Turning The Screw
22

Ask Polly: A Chilling Cautionary Tale About the Dangers of Getting Involved With Attached People

Dear Polly,

Yesterday, I woke up to an email in my inbox with the subject "Uncontested Divorce Papers." I need to sign them and send them back to the lawyer, at which point she'll file them with the courts, and I'll officially be a divorcée. In order to make the process as quick and hassle-free as possible, the reason given for the divorce is "irretrievable breakdown of marriage over a period of at least six months." The problem is, as far as I'm concerned, that's a complete lie. 

I'd been married for fourteen months and twenty days when my husband told me he was in love with one of my [...]

8

Ask Polly: I Want People to Know the Real Me But It Just Won't Come Out

Dear Polly,

I want to be known, and to know other people. I crave intimacy, and not just physical intimacy. I realize everyone wants these things. But I am afraid I will never “be known.” It seems that no matter what I say or do, no one will ever know the REAL me, not in full. When I talk to people I often feel like I’m talking to them through a thin glass wall. I want people to benefit from knowing me, and for me to be able to reach out and help other people, and empathize with them, and build proper relationships.

Part of the reason I can’t [...]

35

Ask Polly: You Are Not Uniquely Fucked

Hi Polly,

I’m 29 and have been through an enormous amount of shit that is both situation-specific and universal; I am not unproud that I’ve made it this far, considering. I’m in therapy and have been off and on since I was eight, looking for a way to beat back some severe depression and find good reasons to keep doing normal people things that actually feel excruciating. I’m on some meds now that make me not feel like I’m walking around without any skin, but I know that’s just about getting level and now I’ve got actual work to do. I just have no idea where to go or what to do [...]

17

Ask Polly: How Can I Stop Being a Shut In Once and for All?

Dear Polly,

I don't really know what my real problem is. I can name an array of problems that I have, but I don't know if they are symptomatic, causal, imaginary or just plain over-analyzing. I don't have childhood traumas from which I can say everything started. I only know that these issues manifested themselves when I started university. I've kept diaries on and off for long periods of time and am seeing a therapist regularly for the last 1.5 years. Self-help books gather dust because I don't know if they actually address a problem I have. Or I lose motivation. Ultimately, I feel like I am in stasis. 

On [...]

22

Ask Polly: I Have Absolutely No Idea What I Need to Be Happy

Hi Polly.

I don't even know where to start, because for some reason I'm HORRIBLE at articulating my emotions. I feel like as soon as I have an "epiphany," it only opens up the door to another warehouse of issues to sift through. I'm so exhausted and worn out from an entire lifetime of extreme neuroticism and self-consciousness, and I need some clarity.

You seem to always have some advice that I can apply to my own life, so I have been wanting to write to you for a while. But I can't decide what to ask advice for since I really could use help in all areas of [...]

20

Ask Polly: I Thought My Mother-in-Law Was Going to Kill Me at My Wedding

Dear Polly,

How can I put away the fact that when I got married ~1.5 years ago, my now-estranged mother-in-law's unchecked borderline personality disorder detracted from the whole event?  

I'm not a wedding person. I never was. My partner, The Boy, and I got married for health insurance after I successfully defended my thesis in 2011. Sounds cold, but we'd been living together for several years at that point and were completely happy continuing our relationship that way. We were both fried from my grad school experience, during which everything up to but not including actual physical assault occurred. I had to play an absolutely horrifying game of being the bait, [...]

18

Ask Polly: Why Am I Deathly Afraid of Success?

Dear Polly,

Love your column. Can I throw something at you? Apologies for being vague with certain details.

I'm a 43-year-old woman who has spent my whole life in one industry, got pretty far, and then descended back down the ladder to the place I started from. One day my whole outlook on my career changed and I wanted out. The problem was I didn't know how to do anything else. I was unconsciously sabotaging job after job but without an exit strategy, so it was a rough few years. 

Finally I ended up at the entry level of my industry, hiding my experience and qualifications so I could be a worker [...]

45

Polly Asks: New York Magazine Wants Me to Write Ask Polly For Them. Should I Tell Them to Piss Off?

