It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Not Into Helping My Friends Shower,” the woman who was creeped out by her (male) friend in a wheelchair who would ask for help showering and going to the bathroom. Keep reading to see how she’s handled the situation.
Buddy and I tried to explain in nice, friendly, social-justicey, non-judgemental language things like having patience, compromise and respect for workers/attendants, and how typical people are socialized not only to not touch one another that intimately, but to dislike it, so it can be uncomfortable for people to be asked to help with nose-blowing and such. Then we realized there were some major issues there, as Joe explained that he gravitates toward women and asks women for help because “women are natural caretakers” and “guys ALWAYS say no and aren’t comfortable with my requests, because they don’t want to touch another guy.” We had to explain to him that, actually, women are very uncomfortable as well, but women are socialized to be nice and be helpful and so feel like saying no makes them a bitch, where men have no such worry about this sort of thing and so feel perfectly fine saying flat-out “no.”
Eventually though, the prolific whining about his situation was really bringing me down. I’m one of those people where, if a situation can’t be fixed, it’s time for an attitude change, not More Fucking Whining. And I was trying to find those super nice active listening ways to reply to him when finally I realized those words were not going to come because they just aren’t me. So I very respectfully yet bluntly told him all the “issues” that I (and other people) have had with him, like him not understanding that it’s totally normal if friends don’t come over to your house more than 1-2 times a month and it’s unreasonable to talk about how miserable your situation is for more than a few minutes each and every time you meet someone (this is what a therapist is for). And that it’s just not cool to complain that people don’t treat you like a regular person when you set yourself up to be constantly taken care of (by requesting services inappropriately).
He actually said “I know” in reply but yet still calls very frequently, moaning about his situation (to me and other women) and basically demanding we come be advocates and intervene (even though this is not our area of expertise). We’ve set him up with disability advocacy groups, but he has this thing a friend of mine, who is a disability specialist, says is common where he doesn’t want to associate with other disabled folks as he feels he has nothing in common with them besides being disabled when in actuality it’s his refusing to accept he is disabled.
Over the last month I’ve offered a lot of help with advocacy and problem solving, but his issues are honestly beyond my scope. I’ve tried to explain that he will never ever have the situation he had with his mom again (where basically, in an effort to make her son feel as not disabled as possible, all he had to do was snap his fingers and she did anything whenever he wanted, literally) and he needs to think about how to live in the mainstream world and research how other people like him work and compromise and negotiate with their attendants and caregivers. He’s been really hostile to this idea and basically thinks his mother and anyone who doesn’t do whatever he wants is “fucking lazy” and insists he does not require “that much care” and has no empathy at all for working with people’s limits and not basically being the spoiled martyr prince. I have a meeting with his mom and his social worker and him at the end of the month to help negotiate a more acceptable solution for his living situation, but I’m growing more and more fed up with his refusal to bend, compromise, and be remotely empathetic, and, if he doesn’t get it together and start acting like the “regular person” he claims he wants to be treated as rather than a martyr king with sexist creeper tendencies, I’m bowing out.
As for my autistic son, this whole situation has made me relieved that my ex-husband and I absolutely made the right choice regarding his care. My ex-husband’s sister is a similarly nasty entitled person most of the time, and we did not want our son to end up like this. This is not to paint disabled people as entitled. I am one myself, keep in mind. I am saying that parents being slaves to their disabled child is no different than being a slave to an able-bodied child, and creates a damned monster with very unreasonable expectations. Our son is in his late teens now and a decent, sweet person we all enjoy spending time with. He also knows how to work with others and was not raised in a house where everyone pitied and favored him. (I grew up with my family but my family did not pity me at all, quite the opposite actually, which wasn’t great either, but that’s neither here nor there). I am also incredibly relieved I have a good relationship with my son now, as his mother and not his nursemaid/caregiver/therapist.
Thanks for the update. I can’t help but wonder though: what’s the point in remaining friends with Joe? It doesn’t sound like you like him at all. And, in fact, YOU almost sound like the martyr you’re accusing him of being by remaining in his social circle and taking on a role, however begrudgingly, of advocate and social guide. There’s no sense in taking on this kind of responsibility for someone you don’t even like, even if you do share mutual friends and may run into each other regularly.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at email@example.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.