Here's the Thing: Everyone's Thirsty

SOME LITTLE SWEETIE OUT THERE ONLINE: I have a wonderfully funny and very cute and fun friend whom I have a massive crush on, but she’s in a relationship with another girl. They’re very compatible and very good together and I really want to be happy for them but a small spiteful part of me can’t help but wish that they’d break up. How do I get over this crush and let myself be happy for them?

SOPHIA: There are lots of healthy and unhealthy ways to get over a crush (as a general guideline, if it involves tequila, it’s probably of the unhealthy variety) but all of those things are really just pit stops and distractions along the healing highway of Time. Time (not the magazine; I’m just capitalizing for emphasis) really is That Bitch when it comes to getting over someone. Which is bad news, because while you might be fine and thriving afterward, the duringward part of trying to get over a crush on someone is excruciating and unenviable (although also kind of fun in a fucked up, riding in the back of your mom’s minivan looking out the window at the rain while Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” plays kind of way).

You are very unlikely to ever magically become happy for your friend and her girlfriend. You are probably going to have at minimum one kernel of seething envy in the bottom of the microwave popcorn bag that is your heart at all times!! Sorry!!! Forgive yourself for that envy. Don’t work on getting rid of it entirely. It’s not going anywhere (unless your crush all of a sudden does something that makes you uncrush on her, like she votes third party in a major election or is allergic to dogs).

That can’t be it right? Just submit to your envy and then you’re off the hook? NO. That is not it. You don’t get to simply accept that you’re spiteful about their relationship, sip on a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and call it a day. You funfortunately have some more labor to do! You have to learn how to check yourself for signs that you are not being a good friend to your crush. Because if you want to stay friends with this person and not be a bad fucked up friend, you must outwardly support their union. Don’t go overboard; don’t do some weird rom com shit and offer to plan their wedding or something. But you do need to buck up and be outwardly on board and happy. They do not need to carry the burden of your crush on your friend. That’s your unfortunate task. And maybe you find it is too much. That’s ok. Walk away for a while. Do some bad art you show no one. Take some of the best nudes of all time. Buy a succulent. I don’t know. Give yourself a break. Give yourself time. Eventually you’ll find another (available) crush worthy of all your energy and brain space. Eventually your friend will not be your brain’s landing page. She may still be your quasi-crush years from now, in the same way I insist Fergie’s solo hits are good music. (It’s good because you loved it once). But she won’t always be like THE GIRL. Ok? I promise.

ANOTHER ONLINE HUNK: What’s a good way to start the conversation on a dating app?

SOPHIA: First of all: The most successful way to start a conversation on a dating app is to be hot. Keep that in mind every time you use a dating app (not that any of us can forget it). This is a video game that is literally easier for hot people to succeed at. It sucks. Dating apps are... awful. They trick you into thinking that you’re “putting yourself out there.” And then when no one responds, you feel like shit. (Versus if you weren’t on dating apps, you wouldn’t feel weird that strangers weren’t responding to a set of five photos of you). I often equate this to dieting and it not working, as opposed to simply not losing weight while you eat normally. The former is demoralizing, the later is… just life.

I just want you to know that you’re not shitty at opening lines; opening lines are shitty. There is virtually no way to create chemistry with a stranger out of thin air; the entire situation is artificial, so it’s not going to be flirty or romantic for almost anyone. BUT dating apps are a fact of modern life and useful in a few circumstances, so I get it.

Go for something fun, that invites more conversation. That means not a simple yes or no question and not “wyd tn 😜.” (The period should be inside of the quotation marks there, but it feels weird and I don’t know what to do). Try something like, “Any idea where’s best place to get Thai food in this city? I still haven’t found a favorite!” or a stupid question like, “Settle this debate with my friend for me: do you think most people make their bed every day? I don’t!” Or “Who is the hottest Disney prince?” (It’s Li Shang, duh).

Don’t open with anything about how you find that person hot. It’s uncomfortable and unnecessary. Don’t ask someone what they’re doing that very night. It’s too forward and vaguely creepy. Don’t get discouraged if people don’t respond. They probably downloaded the app to get over their real life crush, who you will never stack up to even if you do a lot of charity work and cook a mean cacio e pepe.

ANOTHER CUTIE: Recently I had to get a colostomy. Huge change in my life, obviously. My confidence has taken a nosedive, especially when it comes to interacting with women. The thought of being intimate with a woman scares me now. The colostomy bag can smell, it can make noises, and there’s always a slight possibility of it being knocked off. I’m afraid of kissing, let alone making out and having sex. This isn’t a question per se, but more of a situation. I’ll take any advice you have to offer. Thank you. (1. I started seeing a psychologist to help with this. 2. Sorry if this is long-winded and/or too unusual for what you want for your column).

