Advice

Miss Information

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Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

   
Dear Miss Information,
    I need to end it with my boyfriend. But it’s the holidays. Should I wait until after Christmas is over? We’ve been together nine months, and I’ve been avoiding him. He doesn’t have many friends, and he’s estranged from his family, so he doesn’t have anyone to be with for the holidays. He keeps asking me if I’m serious about him. I don’t know what to say. Last time I tried to break up with him, he said he was going to kill himself, and I reneged. Cornered



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Dear Cornered,
     What a winner, your boyfriend. No wonder there’s no one to join him for carols and hot cocoa. Most guys just eat bacon sandwiches and grow a beard. He threatens to go after his wrists with a bread knife.
     The arguments for dumping him now are: 1) you get to enjoy your holiday with nothing but mistletoe hanging over your head; 2) you don’t have to keep on lying; 3) if he’s that emotionally disturbed, he’s going to act outrageously, no matter what ("How dare you do this to me on Arbor Day of all days?! You heartless bitch!").
    The arguments for waiting until after the holidays are: 1) it’s more humane (not that he necessarily deserves it); 2) you’ll have a more drama-free Christmas; 3) you’ll get to focus on your friends and family — no explaining to your little cousin why there’s a drunk man in a Santa hat yelling suicide threats by your front door.
     If you decide to put it off and he keeps asking about the relationship, just be as truthful as you can. Tell him you care about him but you’ve been having some serious doubts and have been considering cooling it off; you’ll understand if he can’t handle that kind of uncertainty and needs to exit the relationship now (of course he won’t; he’s way too codependent). He’ll likely ask you the same question — "Do you love me?" — over and over again. Your job is to keep repeating the above and hold your ground.
    When it comes time for the dump and he starts in with the threats, say something like, "I care about you and I don’t want you to hurt yourself. Here’s the number of a suicide hotline and some places you can get help. I’ve talked to such-and-such a friend. He/she is going to look out for you."
    Whatever you do, don’t fall into the same trap again. You think you’re helping save someone, but in the long run it just damages you both, and does nothing to help him get better. If he does kill himself, then he’s a fucked-up individual, and there’s nothing you could have done about it.



Dear Miss Information,
    I can’t find a woman in the real world, so I’m going to try online personals. But I can’t get used to putting my photo on the Internet and having random women look at my pictures and know all about me. I don’t want everyone, including co-workers and exes, to know I’m doing this. I want to put up a fake picture of someone who looks very similar to me, and I’ve found a few using image search. Is that okay? I’ll send a real picture when someone contacts me. The Ringer


Dear Ringer,
    Sorry dude, no. For a whole bunch of reasons. What if the fake photo is someone’s husband? What if the person who sees it is his pastor or his wife? You don’t want to be responsible for a divorce just because you couldn’t handle a little ribbing from the guys at the office.
    It’s also wasting people’s money. It’s not like the good old days of the Internet, when everything was free and the Pets.com sock puppet was just a puppy. It costs money to contact someone, and you’re misrepresenting. You might think your replacement is just as good, but attraction is complex. It’s not as simple as matching brown hair and brown eyes to brown eyes and brown eyes.
    If you’re still a fraidy cat, you can use a fake photo. But try your brother or best friend/close buddy. Say somewhere in your profile that you’re using a fake photo for work reasons, and try to come off as non-sketchy as possible. The pro is that you won’t be weeded out of photo-only searches; the con is that most women will think this is pretty weird. Because it is.
    Option two: don’t include a photo. Describe yourself as best you can, maybe throw out a few celebrities that look like you (the more esoteric and quirky the better; no big Hollywood stars). The pro is anonymity, the con is that you probably won’t get a lot of contacts.
    You also need to rethink this bias you have against online dating. Name a bar or coffee shop where you can assess a hundred available women without embarrassing yourself, moving your ass or changing out of your underwear. You’re one of millions, and no one is paying as much attention to your dating efforts as you might think.

Dear Miss Information,
     My roommate is a bit shy talking about sex, even to a invisible sex columnist, so I’m going to ask your advice for him. He’s dating a girl 350 miles away and is completely into her. Everything I see on the surface indicates it’s a normal relationship — they laugh when together, buy each other gifts, talk on the phone a good two hours a night. He’s concerned, though, because when they do see each other (one weekend every two or three weeks), she doesn’t initiate sex. He would like it to be more reciprocal. He’s tried to talk to her about it, but doesn’t want to sound like a sleazeball. — Roommate’s Mate


Dear Roommate’s Mate,
    First of all, I’m not invisible. My superpower is that I can see through walls. (By the way, I saw what you were doing with that kaleidoscope, Roommate’s Mate, and I think it’s disgusting.)
    Tell your roommate to stop being such a nancy. What’s sleazy about asking your own girlfriend for sex? If there are people brave enough to ask total strangers to piss on them, he can muster the courage to ask his girlfriend to jump his bones now and again.
    As for approach, I wouldn’t insinuate that she has some sort of deeper, underlying problem. It’s better to try positive reinforcement first — "Honey, remember that time you…" — and delve into psychological stuff as a last resort. This is particularly true if one (or in this case, both) partners are more reserved when it comes to talking about sex. I know that sound like I’m encouraging WASP-like repression, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get things done. If he’s too shy to ask his girlfriend straight out, he might want to reference something she’s done in the past that’s aggressive and ask her when she’s going to do it again. Most of us are egotists at heart. We’ll do just about anything when paid a compliment.
    Is the long-distance nature of their relationship making him feel insecure? Is he worried that she’s not as eager to rip off his clothes because she’s cheating? Because that really shouldn’t be a worry when they’re sending each other candygrams and spending two hours every night talking on the phone. Translated into roommate-speak, this is a long way of cracking open a beer and saying, "Dude, you’re being paranoid."
 

 


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©2006 Erin Bradley and Nerve.com