Dear Ms. Behavior:
I’m not gay, but I have a gay daughter, Elizabeth. She and her partner, Andrea, along with their friends, have considered me an “honorary lesbian” for many years. I love gay culture. I always have gone to gay clubs and comedy shows, etc. So, I have a strong sense of what “the community” is about.
I was very surprised when Elizabeth and Andrea broke up a few weeks ago, and decided not to speak with each other.
What happened to lesbians being best friends?
I might not care, except that Andrea and I are very close. In fact, her own mother died when she was young, and I believe she thinks of me as a second mother.
Anyway, for some reason that no one seems to want to explain to me, Elizabeth and Andrea are not speaking. Elizabeth doesn’t want me to talk to Andrea. Meanwhile, Andrea has e-mailed me, and asked me to meet her for coffee, saying that she needs to talk.
Can I meet Andrea’s request? Do I need to ask Elizabeth’s permission to meet with her? Do I need to cut Andrea out of my life just because Elizabeth has cut her out?
Dear Pained Mom:
Your involvement in the gay community and your “honorary lesbian” status doesn’t excuse you from the expectation of familial loyalty, which precludes sneaky meetings with Andrea behind your daughter’s back.
Despite the attachment you and Andrea have developed, you can’t prioritize that relationship over the one with your daughter. Meeting with Andrea, even for coffee, would be a betrayal of Elizabeth’s trust if you do it without telling her. This also would be true—and perhaps a bit more obvious—if your daughter were straight, and you’d become close with her husband.
Be direct with Elizabeth in explaining your feelings for Andrea and your wish to stay in touch with her. Once you’ve told Elizabeth how you feel, and given her a chance to respond, you need to respect her wishes.
If their broken relationship heals into a friendship over time—which you, as a homo-scholar, must know sometimes happens—you may have the opportunity to reconnect with Andrea later on.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My friend, Alice, has been involved with a woman who is, for all practical purposes, married. I see how tortured Alice is, when she deserves so much more. She just turned 36. She already has wasted three years sneaking around with Ricki, who continues to go home to her real girlfriend, Jolie.
It’s the usual story: Ricki says she’s leaving Jolie, and Alice gives Ricki ultimatums and deadlines, but nothing happens. Ricki says she’ll be free by Christmas, then by Easter, then by summer. But with every holiday and birthday that goes by, it becomes more apparent never is going to happen.
I’ve tried to make Alice see that she’s wasting her life (or at least her 30s), but it doesn’t help for more than a day or two.
To make matters more complicated, Alice and I had one dinner date, right before she became obsessed with Ricki. I often have wondered what might happen between us if she could let go of her unhealthy obsession with Ricki.
I don’t want to muddy the waters right now, but can I do anything to make Alice see that she’s hurting herself—without my seeming too self-interested?
People who want committed relationships somehow manage to find people who aren’t otherwise engaged. If Alice were ready for a full-fledged relationship, she’d be having one, instead of sneaking around with someone who has to go home and eat dinner with someone else.
But really, it’s not your job to explain this to Alice, and even if it were, she’s not able to hear you. Why? Because she’s addicted to the excitement and pain of her current arrangement. You can’t talk people out of their obsessive thinking by reasoning with them. Unfortunately, she won’t be done with this until she really is done.
Your “helpfulness” with this matter is tainted by your own feelings for Alice, who actually isn’t any more available than Ricki.
And the same applies to you: If you really wanted a girlfriend, you wouldn’t choose someone who’s obsessed with someone else.
If Alice is as mentally preoccupied as you describe, what part of her is left for you to enjoy?
If Alice deserves more, so do you. Take your own advice. Go find a woman who actually wants to be with you.
© 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.