Dating with a Disability | Q&A

In part one, I shared my personal experiences with dating as a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user, as well as some motivational advice.

Part two is a little more light-hearted, giving an insight into some amusing dating disasters!

In this third and final offering, I answer ALL of your burning questions…

Instagram Q&A

(Above): Thanks to my mate, Ross Lannon for this delightful contribution!

Twitter/Facebook Questions

Q: What tips do you have for disabled people who don’t understand why someone would want to date them?

A: I think it’s natural to lack confidence and feel insecure, regardless of (dis)ability. I’m sure we have all felt this way to some extent. This comes down to how we perceive ourselves and self-worth. I do think we need to find happiness and contentment within ourselves before entering into a potential relationship. Believe me, I know how difficult this is! Also, there comes a point where you just have to take a leap of faith and trust that what this person says is sincere. If they tell you they like you and enjoy your company, trust them! Don’t question it – you will drive yourself mad and eventually irritate them too. Yes, it might go nowhere, but at least you will have allowed yourself that opportunity. Dating is all about confidence, self belief, taking risks and having fun. I hope this helps!

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

A: Again, for me, it’s all about realising my worth. I am very self-critical and have, at times, convinced myself that no one could ever want me. I thought I was too much to take on; an unnecessary burden. Why would anyone date me when they could go out with an able-bodied girl? But I have been proven wrong. Initially, I was very sceptical and found it hard to believe guys when they told me they liked me. But I soon realised I was doing myself no favours; this was self-destructive behaviour.

Q: What are your biggest insecurities?

A: My body and physical limitations. I am non-ambulant, incredibly petite and have a significant scoliosis (curvature of the spine). I don’t look “normal” and I don’t have a curvy, womanly physique. I would try desperately to disguise this with baggy clothes, and felt embarrassed by my child-sized stature. However, I now make a point of celebrating my tiny, “pixie” frame. After all, being small has it’s advantages! I’m easy to carry and throw around! I am what I am. There’s nothing I can do to change my body. If people don’t like it, that’s absolutely fine – it’s their problem, not mine!

Q: How and when do you reveal your disability and limitations when dating?

A: This can be difficult! For me, it isn’t as simple as, “I can’t walk”. My disability comes with many challenges and health implications. It’s hard trying to explain this to someone who has no knowledge or familiarity with my condition, without overwhelming them with information. I think it’s important that you are willing to answer questions, however silly they might seem. Personally, I don’t take offence when guys ask if I can feel and if I’m able to have sex. It’s natural curiosity! It doesn’t mean that’s all they’re interested in.

Dating Disasters

Following my last post, I was encouraged to write more on the subject of dating with a disability. Not that I’m much of a dater. I don’t do the apps (other than a brief stint on Hinge) or actively chat up blokes. If it happens, it happens.

A mate told me to share some dating disaster stories. I’m not sure there have been any disasters, as such. Rather, a few funny anecdotes.

One took place on a freezing cold day in January – not ideal. He wrapped his coat around me, which was quite sweet. He wouldn’t let me keep it (less sweet, methinks) but I did steal his hat!

Another date (if you can call it that) was with a 34 year-old guy from dating app, Hinge. Though stereotypically attractive – clean cut with washboard abs – he really wasn’t my type at all.

Still, I was encouraged to go for it, mainly because he’s older and, in theory, more mature. So, on a whim, after months of chatting on/off, I agreed to meetup.

This lead to possibly the most awkward and stale encounter I’ve ever experienced. I’m not sure if he was going for the brooding, ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’ thing, but it translated as pure arrogance. Plus, he had zero sense of humour and was somewhat full of shit.

He claimed to have dated Ellie Goulding and that one of her songs was written about him. Google disagrees!

The only thing he seemed interested in was his car (which, I may have inadvertently insulted. I amused myself, anyway), and getting a hotel room there and then.

Now, each to their own, but I’ve never been into meaningless one night stands. Plus, let’s be real for a second, I’m a girl. A “vulnerable” girl. So if a guy can’t appreciate why I don’t want to hook-up within 10 minutes of meeting, well, sod off mate!

Having said that, if Chris Pratt rocked up, I might make an exception.

So, in the end I told him I was off home for my tea (yes, I really said that).

I took the long route and nagged a mate on the phone on my way. As I rolled along the riverside in my chair, a little kid waved enthusiastically at me. That made me smile and was most definitely the highlight of my evening. Kids are so much easier than men!

Prior to this, I met up with a lad I went to school with. He’s a bit quirky with long, dark, wavy hair and piercing blue eyes – ding, ding, ding!!

