Dating Is Easy (Advice Column)

Welcome to our weekly advice column, Dating Is Easy, covering all things love and dating. Dating Is Easy is spearheaded by Beca Grimm. If you’d like to submit a question, email her at or tweet your question to @becagrimm with the hashtag #askily.

41:  Does He Really Want To Date Me? | 12.29.17

A friend texted:

I feel confused because I went out with this dude last Friday (a week and a half ago), and we had an amazing date. We were supposed to hang again Tuesday but we rain checked bc he was running around trying to get a bunch of stuff done before leaving town for a few days. He was like, “I’ll talk to you this weekend!” And I’m like, “np, cool.” So then he hits me up yesterday and he’s like,” I’m back and I’m having to work all weekend” (he bartends) “etc etc but hopefully we can find time to connect again this week?” And I’m like, “yeah here are the days I’m free, lmk.” And he’s like, “ok let me get my ducks in a row and hit ya back”

I feel like I’m already receiving this message that he doesn’t have room for me in his life on some level? Or do you think I’m being way too anxious / jumping to conclusions. We’ve only hung out once but it was like the best date I’ve had in a while, and it flowed so well! I was stoked but now I’m like, confused. Is this normal pace? I don’t know how to casually date.

Signed, neurotic

The fact he hit you up—initiated contact—after a period of not talking means he cares what you think and how you feel. If he wasn’t interested or didn’t have time (which, again, means not interested. We make time for shit/people we wanna do), he would have let the contact taper off.

Also, early dating during the holidays is really hard and weird. It’s like starting a job just before Thanksgiving; everything is out of whack with everyone traveling and there’s extra alcohol and nostalgia and weird feelings whirring around to spare.

Try not to put too much stock in it.

Assume other people aren’t playing perverse games and give them the benefit of the doubt. But at the same time, busy yourself with other worthwhile activities and people.

I’d say if he doesn’t pick specifics on the next date in the next three days, go out with someone else or get a manicure or something else to kinda wash the slate clean. And if he reaches out after then? That’s up to you. Sure, this could be some sort of guarding initial stage rhythm, or maybe this is just his pace. Can you adapt? Do you want to?

40: What Do You Do With Your Ex’s Nudes? | 12.08.17

An acquaintance reached out:

Hey lady!

I was wondering: Have you done a dating is easy post about nude / sexy photos? Like do you delete them after break ups, how long do you keep them, should you ask the person if you can keep them, do you delete them when you start dating someone else and at what point if so, etc etc

Full disclosure: my long time ex had photos of other girls on his computer and it literally drove me crazy and was a constant fight in our relationship which eventually ended after a very long drawn out breakup that led to me eventually having to cut him out completely. Now it’s something I think about every time I start to be interested in someone new. I get paranoid about sending any type of cute sexy photo to guys I’m dating because it weirds me out that they may keep that and that it may someday be found by their next girlfriend like what happened with my ex.

Is this a normal conversation people have? ‘Yeah, I really like you, and we’ve been having fun for the last couple of months–btw do you have naked photos of your ex’s still?’

Most of my lady pals I’ve talked to find it weird / creepy but talking to some of my guys friends has resulted in mixed answers and makes me wonder if it’s not as weird as I found it to be and is maybe actually common practice?

Thanks for reading and for being your awesome self!

I know the old saying about assumptions, but in order to quell the compulsion to crazy (and I know about that compulsion. I got it lurking just beneath a couple layers of skin at all times), you gotta lean into some of them.

I know the old saying about assumptions, but in order to quell the compulsion to crazy, you gotta lean into some of them.

A while ago, I met and hit it off with a dude visiting my city on a business trip. We had a wild one-night-stand and I slinked out of his fancy hotel room before he woke and figured that was that. After all, he lived in an entirely different corner of the country. But that wasn’t that. He called me from his cab to the airport later that day and continued to contact me through various channels for the next three-ish months, every day: text, phone calls, GChat. Promising to go as my date to a BFF’s wedding back near my city, possibly staying at mine during Thanksgiving, and swapping butt photos all along the way.

Never at any point did I consider asking, ‘Yo, but do you have a very serious girlfriend back where you live?’ Because if he were pursuing me the way he was, surely that wouldn’t be the case, right?

Wrong, naturally. That was one assumption I made for which I paid miserable, feeling like absolute garbage for being deceived. Mostly, I felt sad to lose a person I’d grown to really care for and, weirdly, otherwise, trust.

But here is the thing: Yes, that dude I’m telling you about was a total coward. No question. But was I being a ding-dong for not going Nancy Drew on his ass? Not really. I was not wrong for assuming the guy with whom I’d developed an emotional, romantic relationship with was not also tending to a girlfriend at home. I was quelling the crazy, because I simply don’t have the excess time and energy to address a laundry list of past wrongdoing I’ve experienced all over again with new partners–and you don’t either.

I hope it goes without saying I deleted all homeboy’s butt photos as soon as I learned he actually definitely had a very serious girlfriend in his city. I consider that common decency–not to mention especially respectful given the current climate of so many hot car sandwiches releasing revenge porn.

Post-breakups, I’m a pretty big fan of slash and burn. I toss/donate/use as bathtub cleaning rags all their old shirts, give away jewelry or other non-practical gifts (hell yeah I still use a spice cabinet one ex made for me in what was essentially shop class for adults), and do a deep-ass clean of my entirely living space to rid all evidence of this person no longer in my life–at least not in the same capacity.

I may be slightly extreme when it comes to uncoupling but I think it’s safe to–here comes that word–assume others hold a similar regard to mine when it comes to saucy photos of their now-ex. I don’t think you’re wrong in feeling uncomfortable finding what you did on your then-partner’s computer. That feels like a violation because it is. It shows a lack of respect to you, their current partner, as well as suggests perhaps they may not be over their ex. Hanging on to an old birthday card I GUESS I get, but photos of someone-who-is-not-your-partner’s butt as shot in an Amtrak bathroom? I cannot and neither should you.

Plus! Think of how shitty that is towards their ex. That person trusted their then-partner with private, sensitive visual information of themselves. And this is how the recipient honors that vulnerability? Hanging on to said visual information way past its natural expiration date? No thanks, dude. I think such clinging could illuminate a swath of potential issues, edging much further than not being totally over an ex.

To approach dating like you mean it, you have to suspend some disbeliefs and leave your tattered suitcases of past emotional trauma at home.

So, no. I don’t think you need to ask potential partners about nudie photos of exes. We all have of our own insecurities. We’ve been hurt, we carry baggage. But it’s not like I have since approached every first date asking if someone already has a partner (besides, poly people are kinda like vegans. You’ll know). Part of what keeps us dusting off and heading back out there, to the often scary dating pool, is hope and optimism this time we’ll do better and find better. Be alert to red flags, of course, but don’t interrogate these poor people also looking for love, especially based off your own personal doubtfully common experiences. To approach dating like you mean it, you have to suspend some disbeliefs and leave your tattered suitcases of past emotional trauma at home.

39: How Do I Get Over My Insecurities About Someone Past? | 11.10.17

Someone emailed:

Here we go   

Met this girl on tinder almost a month ago, chemistry was there, we instantly vibed well, lots of things in common and we’re really attracted to each other. We hooked up the same night and pretty much have seeing each other everyday since. Her job is close to my place so it made it easy for us to plan around that. So many things about her are great, but there’s also a few things that really put me off.

First night we hung out she told me she’d been single for a few months since May and that ever since her breakup she’d been meeting different guys on tinder and one particular guy she was hooking up with a lot. I was really put it off by this and I mentioned it to her, eventually I somewhat got over it but it still kind of lingers in my mind.

Another thing was her past drug use, she mentioned she’s experimented with different drugs before mainly molly, x, and on a few occasions coke. Also she was a frequent weed smoker, which I was ok with but personally I’ve never done any type of drugs before not even smoked weed so that has a lot to do with me being put off by her openness regarding different drugs. I have to mention that my main problem with people who use drugs goes back to a lot of drug addiction and abuse in my family which I explained to her.

Those things aside we caught very strong feelings early on, we’re really into each other and enjoy being together a lot. However these things mainly the coke use seems to bother me so much maybe because of small knowledge of it and what it does to someone who’s used it or maybe because I fear she could potentially go back to using some of these. Since we began dating she stopped smoking weed not really because of me but because she said she wasn’t liking the way it was making her feel anymore but also because she said I don’t smoke. She’s 21, I’m 29, her maturity doesn’t play a huge part but I know there’s definitely a gap, she’s told me she’s really serious about me and that she’ll do anything to make us work. Still for some reason the insecurities won’t go away.  

I know that was a lot and all over the place but Beca I pray for some clarity and hopefully you can help.

You hooked up with this brand new person the first night you met them IRL—which is fine—but the fact she’s experienced similar with other men—also met through Tinder—is not? That is a little hypocritical. I agree it’s a little weird she brought up the hook-up on the first night, and I know you said her maturity isn’t “a huge part,” yet I find it unavoidable: She is 21. That doesn’t mean she’s not mature, but just time-wise she’s had less opportunities in the world dating as an adult. Eight less than you. Her age doesn’t mean she’s an idiot (although I’m the first to admit I was exactly that at 21; many of us were), but it does mean she could still be a little clunky.

I’m sorry you experienced the tragedy that comes along with a loved one battling addiction. I’ve been there and definitely don’t have all the answers. But just because a 21-year-old has done coke a couple times does not indicate anything more serious. Plenty of people dabble in drugs (I won’t comment on the cannabis use here) and it doesn’t dominate their life.

However, you made it clear her drug use is something you would hope doesn’t continue. She says it won’t. If you really want to plow forever developing this relationship, at some point, you’re gonna have to decide to trust her then make intentional moves to actually do just that—trust her. She says she’s done smoking pot? Trust her. She says she’s over hooking up with that other dude? Trust her. Noticing a pattern here? Trust her.

Only you can tell if she deserves that trust in your blooming relationship. Sure, she could totally violate that trust and trample you straight into the ground; or you two could have an amazing, rewarding relationship for two years—including co-parenting a pair of beautiful orange cats—and then the trampling happens. In relationships, you gotta roll the dice. But the fact that you want to be with her indicates that you at least want to trust her. So it seems at this point the only thing standing in the way is you.

38: Should A Date’s Sexual Assault Rumors Be Treated As More Than Hearsay? | 10.27.17

An acquaintance DM’d:

Question: I met a dude on an app and we were having a fun, freaky casual sex thing. He alluded to being accused by someone of sexual assault, but claimed innocence (of course). I continued to fuck with him anyway because the dick was bomb. Then I heard from the whisper network [also tied to my profession] that he had sexually assaulted someone (which he had already essentially told me himself). As a feminist and a survivor and someone who wants to believe all survivors, I am conflicted. Am I selling out my people by continuing to see him?

As Doree Shafrir pointed out in a(n otherwise imperfect) piece about whisper networks alerting women and other marginalized people to abusive men in specific industries, there can be a problem with anonymity at times. It sacrifices accountability and, therefore, can potentially open the floodgates for stories fabricated out of spite, jealousy, and so on. Since you mentioned in a DM later the list you saw was also anonymous, this could be the case—the claim could be untrue.

However, as survivor yourself and knowing how hard it is to be open about your own experiences, I think you can agree how weird and exhausting it’d be for someone to invent such a devious tale for no obvious reason. It’s cruel and, frankly, I like to think people tend to keep too busy to spend their time calculating such nefarious attacks.

All that being said, even sans anonymity, people will always believe what they want to believe.

A while back, the friend of a good friend asked about a dude she saw I was linked to on Facebook. And I answered. He dated a close friend a few months before and the break up got ugly. During the process, he raised his voice, backed her into a hotel room corner, and ignored her requests that he step away. Although no physical violence materialized, she felt very real fear. I communicated this experience to the acquaintance, who in turn decided to move forward with the first date. That was fine; I have no jurisdiction over her life and ultimately she is an autonomous adult who chose to overlook information she solicited.

I never asked for discretion from her because I didn’t think I’d have to. I presumed an unspoken femme code applied. A couple nights later, I opened a novel-length email from the dude, livid. Over a fancy dinner, the acquaintance had told him everything I said. His email threw around words like “liability” and “legal action,” saying my story held serious weight. And, I agree; it should. Even though he shirked responsibility, saying my friend (his ex) lied, I couldn’t agree. Why would I believe this near-stranger cyber-bullying me over a very dear friend? Anyway, he eventually backed off, but only after I had to Google stalking laws.

I guess the long and short of it is I like to think women and other marginalized people try to sink more effort into looking after each other rather than fucking over one dude’s life for no real reason. But then again! People do change. They learn and absorb authentic remorse.

You also mentioned in a later DM feeling intentionally omitted from the whisper network’s original rounds—and that feeling is legitimate. If you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, make sure it’s because you like him and your relationship, not because you’re trying to prove something re: being “closed out” of this industry girl group.


37: Do You Invest If They’re Not Interested? | 10.13.17

Someone tweeted:

Alright pop quiz then I’m done for the night: say you’re into someone and you know they don’t like you back. Do you keep investing time?

I think there’s a problem with your language. “Invest” insinuates an expected return. That isn’t a cool or realistic way to think about social interactions. Additionally, if you already know the other party isn’t interested in “more,” you need to respect that. At that point, what are you “investing” into? If you’re down for a friendship—and can reasonably accept a relationship with this person sans any romantic or sexual nuances—then it seems worth pursuing. But to embark on a new friendship with a set of expectations (especially those the other party do not share, and has told you explicitly) is kinda shitty.

Sometimes it’s too hard to be just-friends with someone for which you harbor romantic feelings. It all requires a little introspection. The same can be true if—say—you pursue a friendship with professional expectations, like inviting someone higher up to totem to drinks but wanting more than sparkling conversation from the encounter. It isn’t really fair nor kind. Look inward: if you’re cool with being just-friends, dope. If you cannot see a future that involves more than that, pass. Don’t “invest” any further expectations that surpass the scope of friendship; it’s best for both of you.

36. How To Talk To Someone Who’s Enjoying Their Alone Time | 09.29.17

A friend asked:

Last evening, while leaving the Wrecking Bar, I saw a woman at the bar drinking a glass of champagne and reading a book by herself. How do you strike up a conversation with a woman engulfed in a book and not come across as a walking dick pic? “Whatcha reading?” or “I can read, too.” or “ooooo… a hardback. Hello, big spender.” All sound awful. If any of that came out of my mouth, I would roll my eyes at myself so hard I’d break my own neck.

This is tough. This scenario, like so much of dating, differentiates the fine line between creepy and cute with one major detail: whether or not they want to fuck you. Annoying? Oh, absolutely.

So, how to gauge: Look for space at the bar, either next to her or down a way’s. If next to her, just order a drink for yourself and see how she looks at you or doesn’t. Glancing up from a book when a stranger enters your personal space is not the same as an invitation to perform cunnilingus or even initiate dialogue. But! If she looks up a couple times, makes eye contact and/or smiles, she could be open to conversation. This is an okay time to ask what she’s reading or what she thinks of it—assume any other time is not an okay time to interrupt.

If you can’t get a spot next to her, send another glass of champagne her way when she’s halfway through hers or further. Ask the bartender to say it’s on you. From there, watch for her to intercept. This gives her the ultimate control. She can offer a polite cheers from afar and return to her book, un-bothered. Or, she can wave you over to join. This is classy because everyone likes free shit and compliments but no one likes, as you say, a walking dick pic.

Also, if you notice she’s a regular, maybe start bringing a book of your own and frequenting the bar. Should you two keep catching each other, there’s a natural flow in which you two can snag (in a harmonious way, that is).

In general, though, just because someone is sitting alone in public does not insinuate their thirst for company. Plenty of folks like alone time in crowded settings. And I get the appeal to want to know the person doing that—confidence is hot. But as such, show your own by not forcing a response or validation from the girl with the book at the bar.

35. Why Is He Picking At My Skin? | 09.15.17

An acquaintance Facebook messaged:

okay, so i’m post break up

little bit of a ho phase, which i’m very positive about

one of the guys i’ve been hanging out with is super nice and cool

so we were watching a movie last week, and his hang was on my shoulder, kind of rubbing my shoulder/back. and i guess … idk if it was a scab or like a zit scab or what… he…started to pick at it

so, this guy starts like PICKING AT MY SKIN

and in my head i’m like “omg, what is going on here”

and so i look up at him and just ask “hey…are you…picking at my skin?”

and he’s soooo nonchalant

“yeah, is that okay? does it hurt?”

and i just say i have a high pain tolerance…wait like a minute, and then reach for my drink as an excuse to move

have you ever heard about this before

I have not heard of this before, at least not in the sense of a casual hook-up arrangement. (I should add said acquaintance added this was THE THIRD TIME they’d ever hung out.) Potentially intimate vibey movie-hang situation or nah, this is extremely weird. And I say this as a self-proclaimed pervert when it comes to partners’ hygiene. When you’re on date no. 3, you should still be holding tight to your crazy and keep doing so for, like, a month. Then slow-trickle away that unique brand of skin-picking crazy, sis.

When you have to think for a little while to recall a sex friend’s middle name or coffee order, you are far from allowed such bodily access. And even then! Plenty of people don’t like being touched like that, especially when it comes with a side serving of shade. It’s not like he was tenderly stroking the fine hairs on the back of your neck—he was fingering a blemish. Is he an esthetician with explicit consent to squeeze on pores that don’t belong to him? No? Okay, he needs to stop.

If anyone—on Date No. 3 or 33 or whoever, literally—touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to tell them to stop.

Seems to me that he’s either trying to push the relationship to a comfort level where you just aren’t at yet or he’s wildly judgemental. Or! Super out of touch with social norms?

If anyone—on date no. 3 or 33 or whoever, literally—touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to tell them to stop. Be firm and don’t stress their inevitable discomfort. Boundaries are healthy and exist for a reason, even if they do often result in ripples of hurt (no one ever likes hearing no when they assumed the answer would be yes). It sucks to hear you immediately tried to cover for him with the pain tolerance thing, to provide him some comfort when what did was super weird and not cool. Though I get it; I do it, too. We could both do better. Give him the benefit of the doubt but do not give him unlimited access to scabs, zits, whatever that was.

34. How Young Is *Too* Young To Date Down? | 08.25.17

A DM reads:

Dating Q — 33 y/o hetero man in college town. Older dating pool is diminished. What’re the rules on dating younger women? (I’ve never been this old before.)

For years, I worked at this music venue, and all my fellow box office colleagues were very tight. We’d often grab drinks after our wee-hour shifts let out, pooling together over Jameson and talking shit. One of my fellow dudes — who we’ll just call Jake — tended to get the most shit (in a ribbing way, of course). Jake, circa age 29 at the time, was a total ladies’ man. One year for Christmas, everyone gave him a stamp with his phone number — literally so he could stamp foxy women’s hands with it as a flirt.

Well, one night after our shift wrapped, Jake was lurking outside the bar smoking apparently the world’s slowest-burning cigarette. I went to check on him. Not shockingly, he was talking to a young woman. I left them alone and eventually — like, another half hour later — he joined our booth. Solo.

After some digging, we discovered his new companion didn’t join not because of snobbery or other plans — it was because she couldn’t legally enter the establishment.

OK, sure. I’m not certain her age, but even if she were 20 and Jake was 29, nine years doesn’t seem insane. However, 20 is hella young.

Aaliyah may have made a point about age being no more than a number, but I’m pretty sure the modern definition could use the edit, “Age after 26 ain’t nothing but a number.” I mean no harm to anyone under 26 reading, but you’re just not a real person ‘til 26. You’re usually in the weird middle ground between college and actual adulthood and that means an ugly cocktail of righteousness and greenness. There is a huge divide in life experience, priorities and preferred drink (I have met just one real person who orders rum and Cokes and trust, he is an actual unicorn).

And in this case, some of these women are still in college.

Surely you know all this, which is why you’re reaching out. You deserve the opportunity to explore a partnership, despite the complicated pool you’re given. I say, give some of these women the chance to surprise you. I’ve met remarkably laid back, ambitious 22-year-olds. I’ve similarly met wild-eyed, cokey party girls hovering around their mid-30s. It takes all kinds, etc.

Consider environment for these first dates. Meet them at a gallery, for coffee, a walk around the walk. Nerves are always going to be high when first courting a hot new stranger, so eliminate the option for one or both of you to act 19 by imbibing in dozens of those beer-and-shot specials. Hear them out when they explain passions, career trajectories, political thoughts. If you mention Crystal Pepsi and they look confused, bury your discomfort deep deep deep. You’re officially not allowed to taunt them for missing this cultural milestone. Take them seriously and give them the opportunity to do the same for you.

One of my closest, oldest friends found her husband when we were 21. She met him — then in his late-30s or early-40s, I’m not sure — during an internship. It took growth (on both sides’ parts), but eventually their relationship bloomed into something really special. Mostly, she says, it works because he treats her like an equal. He doesn’t get pedantic because his accumulation of wisdom over her — and that’s key. Regardless of age difference, to have a healthy partnership, you gotta treat the other person like a partner, not an underling. Now they’re married and raising two children in an adorable urban farm they built together.

And as for Jake and his conquest? Who knows.

This prospect, like all dating, is kinda like rolling dice — if dice were free time, a portion of your expendable income, slivers of vulnerability, energy expended from regaling your best anecdotes, the pomade needed to make you look human, etc. It’s a game! Sometimes you win (matrimony and a backyard beehive), sometimes you lose (loiter with dates outside dives). So drop that minimum age bracket on Tinder and see what the world of this college town has to offer.

33. How Do I Navigate That Hazy Middle Ground Between “Good Friends” And “More Than Friends”? | 08.11.17

Someone emailed:

Hello Beca,
I was wondering, is there a way to rationalize what it means to “love” someone? A while back I was asked the difference between being “just good friends” with someone and being “more than friends,” and I found myself short for words. I mean, I feel like I know the difference, and I’m sure I knew it back then as well, but I’m still unsure of how to vocalize in a way that makes a meaningful distinction. Maybe it’s due to inexperience, maybe it’s because I suck with words (probably both tbh). But either way, I just wanted to ask and see if you had a few words on the matter.

Thanks, one love,

Eduardo M.

OK, truth be told, I put off this question for almost three months. I’m sorry, Eduardo—but this one is a doozy.

Both friends and romantic partners are people with whom we—best case scenario—want to share emotional intimacy, physical space, vulnerability, adventures, etc. Love, annoyingly, is a spectrum. Even just sex isn’t enough to differentiate between “just good friends” and “more than friends.” Though it is kinda a large segment of that.

There must be at least some sexual connection with a person before you could really consider the bond a romantic possibility. That doesn’t mean first go MUST be magical OR ELSE (“OR ELSE” meaning here “back to being just friends, after a short period of feeling extremely weird about said organ mashing”)—frankly, I believe 90 percent of first-time sex encounters go pretty poorly. You’re just getting to know each other in a completely different realm; a learning curve should be expected.

And then again! Trainwreck made a solid point re: having some of the most dynamic sexual connections with the worst romantic companion options. And we go through sexual seasons—experiencing teenage-level hormones one week, feeling flatline sexuality the next. So not even just sex is a great gauge for friendship or romantic potential.

Again, it’s a spectrum—and those sometimes fluctuate.

About 95 percent of my relationships went like this: Met, dated, split, never much talked about. I’ve remained friends with an extremely small portion of exes, and not really because of spite or bad feelings, but because there was never much of a friendship foundation before the relationship. It’s extremely tricky to go from friends to more.

Not that I haven’t tried! I have—some short-lived, others messy as hell ending in loss of said friendship, and one that (::literally knocking on wood right now::) actually transitioned very smoothly into what’s been a super healthy, exciting romantic relationship thus far.

So how can you tell? By being bold, I guess. Surely you and said friend have acknowledged A Vibe, and if you haven’t, do that first. Then? You have to make a small gamble, push yourself outside of the safe middle ground established in the friendship. It’s a risk, sure, but it’s better to know than not know. It sucks to risk a friendship (and not to be dramatic, but I still mourn those I lost due to hastiness, sloppiness, a plain bad match), but what great experiences don’t demand a little vulnerability? Not much, my dude.

TL;DR: You must check yes to the following:

Is this the first person you want to tell very good or very bad news?
Do you ever want to see this person naked?
Are you ready to risk weirdness or losing this person from your life?

Then take a deep breath and roll the dice. It’s worth knowing.

32. What Do I Do After I Break Up With Someone Because They Weren’t Progressing? |07.28.17

A friend emailed:

Been with who I thought/think was/is the love of my life for 3 years. I just dumped this person because they’re stuck in their life, not making any progress, and I can’t stand by twiddling my thumbs, nagging, enabling anymore.

How long do I need to wait to see if they get on track, what does on track look like, and can they really be meant for me if I feel this way? Or should I like, start dating new people and accept this might have been…not a waste but not the real deal or the forever relationship I thought it was?

If you think this person is the love of your life, why would you dump them? Even if you were frustrated about their various ruts and thought something big like a break-up would shake them back to their senses, that isn’t especially kind.

Timing is so very much everything–the cliche is true, unfortunately. Timing also affects a person’s character and core; so maybe you were projecting a little…if you had such issue with this partner’s path, then surely that would have affected your feelings towards them. Calling someone the love of your life is a lot of pressure, too. I don’t believe in just one person for every human on Earth; you can make it work with many people, but it has to be two-sided and there must be compassion, patience. It doesn’t sound like your timing with this partner aligned with theirs.

That being said, there’s a floor, and it sounds like you found yours in this relationship. Bottom line here: You ended the relationship. It’s done. That is one uncoated horse pill to swallow, but one you should work on.

For about eight months (an eternity in my dating history, TBH), I saw a man I was totally nutty over. He said he wanted to quit smoking cigarettes, get healthy, work harder, and “get his shit together.” And at that eight-month marker, I realize he hadn’t—and maybe wouldn’t. We’re friends now and although he still smokes and I have no idea if he still eats as much bacon as he once did, he got shit together at least to buy a house, among other positive developments.

But, we broke up. Like you and this person. Break ups should be understood with the finality inherent to them. It’s confusing and hurtful to everyone to consider them weight that may be applied to pressure—in this case, to get on some ambiguous life track. When you truly think about it, what kind of changes or developments would prove to you they were on it? Do you have an answer? I didn’t.

In a romantic split, you surrender the privilege of keeping tabs. It’s no longer healthy or supportive. It’s totally natural to wonder how they are or about their physical/mental health, but at a certain point, it’s harmful to yours.

I don’t know if dating other people is the answer for moving on. That’s different for everyone. However, three years is a while. Though you didn’t see any remarkable positive change in your partner during that time, it’s very likely you underwent some—even if it’s a bunch of little changes. Take this period to get back in touch with yourself as a single entity. Reacquaint yourself with your likes, dislikes; check in with your ever-evolving definition of success. You can expend only so much emotional energy on someone (and trust, that emotional energy turns physical real quick. Last dentist visit, the dental hygienist took one look at my teeth and asked, “So why are you so stressed out?” Eek). Make sure you are in fact on your own goal track, too. That’s most important, after all.

