#660 and #661: Certain Doom and Poetry

Theme of the day: Don’t work harder at someone who isn’t working at all at you.

Hey Cap,

So me and this girl met and started talking, at first she thought I was a jackass then she saw the better side of me. We became best friends for the better part of a year and then one of my friends suggested we date. After that my feelings only grew for her incredibly. I’d hang out with her more often then finally asked if she would be mine. We dated happily for a couple months and then things started going downhill. She would always blow me off to hang out with friends, never hang out with me, I seriously believe I’m at the lower list of her priorities. This girl is my everything, but she just treats me awfully. Anything I can do to fix this?

Sorry, dear heart, I think your choices here are 1) a soon-to-be-ex girlfriend who never hangs out with you and treats you awfully or 2) an ex-girlfriend. The wonderful fantasy girlfriend you had during those few happy months is long-gone. Script: “Girlfriend, I don’t feel like you actually enjoy spending time with me, and it hurts my feelings. Let’s just end this before it gets worse.” I *just* got this, hopefully we’re in time to save you from buying her an expensive Valentine’s Day present. Keep your receipts.

Here’s a poem:

What Cowboys Know About Love

Louis McKee

Last night on the sports channel
I watched the rodeo.
Those cowboys have it right;
the best and the beauty of it.
You cannot win, so you ride
for as long as you can and enjoy it.
When you dismount,
whether it be on your own or not,
it won’t look pretty. You’ll limp off.
But you’ll feel good; your heart
will be pounding like it never has,
and walking away, one crazy step
after another, your ears will ring
with the loud approval
of those who never felt so good.

Dear Captain,

This pertains to my close friend, S. S and I have been friends for a little over a year, got closer over the last half a year and, four months ago, became casually physical as well (we had a bit of an FWB-style holiday fling). However, in the last few weeks, S has become increasingly emotionally distant, both in terms of “quantity” (going from talking every day to much less frequently) and “quality” (actual conversations to “how was your day” fodder). At first I thought this was because we’ve both been rather busy but S’s event ended and he’s still behaving this way.

The few times I’ve tried to talk S about this have come up short. His explanations are usually things like “I still like you and care about you but things just feel off” or “I feel like we’ve drifted apart”. When I asked about how exactly things feel off, like if I was doing anything wrong, he’d just say “idk, they just do”. It’s been vague and confusing. That said, he has indicated the physical dimension our relationship has adopted as something that, now, has made things quite weird. For him, the reality that it can’t be continued (to preserve the friendship, to concentrate on studies etc.) came crashing down pretty hard. This is fine – while I enjoy the physical intimacy, I’d give it up just to keep him as my friend.

My approach thus far has been to attempt to initiate Talks About Our Friendship to figure it out together (though he says “there’s nothing to figure out” ??). I have since found this post and realized I probably shouldn’t, especially with S who does not communicate very well/tends to avoid difficult situations.

1. Is there anything I can do to hold on to S and prevent us from “drifting apart”?
2. Can I follow the advice you gave the aforementioned LW (accepting S’ priorities/feelings have changed, letting him initiate rather than the other way around etc)?
3. Unfortunately, problems with S a. coincide with a period of Unwellness and b. come at the end of A Year of Personal Crises and Losing Many Close Friends for Different Reasons. So his problem with S has been wrecking me emotionally and given my jerkbrain seemingly valid ammo against me (HE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOU! NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU! YOU DO NOT DESERVE FRIENDS! YOU’RE DESTINED FOR LONELINESS! is basically on loop in my head). Is there really something wrong with me and if not, how do I remind myself there isn’t?

Would greatly appreciate any advice you have, Captain!

With love,
Feeling Like A Castaway Lost At Sea

Dear Castaway,

You read the right post on here, so, in answer to your questions:

1. No. He’s making it very clear that things have changed for him within the friendship. The unambiguous message isn’t “try harder,” it’s “stop trying.” You say “with S who does not communicate very well” but actually he is communicating pretty directly. He’s just not giving you the answers or explanations that you want.

2. Yes, and realize that he may not initiate contact for a good long while, so disengage, disengage, disengage.

3. I am so sorry that this is happening to you during an already difficult year. Jerkbrain gonna jerk. Please see: Counter-Intuitive Friendship Fixing Advice, which is all about loving yourself and being good to yourself, and The Kwisatz Haderach/Golden Retriever of Love which is about mourning after breakups, which this sort of is. You’re not broken, you’re just dealing with rejection and other hard things.

You also get a poem:

The Stupid Jerk I’m Obsessed With

by Maggie Estep

The stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
stands so close to me
I can feel his breath
on my neck
and smell
the way he would smell
if we slept together
because he is the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and that is his primary function in life
to be a stupid jerk I can obsess over
and to talk to that dingy bimbette blonde
as if he really wanted to hear about her
manicures and
pedicures and
New Age ritualistic enema cures and
truth be known, he probably does wanna hear about it
because he is the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and he’s obsessed with doing anything he can
to lend fuel to my fire
he makes a point of standing
looking over my shoulder
when I’m talking to the guy who adores me
and would bark like a dog
and wave to strangers
if I asked him to bark like a dog
and wave to strangers
but I can’t ask him to bark like a dog
or impersonate any kind of animal at all
cause I’m too busy
looking at the way the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
has pants on that perfectly define his well-shaped ass to the point where I’m thoroughly frantic
I’m just gonna go home
and stick my head in the oven
overdose on nutmeg and aspirin
and sit in the bathtub reading The Executioner’s Song
and being completely confounded by the fact
that I can see
the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with’s face
defining itself in the peeling plaster of the wall
grinning and winking
and I start to yell,
Get the hell out of there
You’re just a figment of my imagination
Just get a life and get out of my plaster
and pass me the next painful situation please
but he just keeps on
grinning and winking
he’s the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and he’s mine
in my plaster
And frankly, I couldn’t be happier.


