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What Men Think About Your Disability

Andrew
March 27, 2013
Hi Andrew,

I don't think I'm your target audience but found myself agreeing with many of your posts (mercifully they are short, to the point and well written).

When I am out and about I get a fair amount of attention from men and women. People smile often, say hello, compliment me on my hair, generally really nice to me. Well the women do. I even have complete strangers pouring their heart out to me. I notice men looking at me and once in awhile they smile. Without appearing 'full of myself' I know I have a nice, friendly, open face and personality. I do get very nervous if I'm aware a man might be interested in me. Consequently, all that easy breezy confidence I usually have disappears.

The thing is, I have weakness in my legs and I use a walker. I think this is an impediment (along with my age, although most people think I'm much younger than I am). I have had men approach me even though it's clear I need an aid. Mostly they do not. Most people really do notice my face first and then their eyes wonder down to notice my walker; they look back up then away.  My guess is that a lot of people are intrigued by the dissonance: a young looking, pretty woman using an "old lady" walker.

I appear very normal other than using a walker. I'm only interested in meeting a guy to date seriously. By the way, I'm 46.

I know my physical disability slashes my chances with most men but do you have any suggestions about how I may increase them?

Kind regards,
Nancy
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Nancy,

If I imagine myself in a public place where I was open to meeting women, and I saw an attractive woman with a walker, my reaction would be something like this:
"Woah, she is good looking. Is that a walker? That's kind of strange... but also interesting. It might be a little awkward trying to 'talk around' it [i.e. avoid bringing it up in conversation, or making sure to do so tactfully] but I still want to meet her. I wonder if it affects her ability to have sex? Would it be weird dating a girl like that? Would the walker be in the way all the time? I bet she is a good and interesting person." 
Then a series of images would flash through my mind about how the walker might play into a relationship with her. I might imagine helping her get seated at dinner, getting into and out of the car, etc.

This is not just a hypothetical situation for me. I had a similar experience one time, fairly recently, when I came across a cute girl's profile on a dating website. When I clicked-down into her photo album, I saw that she had deformed legs and a wheelchair. I remember thinking essentially the same things I've paraphrased above.

You can be 100 % sure that the sex question will go through any guy's mind if he is otherwise interested in you - whether it is for a temporary or long term relationship. In fact, I think it is safe to say that for any guy, this will be his biggest question, even if it seems obvious to you that there wouldn't be any issue. While it would be pretty awkward to convey your ability to have sex in a spoken conversation, you might consider internet dating, where you could literally add a note about it to your profile - maybe just a sentence at the bottom saying something like "By the way, even though I have a walker, I just want to put it out there that I am still capable of normal sexual relationship." This might seem a little awkward to post online, but it would be well received by the men, and it would remove an impediment - again, probably the largest - from their willingness to contact you.

If you date a guy and you get to a point where you would be comfortable having sex, I suggest letting him know indirectly that you are capable of it. You can do this by taking a natural opportunity in conversation to point out that your disability "doesn't prevent anything except your ability to walk." No need to wink, raise an eyebrow or even say it in a suggestive tone. Even if he doesn't understand that you are trying to convey your ability to have sex (in fact, it would be better that he didn't), that comment will be in the back of his mind when he thinks about having sex with you later, and it will have helped to form his understanding of the limited effect of your disability. He will therefore be more comfortable making a sexual advance. If he makes an advance before you are comfortable having sex, I suggest pointing out the reason why you aren't ready (maybe it's just too soon, or you are waiting for marriage, etc.), so that he knows that it isn't because of your disability. I do not suggest making an advance yourself.

The second biggest consideration will be the overall effect of the walker on day-to-day activities. I don't see this being a huge problem to an open-minded guy, but some men would prefer not to have to deal with it at all. The latter group of guys are probably not the kind you are interested in anyway, and I suggest just being happy that they won't waste your time. However, the ignorant and open-minded guys are the extremes on a scale. Different guys will consider your disability a "big deal" to different degrees, and it will play into each's decision accordingly. So with all guys, the best thing to do will be to help them become familiar with its minimal effect on your life as soon as possible. You can do this mostly by showing him how casual you are about it: if you go on a date, be nonchalant about your walker in any situations it creates. Mention the walker in passing without focusing too much on it, or casually telling a story in which it played a role, but moving on naturally in the conversation afterwards. Your casual references will speak volumes about the normal-ness of the walker in your life.

