For many of us, holidays mean time with family--and not just ordinary hangout time, but time that can be extra-wonderful or extra-fraught.
If you're experiencing anger, sadness, or melancholy over the holidays, you're not alone. If you wish your stepdad would be civil to your partner, or that your daughter would have a baby, or that your partner cared more about holiday traditions, or that your friends lived closer, or that your house was larger, or that your aunt would drink less, or that your sister would stop yammering about her job, or any other imaginable wish you might have about how things would be better if only they were a little different from how they are now, you are not alone. There's a minimum of approximately 15,000 people all over the world experiencing exactly the angst you're experiencing, and for very similar reasons. It's too bad you can't instantly be in contact with them, because if you could, you'd feel validated. But as it is, you just feel sort of vaguely depressed and blase about various things. Which is fine. Just remember: you are decidedly not alone in this.
If you are like me, your assortment of discontents stem from a variety of specific reasons, but the same general reason: certain things are not as you wish or expect them to be. There is a picture in your head of what a really great Christmas or New Year's or whatever would look like, and your reality bears little resemblance to it.
You've got to get rid of that picture.
I'm serious. You've got to let go of how you would like things to be, and instead try to embrace how things are. Concentrate on the here and the now and the tangible. Think: this is excellent cranberry sauce, or: my mother has pretty hair, or: my dog is so incredibly soft. It doesn't even have to be positive. It can be neutral: my brother is talking about trains; I have a book in my hands and am reading it; my parents moved to this house when I was in fifth grade; my mother is stirring the gravy; my daughter's hair is purple.
Forget your ideal picture. The picture is fiction. The picture does not exist, and dwelling on the picture instead of the things and the people in front of you will not only make you unhappy, but more importantly, it will cause you to miss the good parts about what's in front of you. And even in an un-ideal reality, there are some good parts.
(Oh, for the love of God, if you're sad, stay away from Facebook, Instagram, etc. You may think that connecting with friends will cheer you up, but I guarantee that social media will make you feel shitty about yourself. People post distorted representations of reality, editing out the lousy stuff and presenting near-perfect or "charmingly chaotic" lives. We all do this. It is human nature to present ourselves in a socially appropriate or advantageous light, and this goes double for holidays. You don't need this right now.)
My mom says that the expectation that your life will look a certain way is like building a cage around yourself. I like that analogy, and I think it applies both to your own life ("I thought I'd own a house by now;" "My finances are a mess") and to your ideas about others ("I wish my sister was less critical;" "I wish my partner liked buying gifts"). I am convinced that a great deal of unhappiness could be avoided if we held our expectations a little less tightly.
So try, try, try your very best to get rid of your pictures and notions about what would be better. Try to accept people and things for who, and what, they are, even if their current state of being cuts sharply against yours. Letting go for the holidays will help keep you centered, will root you in who you are, and best of all, will make you more satisfied in the present moment to give you the strength to move on to the next one.
For some reason, the post I did a while back on age differences in relationships continues to be popular, and seems to be read by people who are straight, gay, and everything in between. There are lots of comments on it, but I got one yesterday and felt compelled to respond to it. I thought I'd post my response here. Here's the question (unchanged except for grammar and punctuation):
I'm 23-year-old guy and my friend is 14 years old. I didn't like her like that at first but after always hanging out and having a lot in common, I started becoming physically attracted to her. I feel that it is wrong because of her age but we both like each other a lot . What am i supposed to do? Is it that bad? Someone please help me out. I'm so confused.
Dear Confused Reader:
It sounds like you're genuinely confused, and I have a few thoughts you might find helpful. The most important thing to realize is that, no matter how mature she seems, she is barely even a teenager. She cannot consent legally, which means you could get in big trouble if you start a relationship.
But MORE importantly, the fact that she's only 14 means that even if she is consciously "consenting" to a relationship with you, the simple fact of your age difference means that you hold WAY more power. It may not feel like that to you, but that's how it is. It truly would not be fair of you to start a relationship with her--not fair to HER, I mean. Even if she's the world's most mature 14-year-old, she's too young. It's not fair to put a sexual relationship with a 23-year-old guy into the mix of her life. It's just not.
You sound like a guy who's trying to do the right thing. If you really care about her, do not start a relationship with her. Nine years isn't a huge difference when you're older--if she was 25 and you were 34, it would be a different story. But the difference between 14 and 23 is HUGE--far bigger than she realizes, and maybe bigger than you realize, too.
Here's my advice. If you really care about her, don't talk about your romantic feelings for her. She doesn't need that kind of confusion. And if you want to hang out with her, I suggest doing so around her family, not with just the two of you alone, which may bring unwise pressure/temptation into the situation. If it's meant to be, you can wait four years.
You also asked if it's "bad" that you're attracted to her. I don't think attraction is "bad" or "good"--it just IS. We can't help our attractions. But we can help our actions. As long as you don't act on it, I don't think your attraction is "bad." But I also think it makes sense NOT to put yourself in situations that make you more likely to act on it. Don't do stuff that feels like a date. Don't hang out one on one. Try not to judge your attractions morally, and focus instead on your actions.
