“I get him, and he gets me,” Cassandra states as if it’s obvious. Her boyfriend Roland can be seen in the background of this shot, acting goofy and dancing in his wheelchair.
As they sat at a table in the mall’s food court, Mary had just asked her friend Cassandra if “it” bothered her — the fact that her boyfriend can’t walk.
Cassandra’s answer is a moment of brutal honesty that stands out to me in the biting comedy, “Saved!” The largely unrecognized 2004 comedy has become something of a cult classic. It is also one of my favorite movies, mostly due to its honest treatment of Roland.
Especially when it comes to his relationship.
In my small town, in the middle of soybean fields and the bayous of southern Louisiana, it’s expected that most people will marry by their mid-20s. To be 30 and unmarried is almost unheard of.
My name is Matt. I’m almost 33, and I’m single.
And I’m doing just fine, though that goes against the popular local mindset.
Dating, on its own, is an extremely complex topic. But dating with a debilitating disorder like Friedreich’s ataxia? Well, I can’t even begin to figure that out. Whether or not I have it figured out, I live with the reality that Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) plays a role in my attitude toward dating.
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I’ve realized that while I was still dating, I believed that simply being in a relationship made me a better person. I didn’t focus on how to be OK with myself outside of a relationship, and so I wasn’t. I was bitter and lonely and self-pitying.
Being in a relationship is beautiful. Both of my younger sisters are married and have children. One of those sisters, Morgan, has FA, same as me.
For most of my life, I blamed my inability to be in a relationship on the fact that FA prevented me from doing so. That’s simply not true: I know many people with FA, including Morgan, who have solid relationships. I felt incomplete and odd, unable to find a girlfriend.
I didn’t understand. I could comfortably and easily settle into my loneliness, allowing my bitterness to evolve into self-righteous anger, but that would place the issue on the girls who were not attracted to me rather than on myself.
That seemed to be the only explanation: The problem wasn’t me, but others. I clutched my self-righteousness and self-pity as my security blanket. I was comfortable with this. After all, blaming others felt like the only way to cope.
Or was it?
Cassandra hops into her car, frustrated and flustered. Roland wheels up to her, but before he can say anything, Cassandra spits “I can’t talk now! I have to go!” She speeds away, and Roland is left alone in the school parking lot as the sun sets.
“But I don’t have a ride,” he says, realizing that he lives with Cassandra and is therefore homeless and helpless, unable to drive and with nowhere to go.
A perfect song plays later, as Cassandra realizes that she left her boyfriend without a ride. She drives around looking for him all night. As the sun comes up, Roland wakes up lying on the grass, where he spent the night. He climbs back into his wheelchair (which is realistically awkward, and a memorable scene). He catches a public transit bus to a cafe, where Cassandra finds him sitting at a table. She is relieved almost to the point of tears. She apologizes for leaving him, but he interrupts.
“I stuck out on my own, and I’m OK. I realized something. I’m depending on you. … I don’t want to be the guy who’s with the girl because he needs her. I want to be the guy who’s with the girl because he wants her.”
I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem as complex as dating. Add in the additional factor of a disability, and there is no easy answer.
The only thing that makes sense to me, the thing I strive for is … to be OK as I am, singular. I shouldn’t entwine my happiness to another person. I shouldn’t be angry or depressed about my relationship status. And when in a relationship, I should never depend on my beloved to survive but should always want their presence in my life.
Friends: Whether single or in a relationship, work on being OK and comfortable with who you are. I’m trying to do that. And maybe that’s enough.
Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.