Y’All Need Help #29: What to Wear, When to Quit

Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there. Please have a seat. Today we’ve got a mix of advice from yours truly, our HR Director, and some cute pics for outfit inspo. Let’s give some people advice!


Q: Outfits to impress my stick and poke artist

I need help figuring out what wear to get a stick and poke tattoo. I wanna impress this super rad queer tattoo artist and also this seemed like a question y’all might want to weigh in on.

A:

Darlin’, you super haven’t given us enough info to really help you out with this outfit! But I LOVE A CHALLENGE so I asked some people what they’d wear to get a stick and poke tattoo if they wanted to impress their artist. Here’s what happened!

Mika (Find Your Fit)

“Cool tattoo fit — tank top underneath so I can be comfy and anything can be accessible.”

Archie (Grease Bats)

Archie: I have thoughts
Like, I need to know who this tattoo artists is to know what kinda style they are into!
Also the tattoo artist will judge you more on WHAT you’re getting tattooed onto your body than what you’re wearing to the appointment
At least that’s my experience doing stick n poke tattoos.

Laneia: Archie what’s the coolest stick and poke you’ve ever done

Alyssa (Oh Hey! It’s Alyssa!): U better say one of mine
This is a trap!

Archie: ‘butch please’ on Alyssa
Also tho: A bloody tampon on a pals ankle, a unicorn, a woman with hairy pits on my best pal, the word PERVERT in a heart on someone’s butt and the word CHUB SLUT in a heart on THREE people’s butts!
I also did a sweet Godzilla tattoo once with buildings and fire coming outta his mouth.
I also like my truth or dare rose that I did on myself! And my scissors and my Homo tattoo!

if the person meant to ask WHERE instead of wear: I like doing upper arm tattoos, leg tattoos, shoulder tattoos and stick n pokes make great hand/write tattoos! Anywhere too stretchy (like rib cages or stomach) don’t make great stick n poke spots
The exception being butts, where is an IDEAL spot for a stick n poke.

Stef, Vapid Fluff Editor

NOT A STICK OR POKE

“literally wear a t shirt made of hepatitis”
“do not wear the same needle as your friend”

Jeanna (Starstruck):

Hi hello I am your resident Capricorn killjoy. In no way need to dress to impress your tattoo artist. Tattoos can hurt. Stick and pokes REALLY hurt. You are probably going to make some awkward faces, and they are going to be more focused on giving you badass ink than on what you’re wearing! Also! Being comfortable is the most important thing in a tattoo session! You don’t mention where you’re getting the tattoo, but my one recommendation is that any cute clothing be breathable and easy to remove.


Q: My new job is terrible and homophobic

I’m a month into a new job. I was very open about being queer in the entire interview process. My boss seemed nice and the job seemed like it would have the creative control I was looking for in a next step.

Man, was I wrong. My boss never trained me but gets annoyed if I don’t do things exactly as she expects. If I ask questions to clarify, the answers are often passive aggressive. The hours and work-life balance are not what I expected from interviews. They hired outside consultants to do all the creative work I was expecting to do, I’m just supposed to implement it. I feel constantly behind due to the lack of training and directions and the speed my boss expects me to be able to work. I haven’t even had a chance to finish all of my HR paperwork. She has only said two somewhat positive things about my work this entire time but is always passive aggressively pointing out what I’ve done wrong (not reading an email on a weekend, not coming to a meeting I was told not to come to, not sending an email to a person I’d never even met yet). I’ve been miserable since day 1, even had a few panic attacks and nightmares about it.

The job and manager seemed great in interviews so I left my old job on good terms (they said I could come back if I ever want to) even though I was no longer happy there. But now I’m regretting it and would gladly go back if I had a time machine.

To make matters worse, everyone in the HR department has said homophobic things to me so I feel like if I ever need help I won’t be able to trust them and I feel uncomfortable when they come talk to me. I did tell my boss about it and am told there are discussions happening with lawyers but that scares me too.

