How do you deal with a crippling crisis of self-confidence?
I’m 21 and I’ve never been in a relationship, I’ve only had sex once, and that was only because the girl threw herself at me and a friend of mine felt so bad watching me fail miserably that he pulled me aside as she was leaving and told me that she wanted to take me home with her. I would probably be considered pretty attractive, I’m a smart guy, I dress well, and I’m a classically trained musician. The handful of friends I have tell me I am the definition of a Renaissance man. Unfortunately, I have zero self-confidence and I’m so hypersensitive to perceived awkwardness and failure on my part that social situations are nerve-wracking and I have been known to run away from being so overwhelmed.
The reasons could fill a novel, but the most prominent is the fact that I have gynecomastia, which is extremely obvious. I have suffered from this since the age of 12 and it has been crippling. I have been mocked and ridiculed for years from every side, from the kids at school to my family at home. My father died when I was a small child, and the rest of my family was made up of women who all found it extremely humorous that the boy was also “part girl.” I’ve tried everything to fix the problem, but the only solution is surgery which, for me, will cost 15 to 20 times what it costs for normal people because of a genetic disorder.
I am at my wit’s end, and I was hoping to hear a solution that doesn’t involve me saving up $100,000 or living the rest of my life miserable and alone.
Even if you could save $100,000, I wouldn’t recommend spending it on gynecomastia surgery. (Gynecomastia is a condition in which a man’s breasts are enlarged.) Your primary problem isn’t your chest; it’s your head. You suffer from a debilitating lack of self-confidence that will not be fixed with a simple operation. None of this is your fault, of course. Anyone would have the problems you have if they were raised in such a cruel (deliberately or not) environment. You have been dealt a painful hand.
You need professional help to learn how to manage your anxiety and to change the way you react to social situations. Ultimately, you have to change how you think about yourself. It sounds like you have a lot of great qualities to work with, so you really can feel better about yourself if you make a commitment to doing so. There are a lot of ways to find a therapist who can help. If you have a regular physician, he or she can make a referral; if you are or recently were a college student, your school’s guidance office would be a good place to start. If you’re in Rhode Island or nearby Massachusetts, you can call Butler Hospital’s referral line to get started. I have no idea what your financial situation is like, but I do know that with a little effort, you can get the help you so badly need.
As far as your gynecomastia goes, you are probably aware that there are compression shirts designed to help guys like you. An online search will bring up lots of options. This is not a solution to your problem, obviously, but it may help ease your self-consciousness while you focus on your deeper issues.
And I have one practical suggestion I think you should try. If you’re a good musician, you should start or join a band. It could bolster your self-confidence, and playing in a band is a great way to meet new people, men and women. You may not feel like this is something you can do right now, but it’s something to work toward as you learn to like and accept yourself.
I went clubbing with the girls for my birthday and we ran into a group of professional golfers who were filming a reality TV show. Drinks were flowing, courtesy of the Golf Channel, and I soon became the arm candy of one of the golfers who wouldn’t admit his age. I am 21 and single, and I ended up in his bedroom to hear him play guitar. He later gave me a love letter and is holding my stilettos hostage. Google confirms that he is a pro golfer, which is hot, but also that he is married with two kids. I have been avoiding his calls, but I miss him. Help!
The Other One
P.S. He is not Tiger Woods.
Dear Other One,
You have an opportunity that few young women get (and no unattractive ones): for a year or two, you can be one of the girls this golfer calls to have sex with when he’s in town! Now, he’s married, so depending on his level of recklessness, you probably can’t be seen together, which means conventional dates are out. But you most likely will get a nice piece of jewelry or two out of it, at least until he’s sick of you and on to the next one. Lucky you!
You can’t possibly think there’s more to this, can you? Love letters, guitar playing, playfully confiscated shoes, and “missing him” lead me to believe that perhaps you think he’s really interested in all of you rather than a few strategic parts. Sadly, I can assure you that, despite what he may have led you to believe, you’re just a cute drunk girl he’s trying to have sex with. As far as a future with him goes, there may be subsequent sex sessions if the first one is promising, but that’s about the most you can expect, I’m afraid.
Precisely what help you’re asking for is ambiguous, so let me cover the bases: if you don’t want to have no-strings-attached sex with a man who’s married with two children and whom you probably wouldn’t give a second glance if he weren’t a professional golfer, then tell him so. But if that is what you want, then answer the phone.
My parents don’t like each other, and they don’t make much of an effort to hide the fact. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. I long ago accepted the fact that they are miserable people—they can’t stand being together, but they’d hate being apart even more.
As you can imagine, this was a terrible environment to grow up in, but I have managed to lead a fairly normal life, relationship-wise, and am now happily married (to a man I actually like!) We have a 1-year-old and plan on having at least one more.
My parents love seeing their granddaughter, and she loves seeing them. It’s actually kind of jarring to me to see how sweet they are with her. Not even she can cause them to put their grievances aside, though, and visits are periodically interrupted by their name-calling, their accusations, etc. This is never directed at anyone but each other, mind you. One of them can be barking at the other, then turn to my daughter with the sweetest smile. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
I feel like I’m in a bind, though. I don’t want to deprive them of the sunshine my daughter brings into their lives, but I don’t want to expose her to their hostility, either. How can I get them to put their differences aside, at least for as long as we’re visiting?
Wants a Truce
Your instincts are absolutely right: you can’t expose your daughter to this kind of hostile dynamic. As she grows, she will take her relationship cues from you and your husband, not her grandparents, but it’s still important to avoid creating the impression that the way Grandma and Grandpa interact is healthy or acceptable.
You and your husband should sit down with them and calmly explain that the way they treat each other is setting a terrible example for their granddaughter. You’re not telling them how to live their lives, but you are telling them that in the future, you will leave if they start insulting and belittling each other. And she will not be allowed to stay with them unsupervised until you are certain they can control themselves when she’s around.
It may take an instance or two of you carrying through on this threat, but if they see that you’re serious, I think the abusive language will stop. Handled this way, you wouldn’t be depriving them of the sunshine your daughter brings into their lives. They would.
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