Advice

On the person you used to be

102 Comments

I used to think you were a bad bitch, but now that we’ve both gotten older and wiser I’ve come to realize you’re just a brat. Kudos on the persona you’ve managed to project, it works on the right people.

 

I was most definitely a brat. No question about it. Thing is, I can forgive myself for being a brat, and in another seven years, I’ll be able to forgive myself for whatever shortcomings I have today.

Now it’s your turn. Forgive the part of yourself that used to think I was a bad bitch. After all, that’s what this is really about. You may be older and wiser, but you still resent the person you used to be.

Let go of that person and forgive yourself. You were doing the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time. We all were.

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Advice

On your addict brother

35 Comments

Well Coke, my brother relapsed. I wrote you two months ago saying my family was giving me hell because I hadn’t yet embraced him in his recovery. Four days ago, he got his 6 month sobriety chip. Yesterday, his roommate found him with a needle in his arm and he was intermittently breathing. I found out while I was at work and cried in front of most of my coworkers, more out of frustration than actual sadness. I think. I don’t know.

I saw him in the hospital room through the door. We made eye contact and he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, as if to say “What are you gonna do? Addicts are going to relapse.” This was the first time since October 2015 that I’ve physically laid eyes on him. I hugged my dad while he cried. My brother fell asleep when I looked at him again.

I don’t know if I have a question, Coke. I’m just so…unsurprised? Frustrated? Disappointed? Mad? My friend at work gave me a hug and reminded me that addiction is a disease, but that just enraged me more. That has always seemed like such a fucking cop-out to me. Plenty of people do drugs (I sure did) and fucking stop. So why can’t he? Why does this keep happening? Why couldn’t he have just died this time and we wouldn’t have to go through this hell yet again?

 

Yes, I remember what you told me in your first letter. Addiction may be a disease, but your brother is a piece of shit. He really is.

I’m sorry that he’s causing you and everyone in your family so much pain. It’s okay to wish that pain would stop, and I understand why you think his death is the only way it would.

Be careful with that, though. His addiction could very easily end up killing him, especially if his new pattern becomes relapsing after several months of sobriety. (It’s a lot easier to overdose during a relapse.) If he does die, it won’t be what you’re hoping it will be.

That being said, it’s okay if he’s dead to you. When I wrote you back the first time, I told you that you didn’t have to forgive him.

You never do.

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Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

68 Comments

You say that all humans are inherently worthy, does that include rapists?
Yes, all humans — even rapists and murderers and Wall Street executives — everyone has inherent worth, simply by virtue of their humanity.

I’m a woman. Why do I lose respect for men whom I previously admired intellectually/professionally when they make a choice in women I feel is beneath them?
The way you’ve phrased this makes it an ugly manifestation of your internalized misogyny. It’s a round-about way of competitively hating on other women. Think long and hard about why you chose the words “beneath” and “admired.” They will lead you to the source of your problem.

Sexless marriage, 8.5 years. Can’t afford divorce. 2 kids. He won’t leave. We’re in counseling. I also added group therapy to the mix. It’s not working. I want out.
If you can’t afford lawyers and a divorce, then I’d recommend a mediator and a trial separation. Since he won’t leave, I recommend an in-house separation. (Yes, that’s a thing.) Have your mediator draft a separation agreement that specifies the new arrangement, which should include joint decisions about things like cohabitation, finances, parenting, and relationships outside the marriage. (For real, though. Get it it writing that you’re gonna see other men. It’s time for you to start getting laid again.)

My ex wants me to give back the gifts he gave me so he can sell them to purchase something for himself, as “he isn’t petty, but needs to start putting himself first.” Thoughts?
Keep the gifts on general principle. (Duh.) If you don’t want the gifts, donate them to charity. Whatever you do, don’t give them back to your ex. Set fire to them in the street before letting him take them back. While you’re at it, cut off all contact with him. He is garbage.

Why do I feel obligated to date a guy just because he likes me?
Because you have a gaping void where your self-worth is supposed to go, and the only way you’ve been taught to fill it is through external validation and compliance.

Has America gone insane enough that I can justify applying for jobs in other countries? I don’t like running away from a fight, but this country seems to be sinking fast.
You never need to justify thinking internationally. Take advantage of every opportunity the world has to offer.

