Dear Ms. Behavior:
I’m not sure where to draw the line with my ex. Ronnie and I broke up several years ago, but we’ve remained friends. She is prone to depression.
Sometimes, Ronnie calls me when she’s drunk and despondent. It doesn’t bother me. I help her the same way I would any depressed friend.
But it’s more difficult since I’ve gotten a new girlfriend. Tammy doesn’t want me to answer Ronnie’s late-night calls, and would prefer that I stop rescuing her when she gets pulled over for drunk driving. (Her father is a retired cop, so she never goes to jail.)
Is Tammy being unreasonable by asking me to ignore Ronnie? Or am I wrong in trying to help her? Does having a new girlfriend really mean that I have to ignore the old one?
—Torn Between Past And Present
Dear Torn Between Past And Present:
It’s easy to conjure up the scenario: You and Tammy lying on the couch, cuddling in that hot way that lesbians do. You feed each other ice cream, or perhaps massage each other’s toes.
Suddenly the phone rings. Ring! Ring! Uh-oh, maybe it’s an emergency! You reach for the phone (dropping Tammy’s foot), and check your caller ID.
You see that Ronnie is drunk-dialing you…again. Your body releases a burst of adrenaline as you say “Hello?”—and you’re back to feeling alive!
Ronnie spills the details of her daily crisis, while your ice cream melts. Tammy watches you shift into caretaker mode, as you deftly analyze Ronnie’s mood, and try to soothe her.
Can you really blame Tammy for being annoyed or even disgusted? How could she feel anything but short-changed?
Saving Ronnie is not healthy for you, and it’s not healthy for your new relationship. Worse, it doesn’t even help Ronnie to be “saved.”
So, start screening Ronnie out. Don’t take her drunk calls. Don’t solve her problems. Let her call someone else for a ride.
But be forewarned—you soon will have to figure out what to do with your sorry self when you no longer feel the rush of being a hero. You may be surprised at how lost you feel when you’re not “helping” anyone.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My boyfriend, Evan, and I are about to have a baby with a surrogate. She’s not even born, and nosy people already are asking, “Who is Olivia’s father?” When we explain that we’ll both be fathers, the next question is, “But who is her biological father?”
We feel we should educate people about the insensitivity of the question, but on the other hand, this is a private matter, and we want to be treated equally, regardless of whose sperm happens to have fertilized the surrogate’s egg.
We’ve taken turns with the insemination each month, and know when the surrogate conceived, but don’t want to share the info with the world.
Of course, the answer may become obvious to everyone once the baby is born: Evan is dark and 6’4”, and I’m short and blond.
But until then, how should we handle the rude questions?
—Papa And Dad
Dear Papa And Dad:
Having to explain repeatedly that you’re both daddies is tiresome, and you shouldn’t reward rude questions with answers anyway. It’s not your job to educate the public about the sociopolitical issues surrounding same-sex parenting.
So, on the days that you feel weary of it, you could try a variety of responses, and see which works best:
(1) “We’ve cloned a baby in the lab. She’s half him, half me. Don’t tell anyone.”
(2) “We were drunk the night she was conceived, so we’re not sure.”
(3) “If you’re asking which one of us beat off into the cup, we can only tell you that we take turns.” (If it’s an immediate family member asking the question, you may want to substitute a different word for “beat off.”)
© 2009 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.