Visualise Founder Daniel Williams takes a light-hearted look at the subject of dating someone with a visual impairment
I’m being serious! Many people who don’t see too well – and in my case, that’s putting it mildly – like to think they’re quite good looking and worth a second glance.
If you’re going to accept an invitation for a date from someone who has appalling sight like me, don’t be fooled. It’s no good thinking you may as well turn up wearing your old gardening clobber and save yourself a bit of time; if your date is blind, what the heck will it matter what you look like.
Blind people have an advantage. Most sighted people concentrate only on visual appearance when deciding if they are attracted to someone. This is a mistake. They miss what really counts. Conversational skills get forgotten. The sound of a voice, the volume, tone and emphasis on words as well as a choice of words, even the way someone breathes or eats are significant. Detecting emotion in a single sentence can be an eye-opener. There’s no hiding, we’ll quickly pick up on the vibe and if we’re on the same wavelength.
It makes sense
Then there’s the individual smell of someone, the touch of fabric or skin, finger to finger, the attention to detail, it’s all there. Make an effort, please. Style your hair, brush your teeth, have a shower and add a dab of deodorant…but don’t overdo the eau-de-toilette. Dating a blind person isn’t all that different and first impressions count so, if ya think I’m sexy, I probably am…go for it, dress smart, look good and sound wonderful and you might catch my eye.
There is another great advantage when you’re going on a blind date, as it were. When you can’t see too well, you are – thankfully – forbidden to drive. If you like to be in control and take to the wheel, you can drive your blind friend round the bend, it’s fine. And there will be no arguments about who is going to drive on your next date. Hopefully, if all goes well, there will be lots more dates. If not, maybe agree next time to take the bus.
If you have full sight, you may never have met anyone with visual impairment before. This isn’t a reason to go all nervous, dithering about what sort of things you can say and what might offend. There’s no need to tip-toe about on eggshells until they crunch because you’re scared you’ll say something stupid like, “Let’s go and see a good film or play” or “The menu here looks good, see anything you fancy?”
Blind people can see, they just see in different ways. They also do something called laugh at themselves. I’m an ace at this. If I didn’t laugh at myself, I’d spend half my day worrying about how foolish I might look.
You can’t see that!
Then comes the date and where do you go? A theatre or cinema visit sounds good but if your blind friend can’t see anything, what’s the point? Many venues are equipped nowadays with audio descriptions and there are apps and different tools to help; a sighted person can often just fill in the silent bits.
If you’re still feeling unsure, I have never met a visually impaired person yet who bites when asked a question. We’re all human, I think. A relationship is a two-way communication process, whether one of you is blind or not. Just ask your blind friend a simple question. Once you get to know each other better, the awkwardness goes away, hopefully with the crunched-up eggshells.
Mind you, if we’re on a date at a restaurant, best not ask me if there’s anything you should avoid bringing up. I’m likely to reply, “Yes, your dinner!”
You also might have to accept occasionally getting a kiss on your nose instead of your lips or cheek. We’re only feeling our way.
What about helping someone who has a visual impairment? All too often, people love to jump into the ‘caring’ role, mistakenly thinking they’re doing what is best.
Being helpful to someone who is blind is usually welcome…to a point. But don’t overdo things and take control. Most of us value our independence and it can be suffocating being with someone who leaps in, shunts you out of the way and takes charge. This can quickly lead to taking advantage of and even enjoying the feeling of someone being dependent on you.
On equal footing
As with all relationships, think in terms of being equal. Remember, both sighted and blind people tend to respect someone else for their self-confidence. But please do let me know if my socks don’t match or I have a piece of carrot stuck between my teeth.
And then comes the dog in some cases…
This can also be a problem for anyone, but it is – dare I say – magnified – when the dog is a guide dog. There are now 3 of you in the relationship. And none of us guide dog owners, including me, are going to give the dog away. Occasional slobbering – from the dog, hopefully, not by the owner - is part of the deal, as is being covered in dog hair. You will have to accept there are times when the dog is working and not to be distracted and that the dog is always going to be around….well, most of the time.
Hair of the dog
But there are advantages too. A guide dog means greater independence. On a date, having a dog can help to break the ice and make you feel more relaxed, warming things up a little; there’s always going to be some humour somewhere when a dog is around.
It’s also a great comfort to have a dog when you’ve drunk a little bit too much; walking in a straight line is bad enough with sight loss without a drink but the dog will get you home safely and you’ll save on taxi fares too.
You also have to feel comfortable having a four-legged friend around. There’s no room for jealousy, even when people ignore you and make lovely compliments about the dog.
When accepting a date from a blind person, keep your eyes wide open. We’re a great bunch...and we look good!