Hot & Impaired: Getting Past Dating Hazards
My visual impairment has always been there – sometimes throwing a real curveball at me. One I can’t ever seem to hit.
When I was going through school, all I could do was focus on academics with few social aspirations. I got along better with my school administrators in middle school and high school than I did with most of my peers. It wasn’t until college and later, that I started to branch out of my comfort zone, and work on socializing, before I could ever dream of dating.
Which brings me here.
The Bee Incident
Last year while I was getting to know someone, we went on a date to a food festival in Long Island. On this hot summer day, the food court was crowded, and so was the dining area tent. We found a corner where there was just enough room for the both of us.
My date – being much more sighted than I – could see there were some bees around, which made her weary they may come towards us. For me though, a tiny insect flying through the air, is one of the most difficult things to see, so I didn’t react.
She tried to tell me when the bees were getting close, but she couldn’t decide whether to stay or move, and didn’t know me well enough to remember my vision is of no use in a situation like that. This was very frustrating, and I lost my temper because she’s trying to warn me about something I cannot see at all.
Meeting people at school or out on the dating scene in NYC, I had to run through an affirmation of sorts in my head, to look past my physical paleness (Albinism) and short-sightedness (literally), and to put forth the positive and successful version of myself. However, it’s humbling moments like these, on an otherwise beautiful summer day enjoying a food festival, when I’m reminded I not only have to “do” things differently, but that I “am” different. It was a jostling experience, because despite my visual impairment, I have confidence and social success.
Getting out of my own way socially took a lot of growing up. With time I realized that aspiring for perfection, having to do so many things differently, is okay!
Stepping away from my particular anecdote, people with disabilities grow up seeing just as much mainstream pop culture idealism as everyone else. We all want to look like Ryan Gosling, be as hip as Casey Neistat, and have Beyonce’s voice. We may idolize celebrities, but we more often all get pigeonholed into having the same handicap, and consequently receive the same condescending, patronizing tone or treatment. This can happen at work, at school, and of course in dating.
We’re Just People
People with disabilities come in many shapes, sizes, and abilities. When meeting someone new who looks or acts differently, take the time to learn about them. One of the sad examples I’ve heard friends encounter is being accused of catfishing dates. Some are more open to talking and disclosing their disability than others, and it’s always tricky to handle tactfully.
Different types and severities of disabilities need creative solutions, both in and out of bed. The best policy is to talk to your prospect partner about what he or she needs in order for everyone to have a great time. Offer to guide someone before grabbing them, and don’t stoop to eye level to speak to a person in a wheelchair. With behavioral or verbal challenges, it can take some patience to understand and communicate well.
As unpleasant as that rare day at a food festival was for me and my date, we took the opportunity to become closer as a couple. She understood why I acted so rash in that instant, and I learned (yet again) how important communication is in a relationship.
We want to make the world a better place for everyone who aspires to have a successful relationship with endless happy endings.
Mervin is a web professional based in NYC, and a person with albinism. As a newly minted MBA he is building an online consulting businesses, and also participates in advocacy and medical research initiatives for the blind and visually impaired. Be on the lookout for more posts for the Hot & Impaired!