Thursday, 24 March 2016

Love Is In The Chair

As you may recall, in my last entry I went into too much great detail about how I get myself in and out of the bath unscathed, a rollercoaster ride of emotions and excitement I think we can all agree. As I wrote and published this around mid-February, I decided to sign off with a little Valentine's Day quip and thought nothing more of it. It was only a week or so later that my palm hit my face and I realised the colossal missed opportunity I had squandered: to write a blog entry addressing the subjects of love, romance and dating for someone in a wheelchair. I considered leaving it until next February but as I struggle to remember things eleven days in advance, I think remembering something eleven months in advance may be pushing it a little. I blame the knock on the head I took during the crash and, dammit, no one is going to tell me otherwise! So I'm striking whilst the iron's hot (or at the very least, tepid) and delving into dating with a disability. And to quote numerous fast food employees, "It's only a month out of date, I'm sure no one will notice..."

For the most part, I quite enjoy the process of meeting a girl and flirting with them whilst desperately trying to find the (often Dutch) courage needed to ask them out. I've actually become more confident and dare I say charismatic around girls since the accident, and as a consequence have been on far more dates since too. However, I think I'd put this more down to age and experience making me slightly less of an awkward mute around girls, rather than my spinal injury awakening a dormant Casanova in me! Although one of the first questions I remember asking in hospital after regaining full consciousness and lucidity was whether or not the *ahem* 'soldier' could still 'stand to attention' (he totally can, high five!), so I think it's safe to say that aspect of my life has always been fairly important to me!

But regardless of any physical, mental or emotional irregularities, the general consensus seems to be that dating is an absolute minefield of potential heartache and confusion, with the vast majority of people trying to blindly separate the good eggs and the keepers from the rotten apples and the bunny boilers. Films and novels often like to go to the extremes, portraying the idyllic, love at first sight, happily-ever-after side of things, or to give it its official name, the bullshit side.

Nicholas Sparks, ladies & gentlemen, bullshit peddler extraordinaire!
Television is also happy to go along with this and likes nothing more than pairing people up and squeezing the tiniest drop of romance out of every situation. The Undateables on Channel 4 combines people's obsession towards love, with their curiosity towards disability. It does this by attempting the oh-so-delicate act of portraying its participants as unique individuals who, just like everyone else, are wanting to find a kindred spirit to share their lives with, and not as desperate oddballs who will literally settle for the first person who pays them the slightest bit of attention. But every time a new specimen is thrust in front of the camera, you can practically hear the myriad of ranging viewer comments: "He/She's alright, I would!", "Poor thing", "Aw well, it's nice they found someone", "Do you think they can have sex?"

I'm certainly not above making the odd jokey comment myself and shows like this will often come up in conversation during wheelchair rugby training sessions. In fact, we've even been approached by Channel 4 to see if any of our ragtag troupe fancied going on The Undateables! Unfortunately we all declined, despite our best efforts to convince one or two of our members that it'd be in their best interests to allow their every move to be filmed and that it wouldn't at all be embarrassing to see your mum get interviewed and talk about what an amazing person you are with so much to offer that special someone and how love is the one thing missing from your life...

Recently, I've come across a number of articles to do with dating when you have a disability, all written from personal experience, with a fair few of them detailing how much harder it is to find someone when you're in a chair, that people are put off by it and don't see you in a romantic way. I suppose this is a notion I briefly entertained in the very early days of my injury, but if my experiences since are anything to go by then this isn't the case at all. I've had a number of relationships post-injury, ranging from three minutes hours all the way up to three years, and when break-ups have occurred, it's never (to my knowledge) been anything to do with the fact that I couldn't stand up to reach the top shelf in the supermarket...
"I'm sorry, but if you don't love me enough to pass me down the Uncle Ben's Wholegrain then I just can't see a future for us!" - said no one ever.
I agree that relationships would doubtless be more straightforward if I weren't paralysed, with extra planning and forethought having to always go into things such as holidays, hotels, restaurants and house hunting, but I don't believe that it has massively hindered my love life. That honour must surely go to my delightful personality!

