Going on date with deaf woman, need help

I’m going out this weekend with a woman who has no hearing. I’ve hung out with her before but that was always when I was with the girl I was dating, who is a close friend of hers and who knows some sign language. All my communication so far has been either via IM, email, and a few times stuff written or typed for each other in person. She has been deaf since early childhood, and most her friends say it takes a couple of weeks to start understanding her when she talks, and I seem to be slower to pick it up than most people.

So my main reason for posting this was to see if you could offer some suggestions. One thing I considered would be one of those things you sometimes see in the grocery store toy aisle where you write on a plastic sheet with a stylus, and can erase it by peeling back the sheet, but that seems kinda cheap and would look funny - is there anything like that available that might be bigger, and obviously made for adults? I no longer have a laptop, otherwise that might be my solution, though it might not be practical to carry a laptop to a hockey game, but also considered maybe some kind of handheld spell-checker or translator to type out messages in. Any suggestions?

Also, I was thinking about the differences in how she perceives the world due to missing a sense, and I started realizing a lot of things I like to do wouldn’t be very appealing to her. I like to go to movies, but that is not such a great date option with a non-hearing person, even if she can follow plot by reading lips (which I think she’s mentioned before she can do sometimes), it would be hard to communicate with her in the dark.

I will probably learn sign language if I continue to date her, but I’ve made attempts before and for some reason I can’t pick it up that easily, and I don’t really have time now.

I am not that experienced with this, and I can’t answer your questions directly, but I am sure a more knowledgable doper will come along when it is not so late at night.

I worked at a disabilities camp this summer, and I did learn one thing: nonverbal communication can be just as important as verbal communication. You obviously can’t rely on it all the way, but I had my share of gestures that I used to express myself to certain campers. Hand usage can help.

But I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned (also with having a boss who has some hearing loss) is try your hardest to look at her while you are talking. I feel guilty while I work and I try to do my job (computer typing) and talk to her at the same time, but it doesn’t work because she can’t see my lips, which makes me feel even more guilty.

I guess I can just say to relax. take it as it goes. Any effort you give she will probably appreciate – ask her what she would prefer when you pick her up, possibly.

and have fun.


I’m guessing that learning a half-dozen or dozen words before your date will be time well-invested. But not from a communications standpoint.

You could take Garrett Morris along :slight_smile:

Seriously, though, one of my better childhood friends was deaf, and I knew only a few signs. We got by by doing a lot of gesturing, some scribbling, but mostly his ability to read lips. I second Shadez’ remark about making sure that she can see your face when you’re talking. I’d assume that the woman you’re dating has a long history of figuring out how to communicate with people who aren’t deaf, so it’s not like she’s going to be surprised if you don’t know sign language. Actually, I think this may make the date go a little easier because you have a built-in backup “conversational” topic (“Okay, now how do I sign ‘The cattle are burning?’” … “Okay, now, what secret insults do you sign to other deaf people?” … etc.)

The stylus and lift-sheet should not be offensive in the least. As others have mentioned, a few hand signs will go a long way. Barring all else, a pad of paper and pen should see you through just fine. Don’t sweat the details and be yourself around this gal. That should carry more than half the battle. If anything, bring some beautiful seashells, cameos, lapidary specimens or any other sort of wacky doo-dads from your life’s storehouse to share with her. Even an odd and beautiful miniature volume of poetry or illustrations would be grand.

Best wishes,


Oops! Wanted to add more:

A little 3x5-sized notepad and a thick or bold writing implement is handy. These pads are the things that reporters in 1950s movies would always whip out, and I still see them in stores. While I seem to remember using a black wax pencil when communicating with by old friend, that might not be as debonair as a Sharpie.

Since you’re not going to speak verbally with her, you might have more freedom to go to places that otherwise might be too noisy. So you could actually go to a club and go dancing – I’ve seen several deaf people who seemed to be enjoying themselves dancing. Any people-watching activity might be good. A movie probably wouldn’t be good as a first date thing, even if it was subtitled – I don’t think movies make good first dates. (Of course, I once took a woman to a museum on our first date, so what do I know?)

Respectifully disageeing with groo, I would make a date to go with her to a foreign movie with sub-titles. You will thus not only make her feel at ease, but impress her with your sophistication. IMHO, you’ll also have a much better chance of seeing a movie which will connect with both of you and you can refer to later in whatever means of communication works for you. There’s less likelihood of the movie being about things blowing up.

Hold hands with her (check to make sure this is OK first, of course) and communicate with appropriate squeezes. There will be a good chance that you will be the most communicative couple in the movie theater, and no-one will shush you for talking.

As Bill H. says, a few words of sign language may really pay off. I’m not suggesting that you do anything manipulative – it just really shows that you value her enough to make an effort.

Some movie theaters have occasional showings of English movies with captions these days.

Other than that, I got nothing.

I’ve had zero experience in the area, so take with a grain of salt:

  • Use a notepad instead of the toy thingy. This way, if this date works out and you have many more (and get married and settle down), you can pull out the ‘notes from our first date’ and she will get all weepy and you will get you some.

  • If not too cheesy, perhaps mini-golf for a date? Of course the dancing thing sounds good too. Depends on how her tastes run (and you said you’ve known her somewhat for awhile).

If Seinfeld has taught us anything, it’s that the word “six” can easily be confused with the word “sex” when reading lips:

"All right, we’re taking a car service. So we’ll swing by and pick you up.
How about six? Six is good. You got a problem with six?
What? What? " :wink:

When I was a post grad one of my collegues and good friends was a completely deaf lady. I would have loved to go on a date with her, but she was allready married. Anyway…
She was a good lip reader which helped, and her pronunciation was good when you got used to it. One way of comunicating which was both friendly and quite intimate was palm writing. This is where you trace letters ont the palm of the other person with your finger. It is of course a slow means of communication, but one I have learnt to use with non-deaf dates. Tracing out “You are cute” on a dates palm whilst holding their had is very intimate.

I should have said tracing out “YOU ARE CUTE”, capital letters are easy to palm write, and quite easy to understand.

Effing brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that? Excellent suggestion.

I dated a deaf girl in high school for a brief period. She was mainstreamed for education and was adept at reading lips and speaking.

Some things seem obvious until you try them. Speak when she’s looking at you, preferable full on. Talking in a car together is therefore bit tough, the profile is difficult to lip read. Dinner is a good place for conversation because you can sit opposite each other. Let her order for herself but be aware she may not be aware of an approaching wait-person. A discreet tap on the table may be in order to get her attention if she’s looking away or down at her menu. My date was extremely attuned to vibrations.

Dance is a possible activity, if you’re both so inclined, as the beat from club speakers is impossible to not feel. Frankly, my dancing is somewhere between Dancing Bear and the Caddyshack gopher so I try to avoid clubs.

A pad of paper would’ve made my date easier. Turns out I tend to not move my lips much while talking and therefore I’m a hard person to lip-read. Writing things out would’ve avoided a lot of repeated conversation.

Some theaters make provision for deaf visitors now. There’s a moving text display on the back wall that displays captions for the movie (in reverse). A mirror that mounts to the seat in front of you will reflect the text for the deaf viewer. Call ahead to a theater and check to see if they have this feature.

That’s about all I can add. Have fun!

Grrrr. I tried last night to fill this thread with my brilliant insight but the server bonked out on me, and now I see nearly everyone’s added just about everything I was going to say. Fie on you all.

However, I’ll reiterate (after adding the fact for those who don’t know that I am a deaf woman who is married to a hearing man…)

Little grocery-list sized notepads are great. Foreign films are also great. Like Belrix mentioned, most newer theaters have reflective captioning (ADA requirement), but it’s not really the easiest thing in the universe to deal with. I personally don’t care for them, but it’s managable. A city the size of yours is also most likely to have theaters showing open captioned movies as well, which is much better, IMHO.

Don’t sweat what to do too much, really. Ask her what she feels like doing/likes to do, and act accordingly. Her perspective on the world really probably isn’t much different than yours. Museums rock. So does stuff like going out rollerblading or other sport-like dates. Poetry readings are out, however. (Although being deaf is often an advantage at them…) Don’t necessarily rule out things that involve sound and music. Remember that it’s extremely rare for anyone to hear nothing at all - I’m very very impaired and I work as a musician. I used to adore going out dancing on dates; going to a loud club levels the playing field - nobody can hear anything anyway. :slight_smile:

Be respectful of her needs with communication, but don’t make too much an issue with it. It is uncomfortable to learn to communicate with someone new, but not at all impossible, and you don’t want a general uneasy feeling messing with what otherwise could be a kickingrad first date. I liked my husband immediately because he seemed completely comfortable around me right from the start. Keep in mind that she’s much more used to communicating with hearing than you are communicating with deafs, so she can help you understand what’s easier for her.

Learn the manual alphabet, too. My husband knew some of it when we first dated, now I suppose he knows about 21 of the letters. And bits and peices of ASL, but not a whole heck of a lot. Palmwriting is dead sexy, by the way.

Have fun! Feel free to email me if you have any more specific questions or just want to pre-date-paranoia vent.

So this isn’t a “Blind Date”, huh?

Mean to say, you’ve met her before.

My advice: Order her Gin, and bring condoms.

She told me she thought I was terribly handsome. Is this an insult?

BTW most DVD movies have english subtitle options you can activate if you want to watch a movie at home with her.

Hmmm, why can’t some hearing woman ask how to date a Deaf guy?

Anyway, back to the subject, I, being deaf & having dated some Deaf women:

  1. She has paper & pencil already. Probably has a laptop too. Call her & ask.
  2. When you get her phone number, call her with the Relay, the US Relay number is 711, the phone book should have instructions if you need them. This should impress her alot. Avoid thinking her phone is just for decoration. You CAN call her.
  3. Talk to her as if you would any other woman, don’t concentrate on Deaf topics all the time, she is more than her deafness.
  4. Spend time getting to know her before you take her to films, they love to talk about themselves.

Frankly, I prefer hearing woman instead of Deaf women because Deaf women talk too much, but they won’t be able to do that with you because you don’t sign.

Speaking as a lipreader, it actually doesn’t. :wink:

Okay, I’m a deaf girl, almost completely deaf, and I was mainstreamed.

I second (third?) the idea of a foreign movie with subtitles. Or, look up the theatre’s website and see if they offer captioned/subtitled movies. I know that Harkins offers “Open Captioned Films”.

Try to be aware of where your hands are. If you tend to gesture when you speak, make sure you aren’t gesturing right in front of your mouth. For me, I pretty much need to be seeing someone’s lips to verify what they are saying. So you wouldn’t want to hold a menu in front of your face, or rub your chin a lot or anything like that.

Learning some ASL signs might be good if the relationship keeps going. My boyfriend plans to learn some signs. If you learn to fingerspell (the manual alphabet) you can get your point across. It’s extremely tedious but useful if you just can’t get across what you mean. Other good, simple signs to learn might be car, movie, breakfast, lunch, dinner… the number signs (which are used for time as well as other number uses), you, me, we, them, us, money. Ask her if she usually signs as she talks and if she does, ask her to do so. You might pick something up.

Just be patient…remember she’s probably run across all the problems you’re stressing about, and more, in her life. She’s learned how to deal with it and will probably be very cool about it.