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washington-cherry-treeA patient was complaining about dating.

“It’s annoying.  You have to be cheerful and upbeat.  What if you’re not feeling it?”

I asked him how he really felt.

“Don’t even go there.  I hate people.  All they ever do is take.”

He wanted to meet a girl with whom he could actually bond, and get close.  But it seemed impossible.  He was looking online – it was easier, and that way he didn’t have to actually go out into the world and deal with humanity.

“What’s your online profile like?”

“The usual – just a regular guy who likes to go out for dinner and take walks in the park, blah blah blah.”

“Is that really you?”

He shrugged.  “Is that really anybody?”

“So there’s your mistake.  You’re not introducing yourself as you really are.”

“Who would want me as I really am?”

“You’d be surprised.”

Your first instinct, when you post a dating profile online, might be to do what everyone else does – lie.  But that doesn’t help you achieve your goal of meeting an appropriate partner, it hinders it.

Many years ago, when I was single, I fell into the same trap myself – I typed up a bland, predictable online dating profile that made me out to be pretty much like everyone else.  Then, at some point out of boredom or sheer frustration, I decided as an experiment to post a profile that told the truth.  The result sounded something like this:

I’m Probably Not For You

I am not a “regular guy” and I won’t be right for most people reading this.  I’m a bit intellectual and if you aren’t a bit intellectual too and don’t read all the time and love classical music and jazz it isn’t going to work.  My perfect night out is vegetarian food followed by a classical piano recital at Carnegie Hall followed by listening to some guy play saxophone in a jazz club.  I eschew discotheques and bars and don’t really “get” Madonna or Broadway.  Oh, and I’m a raging atheist, a partisan Democrat, hate smoking and cars and suburban sprawl and have strong opinions across the board on most things.  I kiss my dog on the lips.  If this sounds right and you like my picture, go for it.

Instead of the occasional bland note I’d been receiving with my old profile, I was suddenly deluged by interested parties writing me long, detailed letters.  And all I did was tell the truth.

It works with simple stuff, like sex, too.  I worked with an African-American gay guy a while back who told me he had no luck with online ads on dating sites.  I asked him what he was advertising for, and he said – oh, the usual – “versatile guy looking for fun.”

Then I asked him what he really wanted.to_tell_the_truth

“Oh, a big daddy to top me all night.”

“Then why don’t you ask for what you want?”

“Oh, no one wants a big bottom…”

“No harm in trying.”

He posted a profile advertising (more or less) “Hungry super-bottom for fierce daddy top.”

That did the trick, so to speak.  He had more offers than he could handle.

Gay or straight, or in-between, if you tell the truth – at very least, about sex – someone might be looking for what you’ve got to offer.  I’ve had clients with interests in kink, or who liked to be submissive in bed – or to dominate – and nothing works better than just coming out and saying it.  You can bet someone else shares your interests, or has an interest in accommodating it, but you’ll never find out unless you take the first step and tell the truth.  If you want to smear her body with whipped cream, then lick it all off (or have someone do that to you) then say so!  (And yes, that might entail first finding a dating site that specializing people into whipped cream, but if you look, it’s probably out there.)

In broad terms, truth-telling –  direct, honest communication – is always a good first step towards establishing a healthy relationship.  I’m frequently asked the question:  “How can I tell someone else something difficult about myself?”  My answer is always the same:  directly and honestly.  When you stop and think about it, isn’t the definition of a best friend “the person you can say anything to”?  And that goes especially for talking about the most personal stuff of all – the stuff about yourself.  A romantic partner is supposed to be your best friend, the person who can know you – and accept you – as you really are.

Forthright communication regarding who you are means you stop apologizing for yourself, and own that you are in charge of your identity, and decide who you want to be, living as best you can the life you’ve been given.  That’s the very definition of charisma – feeling comfortable in your own skin.

truthinessSometimes you might feel the urge to hide stuff you’re afraid no one can accept, as if you’ve forgotten you’re not alone in being human.  I had another gay client who was 69 years old and HIV+.  He wanted to date online, but was terrified to reveal the truth about his age or his HIV status.  Instead, he ran a profile with no photo or details, and lied about how old he was.  Predictably, no one answered, and he was crushed.

