Tag Archives: dating

My tips for ending awkward dating moments

Guest post from Phil Lusted, a web and graphic designer from north Wales.

For End the Awkward, he talks about awkwardness when it comes to dating and sex and gives some tips for getting over it.

When I was born, I was diagnosed with a rare form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplaysia which means my bones don’t grow like an average height person would. Being only 3ft in height, I have come across many awkward moments in my life, one of the most common is being mistaken for a child or spoken to like a child.

Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally. This includes those who have visible or invisible disabilities. We are still human, with feelings just like any other able-bodied person. Unfortunately, for disabled people, dating can involve uncertainty and more than a few awkward moments. Like the time a waitress asked my date if I needed a high chair before we got to our table. Needless to say, I did not.

My tips for dating

A first date can be nervous for any person, some thoughts that would typically run through my head would be: “What will she think of me and my height?” “Will she think I’m a weird shape?” “What if she feels embarrassed around me?”. It is perfectly normal for us to think like this, we all do it no matter what size or shape we are, it’s all part of being human and how our brain works when in a nervous or first time situation.

To help avoid awkward situations with your date, don’t be ashamed to educate them on your disability before actually going on the date. Tell them any needs you may have or any assistance you may need while on the date, this will put yourself and your date more at ease, you will both be pretty much on the same page with her or him knowing more about your disability and needs.

I knew my girlfriend three months prior to our first date which gave her plenty of time to learn about myself and my dwarfism, which resulted in our first date being comfortable for the both of us, that way we could enjoy our time together without any awkward situations taking place.

Phil and his girlfriend hugging and smiling, on a wooden bench with trees in the background

Sex and confidence

A lot of nervousness may also be from your own body confidence; I know this from my own experience. Because I was born with severe scoliosis, my back and chest are a funny shape which has in the past affected my confidence. Something as simple as taking my shirt off in a public swimming pool would never happen.

It’s important to be confident in yourself by not being ashamed of your appearance, at the end of the day, we all come in different shapes and sizes, it’s something we should embrace and be positive about. Life would be a little boring if we all looked the same. Also keep in mind that if your partner loves you unconditionally, then you have nothing to fear or feel awkward about when it comes to showing your body.

Communication is important

One of the biggest issues caused by feeling awkward or embarrassed is a lack of communication. Despite sex being considered a “private” or “taboo” subject, all relationships require communication and dialog. I think being open with your partner is very important, especially as disabled people.

Talk with your partner about sex and discover what’s best for the both of you to avoid having close-minded expectations. Remember that not everything works with every partner, so it is important to be patient with one another.

The more you talk to one another the less chances you will feel uncomfortable and awkward when it comes to being intimate together.

You can read more about Phil’s awkward moments in his blog for last year’s End the Awkward campaign.

For more tips on sex and dating, check out the films and stories on our website.

“He’s really fit but it’s a shame that he speaks like that” – End the Awkward

James Sutliff is a Personal Trainer. In 2008, he developed a rare neurological disorder known as dystonia. His speech became slurred and the feeling in his hands deteriorated.

As part of End the Awkward, James told us the awkward moments he’s found himself in and how he thinks we can avoid these cringe worthy situations.

Attitudes and awkwardness

It’s hard to comprehend because physically to look at me, my disability is quite silent. I don’t generally ‘look like a disabled person’. I’m not in a wheelchair, I don’t have a missing limb. So people are often shocked. They think I’m taking the p***.

I think a lot of people can be quite nervous, it can be embarrassing on either end, because the person who’s speaking to me wants to understand what I’m saying but can’t and I feel awkward so I don’t want to carry on talking. It happens quite a lot.

I don’t think it’s that people can’t be bothered to listen all the time. It’s just maybe a little bit of embarrassment on their part, feeling nervous around not knowing how to approach it.

Some people are great. I like it if people just say “sorry mate can you say that again?” But being polite, as people generally are, they’ll just nod their head or whatever.

