My Advice Column (i.e., Why I Don’t Have One)
Answers to the questions I’ve received by email
I am not a therapist, and I wouldn’t want to be one.
I know how to write daily blog posts about life and love and happiness and psychology and philosophy, and I know how, from a reader’s perspective, that can look a lot like “wanting to give you one-on-one advice,” but to state the obvious (and do so in a brutally honest way): it’s not at all the same from my viewpoint. And I have close to zero patience for the latter.
Writing something is entirely different than responding to someone’s “situation.”
I even published a post telling people, in big bold letters: “don’t bring me your life story.” Granted, I articulated this within the context of bartending and friendships, but I actually figured the underlying message of “I don’t want to hear it” was so apparent that I almost didn’t post it for fear of being “rude” (as I noted. In the post.)
And yet several times a week, people continue to write to me with their life stories, asking for advice.
Well, to all of you diligent advice-seekers, here’s a summary of my response to the most frequent questions I receive:
“What should I do?”
How the fuck should I know, bud? I’m not you.
But if you’re asking me how people should decide what to do in general, then my answer is simple (and, incidentally, always the same):
Do whatever best aligns with your most important values.
And if you don’t know what those are, then step one is: figure them out.
(Anything more than like 100 words, usually starting with “bear with me…”)
Fuck off with this shit. Seriously.
Someone once sent me a 1,000+ word email covering what was apparently half their life story, graciously including a series of totally superfluous details, such as 3 or 7 or 18 other friends’ names, I guess in a way that was somehow meant to convey their importance to the story(?!)
And let me just remind you: I never asked for this email.
It was effectively the email equivalent of being accosted in the street or shouted at on the bus. It was “Hey!! Can you please help me! Wait, I’m not actually going to pause to let you respond yes or no and now I’m just speaking in run-on sentences to tell you my sob story in a way that just leaves both of us feeling worse”… in my inbox.
If you come at me with 1,000 words, I will not respond. My time and attention are not here for you to throw shit at.
“My partner isn’t changing and I don’t know what to do”
Yeah, no shit.
But I’m going to tell you the same thing I’ve said in my posts at least a dozen freaking times:
You do not control other people!
Why you think you’re the exception to this rule (or think there’s some secret side door loop hole, or your situation is different, or you’ll win me over to giving you “the real advice” on how to still make the universe rearrange itself for you anyway) is beyond me.
And if you’re thinking: “not the whole universe! Just my partner.” I’m gonna stop you right there. Stop whimpering in your head and acting confused.
You. Do. Not. Control. Other. People.
The only one you control is you.
Don’t like their behavior? Tell them. Already did? Then GTFO!
Don’t like that answer? Sorry — tough shit. The world doesn’t bend itself to suit your whims. There is no additional science here, man. Think there’s still some magical solution to making them change? You’re a dummy. But you “love them?” You’re even dumber still — and need to circle back on rule 1: self love and self esteem.
If they were interested in changing and staying together, you’d have seen at least some effort by now.
“It’s not me — it’s them”
No. It’s you.
The other day someone sent me a 1,400+ word email (that’s a 7-minute read, guys; i.e., longer than some of my blog posts) that actually started with,
“I feel that I am an emotionally stable person.”
No. Clearly no. You are a highly delusional person who just likes to pride himself on the image of “emotionally stable.” Otherwise you wouldn’t be emailing strangers tiny novels saying so.
And even if it’s truly “them,” then it’s still “you” for staying.
“I have this friend…”
Look, buddy. Let me stop you right there. Because unless you actually are “this friend,” or this friend’s partner, or this friend has explicitly asked you for your opinion, my advice to you is: stay in your lane.
“I have a question about my ex…”
I don’t care. Neither she/he nor I want to hear it. (I mean, seriously — if your actual ex isn’t interested, imagine how I feel…)
Someone wrote to ask me,
“My avoidant ex is not very good at initiating contact or responding… its been a month since I’ve had any contact with my ex — should I still reach out or do you think she’d prefer to just not hear from me.”
