Last week I shared with you my top tips for dating if you are disabled. Well, somehow that post was the most successful post in “Inner musings of a funny looking kid” history.
So, because now I have tickets on myself; here are my top 5 tips for dating someone who is divinely disabled.
- Keep a sense of humour:
Very early on in our relationship, I went to a partner’s house for dinner. As we were preparing to eat he went to the cupboard to get the plates. I was twiddling my thumbs and so I asked him “Would you like a hand?” Now this was a polite and fair question except that he didn’t (and I assume still doesn’t) have arms. Without batting an eyelid, he looked at me (straight-faced) and said, “Actually I’d like two.” Then proceeded to laugh at the embarrassment on my face. Faux pas will happen and, having lived with our bodies for a long time, a person with a disability can usually tell the difference between a Freudian slip or innocent mistake and a deliberate attempt to offend. And, if we like you, we’ll usually let it slide.
Having said that though, that doesn’t mean that your date is automatically up for being the butt of your jokes. Take a cue from them. If they find it funny, then chances are that you can too.
- There is a difference between chivalry and being patronising:
As a general rule; if you’ve seen Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire or Clarke Gable do it in a movie, i.e. Hold a door open, push a chair in or pick up the cheque, this is chivalry. Anything else is patronising unless they ask you for the help. As a matter of fact, some will say that the above gestures are also patronising but I don’t see anything wrong with the occasional display of gentlemanliness. It’s one of my favourite things about Damion.
A lot of disabled people are very independent and others have a carer to help them when they need it. We are out with you because we want a partner, not because the carer has the night off!
- Be prepared:
Dating us is a lot like being a Boy Scout. You need to always be prepared. I don’t mean that you should bring a first aid kit to every date, although don’t be surprised if we need one at some point (see tips 1 and 2 for how to handle this), but rather that you need to consider the venue or activity you are planning beforehand. For example, if your date is in a wheelchair then places without stairs are a good idea and rock climbing is probably not. This will get easier the longer you know each other and if in doubt, ask.
I once went on a date with a guy who was unsure as to where we should go. When I suggested the Roof Top Movies, (a cinema on the top floor of an open-air car park), he declined because he didn’t want to wear a harness. I don’t know what the hell he thought roof top movies were.
Also, if you don’t have a disability you might not have experienced the stares that you will get when we’re out together. It is not our fault; some people are just rude. But chances are it is always going to happen. If it’s too much for you that’s ok but please tell us before it becomes an issue.
- Do ask and do tell:
If you are curious, it is ok to ask. If you both plan on a long-term relationship, then you will more than likely learn the answers to your questions eventually though. So use your common sense as to what is appropriate to ask at which stage of the game and remember, your date is not your research project.
Yes, love is blind but if your love actually is blind (for example) it is a good idea to mention this to your family/friends before you introduce us to them. This will avoid any awkwardness during the introduction and allow everyone to make preparations that will ensure everyone is as comfortable as possible. It also gives them the chance to ask questions or air any misgivings they may have out of your love’s earshot.
This is not patronizing, its practical.
- A tip from Damion:
Keep an open mind. People with a disability may look/act different to “normal” people but they will more often than not prove to be more loving and understanding than others. Which makes for a deeper and more fulfilling relationship.
For the record: I did not put him up to that.