Q: My friend’s girlfriend hits on me all the time. (We’re all lesbians.) She always offers to get me a drink before she gets her girlfriend one, and she’s taken to giving me quick shoulder rubs and stomach pokes. The other night was really bad. A bunch of us were seated around a big table, and after I said something that made her laugh, she slapped my thigh and left her hand there a long time and started rubbing it. She was drunk, but still. I moved my chair over and ignored her for the rest of the night. My friend seems oblivious, and I’ve contemplated telling her, but I suspect she’d be terribly embarrassed. So, what am I supposed to do, just not have a social life?
A: Going out with your friends shouldn’t remind you of the last time you were body-searched at the airport, save for how the airport groperlady probably looked like she wanted to get it over with fast, not like she wanted to lick your tattoo.
You, like many people, get so caught up in being irritated at somebody’s behavior that you forget that you never asked the person to stop. You did try other means of communication, but unless you’ve had success moving dishes to the sink with your thoughts and then getting whoever’s dining with you to wash them, you should probably consider telepathy a bust. And sure, persistent pained looks could suggest that you are very much not up for a drink and a thigh rub — or that you forgot to eat your Activia again.
Having held in your feelings for so long, it’s easy to explode and blurt out “You need to stop hitting on me!” or, referencing the woman she’s publicly disrespecting, “Touch base with the fact you have a girlfriend instead of my inner thigh!” With either statement, you’re accusing and criticizing her — and rightfully so. The problem is, as psychotherapist Dr. Carl Alasko wisely points out in “Beyond Blame,” criticizing a person leads to anger, denial, and defensiveness, not change.
To get Miss Wanderhands to listen instead of blowing up, remain calm and use passive language that focuses on the action you want changed and your feelings about it, for example, “This level of touchy-feeliness makes me very uncomfortable.” This tells her “The petting zoo is closed” as opposed to “You’re a bad person!” (which, by the way, she is). If she persists or makes some unwanted confession, you can be more direct: “Look, I’m not interested. Please stop.” As for your friend, keep in mind that she may not be ready to see what’s going on, as this would require her to take some sort of action she may not be ready to take. Until she becomes ready, her girlfriend will remain a kind and generous person, buying beer for a thirsty woman much in the way she might reach out to a homeless man: “Can I brush past your breast while getting you a sandwich?”
Q: I’m a pretty green gal. I ride my bike to work, grow vegetables, compost, use reusable bags, containers and cloths, only eat sustainable foods. You get the picture. My boyfriend of six months is a wonderful, kind soul who recycles his cans, but that’s the extent of his eco-friendliness. He seems a little overwhelmed and uninterested when I tell him how easy and important going green really is. How can I motivate him to change without seeming like a bossy solicitor banging on his door?
— Small Carbon Footprint
A: Like many people in the early stages of a relationship, you have some questions about your partner, like how you can get him to stop using so many squares of toilet paper. On a positive note, you don’t mention anything about his following the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on Twitter to see whether any of the litter he tossed in the ocean made its way there. That said, if your immediate world will be a dark and horrible place if the man in your life refuses to rinse and reuse his aluminum foil, you may be with the wrong man. Otherwise, the question is, do you want to be in a relationship or a two-person political movement? If it’s a relationship you want, forget trying to lecture him into changing (which tends to create rebels, not converts), and accept that you may be able to influence him. You do that simply by being who you are, doing what you do, and being passionate about it — and all the better if you do all of that while wearing the hottest in hemp lingerie. Who knows, you two lovebirds could soon find yourselves enjoying the first few of a lifetime of romantic nights dining in the garden — chewing on plants to avoid dirtying dishes and increasing your collective carbon footprint.
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