On pause

You’ve been awfully quiet lately. Cat got your tongue?

I’m going through a thing at the moment. It’s a lot. Life in 2020 is super fucking weird. Thank you for your patience.


On being a safe friend

My best friend has started doing porn with her ex-boyfriend. I take no issues with this part. She claims though that she’s only taking “trashy photos” for her OnlyFans, and categorically denies having any sexual relationship with her ex, although he’s still in her life for the sake of her kid. I only know because a mutual acquaintance came across it and it’s not exactly hidden from the public domain, albeit with the use of pseudonyms. I don’t know what I’m here for, I guess I’m just mad at being lied to.

You’re not mad about the lie. You’re hurt that your friendship isn’t as close or as strong as you thought it was, and you feel threatened by the potential implications of her deception. The emotion you’re really experiencing is jealousy in the face of a perceived betrayal. That’s okay. It means you care very deeply for your friend, but it also means that you need to do some damage control.

I’m speculating a bit, but it sounds like you’ve been through it with your best friend and this ex of hers. You probably have some strong opinions about him, and it’s pretty clear she no longer feels safe talking openly with you about her ongoing relationship with him. The quickest way to repair and then level-up your friendship is to directly address this dynamic and make amends for it. You are the one who will need to apologize here. 

If you don’t know how to apologize, here is a script you can make your own that captures the important points: “I want to talk with you about the OnlyFans content you’re making with your ex. You denied having any sexual relationship with him, so when I was shown the videos you’ve been making, it made me realize that you didn’t feel safe telling me the truth. I want to be the kind of friend that you feel safe telling the truth, and I sincerely apologize if you have ever felt judged by me with regard to the father of your child.”

The apology is only the first step. It’s not enough to want to be safe. You will actually have to be safe, which means you’ll have to start changing your behavior (not your opinions) about this ex of hers. As the father of her child, he’s always going to be a part of her life. You’re going to have to come to terms with that, and this seems like a good place to start.

The bottom line is that if you love and support your friends, then you actually have to love and support them, even when they’re making less-than-ideal life decisions. 


On friends who date fascists

My friend’s increasingly long term boyfriend works for DHS. Mainly citizenship interviews, so minor law enforcement. But his American exceptionalism rooted, ICE tolerating, patriotic beliefs always seem to be brought up as some point when I see them. We argue, my friend feels uncomfortable and hurt, rinse and repeat.

Do I distance myself from a close friend/major support system? It feels like we have less and less in common and I don’t understand how she can let such bigoted views slide.

She picked him. That choice has consequences, one of which may be a pause in your friendship until he’s either gone or he learns to shut the fuck up in your presence.

You say you don’t understand how she can let such bigoted views slide, but what you’re really misunderstanding is that those are her views too. Every day she stays in a relationship with a reactionary DHS officer, her actions are further proof of that.

I know it sucks, but act accordingly.


On pandemic dating

How in the hell do we meet people and date during this? My city is super shut down and swiping is so uninspiring. Please give hacks.

I’ve been rewatching Downton Abby, and honestly, if the British aristocracy can fuck during the OG flu pandemic of 1918, then you crazy kids can figure it out today.

You have the internet. Use that shit. Dating and video chat apps are a perfectly good set of tools to find and get to know someone. Sorry if it’s uninspiring, but that’s not the technology’s fault. Don’t be acting like there was a hot singles bar scene back in 2019. I can’t think of one couple I know who didn’t meet on a dating app since before Hillary won the popular vote, and y’all have had five fucking months to hone your Zoom skills. 

Seriously, you can do this. If you want to date, expect that a much higher percentage of the first date stuff will be fully online. Expect to screen and be screened for health and wellness considerations before agreeing to meet in person. It doesn’t have to suck. The entire experience can be heightened by the circumstances if you have the right attitude.


On going the distance

My boyfriend wants to drive across eight states to visit Yellowstone National Park. We’ll have to camp and stay in cabins, using public restrooms and probably a few coin-operated showers along the way. I think this is an awful idea, because we would risk exposure and because there would be a one-to-one ratio of driving to visiting the park. But he’s only got two weeks before he starts medical school, and he’s determined to do this. It’s going to hurt him when I let him down and back out of this plan, especially since I’ve already been ambivalent for the past few weeks and he’s felt frustrated about my lack of certainty. I feel so fucking guilty saying no. I know it’s shitty of me to have flip flopped on this, but I was fucking confused. How could he think this was a good idea? So I want to ask in case I’m missing something: what are your thoughts? Bad idea? Great idea? We won’t have a chance to visit a park together in the summer for the next four years at the minimum.

This kind of long-distance camping trip sounds like a waking nightmare under normal circumstances, so I would have said fuck no from the jump, but hey, different strokes for different Subaru drivers, I suppose.

