“I’m in high school, and I went through a really messy, miserable breakup last school year. For the rest of the year, I would get anxious every time I saw my ex and tried to avoid her at all costs. Now I haven’t seen her in two months because of summer and I’ve been doing a lot better, but I’m afraid of how I’ll react when I see her again/if she tries to talk to me or if we end up in a class together. Help?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Brittany Ashley Says:
We’ve all gone through it. Trying to avoid seeing an ex-girlfriend is like the world’s worst video game that we’re all stuck playing for the rest of our lives. To take extra precautions, we’ll deny ourselves going to that party (5 points!) or cut off seeing certain friends (Bonus level!), just in hopes of avoiding one particular human being who seems to have the cheat codes to our anxiety.
Let’s start by saying this: throughout the summer, there’s no doubt that you’ve made progress. You started to feel like yourself again and finally like she’s not the only radio station playing in your head. Seeing her again doesn’t get to erase any of the work you’ve done. She doesn’t get to have that—that was work that you did! It’s yours! You own the rights to it!
I get that you think seeing her again might throw a wrench in your betterment. The best (but also worst) thing about being a fleshy mortal in this situation is that you simply can’t control the outcome of every awkward interaction or every student’s class schedule. Well, wait. Actually, if you learned how to hack into your school’s database, you could probably engineer the perfect schedule to where you two wouldn’t be likely to cross paths. Obviously you’d have to come up with an algorithm that also prevents hallway run-ins–maybe setting up roadblocks that block the flow of students. But even so—learning hacking as a trade feels like an enormous amount of effort just for this.
So focus on what you can control, like how much time you spend dwelling on the what if’s or how much space you let those negative feelings take up in your mind in places where good stuff could go instead. Remember good stuff? Good stuff is nice.
Once you relinquish the idea of control, the next thing you can do is build up your foundation. By that I mean: think of your self-esteem like a house. How banal, I know! But you don’t have to take an architecture class to understand how spot on my metaphor is. It’s easy to feel better momentarily when you paint the walls a bright new color or hang up a cool new Buffy poster. Who wouldn’t? Aesthetic improvements feel nice but they’re momentary. Why? Because if your foundation is cracked, the way the house looks doesn’t really matter because you have to rebuild that goddamn thing. The good news is that whether or not your house feels like an abandoned roadside shack or an immaculate mansion a la MTV Cribs (too old a reference?), remember that you can always build up your foundation.
So how can you build up this foundation, you ask? Well, emotional health should be tended to at all times, not just when you’re in dire need of it. If you continuously appreciate yourself and the people around you, you’ll build a strong ass foundation that won’t crack easily.
Think about what makes you feel warm and good. Maybe that’s simply being outside. Listen, you don’t have to go base jumping or extreme whitewater rafting, but sometimes it means just taking a book in your backyard or sitting on a swing.
Too much like an indie movie? Fine. Then go do something nice for your friends like writing them a handwritten card or making them a mixtape (Am I out of touch?). Strengthening your friendships and telling people how much you care about them is by far the coolest thing on the planet. Trust me. They won’t forget it.
Walk through the halls confidently with your headphones in while you listen to music. I like to daydream and picture myself as the lead singer, but that’s just me. Maybe you can even jam out to this playlist I crafted for you:
cover art by Isabella Rotman
But most importantly: Give yourself a break. It’s okay to not fully be over the messy feelings that ensued, that just means you’re human. If we could think our way out of heartache, we’d all be robots.
Eventually, you’ll be so distracted simply basking in your own incredible atmosphere, that you’ll forget that you ever cared what you’d think if you ran into her. I know it sounds kind of silly: Distract yourself with yourself. t’s the best advice I can give and has gotten me through many versions and variations of “fear of running into my ex at school.”
Hello! We are starting a new advice series here at Everyone Is Gay called “An Honest Mixtape”! Each month (starting right now!) we will feature a new guest writer who will tackle one of your advice questions with words *and* music!
Huge thanks to writer, comedian, and actor Brittany Ashley for kicking things off for us!
Listen to Brittany’s Mixtape, “Build That Foundation,” right here!
