How Do I Not Hate Myself For Having Unprotected Sex?

Hey Ginzo,

I did something stupid last week and I am flipping out. Long story short I ended up hooking up with a stranger. The problem? We didn’t use protection. I know I am an idiot. So I am just really freaking out because even though there is no risk of pregnancy I have absolutely no idea whether or not this person had an STD. Like what if I just gave myself HIV? I am so mad at myself and embarrassed that I haven’t been able to tell anyone about it. I just feel so stupid because I don’t even have a way to contact this person. I didn’t want to use anything in the moment but now I realize THAT IS SO STUPID. I guess how do I live with myself while I wait out the time it takes to show up on tests?

I’ve Made a Huge Mistake

Dear I’ve Made a Huge Mistake,

First of all, solid Arrested Development reference. Second of all, please be kinder to yourself.

You made a mistake. You had a moment of poor judgment, and now you know that in the future, using protection, whether a condom, internal condom, or dental dam (for oral sex), is a must not only for your health but for your peace of mind. Remember this level of anxiety for the future so when you are swept up in the moment, you can pause and remember how nerve-wracking an experience it was. Learn from this that whether you are having sex with a stranger or someone you know well, you need to have protection on hand to prevent yourself from getting lost in the moment again.

Even if you do have an STI now, this doesn’t make you less smart, worthy, sexy, or deserving of love.

That being said, stop beating yourself up about it. You made a mistake, a mistake that is probably more common than you think. People have unprotected sex a lot; sometimes they contract STIs, sometimes they don’t. This does not change their value as a person. Even if you do have an STI now, this doesn’t make you less smart, worthy, sexy, or deserving of love. There is a terrible stigma in this country around having an STI, yet one in four people have one. This means that right now, you know someone (probably several someones) who has had or does have an STI. They haven’t turned into monsters or piles of human waste because of their STI; you probably don’t even know that they have one. They go on their daily lives, going to school, going to work, having relationships, eating tasty brunches, riding bikes, laughing at funny movies, and generally doing everything everyone else does. Regardless of the results of your tests, you do not have to worry that it is the end of your happiness or chance at a healthy sex life.

Also, it’s normal to worry about other people judging us when we make a mistake. But I think hiding in shame with this weight on your heart is doing more harm than good. Reach out to a friend who you consider nonjudgmental and supportive to talk to them about your concerns. Emotional support will do wonders for anxiety, and feeling the unwavering love of a good friend will help you not be so hard on yourself. So get tested, keep condoms on you, and don’t stop loving yourself, regardless of your results!

XOXO,
Ginzo

P.S. Though it sounds like you may have already researched this, I just wanted to link the information in case anyone who has stumbled upon this needs the information: here is an infographic from STDchecker.com that outlines how long after unprotected sex you should get tested for specific STIs. If you need to find free testing, you can visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/ to find a clinic near you.

Am I Wrong For Wanting to Cut Off These Friendships?

Hey Ginzo!

So super long story here, I’ll try to shorten it as much as possible…

So my brother in law, let’s call him Tyler, started dating this girl named Sierra a few years back. My husband’s family is very close and we all hang out frequently, so when we met her we were… underwhelmed. It took awhile but we eventually warmed up to her and she started sort of becoming part of the family.

In an effort to make her more comfortable during the rocky period (since I was closest in age), I introduced her to my close friend Anna. They completely hit it off and the three of us hung out a ton for awhile. I started getting busier, however, but the two of them continued to hang out all the time and became really really good friends.

Well, fast forward to this past October — Tyler and Sierra broke up. And now (about a week and a half ago near the end of February), he’s engaged to a girl he met at work. So their relationship has literally gone further than his and Sierra’s ever did in about 1/12 of the time. Ouch.

At this point, Tyler told me that Sierra had been sort of stalking his new fiance, Faye. Sierra had messaged him a few times angrily because she found out how shortly after their breakup he had moved on. Faye fixed her Facebook privacy settings and now has it to where it’s totally impossible to see ANYTHING unless you’re her friend. So Tyler, knowing Sierra, Anna, and I were close at one time, begged me to cut contact with her and severely limit what I tell Anna. I hadn’t seen Sierra in months and we rarely ever talked anymore, so I really had no issue complying.

