‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live.’ – Joan Didion
This afternoon, my mother suggested that I date a disabled person because we’d both share a certain perspective and he could ‘understand what it was like.’ I understood her intentions and her point, but I disagreed. I don’t want my impairment to factor into my relationships of any kind, and I don’t ever assume that I ‘know what it’s like’ for anyone because I don’t like when people do so for me. I can never claim to ‘know what it’s like’ for another disabled person, even if they have exactly the same kind of cerebral palsy that affects me. I can never ‘know what it’s like’ about anyone for anything, because I don’t. I hate when anyone says to me ‘I know what you’ve been through’ or ‘I know how you feel’ because they don’t know.
I have dated two different men who had disabilities, but that was never something I actively sought in a person or even thought about with regards to the relationship. A disability doesn’t ever factor into whether or not I will date someone; I am concerned with a person’s character, intelligence, and values. I know people who have actively sought others who are ‘like them’ in one way or another, but I would rather a relationship happen organically than to actively seek out a specific type of person for whatever reason I may have.
I want a person who is kind, intelligent, thoughtful, considerate, close with his family, and who doesn’t smoke. I think these are very basic things and these are things I expect of myself. If I met someone with these characteristics and he also had a disability (visible or not), it wouldn’t matter to me. I don’t want my disability to matter to him either, and I don’t want it to be a factor as to whether or not he chooses to be with me. I have been turned down and rejected on the basis of my disability before; I wouldn’t want to do the same to someone else.
The most recent rejection I faced had nothing to do with my impairment (and he happened to be impaired as well). He simply wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship (and that’s reason enough not to pursue one). Neither his disability nor mine were a consideration through the experience. When I was younger, I used to believe that people didn’t want to be with me because I had a disability. I know for a fact that, in this case, that isn’t true. He didn’t want to be with me because he didn’t like me enough. I’ve been on both sides of that experience and it’s perfectly natural (even though it does hurt).
I won’t lie: I used to be afraid that I wouldn’t find someone because I had a disability. When I learned that my social maturity was more of a hindrance in my relationships than my impairment was, I worked to change it and noticed a difference. I no longer fear that I won’t find someone based on the fact that I’m impaired, and I’ve also realized that anyone who would reject me on such grounds isn’t worth a millisecond of my time or energy. I no longer fear not finding someone because I’ve accepted that I will be (and am) okay alone and that I shouldn’t let a relationship define or validate me.