Somehow, we got chatting after some 15 years, and I went to his place. There was no plan or agenda on my part. Yes, I fancied him but I’m terrible at the whole flirty, dating thing. So, although I hoped, I expected nothing.

Now, I’m completely non-ambulant and haven’t been up a flight of stairs in many years. So, despite worrying that I’d be dropped on the floor in a heap, I trusted him to carry me up to his room where he plonked me on his bed.

After a fair amount of kissing and rolling around, the boy got a bit excited and, well, released his manly juices over my lovely top! Mmm, crusty!

You may be surprised to learn this beautiful union developed no further. Shame, I did like him…

Dating with a Disability

Honestly, I hate dating. It’s generally pretty nerve-wracking. But, add a disability into the mix and the whole thing becomes even more challenging.

Disability aside, I am an acquired taste. I have a very dry, dark, and somewhat sarcastic sense of humour. I’m not a natural people person, and I can’t do small-talk to save my life. Yes, I’m a bit of a weirdo.

And then there’s the chair

Many seem to assume disabled people only date those with a similar disability. I never understood that.

Personally, I’ve only ever dated able-bodied guys. This isn’t necessarily a conscious decision, though in all honesty, it does make life easier!

Dating with a physical disability like mine can be awkward, embarrassing and frustrating. There are certain things I cannot do that I REALLY wish I could. So, you need to be willing to answer questions, explain your limitations and ask for help.

I don’t think I’ve dated anyone who hasn’t asked the following:

– Can you move?
– Can you feel?
– Do you hurt?

If and when you’re hit with the 20 questions, my advice would be to try and keep it light-hearted and good-humoured. Remember that many people have no knowledge or familiarity with your disability. They are simply curious and showing an interest in YOU.

You may be reluctant to date because of your disability. Maybe you lack confidence or think that no one would want you. Trust me, that’s bullshit!

Yes, you might make an arse of yourself and roll home feeling like a bag of shit. I know I have. But hey, if a date goes badly, you never have to see them again!

Bad experiences will knock your confidence. But you’ve just got to dust yourself off and try again.

One guy once told me that I’m no one’s type (referring to my disability). What a lovely chappy! Well, he kissed like some kinda mutant slug! So, no great loss there. Cheerio, bye-bye…

Dating Apps

This seems to be the go-to method these days. It works for many, but I’m not a dating app type at all. I can tell you now, you’ll never see my face on Tinder or PoF. And if you do, it ain’t me!

The only app I ever used – reluctantly – is Hinge (dubbed “Cringe”), recommended by a good friend.

Much to my surprise, it made quite an impact on me and effectively changed my whole perspective on love…

For a long while, I was referred to, by some, as “the ice queen”. I had my guard up and always kept people at arms length, due to low self-esteem and a fear of judgement and rejection.

I was totally cynical about love and never showed any interest in marriage – I wasn’t the little girl who fantasised about a big white wedding.

Despite a few dates, I wasn’t taking Hinge seriously and never thought I’d meet anyone or fall in love. That just wasn’t me. Then, most unexpectedly, I did.

Quite early on, my mum said she could see me falling for this guy. She told me if it didn’t work out, it would break my heart.

“Nah, we’re just keeping it casual and having fun. Nothing and no one will break my heart”.

Or so I thought. But damn it, mama was right. I really did fall for him. I fell hard and fast (not on the floor, although that has happened)! And my heart really did break when it ended.

But that’s life. Shit happens. You live and learn.

The point is, you have to be willing to take risks, open up, allow yourself to trust, and yes, to get hurt.

It sounds cliché, but it’s essential you realise your worth. Never allow anyone or anything to make you feel you are not good enough or undeserving of love and affection!

And, if anyone does make you doubt your worth, well, fuck ’em! (Not literally).

Memory Lane | Child of the 90s

Though I still look about twelve (woo! 🙄), I’m actually now the grand old age of 31; A true child of the 90s.

A friend and I were recently gabbling away and reminiscing about things from our childhood.

Some were great! And others were…not so great.

Do you remember any of these..?

Babyliss Hair Straighteners/Crimpers

Image Description: Babyliss hair straighteners/crimpers from the late 1990s
Image Description: Babyliss hair straighteners/crimpers from the late 1990s

Many years before obscenely priced GHDs became the go-to hair straightener of choice, we had this bad boy!

A multi-purpose hair straightener/crimper, this clumpy contraption took about an hour to reach a lukewarm temperature. We then had to clamp each section for…oh, flippin’ ages!

Quite why we wanted to crimp our hair, I don’t know. But at the time, we thought we looked ace! On reflection…not so much.

