Everyone has baggage. Some of us have heaps and heaps of matching luggage we tote with us everywhere we go; some of us have suitcases of issues that seem small but weigh us down; many of us have quirks and idiosyncrasies that swing between annoying and charming. And then there are those of us who have mental and psychological diagnoses that are no fault of our own, but impact relationships. Take Dan, who recently applied to take part in the New York Post's Meet Market dating column. Right away, he disclosed his situation: He has OCD and Aspergers.
Jozen Cummings, who runs the Meet Market column, has a personal site, Until I Get Married, where he wrote about his first encounter with Dan:
He was nerd-ish, badly dressed, with thick, black-rimmed eye glasses. He looked like a shorter version of Adam Levine if Adam Levine had a Forrest Gump-like haircut. None of this seemed out of the ordinary. What did seem peculiar was his slow, very slow, walk. I never waited so long for someone to get through the security gate. I felt rude for walking at a normal pace.
Dan informed Cummings about his situation right away, explaining:
My condition makes it really hard for me to make even the easiest decisions. And I know some women are dominant, but they still want a man who takes charge. I'm not that kind of guy. It takes me forever to make a decision.
I wanted to sign up for this because it's pretty hard for me to meet women the normal way… I don't like clubs or places with loud music and approaching a girl doesn't work too well for me either. I will try to say this in the questionnaire, but I want you to tell whoever you set me up with about my condition. Oh, and I haven't been in a relationship since I was 19.
Dan also specified that he thinks a younger woman would be best: "I know I'm 36 years old, but I might need someone who is around 23," he told Cummings. "My therapist says since I have such inexperience with love and relationships, a woman that age might be better suited for me." Plus: "I just want someone who isn't going to run if they see me reacting to my OCD or the Asperger's. I want someone who believes I can get better."
Cummings appreciated Dan's candor, and felt moved to help him. Usually the Meet Market dates are not about matchmaking — it's just about fun. But "Dan is different," Cummings wrote.
After he left, it was hard for me to shake the look on his face when he was telling me about all the problems he's had with dating and meeting women. He told me everything without a trace of self-pity, in a very-matter-of-fact tone, and the more I thought about his story the more I wanted to help him. Here was a guy who knew he had real mental challenges, but no longer wanted to be imprisoned by them.
Dan's situation stirs up mixed emotions: On the one hand, novels, romcoms and the Vows section of the Times can convince you that love is best when it's serendipitous. We're hooked on the meet cute: Reaching for the same book in the bookstore, bumping into each other on the bus. Does disclosing Asperger syndrome (or depression, or bulimia, or commitmentphobia, or other various challenges) right off the bat mean you give up on some of the magic? Falling in love is often marked by discovery and surprise, the lightning bolt or Cupid's arrow thwack of suddenly overwhelming emotions. The heart-fluttering pleasure of bonding, getting to know someone. Matchmakers and online dating sites can get you face to face with a potential mate, but whether or not you click — the chemistry — is all about peeling away layers and admiring the person more and more with each reveal. On the other hand, by getting the Asperger's out of the way, Dan can meet someone interested in his other aspects. (For instance, he holds a Master's in Education and has a certification to teach Social Studies.)
Maybe we should all be more honest about who we are and what we want when it comes to finding romance. Being open with your issues may mean that some people don't want to date you. That's fine. After all, Dan — like any single person searching for love — doesn't need a swarm of potential dates. Just one really good one will do. There's a lesson here, about being open-minded, open-hearted, and comfortable with the fact that any relationship has challenges, obstacles, compromises…and rewards. As Dan puts it:
I see all these people get to experience love, and it's like this chocolate bar, but I can't have it.
Everyone Deserves A Date, Including a Guy Named Dan [Until I Get Married]
A Picture of Dan to Help me #GetDanADate [Until I Get Married]
Meet Market [NY Post]
Top illustration by Jim Cooke, Photo of Dan by Jennifer Polixenni Brankin/NY Post