TOBIN: I would say in my dating days, I was very anxious. Like, so anxious I couldn't go on a date unless all details were planned out ahead of time. Like what time am I gonna show up? What time will this be over?
TOBIN: What will I say to this person? Here are three things that I can keep in my back pocket to say to them.
KATHY: You sound like me.
TOBIN: A plan really helped me out.
TOBIN: But I would always have this kind of sadness that I couldn't just sort of stumble into one of those great dates and just kind of happens and it unfolds and you're loose and you're free.
KATHY: The romantic comedy date? Is that what you're saying?
TOBIN: But one time I felt like I had it. [MUSIC IN] There was this guy, it was sort of unclear whether we were interested in each other or not. But we agreed to meet up in a park that was by the water. So we meet up, it's the middle of the day, and we're like, let's just walk around. So we walk around. And then he's like, let's go to a bar, so I'm like, let's go to a bar. So we're having drinks, we're having a good time, and he's like, let's go get lunch. And in my head I'm like, I'm doing it, I'm free, I'm being spontaneous, this is what spontaneous feels like.
KATHY: [LAUGHING] Okay.
TOBIN: And it goes from like noon to 6PM. We hang out for a solid half day. We just keep rolling into the next activities and the whole time I'm like, it’s the end of the day, and I feel like this is a date, I have this in the bag. So we get to his apartment door and I’m like, I should just confirm what I already know, let’s just say it out loud. And so I say, "Um this was a date right?"
KATHY: Oooh Tobin...
TOBIN: And he goes, "Uh, I think of it as more of a friend thing, is that cool?" And I just go, "Yep," and I walk away. And in my head I'm like, "No, it's not fucking cool."
KATHY: Tobin, the last time I went on a date like that I ended up in a relationship.
TOBIN: Oh, I'm so happy for you.
[THEME MUSIC IN]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy.
VOX 2: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
[THEME MUSIC OUT]
KATHY: We did our first live show.
TOBIN: We did it, we pulled it off.
KATHY: I know.
TOBIN: So this was a couple weeks ago, we did a live show at the Now Hear This Festival in New York City and I would say it went perfectly.
KATHY: Except, Tobin, there was the part where I galloped on stage and immediately tripped and face-planted.
TOBIN: You did a true face plant.
KATHY: Yeah, but regardless, it was a lot of fun. We got to talk about dating.
TOBIN: I talked about how I am an OkCupid EXPERT. Gaming the algorithm like a great Asian.
KATHY: We can't, we can't use that anymore Tobin...
TOBIN: No, not cool?
KATHY: No, no.
TOBIN: [LAUGHING] Okay.
KATHY: And I talked about how I fall in love, some would say, too quickly.
TOBIN: I would say that. Everyone would say you fall in love too quickly.
TOBIN: I feel like your small talk on a first date is "What's your ring size?" [CHUCKLES]
KATHY: That’s not true and you know it!
TOBIN: Alright, alright.
[LIGHT PERCUSSIVE MUSIC IN]
KATHY: So we brought with us writer and performer Ryan Haddad, who talks about a thing we were never good at-
TOBIN: Nope, not good at it.
KATHY: Navigating the hook-up.
RYAN: Oh, hi! [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] You look absolutely terrific, honestly. I was Woofing some of you on Scruff back there when I was waiting to come out.
TOBIN: Ryan is so at home in front of an audience.
KATHY: He loves a good audience.
TOBIN: Loves it.
RYAN: Now, what's your favorite time of day to have sex?
PERSON 1: Morning.
RYAN: Morning! I love the morning too because I have all that hard morning wood that I have you just put somewhere, you know what I'm saying.
TOBIN: He has this amazing one-man show called “Hi, Are You Single?” And it’s all about how he navigates dating and sex and relationships and how having cerebral palsy affects all of that.
RYAN: Do you like sex rough or gentle?
PERSON 2: Both.
RYAN: Both! You’re a little indecisive. A little swaddle in the morning. A little beating in the evening, a little everything.
KATHY: So as part of our show, we asked Ryan to perform an excerpt from "Hi, Are You Single?"
[MUSIC FADES OUT]
RYAN: Do you ever have an overwhelming sense of longing for companionship and intimacy and love? And how many of you just get horny sometimes? Huh?! Raise your hands. Raise your hand. Oh yes of course you do darling you get very horny. And keep raising your hands! Don't be shy. Oh you look fabulous, my love. You get very horny, and I know you get horny, and you get horny. The salmon boy in the back is very horny. And you get horny, and you get horny, and I get horny. I'm horny all the time. All the time. Some people find that shocking. Why do you think that is? Could it be that society completely desexualizes people with disability? Just a guess. But I'm here to tell you right now, I have a higher sex drive than anyone in this room, okay? Anyone. Anyone!
