It’s Valentine’s Day, and what better way to celebrate the holiday than to meet a great couple – Rebeca Isabel Aguirre and Scott Tolen -- who share a love not only for each other, but for Star Trek? In fact, StarTrek.com first encountered them a couple of years ago at Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas and then spent more time with them – hanging out at the Starbucks at the Rio, actually – during this past year’s Vegas event. It was then that we realized they’d be the perfect lovebirds to speak with for a story timed to Valentine’s Day, and so we touched base and engaged them in a joint conversation. They’re smart and funny and affectionate and make each other laugh and smile. It’s easy to forget that they both have Cerebral Palsy, as neither let’s that slow them down. Below is part one of our conversation, and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two.
How did the two of you meet? And how long have you been together as a couple?
Rebeca: Scott and I met 11 years ago on a now defunct dating site for people with disabilities called "I Can Date." Looking back, I remember posting one of the ugliest pictures of me on the site. I got only one hit, but that "one" was the only one that mattered.
Scott: Yes, oh my gosh it was a hideous picture of her, but she seemed nice over chat and I am the kind of guy that looks at the person's soul and not their appearance. And so a few weeks after chatting online we decided to meet. I asked her many years later why she posted that awful picture. She simply answered, "because I did not want a shallow guy."
Rebeca: I got my wish, because there is nothing shallow about Scott. So, how did we meet? I remember it was a beautiful sunny day in May and we met at a local restaurant near my home in Torrance, California. Scott at the time lived in Chatsworth, California, which is far from my house. It wasn't love at first sight or fireworks bursting in the skies, but there was something about Scott that sparked an interest, but at first I wanted to be just friends.
Scott: Okay, I admit that it wasn't love at first sight, either, but when I saw her I was floored because she did not look anything like that image she had posted on the site. She was, and still is very attractive, so I asked her out to see a movie.
Rebeca: I gave him a hard time for a while because I really wasn't interested in a romantic relationship with him. In the meantime, Scott was actively seeking a romantic relationship, so he started to distance himself from me. My mother noticed that I was acting strange and she asked me what was going on with the "nice" young man I was seeing. I told her that I have not talked to him in a while and that I was not "seeing" him. Then my wise mother eyed me and, pointing at me, she said, "You are in love." I was in tears when it dawned on me that I could lose him or that I already have lost him. Consoling me, she suggested that I email him very soon.
Scott: I was frustrated during the time I put distance between myself and Rebeca. I even signed up for eHarmony.com knowing that I already found my match through Rebeca, but I was looking for romance, something that she could not offer me at the time. So, I was surprised when Rebeca emailed me out of the blue asking if I would like to go to the Abilities Expo with her. Rebeca is awesome. Once you start hanging out with her it's hard to forget her, so I said yes. We started talking and hanging out more and more, and I was happy to be just friends with her. We finally became a couple when we went to the "Land Meets the Sea," which is an adaptive sports camp for people with disabilities held every year in Long Beach, California. So, I am thrilled to say that Rebeca and I have been together as a couple 10 years this coming August, and we are planning to celebrate at the "khan" with our Star Trek family.
You both have physical challenges. What is yours, Rebeca? And what is yours, Scott?
Rebeca: We both have Cerebral Palsy (CP) because our mothers experienced complications when they gave birth.
Scott: My mother had undetected diabetes that she acquired when she was pregnant with me and this caused the umbilical cord to be severely damaged and left me with lack of oxygen.
Rebeca: Yes, lack of oxygen is one of the causes of CP as it was also the case for me. I was literally born with a bang. My mother went into labor and the doctor who delivered me had come to work under the influence of alcohol and dropped me head first into a bucket. I was born in a foreign country where there was no such thing as malpractice at the time. Well, the important thing is that I am a survivor.
Scott: I agree with Rebeca… we both are survivors and have a passion for life and making the best of the abilities we do have.
Rebeca: Like Scott said, we are survivors and the passion that we both share for life and for each other has allowed us to complement each other. Scott's needs are mostly mobility-related and I try my best to help him navigate through this by making sure that obstacles are kept at a minimum. Whenever we go places, "accessibility" is my main concern.
Scott: While Rebeca earned her driver's license in 2006, she chooses not to drive long distances, so I do most of the driving for her. We do most of our errands together, while I deal with the traffic, she deals with as she says making sure there are minimal obstacles in my way. Rebeca also has profound hearing loss and I make sure that she carries extra hearing aid batteries just in case.
Rebeca: Yeah, I don't feel safe driving as I used to, but it was such a wonderful achievement getting my driver's license because Scott inspired and encouraged me to do so. We do help each other a lot. It is so second-nature to us that we sometimes forget how much we do for each other and how much we inspire one another to do our best in life.
Something else you have in common in addition to love and physical challenges is... Star Trek. Rebeca, how/when did you discover Trek? And Scott, same for you.
Scott: I remember watching TOS with my father and stepmother when I was a child. Star Trek instilled in me a profound fascination for space and technology. My grandfather was an engineer contracted by Boeing and worked for NASA designing the Delta rockets that ultimately led to the space shuttle program. Yes, I take great pride in that. I also watched TNG through high school and college. I'm so glad Rebeca shares my love for Star Trek because when she told me that she is a huge fan, I just thought it was awesome to have this in common with her. Both of us had not completely seen Voyager and Enterprise, so it was great to see them together.
Rebeca: I agree with Scott about sharing our love for Star Trek. We are going through DS9 right now and we are planning to watch TOS or TNG afterwards. As for me, I remember watching TOS on a black and white television set in my aunt's grocery store in Ecuador. The episodes were dubbed in Spanish and they were considered first run-shows in the early 70's. When I immigrated to the United States, I stopped watching Star Trek until I saw "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "Trials and Tribble-ations" back-to-back while I attended college. I was hooked once more, and when my friends and I would go to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we would always go to the Hilton to eat at Quark's Bar and check out Star Trek: The Experience. But for some odd reason we didn't go to the Star Trek conventions. I was thrilled when Scott told me he was a fan of the show, and I was happy that we had something other than our disabilities in common. I am so glad that we were able to go to Star Trek: The Experience and eat at Quark's Bar with Scott's folks; we were devastated when the attraction closed, darn it!
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two of our interview with Rebeca Isabel Aguirre and Scott Tolen.