Dialogue on Dating
My name is Marina, and I’m 21 years old. I was born with bilateral lower extremity abnormalities. I had a bilateral above-knee amputation when I was fourteen months old. Ever since then, I have been wearing prosthetic legs.
My physical disability has impacted me in all aspects of my life, but it has also taught me resilience and perseverance. In fact, my disability has pushed me to thrive in the academic, professional, and social aspects of my life. Another thing that limb loss has affected is my dating life. Although I’ve never been in a relationship, I’m happy to share my dating experiences as a young, female amputee.
Growing up, I was much more self-conscious about my disability in social environments. In fact, elementary and middle school were extremely difficult for me. Negative attention resulted in low self-esteem, especially when it came to talking to boys. I used to think that no boy was ever going to like me since I was called “weird.”
In high school, kids were more mature about it. Nobody made fun of me; however, I wasn’t really flirted with much. All of my friends around me were dating. Guys were asking me to hook them up with my friends. I was always called the “sweetest friend” or the “sister.” When I started college, things definitely changed. Being an amputee stopped defining me in the dating world, and it didn’t seem to bother guys. And as such, I gained a lot of self-esteem and confidence, and now I experience the dating world similar to those who don’t have a disability.
There are definitely people who make judgments or have unflattering internal thoughts regarding amputees. This is something that’s impossible to control. But I believe that good self-esteem, self-confidence and self-acceptance can go a long way in changing the perspective of people who you get to know or date. I’ve been told by several friends and acquaintances that they “forgot” about my disability. I’ve even been told by some guys that they didn’t notice! Being comfortable and open about yourself as an amputee can help others feel more comfortable too.
Personally, I prefer to inform men about my disability and how I became an amputee prior to the first date. I’m now very comfortable with who I am. I start by telling them that I’m an amputee – sometimes people assume that I injured my legs, that I’m wearing leg braces, that I have issues with walking in general, etc. Some men shy away from asking, thinking that they’ll offend me. Others ask away. It depends on the individual. But one thing I’ve noticed is that everyone responds with acceptance.
I’m also honest when I need assistance. This might be asking my date to hold my hand while walking on uneven surfaces, or simply saying that I need to sit down after a lot of walking. I don’t expect him to automatically know, and I think that it’s important to acknowledge that. The most important aspect of any relationship is unconditional love – to be loved for who we are, despite our physical differences!
By Marina Nakhla, college student, daughter, sister, friend.