Y’All Need Help #3: Maybe You Just Don’t Like Bars

Welcome to Y’All Need Help, a weeklyish (kinda?) advice column in which I pluck out a handful of questions from the You Need Help inbox and answer them right here, round-up style, quick and dirty! You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and send your quick and dirty questions to [email protected].

Hello I am back! Did you miss me and my advising words? I sure missed giving them to you. This week we’re tackling postpartum depression, relationships, and looking for love in maybe all the wrong places. We’re also listening to this Moon Catchers playlist I put together for an A-Camp workshop in 2013 because it really fits the vibe. Once again, everyone gets an inspirational poster and nothing hurts! Some things hurt, maybe. I don’t know, we’re all going to be ok.

I’ve been traveling around the world chasing my (non-relationship-driven) dreams, and I’ve been single for all of the five-ish years since I came out. Which is … awkward. I find myself always having to go to bars to try and find other gay/queer women, and every time I have to talk myself into going.

I’m naturally reticent but have been making an effort to be friendly and outgoing. I know it’s only my stupid inner fears, yet even then I get to the bar and sometimes just run away. It seems like this situation is going to continue for the foreseeable future. How do you talk yourself into going to bars and striking up conversations? How do you ignore your fears?

Not Painfully Shy But I’d Forgive You The Comparison

Dear Not Painfully Shy,

Have you considered

that you may





what if

Because to be quite frank, I feel similarly about going to bars and striking up conversations. Walking into a room full of people you don’t know and attempting to create any sort of real, one-on-one dialogue with one or several of them is not an easy task! It’s a legendary feat actually. It’s for a very specific type of person and lord bless those people, for they are a world apart. Every space has its own culture and hierarchy and rules, including bars, and I’m not familiar with any of them because I had my first child before I could vote and then just never found a babysitter. Maybe you would be better off going to other places or events or gatherings that are more conducive to chill conversations and intentions — and are less like bars — like an Autostraddle Meetup, roller derby anything, dog parks (provided you have a dog or could borrow one), shows at small music venues, or volunteering at a space or for a movement that’s relevant to your interest. Which brings me to…!

Hey, what are you interested in? What’s something you’re willing to be afraid of, and then do anyway? If the answer is bars, then okeedoke! You’re just gonna have to keep going to those bars and trying and trying again and again. There are probably at least a handful of articles about how to flirt and/or conversate with queer women in bars. But if it’s literally anything else, go there. Go be yourself in the spaces that genuinely interest (if terrify) you — somewhere where you can give and take in a way that doesn’t leave you literally running to the other end of the parking lot.

Your last question was “How do you ignore your fears?” and I think you don’t. You stare them down and ask them what the fuck their deal is, and then you take notes and get to know them inside and out because you can’t get above a thing you don’t understand. You climb up to the top of yourself and look at how small things are from way up there. You do some cross-referencing and cartography. You make a list of what you can still see from the top of your very self and you scribble stars around them because they’re what matter. You think about your intentions so hard and for so long that they almost manifest themselves right there, because your intentions are your Patronus. Then you climb down and keep your fears close and your intentions closer, and you set out on a noble quest to be your selfiest self.

I don’t know why it’s true, but people who match your guts and intentions seem to pop up when you’re mostly involved in anything other than looking for them. And the most crushingly beautiful part of this truth is that you are someone’s gut match, someone’s intention, and you’ll pop up for them without even meaning to, maybe without them even asking for you. Isn’t this universe just the most ridiculous?

I’ve been in a relationship with a girl for eight months now, and though it hasn’t been that long, things have gotten pretty serious pretty fast. The problem is that I’m 24 and this is my first relationship, so I’m very used to being on my own, and was honestly quite happy that way. I do love her dearly, but I know myself so much better than she does, and I often feel that I love my own company more than I love hers. I’m prone to very elaborate daydreams and flights of fancy that are hard to indulge in when I’ve got a very real person in my life. So I guess my questions are: Is it normal to miss a very core part of who I am when I’m with someone (and I’m pretty sure that no matter who I’m with, I won’t be able to maintain my inner fantasy life) and is it normal to feel a little lonely when in a relationship, because my girlfriend doesn’t know the “true” me, the parts of me that I love most about myself? We have all these grand plans for the future, and it would devastate both me and her to break up, but these nagging doubts about how a relationship should feel are kind of destroying me right now.

