I am a 29-year-old man who’s been seeing a woman now for about 10 months. Everything has been going great, but I’ve kept something from her. There was about a three-year time in my life just after college when I considered myself bisexual. I never had gay sex or even really dated men, but it was how I defined myself and I did go through a coming-out process to my parents, friends, etc. However, I entered into a serious relationship with a girl not long after, and since that relationship, have never veered from women. Today, I don’t consider myself bi and am committed to a heterosexual life. The only problem is that some people in my life know about my past and others don’t. One of those who doesn’t is my current girlfriend, yet she often interacts with people from my past. No one ever really talks about it, but I’m afraid it will slip out to her. I’ve thought about telling her myself, but it’s a strange thing that wouldn’t necessarily shock her but would mean, to some extent, I’ve been lying, since at times she has jokingly asked me if I am gay. I’m not sure if I should say something or not.
—Silent but Concerned
It sounds like your coming out helped you realize that you just wanted to turn around and go back. However, since you made your announcement so widely, even if people are generally quiet about it, someone is sure to mention it in front of your girlfriend. Since she has asked if you’re gay, this means either someone already has or she is picking up on something about you. You owe it to her to tell her that you wrestled with your sexual identity—and did so in a public way—but never actively pursued homosexuality and now consider yourself heterosexual. Answer her questions honestly; doing so may help you clarify this confusing period of your life.
I am a first-year high-school teacher. This is incredibly difficult to put into words because of the shameful nature of what I have done. Following the graduation of one of my students, who is 18 years old, we began seeing each other socially. Within about a month, this led to an admission of attraction, and eventually, we acted on this attraction. By sheer providence, he went on vacation for a couple of weeks, which gave me time to step away from the emotion and ridiculousness of this situation and glean a little perspective. He returned last night, and I adamantly ended the relationship forthwith, but it was not easy. Now I am left with the fear that knowledge of this tryst will circulate, and if it does, I know I deserve it. I very well may lose my job. I probably deserve to lose my job. I know that nothing like this will ever happen again; what I am looking for, I suppose, is the reaffirmation of my decision to walk away from someone that I actually do care for.
—I Can’t Believe I Did This
Dear I Can’t,
While you may be every high-school boy’s dream teacher, and while you’re probably only a few years older than the student, and while the student may no longer be a minor—boy, oh, boy, have you gotten yourself into a moral and legal mess. I am a little disturbed that your question is about whether your decision to walk away is the right one. I’ll say it is—and you might want to break the four-minute mile in your effort to head in the opposite direction from this boy. The larger question is what you do next. Before you go back to school hoping no one finds out, you need to speak to an attorney. I talked to Richard Fossey, professor of education law at the University of North Texas, who says in times past romantic encounters between young teachers and almost-adult students were often winked at, but no more. Your behavior could result in your being fired, losing your teaching certificate, or other legal action. Once you discuss this with a lawyer, you need to find a therapist. You know you did something wrong, but you still pine for a relationship with this young man. Perhaps a change of professions is in order, but you also need to figure out why you would destroy the first one you tried.
I am giving my mother a big party for her 80th birthday. Everything was going along fine, but as I was preparing the invitations, my mom said, “Please indicate ‘No gifts; however, a money tree will be available.’ ” I was appalled! I have chosen to ignore the comment and leave the money-tree part off the invitation. Is the money-tree comment appropriate? I think it’s tacky. She doesn’t need the money.
Perhaps your mother wants a money tree available so she can give away her extra money to her friends. OK, probably not. Yes, you’re right, her request for a money tree is tacky. Usually people are hoping loved ones give them cash when they are starting a new phase of life such as a college graduation or wedding. A money request from an 80-year-old smacks of “Help pay for my walker.” In this case, “No gifts, please,” on the bottom of the invitation should do it.
My husband and I are close friends with another couple and hire their 18-year-old daughter as our babysitter. Up until now, she has been very responsible and (miraculously) available at very short notice. The last time we went out of town she cat-sat for us and everything went well. Recently, my parents left on a long vacation and she agreed to stop by regularly to take in their mail, water the plants, etc. After they had been gone about a week, my parents asked me to check their bills. When I went to the house there were two cars in the driveway—my babysitter’s and someone else’s. Inside I found liquor bottles in the kitchen and fast-food wrappers on the table. This girl had used my parents’ antiques-filled home for an overnight tryst with her boyfriend and they were still asleep—in my parents’ bed! I removed the house keys from her keychain and came back a little bit later to find the cars and most of the mess gone, except for cigarette butts in the driveway. She knows she was busted, but we haven’t spoken yet. What on earth do I say to this girl? And should I give her a second chance? How can I trust her to watch our kids now? Do I confront her personally or ask her father to step in? My parents trusted her because I trusted her—now that trust has been betrayed and violated.
You should clear the air with Goldilocks, but before you do, consider that it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see what could happen when you give an 18-year-old access to a guaranteed empty house. Watch a couple of teen movies and consider yourself lucky the place is still standing. Since no antiques were harmed during their adventure, you don’t want to come off like the district attorney. Talk to the girl in person and confirm it was you who busted her. Explain that you are annoyed because her assignment was to bring in the mail, not bring over a male. If she is angry and defensive, forget future babysitting assignments. But if she is apologetic, tell her she’s always done a great job with your kids and that since you know she knows the rules of your house, you would like her to continue babysitting for you if she cares to. This will give her a chance to understand it’s possible to mess up, own up, and be forgiven.