Advice: Having It All vs. Having A Choice

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

Last night, I worked until after midnight, and I did so the night before, and at least two times the week before that. And so on, and so on.

I love my job. I’ve been an entertainment news producer for the last six years and I love the challenges that every day brings. But in two weeks, I am going out on maternity leave, and I’m trying to make sure I have enough of my assignments in the can to keep my name fresh and relevant to my bosses. Things move quick in this industry, and being away from it for twelve weeks means I will be gone for practically a lifetime.

Of course I know there are laws to protect me from losing my job while I am out on leave, but that doesn’t mean I will come back to the plum assignments I’ve earned. And also, of course, I hear the whispers: Will she come back? I realize that’s an option available to me, to stay home with this amazing creature my husband and I have created, but I don’t know if I’m ready to trade my briefcase for some diaper bags.

I’ve grown up believing in things like a “work-life balance” and that women can “have it all”, but I feel like I’ve put a big part of myself and everything I’ve been working toward for the last six years up for grabs to my colleagues with different obligations. I don’t understand how this is “having it all” if my professional advancement has to stall and/or get winnowed away from me. I’m even considering cutting my maternity leave short so I can get back in the saddle and on track ASAP, and my friends with children are “mommy track”, so they’ve cut back their work hours or accepted less taxing assignments at their jobs…or are “taking a few years off”…so they don’t understand my perspective at all. None of those options are acceptable to me. What should I do? How should I look at this? I can’t wait to meet my little girl, but do I have to lose other parts of my life to do it?

Signed, I Want What’s Mine

 

Dear What’s Mine,

Bartender and Priestess: Sigh. Well, we knew this was coming, sooner or later. Let’s see if we can sort out our responses.

P: It’s hard to know where to start with this. Is it the notion that everything you can conceive of can fit in a day (Time), that everything is of equal value (Priorities), that people have ever done this (History), that the physical body is capable of this (Limitations), that you are somehow deserving of having everything you’ve ever wanted (Entitlement), or that this is somehow good for the world (Civilization).

As the Priestess, I’m going to start with your priorities. Being good at either work or raising children requires tremendous discipline and sacrifice. I wish you had thought to ask these questions before you conceived. Children are not something you check off a list. Humans, especially tiny ones, are frail little creatures demanding an enormous amount of time and attention. And in the beginning they’re not only endearing — they are fretful and demanding.  When they don’t sleep, my dear, you don’t sleep. Even if you’ve hired a nanny whose job it is to get up and have those middle of the night screams and snuggles, most babies I know have a voice that rivals a fire bell. Now there’s nothing that says that you have to be the primary parent, your partner can be, but that is a delicate dance you should have worked out before, because a child is going to interrupt your busy lives and require sacrifices.

B: There’s a long-standing joke-y meme that’s been around for decades: imagine a woman, enthusiastically chirping out the message: I CAN have it all! A baby AND a career! Some version of this probably lives in some corner of your head, doesn’t it? Moreover, it sort of informs your opinion on how you should be able to manage your life, right?

I want you to stop that. Why? Because it turns your life into a list. Like Ann said, a baby isn’t something you check off when you accomplish it. Washed the windows, check. Had a baby, double-check. Do you think the best way to judge your life is by the number of tally-marks you’ve scratched on a scorecard? And no matter what structure you try and put into place, a baby will find a way around that and make things unpredictable and messy. In a conversation I had two days ago with a good friend and mom of two adorable munchkins, she said, “The thing about parenting is—and every parent I’ve spoken with has, at some point, reached this conclusion—it is NEVER what you expect it to be.”

Realign your life’s expectations. Checkity-check-check.

P: If you want a happy, healthy child who will eventually grow to become an active and contributing part of society, you’re going to have to contribute to that child. And the needs don’t stop with babydom, they just change. Neither Terri or I chose to have children. My choice centered on the fact that I thought I would be better at what I did, that I didn’t have what it took to be good at both work and raising children. Are there times I regret that? Of course. None more than when my sister’s two children died, and I couldn’t give her mine to love. But it was a decision based on my analysis of my ability to provide a child what was needed. Because child rearing is incredibly important, not just to us, but to our world. I worry about how we build a better world.

When your sentence starts, “I can’t wait to meet my little girl, but…” you’ve already clarified your priorities, and yet, here you are pregnant. Who is going to raise your child?

B: I assume you have some kind of child care in mind, though you don’t mention if it will be a nanny or day care or grandma’s house or if your husband is going to be a stay-at-home dad. All of these options are OK. But I want to point out to you that while you may not know how to juggle “having it all” in terms of baby and career, what you DO have are options. A tremendous number of them, and this is my plea to families everywhere: please stop looking at “having it all” as meaning that you can keep everything on the table in front of you and that it will hold equal weight. It won’t happen. It doesn’t happen, even without a kid to consider. Have you ever made a decision? Have you ever chosen to go to your husband’s parents’ home for Thanksgiving instead of your brother’s? Then you’ve been presented with two options on the table, given one more weight than the other, and let the less important one roll off the table. You physically can’t split yourself in two and be at both your in-laws’ and your brother’s homes at the same time on the same day. And, you can’t physically split yourself in two and be a full-time mom with a full-time career, and take care of both things at the same time.

And please, don’t point to people like Marissa Meyer, who’s CEO-ing Yahoo! while taking care of her baby. She’s not. She has a full-time nanny, and a nursery built onto her office. She has no work-life balance. Her office IS her home; she just has another place where she sleeps at night. Usually. Is that what you’re looking for?

P: Historically, we lived in villages. Children ran in packs and grannies and aunties and neighbors all mothered our children. For anyone who’s been part of the Mother Grapevine, you knew you were being watched: it meant you could get a cookie occasionally at someone’s house, it meant you could use the toilet, and it also meant if you misbehaved, you got yelled at by your friend’s mom who then got on the phone and called your mom. And if the behavior was egregious enough, the other moms might chime in. There was a village to raise the children and you played a part in it. Your job was critical to the village as well. Everyone’s was.

We don’t live in villages any more. We don’t live in extended families. And I know a lot of grandparents who, even if they live next door, have active and involved lives and are not available and or interested in raising your child. They’ve raised their own children already—you. They aren’t being selfish if they have their own lives. No one ever promised you that you could have children and not parent them.

B: So, going back to the options before you. I want you to take a moment to consider what a lovely and enviable position you’re in. There are plenty of parents who don’t have the resources available to make these decisions—they have kids, they have to keep them housed and fed. I grew up in a home with two parents who both had to work to support the family. There are lots of families who just have one working parent, which often means more than one job at less pay than she or he deserves. Child care is expensive, summers home from school are a challenge, and the question of whether or not the mother can stay home to be with her baby is often laughable at best.

