I’m like a romantic-comedy heroine, but not in a good way. I can’t wear white without spilling on it. I can’t meet a new business contact without bungling her name. I can’t get through a date without putting my foot in my mouth. How do I make less of an ass of myself?—Meredith
Since I’m perfect, I asked somebody else. “Honestly, I have no clue,” says Jenny Lawson, the author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (which hit numero uno on the New York Times best-sellers list last month), a memoir about “the strange shame spiral” of her life, with lots of stuff that’s just like what’s going on in your Pig-Pen cloud of personal chaos. Maybe it is your destiny: Some people are silky-smooth, and some people spit in your mouth when they talk.
Lawson says, “I try to wear lots of black so the food blends in, and I refer to everyone with a cheerful ‘Hey, you!’ so they don’t know I’ve forgotten their name. Then I launch into the story of the time I thought I accidentally swallowed a bunch of needles. It’s a rambling, terrible story, but it weeds out people who aren’t going to be okay with me.”
Or maybe some of it is your destiny—the spilling, the falling—but some of it is the fact that you’re immature and have yet to do the work that’s required of adulthood. Maybe the behaviour that you’re writing off as clumsy, like forgetting names and saying the wrong thing, is actually just selfishness wearing a cuter hat: a knitted hat, with kitten ears and a pom-pom. I endorse the idea that there are myriad ways to be grown-up, and that it should include some elements of kidishness, but what should be required of every adult is sufficient empathy for other people that you actually try for them. There are devices to remember names; there are kinder ways to tell someone you forgot than skipping rope around it until you’ve sabotaged their experience of you. What is too often characterized as foot-in-mouth is just basic rudeness.
Instead of making the situation about what a sweet ’n’ salty hot mess you are, make it about how other people feel around you, which should be “good.” Oh, but don’t worry about any of this when it comes to the man you’re into. Lawson says, “The clumsy, awkward girls often get the guy simply because they feel sorry for us. Also, you can use this to your advantage. Date going exceptionally well? Fall on his penis. You’ll be amazed how well that goes over.”
I live with my best friend from childhood. At first, it was idyllic: hangouts, talking until late, and the right amount of alone time. More recently, I think she has developed an internet addiction. She stopped leaving her room, stopped cooking, and has become really anti-social. Life with her sucks.—Kim
She’s definitely having internet sex, or whatever less gross thing it’s called when you carry out a relationship exclusively on Gchat. I mean, in general terms, that’s cool; everyone needs an internet boyfriend to pay attention to them, even if all you talk about are records and bedtime snacks. I have a 21-year-old Australian blowing up my Gmail right now! But when your pal side-steps you and presumably other friends to have internet sex or cruise eBay, it’s maybe a problem.
Have an internet intervention, which is a definitely embarrassing but possibly effective version of the serious sit-down that addicts of every persuasion are treated to. Bribe her out of her den of slack with dinner somewhere and tell it to her straight: that you miss her, that she’s changed, and that you’re concerned about all the time spent in carpal-tunneled isolation. Approaching her with any judgment—like, “What are you doing in there?”—won’t work. Just talk and listen, which, incidentally, is all you can do for someone with whom you don’t have sexual leverage. Give her some time. If it still sucks, move out and email her instead.
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