Dear Hypocrite: An Advice Column
"Dear Hypocrite" is a monthly advice column, with questions answered by a rotating cast of hand-picked counselors. Got a problem? Send it our way: hypocriteadvice AT gmail DOT com. Discretion guaranteed.
i love my bf very much and he loves me. i would say we are very in love. and the sex is so good! and yet... we both have a history of wandering eye. and we both travel a lot for work. so we decided to have an "open relationship" and had a lot of fun fantasizing about other people, getting excited for each other and exploring famous polyamory texts like The Ethical Slut. however, when one of us actually sleeps with someone else, the other person gets so hurt and grossed out! what's the deal? in your opinion, is monogamy for squares and we should learn how to overcome our societal brainwashing about possessing another human or is polyamory bullshit? very urgent q because he wants to fuck a french girl and i am trying to be chill but actually going crazy with jealousy!
thanks so much for your advice!
trying to be chill
It isn't just societal brainwashing that makes sex important, and emotional, and complex. If it weren't those things—if it were just fun—we'd probably all get bored by it by the time we were 16 and move on to more dangerous things. But sex is dangerous! It's almost the most dangerous thing, because it makes people feel really strongly in unpredictable ways, people who are also in the meantime trying to love each other and treat each other as humans. So it's perfectly okay to care, a lot, about who your partner is fucking and why. You'd be a fool not to.
Which is all to say—trying to open a relationship is playing with fire. But like so is every other way of doing love. We play with fire because it's pretty and exciting and mesmerizing and it keeps you warm on cold nights. We try to be open for lots of reasons—because for a wandering eye to end a good relationship is stupid, because it's kind of hot to know your lover's in someone else's bed but you're the one he comes back to, because talking about having sex with other people is a whole new way of having sex, because anything emotionally intense you try with a partner is liable to deepen and intensify your relationship, because having sex with new people in new ways is one of the better things in life and to deny that to yourself or to your partner might not be worth whatever erotic thrill that self-sacrifice brings. There are reasons to do this, even when it's hard.
So where does that leave you? You're jealous: you say each of you is "hurt and grossed out" when the other sleeps with someone. Two thoughts.
First: Why are you jealous? That's the question you've got to get as clear on as possible. Are you worried that if your BF sleeps with the French girl one thing will lead to another and he'll wind up running off to Paris with her? Do you feel like your sex with your partner is less meaningful because it turns out he can do that with anyone? Do you feel like you two used to have a secret and now it's all over town? Do you worry that these other girls know how to do something you don't know how to do, or that sex without love might turn out to be better (less constrained, say) than sex with love? Do you feel jealous of each of his partners equally or are there some girls you don't find threatening and others you do, and if so, what's the difference? And of course—ask these same questions of your boyfriend. Jealousy is one of those things people tend to "understand" too quickly, as a gut reaction and a natural fact—as though all jealousy were the same and that sameness were unanalyzable. But jealousy can mean all sorts of things, some of them totally reasonable (there's no shame in fearing abandonment), some of them socially brainwashed, most somewhere in the middle. So get curious about your jealousy, and about his—what does it say about you, him, love, your relationship? You might be surprised where this takes you—you might learn a lot about your relationship. And this sort of conversation doesn't have to be a sort of miserable State of the Relationship Let's Use I-Statements kind of thing—a partner's jealousy can be sexy, too. It sounds like that's part of what you were enjoying about the fantasy of an open relationship, before it actually happened—discussing the prospect of each of you in other people's beds was fun. Jealousy doesn't necessarily mean "we have a problem, this openness thing isn't working"—it can mean all kinds of things.
Second: People talk about open relationships like they're an on-off switch, like you either are or you aren't. But there are lots of different ways to be open, because there are lots of different rules that could replace "You may not ever ever sleep with anyone else." For instance:
- You may sleep with other people, but you have to ask me first, and I have the right to tell you "no," and you have to respect that.
- You may sleep with other people, but only under certain conditions. You can't when we're in the same city, or you can't stay the night, or there is a list of things you can't do.
- You may sleep with other people, but you are obligated to tell me about it—not just that you did, or who you did, but whatever I want to know, be that a lot or a little.
- You may sleep with other people, but at the beginning of every month we talk it over, and if one of us doesn't want to be open right now we stay monogamous that month—and discuss it again at the end of the month.