Finally: Here’s a poem for both of you, Letter Writers. Neither of you did anything wrong by caring about somebody. Be nice to yourselves.







76 thoughts on “#660 and #661: Certain Doom and Poetry

  1. Captain, you have no idea how much I needed all this to greet me this morning. I’m satisfied with my lack of love life at the moment, but the theme and the poems are so relevant to my life at large right now I can’t even. LWs: it’s so tempting to cling to what’s there out of comfort and routine and The Way Things Are. Relationships worth tending make space for you, say things like “My Google Calendar looks like a color wheel right now — miss you, will touch base when the air clears,” *follow through,* and feel natural when things resume. Much love, and as Captain said take good care of yourselves.

  2. Hi Castaway! I Was That Letter Writer, and if it makes you feel any better at all, the Capn’s advice was spot on; unfortunately, B turned out to be a prize manipulative dickwad whose reaction to my backing off was to keep reeling me back in with manufactured crises every time I got almost far enough away to let him go; only his umpteenth “I might be dead soon!” was the final straw after two further years of pain and he is finally out of my life for good. Do not cling to friendships with people who don’t want you, is the moral here; the world is full of better folk and the opinion of one dude is no reflection of your worth, especially as he’s quite possibly an asshole anyway. 🙂

  3. I agree about disengaging. Let him initiate. Give him space etc. etc. I also wanted to point out that I have found that guys don’t often enjoy having in depth discussions about where the relationship stands. They just want to have fun. So if you are looking to preserve your friendship I would consider skipping “the talk” and going out and doing something you have never done before, something fun and adventurous so you can make new friendship memories together.

    1. Can we translate “guys don’t often enjoy have in-depth discussions about where the relationship stands” to “people who aren’t interested in a closer relationship the same way that you are don’t often enjoy…”? Trying to find out why a person you’ve been sleeping with is doing a fade isn’t enjoyable for anyone.

      You’re right absolutely about letting S. initiate whatever and in suggesting fun, relaxed, low-key things when and if they do hang out (vs. FEELINGSTALK), but the problem here isn’t that S. is a dude (the LW could also be a dude for all we know), the problem is that S. is feeling weird about the relationship and some resetting needs to happen.

      1. Thank you, Captain. There’s a tendency for heterosexuals to generalize other-sex behavior in relationships to “all men” or “all women” rather than seeing it as a thing that some/many people do in that kind of relationship. Meanwhile, the person I know who most likes that sort of in-depth conversation about relationships is male.

        1. Seriously. Story of my life. I like talking about this kind of thing, but only so many times. The ones in my life who seem to always want to talk about relationships have been mostly men, sometimes men I’m dating, sometimes men who are friends and want to talk about their relationship with their girlfriend. “I don’t know what to tell you, man, maybe she’s just sick of having this same damn conversation because I know *I* am.” But from reading advice columns, I know lots of women do it too. It’s not a sex-specific thing.

          1. to clarify, I don’t mean to imply that the LW was talking about their relationship to the point of annoyance, I just meant I have had men friends who did so.

      2. This. When I’m insecure, I tend toward insecure-avoidant and typically don’t initiate FEELINGSTALKS. When somebody is interested in me, it’s not mutual, and the person can’t glean that from subtle cues, then I’m up for one — ONE — talk about that to clear the air. More than that and I feel harangued. Being female doesn’t make me more open to discussions in which my would-be love interest tries to talk me into feeling things or guilt me for not feeling things.

    2. I’m with the Captain on this one. My mum always talks like this about guys and it’s really upsetting. She maintains that all guys are unable to talk about emotions which is just so untrue. This myth means women have to do all the emotional management (like my mum has to do with my dad…reason why she holds onto this myth so tightly probably) and erases women who have difficulty talking about emotions themselves. It discourages word-using in heterosexual relationships and cross-gender friendships. It means that women get shut down when they try and ask for help communicating with their boyfriend better with ‘oh that’ll never work! Forget it!’

      I remember one time I said to my mum that I felt sad that I found it so hard to make friendships close enough to confide my feelings, unlike my two siblings. My mum said ‘well at least we know your brother doesn’t need to worry about that!’ *cough* Um, really?! My brother has several times told me about times his friends have confided in him, about relationships, mental health, all sorts of stuff, and asked for my advice in how to help them. (I don’t know his friends, and he knows I’d never tell anyone their problems.) He has close friendships and he helps his friends with their problems. It’s cool and awesome.

      Sorry to dump all that on you, Emily. This is a personal topic for me. I agree with all the parts of your comment that weren’t about gender roles.

      1. My mom says stuff like that too sometimes. I think if you look at middle age dudes who are 50 or 60, an awful lot of them actually behaves that way… When I look at my dad, my uncles, my stepdad and his brothers, all of them are just so bad at emotions that I understand why women of that generation might become a bit cynical or resigned about it.

        But yeah, my mom is more like “… And this is why communication is super important and you must find a guy who is willing to be open with you and care about your feelings so that you don’t end up like me and your dad !” ^^

      2. Just wanted to say that as a woman who spends a lot of time dissociating from her emotions (seriously, I’ll go “oh hey, I’m crying, wtf why am I crying” unless it’s something obvious like that I’m watching a sad movie) I appreciate you pushing back on behalf of people whose emotional style doesn’t match what our gendered stereotypes think it ought to be. 🙂

      3. Yes, this is one of those little comments people constantly make about ‘women are like this’ and ‘men are like this’ that have been making me feel like I wasn’t a proper female, since I was like 10 or so… I’ve got a thicker skin now than I did as a preteen or teenager, but it still stings a little and still affects me. And those relentless messages can be particularly harsh at certain times of your life (e.g., for me when I was a weird, dorky, ‘unfeminine’, and unpopular teenage girl).