I suggested he bite the bullet and tell the truth.  It took weeks to bring him around, but finally he put up a pic (he was actually a good-looking guy) and revealed both his age and status.  Lo and behold!  Dozens of gay men in their 60’s and 70’s started coming out of the woodwork, many of them also HIV+.  It only took one person with the courage to stand up and stop apologizing for the reality of his life, and everyone else followed.

Back to that first client.  We talked about possible approaches to his “truthful” profile, and came up with something along these lines: (more…)

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“He lets me down every time.  Why did I think this time would be different?  Was it because I needed him so much?”

We sat in silence, in my office, while I gave my client the space she needed to have her tears.  She had just crossed the country to Oregon to visit a father she barely knew.  The visit was intended to give their relationship another chance, but sure enough he was worse than ever – drunk and abusive.  His first comment when she stepped off the plane was about her weight.  She was crushed.

I was reminded of another client I’d seen the week before, preparing to come out as gay to his Venezuelan mother.

“I can’t tell her.  It’s killing me to live this lie, but she’s all I have – my only family.  If she disowns me, I’ll be alone.”

He, too, shed tears.

These clients are two examples of people navigating parental separation.

You will go through this, too, like everyone else.  It is inevitable.

You might be close to your parents.  They might be wonderfully supportive, and good friends.  You may love them deeply.  But love and anger go together – two sides of the same coin.  If you love people intensely, you must also have your anger towards them.  A child cannot own his anger at his parents – he requires their care to survive, so if there is any disruption in that care, he blames himself for failing to please his care providers.  In the child’s mind, it must be his fault that the parents are failing to provide the care he needs.  Above all else, he knows he cannot survive without his parents’ care, so he must please them, and that means he cannot have anger towards them.  As an adult, you can own your anger at your parents – and so you must, just as you must begin to provide care for yourself.

As an adult, you digest the reality that parents are people, no different from yourself – not the omnipotent gods of your childhood.  Your parents will fail you.  They will disappoint you – even the very most well-intentioned parents.  All parents disappoint their children, because parenting is an impossible job.
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I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview last week with Spencer Mazyck, of Bloomberg Law, at their studio in Midtown.  I’m happy to report Spencer is the nicest guy in the world and this was the most fun I’ve ever had.

The discussion was far-ranging.  I’m used to talking about the state of the legal profession, but Spencer asked me about my life, my loves – and just about everything else.

Here’s the interview:

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

(In addition to Amazon.com, my books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.)

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LGBT people confront widespread hatred, yet each year take new strides towards equality. What’s the secret?

“Straight allies” – a concept every lawyer needs to understand.

As an LGBT person, you face a stark reality – there aren’t many of us. It might not seem like it, but we’re a tiny minority. And it’s a myth we recruit straight people to be gay – we would, but it’s impossible.

“Straight allies” are the folks who aren’t LGBT but – because they’re caring, patient, loving, open-minded and plain decent – they help LGBT people persevere in the struggle for equal rights.

What’s this got to do with lawyers?

You need some allies, too – allies who aren’t lawyers. It’s key to your survival.

Look around – all you see, probably, is lawyers – lawyers and more lawyers. That’s because you spend 90% of your waking hours at a law firm, where that’s all there is to see.

At some point in your day, or your week, or maybe your month, you’re going to have to see someone who isn’t a lawyer. And that person is going to have to put up with you. It may be your spouse, your romantic interest, your buddy from college or a member of your family.

That’s your non-lawyer ally. And you know deep in your heart it’s not a fun job. Whoever he is, he’s putting up with a lot – helping you keep it together.

One of my clients complained to me that he regrets coming back from work every night and grumping at his wife. I reminded him she might not be savoring the experience either. But it went further than that. The following week she blew up at him and gave him an earful of what being a non-lawyer ally is like.