Some of these rules may help with your relationship's jealousy problem: They're all ways of giving each of you a bit of control in the middle space between "you can never do that" and "do whatever you want." And there's plenty of middle ground there! But more to the point, it's important to realize that the normal heteromonogamous relationship contract is very complex and has lots of terms, lots of rights and obligations; it's just that we all imbibed them from the movies by the time we were 12, so we've forgotten. You're trying to do that form a little differently—there are lots of ways to do that! Some of them will work, some won't. No one knows what it means to be open yet—you're exploring new territory, you're inventing new ways to be intimate. One of the best things about being in a stable, loving relationship is that you can afford to be experimental—try different things, see what works, keep in mind that if things aren't working you can change them. Whatever happens you'll learn something about yourself and your partner, and have some good sex.
Apparently, I'm not allowed to speak to my best friend, and I just found out last night. My best friend is my ex (but we're both gay women, so that normalizes that) and we broke up well over a year ago. Its a long story, of course.
I ended the relationship for many reasons that can be summarized by simply saying we needed different things in our lives. But, we were still both very much in love when we broke up. I think the break up was hard for both of us to get through and after several (like 7) emotional months, we finally figured out a healthy and satisfying balance in our friendship. We don't spend much time together, we're not in constant communication, there's no scent of romantic intimacy in our dialogues; there are boundaries in our friendship now that keep us from going down the emotional rabbit hole of cursing the heavens and each other for things not having worked out happily ever after for us as lovers. She is my best friend now. She's still endlessly funny and interesting in the lighter moments and she continues to be my main emotional support in the darker ones. I do have other close friends, but when we broke up, we both agreed we wanted to continue to be a part of each other's lives. At this point, I feel like we have a familial love - nothing sexual or romantic but something that can be relied on.
Now, our schedules have changed and it is harder for us to find free time that matches up. The only time we've spoken in the last few weeks has been during my lunch break - and I don't have much of a lunch break. I asked her to clear out some time on her weekends to call and catch up and I would also clear that time out and prioritize the phone call. It turns out, at least to a little degree, that our schedules haven't matched up because she's only been able to talk to me when her current girlfriend is otherwise occupied. But, the girlfriend and I work similar schedules, so it seems impossible to find the time. It is not that my friend is forbidden from speaking to me, as much as its apparently a touchy topic and the girlfriend doesn't want to be around for it.
To complicate matters more, over the summer, the girlfriend and I had been in touch. She reached out to me for advice and support, and I have even loaned them a small amount of money - which was quickly repaid. My friend knew that her current girlfriend and I spoke, but I don't think she knew the nature of it.
There was a turning point. Almost a year exactly after our break up, there was finally enough emotional distance for us to posthumously work out the kinks of our romantic relationship, and we were able to talk about the things that hurt me and the things that hurt her in the thick of the break up without devolving into a fight. We apologized to each other and saw growth in the other. I felt so good about her as a person at that moment. And, I felt that though our lives were still very much different and incompatible that maybe they wouldn't always be. It was a moment of hope that we could both grow as individuals and end up as compatible partners for each other. We didn't sleep together, we didn't even kiss, but there was an intimacy between us. After spending a year expending energy trying to accept that there were incompatible parts and even hurtful parts of our relationship, all of a sudden, that burden was lifted because out of the break-up, some of those things had changed. I still am more invested in working on my self seriously than on a serious relationship, which is the main point of incompatibility, but I saw hope for a better future for us than I could have imagined while we were dating. And then, she went home and came clean to her girlfriend about the feelings she had for me that night.
Now, it all seems much more like her problem than my problem. Our friendship doesn't complicate my life, it only complicates hers. I wonder if I am a crutch for her and if she is a crutch for me. Is she only able to be in this new relationship with this girlfriend because I satisfy a need for her and the girlfriend takes care of everything else? If we weren't still close, would she feel so comfortable with her life with the new girlfriend? She's prioritizing the girlfriend's sensitivities and jealousy over the value of our friendship. I respect that, but I wonder if now things have come to a place where her relationship with me and her relationship with the girlfriend are mutually exclusive. Its a whole lot of grief now and I wonder if its best to just let go and let us drift apart, but I also know I'll feel a hole in my life without our friendship - and that is real.
