My boyfriend and I evacuated New Orleans right before Katrina. We spent the last year in limbo, with our fundamental personality differences thrown into sharp relief. He is a failed professor with no ambition and holds me responsible for his entire self-worth and well-being. He makes a quarter of my salary, yet insists on living a lifestyle that my money affords. He works for evangelical Christians under a ruse that he is Catholic and engaged to me, but he is an atheist and we are hardly engaged. I do love him, but perhaps the only reason we\’re together is that we\’re in a very different part of the country with only each other to rely on. I\’ve tried ending it three times, but he always insists, \”We must agree to break up.\” He has a Ph.D. in philosophy with a specialty in logic, and with my M.F.A. in poetry, I cannot win an argument against him. He wants us to see this shrink next week to work out our differences. Would it be callous of me to break it off for good and return to New Orleans?
— Feel Guilty Abandoning Him
You should feel worse about abandoning Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Remember her famous poem, \”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways\”? I don\’t think one of the ways was \”Like a homeless junkie hustling you for cash in your own living room.\”
OK, so last year, when Katrina hit, it was just the two of you against the elements. Understandable. A year later, it\’s still just the two of you against the elements. Not so understandable. What, you\’re forced to huddle together in case they crank the air conditioning at the wine bar? You do say you\’re braving a very different part of the country with only each other to rely on. Yes, life can be a constant battle on the brutal suburban tundra. Apparently, teamwork is the secret to your survival: You get the check. You also get the tip. And he gets to remind you of his vast intellectual superiority.
Sorry, but Aristotle mud-wrestling Emily Dickinson this isn\’t. The guy\’s an ambitionless, ethically vacant mooch. Sure, he\’s got a degree in philosophy and a specialty in cheap manipulation. (Basically, he\’s a tapeworm with a Ph.D.) You do have to hand it to the guy, who\’s at his most industrious when he\’s desperate to stay lazy. To that end, he\’s now proposing a shrink to help you work out your differences — namely, your inability to find being used anywhere near as sexy as he finds using you. Lemme guess, couples counseling, single payer? Thanks, but you already have a fantastic shrink, one who\’s cheap, brief and dead. Yes, Gertrude Stein told you everything you need to know about your future with this guy: \”A sponge is a sponge is a sponge.\”
After all you\’ve been through with him, you do owe him one thing: not being in such a hurry to get out of there that you back over him with the U-Haul. You owe yourself more — answers to a few questions: Did you fall in love or did you just step in it? If you\’re responsible for his well-being, who\’s watching out for yours? And finally, don\’t you deserve more than a mind-gaming user? Even if he does have you confused about the difference between \”fiancé\” and \”financing\” and the significance of \”self\” in \”self-worth,\” there actually is no argument to be won or lost here; there\’s only you\’re unhappy, and you\’re leaving. Or, in poetic terms, \”Roses are dead, violets are caving, if I wanted to adopt, I\’d pick a child who isn\’t shaving.\”
I met a girl I really liked, and for two months, we spent part of every day together. We were only a little physical because she\’s in a relationship, a \”stale\” one, but she claimed she couldn\’t help herself; I\’m \”so darn hot, blah, blah, blah.\” Her boyfriend proposed, and she suddenly turned off all the warmth and hasn\’t called since. Obviously, this was over before it started, so why\’d she even bother?
— The Sucker
Let\’s hope you don\’t take the same approach to securing employment: every day, grabbing your briefcase, packing a lunch, and standing in the hall outside Ted\’s office waiting for him to quit or get fired. In the future, when you\’re looking for a relationship with somebody, avoid picking somebody who\’s still in a relationship with somebody else. Keep in mind, daily availability for furtive groping isn\’t the same thing as general availability. As for why this girl even bothered, she did call you \”so darn hot, blah, blah, blah\” — \”blah, blah, blah\” perhaps being her way of saying \”There\’s nothing like a little new meat to inspire the old meat to come up with a side of carats.\”