So, here's the deal: I am starting to consider it virtually impossible to have a "normal" first date. (when I say normal, I mean more precisely your prototypical teen scene coffee and a movie, garden variety B.S. -- although gay dating brings a hyper sexualized level to that, but I digress.)
I know that you're also thinking this: Andrew, you're almost thirty, "teen scene" dating? Really? Ok, maybe that's just what I am thinking as the date looms ever closer. It's virtually impossible to have a "normal" first date when you have a disability. I am starting to honestly consider the fact that one's first date with a cripple of my caliber (wheelchair and all) is more or less a health survey of sorts.
I just had a first meeting with a guy I met online. He seemed cool online and we'd even Skyped so as to avoid any confusion (complete sidebar: I watched a doc on Netflix called Talhotblonde wherein this guy started cyber chatting this 18-year-old girl, and then when she started talking to one of his coworkers online, he went berserk and killed the coworker to honor the girl. He found out later that the girl was actually her 47-year-old mother. My point is that this all happened in 2007 when Skype existed. Who wouldn't Skype before a blind date?)
Things were a go between the dude and I. So we met, and I swear to God, the first words out of his mouth to me were: "So, do you have a nurse take care of you?" Boner killer for sure. I let it go, and things progressed to his next awkwardly posed question: "Someone cleans you, right?" What. The. Fuck. Maybe the guy was just a creeper all around, but the variation of disability related questions that I have encountered on first dates is crazy. Why can't we talk about music, our likes and dislikes? Is my disability so foreign that the questions are just at the forefront of my dates' minds? I am actually not upset -- it makes for a hilarious blog post, such as this, especially when I tell you that he also proceeded to tell me that he'd never been with a guy in a wheelchair before. Never woulda guessed.
It's like there needs to be a disability dating handbook. We have the Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability, but I mean a book of the hilariously offensive things one needn't say or do when on a date with a cripple. Let's review a few gems shall we:
1. "I have never been with someone in a wheelchair."
Okay, this may be true, and I can respect that you want to make sure you're not insensitive. However, telling me this can be so tiresome. This puts so much pressure on me to stop being Andrew -- and be the crippled guy you're dating. It's similar to this: "I've never been with a black person before..." On its face, that sounds racist, right? Same can be said for this; it's a tad ableist. I know, I know you're thinking back to my post about ableism and you're confused. Just go with me on this, kay? Bottom line: Tell me I'm the first Andrew you've dated, instead.
2. "Do you have a nurse take care of you?"
Why/how is this the first thing out of your mouth? Allow me to make things very clear: Personal care is in no way someone taking care of me. When they are in my house, they are, in essence, an extension of me. I pay rent. I buy the food. I do it. When someone comes in to wipe my arse, I directed that action. So, in essence, I am doing it through my attendant, understand? Secondly, the medically biased implications of asking if I have a nurse are just downright insensitive and wrong. Having a disability does not make one sick or ill -- while they may become sick, it is not their disability that makes them so, necessarily. Plus, why would you ask this on a date?! First. Words.
3. "Do you shower?"
Ultimately, this implies that because I am seated and can't walk, I must be, in some respects, unclean. This causes so many feels in me. People with disabilities are not dirty. Yes, many of us have to take extra care to be clean, but assuming one is not clean, during a date no less? Come. The. Fuck. On. For any boys wondering, I shower quite regularly, and if you'd like to assist me in the act of showering, my number is 647...
4. "Can you masturbate?"
What?! How can you be sitting on my couch and just blurt that shiz out? This brings up issues of sexual agency and independence that are real and deep for persons with disabilities. I am very grateful that I can, in fact, masturbate, but there are many of us who can't. In that regard, this question is offensive; it suggests that because you have automatically been predisposed to the suggestion that PwD are asexual, you have some superior license that allows you to ask this. The guy on this date was Indian -- what if I had asked him if he was familiar with Kama Sutra? Gawd!
Those are only a few of the awesome things that happened on this date. PLEASE, just remember that when engaging with a person with a disability in the context of dating/sexy times, the PwD is harboring all the same fears and you have about the disability. While you're thinking: "I've never been with a PwD before," I'm thinking, "I've never been with someone who was REALLY okay with my disability." You: Who takes care of him? Me: Will they help me if I need it? How do I ask?
See? Often times, we're just as scared of you, as you are of us (not that I wanna play up the "us versus them" thing).
This first appeared in the blog The Truth About Being Crippled .