Hi, dear readers! I've been MIA for a while--many reasons for that--but I'll be back in the blogging saddle soon. Meanwhile, I'm thrilled to share this guest post from a writer I hope will become a regular guest blogger. She's a hot (single!) femme who goes by the pseudonym "Dr. Joyce Sisters" (and she has a PhD in real life, too). Please show her some love in the comments! Muchos affection, BW
The Perils of the "Nice Ex"
By Dr. Joyce Sisters
Finding out that my fiancé was having an affair with one of my best friends was my own personal hell. Or so I thought… Until my partner of three and a half years dumped me and I was quickly replaced… with an ex. Okay, okay—so she’s not really an “ex.” But we definitely did the mattress dance on more than one occasion.
It doesn’t matter how much relationship experience you have or how many break-ups you’ve been through; they hurt just the same. And on a scale of 1 to 10, that level of hurt is at least a 20. The thing about lesbian break-ups is that our community is small. Inevitably, your ex will be f&*#ing a friend, a former lover, or the ex of a former lover. This exacerbates the level of hurt to somewhere between 21 and 80, depending on how close you are to your ex’s new paramour.
The other factor to consider when calculating your level of hurt is your ex’s behavior. At first glance, the relationship might appear linear: the more unkind her behavior, the more hurt you’ll feel. But this is not the case. Rather, the relationship looks more like an italicized “J” with more intense pain associated with “nicer” exes.
Inspired by BW’s fancy graph from a few weeks ago, I made the following to demonstrate this statistical relationship:
Notice that the lowest level of pain you can experience is still quite substantial (20). As we move to the left – representing the predicted pain for less and less nice (or meaner) exes, pain increases. Why? Because we question how this person we loved and cared about could behave in such a cruel manner. In these instances, we grieve less over the person and more over the belief that we are decent judges of character. We can no longer fool ourselves into thinking that we will be safe from heartache because of our exceptional ability to pick kind and loving girlfriends.
Now, consider the “nice” ex. The nice ex breaks up with you. She might even break up with you, say, the day before the biggest interview of your life or when you are 3000 miles away from family and friends that could offer support (just hypothetically, of course). But she texts your best friend every day to see how you are doing and how the interview went. She’ll tell you that you are the most beautiful, smart, kind woman she’s ever been with. She’ll insist that you’ll be connected forever and occupy a special place in her heart. She’ll want to be “friends.”
You may choose to spend time apart to transition from lovers to friends, but once you’re on speaking terms again, she’ll call or text to engage in friendly gossip about mutual friends. She’ll occasionally call you honey, baby, or sweetheart. She’ll send you a small gift just because she saw it and thought of you. She’ll call you on her way home from work and pull over on the side of the road to talk to you because her new girlfriend (NG) is at her house and she doesn’t want to hurt NG’s or your feelings.
Objectively, this behavior is nice. I mean, my best friend and I do use terms of endearment with one another, send each other gifts, and are careful not to hurt one another’s feelings. But, your ex is not your best friend. This same behavior coming from a recent former lover can lead to excruciating levels of pain. Why? Three reasons. First, it reminds you of what you lost. Second, it denies you the opportunity to make up stories about how awful she is. Third, it keeps you hooked. If you take the bait, you’re only going to feel foolish when she rejects you again. A “nice” ex can reject you over and over and over with infuriating kindness.
By the way, don’t blame yourself for still having feelings or for wanting (or asking for) her back. And, don’t let your her make you feel crazy (e.g., “What? I’m so surprised! I thought we were just friends! We’ve been over this a hundred times.”) Of course you have feelings for her. She has been sending you mixed messages. You are not crazy. She is crazy if she is genuinely surprised that you still have feelings in light of your recent interactions.
It is natural--though perhaps unhealthy--to want to have her in your life. Also, if she really is nice, she probably has a lot of friends, so not being friends with her may cause you to lose friends. (I know, it’s so unfair.)
My best advice is this. When you’re least emotional, choose a “way” of being around your ex. That is, decide how you want to behave when you are in her presence (e.g., if you run into her and NG at the bar or have a weekly phone call with her). Perhaps you want to be graceful, courageous or classy. Calm, cool, and collected. (I chose “apathetic.”) It doesn’t really matter what you choose, but I recommend picking something that confirms that you will never be with your ex again. In other words, do not chose a way of being because you think it will appeal to her and make her want you back.
Once you have adopted a way of being, act in accordance with that way of being at all times. Inevitably, you won’t want to act gracefully when you run into her at the local co-op. But you are not your feelings. You are a human being with the ability to take actions that are inconsistent with your feelings.
Of course, this requires self-control. Recent research tells us that self-control is like a muscle. We all have it to varying degrees, we have a limited supply, and we can expand our potential to exercise self-control the more we practice. If we exercise it at one point, it is harder in the moments that follow to continue to exercise self-control. During this vulnerable time, limit the number of situations that require extraordinary amounts of self-control; you will need as much of it as possible when interacting with your ex.
Simultaneously, increase the number of situations that require small amounts of self-control. For example, take a short walk even though you want to stay in bed, practice not interrupting, go to McDonald’s but don’t supersize it. This will increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to act in ways that are consistent with the way of being you chose instead of screaming, crying, or spitting in NG’s face.
What else can you do to get over an ex? Readers, have you ever successfully transitioned from lovers to friends? I am especially interested in hearing from those who have been dumped. What did you do to ease the transition?
Mad 4 Equality is on! I'm partnering with Bess Sadler and the Feral Librarian (pictured left as a sports-loving dyke-in-training) to run a women's and a men's tourney to benefit the Trevor Project and the Campaign for Southern Equality.
Fill out your women's bracket before the first game on Saturday, and the men's before Thursday's game tips off. Winner gets 1/3 of the pot!
Things You Need to Do for Entry:
We'll also be giving prizes for creativity, so don’t be shy about entering your best theme-based bracket (e.g., cutest mascot or gayest coach).
Yay! Let's go @mad4equality!
Remember the questions I posed to you a few months ago? Here are three interesting answers to one of the toughest ones:
"Describe how some other identity you have (race, religion, social class, whatever) interacts with your sexual orientation."
Response #1 (From Kyle at Butchtastic):
The intersections of my ethnicity, class, educational background, age with my gender identity and butchness is an area of great fascination for me. I’ve really been looking at these intersections in earnest in the past couple of years. I know that I receive privilege in some circumstances because of my age, because I’m white, and sometimes because of my masculinity, even if people don’t perceive me to be male. So how have those elements of my identity interacted with my sexual orientation?
First off, it’s queer--my orientation, that is. I use "queer" because listing all the aspects of orientation for my male and female sides takes several words: bisexual, lesbian, faggot, even straight... well ok, never "straight." Even if my female side hooked up with a cis man... it would still be queer sex. I haven’t examined these intersectionalities really at all.
My socioeconomic class has definitely had an impact on where I live, the people I meet through work, shopping, activities, and walking around the neighborhood. I more easily relate to people who have backgrounds similar to mine in terms of class, education, religion, race. But none of that is really about my sexual orientation.
I guess I’ll have to think about that more. It's a good question. I gave up religion when I was 13, before coming out as a lesbian, so that didn’t end up having much impact. Growing up in an aspiring middle class family meant I was given a lot of freedom of expression and association, even though my parents were not happy when I came out to them at 17. They didn’t limit me to only befriending particular classes or categories, nor did they try to hook me up with boys.
Response #2 (From "BT"):
Being a Christian is by far the identity that interacts most with my sexual orientation and until very recently my Christian identity was a big, mean, nasty bully to my butch lesbian identity. I have known in some form or another that I am a lesbian since I was four-years-old and I also have been a Christian since around that time. The two identities were at war within me from the time I was 4 until I was 27.
