[Anne here: My brother, who is also Deaf, has had some unique experiences with online dating, so I couldn’t say no when he wanted to contribute to the ‘Fit in the City’ series.]
I’m an amateur with online dating. I was focused on school for the past four years and I’ve been on a total of..maybe three Bumble dates before I graduated.
Post graduation this past August, I flew down to Indonesia with Anne for our trip together, but I stayed there one more week after Anne returned home.
During my last week of traveling solo, I stayed in Yogyakarta for 4 nights. It was a well developed city booming with professionals and students from several universities. I went on Tinder, just because I wanted to meet people, nothing further expected.
The Impact my Indonesian Dates Had
During my stay, I met up with three locals three nights in a row. Taking cue from Anne, I’ll give them nicknames: Motorgirl, Accountant and Oxford.
I met Motorgirl on my 26th birthday. Everything was closed due to an Indonesian national holiday and I got bored, fast. Motorgirl and I had a good conversation on Tinder, and she let me know despite having a boyfriend, she wanted to make new friends just the same way I did. (Yes, her boyfriend knew, too). She offered to cure my birthday boredom by taking me to a temple on her motorbike.
I was a bit skeptical at first, but I accepted her offer. But, I had to notify her I was Deaf, and launched into an explaintation on how I could communicate with hearing people, blah blah.
She was completely cool with it.
She picked me up and whisked me off to a temple and we watched a sunset afterwards at a…sunset festival! We finished the night at a buffet chatting about our lives, families and she enjoyed learning ASL with me. She even drew a birthday picture of me as a gift.
Second meet-up with Accountant occurred the next night. We matched on the same day and she asked me if I could teach her ASL. I followed routine, told her I was Deaf, and she was down for it. She was shocked at first meeting because I typed something on my phone to communicate with her and her lips were impossible to lip-read. Nervousness escalated and it was awkward.
But…tension eased. We enjoyed dinner and she took me to Alun Alun Kidul where locals go for tandem bicycles and blindfolded games. It was one of the most fun nights of my life. She also shared one of the biggest insights of all when, after returning to the US, I asked her why she didn’t have an issue with my Deafness:
“What is the difference between hanging out with a Deaf person and a French person who doesn’t know how to speak English or Indonesian? Being a Deaf person doesn’t mean you are different. If there is someone who doesn’t want to hang out with a Deaf person; the problem is them, not you.”
My last night had a brief, last minute meet-up at Starbucks with enjoyable conversation. My Deafness also did not bother her. Moving on.
Everybody did not mind my Deafness. They embraced the language barrier.
Dating in the US (so far)
When I was at the airport waiting for my flight home, I signed up another dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel. I felt much more confident about meeting new ladies back home.
If I could break down the barrier with these women, the experience would be the same in Chicago, right?
After couple weeks on Coffee Meets Bagel, I met a Kansas transport living in Chicago, so I’ll call her Dorothy. We chatted for a week before exchanging phone numbers to arrange a date. The night before our date, I let her know I was Deaf.
The conversation went like this:
“I hope you don’t mind me asking you this, but can you read lips?”
“My lip reading skills are decent, but I use an app on my phone to type things out. It can help if we have trouble understanding each other.”
“I’m sorry I fell asleep… I also don’t think I can make it today.”
“Ok, no problem. I hope we can reschedule.”
I never heard from her again. I was shocked.
I did meet someone else shortly afterwards: Ms. DBA (Database Administrator). She reacted differently, and even learned some ASL in her free time to help our communication be more fluid. She’s a brilliant woman and I’m looking forward to the next time I see her.
Why am I telling you this?
I have encountered people who have been everything from freaked out to excited to awkward to not giving a crap. I’m not the only one. Men have chickened out on Anne a few times, too, when she was trying to meet people during travel or to date.
Anne and I have been to Europe few times, and every time, we notice and we always notice how easy it was to meet people. We felt the same in Indonesia. When traveling within the US, we had a harder time.
Frankly, I’m baffled.
We are perfectly functioning humans who cannot hear. Why do some people here have a harder time than foreigners?
I see the stereotype of an American being impatient who likes to do things quickly and are set in their ways.
Many foreigners can’t make it in America without learning the language, and some of us Deaf people feel the same way, even as Americans. It’s like looking for needles in a haystack when I date.
I’m not generalizing this statement and accusing every hearing person, but I felt it was important to raise awareness and start showing empathy with people who have the same human desires, such as to be able to date.
Should we face these questions every time we go on the app?
Is it worth for us Deaf people to go on big player dating apps?
How do I introduce myself? Am I supposed to say “Hi my name is (insert your name) and I’m Deaf. I hope you will learn some ASL for me.”? Or put it in my profile?
What are the unwritten rules?
I’m still figuring out my answers but Anne has tried to answer some of them through her experiences, and she just wrote How I Crafted My Dating Profile & Revealed I’m Deaf (Plus Tips for You!).
Give it a read, but I do want to leave you with these thoughts:
- Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. People like us are here to work hard WITH you. We value communication above everything.
- How can we practice more empathy in our daily lives?
Ultimately, we all share the same language of looking for adventure, experiences and love.