I need to tell you a story. That means this will be just like every other Ask Polly column, except this story is a little longer than usual, and at first, when you read it, you'll ask, "Where's the tepid dude of the week?" Just bear with me.
In September of 2012, after reading and admiring The Awl for years, and writing a few short humor pieces for them, I sent Choire Sicha an email.
Subject: Existential advice column That's what I should be writing for The Awl.
Come on, pay me a tiny bit and it's yours! Just enough $ so my husband doesn't roll his eyes [...]
I'm trying to figure out how to get the gist of this across without writing a novel, but here goes. I am a 30-year-old woman who is really hitting her stride. I bought a home with my boyfriend who recently became my fiancé, I have a great job and live a great life in Southern California. It's a dream, and I can't wait to start a family blah blah blah.
Obviously these are the types of joys in life that you want to share with family, but I only have one family member left, my mother, and right now I have such anger toward her that I feel [...]
I’m writing with a deceptively simple question. How can I be vulnerable? Some pertinent background: I’m an academic, working in a field that requires me to live in very remote places for extended periods of time. I find my work incredibly engaging and rewarding, and I know I’m lucky in this regard. Still, the life of an academic (particularly a traveling academic) is often isolating. I don’t have a place to call home. My family is deeply dysfunctional; although I love my parents and siblings, our relationships are fraught and I have never felt unconditionally loved by my parents. I was diagnosed as a child with OCD, and [...]
One of the goals I have set for myself this year is to be a kinder person: more supportive and forgiving of my friends, more friendly and open to people I've just met, more approachable and compassionate with strangers. The problem is that this is a huge struggle because I am not naturally compassionate with people I don't already like.
I have two reasons for wanting to be kinder: to ~make the world a better place~ in an abstract karmic kind of way, and also (this one is selfish) to fight against my depression, defensiveness, and general negative attitude toward life by opening myself up to more experiences. [...]
Dear Polly, I have sort of a backwards problem, in that the better things are going in my life, the worse I feel. I know a good bit, or think I do, about why this happens. My mother committed suicide; my brother who tried to; and my father taught me that my sole purpose and value in life was to make them feel better and stop them from killing themselves. When I tried to care about myself and my needs as much as theirs, I was told this made me a terrible person, and no one would ever love me.
So I grew up to be extremely empathetic and [...]
I was with my husband for six years before I found out that he cheated on me with a co-worker—as well as classmates and women at bars. After I divorced him, we didn't talk for almost six months. Then we were off and on for probably two more years. At a certain point, we were both tired of not working through fights like adults, and he got down on one knee and said he didn't deserve for me to marry him again, but that he'd do anything to prove it to me if we could spend our lives with each other and not like two people who just [...]
I want to know how I can make my boyfriend a better listener.
It has happened several times that when I want to talk about something serious (the future, exes, fears, hopes, etc.) my boyfriend often gets distracted. It's not like he means to hurt me—I think it's just his nature, and possibly mild ADD—but it does hurt me.
I'm 24 and he will be 30 next year. We both see each other as potential life partners. But how can I be with someone who gets distracted by a squirrel when I'm telling him about my father's funeral?
That's the other thing: I have some [...]