“Its not like being blind is who you are, but its a part of who you are. You need to own it if you want to connect with someone.”
Joy is an active podcaster, a single mum, and is looking for love, or in her words “single and ready to mingle”. She is also blind. This Valentine’s Day we chatted to her about the realities of ‘Blind Dating’.
Vision Foundation (VF): You’re an active podcaster and your picture has been on the side of a bus along with the words: “Being blind isn’t all bad. It means I always look like Beyonce.” You don’t seem like the shy retiring type. So how do you find dating?
JOY: SO AWKWARD. I’ve not been on loads of dates because most guys don’t make it past the first few messages. Plus dating is kind of unnatural, you know? I don’t like having to ‘present’ myself. Two people eating and judging each other and trying not to spill food down themselves, it’s weird. That’s not me. I like to be relaxed, like when I’m out with my friends. I like spilling sauce down myself and not caring.
VF: So how do you tend to meet people?
JOY: My friends are the worst at setting me up, they’re looking for men themselves! I don’t get to make eye contact on the street (or just check out good looking guys, which is really annoying), so I feel like I miss a lot of hot men that way. I mostly do online dating but there are a lot of weirdos out there. You just have to block the ones who send you freaky stuff. I don’t think that me being blind attracts them though, lots of my friends who can see have the same experiences on there. My profile does say that I’m blind but I’m not sure many guys read it too carefully, so I double-check they realise when we get to messaging each other.
VF: So it’s really important to you to be upfront about being blind?
JOY: Totally. You need to handle it before you meet. It would be awkward to just spring it on someone. It’s not like being blind is who you are, but it’s a part of who you are. You need to own it if you want to connect with someone.
VF: So how do you present yourself on your dating profile?
JOY: I think it says something like, “We can totally Netflix and chill. But only if you like audio descriptions. I also have a pimp stick (I don’t like the word cane), which I’m ready to use if you annoy me on a date.” I find Plenty Of Fish app is the most accessible one out there. There’s more space for writing, so people can judge more on descriptions and personality than just pictures. That works for me.
VF: Have you ever tried speed dating?
JOY: My friends persuaded me to once. We drank a lot of prosecco. It was awkward at first but then I did get into it. I loosened them up first by saying “Listen, if you’re winking at me, it’s not happening okay? I’ve got no idea.” You just have to keep people talking with loads of questions. The smart ones will ask questions back. The rest aren’t worth it.
VF: So, let’s say you’ve got a date lined up, how do you prepare?
JOY: You have to plan your outfit to fit the location. Though I’d always rather be overdressed. The location is important though. I’d only meet someone somewhere that I know and I know how to get home from. I would never rely on a lift from my date if it was the first time we were meeting. And I’d never meet too close to my house in case they followed me home! Also I’d never meet someone I hadn’t spoken to on the phone. On the phone people don’t have time to filter their responses like you can with messages. I always ask where they live and work, then ask them the same questions at a later date. Just to make sure the answers match up.
VF: How do you prepare for the date going badly?
JOY: I have a few friends, we check in with each other during and after dates. If it’s going badly I’ll say that one of their messages is from my childminder, who has an emergency and I have to leave. You can’t mess with that.
VF: So on a date, people put a lot of importance on eye-contact. How does that work for someone who’s blind? How can you feel when there’s a connection?
JOY: You can tell by the sound of someone’s voice how much they’re looking at you and how much they’re looking away. Or at their phone! I guess without eye contact you think more about the tone of someone’s voice. Awkward silences feel pretty big. And laughter is always a good sign.
VF: Anything else you think people should know about what dating is like when you’re blind or partially sighted?
JOY: I think everyone just needs to recognise that people living with sight loss need love too. And we deserve it. That should never be underestimated. Being blind isn’t the big deal you might think. We get 2 for 1 tickets to the cinema too. And what’s better than that?!
Joy has her own podcast, Joy’s World, which is available to stream on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud.