Dear John: Some Not-So-Straight Talk
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Normally I would never write to an advice column about my problems, but I have something going on I feel I have literally no one I can talk to about so this will have to do!
I am a freshman at a small college. Male. Straight. But without anything like this ever happening to me before, I have developed what I guess can only be described as a crush on another guy. It’s hard for me to even write that, not because I’m homophobic or anything (I’m not at all) but simply because this is completely out of left field for me. Up to now, I’ve had a couple of “serious” girlfriends, been on dates with quite a few more, asked out and got turned down by even more…just normal high school dating stuff. But I joined a group here at school that brought me into contact with an upper classman that I can’t stop thinking about. I know he’s gay – he’s very open about it – but unlike a lot of gay men I’ve known, he’s not superficial, bitchy, and all about being gay and nothing else. He’s smart, funny, thoughtful, and incredibly charismatic and just seems so confident and self-assured. I get all the same feelings I’ve gotten when I’ve had crushes on girls and I do the same things like try to “accidentally” be where I know he’s going to be. But I’m not gay! Even writing about this, I feel both excited and also ashamed for not being able to just snap out of it. I just re-read this letter and the whole thing strikes me as ridiculous! I am so very confused. Should I quit this club and wait for it to pass as crushes always do? Should I talk to him about it – a step that seems like crossing a “point of no return”? Then I think of all my friends and I know I can’t do that. Like I said, it’s ridiculous. But I sure can’t think about this clearly at all and another point of view would be appreciated. Thanks.
Can’t Think Straight
Dear Can’t Think Straight,
Considering how unexpected this sounds, it’s to your credit that you are doing your best to wrestle with it instead of suppressing your feelings. One of the ways we’re able to make sense of the world is by creating categories, but categories can be inadequate when we’re talking about something as complex and nuanced as human sexuality. What are you? You’re a young man who has never had romantic feelings for another man before, but now you do. It’s so very easy to get distracted by things like what your friends would say, what your parents would say, what your ex-girlfriends would say, but right now, none of that stuff matters. (None of it will ever matter, really, because you have to be true to yourself and hope other important people in your life will accept that, but right now, dwelling on such things will make it impossible to learn something about yourself from this experience.)
So what should you do? I think you should talk to this guy and try to get to know him a little better on a personal level. Tell him exactly what you’ve said in your letter and see what he has to say. Maybe he won’t turn out to be as great as he seems from afar, or maybe you’ll grow even more infatuated. Maybe you’ll become platonic friends. Who knows? Just about the only wrong thing you can do with these feelings is to pretend they don’t exist.
You’re young. You’re still growing, physically and emotionally. Be open to new ideas and perspectives, and don’t get too far ahead of yourself deciding what they mean. You feel how you feel. There’s nothing wrong with seeing where that leads.
I got married several months ago. I was trying to stretch our budget, so I took a friend up on her offer to take our pictures as a gift to us – she is a semiprofessional photographer and I’ve seen some stunning photographs she’s taken, so this seemed like a good idea. You can probably guess where this is going. The pictures of our wedding are a disaster. It’s not that they are out-and-out bad (and there sure are a lot of them!), it’s just that they look like the pictures anyone would take walking around a wedding taking snapshots. Even the ones she seemed like she was going to great lengths to get just right ended up being very, very ordinary. I really wanted a beautiful album to document this special day, so this was just a huge disappointment.
So it’s been a while now, and my friend senses that there’s a coolness between us. In an email she sent yesterday, she asked if something was wrong, and I honestly don’t know what to say. Part of me wants to be honest with her and tell her what’s bugging me, but what will that accomplish? I’m not completely sure I can just let it go, though – I still seethe when I think about it. What do you think?
Dear Sore Subject,
I understand you’re disappointed, but I really can’t see what your friend did wrong. She offered to take your wedding pictures for you, and that’s exactly what she did. Not to be callous, but the fact that you didn’t like them was as much your fault as hers: good photographers, whether of weddings or anything else, do not come cheap, and you picked a bad place to try to save money. Had you skimped on anything else, it would eventually have been forgotten, but you skimped on the one thing that will remind you of your disappointment every time you take them out. I would say accept the role that you played in this and try very hard to let it go. And the next time you want a difficult job done well, remember you almost always get what you pay for.
My husband passed away two months ago, somewhat unexpectedly. His obituary ran in one of the statewide papers, and many people turned out for his wake and funeral service. However, as Christmas cards came in, I realized that some people didn't know that he had died. For instance, co-workers from a job I had fifteen or twenty years ago; we were close then, and stay in touch mainly at the holidays. Also, a former teammate of his found me on Facebook and asked to be friends. None of these people came to the wake. I am positive they would have had they known. How do I tell them? I don't want to call and tell them; I think that when people receive news like this, it is hard to hear and I don't want to compound the situation by being on the other end of the line, probably sobbing when I inform them. I don't even know if I have the phone number to one of the parties. Do I mail a note? Or do I just leave it alone? Is it rude to break this news using social media? I hope you can help me with this.
Still Breaking The News
Dear Still Breaking The News,
I think you should try to let these people know your husband passed away, but I think you have every right to do so however is easiest for you. You’ve been through a heartbreaking tragedy, and it’s still fresh – two months is no time at all. So don’t worry about the “right” way to convey such sad news. This is one time when the right way is whatever demands the least of you. For example, were you particularly close to one of the colleagues from twenty years ago? Reach out to him or her, by email, note, whatever, and say it’s nice to continue to stay in touch after all these years, but you have some bad news and you would appreciate it if he or she would let everyone there know. Same with the friend on Facebook: if that’s your only way to contact him, that’s fine. Perhaps he could let your husband’s other former teammates know what happened. If you like, you can start your message by saying, “I hate to have to break this to you this way,” but don’t worry about the propriety of using email or social media. Someone with the audacity to pass judgment over this is someone whose opinion I wouldn’t waste much time considering.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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