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How to make a comeback.

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How to flee your weird and crabby roommate.

I live in a cheap three-bedroom apartment in New York City. One of my roommates is a very old family friend. We grew up together, had sleepovers, and called each other “BFFs.” I moved away from New York for many years, during which time we lost touch, and when I moved back to the city two years ago, learned that she was between jobs and looking for a place. I had just signed a lease, so asked her to be a roommate, thinking that we could rekindle some of our childhood memories. Unfortunately, she’s turned out to be a really strange person. She’s in the apartment for two days a month max, and whenever I see her and (breezily, I think) ask where she’s been, she caustically responds that it’s none of my business. She pays her rent on time most of the time, but every time she does, she rolls her eyes and acts like she’s doing me a huge favor (I think she’s still unemployed, two years later, and her parents are paying her rent). Anyway, I’m really tired of her negative energy and her absolute lack of contribution to the apartment. I’d like to kick her out, but it’s a little delicate. For one, we’ve known each other since we were six and our parents are still friends. Second, I’m terrible at confrontation. What should I do? P.S. You’ve officially won the Internet by creating and maintaining this blog.

Congratulations on your cheap three bedroom! And condolences regarding your asshat of a roommate. And thank you so much! I am so pleased to have won the Internet. I’d like to thank my parents, my husband, my friends who have been so supportive, and Al Gore!

It’s time to fire this lady, and get her out of your face forever—hooray! Here’s the kicker. You can’t ask her to leave. You just can’t. If this woman were a random craigslister, you might be able to get away with that. But she’s not, and you need to preserve relations—scratch that: you need to make an effort to preserve relations—between your families. You are the one who is unhappy (or at least able to identify that you are unhappy…while she certainly sounds glum, she hasn’t complained), so you are going to have to offer to do the leaving. Start looking for apartments, like, yesterday. If y’all have another roommate who is less of a piss-ant, take him or her with you! Secure yourselves an affordable double and breathe the sigh of relief that comes with banishing sorry-ass attitudes from your domicile. (This apartment looks great. The design is nothing less than “stunning”! I turned it up after five seconds. You can do even better! You will find apartment love!) Oh my lord, you are going to feel so good—so very relaxed, every single time you unlock your front door and step inside. I can’t wait for you to be rid of your Roommate With Bad Vibes.

Then say to the asshat, “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel like this living arrangement is working out for me. I’m thinking of moving to Prospect Heights with some friends at the end of the month. Just wanted to give you as much notice as possible.” And then get the hell out of Dodge.

I’m worried, though. I’m worried that you’re going to feel one of two ways: 1) entitled to keep this apartment, which will lead you to Do the Wrong Thing, or 2) overwhelmed by the idea of looking for a whole new cheap apartment when you already have one. But stay strong and don’t give in! Above the doors of my high school were written—in a very peppy font, of course—“Dream! Believe! Achieve!” And that is just what you need to do. Know that leaving the apartment is the right thing to do, and will enable you—and your parents—to feel that the family name has gone unsullied. (Know, too, that this lady may just say, “Whatever, I’m leaving anyway, I hate you,” and you won’t even have to make good on your promise to leave!) Know that you can and will find another apartment. It may be inferior, it may be superior, but I promise it will be both good and bad, overall, and you will, regardless, be so much happier. There is always another apartment.

Now is the time to think of your life as a MasterCard ad:

Man with a van: $500. New colander and nonstick pan to replace those owned by your crappy, crappy roommate: $35. Not flinching every time you hear the deadbolt in the front door slide back: Fucking priceless. There are some things that money can’t buy. For everything else…

You know the rest: charge it, please



How to ask a couple if they met on the internet.

My boyfriend and I went to dinner with a friend of his, plus the man’s girlfriend. During dinner, I asked how the two had met. The couple became shifty, and gave a non-committal response. My boyfriend later said I had asked a too-personal question (he believes they are ashamed to say they met online). In asking other friends, women believe the question was fair but men believe it is too personal. Thoughts?

Huh. So, I myself am a woman (shocking, I know), and I actually do occasionally get a tiny bit skeeved out/embarrassed when people ask me this question. And, for the record, my husband and I do NOT have an embarrassing how-we-met story. I have a very meet-cute one, and then we were introduced again a couple of days later at a party. That second, “real” introduction is kind of a funny story, too, although it’s less funny if you don’t know the people involved. See, we were at a party at this really silly place, and this one friend of mine said something really funny to my now-husband… Ugh. Now I’m starting to get embarrassed again. Because it feels… personal. The story of how we meet has become both more and less important the longer we’ve been together, but one thing is certain: it’s a moment (or series of moments) that meant a lot to us, and it’s strange to tell strangers (or relative strangers) this story, whereupon they will re-imagine it, or impose their own ideas onto it. Does that make me sound creepily withholding and/or nuts? Maybs.

But, here’s the thing: it is a completely socially acceptable question to ask. Like, completely. So, one point for you, and not that many points for your boyfriend, officially—feel free to tell him I said so. It is a common question, and it’s not one of those things that’s shamefully common and shamefully rude (like telling people where you are registered on your wedding invitation…gnarly). Lots of people like sharing their story, and sometimes such stories are even illuminating—and if a couple is embarrassed, they can always just lie. People ask not to pry, but either because they are genuinely curious, or because they are trying to make conversation with two people who have self-identified as a couple. And asking people questions about themselves is generally a great way to be a thoughtful and engaging person who puts others at ease!

