After a marketing campaign and hype which would have done a Victorian Freak show owner proud, the much debated The Undateables aired last night on Channel 4. Despite having been asked by various media outlets to comment I had decided to reserve judgement until after seeing the actual show itself* as I wondered whether it would reflect the marketing and PR.
The idea of making a show about disability and dating is a positive step forward as so many people consider disabled people to be asexual. I vaguely recall getting some of the emails when the show was looking for people to participate and harumphing to myself about being perfectly dateable thank you very much. Even if I do have a bad habit of throwing up on my dates. So, the title of the show, even with it's cutesy twee little 'un' falling off to reveal The Dateables was very offputting. Several people I spoke to said they wouldn't even consider watching the show because of the marketing. Which was a shame, because if you ignored the marketing and the at times hideously patronising voice over the show itself was really good....though my perception may well have been altered by heroic amounts of oramorph and cannabis. If I'm honest though, after that combination most things look good.
What really shone through the whole show was the innate charm and warmth of the disabled people it followed. I laughed til I almost choked when Richard started to help himself to his date's discarded dinner....but that's mostly because I have a many cringe worthy food/drink related dating moments myself. Like Luke, my condition is exacerbated by nerves...so on a first date I'm much more likely to do something stupid. Drooling a bright red smoothie down my front and onto the table was one early attempt to charm a man as was trying to be 'oh so sexy' eating lunch with another. Who very charmingly pretended he hadn't seen me miss my mouth completely with a fork full of food and smear it across my face. I've found this to be an extremely effective screening technique; if they aren't bothered by my at times toddler like eating, drinking and falling over behaviours then they're definitely worth getting to know. If unsure this selection criteria has worked then I find that failing to breathe and turning blue is also a particularly good way of sorting the good from the not so good blokes.
One other strong theme was how high the dating standards of all the disableds were...and how identical they were to anyone else's unreasonably high dating standards. Not good looking enough, no spark, too much wheelchair, all featured as issues. I thought it was particularly impressive of Penny to declare she wanted to try dating a 'not yet disabled' bloke, not so much because she wanted to date outside disability but because she was confident enough to admit to that on national TV. I perhaps over related to Penny as 5 foot remains an unreachable dream for me, but I also have a tendancy to gravitate towards tall men. Usually taller than 6 foot. Don't judge me, it's definitely some sort of weird genetic rebalancing instinct in action. And 'ability to carry me when needed' is quite high up on my list of essential man traits.
I'm particularly looking forward to next week's show as it features a very attractive young woman who happens to be a wheelchair user. As a wheelchair user with double D boobs I've long believed that the experience of both dating and disability is very different for those who's disability doesn't impact upon their appearance, once men** have in some way or another established the only question they ever really want to know the answer to "Can you have sex?" disability becomes more of a practical issue. It might be easy for my breasts to attract men, but its much less easy to get them to stick around when they realise I can out snooze a dormouse. We've had a saying amongst the hypermobile community for a while along the lines of "once you go bendy you won't go back" as its fair to say that one of the few places being able to wrap your legs around the back of your head is advantageous is in the bedroom. Even though its pretty much anatomically impossible to have sex in that kind of position the mere idea of it does something very positive to straight men.
So, I'm all excited to hear about 'fascination fucks' in next weeks show and witness the hilarious combination of behaviour which arises when men are doubly intimidated by breasts and disability. Bring it on!
*Note to self: Shag a TV producer, they must have access to all these advance copies
** Sorry, I only have straight man dating experiences