31. Am I Really Ready To Date Again? | 07.14.17

A friend texted:

I got my heart shredded last summer and went dormant for a while, but have been feeling open to love since April, or a little while now. I haven’t been meeting anyone really! I know New York is hard but where I’m at now is like…should I do an app thing? Even if it just helps me to get back into the swing [of things]? I don’t know. Every time I’ve experimented with Tinder I’ve HATED the way it feels, and I know there are tons of options out there it just never has felt right for me, but I worry I’m not putting myself out there! Ya know?

Yeahhh. Tinder isn’t for everyone, despite its popularity. But regardless of how you meet a person–Tinder, Twitter, a friend’s potluck, a gallery opening, a swanky-ass cocktail place—you only know one finite facet of them. Add to that any inherent research (spoiler: everyone Googles) and we like to think we can know a more fleshed out version of this human, but we really don’t.

Here’s another cool fact: dating is awkward. I know! The title of this column is a mean joke and total lie. That being said, it’s rare for things to feel right. Especially with Tinder, I daresay the only people who feel like the platform is “right” is using it for reasons very different than yours—but here I am, assuming you want a long-term, monogamous relationship. Do you? Answer that first.

Regardless of what you’re looking for—and I’ve said this before—dating necessitates time and energy. You have to put in effort if you want anything (good) to happen. It’s a shitty gamble, really, because there’s usually not a great return.

Everyone is bad at dating till they aren’t…Nothing clicks until it does.

Remember that everyone is bad at dating till they aren’t. “Bad,” in this sense, may be defined as “continuing to be single.” (Which, by the way, isn’t bad!) Like, nothing clicks until it does. A seemingly impossible mix of keeping yourself open to various possibilities while also keeping an eye on what could be red flags. Very annoying!

“Putting yourself out there” is to dating what “diet and exercise” is to getting in physical shape. Despite diet pills’ promises, it’s pretty tough to expect one without the other. Just because your roommate got slimmed down fast by eating a lot of cottage cheese (I don’t know much about dieting) and yogalates (or fitness), does not mean that will yield similar results for you. The same is true with dating—there is no magic route to whatever prize you’re after.

You’re not gonna like my advice here: Girl, you gotta keep trying. Well, maybe take a break and give yourself the space to check in with you, what you want, what you’re willing to give (boundaries are healthy. Maybe yours is keeping Tinder out of the mix), what would never work for you, and so on. But after that, arm yourself and head on back out there. You got this.

30: Is Screenshotting A Semi-Nude A Forgivable Sin? | 6.30.17

Someone messaged:

I met a dude on Tinder. He seemed pretty legit, actually was really nice and talked about how he feels bad for girls on the app, always asks for consent etc, etc. We met briefly. No real sparks but I was looking for a bang pal and was feeling the water. I sent him an innocent bra shot Snap and he took a screenshot. I went off about how inappropriate that was—you can’t get all mighty about asking consent to kiss a girl but you feel it’s okay to screenshot a Snap. He claims he didn’t know the etiquette. I told him we’re done, gross invasion of privacy, etc. and he got an attitude with ME! “I said I was sorry. I deleted the picture. It was a miscommunication. Fine goodbye.” …What?

I’m not into this dude “feeling bad” for women on Tinder (I won’t get into how mad calling grown-ass women “girls” makes me, guh). You’re both on the app, so who fucking cares? Talk about consent, bro.


Yes, him screenshotting a risque photo of you without your permission does feel a little gross. However, just because you and I and most the people reading this know that kind of behavior is a major no-no (and one likely to bar you from intercepting further bra pixx), doesn’t mean he wasn’t being honest. We are all guilty of committing social faux pas at some point. All. Of. Us.

I agree, it’s weird he boasts respecting consent but in a way, violated yours with this behavior. Honestly, I think a lot of men talk big game about consent because that’s a very ~women-friendly~ topic of the moment — along with giving oral. It doesn’t mean they’re good at it.

Sure, you shouldn’t automatically believe a man you just met (or were about to meet? Unclear here if that happened), but you can’t automatically believe every man you encounter is garbage. They often are! But if you’re truly giving Tinder an honest go (be it for a bang pal or something deeper), you can’t roll in ready to explode. That isn’t helpful for anyone.

Though there’s no point agonizing over the past you can’t change, it’s worth considering how you might proceed in a similar situation in the future. You told him what he did wasn’t OK, he apologized, and you… cut it off? I understand not wanting to waste time on bad vibes but it wasn’t like you lobbed over video footage of you masturbating in a public elementary school library or something. A bra photo is pretty innocent — and if you disagree, that’s fine, but why would you send what you consider sensitive materials to a near-stranger? I kinda treat early dating like I would casual friendship: Don’t share anything you wouldn’t tweet.

You sound like you have a lot of anger. It might be warranted, but I urge you to spend some time reflecting on that. Where is it coming from? What makes it flare up? Do you want to move past the “all men are garbage” school of thought, even? No problem if you’re not there, but if you’re not, stop wasting these dudes’ time — and most importantly, yours.

29: Help, I Might Be Engaged To A Big Mistake | 06.16.17

A reader emailed:

I started a new job in April of 2016. I met a man on the job [who] I was interested in. We don’t work in the same department but on opposite sides of the building. Well, in August of 2016 we started dating, everything seemed OK. Then in December of 2016, I [found] out he was seeing another woman in the office [who] sat on the other side of his cubicle. He told me that they were not in a “relationship” but they were just hanging out, which means they were being intimate. He broke it off with her at the end of July 2016. I think there was more to it because she was very upset and didn’t come to work for a week.

He told me he doesn’t deal with her anymore and doesn’t have anything to do with her. But she was very upset at him breaking off their relationship. She has approached me a couple of times to assure me that she didn’t want anything to be awkward between us and I told her it wouldn’t be because what they had happened before me.

Well, I keep hearing office gossip because this woman is still feeling very hurt [about our continued relationship]. She and my boyfriend even got into argument at work—it didn’t get loud, but she was written up. The gossip that I am hearing is that he lied to her about why they were breaking up, and he started to act like he didn’t know her to keep me from feeling uncomfortable.

Well, fast forward, he has proposed and I said yes. She left him two very vulgar ugly voicemails, stating that he wasn’t a man and that he was a liar. There were some other things she said that have caused me to think, but he keeps reassuring me that she is just jealous that he didn’t choose her. They even moved her desk at work. Only a few people have congratulated us on our engagement, but I feel that they think that he is not and was not genuine in this proposal.

It has only been nine months since we started dating. Should I be concerned about how he treated this other woman? I was upset when I found out about the other woman. I feel that he is not being totally honest and he has stopped talking to the other coworkers that they had as mutual friends, except for the one who hooked us up. I’m not sure what to think or do. Should I give the ring back?

Very conflicted and confused.

Yes, give it back—or better yet, hawk it then spend the money on a weekend trip outta town so you can recuperate from this trainwreck. Almost never is a partner so good it’s worth navigating the bullshittery of a crazy ex, and it sounds like you got a pretty hefty one on your hands there. And although it’s apparent your largest concern here is this other woman, I think you should be much more worried about him.

Why would he act like he doesn’t know a colleague? I understand he says that’s to make you feel more comfortable, but it’s such blatant lying. This alone is proof you should reconsider this relationship, especially since it entered engagement status.

You also say what happened between your fiancé and this woman happened before you were part of the picture, which may be partially true but that isn’t the whole story. There was at least four months of overlap when you and dude started seeing each other. I get that this all might have happened pre-DTR talk—in which case, seeing multiple people at once is fair game, albeit a bit shady still for months at a time. But this is still kinda shitty.

Why do you listen to this woman? Your clear, elaborate memory of interactions with and soundbites from this woman also concern me. You can’t cater your future based on a partner’s past—and this woman, if you so choose to stay with and trust dude, is part of the past.

I was seeing a guy fresh from a long-term, cohabitating relationship. He seemed over it, so I felt comfortable moving forward at an admittedly quick pace. He was just so dreamy and our witty banter was a major turn-on. But! After a couple months, he told me his ex reached out and shared all sorts of info she probably should have kept to herself or told just a few close friends at most. He spilled compulsions she indulged, including checking all his and my public social media accounts multiple times a day. Familiar? Oh hell yeah—I think everybody has succumbed to that sticky, gross urge to creep. Tolerable? Nah, that’s just something you shouldn’t tell an ex. And the fact he told me made it all the more uncomfortable. But (again)! I reasoned that since she was part of his past, I alone gave her power over his and my shared future—so I revoked it.

He was my date to a company party and before jumping in the Lyft, we snapped a cute-ass couple-y photo in his building’s lobby. I loaded it to Instagram, because, uh, did I mention how cute me (OK, mostly me) looked? Also, we were dated so who cared?

She cared—his ex. And somehow that meant he cared, too. He accused me of posting the photo to agitate her, a person I had never met and probably never would. It was…a mess; one that ended shortly after that hiccup.

Because like I said, almost no partner is worth navigating the bullshittery of a crazy ex.

It isn’t always the partner’s fault they dated a person who doesn’t follow simple social etiquette rules (I have my fair share of looney former flames and I’m an otherwise perfect person). However, in both your and my cases, it seems the partners have some ambiguous hand in cultivating and perpetuating it.

I have no idea what my boyfriend said to his ex and you have a similar lack of context for your situation. The specifics matter less. His story changes, he has no qualms about cutting people out of his life (you mentioned colleagues and mutual friends he plain doesn’t talk to anymore)—not to mention one of the biggest red flags of all: what’s the rush with marriage? You’ve only been together nine months. Dude has given you ample grounds to question his judgement skills and worthiness of trust. Is this the kind of person you want in your life? In your child’s life?

Ultimately, I think this has got to end. Ditch the dude, consider looking for a new job (wtf is this office dynamic? Sounds shady as hell), and ask yourself why you’re so hooked on what this woman—his ex—does, says, thinks. Only after healing from all this can you set forth in an honest, measured relationship—one that involves two people: you and your partner. No exes allowed.

28: Am I Missing My Marriage Prime? | 06.02.17

Someone emailed:

I have been in a relationship for a year and a half. We’re both in our early 30s, which means that a lot of our friends have been married a while or are getting married. I would usually think that this is still a totally normal timeline to not have talked seriously about marriage (we’ve expressed our interest in marrying each other and both want kids but always in some amorphous future) but this past week a friend got engaged after being with her boyfriend for something like 6-8 months. It made me wonder if people my age are getting engaged faster than we did in our 20s because of like, biological clocks and optimal bods for formalwear? I am not in a super-rush to get married but I also don’t want to be that couple that waits like seven years to do it and so no one (including them) is excited about it. I am comfortable bringing it up with my boyfriend but want advice on how not to be overly “cool girl” about it but also make clear that it isn’t like, a panicking point.

I think yes, people do start to get married faster at a certain age. Sometimes the norm for that age varies regionally. When I moved from the perpetually single playground of Brooklyn to Atlanta, I felt like an old hen at the laughable age of 26. A bulk my friends were married, engaged, cohabitating, or otherwise in serious relationships on a fast track to one of those. Even recently, a friend almost my exact age (30 in December, baby) got engaged one year to the day of meeting the man who will soon be her husband. It can feel like a lot of pressure!

Marriage isn’t always a big deal. In my early 20s, I met a dude my age who was married and living in D.C. — quite an anomaly, especially since he and his wife were atheists. There’s no gentle, classy way to ask, “OK, so why so young? Why now? Explain!!” so I did it over sangria. He shrugged in a weirdly self-assured way and explained they’d been together five or six years and since he figured it’d happen eventually, why not go ahead and do it? Yeah! Why not?

It’s important to ask why you want to get married anyway and why so soon. Reasons I think it could be OK to rush: if you’re religious, if you’re family is religious and pleasing them is important to you, if one person is not a citizen of the country where you both want to live, or if someone is pregnant (obviously not a marriage-necessitating circumstance but I understand that can make pregnancy and birth a little easier).

Years ago, a close friend of mine was wrapping her master’s. That meant her student visa allowing study in the U.S. would conclude and she’d have no choice but to return to her native country. But, she was in love. She fell into the third category mentioned above. Although she and her cohabiting partner had discussed marriage in the same amorphous sense as you, there was suddenly pressure.

They decided to marry.

Before the ceremony, she called her fairly conservative mother to make sure she was getting married for the “right” reason, but here’s the annoying thing her mom said then I’ll now say to you: there is no single, definitive “right” reason to get married. That’s because marriage has ceaseless meanings and nuances and levels and layers and those depend on specific people involved and timing and what you ate for lunch that day. It’s annoying — like I said.

Do you want to have the same last name (which you can also do without getting married)? Do you want to live together out of sin (which is possible if you don’t really believe in sin anyway)? Do you want a big party with a lot of people you love (which folks do all the time so you can also)? Do you want a fancy white dress (which are available by the plenty right now because of summer I guess)? Do you want the tax breaks (which I hear are not real but have not fact-checked)?

Or do you just want to get married? You say it’s not a panicking point, so what’s the rush? I understand wanting to make sure everyone — yourselves included — are excited, but people who aren’t assholes are always going to be excited to celebrate your love.

And weddings, as you know, can deviate wildly from the Father of the Bride blueprint. I peripherally know a couple who recently got married at the Whole Foods hot bar then returned to work after the no-frills ceremony. It’s OK to want the frills, too, but please remember frills do not go out of fashion as fine lines develop and our other friends become legally bonded. Frills are forever Good — if you want them.

