The “I Can’t Quit You” Edition

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

S2: Just a quick note to our listeners. I am recording next to my new dog, Bonbon, today, who I love very much and who also has a slight cough for which he is getting his little, tiny, tiny dog medication. So I’m just hanging out with him, making sure that he’s OK. So you will occasionally hear a little dog coughing in the background. And it may be the most plaintive and adorable thing you’ve ever heard. Or it may, you know, activate your desire to fly in and feed him medicine yourself. Just want to let you know he’s doing great. You’re looking after him. He’s getting all his medicines. His cough will go away soon. Thanks for being with us.

S3: Dear Prudence, your prudent to prudent decisions, your prudent here, prudent, do you think that I should contact him again? Help! Help! Thanks. Thank you.

S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I am your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel Lavery. With me in the studio this week is Aylesworth, a novelist whose first book we are watching. Eliza Bright, is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing in April twenty twenty one and is available for preorder. Now they teach creative writing at the new school Catapult Fledgeling and the New York Society Library. Hossan, welcome to the show.

S4: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so pumped.

S1: Also joining me in the studio this week is my new puppy Bond, who you both you, Orson and you, the listener may occasionally hear in the background making little sounds because he loves to make little sounds and you just get those extra sounds for free. He’s so cute. He’s so small. It’s very upsetting. I like him very, very much. And he’s just real real, real small. And I just get a kick out of it every time I look at him and it just looks like a little sock and a mustache got together and came to life.

S4: We’re actually puppy sitting, a very small puppy as well, a Chihuahua. But I have booted her from this room because she occasionally does bark well. So there are much worse things and it’s very, very loud and ferocious for a tiny, tiny. Oh, well, it’s good to know.

S1: And in addition to this, this new double dog system, I’ve changed the format of this show for the first time in years and years and years. And longtime listeners may be very familiar with my habit of pretty much every episode, at least once. Sometimes many times I’ll say, whose turn is it to read the letter? Is yours, is it mine? Am I you? Are you me? Is is the mirror stage? Is this the mirror universe? Where are we? And I’ve decided today I’m going to write down our names next to each one so that I can see is it my turn to read or someone else’s. I’m really excited about it. I can’t see anything going wrong with it and I think it’s going to make a real difference.

S4: How’s your day going? Oh, you know. You know, every time someone asked me how my day going, my day is going, I struggle to not just laugh so much any any new coping strategies that you’ve just come up with on a whim that you’ve decided they’re going to change your life for the better forever. Well, I I’ve been printing every single thing out because I can’t stare at a screen anymore and I’m staring at a screen. So that is that is my new coping strategy. If it can be printed out, if it can be not a screen, it’s it’s not a screen. I got to say, I’m impressed with the system. I’m impressed that you have a printer. It is not my printer. It is my neighbor’s printer that I that I have been printing things to and they have been letting me use, which is lovely.

S1: You have access to a printer. You’re doing fabulous. All right. Well, in the spirit of new and exciting strategies and changing your life for the better right now and permanently, would you read our first letter?

S4: I sure subject secret lover. Dear Prudence. When I was 17, I met a man a few years older than me. We started off as friends because he was in a relationship, but it didn’t take long for things to become sexual. Over the years, we’ve kept seeing each other a few times a week, even as I was in and out of relationships, and he remained with his partner on at least two occasions. His partner found out about his affair and initiated a breakup. They eventually married and have no children. I am happily married and have two children. We continue to see each other for whatever reason. We cannot seem to stop, though the frequency is significantly reduced to only a few times a year. I have a wonderful life with a phenomenal partner and I truly love him. It’s devastating to think what would happen if he ever found out. I know for certain it would destroy our family. We went through a very rocky period after the birth of our first child. I was insecure and suffered from postpartum depression. I turned to my old flame who I truly feel saved me. He brought me out of a terrible depression. Part of me wonders if we can’t get over each other because we never actually tried to have a real relationship. I was very young and naive when we first met, which put a meaningful adult relationship out of the question in his eyes. We know we use each other as an escape from the stress and reality of our daily lives. I just don’t understand why I can’t cut him out of my life for good. We are, in essence, secret best friends and lovers. How can I move forward? It has been fifteen years.

S1: I think we can start by freeing ourselves from the expectation that we are going to be the single handed like duo that gets this person out of a pattern of 15 years. Like I hope we can offer some insight here, but I’m very aware that this has been a deeply formative, lifelong relationship. Yeah. How how did you read that first line? I met a man a few years older than me.

S4: I actually have it circled with a question mark, the few years part, you know, because that’s there’s like two different things that could be happening there. Like, is this a 19 year old. Yeah, like that. Is this a twenty five year old? What is a few years? I mean.

S1: Yeah, and that’s that’s not to say I want to put aside the rest of the letter and just try to do the math to figure out, you know, was he a bad guy or was he just a kind of bad guy? But I think the reason that I’ve been lingering on it is that line towards the end, I was very young and naive when we first met, which put a meaningful adult relationship out of the question in his eyes. So presumably when the two of you met, he either said or intimated something like, you are too young to be in a relationship with, but you are not too young for me to have sex with. And I find that approach, what’s a good word for it, yucky? Yeah, I mean, it’s just like. Obviously, if you just want to sleep with someone you don’t want to be in a relationship with them, that’s fine. You can say that you can do that. I don’t know for a fact that this was a relationship that when they began sleeping together, it was, for example, against the law or simply like, as you said, like 17 and 19. I’m just really curious if if part of that dynamic when you first met, where you were young and naive and he said we can’t be in a meaningful adult relationship, was it like. But you and I can fuck on the side and I won’t tell my friends about you because I’m embarrassed that you’re so young and I want to keep you as kind of a dirty little secrets that is worth thinking about and asking yourself that question of like, did he use my age as an excuse to treat me like I was something to be ashamed of? Because, again, it’s not the same thing as a casual sexual relationship or even just an inconsistent sexual relationship. But if his whole thing was if his whole approach was, you’re too young to be my girlfriend, but I will fuck you and not tell my partner about you that that’s worth, you know, talking over with some friends, maybe I understand that you’re married and you have kids now and you don’t want to blow up your own life. So choose those friends carefully. If you don’t feel that you can talk about this with a friend, maybe see a therapist, but that’s really worth untangling, I think.