Hypocrite, I am an adult (I know I didn't tell you my age) and I am at a point where relationships can't just be boiled down to hormones or phases. There is something outside of my control when it comes to connection, sure, but I thoroughly believe that relationships are built on decisions. This person is important to me, and while I know I'll find others who are important to me as friends and in dating - heck, I'd like to find a more compatible partner than she was - I also know that I care about her and she cares about me in a way that is not trivial, that cannot be replaced - because it is so foundational for who I am and for who I want to be.
What do you think I should do? How do you see the situation? Should I just give up and start sucking dick? It feels impossible to find connection and intimacy without drama and grief.
Bewildered and Floundering Friend
Let's talk about crutches. Are you a crutch for her? Is she a crutch for you? It seems to me like a girl could do a lot worse than to find a good crutch in this world, given the distance we're all required to travel and the prevalence of twisted ankles and bum knees. But I suppose what you're worried about is being like Beckett's Molloy, who having lost his right crutch always drifts slightly leftward and so returns in a vast smooth circle to the very place he set out to leave.
More concretely: You say (and it sure sounds like you're right) that you're offering your ex something she can't get with her new girlfriend. Is that a problem? If so, why, and for whom? People who think about everything in terms of crutches and coping will say it's a problem for your ex: she's not in a fully satisfying relationship, and she's relieved of the need to "face up to it" and find something better because she has an "outlet" in you. These people are gonna tell you that what you've gotta do is cut her off: without her methadone drip of intense emotional connection from the ghost of your dead relationship, she'll either pour that energy into her current "real" relationship or go off in search of someone who can fulfill all her needs. Where she's at now—maybe in a relationship that's not working for her, maybe sticking around because at some level she still thinks, wrongly, that she'll someday get back with you—is just the worst of both worlds. And maybe you're still entertaining that fantasy too, maybe you'd be better off just moving on.
But honestly a relationship which fulfills all your needs just ain't a realistic ambition; it's like trying to find a supermarket which also sells therapy and used cars. Getting different things from different people doesn't have to be a "crutch"—it can just be a sensible recognition that people are different, from themselves and from each other, that we have different needs that can be met by different people (and even some needs that can only be met by being alone). The monomaniacal dream of the one big relationship that can take everything you have to give and give everything you need to live on—that can contain all or nearly all of the emotional intensity in your life—is way more trouble than it's worth: people who chase it just end up demanding from their primary partners things they can't give, and getting jealous of everything else their lovers have going on besides them, and ignoring the non-lover people in their lives because whatever happens with them can't be the Real Thing.
Which brings us to sucking dick—not a bad solution! Straight people have a great setup, where everyone gets one partner of the opposite sex and a few friends of the same sex, and no one gets jealous because you can't fuck your friends (wrong genitals) and the question of what a relationship is as opposed to a friendship is answered with biological clarity. What you've got is a gay problem: you can fuck your friends, have fucked your friends, will in the future, there's no clear line, it's all a mess. I can see how'd you be jealous of us. But if it's any comfort, we're jealous of you too—those clear lines can be boring, and confining. And the whole system they’re built into is morally bankrupt anyway. It's a sad way to look at friendships, and inadequate to all the things they can be, to think that they'll never be all that intense because they're not romance, they're not the real thing. Plus it doesn't sound like you like dick, which makes sucking it a real chore. So back to your problem.
Your problem is that your ex's girlfriend is jealous. Is she right to be? That's the first thing to ask when you're dealing with jealousy. Some people are just fucking crazy and will be jealous no matter what you do, and those people are to be avoided like the plague. If your ex has to stay off the phone with not just you but any close friend while her girl's in the room, she should leave and never look back, and there's not much you can do until that happens.
But that doesn't sound like what's going on here—it sounds like your ex is giving her new girlfriend real cause for concern. Here's the thing: she sounds like she really needs a relationship to be the whole thing, the real thing; it sounds like that was part of the reason for your breakup. It sounds like when she felt close to you that night she felt like it was a betrayal of her girlfriend, because there are intensities of feeling you should only have with your partner. In her mind, maybe having a big-deal relationship with you is cheating on her girlfriend, and wanting to have such a relationship is evidence that her current girlfriend isn't who she needs. Maybe her partner's jealousy reflects her own ambivalence—they're both thinking, "If Flounder's ex still needs Flounder, what is Flounder's ex doing with me?"
