Something in the Way He Moves

Larry Seiler has cerebral palsy. But he doesn’t want your pity—he wants your love.

Before Larry Seiler has sex, he often takes a hot shower. The heat relaxes his muscles, which are tight from cerebral palsy. In doggy-style, one of his favorite positions, he props his hands behind his knees to be sure they don't buckle. If he hadn't figured that trick out, he'd be stuck in missionary, a position he doesn't find quite as satisfying. A wall, chair, or something steady must be handy just in case his thrusting throws him off-kilter. He has to be understanding of his partners, who, with few exceptions in his life, have also been a mixture of physically and learning disabled. Larry can navigate a wheelchair as well as negotiate legs that don't work well. He has experienced women with tremors who grab his penis too hard. But he doesn't get mad. He has been with women who've had poor muscle control, suffering from multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. As a result of this, spontaneous muscle contractions during sex have, on various occasions, caused Larry's penis to get stuck inside both the front and rear orifices. He's patient and calms them, waiting for their minds to take control back from their bodies. Larry has to take care to wear a condom; not only is he protecting himself from disease, but he's also protecting the women he's with—for many of whom carrying a child would be dangerous —from an early death.

Larry wants to find love, but as a 33-year-old with learning disabilities, he's finding many obstacles before him. He has one foot in the disabled world and one foot in the so-called normal world—and doing the splits between both has left him stretched and alone. He was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition caused by damage to the brain, which results in poor muscle control and coordination. Although CP can occur independent of learning disabilities, in Larry's case it did not. He's what people who work in the land of developmental disabilities would call high-functioning. He's functional enough to get a real job, but disabled enough to need help in several areas such as budgeting, socializing, and judging situations.

He walks the streets stiffly. His feet, like a duck's, point inward with each step. His shoulders hunch up toward his hairy lobes, and pockmarks and pimples stretch from the tip of his short brown hair all along his jawline. If he looks slightly down—past his rounded belly, past the hand lying robotically rigid by his side—to the ground, his chin doubles. He checks out the girls that pass, one hazel eye following a tad faster than the other. He's attracted to long hair and legs, big breasts, intelligence (though she doesn't have to have a college degree) and someone who dresses well and can teach him how to do the same. (He especially likes a woman in a business suit, something that rarely happens with the women he dates.) The women, upon first glance, don't even give him a second thought. They feel sorry for him, he thinks, and don't realize he has a heart. He could make them just as happy as any other man—he likes to please a woman in bed (or on a kitchen counter) and have conversation over a great dinner, and has internalized all the family values that a good Jewish boy should. If they said yes and just got to know him, say, over a cup of coffee at Applebee's or at a Friday night movie (he'd even pay), they'd have no trouble saying yes, yes, yes for the rest of their lives. And that yes would give the public proof that Larry belongs.

Larry has dated plenty of women; he estimates close to 50 in all. Each reminds him of a particular food—Larry's grocery list of girls—and that's how he remembers them. There was Welch's Grape Juice; she was sweet at the beginning, but turned tart like the last bit of juice left in the bottle. There was Strawberry Ice Cream; she smelled good and tasted good "down there." There was Pickled Pigs Feet; she had a lot of flavor, but depending on the day, she could be nasty. He named another Spotted Dick, an English bread pudding with currants, because the girl's butt looked like it had big dried-fruit-like craters. Because of confidentiality concerns, in this article, each of Larry's relationships will be referred to by the food he feels they represented.

At eight years old, Larry had his first crush. It was on his babysitter, Darlene. She'd strut around Larry's Co-op City apartment, doing nothing special except looking cute with her long hair and big breasts. He started feeling a tingle in his groin, and from there, he dabbled in masturbation. At nine, Larry discovered his first porn tapes. They belonged to his father. Larry liked the tapes, and before long, had watched the whole collection. He attended P.S. 178 in the Bronx. That's where, at age 10, he had his first sexual experience. He called her Semi-Sweet Chocolate because she was black; they were in special ed together. She also had CP. They snuck out of recess and into the stairwell. There, they explored each other's lower regions. Larry's face was mid-burrow into her pants when the principal caught them. Larry's parents were called in, and when he got home, his father—who suffered from alcoholism and sometimes went into rages—beat him with a belt. Larry says that the comfort of having her close outweighed the pain of the welts.

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