I can’t quite tell if your ambivalence is genuinely COVID-based or if you share my general aversion to camping as a lifestyle choice. In other words, are you using the pandemic as cover for a fundamental compatibility issue? Is this dude too crunchy for you? Are you fully prepared for the intense emotional labor and unending string of compromises you will be expected to endure as the girlfriend of a medical student? Are you worried that he’s secretly bought a ring and is packing his best flannel shirt for a scenic trail proposal 100 miles from the nearest nail salon?

I hope I’m wrong. I hope you’re deeply in love. I hope the two of you wear matching Teva sandals and enjoy the same flavor granola bars. That would be adorable, and I would encourage you to join him on this trip to Yellowstone. However, if there are deeper issues that need to be addressed, let’s not avoid them by pretending your anxiety is due to the pandemic, because we both know you can safely visit a mostly-empty, middle-of-nowhere National Park by following some pretty basic hygiene and social distancing guidelines. 

Be brutally honest with yourself, and then be brutally honest with your boyfriend. Would you want to go on this trip if there were no pandemic? I can’t know what’s in your heart, and obviously I’m biased against any venture involving coin-operated showers, but your faltering tone is not lost on me. You and your boyfriend are at the cusp of a really difficult four years. Medical school decimates long-term relationships, and if the two of you can’t get your shit together over a little road trip, I wouldn’t bet on you being there for his graduation. That’s not me telling you to go camping. That’s me telling you to improve your communication and conflict management skills.


On an independent style

I have just entered into a new relationship after about four years of being single. He is a lovely human being, who is attentive, honest and kind. However, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I don’t want to be in a relationship at all. I am not one for casual sex and find that I am just not that attracted to many people unless I have a solid connection there. I want to have a sex life, but have not been able to find a comfortable middle ground for a sex life outside of a relationship (I tend to have fairly singular focus). There seems to be this wild self that rebels against being that intertwined with someone else. I want to be able to navigate a healthy relationship where I feel free to live an open life. I would really appreciate your words of wisdom, because I really do love my current boyfriend, but haven’t been able to shake this desire for a hyper individual lifestyle.

Um, okay. You pretty much stated the correct answer all by yourself. “I want to be able to navigate a healthy relationship where I feel free to live an open life.” Yeah, cool. Go do that. Nothing is stopping you.

This is your relationship. You can set whatever terms you like. Nobody is forcing you to be “intertwined” in an overly dependent relationship. If you want a relationship style that is more independent, then be open and honest about your needs, set your boundaries, and then enforce them. If your boyfriend prefers a different relationship style than you do, that’s fine. Nothing is wrong with either of you. You’re simply not compatible, and it’s okay to break up with him. That’s how this works.

You also seem to be suffering from the misapprehension that an independent relationship style is the same thing as a casual relationship. Not at all. You can experience intense physical and emotional intimacy and your relationship status can be quite serious while you still maintain a distinctly independent style.

You don’t need wisdom. You need permission, so let me give it to you: Feel free to live an “open life,” whatever that means to you. Live that way whether you’re in a relationship or not. If you don’t feel free to live an open life while in a relationship, then you’re doing it wrong. 


On finding an ideal partner

Is finding a partner who is fun and easy-going and great in bed who like also has goals and shit in life just like SUPER FUCKING LUCKY?

Finding an ideal partner (or partners) requires a great deal of self-knowledge and a very special set of life skills. You can acquire the necessary knowledge and skills by being well-raised in a healthy family system (that would count as being super fucking lucky), or you can acquire the necessary knowledge and skills after years of trial and error, conscious effort, and personal growth.

Let me be clear: Without the necessary self-knowledge and life skills, you will always be limited in your ability to find the healthiest possible relationships. There is no such thing as winning the life partner lottery. That’s not a thing. You will inevitably wind up in relationships with people at your own level of function (or, more often, dysfunction).

It’s a sad truth that most people limp through their entire lives in functionally indistinguishable relationships built around whatever stale belief systems and immature behavior patterns they established in their teens and early twenties. 

If you want to do better, you have to put in serious fucking work. 


On safe travels

My sister is seriously ill. She underwent a liver transplant two years ago. My mother and grandmother drove across Texas to be with her. Travel is risky, especially to see an immunocompromised person, but they did it in the safest way possible. I absolutely want to go down (I live in D.C.) and said that I would. When I said this, I was resolute. Now I’m a lot less sure. I want to be there for my family and see and support my sister but I’d have to fly (I have neither a car nor a license.) and there’s no guarantee that I can travel and be safely distanced for 5 hours in potentially crowded spaces in states where cases are surging. If things take a downward turn and I’m not there, it’d be something I can’t live with. If I go, I could transmit something that could kill her — which is also something I can’t live with. Common sense tells me to stay put. She’s in ICU for an indefinite period of time. My mom and grandmother are handling things. Going is selfish. Go and do what? Put my other family at risk? Get sick myself and add to their worries? But this is my sister. Things are dire. I can cover travel, but can’t afford a place to isolate for a couple of weeks. My sister’s house isn’t an option. I wrote to you about this a couple of days ago, but then we only suspected she was sick and thought her volatile ex was the bigger problem. Now he’s mostly out of the picture (apart from being her next of kin as the divorce isn’t final) and she’s in the hospital being treated for kidney failure. She isn’t allowed visitors and so far her team has been talking in terms of treatment, not end of life. I don’t know what to do. Are there any other options that I’m overlooking?

