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Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.

Humor Is In the Mind of the Beholder

Woman reading

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

I’m a woman, 20s, and new mother. My daughter’s three months and healthy, so we are blessed. My husband has a best friend, “Chuck,” and they have been inseparable since childhood. We live close to Chuck, who is single and sort of a playboy/world traveler. He’s also a bit juvenile but nothing too unmanageable. My problem is his sense of humor. He’s given us a couple of children’s books with barely censored profanity in the titles, about going the f**k to sleep, or reminding that you have to f**king eat, tired parent humor I guess but I find it distasteful. The whole idea is tacky, but my daughter’s also newborn and these books look like they’re for parents of toddlers!

To make matters worse, now he slips in dirty jokes about kid’s cartoon characters, not around my baby yet but this behavior is getting to seem creepy. How do I tell him to lay off the humor at children’s expense? What made him this way?

- Mama Bear and Loving It

Hi Mama Bear,

I do not want to knock anyone’s literary efforts, and comforting a sleep-deprived, overstressed parent with a few adult chuckles is a noble effort indeed. That said, I do not really get it either. I can handle being offended just fine but when something is not actually funny, well that is where I draw the line. I cannot tell you why some folks like to “adultify” children’s precious childhood moments, such as posting entire galleries of the Christmas elf doll in compromising positions or writing dirty jokes into films clearly marketed to the pre-pubescent population; you know the titles already. Maybe no one is traumatized, but I feel like I have been because it is also not even funny! Then I laugh and remind myself, “To each his own,” and find something truly funny to amuse myself.

Chuck is also off the mark developmentally, as you noted. For all we know, he may not have a single clue about the rest of the world around him. I do not think overanalyzing anyone else’s weird sense of humor is going to yield much insight or make them change to suit your tastes. Laugh it off when you can, but if your kid is exposed in any way to humor you find inappropriate, you have license to be blunt, as in, “We do not use that kind of language around little Sosie, thanks for refraining,” or, “This gift is not really appropriate for Tallulah; it is probably hilarious but is not age appropriate, and/or not really our thing.” Chuck sounds tough; I think he can take it.

Revolted by Rape Culture

Hi Tim,

I am the mother of two teenage boys. Recently, a female teacher at their school was arrested for having sex with male students, and she awaits trial. My boys were not involved, but my husband finds this fodder for tiresome jokes about the boys “scoring,” and his sons are jealous because they didn’t “get some,” etc. I confronted him about it, but so many of their friends and their parents and relatives joke about it that I wonder if my protest even matters.

- Revolted by Rape Culture

Hi Revolted,

A recent well-publicized sentencing would suggest that you are not alone in your disgust. Minimizing the crime of adults having sexual relations with children, regardless of gender, makes for sick humor, especially when the perpetrators are educators and clergy and such; so-called professionals trusted to nurture and protect those children. There will always be a cheering squad of immature goons who apply that double standard to male victims of female predators, but introduce the tiniest tweak at all in that dynamic; a male offender or a female victim or a male victim so young they actually deserve sympathy from the aforementioned goons, and suddenly the offense is acknowledged as genuine. That is a pathetic and harmful defense.

Adults of either gender who look for sex from children are predators, engaging in directly motivated behaviors using their power differential to violate a child for their own selfish and warped needs. That is terrifying and all we need to know. Male children are hurt the same as female children. For anyone who cares to make exceptions here and there, for this and that, please do some serious soul-searching about your priorities. Some adults in their life may continue the winking and joking and inappropriate, disrespectful comments, even if you can encourage them to tone it down in public, but nothing will stop you from sitting your sons down to talk with them about how to recognize adults who are so damaged that they prey on children, and report them to authorities 100% of the time.

Mod As Hell

Hi Tim,

I am the founder of an online support group for survivors of abuse. When we started, I believed that members were actually being helped. Now, the group has morphed into some kind of humor and amusement message board where people are either talking completely off the topic or bickering about trivial things like what is and is not abuse, etc. After four years, I don’t even recognize this project anymore, I’ve come to hate it and I think I would be happier to just abandon it altogether. How do I get members to shape up or ship out?

- Mod As Hell

Hi Mod As Hell,

Nothing can erase the good work you have done or change how much you have helped victims. That is a pretty cool legacy. I call it that because you seem to have a direction already. The internet is a fluid thing; people come and go, participation ebbs and flows according to real life responsibilities, and sometimes projects have a good run but when it ends, sometimes there are new beginnings. You did not mention any copyright or trademark issues, so I will assume you are free to start another group or a different project or none at all. You sound ready to do just that, and I support you. Change is good, and suffering through interaction that no longer leaves you fulfilled is not worth whatever you would be trying to prove. The biggest advantage of working online may be that your skills are absolutely portable. You can pack them up and take them wherever you want to go.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/aseph

Unmentionables

Underwear

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

I want to share some of the feedback from the column a couple of weeks back; at least the highlights, because there was a lot! It involves wearing the underwear of the opposite sex, in response to an original letter from a man who prefers to wear panties, among other things, but his underwear preference seemed to resonate with various readers. Mostly they were other males with the same preference, but we have one letter representing the flip side; a woman in briefs! So, forget London and forget France, this week’s theme is underpants! I am exposing you to a flashing glance at this once-taboo practice from the actual people experiencing it.

