ICS member Stephanie Wallace is host of Independence Radio and founder of LAID – Love and Intimacy for the Disabled. In this article, Stephanie talks about “Date Night,” an event she created and hosted at ICS.
I didn’t know how it would turn out, but I knew what I wanted it to be.
After two years of hosting the LAID broadcast and LAIDlive events – LAID stands for Love and Intimacy for the Disabled – people in the ICS community had come to trust me and, as a result, on several occasions I had been approached about the subject of dating.
Many people asked me to create a dating event. Others confided how long it had been since they’d dated. In some cases, I was blown away.
Having gone super-long stretches trekking across the dating desert myself, I understood. After a while, you sort of put the possibility of dating out of your mind and you roll on. Maybe you stop wearing makeup and getting your hair done regularly. Perhaps you dress a little more “relaxed” than usual. In essence, we forget to turn on the “Available and Interested” sign. Instead it’s just, “I’m here,” – and finding love becomes as lucky as finding a wad of cash in the pocket of a pair of jeans you bought from the thrift store. Slim chance.
What could I do? Most of us are comfortable with our lives the way they are. We have a social outlet here at ICS. Quite frankly, we’re like a big family. How do you introduce a dating event to people who see each other all the time? Surely, if they wanted to date each other they would have by now.
Why am I so interested in people’s dating life and their love and intimacy? Simple. Very often people attach a sort of shame to someone who wants love in their life. Like they’re desperate or something. That is just not true. Loving companionship is kind of a basic need.
Many nights I have wished there were someone there for me to talk to about my most personal thoughts. Someone to share something that was just special to us. That’s not desperate at all. It’s actually a beautiful, healthy sentiment to believe that loving companionship can be life enhancing.
Armed with this belief, one Friday I hosted Date Night and the Dating Game at the ICS Brooklyn Member Center. I was excited, but nervous. After getting the go ahead – and after it was postponed for a month because of a February snowstorm – I secretly wondered and doubted if the event would even work. Would this community be receptive? The more I talked about it, the more I convinced myself it would be okay.
“We’ll just have fun,” I told myself. “Remember, it’s a game, and there are real prizes.” The evening’s premise was to play “our” version of The Dating Game, the ABC TV show from 1965, which drew huge audiences for almost a decade. In our version, we’d match up two couples and send them on a real date with a $50 gift card to Applebee’s.
The game was recorded to be aired on THE LAID NETWORK’s YouTube channels, CHICKS IN CHAIRS and MEN ON THE MOVE – and the couple would be interviewed about their experience after the date. What could be better?
I had the perfect person to MC the game. Disability rights activist and MEN ON THE MOVE co-host, Dustin Jones’ lively personality brought just the right amount of comedy to the evening to put the crowd at ease. Using a voice changer for the contestants – so they couldn’t be identified by the blindfolded person trying to choose among them for a date – added just the right amount of silliness to the game. Everyone loosened up and the contest segued into a wonderful, lively evening as we all hit the floor to Dance for a Chance, a different game – this one designed to get people moving.
We all love to watch other people having a good time, but in Dance for a Chance, you had to do more than watch – you had to get up and move for a chance to win a prize – movie tickets or cash.
I cannot tell you how overjoyed I was with this part of the evening. That dance floor was HOT! At one point, contestant Tucker Burroughs-Salovaara, with the support of his aide, Tyler, really got his boogie on. DJ Nichole Blyther (DJ Nickii B) kept the party going with a lively mix of danceable tunes.
Then it was time to quiet down and select a date. Pressure.
This was the part of the evening that I had thought would pose the most difficulty. My intention was for everyone to sit with someone they kind of knew but not very well, and just talk – to relearn how to get to know someone.
I knew that I had to participate because I couldn’t ask folks to do something I was too afraid to do. For weeks I had gone over in my head: Who I would ask? How long would I wait for someone to ask me before I asked someone? And if someone I asked turned me down, what would be the reason? Had they already been asked? Was I not attractive?
I was so relieved when a young man asked me to be his date for the evening. We ate together and discussed the implications of proposed changes in Medicaid that Congress was debating, among other things. At some point I forgot I was hosting the event and I relaxed into the good time with everyone else. Success.
A very special thanks to ICS’ special staff. You make us feel loved and welcomed. Your support gives us a platform from which we can soar.