SOPHIA: First of all, you should not have to deal with this. This sucks shit (I’m sure you’ve realized this). But I want to reiterate, from a stranger, that you are dealing with something fucked up and hard.

Some “good” news: more people than you can imagine have had medical problems that make having sex potentially difficult or uncomfortable or embarrassing. There are thousands of people who feel concerned about their bodies to the point where it is stopping them from wanting to be intimate with someone else. From yeast infections to erectile disfunction to bladder control issues to vaginismus to body dysmorphia to STDs, there are tons of medical concerns that make sex, and especially sex with a new partner, unduly hard. I say this not because I think you should feel shame or embarrassment or frustration— or that anyone should; if I had three wishes, I would wish for everyone’s body to cooperate with them and for them to feel good about it— but to illustrate to you that you are not alone. You have a potentially more serious and arduous situation on your hands than other people, but the advice is generally similar for everyone like you, who is concerned that their body won’t play along when they decide to have sex, or who might be worried about being wanted.

Before I dive into the script of general advice, I feel like I should address one frustrating cliche that gets thrown around a lot when this topic comes up: “If someone loves you, they won’t care!” OK, YEAH, RANDOM PERSON WHO TOLD ME THIS! Sure! But in the meantime you want me to expose my tender body that I already have a fraught relationship with to a bunch of people who might be cruel about it?? And just see if anyone is nice enough to fuck me? Like it’s a chore or some shit? Like sex with me is a favor??!?

That little nugget of advice, while well-meaning-ish. Is dumb as fuck. OF COURSE you should only sleep with people who are more than kind about your situation. OF COURSE you should find people who are on board as hell about your body! DUH. But that doesn’t answer the core questions, such as “where do I find someone like that?” and “can I deal with a person who is not kind and loving who is cruel to me about my body or will that wreck me?” and “are you fucking kidding me? Do you think I’m stupid enough to have sex with someone who is directly mean to me?”

So here’s my version of the general advice script, as someone who has in the last year had multiple medical problems that specifically made sex hard (and I strongly suggest that you find more people writing about this, especially people who have similar issues as you): This is going to require a ton of adjustment, as I’m sure you’re already aware. You’re going to have to go slow with people and grieve the body you had and the opportunities you had before to have “easier” sex that didn’t require talking about your medical history. And now you’re going to have to use every ounce of courage that you’ve spent your life building up to have uncomfortable pre-sex conversations with people about your reality. Most people are going to be nice. Some will be nice and up for sex and some people will be nice and not be up for sex. YOU WILL BE SCARED AND WORRIED NO MATTER WHAT; at least at the beginning!! You’re going to have to practice pushing through that fear. Yes, that fucking sucks.

Be upfront with good, kind people when the time comes— but know that you do not OWE anyone your medical information. This part will likely be excruciating at first and get 0.01% easier each time you do it. You do not need to disclose that you have a colostomy bag to kiss someone as it seems (to me, who could be very, very wrong) low-risk for getting in the way of a light smooch. Once you get to the level where there could be nudity, though, you’re going to have to talk about it. I recommend talking about it before you actually are about to have sex, so neither of you feels like there’s pressure to continue on a path that you’re already on. I would say (and you should say something that sounds like you and not like me), “Hey, before we do this, I just need to give you a heads up that I had surgery a while back and now I have a colostomy bag.” THEN give them some room for questions. You’re the expert on this situation, so it is unfortunately up to you to disseminate information. If you feel like they are reluctant or turned off, stop any romantic shit for now. They may come around later. They may not.

You are going to have to be the more graceful person a lot, which is fucked up and unfair; like all of this. You can say something like, “It seems like you’re a bit uncomfortable with this, which I totally get. It took me a while to get used to this, too. Hhahaha (fake laugh). Anyway, do you want another glass of Malbec?” Meanwhile, you now have information that lets you know that this person is not Cool About Stuff and you should end the date early and go home and let yourself be upset for a bit if you need to.

But, here’s the big good news: a lot of people aren’t going to be bothered by this. They will need to adjust. You’ll both probably cry or get frustrated at points. You’ll both make jokes. You’ll both hate it and be ok with it in equal measure somehow. But they’ll be fine because they get to have sex with you.