On poor life decisions

Dear Coquette,

I have a friend who is suffering from a domestic dilemma, and it’s making me want to become completely unavailable to her. I’m not a bitch, so let me explain why.

A year and a half ago, after not hearing from her for about a month, she tells me she’s dating a new guy. They’re in love, they’re soul mates, and they don’t see why they shouldn’t get married. She’s a smart girl and had a decent career going, so I thought it would blow over. A few weeks later, she announced their engagement, and while I thought, “Oh hell no,” I didn’t warn her. I just said, “Congratulations!” I felt that it wasn’t my business to tell her what to do with her life.

A month after the marriage, she’s pregnant.

Fast forward to when the baby is four months old and she’s telling me she’s considering a divorce. Her husband is manipulative, jealous and really pathetic. She feels obliged to succumb to his every whim and want (e.g. she is made to feel guilty if she doesn’t have sex with him every single day). Every time she tries to voice her concerns and complaints, the talk ends with her feeling guilty — like it’s somehow all her fault. She says when things get heated, he screams and breaks things. She tells me he never hits her, but I don’t buy it.

About three weeks ago, she called me to say she told her husband she’s leaving him. He panicked and started treating her like a queen — predictable. I don’t hear from her for two weeks and today she says, “He and I are working things out.”

I’m sick of this, and her husband completely sickens me. (Luckily, they live in another state.) There is no doubt that he’s going to be a horrible father. (He already has been. He knocked up some other girl ages ago and has some daughter somewhere out there.) I never thought she’d be so weak. At this point, I don’t know what, if anything, to do. Thoughts?

If you’re sick of it, then end the friendship.

She’s an adult. She made her own choices. None of this is your fault or responsibility. Let your lives go their separate ways.

They live in another state, which pretty much means all you are is a long-distance shoulder to cry on. You’re part of her support network from a former life that she doesn’t want to admit is over now that she’s got a baby and an unhappy marriage.

You don’t have to support her. It doesn’t make you a bitch to let her know that you’re done dealing with her chaos. Her situation sucks, but it sure as hell isn’t your problem.

If it makes you feel any better, you can let her know that you’re not abandoning her. You can tell her if she ever leaves the bastard, you’ll help her as a friend to make positive steps in building a new life. She won’t appreciate the gesture, but it will make you feel less guilty.

On a more general note, people who make poor life decisions tend to make them over and over. Stuff constantly falls out of the sky when you’re around them, and if you’re not careful, eventually that stuff will start falling on you. It’s best to recognize the pattern and distance yourself from those people. If that means moving on from friendships, so be it.


On your ex’s horny friends

Dear Coquette,

Cut to three months after a three-year-long heartfelt and soul-deep relationship ended. I’m on pretty good terms with the ex; we both still have residual feelings for each other but are keeping a little bit of distance (mostly my request as the ex-to-friends transition hurts like a bitch). That’s not the problem. The problem is that now his friends are trying to get at me.

I make no effort to seem even remotely available to these people. We’ve interacted only a handful of times through Facebook, all amounting to more-or-less pleasantries and those stupid-ass game invites.

While this most recent friend hasn’t been explicit in his efforts, it’s still smelling kind of fishy. I want to do the right thing by my ex, and let’s face it, I’m still loyal to some degree. Also, I have a little thing called integrity. I’m in no way interested in my ex’s friends. They were out of bounds the second I started dating my ex (though I honestly wouldn’t be interested in them anyway.) I’m just trying to figure out the most graceful way to navigate the situation. That’s where you come in, hopefully.

Thanks, Coquette. It’s times like these I wish I could call you up for whiskey sours at a dive bar until 3 am.

Sweetheart, the first thing I would do is wean you off of whiskey sours. (If you insist on adding anything other than ice to your whiskey, that list ends at vermouth and bitters.) The second thing I would do is give you a big hug and tell you that you are not alone in this. It happens with such frequency that I’m surprised there’s not a formal name for it.

There will always be a few acquaintances of your ex who come sniffing around after a break-up. It’s inevitable, especially now that they can do it so easily on Facebook and still maintain plausible deniability. After every relationship, I pretty much expect to play a game of post-breakup whack-a-mole with a horny handful of my ex’s douchebag friends who suddenly find a reason to poke their heads into my business. (And yeah, the really sneaky ones wait a few months.)

The most graceful way to handle this is just ignore them. Unless you have a good reason to be exchanging pleasantries, don’t even do it. You are not obligated to respond to these guys, and you shouldn’t be afraid of seeming rude. Don’t make it your problem that they don’t know any better. Shut them down hard and fast the moment they start hitting on you, and feel free to unfriend them if they make you uncomfortable in any way.

Unless one of them gets aggressively creepy, don’t get your ex involved. The only thing worse than telling your ex that his friends are hitting on you is actually hooking up with one of his friends. Leave that kind of tacky behavior to the attention whores and drama queens.

Good luck with the broken heart, babe. I’m sorry you have to deal with a few jokers along the way.

Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

Dear Coquette,

What’s the best way to deal with disappointment?
Learn from it, and then let it go.

How do women deal with men when they are all misogynistic tools?

Overgeneralization and disrespect probably aren’t good places to start.

I try to make my life out like it’s tragic but really it’s just pointless, and that’s a hundred times worse.

Tragic is infinitely worse than pointless. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just a drama queen with no sense of scale.

Are you afraid of anything?

Agressive ignorance and undercooked chicken.

Is it wise to rekindle a once co-dependent relationship now that we’ve had some time apart and know what to avoid?

Asking this question proves you don’t know what to avoid.

I have sociopathic tendencies. How do I change?

Pretend you’re a good person.

Is there any other way to live life besides going to school and then working until you die?


What advice would you give about what is important when traveling abroad?

Make it about people, not places. If you visit a country without getting to know some locals, then you haven’t actually been there.

Do you agree that guys should pay (at least) half the bill when a girl has to purchase Plan B or an abortion? If so, how does one go about asking him for that?

You shouldn’t have to ask. Just tell him what you’re having to do, and the guy should volunteer to pay. If he doesn’t, you should never speak to him again.

How the hell is it possible for recent grads to find jobs when “entry level” requires three years of experience?

Entry level at a particular company doesn’t mean entry level in your field, but hey, if there’s a job you want and you think you’re qualified, quit whining and hustle.

How big is big enough?

You know when it’s too big? Yeah. A little smaller than that.

I’m lonely a lot although I have lots of friends and family around me all the time. How does this make sense?

Separate the idea of loneliness from the idea of being alone. You feel loneliness because you’re disconnected from others, and as long as you’re disconnected, being in their physical presence won’t change anything.

How can someone have low self-esteem and an enormous ego at the same time?

It’s easy. You don’t have to like yourself to think you’re the center of the world.


On being respectful, patient, and thankful

Dear Coquette,

So, what am I supposed to do when my Jewish grandmother asks me what I think about the situation in Gaza? Do you have any recommendations for any particular substance that might make this holiday season easier?

When your Jewish grandmother asks you about the situation in Gaza, all you have to do is say, “I don’t know, Bubbe. What do you think?” After that, no matter what comes out of her mouth, just smile and nod.

This goes for all ethnic grandparents and all discussions about Old Country politics. Let the elders say whatever they want, and then just smile and nod. It doesn’t matter if their opinions are ignorant or inflammatory. You don’t have anything to prove to them, and it’s not your job to show them that they’re wrong. 

Never argue with a septuagenarian on an issue regarding their cultural identity. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

I’m 23, halfway through grad school, and not dating anyone seriously. My mom is starting to freak out that I’ll be alone forever (she was married at 21 right out of college) and feels the need to ask me every time she sees me “Are you dating anyone?” Knowing the rest of my family, they will start in with the “So when are you going to find a guy and get married” stuff soon. What’s the polite way to tell them all to chill out and let me live my life on my own time table?

I feel you, sister. This was my go-to line when my family members started asking questions: “Marriage isn’t a high priority for me right now, but I’m enjoying my life, and I’m very happy with the way things are going.”

Five years ago I spent a month in Goma, Congo, teaching art camp at a hospital. Today in the news I saw a photo of that same hospital flanked by soldiers and looking much worse for the wear. The invasion of the city has left me terrified for the safety of the people living there that I have come to know as friends. They are not safe staying, but leaving would bring even more danger as men are systematically slaughtered and women are raped almost without exception. I feel helpless and guilty about the stark contrast between my peaceful life in the states and the terror that my friends are experiencing in Goma.

I ask one thing of the people who may read this (even if it is just you): Please, find something to be thankful for in your life. It could almost always be worse. It is an amazing stroke of luck to have even been born in our peaceful little corner of the world. I would hope that everybody can recognize that and do what they can to preserve that which is so easy to take for granted. 

And for those who truly have had devastation in their lives… My heart goes out to you.

I don’t have anything to add, except for thanks to everyone for writing in to me. Thanks to everyone for reading, and happy Thanksgiving weekend!


On being straightforward

Dear Coquette,

When I married my husband I introduced him to a guy friend of mine and they became very fast friends, but since then the guy friend has become a complete and utter pig, to the point that it makes me uncomfortable that my husband is around him. My husband acts and speaks very differently when they are together and he suddenly morphs into this complete asshole.

I am not the controlling type and don’t want to cause a fight and try to tell him they can’t see each other anymore, but it bothers me to see my husband acting like someone I never would have married. What do I say to tell him how much this bothers me without sounding like I am trying to control who he hangs out with?

First of all, yes, you are the controlling type. You’re just not very good at it, because instead of communicating directly about what bothers you, you get passive-aggressive. I’m sure it drives your husband nuts.

Second, your guy friend has always been a complete and utter pig. He may have acted differently in the past, but he’s not the one to have changed since you got married. You are.

You’re pretty vague about the details of the behavior, but the crux of the problem here is that when your husband is in the company of this friend of yours, they both act in a manner that you consider to be disrespectful to you in some immediate way.

Well, the obvious solution is to tell them both to stop it. (Yes, it really is that simple.) You’re afraid to do that for some reason. Maybe it’s because you don’t have the force of will, or maybe it’s because you don’t want to seem like a nag, but you need to get over yourself.

Start being direct about what bothers you. Quit being passive-aggressive. (Yes, you are.) Don’t make it about who your husband hangs out with. Make it about a standard of behavior, and be straightforward about your expectations.

When in doubt about what to say, just say what you mean. Start with, “I’m not trying to control who you hang out with, but this behavior bothers me, and it is unacceptable.”

Use your words, darling. Grow a backbone and tell them both to their faces to stop acting like assholes. That doesn’t make you controlling. That just makes you someone who won’t put up with disrespect.

Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

Dear Coquette,

Is it wrong to get food stamps if I’m legally qualified but don’t really need them to survive?
It’s your dignity. Do what you want with it.

Does being lazy make me a bad person?

No. It makes you a bad employee.

How do I stay motivated in college?

Pay for it yourself.

Does Ann Coulter really believe the things she preaches or does she do it for the money?

There’s no excuse for either.

I’m 22. Is a 39-year-old man too old for me?

A 39-year-old man is definitely too old for you, but a 39-year-old boy might be just the right age.

Why are you so angry?

I’m not angry. I’m just paying attention.

I feel like I deserve more in my relationship.

More what? Love? Sex? Bacon? Please be more specific.

Is it natural for there to be a minor ebb and flow of feeling for a romantic partner?

You’re lucky if it’s only minor.

What’s the best way to help your friend fall out of love with you?

Shut up and get the hell out of the way.

How do you tell the difference between friend-love and romantic-love?

Passion. (Not to be confused with sex.)

I know this is cheap but I’m a little hungover and I just realized I gave away my lighter while high and I want it back. Is it rude to ask for it? Should I just get a new one?

You wouldn’t last very long in prison. Just sayin’.

Can you explain the psychosis of people who constantly need to upload pictures of themselves onto the internet?

Psychosis? That kind of thing isn’t even abnormal. Sorry, dude. The line between public and private is permanently blurred, and technology will always be tied to our egos. If you don’t like it, feel free to delete your Facebook account.

What does it mean when a guy chases you for weeks or months, then tells you he’s “not ready for a relationship” once you start to date?

It doesn’t mean anything. That’s kind of the point.

It’ll all be okay, right?

Nope. It’ll just be.


On dating a man-child

Dear Coquette,

My boyfriend and I have an open relationship. Last week I decided to go for dinner with a guy I met the other month. It wasn’t anything crazy, and I wasn’t looking for it to be a date or anything. During dinner my boyfriend calls, and I tell him I’m having dinner with the guy. He seems totally fine, and doesn’t care just like I’d expected. Forty-five minutes later he calls again and is kind of drunk and short with me. When I leave dinner I give him a call. He answers the phone normally, but then in the middle of our conversation out of nowhere he flips out on me.  He says he hates me, I’m disrespectful, and that he’s never going to speak to me again. Then he screens my calls the rest of the night.

I figure that he’s drunk and just being crazy, and by morning he’ll be fine. The next morning he comes home to his house (where I am staying, but I also have my own place, and he had been staying at his parents’ the night before) and is sober and just so cold and proceeds to kick me out, saying that if I don’t leave he’ll call the cops. He drops me off at my house with all my stuff and says we will talk later. The rest of the day he is hot and cold with his phone calls. We meet up later and he acts like everything is normal again. When I bring up what happened he says he’s embarrassed about how he acted, he’s sorry and blamed it on the alcohol. He said he made a bigger deal out of it than he should have, and that he would never want me to feel like I couldn’t go out for dinner with someone.

I feel like the openness of our relationship might be something he isn’t as comfortable with now as he was in the beginning. Do you think this is the case? He has never acted jealous at all in the past, so his behavior was out of character. My friends think that our age difference (I’m 22 and he’s 41) might have him feeling nervous if I’m going out with someone he perceives to be an actual threat.

Please help me understand this behavior 🙂 Thank you!

Your boyfriend is a middle-aged man-child with a drinking problem who had to spend an evening with his elderly parents while you were off being twenty-two with another dude. Are you so much of a gentle idiot that you can’t do the math on this situation? Come on — this one is a big fat DUH.

This isn’t really about you or your open relationship. This is about your boyfriend’s relationship with his parents and their failed expectations of him as a son. I guarantee that’s what sparked that particular evening’s negativity, and the alcohol just helped it explode. His behavior wasn’t an expression of jealousy so much as it was a temper tantrum. He lashed out at you in a predictable fit of misdirected rage at the emptiness of his life and the inevitability of your break-up.

That’s right. Sorry, babe, but you two aren’t gonna live happily ever after. It doesn’t matter how much you think you love him. One day, you’re gonna grow up and move on. He knows it, and it’s starting to bother him. Your boyfriend has a textbook case of Peter Pan syndrome, and he doesn’t like being reminded by time spent with his parents that he won’t always be able to date women half his age.

Fair warning: this kind of silly chaos going to turn into a pattern of behavior. He’ll throw drunken temper tantrums every once in a while, and then he’ll scramble back to you embarrassed and apologetic. Eventually, you’ll get fed up with it, and you’ll be the one to break it off.

Maybe then, you can both start dating adults.


On life choices

Dear Coquette,

My 19-year-old sister recently told me that she is pregnant. She is unemployed, hasn’t graduated and has been with her boyfriend for about two months.

The rest of my family is being really supportive, as are many of her friends, but I can’t find the energy to be supportive. I recognize that she has every right to have children, but as a feminist and children’s advocate, I don’t believe the environment and situation she is bringing this child into are healthy or fair to the child.

Am I being a really awful sister by telling her that I don’t think she is making a good choice? Should I just back this decision 100 percent like the rest of my family?

Hell no. Don’t you dare back her decision. You know damn well she’s not ready to be a mother, so be strong and lay down some brutal truth. Don’t just tell her that she’s making the wrong choice. Help her through a very tough decision, and be there for her every step of the way if she changes her mind and decides to terminate her pregnancy.

You’ve only got a couple of months before it’s too late. This is one of those “speak now or forever hold your peace”-type situations, so get in there and plead your case. She is an unwed, uneducated, unemployed teenager about to turn a guy she hardly knows into an accidental father. She is in desperate need of a reality check, so do your best to show her she’s making a massive, life-defining mistake.

Tell her how incredibly selfish it is to bring a child into the world when she isn’t prepared to properly support it. Tell her that she has plenty of time to become a mother after she gets her life together. Tell her that you love her, but that she’s just not ready.

It’s ugly stuff to have to say, but your sister needs to hear it. If it causes a rift between the two of you, so be it. Remember, supporting your sister isn’t the same thing as supporting her poor life choices.

I believe my main purpose in life is to become a mother and raise children. Am I a shameful 21st-century 20-something woman for not wanting the high-flying career over babies?

Don’t let anyone shame you for choosing motherhood instead of a career (or vice versa). If you know what you want out of life, go get it, girl. Be the best damn mother you can possibly be, and ignore the politics. All that “mother vs. career woman” crap is a false dichotomy anyway. Feminism (and life) are way more complicated than that.

I have a friend whose company I really enjoy, but who permanently lets me down and is not there for me when times are hard and I’m not my best. I don’t believe in bearing a grudge and I do like having this person around, so when I’ve got myself back together again and the inevitable apology comes, I accept and then I am surprised/hurt when it happens again. Do you have any advice?

Quit being surprised.


On a treacherous condescending bitch

Dear Coquette,

I dated a man in my circle of friends for two years. I thought we were in a happy, committed relationship but he cheated. Three years later, he’s still with the woman and she’s become close with some of my girlfriends and is present for happy hour, girls’ night, etc.

She’s a fun, life-of-the-party kind of girl so I see why everyone enjoys her company. But I really don’t like being around her. Whenever she talks about him, she makes some sort of apology to me, like, “Oh, my boyfriend said the funniest thing … Oh, sorry, honey.” I hate it. It’s like she’s constantly trying to say that I got kicked to curb so he could trade up.

I try to be friendly with her, and I don’t let how I really feel about her show. I don’t talk sh** behind her back (except to my sister) but I feel so fake for hanging out with a woman I can’t stand. I don’t want the guy back, and I’m happier now than when I was with him. I just don’t like the bitch.

It’s been three years and I want to move on. I hate this negativity. I just don’t know what to do to shake it. I want to avoid her, but I’m afraid that if I do that, or if I let people know that I don’t like being around her, it will seem petty. It seems petty to me as I type it. And maybe it is. That’s why I need you.

You always seem to have such insight into people’s emotions. I guess I need someone who is outside of it to give me some advice. What should I do, Coquette? Do I avoid her, get her out of my life? Or do I just continue to brush off her comments?

Don’t make this about her. This is about you. You’ve been holding onto this negativity for three years because you think she’s the one you can’t stand, but the brutal truth is that you hate yourself, and you’re just projecting your own self-loathing onto an easy target.

Not that she doesn’t deserve to be a target, because she sounds like a treacherous, condescending bitch. Go ahead, say it out loud: She is a treacherous, condescending bitch. Scream it if you want, because it’s the damn truth, and you’ve been too much of a pathetic little doormat to let the world know how you feel.

Let it out, girl. Quit worrying what other people might think is petty. All you’re doing is invalidating your own emotions, and that’s the underlying reason you’re filled with so much self-loathing in the first place. Openly acknowledge that you can’t stand being in the same room as that duplicitous ho-bag, and don’t make any apologies for feeling that way. Once you do that, I promise you won’t feel fake for hanging out with her.

In fact, you probably won’t mind so much, because you’ll stop feeling the need to be friendly with her. After all, she isn’t your friend. She is and always has been the enemy, and up until now, you haven’t been a worthy adversary. Of course you should still maintain decorum, but being polite isn’t the same thing as being friendly. (Do you think she’s being friendly when she says, “Sorry, honey?” Hell no. She’s just being cordial while rubbing your nose in the fact that she stole your man.)

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you avoid this woman, cut her our of your life or continue brushing her off. She is of no consequence. What’s important is that you give yourself permission to feel your emotions, stop being a doormat, and eventually forgive yourself for putting up with this kind of crap for three long years.

Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

Dear Coquette,

Is there a difference between an existential crisis and a mental breakdown?
One is chronic. The other is acute.

Do you believe morality is universal or relative?

Everything is relative.

Should one’s morality be stretched intentionally once in a while?

Don’t confuse your comfort zone for your morality.

What’s the difference between settling and settling down?


What’s the difference between curvy and fat?


Why is everyone so obsessed with the ’90s?

It’s something that happens with every decade. Sentimental twits reach their early twenties, and when they suddenly realize they’re adults, they start getting nostalgic about their childhood to the point that it influences pop culture.

Which is more important when it comes to college, following your dreams or saving money?

Is it your dreams that are expensive, or is it just the college?

Today I crushed a spider and then felt guilt for mangling him when I saw his broken body. What’s wrong with me?

Nothing is wrong with you. You have a conscience. That’s a good thing.

I feel like I’ll be happy when I’m dead.

You won’t.

You seem to think that most people are not special. Do you think you’re special?


Do you think culture creates television, or television creates culture?

Both. It’s a constant feedback loop.

I’m a 19-year-old girl currently working at a retail store and I’ve met a boy I’d like to hang out with and possibly hook up with. How do I communicate this on the job without being unprofessional?

Trying to hook up at work is inherently unprofessional, but since you’re a teenager working in retail, my best advice for you is to simply not get caught.

My friend’s boyfriend made a pass at me the other night. I told him I wasn’t interested. Why do I still feel guilty?

You feel guilty because you have secret knowledge about your friend’s boyfriend. It’s not cheating, but it’s a betrayal of the friendship nonetheless.

I’m happy with my life and with myself, but there are people who get me down. They tell me that I’m “not doing something for social change,” that my open enjoyment of sex is a sign of low self-esteem and being dependent on men, and that I’m not doing something with my life. What do I do?

If you’re genuinely happy, then cut those people out of your life. If you can’t get rid of them altogether, then tell them to take their social and sexual politics, and stick ’em where the sun don’t shine.