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


Reunited and It Feels Like Hell

Snowman reunion

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 am a man, late 40’s with a very successful career and married to a wonderful guy for 12 years. I am fit and healthy now, and I have aged pretty well but only after some hard work. High school was not a good time for me. I did a lot of emotional eating after being terrorized in lower grades for being effeminate and soft-spoken. I became quite overweight, and along with still being effeminate you can imagine that the kids never passed up an opportunity to ridicule or embarrass me and make me feel like less than nothing. It got bad enough that I was assaulted twice and had to visit the ER. I came out in my 20’s and got very health-conscious in my 30’s, lost all the extra weight and I have maintained my weight for over 15 years now.

My 30 year high school reunion is coming up, and just talking on the phone with a couple of my tormentors and hearing their voices has triggered all kinds of anxiety, even temptation to overeat again which I have resisted. I never attended before but I want so badly to show up and flaunt my success in their faces, I think it would be such a confidence-builder for me. But how do I muster the confidence to just walk in the door?

- Reeling Over Reunion

Hi Reeling,
Congratulations on taking care of your health and staying fit! You did not mention an eating disorder from your youth so I am not certain this applies directly to you, but hopefully with the recent recognition of binge eating disorder, more children and teens can get help before they face serious health risks.

It might be fulfilling to land at your upcoming reunion in a helicopter or a limo, strut your stuff on the dance floor to the sounds of the 80’s, and flaunt your success in the faces of your tormentors. Romy and Michelle and even Peggy Sue were able to pull it off. But I cannot shake the question, “Why?” You did not need any of these goons to conquer an eating disorder, maintain your weight or find a career and love. Why do you need them now? Presumably to prove something, but you may be disappointed. Your reunion will reveal to you what most people discover; rounder, grayer and more wrinkled versions of people you vaguely remember save the trauma they inflicted. Some of those folks will still be mean, no matter what you look like. Some may see you and feel badly for how they treated you, but do you care? None of you bothered to keep in touch with each other over the years, and there was a very good reason for that. If it pleases you to attend, you may want to seek counseling in preparation since mere telephone conversations with these charmers have your anxiety heightened to the point of threatening your recovery. You mentioned the reunion being a “confidence-builder” for you. It sounds like you already have plenty, and living well is the best revenge. Slogging through the past to impress a bunch of people you do not even like sounds like a waste of time. School reunions are overrated; successful, happy lives are where it’s at.

Mother Bear

Hi Tim,
I am a woman, 32 and recently divorced from a bigoted, small-minded man, “Bill,” after 10 years of marriage. The only good thing to come from our marriage is our 5 year old son I will call “Duncan.” Bill has Duncan on every other weekend. My son likes to help me pick out clothes, fix my hair, and other harmless things like paint his nails the same color when I paint mine. Of course, I know this is harmless and has nothing to do with sexual orientation. No surprise, my husband saw his toes and went berserk, claims I am making his son gay, etc. I will not quit playing with my son and letting him play pretend because his father happens to be an ignorant bully, but the idiot thinks he is in some kind of pissing contest with me and he has enrolled him in weekend sports, he has been let him watch violent action movies that are rated R, and now he wants to take him deer hunting at 5? How do I stop this Neanderthal from traumatizing my son while still not backing down?

- Mother Bear

Hi Mother Bear,
Of course sexual orientation has nothing to do with the harmless pretend play of a five-year-old. But that is not going to stop your husband from continuing to be an idiot. Please agree to cancel all revenge activities and call a truce on using your unfortunate son for the one-upping, sniping and attacking each other; adults should hash things out away from innocent children. Seek counseling immediately, through your custody agreement if you must make it mandatory, in order to put your child in his rightful place as his parents’ first priority again.

Watchdog

Hi Tim,
I am a woman, 40s, married with two teenagers and I started a community group that patrols the neighborhood for safety, but also picks up litter and recycles it. My family donates time and effort. We even pick up old magazines and books and donate them to a little community library near the park. Our neighbors two houses down, an overall rude family of five. Ever since I began this project to simply make my neighborhood a safer and more beautiful place and give back to the community, this group has been calling us “tree-huggers,” snickering at us and other volunteers, and recently began purposely throwing trash on their lawn, not picking up after their dogs in the front yard, stringing Christmas lights in the trees and placing neon beer signs on their front porch. Their yard is overgrown, perhaps because they dump entire bags of fertilizer on the lawn to make a statement; chemical run-off kills wildlife, I distributed fliers a year ago, you get the idea. Their home and yard is an eyesore that brings all our property values down, but we have no homeowner’s association. How do we deal with these rude people?

