Wednesday, 4 April 2012
Last night was the first episode of what is probably going to be my new favourite TV programme.
It is called "The Undateables" and follows people with disabilities who are using a dating agency to look for love.
Very entertaining, and also quite thought provoking.
I was a bit uncomfortable with the title of the show, by itself it does rather suggest that if you have some kind of impairment then nobody will want to date you, but that much redeems itself as the opening credits show a sign with the word undateable but the "un" falls off.
So I'm prepared to overlook that.
Of course viewers will tune in for the same reasons they watch anything about those with physical imperfections, and those are not always good.
Voyeurism, amusement, mocking the subjects. . .
But at the same time if it raises any kind of awareness that makes people realise that having something different about you does not mean you don't want or deserve the same things as the rest of us, then that can only be a good thing.
In last nights show there were three adults featured, a young woman who had a genetic condition that causes brittle bones, uses a wheelchair to get about and is only 3 feet tall, and two men, one of whom has Aspergers and the other has Tourettes.
I don't really think the dating agency did well with the first two, because both were paired up with people who were also disabled. The girl was sent on a date with a man who also used a wheelchair, although we saw his pictures on the agency, none showed him in the chair. The man with Aspergers was sent on two dates, the first with a woman who also had learning difficulties and the second with a French woman whose accent was so thick that when he asked her what her hobby was and she said rowing it sounded like hoeing. Ooops.
Why assume that a person with a disability wants to date another ?
I find that slightly patronising.
(If you want to see the programme you can watch it on Channel4 OD)
I suppose there are a lot of people who would not even bother to look at a persons profile if there was something physically wrong with them, and that's the bit that really got me thinking.
Would I date someone in a wheelchair ?
Or deaf ?
Or an amputee ?
Would you ? I'm not talking about a situation where perhaps someone you are already involved with becomes disabled, or even where you get to know a person before dating enters the picture. But how would you react if you were maybe out in the pub with some friends and a person in a wheelchair approaches you and starts to chat ?
How about a dating site, would you even bother to read about the person if the picture showed them in a wheelchair ?
I have to be honest and say that I don't think I would.
I could justify that, I can say that there are things that I want to be able to do with a potential partner that a person who couldn't walk would not be able to do.
But really that's just an excuse, and one that I know might not even be true. I have a friend who uses a wheelchair and she has a far more active busy life then I do, the woman is amazing and she has never let her disability stop her from doing anything - other then walk.
But that also got me wondering if the same applies to disabled people ? Would they do the same, the girl in the show said that she found tall men attractive and it would be nice to date someone who wasn't also impaired. There are many more things you can have in common with someone then getting around on wheels, and if you both had mobility issues you might well find things more problematic then if it's just one of you.
I have nothing but admiration for the people in that programme, dating is enough of a minefield for those of us who have nothing more to worry about then our height, weight or age, and some of us might just maybe tell a little white lie about that.
I suppose if you have an obvious problem it will at least weed out the potential dates who are instantly turned off by it straight away. Maybe in that regard those people actually have an advantage over the rest of us because only those genuinely interested in getting to know them will apply. But if that was me I would not want to be dating only other disabled people. I'd be worried that they were just dating me as they thought we had to settle for each other, and I'd also want to make it very clear that I was looking for a lover not a carer because that might well be what some able bodied people would think.
Just because you're impaired in one way doesn't make you exempt from the laws of attraction, just like everyone else you need to fancy the person you're dating.
And if your problem is related to your thinking, as it is with Aspergers, then good luck trying to understand the opposite sex.
It's hard enough for those of us born without mental health problems.
But while I can totally understand how difficult it is for disabled people to get out and meet potential partners in the world at large, I don't necessarily think they are going to fare any better using dating sites.
Based upon my experience of them I always wondered about all their claims of high success rates. Whether some of the people who use them have actually reached a point in life where they are willing to make a lot of compromises about who they choose as a partner, or maybe I'm just way to fussy.
Are there actually a lot of far more desperate people out there then anyone realises ?
I'd like to find someone, but I'm not holding my breadth and I'm not desperate. Yet. Maybe it's about how happy you are in life in general, and how much of that happiness depends on having a partner, and I think that's a very individual thing. But I guess if you want it that much then you might just be prepared to settle for Mr or Mrs Almost Right.
I'm still holding out for Mr Perfect.
And if you want to see proof of how desperate some people can get. . .
Ages ago, one night when bored, I made a ridiculous fake profile on a dating site. It gave you the option of completing an "interview" rather then writing the entire thing so that's what I did.
This a copy/paste of it . . .
I think my profile and interview just about says it all really, honestly can't understand why I'm still single - beats me. And how am I supposed to know what I'm looking for ? Half the time I don't remember who I am, never mind whatever it is I'm supposed to have lost ?? I'm getting confused now so I'll just answer the questions.
What do you like most about where you currently live?
There aren't any bars on the windows.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
What job ? I'm quite happy on the social and the odd five finger discount when times are hard, ain't got a problem if you have one tho...(as long as you're not a policeman a store detective or a social worker).
What are your favourite leisure activities?
Digging huge holes in my garden so the neighbours can complain. Crack - don't mind the odd bit of brown either.
Where in the world are your favourite places?
Bed, pub, Holloway prison wasn't as bad as I thought it was gonna be.
Where in the world would you love to visit?
Iraq, I hear its very hot and I can't wait to go topless sunbathing now I've had the implants. I'm hoping to get up to Broadmoor too, as I haven't seen my dad for years, hopefully he'll be allowed visitors soon.
What would you do on an ideal date?
But only if I'm having a very bad day, it helps with the anger issues.
What are you looking for in a partner?
Money & girth, ideally also a fireman under 25, but would settle for 26/27.
What makes a good relationship?
A quiet, horny, rich, hunky, obedient man.
What makes you laugh?
Me, mostly and when people win a penny on deal or no deal - highlight of my week.
What music do you like?
Trash metal, happy hardcore & Doris Day.
What has been the highlight of your life so far?
Getting out of prison after so long.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
Getting my boiler fixed, I haven't showered for two weeks. Are there any single plumbers on here ?
I am looking for friendship.
My eye colour wasn't listed as an option.
My hair wasn't listed as an option.
My body type wasn't listed as an option.
My height is greater than 7' 00" / 213cm.
My ethnic origin is Chinese.
My particular politics were not listed as an option.
My current employment situation wasn't listed as an option.
My income is confidential.
I'm a heavy drinker.
I'm a heavy smoker..
I follow a special diet which wasn't listed as an option.
I am disabled
I am Jewish.
I sometimes practise my religion.
I have children (living at home).
I don't want to have more children.
I neither own nor rent my home.
I live with parents.
I forgot about it for ages, but then a month or so later I remembered and went to check.
I'd received 62 responses.
A few were laughing, but most wanted to know more about me.
One guy had sent a message asking if I needed a plumber as he lived nearby.
And another had said,
"Well I think I've finally found someone as crazy and unhinged as myself. Isn't it great being different".
"What are you saying ? I'm not crazy, I have copies of assessments to prove that. I don't want to be seen as different anymore, I've lived my whole life with people pointing the finger, now I just want to blend in and be seen as normal, that's one of the reasons why I'd like to find a boyfriend".
He never did get back to me.
Every once in a while I go back and check and there is always a message or a "wink" waiting.
So yeah, I wish those people luck. I think they're going to need it, and not because of their problems.
And I can't wait for next weeks episode.
And to any of my real life friends who read this, if you see me hanging about outside a synagogue wearing 8inch heels, dark glasses and carrying a rolled up newspaper just walk on by and pretend you don't know me.