Humor will be a very big tool for you in this regard. In fact, I think it can be your biggest ally if it isn't too forced. For example, I envision you talking with a girlfriend and a guy you like, and you telling a story that happens to involve a funny situation that was caused by your walker. For a split second after the punch line, the guy is mildly uncomfortable (because he doesn't know how he "should" respond), but that awkwardness instantly melts away when he sees you and your friend talking casually and laughing about the whole thing. Then you return to normal conversation, just like after telling any funny story - except that he now realizes a bit better how natural it is for you, and how natural it would be for him if he were to date you. If you can show him that you can laugh about your walker and disability, he will be much more comfortable with the idea of dating you.

The converse is also true: nothing will turn off men more than to get the impression that your disability is a big deal, and is awkward, and is an impediment to a normal relationship. The girl I mentioned earlier with the wheelchair on the dating website made one huge mistake: she put a disclaimer at the bottom of her profile saying something like "and if you send me a message asking about my chair I will find where you live and beat you up." Obviously her threat was a joke (she was tiny), but it showed that she was uncomfortable with any attention drawn to the fact that she was different. She thought her wheelchair was a much bigger deal than it really was, and that was a red flag to me and other men that we would constantly have to tip-toe around the subject. Ugh. I would have been so much more attracted if she'd had written "Oh, and if you think my wheelchair holds me down, just wait 'til I kick your ass on the basketball court! ;)"

The general idea, I think, is that your walker isn't a big deal and you just need to show potential boyfriends this. I can tell from your e-mail that you are very comfortable with its effect on your life. But realize that for the guy, it is a new thing with a lot of associated uncertainty. The sooner you can remove that uncertainty and replace it with normal-ness and humor, the more he will be able to envision himself living with it and you.

It is worth mentioning that your walker is certainly acting at least partially as a filter. If a man approaches you, you know he is interested in something more than sex. Therefore I think you can ignore any advice about gauging his interest or making him wait. This doesn't mean you should take the initiative yourself (asking him out or for his number, for example), because this will come across as needy; but it does mean that you can be more open to his advances than other girls. (If you aren't getting a lot of attention from men at the moment, this openness will probably come naturally, since you will be excited about the prospect of finding a guy.)

So maybe I can summarize by saying I suggest the following:

  • If possible, convey to him that you are capable of sexual relationship
  • Demonstrate immediately that your disability is not a big deal, and that you are comfortable with it
  • Recognize that a man approaching you has already been "filtered" so there is far less need to test him. Be open but not needy.

Oh, and about being nervous when a guy gives you attention: you can be sure that the guy is nervous about giving you attention, and most likely does not notice your nervousness - unless you show some painfully visible sign of it (shaking for example). The first time I hit on a girl at the grocery store I was nervous as hell. I'd passed her in the aisles a couple times and she'd made eye contact back at me, so I suspected she might be interested, but I was still nervous. I forced myself to approach her and she was clearly nervous too (fidgeting, awkward, etc.). All this did was to calm my own nerves, which in turn calmed hers, and we had a nice conversation.

I hope some of this helps. Good luck and thanks for the kind words about the blog.

Andrew
__________________________________________

Hello Andrew,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and practical advice. It is very helpful. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

You have helped me realize that I had made the walker more of an issue than needed. I suppose I lacked faith that any man would look past my disability. I'm glad you pointed out that I need not play hard to get with a man who has shown interest. It is a reminder that we really need to assess our unique positions when reading material on dating.

My confidence has gone up a notch. Now, all I need to do is get out there.

You really ought to write a book if you haven't already.

Once again; thank you.

Kind regards,

Nancy
_________________________________________

Andrew,

I was thinking if and when the time comes, do I need to be completely honest about how far my disability has affected my life? For instance, I am in continual pain but I have learnt how to manage it. Or do you think it would be better if I don't make an issue of it?

Nancy
__________________________________________

Nancy,

I would focus more on making sure he knows that you are used to it than trying to point out how bad it is. Just telling him how much it hurts isn't the whole story, because, as you say, you have learned how to manage it.

Recently my coworker and his wife bought a new house. They got a great deal on it, but realized only after they moved in that it was under the flight path of a local airport.

When they first moved in, they started hearing the planes, and were worried that they'd made a huge mistake. But after a couple weeks they literally couldn't even tell you when an airplane had passed because they were so used to it. If the real estate agent had shown them the home during heavier airplane traffic, or called their attention to it, they'd probably have immediately walked away, not realizing how minor a disturbance it would actually be. They would have missed out on a great deal.

Likewise, if it comes up in conversation for some reason, I would be honest and admit that yes, it hurts - sometimes a lot - but emphasize that you know how to manage it and it isn't a big deal because of that. I wouldn't even go into detail about how you manage it, because that calls more attention to it than it warrants. The point is that you do manage it, and it isn't a huge thing. End of story.

Hope that helps,

Andrew


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1. You Are Responsible for Your Own Romantic Happiness
2. Self-Improvement Takes Time
3. Why You Don't Get Approached by Men

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