Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Real Talk With Rachel: A Fake Girlfriend; a Dog-like Significant Other

by Rachel Kurzius

Hello all!

I’ve received some new perspectives about a column from two weeks ago that I thought I would share, because they deepen our understanding of how we interact with our communities.

In the original question, a letter-writer wondered his obligations to his neighbors in regard to a new speaker system he had purchased. One reader responded with the perspective of the neighbors, living in a row house sandwiched between noisy occupants. “Thus began my journey into the land of sound insulation,” she wrote, detailing the building of new walls a few inches into each room along the shared walls, leaving space for insulation.

“Problem solved. Everyone happy. Not particularly cheap, but the only way I could live with my music and my neighbors.”

A blog commenter chimed in with a point I had totally missed -- that there are laws in place to ensure peaceful environs. “There are noise regulations in DC. If they aren't adhered to, one could have a visit from a city official and accompanying fine,” wrote the commenter, who suggested the website to learn the details about the regulations.

Thanks, as always, for keeping the conservation lively. Looking forward to hearing new perspectives about the quandaries we face.


Dear Rachel,

I am a 20-year-old girl in college, and one of my close friends is a gay guy. He hasn’t come out to his parents because he thinks that if he does, they will stop paying his college tuition. His mom is his friend on Facebook. She saw photos of us together and assumed we were dating. He fed this assumption and now his parents want to meet me. I feel really uncomfortable pretending. What should I do?

Friends Without Benefits

Dear Friends Without Benefits,

Before we get into your predicament, let’s take a moment to think about the difficult situation your friend faces. Coming to terms with his identity puts him in direct conflict with his parents’ belief system. He fears telling them the truth about a relatively major part of his life -- his sexual orientation. While he’s put you in a bit of a bind, remember the much larger quandary he must square away.

While it’s always better if people can be honest with their loved ones, I can understand his efforts to be risk averse in this situation. After all, if he really thinks his parents will disown him for being gay, he might as well get a college education out of the whole thing first. Make sure you remain supportive of him, because it’s probably much harder for him to pretend he’s in a relationship with you (or has sexual feelings towards women more generally) than it is for you to deal with the fleeting discomfort you feel whenever the subject comes up.

That being said, you shouldn’t meet with his parents as his girlfriend if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Friends shouldn’t force one another to do things that make them feel queasy. You could tell him that you’re a bad liar, and introducing you to his parents as a girlfriend could give away the whole gambit.

One suggestion you might provide is the one-two punch of having him tell his parents you broke up (aaah! the tragedy of young love gone awry...) and blocking his mother from viewing his photos on Facebook. He could always explain that he blocked his photos from everyone for the sake of his future employment.

And you should similarly think of taking advantage of Facebook’s somewhat hard-to-find privacy settings. You will thank me when you begin applying to jobs and the oh-so-flattering photos of your slurping down a beer bong are long-hidden.



Dear Rachel,

I have a job that is very demanding and requires a lot of my attention and a lot of hours. My domestic partner is recently retired and quite demanding of my time. We are at different places in our lives. He forgets that I don’t have the time he has to chat during the day and he pounces as soon as I get home. I also have to check my emails throughout the weekends and evenings, and it drives him crazy. It’s a constant battle. Any advice on how to discuss this without hurting his feelings?

A Full Time Job and Another When I Get Home

Dear A Full Time Job and Another When I Get Home,

Have you considered getting a dog? Though it will attack you as soon as you get home, demanding your attention and slobbering all over you, at least it wouldn’t contact you ceaselessly throughout the day. Just kidding, but the word “pounces” made me think immediately of a golden retriever instead of a significant other.

You ask me how to discuss this matter without hurting his feelings, but it seems to me that his feelings are already hurt, if your checking emails over the weekend drives him crazy.

This whole issue comes down to boundaries. You feel like you need more personal time, while your significant other’s got more than enough on his hands. You need to find a way to resolve these differences.

Have a frank conversation in which you tell him how much you enjoy his company and hate to push him aside, but competing obligations make it impossible for you to savor his conversation when you’re at work. Then, stop answering his phone calls during work hours. Soon enough, he’ll figure out something else to do with that time.

If he pounces as soon as you get home, maybe you can find a limbo space where you can decompress after work. Is there a coffee shop you can go to for a calming tea, or a nearby park to walk through? Then, when you get home you can welcome the pounce instead of fearing it.

And finally, set aside time specifically for the two of you. During that time, you are not allowed to check your email or your cell phone. Sounds crazy, I know, but I’ve heard that people used to do this no-internet thing for their entire lives with no problem.



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a reporter at a financial trade publication. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel at (advice @


  1. I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what they're talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. Great post!!!

  2. Thanks! Your kind words are appreciated.