Not too surprisingly, our dialogue kicks off with what might well be the most puzzling aspect of all for an amputee.
Alicia’s Q1: What’s the attraction to amputees?
Paul: “For me, it’s a fascination with the absense a missing limb creates. I well realise it’s controversial and potentially hurting, and I also find it very sincerely beautiful. To you, the term will feel inappropriate, but I feel an aesthetic sense of beauty when I see a leg amputee walk with crutches. As a thing of beauty it’s not unlike enjoying the beauty of a pair of hot legs or breasts, but it’s more mesmerising, more something I can’t possibly keep my eyes off. And it’s not getting a kick from the disability a missing limb creates, in terms of a leg amputee’s adapted motion it’s a fascination with different ability on the one hand, and with what I find the ‘beautiful solitude’ of the remaining leg walking.
Next to that, I find the physical shape of a stump beautiful and possessing a strong sensuous appeal, not unlike the softness of a woman’s breast.
Last but not least I’m totally fascinated by how an amputation would feel, and I find close up shots of moving stumps otherworldly interesting, especially the contractions of remaining muscles. This part I’d call fascination rather than very strongly erotic. For me, the beauty of hopping or walking with crutches is much more erotic.”
Alicia: “You aren’t wrong when you say this is controverstial and hurting. My stomach literally churns when I read your description of how you see an amputee. I feel like I want to vomit. Not because what I think you are saying is gross or wrong, it’s because when I try to put myself in your place and look at an amputee in this way, all I can think is: ‘She’s pretty but that’s shitty about her leg. Whoever ends up with her must be a fucking saint. Good for her getting around.’
Again, I am obivously not a dev, so I don’t find amputation attractive – as we’ve seen in my own self acceptance. I want my person to be whole and able so that I’m not burdened by having to take care of someone else’s problems. If I wanted that, I’d have fucking kids. That is the same feeling I have when someone (dev or not) says they are attracted to me. All I think is: ‘why burden yourself this way?’”
Paul: “Maybe I’m thinking the same? It’s not like I choose to have these feelings. I have them, and I can’t make them go away. I accept them meanwhile, so neither do I want to. But I still find them by far the most burdening of everything I happen to sexually like.”
Alicia: “I read how you see amputees and I still don’t get it. What’s so attractive about absense of someone’s body part? Is it just arms and legs? Do dev’s enjoy mastectomy and penectomy too? I still don’t get the appeal.”
Paul: “I don’t even always get my own appeals myself. For instance, I also have an erotic weakness for women with a slight squint. The appeal? Good question, but I have no idea. Appeal can be very hard to explain or understand. Plus it’s culture and history dependent.
In Victorian times, liking women’s bare ankles was kinky. In Ancient Greece, pedofilia was perfectly accepted. The first is now considered innocent where we live, and the second highly unacceptable. Not meant as an excuse or as not taking responsibility for mine, but erotic attractions are only a problem when they conflict, either with societal or with personal acceptance.
And as to parallels: if you like guys with a hairy chest, you don’t necessarily like hairy everywhere, do you? For me, the dev attraction is just arms and legs, and rather specifically one arm or leg too. And I have no genuine idea as to why I’m attracted to it. I even find it morally wrong, and I can very well understand your response to it. And yet I do feel attracted. Attractions don’t tend to be concerned by what others think of them. So, despite your being unable to understand this as little as I do myself, I do find it genuinely beautiful in a way I can’t describe better than I did.
There’s also a question I have for you in response to what you said: I’m hearing what my confessions make you feel like. I’ve however also heard you say you want to genuinely try and understand devotees. Given those feelings of disgust, how do you then?”
Alicia: “My stance can change on things. It just takes time and it really depends on the circumstances. For example, I used to be against abortion. I was totally Pro-Life until someone I am really close to got pregnant and had one done. At first I was really shocked because of my view but because she’s my friend, I wanted to understand why but before I could ask why, everything changed because she started crying and in her tears I saw guilt and remorse that I had seen on my own face. It was the face of someone who was beating themselves up over something that they needed to do to save thier own life. She broke down and vented to me how the abortion created self hate in her for killing her baby, depression from making the decision to pick her own health (she has previous medical issues) over her baby and how it hurts her everyday to know that she did what she did only because she didn’t have the means to take care of herself and a baby physically or finacially.
I saw so many things about myself in her. She’s beating herself up for a very heavy decision she had to make. I get that because I’ve been there and then I thought: ‘Would I feel the same way if I got pregnant?’. I know if it ever happened to me, I’d never be able to afford to take care of myself and a child. Since then, I’ve been Pro-Choice.
With that being said, I don’t lose hope that I won’t someday overcome these conflicting feelings I have about my amputation and dev’s.”
Paul: “Respect for that position. Not everyone would take it or be able to.”
Paul’s Q1: In my blog ‘Amputee Idols’ I go into idols and role models. Are they of any importance to you?