I’m not asking you to feel bad for the single parent or the working-class struggle. What I am asking you to do is reconsider the idea of “It All”. What you have, which is ironically fueling your dilemma, is the luxury of choice. And you want to keep it all on the table in front of you and make it all equally important. You can’t. Decisions have to be made. You have the ability to decide the what and the who and the how of your daughter’s upbringing in a way that’s unencumbered by dire need. You’re comfortable with your and your husband’s capacity to provide, and you can be discerning about which things fall off the table, in ways that other families simply can’t. You have resources, ability, and the power to use them accordingly. You have “It All”, even if “It” isn’t on the checklist in front of you. You’re just not seeing it.

P: I’m sorry, you were probably coming to the two feminists looking for a different kind of support. I spend a lot of time looking at families. I spend a lot of time looking at society. Both of these need a lot of loving attention. Where are you going to be in creating a family — which is what a child needs to thrive? How will you be contributing to society? Who are you that the world should arrange itself around you?

When having it all isn't all it seems.

When having it all isn’t all it seems.

Ray of Sunshine Mocktail Recipe

  • 2 oz orange juice
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 ½ oz cranberry juice
  • 1 ½ oz sweet & sour

Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing glass; pour into a tall cocktail glass filled with ice and garnish with an orange and a cherry.

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Off Our Chests: Gabby Douglas

As the Bartender and the Priestess are women of chests, we just needed to get this off ours: Gabby Douglas

Both the Bartender and the Priestess have been outraged by the treatment Gabby Douglas has received.

Ann: Perhaps it is a good sign that much of the back chat about the games has been about the rampant sexism in the coverage of the games. Go here and laugh as you weep at the long road we still have to travel. The list seems endless. But, maybe we’re just becoming more aware; I must say, I don’t remember another time that we’ve seen the pushback we have at these games about the archaic women-as-decoration notions.

The people who make it to the Olympics as commentators seem to be missing the point. S.E. Smith in xojane wrote: “A recent study from Cambridge took a look at the way people talk about women and men in sports, finding that men get described in terms of what they do, while women get described in terms of who they are.” There are a lot of years of not taking women seriously behind us; but it needs to come to an end. I’ve heard people saying the dinosaur is dying. Well, it’s certainly taking its sweet time. But maybe the paradigm is changing, and these are the last stupid gasps of dinosaurosity! But the Gabby Douglas story that we’re looking at takes it even farther than most of what we saw, combining sexism, racisim and flat out mean nastiness.

There have been example after example of women and particularly women of color being disrespected and sidelined. And, no. We are not just sensitive. It’s come from the crowds and the media. This is a dirty, ugly fact and it’s time for us to come to acknowledge it — and it’s time to demand it stops. How dare people diminish the very hard work, athleticism, and artistry of Gabby Douglas while they giggle at the same time over the “cute” boyish (read boorish) behavior of some men, even men who are breaking laws.

Terri: It’s particularly telling in light of the (legitimately) shameful display put on by Ryan Lochte and friends, though honestly, I don’t feel we need to talk about him too much. I really want to focus on the treatment Gabby Douglas received for no legitimate reason whatsoever.

Ann: Terri, when this all happened, I felt like we were in Middle School, or what we’re told Middle School is all about since I went to a plain ol’ Primary School.

Here’s a beautiful, talented young woman, who four years ago won a gold medal (as a 16 year old) for best all around gymnast — the first Black gymnast to medal in the Olympics, and it was gold, to boot. The entire time, she was perky and charming and oh, so talented. America’s sweetheart in the making.

Fast forward four years, she’s back at the Olympics, doing incredible work — not quite enough to be one of the two who was able to contend for individual medals but nonetheless quite wonderful. And a bunch of mean girls made up a bunch of stuff and stuck it on twitter. It was ghastly. What is up with people?

(Note from Terri: it wasn’t all mean girls. There were plenty of guys saying terrible things about her, too, though saying “mean girls” is an interesting dynamic in light of how men and women are portrayed in media, and are being discussed in this very column. But I digress.)

Ann: She won a gold; we don’t like her hair. Her teammates said she supports them; the public says they’re sure she didn’t. She had a grumpy face — hey, even you might have been disappointed if you had missed your chance to compete, but did anyone SEE Michael Phelps’ face? Did anyone criticize him? No, he might have been grumpy; he might have just been concentrating. Fact is I can’t tell you; I don’t live in his head. They? Don’t live in Gabby’s head either, but that didn’t inhibit them from talking smack.

And the last one? They savagely attack her for not being a patriot, for standing as people have often stood (well, ever since we gave up what is now known as the “heil Hitler” salute) with her hands respectfully at her sides. A friend looked up the requirements for standing at attention during the anthem. Here they are. They were passed in 1998. So if anyone on the Olympic team didn’t stand with their hand over their heart, I blame the Olympic Committee. All the money we spend sending these athletes to Rio, we might instruct them in proper ways to watch the flag rise and hear the anthem. So, if she had known, I’m sure she would have had her hand over her heart.

Terri: Here’s the thing—and I know this is going to piss people off, but—I don’t care if she had her hand over her heart or not. I don’t care what the rules say. I don’t care about any of it. Gabby Douglas spent the better part of her twenty years on this planet training to be a nearly godlike athlete, all for the greater glorification of the US in global competition. She didn’t win the gold for Exxon, or NASCAR, or any other sort of private enterprise. She went out and competed so the US, her home country, could put on their big bold bragging pants and tell the world how great we are because we can turn out the caliber of athlete like Gabby Douglas. She didn’t show respect? The hell with that, she’s been showing respect for twenty years, winning medals, working through blisters and injuries and illnesses and doubt. And she has shone, until the one time she let her guard down. And the media ate her alive.

I asked this before, and I will ask it again: she showed her respect by winning medals for her country. To her detractors: What did you do while she was busy winning?

Ann: And you know, when Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovaks (US Shot Put Gold and Silver) stood at attention, hands at side, nothing was said. Oh, they’re white men? Well, then, never mind.

She has said she was thrilled to represent her country. I’m going to believe her on that. Why would she lie? Why would you presume to know what’s going on in her brain?

Terri: I don’t know what’s going on in her brain. I just know what she’s done for the better part of her life. Which is train, and train, and win, and train some more. Where’s the joy in any of this? Where’s the love for the sport, where’s the honor that should attend upon a lovely young woman putting her heart and soul into a performance on one of the toughest stages in the world? Where’s the recognition of Gabby Douglas’s achievements, grace, relentless skill?

