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That’s The Way Love Rolls: Online Dating Adventures of a Single Black Disabled Woman

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Dating Blog Post Image

Spring is in the air, which means that we will be coming out of winter hibernation and seeking activities to mingle with old and new acquaintances.  As a single Black disabled woman, I decided that this is the season where I begin my journey in finding viable candidates for the Mr. Right title.

Yes, I am going to dip my toes back into the dating pool, and I decided to share my experiences for a new series, “That’s the Way Love Rolls.”  This series will highlight the good, bad, strange, and utterly humorous moments of my dating experience as a 30 year old disabled woman.  I will also share the experiences of other disabled women, since I know my fellow disabled sisters have some very interesting tales regarding their own journeys in finding love.  

Giving Online Dating The Good Ole College Try For the Umpteenth Time

Online dating and I have a very dysfunctional relationship, mainly because I seem to have the apparent misfortune of attracting “interesting and peculiar” characters on dating websites.  I usually am adamant about online dating for a month or so, and then give up due to the lackluster dating options available.  Being someone who is a social butterfly, loves going out, and willing to try new things, my dating profile seems to attract men who are the complete opposite; though opposites may attract, these candidates were not compatible to me.  

However, I took a yearlong break from online dating because of my previous frustrations with it, and in late March, decided to give it a try one more time because I am serious about finding love in 2016.  I am a single woman who would like to spend her time with someone special; I love my independence, but even an independent woman needs a romantic companion to be a support while she takes the world by storm.  So, at 30 years old, I believe this is the time to look for that companion, and to build a partnership that will uplift and fulfill the need I have in sharing my space and love with someone.  

Why I’m Tired of the “Woe Is Me” Dating Narratives for Disabled Women, & How This Series Will Be Different

As a disabled woman, I know and understand thoroughly the struggles of dating while disabled, which, in some ways, has contributed to my online dating mishaps.  People erroneously believe that disabled women are not interested in dating, will date “just anyone,” or cannot be “picky” because they should be “grateful” to have someone being willing to date them in the first place.  All of these offensive ideas stymie our ability to confidently date online and in person, as well as allow potential romantic suitors to view us equally as our able-bodied counterparts.  

Some disabled women shy away from dating altogether due to these inaccurate views surrounding our sexuality, femininity, womanness, and dateability.  There are many articles online about our fears in finding love at all, struggles with accepting ourselves and combatting what society says about who and what we “should” be, and trusting the attention we do receive and not dismissing it for politeness.  These narratives are indeed important to addressing the challenges we endure; however, there are fewer articles that candidly details what dating with a disability as a woman looks like once we refuse to internalize the sexism and ableism surrounding our identities, bodies, and dating potential – that is the gap I want the “That’s The Way Love Rolls” series to fill.  

“Take Me As I Am” – Finding My Confidence As A Single Black Disabled Woman

At 30 years old, I am the most confident I have ever been about myself – from my body, to the talents, personality, and presence I will bring into a relationship.  It took me a long time to gain this level of self-assurance, and to realize that I am just as deserving of love, and healthy and fulfilling partnerships, as anyone else – having a disability does not diminish that at all.  I fully love the image I see in the mirror; both flesh and bone, and metal, rubber, and plastic.  I truly see what everyone else has been telling me all these years:  I am a pretty (and to some, sexy), smart, educated, caring, talented, exciting, energetic, and fun woman – the complete package that any man would be glad to date and share a life with.  Though I had heard it from those I knew, it took me years to internalize these positive statements about myself, which countered the societal ones that focused on my disability, and stripped me of my personhood, womanness, and desirability.  

I wholeheartedly understand that I do not have to settle for any old kind of relationship simply because I am in a wheelchair or disabled.  I am deserving of a good, healthy partnership and to date men who value me and see all of me – disability and beyond.  I do not have to hide my disability because truthfully, it is kind of difficult to conceal 20-30 pounds of titanium and rubber.  As my favorite Mary J. Blige song would say, “Take me / As I am / Or have nothing at all” – If I cannot be who I am with potential partners, then those are not the persons I need to be involved with, plain and simple.  It may sound harsh, but when you love yourself unconditionally, you cannot go back to receiving less from others, and will only expect others to love you in the same manner.  

