Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Ask Polly: These Tortured Intellectual Boys Are Torturing Me!


I'm a 26 year-old woman living in a big city.

I've been in 3 serious relationships. The last one—the big one, the one that broke my heart and my soul and almost made me give up on love and all that junk—ended over a year ago. I'd been in love with him for about 2 years before we started dating. Once we did, it was a whirlwind of love and romantic weekends (we were long distance for most of the time). I felt that he was the one. I KNEW he was the one. He was smart and funny and honest with this biting pessimistic (and yet painfully accurate) sarcasm. He wasn't always so good at being part of the world. And while, on the one hand, I liked that he was different, you know, a 'rule breaker,' 'not just your average everyday accountant,' a 'critical thinker,' etc., it was also pretty annoying that he had a hard time making dinner plans more than an hour in advance or that he didn't have too many qualms about leaving a social situation on his own terms. He would just suddenly 'not feel like' something anymore, and that was that. He also very possibly suffered (or still suffers) from depression.

I know, you might be like 'hmmm, this guy doesn't sound so awesome.' You're Polly—you're perceptive like that. But to me, at the time, I just didn't care about his Asperger-like social tendencies. I was head over heels. My eyes had turned to stars! Our GChat conversations were the highlight of my work days. We debated. We theorized. We analyzed. I worked to convince him that the world wasn't SUCH a horrible place. A more astute person (or therapist) might also say that I enjoyed the idea of myself as the optimistic fairy princess who saved him.

Except, as it turns out, he didn't want to be saved. After the honeymoon period of our first months together faded away, he just wanted to be alone. I learned this the hard way, when he broke up with me a month after I moved to his city.

It took a while, but I'm over it. Had my mourning period. Had my 'focusing on myself' months. Now I'm ready to move on! Strapping on those dating boots!

So why am I writing you?

Because, okay. Here I am. Dating again. Except most of the guys I meet (in person, and on OK Cupid) are so so MEH to me. So boring. Sure, we might have a mildly interesting conversation, maybe. But most guys don't like to debate about theoretical things. Or they're amused by me, but then they'd rather talk about movies. In essence—I'm bored by them. I don't give a flip if they text or don't text ever again. I don't give a flip if they try to kiss me or not. Maybe I'll kiss them back, but I won't give a flip about the kissing either. I'll just be bored.

Obviously I haven't tried every single guy out there, but it's starting to worry me that the only guys I really find myself attracted to are the tortured intellectual types. Like my ex. Or, in their own ways, like my other exes before him. Every guy I've seriously liked has been incredibly head-smart and heart-dumb, and, more often than not, has some mild psychological issues to boot (more like depression that sociopathy, but still).

I know I should just fall in love with someone more… normal (I know, no one is actually "normal," but hopefully you know what I mean). These guys aren't good for me! They're usually too self-involved to seriously commit to a long-term relationship. And my friends never like them (the world "asshole" has been used a time or two). I realize that I shouldn't date someone that I'm trying to "save" or "change." Trust me, I will never again try to change a guy! But is there something wrong with the way I'm seeing men here? Or maybe all the smart-but-not-damaged ones are taken?

Why is dating so hard, Polly? And why am I into the wrong ones?


Turned on by Intellectual Assholes


Hello, mineral-rich soil of a letter, begging to be plowed and planted and watered and mountain-top-mined for every ounce of wealth you offer. But where do I start, TOBIA? So many paths to follow here! Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.

That last part is a quote by Ricky Fitts, the weird kid next door in American Beauty. He's talking about the footage he shot of a plastic bag, floating around in the air. I mean, ungh, who doesn't love that haunted little theorist boy. He's a greasy morsel of perfection. He's the moody dream boy of every smart girl's high-def fantasy. Beautiful eyes, tortured family life, a tiny bit creepy, pretty depressed. Wes Bentley, yes indeedy.

But let's flash ahead to fifteen years later in our story, shall we? Having fallen madly in love, Jane (played by Thora Birch!) and Ricky now share a little apartment in the big city, and Jane is working nights as a registered nurse because Ricky went to NYU film school and then spent a year making a short film. Then he spent a few years working as a grip, but he finally decided that the industry was total fucking bullshit. So now he's getting a PhD in philosophy, theoretically. Except mostly he just smokes pot and speaks in abstractions. And theorizes. And analyzes. And Jane is 33 and would like to have a kid in spite of the traumas of her past. But Ricky says he needs to be in a very, very different place in his life before he even CONSIDERS such a wild and crazy far-away fantasy world.

