Dating While Disabled: Don’t Call Me Inspiring When I’m Flirting!
“I mentioned my disability in my Tinder bio. And, oh boy! Men still swiping right on me is not what I expected.”
(International Day of Persons With Disabilities is observed every year on 3 December to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society. FIT is reposting this story from its archive in that light.)
(Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar is a series of essays on love, intimacy, relationships and disability to amplify voices of disabled women narratives on love that seldom are seen in mainstream discussions on romance. Presented in collaboration with Quint FIT and Love Matters. This is the second essay of the series. You can find part 1 here.)
I am 32 and I've never been in a real relationship.
My face doesn’t give away that fact because it’s ‘conventionally’ pretty. However, my body does, because it’s not ‘conventional’.
But hey, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t experienced the pain of (almost) being cheated on and then being involved with someone who wasn't sure about how badly they wanted me.
I’ve experienced enough to write twenty-one poems, seventeen blogs, eleven songs, four books, three movies, and two stand-up specials.
I'm not going to get into the details of why this one boy that I was in love with wasn’t sure about me, because his reasons are not going to be any different than what you’ve heard before. And I might be slightly embarrassed about being a sympathy-seeker who thinks that the prime reason for the former is her disability. Although you and I know that it is the prime reason, or wait, maybe he really doesn’t want to be with anyone right now?!!
Uff, I’m done with analysing the same things over and over again.
Agar Tum Saath Ho plays in the background as I pen this article. Though I'm happy to report that it is definitely not the background score of my life.
It was only recently that I managed to mention my inability to walk without crutches in my Tinder bio. And, oh boy! Men still swiping right on me is not what I had expected.
But as expected, some conversations started with - “Wow! You’re brave and honest”, or “Your profile is so inspiring!” Umm… why is being comfortable with one's disability an act of bravery?
Some men seemed like they were worth my energy but they did end up friend-zoning me. I decided to go on a date with a guy after *only* chatting with him for three days straight. He was handsome, not too tall (which worked for me), and had dimples that could kill. Actually, his looks didn’t matter as much as the fact that we were hooked into each other for three days. He greeted me with a hug and held my elbow while walking - with the intention of helping me even when I didn’t ask for any of it. The food was great, but I wish I could say the same about the company as well.
Amidst all the small talk, he went on to call me ‘inspiring’ more than 11 times in two hours. I told him that by saying that multiple times, he was completely invalidating the fact that there was more to me than my disability; to which he said, ‘But, hats off to you, ya! You’re so strong, and I’m only acknowledging that.’
I tried to flirt but he dodged it. He just wasn’t open to the fact that I could be desirable despite (even with) my disability. I think disabled women should go on dates with a disclaimer that says - *We might need some help here and there, but we definitely don’t need help to make you come(cum).* Needless to say, we did not connect after that lunch ‘date.’
So When Do We Call it A Date?
It’s tough to keep hope alive in a day and age where people don’t want to label ‘things’ as ‘dating’ even if they’ve been doing ‘things’ for more than six months.
It’s evident that some enjoy the cushion of ghosting because they don’t have to be accountable for their actions. And that’s what makes dating with a disability tougher. I was ghosted on Tinder before and after I mentioned my disability, and it was tough both times.
Dating with a disability is tough because I never really know whether being ghosted is an outcome of popular culture or whether it’s simply me and my clearly visible “shortcoming”.
I probably didn’t meet all of my online ‘ghosters’, but the insecurities that those experiences fuelled were real. Every time someone calls me inspiring or strong, it reminds me that I’m going to be perceived ‘differently’ regardless of everything that I am beyond that one thing that is different from other girls.
But The Story Continues…
Rom-coms still give me a warm, fuzzy feeling!
They fill me with the smallest fraction of hope of being with a partner without having to alter my expectations from a relationship and give up my aspirations for life. That’s what I was told to do when I was testing the waters of the arranged-marriage market.
Apparently, if you’re a woman with a disability in a conventional setting, you need to brave the double-edged sword of ableism and patriarchy.
You need to be okay with whatever comes your way and whoever agrees to say ‘yes’ to you. Beggars can’t be choosers, you see.
But I’m happy to report that I have chosen to be a chooser and wait until I am with someone who gives me warm, fuzzy, real feelings.
I have chosen my own happiness and will continue to do so, even if that means that I have to feel left out in a room with my school friends who are busy feeding their kids and “coupling” with their husbands. Love matters, but not more than my happiness.
Oh, also, if you think you want to strike up an interesting conversation, you can hit me up on Instagram. *Wink wink*
(In addition to being a full-time awesome person, Sweta is an MBA turned writer and disability rights activist who stumbled upon comedy quite accidentally; just like the other things that she stumbles upon while walking. Through her endeavours, Sweta aims to construct accessibility and initiate inclusion in people's buildings, minds, and lives.
The author is associated with Rising Flame, an NGO that works with women and youth with disabilities in India and is the recipient of the National Award for Empowerment of persons with disabilities 2019 from the government of India.)
(For long, women's health has been sidelined and put on the back burner, not taken seriously, not researched, not explored, silenced. FIT is launching its 'Her Health' campaign, that will focus on health stories that put women and their health issues front and centre. What would you like us to talk about? Write to us at FIT@thequint.com)
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