“This place is known to reveal the heart of the person,” I hear a kind, older voice say. I look up to find the owner of the dive bar I’m sitting in pointing at me and my date, a handsome guy I recently met on a dating app. “By the end of the night, you’ll know if you’re meant to be,” the bartender continues.
My date and I laugh politely before returning to our seamless back-and-forth. After an hour spent cracking jokes, my date suggests we relocate—maybe to a nearby restaurant? I open my mouth to say yes, but the throbbing pain in my back interrupts me.
Do I go anyway? Do I suggest Ubering, even though the restaurant is just few blocks away? Or do I tell him about my fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic health condition impacting 4 million Americans—that’s roughly 2 percent of the population. It involves things like widespread pain, fatigue, and muscle stiffness, and I’ve been dealing with it for nine years. Every day, I wake up in pain. On bad days, the pain is so intense I can barely get from my room to the bathroom. And even on good days, I sometimes feel like going straight to bed after work and staying there. With my current treatment cocktail, I have more good days than bad and count myself fortunate.
First up: Don*, a guy I meet on a dating app.
Don asks me to pick the place for our meet-up—probably his way of making me feel comfortable. Little does he know I’ve spent the last several years at exactly zero hip bars or restaurants. I frantically ask my roommate for suggestions, which is how we end up at a bar known for the beer selection when neither of us drink it. We hug upon meeting (something I’d agonized over out of pure nervousness), and I work a casual (ahem, thoroughly rehearsed) fibro mention into our conversation. I play it cool, but when I go to the bathroom, I find myself hoping he won’t Google it. “Fibromyalgia” is a hard word to spell anyway, right?
We date for two months, and surprisingly, fibro rarely comes up—even when I have to cancel dates because of it. At first, I’m relieved. But I soon realize Don doesn’t ask me questions about it because he doesn’t ask me questions about anything. It’s not that he doesn’t mind my illness—he’s straight-up not that interested in me.
Eventually, I initiate a DTR (define-the-relationship) conversation, and Don admits he isn’t ready for a relationship. In turn, I learn I really am. Plus, I now realize I may be able to use my fibro as a kind of barometer—if someone isn’t interested in this part of my life, maybe that means they’re not that interested in me.