S4: Yeah, I hung up on the age thing for like literally a couple days while I was thinking about this, because I just don’t want that for anyone I don’t like. I don’t I don’t want anyone to be like me to feel less than or like someone’s secrets. I’d be like I just don’t want that for this for this question asker.

S1: Yeah. And that wouldn’t have to mean that. Then you could no longer think of that time in your life, for example, when you were suffering from PPD and he supported you or the great sex that you’ve been able to have. Like that does not mean you would necessarily have to throw all of that away or say that didn’t count or was meaningless. So I guess I just really want to encourage Letteri to think about this. Not so I can say you should actually hate him. You should say you’re a bad guy. Everything was false. But just because it might be worth reinvestigating the assumptions that you had when you were 17 and young and impressionable with your sense of yourself and the world and your relationship with this guy now. So I don’t believe that because you met when you were 17, you have, like, irrevocably imprinted on him and you’ll just never, ever be able to change this dynamic. I got kind of that impression is like, is it just that like he was maybe one of the first people I slept with or one of my first serious emotional entanglements? That means I’ll just never be able to let go. And if only we could have really dated when I was 18 and he was 20, then we would have just gotten out of our systems. I think that’s a red herring. If you try to think about, well, maybe we could have just had a regular relationship and then broken up just because you’ll never know, you know, that that won’t ever have been what happened.

S4: And the other thing is that, like, it’s not even regular. This person has real relationship. And I just I want to gently push back on this, because this is a real relationship like this is all relationships are real and there isn’t really such thing as an unreal relationship. Right?

S1: Yeah. And I get that with the letter writers trying to say it’s like a relationship where I wasn’t at least some of the time a secret or openly acknowledged. But but yeah, very much this has been real. What’s not real or I guess what’s what’s getting at them is the sense of this person has never avowed or claimed or acknowledged openly their attraction to me, their interest in me, their love for me. And again, that’s not to say that all relationships have to take place at the opening of a parade for them to be meaningful. But I do think that that’s. Perhaps part of what’s going on here is the sense of I never quite get his full attention, his full sense of like we are both in this relationship equally and I’m always kind of chasing that. But then on top of that, you also just you really care about him. You’ve had a really good connection with him. It’s not just like, oh, because you did the following three things. That means you can’t quit him. It’s like you can’t quit him because you really care about him.

S4: Yeah. That’s like the short answer is that like. I just don’t understand why I can’t cut him out of my life for good. It’s that reason. That’s the reason, yeah.

S1: Yes. Because, you know, you say we’re innocent. Secret best friends and lovers.

S4: Yeah. I couldn’t eat my best friend into the river. Yeah.

S1: Now, based on my reading of this letter, I don’t feel as warmly towards this guy as the letter writer does. I’m not impressed with the way that he jerked his partner around. I’m not impressed with the way that he told the letter writer. You’re too young for me to date, but don’t worry. Like we can sneak away and have sex this weekend. I’m glad that he was there for you when you were going through a really hard time. But a lot of his behavior to me does not read like someone I would admire. That’s not to say to admire him when you sleep with. But so the question then is like, I think about this a lot. This isn’t a relationship I can talk about with my friends or with my partner. It threatens the things in my life that I want to cherish and nurture, which is my relationship with my partner and our children. How do I square that? What do I do? What would be your advice for that?

S4: Oh, gosh. So basically, I had my response to the few years older and the sort of secrecy on his part. And then I was like, OK, I’m going to have that response over here. And then I’m going to separate my other response to this, which is that this person is also keeping a secret. And it’s not inherently wrong to love two people in the way that this letter writer seems to love these two people. This person cherishes their life with their partner and cherishes their family. And it’s not inherently wrong to also love this other person, but like the secret aspect of it doesn’t make it exactly fair.

S1: Yeah, I feel really comfortable saying both. I totally understand why you care so much about this person. I also understand that lots of people get into relationships and then realize that they’re also in love with somebody else. And I also think it’s fine to just say you’ve also been cheating on your partner and it sounds like, you know, your partner thinks you’re in a monogamous relationship and would be devastated if they found out. So you can also own you know, you are in your early 30s now. You are you married someone else. You had kids with them and you didn’t say. By the way, I also sometimes have this intense sexual relationship with this guy who’s my best friend. So that is wrong and hurtful. And if your partner ever finds out, there’s a decent chance that he will, it’s not a guarantee. But he might it would really hurt him and it would hurt him because you hurt him. So all of those things can be true. At the same time, it does not make you an evil monster, but neither does this make this something that you’ve been doing that is good, loving, honest, esteemable.

S4: And so when you say like, what’s your advice for this person in this situation? Like, keep in mind that I can only speak from my place in the world and my place in the world doesn’t have children. So I what I have written down on my little note sheet here is that, like, if you want to make the sort of like good. Right. Fair decision with your understanding of yourself, now, you may want to tell your partner with the understanding that it could blow up your life and just be prepared that that might happen and it might not. We actually don’t know how another person feels until we ask them. So there’s you know, it might and it might not. But but it really might. And. That to me, that that is what I would do on the way forward, but like I said, keep in mind, I’m speaking from my particular place in this world, which does not have children, which is extremely willing to take the consequences and blow something up. And that just might not be what this person is about.

S1: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s I can see kind of three main ways forward. One of them is the sort of like same time next year plotline where like you just keep seeing this guy and hoping your partner doesn’t find out. And you’re familiar with that world. You’ve been doing that for a pretty long time. You know, you can do it. The upsides of that are you have a partner who you love and you see this guy who you have a remarkable connection with. The downsides of that, are you periodically feel guilty and panicked that your partner might find out, find out and be devastated. And I don’t know how much of your time and energy it would take up, but part of you might be thinking the other shoe is going to drop any day now or my partner isn’t in the relationship he thinks he is. And that’s a lot that’s a lot of emotional energy. That’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of worrying. That’s a lot of covering your tracks. It’s a lot of work.