Hi Tim,

After reading your article today I felt compelled to share my story. I've got 40 years on the young fellow who had his first experience wearing his girlfriend's panties. I discovered women's underwear as a young boy and always wondered why "theirs" is so much more comfortable than "ours". Only when I became much older, I finally figured it out, I think. Women's clothing in general, and their underwear specifically, are designed primarily to be sensual first and foremost and then functional. Men's clothing is simply designed to be functional, period. I grew up wearing heavy, thick cotton jockey shorts that were miserable on warm/hot days, and chafed my inner thighs. Later I started secretly wearing my Mom's panties and bingo, I've been hooked to the sheer comfort ever since. Why can't men's underwear be more sensual? Probably because some guys would walk around semi-hard all day and our culture couldn't deal with it. Wearing women's hi-cuts or full briefs is a relief to wearing muslin-like shorts for men. No one needs to know, and my girlfriend isn't "threatened" by it (we go panty shopping together and have fun). There's a website called He Wears Panties, and a line of underwear for men on another site called "Manties". I encourage all men to give women's underwear a try, you'll be shocked at the difference after a full day's wear! p.s. "Boy Short" panties don't work (you'll figure it out). My favorites are Hanes Hi-Cut Micro-Fiber Nylon panties, and the Cadillac of panties, Vanity Fair.

Hi Tim,

I want the young man writing to you about wearing panties to please calm down and enjoy life just as he pleases. I’m a straight man, 52, who has worn panties most of my life, since I was in junior high school. My wife is still not freaked out by it after 30 years together, but doesn’t let me borrow hers because I stretch them out. We have completely different brand loyalties anyway. I’ve tried the silk boxers, and even men’s underwear that look sort of like panties in a catalog, but for some reason the fabric is so cheap and too thick! Who told these designers that men want to sweat more than we already do? Panties are the next best thing to commando, and I recommend them for all men. If Westerners weren’t so uptight and rigid about gender roles and expressions, I believe most men would be in panties for the rest of their lives.

Hi Tim,

I want to thank you for last week’s letter about the man who likes to wear panties. I’m a boxer boy myself, 17, but I recently caught my 12 year old brother ordering panties online and hiding them in his room. I really don’t understand the thing about women’s underwear, since he isn’t turned on by them or gay or interested in other women’s clothes, but I can grasp that a kid having to hide his underwear like some dirty, bad thing he had done is probably not a healthy way to grow up.

Reading your column helped me bring this up again and have a conversation with him. He’s too scared to wear panties on any day that he has gym or may have to change away from home, but he’s going to be able to wear them on other days and at night. With a little compromise, he’ll be able to be comfortable and be himself. So, my brother and I thank you for addressing a silly matter for just what it is.

Hi Tim,

I’m 26 and I’ve had a long-term habit of dressing in the underwear of the opposite sex, but I’m a woman! To be specific, a lesbian who lives up North, where temperatures drop below zero and anyone wearing a skirt, as I prefer to do most often, can catch a continuous draft cold enough to form icicles in her crotch. I know about cotton-padded panties, but they bunch up and gather so much I feel like a granny walking around. At a young age, I discovered that men’s tighty-whities or boxer briefs, on the other hand, are just thick enough for warmth and my wife and I have always enjoyed the handy opening in the front. We both wear them, but neither of us dress or act butch at all. Like the letter writer says, it is a matter of comfort and nothing else. We would like to speak up for other women out there who prefer men’s underwear!

Hi Readers,

Thank you all for being so supportive to each other and sharing resources. If we can lighten up about something as personal and harmless as underwear, perhaps we can relax those gender norms that are so rigid and oppressive. Men and women are more alike than different, after all. We are all human and we ought to be able to share something that is 100% exclusive to our species; underwear.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/dglavinova

It's My Panties and I'll Sit If I Want To

Underwear

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

I’m a man, 23, college grad starting a good career and living with my girlfriend for a year now. I’m also small framed, very short and lightweight. This was difficult growing up but I’ve accepted it. My girlfriend doesn’t mind and even asked me to wear her underwear once because she thought it was sexy. I guess it was, but I actually liked wearing them and I’ve since bought several pairs of my own. The silk and lace just feel better to me during the day. Unfortunately, urinals aren’t completely private in some places and there are obvious design differences, so I started peeing sitting down, in a stall and found out I prefer that too! It just feels more natural for me. I want to be clear that I’m 100% straight, not effeminate and I’m not transgender but also have no problems with people who are like that. I was born in the correct body because I identify as a man. But, this man likes to wear panties and pee sitting down! There’s nothing sexual about it, only comfort.  My girlfriend found the underwear and asked me about it, but once she understood it was mine didn’t even care. She comes from a very liberal family; mine would lose it over something like this. Is this healthy behavior? Why am I like this?

