The WHEEL Appeal of Online Dating

A Two-Year Diary by Alana Wallace

As I shove two slices of toast in this darn too small toaster, I decide that after breakfast I am going to take my friend's advice and sign up for online dating!  After all, spending two years to heal my broken heart is enough time (right?). At  62, I can't believe I'm back out here in the dating pool.

The dating scene has changed so much since I was last available.  Online dating is the most popular way for singles to meet. Most women find online dating difficult, however add a wheelchair into the mix and difficulty turns into something else indeed!  Nevertheless, I'll try it.

Profile Name:  Aphrodite

Tag Line:  I Believe in Fairytale Endings  ... and So They Lived Happily Ever After!

Clever Opening:  I'm too young to give up on love, but too old to be lured into replacing real phone calls with habitual texting!


I carefully answered the profile questions, selected a few nice photos and I'm off and running!  Here's what I experienced on two popular online dating sites. I suspected that making connections might be difficult for me because a guy may pass over my profile when he notices my wheelchair. Thus, I conducted an experiment on both dating sites.  The first few days I posted a headshot photo only.  I received more responses than I could keep up with. (Explaining my disability to the guys after they showed interest was not received well.)  I then decided to add a full-body pic with my wheelchair in strategic view. (See the photo I used below.)  I received NO (count 'em) responses.

I realize that the "icky labels" probably start at first glimpse of my wheelchair:  I guess the assumption is I must be sick, over-the-hill, inactive, pitiful, and of course non-sexual.  Hmmmm - does the chair overrule any "wheel" appeal I might have?

Oh, warning ladies!  I quickly learned that you have to be cautious of the Subscription Dodgers.  Dating sites offer free trial periods that allow folks to view each other but no exchanging of messages.  So instead of paying to join the site, these guys solicit women by coding their actual phone number into their profile names, for example: Profile Name:  TxMe313.444.7777now.

In addition, there are men who get straight to the point.  A guy actually sent me this in his first message:  "I see yo legs don't work, but can yous have sex?"  Really?

OK - intermittently, I began to get some real bites. 
 
Guy 1 - The Thesaurus Man.  We had several fairly nice conversations.  He lived a few hours away in Detroit.  He was a retired policeman.  One night, he began to tell me about his previous online dating experiences.  One lady he seemed to go on and on about - how fine she was, her great job, their terrific off-the-chain chemistry (if you know what I mean) etc.  So I chimed in to say, "Sounds like you were quite "smitten" with her."  What did I say that for?  He began screaming, "I was not SMITTEN!  WHO USES THAT WORD?  How dare you say that to me.  I have my thesaurus right here and the definition of "smitten" is blah, blah, blah."  I was taken back by his over-the-top response, but we continued chatting a few more times.  This correction of my word usage persisted and after the third or fourth vocabulary lesson - it was a rap!

GUY 2 - The Hook-Me-Up Man.  After several emails, we began chatting by phone.  He was very complimentary of my photos.  He began asking questions about why I use a wheelchair which I was happy to discuss.  Without notice he said to me, "You are really a pretty lady.  Usually pretty ladies associate with pretty friends.  Do you think you could hook me up with one of your pretty girlfriends who DOES NOT use a wheelchair?"  I  replied, "Yes, of course!"  He's still waiting for that hook-up.

GUY 3 - The Foul Mouth Man.  This guy's profile was brief but fairly interesting.  He had winked several times at me and followed through with a written message.  Soon we decided to chat.  He floored me!  After introducing himself, he got way too comfortable and I realize that this guy couldn't get through a sentence without using profanity.  I don't mind a swear word here and there - but this guy MF'd every other word.  Ok - maybe he's a nice guy, but where would I be able to take him?

GUY 4 - The Almost "The One" Guy.  This guy was so appealing - good looking, recently retired from a great job, articulate, established, and HE COULD SING!  We quickly moved into nightly conversations that lasted for hours.  We had so much in common.  We discussed our families, relationship desires, hobbies, interests, name it.  This went on for about a week.  I noticed that he had not asked any questions about my disability.  Thinking he was being polite, I broached the subject to ease any concerns he might have especially since we were planning our first date.  I began to tell him that I had polio as a child but I lead a full life.  I told him how I live independently, drive, bowl, dance, cook, clean, workout, travel, etc.  At the end of my description, he asked. . . . . "So do you use your wheelchair every day?"  He thought it was a prop that I occasionally used for my artistic endeavors because I didn't look like a wheelchair user.  (By the way, what does a wheelchair user look like?)  He never called again.

GUY 5 - The Hater.  Sometimes the authentic reveal does not come soon enough.  After several not-so-good experiences, I became more cautious.  My initial feeling was to pass on this guy.  He was persistent in selling himself, so we began casual conversation.  Again, a pattern of repeated daily calls began to happen.  He seemed very nice - absolutely thrilled over his first grandchild who he spent lots of time with. I thought that was so sweet!  Our conversations soon became more personal in nature.  Alas, the bomb was released.  On politics - he hated President Obama.  On religion - his faith disapproved of Gays.  On health - (on one breath) he blurted out that he recently recovered from prostate cancer, had not tried his penis pump yet, and that if I was looking for lots of sex he would not fit the bill!   Wow!  A lot, a lot, a lot.  The end.

