Episode 62: Women-Only Weed Utopia
Published September 9, 2016.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman.
Aminatou: We're going to slay the mailbag today.
Ann: I mean it's sort of like inbox slaying. Only the most interesting parts of the inbox though. [Laughs]
Ann: Oh my god, are you ready for this mailbag? We're going to do a mailbag.
Aminatou: Okay. I'm going to read the first question from the inbox.
Aminatou: "I've been dating this guy for a while, and he was a virgin when we met" -- this is a woman writing. "I've been having pretty regular sex since I was about 15 and have always been super positive despite growing up in a religion that is pretty sex negative. My boe . . ." Ooh.
Aminatou: Very cute. "Also grew up in this religion and is still very much a part of it which I respect and I'm totally fine with. We had sex at the beginning of our relationship but since then he has felt guilty about it and we stopped. It's been almost a year since I've had sex and it's driving me insane. I don't want to pressure him into anything he doesn't want to do, and on and off, emphasis on the off lately, we've fooled around and done basically everything except penetrative sex. He is so sweet to me and besides the sex thing he's essentially perfect for me. We have a great relationship in general and definitely tons of chemistry but the sex thing still bothers me. I've always considered sex to be fun, bonding, and something I'm good at, so not having any has had a pretty negative effect on my self-esteem. This huge confidence booster is suddenly gone. I don't know what I should do. I don't want to be a villain from a '90s teen sitcom but I'm also an adult and I'm missing a big part of my life. Help."
Aminatou: This question, it makes me so sad. It's a big, important part of our lives and I think she really hits the nail on the head when she relates it to self-esteem, you know? And how hers is lower now because she cannot be fully expressed in her relationship.
Ann: Yeah. Well and it also can be different depending on the relationship, but in lots of relationships and for lots of people that is a core form of affirmation, right? Like that's like a core way of saying with your body as well as your mouth that you are into this, what is happening with the two of you. And if that's one of her . . . I mean I don't mean to go all love languages, but if she certainly recognizes that that's important to her and this dude is just not on the same page . . .
Aminatou: I know. I don't know what to say beyond sex is really important to you. If you are not having sex in your relationship it will manifest itself in really toxic ways that are not sustainable long-term. And so you need to find a way to get on the same page or you need to be okay with exploring having sex in different contexts. But because this person is also religious I imagine that that is not okay.
Aminatou: That's a got to come to Jesus about that. I also grew up in a religion that was not sex-positive at all.
Aminatou: You know, and sometimes I still feel the repercussions of that, or realizing the ways that I really had shame about my body and grew up and how none of those things were net positives in the end and it was really important for me to shed that. Again, for me, it goes back to self-esteem. It's like if this makes me feel like shit it's probably not good for me in the long term.
Ann: Right. Although I have to say I'm so happy to hear this listener is in some ways having the opposite problem. Like is not like "I feel ashamed about my desire for sex." I love hearing that. Yeah, and I don't know, also when I listen to it I'm sort of like . . . I think about sexual needs as one of the big things that you can be compatible or incompatible with someone on.
Ann: And also thinking about how right now she's having this issue because her partner has maybe a religious objection, but it's actually a really common thing I think to have two people in a relationship who have different sexual appetites and place different priority on your sex life. It's weird, right? Because as you say there are ways to deal with this I feel like but most of them are not compatible with a pretty traditional outlook on what a sexual relationship is.
Aminatou: Exactly. And, you know, I think that maybe talking to your partner in terms of how this is affecting your own self-esteem and how you feel about your body and the importance that sex has on you as opposed to is it a sinful thing which frames it all around this question of religion is also a way to have a really honest conversation about it. Because if this person loves you and they want you to thrive in every way, this is not a place that they want to hold you back, you know? So I think that having a real talk about the importance that sex has outside of sinfulness or grace and where all of that falls, but also, man, religion, so . . . ugh.
Ann: It's true. I'm also just like, you know, if your morality involves a healthy sexual relationship with your partner and your partner's morality is like abstinence-only, that's a kind of incompatibility that you need to address anyway.
Aminatou: No, totally. And they'll still fool around with you and do everything but, you know? I'm just like hmm. There's a little bit of context that's missing here.
