Have you ever gone about your day to day life and noticed so many couples everywhere you go? If you, like me, have been single when seeing this all around you, it can hurt. It makes you feel empty, like something is missing, like the people you are seeing are enjoying a part of life that you don't have. Does it make you want to be a part of that yourself? Does it motivate you? It motivated me.
Hi. I'm Jamie, a 22-year-old living near Bath. I am diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome - a form of Autism. I appeared on Channel 4's The Undateables. If you haven't seen it, The Undateables is a dating show. What sets it apart from other productions of the same genre is that it has focus on people with disabilities and those with a variety of conditions. Its aim is to challenge the stereotype that people with disabilities are incapable of finding romantic partners - that they are "undateable". Like the show, I have had the same aim for a long time now. I had no dating experience at all prior to participating, and felt that now was a good time to find that experience. If I was having trouble setting sail on my dating journey, it was a great time to get the little push I needed.
I describe my Asperger's Syndrome as an "all-encompassing social disability". At heart, it has a major effect on the way I interact with people and the world. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and one sees how it actually permeates every aspect of my life. That's why it feels to me like it covers everything. I have no friends. Striking up even friendly relationships with people I find to be a struggle. I don't know where I stand with people, nor what I should be doing in any given social situation. Even though, on the surface, I appear to be a confident and accomplished person, on the inside, I'm usually feeling like I'm drowning in a world where I'm the only person that hasn't yet learned how to swim. I know I have the capacity to learn, it simply takes me much longer than others and it requires I make a conscious effort to do so, while for my peers it may be natural. Now, imagine feeling like this and then trying to find a romantic partner. This was never going to be easy. I knew that from the start.
Despite that, in the spring of last year, I forced myself outside of my own little bubble of safety and applied. Shortly after, I had a film crew in my house asking me about romance. I'd jumped right into the deep end. Some people say that doing this is the best way to learn. In this case, I would agree. If you want to find out what happened on my first ever date you'll have to watch tonight's show. What I can say though is that I came out of the experience a changed person. I have genuine confidence now. A conversation with someone I find attractive is no longer made up of me stuttering. It is made up of coherent words and feelings. I have not only set sail on my journey into the dating world, but also learned how to swim in the social world. Regardless of any outcome for me, or anyone else in the same position as me, that I see as a step forward. Nothing feels better than progress, especially if you have been working to make that progress for a very long time.
The Undateables transmits on Mondays at 9pm on Channel 4.