That's what you've got to talk through with your ex, and what she's got to talk through with her girlfriend: it's okay to need and even to love someone other than your girlfriend, it's okay to feel that way about more than one person at a time. Part of this is acknowledging the girlfriend's feelings here, and figure out what ground rules she'd need to feel secure in the relationship while still "allowing" you two to talk. Another part, though, is finding a new way to be with your ex—one that isn't modeled either on the fights you had toward the end or the way you loved each other in the beginning, one that isn't all about regret that you can't be together, or hope that someday maybe you can. Whatever happens with your ex's new partner, it's important for you two to find a way to be together that isn't so heavy with past. It sounds like you've spent more time thinking about why and how you can't be lovers than why and how you can be friends.
That's a tough thing to do—old habits die hard. Here's the bright side: you've got years. You're an adult now, and the connection between you and your ex isn't going anywhere—if you leave it for a few months, while you both settle into apartness, you'll still be able to find it when you get back. A friendship isn't like a relationship, which takes constant reweaving to stay real—a friendship is less intense but it's also more stable, more grounded in who you are, and it can go to sleep for a few months and awaken refreshed. So be creative, and take the long view. Finding your way in the unexplored territory between love and friendship isn't easy, but if it's important to you and to her you'll figure it out.
How do I keep from procrastinating?
63, 180, 0+, Taurus
A chronic procrastinator myself, I fear I may not be able to advise you effectively in the matter of your procrastination. I would not have you believe, however, that my hesitation stems from the notion that hypocrites cannot give good counsel. On the contrary, we at the Hypocrite Reader believe that hypocrisy as little excludes the possession and inculcation of practical wisdom as it does the possession and demonstration of theoretical knowledge. The reason that I hesitate to advise you regarding your procrastination is that I suspect that my own procrastinatory tendency testifies to a fundamental inability to advise you, or anyone, in anything at all. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle links the ability to give good council to completeness of character, a condition itself defined by, among other qualities, the ability to do things in a timely manner. The person of good character is a master of what is called “time management,” and this mastery enables him to advise others—to say the right thing at the right time. It appears, then, that quite independent of my own bad habits and baseness of character, the “advice column” as a genre, with its rigid, periodical schedule, could only ever accidentally achieve the timeliness necessary for the communication of good advice. In recognition of this element of chance, and in the hope that just as good council can come at the wrong time, bad council can come at the right time, I will offer something in the way of, if not advice exactly, then perhaps something like encouragement.
What does courage have to do with procrastination? Elsewhere in the Ethics, Aristotle defines courage as proportionality of fearfulness—between cowardice (fearing too much) and recklessness (fearing too little). The courageous man is not fearless; he merely fears the right things for the right reasons. So to rephrase the question: what does procrastination have to do with fear? The suggestion of a fundamental link between procrastination and fear may strike an odd note. Of the various affects, it is desire rather than fear to which procrastination is usually linked. On this common interpretation, procrastination expresses the victory of appetite over intellect, the triumph of want over ought. If fear is understood as the shadow of desire, as the relationship to everything that threatens desire's consummation, then procrastination could very well be said to possess the character of fearfulness; yet this fearful character would merely express a modality of procrastination as an essentially desirous behavior.
The fear at the root of procrastination is as little appetitive as procrastination itself. In the conflict between appetite and intellect, it is not the identity of the victor that is decisive for the onset of procrastination, but rather the fact that there is a conflict at all. Counter-appetitive forms of procrastination can be seen in quotidian behaviors such the deferral of meals, sleep, or sexual climax. As the third example perhaps makes most clear, procrastination can arise from “strength of will” just as it can from “weakness.” This is because the essence of procrastination is disobedience; whether it is the command of intellect or the power of appetite that is disobeyed makes no fundamental difference. The possibility of procrastination tempts every action, whatever its leading motive. Were this possibility to actualize itself at every moment, then one would not be able to do anything; or more precisely, one would only ever do the reverse of what one wills—doing, in effect, the wrong thing for its own sake. Edgar Allen Poe has a story about this, “The Imp of the Perverse.” While no doubt extreme, the instance of procrastination that the story presents bears universal traits:
We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. We glow, we are consumed with eagerness to commence the work, with the anticipation of whose glorious result our whole souls are on fire. It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. To-morrow arrives, and with it a more impatient anxiety to do our duty, but with this very increase of anxiety arrives, also, a nameless, a positively fearful, because unfathomable, craving for delay. This craving gathers strength as the moments fly. The last hour for action is at hand. We tremble with the violence of the conflict within us,—of the definite with the indefinite—of the substance with the shadow. But, if the contest have proceeded thus far, it is the shadow which prevails,—we struggle in vain. The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer—note to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies—it disappears—we are free. The old energy returns. We will labor now. Alas, it is too late!
