Dear Prudence

Bi, Bi, Baby

How can I tell the women I date that I’m bisexual?

A man and a woman sit with their hands on their knees.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.

Dear Prudence,
I am a bisexual man in my 20s. I prefer women, but I have had casual sexual relationships with men. I’m also monogamous. I am comfortable with my sexuality and realize that it’s fine to be attracted to both genders but to still have a pretty strong preference. My friends and family are also very understanding and supportive. My issue is that I have had trouble telling women I date that I am bisexual. Many handle it fine, but some get very upset. A girl I had been dating pretty seriously for more than a month kicked me out when I casually mentioned it while we were at her house. She texted me that she “had never felt more lied to” and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me you were gay?” These comments hurt me, but I also feel guilty for hurting her. I don’t think that I led her on or lied to her, but I still feel bad that she is upset. How do I bring this up better next time, so that I can fully explain where I am coming from, and how long do I wait?
—Breaking the News

It’s tempting to want to take responsibility when someone you like is upset with you, but your ex had no reason to be upset, and I don’t think there was any way you could have told her about your bisexuality that would have made her respond better. The fact that you said, “I’m bisexual,” and she said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were gay?” suggests that she’s not merely biphobic but also a bad listener. This isn’t bad news that you need to finesse; it’s part of the reality of dating you. Anyone you’re dating who gets upset upon learning you’re bi is doing you a favor by disqualifying themselves from the list of People Who Get to Date You.

Dear Prudence,
After six months of searching and working in a restaurant, my sister finally got her first real postcollege job. Two weeks after she started, her boss informed her that their department didn’t actually have the budget to pay her and asked if she would work as an unpaid intern while doing the same things they hired her for. I think she should quit, but the job search was so emotionally draining for her that she is considering staying on and hoping they start paying her. She lives on my couch and was planning to move out after her first paycheck, but now she is going to have to stay longer. What legal recourse might she have? Neither of us have much money, and our parents are dealing with medical issues, so we don’t want to go to them. What should we do?
—Employer Won’t Pay Her

I can imagine your sister’s frustration at the idea of going back to job-hunting, but she hasn’t actually found a job yet, and her boss’s sudden bait-and-switch suggests this is not a company she can trust. Did the boss only learn about the budget shortfall in the last two weeks? Why was this only communicated to your sister after she’d already given them a full pay period worth of work? I’m not a lawyer, and this isn’t legal advice, but she might contact a legal aid organization or the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Department of Labor to see what her options are. Meanwhile, if she sticks around in the hopes that they will eventually be able to pay her for a job they’ve already reneged on paying her for, I think she’ll be waiting a long, long time. They’re scamming her. She should demand to be paid immediately for the work that she’s done and shouldn’t provide them with any more free labor until the check clears.

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Dear Prudence,
I am miserable in my current job. I was lied to about the details of the position, and while the workload is fine (even somewhat enjoyable), the company culture is insidious and cutthroat. It’s a tech startup, and the staff insist on a cheery “We’re all family here!” vibe. These people are not my family—we work together! Trying to force that dynamic feels insincere. Social events are framed as fun and optional but are really mandatory. I’ve been told to work Sundays and stay until 8 or 9 at night, even though I can get my work done during business hours, because it “shows dedication.” I was told in plain language that it is unacceptable for me to have a life outside of work and that the concept of a work-life balance was not something that would fly here.

I plan to quit as soon as I have enough money saved up for a safety net. Often I dream of writing a well-worded but harsh letter to my small team of co-workers letting them know what an alienating and crushing experience I had here. This job has convinced me I never want to work in this field again, and I plan on pursuing a career in education. Would emailing this letter and then cutting off contact come back to bite me in the ass? I feel like they deserve to know and understand how much emotional energy I’ve expended on top of my actual work, but I’m not sure if I’m correct or if this is just pseudo-righteous daydreaming.
—Leaving in a Blaze of Glory

It would absolutely come back to bite you! Write that letter, stage a dramatic reading in your living room for your pets or friends, and then burn it. You will not accomplish anything in sending it, and even if you change fields, it could only hurt you to develop a reputation for sending “harsh” letters burning bridges behind you. The righteous daydreaming is understandable, but channel that energy into searching for a job somewhere else.

Dear Prudence,
I have an 18-year-old child who is very critical. “Chris” is bipolar (like me) and loves attention. They say they are transgender, but while I am a huge LGBT rights supporter, I don’t see it. They have started criticizing everything I do, saying that I am not being a parent and that they have to parent me. Chris’ stepdad disagrees, and grown-ups who meet Chris think it is an attention grab. Granted, while Chris’ dad and I were getting divorced, I went through a period during which I drank a lot. However, I am now in a stable relationship and rarely drink. Chris is undermining my confidence as a mother, and I am not sure how to deal with the situation. I am in therapy, as is Chris. I feel like Chris is trying to make me think I am a failure as a mom, and it is deeply upsetting.
—I Think My Kid Is Gaslighting Me

I don’t think that you know Chris’ gender identity better than Chris does, and setting yourself up as the arbiter of whether someone else is “really” transgender does not make you a supporter of LGBT rights. I don’t know what you mean by “grown-ups who meet Chris think it is an attention grab,” but I can’t imagine why you think it would help Chris to have a series of adult strangers weigh in on the topic. Nor do I think that wanting attention—especially as a teenager who’s already gone through their parents’ divorce, a parent’s drinking problem, and a significant mental health diagnosis—is inherently a bad thing or that it renders Chris’s transgender identity suspect. I’m glad you’ve been able to stop drinking excessively, and I’m glad you’re both in therapy, but I think it will help to reconsider some of the premises you’re working with right now. Rather than setting yourself up as the gatekeeper of Chris’s gender identity, I think you’ll get better results if you ask questions and listen with an open mind.

