Girl Talk: Dating With A Disability

Would a guy date a woman with a disability?

That’s not the sort of question guys are expecting to hear amidst the typical flurry of getting-to-know-you questions. But it’s nonetheless an important – even critical – one for me. It’s at the top of my list, actually. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself since high school when my peers so easily began to couple-off, and I watched from the sidelines. It all seemed so natural and effortless for them, yet I couldn’t help but feel as though the Dating Gods had forgotten to “cc” me on their Dating 101 memo. I’m sure the memo talked about the basics: courting, flirting, maybe even some tips for hiding those tiny flaws and insecurities on the first date.

But what about those not-so-tiny flaws? What about those insecurities you can’t simply hide with a cute jacket or a thick layer of Maybelline foundation?

Quite a few of the men said they’d be afraid of the responsibility and the fact that they might have to do a lot of extra work to help the woman with the disability. I’ll admit – that one hurt.

What about dating with a disability? Where is the rule book for that?

I was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder. It sounds pretty harmless, but when you add my wheelchair (in a screaming-red hue), my hand and feet deformities and my map of surgical scars, believing that guys could actually look past all that and see the woman I am has, I’ll admit, jaded me just a little.

“What man would ever find me beautiful?” was a phrase I’d constantly scribble in my journal. They want a woman with scar-free legs. They want a woman who’s lived more of her life outside of hospitals than inside. They want a woman who can at least reach the top of the counter (at just below 4-feet tall, I don’t quite make the cut; I suppose that precludes me from rollercoasters too, doesn’t it?).

But are my assumptions true? Maybe I needed to give guys the benefit of the doubt for once, so I did what any forward-thinking modern woman would do: I sent out a batch of questions via email to some of my lovely male friends. I wanted to see if my fears about men not wanting anything to do with a woman with a disability were grounded in any real truth. I didn’t get as many responses as I’d hoped, but then again, I sort of expected that. It can be an uncomfortable subject (though, really, why should it be?), and maybe it – and I — intimidated them?

The results, actually, turned out to be more revealing than ever, and even raised more questions, at least for me, than they answered.

One friend suggested that the disabled woman wouldn’t be comfortable in her physique and that this would negatively affect physical relations.

“People do not want to come out and address that this is a major factor, but it is,” he said.

Alright, fair game. That’s true; I haven’t always been comfortable with my body (see the above paragraphs for a review).

Then, they hit me with The Big One.

Quite a few of the men said they’d be afraid of the responsibility and the fact that they might have to do a lot of extra work to help the woman with the disability. I’ll admit – that one hurt.

In a recent post on my blog, where I regularly explore the intersection of my disability and my search for love, I shared my feelings – angry, sad, disappointed, hopeful — about their responses. Maybe that was a mistake. At least that’s what readers thought, who chimed in with everything from saying I live with my head in the sand to lambasting me for not respecting others’ opinions.

Disabilities are a touchy subject, I know. But you know what? They’ve been a part of my life — and part of me — for 27 years, so I’m going to talk about them. I’m going to be honest. In the end, I AM going to tell my story.

In the end, what might seem like a little question to some people is a pretty big one for me. Getting to know me is also getting to know and be comfortable with my disability. My fire engine red wheelchair included.