S4: It’s a big decision to make for somebody else. And it sounds like this that there are two people in the dark here.

S1: Yeah, well, the other partner, it seems like, has found out about this enough that it seems like reasonable that they would still know that it was going on. Yeah. Or at least have some sense that there’s a decent chance of it. And so then the other option is you don’t tell your partner, you just break it off with this guy. And that’s kind of the like, I think the hope here in this letter of like what’s the magic recipe for just deciding to end things, even though I’ve never been able to do that before and I don’t really see how you keep everything in your life the same, but simply suddenly on your own, develop the ability to just I’m never going to take your calls again. I wish you well, but I can’t keep doing this and it’s done. And, you know, and in that version, you don’t have support in making that decision. You’re not able to talk through it with anybody in your life. It’s just all on you. And it’s totally up to you knowing in the back of your mind. Well, I would know how to reach out to him again if I wanted to, and I would know how to keep it a secret.

S5: So I don’t think that’s a great option either.

S1: And then the last one is you tell your partner, and if you don’t feel ready to tell your partner first, you maybe again talk it over with a trusted friend with the understanding of I’m going to tell my partner next. I just need to talk it through first or you see a therapist and try to sort through some of these thoughts and feelings and impulses and desires before you talk to your partner. You know, talking to your partner doesn’t just mean you listen to this podcast and then immediately go to your husband and say, like, I’ve got to tell you everything. Like you can plan and prepare for that and write down will be the best case scenario would be the worst case scenario. What do we do about the kids? You know, would we want to go to couples counseling? How would I want to frame it? What details would I want to share and what wouldn’t I? Etc., etc.. And yet, as you say, that one is the most in some ways unpredictable because it means you no longer keep the control over what your partner knows, and so that means you can’t control how your partner will respond. And it is possible that they might not forgive you. It’s possible that you two might split up. It’s possible that this marriage that you’ve previously thought I was really happy would end.

S5: That’s really sad. I can’t I can’t sugarcoat that one.

S4: But also, it’s like like, you know, I’m I’m a bright side kind of person. And I think that that choice is also the choice that lets you give up the idea that you can ever control how your partner responds to something and that you can ever control what they find out about, because I think that that might be a little bit of a myth. The rom coms exist for a reason, right? You know, folks finding out about stuff is not you know, it’s not just something that happens in movies that that actually is based on, like how communities work and how people talk to each other and like serendipitous chance and all sorts of other things, you know.

S1: Yeah. And the upside of that one is, you know, like I think about that moment where the letter writer says, I was so insecure, I was suffering from postpartum depression. I turned to my old flame. And I think what’s important there is not that this guy is just like magically able to support you when no one else can or that he has something that other people can’t have. It’s just that during one of the hardest times in your life, talking honestly and openly with somebody else about what you were experiencing helped. And if they don’t want to be so, just do that again and it’s all going to work out great. But like, I think a bigger part of that lesson here has been secrecy hurts you letter writer keeping secrets, whether that be about how much you’re struggling with postpartum depression or about this long ongoing relationship or when you were 17, that somebody older than you said we can have sex, but you’re too young for me to take seriously like those secrets have have hurt you. And the moments when you have felt, I think the most relief have been the moments where you’ve been able to be honest. And so even though I think that this kind of honesty will bring a lot of pain and possible consequences, that will feel really unbearable. I also think that this has the most potential for a kind of life where you don’t just have one guy who you can sometimes share your secrets with. You have the possibility of a life where you can talk about honest, messy, painful, difficult, challenging things, things where you may have like at one end of this relationship, then I don’t want to say necessarily victimized without knowing more, but certainly I think naive with someone who is not naive and ways that that harms you and then ways that you’ve harmed other people. And that’s hard. But when you can talk about it, honestly, it really helps. I can’t oversell that part enough. It really does. So of the three options. You can do any of them, only, you know, what will feel the most livable. But my votes for number three, I don’t hear from a lot of people who say my spouse of 50 years just died. I adored them. I kept one huge secret from them their entire life. They never found out I feel great about it. It was the best thing for us.

S4: My vote is also on number three. And like while while my concern is also for these other people, my like my my vote for it, my vote for that third possibility where you just tell what’s going on also is in the interest of, as you say, like the letter writer themself.

S1: Yeah. It’s good to let someone be mad at you when you’ve done something that hurts them. It doesn’t feel good, but it’s important. We’ll move on to something that I think is a little bit less fawning because that was a that was a longer one. So I’m hoping we can blow through this one because this was just your mad. Great. So the subject is my roommate abandoned our apartment during the pandemic and I’m still angry. Dear Prudence, my roommate abandoned our apartments and our plans to renew our lease when the pandemic was ramping up in New York City. After a lot of back and forth, our landlady had agreed to extend our lease by a month, after which my roommate texted me to say he wasn’t going to stay. After all, he left in the middle of the night without another word. He took a few suitcases but left most of his stuff behind. I had to move everything out while minimizing my covid exposure and break our lease, which I hadn’t wanted to do. I also had to temporarily move in with my parents, which caused me a lot of stress, especially since I’ve prided myself on living independently for years. I’m so angry at him for leaving me with all the stress of moving during the early frightening days of the pandemic. We’ve barely spoken since I asked him what his plans were for the rest of his stuff a month after he moved out. We have a common group of friends and work in the same field. We weren’t strangers before we moved in together. He didn’t even thank me. After I got our deposit back in full, I daydream about running into him in the street so I can scream at him. It’s an unhealthy amount of anger and resentment I’m carrying around and I want him to know he hurt me. I’ve written an angry letter and I want to send it, but I want your advice. First, he needs to know that his actions have impacted my life. But what’s the adult way to do this?