- Lacey Lad

Hi Lacey Lad,

I wonder if your girlfriend, or a family member, or anyone close to you, had a significant problem with your undergarments or potty posture, then would you change back for them? If you did, my next question would be why? Your inclination toward sitting is shared by other cultures and even promoted by public officials as a preventative health measure, but ultimately the matter appears to be one of mere preference. Life is short and difficult enough with so many sacrifices and compromises; if you cannot satisfy your simple preferences for silky underpants and sitting down to pee, neither of which hurt or even affect anyone around you and give you comfort, then who cares why you like it? Go ahead, like it and do it.

Of course, be mindful of your surroundings and who you share this story with and generally stay safe. Be sure to buy a large enough size and always wear a clean pair of panties because I cannot silence my mother’s voice in my head at this point, but live your life the way that you want to live it with no apologies. You are asking for so little! Please treat yourself- and your accepting partner sometimes as well- and remember that you owe no one other than maybe her an explanation.

Cuckolded Correspondence Caretaker

Hi Tim,

I’m male, 32 years old. I lived with my girlfriend for 9 months before I caught her cheating with one of her male coworkers. I say catch, but actually I just found receipts from one of several weekend getaways they had at expensive resorts when she had told me that she was going to a wedding or on a business trip. I discovered more evidence, then his name and confronted her. She was having so much trouble lying trying to cover it up that she finally just confessed, and in a very mean and hurtful way to me. We split on bad terms, she moved out of my apartment and I told her to forward her mail several times but it appears she did not notify everyone. I’m still getting junk mail and what look like collections notices from her credit cards that she used to rendezvous with her new man. I guess the responsible thing to do would be to mail all these to her new address but I don’t know it and I don’t want to. I also don’t want to call her to get it because I have finally gotten her out of my head and my life, and I want it to stay that way. Could her financial situation get worse if I don’t send these notices? I want to do the right thing but it feels like this is not my problem so what do you think?

- Cuckolded Correspondence Caretaker

Hi Caretaker,

You gave you ex warning, and now those handy adult living skills should be kicking in and telling her to do some housecleaning, like forwarding her own mail or paying her own bills. If extending courtesy means you have to contact her again and this makes you anxious, then avoid the postal panic. You can mark the mail “return to sender,” or even call the senders and let them know she no longer lives there and you have no forwarding address. If neither of these work, institute your own dead letter office, i.e. your nearest waste basket. Being considerate to an ex does not mean having to be a valet or a social worker; she moved, so the duties regarding adjustment of correspondence are hers alone to bear.

Second Chance Scandal

Hi Tim,

I’m a 48 year old guy and divorced from my wife of 18 years. The reason for our divorce was that we lost our 16 year old daughter two years ago in an auto accident that was not her fault. We never recovered, and my wife suggested therapy. I refused for several months and finally gave in and went. Oddly, she got nothing from the therapy and stopped going. I, on the other hand, thrived with this new support that my wife had never given me and I have kept going. I attended for so long that my therapist suggested I might be ready to transition to her support group because individual therapy would not be needed much longer. My problem with that; I am in love with her. My therapist is so much better a partner for me than my wife ever was and she truly makes me feel alive again. I’m working out, gunning for a promotion at work and volunteering, getting back in touch with friends and I owe the motivation to this new love. I know I’m a walking cliché, in love with my therapist but the way she laughs and remembers little things about me and our jokes tell me there may be something there for her, too! I’m tired of being so lonely and if I’ve met the right person, who cares how we met? I want to ask her out but I should quit therapy first, so that she would be free to explore this without professional repercussions. Isn’t there some way love can find a way for someone so broken?

-Second Chance Scandal

Hi Second Chance,

I am so sorry to hear about your daughter but I do not want you to be hurt anymore. This is not your second chance at love. I am 99.9 percent sure of that. I try to never say never, but this is one of those topics that always tempt me to do so because that number pretty accurately describes the odds that a therapist-client romantic relationship will never work out. You have been hopping from one emotionally-charged and/or traumatic experience to the next without a break; losing a child, a marriage falling apart, falling in love. Does it seem kind of intense? Just reading your letter makes me exhausted trying to imagine the roller coaster you must be on; it sounds as if you may have had little time to even grieve.

