Explaining why I don’t work to potential dates

I’m a pretty open person when it comes to the health-related crap I have to deal with. There are some things I don’t like to share, but not many. I’ll share about 98% of what I deal with when I talk to family and friends. Acquaintances hear a lot. I’m even pretty open with strangers. Until, that is, the topic of jobs comes up.

Last night was Valentine’s Day, so I did what so many singles do – I went to a singles party. This was a much better party than most, which is why I went. It had awesome people, it wasn’t in a club, there was some background music but it wasn’t too loud, and the entire point of the night was to have actual conversations with people and then exchange phone numbers/email with people you’re interested in. I’d gone once before, and this time was even better. I pushed my body hard and was thoroughly exhausted when I got home, but I felt it was worth it.

Aside from the aches and pains and exhaustion of standing so much, there was just one problem: the question, “What do you do?” This isn’t a very common question in some cultures. In Boston, it’s one of the first things people ask. They use it to define you, to learn more about you. It makes some sense, since people spend so many hours working. The problem is, how can I answer it? In general I’ll gladly tell someone that I’m not working because of health issues, but not if I think I might want to date them. I don’t want to scare them off yet!

I spent the night saying, “I’m not working right now.” But then the next question was always to ask what field I work in, and so many people asked if I’m looking for work, or what I’m looking for. I’ll be evasive, but I won’t lie, so that was a lot harder. I usually said I’m considering my options, which is true. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what kinds of work I could do when/if I’m able to work again, even part time. But I just know that on any first date, the subject will come up again, and what then?

In the long run, whoever I end up with will have to be ok with my health issues and my inability to work, at least right now. The issue is that I want to introduce the topic slowly, and on my own terms. I want them to get to know the parts of me that aren’t controlled by my health problems, and that’s hard to do if health problems are the first thing they learn about it.

It feels like I’m trying to navigate a minefield. So I’m going slowly, one step at a time. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m hoping that maybe, one of these days, I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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7 Responses to Explaining why I don’t work to potential dates

  1. Jess says:

    My husband knew my health issues coming into it…but some days he still struggles. Seeing me in pain daily (and it getting worse in recent years) has been hard. Especially because my personality (and temperament) can be affected. He’s still amazing about it all though.
    Just be honest, be real, and be you. ♡

  2. Oh God, have so been there/done that with the “what do you do” question. I think it’s an East Coast thing.

    • chronicrants says:

      From what I’ve heard from people in other parts of the country, that seems to be true. I’m trying to answer it as what I do with my time, instead of what I do to earn a living, but it’s still a tough question to have to deal with so often.

  3. It is! I met my boyfriend before I got really sick, but I still have to deal with it from everyone else, especially my family (I read your Chanukah/Christmas post, so I know I don’t have to explain Jewish family career pressure and guilt to you, LOL.) My friends in California NEVER get this question. I usually name a previous job and then say I’m disabled. For example, I am a teacher/graphic designer/copyeditor/ etc., but right now I can’t work full-time because of health issues. Or you can just say you’re a freelance health writer and you write articles for the Internet. :-) Technically it’s true–a blog is really essays or short-form memoir or journalism, depending on the style of the blog, right? And a lot of the time people who write articles for the Internet don’t get paid. You can also throw disability rights activist in there somewhere too. If people get the idea that you are disabled but you are doing stuff, then suddenly you become “heroic, inspiring disabled person” rather than “poor her.” Gross, isn’t it?

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