Superpowers and Suicide: The Spectrum of Disabilities in Popular Culture

“Back in the early 2000s, Nickelodeon debuted a show called Pelswick. The series followed a teenage boy named Pelswick Eggert going through the eighth grade and using a wheelchair. Created by irreverent cartoonist (and quadriplegic) John Callahan, the show depicted life from Pelswick’s perspective, with the lens never all the way on or all the way off his disability.

The first episode involves Pelswick being denied a chance to go on a camping trip because his school is not zoned to handle accidents he might incur due to his chair. He says from the start, “I don’t get camping. You bring bad-tasting food into the forest, sleep in a garbage bag with a door, just so you can wake up with a line of ants up your nose.” Still, he liked the idea of hanging out with his friends and roasting marshmallows with his crush, Julie, and is somewhat disappointed. In a furor to advocate on his behalf, some friends and family begin lobbying and protesting, and the trip is cancelled for everyone. When Pelswick speaks on his own behalf, he explains that he never wanted to ruin anyone else’s fun, and the camping trip becomes a backyard camping party that everyone enjoys.

The show sometimes included these disability-based storylines, but they were never the standard. Just as often, episodes centered on normal teenager issues. My absolute favorite was one in which Pelswick derides (in front of his friends) a popular boy band called N’Talented, but pretends to enjoy them to impress Julie. When his ruse is discovered, she is furious and throws a CD at him, asking “Why don’t you listen to them before you make a judgment?” When he does, he discovers that he really does love their music, and he shamefully hides it for fear that his peers will ridicule him. As a longtime N*SYNC fan, I related.”

Read more here

Headline image: The photograph features three children in blue capes playing and laughing outdoors. A light-skinned child using a walker is on the left, a light-skinned child with glasses and a hearing aid stands in the center, and a dark-skinned child is laughing and using a wheelchair.]

stream of something

For the last four years I’ve been working in the meatpacking district, not packing meat but writing marketing copy for a variety of brands. Okay, to be fair, I started out as the receptionist, answering phones at the front desk, letting in the UPS man and emptying refrigerators of rotting lunches and curdling creamer. Then I moved upstairs to the creative department and started writing emails and blog posts and banner ads and website copy for banks and technology companies and telecommunications companies and a company that sells gas. I learned that “That’s why” is the only phrase you really need when writing marketing copy.

Every morning I’d get a smoothie at Whole Foods and sip it as I walked past trucks full of eggs and men wearing garbage bags and barrels full of fish guts. I love meat but the smell of raw meat, especially meat en masse, meat mixed with bleach or ammonia or whatever other chemicals they’re using to clean the premises and maybe clean the meat, is not great. I’d sidestep puddles of weird frothy foam in my professional sandals and I’d pretend to be deaf when men yelled GOOD MORNING GORGEOUS and I’d look away when I’d see seagulls circling dump trucks full of animal innards. 

The meatpacking district is a trendy neighborhood now, Google’s moving in and it’s a hop, skip and a jump away from restaurant row on Randolph, rents are going up and fancy coffee is available. There are new sidewalks and there is landscaping and there are art galleries and juice bars that smell like grass. There’s a new train stop and a new ramen place and a deli where people happily, weirdly spend $20 on a salad. 

This was my first “real” job after college and it’s been really good to me, in a lot of ways, and I’ll probably appreciate it a lot more later on when I’ve had time to think about it. But I’ve also been here too long, too many hot meaty summers, too many winters of slipping and sliding on unshoveled sidewalks because meatpacking companies can’t be bothered with pedestrians, probably rightly so. On Tuesday I put in my two-week notice and it felt good, just as good as I imagined it would, and I’m allowing myself to feel sad about leaving the job, the people, and moving on to a place where I don’t know anything about anything. I’m allowing myself to feel the anxiety that always comes with new things, and wondering if I’ll be able to do anything right, and wondering if I’ll fail, and wondering when the good things that have characterized this year will stop and the bad things will start happening. Intellectually I know this is not how life works but spiritually it’s been ground into me, that too much good is bad, that happiness ultimately leads to suffering so you’d better be ready. I keep having dreams about people dying, dreams about making huge mistakes, dreams about losing everything. My subconscious is so vulnerable about its true fears! 