"Hi Everyone! So I'm in a kinda awkward situation... I've been dating this lady for 7-ish months and spend a lot of time at her place. I recently found a few old mementos from her past lovers - love notes, journals, cards, gifts, etc. I'm finding it hard to not feel jealous (especially cuz I'm not as experienced as her when it comes to relationships, and I trash everything after the relationship is over)... What do you suggest we do? Do I have the right to feel upset and jealous about this?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Happy 7-months-ish relationship, Anonymous! I would like to begin by telling you that my first-ever girlfriend kept a journal for me during the summer that we fell in love. She wrote in it nearly every day, detailing so many of the moments we spent together, and at the end of the summer she gave it to me to keep. It was one of the most incredible gifts of all time… and it was given to me twenty years ago. I use those italics because holy shit how did I do *anything* twenty years ago, but also to underline this point: I am now married to an entirely different person and I still keep that journal in my house. It is a memento – exactly the word you used to describe the items in your question! – and a very powerful memento of a very important time in my life that I spent with another person who I loved dearly.
Keeping mementos of past loves, in my opinion, is a very normal (and vital!!) part of our lives. We are people, after all, so we don’t remember much of life’s detail as weeks, months, and years pass us by. When we share something important with another person, we grow. The people that we love and have loved are very big parts of who we are. So, your girlfriend holding on to milestones in her life does not mean that she is still in that place today – it simply means that the place she was once in was very important, and she wants to be able to remember certain pieces of it.
Do you have a right to feel upset and jealous?? Of course you do! We all have rights to feel our damn feelings, and finding those mementos stirred up a lot of feelings inside of you – you are jealous and upset, and you also explained that some of these feelings might come from the fact that this is one of your very first relationships. So, you are probably thinking things like, “If she has these things it must mean she wants to be with those other people still!!” (to which I would say no it most certainly does not and please reference my memento-discussion above), or “I am probably not going to be as good of a girlfriend as those other people were!!” (to which I would say: you most certainly *are* going to be a wonderful girlfriend, but you will not be the same as they were, nor should you wish to be – she is with you because you are different!).
My words probably won’t make all of those feelings go away, and I would encourage you to talk to your girlfriend about those feelings – but not in a way that makes her feel she has done something wrong. She hasn’t! You aren’t doing anything wrong by feeling these things either, but you should look to her to help you through those feelings. She might be able to explain to you why she keeps the things she keeps, or she might be able to just say to you, “Hey. I care about you right now, and that is what I want to focus on. I can remember things from my past fondly and not want them back – and I would love it if you could work to trust my feelings for you.”
Whatever you do, don’t ask her to get rid of those memories. Often, in love, the tighter we try to hold someone, the more they wriggle away. The most powerful way to love a person is to let them be who they are right now while also loving the person that they once were (and all that that entails) and the person they are becoming as each and every day goes by.
"I moved to a new city in the Fall and started dating a lady. This is my first romantic/queer relationship! She is much older than me. l I met her entire family for the holidays after 1 month of dating! She wanted me to define "us" shortly after and texts me/wants to see me everyday. I've told her I needed space but she'd bombard me with texts like "You don't care, why are you with me, you're too young, I'm just your entertainment, etc." She also yells a lot. It stresses me out! What should I do?"
Question submitted by Anonymous
This is not a healthy relationship and this is not an appropriate or respectful way to treat someone, END OF STORY.
Since this is your first queer/romantic relationship, I need you to know something important: There are oh-so-many humans out there who will NOT yell at you all the time, who will be able to hear you when you express YOUR needs, and who will have the ability to treat you the way you deserve to be treated. This person you are dating is obviously struggling with some deep-seated insecurities surrounding commitment – which is understandable and even surmountable with time and work, but something that she needs to work on without dragging you through it and disrespecting you during the process.
In my opinion, you should do one of two things:
1. Break up with her. I truthfully think that, given what you’ve said here, this person is not going to be able to hear what you need enough to work on themselves while in a relationship. Explain that you are not in the same place, and that it would not be good for either of you to continue further. If she will not let this drop and the situation escalates, leave the conversation. If necessary, block her phone, block her socials. Make it a clean break – this situation desperately calls for that kind of action.
2. Explain yourself and try one more time. If you think that I’ve read this too harshly and you want to try a longer-arc approach, make plans to have dinner in a public place. At dinner, explain to her that you are not ready for the level of commitment she is after, and that you need for things to either slow down considerably, or for things to end. If she yells at you, tells you that you are wrong, or implies in any way that you cannot both need space and also care about her, that is when you end things and refer to suggestion #1. If she listens to you and is willing to work & step back a bit, etc, then you can give it a shot… but BE VIGILANT. Giving you space means she is actually going to give you space, not just say she will give you space and then berate you any time you actually take it.
