It’s been a long time since we’ve looked into
the abyss… the internet’s unfiltered Id… the words that people type into their search engine windows in order to find this place. Good news, Patreon contributors met the first monthly goal, and this will be coming back as a monthly feature. Shall we dance?
1. “Colleagues surprised I got promoted.”
And they point out their surprise? To you? Depending on my comfort level & closeness with the people in question and the likelihood that they’d have the grace to be embarrassed, I might say something like “Thanks for that astounding vote of confidence, Marian!” to help everyone laugh off the moment. I might also call no attention to it and pretend I didn’t notice, based on the fact that sometimes people have weird reactions to things when they first find out about them and do better when their first reaction can be private.
Now, if they keep bringing it up after that first announcement, like, “I was so surprised they promoted you and not Andy…” – it’s time for a wicked smile and “And yet…here we are!” (+ subject change).
2. “Can I ask neighbours not to be on my drive.”
Yes? “Please don’t use my drive, thank you.”
3. “My mother died without resolving our strained relationship or saying thank you.”
We all die in the middle of something unfinished.That SUCKS and I’m sorry for the loss of your mom and for the loss of the chance to make things right between you. It sucks to be grieving someone when you’re bouncing back and forth between grief and anger and regret.
I hope you will honor your mother’s memory and your own experiences with your mom (the ones that made you need to keep your distance) someday when some more time has gone by. Write her a letter of all the things you wanted to say to her, but didn’t. Write the letter back to yourself that you wish that she would send you, the one where she says, “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I understand.”
Be kind to yourself.
4. “Why would a man tell you he will take you out for coffee once in a while, even after breaking up?”
Maybe this man has some idea that you’ll still be friendly. Only he knows for sure, so before you say yes you might ask him: “Hey, was there something in particular you wanted to talk about over coffee?”
Before you go, ask yourself:
Do you want to go out for coffee?
Do you want to stay in contact, or would you benefit from a clean break?
Do you want to go even if it doesn’t really mean anything special about your future together?
5. “People who care about grad school too much.”
Duuuuuuuude. Seriously. What is it with grad school, being all expensive and intense and competitive and interesting and stuff.
(I have no good answer, sorry. Grad school: It’s absorbing.)
6. “She says, ‘Not now, sorry’ when I want to talk with her.”
My best guess is that she is busy and doesn’t want to talk right now.
Try saying, “Ok, let me know when it’s a good time” and then going and doing something else with your time for a while.
In a good [romance][friendship][artistic collaboration] she’ll come find you when she’s ready.
7. “My brother is an insufferable ass.”
You can’t choose your family. Can you limit the amount of time you spend in his company?
8. “If my boyfriend forces me to change my appearance”
Is this one of those fill-in-the-blank scenarios?
“If my boyfriend forces me to change my appearance, and it is not a matter of life and death because we are on the run from an international spy ring, then I should dump him for being a controlling jerk!”
People who “force” you to change important things about yourself are not on your side, Young Googler. Please love yourself enough to get away from this person.
9. “Why is my boyfriend really aggressive about me wearing makeup?”
The simplest explanation is that he does it because he is a controlling asswipe. See #8. He is literally trying to control your face.
10. If a family member shuns you, do they ever think of you?
Maybe? Sometimes? Without action on their part, it’s hard to know.
11. “I found my grandmother’s sex toys.”
Yes! GET IT, GRANNY!
My best suggestion is: Put them back where you found them and act the way you’d like Nana to act if she stumbled across your sex toys (i.e. “quiet” & ” discreet”).
12. “‘Sorry I can’t date you’ message.”
I like replacing “can’t” with “don’t want to” or “am not interested,” if you feel safe to do so. “Can’t” implies circumstances beyond your control, like, “I would totally date you, but this tornado just spirited me away to the land of Oz, so I can’t.” That little window of ambiguity can send a persistent lover into a tizzy of looking for ruby slippers that will click you back to Kansas when really you just want them to leave you in this Technicolor world where it’s not the Great Depression. Whereas, “It’s nice of you to ask, but I am not interested in dating you” is clearer and more specific.
13. “Are all bad girls confident?”
Marie Claire’s former pillock-in-chief Rich would have it so. I need a better definition of terms. What is a ‘bad girl,’ exactly?
14. “How many times should I invite myself to stay as a house guest?”
This is my personal house-guesting code as a 42-year-old white American lady with a job. It does not have to be your personal house-guesting code.
With a close friend or family member,
Where I have a good history of reciprocity,
And I trust them to say an honest “no” if it’s not a good time or whatever,
And the dates of my travel are pretty well-defined (nobody likes “sometime” hanging over their head) and short (1 night – a few days);
…I may ask once or twice or every now and again. More likely when I know that the hosts have a guest room and a habit of saying “Please come visit, we have a guest room and we’d love for you to stay with us!,” in which case, they have invited me and “inviting myself” is more about suggesting a specific time. Much less likely when there is no guest room or guest bed and I’d be taking up someone’s main living space. Not at all likely when the prospective hosts are brand-new parents of a baby or enmeshed in other big deal life stuff. Definitely not if a suggestion of staying there is met with any hesitation; one may ask “Is it okay if I stay in your guest room for a few days?” but one must not try to convince the hosts.
This was all more fungible when I was 25 and used words like “crash” and traveled more internationally and AirBnB did not exist.
15. “How to ask friends not to invite themselves over?”