- Watchdog

Hi Watchdog,
The great thing about immaturity is that it is quite often paired with a short attention span. If you do not react to the childish littering and poisoning of the earth by your numbskull neighbors, they will lose interest and move on because there is nothing entertaining about being ignored. There are plenty of horror stories about homeowner’s associations to affirm your choice to forego them; I have always made the same choice and never regretted it. Focus on the other dozens of neighbors who are positive and supportive of each other, and let time provide those troublemakers with another amusement.  However, you may want to start brief documentation of the events unfolding, in case things escalate and the actual local authorities must be consulted.


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/liga8

Paper Mooning

Girl with paperxxx

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 20s college girl, sophomore and living the dorm life. I had a new roomie this year that is nice and started out the second semester very diligently. She really applied herself for the first month, which was inspiring. She even did all the research and finished a final paper for the psychology class we’re in together. This assignment was brutal, and she pulled a few all-nighters just to finish it. I read it and the thing is brilliant. Then suddenly, last week she was dumped by her boyfriend, found out she is pregnant, quit school and moved back home and bestowed me this grand paper with the assurance that she’ll never use it and expects nothing in return. I’m taking 15 hours and barely surviving, and she knows how hard I’m working and wants to help. She left her paper with me, and for some reason I’m hesitant. Why? — Paper Mooning

Hi Paper Mooning,
You received this gift, no strings attached, which will give you some respite during an otherwise grueling semester. That is a very kind gesture on her part; to think of you when she is trying to survive herself. After all her hard work and creativity was applied to this project that could easily be shelved for a future return to higher education, she has handed it over to you in an attempt to finalize her decision and perhaps even to convince herself that all hope is lost. You now have an Instant A; just add name. If you claim someone else’s work as your own with the true author’s blessing and no one is harmed, is it really plagiarism? Even if you did not have to look over your shoulder for years to come, you have to look in the mirror. Some folks could do that, no problem! Other folks set higher ethical standards for themselves, and feel conflicted enough to actually write to me for advice. That is the kind of trustworthy person who would do something as crazy as calling the ex-roomie, giving the paper back with a thanks-but-no-thanks and well-wishes, and getting back to work on her own intellectual property.

Lady of the Ring

Hi Tim,
I’m a woman, 40s with an elderly, widowed and healthy mother who lives alone two hours away. I visit her every weekend and pay for an aide to come during the week for a few hours, mostly for transportation since my mother does not drive. I have a very successful but demanding career that I chose instead of marriage and children. My father passed away 20 years ago, but the original, custom engagement ring he gave my mother is her most prized possession. I’m sure it is quite valuable, but I would never part with it anyway. I cannot promise the same for my older brother and sister, two selfish people who have all but abandoned our mother. They have families, but don’t even take the time to call her, much less ever visit. I am sure they don’t even remember Mom’s ring. She wants me to have it now, insisting that I may still be married in an adorable way, and even though I have no use for the ring she has been persistent and now I feel like I would be rude to refuse. If giving me the ring makes her feel better, what is the harm? Do I have to explain anything to my siblings? — Lady of the Ring

Hi Lady,
Children are entitled to nothing, especially while their parents are still alive! Your mother is apparently of sound mind, and chose to give you a gift; a cherished memento that represents your father’s love for her and is no longer even remembered by her other children. Sometimes a gift is just a gift; receive it humbly and gratefully. No explanation will ever be owed to anyone.

Senior Sixty

Hi Tim,
I’m a male college student, 20s, struggling with weight and trying to eat right. But I get frustrated with all the “healthy choices” because they are all so expensive! Seriously, people spend like $10 on a salad and I just cannot afford things like that. I don’t even like cheap food, it’s nasty but bologna, ramen and fast food allow me to buy books and finish my education, so I have to put that first. How do people eat healthy on a budget? — Freshman Five? Try Senior Sixty!

