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Dear John: He’s Not Homophobic; He’s Boring-Phobic

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

 

What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John, 

I’m a male college student. I’ve got a great group of friends and we hang out together all the time. We all get along great, and there has been talk of all of us renting a house next year for our senior year.

The only one of this group I don’t really like is this gay guy who’s known a buddy of mine almost his whole life. They grew up together. The reason I don’t like this guy has nothing to do with the fact that he’s gay, at least not the way you’d think. He’s just really annoying because his gayness is all he ever talks or apparently thinks about. It’s like he decided that since he’s friends with a bunch of straight guys, he’s going to see how far he can push it. Every joke he ever makes has to do with one of us being gay but refusing to admit it or wanting to be gay but being afraid to act on it; everything he talks about when we’re out is which guy he wants or which one wants him but he’s not interested, etc., etc. Here’s the main thing I want to emphasize: I couldn’t care less that he’s gay – he’s just incredibly tedious and boring. It would be no different if he was a big NFL fan and everything he ever talked about was football. Boring. The problem is, my friends seem to enable this behavior in him because every time I say something like, “Does Jack have to come tonight?” I get accused (good-naturedly, but accused nonetheless) of being homophobic. When I explain that I’m not, I’m just boring-phobic, they refuse to take me seriously. And now I’m thinking of finding other living arrangements next year because I can’t take the thought of being subjected to even more of this. I’d hate to do that, though, because I do think that otherwise it would be a lot of fun. Any advice for me? Thanks. I enjoy reading your column.

Signed,

Can We Talk About Something Else?

Dear Can We Talk,

Maybe your buddies have a double standard where your friend’s homosexuality is concerned. But maybe you do, too. Why don’t you just call him out on his fixation – isn’t that what you’d do if, to use your example, all he ever did was talk about football?

Your example is somewhat flawed, as I’m sure you realize. As a gay man, your friend has undoubtedly met with a level of rejection or disapproval that the football-obsessed would not. Maybe, now that he’s part of a group of friends that accept him as he is, this is his way of testing that acceptance to be sure it’s genuine. I have no idea, of course. But I think that to react less than honestly to his tedious single-mindedness is a bit condescending. In a non-confrontational way, the next time the opportunity presents itself, point out that he seems to define himself almost exclusively in terms of his homosexuality, and why does he think that is? Has he encountered a lot of prejudice in his life? Is his family supportive? What’s it like to be gay at your school? Maybe if, instead of expecting him to change the subject, you gave him a chance to expound on it in a way that goes a little deeper than talking about the guys in the bar he thinks are hot, you’ll find a thoughtful young man who has a valuable perspective to share. Give him a chance to do that.

Be aware, though, that there’s also the possibility he’s just a boring, shallow gay guy. If that’s the case, only you can decide if it’s worth enduring the tedium of his company when you’re deciding where to live next year.

 

Dear John,

My boyfriend does something I really don’t like: every time we have sex, he gets out of bed the minute we’re through and takes a shower! At first I thought it was just a weird thing and maybe he needed a shower after working all day, but now it’s a pattern – right after sex, he’s in the shower.

I don’t know if this is unusual or not – I haven’t had a great many sexual relationships. But I enjoy the talking and holding afterwards probably as much as the sex itself, so I really don’t like this. It also makes me feel like he thinks I’m dirty. Is this common, or what? How can I get him to stop – I know we have to talk about it, but what should I say? I don’t want to embarrass him…or myself!

Sincerely,

A Clean Escape

Dear A Clean Escape,

I don’t think you have to worry about whether this is unusual or not. The simple fact is you don’t like it, so you’re right: you have to talk with him about it. What should you say? Exactly what you said in your letter – after sex, you’d like it if he didn’t jump out of bed and head for the shower so the two of you could have some time to talk, hold each other, etc. Before you initiate this conversation, it would be good if you had an idea of what would be acceptable to you. For example, would it be okay if he got up, say, half an hour later? Do you expect him to stay in bed for the night at that point (assuming it’s at night)? Having an idea of an acceptable compromise will give this conversation a goal to work toward. Don’t worry about embarrassing him or yourself, either. Your needs aren’t being met and you want to talk about it. That’s what couples should do. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

 

Dear John,

I need some advice regarding a trip we’ll be taking soon to visit my husband’s mother and stepfather.

The problem is our teenage son. He is a great kid – smart, respectful, creative, curious…he’s amazing. He’s also very artistic and socially aware and likes to be a little boundary-pushing and provocative about the way he dresses. For example, sometimes he will wear fingernail polish or eye makeup. My husband and I have never encouraged or discouraged this – we have tried to explain to him that some of these gender “experiments,” as he calls them, are bound to elicit disapproval occasionally, and as long as he is aware of that and prepared for it, they’re fine with us.

See where this is heading? My husband’s stepfather is a gruff, very traditional, old-fashioned guy. He’s not a bad person by any means. He’s just very set in his ways and has little tolerance for exactly the type of thing my son likes to do. I don’t want to tell my son he has to act in a way that’s inauthentic, but I’m already very stressed at the thought of being under the same roof with my son and my father-in-law for five days. They live on the West Coast, so we don’t see them often and this hasn’t had a chance to be a problem yet. And I know my mother-in-law is really looking forward to it, so I’d feel terrible if this trip turned into a disaster. Do I tell my son just to tone it down for a few days? Does that make it seem like I think there’s something wrong with what he does, or that he should sacrifice his own beliefs to get approval from someone who’s intolerant? I just want a nice pleasant trip.

Signed,

Anxious Mom

Dear Anxious Mom,

I like the way you’ve supported your son so far, and I think you should continue to do that on this trip. Talk with your son and your husband about what you all might expect and be prepared for various scenarios.

Your son obviously knows the way he dresses will be seen as an affront by a certain type of person, and your father-in-law sounds like a prime example. So if Dad starts wondering why you let his grandson dress like a girl (as I suspect he will put it), that question shouldn’t come as a surprise. At all. So answer it. Have an adult conversation about it. Maybe he will be more open-minded than you expect.

Or maybe he will appall you. Questions are fair, but insults are not. If Dad is up for an exchange of views, great, but if he becomes insulting or disrespectful, let him know that won’t be tolerated, and if that’s how he feels about how his grandson chooses to dress, it would probably be best for everyone if he just excused himself from any get-togethers for the remainder of the trip. Let your husband’s mother join you for meals, outings, and so on, and let Dad stay home. (There is always the chance that he will forbid his wife from taking your side in this – again, this is how I suspect he will see it. If that’s the case, that’s really unfortunate, but accept it. It’s not your job to make sure everyone has a good time – not if that means tolerating insults from a man like this. She married him, not you.)

That brings me to the second thing I would encourage you to do: stay in a hotel. If money is tight, stay in a cheap one. I’m assuming from your letter that you’re planning on staying with your husband’s parents, and I think that’s a mistake. You need some place to escape should he make an escape necessary.

I understand you’re anxious, and I don’t mean to sound like this will be easy or free of uncomfortable moments. But you’re raising your son with a certain set of values, and I don’t think you should teach him that these values are to be suspended to indulge rude, overbearing, or close-minded people.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected]

 

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