Aminatou: In the sense where I'm viewing all of this as very sweet but at the same time I have no patience for people who say that they're religious and righteous and will do everything but penetration. I'm just like please.
Ann: Or only -- will do anything but one specific type of penetration. Let's be real.
Aminatou: Exactly. Hello Catholic girls.
Ann: Certain penetration is okay but . . .
Aminatou: No, totally. No, I'm just like if you're afraid of being a hypocrite you're already a hypocrite. So don't make somebody else feel bad.
Ann: Right. Your judgy god is already judging you if that's how you feel.
Aminatou: Yeah, your judgy god's already judging you. We're judging you. Don't worry. So might as well go all in. But I really think that if you love someone and they love you back you need to find a way to talk about sex in that healthy, positive way.
Ann: Right. And both feel good about what you are and aren't doing.
Aminatou: Good luck listener!
Ann: And congrats on getting over your religious body shame -- sex shame.
Aminatou: I know. Your body's beautiful.
Aminatou: "My girlfriend and I grow weed in southern Oregon, and as the season just started for us a couple days ago I'm reminded about how irritated I get while working alongside, underneath, and mostly above men." [Laughs] Whew, a word. "I grew up in a family of mostly women. I'm gay and choose mostly female friends. I've had a lot of jobs that are typically male jobs but it worked because I was usually at the bottom of the chain. I have zero experience being a woman in charge and I'm finding it exhausting to learn by trial-and-error. I feel like every day we have to defend our position and remind people who is boss. It's so annoying but necessary in order to make sure everything runs smooth and jobs are done right. Before we build our own weed empire that works exclusively with women I'd like to learn how to work with men." Ugh, can't wait to come work with you.
Ann: [Laughs] Hire us.
Aminatou: Right? "At least to get myself through these next six months without compromising my low blood pressure and generally easy-breezy attitude. Can you guys suggest any books, workshops, seminars, meditations, mentors to follow, anything that teaches women how to be comfortable being dominant in a male industry? Do you have any tips of your own? I'm looking around but I'm only finding articles about how to let your male coworker know that you are interested in him while still being office appropriate. Thanks."
Ann: Oof. So the question is how to be a dominant woman in a typically male-dominant industry. And how to manage men, right?
Ann: Oh, man. Well I feel like the male-dominant industry question is probably better for you. I've definitely managed my share of men but it was always in an office environment that was a little bit more gender even.
Aminatou: I've managed I want to say probably slightly more men than women. That's true. No, actually, I've managed more men than women. Now I'm putting it all in perspective. I don't know, man. I think . . . I think first you just have to be okay with who you are.
Aminatou: Like it's true. It's like here's the thing. For me . . .
Ann: The fact that you're a boss?
Aminatou: The fact that you're a boss. That's a thing that you're just going to have to own that and you need to be confident about that on your own regardless of what being a boss is and who you are the boss of and what you are the boss of, because people that you are managing, they can smell incompetence like fear and they can smell insecurity like fear.
Ann: Right, right, right.
Aminatou: That's very true. And you know, for me, I think that for a long time I was just very conscious of well, everybody's going to assume that I'm black and loud and I have to prove my credentials and blah, blah, blah. All of these things. Which in some settings has been true, but I think at the end of the day depending on what industry you work in your job also sets you for success or they set you for failure. I've been really lucky that I have worked in places that have set me up for success and have taught me how to be a people manager. But I think that generally what I would say is be confident yourself in what you're doing, and two, anybody that you manage regardless of gender is going to be a problem for you at some point. And I think that not being a gender absolutist is probably really important.
Ann: The tension for me, and I think . . .
Aminatou: I think I just don't see men.
Ann: Like oh, my invisible reports who I don't even see because they're men. I think for me when I was a boss the tension was between wanting to do it better than the mostly men who had managed me in the past, in that the other managers in my workplace and the people who had managed me throughout my career were pretty much all men. So I knew that I did not want to follow their example. Like I thought that many of them were super incompetent. But then, you know, there is the flip side of understanding that, I don't know, there's like reams of research about how women absolutely can't win, right? Like if you are definitive and clear about what you want then people are like oh, you know, she's a bitch to work for, or don't want to sort of come along with you and do what you want them to do. The flip side is if you're too nice it's like the same thing. It's like they'll use anything as an excuse not to respect you.
