Undateable. What makes someone undateable?
I have a list in my mind about what I like in a partner; nice eyes, quick to smile and laugh, good cook, but I don’t think I’ve ever made a mental list of what makes someone undateable for me.
It’s a question that has popped up a few times in my life, occasionally after being unceremoniously stood up or dumped I have wondered if I am undateable, particularly since my HIV diagnosis almost 10 years ago.
It was a question that came up again for me in early 2014 when I was contacted by a production company making a series about people looking for a relationship.
Seemed harmless enough.
I had just met TJ and knew I would turn them down, but decided to find out exactly what I was turning down first. I spoke with them to get some more information and they asked about my HIV diagnosis, how had I found relationships since and so on. I asked what the programme was called and was disheartened to learn that, according to the production company, I was “undateable.”
It’s hard to describe how I felt about it, I was disappointed, hurt, even offended.
I will gladly accept that there are many things that make me undateable, I’m grumpy, almost completely round the bend, totally committed to my relationship with gin, love a Pot Noodle and worst of all, I’m ginger, but what made me undateable to the production company was my HIV.
The show is advertised as “People living with challenging conditions are often considered ‘undateable’ – this series meets a few and follows their attempts to find love.” That, I suppose was the reason I was offended, not because they’d asked, but because they’d asked because of the HIV which they considered a ‘challenging’ condition.
Turns out I wasn’t alone in being asked, my friend Lizzie took to Twitter recently to say that she had been asked, at which point Tom Hayes (Editor of beyondpositive) and I both owned up to being asked as well!
It made me wonder what it is that made HIV a ‘challenging’ condition. After some consideration I realised, we’re now in a position where HIV is classified as a chronic condition, like diabetes. The ‘challenge’ we face is with the associated stigma.
Tom and I spoke about being undateable and he told me about a guy he worked with who, quite succinctly said that “I don’t care if we find a cure for HIV, I’d rather we had a cure for stigma”.
It made me realise that programmes like that, which make it acceptable to point and laugh or that enable wider society to continue to consider certain groups with ‘challenging conditions’ as being ‘undateable’ or ‘untouchable’ just contribute to an atmosphere of stigmatisation, where anyone who varies from an increasingly narrow definition of ‘normal’ is a target.
Tom then summed up the production company’s evident train of thought by saying:
“How can we get a cheap laugh out of people who aren’t “normal” but appear to be helping them?
We’ll make the fat people skinny whilst laughing at them. But it’s OK because we’re helping.
We’ll laugh at the poor people but it’s ok to laugh because they’re getting a fee to be on the show.
We’ll get the disabled, handicapped and AIDsy people on the show and laugh at them, but it’s OK because we’re getting them laid.”
It made me feel like a target. To be asked to take part because I was HIV positive made me wonder, albeit briefly, if there was actually something wrong with me.
I almost wanted to say I’d do it to prove something, to prove them wrong, but I knew in my heart that I already had evidence that I wasn’t undateable and that with editing, I could be made to look like a circus freak and the point that I would have been trying to prove would have been lost on a cutting room floor.
In the end, as I had planned, I politely turned them down. TJ was rather less charitable and, being offended on my behalf advised me with total equanimity to “tell them to fuck off”.
He’s been helping me to prove them wrong ever since.
Thanks TJ. See you tonight. XxX
Steve (@SteveoftheMarch on twitter)
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