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sexuality

Halp, Captain.

I’m a 36 y/o (pronoun indifferent, she/her is fine) in need of advice or maybe just encouragement/permission.

So, the reader’s digest version is that I’ve pretty much always identified as bisexual, but am realizing that i really want to be with women.  So, i guess I’m thinking that I’m actually more like a full on lesbian rather than bi? The wrinkle with this is that i’m coming up on my ten year anniversary to my husband, who is a Good Dude.

Here’s the long version.  In high school I realized I liked girls.  I came out as bi to my parents and my friends, but, really, I was focused on girls, and my friends from that period would probably have described me as a lesbian.  When i pictured the future, I pictured it with a woman. I presented as pretty butch, even experimented with binders and things, although i’ve never really struggled with any sort of gender dysphoria, just sometimes clothes fit better without boobs.  Or so I tell myself, but maybe that’s something else I need to explore.

Anyway, a couple of heartbreaks and dating false starts with women found me in college and desperately lonely.  I had better luck getting romantic attention from men, so i shrugged, said, “well, I did say bi-sexual, didn’t I?” and started looking to men as romantic partners.  I started dating a guy in my art program in college, and found that we had a lot in common, were great friends, and had the same values and goals and stuff. We weren’t a perfect match, but who is, right?  I’ve always struggled with making friends, and here’s this great awesome friend, who I totally love. Then, of course, life happened. Realistically, I was probably about to break things off, but then Hurricane Katrina.  I was living in New Orleans with my parents, we lost our house, i lost my job and ended up resettling in central louisiana for a profoundly miserable year. Eventually, i moved to Illinois and in with my boyfriend who had since graduated and gotten a job teaching art.  What else was I gonna do, right?

First year living together was rough, but things got better and we got our routine down.  It’s a routine that involves me doing a lot of the emotional labor of the relationship, which probably does add a layer to my discontent.  Anyway, eventually we got married, and i had doubts throughout the engagement, but i’ve always been pretty conflict averse and just didn’t know how to exit.  Also, I tend to get stubborn and don’t like to be wrong, and I’m definitely carrying some weird vicarious baggage from my mom’s unhappy marriage and divorce (I wasn’t even born! May parents have been happily married my whole life! How did i get this hangup about how I would definitely never marry the wrong person and repeat my mother’s mistakes. As I write this I now realize that I have some unexplored issues about my mom.  Thanks, sobriety).

So now, here we are, nearly ten years later, and we just bought our house a little over a year ago (which was a huge step for us and something we’ve put a lot of work into together).  In many ways, we are closer than we’ve ever been, we have become better about being honest with each other and about our mental health concerns, and I can honestly say my husband is the best friend i’ve ever had, and has positively impacted my life in many many ways, and in a lot of ways, i’m happier than i’ve been in years, like, ever in my adult life, maybe.  

But:

I finally confronted my problems with alcohol last year and am going on for eight months of sobriety.  Now that i’m not numbing myself, the ways i’ve changed and accommodated myself to fit this relationship have been kind of a gut-punch for me.  My queerness has become kind of a secret (not through any pressure from him, it just feels weird to be advertising all the other people i’m potentially attracted to when i’m married, and i live in a conservative enough community that i don’t want to put him in the position of explaining my sexuality if i’m too “out”).  I also have the typical bi-girl in a hetero relationship feeling like i’m appropriating a label if i proclaim my love for the ladies too vocally. I have a lot of guilt about being able to pass as straight and feel like that excludes me from the lgbt+ community, which was a big part of my life in high school/college.

Bound up in all of this, is that i live quite a distance from my parents in New Orleans, and clearly, if we split, I could move back to Louisiana and be closer to my parents who are beginning to have some age-related health issues.  Also, let’s be honest, if I want to be gay, New Orleans is a pretty good spot for it. Sometimes I think about asking my husband to move back to Louisiana with me, or at least closer, because he has occasionally said things that would imply a willingness to entertain the idea (he’s a plant nerd and the long growing season and weird bugs appeal to us both), but when I picture including him in that life change, it makes me cringe, which is, I guess, a pretty good indication of what I want to change.