Are you being fucking serious with that?
“Okay, but my situation is different, because…”
No it isn’t.
People are not that fundamentally different, and the inclusion of your partner’s name or your job or how long you’ve been dating or off and on or what, exactly, he or she does wrong doesn’t make your situation unique.
“Can you give me the exact steps to take to solve my problem?”
Life doesn’t work that way.
And even if I listed steps, odds are you wouldn’t take them, instead believing that you still didn’t have “enough clarity” to do so. Do you see the problem?
What’s stopping you isn’t clarity — it’s your need for clarity. And while you continue to nurse that need, you’re procrastinating, pushing “problem solving” further out because you need increasingly detailed “steps.”
But if you’re looking for writers who are willing to let you believe otherwise and drag you along for the ride, there are plenty out there. Have at it.
“Can we meet?”
No. (What the hell?)
Literally who are you even?
Are you doing this in other places in your life, randomly emailing people who don’t know you and asking them to meet you? If you are, you need to stop.
I know you and I are probably real tight in your head, but in the words of Reese Witherspoon,
“Will you read this piece I wrote?”
Dude, what? Not really. See above — do you know I don’t know you?
I mean, do you think I sit around refreshing my inbox waiting for people to fill it with pieces to read? Do you suppose my attention is here to have stuff thrown at it? Have I ever expressed interest in this? Is this your way of building a following? I mean, seriously. No.
(Side note: I do usually click on pieces sent to me. Usually they’re not great. But on at least one occasion, the piece was so good it brought me to tears — and I said so. And then read like three more. So, do with that what you will.)
“I would date you”
This is unwelcome and I don’t care. I don’t know you and I didn’t ask your opinion.
Did you think I’d take it as a compliment, that some random internet stranger judges potential partners based on one-way communication and a profile pic?
Are you under the impression I’m taking some kind of poll — “sup readers: how many of you would hypothetically date me? Check yes or no?” Because I’m not.
If you are (even worse) speculating that we actually could date, I’m just gonna stop you there and pull the rug out, because we never would. There are two of us here and one of us doesn’t go for random internet strangers who “answer unasked polls.”
And if you think I don’t know what you’re actually saying you would do, you’re an idiot.
Look, I’m not here to win suitors. It makes no difference to me whether or not you’d “date” me. I’m not saying you can’t feel that way — feel away. I’m just saying I don’t need to hear about it.
“Can you tell me about your writing process?”
This is one of my least favorite topics, and everyone who asks this always asks from the same position: that of thinking there’s some “secret solution.” There isn’t. (See “specific steps,” above.)
I can share my process (and my schedule and what I listen to and what I drink), but none of that actually matters. The only thing that matters is writing. So the “process” that matters is what gets you to.
“You’re a jerk for writing this post!”
Lol, okay. Just because you didn’t like what I wrote doesn’t mean I’m wrong. It’s my inbox, bud.
If we’re too afraid to stake a claim and set boundaries, we’re worse off, not better.
I still care deeply about readers — and people in general. And there are tons and tons and tons of emails I love getting…
Emails I enjoy:
Because I enjoy the vast majority of those I receive.
I should note that I don’t answer every email I receive, because sometimes I’m a negligent asshole. I check my email daily and I read (most) all of them, but I definitely don’t answer quickly if I answer at all. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t read — or enjoy — them.
Here are my faves:
- “I noticed you read a lot of books about __. Have you read __?”
- “I noticed you write a lot of posts about __. Can you recommend a book on that?”
- “I read your post on __, but I was confused about your point on __. Can you please clarify?”
- “I disagree with your post on __ for the following (well-thought-out, logical) reasons (which I have communicated in a constructive, respectful way.) What do you think?”
- “Can you elaborate on (a big, hairy topic I already write about a lot)?”
That last one is a great example of one I love but often leave unanswered — sometimes things like that are bigger than email.
They’re more like new blog posts ❤