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

Everything I'm about to say is just more support and color for Polly's perfectly -awesome-as-it-always-is advice.

1. On parents wanting their kids to have both toughness and vulnerability: I'm naturally tough on the exterior. My squishy inside is always something I've guarded. When a guy broke my heart a few years ago, I told my mom and burst into tears, and the first thing she said as she hugged me was "Thank God you let yourself be vulnerable to him." She didn't know I could. My own MOM. (For the record, I had to work on it, for years, and did so incrementally with my friends.)

2. I was in a leadership training at work yesterday and the trainer said something really great: "You are responsible for only 50 percent of every relationship you have." He went on to add that you must give 100% to your 50% (and of course during certain times one might be temporarily carrying the burden), but if you are consistently giving 80% to the relationship and the other person is giving 20%, or vice versa, then it's not one worth having.

3. I've spent years working on being more vulnerable by opening up more to my friends. And it has improved every single one of those relationships. Since I appeared tough all the time, people actually thought I was "perfect" and "totally put together" and "never (!!) had problems." When I started sharing my insecurities and nutty side - a little at a time, this one to this person, that one to that person, etc - they saw me as the real, flawed human I am and shared more of their own similar insecurities and nuttiness, which made me feel more normal. Now I know that everyone on earth is batshit crazy about SOMETHING no matter how "perfect" or "put together" I think THEY are. It's kind of the emotional equivalent of picturing everyone in an audience naked - everyone you think is intimidatingly awesome has spent time as a sobbing heap of mascara stains*. Human interaction and intimacy becomes easier when you know that most people you care about will react with love and compassion and possibly even empathy to that squishy side.

*OK, maybe not "everyone" on this one.

Posted on July 9, 2014 at 2:12 pm 2

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

@14888595@twitter Could not agree more.

Achieving, and then maintaining, good mental health is a lifelong process. LW, therapy was kind of like putting gas in your car on a road trip. You filled up and left the station and it helped you get this far, and you like the road you're on, but now you're so many miles away from where you started and you're down a little low and you need to fill up to keep going on this road. That is TOTALLY OKAY, and NOT AT ALL a failure.

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 4:51 pm 2

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

@STM FUCK THOSE PEOPLE TELLING YOU TO BE JOYFUL. Weddings are a pain in the ass. You know how I knew that my grad school best friend's marriage was going to last (and it has, so far!)? The closer we got to her wedding, the more annoyed she was BY the planning and the more she *just wanted to be married to her fiance already*. She didn't give a shit about colors or how to fold the napkins or who was seated next to whom. She just wanted to start her life with her love. And that was the exact right thing, I thought, for her to be focused on (made it damn easy to stand up as her maid of honor, believing in the marriage that was taking place!). All that matters is the part where you and your fiance are committing to each other. The WED-ding. But the WEDDING? PSSSH.

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 3:54 pm 1

On I Just Ate Fruit for the First Time and It Kind of Sucked

I feel this whole story. Not about fruit specifically, but I have my own version of hating certain things everybody else finds good (LOOKING AT YOU SOY SAUCE, YOU DISGUSTING FLAVOR TROLL). People really get rude and confrontational about it, which I have never understood since it doesn't affect them in any way. I DON'T KNOW WHY, OK, IT JUST IS. LEAVE ME ALONE.

It's made me very tolerant of other people's food quirks. You don't like something I like? More for me! We hate the same thing? Solidarity!

Posted on May 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm 1

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

"...grief is the one thing no one will talk about with me."

First of all, I'm so sorry your dad died. That sucks. And your grief is normal.

And yes, people are terribly afraid of grief and of the grieving. People always feel like if they can't magically fix something then they aren't helping, and grief makes us confront that we can't fix everything (to say nothing of the whole facing-your-own-mortality aspect of supporting a grieving person).

The only way to get better is to let yourself feel what you feel. That's the only way to get it out and ultimately let it go. And just because we know we'll (likely) outlive our parents doesn't mean it's an easy thing to have happen, especially when they're still pretty young. You SHOULD still be working through it in the first year. Feeling your dad's absence is now a part of your existence, but it's still a very NEW part. It will take time to fold it in so it's not a primary focus for you. In fact, for me, the second year after each major death has been more painful than the first - that's when the "forever" part of their being gone really sinks in.

I definitely recommend asking people to sit with you and let you talk (or whatever it is that you feel you want to do). In my case, asking people to come be with me when I wanted someone there was the ice breaker that they needed to actually be there. And then they saw how my grief was changing over time, and understood that I was getting better even though I was still working through it.

It's unfair, but often when we need people most, a lot of them don't know what we need and so we have to ask for it flat-out. But I think if you do that then you'll find people who are supportive and willing to be there for you.

*Hug*

Posted on April 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm 0

On My Hairdo Is Not Your Safari

Another curly-haired white woman who has had people touch my hair without permission (but never without a reaction, because GET OFF). I've found in my experience it's mostly a case of have-nots wanting to touch what they don't have (straight-haired people touching my curly hair, people with more texture touching pin-straight hair, etc). In which case, for most of those women yeah it would be partially race-based in that they are curious about hair they don't personally have. But the "reasons" don't matter - people just need to flat-out control their damn impulses. I see stuff all the time - sometimes on people - that I feel like I want to touch too, but I just DON'T because I am a grown-up.

The assumption by so many women that it's OK to just randomly touch a stranger because "we're all just girls here" is maddening.

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 4:08 pm 0

On Ask Polly: I'm 33 And Single. What Am I Doing Wrong?

@JaceyMac @doraleigh @paddlepickle HEAR, HEAR. One of life's major lessons for me is that it's wholly valid to *feel* all swept away by a new person, but it's something else entirely to go around talking about it or planning your collective future (whether that's two months or twenty years from now). I've found that the men who do that (and probably women too) are basically saying "Hi, I don't think about consequences." (I also think people like that tend to get overexcited about new things - the last one I met told me all about how he was interested in X sub-specialty in his career, then he learned about Y and thought he'd do that, then it was Z….) They're now on my list, along with Charming Dudes and Guys Who Want You To Be Their Mothers.

Posted on April 4, 2014 at 12:02 am 1

On Ask Polly: My Terrific Herd Of Friends Is Being Ruined By This Awful Freak

@Owlie As a fellow explainer, I totally agree with Polly's "don't explain" advice. I've learned to make myself refrain unless I specifically want to *maintain and reinforce* a relationship with the other person. For example, I recently had a conflict that made me decline a birthday dinner invite for a friendly acquaintance. I like her and would have gone if I'd been free, so I told her what the conflict was and offered to take her for a drink later in the week. But if I didn't like her and was happy to have a legit reason not to go, I would have ignored my impulse to name-drop my conflict and would simply have said "Can't make it; sorry! Have a good birthday!" Took a long time but I finally figured out that not explaining myself to the Jessicas of the world means never having to do the excuse-making tap-dance that stirs up trouble with them. (And the people you usually *do* explain things to will have relationships with you that are solid enough to understand that you're being deliberately private when you keep mum with them.)

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 4:47 pm 0

On Ask Polly: My Parents Don't Want Me To Marry This Short Man And I'm Freaking Out!

@Niko Bellic Someone is going to have to go back in time and tell my great-grandparents about that North-South rule.

Posted on January 9, 2014 at 1:36 pm 0

On Ask Polly: My Mom Keeps Guilting Me About Visiting For Christmas!

Last year was the first time my brother wasn't with us for Christmas (he was with his fiancee and her family), and it was fucking hard for me to be without him. All day his absence was more potent than the presence of all the other people who were there - and that was being among my OWN family. The LW's mom is spending all Christmas day with people who, though they may be like-minded, and hopefully have mutually-loving relationships with her, are NOT her own family. And not a damn one of her own children can see fit to come spend the day with her? LW and his siblings are ALL ridiculous and selfish. How many mothers in this world are happier spending family-oriented holidays with someone else's kids instead of their own? Yeah.

It is NOT too much to ask that an adult child and his partner - and his sisters and their families - suck it up and make their "very sweet" mother's fucking year. Stay in a hotel, fine, and ABSOLUTELY get outta dodge and do what you want for your own birthday, and maybe find a way to rotate years with the sibs or something, but give her Christmas Fucking Day - the morning and dinner and whole nine yards. When something is important to your mother and it is NOT important to you, you make your fucking mother fucking happy. That is being an adult, and a loving child who appreciates that your mother sacrificed her own independent adulthood to raise your whining selfish ass. For a lot of people, that means putting up with a bunch of peckerhead in-laws making peckerhead comments for a couple days a year while we all eat pie. Join the club.

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm 1