S1: Dear Prudence Dear Prudence Gifford zero prudence dear put into your prudence here. Do you think that I should contact him again. Oh how. Thank you. Thank you.
S2: Hello welcome to yet another mini episode of Dear Prudence. I am well once again your host Daniel Mallory or Berg and this show is for you. Plus subscribers. This week my guest is Portia long a teen librarian based in Oakland California a friend once described her as farm strong.
S3: Here’s our first letter.
S4: There’s a lot of like parenting of queer youth today stuff which is great because both those have no children no children but I can certainly imagine ways in which I would have loved to have been parents and as a queer youth or parenting ourselves exactly becoming our own loving parents if you would please be so good subject boy crazy.
S5: Dear Prudence my son 15 was non-verbal until he was 5 and his communication skills slash overall development have sometimes taken a more meandering but rich and adventurous path. I speak to him neutrally and openly about genders and partner choices have a sex book with plenty of healthy information for sex education my public stance has been that his romantic preferences are for him to know and for us to find out when he’s ready. But this boy is boy crazy ever since he was 3. He has very specific types of other boys. He’s openly interested in never girls and we’re currently working on how to give each appropriate person space choices and boundaries. Would he be better served if I talked about him meeting a boy someday or having a boyfriend as opposed to having a partner his puberty is developing much faster than he can articulate sometimes. I’m always open and positive when he starts talking about a boy he sees online from things like train enthusiast YouTube channels. I live in a place where we have amazing help and acceptance. We’re really lucky. Still autism makes the road tougher for a kid struggling to find where he belongs in the world. We’re talking about his interest in boys openly and positively make it easier for him or should I just keep it neutral until he is able to articulate his preferences or introduce us to his date slash partner.
S2: Regardless of how long that takes so there’s a lot that’s really lovely here and I just mostly think that it’s really really great that you are spending a lot of time thinking about like how do I affirm a kid. And you know how can I communicate back like I’m noticing a pattern and I think it’s good. And I do think sometimes there can be a like I think sometimes parents of potentially queer or potentially trans kids are so worried about over affirming like it’s OK. You don’t have to know you don’t have to figure it out. It could still be anything that sometimes they emphasize that well past the point of like reason where it’s like actually your kids given you some pretty clear signals where their interest lies and it would be totally reasonable for you to say like a boyfriend or a guy. But there’s this like no no no we must say all the time. It could be anything it could be anything that eventually could be like What do I have to say to get you people to acknowledge the fact that I am a boy who likes boys.
S5: I mean that’s what I wrote on my paper I wrote I think he has told you if he’s been boy crazy since 3 and never interested in girls.
S2: Yeah. And again that doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be prepared if that later shifted. I’m sure you’d be able to roll with that really well. But yeah just just saying things like if you get a boyfriend or your next boyfriend or you know it’s cool that you like boys. None of that would be you reading too much into the situation. None of that would be like ignoring other clues. Yeah I think he would be better served if you talked to him about meeting a boy someday. I think you’ve already done plenty of whatever you need whatever you want whatever you end up being as fine. He’s already gotten that message and I think it’s cool to switch to talking about boys for a little while.
S6: I agree completely. Yeah I think he likes boys. Yeah he really likes boys. You’re not adding anything to the conversation.
S2: It sounds like you’re already you know spending a lot of time thinking about how you can be there for your kid. How you both like teach boundaries and appropriate behavior and also to affirm and encourage interests of his that feel exciting and meaningful and I think you can throw boys into that category too. Like it’s just totally appropriate totally age appropriate totally reasonable. Congratulations on your cool gay son.
S5: Yeah. I would also say you say his puberty is developing much faster than he can articulate. I think that’s a lot of 15 year old boy.
S4: And you probably 15 year old girls too. Yes. Yes I think that that is an excellent excellent point. That is just classic adolescence right there in a nutshell.
S5: Yeah and I would just encourage you to keep having those conversations with him about space and choices and boundaries. Maybe thinking about what he you know it’s time to start thinking about if you wanted a boyfriend what would be the things you would look for in a boyfriend. Those would be good conversations to have.
