DAME’s Friendkeeper talks platonic gender politics and helps a dog-lover break free from her self-serving fellow rescuers.
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My casual dating relationship is turning into a more serious, move-in-together relationship and it has me thinking about the friendships I have with dudes. I have a pretty close guy friend who is single, and I’m wondering, is it okay to stay close to him as my romantic relationship intensifies? I think I’ve seen When Harry Met Sally one too many times, and it’s got me questioning whether a straight man and a straight woman really are able to have a friendship without sex getting in the way. It’s seemed fine with my friend so far, but my new relationship status has me over-analyzing everything. The thing is, I wouldn’t even think twice about it if he had a vagina! Am I being totally old-fashioned? Are we in an era of post-gender friendships? I just want everyone to get along, no matter how they identify.
First I commend you on using vagina and pickle all in one letter. Okay, answer? OF COURSE YOU CAN! I think it’s very healthy to have both men and women friends, as well as gay and straight friends and also you should have a friend who is a doctor that can answer all of your medical questions and also a friend who works at a beauty magazine who can advise on whether you need eyelid surgery. But I digress. All the different types of friends give you a wide range of perspective and if you are in a new relationship, it is good to have someone who is of the same tribe as your new partner to enlighten you as to the political statement behind wet towels on the bed, or little whiskers in the bathroom sink. It’s all good. Sometimes though, your significant other may get jealous; that’s why it’s important to introduce the whole concept early. (And don’t be wishy-washy—this is my friend and we aren’t playing hide the salami!) I think in these modern times it’s to be expected and applauded!
I’ve been a long-time volunteer for a dog rescue organization. Through the years we have all grown close as friends but I’m starting to feel like that’s no longer the case, it’s turned into a one-way road. Lately my “friends” have been dumping every difficult dog into my lap. And when I say difficult, I mean difficult—biting, behavioral problems, etc. When I ask for help, like placing a problem pup in a new foster home or getting assistance from a behavioral specialist, I get the blow off. Unfortunately, I feel taken advantage of and no longer want to be involved with the rescue, or my friends. But I do want them to know why, so they don’t drive other volunteers away. How can I smoothly extricate myself from these friendships, while still letting them know how disappointed I am?
A Ruff One
You know, I have been involved with animal rescue—many groups over many years—and one thing I’ve noticed is that dog (or cat or turtle or bird or elephant) people are not necessarily people-people. Separate from that, I’ve seen more damage done to relationships of people who are volunteering together than any number of people who worked together at paying jobs. I don’t know why that is. Sometimes it feels like a Lord of the Flies situation. Whatever the reason, it breaks my heart that you are forced to leave the group, because the ones you care the most about, the ones who brought you there—the dogs—are the ones who will lose you (though I imagine you’ll find another way to help elsewhere). I think it is admirable of you to want to let them know why, though it may not make a difference. In the groups I’ve been in, when a fed-up member leaves, they sort of get replaced by another unsuspecting person and the cycle continues. But maybe you can stop that. What I would do is send a very clear letter explaining what happened to you, why you feel the way you feel, and how the way they treated you has made you feel that you are unable to continue. It may be easier for them to hear it if you take responsibility for whatever part you had in it (even if was just saying yes too much). Treat it as an exit interview. I don’t think you will have to extricate yourself from the friendships, however, they’re going to get it. It’s a bummer that this happened. Nobody wins. I hope that you find a new group, when you are ready. And if you do, don’t let yourself fall into the same position. I know it’s really hard to say no (this from a person who had five rescue dogs with various medical and behavioral problems in an NYC apartment). But not letting yourself be burned out is crucial to your survival in future endeavors. Good luck good-hearted person.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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