So, i’m not miserable.  I have a good life and a good partner.  Leaving would kind of screw him over (i’m the primary breadwinner, he’s struggling with some depression, he’s on my insurance, blah blah shitty us healthcare system, plus, now we have this house to deal with).  We bought our dream home together and he’s put so much work into it. We have a mini-farm full of tiny little fruit trees that he planted for me! We go on weightlifting dates and car shows together! He watches terrible 90s anime with me!  He grows the spiciest peppers evar! He’s dealing with some stuff right now, things will get better!

But, he’s allergic to cats and crowds, he doesn’t like the smell of eggs, we never have sex and when we do it’s pretty lackluster.  We are terrible at talking about our problems. Oh yeah, and he’s Not A Girl.

But what if all of this is just some kind of overboard reaction to relatively new sobriety?  What if it’s the first manic episode of heretofore undiagnosed bipolar disorder? What if I start dating girls and find out I don’t like it?  What if I ruined a good person’s life by not being honest with myself? Do i just have to live with my mistake forever? How miserable do i have to be to make this change?  I know that if I do decide to end this, I will probably be the bad guy, and I will definitely lose most of my friends, so that’s not ideal.

It’s also just embarrassing, because it’s not like I had any trouble embracing my sexuality.  I’ve known I liked girls since I saw Linda Hamilton doing chin-ups in Terminator 2. I think I just lucked into a good enough companion and went, okay, this is fine, I can live with this, and I can, BUT, could I have more?  I don’t want to make a decision right now. I think i need to sit with my epiphany for a bit and make sure that it’s not just a matter of feeling empowered by new sobriety and fitness. Because maybe(?) that will let me confront some of the other things that make me unhappy in my life, and then i will have the confidence to be more vocal about my sexuality and sexual identity, and make some changes within my marriage.  

Anyway, any advice you may have is appreciated, especially any advice from anyone who’s been through a similar situation, whether you left or stayed.  

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It’s time for that monthly thing where we answer the search strings people typed in to find this place as if they are actual questions. This feature is made possible through the generous support of 979 Patreon followers. They keep the blog ad-free and allow me to pay rent and eat cheese.

First, as is traditional: a song

Lyrics here.

1 “Cheating on your best friend by making another best friend.”

“Love is not a pie,” as the lovely short story by Amy Bloom tells us, and people can have more than one very close friend without taking anything away from anyone.

2 “How to ask your neighbor to text before she drops at your door.”

I know at cultural expectations and norms vary widely around neighbors popping in without calling first depending on where you live, and I fully admit my membership in the “If it’s an emergency or you need something real quick, please let me help you! But if you’re dropping by ‘just to chat’ that is my literal nightmare, sorry!” club.

Next time your neighbor drops by, open the door partway without letting her in and  – once you ascertain that it isn’t an emergency – say something like “Hi there! Forgive me, but I’m afraid now isn’t a good time! But let me give you my number, and let me take down yours, that way we can text first and make sure it’s a good time.” 

She’ll say something (hopefully something involving the words”of course”!), and then (and this is key) you say “Oh, thank you so much! So sorry I can’t chat today, bye!” and then you shut the door and go back to what you were doing. You can’t let her in once you’ve told her it’s not a good time, or she will never take it seriously.

It will feel very awkward and like you’re the one being very rude, but it’s important that you begin as you mean to go on once you’ve set this boundary. In the future, if she texts first, thank her for asking, and then tell her the truth about whether it’s a good time at that particular moment: “Hi, thanks for texting! I’m in the middle of something, so now isn’t a good time, but if you still need help hanging that painting I can pop by after 5, will that work?” Also, if you otherwise like this person, try texting her and inviting her over for a coffee every now and then when it is good for you. If she refuses to text first and keeps trying to drop by, there is no rule that says you have to answer the door at all.

3 “How to question a narcissist’s intentions.”

What an interesting question!

In my experience with narcissists, which I would list as “way more than I’d like to have,” I find it more more useful to examine a) their actions, b) the effects those actions have on me or the world and c) the future (what I would like to happen now) than to get sucked into trying to question or even determine their intentions.

If something makes a narcissist look good they will always pretend they intended it all along, if it makes them look bad they will claim that they never intended it (and that it didn’t happen like you said it did anyway, and that you’re stupid to think it did, and anyway, it isn’t their fault, and maybe also you kind of deserved it?). Arguing about their intentions just feeds them. Or tempts them to gaslight you. Or both.

