This is an edited transcript of this week’s Dear Prudence live chat, guest-hosted by Dan Kois.
I graduated from college late, at the age of 28, in December of 2019. I got a decent job out of college with a nonprofit, but the pandemic caused me to lose that job after only a few months, and I’ve been making do on unemployment for the last year while job hunting, which has been incredibly tough.
I recently got an entry-level banking job that is supposed to start in a couple weeks, but the closer it comes to the start date, the more I’m feeling like this isn’t the right path for me. There’s this little voice in the back of my head telling me to pursue my childhood “dream” of going into law enforcement, but I had pivoted away from that after the killings of unarmed Black men in 2013 and 2014 that led to the riots in Ferguson. I had always wanted to go into law enforcement to actually help people, which the system doesn’t seem set up to do, particularly with Black men. The events of the past 18 months seem to only confirm that. Yet, I can’t shake this feeling that it’s the right path for me, and if people who genuinely do want to help decide to all pivot away from that field, it only leaves the people who don’t.
To make matters more complicated, my longtime partner is a minority, and while she has said she would support my decision, I can’t help but feel like she is holding back some pretty serious feelings on the matter—which would be perfectly justified, in my opinion.
I don’t know whether to take this other job—something that I will be doing for the rest of my life and that I feel incredibly unimpassioned about but has seemingly good career growth opportunities—or to listen to that voice in the back of my head telling me that I can make a positive impact in my community, but where I seemingly disagree with the industry as a whole.
—Jobbed and Confused
You’ve got two big decisions here, which, it seems to me, you are treating as one. But they’re not; they’re totally separate questions. The first question is, “Should I take this job at a bank after being pandemic-unemployed for over a year?” The second question is, “Should I pursue my childhood dream of a career in law enforcement given all I’ve learned about law enforcement as an adult?”
The answer to the first question is easy. Take the job at the bank!! You’ve been job hunting for a year. You’ve been filing for unemployment and hustling and suffering and scrimping for 12 dang months. Take the job, earn some dough, see what it’s like to be back in a workplace. Buy yourself a cruller or something and take it to your teller’s station. You have certainly earned that.
The reason that the first question has nothing to do with the second is that this entry-level banking job is only career-determinant if you make it so. Perhaps it’s the first step in a 40-year career in finance, or perhaps it’s the thing you try out before you do a totally different thing. It’s definitely not a life sentence, and thinking about it this way is gonna be paralyzing. Take the job and the paycheck and give yourself some time and space to figure out the second question.
… Which is definitely the more difficult one! And the one for which my advice is functionally useless, because in the end, it’s a decision only you can make. Plenty of good people have gone into careers in law enforcement and, as you hope to, actually helped people. Plenty of others have seen that goal thwarted or even curdled by the nature of the beast. I recommend that you think about it a lot more, talk about it with your partner, find ways to help your community that are less tainted by structural and institutional racism, and then see after a year or so whether this childhood dream still tugs at you. The academy will still be accepting applicants then.
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I was extremely overweight for more than a decade. It turns out I had a hormonal issue, and I’ve gotten that figured out. Over the last year, I’ve lost more than 80 pounds. I feel great. Now that I feel better, I’ve joined a cycling group. That’s where I met “Dave.” Dave is amazing. He’s funny, smart, and kind. He’s also incredibly gorgeous and fit. We’ve started dating, and I’m very happy—except for one thing.
We’ve reached the point in our relationship where we’ve started getting physical, and I’m very hesitant because of my breasts, which are incredibly saggy. When I was overweight, they were very large. When they were still large, they kind of offset the sagginess, but now they’re small, flat, and look super saggy. With a bra on, it’s really not noticeable, but I’m very self-conscious about this. My breasts are as saggy as someone who is a decade or two older than me. I really don’t want to take my bra off around Dave. Do you have any advice?
—Swing Low, Sweet Chariots
My dear, I am delighted to tell you, from the depths of my straight-maleness: No matter how worried you are about your saggy breasts, Dave is gonna be incredibly psyched to meet them.
Now, that probably won’t change your self-consciousness about them, which will be difficult, maybe impossible, to shake. And so this reminder about the puppyish enthusiasm of dudes for boobs of all shapes and sizes is not meant as a message to “get over it.” I know it’s not that simple. But maybe it will help you feel a tiny bit better to know that you, at least, are coming to this encounter from a position of power. You are the one gracing Dave with the gift of your bod, and he is gonna be grateful and excited about that gift, I promise you.
What else can you do to help things go better? You can try to get out of your own head via the controlled substance of your preference. You can turn down the lights, which helps everyone look just a little bit sexier. Most importantly, you can be honest with Dave ahead of time about your sensitivity about your breasts, which will help him take it gentle and slow—and will remind him to be properly effusive when he does, finally, encounter them.
