Dating is no picnic. And dating with a disease — for instance, breast cancer, which took both my hair and my boobs — is practically impossible. But I’m hardly the only single out there trying to find a bit of romance while saddled with a disease or disability.
Yesterday, Salon published a great essay by Meghan Holohan on the trials and tribulations of dating with narcolepsy, a condition that causes her to pass out whenever she experiences an intense emotion, like, say, an attraction for the opposite sex. Something she discovered in sixth grade, when she passed out on top of the cutest boy in class. Check it out:
I was in sixth grade in Catholic school when I began fainting. I was a lanky, clumsy 12-year-old with a mouthful of braces and big plastic glasses, enamored with an Irish boy named Liam Brady. All the girls had a secret crush on him — brown hair, bright blue eyes and milky skin.
As we stood in line for Communion, inching forward, hands folded, I heard a ringing and my limbs became heavy; it took a Herculean effort to move. A blush flooded my face, and then I couldn’t see. Everything turned black and bright lights shot at me like I was going warp speed on the Starship Enterprise. The next thing I knew I was lying in the lap of Mrs. Tupper, an eighth grade teacher who lived a block away from me. I smelled the hideous burning sulfur of smelling salts.
“What happened?” I asked.
“You fainted right onto Liam Brady.”
I burned with confusion and embarrassment. I fainted? On the cutest boy in class? This was grade-school death. No boy would ever look at me the same. Every girl would relish my humiliation. Lucky for me, it was the last time I fainted on Liam Brady. But it set the stage for a lifetime of strange romance.
Meghan goes on to talk about the difficulties of dating with her disease. And how (much like me), she just wants to be like other women, “women who can date men casually without having to explain their mysterious spells.”
I don’t have spells. I have missing body parts, body parts that will eventually be methodically reconstructed, thanks to the wonders of plastic surgery. But until they’re back, I have to field questions from the guys I date about my missing breasts and when they’ll return (and occasionally, how large those returning breasts will be — sigh). Much as Meghan has had to explain to her dates why she sometimes passes out in alleys or galleries or the kitchen floor of her apartment “like a person who has blacked out without drinking seven cocktails.”
Some people have questioned my decision to date during cancer treatment and recovery, gently suggesting that I might be better off “just staying home and healing” than slapping on a wig and war paint and a tucking a couple of gummi boobs (or “sandbags” as one suitor called them) into my bra and heading out the door. I’m all for healing, but when it comes to cancer, I’m also all for distraction. Seriously, I can only sit around my apartment taking cleansing breaths for so long before I go a little bonkers.
So like Meghan, I date, even though I have a disease (despite treatment, the docs won’t tell me I’m disease-free for a few years). And like Meghan, I fill in the blanks for men when I absolutely have to. And like Meghan, I occasionally write about the whole bloody mess, which may just be the most healing thing of all.
Dating with a disease may not be the smartest thing in the world. It may or may not be the healthiest. But it helps me feel normal and keeps me supplied with a slew of entertaining stories for my friends and family. Besides, if everyone with a little something wrong with them were to climb out of the dating pool, that sucker would be mighty empty.
As always, thanks for the read. And for you singles with narcolepsy, cancer or some other disease or condition, I’d love to hear how the dating world’s been treating you.