But if you can truthfully say “You did x. Whatever you intended, the effect on me was y. From now on, please do z” you sidestep the discussion of their intentions entirely. They can say “but I intended a, b, and c, not y!” all day and you can say “Of course! But y is what happened, so I need you to do z from now on.” 

4 “Will my ex reach out?”

Yes and no. Yes = When they want something, or when you’ve already moved on, or when it would be maximally annoying. No = all the times you kept your phone by your pillow wishing they would.

5 “Want to break up but scared he will kill himself.”

If you seriously think a partner is in danger of killing themselves, hopefully you can direct them to relevant mental health resources and call in their family and friends to take care of them. You are still allowed to leave. 

Possible script for family/friends: “As you know, Alex and I broke up. They are taking it very hard, and have mentioned suicide more than once. I need the people who love them to check on them and support them in getting help. I can’t be the point person for that – for my own well-being, I need to take some space and make this a clean break – so can I count on you to call Alex/stop by and visit/encourage Alex to seek treatment and help?” 

If you leave and they do eventually die of suicide, it was not your fault. They had an illness, and you staying as their sole support system/guilt-hostage was never, ever going to be the cure for that illness.

Finally, if you have any reason to think you are also in danger from a partner who threatens suicide (a depressingly common thing in abusive relationships), you get to choose yourself. You get to leave and not look back if that’s what you need to do to keep yourself safe. Call a domestic violence resource like The Hotline and get to work on making a safety plan.

6 “Make your male neighbour notice you are ill and come to visit you.”

Well, learn from the mistakes in #2 and definitely text before you just drop by his place!

And maybe try just asking him out already when you’re feeling better?

7 “Is it abuse if my dad hits me and kicks me.”

Yes. You might also find the hotline useful. It is wrong for anyone to hit or kick you.

8 “How to tell my parents I’m bi but I’m married.”

My inbox was a Pride month explosion of similar questions, so I’m glad to answer them all in one place.

Maybe try “Throughout my life I’ve been attracted to both men and women. I’m married to [Spouse] now, so I’m assumed to be or mistaken for a straight person, but please know that when people talk about the LGTBQ* community, they’re also talking about me.” 

9: “I’m bisexual do I have to break up with my partner.”

A) No and B) This is one of the annoying questions people who come out as bisexual get asked a lot by people who don’t get it.

You can be attracted to people of all genders and still choose to have a monogamous sexual and/or romantic relationship with one person.

10 “Nice guy keeps texting and won’t take no for an answer.”

People who won’t take no for an answer aren’t really all that nice. Let’s just remove that plausible deniability shield for his really annoying and aggressive behavior once and for all, ok?

If you haven’t done this already, text him one time to say “I am not interested, stop contacting me.” Then, never respond to any communication from him. If he texts you 100 more times and you respond, you’ve just taught him that it takes 100 attempts to get your attention, so he’ll start again at 101. Block him on all social media and generally lock down your info so it’s not so public. Don’t threaten him or yell at him in reply to his messages even if they get really weird or seem to escalate – every time you engage with him you buy yourself 1-3 more months of harassment.

Save the texts he’s sent you already, save the one where you told him to stop, document everything in case he escalates. Tell other people in your life what he’s doing (but also set the “DO NOT ENGAGE” rule for other people).

Most times, if starved for attention long enough, these guys drop it and transfer their fixations to other people. Other times…well…we’ve all read and seen the news about the other times. Be safe.

11 “How to answer to someone who invites you last minute to his party.” 

Do you want to go to the party y/n Can you go to the party y/n

If both are y, “Great, thanks for thinking of me, I’ll be there.”

If either or both are n, “Sorry, can’t make it, thanks for thinking of me, though!” 

12 “Is it reasonable to break up because you don’t like his kids?”

Kids are a huge part of his life, and, depending on their age, probably occupy most of his thoughts/efforts/money/priorities/time. Not all kids are likeable or gonna like you, but if you don’t like the most important people in your loved one’s life, maybe he’s not for you?

13 “What to do if a friend forgets to send a birthday card?”