You would benefit from disclosing your feelings to your therapist; in order to end the relationship. Ask for a referral to another therapist or group and attend as long as necessary. Say goodbye forever to this paid professional. A therapist is like a mirror; they serve a purpose in order to help you see things more clearly. That is their only purpose, but it affords them some measure of power and that power differential between you may be forever impossible to overcome. You may be in love with the feeling you get from talking with her, or the confirmation that you are not alone, but you are not in love with this flesh and blood human woman because you know nothing about her personally! Even if your feelings were reciprocated, which is doubtful, in most states there is a mandatory waiting period of at least 2 years before a therapist may have any kind of personal contact with former clients, their spouses or their family members. Keep your same number if you like, and if she wants to contact you she will have it. She probably will not do that, but you will no longer care, because instead of denying your loss by focusing on more relationships, you will have taken time to acknowledge your own feelings of loss, and perhaps even moved on in a real relationship with reciprocity. I wish you the best future possible, and you do have one to look forward to because you are already a survivor.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/Nik_Merkulov

Not That Book By Nabokov

Lolita fashion

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

I’m a 28 year old man with one sibling, a sister who is 16 and of course still lives at home. She is a straight A student and well-behaved, likes gaming and anime, but has taken up an interest in Lolita culture. From what I’ve read, it’s a lot of frou-frou dresses and girly pink bows and ribbons and harmless fashion. But, she has taken two part-time jobs and spends every dime she earns on these dresses. She has no savings, no car and is not even interested in driving. The only people she associates with are other Lolita girls, which is only about enough time to go to conventions for this stuff because she is always working to pay for it! I feel like she should be paying a bit more attention to her future than she is to some fashion crap but she is obsessed and refuses to talk about scaling back her purchases. This looks more and more like addiction to me, and wasn’t the book Lolita about a pervert who lusted after little girls? Should our parents be more concerned about her attending these conventions?

- No-Lita

Hi No Lita,

I can suggest a good start for your approach; stop calling your teenage sister’s passions crap. That will never help. If this straight A, responsible teenager who also manages to hold down two jobs wants to parade around dressed like Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games then more power to her. She has earned this indulgence.

Any convention-going teenagers should be properly briefed on avoiding predatory adults, but that should be enough for such a mature young woman, and I also think you may be getting your pop culture lines crossed. Lolita subculture, popularized in Japan and based on Victorian-era clothing generally conveys modesty, perhaps as a reaction against so much skin showing in modern popular culture. Petticoats, corsets and long skirts are often accessorized with lace, knee socks, heavy makeup and fancy hats. The movement is linked to anime and manga and it has spawned various subgenres, including gothic and male versions. It probably has more to do with empowering women, whereby they reclaim femininity on their own terms, than sexualizing underage girls, despite the name Lolita unfortunately and unavoidably referencing Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel.

This may be reassuring to you, but I understand that will not keep money in your sister’s bank account. Perhaps you could make recommendations that are helpful without poo-pooing on her pretty puffy parade. She could start a cosplay exchange with kindred spirits online, or even take up the fading art of sewing, and you could even gift her a few lessons to get her started if a family member cannot teach her. A lot of cosplayers have varying levels of sewing skills for practical reasons. If she already knows how to sew and has an interest, encourage it and show your support. This could help her save a little money, and allow her to get even more creative with this innocent hobby.

Stress Eater Helper

Hi Tim,

I’m a 25 year old career girl who recently started a job in the medical field. I made friends with a coworker and we get along great but I discovered something really strange about her. At her place, there were all these promotional stress balls that we get all the time; no big deal, it’s not theft, but there were pieces missing from them. I thought it was her dog until I fell asleep on her couch while we were watching a movie. I woke up and saw her nibbling on one! I pretended to be asleep because I was so uncomfortable but a few days later she ripped off a chunk of one in her car and was just feeding herself little bites from it while driving. I confronted her about it. I know that there’s no ways that’s healthy, but she says she talked to her doctor and he approves. That can’t be true but I really care about her and enjoy her company, I’m just not sure what I can do to help her?

- Stress Eater Helper

Hi Helper,

You may already be aware that the disorder pica refers to compulsive eating of materials that have no nutritional value. It mostly occurs temporarily in childhood. Despite reality television shows’ flippant portrayal of adults suffering from this condition, there are indeed serious medical risks. Paint chips may contain lead or other toxins. Eating objects that cannot be digested, such as the foam rubber your friend fancies, can cause constipation or blockages in the digestive tract and bowels. Hard objects can tear the lining of the esophagus or intestines. Bacteria from these objects can cause infections that damage the kidneys or liver. In the long-term, eating non-food objects can replace eating healthy food, and thereby lead to malnutrition.

If you have a genuine friendship, a friendly intervention should be no threat. Involve mutual friends, family or whomever you know together. It is absolutely necessary for the sake of her health. If her doctor actually approves of her eating foam rubber- which I also doubt is true- she needs a new doctor or at least a second opinion. An immediate medical evaluation including blood tests and x-rays is most important, but behavioral intervention will also be necessary. Counseling may help her modify her behavior and reduce her impulse to ingest inedibles. Let her know that whatever treatment lies ahead, she will not be going through it alone.

