My name is Lolly. I’m 21 years old and I have Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s Disease is an auto-immune disorder in which the body attacks tissues predominately (although not exclusively) in the bowel. I have spent 5 years dealing with this chronic condition and at the beginning of this year I underwent life changing surgery to form a Colostomy.
Like every bored 20-something year old, I shamelessly love to spend a rainy afternoon flicking through Tinder. As you can imagine, this has recently become a little bit more difficult for me. I chose not to put pictures of me with my colostomy up on my Tinder, out of fear of being judged and dismissed too quickly, but as I match and exchange a few opening messages the inevitable question arrises:
“What’s your Insta?”
My heart sinks as I read this message, I was really enjoying the conversation and now I feel forced to draw it to an end. I might post very openly about my colostomy on my Instagram, and I intend to continue to do so. But these photos are viewed by my friends and people that choose to follow me because they relate to my situation. Perhaps this person would follow my Instagram and think nothing of my colostomy bag. Perhaps they’d even think it was pretty cool that I was so open about it and realise it shows off a courageous side to my personality. But I’m just not sure I can take that risk and face the rejection if my next message goes unreplied to. I’m just not sure I’m capable of being that vulnerable to a potential partner who hasn’t really gotten to know me yet.
This fear of rejection was rationalised in similar way about a week ago as I was making my way to Waterloo. Due to the weather, the trains were proving a nightmare. I eventually found myself a train supposedly making its way to London but no sooner had it pulled away before it was grounded to a halt due to a train at the next station without a driver. Frustrated, I glanced to the rather attractive stranger sitting across from me and we shared a look of despair. He asked my name and we very quickly fell into deep conversation and before either of us knew it had been talking for almost an hour. He invited me to get off at Clapham with him and go for a drink, which I politely declined as my friend was waiting for me at Waterloo, instead giving him my number and agreeing to go for a drink later in the week. When he got off the train a stop before me, I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself. How often do we all see an attractive stranger on the train, wistfully plan our imaginary lives together, and then depart having never given each other more than a faint smile? Swiftly, panic sunk in. I realised I had put my full name in his phone, and without a doubt, he would now be walking home and putting my name into Instagram – and why not? We all shamelessly love a stalk. I tried not to think too much about it, and carried on with my evening.
Unfortunately thats where the story ends, I never did get that text or go for that drink. Whilst I realise there could be a million reasons for this I couldn’t help but think that it was more than likely because of my bag. He’d been so keen on the train and then changed his mind so quickly. But I guess I’ll never really know why. If I’m honest, this affected me far more than I’d like to admit. Objectively this guy was no 10/10, and in hindsight, the fact he picks girls up on the train was probably a bit of a red flag, but just to not hear a word really sucked. Whilst I realise not everyone is going to be okay with my bag and I cannot expect people to be, this was my first experience of facing rejection based upon it and it really got to me.
I think the reason it hit me so hard actually links back to my Tinder experience. On Tinder it’s very easy to swipe past someone based purely on their physical appearance- whether that’s the fact that you’re not into blondes or are immediately turned off by the sight of a colostomy. In real life, you get a chance to evaluate the person behind the appearance, find things in common, make a connection, before deciding whether to pursue them or not. I’ve always told myself that if someone took the time to get to know me a little bit and we really got on well then they’d probably see past the bag. Unfortunately, in this instance that wasn’t the case. We both loved to surf, shared funny stories from our travels, and agreed that South Western railways were a bag of shite, but if I’m correct on my hunch about him seeing my bag then our immediate rapport wasn’t enough for him to consider still dropping me a message.
I spend a lot of time talking about embracing vulnerability, but this experience has reminded me that doing so is not a simple choice but instead a process. As we all grow as people we learn not only to embrace our differences and flaws, but also who is worthy of sharing those vulnerabilities with and who isn’t. For now I’ve ditched Tinder, but maybe eventually I’ll ditch the insecurity.