Getting My Gimpy Groove On
November 27, 2009 6:03 PM   Subscribe

How can a gimp who's got a lot going for himself get a date and maybe even get a little somethin' somethin' after a loooong dry spell? More details with minimum self-pity inside.

First, some background: I'm in my mid-thirties and I have a congenital disability that is pretty severe. Severe as in strangers probably look at me and think, "God, I'd rather be dead." I use a wheelchair and have very little movement in my extremities and I breathe with the assistance of a ventilator. I require 24-hour assistance to help me get through life. Despite all this, I've managed to build a pretty decent life for myself. I went to college and grad school and now make a good living at a job I love. I own my own place and have plenty of good friends. I've traveled and, in general, have lived a life that has turned out better than I thought it would.

As you might guess, I'm pretty inexperienced with dating and relationships. My high school and young adult years saw me make clumsy attempts to ask women out, but I was so full of insecurities and self-doubt that I met with no success. I grew more comfortable with myself as I got older and finally met someone online in my late twenties. We dated for a couple months but it didn't work out. Since then, I've had a couple dates but nothing beyond that.

I think I'm doing all the things that a guy my age is supposed to do to try to meet women. OKCupid ad? Check. Book club? Check. Volunteering? Check. I don't do bars or clubs simply because they're crowded, noisy places that make communication difficult. But for whatever reason, I don't meet many single women and fewer still who seem like possible dates. I keep asking myself if I should be doing something more, but I have no idea what that might be.

I don't have any illusions about my own attractiveness and I realize that a relationship with me comes with a lot of challenges. Still, I think I'm pretty cool guy with smarts and more than a little charm. It just takes time for other people to see that.

My question for my fellow MeFites: should I just keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best or try something that hasn't occurred to me? I have to admit that I'm getting a little frustrated with the loneliness and celibacy, but I also don't want to turn into some bitter old bachelor. If my future is going to be one of bachelorhood, how do I make myself okay with that? I've even flirted with the idea of hiring a, er, professional to get a little temporary relief, but that seems like it could result in all sorts of not-so-good outcomes.

Thanks for any advice you can offer.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
1) Dating is just a numbers game. (Even though you only need to meet the one right person, which is important to remember.) Obviously everyone does better when they increase their number of dates. I think I read somewhere that the average number of dates people have to go through is 72 before they meet the right person.
2) Do you think you are you having a hard time meeting people because you have a disability? Then probably other people with disabilities are having the same issue. Maybe start a dating club or online site for meeting people (my solution for everyone : ) ).

Have fun!
posted by gt2 at 6:22 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am not single. So all this is advice that I would give you if you were my friend. If I say something offensive, please believe that I don't mean anything by it. Only trying to help.

From what I understand a lot of ladies who are on dating sites are looking for long term relationships. Husband and kids. I don't know if you are looking for that too, but if you are maybe you could put something like that into your profile? Women might see your handicap as a deterrent to having kids, and if you set the record straight it might help.

On the flip side, have you looked into fetish websites? I have absolutely no experience with that kind of thing, but if there are people who want to have sex with amputees maybe wheelchairs get other people hot. Like I said, no experience, so I could be really wrong.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:23 PM on November 27, 2009

There are some prior similar questions, here is one. Perhaps obvious filter, but if it were me I would be sure to be nicely dressed, clean (including teeth*), to the exent doable with attendant care. (*I have a single friend, nondisabled, but who doesn't seem to care for her teeth, it's struck me lately.) Humor is a plus, plus being out in the community including at disability community events.** (**Depending on where you live you could probably go to a disability community event every week or three, and pretty quickly befriend a big group of folks with disabiliy experiences.) And being open to the unexpected, and to those who aren't on the beaten path.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:24 PM on November 27, 2009

A friend's parents met in the late 50s through a penpals club for people with disabilities. It might be worth looking for something similar online - and you might have more luck finding someone who is understanding of your situation and not intimidated. Googling found some websites for dating sites for people with disabilities, but I don't know how useful any of them are.
posted by dilettante at 6:34 PM on November 27, 2009

Do you do any volunteer or disability rights advocacy work? I've had several disabled friends who have met partners through work like that -- and not all of their new lovers/partners were disabled. Some of them had parents or a sibling with a disability and started doing the advocacy group as a result. They were truly able to get 'beyond' the disability, talk about it with great ease, flirt and enter the relationship with a good deal of humor, did not see it as a 'pity party' (at all) and were not afraid to figure out how to make it work in terms of logistics.

Even online advocacy groups, or online communities, might be a good place to start.

Or - do you participate in any of those outdoor and experience clubs for folks with disabilities? Some of those groups are *awesome* and they're staffed with some fun, adventurous, good humored, interesting and comfortable-with-disability folks. You never know if you'll meet someone there, or if you'll become friends with other participants or staff, and then meet someone through them. If you were my friend, I'd probably suggest (and come along) doing something like this -- gets you out there, meeting people for whom disability is a variant to be recognized and addressed, not pitied or glossed over.

