Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My husband Anselm has always included me as a character in his poetry. His work is frequently whimsical, and every so often somewhat humbling. I try not to take offense, because it is his work.
Because of his encouragement, I have begun participating in a writing workshop at a local community college. Some of the prompts ask us to fictionalize real-life situations. Anselm read one of my short pieces and saw himself in the persona of a controlling man. It really wasn’t based on him – at least not consciously. He says this is rather different from his depictions of me, since they are all flattering.
Do we have a responsibility to whitewash our paramours, and how can I get him off my back about this?
Just tell your husband that you love him very much, but that you were only in love with the person who was not a hypocrite. Poetry about someone’s significant other is pretty much always shit. I am tryin to think of an exception to this rule and failing, kind of Lorine Niedecker and sometimes William Carlos Williams. Although those poems mostly had a residue of sadness and despair.
There is no such thing as a good “whimsical” poem, just an extremely literary stand-up comedian. (If your husband also beat-boxes, that would extend an extra layer of credibility to his appropriation.)
In contrast, the entire purpose of fiction was for the people writing it to discover how the feel about the world. You have expressed something you did not actually know on a conscious level – that your husband is a tool who makes John Mayer look like Pierre Reverdy. Normally the act of simply denying all wrongdoing is enough, but here it is probably best to double down.
Explain that your therapist suggested you express your concerns in a safe space. Lately, the mere mention of said space is enough to get anyone what they want. Emphasize that if your concerns are not addressed, you will be making Anselm a villain who cuts off the ambition of young women everywhere by severing one toe at a time from their feet. Be sure to mention that the prose style will be reminiscent of a young Donna Tartt, and leave the room with a bow.
My friend Anna quickly took to me at school. She follows me around everywhere. She had a boyfriend for two months and that gave me some breathing room, but they broke up because she cheated on him and now we’re back to square one.
Anna does have some good qualities, mainly in the way she treats me. Her attitude towards other people is what bothers me very deeply. She judges them immediately for their worst qualities and mocks people using a series of impressions that ranges from the mildly amusing to super hurtful. I feel that she is bringing me down.
How do I rid myself of Anna without destroying her and making an enemy in the process?
Lie. Tell her that you have feelings for her and it’s difficult for you to be around her. Granted, this could backfire and you two could end up adopting a Malaysian child named Tomas, but if you are fairly sure she is a heterosexual, this is a safe bet. Before you “come out” to her, make sure to listen to a lot of Elliott Smith and when you hear about Kristen Stewart’s latest girlfriend, exclaim how brave she is.
If this gambit does not work to maximum effectiveness, then change tacts. Make a list of all the things you like and dislike about Ellie and fax it to her on the letterhead of a local attorney. Celebrate with a margarita; you’ve earned it.
Recently, I got drunk and cheated on my boyfriend Mark with a friend I will call Ian. I realize that alcohol does not excuse my behavior, but there had always been a longstanding attraction between Ian and myself and while it was something I probably never would done while sober, I was in good enough shape to know what was happening and sleep with him.
After what happened, I felt extremely guilty and realized that I wanted to be with Mark and never betray him again. Here are some other pertinent facts and events that happened since the “incident”:
1. I told my friend Wen what I did and she has told me that I should tell Mark lest he find out from someone else;
2. Mark would probably be upset by this news but I think he could probably get over it given enough time.
3. I have put off Ian’s followups on this incident but he seems to be making more of it than it really was.
How do I handle this?
Many people don’t have the patience to get what they want from others. You want forgiveness from Mark, and to put this ugly debacle behind you. On the one hand, it would be great if Mark never found out about this, but given the close proximity of the individuals involved, it seems like that is not an option. This leads us to the conclusion that Mark must know what you have done, and in the easiest way possible for him to move past it.
A lot of men cheat, so it is possible that Mark has already stepped out on you, Megan. Tell him, “We need to talk,” and make extremely subtle references to the idea that if he has done something he is not supposed to have done, you will understand, but you would prefer to hear it from him. There’s a 30 percent chance this will yield some kind of confession from Mark. If yields nothing, don’t double down. Apologize and say you are sorry for doubting his word, but observe his behavior over the next week or so. If he is extra-nice, he is probably guilty and you can get the full story by following up strategically, even using alcohol to get the information you desire. It worked for Ian.
Assuming that Mark is more proficient at holding out under scrutiny than Edward Snowden, you are not going to get what you want by giving him the CIA treatment. That means we move to Plan B, which entails the following: create a personal crisis to put in the context of the event. Wait until Mark has something important to do when you will not be able to contact him. At that time, have a “personal crisis”, e.g. someone you know is in the hospital or an old friend passed away. Sent him a million frantic texts like, “I need you,” etc. Then shut off your phone, after telling a friend to inform Mark that you are okay but you are sleeping it off.
The next time you contact him, let him be in person. Inform you got drunk, something awful happened, and where was he? The road ahead may be a bit tumultous, but if Mark really loved you, why wasn’t he there for you? 😉
Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.
“Somewhere” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (mp3)