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S3: Danilova here and I have a special announcement for our listeners. Some of you know that I published my latest book in February. It’s called Something That May Shock and Discredit You. And it’s a transition memoir that’s also about The Simpsons, Star Trek and Anne of Green Gables today. I wanted to let you know that for a limited time only you can get a really good deal on the audiobook, which is read by me. Go to Slate Dotcom Slash Danny that slate dotcom slash Danny. There’s also a link in the show notes of this episode. The audiobook will cost just twelve ninety nine. That’s five dollars off the list price. You will be hard pressed to find a better deal on books I have written and read. After you complete your purchase, you’ll be able to listen to the audio book and your preferred podcast player. That’s right. The one you’re using now. There’s no special app to download and no subscription fees. There’s one more thing you should know. This audio book sale is brought to you by Slate. That means your purchase not only supports me, it also helps with important journalism you depend on. So it’s a win win. You save money and sleep makes money. If you’ve ever thought about checking out my book, there’s never been a better time than now. This is a limited time promotion. So don’t just sit there, go to sleep, dotcom slash Danny and buy my audio book today. One more time. That Slate dot com slash Danny.
S4: Your pretty your prudent given here, prudence, dear, dear Prudence here pretty. Do you think that I should contact him again? Help. Help, I think. Thank you.
S5: Hello and welcome back to the show once again, and as always, I am your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Laborie. With me in the studio this week is Isaac Feldman, the M in Daniel M. Laborie stands for My Friend Isaac is here, writer and activist at the Historical Society, where he gets to tell the story of San Francisco’s queer history, his fantasy novel, The Breath of the Sun, one of twenty nineteen Lambda Literary Award. Isaac, I love you. How are you?
S6: I am marvelous. I think that you just said that I was an activist and not an archivist.
S5: Did I say activist or not archivist? That’s so embarrassing. Friends. He’s not an activist. He’s never done anything active in his life. He’s currently glued to the couch. He’s an archivist.
S6: Yes. I never I never leave my bed except to give advice.
S5: Trapped in the stacks. The Isaac Fellman story. Yeah. While you’re here, you look great. I’m glad that the archives released you for a couple of hours to tell people how to live. And I’m really, really sorry that I didn’t call you an archivist. That’s really it was a shame because a big, big part of my base is is archivist’s. Yeah. Without them, I have nothing.
S6: Nicole Cliffe once said on Twitter at some point that the toast was a site for queer archivists. And I, I just let it pass. I didn’t even think about the fact that it was a joke.
S5: Yeah, just like of course you. Yes, yeah. Me and it’s me. It’s me and all of my friends. What of it. Yeah. Well I love you and I love your friends and I love your archives and I’m excited about the questions today. It feels like there’s something in the air in terms of like everyone’s contemplating a similar new career move. And I’m really looking forward to hopefully bringing some clarity to that particular career move. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I won’t spoil it. I will let you start us off with the very first letter. Would you take us away?
S6: All right. I would be delighted to subject to many gifts, Dear Prudence, my ex always tried to buy love with lavish gifts. My new husband would rather be with me than buy me off, but I don’t know what to do about my daughters. Emma is twenty. Amy is twelve. Their father is rarely in our city and spoils them rotten when he is designer purses, expensive trips, brand new iPhones, whatever they want. My husband and I make enough to put a roof over our heads, but we can’t give my four stepdaughters luxuries. Emma got a brand new jeep at eighteen. My stepdaughters can learn to drive with my old minivan. Emma has already had serious fights with my oldest stepdaughter because she, quote, graciously offered her old laptop and last year’s designer clothes. My ex says my, quote, new family isn’t his priority. I have started going through these things and taking away the crazy gifts. If I can’t return them, I tell Amy they have to stay at her dad’s. She complained to Emma and we ended up having a huge fight. Emma accused me of punishing Amy and her and favoring her stepsisters. I told her not to be ridiculous. Emma threw me out of her apartment, which her father pays for. Since Emma can’t attend college and have a full time job, a part time job. Right now, Emma has let me move everything into her guestroom. Amy spends more time with Emma than she does here. Some weeks it feels like I am losing my daughters. My ex refuses to back me up and my husband thinks we need to stop any from seeing Emma so much. I just want to protect my family. I adore my stepdaughters and it hurts them to see Amy return an iPhone for being the wrong color when they have to make do with hand me downs. What can I do?
S5: A great question, perhaps the question I’d like to start with is, do you think that there’s anything about the letter writers strategy right now that’s working and that we want to encourage her to keep doing?
