The Heedless Ghoster

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. Lucky you.

S2: And. Hello, and welcome back to Big Mood, little new to I’m your

S1: host, Daniel M. Lavery, and with me in the studio this week is Margaret Josephs, the designer, entrepreneur, lifestyle expert and TV personality. She recently published her memoir meets manifesto Caviar Dreams, Tuna Fish Budget, and she also hosts a podcast with that very same title. Margaret Welcome to the show, Daniel.

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S3: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here. This is this is great and

S1: I’m so thrilled to. I hope that today’s questions are sufficiently relevant. I was hoping to find at least one that involved both family and money. So I was very glad to be able to add that to the docket.

S3: I’m excited to give you some advice, though. It’s great.

S1: Beautiful. Well, then I’ll kick us off or read our first letter and then we can dive in from there. OK. The subject is FedEx’s to nowhere. I live with and work for my elderly grandmother. We’ve always been close and I’ve become her primary confidante ever since I moved in. I’ve even stayed on after getting married and my husband moved away to a different state. Recently, I took over after her longtime bookkeeper retired. I always knew she was generous. She’s paid for relatives, college educations, weddings, vacations and cars. But I was shocked to find out that she’s in significant debt over half a million dollars and doesn’t own her home. An even bigger shock was learning that she’s been sending money to her niece. No one in our immediate family has seen her for over 20 years, but she recently began calling my grandmother regularly after her father, my grandmother’s brother, passed away. Grandma has been sending her $500 in cash every month. It hurts me to realize the niece won’t even call her on her birthday or for Christmas when I’ve tried to talk to her. She shuts down and won’t discuss it. It’s making me very uncomfortable that she won’t at least explain and that she’s hiding it from me and from other family. Adding insult to injury, I’ve had to correct some employee salaries where people were being horribly underpaid. I’m tempted to call the niece and ask her to cease communication. I get the impression she’s manipulating and guilting this money out of my grandma.

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S3: Well, many layers here, many, many layers here, right?

S1: Right, well, one of the things that really struck me is that all things considered, if we’re talking about a previously unknown half a million dollars of debt, relatively speaking, $500 a month for the last year is a drop in the bucket. It’s true. And so it was sort of interesting that this felt like the most important aspect to the letter writer. I think because it’s tied up in questions of is my grandmother prioritizing me or other members of the family I think of as more deserving rather than how do we untangle this like big financial debacle? Do you have a sense of where this letter writers should start by focusing on?

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S3: Well, I think first of all, she doesn’t talk much about the family business. So what is this business that employees aren’t being paid correctly? Obviously, there’s some kind of family business so that I don’t know what’s going on there. Also, this woman, her husband, moved to another state. So I think the whole family doesn’t prioritize the right family members. So it’s very layered and interesting. But the truth is, I think she’s going to have to have a serious conversation with her grandmother, even though the grandmother doesn’t want to have it. And what business is this? They have to pay the employees correctly. They have to get a handle on where the money’s going, and the niece might have to get a phone call because I don’t think any extra money could be flowing out while there is this debt. I mean, five hundred dollars is a drop in the bucket. I agree. It’s not. It’s not a big deal, but I mean, that’s the least of their problems, like you said. Yeah.

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S1: But I share your sense that the person to speak about this to at least to begin with, is the letter writers grandmother. If for no other reason than my guess would be if the letter writer were to call this niece and say, stop calling you know your great aunt because I want you to. I doubt very much that the nieces response would be. Hey, thanks for expressing your concern. I’ll do that. My guess is that you would then be embroiled in an additional fight with this relative on top of dealing with everything else.

S3: Yeah, I wasn’t

S1: sure whether these employee salaries, as you were saying, it’s a little vague. Is it a family business? Are they like, are those nursing aides? Are those people who like, do odd jobs around the house? Is this something that you need to speak to a lawyer about? Like, were they being underpaid such that she could be like legally on the hook for? I don’t know, withheld taxes or violating state law? That seems to me like the kind of question you would want to get answered right away so you can make sure that you are on the right side of the law. So maybe I would suggest starting by having a conversation with a lawyer and or a certified public accountant in

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S3: every state and estate planner. Someone who has this just the grandmother have life insurance or these debts are going to be covered. What is the story? Does she have long term care? There is many more layers than worrying about the five hundred dollars cash a month.