When I was 17, I let my lesbian self have the upper hand for a little while but all that did was spiral me into a deeper depression and greater self-loathing for the next ten years. The guilt and shame almost took me to my grave. I was at the point where it finally clicked that if I didn’t accept every bit of who I am I would be miserable for the rest of my life.
But how could I be a Christian and a lesbian? I basically had tried everything I possibly could to change my sexual orientation, even my own version of the dreaded conversion therapy. Nothing worked. It was clear to me that I must have been born this way. If it had just been childhood trauma or whatever else I was telling myself then the therapy would have changed my homosexual tendencies. So now I have finally accepted the grace that Jesus has extended to me. I have given grace to myself. I am accepted and loved no matter what. I can’t say that the two identities are in perfect balance now, I still have a ways to go but the battle has finally ended. After 23 years, my Christian and lesbian identities have embraced and I am no longer a person torn in two.
Response #3 (From "KH"):
I am a seminarian working on my Masters of Divinity hoping to become an Episcopal priest when I graduate from seminary. The identity of being an Episcopal seminarian plays a major role in my life. While the Episcopal church is very accepting of LGBT folks, ordaining gays, performing same-sex blessings and marriages, etc., I am still faced everyday with the question of how out can I be/do I want to be to my classmates and Bishop. I am from a Midwestern state, so my bishop and my diocese isn't necessarily as liberal as in other parts of the country.
It seems like when you are out in seminary you become that "token lesbian" who can or is expected to answer theological questions for the entire community. Also, attending seminary in southern Tennessee, I was the first out lesbian that several of my classmates had met. Everyone had met a gay man before, but not a lesbian. One of my classmates said to me the first couple of weeks we were here, "To southerners, gay men aren't scary. But lesbians, they scare us. We don't know or understand how they work, dress, have sex, etc."
It has been interesting to see how people interact with me because I break a lot of the labels that are given to lesbians in the south and break what they have heard about us and believe. But I love that my classmates are so open minded and give me a chance to be who I am without putting a label on me.
I also feel like a lot of the time the lesbian community isn't sure how to react to me/handle me either. It isn't every day that you meet a lesbian who is a soft butch that wants to become a priest. The LGBT community also doesn't always feel the love from the religious community. Many churches treat our community horribly. But it should teach us that we don't always like the labels that come with being a lesbian, so we shouldn't label a church without knowing something about them first either.
I am proud of who I am and the identity I have as a lesbian and as a seminarian.
I've gotten eight zillion emails from readers who identify as "of size" or "fat" or "bigger" or "hefty" or "rotund," and want to know how they can dress stylishly and comfortably as larger butches.
If you're non-gender-conforming OR on the huskier side, you've probably felt self-conscious about your appearance. Combining BOTH can leave you feeling like a fashion pariah simply because you don't look like other people (and you challenge two mainstream ideals of attractiveness).
The attractiveness bias has been well-documented, so I'm not going to go on and on about how all bodies are beautiful (they are), how health is more important than size (it is), or how we should accept ourselves for who we are now while striving to be who we'd like to be (we should). Instead, I'm just going to give you some advice about how to look your best.
Some General Fashion Principles for Husky Butches:
And now, some specifics!
Any other tips you'd like to share? Any other questions you have about how to dress as a bigger butch?
Just a quick post to announce that The Trevor Project won the poll, and 1/3 of the proceeds from Mad 4 Equality will be donated there. Thanks for voting--I expect to post entry info in a day or two, and am super stoked about the tournament. Stay tuned!
On a slightly different BW note, I wanted to apologize for being such a lax little blogger lately. A couple different things have been going on, one of which involved me stepping off of a sidewalk onto uneven pavement and twisting my foot, causing a ligament to pull a chunk of bone off. So I'm hobbling around on crutches and demanding things from my DGF, who is being a ridiculously wonderful sport about it.
I'll try to pick up the pace, though, for your reading pleasure. I miss you guys! Love, BW