In other words, Ricky is as pragmatic and future-focused as a squid out of water, lolling about on a linoleum floor. He's a human throw pillow. He's a plastic bag that floats around in advance of a snowstorm for fifteen minutes straight, and then just sits on the ground getting soggy the rest of the time. He does look really beautiful, floating around. But still.

For Ricky, floating started out as a way of finding himself. It was still sexy then! But now floating is just a giant excuse for not really living yet. It's an excuse to leave a party—OR a relationship—the very first second you feel vaguely dissatisfied.

Hey, to each his own. Seriously. Go forth and do you, sweet cheeks.

We're not talking to Ricky, though. We're talking to you, Jane/TOBIA. Could your ex foresee dumping you before you relocated your entire life to be with him? Fuck no, he could not. He required those sinking feelings that came along with you making practical plans in his midst, and then he needed one full month of the two of you, not just fucking and being dreamily perfect together. There you were, messing up all of his floating by requiring him to show up places and do things. Motherfucking doing things! So overrated!

Just imagine all of the other shit that might've turned out to be completely beyond his control, over the course of a few more years. You dodged a bullet.

But don't tell me "You're Polly, you're perceptive." I was pretty perceptive twenty years ago, but I still did all kinds of crazy stupid stuff. I look back on my boyfriends over the years, and Jesus, they were different from each other. Even so, most of them were squid boys, throw pillow guys, flying plastic bag men. But not on the surface! On the surface, they seemed pretty productive and normal. But underneath, they couldn't deal. How did that happen? Why did I end up with that kind of flailing, future-avoidant, convention-eschewing guy?

Here's why—PAY ATTENTION! Because when you meet a plastic-bag man, you can immediately see how you'll fit into his life. And that's exciting. It doesn't mean he seems needy, or that he even likes you all that much. But somehow, you can see the holes that need filling. You can fill them. You're good at filling holes! Really good!

Example: The recently dumped oldish guy with the really depressed dog. This dog needs a walk! This oldish guy needs a (younger) lady who's sweet and kind, who'll never leave him! The pull of that vision on you, in his life, fixing everything, is strong indeed, overpowering all of the other stuff that should be repelling you, like the fact that his ex seems perfectly ok and she hates his fucking guts.

This vision is so strong that, when you go for a walk with the dog for the first time, and he shows you how to pick up the dog's shit? You are appalled, but you don't immediately smile politely, say goodbye, get in your car, and get the fuck out of there. (Yeah! Go get some doughnuts! Rent a movie! Celebrate!) You stay. But did you indicate the slightest interest in his dog's shits? That should have been a blaring red alarm. Did you heed it? No, you told yourself, "Look how serious he is. He sees a future for us, together, picking up lots of shit."

Heh, there's the other thing. When a guy is serious and intense, that can feel so refreshing. After a series of encounters with casual whatever fuckwadery, that intensity can be tough to resist. He looks you in the eyes? Incredible! And he says heavy shit, and analyzes and theorizes? And not just about Federer's tactical failings?

Seriousness and a hunger for analysis, that's lady catnip. But it's also, sometimes, a sign that your guy knows his target demographic pretty goddamn well. Or that he's depressed. Or that he's a tedious self-centered overly analytical slithering self-adoring sea monster.

Now, let's move from the intriguing, serious, heavy ones to boring, light, dull ones. You put on your dating boots, then fall asleep in them. Here's something to keep in mind: Some guys who talk about dull stuff, politely, without a lot of frisson or passion? They're just trying to act normal on a fucking date. They're trying not to trot out the full-bore crazy immediately. They know from experience that not every woman alive loves analysis, and theorizing, and debate. See? THEY'RE SANE ENOUGH TO HIDE SOME OF THEIR CRAZY. And the older you are, the more you understand that that's about as sane as it gets, folks. Sane enough to seem sane? That's pretty goddamn sane, actually.

