Dear Ms. Behavior:
My girlfriend, Sue, and I always have taken a special interest in my brother’s kid—I’ll call him Matt. A few weeks ago, we went on vacation, and let Matt come stay at our apartment with his college girlfriend. This was all hush-hush, because he isn’t very close to his father, my brother, who is an alcoholic.
When we got back home, Sue found that a new tube of K-Y Jelly, which had been in the bedside table, had been used, but not returned to the drawer. Obviously, Matt and his girlfriend had sex in our bed while we were gone, though the agreement was that they not stay overnight, only using our place to hang out during the day to “get away from school and Matt’s oppressive father.”
Now, we are in a terrible spot, and it’s causing tension between my girlfriend and me. Sue feels violated and disrespected. She says we should get Matt’s key back, and not allow him to come into our home without us here ever again. I think this is kind of harsh, and I am more concerned with Matt’s poor decision-making.
Do I really need to take back his key?
Dear Aunt Mary:
You want to be Matt’s cool aunt, and provide refuge to him, but you also need to let Sue know you respect her feelings. Tell her you’re willing to confront Matt about the case of the missing lube. If she knows you’re taking her feelings seriously, she may be willing to give Matt another chance before forcing you to confiscate his key.
You may embarrass your nephew (and yourself) by mentioning the pilfered lube situation—detailing how you and Sue prefer to save it all for you own giant double-headed lesbian dildos—but sometimes, direct communication requires a bit of awkwardness.
If you want to get the point across without going down the slippery lube slope, you could mention lightly to Matt that you noticed he and his girlfriend may have had a romp in your bed, which wasn’t what you had in mind when you gave him the key.
If he’s mortified, that’s great—maybe he won’t do it again. If he shrugs it off or denies it, but you still want him to stay in your home, you might clarify which rooms he’s welcome to use. If all else fails, and you and Sue still want to give him a place to escape, put a lock on your bedroom door.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My college roommate, William (who is practically like a brother to me—a problematic, ill-behaved brother), came for a visit last weekend with his “new boyfriend,” who was basically a mail-order boy-bride from the Philippines.
The poor young man (fictional name Bayani) seemed more like a prisoner than a willing partner. William barely let the kid out of his sight, held his hand practically throughout the entire weekend, and only let him be by himself when he used the bathroom. It was disturbing.
Only once was I able pry Bayani away from William when we went to the store to get groceries. Bayani was reticent, but finally said something about William not letting him work, which was a problem, because Bayani needed to send money home to his family. Also, he mentioned that William was not the gentleman he thought he was going to be, whatever that means. (I think it had to do with money.)
This feels like an awful moral dilemma.
Should I tell William to let the kid have a little more leash?
Obviously, William doesn’t want him to go out and get experience, because he’ll leave him the minute he gets the chance. But still, you can’t keep another human being prisoner.
What should I do?
—Unwilling Witness To Will
Dear Unwilling Witness To Will:
If you think Bayani is being mistreated, no sense in mincing words. Talk to William, and tell him exactly what you see—that his boyfriend seems like a prisoner, and that he doesn’t have any breathing room. It seems important to do this without betraying Bayani’s confidence. If William doesn’t listen to you, you may need to involve other friends or family members to help you intervene.
If it seems like you need heroic methods to remove Bayani from the situation, ask a few lesbians to help. In Ms. Behavior’s experience, 40 percent of all lesbians are very brave, and have large hero complexes. Such lesbians will go to any lengths to rescue a person who is being oppressed.
© 2010 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.