More Dear Prudence

Why Is He Confiding in Me? I Don’t Even Like Him.
My Roommate’s Wealthy Parents Want to Pay Me to Stay Friends With Their Daughter.
A Nasty Co-Worker Is Trying to Get Me Fired.
My Husband Never Initiates Sex With Me.
A Stranger Exposed Himself to Me in Public. My Husband Says It’s No Big Deal.

Dear Prudence,
I am the oldest of four girls. I have never been married and have not dated in five years. I have a great career, own two homes, and have several cats. I am happy. This is of the greatest concern to my family. My “spinsterhood” is the topic of conversation at every family meal. Two of my sisters are divorced (one twice!), and one has been legally separated four times from her drunk-driving spouse, but the state of my life is the topic of worry. I love my nieces and nephews. I love my sisters. But I feel betrayed when they chime in with our parents about how I need to “get out there and find a good man.” I like my life. No matter how I state this, it gets pushed aside because I am not following the approved script.

The last time my family was all together, I lost my temper and told everyone at the table that I shouldn’t bother trying to find a good man, since none of them could land one. I admit it was vicious, but I am tired of “crazy cat lady” jokes and concerns about my dating life. I have been a good sister and auntie—I have done years of free baby-sitting, given money under the table for lawyers, and even taken my sisters into my home until they have gotten on their feet. How do I get my family to be happy for me instead of using me as the family punchline?
—Happy Cat Lady

This seems like the familial equivalent to the letter-writer who wanted to write a kiss-off letter once he or she quit the job. I’m not sure that you can get your family to be happy for you. Your last conversation was not, in fact, designed to get them to be happy for you; it was designed to get them to run backward 100 feet to get out of the blast radius. You’ve certainly experienced plenty of provocation! It sounds like previous attempts to forestall the same old critical song (“I love my life”/“I’m not interested in dating”/“I’m doing fine, thanks”) went unacknowledged, so I can understand why you went for the nuclear option. Since you say you love your sisters and their children and want to stay a part of their lives, I’m afraid you might have to apologize—if only for the tone in which you asserted yourself rather than for asserting yourself at all. I wish that weren’t my advice! I do want you to be able to storm off in a blaze of glory. But I don’t think that’s what you want, at present.

That doesn’t mean you have to go back to business as usual! Feel enormously free to cut short any conversation that veers toward your personal affairs with, “We’ve talked about this before. I’m very happy with my life, and I don’t want any dating advice,” followed by a calm exit before you feel inclined to start digging into everyone else’s romantic histories. Either your family will slowly be trained in conversational redirection, or you’ll have fewer family dinners. Whichever the case, you certainly don’t have to sit idly by and listen to more speeches about “finding a good man” week after week.

Dear Prudence,
About a year ago I started a new job. The pay is fair, benefits are phenomenal, and the pace is just my speed. The problem is that my boss has a tendency to ask our team for “honest” feedback, then lashes out at us when we do. Sometimes she’s shot down my input, then a few days later repeated what I said and passed it off as her own idea. I’ve tried offering my feedback more gently, declining to offer input at all, and saying, “I’ll defer to you,” but that just seemed to upset her, because she had no cues on how to approach the problem. It also frustrated me, because I thrive when I’m able to think critically and offer suggestions.

I know she’s the boss and I’m not. I’m not trying to undermine or steamroll her. And I’m fine having my ideas rejected! What bugs me is that she’s always seeking guidance but often rebuffs any input and appears offended when someone confidently offers a viable solution. My friends have told me to accept the behavior because it’s the norm at any corporate job. So should I suck it up or start looking for an exit strategy?
—Navigating the Land Mines of Work

If you were the only one having this experience, I might suggest you try another strategy with your boss. You say she doesn’t like when someone “confidently” offers a solution, which makes me wonder if you’d have more luck lobbing her softballs in the form of “What do you think about … ?” and “I wonder if it might work to try X?” (although it’s certainly irritating to have to couch good ideas in the form of “Gee whiz, I don’t know, but maybe … ”). The fact that your boss does this to almost everyone on your team, however, suggests that there might be no way to answer her questions without setting her off. I’m sure lots of corporate bosses have a tendency to take more than their fair share of credit, but I don’t think it’s commonplace to blow up at your direct reports for answering a question you asked of them—then calmly pass off the answer that made you explode as your own. Since you feel stultified and frustrated when you can’t meaningfully participate in the decision-making process, if posing questions rather than offering suggestions doesn’t seem to make a difference in the ask-explode-repackage cycle, I think your best bet might be to look for a more reasonable boss elsewhere.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“That’s a slightly dreary picture of the future!” Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss this letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored —only for Slate Plus members.