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Can Stephen Sondheim cure a broken heart?

Dan Savage takes the Broadway musical approach to therapy.


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Q: I'm a hetero guy in need of advice. Back in college, I met this girl. Suffice it to say she was into me but I had some shit to work through. So we ended up being a missed connection, romantically. Despite that, we still became fast friends. I'm less awkward now, in large part because our friendship changed my life. We each married other people, and everything worked out great. Except I still love her. I think about her often, want to share things about my life with her, find myself wanting to rely on her when things are tough. I don't know what to do with it. On one hand, she means an awful lot to me—she is the kind of friend that comes along once in a lifetime—and I know that I mean a lot to her. So this is a relationship worth protecting, even as asymmetrical as it is. On the other hand, these feelings are starting to seem kind of pathetic. We are barely part of each other's lives anymore—do I even have a right to feel the way I do? I see three options, each of which is shit. (1) Keep my feelings to myself and endure/enjoy a painful but deeply meaningful friendship. (2) Disappear, either abruptly or gradually, with no explanation. Or (3) damn the torpedoes and bare my soul, which might painfully explode the relationship. After years of option 1, I am strongly leaning toward option 3—just blowing shit wide open and dealing with whatever happens. —No Good At Acronyms

A: You're going to need a gay dude to act on the advice I'm about to give you—and not just any gay dude, NGAA, but the kind of gay dude who obsesses about Broadway musicals. And not just any gay dude who obsesses about Broadway musicals, but the kind of Broadway-musical-obsessed gay dude who has good taste. (Look through his record collection: If Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is in there and Mame isn't, he does not have good taste.)

OK, here's my advice: Listen to the original Broadway cast recordings of Company, Follies, and A Little Night Music—music and lyrics, in all three cases, by Stephen Sondheim (peace be upon him). Yes, you can get all three recordings on iTunes, NGAA, but you need to listen to them on vinyl, and you need to discuss these shows, and three songs in particular, with someone who already knows them by heart. Hence the need for a gay dude with good taste in Broadway musicals and an extensive collection of original Broadway cast recordings—on vinyl. As any Broadway-musical-obsessed gay man will tell you, epiphanies, insights, and breakthroughs come most reliably in moments of silence, i.e., when you have to flip the record over.

Here are the songs you need to pay close attention to: "Sorry-Grateful" from Company, "The Road You Didn't Take" from Follies, and "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music. (You might be a little too fragile for "Too Many Mornings" and "Losing My Mind," both from Follies.) Listen over and over again—until you know the lyrics of all three songs by heart. Discuss what these songs mean with your new gay friend. Then you'll know what to do.

Q: A friend of mine talks about his sex life almost constantly. Not quite like bragging, more matter-of-fact. For instance, out of the blue he will come out with this: "I was sitting in a bar and this broad looks at me and asks if I want to fuck. She had the tightest pussy I've ever had." It just seems like conversation for him. I'm baffled by this. What's going on with him? —Not So Talky

A: I want to say something like this: "The amount of pussy and/or cock a man is actually getting exists in inverse proportion to the amount of pussy and/or cock a man brags about getting." But it ain't necessarily so. ("It Ain't Necessarily So," Porgy and Bess, music by George Gershwin [PBUH], lyrics by Ira Gershwin [PBUH].) I've known plenty of guys who bragged constantly about getting tons of ass, and they weren't all liars. Almost every one of them, however, was deeply insecure—they bragged about the ass they were getting because they feared people saw them as guys who couldn't get ass in a donkey storm.

Q: I was stroking my partner and went for the lube, when he informed me that he prefers to have his hand jobs sans lube. He says that lube is messy. For the past three years, he has raved about my hand jobs and said my skills are professional level, and never once did he complain about the lube. I attempted to follow through, but all my old techniques didn't work. I asked him to show me how, what he likes, and he said just do the same as I've always done. The sliding, gliding, twisting motions that I usually use, all with a reasonable amount of squeezing, just DO NOT WORK without lube. My hand stuck to the dampish skin and would not slide. He says I am making a big deal out of nothing, but I am upset. One of the best tools in my sexual toolbox has just been rendered unusable. —Sincerely Laments Obstructed Wanking

A: You need to listen to the original Broadway cast recording of Wicked, music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (PBUH). When Idina Menzel sings "Defying Gravity," pretend she's singing "defying aridity." Apparently that's your boyfriend's superpower, or his cock's superpower: aridity—"being without moisture, extremely dry, parched"—is no impediment to pleasure. And it's not an uncommon superpower, SLOW. Lots of guys prefer lubeless hand jobs. So have your boyfriend jack himself off while you listen to Wicked, see what works for him, and then try not to make a big deal—try not to make any sort of deal—out of his hand-job preferences going forward.

Q: I usually like your advice, Dan, but I was dismayed when both you and Peter Staley got it wrong in your response to STATUS, the woman who was preparing to divorce her HIV+ husband after the revelation of another affair. You both seemed to think she was trying to get her husband sent to prison. I think she was trying to avoid that outcome! She wants her husband to tell the truth in therapy, but she's concerned doing so will land him in prison. Here's something else you both missed: When someone tells a therapist what they have already done, the reporting requirements are far less stringent than when a patient tells what they plan on doing. If a therapist believes a patient is likely to harm themselves or others in the future, the therapist may have to act. Patient confidentiality carries a lot of weight when it comes to past actions. —Really Regular Reader

A: You weren't the only reader who came to STATUS's defense. It's possible Peter and I got it wrong—our familiarity with cases where vengeful exes abused reporting laws to go after HIV+ people may have colored our response. On the off chance I got it wrong, RRR, I'm going to need to be punished. It should be something that really hurts. Oh, I know: I'll listen to the original Broadway cast recording of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Twice.  v

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