MS and the Lonely Hearts Club

This week Lucina reflects on a ‘Lonely Hearts’ teenage prank, dating and life with MS.

I’ll start with a confession. Something that has bothered me since the day I did it, as a teenager, about 25 years ago. It was of course, my mother’s fault. She had told me that as a young un herself, she had placed an advert in the ‘Lonely Hearts’ page in the magazine, Ireland’s Own.

My mother, the butter-wouldn’t melt variety, did it for the devilment. So, I did the same. As far as I remember, in my ad, I described myself as a 65-year-old ‘Merry Widow’. I said that I had land with the much desired ‘road frontage’, with the potential to raise a few quid from selling sites for houses. My anonymity and young age were maintained by a PO Box number.

A few weeks later, a packet full of letters arrived through the letter box. The one that struck me, and that causes me guilt, all these years later, was a letter from ‘Michael’. He wrote on heavy Basildon Bond pale blue note paper in delicate hand writing that suggested that he was an older man. His wife had died and he was looking for someone to go dancing with. The way it was written, I sensed that he was genuine and also, that he was lonely. Until then, I thought the whole thing was a big laugh. I wondered if I should write back to him and confess to my silly prank, or do nothing and leave him wondering. I chose the latter and hoped that he met someone nice.

All these years later, I find myself, aged 42 and rather embarrassingly, newly single, with MS. And no road frontage for sale. I guess it’s way too late to jump back in the MS closet. I’ve been open about my diagnosis among friends, family and work colleagues right from the start. Later, I started to write about it, amongst other things, in rambling posts on Facebook. It appeared that people liked reading my tales and so I started writing a blog. A few newspaper articles later, the MS Society invited me to become part of their blog team. So, you could say that I’m firmly ‘out’, all bells and whistles. But I haven’t really reflected on the potential ripple effects of my disclosure.

The modern equivalent of the Lonely Hearts column, on-line dating, makes me feel ill. I’m definitely not going there. Not yet anyway. If I did, I wouldn’t list my medical condition as my Unique Selling Point. I wouldn’t refer to it at all. But a quick Google of my name would reveal a lot.  Unless an auto-correct on an electronic device added an extra ‘D’ to my forename. Then a potential suitor could think that I am the well-known horse trainer, Lucinda Russell. That confusion wouldn’t last long though. All I know about horses is that I should slow down when I approach them in the car on the Curragh.  

I wonder, if someone was looking for a long term companion, would my having MS mean that I could be dismissed at the outset?Or worse again, could someone be attracted to me because of my condition and try to take me on as a project, to help me, or worse still, fix me. I don’t know which option sounds worse!  

Depending on which blog a potential Romeo might read, he may think I’m an inspirational young (ish) woman, or someone whose illness has taken over her life. I feel like I should put a disclaimer on all of my blog posts telling the reader that my MS symptoms aren’t as bad as I’ve suggested, that I exaggerate my fatigue for effect and that I’m actually great craic (Sure aren’t my blogs a hoot?). I’d point out that I can cook and I’ll be the proud owner of an acre someday (once the small matter of the mortgage is sorted). If I was being REALLY truthful though, I’d say that I’d just like to meet someone to occasionally pick me up in a nice guna and bring me out to dinner. Skills in clearing septic tanks and unblocking chimneys would be highly desirable.  If he wanted to ask me about having MS, I’d refer him to my blog.  

It’s highly unlikely that poor Michael who replied to my Lonely Hearts advert is still alive. But if he was, I’d tell him that I am truly sorry. Karma has come back to bite me. Last laugh to you sir.