S1: Yeah, yeah. And because so much of this is entangled with this letter, writers sense of extreme closeness to her grandmother. I think it will also be helpful to bring on at least one, if not multiple, legal and financial experts who will not have the same emotional attachment to these questions of money and closeness.

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S3: Exactly. I absolutely agree. I mean, I feel badly that it did say that she doesn’t own her own home. Mm hmm. Yeah. She doesn’t even own her own home. So that’s also upsetting because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of assets. So that’s did she take a reverse mortgage? So there’s a lot of layers. So I agree with you. Bring in a financial planner, someone who works with elder care and some kind of estate planning. And you know, and get get a real handle on this and professional has to come in who’s not emotionally invested.

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S1: Right? Because again, I can I can appreciate the letter writers distress at learning about this financial relationship between her grandmother and a relative that she doesn’t know very well and doesn’t think is maybe as appreciative or as caring towards the grandmother as she is. But I think that if you were to allow that to distract you from the other more important issues, you’d be wasting a lot of energy that would be better spent elsewhere.

S3: So I absolutely agree. We need someone who’s not emotionally invested and a professional. Yeah.

S1: So if you’re tempted to call the niece, use that energy to instead call a lawyer and a and a financial planner, a public accountant, possibly somebody who could help you with the bookkeeping on an ongoing basis because you’re already an employee of hers in some other capacity. And so it sounds like you are perhaps also yourself being overworked and underpaid, which might be part of why you’re feeling pretty activated over this.

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S3: Yes, I agree. She she’s worrying about the minutia, and there’s a much bigger picture.

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S1: Yeah. And I guess the last sort of thought I have on this front is you’ll have to walk a sort of delicate balance in between. I don’t think you’re going to solve any of this overnight or even. In the next six months, it’s possible that this, you know, ongoing debt and entanglement will keep other relatives sort of preoccupied even after your grandmother dies. So be prepared for this to take a while to sort through and not something that you’re going to be able to solve overnight. And also, you know, given that your grandmother has been, it sounds like quite generous and perhaps in debt for a long time, it doesn’t seem like it’s connected with any sudden change in her mental faculties.

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S3: No, you’re absolutely right. That’s a valid

S1: point. So again, it could be troubling and frustrating in any number of things, but it doesn’t seem like it’s necessarily reason to think she doesn’t have the wherewithal to make her own decisions. She’s just been making not great decisions.

S3: It’s true. I just. Listen, I’m also concerned about the letter writer that she’s given up her life or her grandmother, and that the husband moved away to a different state.

S1: Yeah. Do you do you want to think through any possibilities there? Not to say, like letter writer, you need to just throw your grandmother into the gutter and say, Fix your own mess. I’m out. But are there other things we might want to encourage the letter writer to do, rather than to keep working for her grandmother for presumably forever?

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S3: I think the letter writer has to also focus on her life, and that’s why getting a professional in doesn’t who’s not emotionally invested. The letter writer could also focus on her life if she, you know, is obviously she didn’t say she’s divorced or it’s causing stress on her relationship. But then she could focus on being with her husband and having a life of her own. And this is obviously distressing her and it wouldn’t be so stressful on her if there was a third party involved who is not emotionally invested, and she could then possibly focus on her marriage. Yeah, yeah, that’s really what it is.

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S1: She may be a wonderful grandmother. It doesn’t sound like she’s a great employer. That’s not a knock on her as a human being whose life has value. But I think we can safely say that somebody who’s, you know, underpaying their employees and has no plan for getting out of half a million dollars of debt is not a good boss. You wouldn’t advise somebody to stick with that.

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S3: She’s also an older and I guess she just, yeah, she the my grandmother was clearly not good with money, and she needs a professional involved who could get her on track and the granddaughter’s too emotionally invested and can’t get her on track and can’t get a hold of it. So she needs a professional to get involved. And I think that’s the best thing. And then the letter writer could also focus on her own life.

S1: I think that’s pretty much it. My sort of I know I already said I’d have my last thought, but one other thing did just occur to me. It is possible. Letter writer that your grandmother has made something of a habit out of. I don’t want to say like manipulating relatives with money because they don’t want to assign sinister motives to her. But if she has, you know, spent years paying for her relatives, college educations, their weddings, their vacations and their cars, it’s also possible that she has sometimes used her money or used somebody else’s money in order to keep people close to her in order to keep them, you know, paying attention to her. And so that may be part of your own dynamic here, which is unable to ever walk back or take a step back from any of this and say, it’s not on me to fix all of this tonight.

