Future Reflections Special Issue: The Teen Years
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by Priscilla McKinley
Reprinted from The Student Slate, Spring/Summer, 1999
From the Editor: Until her untimely death in December 2010, Priscilla McKinley was an active member of the NFB of Iowa and the NFB Blind Educators Division. At the NFB national convention in 2000 she received the Blind Educator of the Year Award. As a writer and teacher Priscilla was gifted with keen insight and a wry wit. In this article she offers students her unique perspective on a question that is often discussed in the blind community.
From time to time at NFB conventions and other gatherings of blind people, someone raises the question whether it is preferable to date a blind person or a sighted person. This list shows that there are certain advantages either way you look at it.
10. Dating a sighted person means you have a sighted guide when some idiot smashes into you and breaks your cane on your way to class.
Dating a blind person means you have a spare cane when some idiot smashes into you and breaks your cane on your way to class.
9. Dating a sighted person means you have someone to keep you from kissing a nose instead of the lips.
Dating a blind person means you don't care if you give or get a kiss on the nose instead of the lips.
8. Dating a sighted person means you can take drives in the country on weekends.
Dating a blind person means you can have private NFB conventions on weekends.
7. Dating a sighted person means you have someone to blame when you collide in the hall.
Dating a blind person means it's no one's fault when you collide in the hall.
6. Dating a sighted person means you have someone to describe what's going on during the silent moments of a movie.
Dating a blind person means you have time to get popcorn or go to the bathroom during the silent moments of a movie.
5. Dating a sighted person means you know who's going to drive on your next date.
Dating a blind person means you know you're going to take the bus on your next date.
4. Dating a sighted person means you have someone to tell you if your socks match.
Dating a blind person means you have someone who remembers whether you cut the tag out of your orange or your purple shirt.
3. Dating a sighted person means there's someone to tell you when you have a piece of broccoli stuck between your two front teeth.
Dating a blind person means no one notices when you have a piece of broccoli stuck between your two front teeth.
2. Dating a sighted person means you can ask questions like, "What's the expiration date on this milk?" and "Does this look infected?"
Dating a blind person means you can ask questions like, "What's the Braille symbol for S-I-O-N?" and "Does this feel swollen?"
Okay, okay. Hold on. I'm not going to give you the Number One advantage of dating sighted and blind persons until you hear me out. I have some important things to say here. Really!
As students, many of you have dated, are dating, or would like to date. Some of you may have pondered the question of whether or not to date a sighted or a blind person, as I have in the past. Sometimes I thought it would be easier to date a blind person, someone who could understand the challenges blind people face on a daily basis. At other times I thought it would be easier to date a sighted person, someone who could alleviate some of the challenges that go along with blindness.
Then, when I was in a relationship with someone sighted, I would start to question why I was with this person and why he was with me. Was he with me because he liked to play the protector? Was he with me because he had low self-esteem and didn't think he could get a sighted partner? Was I with him because it was nice to have someone to drive me places when I was in a hurry or read the paper when NFB-NEWSLINE® broke down? Was I with this person because I was afraid to be alone?
When I was in a relationship with a blind person, I found myself asking similar questions. Did we have anything in common besides our blindness? Was I in this relationship because I didn't think a sighted person could accept me? If I stayed in this relationship, how would we manage as a blind couple?
People enter relationships for many reasons. Like everyone else, we as blind students sometimes enter into relationships for the wrong ones. However, we can make this possibility less likely by possessing self-confidence and good blindness skills. For example, I probably won't get into a relationship of dependency with a sighted person if I have access to readers, have good Braille and cane travel skills, and thoroughly know the city bus schedule. Likewise, I won't be likely to enter into a relationship of safety with a blind person if I have the self-confidence to be blind on my own.
In other words, as in any relationship, you have to be happy with yourself before you can make another person happy. The better your blindness skills, the less your blindness will become an issue in a relationship. Both sighted and blind persons will respect you more if you are capable and self-confident. And isn't that what Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Maurer, and our other mentors in the National Federation of the Blind have been telling us for years? It is respectable to be blind. If you keep repeating this to yourself, you will start to believe it. If you believe it, you will begin to live it. Living that truth will positively affect your relationships with both sighted and blind people.
It is important for all of us as blind individuals to analyze our relationships. I'm not saying you have to get out a microscope and examine each and every move you and your partner make, but you should ask yourself the following questions:
1. Would I still be interested in this person if the status of his/her sight changed? In other words, if you are dating a sighted person, would you still be interested if he/she went blind? Or, if you are dating a blind person, would you be interested if he/she got his/her sight back?
2. Would I still want to be with this person if all of a sudden I could see?
If you are currently in a relationship and answer "no" to either of these questions, you might want to get out that microscope and take a closer look. You might be in the relationship for the wrong reasons. If you answered "yes" to both questions, then you have made it to the Number One advantage of dating a sighted or a blind person, which is the same for both.
1. Dating this person, sighted or blind, means being with the one you love (or at least the one you like a heck of a lot). And isn't that what really matters?
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