S4: Well, first off, can I cross on this? I don’t actually know everyone can, cos it’s a podcast too, because it OK, perfect. I mean, like fuck this guy. But also at the same time, you know, we’re all largely doing the best we can. And so both of those things are true.

S1: I even don’t even think we need to worry about that. I. I think it’s probably arguable whether or not someone is doing the best that they can. I think it’s easier just to stick with we’re all doing the things we’re doing. You know, like whether or not that was his best is kind of unknowable. But you know that he moved out after texting you and giving you no other advanced information. So, like.

S5: He was doing his doing best or not.

S4: It was really funny. Basically, like this person’s really angry and it seems like that’s a totally reasonable thing. There are a couple of things in it that like that I that I like jotted down that I wanted to like maybe reduce your because it seems like there’s also like a shame aspect of this that’s not particularly helpful, which is that I’ve had to temporarily move in with my parents, which just cause a lot of stress, especially since I’ve prided myself on living independently for years. And, you know, there’s first off, a lot of people are doing that right now for a lot of different reasons. And there’s also nothing wrong with living with your family like some folks have never left for economic or cultural reasons. Like you can let you can let that balloon go and focus a little more on, you know, how to process your anger, which is, you know, big and justified.

S1: Yeah, yeah. I just mean, thought here is makes a ton of sense that you’re mad makes a ton of sense that you want to tell him that you’re mad. I think that’s fine. I don’t know that a letter is necessarily the best way to do it, especially if you’ve been in contact with him elsewhere. And that’s really just because I think you’re not going to get a lot of water from this. Well, I think if your goal is he needs to really understand how much it’s affected me. You can’t control that. I think it’s super reasonable to tell the guy you really fucked me over. I don’t want to, like, be friends anymore. I mean, you’re already not friends anymore. But, yeah, just to say you really, really fucked me over, you could have done this in such a better way. That didn’t leave me on the hook for so many things. I’m really mad. I hope you never do it again. Fuck off and be well. That’s fine.

S4: You can absolutely say that the sort of main thing I have for this is that like you like anger doesn’t mean you’re mean. It doesn’t it’s not something that you have to use to fire somebody else. You can literally say, like, here are my needs, feelings and boundaries around this and use that anger to really stand up for yourself instead of, like, slap somebody else. And I feel like, you know, in terms of asking, like, is that like is that an adult way to do this? That to me, that’s that is the most adult. And I’m putting that in big old quotes. Most adult way to communicate with this is like here, here’s what we’re not going to do from here on out, like where we were when the when the after times arrive, whenever that is, we are not going out for drinks like we are not we are not buddies or a reference for your next apartment.

S1: I think my last thought here is just that you can definitely send the letter. But I think a big part of the anger on top of the fact that he just genuinely made your life really difficult was the fact that he texted you and then he left in the middle of the night. And that’s not to say that then I think the best response is to demand he meet you somewhere for coffee so you can yell at him in public, partly because he was going to go to that coffee date, you know, like who’s going to say yes to that? But I just think it might help to try to call him or even text him rather than sending a letter just because part of what was so painful was the fact that, like, you’d been making all these plans together, having in-person conversations, and then when he had something to tell you that he knew was going to make your life harder, he did his best to scarper. So he didn’t have to deal with you being upset with him. And again, I’m not saying that by, like, you know, call him up and scream into his voicemail for thirty minutes, like do a dress rehearsal first. You say all the like really out there, stuff like it’s your fault that I have bad self-esteem or like it’s your fault that I fought with my mom or whatever, you know, let that out somewhere else first. But if you just want to call him or text him and just say. Just so we’re really clear, the way that you handled this was awful and it made things so much harder than it had to be. I’m really angry with you and I’d appreciate an apology. Maybe find a way to say that more directly to him than in a letter that might make you feel at least a little bit a little bit more like my options with conflict aren’t just either ignore someone forever and fantasize about screaming at them in the street or. Mirroring their allergy to in real time conflict and like sending a letter or sending a text, and that’s not to say like you’re just as bad as he is if you send a letter, you are not at all. I just think that that might feel more, I want to say empowering, but just more of a sense of like. Right, I can do this. I can have a difficult conversation in person or in real time or we’re listening to each other’s voices. But yeah, be mad at this guy. That’s fine.

S4: And as far as texting is asynchronous, it also has the potential to be synchronous. So it’s not as though you’re shying away from conflict if you send a text. And I would actually argue that you have put enough effort in to. So like my my hot take is that just send the text. It’s the least amount of effort like you. You sending a letter is like effortful right now because going out of your outside of your house to send a letter is effortful right now, although I do love the post office. So send some letters and phone calls effortful. And you can you can literally be like, here’s my bulleted list. It’s going in a text message and then I’m letting the balloon go.

S1: Yeah. And again, just like keep it relatively short, you know, there’s always when when you’ve been rehearsing anger for a long time, you’re always like and here are then like ninety sub headers and all the other bullet points and it’s just like pick your top to pick your top two things you’re mad about. Stay general just just because you’re not going to you know, he’s not going to be like you’re right, let’s set aside three hours to really hash this out.

S4: And my also big hot tip for anger is just like really own your feelings about it. When you did X, it made me feel Y. Yeah.

S1: Like there’s not really an argument that anyone can have made me feel like I had to then move all your shit, you know, like these are things that happen. They’re not just feelings like it was actual money and time and precarity. So not that feelings aren’t real, just like it’s it’s more than just a feeling in this case, which is also a great song. And with that, let’s move on to our next letter, which I know that you’re going to read, because I wrote down your name next to it.

S4: Ha ha ha. All right. So the subject is weighing things up. Dear Prudence, in the last year, I lost 15 pounds from accidentally not eating enough food. It was already on the lower end of a healthy weight and it wasn’t a trajectory. I wanted to continue to combat this. I started driving calories and macronutrients. This is involved weighing a lot of food before I eat it. I’m happy with this system. It helps me remember how much I’ve eaten, fewer random cravings and I don’t spend half the day hungry and irritable. However, later this year I’ll be moving in with some friends who have spoken about having body image issues. I don’t know the exact nature of those issues, but I don’t want to cause anyone undue distress by weighing my food in the kitchen every day. There’s only so much kitchen space to begin with. Should I even bring it up? I don’t know how much attention roommates pay to one another in the kitchen. I guess I could quit using the scale and see if my eyeballing skills have improved. But when I’ve only just found a solution that works, that feels risky, help. This one’s really sweet.

