How do the blind, date?

Since locking down in March 2020 because of the global pandemic, I like many have done a little evaluating of my life.

I am headstrong, (stubborn) fiercely independent and actually enjoy my time by myself. However I have those times when I don’t want to do it all alone.

Dating for anyone can be a minefield, its all about an online presence; dating apps and even Facebook have got in on it. After all it is a multi-million pound industry in the U.K alone. It is where swiping left or right appears to be the way you decide. Then there are time wasters. Those are often only after one thing. Thankfully within a message or two these become obvious. Even me as a blind gal is now getting the hang of spotting them!

It appears even for those who have perfect vision, the days of locking eyes across a crowded room are gone. You can now even do online speed dating, where you don’t even have to get out of your chair; or worry about having garlic breathe.

The route I decided to take was semi-old fashioned. I got chatting online to a guy who was in a group on Facebook for mutual interests. We spoke virtually and then over the phone before actually meeting in person.

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time or who are connected with me on Facebook will know I post regular updates, posts and photos of my adventures. I am very much real. Many people have met me in real life, I have also gone through a very thorough evaluation to get my sight diagnosis, DWP disability benefits and my guide dogs.

Which has probably just given you a heads up to the direction that this date took…

I chose the venue, one I would feel comfortable in and also, if things went well we could enjoy a walk along the beach after. I arrived a little early, however was pleased to realise he was already at the bar.

We had spoken about my guide dog, he had asked questions about my sight and we had become Facebook friends, so he could see for himself. He was a gentleman and got our drinks before we sat down at a quiet end of the bar.

This was when things went very quickly south. (to put it politely)

My guide dog Fizz only made the briefest of hellos before laying down. She didn’t even wait for me to take off her harness before she settled. And following a recent conversation with a friend about dating and dogs intuition this should have been enough for me to stand up and leave; I however thought she may be sulking because we were so near the beach and she hadn’t been in the water.

Not taking off her harness did have its benefits though.

It would appear; despite several online conversations, telephone calls, facetime calls and my general online presence being true to myself, about my ‘blind fails’ and life with my guide dog; he was a little surprised when I actually walked in with my leading lady.

Obviously, writing this type of blog isn’t easy for me and there have been many re-writes; however I feel it is important to share this with you, as it may just stand as educational to some on how words can actually hurt more than sticks and stones. (as the childhood rhyme goes)

I am independent, I (partly) live my life to prove to myself that I can; that I am not solely defined by my disability and to help my children understand that life is to be lived, not purely existed. I will not apologise for that.

Wearing my sunglasses (being summer isn’t that what most people do?) and having a guide dog beside me apparently made my blindness too obvious! (so it began)

“You appear so outgoing and fabulous with the climbing, cycling (on a tandem) and solo adventures, but seriously how can you do any of it LIKE THAT?”

Was not a question I expected to be asked. And I think I managed to croak out “Pardon” before taking a rather large gulp of my drink.

“Well, I mean a real blind person couldn’t do any of that.”

At this point I finished my almost full pint, stood up, took Fizz’s harness and walked out.

I was about ten paces outside the pub when I heard an “excuse me miss” I turned around to be greeted by the barman. He had seen me finish my drink quickly and my sharp exit. He wanted to double check I was safe and if I needed any assistance. He told me that the man I was with had made no move to follow me and asked if I wanted him to walk me back into the pub by another door. I explained I was alright, just foolish and thanked him for his concern.

And then I reached out and spoke with a dear friend. She reminded me it was best to get this sort of rubbish out of the way quickly and that I didn’t need to waste anymore time on it.

I, like many with any disability have faced my fair share of people not understanding. I have been quizzed by strangers when I have used my phone or picked out my own shopping. I have also had people I believed to be close to me not understand.

Sight loss is a spectrum, it varies greatly and is not as simple as sighted or blind. Just as some who use a wheelchair can also walk, some registered blind (severely sight impaired) have some usable vision.

In all honesty, walking with a guide dog gives me a greater confidence than when I walk with my cane, she is a literal extension of my left arm that makes moving around appear effortless; even in a busy pub.

I have not yet undertaken a truly solo adventure, as I have always had my guide dogs with me, just as when I cycle I have a pilot on my tandem (I think riding it alone would look a little concerning!) and in the very same way that when I climb I also have a partner. I do much of ‘life’ with what I call blind hacks and tweaks. And as I have said before; I wont apologise for that.

This is one of those ‘chalk up to experience and move on’ moments.

It was not said as a compliment. Or as an admiration.

There has been no further contact and nobody has been blocked.

For now I am thinking of going ‘old-school as regards dating. I will hold out for that ‘eyes locking across a crowded room’ moment.

Oh wait…

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