Game But Gagged

Hi Tim,

I’m a happy-go-lucky lady, 29 dating this really good-looking guy I met at work. He’s so hot with a body that won’t quit, which I’m hopefully soon going to ravage for the first time but I can’t work up the nerve because he has the most revolting breath I’ve ever smelled in my life. We’ve kissed a few times and I had to fight my gag reflex; it’s something like a burned dirty diaper filled with Sulphur and it’s unbearable. I avoid him when he wants to kiss now and I think he suspects something, but I have no idea how to tell this being of absolute physical perfection that his mouth stinks. Do we have a chance?

- Game But Gagged

Hi Gagged,

Halitosis can result from poor dental hygiene but may be a sign of other health problems. You did not mention smoking or chewing tobacco, but these are also obvious and easier to address. Designer mints or mouthwash in a fancy box could be passed off as an innocuous gift, but ultimately this will only provide a temporary fix.

You can try a quick, “Hey, your breath smells different. Do you need to see the dentist?” This will either fill in the blanks with a backstory- maybe he has poorly fitted dental fixtures, cavities and no dental insurance or a fear of dentists- or it will inspire him to make an appointment that should be happening every six months anyway. If gum disease is the culprit and it goes untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the gums and even the jaw. Dry mouth may be a side effect of various medications, saliva gland issues or constant mouth breathing, and it can cause bad breath when there is not enough saliva to wash away dead cells and neutralize acids. There are a lot of illnesses known to cause bad breath, including respiratory tract and sinus infections, diabetes, acid reflux, and kidney or liver diseases. A dentist can confirm or rule out a bad tooth or gum disease, in which case a primary care doctor would be consulted to further investigate the origin of this fetid face funk.

Good old fashioned observation may help, too. I do not want to rush things by suggesting you brush your teeth together, but you can observe him do this before you both go out in the morning or evening, and sneak in a couple of questions here and there. Does he brush twice a day, brush his tongue and stay well hydrated with water? All of these things contribute to fresher breath.

If he eats foods with strong odors like garlic or onions, then brushing and flossing and mouthwash will only cover up the odor briefly; it may only go away after the food completely passes out of the body. Getting to know his habits will help you pare down suggestions so they sound less critical, but if he is not getting the message feel free to put your concerns out there bluntly. After all, you care enough to be concerned for his health and you want to get intimate with him as soon as possible. If one of those does not motivate him, maybe he is just a pretty face… to look at, anyway.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/taka

Temper-Temper, Temp

Office rivalry

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

I’m a 24 year-old woman and paralegal, laid off last year and took a temp job in January for a firm that recently lost a long-term employee. Another temp lady and I are in the running for this permanent position with great benefits, perks and lots of career potential. She and I started off friendly enough, but then she started making sarcastic remarks to me in front of others, joking about my performance and alluding to the fact that she would certainly win the fight for this position. Now, she has begun showing up a half-hour earlier than we usually do so she can grab a few minutes with one of the partners. She flirts so hard with any male in authority it is uncomfortable to watch. When we work together on a project she takes more credit than she deserves, and she has begun making sarcastic comments to me as she passes my desk, all related to her impending victory over me. I called her out on it once and she spat back at me that we could “take it outside” whenever I’m ready. I’m not even sure she was joking. Over the past week, the jokes have become declarations that she is going to beat me up.

Even though I’m very laid back and easy-going, I’m ready to confront her and tell her to back off. Would that make her worse? I don’t want to involve HR and be labelled a complainer.

- Tempered Temp

Hi Tempered,

As documented among the eloquent prose collection of Ron Burgundy, “Boy, that escalated quickly!” Your coworker went from light-hearted office banter to bitter rivalry to Ronda Rousey in only a few sentences! You are completely justified in wanting to exclude HR while competing for this coveted position, but threatening assault crosses a professional and personal line, and merits at least a notification to the department head.

However strong her game may seem to you now, in the office, it sounds a bit desperate from way out here in objective cyberspace. If flirting and plagiarism are primary among her skillset, she may not have the momentum to land the job. A quick word with her- in front of witnesses- will allow you to request that the jokes stop, as you do not find physical threats to be funny. Also, be mindful of laying claim to your work immediately should you have the misfortune of working together again. Otherwise, let her unpleasantness and lack of character speak the loudest, while you keep your head down and your eyes on the prize. Her antics will probably be her undoing. However, if her behavior is the kind that is rewarded in this particular firm, you may be better off pursuing a career elsewhere.

Hi C

Hi Tim,

I’m a woman, 20, and struggling sophomore in college. After the hell of my spring semester, my brain is completely fried and I’m glad to be working, but I made two Cs during that semester. I worked so hard! Granted, science and math aren’t my strong areas and those are where I took the hits, but I feel like such a failure! My GPA is now 2.9 and I’m ashamed to talk about my grades with my parents, my best friend, or anyone else. I thought C was average? Why do I feel like such a crappy loser?