Listen. Relationships of any kind, regardless of age, age difference, or anything else, require respect and communication. What you are saying here can be pared down to: My girlfriend does not listen to how I feel, does not consider what I need, and does not respect me as a person. That is all I ever need to hear to say: end it. You deserve better.
"We're getting married! Kristin -- you've shared in passing several times that you and Jenny invited people to your wedding that may be uncomfortable coming, saying no hard feelings if they opted not to come. Could you elaborate? Got any tips or things you would have done differently? How, in the world, does one actually have that conversation, especially with people you talk to infrequently?"
- Question submitted by anonymous
Oh my gosh first of all congratulaaaaaaations! You’re getting married! Woo!
You are correct, I sent an email out to all of my relatives (on my mom’s side) after Jenny and I got engaged. I come from a pretty Catholic extended family, and my feeling on the matter was that I did not want anyone at our wedding who would either feel uncomfortable or who didn’t want to be there! Our wedding day was a celebration of our LOVE, you know?
I am going to share the whole dang letter with you, because I think that it might help a bit with what you are pondering. Here is what I sent:
Hello to my wonderful family.
Did you know that there are 63 of us now?! I saw Grandma a few days ago and she was ready as always with her family facts and data.
I am writing this to all 62 of you (even the babies!), because I love you and I know how much love we all have for each other.
It is safe to assume that our family telephone chain has alerted you all to the fact that I am engaged to get married to my girlfriend of almost three years. Many of you have met Jenny somewhere along the journey, and during that time she has come to occupy a space that fills my entire heart. It’s a pretty big heart, too – so filling it up is an impressive feat.
I have a few things to say to all of you lovely people about this future wedding of mine before I get busy (read: get my mom busy) with save-the-dates and other such activities. Here are those things:
#1: I am so very happy. I know how differently we all walk through this life, and I know that we all have varying beliefs when it comes to love and marriage. I also know, however, that my happiness is something that you all value on some level – just as I value yours. So hooray, at the very least, for being happy!!
#2: I know that for some of you, attending my wedding is reflexive, definite, and without hesitation. I know that for others, it is a point of deep thought and reflection as you weigh your faith alongside your value of family. I also know that for some of you, it is completely impossible for you to be present at the ceremony or reception because of your beliefs.
I need all of you to know that – no matter where your heart falls in that spectrum – I love you, and I respect those beliefs.
One of the strongest grounding principals of my own faith is that, if I expect to be respected and valued as a person, I must always extend that respect to those around me. Our family’s deep commitment to faith and family is something that has shaped me, and I hold that so dear. Please know this!
#3 There are a bunch of things about my life that might be confusing, unclear, or unknown to you. That may be something you are completely at peace with – or it might be something that you wish to talk about further. If you have any questions, any thoughts, or any confusion – please, please talk with me! I understand that we all walk this path very differently, and I value the ability we have as human beings to talk about those differences.
So! There we have it – and here is what I would love from all of you:
Send me an email, give me a call, write me a Facebook message, send a text – whatever is easiest and best for you – and let me know how you are feeling about this wedding of mine.
Some responses might look like:
“As long as you force Patrick to lipsync to Grease Lightning, I am so there.”
“Honey, I love you, but I know this isn’t something that I can attend.”
“Can we talk a little more as I figure out how I feel?”
“WILL THERE BE OPEN BAR??”
No matter your response, I won’t ever think that you don’t love me (unless your response is ‘I don’t love you’), and I will always respect and value your beliefs and your place in my life.
Normal save-the-date and invitation activity will commence once I figure out a date and a place, and once I hear from all of you. You can, of course, talk to me on behalf of your families – but I would love to hear from you individually if possible, since we are all so very different.
I love you!
Thanks for reading!
Now, all of us have very varied and complex relationships with our families, so some of this might really resonate with you, and some of it might not be quite how you want to handle the conversation! I was really, really happy with how this letter was received, and I did have many meaningful, and sometimes super difficult, conversations with my family after I sent this out. Many of them responded with incredible support. Many responded with questions. Some of them let me know that they loved me but they couldn’t be there because of their beliefs.
I felt, at the end of the day, that I had opened the doors to many of them who might otherwise have simply sat in silence or been torn up by conflicting feelings and guilt. I was happier having opened those doors. That was my path, and it certainly does not need to be yours.
Do what feels right to you, and at the center of your focus, put your partnership with this beautiful, amazing person you are soon to marry. Your wedding is about the two of you, and the love and happiness you bring each other.
