Dear Abby, Who Can a Girl Talk to For Good Advice on Gay Prom Dates Around Here?

a+

Advice columns are interesting creatures. It seems like no one person is more or less qualified to give advice than the next person, really, because we’re all so different and each of us could help others in our own special snowflake way or, you know not. But yet here’s Dear Abby, aka Jeanne Phillips, the daughter of the original Dear Abby, whose name also was not Abby, giving advice to a young woman who’s getting ready to attend her prom. Here’s what I saw / felt when I read the above letter to Jeanne:

I have a friend, Belinda, who came out last year. I supported her — I have several gay friends. I also have a boyfriend. Last year, Belinda confided that she loves me as more than a friend. I continued to be her friend. She wants to take me to prom this year and I want to go with her.

Because I already have a boyfriend, is this cheating? I don’t want to be a cheater. I want to go to prom with Belinda. I also don’t know how to tell my parents that I want to go with her to prom. I might be slightly confused about my feelings for everyone involved, so it’s possible that anything you say will stick in my head like the American flag on the moon. Please please help.”

Jeanne’s immediate response it to conclude that LFiO doesn’t have special feelings for Belinda, even though LFiO never actually says that. She does say that she has a boyfriend, and if I were in the generalizing mood, like Ms. Phillips here, I’d probably say something like AND I THINK WE ALL KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. But I would never say that. Because this episode was brought to you by the letter Generalizing Is A Bad Idea. More on that later.

Jeanne also suggests that LFiO, Belinda and Boyfriend could (possibly) attend the prom as a threesome! Well, that is super cute and would probably never blow up in LFiO’s or Belinda’s face. No that would probably go very, very smoothly. Lesbians love going on dates with girls and their boyfriends, of course.  As long as LFiO keeps her boyfriend nearby, she’s safe / not leading Belinda on, because Lord knows LFiO doesn’t like Belinda the way Belinda likes her because we’ve used the Rule of Generalization and Heteronormatization and that was our conclusion.

In her closing, Jeanne lets LFiO know that going to her prom with her boyfriend (and possibly Belinda but whatevs) would most certainly not ruffle her parents’ feathers, so there’s little-to-nothing there to worry about. THANK GOD. Logically speaking, if not going with Belinda as her escort wouldn’t be a problem, I guess we’re to assume that going with her as her escort would be a problem? Hm. Well good thing LFiO has ZERO interest in Belinda! She’ll never ever have to worry about broaching the topic of girl-on-girl feelings ever!

Oh sigh. It’s so good to be straight and attached to a boy.

HEY I have an idea: let’s be generous and pretend Jeanne’s reply was in code, and she expected LFiO would be able to crack it like in Ocean’s Eleven. I just love that movie — SO MANY MEN. Here’s what Jeanne’s reply might mean, if it were in code:

 

“If you don’t want to make out with Belinda, (and I suspect you do) you should tell her as much either way. Honesty is the best policy! But let’s assume you don’t want Belinda cuddles — why don’t you go with her AND your boyfriend! Which is actually maybe the least honest option! That won’t be awkward at all! Yes definitely do that. Mhm yes Belinda and Boyfriend will have so much fun and you — oh honey YOU will have the MOST fun of all! So many feelings!!

Also but hey seriously, your parents might flip out if you go on a date with a lesbian. I mean, that’s just the way it is sometimes. You could always lie? Yeah, just tell them that you’re going with Boyfriend. This will buy you some time while you figure out what the fuck you’re doing going on a date with a lesbian! Ha, just kidding everything’s fine. You’re fine — just be noble with people’s hearts. Good luck and have fun.”

But it wasn’t in code. It was blatantly heterosexist, presumptuous and without real empathy or experience. The letter Jeanne responds to is from a confused and scared girl who is still young enough to be hopeful that this situation can end with everyone happy. It leaves a lot of questions, true – perhaps most of all the heartbreaking “…and I would like to go with her.”

