Written by Philip Galanes
Q: I am 20 years old, about to start my junior year in college and need your help ASAP! I thought I had a handle on who I am: I’ve always dated women (since I started dating two years ago), and the lesbians on campus have always been my people. I hung out with an amazing woman last year. But I met a guy at my internship this summer. Over a month, we became good friends, then we started a romantic relationship. I really like him and our sexual connection, but I have no idea what to do when I go back to school. What’s wrong with me? — Joie
A: There is absolutely nothing wrong with you! Listen, I can remember the prickly annoyance I felt at your age when someone my age would say something like, “You have loads of time.” But I misunderstood them. What they meant was: It’s going to take time to work this out. You can’t rush it — no matter how badly you want to.
Some people know their sexual identity from the jump, and others need time to sort it out. Still others experience shifts in their feelings and have more fluid attraction. Your experience may differ from your friends’, and that can be frustrating. But keep the focus on your feelings. That’s what matters here.
Now, I don’t know where things stand with your guy friend or with the woman you dated last year. In my experience, being honest with the people I’m close to — even if that’s confusing for them and me — works best in the long run. It can even deepen intimacy. Try it. And don’t be shy about reaching out for help (on campus or off) if you want to keep talking this through.
Knock First, Please
Q: I am moving in with my fiance. It’s exciting! But my future mother-in-law drops by several times a week, often during the workday, without texting in advance or even knocking. This feels like an invasion of privacy to me. I want to be able to walk around in a towel without worrying about her popping in. My boyfriend told her we’d like a heads-up before she visits, but she didn’t get the message. How can I set some boundaries without hurting her feelings? — Privacy Please
A: I may be misreading this situation, but it sounds as if your fiancé tolerated (or even welcomed) his mother’s unannounced visits for some time. That doesn’t make them any less an invasion of your privacy, but it does argue for patience and may explain why she ignored her son’s first request for a heads-up.
I wouldn’t go it alone here. You will do better as a united front with your fiancé. The next time the three of you are together — over a meal, maybe — he or you should say, “We love seeing you, but we’d like you to call or text before visiting to make sure it’s convenient. Will you do that, please?” Then wait for her answer. That’s your signal that she’s really heard the request.
Should I Reach Out?
Q: I graduated from college 20 years ago. Back then, a friend told me that she was sexually assaulted at a party. She decided not to report it. Then she became really withdrawn. I never connected it to the assault. Our friends and I even gave her a hard time about not going out with us anymore. Fast forward to now: I’m better educated about sexual assault, and I’ve had a bout of depression myself. I would love to apologize to my friend, but we haven’t spoken in years. Will I just stir up bad feelings? — Old Friend
A: It’s never too late to apologize, though I applaud your sensitivity here. I would avoid phone calls or emails that pop onto your friend’s screen when she least expects them. That could be upsetting. Send her a written note, apologizing for your ignorance about her crisis during college and inviting her to get in touch if she’d like to catch up now. Even if she doesn’t respond, trying to make amends is a respectful gesture of friendship.
Too Early to Rise
Q: I live in a semirural area in a homeowners’ association that forbids raising chickens on our properties. Adjacent to our development are properties that don’t have these restrictions. Some of these neighbors raise horses and other animals. The problem: A nearby neighbor (outside the HOA) recently acquired two roosters that crow at sunrise. This has ruined our ability to sleep in on the weekends. This morning, I found myself wide-awake at 5 a.m. waiting for the roosters to crow. I know how tone deaf and entitled I sound! But is there anything I can do? — K.
A: You don’t sound tone deaf or entitled. You want to sleep! Still, you are probably out of luck if your neighbors are committed to raising chickens, which they apparently have the right to do. You can ask them (nicely) to move their chicken coop further from your property. You can even offer to contribute to the cost. But you are in the country, and your neighbors who live outside your homeowners’ association are not bound by its rules.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.