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Meet Jacob. Formerly Mormon. Scuba diver. Massage therapist. Website developer. Who also happens to be deaf. Jacob spoke to me about his romantic life, from his isolated childhood in Alaska to the wild times in the mega-clubs of Vegas, and how, despite growing up without language and battling depression, he's filled his life—and the lives of others—with expression, affection, and humor. Read on to see how Jacob's relationships stand as a testament to his resilience and an example to us all.
How did being both Mormon and deaf impact your romantic life in your teenage years? Jacob: It absolutely killed it, period. First, I was socially inept as a result of being deaf. Then, when I was 14, I asked my mom if she would drive me into town so I could hang out with a girl I liked. I don't remember exactly what she said, but I do remember feeling deeply sexually shamed. I never talked to that girl again. In fact, I didn't really talk to another girl for years. I didn't finally overcome those feelings until I was 21, in college. You talk about having a social and romantic "reawakening" in college.
Say more about that. Jacob: I had hit rock-bottom shortly before, so I decided I would try one more time, doing something big, and if that didn't work either, I'd end my miserable life. I picked a place I had never been before, had no family, and knew no one.
I chose the Rochester Institute of Technology because it had a sizable deaf and hard-of-hearing population. It's all very sensual. I had also read a book called The Power of Nowwhich is all about being present. Combined with my newfound love of massage, I took on a completely different personality when I arrived.
That became the new normal for me. I was just naturally touchy-feely in a good way, as opposed to how I was raised, where hugs and physical contact were weird. Sex was no longer some shameful thing done in sin. It was a natural expression of the love and contact we all crave. Describe the experience of meeting girls when you moved to Las Vegas after college.
How did your deafness impact that? Jacob: Vegas has 40 million tourists every year, which meant if I made a complete fool of myself, it didn't matter because the next group had no idea who I was. My deafness made it hard to interact with others, so I had to get creative.
Much of what I tried didn't work at all. For instance, I thought it would be a good idea to let people know right off the bat that I was deaf, so they'd understand why I'd need to communicate with them in a different way. Problem was, girls always thought I was trying to play them.
That was mostly because I can speak so well, and I can also dance well. I was meeting a lot of people in clubs. Music vibrates, and the beat is the strongest vibration, which is great for rhythm. So lots of people thought I wasn't really deaf. Anyway, my social experiments in Vegas ended quickly as I actually met an amazing woman within a few weeks.
We spent all our time together for the next three years.
Jacob: Funny enough, I actually have an easier time communicating with hearing girls. I didn't learn language growing up, and though I took a year of it in college, I rarely come across people I can converse in with. And like they say, use it or lose it. So I've lost most of it. I'm comfortable with both sides, but I think I prefer hearing girls because that's the culture I grew up in and am most comfortable with. For some reason, I've never felt like I really belonged in the deaf culture, at least less so than in the hearing culture. I'm sort of stuck in between the two.
How does your deafness make your relationships different from those between two hearing people? Jacob: One big thing is that we are forced to be more intimate. I think after the newness of many relationships dies down, couples don't direct their attention to each other as much.
However, because I can't understand someone if they're not near me, in a place with little or no background noise, or facing me so I can read their lips, we're forced to continue communicating in an intimate matter indefinitely.
This is true with my friendships as well. It's one reason I tend to have a few deep relationships rather than many shallower ones. While the rest of society can, sadly, give half of their attention to the conversation and half to their smartphone, I'm forced to give all of my attention to the person I'm chatting with or none. There's really no middle ground for me.
It's a polarizing thing. Some people love this. Others are uncomfortable with the attention and focus. So it naturally weeds out people who would rather have their nose in their latest mobile device over direct focused human contact. What else do you want to know about Jacob? And before you ask, yes, he's single. Leave your questions and comments below; Jacob will be responding to some. Rewards Free Stuff Promos.
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