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Differences – accept, respect, own and educate

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Dear Ella,
I recently met Dan through an online dating site and we hit it off. Something clicked and we spent so much time laughing and chatting right into the morning hours for days. He’s easy – not pretentious, no games and, above all, respectful.
Last Saturday, things started to move to a physical stage. That’s when he said that he had something to tell me. When he was a child, he lost his left leg below the knee to cancer.
My reaction was shock. I didn’t say anything. Instead, I made a hasty excuse and cut the date short. I don’t know why I did that! I don’t care about Dan’s leg. He’s a fabulous guy – and gorgeous, I might add.
We’ve been out since and never spoken of that moment, but I can’t get my
insensitive reaction out of my mind. He hasn’t pursued sex again, either.
Every time I look at him I wonder if he is thinking that his missing leg matters to me. It does not! I’m not sure what to do?
What’s Wrong With Me?

Dear What’s Wrong With Me?,
There’s nothing wrong with your reaction. You were given information that you never expected and you reacted. You needed time to absorb the info in your own way before proceeding. You’re still dating, which tells me this information made no difference to your pursuit of this relationship. Now you’re reliving that moment over and over, wondering if Dan thinks any less of you, if you hurt his feelings or if he feels differently about you because of your reaction.
You’ve been together long enough to have an open and honest talk. It’s your turn to bring up the subject. You can start by telling him how you feel about your reaction. Speak from your heart. Ask Dan questions. Find out more about what happened to him when he was a child. Ask about his challenges now. Don’t make it an uncomfortable conversation. Show him you’re still very attracted to him.
Dan’s disability is a very personal part of who his is. Your relationship is in its building phase. You’re just starting to learn about each other. Respect, honesty and physical attraction are all part of moving forward. Remember, you like this guy for his abilities, not disabilities.


Dear Ella,
My daughter Sam is a beautiful young woman, inside and out, but she is different. Sam is atheist, vegan and dresses and looks different than most people in our community. Sam’s hair is blue or other multiple colours. She has quite a few visible piercings. She’s usually quiet unless someone offends her values. She has a strong commitment to saving the planet.
She can be outgoing, outspoken, a strong advocate. She’s loving and, above all, has the kindest heart. I’m very proud of the strong woman she’s become.
My friends however, seem to pity me. I know they talk behind my back. Do I ignore them? Do I start an argument? Do I make excuses? This past holiday in shul I felt a little shunned. It’s like people are afraid to talk to me.
Proud Mom

Dear Proud Mom,
Your friends’ reaction to Sam’s unique appearance speaks more about them than it does about you or Sam. People can be judgmental without giving much thought about how their words or reactions can cut deep and hurt. It’s a form of silent bullying.
If you notice your friends purposefully ignoring you or Sam, take the reins and speak up. Talk about your wonderful daughter and her accomplishments. Brag about her kindness, her beliefs. Don’t let these people shun you or make you feel any less worthy, because you’re not. Time to teach these friends a little respect and tolerance. You are the mother of a strong, outspoken, warm-hearted woman. You have a lot to be proud of.