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Hi Bear!

I’ve known I was bi since I was 16 and fell in love with a girl who was strictly straight and conservative which did not end well, but hey it was life experience despite how hard it was. But because of that, I’ve been very careful about my heart and who I can open up to. I am 19 and finished my first year of college recently but my friends were extremely pushy about me losing my virginity. One girl in particular was very adamant and took me to get lingerie and bought condoms and all that. I loved hanging out with girls and didn’t really think much about her taking me lingerie shopping or anything but I did feel uncomfortable about being pushed to lose my virginity. Luckily, I realized that it wasn’t the right time or person and that is ok. I had trouble getting my friend to understand that it needs to be with someone I actually like. She still does not really understand but respects my decision and I think that made us closer. The thing is, my friend is also bi and beautiful but breaks hearts easily. I realized that I couldn’t ever do that when I had feelings for someone else (her) but I had never acted on them or said anything because she was very clear that she does not fall for friends and I was happy to be her friend. That is, until, she wrote me a letter as we left college to go back home that stated she was in love with me. And I think I love her too and told her that. It was great for a short amount of time but we live in different states and she’s transferring colleges, and it’s also been months since she has said she loves me or flirts with me. She still reels me in with texts about visiting each other but it seems like she doesn’t care anymore and she refuses to be the first to communicate. I’m just unsure if I should do what all romance movies tell me and go after her or because I love her, I should just let her go and see if she comes back? What do you think?

• • •

Dear Brave Correspondent,

First, let me just give you credit for knowing your own mind and taking steps as necessary – or not – to bring your desires into action (or not). It’s complicated to fall for someone who is off-limits, and even harder to move through the part where you’re full of a wasps’-nest worth of feelings but don’t really have anywhere to put them and into the part where you’re able to recognize a learning experience when it strolls up and jams a stick in your spokes. You mention that you don’t really have anyone to discuss this with, so lets just start with some good old fashioned validation – you’re doing a really good job.

Since you are, and since it feels like a little digression from your actual question is warranted, can we just take a paragraph to talk about the concept of “virginity”? We could take a lot longer; the brilliant Dr. Hanne Blank took a whole book. With the recent headlines about fathers and daughters and virginity checks I just want to say, Brave Correspondent, that penis-in-vagina sexual activity is not actually any more “real” a kind of sexual engagement than any of the other ones. If you’re super keen to give it a go then by all means, find an acceptable penis (I recommend one attached to an accountable communicator with a goofy streak but do as you like), and take it for a test drive. But if not, there’s no reason to take a right turn into heterosexual expectation just to tick the box. Also, many undergraduate women report that they prefer literally every other part of their sexual interactions to the tab-A-slot-B portion, so don’t let yourself be rushed on someone else’s timeline. By all means wait – for that or any sex act or sexual encounter – until you are excited and enthusiastic to do that thing with that person at that time. People often ask how you know when you’re ready? That’s how. When you feel like you can’t wait to get about it with someone; like you might explode if you can’t be in a private space with them very soon? You’re ready.

(I hear the chorus of “isn’t that an unrealistically high standard?” cranking up on the Internet. No. No, it’s not. There are lots of reasons people choose to have consensual sex, and I don’t judge any of them, but if we’re working toward a perfect world I would like to encourage the idea that if someone’s not feeling super into it they can feel empowered to just… decline. Also I note that this chorus is typically, mostly, dudes. Draw your own conclusions.)

In any event, moving on everrrr so slowly to what you actually asked me about: I would like to encourage you to never use a rom-com movie as a model for literally anything except maybe how to arrange a breakfast-in-bed tray. They’re tasty fluff and I love to watch them as an adult BUT they are full of unhealthy tropes about relationships that have insidiously infected out culture, like the “magnetic noses” trope in which somehow people just know it’s time to kiss and their noses magnetize and they are drawn slowly but inescapably together, lips first. Or the idea that if someone says no to you or isn’t engaged you should relentlessly harass and stalk them until they give you a chaaaaaaaance. For looooooooove.

Now for sure, Brave Correspondent, I do not think you are anywhere near harass or stalking territory. But I do think that your natural instincts here are good – this person is maybe playing your your emotions to serve her own needs – and you should definitely not replace your own good sense with something you saw in a movie starring a pretty boy with a fancy hairstyle. This person may indeed be beautiful, and may indeed be a great person, but what you perceive is also true: you’re putting in effort to trying to connect and your efforts are not being returned, and that is a clear sign that she wants your attention but doesn’t have much attention to give you in return. There can be a lot of reasons for that, and I can’t know what they are, but I can tell you from extensive personal experience (ahem) that it’s not a situation that magically resolves itself. What you want is someone who has as much excitement about you and you do about them. Someone who is as keen to spend time with you as you are to spend time with them; someone who reaches out to you as often as you reach out to them – especially at this point, where the feelings have been declared and concerns about un-reciprocated feelings have been handled. You can be flexible about this at the very beginning, in the awkward fitsy-startsy part where you’re trying to figure out if the person is into you in return, so you kind of…test the waters a little. But we’re not there anymore.

Now, one thing about this though – the things I am describing are very neurotypical patterns. You may find that you get into a hot, fun thing with someone who’s neurodiverse in ways that impact how they do the wooing and flirting. People with ADHD can have every intention of sending you a schmoopy love message but get distracted or think they already did it. People with big anxiety might have the thing where it’s just really fucking hard to compose a message without second, third, eighth-guessing themselves and their responses can be sloooow because of it, not for a lack of interest but because they’re fiddling the commas in their text all afternoon. Autistic people can be not that interested in or inclined toward verbal/textual flirting, preferring to be direct and unambiguous and requiring similarly direct communication in return. So, by all means you want to look for a person who shows you their interest clearly when you’ve shown yours, but keep an eye on your expectations to be certain you’re not over-applying neurotypical expectations about dating patterns to someone who’s neurodiverse and accomplishes that differently. If you have that sense that there’s a lot more interest than is coming through, check in with them about their intentions and needs (and with yourself about yours, too).

But overall, Brave Correspondent, you sound like you’ve got a clear sense of what is and isn’t okay for you; what you like and don’t. That’s incredibly valuable, and you should stick with it and keep refining it. Long-distance babe probably isn’t as into actual you as the idea of a long-distance lesbian love affair, and you deserve the up close and sticky kind you desire. I’d advise you to let go of the long-distance gal and refocus your energy and attentions on yourself and on the more-available local talent. If drawing away a little inspires her to get her act together and be more communicative, that’s okay. Take it as it comes when you get there. But I think you have the discernment to be able to tell the difference – wait for someone who’s keen about you as you are about them, and then bust out those breakfast in bed, on a tray, with orange juice and a single flower in a vase skills you’ve absorbed watching romcoms.

love and courage,


Questions submitted will be kept confidential and may be edited for length.

S. Bear Bergman

writer, educator, publisher, storyteller, advice guy

Asking Bear is an advice column written by S. Bear Bergman. Bear is a busybody know-it-all with many opinions who is only too happy for a sanctioned opportunity to tell you what he thinks you ought to be doing (as well as a writer, storyteller, publisher and activist who enjoys telling educational institutions, health care groups, and portions of government what he thinks they ought to be doing).

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