Over seven months of Queer Crip Love Fest, we’ve talked books, kids, pets, partners, breakups and more with some of the disabled internet’s most captivating queer folks. The goal of this series was to illustrate just how many forms love can take, no longer forcing us to wait for able-bodied saviors who’ve Just Learned So Much. We deserve space to speak out about our own passions on our own terms. I’m incredibly proud to have created that here, with all of our guests and all of you. And today, for the final installment, I could not be happier to introduce you to Nicole and Lindy, who have just the kind of story I want to end on.
Nicole had this to say about Lindy:
I love my girlfriend. She has perfect blonde hair and her laugh is the best thing in the world and she makes me feel like I’m full of glitter. We travel to see each other every month or so and count down every single day until we’re back together. We met on Tinder and she came to volunteer at the summer camp I worked at for a couple of weeks. She flew on a plane alone for the first time to come visit me.
I think it’s important to highlight that we’re both disabled in different ways; I have invisible disabilities, whereas she is legally blind and so we have two totally different kinds of access needs that we’re working toward mindfulness about. I think that disability has always been a part of our love; it’s a constant exchange, nothing is off the table, we’re always here holding each other and offering space for accessibility and everything else within our relationship. We acknowledge that love is growth and finding space to give each other what we need to make the world a more accessible place for both of us. It has changed my experience in love because I’ve never had someone love me the way that she does, and the way I love her.
Who wants to see them at next A-Camp? Me too! But for now, enjoy our big gay sendoff with a bit of everything: lifeguarding, Lesbian Processing™, text etiquette and yes, True Life.
Why don’t we start with more about your origin story? I know that it’s adorable, but tell me from the beginning.
Nicole: So, Tinder. [Laughs]
Lindy: I messaged first. She didn’t respond for a while.
N: That’s because I was busy, first of all. [Both laugh] I was! It was the very beginning of the summer; we had just done the turnover from staff training to an actual session at the camp where I was working. I had just downloaded Tinder, and she said ‘Hey cutie’ with a smiley face, I remember that. And we got to chit chatting, and then moved over to Snapchat. I’d send pictures from being up too late in the office, just looking exhausted, wearing a fanny pack, clearly had not showered in days. Very camp manager. [Both laugh] Remember you were out at the bar, and you sent me something?
L: Yes, I was drunk.
N: Sent some great snaps. [Both laugh] Got real intimate, real quick.
So had you met in person at this point?
N: I was still in session, and you can’t really leave while that’s happening. Management doesn’t get breaks. So we hadn’t had the opportunity to meet in person, and then I kind of disappeared for a little bit.
L: For like, two weeks.
N: It was not two weeks! It was like, four days.
L: She’s lying, because I’m never that dramatic. I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. [Laughs] So eventually I texted and said “If you don’t want to talk to me, I can take a hint” or something.
N: I was managing six program areas and about 150 kids, plus 50 staff. So it was legitimately a busy time!
L: And then you took your lifeguard class. Because you sent me a snap on your way there, and I was like “Oh, I’m a lifeguard instructor!”
N: And I was like “Well, that’s a really helpful thing to know, because we’re looking for one!” [Both laugh] So we still hadn’t met, but we did need another lifeguard. So I asked “Do you want to come to camp for a week?” and she was like…
L: “… yeah.”
Aww! So Lindy, you hadn’t even met her yet — how did you feel when she just asked you to come there for a week?
L: Well, I already had the week free; think I had something planned, but it fell through. So we met the day before camp started and went on our first date.
N: Yes. We went to Kerbey Lane — do you know what that is?
I don’t know what that is.
L: [Whispers] Oh, she’s missing out.
N: Yes, you’re missing out. It’s like IHOP but better in all the ways. You can get a swirl in your pancake, and they have vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options every day. And you can also get a carafe of mimosas for $12. I figured you should know that.
L: So we went on our first date there, and then I met all of her camp friends. I’m pretty good at going into random groups, and I thought I did pretty well. But they all had camp names and I was like “This is weird.” Then we went to the lake, and then we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods —
N: And then we went to Whole Foods and got some food in a box.
So you’re essentially just checking off gay thing after gay thing over the course of this one day.
L: You grabbed my hand at whole Foods.
N: I did. We held hands at Whole Foods. We do a lot of really gay shit. Get excited, this interview is about to get really gay.
“When one of us would walk into the dining hall or something, we’d text each other stuff like ‘Oh, your hair is so beautiful today!'”
So when you met in person, was the vibe definitely there? Because sometimes it can be tough with internet people, not necessarily knowing if you can make the transition.
N: It was pretty immediate. And what was nice was that we’d had Tinder conversations, we’d had Snapchat conversations and we’d had a couple of phone conversations. So the vibe was there early on.
So you had to jump into this thing head first, because you were working together right off the bat. Do you think it was good to have total immersion with each other immediately?
L: I think it helped build a friendship instead of just a physical attraction. And also, seeing how each other interacted with other people, and how we are under stress.
