Ice Cream–Yes, Polyester–No

Illustration by Mark H. Adams

I hate to admit it, but I enjoy being single.

Honest. I do.

People have a hard time believing me when I say that. My married friends think I’m secretly consumed with jealousy–who wouldn’t be, in the presence of all that domestic bliss? Sure, I may put on a happy face when they have me over for dinner, but in their minds, as soon as I get home I curl up on the sofa with a bag of Cheetos and weep slow, bitter tears, tormented by visions of green suburban lawns and Pottery Barn slipcovered furniture (and the fact that I’m not gettin’ any).

My single friends, meanwhile, think I’m just as lonely as they are.

Actually, until very recently, they all would have been right. And even now I have occasional doubts. No one second-guesses my love life–or lack thereof–more than I do. Am I just kidding myself? Am I being too selective? Am I too deeply in love with myself to love anyone else? Will I re-read this article in 40 years–when I’m an old man living alone in a run-down house with six dozen cats–and rip the magazine to shreds?

At various times in my adult life, the answer to each of those questions would have been yes. But right now, at this particular moment, I’m content where I am. I didn’t come here by choice, and I don’t plan to stay too long, but while I’m here I might as well take in the scenery.

Certain things about being single definitely suck–singles bars, for instance. Leaving aside their shallowness–and the stink of desperation that clings to them like a tacky polyester suit–they’re just not the ideal environment for me. The few successes I’ve had with the opposite sex owe a lot to mastery of the art of conversation–out of the question when the Greatest Crappy Hits of the ’80s are blaring at full volume. Not to mention everyone around me is at eye level to each other and I’m … farther south. Contrary to what most standing people might think, staring at crotches and asses all evening gets old fast. Only a small number of them are worth the view.

Above all, singles bars depress me because they remind me how cruel and inaccessible the dating scene is for people with disabilities. Each February, we at New Mobility endeavor to show our readers that having a disability needn’t pose a barrier to fulfilling relationships and a healthy sex life–and yet the reality is that within our community, the level of sexual frustration is probably just as high as the unemployment rate.

I was born with my disability, so I don’t share the sense of loss felt by others who were disabled later on. Instead, I spent my teens and a good part of my 20s dying inside every minute. Age 18 is a lousy time to be disabled–especially when you live in Southern California, where there’s a cosmetic surgeon in every strip mall and physical perfection is supposed to be within everyone’s reach.

Later on, I became involved with disability rights. In that first flush of militant passion, everything was Crip This and Crip That–including my problems getting a date. The fact that being in a wheelchair automatically put me on so many not-if-you-were-the-last-man-on-earth lists was just another form of discrimination. When I picked up The Disability Rag and saw the late Barbara Faye Waxman write about “politicizing our sexual oppression,” I was ready to mount the barricades–if it meant I wouldn’t be home alone again next Saturday night.

Unfortunately, the ADA doesn’t cover matters sexual. If it did, ADAPT would mean “American Disabled for Accessible Poon-Tang.” And our Supreme Court cases would get a lot more media coverage.

So how did I arrive at this state of (relative) contentment? I got older. I suppose I got wiser. And, quite possibly, I simply got tired.

Not long ago I was killing an afternoon at Barnes and Noble when I happened across a book called How To Be Happily Single. Intrigued–as I’d just had a bad date the night before and was in full Relationships Suck mode–I spent a few minutes flipping through it. The book had nothing to offer me–nothing but low-fat recipes, support-group phone numbers and prim admonitions to spend at least five hours a week at the gym and not gorge on ice cream. The book should have been called How To Pretend To Be Happily Single So Potential Mates Don’t See How Desperate You Are and Run Away Screaming.

Screw that. Singlehood isn’t for losers–desperation is.

Can I have the rest of your ice cream?

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