If you normally trade cards, and nothing else seems “off” about the friendship, what’s the worst thing that would happen if you chalked it up to ‘they were probably busy and forgot’ and then you sent them a birthday card as usual? What if you called them or sent a postcard or text to catch up about general life stuff?

13 “Short bob with side bangs”

My One True Haircut.

14 “My husband doesn’t _____, but I like it very much.”

I’m really gonna need to know what’s in that blank before I comment further.

15 “Dating sisters”

Why, why, why would you do this? Did you defeat every video game you have on hard mode/achieve the pinnacle of success in your career/cross literally everything else off your bucket list? Why would you set yourself and an entire family up for so much failure and weirdness?

 

16 “How to be supportive when your man is gross?”

Gross…how?

And how gross?

And why is “supportive” the thing you’re trying to be? And not like, “Hey babe, please stop doing gross things/please do these things to be less gross.” 

I have so many questions.

17 “Why does a woman turn and show a man their back while talking?”

First, thanks to the Twitter follower who was like “I’m a blind man and even I can read this body language.” You made me laugh.

Second, if you’re a man wondering this, in the absence of other verbal cues from the woman like “Please follow me” or “Please keep talking, I want to hear this, I just need to look at something over there for a second,” maybe, stop talking?

 

 

 

Hi Cap’n. 

Here is issue: My partners’ ex, and boundaries.

I have great relationships with my exes, I think it’s healthy and awesome. This is a new and different world, apparently.

My partner’s most recent ex is in our lives a LOT. There are good reasons for this that go beyond their ongoing friendship, but the upshot is that Ex has visited and stayed at our house approx. 1 week out of every month for the last four months. Ex and I get along… mostly. But we would likely not be friends in real life. She’s great in lots of ways but also incredibly different from me. To be honest I find her exhausting and sometimes horrible: a vain, high maintenance, superficial, demanding, selfish Regina George type. She calls other women “ugly”… a lot… she keeps everyone waiting for Makeup Reasons. She wants us to go to clubs and wears shoes she can’t walk in. Etc.

She also has radically different ideas about appropriateness from me: the first time I met her she walked topless past my partner, dropped trou with no warning and peed in the bathroom right next to me, etc. It’s not just her, they fall into these patterns together- he carries her purse, invites her to sleep in our bedroom (and bed!) to “be courteous to our roommate”, keeps me waiting at the house while they eat nice lunches, delays our special two day mini-break (for my birthday) for hours to do her sudden huge favors.

He knows this is shitty when I calmly (or occasionally shakingly) point it out. But he doesn’t anticipate it, and doesn’t predict the cumulative awfulness of it or why it means he should cool it on inviting her along on trips with us. He does feel terrible, and is incredibly patient and loving when I have an “I’m now an awkwardness alien who can’t fucking Person anymore” freakout. Never does annnything resembling deflection or gaslighting.

At this point I need a big, fat break from this person. And to take approximately ten thousand baths.

So tell me, how do I stop feeling like I have to constantly be the Boundaries Police, and do you think that’s even going to be possible?

(Not pictured: frequent references to their past, all their orgies and predictably boundaryless sex life. I’m all for fun group things, but I need to soberly discuss them before they happen. Again, he gets this, but has yet to demonstrate that as a practical behaviour before I find myself in a position of awful panic.)

Halp.

Ps, he is otherwise a dream, best partner I’ve ever had, no question. Just, ack. This is not nothing.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

How is a good way to let a friend know that her mildly homophobic comments are hurtful to me before I move in with her?

My friend Ella would probably be offended if she knew her comments come across as ‘othering’ to me (I’m a bisexual woman, not yet fully out to her, and only newly out to myself). Nonetheless, the things she says make me feel I can’t be fully myself around her.

When Ella heard I’d been on a date with a woman, she grilled me about my sexuality at a point I was feeling uncertain myself and unready to talk.

Now when we go clubbing, Ella will grind up against me, pant against me and generally invade my personal space in a way I don’t like while looking at all the men near us. It makes me feel like she’s trying to ‘put on a show’ to attract men, and I don’t like being a part of it.

Ella has often said things that make me think she views sexuality as very binary – a female friend of ours was once in a three year relationship with a woman, and is now with a man. Ella immediately dismissed the previous relationship as “just experimenting”.