Ann: I am dead tired of listening to people, often other women, pick apart another woman’s body. Gabby has grown up in the public eye, and has done so on the world stage since a very young age. As with most women, her body changed. So now the public is wondering if she’s had breast augmentation.

Terri: AGGGHHH! People, people, people. It’s called puberty. I wonder more at the people who aren’t alarmed that most female gymnasts’ careers are over by the time they’re 20, because their hips and boobs develop and make balancing extra-challenging. Hey, try facing the reality that at 20, you’re done. (Note: male gymnasts don’t excel until AFTER puberty, when their upper bodies develop and they can do all those holding poses…another interesting example of the male/female dynamic in Olympic sport. And again, I digress.)

Ann: The people who make it to Olympic competition are athletes. If they delight our eyes, it’s with their astonishing prowess. Certainly some of them are beautiful; Gabby is one of those women. And you want to tell me that her hair wasn’t right as she was spinning around like a top? I don’t think they make hairspray strong enough to withstand that velocity!

Terri: What should have been her opportunity to go out as the champion she is has been robbed from her by the tsunami of negativity that burst forth when she didn’t make the “proper” gesture during two minutes of song. The haters can’t take away what she’s accomplished, but they can steal joy. For what? Because they didn’t like her hair? Because she didn’t hold her hand correctly? Because she looked disappointed when she didn’t get to compete in the individual competition? In the Olympics? Which she’s been training for her whole life? For shame, people. I’m so disappointed in the soul of the US in light of this collective social event. We think we are civilized, but we have so far to go.

Ann: There are some things I do very well. However, I’ve never spent the kind of time Gabby Douglas and her fellow teammates have, becoming proficient at anything, let alone balancing on a tiny, little beam. And you, you Gabby haters? Are you proficient at anything other than being spiteful and, well, stupid? Feh. #Love4Gabby happening right here.

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Advice: Step Away, Sister

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have a real problem with my older sister, and—finally—I’ve gotten to the point where I am over it. When we were little, my sister “Ethel” constantly insulted me. She would call me names, make fun of my weight, point out every pimple, tease me that the boys would never be interested in someone who looked like me. Ethel would come into my room like it was her own and rifle through my closets, helping herself to my clothes and shoes, or she would take my CDs and “lose” them, or she would slip my favorite lip gloss into her purse and “forget” to give it back to me.

Ethel has since moved several hours away. I still live in the town we grew up in, and I only see her when she visits our parents. Now that we are adults…well, I want to say we get along better, but we don’t, not really. Adolescent teasing has given way to adult nagging, as though she can make me thinner/smarter/wealthier/with the right guy.

I’m in my early 20s, live independently, have a nice career underway, own my own house, own a car, have a good group of friends who support me instead of trying to tear me down. I like who I am and what I’ve achieved so far, but my sister thinks I can do “better” and won’t hear it when I tell her I’ve had enough, so I keep my distance.

My parents, of course, wish we were closer and have asked me to try, try, try. They don’t hear me when I say I’ve had enough, either. I have no interest in being her friend and having girl-dates with her when she’s in for visits. I certainly don’t feel like I need to go see her and be alone with her on her turf. But I don’t want to be disrespectful to my parents. Should I suck it up and keep trying with Ethel? Or is it OK to keep her at arms’ length?

Stepping Away Sister

Dear Stepping,

B&P: Before we say anything else we want to say, congratulations for getting your life together at such a young age. You’ve made good plans and grown into them. Whether or not your sister and your family can acknowledge your accomplishments, be very proud of yourself and keep building a community of friendship and support even as you build your dreams.

B: Ahh, family. Despite the Norman Rockwellian images of family we like to conjure up—gathered around the turkey, bright smiles, warm gestures, no drama—it’s often a minefield. These are the people who have known you the longest and, ironically, may not know that much about you. They may not know your political affiliation, your current job title or your favorite ice cream flavor but chances are they are intimately acquainted with your emotional triggers.

There’s a profoundly sad moment in the movie Home for the Holidays, that I think will help explain your feelings. The two sisters, constantly at loggerheads through the film, finally have the conversation that gets to the root of their problems. It goes like this.

Claudia: You don’t know the first thing about me.

Joanne: Likewise, I’m sure. If I just met you on the street… if you gave me your phone number… I’d throw it away.

Claudia: Well, we don’t have to like each other, Jo. We’re family.

And therein lies the problem. You’re family, and you’re stuck with each other. And it can be hard to continually justify why you’re spending your valuable time and energy with someone who does everything she can to make you feel bad about yourself when your carefully cultivated, friendship-based, supportive urban family who genuinely likes you is just a phone call and a quick escape out the back door away.

P: Oh, this is so difficult, I’m so sorry. It seems that not only is your sister toxic and has been for a long while, but your parents also seem to have been indifferent toward the pain this causes you — and the disruption this ugliness causes in the family. Their expectation that you, who are picked on, should be the person who can, never mind should, make the situation better is a sad indication of their cluelessness. I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are not actively mean, but they have certainly been passively mean.

B: Normally, I am an advocate for cutting one’s losses and stepping away from any sort of toxic relationship—partners, friends, co-workers if you can manage it (though that does get more difficult). If they’re bad for you, develop an exit strategy, and go. However! Family—and one’s nuclear family in particular—does have its own set of rules. Cousins? Cut ‘em out, let ‘em go, how often do you see them anyway? Aunts and uncles? Easy to create distance. But a sister…

Yeah, that can be tricky.

I’m not saying it’s tricky because I live in some kind of rose-colored ideal that one day, one day, you’ll both come to realize just how important the other is, and years of pent-up anger and dysfunctional interactions will fall away. I’m not saying it’s tricky because some day you may need a kidney, and she’s your best bet. But it’s tricky because you have parents you want to respect and honor; in your letter, it sounds like your parents are the only thing keeping you from kissing her goodbye forever. Chalk one up to yourself for that.

P: Terri and I talked a lot about how you didn’t focus on your sister, but rather on your desire not to be abused by her. Congratulations. Because you can’t fix her; I’m not sure you’ll be able to talk to her about this. You’re doing the work you need to be doing for yourself: you’ve got work you like, you own a house, and you have good friends. You’re building a life. If you read us, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of getting the support you need. If you don’t have it in your social circle, pay for it. You need to figure out what role you play in your family and the ways you are and are not willing to keep the family working. If you want to maintain relationships with your parents and sister, or create new ones, talking to a professional who can help you determine a course of action is a good thing. Maybe that person will have suggestions for new tacks to take with your sister, or your parents. There’s nothing like a little rehearsal before you try new tactics. Afterwards, with your therapist, you can even allow yourself the opportunity to debrief.

