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I’ve always had this vague belief that there’s a dating scale. Not the shallow, “oh yeah she’s a 10, dude!” judgements that are based solely on appearance, but more a set of levels based on the holistic view of a person. I’ll explain (and I warn you that this will seem to some people to be horrendously unromantic and clinical, but onwards….):

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Overwhelmingly, society tells us to view certain attributes as desirable. Lots of people want to be taller, lots of people want to be thinner. If you’ve made a boat-load of money or own a nice home or fancy car, you’re seen as successful. You might be witty or clever or kind to strangers and animals – all these things add up to a picture of you. The dating world crudely attributes a value to this perception of you and puts you somewhere on the scale. For the sake of ease, let’s assume the scale is 0 – 10, where 0 is someone you’d never want to date, marry or get jiggy with, and 10 is your dream partner. Or Channing Tatum – whatever flicks your switch.

Taking myself as an example, I can tell you that I’m intelligent, funny and fun to be around. I’m not tall but not short, and pretty enough that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with me. I have a small but nice home and a good job. I’m independent, mostly kind, very loyal and have great hair. Each of these qualities impacts my score on the scale in a positive way. However, I’m also stubborn, impatient, quite anxious and chubbier than I would like. And I have a big nose. So on balance I’d say I’m about a 6 or 7. I’ll be kind to myself and say 7.

Most of the time, people date within a couple of scale points of their own score. 9s date other 8s and 9s. 5s date 4s, 5s, and 6s. And remember – this isn’t about looks, it’s about the whole package of a human being. That’s why the not-classically-handsome but super-rich chap gets the very beautiful girlfriend…. society (whether it likes to admit this or not) deems his money and her beauty to be of similar or equal “value”.

So – back to little old me. I had always dated (and in one unfortunate lapse of judgement, married) 6s and 7s. Channing is out of my league, and I’m OK with that. I’ve accepted my place as a 7 and I’m comfortable dating other 7s, or thereabouts. It feels comfortably equal.

But then an odd thing happened. My chronic health conditions, with which I was born, started to become more visible. Some days I might use a walking stick, or wear a support on my wrist. Other days I might limp, or use a disabled parking badge. And almost overnight, my status on the dating scale changed. Mostly, my disability is not visible so I was still attracting fellow 6s and 7s. But when they found out I was disabled, their interest rapidly waned. They’d ask me:

But how bad is it going to get?

So can you have sex like a normal person?

You’re not going to turn up in a wheelchair one day, are you?

I’d answer these questions as honestly as possible, without going into hideous detail about all the things that *might* happen in the future, and I kindly avoided pointing out how offensive such questions are. I wanted to ask them equally impossible-to-answer questions in return, about whether they expected one day to be in a road accident that would lead to an amputation, or whether they were planning to develop diabetes or depression or fall down the stairs and break their neck. But of course I didn’t.

A pattern began to materialise. An ugly pattern of three or four successful dates with a nice chap, followed by the question “why are you limping today?” and then the sudden cancellation of all future dates. Society deems my disability to have a negative value on the scale. People are accepting of my stubbornness, my impatience, and my big nose, but they don’t want to be seen with a woman using a walking stick. As my disability becomes slowly more obvious, my dating score gradually drops and now I find I attract 4s and 5s. These scores are obviously made-up and all relative to one another, but I feel they illustrate the point I’m trying to make. I am considered to be a less desirable partner than I once was.

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The outcome of this is that I’ve stopped dating. Not because I won’t date 4s and 5s, but because I’m tired of being judged on an aspect of myself that I can’t control, didn’t choose, and that in no way makes me less funny, less fun to be around, or less loyal. And I still have great hair. Even my doctor has gently said to me “You’re an inspirational and amazing person, but you might have to accept that you simply won’t find a boyfriend”.

So I’m going to get a dog for company. We will go to the beach for ice-cream, take day-trips and sit in the sun in the park. Dogs don’t judge people who limp a bit. Dogs don’t value people less for wearing a wrist support.  And who knows – maybe one day a Channing Tatum lookalike with a slight limp will see a girl in the park with her dog. And he’ll think:

Wow. She has great hair. I think I’ll say hello.

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