Now no one is endorsing the guy who talks about sports and televised entertainments, endlessly, on your first date. No one is saying that's your guy.

But a guy who talks about his job, and it's kind of dull, and he talks about his favorite cable drama, and that's a little boring, and he talks about moutain biking or surfing or some romanticized take on moving around outdoors, and that's sort of a snooze? And he touches on a past relationship, demonstrates that he has a brain and some emotions, but doesn't go into it, and doesn't make it into an interesting story? Maybe he's casual, easy come easy go, and seems not all that attached to seeing you again? Or worse, he seems interested, but maybe because you're the most interesting thing he's encountered in a while? Because he attracts boring stuff to him like lint? Because he's just regular, doesn't seem to need you, and who cares how his dull story winds up anyway? Seems to be functioning alright? And maybe he can't tell the difference between fabulous you and some dull Betty with half as many ideas in her head?

We've just described a regular, healthy human being, that's all. Do we know what it's like to spend lots of time with him? We don't know a thing about that—BUT THAT'S WHAT WE CARE ABOUT. Not his creepy eyes. Not his haunted soliloquies. No. Is he relaxing to be around? Does he listen really closely to you, plus he's hilariously funny when he doesn't feel put on the spot, plus he's sexy when you're not sitting in hard chairs, talking about your careers, for fuck's sake?

Maybe your conversations will become richer and richer. Maybe he has complex thoughts about lots of stuff, you just don't know it yet. Maybe not, but maybe.

Keep in mind: The good guys generally don't present all that well. They usually seem boring at first. They are not intense, they don't need you, they don't insult you, they don’t stare deeply into your eyes, they don't say provocative insane shit that confuses you. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT INSANE.

My husband, for example, is the single worst storyteller in the history of the world. It's incredible, listening to him tell a story, how clueless he is about keeping people interested. He will give you deep background information on minor characters in his story, as if his goal is to put you into a trance. He will back up and tell you which (totally irrelevant) events brought him to this (also totally trivial) tale. Here's my husband, recalling his experiences selling encyclopedias door to door (that's the internet, stuffed into some books. They used to sell that shit to suckers). Keep in mind, he's talking to A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE AT A PARTY:

Husband: So I knocked. This woman answers the door, and she says, "No thanks, not interested." So, go to the next house. I knock. A guy comes to the door and he says, "No thanks." So I go to the next house and knock.

Guess what happens next? Someone else says no thanks. It's actually a little bit like performance art, what he does. And it's transfixing, watching people's faces transform from engaged and interested to glazed over, like human lava lamps.

But let's be honest. People still like my husband way better than me, with my lightning-fast awesome stories. He's less repugnant and repellent than me, of course. Who isn't? And he's very interesting to speak to, as long as he's not telling a story. In conversation, he theorizes, analyzes, debates. He thinks things over and responds. And he talks about his day, and it's generally interesting, as long as no part of his brain says "HEY THIS IS A STORY I'M TELLING A STORY NOW."

I think my big point here is that ALL men are kind of weird mutant life forms who have giant blind spots somewhere, or they just flat out can't function at all. You need to look out for a guy who CAN function reasonably well, is maybe just SOMETIMES depressed (Because, hello, who's not depressed ever? Dumb people, and dumb animals. Even smart animals are depressed a lot of the time). Your ideal guy will be wonderful in almost every way, and a little screwy in one or two ways that don't prevent him from, say, making a fucking plan a few days in advance, or staying at a party past the point where it's 100% optimal for him to be there.

How will you find your guy? By suspending your disbelief a little longer. By going on second dates. By keeping an open mind.

I'm trying to tell you that intellectual does not have to mean tortured. If you find someone smart enough, that in and of itself is a gift that keeps on giving. He doesn't have to be insane or intense or even wildly romantic. He just needs to be capable of intelligent discourse. Listen, think, respond intelligently. It sounds so simple, but CHRIST ALMIGHTY there are lots of dopes who don't understand simple conversational language. And there are there lots of guys squidding around out there, spewing out inky vagaries, matching their surroundings perfectly but never fucking listening for half a second! Talk about boring.