Hi Senior Sixty,
First, exercise does not have to cost a penny. Walking, running, jogging and sports are free. The fees for a gym on campus are probably nominal, and in fact most public gyms have abandoned the pricey, commitment-heavy contracts in favor of a monthly $10 fee and 24-hour access. Maybe you do all that, or a similar fitness regimen, but you did not mention it so there it is for your consideration.

Actually, there are cheap healthy foods without all the preservatives available at the most common of budget supermarkets. They just might not sound appetizing at first, but you can get creative with herbs and spices without adding a single calorie. And never forget moderation. Especially when you are cramming or fighting sleep to finish a project like the paper described in the first letter. We can all relate to mindless or emotional eating. When the fork starts moving the hand, mindfulness can be very helpful for controlling compulsive eating behaviors. The Center for Mindful Eating is a good first step toward becoming more aware of your body and how eating habits affect it.


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/Igor Mojzes

Too Close for Kissing

Physical Affection

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 college girl in my 20’s and I have a new friend who is a gorgeous, funny guy. We have a mutual attraction but are in that awkward phase where we both want to go further but wait for the other one to confirm, etc. No big deal, we will get past that, and when he invited me to go to his parents’ house over the holidays I thought this might be a good time to get closer. We arrived at the house first, and as his three sisters and two brothers and various cousins started getting there, I noticed something odd. They kiss each other hello, goodbye, etc. on the mouth with their lips locked for just such a long time it gives me the creeps! Boy, girl, old, young does not matter, they plant one on the same or opposite sex and kind of linger there for a few seconds before coming up for air. I don't see any tongues, but the lingering allows plenty of time for it. I’m not a judgmental person, but what to make of this? I said something to him, almost by reflex because I'm unable to not comment on a display like that, and he got defensive, assured me there was no tongue and suggested maybe my family was not very affectionate. I kind of understand, and really do like him a lot but is this normal? — Too Close for Kissing

Hi Too Close,
Please forgive the pun that is forthcoming. It sounds like you feel that holding your tongue would have been the right thing to do. Indeed, many folks like you would probably rather don an eyes-only balaclava, a strip of duct tape or even a hazmat suit rather than engage in mouth meetings with your family members. Your beau is probably perceptive enough to have noticed you recoiling in horror at his kinfolks’ sloppy salutations. Better you put your thoughts out there than spend the rest of the evening hiding behind furniture. If you two are getting close, you need to be able to process things to which either of you has a strong, involuntary reaction.

As for the kissing custom, well, families have been carrying on weird customs since there were families. They have ugly sweater parties, attend family nudist retreats, join cults, dress up their pets, take questionable photographs and even innocently show intimate, physical affection for one another. If you have ever been around a family of icy mackerel who are so emotionally distant from each other you have to do a quick head count to reassure yourself that everyone is still inhabiting the same space, or the tension is so thick you have to duck outside to exhale, a harmless mouth kiss can actually be reassuring and definitely does not confirm incestuous behavior; he did deny tongues, after all. If you care to attend any more of these family reunions then lighten up, pet the dog or engage in some similar diversion during the kiss-in. But stay out from under the mistletoe; you are not obligated to participate in something that would make your skin crawl.

Not Your Daddy

Hi Tim,
I am a widower, late 50’s, and just starting to date after losing my wife three years ago. There is a special lady I met online, and she is 12 years younger, but we get along so well. Our relationship only recently began to get physical after dating for several months. She has really awful habit of calling me “Daddy,” making our age difference all the more awkward around others, but she has taken it further; to the bedroom. When I go to her home she acts sexy and talks about, “Waiting for Daddy all day,” or worried about, “What Daddy will do if he finds out I have been a bad girl,” and you can imagine the rest. Tim, I have two grown daughters, and there is no overlap between being a parent and turned on. She’s turning me off. I have to use some heavy-duty imagination and get my mind out of my body to stay aroused, and I want to be with her, not do some sick role play that I don't even find exciting. How do I approach the subject without turning her away? — Not Your Daddy

Hi Not Your Daddy,
If this is the first time a lover did something out of left field that killed the mood, then congratulations! Most folks get over that hurdle much earlier, but I am happy to hear about your previously unchallenged record of sexual compatibility. Sometimes others are oblivious to the signals of disinterest we are sending, but they may also be trying too hard to get approval or ease the tension around the awkward spots that will invariably manifest themselves in any relationship. Do not make matters worse with passive aggression or ambiguity. Sit down with your partner and talk; tell her that behavior is crossing a line for you. Tell her you are not bothered by the age difference, at least not until you are reminded. It will be one of those things that you both laugh about later, or the impetus to re-evaluate your overall compatibility.