James, a young disabled man, lifts weights in a gym

How people can be less awkward

I do get quite a bit of female attention, probably because I work out and stuff. When they approach me and talk to me, they soon realise that I have dystonia and there have been a few instances where people make comments that are not very nice.

I was in a nightclub with my wife and this woman approached me. She was obviously quite physically attracted to me and then I started talking. She quickly finished her conversation and rejoined her friend. She obviously cottoned on that my wife was with me in the club and said to her “He’s really fit but it’s a shame he speaks like that”. That was it, she was in trouble. My wife gave her a really bad telling off!

James, a young disabled man, lifts weights in a gym

What not to do

You do get people staring. I don’t think they realise that they’re doing it but sometimes when I clock them I feel like saying “Stop it! If you want to know what’s wrong, come and ask!”

Children are great though because they basically have no boundaries. They’ll say “Why do you speak like that?” and I love that because they’re so honest. They’re just curious. And we’ll say, “Well it’s because of this” and they just go “Oh, okay then”.

I think as a nation we’re overly polite. But what people don’t realise is they’re actually being ruder by sitting and staring or nudging and whispering with their friend next to them.

Be open, have a sense of humour and don’t ignore me. Just talk to me and remember, I’m the same person I was before.

For more tips on sex and dating, check out the films and stories on our website.

You can also read the rest of our End the Awkward blogs, or get involved in the campaign by submitting your awkward story.

Why Chris is re-creating some of the worst things he’s experienced

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris Amor is a 27-year-old university student, studying animation. Chris has dwarfism and experiences regular harassment, making him feel excluded and dehumanised.

As part of 30 Under 30 he talks to us about challenging attitudes and putting height discrimination on the same level as other forms of discrimination. Currently, he’s working on a short animated film which aims to do exactly that.

Attitudes can be a barrier

A lot of people still think it’s socially acceptable to mock and effectively dehumanise people with dwarfism. For me, the physical side doesn’t get me down, it’s the attitudes that other people have towards it. There’s still a big stigma around dwarfism and the way we’re portrayed as freaks.

People can also be scared to talk to me because they think I’ll be easily offended. I’d just prefer people to talk to me like anyone else, not focus on my dwarfism, just treat me like a person. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me either. I just want people to not care about how tall someone is. It doesn’t define who you are, at all.

Dating is another big thing that gets to me. There’s still a big stigma about men being shorter than women or couples with extreme height difference. People tell me I should date another person with dwarfism. Again, it’s dehumanising. It’s putting body before personality. Of course I’d be happy to date a person with dwarfism, but I want to date someone for who they are not just how they look. Why should it matter if the woman is taller?

Chris sitting in front of a brick wall, with his arms folded
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

Experiencing harassment at work

I’ve worked at a local pub for a few years. At first, I mostly did night shifts and of course people are drinking, and I was specifically targeted. I’ve had people run up behind me and try to pick me up, people patting me on the head, talking to me randomly about really personal and inappropriate things. People even take photos or secretly film me, purely just to portray me as being different.

It got to a point where I had a breakdown and told my family and my managers at work about it. They were very understanding and agreed that I should do more day shifts instead. It’s a lot better. And it’s nice to be able to just get on with your job without constantly feeling paranoid.

The effect of endless harassment

Endless harassment can create paranoia. You just constantly feel paranoid if there’s someone behind you or if someone’s got their phone out, are they going to take a photo of me? And it’s the principle behind it – that they’re going to share it on social media as a joke.

Because I’ve being experiencing it for a long time it can be difficult when I’m in certain environments not to be too self-conscious. For some people, it can lead to depression and even suicide. Comments and insults can be more damaging that physical assault, certainly for me – it’s just that concept of feeling excluded from society. And it also affects my confidence when it comes to working and dating.

