Advice

Miss Information

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Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

   
Dear Miss Information,
This St. Patrick’s Day I went with my boyfriend to a club, got drunk, and ended up dancing suggestively with an acquaintance. I was operating under two (drunken) assumptions: one, that this fellow was fully aware that I had a boyfriend and therefore was not going home with him; two, that my boyfriend was being truthful when he claimed he was amused by the situation and not jealous at all.
Well, of course my boyfriend was jealous.  I would have been seething had our positions been reversed, but at the time I guess I enjoyed the attention. The next day I was horrified with myself. The problem is, when he’s sober, my boyfriend is reluctant to acknowledge that he feels jealous at all, even though it’s become clear that he does. I personally think jealousy is a perfectly natural human emotion; he thinks it’s a weakness. He comes from a culture that is very male-dominated and my theory is that this is his way of rejecting that legacy. I can’t properly apologize for the whole situation until he admits that he was jealous and wants to talk about it. Any ideas on how to handle this? — Miss Behavin’



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Dear Miss Behavin’,
Your boyfriend is jealous, whether he says so or not. Some people have a difficult time expressing their emotions. They either squash them down until they’re so muted they’re unrecognizable (Exhibit A: Your boyfriend saying everything’s A-okay) or they act out inappropriately (Exhibit B: You doing a disco hump with a near-stranger).
It’s not fair to expect him to own up to his jealousy when you’re not owning up to certain stuff yourself. You danced with this guy because you wanted to elicit a reaction, and you got it. But the fix wasn’t big enough, and now you’re continuing to focus on a minor incident that should pretty much be over. You’re still searching for something, Miss Behavin’. You may think an admission of jealousy is that pot o’gold you’re after, but you’re wrong. (P.S. I promise that was the last St. Patrick’s day metaphor. I’m Irish. I’m allowed a certain number by law.)
What you’re seeking is a more overt expression of commitment and affection from your boyfriend, something you’re obviously not getting if he’s so emotionally constipated he can’t admit to being a little peeved when his girlfriend freak-dances with someone else at the bar. Or maybe he does give you those expressions, over and over, but they’re never enough because you are an insecure and needy emotional black hole. If I were a gambler, I’d probably put my money on a little of both.
You can’t play stage mom to another person’s emotions. Your boyfriend is going to feel what he feels, whatever clunky-ass way he chooses to feel it. You won’t get anywhere by continuing to hammer him on this one not-even-that-relevant point. If you look at the incident as an indicator of communication problems in your relationship, and go at the discussion from a broader angle, you’ll have better results.



Dear Miss Information,
 
It’s an old story: I’ve fallen for a coworker. Over the past few months we’ve engaged in a couple of after-work make-out sessions, but she insists there can be nothing more because we work together. I’d accept this, but I just can’t seem to — I really do think I’m in love. My question: is it possible to respectfully pursue her? Or is any pursuit a sign that I don’t really respect her and that I’m just a selfish prick? (Oh, and if you could offer any tips on how I might pursue her, that’d be great.) — Besotted in Berkeley


Dear Besotted,
If you put funny Post-Its in her cubicle and deliver her favorite candy bar via inter-office mail, then no, you’re not a prick. If you barrage her with emails, visits to her cube and subtle threats about telling the boss if she won’t join you for an evening of French cinema, you’re still not a prick. You’re a white-collar stalker.
Office romances make people paranoid, and this paranoia causes them to apply a higher standard to prospective partners. There’s "Hot," and then there’s "Hot, but do I really want to take the risk?" Ninety-nine percent of folks are probably going to fall into the latter category. Including you. We also don’t know if she’s using the coworker thing as an excuse because she’s not that into you, or if it’s a genuine showstopper. For all intents and purposes, we’re dealing with a long shot. Forgive me if this sounds calculated and grody, but you need to court this woman like you would a client. Conduct yourself with patience and class and go for the long, slow sell. Easy on the gold jewelry and aftershave, Besotted. When you go out for a drink after work (i.e., schmoozing with the client), see if you can get her to reveal the reasons why she wouldn’t be into dating a guy from work. It’s too obvious if you ask her outright, but more general questions, like, "Who was your first workplace crush? Mine was the girl at the pizza shop, blah blahÂ…" and "What was your best/worst breakup?" will open the doors to her fears and reservations.
Then you use that information to inform your behavior (listen to me, all businessy and shit). If she’s freaked by guys who are clingy, take your time returning those emails and calls. If she had an ex screw her over by spreading rumors, show her how good you are at keeping secrets, even if it’s something stupid like stealing pens, or spilling by the coffee machine and not cleaning it up.
Barring that, the best thing you can do is just lay low, be the best possible version of yourself and continue to explore other romance options. This is a long shot, and your dick deserves a better shot than one ticket in a lotto.

Dear Miss Information,
I identify strongly as queer (female), and have been with my current (straight male) partner for almost two years. Our relationship is healthy and exciting, and there’s nothing lacking there, but I can’t stop thinking about women. He doesn’t want an open relationship, and I’m not willing to jeopardize what we have to go chasing girls, but I feel like my queer identity is slipping down the drain while I put off my attraction to women. In a few months we’ll be moving to a new city together, so the feeling of long-term commitment is especially clashing with my yearnings. Is there some solution to this that I’m not seeing? — Daydreaming-of-Girls-While-I-Sleep-With-My-Boy


Dear Daydreaming,
I want to help you, but I feel like we’ve got to clarify. Is it the experience of being queer that you miss, or the sex with other girls? I know it seems like they’re inextricably linked, but does that necessarily have to be so? I’m fully aware that comparing heteros and gays to queers is apples and oranges, but does a heterosexual stop being a heterosexual if they’re going through a dry spell or abstaining from sex? Is a gay guy not gay because he’s a virgin? Most people would say no. Is there any way you could apply some of that mentality toward yourself?
A lot of people feel the urge to get the fuck out of Dodge right before they get the fuck out of Dodge or do something like cheating to express their discontent with the relationship. Nothing says "I’m feeling really fucked up and scared about this" like a little sabotage. You need to find healthier ways to sublimate, both sexual and non-sexual, including but not limited to: experimenting with role-playing and porn; continuing to share your feelings about this with your guy; and spending more time with your queer homies (but not if you’re going to screw around with them. That defeats the purpose). A good shrink and a little pharmacology could help, too, but I pretty much recommend that for everybody. Also Glide dental floss. That stuff is a fucking miracle, I tell you.
So what if this queer yen continues to grow stronger? Well, then you may want to break up or talk to your boyfriend about negotiating some sort of "open relationship lite" — a kinder, gentler version of the free-for-all fuckfest that most poly-averse individuals falsely imagine an open relationship to be. I realize he’s against it now, but he may change his mind once he realizes that cheating and/or breaking up are becoming more and more realistic alternatives. He could still say no and that’s his right, but at least he’ll know — and you’ll know that you two considered all the options.  

 


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