Dear Dr. NerdLove,
How do you handle a mutual acquaintance that is just too mutual? I met many friends through my local frisbee club two years ago. The club friendships blossomed into separate gatherings for parties, trivia, and movie watching. These are my main group of people who I love to hang out with……and Tiffany.
Tiffany is a long-standing group member who has known many of my close friends for much longer than I have. She even lives down the street from one of them and works with another. Most group events involve Tiffany in some fashion since she’s close to everybody in the group besides me.
I find it difficult to hang out with her, since she is my total personality opposite. Tiffany is an anxious extrovert, while I am a decisive introvert. I could throw a frisbee around for hours, while she mainly plays frisbee as an excuse to talk to people. Tiffany hates competition and I love trash talk and close games.
Every time I see she’s attending a group event I’m at, I let out a huge sigh. Events with her have been marked by people missing amazing frisbee throws, since she had to show the crowd a video right this second. I was bantering back and forth with a friend in the middle of a course, and Tiffany has to chastise me for being “too mean”. She’s super chatty and has known most of these people 5 years longer than I have. This leads to me feeling left out of conversations, since I don’t know enough to keep up with what’s being discussed.
I know I have no right to kick Tiffany out of the friend group, since she’s not an awful person. I just need a better way to accept we will never be best friends and deal with the fact Tiffany will be at most group events in the foreseeable future.
Ah yes, the dreaded ONE person. I think most people have experienced this at one point or another: somebody in your social circle who you — for whatever reason — just can’t get along with. Sometimes it’s somebody who’s just objectively awful and you can’t wrap your head around why they’re still around. It’s even worse when that one person is a classic Missing Stair — someone who’s an active danger to others that your social circle has learned how to avoid, but not excise. Other times, it’s someone who has, for whatever reason, decided you are their nemesis and treats you like shit. And then there’s the person you just don’t like, but they’re embedded in the group like a tick.
The way you resolve things depends on precisely what the issue is. Often, when there’s one person who’s demonstrably awful, the problem is that the group overall is afraid of confrontation. Sometimes it’s the classic Geek Social Fallacy that Ostracisers are Evil and it’s sub-fallacy The Person Who Points Out The Drama Is The Problem. Groups with a Missing Stair — or just That One Asshole — often don’t like to face up to the fact that they’ve abdicated the responsibility of making sure a space is welcoming or safe and would rather ignore the problem. Or worse, they feel like they can’t excise them because… reasons. So they just let them stay and decide that it’s easier to kick out the people who point out the problem. So that often ends up falling to the person who’s willing to make the fuss, break that group’s social contract and, hopefully, pull enough people together who felt the same way but couldn’t speak up.
In your case though, it doesn’t sound like Tiffany is a bad person… just someone who you don’t click with. And hey, that’s legit; Geek Social Fallacy #4 — that Friendship Is Transitive — ain’t any more real than Ostracisers are Evil. Just because you all have friends in common doesn’t mean that you and they are going to be close; the Venn diagrams of your friendships don’t overlap that far. There’s no reason you need to be friends with her. It’s good if you can be friendly, or at the very least, polite, but you don’t need to like ’em.
Now the key is how to handle things in ways that let you keep things cordial with Tiffany but without letting her existence kill your ability to have fun with your friends.
The trick, in this case, is to compartmentalize as best you can. There will be times when you can get by without needing to interact with her much. At more social gatherings — parties, trivia events and so on — you can more or less minimize how much direct contact you have. You can, for example, have separate conversations with friends that don’t involve her. You can even use the 3:2 rule in group conversations where Tiffany is involved. Since people can only really pay attention to so many people at once, conversations can really only sustain about four active participants. When a fifth person gets involved, the conversation tends to split in a 3 to 2 ratio, with two people branching off into a side-conversation. You can use that to your advantage and use something as a springboard to a new topic; you just need a brief transition like “oh that reminds me…”
Also: beyond the fact that just listening is a perfectly valid way of contributing to a conversation — especially until you get more context — you can also ask questions about the discussion. Often, people are happy to fill newcomers in, especially if it means a new person to hear some of the stories that everyone else already knows.
Now when it comes to games of frisbee… well, that’s a point where you may have to recalibrate your expectations. You may be looking for competition, but if most of the club is expecting a social event with occasional tossing of the frisbee, then you may just have to adapt to that mindset. If you’re looking for a group that plays the game with deadly seriousness, then you may have to look at a different group to meet that particular need.
(Though if you and your buds are enjoying the in-game chirping back and forth and Tiffany doesn’t, then she doesn’t have to participate and you and the others can leave her out of it. If she’s objecting to it happening at ALL… that’s a her problem, not a you problem and she can deal with it on her own.)
