7.26.2010

Queer Abby: This is too much for a Monday.

Woooo! So, it's currently 12:40am on Monday morning and I've been helping with merchandising at work since 3:30 this afternoon, which sucks because I have to be back in for my next shift later this morning. (Later this morning actually = noon. "Later in the early-to-mid afternoon" just didn't have the same dramatic effect. ) Needless to say, I'm extremely cracked out at the moment, so I'm going to ask you all to bear down and bear with. Because at the moment I feel like Apu when he worked a 96-hour shift straight and convinced himself that he was some kind of hummingbird:

So. Queer Abby. Weekly advice column. Amy answers your questions for reals. I give you half-baked, cracked-out advice that helps no one. LET'S GET IT ON!

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dear queer abby,

well. my roommate and i lived together through most of college and have lived together for two years out of school. we were bffl^maxest in college and for awhile after. however: just after we graduated, she started dating this guy who is an idiot. she acts like an idiot around him bc she doesn't want to emasculate him in any way. she's gradually become Obsessed with talking about life goals and what everyone wants out of life, and figuring out what it means to be a "twenty-something" in this really limited vocabulary that sounds like a middle school assembly presentation on teenage self esteem. she spent the first few months out of college unemployed and then got the job that is perfect for her, which is great(!), but she's still really insecure and constantly talks up her position to the point of lying about her responsibilities and making it sound like she's running the company. recently, a friend was talking about his promotion to a specific position, and my roomie's response wasn't congrats, but rather, me too! (not in a 'just kidding' way), when she definitely was not promoted and her company doesn't even have that position.

so. needless to say at this point, we're not renewing our lease because i basically started freezing her out a few months ago when i just couldn't deal. i tried talking with her about the more superficial problems, but it didn't really fix anything and she was clearly really hurt by it. we used to be such good friends, and i feel bad jumping ship (like many of our other friends have), but i just feel like we're speaking different languages these days. is there anything i can do to salvage this friendship? is this what growing apart is? can i help her somehow? what if i'm the crazy one?

thanks! you and meg (and tulane chris) are the best!

- short a bffl in dc

Dear SBD,

Yea, I think it’s safe to say you two are growing apart. You might totally grow back together eventually, but you can’t make that happen, you have to just let time sort it out. Trying to force things only creates friction. So, at this point, the best thing you can do to salvage the friendship is recognize and accept the limitations of it. You have to let her be who she is and, likewise, you have to do your own thing.

Not living together should help a lot. That’s not to say you’ll all the sudden be besties again, but you’ll resent each other a lot less if you aren’t forced to spend more time with one another than you’d choose to. Obvi, anyone can change, so you don’t have to write her off completely— in fact, you can still be a good influence on her if you remain friends and offer support and positive reinforcement when it’s due. But, for the sake of both of you, only be as close with her as you can without getting too aggregated, and don’t count on her changing in all the ways you’d hope. You may grow back together, or you may continue to drift apart, but if you can be cool and realistic about it in the meantime, there’s a much better chance that, either way, you won’t end up totally hating each other.

Girl: PREACH. I've been there. And it blows. Here's the thing: when you're in college, you're in this protective little bubble of Natty Light and pre-paid meal plans and lounging around watching Buffy with your roommate in your favorite pair of booty shorts and everything is safe and fine and wonderful. But then you graduate and you and your friends are flung in different directions into the Real World and it's sink or swim time. And much like prison or a tour of 'Nam, being thrown into the Real World changes you. Because you kind of have to re-figure out who you are and where you fit in and guess what? Sometimes you fuck it up. And sometimes your friends fuck it up. Or in my case, sometimes you both fuck it up.

Exactly one year and three months after I graduated college, I sat down, did an in-depth audit of the person I'd become, and the final figure I came up with was this: OOOF. I did not like who I was. At all. So much so that I said "nuts to this", scrapped the life I had created for myself in New York, moved back home and completely started over from square one. It sucked and it was hard, but Christ I'm glad I did it. So maybe your friend will wake up one day and realize that she's a hot fucking mess who’s probably a 40 away from catching Hepatitis C in the back of a cab because it temporarily makes her forget how much she hates herself (rhymes with Schmeg and ends with McBlogger…), or maybe she'll continue being a giant douchebag and guess what you gotta do then? Act like a bulimic a the night before prom and purge.

