I’m Disabled, Not Dead! (Help Me Find Love)
Dear Alison and Tony: I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m a woman in a wheelchair. Guys look at me and see right through me as if I’m not even there. How do I get guys to look at me, and why are guys so mean? I’m not a model, but I’m not ugly. I’m a bit overweight but I do the best I can to stay in shape and watch what I eat. I may be disabled, but I’m not dead! I want to date and find love like anyone else but I don’t know how to do it. Please…help me find love!
Sign me: “Nancy on wheels”
Alison’s Take: Nancy in a perfect world, people wouldn’t be insensitive, or deliberately hurtful, but it’s not a perfect world. People with disabilities are not always treated equally or fairly in our society. Even Christopher Reeve, the world-famous actor who ended up a wheelchair-bound hunk, said he experienced the same kind of reactions you do. People may look right past you because they’re ignorant or afraid, but prejudice, ignorance, and fear are not limited to people with physical disabilities.
Dating isn’t a politically correct activity. And it is really a process of elimination, not of selection. You eliminate those you don’t’ see a future with (for whatever reasons) and they eliminate you (for whatever reasons) until you find someone who wants what you have to offer, and you feel the same way about them. But if you define yourself primarily as disabled person in a wheelchair, instead of a woman with many facets, that is what you broadcast to eligible men. Sren’t you much more than just Nancy on wheels? If you want people to see past the wheelchair and look at you, working on how you present yourself, is the first step. When you do go out, you are going to face rejection, but people without disabilities face plenty of it too.
Having an obvious disability narrows your choices, but the men who look right through you are just the percentage that will fall into your “reject” pile, clearing a path for those who would be happy to get to know you. Consider Heather Mills, who lost a leg but who won the heart of Paul McCartney, one of the richest and most famous men the world. Feeling sorry for herself and withdrawing from a social life would not have gotten her McCartney’s attention and then, his heart. Expand the areas of your life you can control, and believe that there are men who are not mean or narrow minded and are waiting to meet you (because they’re out there). Follow Heather’s example and volunteer for a cause you believe in. (Mills met McCartney at a charity event). You will meet people who not only share your goals and dreams, but who will more easily and naturally connect with you.
Internet dating is also a good way for you to meet people who can get to know “you” and all you have to offer, even before they meet you in person. If you don’t mind dating someone else with a disability (you haven’t said), there are all sorts of places both online and off-line, that provide support and camaraderie for singles with disabilities. You will immediately have something in common but if you don’t want to meet someone else with that commonality, the world is still your oyster, as long as you stay positive, and take those “wheels” out on the road to love! You should be upfront about the fact that you are wheelchair-bound, but it doesn’t have to be the first thing people see. Focus also on all the other things you have to offer, with a great photo, so guys can see you’re attractive and don’t have three heads. Those with disabilities you can see can find love…so why not you? You are only in a wheelchair! If you think about that, maybe it will give you the courage you need to get out and meet people.
Tony’s take: Nancy, if you will do one simple thing I guarantee not only will you be noticed, but courted and fought over; simply to love the life you have. A cheerful personality is the best attractant, a smile a devastating weapon when used properly by a woman.
Being in a wheel chair isolates you, provides a barrier between you and the world, and an excuse for why your life is miserable. You must conquer the wheelchair and the situation. Own the room you are in — by being happy.
Look at every ad. Notice how everyone smiles. You need to smile too, and it has to be genuine. People are amusing and each person has a story. Become a listener. Guys are suckers for someone they think is really interested in them. Flirt, and talk to interesting (non threatening) strangers, especially those who seem shy. If you listen to them they will listen to you, and they’ll like you.
People see someone in a wheelchair and feel uncomfortable. They stereotype and objectify you. But if you want to connect with people on a personal level, to make yourself real in their eyes, to break the stereotype and the objectification. You need to learn people’s names. You need to address them personally, and ask them about important things in their lives. You need to be outgoing, charming and gracious.
You seem unsure about yourself, but you need to have confidence and goals. You still are very much a functional woman, who can enjoy kissing and being kissed, holding and being held, fondling and being fondled, You can enjoy being massaged and touched, and you can enjoy touching. You can have intercourse and bear children. You still have your hands and your mouth and can express your passion through them (which covers about 50% of all sexual activities). Are you going to have the big O? Unless you are incredibly lucky probably not, but you can enjoy the intimacy and the warmth and you can make any male happy. You need to understand this on a gut level,. In fact, you are better than many fully capable women because you care and will work at it.
You need to lose weight because if you do it will make you feel more confident (and confident is sexy). You need to exercise, because the more you exercise the more you can do for yourself, so you will feel better about yourself. Update your image and your clothes. Others will not recognize that you have changed, until you change your image. A sexy new haircut and fashionable clothes will also make you feel better about yourself. You need goals and one should be to be able to get out of the wheelchair and on to crutches (there are really good braces now). If you can do this, you will not only be more mobile, you will feel that you are accomplishing things. As far as paying for these things, part of your goals and homework is to find the grants, programs, insurance and aid that is available to you in order to get back into a productive and happy life.
For fun, why not consider taking a class on how to flirt, be charming and gracious. In fact, you should take classes such as cooking just to get yourself out in the world. If you do not work, as Alison suggested, you should think about volunteering. Nothing lifts your spirits more than helping others.
ADDENDUM: Yesterday (August 1st) the universe set out to prove my point. A lone woman in a wheelchair flagged down a cab in the block in front of me. She was probably in her late thirties and moderately good looking but that is not what you noticed, you noticed that she smiled and looked happy, that she took care of herself wearing nice clothes, that she stayed in shape and controlled her weight and paid attention to her hair and makeup. I opened the door of the cab for her, she pulled herself out of the wheelchair and into the cab by herself. She thanked me and the cab driver for helping her and dealing with her collapsible wheelchair. She did not feel sorry for herself, she was not needlessly dependent on others but thankful and gracious when others offered help. Both the cab driver and myself would have done anything for her because she was such a nice person. Had stars aligned differently I would have asked to see her romantically.