S3: Yeah yeah absolutely. Those are all fantastic topics of conversation that I think it’s totally age appropriate to start introducing now. And yeah I think I’m yeah that that like should I keep it neutral until he brings somebody home. I think sometimes people think that that’s the best way of handling it. I wouldn’t say that that’s wrong exactly but sometimes I think what you could communicate is like boy I talk about boys all the time and my parents act like I don’t. So there must be something wrong with talking about boys because I keep saying it and they ignore it or they’re hoping they’re hoping that it could be anyone who’s actually going to turn out to be a girl. Right. Right. And I don’t think that that’s exactly what you wanted to communicate to your kids so I think Yep go ahead and acknowledge he likes boys so on the other end of this scale we’ve got a classic gal pal conundrum just the problem of gals who are pals. The subject is in love with my best pal Dear Prudence I am a 34 year old woman and until recently I’ve considered myself heterosexual. After my last relationship ended about five months ago I found myself attracted to my best pal. My friend has hooked up with men and women in the past but has only had relationships with men. We’ve been inseparable since my relationship ended. We talk every day and have been away on holiday together recently. We also say I love you most days. I’ve told her I think I might be bisexual and I’m interested in exploring relationships with women but I haven’t told her that I’m specifically attracted to her. To be honest I think I might be in love with her. Her response was that she said she would support and love me whatever I want to do. We haven’t really spoken about it since. I’ve tried to indicate that I’m interested in something more with her through physical touch and a few comments here and there but I’ve received a mixed bag of responses and I also don’t want to cross a line that she doesn’t want to be crossed. One of our mutual friends recently commented to both of us that we are basically a couple and my pals response was something along the lines of our friendship translate transcends a relationship. I didn’t say anything. I don’t know whether to confess my true feelings and risk the friendship or to carry on bottling up how I really feel to see if she figures it out. Slash makes a move should he just be content with a lovely friendship and go explore romantic connections with other women and men.
S4: Well congratulations on learning this new thing about yourself. Yes. Did this resonate in any way. Have you ever had a version of this relationship in your own life. I actually haven’t. I am pretty strictly either you’re a friend or you’re not a friend. You’re romantic. Well done. Maintaining that distinction. Yeah.
S5: I think this is this is a complicated one in the question that I wrote underneath this letter is. Could you be content with a lovely friendship if that’s what what you just let a writer if you just chose and it sounds like maybe not.
S3: Yeah it does seem like you’re reaching a point where the level of connection and the frequency and the intensity of your intimacy with this woman is reaching an unsustainable point.
S2: You know you’re at this point pretty sure you’re in love with her. Then like the levelling up an intimacy you’ve done over the last five months it’s not like you’ve been doing this for years and years and you feel super comfortable it’s very late it’s producing a lot of strong and intense feelings in you you’re dropping a lot of hints you’re hoping that she’s going to pick up on one of them eventually when other people make comments about how close you two seem you’re kind of biting your nails like Is this it. Is this when we finally like go from gal pals to you know canoodling home and and so I do think it would be worth taken a little gamble here and naming what you see as your new dynamic and getting a clear answer because they think it will feel really good to have a clear answer rather than to go back and forth about Sometimes she seems receptive sometimes she doesn’t. Should I just wait and hope that she makes a move. I don’t think that’s gonna be the way through this.
S5: No I think that if she had wanted to make a move. If she was sure about her feelings and sure about your feelings I think she would have made a move by now.
S3: Right. And I don’t know if it has to do with the fact that she hasn’t been in a relationship with a woman before so maybe she feels really anxious about that. It may be that she’s not super aware of all of her own feelings right now. It may be that she feels great about the friendship but doesn’t want to take that last jump across the line. I don’t know but I think at this point you have enough you have enough built up trust and support and closeness that if you were to say Hey this feels risky and I you know might be misreading the situation but it’s not just that I might be okay with dating women I would love to go out sometime and if you didn’t feel the same way let me know and I will you know take a little space get over it and I would love to go back to being friends but I would feel pretty sad if I never asked because I think that there’s some real potential here for something amazing and you know she is a trustworthy sounding person she cares about you.
