Sometimes I get a letter that challenges my mind and stretches my little world. Here's one:
Dear Auntie Seraphic:
First, I must say that I love your blog, which I accidentally stumbled upon one day when completely bored at work and trying to find blogs which were not nixed by our firewall. :) And who says the Lord can't provide? I honestly can't believe I'm writing a letter like this to a complete stranger, but, such is life.
I am writing because I agree pretty much with everything you say about women, and how they should and should not make themselves available for dating. However, as a disabled woman, I find it hard to put your advice into practice. I will try to explain what I mean without being too rambly, and hope that you might be able to give me some practical suggestions.
First, disabled women find themselves in a unique situation because they must walk the fine line of asserting their independence so as to be dignified but not to come across as so independent that they have in no need of anyone, let alone a man. If I never refused help or, in some cases, rather ardently asserted my self-will, I would be carried practically everywhere, have every door flung open for me, have all my
food served to me, etc, etc. In essence, I would be treated like a child. Not only is this not what I desire, nor is it complimentary, it certainly does not give off the vibe that, hey, now THIS is a woman who can be a wife and mother! Husbands might want to be our protectors, but caretakers? Not so sure.
However, the assertion of ones independence can often be interpreted as aloofness or arrogance or some such. Many a time, I have been at a churchy event with any number of young Catholic adults. If I adopt the former attitude, well, don't you know, I make tons of new galpals but not a single male speaks with me. If I assert the latter attitude, I often appear as unfriendly, no matter how graciously I might refuse the offers of help.
I think this issue is compounded by the fact that, since I am completely blind, I can not do many of the "subtle" feminine things that women like to do in order to catch a man's attention. How do I let a man know that I am open to dating without being too forward and without being able to adopt many typical ways in which women do such things?
Lastly, I, unfortunately, agree with your statement that a man either is attracted to a woman, or he is not. I also believe that your average, everyday man is not going to look at a disabled woman and think ATTRACTION! for a variety of social and, yes, I do believe that for strictly biological reasons, disability is not as attractive as, well, non-disability.
This isn't to say that I sit around feeling sorry for myself. I love me, and I love my life and my friends and my activities. It doesn't mean I think I can't be a mom, or that I can't be productive. I have a good job, graduated from a terrific college,
navigate [a large city] in the US on my own, but I also understand on a practical level that, were I to be paired with a sighted identical twin, the majority of men would probably opt for the sighty.
I acknowledge the social stereotypes which might cause men to believe that the disabled are not interested in sex, cannot be good mothers/wives, and many others which are consciously [but usually subconsciously] held. I also believe that, evolutionarily, being disabled is a legitimate weakness, and I think this plays a genuine role when considering spouses. I am sick of being told "if men are
going to judge you on that they're not worth having," "you'll eventually find someone who'll love you for YOU," and "you're only 23-you're still so young!" because such platitudes do not acknowledge how painful it can be to watch your single friends be flirted with and courted as you stand by unnoticed. [Also, such platitudes] are not practical.
I hope this letter came across as I intended it to. I am trying to remain content in my singledom, yet I do yearn for marriage deeply. I am looking for an eligible, traditional catholic man who is accepting of disabilities (and we thought just the eligible traditional Catholic man population was a small one!), and I am seeking any advice which might help said young men to realize that I'm actually quite awesome and they'd be lucky if I thought them worthy enough to bust out the super-elegant-eveningware cane!
Thanks for any advice, and keep up the humorous posts! They're terrific.
With love in Jesus,
Disabled and Determined
Now, as far as I know, this is my first-ever letter from a blind Single, so I wrote back for more information. Long-time readers will not be surprised that I wanted to know what Disabled and Determined looks like. I don't think men, especially Christian men, are soooo inwardly Darwinian that they would reject an attractive girl at once because she is blind. Sighted men are all about, well, sight.
So after some clarification and some googling, this is what I wrote back:
Dear Disabled and Determined,
After poking around on the internet, I can see why you asked me. So far there does not seem to be a lot of stuff on the topic, although there are certainly some "Disabled Dating" websites that include tips not really helpful to the blind like "keep eye contact." I checked the website for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind because I am Canadian and that's the first blind advocacy group I could think of. And, lo, nothing on dating. Maybe readers will be able to find something solid, though.
Meanwhile, let us recap. You're 23, right? You're attractive, but not a super-model. You are slim and have medium length curly hair. You have a lot of friends, you work out, you go to Mass, and you seem to go to a lot of Catholic events. You are interested in men. So far so good.
The first problem may be your feeling that you must be independent simply all of the time. And I can definitely understand why because if I grew up with a disability, I would long to be like everybody else in that I could take care of myself and do everything for myself.