I think part of it is, and I don't know exactly what your situation is, but because you talk about being the boss I assume that you have some power over who is reporting to you. And so you can kind of self-select for men who respect women and have no problem or who have less problem answering to them. I think that's important.
Part of the male-dominated industry thing I think is thinking about your peers, like the other boss-level people in your industry who are probably likely to be men. And on that front I think that is actually harder for me, right? If I'm like ultimately I'm your boss, like Amina says, if I feel good about myself and feel confident in the choices that I'm making, managing is not that big of a deal. Feeling like I want respect or wanting to network or be a part of the same professional circle as the men who are at my level, where I don't know if I have advice on that front. Like that feels a little bit different.
Aminatou: I just want to note that I did a quick Google for how to manage men if you're a woman and the first thing that showed up was "How to manage men, set goals for them."
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: Unlike the rest of your employees? That's ridiculous.
Aminatou: But I will say this, right, is that one way I have found to manage men is by using the exact tactics that you're taught on how to manage difficult people.
Ann: [Laughs] Sorry.
Aminatou: You know, sometimes you have conflict just based on different things. I have found that even when sexism arises at work, taking a huge breath and trying to see the situation from their angle and really being like how much of this is just I do not like this personal interpersonally and this is creating conflict, and how much of it has to do with work, and just having a full set of information, is real. And I think the other thing that has been really helpful for me in managing difficult people/men is to have the direct confrontation.
Ann: Oh, the direct conversation is so important.
Aminatou: The direct confrontation, because one, it just reestablishes the power dynamic. It's like hello? I manage you and I am responsible for your work. And also it's like looking somebody in the eye and telling them "Hi, do you have a problem with me? Do you have a problem with how I'm running this team? Or what is the problem?"
Ann: "Or are you unclear on anything I've communicated to you on what you need to be doing?" Yeah.
Aminatou: Like that, unless you're a coward, that's a situation that will just . . . those kinds of confrontations tend to sort themselves out. And I don't mean confrontation in the sense that it has to be this tension-filled, like you have to yell or whatever. No way. It's just really instead of writing into our podcast or talking to your other friends about it, really pulling that employee aside and saying "Hi, here's the pattern that I have noticed. What do you think?" And I think that also recentering work conversations around work itself and how to make it more efficient and how to make it better.
Ann: Right, like what is our shared professional goal here?
Aminatou: Yeah, like deliver it faster, like reminding people that you are on the same team is a lot of what you're going to have to do and really teaching people that you are on their side and this is not a competition. We're all doing the same thing. But yeah, I'm telling you, just Google all the tactics for how to manage difficult people.
Ann: Yeah, I mean . . .
Aminatou: And those will be helpful to you.
Ann: And also, I mean, I think that part of what's embedded in this question is how do I manage people who are different from me? Not just like maybe difficult . . . she says upfront "My world is almost all women. It's more just people who I don't have experience collaborating with."
Aminatou: No, totally.
Ann: And I think that is really real. Work is people who you would not choose to associate with socially.
Aminatou: Not your team.
Ann: Yeah, exactly, trying to get something done. So I don't know, part of me, I have a lot of admiration for the fact that you're like I'm going to commit to learning how to deal.
Ann: Because if you were like "I'm just going to setup my women-only weed utopia," I think it'll actually be a better business for having dealt with managing people who are different from you, a.k.a. men.
Aminatou: Yeah. And I really want to go back to this we made fun of goal setting a little earlier but I really think that one way to have unimpeachable work interactions is by having really clear, set goals.
Aminatou: Measurable and assigning people to them. Because then that's the context in which you discuss things, you know? And it just makes it harder for things to become personal and it makes it harder for people to feel like you don't like them or whatever. It's like all you care about is are you doing your work in a professional setting?
Ann: Totally. This is like okay, we've agreed on the goal. It's on you to figure out how to get there. I think there's a real element too of not micromanaging that helps, to say okay, we've agreed that this is where you need to go. You're going to figure out how to get there. And then in six months or one month or whatever you set we're going to check in and assess how you've done. That's the way you do it. That's not related to personal feelings about each other.
