Advice

Miss Information

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Why are my friends so mean to my boyfriend?

Dear Miss Information,

I am a twenty-three-year-old female in love with, and dating, a twenty-five-year-old male and a twenty-two-year-old female. I am happy with this arrangement. My girlfriend lives out of town, and my boyfriend lives in town. You get the picture — I'm not super-straight, and while I am comfortable with this, I do not advertise it. 

The trouble is, my boyfriend is not as traditionally attractive as I am. (On a side note, it never was about that: I find him fun, compassionate towards others, and fascinating). Other more masculine men go out of their way to say nasty things to him in front of me. It's appalling really, and I am embarrassed because some of these people I introduced to him as friends. He tells me he doesn't care, and that it doesn't matter, but I feel like at some point it's going to get to him. This isn't the first time something like this has happened, and a lot of the general population doesn't seem to understand that there are other qualities a girl is chasing or that I prefer a non-traditional relationship arrangement. 

Am I supposed to just buck up and watch it happen? Are there ways to avoid this? He really handles himself well, and at this point I'm really just disappointed in my friends.

— Poly-Plexed

Dear Poly-Plexed,

You know the truism, "you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep"? Or its offshoot head-scratcher: "do you think it is a red flag if you don't like your partner's friends?" This is one of my favorite third-beer-of-the-night conversation topics. I have yet to see consensus reached on it.

Your question is a prismatic reflection of this issue: "How much do your acquaintances' comments reflect on you?" or "How responsible are you for your friends?" Regardless of number of beers, here's where I am decisive: I think you are absolutely responsible for the company you keep. If your boyfriend is the odd man out among your friends, your job is to act as a bridge between them until they're all comfortable enough to socialize on their own. To that end, why would you subject your boyfriend (or yourself) to anyone who would demean him? It's not quite the same as sitting through an awkward dinner, using your pained smile to project the message, "Iamsosorryaboutmysuperracistgrandmother." You can choose your friends. You can't choose Oma.

Now, I'm not telling you to flounce away from everyone you know because of the occasional rude remark. But it is worth a closer look. How cool can these friends/acquaintances really be if they're "going out of their way" to belittle your boyfriend? What, do their letterman jackets give them license to stomp the chess team? (It doesn't, and eye roll.) Most importantly, what do you get from hanging out with these people? Does it outweigh your feeling of having to play referee?
In the end, your boyfriend is an adult (and, it sounds like, a graceful one). You don't need to fight his battles. If the issue really comes up this much, prepare some withering, pre-fabricated retort, and use it as needed.

On a macro level, this might be a launching pad to bigger things: holding your friends to a higher standard, and seeking out people who are actually supportive. There's nothing weird about being "not super-straight," nor is there anything weird about being hotter/less hot/a Quasimodo-with-a-heart-of-gold. You all deserve to hang around people who are open-minded and cool. Surplus of testosterone or no, it shouldn't be that hard.