by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
Putting lonely people's lives up for amusement and possible mocking is a valid critique, but I have a feeling that what is really going on for many critics of "The Undateables" is that it reminds them (and us) of their own (and our own) shallowness compared to the ideal narrative they're pushing on the romantically less fortunate. It reminds us that we probably wouldn't date most of the people featured in the show either, despite all the noise we make about inner beauty. Confidence can help the merely average, but when you're the single person being asked out by the confident guy with a severe physical deformity and a wheelchair, let's see what you notice most about him and whether you say yes.
I think it's important to make a sharp distinction between physical and mental disabilities. I dated a girl who had one leg for a while, and it was great!
She was awesome, and she was also smoking hot besides the missing leg. And, because she knew real, abiding pain, she wasn't stuck up or entitled the way so many hot girls are. (I was really young, in case you're wondering why I'm not still dating her.)
I don't really think I deserve any kudos, though. I dated her because I really, really wanted to, and I was far from the only one. She had a limited, non-gross physical disability, and was physically and mentally blessed besides that one thing. I have often wondered if I could have felt the same about her if she has a mental disability instead of a physical one, and I'm pretty sure the answer is no, I couldn't have felt the same. That bothers me, because I don't discriminate in any other way. I've dated White girls, Spanish girls, Asian girls, and Black girls, I've dated rich girls and poor girls, I've dated smart girls and dumb girls. I even made out with a guy once in a drunken haze.
And yet. Honestly, I don't think I could date a girl with a noticeable mental disability. I'm not proud of that fact, but there it is.
I had my right arm amputated at the age of eight due to a run-in with a rattlesnake. Adolescence and adult dating were more frightening, I think, than they would have been otherwise. But it's hard to say because I think they're frightening for everyone.
The confidence issue is legitimate because at times I would make a big deal of not having an arm and how that looked and the impression I felt it left. At other times I was far less self-conscious – when girls, then women, acted as if they didn't notice, I didn't notice. I developed a pattern, an approach, which shied away from asking out women who I didn't already know well. Instead, I sought to be friends with women I was interested in. My theory was that being friends with a woman allowed the arm issue to fade into the background, that she and I would establish (if it worked out as a friendship) a foundation for sexual attraction beyond the immediate physical impression at which I felt I was at a disadvantage. Most of my friends are women, and I don't know how much of that is due to this strategy of dealing with sexual attraction and how much it has to do with my nature. But it is, in the end, about being confident that you are attractive sexually.
When I was in college, I became friends with a graduate TA who is gay, and he remains the best male friend I have, and as a result of hanging out with him and meeting his gay friends I was hit on by men a lot. This did wonders for my confidence as far as being sexually attractive. I think it's a fair generalization that gay men are a bit more forthright with being attracted to you than straight women, so where my interactions with women often left me uncertain and confused, my interactions with gay men gave me confidence – which I then carried into my interactions with straight women.
My current Netflix obsession is the first season of "Friday Night Lights", and there's a relevant scene where the paraplegic Jason Street is on a date with a hot girl he contacted on a dating site for the disabled. The two are really hitting it off until she confides, "Can I tell you what gets me going? Pee." Then she, well, excuses herself to go to the restroom and Street literally flees the scene, repelled by her kink. So being a "freak" is pretty relative, and most of us are in some way. But that's easy to say for someone who doesn't have a disability, so keep the emails coming.