DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #30: Pluck It From the Floor. And Onward You Go.


Dear Sugar,

Maybe this isn’t your area of expertise… but I get motion sickness and have yet to find anyway of dealing with it (no health insurance = no doctor visits). I have a boat trip coming up with my fiancé and I’d rather not spend the whole voyage puking in her lap.

Sick at Sea


Dear Sick at Sea,

You know the funny thing? THIS IS MY AREA OF EXPERTISE. If there is a vessel, I have puked into it. If there is curve in the road, I have begged to be let out of the car so I can retch in the ditch. You don’t even want to know what happened to Sugar on a skiff off the coast of Brazil.

So I feel your pain, SAS. There are various things you can try without your appalling and unjust lack of government-funded health insurance: over-the-counter drugs, those little holistic bracelets that engage a pressure point in your wrists, peppermint candy or gum, sparkling water with lemon in it, or a cup of ginger tea. Frankly, none of those things have kept Sugar’s nutty little noggin out of a bucket, but you could give them a shot.

But you’re not really asking about what to do to treat your sea sickness anyway, are you SAS?

You’re asking about love. Which is another thing that just so happens to be my area of my expertise.

What if you do spend the whole voyage spewing hot belly bile into your sweet fiancé’s lap? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Wouldn’t that be an opportunity? Wouldn’t that tell you something you didn’t quite know about this woman you’re on the verge of vowing to love forever?

I once attended a wedding in Thailand. The wedding ceremony was in a monastery on the mainland and afterwards the bride and groom and all of their guests boarded a boat that took us to an island where a three-day-long wedding celebration would commence on the beach. The sky was blue and clear as we made the nearly two-hour passage. On the boat, people played poker and drank beer and talked and I took all this in from my miserable little post clutched to a metal rail, where I stared at the horizon and prayed I wouldn’t have to lean over the side to puke my guts out. After a while, I noticed a middle-aged woman standing next to me. She was clutching the metal rail and staring at the horizon too and it wasn’t long before she leaned over the side to retch. Within a moment, a man appeared beside her, stroking her back while saying something quietly to her that I couldn’t quite decipher. He handed her a napkin and a bottle of water and she took these things from him without even turning to look at him. They didn’t budge for the next hour, as she alternately gripped the rail and leaned over to vomit and he alternately rubbed her back and handed her things.

Later, I got to know them on the island. Their names are Gigi and Ray. They told me they’d been together for twenty-some years. They told me the last time they were in Thailand they got into such a huge argument that Gigi left Ray and she got a room in a different hotel for the night because she was so furious with him that she couldn’t bear to even look at his stupid face until she cooled down. This was eleven years ago that they told me all of this, the day after I saw Ray stroking Gigi’s back on the boat while she puked.

They live near a cherry orchard in Oregon. They are still together.



Hi Sugar,

I finally meet an all-around great guy, through a blind date – treats me wonderfully, smart, amazing chemistry – and his ex-girlfriend shows back up – post-therapy – to talk, saying she still loves him. So he tells me he can’t see me until after he talks to her, and she’s kinda family, since her daughter is best friends with his daughter.

My heart hurts. My history with men is to pick the addicts and the guys who can’t commit. I guess it’s good he is honest. What should I do with this situation? Shut the door? Figure I’m doomed, as usual? Where do I put this pain? He says I can call if I want and check in. Is that pathetic? I feel like my life is jinxed.



Dear Jinxed,

One time I dropped a pearl earring while I was standing in my bedroom. I got down on my hands and knees and looked, but I couldn’t find it. I stood up in frustration and looked again, only this time I barely opened my eyes. I squinted and scanned the room and there was my pearl, so perfectly evident amidst the vast sea of things. It’s a funny sort of reverse logic, how every now and then your vision is clearer when you constrict rather than expand it.

This comes to mind when I ponder your situation, Jinxed, because I think that you need to do some squinting of your own.

Your heart hurts. You met a guy you liked and he opted to pull back when you didn’t want him to. You have a history of choosing men who aren’t good for you. These are facts you’ve seen with eyes wide open. But let yourself squint and another fact will emerge: You met a nice man with whom you shared a mutual attraction who told you the truth. Not the easy truth. Not the truth you hoped for. Not the truth after a bunch of manipulative hanky-panky and deceit. Not the truth after you threatened and cried and pried it out of him. Just the plain, simple, good, respectful, grown-up, this-isn’t-pleasant-but-I’m-not-going-to-hurt-you-a-lick-more-than-I-have-to truth.

Do you see the jewel for the junk, Jinxed?

You didn’t choose the wrong guy this time around.

Pluck it from the floor. And onward you go.