I’m a 17-year-old about to head to college in the fall (I’m ahead a year). College and the things surrounding it have been a major stress in the last few months, but of course I know that’s a normal experience. As an only child, I understand that my mom is being extremely protective and is overall in my business. She wanted to know the score of my placement test, the contacts, and my class options.
When it came time to select a major, I expressed interest in LGBT+ studies. This was met by a harsh and strong reaction from her. I eventually went with it, though, but her feelings have left a sour taste in my mouth, considering her equally bad reaction when I came out as nonbinary last year—she told me I’m not “one of those people” and proceeded to take my social media access away for a month.
As someone who is recently genderqueer (any pronouns are fine), I don’t know how to approach this. I’m closeted everywhere except online, and for now, I plan for it to stay this way. When my classes start, perhaps I’ll try out my identity, but I wish I could do something to stop her way of thinking. Am I doomed to be disliked?
First of all, I’m sorry that your mom had such a hurtful reaction to your coming out last year. I’m sure that her (unkind) closed-minded response is all tied up for you with her (totally normal) engagement with your college decision. I can’t blame you for feeling that way, and it’s too bad your mom can’t see the connection between these things.
It sounds to me like you’re heading to college at the perfect time, and that both you and your mom will really benefit from the separation that freshman year provides. Enjoy your first-year classes, enjoy your new major, and most of all enjoy the opportunity that college provides to figure out new versions of yourself. Your mom, like all parents of new college students, has a challenging emotional task ahead of her. A little time and space apart from each other will help that process. You’re certainly not doomed to be disliked, and I believe that your mother will soon begin taking the steps that so many parents before her have taken, toward understanding, appreciating, and loving the adults their children become.
I am a 24-year-old bi woman who has been dating my 29-year-old partner, “Geoff,” for almost three years. Geoff has stuck by me through multiple life-upending events, including severing ties with abusive family members and a major career transition. Geoff was also a key player in getting me to attend therapy. They have brought so much acceptance and happiness into my life, and overall we have a loving and supportive relationship. The problem is that I want to be single and dating after over a year of life on lockdown.
All my life, I have been a serial monogamist who never lived alone and didn’t get much enjoyment out of sex. Now that I am mentally healthier than I have been in years and the long grind of lockdown is ending, I desperately want to meet (and have sex with) new people! I want to experience everything I’ve missed out on while supporting myself financially through college!
Geoff has expressed interest in opening up our relationship, but I fear it won’t satisfy my craving for emotional as well as physical connections with new people. I feel guilty that after years of working toward better mental health with help from Geoff, this newfound clarity is actually driving a wedge between us. I fear that if we do break up, I will not find this level of emotional intimacy with someone again. I also know that it won’t get any easier to date in the future and fear that I am missing out on the best years of my life to meet new people and find the perfect partner. How do I reconcile my feelings for my partner with this intense desire to see other people?
—Post-Lockdown Love Woes
I gotta say, I don’t exactly see a problem here—at least not yet. You value and love Geoff, yet wish your relationship was open. You’ve been gifted with a partner who has told you, unbidden, that he, too, wishes your relationship was open. Seems like things are perfectly in place for you to answer all these questions you have about whether an open relationship will satisfy your cravings for emotional and physical connections with new people.
Maybe, as time goes on, your open relationship will expose a gulf between what you and Geoff want out of life. (Maybe that will be you wanting more than he can provide, but it’s not impossible it will be him!) Or maybe you will both discover that this kind of relationship gives you both what you want for a while. Stop sitting around worrying about what might happen, and go find out what does happen.
Re: No-gender nightmare: Take a rigorous major—even an English literature or history major builds more employable skills than “studies”–type majors. They are ideal for minors. Major in chemistry or history or something else with academic rigor, and minor in special interests which are almost always less intellectually rigorous. At least come away with strong analytical writing skills, etc.
A: I reject this disparagement of critical studies majors! I know plenty of people with degrees in women’s studies, AFAM (as it was called when I was in college, during the Stone Age), and LGBTQ studies, among others, who built strong critical and analytical skills, who participated in important research, who became terrific writers, and who landed in the world as extremely employable people. I’m a fan of these majors, which help students approach their studies with passion and commitment and always open their eyes to new angles on these topics of great importance.
Dan Kois: Thanks everyone! This unemployable theater major always appreciates the drama that a Prudie chat delivers. Talk to y’all soon!
From Care and Feeding
What are parents of bisexual teens supposed to do about sleepovers? For my heterosexual kid, the rule is “no opposite-sex sleepovers,” and if I had a gay child, the rule would be “no same-sex sleepovers.” It seems very unfair to prohibit my bisexual teen from having sleepovers just because they happen to be attracted to both genders, but it also doesn’t seem fair that my other teens have to abide by these “no sleepovers with people whom you might want to have sex with” rules while the bisexual teen doesn’t. Read what Jamilah Lemieux had to say.
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