I am a sucker for romantic comedies. I love when the guy meets the perfect girl but doesn’t recognize it because her hair is in a pony tail, and she has a thick pair of glasses ... But by the end of the movie she’s lost the scrunchie and gotten disposable contacts and he’s making that inevitable end-of-movie speech that always makes me melt.
But the other day as I was looking through my extensive Freddie Prinze Jr./Hugh Grant collection, I noticed something — none of the “perfect” girls in those movies uses a wheelchair. Come to think of it, when was the last time a guy noticed that I was the perfect girl and gave me one of those speeches?
Our society tends to try to make men and women with disabilities into the best friend rather than the romantic lead when it comes to dating. But there are many of us men and women on wheels (or other “props” designed to make life easier) with a little Ryan Gosling or Reese Witherspoon just dying to get out.
I have been trying the whole dating thing, largely unsuccessfully, for a while now. I have done the online thing, the speed dating thing, the ask my friends to set me up on a blind date thing, all to no avail. I have had a date or two, but no Prince Charming-type giving me an eloquent speech and a ring. So what’s wrong? Is it me … Hopefully not, and I suspect that unless I constantly have a big piece of spinach in my teeth, it’s more likely societal attitudes causing the problem.
So what’s a leading lady who’s gone unnoticed by the leading man to do? I have decided to take some cues from my favorite rom-com heroines.
1. Be Yourself. Have you ever seen the movie where the blonde beauty queen tries to act like an intellectual snob or the innocent school girl tries to act like the rebel, all to impress some guy? It very rarely works out, and when their true colors come out, someone loves them for who they truly are. The same holds true for people with disabilities. There is no reason to hide anything about myself, including my disability. Although it is not my sum-total, it is a part of me that any leading man will need to accept. I also will be silly and smart and anything else I consider myself to be because that is who he will be giving the important final speech to, and he might as well know now.
2. Don’t Compromise. I think that often, after years of difficulties with dating, people with disabilities can start to compromise their dating standards, thinking they just need to find anybody. But would Meg Ryan just take whatever goober walked in? No, she’d wait for Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now. The same must be true for me. If I want someone to engage in stimulating conversation with me, I need to hold out for that. I, like Meg, deserve nothing less.
3. Be Persistent. Finally, I will continue to put myself out there, being open to possibilities and opportunities. In a world where Patrick Dempsey might be in the next corner bagel shop, persistence is key. I am not suggesting going after a guy who’s just not that into you, but I want to be ready to say yes when a friend says “I have the perfect guy” or when a speed-dating Groupon™ pops up.