S2: She is not indifferent to you or your feelings. If you take that risk and she says sorry no it will be painful but you will not die No and it will be good because then you’ll have clarity and you can take a little space and you know take care of your tender heart that feels a little hurt and then you know eventually try some other people but I think if you just sit around waiting and hoping you evil won’t ever want to try stuff with other men and women because you’re gonna want to hope that one day she eventually turns around and says My God it’s you it’s always been you.
S5: Or if you do explore romantic connections with men and women everybody is going to feel a little a little cheated.
S6: Yeah they’re gonna be like So what’s going on between the two. And you’ll be like nothing yet. And like you know having been in that situation Cumming also been in that situation. Yeah I am. Wish I’d figured it out a little sooner but yeah I think you’re saying I love you most days. You’re saying boy I sure might be interested in dating women. You can go ahead and ask. I don’t I don’t think she’s gonna be shocked. Like what. Where’s this coming from. I had no idea.
S5: No. I mean especially if you’ve been talking every day going on holiday together. You’re already building your lives around your relationship with one another.
S2: Yeah it’s absolutely fine to ask for a DDR All right.
S6: You get to read this next one. This next one subject I’m ashamed of my unusual ankles.
S7: Dear Prudence I haven’t inherited and fairly rare condition that makes my body store fat differently from many people because of this I’ve had swollen ankles since I was a teenager. Friends teased me about them not kindly. And my mother who has the same body type used to mock me for them. I’m a feminist and I believe in celebrating your body for what it allows you to do not just for what it looks like. I love my round stomach. My stretch marks and my body hair. But these are all things other women have and often have openly. No one is proud of having large ankles even typing this out makes me feel so disgusted with myself which makes me feel like a bad feminist. My lower body makes me feel so ashamed that I can’t go to the beach with friends and I find myself trying to cover up my legs during sex. I’m in my 20s and have a lot of life left to live in this body. How can I stop feeling so mortified.
S3: So one of the things that I felt here is that the burden of like because I’m a feminist I now have to feel proud of every single part of my body all the time or else I’m failing not just that having like an ideal body but also being a feminist that’s just too much pressure to put on yourself. It’s like double shame. I would like to give you permission to have like the grudging acceptance about some of your body parts or to say sometimes like I feel bad about this one. And when that moment comes up when that feeling comes up I will pay attention I will treat myself kindly but I will not try to like force my mind to produce relentless positivity because that I think is a misunderstanding of what the whole idea about various kinds of body acceptance is. And it’s just exhausting to try to control your own thoughts like that.
S5: I don’t think everybody loves every part of their body every single day. Right. Good feminist or bad feminist. I think we all have moments where you know maybe it’s begrudging acceptance. Yeah.
S2: Yeah. Or maybe it varies a lot. Like I just think that that standard of if I am a good feminist I feel good about my body at all times and if I lapse from that standard it means that I am failing to overcome you know the evil world that has torn me down about my body and now I’m the problem twice like I’m an old problem for failing to discipline my body and I’m a problem for failing to discipline my mind and self-esteem and so that just to me seems like a recipe for never making progress always feeling guilty and like you’re doing something wrong. I don’t want that for you.
S7: No I think you need to let go let go of both of the shames hopefully.
S2: Yeah. Yeah. So what. To me what that means is saying I have a complicated relationship with my ankles a lot of that has to do with the fact that my apparently my friends kind of gave me shit about them constantly as well as my mom who is a person who often looms very large in terms of how we think about our bodies and ourselves and what’s acceptable and what’s not. So you know when you say look I have a hard time with my ankles that makes sense to me. I can see where that comes from. And so just say like I have a difficult relationship with my ankles sometimes I cannot work my way up to celebrating my body. I can maybe sit and think of nice things about what my ankles can do but all that that does is make me feel like all right my ankles work fine. That’s the most I can do today. You know put on some nice socks and then if that if you still feel bad about your ankles give yourself permission to feel bad. I don’t want to encourage you to take that real far in the other direction say like Yeah I just freely and uncritically hate your body and have a great time. That’s the best thing but give yourself permission to only be able to treat your ankles gently and not to think about them gently. That is OK.