Are you eligible for a drivers license? If so, immediately start an expedited process of getting one. If not, there’s really nothing you can do. Without a license, you can’t rent a car, which would be the only mode of travel with enough potential for social distancing to ensure you wouldn’t have to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival. Can’t put it any simpler than that.

You cannot fly a common carrier airline from the DC area to god-knows-where Texas without passing through two major hubs, followed by a series of public transportations options, the safest of which is a ride share situation with a stranger who (at best) wears a mask while you’re in the car with them. That’s not good enough, particularly when your destination is an immunocompromised family member in ICU. 

Sorry. It really sucks that you don’t have a safe means of travel to visit your seriously ill sister, but that’s just not the world we’re living in these days. 


On marrying yourself

I’m thinking of marrying myself. Like get the dress, find a venue, get an officiant and get fucking married to my damn self. The idea came from me (and my family) putting so much pressure on myself to getting married so I can finally have kids. It’s definitely taken a toll on my self-worth and I feel like I reek of desperation at this point. I’m 35, and my mom and younger sis constantly remind me of my biological clock. Did I mention my friends are all working on buying the 2nd property, or getting pregnant with their 3rd child?

I imagine marrying myself could be a symbolic gesture to commit to myself, listen more to my gut, and just shower myself with something nice for a change. Is this crazy? Am I going about this the wrong way? I know there’s a glaring blindspot here and my anxiety/ego is keeping me from seeing it.

Yes, this is crazy. It’s also a plot device from Season 6, Episode 9 of “Sex and the City,” so it’s not even that original. I bring up a seventeen year old TV reference to point out that behaving like Carrie “The Actual Villain” Bradshaw in the year of our lord 2020 is fucking insane and you should not do it.

If you think you reek of desperation now, just wait until you drop ten grand on a wedding-themed pity party that no one attends because people won’t even show up to a real wedding in the middle of a pandemic, much less a symbolic gesture of narcissism and sadness.

Tell your mother and younger sister to shut the fuck up about your biological clock. While you’re at it, tell yourself. Honestly, do you even want to have kids? Really? Really? I swear to god, every childfree 35 year old woman I know does this performative bullshit in front of her family while secretly thanking the ancient gods of fertility that she has been spared the trauma and decades-long waking nightmare of motherhood.

And as for marriage, grow the fuck up. It’s a ridiculous institution. You don’t need it. You especially don’t need a wedding. By all means, shower yourself with something nice, but a solo wedding isn’t nice. It’s gross and pathetic.


On a hard decision

Welcome back. Since the last time I wrote you, I started (and finished) grad school, dumped an abusive alcoholic, pursued a long-time passion that I always wanted to try but never thought I could do and I already love it, and met a few new ‘someone’s’. The current boyfriend is very kind, emotionally available, treats me extremely well, and is very communicative about feelings. He’s happy to be in this relationship and makes that clear every day. The problem? He is 7 years older than me with zero financial stability (no debts, just barely any savings and using unemployment to make a lot of impulse-buys), he has the beginnings of health problems from years of reckless living, and while I’m positive I want to do the whole kid-thing someday, he’s only just started to consider it but is definitely not 100%. We’ve had a solid past 4 months, but I’m afraid of that cost-sunk-fallacy thing setting in before long. Is the good worth the bad? I am well aware that people only change if they want to and bad/old habits are hard to break. He’s a good person and a good boyfriend which I admittedly haven’t experienced in a long time. I guess my question is… what do you think?

It depends on whether you’re closer to 25 or 35. That ten year window changes my answer completely. If you’re closer to 25, then he’s closer to 32, and you can afford to chill out in a halfway decent relationship for a couple of years just to see where it goes. (I’m not recommending that you do this, but I understand the appeal of comfortably treading water while you wait to see if he grows up.)

If you’re closer to 35, then he’s closer to 42, and if becoming a mother is your priority, then you know damn well it’s time to do the hard thing and end a halfway decent relationship for the sake of your larger life goals. Please do not try and make a father out of an unemployed middle-aged man with zero financial stability and potential health problems. Even if you don’t think you deserve better, I assure you, your future children do.