Dear Ms. Behavior:
I came out to my mother a few weeks ago—sort of. It’s 2008, so I thought she’d be cool about the whole thing. When I started to tell her that I was having a relationship with my female college roommate, the blood drained from her face. I swear, I thought she was going to faint. She is the kind of pot-smoking ex-hippie who thinks she’s “with the times,” so I wasn’t expecting the death mask.
Unfortunately, I panicked, and immediately started telling her that I was with Gina in order to get my ex-boyfriend jealous, so I could win him back. This is a ridiculous lie, but now, I’m stuck with it. I told her I was experimenting, bisexual, uncertain of what I was doing (also: lie, lie, lie). It made her feel so much better that I’ve decided to stick with the story. Gina is pissed at me, and we’re fighting about it.
But is there really any harm in telling a few white lies to parents who can’t handle the bald truth? Is my sex life really any of Mom’s business? Couldn’t I just ease her into it?
—White Lies Don’t Hurt
Dear White Lies Don’t Hurt:
You don’t need to soften the queer blow for your pot-smoking ex-hippie mother—who probably dropped acid, and engaged in steamy orgies during her own college days. (Don’t try to envision your mother’s free-and-easy sexual past, or you’ll have to poke your eyes out.) Mommy’s not nearly as delicate as you believe, and likely would recover rather quickly from your news.
Tell your mother that you lied because you were afraid she’d be disappointed if you were gay. She probably will rise to the occasion, and be supportive. But if she does happen to have a hard time with the reality that you’re boinking your roommate—having nothing to do with your ex-boyfriend or any other man—let her struggle with her self. Don’t try to fix it by disowning your true feelings—that never helps. Eventually, your mother will get over it, and so will you.
Who could blame Gina for being pissed at your weaseling and your pretense that she’s just an unimportant fling? Essentially, you told your mother that your relationship to Gina doesn’t matter.
Coming out is, in many ways, an inside job. You need to figure out why you think it’s shameful or disappointing, so you can move beyond that perspective. The more you actually believe it’s OK to be who you are, the easier it will be for others to accept you. You’re frankly too old to worry so much about disappointing Mommy.
Once you disclose to your mother that you’re indeed a committed muff diver, you’ll feel more like an adult, and Gina will feel more confident you’re invested in the relationship.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
Mark is a good friend of the people I hang out with. He’s nice-looking, a good person, and has a great body. I even would be tempted to date him.
Problem: his ridiculous hair weave. I’m tempted to take him aside one evening at our gatherings, and just tell him to shave the whole uncomfortable mess off his skull, and let his natural beauty shine through, but my friends say it’s cruel. I think it’s cruel to let him walk around with this unnatural looking carpet on his head. Seriously.
What is the right thing to do? Ignore it, or give it to him straight, so to speak.
—Interested In Mark
Dear Interested In Mark:
Sometimes, the impulse to comment on bad phony hair is hard to contain. It feels like the polite and humane thing to do, almost like telling someone he or she has ketchup on his or her face, or spooge in his or her hair.
However, because you’re not Mark’s stylist, sister, boyfriend, or even trick, your criticism of his woeful weave may be received as overstepping a boundary. Comments on a person’s appearance are tolerated more easily when delivered either by a professional (e.g., hair stylist or consultant), or offered delicately by intimate friends or lovers (preferably immediately following a hand job). So, try to hold back your helpful suggestion that Mark destroy the evil weave, unless he becomes your boyfriend, or at least your sex toy.
If you do get close enough to comment, don’t say anything disparaging, e.g., “Downer about the road kill on your skull.” Try framing your suggestion in a kind and positive way, like, “You have such a great face. You’d look hot if you shaved your head.”
© 2008 Meryl Cohen. 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.