Friday, May 29, 2009
Love at no sight
n a looks-obsessed world, are blind people immune to appearances when they fall in love? As a new film looks at how sight-impaired people find romance, Damon Rose who is blind, says you don't have to be sighted to be shallow.
There are many questions that blind people find themselves fielding regularly. There's the one about whether you can see in your dreams, the one about how you know where your mouth is when eating ... but the other, and possibly most surprising of all, is the one that goes: "How do you fancy someone if you can't see them?"
To answer the question simply and directly, blind people will tell you that it's the voice, brain and personality which initially catch the eye, or in this case, ear. It's a good understandable answer. Everyone hears attractive voices on the radio. Voices are powerful organs that convey humour, quirkiness, intelligence, sweetness and attitude.
How I'd love to be able to sit here and tell you that blind people are without prejudice... that's just not true
Your voice is the mouthpiece for the brain, it communicates your personality very effectively.
Though love at first sight may happen for people blessed with eyes, love after first discussion is the closest you'll get to it if you can't see.
I've often thought that "sighties" might be just a little bit disabled by having vision. I've seen friends chasing people for their looks yet getting hurt very badly because their beauty is only skin deep, their personality somewhat rotten.
But good looks and attraction can be complex for blind people. And oh how I'd love to be able to sit here and tell you that blind people are without prejudice: not caring if you're a prince or whether you're plug ugly and that we don't care about such superficial matters. Sadly, that's just not true.
It's impossible to live in the UK and not soak up discussions about beauty and presentability. It matters to everyone else, so of course it matters to us by proxy.
When I was a teenager, I went to a boarding school for blind children where the sound of wildly rushing male and female hormones could be heard on every corridor. I particularly remember a new girl arriving. No one took much notice in her first few weeks... until one lad said they'd heard she was blonde.
Blind Loves is a Slovakian film featuring four sight-impaired people
She may have been a quiet shrinking violet but she suddenly started getting a lot of attention after her hair colour was made known. Of course, few of her admirers could see her crowning glory, or even knew that blonde was a kind of light yellowy brown, but because "blondes" are talked about as desirable, and dare I say thought more attractive than darker haired people, she became very popular.
Shallow, isn't it. But beautifully so.
Similarly, a blind friend of mine fell completely head over heels in love with a girl he thought the world of. They started dating. He talked about her all the time and, as mates do, he stopped going down the pub and started to prefer homemade meals and a nice bottle of wine with his loved one.
I remember him saying how much he liked her soft voice and her perfume. They had similar politics, liked the same films, read the same books - a match made in heaven.
Then, his brother met her, unpleasantly told him she looked "a right dog" and my friend dumped her.
She was devastated... and he started going to the Red Lion again.
I found it terribly sad but half understood where he was coming from. So insecure was he about the world and what image and attractiveness meant, that he felt he had to get rid of someone who could reflect badly on him because he didn't know any better. And on this occasion, he deferred to his brother who can see, after all.
Feat of clay
Beauty is power. Attractive people have an air about them. They're often very confident. As the phrase goes ... they can walk into a room and own it. But if the room has blind people in it, the "power" of their looks goes out of the window.
This can be confusing for people whose good looks usually count for a lot more than I'm giving them.
Sighted ambassador for blind people - Lionel Richie and his lump of clay
Let me give you an example. I'm at a party. I start talking to someone. I have no idea whether they're good looking or not until this happens:
"I just thought I'd better tell you what I look like. I'm 5ft 5ins, I've got shoulder-length blonde hair, my eyes are a deep brown colour and my skin tones are very light. If anyone asks who was the petite one you were talking to, that'll be me."
Huh? What? Hello? How am I supposed to react to this?
This is a situation that a number of blind friends have reported happens to them too. In the early days I mistakenly thought I was being chatted up. As I got a older though, I began to realise that this was more of a case study in egotism.
Some people just can't bear the idea that the blind person in the room won't consider them special or even worth talking to... until they tell you how good looking they are. The irony is that blind people tend to think less of them for doing it.
Of course, Lionel Richie has taught us that blind people are even more soulful than his music. The video which accompanied his 1984 hit Hello featured a storyline where teacher Lionel had a seemingly unrequited love for a blind student in his art class.
At the end of the video, we discover she has feelings for him too because she modelled a likeness of his face. Her soul touched his in a way that meant she didn't need to be able to see him to know what he looked like. I guess the biggest insight into what blind people think is attractive is to hurl a lump of clay at them and see what they turn it into.
BBC, 27th May 2009