The Keeper


Facing the Perils of Dating

I’ve often encountered a problem while dating: when to tell my date I have a disability – the first date or the fifth? Do I wait until my clothes are off to tell him I’ve got hair growing on my back? Do I wait until I’m at the church door to mention that my two-step down the aisle will not be to the Wedding March rhythm?

In my experience, the best time to tell him is on the first date. One common response is the, “You’re so courageous,” speech: “Wow! It must take tremendous courage to fight on in the face of adversity. You’re an angel to be that strong. You’re a saint to be that serene. Will you marry me?”

Being treated as an icon may seem wonderful at first, but it’s not so great when he realizes I’m neither an angel nor a saint. This kind of guy is good for the “once every six-month” date, when I need a compliment.

“Here, let me help you.” This date also seems like a winner. He slows his gait to match mine and takes my arm as I step. After about the third date, he has me on a nurse’s schedule of a liquid diet and an enema every two hours.

“So what’s the prognosis?” This is usually a medical student who wants me for my symptoms. I would continue with this one if I wanted to be Exhibit A at the next medical convention.

“That’s awful.” It’s surprising how many men don’t understand my reaction to this one, as in this semi-fictional example:

“I’m sorry Roger, but I don’t want to see you again. It wouldn’t work out,” I say.

“Why?” he asks.

“For a start, saying, ’That’s awful’ about my disability doesn’t help,” I reply.
“Why? It is awful. We can’t go in-line skating or mountain climbing. You can’t do anything. It’s awful. You must really hate it. You should be grateful I didn’t walk out when you told me.”

“You should be grateful my disability prevents me from making you one of us.”

Finally, there is “Oh.” This one is the “keeper.” He’s not feeling sorry for me. He’s not putting me on a pedestal. He doesn’t see me as a patient. The disability isn’t an issue for him. He’s dating me because I am an unique soul. Unfortunately, the reaction is almost unique too. Although it doesn’t happen often, when it does it’s pure magic.

(Anita Arnold, is a “happily single woman with a disability,” living in Calgary.)


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