Dear Ms Behavior:
I was with José for six years, and we’re still close friends. Now, I’ve been with Dan for the past eight months, but José doesn’t know—I didn’t think my new life with Dan was something I needed to share with José. Dan thinks I keep him a secret because I’m still in love with José, but really, it’s just that my breakup with José was rough, and I don’t want to cause him further pain.
Last week, I was with Dan shopping, and unexpectedly bumped into José, who was very nice, and even invited Dan to a party he’s having later this month. I didn’t introduce Dan as my boyfriend, but I’m sure José figured it out.
Dan was very relieved finally to meet José, and wants to go to the party, because he thinks we should “come out of the closet” about our relationship. Because José is clearly important to me, and we live in a small community, Dan wants to let the ex into our life together. But, I don’t want Dan to go to the party, or to mix him with José.
What do you think?
You need to move on. If you’re serious about Dan, you should either bring him to the party or stay home yourself. This is not to say that couples should do everything together, but in this case, your insistence on separating your ex and your boyfriend du jour cultivates drama galore.
It seems that the only one who’s not OK with this inevitable meeting is you. Your resistance to getting beyond the initial awkwardness of starting a new life with a new boyfriend unconsciously may be your way of keeping José hooked in.
If that’s not what you want, try to be gracious and polite, instead of controlling and weird. Be honest with José, and trust that even if a moment or two of hurt feelings ensues, everything will fall into place. It usually does.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
I changed my life for the better a few years ago by moving to a new city, and finding new friends. Last month, a friend from my old crew tracked me down. She moved nearby, and wants to pick things up where we left off seven years ago. She calls me a lot, wanting to get together.
I don’t want to resume an intense friendship with her, because I am no longer the person I was back then, and don’t want to be seen that way. She hasn’t done anything wrong, and I don’t want to hurt her.
How can I explain to her that I’ve changed, and don’t want to be friends?
Did you enter the Witness Protection Program? If not, it’s hard to guess why you needed to escape when you changed your life and moved to a new city. Perhaps you used to do drugs and sell your body, and now you chant and meditate. Or, vice versa.
In any case, if you view your old friend’s reappearance as an intrusion, you don’t have to befriend her again, or even offer an explanation (like, “It’s not you—it’s me.”).
Normally, it’s best to be honest, but in this case, it doesn’t sound like you know exactly what you’re trying to avoid. If you disappoint her a few times by being busy when she calls, eventually she’ll move on.
But the bigger issue is about your self-awareness and self-acceptance. What do you want in your life that you feel like you can gain only by avoiding people who knew you before? Does someone else’s perception of you change who you are at your essence?
If your sense of self is so fragile, then it doesn’t sound like you are rooted firmly in your identity, and maybe that’s the real problem.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
Just a comment on your recent response to “Mystified,” who wondered why dykes hate men: Fuck you. I have traveled the country as well, and I agree that in general, lesbians are beyond rude to men, especially the “butcher,” more “straight-acting” men. How dare you accuse Mystified of being a “misogynist.” And don’t even pull out the oppression card around anybody in the gay community. You are truly clueless.
Your polite and intelligent letter has persuaded Ms. Behavior that she was totally wrong: There is no such thing as a misogynist, and “dykes” are just unnecessarily rude to all men who innocently cross their paths. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and enlightenment.
© 2008 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.