DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #19

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Dear Sugar,

An old friend recently called for advice. She sounded miserable. She turned 25 last week and went to the city to celebrate, and it brought back all these dormant aspirations to live in New York. She’d been accepted into fashion school and a tragedy kept her from going right away. Then she started dating someone who hates everything about cities, and now it’s 4 1/2 years later. She hates her job, hates the town, and hates that she is 25 and still living with her parents. She hates that her boyfriend isn’t bothered by the same things and isn’t going to change his mind about staying put.

She told me all of this, and waited for advice. I felt stuck. There is no good answer for a friend to give, no answer that won’t turn to resentment later down the line. I tried telling her that I realized she was in a difficult position, that I loved her and fully-supported whatever choice/s she makes, but that only exasperated her. She wants answers.
What should my friend do? And what should I have done to make her feel better?

Signed,
Frustrated Friend

 

Dear FF,

You offered unconditional support to a friend in an unhappy relationship and she got exasperated and demanded answers.

Why?

Because she knows she’s stuck in a hole and that she put herself there via her inaction and now she wants you to get her unstuck, by ordering her out of the hole. This way she can conveniently blame you if things go kaplooey. It’s one of the older tricks in the Dysfunctional Friendship Book.

You probably can’t say all this to your pal, because your relationship is probably predicated on some form of polite suppression. But if she was my friend I’d tell her to take some f’ing responsibility for her life and not enlist you in her pity party. I’d say this kindly, but not so kindly as to be confused with unconditional support. You’re a friend, not a doormat.

Here’s my guess, based on the facts you present: your friend is pretty attached to her grievance. Even if she makes it to New York, she’ll find plenty of stuff to complain about. And guess who gets to hear those complaints? (For additional detail, I reluctantly prescribe the short story “The Depressed Girl” by David Foster Wallace.)

 

Dear Sugar,

If “all is fair in love and war” why do I now feel so guilty about sleeping with a married woman?

At first I thought nothing of it (we were two adults acting on a mutual attraction and respect for one another), but I have since met her husband (he doesn’t know) and I now regret what I realize were selfish actions.

I love this woman. But part of me feels like we should come clean, or at least between the two of us talk through what this means for her marriage. On the other hand, maybe it is none of my business and I should just stop seeing her until she becomes more available. Or perhaps there’s a third way, something I haven’t thought of. No clear question here Sugar, just feeling a lil’ lost and looking for some advice.

Signed,
The Other Man

Dear Other Man,

“Stop seeing her until she becomes more available” would be a polite of putting it. “Get your dick out of a married woman, you shithead” would be the real-world cognate.

If you are, in fact, in love with this woman and are ready to make a life with her (and she is, too) then come clean and deal with the fallout. Otherwise, move on and let her back her life back together.

Random question for the univese: why is it that no men ever read “Anna Karenina”?

 

Dear Sugar,

I have serious question for you. I am living in fear because someone has been threatening me. These threats are severe. I fear for my safety and security. I feel like I am to blame for my situation because I pretty much invited a monster into my life. What would you do? Don’t recommend the cops, Sugar, cuz that hasn’t worked. I am looking for a trauma counselor, and I try to keep myself busy, but my daily life is a struggle these days.

Thx in advance,
Shaken

 

Dear Shaken,

Okay, so we all invite people into our lives who we later come to find out are not in their right minds. This doesn’t make us complicit, it makes us human. But let’s be clear here: nobody deserves to be terrorized, except maybe for Dick Cheney.

A trauma counselor is exactly right. As for why you wouldn’t alert the cops, I’m not feeling that. I’m not going to cite all the grim statistics. But I will express the hope that your counselor conveys to you the foolishness of trying to deal with a “monster” yourself.

You’re doing the right things. For now, as you say, life is going to be a day-to-day struggle. I wish I could undo that, but it’s not mine to undo. I will remind you that you were not born into this world to suffer. Nobody is, actually. They just develop that idea as a way of keeping their own appointed happiness at bay. Don’t do it.