Ask JKE is our monthly advice column written by Jackie Kai Ellis. Submit your questions anonymously here.
I am really falling deeply in love with an old friend that I reconnected with last Christmas. But my new friends don’t like him. Is it because he is really wealthy and smart? Idk but he is so sweet and takes the most gentle care of me. What is the most appropriate way to tell the naysayers to fuck off while ensuring they can find enough peace with the situation to wish us well in the future we’re planning together?
I know how disappointing it feels to be excited and hopeful about something, to then have your support, your usual cheerleaders, your people, be awkwardly silent. It feels like a sucker-punch to the gut and leaves you feeling...alone.
As for saying “fuck off”—I know that, too. I was in a situation in which many around me, some close and some nearly strangers, were vitriolic about a decision I was making about my love life. It seemed to make no sense from the outside, but after many months of soul-searching, I chose to follow my intuition.
The thing about being on the outside is that it’s easy to form an opinion about someone else’s life because you’re so far away from it; you only see the most rudimentary shapes and colors. It’s like seeing a green bird flying above—you aren’t close enough to see that this green bird is actually made up of streaks of daisy yellow, chartreuse, indigo, and splotches of fiery red where the wings meet the body. The closer we are, the more nuances we see of someone’s desires and pains, their past, and their hopes for their future. And we can start to realize that reducing situations or people to basic green birds simply means we haven’t looked hard enough yet.
I know yours is a different situation than mine, but it’s similar in the sense that we both wanted to scream out something along the lines of: “My decision is mine, end of story—and I want your support!” So, on the morning when two of my dearest called me to express their vehement opposition, disgust, and hurt in regards to the path I had chosen, I listened, knowing that we would forever be at an impasse. And deep down I also knew what they were really saying was, “I had hopes for you, too. I don’t want to see you hurt or unhappy, and I have my own fears because my feathers are nuanced, too.”
After I listened, trying to see their colors more carefully, I replied, “I don’t expect you to understand me, I don’t expect you to agree with me, I don’t even expect you to respect my decision. All I am asking is for you to love me, because I love you.”
I am lucky that they did love me and always would. The few who couldn’t? I let them go. Was that the last I heard of it? Nope. Did I need to draw ever-evolving boundaries along the way? Absolutely. But, dear Smitten, in times of differing opinions, I’ve found it helpful to remind myself and others to start—not with what we don’t see eye to eye on, but with what we have in common. There is, under the wing of every green, or yellow, or red bird, a sliver of warm space. Those who truly love you will love you.