When Tyler and Faye announced their engagement and said they didn’t care who knew anymore, I felt obligated to at least tell Anna so she could relay it to Sierra (since I didn’t think Sierra would find out any other way). The whole thing blew up in my face.
Anna started insisting that I lied to her because Tyler had asked me to keep their relationship a secret since he knew Sierra and Anna were good friends. She claimed she and Sierra aren’t that close anymore, but I know that’s a complete lie. Now Anna is pressuring me and saying that I’m a bad friend to a girl I used to be close with since I’ve chosen my family over my brother’s ex. Anna keeps stirring up drama where there shouldn’t be any, and she constantly wants me to update her on Tyler’s fiancee and what they’re doing (which is super obviously digging so she can relay it all back to Sierra). It feels like our relationship has become a quiz every time I see her, and though she believes she’s being discreet with her questioning, she really, really isn’t.

I guess my question is twofold–one, am I wrong to cut ties with Sierra mainly only because she’s an ex of a brother I’m very close to?

And two–is being friends with Anna even worth it if she’s going to try to stir the pot on any and everything I do (and all she cares about now is gathering intel and reporting it back to a girl who is heartbroken and really hasn’t had the appropriate amount of time to heal)?

Over the Drama

Dear Over the Drama,

When I read your questions, it seems to me that you know what you want to do. Having written into advice columns myself, I find just the act of writing out the problem helps the decision become clearer, and I suspect that this may have happened for you. So while I am happy to weigh in with my opinion because, hi, that is why I’m here, I think you already know that you don’t want to waste any more of your time on these people, and I can’t blame you. Is that wrong? Not at all.

As you get older, you will have less and less time for your friends, and as everyone goes down different life paths, you lose some along the way. Not every person you befriend is going to stand the test of time. As you get to know them better and face different situations with them, people prove to you exactly how invested they are in you, and you learn how invest you are in them. They show you who they are and sometimes, this is the most beautiful thing in the world, and sometimes, it is a rude awakening.This doesn’t mean that you are disloyal if you decide not to maintain certain friendships; it’s just a natural part of becoming who you really are. Someone you befriend at age 15 may not grow into someone you want to be friends with when you’re 25, and that’s okay. And if these friendships are causing you more stress than they’re worth, it’s okay to let go of them.

Regarding Sierra: you were lukewarm about her when you first met her, it seems like you may never have fully warmed to her, and now the only reason that you were friends with her, her relationship with Tyler, is over. There is no reason to be cruel, but you don’t need to feel obligated to continue being her friend. I understand why she would be upset about Tyler’s engagement; she must feel rejected and insecure right now. While I can empathize with the emotions behind it, ultimately, it isn’t about her. Dating isn’t a competition to see who is going to win the engagement ring. She wasn’t the right person for him, and the timing just worked out that he found someone better suited for him very quickly. Yes, that hurts. But by sending a bunch of nasty messages and trying to find out every scrap of information she can about Tyler and his new relationship, she isn’t doing herself any favors, and she is putting you in an awkward position on top of it. She needs some time to work through her emotions and let the relationship go. Some distance from the entire situation is probably better for her; hearing all about Tyler and Faye from Anna is just making it more difficult for her to move on. Even if, with time, you were to decide that you do want to be friends with Sierra, it’s probably better right now for you both to have distance.

As to the question of whether or not it is worth it to maintain a friendship with Anna, that is up to you to decide. Feeling used by someone is certainly a great reason not to want to spend time with them anymore, and based on this story, I am not convinced that Anna gives you the level of empathy and understanding that you deserve as a friend. She may be working under the guise that she is helping Sierra, and she may sincerely believe she is, but she is not being a good friend to you in the process. Think about the reasons you became friends with Anna, why you are friends with her now, and why you would want to maintain a friendship with her. If your only motivation is obligation, feel free to let it go.

