Jenée Desmond-Harris is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited version of this week’s conversation.
Q: More than one photo: I’m a junior in a small college (hundreds of students, not thousands). Each fall, there is a “retreat race” during Homecoming Week. I never participated (out of my comfort zone), but this year I decided to “give up” and attend. Lots of people wear plaid costumes and boxers, but I, like some, end up only wearing my actual underwear (which didn’t leave much to the imagination). Honestly, it was good dumb fun and I was glad I went.
A day or two later, I saw pictures that looked like someone had taken of the event. There’s one of me, from behind, spreading quickly across campus. Brody, I can’t overstate how flattering this photo is. Lighting, angle, something. I’m pretty skinny and have a thing in there, but it makes me look like I have a J.Lo-level booty. I can’t live up to this! You can’t see my face, but people knew it was me (a small college campus after all). I’m generally very casual, lots of baggy clothes, and nothing too tight or revealing, so I guess part of the “feel” is that this photo caught people off guard.
I was freaked out at first – everyone saw $$! – And I thought about asking to remove it, but in the end I decided to laugh at it. In the end I didn’t dislike the attention a bit. The thing is, it’s about two months later, and I’m still feeling the same thing I know until now. And I’m about to run for a senior position in our student government. Some friends say I should embrace this as part of my campaign, like using interest for good. I will not do that. But how do I get people to take me seriously? I don’t really care that people have seen my ass, but I don’t want this stupid picture to undermine all the work I’ve done.
a: Congratulations on a very flattering photo! Since your college is small, this event is part of the campus culture, and everyone has already seen the viral photo, I don’t think there is any point in removing it. You did the same thing that many of your classmates who you’re running to represent have done – it sounds like you might have looked a little better doing it. Perhaps there is no return. I am convinced that if you go forward with confidence in your platform and affirm your unabashed accomplishments, you have as good a chance as anyone else to win the election.
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Q: Speak more: My wife talks to me a lot. I’m a generally calmer person, so sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but other times it’s annoying; At lunch recently, she’s been answering questions about her Mine family while I was trying to answer. When I tried to take it politely, she said “Can I talk?” As if I was interrupting her. She’s a teacher, so I know she can listen to people and not interrupt them – I’ve seen that! But when it comes to me, she seems to have no self-awareness.
This is something we’ve discussed over the years, so she knows it’s a dynamic that bothers me, but it doesn’t translate at the moment. I kind of accepted this as the cost of doing business, so to speak, so my question is how to navigate it right now – being so direct about bringing the conversation back can be awkward around other people, because I don’t. I don’t want to look like a quarrelsome couple. Is there a script you can suggest in moments like these?
a: When she’s talking and she’s jumping up, just keep talking quietly. You don’t have to say “please don’t interrupt” or anything else that would create a moment of tension that you might find embarrassing. Just keep talking. If you decide to let it break in, let it finish before you interrupt.
But I think you should keep talking about this when you’re alone, because you don’t want to go through every social interaction getting ready to compete for attention with your spouse. Really tell her how upset you are, and give her specific examples – right after the event. And maybe even provide a reminder right before you meet friends.
Q: My boss said he loves me: I worked for several years in a company but recently we parted on good terms after finding a job elsewhere. My boss has always been kind and supportive. On my last day at work, we went to dinner with several people from the office. He took me to my car, and while we were saying goodbye to each other, he admitted that he had been in love with me for a while. No response was requested. I think he felt like he had to pull it out of his chest. I was surprised that he never hinted at any attraction towards me, even though he was always thinking (I remember my birthday, lend me an umbrella if I forgot mine and had to run an errand for him, etc.).
My new job is in another city, but I’m still thinking about it. The truth is, I’ve always found him attractive (he’s only 2 years older than me, single, good looking, funny) and if I’d known he was attracted to me, I probably wouldn’t have made that switch. I don’t think it would be wise to give up a new job if I were to pursue a relationship with a man someday, but he is a nice and intelligent person. I’m a little pissed off because he didn’t say anything sooner and angry at myself for not speaking either. what should I do now?
a: This actually seems like good timing to me – not to let go of the new job, but to see what’s up with your ex-boss. Yes, you will be in a different city, but we have different phones, email, social media, and transportation. Call him and tell him how you feel about him and that you would like to get to know each other better, from a distance. It reflects well on him that he did not speak up and puts you in a potentially awkward situation while he has been controlling your career. Give this chance.
Q:Dating confusion: I’ve been dating a guy for a few months now and I’m not sure what I want to do. My life is a little up in the air, but it looks like I’ll be moving in to work sometime next year. My man met John after learning of the potential diversion. We agreed to slow things down. For me, the relationship is great because he works a lot and travels a lot for work, so I don’t have a lot of commitments. The problem is that he clearly loves me a lot. He says we are great together and have some kind of hint that there is something long term, even long distance.
I do not want that. He says he thinks we are great together. I think we’re good, but we’re not great. He’s cute and fun, but I don’t think he’s the guy. My question is, is it okay to keep dating him knowing that we have different feelings about each other and thoughts about the future? I may be wrong about my potential feelings for him – I definitely have more feelings now than I thought – but there’s really little chance I’ll start to like him enough to get serious with him. I would still like to date him until moving on, though. What is your opinion?
a: A few months isn’t a lot of time, and you both agree to make things slow. You are clear. You are under no obligation to respond to hints or answer questions he did not ask about your future together. Keep dating. Don’t lie about anything. But don’t feel guilty either. You’re finding out about your feelings for him, and that’s actually what you should be doing at this point in the relationship.
Q: Trying to be supportive: I am a 60 year old gay man. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know many trans/non-binary people, I am 100% dedicated to their rights and fair treatment. For most of my adult life, I’ve preferred not to identify with sex. My thinking has always been, “I am what I am, visualize me as you wish.” I’ve recently become concerned that this perspective is either or could be seen as not supportive of trans/non-binary people. Is it okay for me to continue to refuse gender identification?
a: I think that’s totally fine, and I think trans and non-binary people are probably going to be the biggest fans that you can define as you want peacefully without having to explain or justify your decision to anyone.
Re: talk more I have a soft voice so the “keep talking” tip is hard for me because I often drown. What I find helps with a strong, clear bodily movement such as raising my index finger or my hand in a stop sign and saying “I got that” when they answer a question directed at me or “For just a second, I didn’t finish.” “
a: it is a good idea. I’m not sure it works in this particular situation, as the letter writer seems to want to avoid an obvious confrontation or power struggle in front of others. But it’s definitely something he can try if he feels okay.
Q: Re: Trying to be supportive: If I can take away the speech writer’s concerns – I’m not bi, and there’s nothing offensive or dismissive about not wanting to be defined as gender. Even if you are cis! People who apply their own nuances do nothing but help Long term, including “I’m cis but it’s not a strong part of who I am.” And thanks for the support!
a: thank you for that!
Jenny Desmond-Harris: thank you all! That’s all we have time for today but I’ll see you again here next week.
If you missed the first part of this week’s conversation – I found my husband’s list of every argument we have – click here to read it.
Than how to do it
I am a gay woman in my thirties and I have a question about masturbation etiquette. Since my teenage exit, I’ve adhered to the rule that masturbation while fantasizing about good friends is a breach of trust in friendship, but those other “personalities” in my life—sexy lecturer, sexy boss, nice client, etc.—are fair game.
Someone like that from my career, over the course of two years, slipped into what I considered a true friend, and in the process my attraction to her only grew. It’s been my first fantasy for longer than I’ll admit. Do I need to stop if she is now my friend?