Ella has low self esteem and is dealing with anxiety right now, which is why she wants me to live with her. She’s a nice person and I think it could be really fun to live together, but not if these things that make me uncomfortable continue.

How can I respectfully and kindly assert what I need, Captain Awkward?

Sincerely yours,

Not in Kansas anymore

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Dear Captain Awkward,

Recently, my husband and I have been talking about taking a step to be more open in our relationship. We had made attempts to do this before, but we sort of jumped in without enough discussion and then had to pull back because if something hadn’t been explicitly outlined for him as being okay, his default was that it was and he would be willing to soldier forward regardless. It was a little more of a “better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” kind of a situation and I kiboshed that because I need boundaries to feel secure. Anyway, we have been talking and talking and talking and someone sparked his interest and so we talked about baby-stepping our way back into this situation with much clearer boundaries and I felt totally okay with it – until recently.

So this woman, I will call her Pandora, came over to our house for dinner and things were fine until she and my husband started to have some weird and ambiguous conversation about an appointment she had the next morning bright and early. This goes on for a while, so finally I was like “Hey! I’m in the room and I feel like you’re having a conversation around me and it is making me uncomfortable! What are you talking about?”, at which point, Pandora goes “Oh well I have a lot of drama going on in my life right now and it is just best that I keep some things vaulted.” Which like, okay, but then also don’t vaguely drama dump in front of me in my living room.
Anyway, she left and then my husband goes “You want to know what that was about?” and I said “yes!” because of course I do when baited with juicy morsels of gossip. Well it turns out that Pandora has been fooling around with this one particular couple when they do MDMA and now has started hooking up with the dude half of the couple without the woman’s knowledge. In fact, the appointment she kept referring to was a six am visit from this dude, who was going to hook up her secretly on his way to work.

For context, this info was dropped on me at close to 2 in the morning and I had work the next day, so I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I spent the whole next day thinking about it and it seriously made me annoyed and upset. Like do I think her morning secret hookup dude takes a large share of the blame for stepping outside his primary relationship as he is the committed person? Yes. But it genuinely bothers me that she was intimate with this woman, knew exactly what the woman’s boundaries were and what the boundaries within the primary relationship were, and then decided to go there anyway. To me, sex isn’t just something that happens, it’s something that you choose to make happen and they chose against the wishes of the other person involved which is sketchy as fuck. That to me shows a huge sign of disrespect and I told my husband that it really made me upset and uncomfortable to bring this person into our lives in an intimate way. My reasoning was that if she is so willing to do this to someone she has had sex with, I don’t see what would stop her from doing the same to me, a casual acquaintance.

At this point, he says that they have had multiple boundary talks and she has assured him this won’t be an issue to which I think my exact response was COME ON, MAN! Also, during this conversation, he insisted on trying to contextualize her decision in her other relationship by saying things like “We have no idea what that other primary relationship is like!” and then he also bomb-dropped that this couple is very close friends with some other very good friends of mine, so I can’t talk to them about this because they could probably figure out who I was talking about via context clues, and he said that I can’t tell Pandora I know because she made him promise not to tell anyone and it would implode his friendship with her if she found out she broke his promise as she would be really embarrassed. I again told him that if she is sneaking around with this dude, whatever the current status of the other primary relationship is, they know it is not kosher and that it actually really bothers me that this early in the game she told him to keep secrets from me which, I think, are important contextually. Also, I seriously can’t help but wonder about not only the emotional healthiness of this situation, but the physical health as well. Like I can’t really imagine a situation where she’s like “Yeah, the guy I am also seeing is sneaking around behind his partner’s back and is kind of a cheating scumbag, but he’s really fucking diligent with condoms!”?

Anyway, I told him I am not comfortable with him taking things any further with her in light of these things and he responded by saying that he feels like she has explained things to him to his satisfaction and that because he has self-control and he is a good judge of character that he thinks that should be satisfactory in in this situation. If I have concerns about this situation, instead of unfairly shutting it down and taking this away from him, I should trust him, or, I am still feeling uncertain, I can have a conversation with her directly about boundaries, however I would have to do so without mentioning I know about her cheating scenario.