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S3: Yeah, I think that, you know, that’s a very valid point, very therapeutic about the whole point to the grandmother wants to feel valued, loved and you know, then people can’t, you know, really leave her. She is financially giving them things. Yeah, and

S1: that’s such a good way of thinking about it, too, because then the letter writer can think, what are ways that I could totally still love and care for and remain close with my grandmother that do not involve always working for her existing family? And money can sometimes be a really complicated

S3: combination, is very complicated, and I don’t like it. I don’t like to mix family and money. It’s very rough being in business with family. It’s really a heaven and hell. I mean, there’s no one you can trust more than your family, but it causes the most family drama ever.

S1: This seems like a good opportunity to move into a slightly less fraught question. Would you mind reading our second letter?

S3: Oh, I’d love to. OK. Old letters In the spring of 2020, I broke up with my boyfriend when he graduated from our college. We remain close friends, but it was very painful trying to be close while I was still very much in love during that time. I wrote him many letters that I never sent and kept them in a box in my closet. Those letters really help me process my grief about the relationship and have sentimental value to me. However, I rekindled my relationship with him this past summer while I was living elsewhere. Now I returned, and I’m very happy with our relationship, but I don’t know what to do about those letters. Thereby turn sad, nostalgic, angry, pained and overall, just messy. They’re almost a diary and represent a huge part of my emotional life during a difficult time. I’ve thought about reading through them and giving my boyfriend the ones that were more like love letters. But that seems disingenuous when so many were sad or angry, and I certainly am not going to give those ones to him. Additionally, I’m afraid to read through them because of the strong emotions they could provoke. And though I know the common wisdom would be to throw them out, I’m also reluctant. What should I do with them? I mean, I personally think these were therapeutic leaders. They were trying to get her through a very bad time, and it’s in her past. She’s worked through this emotion already. And I think she should really do like a little ceremony, a little therapeutic ceremony and burn them. That’s a big relief, I think, because she’s worked through them and keep the ones that maybe were sweet and love letter like and maybe show one or two to her boyfriend and the rest. I don’t think they’re really necessary to keep that in her past, and it was a very difficult time for her.

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S1: I think that’s a lovely idea. Yeah, I love the idea of us there. I love ceremonies. I love safely setting things on fire. So I’m a big fan of that. I think, yeah, sometimes people can think that if something has been written down, it becomes more difficult to kind of let go of. And I mostly just want this letter writer to feel a lot of freedom to do with the letters as she likes. Just because you wrote them down in a diary like letter like format doesn’t mean that they are like obligations that you have to follow up on. It was a way for you to work through your feelings, as you said. And so if you think I want to tie them up with a sweet little ribbon and stash them away in my attic and maybe look at them in 20 years and maybe never look at them again, you can do that if there’s any one or two of them that you’d like to keep and then get rid of the rest. I think that that’s a lovely idea, but it’s not as if you know, by writing these thoughts out processing that breakup at the time, you suddenly created a secret that you now have to either keep from your boyfriend or share with your boyfriend and confess it. Whatever feels most useful to you is what you should do. And even if that’s just I might burn them next year, but I’m going to, like, put a calendar alert and say next year, do I want to burn him?

S3: Oh, exactly. And I feel like she process these feelings at the time that was in her past. She’s in a great place with the boyfriend now, and she doesn’t. She doesn’t need to relive that. And I feel like that’s not a memory. You know, it’s in her distant memory and the and the beautiful letters that she wrote are sweet and sentimental, but you don’t need to keep reliving that grief. It’s painful to her, and that’s why I feel like possibly, you know, do a little ceremonial thing and put it and put it away. Or, like you said, wrap it up. And you know, when she’s a 90 year old woman, look back on her life and say, When I was a young woman,

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S1: yeah, they might feel different in 20 or 30 years, but it also might feel weird to you to have them in the back of your mind. I guess my last thought there would really just be if there’s something in those letters that you feel like you would like to discuss with your boyfriend because you haven’t, you’re free to do that. You’re always free to do that. You don’t have to talk about the letters in order to do that. But my guess would be that in the process of getting back together, you two had at least some, you know, emotionally frank conversations about how you had been during your time apart with that breakup felt like cetera. So my guess is it’s not like there’s lots of information in there that you’ve been withholding from him. So much is this fear of if I don’t share the exact version of what I said during this difficult time, does that mean that our happiness now is somehow fraudulent? Does that mean that it would fall apart? And I don’t think it was.

