Dear Ms. Behavior:
My friend, Terry, had a boyfriend of 10 years who died quickly and tragically last winter. Terry has been a mess, and has not taken good care of himself—he doesn’t eat right, drinks too much, and doesn’t sleep. He never has done well when he was single anyway, so my partner and I have been concerned.
A few weeks ago, Terry (who is nearly 40) hooked up with a 24-year-old man named “Dakota,” who creates video games, calls Terry “Dude,” and has taught our once-dignified friend to surf and to skateboard. They don’t go to the opera or theater, which Terry likes to do.
They do seem to have fun together, and Terry is out of his slump, but my partner and I worry about him. Dakota has his own money, but we’re afraid he’s using Terry for his grown-up, stable lifestyle. We fear that he eventually will get bored, and hurt Terry. Also, we found out that Dakota’s real name is Daryl, which makes him seem like a phony.
Should we talk to Terry about our concerns?
—Terry’s Watchdog Friends
Dear Terry’s Watchdog Friends:
Terry doesn’t necessarily need another opera-loving, theater-going queen to entertain him. What he needs right now, while he still is grieving, is the ability to return to a tolerable existence.
So what if Terry is attracted to 20-something Dakota’s free spirit and exuberance, and Dakota is attracted to Terry’s stability?
The relationship doesn’t have to be “right” or permanent. If Terry has fun with this skateboarding boyfriend for six months or a year, that’s probably good enough. Even if Dakota eventually grows bored and leaves, they’ll have shared some good times.
As for the name change that makes you suspicious, isn’t it obvious that Dakota is a much cooler name than Daryl? Dakota is smart enough to have figured out that Daryl isn’t a good name for a Surfer Dude, and he doesn’t need to be saddled with a name that annoys him.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My girlfriend and I have been dating for eight months. We spent the entire summer living together, and even worked at the same job.
I recently started college, so I cannot see her or even talk much during the week. She gets jealous when I hang out with my friends. We almost broke up over it one night. She has been OK for the past few days, but doesn’t understand why I have to cut her off sometimes to sleep, eat, or enjoy the college life.
It got to the point that I had to turn the sound off on my phone, because I was afraid of her calling in the middle of the night, and waking up my two roommates and me. It turns out she sent four text messages and called 27 times, because she never got a response.
I’m not sure what to do. I love her, but she is completely dependent on me. She doesn’t have many other friends or much of a life. She even said once, “You are my life.” I hate hearing that.
I’d like to be myself, and have fun while at college, but I don’t want to lose my girlfriend, or have fights every other night.
Can you give me some advice?
If you and your girlfriend spent the summer working together, living together, and having hot monkey sex every night, you obviously shared a lot of intimacy. It probably felt great, but also set up expectations that were unsustainable, especially for a new relationship about to change at the start of the school year.
Did you and your girlfriend talk, in advance, about how your daily lives would be different once you started college?
You haven’t said whether you’re the same age. If your girlfriend hasn’t gone to college, maybe she should consider it. Either way, she needs to get a life that’s as substantial as yours, so that the relationship feels more balanced, and so that her life has meaning beyond her connection to you.
Next time you’re together, discuss your relationship, and what you each can offer. It sounds like you may not be giving your girlfriend enough information. Be clear about your need to spend time with friends, and to focus on your schoolwork. Tell her that you don’t want to be her whole life.
If you let her know about your limitations, maybe she’ll realize that she needs to have her own life, too, and she won’t behave like (or feel like) a stalker.
© 2008 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to email@example.com. 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.