At this rate, I am considering ‘hiring’ a partner who can stand to be around me for the money, then just becoming celibate for the rest of my life. Why can’t disabled girls find love? Sure, I hear people in wheelchairs get married, but reading about it makes the participants seem like ‘amputee or paralyzed person’ fetishists and not normal, caring relationships. I don’t want an amputee fetish date, I want a person who will love me, but in a culture that prides itself on bodily perfection, my only hope may be a risky ‘pay-for-love/sex’ situation that I don’t want…just to get human contact that I desperately crave. Self-gratification doesn’t work at all — I need a second party, but I feel doomed to be alone. Am I doomed at 30 to NEVER have sex because girls and men only dare sleep with ‘perfect’ people? Help! — A Very Lost Soul
Your problem has nothing to do with your missing right hand and everything to do with your crappy attitude. There’s no physical defect that a smile on your face and a openness in your heart can’t help, and if you’re anything in person like you come across in your letter, I’m gonna guess you rarely show either to those around you. You are all wrong — all wrong — if you think only those with perfect bodies end up with love. Are you kidding me?! Then how did I end up with love? Because I definitely don’t have a perfect body. But, I do have a good attitude, I’m warm to people and can be charming (when I want to be), and I do try — even as a bloated 8-months pregnant woman — to put myself together well, take care of myself, and to accentuate my best features. I dress for myself, but I also dress to impress my husband, Drew. Does that mean I dress like a slut? Um, no. Where in the world did you get the idea that dressing to attract or impress men (or women, for that matter) means dressing like a slut?!
You say you have less-than-stellar looks, and while I have no idea if that’s true or not, I do know that you have a less-than-stellar attitude, which is more a detriment when it comes to dating as bad looks are. Fortunately, both can be fixed. Let’s start with your appearance. Your therapist is right that if you aren’t happy with your appearance you can take steps to improve it. You can tone up your figure with regular exercise and a healthy diet. Notice, I did not explicitly say “lose weight” or “drop a few dress sizes,” but toning up what lies beneath the clothing will make you look much better — regardless of your size — when you’re fully dressed (and when you aren’t…). And speaking of clothes, you should enlist the help of a stylish friend or even a helpful sales associate to choose some fashions that flatter you. If your therapist is even making mention of the way you dress, chances are, you could use some help in that arena, and since you seem to think that dressing up only means one thing — looking like a slut — it’s clear you need serious fashion help. I’d also suggest grabbing some magazines, like “Lucky” and dog-earring pages of fashions you admire. Show those pages to a sales associate in a store and ask for help getting a similar look that flatters your own figure.
When was the last time you went to a trendy salon and got a cute haircut or updated your color? If the answer is “never” or longer than, say, six months, make an appointment pronto. Look at reviews on Yelp and find a place that people rave about. Bring in a few photos of cuts and colors you like, or simply ask the stylist for recommendations. While you’re working on grooming, consider having your eyebrows shaped and your nails done. Even if you decide these measures aren’t for you, it doesn’t hurt to at least try them once and see how they make you look and feel. A well-groomed eyebrow, for example, can change the whole look of your face…in minutes (and for a very reasonable price; I used to get my brows threaded once a month for 8 bucks. Then I got a thyroid disease and most of my eyebrows fell out. See, you aren’t the only person with less-than-perfect looks.). Also: makeup. Do you use it? Have you tried it? Do you know what the hell you’re doing? A little mascara can go a long way. Consider going to a makeup counter or Sephora or some place like that and getting a makeover. Yes, you’re expected to buy something afterward, but it probably wouldn’t kill you to drop a few bucks on a lip gloss — even if you only break it out for special occasions. If you don’t like the makeover you get, try a different place. Ask for suggestions and tips on how to apply makeup yourself. If you don’t like makeup at all, that’s fine. It’s not for everyone, but its certainly worth giving a shot and experimenting with if you feel like your appearance could use some enhancement.
Now, you’re attitude. Good God, your attitude needs some adjustment. First of all, you seem to think your missing hand is causing you all your problems, but you know what, I’ve known several people in my adult life who have the same birth defect as you and they have no problem in the romance department. None. At least, not anymore than anyone else. They certainly have no trouble attracting partners. And in the years I knew them, I never once heard them utter any sort of woe-is-me statement. That shit turns people off. It makes you an ugly person. Do you hear me? It is not your lack of a hand that makes you unattractive. It’s your attitude. It’s the way you blame your defect for your lack of love and intimacy. It’s the way you judge everyone else because you think they’re judging you. And they may very well be judging you, but not for the reasons you think. They’re judging you because you sound like a goddamn Debbie Downer. You assume anyone who goes to a bar is a drunk and a drug addict. For real? And that everyone else in the world is so shallow, only people who look like porn stars can get dates. And that people assume it’s OK to openly ridicule those with physical disabilities. And that anyone with a disability who gets married must just be with someone who fetishizes them. Jesus, I don’t know what world you live in, but in my world none of that is true. None of it. But, then again, I like myself just fine and I’m not looking to deflect my self-hatred on other people.
So, what I’m saying here is to fix your attitude, you need to fix the way you see yourself. Maybe that means changing therapists, or maybe it means actually listening with an open-mind to the one you have. Maybe it means managing your bipolar disorder in a way you haven’t tried yet. Are you on meds? Do they need to be adjusted? Do you need to try a different kind? These are things you should discuss with a therapist and a psychiatrist. Have you ever visited a support group for people with bipolar disorder… or one for people with physical disabilities? Perhaps talking with others who struggle with similar problems may help you deal with yours and make you feel less alone in this world.
Finally, you are spending an awful lot of time focusing on yourself and all the ways your life sucks. What do you do for other people? How do you help others who have issues that they’re dealing with? Doing some volunteer work or finding a way you can assist other people will go a long, long way in getting you out of your own head and reminding you that your life isn’t all that bad. Plus, you might even make some friends and meet someone special in the process. The type of people who help others aren’t generally the types who only want to date perfect-looking porn stars and shun everyone else.
In short: continue working on your self — your physical and emotional self. Quit projecting your bad self-esteem on everyone else. Cut people a break. And start doing things to help others. Making some positive changes in your life, your attitude and, yes, your appearance, will do wonders in attracting people to you, regardless of what is or isn’t on the end of your right arm. Seriously.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.