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Do things look a little…different to you this week?
Are you noticing that, maybe, the things on your favourite Internet webpage, The Hazlitt Dot Edu, are looking askew? It’s not as subtle as Botox, not as extreme as a nose job. It’s like we got a haircut and a chin reduction. It’s all a bit sleeker.
Change can be frightening, but do not panic! The site is new and improved while still maintaining all the things you know and love about Hazlitt. But with that change may come a few bugs—customary with such a big update. Coincidentally, this week’s batch of questions is about what to do when things change in your life. Is change good? Is it bad? Is my lazy use of rhetorical questions a way to mask the fact that the entire Hazlitt staff is too drained from the rigors of redesigning a website to even begin attempting yet another weekly advice column with the word “unfuck” in the first paragraph?
Alas: what should you do when something you’re accustomed to changes and you can’t find all the things you like? For example, where is all the poetry I read regularly? It is here! Where is, say, Nicholas Hune-Brown’s Studies Show column? It’s still around! Do you still have an article about a woman who has sex with a bear? Sure, why not.
We are all still here, just better. In this case, change is good and healthy and beautiful and mobile-responsive, and also, you can play The Arcade from our homepage. How great is that?
And if the changes are still too upsetting to you to, or if you’re having trouble finding something, please feel free to send your questions directly to anyone that is not me. Preferably a white man. They always know what to do.
My boyfriend and I have been together for two and a half years. We’re very happy, we enjoy spending time together, all is well. For the past year, we’ve both been living with our parents. We’ve done long-distance a couple of times and survived it. Now that I’m done school and have a job elsewhere, I’ll be making a permanent move. We’ve talked about living together a lot and he’s all for it, but I’m anxious about it. I used to be very certain it was what I wanted, but now I’m hesitant, which he knows. I don’t know for certain that he’s the person I want to be with forever—but I’m only 23, do I need to know? He’s a few years older and comes from a perspective of all his friends moving in with significant others. I feel like moving in will help me figure out what I want from the relationship long-term, but is that a wrong reason to move in together?
— Cohabitation Conundrum
There is absolutely nothing a 23-year-old knows for sure. Nothing. I am 23, and am still unsure about things that would otherwise be considered basic knowledge. I am relatively sure my mother is my mother, but what if she’s a spy who stole me from another family and I am actually a Greek heiress to a rubber manufacturing fortune? I’m pretty sure I have a job, but what if I come to my desk one day and find out that I am actually a ghost haunting the Penguin Random House offices? I think I am 5’5, but what if I’m actually just fooling myself and I’m only 5’4?
So you, at 23, are not required to know anything about what your future is going to look like. Moving in with someone is not a life sentence. It’s barely a promise. Your lease dictates that you need to pay first and last month’s rent, you can’t put any holes in the drywall, and you are not allowed to have sex in the building’s gym unless you are very attractive (condominium-specific).
There are some things you need to go through rather than around or over: education, your parents passing away, The Godfather, all 500 My Struggle installments, ill-advised bangs. This is one of them. There’s a reason people move in together before getting married: because it helps establish what, exactly, you may want from a long-term relationship. You need to learn if you like this person at his most intimate. When he is pooping loudly after dinner. When he is crying over a scene in Die Hard 5, easily the worst of the Die Hard franchise. When he has the flu but you still have to sleep next to him at night, his body burning up in the bed and his sinuses so congested he sounds like a baby tractor struggling to start.
If you love him and you think your feelings are rooted in a fear of change and not a mistrust of him or your feelings, stop being a jerk and look for an apartment. (The rental market is garbage so it’ll probably take you another six months to find a place that doesn’t have bedbugs or mold or Ebola.) It sounds like you’re interested in seeing what your relationship looks like when you’re both in the same space, and if that’s not a good reason to live with someone, I don’t know what is. The worst thing that could happen is a horrible break-up that leaves you feeling emotionally crippled, forcing you to move all your things out in an overwrought episode where you have to negotiate the splitting of your books and cookware and beloved ratty sleepy-time T-shirts.
But if you weren’t living together, you’d have to do that anyway—just without the satisfaction of knowing that you at least tried.
Going around is for cowards. Go through. If it doesn’t work, you can sleep on my couch for a few weeks before getting back on your feet. (I have a cat and she will step on your face at 5 a.m. every single morning. I hope that’s okay.)
I’ve been getting lunch from the same place near my work for nearly two years now. Over that time, I’ve become friends with the older lady that works there (I’d say she’s about 60ish). At first it was just nice conversation, and occasionally she’d give me discounts on stuff … but now it’s starting to get weird. She makes me lunches nearly once a week, packing them up with napkins, utensils, and even little salt and pepper packets. The thought of her making me meals at home in her kitchen makes me uncomfortable. There’s nothing sexual about this, but it’s definitely weird. When I don’t go to the store for several days, she asks all my colleagues where I am and seems upset. Am I justified in feeling awkward about it? How do I stop her from doing this? Am I an asshole? What do I do? I don’t want to hurt her feelings.
— Too Many Free Lunches
Let me grasp this.
A nice lady who works at a nearby lunchbox is sweet on you and has taken it upon herself to make homemade meals for you. She packs them with care and waits for you to come and then gives you something good to eat.
