On going the distance

My boyfriend wants to drive across eight states to visit Yellowstone National Park. We’ll have to camp and stay in cabins, using public restrooms and probably a few coin-operated showers along the way. I think this is an awful idea, because we would risk exposure and because there would be a one-to-one ratio of driving to visiting the park. But he’s only got two weeks before he starts medical school, and he’s determined to do this. It’s going to hurt him when I let him down and back out of this plan, especially since I’ve already been ambivalent for the past few weeks and he’s felt frustrated about my lack of certainty. I feel so fucking guilty saying no. I know it’s shitty of me to have flip flopped on this, but I was fucking confused. How could he think this was a good idea? So I want to ask in case I’m missing something: what are your thoughts? Bad idea? Great idea? We won’t have a chance to visit a park together in the summer for the next four years at the minimum.

This kind of long-distance camping trip sounds like a waking nightmare under normal circumstances, so I would have said fuck no from the jump, but hey, different strokes for different Subaru drivers, I suppose.

I can’t quite tell if your ambivalence is genuinely COVID-based or if you share my general aversion to camping as a lifestyle choice. In other words, are you using the pandemic as cover for a fundamental compatibility issue? Is this dude too crunchy for you? Are you fully prepared for the intense emotional labor and unending string of compromises you will be expected to endure as the girlfriend of a medical student? Are you worried that he’s secretly bought a ring and is packing his best flannel shirt for a scenic trail proposal 100 miles from the nearest nail salon?

I hope I’m wrong. I hope you’re deeply in love. I hope the two of you wear matching Teva sandals and enjoy the same flavor granola bars. That would be adorable, and I would encourage you to join him on this trip to Yellowstone. However, if there are deeper issues that need to be addressed, let’s not avoid them by pretending your anxiety is due to the pandemic, because we both know you can safely visit a mostly-empty, middle-of-nowhere National Park by following some pretty basic hygiene and social distancing guidelines. 

Be brutally honest with yourself, and then be brutally honest with your boyfriend. Would you want to go on this trip if there were no pandemic? I can’t know what’s in your heart, and obviously I’m biased against any venture involving coin-operated showers, but your faltering tone is not lost on me. You and your boyfriend are at the cusp of a really difficult four years. Medical school decimates long-term relationships, and if the two of you can’t get your shit together over a little road trip, I wouldn’t bet on you being there for his graduation. That’s not me telling you to go camping. That’s me telling you to improve your communication and conflict management skills.


On an independent style

I have just entered into a new relationship after about four years of being single. He is a lovely human being, who is attentive, honest and kind. However, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I don’t want to be in a relationship at all. I am not one for casual sex and find that I am just not that attracted to many people unless I have a solid connection there. I want to have a sex life, but have not been able to find a comfortable middle ground for a sex life outside of a relationship (I tend to have fairly singular focus). There seems to be this wild self that rebels against being that intertwined with someone else. I want to be able to navigate a healthy relationship where I feel free to live an open life. I would really appreciate your words of wisdom, because I really do love my current boyfriend, but haven’t been able to shake this desire for a hyper individual lifestyle.

Um, okay. You pretty much stated the correct answer all by yourself. “I want to be able to navigate a healthy relationship where I feel free to live an open life.” Yeah, cool. Go do that. Nothing is stopping you.

This is your relationship. You can set whatever terms you like. Nobody is forcing you to be “intertwined” in an overly dependent relationship. If you want a relationship style that is more independent, then be open and honest about your needs, set your boundaries, and then enforce them. If your boyfriend prefers a different relationship style than you do, that’s fine. Nothing is wrong with either of you. You’re simply not compatible, and it’s okay to break up with him. That’s how this works.

You also seem to be suffering from the misapprehension that an independent relationship style is the same thing as a casual relationship. Not at all. You can experience intense physical and emotional intimacy and your relationship status can be quite serious while you still maintain a distinctly independent style.

You don’t need wisdom. You need permission, so let me give it to you: Feel free to live an “open life,” whatever that means to you. Live that way whether you’re in a relationship or not. If you don’t feel free to live an open life while in a relationship, then you’re doing it wrong. 

Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

What do I say to a friend who claims she wants to have children because there are no other major milestones for women to reach in adulthood and doesn’t know what else she’s supposed to do with her life?
Tell her that boredom and lack of imagination are not the appropriate prerequisites to motherhood. Tell her that the burden of childrearing is not the same thing as having purpose in life. Tell her that the planet is full, and unless she has a burning desire to devote every last dollar and every waking moment of the next two decades to being the very best parent she knows how to be, then she should shut the fuck up and go find a hobby.

Can you give me a rundown similar to “On Changing Your Hair” about getting a nose job at 37? I mean, it’s not crucial, but it could get me from charming-at-best to pretty, and I could use a boost in both career and self-confidence. I’m in Europe, single and financially secure.
Go for it. Hell, if you’re gonna freshen up your nose, might as well do the rest of your head. Not a full facelift (save that mess for your 50s), but maybe add eyes, brow, and chin to the order. You know, get some lasers involved. You’re already gonna have to recuperate with bandages, so fuck it, make that shit count.

One of my friends shared a meme about Wayfair selling children on their website by hiding them in expensive cabinets. I read all the “evidence”, and my conclusion is that we might have to stop being friends. I know he shares/posts shit without looking into it, but this is too stupid.
This is an ideal moment to delete superfluous idiots from your life.

Best alternative to curb the impulse to check an ex’s social media?
Surf the dating apps.

What do you do when a friendship ends for no apparent reason?
Grieve the loss, learn from the experience, and move on.

You strike me as someone who thought CHAZ would be a good idea. Lol.
You strike me as a small, shallow person.

Ok so you obvi censor and or pick our certain questions. Damn. Didn’t think you’d be that raging bitch.
I don’t censor questions. I cut and paste them exactly as they’re written, including all your typos and shitty grammar. Also, ignoring you isn’t censorship. You aren’t entitled to my time and attention.

How do you decide if you want to continue answering questions here?
I don’t know how I decide, but I can tell you it’s a mood-based decision.

I’m so glad you posted again. I almost cried.
Love you, boo.

Best-Of Advice

On our next half decade

So grateful you’re able to do this right now – it’s comforting to so many people and we are not incognizant of how many other priorities you must have. I have an inkling this is a milestone year for you. I don’t know why… maybe I’m off by a year one way or the other but it just feels that way. Maybe because you moved five years ago and it felt like a tectonic shift at the time. It hardly matters. But I’d love to know whether you still hold by your advice for the ages for those of us moving into our next half decade.

This is a milestone year for everyone. We are experiencing a once-in-a-century pandemic while actively engaged in waves of civil and political unrest amplified by the single most important election in the history of the American experiment.

November is an inflection point, and regardless of how the tension is released, things are going to get worse before they get better. 2025 will be as foreign to us as 2015 feels now, and getting there will be brutal. It’s going to hurt, and as per usual, the people who deserve to feel pain will mostly go unscathed. Justice is rare, and peace is more expensive than war. That won’t change no matter how much we refine the system, because the human condition is inherently flawed.

Each of us comes with the original sin of an amygdala that is too large and a prefrontal cortex that is too small. We come pre-wired for brutality and irrational belief. We do our best, but we are painfully and permanently limited, and we are each and collectively destined to fail. Entropy is the only law, decay is the only certainty, and death is the only inevitability.

Still, we wake up every morning and fight our battles. Some days we might even win, but we should never let that be our purpose. Winning and losing — that is to say, any endeavor with a scorecard or an account balance — can be an occupation, perhaps even an obligation, but you will never know contentment if you allow winning to be your purpose.

Wherever you are in your stage of life, whatever battles you are fighting, I wish for you to find the gift of acceptance and the ability to let go. The point is to keep fighting as hard as you can while simultaneously embracing the concept of surrender. To be clear, I do not mean surrender to authority. Never surrender to authority, as that is where you will find war. What I mean is surrender to inevitability. That is where you will find peace.

The next five years are coming. Not all of us will make it, and that’s okay. Monsters will thrive and horrible shit will happen to good people, and still, it’s all okay. It’s not right, but that’s not the point, and besides, that’s just you keeping score. 

Just do your part. Find acceptance. Fight as hard as you can for as long as you can and then let go. I promise, it will be enough.


On finding an ideal partner

Is finding a partner who is fun and easy-going and great in bed who like also has goals and shit in life just like SUPER FUCKING LUCKY?

Finding an ideal partner (or partners) requires a great deal of self-knowledge and a very special set of life skills. You can acquire the necessary knowledge and skills by being well-raised in a healthy family system (that would count as being super fucking lucky), or you can acquire the necessary knowledge and skills after years of trial and error, conscious effort, and personal growth.

Let me be clear: Without the necessary self-knowledge and life skills, you will always be limited in your ability to find the healthiest possible relationships. There is no such thing as winning the life partner lottery. That’s not a thing. You will inevitably wind up in relationships with people at your own level of function (or, more often, dysfunction).

It’s a sad truth that most people limp through their entire lives in functionally indistinguishable relationships built around whatever stale belief systems and immature behavior patterns they established in their teens and early twenties. 

If you want to do better, you have to put in serious fucking work. 


On safe travels

My sister is seriously ill. She underwent a liver transplant two years ago. My mother and grandmother drove across Texas to be with her. Travel is risky, especially to see an immunocompromised person, but they did it in the safest way possible. I absolutely want to go down (I live in D.C.) and said that I would. When I said this, I was resolute. Now I’m a lot less sure. I want to be there for my family and see and support my sister but I’d have to fly (I have neither a car nor a license.) and there’s no guarantee that I can travel and be safely distanced for 5 hours in potentially crowded spaces in states where cases are surging. If things take a downward turn and I’m not there, it’d be something I can’t live with. If I go, I could transmit something that could kill her — which is also something I can’t live with. Common sense tells me to stay put. She’s in ICU for an indefinite period of time. My mom and grandmother are handling things. Going is selfish. Go and do what? Put my other family at risk? Get sick myself and add to their worries? But this is my sister. Things are dire. I can cover travel, but can’t afford a place to isolate for a couple of weeks. My sister’s house isn’t an option. I wrote to you about this a couple of days ago, but then we only suspected she was sick and thought her volatile ex was the bigger problem. Now he’s mostly out of the picture (apart from being her next of kin as the divorce isn’t final) and she’s in the hospital being treated for kidney failure. She isn’t allowed visitors and so far her team has been talking in terms of treatment, not end of life. I don’t know what to do. Are there any other options that I’m overlooking?

Are you eligible for a drivers license? If so, immediately start an expedited process of getting one. If not, there’s really nothing you can do. Without a license, you can’t rent a car, which would be the only mode of travel with enough potential for social distancing to ensure you wouldn’t have to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival. Can’t put it any simpler than that.

You cannot fly a common carrier airline from the DC area to god-knows-where Texas without passing through two major hubs, followed by a series of public transportations options, the safest of which is a ride share situation with a stranger who (at best) wears a mask while you’re in the car with them. That’s not good enough, particularly when your destination is an immunocompromised family member in ICU. 

Sorry. It really sucks that you don’t have a safe means of travel to visit your seriously ill sister, but that’s just not the world we’re living in these days. 


On marrying yourself

I’m thinking of marrying myself. Like get the dress, find a venue, get an officiant and get fucking married to my damn self. The idea came from me (and my family) putting so much pressure on myself to getting married so I can finally have kids. It’s definitely taken a toll on my self-worth and I feel like I reek of desperation at this point. I’m 35, and my mom and younger sis constantly remind me of my biological clock. Did I mention my friends are all working on buying the 2nd property, or getting pregnant with their 3rd child?

I imagine marrying myself could be a symbolic gesture to commit to myself, listen more to my gut, and just shower myself with something nice for a change. Is this crazy? Am I going about this the wrong way? I know there’s a glaring blindspot here and my anxiety/ego is keeping me from seeing it.

Yes, this is crazy. It’s also a plot device from Season 6, Episode 9 of “Sex and the City,” so it’s not even that original. I bring up a seventeen year old TV reference to point out that behaving like Carrie “The Actual Villain” Bradshaw in the year of our lord 2020 is fucking insane and you should not do it.

If you think you reek of desperation now, just wait until you drop ten grand on a wedding-themed pity party that no one attends because people won’t even show up to a real wedding in the middle of a pandemic, much less a symbolic gesture of narcissism and sadness.

Tell your mother and younger sister to shut the fuck up about your biological clock. While you’re at it, tell yourself. Honestly, do you even want to have kids? Really? Really? I swear to god, every childfree 35 year old woman I know does this performative bullshit in front of her family while secretly thanking the ancient gods of fertility that she has been spared the trauma and decades-long waking nightmare of motherhood.

And as for marriage, grow the fuck up. It’s a ridiculous institution. You don’t need it. You especially don’t need a wedding. By all means, shower yourself with something nice, but a solo wedding isn’t nice. It’s gross and pathetic.


On wearing a mask

Do you think there is any threat, at all, of being required to wear masks in certain places becoming bigger and bigger until we live in some sort of messed up Gilead-esque nation?

I feel like some people see being required to wear masks as a small step towards our loss of freedom in bigger ways and that is why they are protesting against it.

If you’re worried about this country becoming Gilead, please aim your concern at the steady erosion of reproductive rights during the Trump administration. That should be what upsets you, not wearing a mask in the middle of a fucking pandemic.

The people who consider wearing a mask to be a “small step towards our loss of freedom” are selfish, coddled idiots easily influenced by fear-based, right-wing propaganda. They aren’t protesting. They are throwing tantrums, and they deserve to be ridiculed and ostracized. 


On a hard decision

Welcome back. Since the last time I wrote you, I started (and finished) grad school, dumped an abusive alcoholic, pursued a long-time passion that I always wanted to try but never thought I could do and I already love it, and met a few new ‘someone’s’. The current boyfriend is very kind, emotionally available, treats me extremely well, and is very communicative about feelings. He’s happy to be in this relationship and makes that clear every day. The problem? He is 7 years older than me with zero financial stability (no debts, just barely any savings and using unemployment to make a lot of impulse-buys), he has the beginnings of health problems from years of reckless living, and while I’m positive I want to do the whole kid-thing someday, he’s only just started to consider it but is definitely not 100%. We’ve had a solid past 4 months, but I’m afraid of that cost-sunk-fallacy thing setting in before long. Is the good worth the bad? I am well aware that people only change if they want to and bad/old habits are hard to break. He’s a good person and a good boyfriend which I admittedly haven’t experienced in a long time. I guess my question is… what do you think?

It depends on whether you’re closer to 25 or 35. That ten year window changes my answer completely. If you’re closer to 25, then he’s closer to 32, and you can afford to chill out in a halfway decent relationship for a couple of years just to see where it goes. (I’m not recommending that you do this, but I understand the appeal of comfortably treading water while you wait to see if he grows up.)

If you’re closer to 35, then he’s closer to 42, and if becoming a mother is your priority, then you know damn well it’s time to do the hard thing and end a halfway decent relationship for the sake of your larger life goals. Please do not try and make a father out of an unemployed middle-aged man with zero financial stability and potential health problems. Even if you don’t think you deserve better, I assure you, your future children do.


On writing him off

I have a right wing friend who is using his intellect to construct monumental rationalizations as to why he should only wear a mask when the situation demands it. Oh, he’ll cough into his elbow, but not going to a restaurant is more than “just an inconvenience”, it’s “dangerous for the economy!” He believes that the chances he’ll infect someone are about the same as “accidentally running someone over with a vehicle” and therefore a calculated risk. He discards data I show him if there’s one wrong number, but if his other friend says “wearing a mask is pointless” then that’s all he needed to hear to make his decision.

This is the guy who ran around high school bragging about getting into Mensa. But it’s also the same “genius” who uses Bing to search for Covid information!

Is there one last simple appeal I can make before I completely write him off as a selfish crybaby?

You should have written him off the very moment he bragged about getting into Mensa.