Heartless

Hi Tim,
I’m female, 30’s and just divorced my loser of a husband because he was cheating. Luckily, we had no kids and I have a great job to help me forget. I also have three great long-time girlfriends, all married, and we always have a great Valentine’s Day couples dinner party. This isn’t my year to host but how can I go through with it? I’m miserable and the last thing I want to do is look at other people being happy. No one’s mentioned any plans to me yet. How can I cancel without hurting any feelings? — Heartless

Hi Heartless,
You said it all. Long-term friends who know and love you will understand, and it is not even your turn to host. There is no need to interrupt their tradition, either. Make other plans, to go shopping or do your taxes or binge on television — perhaps skipping the rom-coms this round — and do what you need to do for yourself. Your friends are not going anywhere because you miss one event, and certainly ought to understand. Maybe this year’s host is sensitively waiting for your directive, so the sooner you issue it the sooner she can make plans accordingly and you can stop fretting over this slight quandary.


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/Eugenio Marongiu

Go Fix Yourself!

Same Sex Attraction

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, 50’s, married for 30 years and we have two children who are grown, successful and happy. The problem is our son, “Brian” who is 23. He recently came out as homosexual to the family and we're having a tough time. We already suspected, before he even started school. But at least we had hope that he might not choose this path. We’re Christians and we can’t ignore a clear violation of our faith. It makes me sick. I want to get help for him, to fix him somehow but he won’t discuss it. My wife and daughter and I treat him differently now, and the more we try not to the more uncomfortable he makes us. He brings his “boyfriend” over, but we just treat him like a friend and make him feel welcome. I can’t talk to Brian like we used to do. Sometimes I lay awake at night, crying for my lost boy. I wanted so much for him. On some level, I have to accept his choice to sin. I love my son and I want him to be happy but I follow God’s word too and I need help sorting it all out. I’m aware that reparative therapy is not effective. Is just regular therapy helpful, at least to help him think more clearly about choices? I hope I am coming to the right place. — Disappointed Dad

Hi Disappointed Dad,
You came to the right place if you want the truth. It is the year 2015. Same-sex pairing is found in over 1,000 animal species and 2-4% of the human population; at least by the numbers reported. The legal, anthropological, academic, medical and psychiatric communities have accepted, and finally even the corporate and government communities have started to accept, that same-sex attraction is not a choice at all. Rather, it is a natural variation in human sexuality that deserves nothing less than the respect and opportunities afforded the heterosexually oriented.

Actual empirical and scientific evidence is near conclusive that sexual orientation is not a choice; you can find plenty of references from Truth Wins Out, an organization dedicated to collecting studies from far and wide resources in order to educate the public and challenge the harmful pseudoscience of a scant few, anti-gay charlatans with religious or political agendas. Same-sex attraction is not a choice. Period. So, either your God makes a lot of mistakes, or it occurs naturally. Being gay or lesbian is not just natural, it is beautiful, and we need to be out in the streets with all of our children celebrating it. That includes celebrating your successful and happy son, who is a human being and not a disappointment, broken or a problem. Shame on you for describing him with those words. Contact PFLAG and get into a supportive community where you can learn more about acceptance.

You need help understanding the truth that was already in the hearts of countless little gay boys and girls. Their truth could not be shaken by the brain-washing, the trauma of quackery and fake “reparative therapy,” the shaming, self-hatred, rejection, abandonment, ridicule, bullying, violence and even murder. Their truth remains steadfast; the rest of the world is merely catching up. Now it is your turn. I highly recommend you seek therapy, but not for your son. You are wrong. Your religion, or at least the way you interpret it, is wrong. Be a grownup and own up. For you and anyone else out there who will not accept their gay or lesbian child, I only have three words. Go fix yourself!