Aminatou: Good luck listener.
Ann: And please invite us to hang out in your women-only weed utopia once you've established it.
Aminatou: Yeah, how can I be an investor on the ground? Please.
Ann: We'll hit you up with sponsorship info for this podcast. [Laughs]
[Music and Ads]
Aminatou: Okay, next question.
Ann: Ooh, it's also a sexy one. "I'm currently very much single for the last year-and-a-half and guys that I meet are just ugh, no words, and I'm having these sex dreams all the time. Like I'm dreaming about having sex with some strangers, women dudes," in parenthesis firefighter, question, exclamation point, question, exclamation point.
Aminatou: No shame.
Ann: "Or, but very rarely, guys that I know or used to know. And it isn't just sex; it's like very passionate in weird places, stuff like that. In the morning I wake up and my vagina is just ready to explode. Am I weird or what?"
Aminatou: You're not weird. You're 100% normal and your body is normal and I kind of love that you're having all of these . . . [Laughs]
Ann: Your subconscious is getting down.
Aminatou: Yeah, your subconscious is getting down. You're a sexy lady who wants sexy times. You know, I have read and heard that sex dreams are actually not -- if you're having a sex dream about a specific person, it doesn't mean that that's the person whose bones you want to jump; it just means that's the first person who came front to mind in your jumbled brainwave activity.
Ann: Your brain just connected two unrelated dots which is you like sex and you saw this person at some point.
Aminatou: Yeah, and you've concocted sexy sex scenarios for yourself. Like women are stimulated on an amazing range, like deep and large range of things, and that's probably a part of it. You know, instead of stressing out about the fact that you're having sex dreams, you should focus a little bit on how much you can love yourself and your own pleasure, whether that involves somebody else or just yourself.
Ann: Stay in bed a few extra minutes, you know?
Aminatou: I know. I think you should really enjoy this really special moment in life.
Ann: Oh, completely. And, you know, thinking about what you were just saying about women being turned on by everything, it's something that I really take comfort in. After I read about the research that they showed women everything from like . . .
Aminatou: Like a baboon -- yeah.
Ann: Totally, totally, like baboons humping to like, you know, all combinations of genders getting it on, and women pretty universally are kind of just turned on by sexiness. Which is not to say all women ever, etc., but women in this study.
Aminatou: Yeah. You should cherish that.
Ann: Oh my god, completely. Like the ability to find sexiness in unexpected places.
Aminatou: Sandwich shops.
Ann: Random just like butts walking down the street.
Aminatou: Totally, weirdo TV shows.
Aminatou: Nick Cage movies.
Ann: Nick Cage movies.
Aminatou: This was mostly directed at Ann.
Ann: That is my own book of secrets, please.
Aminatou: I understand that frustration of like "I'm a single lady. I do not have access to a regular sexual partner." And this is a good time in your life to learn more about your own self, your own body, and what you like, and sex is not always between two people.
Ann: It's true. It's true. Take yourself shopping. Stay in bed a few extra minutes. Like yeah, enjoy it.
Ann: Okay, next question. "I know y'all didn't come up with it but I totally loved the high road is oversold to oppress you. I embraced it so much. I realized I used it to justify being an asshole to my neighbor who woke me up last night by yelling at his TV and then talking very loudly on the phone about what an exciting game it was. Because I then vowed to blast really loud music when I woke up, which I did. What is the balance between standing up for yourself and just being rude to people?"
Aminatou: Those two things are very separate things. There is no balance. I think that this is a classic you didn't stand up for yourself and then you employed passive-aggressive tactics because it is a cowardly thing to do that a lot of us do. This is not exclusive to this person. But I think that not setting those things up, it's an either/or. One part of standing up for yourself is dealing with conflict in real time and also just having clear expectations. It's like this person is your neighbor. They're not in your life in a significant kind of . . . you know, who cares? Like yes, you share a wall with them, but that's the extent of the relationship that you have. If this person is being loud, going up to them and saying "Hey, it's 2:00 in the morning. You are being loud. That's inconvenient to me." Or writing them a note or something in real time. It's better than that. Because once you do the jerky thing days later he's not going to connect the dots that it was in response to the loud noise.
