Ask Polly: How Do I Stop Meeting Arrogant, Mentally Ill Pricks?

Hi Polly,

I finally have been hired for my dream internship, in my field, and utilizing my educational background. In a large international megapolis. But….

After years of dating, I am writing to you for some guidance on how to approach dating abroad/in a totally new place. I recently broke up with the last of a slew of asshole, arrogant, mentally ill prick boyfriends. One of whom raped me, resulting in years of difficult, but productive therapy. I feel like I am in a good place and want to date someone who is professional, reasonable and you know — cool. Not a meanie.

I am just really worried about ways to meet dudes that are safe, healthy and not professionally compromising. Do you have any suggestions for ways to meet people that do not involve 1. Dating people at work or people who know your coworkers (because we all know how that affects careers and work environments), 2. Dating friends of relatives (last asshole was cousin’s best friend), 3. Or alcohol/drunken mistake situations (rapist was bartender).

Or, should I just focus on becoming a superstar international lawyer and let romance be second to my career?

Your truly,

Moving, single and confused

Dear MSAC,

Do you mean you’re looking for ways to meet dudes that are safe, healthy and not professionally compromising (i.e. don’t meet them by doing acid and then bungee jumping, or by striking up conversations at the free STD clinic, or by skipping work to hang-glide drunk)? Or do you mean you’re looking for ways to meet dudes who are safe, healthy and not professionally compromising (i.e. friendly, fit men in a different professional field)?

Let’s assume the latter! So: You’ve dated a string of asshole-ish, arrogant, mentally ill pricks. Are you traditionally attracted to men with supernatural levels of confidence? Assholes, the arrogant, the mentally ill, pricks: they often have an irrational surplus of confidence in common.

Here’s my tough question of the day, though: Can you tolerate regular men? Men who are stable and/or reasonably established in their lives or their careers, but who possibly appear, at the outset, slightly boring? Men who don’t necessarily display their wit and charm under pressure? (The ability to do this is highly overrated in our society. Studies show that sneaky wit and charm in men tend to have better long-term payback for their partners, and it’s less often accompanied by dickwaddery and dipshititude.)

First of all, though, let’s just admit that the world is filled with semi-unattractive, overconfident men who believe themselves to be well nigh irresistible. Somehow the mere fact of their overconfidence attracts a herd of adoring females who are fifteen to twenty times better looking than they are — which only makes these guys even MORE overconfident. Don’t start arguing with me about this, people. You know it’s true.

So first of all, I feel strongly that we need to reverse this equation. Aggressive, swaggertastic but average-looking women (like me!) should always land the ultra-hot man-babes.

We deserve them, because we are smart and entertaining and seriously obnoxious, which turns into excitement and adventure over the long haul (in women, anyway). Instead, though, bland little Margarets and Marys in grosgrain headbands who can talk for 20 minutes straight about their favorite lasagna recipe land the really hot guys, because ladies like that seem more relaxing and sexually attractive. (What makes them so sexy? Is it those little sighs of resignation they make in bed that really turn men on?) Betty Draper, minus the cigarettes and the rifle, that’s what these ladies are! They’re Olivia Newton John — the one with cardigan sweater, not the one in the shiny black asspants! Is it fair or just that almost all of the hot men out there are awarded to these wilty little Strawberry Shortcakes? Fuck no, it is not.

Meanwhile, our semi-unattractive and self-congratulatory male peers are swimming in sexy ladies. They’re very relaxed about the prospect of losing you, because they know there are fifty to sixty more just like you to choose from the second they give you the boot.

And anyway, you date one of these guys and it’s all peachy at first, all adorable and romantic and special. But don’t be deceived! You know that thing that Ferris Buehler does, when his dad is tucking him into his bed for the day because he’s “sick”? That little growl, the coy way he blinks his big brown eyes and giggles? Kind of a Zach Braff maneuver? If you meet a guy who does that sort of thing with his parents, run the other way! You know the type. That guy is spectacularly good at charming the pants off everybody, but then he turns into a major dick overnight. He pulls you in with total focus, then wakes up one day and informs you that he’s over your whole dumb girl thing, big time. (Yes, women do this, too, obviously. Right now we’re not talking about them! Stop interrupting, you!)

You won’t know it until it happens! But there will be clues. Maybe he’ll slip up. He’ll interrupt his talk about how “humbled” he is over this or that stupid thing, and instead he’ll say something about his “fans”! He’ll say, “I know that you, my fans, want me to be me, because I am precious and amazing just the way I am.” And you’ll be like, “What? Did you just call ME your ‘fans’?” and you’ll also be like, “Hold on. That’s my line! I’m the one who matters in this picture, dummy!” Or maybe he’ll roll his eyes at some woman with her back fat showing, and when you set him straight about that, he’ll refuse to acknowledge that today’s fashions are basically designed to display back fat at all costs, and unless you’re doing Tae Bo during your lunch hour (instead of stuffing onion rings into your face, which is your birthright), you have to dress like fucking Archie Bunker to hide your (adorable, delicious, smallish) love handles.

My point is, it’s time to ignore the arrogant pricks (whom you might have more in common with — if you’re me, anyway) and start paying attention to the low-key, tentative but secretly hilarious and super sexy guys (who are way, way better than you — again, if you’re me).

Also? Don’t get drunk and then decide who to date. In fact, while you’re dating around, don’t get drunk at all. It’s a liability. Keep your wits about you, keep your eyes peeled, open your heart, and get out into the world and see who’s there. Where are the good, safe, healthy ones? I have no fucking idea where they are. All I know is, you can’t see them if what you really want is to be glamoured by some cocksure bozo. Examine your priorities closely, and then set out into the world and do your motherfucking thing! (Without the tequila, though.)

Good luck!


Dear Polly,

Three months ago, I quit my job and moved four hours’ drive away to live with my boyfriend, a relationship of about six months that felt especially special given that it had been the longest and deepest I’d had (other than my boyfriend from my study abroad, which, admittedly, was a five-year-er — though starting when I was 15).

Anyway, I knew it was quite a risk. We’re both immensely independent and unashamedly introverted people, and a domestic partnership is not something I really imagined for myself. But I loved and trusted him, and felt in my gut that even if the relationship fell apart, we’d remain friends. We’re both the type that “takes a long time to get to know/warm up to,” but he’s been nothing but giving. I wanted to take a few months while still young enough to move “for a boy” and see how it went.

You probably can where this is going.

But it’s not a shitshow. I’m making progress in redefining my career, enjoying being a cat step-mom, learning to cook and living comfortably while getting along well with my best friend, as we always have.

We just don’t have sex.

The quality of the sex went down steeply very shortly after I moved in, but, being naive and all “we’ll figure it out as we go along,” I figured this was part of domestic partnership — and the immense love I felt daily made me feel valued and warm. I struggled with feeling down about my job prospects for the first few weeks here with the kind of Eeyore fatalism of Those in Our Mid-Twenties, but my boyfriend, my partner, was supportive and kind. I thought perhaps a lack of bedroom antics may be because his view of me shifted, as my self-view did, into someone rather powerless and just around too often. It wasn’t entirely pretty, but I learned to be patient. When I tried initiating sex, this is what he told me: No, but we will soon. Be patient.

Then I got a job, and then another, to make things work. And I felt more on track to being a healthy, attractive person again. Meanwhile, though, it’s been a good six weeks since we’ve even attempted sex — this is included in the three months we’ve lived together, mind. Maybe that’s normal, but I’m 24 and he’s 30 and we’ve been dating less than a year. Does bed-death really happen that fast?

Two weeks ago, when I tried to talk about it in a reasonable way, he admitted that he didn’t believe he’d ever want to have sex with me again. He said this had happened to him in relationships before, but that he figured I would have left by the time I “figured out” that his sex drive had dropped to zero. I handled it calmly for a day, and told him he could talk more about it when he was ready. When he refused to talk to me several days later, I broke up with him. A day after that, we got into a massive fight that ended with us hugging and crying and vowing to try to make it work. Eventually, I told him that I don’t understand it — that he loves me but just doesn’t have any sexual desire — but that I’d like him to see a doctor. I did not explicitly say it to him, but I think he’s depressed.

So now I’ve decided to be patient, and we live as happy partners. Is me wanting sex too much to ask? I don’t think so, but when I try to think deeply and rationally about the situation, I really do think he wants to put the breakup on pause while I look for my own place — that we’re platonic roommates who kiss, and that he doesn’t want to get his groove back.

That’s what kills me. I’d stay with him if he just tried. He’s encouraged me to date other people, which I have no problem with intellectually, but it’s just not what I want, which is him. I love him for the person he is, and I’d build a life with him if it’s what I felt he really wanted, and I knew was good for me. I’m hurt, offended, betrayed slightly, though — and devastated that he won’t do something to figure out why he has no interest in sex.

Have I just not given it enough time? Am I allowed to really break ties with my best friend for refusing to fuck me?


Dear Confused,

Yes, I would break up with him. He sounds great, and I know this sucks, but this has nothing to do with you. He didn’t say he’d work on it, or that he was wildly attracted to you but was depressed, or that this has never happened before. He said this has happened before, and that HE PROBABLY WON’T EVER WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU AGAIN.

I mean, hot damn! The fact that he can say that and not immediately put a therapist and a psychiatrist and a doctor on speed dial, the fact that he’s saying “Oh well, no sex drive yet again, but no, I’m not going to talk to anyone about it,” the fact that he treats the whole picture like a foregone conclusion? That’s really all you need to know. He’s pretty sure he never wants to fuck you again, and he’s not going to talk about it, with you or anyone else.

Again, this has nothing to do with you. And it’s not just about sex. Even though everything else is great, it won’t be great over the long-term, even if you DID resign yourself to some kind of platonic relationship. This problem is related to other problems. Problems he doesn’t want to solve. Problems he doesn’t want to talk about.

Now, I recognize that there are people out there who define themselves as asexual, who would dislike me calling this refusal to have sex a “problem.” They’d prefer that I call it a “choice.” If I were advising your boyfriend, and if he were actively choosing to live an asexual life, that would be different. For your purposes, though, this is a big fucking problem.

He is not over 50. He did not just have prostate surgery. He did not tell you there was a problem with your relationship, and that’s why this is happening. He has a problem that he refuses to fix. He won’t fix it for you or anyone else.

So you have to move out and start over. You’re too young to be locked into something that’s not going to serve you, with someone who doesn’t want to face the music (or, at the very least, define what he wants and doesn’t want). You cannot waste another minute in this situation. You can’t compromise yourself like that — it’s bad for your mental health, your life, your career, your sense of yourself.

Honestly, I know that you’re in a really, really tough place, but you should feel grateful that at least the situation isn’t more ambiguous. People get locked into shitty relationships for so many bad reasons, but because those reasons are foggy and mysterious, they stay way too long and waste too many years of their lives. You don’t have that problem! Your relationship is terminal.

Find a new place. Get your own cat. Move forward. You will be sad for a while. But you must repeat this to yourself: “This has nothing to do with me.” He knows that, and you know it. Resist the urge to take it personally. Resist, resist, resist. If he misses you when you’re gone and vows to look at his problems directly and tackle them in a few months, you can cross that bridge then. But right now, you can’t wait around for him to decide. He should’ve warned you before you moved in together. He is broken and doesn’t want to be fixed. Maybe someone out there is just aching to find a great asexual guy. That’s not you.


Are your in-laws making you crazy? Write to Polly and complain away! Polly has an appetite for some good old-fashioned Dear Abby-style bad in-law letters.

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. Scary man photo by Arun Kamaraj. Scary clouds photo by Neil Alejandro.