Hey Dr. NerdLove,
I’m writing to you anyways because I really need your help. I’m actually pretty ashamed of my problems too. I despise the way I think and feel, yet no matter how hard I try to repress them, they just keep resurfacing. I feel like I have to repress them because if I try to express my thoughts and feelings to another person, I’ll most likely be vilified. Hell, even I would shun me. But you seem like a very intelligent individual with an open mind, so maybe you can help.
So just a little information about me to offer some insight. I’m eighteen and male. I reside in Canada. I also have dyslexia, ADHD and depression. I grew up in a small town which I, sadly, still live in. Drug use runs rampant throughout the town (I, myself, don’t do drugs anymore). There’s a colossal amount of racism as well (I’m also not racist). And everyone seems to hate each other.
This led to me slowly isolating myself and growing cynical over the years. I’ve never really had a close relationship with anybody. The only role models I’ve ever had was fictional characters like Dr. House or Temperance “Bones” Brennan. My parents, bluntly speaking, emotionally neglected me. The other kids essentially bullied me.
This finally brings me to the whole reason I’ve decided to write this. The worst of the maltreatment was at the hands of women. Both by my mother and female peers. My mother cheated on my father and manipulated us my entire life. My peers called me names. Like ugly, dumb or weird, to name a few.
I used to support feminism. But now I’m on the fence about it and women in general. I’ve only ever been hurt in relationships with women. So I’ve now become especially cynical towards them. I really wish I didn’t think this way, and I feel stupid for it, but I do. I don’t want to overgeneralize but when I look around me all I can see are affirmations. I also read stories online which makes me believe that women will always treat me disdainfully.
I hate to pester you with my problems but you’re honestly the only person I can think of that can help me at this point. How do I stop thinking and feeling like this? I despise it more than anything. :/
First of all, I’m sorry that you’ve had all of this pain in your life, CD. Things have been hard for you and you’ve been hurt immensely. It’s good that you recognize how unreasonable a lot of this is. It doesn’t matter that you feel powerless right now; recognizing that things are wrong and asking for help are significant steps to breaking through and taking control of your life and your mind.
Now, let me give you some wisdom1 that will help you immensely when dealing with a lot of issues around your self-esteem and self-image: Depression lies. Depression lies a lot. It will lie to you about everything and those lies will be believable because you hear them in your own voice. Depression lies to you in ways that you will never detect because it will quite literally changes how you see the world. This isn’t hyperbole: your brain processes information based on what it expects to receive. Watch this video for a second and notice how you will literally hear something different because of what you expect based on lip movements.
This applies to how you think about things too; once you come to expect a certain behavior or treatment from people – women, for example – you’re going to see it everywhere because your brain filters out evidence to the contrary. This is known as confirmation bias and we’re all prone to it. We see the things we expect to see and ignore the things that aren’t “relevant” to those expectations. Those affirmations you’re seeing that you’re seeing? You’re expecting them and you’re missing the other options. Much like someone who thinks that feminists are man-hating ball-busters who think all sex is rape, they’ll point to Andrea Dworkin’s writing and miss… basically every third-wave feminist writer ever.
So before we get too far into things, you need to consider the distinct possibility that you’re wrong about a lot of things here. Not about how you feel: that’s very real. But the cause of those feelings, on the other hand, are suspect, and that is where we need to start.
So let’s start with the obvious: before you decide that you’re sad and pathetic and the world despises you, you should probably make sure that you’re not, in fact, surrounded by assholes.
The people in our lives have immense power over us. We are, functionally, the sum of the people we spend the most time with. When you’re surrounding yourself with people who love and support you, who have your back and give you encouragement when you need it, you become stronger, better and happier. When you’re surrounded by toxic assholes, on the other hand, you can find everything good in your life rots away and leaves you with nothing but filth and shame.
The fact that assholes get you down doesn’t mean that you’re weak. Rivers will wear down rocks and carve canyons into the earth when given enough time. Torrents of bullshit and hate will carve grooves into your heart, soul and brain if stay in the deluge. Toxic relationships – both platonic and romantic – will make you think that you’re the problem and not the shitty people who’re dripping poison in your ear. Not having a “Team You” in your life – those friends and family who’re there for you, who help you and cheer you on – makes you even more vulnerable to the assholes in the world. And believe me, they love to make you think that you’re the problem. That’s their gift.
But, like depression: they lie. They’ll lie and lie until you believe it and let those lies color everything in your life.
So now it’s time to break free.
There are two things you need right now. The first is that you need to talk to a counselor or therapist, not just a loud-mouth with a dating advice blog. You’re in a lot of pain and a therapist – especially one who deals with depression – is going to be the right person to help untangle everything and find you therapies that will help you. The always-excellent Captain Awkward has a great post about getting low-cost (or even free!) mental health care in the US or Canada; I would strongly suggest starting there and beginning the process of finding the right therapist to help you out. Maybe talk therapy will work for you. Maybe medication will help in combination with other forms of therapy will do the trick. It may take time and experimentation to find the combo that works for you. It will be frustrating. It will be maddening at times. But trust me: it will be worth it when it clicks for you.
