Rejection, Bigotry, and Vanilla With Sprinkles
by Lindsay Miller
1. I know this is going to sound pathetic and ridiculous, but that’s exactly why I can’t talk to my friends about it, so I was hoping you could help somehow. I was having a sort of long-distancey thing with this girl — we saw each other only a couple of times in person, but through calls, emails, and text we developed a pretty intense emotional connection and spent a lot of time talking about how hot we were for each other and describing in graphic detail the things we’d like to do to each other if we only had a chance. Then when we finally did meet up again, she suddenly broke it off — and we never actually did have sex.
So now I’m wrestling not only with these horrible why-didn’t-she-want-me-when-she-could-actually-have-me feelings, but also this feeling like the whole thing didn’t count because we never got naked together, so the fact that it’s been months and I’m still not over it must mean I’m crazy — it seems like by everyone’s definition in the world, we were never anything to begin with. Also, how is it that even though I’ve been with my share of awesome girls in my life, this one rejection has almost completely derailed my swagger? I’m having such a hard time thinking of myself as desirable when someone who seemed crazy about me for so long could decide she’s okay with never knowing what it’s like to actually get with me — not even once.
Oh, girl, your letter is bringing back some FEELINGS. I had, in my youth, a phase that seemed to last several thousand years but was probably only a few months, when every person who expressed sexual or romantic interest in me lived at minimum five hundred miles away. My most attractive quality, at this point in my life, was apparently the sheer fact that I was somewhere else. Obviously, the culmination of this horrible period was that I was actually in the same city as a girl I’d been flirting with forever, and I asked her to come back to my hotel room, and she was like “Nah, I’m good,” and I completely lost my mind because I was obviously a miserable hideous troll who would never again know love or the touch of another human body.
Ugh. It sucked. Why are we talking about this again? Oh, right: because I want to emphasize to you that this sort of thing happens all the time. It happened to me, and I’m demonstrably awesome! It happened to you, and you sound rad! Being blown off sucks, but it doesn’t mean you are terrible or unattractive — it just means that shit didn’t work out. You haven’t failed as a person just because you failed to bang this girl. It’s important to remember that, on most occasions when two people are sexing or trying to sex each other, shit is not going to work out.
Shit is especially unlikely to work out when a relationship develops over long distance (I know this is not universally true, but it’s my party and I’ll generalize if I want to). You’re far away, and you’re calling and texting and writing and emailing, but that’s just words, or a voice, it’s not an actual warm specific person in your bed. There are things about her that you can’t remember, or you never knew, and even if you don’t mean to you start to make things up. You’re picturing her face when you have phone sex, but maybe you’ve inadvertently changed the shape of her mouth or the length of her nose or the extent to which she does or does not hog all the covers, and when you finally see her again in person there are things that are subtly, unexpectedly off, because the girl you were dating was part real and part invented in your head. Sometimes it’s easy to revise your mental image accordingly; sometimes it’s not; sometimes you realize that the imaginary composite cyborg chick in your head is the one you were actually attracted to all along, and you have no spark with the real deal.
It sounds like this might be what happened with you and your lady. Or maybe, depending on how closely your life parallels mine, she had a girlfriend she wasn’t telling you about the whole time, in which case she is awful and thank God you don’t have to deal with her anymore. Either way, shit didn’t work out. Be heartbroken about it a little while longer if you need to — you had a real relationship, even if you never saw her naked, and you’re entitled to a real mourning period. But eventually you’ll be able to dust yourself off, get back out there, and meet someone else, who will proceed to crush your heart in a whole new exciting way.
2. So, I am a young teacher looking for her first full-time job. I am also a queer lady. Currently, I live in a small town in Texas (I know, I know) with my mother to save money while I look for a job. Because I don’t want to STAY in Texas, I have not gone through the trouble of getting certified to teach public school — which means that most of the places I am applying are private (read: religious) schools.
I am a devout Catholic, and I have no trouble reconciling my queer identity with my faith. It hurts me that the Church doesn’t feel the same way, but I was coping fairly well until I started applying and substitute teaching for Catholic schools. I don’t like feeling closeted at work, but I have very little doubt that it would be a major issue with my prospective employers if they knew. No one has a right to know about my sex life, of course, but I feel uncomfortable — like I am lying or, worse, hiding a major part of who I am. Or at least setting myself up for drama later — after all, we’re not a protected group in Texas, so they could fire me without other excuses.
It’s hard to say “I don’t want to work for people who couldn’t accept me anyway” when I can’t really see any other opportunities on the horizon — at least for awhile.
Basically, I am hoping that you can say something that will help me feel better about either choice — staying silent or coming out publicly. So far I have avoided doing so in my hometown except to close family friends out of respect for the fact that my mother is still struggling to accept my queerness but trying very hard.