S1: You know, I’m both really glad that the letter writer found a system that has enabled them to like, not feel half the day lost in a fog of hunger and has also been able to help them stay healthy. I also get the concern. I think my main advice here is just it’s twofold. One is like if it’s still pretty crucial for you right now, I don’t think you have to immediately abandon that as a project. You can give your roommates a heads up and you don’t have to go, I think, into a ton of detail. You can just say, like for health reasons, I usually weigh my food. Let me know if that’s tricky for you. And I will do my best to, like, do so at a time when I know you won’t be in the kitchen. But please don’t feel like you have to then disclose, like, your relationship to distraction and attention and food in your body, in your health. In order to explain it, you can just let them know. And then if beyond that, if your hope is I would like to eventually find a way to develop an eating strategy that enables me to feel focused and full, but that doesn’t involve constantly weighing my food, which can be challenging, especially if you’re over traveling or eating out, maybe at that point to be helpful to talk to a dietician. And I had to do the Googling thing of like dietician versus nutritionist because I always forget which ones like licensed and has to have certain qualifications and which ones. Just like I have a website with a relaxing looking font and it’s a dietician. The dieticians are the one who can actually be board certified and they’re actually they have some expertise. So that might be worth looking into and just saying like this strategy has been really helpful. But now that I’m kind of getting out of the acute stage, I would like to be able to find a less high intensive approach to tracking my calories and they might be able to find other strategies for you.

S4: That’s kind of it for me. Yeah, my mind was really straightforward to this, actually, even like less involved in your answer. And I will also just like own that I have had an eating disorder. So like my opinion of this is like coming from that place, basically, like I don’t even think you have to disclose. I think you I think everybody just gets to do with their food what is right and healthy for them. And I think that you can go in and weigh your food. I also, as a person living with roommates, do not pay special attention to really anything that anyone’s doing in the kitchen unless they’re making me food when I and I pay a lot of attention when someone’s making me food. But I don’t especially notice what they’re doing when they make themselves a sandwich in the middle of the day. And if I were your roommate and like I said, coming from the place I’m coming from, you know, and I noticed that you were doing this, I may check in on you. And like, I maybe like he like you. Good. You OK? Is there anything I can help with? Is there anything I can listen to you about? Is there any way of support that I might be able to? But that’s that’s really all I would do. And, you know, basically my other thing was that I circle accidently and I know that there’s a lot of reasons that that could be happening. And I just you know, I as the person that I am, I just want to check in and say, like, have you have you not just come up with a coping mechanism, but address the part where it’s accidental and like, ask yourself that question, but don’t put too much pressure on having an answer or having an answer right away. But like, can you like is there are you good. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. I think just really like as you say, like this is part of the trickiness of like they’re moving with friends. They were asking, I don’t I don’t know how much attention roommates pay to one another. And it is a little different if you’re like I’m moving in with people who are specifically just roommates and we will be friendly, but we’re not part of each other’s social lives versus I’m moving in with friends, which doesn’t mean like if you live with friends and they want to ask you questions about what you eat, you just have to answer it or you have to take personal responsibility for their body image issues. I don’t mean that at all. Like, it’s absolutely fine. Just say even though they’re my friends. The way that I eat is my business, and if they want to say like, hey, are you OK? And I want to say like, yeah, I’m doing good. I feel really happy with my system and I don’t want to go into more detail. That’s fine. That’s not rude. That’s not insensitive. Lots of people have body image issues. It doesn’t sound like your friends were saying, like, I specifically have struggled with weighing my food and on the side of a food scale is really challenging for me. So it’s just like another not to try to, like, quantify it like, oh, it’s just body image issues. Those are fine. I just mean, like there is a limit to how much you need to worry about somebody else’s body image issues. And if you are just occasionally put on a little food scale out, weighing out some rice and then making a curry, you know that that’s not. That’s not the kind of behavior that I would hear about and think, oh, that’s really you’re you’re really putting something on somebody else, you’re not.

S4: I also like I way to bake my way, my way, like flour to bake and stuff like that. It’s just not it’s not so very unusual to have that going on.

S1: Yeah. I think you can dial back a lot of your concern. And so even just my advice to like mention it to your roommates, take that casually, take the stuff about a dietitian really casually. If the waying stuff is good for you, if you feel pretty relaxed about it, if you’re also able to occasionally like travel or go out to eat, hypothetically, it’s still a pandemic. I don’t know where you are, but, you know, probably you’re not getting invited out to a ton of dinner parties right now. If you feel like you have a pretty good handle on it, you’re doing well. Like don’t feel like you just have to go see a dietitian now. Have a great time moving in with friends.

S5: Oh, I’m so glad I wrote this down, because the next letter I’m supposed to read and I’m stumped, I would have I would have bet a million dollars it was your turn, because I’ve been talking to you know, what’s funny is I would have been a million dollars.

S4: It was my turn to you were both doing great. I mean, do you want to. We can always just mix it up. This is fake. We should we should keep your system mostly because I almost put a book in the dishwasher the other day. So my pandemic brain is leaking out of my ears. We should definitely have systems. First of all, congratulations on having a dishwasher I’m very jealous of. What was the book? Do you remember the Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook? I am a massive fucking nerd. Wow. I had it in one hand and a dinner plate in the other, and it really was almost the other way around for what went on the bookshelf and what the dishwasher.