Does she want to go because she has more-than-friend feelings for Belinda, or because even her friend feelings are so strong and sweet and pure that she wants to make Belinda happy? We have no way of knowing. But you know what, neither does Jeanne. Just like how she has no way of knowing that LFiO’s having a boyfriend makes her straight – but she assumes it anyway, just like she assumes that LFiO therefore must have the mixture of revulsion and pity that all straight women feel towards their lesbian friends – don’t they? Or wait, MAYBE THAT’S JUST HER.

It’s true that there wasn’t a lot to work with on this question – as someone with literally hundreds of unanswered formspring questions right now (65% of which I’ve deemed “probably actually unanswerable” because I feel wholly unqualified to give such advice) I have experience in this area. But in that case, it makes it extra obvious how much Jeanne had to read into the unspoken parts – and the answers she came up with say much more about Jeanne than about prom dates.

In conclusion, I wish LFiO had asked one of us this question on formspring. We would’ve respected her.

Thanks to Cynthia for the tip.

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 871 articles for us.

40 Comments

  1. I am a silly Dear Abby reader and I couldn’t help but think Dear Prudence would have at least acknowledged the girls unstated implied feelings of reciprocity with the lesbian girl instead of completely ignoring it!

  2. Dear Abby just gave the worst advice ever. This situation is just a hot mess. Her straight friend that she has feelings for should not go to prom with her as her date. No good could come of that.

  3. I can’t believe she told her to go to prom with Belinda AND her boyfriend as a “threesome”! Really, Papi, really?

    Even if, and I underline “if” because LFiO doesn’t make it clear, she had absolutely no feelings beyond friendship towards Belinda, how unfair would it be for the other girl to go to prom with the straight girl she has unrequited feelings for AND HER BOYFRIEND? It seems to me downright cruel….
    But, actually, LFiO never has said that she doesn’t have feelings for Belinda! In fact, she even admits that she “would like to go with her”. She is clearly confused, alone, torn between the boyfriend she “cares very much for” [and note that she never said that she’s actually in love with him] and a good friend who just confessed her love. How awkward it would be to go with both to prom? How unfair for Belinda? How unfair for the boyfriend? How cruel for poor LFiO, who is also scared of her parents’ opinion?

  4. Dear Abby’s response is infuriating. The threesome suggestion is particularly loathsome: it reinforces that It’s only acceptable for two women to be together if a male is present.

  5. “The letter Jeanne responds to is from a confused and scared girl who is still young enough to be hopeful that this situation can end with everyone happy.”

    thought that was a great quote

  6. I don’t imagine if LFiO was writing about a straight guy friend who had declared his love for her, asked her to prom & she wanted to go with him, that Dear Abby would suggest they go as a “threesome”.

  7. There’s also no indication that they all go to the same school, and that we are even dealing with the same prom. LFiO may not have to choose between going to the prom with her boyfriend or with “Belinda” and the “threesome” (oh dear, Dear Abby) may not be possible.

  8. This breaks my heart, because so many girls get damaged by bad advice like this. Threesome is about the worst advice imaginable, what confusion and emotional damage it would lay on this poor girl, I can’t even begin to put into words.

    I would never presume without actually talking with the person but it appears her heart was with going out with the girl but she was weighting how to tell the boy and more importantly, how her parents might perceive it.

    I hate advice columns except for the most basic things like etiquette etc. because you really have to hold the persons hand, look her in the eye and discuss it with her and really listen to what she is feeling and the questions and confusion she is dealing with.

    Interesting that the sexually charged word “threesome” seem to come out so easily when another solution that preserves feelings and confidences is obvious – suggest that both her and her girl date dress up and just have a really beautiful night out together, dinner – the whole works. Worst that can happen is that girl’s parents think she is unpopular and couldn’t get a date to the prom so went out with a girlfriend to console herself. It would probably end up being a much nicer evening than going to the prom and watching everyone make fools of themselves and throw up on the sidewalk outside – which usually is what happens.

    And of course the same rules apply in all relationships – be respectful of the other persons feelings and tell the boy you won’t be going to the prom with him, but let him down as easy as you can. Boys can also get their feelings hurt.

