Welcome to Y’All Need Help, a weeklyish (maybe?) 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! You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and before you know it, we’ll be on our way to a kinder, gentler world full of people we’ve helped.
Here at Autostraddle we have a lovely and thorough advice series called You Need Help, where people just like you send in detailed, complicated and delicate questions, and various team members get to work writing full posts’ worth of advice for you. But recently I thought to myself, what of the shorter questions? The ones that just need some quick and dirty advice; things that maybe wouldn’t fill an entire post? And so Y’all Need Help got born!
Remember the early days of You Need Help and Formspring Friday? Well Y’all Need Help is kinda like those two things, except guess what? We obvs don’t use Formspring anymore and it’s not even called Formspring now, so get over it. If you want this column to be weeklyish, you’ll need to send your shortish/quick and dirty questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise it’ll just be published whenever I can accumulate a pile of quick and dirty questions to reply to. The future is in your hands, is what I’m saying. Oh and if y’all want to sign your questions with little situation-specific pseudonyms for yourself that would be so great! I love it when you do that.
Let’s get crackin’!
I recently made a great group of lesbian friends who live pretty close to me. We go out almost every weekend and have a blast together. Two of the friends are engaged (let’s call them Shane and Carmen). I’ve had a huge crush on Shane since I met them, but I’ve kept my feelings to myself, hoping they would eventually pass. Fast forward a few months and Shane and I are making out in a bathroom stall after getting drunk at a concert after Carmen left early.
I felt guilty, and eventually told Shane I had feelings for her, hoping that would help me get over them and help hold us accountable for any future bad behavior. Well, she told me she has feelings for me, too, and the bad behavior continued. No more making out, but more touching, cuddling, and holding hands when her fiancé wasn’t present. I told her she needed to tell Carmen we kissed. I feel like a terrible friend for keeping it from her, but Shane insists that she’s “doing what’s best for her” by keeping it a secret. I disagree, and don’t know what I should do.
Carmen wonders why I haven’t wanted to hang out with them as much, my heart is aching over Shane, and I’m pissed that she’s trying to convince herself that covering her own ass is the best thing to do for Carmen’s sake. She doesn’t want to break up with Carmen, and I’m not expecting her to. I just don’t know where to go from here.
Do you have any wisdom you can impart about this sticky mess?
Oh damn, kitten. Mistakes were made. I believe you should get the entire fuck away from Shane as quickly as possible. Don’t even pause to look around at the rubble, don’t think whimsically about what could’ve been, don’t wonder if you should intervene and come clean to Carmen — just get away from this situation. Your top priority right now is making sure that nothing else happens between you and Shane, which should be very easy if you literally have nothing to do with her.
Unfortunately for Carmen, you’re not actually a home wrecker — Shane is. You definitely played an active role in it, but Shane probably would’ve done this with anyone (and perhaps already has with other people), because the home that Shane’s wrecking is one she doesn’t want to begin with. She isn’t completely happy with her life and instead of taking appropriate steps towards fixing anything, she’s making out with people in bathroom stalls. That’s sad for Shane, for Carmen, and for you!
Here is an excerpt from a conversation I had with Rachel and Riese about your life and the lives of your anonymous friends:
Riese: i hope, much like the l word’s shane and carmen
that shane and carmen do not get married
because carmen should not marry shane
that is a bad idea
very bad idea
they should not
no one should touch shane with a ten foot pole, basically
and also i mean like, if shane thinks that she can still marry carmen under these conditions then that is bad news
like if shane was like, look, i am not into carmen and i want to be with you, then i might give her like one more chance to do something good and prove herself, b/c that does happen, even though most people besides me would advise “run”
BUT if shane is like “no this is fine, and i’m still getting married”
Riese and Rachel are right. Also, in general, it’s probably never a good idea to tell someone you have feelings for them in an effort to stop having feelings for them. I just don’t think the world works that way.
Today is when you stop having achy heart feelings for this person! Right now Shane is a shell of herself. She’s not living her best life and she’s not even trying to. You’re not having achy heart feelings for a whole real person — you’re having achy heart feelings for the idea of a person you’ve imagined up in your own head. Don’t do that! Think of Shane as a character in a book that you could write if you wanted to — you’ve probably done a great job with the details and some swoon-worthy traits. But even if you wrote a million books, that character would still be made-up, and you wouldn’t be any closer to dating them. Shane is not real.
Seek out and surround yourself with people who are whole and real and building happiness with their free time. Better yet, BE a person who is whole and real and building happiness for yourself. You deserve friends who would never ever make-out with you in a bathroom stall while their fiancées were home in bed.
I identify as bisexual and have since I was 14. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’m currently in a straight relationship (my longest ever, almost two years now) and I can’t help but think about women all the time. This is how it’s been in every relationship I’ve had. I always question it, and I’ve even talked to past boyfriends about how I think I’m really gay.
I fantasize about women while I’m having sex with my boyfriend. This has been going on for the last year (maybe longer). We live together and we have been making all these plans to stay together and settle down, but I can’t help question it. I am awake in the middle of the night crying right now. I really love him and want him in my life, I don’t want things to change, but I feel like I’m lying to myself.
