DEAR ABBY: I am writing not for advice, but to help others in a situation that I recently encountered.
I have a dear friend I'll call "Kent" who has muscular dystrophy. Kent is 95 percent paralyzed, but mentally he is one of the most intelligent, mature, open-minded, wonderful people I have ever met. At age 40, he is confined to his parents' home, to his bed and to a ventilator. Kent lives every day knowing that his next breath could be his last.
Kent has never had a girlfriend nor any sexual experiences, although he has all the normal sexual feelings and desires that any able-bodied man would have. For the past four years, Kent has asked me to arrange a sexual experience for him. He called and asked again recently, so I agreed.
I contacted an escort service and before I could finish two sentences, the manager said, "Don't worry about it. We've got it covered -- and we'll do it for free." The encounter went very well. The woman had a medical background and was not shocked by his disability or life-support devices.
When Kent's religious parents found out (they were not at home at the time), I was banned from their house, from contacting him, and his phone book suddenly "disappeared." I regret that I may have lost a dear friend, but I am more saddened to realize that a 40-year-old man can be held captive in his room by his disabled body and by his parents' morals and values as though he were a 13-year-old adolescent.
Abby, there must be many "invisible" people with disabilities that we never see because they are trapped inside. I hope this letter will open the lines of communication in some homes, and also make people understand the normal, natural needs of these individuals. -- VIC IN GRAHAM, N.C.
DEAR VIC: So do I, because the situation you describe is tragic. Too often, assumptions that have nothing to do with reality are made about people with disabilities. One of these is that people with disabilities do not have sexual feelings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Healthy relationships help a person build self-esteem. They should be encouraged because they are an important part of a person's development. It is wrong for a person in control to project his or her own moral values on another adult who is dependent. For parents to confine an adult child, to prevent that person from having relationships, and to discourage that person from living life as fully as possible is to me both cruel and ignorant.
I would only hope that someone in your community who understands this could intercede and explain to Kent's parents that there is room for nontraditional relationships in cases like this one.
DEAR ABBY: I just turned 21 and am engaged to be married in May. My fiance and I have been together all through college, but I have been feeling hostile toward him for the last couple of months. I get mad for the stupidest things and don't know why. Lately I've been feeling I want to go out and "experience life." Should I call off the wedding? -- OVERWHELMED WITH CONFUSION IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR OVERWHELMED: You are overdue for a frank talk with your fiance. You may be experiencing pre-wedding jitters or are feeling trapped. Whether the wedding should be postponed or called off is up to the two of you to decide. You both would benefit from premarital counseling.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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