I’m making a film to raise awareness

A lot of films about disabled people and their lives are focused on the physical or mental restrictions that they have but my film is purely focused on the attitudes of others. Through animation, I’m re-creating some of the worst things that I’ve personally experienced and things that other people have told me, exactly from that person’s perspective. Some people might see these things as just a little joke and say you lack a sense of humour, but it’s not about that. I’m happy to have the piss taken out of me for how I am as a person, not because of how I was born.

I hope the film will raise awareness and change perceptions. I want to put heightism on the same grounds of unacceptance that racism is. And I want to challenge the dehumanising ideas about what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t do – like disabled people shouldn’t be in a relationship with a non-disabled person or you can’t do this job.

Chris arms folded, in front of a garden
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

How we can change attitudes

I think a lot of it’s to do with media representation. Peter Dinklage, from Game of Thrones, is one of the few actors with dwarfism who plays a role that’s not related to his height. Some of the earlier roles for people with dwarfism like Willow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they were picked for those roles because of how they look. It gives them a label and a separation in that sense. I’m not saying that actors with dwarfism can’t play those kinds of roles, but height shouldn’t limit what they can and can’t do.

I also think education is key to changing attitudes. When my film is finished, I want to send it to some film festivals and make sure it’s spread nationwide. It’s not about feeling sorry for someone. It’s about encouraging people to think “How would I feel if I was in that body and was being treated differently because of something I can’t help?”. One day I hope I can walk down the street and nobody cares about my height.

Chris is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

 

What it’s like being disabled and dating online

Lizzy is a 21 year-old who volunteers at a Barnardos project in Bristol, helping children and young people who have experience of health services. She’s been disabled since she was 14, and like many people uses online dating apps like Tinder. In this blog Lizzy shares her experience of online dating. 

I used Tinder for a year or so, and didn’t mention in the description, nor showed in the photos, that I had a disability.

It was something I had thought a lot about: do I tell them or not?

So, I didn’t. Not until we were a little way into talking at least. This received mixed reviews. Some people were completely cool with it. Some people responded with ‘oh my friend’s sister has that’, some asked ‘but can you still have sex though?’ (to which I loved to answer with ‘yes thank you, can you?’).

Some didn’t know what my disability was, and asked questions, and some people stopped talking to me. I was cool with all of those responses.

It left me thinking though, how interesting it would be to have two accounts, one not showing the disability at all, and the other being real about it.

Creating two profiles

I wondered how different the responses would be. Whether it was better for them to see me for who I am, and how I like to dress and look, before seeing me with my disability. Or was it better to be completely open and honest about things?

This lead me to create an account on Plenty Of Fish, where I decided that was what I would do – be honest. I still didn’t show my illness in my photos – instead I showed my smile, which represents me far more than my disability.

However in the bio on my profile, I did write that I have a chronic illness, and that I often need a wheelchair to get about.

Breaking the ice

Underneath that, I cracked a joke, about how it’s a win-win situation, because they wouldn’t have to pay for the gym, they could push me around instead, and me being sat down gives them a good view down my top.

I know that wouldn’t be to everyone’s approval, but I like to insert humour into potentially awkward situations – it breaks the ice.

Being honest about it left me feeling much more settled. As the messages started appearing in my inbox, I felt calm knowing that I’d already put it out there. Calm knowing that if they chose to talk to me, they’d chosen to talk to me knowing the situation; they weren’t walking into this with their eyes closed.

I had so many people comment about how they loved my humour and my easy going view towards my disability, and it made them feel much more at ease.

Some asked questions, they were polite, and genuinely interested. Lots of people were totally fine with the fact I need a wheelchair, and didn’t seem phased by it at all. Others weren’t so keen being seen out with me using it.

Then there was the added stress, of going on a date and getting there without having my carer come in with me.

Good and bad dates

My parents were understandably protective of me, because I was their youngest child, and due to my illness hadn’t had the ‘normal’ experiences of someone my age.  But I wasn’t naive. I knew how to meet people in the safest possible way, I needed to learn, to have good dates and bad dates, to enjoy myself and make mistakes, like everyone in their early 20’s.