If we don’t sin Jesus died for nothing.
I resent the implication that we owe any kind of moral debt to some fictionalized bronze-age cult leader.

Why does it turn me on to imagine myself watching my boyfriend have sex with another girl?
Because it’s hot.

What advice would you give to someone on the verge of turning 18?
Take control of your personal growth. Don’t get pregnant. Vote.

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Advice

On self-medicating with rape porn

17 Comments

I got raped, and ever since I’ve been turned on by rape porn. The realer the better. Never fantasizing about it happening to me, but suddenly into watching it happen to others. WTF is up with that? It feels super fucked up- and I feel really, really guilty for liking it (especially because I know how horrible it feels).

 

Okay, here’s what’s up with the rape porn:

First, it gets you off. (After all, porn is porn.)

Second, watching rape porn normalizes your trauma and helps you process your emotions and regulate your anxiety. What you’re doing is essentially a form of self-administered exposure therapy.

Third, this pattern of behavior offers you a convenient way to blame yourself for your own rape. Everyone keeps telling you that being raped isn’t your fault, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have all sorts of complicated emotions about being raped, not the least of which are guilt and shame. You have some feelings about your rape that you don’t think you’re allowed to feel, and you’re using the porn as an outlet. In other words, watching rape porn lets you feel guilty without feeling guilty about feeling guilty. (Like I said, it’s complicated.)

Don’t worry. There will come a day when watching rape porn doesn’t do anything for you, because eventually, you’re gonna forgive yourself — not just for liking rape porn, but for all that other dark, sticky stuff you’re feeling too.

In the meantime, try not to be too hard on yourself. Healing is a fucked-up, messy process. You’re getting it done in your own way, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

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Advice

On being present in your terror

31 Comments

I’m 28. I tested positive for HIV today. I have all the education to know precisely how grave this is (and is not) as well as a network of friends and family that are stunning me with their fortitude right now.

But Coke, I am so lost. I imagined this moment a hundred times, but I have no idea what to actually do now that it’s happened. How do I move forward from here and allow this experience and permanent life change to enrich my experience? I am filled with terror right now, but the deepest one is that my life will just continue status quo, only with an added layer of crippling regret and internal stigma that will diminish me. How do I handle this?

 

Many years ago, I had a day like you’re having today. I didn’t test positive for HIV, but you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that the news I got was equally life-changing and equally devastating.

I know exactly what you mean about the existential terror of the status quo — that dreadful feeling of sameness that comes from the world not even noticing how suddenly awake you are. You’ll walk around like that for days, maybe weeks, a completely different shade from everyone else. Some days brighter. Some days dimmer, but never quite matching the intensity of your surroundings.

I also get that you’re lost, but I can’t tell you where to go from here. Nobody can. You have to figure that out for yourself. Don’t worry. You will. Unfortunately, you can’t skip ahead to the part where your life is enriched from the experience. You gotta go through some shit first, and it’s gonna be fucked up for a while.

In the meantime, the best advice I can give you in this moment is to go out tonight and have a really good meal. Go to your favorite restaurant. Order your favorite dish.

I know that seems trite, but it’s not meant to be. I’m quite serious. When I was having a day like you’re having today, that was the single best piece of advice that anyone gave me — go treat yourself to a special meal. Take advantage of how awake you are.

Have an extravagant dinner and notice everything about it. Get dessert. Indulge. Use all your senses and be present in your terror and let your perspective shift just a little bit — that’s all, just the tiniest little shift — and let that be the place where you start, and then just go from there.

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Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

76 Comments

I’m contemplating practicing Zen Buddhism. As an atheist, I can’t help but wonder if this is problematic.
Stop contemplating practicing and start practicing contemplating. (Also, stop using the word problematic.)

I want to be exclusive. He wants to date me but also date other people. Is there any way to make this work?
Sure, as long as one of you is willing to not get what you want.

I know there is no answer to why we are here. And I’m cool with that. But then when I’m busting my ass at work I often think “why the fuck am I doing this?”
The paycheck, my friend. The paycheck.

Is marriage a patriarchal institution?
It’s the patriarchal institution.