Just School Me

Hi Tim,
I'm a guy, 18 just graduated from high school. I want to attend a technical school for paralegal studies but my parents, both with doctorates, want me to get a degree. They are helping me pay for my education, but I don’t want to go to school for 4 years! I’m not super intelligent like them and they don’t understand this. So even though I made my feelings about becoming a paralegal known they pretend I’m going to college and everything is exactly the same. This is so frustrating, am I supposed to just give in and go get a useless degree that I'll never use? — Just School Me

Hi Just School Me,
Your age says it all. You are 18, and the big decisions are going to happen now. If you do not have any interest in college, the choice is yours to make. Paralegal does count as a goal and an education. Without the interest and under pressure, college is going to be brutal. You can talk with some paralegal folks and hear about the field from the source. If there are any lingering doubts for yourself you can do paralegal studies in a two-year community college and bank transferable credit in case you may decide to aim for a higher degree later. However, your career choice sounds perfectly valid and really, you will have to answer only to yourself on this decision so if your passion is providing legal support, follow your dream and do not be afraid to remind your parents that you are not only happier, but you are saving them a fortune.

Double Life

Hi Tim,
man, 24 marry 2 yrs. i have a soc med presence that, let’s say NSFW and mks a little extra $ but cause probs w/my grl who msg me whn im doing this. she is irate b/c i spend overtime to upload and txfer for clnts and check out new mtrl. She never mnds me lookin b4 so why not make $? — Dbl Life

Hi Double Life,
At least we know you are not spending too much time actually typing on the keyboard; especially the caps lock button. I will usually make minor corrections in letters I receive but I would have had to bill you for this one. After assembling a small team of amateur code-breakers to study your letter, or more appropriately emailed text message, the outcome was sketchy. But I feel like I can take an educated shot at your dilemma, which was only dimly lit by your communication style. I am suspicious that your NSFW (Not Safe For Work) site aka porn peddling, has reduced your married life to you chained to the laptop with the wife getting messages somewhat like that which I received. I can almost feel her frustration.

We do not have to address how much partner porn is healthy, because you took it up a notch and became a distributor, complete with money changing hands. This has nothing to do with what otherwise is harmless recreation; it sounds like she was understanding about that. You have invited the porn industry into your home via the internet, and that is not a reasonable expectation in your average marriage. Your wife wants this brought to the table for negotiation and she is justified. If this is a deal-breaker for her, you need to treat it as such and take her a lot more seriously than you did your message. You can always deliver pizza or flowers or do odd jobs if you need extra money.


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/pekkic

The Cuckolded Clothier

Sex Life

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, 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

Hi 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.

Tough Love

Hi Tim,
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.

Gender Bunny

Hi Tim,
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.

Photo by Fotolia/sveta

Inky What?

Body Modification

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 am a girl, 18 living at home and attending college. My family belongs to a popular church that is known for being very strict about lifestyles. My sister, 23, goes to college in a huge city 400 miles away. She brought her new boyfriend home for Christmas to meet everyone. He is into painting and photography, and nice looking but covered in tattoos, completely covering one arm and has his tongue and lip pierced. We usually call people who cover themselves in tattoos “inky-stinkies,” and we don't make fun of them but certainly would never date one! After all, they obviously don't respect themselves if they can’t even respect their skin. My father had a serious talk with my sister; they argued and haven’t spoken since. I don't know how to feel. He seems nice with a good job, polite and only mildly weird but all the tattoos just make him look like a maniac. Are we being too hard on him, and was my father out of line? I'm struggling with how tattoos have anything to do with morals. — Ink Stinks

Hi Ink Stinks,
Thanks for introducing me to “inky-stinky,” reminding me once again that no group can escape being stereotyped and slapped with a custom, artfully-crafted slur. Body modification has nothing to do with morals. I do not care for tattoos or piercings myself; the human body is more interesting to me au naturel, but they also do not bother me at all, and they are not a reliable indicator of character. This may be why they are more acceptable than ever in public places outside military, blue collar and artistic communities: corporate, finance, education, and even government are gradually ignoring body art, which I barely notice anymore. People own their respective bodies, and should be able to embellish their mortal coils with whatever they please. Ignore the ink and get to know the person your sister has chosen.