What I’d like to do, actually, is help you to feel better about both choices, so you can decide what to do with a clear conscience and a light heart. It is, of course, monstrously stupid and unfair that you can’t be open about being queer at work for fear of being fired. However, it’s also something that you are unlikely to change single-handed in the next couple weeks. You never have to feel ashamed of prioritizing your own health, safety, or ability to make a living over The Cause — we don’t need you putting yourself out of work in the name of ideological consistency. A girl’s got to eat before she can fight the power. So if you need to stay in the closet to get (and keep) a job, do so with my blessing.
However, for the good of your long-term mental health, you also need to take steps to make sure you won’t be in there forever. By which I mean: start saving money, go back to college if necessary, get yourself certified to teach somewhere other than at a Catholic school, and look for jobs with more tolerant and open-minded institutions. It’s one thing to need to hide your queerness for a few years while you get on your feet; it’s another to do it indefinitely. The latter will make you miserable. Also, obviously you should move, but you already know that and I assume you’re working on it.
Finally, if being closeted becomes intolerable, please feel free to come out at any time. As long as you have a place to live and aren’t going to starve, I fully support taking a “fuck y’all if you don’t like it” approach to disclosing your orientation. Every time someone comes out, a gay angel gets its wings. But it’s fine to wait until you’re certain of your financial stability first.
3. So I’m completely in love with my boyfriend. I couldn’t dream up a better man for me. He’s bisexual, and we’ve talked about it at great length. We’re totally open and not-weird about it, which is wonderful. For me, the fact that he’s bisexual and has had boyfriends in the past is not an issue. But it does present a snag: how do I tell my crazy, conservative Christian mom that my boyfriend is bisexual?
My mom controls the household. My dad is cool and liberal, and I suspect he’d be okay with it. But NOT my mom, and she will influence my dad. She and I have had MAJOR issues since I can remember, and we basically only get along when I’m living 300 miles away. (Hence why parents have not yet met boyfriend.) My brother has basically cut off most communication with my mother, and my sister lives across the country and calls maybe once a month. (Read: none of us can stand our crazypants mother.) But, cutting off from my parents is not an option, just to clarify. I need my family.
I KNOW my opinion of my boyfriend is the ONLY one that matters. In my heart, I know that my man makes me happy and feel like butterflies and sugar and sparkles and warm fuzzies. He might be The One. But I’ve always held my parents’ opinion in very high regard. How do I tell them? Do I never tell them? Many of my friends have suggested this, saying, “It’s not your parents’ business!” but my boyfriend has said that he will probably eventually want them to know. I’ve tried to ask my boyfriend what he thinks I should do, and all he really says is he doesn’t know what to do but that everything will work out. (Sweet, but not helpful.)
As an aside, I think they might be able to tell he’s not 100% straight just from meeting him. I have no idea how I would respond if my mom asked, “Is he gay?” I’m not sure if I should wait until they meet him and, of course, love him … or if I should wait until mom brings it up … or I JUST DON’T KNOW. All I want is for everyone to love him and be happy for me. How do I do that with a crazy mom who will PROBABLY not approve?
I’m overwhelmed. I’ll be bringing him home to meet the parents in the next few months. HELP!
So, here’s what I’m baffled by: “I’ve always held my parents’ opinion in very high regard.” Wait, what? And also, why?
I understand not wanting to cut ties with your parents, no matter how nuts they make you — family is family, and I would never tell you to write off your mother entirely. (Just kidding! You totally should, because she sounds awful. But you probably won’t, so…) What I don’t understand is why, since you have described her as “crazy” several times in the course of this fairly short letter, and since it seems likely that she is also a raging homophobe, you feel obligated to give one tenth of a damn about what she thinks.
It’s not fair to demand that your man closet himself for the sake of maintaining peace in your family, so let’s assume that your mom is going to find out, one way or another. If she responds badly, you’ll have to make a decision: You can side with your boyfriend — your awesome, sparkles-and-butterflies boyfriend who has done nothing wrong — and tell your mom to deal with it, or you can side with your mom — your crazy, conservative, bigoted mom — and break up with him. (Option C is that your mom is totally cool and it’s not even a thing, but it sounds like we shouldn’t hold our breath for that one.) It should be pretty clear which is the correct choice, but only if you let go of the idea that your mom’s opinion matters. You may love her, you may even respect her, but there’s no reason why her disapproval of bisexuality should impact your relationship with a dude who might be The One.
What I’d like you to do — with your boyfriend’s permission, of course — is disclose that he’s bi to your parents before you bring him home to meet them. The Seventh Commandment of Relationships says: Thou shalt not expose thy significant other to any more of thy family’s craziness than absolutely necessary. Introducing him to your mother and letting the topic of his orientation come up on its own is extremely risky and may lead to yelling, plate-throwing, public weeping, and/or storming out of restaurants; better for you to field her questions and concerns yourself, in a safe, controlled environment where you can hang up on her if you feel like it. Make it clear that she can say whatever she wants to you, but that she needs to be on her best behavior when your boyfriend is around. If she can’t agree to that, for God’s sake don’t take your boyfriend to meet her. He deserves better than being dropped in the middle of a homophobia-and-family-drama minefield. Go without him — or better yet, stay home, until your mom gets it through her head that she needs to keep her intolerant views to herself.