S5: That’s beautiful. All right. It’s my turn to read this letter. I’m going to read it. The system must remain in place. Subject getting over lack of closure. Dear Prudence, my ex-boyfriend and I were dating for almost a year before he decided to, from my perspective, randomly cut me off. Everything seemed normal. Then he suddenly said he couldn’t talk quote at the moment because he was busy with something. And then that was the last communication I received. It’s been a few months. And he finally responded when I told him I wanted to pick up my things from his place. When I got there, he had all my stuff packed in a bag outside the door. Given that we hadn’t talked in months, I thought I was over this relationship. But after collecting my things, I felt sad and angry again that there was never an explanation. How do you move on from a relationship where there was no closure?

S2: Kind of want to put this person in touch with the person who’s mad at their ex roommate and give them like a strangers on the train style, like the opportunity to go to the other person, be like, the fuck?

S4: I actually kind of like I had a real short answer to this one, because my take on this is a little bit spicy. Is it that closure is fake? It’s the closure. There’s no such thing as closure.

S2: I have a lot of queer trans people who show up on the show, and that’s often like the that the theme is like closure is fake, which I think I am on your side there as well.

S4: Yeah. Especially like no external source of closure. Like there is basically only the point at which you are sort of done processing something which can of course, reactivate at any point, and then you begin processing it anew with a different perspective, closure, speak.

S2: Yeah. And I think the one thing I want to add to that is not then if anybody just disappears from your life that you just have to say like, well, what are you going to do? Closure’s fake. I think there’s absolutely room to see something here, especially because it sounds like you haven’t said very much about any of this. I don’t know if you responded after he said I couldn’t talk and then went silent. I don’t know how much you attempted to get in contact with him or so, you know, if you were blowing up his phone and getting nothing.

S5: At that point, I would probably say, like, you’re not going to get anything out of this guy, just be mad at him and and move on, but if you haven’t really pushed for that in a while and you just wanted to say.

S2: I really hate it the way that you broke up with me, it was so much worse than if you had just said, even in a five minute phone call that you didn’t like me. It sucked in a mad a year.

S4: They’d been dating for almost a year. Yeah, that’s awful.

S5: And you can certainly say that as long as you were saying also like as long as you go into that with the understanding that he might not respond to that either. And it might. Not help, but you can say it and it might feel good to at least say one time to him, like, I really hate the way that you broke up with me. It was really shitty. That might feel a little bit useful. You’ll probably still feel mad and confused. And the like General take away is going to be some version of like whatever was going on that he decided not to even say one word to you about. It is an indicator that this guy is shitty and that you are better off without him.

S2: But that doesn’t then mitigate the shittiness of being ghosted by someone you’ve been seeing for a year. Yea yea.

S4: Basically what I have is like closure is Vegas at the top and then I have like here some things that you can do that you have a little more control over in terms of like because there are, there are sort of internal markers. You can Yalies here to talk about this experience with your friends and your therapist. You can talk ad nauseum. I am an external processor myself, so I go down the line of my friends when something shitty has happened to me and I tell each individual about it individually. So I get to say it one million times. And usually at the time that I’m done, the end of the line, I feel better about it, or at least feel like I understand it more and understand what it’s bringing up for me more. Right. Objectively terrible poetry about your feelings. It’s the next thing I have in here. Just two very bad ones. And just in your journal and just like go hand, because if you name the feelings even and especially the ones you wish you were not feeling, it is so much better for you to just be like, aha, this is happening. Because much like what I said before, like just because you wish you weren’t feeling them doesn’t mean they’re not dictating your behavior. So just because you’re cramming them down doesn’t mean they’re not still affecting you deeply.

S5: Better better to lay them out on the table in front of you and be like, OK, I see what is going on here. And the only way out is through my friend. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And you can just, you know, watch the poster episode of Sex in the City. Um, if you if you would like to try to map your life on to a show that was very popular in the nineties, I have never seen Sex in the City ever. I think that episode was actually from 2002. So I’m slightly getting ahead of myself. It is a television show about the four boroughs of New York City who have become human women.

S2: Oh, that’s right. There’s only four boroughs of New York City. And they all took mortal appearances in the 90s and then did a series of really, really terrible things.

S5: But that is an episode where a guy who’s been sitting on the main character and things have seemingly been going great, except for his slight discomfort with how well her career is going.

S2: Then just one morning is gone and has left a Post-it note that says, I’m sorry, I can’t don’t hate me. And that’s how he breaks up with her. Well, then and that’s why Staten Island sank into the sea. And it’s just a little New York history for you and for me. I’ve lived in New York for ten thousand years, and I’ve I speak the language of the rivers.

S4: Every day is eighty four years during the pandemic. So I concur with your ten thousand your statement also.

S5: Bowman has now sleeping and no longer coughing, and I’m very happy. He looks very cute when he’s sleeping. You can’t see it, but I can. Would you read our very last letter?

S4: Yes, and I’m glad to read this one, because I have I have so many things to say about it. The subject, should I know if I’m bisexual? Dear Prudence, if your average straight guy in his late 20s, not that good looking, but an OK personality is asked out by a much better looking male co-worker who’s also very nice, does feeling tempted mean he’s bisexual or just flattered? I’m the straight guy in question and I’m not sure how to gauge my own interest. I said yes, which I guess is taking the bisexual column, but I’m panicking a little. Am I just flattered by the attention? I do all right with straight women, but this guy is definitely out of my league. How attractive can you find a member of the same sex before it stops being an aesthetic acknowledgment and turns into actual sexual attraction? It feels weird to go out with someone just to see if you’re attracted to them. But that’s also dating in general, isn’t it? I feel like an idiot teenager again. I thought I was past the sort of awful high school anxiety and if I do decide I’m bi enough in quotes to go out with him is the fact that I’ve never dated a guy before going to put him off anyways. I mean, we’re professionals and adults. He’s probably expecting a certain level of basic relationship competence here, right? There’s a lot I could project onto this letter what is exactly the equivalent of, like an academic outline about this letter?

S2: Yeah, yeah. What I want to not do is bring like a sort of Twitter enthusiasm to it. That’s just like, oh, my God, this is so cute. This is like a setup for a rom com. This is great. He’s going to find the fact that you haven’t dated guys before, adorable and hot, and it’s going to go fabulous. And that may happen, by the way, that that is a possibility. But I’m trying not to bring that sort of energy to this question. What do you feel like is the most salient issue here being that this is an outline, apparently, of your life’s work?

S4: So the short answer is because the there’s a question in the subject line. So I’ve got a short answer and then I’ve got several long answers. And the short answer is no, you should not know if you’re bisexual. We’re all on a journey. Should changes. You seem really ready to roll with changes. That’s really cool. Congrats. You don’t have to know already. Ever. That’s the short answer.

S2: Yeah. And it really is just true. Like there are some people who just know and they’re like, yep, I knew this real early on and there’s some people were like, you could have knocked me over with a feather. And there are also lots of bisexual people who are a big part of it is like. But am I. But am I. But am I. But am I. And so just you’re in good company if part of your relationship to bisexuality is. But am I there’s a lot of other bisexual people who you have that in common with. And so I want to try to take away this idea of what’s actual sexual attraction.

S5: There’s a lot of different kinds, and I don’t know what what makes something actual versus not actual, I’ve certainly experienced attraction to people that was very much like, wow, I really aesthetically appreciate you. And that didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t also real. And it was sometimes different from the way that I would sometimes be attracted to someone who I was like, you know, I don’t I don’t know that I want to look like you or just admire you from a distance. But this, you know, I’d sure like to shake your hand. So I’ll just say there’s a lot of different ways to be attracted to someone.

S2: And one of the hard things is like, I don’t wanna encourage them to either round up a round down right of like. Well, if you’re not really sure, play it safe. Don’t go out with him. Or if you’re not really sure, that probably means you are interested and you should just go for it and then figure it out like somebody that you blurt it out.

S4: Yes, my guy. You clearly want to go.

S5: So go go on the date, I would say. Yeah, the thing is, like the fact that you said yes either meant that in the moment you didn’t know what else to say or you wanted to make him happy or you felt flattered. And now that you’ve thought about it over, like if the panic outweighs everything else and the panic doesn’t go away, I don’t want you going on a date panicked. And I don’t want this nice gay guy to go on a date with a guy who’s panicking, not because I think you’re then going to, like, lose it and swing at him or anything. But like, you know, there’s a difference between the kind of like nervousness of, I don’t know what I’m doing. This is new. I’m not so sure like just how into this I’m ready to get on the first date. That’s all really OK. First date jitters stuff, especially when it’s somebody of a sex you haven’t dated before. But I don’t want to say if you’re just feeling like panic, uncertainty, like you can’t handle it, you’re not ready. I don’t want to just say like that just means that you really like him and you should go on this date, so.

S4: But I do want to break apart the panic just a little bit, because there’s a couple of things in here where I’m like, OK, like a little more information may help. And the first thing is, is that there’s not really a secret bisexual knowledge of how to date people. That’s not a thing that I have ever really encountered. And dating each individual is different from dating every other individual, regardless of gender. So no one knows what they’re doing ever when they go on a first date like that is part of what the first date’s about, right. Is to find out what you both want to be doing about this and to find out, you know, what does like what does this look like for both of us and what are we thinking and what are we feeling and what do we have in common? And all of these other questions, like that’s part of what dating is. So there’s not really a secret tome of bisexual dating knowledge that you have to worry about missing. No one had a pamphlet. No one had orientation. Like it’s fine. No one knows what they’re doing ever. And then the second thing I saw was this sort of like and I’ve seen it in a couple letters today, the idea of like X feeling or modality being adult versus X feeling or modality being childhood or teenager. In fact, I’ve seen it maybe and in almost all the letters today, and I feel like an idiot teenager again, that kind of thing. And I actually like the awful high school anxiety. And I actually would love to just do a little reframe or at least share with you how I frame that stuff, especially as someone who’s like basically going through puberty at 30 to like there’s a lot of idiot teenager time in my personal life right now. And I want you to know that, like it is possible to revel in the idiot teenager time with your like so many people, like don’t ever get to time travel in this way where you get to have those kinds of thoughts and feelings again, but this time with your whole adult self. And that’s kind of awesome. Like that’s kind of a cool experience that you get to have.

S2: Yeah. And I think really to the thing that I think is such a useful point of clarification here is I just think it means a lot of people assume that once you turn 20, all of your most intense feelings will start to drain out of your body. And by the time you reach 40, you’re just going to be like Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins. And so, yeah, it’s lovely if it feels fun and interesting to sort of reclaim a sense of teenager ness as an adult. You know, you can, but you can also just say, like feeling like butterflies or feeling first day jitters or learning something new about yourself or falling head over heels for someone or being super turned on by someone that you did not expect to be or not. The unique providence of teenagers that adults that don’t have like adults are just older. You know what Leggett’s you’re still you think you’re goodness, you know. Yeah. You do change in a lot of ways and you age out of teenager hood into adulthood, but you don’t like lose the most like intense range of your feelings. It’s not like taste buds, you know, where like when you’re younger, you have more sleep. That may not even be true. I don’t know, by the way, like, I may just be repeating like a common misapprehension about taste buds, but you get what I mean, I think which is just like, yes, in your late 20s, it is still possible to feel butterflies and surprised you didn’t lose that when you turned twenty eight. That didn’t go away with your Saturn return.

S4: And it doesn’t make you less adult to feel them. It doesn’t make you less adult. You feel those things now.

S5: So all of that said, mostly I think what I want this letter writer to feel is not like because you said, yes, you have to go on at least one day, you know, kind of like with the earlier letter about the woman who was like, should I sleep with my boyfriend again? Or this guy that I’m seeing again, it is absolutely fine, polite, respectful to say I’m really sorry. I’m actually not available to go out on a date. Thank you so much for asking. I was really flattered and you don’t have to follow it up with any kind of explanation of like, I thought maybe I was bisexual. I’ve decided I’m not bisexual enough to date you. Like, if you just don’t want to go, you can do that and he will be cool about it. It seems like he’s been very cool already. So with that reminder, I think you’ll be able to think about this with a little bit less of a sense of pressure, like I said. Yes. So I got to go. Like, you can change your mind. That’s allowed. He will not freak out. He will not never ask anyone out again. He will not never recover. He will be disappointed and he will say, OK.