N: In that environment, you’re gonna figure out pretty quickly who you do and don’t want to be around. So it worked really well on that level.
L: We’re not really allowed to be on our phones, so when one of us would walk into the dining hall or something we’d text each other like “Oh, your hair is so beautiful today!” Because we couldn’t really go up to each other and be cute either. But working together ended up being really good, because it taught us a lot about each other that we might not have learned until later.
And what about afterwards? Because then you have another big transition, so was it “Oh, I want to be with you,” or “Maybe this isn’t the right time,” or what?
N: We had made it official pretty quickly. We didn’t U-Haul it, but we did call it something pretty quickly. If we could have U-Hauled it we might have. [All laugh] But she did help me pack and go to the airport.
L: We bawled. I almost got my car towed because I got out and went inside with her. They don’t like that. [Laughs] But there wasn’t really a sit-down conversation. Because she wouldn’t have phone service in the middle of the woods in Vermont, which is where she was going, I wrote little letters to give to her, so each day she could open one. It would be like “When You’re Feeling Sad,” or whatever. And then she could open it.
Had either of you been in a long-distance relationship before?
N: I had.
So what sort of agreements did you hammer out going into it?
N: That we are only with each other, and we’re going to make sure we keep up communication, agree to visits, switch off the visits. It was very clear from the beginning what our relationship was going to look like, and that if it needed to change, we could talk about it. It took practice. There were some moments of friction, some call out type things: “You’re not listening, you’re not paying as much attention as you could,” stuff like that. But what never changed is that we were happy to talk to each other.
L: I think part of it was we were scared because it was real. The stakes are so much higher. Plus you always wonder if it’s going to feel the same when you go so long without seeing each other. But we’ve been able to trust each other from the start.
“She asked curious questions in a respectful way, which people don’t do… She makes me feel like I have an open space to say when I need something.”
So you’re the first couple I’ve ever interviewed together, and also the first where both people have disabilities. I’ve actually never been in that situation, so I’m really interested to hear how it plays out in your relationship. The first thing I’m wondering about is disclosure, since that can be a huge issue when you’re meeting people online. Did you disclose your disabilities up front?
N: She told me that she was blind when I mentioned that I was applying for a job at a school for blind students. So we just kind of carried on, and I asked something like “So what does that mean for you? What does that do for your daily life? What do your access needs look like?” Not “Oh wow, so what’s it like?” in that morbid way.
L: She asked curious questions in a respectful way, which people don’t do.
Right! It would be amazing if more people did that for their partners — not “Tell me everything I feel entitled to,” but “Tell me what this is gonna mean for us,” which is a completely different question. Can you tell me more about that made you feel?
L: It was really reassuring. She seemed interested and not like she’s never been around someone with a disability before. She knew what to ask to make me feel open to want to share with her, and not have to justify myself or why I need printouts of PowerPoints, or to not use green marker on white boards or things like that. It was just really good. Sometimes I’ll feel attacked or like I need to defend myself when describing my disability to people; with her, that never happened.
On the other hand, when we would Snapchat, I could never read what she said because the font was so small, and I waited a while to bring that up. It was a couple of months until I was like “Hey, can I ask for a favor…?” And now we only use the bold, big fonts. When she forgets, she’ll just immediately resend the same thing with the font big. But she won’t take it to the extreme and overcompensate like people sometimes do. She makes me feel like I have an open space to say when I need something.
And what about for you, Nicole? Did you talk about your needs before or after that?
N: It’s never been a big, one-time disclosure, because I do have multiple things going on. There are some things going on with my body that are invisible disabilities, and then I have learning disabilities and mental health stuff. So it wasn’t that it came out slowly or that I wasn’t telling the truth, but there was a right time for things and a not right time. So it would come up like “Hey, this is a thing I usually have a handle on, but right now I don’t and I need support.” Dealing with both the physical and emotional exhaustion that comes from all this.
We made a lot of lists. She would sit on FaceTime with me —
L: And I would type the list for her. She would tell me about the things that she needed to get done within the week, so I’d send her daily reminders.
N: That was so helpful; it made things a lot more manageable. There was a window of time where I was feeling really depressed, and she helped me clarify what I needed to do, and whether I was taking my medication. That came up one time.
L: I didn’t mean it in a bad way, but one time I accidentally said —
N: We were arguing, and I was really upset. Instead of taking it as “Oh, Nicole’s upset and it’s okay to be upset” or whatever, it became “Are you taking your medication?”
L: For the record, I did feel awful about it!
N: But that is an important question! Are you feeling this way because you’re not taking care of yourself? That’s completely legitimate. It’s just a weird line to navigate, and a hard thing to ask, and a hard thing to be asked. Because you’re having these feelings, and you need the other person to know that they’re very real. So we navigated and worked on that.