- Hi C

Hi C,

Oh… I see what you made me do there; a sign of above-average cleverness in my humble opinion. Consumerism is poisoning education, and there is no better marker for that than grade inflation. This trend hurts everyone over time, and makes a college degree worth less and less. Of course I cannot reflect on your level of effort. Some students have an inflated sense of entitlement guiding their delusion that simply trying at all is enough; it most certainly is not. However, others give their best, most sincere efforts and still receive disappointing grades. My own ego took a violent assault from mathematics, the one subject I could not master, which severely undermined my confidence and unlike most other subjects, my grades were only average. They improved in statistics; a much better fit for me.

Do not let the subjects you struggle with prevent you from shining in your best areas. Utilize those office hours and meet with your professor for advice. Arrange for tutoring when you can; either formally or by teaming up with a classmate who excels in that class and seems to achieve with little effort. Aim for an A but do be proud of an occasional hard-earned C. You can and will improve your GPA by using your strengths to offset weaknesses, but chronic anxiety and stress can continue to affect your physical and mental health long after graduation.

Weary Wife and Mother

Hi Tim,

I’m a mother of two, 34 years old here. I have a 14 year-old honor student son who excels in sports, and then a 12 year old son who self-identifies as “gender fluid.” He wants to wear dresses and nail polish on his fingers and toes, but also play soccer and fish. He is moody all the time because his brother and I are struggling with his choice. We are just simple country people. If he were just wanting to be a girl, okay or gay, okay. But what the hell is gender fluid? He says he thinks boys or girls are cute, has no preference for anything in particular, but wants to express himself with no thought to the stares and the ridicule we have to endure. He is too young to make choices like this and his father is a roughneck in the oil fields; I am all alone here for weeks sometimes, how am I supposed to break this to his father? He is not “out” to him yet and plays it straight when Dad is home. His Dad will not understand, but he is not judgmental, either. If my son can hide it, how is this real? I don’t want to traumatize him but I need help understanding.

- Weary Wife and Mother

Hi Weary,

We have imposed such rigid gender roles upon children with near zero tolerance for any variations that phenomena like genderfluidity curiously seem to give us pause.  Flip that for a moment; what the hell are gender roles? Why are we so sensitive about the color pink, dresses, trucks and dolls, and who gets to play with them? We already know from research that dressing a certain way or playing with certain toys has no effect on sexual orientation or anything else, so why do we keep imposing this mandated identification on innocent children? They already know what they are inside and they will be attracted to whichever or both genders. Fashion and developmental play, and even gender nonconformity, are harmless yet we continue to cling to these silly social conventions that elevate them to “issues.” Our children express themselves and grow and sometimes they change or never change. Genderfluidity is nothing new. Miles Robbins, son of actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, penned a very thoughtful article on our outdated interest in gender roles. If you are seeking support, check out the non-profit Gender Spectrum for educational articles and join a support group. Many of your questions can be answered there, and relieve some of your anxiety.

In reference to the more important issue I have said in the past, comparisons are for prices, not people. Comparing yourself to others, or others to others, is time wasted and will never provide resolution. You actually opened your letter with a comparison of your two children, and this has me much more concerned than your kid’s gender identification. Depending on the level of distress in your family, and Dad’s reaction when he does finally hear the news, you might want to seek brief family counseling. Please do not forget that both of your children have different gifts and different challenges. Make sure that whatever step you take next, it is toward bringing your family together.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/Syda Productions

Currently Closeted

Family

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

I'm gay and I am out (and proud) to everyone except my family. I do not think that they will react in a way that brings me danger or kicking me out. But I know that they will become very uncomfortable around me for a very long time. My family has been through some rough stuff together and I feel like we are finally in a good place. I don't want to be the one to mess up the dynamic. I hate being looked at by them as an other. I just want to be a daughter.

Sincerely,

Currently Closeted

Hi Closeted,

Congratulations on coming out! I am happy to hear you have supportive people in your life. I am guessing you are younger, and if so double congratulations on taking this brave step early in life. The closet is a great metaphor for concealing our sexual identity. We can hide in there for years without anyone bothering to look, but they tend to be small, dark and lonely places.

Coming out to family, especially parents, is rarely easy. You could become closer, but there is the risk of rejection, even without outright homophobia, abandonment or physical threats. Family members may already have picked up on signs but denied them, and now they will have to admit the truth to themselves. To help smooth the transition, here are some guidelines I suggest for a healthy coming out.

Pick an appropriate time. Do not come out in an argument or any time marked by anger or resentment to avoid the news being associated with negative feelings. You did not mention siblings, but if you have them you may already be out to them. If not, it tends to be favorable to come out to them separately, but close together in time.

Understand that your family needs time. They may alternate between acceptance and rejection in the near future. A gay relative may be a good contact person for your family to learn more about the gay and lesbian experience. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) offers peer support and education that confront some of the misinformation and stereotypes. For example, the notion that therapy will help. Unless there is another issue, you were hard-wired for homosexuality, and therapy aimed at changing you is harmful and abusive and denounced as unethical by the medical and psychological professional communities. The charlatans out there who promote it use pseudoscience to promote their agenda for religious, financial or political reasons.

