Yes… you heard that one right! Cautious, careful me knows what Tinder and online dating is. Since I have always been a sucker for sop and inhale romances like the oxygen I breathe, this whole concept has intrigued me. Coming from a century ago, I must be among the dinosaurs of the online dating world.
In fact, my orientation and initiation to Tinder was thanks to this young 17-year-old German legally deaf-blind genius (who also referred to himself as my adopted son). I had read about the platform and knew some persons with disabilities who had used it. This young boy in one of our long drawn out conversations thought I should experiment with it, and since he was not yet 18, tell him all about the experience.
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t also share the tips he thought I must follow so my initiation was smooth. My first doubt, of course, was about a blind woman on the much-maligned space; followed by the bane of all our existences- accessibility of the app. So, off he went to test it for accessibility and told me exactly how I could work around it. Next, I was told I should be ready to meet all sorts and should mention my disabilities on my profile. “Why waste time with folks who don’t want to be with a blind woman?” he opined.
Like I’d mention being blind for the fun of it or, to make myself sound mysterious or something. Sigh!
For someone who hadn’t seen me, he was sure I’d find someone with my engaging personality and all that defined me. Boy! It sure did wonders for my sense of self. While still speaking with him, I went off and installed Tinder and took his cues to register and all else. Of course, needless to say, the not-so-tech savvy me, had trouble trying to figure my way around. Somehow, I did go through the motions and lo, I was officially ready to go online dating.
If you think it was all just that simple, you must be someone who doesn’t know me well enough. I tried to navigate around it and understand how it went, but understood nothing. The layout was strange and who knew what needed to be tapped to get going. Many rants on the feedback page later, I enlisted the help of my seeing friend who has always been my set of spare eyes. She looked at it and explained the layout to me and together we were sort of able to make some method of the madness. We sat giggling like school girls engaged in some nefarious activities-what with there being hearts and all that on the page. Her 15-year-old daughter, intrigued by this activity, peeked over our shoulders and let go an ear-splitting shriek… “Tinder!!! Do you both even know what this is? It is a dating app… what do you want with this?” such a reaction just ended up in more fits of uncontrollable laughter and earned us a teenaged eye roll. She simply couldn’t imagine what her mom and aunt at their age would want to do with a dating app. Little did she know, there was a whole adventure waiting for her aunt there.
I was now all set up and had some idea of how to go about liking, super liking and passing a profile. This, after all the basic settings of age and distance were fulfilled. One will wonder how I made my choice of persons to interact with? Don’t laugh yet… I looked at the name and age, and if the name sounded interesting enough, I tapped the icon expressing my interest. What did I have to do with faces anyway? If I couldn’t have a conversation with the person, his fabulous face and personality was of no use to me. To have to wait for a seeing pair of eyes to tell me if the face was good enough to go with, would have left me standing with my phone in my hand forever, with no action. Now, this whole concept of a match was also so new; and when I heard a strange sounding alert on my phone, I jumped. Looking at it, I found a message from Tinder. Was I shocked? You bet I was. I wondered how someone had so quickly decided to engage in a chat with me, the blind one. As suggested, I had my interests and the fact that I was blind, right up there for everyone to see. Here I saw a fact of information sharing that has often been repeated by many – say all you want someone to know about you in the first two lines. Nobody reads beyond that.
Of course, since I’d mentioned my blindness after extolling all my other virtues, nobody really paid attention. For those who did, didn’t believe I meant what I’d said. Did I say strange are the ways of Tinder? Like I’d mention being blind for the fun of it or, to make myself sound mysterious or something. Sigh!
So there was the first person ready to speak with me on the chat window, beginning with the regular introduction and pleasantries. I sometimes think it is at that point itself one figures if the conversation will even go further. Some are simply so boring with ho-humming and playing twenty questions. That is exactly what happened in the first couple of conversations. Just no vibe. Didn’t crawl beyond the most basic questions on both sides. After letting it go, the super housekeeper in me, quickly got rid of them. Why keep unnecessary occupied space after all?
So far nobody had touched upon my disability and I was almost waiting for the other shoe to drop in every subsequent conversation. One might say it didn’t matter to them; I say they didn’t pay attention to the profile.
Then the shoe did drop…. I began speaking with this guy who did pay attention and went into sleuth mode right away. I was waiting for this since, this was familiar ground and educating the ignorant was my forte. All the regular queries about how I was typing and answering questions on the phone to how I managed to live life without being able to see… none of it was new. Then came the expected pause that went on for a bit too long…and then, came the not so subtle let down… “You are an amazing lady. So gutsy and inspirational” did you hear me roll my eyes? Although, I have to give it to him. He tried very hard to continue the chat for another couple of days, but just couldn’t get beyond my disability. He was the first among many others who, hearing of my disability felt safe in putting me high up on the proverbial pedestal, from where I couldn’t be reached or brought down.
I have to be honest and say I was quite disappointed and wondered just how was a capable blind woman like myself ever going to find a date? I know, I wasn’t one to simply jump at the chance to go out- being careful and cautious me, who had been warned about how slippery this slope was, filled with all the slime and creepy crawlies present there.
“You are an amazing lady. So gutsy and inspirational” did you hear me roll my eyes?
Then there came a phase of married men who were there to have “mature conversations” – what on earth that was, I’ll never want to guess. Some who said they were in boring and redundant marriages, were looking for companions, while others simply thought it was okay to chat since I was there as well. one guy actually told me he’d rather move to WhatsApp since his wife would be upset if she saw him on Tinder. There was the kind who gave me the justification of this being a free world and their wives wouldn’t mind. While intellectually I understood all of what they said, and shrugged it off as it is their choice, I was quite outraged on behalf of all womankind. Now I’ve no clue about any of their lives or what their spouses thought. I was, however, done with this particular set of men. Off I went adding yet another stipulation to my profile that said: “Married men looking for “mature conversations” to please stay out.” After this, there were few who ventured close to this crazy profile. Those who did venture, asked politely if I had a problem speaking with them since they were married.
After many such stories, I did come across some good people, whom I met with and ended up becoming good friends with. Every now and then I’d find myself giving the regular gyan on disability and how I was only blind and not incapable of coherent and clear thought. Also, I think it totally freaked them out, to be interacting with someone who had no clue how they looked. The image of me as this scary apparition of a ghost or something must loom large in their minds. None of them could imagine actually meeting someone like that, which is a choice they are free to make. I think it will be a while and a few brave people before the scenario is to change.
In the months to come, I did interact with some of all kinds, some of whom turned out to be flat out liars. These were men who pretended to be either single or separated/divorced when actually being happily married. One way to verify after establishing a connection is to get their full name and then go looking on their social media spaces. Most often they are all there. This, to my mind, is not encroaching their private spaces but, ensuring you keep yourself informed and safe. There are never any complete guarantees, so it is always good to involve a sighted friend or sibling to do a follow up for you.
I have encouraged many of my young visually impaired friends to sign up and try the space on for size. I believe it will enable them to interact with strangers with the choice to quit whenever they feel unsafe. It has to, however, be approached with utmost caution and with a fully active mind to spot the good, the bad and the ugly. We get to read many horror stories of women and men duped of large sums of money and property on these spaces. So while there may be a chance to meet new people, it is also a space for predators lying in the wake for the next hapless victim.
Also read: Love And Dating For Women With Disabilities
I have only picked on Tinder here. However, there are many more such spaces like Aisle that may or may not be accessible to us with assistive technology. I know there are specific apps for the disabled, but have found those also to be not fully accessible to us, the totally blind.
I’d say take your chances, exercise caution and give your dreams a chance!
Featured Image Source: CampusWell