DEAR NATALIE: I started dating this guy recently and he likes to send me DMs on Instagram throughout the day with funny memes to look at. Well, the last two have not been funny. He found these videos of animals being brutalized and sent them to me. I thought (at first) that he was going to comment on how atrocious it was. But I was wrong. He thought it was funny. He was making fun of the situations and the animals. I’m a vegetarian and a huge animal lover so I was horrified by what he sent. I tried to talk about this with him but he told me I was being too sensitive and said “who cares about them, anyway.” I haven’t spoken to him in two days and he’s been blowing up my phone wondering why I won’t respond. I liked this guy a lot and now I’m questioning my judgment. Should I discuss with him again how I feel? Why does dating in your 30s have to be so terrible? Send help. -ANIMAL LOVER
DEAR ANIMAL LOVER: Cut ties with this guy immediately, take a long, hot shower and try to forget this ever happened. Whenever anyone laughs or mocks any creature in pain, that is a major red flag. This guy could have underlying anger issues and be a violent person. I know dating can be rough, but at least you figured this one out sooner than later. It’s a blessing in disguise that he showed his true colors so quickly. Dust yourself off and move on. There are plenty of fish in the sea -- and plenty who don’t find pleasure in another’s pain.
DEAR NATALIE: My best friend just came out to me as trans. This wasn’t a huge surprise to me, and I am in total support of them. My girlfriend, however, is more conservative than I am. She thinks that my friend, who goes by Sharon now, is just going through a phase. I tried to explain to her that Sharon has been struggling with their identity for a long time and I was proud of them for their bravery. She just doesn’t seem to understand and is treating Sharon unkindly. It’s also turning me off that my girlfriend is acting like this, and so we are having issues. How do I resolve this situation? If this was our child -- and I wanted to have children with her -- would she still be reacting this way? I’m not sure what to do or say to help her understand. Any advice? -GIRLFRIEND IS TRANSPHOBIC
DEAR GIRLFRIEND IS TRANSPHOBIC: People can be afraid of what they don’t understand. Oftentimes, we mask our fear with outrage, anger and willful ignorance. We deflect and decide that we don’t want to know or understand because it’s uncomfortable. It’s not Sharon’s job to educate your girlfriend. It isn’t your job, either. Just because someone’s experience is different from our own doesn’t make it any less valuable, legitimate or real. I applaud you for standing by Sharon through this time in their life where they need support and the love of friends. Sharon has every right to live in a way that is most authentic to them, and I feel sorry that your girlfriend’s mind is so narrow that she won’t acknowledge what strength it took for them to embrace who they really are. I can understand why you are turned off, too. It’s hard when we pull back the curtain and see a side of someone that we didn’t realize was there. But the good news is that people can evolve. They can educate themselves, they can listen to those outside of their own experience, and they can create a space for tolerance in their own hearts. But it is a choice they have to make. And you have to make your choice, too. Is this the kind of person you want to build a life with? Maybe if you share your concerns with her, it will push her along her own journey. Or maybe it won’t. Either way, you have to decide what the future looks like for you and any potential children you bring into the world.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter
@NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci