I should’ve known this was going to be a shit week. On Friday night, I left the office and promptly burst into tears because I’d missed a deadline and let the designer down (in my defence, the designer is *hot*). Then, I went to M&S and bought steak, which was the only thing I wanted for dinner – something which only happens when my body is screaming for iron. I got home and my period had started. Obviously.
And my period plays havoc with my mood, so this was never going to be a good week to watch, or blog about, Channel 4’s The Undateables. And yet. Interestingly, there was a column in The Times earlier this week about Benefits Street, arguing that the media/political uproar surrounding the programme is entirely because the name is offensive, not the programme content. I’m not really watching it, so I have nothing to say about that, but I would argue that the same is true of The Undateables.
The name alone, for me, is a massive trigger. It strikes me that it’s already setting the participants up for failure – we’re watching people looking for love when essentially we’ve already been told that they don’t stand a chance in hell of finding it. Plus, the majority go on dates with other people who are also disabled, reinforcing the message that it’s hard enough for disabled people to find love with each other, so they should definitely forget about anyone able-bodied ever fancying them.
People who enjoy watching the programme (I’m not judging, there are plenty of them and it is entertaining) seem to say that they do so because the people on it seem so nice, and they want them to have a successful outcome. Which is great, except, as I said before, I don’t think the chances of that are very high (and the outcomes during the series would seem to support that.) What? I never said I was an optimist!
One of the reasons it makes me so uncomfortable is because when I’m watching it, I’m always trying to figure out what’s going on in the participants’ heads, what they’re thinking but not saying. I’ve mentioned in a blog post previously how skewed I think our perceptions of ourselves can be – I can’t bear the idea that these people are hoping that they’re relatively ‘normal,’ hoping to find love just like anyone else, only to have a TV crew tell them that there’s no chance of that.
Because I have no real grip on the level of my own disability, either. Everything shifts, all the time – on the one hand, my friends let me have the free seat on the Tube, offer to carry things that are heavy, on the other they treat me as if I have the right to the same hopes and dreams as they do. On some days, I can walk miles as if I’m as able-bodied as the next person, on the next, I might fall over twice within an hour. When I go to the doctor, he’s horrified that I’ve not had an MRI scan or seen a consultant since I was ten, but they’re the ones who signed me off.
And then there are men. There haven’t been that many, and I can’t be sure of the reason why. Is it because disability makes me unattractive or is it because I keep my walls sky high? I don’t trust men, on the whole, because I’ve never quite got over the cruelty of teenage boys, the ones who called me special and spastic. £2k of therapy later, those words still lurk permanently at the back of my mind.
At some point last year, somebody pointed me in the direction of HemiHelp, the hemiplegia charity, and more specifically, this page. So much of it rings true. Read the quotes below. I recognise myself in each and every one of them.
I have a difficult time making friends – many people know me but I’m reluctant to open up to people.
I have a boyfriend now but I do not have many other friends and do still have some social communication difficulties.
Emotionally I feel I can get more stressed out and worked up about little things that aren’t significant.
The boy, I guess, will probably read this at some point, although I kind of hope he doesn’t. Do I worry that he’s as bad as those teenage boys? Not so much. Do I think he’ll judge me for the self-pity? Yeah, that’ll be it. And yet, I’m sick of putting on a brave face – all I want right now is for the world to give me permission to be vulnerable.
So, how does that link back to C4? Well, I admire the people on The Undateables, really I do. It takes a hell of a lot of courage not only to take life by the horns, I just hope they’re not as vulnerable as I am underneath, that’s all.