“Hi! I’m a (very gay) sophomore in high school. However, I’m not out to anyone other than a few friends in my close circle as I live in a homophobic town. I’ve noticed a very cute girl (that I’m interested in) in the the grade below me, and I am 99% sure she is queer (we’ve only talked twice) but I’m not certain. How do I find out for sure that she likes girls without being invasive and awkward? Also how do I get to know her while dealing with the intense urge to want to mash our faces together.”
-Question Submitted by Anonymous
Carrie Wade Says:
Okay, friend—pull up a chair and let’s pick apart your situation a little, shall we? I actually think you have a lot to be hopeful and happy about here, even if it doesn’t feel that way now.
The first thing that jumped out at me in your question is that you’ve only spoken to this girl twice. I can say without reservation that, regardless of whatever else you decide to do, you need to talk to her more in order to figure any of this out. I’m sure she’s the coolest and gives off an awesome vibe—you wouldn’t be submitting this question otherwise—but there’s only so much you can know about a person from two conversations. How did those come up? Do you have classes or activities together? Did one of you just stroll on up and start chatting? Whatever the case may be, you’ve talked before, so you can talk again. It doesn’t have to be about anything heavy, including whether she likes girls or not. Just get to know her! To me, that strategy is a win-win-win: either the information you’re looking for comes up organically, you learn a lot about a new terrific person, OR it turns out maybe she’s not the best fit for you and these frustrating feelings will just burn themselves right out. That third option is not a loss; even if that’s all that happens, you talked to a girl you thought was cute and got to know more about what you’re looking for in your next person, even if she isn’t it. That’s an invaluable skill you can bring to all the delightful things and people in your future.
Talking to her is also the only way to know for sure whether she is also Very Gay. You can only get the real answer straight (ha) from her. You could theoretically try to find out from other sources, but none of those can ever be trusted as much as the lady in question. Only she knows her feelings for you and for girls in general. So if, in the course of talking (and maybe spending more time together), you feel comfortable enough to start discussing your personal lives, I think it’s okay to do a little detective work. Be respectful of boundaries—don’t push her into a conversation she isn’t on board with—but you can also keep your ears out for things like whether she specifies a pronoun when talking about who she’s interested in. And if you definitively want to turn the conversation in that direction, you could come out to her, even just by mentioning it casually. I wouldn’t recommend that until and unless you build a friendship first—but if you’re 99% sure she’s queer, it seems like you can be reasonably confident that she won’t freak out if you tell her that you are. If you’re right and she is queerly inclined, now she knows that you might be an option; if she’s not, at least it’s acknowledged and you can move forward in a different way.
Build on what you already have while getting to know her: if you have a class together, talk about that. If you’re in a club together, sit near her during the next meeting, and make even just a little small talk before or after. She knows who you are and that’s a huge advantage. And in terms of the face-mashing urge, getting to know her better will either build up those feelings or not (but you can’t know which yet, either way). If you do find your feelings for her growing, it is okay to tell her and see what happens. I know that probably sounds like the most terrifying thing in the world, and that’s because it is; you’re putting yourself out there and hoping for the best. No one knows how to do that gracefully. But as someone who crushed HARD on a straight friend while living in a homophobic town, I can say that even if the prospect of a relationship is a lost cause, telling her can take some weight off your shoulders and help you start to move on. Again, if you’re that sure she’s queer, she probably won’t be bothered knowing that you think she’s very cute. My person was definitely NOT queer, and I knew that, and I had to tell her anyway because I couldn’t let the feelings fester in my gut anymore. Despite being the straightest person I’ve ever met, she took it exceptionally well and it’s still something we laugh about and bond over today, ten years later. It is possible.
Now, I give you all this advice under the assumption that you will feel safe following it. “Homophobic town” can mean many things, and since I don’t know what yours looks like, I want to make clear that if you feel like disclosing any of this will put you in danger, it is also okay not to say anything. No crush, regardless of how awesome, is worth jeopardizing your wellbeing or life over. Obviously I hope that isn’t the case (for so many reasons). But if the danger is too great, you can turn to the awesome friends you already have and talk your way through it with them. They can either help you work up the courage to talk to this girl or give you a safe place to process your feelings with less risk. Lean on your support system—that’s what they’re for!
But of course, personally, I hope you talk to this girl a third, fourth, and fiftieth time and you either end up with another rock solid friend or an adorable girlfriend. You are going to learn a lot about yourself regardless and take some brave steps. That’s a huge win no matter what.
Carrie’s body is weird and she’s making that work for her. She lives in Los Angeles, where she does a lot of crossword puzzles and longs for a squished-faced dog. Help her get better at Twitter.