Workplace Sexy Times, Cuddling With Strings Attached, And The “Lesbian Gym Teacher”

by Lindsay King-Miller

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I read your advice about the couple who was hanging out with another couple and getting super close with them and wondering where that was going to go. I have a similar question, but with a more complicated twist. I am a single 30-year-old queer lady who has recently become super close with another queer couple. I have become best friends with one friend and all three of us hang out doing fun times and boring times and have been super emotionally supportive during a really stressful time in our lives these last couple months. There are often “I love you”s between us and they consider me part of their family. I recently realized that the friend-crush that I had when we first met has turned into an actual crush on the whole couple. I totally want to be dating them! Sometimes hanging out with them or one on one makes me really anxious, because flirty jokes and sexual innuendos are a little too real and it’s hard to hide my feelings. To make it even more complicated I work with the BFF. I feel like there are a lot of feelings and sexual tension between us all, but I can’t tell if that’s just me hoping they feel the same way. Should I tell them how I feel? Or should I just let things play out and let them make the first move if they ever want to? None of us have been part of a poly relationship before, so it would be new territory for all of us. It seems so risky to put it all out on the table, but I know that big risk can result in a big win too.

Listen, I know I am a big old boring stick-in-the-mud about this and I’m sorry, but I really do not endorse trying to date someone you work with. I KNOW. I’m sick of me too. But workplace sexy times can lead to so many kinds of disasters, from accusations of special treatment to totally derailing your career if you break up. Think for a second about how much you interact with her in any given day, and how much she could fuck things up for you if you accidentally broke her heart (or favorite vibrator) and she wanted revenge. If the answer is “a lot,” even if you’re totally 100% sure she would never do that to you, please don’t try to bone her. If you absolutely must try to bone her, consider looking for a new job first.

With that in mind (and acknowledging that you’re probably not going to take my advice above, so enjoy being extremely uncomfortable at work if you do date and then break up with your BFF), I think you need to be super clear about your hopes and expectations before you put the moves on these women, because this situation could so easily go awry. I’m not saying polyamorous relationships can’t develop from a single person becoming involved with a couple, but it’s definitely more delicate and more complicated than building relationships with two people separately.

Ask yourself: If you proposition them and they’re not interested, do you want to continue your friendship? What if one of them wants to date you and the other doesn’t? What if they’re interested in a secondary relationship with you, but their primary relationship is only with each other? Do you want to retain the option of dating people besides them? There aren’t any wrong answers here, but it’s important to be able to articulate what you want, and to know how you’re planning to respond if what they want and what you want are two different things. Be really honest with yourself here. If you’re hoping for true and lasting three-way love and they’re like “well, maybe we’ll make out with you from time to time,” don’t try to convince yourself that’s good enough, because settling for less than you really need is a recipe for ending up bitter, resentful, and heartbroken. I’m not saying you can’t do casual hookups with these ladies if that works for all of you! I’m just saying, know what you need, and be willing to call it quits if you end up in an arrangement that doesn’t make you happy.

But assuming you’re clear on what you’re looking for, what the hell, go for it. Be as direct as possible, because our cultural default setting is to assume everyone is monogamous until they specifically say otherwise, so no matter how much you flirt, they are unlikely to interpret it as “I want to date you and also date your girlfriend.” Use your words. This will be super terrifying, because you’re putting your heart and soul on the line, but as you say, there’s no reward without risk! Good luck.

I am a brand spankin’ new freshman at a very big, very gay school in a medium-ish, extremely gay city. I’m talking…the first time I came here with a friend, an old lesbian couple complimented how nice we looked that day while leaving a queer bookstore.

Anyway, on my second day, I met a girl at an orientation and we hit it off very well. We ended up spending most of the day together, and also most of the next day. Actually, the next day we ended up walking around shopping for two hours and then cuddling in her bed watching a movie. It was very cliché, and there were a couple moments where the tension in the air screamed “this is where you’d kiss if this was actually a chick flick.”

Except, even while all this was happening in the very cute and very gay way it was…I wasn’t feeling 100% on it. At first I was feeling maybe 99% on it, but then I rapidly really started to not feel it. I think part of me is just not entirely attracted to her, and I feel like because after the first day she actually told me she thought I was “really adorable”, and was SO up front about it without even really knowing me first…I’m a little overwhelmed.

I’m also the kind of person who needs to get to know someone before jumping into an actual relationship, and I am very afraid of the metaphorical lesbian U-Haul truck. This girl, however, seems to be moving forward much faster than I am (we’ve known each other for Four Days at this point) and is clingy and not in a way that works for me. Again, here I repeat the “four days” thing for added effect. FOUR DAYS.

Just based on that information I think it’s valid for me to be backpedaling, like I’m trying to, but I’m not really sure how to do that. I feel like I accidentally lead her on a bit, but I also feel like she’s taking this further and faster than she should be.

How do I navigate this? How do I backpedal without being an ass? I know it’s not rude of me to not be interested, but I’m also not really sure why this feels as awkward as it does. Why isn’t no-strings-attached cuddling a thing? :(

I don’t know why no-strings-attached cuddling isn’t more of a thing! No one blinks at platonic physical intimacy with close friends, and it’s not uncommon to have sexual intimacy with people we don’t know that well, but why can’t we just pick up someone at a bookstore and go home and braid each other’s hair and watch Gilmore Girls for hours without it having to be a big Thing? If you want to try to make this happen, I am down to help get the word out. “Gilmore Girls and cuddle” can be the next “Netflix and chill.”