    3. I’m with the Captain here on the “men do x” thing. Not to be all “NOT ALL MEN,” but I’m a guy and I’m ALWAYS the person who wants to do the in-depth discussion over where the relationship stands. To the point where partners, both male and female, have gotten (justifiably) annoyed with me for constantly making them talk about emotions when they just want to chill out and watch Netflix.

      This is one of those gender stereotypes that really, really needs to die.

  4. It is a very sad fact of life that somedays you are Mr. Clippy, popping up on the Word document of their life, and somedays you are the computer and it’s another person’s turn to be Mr. Clippy.

    And sometimes you do line up and click with someone, or close enough, and it’s fantastic, but none of those are really anyone’s fault. There’s a tendency to want to frame things as facts “They’re Too Needy” “I’m Too Distant” but you need to replace last two words that got dropped off of the phrase”…for me/them.”

    It’s not perfect, but if you can head off the jerkbrain of “They said they were too busy, but they’re not too busy for Someone Else” “She said she hated short guys but he’s 6 inches shorter than I am!” where you frantically try to find some airtight logical Reason they were Wrong to drift away from you and you can just point out how illogical they are and ‘win’ somehow. But this is a horrible deception and try to avoid indulging it as much as you can.

    1. It looks like you’re trying to have a relationship! I can help you with that!

      No… I’m just trying to make dinner plans.

      Here, let me get you the template for relationships! That’s in the FEELINGSTALK menu!

      No, I just want to plan a game night.

      Are you sure you don’t want to explore the FEELINGSTALK menu??

      1. The thing is… You’re much smarter and more capable than Mr Clippy. And you are not only this earth to respond (accurately or inaccurately) to other people’s lives. You are here for your own life. It sucks to feel like Mr Clippy, wanting so badly to connect and just not connecting.

        OPs, the Captain is right- be super nice to yourselves. Really nice! And enjoy being nice to yourself. It’s good for you.

        1. Yeah, it can intersect in really toxic ways with the common meme that whoever cares the least wins.
          Which is a thing that exists for obvious, understandable reasons, but which is a really terrible way to go through life, in my experience.

    2. I knew someone once who complained that when I said I was too busy to spend time with him, one thing that was taking up several hours a week was playing World of Darkness with my other friends. Clearly, if I had time for that, then I WASN’T too busy to socialize, so why couldn’t I hang out with him? I explained that I really liked this activity and didn’t want to give it up, and he tried to persuade me it was a waste of time. After all, he was a full-time grad student and he still had time for me, so what was I doing that was so all-fired important?
      His refusal to let the matter go ultimately led to me saying, more or less, that he was pretty low on my priority list and he shouldn’t hang around waiting for me to be so bored that I’d rather hang out with him than spend the evening re-organizing my comics collection. He was, naturally, hurt to hear that and I wished it hadn’t been necessary, but you can only say “I can’t see you” and get the response of “you could if you did X, Y and Z” for so long before you have to admit “I don’t WANT to see you”.

      1. That one reminds me of Party Smeagol — the answer they are fishing for is ultimately “I just don’t like you that much!”

        I recently got a painful fade from someone, and the quote I keep rereading, which I may have picked up here or FOCA, is from Hanif Kureishi: “If you want something badly enough, you make arrangements. If you don’t want it badly enough, you make excuses.” It is brutally sucky, but making the clean break — or forcing the clarification of the break that is already happening — means at least you can move on and start healing / mourning what used to be.

  5. That first poem. Damn. Completely crying by the end; I needed that, and it’s propelled me out of my sad-sack funk to make marmalade. Thanks so much for it – chopping citrus is way better than wallowing.

  6. ‘We became best friends for the better part of a year and then one of my friends suggested we date. After that my feelings only grew for her incredibly’

    Oh man, I’ve been there, LW 660. It’s so weird when you’re friends with someone of your preferred gender to date and people notice your closeness and start making comments about how you should date, and then suddenly your feelings just blossom and your friendship seems so much more meaningful and you know if you did date then it would be amazing…and then it’s not. And it sucks. Ok I confess, this person in my life and I never got to the dating stage because he didn’t ever see me that way. Unfortunately my feelings for him destroyed our friendship and we could never go back to how we were. I was mad at myself for a while for developing those feelings, but there’s no point in that, nobody can help it.

    I’m sorry about your girlfriend, LW. I’m afraid it seems like her feelings just did not blossom towards you. Dating someone can feel wonderful but it can also feel suffocating, and I wonder if she feels that way right now. I remember feeling seriously suffocated by my first serious relationship. He would always call at a certain time (we were long distance) and I’d just made some new friends and was soooo excited that I finally had real friends. In the end I stopped making it home from college in time for his call because I was having such a good time with my new friends. But I didn’t know I could end the relationship, and he was kind of manipulative anyway, and I was a bit younger than him…such a mess. Not trying to say that these unhealthy dynamics are there in your relationship, just that it turns out that she isn’t feeling you as a boyfriend. And if being friends with her after you break up feels crappy, then avoid doing it. Allow yourself some space from her, be nice to yourself, and keep the memories of the good year of your friendship.

    1. I was in a weird spot like this with a friend several years ago and even though I developed a huge crush, I could tell that if I did anything about it it would be literally the worst idea in the long sad history of bad ideas, even if he felt the same about me, which I don’t think he did. I acted a little weird at times, because honestly, sometimes it just happens that you’re bad at judging what to do in that situation. We stayed close for a long time, but eventually drifted apart when he moved away. I continue to be very happy with the general arc of our friendship though, and I’m glad I didn’t mess it up.

      It’s so hard though. Being friends with someone you have feels for is pretty tough.

