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Advice for the Lost

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Q: I'm engaged to marry a fabulous man in two months, but he just revealed to me that he's deeply in debt and planning to fake his own death via some organization in the Caribbean so he can start over financially with a new name. Am I crazy to support him in this?

A: Not crazy in the having-conversations-with-the-aliens-living-in-your-toast sense, no. But in the what-the-hell-are-you-thinking sense, you may have a bat or two loose in your belfry.

To find out, ask yourself this question: since (1) the IRS isn't going to look too kindly on your betrothed's shenanigans, forcing you into financial hiding for the rest of your lives and (2) he's going to go right ahead and drive this second identity deep into debt too, do you want to live out the rest of your natural life as Mrs. Hiding-from-the-Law-and-Living-in-the-Poorhouse?

If the answer is no, then you're not crazy, just love-struck. Get over it. Listen to your mother, he's a worthless bum and you're too good for him.

If the answer is yes, then God help you, 'cause you're a friggin' loon.


Q: Do you know any tried-and-true pick-up lines?

A: If I did, I would be living life in the lap of luxury as the kept man of some sugar momma, not slaving away over a keyboard.


Q: I have a problem. Every time I sleep with a girl, I never want to talk to her again, no matter what she looks like.

A: Before I help you with this, I need to take a minute to calm down the female readers of Grumble, because right now the only assistance they want to see you get is of the Dr. Kevorkian variety.

My dear female readers, this man is being a whopping asshole. Anyone can see that, and there's no sense pretending otherwise. But for the next minute, try to accept the possibility that his behavior isn't being motivated by an evil heart. At least it bothers him enough to ask for help, so somewhere in his soul some deeply buried decency is crying out for help. Let's try, for now, to listen. After listening, then feel free to go to his place of work, pour hot coffee on his lap, and tell him that if he ever treats your friend like that again you'll break out the Bobbitt stick.

Okay, now we're back (and you've been given a little extra motivation), so let's get down to this sex problem. Some might say that you have a major Madonna/whore1 complex and you need to accept that women are sexual creatures, and therefore just as complete and valid a person the morning after. And they'd be wrong.

Not about women being sexual creatures, or the post-coital validity thing. Just about you.

Why do people like sex so much? Because, if done right, it gives it's participants a lot of pleasure. Those good feelings are fed right into your primal subconscious. Whether you call it "getting in touch with your root chakra" or "giving in to primordial genetic drives," the effect is that sex grooves you at the most fundamental level.

And there's the rub. To accept receiving pleasure at your most fundamental level, you must believe that you are worthy of it. And you don't. You are conflicted. You want to be worthy, and you want others to acknowledge you as worthy, but you secretly despise some part of yourself.

And so you have the sex, because you crave the validation. But sex doesn't transform you; whatever you despise is still there. And so you look over at your oblivious partner and say "wow ... if her standards are low enough to sleep with a troglodyte like me, there must be something really wrong with her -- I'd better dump her" and "I'm such a hypocrite, and every time I look at this person I'll be reminded of my hypocrisy -- so I don't ever want to see her again."

Or, as Groucho Marx said, "I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member."

So before you leave another girl with fantasies of lopping off your member, get into therapy and figure out why you dislike yourself so much. If it's a good, healthy, rational reason like unfulfilled career ambition or eating too many donuts, then work on fixing it; your self-esteem will skyrocket. If it's an unhealthy, irrational reason, then stay in therapy until it's fixed.

If you do, you may actually enjoy the morning after. And if not... then girls, he's all yours. Prepare the knives.


Q: Dr. Wombat actually got me hooked on these footnote thingies. Does anybody read these or are they just generally annoying? Help, Dr. Wombat! I'm addicted to superscript...

A: You don't need help; they're wonderful! What a useful tool for an author -- the ability to make some sort of snide commentary on your own text without interrupting the flow of your main narrative!

But to give credit where credit is due, I was hooked in turn by Martini when I read his Lingo article. Check out my first column, which used (shudder) a non-interactive asterisk to reference the amusing aside2.


Q: My best friend is really beautiful, but she doesn't think she is. How can I reassure her?

A: Somehow, your best friend has learned to feel esteem not from appreciating her own merits, but from the judgment of others. And so, she fishes for a compliment by putting herself down, saying she's ugly/fat/cross-eyed/malodorous; she gets the compliment and feels better. Thus is a twisted Pavlovian learning system put in place, and it is so effective that she starts to hate herself so that she'll put herself down more often in hopes that she'll feel better, although of course any positive feedback only reinforces her negative feelings. You see how this can get quickly out of hand.

To break her of this, you must retrain her. You must be firm -- heartless even -- and risk being called cruel and evil. But in the end it will help her. Think of her as a heroin junkie for whom you are intervening.

I was apprenticed in this technique by its foremost modern master, my wife:

Dr. W: (mutters angrily to himself)
Ms. W: What's wrong, honey?
Dr. W: Me.
Ms. W: Huh?
Dr. W: I'm stupid. I'm stupid and I'm fat and I'm ugly.
Ms. W: Uh-huh, that's right.
Dr. W: Huh?
Ms. W: What?
Dr. W: You're not supposed to do that.
Ms. W: Do what? I'm just agreeing with you. If you say it, it must be true.
Dr. W: But you're supposed to reassure me.
Ms. W: Tough shit.

This pisses me off to no end. But it works, and I'm a better man for it.

1. No, not that Madonna. The Madonna.

2. Why a technophile like Fish kept me on staff after a faux pas like that, I'll never know.

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