Blog Posts by Steven Petrow

  • Straight Talk: Guess Whose Views Are Coming to Dinner?

    Photo: IStockPhoto.comQuestion: "We're planning a dinner party next month when my partner's gay cousin comes to town. The two of them have had a lot of fun being "the lesbian cuzzes" in their very traditional family, but a recent email from her has me worried. She's gone all Tea Party on us. I'm personally appalled, but I'm even more worried that our dinner table will become a battleground, as all the other guests are outspoken, liberal gay friends of ours. How do I head off a blowup?"

    The fine art of hosting a successful dinner party starts with a smart invite list. Who's likely to get along, which guests have common interests, who can keep a good conversation going? It certainly sounds like you've got yourself a lively list, which could make for a spirited and fun evening - or a disaster.

    I understand your worries about your soiree ending up in fisticuffs -- after all that's why traditional manners forbids discussing politics or religion at the dinner table. Still, even if many of our

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  • Straight Talk: Remedies for Loneliness

    Image: IStockPhoto.comQuestion: "I'm a 22-year-old, gay, Afro-Caribbean man living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I'm at my wits' end in trying to find friendship and companionship. No visible community exists here, and I doubt an underground community exists either. Online attempts to find 'friends' have been disappointing. I'm at a point where I've realized that what I need most now is emotional and physical intimacy, but I'm at a place where this is most unlikely to be found. I'd love to move to a city with thriving communities like D.C. or NYC, but I lack the resources to do this. How do I cope with this loneliness?"


    • Get out of dodge. Even if it's a challenge and seems difficult, it will give you a goal to aim for. You should be around people of your own sensibilities and interests. A large percentage of the Caribbean can be very anti-nurturing for gay people and you probably have very little support there.

    • Do not give up hope that you will find what you need. There are social sites for

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  • Question: "My partner and I were in a quiet restaurant trying to have dinner near two straight guys, one of who was carrying on a very loud, endless cell phone conversation. We asked them to keep it down. Then one of them, drunk and obnoxious, came over and tried to pick a fight. He leaned over our table and started to "gay bait" us. Do we: 1) tell him to f*ck off, 2) engage in the verbal battle, 3) ignore him, or 4) accept the invitation to step outside to duke it out?"

    Answer: The best choice is: 5) Ask your server for assistance--which I understand from our follow-up conversation that you did. You wrote: "I asked the waitress if she could talk to the cell-phoners and she was very uncomfortable with that -- and it continued. Finally, one of the guys comes over to our table and says, 'Let's go outside, I am going to smack you one.' The exchange continues and he then leans over the table, in my face, and threatens: 'If you are nice I will show you my big fat d*ck.' I respond:

    Read More »from StraightTalk: How to Deal with a Homophobic Restaurant Confrontation and "Can You Refer to a Lesbian Couple as Mrs. And Mrs?"
  • Straight Talk: Will Someone You Know Come Out During This Year’s Gay Pride Celebrations?

    Image: IStockPhoto.comLast summer I visited more than thirty cities, from Ann Arbor to Washington D.C., talking about my new book on gay and lesbian life. While I was out and about, I heard from a lot of straight folks and got their side of the story - and one thing I heard repeatedly was how confusing and challenging it can be for them when someone they know says, "Yep, I'm gay."

    By and large, the straight people I met had big hearts -- wanting to know more so that they could do better, and not become a victim of "foot-in-mouth" (or what I call "faux pas") disease. But many harbored all flavors of fear, misinformation, and prejudice. Some of the questions I heard included: "Is it a phase?" (No.) "Can they become straight?" (No.) "Will I have grandchildren?" (There are millions of kids in same-sex families today.) "Is being gay a choice?" (Try asking yourself when you chose to be straight and you'll understand why the answer is "no.")

    Over the next two weeks, as Gay Pride is celebrated from coast-to-coast,

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  • Straight Talk: How to Celebrate Father's Day when Your Kid Has Two Moms

    2012-06-11-JUNE17th.jpgQuestion: Our son, who has two moms and no dad, came home from school this week and said that his fourth-grade class will spend an hour making Father's Day cards. He didn't know what to say to the teacher. How can we help him here?

    Answer: These days, most North American families don't conform to the classic model of the nuclear family; so not having a father at home is a pretty common scenario. When push comes to shove, it doesn't really matter whether it's a single mom raising her child alone, a mother who's been widowed, or a pair of lesbian moms: a family is a family, with or without a dad around.

    Fortunately, many school districts have reacted to changing circumstances by modernizing this little ritual (along with its counterpart, Mother's Day), either by changing its name to "Parent's Day" or simply by letting the kids make a card for any relative, teacher, or role model.

