Personally, I’ve always found it funny that people feel the need to apologize for “unloading” or “venting” in conversation.
I’ve always been happy to skip the performative pleasantries of social play and get to the real shit. Not because I’m some paragon of authenticity — I can be as full of it as the next guy when I need to be — but because the real shit is more interesting.
Hell yes, tell me what terrifies you, and if you would be so kind to allow me to do the same, my attention will not waver. I think that’s why I enjoy doing this column so much. We’re diving straight into the deep end before checking to see if there’s even water in the pool. But there is water, and it is clear and blue. So let’s do a reverse four-and-a-half somersault in pike position. You first!
Am I being led on?
Dear Eve 6 Guy,
I’m a 17-year-old girl from Ohio. I find myself in kind of a difficult situation right now. Basically, I'm in love with one of my best friends, and she says she's in love with me, too. We’ve kissed, we text like we’re a couple, etc. However, there’s a problem: She has a boyfriend.
She keeps saying that I’m hers and that she'll “figure it out” every time I ask her if it’s gonna be him or me. I really do love her, but I don’t know how much longer I can stay. As much as I hate to say it, I feel like I’m being led on. I’m scared because if she does choose him, things won't be the same between us — like how they were before we confessed feelings for each other.
Another issue is, I’m trans and don’t know if I have the confidence to transition without her by my side. At school, I still dress like a dude and wear dude clothes and stuff. Without her, I don’t know if I’d have the confidence to be myself. I know it sounds dumb because confidence should come from within, but whatever.
I've never connected with anybody like this before. This whole thing just sucks, and I’m really lost on what to do.
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
God, you’re reminding me how difficult this stuff was to negotiate at 17. It never gets easy by the way, but it does get gradually less apocalyptic.
Reading this brought me directly back to being at my locker before first period my junior year of high school, when my friend Jeff walked up to me and said he needed to talk to me: “She’s cheating on you, bro.” Pure devastation. It took a second for the news to move from my brain to my body, and once it did, I felt like I was sinking to the bottom of the ocean. It took the air out of me. There’s also no scarier sensation than being in a crowded high school hallway and feeling that you might not be able to keep the tears from flowing.
The thing you’re afraid of losing may not be something you’re actually in possession of.
This story has sort of a happy ending because I went home and wrote a record about that feeling that ended up selling three million copies, ensuring that I wouldn’t have to get a job until 25 years later, when I would be hired by Input to write this column. As you can tell, I’ve managed to distill and preserve some of that teenage narcissism — that feeling that the planets rotate not around the sun but around me — because up until this point in the piece, I’ve basically only talked about myself.
Let’s talk about you, young reader. From what I gather, your friend is being dishonest with both you and her boyfriend. And if I’m right in that assumption, then you are technically being led on, even if this isn’t your friend’s intent. That sucks. It’s a shitty feeling. And it’s made shittier by the fact that it sounds like this person has good and redeemable qualities, too. When we can’t neatly place the badly behaving object of our affection into the category of villain, it can make it more difficult to know or do what is right.
I am also assuming (hoping) that your partner is your age and similarly afflicted with the problems of navigating love and relationships with — and I mean no disrespect here — a mind that isn’t fully developed yet. She is not a bad person. She, like you, is young and inexperienced and hasn’t yet acquired the requisite tools for the job. This is completely understandable, but just because it is doesn’t mean you should necessarily stick around.
I’m going to tell you something right now that you may not believe yourself, but I believe it — and maybe my believing it can work as a kind of proxy. You are worthy of love. Love is honest by definition. Without honesty, love gets transmuted into fear. Fear is love’s opposite. Fear is self-centered. Fear has one foot in loss and one in desire, and it lifts its leg like a dog and takes a long piss on love.
Sorry about that metaphor, which is not good for a host of reasons, not least of which is that dogs don’t have feet. The point is, the thing you’re afraid of losing may not be something you’re actually in possession of. Holding this knowledge intellectually doesn’t make the pain go away, but it can change its chemical makeup enough to make it a little more manageable.
You are not telling her what she has to do. You are telling her what you need in order to feel safe in the relationship.
What to do: Make a courageous effort at communication. (Remember, courage isn’t not experiencing fear, but in fact feeling and allowing it and acting in spite of it). Tell this person you care about her and want this to work, but you know that it can’t without a foundation of honesty. Tell her that in order for this relationship to continue, she is going to have to be straight with you. Time-insensitive abstractions like “I’ll figure it out” will no longer work for you.
You are not telling her what she has to do. You are telling her what you need in order to feel safe in the relationship. You don’t have to feel confident to act confidently. Aspiring to confidence can achieve the same ends as experiencing the emotion undiluted. Put simply, your friend will have the choice to either commit to a relationship with you or not.
If she does, then that’s easy. Hooray. Desired result. If however, she does not — if she says she’s not ready to for whatever reason — that’s going to hurt a bit. Believe me, I know how obnoxious this next part is going to read, and I’m not saying it lightly. If she chooses not to commit, that is okay. The world will not end, and if it seems as if it’s going to, that feeling will be temporary.
We often designate feelings as unbearable when they are quite literally bearable. “This feeling is too much for me to take” is just a thought. Challenge it. “No, it isn’t.” Allow yourself to feel the sadness without throwing a layer of self-judgment on top. The human experience is deep, complex, and the truth is we’re not supposed to be happy all the time. Regardless of how this relationship ends up, you will grow from it.
Regarding your transition, since it’s not something I have personally dealt with, I’m going to recommend the subreddit r/asktransgender, where you’ll hopefully find people who have been in the position you’re in who can offer some practical advice.
But I will say this: Staying in a relationship with someone who is not being honest with you or her boyfriend isn’t going to help you. Advocating for yourself in this relationship and — if your reasonable criteria can’t be met — moving on could be a true step to building confidence in yourself.
The Eve 6 Guy
A difficult dad
Dear Eve 6 Guy,
I never write into advice columns, but I dig what you’re doing. I need some advice on how to navigate a painful situation between my fiancée and her father. I’ll refer to him as Jim.
My fiancée and Jim have always had a very close relationship. She grew up on the back of his motorcycle and camped with him in the wilderness of South Louisiana. When she moved to New York, she played online video games with him and called or texted daily.
My fiancée’s parents were married for 40 years, until my fiancée’s mom died from stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2019. It was brutal, and my fiancée and I took time off to stay with Jim to help as much as we could.
Less than three months later, and right before Christmas, my fiancée gets a call from her father telling her that he is engaged to be married to a woman we had never met — or had even heard of before.
It’s crushing to see my fiancée so upset by this. I do everything I know to be supportive, but I wonder if there is more I can be doing?
I understand that this kind of thing is unfortunately not uncommon for grieving people, and I have always tried to keep that in mind. However, Jim’s actions and behavior since then have had a devastating impact on my fiancée.
I’ll refer to this new woman as Juli. When Juli announced her engagement to my future father-in-law, she posted a cherished photo of Jim and my fiancée’s mother on Facebook — with my fiancée’s mother cut out of the picture. This was the photo displayed at the mom’s funeral.
Juli is a member of a televangelist church that encourages extreme tithing (to pay for private jets) and cutting people out of your life if they have any objections to the church. We fear Juli is after Jim's money, as she has been divorced four or five times. Jim has already bought her a new car and a brand-new Harley-Davidson.
When Jim said he wanted to get married on the same date he married my fiancée’s mother, my fiancée begged him not to. He said he would change the date — though later we found out that they’d already gotten married shortly after the engagement.
Jim accuses my fiancée of not wanting him to be happy. He says that her pain and distress are just a way to “get back” at Jim because she doesn’t like that he remarried. Now my fiancée and Jim are almost completely estranged. When they do talk, it ends with fighting.
All of this has hurt my fiancée deeply. As for Jim, it just seems like he’s happy to ride motorcycles with his new wife, and everyone else can go to hell.
In many ways this has been a tricky situation for me. It’s crushing to see my fiancée so upset by this. I do everything I know to be supportive, but I wonder if there is more I can be doing? Prior to all of this, Jim and I really got along — we respected one another and had a close relationship. Both of my parents have passed, and it was nice to have a father figure to rely on.
Sometimes I want to call Jim and tell him he’s acting like a child who can’t admit he made mistakes and blames everyone else.
For the past two years, I haven’t engaged with Jim, fearing I could make things worse for my fiancée. However, we have our wedding coming up in September, and I'm equal parts sad and pissed that Jim is causing so much strife that we feel that we can’t invite him.
Sometimes I want to call Jim and tell him he’s acting like a child who can’t admit he made mistakes and blames everyone else. Other times, I want to reach out to empathize — and tell him that if he can’t make an effort with my fiancée, he’s going to miss out on our wedding, the birth of his grandchildren, and every other life event of ours in the future.
What should I do? Do I try to engage with Jim to facilitate repairing the relationship? Do I tell him to quit being an asshole? Do I continue to stay out of it and be supportive of my fiancée? I know I can’t fix this overnight, but I’d love to do anything I can to help change things for the better.
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
Hi Riding Sidecar,
It is so hard, so deeply, oppressively difficult to see someone you care about make choices that are obviously injurious to their own well-being and to their relationships.
They’re at a fork in the road. The signs for the two divergent paths read “The Way to Spare Yourself and Others Needless Pain and Suffering” and “The Way to Maximize Needless Pain and Suffering.” You wish you could surgically implant a steering wheel into their back and make the choice for them, but of course you can’t, and your own powerlessness and the attendant frustration rocks you.
I’ve been there, man. And people in my life have been there when it was me making the bad choices. The short answer is that to the extent that you can influence a person’s behavior, you try, and when you run into the limitations of that, you do the most difficult thing in the world, which is give people the dignity to make their own mistakes.
But you try. You try, with love and empathy, to communicate to them that they are taking the self-made misery route. You don’t do it from on high. You don’t do it from a place of judgment. You do it by recalling a time in your own life when you needed grace shown to you from another. Maybe you received it, maybe you didn’t, but we’ve all been there because we’re all human.
Your fiancée’s father may seem like he’s perfectly happy riding motorcycles with his bride, but it sounds more to me like he is trying to distract himself from the tumult of mortality and loss.
Grief is such a particular kind of agony. It is unrelenting. There is no heartache that comes close to touching its immensity. I lost my mom to cancer two years ago, and it hurt so much. Time has muted some of the characteristics of the pain, but there are still moments when it will hit me like a fuckin’ truck. I can only imagine what it was like for my dad after 51 years of marriage. When you’re with someone for that long, they are your world, and when you lose them it’s a personal Armageddon.
My dad was also her primary caretaker, tasked with administering medications at all hours and easing her fears about the unknown. The toll that takes — there’s beauty in it, but also mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion.
Your fiancée’s father may seem like he’s perfectly happy riding motorcycles with his situationally unaware — or worse, evangelical — bride, but it sounds more to me like he is trying to distract himself from the tumult of mortality and loss. This is your access road to empathy, and it sounds like you’re aware of that. Hopefully your fiancée is too.
But how to broach this in conversation? The effort here is to attempt to open back up a line of actual communication between father and daughter. Unfortunately, it’s too late to keep him from marrying this person, and the truth is, you wouldn’t have been able to anyway.
You say something to the effect of “Dude, I love you” (well actually don’t call him dude — he’s your future father-in-law). But say something like, “I love you. I understand that you are your own man who makes his own decisions, as you have every right to do. The difficult place I find myself in is that I see the way your choices are affecting your relationship with your daughter, whom we both love. I fear that without some course correction, without a real effort at communication, there will be irrevocable damage done.”
Don’t join him on the battlefield. Stay above the fray. Sanity, like its opposite, can be contagious.
Listen to him and hear his side. Observe your frustration if he rationalizes and deflects, but don’t speak from that place. Don’t join him on the battlefield. Stay above the fray. Sanity, like its opposite, can be contagious.
You can’t undo the past or force his mind to change, but there is an aspect of this that is inarguable — and that is that his relationship with his daughter isn’t just important, it’s sacred. Emphasize this. Starting from this simple fact, it might be possible to move from the problem to the solution, and the solution is communication.
Communication also means listening. Be an example to him of what listening looks like, and when the conversation concludes, merely ask that he show his daughter the same courtesy — for both their sakes.
I guess I’d sum it up thus: Do your best to understand and empathize. Try not to argue. Point out the unassailable fact that there is no more worthwhile pursuit than trying to mend his relationship with his daughter. Then take a step back and do your best to stay out of what happens next.
The Eve 6 Guy