“Hey, friend, I love your company, but when it comes to my space, can you wait until I invite you over? Thank you.”
16. “I don’t want to be friends with ex-boyfriends.”
You don’t have to be!
17. “A message to write to a friend to tell some one they are of value to you even if they have gone broke.”
“Hello, friend, I know times are really hard right now. I just wanted to say that you are important to me and I’m hoping things get better for you. Can I fix you dinner sometime soon? I’d love to see your face.”
18. “What is Captain in sex?”
If you’re lucky, there’s a recorder solo.
19. “Should teenage boys have sex toys?”
I’m neither a parent nor a legal expert, but my instincts say, “Why the hell shouldn’t all teenagers have access to information & resources to make themselves feel really really good in their own company?” I wish to hell I had grown up with Scarleteen and a waterproof, adjustable-speed vibrator.
20. “Do therapists want to hear how their former patients are doing?”
People in the helping professions sow a lot of seeds without expecting to see the blossoms, so, I say “yes” if you had a good relationship and the information is conveyed in a medium that doesn’t demand work from them. Think of it the way you’d write to a former teacher you wanted to thank in a short note, like, “Dear Therapist, I just wanted to let you know that things are going better at work thanks to your suggestions for managing my time and anxiety better. I hope all is well with you, thank you again for your help. Sincerely, Your former patient.” If you find yourself generating paragraph upon paragraph of text, maybe make an appointment?
21. “Stop meddling and being a matchmaker!”
Yeah, knock it off, Emma!
22. “Me and boyfriend break up because we never have sex.”
Breakups are HARD, even when they are the right thing to do. I hope you are both happier with a little time and distance, and may your next partner(s) be more compatible with you in that way.
23. “Should it bother me that my husband wants me to party with alcohol & cocaine knowing I have seizures and interactions with medications could be harmful?”
I find it useful to replace the word “should” in talks I have with myself. When we’re talking about feelings or big decisions, what “should” happen is not so helpful. The better question is “what IS happening?”
“Should it bother you…”
DOES it bother you? It sounds like it bothers you. (It bothers me!) And, since you are the sole boss of what substances you put in your body, you are the sole decider of what risks are unacceptable for you. “Husband, I don’t want to ‘party’ with you. I don’t want to have a seizure or a bad interaction with my meds. Please stop asking me.”
24. “My roommate leaves the bathroom door open when he goes to the bathroom and showers.”
“Dude, close the door!” (+ open the window!)
25. How to get your boyfriend to look after himself?
Any answer I give is going to generate an automatic “But it’s more complicated than that!” or “But I love him!” response, and rightly so, but I’m going to talk to my younger right now and let everyone listen in. If it’s not applicable then it’s not applicable.
Hey, Young Jennifer, I’m so sorry, the Time Machine did not get me back here in time to stop you from falling in love with [Hot But Troubled Boy]. I had the dial set for 1990, which is why I have all these catalogues for women’s colleges and a bass guitar in here with me, but I can see that I’m a couple years late.
I know you love Boy. His skin feels like magic and when you touch each other it feels like the microscopic space between you is filled with stardust. He smells like two angels fucking. You can stay up all night talking and fixing the world together. You are unstoppable…except for when he is very stoppable.
Boy has a condition called depression. You have it, too, and you should go and get checked out for that. Where I come from you didn’t figure that out for another 5-7 years, and I can’t help but wonder what would be different for me/us if you knew. Depression doesn’t mean you’re unloveable, it just means that it can take medical help and concentrated effort to manage the condition. When Boy hates himself, and stops going to work or class or washing his clothes or wanting to do anything with you, when he has mood swings and gets dark and mean, when he tells you that he doesn’t deserve you and wants you to go away, and then the next day tells you that he’ll die if you leave him, it’s at least partly a manifestation of an illness. It’s not your fault, it’s not something you are doing wrong or not doing enough of. What that also means is that you cannot love him out of it. You can’t fix him or fix it for him. He’s got to do it himself.
What I know now that you don’t know is that the time you are spending, tidying his space for him, worrying about him, talking to your friends about what to do about him, trying to coax him to eat or shower or go see a movie with you, wondering what he’s thinking about, making sure you always look pretty when you see him, keeping track of his schedule and his deadlines, processing the stuff he says to you in and out of his mood swings, taking care of him, trying to lay your love and your body down into all his cracks and fill them, time spent biting your tongue not wanting to make him sad or angry…this is time that you will never get back. You are stealing these years from yourself and offering them up to him, to no one’s benefit.
I know, you love him. I know.
And I have unfair knowledge, because I know stuff that you can’t know now, that maybe you wouldn’t have ever learned if you didn’t try and fail at this.
But I’m from the future, and if I could tell you what to do right now I’d tell you to have one conversation with him where you ask him to seek help for his troubles and to start being nicer to you. If he does? Great, maybe you can have that love story you’re so sure this is going to be. If he won’t? Especially the part about being nice to you? Then I’d tell you to bail. It’s too late for the women’s colleges, but it’s not too late for the bass. Take it, find some other awesome women, start a terrible punk band, and use all the painful things he’s said to you as material for lyrics. Hold out for someone who is always kind to you, someone who doesn’t need to be fixed or parented.
P.S. In 1997, when your friend I. offers you a chance to work at her internet startup but you’re going to take the job at the non-profit instead? WORK FOR I, FOOL. She’s gonna sell that thing to Yahoo right before the crash in 2000, and you can donate your millions of dollars to the non-profit.
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