Based on that earful – and other earfuls like it – here are a few tips for getting along with your non-lawyer allies:

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This month on “The Alternative” we celebrated Valentine’s Day with some lively – and racy – talk about dating and romance.  Terry LeGrand wasn’t feeling well, so his old friend Guy Windsor (who comes on every month to present LGBT theater reviews) stepped in to host the show (with plenty of help from Terry’s regular technician and sidekick, Andrew Holinsky.)

You can listen to the show here. My segment starts about 15 minutes in, but as always, it’s worth sticking around to the end. To find out more about Terry and “The Alternative” on LA Talk Radio, check out Terry’s website and the show’s website. And be sure to catch Terry’s new show “Journey to Recovery” which deals specifically with substance abuse and recovery issues.


If you enjoy his shows, you can become a Terry LeGrand “fan” on Facebook here.Thanks, Terry! See you next month.

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Check out The People’s Therapist’s new book: “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

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I uttered those words for the first time back in 2001, over lunch.

I wasn’t putting myself down; I was setting myself free. This was transgression – admitting the whole legal “thing” wasn’t for me.

It’s what you’re never supposed to say, because it opens you up for slaughter. It’s throwing down your weapon, taking off the armor and walking away from the fight.

Go ahead – tear into me. I double-dare you.

It was a weird lunch. I was sitting with another former associate from Sullivan & Cromwell. We weren’t friends. I actually sort of hated him. For two years he did his best to bad-mouth me and let everyone know he was a better lawyer.

Now he wanted to do lunch.

That’s because he’d been laid off (you know, the “bad review” routine.) I’d left S&C six months before and done the impossible – gotten a real job outside law, as a marketing exec.

He said he wanted to discuss “careers outside the law.” Yeah. As soon as we sat down he started shooting the shit about our law firm days.

No way.

I felt sorry for him. He had a fiance and was clearly a mess. But I wasn’t about to play along with that bullshit.

I knew what would get his attention. When he paused from the stream of false bonhomie to catch his breath, I seized the opportunity.

“I suck at law.”

This produced a deer in the headlights face. I went on.

“I never belonged at that place. Who was I kidding? You were twice the lawyer I was.”

From his expression, I’d morphed into a winged goat in a tutu.

First rule at a law firm: Never admit vulnerability. Second rule: Conform. Third rule: Compete.

It felt like an accusation. I meant it that way. You were much more lawyer-ey than me. No, really. I insist. You were far and away the better lawyer. You are law, dude. You much much law. Me no law.

Me free.

No one gave a shit at my new job if I was a good lawyer. That’s because I wasn’t a lawyer.

I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Rent a skywriter. Hire a blimp.

From the outside I look like a pretty good lawyer. Top 20% at NYU. Article in a journal. Sullivan & Cromwell.

Yeah, well I’m not. I suck at law.

Sorry.

I’m good at school, and law school is school. That doesn’t make me a lawyer.

Here are the facts:

I ignore details. I hate small print.

I’m not a “team player.” I hate working on stuff with other people.

Money and power bore me. Give me music, books and art.

I’m not confrontational. Put me in a room and we’ll all start getting along.

I can’t do all-nighters. At 10 pm I go to sleep.

Nothing is more boring than the Supreme Court. They mostly (5-4) hate gay people. I mostly (5-4) hate them.

Litigation terrifies me. It’s complicated and scary. Threaten to sue me, and you win. That’s it. Take whatever you want and go away.

I suck at law.

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This month on “The Alternative” with Terry LeGrand, we talked about surviving the holiday season as an LGBT person, especially if you’re feeling alone and maybe a little blue.

You can listen to the show here.  My segment starts about eleven minutes in, but as always, it’s worth sticking around for the whole show.

To find out more about Terry and “The Alternative” on LA Talk Radio, check out Terry’s website and the show’s website.

If you enjoy his show, you can become a Terry LeGrand “fan” on Facebook here.

Thanks, Terry!  See you next month.

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