Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.
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’m a woman, 46 and my husband just turned 60. We’ve been married for 11 years and are very happy, but he’s taken up a strange interest. He’s become sexually excited by my wearing other men’s clothing. Not cross-dressing, just a jacket or usually a shirt will do with nothing else on, and the clothes must have been worn by the man and not washed. The man must also be someone we know, so a stranger will not do. I had worn one of his own shirts on vacation and it kind of snowballed from there. Once we housesat for friends, another time my brother was visiting, so we had access. Now, he almost can't be aroused without me wearing another man’s clothes. You can imagine this is no easy trick to pull off. You can’t just ask friends and family to borrow a used shirt! I’m embarrassed to even be writing about the whole thing.
I want to please my husband but this weird requirement is making our usually satisfying sex life fade out. We are at 6 weeks, and no shirts to be had. How can I politely request used clothing, or cure him of this silliness? His work deals with men’s clothing among other things. His father was one of those career tailors. Do you think we should explore that? We can go to counseling if necessary. I just want my old reliable sex life back. — Shirtless
Please congratulate the hubby on securing a fetish that is as awkward and tenuous to manage as it is essentially harmless. Your cuckolded clothier has carved out a niche that will not provide a lot of affirmation, social contacts or a support network. I cannot tell from your letter, but I hope he is not a workaholic who actually found a way to bring his job into the bedroom.
It appears that you do not mind indulging him; especially if you are willing to have sex in your brother’s dirty shirts! You sound like you want to accommodate your husband’s kink, but who is pleasing you? Perhaps you find his penchant for polyester blends at least amusing, so maybe the two of you can embark on a horny haberdashery haunt and check out some new, laundered men’s fashions. Your interest in whatever you fancy may inspire him to swap soiled for starched. There are likely kindred spirits online, at least for the sake of validation, but your husband requires familiarity with the bearer of each shirt and it also seems best to avoid the mystery stains and shipping costs of a used shirt recycling ring.
Do not waste another moment trying to figure out where the behavior came from; analysis is not going to provide a solution any time soon. It is simply too much to keep sneaking clothes away from loved ones, even if the kink is fairly mild. Your needs are more immediate and if compromise is out of the question, then counseling might help.
I'm a woman, 30s and married happily for the last 10 years. I have a sister-in-law, 22 who just graduated from college with a degree in psychology, for what that is worth. As delicately as I can say, she has got to be gay. She is the ultimate tomboy and has been into sports and guy stuff since she was a toddler. She wears a sort of a crew cut that makes her look like a marine, men’s shirts and boots, she’s far too muscled up, hangs out with some other really butch women and comes across as very assertive. So you can imagine my reaction when she accepted a job with children’s protective services, where she will be investigating complaints, going out to homes where children are being abused and getting in people’s faces. I'm worried that her looks and demeanor are going to get her hurt or worse. She also has no children. How will this be perceived? Because I have two, and as a mother I don’t understand how someone can tell other people how to parent when they haven’t been through it themselves. I do love her and just think she would do better in a field she knows more about, where she is not in danger. My husband thinks I am overreacting. Should I talk to her about rethinking this career choice? — Tough Love
Hi Tough Love,
Your nickname is spot on, indeed. I doubt old shoe leather is any tougher than your love. The only thing that might be harsher is your laser-focused, set-to-kill laser death ray of judgment. You do not like her hair, her looks, her clothes, her active lifestyle, her muscle tone, her choice of friends, her ambiguous sexuality, her education or her choice of career. But you “love” her, how can I not see that?
You are concerned that she is unqualified because she does not have children. This is a common misconception. In order to help another human being, you do not have to have had first-hand experience with their suffering: abuse, substance abuse, cancer, any other trauma, or the most popular life experience presumed to transform you into an immediate expert; parenting! Simply having children does not make anyone, including myself, an authority on parenting. You can even be child-free and teach parenting classes effectively. In fact, you may have an advantage. There is a phenomenon we in the biz call transference; people have old fears, anxieties and anger that get confused with their new feelings about a professional who is helping. The helper, who may have children, can even develop transference for the helpee and if that is not in check soon emotions are running the show and chaos ensues; nobody gets any real help and no positive change happens. Transference is a menace and has no place in child welfare agencies. Any mature, responsible adult is capable of keeping children safe; their training speaks to this, not their ability to produce children. If that were the case, we would not need those agencies!
Her sexuality will never be any of your business. She is apparently getting along in the world and graduating college and getting a job without any help from you, so let her continue. If she has any news she wants to share regarding her identity she will do it in her own time. Get your mind on something else, and do a little soul-searching about why she bothers you so much.
I am a trans male, 26, who was invited on a ski trip with friends to a very upscale resort by my very wealthy friend. She also paid all expenses. My understanding was that we would be sharing rooms, with eight people total, in a chalet. Most everyone is coupled except for two guys I do not know. They joined the party after I accepted, but my friend who organized the trip has asked me to stay at a hotel because she “overbooked” the guests and has now run out of beds in the house. She already booked me a luxurious room at the lodge next door so it is not an inconvenience, but I was really looking forward to being with these friends, together most of the time and not stuck in a lonely hotel room! I am not stupid, I realize that she has mentioned my gender status to one of the guys added and they are uncomfortable. I could live with that but not with being shoved aside like a problem. Just give it to me directly and I can respect that. Should I confront her about this or just go and have fun by myself? — Gender Bunny
Hi Gender Bunny,
You are probably right about the reason for your getting bumped and you have plenty of justification to cancel. If this friendship is to last, you must be able to talk like adults, and you prefer a direct approach. She must know this and appreciate you for or in spite of it. She may also be unsure about how to address what she perceives to be your particular need for privacy without bringing up gender and trying to avoid making you uncomfortable, but plan on spending every hour of daylight with you on the slopes. There is only one way to find out.
You call it a confrontation, but it sounds like a very rational and justifiable question. “Regina, I am very grateful for you inviting me and our friendship is too important to me to have miscommunication. Does the relocation have anything to do with my being transgender?” She will answer and you will decide whether or not you truly did want the direct approach and then you will cancel or not, and decide whether or not to remain friends. Whew! That is a lot of thinking. The kind of thinking that is enhanced by the peace and quiet of a crackling fire, or a day at the spa on top of a snow-covered mountain. I cannot make your decision for you. I only know what I would do.
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.
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