This was hard to reply to because I RELATE. I relate so much I could burst. The dull answer is that you’ll have to communicate your needs to your partner, and if she’s into your happiness and this relationship, she’ll work with you to figure out how to best navigate this space so that you both have the most of what you want/need while still giving enough to the other. WOMP BORING ANSWER

But I want to dig a little deeper, so. It’s like you’re asking two separate versions of a question here: a) are we really honestly in a good relationship if I’d rather be by myself sometimes, and b) are we really honestly in a good relationship if I don’t want to show her my true self? And the answer to both of those questions is: sure. You’re in a fine/ok relationship and if you’re happy with not taking a chance on sharing your true self with her, that’s cool. And it’s totally normal to sometimes want to be by yourself, even when (or especially when?) you’re coupled off. Being alone and having time to catch up with your weirdo insides is, for some people (like me!), a vital part of being a functioning human.

Howeverrr, have you considered introducing her to the true you? You could, you know. You might feel less lonely. I mean, for many people, the ideal relationship is one in which they have the time and space to pursue their own dreams and where they also feel comfortable being their truest self. Not every relationship can or will be an ideal one, though, so maybe this one is perfectly fine the way it is! Only you and your girlfriend can really speak to that. It might even be that for you, an ideal relationship is one where you hide your true self forever and ever. Also you can show her your true self and still maintain time and space for being alone.


I don’t know man, relationships are all about balance and learning about other people and new things about yourself and growing and supporting each other. They should be fun, if possible. Are you at least having fun?

My partner and I had a second baby about a month ago and I have pretty severe postpartum depression. I’m not the one who carried, but apparently it is really common in partners? I’m not attached to the baby at all and it is really hard having two kids and I feel really isolated and constantly exhausted and overwhelmed.

Wow, I also really relate to you! What if I only chose questions from people I really relate to? That’s probably what I’m doing here. ANYWAY you are correct: having a [second] baby is really hard and isolating and exhausting and overwhelming! You should seek professional help immediately. I’m so truly, truly sorry that you’re going through this, because it’s absolutely horrible and one of the more isolating forms of depression available to the human experience. The apparent source of your depression has a face and a heart and needs you to be so kind and loving to it, and unless someone’s experienced this themselves, it’s nearly impossible to convey how bottomless-pit-of-despair it feels to not be attached to your baby the way you know you should be. You absolutely have to get in touch with an experienced professional and seek help.

I had a late onset postpartum depression with my second child that went untreated and eventually morphed into several years of misery. I’m still working through the remnants of not only the depression itself but also how long it took me to do anything about it and the repercussions of all that time. My brain and heart are in spasms as I type this because just thinking about my life during those years and what I missed out on and all the ways things could’ve been better if I’d just known — if I’d had even the slightest idea what was happening — is enough to wipe me out for weeks. The HILARIOUS thing about depression is that the leftover regrets are sometimes, in some ways, worse than what you lived through. Isn’t that NEAT.

So really, I can’t stress this enough! Get help! Get help get help get help. You can feel better and you deserve to feel better. I LOVE YOU YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK.

This is funny because I took it in a corn maze. Get it? AHAHAHAHA

This is funny because I took it in a corn maze. Get it? AHAHAHAHA

I really, really wish you all the very very best! Do you have advice for these advice seekers? Drop your thoughts in the comments! Need some quick advice for yourself? Email [email protected]!

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lnj has written 310 articles for us.


    • I second that! And I made the “maybe you just don’t like bars” inspirational picture my phone background so the world can know – I just don’t like bars.

  1. Maybe you don’t like bars. Picture, letter, response. I love all of it.

    However, I don’t like bars, and I really like my own company, which may mean I have a problem. “Come be boring with me” feels like a hard sell.

    • You just have to frame it right. “I’m shit at shouting, maybe a coffee shop? A brewery? A fantastic coffee shop/brewery where they’ll put fireball in my chai if it’s very cold out(which is soon)”

    • Give yourself some credit – to plenty of people bars are boring, and you and your own, inner, solitary, quirky, wonderful self are much more interesting!

    • “Come for a walk to see the ______” [autumn leaves, astonishingly lily collection, lilacs, boats, fun bon-sai, best street art, best bathroom graffiti, weirdest tree trunk, gnome collection, street life on B’way, street sculpture, building design, fancy houses, holiday decorations, worst intersection for pedestrians ever…]

  2. You think about your intentions so hard and for so long that they almost manifest themselves right there, because your intentions are your Patronus.

    Thank you for this. So much.