Alicia: “I read that blog and I believe idols and role models are important to everyone, but I don’t believe you’ll find many who see amputees as role models or idols due to the way the media and society is. I’ve noticed people are more likely to idolize an amputee as a role model when they are ‘cool’, like Cherry Darling from Planet Terror. Most of my own personal idols and role models are amputees (I do have many able-bodied idols as well) but they also are all fictional characters in a realm of imagination that isn’t real.”
Paul: “Isn’t that part of what makes an idol and idol? Or can be? My heroes in the boys’ comics I read weren’t real either, and I’ve never seen that as a problem.”
Alicia: “When I hear the term idol or role model, I would assume most people – mainly from asking around myself with friends and family – would have an idol or role model who is a tangible, non-ficticious person. But then again, a lot of my close friends don’t have the imagination I do, maybe that’s why in my findings I’ve heard most people’s idols be celebrities typically.”
Paul: “So, who were your amputee idols then?”
Alicia: “Here’s a few amputees I’ve looked up to:
1) So far the only non-fiction amputee idol I had was formally Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee Paralympian. I used to look up to him until I found out he murdered his girlfriend. Then I realized I was idolizing someone who looked like me (amputee) but was just as horrible as any other able-bodied person by committing murder…”
Paul: “…As any other horrible able-bodied person, maybe?”
Alicia: “Yeah, okay. Not to say that disabled people haven’t committed crimes but I can say in my 28 years of living, he was the first amputee murderer I’ve ever heard of, and in most cases bad guys in media are always depicted as able-bodied. Since he was capable of a brutal murder, I really think able-bodied people should think twice about disabled people not being able to ‘do anything for themselves’.”
Paul: “I’m with you as to how the media depict. I’ve never had trouble imagining a disabled person to be a murderer though, or any kind of criminal for that matter.”
Alicia: “I’ve literally never thought about a disabled person ever commiting a crime like that ever. Again, I’m sure they have, but as a disabled person myself whose experience changed her from a juvenile delinquent into a humbled law-abiding adult, I again would assume – and yes, I know the old adage: ‘You know what assuming does?’ blah blah – that disabled people would be more humbled as people, due to the adversity they face and not have it in them to commit crimes like that. I give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that’s not so wise?”
Paul: “I don’t know if it’s wise or not, but if we wish society to not see disabled people other than able-bodied people, we shouldn’t – implicitly – attribute a higher moral to them. Criminals and murderers are part of some people being bad, and I don’t see why disabled people would be excluded from being bad.”
Alicia: “From my experiences, the way I see it is for example: if I’m getting discriminated against in the business world, because some people and companies think that I couldn’t possibly ‘handle the job’ because I’m disabled, then it would stand to reason that I couldn’t be capable of ‘handling the job’ when killing someone either… because I’m disabled. Does that make sense?”
Alicia: “What I’m trying to get at, is that the views and stigmas people have put on me in my past, have lead me to believe that all disabled people must have the same moral compass I have. There goes that imagination of mine again.”
Paul: “Terrible as it was for his girlfriend, I found Pistorius turning out to be a murderer an ‘emancipatory’ revelation. I think this case changed societal view on people with a disability. And despite the grewsome fact of a murder, I’d say it wasn’t for worse.”
Alicia: “I don’t think that’s true at all. Most people I know never even heard of Pistorious or him being in the news, so certain parts of society have no idea amputees are doing things. Honestly, I think it made us step back as a societal group, but that’s to no fault of ours. Again, it’s due to able-bodied people. We’re not good enough to have your jobs or be seen as equal to the able, and the second we show the able we can be just like them, it turns into: ‘You’re no better than us‘, and then we get snubbed even more.
Make up your mind you two-leggers: do you want us to be like you or not? You give us shit for not trying and then when we do (regardless of the act – good or not), it’s not fucking good enough. Maybe it’s just that way state side.”
Paul: “I don’t know about all of Europe, but in Holland businesses get subsidies for hiring disabled people. And unemployment of disabled people is twice as high as that of able-bodied people, roughly in all age categories and education levels, I don’t think anyone blames disabled people for not trying. Like you said as well, the problem is in people thinking they can’t do the job. But maybe this is a little of the idol-topic, so next idol?”
Alicia: “Next idol! So, number 2 was King Fergus the Bear Killer from Brave the movie. He was missing his leg from a mystical bear attack, but ran an entire kingdom with a peg leg. He was an amazing father, fighter and was so happy! My favorite scene in the movie is when he’s in battle and someone got his sword stuck in King Fergus’ peg leg. He gives him a scowl and in the next scene, you see that guy flying across the room from King Fergus’ punch. That always used to tickle me.
3) Hiccup and Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon 1 & 2. Toothless is a dragon who lost part of his tail wing in battle. Hiccup is a viking teen who found him, made him a prosthetic wing that Hiccup can help control (like a saddle) and fights in battle with him. In the end of the first movie, Hiccup loses his leg (the same leg/wing Toothless did) in battle and was fitted with a prosthetic that worked with Toothless’ saddle prosthetic. The second movie is all about Hiccup and Toothless having amputee adventures and saving the day!