I remember one night I was particularly horny at my parents' house. That's a very convenient place to be horny. It was summer and it was hot and Dylan, Dylan was texting me. Dylan really wanted to give me a blowjob. I mean he was begging, begging! And I thought sure, I would love a blowjob. But I can't you see because my parents were asleep in the next room. And he said, “So what, you don’t have to do it inside. I've got a big truck, dude. I can suck you in my truck.”
Fascinating. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] Let me just go into my parents room and say, “Sorry to wake you, mom and dad, but can you set up my walker outside so a stranger can blow me in the driveway? Thanks, love you too!”
But he was so hot! I mean tall and strong, at least according to his profile, and the Facebook stalking that I had done. So when my parents left town the next week I invited him over. “What’s your address?” he texted back. “Well first let me just confirm one thing. It's okay that I have cerebral palsy right?” as if I had to ask his permission.
“Well I have cerebral palsy that’s why there's a walker in my pic. You haven't said anything about it so I assume you don't care.”
“Oh, I thought that was from a play you were in.”
“Good guess. No, but it's mine. You see the CP just limits the mobility in my legs and weakens my arms a little bit. Everything else is fine.”
And he said, “Sorry man, I can't be cool with that.”
That would have absolutely devastated me if only he could spell. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] But he wrote, I K-A-N, no apostrophe, T, B K-O-O-L W D-A-T. So we weren't talking boyfriend material here. And honestly I mean that's what I was looking for, I wanted a boyfriend.
From the time I was very young, I always felt the need to have someone. You see, I think I had a little bit of false expectations because my big brothers, Joe and Bobby, they always had girlfriends. So I'm a little kid watching my teenage brothers date wondering, when is it going to be my turn? I went to their high school you know thinking that I would have the same luck as my brother Bobby, because Bobby married his high school sweetheart. How rude is that? [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]
So I walk into the high school and I’m just waiting. Every moment, I’m going where's my boyfriend? My husband should be arriving any minute. But my husband never showed up. No husband, no boyfriend, no hookups for me. It wasn't even until college that I started trying to meet guys online and suddenly I had to confront my cerebral palsy every time I talked to a guy. It was all very new for me.
You know I never struggled with my disability growing up and there really only were a few times in my life when I had to face any sort of discrimination. In third grade a girl named Samantha, she called me a cripple. That bitch. And on the first day of high school the special ed teacher just assumed I was going to be in all of her classes, even though I was scheduled for all honors. And I suppose there were some friends who avoided socializing with me on the weekends because they didn't want to deal with the responsibility. Or was it burden.
But it had never even occurred to me that my disability might make being gay more complicated. Which is why I was really confused, the day after I came out, my mother hugged me, crying, and she said, "I'm scared, because now you're different in two ways.”
KATHY: Coming up, we chat with Ryan about what it’s really like to put yourself out there, and deal with so many shitty dudes, when you have a disability.
RYAN: Men have, you know, been making out with me in a bar, and reached down to fondle my crouch, welcomed to do that, and said something like "Oh, it does work!"
TOBIN: Nancy will be back in a minute.
[THEME MUSIC IN]
TOBIN: And we’re back. We're talking to actor and writer Ryan Haddad, part of our live show at the Now Hear This Festival.
KATHY: Which, by the way, was happening at the Javits Center here in New York the exact same day as RuPaul’s Drag Con, which was just an incredible sight to behold.
TOBIN: Queers as far as the eye could see!
KATHY: But anyway, we were there talking to Ryan about hooking up, which is the subject matter of his play “Hi, Are you Single?”
TOBIN: And we started by talking about the way he describes his play. There’s this blurb on his website that says “Do you have a high sex drive? Ryan does. He also has cerebral palsy. No, those things are not mutually exclusive.’
KATHY: So we asked him, is that a punchline or what people really think?
RYAN: Well, I can't say that I've done empirical research, right? [TOBIN LAUGHS] I’m only basing it on what I feel when I walk into LGBT spaces, particularly gay or queer male identified spaces, where if you are different in any way, if you are disabled or if you are overweight, if you are short. if you are bald, if you are old, if you are trans, if you have HIV, you know anything that is not masc and white and tall and muscular, is treated as an outsider, as an other. And so I find that we are supposed to be embracing everybody, we're supposed to be accepting of everybody's differences and we're telling the world at large that that is what we deserve as a community, and yet we're not doing it ourselves. I think that the issue that I face particularly as an individual with cerebral palsy or with the physical, visible, mobility disability comes from the fact that there is no media representation of disabled people of any gender or any sexual orientation having intercourse or romantic relations or storylines on TV and on film and on the stage. And I attribute that to people thinking that we aren't sexually active. Men have, you know, been making out with me in a bar and reached down to fondle my crotch, welcomed to do that, and said something like, "Oh, it does work!" So there's the evidence.
KATHY: Ryan, what are you like on a first date?