Because sometimes friends change for the worse, dude. It sucks, but it's true. And there's no point in keeping them around if they blow and don't show any signs of changing. I'm not saying like, "Ohhh. I asked my friend to get me a Red Stripe, not a Heineken. PURGE!!!!!1" I'm saying if your friend has become a person that you don't like and is negatively affecting your life, purge her out of your inner circle. Maybe down the line you'll meet up and be friends again because life is wacky like that, but there's no point in keeping a subpar friend around when I'm sure you've got other grade-A ones. It's insulting to them.

Let’s overshare, shall we? When I was going through my "troubles" in New York, most of my friends stood by me through thick and thin. And then there was the one who didn't. Why? Because she had become the kind of person who was so concerned with being well-liked and having her life appear superficially perfect that she didn't want to risk standing up for me and entangling herself in my problems, despite the fact that we were roommates and had been best friend since 4th grade. Sucked. I took her out to lunch one day and explicitly told her that to get through what I was going through, I needed her to be there for me. Which is when she very matter-of-factly informed me that she “knew it made her a bad person, but she just couldn't.” Again, sucked. But that was the end of that and I haven't talked to her since.

If you had told me that that would have happened in May of 2007, I would have never believed you in a million years. But it happened because people change and unfortunately it's not always for the better. You can't control which friends it happens to, but you can control how much you let it affect your life. I could have kept that friend around because we had been friends forever and she was practically my sister, but...why? You wouldn't keep an abusive boyfriend in your life just because you "had you some times" and “feel bad jumping ship,” would you? Friendships are relationships just like romantic relationships are relationships and when one has turned toxic, you gotta put it to bed before Lifetime makes a movie about you starring Tori Spelling with the word “trapped” somewhere in the title.

God. That was really heavy and kind of a downer. I apologize. Hm...TURTLE RAPES SHOE TIME!!!!!!!1

Dear Queer Abby,

I am socially awkward. Painfully so. I get out of breath in social situations, I can't focus on what people are saying, and I even see paying the cashier at Safeway as a major social success. I really, really, truly want to stop caring about what people think. Because, in the end, I could care less. And yes, when I'm with my friends, that's a different story. They know me, and I can make those outrageous jokes, and I can be myself. But when I'm with others, it's like having to be this different person, even though I know we're essentially all the same. For example, the way I'm writing is not how I would speak or interact with you. I'm a fucking mess.

What's more, I'm in a Master's program for teaching secondary ed. I just met my mentor teacher today and she's very bubbly and nice, but she could see through the awkwardness. I could tell that I worried her. I have massive doubts as a to-be English teacher (because don't you need confidence to inspire your students?). Though, I'm extremely creative and my lesson plans really are fun. When I taught early ed, it was great -- I was a good, confident teacher after the first few weeks. But for years I've been all nerves. In high school, I was president of drama club and outgoing and people admired me. After I transitioned, I have no idea what really happened. Now, I'm fumbling everywhere, and I lack massive confidence and self-esteem. I'm sick of obsessing on this topic. What tools can you suggest to be less self-conscious of others? Fake it 'til I make it? Or, should I just be my awkward self and let go? How do you even let go?

-My Lower Back Constantly Hurts Because I'm Stressed

Drinking copious amounts of vodka usually does the trick for me…

But generally, it’s just a practice thing. I know it’s hard to force yourself into doing something you’re not immediately comfortable with, but it’s a self-perpetuating cycle; the more you withdrawal from social situations the worse it will get. So, you just have to keep incrementally pushing your limits and be patient with yourself. For example, have a few good friends that you know really well over to your house a few times à then eventually start inviting them to bring guests and then start organizing small groups to go out else where, etc. You may actually find that having a hand in the planning makes you feel more confident and comfortable... But if you don’t like that role, just join in when your friends organize something that you’re relatively comfortable with and commit to progressively engaging more people each time.