S3: No, I don’t think so at all. I don’t think she has to share, you know, some things are better left unsaid. You know, that was between her and herself and the emotions she was feeling at the time. And I and I don’t think she needs to bring up old wounds when things are just so amazing currently. I mean, I have those things to say. I mean, was that I don’t even like I bring up stuff with Joe. Sometimes that happened, you know, 10 years ago. There’s no point. There’s really just no point.

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S1: I love that sometimes I can really lean hard onto the side of like just in case process it. And it’s such a useful reminder that there is a way to go too far in that direction, which is to say, you know, generally, honesty and vulnerability are good things in a relationship. It’s also true that you do not need to share every thought that has ever come into your head.

S3: No, it’s not. It’s not necessary because I don’t need to know everything someone else is thinking about me. It’s not at every single moment. Some things are just better left unsaid you, because you can’t unhear it or unsee it.

S1: And not everything I’ve ever felt or experienced about a relationship has been, you know, the sanest or truest thing about it. Sometimes it’s just, I need to express this emotion in the most dramatic way possible. I have now seen it written down, and it helps me sort of, I guess, assess like, Oh, I sound pretty nuts and I’m grateful for that opportunity.

S3: Yeah. And when you’re in pain, you say a lot. I mean, I’ve said some crazy, vicious things when I’m upset with somebody, you know, my especially a lover, you know, my spouse or whatever it is, but behind their back that I mean, if anybody else ever heard me say they would say, Margaret, you’re certifiable and I’m putting you into Bellevue. So it’s nothing I would want my partner to hear or say, and I’m not saying. The letter writer put things like that in writing or anything remotely like that, but I just think. Better not to share. And and just maybe just tuck them away.

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S1: Yeah, I think that’s such a useful way of putting it to, which is if there’s a sort of broader question here for this letter writer, it’s what do I do with the part of myself that sometimes when I’m emotional, feels messy or too big or too volatile? How do I relate to that part of myself? How do I safely and healthily explore those feelings without necessarily assuming this is the truth, and I must share it with everyone around me? How do I, you know, without too much self-loathing and also without too much freedom? Check in with the nutty part of me because I think we all have that part of ourselves that can get really jealous of really insecure, really angry, really easily. And we can’t just banish that part of ourselves to a back room permanently. But we also can’t let that part of ourselves, like, run the show know.

S3: And I think every single person has that, and I don’t believe for one second that they don’t. And that’s why we can’t be too hard on ourselves and judge ourselves. And I want the letter writer to know that every single person has that side of themselves, just like just like they have. And I think I think it’s important to know that and not to judge the person, just the letter writers should not judge themselves at all and not be so hard. Who’s not messy? I mean, if you’re not messy, you’re not you. That’s I say.

S1: I would love to hear a little bit more about what it’s been like for you with your own book coming out. I know it’s got to do with family, it’s got to do with money, it’s got to do with messiness and feelings. Was there anything about writing this that sort of surprised you about either yourself or your way of relating to the world?

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S3: I think that one thing I never had in my life was a lot of shame. Thank God, though I did reveal some things about sexual harassment that I didn’t discuss anyone else. That was the one thing I did have a little bit of shame about when I was younger, but now that I’m older, it was like no holds barred. I told a lot of messy stories in my book. I said, So many people can relate and it and it normalizes it for women. Different things about leaving my marriage about me. I put the raw emotions in there and everything like that because I think so many people can relate to and are embarrassed to admit things. And so we felt very therapeutic and cathartic to to write it. I did a lot of crying. Reliving a lot of parts of my life was very painful, but it felt good to do it. I mean, listen, I had to have a sit down with my ex-husband because he was like, Why would you put half that stuff in there? I was like, Because it’s true. And that’s, you know, and it happened. And it’s my perspective in the way that I felt at the time. Like I always say, it’s just like we weren’t a great family, you know, we weren’t a great couple. We’re a great family. Even though I never I didn’t want to be married to him and I don’t want to be married to him now. Are there certain things I miss? Absolutely. Are there certain things that I could yearn for that we were together? Yes, that’s human. So I think a lot of people feel that way and then they have guilt about it. So I just want to say it’s like, Hey, I have that too. Maybe you could relate to that. It’s normal. It’s it’s not abnormal. Other people have that or that, you know, people, some things don’t last forever, and that’s OK, too. So I think, you know, when I wrote this book, there were so many emotions that went into it that I never verbalized or put on paper before. And I think that’s why it was just so helpful to me. I feel so cleansed after writing this book. And, you know, there are just so many different subjects that I touched on. So it was it was great. It was a great feeling to write it.