It seems like you’ve negotiated the logistical access stuff really well, and that your needs and abilities complement each other. What about emotionally — how does it feel to be in a relationship with someone who understands access on a visceral level? Not “Oh, I should understand this concept because I’m a good person,” but “I understand this because I’ve been through it”?
L: It helps that Nicole had studied disability in school, so she knew how to ask properly. I’m pretty open; give me somebody who shows interest in disability stuff, and I will tell you what I need. So her giving me that made me feel like I could ask for those things without causing a problem. The knowledge to understand where I was coming from was really helpful.
Is there anything that’s challenged you about being in a relationship with another person who has access needs?
N: Not in relation to disability for me, really, beyond that moment of “Are you taking your meds?”
L: There have been more conversations around our ways of supporting each other. When I need support, it’s a mixture of “Please agree that this sucks” and a hug or a hand to hold. And then “Here are the things we can do to make you feel better.”
N: You also love a good platitude. [Laughs]
L: As you can tell from her tone [laughs], Nicole does not like platitudes at all. She likes “This fucking sucks, and I want you to understand that.”
N: I want her to listen and be there with me, rather than tell me about how it’s all going to be okay. Just for her to say “Yeah, that sucks, and I’m right here with you” — that’s all I want.
L: And I’m a fixer. So that was a huge issue that we had to figure out.
But that’s great — that sounds like a pretty standard relationship issue, and a really healthy thing, rather than this huge blowup around feeling like a burden, or whatever people might assume your problems would be.
N: That’s definitely true. We’ve gone through breaking up and getting back together, and it’s not because of any disability-related stuff at all; it’s been for the same reasons and followed the same path as it would even if that wasn’t a factor. It’s because things weren’t healthy, and then we worked on healing, and it was hard on both of us, and now we’re here. You just learn a lot about each other and come to that place of understanding.
We definitely had to negotiate how often to communicate and in what way, though, when we were first getting back together. Really be mindful of the line between what was and wasn’t healthy, and choose the medium carefully.
L: I sound like I’m in a mood whenever I text, because I put periods on things.
Why would you do that?!
L: People just assume I’m angry because I put periods on things! Which then does put me in a bad mood! [Laughs]
Rookie mistake. You can’t put periods on your texts.
L: That’s the real takeaway from this interview: don’t end your texts with a period.
“Love is in the things you choose to do and the way you choose to be and the people you choose to be with. I think it means that’s the person you give the last of your favorite candy in the bag to, the one you bring to a place you love and share it with them, the one you have total honesty and truth with even when you’re not quite so pretty in it. It’s being your gross self with someone.”
Okay, last big question: what does love mean to you? I want you to each answer this individually.
N: Do you want us to each leave the room so we can’t hear the other one answer?
If you want! I think that’d be cute.
N: You go first. [Leaves the room]
L: Bye! [Laughs] Okay, I’m ready. I think love means accepting each other with all flaws and positive attributes. Even when you’re in a bad mood, still loving them and letting them know that you’re still there and not going anywhere. Eliminating that fear of leaving is really big for me; knowing that they’re not going to leave when you have a bad day.
[Nicole comes back in]
We’re talking about you, go away! [All laugh, Nicole leaves]
That sense of security is big for me too, because it’s so rare to get from anybody. Knowing that you can show your whole self is such an important thing.
L: It’s like that in my family too; we can be mean to each other, but we know that we’re there for each other and aren’t going anywhere. I don’t mean purposefully, but getting into arguments and knowing it’ll still be okay. And I love having that security with Nicole. Because I’m not always great — no one is — and it means a lot to be able to let her know when I’m not having a good day, and have her say “Okay, thanks for telling me” and still love me is really important.
[From off camera] N: Can I come back now?
[They switch places]
N: I think that love is in the things you choose to do and the way you choose to be and the people you choose to be with. I think it means that’s the person you give the last of your favorite candy in the bag to, the one you bring to a place you love and share it with them, the one you have total honesty and truth with even when you’re not quite so pretty in it. It’s being your gross self with someone. Lindy knows everything; she’s been around, y’know?
Love is taking the time, and just sitting there on Skype even when you’re not really doing anything. Love is sharing food, and asking for Sno-Cones and going to get them and then realizing you didn’t want them after all, but nobody gets mad because you spent time together. Love is showing up.
Wait. Can I tell you a secret?
N: She was on True Life: I’m An Albino. And I bought the episode — didn’t just watch it on YouTube, I bought it. It was when she was in high school and going through her scene kid phase and it’s just so good. [Laughs] Love is being able to buy her awkward teenage moments on iTunes and watch them over and over.
Oh, this is amazing. I really wish I could put this in the interview, but I don’t want to out her MTV phase without her consent.
N: [To off camera] Babe? I have a question! [Laughs] You know how I bought the episode of True Life? Can that be part of this?
L: [Laughs] Yes, that’s fine. Thanks for asking.
N: See? Love is calling her over to ask if that’s okay.
This is the last installment in Queer Crip Love Fest. View the complete series.