I remember my high school ball like it was yesterday. Not just the matching eyeliner that my emo boyfriend and I wore. I remember everything; from the dress, to the fake tan, fake nails, to the shoes. But even though I’m glowing in the photos, I also remember the heartbreaking moments that weren’t captured on film.
I was born with a condition called phocomelia, which meant the bones in my legs didn’t develop properly before birth. Born without a left leg and most of the major bones missing in my right leg, I learned to walk on an artificial limb that became commonly known as Lucy Leg, because what toddler can say pros-the-sis!?
As a child I had always been comfortable with my body. My image knew no boundaries; outrageous costumes, ballerina tutus, bare feet, toenail varnish…
Lucy Leg was simply part of the décor.
But it wasn’t always like that. It wasn’t until high school that I suddenly became aware of my imperfections. Lucy Leg, which had always been a natural part of my physique, began to stick out like a sore thumb, or more literally, like a plastic leg. Open toed sandals were exchanged for bulky sneakers and shorts for baggy pants.
As I got older Lucy became impossible to hide and I hated her because of it – my trustworthy, ever faithful leg. I was terrified of walking past mirrors, shop or car windows – anything that reflected my odd walk.
Sometimes I couldn’t even bring myself to look at my own legs.
I can’t remember what caused my attitude change, but shortly before my school ball I decided I’d had enough. It was time to stop hiding what truly made me unique and be proud of who I was.
So I took a risk. I did the most outrageous thing I could think of and painted Lucy Leg fluorescent pink.
This was my way of coming out as a disabled person and telling the world this is who I am, like it or not.
Feeling the warm fuzzies yet? This is the point in my story when someone usually busts out the quote: ‘the only disability in life is a bad attitude’.
But my story doesn’t end there.
Stella Young is one of my heroes. As a disability activist and wheelchair user she’d tell anyone who pulled out the ‘bad attitude’ quote that it was absolute rubbish (though, she uses expletives), stating that
“no amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille!”
And she was right. Just because I changed my attitude didn’t mean my body had suddenly stopped sucking. And as the school ball approached, it didn’t matter how good my attitude was, I still couldn’t wear the shoes I wanted to.
And it made my heart sink. Why? Because it reminded me of my limitations.
No amount of smiling at those high heels would make them suitable for Lucy Leg.
You know, everyone has their own disability. Even you. Something that reminds you of your limitations. Just because you can see my Lucy Leg, doesn’t make me any different from you. But what I’ve learned is that it’s how I respond to my limitations that ultimately shapes my future.
In the end I wore Chuck Taylors to my school ball.
I was very aware my sensible shoes weren’t as sexy as the heels the other girls wore. But they all ended up taking off shoes after two songs on the dance floor anyway!
I’m now 27-years-old. Even though I might come across as a successful young woman who is taking on the world, the fact remains – I am still disabled and still obsessed with shoes I can’t wear. And that’s ok. I’ve learned to live with my limitations.
Since high school I’ve had the privilege of being bridesmaid 4 times, attended fancy awards dinners around the world, partied at red carpet events… and even now when I pull out those flat, lace up sensible shoes my heart sinks a little. But that’s cool.
I have a little cry and then get on with it, I’m rocking those Chucks like Lucy and I are world class foot models!
Photo in Feature: E.P. Photography
Robbie, is one of my heroes | GET MORE LUCY GOODNESS HERE!