  3. Seconding roller derby as a great way to meet queers. It’s gotten to the point where it actually surprises me if a player is straight. Plus, no focus on hooking up so you meet people as them instead of their best-foot-forward, sex-seeking alter ego. Last, endorphins, wheeeeeeeeee!

    • I am a parent and a student. So most people I know are soccer moms my age or queers 18-25 age group. When I do go out, I run into stay at home moms and adorable elderly couples. The queer community here seems to be mostly men. I would love to know where the cute power dykes do lunch (no planet here) or where queer parents hang out.

      • Oh! Yeah! Roller derby is fun. It’s also a great way to be social and stay in shape. I haven’t met anyone special. Derby-single. But it’s hella fun.

  4. Laneia, you’re such an important person! Thank you for being so endlessly compassionate and funny and wise.

  5. i relate so much to the second letter writer!

    i grew up very isolated. i moved a lot, i had no real consistent access to my extended family, and i only had one sibling. basically i spent a lot of time alone and for me that meant finding creative ways to feel connection and fill my lonely heart. when i was young that meant lots of books, tv, movies, and imaginary scenarios involving me and a successful singing and/or gymnastics career. when the internet came along in my early high school years, that part of me just expanded to fill the vast and infinitely expanding space that is the world wide web. it felt safe and really enjoyable being alone before but with the internet it was even less necessary to leave my own head or bedroom for that matter.

    i got into my first major relationship when i was 24 too, and it was a difficult adjustment because i loved my inner world and my alone time so much. but i am still in that relationship i started at 24, and there are still lots of things she doesnt know about my weirdo self and it is totally fine! it doesnt mean my partner doesnt know me. it just means that she knows me well enough to know that part of knowing me means respecting and accepting that she will not know or be involved with certain parts of me. does that make sense? i sure hope so. i still feel lots of connection to people and things outside of my immediate reality and it goes just fine for us within or relationship. so i guess the good news is it seems like a win/win as long as you are both happy and fulfilled within the relationship. talk to her and invite her into your inner life or keep most of that private and just build in lots of alone time (which should really probably be there anyway with or without a rich and imaginative inner life). either way, i think it is normal and super ok.

    • I really agree with you too. My early life was similar to yours and my inner life has been my mainstay all my life. My partner and I have now been together for nearly 40 years and she jokes with me about my need for “head” time. She also likes to go off and do some things on her own. Her need for her own time is, I think, different to mine but we still need and want each other. So all manages to work well. This is all part of developing a relationship that works for both people for the long term, you don’t need to know everything that goes on in each other’s heads but you do need to trust each other’s need for space and self renewal. Good luck with your life, love and head stuff.

    • I relate too, Lomy. I have many weird (and not so weird!) interests that my partner has absolutely no interest in. I have invited her to share in some of these–I’ve even read her some of my fanfiction, which she enjoyed, and she had never even heard of fanfiction before!–but in many ways it has been a process of realizing that it’s perfectly okay for me to have these weird little interests and worlds in my head and my heart, and it’s perfectly okay that she doesn’t share them. Or maybe she shares them a little bit. Or she shares in them by listening to me talk about them. Or she doesn’t know about them at all. And it’s okay.

    • Hi! I wrote the original letter, and I just wanted to thank you all so, so much for sharing your stories! Laneia’s advice was wonderful, but having real life examples of people just like me who’ve made their relationships work out adds so much, and gives me so much hope. I don’t know what I’d do without Autostraddle <3

  6. To the first letter-writer, I’d suggest trying a dating site like OkCupid maybe? I like that one because it encourages people to write more, get more in-depth. It’s not just judging people on their photos. And you can meet people there for friendship as well–I’ve found that to be quite generally accepted, and I’ve made some good friends that way. It just means you can get comfy talking to someone a bit and establish some rapport before you actually meet. Even if it has loads of its own pitfalls, I find it infinitely easier than walking up to a random woman, about whom I know nothing, and starting a conversation from zero. That is the hardest thing.

    • I tried sites like OKCupid while I was still living in the States and you’re right – they’re much much easier than approaching a stranger at a bar. But dating sites while traveling/being overseas is … well … it doesn’t work. I don’t think I specifically tried OKCupid though, so I’m adding that to my list of things to try. Who knows? Maybe they have a thriving foreign audience and I just never knew!

      • It probably depends on your city, but when I was living in Edinburgh and looking for friends I got a few messages. It seemed to mostly be people who had moved there to study, so it might be a good way to meet other overseas-ers.

