To Tell or Not to Tell Potential Dates About Your Disability? That Is the Question.
On a recent date, the prospective guy, let’s call him “Adam,” and I met for a quick “looksie,” the one-and-done drink to help you decide if you want to go on an actual date. Adam and I were having a good time; we shared the basics of who we are, what we do, blah blah blah, and swapped stories of bad dates — those dating prospects that looked nothing like their pictures or talked incessantly and never asked a question about us, and so on. We both felt a sense of relief that we appeared “normal.” He even remarked how refreshing it was to connect with a “smart woman” who wasn’t playing the texting back and forth game.
We split the second glass of wine. Then, Adam threw out one more bad date story, announcing out loud (and it seemed really loud) that she was “crippled.” What? That took my breath away and not in a good way. I immediately thought, do we even use that “c” word in 2021? Who says that? The curiosity was killing me. “What do you mean?” I asked pointedly.
He said, “Yeah, I showed up, and she couldn’t walk. She lied in her profile.”
I got more curious, “Well, if she had shared that in her profile, would you have gone out with her?”
He answered, “Probably not.” Wanting to keep exploring and help him dig his own grave, I just couldn’t help it; I asked if he enjoyed the date at all. He said, “It was fine, but she lied, and I can’t get past that.” Not wanting to be caught as a “liar” myself, I thought it was an excellent time to make my own big reveal. So, I told him.
As someone born with a limb difference, missing my left hand, I have wrestled with the idea of sharing pictures in my dating profile that reveal my hand. Typically, I recognize that dating profiles are very surface level; we only put what we want people to see there. I reserve the right to determine if someone is “hand-worthy” before I share that part of myself. I decide, are they worthy of getting to know about my difference? This time, it called for an exception, “unworthy” but a must know.
His mouth dropped open; he was embarrassed. I shared that while I hid my hand for 25 years, I now decide if a guy is worth it. I also shared that I have been learning to create space in case guys had any questions, but I know at this age that I don’t want to be with anyone who didn’t have tolerance for disability, let alone refer to it in a derogatory way.
He asked for the check.
I went home and regaled my “bad date” story with a few people. Missing the point, one person remarked, “Well, I guess then you are still hiding?” I replied, “No, I choose who gets to know when I am ready.” As a follow-up, I asked, “If you found yourself single and on a dating app, would you share your own mental health challenges?” The answer was a clear and immediate no. That made me wonder. Why do we expect people with visible disabilities to show and tell but not anyone else?
I gave “Adam” a chance to say sorry, but my phone never rang. I deleted his profile. I am still glad that I told him. And I hope that I broadened his mind about disability (even if just a little) and that he will never tell that bad date story again.
Getty image by Miakievy.