If I were you, I would also be disappointed in my parents’ response now and over my lifetime. In a way, it sounds as if they see you as capable and mature, but it doesn’t sound as if they see her as mean and hurtful.

B: UGH! Pet peeve alert! It’s almost as though you’re being punished for being strong. Why do you have to take her abuse? “Because you can” is not an acceptable answer. Sorry. Had to interject.

P: They are not protecting you from her abuse. From your description, your sister’s actions are verbally and psychically abusive. Your parents’ failure to stand up for you deepens that abuse. This is another place a counselor can help you. You don’t want to confront everyone and everything too early as your work on this because that can really blow things up. You need to figure out how to make your family hear you, because so far what you’ve tried has not served you well, but you also have to guard against them becoming defensive and turning on you. You don’t want to let any of your family members tarnish your life and your very real accomplishments.

B: You never mention whether you spend any time alone with your sister when she’s in for her visits. Have you ever, one on one, sat her down and told her how you feel about her behavior? Or have your exchanges been more like: dinner table à she insults you à you eyeroll and tell her to knock it off? That’s an adolescent pattern reasserting itself, and if I were your parents I’d have a hard time seeing it as anything other than the behavior you’ve always engaged in. Maybe you should try taking her out for a cocktail, or inviting her to your house—alone, no parents—to have a long-awaited chat. And tell her, without drama, that her criticisms hurt you deeply. They make you put up walls against her, which then hurts your parents. Try saying, “I expect you to treat me like the adult I am, because I feel like you still address me as though I am 12 years old and you’re the big sister who knows better, instead of the peers we’ve become.” Try NOT to say, “Knock it off, Ethel! You’ve always been so bossy.” Those two sentences are worlds apart in terms of gravitas. Because people, and women in particular, are notoriously bad at actually asking for what we want (because who wants to make waves?), you may want to practice saying what you need to say to your sister in a mirror. Practice makes perfect. Then, the next time she’s around, actually say it to her.

If that doesn’t work and she doesn’t let up…at least you’ve had your say, and can claim that you’ve tried to build a bridge with your sister. If she continues to harass you over your appearance or what the heck ever, don’t engage in that conversation. It’s a common mistake people make, thinking they have to comply or reply to the questions put before them, instead of saying, “I’m done having this conversation, and am moving on.” Give yourself some control of the conversation. Simply remind her that you’ve already asked her not to badger you any longer about personal issues, but you’d be happy to talk to her about the latest movies playing at the local megaplex. I’ll back you in saying that it would be fine, after that, to maintain your arms’ length relationship with Ethel. Be polite, pleasant even, when she’s around, and then slip out the back door as soon as you can to meet up with the friends who support and nourish you emotionally.

P:  Whatever you do, remember that you have choices and that exercising those choices will give you power. She may continue to bait you. But you don’t have to play. It’s a sad thing if she does, but that will be her choice. It might be helpful to plan some fun things around necessary family visits — channel yourself some good old Mary Poppins and her spoonful of sugar —  not only does it give you something to look forward to, it also gives you a time when the visit is over. One thing you want to be sure about though, as you reduce your sister’s influence in your face to face conversations, you want to ensure that she begins to take up less time in your life with friends. She is who she is. I’m not saying you don’t get to tell stories, but you don’t want to waste your time reliving the discomfort.

 

Time for big sis to step back, or little sis is stepping away.

Time for big sis to step back, or little sis is stepping away.

THE BIG SISTER recipe

  • 2 1/2 oz (70g) Cranberry Juice
  • 1 oz (28g) Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 oz (28g) Ginger Beer
  • 1 1/2 oz (70g) Citrus Vodka*
  • 1/4 oz (7g) Simple Syrup**
  • A few drops of fresh lemon juice
For the Garnish
  • 3-4 Sugared Cranberries, skewered, or a slice of lemon
METHOD
  1. To a cocktail shaker, add a handful of ice, cranberry juice, orange juice, ginger beer, vodka, simple syrup and a drop or two of lemon juice. Test to see if it needs a bit more simple. If so, add just about a 1/4 tsp more at a time.
  2. Shake 3-4 times. Pour over ice.
  3. Garnish with Sugared Cranberries.

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Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: Her Cheatin’ Heart

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have a friend named “Mary”. Mary and I have known each other for ten years now; we met as freshmen in college and have seen each other through a lot of things.

In my case, I have mostly seen her through breakups. And new hookups. And breakups again.

Mary is not one to be single for very long, and every time she starts a new relationship it’s with the most fabulous guy she’s ever met. Of course, she’s sure that this time around, she’s finally met The One, at long last. At least, that’s how it is for the first month, and then she starts having random hookups.

It’s never cheating. It’s just exploring. She says she’s getting this wild stuff out of her system before she settles down. Or sometimes, “something” just happens with a friend while they’re hanging out and she said she couldn’t help it. But it’s not cheating, ever, as far as she’s concerned. It makes me feel really bad for the men in her life when she tells me about her latest rando. And somehow, the boyfriends are seemingly oblivious, so I end up feeling even worse, because they’re being played.

Recently, Mary has gotten engaged, again, and she’s asked me to be her maid of honor. Again. As a person, I feel like I can be friends with her because she’s never done anything to me. Still. I do feel kind of like a dirty accomplice, and I’m a little put off at the thought of standing at her side on her wedding day, knowing what I know. She swears that once he’s put a ring on it she’ll be faithful to her future husband, but I don’t really think I believe her. What should I do? Should I tell her fiancé what’s going on? Do I cut and run out on a ten-year friendship? Or do I keep quiet and accept her at her word, that she’ll cut the cheating out when she’s finally a Mrs.?

Signed,

I See It, But I Don’t Like It

Dear Don’t Like It,

BnP: Well. Wow. It’s hard to know where to start on this one. But we’re going to start with… Yeahhhhh…we don’t like it either.

P: There’s the cheating. There’s the lying. There’s the demanding you be an accessory. There’s the whole “I’m just a girl who can’t say no,” or is it “the devil made me do it.” And then there’s the what in tarnation kinda friend is this?

I might start with the lying and asking you to lie. Which she does, every time she introduces you to a new BF and then proceeds to cheat on him and tells you and expects you to “wink, wink, nudge, nudge.”

Why would you choose that option? How is she your friend? Granted, your letter’s all about her cheating, but I don’t see one way you’re anything more than an accessory, or maybe a walking dispenser of absolution. Check your resume to see if the title “Mother Confessor” has been slipped in on your job description. Once she involves you, you start lying to the boyfriend. Granted she was your friend first, but if you like them at all, you’re helping her hurt him. And them. You’re lying too. Is that what you want?

B: I can’t help but feel that she’s coming to you to be absolved. Like, if you nod and metaphorically pat her on the head and tell her it’s OK, then it’s…you know. OK. Is that what you want to say? Is that the message you want to send? I agree with Ann, even though you’ve not said a word what you’re doing is lying right alongside Mary. Inaction is an action, people.

P: Now, for the cheating thing. Actually, none of us are perfect. Too many of us have done things of which we’re ashamed, especially when we were younger. We don’t know what we want. We don’t know how to ask for what we want if we do know. And all too often, we don’t know how to be honest about our misdeeds. These are the lessons we spend our 20s learning. You do lots of silly things early in life that you don’t do later in life because you learn they’re not good for us and they’re not good for people we know and love.

Cheating is one of those things. She’s a serial cheater. I don’t know whether it is an addiction. But I do know she’s not going to stop doing it until she admits that she’s a cheater and gets help figuring out what she’s looking for and why she’s destroying other people’s lives. Because that’s what she’s doing. And ding, ding, ding… if “things just happen” can we trust that she made sure that her surprise partner wrapped that rascal, or is she risking passing some dread disease on to her so called beloved? She’s not just risking giving her partner a broken heart in that case.

B: What I hate about “it just happened” is…well, yes, she’s not admitting to her behavior, but more explicitly, she’s not owning her sexual autonomy. You don’t “whoops” into bed with someone, it’s not like she slips on a banana peel and falls naked onto her paramour du jour. Engaging in sexual activity with another person requires a decision-making process, and unless she’s being forced into bed (which is another, far more dire letter) then she is an integral part of that process. She CAN keep her clothes on and prioritize her relationship with her fiancé. She CHOOSES to cheat on him.

P: I don’t care about her promiscuity. I care that she seems to have the need to do it within what she would call monogamy. Have (safe) sex all you want. But don’t rope some poor suspecting other into your life. People get to say whether they want to be in a threesome. And you are agreeing to hang out and be the voyeur. How’s that feel? Don’t you have better things to do? Do you have a partner? What does she or he think about your tacit approval of your friend’s cheating. It would make me nervous.

B: Yup, I also don’t care about whether or not she’s promiscuous, in that there are all sorts of sexual agreements that couples make that work for them, and they can certainly include other people in their beds. But the key word here is that it’s an agreement, mutually reached by both partners. Everyone has to be on board for an open relationship to work. Her fiancé is anything but. Mary can tell you all of her details, all she wants, and it doesn’t change the fact that she’s not telling the one person she should.

Which isn’t you.

P: We probably haven’t seemed really supportive yet, have we?

I think you need to decide what you think friendship is and what you want it to be. And then you get to be that friend. Being her friend may mean not being in relationship with her — because she’s not a good friend. I don’t want to hear the “she’s a good person.” She’s hurting people. Again and again and again. As the Wedding Priestess, I made my couples state their intentions to love one another for the rest of their lives and then I made their community sign up to love and support the couple and their intentions. I once did a series of three couples’ weddings. By the time Couple Number Three was getting married, Couple Number One was getting unmarried. Couples Two and Three came to me and said, “we went to talk to Couple Number One and asked them what they were doing. We reminded them what they had promised. We pointed out that it made mockery of the promises we had made to them and the promises we were all making to one another.” I was so proud of them. It took great courage. Nothing changed, but they were good friends. And the husband leaned on their love as the wife went on to the new life she’d already created.

But their actions were honest friendship in accordance with what they believed about loving coupledom and loving friendship. What kind of friend do you want to be? And what kind of friend do you think you deserve?

B: I think you need to spend some time deciding who you are. You wrote a letter asking us what steps you should take in managing your relationship with Mary, who exhibits behavior you no longer think is justifiable or can condone. And—I can’t believe how often I have to remind people about this—the only behavior you can ultimately control is your own. So who do you want to be? How do you want your behavior to be perceived? Your reactions help tell your story, and in your letter, in your own words, you say this situation makes you feel like a “dirty accomplice”, you’re “put off” by the idea of being in her wedding, and you “don’t really think you believe” she can be faithful after her wedding day.

Side note: “don’t really think you believe” is a wishy-washy way of calling her a liar. Can we please just say the words?

P: And she wants you to be her Maid of Honor? Um… whose Honor? How can you have honor if you’re not being truthful with the bride or the groom? Marriage isn’t just about having a great wedding. Marriage actually matters. What if she does this once she starts having babies? And let’s be clear, why would we think she wouldn’t keep cheating? Because, trust me, babies add stress to a marriage. And what does she do when there’s stress? Mess around. That’ll be great for the kids. Wanna be the aunt who tells the five-year-old that Mommy found someone better to do? Want to testify at that custody trial? Who better than you?

B: Should you tell her fiancé about her activities? No, I don’t think so. He’s in an unenviable position but it’s not your job to manage their relationship. Or, essentially, tattle on her. But good friends find the courage to have difficult conversations when they’re necessary. Good friends make room to care about the legitimate well-being of a friend. They don’t take the option to look the other way when they know their friend is making serious, potentially dangerous, mistakes. Can this lead to a friend-breakup? Maybe. Mary hasn’t been a good friend to you, as Ann has pointed out already, but you’re not being a good friend to her by holding your nose when her behavior stinks. And you’re not beholden to the acceptance of behavior that at one point you were kind of OK with, but now don’t think is quite so cute or funny. People grow, and change. It’s what we do. She might not like hearing what you have to say, but really…too bad. So again, I ask you: who do you want to be? The dirty accomplice? Or the good friend? It’s up to you.

Hey, Old Pal. Looking a little rough around the edges, there.

Hey, Old Pal. Looking a little rough around the edges, there.

The Old Pal

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Campari
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 full with ice. Add whiskey, dry vermouth, and Campari. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds, and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and use as garnish.

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Advice: The World Is Going To The Dogs (And That Ain’t Good)

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I’m not sure what I expect from you, but I feel like I need to get this off my chest. I’m just so taken aback. And angry. Okay, really angry.

I love dogs. I’m a dog owner and have always been a dog owner. Every dog I have ever had was socialized and well trained. Every dog has had up-to-date shots. Wherever you live, these must be the minimum requirements for being a dog owner. Dogs are not status symbols; they’re meant to be companions. But that means you have to be responsible.

In the last two months, I have had two friends on bicycles bitten by dogs, neither of which was contained in their yards. Luckily neither friend was badly hurt, but one had to have rabies shots, which are wildly expensive and painful.