S6: I don’t think that it is working. That was a large part of my notes for this question. And it’s I do I do want to say nobody is really backing up the letter writer here and is on her side. And so she’s kind of acting in isolation without any responses from people that are sort of reflecting the noise that she’s making back in a helpful way. That’s a metaphor.
S5: But, yeah, I can appreciate that she’s fairly isolated in terms of, you know, these kids are her and her ex’s responsibility. Her ex is not in any way meaningful parents. They are parenting against one another and her husband is more concerned with his own kids. So there are ways in which I think it’s difficult to know the right thing to do. And I also really appreciate that this would feel frustrating in the sense of, like, this guy was always doing this shit to me and I hated it. And I hate that it’s kind of working on our kids. Right. But that said, I think especially with Emma, who’s 20 and living on her own, I mean, her own in quotes, because it sounds like her father’s paying for her apartment. But getting rid of the presents, I think is not a good strategy. It’s not one that you should continue. No, in part because it’s simply not working. But even if it did feel as if it were working, I think that sends the wrong move. It’s not it’s not making your stepkids any happier. It’s not making your kids feel any more generously towards the step kids. All it really does is pit you and your ex further against one another. And it makes your kids think of you as like the woman who steals our toys.
S6: Right. It’s I it’s just she’s taking too much responsibility for keeping harmony in a situation that’s inherently unharmonious and that like I wrote in my notes, here’s another metaphor. You can’t glue this together. It is a tectonic plate.
S5: Hmm. So, yeah, I think that’s part of the challenge here is, you know, you have two children at very different ages and they’re both acting badly. It sounds like Emma is in a lot, especially because she’s the oldest. She’s hurt. Her bad behavior is more noticeable. But that’s, you know, it’s embarrassing. And you love your stepkids and you want your biological kids to be treating them well, too. So it’s, I imagine, really painful to watch. You know, maybe like you can have my garbage, which is not what hand-me-down are, but it sounds like that’s kind of how she’s approaching. That’s the vibe the stepdaughter got, certainly. Yeah. But you can’t force Emma and Amy to. Give up these presents in any way that’s going to foster any kind of a friendly relationship down the line, so I think to take a step back here is really key and to say, you know, you can certainly set limits on how much stuff you’re going to keep at the house. But I think you should be clear and up front with the kids rather than getting, like, upset and being like, OK, I’m taking all this stuff and I’m throwing it out or I’m sending it over to your dad’s, I think to come up with a limit of how many gifts per month or per year or whatever they can keep in the house, be really clear about that. So if more stuff comes in, you can say, you know, that’ll have to go to your dad’s and that you can certainly absorb the like. You’re so mean. You know, you can just kind of enjoy that say like, yes, I’m a monster. It’s terrible. You’ll have to wait a minute to see your other iPad. But but don’t get rid of things that are already there. Certainly don’t. You know. If Emma’s letting Amy move stuff into her guest room. I say, let that one go. That to me is like it’s out of your house, it’s out of your place, it’s. That’s good enough.
S6: Right, that this is just a matter of the relationships also between all of the various young people in your family, which you are not going to be able to mediate or control. The only thing that you can control is your relationship with them. And as Danny was saying, yeah, you can enjoy what Scott Fitzgerald called the heady, villainous feeling of making them set appropriate boundaries to an extent. And yeah, the rest of it has to be tried and let go, which is so much easier said than done because it sounds so maddening.
S5: Yeah, but but like I think the strategy, like I’ve been going through Amy’s stuff and taking away gifts and returning them. And I just have to ask, like, what are you are you getting money for it? Like, if so, what are you doing with the money like that to me feels very like again, I understand the frustration of seeing your 12 year old start to get spoiled, but the solution to that is not to go through their stuff and sell it, that that just will push her further away. So you need to stop doing that. I actually think you have to apologize for Amy, to Amy for doing that, which. No one wants to apologize to a 12 year old. I get it. Certainly not a 12 year old who’s already been misbehaving. But I think it’s really important for kids to see their parents model a good apology when they have fucked up. And 12 is not too young to know that your parents can fuck up.
S6: Exactly. And 12 is a great age to have privacy as well and to be able to have complete control over your things. And I think that. I’m trying to think back to when I was 12, and it’s all it’s all terrible is this just junk montage of nightmares? But I definitely know that I would have appreciated an adult apologizing to me and being honest about the ways I could do better and the limits that were going to be set.
S7: Yeah, people respond well to clarity and honesty.
S5: That doesn’t mean you have to say to your to your daughter, like, I think your dad’s strategy is great and it’s fabulous.