Be prepared to teach. Your sexual identity is not a choice. It is biological and you cannot control it any more than they can control theirs. Making reference to whose fault it is or what they did wrong suggests that there is something wrong. There is not. Be patient as you teach your parents appropriate language. PFLAG can recommend great books if your parents respond better to literature and thinking about this on their own. Parents need to understand that their hopes and dreams for your life are not affected. You can still be successful, get married and have children as long as you want those things too. You are also a living example. Homophobia thrives when we stay hidden. Lots of families have the capacity to achieve acceptance, but not if we remain an invisible minority. They need to see you holding hands and cuddling on the couch with your girlfriend, hear about fights and breakups and falling in love in order to learn that you are not so different. The more visible you are, the more their anxiety is reduced. Encourage them to use their words if something makes them uncomfortable.

Explain why you are coming out. You love them and you were raised to be an honest woman, not insult your upbringing or your loved ones by living and maintaining a lie so that everyone around you can live in denial. Tell them about your gay and lesbian friends, that you know about safe sex and also about discrimination and you are ready to live an honest life and defend yourself in this unfair world. Describe the stress you have been under by living in hiding, and how this ultimately separates you from them because you cannot truly be yourself around them.

You will always be your parents’ daughter and being yourself does not “mess up” your family dynamic. You are a beautiful gay human being who was meant to be exactly what you are and that diversity has always existed naturally in the world, independent of whatever noise people have made up in their heads. Your family has had plenty of drama and will have plenty more and none of it has anything to do with your sexual identity. They have already had to adjust to things you do that they could not possibly understand, whether it is veganism, cosplay, an affinity for reptiles, or whatever. Your siblings might have been even harder for them to understand. Learning something new about you that they do not understand is not a new experience for any parent.

Go ahead and prepare for the worst case scenario. Identify those friends and other family who will provide emotional support to recover from a negative experience. But if you give them a little time, let them work out some of their discomfort and tolerate their awkwardness for a little while, they are more likely to come around. Good luck to you, and please write back to let us know how things went.

Defender of Testosterone

Hi Tim,

I’m a man, 30’s and engaged to a great woman who is all caught up in the feminist movement, where women want so much equality that they control the world. I have no problem with that, I’m fine with lesbians as long as my future wife is not one, and if I get to keep at least partial custody of my balls, we’re good. I’m happy everybody gets to be equal, but she keeps calling me out on things I say and I want someone to tell me how you say something right to a feminist. They are never happy! What’s the secret I can’t seem to grasp? I really do love and respect this woman but what do I need to say to convince her she’s equal? She suggested I write to you because you’re the male feminist.

- Defender of Testosterone

Hi Defender,

I have to take a step back just to sort out all the multiple points that must be addressed in your letter. I am not “that male feminist.” I am one of very many pro-feminist men out there who want absolute gender equality, but maybe I run my mouth about it more than average. Anything I tell you should be double-checked with a genuine feminist organization. If men spoke for women, what would be the point in calling it feminism? We would call that “business as usual.” Also, if you are just trying to impress or please someone or check a box by exploring feminism, stop and think. If you truly wanted equality you would want it for the greater good. So learn it for yourself and do not worry about what you think others, including the fiancée, want to hear. Finally, let go of the awful stereotypes. Feminists do not hate men. In fact, feminism provides multiple benefits for men. Feminists are not miserable, they are not all lesbians and their quest is not world domination.

I do not even have room here to address all of your needs, but let me give you some constructive criticism. You do not sound sincere when you say gender equality is fine with you. In fact, you sound defensive as your nickname even suggests and, no doubt, your fiancée is picking up on this too. Get educated by contacting the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS)and Institute for Human Education to get started. When you have the facts rather than the tired stereotypical nonsense to work with, you are going to be able to recognize the epidemic of misogyny on this planet, your own privilege as a man, and understand that women having equal rights will cause you to lose absolutely none of those which you have enjoyed since birth.

Parking Prude

Hi Tim,

I’m a career woman, 32 and work in an office with around 300 employees. A mid-level manager there is carrying on a relationship with another employee. They don’t work together, but they meet at least twice a day in the parking lot. She moves her Fiat into a dark corner of the parking garage close to my assigned place. Because I’m on the level above, I can see directly into her car where they’re going at it like animals. I thought it would end with the usual fellatio, but now they are going full-throttle with intercourse, and seeing it through her poorly tinted windows is almost unavoidable for me. We all have the same break times. I can adjust it to a bit later but then I still have to see them emerge from her vehicle, sweaty and spent, straightening their hair and clothes. Should I report this? Leave them an anonymous note?

- Parking Prude

Hi Prude,

This first sentence is purely filler. That should give everyone plenty of time to imagine what intercourse in a Fiat looks and feels like. It is a comfort to know that the word fellatio is still in use, although I have not heard it in so long I actually read it in the accent of Dr. Ruth. I believe you chose your nickname for a very good reason, conscious or not. As we struggle to imagine the painful trauma of your ritualistic peepshow between concrete and steel beams, one floor below through tinted windows with what must be laser-like visual acuity, often enough to be able to identify their “usual,”  the inevitable giggle fit threatens to overcome us.

