I have always had a hard time making friends, let alone, getting involved in romantic relationships. I didn’t date at all when I was young. This may or may have not been related to my disability. I do remember having a lot of crushes, and having those crushes make fun of me or tease me when they noticed my feelings for them. I was pretty awkward and high schoolers can be cruel.
As a result , as an adult, I never really understood flirting or when people were flirting with me. I can still be pretty awkward in social situations.
I have a hard time figuring out if someone is actually “into me” or not. I often wonder if it is related to my disability as many people are so sweet to me, out of pity. I get the smiles as I cross the street. I get people being polite and being overly complimentary. I get the people who will talk to me whenever I call them…but never take the time to call or text me.
The few times where I realized someone was flirting with me, I have taken their flirty behavior to mean something much more than it actually was, and then I have ended up humiliated. I remember being in my 30s, and a man was flirting with me, and I got all excited like a teenager because someone was finally paying attention to me. So I threw myself at this guy. I got his number. I continued texting and calling him. And he had quickly moved on. Looking back, there were definitely clues that this person was just not into me. Of course, I didn’t see any of that at the time. I was in my thirties but felt like I was a teenager when it came to flirting. He was always nice to me and would chat with me whenever I texted him. He would never text me out of the blue though. He would spend time talking with me when we were at the same event. I was the one making all the effort to stay connected outside of the event though. I would invite him to go out on a date. He would give me excuses why he couldn’t or conveniently “forget” that I had asked him. Now I am sure this guy would do these things to try to spare my feelings. For the purposes of this writing, I refer to these types of behaviors as being “falsely sweet” to the disabled girl. I know it happens to abled bodied people as well, but I have to wonder if it happens to us disabled people more. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
I think people are “falsely sweet” to me as to not hurt my feelings. People really don’t want to hurt the girl who walks with crutches as they see her as pathetic and lonely. Problem is once I get to the realization that it was just an act and they are just stringing me along, it hurts more. By that time, I may have gotten to know them and I am more invested. Then it hits me that they just see me as the cute little disabled girl with the crush on them. It is more cruel than the kids in high school who teased me.
For me, a kind rejection would be much better than this sweet ambivalence or “false sweetness”. I would rather hear a firm “no” or “I’m not interested” rather than “Ok. Let me get back to you. Sounds good. Let me check my calendar…And it never happens… And I ask them again… Because I can be a bit persistent when I want something and I think there may be even the slightest possibility of a connection between us.
I may seem weak to you but, I can handle rejection. I have handled rejection in the past from friends and romantic interests. It is easier to handle if you are upfront about it. If you don’t want a friendship or a relationship with me, I understand and I can take no for an answer. If you don’t tell me though, I won’t know and I will keep trying. Unfortunately, this gives me a false sense of hope, and then I feel like a big fool once I realize you just weren’t into me from the beginning.
It not only hurts in the moment. It hurts my chances of flirting and opening up to another person in the future. The feelings of embarrassment lead me to not want to “put myself out there” anymore.
There have been many times since where I lost opportunities because I didn’t realize someone was flirting with me. I let them walk away, because I had these negative thoughts in my head “That person would never be interested in me. Why would they be? They are just being nice to the disabled girl. I must be misreading signals.”
So if someone you are not interested in (even someone with a disability) is flirting with you, please find a way to politely say “No thank you”. It is the much kinder thing to do. Be polite about it, but please make sure they understand you are not interested so they can move on.
Of course, I recognize that letting people down and saying “No” can be uncomfortable to do. What are some ways that you have said “No” to someone who was interested in you? We will talk more about that in my next blog. Be sure to subscribe to DISIRability.com and stay tuned.