Man Receives Backlash For Blossoming Relationship With 23YO Who Looks 8 Years Old

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Judging people is something that is largely considered to be frowned upon, but is also extremely common. It’s almost an instinct, as we all want to feel better about ourselves in one way or another—even if that comes at the cost of disparaging others from time to time. It’s not easy to admit but it remains true.

This applies even more to couples (especially when the person doing the judging is single) and more again to people in the public eye. Combine those two and you have an audience of people openly judging a public relationship just because they can, and sometimes that judgement can have real consequences…

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Always Watching

Living your life in the public eye can come with a huge set of challenges. Not only do you lose a lot of your privacy, but you now have an audience of thousands of people (or more!) witnessing, analyzing, and judging your every move.

A TV camera filming.
Pexels / Donald Tong
Pexels / Donald Tong

No longer are you allowed to engage in even the normal human act of dating without strangers wanting to give their two cents, and no one knows this better than the star of one of TLC’s latest hit reality shows.

Origin Story

Shauna Rae is the subject of the TLC original I Am Shauna Rae.

The show chronicles her life as someone with pituitary dwarfism, which she developed after chemotherapy for a childhood battle with brain cancer. The treatment affected the pituitary gland, which regulates several bodily functions, including growth.

The effect the chemo had on Shauna’s pituitary gland stunted her growth. At 23 years old, she stands at only 3’10” and weighs 50 lbs.

Big Misunderstandings

Due to her physical appearance, strangers often think she’s much, much younger than she seems. She’s more likely to be read as a child than she is a young woman, which has understandably led to some issues on the social side of life.

Especially when it comes to romance. The issues don’t just apply to her, though, but also to almost anyone who tries to pursue her. A travel blogger named Dan Swygart recently experienced this firsthand after showing a strong romantic interest in Shauna and receiving waves of backlash for it.

Jumping The Gun

A number of people have flooded Dan’s comments on social media to tell him they find his attraction to Shauna inappropriate and even creepy given her young appearance.

Dan was very prepared to defend himself though, uploading a video to his Instagram in which he fired back at all the people making snap judgments of him. He begins the video by explaining that he and Shauna aren’t even officially dating yet, which is true. He’s been featured on the show and the two have gone on a few dates, but no official moves have been made yet, and even Shauna isn’t sure how she wants to progress their relationship quite yet.

Standing Strong

That said, he still went forward and put the people calling him a creep on blast. “[…] I think it’s absolutely disgusting the attitude of some people,” he said. “[Shauna’s] been through so much in life. She survived cancer as a child. She’s always felt different and been treated different by society.”

“But how dare you take away her right, her human right, to have a connection, a friendship, a relationship with someone else? Who are you to say that she can’t have that?”

Brutal Honesty

He continues, saying, “I cannot believe some people who deny her the right to have a friendship or a connection with someone else. She is a human being, she is a cancer survivor, she’s got a disability, she has dwarfism. Who are you to take away her right to have a friendship and connection with someone? How dare you? How dare you?”

He then explains how he even became aware of Shauna and what his intentions were, “The way me and Shauna met was I saw the first season of the show and I was really inspired by her emotional strength so I sent her some flowers and a card to say go live your best life, wishing you all the happiness you deserve.”

In Shauna’s Defense

“I did the show knowing I was going to get some hate but it’s very important to remember that Shauna is an incredible 23-year-old woman who has a disability,” he explained. “So as you’re building a connection with her, it’s important to acknowledge her disability and look past that and build it with who she is as an individual.”

He not only finds peoples’ comments disrespectful but wholly insulting towards Shauna. “As soon as you say she can’t have a real-world connection with someone else, you dehumanize her, which is absolutely disgusting. She is a human being, she deserves to have relationships and connections with whoever she wants.”

A Known Pain

He finishes with, “I think some people aren’t emotionally mature enough to understand that you can have a deep connection based on personality rather than just on looks.”

Shauna has also expressed her struggles with connecting to others due to her appearance, having spoken to The New York Post previously about that very thing. She said, “If you look at me, you see an 8-year-old. But I think if you take the time to look at the details in my face, in my hands, the maturity in my body—and I think if you take the time to actually talk to me—you really understand that I’m a 23-year-old.”

Nothing Is Certain

As mentioned, Shauna isn’t certain about the future of her and Dan’s relationship. To start, Dan doesn’t live nearby. He’s Welsh, and Shauna is located in the U.S. She’s said herself that she’s not a big fan of long-distance relationships, so that would be an initial struggle.

She’s also just not certain about her feelings towards him. In a confessional interview on the show, she said, “It’s been a couple of weeks since Dan visited me. We went on a couple dates, which were great. But my feelings toward Dan are a little confusing. I’m playing it day by day. Whatever happens, happens.”

Hidden Intentions

The relationship doesn’t only have its detractors because they believe Dan is strange for being attracted to her. There are those who watch the show who find Dan’s behaviors and motivations to be a little strange.

In one of the episodes he was featured in, the two went paddleboarding, during which Dan really pushed Shauna to face her fear of the water even when she was visibly uncomfortable. As one user wrote in Shauna’s Instagram comments, “It came off to me as him not respecting your boundaries with your fear of the water. You were there facing it but when he tried to get on the board it seemed to me that a boundary was crossed. Just my opinion – I’ve had my boundaries crossed in that way before and just don’t want that for you!”

Mixed Signals

There’s been plenty of talk also within both of their comment sections that Dan’s motive behind his befriending of Shauna is purely clout-based, hoping to get more eyes on his account and his business as he’s an entrepreneur. Some people just can’t help but get bad vibes from him regarding this whole situation.

Of course, there are plenty who support them too. Many fans are choosing to believe that Dan’s intentions are pure and he has a genuine interest in growing closer to Shauna, be it romantically or platonically.

Talking Just To Talk

It’s impossible for mere spectators to get a full and thorough read on the situation, nor is it likely they’ll have any real influence over it either. Shauna is an adult who can handle herself, and whether or not Dan’s reasoning is just, she’s sure to figure it out on her own without thousands of onlookers trying to shout in her ear what the right thing to do is.

Two women sitting outside and chatting.
Pexels / Tim Douglas
Pexels / Tim Douglas

All that we as outsiders can take away is to not judge a relationship off appearances alone. You’re allowed to have apprehensions, but no harm is being done and especially if you don’t really know the people involved, it’s best to keep opinions to yourself. After all, who are any of us to deny anyone a happy, healthy relationship?

In any relationship, always take stock of your feelings and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?

Love is more than just kisses and butterflies, it’s much more than that. If you want to know more on what your birth chart reveals about how you love and what you need out of a partner, check out this personalized report based on date of birth.

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]