That whole Harry Burns riff, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible,” is romantic, sure, but remember “the rest of your life” can be marked by endless ceremonies: picking out eggs together at a sunrise farmers market, supporting each other through struggles, giving feedback on one’s screenplay, listening to the other’s new instrumental space jam, texting inside jokes, trips to shitty Gulf Coast beaches, reading essay collections aloud, dance parties to classic reggae in a home where you both live or maybe just one, etc.

Your reason(s) for getting married or not are always valid, except for one: invented pressure from a similarly society-fabricated timeline. Your love has got to be bigger than that.

27: My Dog Is Ruining My Sex Life |05.05.17

A friend reached out:

Very serious relationship question: how do i stop my dog from ruining my sex life with her constant presence? 

OK, this is real. Everyone has their own preferences re: kicking animals out of the room during sexy times and not. A piece my friend Sophie wrote for Broadly revealed cats have a general idea what human sex is when it’s happening. Another NYPost says dogs can smell sex on people which, tight. This is all very creepy to me, but! Animals can also sense sad feelings and make themselves and their oxytocins available accordingly. With the good comes the..uncomfortable, it seems.

I am personally of the camp that doesn’t invite animals into the bedroom as spectators. My cats have always protested, sometimes scratching at the door. One ex-boyfriend’s dog would whine in the hall so loudly it was hard to focus (you try to come with what sounds like a deflating balloon screeching a yard away).

Unfortunately, breaking this cycle starts with a few kinda bummer steps. Try not letting your animal nightly sleep in your bed (esp. if your partner is usually there, too). That way they can stop understanding the bed or other fucking furniture as their domain, so it won’t be as weird when they can’t be up in y’all coital shit. There’s a lot of resources available online that could help with this process, but here’s a video for starters.

Additionally, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to explore crating options for your dog so she feels more comfortable and at ease being alone. She then shouldn’t feel so anxious when you and your partner get down to business. Again, there’s lots of resources online to learn more. Perhaps start with this guide?

But, you know, lots of people fuck in the presence of their animals without thinking twice. Sometimes trying to kick them out of the room will inspire more problems than just learning to ignore an animal’s creep-out gaze as your partner plows you or vice versa. Such is the fun compromises of pet ownership! One of my best friends has a great story about an early sex time with her now-husband. Their now-shared dog was present and immediately post-coitus, she made accidental eye contact with the pooch–who actually winked at her. I’m not making this up and I don’t think she was either. So I mean, if your animal can keep a semi-comfortable distance and occasionally blesses you with an affirmative wink, is that the worst thing?

26: S.O.S.: My Friend Wants To Get Laid | 04.28.17

A girlfriend reached out:

I have a male friend who is in his 30s, a virgin, and has, to say the least, issues with talking to women, though he does seek their attention (Tinder, Bumble, etc). He has asked me several times if he should legally hire a prostitute to get over his fears and get it over with. I don’t know how to answer that question, maybe you do?

Oh boy. Frankly, my gut reaction is he should keep using apps like Tinder and Bumble but be more explicit about his intent: getting laid. By no means should his bio read along the lines of,”Just tryna get my dick wet!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m a virgin lol,” but with dating apps, you really pick up what you’re putting out there. I have several friends who found their now-husbands or wives through Tinder, but I also have friends who found very satisfying one-night-stands from it, too.

As long as he clearly communicates just wanting something casual and physical and there’s consent, I don’t see a problem with him ditching his virginity through that avenue. But if he takes this route, I don’t think anyone needs to know about the virginity status. That only adds an extra layer of complexity and could be a turn-off (or possibly a turn-on. Highly specific kinks never end).

If he’s worried he’ll be horrible at sex and that alone will be a giveaway, I have some reassuring news: Lots of men at bad at sex–forever! His partner will not be able to guess unless he tries out some adventurous porn shit and frankly, even then, she’ll probably just think, “OK, he watched a porn.” (Like when men slap your pussy. Men, stop slapping pussies unless you are point-blank asked.)

However, if he’s just looking for permission to legally hire a prostitute, here it comes: If you want to legally pay someone who consents to sexual acts with you, you may. Sex work is still work and it can be done in a way that’s safe for both the worker as well as the customer. Though I don’t think this is the best option for shredding his V card.

25: Does “It’s Over” Really Mean It’s Over? | 04.21.17

A reader emailed:

Hi Beca! So, I’ve been divorced for four years (was married for five years). Two years ago I met and started dating this new girl. I wasn’t planning on falling for her as hard as I did, but here we are. We both really love each other, but the issue is her parents hate me. I’m not “good enough” for their daughter. They don’t like that I’m a DJ and not a doctor or lawyer. We dated for about a year, then broke up because of her family, but for the past year, we’ve been getting back together and breaking up. This last time, though, hurt a lot. We were fine and being all relationshippy, but then all the sudden the day after I brought dinner to her place and watched La La Land, I get hit with the “we can’t do this anymore.” text. But a week prior we were out and she was getting hella jealous at a couple girls trying to flirt with me and almost smacked one of them.

She told me she’s banning herself from all Greek events ‘til we get over each other. We’re both Greek and I’m a pretty big DJ/promoter in the Greek community, so her ban is because of me, because she can’t handle running into me. But by her doing this, it’s affecting me as well. I feel weird running into her friends at places. My question is, what should I do? I’ve always fought for what I believe in with my career and in love, but almost two years of this back and forth is rough. But at the same time, I just don’t want to turn my back on love. The only issue we have is that her parents don’t approve. It sucks and hurts and I don’t know what to do. 


La La Land is a relationship-killer. I watched it with my most recent ex about a week before we split and although I slept through most of it (he had a screener. #elite), I still can’t help but place a significant amount of blame on that Very Bad Movie.

That being said, yeah — your situation deeply sucks. It sounds like you both have strong feelings for each other, but she also has strong regard for her family’s wishes. Her family’s reasons for not approving of you seem very superficial and weak to you and me, but they matter to her. And you have no choice but to respect that. Even if she were to initially set aside the familial hang-up with your career, there’s a high chance that would only be temporary.

Her self-instated ban may appear like it has everything to do with you, but it doesn’t. Remember, this is a decision she made. Sure, this makes for some potentially awkward situations when you inevitably run into her friends, but you have some power over how awkward that could get.

When you see people you associate with your ex, what do you do or say? I, too, roll in a relatively tight-knit community so I see exes’ friends on the regular (luckily not La La Land dude’s, but that’s only a matter of time). But instead of Making It Weird, I offer a polite smile+wave combo and keep on movin’. Occasionally there’s a little surface conversation, too, but I never linger past that. Also, aren’t you usually working during these encounters? Great! That’s a perfect excuse to moonwalk away from literally anyone.

You say the only reason you and this woman can’t be together is her parents’ disapproval, but is that true? You also say she almost “smacked” a stranger who looked at you some type of way. To me, that sounds like another good reason. In high school, all I wanted was for two dudes to fist-fight over me. As I dated exclusively petite musician-types, this never happened in high school. But when I was with another petite musician-type — with hugely jealous ego — in my mid-20s and he’d animatedly bristle at men while we were out together, and it was super embarrassing. That isn’t how adults treat each other and that kind of behavior can be indicative of possible violence popping up in other arenas down the road. You don’t want that, my dude.

At the end of the day, even if you don’t agree parental disapproval isn’t a great reason to not be together, that doesn’t matter. Your ex called it and identified parental disapproval as the motivator. Whether or not that’s enough — in your opinion — is null. Relationships must be two-sides and she already made the decision.

In the meantime, know for a fact time has a way of smoothing over these uncomfortable ripples, like those in your small Greek community. Keep being cordial to her friends and when you do finally see her back out, too, give her the similar, arms’-length treatment. Maybe one day she can be in your life again in a healthy capacity, but that time is not now.

24: How Much Communication Is Good Enough? | 04.15.17

Someone emailed:

Dating this guy who I have great chemistry with but I never hear from him throughout the week (before our dates). I only [hear from him] to confirm and plan the date. Is it weird for me to ask that he communicates more sporadically? Or is that needy? Should I be the one to initiate that conversation? It didn’t really bother me until I shared that with my friends. They automatically saw that as a red flag. It honestly didn’t bother me until they made me think it was odd behavior. Technically I don’t have enough time to be texting small talk all day but I also feel it’s nice to get a text randomly–it shows that the other person is thinking of you. Am I crazy to want some type of communication throughout the week?


How long have you been seeing this dude? The beginning of modern dating could be called the blasé olympics. If you’re early into things, this is normal.

By sporadically, do you mean consistently or regularly? I guess that just kinda depends. What’s needy for one partner is absolutely baseline for others. It depends on both y’all.

Truly, like you said, no one’s got time for shoot-the-shit-paced texting throughout the day. However, if it’s been a minute since y’all started seeing each other–and especially if you’ve been exclusive–it’s not wild to expect a little regular, text-based communication.

Why aren’t you initiating it? If you think of homeboy, let him know. You don’t gotta be extra and bug him every hour on the hour, but once a day–again, especially when you’re exclusive or have been with this partner for a while–is not a wild expectation.

If it’s bugging you so much, push forward yourself, bb. Honestly, if you do so and he isn’t responsive, fuck it. It’s clear you need that kind of cadence (which is fine! TBH, #same), so look for someone psyched to match that.

23: Living Together 

My friend in Brooklyn emailed:

Hi Beca!!

My boyfriend is moving in with me, and coming with him is some of his furniture. How do I tell my boyfriend I don’t want any of his ugly college hand-me-down furniture in my (former) bachelorette pad, without hurting his feelings?

– Cancerian in Crisis

First, focus on the “(former)” aspect of what you wrote. Yes, this apartment–in one iteration–was your freewheelin’, single gal bungalow, replete with well-maintained house plants, lemon-verbena aromas, and plush, adult furniture. But, by inviting your boyfriend to cohabitate (which, by the way, good for you! That’s a big decision but also a big push forward for the relationship), you surrender that iteration of your apartment. Now, it’s our apartment.

Although you can theoretically maintain some touches of lemon-verbena, the compromises start now–with homeboy’s fugly college-sourced furniture. You certainly don’t need to ditch your vintage velvet fainting couch, but you might have to scooch it aside to make room for his side-of-the-road pleather recliner. That’s relationships, baby. All about that compromise.

That being said, perhaps this is a good opportunity to work on growing together. You now cohabitate, so consider making some larger purchases together. Any smart person knows buying a couch as a couple is more meaningful than its surface level suggests, however, you already made the leap to live together. Why not go for the next step? Ditch some individual pieces and co-own some shit.

By shopping for (or rifling through curbside collections. I don’t know your life, but I’ve found some A+ pieces this way) new pieces together, you simultaneously involve him in decorating decisions while also updating the pad. Gone are the days of pant-less macaroni on the fainting couch as breakfast (at least doing so solo), so outfit your space to reflect its current iteration: our apartment. Say it aloud. Our apartment. And in the meantime, if a muted saltillo makes its way over to the pleather recliner, that’s just added ambiance.

22: Waiting For Someone To Get It Together  | 03.24.17

An old neighbor Facebook messaged:

At a certain point are we too old to give people second chances? It seems like ppl do change over time but usually they sort their issues out years after you’ve moved on.

I’m pretty sure my gf is bipolar. We dated for 2 months and I called it off because we were having so many arguments. After a few weeks off we went back on but the same pattern of anger has come back. Altogether it’s been 6 months now.

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy over the last few years and have some tools for managing my own emotional condition & outbursts. She doesn’t have any herself and wants me to wait and work it out with her.

I’m 38, I have an 8-year-old daughter, and I’m not interested in helping someone get it together. I’ve spent the last 13 years in two different relationships “getting it together” (including myself to be fair!) and “waiting and working it out” with someone who is not where I’m at in life right now.

I guess I may have answered my own question, haha.

First off, not sure how much age has to do with it vs. an impatience for bullshit. That being said, yeah, the two tend to be directly correlated. I’m so beyond disinterested in counting up all the days, months, and years I spent in my teens/early-/mid-20s trying to foster men working on “getting it together” to some mythical place of “being done,” or whatever.

You know what you need to do: Focus on what’s best for you and your daughter, your family. It’s not your job to help someone grow u or /”get fixed” also “getting fixed” isn’t a finite, one-time thing — which surely you know as a participant in therapy. It’s (sometimes super hard!) maintenance and you have an obligation to your daughter (and yourself!) to prioritize maintaining you first. Help a partner second.

But also I think it shows a lot more promise and initiative for a partner to already be in motion regarding getting fixed or rather, starting the fixed process. Just saying “I will work on it” isn’t enough. What is this person doing, work-wise? Removing choice vices? Setting a hard-lined weekly budget? Cutting contact with toxic people? Attending regular meditation sessions? There needs to be evidence and actual, physical steps taken. If “the work” is just admitting there is work to be done then returning to comfortable, poisonous patterns, ON TO THE NEXT, sir.

This is a very relatable pickle. I’m sorry you’re going through it. Proactive people exist! And they will be much more healthy partners and better role models to have in your daughter’s life. Be patient and in the meantime, keep doing your own work.

21: How Do I Know When I’m Ready | 03.23.17

A friend asked:

How do I know if I’m ready to date again after a long-term relationship has ended?

First, I think we should define “date.” The word ranges in interpretation from sleeping with someone once, getting drinks with new people, swiping around Tinder with no real intention, or hunting for another long-term–possibly life–partner.

For the sake of this conversation, let’s assume “date” takes on that last definition.