  9. So I came across this on the internet before this article was written and I was like, “wtf. There’s so many things wrong with her advice.” Glad I wasn’t the only one that thought so.

  10. You know, I actually think it could have been a helluva lot worse. Ol’ Ab’s advice was not the greatest, but it was slightly better than I imagine most straight white middle aged americans’ would be.
    The WORST advice that probably could have been given was to condemn poor Belinda for pushing the issue and paint her as some predatory hussy who has already had to be told no about her feelings once, and who obviously will stop at nothing to corrupt her poor friends’ youth.
    I found the actual answer given to be definitly confusing, but at least an attempt of some sort at being somewhat supportive. Someone brought up above that her advice, had Belinda been a straight boy instead, would not have involved a “threesome.” Honestly, I’d bet the advice would be, “Don’t go to prom with another boy at all if you have a boyfriend, period.”
    The fact that it might be at least a little ok for the girl to go to prom with her friend to me comes across more like Abby didn’t consider her as having reciprocal feelings as noted (overgeneralized), but also that perhaps Belinda’s feelings are just sort of cute and non-threatening, which of course isn’t taking them seriously.

    Really, she should have questioned why the loyal friend wanted to go to prom with Belinda when she knew her feelings where stronger than just “like,” regardless of whether or not she has a boyfriend or what her parents would think.

    • Your right, it could have been worse…like, as you say, she could have been called a “predatory hussy” or like a priest that once told me I was “going to hell”….ha…..I told him to “fuck off” literally…one of my finer moments…. 🙂

  11. No wonder I did not respect adults as a teen. It was around that time that I developed a pet peeve that stands till this day: having my time wasted. I knew they were wasting my time, speaking authoritatively on topics they were completely ignorant of.

  12. Dear Abby has admitted to giving out bad advice before, maybe if people write in and explain these points she would rectify it and print some other points of view. I mean, her answer is definitely misguided, but maybe if a lot of homogays write in it will strike a blow for gay advice column readers everywhere? And educate another widely read breeder?

    I’ve already written her my rebuttal =)

  13. Dear ‘Dear Abby:’

    Now, I realize you give such shitty advice that you must use an alias, however, some real people have earned the name ‘Abby’ (exactly as you spell it), and would like for you to step out of your advice-giving closet and use your legal name. That being said, if I followed the advice you give, I’d probs end up in a ditch somewhere in California, searching for the truth and panning for gold. Keep in mind that only a select few can live life as unicorns.

    Regretfully yours,
    a gay Abby

  14. <–very happy that my school priced me out of prom. Affluent suburb + token closeted gay + token few not-affluent kids = great alternative partying. Seriously, we had much better music, and I got to drive my own damn duct taped car.

    But for real Dear Abby column = major major fail. My advice would be:

    Dear Iforgetyourwittyabbreviation:

    You are going to have to deal with someone's hurt feelings here. Carefully weigh which feelings you value the most: those belonging to your friend who you may or may not like in a not-friendly way, your "well cared-for" boyfriend's, or your own. Please pick your own, decide who you envision yourself still speaking to (or about) after high school, and go dance your ass off in something cute and get yourself a good story for when you are a boring grownup. Go have fun. And as for your parents, wait to chat with them about your choices until the day AFTER your prom. Or college. Whatever.

    Or be a shallow shallow bitch and go with whoever dances better/looks nicer in a suit. Do you.

  15. On my way to work today, a bunch of high school girls were singing “Bonnie & Clyde” to each other. Then one girl goes “Yo what if I were actually, like, into girls!” General madness/girls jumping away from each other screaming “Ew” ensued. My first thoughts were, “That girl is totes prob queer.”

    That’s exactly what this letter was! A girl testing the waters on “the gay thing” and a metaphorical chorus of “Ewwwws.”

    • Beautifully said…I feel exactly the same way…she was reaching out to understand these feelings and come to grip with her sexual identity and Abby’s response shut her down…the proverbial “ewwwws” as you so well put it.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.