Advice

Miss Information

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Want to play Miss Info for a day?
Send an email to erin@nerve.com with a response (500 words or fewer) to the question at the end of this week’s column.
Next week I’ll post the winners.

1st prize: One membership to Nerve Premium.

2nd prize: Two tickets to New York City’s Museum of Sex.*

3rd prize: Strip Jointz — A whole album’s worth of music to get naked to.
All entries must be submitted by 9:00 p.m. on Monday, June 9th. Good luck!
*You can substitute another prize if you live out-of-state.


Dear Miss Information,
There’s this girl I used to work with years ago. We’ve stayed friends and remain in occasional contact. She emailed me yesterday, because she needs help with something. She’s seeing a therapist, and the therapist gave her an assignment: go ask your closest male friend what he thinks about you and your interactions with guys. Ask him what he thinks your flaws are in social settings, and how he thinks you measure up as far as attractiveness, intelligence, fun, approachability, etc. in the eyes of a typical guy. So, she asks me this, and says, "I swear I won’t be angry about anything you say." But at the same time, one of the things I’d have to say is, "You react too strongly to criticism, especially criticism you directly ask for." How would you handle this, in a similar situation? — Staring Down The Barrel


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Dear Staring Down the Barrel,
You’re one person, with one opinion, and you’re supposed to speak for all men? What a bummer of an assignment. What we need to do is find that critical balance — between delivering feedback that’s honest enough that you don’t feel like you’re doing your friend (or perhaps more important, the dating world) a disservice — and firing up the old honesty grill and serving up a picnic’s worth of skewering character jabs to her lower intestine. (All of a sudden this column’s turned into The Ethicist.)
If it were me, I would give her a modified version of what she’s asking. The stuff about not taking criticism? Don’t make that your leader. Do like we do at my advertising gig — start and end with the good and sandwich the icky bits in the middle. (Speaking of food, here’s another advertising trick — buy her lunch or a couple brewskis. Bad news always goes better with free booze and edibles). Be prepared to come up with specific instances and examples, but you’ll probably want to stop short of storyboards and a PowerPoint presentation. Best of luck, friend.
 

Dear Miss Information,
I’m in a new relationship with a guy I’m really into. I know he’s really into me because he gets all mushy all the time about how much he cares for me. He expects me to reciprocate with equal amounts of mushy talk, but I just can’t do it. I’ve never been the kind of person to be able to put my feelings (love-y and mushy or otherwise) into words. He keeps asking me to tell him all my feelings, saying he feels like I don’t trust him since I can’t open up. I try, but I feel like I’m just repeating what he’s already said. I don’t know who’s at fault — him for pressuring me to get all "feelings" on him, or me for not being able to get all "feelings." How can I tell him to back off a little on all the mushy-gushy talk? Or maybe help him understand that I simply don’t get that way? Inexpressive

Dear Inexpressive,
When people ask for mushy-gushy they’re not necessarily going after words. They’re going after feelings. Their own, to be more specific. They want reassurance that the objection of their affection likes them — or even better, loves them — a whole mess. This knowledge makes them feel special, safe and secure. (I know that was a lot of marshmallow to sift through. Here’s a Joan Jett chaser.)
You’re in luck, Inexpressive, because you can communicate that same sentiment in a number of non-verbal ways: surprise car washes, bear hugs, volunteering to see that super-shitty movie he’s excited about and making it through the whole 137 minutes and previews without a single wiseass remark or complaint.
Before you go crazy with the cookiegrams and blowjobs, I want to warn you about something. There’s a difference between being inexpressive because you’re bad at it and being inexpressive because your feelings for the other individual are weak, non-existent, or waning. It’s common for people to convince themselves that they’re "just not that type." It relieves you from the spooky grunt work of facing your feelings and having awkward status talks — the kind of activity that can lead to a breakup.
I know the following sounds like it’s ripped from the Big Book of Advice Columnist Cop-Outs, but you’re really the only person who can decide that. If you’re still uncertain about how you feel — and I’d be surprised if you weren’t — I think you’ll get your answer anyway. If you’re really into him, you’ll keep trying and trying to get better. If he’s really into you, he’ll recognize your efforts for what they are and try to be more patient. You’re coming from different places — old high-school war wounds, recent relationships, your parents’ marriages. How well you can get away from the "my way is right, your way sucks" mindset will be a good indicator of whether or not you’ll make it.


"Miss Info for a Day" Question:
Dear Miss Information,
I’m a young female professor and I’ve gotten utterly obsessed with one of my students. I find myself Google-stalking this twenty-two-year-old man, fantasizing about him during the day, and — I admit — dreaming vividly of him at night. I don’t think it’s just the intoxication of my own authority: I’ve been teaching for some time and, though I could note the attractiveness of certain students, I was never sexually overwhelmed like this. How do I get past this embarrassing juvenile obsession? — Dirty Young Woman


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©2008 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com