S8: But I think to just say, Amy, I’m really sorry I’ve been going through your things. I shouldn’t have done that. That was wrong. I’m not going to do it anymore. I want to talk to you about having some of the stuff here at the house. I want you to be able to do that. Even if I don’t agree with your father about his gifts, policies, that’s between the two of you.
S1: And then beyond that, I want to say, if there’s stuff here that we can’t store, which I think is reasonable, given that, you know, six other people live here, then you can keep it either at your dad’s or at your sisters. And I think that’s a reasonable combination of apologizing and also saying, but even if I fuck up, I’m still your mother. I still get to make the decisions. We can talk about it. But I’m not I’m not looking to you to set my new policy and give this little time. You know, your step daughters are not going to die if they have to learn to drive on an old minivan. That’s fine. That’s not you know, it might sour their relationship for a long time, but all you can do there is really encourage Amy to include her sisters, spend time with them, not like show off her gifts in front of them. And then I think that’s the limit of how far you can interfere. So anything else you think we should add here that you would want them to remember?
S6: No, I think that’s all I think. I think that what you said threads the needle effectively. It’s a very small needle head, but it can be threaded.
S1: That’s certainly. Yeah, certainly. No, like trying to limit how often Amy sees her sister, because, you know, at this point you’re just like. You’re making the gifts, and her sister seemed just all the more alluring because you’re just like, no, stay here and have nothing. Don’t talk to your sister. I’m going to get rid of all of your stuff. Why don’t you want to hang out at this house? And it’s just like, well, at that point, I wouldn’t want to stay at that house either. I would definitely want to go to my cool older sister’s house where all the video games were. Yeah. So I’m sorry, that’s hard again, I realize it’s got to be frustrating to see your ex doing this because this is exactly what he wants, which is to fuck up your dynamic with. Oh, my God. Yeah. With strategic matters that it added. Yeah. But I think this is the kind of thing where the best thing you can do is model something different and hope that in a year or five years your kids will both realize, like, uh, you know, the fun of the gadgets was one thing, but my dad barely called in between shopping sprees and there’s more to life than all of my nice things. So he will never do that. And sometimes they’re just jerks with lots of nice stuff. And then you can mourn that loss, I guess. OK, our next letter is the beginning of a bit of a theme about people considering a career change, and I will simply dive right into it. The subject is too much sugar, Dear Prudence. I’ve been working odd jobs the last couple of years, like dog sitting, uber driving and tutoring. I really like my life, except for one thing, the money I don’t spend a lot and usually managed to save something here and there.
S8: But every few months I stress out trying to figure out how I’m going to cover my bills. covid is obviously made that worse and I’m almost out of my savings. I’ve been propositioned by a friend of a friend for a sugar daddy arrangement. I’m taking the pandemic very seriously and prefer to do gig work that does not put me in contact with anybody else. But sometimes at the end of a lean month, I already have to take jobs that put me at risk. This man is also staying out of the public and is looking for a partner who quarantine’s is strictly as he does. I’m considering it. I don’t really have any moral qualms about it, but my issue is that I have a PhD and I’m trying to get a job in academia. I will never, ever pronounce that word confidently, ever. That wasn’t in the letter. I just don’t know if it’s academia or academia. And I’m scared. Just wanted to share that with you. My field is one in which people often study sex work, nonjudgmental, but I’m not sure if this counts as sex work, nor am I sure how faculty would feel about another faculty member having done sex work. There are often double standards like this in the word. I don’t want to say I’ve been having trouble finding academic jobs and I worry what will happen if they find out about our arrangement. The money would give me more time to write articles and participate in activities that would help me get a job. Should I get lawyers involved and try to draft some kind of non-disclosure agreement, or would that leave too much of a paper trail?