Ann: Right, like he wasn't paying any attention to himself making loud noise. Yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah. And I think that this is also such a reminder to just assume good intentions from everyone until you have information that they're trying to make your life miserable. So yes, your neighbor definitely should not have been playing loud music or being loud at the game at 2 a.m. 100% true. But how does he know that that's not okay if you don't tell him?
Ann: Yeah, and I think . . . well when I think about that phrase about the high road being oversold to oppress you, I think of it a lot in terms of direct interaction. You know, wherein someone makes a comment to you that you've been told you should just let slide and instead confrontation is correct. And I think it totally applies in this situation too, right? Like if someone makes a passive-aggressive comment to your face about your body for example.
Ann: The high road thing is to ignore it, but you should really say "Excuse me?"
Ann: And the same thing about whatever, like loud music or anything, it's like standing up for yourself is not rude.
Aminatou: It's not rude, especially if . . . the calculus that I do is always like how much is this going to annoy me tomorrow? You know? And if I'm going to be annoyed about it then I know I need to say something because then I'm going to be annoyed at myself and I'm not the person who offended myself. [Laughs] So, you know, I think that that's . . .
Ann: I have offended myself before, but most cases . . . [Laughs]
Aminatou: Mostly when I don't do -- when I don't stand up for myself. Then I'm like ugh, you know? Whatever.
Aminatou: Stand up for yourself in real time. Also neighbors are annoying but you've got to tell your neighbors what you're okay with.
Ann: Yeah, boundaries, right?
Aminatou: Yeah, boundaries. You know, city living is stupid. We're all living on top of each other, like near each other, all of these things. And some people just have no home training so you've got to periodically remind them no screaming at 2:00 in the morning. You've got to say it.
Ann: Yeah, most of the time that the high road is oversold to oppress you it's in a no home training situation or someone else. This is like basic shit that you should know not to say to someone else or do to someone who lives nearby.
Aminatou: We found this other question that's been lingering in our inbox for a while.
Ann: We answered it like literally years ago.
Aminatou: Years ago, but the advice still stands so you get to listen to it now.
Ann: I'll read it and that puts the burden of answering first on you.
Aminatou: Oh boy. Okay.
Ann: I don't know what the question is even about. I'm just diving. Okay. "I decided to seek y'alls advice for a situation of mine that is frustrating. I have a friend whose semi long-term girlfriend broke up with her about a month ago." Okay. "The friend is devastated. She thought that this was her life-long partner. I've talked to my friend numerous times about this, on the phone when it first happened, on the phone again for reassurances, in person the other day. She is going through the grief cycle so I've heard crying, anger, sadness, and other parts of her life story. My friend is trying to make me that friend to her, the friend she can call and rely on when trauma and personal despairs hit, the person to process with. I wouldn't say a bestie but she wants to rely on me more heavily than before. The issue is that I'm not interested." Whew.
Ann: Sorry, that is hard. That is cold. "She's not that friend for me and I do not want to make her that friend. I would not call her if I faced a breakup or a death in the penalty. I've known this friend for about six years and typically see her every three to four months. I have not been giving her the signs that I want to become that friend for her. I am urging her to seek therapy because at this point my compassion and level of therapy expertise is facing its limit."
Ann: "I asked my mom what she should do, and she said with Wisconsin accent, 'You need to tell her hey, I don't want to talk to you anymore about this. You need to go to therapy.'" Sorry, this is my Wisconsin mom. Maybe it's my mom.
Aminatou: I'm dying. [Laughs] Your Wisconsin accent.
Ann: "Unfortunately I'm not as direct as my mother. Any thoughts or suggestions?"
Aminatou: Whew, this is . . . okay, I mean I guess there's a lot to unpack here. I will say this: I don't know what this person should do. [Laughs] But . . .
Ann: This is how . . .
Aminatou: I do find that anecdotally this is true. It's always people who get in relationships, they go do their own little thing, they don't put the face time in or check in. When the relationship dies, they somehow believe that they have magic privileges that they can access. And I'm like I don't know, man. You didn't put the mileage into what you needed and now you want too much.
Ann: Well, and this doesn't even seem like they were super close prior to that. She was just like I see her every three to four months.