    2. It’s really weird how a suggestion can make you suddenly have ALL THE INAPPROPRIATE FEELINGS. A friend of mine from high school and I started talking/hanging out more a few years back, and suddenly people were thinking we were a couple or that we should date (even though it would have been long distance), and even though by that point he was dating someone else and I was actively crushing on someone else, this weird cloud of FEELINGS started to settle around my relationship with him. He’s now married to the other lady, who is really a lovely fun smart person who makes him very happy, and yet I find myself judging the fuck out of her/their relationship because I am weirdly jealous, I guess. I am in love with and engaged to someone I adore and I don’t *want* to be with anyone else, but FEELINGS RESIDUE. (I keep my judgy thoughts to myself because they are nonsense.)
      I sometimes wonder if the FEELINGS are because he was someone I leaned on emotionally when I was coming out of a long-term post-breakup social funk, and because he was interested in me at one point in our friendship, back when we were younger and I had no idea what to do with myself and my sexuality so I just flirted all the time and then SHUT DOWN when someone expressed actual, serious interest. I am now far more adult about my relationships and, as I said, in love with and in a serious relationship with another person entirely, but there is this history there that just somehow brings out inappropriate emotions.

      Anyway. FEELINGS. They do not always have your best interests at heart or make any sense at all.

  7. LW, I have been in your exact situation. I know how much it sucks right now, and how much it sucks to dump someone you’re really stoked on. Once the relationship ends though, you will probably feel relieved that you don’t have to put so much effort in just to get a little affection. It’s sometimes hard to see how all those little shrug-off take a toll on your self-esteem, but over time it turns into a big mass of stinging indifference and resentment. It’s worth it to be with people who prioritise you in their lives, even if breaking up hurts a lot in the short term.

    Also, Captain, you always pick the best poems. Thank you 🙂

  8. Letter #660 is a perfect example of yet another reason to never “give someone a chance,” by the way. The potential other side of this story is haunting the letter: the girl who might have written in to say, “Captain Awkward, I need your advice. There’s this guy, and for the better part of a year we were really good friends and happy with that. Then a friend convinced us that we should try dating, because after all, we already liked each other so much! Why not give it a chance! Now it’s not working at all for me and I’m avoiding him because I don’t know how to break up and I think we’ve ruined our friendship, what can I do?”

    1. Eh, for every example of this you can find another where “Hey, what the heck” led to real sparks striking, or friendships that briefly tested the romantic waters before going back. That rule might help you if you’re feeling pressured to try things you can tell won’t work out, but making it a “never” issue for absolutely everybody is going further than the data warrants.

  9. LW #661, oh god, I have so much love and sympathy for you right now. Not long ago I was in that awful place — A Year of Personal Crises and Losing Friends — and so I hope you don’t mind my offering some advice that has less to do with S. than with the other things going on in your life.

    If you’re in crisis mode and the people who used to help you with those crises aren’t there anymore, it’s little wonder that things with S. are intensely stressful and have a huge amount of pressure on them — you’ve lost the energy reserves and the support team that used to help you deal with stuff like this. So my advice is: go to the places where love is.

    It doesn’t have to be Big Love (although if you have a good relationship with your family, I really recommend calling home or going home, if that’s an option). It can be hanging out with the friends you see once a month for dinner but who always make you feel good. It can be going to the dog park and watching people love their dogs. (I personally find that one really helpful — it’s so nice to see people being kind to animals.) Maybe go watch people do a craft they love and are good at. The idea is just to get more exposure to love in your life. Fill up that well of sadness and crisis with people who are happy with themselves, glad to be around you, and who leave you feeling better than you felt when you walked in. Sometimes that person can be yourself; for me, sometimes re-reading stuff I’ve written, or writing loving messages to my future self, is really helpful. (I know it sounds doofy, and it’s not for everyone. But sometimes loving yourself is important, too.)

    Anyway, whatever happens with S., I hope you find your way back to a place where you feel secure and loved, because you deserve that. Many Jedi hugs.

  10. Those poems are great, and very timely for me! Thank you Captain.

    LWs, follow all the advice, especially about self-care and not beating yourselves up. It’s tough, but sometimes when someone does a fade on you, you can decide that a) even if they are right for you in every other way, just the fact that they are doing that is enough to qualify them for the “not actually right for you” category, and b) you deserve better than someone who’s not enthusiastic about spending time with you. And then remind yourself of those two things whenever you want to reach out to them or find yourself wistfully thinking how great it would all be if they would only XYZ.

    2 or 3 years ago I was in a situation with similarities to #661 and that is what eventually worked for me.

    Also, reading these made me realize I need to do this again now (not a friend, someone with whom sparks flew straight away and things were amazing for a couple of months, but now they’re freaking out and saying how they need to think about what they want in life, and I feel like I need to detach before I get rejected again. So, different situation, the same tools should work though! Especially fighting my jerkbrain.)

    Good luck Letter Writers, you can get through this!

    (Off to read some old posts here, and maybe some Dear Sugar ones too.)

  11. Fuck that second poem. Just because a girl is blonde and prettier than you and gets more male attention and has her own esoteric interests and hobbies that don’t interest you doesn’t mean she’s dingy or vapid or somehow not as good as the special snowflake social failure obsessed with some dude she can’t even tell her feelings to.

    I love this website but sometimes it just glorifies sucking at life.

    1. The character in the poem that was not written by me is 1) so obsessed with a dude who might not actually be either stupid or a jerk that his face appears in her bathroom plaster 2) possibly an unreliable narrator.

      Enjoy your anger, though! Let the Dark Side of the Force fill you.

      1. 1.) The dude is not a stupid jerk. 2.) The narrator is a stupid jerk who wrote a cloying poem about how cute it is that she’s a sad, jealous, maladapted creeper. 3.) That personality type is a plague on geek communities, and you know it. In men, we recognize it as fedora/friendzone/proto-MRA, but in women, we indulge it and pretend like it’s adorable. It’s not. Hating on other women because they’re prettier/more confident/different/whatever is pathetic, even Taylor Swift has outgrown it, thankfully. Expending mass amounts of energy obsessing over somebody to the detriment of your other relationships and own sanity is unhealthy. Ugh, it’s just so much bad, so I will enjoy my anger, thank you very much, and I will continue to happily level judgment upon people who see themselves in this poem.

