Let’s face it dating is tricky at the best of times, but this on top of adapting to a newly injured spinal cord and a society who still aren’t completely accepting or educated about disability makes dating a challenge to say the least!! Nevertheless, at twenty nine years old and two years into my injury I felt justified to still want to meet someone with the view to building a life together. So I did what any self respecting single twenty something year old would do and I took to Tinder App! Biting the bullet, I decided to brave the audience and put up pictures of myself in my new wheels. I’m not going to lie; the response rate was few and far between. So as a social experiment and embracing the scientist in me, I decided to delete and reactivate my Tinder account next time round opting for older able bodied pictures of myself or head shots minus my latest accessory. The responses were far more positive than before with a considerable selection of responsive suitors.
The painful reality was evident and clawing at my skin. Their unfair assumptions about me and my disability superseded everything else which was hard to take. It wasn’t their refusal of courtship that hurt but more the apparent stigma that surrounded dating and the reluctance of dating someone with a disability. Perhaps they felt they would be shackled with permanent care giving responsibilities, or assumed that I’d be a burden. Maybe they perceived that life cannot be complete with a life partner plus a disability because in their minds disability equates to problems. Or perhaps I was far less attractive in a seated position. Tired and defeated I retreated from the dating scene for another six months until slowly and reluctantly I began to toy with the idea again this time around with abit more acceptance of my injury. I decided it would be unfair to show up in a chair without letting them know ahead so I put up the new version of myself and secured dates.
For a large part, I found despite being well educated with interesting life experiences somehow the conversation always came back to my disability, as if it defined me. I no longer started on an even playing field but rather from a lower ground, constantly trying to dig my way out. My longest relationship to date was four months since my accident and on paper he did everything right. He was a true gentleman, complimenting my smile, holding doors open, offering help when needed while enjoying each others sense of humour. But nevertheless, I knew deep down he wasn’t right for me and even though this gut wrenching feeling remained before breaking up with him there were a number of assumptions – both said and unsaid – that surrounded me. I did think wasn’t it better for me to compromise when someone was ready to ‘accept’ me? With a spinal cord injury did I really have a choice? Would anyone else ever like me again? But we are all guilty of under valuing ourselves sometimes and losing sight of the many qualities we possess. I had to remind myself that I am much more than my disability, I am a person of value and no disability or otherwise could take that from me. I’d rather wait for someone who’ll compliment me fully as a person than settle for the sake of it despite my “struggle”