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“I feel like a stupid person because in the past I’ve only been in relationships that were unhealthy. Am I a magnet for all the wrong people, or am I just looking in the wrong way? Please help, I really want to feel good about my ability to give and receive love!!”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

When I was in high school I read “Perks of Being a Wallflower.” At the time it stung a little, because being in high school stings. As I moved on with my life and forgot about high school / that book, there was one quote that always stuck with me, “we accept the love we think we deserve.” It stuck with me and I never knew why. I don’t think I fully got the quote until very recently.

We all go through the motions of living this life. Our parents put us in school, tell us what we can and can’t do, get mad when we come home late, help us through college, expect us to learn certain things on our own, like our boyfriends, dislike our boyfriends, like our girlfriends, dislike our girlfriends, tell us love is hard, etc. We learn from them, we learn from our friends’ parents, we learn from TV. We watch TV enough to think that husbands are supposed to be annoyed with their wives. We watch movies enough to think that everyone cheats on each other and it’s kind of whatever. We listen to enough songs to think that sex is specifically for dudes and women feeling sexy is specifically for dudes. We see our friend’s mom with a severe dependency on alcohol and we see her wife miserable and afraid to say anything. We see a bunch of shit and it’s really hard to figure out what we deserve, what we think is okay, and how we want to be treated.

I’ve been there. A lot of us have been there. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many good examples of relationships in the world. On top of that, sometimes you can’t know what’s right for you until you’ve been knocked down a few pegs. It sounds terrible, but how are you supposed to know how important sex really is to you until you’ve been in a relationship where it wasn’t treated as important? How are you supposed to really know that you want someone who will inspire you, someone that you can be creative with, someone that you want to hang out with all the time, until you find that person? You kind of have to figure out what’s missing to figure out what to look for.

You also have to have a lot of respect for yourself. You have to recognize how important and beautiful and amazing you are, so that you can see right away when someone isn’t treating you the way they should. You have to really, truly, know what you deserve so that you can see right away when things aren’t good enough.

It takes a bit to get there, but I think you can.

Kristin Says:

I just want to weigh in real quick and tell you that you are absolutely capable of giving and receiving love.

We all are – that is quite literally how we come into this world.

Dannielle is right, you need to work to love and respect yourself. Work at that each and every day and you will slowly start to see that some of the relationships in your life (friends, lovers, or otherwise) aren’t making you feel good… and you will want those to end. You’ll also notice those around you who respect you and who respect themselves… and you will want those to flourish.

It’s funny, we come into the world with all of the tools we need to be healthy, vibrant human beings. Then, the world tells us a whole bunch of foolish and harmful things, and we spend a good chunk of time crawling back to the place where we started – the place where we know our mind and our skin and our heart are beautiful, beautiful things that we get to share with beautiful, beautiful people. <3

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“I’m in an interracial relationship– I’m white, my girlfriend is black. I need help learning how to respond to all the little comments and microaggressions that happen when we’re together. It can be hard to know how to (and even whether to) respond. Any thoughts?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous with a reply from the scattered, disorganized desk of The Bad Gay, Mo Willis, as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Mo Says:

Ah, the complex and challenging interweavings of love. And Blackness and Whiteness. And relationships. And 3 out of 5 sentences/statements that begin with “I” or “I’m” when talking about a we-thang. Though, there is clear cause to lead with self here. Like, who else would you be asking on behalf of? Who else is asking the question? Is this even a learnable/advisable situation?

(Overwhelmed, days later I returned with a rapid-fire, long-form, shortish list.)

Some answers.

1. Racially-motivated “micro-aggressions” are happening to your gf more than she’s telling you. I’m saying that because you need to understand the magnitude of “micro-aggressions.” (Which let me just take a second to side-eye the hell out the term “micro-aggressions.” What the fuck is a micro-aggression? Are we actually trying to say “all non-violent aggression” or should it be more like, “he didn’t outright call me a nigger aggression” or am I to understand it as a “run-of-the-mill, just your everyday following me around the store aggression”? I don’t know. I’m not really sure what it means.)

2. Similarly, what is a “little comment”? Is it in the same pre-school playroom as “micro-aggression”? I just want to point out that what’s happening here, over all, is the diminutization (or, “making smaller”) of pretty fucked up moments that are happening with enough frequency that you feel compelled to ask about it. (Let me restate that more clearly: YOU are engaging in the act of making what you may think are small, petty things, small and petty. No matter how your gf reacts, know that those moments are exhausting, terrible, annoying, hurtful, deflating, unnecessary reminders of how the world actually feels.

3. I don’t know you. I don’t know your personality. I can only speak for myself. I be gyad-damned if I am with my gf somewhere and someone says or does some racist shit. I’m saying something. I’m doing something. We’re leaving. Admittedly, I’m not speaking from a place of being in an interracial relationship. But, as an ally and partner, your role is to support the ways she needs to process and to make no secret of your position of unwavering support. Just because you’re with a black person does not mean you not about that racist life. It just means you are dating a black person. Showing your support can look a lot of ways. Sometimes it looks like leaving. Sometimes it means looking at her and asking if she’s okay. Sometimes it means giving the finger. Sometimes it means holding her tighter. Sometimes it means having a white person-to-white-person call out time. Sometimes it means taking up even more space as a couple, intentionally. Sometimes it means not saying a fucking thing and standing there. You will become more comfortable and familiar with the responses that work best for you when you do work to understand what is happening–and maybe even understanding how/if you’re contributing to it.

4. You are never going to ever come close to being able to identify, understand, or address the kabillion ways she will experience anti-black racism in her life. That’s not your role. Your role, forreal, is to: a) stop acting like it’s little shit when what you’re actually witnessing is a fucked up system of oppression at work and to b) Talk to your gf. Together, maybe y’all can identify ways she feels most supported when inane, ridiculous bullshit happens simply because she has the audacity to be…alive.

5. When people treat you, as a mixed couple, in a shitty way, y’all need to tag team. That’s my totally unproductive advice. How will you clown these antiquated fools out here in ways that keep y’all safe and entertained? How are you dealing with it together? What would make your relationship feel protected and yet give you the glorious taste of “Mm. They shoulda known we weren’t standing for that shit.” Or, if you’re the type of people who take refuge in putting things quietly away, do that. But process. Unpack. Don’t be afraid to ask about it. Don’t be mad if you’re met with silence. Give tenderness. Be honest.

That’s it. There is never a point at which your work and investment will be done. Saddle up. Be sweet to each other. Pay attention. Use your words. Good start, asking questions. Keep going.

I’m out.

-TBG

***

Mo Willis is a co-founder of Brooklyn Boihood, a collective whose mission is to “spread love through community-building events, music and art while sharing our journey as bois of color who believe in safe spaces, accountable action and self-care.” Support Mo and the rest of Brooklyn Boihood by visiting their website and online store!

Click through to read more about Mo and our other Second Opinions Panelists!

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“My girlfriend is cute and funny and smart and romantic and perfect and, lately, rather smelly. How do I tell her this without being a total jerk?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

You could fake an obsession with a deodorant smell? Or suggest showering together A LOT MORE OFTEN. Or buy her bath salts. Or when she doesn’t smell, compliment her SOOOO much that she’ll want to continue to not smell? Or be like, “did you change your perfume?” and when she’s like “no what?” just say, “you used to smell like peaches and sunshine and now you smell like soup kinda, WHICH i love soup, so it’s totally cool, i was just wondering” … DON’T DO THE LAST ONE. THE LAST ONE IS A HORRIBLE IDEA. I QUIT.

Kristin Says:

The thing about it is this. If Jenny started to smell I would be like HEY LISTEN YOU SMELL WHAT GIVES. So I think, for starters, that I just learned I am a total jerk?!

Anyway, maybe do this: Say, “I read this thing that says you don’t have to use deodorant you can just put lemon juice under your armpits, DO YOU WANT TO TRY?!” Spoiler: I tried this once and it worked for like one day and then I STANK. So, you both try the lemon trick and then you both start to stank and you can be like “OMG LOL WE STANK SO BAD” and then you can go and buy two sticks of deodorant and wrap them and open them together for presents. And then she will use it bc it is a romance deodorant. See? Tada!

Also, I have no idea what your gf smells like so if you didn’t mean that this was a deodorant/shower issue and you just meant that she suddenly started smelling like skittles… well, a) I would like to date her bc I love skittles, and b) I don’t know what to tell you except maybe just tell her that Kristin told you to tell her that she loves skittles and also push her in the shower.

I DONT KNOW OK?! I QUIT ALSO.
MAYBE SHE IS THE ONE WHO SMELLS GOOD BUT YOU STINK.
DID YOU EVER THINK OF THAT?!

*backs out of door, eyes darting left and right*

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“Hi, I’m in a bit of a moral crisis. My ex has had sex with 50 people in their lifetime and they’re only 22. This bothers me SO much and I want them to know but I don’t wanna seem like a slut-shaming prude. I know I can’t change them so how do I cope?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I think this is complicated for a few reasons. (1) neither of you is in the wrong, so you don’t really have a reason to be like WE NEED TO TALK BECAUSE YOU FUCKED UP OR I FUCKED UP, (2) It isn’t rrrrreally your right to comment on someone else’s sexy numbers, regardless of circumstance, (3) you probably won’t come away from the conversation feeling any better?? Confronting your ex will probably actually make you feel worse.

If you and your ex are good friends and you want to have a conversation about being raised in a society that only celebrates sex when it’s between a man and a woman, and for the purpose of having babies… HAVE THAT CONVERSATION. I think you can actually learn a lot from someone who has had different sexual experiences than you. If you see sex as something sacred and secret and kept for only a few and your ex thinks of sex as something fun and exciting and a way to share an experience with someone, then the two of you have SO MUCH cool shit to talk about. Imagine being able to understand where your ex is coming from and why they feel the way they do and how their growing up and education and community have lead them to feeling that way. AND how cool it will be to understand.