  7. I, too, am a queer mom of two children with awesome postpartum depression. Get help! It feels so good to start telling people you’re at the bottom of the well and need help. Talking about how hard parenting is is truly deeply important. Get professional help, and then start telling your friends, too. Maybe they’ll help and maybe they won’t, but saying the words “I have postpartum depression because parenting (two) children is very effing hard” is extremely important for you and all other parents. Not many parents talk about how hard this is, which makes it harder. So get help because you’ll feel better, your partner will feel better, and your kids will feel better. I’m the bio mom who carried the kids and wanted two kids desperately, so you can imagine how weird it feels to now be at the bottom of the depression well, but it feels a lot better to be trying to get out.

  8. I somehow didn’t know that you were writing this column, Laneia! If I had known, I would have been reading it already. Which, ok, I kind of feel like a jerk for saying that because it means I wouldn’t be reading it if someone else was writing it. But I have a hard time with advice columns sometimes. I used to be really great at listening and giving advice to friends. I was the advice friend. But at some point, I think I realized that I was good at giving advice because I was actively in denial of my own issues. And now that I’m more aware of those, I tend to avoid advice columns because they cause me to look inward and face my own stuff and that would just be too healthy and responsible so obviously I like to steer clear of that as much as possible. So, what I’m saying is, Laneia, you are such a great writer and have this way with words that makes me feel ok about feeling things that I otherwise wouldn’t feel ok about feeling that I will actually confront my discomfort with regards to advice columns just to read your words. So, thanks for being so great, I guess. But also, how dare you.

    And in writing this comment, I think it’s become obvious that I may, in fact, need help. Oops.

  9. Re the middle question about solitude in relationships. I always try to think on this thing that Rilke wrote:

    “The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

  10. Oh, second writer, I feel you! After a couple of months into my first really good relationship (at 26) I started to feel lonely. Sure, I had known lonliness before and the sadness that comes with it, but I didn’t expect it now that I was really connected to someone. In the past I had always coped with lonliness and isolation by day-dreaming and making up elaborate scenarios, almost like imaginary friends except I always knew they were not real. Not sure if it’s healthy, but it’s what I did. I suddenly realised that I missed that! I might not ever be ready to share all those toughts with my girlfriend, but since then I have found more space and rest within the relationship to keep exploring that side of me. It is totally OK to ask for some space from your partner, like an evening every week or just a quiet hour every morning, whatever works for both of you. I think you will both benefit from it.

    • Original letter writer, here – thank you so much for commenting! That’s exactly what I always used to do, so it honestly gives me so much hope and reassurance to know that it’s not the end of the world :)

  11. The advice given about bars was so relevant and great and I’m applying it to everything, not just my general dislike of bars, haha.

    I keep writing quotes from Autostraddle in my scrapbook because it’s just a treasure trove of good vibes.
    Which made me realise I really ought to sign up for A+ because you’ve given me so much, so THANK YOU!
    I’ve signed up for silver and am gonna get down to reading all the personal essays as soon as I’ve finished studying! :D (Which, like, I should totally be doing now instead of writing this comment, but alas haha)

  12. “The HILARIOUS thing about depression is that the leftover regrets are sometimes, in some ways, worse than what you lived through. Isn’t that NEAT”

    Whenever I’m going through The Big Sad the only surefire way for me to get out of it is to laugh at myself and everything around me. I’ll make a silly face in the mirror or speak in gibberish to my cat and it really helps. But yeah, the leftover regrets are…the worst ;)

  13. I’m feeling many of the same feelings as that second letter! I’m in my first serious relationship, and I’m definitely always daydreaming and “in my head” a lot. Before I met my girlfriend, I had gotten pretty used to spending time by myself and doing things on my own, and there are still parts of me that I haven’t yet shared with her, because they feel too personal. I’m so used to having this private world that consists of just me, and it can be hard figuring out how to let someone else in. What makes it even harder is that she seems to have no trouble at all letting me in to every part of her world.

    But reading Laneia’s advice and also the other commenters makes me feel a lot better about it! It’s good to hear that it’s normal and okay to sometimes need my own space to be my weirdo self. And slowly start to share more “true” parts of myself as time goes on. I think that’s one of the most awesome parts about being in a relationship, is having this other human in your life and you’re constantly getting to know each other better and better, and your life is even more rich because it includes not only your own inner self and life, but also she shares some of her inner self with you, and then you create a life together that includes both of you.

