Fantasy vs. Reality 3: The Hero On the Throne

A friend of mine was bemoaning his perennial dating conundrum:

“I just never know when it’s the right time. I mean, you don’t want to be that open with a new person straight away, or push them too far. But you also don’t want to, well, invest too much time into a relationship if that is going to be a sticking point. It’s not just a waste of time, but you don’t want to get attached and then discover that you’re fundamentally incompatible and can’t fix it. It’s not fair on them either.”

And no, he wasn’t talking about sex. He was talking about how long one should wait before telling one’s intended that one has a colostomy bag.

It’s one of those realities of life that Hollywood has successfully managed to brush under the carpet. Sometimes when your body get broken, it cannot be put back together. It can be made to carry on working, but you may never regain normal function or full independence. Your life span may be unaltered, but your life quality may be reduced forever. And I’m not talking about the sort of changes that are glorious reminders of a badass life – the unfading-yet-kinda-sexy scars, a slight limp, an occasional twinge that gives you an air of noble suffering when you overdo it, but you’ll overdo it anyway because you’re hardcore like that. Bodies can break in inglorious, unappealing, diminishing ways, ways that remind you and all those around you how much our identity and dignity are dependant on the functioning of this bag of organs we reside in.

Now, I am not saying that people with a less-than-perfect body are somehow lesser than other folks. I know plenty of people who gone through a lot of injuries without losing themselves, their loved ones, or their support network. I look up to them, because I doubt I could manage to achieve what they achieved: not only the bravery of their initial act, but the strength of character that allowed them to continue being their best self afterwards, regardless of their damage, suffering, and losses. This isn’t about them.

This is about the rest of us: the people who are not that strong, yet are sold on the ideal of the Hollywood hero. The people who may end up taking chances without understanding the true impact of failure, or even partial success.

The good folks at Hollywood never mention the colostomy bags. They don’t mention the scars that not only look bloody awful, but carry on hurting years after the fact. They don’t mention how chronic, unrelenting pain can be a mood- and personality-altering monster that constantly gnaws at you, sapping your strength, cognitive functions, and patience. They don’t mention how physical disabilities can take away from you not only the activities that make you feel truly alive, but the abilities that you haven’t even thought of since you were a toddler. They don’t mention that sometimes the hero may end up needing rails to get on the throne.


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