Who says you can't learn anything from daytime TV? During an interview with Matt Lauer
of the NBC Today Show
on yesterday's Ellen Degeneres Show
, I learned that Martha Stewart
has signed up as a member of Match.Com
in order to seek out romance. Apparently her action has resulted in a 30% increase in memberships on that online dating site, as many older single people now realize that such a service might be appropriate for them if it is OK for Martha.
The interview revealed that Ms. Stewart has found it difficult to meet men, despite her high public profile. Since it had been a while since she dated, she enlisted Mr. Lauer to help screen out the frogs from the princes of the top 20 matches that she received after posting her photo and information on the popular dating service. While it is only an educated guess, it is likely that disbelief was probably the initial reaction from those searching for a potential date when a photo of the "queen of great housekeeping" popped up on their computer screens.
That news made me think of some other interesting possibilities. There is another, virtually untouched, pool of candidates for dating that is readily available. The idea that this is happening with Martha Stewart might work in favor of those of us dealing with some level of paralysis who have also encountered hurdles while seeking out romance--online or elsewhere.
As a single adult in the prime of my life, sexuality was an important part of me before I became quadriplegic in 1988. Lessons learned about romance and lovemaking were not erased when my neck was broken. If anything, the forced immobility of the rehab hospital gave me plenty of time to ponder how sex could continue, and surprising physical reactions to the touching of the nursing staff lent promise to what might follow.
Experimentation began as soon as the effects of the trauma had subsided and the stabilizing collar was removed, as my significant other of the time was allowed to sleep on a cot in my room on weekends. We spent several nights recreating past adventures, learning what still worked and didn't, and finding new uses for the metal framework that extended above my bed. While that relationship didn't turn into "that" permanent one, I'll be permanently grateful for the quality of the times we shared.
During the past 25 years I've learned that the intensity and passion of pre-disability can continue, but it requires a change in focus on our parts. No longer does life revolve around the missionary position and living for that magic ejaculatory moment. The entire human body is a wondrous erogenous zone, and everyone can benefit from touch and reactions we might not even feel. Loving is about giving, sharing, listening, encouraging and prolonging the special moments when a couple is isolated from the distractions that life can bring.
For those still seeking partners to share those moments, the key goes beyond our disabilities. People are naturally sexual, but we often fail to take the time to develop a comfort zone that allows potential partners to look past our more obvious attributes (wheelchairs, prostheses, canes, etc.) to discover the craving and loving beings beneath our modified exteriors. In that regard, don't overlook opportunities to share these activities with other people who are disabled. They have a heightened level of understanding of our situation, and often couple that with the same or higher level of desire for an intimate relationship.
The same keys that work for the rest of the world work for us. Romance is important, as are eye contact, communing, dressing or acting in a manner that puts the 'sought after' one at ease. There's a fine line between divulging our desires up front and slowly revealing our abilities and intentions. For instance, unless things are moving along exceedingly fast, the first date is not the time to divulge the details of your bowel and bladder programs.
Above all, be honest. If you're not sure of your needs or capabilities, provide plenty of time and opportunities to mutually explore boundaries at a relaxed pace. Keep it light, and be prepared to lower your sights a bit when necessary; if a person is worthy of being a love interest, they'd probably be an excellent friend too.
© 2013 Michael Collins