What Did You Just Call Me?
"On Being a Cripple" is an autobiographical essay by Nancy Mairs. The author was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her late twenties, and has since then lost full use of several limbs. Despite the stigma around the use of the word, Mairs refers to herself as a "cripple". With the use of this word she attempts to accept the reality of her situation without feeling sorry for herself. The author also demands the same of her readers and the people that she meets in her life. Mairs writes to those who wish to learn more about what it is like to live with this debilitating disease and how people react to it. She uses this essay to make a point about how society labels people while telling her story in a manner
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Mairs is always realistic about the hardships that life has handed her. She writes, "Tugging at the fringes of my consciousness always is the terror that people are kind to me only because I'm a cripple." (199) This brings up the emotional side of dealing with a debilitating disease. There are plenty of physical hardships involved with living with MS, including getting used to the chronic fatigue, falling down occasionally, walking with a cane, and needing assistance with everyday tasks. Each day is also an emotional challenge, both from within and by dealing with the people who are forced to interact with a "cripple." The author also writes of the ease of losing ones sense of humor to MS and the hardship that this loss can bring. (196) Despite all of the problems that living with MS can hold, Mairs remains positive. She does not simply dwell on the negative aspects of her affliction, because there are times when her circumstances become inspirational to the people in her life. Little things like the fact that she can still paint her own nails helps a student to see that she should be able to keep writing essays.(198) You get the feeling from reading this piece that situations like this are part of the driving force that keep the author moving forward in a world that doesn't seem to be ready to face her existence. This is precisely why Mairs does not need or want our pity. She can find the strength and courage to face the world