    That said, I don't think this is a circumstance where you should make your child do the talking (not at his

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  • Straight Talk: Funerals as Fundraisers

    Image: Courtesy of Steven PetrowQuestion: The New York Times recently did a long article on a gay psychotherapist who committed suicide, ostensibly because he had trouble accepting his age as he approached 50. Ironically, he had just finished writing a book about smart strategies for aging in the LGBT community. While terribly sad, I was puzzled by the invitation for his memorial service (posted on his Facebook page), which read:

    To celebrate the life and memory of Bob Bergeron a benefit for SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders)If you'd like to donate, please [click here]Save the Date:The afternoon of Saturday, May 12th

    Isn't turning someone's death into a fundraising opportunity rather inappropriate?

    I read that Times story, too, and my heart broke for Dr. Bergeron and the dark place he must have found himself in. His friends and family have my deepest sympathy as they work through the aftermath of this tragic end to his life.

    In many ways our community has

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  • Straight Talk: Friends Don’t Text Friends when They Should Call

    Image: IStockPhoto.comImage: IStockPhoto.comQuestion: I was having a hard week at work, and on top of that my girlfriend started making noises about our "slowing things down." I really needed to talk, and I called one of my (supposedly) best friends to vent. She didn't pick up, even though I think she was home. And she didn't call back, even though my message was clearly urgent. Instead she sent an email the next day asking what was up. ("How are u? Let's talk.") Isn't it bad manners to return a phone call with an email, especially to a friend in need? I'm pissed.

    Answer: I'm with you. Protocol suggests you return any message via the same medium in which it was sent. Think of it as "an i for an i." Even a quick text from your iPhone deserves at least a text back, and a phone call requires a return phone call. That doesn't mean you can't email a quick note (or send a text) when you pick up a voice mail to explain that you're out of town, that you're stuck in a meeting or in the middle of a therapy session. You still

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  • Straight Talk: On Dividing the Bill, Not Friendships

    Question: I used to throw myself an annual birthday dinner, but I had to suspend it because of hard feelings it was causing among my friends. The bill rarely ended up being fair, because some friends didn't drink at all while others quaffed half a dozen top-shelf martinis. There would always be one person who'd order the most expensive thing on the menu and another who'd have the One-Cheerio Salad, but when the bill came somebody would always say, "Oh! Let's just split it seven ways!" My friends aren't cheapskates (for the most part), but eventually the tee-totalling bulimics who were coughing it up (so to speak) to subsidize bigger appetites cried foul. So, is there an easy way to make group dining more fair? Should everyone be responsible for their own meals? Doesn't that just lead to embarrassing little squabbles over who had the second Diet Pepsi?

    Answer: Many a friendship has gone down the kitchen sink over how a restaurant check will be divided. Years ago I stopped going out

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  • Straight Talk: How to Fight with a Cookie Monster

    Image via Steven PetrowQuestion: I've been reading that the Girl Scouts are taking some big heat from "severe" conservatives like Bob Morris, the Indiana representative, who claims the group is a "radicalized organization" that "sexualizes" young girls and promotes homosexuality. It really got my goat when Morris wrote in an open letter: "Many parents are abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles," then deriding the organization further because it accepts transgender young people. These ridiculous allegations anger me and I'd like to do something. But what?

    Answer: Buy more cookies.

    As soon as I heard these off-the-wall charges that the Girl Scouts "are a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood" with First Lady Michelle Obama as their sergeant-in-arms, I went right out to stock up on Thin Mints, Samoas, and Do-si-dos. This nonsense all started last year when the Girl Scouts of Colorado and the national leadership accepted a seven-year-old who had been assigned male at birth

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  • Straight Talk: When Google Reveals Too Much About You

    Image via IStockPhoto.comQuestion: I know that just about everybody Googles their dates before going out with them the first time. Unfortunately, when you Google me, the first search result is a photo where I'm showing, how shall I put it, way too much skin. My ex took the photo (we thought it was hot) and later posted it (he was hot under the collar). My question is this: Do I try to explain the photo to a new date before we even go out? Wait for him to bring it up? Pretend I don't know it's there?

    Answer: Let me start by reminding you of First Date Rule Number 1: "Don't invite your skeletons along too soon - they make for a crowded evening." Whether it's your involvement with AA, a prison record, or a long history of psychotherapy, keep hot topics in the closet until you've established some intimacy or connection. It's all about gradual disclosure. That's not bad manners, it's just good sense.

    But in your case, you may (and should) break that coda because of First Date Rule Number 2: "When meeting someone

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