And in terms of bachelordom, just remember that you've already surprised yourself in amazing, brave, and beautiful ways. You've already proven to *yourself* that you can thrive and if you end up unpartnered, you'll continue to adapt and figure out how to address your needs and desires.

Honestly, it sounds like you have great social skills already. Remember that if your date hasn't been with someone with a disability, and isn't super adept at addressing it, you might help things along by providing some questions and answers. Like, "you might be wondering if I can do x.... well yes, with some modification I can do xyz too!" The more you're out there with your abilities, ideas and desires, the more someone is able to imagine it themselves. I'm sure you already know this in the rest of your life (hey, hold the door, bring that thing down here, whatever) but remember it does apply here too.
posted by barnone at 6:51 PM on November 27, 2009 [5 favorites]

Disaboom links to this.
posted by availablelight at 6:57 PM on November 27, 2009

From a friend: apparently lovebyrd is pretty good. And he says there are decent forums.
posted by barnone at 7:21 PM on November 27, 2009

I have the same thing and go to conferences or gatherings of people with disabilities. I met my girlfriend (also has disabilities) at a camp for various disabilities.
posted by wheelieman at 8:12 PM on November 27, 2009

But for whatever reason, I don't meet many single women and fewer still who seem like possible dates. I keep asking myself if I should be doing something more, but I have no idea what that might be.

This may be stating the obvious, but are you asking out any of the single women you meet who seem like possible dates? You say you don't meet many, but really, it only takes one. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

You come across as charming, smart, and funny in your post, which are all very attractive and will stand you in good stead once you've got a date and will get her to keep coming back. I think it's pretty likely that you'll need to be the initiator, though.

Work on your self-confidence and put that charm to good use. I wonder if there are some ways that you can use your physical situation to your advantage when you're flirting with someone interesting. It's not a bug, it's a feature. You're probably in a wheelchair--offer to give her a ride? If you've got limited use of your hands but you're posting to MeFi, you've probably got some incredibly cool computer technology that you could show off--maybe use a demonstration as an opportunity to flirt ("You're pretty cute--let's have coffee"). Whatever works. "I'll bet you've never been with a guy who..." Fill in the blank with something funny, smart, and self-affirming.

Good luck!
posted by Sublimity at 8:16 PM on November 27, 2009

Never understimate the value of good P.R. Do you have friends that you spend time with in real life? Enlist them. I think just going at it alone, you will need more time than most people to establish a connection, just because there is so much demystifying you have to get through first. Character references are a huge boost. Just being seen around your friends and interacting with you and your friends will help a lot. A lot of women are hyper-aware of their partner's expectations of them, and in your case, those expectations are a big, gaping blank. I'm assuming that your disabilities require the people around you to bend certain standard boundaries of personal space, etc., and seeing how your other friends handle it can give her some kind of template to work with. Also, just being loved can make a person seem more lovable.

So, maybe you meet a girl online and she wants to do something. Don't plan a date. You meet her alone, but then have plans to do something with a few of your friends. Or if a friend can safely/responsibly fill in for your nurse for a few hours, that might also help.

My point is, it will be a lot easier if you can show her what a relationship (any kind of relationship) with you is already like.

Good luck!
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:34 AM on November 28, 2009

Not a direct answer, but you might want to know about the gimpysex Livejournal community.
posted by paulg at 10:16 AM on November 28, 2009

Do you blog? I read a few blogs by people who have disabilities, and it gives me a glimpse into their life and into what life would be like if I were to date them. Maybe you'd meet some like-minded lady-blogger that way.

There are some people on YouTube who make video blogs about how they manage their disabilities- showing tricks for manipulating objects, aligning a wheelchair, using accessibility gadgets, etc- and those are also really good intros to the person's charm and lifestyle, much better than a static written profile could be.

I also don't think hiring a sex worker is a bad idea at all, if you're interested in that. Lots of sex workers have really progressive politics and would probably be very open-minded. Actually, I once interviewed a sex worker in a major city who said that many of her clients had physical disabilities or limitations that made dating difficult for them (for instance she had a morbidly obese client whose belly she had to move out of the way, etc, as well as clients with MS, varying degrees of paralysis, etc). She said she never minded, and in fact really liked working with those people. In our conversation, her descriptions of them (which she'd anonymized & altered to protect their confidentiality) were very respectful and even quite fond.
posted by twistofrhyme at 12:58 AM on November 30, 2009

For what it's worth, which might not be much, you sound like a pretty great guy. This is just to affirm that part of your question where you say, "Still, I think I'm pretty cool guy with smarts and more than a little charm." You are!
posted by blue_bicycle at 5:24 AM on November 30, 2009

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