As for why you’re not feeling it, there doesn’t have to be a reason — you can enjoy someone’s company and like watching movies together without wanting to girlfriend her. You don’t need an excuse for the way you feel, and you don’t owe anyone your romantic attention just because that’s how it would play out in a chick flick.

In a relationship of any kind, whether girlfriends, family, or just friends, both people are responsible for communicating their needs, boundaries, and desires. It sounds like you’re both slacking on this front. Your new friend screwed up by assuming you were on board with her romantic designs instead of coming out and telling you “I want us to be girlfriends,” but you can’t control her behavior. You can only control yours, which is why you need to take the responsibility and hit the brakes.

This conversation is going to be awkward. There is no way for it to not be awkward, so just grit your teeth and deal with it. You’re going to have to sit her down and say “I don’t know you well enough to know whether I want to date you. I’d like to continue spending time together, but not in a romantic or sexual way, at least for the time being. How do you feel about that?” Remember that just as it’s valid for you to have boundaries, she also gets to have boundaries of her own. If she decides that she doesn’t want to have a purely platonic relationship with you, that’s a choice she gets to make and you’ll have to respect it and let her go.

I think I’m afraid to have sex. It’s been almost a year. I got herpes when I was 19 so I haven’t hooked up much since then and I’ve dealt with that. I’ve had two boyfriends since then. But I’ve only been with one other guy. Is there something in my subconscious? Grindr seems appealing but when I get on the app I freak out. I want sex but tell myself I don’t need it. I’m totally over my ex, we broke up, it was civil. Haven’t had sex since. He has. Any ideas?

Well, at least one idea: The fact that you’re still keeping tabs on your ex’s sex life suggests that you’re not, in fact, totally over him. Maybe you’re not moving on because you’re not ready to get it on with someone who’s not him.

Or maybe you are totally over it, and you know who he’s banged since you because you’re one of those weird people who can stay friends with your exes; I don’t know your life. What I do know is that it’s totally okay to not want to have sex, whether that’s because you’re processing your breakup, or you’re still dealing with your feelings about getting an STI, or just because there’s no one around who floats your boat. You can be a totally happy, fulfilled, awesome person and just not want to have sex very much! Don’t let anyone make you feel weird or ashamed if you have a low or nonexistent sex drive.

However, since you said you want sex but feel freaked out by it, maybe this isn’t a lack of libido so much as an unresolved issue that’s coming through as anxiety when you try to get your swerve on. If that’s the case, there isn’t much I can do to help you, but as someone who experiences a fair amount of anxiety myself, I really recommend talking to a therapist. If you don’t have insurance, do some Googling and try to find a free or sliding-scale mental health clinic or even a group therapy you can attend. I think you might benefit from talking through your fear with a neutral party who can help figure out what’s at the root of it.

If not having sex is totally cool with you, and you’re just worried because you think you should be having more sex, try to stop worrying about it, because not having sex is great and you’re great and things are great. If you want to be getting laid but your fear is holding you back, take some time to check in with a professional and work through your fear. Either way, you’re going to be fine.

Queer history/culture question for you: What is with the lesbian gym teacher thing? I mean, I know stereotypes are wrong blahblahblah, but no seriously, there are a disproportionate number of us that end up as gym teachers. What gives?

Haha, I know literally zero lesbian gym teachers, or indeed gym teachers of any gender or orientation. That’s probably because they can sense my utter lack of coordination and athletic ability and they avoid me because they’re afraid of catching my incurable Picked-Last-For-Kickball syndrome.

But you’re right, I am at least peripherally aware that there are a lot of queer ladies out there teaching P.E. Again, with literally no personal or even secondhand experience, I cannot remotely speak to why this might be, but here’s my best, totally unfounded guess: Women are still discouraged, societally speaking, from pursuing athletic endeavors in more than a casual way. It is still considered unfeminine to get sweaty or red-faced or have big bulging muscles. So, for a woman to be into sports and exercise enough that she chooses it as a vocation, she has to be pretty comfortable in her own skin and willing to let social pressures roll off her like water off a duck’s back.

What else are women not supposed to do? Oh, right: date other women. So if you’re secure enough in your own identity to come out as gay, you’re probably also secure enough to go after your dream even if it’s not traditionally considered feminine and becoming. The experience of coming out as queer might just be the trial-by-fire that some ladies need to get up the nerve to go for what they want with all their Sporty-Spice-loving hearts. Hell, out gay women might actually be cheered on if they want to make a living teaching people to climb ropes and play dodgeball, because that’s the direction our stereotypes point. (I was once invited to join a rugby team by a woman who knew literally nothing about me other than I had a fauxhawk.)

Again, this is all pure conjecture; I cannot overemphasize how little I know about sports and the people who do them. Queer gym teachers and other athletically inclined individuals, any thoughts?

Previously: Rejection Is Rejection, Infatuation Is Infatuation, And Sex Is Sex

Lindsay King-Miller is also on Twitter, and you can peruse the AAQC archive here. Do you have a question for her?