I wanted to experience life, and though its true I need so much care and support, I also wanted to break away from that a little and find my own path in dating.

In my opinion, it needs to be discussed more. I’ve had so many questions in my head about what I should or shouldn’t do. And when I ask friends, some say they didn’t know much about it, and had never come across disability in dating before.

Too often people assume that disabled people don’t have fulfilling sex lives and relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read Scope’s A-Z of sex and disability to find out more.  

D is for Dating – #EndtheAwkward

You might be looking for love or just a bit of fun between the sheets, but everyone knows that dates can be seriously awkward. Here’s what not to do on one.

D is for Dating is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability

What could Kate have done differently? Here are five things to keep in mind:

  1. See the person, not just their impairment. He’s Mark who likes pub quizzes and Coen Brothers films, not ‘a blind guy’.
  2. Try not to make assumptions about what someone can do, how they live or how being disabled affects them. You’d hate it if someone made assumptions without getting to know you, right?
  3. Questions, questions, questions. It’s usually okay to ask someone if they might need help (crossing the road for example). But just because someone is disabled doesn’t mean you should ask them intrusive or personal questions. Some people might be happy to chat about why they use a wheelchair, others might not. Everyone’s different!
  4. Accept what the disabled person says about themselves and their impairment. Remember they know themselves better than you do.
  5. Not all conditions are visible. Things like epilepsy or autism you can’t see by looking at someone.

Above all, remember they’re a person – just like you – and you can’t go wrong!

If you’re a disabled person, here’s some great advice from Disability Horizons on how to end the awkward on that all important first date.

D is for Dating is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability

#EndTheAwkward with a kiss


6 July is International Kissing Day and we’ve produced a new video to celebrate, ahead of a whole season of End The Awkward activity.

About our campaign

Our #EndTheAwkward campaign is about challenging attitudes to disability. Too many people feel awkward around disabled people, because they’re worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. This spills over to every aspect of life. Only 7% of people have been on a date with, or asked out, a disabled person. That means a lot of people missing out on date nights with some pretty great prospects.

Why we’ve produced this film

Our Kiss video shows that when you get down to it – literally – we’re all the same and it’s about personal connection and chemistry. We want to ‘Kiss awkward goodbye’ by showcasing disabled and non-disabled couples kissing. By showing this unapologetically, we can help break down awkward barriers that currently exist.

How to get involved – without kissing someone!

We want people to ditch their assumptions about disability, get over their awkwardness and just relax. Dating, sex and relationships can be awkward at the best of times. It’s always better to just chill out a bit. Focus on the person and the connection, not the impairment.

A big part of the campaign is encouraging people sharing their awkward moments. We hope this video will get people thinking differently about sex and disability – but also prompt people to share their stories and get involved at our Awkward hub. We’ll be publishing awkward stories regularly through the campaign too.

So pucker up. Enjoy yourself. And let’s kiss the awkward goodbye!      

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“Sex can be awkward if you are hard of hearing” #100days100stories

Jennie Williams, director of disability charity Enhance the UK, shares her awkward sex and dating moments as part of our End the Awkward campaign. Two thirds of people who are not disabled feel awkward around disabled people. We want to put an end to this, break down barriers and maybe even fall in love.

Update: Jennie’s story has inspired Malteaser’s to create an advert based on her story. Watch the advert on Youtube.

Jennie Williams, founder of Enhance the UK
Jennie is the founder of charity Enhance the UK

I have degenerative hearing loss, which is believed to be linked to a heart condition I have called long QT, also known as sudden death syndrome.

For communicating, I wear two hearing aids which I rely on a lot. I am also an extremely good lip reader and use British Sign Language (BSL).

People tend to associate hard of hearing with old people, so people often say to me, “Oh, yeah, my Nan wears a hearing aid, we shout at her. I think she has selected hearing… Chuckle chuckle.” I would be a very rich woman if I had a pound for every time I heard that, and yep, I mean ‘heard that’ because I can still hear things.