        1. I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be healthy, it’s meant to be a way of getting out feelings you know are total bullshit but are feeling anyway – without getting those feelings all over other people.

          And if you actually read the reply properly the Captain was not saying that the dude was a jerk at all.

        2. My interpretation of the poem was that the author was expressing feelings that many of us have had (thus the reason there are so many creepers out there) and shining a light on just how ridiculous and unhealthy they really are. It was obvious to me that the narrator is projecting their own jealousy and insecurity on the “bimbo” rather than painting a realistic picture of that other person. This wasn’t intended to be read as an unbiased account of reality.

          One of the misconceptions I see a lot is the notion that any art that depicts (perhaps with compassion and/or humor) the darker sides of humanity is automatically attempting to *glorify* that aspect of humanity. This is a fallacy. Sometimes we need to see our own foolishness reflected in someone else (even a fictional character) to recognize just how stupid we are being. But poems like this one let us laugh at ourselves (or our past selves) with a bit of compassion added as well, which definitely helps when trying to move forward and do better.

          1. Yes to everything you said, especially the second paragraph. I did understand Annie’s point about the Nice Girl seemingness of the narrator but I absolutely didn’t see the “pretending it’s cute and adorable” part.

          2. I agree very strongly with what red_girl_42 said. When I read the poem it seemed very clear to me that the narrator was misinterpreting the behavior of others and judging them unfairly because of her own emotional state. It wasn’t glorifying – it was laughing at the kind of human fallibility that makes us see things through an emotional storm/ wish fullfillment lens that distorts everythign. Because we are human, and fallible, and sometimes ruled by our desires. That is in fact the point of the poem.

          3. Yeah, I feel like you don’t have to end a vent like this with “AND THESE FEELINGS ARE TOTALLY WRONG AND INAPPROPRIATE AND I SHOULD NOT BE HAVING THEM” in order for it to be clear that this isn’t actually a good thing that’s going on. I was recently talking with a friend who had read a book where a character had done a few pretty questionable things because she was in a bad place, and this friend was under the impression that the book was “glorifying” these things. And as we talked, I realized that my friend was only ever going to be okay with the character’s actions if she had been hit by a bus as proper payback or spent the entire rest of the book repenting her awful, awful deeds. There are people who feel like even though the self-damage and unhealthy mental state is implied, unless you put a big fat “THIS IS NOT OKAY” disclaimer on it, acknowledging is the same as condoning.

        3. I once chewed someone a new asshole over the course of ~5000 words for making a one-off Tumblr joke that “every woman wants to look like [random white supermodel], don’t front,” so I get that if something hits your sore spot, it hits your sore spot, especially if it’s not clear whether it’s meant to be taken as truth, a joke, or something else entirely.

          That being said, “I will continue to happily level judgment upon people who see themselves in this poem?” What the fuck? People have emotions they can’t control, and people get to feel whatever shitty way they feel in their own heads. You’re coming to a place where a lot of people are admittedly struggling with depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and all manner of other difficulties on top of social awkwardness and uprooting poisonous social scripts. I doubt that I am alone when I say: I am doing my best to interact in ways that are kind and honest and direct, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy and it doesn’t mean I don’t have big ugly feelings about doing so. I see myself in people who are willing to admit that ugliness. The ones who won’t admit they struggle with dealing with their own emotions are the people who make me feel like giving up.

          Saying “You don’t get to even admit that you have feelings you’re not proud of” is so far from helpful it’s hateful.

          If you want to judge people who bring a certain kind of behavior to your social circle, then, by all means. But your comment is not particularly clear either.

        4. The poem is making fun of how ridiculous and toxic it is when you are inside that mindset. You can hate the poem all you like! Your hatred is noted. Further details of your hate can be hosted at your own website from now on, thanks!


        5. English professor here. Let’s do this.

          1) The dude might or might not be a stupid jerk: we don’t have enough information to make that determination. What we do know is that the speaker of the poem is frustrated that the dude he or she is crushing on is not returning his or her feelings, and that the frustration is coming out as anger. The dude’s own qualities are beside the point here.

          2a) The speaker (narrator) of the poem might very well be a stupid jerk. but the speaker of the poem and the author of the poem are not the same. The speaker is always fictional. Just because something is written in the first person does not make it autobiographical. “My Last Duchess” is written in the first person, but that does not mean that Robert Browning was a murderous Italian duke. Even when a piece is autobiographical, the speaker is an invented persona, and must never, ever be confused with the author qua human person.

          2b) I see no evidence to support reading this piece as “cloying” or “cute.” On the contrary, the speaker is leveling much of his or her anger at him- or herself. The opening line, “The stupid jerk I’m obsessed with” tells us as much. While we might think for the the first half of the line that the dude really is a stupid jerk, the second half immediately undermines that impression: “I’m obsessed with” lets us know first that the speaker is self-aware enough to know that his or her feelings are not reasonable or stable. This self-awareness bounces us back to “stupid jerk” and makes us realize that the speaker is calling him a stupid jerk out of frustration, and not because of anything to do with him. What’s more, this immediate juxtaposition lets us know that the speaker knows this, too. This pattern continues throughout the piece. The speaker even acknowledges that the dude probably really is interested in what the blonde woman has to say, and then later casts him- or herself in the extremely unflattering and unstable position of being the stupid jerk that some other guy is obsessed with. This speaker is not self-satisfied. This speaker is self-reflective and self-critical. There is nothing cloying or cute here.

