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Breath & Shadow

A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature

 



The Bathroom Battle by Tatiana Hamboyan Harrison

Every day in elementary school, an aide follows me around, including into the bathroom. It's the epic humiliation: having an adult go into the bathroom with you. It doesn't matter whether or not the other kids know about it. I know it, and it makes me feel ashamed that I can't even go to the bathroom by myself.

It's not even that I can't use the toilet alone or have trouble getting on and off the seat. I wear spandex pants every day because I can't do zippers or buttons. My only consolation is that spandex pants are somewhat popular, though most of my classmates wear jeans. But there are days when even the spandex pants defeat me. I'm lying here. It's not an unusual occurrence for me to waddle out of the bathroom stall with my pants only up to my knees. Being able to pull up my pants on my own, that's like my birthday, Christmas, and Easter wrapped into one moment. I can exit the stall and tell the aide that I don't need her help. For one moment, I feel the glistening pride of independence.

But most days, my pants win the battle, and I have to exit the stall and pretend not to mind when the aide pulls my pants up for me.

Eventually, a girl named Meaghan and I become close enough that she knows that I need help in the bathroom. And since she already knows, and has done me the enormous favor of not telling everyone else about it, it's time for me to ask her the utterly humiliating question: can she help me go to the bathroom? Her face twinges in alarm at the question.

"What kind of help do you need?"

This is almost as humiliating as leaving the stall and seeing the aide waiting there to pull my pants up... but if I can't do it, I'd rather have Meaghan do it than the aide. At least with Meaghan, it's my choice. She wasn't assigned to me by the school.

So, I tell her about the pants. I tell her I can handle my underwear (THANK GOD), but I just usually can't pull up my pants on my own.

And she agrees. From then on, Meaghan accompanies me every time I go to the bathroom. When I leave the stall, pants down to my knees, she just bends over without looking and pulls them up. We never talk about it. We never laugh about it. It's just something that happens.

And the aide waits outside in the hall, unneeded for one blissful moment.




Tatiana Hamboyan Harrison was diagnosed with Polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as an infant. Her essay, "Living with the Enemy", about marrying someone of a different faith, was published in Newsweek Online's "My Turn" column. For more information about Tatiana, please visit her website at www.TheFunnel.org.


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