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Prominently in my profile, I wrote: “I’d like to be very upfront about the fact that I use a wheelchair.My disability is part of my identity and I’m a loud, proud disability rights activist, but there is so much more that defines me (you know, like the stuff I’ve got in my profile).I realize some people are hesitant to date a human who experiences the world sitting down.But I’d like to think you’ll keep reading and dive a little deeper.For the second date, my bagel suggested a painting night (a social event that involves paintbrushes, canvases, acrylics and, usually, wine) since I’d told him how much I enjoy them.He found a Groupon and I researched a location, picking out a restaurant in New York City that was supposed to be wheelchair accessible.I truly believed he was the person I’d marry, and that I’d never have to worry about rejection again.
After dropping the “wheelchair bomb,” I’d have to brace myself for their reactions, which were always a mixed bag, often ranging from indifference to ghosting. One man that I connected with on Coffee Meets Bagel was incredibly apologetic when I first told him about my wheelchair, as though it was the most tragic thing he’d ever heard.
In retrospect, this served only to contribute to the stigma I usually work so hard to fight. In every other area of my life, my disability is front and center.
I write and speak endlessly about being a proud, unapologetic disabled woman.
Not one to be deterred, I persevered, downloading every possible dating app and creating accounts on various dating sites. I kept up with this facade for a while, messaging matches who were none the wiser.
But I became skittish about revealing my disability, because in an already shallow dating culture, I believed my wheelchair would cause most men to write me off without a second thought. Once I thought I’d spoken with a guy long enough to establish his interest, I’d choose a moment to strike, telling him about my disability.