As a 20 something newly navigating dating with chronic illness, I used to think that I had to reach this seemingly unrealistic destination of “complete recovery” before giving myself to dating and relationships. Yet when turning to the community through my podcast Spooning with Spoonies, a collection of interviews highlighting chronically ill and disabled love stories, I came to love myself with chronic illness and realized I could find joy and connection alongside it. With that, I became more comfortable showing up as my full self on dates: planning dates in accessible locations, sharing about the work I do in the chronic illness community, bringing my Marry Poppins bag full of weird snacks so I can actually eat on a date…All of which allowed me to be present with and enjoy the experience of dating. Well, as much as one can enjoy the ghost-filled minefield that is modern dating. After all, dating with a chronic illness is still dating. I’m clearly far from an expert, but I have compiled a list, based on my learnings from Spooning with Spoonies, of fun creative dates to help in dating alongside chronic illness:
1. Travel Together Virtually
Grab your favourite in-flight snacks and blue light glasses and embark on a dazzling trip from your bed to your couch for a virtual travel date. Try watching a travel show together IRL or apart via Netflix party. Namely: Somebody Feed Phil, The World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals or Instant Hotel. If you’re not up for a full binge, because it’s never JUST one episode, maybe footage of your favourite nature scene is the way to go. Or perhaps you want to pick a city to visit and tour the streets via Google Maps with stops along the way for virtual museum tours, or classes through Amazon Explore! Whether you’re together or distanced, travelling virtually can be a low spoons way to enjoy a new experience together from the comfort of your couch or a soft movie theatre.
2. Play a Game
Games are not only for bar-goers or sweaty people colliding heads on a sports field. Although those games can certainly be fun for some people, if you’re looking for a low-spoons date, a board game or virtual game night could be a fun way to connect and sidestep the awkward small talk of a dinner date. If you’re meeting IRL, check out this list of board and card games that can be played from your couch or outside at a park! If you’re doing a virtual date, Jack Box allows you to play games from your phone and share your screen via zoom.
3. Cook Together
Restaurants can be stressful with low spoons, food allergies, or building sensitivities. I used to spend more spoons trying to figure out how to explain why I asked the waiter to strip all but 2 ingredients from the salad, then on the date itself. Cooking together can be a fun alternative to a restaurant date. If you’re low on spoons maybe your date can be your sous chef while you research the recipe and read out the instructions. You can cook together IRL or apart by face timing while making the same meal at the same time, or ordering readymade food to each other’s doors.
4. Take a Drive
Enjoy an outing without the crowds from the comfort of your car. Nothing brings people closer than being confined in a small space forced to endure the other person’s music tastes, right? Aside from exploring each other’s music in a car dance party, other fun car activities could be: a scenic drive through a pretty part of town, a drive-in movie, a drive-through zoo, or a drive-through lights show. If sitting in a car is painful, Spooning with Spoonies episode 5 guest Katya has great tips for supportive seating pillows in her blog.
5. Go to a Park
A park might be a good date option for a first date when you want to meet someone in public whilst taking covid precautions. An outdoor masked walk or roll through the park can be a great way to get to know someone. Going to the park is also a great excuse to meet your date’s dog because let’s be honest, we all know how big a deciding factor the dog was in swiping right. For a more stationary date, for those who feel comfortable unmasking outside and are able to eat, an outdoor picnic is another good park activity and a great opportunity to show off your lunchbox snack game.
6. Take a Dance Class Together
Want to suss out your date’s dance moves before taking the ultimate plunge and bringing them to the next family gathering or celebration? Try a dance class together! Dance for All Bodies and Kate Stanforth Dance Academy have a variety of online dance classes for all levels and abilities! If you’re able to go to an in-person class, maybe try a local social dancing class. If you’re not able to be inside of buildings because of mould or other environmental sensitivities, perhaps check to see if any studios or community centres are holding dance classes outside in parking lots or parks.
7. Swap Spotify Playlists or Share a Podcast
For any Spoonies whose eyeballs need a screen break, sharing your favourite songs and podcasts can be a fun, and surprisingly intimate, activity. Finding out your date has a secret Bar Mitzvah throwback playlist you know they still dance too might just tell you everything you need to know; I would personally be sold. You can create a joint playlist on Spotify and jam together from a distance over Facetime, or have a 30-second dance party IRL in the kitchen or while taking a short drive!
This list is only a starting point, I invite you to come up with your own creative date ideas that incorporate the things you need to feel safe and comfortable on a date so you can show up as your beautiful lovable self, chronic illness and all.
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Noa is a multi-medium storyteller, dancer and meditation and mindfulness teacher with a focus on accessibility and inclusion. After founding and hosting the podcast Spooning with Spoonies, a collection of interviews highlighting chronically ill and disabled love stories, Noa’s passion for increasing authentic chronic illness and disability representation in the arts and entertainment industry grew. She has since attended Axis Dance Company’s summer dance intensive & inclusive dance teacher training, joined ComeBacks Dance Company, and begun teaching inclusive mindfulness and movement classes at Dance for All Bodies and Yoga for All Humans. Noa received a 200-hour meditation and mindfulness teacher certification from The Interdependence Project.