Dating is difficult for most of us. What do you say to chat someone up? What do you wear on the first date? How long is an acceptable length to time to wait before you ask for their Wi-fi password the morning after the night before?
But, speaking from the personal experience of a bloke with a disability and no voice, I think that the dating game is much harder for people like me. After all, I’m 37 years old and have only had three serious relationships. And it’s not from a lack of trying. Let’s be honest, none of us want to be left on the shelf. And I don’t mean the one in Tesco - I mean the one in the great big dating supermarket of life. The one where the most desirable people have already been taken, the cheapest have been used and brought back for a refund, and the rest of us just sit there like Tesco own brand red sauce: not as tasty and hardly ever picked up.
I use a communication aid to speak with, which means I have to type in what I want to say and then the computer says it for me. I’m a bit like Stephen Hawking, but I know nothing about the universe. So, one of the problems I have with dating is that I find it hard to approach girls in the traditional sense. I don’t have the ability to ‘chat up’ a woman. The best that I could do is ‘type up’ a woman but that just sounds wrong. You type up your dissertation, you type up the list of the jobs you have to do around the house and you type up your will. There’s nothing sexy about being typed up. And even if there was, most people tend to judge on looks alone; they’ve already made their minds up about this disabled guy in front of them, before I’ve managed to say a word.
This all means that I usually rely on online dating. The ability to hide behind a screen and only let other people see certain parts of you was definitely what the internet was invented for! But even that has its problems. Do you reveal you have a disability in your profile and hope that people wouldn’t be put off by it? Or do you leave that vital piece of information out and then have the trouble of deciding when to tell your new love of your life that you can’t actually speak? If I’m being honest, I’ve tried it both ways with varying results. It’s not that I want to lie to people; I just don’t want them to judge me solely on my disability. It’s a tough choice.
I think that’s partly why I included a storyline about it in my Radio 4 sitcom, Ability. In that, the main character called Matt meets a girl online but doesn’t reveal he can’t speak. He then gets his carer to speak on the phone to her for him. This results in a hilarious car crash of a conversation, which is the main reason I included it in the show - but I think I also did it to get people to think twice about being judgmental on dating websites.
I’ve tried Tinder too but that hasn’t been that successful either. The problem with Tinder is the fact that it’s based on how people look. However, I’m as ugly as both the chuckle brothers put together, so I’m at a disadvantage already. The only matches I get on Tinder are with people too stupid to know their left from their right, or with totally blind people. And, let’s face it, I can’t go speed dating because by the time it took me to type a sentence it’d be time to move onto to next person.
Of course I hope I find the love of my life one day; I think everyone does. It’s probably one of the few things that is missing in my life. All my fit mates are in relationships, all my other friends are getting married and having children - it does feel like I’m missing out a bit. But it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. I’m having the best life right now with the best friends and family and I couldn’t ask for more. So, for now, I’m still on the shelf. If you’re interested, you can find me between the Weetabix and Coco Pops in Tesco. You may even get me for half price because I’m disabled!
Ability starts on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 2 May at 11.30am. Episodes will become available on BBC iPlayer Radio after broadcast.