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S1: Yeah, I’d love to hear, too. I know we touched on this briefly in the first letter, but you had spoken a little bit about some of your thoughts around the different emotions that people can attach to questions of finances, budgeting, debt and shame as well. And I’d love to hear a little bit more about some of your sort of main thoughts on that subject.

S3: Well, I mean, money and emotion. I mean, people’s self-esteem is very tied to finances. I feel like traditionally men and their self-esteem is tied more to finances in a traditional way, but also. People, you know, always have, you know, depends the way you grew up surrounding money, some people, their whole value is based on what’s in their bank account. And so it’s it’s very difficult. When people think that way, I’m going to give an example, it’s just like my ex-husband is everything was tied around, you know, our finances, I thought, you know, compared to the way I grew up, I thought we were very wealthy. We had full time help. We travel to the Hamptons. We did this. He never felt like we had enough. I always felt like we had more than enough because I had this beautiful life compared to what I had. So I always felt like our cup was running over. He felt like it wasn’t enough. So I think that’s what’s difficult. I mean, most marriages do break up over finances, over other people’s value system or whatever it is. So I think that’s the first thing. I also think everything’s OK in any relationship like, well, when it comes to business while everyone’s making money. But as soon as like, everything’s not great, all hell breaks loose

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S1: when ActionScript cover up a lot of problems. Yeah.

S3: Cash flow covers up a lot of problems in a marriage as well. And I feel like when everyone’s sitting high, you know it can make up for a lot of shortcomings. And I think that’s what happens. That’s why, you know, when everybody always says, like, you know, you see these, these men and I, you know, he’s there, anybody or someone very wealthy gets these, you know, great trophy wives or gets over. What does she say? You know, and I hate to say that, but it does happen. You know, money is power to a lot of people. And that’s a lot of people’s value systems. And it happens not to be my value system. I value a lot of other things and people, you know, the hustle, you know, when it comes to finances, it’s more of the hassle factor. I was like, I can make more money. That was my theory. I value, you know, integrity, honesty, being a good person. And you know, and then having a hustle factor. It’s not, you know, money’s not my top thing. I think a lot of people look aside, turn their head if someone makes a lot of money to a lot of bad behavior, and I don’t find that that acceptable. So people use money to control people in a relationship. And I think that’s what happens in business a lot. And I think, listen, I did some things for business that, you know, I was intimidated about losing my job and people use sex, you know, and hold money over your head. Money rules, everything ends. It’s very unfortunate.

S1: It’s so interesting, too, because I think, you know, when we talked about in that first letter, the possibility of the grandmother in question wanting to exercise control through sort of like targeted generosity. You know, there’s so many ways that people can want to try to exert control around their environment, and it rarely involves like outright villainy, like somebody waking up and twirling their mustache and saying, How can I hurt people? It’s often, you know, stemming from a pretty understandable desire for closeness or a fear of losing something. So one of the things I want to be careful about is I’m not suggesting if somebody is attempting to control other people through money that it necessarily means they are doing so maliciously.

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S3: They think they’re doing, you know, it’s it’s out of love and wanting to be needed, and that’s people use it, you know, showing money with love and generosity, and it’s a way of wanting to be needed. But it is. Is it a. You know, a subliminal way of controlling someone, of course, you know. And I think that’s what it what it is, but I think we’ve learned that in our society, that’s just a reward system. Look at the way it is. If you’re a good little girl, the good little boy, you’re going to get a toy, you know, you’re going to get a gift and it starts from a very, very young age, right? And that’s that’s just the way it is. And I think it just goes on and on. Like, if you do a good job, you’re going to make more money. You know, money is a reward. And it really it’s yeah. So there’s a lot of big psychology around it.