Does this mean you need to them outright to get lost? Not necessarily. It seems like there is distance growing between you all anyway, and you may just be able to let the friendships fade. If a big confrontation is only going to cause more drama, it might be worth it to just phase both of them out, spending less and less time talking to or hanging out with them. When Anna hits you up for the latest gossip, you may be able to be vague or unresponsive enough ( perhaps with a “I don’t really know,” “Just the usual,” or a pointed subject change) that she loses interest with time. Indulging in her need for the gossip even a little bit is only going to keep her coming back for more, so don’t give her anything to work with. Without your supply of information, if gossip is really her only motivation, you may find that the friendship fizzles out on its own. However, if this doesn’t happen, you may have to just tell Anna upfront that you don’t want to be a part of the gossip train anymore, that it is emotionally draining and putting you in a weird position with your family. Based on her recent MO, she will probably try to guilt you, but stand your ground. If you’re over the drama, don’t let it dictate your life; say how you really feel, and the people who are worth your time will accept it. If she can’t understand where you are coming from, she wasn’t your friend to begin with.

XOXO,
Ginzo

How Do I Set Boundaries With My Family and Friends?

I’m not sure how to start one of these! Ok, so it seems like my friends and family only treat me like a commodity. Sometimes I feel like I’m an old doll put on the Shelf. Then when someone can use me for a purpose that’s when I’m taken off the shelf. It’s only when I can be used do I feel like I’m an important person to them. It really hurts me. I’m not sure what to do about it. I don’t know if I should talk to them or find other ways of setting boundaries. Advice would be helpful. Thanks!

Sarah

Dear Sarah,

I’m sorry to hear that you are feeling used and hurt. This is a feeling I can relate to because I’m a chronic people pleaser, and it has taken a lot of self-reflection and therapy to move away from the need to always please others and put myself first instead. In the worst of my people-pleasing days, I would do anything that was asked of me, and I never expressed my own needs. As a result, people walked all over me and I was stewing with a heart full of resentment. I had to change my self-perception and start clearly communicating expectations, not only for my own mental health, but to save these relationships. It’s something that I still struggle with, but I have turned a corner and am the best at expressing my emotions and needs than I ever have been, and my relationships and personal happiness have been reaping the benefits.

It could be that you have surrounded yourself with a bunch of users, but my rule for any scenario when it seems like everyone is treating you in a certain way is to look at what is in common in all these relationships: you. What is more likely than them being a bunch of dill holes is that your friends and family treat you this way because you haven’t communicated that it hurts you. Perhaps you are that friend who will always let someone rant about their day with no expectation of them returning the favor. People tend to think these types of friends have an endless supply of kindness and generosity for them, or more realistically, they don’t think about their feelings at all. This doesn’t mean they are any more self-involved than the general populace. Keep in mind that everyone is walking around in their own world, consumed with whatever is going on in their lives. It takes perceptive and sensitive people who are genuinely interested in your inner world to put themselves in your shoes, and even these people are caught up in their own stuff. You cannot expect anyone to read your mind; you have to clearly communicate your needs and you have to tell them when they hurt you.

Vocalizing these feelings can release you from the burden of them. I suggest you do talk to some of your friends and family about how you have been feeling, but keep a couple of things in mind. Some people will react better to this conversation than others. Some will get defensive, and some will try to minimize your feelings to make themselves feel better about hurting you. Others might be horrified that they have made you feel this way and feel very guilty about it, which, if you are like me, may make you feel terrible, too. There are some people who are going to be receptive to this conversation and will immediately take steps to ease this burden on you, but others are not going to be that emotionally intelligent. So yes, have conversations about it with the people you can trust to listen nonjudgmentally and validate your feelings, but with the people who aren’t going to be so kind, you can skip it if it is going to be more trouble than it’s worth. For both of these groups, however, you will have to actively set boundaries.

The first step in setting boundaries is to define them. You know what certain people always ask of you, so reflect on which of these things makes you feel used and drained, which you don’t mind doing so much, and which you actually enjoy. Know where your limits are so you can make them very clear. I would suggest you journal at this topic. Not only this is a great way to process emotions, it will also serve as a reminder of why you need to set these boundaries, which will be helpful when you are tired and feel like it would be easier to just give in. Write down certain go-to phrases for setting boundaries that specifically apply to scenarios in which you feel used. Some that have worked for me in the past:

“That isn’t convenient for me.”
“Now is not the right time.”
“I don’t feel comfortable doing that.”
“I can’t make that a priority.”
“I am not the right person for that; please ask someone else.”

