Professors Rivkin-Fish and Thrailkill
1 January 2020
I want to look closely at the autobiographical essay by Nancy Mairs about her experience in living with multiple sclerosis. This self-conscious, first-person narrative allows her to be honest with the reader to give them a perspective of someone that is not always playing the sickness role. She discusses the fact that sometimes she gets angry with herself and her limitations and wants to be a “grumpy cripple” that is not playing by the sickness rules. It seems like if you are sick you have to be happy and positive to make the people around you feel better. She talks about how she has had to work through violent self-loathing because of her limitations and because of how she looks. She does not meet society’s expectations for the perfect woman and is not even represented in media making her not feel pretty. After discussing the different ways that she does not measure up to the perfect woman she then shows that she understands that she looks fine and that she does not hate herself but the disease that has this hold on her life. Mairs says the sentence, “I am not a disease.” (Mairs page 7), in the next paragraph to make it stand out. She can choose her life and how it can be lived. Mairs wants control over her life which is why she chooses to call herself a cripple. She wants people to wince at the word instead of it being comforting, normalized, non-specific or deliberately being put at a disadvantage. Crippled describes the limitations of multiple sclerosis and is clean, straightforward and precise, Mairs believes. This choice of what to call herself is a way to give herself control of her disease and gives her a way to show that she is not her disease.