Aminatou: Yeah, I have a lot of feelings about this. [Laughs] Because I have a lot . . . I know a lot of women who have tried for me to be that friend, and I think that sometimes I've successfully been that friend, and other times, hmm. I will say that as I've gotten older I just have less patience with it because on one hand it is draining. But on the other hand as this person said sometimes it's like no, actually you need to go to therapy. You don't need somebody to make you feel better and hash it out all the time because all you want to do is vent. If you actually want to move forward, which I think you're allowed a ton of wallowing and whatever is going on with you, but at some point if you do want to move forward and you feel that you can't do that on your own, professional help much appreciated because you pay those people to give you real talk unlike this podcast.
Ann: Right. And to listen to you talk yourself in circles, I don't know. I think this is hard because we don't know the backstory of who else this friend has in her life or what her history is or whether she is one of the many people who dropped all of her friends for her relationship and then is like oh shit post breakup. We don't know her story. All we know is she clearly doesn't have other people.
Ann: like if you're going to a friend you only see every three to four months constantly in a time of breakup it's like okay, you probably don't have someone who you've maintained a close . . .
Aminatou: No, that's true. But also some people, you give them an inch and they'll take your whole arm. Like a "Hey, how are you?" turns into "Ah, I'm going to call you every night." I think that it's . . . like we don't have the specifics about this. But again a reminder to really invest in the people. It's like basically people who are like "I want to have a daughter because when I get older she's going to take care of me." [Laughs]
Ann: Misguided. So misguided.
Aminatou: You know what I mean? No, I mean misguided but also a truth. That's why all these foreign adoptions are always girls too because they're like guess who's going to take care of me? I think you need to have a little bit of that in the back of your mind with how you treat your friends because if you're not there it's hard for them to be there for you and it's hard for you to ask that. But clearly some people have no chill.
Ann: I also just don't . . . it's not totally clear from her email if this friend is calling her every single day or it's just they continue to see each other not that regularly but she dominates the whole conversation with her breakup talk. But I think that either way it's fair to be like "Hi, I am a person in this relationship too and sometimes I have problems that are not the fact that I just broke up with my girlfriend."
Aminatou: Ooh, that's good.
Ann: And I do feel like there's a little bit of two-way friendship street reality checking that can happen that is maybe not going to be super effective if she's not already a little self-aware, but probably worth trying.
Aminatou: Yeah. The nuclear option is also to just give them your therapy referral immediately, right? And go "I'm not equipped to talk about this. Here's somebody who would love to talk to you about this." [Laughs]
Ann: I thought you were going to say the nuclear option was not answering your phone.
Aminatou: No, because that's not sincere, you know? And also at the end of the day you do want this person to get help. You know, some people react -- I've done that. People are like "Here's what's going on in my life." And I'm like "I'm not equipped. Here's Ellison. She's great. She works in DuPont Circle."
Aminatou: "She'll take you on a sliding scale. She'll help you."
Aminatou: But a lot of people actually react really poorly to that because they're like "I'm not damaged. Why do I need to go talk to a therapist when I could just emotionally vomit on you all the time?" It's tough.
Ann: Right. But I do think there's a selfishness to that and pointing that out and maybe not saying you're being selfish but pointing it out like "Hi, I have problems too."
Aminatou: Yeah, you know? Just bring up your own problems. Whew, this is tough.
Aminatou: You know, just delegate your mom to take care of this for you.
Ann: Oh my god, a very special message for you from my mom.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Ooh. Yeah, no, that is heavy. Okay. Good luck! Good luck listener!
Ann: Thanks for writing us letters.
Aminatou: Write us more letters.
Ann: We're firstname.lastname@example.org. We love succinct letters with concrete questions.
Aminatou: That's right. No rambling or we probably will not read your question.
Ann: You can find us elsewhere on the Internet as well at callyourgirlfriend.com. You can find us on iTunes where we would love it if you left us a review. We're @callyrgf on Twitter and on Instagram and on Tumblr. You can also find us on Facebook. Google it. And you can even leave a short and sweet voicemail which is another way we like to answer questions. That's 714-681-2943. 714-681-CYGF. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.
Aminatou: See you on the Internet!
Ann: See you on the Internet.