I was with another friend, who was walking her dog very properly, on a leash, in a public park, when another dog, also on a leash but far larger than the elderly couple who owned it could handle, pulled away and savaged my friend’s dog. Their careless son got himself a big muscular dog, then got a job in the city, and foisted Bowser off on his parents. If they’d ever wanted a dog, I can’t imagine Bowser was their first choice. They wound up paying a lot of money in vet bills.

None of these dogs had been trained. And Bowser is just one more dog, completely unsuited to people without a massive amount of upper body strength and the willingness to work very hard to turn him into a family pet.

This deliberate carelessness leads to people who are devastated because their beloved pet has to be euthanized — and who are clueless that it’s their fault. It’s a waste of wonderful animals who could be companions to the right people, but will never be, because people confuse training with abuse. People and pets are injured because these poor animals have not had responsible pet owners. I think not socializing your dog is mistreating that dog.

Fed up with Status Dogs and Lazy Owners

 

Dear Fed Up,

B&P: I’m not sure what more we can say here because I think we’d just be adding our voices to your chorus. But you know, being a chorus for reason isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

B: Dogs can be wonderful. They can be, of course, faithful companions and a surprising amount of help, a source of love and comfort and security. But they are animals with limited reasoning capabilities, and they need to be trained. From day one. By owners that can clearly be in control of the dog; they may be limited in their ability to reason but they know when their owner isn’t actually in charge. Otherwise, they act according to their doggy will, which may be friendly or aggressive or aloof or high-strung or bitey, as their inherent doggy temperaments will accordingly predispose them.

P: While I like dogs, I don’t have them, because I know that I would not be a good dog owner. I’m not interested in taking the time they require to train and the attention they deserve when you bring them into your life. People look at a darling puppy, or even a jaunty senior and think, that dog is going to love me. That works about as well as having a baby when you’re a teenager. They may love you, but they require a lot of hard work to be good companion animals and good neighbors and citizens.

B: What people either fail to recognize or ignore outright—what I think about this depends on the day, sometimes the hour—is that when you take in a pet, you generate a sort of contract with that animal. You’re basically saying to that animal, I’d like you to live in this home. From you, I expect companionship/help/adorable YouTube videos, etc. In exchange, I’m going to do what I can to take care of you, including making sure you are either A) socialized into the society I live in, or B) in a cage/behind a fence if your socialization can’t be properly executed. It’s why you need to keep pet rats in a cage (can you blame the stranger on the street who would hit it with a rock, if it got out?) and also why wild animals like chimps and tigers make bad pets (they can’t be fully domesticated).

P: Much of my job, far more than I ever suspected, revolves around building community. Humans live well in societal groups. We feel secure; we can be more welcoming; life is better when we have a community around us. That means we have to live our lives aware of our neighbors. If we’re going to have pets, they have to be part of that communal society. One person’s right to have a dog is not larger than your neighbors’ rights to be safe. You can have a dog but the dog must be socialized. And most of them are trainable. But you don’t get to have a wild or aggressive animal.

B: What this explicitly does not mean is that you should be so cavalier/uninvolved/negligent/incapable toward a pet that it becomes a public nuisance. The bitey dog that chases bicyclists will only get so many strikes against it from the public health department before the dog warden will show up to take that animal and destroy it. Not through that animal’s fault. Through the owner’s. They’re the ones who violate the contract when they are careless with their pets. It’s kind of the same thing with people who are neglectful toward their kids, and let them run wild.

P: Right, Terri. It’s interesting that neither of us have dogs or children. We’re keeping other contracts. Because we like dogs and children, we didn’t have them — because we were not interested in dedicating the time they would require to grow up to be healthy, loving, contributing members of our families and communities. We enjoy other people’s dogs and children, when they’re enjoyable.  And we’re likely to be fairly clear about our boundaries for acceptable behavior and require it. Because we’re who we are, we often get the behavior we expect. However, it’s not our job to be there because you don’t do your job.

Serendipity being what it is, I just had a conversation with a wedding couple who have a disabled dog. An untrained, un-vaccinated, too big for the owner, large dog tore up this little Pekinese. The Peke lost one eye, was blinded in the other, is now deaf in one ear, and lost a leg. And the Peke’s owner was bitten trying to save his dog. “Hey, dude, he’s a big dog,” is not taking responsibility for the dog’s behavior.

B: Nobody—and I mean nobody—wants to live near the wild kids or the bitey dogs. Conscientious household stewarding involves recognizing the rights of your neighbors to be unmolested or live without constant worry of dog attacks. If you don’t want to tend to the dog and even want it to be bitey, then you’d better make sure you restrain it at all times. Make sure it’s always on a leash that’s being held by someone strong enough to hold it, and build a fence for your yard. Thoughtful dog training makes for better neighborhoods. It’s not funny—it’s divisive, it’s scary, it’s expensive, it can be fatal—for a dog to be allowed to run at will and bite. Dog owners, do you want to be that person? If you’re going to agree to take in an animal, then abide by the unspoken contract, and act in that dog’s best interests. The dog only knows what it’s taught; dog owners, it’s up to you to fill in the rest so the dog can function in our established society.

P: And when you don’t do the work you should have done, societally minded priestess that I am, I expect a couple things to happen. A) I expect you to take full responsibility (that means both an admission that your animal was out of control, acknowledgement that you were lax in training, and provision for financial costs incurred by your animal.). B) I expect you to make a sincere apology for their missteps. C) I expect you to take your dog for training.

B&P: We don’t know that the people we’re talking to will be reading this, but we hope at the very least we can empower more of us to speak up. Don’t let bitey dogs win. Demand training and ask to see the evidence. That makes you, dog owner or no, a good citizen and a good neighbor.

Seriously, dog owners. Don't be THAT guy.

Seriously, dog owners. Don’t be THAT guy.

Salty Dog recipe

1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. grated white grapefruit zest
2 oz. fresh white grapefruit juice
2 oz. gin or vodka
1 (2″-wide) strip grapefruit peel
Combine salt and zest on a small plate. Rub grapefruit peel around rim of a glass; rim glass with salt. Combine grapefruit juice and gin or vodka in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into rimmed glass; garnish with peel.
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Advice: Relationships Should Be Better Than This

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I’ve been involved with a man, “Marc”, for six months now, and I really like him. He’s got a lot of admirable traits that most of us look for in a man. He’s gregarious, he’s honest, and he’s well-mannered and respectful. And, of course, he has baggage.

Marc was married before, but it ended poorly and he’s skittish about relationships. I get it. He’s also got this friendship with another woman that, frankly, I find confusing, and I don’t know if she’s just a friend or a romantic rival. They’ve been friends forever and I don’t mind that. But, he tells me things, particularly that she wants a relationship with him, but he’s not willing to give that to her yet. Honestly…I don’t know if I need Marc to be that honest with me. You know what I mean? He’s also told me that he loves her, and I don’t know if that means love-love, or friend-love. I’m so confused.