Do I think that some prospective partners are put off by the fact I'm in a chair? Of course. I dare say there aren't too many girls out there whose idea of the perfect guy is one who is flawed by a flight of stairs and rendered immobile as soon as he ventures onto a beach! But equally, before my injury, do I think some girls were put off by my less than towering 5'8" stature, wannabe punk hair and god-only-knows fashion sense? You're damn right I do!

The lesser known Sid Vicious: Smooth Jazz album cover
I say that some prospective partners may be put off by a wheelchair or disability, but as the article Active Hands recently shared on their Facebook page goes to show, there are those to whom it has quite the opposite effect and are in fact physically drawn to people with disabilities: devotees! Now I've sadly never had the pleasure of meeting any of these wheelchair worshippers in person, however a few years ago a girl did begin talking to me on Facebook about how she was turned on by guys who had limited sensation in their legs and how she would love to see my legs on webcam! Well how could I say no to a request like that?? Quite easily as it happens, and after having as much fun as I could with the conversation, the mystery woman eventually realised I wasn't going to be her naughty, little CamCrip, and left empty-handed and heartbroken. Because some people will literally fetishise anything!

I certainly don't believe having a disability should make a person feel unattractive or put them off the idea of dating (or indeed flaunting themselves on webcams if they so wish!), and if the people I know via wheelchair rugby are anything to go by, it most certainly doesn't! At league weekends you see an ever increasing number being accompanied by their devotees husbands, wives, partners and children, and of the ones who are single, most of them are happily swiping away on Tinder, myself included!

Personally, I've never found it soul-crushingly impossible to match with and talk to people when using an app like Tinder. However, my one recommendation to any person with a disability who frequents these kind of apps/sites is, be honest! In most of my pictures, you can't tell I'm in a wheelchair, so I just look like a regular guy with a penchant for having his picture taken whilst sitting down! This meant that, if I got on with a girl well enough, I'd at some point have to have to have that conversation with her. In truth, I never received a terribly negative reaction from anyone and ended up meeting a few, but it still didn't make me feel any less awkward when dropping the W-bomb. So now I've made sure to mention it in my bio in as lighthearted a way as possible, my disability is an unavoidable part of my life that cannot be and should not be hidden. But it certainly shouldn't be my defining characteristic. And sure, some girls may be put off by it, but if they don't want to take advantage of blue badge parking, 2-for-1 gig tickets, crowds parting down the middle to let you through and several other perks of the condition, then it's their loss! Incidentally, I recently read an article by a woman who met up with a couple of guys from Tinder but didn't tell them beforehand that she was in a wheelchair and I assume thought it would be better to just wheel out and shout, "Surpriiiiiiiiiiiiiise!" when they met?! Why exactly she thought this was a good idea is beyond me, but she seemed genuinely shocked that things immediately became awkward and uncomfortable! I know I said that being in a chair shouldn't be anyone's defining characteristic, but it still needs to be factored in and processed, especially if you're meeting someone for the first time! Remember, be honest!

So there you have it, a gimps guide to disability dating...of sorts. I have a tendency to ramble in these things, but I'm sure that's gone by virtually unnoticed! Anyway, the message to take away from all this is that you should never let disability stop you from dating, if anything it should encourage you to get out there and embrace it. You've overcome so many obstacles in life already, are you really going to let the small matter of asking someone out be the thing that finally defeats you and stops you in your tracks?! Of course you're not! Be confident, be funny, be charming, be fearless! Because if god hadn't wanted disabled people to date then he wouldn't have made us so darned irresistible!



  1. I asked one friend of mine if he watched "Me before you" and he introduced me your blog.

    Nice writing with a humourous sense of humour ;)

    1. Hey, thanks for your comment, I'm really glad my blog was suggested to you and that you're finding it a humorous read!
      I've not seen Me Before You yet but I think I'll have to so I can see what all the uoproar is about haha.

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    1. Thanks very much, I'm really glad to hear you like it :-)