Dating with Parkinson’s

I watch my share of bad TV. Along with bad TV, however, come bad commercials. There’s one in particular that makes me sad. The ad is for the online dating service, Match.com. An attractive young woman says she’s not a game player and “likes nice guys.” She ends her ad by saying, “If you’re interested come find me.”

I’ve been divorced for nearly a dozen years. In all those years I’ve never had anyone open their arms wide and say we’ve found each other. Dating is much more difficult than a 30 second TV ad would have you believe. Add in a little Parkinson’s and you could have a challenge on your hands.

In the first few years following the divorce dates weren’t hard to get. They weren’t great dates but it got me out, it was pseudo companionship and I had new people to talk to.

Since my diagnosis the road to a relationship has been much more difficult. If my date and I decide to have dinner the shaky fork or jiggly soup spoon are my wingmen. There’s more than a little staring that takes place. Then there’s the two handed drinking because I can no longer hold a glass still with one hand. Yes, I drink like a toddler minus the sippy cup.

I’m never sure when it’s time to address the moose in the room. I’ve had a few women watch my shaky left hand and tell me that I don’t need to be nervous around them. If only it were that simple.

In some instances I’ve disclosed my illness right off the bat – here it is, take it or leave it. My candor has always been met with, “that doesn’t bother me.” However, the bravery rarely lasts. Once I asked for a butter knife to scoop ice cream onto a spoon. That combined with my two fisted drinking and shaky fork did me in.

Sometimes a date’s courage lasts until it’s time to leave the restaurant/movies/you name it. Probably like most Parkies, when I stand up I have to wait a minute to get my sea legs. I’ve come to discover that watching your date wobble is, perhaps, keeping it a little too real.

As spring turned to summer this year I met a very nice woman. I chose not to disclose my illness right away, deciding instead to let nature take its course. On our third date I knew it was time to disclose.

I will never forget her response: “It ends here. I know what will happen if we start dating. You will get worse and then you will leave me. I could never do that to anyone and I can’t believe you did that to me.”

And with that she dropped $40 on the table and walked off never to be seen or heard from again.

When I’ve disclosed my illness I’ve been asked horrifyingly personal questions. How much time do you have? Will you shake like Muhammad Ali? Does this mean you have ED?

Seriously?

For me, Parkinson’s has been very isolating. I work out of my home, I swim and I think it’s fair to say that dating has become a spectator sport.

If I could put a billboard on my forehead it would say: My mind still works, just overlook the shaky hand, the occasional water dribble down the front of my shirt and the use of a knife to scoop ice cream. Those things aren’t who I am, they’re a by-product of a disease that I didn’t ask for.

That’s a big billboard.

So what’s next? Well, a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with the woman who cuts my hair. Her grandmother has Parkinson’s. She said, “Just face it, it’s over. No one wants your baggage.”

For all of my pessimism, I get up every day thinking that somehow today will be different than yesterday. I guess that either makes me an optimist or proof of idiocy. I honestly think the right person is out there, it’s just going to take me down the road less traveled.

I want to know who made the rule that you can’t use a knife to eat ice cream. I think it’s endearing.

Keep moving.

Kevin Woo is a freelance writer from San Francisco. He writes about business, health, science, parenting and travel. You can read more by visiting www.kevinjwoo.com.