S1: And I overthinking the risk of exposure. Certainly not overthinking this, you you’re just thinking about it and you’re thinking about possible risks that you might run and whether or not they seem worth it, which to me is just the right amount of thinking. Right. Right now, I agree. And and to that end, you know. Yeah, that’s a real fear. It’s very possible that if somebody found out that they would look to. I’m going to say like blackmail, but certainly look to affect your future career prospects, it might very well hold you back. You might very well be judged or penalised for it. All of those things have happened and do happen to people who do sex, work or sex adjacent work, which, as you yourself in the letter kind of acknowledge, this is like, well, what is it exactly? I do think one thing that sometimes happens when somebody considers moving into sex work from a remove without it doesn’t sound like this person has any sex worker friends or knows anybody who does sex work or has done sex work in the past in their life. And they will sometimes think like maybe I can solve the problem of like the stigma and the stigmatization and the harassment that people who do sex work are often exposed to. I know I’ll come up with an MBA as if like. Sex workers don’t think about this kind of thing all the time. If if it were simply a matter of signing NDAs, that is what people would do. The problem with signing an NDA for an arrangement that is not legal is that it’s unenforceable. Like you can’t say, oh, you violated the terms of our NDA and then I’m going to take you to court and then the court is going to say, well, what services did you provide this person that they violated the NDA about Inuvik? Illegal ones, you can’t yeah, you can’t protect yourself with an NDA in this kind of a situation. So it’s not it’s not that the problem would be that it would be a paper trail is that the problem would be you could not enforce such an NDA. So not that it’s a bad idea to consult a lawyer if you can afford one, but. There’s a limit to how much the law can help you when you are contemplating doing something that is illegal. And I don’t see that as like therefore it’s too dangerous and too risky, don’t do it. Only do super illegal above, you know, above the law type stuff, but. I think. This guy would have a fair amount of interest in also not broadcasting the fact that he has entered into a sugar daddy arrangement. You’ll have to either decide I find him reasonably trustworthy, and I think we would both stand to lose something if this were publicly known. So we’re both going to do our best to speak privately about our arrangement. But if you can’t live with the possibility of him saying something, that might be a sign that this is not something you’re ready to pursue. Do you feel like there’s anything about this arrangement, aside from the obvious privacy concerns that would interfere with the letter writers attempt to get a job in the academic world?
S7: I just don’t think so, no. And I say that with the caveat that I did not end up doing such a thing myself. So all of my understanding of the academic job search process is second hand. But I think that apart from what I was saying before about the stress of not telling people something really central to your life, which sometimes is easy to compartmentalize and sometimes it’s not, but I don’t think that there’s any practical impediment and it honestly sounds like you have thought through it as a way of limiting your exposure to covid and also limiting. It just this the sort of difficult, slightly stressful. Work that you’ve been doing. Otherwise, yeah, it’s just it sounds like your current gig jobs are not great and this is a better job.
S8: Yeah, I mean, I think if if you feel like you know him well enough that or that you have sufficient evidence that he’s taking this as seriously as you are and you think that this would enable you to cut down on things like dogsledding or Uber driving, that might put you in even indirect contact with more people than this guy? And you think? I feel up to it. I feel reasonably prepared for putting certain privacy locks around different various parts of my life such that I’m willing to take some of these risks. Yeah, I think you can go for it. But I would say if you don’t know anyone who’s ever done this kind of work, if you have no idea how other people who do sugar dating protect themselves, look out for themselves, look for red flags, now might be the time to do a little bit of research, but which I don’t mean like look around for women advertising sugar baby services and then like, email her and say, hey, can you just tell me what you do so that I can do it too? But there’s there’s writing out there. There are books out there. There are lots of places where people who do this share their experiences. And I would encourage you to do a little research and just again, get a feel for can I live with these risks?
S6: Yeah. And plus, it’s always lovely to fill yourself a part of a community rather than feel yourself isolated and alone.
S1: Yeah, I think especially to not to compare this directly to transition, but I think anytime that you do something without knowing the other people who have done it, you can tend to get a little bit of tunnel vision and think like, I bet I’m the first person to have this idea. And often lots of people have had that idea and you can benefit from their experience. Yeah, this is like how everyone’s like I bet I’m the first trans person to do this and oftentimes we’re not. We’re like the 90th. We just didn’t know it’s where the third in our immediate circle of friends in the group chat reveals everything, as sometimes I’ll just say to Grace, like, would you like to be the first trans woman who has orange juice brought to her this morning? She finds it a little funny. I think it’s nice. It’s a it’s a chuckle, you know, not a ghafar, but that’s fine. It’s early. Yeah. Yeah, I’m I’m doing my best here.
S9: Would you read our next letter?
S6: Yes, I would gladly do so. A subject I have not your sixth grader, Dear Prudence, my younger sister has taught sixth grade for the last three years since college. She slid into using a teacher tone and manner that drives me up the wall so loudly. Shush people at the movies, for example, or discipline strangers children. If I share a problem I’m going through, she’ll coach me on it in a very childish way, I think. Was that a good choice, do you think, that made the other person feel sad? She even uses that at the dinner table. I’ve talked about this with her many times. She says it’s just a habit. It has nothing to do with her feelings towards me. She does it with everyone. She claims that being overly sensitive by letting it get to me, it seems ridiculous to pull back on our relationship over this, but I’m absolutely at my wits end. What should I do? Oh, my God. Like, once somebody says the word sensitive, it is like firing a bullet. It can’t be undone. It is permanent in its effects.