          2c) The speaker of the poem might well be a jealous, maladapted creeper, but there is not enough information here to make that determination. On the contrary, the fact that the speaker is keeping all this frustration and anger and hurt to him- or herself and talking to the wall about it instead of making it the dude’s problem suggests that he or she is actually fairly well adapted and no creepier than the next person.

          3a) The personality type who makes his or her feelings someone else’s problem is a plague on society in general. There is no evidence in this text that the speaker is making his or her feelings anyone else’s problem.

          3b) Hating on romantic rivals is ugly and childish when it’s done out loud. Hating on romantic rivals when it’s done in one’s own head is human. There is no evidence that this speaker is expressing these feelings to anyone besides him- or herself. Further, the speaker seems to be feeling quite a bit of self-loathing about these feelings. This is also human.

          3c) I agree that people who act out on feelings like this should not act out on feelings like this, but I will never judge anyone for the feelings themselves.

          Here endeth the lesson.

          1. Leonine I am delurking (at last, at long long last) just to say how much I adore your analysis! Thanks.

          2. I wish this site had upvotes so I could give you like a thousand of them. That was awesome. Go English professor!

          3. that does not mean that Robert Browning was a murderous Italian duke




          4. Hating on romantic rivals is ugly and childish when it’s done out loud. Hating on romantic rivals when it’s done in one’s own head is human.

            This is getting thumbtacked as today’s daily reminder that I don’t need to be perfect. Thank you.

          5. “You thought it was funny that I wrote a poem called The Stupid Jerk That I’m Obsessed With.
            Do you think it was funny being obsessed with a jerk? It wasn’t funny, it was sad! I cried!”

            Maggie Estep, “How To Get Free Hamburgers”

        6. Uhm. I totally get wanting to level judgment at people who see themselves in that poem, and it’s not like I could stop you, but maybe it’s also worth it to know whether or not those people are okay about or happy with the fact that they see themselves in that poem, and whether they are happy with it, and if they are trying to change it?

        7. Uhm: “Expending mass amounts of energy obsessing … is unhealthy. Ugh, it’s just so much bad, so I will enjoy my anger, thank you very much, and I will continue to happily level judgment upon people who see themselves in this poem.”


          Dude, it’s a poem, chill. IMO the narrator is despairlaughing and ridiculing their own circular, obsessive, out-of-touch-with-reality, unhealthy-and-not-ok-but-kinda-ok-with-that-but-not-really thoughts about a crush, including lampooning their own internal pettiness nad meanness about their crush’s potential crush. The poet is not the narrator; the Captain is not the poet; there is no need to take this all so personally and make this all so personal.

  12. I’m in a similar situation as LW 661, but the problem now isn’t distance, the problem is me liking a guy more and more when I know for a fact he doesn’t like me. I was in the same position as the LW where my friend was creating that distance, but in my case I (luckily?) solved it by aggressively talking about how much I liked other guys around him. It kind of sucks because I’m denying my own feelings but I’m happy because I still get to be friends with him. But maybe I’ll regret it later? I don’t really know, but for now, LW 661, thank you for reminding me of a good reason why I should keep my pantsfeelings for this guy in check, even if he does seem like he would be receptive. -_-;;

    1. I’ve been in a similar situation a couple times, though usually the friend I developed feelings for was in a committed relationship so me putting my feelings on the table was not OK. I found it most helpful to simply accept that I was attracted to my friend and to not make myself feel bad for those feelings, as if they immediately needed to disappear simply because they cannot be realized in a relationship. A script that I’ve found helpful–this is for myself, only–looks something like this:

      “Ok, self. You’re attracted to [friend]. That makes a lot of sense because [friend] is funny and cool and kind. A romantic relationship with [friend] is not on the table so the place for these feelings and for talking about these feelings is not a place involving [friend].”

      Sometimes I talk to an UNconnected friend about the feelings; often I just talk to myself! In my experience, feelings of interest and attraction to friends become *really* intense when I deny or reject them or focus on how terrible it is that I’m feeling them. If I accept them, they mellow out making it so I can enjoy the friendship for the awesome thing it is, and also allow me to form genuine feelings for other available and interested people.

      Good luck!

  13. LWs, I feel like any “advice” I can give is going to be somewhat. . . questionable. If you wanted pro tips on how to totally destroy the remains of a relationship with someone you were friends with and had romantic feelings for, I AM YOUR WOMAN. But, I am accruing quite a bit of experience with coping with really terrible friendship-endings!

    #661: can I sort of recommend that you take your sadness very seriously and put some real effort into finding a professional sort of person to help you out? It’s really unpleasant to tell yourself that you are FINE JUST FINE EVERYTHING IS FINE JUST BECAUSE I AM STARTING TO WONDER ABOUT THE LOGISTICS OF KILLING MYSELF I AM FINE A STUPID FRIENDSHIP BREAKING DOWN IS TOTALLY NOT A SITUATION THAT IS SERIOUS ENOUGH TO MERIT INTERVENTION RIGHT for six months and then end up surprised when you have a breakdown. I know therapy is ALWAYS recommended, but, um, here I am, recommending it again!

    The thing that I wanted to say is: if you need to, let it take a lot of time to stop hurting. Like, take however long you think is reasonable and then multiply it by 2,4, 10, some ridiculous high number. My mom once told me that it takes at least twice as long as the relationship went on to mourn it. For me it takes much longer (in the neighborhood of 1-2 years for a 6-9 month friendship), and the mourning process didn’t even start up properly until I had cut nearly every tie I had with that person. I think if you are a person who doesn’t have to go through the “this emotion is stupid and I am ashamed of it so I refuse to admit I feel it” –> “I am overwhelmed by the emotion I am definitely not feeling” –> “intense guilt and meta-guilt over not being able to stop myself from having this horrible emotion”–> “start at beginning” process, then the mourning period could be shorter. I also think if you’re accustomed to harsh self-criticism, grieving takes longer (because you keep getting stuck yelling at yourself for feeling anything at all, instead of just. . . feeling.)

