Juliet England: Valentine’s Day? Dating’s a minefield when you’re deaf

Posted on February 14, 2017

Ah, that ole devil called dating. That most ancient and human of rituals that just about all of us have to go through if we are to end up with a life partner.

Or even one for just a while.

I understand there are things called apps for those who want to proceed more er, quickly, but my knowledge of such things is non-existent and I’d rather like to keep it that way, thanks all the same. Personally, I like a spot of dinner and dancing first.

Anyway, for us deafies, it can reasonably be said that dating presents even more challenges than it does for the hearing.

All that low lighting and candlelight might be mighty romantic, but good luck with catching what your date is trying to say. It can put a strain on proceedings to say the least. What’s more, I find that nervousness makes my hearing go worse, as well.

And it’s not as if shouting is exactly conducive to amour. After all, whoever heard of bellowed nothings?

Planning on taking in a movie or show of some kind for your tryst? Then discussing it afterwards? Yeah, good luck with that.

Then there’s the very real threat of technology going wrong – screeching hearing aids, or moulds of same falling into the chicken fricassee at an inappropriate moment. (Although it’s not clear what an appropriate moment would be.)

Talking of hearing aids, if things are going well, when is the best moment to discreetly remove them, after all, they’re hardly the sexiest of objects, are they? (And I’ve worn mine for a quarter of a century, so I know of what I speak.)

Do you really want nose, tongue or any of your new love’s other body parts to come up against an ugly lump of plastic?

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, at what point do you disclose your deafness to your date?

Of course, for the profoundly deaf, there’s little option but to reveal it during a first meeting, if not before. For those of us somewhere else along the rainbow spectrum of hearing loss, it’s somewhat less clear.

Do you meet up anyway and hope you can muddle along in some dimly-lit eatery? Opt for a daytime, brightly-lit, quiet encounter? Or give a full disclosure in advance and hope they don’t run for the hills? Or even run for them yourself?

Although I couldn’t possibly list all my dating embarrassments here in full, what with the strict word count and all, I think that on the whole I’ve been lucky. When there has been heartbreak, this hasn’t really had anything to do with hearing loss – we’ve all been through the various highs, lows and in-betweens, hearing or deaf.

In fact, my worst embarrassment, sitting through a good half of a date without realising I was still wearing my cycling helmet, had nothing to do with having useless ears.

But I’ve struggled to hear across restaurant tables with the best of them, though not, funnily enough, when I was being dumped in Pizza Hut once. I heard every word clear as a bell, then. And it took me four seasons to get over it. Or was it A Four Seasons? Who knows, it was a long time ago.

While currently unattached with a long-term entanglement with a borderline companion, the thought of getting back out there is admittedly more than a little terrifying.

The sheer, unadulterated horror of deciding what to wear. The utter hassle of going out and being polite to a virtual stranger when there’s so much good stuff on TV, and friends with whom to enjoy wine and wilting sarcasm instead.

I know there are deaf dating websites, but I could never be bothered to look into them, either. A friend signed me up for one once, and all I got were details of strange men in Florida.

Perhaps some of the terror isn’t totally unrelated to my cloth ears. A man from my old gym danced around me for a while, stopping me for longer than necessary, for unbearably stilted chats every time he ran into me. Each time, heart racing in panic, I tried to work out how I could get rid of him politely but quickly, in part because of not being able to hear, but also because I just wanting to get on round the supermarket.

Then there was M, who I met at a networking gig and who I had a coffee with once. Business, pleasure? Hard to tell. He’s in touch online fairly regularly, and it’s all very pleasant but I have no idea what he’s after.

Late last year, he said he had a family wedding back in Dublin to attend, and did I want to go with him for two days? (‘Separate rooms, of course,’ he texted.) Of course. But I had to politely decline.

Not only would I want dinner and dancing before a weekend away, much as I’d love to visit Dublin, the thought of having to talk to lots of strangers I perhaps couldn’t hear was just too much. Besides, I barely know M.

He’s been dancing around me online again. He said he was in my town last week, then never got back in touch to arrange anything. If he contacts me again, I hope we manage to sort something out. I’m not entirely against the odd spot of dinner and dancing.

Juliet England does freelance social media and PR work for cseeker.

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