This is a guest post from Zachary Fenell.Hello again everyone! I’m happy to return with another guest post. I hope you enjoyed my first, “How Cerebral Palsy Helped Shape My Work Ethic.”
Today I wish to address an intriguing issue, online dating and cerebral palsy/disabilities. Specifically I’ll discuss the dating website e-Harmony.
In February 2010 I found my life at a standstill. Looking for something different I decided to take advantage of e-Harmony’s special post-Valentine’s Day pricing, signing up for a year subscription at the discounted rate. Over the year I enjoyed in-depth communication with three women, going on to have a date with one of them.
Reflecting back I don’t think I fully capitalized on my e-Harmony experience because I didn’t know how to handle my cerebral palsy. Should I mention my mild CP in my profile, withhold the information until talking on the phone, or not discuss it at all?
Initially I thought an upfront approach served best so I included my CP into my dating profile. I figured “Hey, if my disability is going to put someone off, so be it. That’s her loss.” When I hardly received responses to my communication requests I started second guessing my decision. Perhaps the stigma surrounding the words “cerebral palsy” prevented my matches from seeing how I’m a catch.
Relying on the wonders of Internet search engines I researched the subject when to disclose a disability while using an online dating service. Basically my findings indicated each stage (in profile, on the phone, not at all) maintained some pros and cons. I did remove the fact about my cerebral palsy from my profile after advice an able-bodied friend of eight years gave me. “I don’t think you should put it in your profile because there is more to you than your diagnosis.”
Surely once I deleted CP from my profile I noticed an increase in responses. I still felt obligated to disclose my cerebral palsy prior to meeting a match in person, an obligation which nerved me. Having to disclose my disability just didn’t sit well with me. Explicitly the term “disclose” bugged me. I don’t think cerebral palsy should require disclosing. Instead I think a disability serves as an element that’s simply there.
After all, when I meet someone in person I don’t greet her “Hi, I have cerebral palsy and my name is Zachary.” Rather I say “Hi, my name is Zachary.” Certainly my cerebral palsy will eventually get brought up but as something just there, not a fact I must disclose.
Now I know certain online dating websites remove any disability related stigma by catering strictly to the disability community. Personally I’m not opposed to dating somebody with a disability. However, I dislike the idea of limiting myself strictly to them. Ultimately I concluded meeting people in person works better than online dating if you have a disability. Do you concur? Share your experiences by commenting below. I’ll check back and read them.
Disabilities can trigger self-confidence issues with dating too, a subject I discuss in my teenage memoir Off Balanced (available on the Kindle & Nook). If you want to learn how I dealt with my self-confidence issues in high school, make sure to read my book. A free preview can be found at www.zacharyfenell.com/Off_Balanced_Preview.pdf
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