Now, sure, your guy will need to be sensitive, with some possible emotional neglect in his past. It's like salt: A little neglect, but not too much! It's true though that a sliver of damage makes men more interesting. Without any damage or any sensitivity or any depressy or anxious tendencies, even smart men can sound like dumb animals.

You can take or leave a small bit of damage-spice. Overall, though, you are on the lookout for robust mental health, which often looks really boring at the outset. Likewise, men who look shiny and exciting from the very first moment are often pretty fucked and scary in the long run.

Ladies of the universe, heed me: Robust mental health and brains, paired with a great sense of humor, lots of ideas and opinions, and an ability to listen, all rolled into the form of a productive member of society? It might look dull at first because it has a bad haircut and doesn't know how to dress, but THAT is still what you want. You don't need slouchy romantic thinkers, OK? Those guys feel like they deserve to have an affair. They feel like they should take a year off to travel, even though the baby is still young. They feel like you're holding them back, making things all dreary and lame in their lives. "Why can't you happier?" they'll ask you, sounding very unhappy themselves.

At the very least, when you encounter a squid boy, a throw pillow guy, a plastic bag man, don't listen to his critiques of you. Just put down the throw pillow (don't throw it!) and move on. When you believe that he's right, that there's something missing IN YOU, that YOU are the wound? You stay obsessed with him, and you can't move on. TOBIA, do you still suspect that Mr. Plastic Bag had you pegged? That he's somehow better than you because he rejected you? Because you'll be ignoring great guys forever and ever if you truly believe that.

Look very closely at the stories you tell yourself about yourself. Then resolve to tell better stories. You ARE an optimistic fairy princess. It's time to give some of these so-called frogs a fighting chance.


Do you ever feel like a plastic bag drifting through the wind, want to start again? Write to Polly and tell her all about it, Katy.

Heather Havrilesky (aka Polly Esther) is The Awl's existential advice columnist. She's also a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and is the author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness (Riverhead 2011). She blogs here about scratchy pants, personality disorders, and aged cheeses. Image from a photo by James Alby.

43 Comments / Post A Comment

Bunburying (#81,872)

I guess there's something wrong with me because I want to hear the end of the encyclopedia-selling story.

"Tobia" is actually a nice name. I kept forgetting it's an acronym.

srs (#15,773)

This is the best, most true thing Polly has written.

TATAbox (#249,918)

Oh god, this was my first boyfriend who really fucked me up. The "political filmmaker-type," so convinced of his own genius. He'd always get into these *moods* because this whole fuckin' thing is just so fucked up, man.. He would ramble on to someone (oftentimes me) about some political/historical topic for LITERALLY 30 minutes straight even though the other person wasn't responding or participating and was so obviously bored as fuck but couldn't figure out how to get out of the conversation. It was insane. I sometimes wonder if he actually had mild Asperger's, just because his brother was some kind of math genius (people who know about Asperger's, is that a thing? He would also say mind-blowingly inconsiderate shit and never understood why it was shitty).

As God is my witness I'm never putting up with that shit again.

xee (#8,831)

@TATAbox imo it's kind of unfair on people who have actual aspergers to stretch the term to mean "people who are completely self-involved": being selfish is not a medical condition.

Meaux (#81,163)

@TATAbox. Yeah, sometimes people are just bad at…other people. Maybe they didn't learn the right skills early on, or weren't treated with empathy themselves (so didn't learn to model it). Or they're just jerks. I'm thinking a diagnosis would mean they simply weren't capable of learning those skills. I myself used to say really inconsiderate shit and not see why I shouldn't say it. ("But it's the truth!") Fortunately, life experience and a patient partner gradually taught me tact and empathy.

Meaux (#81,163)

@TATAbox. Also, I have dated similar jerks: NEVER AGAIN!

Bittersweet (#765)

Creepy and damaged, even a little bit, are incredibly overrated.

TATAbox (#249,918)

It just made me wonder because I know that people with Asperger's have a hard time judging other's interest during conversations. But I get you; it really bugs me when people use OCD in the same way.

jaimeleigh (#1,840)

I think that some of this is solved by just plain growing up and learning to discern which qualities in a man are desirable to adult you in a real, adult relationship, and which qualities in a man were desirable to teenage you in a daydream, teenage relationship.

