Update: For those who are new to my blog, I am living with disability but this post is intended to explore how getting a routine sickness exacerbates things – in this case, how the flu impacts our everyday queerability, not to suggest the flu is the same thing as a disability! Sorry for any confusion.
This week, I’ve been rather ill and was finally diagnosed with the flu on Thurs. My symptoms are relatively mild – generalized but pervasive discomfort. In other words, I’ve felt cruddy enough to lay about, but not do anything.
Ledcat of course had to go to work so I was on my own during the day. It has given a chance to reflect on how being queer and disabled intersect in these domestic moments: queer + disabled = queerability Check out the Queerability blog by Kristen Guin.
Barrier One: domestic partners can use PTO to care for their partner, but not take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) because we aren’t related per federal law. Pennsylvania has no such law and neither does the City of Pittsburgh (Ledcat’s employer) so if were to ever become very sick, we’d have no options. After she used up her PTO, she would probably lose her job. (This is a municipal equality/employer issue.)
Life Hack? Don”t waste PTO on things like the flu or taking me to the doctor. Figure it out. Muddle through. Sometimes she’s come home at lunch to check on me, but the reality is that we simply have no option. Marriage equality won’t fix the problem because not everyone can or will get married. Ironically, my father could take FMLA to care for me as could my brother who lives in a different state, but not my domestic partner.
For the record, we have asked friends to pitch in, but people aren’t very responsive to helping care for someone with a chronic “but you don’t seem sick” disability. And we are fortunate, believe me. I’m sure if I were really desperate people would help. It just feels like begging and that’s not very comfortable. Actually, I want to smash things and yell and say “wtf, people?” but I leave it at irritating little status updates on Facebook. Really, why argue?
The solution is for the City of Pittsburgh and other employers to create equal leave policies that include domestic partnerships. It relieves the “what if” tension and addresses systemic issues. Also, an employee casserole club for sick partners and spouses is a nice idea 🙂
Barrier Two: Opening cans is a challenge on a good day for my poor hands and forget the can opener. Lots of sick people curative home alone stuff comes in cans – soup! Also, there are juice bottle lids. Even medication. We can’t leave them about loosened because of the kitties AND my clumsiness.
Life Hack? I try to use my left hand of course. I purchase dry soup or even open it in the sink to contain the inevitable mes. Sometimes I put on an apron and if I hold the can close to my body it gives me leverage. I will sometimes loosen lids and put the bottles in the fridge if there is room. Today, I made “orange julius” from frozen concentrate of orange juice, low-fat yogurt and bananas. All of the containers had never been opened so it took me about 15 minutes and 4 utensils, 2 rags and determination to manage that. Mind you, I’m sick with the flu which amps up the issue. I can’t peel bananas at this point so I simply cut them with a butter knife.
Barrier Three: Carrying stuff like a glass with cold beverage upstairs? Or hot beverage to the couch? Then carrying back to the kitchen?
Life Hack: I bought some plastic tumblers with lids and straws, like adult sippy cups. I also use travel mugs rather than ceramic. I can’t carry them downstairs very well so I leave them for Ledcat. When I’m well, I have a hand tremor so this is a semi-permanent arrangement. I do put things in tote bags to “tote” around the house. Often I just saw forget it – and drink from a 5 ounce Dixie cup from the bathroom sink when I’m thirsty.
Barrier Four: the pets. we have elders who ned to be fed throughout the day and there is always someone needing to go outside.
Life Hack: As I go in the kitchen this week, whatever dog is in sight goes out the back door as a preventative measure. I use the apron method to open the tins of cat food and wrap in copious of easy to manage aluminum foil. Unfortunately, the dishes do pile up. I also cut up enough treats for several days at once so I can just grab the baggie and go. They are also stir crazy because i am barely awake. One afternoon, i took a nap on the dog bed while i was petting the old dogs. but i can’t play. I do let everyone on the couch (ssshhh don’t tell Ledcat.) And I stretch out treats in kongs – fortunately, no one is reducing right now.
My success in this area is if everyone gets fed and let outside. The bar is low. I don’t care about extra dishes and so forth, but that’s not a sustainable approach. And I worry if I take too long of a nap that someone will need something.
Barrier Five: Carrying laundry. Not only does my hand ache in the cold (and the pressure changes), but I’m pretty weak and tired.
Life Hack: IKEA bags. My shoulders are fine. So I fill up a large bag with anything from dirty clothes to wet rags to even gross pet bedding because I can wash out the plastic bag. Once in the basement, I can just put the bag on the floor because it keeps its shape. Works well carrying clean clothes back up the steps and leaves my hands free to hold on to the rail and swish away cats who try to help me. I really need to get to IKEA and buy like 10 of these bags.
One time, I dropped a bag of clothes when I stumbled (over nothing, of course) and no worries. The bag just fell and I simply had to pick up the items – nothing was damaged or hurt, especially me.
Is this really about the intersection of being queer and disabled? Doesn’t it apply to everyone? Well, no – aside from the first issue which only applies to unmarried couples, the others are seriously impacted by the fact that we are two women who have collectively earned 70% of what our male colleagues earn. We have to mind all of our pennies because it is tax time which means we pay the federal government at least $1,000 extra in taxes for the privilege of domestic partner health insurance. We face a barrage of doctor’s visits that do not see our relationship as valid and instead consider Ledcat to be no more than a good neighbor along to give me a ride. She pays for my health insurance, but she can’t deduct my medical expenses. On and on and on. And we have to listen to well-intentioned but ignorant people tell us how marriage will solve all these problems.
You’ve all experienced some part of these cumulative experiences, but not as a whole. And having the flu is just the icing on the cake this week. Another trip to the doctor by myself on Monday for a long discussion about treatment for my hand and possible OT/PT.
The good news is that there are tons and tons of life hacks you can adapt to your own situation even if the big picture isn’t so bright.