. The people I meet had an enthusiasm that was infectious at it has fuelled a passion in me I didn’t even know existed. It’s true, the title of this post, only fools enter the world of fashion. I learnt that it can be a hard task master and unforgiving critic but equally if you have the bravery it’s  an industry that can make a huge difference.

Last week I saw that fashion is changing. It’s slowly becoming more accepting to those who are different. I’m not allowed to say too much, through pain of death, but Diesel, in collaboration with some awesome young people and myself are going to make sure of that. Soon disabled fashion will no longer be for old people and consist of granny skirts and patchwork knitwear but it will be current, stylish, accessible and sexy. Gone will be the days of skin crawling fashion disasters because of the restraint of workable fashion. Fashion will be unbounded. Here is just a few snapshots of the amazing who are helping make that happen...

and to all these beautiful people - myself not included ...

I want to say thank you.

So in homage to my new founded career as an unlikely fashionista I want to bring your attention to my first ever, uh hum,  blog competition; seamless linkage I know!

I want to know of your worst ever fashion disasters. Those fashion faux pas to make even the most fashion forward cringe. I’m talking, knicker-flashing, colour clashing and all manner of pattern mashing (okay the whole rhyming thing didn’t go as effortlessly as I hoped). My favourite story will win this pair of genuine Diesel trainers (size 8) brought to you directly from Diesel HQ!

Leave your  fashion mishaps in the comment boxes bellow or you can find the link to my twitter and tweet me your stories. How ever you get involved please do and get your stories in by the 31st of this month and I will contact the winner shortly after.

So embarrassing stories at the ready… get set… type!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Unrealized Struggles of a Disabled Fashionista

Tomorrow marks my first tentative steps into the world of fashion. I'd be the first to admit that fashion and me have never strictly been best friends. I was that kid at school who rocked a bright pink t-shirt with a bejewelled cat sparkling proudly from my chest and velour tracksuit bottoms; which were obviously purple and clashed hideously. With my pimpled forehead and home bowl cut hair I looked like a bad 'Kevin and Perry' extra. Nevertheless, 12 years down a questionable fashion road I find myself about to begin a placement at Diesel's headquarters. I know, I'm not sure exactly how it happened either. It's not just my complete lack of fashion sense that hinders me; I should add I have got noticeably better than my velour stint of the 90's, just in case any potential employers stumble their way upon this post. We've all had that uncontrollable panic of 'what on Earth am I going to wear?' Be it because you have an important function to look presentable for, a job interview to smash or you just want to look damn hot; finding the right clothes to wear can be a bonafide nightmare. Then imagine your encased a gargantuan metal wheelchair you need to consider or have one arm shorter than the other to take into account and the challenge of finding that perfect outfit shoots into the stratosphere. People come in all shapes and sizes, regardless of disability, but with a fashion industry who, on the whole, don't seem to acknowledge that, still the mission of conquering the murky world of fashion persists. Many times have I seen a dress and imagined myself in it, only to be hit by the sobering reality that I don't look like Cara Delevingne, as the advert may suggest, but my resemblance is more that of a compressed bag of potatoes. I know this problem is greater acknowledged than just in the disabled community but, being one such member, I've noticed that it presents its very own unique clothing challenges.

We are always told to ‘dress for our shape’, but what if 'your shape' doesn't fall into the conventional categories of ‘Pear’, ‘Apple’, ‘Top Heavy’ or ‘Hourglass’? Some of us have more, um, unconventional body shapes. Frankly if you don't have a wonky body part, a disproportionate extremity, no extremities at all, or even the smallest misdirected finger I'd question to your commitment to this whole 'disabled thing'. It's just a fact of disabled life, on a whole, we are a bit wonky and I speak from experience. Then some of us have the issue of sitting down which completely changes your body shape. You could be a sultry hourglass but sit down and you turn into more of a broken pocket watch; bits a pieces popping out from all directions (I'm not sure that metaphor actually works but I'm going with it so forgive me).  Not all of us have legs that lay seductively at the end of our pelvis and sit perfectly straight ready to hold clothes in the correct, streamline position. Let me assure you, 'straight' is not a physical possibility when you have CP, you lucky if at least one part of your body is in the correct position. Some of us have wonky legs, or no legs at all. The effect? Those perfectly sculpting  jeans you saw on the mannequin end up looking like you stuffed them with Kerplunk sticks or you end up having an abundance of material flapping around like you've suddenly grown a pair of denim flippers. It's not cool and it's certainly not sexy. I've said before that regardless of disability we all want to be sexy. That can be really hard to achieve however when you only have a clothing options of 'Gap Kids' or you have to buy clothes seven times bigger than you actually are to negotiate your unforgivably wonky body.

Then sometimes you come with little, extras. A catheter, a gastrostomy, a stoma, a tracheostomy or the ultimate sex appeal of a brace. On the note of body braces I know a lot of people are not a fan of them; they can be bulky and uncomfortable, I had leg braces as a child so I feel your pain. That said nowadays they are like a fashion statement in their own right. If German model Nadja Auermann can rock a leg brace on the catwalk like this...

and Jessie J can bring some style to a leg cast on stage like this...

then other braces can be just as damn well sexy. However, these little additions often require some inventive clothing techniques. I am not able to speak from personal experience, but with many friends who can I know there is nothing more undignified than having to hike your dress above your head in order to access a gastrostomy peg, or be conscious of having an unsightly bulge under your body-con dress because of a stoma. You know what? I say fuck it. Some people have unsightly bulges under their dresses and that's part of their actual flesh. Not to mention I've ended up with my dress around my neck on several nights out and I have no excuse apart from too many unforgiving J├Ągerbombs! Short of cutting a hole in your favourite dress or wearing a shapeless tent these are struggles that seem unavoidable. Fashion just doesn't cater for the masses.

It’s not just about looking good when it comes to the clothes you wear, when you have a disability it comes down to accessibility... not like that, I'll have none of that filth here please; what I mean is practicality. As lovely as an item of clothing may be, it’s got to work around your unconventional way of doing things. There is no use having a killer dress or the newest pair of jeans if you can't do everyday tasks in them. Peeing for example, the biggest negotiator when it comes to clothing selections. A year or so ago playsuits were really in fashion. Now, I want to be at the high of fashion like any other twenty-two year old, but have you ever tried going to the toilet in a playsuit when you have limited movement and hand function? You have to almost pre-empt needing to wee. You end up needing a good half an hour window to tackle the endless stream of buttons or poppers that a playsuit presents. If not you risk getting into one bundled, tangled, material mess while doing that awkward 'I need a wee dance'. They seriously need a wee flap, am I the only one who thinks this? Sometimes though clothing can literally be a physical hindrance. A long sleeved top which one person might take for granted as being a simple piece of clothing on someone with a limb deformity can actually stop them using their arm effectively. The wrong clothes can effectively make you more disabled!

What’s the alternative though, share your five-year-old sister’s wardrobe? Or wear lose fitting, out of dates clothes that your Nan wouldn't be seen dead in? According to some people yes. Disabled people don't have the right to feel good and be sexy, didn't you know? I'm so sick of society’s warped view of what is acceptable; so according to me that's bollocks. Why should we dress like we’ve just been let out of a fashion torture house because there seems to be a distinct lack of ability to cater for all shapes and sizes? I don't just mean whether you’re a size 2 or 22, I mean whether you have one limb missing or two, whether you have curve in your spine or a novel bend to your pelvis, whether your legs point in one direction or five, we all have a right to wear nice clothes and feeling fucking fantastic in them. Yet it comes down to more than the clothes, it comes down to the unrealistic view of beauty. Being a bit physically asymmetrical is not accepted as beautiful, and apparently, according to social conventions, clothes don’t look good on anything other than perceived beauty. I'll tell you what though, my legs may be wobbly but I can rock the LBD as good as the rest of you and with some sizable assets you can be damn sure I'll make a low cut wrap dress look hot. So reconsider your idea of beauty world because you've got a whole lot of unconventional coming your way and we are making sure we are dressed to impress.