It seems that much of the time when women get hung up on these kinds of guys they either had a super short-lived relationship or a near-miss relationship, and they're haunted not by the reality/memory of the relationship but the idea of what might have been. Likewise, they're turned off by what they imagine to be the boring relationship and not the actually pretty awesome contentedness of dating a normal, non-Hemingway wannabe.

A great cure to stop obsessing over these types of guys is to actually be with one, for real, for a period of time. The dark, tortured routine becomes pretty tired pretty fast when you're living it and not able to romanticize away the bullshit.

hatesmath (#249,957)

It's not so much damage that's the problem but an unwillingness to take necessary steps to heal from that damage. The conflation of mental illness with boorish pseudoacademic assholes here kind of bugs me, because I think the real problem here is dudes (and ladies) who romanticize their damage into an identity and lose the ability or desire to become a functioning human being.

K. Mae (#240,479)

@hatesmath This is incredibly wise.

mandor (#1,014)

@hatesmath I've been wresting with this whole business lately and you gave me a bit of needed clarity. It has been really difficult for me to accept the dude left me because he preferred the company of those who also romanticize their damage. At some level drama is fun and distracting, right? And I couldn't pretend like I didn't find that way of living exhausting and empty.

Ms. Creant (#249,964)

Just created an account in order to comment here that this post, Polly's answer was ABSOLUTELY THE BEST THING EVER. I dated that oldish dog guy! Spoiler alert, the dog never dies. Ever. No matter how old it is when you start dating oldish guy. (Sorry, I don't hate all dogs, but most sincerely hate that dog with separation anxiety that shits and pisses all over the house when you and oldish guy go out to dinner for two hours. But I digress.) I wanted to fill in the holes! OMG. Thank you, Polly, for your brillant insightful writing.

lisaf (#249,967)

TOBIA, I relate to you so much (I thought I was alone!). Thanks Polly!

Megano! (#16,245)

I will take all the "boring" guys who like to talk about cable dramas all the time, you can keep your intellectual types.

Swiss Meringue (#243,120)

Oh no. The Divorced Vegan Anarchist Dogwalker? The Alcoholic Journalist Poet? The Manic Librarian Music Critic? Did I start writing letters to Ask Polly in my sleep? All signs point to yes.

fabel (#201,544)

Intellectual Asshole or Boring Normal . Ohhhhh TOBIA, I know it feels like it, but there aren't only two types of guys.

Meaux (#81,163)

@fabel. I was married to a wonderful guy who came off at first like an insurance salesman–that sort of boring, gladhanding kind of niceness. I started dating him anyway and found out, to my joy, that he had a seriously twisted sense of humor and was basically a total freak when not in public. We had years and years of fun that I never would have imagined upon first meeting. Also, the intellectual assholes I've dated have had their share of charm and sweetness. So really, false dichotomy.

Another good place to start is to stop thinking about guys as "The One" or "Not The One." Is he a good partner, every day? Cool, keep going. I think you're bored because you're used to the drama of a totally shitty partner. Healthy relationships feel almost too quiet at first because you don't have to pick your battles all the time.

grizzle_bees (#250,036)

@supernintendochalmers Yes. Yesyesyesyes.

Lis (#250,093)

@supernintendochalmers Yes! My fiancée and I were friends for four years before getting engaged. She says that so many of her friends were concerned when we started dating because everything was "good." There was no gushing or "OMG EVERYTHING IS AMAZING!" beginning-of-relationship squee… but we also haven't had the corresponding downs, either! We communicate very well, compromise when necessary, and encourage each other to be better people (well, she encourages me to be a better person. I think she's amazing already.) And let me tell you… having had a number of those up-and-down relationships? This is so nice.

RobotsNeedLove (#236,743)

Yes, yes, yes to Polly's advice. They CAN seem boring at first. They may not be boring, just nice, and normal.

And Tobia… nice normal guys are the kind of guys who let YOU be interesting. Don't you want to be interesting? But be nice. Don't not be nice.

pandabear (#248,470)

my thought after reading basically everything from polly: this should be mandatory reading for all women in their early 20s.

i'm speaking from personal experience when i say this, so no judgment on the LW at all, but it's a very bad habit to think you are somehow above the, at first glance, borings types. it's a recipe for loneliness, romantic or otherwise.

