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

Ahhh, families. You don't even have to describe the particulars and we all know well enough the broad arc of the early life bringing you to this point. I used to think of it as a classic Anglo-Saxon thing, following from the suffocating stoicism of my grandfather toward my father (also: would the unresolved Oedipus Complex be such a thing if it weren't central to so many Great American Novels?), til a second-generation immigrant friend lamented to me the ways in which The Joy Luck Club cut her to ribbons. Tolstoy didn't really have it right, did he? Unhappy families are broadly similar.

When our parents aren't there for us it can be hard to learn how to be there for ourselves (and for our children in succession). It's a guilt that drops like a lead ball through generations. You build such contempt for yourself, no? It's like getting out of prison on parole. One ought to be proud of having survived in deprivation, but the beds are all too soft now and you don't know how to sleep in them.

The truth is that you won't find much in the way of outward validation for your desire to rest your legs after having stood vigilant all your life. Insofar as resilience is a trait coded masculine it's admired and revered and desired by everyone, everywhere. Resilience in this case entailing not simply having not succumbed but having been made more powerful for your hardships. A state of need is acceptable only in private, where it serves to underline the strength and authenticity of public resilience. It pays to have one's shit together, in other words.

I don't believe people are wired to work in such a way, and it fucking sucks that they're expected to, because it means that you can't trust people with your own state of health. Our social relations are predicated on people giving as little of themselves to each other as possible - your first family, the one you're born into, is meant to be solely responsible for you and your needs. When they fail to be no one really wants to take up your cause.

Choosing your second family from friends and lovers is a lot harder in this scenario, but it's ultimately what you have to do. Polly is absolutely 100% right in that you need to find some woman friends who you can talk to. Learn to trust them. I did and it's the only thing that saved me from the progressive rot of a WASP upbringing. Through them you'll learn how to need in a way that relieves the pressure on your heart in a way that's responsible. If you ask a lot, then you give a lot back. It's really that simple. But you cannot, unfortunately, expect just anyone to open that avenue of trade. A lot of people are scared of us, scared we might catch, or expose their own weakness. Don't waste your breath on them.

So yeah, what Polly said. Step 1: Find a friend, a good one, to confide in, and confide in them, and if you find yourself ashamed or embarrassed then you just do it harder. When you've freely given someone every bullet they could possibly fire at you and they don't, the voice in the back of your head that condemns you for having been seen by them loses all its teeth. Having just one of those people in your life is indescribably freeing. From there you can start to build an emotional life that doesn't make you miserable and cold.

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 2:18 am 3

On How to Be a Black Country Star

Reportedly, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was angling to play Pride in a biopic. I don't know if that's still happening, or how Dwayne will become un-jacked for the role

Posted on June 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm 0

On A Man Walks into a Boxing Ring

And I thought I knew everything about Coil

Another thing about the band is that they weren't just noisy and antagonistic but also unmistakably, fiercely gay. The most famous line from their manifesto states that the band makes music for "the ritual accumulation of male sexual energy". Which makes them a surprisingly apt choice to score a boxing match entrance.

Posted on June 19, 2014 at 6:03 pm 0

On Internet Terror Cell Neutralized

Finally, PHIZ can claim its rightful throne

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 6:05 pm 0

On Realism Lauded

Omitted by the editors: The men's rights postscript.

Man to be a fly on the wall during that guy's high school D&D sessions. One can only imagine the grim glory.

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 3:24 pm 0

On Ask Polly: My Boyfriend Thinks I'm Ugly

@Sharilyn Neidhardt If nothing else the letter seems illustrative of why so many guys can go out and neg and still have active lives of courtship. Or just function out in the world.

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 9:45 pm 1

On Ask Polly: Should I Play It Cool—Or Ask Him For More And Be "That Girl"?

Gonna back up what Polly says (as always). I was on the other end of this scenario not very long ago but felt much the same confusion, and as Polly says it's a matter of what you want. It's important to make the distinction between what you want and what you feel you should want. I mean the former as in what will make you happy, and the latter as in what makes you feel "correct".

When I met this woman at 26 it was the first time a date seemed like it was on track to become a relationship. In my gut I felt like it wasn't working, and I wasn't enjoying myself, from the very beginning. But I didn't trust myself. I thought I had something that I was wasting on a reflex, "this will shift over time and I will come to appreciate this", I thought. I was being too hasty, or fickle, and I thought to master myself into wanting what I should have wanted, which was to be with a seemingly nice woman (who I had no spark with). I saw my best self as being in a relationship and I didn't understand why running from one made sense, so I wrote it off as nonsensical. That's a wrong thing on many, many levels.

It didn't get better, obviously. I waited and it got worse, and I put myself in a position where I had lied to this woman in the process of lying to myself about what I wanted. And it ended abruptly, with hurt feelings, less than two weeks into it.* At what point (if ever) do the sunk costs of a relationship start to weigh heavily? Given what you know about this guy, does it seem more constructive to try and light a fire under his ass to straighten up and fly right, or cut ties after 3 months? Is this worth the effort to try and salvage? Being alone isn't so terrifying. It certainly promises grander possibilities than this.

* What I would say in my defense was that I was scared by the irate texts I received over not keeping daily communication after our very first date, after I had told her my life was consumed by school, that I'm well autistic and that marathon conversation is often taxing and difficult for me. But in truth I should have trusted myself from the outset and not left open the possibility of progression. It was a lesson I would've learned in high school had I been a normal boy. I won't do that again.

Posted on February 12, 2014 at 7:37 pm 1

On Ask Polly: I Moved To A New City To Be With An Emotional Vampire

@Myrtle I thought that was disconcerting too, but then if someone really takes psychiatric medicating as a reason to bolt on partners, well, those partners are probably better off without them. And the odds aren't bad that they'll end up with someone who self-medicates in ways that are blissfully overlooked.

Posted on January 31, 2014 at 12:58 am 0

On Ask Polly: I Moved To A New City To Be With An Emotional Vampire

Polly's right on here (natch). Maybe the biggest step in developing a sense of self-worth is setting a threshold for emotional pain, beyond which it becomes possible to think "I don't deserve this" and believe it. There has to be a point at which sunk costs don't matter and ending a relationship isn't a failure in any way, shape or form. When you despise yourself it's exceedingly difficult to even think that way. You can't consider wildly dysfunctional (understatement) relationships as evidence of fucked-upness or natural outputs of your putting work into them. They're not the weather, they don't just happen. You can't punish yourself for being in a shitty relationship by clinging to it.

Maybe it shouldn't surprise me that this dude is so successful at manipulating people while being so glib. Was it Polly who once wrote that when people tell you revealing things about themselves they're not being self-effacing but in fact are forewarning you? Because that is the case. There's a point in this story at which the things that dude says and does cease to be red flags and become overt attempts to drive the LW away.

It seems to me that fucked up needy people are not fond of seeing themselves in their partners. When you're not right with yourself and you start something with someone who's desperate to be with you, you develop contempt for that person in short order. When you lay bare your deepest dysfunctions (which are not just things that you deal with but things that define you and the way you experience life) and your partners are undeterred, how can you possibly respect them? Their love for you belies their fundamentally deficient character. It makes them weak, and people like that detest weakness.

I've definitely been on the receiving end of that, for what it's worth, though it wasn't really romantic per se. Eventually one of the woman's attempts to pry me off of her hull took. http://the-toast.net/2013/07/19/the-fabulist/

Posted on January 29, 2014 at 9:56 pm 2

On Fake Smoking Gets Real, I Dunno, Art Thing

@Alex Balk get out of here with your tobacco, I'm a Coloradoan. And edibles are NOT the same, they're different. They're different!

Posted on January 28, 2014 at 4:39 pm 0