Tammy Girl

Image Description: Tammy Girl shop front
Image Description: Tammy Girl shop front

Image Description: Classic Tammy Girl T-shirt
Image Description: Classic Tammy Girl T-shirt

I kid you not; I owned this very T-shirt and many like it, courtesy of the (not at all) classy pre-teen clothing store, Tammy Girl. Oh yeeaah!

Sadly, Tammy is no longer. I can’t think why.

Despite not wearing cool and funky clothes like this now I’m in my thirties, I remain a ‘babe with attitude’. Well, sorta!

Impulse O2 Body Spray

Image Description: Impulse O2 shower gel (left) and O2 body spray (right)
Image Description: Impulse O2 shower gel (left) and O2 body spray (right)

Bloody loved this stuff!! How I miss the lingering, intense scent of ethanol and limes.

Whyyyy it was discontinued, I’ll never know.

BRING IT BACK, IMPULSE!!

We don’t all want to smell of white musk (eau de old lady)!

Girl Talk Magazine

Image Description: Front cover of an issue of Girl Talk magazine from the 1990s
Image Description: Front cover of an issue of Girl Talk magazine from the 1990s

A highly educational read for pre-teen Carrie!

Every issue of Girl Talk came with freebies, like miniature furry photo frames (we all love those, right?), and posters of goats and donkeys.

I do like to lay in bed at night and gaze at a donkey poster, don’t you?

Animal Ark Books

Image Description: A collection of books from the Animal Ark series by Lucy Daniels
Image Description: A collection of books from the Animal Ark series by Lucy Daniels

Now, I had forgotten about these books (sacrilege!), until my mate asked, “did you read those rubbish animal stories that were all the same?”

Yes. Yes, I did.

No disrespect to author Lucy Daniels, but I don’t think she’s ever gonna take down J. K. Rowling with these riveting tales of piglets and pussies.

Blockbuster Video Store

Image Description: Blockbuster video store shop front. "Closing Down" posters shown in the windows
Image Description: Blockbuster video store shop front. “Closing Down” posters shown in the windows

Who remembers VHS? Anyone..? I genuinely miss video tapes and cassettes. You could chuck them on the floor and they’d still be good to go.

What I miss even more is going to Blockbuster on a Friday, after school, to rent a video for the weekend.

Simple pleasures. Happy days.

Woolworths

Image Description: A woman selecting sweets from a Pic'n'Mix display at Woolworths
Image Description: A woman selecting sweets from a Pic’n’Mix display at Woolworths

Need I say anything for this one?!

RIP Woolworths. What has the world come to?!

Kids today are truly missing out.

New Year, More Me!

We’re now in the midst of January, and many are following a “new year, new me” health and fitness regime.

Most of us over-indulge at Christmas. Too much rich food and too much booze.

Everywhere you look, it seems people are trying to lose weight and tone-up. Fair play to them! Do what makes you feel good.

But just to break the trend, here I am trying to put on weight!

Okay, so…I’m teeny tiny. Pixie sized! My weight has always been fairly consistent and never really fluctuated.

Of course, my condition influences this. Muscle weighs vastly more than fat, right? Well, I have very little muscle mass. And so my BMI is always going to be much lower than the average.

I won’t lie, I’ve always consciously monitored my weight and my calorie intake. Not due to vanity, but practicality.

I am non-ambulant and therefore cannot transfer independently. I get thrown around a lot! From chair to chair, chair to bed etc. If I were significantly heavier, life would be much more difficult!

People who struggle to lose weight often ask me how I stay so tiny, considering I’m unable to exercise. Well…

~ Growing up with older brothers helps! I’ve always scraped food off my plate onto theirs. And they were always happy to finish off any food I left.

~ Study food labels and count calories.

~ Self limitation. I’ve almost trained myself to say no when someone offers me chocolate or a biscuit. Bad, I know.

~ It might sound silly but, over time your stomach does shrink and your body adapts. You learn to function on fewer calories.

*Now, to make it absolutely clear, I am in no way dictating, advising or advocating such bad habits! I am very much aware that this is unhealthy behaviour.*

So, why do I now want to put on weight?

When I’m ill, I eat less. When I’m really stressed, I stop eating. In these instances, I am NOT consciously monitoring my weight.

Over the past 2 months, I have unintentionally lost weight. This will no doubt affect my overall health and wellbeing, reducing energy levels and leaving me vulnerable to infection and illness.

Believe it or not, increasing calorie intake is far more challenging (for me) than you might imagine. It’s difficult to break the habit of a lifetime!

Before, I would go literally all day without eating a thing. No breakfast, no lunch. I would then pick at my dinner and that would be it.

I am now constantly reminding and forcing myself to consume food and drink, little and often, throughout the day.

