Miss Information

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Miss Information is on Spring Break. She’ll return next week with an all-new column; in the meantime, enjoy this greatest-hits selection. Have a question? Email Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,
My ex refuses to return the stuff I left at his apartment. It’s been two weeks. The items aren’t expensive, but they have sentimental value. He won’t return my calls or emails. What’s the best way to handle him? — Missing Something


Dear Missing Something,
In 2002 my entire record collection was thrown out by a jilted ex — everything from Thriller to my parents’ Beatles and Bob Dylan. I can’t say I blame him. After all, I did make out with his roommate/best friend. And even though the ex and I were broken up when it happened, I still had no excuse, so my vinyl bore the brunt of his revenge. From this, I learned an important lesson: How you act after a breakup is just as important as how you act during one.
First, ask yourself if you really, desperately need these goods. "But that stuff is mine! I own it!" All right, fine. It’s yours. But is it really worth prolonging a stressful situation just so you don’t have to repurchase The Big Lebowski on DVD? Funnel that emotional energy into therapy instead.
If you’ve determined your stuff is truly irreplaceable and you must, must ask for it back, send him a polite email that lists each item you’re missing and offers different options for their safe return — drop-off at a neutral location, exchange through a friend, etc. Who knows? He may be resisting because he’s freaked about you being in his house.
Whatever you do, don’t use the email as an excuse to go on and on about the sentimental value attached to each item. He’s sounds like he’s mad and isn’t going to hop on the Poor You train anytime soon. "They’re special to me" is all you need to say. If you do all this and he’s still resistant, have a lawyer friend draw up a letter and send it via certified mail. That usually grabs the attention. Or consider taking him to small claims court. Let me know if you meet Judge Judy. I want an autograph.

Dear Miss Information,
Are looks the only thing that matter to women? I come across spectacularly over email. I’m witty and down-to-earth, and I always get quick responses. But once I send my picture to a woman, I never hear from her again. I’ve always thought I was decent-looking, but now I’m wondering. — Not Tom Cruise

Dear Not Tom Cruise,
Be glad you’re not Tom Cruise. Looks can only do so much, and most girls would take an average-looking Joe over a gorgeous egomaniac with phantom offspring and ties to a cult. A pretty smile is not enough — a guy’s got to have the whole kit and caboodle. Personality is part of that, but it sounds like you’ve got that covered. Girls are responding to your emails in a timely fashion and are interested in setting up dates. So where are you going wrong? Obviously, it’s your photos. Some steps to take before you attach your next attachment:
1. Look as Good as You Can. Get a better haircut (hint: it should cost more than ten dollars), shave that mess on your chin and spend a few bucks on fashion rags. You don’t need to run right out and buy that $300 tie you saw on page seventy-six, but you do need to get a feel for colors, fabrics and cuts. Even simpler: pick a man-crush and copy whatever he’s wearing.
2. Take the Best Picture You Can. A successful personals picture is all about balance. You want candid, but not candid where you’ve got one hand on a girl and the other is holding a bottle of tequila. Clear and in-focus are a given, but you don’t want it to be so close that the viewer can see every broken capillary. Send her more than one photo if you like, but not an entire collection. You’re not auditioning to be a Barbizon model.
3. Find Someone to Tear it Apart. We’ve already established that you’re not the best judge of your photos. That’s why you need to do what celebs do: recruit some outside help. Get several of your best shots, and ask your friends and family to rank them. Use only the top ones. You can also post photos anonymously on a forum and ask strangers for their opinion. The upside is more privacy, the downside is the majority of feedback will be from thirteen-year-old trolls. If you’re lucky (and have a strong ego), you may get some useful advice.

Dear Miss Information,
I hit on an acquaintance while I was drunk. He rejected me outright. I don’t see him that often, but I really want to be his friend. Now he won’t take my calls. I’ve tried emailing, but he responds in a strange formal tone. How do I fix it? — Smash-Up

Dear Smash-Up,
Sorry, but you don’t. You leave him alone. When someone adopts a formal tone, it’s because they think you’re a psycho. Now, I know you’re not a psycho, but you know what’s psychotic behavior? Repeatedly contacting someone when they want you to stop.
I understand your desire to make amends. It’s humiliating to know that a sloppy pickup attempt is the last impression he has of you. You might also believe that if you and he become palsy-walsy, you’ll have another shot at winning his love. Wrong. If a guy’s really into you, he’s going to say yes no matter how you asked him out. I found myself in a similar scenario in college. I drunkenly hit on a bartender I had a crush on and woke up thinking I had blown it (the date, not the bartender). The next day he came by my work to ask me out. I still remember the exact moment — I was in my fast-food uniform, loading half-eaten cheeseburgers into a dumpster.
An active contempt for another individual requires quite a bit of effort to maintain. If you leave this fellow totally alone (for, say, six months), it’s likely he’ll be more friendly the next time you see him. If not, fuck it. The only person who got along with everyone was Mister Rogers, and half of his friends were puppets. Some relationships were never meant to be.  


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