The Blind Date Problem: What Would You Do?

woman thinking

Should you tell a blind date about a physical flaw before you meet?

As a single woman in these modern times, of course I've done online dating. Lots of it. I'm really good at it and have had lots of fun as a result. It's an opportunity to meet the widest range of men imaginable, go out with men I might not ever have met, try out some I might never have considered in ordinary circumstances, and a way to make sure I could have a date whenever I wanted. I once went out with 15 men in one month—a date every other day—just to see what it was like. Actually it was kind of stupid. There are not 15 men in that short period of time that I'm really that interested in…but it did make for great stories. Although not part of that particular experiment, here's a story that really stuck with me.

Nowadays, everybody who's dating online posts a picture of him/herself. All the matchmaking sites tell you that you get 10 times more "bites" if you post a picture. But in the early days, we didn't. We more or less described ourselves in our profile and took it from there. Internet dating was too new and it felt kind of creepy to post a picture for the whole world to see. One evening, I was contacted by what seemed like a very nice man. We chatted online for a couple of weeks, eventually "talking" just about every day; there was some real interest there and it seemed like there might be some potential for something interesting to happen. I wasn't sure he was my type; he was a little quiet, but liked a lot of things about New York that I liked and he said he was really interested in finding the right girl. Maybe I was her.

We made plans to get together one Friday evening. It was the hottest day of the year. We decided to meet for dinner at a restaurant in my neighborhood. (As I became better at internet dating, I learned that you never plan dinner with a stranger. Drinks or coffee. If you like each other, plan on dinner the next time. If you don't, you haven't wasted much time). As we talked about how we would recognize each other, we realized that we were wearing fairly non-descript, typical New Yorker outfits. We both were wearing jeans and a white t-shirt. Rather than change clothes, we tried to think of what we could do to make ourselves recognizable to a stranger in a crowded restaurant. He suggested I put a flower in my hair. My hair was really short, then, so that wouldn't work. I had the brilliant idea to tie a bright pink sweater around my neck. It was a pretty sweater but I felt a little foolish in 100 degree heat with a sweater. Whatever; he needed to be able to identify me.

When I get to the restaurant, I can't really pick him out of the crowd because half the men in the place are wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He recognized me, though, by my sweater and approached me. In an instant, I start to feel like a real ass and wonder if I'm really shallow. I'm afraid I am. He was an albino. It was a deal-breaker. But I was also confused: should I have expected him to mention that to me at some point during our weeks of conversation? Should it have mattered? I still don't know the right answer. I don't know whether his being an albino should have mattered, but I do know that it did. I was annoyed at myself for feeling this way and I was annoyed at him for leaving out this detail. Plus, why am I walking around in the scorching heat with a sweater? During the "how will we recognize each other" phase of our conversation, he could have easily said "I'll be the albino at the bar." It would be too rude to leave, though I certainly wanted to.  We managed to have a pleasant enough dinner though I practically inhaled mine and wasn't interested in coffee or another drink. I wanted to go home. I couldn't make myself interested in him, I don't care how nice he was. We didn't go out again.

Then, this story started to take on a life of its own. The first few people I told this story to agreed they would probably have reacted the same way I did. I felt like a real heel, though, after talking to my friend, Pat. She thought I was disgustingly shallow and that my behavior was just plain wrong. How dare I think he should have told me ahead of time, and how dare I have the audacity to lose interest over something like this in a man I originally found interesting. The first part of the statement was the most interesting. How much information—and what kind—do you owe your blind date? Should he have been expected to tell me of his albinism? What if he had a wooden leg? What are the parameters? (One of the guys I met on my 15-dates-in-30-days told me over lunch that he had cancer. I didn't stick around there, either, but the cancer was only part of it. He was really mean to the waiter, so that gave me an out.) I quickly learned that this is a great question to pose at a dinner party because it always generates lively discussion with a range of responses. Albinism is not a disease nor a disorder; it doesn't affect your health or your personality. It doesn't do anything, in fact, except deprive you of melanin and makes you look kind of funny. But is that a real reason not to go out with someone? How should the albino treat it? Like it's a fact of life and of no real consequence? Or should he "warn" the person he's meeting? What would you have done?

Written by eleanore w for

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