Still, I’ve never been more thankful or elated than I have been this year, this year that’s been bright and beautiful and full of good, happy things, this year that’s been like a balm to my depression and to the collection of years that I spent in survival mode. I don’t think I’ve actually become more successful, I just think I’ve become more courageous, and I have learned to ask for what I want and to be true to what I want (like, I don’t want to walk through a corridor of meat every day), and I am beginning to get those things and that is a gift. 

Wonder Power, Activate!

We live in a small house. It is just shy of 2200 sq. ft. if you count the basement (which I do because we use the hell out of every inch in our house). We are a hobby rich people, and have the accompanying crap that comes with having hobbies. And we’re readers.

Our tiny house is always a shithole.

And It stresses me out so much that I am increasingly physically ill from the stress of the mess.

The Girlchild has outgrown a number of toys in the last year, and I just haven’t had the energy or give-a-damn to deal with it, but her room was so gross, I couldn’t overlook it anymore. So while she was at camp I went through like a woman possessed and in 45 minutes hauled out 3 bags of garbage. Then I made a deal with her - I would help her finish cleaning her room. We would remove her toy kitchen and replace it with a reading nook. 

At the same time, Tadpole Jones suddenly started swinging his leg over the rail of his crib, which would leverage him just enough that he’d start to topple. So he needed to graduate into a big boy bed. We had all the stuff for the big boy bed transition - The Girlchild’s old bed, and when Target went out of business, I bought Avengers bedding!

So my goal for this two days off was to manage those two big projects.

Part of getting at the bed for Tadpole Jones was clearing the beds in the spare room (It’s a set of bunk beds). The spare room is miniscule and is our filthiest dirtiest secret - it’s like an oubliette. Things go there to be forgotten. And the Manthing is HORRIBLE about putting things away. I will say ‘can you put ______ away?’ and he just goes and either puts it in the middle of the fucking floor in the basement or on one of the beds in the spare room.

So he had to clear the beds to get at the bed for Tadpole Jones…

Here are some photos that are making me proud. The beginnings make me feel angry and ashamed, but the endings… That is what I accomplished in the last two days! I kept The Girlchild busy in her room, and the Manthing busy building things and moving things and making dinner.

I’m obviously not done down there, but seriously, that’s a HUGE difference. Lots of work left to do, but it’s getting there.

The Girlchild’s reading nook. And her room before it was finished. She did a great job. It was WAY better looking than that top photo by the time she was done.

Cleaning up the spare room. Amazingly, only one bag of garbage. I could probably be more ruthless, but at this point, it’s more about organization than purging. I should explain the photos in this block. The top left is a picture of those ziploc vacuum space saver bags. I am in love with them. I have most of the spare bedding done in those, and the Manthing’s winter carhardts in them under the bed. Beauty. The top right is a box of patterns that I picked up when our fabric store stopped carrying simplicity. There’s a great pattern in there that will make me a kickass Peggy Carter. Bottom left is the shelving unit that is in the process of being organized. I built those shelves (It’s not actually a big accomplishment, but I was proud of myself at the time). I’m a huge fan of taking storage solutions vertical. The bottom right is the one bag of garbage. And some extension cords. Because we never seem to be able to find them.

Tadpole Jones’ room. Avengers assembled!! I save the Black Widow, Hawkeye and 2nd Cap stickers for The Girlchild’s room, but yeeeeeessss…. bask in the glory of the Tadpole Thorsson’s bedroom. He was SO excited about the stickers. Cap has been up forever, but he was thrilled about Bruce, Tony and Thor.

So that’s my day. My hip is killing me, and my back aches now. The Manthing has decided that we earned ice cream, and I am not going to argue.