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January 24-30, 2007

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, I have two friends right now who are having terrible times in their relationships caused by their snooping through their husband's things. In both cases, they found very hurtful evidence of infidelity. One was having a full-blown affair, and the other was having a very flirty relationship with someone from his work. (No real damage was done, but who knows where things might have gone if his wife hadn't read those e-mails.) Honestly, I would have to say they were happier before! I know it's important to know the truth, but does that make it OK to pry through someone's private things? They both feel justified in what they have done, but I can't help wondering, was it worth it?--Flummoxed

Dear Flummoxed: There is something distinctly disturbing about being lied to, and though the truth can be wickedly painful, many people would prefer the slap in the face of reality than to live the humiliating life of the deceived. Being deceived, especially in love, has a bottom-of-the-barrel, scraping-the-algae-off-of-the-face-of-despair tone to it that few want anything to do with. Does this mean that the truth is worth it? Not necessarily. Sometimes, the things we lose in the face of truth are irreplaceable, and the damage done by a lie uncovered can be far more devastating than if the act had passed unnoticed. After all, who among us has not done something, in the heat of some form of passion, that we later regret? Who among us has never lied? On the other hand, the truth often provides a vehicle for accelerated personal growth. It's possible that by bringing these issues into the open your friends may be forced into a more authentic existence.

As for prying, unless it's to save a life, it is not OK to go through someone else's things. If you want to know the truth, then you should ask, and if the person lies to you, that's their prerogative. I guarantee that if you explore your loved one's personal effects--be it a journal, a phone conversation, an e-mail or a letter--you are likely to find something that you will not like. No matter how tempting it might be to pry--and, oh, it is tempting!--we must all try our best to resist. There are other ways to find out the truth, ways that are not nearly so circumspect or likely to be misconstrued.

People have different boundaries in their relationships in regards to privacy. Some couples share an e-mail address; others would not even consider it. Even in times of strife, it is still your obligation to adhere to the agreement that you have with your partner in regards to personal space. Chances are, the e-mail love affair would have amounted to naught and was just a little blip in a moment of weakness that would have been better left undiscovered, and that the infidelity would have made itself known, eventually, because infidelities usually do. It's in their nature.

Dear Sydney, I was driving home from work when I passed a strange animal on the road. It was a fox with its head stuck in a Frito Lay potato chip bag. This poor animal was disoriented and dangerously close to the road. I had to get the bag off its head, so I did what any good citizen would do, I took a redwood branch and got the bag off. The little fox dashed away. Why can't people be more conscious about what they do with their garbage?--Sick of the Trash

Dear Sick: Sometimes garbage ends up on the road by accident. A chip bag can fly out of someone's car window or be dragged from a garbage bin and then discarded by a raccoon. We live in a time where packaging has become an integral part of our existence. In fact, if we humans had to choose between an end to electricity or to no more packaging, we might actually have to a pause for a movement to consider. Until the day someone invents a machine that can consume and render all garbage into organic compost, I'm afraid that it is not just our little foxes that are in danger of getting their heads stuck in the bag, but all of us.

Dear Sydney, I'm in a lesbian relationship, and this has happened to me more than once: A guy befriends my girlfriend and becomes friends with both of us, but in the end it seems like he's just trying to get down my girlfriend's pants. Then I feel betrayed, and the friendship has to come to an abrupt end. I feel like if I was a guy, this wouldn't even come up. Do you think that men would be more respectful of our relationship if we were heterosexual? --Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: What makes you think that if you find your girlfriend so attractive that you want to sleep with her every night, someone else might not as well? Unless the offender has confessed his desire at the onset of your friendship, then you have no way of determining exactly when he began to feel the need to remove your girlfriend's clothing. Maybe it crept up on him. His initial intentions might not have been sleazy or in anyway covert. There are definitely men who, when told "I have a girlfriend," will shrug their shoulders and say, "That's cool, you want to go out anyway?" But there are also men who will say that to a woman when she says she has a husband. If this wasn't the case, then heterosexuals would never cheat on each other. But they do.

The fact is, as a lesbian, you will be dealing with people who are disrespectful of your relationship all of the time, and not because they want to fuck your girlfriend, either, but because they don't understand you. Just be happy that your guy friend appreciates you for who you are, and don't be so quick to throw away an entire friendship simply due to a little misplaced desire. He'll get over it. Of course, you could request that your girl start dressing in a gunny sack and stop washing her hair, but what would be the beauty in that? Not too many guys would bother with a full-blown friendship, just to nab a married dyke. My guess is, he probably really likes you.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.