There’s some conventional wisdom I read eons ago that suggested taking one week being single for each month you were with with your last partner. Although a decent enough road map, it doesn’t always apply. My last partner, although a month fresh from a six-year relationship, swore up and down he felt more “over” it since the last chunk of the relationship was a series of breakup dress rehearsals. And I get it–relationship duration does not necessarily have much impact on the breakup past annoying practicalities, like who gets to keep the apartment, etc.

You need to be clear, too, on what “over” means to you as well as the possibility of a new partner. Although the last boo said he was “over” his previous relationship (and I believe him), he was not “ready” for a new one with me; he was too entrenched in the hard work and self reflection that should happen between two serious relationships to really be available for ours. “Over” does not mean “ready.”

I think instead of pouring over whether or not you’re “over” your last relationship or “ready” for another, you should work on you. Please know I’m pointing at myself in a mirror as I type this. It’s very easy to hop from one relationship to another–dating is fun! Validation feels good! So does sex with a person who is socially obligated to be nice to you and also be around–but it isn’t always the most compassionate path. It’s a distraction. Someone is going to get hurt, and if you think that’s not true, that just means that person won’t be you.

Because, yeah, it’s definitely easier to hone focus on helping someone else with their problems then addressing your own. I caught myself in a ~whatever~ casual relationship a while back, as I was in the midst of hunting down a therapist, and kept catching myself looking for local stores for homeboy to sell the weirdo little spoons he made instead of making appointments to get going on my own to-do list. My problem didn’t have anything to do with proximity to his or my past relationships, but it plagued me all the same. We fall into these patterns so it’s important you address everything you ignored while in this last relationship.

Put energy into building a life you’re very happy with and proud to live alone. It’s OK to have mini-flings here in there in the space between relationships, but make sure there’s communicated parameters that keep each other safe and healthy (namely, a time limit). Hold off on anything substantial till you feel whole again–on your own.

20. Does He Like Me, Does He Like Me Not | 03.16.17

A friend, Tori, emailed me:

The boy and I watched a movie on Monday and it went really well. The 2 hour movie took four hours to get through because we kept pausing to talk, then I got the next morning “thank you for coming over” text message. Good signs. Been snapping/texting since then. Now we’re going to two shows this weekend and getting sushi for dinner before Saturday’s show.

Here’s the issue. He isn’t explicitly asking me out. The closest was I made mention of maybe getting sushi before the show on Sunday and he said “sounds good, but let’s do Saturday, I’m going to go to that show now” aka with me. So he isn’t straight up going “Tori let’s DO THIS” but I guess that kind of dating is also gone…?

Yeah, this is a mess. It’s all about hanging out till it’s all about making out and usually there’s no warning signs which way the pendulum is swangin’. This is a large reason why I keep championing dating apps: Because at least then there is a clear intention. (Sure, that can vary from casual sex to wife deadline, but it’s safe to assume the other person would like to see you naked.)

Anyway, if he’s not giving you clarity and you’re interested in him romantically, make a move. You don’t gotta straddle him at sushi but you can be subtle about it. Let your knees touch in the Lyft. Hold eye contact a hair longer than feels natural. See how he responds. Don’t take it as an immediate bad sign if he looks away or recoils—he could just be nervous.

Once I ran into a foxy acquaintance randomly. He was talking with a colleague of mine. I kinda already knew I wanted to tap that (acquaintance, not colleague), so I tested the waters, reaching out to casually graze his shoulder. He literally recoiled. Hugely embarrassed, I sprinted to the exit stairs.

A couple weeks later we linked up and had some of the most mind-blowing sex for a few months. When ribbing him about the awkward interaction, he explained he got nervous and shrunk away. I didn’t get to hear my coworker chiding the cutie’s red cheeks because I was too busy gasp-running away.

So I wouldn’t call this an effective gauge in single instances. But! Y’all have hung a moderate amount, and in fairly intimate environments. After all, it’s kinda uncommon to invite a new person over—alone — to hang in your home for more than 20 minutes or so unless you’re trying to get down.

He could be sending mixed signals, allowing for selective closeness (drawing out movies, as viewed at his house = OK, committing to near-future plans = less OK). I get that people can be confused or scared or whatever, but he needs to call something. And so do you.

If the subtle physical touch tests don’t seem to reveal new info, I say shit or get off the pot. Like him? Dope, try for a kiss. Feel lukewarm about him? Move on, unless you’re in the market for another friend — but for real, these don’t sound like fully platonic encounters. Lines are blurry.

Whatever you decide, these endless guessing games get more dangerous the longer they linger. You make way to develop weirdo, unsustainable non-boundaries and risk someone getting hurt.

19: An Old Fling Is Suddenly Showing Me Love On Instagram

A pal Facebook messaged:

A dude I used to hook up with years ago and haven’t spoken to in a few years since things mutually fizzled has been blowing up my Instagram liking *everything* for the past couple of months. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Can I casually upgrade this to…so…want a drink?

Ambiguous Internet flirting is my favorite type of flirt! Sike (I’m trying to bring “sike” back). It could mean a lot of things. Any of the below motivators have equal shots of being correct:

  1. He wants to hook up again
  2. He had a dream about you and is trying to fulfill some manifest destiny
  3. He had a lunch alcohol
  4. He accepted a dare
  5. He recently had a tarot reading that astoundingly spelled out “get back on a former fling’s radar through slightly aggro passive-aggression”

People are mysterious, and so is their often bizarre behavior on social media. I know I have personally scrolled through ex-boyfriends’, ex-sex friends’, ex-cancelled-first-dates’, ex-almost-flirts’, etc.’s accounts and randomly liked posts for a myriad of mostly nonsensical reasons. We’re monsters who lack clarity but demand validation!

Opacity aside, you have the power to demand a little insight. Shoot him a text. You risk nothing by proposing a drink (again! Ambiguity, baby. “Drink” does not at all have a 100 percent translation rate as “bang”).

If he’s down, cool. Feel him out. Pay attention to his body language and how he surmises his life since you last saw each other. Should he fidget, talk over you, fixate on bad shit (extra high alert for ex talk. Even if you’re not gonna be sex friends again, that seems like emotionally vampiric behavior considering y’all haven’t been in touch), and so on, grab the first round’s check and bounce. Say he touches your knee, makes a lot of eye contact, and focuses conversation on you — seems reasonable he’s DTF(-ish).

If he doesn’t respond or otherwise can’t find time, shrug it off. Accept the occasional like blitzkrieg for what it is at its core: Another kernel of affirmation from a hot person. No matter how you slice that — and although it is kinda petty — it doesn’t suck.

18: An ex-Tinder-er’s Clothes Left Behind | 03.03.07

A friend in New York emailed:

A fairly random Tinder girl left her shirt at my place last weekend. I texted her a couple days later, “hey I’ve got your shirt!” and she did not respond. Do I text her again or can I just throw it out?

You may be similarly fairly random to her, too. I’d donate her shirt to a thrift store or cut it up to use as a rag because throwing clothing away seems wasteful. Once I purposefully left an ex’s T-shirt at a party house to avoid the guilt of tossing it in the trash. Be creative or do whatever you want with it–she does not want her shirt back.

17: I Keep Falling For Charming Assholes | 02.24.17

A friend reached out:

Hey girl!  

I am a disaster when it comes to dating, always has been my weakest subject. My dude antenna is crooked and in major need of repair. I am a magnet for the charming as fuck, cool types that are pros at luring me to paradise only to slaughter me and push my remains in the volcano. Compliments for days, gifts, goo goo eyes, but will then stand me up repeatedly, can’t commit to real plans, and won’t text back for a month. The latest dude has been doing exactly all of these wonderful/horrendous things to me and I really am pissed this time–honestly more at myself for falling for it AGAIN. It never fails that I keep making excuses for these assholes. It usually takes an ultimate dick move on their part for me to see them in real light when my “eyesight” is recovered. It’s usually too late and the self-beatings have commenced. I know it seems like a no brainer to just drop this guy, but I feel in order to get over it I need a revenge closure of some kind. I’ve been ignoring his latest texts, but question is, how the fuck do I:  1. Make him realize I am queen? And, more importantly, 2. Stop being tricked by these players?   

Girrrl. I know this struggle cycle very well. It’s a major reason I started therapy! So here’s a solid insight my therapist shared: “your vibe attracts your tribe.” Well, that isn’t verbatim what she said. She’s actually a tiny, 50-something Jewish woman from Queens who only accepts checks, bank transfers, or cash for her services. The sentiment still stands, but we’ll get into that later.

To address concern no. 1, if he doesn’t already know, fuck that dude. Since I do know you and can attest to your jewelry-making goddess powers and overall babeliness both inside and out, I feel confident in saying those truths should be apparent to any man you bless with a chance.

However, not everyone will see or understand your magic. That’s another annoying truth my therapist reminds me on the regular.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it forever: go the productive-petty route. When yet another hot car sandwich of a man reveals his hot car sandwich ways, channel frustrations to fuel badass quests. Take his slow fade or straight-up ghosting as a challenge. Apply to your dream job, sign up for a class to learn a new skill, travel, bake something complicated, organize a tampon drive, run, adopt an animal, get really good at cross-stitching. Retribution is a helluva creative catalyst.

That way, you show him how badly he fucked up while actually improving your own life. And the best part? Getting more badass will expedite you similarly not giving a damn if he regrets his idiotic choices or not. You’ll be too busy with that packed schedule and fleet of rescue cats to lurk his Instagram.

As for concern no. 2, I’m still working on that, personally. As a fellow impaired-dude-antennae human, we have to accept a little responsibility and look inward. Why do we keep attracting these types of men? What’s the unifying thread among them? It’s up to us to break our own patterns because regardless of anyone’s badassery, these dum-dums will keep on existing — being charming and foxy then being distant then giving you a Chance The Rapper bootleg LP then being distant then being an asshole and so on. There’s nothing we can do about that; they’re like cockroaches.

But like cockroaches, although it’s hard to rid your life of them completely, there’s steps you can take to keep them at bay. Stop letting the sink fill with dirty dishes (value your time and energy so you don’t give it away to just any hot dude who can finesse a Zippo lighter). Clean more regularly (prioritize your friends, your work, yourself over ding-dongs). Consider putting out traps (identify key behaviors that suggest secret hot car sandwich statuses. Once noted, get outta there).

Unfortunately, the occasional roach will find its way into your home/heart. From there, though, you gotta have the resolve to act swiftly and with confidence: squash the motherfucker. If you let even one cockroach in, that opens the floodgates for more. And not even the surliest fleet of rescue cats can fix that.

16: The Ideal Saturday Night | 02.17.17

A friend from college sent me a self-identified drunken Facebook message:

Hey, got a question for your dating advice column if you’re interested, about dating chefs/cooks and the work week struggle. I graduated college and then fell back in love with cooking after moving to New Orleans, and have been cooking and moving up in professional kitchens ever since. Next year, I hope to make sous chef. I’m incredibly driven and focused in my craft and have concrete plans. I try to be open and honest with potential partners about the reality of my career path, long hours, high stress, and the desire for a reasonable amount of cool off alone time post work. Often, a romantic partner comes in and I have moved up to the place where I can kill her and her friends with food, send them a 40oz steak and kill them with pasta. Cooking is my life, but the majority of people I’m attracted to tend to be more into academia or the arts and that’s great (all of the things I love), but they don’t really seem to understand what I do. So when I can’t get a Saturday night off, it comes off as me not caring enough to make time, when in reality it’s because the things that make me a diligent boyfriend make me a good cook and it’s impossible for me to explain why I do what I do to anyone else who is not in it. How do I reconcile my passion with a serious love interest that I am currently working towards without being work heavy? We connect on art and books but I don’t want her to think I’m some silly line cook without a plan. I don’t know. I’m kinda drunk, I think  if I revised this a bit there would actually be a good talk to be had.

First of all, I am super into the phrase “diligent boyfriend.”

Secondly, yeahhh. Jobs with nontraditional hours–chefs, bartender, security guards, musicians, make-up artists, camera techs, THERE ARE A LOT–come with a subtle perk: excellent partner screening.

Lots of these jobs with bizarre-o hours are also pretty romanticized. Who hasn’t dreamed about a lover giving them multiple orgasms in a spotless, industrial kitchen then filling their belly with some world-class quiche? (Maybe not the quiche part, but.)

I hear this type of complaint most often from musicians. The idea of dating a rock star is universally hot, not to mention the potential to smug it up with a babely musician on your arm post-show. But, the reality! These jobs entail late, often long hours. That’s a very difficult pill for some partners to swallow.

You say you’re often attracted to people in academia or the arts. Great! It’s good to know nuances of your attraction patterns and “type,” but I think we need to dig a little deeper than the superficial surface here. Although tougher to tell from a LinkedIn profile, what you may need more than a foxy creative is a person who values their independence. Someone who understands that your job is more than that, it’s a career–a passion. And as such, you owe it time and energy, an expenditure not reflective of your feelings towards a relationship. Ideally, relationships should be a symbiotic support system, professional ventures included.

A friend going through a divorce some years ago shared advice he says he wished he hadn’t ignored: “Set up shop with someone who has the same idea of an ideal Saturday night.” He loved to go dancing and meet new people, open to the night ending with a skinny-dip in the Atlantic. She preferred tweaking pie recipes while rocking loungewear and draining bottles of Publix BOGO wine. Neither of these nights are bad or wrong inherently, but perhaps paired together they are both.

In your case, it’s less important to focus on Saturday night preferences so much Saturday mornings. Find someone who doesn’t need the Saturday night, someone who is secure enough on their own to share joy and growth in the moments outside of that.

