I have been dating my boyfriend for almost a year and I love him very much. This weekend we are celebrating his birthday and I have gone out of my way to make this birthday extra special for him and have organized gifts, dinner, and an evening out with friends down to the last detail. I am a little nervous because whenever we go out with his friends, mostly married couples or engaged, they always want to end the night at a strip club. For the past year, I have gotten out of these outings by adamantly putting my foot down that I absolutely will not go. But I know that since it’s his birthday, if he wants to go then I will not have a choice. I have been to a strip club before and it was the most uncomfortable evening of my life. The thought of having to go again just terrifies me, I’m talking knees-knocking, nervous breakdown, panic attack type thoughts. What do I do? Become a brat and potentially go home alone on his birthday night? Or suck it up and take a Xanax because I want him to enjoy his special night? I know if I go then I will have fight or flight takeover and probably end up chain smoking in the bathroom. — Strip Tease
If your boyfriend wanted to throw a litter of stray kittens in a laundry bag and drown them in a lake, would you go along with that, too, if it were his birthday? Of course not! At least, I hope you wouldn’t. If your integrity, morals and plain old personal comfort are greatly compromised by an extracurricular activity, regardless of what side of the law it falls on or how many other people think it’s harmless, one would hope you’d have the good sense — not to mention self-respect — to sit that activity out. A birthday, no matter how close you are to the person having it, does not erase free will and self-respect! Abstaining from something that “terrifies you,” gives you panic attacks, and would prompt you to stink up a public bathroom with foul cigarette smoke is not bratty; it’s wise. Also: how freaking thoughtless of your boyfriend to drag you somewhere he knows makes you that uncomfortable after you’ve gone out of your way to plan such an “extra special” evening out for him. Frankly, I’d be more concerned with his pointed and repeated lack of compassion for you than whether you’re letting him down by skipping out on the strip club festivities.
And look, far be it from me to call out people on non-mainstream behavior, but I can’t not say something about how strange it seems that a group of mostly couples goes out to strip clubs together all the time. Just so you know, that’s not normal. And veering from normal is perfectly fine if everyone’s OK with it, but clearly you’re not, and I just can’t get over how thoughtless your boyfriend and group of friends are being in blatantly disregarding your feelings. I mean, this isn’t like you just don’t want to go to Steak-N-Shake after a night of drinking when everyone else has a hankering for burgers and shoestring fries. I’d be annoyed with you too, if that were the case. But we’re talking about a place where women are arguably degraded, definitely half-naked and sometimes simulating sex acts on random customers. It’s totally understandable that watching a dude in your group of friends get a hard-on over some chick in pasties isn’t your thing. What happened to game night at home with a few bottles of wine?
I don’t care if it is your boyfriend’s birthday; do not go anywhere with him that’s going to give you a panic attack. Tell him beforehand that you have a really nice evening planned for him and if he wants to end the night at a strip club, he’ll be ending the night without you. It’s his choice whether or not to be an ungrateful jackass, of course, but it’s your choice to take care of you. And if it were me, part of that self-care would include dumping a boyfriend whose self-absorption, thoughtless behavior, and hobbies differ so greatly from my own. But that’s just me.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at email@example.com.