The trick is to remain strong and always keep in mind why you are doing this. You might find that a mantra you can return to again and again will help you keep your conviction. If you are a visual person, you might write down an empowering phrase on a post-it note next to your mirror. Continuing to journal can help you keep in touch with your emotions through this process, and allow you to see where you have improved and where you still need work. Try anything you can do to help you remember that this is worth it. YOU are worth it.

There will be people who truly are using you for your generous nature, and once you start putting up boundaries, they may disappear from your life. This can hurt, but take this as the blessing that it is; you don’t need them. The added bonus is that you will find out which people truly love, care for, and respect you. These are the people who are on your team. Hold them close and appreciate them for the valuable role they play in your life. Foster these relationships by yes, helping them when they need it and you have the emotional resources, but also asking for their help. Keep these relationships as balanced as you can by leaning on them as much as they lean on you; you can trust the people who really care to be quite content with this arrangement.

It won’t be an easy journey, but it will be worth it. Keep your head up and give yourself a pat on the back for doing some important emotional work. Best of luck!

Ginzo

10 Self-Care Tips (That Don’t Involve A Bubble Bath)

Have you guys ever noticed how articles about self-care always tell you to take a bubble bath? Don’t get me wrong; I love baths. I pretty much always have bath bombs from Lush on deck, and when I don’t, I will drive an hour to buy one. I have also had several epiphanies about myself while sitting in baths, so I am not about to belittle the value of some good ole self-reflection in the tub. But self-care is about so much more than bubble baths, and the heavy emphasis on pampering yourself makes self-care seem like indulgence, which people use to justify either not taking care of themselves or participating in some unhealthy behaviors and calling it “self-care.”

Self-care is about CARING for yourself, the way you care for a child. Caring for a child is not all about taking them to the circus and giving them all of the ice cream their heart desires; it’s also about making sure that they are fed and clothed and brush their teeth and get to bed on time, plus loving them and giving them a safe space to develop and grow. Just the way you would care for a child, you need to care for yourself. So to help you in your self-care efforts, I have compiled a list of self-care tips that don’t involve a bubble bath (though tbh all this talk about baths is just making me want to take one when I’m done writing this).

Have a bedtime ritual

If you’re anything like me, you have nights when you just crawl right into bed without doing anything beforehand because why bother, we’re all going to die anyway, right? Existentialism aside, having a bedtime ritual is extremely beneficial to your sleep hygiene and ergo, your life. Rituals trigger our brains to release the hormones we associate with these particular actions; so for bedtime rituals, our brains release melatonin, the sleep hormone. Basically, having a bedtime ritual conditions you to be sleepy at bedtime, making it so much easier to fall asleep. Sleep is important for your mental and physical health, so you should prioritize it.

Apply to a new job

This tip applies specifically to y’all who hate their jobs, or feel complacent in their jobs, or just feel complacent in general. Even if it leads nowhere, applying to another job allows you to envision a different future. Don’t resign yourself to live in an existence you hate. This can apply even beyond your job. Imagine your life beyond what limits you, whether that’s your job, your apartment, your friends, or your relationship. In short, whatever it is that is making you unhappy, take steps to change it: apply for a new job, look for a new place, make new friends, and dump his ass.

Go to the dentist

I’m sure there are people out there who are extremely diligent about going to the dentist; congratulations on being responsible. I, on the other hand, will put off going to the dentist as long as humanly possible, and then endlessly worry about them judging my tartar build up and live in an anxious ball until my appointment. Maybe for you, this is not going to the dentist, but going to the eye doctor, gynecologist, or other medical appointment. Regardless of what type of doctor, just go. It’s better than living in fear of all of the terrible diseases you think you have but probably don’t, and if you do, you need to, you know, see a doctor.

Prioritize plans with yourself

If you’re anything like me, you are intimately familiar with this scenario: someone asks you to do something, and you don’t really want to do it because you had been planning to curl up in bed and eat grapes and watch reality television, but that doesn’t really count as plans so you say “yes” anyway. Eff that. It doesn’t matter if all you did was make plans with yourself, you already have plans. Don’t allow yourself to be guilted into going to your sister’s boyfriend’s poetry reading, either by your sister or by your own inner critic.