With that in mind I better decide on what to wear for my first day at a placement; garish bejewelled animals and shiny synthetic materials firmly off the list of course.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The 'Awwwwwwwww' Effect

It's been a funny old week this week, I don't quite know what to make of it. The week was set out to be a miserable one, I think my last post personifies that, but it has sort of done a 360. So in keeping with this new found buoyant mood, and as a reward for sticking with me through the last downtrodden posts, tonight I bring you something lighter of heart.

I've written a very similar post to you before, see back to 'Bum's Biceps and Backward Compliments’, in which I've delved into the supercilious vocabulary of ill meant phrases that are said to people with disabilities. Nonetheless the one I present to you tonight, not only surpasses any lexical depths we have reached before but is highly deserving of its very own blog post.

May I present to you the ‘Awwwwww’ effect.

The ‘Awwwwwww’ effect is something that used to be reserved primarily for the likes of adorable baby animals or big doe-eyed toddlers, stumbling around like little drunk people. It’s unavoidable, your subconscious will see one of these heart melting images and almost as a reflex you are so paralyzed by it’s cuteness that the only legible sound to come out of your mouth is a high-pitched  “Awwwwww!”.

However, I am not an immensely fluffy kitten nor am I a fuzzy haired, stumbling, miniature human being. Therefore, why, oh why, do some people still feel the utter compulsion to ‘aw’ at me? If someone could answer me this question I would forever be in your debt. If I had four legs a resembled a giant cotton wool ball I would understand; I have on numerous occasions found myself cooing over such a sight. On the contrary I am a self-sufficient, self-motivated, twenty-two year old and almost functioning adult; I do not need someone else’s unconsidered pity.  

That is what an ‘aw’ implies; pity. Pity for what though? I don’t understand; because my legs don’t work properly? Well if you are the type of person who sees it fit to ‘aw’ a fully grown woman then clearly your basic reasoning doesn’t work properly either;  so should I pity you as well? My legs may be a bit wobbly and my hand may be a bit questionable in the direction it points sometimes, but I can assure you my brain is not the same.

This is the conversational faux pas that I have come across most in my day-to-day life as a bonafide wobbly. It can happen at almost any invitation. Sometimes it’s in variation, the fawning ‘bless’ can be added for the ultimate degrade, or if someone is feeling really patronising a gentle pat is added for good measure. Nevertheless the sentiment is the same. I’ve become adept at spotting the potential culprits from a mile away. It’s the people who give you that smile that is meant to be warming but can often come across unnerving and a little ‘serial killer’. They seem to adopt the facial expression you only normally see when someone is confronted with a wounded animal; full or worry and angst but with the vain optimism they might just pull through.  They might as well say “there, there, it can’t get any worse”… in fact I think they once have.

Whatever warning signs I may now notice it’s become apparent to me over the years that whether I am scaling the heights of Mount Everest (not likely) or doing my weekly shop (more likely), my life is undernoted by the sound track of ‘Awwwwww’.

Frankly it really pisses me off.

I have been told before, as an excuse I presume, that some people honestly believe people with disabilities like to hear ‘aw’ as it gives them encouragement. I can’t speak for every disabled person out there but let me tell you now, when someone uses the noise ‘aw’ to address me it makes me want to do nothing less than to place my indisputably spazticated hand directly into their face.  It’s not an encouragement if anything it’s a condescendence. If I am suffering from a bad cause of women-esque ‘man flu’, then by all means I welcome your ‘aw’s’. Swiftly followed by a reassuring hug that I will not crawl up and die from a snuffley nose and a cough I swear is becoming border-line pneumonia; not to mention you to kindly bring me my body weight in chocolate to wallow in. If I am however doing something simple as being out in public or, say, just getting on with my life, I urge you to reconsider. After all I can assure you there is nothing endearing nor sweet about an over-weight, over-perspiring exercise novice huffing her reddened self around the gym, as some lady seemed to think today; in fact it’s quite unsightly.

So if you are a victim to the use of the ‘Awwwwww’ effect, next time please reserve your ‘aw’. Not for the girl in the wheelchair doing her weekly shop, or the guy with a prosthetic leg just out having a drink with his friends but for something really worth it.

Because surely when faced with a micro pig eating ice-cream or a puppy  that is so fluffy you think your brain might combust from the sheer cuteness it radiates, your ‘aw’s’ are truly wasted...