However, two things that women find out are 1. that sometimes, just because we are women, we DO need help, and 2. that good men enjoy helping--it makes them feel useful.
If I need to get the lid off a jar or a cork out of a bottle, I don't struggle with it. I go and find a man and get him to struggle with it. Men love to feel useful. Helping them feel useful is not a loss of our independence. It is a little gift to them.
Therefore, the next time a young man you like offers to do something for you, accept or think of something you're more comfortable with. For example, if I were at a party, and a man asked me if he could get me a drink, I might turn down a beer but say I would love a glass of water, thank you. And when he turned up with the water, I would thank him with a dazzling smile. And I love it when men get the door for me. They open the door, I say thank you. They offer me their seat on the bus, I take it and say thank you. Bless their little useful hearts!
The second problem might be figuring out how important sight is to sighted men. I'm afraid it really is, which is why I asked what you looked like. The Disabled Dating websites I looked at assured me that 94% of communication is non-verbal, which once again doesn't help the visually impaired, and makes me wonder who is running the Disabled Dating sites! But if you are not doing this already, consider how your body language makes you look approachable or not approachable to sighted people. Figure out which clothes flatter you and are appropriate to your age and personality. Practice smiling while saying hello, and nodding to show you have understood what a person has said to you. (Sorry if this is all basic stuff you know already!)
There are two visually impaired women in my parish, one married (not totally blind, I think) and one Single (totally blind). The married woman does not wear dark glasses or use a stick; usually her husband guides her around. The Single woman has dark glasses and a very naughty--but loveable--guide dog. The advantage of the dark glasses, I suspect, is that they create the illusion that she is keeping eye contact with sighted people (who seem have an inborn sense that eye contact means friendly interest--well, I do anyway). What do you think of this?
The third problem stems from this one, and it is how to smile at a man from across a crowded room when you can't see him. If I were in your shoes, I would enlist the aid of a trusted female friend, first to find out if any interesting man is looking at me, and then to fetch him with the line, "My friend Seraphic wants to meet you." Your friend becomes your smile.
This is bolder than I would recommend to a sighted woman, but in the case of a blind woman, it seems a necessity. And, besides, if the guy doesn't want to meet you after all, he can just make some excuse and flee. Do not be overly crushed if this happens because, believe me, men just ignore the welcoming smiles of sighted women all the time.
The fourth problem is that sighted people have no real clue what it is like to be blind and forget that blind people cannot see their non-verbal cues. I dated a severely hearing impaired guy for two years, and constantly forgot that he couldn't understand me at all unless he could read my lips. He had to remind me over and over again. I'm not saying that all sighted men are as dumb as I was, but I am suggesting that you are going to have boundless patience while building friendships and potential romantic relationship with sighted men.
Do tell me if any of this is helpful. I don't see why some guy shouldn't fall in love with you eventually and marry you, unless it is simply not God's will for you. Queen Alexandra was profoundly deaf, but very lovely, and Edward VII of England married her.
As I say to everyone, our main focus should be on making friends, not meeting mates. Husbands and wives usually start out as friends-of-friends, and become friends-who-are-secretly-attracted-to-each-other, and then fall in love. Tell your female friends you are interested in making more good male Catholic friends, and see what happens.
Also, as I say all the time, I didn't meet the Perfect Man for Me until I was 38. And I was attractive, funny, smart, university educated and all that stuff. If God wants it to happen, it will happen, but only when He says so.
Finally, I feel that other blind women may be a great resource for dating advice. If you belong to a support group for the blind, bring up the topic at a meeting. I am sure everyone will be glad you did.
Grace and peace,
Now, there are two points that I had not considered, and Disabled and Determined filled me in. The first is the shocker that disabled support groups do not always provide good relationship and sexual advice. There is a culture of wanting to behave like "all other women", and this, unfortunately, means the "acting just like men" crap we popularized in the Age of the Pill. I think, then, that there is a crying need for faithful CATHOLIC fellowships for disabled men and women. I wish I knew older, blind-from-babyhood, Catholic married women who could pass on their wisdom and experience to Disabled and Determined.
The second point is what to do if you are blind and want to join a new Catholic parish, and you can't convince your sighted friends to come along. How do you meet people, including men? My advice here is to find the parish priest and ask him to introduce you to men and women your own age. (This, by the way, goes for everybody. The one man you can always go up to and get the ball rolling with is the priest.) And I suspect that it is easier to meet people in a small, quirky parish with a strong identity (whether Trid or Most-Left-Wing-In-Town) than in a ginormous, anything-goes parish of thousands.
Update: Association of Blind Catholics (UK) here.