Do you have Polio? Does a nurse live with you? Ohh, I can’t date a handicapped person. These are the type of questions and comments I deal with every day of life.
I am a physically handicapped, 4ft tall woman living with a rare disease entitled, “McCune Albright's Syndrome” which deformed my bones enough that I need to walk with crutches. Yes, it was difficult as a child, but today I feel great, still walk with crutches, but instead of the orthopedic sneakers that my doctors always wanted me to wear, I decided to swap them out for stilettos or platform shoes that I wear every day as I walk in New York City.
Being a New Yorker, you have to walk everywhere, and therefore I probably stick out like a sore thumb. Hey like I said, I am 4ft tall with red hair, walk with crutches and wear stilettos. Of course, I stick out! The problem is that people look at me and literally size me up all day long. Whether they stare me down, look back as they pass me on the street, or physically say something to me; people think they know who I am and what my life is like all day long. It doesn’t matter who it is, adults, children, and sometimes even animals. Okay well, I don’t know what animals do think about me, but they certainly bark at me sometimes!
If you know me, you would never think to yourself “poor Lauren. How does she live? Is her life hard because she is physically disabled?” And more importantly, “How can she walk with crutches and stilettos?” The answer is yes; I am physically disabled, but mentally I am just like everyone one. So, therefore, I ask WHY DO PEOPLE WANT TO BE THE PRODUCERS OF MY LIFE?
Therein lies the question I have been asking myself forever and the answer came to me shortly after I wrote my book Unstoppable In Stilettos. People think they know who I am, and as a matter of fact, who all disabled and or handicapped people are and feel bad for them. Are you feeling bad because we don’t look like you or maybe because we don’t have the same exact life? Or because you don’t personally know any disabled people? Either or, what you should do is take a chance to get to know someone. Just give 5; not a high-five but five minutes. You may have told a very different story in your head about who that person is. Didn’t your mom and or grandmother always say “Get to know someone before you assume who they are, meet new people” haha!
So now that we are going to take five minutes to get to know someone, what do you ask, what should you do? This is why I created The 5-Minute Rule. Well, it’s really easy…
Introduce yourself, where you are from, and begin the geography game to see if you know someone in common.
Talk about your career, your latest adventure, or where you are in your life. Just see where the conversation goes.
Minute 3 & 4
Now is your chance to ask anything you want. Go for it and see how the person responds. Normally, people aren’t afraid to answer anything as long as it’s sincere and coming from a good place. Remember, keep it simple and think before you speak.
Finally, wrap it up and see if you want to continue the conversation, become friends, potentially date, or maybe you just want to move on and say to yourself, I am proud that I got to know someone who is different.
Remember, in life confidence and self-love empowers us to be better, UNSTOPPABLE people. So moving forward, be confident in the fact that everyone has a story, and may not be the person you created in your head. JUST GIVE THEM 5!
P.S. I feel most confident “Giving 5” when I am wearing stilettos and my favorite Stella Valle pieces: