This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SL Letter of the Day: Long Form

Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, May 24, 2011 at 10:29 AM

Longtime reader, longtime listener, I hope you never stop. You're a perfect role model not just for oppressed youths, but for people everywhere, as someone who is committed to doing as much good with their life as they possibly can. Thank you.

With those formalities out of the way, this is going to take awhile to get through, so settle in. The story, I feel, is necessary to understanding my crisis.

I have an incredibly poor history with women. I am almost 22 and have not had intercourse (there was some oral about 4 years ago). I have never had a real relationship. However, I am told I am pretty attractive and it takes more than two hands to list the girls I have made out with (I swear I am not bragging). I am nerdy and most often described as 'strange' or 'goofy' or 'bizarre'. The girl who is about to be described, Stella, is a girl I often talked to about my relationship woes. I could never have expected that she would be the girl to seriously break my heart or worsen my trust issues. I am incredibly loyal and feel confident in saying that I would never cheat (though how do I know, I suppose). All around, I think I am a pretty good guy. The girls I get involved with either end up friend zoning me, I find them completely disinteresting, or something incredibly weird and awkward happens (the last girl undressed herself for me after knowing me for five days. I didn't sleep with her because I was turned off by this sluttish behavior).

I have this friend who I have known for about a year, let's call her Stella.

We share tons of interests, we get along great, she gets my humor. The only problem is, she's been in a relationship with this guy, let's call him Stanley, for just as long. He's kind of an asshole; all of her friends don't like him and he mistreats both her and her friends. He's that kind of guy who will put you down, then laugh about it and say something like 'just kidding', as if he didn't just put you down. He is also notoriously flirtatious, to the point where their relationship has had issues dealing with it. He has promised in the past not to flirt with other girls anymore, then has done so. In the past, he had broken up with her because he didn't get to see her much and felt he was being unfair with her. As to the validity of that statement, I have no idea. I do know that two days after breaking up with her (I did not know Stella personally at this point, but knew who she was), I was at a party with him and he invited a different girl to the party and personally walked her to said party. When conversing with Stanley, I asked him, jokingly, what was wrong with his last girl, 'not cute or something'? He said to me 'not cute enough'. I have been in situations with Stanley and Stella where Stanley has displayed a clear lack of respect for Stella, such as groping her in front of people and constantly asking her to do things that she doesn't want to do (such as drink alcohol). He is most commonly described by other people as "arrogant."

Additionally, we worked (all three of us) at the same establishment. There's another girl at this establishment who confided to me that she had made out with Stanley, and that Stanley had told her that, "Whenever I (Stanley) get drunk, the drunker I get, the less attractive I find Stella." This girl, the coworker, isn't the most trustworthy source, but I have no reason to not believe her either.

They had already had plans to break up in August because both Stanley and Stella are studying abroad. They are going to completely opposite sides of the world, and Stanley claimed that he "didn't feel like he could pursue a long distance relationship," but Stella was interested in doing so.

Recently, Stella's best friend, let's call her Blanche for continuity, caught Stanley in bed with another girl when, after a party, Blanche went into said girl's room to retrieve her footwear. Stanley covered up this other girl, as though ashamed, but there was no proof that anything had actually physically been done. Either way, Stella had told Blanche to tell her if Stanley did anything like this, so Blanche told her what happened. Blanche told me this happened last Monday night, when I was at a friend's place. The next day, last Tuesday, Stella went to her apartment and dumped him. Apparently, he became 'emo' and began to slap himself and say he was sorry over and over and over, but Stella wouldn't have any of that shit, and continued on with the dumping anyway.

This is where it gets tricky, because I have to add details that I learned later. After doing the "breaking up," she apparently proceeded to ask for a kiss, #1. I am going to number details like this so you know when I learned them. I feel as though it's important.

Later that night, that Tuesday, I asked Stella if she wanted to hang out that night at her house (where she lived half the time with her mother). We spent a long car trip talking and then hung out at her place and watched a delightful movie. I put my arm around her and we cuddled a bit. Later that night, I asked if I could kiss her, and she said yes. Over the course of a few hours we made out and had some honest, emotional talks about how we felt about each other (we both liked each other a lot), and how she felt stupid for giving Stanley so many second chances. She also said she felt like she was taking advantage of me, and I reassured her that she was not, that what we were doing was exactly what I wanted, and that I had been worrying that I was taking advantage of her, which she denied. For specificity, we got to second base (groping and partial lack of a shirt). This happened again the next night (Wednesday), except that night she began to cry while making out, and asked to slow down a bit, which I agreed was completely okay, that I would take it as absolutely slowly as she wanted, and I let her talk out her feelings for an hour or two. She said she was reminded of Stanley still, especially with what we were doing. After awhile I asked her if she wanted to kiss again, and she agreed. That was as far as we got physically, and I was very happy these two days.

In our circle of friends, there was a giant trip planned to a convention for that weekend, Thursday-Sunday. She asked if I would try to hide that we had any kind of relationship during the convention, and I agreed to do so. The plans had been set in motion, and a whole of bunch of Stella and mine's friends, including Stanley, were going to all be in a hotel room for this convention. Stella and everyone else left Thursday afternoon. I left Friday to stay with relatives and thus was not made to stay in the single hotel room with 14 people. During the ride (about 2.2 hours), she texted him to tell him that they were "just friends" and mostly ignored him Thursday and Friday. However, about midway through Friday, and this is where timeline begins to get important, Stanley texted her saying he wanted to talk alone. She described this to me around 7pm as the following: 'I am going to talk with Stanley to tell him we are just friends'. During this conversation, he asked her to get back together with him, #2. Later that night, they talked alone for awhile, then everyone regrouped at the hotel room later that night and me and Stella had a text conversation. I asked what happened between her and Stanley, and she said that she wasn't sure how to describe how things were between the two of them. Then I asked if WE were in the same position, and she said yes.

The next day, Saturday, rolls around. Me, Stanley, Stella and Stella's cousins hang out in the convention area for the better part of a day. After we finished all hanging out, Stanley suddenly dramatically left the hotel room, then Stella received a text several minutes later that said he wanted to talk to her again. About 4pm, me and Stella talked alone, and she told me #2. I discussed with her why this was a bad idea, how just days ago she had been saying how stupid she was for giving him so many second chances. In the course of the conversation, she admitted she regretted going so fast with me, and said that she wished we could have some kind of restart. I told her that if she could assure me that later she would tell Stanley, definitively, that they were just friends, I would have absolutely no problem restarting: no physical contact, standard hanging out, and just seeing where it was going. She agreed to this, and I told her I trusted her to make the right decision. I made her aware of the fact that it would be unlikely that I would speak to her for an extended amount of time if she went back to Stanley. Since I am being completely honest here, being such a longtime fan, I consider myself at least above 'complete fuck-up' on the scale of giving advice. I at least feel that I know when I see abusive or manipulative behavior, and I told Stella that this is absolutely what I thought (I may have cited your name, I apologize), that Stanley was being manipulative and abusive and that he was never going to change. Now, throughout all of this, I'd like to think I was being a great guy, but I admit to trying, either consciously or subconsciously, to selfishly convince (manipulate) her to go with me. That's probably true. However, I also really just don't want Stella to be with Stanley anymore - I don't care if she goes off and dates some other guy. Just no more Stanley.

Around 6pm, they had a talk. In the course of this talk, Stella admitted to having made out with me the night of their breakup. Stanley became incredibly enraged, and threw his phone against a stone wall, shattering it. He then motioned to leave, presumably to come find me and show what a nice guy he was, but Stella stood in his way. All of that is #3.

Around 8pm, Stella talked to what she considered a "neutral source," a mutual friend. What Stella probably didn't know, and probably still doesn't know, is that this neutral source, let's call her Eunice, had confided in me previously that she doesn't like Stanley either. However, when the two talked, Eunice advised Stella by telling her to consider her options:

1. Go with me
2. Go with Stanley
3. Go with neither of us
4. Ask for more time

Stella concluded that she wanted more time. This is all #4.

Stella then had a conversation with Stanley from about 11pm to 1:30am. During this time, he cried and said he changed his mind, that he would be absolutely willing to try a long distance relationship now. He promised he would change. She asked him what he said he meant by 'change', and he said that they would discuss this change later. This is #5.

During this time, I had been hanging out with Blanche and others. I finally told Blanche in confidence that I had made out with Stella, and that I had liked her for as long as I knew her. Blanche told me how happy she was about this, that at first she thought I was a douche but over time realized that I am a great guy (her words, not mine).

Around 2am, I talked with Stella again. For a bit we discussed this alone, what was going on. She told me #s 3 and 4. I told her I already knew #3 had happened because I knew, at some point, she would tell Stanley about us. She then told me #5.

Around 2am, I invite Blanche out to talk with both of us. At this point, Stella tells us #1. I had long suspected something of this nature. It explained why the break-up was so messy, why this entire fiasco happened. In the end, Stella admitted that she felt that everyone was ganging up on her. I told her I already knew what she was going to do, that she was going to back to Stanley. I told her, again, that Stanley would never change. At a certain point, Blanche grabbed something from the room and I told Stella that I would try to be there for her always. That we would always be friends, but that the timeframe for being anything more than that was thinning. Coming back, Blanche told her that she felt that Stanley offering the long-distance relationship seemed incredibly manipulative, that the idea of saying 'oh, well, if you get back together with me, I'll give you what you always wanted' seemed largely unfair and coercive. Stella said that we didn't know what we were talking about, that if Blanche just had the chance to listen to Stanley say how he had changed, Blanche would believe it. That Stanley never cries, it was clearly because he was so broken up and ready to change.

We stopped talking around 3:30am, with no progress whatsoever, Stella still distraught, myself mad, hurt and confused, we all went to bed.

Nothing really happened on Sunday. The convention ended, and I told Stella that I would give her all the space she needed. I learned through Blanche's boyfriend that the idea of Blanche and Stanley talking is being gone forward with at some point.

I don't want to lose my friend, but I don't know if I can be friends with her after this. I have never been so emotionally conflicted, but at the same time, whenever I feel like the victim, some part of me says I am being selfish and not thinking about what Stella must be going through.

My series of questions:

1. I know I moved too fast. I am an idiot for this? How much should I beat myself up over it?

2. Is Stanley being abusive in your opinion? Manipulative? If so, is there any way I can make Stella realize this?

3. Am I right in assuming there Stella will go back to Stanley (based on the fact that none of these talks were about the pros of having a relationship with me, but rather the possible pros of another relationship with Stanley).

4. Should I be mad at Stella?

5. Am I a selfish douchebag for thinking I am the better option?

6. Let's say in the long run, my prediction is right about Stanley (that he won't change), and he fucks up again. Do I forgive her then?

7. I am conflicted over whether I should be mad at Stella, for being so easily manipulated, or forgiving, because I know it can happen to the best of us. Anything to help me sort out my thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

8. Did I deserve this?

9. Let's say she chooses me (doubtful, yeah?). Should I agree? Would I be justified in saying, "No thanks, you lost your chance"?

A few final questions: Is there something wrong with me? Why am I such a romantic fuck-up? Why do I always get hurt when I involve myself with women?

Better Part Of A Triangle

1. Yes. Just enough to pound some sense into yourself.

2. Being a prick and being an abuser are two different things. As for making Stella realize what Stanley is doing: Stella knows exactly what Stanley is doing. Do you know what Stella is doing? She's enjoying this drama, BPOAT, as it allows her to be the center of attention at all times. (Did you ever get out and enjoy the convention?) And the show will continue so long as you and Blanche and Eunice and your coworkers and Stella's cousins are content to serve as bit players in Comic-Conned, Or the Very Tragical Romance of Stella and Stanley. Wake up, BPOAT: Stella is manipulating you with her dense-and-helpless act.

3. Stella will go back to Stanley, then break up with Stanley, then go back to Stanley, then break up with Stanley, etc., etc. Stella is going to keep giving Stanley second chances until the theater is empty. The sooner you walk out, BPOAT, the sooner the fucking curtain comes down.

4. Be mad at Stella, if it helps you walk out.

5. Very few people don't believe themselves to be better options than their romantic rivals. Which means that very few people aren't selfish douchebags on some level. So take comfort.

6. Stanley won't change. He's going to fuck up and Stella is going to break up with him again. But if what you mean by, "Do I forgive her then?", is, "Do I take her back?", the answer is no. NO. Do not take her back. Because you know who else isn't going to change? Stella isn't going to change. If she breaks up with Stanley and takes you back cons you into believing that you're taking her back, it'll only a matter of time before she goes dumps your ass again and goes back to Stanley.

7. Sure, be mad at Stella—if it helps you walk out.

8. No. But did I deserve this letter? No, I did not. And did that nice girl who stripped down for you deserve to be called "sluttish"? No, she did not. (A note to all the 22-year-old virgins out there: a single, unattached, non-drama-seeking/creating girl who makes a pass at you, even a pass that seems clumsy and/or unbecoming, is a better investment of your time and romantic energy than an attached girl with a talent for relationship theatrics. Sometimes people who are interested in us behave in "weird and awkward" ways because they're actually weird and awkward—they're legitimately off-putting—but sometimes otherwise nice people behave weirdly or awkwardly because they're nervous. And there's only way to determine if if someone is actually weird or if they were just nervous: give 'em a second a chance.)

9. Only an idiot would say anything else.

A few final answers: Couldn't say. No clue. Beats me.

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