BBC - Ouch! (disability) - Features - A fine romance

Home > Features > A fine romance

A fine romance

by Victoria Lucas

7th February 2005

When I was a teenager, I used to dread Valentine's Day. Growing up with a rare facial disfigurement, I didn't exactly have a queue of boys wanting to send me a Valentine's card.
Like most teenage girls, I wanted to fit in with the crowd and be like everyone else. I wanted to date boys and gossip with friends about which ones I fancied the most. I wanted to feel the excitement of getting a Valentine's card and trying to guess who it was from. But it just didn't happen. I was the one who didn't get a card.

I tried so hard to pretend that it didn't matter to me, but it did. It hurt. I desperately wanted that experience of quickly falling in love and then out of love just as fast and on to the next boy; the teasing and flirting, the fun and simplicity of it all. Sometimes, envy of other girls would slowly coil itself around my throat and choke me until my face would burn up and I'd cry, "Why me? Why do I have to be so ugly?!"

The pathetic thing was that there weren't actually any guys whom I particularly fancied. It was more the affirmation of being attractive and desirable that I needed, and I thought that had to come from a man. I didn't realise that it could come from myself.

Then when I was at college, I began to learn about disability issues such as Disability Arts and the Disabled People's Movement. Previously, I'd thought of myself as a 'normal' person who just happened to have a medical condition. I'd always had a gnawing feeling inside that there was something else to my identity, but I couldn't quite articulate what it was. However, when I was nineteen, I discovered the work of the disabled artist Alison Lapper. I remember when I saw the photograph of her posing as the Venus De Milo and the shock - for shock was what it was - of realising that here was a disabled woman who was beautiful and sensual and totally at ease with her body. I looked at the photograph and thought to myself, "That's who I am. I'm a disabled woman!" I know it sounds strange, but that was actually how it happened. It didn't depress me or make me feel abnormal - quite the opposite, in fact. It was like finally fitting together the last piece of the jigsaw and seeing the bigger picture of who I was. I felt whole. Complete.

I started to look out for other images and writings by disabled women. I met the writer Penny Pepper, whose writing explores disabled women's sexuality. If ever there was a woman that roared with sex appeal, it's Penny!

I began to feel that I too could be desirable and beautiful - not despite my disability, but with my disability. So I picked up a camera and began a series of black and white photographs of my face. I gloried in its depths and curves. I started to find my face attractive. I suppose you could say that I began a love affair with my face! It's been a strange romance, mind you, and not one without its squabbles and temporary separations!

The more I learnt about the issues effecting disabled people, the more I realised just how much I'd fallen for that myth about disabled women: that we are unattractive, tragic and doomed to loneliness. I wish someone had told me when I was fifteen years old that that just isn't true. Instead, people who genuinely meant well told me that one day I would find a nice young man who would see beyond my face and love me for my inner beauty because I had such a wonderful personality (they didn't know me that well ...). I remember smiling at them and hoping that they were right.

Now, however, I'd reached a point where I thought: "To hell with that!" I don't want a man who will look past my face. I want a man that will look straight at it and love it for all its misshapen quirkiness. And if I don't find that man, it won't be the end of the world. I will be okay.

Then in March 2001, I found him.

During my years at college, this cute curly-haired blond guy had casually asked me a few times if I'd like to have a meal with him. I didn't have the confidence with myself to take him seriously. But then I bumped into him in a corridor and he asked me again. I said yes ... and never looked back.

Co and I have now been together for nearly four years, and I am incredibly lucky to have him in my life.

I also feel immensely grateful that I discovered the 'disability' world and the inspiration to love my face. That has certainly been one fine romance ...

Bookmark with...

What are these?

Live community panel

Our blog is the main place to go for all things Ouch! Find info, comment, articles and great disability content on the web via us.

Mat and Liz
Listen to our regular razor sharp talk show online, or subscribe to it as a podcast. Spread the word: it's where disability and reality almost collide.

More from the BBC

BBC Sport

Disability Sport

All the latest news from the paralympics.

Peter White

In Touch

News and views for people who are blind or partially sighted.

BBC Radio 4

You & Yours

Weekdays 12.40pm. Radio 4's consumer affairs programme.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.