There is generally no objection when humans decorate themselves with other unnatural adornments like makeup and jewelry. Unless perhaps, the institution representing your family’s particular faith forbids any and every harmless thing that its members may indulge in to express or even just amuse themselves. That is a level of control over your life that you may be considering as excessive and inappropriate. If you are, I think you are on to something.

Brotherly Love

Hi Tim,
I'm a 21 year-old, gay man recently kicked out of my home by my parents, because I came out to them. My straight but accepting brother who’s three years older took me in; we’ve always gotten along well and have a really pleasant roommate arrangement now. We want to continue to live together, but I have one serious problem. I’m in love with him. I should explain; we were all adopted by our parents from foster homes but our adoptive parents are very cold, unemotional people. They were verbally and emotionally abusive and never showed affection or gave praise. The only attention we got was punishment when we did something wrong. I think it’s because we were so starved for affection that he and I had a mutually consenting sexual relationship in our teens. Our parents don’t know about it, nor anyone else but after my brother left home at 20 it’s like it never happened. We’ve never mentioned it since, even while living together. I’m having more and more trouble ignoring him since we’re alone in the apartment, sitting on the couch together or seeing each other partially clothed, etc. It especially hurts when he goes on dates with women. Tim, we’re not biologically related. Should I “come out” to him and tell him that I want nothing more than to pick up where we left off and try being a real, loving couple? — Bromance

Hi Bromance,
I think the nickname you chose has been applied too literally. Bromance, by its definition, is a close relationship between two straight men. Only one member of the couple you are romanticizing about appears to be heterosexual. Your brother dates women, and does not bring up your past encounters. He seems comfortable with his own sexual identity. I know it felt like mutual consent for you, but the math tells me that legally, at least part of the time he was an adult while you were still a minor. For both of you it may have been experimentation with sexuality, and also for both of you it may have been solace for two young men desperate for affection and human contact, of which they had been deprived by abusive and neglectful parents. You both managed to survive the trauma together. But your warm, comfortable memories of adolescence may be clouding your judgment. Aside from the implications of incest, shame or reclaiming your first love, this guy is probably straight. That is enough reason for a romantic relationship to not work out.

I suggest that you try counseling in order to help you process and reconcile your old and new feelings, so you can maintain this positive familial relationship. “Coming out” to your brother about being in love with him sounds overwhelming, but he may appreciate hearing you acknowledge how hard the two of you had it growing up and how much his love helped you, then and now. It may even give him the opportunity to talk about his own feelings. You already have a loving and supportive sibling, do not forget that.

Paramedic Paramour

Hi Tim,
I’m male, 30 and an EMT. Last week, I helped work on and save an elderly gentleman in his home, including CPR. That’s the most important thing. This was my first lifesaver so I’ve really been contemplating mortality and life in general. I’ve also been contemplating his granddaughter who was in the home and called for emergency services. She’s beautiful and I kept talking to her to keep her calm but I can't help thinking there was some chemistry between us. She even hugged me when we left and looked at me so intensely; it was like attraction rather than emotion. I’ve wanted to try to reach out to her, if nothing else to let her know that I look in on her grandfather in the ICU. I have not been able to catch her there. I know it would be inappropriate to look up her number, but should I satisfy my curiosity once and for all and leave a note for her, or ask her grandfather about her? — Attracted Angel

Hi “Angel,”
I am glad you mentioned the whole business about you questioning mortality and life, etc. or I would have been tempted to change your nickname to “Stalker.” You and your muse met under the most intense conditions, and neither of you can be expected to smoothly line up a first date while her grandfather is between you on a gurney, holding an oxygen mask to his face. She can find you if she desires to do so. I am going to assume you are sincere about checking in on her grandfather. It may not be illegal or even unethical to pursue a romance with patients’ relatives; it simply indicates poor judgment and insensitivity. I recommend letting nature take its course. If you two were meant to find each other it will happen under different circumstances, such as a chance reunion at a cafe or even at the hospital; not a message relayed by her grandfather while he is fighting for his life in the ICU.