It is fitting that the nature of the “crisis” is left unsaid. It could be anything—one's father's murder, a dissertation proposal, an unwritten advice column. Its only essential feature is that it be important enough to motivate action; and it is precisely for that reason, Poe's narrator claims, that we are unable to perform. That one must procrastinate, that the strength of the compulsion to disobey necessarily matches and exceeds the urgency and univocality of the command itself, is a speculation disproven by experience. That one can do so is a fact whose origin Poe locates, insightfully, at the very heart of the will. But what is it that turns the inherent possibility of procrastination into an actuality? What “principle” governs its activity? Poe identifies this principle as “perversity,” describing it as the inherent and unconditional tendency of the will to rebel against itself, reversing its decisions in the moment of their execution.
By virtue of its basic formality, Poe's theory of perversity allows procrastination a much wider of the domain of possible motives than the appetitive account. Yet so long as the origin of the perversity-principle remains obscure, we will be destined to the same fate as Poe's unhappy narrator. Here I can only provide my own speculation. I suggested earlier that a basic characteristic of procrastination is fearfulness, and that this fearfulness is irreducible to a form of desire. Poe's theory of perversity supports the idea that procrastination cannot be explained in terms of desire, since perversity by its nature counteracts all motives, regardless of content. Procrastination's perversity lies in its sheer formality. To claim, however, that procrastination arises from a sort of fear, is to posit that it possesses intentional content. To be sure, this content cannot be a particular aim, since then it would lose its aspect of formality. The content, then, must itself be formal in character, corresponding to the form of the activity to which it gives rise. What is the basic form of procrastination? The word procrastination comes from the Latin: pro- 'forward' + crastinus 'belonging to tomorrow.' To procrastinate is literally to put off to tomorrow. It is: to morrow. This etymological consideration suffices to show procrastination's basic form: time. Specifically, the future; that which is to come. Procrastination stems, then, from fear of time, from fear of the future as that which is to come and which, coming, threatens to interrupt, derail, and disappoint our activities. Anxious before the future, the will diverts itself its own initiative. For what has not begun cannot be interrupted, what is not on track cannot be derailed, and what is not attempted can neither disappoint nor be disappointed. Anxious before the future, we kill time.
What possibility is there for courage in the face of time? There can be no talk of means or proportionality here. Time exceeds all reckoning, and therein lies its frightfulness. Still, the frightfulness of time permits different responses. Aristotle says that the courageous man is prepared to endure the most frightful thing, death, for the sake of the good. Perhaps building courage in the face of time requires learning to save it.
I was wondering if you could unravel or free-respond to the following:
I had a dream in which I was in high school, living at my parents', and ordering female prostitutes. When each arrived, I felt too unattractive and self-conscious to look her in the face.
Then I met one whom I could talk to easily. Terrified, I started scheming of all the places I could go with her- museums, bakeries, all the usual places I go to alone. She was super attractive but I didn't want to have sex with her since I was so distracted by thoughts of splitting pastries (& shy). The big problem was how to sneak her downstairs.
I am straight though (mostly.) Was my brain doing some kind of reverse Proustian substitution? To hide what, and from whom? Is that even a relevant part of the dream?
P.S. Why does it feel easier to be more vulnerable around other women, as if that could be taken at face value and not as some gesture absorbed into a complex set of a priori power dynamics? Do these things only have validity because we believe in them?
Oh P.P.S. i wanted to add that at the point when I was going to go to the bakery w/ this girl I was hoping she thought of me as a friend, and not as a patron ("outside of work activities" haha) O___o dreams are so distressing and weird...
Thank you for your help!!