My parents have more or less confirmed that they consider me a disappointment. I’m sad, but I also feel like this is a great opportunity. So, what now?
Fuck ’em. You’re allowed to be disappointed in them too.

Everyone with a “don’t rock the boat” mentality can go fuck themselves.
Okay, but some of us have beverages.

The biggest change I’ve noticed since deciding I wanted to live is that suddenly I’m terrified I’m going to die.
Good. That’s progress.

Oh coke. You’re the only person i can really be honest with. But in the past four years you’ve never answered one of my questions. I guess I know exactly why.
No you don’t. (Thanks for reading.)

How do I heal after being with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder for 8 years?
For starters, quit blaming your emotional condition on someone else’s personality disorder.

Why is it that the only time I feel motivated to change or improve myself is after running into my exes? And why does the feeling never last?
Your self-worth is tied to your romantic relationships, and running into exes is like being slapped in the face with your own inadequacies. The feeling doesn’t last because if you were ever going to have changed, you already would have.

In England (where i’m from) dear can mean expensive. I’ve been reading your title as ‘an expensive chirpse’.
That works too.

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Advice

On deciding whether to end it

46 Comments

You answered my question months ago (existential FOMO), and it was incredibly helpful, but something has recently changed in my relationship. I’m planning on moving to the other side of the country, and my boyfriend wants to come with me. I really want him to come, but he has the expectation that we will “probably” get married in a few years. He also let slip that he would get married tomorrow if I wanted to. Even though I don’t want to break up with him, I still can’t see myself marrying him. I’m completely torn up over this- I’m bawling my eyes out every day- but I don’t want to lead him on, or make him uproot his entire life for me if I can’t live up to his expectations. I’ve also never been single in my adult life, or with anyone else, and the idea of starting completely over is scary, but appealing. I haven’t talked to him about this yet because I think I should make a decision first. How can I decide if it’s over?

 

You’re not deciding whether it’s over. You’re deciding whether to end it. There’s a subtle difference, but you need to understand it.

Deciding whether it’s over is a passive process of realization. It requires that you come to terms with an inevitability. Deciding whether to end it is an active process of determination. It requires that you come to terms with a choice.

For you, this is a choice that requires determination, not an inevitability that requires realization.

You’ve been with this guy for over half a decade, and you’ve said repeatedly that you can’t see yourself marrying him. It’s obvious that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with this guy, yet he clearly expects to marry you. That understandably freaks you the fuck out, and as much as you don’t want to admit it, deep down you know that this cross-country move is your last best chance to parachute out of this relationship before you wake up a bored housewife in your mid-thirties still wondering about all that strange dick you never had.

If I can take the hint, then you can too. Trust me, this move is happening for more reasons than you think it is. It may not have been deliberate. It may not even have been conscious, but there’s a part of you that desperately wants out of this relationship, and that part of you is strong enough to have manifested a move to the other side of the country.

Thing is, you have to actually make the choice. You have to say it in your head. You have to say it out loud, and then finally you have to say it to his face, “We’re done. Our relationship was wonderful, but it’s over now. It’s time to move on to the next chapter in our lives, and it’s best for both of us that we aren’t together.”

You have to make the choice. You. Not him. Not me. You, and no one else. You also have to live with the consequences. Either way, it will be difficult. Either way, you will be lonely. Either way, you will never know whether you made the right decision.

Still, you have to make the choice.

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Advice

On drunken cuddling

25 Comments

My best friend is a lesbian. I’m a bisexual female in a heterosexual relationship. I got really drunk the other night with my best friend and we cuddled together in our underwear. There was this strange moment where she kind of held my hand. I’ve cuddled with other friends before so I’m trying to validate myself with that. Is this cheating?

 

It’s not for me to say whether it was cheating. That’s up to you and your romantic partners to decide. You’re the ones who should define the terms of your relationship.

Obviously, your drunken cuddling was in what you consider to be a grey area, and somewhere in all that grey, there is a line that you can’t quite see. The problem with not being able to see it is that you can’t know whether you crossed it.