I hoped to make it through a year, but I already feel like I need to get out of here. Many of my current and former coworkers know each other. I don’t want to harm my career or get a bad reputation. I also don’t understand how I could have been so wrong about this job. Is there anything I can do to try to make this job work? Is there any way that I can look for something new and leave quickly without damaging my career and reputation? How do I avoid making the same mistake again?

A:

Crystal, Human Resources Director: Hello, first up, revealing your queerness during the interview process is badass. Good for you. It’s a risk, for sure, and there are plenty of valid, weighty reasons why people choose not to come out to employers in interviews or at all, but when you show someone your whole self and they say, “yes, I want you”, it feels so good! And I’m sorry if those clowns in HR have made you regret it. I’m coming back for them in a minute.

Unfortunately I think it’s a fairly common experience for people to fall in love with a job offer and then feel totally bamboozled when the reality doesn’t match up. Some managers over-promise and omit undesirable details just so someone talented will accept the offer, even though there are whole entire books dedicated to how dumb and pointless that is! That’s how this happened, and there was no reasonable way for you to know that the opportunity was being misrepresented.

Now that’s been said— follow your instincts and get out of there as soon as you can.

It doesn’t sound like you are seriously entertaining the idea of going back to your previous role, but for kicks let’s take this moment anyway to remind you that you left in order to grow, and the reason they’d welcome you back is because you are good! Clearly they see that, and I’ll bet other companies will see it too. (Although, it couldn’t hurt to explain to your former employer what you’re looking for in your next role—who knows, they may be willing to offer you something different to the role you had).

On leaving quickly without damaging your reputation: I think recruitment people have just really done a bang-up job of scaring everyone into avoiding short stints and resume gaps on their resumes, even if it means spending an entire year or more slugging it out with terrible managers. And those concerns are not entirely unfounded! But here are some things to consider:

You took this new role because it promised creative opportunities and the company just isn’t delivering them. If the next interviewers ask why only lasted a month, that’s going to be an acceptable answer for reasonable people. You don’t even need to get into how your boss is a nightmare and there’s no work/life balance and HR are all homophobic assholes (don’t do that).

You don’t need to put this job on your resume. Your resume exists to provide an overview of relevant experience and it doesn’t sound like this past month has given you any valuable content to add. You *do* need to put this experience on the official job application, though— however my observation has been that managers rarely see those.
I’m not suggesting you lie or pretend like you’re not currently in this job, but I also don’t think you need to volunteer the info before you get to the interview stage.

Lastly, your homophobic HR team. Y i k e s. If the entire team responsible for the human element of the business is broken then that doesn’t bode well for the company’s future or your career, and especially not your health. Get out as soon as you can.


Q: Got fired from homophobic job, feeling like I’m set up to fail

I had a new job I was excited about but it quickly turned horrible. My boss was like a combo of the Devil Wears Prada and VEEP — incompetent but also totally controlling and condescending. I got insulted and talked over regularly (and my boss wasn’t even a man). People in positions of power at the company made homophobic comments and when I complained they had a condescending lawyer come talk to me. I also have chronic medical issues and my boss constantly gave me a hard time about going to doctors and other treatments. I was only there a few months but I already hated it. I got fired a few days ago and I suspected that would happen since my boss did nothing but insult me even when I did great work.

I know on some level that I am damn good at what I do and I just wasn’t set up to succeed. Still, I am feeling a lot worse than I expected. I thought I would feel free. After all, I probably qualify for unemployment, I have several interviews lined up already, and I don’t have to deal with anymore BS. But I’m having an existential crisis and I can’t stop crying and feeling like I don’t want to get out of bed to do things like interviews and look into healthcare. This is the first time I was ever out at a job. They said they were liberal so I thought it would be ok. But I had people say some pretty horrible things. Between that and the issues over going to doctors it seems like this was really ableist and homophobic and I’m feeling like I’m never going to find a good place to work and that the entire world is just set up make sure people like me can’t succeed.