15: When An Ex’s Friend Reaches Out | 02.10.17

A local friend emailed:

Roughly half a decade ago, I dated a dude who went MIA on me. He had a kind roommate, who actually brought me one of my cherished jackets when said dude dodged all of my texts. Since that time, the roommate has followed me on social media and never done much other than share a tweet of my work. At most I’ve said thanks for reading and carried on.

Recently, though, I moved, and he reached out to my professional email (something I don’t remember sharing) that his cousin also moved to the same city and needs some people to hang. I’m kind of unnerved by the move [of him reaching out], namely because any iteration of contact raises the demons of ex past, but also because we’ve never held a conversation outside of that relationship eons ago. If I was single, I’d definitely hit the family member up, but I’m not. What’s the politest, but firmest, way to disengage?

It isn’t immediately obvious to me what relationship status has to do with your disinterest in this person’s request. I get that you only know him through who sounds to be quite the asshole ex, but this person went out of his way to help reunite you with a favorite jacket. Anyone who’s ever lost a particularly loved item to a breakup–a phenom my friend poetically calls “lost in the fire”–knows the unexpected joy and ensuing gratitude should it float back into their possession, hopefully unscathed and double-hopefully without necessitating any interaction with the associated, loathsome ex.

This person clearly values your professional achievements and considers you a kind, good-to-know person in what’s a new city for his family member, another person he presumably likes. His request, I seriously doubt, is rooted romantic motivation–either for his family member or himself. Setting up people you know with each other for the sole reason to help a new denizen adjust to their new city is a toothless crime.

Plus, since moving to Atlanta myself two and a half years ago, I’ve learned people in other cities don’t usually know many folks living here. I’ve had mad distant connections pop up since touching down in the A, asking similar favors. I typically indulge them because I was new once, too, and because there’s an 89% chance that I and the person I’m grabbing drinks or coffee with will never hang out again–not because we hate each other (though we might), but because people tend to curate their own tribe, as opposed to absorbing another’s. Usually, taking on such a request involves one hour of your time, about $6 for a beer, and a little emotional energy to feign enthusiasm in conversation for the duration of the hang. Nothing too painful. Plus, it never hurts to make a good impression on a new person who might end up being actually quite cool.

All this being said! You don’t want to meet up with this dude’s family member, which is fine. Polite deflection is possible. Instead of letting this guy put y’all in email touch or whatever, explain you’re really quite busy finding your own footing in the city at the moment but here’s some recommendations of spots you’ve discovered and love. Send some links and make suggestions, then quietly log roll out of those obligation feelings.

Remember, most adults get that other adults have a lot of shit going on so we naturally can’t invent time for people or meetings that simply aren’t a priority (blunt, but true). This person, who, like you said, isn’t exactly a friend, so he should understand that and be thankful for the time you took to email him back.

14: Get Political  | 02.03.17

Isidora tweeted to us:

Remember how typically we avoided topics like politics on the first date? Given the cultural climate, has that changed now?

Gotta roll out a resounding “hell yes” here. Frankly, I’ve brought up politics on early dates for years, but you’re right: that is especially important to do now.

A large part of relational compatibility rests on sharing fundamental moral values. If you’re a bleeding heart liberal and want to simply outsource fucking to a hopped-up Libertarian, you have my hesitant blessing. (I tend to side with the “Sex Lives” verdict, that to fuck someone, in a way, is rewarding them for behavior–good or incredibly bad. In this political climate, to hate-fuck is pretty unproductive. Plus, who can imagine a ban-supporting Republican skilled in the art of missionary-style, eye contact-heavy vaginal orgasm?)

Nine years ago, I linked up with this hella babely metal-head skater. We had all the standard fun 20-year-olds living by a beach have, running wild at house parties littered with half-pipes, sneaking off to hook up behind outdoor couches. Sometimes my dude would get sloshy enough to climb so incredibly high on oak trees that he’d need help getting down. Occasionally he’d light things on fire. All signs, in my head, pointed to the suggestion we would align politically. But when I purchased Plan B following a raucous drunken evening involving no-condom sex a month into our stint, the harsh, sober light of day cut through my delusions. He was genuinely upset, asserting that if I had gotten pregnant, we would “I don’t know. We’d keep it.”

Luckily we never had to cross that road, but holy hell, was his latent Protestant convictions helpful to unveil.

Assuming you’re a human with a heartbeat and life matters to you, I can’t imagine remaining politically indifferent–especially today. Politics have transcended the snore-fest of local zoning and threaten the division of families–dictatorship over bodies and futures–percolating hate. It has less to do with bumper stickers and more to do with a moral core.

You may be hard-pressed to find someone with identical concerns–fervent on environmentalism, moderate on abortion, medium-rare on immigration–but establishing a common compassionate brain space is a totally respectable non-negotiable.

Ask about politics as early as possible. We’re all building our own mini armies to fight a larger good fight. Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with passionate soldiers who give the same damns as you.

13: Tips To Up The Sex Drive | 01.27.17

An Atlanta woman who’s been living with her boyfriend for two years reached out:

Hey Beca, I can’t orgasm from penetration, only clitoris stimulation. Any tips? Also, I’m finding myself not interested in sex lately. My sex drive is WAY lower than it used to be. Any tips, certain food, exercises I should be doing/eating to rev “her” up again?

I’m so glad you asked! It’s a never-ending bummer to hear from hetero, cis female friends of mine re: never getting off from vaginal penetration but also never looking for other ways to come. Lots of women can’t orgasm from plain penis-in-the-vagina action—in fact there’s a pretty heated back-and-forth among researchers about whether orgasms via vaginal penetration are even real.

So, it’s a common woe, and could certainly be a factor into dragging your sex drive down.

Another popular culprit: hormonal birth control. I was on the pill from 18 to 24, but towards the end of my run, its hormones made my depression and anxiety spike. Coupled with those dark downs, it murdered my sex drive. Switching to the hormone-free, copper IUD was a major game changer.

Considering you’re in a cohabiting, monogamous long-term relationship (LTR), I think it’s worth addressing with your partner. This is what they call it “spicing it up.”

Does he know vaginal penetration won’t get you off? Nudge him to show a little more love to your clit. I highly recommend this wallet-friendly vibrator from TENGA. It’s battery-powered, therefore less awkward to incorporate into partner use. For starters, ask your boyfriend to fuck you from behind while you handle the vibe yourself. That way you can control your orgasm while dude gets a pretty spectacular view. Over time, you can explore how this whole clitoral orgasm happens, together.

Heighten some senses by shutting others off. Try playing around with blindfolds and see what wakes up in the wake of losing sight. Earplugs sound mad kinky but they’re an easy (i.e., no Babeland visit necessary) option to make you concentrate on breath, centering awareness as arousal builds.

It’s not for everyone, but I’d be remiss to not mention how awesome it is to smoke some weed with a partner pre-coitus. Being stoned intensifies sense of touch by a bazillion (just make sure you don’t get so high you go to self-conscious outer space. Vibrators can get hella awkward to finagle on Saturn).

Some say delicious everyday foods and drinks like sweet potatoes and red wine boost libido–along with the cliche oysters, which, OK, moneybags–but I don’t know how much I buy that. A writer I like a lot, Kat Kinsman, recently tweeted: “1. If you need aphrodisiac foods to put you in the mood, you’re eating with the wrong date. 2. Bone before dinner.” Not to say you shouldn’t be outsourcing sexual satisfaction outside your relationship, but maybe look at the relationship and make sure this slow sex drive isn’t a symptom of something larger.

I believe people go through seasons in their lives. At times, creativity surges and productivity is less of a to-do item and more like breathing. Other times, you may feel like a resident of some mundane black lodge, desperate for the skeleton of a new idea. Sex drives are the same! How you feel right now is very unlikely permanent.

Keep in mind: just because you don’t come doesn’t mean it’s not fun—and it’s very OK to come alone.

12: Should I Even Try For A Long Distance Thing? | 01.19.17

A friend texted:

so, I’ve had something with a guy/good friend of mine for years. On and off, mostly kept between us. We’ve dated other ppl, but when things would end we’d seem to come back to one another. In the past few months though, it’s felt different, almost as if we’ve been letting each other fall for each other. (Or at least I’m falling; although you can tell he’s feeling something deeper.) I’ve known him for years but I now feel like I know him in a different way…I guess this is when the question comes in. I’m moving to California. End of next month. Right when I feel like we’re finally getting (or we’re giving us) a chance. Do I leave us here in NYC, or do I try? And what if I want to try more than he does?

Once, I was sitting at the stoplight at Moreland and Memorial, a hugely busy intersection in East Atlanta. Dusk had begun to settle into the city’s blackened curves when Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” came on. My windows were down and fellow drivers were held captive at the light, so it was cruel for me to crank the volume, but I did anyway–its creepy mixture of nostalgia and defeat were fitting. After all, I was on a Hail Mary mission fresh from a breakup I wanted to undo.

Boiled down details: Everything was great till I made a mistake. Dude couldn’t handle said mistake, and was itching to leave the city. We split and he accepted a job offer thousands of miles away.

But I wasn’t done. Hours before I sobbed over the phone to my sister. An ever-cautious person, her words carried much more weight: “You have to try.”

We sat in silence on his back porch the first time I told him I loved him, a week after our breakup became official. Buzzing insects in the new spring air made me feel claustrophobic. I filled our tiny box further with a string of half-baked ideas; how I could move or we give it a year or I stay with friends till something stuck, till something made sense. I didn’t have the answers but I accepted a kernel of foundation–how I felt.

I don’t wish what I felt that night on most anyone–how my gut felt scooped clean, the warmth of his dog’s head resting in my lap a final time, and the porch light sizzling out as he left me to find my car in the dark–when he told me didn’t feel the same.

Crossing Moreland alone again, that feeling started to round out and mellow. He didn’t react how I wanted but it left me certain I didn’t skip a step. I tried. And so I knew.

I urge you to do the same. Time is fleeting, people move, things change. Though I know you’re enjoying this carefree time of affection, we both know that isn’t going to last. Will your feelings? For me, I believed they would–past all the hard shit. If you believe the same for yours, I say fucking say something. It’s scary and you surely won’t have the answers to the winding list of ensuing questions (who visits first? How often? How will anyone afford this? Who will eventually have to move?), sure. However, then you will know.

Clarity is a gift that’s foolish to expect. But it’s even more foolish to expect if you don’t ask.

11:  Gay Porn For the Straight Guy | 01.13.17

i’m a straight dude. my bona fides are solid – never made out with, hooked up with, or dated a guy, and i have no interest in doing any of the above. but when it comes to porn, my proclivities run about 60:40 gay porn to straight porn. two questions: is this ok, and is there a good time to bring this up with a partner? Thanks!

Then added:

did you watch “insecure?” i’ve been thinking about this since the scene where molly breaks up with the guy she’s dating who’s perfect, but he slept with another dude in college. can’t get past it.

And finally:

fun fact: a college girlfriend, my brand new therapist, and you are the only folks who know that about me so far.

Oh, this is definitely OK. In fact, lots of straight dudes are into gay porn. A recent study showed 21 percent of straight men interviewed watched it within the past six months.

And I did watch Insecure. I know exactly what you’re talking about and it still boils my blood.

Society is growing to understand gender and sexuality as fluid spectrum, but unfortunately we tend to be more understanding with cisgender women. I don’t think that will always be the case, but I understand your sensitivity as it pertains to dating right now.

As for a good time to bring up to a partner, why do you want to tell your partner? Are you telling her so you two can explore watching some of this porn together? Could be a fun way to spice up foreplay or actual sex between the two of you. In this case, I’d say you kinda gotta vibe it out. Maybe wait till you’re exclusive. Or maybe just till you’ve had sex enough there’s been a weird noise and you both laughed it off. Basically, wait till you feel comfortable with her. Since you don’t have a lot of experience disclosing this preference, be gentle with yourself and make sure you feel safe.

But if you prefer to keep watching gay porn a solo activity, you don’t need to tell anybody—not out of shame, but out of lack of necessity. I never really elaborate on my masturbation practice to partners because it’s my time. (Unless huffed à la dirty talk, which usually means I just talk about thinking of them while doing so. Whether or not that’s true, meh.) As a recovering Catholic, I get the compulsive urge to confess anything that remotely feels sinful. However, you’re not doing anything wrong–at all.

If a partner reacts to your vulnerable disclosure like Molly did on Insecure, stop fucking them. For a partner to internalize that information and make it personal is hugely indicative of their own lack of self-confidence. Frankly, she should find such self-awareness and confidence a major turn-on! It’s cool when people have the guts to explore the depths of their sexuality then talk about it with a partner. It can help build trust and, on top of that, some seriously good boning.

10: Post-Sex Sleepovers | 01.06.17

A close friend in Atlanta emailed:

It’s been a minute since I’ve dated (long-term relationship refugee here) and I’m wondering, what’s the protocol for sleepovers post-hookup on a first or second date? I’ve historically always assumed sex led to sleep, but some of my girlfriends have told me otherwise. I tried asking a some recent co-conquests if it was cool if I slept over and they’ve all seemed startled and said something along the lines of “omg duh,” but then I don’t see them after sweet morning coffee and kisses. Is the question giving the wrong impression? How do I make sure I’m not overstaying my welcome without leaving dudes with the idea that I’m tryna bounce?

Gruff as it may sound, it’s best to assume people hope for your swift post-coital exit–unless one or both of you are supremely sloshed (not uncommon on early, nerve-stuffed dates).