S1: Yeah. Oh, that’s so, so interesting. I’m kind of excited because our last letter has seemingly very little to do with money and asks for a sort of general ruling, which I always appreciate, not because I necessarily think I’ll be able to provide one, but because it, I think, speaks to the fact that there is no one universal rule that will please everyone here. So I’ll take us into that one. The subject is what’s the rule? I am a serial ghostwriter. I’m a lesbian in my early 20s, who has only had one serious relationship back when I was 18. I was homeschooled and under socialized as a child. And while I consider myself naturally extroverted, the pressure of navigating social situations that seemed to have rules that I haven’t learned makes me anxious. I am drained four days after an attempt at a tinder date goes poorly. I feel guilty when I realize I’m not attracted to someone I’ve gone out with. I feel guilty for agreeing to a date with someone I realize midway through I wouldn’t even want to pursue a friendship with. I’ve tried to pull my friends and other people about this. I feel like it’s meaner to text after a few days of my self-imposed solitude after a social activity which is even more draining now that it includes Caviar anxiety and say thanks for the date but not offer myself into a friendship or relationship, I know I won’t be able to support everyone that I have ghosted has been a really bad match for me and a personality level. At what point do you owe someone a text? One of the women I failed to text back even told me on our first date that she thought ghosting was, quote, inhumane. By the time I remembered I might need to text her, it had been nearly a week and that seemed much meaner. Assuming a context where I’ve only been out once with someone I wouldn’t be likely to encounter again, don’t have mutual friends with and have only spoken to in the context of a dating app, is it really ghosting to just not follow up? Is it really kinder to send a written rejection? I would much rather never hear back than be told my personality wasn’t a good match for someone I went out with once. I can really feel here the letter writers desire for like, can you just tell me the one thing that everybody agrees on is the kinder version so that nobody will ever get mad?

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S3: Well, what I think like ghosting is if you don’t answer to me, ghosting is you don’t answer back a text, right? Is that that’s ghosting?

S1: I think that’s a good definition.

S3: Yes. So I think I think it through. Not to answer, but I think it’s simple manners. Whatever it is like, if someone if you went on a date with someone and they text you, if they don’t text you, that’s not ghosting, right? That’s on ghosting. You go on a date and no one texted you and they didn’t follow up and you don’t follow up. That’s not ghosting, so don’t feel obligated. I think that’s a really good rubric. Yeah, right. But if they text you and say, I had a great time, I’d like to see you again or something like that. I think you are obligated to text back something.

S1: I like the idea of offering this letter writer something pretty concrete. And I also hope it might help the letter writer be a little easier on herself because again, it’s it sounds like at least with some of these dates, the other women didn’t text you back, either. And so, yeah,

S3: so that’s OK.

S1: Yeah, especially because, you know, first dates getting to know someone, especially if they are a stranger. The whole point is to meet up in person and see if there is any in-person chemistry. So not that that’s going to magically make this letter writers feelings of guilt go away, but your job on a first date is not to force yourself to be attracted to the person on a date to investigate your own response and to figure out whether or not you’re having a nice time.

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S3: Yeah, and I think that’s the same thing. So it’s like you’re not obligated to be crazy for the person the first time. It’s just testing the waters. You might be less than I been out with people before, and I’m just like, I wouldn’t want to be friends with this person either. You say goodnight at the end of the day, and if that person was attracted to you and they text you the next day, just say, I thank them for the evening and it was nice meeting you. I just don’t think we’re a match. Very simple. A nice thank you so much. It was a lovely evening. I just don’t think we’re a match.

S1: Yeah, and that can. Maybe if you haven’t had the practice of saying that, that can feel mean, but it’s not mean.

S3: No, it’s not me. And I think that’s nice. Had a lovely evening. Thank you for the date. I just, you know, I don’t think we’re a match and that’s it. And it’s and then it’s like the person’s not waiting for the text them or whatever it is. I think it’s common courtesy to answer a text message.