If I can put on half a stone, I’ll be happy. I’ll still be skinny, but I’ll be healthier. That can only be a good thing!

Body Image & Disability

I was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, affecting my body and physicality. I have a severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) which, for various reasons, is not surgically corrected. This causes asymmetry and a shortened torso. Joint contractures mean I am unable to stretch out my arms or legs. Furthermore, the muscle wasting nature of my condition results in extremely thin limbs.

Illustration by Jess Oddi @TheDisabledLife

Now 31, I look very different from other women my age. My pixie-sized stature is emphasised by the scoliosis. In place of womanly curves, are unwanted and abnormally crooked humps and bumps. This visible contrast negatively impacts my sense of self and makes me feel odd, weird, and self-conscious.

I love fashion but fashion doesn’t love me

Over the years, I have desperately sought to hide my body with shapeless, baggy clothes. Anything resembling a potato sack is a winner. I live in leggings because jeans are a no-go and frankly, they are the next best thing to pyjamas!

Clothing manufacturers don’t cater for my body since it doesn’t meet standard criteria. Shopping is not an enjoyable experience. It is a frustrating and disappointing struggle to find anything at all to fit, let alone look flattering. Most of the clothes I buy have to be returned which makes me wonder why I bother at all – well, simply because I can’t roll about naked!

Accepting my unique body

Do I love, embrace and celebrate my unique body shape? Hell, no! BUT – I have slowly and gradually learnt to accept it. After all, there’s absolutely nothing I can do to change it. So why stress myself out over something I cannot control.

Exercise isn’t an option for me. I can’t go to the gym and buff-up. And why should I resort to cosmetic surgery? Why put myself through pain, trauma and financial strain simply to conform to societies high and unrealistic standards of beauty? Okay, it might make me feel more confident to look a little more like the average woman. Then again, it might not…

Societal standards of body beautiful

Our perception of body image and beauty is arguably increasingly influenced by social media, particularly Instagram. Heavily airbrushed, edited and filtered selfies are everywhere to be seen. With a smartphone, we can all look like a celeb from a magazine spread!

But this is misleading, unrealistic and unattainable. I can’t relate to the pouty, posers of Instagram. Honestly, can anyone?!

Diverse bodies are sadly under-represented in the media. This is starting to improve but there is still a long way to go before the presence of disabled bodies on our screens becomes mainstream.

Disability & Self Worth | You are not unloveable

I think most people living with a chronic illness, disability or mental health issue can relate to this quote, at least to some extent. I know I do.

I am limited by my physical disability (congenital muscular dystrophy), despite the claims by some that you can do anything if you just try hard enough. As a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user with a muscle-wasting condition, I’m afraid there are certain things I cannot do.

I am heavily reliant on others to carry out daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, locking doors, opening and closing windows and so on. I also need help with personal care tasks like getting in and out of bed, dressing and bathing. This can be undignified, thus affecting my confidence and making me feel incredibly self-conscious and utterly undesirable. After all, who wants their boyfriend to shower them?!

I HATE asking people to do things for me, as I then feel a burden, a nuisance, an annoyance. Having to ask people to simply open a bottle or a can at the grand old age of 30 is frankly embarrassing (for me).

Sometimes I refuse to speak up and request help. Call it pride or sheer stubbornness. But there are other times I have no choice. Like it or not, I have to ask, to instruct, to explain.

For the most part, I’ve managed to conceal the extent of my disability from those around me. Many people, friends included, think I am much more able and independent than I actually am. Again, put it down to pride. But there are some people I can’t hide this from. Family members, of course, but also anyone I am romantically involved with.

Due to the nature of my disability and all the added extras – care requirements, dependency, restrictions, the inability to be spontaneous – I always believed myself to be undeserving of love. I genuinely thought *think* of myself as an unnecessary burden. Why would anyone put up with me, my weak, crooked body and all of my baggage when they could choose to be with someone else?

As a result of this and a lifetime of rejection, I put up barriers and distanced myself from society; a form of self preservation. Being told repeatedly that I’m not good enough, I’m “no one’s type”, and “too much to take on” has made quite a negative impression on my self-esteem.

Now, I don’t want to ramble or get too personal. But I am slowly starting to trust and believe I am worthy of love and companionship.

They say there’s someone for everyone. The cynical part of me still questions this. But maybe, just maybe, there is.

It takes an extra special person to accept me and my care needs. To take on, without question, a pretty drastic lifestyle change. To see past the wheelchair, the crooked body, the medical equipment and the disability itself, and simply love me for me, unconditionally. To try to convince me every day that I’m not undesirable, unloveable or a burden. People like this are rare, but they are out there!