I’m 23 years old and I’ve never been in love, or dated, or even been kissed for that matter. It bothers me, really bothers me, and the reason why is because of my disability. I was picked on a lot because of it. I was different, and we all know that, from middle school to high school, being different is bad. I may have been just as intellectually capable as my peers, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be just as socially equal and that wasn’t happening to me. In my environment, I was taught internalized ableism really early—I thought that people’s negative opinions of me were accurate because I hadn’t been taught differently. However, I didn’t think this would last into dating years, but that time came, and when nothing changed, I was devastated.
I am a giant fan of romantic comedies and for a long time I naively believed that was how love actually worked. For a while, I told myself it had to wait, I had to be in the right place with the right people and that life was so much bigger than high school. I was right about life being bigger than high school, but I started to feel embarrassed because I wasn’t dating, and that only fed into society’s underlying idea that disabled people don’t date—an idea that’s completely wrong, and only feeds into society’s other underlying assumptions. This isolated me, not my whole community, and I felt singled out, particularly because I identify as queer and one of my friends, meaning no harm, said, “Well, at least you’ll be rejected by the gentler sex.” I didn’t understand why love just wouldn’t happen for me. I knew that it might be harder for me than for my able friends, but it felt like it was just skipping me completely.
Recently, I learned about the four kinds of love: eros, agape, phileo, and storge. Eros is the one I wanted, a Cupid kind of love. However, I believe that these four kinds of love work together, and I realized that I still had to work on the other three types. I do know one thing for sure when it comes to me and eros love: I don’t know how to let someone love me. I’m just not used to it because I didn’t experience it all that often. I have friends who I know love me and would do anything for me, but I don’t let them because it makes me feel like a child; a lot of my disabled life requires help from others, so when it comes to the type of help everyone needs, I have a hard time accepting it. Help and support are a large part of romantic relationships, and if I have a hard time letting my friends help me, I most definitely won’t let my partner help, and that’ll only crack the already weak foundation of the relationship.
Another thing I know: I wouldn’t choose me, and that’s a problem. How do I expect someone else to choose me when I wouldn’t? Additionally, I know I can’t put all of myself into loving someone else who doesn’t love me. That just means I’ll settle for anything, and I deserve so much more than a crappy partner.
Honestly, I don’t know when I’ll be ready to be in love, I still have internal work to do. I can put it on a timeline and give it a date, but all I can say is I’ll know when the work is done and then I’ll know it’s time to try this romance thing again.