They want me to sign some legal documents too that I won’t sue or speak ill of them and I feel so overwhelmed by needing to decide whether or not I should. People in my family keep telling me that I shouldn’t have come out and that there’s no use in being upset. I wish I could stop but it feels like I was insulted and treated horribly for months and then fired in a way that felt personal when they could have just said it wasn’t a good fit. It’s making me question whether I will ever work at a place that respects and supports all of my identities and whether I can even continue to work in the progressive world. I don’t know what to do anymore.

A:

Crystal: Hello, firstly, read the first paragraph of the answer up there, because it applies to you too.

Secondly, the folks in your family might be smart people who are right about many things but they are not right about this! Being upset when you’ve been wronged– and you have been wronged– can be pretty healthy and helpful, actually! The decision to come out anytime, in any situation, is a purely personal one and doing it was right if that was the thing you wanted to do.

Thirdly, where you are right now emotionally makes perfect sense. Your last employer sucked and even though other opportunities are already knocking, getting fired under any circumstance— let alone after enduring ableism and homophobia— is a real kick in the teeth!

Let me normalize for you (do I sound like a therapist? mine says this a lot) the way that having your spirit crushed by an awful boss who wore you down bit by bit, only to fire you, can suck up any ounce of energy and will you might have had for job-seeking and the whole notion of being happily employed ever again.

When I first immigrated to the U.S. I couldn’t find work despite being an expert in a field that doesn’t have many experts! I don’t have a college degree and the U.S. is so dumb and elitist about college education, you know? After almost a year I found what felt like a dream job, except the boss would shout at me and criticize me in front of colleagues, and remind me that he gave my unemployed alien ass a chance when no one else would. Real prince, that guy. It ended with me being fired in a spectacularly degrading way.

But even though intellectually I knew that that guy was just an egotistical insecure jerk and I was smarter and better than him in every possible sense, it still got to me. Things got pretty dark; I began doubting whether I could be happy professionally in this country and there were many, many of days where I felt too crushed and too pessimistic to look for work.

It’s okay to cry and feel defeated because you’ve been through so, so much. Shitty jobs are hard, medical issues are hard, homophobia is hard, getting fired is hard. Feeling like you’ll never actually be able to succeed or you’ll never really fit somewhere is depressing as hell. And I don’t know how to make employment-related trauma feel better. I think it just takes some time, like recovering from any shitty relationship. But I do feel confident in saying that being upset is justified, and if you can afford to carve out some time to just be sad about the way you were treated and breathe a little, maybe that will help. Maybe then you’ll start feeling like you can tackle interviews and prioritize your health.

Don’t sign those papers, though. Fuck ‘em.


Q: Engaged and afraid

My girlfriend and I have been together for two years and recently we became engaged. At first I was ecstatic! But now every time the wedding gets brought up I have this fear that this is all a big mistake. She keeps taking her moms side in all the wedding planning issues and I feel ganged up on. I mean my fiancé is great and I love her so much but…I don’t think she is ‘the one’ you know? We are such different people, and although we initially connected strongly emotionally-I don’t feel intellectually or sexually satisfied in our relationship. She has low sex drive and thinks of sex as work. I have a high sex drive. I have a strong political identity and pay attention to social issues and she doesn’t pay attention to politics or the news at all. We’re just very mismatched. She gets angry at the smallest things and it takes a lot to make me lose my cool. I can’t help but feel there could be someone out there who would be a better fit for me and my goals in life but also I love her? And we’ve come this far? Is this just FOMO or cold feet? If it’s not…how do I end things cordially?

A:

Do not marry her if you don’t think she’s the one! I have no idea how you can back out of this cordially or without obliterating her heart, but generally speaking, the best way to do anything is honestly. You have to let her know, as kindly but as honestly as possible, that you can’t marry her.


Q: Not Like Other Straight People™

Most of my friends are straight. (That’s not the topic I’m writing in about, though). I’m not out to all of them, but the ones I am out to are really good at not making a big deal out of it. And then…well, then there’s my friend Susan.

