I have watched the first two episodes of `The undateables.` The first thing that struck me was the negative hype and the name, which I felt was also negative. 

  The first chapter showed Penny, Luke & Richard. It was interesting, but I did cringe a few times though and also wondered if the programme was also a tactical advert for the various dating sites mentioned.

 Penny, 23, 3ft something, had never had a boyfriend and took it all very seriously, but I was left wondering why she was matched automatically with someone else in a wheelchair. The date looked awkward, especially when they had to go down a step while both had a hot drink each, so some tactical manoeuvres had to be worked out between them. He was more keen on Penny than she was of him, and I felt it was partly a difference in how they see themselves; After the date Penny decided not to see her date again. I felt an issue was made about her wanting a tall, able-bodied man instead of dating another disabled person.

  As someone who has only ever had one disabled boyfriend herself, I could understand her decision, it avoids the `ahhhhhhh factor,` and the expectation that people presume you will naturally date `one of your own.` It is also a conscious decision to be seen as a normal woman that happens to be disabled.

  I liked Luke, and his Tourette’s went unnoticed a lot of the time because you could see how it hurt him and how his nerves made it far worse for him, he tried to control his ticks, which would in turn become painful for him. He was a nice looking man and you wanted it to work out for him because he came over as one of life’s nice guys.

  Richard, with his routines and self-made guidelines that stopped him going into a wobbly, showed how difficult it was not just for him but also his mother, despite him no longer living with her. It showed that Aspergers is an invisible disability where they seem like everyone else until you spend a length of time with them. Richards date went very well until he started to eat his dates dinner and she left early, the fact that he laughed, made it seem acceptable to see the funny side too.

 I have a friend whose daughter is Aspergers; I have known this teenage girl since a two-year old, that used to scream hysterically when anyone approached her. She is now a young adult, that speaks in a tone far older than her years, on subjects far younger than her years and avoids eye contact and is now just starting out on the dating game herself, which naturally is a concern for her parents due to her childlike naivety.

  In the second episode, Carolyne, Justin and Shaine, all very different in disabilities again. Carolyne, once able-bodied until a sudden paralysis after a night out and a very pretty girl. Now strangely enough Carolyne went out on a date with a 6.4″ able bodied good-looking guy, which she went on to see again and wasn`t automatically offered another disabled date; I was left wondering if that was because she was once Ab herself or because of her looks?

  Justin was facially disfigured with a wonderful down to earth personality, with a love of cats. The dating organiser made a very honest point that facial disfigurement  is the hardest disability to find possible dates for; which sadly is true as appearances are what we are all based upon. Justin went on a date with an able-bodied Lady and it was their love of cats and his personality won her over and it was looking posotive for Justin.

  Shaine, who has learning difficulties, wrote love poems endlessly and went on a dating site for people who also have learning difficulties, they even provided chaperones on the dates. Shaines date was very monosyllabic and yet, Shaine used words like `bubbly` and fell in love instantly, wrote love poems and within days asked if they were now boyfriend/girlfriend, to be sadly told `just friends.` Broken hearted for a day or two he then moved on to his next love interest with his poetry, leaving me feeling he was vulnerable.

  Already, depending who I was watching, I felt like a voyeur with an almost Victorian freak show bad taste. Only Carolyne made me want to shout, `you show `em girl!`  I started watching it with a curiosity about how they would handle it, but the verdict is still open because like us all, whether disabled or able-bodied we all conduct ourselves differently and in turn the outcomes all differ too.

  I personally have had many dates since my first serious boyfriend aged seventeen. When young, I didn`t see hidden agendas, fascination f..ks or those that prey on the vulnerable and naive. As I got older and learnt by experience, I learnt to spot those and to appreciate my sexuality, I in turn dated and could speak up and say what I wanted or didn`t. I married, had a child, had my heart-broken and enjoyed some years single and just dating for fun. I learnt not to see myself as a disability but as a woman, with all that goes with that.

  I am back to dating again now, my last relationship has left me with a bit of a negative body image, but I am wise enough to know that even some of the most beautiful woman in the world feel like that too at times and I will return to enjoying who I am, my sexuality and being a woman who just happens to be in a wheelchair too!

About Maith an cailin

Born in the 1960s, I`m a single Mum of a young adult. I am a full-time wheelchair user, who has been single since a marriage breakdown in 2008. I live in a UK remote village, not easy with a disability but this is a honest account of a ordinary Woman with a disability.
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