And seriously, there are things that can really help you get past some of those hurdles originally, including but not limited to booze… I‘m typically reluctant to suggest this route outright, but if it’s as bad as you say it is and you have insurance, you might consider seeing a psychiatrist. Anti-anxiety medication like Ativan, Xanax or Klonopin can help reduce the crippling discomfort until you get to a point where social situations feel a little more natural to you. And in the meantime, or if you prefer not taking meds, talk to someone about it. Whether it’s a therapist, good friend or sibling, they can support you in pushing your boundaries, or call you out if your making excuses. Also, try exercise.

Finally, don’t take yourself so seriously. The way you feel is totally natural, but no one expects you to be perfect. Besides, we usually end up remembering the stupid shit we do far longer than anyone else does. In fact, trust me, they’re usually too busy worrying about what other people think of them to pay all that much attention to you anyway. I promise.

xoxoxo,

abby

I used to be debilitatingly awkward, but I'd like to think that I've now reached a certain level of charmingly awkward. Here's what worked for me:

1.) Sweet Lady Prescription Pills. I used to take a pu-pu platter of anti-anxiety meds and anti-depressants, but I've since overcome my anxiety and now am just working on the depression. HEY-O, SMALL VICTORIES! As far as anxiety goes, Klonopin worked for me like magic. Just be careful because it can be habit-forming. And by habit-forming, I mean awesome. Specifically when mixed with a wee bit of alcohol. But don't mix with copious amounts of pot and alcohol or you'll stand up to go to the bathroom one night at the Reef, fall directly back down and blackout in front of God, your country and all of your friends. Then you'll come-to in the back of a cab with your friend Andrew and actually request that he not to let you die that night, before promptly blacking out again. Then I think there's some vomiting thrown in there for good measure and I believe at one point your roommate comes home to find you passed out on the bed while Andrew tries to take your unnecessarily complicated lace-up boots off, which is when he'll shout, "IT'S NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!" and your roommate will freak out and yell at him to get out and you'll have a good giggle in your half-coherent state and woooo! God I miss college.

2.) Therapy. Because your therapist will have better suggestions that "don't mix Sweet Lady Prescription Pills with pot."

3.) Own it. I could fill an entire blog with stories of my awkwardness. And I do. Everyday. And now people ask me how to not be awkward. THE AWKWARD, BECOMES THE AWKWARDEE…? Nope. Still awkward.

4.) Like Amy said, practice. You know what really helped me become more outgoing? Bartending. I know it was only for the hottest of hot seconds, but having your income rely on being able to successfully shoot the shit with strangers really forces you out of your shell. The same old men would come into the bar everyday around 4 o'clock, grab a stool, order a drink and just stare at me, waiting to be entertained. I had no idea how to handle it at first. I'd be like, "SO. OBAMA. PRESIDENT NOW. BLACK. MAKE COUNTRY. GOOD?" But then the more and more I did it, the more I realized that it's actually not that hard to make conversation with strangers. You know why? Because people like to talk about themselves. A lot. So just ask them questions and let them do all the work. It's so formulaic, it's stupid: Ask question -> Listen to answer -> Ask follow-up question -> Relate their answer to your own life -> Bonding moment, bonding moment, bonding moment -> Wash, rinse, repeat.

Plus, the more you do it, the less scary it is and the more outgoing you'll become. Whether I'm at a party where I don't really know anyone or just talking to customers at work, I follow that same formula. "I see you went on a Capitol tour; did you like it? Where are you visiting from? Oh, that's cool, my roommate in college was from Ohio. How long are you in town for? Are you enjoying yourself? Insert joke about the weather here. OK, well enjoy the rest of your stay!" BOOM. Social success. And we both know how socially retarded I am, so it can't be that hard.

But then again, painfully awkward shit still happens to me all the time, so maybe we’re both just fucked? Welp, glad to help!


Got a question that you'd like Queer Abby to answer? Shoot an email to QueerAbby@2birds1blog.com! RIGHT NOW.

16 comments:

Wiggs (The Beholder) said...