You might also find that developing additional friendships with women closer to your own age might lessen your attraction to your 14-year-old acquaintance. I don't know if this is the case with you, but some people who are repeatedly attracted to younger people are attracted to them because they seem less "threatening," and easier to talk to and be themselves around. If you have complete social confidence around women in their 20s, you might find that you are more attracted to women closer to your own stage in life. (If I'm wrong, and it's just that you're really into this 14-year-old, fine--like I said, you can wait four years to tell her and to act on it, and in the meantime can have social relationships with other women.)
You might also consider therapy--not because you need "fixing" or that there's something "wrong" with you--but simply because seeing a therapist can be INCREDIBLY helpful in sorting out confusing feelings, figuring out where they come from, and in making good choices about what do do with them.
I recently received the following email from a BW reader, and with the questioner's permission, I'll share both the question and my answer to it, as I'm guessing it will resonate with many other readers, too.
Hi Butch Wonders. I love your page so much, and I'm so happy that it gives me some connection to other butches, since I don't have any butch friends in real life Can I ask you a question? I'm a cis butch, and I've been questioning my gender identity for a long time. I really feel like a woman, and I don't feel comfortable using any pronoun but "she," but I recently started binding and now I feel really confused. I used to have an eating disorder, so my chest was pretty small, and when I wore a sports bra, you really couldn't see anything there. I'd get read as a man all the time, but I liked knowing that I did breasts underneath. Now that I've recovered from my eating disorder, I have a very big chest, and I recently started binding. Even when I bind, you can still see that there's something there, but my chest is smaller which makes me happy. It's not so much that I wish I didn't have breasts. I just wish they were small enough that I could still pass as a man, and reveal that I identify as a woman when I want to. I'm sorry that this is so long and confusing, but what I'm wondering is, does wanting to be able to pass for a man mean that I'm trans? Or are there cis butches that like binding/being able to pass too? I'm sorry that this is so long and personal. I'm just really confused and scared of how my family would react if I told them any of this. Thanks for building such a great community with your page.
Dear Excellent Person,
First, hats off to you for battling an eating disorder. I imagine that was incredibly difficult and took a lot of courage (as does asking the kinds of questions you're asking now). And thanks for your kind words about the blog.
I'll answer your question in part by reflecting on my own experience. I hope that readers with different experiences will chime in, too.
First, my short answer is that YES, many cis butches bind and love binding, but do not identify as trans*. There are also female-identified butches (and non-butches) who have had top surgery. Personally, I totally ID as female, but sometimes I like that people can't tell my gender right away, and sometimes I get a sociological kick out of the idea that it's so hard for people to interact with others in the absence of knowledge about gender.
The thing is, there is no "right" way to be female, or to be butch. If you're a butch-identified woman who wants people to take her for a man at first or second glance, this does not make you less of a woman. It also does not "make" you trans*. You might ID as trans*, or you might not. But this is something only YOU get to define.
One way to interpret your question is this: "Does the fact that I like people mistaking me for a man, and that I like binding, mean that deep down, I 'really' want to become a man?" If that is not what you mean, disregard the rest of this paragraph. My answer to that question is definitely no. I mean, you might want to be a man, or ID as a man. But I don't think that these are dispositive "signs" that in a year, you'll be taking T and growing a beard, or that you would be happier if a magic sex fairy came and waved hir wand and changed you into a cis man. Plus, you like being called "she," and you also like having breasts; you just don't always like other people to know you have them. So I'm certainly not "diagnosing" you as non-trans* (no one gets the privilege of "identifying" anyone else!), only saying that your email didn't make me think, "Oh, that person sounds just like my trans* men friends." It made me think, "Yeah, I can relate to much of that."
Still, "trans*" is a term that covers a whole panoply of identifications (hence the asterisk). I even know some people who consider themselves male some days and female other days. Are they "trans?" If they say so, yes. If they say they aren't, they aren't. I also know plenty of women who identify as "transmasculine," which several have told me means they have, or cultivate, masculine traits to some degree. I fit that definition, sure... and yet, I don't identify as "transmasculine," and they do.
It's not the label that really matters. What REALLY matters is that you present and identify as you want. And this may change over time. Sometimes wanting to bind is a "first step" on the road to what some people call a "full" transition. Sometimes not. (And note that those terms are in quotes to signify the fact that I am using them as working terms to promote common understanding, rather than adopting the common understanding of them.)
Personally, sometimes when I don't mind being mistaken as male, it's because it means I'm also being mistaken for "regular." For gender-conforming. For someone whose clothes aren't seen as a "mismatch" for her body. For someone who never has to think about this stuff or be an outlier.
I don't feel like I'm "one of the gals" OR "one of the guys," and being part of neither group can feel lonely and isolating in weird unexpected ways. Still, when I WAS "one of the gals," I felt like I was acting a role, and thinking of myself as "one of the guys" just feels wrong. I guess I'm just me. I'm one of the women but not one of the gals. I'm one of the masculine people but not one of the guys. Maybe you're just you, too?
I don't know if this ramble of a reply will help, but I'm hoping that something in it will resonate with you and get you a little closer to wherever it is you'd be happiest being right now.