Clean and decorate

In moments when it felt like my life was completely out of my control, cleaning has been one of the most cathartic actions I have taken. When you can’t control your life, you can still control your environment. I especially like cleaning the kitchen. There is something about a clean kitchen that makes me feel so calm. I also love when my bedroom is all cozy and neat and Instagrammable (read: fairy lights, patterned quilts, and tapestries). Cleaning is not only good for your mood, but for your cognition. When I go into slob mode and make Clothes Mountain in my closet, it is so stressful getting dressed in the morning. In contrast, when I have hung and sorted all of my clothes according to style and color, I don’t start my day with any clothes-related anxiety (I will find something else to worry about instead).

Make yourself a meal

It’s so easy to fall into the same pattern of eating out, grabbing whatever is convenient, but there is something important in the act of cooking for yourself. Food is a way that many people choose to show love (i.e. me/my mom/my sister/probably your grandma/the coworker who always brings in baked goods). Why not show yourself that same kind of love? Make yourself a meal that nourishes you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sounds too lofty? Just make something that tastes delicious. Make grandma proud.

Play with an animal

At my college, they would have pet therapy day before finals to help stressed out students. This is because SCIENCE which tells us that animals have a calming effect on humans. Keep your blood pressure low by petting, playing with, or holding an animal, whether it is your pet, your friend’s, or some pups at the Humane Society.

Have a conversation with yourself

It might be hard for you to be kind to yourself. If it is, you are not alone. I have to actively combat negative and persistent thoughts of self-doubt on a daily basis, so I get it. Something that helps me sometimes when I am getting really down is to add some distance. I have a conversation with myself as though I am one of my close friends and I can approach the situation with far more kindness and love. When I have a feeling, I might say out loud, “I feel so ______ when _____ happens,” and I respond as though it was my friend who expressed this thought. Put a little distance between yourself and your feelings, and you may be surprised how much easier it is to accept them and move on.

Unplug

Have you ever felt like social media is a drug that is slowly sucking your time and soul so you close the Facebook app in disgust and swear you won’t check it till tomorrow but then you check it again almost immediately after because what if something has changed in the last 20 seconds? Whether your social media addiction is as persistent as mine or you have a better grip on it but still feel the effects of information overload, it’s healthy to unplug once and awhile. You might try charging your phone on the other side of the room when you sleep, deleting some apps off your phone so you can’t check them as regularly, or deactivating an account or two. Some people get nervous at the idea of leaving their phone at home for a few hours because what if this is the one time there is an emergency? I get that because I am also a worrier; that being said, it can be very refreshing to leave your phone at home for an hour or two while you go for a run or go spend some face-to-face time with a friend, and you will probably come home to only a few promotional emails or no notifications at all, making you wonder why you own a smartphone at all.

Invest in people who invest in you

When I was younger, I spent way too much time on people who gave little in return. Now, I spend more time nurturing relationships with people who want to nurture relationships with me. The people you invest in are the people who root for you, who ask how you are and want to know the answer, and who you unquestionably know care about you. Invest in them by returning the favor; support them, think about them, and let them know however you do that best, whether it is verbally, written, or through acts of kindness. On the flip side, let go of (or if you can’t, distance yourself from) people who only care about what you can give them, who never show any curiosity about you and your world, and who leave you feeling depleted and used. Care for yourself enough to know that you deserve better.

Happy Wellness Wednesday, y’all! Go out and care for yourselves!

Ginzo

How can I grow up to be like you?

 

How can I grow up to be like you? (This is a legitimate question)

Aww, this is such a sweet first question; thank you! Contrary to what my brain constantly tries to tell me I have to be, I am not perfect, so proceed with caution. If you are asking because you’d like to start your own advice blog or some other project that speaks to you, my advice would be to just do it. I have been thinking about this blog for months now, going between “Of course you need to do this! You can help people and do something you love!” and “This is a terrible idea. What makes you think you are qualified to give anyone advice?” In the end, the best things I have done have been because I stopped listening to the doubtful demons that plague my brain and just straight up did it. So be vulnerable, take risks, do things that fulfill you, and while you may not turn out just like me, you will be the best version of you.