S1: Yeah, I got to see. Do you remember much about being in sixth grade?
S6: Oh, yeah. I mean, I was just casting my mind back to the previous question. It’s a bad, bad feeling.
S1: Yeah. It’s, um, I don’t remember lots about like when I was a kid, I was like, I’m ten. How could you mistake me for nine? Like, they’re so different. And now as an adult, I’m like, are you, are you four, are you ten. I don’t know. But I remember enough about sixth grade to know that if my teacher had said to me, was that a good choice, do you think that made the other person feel sad? I would bristle. I would say, why are you talking to me? Like I’m for like sixth grade? If someone says, do you think that made the other person feel sad, that is condescending even to a sixth grader.
S6: My God. Yeah. I hadn’t even like I just skimmed over the grade, but I was like, yeah, that’s that’s first graders speak. And even now, you’ve got to watch your tone.
S1: Yeah, and even then you’ve got to be ready for occasionally a kid to be like, why are you talking to me like that? This is not I don’t need this from you. I have six, not five. Yeah. Yeah. So I have to imagine at least some of her students find this wildly irritating. It is not ridiculous to to pull back on a relationship with someone who insists on speaking to you like that all of the time, like like Madeleine Bassett from the, you know, Jeeves and Worcester novels, the woman who goes around insisting that that fireflies are God’s daisy chain or something outrageous like that. Oh, my God. Yeah, I’m amazed more people don’t just walk away from her when she talks to them like that. Not ridiculous. You’ve asked her not to do it. And she said, I do this to everyone, so you shouldn’t. That’s very worrying. It’s just a hat. Like, what does that supposed to mean? It’s just a habit. I know it’s a habit. I’m telling you, I’ve noticed that I have it. Yeah. The fact that it’s a habit is not an issue. That’s not our problem. Like somebody who spits in a hardwood floor all the time. That’s also a habit. But you can break a habit. You can stop. Yeah. I mean, as the letter writer says, she didn’t do this four years ago, so she’s capable of not doing it. I mean, I think all you do is go back and say, I know it’s a habit. I don’t care if it has anything to do with your feelings towards me. It’s driving me nuts. You talking to me like a child makes it impossible for us to have an adult conversation, at which point you will have to work not to say to yourself, do you understand why that makes me upset? Do you think that it matters how I think your feeling about it? Don’t do that, but the one thing that would be so tempting would be to do it back to her, at which point I just think you would start fighting and things would really fall apart.
S6: Yeah, yeah. It’s it’s one of those one sentence answers, albeit a long, heavily punctuated one. A little bit of a George Eliot sentence. But yes, certainly this is what you think it is. It is a person acting terrible.
S1: Mm hmm. This is like full on like no sex in the prisoner just yet. I have not a no. I am a human being. Yeah. You just go back and say, I know it’s a habit. That’s not my issue with it. I’m actually not really concerned about what feelings may or may not be motivating it. I’m concerned about the actual habit it needs to stop. Otherwise I’m going to cut our conversation short and I’m not going to be as available to hang out. That would make me very sad. Dammit it. I’m doing it. OK, don’t do it. Be like I’d hate to have to do that, but I will. And then my God, any time she does it, just draw her attention to it. Just say like you’re talking me like a child. I don’t like that. Yeah, and, you know, again, I feel I feel goofy because I feel like at this point I’m now adopting a strategy of like and if she does it again, you leave the situation and you give her, you know, nothing to react against. And in so doing, you will train her out of the bad behavior, which again, is something you do to a dog or a child, but at least you can do it while using an adult tone of voice.
S6: Right. And like, that’s that’s the other weird thing about this mode of speech, that she is literally being infantile herself as she infantilizes others.
S1: Yeah. And acting like the forhow sixth graders talk to each other either like not that adults should talk to each other the way sixth graders talk, but it’s just like where are you? Where did you think that this was the kind of tone and speech that children just love and gravitate towards? And the last thing I’ll add to that is don’t share your problems with her right now. Save that for when she’s able to to get through a complete sentence with you. Yeah. Don’t ask for her advice. Don’t vent to her. Keep your conversations a little less personal so that it doesn’t feel so fraught when you’re like, wow, I’m really frustrated with my boss. And she just says, like, Abigail, that’s baby talk or Tony Soprano ordering a sandwich. I’ve seen that show. Know, I understand all the references people were making for so long. All right. All right. We’ve been lingering on a lot of these questions, so I want to try to move us through the next two relatively quickly. It’s my turn to read this. Next, what? The subject is not queering straightness. Which is maybe an Off-putting title, if you’re not very familiar with with a lot of different things, but we’ll just dive into it, it’s fine.
S8: Dear Prudence, I’m a queer woman who is currently in a relationship with a non binary person. When I met them, they identified as a CIS gender man. They began to identify as on the trans spectrum. Not long after we began dating and I increasingly discovered I wasn’t really attracted to men over the course of our relationship. My question is this. Frequently over the years, people question either my queerness or my partner’s transition, egged on by an airiness. It makes me feel insecure in my own presentation and life choices, like I’m not gay enough. And it makes me angry that people dismiss my partner’s identity. One notable incident, an acquaintance, said that non binary people don’t really exist. It’s just straight men trying to get into queer spaces. But in my worst moments, I wonder if we just look like a straight couple quotes queering straightness.
S1: How do I contend with this? We had a really interesting like. Proteau chat yesterday, you and I over this, and I feel like we both had a few different moments where we sort of switched the way that we were reading it. Have you felt like any one particular reading has landed more with you than another?
S6: Yes, it is a it’s a complex letter and we pregame to it at length, and I kept trying to stop talking about it so that we could talk about it on the air. But then I kept talking about it. So I this is an uncharitable reading, but it is the one that is leaping out to me as I read it for the fourth or fifth time.
S7: Now I feel like you are not seeing your partner is not fine airiness as much as maybe you would like to. Ideally, I wonder if you are seeing them as a man. You met them when they identified as a man and sometimes it’s hard not to. Carry on object permanence about that kind of thing. This is certainly. I always find these I am in a straight presenting couple to many people, and how do I deal with that as a queer person? Questions? You know, I’ve I’ve been there myself. And I hated it and it bothered me, I felt more than it should, proportionate to the feedback that I was getting and the input I was getting, and eventually I had to look within and think about why I bothered was bothered so much by it.
S6: And in my particular case, the answer is that I’m not really attracted to men and I’m trans as as I am to women and. So, yeah, it doesn’t have to be that level of bombshell, but it is something that always bears interrogation and, you know, in a kind but thorough way.
S1: Yeah, I feel the same way, too. I both want to be able to affirm to the letter writer, first of all, that acquaints of yours sounds like an asshole. And, you know, if all you need for me is just confirmation that that person was an asshole and permission to not hang out with them again. Absolutely. You have it. I’m glad it sounds like that was an acquaintance. And it doesn’t sound like you spent a lot of time with him afterwards. Good. They were a jerk to you and you did the right thing and thinking, I don’t want to be this guy’s friend. And but I also want to make sure I don’t get stuck in just like validity discourse of, like, your valid. Everyone’s valid. That’s the end of all thought. That’s all we need to concern ourselves with, is that everyone’s valid. That’s it. So I think the reason I want to try to move past that is because the question here is so open ended. Like you say, frequently over the years, people question either my queerness or my partner’s transnational pioneering this. Who are those people? Are they people that you’re close with? Do you maintain relationships with them? Are they people who, you know, are they strangers? Is this happening online? Is this happening in real life? Because there’s so many different types of relationships. And my answer would vary so much based on what you’re hoping to get from that relationship that I don’t feel quite equipped to say. I promise. I can tell you one thing that is going to make you always feel good and make sure everybody else understands you in the same way that you understand yourself. So like to one end, I think you can certainly establish a rubric of, you know, if if I’m going to be close with somebody, I need a baseline level of respect in terms of self-determination, autonomy, pronouns, whatever it is that my partner and I kind of requests from people on a basic level of, you know, this is my name or these are my pronouns cheerfully expect that be entitled to that act, entitled to that that that would be real and meaningful, I would think if you sometimes simply feel a sense of insecurity about your presentation. That is such a like I pay attention to it, I think would be my best advice. That I’m not sure that you can I don’t know, like is that a vibe you get from other people that someone ever said to you, like, you don’t wear enough hats? Like I I don’t know what that feeling looks like or who produces it or in what capacity. And I always get a little worried when somebody says, like, I feel insecure. Is this the fault of the LGBT community and it’s like maybe some people have been? Assholes to you, and that’s real, and you have every right to object to it, but if you have simply a vague sense of unease and you want to get mad at LESBIAN’S, then I would caution you. Does that seem fair, do you think I’m maybe reading too much into this letter, I don’t want to assume more than I’ve been given.
