Dating, romance and being in love is complicated. It’s a minefield of guessing games, figuring out what qualities you like in a person, deciding whether you’re really ready for commitment or just here for a good time.
Why do we put ourselves through all of this?
I’ve heard it’s fun and exciting but in my personal experience it’s frustrating and confusing.
So, you’re on a date, and the person sat opposite you might say something like ‘You went to see *insert amazing West End Show here* last night? Wow that sounds fun. I wanted to take my parents to that show but we have to wait until there’s a BSL interpreted performance because they’re deaf, so normally we just-‘ Your initial reaction may be to interrupt and say ‘Your parents are deaf?!?! Oh my god, I’m so sorry-‘
Stop! Stop it! Stop right now.
It’s not your fault pal, maybe you’ve never met a deaf person, or maybe your awareness of deaf communities is limited to watching Mr Tumble with your niece when you’re babysitting (this doesn’t count FYI). We get it. That doesn’t mean we’re cool with it though. I promise you, if you say ‘I’m so sorry’ you will be met with an inward eye roll, a grimace, and maybe even an awkward silence for good measure.
Nobody wants to be faced with pity on a date, it’s a real turn off. Having deaf parents brings richness into your life, and we come with a secret set of skills. I’ll go into it. “So, CODA”, I hear you say, “I’m talking to this person and they seem really amazing. We’ve been texting each other and I’m going to ask them on a date soon. They’ve just told me they have deaf parents. What should I definitely not say?” I’ve got your back. Here’s a couple of things to note…
(disclaimer: these should be kept in mind for any point in the dating timeline. I’m not sure how often parents come up on a first date)
I’m so sorry! Why are you sorry? Please refer to ‘Google is free’ later on.
We don’t want to teach you sign language (right now) ‘I know sign language! Well… I learned a bit at an after-school club when I was 12. Hey, you can teach me!’ Don’t tease me. Do you know how much easier it would be if you did know sign language?! Ok, admittedly, if things turn out to be long term then maybe I will end up teaching you some sign language. Maybe not. Definitely not on a first date.
CODAs get a lot of people doing something wildly different from sign language and shouting ‘HEY WHAT DOES THIS MEAN!’. Sometimes it could even be a D-list celebrity you’ve bumped into at the vets, laughing and saying ‘Hey, I know a couple of swear words!’ and proceeding to swear at your parents (true story). So, if you think you remember how to sign something, maybe just save it until you’re sure.
If I had £1 for every time someone has said ‘Wow, I’ve always wanted to learn sign language’, I genuinely think I would be able to retire early. Most of us could count on one hand the amount of people that have said this to them, and then actually learnt it. Unless you’re serious about it, don’t bother saying it. Saying it for the sake of it is not going to win you any brownie points. Also - not all deaf people use sign language! Which leads me into my next point.
Google is free
Lots of myths and presumptions exist out there about deaf people. There are some things you just shouldn’t say. There is a lot of history behind the deaf community and sign language, and by being a CODA we are born into a rich, beautiful culture. That’s not to say it doesn’t come with difficulties. But it’s no reason to pity us, or apologise to us for the existence of our parents. Whilst we do love talking about our parents - some questions we hear a lot. The answers are not always straightforward, and there are underlying complexities that come with them, but hey – I can tell you more about it when I feel like it. Maybe we should start putting together a little fact sheet to hand people after we tell them our parents are deaf? It could look something like this.
Hi! I’m CODA. Lovely to meet you, and to save us both time, here are the answers to the questions you were just about to ask me! Yes, my parents can drive. Being deaf does not affect your vision – who knew? My childhood was fine, thanks for asking. How was yours? Not all deaf people choose to, but yes, some have hearing aids or cochlear implants. Yes, they have jobs. Some of us know sign language, some of us don’t. Not all deaf people use it. I’d love a drink, thanks.
Some CODAs are passionate about deaf issues, we will happily discuss these with you. It just needs to be on our own terms. If you’re meeting someone for the first few times, and you have a burning desire to ask them more about their parents, just try Googling a few questions you have first. After all, it’s free.
What about those special skills you mentioned? Ah yes. The very specific set of skills. We all have a few of these up our sleeves.
The following skills might include, but are not limited to…
- Being the friend that will make a phone call for you if you don’t want to call to make a restaurant booking / doctors appointment / literally most things - Being loud - Observance - Telling really detailed and exciting stories - You’ll notice how amazingly beautiful our eyes are, as we’re good at making eye contact - Only watching the telly with subtitles on
Ultimately, you’re here to go on a date with another person because you are attracted to Them. The interaction should be about You and I. Of course, parents are a big part of everyone’s life in one way or another, but as with anyone, you are let into their life and the intricacies of it on their terms.
Make the most of being on a date with Me and enjoying it, so I don’t feel like I’ve just left a Q&A session.