The Need for More Racially Diverse Stories About Dating with a Disability

Not only is there a need for more diverse narratives when it comes to what we experience in the dating world, there is an even greater need for racial diversity to exist.  I find that many of these narratives are written by disabled White women, which is completely fine, but what about disabled Black women who date?  Disabled Latinas/xs?  Disabled Asian and Native women?  And disabled women of biracial and multi-ethnic backgrounds?  Where are their stories, and most importantly, who are telling our/their stories?  Disabled women of color do date, and have to combat additional struggles when you factor race (and possible racism and fetishization) into our ability to be confident and foster healthy and loving partnerships that respect all of the identities we possess.  

For me, being Black is just as important as being disabled and female – you cannot ignore one and claim to see the whole me.  Also, being someone who dates interracially, I am quite aware of the “uniqueness” of being a Black disabled woman who prefers to date outside her race, and the possible combination of racism, fetishism, and ableism I could encounter from non-Black dating prospects.  Intersectionality is especially dire in allowing disabled women from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to hear stories from women who have endured and conquered against racism, sexism, and ableism while dating, and learn from their experiences and feel empowered so that they too can find what they are looking for.  

* * *

A Week Into Online Dating, & The Fun & Strange Games Has Already Began…

Now that I have discussed the concept in birthing this series, and the need for diverse dating experiences within the community to be heard… it is time to share what I have seen within the first week of restarting my online dating journey.  

Before I begin, I want to offer this disclaimer:  what I share for this series will not be my usual tone for the RYV! Blog.  By that, this will be very candid, very real and in your face, and at times, tongue-in-cheek with sarcasm, smart-aleck-ness, and humor mixed in.  I decided to take this approach because I am a firm believer in finding some form of hilarity while dating in order to keep one’s mood and spirits from being discouraged when you find more duds than studs, and so far, the duds have come about in full force.  

Dear Clueless And Desperate (CAD) Men On Dating Sites:  Here is Why You Did Not Make the Cut

“Clueless and desperate” (or CAD for short) is what I have nicknamed the men who message me on dating sites, and failed to make the cut in receiving further communications from me due to their actions.  In real life, these men may be decent human beings, but when it comes to online dating, you only have ONE shot to make an impression, and if you blow it… you blow it badly.  

I will share the first three interactions I had on a popular dating site to demonstrate why the approaches some men take to getting to know me were problematic (and at times, downright hilarious), and what were the signs for me to “keep it moving,” as us young folks like to say.  

 

Clueless and desperate man #1 is a late 30s-something from Florida:

(After the standard “hello, how are you” exchange took place, the following is what occurred after CAD #1 got a bit too comfortable…)
CAD #1:  I don’t want kids.  Do you want to know why?
My face:  o_O
My thought:  I don’t really care, but I’m mildly curious and feel like being entertained
My answer:  Sure
CAD #1:  I can’t afford child support or alimony.
My reaction:  Laughs heartedly
Me:  Well, those are good reasons.
CAD #1:  With no kids, we could make love whenever we want and vacation whenever we want
My thought:  He did not just say that… *Head hangs low in disbelief*
Me:  Well, I’m here just to chat… no sexual stuff.
CAD #1:  Okay, I understand

CAD #1 was heavily into me asking him questions about himself… even though he went out of his way to volunteer information without being prompted.  It got weird, as you will see below:

CAD #1:  Please ask me more questions if you’re interested.
Me:   I can’t think of anything at the moment.
Me on the other side of the screen:  I just cannot, today.

Red Flags:  Every time I read this conversation thread, I laugh hard, too hard at how utterly ridiculous this messaging exchange was.  

Introducing sex during the first chat exchanges with a woman puts up the “he is just here to get some” alert for her.  Unless the person has that they are seeking “casual” hook-ups on their profile page, it is best to steer clear of mentioning anything sexual at all.  CAD #1 appeared to want to learn about what was in my pants more than the woman wearing the pants – and that is NOT a way to impress me or keep me interested in learning more about you.  

As for the “I don’t want kids” question… I read on his profile that he did not have children, and I was in no way, shape, or form the SLIGHTEST intrigued to find out why during our first chat.  That is something you ask about on a date, or more chat messages down the road – NOT the first one.  I will say that I was amused by his answer, which was a good reason to not have children.  But it went down hill when he kept typing.  

