Discriminating Dating

Posted: July 4, 2009 in Culture Clash

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By Mark E. Smith

Indeed, many of my friends come to me for relationship advice. No, I’m probably not as tactful as I should be in such conversations, struggling to listen with patience only until I can’t contain my bluntness any longer. For example, one of my best friends explained to me that he was very sick on a first date with a woman who he really wanted to impress – and then he actually threw-up in the car on the date. I certainly could relate, having once dumped a Coke on myself on a date, but I was compelled to skip the sentimental comforts, and go straight for the reality check: “Look at the bright side,” I told him, “ if she goes out with you again after seeing you blow chunks into a bag, she’s a keeper.” As it turned out, they’ve been together ever since, now married.

However, knowing my bluntness, I don’t understand why some of my single friends with disabilities keep confiding in me that they don’t want to date others with disabilities? After all, my response is always the same: “Have you looked in the freakin’ mirror lately?”

Truly, how ludicrous is it to not want to date someone with a disability, when you have a disability, yourself?

I mean, I understand the skewed psychology behind it, that if one’s insecure and uncomfortable with one’s own disability, one is going to be even more insecure and uncomfortable dating someone with a disability, where it’s like looking in a mirror – and, therefore, one avoids dating anyone with a disability. What’s more, in a distorted view, if one refuses to date those with disabilities, and one dates someone who’s able-bodied, then one believes that one’s validating oneself as “less disabled” because an able-bodied person “accepts” him or her.

Yet, this unhealthy dating psychology really stems from self-loathing, doesn’t it? As I tell my friends, it’s Psych 101 that preschoolers can understand: If you can’t accept others with disabilities, then you’re surely not accepting your own disability.

Of course, toward relationships in general, it’s overall self-defeating to form prejudices against others of a particular group, as you’re downsizing the number of potentially-compatible people who you may meet. Surely, if you’re playing by the rules that say that meaningful long-term relationships are about compatibility on many levels – friendship, trust, understanding, intimacy, and so on – then shutting the door on anyone else with a disability isn’t only hypocritical, it lessens one’s potential dating pool, where turning away from others with a disability as potential mates may prevent one from meeting that right person – one who may just so happen to have a disability.

Now, some of my friends argue that they simply aren’t attracted to those with disabilities as a “physical type,” that there’s nothing wrong with being turned off by one “type” or another.

Fair enough, except for one fact: Despite my friends not wanting to date those with disabilities, they still want others to find them attractive, disability and all. In other words, they want others to love what they loath. Let me translate what they’re really saying: I won’t go near anyone with a disability, but you should love me regardless of my disability. Now, that’s dysfunction at its best!

Interestingly, some of my friends even try to present reasons justifying why dating someone else who has a disability isn’t their gig, stating, “It’s just too hard when we both have disabilities, and I wouldn’t want to burden someone with my needs when they have their own.”

As I replied to a male friend, “…But, it would be OK for a smokin’ hot blond, who’s not disabled, to empty your leg bag for you?”

Ultimately, when my date-discriminating friends with disabilities fail to hear my logic, that refusing to date others with disabilities is an absurd, hypocritical, self-defeating position for one with a disability to follow, I fall back on the blunt truth of the situation: If, as one with a disability, you’re so dysfunctional in your outlook that you’re put-off by others with disabilities, you shouldn’t date anyone until you are truly comfortable in your own skin. In catchy words, as one with a disability, you shouldn’t date unless your head’s on straight. But, then again, that goes for anyone, regardless of disability.

Comments
  1. F. Tracy Farmer says:

    Mark,
    I agree with most of what you said in this article. I do, however, have an issue with putting all people who have a disability and refuse to date people with disabilities into a self-loathing category.

    First a little bit about myself. I am a 37-yr old male SMA 2 patient, diagnosed at 18months, who is happily married. I have been in an electric chair since the age of 15. I fell into the category of not wanting to date someone with a disability.

    When I entered the dating since some 20 years ago I did not want to date someone with a disability. It was not because of my being insecure. It was because I approached every person I had a relationship with as a potential “Mrs. Right”. I knew my limitations and what I required of the person who I would eventually marry. A disabled person could not take care of me the way I need to be taken care of. I can’t get into bed by myself, can’t dress by myself or even bath. It takes a very strong person, not only physically, but also emotional to be able to take care of me.