    • I totally agree with what you said in the second part of your comment (well, all of it, but especially the second part)! I love knowing that as time passes, my partner and I will continue to get to know one another better and will continue to share new pieces of ourselves with each other. I think intimacy and sharing yourself with someone else is something that can’t be rushed, and is in many ways better when it unfolds over time.

  14. commenting just to say i’m so happy to see purity ring got some love on your playlist :) (have you listened to their 2014 album?? it’s divine!) i got to see them live FOR FREE in my hometown and touched megan’s hand!

  15. I just want to say thank you for suggesting roller derby, because as a introverted queer who hates bars, I’d been looking for queer groups. I’d joined a queer stitch group (knitting and crocheting in the cutest queer cafe/bookshop in melbourne!) and a book club to meet more local lgbtq+ people, and been looking for other groups, and for some reason hadn’t thought of roller derby! I can’t actually participate because of a balance disorder but I emailed a local league after reading your article and they’re after non-skating officials and since I’m a nurse, I think I’m going to be a first aider for cute queer girls! :D so thank you!

  16. Hey look, Autostraddle is saying something about not liking bars so maybe I should go check it out cuz that sounds like something I’d be interested in and HOLY CRAP THAT’S MY QUESTION!! AAAHHHH!!

    So, uh … hi? I don’t know if this is supposed to be truly anonymous and if I shouldn’t be posting about it, but I wanted to add some things. First off – THANK YOU for the advice!

    You’re absolutely, 100% correct that I don’t like bars, but after much searching, I just don’t see a lot of other alternatives. You know what’s funny is that Autostraddle actually has an article about the city I’m currently in from 4-ish years ago that lists all the awesome stuff here for queer women, but little/none of it still exists that I’ve been able to find. Also, lots of the online resources are tuned to an English-speaking (and often American) audience, even Autostraddle itself, so when it comes to resources like OKCupid or Meetup there are very few people if any from the country I’m in at the time, let alone from my region or city.

    Bars seem to be a fairly universally acceptable way for “misfits” like queers to meet, taken from my very-much-limited-so-is-not-a-representative-sample traveling experience, and they seem to be around even in countries where it’s not OK to be gay. Also, it’s hard as an outsider to get to know the local gay subculture – is it ok to hit on women when I don’t know if they are gay or not? What are the local euphemisms for dating/asking about sexuality? Trust me – there are always euphemisms and this stuff isn’t in the guide books. It’s like being doubly an outsider. At a gay bar, at least I know the girl won’t be against the idea of gay women and it should be socially acceptable to approach.

    So I come back to bars. There *is* actually a queer ladies bar here, which is a step better than some of the small towns I’ve lived in, where I had to travel for hours just to even find a place where I could find/see other queer women. Yes, loud music makes talking difficult, but can I talk about the language barrier? Because language barrier. Yes. I found it.

    Ok, so, back to the actual meat of the question- talking yourself into going. I like your idea about making a list of things about me/fears/etc., and I’m going to try that. Putting things down on paper makes things automatically less scary and puts them in perspective. And if I quantify them, I can use good ol’ divide and conquer to eventually get through the whole list. To start I’ll share a list of what I’ve tried because maybe it’ll help someone. So far I’ve tried telling myself that:

    -I’ll meet no one if I *don’t* go out.
    -What’s the worst that could happen if I talk to someone? (They tell me to fuck off)
    -Maybe that cute girl wants to talk to me just as much as I want to talk to her, but if we both stand here awkwardly holding our drinks, waiting for the other person to approach, then what’s going to happen? NOTHING. Do I want nothing to happen? NO.
    -I already sound stupid because I’m a foreigner, so most of my mistakes in striking up a conversation could be conceivably be couched as just foreigner mistakes (ahhh, my shield of ignorance)
    -Being a foreigner automatically adds to hotness (I hope)
    -(Dusts off nerd-cred) The “Litany Against Fear” from Dune

    Sometimes the above works, but a lot of times it doesn’t, hence the question to Autostraddler Advice Central. More listing to be done here. I’ll let you know how it goes. And again, thanks!

    P.S. Yes, this universe is indeed the most ridiculous.

  17. Bars are the worst. Just not my scene at all. I like bookstores, or nerdy gatherings (cons! bookstores! concerts!)

    Don’t feel bad if you’re not into bars. I tried for years to “be into” bars and it just never ever gelled with my nerdy, introvert self.

  18. I’ve been working on embracing my fears and, oh goddess, is it the most freeing thing I’ve ever experienced. I love the way you put it: hold your fears close and your intentions closer.

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