S7: It’s a very it’s an interesting letter. It’s hard not to read too much into it because it is pretty broad and vague in the ways that it presents the situation, that there are not a lot of specific examples of experiences that you’ve had. There’s one. And it just it feels like the letter is not not deliberately withholding information, but. A by a person who is treating this situation very carefully and cautiously and not in my reading, looking as deeply at it as you could. Yeah, I just think that it’s important to look at the way that you would describe. Your situation and then. Just just imagine if you were reading this from a stranger in the impression that it would give.
S1: Yeah, yeah, I think kind of the two pillars that I can offer this person that I think would cover a number of different possible. Situations, one would be seek out people that you do not have to convince of your queerness, those are going to be your people, anyone that you feel like you have to argue into it or win over. And that’s not to say you’ll never want to have conversations or state a case that you would like to make. Not at all. But in terms of who are the people that I want to be a part of my queer community, look for the people that you do not have to sell on the idea. And then on the other hand, if you worry that you sometimes look like a straight couple. Take that as an opportunity to do some investigation inside and to get really specific, what’s the thing I’m worried about? What is what are some other things that I might do with that worry? Are there things that I would like to change? Is this a fear that other people will misunderstand me, or is this a fear that I’m not pursuing something I want? And again, like as you were saying earlier, having been in a variety of different relationships prior to transition, some of which were gay and some of which were not, and some of which felt. Like something, but like something I couldn’t always define and certainly not something that I felt like other people recognized in a way that was meaningful to me all of the time, you know, not to say like you should both transition the way that I did and, you know, get a small dog and have a beard. But one thing that was true for me in that moment was I had a general sense of like, well, it’s not quite working here. And one thing that really worked later was figuring out, oh, I think I want to do some things. And so, again, not that that means you should do all the things that I did, but that might be an opportunity to ask yourself, is there something I want to do? There’s lots of fun stuff to do. You can suck Dick. You can take hormones, you can bind, you can eat pussy, you can change your name. You know, there’s a long, long list. Sorry, this is not exhaustive. Those are not the only four things, bullet points. Those are just a few that come to mind. And again, of course, given that we’re also in the middle of a pandemic, it’s a little trickier to run out there and just be like I am popping out for a quick dick sucking and I will be back later. But I do think New York put out pamphlets recently about like gloryhole being like a harm reduction, lower risk sex activity during Soviet times. That’s great. I bet Archivist’s had something to do with that pamphlet, didn’t they?
S6: We do have a gloryhole in our archives from the Nob Hill Theater.
S1: So I remember a couple of years ago when when there was a big kerfuffle at at Berkeley about like rehabbing a couple of the bathrooms in one of the older buildings because there was like a sort of historic 60s era set of glory holes. And it was very like, well, these are historic. We can’t get rid of the glory holes. And I just think that’s lovely. Historic glory holes, I think that’s really sweet. Yeah, and good luck. You know, I want you both to have people in your life who are not holding you to some sort of secret test or saying, like you’re not really queer until you’ve passed my exam. I want lots of support for you. And I also want you to be able to know the difference really well between someone is treating me badly versus I am feeling insecure. Because those are two really different things, and sometimes one is an opportunity for reflection and sometimes the other is an opportunity to tell someone you are being mean to me and I don’t like it and I’m leaving. And that’s all I got. Yeah. Would you read our last letter? Yes, that is so cute.
S7: It is really adorable and also haunting. Yes. So the subject is clashing decoration taste. Dear Prudence, my partner and I, both men recently moved into a tiny studio apartment together. We’re excited about this new step, but obviously some conflict is bound to arise. I prefer a minimal decoration. I find clutter and tons of objects stressful, especially in a small space. My partner has what I consider an obscene amount of trinkets leftover from his childhood. He insists on displaying all of them prominently, even the old faded ones. Some of them are chintzy little sayings you might see at a garage sale. I asked him to scale back a little, but he really struggles to let go of objects, especially since some of them make him feel more connected to his dead relatives. I feel like a jerk for putting my foot down, but I work from home. He doesn’t. So I have to spend a lot of time here. I want to be compassionate, but I don’t want to see those things around me constantly. Is there a compromise that can pervert preserve his need for his objects, for respecting made for a clean space when we move into a bigger place? Have more scope to decorate as he wishes, but for now, space is at a premium. I had the absolute that I had the most archivist note on the scale on which is that it sounds like your partner has a lot of very treasured and significant objects that are laden with what some archivists call enduring value as opposed to enduring value, both of them obviously lasting. What are the more sentimental and emotional? I think that it would be nice to try and recast. The situation is one that is about preserving rather than about displaying, which are both legitimate things to do and ways to work with objects that are powerful. I am going to stop short of suggesting that you buy like archival boxes and put everything into tidy little boxes and label them and take care of them that way. But I’m also not going to say not to do that if it’s on the table. I although I know that you mentioned display was important and being able to see them was I know that when I work with objects that are of great historical significance, even if their original context is gone and they just look to a random person who looks at them like a dusty wig that has no connections to anything, I, I think of those objects as large as their. Their presence in the archives is just as significant if they are in a box being taken care of and protected from light and damp as if they are on display or being shown to a researcher. Those are just different parts of the life of an object that has become archival because it is no longer useful. So really. Yeah, I did sort of think about storing them carefully and lovingly and with an eye to preserving them rather than displaying them. Would be my thought, and I don’t know if your partner would be down for that and if he’s not, I was going to suggest that he gets the bathroom or the kitchen or something. That’s that’s my long response.
