I was born a little different. I have always been an outsider. I WAS that girl in the back of the class with Dr. Martens and a cardigan that went past her knees. The same girl with the black eyeliner and Spandau Ballet inspired locks. I never wanted to meet the status quo. I didn't even know who "The Joneses" were. Never mind, why I should be trying to keep up with them? My favorite boy in high school wasn't the star quarterback. He was the boy wearing the Violent Femmes T Shirt. You get the picture.
In my adult life, my need to fit in never could muster itself. I could have married a nice boy from good family, but didn't. I saw a hundred tailgate parties and bonfires in my future and the boring ins-and-outs of Midwestern life, and I said, "No way, I want my freedom." I decided that out there, somewhere, there had to be a guy who was fun, not all the time, but who could make me laugh, was thoughtful and caring, and unique as I was. A Flamingo cannot marry a duck, after all. I was out to find my Flamingo.
I did not care what size or shape he came in. I did not care if he was older or younger. I really didn't care what he did, as long as he had a job of some sort. I cared that we completed each other and that we made each other happy. In my quest to find the fairytale in the real world, I only came across judgment in one area. Whenever I would date someone with a disability, it was highly questioned.
My first experience was with a fellow we shall call Jimmy. Now Jimmy was very good looking, with dark hair and dark eyes. He was a great conversationalist. On our first date, he made pasta salad and Panini's , and we sat by the river and watched the ducks swim. He had a type of Muscular Dystrophy, and he got around in a wheelchair. I simply adored him. He was fun, and he never let anything stop him. The first time I came to his house, he was painting his kitchen, and he had pulled himself up onto the counter to paint around the window.
It would have been perfect, save for the nagging voices of friends and family, heretofore known as The Opposition. Educated or not on the topic, they spoke. "People in wheelchairs don't live long, remember my friends cousin's dad, he died young, how would you feel?" I tried to explain to them that the person they were referring to had a different issue, and that being in a wheelchair had nothing to do with it. "Say your purse gets stolen, what is he going to do, wheel after the guy who took it?" Well, yes, umm, yes he will. Should I do a time test on running for potential dates? On and on, from "How are you going to lift that wheelchair into the car when you are fifty?" to " What about sex?" Obnoxious, uneducated questions dripping with concern.
And I asked myself, is there something wrong with you that you don't see the obvious hurdles this relationship would create? The answer to that, is no. No more of a burden on my everyday life, save for the extra physical activity of transporting someone with a disability, which was probably actually good for me. I told The Opposition that I was a grown woman, I had thought it all through, and I chose Jimmy for as long as he would have me. Turned out, Jimmy did not want me for as long as I wanted him. We remain friends.
My second experience was dating a guy we shall call Pablo. He was sweet and endearing, he traveled a lot for his job, and because he had Cerebral Palsy, he had a speech issue. Again, The Opposition roared. " Can you understand him?" Yes, and so can you if you listen to him. What will he do when he retires from being on the road? Will you have to take care of him 24 /7 then?" Well, since he takes care of himself on the road, I bet he would do it at home then too, if we ever got together. Egads. If only they asked this many questions about some of the guys in my life that didn't need a wheelchair. They judged, and questioned. They did not understand how I could date someone who couldn't protect me. Pablo has one hell of a right hook, and Jimmy, Jimmy could go faster with his chair than a jungle cat to apprehend said purse thief.
The moral of my story is this. My life is forever changed because I met these two men. I still talk to Pablo almost every day on the phone, and he visits when he can. Even though we are no longer together, I still know that whenever there is a chance to spend time with him, my heart skips a beat, there is still a lot of love there, and we tend to pick up wherever we left off, as long as when he visits, we are single. We have real chemistry. If I had dismissed that beautiful soul, just because it came in a package that I wasn't familiar with, I would have missed a lot. I would have missed one of the key friendships of my lifetime. And when that happens, you know it. It feels like you missed the bus the day they were taking a trip to Disneyland.
So, for you ahem "virgins" to the "normies dating rollers" scene, here are a few pointers.
1. When dating, especially when online dating, always be up front and honest about your disability. There is nothing to hide or be ashamed of. You will meet the type of person that does not care if you are disabled if you do not conceal the fact. Trust me. Women hate to be fibbed to. We wonder what else you are hiding.
2.Don't be a hero. If there is something you cannot do, that's fine. Us normies don't mind picking something else to do. No use going bowling if you can't hold the ball.
3.Educate us on how to help you. Whether it be assisting with a transfer to a car, or getting the hell out of your way, let us know. We might hover and try to help too much. If we don't know enough, and we drop you or something, most people would hate themselves forever.
4.If we are being insensitive, tell us. We might not always know how to word things. We try, sometimes we fail. If we advocate for you, speak for you, and it is too much or annoying, let us know. When someone talks to Pablo like he can't understand them, I get a certain look. I know this look means, "Don't start yelling at people."
Ahh.... I think that is it. The short list, anyway. We should date who we want to date. Don't listen to The Opposition. They are, after all, only misguided in their concern, and a nosy group of people to boot! Of all of the thrill and drama that makes up a romance, all the ways that people have to come together to become a couple, there are many obstacles to love. Just don't believe anyone who tells you that a wheelchair is one of them.