Telling people about my disability

When I am at work, I tell people from the off that I am hard of hearing and for them to please look at me when they are speaking to me or keep their hands away from their mouths. When I am in a social situation, however, things can be very different for me.

I tend to just struggle on a lot of the time, laugh when everyone else is laughing, strain to keep up and, even worse still, I apologise. I guess I don’t want to embarrass people and make them feel like they are not including me.

Dating with a hearing impairment

There can be some real perks of dating someone with a hearing impairment – we can get you into the theatre for free or cheap – same with the train. A lot of us can lip-read conversations that you were never meant to know about and get all the gossip. Winning!

Though dating someone with hearing loss can be awkward at times. When you are getting down to things and having a good old snog, the last thing you want is your hearing aids whistling every time the hot man – in my mind he is always hot – puts his fingers through your hair.

And then your aids end up flying out of your ears, onto the floor and the dog runs in and eats one of them. That is a true story, killed the moment I can tell you.

My favourite awkward date

I was single, living in London and looking for a boyfriend, so I did what many people do – I joined a dating site. I was chatting to a guy who looked cute and we had a bit of banter by email.

We met on the South Bank and went onto one of the boats on the river and had a drink. We chatted about work as you do. I may or may not have been twisting my hair and trying to make my lips look all pouty and thinking, ‘I really fancy this guy.’

I went to get my lip gloss from my bag and out fell both of my hearing aid batteries. They are really small and the guy said, “what on earth do they power?” I explained my hearing loss and he replied, “why do deaf people do this?”

Cut to him waving his hands in the air, scrunching his face up with the tongue in his bottom lip making weird groaning sounds. I thought about throwing my drink in his face but that would have been childish, and a waste of a drink, so I explained about British Sign Language and the culture behind it.

I don’t think he got it at all but he was embarrassed. He didn’t know what to say, so he offered to take me for a ride on his massive motorbike – not a euphemism – around London and buy me dinner. I am very shallow.

My next favourite subject… sex

Sex is great. But it can be a little awkward if you are hard of hearing and someone is trying to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. You can mishear totally which results in jumping up, turning on the lights and saying, “you want to do what to me?!” Again, true story, and I won’t tell you what I thought he was saying.

When I was younger I was having a fling with someone who was deaf and we always had to have sex by the door in case his olds came in. Or we would put towels down against the door to try and block it from being opened, but always having one eye open just in case. Real romance.

Undressing disability

Jennie with her partner Jonno and a dog
Jennie and her partner Jonno

I started the campaign Undressing Disability three years ago.

It’s about challenging misconceptions around disability and ensuring that better access to sexual health, sexual awareness and sex education is granted to disabled people.

Most people I know and talk to want a loving relationship, to feel loved and to love. Any sense of intimacy between two people who care about one another is so important. Even if it’s a one night stand – let’s face it, most of us have not only slept with people we ‘love.’

We all want to be found attractive and sexual relationships are the most natural thing in the world. Sadly, Scope’s new research shows that that only five per cent of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out, or been on a date with, a disabled person.

Am I surprised by this? No, of course I am not. Am I motivated to keep pushing the campaign until these statistics change? You bet I am!

Help us End the Awkward this Valentine’s Day.

Find out how you can get involved in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

Find out more about Enhance the UK on their website.

Deaf Girly’s end of awkward

Guest post from Deaf Girly who lives in London. 

When I saw Scope’s End the Awkward campaign featuring the girl with hearing aids in the bar, I was transported back to my twenties when I was new to London and out every night, and single.

Now, dating in your twenties is awkward enough. But for me, deafness added another layer of awkward to the ‘flirting in bar’ scenario. Take the night of four kisses. There I was dancing away when a man started talking to my ear. He was cute. But I had no idea what he was saying. So I took his face and moved it so I could lipread. And he kissed me. Ten minutes later, it happened again, with a different guy. And again. And again. Until I had four guys in one club who all thought I was into them. Problem is, kissing guys before they know your name is not usually the best way to get a date. So I remained single, albeit with a lot of kissing experience.