I wanted to scream “I’m gay” during sex last night because that’s how much I just wasn’t feeling it. I could care less about my feelings and my happiness. It breaks my heart to think that I’ve done this to another man in my life. Maybe I am overthinking everything. I enjoy having sex with men, but something never feels right. I’ve never been able to orgasm during sex. I get that this shouldn’t be the goal of sex, but I want to be able to orgasm from sex because masturbation makes me come hard and I want to be able to experience that with another person. Maybe that’s selfish or asking for too much. I don’t know.
I just really need advice. I don’t have any friends to ask. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this. I don’t know what to do.
I’m going to write a song for you titled, “It Is OK To Break Up With This Person” and I’m gonna stand outside on your street at night and sing it over and over and over again. The chorus will be like, “It’s ok to break up with this person, dear heart! / You have the answers inside of yourself and wanting to be happy is reason enough!” It won’t rhyme because it’ll be a progrock experimental thing and I’ll make up for the lack of rhyming with laser sounds and cat noises.
Here’s a true thing about this life: you deserve to be excited about it. You deserve to come hard with another person. You deserve to care about your feelings and your happiness. When you think about the impact you’re making on another person’s life, you deserve an unbroken heart. You deserve your fantasies. You deserve your truth, whatever it is.
Maybe it seems easier to just keep dating men because that’s what you’ve been doing forever. But what you’re going through right now isn’t actually easy. Crying in the middle of the night, questioning your life, things never feeling quite right — that’s not easy at all, that’s torture. Just because you know how to live a lie doesn’t make the lie any easier to live. You can be practiced at a specific type of torture, you can even be very good at it, but that doesn’t mean you should have to keep doing it. Do something you might be terrible at: date a woman. Break up with this person who seems easy enough to settle down with and try on some other people who might not fit.
It might feel incredibly selfish to break up with someone who hasn’t really done anything ‘wrong,’ and in a way it is — you’ll be looking out primarily for yourself and your own well-being. Your well-being is a thing worth looking out for, though. Your life is a thing worth being excited about. Letting someone go when it’s not working for you is also beneficial for them, because they deserve to be with a person for whom it does work.
Here’s a playlist for you from an earlier post: It Was Time to Go.
Is there a graceful way to live in the closet without losing your mind? I have it easier than many — I’m only closeted to my family. But how do I navigate familial relationships even while feeling they are completely built on a lie and might not exist if they knew the truth? I’m in my late 20s and it’s stupid that I’m even still in the closet with them but trust me, at this time, I just can’t. This is the south and things are different and I just can’t, I don’t want to lose them. I get pressure from the LGBTQ community to come out to them, advance the cause, shake up their heteronormativity etc. But I’m not trying to start a revolution, I’m just gay and want to keep my family. SO I am closeted. I’m not sure what I’m really even asking, I guess just affirmation that I will not lose my mind and that it’s okay with the queer community if I take this one step at a time and live in that grey area of lies and love. Gay South is not the regular gay. It’s more complicated than anyone not in the South could ever imagine. Thanks for any advice
Hello fellow southern person! I’m sorry that you can’t be completely honest with your family and that it feels like your relationships are built on lies. That is genuinely fucking terrible. They’re missing out on knowing who you really are, and you’re missing out on so much by having to close yourself off to them.
The South has a second language of weighted contradictions and deep secrets we’re expected to take to our graves, and you learn this language right alongside English and how to cross a street. We’re taught to be humble and to keep our private lives to ourselves — if people find out something about us, they’d rather hear it from a third party, and then they’d like to pretend they didn’t hear it at all. Coming out in the South isn’t just about bucking heterocentric norms and religious teachings, it’s about bucking the entire system of prudence and no, not everyone wants to do that. Plenty of people don’t. I know of several closeted queer people living in my hometown — young and old — who will very likely never come out. Nearly all of them have longtime partners that they live with, and most everyone knows about them being gay, but it’s just not discussed in broad daylight. There are definitely hellraisers in the South who don’t give a single fuck about norms and systems, but if your grandmother wasn’t a hellraiser and you want her to let you in the house on Sundays, you don’t do what hellraisers do. I get that.
I honestly don’t know how to tell you to navigate those relationships in a healthy way, but I do know that humans do this a lot, for different reasons and with varying degrees of success. We lie by omission and we guard ourselves against threats and we decide what’s best for us based on the information we have about a situation. You’ve appraised your situation and decided that coming out would be very detrimental to your family relationships at this time, and your queer peers will need to honor that. Having a closeted friend or partner can be frustrating, sure — and possibly even a dealbreaker for some, and you’ll have to respect that — but their frustration probably pales in comparison to what you think you’ll be faced with if you tell your family the truth. And since it’s your family and not theirs, you get to call the shots! It’s an imperfect situation with no real winners, unfortunately.
If you ever do decide to talk to your family, we have a whole collection of coming out stories, including this gem that I found last night. I can’t change your family and I can’t wave a magic wand to make the whole world a more accepting place, but I did make these inspirational posters for you using pictures from my Instagram feed!
I 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@example.com!