Her column has helped countless couples—and herself-make sense of the dating game.
By Tiffiny Carlson
I never set out to be a dating columnist for people with disabilities. It just sort of happened that way.
I was injured at age 14 in 1993. While in college, I decided to take advantage of the free Web space and easy-to-use Web builder that AOL was offering (when I used to be a member). This simple web presence, unbeknownst to me, would be the beginning of my reputation as a dating and disability guru.
The Web site I created was pretty clear-cut. It gave beauty and fashion advice for female wheelchair- users, but with beauty and fashion so closely coexisting to the realm of dating, soon, emails from distressed men and women with disabilities asking for tips, started to trickle in. At first they cried out for a dating section, so I added it to the site.
After graduation, with my Web site still active, I started my writing career. A few years after that, with years of dating experience under my belt, a fledgling dating and disability Web site by the name of Lovebyrd.com wrote me. They wanted me to write an official semi-monthly column. Ecstatic, I enthusiastically said yes.
The Professional Journey Begins
At that point, I was on my fourth boyfriend (I’m a long-term relationship kind of gal). I had been dating seriously since 18 years old, and I felt I had a decent amount of dating experience and was confident enough to write for their site.
It’s now been two years since I began writing for Lovebyrd. The people I’ve helped meet—and most memorably those I’ve had a hand in helping to fall in love-make this gig priceless to me.
As a dating columnist for Lovebyrd, I write a column highlighting my own personal dating escapades every two weeks. The column, unsurprisingly, gets really interesting when I’m single. But even during the points in my life when I’ve been in stable, long-term relationships, my column has still proven to be an insightful journal of my life as a 20-something female quad on the journey to find marriage.
My job as a columnist, however, is more than just writing a journal on my dating life. I’ve also helped couples fall in love through my Web site, beautyability.com. On BeautyAbility there’s a great message board that has a small yet close-knit community. We share everything on there; our joys, sorrows, desires. The boards have fostered such a great, open community that couples have begun to meet through it.
One woman on my site met a fellow in her hometown on the boards. After meeting and falling in love, she moved with him across the country. She had a spinal cord injury (SCI) and he did not. They actually just married recently. Every Christmas they send me money and a card, thanking me for helping them meet. I feel overjoyed at being able to create such happiness.
Another couple that comes to mind was a young male with SCI from California who met a cosmetologist from Puerto Rico who did not have an SCI. He flew to meet her last year. They fell madly in love, and they now are planning on moving things to the next level. The female partner of the relationship even mailed me a $25 check in gratitude, and a sweet handwritten letter telling me how happy she was. I was overwhelmed with joy.
And let us not forget about Maria from Brazil and her sweetie, whom she met in the UK. They too met via my Web site. Maria was literally stuck—trapped even—in an inaccessible apartment in Rio, living a pretty unhappy life. After a year of flying to see Maria in Brazil, her beau finally flew her to the UK and proposed. Want to know what she sent me in the mail as a thank you gift? A Brazilian bikini wax kit! I felt honored-and smooth as a baby’s butt!
Locals Give Thanks, Too
One day my boss at Lovebyrd contacted me, telling me that a couple in Minnesota—only a half-hour drive away from me in Minneapolis-wanted to take me out for dinner. The male counterpart of the relationship-Jay-met the love of his life on Lovebyrd.com and recently moved to Minnesota to be with her. They both had SCI. They were so ecstatic to be together that they wanted to thank Lovebyrd staff personally. I heartily agreed.
We met at an outdoor seafood restaurant in the summer. I vividly remember how happy they both looked. Love and giddiness just radiated off of them. They bought me and my boyfriend at the time our entire meal, plus drinks, and couldn’t help but profusely tell me how thankful they were for Lovebyrd.com. I heard they are now married and are living happily ever after.
Online dating is bringing so many people together. I remember when society was critical of it, but now look at it! Nearly everybody knows somebody that’s tried it. Every guy I’ve dated has been from one Web site or another. I never thought it would end up that way, but it has. Having a disability and online dating, in my opinion, is a combination that makes sense.
We’re All The Same
Over the years as a dating columnist, I’ve pretty much figured out one solid thing: The problems people with disabilities face versus the dating problems people without disabilities face are not that different. We all experience loss, jealousy, and betrayal no matter how good-looking we are.
But being open and honest to myself, I believe, is why my column is still so popular. Hopefully, more couples will find one another through my wiles. Until then, I’ll continue with my writing, giving advice to others; in the process receiving as much therapy as I give.
To read Tiffiny’s ongoing column at Lovebyrd.com, visit www.lovebyrd.com/dating_sexuality.php.
To view Tiffiny’s own Web site, featuring a singles page and message board, visitwww.beautyability.com.