I’m the man of many faces

3… 2… 1… Say cheese!

No. Just take the picture. No countdowns, no orders. My best photos are the ones that were taken out of nowhere, shot by a professional sniper. Either be tactical or I won’t look at the picture afterwards, or I’ll pretend to look at it while inspecting your fingernails or analysing the pattern on the wallpaper. Because that face isn’t my normal face.

Whenever someone gets a camera out and messes around with it, I become conscious of my face. Let’s make this a good one, I think and then my face leaps out of my control, becomes its own entity. The spasms take over and I end up fighting them down as if trying to iron out a tent in a storm. Sometimes my face impersonates Popeye, sometimes it settles on a wink, sometimes it screws up like a hedgehog. Most often it’s all three. All it had to do was act natural.

I’m fine with it up to a point: I’m impersonating Jim Carrey impersonating every one of his characters at once. But turning into The Mask can have its frustrations. I live in dread of passport photos, for example. Somehow I entered a zen place for the last one and discovered that I look like a badass on a revenge mission when I don’t smile. For my first passport, however, I was taken to one of those photo-booths you find in the middle of a supermarket.

It’s a porterloo with a square-inch of curtain and a stool. First off I hate stools. Anyone who claims to have ever been comfortable sitting on a stool is a liar. With my legs dangling in the air and my body wriggling I may as well be preparing to jump headfirst off a roof, there’s that much adrenaline. So even if I can keep my face loose and natural it will be a face of fear, and you’re not allowed to show fear in a passport photo are you? In fact you’re not supposed to show any emotion whatsoever. It’s all written on the photo-booth screen: keep your head still, DON’T smile, DON’T laugh, DON’T gurn, keep your head still. don’t do anything that might suggest you’re human. Then it says: You have four chances. Just four chances? Shit, I’d better get this right…

3, 2, 1, click. Damn, I smiled. 3, 2, 1, and I laughed. 3, 2, BANG BANG BANG as I shoot the machine into a million pieces.

The other situation I’d rather avoid is that moment when somebody cooks something special for you, and they give you it and await your opinion. Except they don’t wait for your opinion, do they? They sit there and examine each inch of your face to see if they can beat you to an answer, because I guess the average face can’t lie. Inevitably they’ll start asking me what’s wrong.

‘Huh?’

‘Well it’s obvious you don’t like it.’

‘I like it. Give me some more.’

Then they feed me more and my face is ten times worse. It’s like being back in the photo-booth; once you mess up that first shot it’s hard to regain control. This time when I secure a mouthful I turn my head away and go, Mmmm, oh god yeah.

‘You turned away. You don’t like it.’

Cerebral palsy can be a funny old thing, but it teaches you a lot about patience and self-acceptance. Another reason why I may be better off single: weddings.

‘Taste this trifle I made especially for your day…’

And then there’s those expensive, all-important photos that you know you’ll be looking back at when you’re 80. Fuck that, I’ll stick to gurning at funerals thank you very much.

Love, disability, confusion

I feel about as sexy as a fig tree. That might sound negative, but I actually have quite a thing for fig trees: strong trunk, leafy excess. Unfortunately everyone else thinks I’m figging crazy.

This sums up my love life, somehow. In my head I’m strutting the streets like a Bee Gee, while in reality people only whistle at me when they’re afraid I’ll forget to look both ways as I cross the road. I’d rather stay inside my head. In my head I’m a woman’s man with no time  for a decent conversation.

I’ve been single now for a long long life time and I’m OK with it, I think. When I’m alone, I imagine that I’ve cracked the code of life. No partner means less stress and lots more choice, that I only have my own thoughts and desires to deal with. Yes, my life is a guilt-free journey of selfish gratification. But then I go to a park where smug couples feed each other celery sandwiches, or I go on Facebook where half my school friends have kids who are already approaching ten, or I talk to my friend who is addicted to and can’t stop thinking about sex, and suddenly I feel like I don’t quite belong anywhere.

Is it coz I iz disabled? It’s certainly not an advantage when it comes to attraction, but a lot of my disabled friends have found success just to complicate the soothing narrative I tell myself at night. They are so selfish it’s unbelievable. There was a poll done where 70% of people said they wouldn’t even consider having sex with someone physically disabled.  Cheers Observer, this is just the sort of assurance I needed. But still there’s the 30% who might possibly consider me as a potential match some day. Where can I find these people? Do they all live on the same street because that would be really convenient, mix and match until I find someone I actually get along with. Maybe the other 70% prefer their relationships platonic, right? Right.

I am so confused. On the one hand I am optimistic that I’d make a good partner and think it’s only a matter of time before somebody pays attention to my alt-rock ass. On the other hand I have been on this planet for nearly quarter of a century and it’s a still a big happy event just to have someone flirt with me (in a world where people flirt with lampposts just to pass the time).

Do I even want to experience love? Some of my friends do a terrific job at putting me off. They find me comforting to talk with about their latest miserable relationship because I sit there and act like a receptive, enlightened monk. My sex addict friend says he wishes he was me as he slobbers over his Tinder. Then there’s the breakup songs, the help-me-I’m-broken forums, that drunk couple in town who are always fighting over shallow nonsense (‘your friend’s a slag and my Dad hates you’).

Maybe I am the lucky one here. I have the choice to reject the system (by doing nothing differently). I’m a natural introvert and I’m fine on my own, watching some obscure movie without any background commentary. Better still, I’ve somehow managed to avoid social pressures of looking a certain way or acting like a gorilla just so someone will sleep with me for a bit and I can collect those important high-fives off the lads. Disabled people are so desexualised in the media that I could probably roam around Tesco naked to no criticism. At worst my carer would get the blame: how dare he let innocent wheelchair man get cold!

Not that I blame the media, not completely anyway. I blame brains hardwired towards the healthy ‘fit’ mate over those of us who’d have been a bear’s starter course in the caveman days. I also blame myself to some degree. My drive ends at the start of a dating website: too much effort for an uncertain destination. I keep pretending that if a relationship is meant to be it will develop organically. The problem with this is that my expectations are so low nowadays that it’s better for my sanity to assume that nobody is attracted to me unless they lick out my eyeballs and design a necklace out of them.

I’m not putting any pressure on myself to find love and my parents are piling all their pressure onto my older brother. Life is simple and carefree this way. But will I feel the same at fifty? This is what I keep wondering. When all my friends are married and reminiscing about their reckless twenties, I’ll have nothing to say. When they’re looking for advice on communicating with their spouse, I’ll have nothing to say. When they’re crying about their moody teenager, I’ll just laugh.

Or maybe I’ll figure something out before then. I caught a scene from The Holiday over Christmas where a drunk Jude Law turns up at Cameron Diaz’s holiday hut and they fall in love within minutes. It’d be such a romantic introduction, wouldn’t it? If a woman stumbled up to my house at 1AM, hairs ripped out of her head from a recent fight, a sprinkling of fresh vomit on her chin. I wouldn’t know her, she wouldn’t know me. I’d gaze into her dazed, distant eyes, smelling the WKD thick on her breath. She’s the one, I’d conclude, watching her upchuck onto my carpet.

On this one topic I feel like a child in a bank, listening to adults discuss the complexities of economics. It can bring pleasure and it can bring hardship, that’s all I know. My progress is slow  and occasionally very, very weird (trust me), but there have been little nuggets of hope along the way, enough to stop me retiring to my secret underground cave just yet.