The other woman currently lives in another state but is considering relocating. Closer. Like, to our town. Marc says that her moving closer won’t necessarily mean he’ll want to be with her, and whenever he says that my stomach just plummets. Why is this even an option? I’ve been the girlfriend who’s been around, and caring, and am now emotionally involved. She’s just been some figure in the distance. What can I do to make him see that I’m here? Or should I try and protect my heart and walk away?

–Lost in Love

B&P: Oh my dear. No, no, don’t walk. Run away, far and fast.

B: I’m going to take issue right off the bat with this sentence: Marc was married before, but it ended poorly and he’s skittish about relationships. I get it.

No, you don’t. You don’t get it, because you’re not even listening to him. You say he’s honest, and you’re right. You just need to hear what he’s actually saying, and not what you want to hear (or decide to justify, if you don’t like your initial interpretation). He’s basically saying, over and over again, “I don’t want to commit to you.” He says it when he tells you he’s skittish. And he really says it when he says that this other woman moving closer jeopardizes the relationship you’re currently in.

Please note: by “relationship” I mean, you and Marc know each other and have some regular communication, but you also have relationships with your hairdresser, your co-workers, your mail carrier, etc, etc. The word “relationship” does not necessarily mean, you know. Relationship. Moving on.

P: And here’s the thing, when you’ve had a bad marriage and you’re skittish, if you’re a grown up, you do a couple of things: 1) you get some counseling and work through your issues, 2) you’re up front, not that you’re skittish, but that you’re unavailable. Oh, and 3) you probably don’t date someone here, while you’re planning on moving someone in from far away. So that’s him. What about you? As Terri says, and trust me the Bartender has heard ‘way too many of these conversations from intoxicated, broken-hearted people on the other side of the bar, you’re pretending that he’s interested in you. Why go out with someone who is not going to be in a relationship with you? You’re wasting valuable time or you’re using him as an excuse not to move into a grown up relationship while indulging in the drama that must ensue.

B: Now. I am not saying Marc doesn’t enjoy your companionship, and it’s possible that on some level he cares about you. But honestly, you sound like you’re a relationship fluffer as far as Marc is concerned. You’re enough to keep him aroused and entertained (on his terms), but not so much that he will take the relationship all the way.

Despite his vaunted honesty, dear, he is behaving dishonorably. What he’s doing is manipulative. Telling you that your place in his life is not secure, while “honest”, allows him to keep you at arm’s length and at the same time, keeps you walking on eggshells. Have you ever felt a moment’s peace inside this relationship? Have you ever felt secure, like you’re “home” with him? All you’ve told me and Ann about are successive instances of insecurity. NOT feeling loved. NOT feeling appreciated. At the end, you posit that you don’t even know if he knows you’re really there. WHAT. Though from him end, I wonder if he gets a real turn-on from it; he keeps knocking you down and you keep coming back, begging for more. This relationship—again, I use the term loosely—is so one-sided even you admit you’ve disappeared into it. Do you determine your sense of womanly worth by whether or not you’re with someone? I’m not being facetious or mean, it’s a yardstick people often use—men and women—to measure themselves.  You’ve already signed on to this and have agreed that this is your dynamic these last six months. Do you see it changing in a year? Can you live with this for another three years? Five? Do you still want knots in your stomach and eggshells under your feet twenty years and a few kids from now?

P: Wow, I can’t say I think there will ever be kids… It won’t be enough about him. I wish I could say I don’t have any experience with this. But I bet most women have dated some version of him, hopefully for a short time. It was funny, right before Terri received this question I’d been reading an article (help, I can’t find it) that talked about why your ex would want to remain friends with you — big answer: because he’s a narcissist. He wants all the attention. And it’s an easy parallel to draw with Marc. He’s got “marriage issues,” he’s got a girl back home, and he’s got you keeping the home fires burning. And he’s so “honest” and “meaningful” and therefore must care about you, right? I wish he did. But more truthfully, I wish that you didn’t think he did. Whatever he’s saying, let’s pay some attention to what he’s doing. (A lot, and not much of it with you.)

B: I wish I had nicer things to say about where I thought your relationship could go, but I don’t. I think you’re Marc’s Miss Right Now, but I don’t think you’re his Miss Right. Of course, I can’t make you do what you don’t want to do but I can’t see a reason for you to stay. And more to it, I can’t see a reason why you wouldn’t make an appointment with a therapist and discuss your willingness to be strung along for six months, and even fall in love with the stringer. You know this relationship isn’t right, which is why you’re writing to us. But in much the same way that I can’t make you do anything, you also can’t make Marc do anything. You can’t make him love you more, you can’t make him commit (and mean it), you can’t make him stop having contact with Miss Out-Of-Towner. The only thing you can control is your behavior. Take a good, long, hard look at what you’ve got and where you’re going. If you truly, in your soul, like it, then stay. If your stomach drops to the floor and you feel that sense of panic, then I think you have your answer. Good luck.

P: I not only want you to look at what he’s offering, I would like you to look at what you want and why you’re willing to jam yourself into a relationship that gives you no place to be a valuable person. How can you move forward in your life if you’re so willing to be stopped by someone who really doesn’t care for you? Because if he cared about you — not for how you make him feel, but for you — he’d leave the relationship because he wasn’t giving you what you deserved. Nope. He’s using you and you’re enabling it. Are you enjoying the drama? I’ll tell you, drama is not love; it’s just drama. Please give yourself better. Allow yourself to deserve someone wonderful who’s ready to be in your life. Leave so you can have it.

How much louder does he have to say it?

How much louder does he have to say it?

Dark & Stormy

  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 5 oz ginger beer
  • lime wedge

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour rum over ice, top with ginger beer. Give a stir, and squirt with a lime wedge. Enjoy!

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

 

Advice: Painful Partisan Politics and Bad Manners

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a second semester freshman, thinking about majoring in political science. I love trying to understand how our policies actually work. I’ve been doing projects with local campaigns and for our town commissioners since 9th grade. I’ve found that even the people whose views weren’t mine were usually good people, looking to do a great job. In fact, the woman who was my best mentor was one with whom I share very few political views, but she loves the process and the privilege of the work and was really encouraging.

I turned 18 in December and have been very excited that the first time I get to vote is in a presidential election. I’ve been working on a campaign on campus and feeling really great that there was room for a freshman.

Except it all feels like it’s gone so wrong. These are the primaries. It should be exciting that different people are supporting different candidates. Of course I don’t like all the candidates. But that doesn’t mean that everyone who thinks differently than I do is a person who is too stupid to live. Someone from the same party as mine came over and terrorized me because I am campaigning for a different candidate. He called me the worst names.