Don’t forget, however, that you’re options aren’t limited “put up with Tiffany’s presence” or “never see your friends”. You can set up events and get-togethers with your friends in the group that don’t involve Tiffany. Now, this may or may not run into Geek Social Fallacy #5: Friends Do Everything Together, where folks feel like if you’re getting the gang together that has to include Tiffany. If that’s the case, then you may have to organize events with different sets of people at different times. Having smaller, slightly more intimate get-togethers means you may not get the full “yay, I’m seeing my whole squad” experience, but it’s less likely to trip the feeling that you’re being rude by leaving Tiffany out.
That having been said: don’t feel like you have to pretend that you and Tiffany are buds, even to the others. There’s nothing wrong with saying “hey, she’s perfectly fine. She and I just don’t click, that’s all.” Make it clear that this isn’t a problem that needs solving, just that you and she have personalities that don’t mesh well and it’s easier to just keep things polite but distant than to try to mix this particular blend of oil and water.
On the one hand, it’s great that you and your boyfriend were finding some new ways to bring variety into your sex life, TMTSTF; that’s a core part of how you keep the spark alive in your relationship. On the other hand, it seems like your boyfriend has run head first into a surprisingly common issue: getting insecure about sex toys and penis size, especially if the sex toys in question are bigger than him.
A lot of dudes get hung up on the idea that bigger is better, particularly when it comes to dicks. Straight cis dudes have a tendency to think that their dicks aren’t big enough. In fact, according to a 2006 study found that only 55% of men were satisfied with the size of their penis… even though 85% of women were just fine with the size of their partner’s junk. This is thanks in no small part to a culture of restrictive and toxic ideas of what it means to be a man and what gives a man status or value. This has a tendency to get exacerbated by porn; porn made for straight cis men tends to fetishize the size of the performers’ dicks, with the implication that women need Dongzilla in order to be properly satisfied. This has the unfortunate tendency to leave a lot of men insecure in their own length and girth. After all, if they can’t compete with, say, Ron Jeremy, can they ever truly satisfy a woman the way they see in porn?
In reality, a survey of over 64,000 people found that women on average prefer a guy who’s got an average penis, instead of King Dong; larger dicks can be incredibly uncomfortable — hitting the cervix ain’t that fun — or cause injuries including UTIs or internal tearing of the vaginal lining. Porn sex is to real sex like The Fast and The Furious movies is to your morning commute: fun to watch but not something to try to replicate in the real world.
But for a lot of guys, reality doesn’t matter. The fact that porn sex is nothing like sex in the real world never really factors into this equation — something that comes up again and again, in fact. Because despite what browsing PornHub will tell you, most women can’t and don’t get off from vaginal penetration alone. Women and folks with vaginas tend to need direct clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm, and penetrative sex, particularly penetrative sex in the missionary position, is the least effective way of achieving this. There’s rarely enough contact either with the external clitoral head or the internal wings to get them off.
This also tends to run headlong into the other reason why straight men often have issues with bringing sex toys into bed: because it takes away from the possibility that their dicks are what are making their partners orgasm.
(Seriously: you will never find folks more obsessed with dicks than insecure straight dudes.)
Just as with penis size, men have been socialized to believe that penis-in-vagina sex is the only sex that actually “counts” — whether for losing one’s virginity or for “the main event”. Other forms of sex, including oral sex, masturbation and so on, is seen as “lesser” or a prelude to actual penetration. Just as importantly though is the idea that men can make their partners orgasm through penetration alone. If his wand by itself isn’t enough to make the magic happen, then something is “wrong”. For a lot of guys this means that the only orgasms that matter are the look-ma-no-hands types, where his pounding away like a jackhammer is what got her there. His partner touching herself means that he’s not doing it right. And using a sex toy means that he’s not “enough” or, worse, she won’t “need” him because her Silver Bullet or Hitachi or what-have-you can make her orgasm harder and faster than he ever could.
Combine those two together and you end up with someone who’s already worried that his dick isn’t enough and that he’s going to be replaced by the toys that he wanted you to use. Is it logical? No… but logic has nothing to do with this.
The issue here isn’t you or anything you did — certainly not being “too slutty”. The issue is his insecurities. And while there are things you can do to help give him some reassurance and walk him back from the edge… ultimately this is a him problem, not a you problem, no matter how much he tries to make it about you.
Now one thing that might help him start to get over this is to point out that sex toys are tools, not replacements for a boyfriend. The dildo isn’t going to do the job itself, any more than a hammer pounds nails without someone wielding it. It’s not the hammer doing the job; the hammer is just the method by which the job is accomplished. Similarly, it’s not a cop-out or substitute for him, regardless of how big it may or may not be compared to his bio dick. It’s doubtful that he’s going to be going around insisting that the only way to build a house is to cut the wood with his teeth and pound the nails with his bare hands. If he got you off using a toy, then it’s not the toy that got you off, it’s just the method by which he did it. And if it’s a case of you putting on a show with them while he watched… well, again, it was the whole event that made it hot, including his being part of it. Without him, it’s not the same.
Remind him of that and hopefully he can start to realize that toys — regardless of girth — aren’t a threat to him or his masculinity. But making you think that it’s somehow your fault that he gets weird about this is a threat alright… to your relationship.