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3 Things That Happen When You Date Me and My Disability

It’s not always easy being the man in my life. I’m sure every woman can say that with some modicum of truth. I am no different.

But I can say that dating me, a person with an obvious physical disability, is sometimes an adventure in ways that dating someone else might not be.

1. Strange people might follow us.

I am often approached by people who are homeless, random people on the street who take an unsolicited interest in my life, or the occasional passerby. This phenomenon generally occurs for one of two reasons:

a) The person wants to tell me how inspirational I am or tell us how inspirational we are. This happens everywhere. At the movies. At the grocery store. Stepping outside my front door.

And the “inspirational status” won’t just apply to me. Once strangers ascertain the fact that we are together, they’ll let you know how wonderful you are, too.

“Oh, you’re such a good person,” they’ll say. Or, “You’re so wonderful for helping her.” Chances are, at the time they say this, you won’t be doing anything particularly wonderful or helpful or good, but strangers will want to give you an extra gold star just for hanging around me.

(I’m not saying you wouldn’t deserve one, but I’m saying it would be more for putting up with my sometimes irrational thought processes and enduring watching “The Bachelor” on Mondays than it would for carrying my coffee or getting my arm braces out of the car.)

b) The second type of concerned passerby will approach us trying to help. They might give us unsolicited advice on the simplest things — things we’ve done many times before — like getting groceries into or out of the car, going up steps or walking in the rain. They will want to offer their assistance.

This type of approach bothers me much less because these people are just trying to be helpful, to do something good for their fellow man.

However, these interactions can be a bit intrusive and stalkerish at times. Case and point: I went to Starbucks last week with a friend. I got my order and tucked it in the front pocket of my bag with a straw as we headed to the car. A man followed us outside from the store, almost to our car, and asked my friend, “Where’s her order?” He had not seen me pick it up, I guess, and was concerned that he didn’t see her carrying it out.

I told him, “I have it right here,” and pointed to the cup in my bag. He never addressed me, and he left.

2. Which brings me to my next point: People will talk to you to address me.

They will ask you what I want to eat at a restaurant. They will hand my purchases to you. They will treat you as though you are speaking for me. They will often assume you are my brother, personal caregiver, cousin, assistant, whatever.

Sometimes this is frustrating for me. Sometimes it will be frustrating for you. But try to stay calm. These types of people are clearly ignorant… because if they can’t see why someone would want to hang around me for more than a paycheck, they are missing out.

Of course, you should also be aware that if you show me any type of affection in front of one of these people, they will gawk. According to their assumptions, people with disabilities don’t date. We aren’t sexy. We don’t get married. And we can’t have families. You’ll be debunking myths every day, just by your decision to be with me.

(Hey, maybe I should give you a gold star.)

3. I’m a person with a disability. I’m proud of it, it’s a part of my culture, and I want us to share that.

Be aware of this fact. It is not something I want to change. It is not something you need to make allowances for. It is beautiful and natural, and a part of me that has helped me build many of the personality traits and characteristics that I love about myself. It is a part of me that follows me everywhere: to work, at home, out on the town, etc. You may find yourself introduced to new ways of thinking because of it, such as:

  • People-first language.
  • Crappy para-transit services.
  • Incessant planning for extended travel.

My disability pride is a part of me I want to share with you. I want you to be proud of it too because it is part of my culture, and if you are with me, it will become a part of yours.

Be prepared to listen to my rants about inadequate housing, employment discrimination, rights of parents with disabilities, inaccessible buildings, ignorant people at work, websites that blind people can’t use, the whole Netflix debacle, whatever. These are things that are important to me. They are a part of my fight for civil rights. For mine. For yours. For ours.

But even though I am a passionate advocate, I will also be your girlfriend. The girl who loves lazy Saturdays, cooking for you, sending packages, church on Sundays, coffee, Mexican food, chihuahuas, the French language and music.

The girl who thinks morbid thoughts at night, who is so concerned about your well being that she sometimes sounds like a mother, who will make sure she tells you every day how important you are.

The girl who does what she says she’s going to do, says what she means to say (except in cases of extreme hyperbole) and always, always, always loves you with her whole heart.

Yes, it’s not easy being with me. But I’m 100 percent worth it.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s a dating story related to your disability and/or disease that made you laugh, roll your eyes, cry or was otherwise unforgettable? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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