Susan (not her real name; I googled “names for straight people” to find an alias to use for her in this letter and found a meme that referenced a straight woman named Susan) is my closest friend at college. I’m not out to her, and sometimes I think maybe I should be out to her, just so I don’t have to censor myself all the time. Except here’s the thing: Susan is one of Those Straight Allies. She constantly brings up how accepting and gay-friendly she is and references queer pop culture like nobody’s business (mainstream queer pop culture, though, like the stuff that straight people also like). She has the slogan shirts, slogan buttons, and slogan stickers; she’s the first person to talk about how the LGBT+ community should have equal rights and stuff. That’s great, Susan! Keep on not being an asshole! But also a lot of the times it feels like she mostly just wants the social status that comes from being a “woke” straight person. She’s also white, cisgender, able-bodied, relatively thin, and middle-class (like me) which is why I think she wants to feel “exciting” or whatever. In other words, she wants everyone to know that she’s Not Like Other Straight People™. (Also Not Like Other Cis People™, Not Like Other White People™, etc.)

This manifests itself in extra annoying ways sometimes. Her sister is queer, and one time when we were hanging out, her sister was being, I don’t know, extra funny/cool/forward; later, when the two or us were alone, Susan laughed and commented that she “loves having a gay sister.” Like…what does that even mean? Are gay people supposed to be funnier/cooler/more open about sex? Another time she went to a seminar that included a mandatory “safe space training” section; she later told me that she didn’t really need it since her main takeaway is that “I’m already well-informed about those issues.” (She still wears her Safe Space Person button, though.) She has also proudly stated that she’s a part of queer culture (because she was wearing rainbow shorts at the time) and that she can totally be both straight and a part of queer culture. There have been other instances like these, but these are just the recent highlights. However, the second anyone even indirectly suggests that maybe she’s not straight — or even just apropos of nothing — she vehemently defends her heterosexuality.

Anyway, the point of this is that I’m concerned that if I come out to her as a lesbian, she’ll be aggressively supportive and constantly remind me what a Good Ally she is. I’m also concerned that she’ll co-opt my identity to make herself seem cooler. Like, “this is my lesbian friend Ellen!” (Also an alias, duh.) Or “this is Bobbi Sue, she’s an artist, and this is Karen, she plays soccer, and this is Ellen, she’s a lesbian”. Or “well, I have a lesbian friend, so I think…” Or whenever something even vaguely queer makes the news, she’ll want to talk to me about it for hours just to prove that she totally keeps up with The Queers™. Also, if I try to confront her, she’ll probably either say that her queer sister is fine with it or get defensive and teary.

I realize that this is a much longer letter than what you typically answer, but I don’t know what to do and any advice would be greatly appreciated. Please send help/other queers.

A:

Damn, Ellen. These are some valid concerns! Your friend is overcompensating for something and if you have any idea what that might be, you could possibly address that topic in a generous and tender way, as an entry point into a larger conversation about being a little too vocal/familiar/braggy about one’s intentions and knowledge. I mean yes, the Current Political Climate™ is making a lot of [white] [straight] people feel very panicked about being clocked as a racist piece of shit when maybe they’re not, so this is probably playing out all over the place, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying or misguided.

You’re doing a lot of forward-thinking in this letter and you’re concerned with how you’ll handle the situation if and when she says a certain thing, and the truth is that you’ll handle it the way you usually handle confrontations. If you usually give a tight smile and try to change the subject, that’s probably what you’ll default to when Susan gets on her parade float. Not a judgement call — that’s usually how I handle most confrontational situations! But if you’d rather not default to that, you’ll have to make a conscious active decision to have a plan in place — talking points, redirection, quotes, questions — and you’ll have to be willing to brave the very uncomfortable task of enacting it.

You can’t control how Susan will conduct herself, ever. But you can decide what you’re willing to let slide and what you can’t abide, and how you’ll handle the latter.


Y’All Need Help is a biweekly advice column in which I pluck out a couple of questions from the You Need Help inbox and answer them right here, round-up style, quick and dirty! (Except sometimes it’s not quick, but that’s my prerogative, OK?) You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and submit your own quick and dirty questions any time.


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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 824 articles for us.