real life

Honesty is a tricky point when it comes to online dating and having a disability.

By TULLY ZYGIER

I’ve never really dated. In high school boys didn’t look at me that way and I was too scared to make a move.

My first and only real boyfriend was an older man that I had met online. In the ’90s online chatting was through a program called Internet Relay Chat. There were chat rooms based on interests and locations. There were no status updates or profiles. You just had to take the plunge and ask ‘asl’ (age, sex, location). You had to assume they were telling you the truth.

Honesty is a tricky point when it comes to having a disability. I was able to share most of my story, but when it came to disclosing my disability I found it hard. I assumed that once someone found out my hidden secret they would move on to some other cyber chick (who probably had her own little dark secret).

There are some people who embrace their disability and are in no way scared of people’s reactions. There are some people who will only date other people with a disability. I tried RSVP and eHarmony but it was a half-hearted attempt and when I did receive an email, I never let it continue. I was too scared of what I thought would be inevitable rejection. I guess I was pre-empting the inevitable.

Recently I came to the decision that I was lacking experience in the area of relationships. I never knew what it was spending the weekend with someone, going out for brunch after a sleep in or staying in on a Saturday night in your ugg boots, lying on the couch together and watching movies. I never went furniture shopping with my partner, even if we weren’t living together.

I never really knew what it was like to have someone stare at me and not have to tell me what they were thinking because I just knew.  Corny, I know, but that’s what I imagine what a relationship would be like.

These two things were holding me back. So I made the brave decision to join Tinder.

For those of you who aren’t social media addicts, Tinder is an app where you can look at pictures of men from Facebook and decide whether they are hot or not. There’s some basic profile information provided but the major focus is the way he looks and his location. If he looks good and is near you then you’re good to go.

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Really good looking men scare me. I always think I am way out of their league, but for some reason the anonymity of Tinder enables me to click hot and send messages to strange men. I have received some messages from men, responding to the ‘match’ but have only followed up on two so far.

One of these men spent two weeks sending me messages and hinting at what he would like to do. I avoided disclosing my disability because I made the assumption, based on his photo, that he was the kind of guy who would feel uncomfortable being physical with someone with limitations.

It then hit me that I was doing just what I thought men were doing to me. I was making my own assumptions and in my book that’s just not on.

By coming to this revelation it enabled me to fight my desire to run and hide and forced me to take the plunge. I was able to write to this man and after a few texts back and forth I realised that we were going to meet. He offered to come and visit so that we could get to know each other.

He could see my desire to be independent and only offered to help me with things if he saw me struggling. I was comfortable enough to tell him no, to tell him that I was okay doing it on my own and he respected that.

He shared his experiences with me and I was happy to discover that he had been with a women with a disability before. His understanding of the fragile body put me at ease and enabled me to share my fears and concerns with him and through that we were able to connect on an intimate level.

After my first attempt with Tinder, I was brave enough to try someone else and we did meet up eventually. I discovered that Tinder isn’t about finding the love of your life. It’s more about finding your g spot and I guess I’m okay with that for now.

Tully Zygier is a Client Rights Empowerment Practitioner for Victoria’s largest Disability services provider, Yooralla. She holds a double degree from the University Of Melbourne and is a member of the City of Melbourne Disability Advisory Committee. Tully has personal experience with disability, having developed a rare chronic illness Familial Dysautonomia. Tully is a passionate advocate for accessibility and human rights. 

Have you ever tried online dating? Is there anything you find it hard to reveal about yourself? 

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