Online dating. Those two words. I would wager a bet they are evoking quite a few emotions for many of you – either positive or negative. As a newly divorced quadriplegic I’m back in the dating game. I never thought I would be here actually. You never get married to think you are going to be divorced. Life happens, people change, directions shift, and we all have our own story.
Be that as may, the way of the world today is online dating. Unless you’re going to a late-night bar for a one-night stand, it’s really challenging to meet people organically. Don’t get me wrong, of course there are ways, but we have these incredibly busy lives in the face of our digital lives.
I started to dip my toe months ago in to match.com and Zoosk. Being the scientist in my own life, I started to research different dating sites and what they have to offer. The choices are overwhelming and they all have a similar vibe. Dating is no different than finding a job. It’s a numbers game. It’s about statistics. That is not very sexy or romantic, but I will say you do get to know a few authentic people pretty well before you go meet them for a first date.
In the name of research and a book I will be writing on Disability, Dating, and Divorce in the future, I decided to jump right in — in a very “Ali” fashion. When I was in my 20s, I would go to a bar and bring home a guy, which sometimes resulted in a one-night stand or even dating them. I didn’t know much about them and would take months and months before I realized I was going in the wrong direction. I do believe online dating, and there are many creepy people out there, but it at least narrows down some of your options so you can read a little bit about a person’s beliefs, wants, needs, etc. However, there are many fake profiles and trolls out there as well.
A unique challenge in my situation is that I am in a wheelchair. Just as some men would like women with big boobs or big butts, some men are naturally going to shy away from the concept or even the possibility of figuring out what it’s like to date a woman with wheelchair whether they are attracted to them or not. I run into this, but not as much as I had originally anticipated.
I haven’t had much trouble finding men or going out on dates or casually dating people, but at 40 years old I can confidently say I know what I’m looking for now a little bit more. I can better identify red flags, waste less time on conversations based on interaction, and a much more comfortable with who I am as a person now that I was even 10 years ago. That’s a plus.
I will likely not get married again and just looking to find a life partner down the road. I’m perfectly content by myself, but it would be nice to have a partner in crime. I’m patient.
What I Did Not See Coming
There are a few trends I have noticed with looking for men in their 40s and 50s. In their 40s many of them have younger children, which is a little bit challenging for me and not something I’m particularly looking for. I don’t want to be a step mom quite yet at 40. Then I meet men in their 50s who’ve been married for 10 or 20 years and they have not had much of a sex life in the last years of their marriage.
They’re looking for a more casual sexual kind of arrangement because they’re trying to sew their oats that they have been missing for so long in their life. This I did not anticipate actually. There are so many men that act like they are horny 20 something-year-olds.
I did meet a lovely gentleman who said to me something that I absolutely love. He said “no matter how long you are together with someone, you should treat every date like the first date.” I love this. He’s right. After years of marriage many of us end up falling into a rut with the daily grind of life. We forget about the romance, sexuality and sensuality of our partner’s needs. We want what we want and we sometimes neglect what the other partner wants. We are always going to make mistakes, we are human after all, but we need to learn from them.
I’m exploring my new middle-age sexuality all over again and what I want & what I don’t want. It’s fun. It’s engaging. It’s exciting. I work my butt off every single day, so in my free time I’m engaging inonline dating experiments once again. However, unlike 7 years ago — not just for the story so to speak, although I do love doing things for the story, but to really see the type of person I want to be with.
I’ve always been a chameleon my whole life and can fit into pretty much any group due to traveling internationally and moving every few years of my life. This serves me well professionally, but in my personal life not so much. I tend to ignore things that are right in front of me and go with the flow of the other person. When I eventually stopped doing that, I realized that I wasn’t being my authentic self.
I also realized that two people really need to sit down, especially when you are over 30 years old, to talk to each other what they each value in a relationship, expectations, what they are looking for, and what you both want down the road. Sometimes these conversations come sooner rather than later because we are not that young anymore and 3 dates in your 20s could really be more like 8 dates in your 40s or 50s. You get to know people more quickly, if you are both open to it, because you don’t want to waste your time.
I would be remiss not to talk about some of the absolutely comical, absurd, and hysterical experiences I have had thus far.
With respect to online conversations where I did not actually meet these gentlemen:
- The endless sex questions. Can I feel it? Do I enjoy sex? How far do I bend? Can we have a sex to make sure I’m comfortable with you before I take you out on a real date. Nope, not kidding.
- I mean really? The answer is yes about enjoying it and feeling it, but don’t you think you should buy me a glass of wine before you talk about getting me naked?
- I’m an inspiration. Hello inspiration porn!