S1: It’s a good response. I did a lot of long responses at the top of the show, so I’m glad that you got at least one in yourself. And I think as an archivist, you have a lot of experience that’s pretty relevant here. I don’t want to overthink this one. I don’t want to go into too much into the possibilities of whether or not your partner may have some hoarding tendencies or whether or not that might be a useful sort of framework to look at this. But I think, as you said, I think the kind of easy thing here is we plan on moving into a bigger space at some point in the not too distant future. So I think the idea of getting a cheap storage unit and saying we will bring this stuff back out when we have a bigger place feels like a very reasonable compromise to me. And, you know, you can say, like, I get that that might be a struggle. I am so here for you to talk about feelings that it brings up. I’m here to provide you with emotional support and to talk about fears that you might have. I’m all in in terms of, like, engaging with you about your feelings, but I don’t want to just stop at I really struggle, so let’s never talk about it and let’s just keep all this shit up. That’s not going to work for me. I think that will be a very reasonable and loving thing to say. And it’s just you know, it’s not like your two options are either respect the fact that he loves his dead relatives and live in a world of, like, precious moments figurines. I don’t know, maybe they’re Wedgwood. Maybe they’re super nice. But like, regardless, it feels like precious moments figurines when it’s too many, no matter how nice they are.
S6: Yeah. And if they’re like little sayings on Plax. No, you’re just reading it all day compulsively. At least you are if you’re me. And that’s it is upsetting to do that.
S1: Yeah. But you’re not asking him to put them all out of sight. You’re not saying I want you to get rid of everything that you own and just live on a yoga pillow. You know, you are not actually doing the thing that it sounds like you worry. Sorry. This is a very complicated, weird sentence. There is a difference between what you are actually asking him to do and the level of emotional threat that he might feel in being asked to do that. So if you’re saying I would like to compromise on how many of your objects you put up and possibly put some of them in storage and he feels like all of my dead relatives will die again and I will feel completely unmoored and without an anchor and totally lost. And I don’t quite know why. And then that terrifies me like that emotion is so real, but that’s not what you’re actually doing to him. And so I think it’s really important to to separate them. Yeah. And that doesn’t mean like, oh, how silly of him. Like, obviously the feeling is real, but like oh you can talk about it without giving into it I think is the thing I’m always striving to encourage people to do.
S6: Yeah. And I do. I want to join you in validating the letter writers write to determine what his own space looks like to an extent. And also he seems to be approaching this with a lot of kindness and care.
S1: Yeah. And my gosh, it’s something you’ve already been compassionate, but this is a tiny studio apartment. You’re working out of it all day. So, so, so fine. Fair, appropriate to say I need to have more like I have a real stake in this and we need to have this conversation again. And my dog is eating the rug, which is funny. I should probably stop him from doing that. Yeah. Oh, no, he’s throwing up, he’s throwing up, so I’m going to go ahead and say, Isaac, it’s been great to have you on the show. My dog’s throwing up on the carpet. I got to go.
S10: All right. Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producer is Phil Cercas. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Had to slate dotcom. Dear Prudence, to subscribe and remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to sleep Dotcom. Pretty PopTech to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three to seven. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location, and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short. Thirty seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.
S1: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday, but it might be time to to raise with your boss and colleagues like I don’t know if anyone else is feeling this way, but six months into an all Zoome profession, I’m noticing that I actually find it really challenging sometimes to stare at myself in a camera all day. Are there ever opportunities for us to switch to phone call sessions or email sessions, even 10 percent of the time? Because I need to look for ways to not be staring at myself in a mere seven hours a day. And it may be that right now there’s not anything they can do immediately. But I think you can bring this up without a getting too personal or vulnerable. You can just say like it’s wearing. And I think other people will say, oh, God, me too. And if there’s a way to do that, bringing it up will make that easier. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy part.