GUY 6 - The Investigator.  This guy initially came across as very shy, soft-spoken and caring.  He was responsible for taking care of his ailing mom.  His siblings did not assist much.  He had several bad relationships and really wanted to meet someone who understood him and his situation.  One night, he became very inquisitive.  He asked me several personal questions.  He wanted to know my full name, my age, and more about my artistic background in dance.  Unsuspecting, I answered all questions.  The next day he called and was eager to report that he doubted my age.  It was obvious he had Googled me.  He further reported that he watched videos of my dance company all night, searched and viewed the photos he found of me on the internet. Then he began more drilling questions.  I simply told him to Google me again!

GUY 7 - The Wheelchair Lover.  This guy had no problem with my wheelchair.  In fact, he quickly shared that his last girlfriend was "handicapped".  He dated her for 4 years until she died.  He was also her caretaker.  Recently, he had been stood up several times on dates and was angry with the dating process.  Good -naturedly, I told him that I don't use the word "handicapped" to describe myself because I am quite capable.  I added that I don't require a caretaker - but I like people who care.  He then replied, "Sorry - I will never contact you again."  Go figure.

GUY 8 - The Edit Man.  This guy takes the cake!  He sent me several messages that I didn't reply to.  He sent several more asking me to PLEASE REPLY and let him know why I was not interested in him.  I politely responded and told him that, unfortunately, his profile did not grab my attention.  He proceeded to beg me to give him suggestions for edits to his profile.  Obliging, I recommended corrections to his first paragraph.  He quickly made those edits and asked for more help with the remainder of his profile.  I swear - he is still sending me his profile for corrections!  HELP!

GUY 9 - The Help-A-Brother-Out Man.  This Guy was a charmer.  He was articulate, loved the arts, worldly, and adventurous.  Upon asking me out on a first date to go listen to some live jazz, he asked if I would be able to ride on his motorcycle. I suggested we use his car because it was extremely cold outside.  He further explained that his car was recently repossessed and that he was temporarily living in the back room at his job. He fell on some hard times and he just needed a Sista' who would help-a-brotha-out.

GUY 10 - The Advice Man.  This guy was full of advice from the word "go".

He warned me what a hard time I would have at my age. He bragged that men have it made - even older men have their choice of women.  He proceeded with his first joke, "What kind of appeal does a 65 year old man have", he asked me.  He didn't wait for my reply.  He quickly gave the answer, "CHECKS APPEAL".  (Get it - instead of sex appeal they have "checks" appeal.)  He went on to explain that money can buy a guy the young woman of his choice.  He told me women over 60 are desperate and have been nicknamed in his town as the "Casserole Ladies".  When a new single man moves into his senior community, ladies knock on his door with casserole in hand to make their bid.  Seriously?  Oh my - he certainly filled me with lots of hope, huh?

Well, I have my own nickname for some of the guys above - 2's Looking for 10's!  I'll save my stories about The Pen-Pal Man, The Rude Guy, and  Mr. Question Mark for a later time. I omitted the stories of a few nice men who simply were not good matches.




In closing, I make no apologies for having a disability or using a wheelchair.  The only difference between me and perhaps other women is that I do a few more things seated:)  I wish more people would understand that the only real disability is "stinking thinking"! 

This diary reflects my experiences over a two-year period.  Please know this article is written to be a bit tongue-in-cheek  and in no way meant to discourage my fellow wheelers.   I'm sure all women (with and without) disabilities) deal with varying online dating issues.  Remain optimistic, don't settle, and continue to combine online dating with other social activities that present opportunities to meet people face-to-face.

There are great guys everywhere.  I have the wine chilling because I know my Mister Right is looking for me too!  Hey -  I wonder if Steve Harvey wants to match me up on his show to be his first "WHEEL" love connection? 
Alana Wallace  has served as Founder and Artistic Director of Dance>Detour since 1995. Wallace, who contracted polio at the age of five, is a professional wheelchair dancer, actress, vocalist, and writer who believes she was born to create and perform. Along with Michelle Obama, Alana received one of ten Phenomenal Woman Awards at THE BLACK WOMEN’S EXPO Gala in 2008.  Alana  appears in two TV commercials for “THINK BEYOND THE LABEL”— a national campaign to promote employment for people with disabilities.  She is also recognized in the latest edition of “WHO’S WHO IN BLACK CHICAGO,” as an accomplished community leader. In 1998, she was featured in the Emmy Award-Winning PBS television documentary, “DANCE FROM THE HEART” hosted by Ben Vereen. 

Alana invites you to join her WHEEL BEAUTY FaceBook Page or email her at:  wheelbeauty@aol.com


    

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