S7: Yeah I think being able to name today I don’t feel good about my ankles. That like puts it sort of almost as a separate you’re not even inside the feeling anymore you just named it. Thing I wrote down on my paper was ankle socks. I thought about those little.
S4: Do you have those little socks as a child with the fold over and say a little raffle.
S7: Yeah. I also wondered if you’ve gotten to a place with your friends and with your sex partners that this is something you can articulate because I think so much of body shame comes from a sense that our anxieties have to stay hidden and that we are the only ones who feel this way about our body. But if everybody else saw this part of our body they would feel the same way too. And I think the fact is that probably your sex partners and hopefully your friends now don’t find your ankles unattractive. In fact they may not even notice your ankles. I also have some body insecurities and I remember somebody very curtly saying to me nobody cares.
S3: Which I sometimes have found reassuring and I have sometimes felt found brutal and so it kind of depends. But yeah it is helpful I think to remember like I think the way that your friends tease you at a very formative age no your mom dealt with it kind of gave you the impression that everyone in the world is monitoring you this closely this much of the time. I do think that that was that’s not the case. I think you had you know adolescence is a time when everyone is hyper hyper aware of their own or perceived flaws and they try to work out that anxiety by making all their friends feel self-conscious. Ideally as adults we find different ways of dealing with our insecurities.
S2: But so yeah I would start with like if you can tell your sex partners about it. That might be nice. Also give yourself permission if you sometimes cover up your legs because that makes you feel comfortable enough to have sex that does not mean that you are like a bad actor or you are sacrificing your integrity just to get through something and you should be ashamed of that now.
S7: Absolutely not. I think and I hope that you can find a way to go to the beach with your friends in a way that feels comfortable without feeling like I have to go all out. You know maybe you find some cute socks that you wear to the beach.
S2: Yeah yeah. And if sometimes that means like I don’t feel comfortable telling my partner about this yet but I want to. That’s cool. If you want to keep your damn live legs covered during sex. Go for it. It does not mean that the sex you are having is somehow like authentic or not you know full of enough self-love. It would be great if you could eventually say to a partner like I feel really self-conscious about my ankles. Some days are easier than others. Maybe someday I could imagine us like sitting together and you like resting a hand on my leg. But that also sets off every alarm bell in my body. So like maybe not either. And just putting that forth as not either. If you don’t do this you hate yourself or I can never ever do this it would be the end of me. Just name it is like something you may someday decide to try and if you don’t it doesn’t mean that your partners don’t know you. It doesn’t mean that you don’t generally like yourself and like your body it is ok to feel self-conscious.
S6: I think is mostly what I’m trying to drive out here and you’re not a bad feminist.
S8: Yeah you’re not even a bad 20 or something person like this is super super Yeah I guess I just mostly if you like the idea that you have to not just like your body all the time but feel proud and celebrate it. To me sounds fucking exhausting. Yeah absolutely. And I hope that not too many people are putting that forward as like the idea of like that should be the goal. Obviously you’re worth celebrating obviously your body is worth taking pride in but that does not mean your job is to be a relentless positivity circus. 24 hours a day seven days a week. No time off like you’re allowed to feel complicated you’re allowed to feel angry you’re allowed to feel messy you’re allowed to like parts of yourself better than others you’re allowed to feel impatient like that’s just being a human person in a body and it’s hard.
S5: Bodies are complicated and they’re going to be complicated for your whole life. You know maybe now it feels like your ankles maybe later it’ll feel like something else. And the goal is just to keep in conversation with the body.
S2: That’s the one take the body with you. You’ve got to take it with you as they say in the music man.
S9: That’s our mini episode of Dear Prudence for this week our producers fill circus our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton as always if you want me to answer your question call me and leave a message at 4 0 1 3 7 1 dear. That’s 3 3 2 7 and you might hear your answer on that 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 30 seconds a minute tops. Thanks for listening.