I think it’s important to realize that we are all different human beings. We all feel differently about sex and our bodies. You are not right. You aren’t the one person who has it figured out and does sex the right way. Your ex also doesn’t have all the answers to the correct way to treat sex. You’re two different people and you have your two different answers and you have your two different bodies and you have your two different levels of comfort. The problem ALWAYS comes along when you try to force someone to follow your guidelines. That’s the root of every problem this world has ever had. If we could all just figure it the fuck out, realize that we’re not all the same, recognize that we all need / want different things, be cool with the fact that differences between us are necessary, etc., the world will be on hell of a better place.

Kristin Says:

I agree with every last word Dannielle has said up there, and so I am going to add very little and keep this short:

The way you cope with having negative feelings toward the way someone else approaches sex (even, yes, your ex!) is to think more about why you have those feelings. It is okay that you are feeling things — but it is the inner mechanisms in your brain and heart that are at work here, not the wrongdoings of another person.

I would talk to a close friend or write in a journal or read articles on sex positivity or all of the above… I would not tell your ex that you have feelings about the way they choose to live their life.

Your ex’s choices don’t affect you. Your feelings toward those choices do affect you. Put your focus there. <3

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“My gf and I are both graduating soon and heading into the same line of work. I love her, but she’s been offered more opportunities than I have at the moment, and sometimes it’s hard for me to be excited for her. Do you have any advice about how I can be supportive of her while I’m kinda bummed about my own situation?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Oh man, this is a great question. I feel like a lot of people struggle with this in so many ways with so many people. Maybe your friend, maybe your coworker, maybe your sister, maybe someone you used to know, it happens everywhere all the time and it’s so hard to talk yourself out of, but also it’s totally possible.

Once you get to a place where you can be just excited for her success, you’re going to fucking love life. There is no better feeling than excitement and pride for the person you’re madly in love with, y’all. It’s okay if it doesn’t happen right away AND it’s okay that you slip up from time to time. HOWEVER, one thing to remember is that there is enough success for everyone. One person’s success does not equal your failure. Rihanna is not any less successful because Katy Perry is successful. They are both successful in the same industry, in a similar way, but they don’t tear each other down, they are never “in the way” of one another, and Rihanna’s Coconut Water ad certainly doesn’t take away from Katy Perry’s Adidas ad and GTFW (guess the fuck what), they BOTH did cover girl ads… so like… they did their own things that prove they are successful and THEN did more similar things that prove they’re both successful.

THERE. IS. ENOUGH. FOR. EVERYONE. There just is, and I know your boo wants to help you.

Also, I think it’s okay if you want to talk about it. It’s okay to say “I am so fucking happy for you and this is so amazing and I got a little jealous because of course I want to be doing all these things, but at the end of the day, me being so fucking proud of you overshadows all of the jealous.” Maybe your boo can help you spice your resume or get better at interviews, or maybe you have cool ways to work together that will bring you both up. There are 20,000,000 ways to be successful in one field, you know? Help each other, fight for each other, be proud of each other, support each other. This is gonna be so dope.

Kristin Says:

I want to, first, underline Dannielle’s point about there being enough success for everyone. Jenny and I talk about this a lot, because we also (we all) wrestle these feelings, and we need to be reminded. For whatever reason, people seem hardwired to compare themselves to others… when in reality those comparisons are not at all informative about the person we are, the opportunities we have, or the possibilities that lie ahead.

The other thing that I want to stress has to do with partnership. You and your gf are partners, which means that when you succeed, so does she… and vice versa. This doesn’t only hold true for romantic partnerships, either. Dannielle and I have been side-by-side for nearly five years, working together on Everyone Is Gay. In the past year, we’ve started to work on some new projects, individually. I know that both of us have moments where we feel confused and lost and worried that perhaps we won’t be able to succeed like the other, but we anchor ourselves with the knowledge that each of our individual successes are actually successes for us both, and for our work together. It isn’t easy, and it requires reminding yourself again and again, and also talking about how you are feeling. You have to communicate!

Dannielle and I have said those words to each other: “I don’t know if I can do anything on my own, I am afraid I won’t succeed, I am unsure, I am sad, I am confused.” We talk about those things, we explore them, we revisit them, and you and your girlfriend need to do the same. You can express your feelings without making her feel like she shouldn’t succeed, and you can express those feelings while also being endlessly proud of her accomplishments.

Try, if you can, to remember that you are capable and strong. Our paths are all very different, and you and your gf will ebb and flow in relation to success in very different ways. Then, remember that you are walking a path together, which means each of your successes help to carry you both. She will learn from your triumphs and you can learn from hers.

<3

***
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