This is a blog post that I’m not entirely convinced I should be writing, as I’m not really sure where my mind is with the whole thing. I was going to just brush the whole thing under the carpet and pretend it had never happened, but I can’t seem to stop thinking about it, and I figure writing about it will help me move on.
So here it is… On Friday morning I woke up to an email from the TV company Betty, who make the show ‘The Undateables’ on Channel 4. One of the casting assistant producers was basically asking whether I, or anyone I knew would be interested in appearing in the new series of the show. The email was fairly polite, and cleverly written in that it was obviously trying to not insult me… but I’m afraid that it failed pretty miserably with that.
The first thing that I was completely insulted by was the fact that she (I will not name the person who sent the email) claimed to have read my blog and had found it ‘really interesting’. However, a couple of paragraphs later she asked if I could help put them in contact with people through my charity work with Reach. Well Reach is the Association for Children with Upper Limb Deficiency, which I’m sorry to say I hadn’t even heard of, let alone worked with, until she mentioned them. So I’m guessing that she was using some sort of standard template email and forgot to change the charity name to one slightly more relevant to a spinal injury.
If this is the case that there is a standard email that the company is using to ‘recruit’ undateable people then I find that pretty appalling to be honest. To approach people specifically with a programme title of The Undateables is quite a bold move, and I think even the most thick skinned people would take some offence to that. It is one thing to advertise online somewhere that you are looking for people to appear on the new series, but to target individuals is pretty harsh.
Now I haven’t actually watched the show, but from what I hear from my family and friends is that it is quite a sweet show. It’s main focus seems to be matching up people with learning disabilities, or other mental/physical disabilities that people have had their whole lives. That doesn’t mean that they are happy about being different or that they enjoy not being ‘normal’, but it does mean that they don’t know any other way. In my case, I was ‘normal’ for the first 23 years of my life. And then I had a pretty horrendous accident that I still find extremely hard to come to terms with. In my mind I still try to be the person I was before my accident and I try so incredibly hard to not let the wheelchair hold me back. I tell everyone that I’m just the same person I was before, except I’m sitting down all the time now. So reading that email was pretty much a slap in the face if I’m honest.
I have also made no secret of the fact that I don’t really think I will ever meet anyone and have my happy fairytale ending that I used to believe I would have. I find it hard to believe that someone will be able to look past the wheelchair, beyond the paralysis and see the real me. I know this sounds really negative and cynical and sooo many people have told me that they are sure I would meet someone if I just put myself ‘out there’. Well I’m not ready to do that yet; confidence since my accident has been a real issue for me. I still don’t really like going out in public and don’t like that I can’t blend in anymore. But I have got much better at it over the last year, and I’ve actually started to have a bit more fun and feel more like my old self at times. Being labelled as Undateable knocks me right back down again and just reminds me that actually I’m not the same as everyone else and that I was right to think that I will probably never find anyone.
My family have been completely outraged by this email. They think it is completely unacceptable, and my brother-in-law is actually going to meet with the head producer next week to discuss it further. I, as usual, am putting on a brave face and saying it doesn’t bother me…I have learned over the past 3 years that this is the easiest way. I have grown a pretty tough outer shell, but underneath it all I am unfortunately still a little ball of slightly screwed up emotions. My future love life, and probable lack of marriage and kids, has always been the thing that I am most sensitive about. And somehow a complete stranger from Betty TV company has managed to hit me right where it hurts.