But feel free, too, to tell your boyfriend that I’m with him in spirit, and while I recognize that it’s a legitimate question, it’s not necessarily one that I ask. Perhaps its ubiquity speaks to our collective (and worrying) fixation with romance and coupledom. Would it be better if we met new people and asked them, “What forms of inequality really get you riled up, if any?” Or, “Do you more closely identify with your family or your community?” Or, “Do you prefer fiction, non-fiction, or poetry when reading poolside?” Maybe. But maybe not. It’s hard to say, because here we are, stuck in this culture of which we are a part, valuing and over-valuing romantic partnership. We can’t escape ourselves to get a good look, so who knows?

A couple of other important points in your favor: even the most innocuous questions will inevitably make somebody uncomfortable. “Where did you grow up?” might be awkward if you are very secretly a Plutonian trying to pass as an Earthling. “What do you do?” is a bummer if you design weapons of mass destruction, or were recently fired from your job designing said weapons. No topic is completely safe. This does not mean that we should all sit around talking about the weather, hoping that nobody at brunch has a mother who drowned in a flash flood. Discourse, man: it’s key.

Finally, those internet daters should just get over it. Seriously, they must get the hell over themselves. They found someone they like, on a forum that has been a source of much happiness and hilarity for many, many people. If they can’t own it, or at least own up to it, or at least agree ahead of time on a plausible lie, then they have a long slog ahead of them.



How to get married, Part 768

I’m returning to Australia from NY in Jan to get married. I have invited a friend and her family (husband and two teens) who I have known for a very long time, but who I have not seen much of since I left Australia. They are coming (from afar) to the wedding, but I just received a very enthusiastic e-mail from her asking me about getting together on the wedding night, or on day before, about getting our hair done, etc. But I have closer friends who I will be spending that time with. Please help!

That is a pretty odd request, I must say. The wedding night? Like, the night immediately following the wedding, which is generally considered prime time to be wearing saucy lingerie, etc.? Is hanging around with your “mates” at a moment most people would prefer to be canoodling some Australian thing, like
carrying your fetus around in the front pocket of your overalls.

In my view, as a wedding guest, you can’t expect to see the nuptial couple outside of the wedding unless you are explicitly invited to do so, probably at a group event. I.e., you can’t RSVP “yes” to a wedding thinking that it will be a great opportunity to catch up with Arnold and Clive! No, by choosing to attend a wedding, you’re agreeing to participate in a ritual. Hopefully you think some of Arnold and Clive’s friends and family are jolly, too, but that’s a bonus. This is not for the creepy reason that the nuptial couple are exalted celebrities who must be cloistered from the common-folk—no, it’s for the very simple reasons that a) throwing a wedding can be woefully complicated and time-consuming, and, b) the people getting hitched are probably are surrounded by the majority of their family members and close friends. Those folks make great demands on their time without saying a damn thing. How? Maybe they feel obligated to see them because of their age, or the nature of their relationship. Maybe it’s because they rarely get a chance to see them, due to the stubborn nature of geography. And, quite often, it’s because these loved ones are so lovable and charming, and the couple wants to spend this festive time grooving to their squeals of joy.

For these reasons, people generally leave Arnold and Clive to make their own plans, while inviting the couple to make an appearance at events that are organized around other ideas of fun. Perhaps Winston plans a BBQ for all of the former
Whiffenpoofs (or perhaps they are still current Whiffenpoofs, even at age 31… once a Whiffenpoof, always a Whiffenpoof? Dunno) and invites the grooms to stop by on their way after the rehearsal dinner. And the grooms should, in turn, make an appearance. Everyone tries to have fun, but no one makes too many demands.

Your friend is not doing this; she’s being weird. But unless you want to hurt her feelings (and you obviously don’t), you can’t just write her off, as you’ve probably suspected. She’s a friend—one who is schlepping her whole clan some distance to watch you get hitched. Don’t worry, though! You don’t have to cancel plans to go to the salon with your sister who hates salons (kidding, kidding, your sister totally loves salons). But you definitely must make time to see this broad outside of the wedding reception itself. She will totally be offended if you don’t. How do I know? Because she’s made this overture, which is a bit off, and hasn’t given you any sort of out (e.g., “If you haven’t got other plans already…”; “I don’t want to intrude on what will no doubt be a mental time, but…”). This tells me that her ideas are different from yours (and mine).

Tell her that you can’t do the hair thing, nor can you prance around in your garter belt with her on your wedding night. Avoid offering any particular explanation: everything will sound like a namby-pamby version of, “Sorry; you’re just not my BFF”. (Although, “We have a lot of family in town and simply can’t escape them” works if you can’t hit send without digging up some feeble excuse.) Instead, invite her (and her family, if that seems desirable to her) to come by the house for breakfast or lunch the day before the wedding. Invite a few other people she might know or a couple of other out of towners if you’re really worried about time—but no more than a couple, please, because the goal is to make her feel valued. Once she’s there, spend some quality time talking to her—don’t just rush about yelling “FUCK THE FUCKING FLORIST FUCK!”
like a mad J-Lo gone hideously wrong.

She might be a bit miffed, but she can, and probably will, get over it. You will have done the right thing. If she sniffs, “We’d really hoped to see more of you,” while leaving the reception, you will smile sweetly. “That would have been wonderful,” you’ll say, with just of a hint of regret, thereby betraying the fact that you are a thoughtful and lovely adult. Congratulations!