Culture & Conversation LGBTQ

Ask a Queer Chick: How Do I Know If My Ex-Boyfriend’s Ex-Girlfriend Has Feelings for Me?

Lindsay King-Miller

Plus: I don't want to take my fiancé's name when we get married, so what should we do instead?

I’m so ready for it to be summer. I just got my warm-weather Alternative Lifestyle Haircut and I’m ready to cut the sleeves off my Sleater-Kinney t-shirts and drive around with the windows down, eating ice cream and listening to “Pynk.” But the sun keeps showing up and then disappearing again, like that girl who says she’s totally over her ex, but really, you have to wonder. While we wait for her to get it together, please enjoy some fresh, early-season advice!

I think I’m falling for my ex-boyfriend’s other ex-girlfriend. I’ve been with one other woman in my life and it was a great experience—we were close friends who also enjoyed being intimate with each other—but I never wanted to date her. However, now that I am close friends with my ex’s ex, I have really intense feelings of wanting to be in a real relationship with this woman. We both admitted crushes on each other and have gone on dates and kissed. I am just hesitant because I feel I am overly invested and need to slow down. I don’t want to come off as ignorant, but are there nuances in a homosexual relationship or interaction that differ from a hetero one? I think women come off as flirty with each other a lot! I am flirty with some of my best girl friends but have no intention of sleeping with them or having a partnership with them.

I’m feeling like I should just be honest with her but I also don’t want to scare her away. The other side of this is that she is also a woman and sometimes we feel more deeply and more quickly than men do… so is she feeling this way also?

I think perhaps you’re hoping that I have some kind of special Queer Crystal Ball, or a spidey sense that tells me when ladies are into each other. But I didn’t even realize Poussey was gay until the second season of Orange Is the New Black, so you are barking up the wrong bisexual. There’s no Sapphic-to-English translation on this one. You’ve been on some dates, you’ve admitted you were crushing on each other, you’ve kissed: You’re at the classic Early Stage Relationship Crossroads, trying to figure out if this will be something serious. And of course, you’re afraid to make yourself vulnerable and admit you want to take it further, because what if she doesn’t feel the same?

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But none of this is materially changed by the fact that she’s the first woman you’ve ever felt this way about. It’s the same dilemma you’ve probably faced before with dudes. Your only options are to keep your mouth shut, never mention how you feel, and hope she magically intuits that you want to girlfriend her … or share your heart and risk rejection.

You’re afraid of scaring her off, but if you want a serious relationship and she doesn’t, scaring her off is actually a good thing. A casual friends-who-sometimes-smooch arrangement with someone you secretly pine for is just slow-motion emotional evisceration. You don’t want to pour your whole heart into someone who’s only giving you back scraps. I mean, right now you do, because she’s so pretty and no one else in the whole world has ever made you feel like this and you’d crawl through broken glass just to casually run into her on the way out of the local queer-owned coffee shop and bookstore. But if she’s not interested in taking things to the next emotional level, you’re better off knowing now and moving on. Otherwise you might wake up in two years realizing you’ve squandered enormous time and emotional resources hoping you could casually end up married to her by not making a big thing about it.

It is a big thing, though. You are having serious feelings about this woman; treat those feelings with the respect they deserve. Take her out on a nice date (I don’t mean “nice” as in “spend a lot of money,” but as in “think about what you know about her and plan something meaningful”) and tell her, “I’m really enjoying spending time with you and my feelings are only growing stronger. Where do you see our relationship going?” She might give you the answer you’ve been dreaming of; she might not. But you’ll never know until you ask.

I am a queer cis lady who will be marrying a hetero cis dude, and I feel very strongly about NOT simply taking my fiance’s last name. (Smash the patriarchy in little ways, right?) We would both like to share a name in order to feel like we are a cohesive new family, as well as for the sake of any hypothetical kids.  Hyphenation seems clunky, and it seems unfair to make him take my last name if I don’t want to take his, although we both like that it starts with the letter Q.

We’ve talked about taking a brand new name (Phoenix? Obama? Smith??) versus mushing our current last names together.  Do you have any brilliant suggestions?!

This question was originally sent to Jolie “Ask a Clean Person” Kerr, whose advice column was born on the Hairpin just like this one, and she forwarded it to me (with the writer’s permission) because the ‘pin lives on in the friends we made along the way. If you don’t own a copy of Jolie’s book, buy it already; it’s a wonderful accessory to all your wild fantasies about living in a house that’s actually clean.

I love this question because it highlights one of my favorite things to yell about after a couple beers, which is All Our Societal Institutions Are Tainted By The Patriarchy, Let’s Burn It All Down And Build Treehouses Instead. The whole concept of marriage as we understand it today is rooted in the idea that women are property to be transferred from one man to another! It’s an ongoing challenge to maintain an egalitarian relationship in a world strewn with the remnants of oppressive structures (and also quite a few very intact, still cheerfully operating oppressive structures).

So I very much approve of and am excited about your desire to build your family on a foundation untouched by archaic gender roles, but unfortunately I’m not sure there’s a perfect way to do that while still, like, existing in the world. There are drawbacks to every alternative—losing the symbolic history associated with your given family name vs. the knowledge that that name was handed down through generations of adherence to patriarchal definitions of family, et cetera. I am a big fan of a shared hyphenated last name, but I do understand that that’s easier to rock when you came into the marriage with shorter names like “Miller” and “King.” The longer the component names are, the longer, and more potentially unwieldy, the final product. I also love long names, but I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

I want to first suggest that you spend a few more minutes with the idea of your dude taking your last name. You both like it, it’s more compact than hyphenating, and it’s the most overtly patriarchy-smashing option (people will get SO UNCOMFORTABLE and you can just stare at them and blandly say “Why does this bother you?”). Yes, to some extent this counts as asking him to do something you don’t want to do, but your stated reason for not wanting to take his name—it’s a holdover from a time when marriage was how you bought a woman from her father—doesn’t really apply to the reverse scenario. If he doesn’t like that idea, that’s valid, but from your letter it sounds like you’ve dismissed this possibility without discussing it, and I think you should discuss it!

Otherwise, I think the best thing to do is kick around some of your favorite options for a totally new shared name or a mashup of your two given names. Sit with them for a day or two each; try introducing yourself in a few different ways and see which one feels the most like “ooh, that’s who I want to be.” And remember that once you pick one, it will very quickly become your name—even if you feel torn between several options right now, after the decision is made you’re unlikely to have regrets. (My partner and I waffled for months between King-Miller and Miller-King. Now Miller-King sounds unutterably weird to me.) Your new name will become part of who you both are, and a symbol of the life you’re building together. That matters much more than the specific collection of phonemes you choose.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage, and I hope both your new name and your wedding bring you lasting joy!

Got questions about queer identities, relationships, sex, etiquette, or which season of Buffy has held up the best? Send them to [email protected]! Questions may be edited for length and clarity.

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