1. DO: Use Technology to Bypass First Date Anxiety
My sister uses OkCupid so that men know she’s a 5’2 nudist with a penchant for folk songs. If men who are total assholes about nudism and folk songs see her profile proclaiming this both so boldly and so clearly: they don’t message her. Or they message her things like “PUT ON SOME CLOTHES, YOU HOMELESS HEATHEN” or “CAT STEVENS CAN SUCK IT, YOU HIPPIE.”
You may want to try a similar strategy. Whether you’re a profile on a dating site, or you’re chatting up a guy/girl on Facebook–make sure to drop the bomb before the first date. If they don’t want to go out with you after learning you have Crohn’s, Lupus, whatever–then that’s that. What’s my momma’s favorite word? NEXT!
Why is it good to break the news online or even over the phone? You have to be understanding of people when it comes to your chronic disease. Understand that their first reaction probably will be “what the fuck?” So allow them the courtesy of saying it (to themselves) in the privacy of their own bedroom while staring at their laptop. Give them a minute or two to process. Feel comforted in the fact that you can’t see their hands flittering over the keyboard trying to come up with a supportive/appropriate/charming response. And let them have the ability to untangle this information before you sit down to your first date. Hopefully, by this time they’ll have let it settle in their mind a bit and will be able to ask you some appropriate questions about how your disease affects your life.
2. DON’T: Be a Victim
The only thing more awkward than meeting your ex on a blind date-is having someone tell you something on a first date like “I have ass cancer,” and then having them STARE at you while a single, silent tear slips down their cheek.
Don’t be that girl. (or guy.)
People are going to follow your lead when it comes to the state of your disease. You’re frustrated about it. They’re frustrated about it. You’re sad about it–they’re sad about it. You’re cool about it? They’ll be cool about it. People can sense your uneasiness about your disease. If you haven’t come to terms with it yet and are still in a phase of mourning your old life–you probably aren’t ready to date anyway. You’ve got to love yourself–with or without the disease, if you’re going to expect someone new in your life to do the same.
Lead by example, and don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder that you leave in plain view. I’m not saying you have to hug your fibromyalgia lovingly in your arms every night, but you at least have to be able to get through a flare in public without openly weeping.
3. DO: Highlight Your Best Assets
You’re still going to be just about as self-conscious as any other person is on a first date, so remember to play up your best assets. Maybe you’ve packed on a few prednisone pounds–it’s a great time to pull out the tight skirts to show that you no longer have a white-girl butt. Maybe you’ve got circles under your eyes so black you look like you just came from a football game–time to show your date just how sexy you can look in sunglasses.
4. DON’T: TMI
The details of your sensitive stomach. The current color of your snot. Your barely-healed laparoscopy scars. Save it for the honeymoon, kids.
5. DON’T: Lay Down the Law
Yes, you need someone who won’t play games. You need someone who is going to be there for you ALL the time. You need someone reliable. You need someone understanding. You need, you need, you need–but slamming your fist down on the table every time you decree a new amendment on how you will be treated as a partner is not going to win you any suitors.
So take a step back. Remember that relationships are a two way street and you’ve got be willing to put out just as much as you need to take in. So why not start off this date making a mental list of how you’re going to improve their life? Partners of those with chronic illnesses are probably the closest things to super heroes. They put up with it all and know they won’t ever get as much PHYSICAL effort in return. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put in effort elsewhere. There are millions of things you can do for your partner–from helping them have better relationships with their family and friends, to teaching them about having career goals or handling money and investing, to being a solid parenting partner or emotional caregiver. You’re not the only one with problems, so start looking for places where you can apply yourself as the solution.
6. DON’T: Be a Hero
Rock climbing? Extreme roller coaster riding? Hot dog eating contests? These might not be the best first date activities for you if you have a chronic illness. You will probably fuck yourself up, big time. You will probably end the night in excruciating pain. You will probably end up puking in the back seat of his car.
Don’t pretend like you’re cool, and then turn around and dry heave into your handbag (I have mastered this by the way.) Don’t agree to go to a rock concert when you have a migraine and don’t agree to eat hibachi when you’re on an all-liquid diet. No good will come of this. Better to out yourself and your condition early and avoid the consequences. You can’t pretend forever–and Jesus, why would you want to???
7. DO: Laugh About It
Because really–it is kind of funny. I mean whoever heard of someone sneaking in a stash of immodium in their bra to the prom? There are so many instances of hilarity when it comes to chronic illness–and if you don’t believe me, this is clearly the first post on this blog that you’ve read!
Take it from Numero Uno Klutz, Jennifer Laurence–fall on your ass and cry about it, you’ll lose the Oscar. Fall on your ass and laugh about it–you’ll be America’s Sweet Heart.
8. DON’T: Be Afraid of Rejection
Because if you think you won’t need to be brave after the first date: you’re wrong. Relationships require all kinds of bravery. From braving that first kiss to braving the first argument. So be brave and remember that you (hopefully) don’t live in Antartica where there are only five men and you have to share them with all the other women in the tribe. If someone doesn’t want to be with you, there will be someone else. And better to be happy, searching for the right one–than miserable and feeling worse about yourself with the wrong one.
9. DO: Learn to Adapt and Be Okay With It
Are you going to bail sometimes? Yes. Will you spend three hours on your hair then realize you need a nap? Probably. Is the world going to end? No. Sometimes you’ll want to do something with your significant other and it just won’t work out because your body is fighting back. Sure, the first few times it’s okay to be frustrated–embarrassed even, to fumble over your apologies and stress out that they’ll be upset.
As R.J always says, “We’ll adapt.” Plans change. And even though on the surface it might mess with your emotions and make for a less-than-great day–it doesn’t have to make for a less-than-great relationships. Life happens. You’re still allowed to love and be loved.
10. DON’T: Forget That You Can Be Loved
On the forum the other day, someone asked: “Who wants to be with a person that is chronically ill?” I stopped, thought and responded something that I still stand by:
You’re not just a person who is chronically ill. You are a person, and you happen to also be chronically ill. Don’t let your disease define your personality. You are so much more than an illness, and when you stop thinking of yourself in that box–others will too. Your illness will limit a lot of things in your life–but it doesn’t make you any less able to be loved. Not by a long shot.