    There are a lot of things you can do to keep yourself moving, to broaden and diversity and awesome-ify your life, but they’re not that much different from the things you would do if you were just in a low point in your single/partnered life, and not experiencing a painful end of a relationship. There isn’t a replacement for just sitting with that pain for some amount of time.

    Emotional pain is a part of human life, but I had gotten tangled up in a narrative about how emotional pain was doled out to those who were too stupid/horrible to avoid it — which football of misery I grabbed and kept running with, back and forth between the goalposts of “I feel terrible” and “you deserve it, which means you can’t ask for help and also are not allowed to take space or time for yourself to heal.” I know this sounds counter-intuitive and maybe kind of maladjusted, but in my experience the more you can treat emotional pain like mono (which is called something else in the UK, maybe?), the better. It’s a random bad thing that happened, and you just have to take care of yourself until it passes. You don’t deny yourself bed rest because you should known better than to eat your lunch without washing your hands first.


    1. US –> UK medical translation: mono is called glandular fever over here. (Great comment, by the way – glad to be able to help out with the technical jargon!)

      1. Thanks! I had a vague memory that it was different, and enough so that it could cause unnecessary bepuzzlement. . .

  14. Gosh. And this one. Wishing I could delurk again just to like this.

    Wow, you guys, it’s almost as though this subject has SPECIAL RESONANCE FOR ME. Do you think that could be it?

  15. My ex and I promised each other, before our two-month No Contact period, that we’d be good friends after. But she’s not really initiating any kind of interaction and is getting kind of mean when she replies to me reaching out–like, making really unkind sarcastic comments at my expense? If I send her an article, she’ll say something like, “Wow, can’t believe I wasted a click on that.”

    I feel pretty crushed about this, because we were good friends before. So… just to hear an answer out loud even though I already know it… I stop initiating contact, right? I’ve never been good at letting friendships go, but it sounds like despite my hopes for this one, it’s probably time to let go, huh?

    1. Angie: yes. I’m sorry, this sucks, but actually the promise to be friends after a break-up is not one anyone can commit to keeping. You/they will just not know how it feels to have that person in your life under another category. I’m sure you and your ex were totally sincere in wanting that, but her behaviour plainly says that she doesn’t feel that way now.

      Disengage, be really nice to yourself (can I recommend eating cupcakes and/or playing with puppies?) and remember that if she does eventually reach out to you, you still get a say in whether you want to build a friendship with her. It’s not just her decision.

    2. I’m so sorry. And yeah, I’d let it go.

      (It is possible that she does not realize how she is coming across; I recently spent time with a friend who I thought was having fun, whose comments on social media suggested to me that they did not have a good time /at all/, and who checked back with me to say, paraphrased, “Crap, apparently I came across as really snarky about the whole evening, I absolutely didn’t mean to, I had a lovely time and would love to do it again.” But that was a one-time instance, and they initiated the check-back.)

      I might reply to one of the comments with “Oh, sorry, I thought you’d be interested. My bad. I’ll hear from you later, I guess. 🙂 ” or something else that conveys “you seem displeased/get in touch with me when you want to” and then let it go. That is maybe a your-judgment-call thing, based on how long you’ve known her (eight months? fifteen years?) and whether or not it’s possible these are a tone mismatch due to an outside circumstance (happened over the course of four days? five months?), but I would only do that once.

    3. Oh jeez. Yeah, this is super sucky but she clearly doesn’t want to be friends, so just let it go. Sometimes you think you want to be friends because you’re in that habit of daily contact and going without it seems impossibly miserable, but then once you do have some time away, you just realize that you are better off without it. It sounds like she is handling that realization really poorly, which isn’t your fault and could have a lot of motivating factors.

      I think if it were me I’d just stop reaching out. You gave a good-faith effort; you have nothing to be ashamed of. If she reaches out to you some time in the future, don’t feel obligated to let her back in just because in the past you promised to “be friends”. Assess what’s best for you when it happens. 🙂

    4. Ahh, thanks you guys! And I’m sorry for hijacking the comments–it’s just that when I was reading the Captain’s advice above, I was like, “Oh my god,” because I hadn’t really considered just… disengaging, but thank you all for the confirming what I knew in my heart of hearts, that it’s time to let go.

  16. Dear LWs:
    Love that’s dead and/or unrequited really, really hurts. There are three poems by Sierra DeMulder I recommend reading to help deal with this hurt:

    “Unconditional Love Poem”
    You will be out with friends
    when the news of her existence
    will be accidentally spilled all over
    your bar stool. Respond calmly
    as if it was only a change in weather,
    a punch line you saw coming.
    After your fourth shot of cheap liquor,
    leave the image of him kissing another woman
    in the toilet. In the morning, her name will be
    in every headline: car crash, robbery, flood.
    When he calls you, ignore the hundreds of ropes
    untangling themselves in your stomach.
    You are the best friend again. He invites
    you over for dinner and you say yes
    too easily. Remind yourself this isn’t special,
    it’s only dinner, everyone has to eat.
    When he greets you at the door, do not think
    for one second you are the reason
    he wore cologne tonight. In his kitchen, he will hand-feed you
    a piece of red pepper. His laugh
    will be low and warm and it will make you
    feel like candlelight. Do not think this is special.
    Do not count on your fingers the number
    of freckles you could kiss too easily.
    Try to think of pilot lights and olive oil,
    not everything you have ever loved about him,
    or it will suddenly feel boiling and possible
    and so close. You will find her bobby pins
    laying innocently on his bathroom sink.
    Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs
    of spiders, splinters of her undressing
    in his bed. Do not say anything.
    Think of stealing them, wearing them
    home in your hair. When he hugs you goodbye,
    let him kiss you on the forehead.
    Settle for target practice. At home, you will picture her across town
    pressing her fingers into his back
    like wet cement. You will wonder
    if she looks like you, if you are two bedrooms
    in the same house. Did he fall for her features
    like rearranged furniture? When he kisses her,
    does she taste like wet paint?
    You will want to call him.
    You will go as far as holding the phone
    in your hand, imagine telling him
    unimaginable things like “You are always
    ticking inside of me and I dream of you
    more often than I don’t.
    My body is a dead language
    and you pronounce
    each word perfectly.” Do not call him.
    Fall asleep to the hum of the VCR.
    She must make him happy.
    She must be his favorite place in Minneapolis.
    You are a souvenir shop, where he goes
    to remember how much people miss him
    when he is gone.