So, in summation:
A nice lady is giving you free food and you have a problem with it.
I’m not sure where your relationship with this woman changed, but clearly you had enough friendly interactions to lead her to do something nice for you. Sure, it’s weird, but it’s not like this lady is coming to your office and chewing your food first before spitting it into your mouth like an injured bird.
You have a few options, so let’s go over them and you can decide what makes your stomach turn the least:
1. Deal with it. Eat the lunch. Are you actually complaining about this?? Is the food good? Is she poisoning you? Is it a nice warm meal that fills you up and reminds you that humans have the capacity for good and someone is reaching out to you in order to make a connection? GIVE ME YOUR LUNCH, DILL WEED.
2. Stop going there. So what if she asks your colleagues where you are? I’m sure her feelings are hurt: she’s making you lunches with care and you just Houdini on her. But it is a sting that will fade. She will not crumble because you don’t like her sandwiches. Start making lunch at home. Buy lunch from another place in the area. Prove yourself a coward and get your coworkers to pick it up for you. Endless opportunities here to avoid human interaction.
3. Accept the lunch graciously and then do something else with it. Maybe she’s making something that doesn’t sit well with your stomach. Maybe it’s not so healthy and your pants are feeling a little tight. Maybe you just don’t want that lunch all the time but you don’t want to be rude. There is a way out of this. Accept the lunch and offer it to a coworker if they’re interested. If you work in a big city, I’m sure there are plenty of homeless people who wouldn’t mind something to eat now and then, so maybe offer it to someone who needs it. Offer to pay—repeatedly—and if she doesn’t accept, you can leave a big tip. Say thank you, be polite, be brief, and be on your way. If you still feel weird about taking a free meal, use the barter system and bring her flowers or bake her cookies or buy her a lifetime’s supply of Pall Malls.
It’s possible that in the future, she may call on you for some weird favour (help moving a large chifferobe into her bedroom, followed by the request that you hold her so that she can “feel like a young girl again”), so weigh that against your need to not be a jerk to a nice old lady.
But come on, man. It may be true that there are no free lunches in life, but this is literally as close as you’re ever going to get.
Recently, I’ve been trying to work things out with my ex-boyfriend. We broke up two years ago but kept in touch and visit from time to time because I am very dumb. I thought things were going well, but in an unfortunate turn of events, it turns out he has been dating someone for well over a year and just got engaged to her and is a very talented liar. I am embarrassed and feel duped and very, very stupid. Essentially, everything hurts and I think I am dying. I have a job and school to attend to so lying on the floor and crying is not going to be an option past today. How do I proceed from here?
— A Dumb Idiot
There, there, dummy. Do not cry. I am here.
Boy, is that dumping ever a real kick in the urethra! Not only was he dating someone else, but he’s engaged and moving on with his life in a way that undercuts yours. You were either dating a weasel, a pathological liar, a dolt, or maybe all three—really hit a jackpot here. There you were, thinking this relationship that didn’t work out two years ago may, for some reason that is not yet clear, work out now, and then, KABOOM! No dice.
First, take a beat to learn a lesson: it is almost never, ever, ever a good idea to get back together with someone you broke up with. There is usually a good reason for breakups. If you get a dog and the dog bites you on the thigh while you pee and jumps on the couch after going to the park and tears your curtains, you may be inclined to give away the dog. But if, after two years, you bump into the dog at a bar or a cooking class, there’s no reason to think to yourself, “You know, we had some nice times,” and then invite him back into your home so he can fill your bed with his dog-farts. Just get a cat already!
You probably had a good reason for breaking up with this guy and managing to steer clear of him for 12 months. Who knows what brought you back together, but take some solace in knowing that it was a good decision the first time around. Now you just need to remember it the next time he gets in touch.
You have been let down again by humanity. It sucks! But you will not die.
The hope was that, maybe, your ex-boyfriend had changed and acquired some decency since you two stopped dating. But people are disappointing, and it’s rarely a good idea to get back together with someone after realizing it’s not a good fit. People don’t usually change. They evolve or develop in incremental ways, or at least put on some weight, but no one really changes. You have been let down again by humanity. It sucks! But you will not die.
So what do you do? Pretty much what you did when you first broke up, except don’t give him any access this time around. That includes everything from the day to day (deleting him from Facebook, blocking him, maybe throwing your computer into the sea), to the structural (finding an excellent therapist, writing some inflammatory diary entries). Focus on things more important than your renewed grief, like school or work or friends or carpentry. There is no formula for dealing with a partner who lied to you or a particularly gutting breakup: you just have to keep forcing yourself to get out of bed every day.
Take some time to feel extremely angry and sorry for yourself, and about how you were duped, and be mad at the woman he chose to be with instead and drive yourself insane with jealousy and rage and regret. Hate yourself for being so stupid, so quick to believe, thrash yourself against your bed and curse the skies screaming, “WHY, WHY DID I LET MYSELF BE SUCH A FOOL!!!!”
Then take a shower, brush your hair, go outside, and do something interesting.
Unfuck Yourself appears every Wednesday. Got a problem? Send it here.