    So before saying people are self-loathing for this you need to think about why they do not want to date someone with a disability.

    By the way, if you need another line to use on your friends as a way to convince them about people with disabilities, tell them we are all disabled – some are just more noticeable than others.

  2. Great article mark! And great words of wisdom to that best friend of yours 😉

  3. Jeremiah Lee says:

    Comment To: F. Tracy Farmer,

    That’s why they have home health aides or personal care attendants. You don’t date someone with an eye towards using them as your Aide or PCA. It places too much power into the hands of another person over you, unbalancing the whole situation. That’s a guarantee of dating or marriage failure.

    Personally, I don’t date anyone, able bodied or disabled. I tried dating twice after being alone for over 20 plus years and discovered that I am happiest being alone. Both women I briefly dated were nothing more than users; they both tried to play me for a fool in order to get in my pockets. One of them told me that I would always have to pay a woman to be with me. I told her that I wasn’t that hard up for companionship. I told her, if I were, you can best believe that the woman would be much younger, more curvaceous and prettier than (she was very homely and loud) you. I believe in value for my money. Six years has gone by since those failed relationships; I am still much better off today and have more clarity now without the baggage of personal relationships. I will never allow anyone else to ever enter or interfere with my life again.

    Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget rule No. 1 –Warren Buffet

  4. journey jane says:

    “It places too much power into the hands of another person over you, unbalancing the whole situation. That’s a guarantee of dating or marriage failure.”

    I totally agree Jeremiah. Here here. That said, you could probably find someone to date if you weren’t so suspicious of people, or if you just avoided monsters like your ex.

    On a totally unrelated note, and apologies if this isn’t the appropriate thread to reply to.. I just started dating a smoking hot guy in a wheelchair and won’t see him much over the next 5 months because I’m traveling for work. In the meantime I have nothing to do but fantasize about being with him again. (We met a month before I left his continent) As I have never dated a paraplegic, I have no clue about positions, tips, tricks, gadgets, etc. and would love any info you can give me. I’m athletic and up for anything. 😉 Thanks in advance!

  5. Gil says:

    As incomplete quadriplegic and a 30-year electric wheelchair user,. I had several relationships, some good some bad. I prefer to date women that do not have a severe physical disability like myself. Reasons very from the complications relating to intimacy as well as personal preference. Has nothing to do with me being self loathing or any other negative traits, it is just a preference, I believe it is important to be to to myself and how I feel.

  6. Amelia says:

    I have an SCI and have dated one disabled man and numerous able-bodied. The relationship with the other SCI’d person was near impossible, physically-speaking, and I seriously doubt I’d ever do it again. It has nothing to do with self-loathing, it’s practicality. I would never use a leg-bag or indwelling catheter, there are certain societal rules and expectations everyone, dis or not, should follow, and let’s face it, a bag of urine flowing into a bag strapped upon an ankle is not generally what turns people on. There are ways around everything. People will go out with sweatpants, t-shirts, unkempt hair (and/or makeup, when applicable), then wonder why people don’t look at them as prime dating material. Have some dignity, taking care of oneself is paramount in the world of dating. And, to the other disabled folks, don’t isolate looking for a partner who is also disabled, that’s leaving out a significant portion of the dating pool!

  7. Tia Farmer says:

    I just found this and did not realize my husband was not aware of his response until today. My name is Tia Farmer and I am Tracy’s wife.

    My husband lived with his parents until he married me. He checked into personal attendants, home health, etc.. however, due to his income he was unqualified. However, he could not support 24 hour care financially out of pocket (who can?).

    He has accomplished two masters (computer science and library science) and one bachelor (computer science). In addition, he has doctoral hours. People may say I, as a single mom of two and low income, was looking for money. This answer can easily be achieved by one story–I gave him back the engagement ring. After 2.5 years of dating/engagement–we broke it off. Once we realized how much we loved one another, we both agreed to give it another go–by DATING once again. We did not jump directly into engagement. That came later–for the 2nd time–and stuck. Currently, we are have been together for 10 years and counting and we are loving every moment of it.

    He is correct when he describes his care. I provide all care listed above…and so much more. I am not strong-strength comes from the love, respect, and honor he gives me. I hope all of you who are looking for love find someone who makes you as happy as he has made me.

    Best,
    Tia

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