S1: Yeah, I think if if you don’t hear back and you don’t text back, you can safely assume you both decided they seem nice, but it’s not for me. And so you do not have to worry like, is it my job to four days after neither of us says anything to say? By the way, we won’t be going on a second date. I get why that feels daunting. You don’t have to do that. But yeah, if they send you a message along the lines of, I had a great time. Hope we can see each other again, referencing, I don’t know, a joke or an anecdote that you had shared some attempt to continue the conversation. You know, I maybe wouldn’t go so far as the other woman that you went on the date with who said that it would be inhumane. But I think you will feel less guilty and they will feel, at the very least, relief and clarity, knowing that it’s not just that they didn’t do enough to get your attention, that there was not going to be a second date. And the more you do it, the less awful or mean it will feel. My other thought here is, you know, letter writer, you say that you feel pretty exhausted after a lot of these dates. I don’t know if many of them end up being fun, but if you’re having a really lousy time dating people you found on dating apps and you would like to take a break. Please feel free to not do it. You don’t have to do this if this is just not working for you, and you would rather try to meet women, you know, through your friends or by going to parties or going to bars or whatever. Maybe you’ll want to give that a try and not go on so many Tinder dates that make you feel exhausted afterwards.

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S3: Exactly. Yeah. If it’s not working, so take a little break or or you’ll meet someone out or whatever it is. But but I also like I agree with you that once you get used to just, you know, it’s a very grown up, easy thing to do once you get used to doing it. And it’s it’s not hurtful. It’s not mean. And everybody, everybody does it, but if the person checks you, they don’t tax you, then you’re off the hook. That’s not considered ghosting, so. So don’t worry about it, but I like that we’re giving you a concrete answer here.

S1: Yeah, I do, too. And you just just to throw this out there. You don’t have to give anyone a reason. Just saying, you know, it wasn’t a match or I won’t be available for a second date. Do not get more specific than that if anybody responds to that badly. That is an indicator that you’ve just made a great decision and you do not need to answer any follow up questions. Again, I hope no one does that to you. Letter writer. I just want to prepare you for the possibility. Every once in a while you’ll get an outlier. Somebody who just is, you know, upset. Yes, you know.

S3: Yes, yes, I think I think this is a great. Great response, and then that’s it, and then and then you’re off the hook and you’re not going to have any guilt feelings and you’ll just move on and that’ll be it.

S1: Yeah. And again, you may never choose to do this letter writer, but I do want to raise the possibility that if you were ever on a first date with someone and halfway through, you realize not only am I not having a good time. I don’t like you. I would never want to be friends with you. This is a terrible personality match. It is OK and should be understood as just something that sometimes happens to say, You know what? I’m so sorry. I’m just not feeling this. There’s just not a connection here. I’m going to go home, have a good rest of your night. You don’t have to do that. If the idea of doing that sounds like trying to face a lion. I get it. But that is again, just an acknowledgement of like, Hey, we tried to run an experiment we’ve never met before. We didn’t know what it would be like. We have, you know, I have all the information that I need. And again, I wouldn’t do that if there’s just like a brief lull in a conversation. But like, you’re talking about somebody you’ve realized, like, I want to be on the other side of the Earth from you.

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S3: Yeah, they turn your stomach. That’s a good move. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I like that idea. Yeah, you don’t have to tough out the whole night. You don’t have to be a martyr. You could just politely just say, excuse yourself and that it’s not working.

S1: Yeah, if you give someone an hour, you know you don’t owe them the whole evening. You haven’t signed a commitment like until midnight. I must be giving you a try like an hour’s conversation, a drink or two. If you just are really having a miserable time, consider whether or not you could envision a world where you could say something like, Thanks for the drink. Hope you have a good night’s rest your night. I think this is it for us.

S3: Perfect advice. I hope. I hope this helps. Letter writer.

S1: I do too, and I always love being able to conclude that we’ve given perfect advice that just makes me feel great.

S3: Yes, I agree. I think it’s perfect advice.

S1: I mean, I’m inclined to agree. Obviously, I’m biased. So if you’re game for this before I let you go for the rest of the day, I would love to invite you into a lightning round where I read a very brief question and then you and I each get one minute to just give our quick off the cuff answer.

S3: Oh my god, I love a lightning round. Great. OK, because this one is bossy.

S1: Good. Good. All right. Well, then if you’re interested in going first, I would love let you be bossy.

S3: OK, go ahead. I, you know, I just have a lot of opinions. We all know that gut birthday blues.

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S1: My 70 year old dad forgot my birthday on the day of my birthday. He had a flight booked to meet his new girlfriend’s family in a different state. I’m a bit sad, but I don’t hold it against him. I’m happy for him and his new relationship. And this was a big day for a guy who almost never flies on a plane. The worst thing is I know he will be heartbroken when he realizes he forgot. How do I deal? Do I tell him to wait until he realizes? Never mention it. I haven’t told anyone else in my family because I don’t want to make a big deal.