Most men hear, “Is it cool if I sleep over?” as, “Are you a nice guy?” Whether or not they want you to sleep over or if they are in fact a nice guy, 98 percent of men will concede. This fact alone keeps me from almost never staying at dates’ homes on first or second dates. The pressure to say yes can render the gesture empty. Who the hell says no, kicking a sex-panion from the ruffled bed to a darkened street corner to await a Lyft Line full of fellow discarded sex-panions?

What does the invite to stay over mean to you? Does it assuage any deep-residing guilt you may feel for fucking what might be essentially a stranger? “They wanna cuddle all night, which means there’s likely feelings so sleeping with them is OK.” Hey, no shame. We’ve all been there, or at least I have.

Don’t go straight from someone cumming to someone leaving. That’s plain bad manners. Stick around some to chat but then make moves to bounce.

In a less romantic sense, most everyone prefers to sleep in their own bed (see our 07 installment). If those wacky lingering post-coital feelings of attraction and closeness persist past morning, you can always broach the sleepover possibility later. Kind of like how people used to consider actually sleeping with someone: maybe wait? Make sure you even like them before you’re trapped to feign adoration over their 6 AM dog breath.

At the end of the hungover Saturday, all men–or people, TBH–want to feel “good.” Not just orgasm-good. We all want to be the seductive sex bandit with a French press, morning oral sex and pours to spare.

But “good” can also mean flipping the Lyft bill–sans the Line qualifier. That’s real class.

09: To Be Or Not To Be With Your Partner On NYE | 12.31.16

A pal in New York–who wanted to be kept anonymous–emailed:

It’s not that I hate my boyfriend’s friends, it’s that their idea of a good time is vastly different than mine, and after doing it last year I don’t want to go to their dumb cocaine-fueled party again this year. I’d rather stay in or do something with my own friends, but there seems to be a lot of pressure around spending New Year’s together, and you know, kissing at midnight and all. I know it’s important to him to see his friends, but how do I get out of joining without harming our relationship?

Everyone knows New Year’s is the most landfill of holidays yet it has the annoying tendency to keep happening. There’s pressure to look smokin’ in sparkles (harder than it sounds), dance your ass off, kiss your sweetie or an attractive alternative, etc. If your NYE sucks, so will the next year!! It’s science. The expectations themselves are more of a headache than the next day’s hangover.

It sounds like being together New Year’s Eve–at least part of it–is important to your partner. However, it also sounds like last year’s go was what most people would consider…not the best. Especially not to you, sweet anonymous friend, because I know you and know you battled with addiction in the past. That facet of your personality alone, I’d wager, would help your partner understand why you may opt for alternative plans. But setting that aside, this scenario still begs for compromise.

I didn’t spend last NYE with my then-partner. I bought tickets to a Coathangers show and went with other friends while homeboy was drinking at a bar next-door. As such, I shared my first kiss of 2016 with a platonic pal still reeling from a truly vile breakup. But as soon as the show ended? I trotted next-door to see my sweetie and kiss him a million more times. Everyone was fine with this arrangement.

That being said, my then-dude wasn’t supremely jazzed on New Year’s and didn’t much mind skipping the traditional kiss with me (who knows if he kissed his companion, a man who ended up ironically linking with the friend I kissed. They’re still together. We are not. Life is weird, yo).

Assuming your boyfriend honors this stress-summoning, surge-rate extravaganza of a holiday, surely he can balance his own enthusiasm with nodding to your discomfort. Like you said, it’s not that you don’t like his friends; you just don’t want to greet the new year after this horrid one in a midst of tight-jawed ding-dongs railing around someone’s apartment.

If there’s an option to party nearby, I say go that route. That way, around 11 you can head your boyfriend’s way. You can toast whatever sparkly stuff is handy, skip the sniff, smooch your babe, then retire back to your own friends. It’s an option that honors your relationship as well as your autonomy–and hell, if you’re gonna spend the night laying a blueprint for the year to come, that’s not a bad one.

08: ‘Tis The Season To Break Up | 12.23.2016

A good friend G-Chatted:

As I’m having some “maybe this isnt the best fit” thoughts: Is it completely savage to break up with someone around the holidays?

OK, here is where I go public as savage myself: I am a firm believer in ending things as soon as you are totally sure, regardless of holidays.

I ended my last serious relationship on my partner’s 30th birthday. Yeah, that sounds super shitty and for both of us, it really was. It was, like most breakups, remarkably complicated, difficult, and painful. We ended the conversation that ended the relationship with copious sobbing and snotty noses. It sucked! And yes, it sucked even more because he was celebrating a milestone birthday. The piñata I bought for his party (which I obviously got uninvited to) sat in my car trunk for months untouched, full of his favorite candy.

However, the relationship wasn’t working. He was on the brink of graduation, with so many career options outside of the city we lived. I was house-hunting in said city. There were other aspects, too, but those two conflicting truths made it impossible to ignore our short timeline.

Breaking up — when you know that’s what needs to happen — is an urgent matter anchored in respect. Short-term, waiting till after the holiday ~joviality~ seems appealing. Save yourself the grief of explaining a missing partner from parties, go to their mom house’s for the big turkey dinner, have someone to kiss on New Year’s Eve. I get it! Bridget Jones is the patron saint of Single During the Holidays for a reason: it’s hard!

Plainly, when you already have your mind made up, but put off pulling the trigger, you are lying. You’re lying to everyone at the party, your partner’s mom, and most importantly, your partner.

Things could be different if you’re leaning towards splitting with someone and they’re stuck in a tough life spot. Maybe they lost their job or a close friend got a horrible health diagnosis.

But we are talking about enduring a calendar here, dictating your and another human’s individual paths forward. You are not protecting someone from hurt by procrastinating till December 26 or they day they turn 30.0027397260273973. That pain has the power to sear much more fiercely should they ever figure that out. And trust, they would.

07: Your Bed Vs. My Bed | 12.16.2016

A friend in Brooklyn emailed:

Hey B-

Love this new column yr doing. (also, picked up yr zines. they’re GREAT) Finally thought of a good Q for you.

I believe self-love is something important to have for yourself, but it’s also important/hot whenever whoever you’re dating also has it. This manifests itself in many ways, but the most immediately apparent is in people’s mattresses. How comfortable your mattress is, and the amount of pillows you keep, can be a direct indicator of how much you love yourself.

Unfortunately, how much you care for someone else doesn’t always line up with how much they care for themselves. Lately I’m feeling guilty because I’m seeing someone who’s sleeping situation is less-than-idle. It’s a twin mattress with two paper-thin pillows, lofted so high that neither of us can sit upright without hitting our heads on the ceiling when we’re chasing rainbows in the dark. To remedy this, I keep setting our dates closer to my apartment than hers. Am I being a classic, chauvinist, prick in not planning with a little more parity? She has to wake up considerably earlier than I do, and her work’s closer to her place than mine, but I love my big comfy bed (and waking up in my own apartment.)

NBD if this doesn’t make the cut- you’ve been cranking out bangers.

One love,


D! I agree self-love is important. Like you, I let my own manifest by way of building up a dope-ass bedding situation. I acquired a pillow-top mattress last year, added an egg crate on top of that, Egyptian cotton sheets, fluffy new pillows, a serious duvet, etc. That’s because I fucking love beds and laying around. I’m actually typing from a bed right now (a friend’s because I’m traveling, but you get the point).

But! I wasn’t always this way and other people still haven’t caught up to the elective bed-ridden lifestyle. When I started seeing someone a few weeks ago, I mentioned how eating nachos in bed on a stony Saturday morning is one of my most pure forms of joy. Although he didn’t openly resent this disclosure, he didn’t exactly share it. For him, self-love didn’t include bedding, which is probably why he is a 33-year-old man sleeping on jersey-knit sheets. Instead, he has the most gorgeous couch I’ve ever seen while I rock a crumbling $50 joint that smelled like cigarettes for the first two years I had it. Priorities differ.

Until last year, I rode out a $100 mattress I bought when I was 19. Towards the end of its decade-long run, it sounded like bad cartoon sound effects–and that’s when I was just existing; checking my phone, reaching for a glass of water or cat, and so on. When I had sex in it, it sounded like B-roll audio for a haunted house married with a tripping, teenage student John Cage. It was very bad, especially for my roommates, I imagine.

There’s theories about whosoever house you stay at more has more power in the relationship. For a variety of reasons, I’m not sold on that. But, I do believe trying to keep where you stay fairly even is plain good manners. I don’t know anyone who’d prefer to not wake up in their own apartment.

Even when I was seeing a dude with a truly dope loft full of beautiful plants, records, La Croix, weed, and a luxe AF bed (PLUS a pool downstairs. The hottest commodity in Atlanta summers), I still resented having to swing by my semi-close apartment before going to work. So even in pretty ideal circumstances, I wasn’t stoked.

Presumably, regardless of your advanced bed game, your partner feels the same.

The fact you prefer your apartment and bed doesn’t make you any of those bad things listed, it just makes you the status quo. As such, you still owe your partner–assuming you like this person–equality in where you stay. If you two end up gelling into something more serious, though, there’s no rule that says you can’t start slowly implementing thicker pillows or whoops, you accidentally ordered two sets of sheet on Prime and hey, why don’t they just keep this extra set as an early Christmas present? No one’s going to get mad at presents.

As for the low-slung ceiling? Well, surely there’s some creative positions that remain almost entirely horizontal. Spooning sex? Actually pretty fucking great when done well. But do research! I have faith in you and the Internet.

06: First Date Sex Y/N | 12.09.16

A good friend asked:

Do we still not sleep with dudes on the first date? Is that old adage still true? Recently I’ve been on three first dates where the dudes seemed pumped (before, during and after me sleeping over) and then texting fizzled to no second date. Did I send weird vibes by hopping in bed?

I think sleeping with someone on the first date should be done on a 900% case-by-case basis. I don’t believe in having rules for that, so I’d call that adage—as a universal rule—outdated.

Dating can be so fun! So can sex! If you vibe with another human and things lead to a consensual interest in boning, there is nothing inherently wrong about that. The introduction of sex early into knowing someone, however, can sometimes turn the new bond’s path if you don’t talk about it.

First off, why are you going out with these dudes? Is it because you want a relationship? Or to plain get laid? Some amorphous combo of the two?

I’m not saying to approach initial encounters like an interview. Once over afternoon drinks with a guy I met through Bumble, he mentioned in passing that he wanted to have kids. And if that didn’t work, then he’d adopt. I appreciated his candor and straightforwardness—even though it was kinda a lot—because he was demonstrating introspection and vulnerability. It’s helpful to have both when going out on dates. And then I knew he probably wasn’t just shooting for a blow job in the parking lot.

It’s good to pay attention to details. What’s the conversation like on these dates before the sex part? And the activities? Where do you meet? Who pays? How many locations are involved? What’s the sobriety level?

Details like these can help reveal a date’s intentions. If he asked you to pick the spot, is listening, kind to wait staff, gives you a buck for the jukebox, that’s dope. If some dude is bemoaning an ex, pushing shots, or not asking any questions about you, that’s not. Whether or not it’s going to end in scheduling a second date or just sex, it’s vital to make sure respect is there.

Frankly, I like to lead with a little summary of what’s up with me. “I just got out of something serious and want to get outside my immediate social bubble.” “I’ve been working too much and need a dance partner.” “I’m at a good spot in my career and life and want to meet other ambitious people.” “I’ve been single for years and never happier.”

Taking the first leap leaves a natural opening for them to fill you in on their status. Again, there’s no need to get into the nitty gritty. First dates should be treated like the first side of your greatest hits album: hit the highlights, make room for a few face-melting guitar solos, but don’t go too deep on those B-sides even you now question. And listen to theirs, too.

They could and might shirk off your graceful opening. From there, you have to decide whether or not you’d be OK fucking this person then never hearing back. And the sex might suck! Are you the kind of person who doesn’t necessitate emotional attachment in order to…attach in other ways? Some people are, some people aren’t. Others—like myself—experience temperamental seasons in which it’s easier to handle casual sex like that.

But just as you’re paying attention to details about them, they’re absorbing your vibe. What are you giving off? Are you really vamping it up and getting handsy under the bar? Do you neglect to mention all the bad-ass professional success you’ve pulled off this year and how dope it’d be to hike with someone on the weekends? You’re communicating a lot, even if it’s not explicitly verbal.

Before sleeping with someone, you have to be OK with worst-case scenario and judging from what you asked, that sounds like them never reaching out again. So, are you?

Keep in mind you also have the autonomy to go home and masturbate. Then you get complete control over your orgasm, don’t have to sweat bediquette with a new human, and can fall asleep blissfully alone in your own bed after eating nachos with no expectation to share. I’m not exaggerating when I say how goddamned empowering it can be to leave a lukewarm or even pretty good first date to retire home and do all that without help from anyone.

Sex, dating, and relationships are hinged on cruel chance. It’s part of this flaming, lolling dice game of life. Is it worth it to you this time—and every time after that—to roll?

05: Messaging Etiquette | 12.02.16

Someone asked:

Here’s my query. I’m very selective in the people that I choose to be friends with on Facebook. Most of them are really good and talented people who I know directly through work or school, while others are friends of friends, so there’s a level of trust. With respect to the females who live in my city (the ones who aren’t married or in a relationship), there are a few whom I find very smart, talented, and attractive. I would like to get to know them better other than reading their Facebook posts.

I’m also on OKCupid and Tinder. While I go through the profiles as I’m swiping left and/or right, I notice that some of those female Facebook friends are also on OKCupid and Tinder. And then there are the friends of friends who are also on Tinder. (Since Tinder is Facebook-driven, it indicates the mutual friends on Facebook we share.)