    “Prayer to the Saint of Leaving”
    Let us no longer wake up
    sweating in a summer bed.

    Let us never eat grapefruits
    from each other’s laps.

    Let us stray quickly
    into this Garden of Sleeping Alone.
    This Garden of Heartache has found itself
    a labyrinth inside me.

    Let this be easy.
    Let this be the last time
    my heart is wrong.

    Let his hands not surrender
    up my thighs. Let him not
    unwrap me. Let him
    not find in me a new body
    again and again.

    Let him not love me.
    Let it not be so.

    “Love, Forgive Me”
    My sister told me a soul mate is not the person
    who makes you the happiest but the one who
    makes you feel the most, who conducts your heart

    to bang the loudest, who can drag you giggling
    with forgiveness from the cellar they locked you in.
    It has always been you. You are the first

    person I was afraid to sleep next to,
    not because of the fear you would leave
    in the night but because I didn’t want to wake up

    ungracefully. In the morning, I crawled over
    your lumbering chest to wash my face and pinch
    my cheeks and lay myself out like a still-life

    beside you. Your new girlfriend is pretty
    like the cover of a cookbook. I have said her name
    into the empty belly of my apartment. Forgive me.

    When I feel myself falling out of love with you,
    I turn the record of your laughter over, reposition
    the needle. I dust the dirty living room of your affection.

    I have imagined our children. Forgive me. I made up
    the best parts of you. Forgive me. When you told me
    to look for you on my wedding day, to pause

    on the alter for the sound of your voice
    before sinking myself into the pond of another
    love, forgive me. I mistook it for a promise.

    There’s also some Warsan Shire poems, like:

    i give myself five days to forget you.
    on the first day i rust.
    on the second i wilt.
    on the third day i sit with friends but i think about your tongue.
    i clean my room on the fourth day. i clean my body on the fourth day.
    i try to replace your scent on the fourth day.
    the fifth day, i adorn myself like the mouth of an inmate.
    a wedding singer dressed in borrowed gold.
    the midas of cheap metal.
    tinsel in the middle of summer.
    crevice glitter, two days after the party.
    i glow the way unwanted things do,
    a neon sign that reads;
    come, i still taste like someone else’s mouth.

    “when the one i wanted, did not want me”
    I was almost rabid
    for love.
    Would’ve lunged at any thing
    thrown my way
    carcass, shadow, memory, promise
    shell of a man.
    I thought it was better
    to be loved by a dead thing
    than to be left alone.
    Then I loved a dead thing
    and was completely alone.

    “bad milk”
    since you moved out
    i have not returned to the apartment.
    i sleep in my old bedroom
    in the house i outgrew the moment
    you flexed your fingers inside of me.
    my mother and her henna fingered friends
    move out my belongings
    like handfuls of water
    from a sinking boat.
    the entire city tastes of your
    cowardly mouth.
    i pray like a photograph left out in the sun
    bent at the edges
    stiff at the centre
    trying to remember what i looked like
    before you ruined me.

    and “34 excuses for why we failed at love”
    1. I’m lonely so I do lonely things.
    2. Loving you was like going to war, I never came back the same.
    3. You hate women, just like your father and his father, so it runs in your blood.
    4. I was wandering the derelict car park of your heart looking for a ride home.
    5. You’re a ghost town I’m too patriotic to leave.
    6. I stay because you’re the beginning of the dream I want to remember.
    7. I didn’t call him back because he likes his girls voiceless.
    8. It’s not that he’s wants to be a liar, it’s just that he doesn’t know the truth.
    9. I couldn’t love you, you were a small war.
    10. We covered the smell of loss with jokes.
    11. I didn’t want to fail at love like our parents.
    12. You made the nomad in me build a house and stay.
    13. I’m not a dog.
    14. We were trying to prove our blood wrong.
    15. I was still lonely so I did even lonelier things.
    16. Yes, I’m insecure, but so was my mother and her mother.
    17. No, he loves me he just makes me cry a lot.
    18. He knows all of my secrets and still wants to kiss me.
    19. You were too cruel to love for a long time.
    20. It just didn’t work out.
    21. My dad walked out one afternoon and never came back.
    22. I can’t sleep because I can still taste him in my mouth.
    23. I cut him out at the root , he was my favourite tree, rotting, threatening the foundations of my home.
    24. The women in my family die waiting.
    25. Because I didn’t want to die waiting for you.
    26. I had to leave, I felt lonely when he held me.
    27. You’re the song I rewind until I know all the words and I feel sick.
    28. He sent me a text that said ‘I love you so bad’
    29. His heart wasn’t as beautiful as his smile.
    30. We emotionally manipulated one another until we thought it was love.
    31. Forgive me, I was lonely so I chose you.
    32. I’m a lover without a lover
    33. I’m lovely and lonely.
    34. I belong deeply to myself.

    (wow, I only just realized how long this comment is)

  17. I don’t actually have anything to say to the LWs, but this one time in college, we were supposed to bring in a poem/excerpt to read to the class, and I read The Stupid Jerk I’m Obsessed With out loud to the class while the stupid jerk I was obsessed with was ACTUALLY sitting next to me, looking over my shoulder and I am still incredibly proud of this.

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