Dating Disabled: Eric's Story
Today we’re talking to Eric*, who is navigating the crazy modern dating world while battling a health issue.
So Eric, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m in my twenties, I live in West LA, and I work in marketing. I’m also a musician and a proud Asian-American.
So Eric - what makes your dating experience unique?
My dating experience is unique among my peers because several years ago, I was diagnosed with a debilitating health issue that has been the single biggest impact on my social life and how I navigate the modern dating world.
What are some of the ways that has affected your dating experience or how you approach dating?
It’s sort of an invisible illness; I’m high-functioning, but I can’t drive. I’ll fall asleep or have a seizure all of a sudden with no warning, and the doctors haven’t been able to figure out what’s wrong. In my experience, when people I meet and start dating find out, they feel betrayed, like I was hiding something from them. Not being allowed to drive is just one of the ways my illness affects my social and dating life, but that’s a big one.
Don’t a lot of people Uber in LA anyway? I know lots of people there who simply never chose to get a driver’s license.
Maybe, but that’s by choice. I think the fact that I have this uncommon illness makes people see it as more of a negative thing.
In LA, it feels like everyone is really savvy at cultivating their personal brand and image. There’s this emphasis on outward appearance - beauty and being fit and healthy - where the standard is so high, it’s hard if you’re “just average.” And even harder for me! Online dating gives people lots of options, so they don’t want to settle.
So you think people would be “settling” by dating someone with an illness or disability?
No, I didn’t mean to imply that. In this day and age, physical and mental issues still carry stigmas unfortunately, so we have to be careful not to perpetuate discriminating mentalities.
Just like anyone else, I’ve got some things I can’t fix but plenty that I can work on. I’m a normal person who happens to have a disability, and that disability doesn’t define me.
You have a positive self-awareness that many of us are still searching for! What experiences led you to this understanding?
Modern dating has lots of challenges, but the great part of it is you meet so many people and learn from each encounter. I met this woman who was a total homebody with the same hobbies as me - the driving thing wasn’t even a problem because of her lifestyle and how much our interests aligned. It didn’t work out in the long run, but it made me realize there’s probably so many people who are homebodies and wouldn’t even be thinking about going out as much as I do!
I’ve also found that I get along well with a lot of older women. But being around people who are more mature makes me realize how much I have to work on that’s not related to my illness - I have a lot of self-improvement projects I’m working on right now. It’s cliché, but I’ve learned that I define myself by my choices.
What are some of these self-improvement projects?
I have diet and fitness goals. I’m training for a 5k. These are the things that motivate me and give me confidence.
What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation as you?
Advice in dating? To work on your confidence and be more open-minded. A lot of my peers only meet people through dating apps these days, but I expanded beyond just flicking through profiles and started making moves in real life.
Do you prefer that to dating apps?
I was in a more negative place mentally a while ago and felt that it was tricky to get the profile presentation exactly right, that there was white privilege with apps, et cetera…even when I connected well with people on apps, once I revealed my health issue, they didn’t want to pursue the relationship. That made me discouraged for a while.
I do see myself going back to dating apps now that I’m in a better place - I definitely haven’t written them off. I’ve just expanded my approach offline, which to me is positive growth.
So what’s the first app you plan on redownloading?
I’ve used a lot that I think are great in different ways. Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder, Bumble, Hinge…
Any closing comments?
You don’t need a boyfriend or girlfriend to have a fulfilling social life. Invest in your friendships and platonic relationships because those really help you progress yourself - you need a strong foundation for a successful romantic relationship to even be on the table.
Having a supportive boyfriend or girlfriend is great in tough times, but they won’t fix any of your problems. You’ve got to own yourself first.
Shall we forward this interview to anyone who doesn’t mind you picking them up in an Uber or Lyft?
Haha. Everyone will be in driverless cars in the future!
*Name changed for privacy