The next thing you need to do is get the fuck out of town. Start saving up every penny you can and put it into a “buying a ticket on the ‘Fuck This Shit’ Express” fund. If you have friends in other cities, reach out to them. Leverage your social network to find a place to escape to so you can recover and thrive. Maybe they can connect you with a job. Maybe they can find you a couch to crash on while you get your legs back underneath you and establish yourself in your new locale.
And once you’re there: start reaching out and connecting with people. Not everybody needs to be your new best friend, and most of them shouldn’t. But simply building those human connections will remind you that not all people are horrible, not all women are out to hurt you and that Team You is out there. They’re just waiting for you to come find them.
Good luck. And write back to let us know how you’re doing.
I have a consent problem. My girlfriend has started getting really annoyed with me asking for consent- especially when it comes to kissing. I’ve told her that I’ve been told that it’s sexual assault to kiss without verbal consent but she says it’s a BIG turn off to be asked. She says she wants it to be spontaneous/natural and she says we should trust each other enough to just say “no”. She applies this to oral sex as well- she says she’d prefer if I just went for it and trust her to say no if she doesn’t want it. I don’t know what to do- feminists tell me it has to be verbal every time for every single act including removing clothing, but my girlfriend wants to be spontaneous and natural. I can tell this is becoming a big issue for her- what should I do?!?!
Confused About Consent
I think either you’ve misunderstood things or you’ve been listening to the wrong feminists. Enthusiastic consent isn’t about asking every step of the way, it’s about your partner wanting to do things that you want to do too.
Now to be fair: asking at each stage is one way to ensure you’re getting an unambiguous yes. However, There are a number of ways to ask for or give consent that don’t involve asking yes/no questions. Someone responding enthusiastically when you move to kiss them, for example, is showing that yes, they want to kiss you. If they tense up, give you the cheek or don’t respond, they’re demonstrating pretty clearly that no, they don’t want to kiss you. It can be dirty talk – a “I want to do X to you so badly,” “Do you want Y, baby?” “I need Z, right now”. You can check in as you’re making out – a breathy “do you like that?” can be incredibly sexy. You can also slow things down, particularly during foreplay. Think, for example, of slowly kissing your way up your girlfriend’s inner thigh on the way to going down on her. Not only does this give her time to give a “yes” or “no” – which may well be grabbing you by the ears and pulling you forward – but the anticipation can heighten the excitement.
And more to the point: your girlfriend’s given you a certain amount of implied consent to kiss her or to escalate things during makeouts and sex. To be sure: she can change her mind about what she does and doesn’t consent to… but right now, she prefers that you just kiss her instead of asking. So, y’know. Shut up and kiss her already.
I’m in college and have no idea how to dating or hooking up or anything related, but I think I’m going to be able to hook up with someone soon and an awkward thought popped up into my head: do I shave? Especially…you know…down there. This probably sounds like a stupid question with a no-brainer answer, but I legitimately don’t know and definitely can’t ask the people around me, so I figured I’d try here. Thanks!
Body grooming and pubic hair maintenance tends to be a matter of fashion more than anything else; trends about who’s supposed to have how much hair where have varied immensely over the millennia. Roman women used to pluck their pubic hair out completely. Egyptian men used to go almost completely hairless. Burt Reynolds posed naked on a bear-skin rug that was almost as furry as he was and started a trend of hairy-chested masculinity. Right now, the trends in men’s body hair tends to follow gay porn; once gay male pornstars started having freshly waxed chests and boyzilians, straight dudes started to follow.
But as with all trends, the pendulum swings both ways, and there’ll always be people with strong opinions about body hair that don’t follow what the movie stars and celebrities do. So the answer is – for the most part – roll with what you feel most comfortable with. If you want to shave your legs, knock yourself out; lots of athletes do so before matches. If you wanna get the back-sack-crack wax trifecta at the estheticians, go for it. If you’re happy and hirsute, get down with your fuzzy self. If you want to do something in between, then consider a trim, rather than removal and be artful about it. Cutting everything to one length looks weird. Leave your chest hair a bit longer than the hair on your lower-torso, and if you’re going to shave your abs (the better to show them off, my dear), then make sure you keep the treasure-trail from your navel on down.
That being said, while most people will appreciate some careful maintenance of their pubic hair, women in general aren’t crazy about completely bald junk. Not only does it carry images of prepubescence, but ingrown hairs are a motherfucker and crotch stubble ain’t fun when you’re bumping uglies. So I’d suggest trimming things and keeping it nice and neat without going so short it becomes scratchy and irritating. And be sure to use a trimmer made specifically for body hair, not just your face; the hair on your torso’s a different texture and thickness and trying to use your beard trimmer is going to end up with a lot of uncomfortable snags and pulls.
- and thanks to Wil Wheaton for this… [↩]