Dear John: Manipulating People
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I have a roommate with a kind of weird hobby: he manipulates photographs of people in our class (we're college students) so that he puts the heads of friends and acquaintances on the bodies of people in some kind of sexual situation. He's actually really good at it (unfortunately) and will frequently match an expression on someone's face with a body chosen so that the combination is quite funny. His "victims" are sometimes men but usually women. Of course, these pictures get circulated quite a bit. I've pretty much stayed out of it, but he recently used a couple of friends of mine in one of his latest creations, and the thought of people sharing these pictures and laughing about them really pissed me off. Now I don't feel it's right to stay out of it. Should I tell my friends what he's up to? Talk to him about it? Or someone else?
Not a Pretty Picture
It's pretty amazing the speed with which every advancement in computer technology is harnessed for the creation or distribution of pornography. Your friend could be using Photoshop to create fine art; he could be in great demand as a highly paid digital photo retoucher; and instead he's putting friends' heads on others' nude bodies. Somehow, it's not surprising.
He is the person you should talk to first. Tell him what he's doing is not funny and it's only a matter of time before someone is badly hurt by the misunderstanding that will inevitably ensue from one of his creations. Tell him he should stop, and that if he doesn't, you will be forced to let your friends know the use to which he is putting their images. What he's doing is the visual equivalent of spreading malicious lies about them, and I think they should know what he's up to. But first, give him the opportunity to find a more productive use of his time and skills.
I've been dating my fabulous boyfriend for over two years and everything about him is perfect except his bank account. I'm lucky enough to have made a lot of money but he is on such a tight budget I feel bad and always offer to pay for things. We are in this for the long haul, but how do I avoid emasculating him while still getting to spoil and shop for him?
Bringing Home the Bacon
I'm not sure you have to worry about emasculating him because a lot of men would not find this scenario particularly emasculating. (In fact, for a particular kind of man, it's kind of a dream.)
One key aspect of this will be the reason for his being on a "tight budget." If it's because he decided to forgo a large income in order to work in a field he finds personally fulfilling, he may have no problem at all with the situation you describe because his circumstances are a result of something he freely chose. If, on the other hand, he is un- or underemployed, then your largess may well have the effect you fear. His overall attitude toward traditional relationship roles will also influence how he feels.
The answer? Talk with him! Share your concerns with him and see what he says. If you are both in it for the long haul, I'm sure that together, you can find a way to enjoy your substantial income without undermining his masculinity.
I live in an apartment with my two best friends, who each have boyfriends that love to hang out, eat, and sleep over in our apartment. They're both great guys, but I'm always wondering, where's mine? He's hardly ever here. It's hard to stay positive when every night I am the fifth wheel. I am sick of watching the happy couples enjoy each other while I cry myself to sleep. Where is my guy and how do I escape the couples' retreat???
Dear Fifth Wheel,
What your roommates do with their boyfriends really has nothing to do with your own happiness. Avoid the temptation to compare your relationship with theirs - put another way, if you had no roommates, would you feel better about how much time you spend alone? Of course not. Your friends may serve as constant reminders of your dissatisfaction, but they have nothing to do with the source of it. If you were happier in your own relationship, you wouldn't be so desperate to escape from theirs.
As with the letter above, the answer is communication. It doesn't sound like you and your boyfriend have much of it. You have to let him know what you need from him, and he has to let you know if that's something he can provide. For all you know, he may think you want him to give you a lot of space. There's one way to find out: ask.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at email@example.com.
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