What an interesting dream! It reminds me of a story from a friend of mine who worked for a while as a phone-sex provider. She said that many of the men who called didn't really want her to pretend to be turned on while they jerked off—they just wanted to talk. They were just lonely. So why were they calling a phone-sex number instead of a just-talk number? Well, just-talk numbers don't exist, except for maybe suicide hotlines. But why don't they exist? Is it because talk in the relevant sense (unlike sex and phone sex) isn't something you can buy? Or because it's easier to admit to yourself that you're horny and need to pay for sex than that you're lonely and need to pay for talk? Either way, it's funny—some of these men who called my friend went to great lengths to pretend that they were just in it for sex. Like the sex part was always about to happen, right after they finished up with the small talk about how lonely it is to be a trucker or how their brother was in the army and they didn't talk much anymore. And they'd keep that up until their money ran out or their time was up. Like if someone caught them and said "did you just pay to have talk with a stranger?!" they'd be able to say "oh no no, you misunderstood—I was just paying to have sex."
So it's not so clear what gets substituted for what, if you see what I'm saying. Sometimes pastries are the cleaned-up metaphor and fucking's the secret dirty real thing, but sometimes it's just the opposite—you've got to ask, why is this person pretending to want sex? What do they really want? If "really" means anything at all in relation to wanting, given that really wanting something isn't the same as being happy when it's finally really there.
There are so many obstacles in your dream! You can't look them in the face, then you can't take your clothes off, then when you finally have something you can do you can't do that either since you have to sneak her down the stairs. It's like there are two places: the World, which is full of museums and bakeries and sex workers, and Your Room, in your parents' house, where you interview candidates from outside. It's easy to get prostitutes into your room but once they're there you won't take your clothes off; with the one for whom you would maybe take your clothes off, you're blocked by thoughts of pastry, but those thoughts are blocked too, because you have to smuggle her back down the stairs. Why was it so easy for her to get in in the first place?
It's as though you're trying to let people into this intimate space, your house where you grew up—but then when they're there you realize it's not the space of intimacy, not really. It's this claustrophobic parental Oedipus-space. The real place of intimacy was in bakeries, museums, "all the places I usually go alone," and that's where you want to take your sex-friend.
You ask about why it's so much easier to be vulnerable around women—which is funny, of course, because your dream doesn't make it sound easy at all. And it makes me wonder where the men are in your dream, and I think that's our clue. You're not substituting one object of desire for another (ordering female prostitutes instead of male ones), you're substituting one subject for another: you're the one ordering a series of voiceless female prostitutes, therefore in this dream you're the man. It sounds as though you have trouble locating yourself in heterosexual-desire-space as the woman—"some gesture absorbed into a complex set of a priori power dynamics"—and maybe you think at some level it would be easier to work it from the other side. As a woman you're navigating complex power dynamics, as a man you could just order prostitutes to come to your door. What does a woman look like to a man, as a man? You never get to figure it out because the moment they show you're the object again, self-conscious, unattractive, feminine—maybe you don't have what it takes? But of course, if the dream-wish is to be a man, then the failure of its realization is just repression talking. You could be if you wanted to, but in your unconscious you're scared.
But that can't be the whole story, because what about bakeries and museums? What do those places have in common, I keep wondering? On one level they seem like opposites—contemplation as opposed to consumption. But I keep coming back to the words: "split a pastry." You could grab coffee, you could each get your own pastry, you could go to a bar, the emphasis could be on talk.Instead you want to eat the same thing. And splitting a pastry does that, and so does looking at a painting.
I think it's like this: You're trying to get out of the bedroom-binary, and what you need is a third object, one you can share. With men and women and desire and bedrooms, the power relations are complex—maybe someone is consuming, someone is getting consumed. You're not sure how to locate yourself on either side of that divide: in real life, as a woman, you can't be vulnerable (which is to say—you feel vulnerable the wrong way), but in your dream of the other side you can't look them in the eyes. Either side of the divide is lonely, frightening. Your real wish isn't to be a man but to be outside the whole bedroom situation, where you don't have to choose between eating and being eaten—you can leave that to the pastry you're splitting or the painting you're seeing, and the two of you can find yourself on the same side of that divide, and just talk it over.
Does that mean you're gay, though? Probably not.