My questions is kind of two-fold. With respect to those Facebook friends who I find on OKCupid and Tinder, should I reach out to them about hanging out in a more subtle way than outright saying, “Hey, I saw your profile on OKC and Tinder! Let’s go out!” Or if there’s someone on Tinder who shares a friend(s) with me on Facebook, should I mention this to my Facebook friend and ask for an introduction?

My gut feeling tells me that I shouldn’t do either and respect their privacy. Most often especially on OKCupid, I avoid clicking on their profiles. But there are times I ask myself, “What if I did try? Should I take a chance on something that leads to a possible connection?” Again, the likelihood is that I probably won’t pursue this avenue. Does this make sense? Or am I overthinking this?

Your gut feeling is correct. If you see someone you vaguely know on OKCupid or Tinder, all that means is they’re single or otherwise looking—not necessarily interested/open to ~whatever~. It isn’t a bat signal for advances from whoever happens to see them on there. Sorry, if I’m being too subtle. I mean “you.” This doesn’t mean they’re into you.

Avenues like OKCupid and Tinder exist for a very specific reason entirely outside of Facebook. It’s very easy to see if interest is mutual on Tinder via matching. And with OKCupid, should you see someone you vaguely know and want to approach about more possibilities, it’s appropriate to exclusively message them through that channel.

So I have a lot of experiences with this type of interaction.

I met Alex* twice through two separate, former short-term flames. He was pretty foxy and one of said flames even used to tease me for crushing on him. We ran into each other at shows, but never really talked until we matched on Tinder after I became super single. Over tequila in a loud dive bar, I ribbed him: “So why did you never ask me out before Tinder?”

Although we ended up not really vibing in many other arenas, his explanation was pretty solid: “It’s easier to talk with someone if you know they’re open to talking.”

It’s true that having “safe” infrastructures like Tinder, specifically, makes a connection easier. It’s kind of like middle school; asking your friend to ask your crush if they’d reject you or nah. It removes the chance of getting turned down. If you swipe right and they’re Just Not That Into You®, you never have to know for sure thus keeping your fragile ego intact.

Say Alex did approach me at an opening and ask about getting drinks but I snubbed him, that’d surely make for an awkward interaction and possible future weirdness. It’s a risk.

And frankly, the major reason I could tease Alex in the first place is because I wanted him to ask me out. If I hadn’t, I would have been perfectly OK in him absolutely never advancing our barely-there connection. I’ve run into plenty of babe-quaintances on Tinder on whom I swiped right but that was the end—as in, their interest wasn’t reciprocated. And that’s OK! I certainly didn’t fire up Messenger or corner them at a house party after. These apps are now so omnipresent the fact alone you’re both using the apps is not evidence enough to warrant more.

CREEP OUT: The man below and I didn’t match on Tinder, but since he recognized me otherwise, he translated my being on the app to interest specifically in him. If I was interested, I would have swiped right, bro. This is not how to do it.


But, I’m getting off track here. Continue admiring strong women from afar on Facebook and should one happen to surface via a dating app, say hi on that channel. That’s easy with OKC and yes, with Tinder, it could mean waiting—perhaps for forever because they didn’t swipe right.

Don’t forget one of the hottest qualities in human beings is respect. Show that, and if someone really does have interest in you, trust that you’ll find out. Eventually.

04: Long-distance relationships | 11.25.16

Someone asked:

I live in New York and I’m in a serious relationship with someone who lives in India. What should we do?

Oof. Long-distance sucks enough by definition, add a crazy time difference and, uh, entirely different continents and that’s one tough situation.

I truly believe, for long-distance relationships to work, you need two things:

  1. A solid foundation
  2. An agreement the “long-distance” part won’t be forever

Create a plan with your partner for when and how you’ll start living in the same place. Doesn’t have to be New York or India or even particularly soon, but it has to be some place at some point.

When I first moved to Atlanta a couple years ago, I quickly sparked and started something with a man about six hours south. The relationship rooted itself in the excitement of seeing someone sparingly. He arrived to my shitty apartment with flamboyant bouquets and treated me to fancy-ass dinners I could never afford on my own. When I stayed in his gorgeous old house, we took long soaks in his cast iron bathtub. Our time together was always short but defined by the leisure aspect of it. It was vacation and therefore not really representative of what day-to-day life together would look like. And neither of us had interests in moving. He had a good, well-paying job in my college town. I’d only just landed in Atlanta and wanted to get a grasp on this feisty city. It fizzled after just a few months, to no one’s shock, frankly.

Without an arrangement for one of both people to move, long-distance relationships are difficult to sustain healthily.

Though of course there are exceptions. A close friend of mine who lives here has been seeing someone who lives in Florida for years. Since they have some flexibility in their jobs and can work remotely, they have rotating schedules of bunking at his house or hers on occasion but otherwise, from what I can tell, they value and take advantage of the inherent independence of such an arrangement. However, this is a unique arrangement—one that takes heaps of communication and trust and other advanced human skills. As far as I know, neither have plans to move. Perma-long-distance isn’t for everyone. Plus, this specific instance doesn’t involve tons of distance; more like a five-hour drive north or south.

Most people eventually aim to share a home or at least a city with their long-term partner. That’s normal. Assuming you fall into this camp, I’d advise you two to have a very calm, pointed conversation about what you both want for the future. Is it important for them to stay in India? You in New York? What are some individual and shared long-term goals? How does the relationship factor into those? How do you prioritize the relationship (or not) versus other life aspects like career, family, friends, etc.?

Next, develop an intention with a deadline. Perhaps they move to New York after school (I’m guessing pretty hard here since I don’t know many specifics) or you both move to Chicago by this time next year. An agreed plan doubles as a little pinpoint of light at the end of a tunnel. As time passes and you near that deadline, the light will grow, making the distance much easier to navigate in interim.

It’s scary to have conversations like that because you don’t know what you’ll discover. It hurts to learn your partner may be more focused on their professional life rather than romantic one, but it’s essential for everyone to be in the loop. Approach big deals like this one together. Hear out your partner. Be honest about what you want and need, too. Above all else, prepare yourself for the hard work of compromise. It’s very unlikely everything will work out in such a way you don’t have to change anything on your end.

Regardless of distance, compromise comes up in every relationship. So in a way, it’s advantageous your long-distance relationship brings it to the forefront early on. Welcome the challenge and refine communication. Your relationship—and you as a singular person—will be much better for it.

03: Polyamory vs. monogamy | 11.18.16

A friend emailed:

Do you think that people are mostly monogamous or mostly not? This question is a recurring one among some artist friends.

I think although monogamy remains king of Western culture, Americans are increasingly considering polyamory. It’s evolving past far-left, ~free love~ California counterculture and trickling into more conventional East Coast circles.

About a year ago, I visited a moderated discussion in a fancy Atlanta neighborhood on the topic. Prior, I had a vague familiarity based on anecdotes from raver and hippie friends. These attendees could have fallen in either broad sub-cultural group but many looked downright normal, sitting upright in sweater vests and baseball caps.

I consider polyamory a totally noble idea. It realizes an ability to shed such immediate reactions like jealousy and prioritize your partner’s happiness–which, by the way, is called “compersion,” a beautiful concept in which you get psyched for your partners’ other romantic endeavors. That, to me, is next-level human behavior.

Remember, 40-50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. In a way, the perpetuation of monogamy may be seen like trying the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results; in this case, lasting marriages.

Polyamory today barely looks like the hush-hush, debaucherous swingers’ parties of the 1960s–unless that’s what you want. In which case, surely you can find that. The internet has been amazing for de-mystifying this type of lifestyle and helping people in the community find each other. After all, that’s how I found the meeting. Then there’s even more resources like Feeld and 3nder to help couples and individuals find opportunities to connect.

As a society, we’re growing more open-minded to alternative approaches. I think polyamory and other less traditional relationship models are gaining popularity while losing its stigma, which is pretty fucking cool. Most aspects of life are not one-size-fits-all, love and sex included. I’m not sure how the practice of polyamory will develop over time, but I like the idea that people are feeling more comfortable trying new ways of seeing the world.

Regardless of popularity, I support exploring whatever tactics necessary for helping strengthen your relationship(s) as long as no one gets hurt. It may not be for you and your partner, but maybe it is. Seriously, say it aloud: comperrrrrrsion. Have you ever heard a more graceful word?

02: Dating & Social Media | 11.11.16

A person I kinda-sorta know Facebook messaged:

Is something wrong with how I view dating if I’ve grown distant from the idea of being with someone? I mean I just really want to have someone that I can share something special with, but getting older coupled with my own share of disappointments in the dating world has made me feel…bitter? That might be too harsh a word for describing my mental state, but the seed of the concept certainly is there. I suppose something about living in a world so connected, and only seeing the “happy” social media aspects of others lives can cast a negative light over your own day that seems to drag on forever, or a phone that never rings, or that feeling that you are on a small rock in the middle of a wide ocean, and it becomes overwhelming to think about. So yea, I don’t know, and I saw your post, and felt maybe you might know. Anyway, thanks.

First, I’d like to direct attention back to this smug 2014 study which confirmed what us single folks already suspected: many couples who post ceaselessly to social media are…kind of trying to convince themselves of their own relationship satisfaction. So keep that in mind! There’s countless additional studies that reveal a correlation between social media use and inciting FOMO and overall unhappiness, though we won’t get into those here.

What couple do you know broadcasts the trying times? The time someone made someone else feel insecure? The time someone didn’t text someone else back and maybe didn’t even come home one night (or a few)? The time someone forgot the thing and made someone else cry so hard they had to lay down?

Like other aspects of life, most people reserve social media presences for capturing the good stuff. By definition, those accounts do not capture a realistic scope. It’s lopsided.

You waste energy when you compare your life to those around you, especially when you know only a small sliver of those other lives. But, I know it’s hard to not indulge here and there, often triggering a wave of sickness.

Personally, I’m an unsubscribe zealot on the book of faces. Not because I’m not happy for others—I am! You live that life with your two beautiful Swedish-Filipino children and hot blonde husband and backyard beehive and I will proudly display my annual Christmas card from y’all and continuing loving the shit out of everyone in the photo—but because I’m a fallible human. It’s totally natural to get hung-up or jealous or like you said, bitter. Those are biological reactions everyone, regardless of relationship status, is familiar with.

But because you’re a human, you should empower yourself with strength in responding—which sounds the same but is different. Reactions happen without warning or consent. Responses happen when you hold yourself accountable and take charge of your life again.

Unsubscribing is only a small part of the response. Take joy in the single life. Focus on how great it is that you can be spontaneous. A colleague randomly stumbled upon a plus-one to The Jesus and Mary Chain and the show is tonight and they asked you? Dope. Go. Focus on how you can pick what’s for dinner. Every. Single. Night. Focus on how you can eat said dinner in bed—watching endless stretches of HGTV, 10 Things I Hate About You, literally whatever TF you want. Focus on how you get to spend your money on your own backyard beehive or adopting a cat you fell in love with or crates of Topo Chico. Focus on how you ain’t gotta share that Topo.

Being single is a special time that, for many, is finite. That isn’t a good or a bad thing so much as it is a fairly common truth.

01: Ghosting & Cats | 11.03.2016

A pal emailed:

I just read that ghosting blog because I am in the midst of being a ghostee and it sucks. Only it wasn’t 4 months for me. More like 2 weeks of texting through Tinder, then getting her number, then hanging out twice. Really I’ve only known her about three weeks. But I told her I thought she was super rad and wanted to get to know her. I told her how it’s been awhile since I’ve found someone I wanted to get to know. Anyway, I should have taken the hint when she wasn’t very responsive. But she did say she wanted to hang out more. She went on a trip to New York to see friends and family and I sent her a text while she was there asking her to check out a bar with me when she got home. She replied with “Hey I’ll text you when i have free time. I’m pretty busy with friends and family,” and that was 6 days ago and the last text in our box. I want to message her and see what’s up and why she bailed on me. My friends say I shouldn’t worry about it and after reading your blog is making me feel less inclined to do so. So, thanks for writing this! It’s awesome! I just wanted to let you know that. But also at the same time I want to text her. I’m torn!

Of course you want to text her!

My cats are obsessed with closed doors. (They’re both technically man cats, but who cares because they’re fixed so really they’re just cats, but actually it may be relevant to add this detail.) They seriously don’t give a shit about a room till the door is closed, then suddenly it’s, “WHOA HOLY MOLY I’M GONNA BAT AT THIS OBNOXIOUS BLOCKADE TILL I CAN GAIN ENTRY AND IMMEDIATELY UNDERSTAND TRUE HAPPINESS.”

So I open the door, to allow my fur children to follow their quests for inner peace. But the outcome is always the same: disinterest. And should I close them in the room, on the other side of said obnoxious blockade, desperation for escape sets in.

This girl is a closed door. Sure, maybe true happiness does lie on the other side but she’s already made her disinterest clear. Sorry. When you want to see someone again, you’ll find a way. Even if she is traveling and otherwise busy AF, humans are amazing in our ability to invent time to do the things (and people) we want. She isn’t doing that.

Ghosting is a pretty apt indication of immaturity. It insinuates that if you ignore a problem—in this case, you—long enough, it disappears. Even if reaching out somehow sparked this nascent fling anew, it’d be with this openly, petty adult who is still grappling with the concept of object permanence. I think you’re best off trotting along back to normal. Or hell, even take the energy you’ve been spending wondering and drafting and use it to advance a skill or hobby, thus making you even more badass. Spite is a hell of a motivator. Nothing hotter than a cool-headed, talented person too busy being badass to sweat the silent treatment.

You and I and the cats all know what’s on the other side of the closed door. Keep batting at it—texting her—if you want, but it won’t change that.

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