Two coworkers, neither of whom have daily interaction with you or each other, are getting some afternoon delight on your break time in a secret hideaway. I completely understand why the lovebirds are in her car, but do you have somewhere to go? If not, I suggest you bring a magazine or check your messages, or bring your lunch and forego the mid-day matinee. Let them get their validation in the parking lot, look away and say nothing. They are getting it on in a tiny car. Unless a bunch of clowns are in there with them you have already seen this show. Find a new diversion.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/micromonkey

Comparisons Are For Prices

Artist

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Hi Tim,

Single male, 20’s artist: I’m constantly comparing myself to different people with different abilities and mine are never as good. My parents and extended family always compared me to my superstar older brother who can do no wrong, and I guess I picked it up from them because I’m constantly looking around me at people who’re better than me at work, more talented artists, better looking, smarter, make more money, and so on. It never ends, and I feel crappy by comparison everywhere I go. Why am I not better than somebody at something, or is it me?

- Less Than

Hi Less,

Comparisons are for prices, not people.

Repeat that, and even meditate on it when you have the time. Comparing oneself to others will pave a lonely road that goes one way… to misery. When you consider the myriad of human personalities, aptitudes, talents, interests and factor in some random luck, no one person is the same as another. We all have gifts differing. You have some, too. You simply cannot see them because you are so intensely focused on everyone around you and preoccupied with envy.

You may benefit from exploring mindfulness and meditation. Take a little time to get to know your own self. Find out what truly brings you joy in life, by exploring things that catch your fancy and then go with what feels right. Perhaps you did that with art, whatever medium you chose, but you became distracted by others’ work. Get back, or go for the first time, to that place where you lose yourself in creativity, and experience something fulfilling without the constant voice of appraisal in your head. Try some new things, too. Keep that good feeling alive by taking the time to immerse yourself in that thing you are passionate about; passionate enough to practice and never stop learning more about it. Will you be the best or the most rewarded for that thing? I cannot say. But you may not care about making comparisons anymore.

Reject(ed)

Hi Tim,

Male, 18, gay and went on vacation every summer with best friend since 8 years old but I developed feelings for him a few years ago and recently made a pass, got rejected because he’s confirmed straight but now his parents want me to go to Canary Islands with them all and he wants me to turn it down so he won’t be uncomfortable sharing a room. He also doesn’t want me to tell his parents why although they are accepting and would not care. I know they will question me about cancelling, though.

- Reject

Hi Reject(ed),

Is this a trick? Are you really expecting me to try to talk you out of going to the Canary Islands? In all seriousness, you should go or at least try. A best friend for a decade probably does not really care if the other is gay, or if he does he may be struggling with issues of his own that prevent him from being his usual good company. He is still talking to you if he asked you to break tradition. You can do that, but I do not see the purpose in keeping secrets. His parents know you, maybe better than you think. They may be relieved when you finally come out!

I hope your best friend is willing to hear you describe just what his friendship means to you, much more than a physical relationship you never had anyway. Reassure him if you must that you will change separately or sleep on the couch or whatever minor accommodations he needs to feel comfortable. He should recognize quickly that he was being unreasonable and has nothing to fear, and he can even keep his best friend while his ego remains intact. If he is unable to accept your company now because of an ever-so-slight misunderstanding, you may have already been growing apart as you continue to grow up. But hopefully not so go, go, go and send us a postcard!

Money Over Memories

Hi Tim,

I am a female, 30s and married. I recently lost my father. My father had a rare vintage car that used to belong to my mother, who died much earlier and he left it to me, so now my two sisters are fighting with me about it even though they received a fair share in cash. Dad seldom drove the car and kept it like a museum showpiece in a special garage.

My husband and I want a family more than anything, but cannot afford the IVF our doctor recommends. Selling this car would pay for our medical treatment, but my sisters are calling me selfish and say we should keep the car in the family because Dad loved it so much. Am I being selfish?

- Money Over Memories

Hi Money Over Memories,

I am sorry for you loss and if it helps, you do not have to choose. It seems in this case, you may have both. Your memories are not chained to a hunk of metal on wheels in your garage, and if it does not give either of you the thrill it afforded your father, it absolutely will delight some other collector out there who will baby it and maintain it and show it off; that car will be loved again.

You and your sisters will likely have plenty of photos and heirlooms, possibly with little to no monetary value, that bring priceless memories back. And still more memories will be kept even safer in your brain and in your heart. That machine on wheels is not necessary to remember or honor your father, who would probably be pleased to know it helped you bring his own grandchild into the world and realize your dream of having your own family. Material things, especially large and impractical things like a rare automobile that needs considerable upkeep, are just things that come and go. Family is forever.


Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo by Fotolia/SolisImages