Illustration of a phone, with a dating profile picture on the screen

T is for Tinder – #EndTheAwkward

Whether you’re looking for love or a one-time hook-up, Tinder and other dating apps are dominating the UK dating scene.

Mary Russell, star of Channel 4’s dating show, The Undateables, and blogger and student Holly Bea, talk about their first forays into the online dating scene.

T for Tinder is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.

Mary’s story

Before I did The Undateables or any other media work, I tried out a couple of dating websites. I never go on them now because it’s so hard to know who will be genuine or not, but at the time I was dipping my toe in the water.

My first mistake was not mentioning in my profile that I had dwarfism and I had decided not to include a photograph.

I started talking to a guy. His picture didn’t particularly attract me, but from the information in his profile he sounded like someone who would be good to get to know.

And then he asked to see a picture of me. I thought ‘oh shit’. I never wanted to shock people, I just hadn’t thought about when I wanted to talk about my dwarfism.

So I sent him a photograph of myself. I know when people see me for the first time that I might not be what they’re expecting.

At first I thought his response was quite gentlemanly. I think he did his best not to hurt my feelings. He didn’t directly say ‘no’. He said: “Don’t you just hate this online dating thing?” And then he said he was going to give it a break for a while.

To be honest it made me feel really shit. I think my photo probably shocked him.

But I used it as a learning experience. I went on quite a few dates with men I met online and I made sure I had a full body shot in my profile picture. In my personal details, I said: “I have dwarfism and I’m proud of it.”

Dateable

You have to look beyond the impairment or the condition and get to know the person. When I sent him the photo of myself, it felt like who I was didn’t matter. But I’m so glad it happened, you learn a lot about people.

When I first heard the title of Channel 4’s The Undateables, it made me feel very sad. But I watched the show and it was beautifully put together. I think when you look past the title there are just some really engaging stories.

I’ve been inundated with guys wanting to date me – I never thought that would be the response! I’ve spend many years not feeling great about myself and now I embrace my disability at every opportunity.

Follow Mary on Twitter @Marysodateable and Facebook Dwarfism Beautiful

Holly’s story

I started online dating wondering ‘what will it be like?’ The answer is an absolute minefield!

Online we can all be who we want to be, we’re completely anonymous and often a lot more confident than in real life. Humour is my friend when trying to break the ice. Once the ice is broken I can then address the elephant in the room: my disability. I have cerebral palsy, scoliosis and use a wheelchair.

This is always risky. I don’t overtly state it on my profile because I’m worried that it will put people off. I try to drop it in to conversation in a jokey way if I can – this is where the exchange can become interesting!

These are genuine reactions I’ve had after saying that I’m in a wheelchair:

“Oh that’s a shame”
“Can you feel everything?”
“What a waste of a pretty girl”
“So you’re a virgin then?”
“Cool, I’ve never had sex with a disabled girl before, can we?”

Just seeing those reactions written down reminds me that the perception of disabled people is warped and based on stereotypes. But for every nine idiots there is one guy that will still talk to me once I’ve dropped the ‘D bomb’ – disclosing my disability.

Dropping the ‘D bomb’

My most awkward date has to be a couple of months ago when a guy uttered words that I can only assume were intended to make me swoon: “So when are you actually going to tell me why you’re in a wheelchair?”

I quickly joked: “oh this is a bit heavy for a first date.” But he just kept going: “It’s a shame really. You are too sexy to be in a wheelchair.” Needless to say, I just left thinking ‘what the?!’

But it’s not all bad. I have had great first date experiences too. One swipe right had a great sense of humour, a good smile and there was no awkwardness.

I don’t want to place this guy on pedestal for just being a decent human being, but so far my experience of the dating game is that guys like this are a majestic endangered species and are not often seen.

Dating is hard for anyone

Dating is hard for anyone and it’s just that bit more awkward when you have a disability. I can understand why some find it scary but we are still people.

I just want people to remember that yes, my disability has to be consideration but is not a definition. I am more than that. I’m the girl who laughs at her own jokes, watches trashy TV but knows how to hold an intellectual conversation too.

I may not have found my Mr Right but I’ll have fun searching, so watch this space.

Read Holly’s blog It’s Holly Bea or follow her on Twitter @ItsHollyBea

T for Tinder is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z.

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