Miss Information

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My male friends' girlfriends all hate me for no reason.

By Cait Robinson

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

Dear Miss Information,

I'm a thirty-year-old married woman. My husband and I are very close, and our marriage is happy and healthy. My problem lies with my male friends. I have a number of male friends in my life whose girlfriends absolutely hate me and have even put down the ultimatum, "Stop speaking with her or I will break up with you."

I haven't slept with these guys. I don't confide in them about any relationship issues — if I have a problem with my husband, I go to him and tell him. I don't understand the motivation behind this, and it hurts to have it happen over and over again. Recently, I was chatting with a male friend, and he accidentally missed a text from his girlfriend. This set off a huge fight between them, and I emailed his girlfriend to explain that yes, I was speaking with him and I'm sorry that the text was missed on account of his talking with me. She replied, "I don't understand why you can't just talk to your husband. Why do you have to talk to my boyfriend at all?"

I honestly don't know how to respond to this. I talk to her boyfriend because he's cool? Because we have things in common? Because it's 2011 and we're in America and I have the right to speak to anyone I wish to? I'm no temptress, Miss Info. I'm slightly overweight and have a home dye-job and I wear jeans and sneakers almost exclusively. I'm no threat to anyone, as far as I can see. I don't understand why this keeps happening. Am I missing some huge societal clue that says I should not have male friends?

For the record, my husband has female friends. I don't care if they speak or hang out together — he married me. We own a home and will eventually raise a family together. That's enough reassurance for me.

— I Don't Want Your Man.

Dear I Don't Want Your Man, 

This is a thorny issue. It's high-school politics lingering into adult relationships. (Are you refusing to wear pink on Wednesdays, too?)

Maybe all of your male friends are choosing only posessive shrews to date and then standing idly by as these shrews challenge you to catfights. But I doubt that's the full story. Admittedly, bitchy "hands off my boyfriend!" emails are never called for, but there's a fair amount of defensiveness in your letter, too. Your hurt is understandable, but it might not be helping.

If girls glowering at you is a pattern, examine what you could be doing (even unknowingly) to fan the flames. Are you behaving awkardly around these girls? Are you ignoring them when you see each other at parties? Are you ever dismissive, terse, or cool toward them? Do you brush them off in favor of their more-fun boyfriends? It may not be conscious or ill-intentioned, but you might seem like more of a threat than you know. 

The solution here is not to dump your male friends or rely on your husband solely for male companionship. Instead, you may want to invest some energy into leveling the playing field with these girls. If your friends are in love with them, they must have some good traits, right? 

Drop any defensiveness and try to be the bigger (wo)man, and the girlfriends might rise to the occasion. Go out of your way; even a warm smile and wave from across a bar can work wonders. Chat them up at parties, offer them chocolate you just found in your purse, maybe even consider inviting one out for drinks. Kill them with kindness. Let them see you as a person, and your "conniving minx" alter ego should fade away. 

Dear Miss Information, 

I am a young man. I have pectus excavatum. It does not affect any biological systems, but it is serious. The diameter is about four inches and the depth is two. I was a very brash, confident young lad growing up, and no one ever had much of a problem with my condition or said anything about it. But as I get older, people have move visceral and negative reactions. Even friends of years cannot stand to look at my chest. 

Apparently I have a handsome face; some might say beautiful. Yet every interaction with women ends badly. It doesn't matter if I've known them for three minutes, three hours, three days, three weeks, or three months. If I let them know before sex (on any given timeline) they are gone. Some silently freak out while others are more verbal. Whether I show them beforehand or they find out during foreplay or the act, they become like deer in headlights and pretty much act comatose. No matter how revved up or willing they were, they always shut down. They're still "willing?" to have sex but it feels like it's forced, like rape. I can't do that. They freak out and get quiet, their eyes roll back, we both go limp.

I am a good person. I always have been — that's how I was raised. But with this face and this chest, I feel like a trickster, a con, a sexual practical joke. Is there any help for me?

 Hollowed Out

Dear Hollowed Out,

I have a couple of gnarly abdominal scars. I don't mean like "chicks dig scars!" scars, but like "holy shit, what happened?" scars. Like your chest, these only come up when my shirt comes off. Sometimes they're a topic of conversation; most often, they're not. At some point, I gave up my angst and started embracing them as part of my "story," because they are — sort of like how manatees get banged up by speed boats. It's character, the hard-won kind. I bring it up simply to say that many a beautiful face hides some corporal "flaw." It doesn't have to be a point of shame.

The first thing you need to do is stop considering yourself a "practical joke," because you're not. Like most curses, yours can also be a backhanded gift. If a girl is interested in your pretty face but gets turned off by your shirtless body, she's at best a fair-weather friend. This adversity just allows you to more effectively separate the girl-wheat from the girl-chaff, as it were. And, right, I know this sucks when you want to get laid, but it's saving you some heartache in the long run — why sleep with someone who isn't going to respect you in the morning?

In an effort to triage the "worth it" from the "not," and to avoid surprises, I would mention the pectus excavatum early on. Not when you're drinking and getting handsy — when you're sober, fully-clothed, and clicking. Mention it casually in a situation when sex isn't even on the table, then let it go. It doesn't need to be a discussion, just a mention. If she passes that hurdle and clothes start coming off, check in with her. If she seems uncomfortable, don't progress from "make-out" to "pants off;" keep it PG while she builds comfort. Giving her plenty of time to get her bearings and make the next move will prevent catastrophic rejections. 

In general, Hollowed Out, you get to control the message on this. If you consider yourself a deformed freak, your partners will pick up on that. If you find a way to be open, lighthearted, and charming about it, the whole issue will diminish. To that end, good therapy can help anyone with a chronic illness/body issue come to terms with themselves. Most of us are hit by speed boats at one point or another — the coolest ones are the ones who figure out how to live with their scars.