4. I’m mid-20s, in grad school, have landed my dream job post-graduation, and a femme dyke. I’ve been dating this absolutely wonderful butchy hot rugby-playing prematurely salt-and-pepper hair grad student for about six months and Things Are Happening. Queer Chick, this is the lady with whom I can imagine settling down, getting married, feathering the nest, bickering about which set of parents get to see us at Thanksgiving, planting little herb gardens, and generally being a nice little butch/femme queer couple. Queer Chick, this one? This is a keeper. It’s relaxed and comfortable and nice and feels so sustainable — it reminds me of my parents’ marriage, which is going on 30+ years.
There is one problem. I think I like kinky sex, and I think she does not, maybe? She’s slept with four people, EVER, and I know for a fact that her last girlfriend didn’t touch her ever and was so picky about sex that she just gave instructions, so no creativity at all. But Queer Chick, sometimes I just want my sweet, gentle, academic, butch girlfriend to pin me down and fuck me really, really hard. And maybe ummmm do other things.
This isn’t to say that the sex isn’t good. It’s GREAT, just vanilla. It’s “screaming, coming, thrashing, panting, listen-to-Melissa Ferrick’s-’Drive,’ multiple orgasms good,” but I think I want her to maybe be kind of dominant?
Here’s the thing: We’ve watched porn (❤ u crashpadseries!), we’ve been to the sex toy store, we have friends who are in the organized kink community (neither of us is super interested in it), so it’s not ignorance. It’s that when we’ve talked about it, she’s said that the hot part about having sex is that I want to be there, so holding me down isn’t hot, but also that seeing people in pain or hurting or distressed really upsets her, and she doesn’t want to do anything that could ever hurt me. So no hair pulling. I’m serious, NO HAIR PULLING because she feels as though hurting someone intentionally is Very Bad.
The marriage talk came up a few times. Queer Chick, I love her, but I can’t imagine getting married to someone if I want something more interesting in the bedroom. I don’t want another person, I don’t want to be poly, I just want to have slightly less vanilla (vanilla with sprinkles? vanilla with chocolate swirl? vanilla with those yummy vanilla bean flecks?) sex. Not whips and chains, just “pin me down, pull my hair, fuck me hard, and take me.”
Sitting her down and saying things is oddly hard because she’s so sweet and coming from such a righteously compassionate humanist vantage point. I also was dealing with some Stuff when we started dating, and didn’t want to have anything except super vanilla sex, but now that therapy is going well, it’s not something I’m trying to avoid. I feel like I’d be giving her a bait-n-switch.
I don’t want it to sound like an ultimatum (“have rougher sex with me or I’m leaving, bye!”). But I also don’t want it to sound like “oh hey, wouldn’t it be fun to spice things up?” because that’s not the issue.
First of all, I’m showing your letter to my own favorite prematurely salt-and-pepper butch and saying “See? Gray hair is hot and I’m not the only one who thinks so!” Thanks for backing me up there.
Second of all, how much of what you just told me does your girlfriend actually know? I can’t really pin it down. Sitting her down and talking about your sexual dissatisfaction is “oddly hard,” but … have you, like, tried? Because that’s definitely going to be the first step.
So many people have this weird resistance to talking frankly about sex — the idea being, I guess, that it’s not romantic or sexy to do so, and that awesome multi-orgasmic fucking should just magically happen with no prior negotiation whatsoever. This is madness. You (and by “you” I mean “the person who wrote this letter and also everyone reading it and everyone else in the world”) should be discussing sex with your partner on the regular, just like you should be talking regularly about your finances and your politics and where you want to retire. Sex is a major part of most romantic relationships, and even if things are going well, it’s good to check in from time to time and make sure everyone’s on the same page. And if things aren’t going so great … we’re lesbians. We invented processing. We might as well use it.
You need to tell your girlfriend that your sexual needs are not being met. This doesn’t have to be a “pull my hair or I’m out” ultimatum — it can be really hot, actually. What’s not going to be fun about telling her “I have these fantasies of being dominated, and there’s nothing I want more than to explore them with you”? If you’ve only ever talked about rough sex in the abstract, you may be surprised how much more open to it she is when it’s something you want to do with her.
If she’s hesitant because it would be a boner-killer to see you hurting or in distress, reassure her — you’re not talking about hardcore pain or bondage. You’re just talking about expanding your repertoire of pleasurable, enjoyable activities. Promise her that, if she’ll agree to try out some of your fantasies, you’ll go out of your way to show her that you’re not distressed, and that you very much want to be there. She might not feel so guilty about pulling your hair if it’s accompanied by you saying “mmm, yes, just like that, a little harder, oh my God, that feels so good.” You can start even slower than that if you need to — the next time you’re having gentle, soft-focus vanilla sex, try throwing in a little bit of dirty talk about all the rough, hot, totally consensual things you want her to do to you.
But if none of it works, if you try and try to tell her how much you want sprinkles in your vanilla and she still doesn’t go for it … well, then it might be time to bust out that ultimatum.