At the age of 42 I’ve arrived at a crossroads in my life. Whilst still working out my autistic side, the cross roads presents itself in a few ways.
- Social groups are usually run for teenagers but when you reach an adult age, where do you go? Which way do you turn?
Having done extensive research on the internet, I failed to come up with many. I did, however, find one via Meetup, but it would appear that resources for autistic adults wanting to meet up and socialise is a very limited market … one that’s waiting to be tapped into.
- Not content with being an adult with autism I’m also gay.
Now the two can coexist together, believe you me. I’ve been living with it for 42 years. But here’s the point I’m trying to make – why aren’t there dating sites for us and do we need to have a specialised version available for us? We can all name the most common ones, but are they tailored for the person living with a disability?
- How soon do you bring up the fact that you’re autistic? Or do you not bring it up?
I’m on a dating site, but I haven’t divulged my autism information. Why do you ask? Well, there isn’t a drop down box for it. But if you do get to the first date stage, how soon do you bring it up? Would it go like this: “Hi, I’m Nick and I have autism? Are you having a starter?” as they run like a bat out of hell towards the nearest exit!
But there are other factors to take into consideration:
- We aren’t the most sociable sector of the disability community
- We’re not into busy places and prefer somewhere quiet and relaxed to eat
- We’re not very good conversationalists
- We tend to talk in long, unbroken sequence of words. The idea of actually taking a pause or that important part of how a conversation actually works, i.e. with the other person having to take part doesn’t register with us.
- We don’t have an understanding that we can’t just babble on about our favourite topic of conversation (mine being the life and times of Nana Mouskouri)
- We have difficulty in listening (but not when it comes to ordering garlic bread from the cute waiter)
- We also have trouble responding to a conversation (but not when said cute waiter brings back a basket of garlic bread)
- And lastly we have issues with maintaining eye contact (but not when said cute waiter walks away and I check him out from the back).
Maybe I should try to develop an app? But I’m not sure how to go about that. And maybe they already exist? After a few seconds of doing a search on the app store, the results came back with zero.
Cut to me appearing on Shark Tank asking the sharks for $250,000 and 10% share in my disability dating app business.
Cut back to me doing an internet search for disability dating resulting in a link to a TV show called The Undateables (a UK reality show):
In the uplifting and emotion-tugging series “The Undateables,” people who cope with challenging and often-misunderstood ailments participate in the dating world. The series follows singles with conditions like Tourette’s, learning disabilities and Down syndrome, as members of their group take part in blind dates, matchmaking and speed-dating. With the help of a personal-introduction service and a dating agency, these guys and gals search for love in a world where image, really, isn’t everything.
Are we really undateable? Surely not! Isn’t that an offensive name for a show?
Has it really come down to this?
That we are forced to allow ourselves to be filmed in an uncomfortable situation so the general public can then, via any social media platform, sit back and make judgements and comments on an edited dating show? Are we really just another reality TV show idea for networks? A moneymaker for networks? Surely we are better than this!
I can see the positive side to this though.
I mean, it does to some degree breakdown any stereotypes or perceptions that people may have forged about Autism (or whatever said disability), but is this show exploiting people with disabilities for entertainment? I’d be asking the question “How do these programmes’ producers ensure that participants who have autism or intellectual impairment can give truly informed consent to the potential consequence of them becoming reality TV stars?”
I don’t have the answers, but what I do have is the urge to order more garlic bread.
Until I work out a way to find love, I guess I’ll continue to socialise in my own limited way until I can summons the courage to eventually do something about it … or just consume a lot of carbs.
About Nick McAllister:
Nick McAllister lives in Burns Beach, is a screenwriter, blogger, ABC open contributor and also attends the Saturday writing group at the Peter Cowan Writer’s centre. He is also facilitating two of the digital media workshops run by Autism West on Thursdays and Fridays, and sits on the 2017 Autism West Symposium Committee.