HeedlessMischief (#250,011)

I think that sometimes people neglect the fact that there are whole classes of interesting people who are not artists, but are similarly creative, engaged, politically aware etc. but possibly more likely to be focused and tenacious. Scientists, for example.

I do wonder if TOBIA herself has maybe been putting TMI into the universe on first impression, as well, because, well, sometimes the nutty ladies attract the nutty mens. Having previously been this kind of TMI person, I can attest. Way more into being reserved and meeting other reserved peeps and having good developments take place at least semi-gradually.

CasualElegance (#231,723)

Polly, thank you so much for selecting this letter out of your mail-bag. The LW's experience really rang true for me – as I'm sure it did for lots of 'Pinners as we are all such smart interesting ladies ;) and finding guys who can not only keep up, but challenge and surprise us is not always easy.

To the LW – keep your head up. You sound great, and you have the wherewith-all to realize why your last relationship ended badly – which means you are in prime shape to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Good luck!

descie (#6,721)

Today I learned how fucking crazy I act on first dates. Oy vey.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

This is interesting. As one of your typical tortured intellectual artist vegan anarchist types — I even ride a bicycle around New York! — it has been my distinct impression that most people do not see intellectuality, tortured or not, as attractive (in a romantic sense), unless it's connected with wealth, power, or fame. On the contrary, I've sometimes thought to hiring myself out to close down parties and gatherings — I could show up and in 15 minutes the room would be empty, just as I was getting to the really interesting lessons to be learned from the fractality of Buxtehude's fugal style, as compared to Jackson Pollock's later work. But, anyway, it would probably be better to consider torturedness or intellectuality as side issues, like stamp collecting or bird-watching, not a main theme. Unless of course you too are a tortured intellectual artist vegan anarchist type, in which case you're just stuck, I guess.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

@Anarcissie I am sort of your opposite. Pre-sobriety I once woke up to a text that said "nice meeting you last night! would love to hear more about post-structuralism."

commanderbanana (#167,624)

@Anarcissie You sound really proud of being people repellant.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

@commanderbanana — It was a great burden to me as a young person, but later I learned to enjoy it. 'Turn your stumbling-blocks into stepping-stones', as a sappy religious text I once read put it. I've never actually been able to turn the room-clearing thing into a career, though. Still working on that.

Xenu01 (#244,135)

@migraineheadache: As someone who is learning about postmodernism as it relates to history, I'd give post-structuralism a pass.

moderniste (#250,334)

@Anarcissie Want 2 meetup? xoxo, Manic Pixie Dreamgirl

Anarcissie (#3,748)

@moderniste — Sure — you know how Net-derived meetings usually turn out. Write to me at gmail.

commanderbanana (#167,624)

Hah! Every since I realized that I didn't want to be "challenged" by someone I was in a relationship with, my life became so much more peaceful. I want someone I can fall into, like a broken-down, comfortable couch, with no pointy edges.

franetic (#250,039)

Men (and lady-dating-ladies) of the world, beware: there are not only squid boys, but squid girls. I am a recovering one. No partner can "save" a person like this. For me, at least, anyone who wanted to save me was a person I respected just a little bit less. I felt superior because (in my mind) they loved me more than I loved them. I resented them for trying to "show" me anything I couldn't see myself, and I hated myself enough to think they were fools to even attempt it. I was terrible to date. I look back on my past relationships with shame and embarrassment. I hope your ex does, too, TOBIA. He clearly doesn't deserve you. What he needs is some serious therapy to dismantle his carefully constructed douchebag cocoon. That's what finally helped me. God bless you, therapy…and God bless you friends who finally told me: "Nobody's going to fix you. Nobody should. You need to fix your damn self."

PSA Lady (#250,174)


Hey, PSA lady (post-squid-awareness), thanks for this!

!!!!!! As a hole-filler-upper myself, I've had to see that it's sooooo tempting to fix others: you can see the hole, so fix it! But that actually there's this weirdo-thing where actually, your best shot at helping that person out is by role-modelling a healthy, whole self yourself…

Not diving right in, to fix them rather than your own, perhaps more obtuse, or just less compelling, more ugh-y problems, oh, those! Don't feel inspired, feel lonely? Boring! Someone else doesn't feel inspired? Is lonely? Here, let me help you!

