For years, a group of us girls has gone camping, to dinner, to concerts, etc. Our husbands do their own thing together while we hang out. When they bring a new guy into their circle, they seem to think we should automatically accept his female partner. We normally do because we're nice like that. The problem is, there's a gal who invites herself to everything she catches wind of from her husband. She consistently creates incredible upheaval, agitation and hurt feelings with her callous remarks and abrasive personality. Triple that when she drinks. Her bad chi is ruining the nurturing dynamic of our loving and supportive group. Help soon, as she's trying to get in on a camping trip. We'd be stuck with her for five negativity-filled days. — The Women
Imagine if Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, communicated like so many other women tend to. Forget the direct approach. She'd roll her eyes behind some prime minister's back, burn sage after he leaves, and make the Joint Chiefs hold hands and chant, "Shine white light on our borders and restore our protective womb of national security!"
Men and women approach conflict in very different ways.
Men have an easier time being direct because they evolved to be the competitors of the species and see trying to top one another as a normal part of life. If the guys were bugged by a guy in their group, one of them would probably just blurt out, "You're being a dick. Be less of a dick." Women, on the other hand, evolved to be the cooperators, nurturers and empathizers of the species, prizing group bondedness and keeping the peace.
This sounds so much nicer than how the menfolk do things but actually leads to ugly indirect aggression like dirty looks, spiteful gossip and shunning. Though it's best not to go around breaking one another's noses over who has the cutest shoes, women often end up festering with nastiness, while guys can sometimes sock each other and then go off and have a beer.
Assuming you lack the Bewitched skill set — the power to twitch your nose and transform or relocate people and objects — wishing things were different is merely a way to kill time while in line at the supermarket.
One of you needs to take this woman aside, gently explain the group culture, and give her a couple examples of things she's said that don't quite mesh with it. She also needs to be told that it's kind of a problem when she gets likkered up. The direct approach is tough in the moment but ultimately less hurtful than the silent one, and it gives her a chance to mend her ways.
If she keeps on harshing, it should be no surprise to her when she's invited not to come, having been given fair warning that your group is more "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Chi" than "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pabst."
Homo on the range
I'm a 22-year-old gay male living in a small town. I've met three of the four men I've dated online. Three looked nothing like their pictures, and one was a total jerk. How am I supposed to meet nice guys I'm attracted to? If I see a cute guy in a coffee shop, I have to figure out whether he's gay, and I risk embarrassing myself if he's not. — Gay In Nowhereland
Sure, as a small-town gay guy, it's much harder to find dates than it would be in one of the gay capitals of the universe — like San Francisco's The Castro — where leaving for work means bumping into the guy next door taking out the trash in hot pants and a feather boa.
Although straight people in Tinyville do have a bigger pool of potential partners, what you and many straight people everywhere have in common is the unwarranted indignation that the dating world was not immediately your oyster. Yes, meeting people is hard. Yes, people on dating sites misrepresent themselves. Sometimes, it's unclear whether they're even in the same species: "Truth be told, I'm three-quarters Italian and a quarter German shepherd."
What you have that straight people don't is the gay community — or the possibility of a gay community. Either find it or create it. Online dates who turn out to be duds romantically can become friends or at least connections to other gay men. Maybe set up a First Friday drinks night for gay men in small towns around you and get all the rainbow-colored fish in one bowl.
You might not immediately find a boyfriend, but you'll create a fun social scene that should prove more productive than spending three hours pretending to check your phone next to the lone gay video in the town video store.
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or firstname.lastname@example.org (advicegoddess.com). Alkon is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle To Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society.