 

Clueless and desperate man #2 is an early 30s-something from South Carolina:

CAD #2:  Wow u are adorable and are you into white men  I’m a sweet and loving man 33 years old and looking for a good woman and love to get to know u
Me:  Hi! I do date white guys.  And thank you for the compliment
CAD #2:  Awesome and do u text and who all do U stay with and what u do for fun
My face while reading this:  o_O
Me: I don’t text many folks on here, I have a roommate, & I hang out with friends.
CAD #2:  Well I would love to get to know u and hang out be we can get to know one another and text
Me:  I’m not comfortable with texting, but we can chat on here.
CAD #2:  Are intimate and like to cuddle and u ever want kids and do you work
Me:  You’re asking a lot of personal questions…

Red Flags:  Where do I begin?  Do I even need to explain why this guy did not make the cut?  

Here were my issues with CAD #2:  His invasive questions and his disregard to my comfortability in not texting strangers.

As a woman, I have watched enough episodes of “Criminal Minds” and “Law & Order:  SVU” to recognize when to wheel away like Hades if a guy inquires about your living arrangements when just meeting him.  Who I may or may not be living with should NOT be one of the first things you ask in getting to know me – my creeper alarm went off and I am giving you serious side eye as to why you are asking in the first place.  I will not jeopardize my safety because you are nosey, and I do not care about the reasons as to why you are asking.  

The pushiness to text was another turn-off, and raised a red flag because it showed me that my comfort level meant nothing to him.  He was focused on getting the digits and wanting to show how “affectionate” and interested he was.  Again, this set off my creeper and safety alarms because he is a stranger, and I have no idea who he is and his intention of wanting to get to know me.  Plus, I am a strong-willed woman – I am not docile and will not be pressured into doing something that makes me uneasy.  When I verbalize that I am uncomfortable with something, you respect that – no exceptions.  

 

Clueless and desperate man #3 is an early 30s-something from Jamaica:  

CAD #3:  Ok nice to meet you are you married are you single
Me:  It says single on my profile
Me:  You may want to go look at it before you ask a lot of questions, dear
CAD #3:  Oh thats true but some time it’s good to get something first hand
Me:  Ok
CAD: #3  I like your profile n what are you looking for.  It’s well put together.  I like your smile wish you would smile up for me
(I stopped responding after my “Ok.”)

Red Flags:  My biggest pet peeve is when men message me and fail to read my profile page first.  On my page, I am pretty detailed about my interests and hobbies, and what I am looking for in a mate.  I also disclose what my disability is and that I am a wheelchair user, since it is very obvious from my pictures that I am in a wheelchair.  (This is my way of letting them know upfront, and saves me the headache of explaining later – “work smarter and not harder” is an important motto for live by when online dating.)

On the dating site I am on, it clearly states that I am SINGLE, nothing else.  I did not understand what he meant by “get something first hand.”  How more “first hand” can you get or need when I selected that option on my dating profile MYSELF… me, the person whom you are messaging?  

CAD #3 is the poster child as to why “reading is fundamental” is preached so heavily.  I am usually understanding when guys may miss something on my page, but this was something I was not going to waste time to attempt to comprehend the disconnect.  

Though I am a very creative soul, even I could not make up these moments.  These chat exchanges are just a handful of what I have been involved with so far, and I am not sure if I should be very disturbed at some men’s inability to converse appropriately with women.  Apparently, the struggle is real out there, and there is no antidote for us to use who are on the receiving end of these miscommunication encounters.  

Final Thoughts

I strongly believe that this series will be one that many can relate to, disabled and able-bodied.  Though my responses may seem a bit “terse” to some; in reality, I am just too old to waste time on guys that I know will not be good dates, or be a potential romantic contender.  Call it what you want, but one thing you cannot say is that I am “clueless and desperate” for love.  

Stay tune for more “That’s The Way Love Rolls” next month as I share more chat exchanges and updates on my journey to finding love as a Single Black Disabled Woman.  

(If you absolutely cannot wait an entire month for an update, you can check out the “That’s The Way Love Rolls” Tumblr page I created that will capture some of wackiness I encounter inbetween posts on the RYV! Blog.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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