I think it’s fair to say that public opinion (and let’s face it, our own opinion when we have down days), is that anyone with any sort of additional requirement will find the ‘coming of age’ situation of getting a date a difficult, awkward, perhaps even harrowing experience.
Well, there may be cases in which this is true. But I think the following three points might cast a little ease, and maybe even humour, onto this battlefield of love: Let the dating commence!
As a sex and relationships ‘agony aunt’ for Enhance the UK’s Love Lounge, a question that I often get asked when it comes to impairments and dating is, when online dating, should the impairment be disclosed immediately? It might be subtly done in a profile picture, or brought up as a ‘warning message’ before the flirting even gets off the ground. Alternatively, it might not be mentioned (or seen) until you meet your date for the first time. Either way, the important message that I want to get across is that, ultimately, it is your choice.
My personal opinion is that, like most things, a ‘happy medium’ can be hit here. Whilst I wouldn’t choose to leave it till D Day to turn up to a swanky restaurant or cosy cinema with wheelchair and (Taa-Dah!) Jazz hands to boot, I also think that disclosing too early can make any impairment look like more of an obstacle than it ever needs to be. I always think of it like this: if I stumbled across a profile on a dating site of a gorgeous guy who really sparked my interest, I’d want him to be funny, smart, and say something that grabbed my attention for all the right reasons. What I wouldn’t want him to blurt out is ‘Before we begin this cat and mouse tom foolery, I’m deaf so I’m really not that sexy…sorry.’ Bit of a mood killer for anyone, right?
The ‘tosser’ filter?
Something else that I often find myself discussing with those who write to me is whether having an impairment gives you a strange sixth sense, or a blocker for all things ‘dickhead’. I’ve been with my boyfriend for two and a half years, but it doesn’t stop me from being able to weed out the guys who comment on my eyes, smile, or sense of humour from the ones who decide, very foolishly, to a) call me a ‘pretty cripple’ or b) just check that I can actually have sex before taking the conversation any further. So, even though it’s a pain when my chair gets stuck in sand when I’m trying to be sexy on the beach, and its stubbornness has caused me to crawl into plenty of women’s (and men’s) toilets in my time, I must rejoice in the fact that actually, my wheelchair repels wankers. Woo!
A wealth of knowledge – and a story or six!
This next bit is for when you’re on the date. You’ve used your filter to find a nice guy/girl with plenty of potential, spoken about your impairment and been met with nods and smiles (result!) and you’ve got a drink, talked about the weather and your favourite colours… what should you say next??! I’m a great believer that those of us with impairments have enough crazy, hilarious, awkward and tragic stories to last us a lifetime, so get using your experience and show that person how interesting, smart, funny and gorgeous you really are. Everyone loves someone who doesn’t take life too seriously and can see beauty in even the toughest times. If anyone can do that, it’s you.
Happy dating, go get ‘em, tiger.