This whole situation bums me the fuck out because I feel like Pandora soiled all of it with her bad relationship mojo. I mean I am not against him seeing someone else – that’s totally fine with someone who is honest and above board with all sexual partners! -I am against this particular boundary breaking person and he keeps harping on the fact that they have an emotional connection and I am taking this away from him even though things haven’t gotten fully physical between them yet.

So I guess my question is – what the fuck do I do here? At the end of our last conversation, I agreed that we would put a pin in things on that front right now, but like, with the way things are now, I cannot imagine what scenario would ever make me feel comfortable enough to pull the pin out. (Maybe if she broke things off with the downlow dude and stopped pulling sketchy shit?) I mean how can I possibly trust this person? I feel seriously backed into a corner here.

Yours sincerely,
Sick Of Dealing With Pandora’s Box

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I would like some advice on how to deal with this. Let’s start in the beginning. It was the beginning of the school year (8th), when a boy asked for my number. (We will call him Earl) I gave it to Earl only to wait for practically half the school year until I get a text from him. Of course, I could have talked to him in the single class we share. But I was extremely awkward and did not know how I could initiate a conversation with him. Our text conversation was very awkward. After several other conversations, Earl suddenly asked for a selfie of myself. Right after that, he sent a (unwanted) photo of himself, which made me feel like I had to send him a photo in return.

Several weeks later, I saw Earl in the hallway and was about to greet him when I saw him walk towards another girl and hug her. I assumed that she was either a family member (many students’ relatives attend our school) or a close friend. I later found out they were actually dating, that Earl was actually a player, and showed off the pictures he acquired from multiple other girls to other boys. He also asked for a few of my friends’ numbers, even when I was in the same room! I was devastated and felt like it was my fault it happened. Earl even sat with my friends and I during lunch and asked for their names (Just thought I would add that). That was a month ago. We have not talked in that time. Two days ago, he began texting me again. Once again, Earl requested a photo of myself. This time I declined. Immediately after I said no, he just (and I quote) said “K, gn”. I would like to cut ties with him completely. I’m not sure if this is a bad enough problem for you to share some advice, but I would be grateful if you could help.

Sincerely,
Troubled Teen

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Hey Cap,

Hopefully this is any easy one for you (and maybe your community?)

If you were a ten year old boy who just came out to your mom, what would you want her to do or say? What could the mom do to support him?

He came to me crying and handed me a note that said, “I think I’m gay.” I pulled him on my lap and asked why he was upset. He said he was worried I would be disappointed. I said, “Oh please. I’m disappointed when you push your sister. This is just normal.” Then he asked if I could ask a family friend who is gay about how he knew he was gay. So I sent him an email, and I’m pretty sure he’ll talk with my son but I’m not sure how best to support him.

Thoughts?

My first thought is “I love this story and your son!” You’re going to hold onto that note forever, right? And someday when he’s a grownup you’ll give it back to him along with a heartfelt letter from you about how proud you are of him? Yes? Yes.

giphy (15).gif
Image description: An animated .gif of a rotating, pulsating rainbow heart. 

 

PFLAG (“Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays”) is an organization that does a lot of education and activism around making the world safer and more welcoming for gay and transgender kids. If you want to get informed and get involved in things like making schools safer, protecting your son and other kids from bullying, and meeting other parents and kids where you live, they’ll be a great resource for you. One of the best things about organizations like this is that you can learn a lot about the subject without making your son (or your family friend) do all the work of teaching you. For example, the NYC PFLAG chapter has a massive recommended reading list for parents, including This Is A Book For Parents of Gay Kids by the wonderful team behind Everyone Is Gay.

If you search for “resources for gay kids” where you live, see what else you turn up. Everyone Is Gay has a state-by-state guide of groups, friendly churches, camps, and events in the U.S. Is there a youth center or camp, a chorus or sports league, a drop-in or mentoring program, an all-ages Pride event, a safe place for counseling and sexual healthcare as he gets older near you?

Readers, are there any really kid-and-parent-friendly websites or books that you like?

And, when you came out to the people close to you, is there anything someone said or did that made you feel especially safe and loved and supported? Can we give this mom and other parents a road map for how to do this beautifully and well?