Apparently, blind folks are always being asked, "How do you fancy someone if you can't see them?"
Shockingly, it seems one can find love without being able to see: Damon Rose, writing on the BBC website, explains that, wait for it - he and other visually impaired people can still be attracted to someone's voice and, yes, personality. Even more shocking, blind people are not lofty saints who are immune to the shallowness of the sighted - always seeing people's inner beauty a la Laura Dern in Mask - it would seven seem that blind people just might have a range of personalities, inclinations, and characters.
But Rose's article is illuninating in this regard: the fact that those who cannot see are just as susceptible to our looks-obsessed culture is a testament to its destructive power. Rose relates this telling anecdote about his school for the blind:
I particularly remember a new girl arriving. No one took much notice in her first few weeks... until one lad said they'd heard she was blonde...Of course, few of her admirers could see her crowning glory, or even knew that blonde was a kind of light yellowy brown, but because "blondes" are talked about as desirable, and dare I say thought more attractive than darker haired people, she became very popular.
He also relates a story in which a blind guy dumps a woman he really likes after his sighted brother describes her as "a right dog." Explains Rose, "So insecure was he about the world and what image and attractiveness meant, that he felt he had to get rid of someone who could reflect badly on him because he didn't know any better. And on this occasion, he deferred to his brother who can see, after all." Those who cannot see, after all, are not automatically granted some new values system - they are still forced to live in the same world, listen to the same barrage of Access Hollywood and E!News Daily - and our societal "standards" are not so complicated that they can't be explained. After all, one could argue that what we consider attractive doesn't have much to do with our instincts or natures at this point: we're societally conditioned, and that can be taught to anyone.
There's a tendency in our culture to portray the blind, as we do so many with differences, as saintly. Characters like Dern's, Jane Wyman in Douglas Sirk weepie Magnificent Obsession or Elizabeth Hartman in A Patch of Blue are all pure of heart and able to see the souls within - all the while being conveniently and conventionally beautiful themselves. Blind men, on the other hand (think Scent of a Woman or the melodramatic Pride of the Marines) are frequently furious and bitter, railing against their fate. In this regard, one hopes that Slovakian documentary Blind Love, which chronicles a group of blind and partially-sighted people finding love, will bring a range of perspectives. However, is there something inherently problematic about treating this group of people as an "other" who need to be observed and understood? Or will such portrayals serve to increase understanding and emphasize the 'we're all people' bottom line that Rose's article does so well?
Love At No Sight [BBC]