S3: Oh, I would absolutely tell them, not in a guilty way, I would just say, hey, by the way, you know, when he comes back from the trip, I’d say, Dad, you forgot my birthday. I know you’re super busy, but let’s take a night to celebrate. You know, I would totally tell him if I if Margaret singer did that to me, I’d be like, Mark Singer, you forgot my birthday. I know, you know you were so excited to meet your new boyfriend, the new family. I know everything’s great, but you know I’m a priority. I love you and I want to celebrate my birthday with you. Make sure it doesn’t happen again. I would say, What do you say, Daniel?

S1: I mean, amazing. You took way less than a minute. You’ve got time. If you just want to give other opinions

S3: about what the families went to the chase. You know, I don’t like to beat around the bush. I’d like to be very direct.

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S1: I would say I’m in the same category. I would say, let your dad know, encourage him not to be heartbroken again because birthdays are a little bit arbitrary to begin with unless you’re like, you know, an eight year old kid. You can always just pick another day to celebrate so you don’t have to frame this as you failed. You missed something. It was just like a movie where a little kid realizes their dad’s not going to show up and they can’t trust anybody. You know, just say, I realize you missed my birthday. I would love to go out to Dinner House next Thursday. There are always more opportunities to celebrate with a family member like this. It is not the end of the world.

S3: Look, look at me how I say, don’t let it happen again. You have to be together. But just like, you know what

S1: I mean, it’s always good to let somebody else know like your priorities and your values, and it’s like remembering my birthday. It’s very important to me. Don’t let it happen again versus someone else’s life. But again, it’s yeah, it’s a great opportunity to express your priorities. And it sounds like this is the first time he’s forgotten. It was a big day, so. Exactly. Yeah. And tell them you don’t hold it against him if he is really heartbroken.

S3: No grudges. Or, you know your waistline. A bigger gift.

S1: I like them very much. Here is how much money I would like. And then you are forgiven. That is a great strategy. All right, I am. I am violating my own rules of Lightning Round because we both answered it so quickly. I’m letting us go on and on, but we are done. I’m drawing a veil. We finished it again. Perfect advice. That’s it. We advised everyone dutifully.

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S3: We were basically

S1: any final thoughts for anyone listening that you just think it’s like a good piece of universal advice.

S3: Universal advice. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Anybody out there? Universal advice? We’re all, you know, just based on these letters were all messy in our own way. And I really think that’s what it is. But just be authentic. And you know what? We all have our we all have our own shit. And that’s really the case, but don’t have don’t have any shame and just just continue to work on yourselves

S1: because I trust you. No shame, but some progress. I think that is a combination I can definitely get behind. Margaret Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

S3: Thank you. And you’re going to have to come on my podcast.

S1: I would love to anytime.

S3: I would love it. Love it.

S1: Thanks for joining us on big mood, a little mood with me, Danny Lavery, our producer, is Phil Surkis, who also composed our theme music. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate.com slash mood to sign up to subscribe or hit the Subscribe button on whatever platform you’re using right now. Also, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts if you get a minute. We’d love to know what you think. If you want more big mood, little mood, you should join Slate Plus Slate’s membership program members get an extra episode of Big Mood Little Mood every Friday, and you’ll get to hear more advice and conversations and interview questions with our guests. And as a Slate Plus member, you’ll also be supporting the show. Go to Slate.com Forward Slash Mood Plus to sign up. It’s just one dollar for your first month. If you need some little advice or big advice, and you’d like me to read your letter on the show, head to Slate.com. Slash mood to find our big mood, little mood, listener question form or find a link in the description of the platform you’re using right now. Thanks for listening! And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. And I can really appreciate why it feels really daunting to ask your father for something that you think he’s going to say no to. And boy, if I if I knew a way to get around that, you know, I would be giving that advice all of the time. But I think the best thing that you can do on that front is to simply lead with that. I’ve been avoiding this conversation because I know that in the past I’ve talked about gender neutral pronouns. You’ve been dismissive. It’s clear to me that you don’t care very much about this. I’m not asking you to change your thinking about all of this. I am not asking you to love this about me. I mean, I would like it, but I’m not asking you. I’m asking for a good faith effort to listen to the rest of that conversation. Join Slate Plus now at Slate.com forward slash mood.