Prom Date for Life

Prom Date for Life

By: Heather McCulloch

In April or May, many American high school students attend prom, a formal dance event. This is a magical night where students wear formal attire, eat extravagant meals, and ride in a limousine. In the time leading up to this occasion, news outlets will feature stories with titles like, “Boy invites girl in a wheelchair to prom,” “Boy invites girl with autism to prom,” and “Boy invites blind girl to prom.” The newscasters and audience celebrate these boys for inviting girls who do not otherwise have the opportunity to go to prom. In such stories most of the focus is placed on the heroic actions of the boys. While I believe it is great that neurodivergent and disabled young women are attending prom, the boys’ behavior should not be treated as heroic.

This matters to me because I was legally blind (20/200) and had no night vision at birth and was diagnosed at age 12 with a rare degenerative retinal disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Now, I have about 13 degrees of vision and central vision at around 20/900.

A support group, Foundation Fighting Blindness, says the following about RP (Foundation Fighting Blindness, n.d.):

Often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited retinal disease-causing progressive loss of night and peripheral vision. The condition often leads to legal and sometimes complete blindness.

Retinitis pigmentosa, also known as RP, refers to a group of inherited diseases causing retinal degeneration and a decline in vision. The retina is a thin piece of tissue lining the back of the eye. Rod and cone photoreceptors in the retina convert light into electrical signals that the brain interprets as vision. People with RP experience a gradual decline in their vision, because photoreceptors degenerate.

As disabled women, we do not want to believe our partners choose us out of pity or merely for a pat on the back. I asked my current partner a couple of questions to see what he had to say.

What are three things you think about when you see me? (He had four)

    1. Joey*
    2. Sophie (my daughter)
    3. Gunma JALT
    4. cutie

*See the following link to learn who Joey is (Laurier, 2023):
(Editors’ note: A lot more to this great love story there too! )

What are the three things that concern you about having a partner who is nearing blindness?

Answer: I can’t answer that because it makes it sound like sightlessness is a deficit.

I was pleased with his answers. Even though my sight loss has played a major role in making me who I am, I do not want that to be the first thing he thinks about when he sees me. I do not want him to pat himself on the back for being the hero that “took me to prom.”

But don’t get me wrong. My partner IS a hero and here are four reasons why.

    • He cheated death and did it with a smile. It is not hard to smile when the only thing you are losing is your sight. Even when being faced with the loss of his life, he always brightened my day. 

    • He is always available to help someone in need. He will talk on the phone throughout the night only to get up early for work the next morning if a friend needs advice or assistance.

    • It does not matter if I feel strangled by anxiety or misunderstand a joke, he never gives up on us. His we’ll-get-through-it attitude is infectious.

    • My partner might not have known the obstacles that visually impaired and blind people face on a daily basis, but he has become more aware and points them out by saying, “That bicycle shouldn’t be parked there. That’s really dangerous for blind people.”

People with disabilities are not looking for a caregiver or someone to pity them. They are looking for someone to love them, just like anyone else. Underneath his suit and glasses, my partner is wearing a superhero’s cap. He is my hero, my prom date for life. Joël Laurier, I love you!

A funny thing happened on the way to class!

First lesson with a new class. Simple pairwork: find out about your partner by asking them these few questions. Most students paired up immediately and, with a little encouragement started doing the activity. In English: Result! Just two students had not paired. Good that I had an even number of students for once. OK, you and you work together, please. She doesn’t move. He says one word: NO. Come on, it’s just a few questions. All the other students are doing it. His face turns to stone. She just sits. Please, guys. This is English Conversation. You’re going to have to speak in the end. She runs from the room. His impression of Mt. Rushmore continues. I give up (doesn’t happen often).

Turns out they’d been a couple and had just broken up. They would have conversed with anyone else in the class, but not each other. Sigh.

From the mysterious “M’


Heather McCulloch, an adjunct professor at Gunma University, lives her life to the fullest in Maebashi, Japan because she is surrounded by heroes who love her as she is.

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