Would You Date a Person With a Disability?


I'm starting off today with a little story about my past ...


Back when I was in grad school, I went on a few dates with a guy who was partially paralyzed in one leg. Let's call him Joe California. Joe and I met at a party, and afterwards, a friend suggested we go out on a date. He was pretty cute--buff and blonde, jeans and cowboy shirts--and yet I didn't feel wildly attracted to him ... but at the same time, he was such a nice, upbeat, friendly guy that I was more than happy to take him up on his offer to go out for sushi. He picked me up in a red sports car; we had a pretty fun time; he asked me if I'd like to have dinner the following weekend.

On our second date, we were walking into the restaurant together from the red sports car, and I thought I noticed him limping. I figured he'd over-done it at the gym or sprained an ankle or something. During the course of dinner, however, we got deep into conversation ... and he began to tell me about how he'd very nearly been killed by a former roommate.* The roomie--let's call him Sam--was in his late 20's at the time and had very suddenly started having severe psychological problems. He went off to some kind of treatment program for a couple of weeks ...

The night Sam came back, Joe was lying on his stomach in his own bed, reading a book, getting ready to go to sleep, when Sam barged in. He jumped on Joe's back and repeatedly stabbed him with a kitchen knife, as he muttered things about how Joe was out to get him. (Which he wasn't, of course!) Then Sam began to try to suffocate poor Joe, who was in no shape to fight back: The knife wounds had severely damaged the area around his spinal cord.

Luckily, Sam began to have some glimmerings of sanity--saying to himself, "What am I doing?" Joe was able to convince Sam that he, Joe, was not out to get anyone. Somehow, Joe even talked Sam into calling 911 and confessing what he did. In no time, the police showed up--but by then, Sam was back to being crazy. He refused to let them in. They had to kick the door down. But finally, they resuced poor Joe, who was lying there in a pool of blood, barely conscious. He was whisked off to the hospital ... where he was eventually told he'd never walk again.

Two years of intense physical therapy and optimism later, Joe was back on his feet, literally and figuratively.

(Sam, who'd been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was locked up in a mental institution, where it looks like he'll probably be staying for the rest of his life.)

Hearing that story made me so in awe of Joe--so truly inspired by what he'd overcome and impressed by his positive outlook on life--that I went out with him a third time before we both had to admit we really weren't quite right for each other.

Why do I bring this all up?

By way of introducing a question:

Would YOU date a person with a disability?

One of the readers of this blog--
27-year-old Chicagoan Melissa Blake (another person who has impressed me with her irrepressible spirit) wrote in to ask me to pose the question to all of you.

Melissa, who is also a freelancer writer, like me, describes herself as "an average woman living life and looking for love with a not-so-average physical disability: Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome. FSS, a rare congential condition, is often called "whistling face syndrome" because the faces of some people who suffer from it look as thought they're always getting ready to whistle. Physical characteristics can include particularly small mouths, drooping eyelids, under-developed noses and club feet; often sufferers have problems walking, talking, eating and breathing. Melissa has had 27 surgeries in her life--an average of one per year. "The most intense lasted more than ten hours," she writes. "My spine had moved upward and was compressing my brain stem, so when I was 13, I had to go under the knife to get the problem fixed. At the time when all my friends were just discovering boys and love and all that stuff, I was lying in the ICU for two weeks on a ventilator."

Melissa told me she has yet to have her first kiss--but she's such an upbeat, positive person that I'm sure she'll enjoy it before too long. When I learned about what she's been through, I thought: Sheesh, here I am complaining about gaining weight from the anti-depressants I've been taking, while Melissa is someone who genuinely has it really tough ...

Doctors sometimes say children with FSS "fail to thrive"--a medical term which means they don't grow properly when they're infants. But Melissa seems to be thriving indeed. She writes a column about dating with disabilities, and has had articles in a number of fancy magazines, including Redbook. She's also a blogger, who recently asked her friends to tell her if they'd date a person with disabilities. (Check the post here: http://melissabxoxo.blogspot.com/2009/06/would-guys-really-date-woman-with.html.)

So, lovely readers: what are your thoughts on all this?



COMMENTERS: Edwinna, Wondergirl, Lady Rae: I DID delete his number from my cell, months ago! And also de-friended him on Facebook so I couldn't check his inane status updates. BUT ... I've kept his digits in the caller ID log on my land-line. (Yes, I still have one; I need it for doing writerly phone interviews.) Although really, I know: I should just delete that puppy too.

Rae: I say cut your losses. If he misses you, he'll let you know. And if not, maybe you're better off without him?

Wondergirl: I, too, was so skeptical of KCRW DJ Jason Bentley! But now I'm pretty into him. Give the dude a chance! Although DJ Chris Douridas might be my favorite. And you know who is a hidden gem? DJ Michael Barnes. I'm listening to CBC Radio right now--thanks for the rec. (Are you in Canada too, like the station is?)

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