Health: On Balance – Complicated Relationships
The topic of dating and relationships invariably comes up in conversation. When you have a disability of any sort, subconsciously at least, you know that you’ve more of a task ahead of you than fully able-bodied girls. I’m well aware that these things are only as big as you make them yourself, but all that aside, finding Mr. Right (whom I am still currently searching for) is fairly tricky.
Regardless of whether or not you have a disability, it can be a task and a half finding a person you click with, so I know many readers will understand where I’m coming from on that point.
It should be said firstly that I have never seen my CP as the reason for my relationships starting or finishing; it’s just part of what makes me who I am, and my future Mr. Right, whoever that might be, will have to accept this. But of course it’s never as simple as that, at least, not to everyone. To me it’s a small thing; to some members of the opposite sex, it’s a very big thing. You can’t blame those who aren’t fully comfortable; it just means it’s a fairly solid way of narrowing the field, when it comes to the dating side of things at least.
I’m a very sociable person. I love going out to catch up with friends and meet new people. As I finished school and made my way through college, my social life expanded rapidly. The wheelchair usually went with me, given the amount of venue-hopping that’s done on a regular night on the town. I discovered the true extent of Dublin’s nightlife and was out every night of the week, getting up to all sorts and (usually getting pushed) back to my room at 5am the next day.
Out clubbing or wherever, I would flirt with the guys like any young woman, but it was here the wheelchair would really start to play a negative role. Strangers would just walk straight up and ask ‘Can you have sex?’ and this would infuriate me. Why would anyone think that’s an appropriate question to ask? Did they think they were being empathic and ‘kind’? If a man asked the average woman this, he would most certainly get a slap or drink thrown at him. I remember my response the very first time I was asked this: ‘Of course,’ I quipped. ‘I just have to make sure the brakes go on first’.
I have found people to have this morbid attitude towards disability and sex, romance and all of that; it’s this taboo subject that doesn’t get spoken about. Some people (and quite a few males I have come across) think that because you’re sitting in a chair, you’re somehow incapable of feeling emotion, that you can’t do things or shouldn’t express yourself physically. It is ridiculous really. I have often been shocked by people’s reaction when I state my plans to one day have children. I know ignorance plays its part – ignorance and a fear of the unknown. Some simply see a young, petite brunette, but others are put off when they see my chair or frame.
Then comes the next issue. If I don’t bring my chair or frame out with me and am just sitting down, the average person would not necessarily know I have CP. This is not the easiest thing to bring into the conversation.
In short, it simply means in my quest for romance, I have many things to consider. Don’t get me wrong; there are some very nice guys out there (as I know) who just don’t care and not-so-nice ones who do, so it’s just a matter of finding (another) nice one.
‘We understand,’ say some of my single friends. ‘We’ve been in the same position. It’ll happen.’ But they can’t understand. How could they? Their biggest concern is what kind of shoes to wear out and my concern is whether the club/pub will be accessible. They can go waltzing out arm in arm with someone, whereas I can barely get out the door alone. This isn’t to say that this annoys me; it’s just the way life is. You can never expect anyone to totally know where you’re coming from, unless they’re in a similar situation.
In terms of improving things and helping fate along, online dating is a scary territory I’ve yet to venture into. This comes with its own issues and demands time I just haven’t got to devote to it. And when you’ve been mainstream schooled, as I have, you’ll know that meeting people in similar circumstance is rare enough, too. Life has taken over and I don’t attend physio as much as I did when I was younger so the ‘play groups’ are a thing of the past – I can’t imagine a group of mid-twenty-year-olds sitting around drinking orange and eating biscuits as we did ten years ago.
I just think that fate will play its part and I’ll meet my Mr. Right as I keep going forward. I just have to make sure I keep the brakes on…