I managed to hold on to my cool but I was really hurt and could feel a whole mouthful of childishness rising up my throat.

What happened to the notion of worthy adversaries and civil discussion? I thought I’d be most upset about the fact that people don’t think it’s worth voting. Instead I’m overwhelmed by the hostility.

How do you engage in constructive ways? And how do I keep from feeling beaten up for being different than some people want me to be?

Concerned Citizen.

 

Dear Concerned.

P: You are so right to be concerned, the Bartender and I are firmly in your camp. Being a priestess and all that, I usually try, at least publically, to refrain from vulgarities. There’s this one cartoon, though, that really sums it up for me. I’m sorry I couldn’t find it to give the artist credit. Hive mind? There was a guru sitting on a hill. And people trudging up the hill. There was a kiosk bearing the sign something like: Meaning of Life —don’t have time to wait. There was a person reading a pamphlet that said simply “Don’t be an Asshole.” It is stunning to me how many people use the electoral process to discover their inner asshole. Surprisingly — to them, at least — this does not make things go either smoothly or their way. And they become bullies.

This nonsense is bullying, pure and simple. What becomes a problem is how do you stay engaged in what you love — and how do you not get beaten up? And the fact is, the only way to stay engaged with the process is by disengaging with the bullies. You have to find a way to do what my friend Michael’s mother always suggested: Rise above. There is no sense working on a beautiful swan dive if you’re headed into quicksand — and conversations with people who aren’t interested in you, or facts or common courtesy are pretty much nothing but quicksand.

B: While modern-day politics may not be quite as dire as the sentiment expressed in A Game of Thrones—when you play the game of thrones, you either win, or you die—it can often feel that way. There is a tremendous amount of personal investment that goes into politics. Particularly when you’re young, enthusiastic, and establishing yourself and your beliefs as you take on the mantle of adulthood. We choose a political affiliation because it resonates with us on some level. We believe in their fiscal approach, or their take on social justice/international policy/environmental issues/health care, and so on, and so on. There are a million different policies that can attract a person to a party, and then further on to admire one particular politician over another. All of which should provide fertile ground for lively debate, particularly if you and your politico-colleagues are informed and passionate about your favored issues.

But we seem to have lost the ability to disagree. There’s a pervasive Game of Thrones mentality that rejects legitimate conversation in favor of trying to crush your opponent under your heel. Again, it’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re young, before you’ve learned the ins and outs of tact and diplomacy. Kudos for you to figuring this out long before many people in politics ever do.

P: You may need to develop some stock response that gives them no openings and repeat until they walk away or you can get them to stop biting your ankle. Words like: “It’s so interesting that people can look at the same issues in so many ways, don’t you think. And it makes me excited that people are so involved in this election. Oh, is that the time? Class at 11. Gotta run.” And then go! Don’t wait for rebuttal.

You cannot engage someone who is not interested in fact, nuance, or reality. It just doesn’t work. Being polite doesn’t mean letting people beat you up.

B: And learn how not to get baited into an argument. You can exercise your right to not engage in something. When you were accosted for supporting the wrong candidate in your political party? You don’t have to try and convince the accost-er of your rightness. If someone’s that hostile toward you and your political choices then you’re usually at an intellectual impasse. If that’s the likely case, remember, you have the power to say things like, “I’ll be happy to talk to you about this when you’re less aggressive,” or go short and sweet and say, “I’m not having this conversation with you right now.” It’s not that there isn’t room in the political spectrum for spirited debate and mindful conversation. There’s just not room for it with that guy, at that moment. If someone were to walk up to you, knuckles up, out of nowhere, looking for a fight, would you tear your shirt off and dive into the fracas? Or would you think, this is nuts, and walk away? It’s the same thing. Learn to read a situation. Take a (mental) lap around the room before you commit to a debate.

P: I was so excited by the first part of your message. Not only are you interested in government, you’re getting great experience. And you’re allowing yourself to be mentored by people on both sides of the aisle. These are the people who matter. These are people who are doing the work and acknowledging your worth. Stay close to them. Learn what you can. Find more great examples of caring candidates. Watch them. There is nothing more exciting to me to see someone who is both idealistic and realistic about the democratic process. Go be part of it. Make the world better. It’s one way, for sure.

At an earlier point in my life I might have said some of the behavior you’re experiencing is based on people’s age and experience. But I am on Facebook, and I can’t tell you that I see loads of posts from my older, (cough cough!) wiser friends, filled with thoughtful maturity. I was so happy to see the (alas false) story about the knitting gorilla. Who cares if it’s false, here’s to knitting gorillas.

But there is something about that heady first taste of voting and freedom of opinion. You seem to recognize that it’s a responsibility as well as a privilege! Great adulting! Sadly, too many of your cohort does not. Again, don’t let them get you down.

B: I think Ann is right in that you’ve found some great people to get you started on the right foot. You need to remember the internal lesson you learned from your mentor. You and she differed politically, but were able to work well together. Why? Because you were invested in the process, and not in your ego. I mean, God, yes, it feels great to be able to express your opinions and—literally, when you’re voting—stand up and be counted. Who doesn’t like feeling like they matter? You and your mentor could still find common ground from either side of the aisle because you both understand that a political disagreement doesn’t mean you’re totally rejecting one another as people. It’s not your soul that’s attached to a political party, it’s your opinion, and those can change with time and circumstance. Don’t forget that.

P: And lastly, I am so sorry, but dealing with assholes is part of the skill set you’re going to have to develop to be an effective politician. So, yes, their behavior is intimidating, but you’ve got bigger things in view, so don’t let them intimidate you. Find your feet (we believe in you, and I’ll bet others do to) and stand your ground. And when at all possible, walk around the human quagmires. Otherwise make your landing a belly flop and breaststroke the heck away from there. Because you have something you believe in. Hold fast to that. Put a pebble in your pocket and name it that cause and grab onto it when people are being ignorant and hateful. But keep going. Because we believe in you. I’ll bet a lot of people do!

B: I just want to say, even if you’re not going into politics but plan on being an adult, you’ll still have to deal with assholes. Sad, and true. So. Learn to read a situation as it unfolds in front of you before you find yourself at their mercy, no matter into what arena you decide to throw your hat. Good luck!

political napkin

Here’s to wonkless politics! Ever forward.

Moscow Mule Mocktail
1/2 cup Ginger Beer
3 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
3 tbsp Club Soda

Mix ingredients in a copper mug 3/4 full of crushed ice. Stir together. Garnish with lime wedge.

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