After a year of this, I signed up to online dating. I chose not to put my deafness on my profile and instead tell guys when I met them. My first date was in a noisy bar with a mumbling man. The effort of trying to hear him over the background noise was exhausting. At 10pm I was asleep, head on the bar, my gin and tonic untouched. The man slunk out, never to be seen again.

This trend continued. I met guys in dark bars where I just nodded and smiled like a nutter. I went climbing with a man who kept yelling instructions at me when I was halfway up the wall – helpful. And, on one occasion, I told a guy I couldn’t hear and he made his excuses and left.

But it wasn’t all bad. One guy took me to a silent movie. Another told me he could sign before showing me the standard (and slightly rude) sign about bulls that everyone says they know.

And then last summer I met a guy at a friend’s summer party. He walked into the kitchen where I was putting the icing on a lemon drizzle cake. I was so distracted by him that I drizzled the floor and my feet, completely missing the cake.

I didn’t tell him about my deafness as he had an easy-to-hear low voice. But then as night fell in the garden, it became harder to hear so I told him. His reaction was wonderful. He asked a few questions and then paid attention to make sure I could hear him – sitting by a candle to light up his face and looking at me at all times

Nearly a year on, the wonderful man continues to be wonderful. He’s attentive without being patronising, helpful without being suffocating and accepts that my deafness is a part of me in a way I wish I could have done when I first learnt I was deaf.

With him there is no awkward. Proof along with Scope’s campaign that it really is possible – and time – to end the awkward.

Find Deaf Girly on Twitter and at deafinitelygirly.com

Ending the awkward in relationships

Being on Call the Midwife gave me the sense of being an actor in my own right

Guest post from Colin Young who will feature in tonight’s Call the Midwife

Jacob and Sally
Jacob and Sally played by Colin Young and Sarah Gordy

The reaction to this Sunday’s Call The Midwife has been overwhelming!

The episode features my character Jacob, who lives in an institution for disabled people. We learn about his relationship with another resident, Sally Harper, who has Down’s Syndrome. The story follows their struggle to be together as everyone around them rejects their right to be in love.

The media has described the episode as the most controversial story line yet. For me it’s highlighted an aspect of our social history that has not had the recognition it deserves: disabled people in love.

Meet Jacob

My character Jacob first appeared in series two of Call The Midwife. Living in St Gideon’s institution, he symbolised the segregation of disabled people in post-war Britain.

In the episode a couple need to decide if their child with spina-bifida should be put into St Gideon’s. Jacob steers them towards bringing their child up in the community with the line: “there’s a biscuit factory next door… we get the broken ones”.

Viewed by over 10 million people, people praised the show for using a disabled actor.

When we meet Jacob again in today’s episode he’s a responsible young man, contributing to the running of St Gideon’s.

How things have changed

Colin and Sarah
Colin and Sarah on This Morning

Lots of the media attention has been on my own love life. I’ve always tried to be as independent as possible, with support to enable me to achieve this. I believe that dating should be an ordinary part of my independence.

People aren’t as shocked at this as they were back in the 1950s. To see disabled people in a relationship isn’t the taboo it used to be. But it’s still difficult for disabled people to date.

Inaccessible venues, pressures to conform to stereotypes, and people’s attitudes all make dating challenging.

Changing attitudes towards disabled actors

I believe the courage shown by Call The Midwife will encourage writers and agents to include disabled people in their programmes. I hope we will see more disabled people in ordinary roles, where the focus is on their inclusion as equal members of the cast.

It was incredible to get my first professional acting role on such a popular drama. Playing the role of Jacob has been an amazing honour, but the best part has been the acceptance as an actor by the cast and crew. During the filming I felt like one of the family – chatting with Miranda in make-up, Helen and Bryony between scenes, and sharing banter with the sound crew. It gave me the sense of being an actor in my own right.

You can watch Colin in tonight’s episode at 8pm on BBC1.