S4: And it will be on, he’ll say, Barmer and move on.

S5: Yeah, so that said, knowing that you have absolute freedom to politely tell him you’ve changed your mind. If instead you would like to say to him. I’m excited about the idea of the state, I got to let you know, I’ve never dated a guy before. I’ve never been asked out by a guy before. And you’re so cute that I’m really nervous. I think the odds are good that his reaction to that will be something along the lines of Jesus Christ that’s adorable.

S4: And if his reaction is not that it says nothing about you.

S5: Yeah. And if he’s like, oh, thanks, let me know. I actually only want to date, like, out Gambi. Guys are like guys who are really solidly like in their understanding of their orientation. That’s fine too. He would let you know that that doesn’t make him evil either. It just means you’re not going to be a good fit. And at that point, you don’t go on the date. But either way, you’ll get the answer that you need to figure out whether or not there’s going to be a good first date. And it does seem like the tone of this letter to me reads a little bit more like. I think I kind of want to go. I just don’t know what I’m doing and I’m nervous about acknowledging that. And part of me also feels like maybe it’s some kind of a joke because he’s so hot and it’s just like.

S2: I think that might be a sign that you think he’s really cute. He clearly doesn’t think of you as being like not in his league. He clearly thinks that you’re a babe.

S4: So that’s the other like I have like so many things written down about like the amount of times that this letter writer goes in on himself, like not that good looking, OK, personality out of my league. And and this letter I had like the strongest response to like I wish that this person was in my house. I could sit them down in an armchair, I could make them a cup of tea and just like politely explain that every single human being is super fucking hot and respectful. I would just flirt with him if I could get on the bus. But the T in the respect is chaotic. And I just I wish upon this letter writer a practice of self-love because no one should feel kind of medium about themselves. And you’re doing great.

S5: Yeah. You just got to you got to remind yourself he didn’t ask you out because he confused you for someone else. He didn’t ask you out because he drank like a weird potion that morning and changed his personality. He knows what you look like and he knows what you sound like and he knows what you act like. And the sum total of his impression of those things is that he wants to go on a date with you. Not a mistake, not a joke, so take that one seriously. Yeah, I know it’s hard to do. I the other day I was talking to my and I was like, sometimes I’m like, I know we’re married, but like, do you like you like me. Like, really. That’s so cool. And it’s not obviously like that’s not how I feel all of the time, but like they can come up for anyone at any time of like really cool. But yeah, he really wants to go out with you and you’re just allowed to say yes and maybe it’ll feel weird and uncomfortable. But I think oftentimes just naming that does a lot towards dispelling awkwardness. Like if you just say, I’d love to. I just I don’t want to say, like, all gay people want one thing, you know, or like all gay people are charmed by somebody who previously thought of themselves as straight because it’s just not true. The rich tapestry, plenty of people are not into that. But it’s also not not a thing.

S2: It’s not it’s not a fantasy of somebody being like, wow, I was never I was never into guys before, but you’re just so hot and I’m so flattered and nervous and shy and I don’t know what I’m doing. But, gee, maybe if you could teach me, like, that’s not a trope at all.

S4: That’s not.

S2: Yeah. Again, I can’t make you promises. I can guarantee you there are absolutely people who would not be into that. But like, I would put your odds at relatively high that if you said that and maybe you threw in, like biting your lip at some point looking down into the right, that he would just be like, oh, I’m gonna buy you a steak dinner and I’m going to kiss you, that’s all.

S4: But like also, please remember, it’s a pandemic, so like. Right. Don’t proceed with option. Don’t don’t don’t make a choice that is going to put yourself or others at risk, but also get a rapid test if you can. Rapid test zoom is a thing, et et cetera. Lots of lots of different ways to do this. Yeah.

S5: If you feel like an idiot teenager because a guy you think is incandescently hot asked you out, that’s a good reason to consider going.

S4: Oh, yeah. You know, I’m thrilled for this letter writer for so many reasons. And also, I just never I never want this letter writer to talk about himself in this way again also.

S2: Yeah. Yeah. You sound charming. I’d go out with you letter writer. Me too. This doesn’t work out. You know, know where to reach me. I think on that note, we have solved enough problems for the day. And also I think Bonbon is waking up. So that means I get to take him on another tiny walk.

S4: Well, enjoy your tiny walk with Bonbon.

S2: Oh, I will. He can make it down to about the end of the block before he gets like this is too much for me.

S4: I would like to be carried back inside you. Then I just carry him like a little fan. I want to give him a little pillow. I am digging the endless stream of bon bon content. Please keep it coming is so good.

S2: I haven’t had a dog for a year and a half or so sad after I lost my last guy. So it’s just been so, so, so nice to have a little dog in the house again.

S5: Just one where I’m like a little cape. I’m not going to. That would not be safe for my small small dog. Austin, thank you for being on the show. I need to leave. You are a delight.

S4: You are also a delight. And thank you so much for having me.

S6: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producer is Bill Cercas.

S7: Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Had to slate dotcom. Dear Prudence, to subscribe and remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate dotcoms. Pretty hard to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three to seven. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location, and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

S1: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. And I mean, I think the source of the discomfort here is pretty clear, which is like my friend is not actually familiar with the work that I am doing. She’s not sort of like doing her homework and she’s speaking pretty blithely and with authority about something that she doesn’t know a lot about, which is on top of it, genuinely frustrating. So I think I think you’re right. I think it’s good to move away from getting her to say, you know what, you’re right. You are doing all the good work. You I know you don’t want cookies, but here is the crown saying you don’t want the cookies. So here’s a crown.

S5: You know, to listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate. Plus now at Slate, dot com forward slash pretty pot.