I’m willing to bet that if you two had swapped any fluids, you probably would have been sure that it was cheating. Instead, there was a strange moment of hand holding. It was intimate, and it was loving, but she’s also your best friend. You can be intimate and loving with your best friend without it being sexual or romantic, regardless of either of your sexual orientations.

Was it sexual or romantic, though? Can you say for sure? And even if it was, would your boyfriend consider that infidelity? Again, there’s so much grey area.

Perhaps you should talk to your boyfriend about it. Find out how he feels. Hell, just telling your story might help firm up your own thoughts about how you feel yourself. This is one of those times where a healthy, open, and mature conversation could go a long way in strengthening your relationship.

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Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

145 Comments

I did it. I finally did it. I’ve been reading you for six years, hoping for it, and I finally experienced ego death. Everything makes so much more sense now. I’m so happy. How do I keep this going?
It’s not something you keep going. It’s something that’s always there (or more accurately, not there.) Thing is, you can’t chase it. It has to return to you (or more accurately, not you.) I’d say you’ll see, but you won’t, because there is no you. There never was and there never will be. That’s kind of the whole point.

When you move do you pack and take all your books with you? We’re moving pretty far and we have a ton of books. Of course I want to take them all with us. I love seeing them on the shelves and being surrounded by books I liked even though I won’t read most of them a second time. But a lot of people are telling me moving them is stupid. What do you do?
Of course I take all my books. I’d leave furniture behind before I’d leave my books, but that’s me. I’m a book person. Sounds like you are too, and that’s great. Just be prepared for the additional labor and expense, even though it’s obviously worth it.

How do sugar babies pay their taxes?
The same as everyone else. They report whatever income is on their W-2s and 1099s, take whatever deductions they can, and call it a day. (Gifts aren’t considered income. Sugar relationships may be transactional, but technically sugar babies aren’t being paid for services rendered. They’re merely receiving gifts like any other girlfriend would from a boyfriend. It’s a fine line, but that’s the whole point of sugaring. Of course, certain arrangements may not stand up to IRS scrutiny, but then again, the IRS can fuck with anybody if they really want to.)

I have a significant amount of disposable income for the first time in my life (I’m 25 and have pretty much always been poor). My bills are paid, and I have a couple thousand in savings. I’m getting paid next week, and I still have $2000 in my bank. What should I blow it on first?
No. No, no, no. You do not have a significant amount of disposable income. Put the $2000 into your savings account. Pretend like you don’t have it. Trust me on this. You will thank me later.

I just wanted to let you know that I was laying in bed with a new guy who seems amazing in every possible way. He opened a new tab on his computer and, sure enough, Dear Coquette was one of the suggested sites. Seemed like a really, really great sign.
Fuck his brains out and tell him why.

Are you watching States of Undress on Viceland? I would say it is the closest tv show equivalent to the way your blog makes me feel. It’s absolutely superb, especially the episode about Palestine.
Love the show. Love Hailey. Honored by the comparison.

Coke, you are such a white feminist.
If my intersectionality isn’t up to your standards, feel free to offer constructive criticism in the comments section. Until then, you’re just another asshole who’s found a way to use the word feminist as a pejorative, and for that you can fuck right off.

In all seriousness, though. Did Jay Z cheat on Beyoncé?
In all seriousness, though. It ain’t none of my goddamn business.

Favorite word?
Fuck.

What is your purpose?
This.

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Thoughts

On my secret treasure

52 Comments

I’ve grown to appreciate when you take a mini-hiatus from your blog. Though I imagine it’s because you actually have a life to live, I secretly imagine it’s a challenge for us to actually apply the pearls of wisdom you frequently leave here.

 

I go on adventures. It’s in my nature. Sometimes I write about them, and sometimes they’re just for me. I haven’t decided which this will be, but so far it involves monkeys and waterfalls and healers and flowers and ancient ceremonies and so much profound happiness that I can barely contain myself.

I haven’t even gotten to the full moon party or the photoshoot, so you’ll forgive me if my attention is elsewhere for a few more days. Just know that I am in a wonderful place right now — spiritually, emotionally, and of course, geographically.

I’ll be back soon. You all know that. In the meantime, thanks for being a part of my life. I hope you know how much I appreciate everything that you share with me.

You are all my secret treasure.

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