I’ve been writing this column since April, and while I haven’t shied away from addressing personal topics like adapting to my weakening body and at times feeling burdensome, dating is a subject I’ve steered away from. When I was on a panel at the Cure SMA conference a few months ago with other SMA adults, the topic came up and I fell silent. I didn’t think I had anything substantial to say about this topic due to my lack of experience.
The truth is this: I’ll be 24 in a couple weeks and I’ve never had a steady girlfriend. I’ve been on dates, taken girls to dances in high school, and been kissed on the cheek a few times, but to this day I have yet to get past the so-called “friend-zone.”
Let’s backtrack a little to when I was 16, a sophomore in high school. I figured it was time I should give this whole asking-a-girl-out thing a shot, and I had already developed crushes about 900,000 times by that point, so choosing someone wasn’t difficult. I was interested in a girl I had gone to middle school with who was now a freshman at my high school. We were good friends in middle school, and once I built up enough courage to ask her out I made my move one morning before school.
The thing I didn’t know going in was that this girl already had a boyfriend. Awkward! Lesson learned: Check Facebook first before asking someone out.
Fortunately, this girl was very understanding, and after some time of awkwardness we were able to put this little incident behind us and go back to being friends. As high school continued, I went with close friends as dates to prom and other school dances, but there was always a lingering anxiety in the back of my mind.
It seemed like everyone at school and church youth group was engaging in relationships except me. I never had a problem making friends who were girls, so what was it that kept me from being seen as attractive or dating material? Was I doomed to be in the friend-zone my whole life and be labeled as “the nice guy?”
I didn’t want to admit it, but I worried that my disability made me undesirable when it came to romantic relationships. I worried that if I were to date someone, that person would also have to act as a sort of caregiver, and that would be too much for them to handle.
Once I got to college, I figured it was now or never when it came to finding a significant other. Instead of “waiting for things to happen” like I had in the past, I tried being more proactive about asking girls out during my freshman and sophomore years. It was easier to meet up with people on a college campus, as there were a number of nearby coffee shops and restaurants to choose from that we could go to between or after classes.
In high school, I’d always have to have my parents drive me somewhere if I wanted to hang out with someone, but in college there were places I could go that were within walking distance of my classes.
Still, despite my best efforts, I faced rejection or remained stuck in the stupid friend-zone. I was prepared to give up and accept the fact that I’d be a third or fifth-wheel for the rest of my life while all my friends got married. And if it weren’t for the ways my life has changed for the better in the last few years and the ways I’ve become more independent, I’m not sure where I’d be today.
What’s changed is that I’ve come to accept myself as I am. If I find companionship with someone special, then great; but I’m no longer desperate to attain it just because the world says that being in a relationship is essential for a person’s happiness.
I’ll spend my birthday in a couple weeks with my closest friends and family, and I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. Yeah, there are still things I long for, such as an intimate hug or a kiss on the lips from a girl who I care about, but those things will happen when they happen.
As far as online dating goes, I can’t see myself taking it seriously. I’d have too much fun writing things on my profile like “I’ll never run away from you,” or making my username “Rolling Thunder” and laughing at people’s reactions. My friends tell me I’m unrealistic, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable that if I were to meet her at a comic con one of these days, “Supergirl” star Melissa Benoist would fall in love with me in a heartbeat.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.