You and Queer Abby are so smart that I never feel like being one of those people who offers additional and unsolicited advice, buuuut:

To the person who's got anxiety about being a teacher: dude. My mom is/was the SAME way. Super awk. But then she was a school teacher for 13 years and now she's so good at public speaking that she gets invited to be a keynote speaker in front of thousands of people. And she says it was being forced to teach in front of a classroom, day after day, that got her to that point (well, also, being a best-selling author didn't hurt for getting her in a position to be invited as a keynote speaker, but once she's up at the podium, it's all teacher-Mrs. Wiggs). So. In closing. You'll be teaching so often that you'll HAVE to adapt, and then maybe you'll become a bestselling novelist and get to speak in front of even MORE people, and then you'll permanently scar your daughter one day when you tell the story of how you got pregnant with her after draining a minibar in a hotel during your speech to 2,000 people while a camera focuses on your poor daughter's face and projects it onto a giant screen in the front of the ballroom.

Sofy said...

Wow. First time a Queer Abby entry relates to my life. I am such a socially awkward person, but forcing myself to be in social situations has helped my conversation skills a lot. Alcohol has been extremely kind to me too.

Still...I may just look into that Klonopin right thar.

Meredith said...

Great advice from both Meg and QA, readable, relatable letters, and videos. I rescind my comment from last week about the my QA beef (which was with the letters, just to clarify). YAY!

Anonymous said...

Wait, did the second letter writer say that s/he transitioned, as in gender reassignment? "After I transitioned, I have no idea what really happened."

If so, I'd skip the booze and go straight to the therapy and support groups for coping with awkwardness, because clearly that's coming not just from mid-twenties changes but from some more serious changes.

Anonymous said...

To the socially awkward teacher: If there is one thing being a middle school teacher has taught me it is how to NOT care about what people think. The kids are not quite to the level where they understand tact yet and therefore say whatever is one their minds about you. To the point where I actually had a 13 yr old boy tell me I better get married soon while I'm still pretty and another student tell me my hair was stringy and my nose looked weird. YEA... you better be self confident if you're going to teach in that environment because the last thing you need is some kid thinking they got the best of you. On the other hand there is not a more awkward age for EVERYONE then 12-14 so embrace them and know no matter how off/awkward you feel at least you're no longer in middle school.

Rach said...

"And much like prison or a tour of 'Nam, being thrown into the Real World changes you. "

hahahahahhahahah. thank you for starting my morning off right. I think I just woke up my whole building my laughing at (and relating to) that statement.

LOVE 2b1b!

Patricia said...

I was/am socially awkward too. I still have my moments. Going out and being social was exhausting and 9 out of 10 people got on my nerves as soon as they opened their mouths. It just wasn’t worth it. And so, I stayed home and when large social situations came up I couldn’t avoid, I had no experience to fall back on. I’d fade into the background. Even friends sometimes forgot I was there. It was so bad that I once had to call their cell phone at a bar because I had gone to the bathroom and they had moved on while I was in there.

What made me change? Mostly, boredom. I got bored. I never did anything. So, I forced myself to go out. I still have a problem with fading into the background if I’m tired or not feeling well, it takes a lot of energy to be social, but I deal with small groups very well now. I fall back onto humor and I’m a great listener. After the ice is thawed, it gets easier. I generally seek out small groups at a party and let people flow around me. I’m not so overwhelmed if I just focus on the people closest to me.

Patricia
Lacking Sense

EZ said...

"all the sudden"?! Really, Queer Abby?!! Really??!!!!1

*shudder*

Evan said...

Outstanding Queer Abby Post! Meg, your contributions this week were spot-on and totally resonated with me. You tell it like it is in the best kind of way. Reminded me why I love this blog more than is probably healthy.

Anonymous said...

awesome that you mentioned therapy and prescription meds for the individual with what really sounds like some social phobia, meg! that's the ticket! and if i may be so bold (and i believe i can), cognitive behavioral therapy can be particularly useful for this kind of thing. only takes a few months, and can make really dramatic differences in how people relate to the world.

amy said...

ez: get bent. *rolling eyes*

last anon: agreed on cbt, that's why i suggested incremental exposure. i'm just not convinced she has a severe social anxiety disorder or 'social phobia' (like in the DSM-IV sense) so i figured suggesting a more elaborate regiment might be overkill at this point (and would probably make for really dry reading).

Anna said...

Meg that was really sincere, heartfelt, yet hilarious advice you got going on there. I bet you change lives with this blog. But really, I think you do.

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