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/BlueSkyImages

Same Auld Lang Syne, Please

New Year's Eve

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, 30, and I have dated the same man for 3 years. He's the best, we're in love and I couldn't be happier to marry him. I once told him that if he ever proposed, it's been a long-time fantasy of mine to be proposed to on New Year's Eve, exactly at midnight, then be married on the first of the next year. He gets carried away sometimes and he's currently planning to propose to me as a surprise. This is no surprise, he thinks I don't know however I've heard him on the phone and talking to others; he's planning on doing this downtown on a rooftop with a close-up view of fireworks, videotaping, a three-piece band and our friends and family there. My best friend and brother have other plans, and it has gotten awkward. However, the planning and trying to get everyone together while still keeping it a secret has him so stressed out he's cranky all the time, and I wish he would just propose at Starbucks or something, because I don't really care about all that staging, it was just a fun fantasy. How do I get him to tone it down to our usual, simple New Year's Eve without hurting his feelings? — Simple Simone

Hi Simple Simone,
If you want to continue to be “Simple,” set this guy straight before you exchange vows. The thing about big reveals and memory-makers is that memories do not have to be manufactured. Special things are imprinted on our memories all the time, without fanfare, and cannot always be engineered. We do not have to design memories by trying to outdo a Hollywood producer/director/actor just to mark a special event. They have bigger budgets than most of us, and a lot more helpers.

Take your fellow aside and tell him to tone down the New Year's plans. Remind him that you appreciate simple things the most. You do not have to mention that you know about the proposal. Refer to the over-planning and let him know that you are fine with just the two of you celebrating and not so much company. That lets the audience off the hook, but given this late hour you may still have to listen to the band play on under the fireworks. Congratulations!

Bored Reviewer

Hi Tim,
I'm a woman in my 30’s who recently joined a fiction book club. I enjoy the ladies in the group and have a great time with them socially, but the selections they make are truly mind-numbingly boring. I gather that the more intellectual the book is reviewed to be, the more popular it is with my group mates. I, however, am bored to tears. So, it is my turn to make a nomination and I finally have a chance to suggest something that I find engaging, but now I feel like I will appear less brainy and therefore disappoint these women. How do I lighten our choices without getting uninvited to the group in the future? — Bored Reviewer

Hi Bored Reviewer,
Once upon a time, fiction was meant to be entertainment. We may not learn from everything we read, but we should expect to be entertained. There are good reads that will never be mentioned in the New Yorker or on a popular egghead book list. John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns are classified as Young Adult, but like many other books in that category are widely appreciated by adults of all ages. Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls is considered a classic in some circles; in others, classic trash. Literature is, after all, art. Readers need to explore outside of their comfort zones in order to truly experience more art in the world, and your group will grow too, when you suggest whatever you truly find interesting. Please do this, explain if necessary that you wanted to offer some variety, and if this gets you disinvited to the club then I nominate their next read to be your Thank You note.

Homestalked

Hi Tim,
I’m a man, late 20’s. My wife and I bought our first house a little over a year ago, from a man in his 40’s, who was selling it as part of his deceased mother’s estate. He has since been back to the house to take some pictures, and asked to come in a couple of those times to visit, reminisce, and tell us about his mother and his childhood there. He seems like a nice guy but his visits are starting to make me feel uneasy. We don't know him otherwise, or socialize with him. He seems somewhat depressed and missing his mother, so we are reluctant to be abrupt with him but also ready to cut off contact. How do we do this without rejecting a grieving son? — Homestalked

Hi Homestalked,
Your nickname says it all. I could not tell you exactly what it costs to file for a restraining order in your area, but thanks to your letter I will now and forever ask anyone I know who has a closing date if there was an allowance for one. His visits are not helping anyone, especially not himself. He had about 40 years to inhabit and/or take pictures of his childhood home. What may have begun as nostalgia appears now to have become obsession. Keep in mind that you know nothing about this fellow. I would keep his information, forwarding address if you have it or can find it, and even try to sneakily take a good snapshot of him. It is extremely rare for me to ever suggest taking someone's photo without their knowledge, but you have to protect yourselves and this man's behavior has been at the very least suspicious. If he returns, you can wish him well but let him know that you will not be able to invite him in anymore and that it would be best if he let go of his attachment to the house. Suggest any resources here, but any further notice of his presence should be addressed by authorities when you notify them of his trespassing.


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/lazyllama