- Many of them want to know all about my life, but I’m not quite sure they are ready to take that step into exploring the possibilities of being intimate or being with a woman in a wheelchair. I try to be an inspiration in my life, but when I’m online dating, dammit, I’m trying to date.
- I’m too pretty or sexy to be in a wheelchair. Hello inspiration porn again!
- Ableism at its best. Discrimination all the way as in there is a negative stereotype about women being beautiful or sexy who have a disability.
- I become a therapist for a few gentlemen. No, seriously. I have a natural tendency to be empathetic and listen and I found myself a couple times giving relationship therapy advice. I identified the red flag and cut that one off.
- I’m intimidating for the life I have lived.
- Great! Leaving the wheelchair aside, I intimidate men with my life. I get this multiple times. Definitely not the guy for me.
- 2 gentlemen wanted to massage my feet, watch me get my hair done, and toes painted. Can someone say fetish? Nope… Moving on.
- Another gentleman told me how gorgeous I was and he doesn’t like to start a conversation with boring messages. So, he asked me to be honest and asked me if he thinks a bigger penis would be better for me?
- Umm… Next please
I mean the list literally goes on. I usually get about 20 new matches and messages a day of people who like me. I would say about 90% are “no thank you” to “hell to the no.”
With respect to physically meeting gentlemen for dinner or adventures in the bedroom:
- I’ve been taken out to dinner many times and found myself staring at the wall. They seemed so normal and nice during conversation on the phone, but once at dinner they just kept talking and talking and talking. I think they were nervous, probably about the wheelchair, and I tried to make things comfortable. I know wheelchair life is different and I do spend time making people feel comfortable, some people choose not to do this, but they were just so nervous.
- I’ve been attacked by horrible kisses at the end of the night by my door. I mean those kind you hear about in the movies where someone just slobbers over your face or comes in for a sneak attack to take your face off. It’s almost like you freeze like a deer in headlights and you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself. Honestly. I came in the door just laughing my ass off because what else was I you going do?
- I’ve had gentlemen over to my house for a few hours of fun and then they become freaky beyond the level that I should probably not write about in words that will be floating around the Internet.
- I’ve been lifted up, fireman style, thrown around the bed (kind of like paralyzed Barbie I guess) and watched these men feel like they dominate in the bedroom. Perhaps I’m too intimidating in conversation or something, but then they just go full force of the bedroom.
- I had my hair braided. I had my hair brushed. I was lifted up to put a towel on the bed because he was sweating all over me. I’ve been fed food like a princess while we had a dinner bedroom date.
- I’ve been offered copious amounts of drugs with the reasoning it will make sex last a lot longer. I’m not going for a marathon here.
- You just can’t make this stuff up!
There are definitely some more X-rated stories that are absolutely hysterical and will probably go up in my improv comedy open mic night I’m planning for in March / April, but I will spare you the details for now. Needless-to-say, I have been collecting some stories!
Truly though, in the midst of experimentation my ultimate goal is to find my person of course. Sometimes you just have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the right and keep moving forward.
On a serious note, there are some really great guys out there. Many of these stories were one-off kind of deals, but there are some people that have been fantastic. For the sake of privacy because they may be reading this in all seriousness or a really may end up being with them (who knows quite yet), I will keep that part private until I know more, and see how the situation unfolds.
I understand why online dating scares many people. It is scary. For me personally, I find it hysterical, but I’m a little bit off-the-cuff and enjoy creating stories because they create memories that I will have for a lifetime.
I want to assure women and men with disabilities that it is not impossible – don’t give up. If a person is not comfortable with your physical disability or your unseen disability if you disclose that, they are not the man or woman for you. I know it’s easy to get your feelings hurt and think about how it’s hard to date with a disability, but I promise you it’s hard to date for everyone. Most people just wear many of their disabilities on the inside and they don’t come out until months later.
The beautiful thing to me with starting to date in a wheelchair after weeding out the Yahoos and those who won’t entertain the idea of dating me because I’m in a wheelchair, is that it really narrows down my pool of potential suitors, but they are really authentic. Of course, there needs to be a physical attraction their first before you can build anything, so one has to take this into account as well. There have been a couple really awesome guys, but I just was not attracted to them. You can’t force that.
I’m all about authenticity in my life and I will not settle! I will compromise and grow together, but there is definitely a list of things that I will not compromise on. I know this about myself now. You should write your own list if you’re on online dating and look at it to remind yourself about what you wrote down after you come back from a date. Are you lonely and just need company or is this person someone you could truly spend time with? That’s one of the biggest questions you need to ask yourself.
To be continued …
(All photos are ones I have on my online dating profile plus a few more below)