4) My ultimate idol has been and always will be Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump. If anyone has felt my struggle as an amputee or ever painted what my struggle has felt like, it’s Lt. Dan. The whole entire rollercoaster of his happiness, sadness and then ultimate acceptance in the end is what keeps me going in my own life. If Lt. Dan did it, I can do it. I watch Forrest Gump about once a month actually, just to remind myself.”
Paul: “That last one’s a character you could well imagine to exist in real life. Does that make the identification different or stronger for you?”
Alicia: “It’s definitely stronger for me. Lt. Dan I relate to 100% and to be honest, when I watch the movie I see myself in Lt. Dan and in Forrest. Forrest was always Lt. Dan’s positive motivation even when Lt. Dan was fighting his demons. I see my healthy side, the side where acceptance is possible in Forrest, and my non-well side, the bitter side, in Lt. Dan. That may sound abstract but it makes sense to me. A few quotes from the movie that really stand out to me always:
Lt. Dan: “Now, you listen to me. We all have a destiny. Nothing just happens, it’s all part of a plan. I should have died out there with my men! But now, I’m nothing but a goddamned cripple! A legless freak. Look! Look! Look at me! Do you see that? Do you know what it’s like not to be able to use your legs?”
Forrest: “Well… Yes, sir, I do.”
Lt. Dan: “Did you hear what I said? You cheated me. I had a destiny. I was supposed to die in the field! With honor! That was my destiny! And you cheated me out of it! You understand what I’m saying, Gump? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not to me. I had a destiny. I was Lieutenant Dan Tyler.”
Forrest: “Yo-You’re still Lieutenant Dan.”
Lt. Dan: “That’s what all these cripples down at the VA talk about: Jesus this and Jesus that, have I found Jesus yet? They even had a priest come and talk to me. He said God is listening and if I found Jesus, I’d get to walk beside him in the kingdom of Heaven. Did you hear what I said? WALK beside him in the kingdom of Heaven! Well kiss my crippled ass. God is listening? What a crock of shit.“
Forrest: “I’m going to heaven, Lieutenant Dan.”
Lt. Dan: “Yeah? Well… before you go, why don’t you get your ass down to the corner and get us another bottle of ripple?“
Forrest: “Yes, sir.”
Alicia: “Can you see the two sides?”
Paul: “I can, yes. Although I’m a little surprised you’re seeing so much ‘message’ in Forrest’s words. What makes them so meaningful to you?”
Alicia: “I really can just see the two sides of Alicia struggling in that movie and Forrest represents who Alicia was before the amputation and who she still wants to be: happy, positive and living. Lt. Dan respresents who Alicia is and has become during the process: bitter, negative and stuck in the past. Look at it this way:”
Current Alicia (Lt. Dan): “Now, you listen to me. We all have a destiny. Nothing just happens, it’s all part of a plan. I should have died out there —! But now, I’m nothing but a goddamned cripple! A legless freak. Look! Look! Look at me! Do you see that? Do you know what it’s like not to be able to use your legs?”
Old/Future Alicia (Forrest): “Well… Yes, sir, I do.” (of course she does, she’s the same person)
Current Alicia: “Did you hear what I said? You cheated me (Old Alicia did decide to get her leg amputated, not Current Alicia). I had a destiny. I was supposed to die —! With honor! That was my destiny! And you cheated me out of it! You understand what I’m saying. Old/Future Alicia? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not to me. I had a destiny. I was Alicia Marie Cline.”
Old/Future Alicia: “You are still Alicia Cline”
Paul: “I see the parallel, yes. I’m also seeing you say something else, which is quite heavy I think. Implicitly – like Lt. Dan -‘Current Alicia’ is wishing she would have died, because she’d be remembered with honor if she had. Now she sees herself as a cripple without honor, and basically she’s blaming ‘Old/Future Alicia’ for having denied her that honor.
Looking at your own history, I’d say that’s an enormous emotional burden to put upon a decision you could hardly have taken otherwise, as a sixteen year old on top of that. Furthermore, I think 16 year old Alicia made an impressively brave decision. And I well realise this is easy to say as a bystander: I do think it’s one that you should honor yourself for the Forrest way, in stead of blame yourself like Lt. Dan.”
Alicia: “I had other choices, I just chose what I thought was best but looking back on it, I don’t think any of the choices were best. The outside forces in my life have turned me into Lt. Dan. I think I’d be more like Forrest if I felt life and people in my daily life we’re kinder to me.”
Paul: “The choice you had to make reminds me of another movie, Sophie’s choice. You were faced with a totally diabolic dilemma, with neither choice being good. Yet, and unlike Lt. Dan, your choice was not wanting to die on the battlefield of cancer. Your choice was to live, and you took your best chance to enable you to. Maybe you are more Forrest than you think…?”
Alicia: “Maybe. Now I need to watch Sophie’s Choice. Good thing it’s on my Netflix list.”
Paul: “I had to think of that movie because it presents an impossible choice as well, but it’s not one as such related to yours. Be prepared for the very sad ending.”
Alicia: “Trust me, I’m used to sad endings.”
Click to Dialogue (2)