Dear Readers,

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 [...]

23

Ask Polly: Should I Cut My Abusive Mother Out of My Life Forever?

Hi Polly,

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 [...]

26

Ask Polly: My Boyfriend Thinks I'm Clingy and This Terrifies Me

Dear Polly,

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 [...]

23

Ask Polly: How to Be Nice

Hi Polly,

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. [...]

11

Ask Polly: I Have a Perfect Life But My Insides Are Rotting

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 [...]

47

Ask Polly: I Was Dumped After a Freak Accident and I Can't Move On

Dear Polly,

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 [...]

49

Ask Polly: How Do I Make My Boyfriend Listen?

Dear Polly,

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 [...]

11

Ask Polly: I Think My New Boyfriend Might Be a Horrible Control Freak

Dear Polly,

I started dating a guy a few weeks ago, and yes I know, a few weeks is NOTHING, but, even in that short time some things have come up and I'm having a really hard time separating what is just me being sabotage-y and too fucking sharp, chopping shit up into julienne cuts, and what might be legitimate signs that this is not a good match, which I am overlooking because I am too busy chop chop chopping.

About four years ago, I was in a pretty terrible relationship. He was bipolar, and later on, I found out he lied about pretty much everything: He had a long-term [...]

40

Ask Polly: I Want to Get Laid But I'm Afraid of Oppressing Women

Dear Polly,

First of all, let me assure you, I feel like a huge asshole just for asking this, but I've been chewing on this question on and off for more than a year without any real resolution, so I thought I'd turn to you. Here's the deal: I'm wondering whether I'm abusing feminist ideology in order to justify a natural shyness around women and, if so, whether you could find me a new narrative that would help me feel less bad about acknowledging and acting on attractions.

I've always been seriously shy about any aspect of dating, sex, hooking up, whatever. It's not that I have trouble interacting [...]

18

Ask Polly: I Had a Stillbirth and My Husband Totally Lacked Empathy

Dear Polly,

I think my husband is spineless, selfish, and prioritizes his convenience over my emotions. 

Background: My husband is from another country. We visit for a month or so every summer, when he catches up with friends and family. I am cool with this. (I do wish he might also, I dunno, set some time aside for his *wife* during our only vacation time, but that's another letter). However, he has this one friend whom I would actually happily feed to rodents of an unusual size.

I had a stillbirth almost five years ago. It took a year to figure out what the problem was, during which I had two more miscarriages. They diagnosed [...]

72

Ask Polly: My Boyfriend Won't Stop Raging About My Sexual History

Dear Polly,

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

I've been dating a guy for about four months. We’re madly in love, despite being different in more ways than we are alike. Politics, education, socio-economic status, religion—you name it, we’re on almost opposite ends of the spectrum. However, we’re best friends through and through. A month or so into our relationship, he sat me down and shed a tear telling me how in love and how certain he was that he wanted to marry me. I am right there, too. Then shit started to get weird.

One night at a party, he got so angry about my friend and I laughing about this [...]

17

Ask Polly: I Survived a Hard Life, But I Never Learned How to Be Normal

Hello Polly!

I'm 23 and I feel like I've come a pretty long way already. I grew up in an abusive and poor-as-hell home; went to live on my own when I was fifteen; struggled with depression and a terrible relationship; and made (and paid off) a huge amount of debt. All the terrible things happened. ALL OF THEM.

However, I think I did a lot of cool things as well: I raised my sister to be a happy, normal person, and I finished school with really good grades even though I did not know at the time where food would come from and I had to sleep on the [...]

42

Ask Polly: My Dad Died Unexpectedly And I Can't Get Over It

Hi Polly,

Last year my father, who was 56, died suddenly of a heart aneurysm. He took me out for my 24th birthday dinner, and then two days later he was dead. I feel like the past months have been a mess of every emotion possible. I'm a great big ball of pain, and it seems as though grief is the one thing no one will talk about with me. My dad was the parent who showed up for me, who supported me as a writer. We shared so many similarities: a tendency to overthink and undersleep, a need for long intellectual conversations, a deep and sometimes painful sensitivity, and [...]