RYAN: I’m a lot like this on a first date which is why I probably don’t get a lot of second dates, because I'm sort of performing a little bit, right? [KATHY LAUGHS] And a lot of people perform on first date. I think it's nerves. I think it's an evaluation of "is this working? Is this an equal playing field? Am I more into him than he is into me or vice versa?" Like, am I more into the guy in the front row than he is to me, kinda thing? Just kidding. Oh, he just raised eyebrows, maybe we have a chance. [ALL LAUGH]
TOBIN: If we get you a number out of this, it would be incredible!
KATHY: [LAUGHING] Oh my god!
TOBIN: No pressure, no pressure.
RYAN: I have to take just a brief tangent. The director of Live Events, I can't remember his name, I think possibly it's Dan, who's running this conference for Now Hear This? He is gorgeous, you know. If I were to get, the first number I want is the number of this gentleman in the front row. The second number I want is Dan’s number, okay? I don't know if Dan is interested in men, I'm not trying to...and his name might not even be Dan...
RYAN: But on a first date I tend to be really nervous and it's hard to be natural because you're always wondering, is this going well? And so a lot of my inner monologue on a first date I guess is, is this magic? Usually when it's magic for me, it's not magic for the other person. And when it's magic to the other person, I already know a couple of minutes in this isn’t going to work. And I will say it. Not after five minutes, but...
TOBIN: I was going to say like five minutes in are you like "This is not magic!"
RYAN: I don't agree with ghosting. I don't agree with dishonesty, or just ignoring someone. I'd rather say, “Hey it was really nice to get to talk to you. I don't think I'm feeling more than a friendship vibe out of this. Thank you very much. I'm glad I got to meet you.” Men don't say that though. I will become, you know, an aggressive stalker-like person, I will send you 10 messages in a row, just to get you to say I'm not interested. That's all it takes. I don’t let men off the hook. Especially men who are supposed to be grown men.
KATHY: Um, I have a really random question, Ryan.
KATHY: I was Instagram stalking you.
KATHY: And I saw that as a kid, you wrote a newsletter...
RYAN: Oh god.
KATHY: ...called the Ryan Haddad Quarterly.
RYAN: Alright, yes, the Ryan Haddad Quarterly, what do you...
KATHY: What was in it?
RYAN: Oh well, there were lots and lots of pictures of me. [AUDIENCE LAUGH]
KATHY: Wait, so this is like from how old to how old?
RYAN: Okay, from 10 to 16.
TOBIN: Wow. Long time.
RYAN: It was the monthly for three years, the Ryan Haddad Monthly for three years. And it was quite literally a newsletter you know, front and back, and one page. And then I stopped. But then I turned it into a magazine instead of a newsletter. So there were like 10 to 14, 16 pages and you know full color. And if something happened in our family I would write about it. If somebody died, I would do an in memoriam, that kind of thing. Sometimes it would get deep.
TOBIN & KATHY: [LAUGHING] Wow!
TOBIN: I want to go back to your work a little bit. You've said before that you have mixed feelings about being looked at as inspiring and I wonder if you would talk about that a little bit.
RYAN: A lot of people in the disability community talk about the word inspiring so I struggle because I don’t know if I have the most eloquent response. Most people in the disability community don't like it, particularly liberal New York disabled people don't like the word inspiring, because if I inspire you, I want it to be because I won a Tony. If I am inspiring it should be because of the merits of my work. Or the merits of my activism, or what I'm doing you know moving through the world as a human being. I don't want to be inspiring because I got out of a Uber car. I don't want to be inspiring because I took the subway and I transferred to the 1 train yesterday, which is an achievement for me I will tell you. [AUDIENCE LAUGH] But people who've never seen anything I've contributed to the world artistically or heard me speak on any topic of consequence, walk up to me out of nowhere as a complete stranger to say, oh you're so inspiring, just because I purely exist. And that is what is wrong. I'm not here to make you feel better about yourself. I'm here to do my work and move through the world and kick some ass and be a star.
TOBIN: Well I can't think of a better note to end on, so Ryan Haddad, thank you so much for being here with us!
[THEME SONG STARTS]
TOBIN: Okay, it's credits time!
KATHY: You can find us on all the social media places. We're @nancypodcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Everywhere.
TOBIN: Also don't forget, we still need folks to fill out our survey for the Out at Work project. Go to nancypodcast.org/work.
KATHY: Our producer...
TOBIN: Matt Collette!
KATHY: Sound designer...
TOBIN: Jeremy Bloom!
TOBIN: Jenny Lawton!
KATHY: Executive producer...
TOBIN: Paula Szuchman!
KATHY: I'm Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: I'm Tobin Low.
KATHY: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
[CREDITS MUSIC ENDS]
TOBIN: Ba booow this is Nancy! [WHISTLES]
KATHY: [LAUGHING] Is that what it sounds like?