It's just so much easier to see other peoples' problems! And to feel empowered to have agency to fix them, than it is to address your own murky, really-requires-agency and commitment problems (which, funnily enough can actually be commitment problems. I used to think it was the dudes I dated who had some commitment ish, until I realized I was flightier than a fuckin' butterfly, running for my life like damn baby away from scary, scary love.

Yep, it's much easier to be the tough guy/lady (or the flip side the "helpful one") than just to face your own fears like a damn grown-up person (not that most grown-up people actually do, buncha damn babies runnin' around projecting all their issues everywhere!)

But whatever your issues… Being too needy, being too scared to be needy and vulnerable. Once YOU quit being such a baby and/or so desperately lonely and/or isolated and/or afraid to be alone (co-dependent) that switches it right up, and those types of relationships are no longer what's up. Seriously, it was a revelation to me that… well, I kind of knew I was on the commitment-phobic end of things, but I totally honestly thought that I was NOT ruled by a fear of intimacy, that I was a total badass, completely down, and up for it… and it was just all these other shall-we-say less than bold and brave people who just weren't as bold-and-brave as me. It was funny to find myself faced with the situation (after… ok, fuck it, biting the bullet and spending time with myself cultivating my own damn thing) and watching me pee myself (while fleeing) like a little baby (not a pretty sight, tho a damn funny one!). I guess I wasn't so badass and bold and brave after all, huh?

Thanks, former squid lady, for the much needed PSA!


Former, with-still-tendencies, fixer-upper of others instead of myself because it's easier, haha just kidding it's actually so much harder and less rewarding and more thankless and impossible — at least it's within my abilities to actually fix myself – other people? Not so much! Vain, vain, vain! (in both meanings of the word)

Xenu01 (#244,135)

Hmm. I have to disagree on one point. Don't seek out the drama types, sure, and don't expect to theorize on the first date or anything, but also don't "give people a chance" when you're just not into them. And you know? I think you know if you're into someone by date 1 or 2. I mean, if she's telling you a story you might not be into normally (she's a physicist and you're an artist) and you're digging anything she says because you really like her laugh or whatever, that's a good sign. If someone is like "let me describe to you the plot of the entire first season of Game of Thrones" and you're bored out of your mind, for fuck's sake don't give this person any more chances than you want to!

IgotthisISWEAR (#245,193)

This column is just some really, really beautiful prose in its own right. Well done you.

TimK39 (#250,151)

I'd love to hear what the guys who have dated Tobia think about her. I'd bet she's not quite the catch she makes herself out to be. And guys are just as bored with her as she is with them, if not more so.

1964862547@twitter (#250,278)

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giantrabbit (#250,411)


I think I hold the record for dating the most naval-gazing, hairshirt wearing, bogus intellectuals in the world. So many. It boggles the mind. They all liked really weepy music too. That should have tipped me off, when I was more 'meh' about Sia than they were.

The point is, Polly is right, I spent a long time chasing sad-sack wishy washy boys and then men with ideas about how their big brains couldn't handle relationships or people, or tasks, or simple requests for more communication etc..

Then I got real tired of it, tired enough to go on three dates with a guy who kind of seemed a bit too uptight for me, but had this endearing habit of like, planning to see me again, sometimes weeks in advance! He even told me, "i'm really a planner." which at the time actually acted like some kind of underpants juicer, which at the time shocked me because I just couldn't believe the fact that a man I was dating saying he enjoyed making plans was enough to turn me on, BUT IT WAS.

Anyways, that was like 3 months ago, and I don't want to be too predictive here, but things are actually going quite well, and I like him, and he likes me, and he still gives me the old fire in the loins, and now, a new one, a fire in my heart, because unlike the old brain/loin firing dingbats, this one seems to actually give a shit about me and it's a real nice feeling.

Oh yeah, it does help that he is not dumb at all, and he was just being uptight because he was nervous, and do you know why he was nervous? Because unlike those other ego-maniacal/alternately self-hating napkin rings he actually cared that I think well of him.

So listen to Polly, polly is a genius.

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