Incompetent Advice

I'm 30 years old, divorced, underemployed, I live alone with one extremely neglected houseplant, and I've had more breakups than Liz Taylor and more jobs than someone twice my age. Do you really want my advice? If so, email Disclaimer: I am not qualified to dispense advice. The only degree of any kind I hold is in journalism, which only qualifies me for good grammar and poor income prospects. Whatever happens afterwards is your lookout.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Dear Shannon,

I was looking to get some advice and I seemed to have stumbled upon your website. Talking to people I know makes me feel so vulnerable, so I thought I might try something new. You only know me by the text I type, so I can tell all. Currently, I'm living in Indiana with a girlfriend who I have spent the last five years with. Our relationship is pretty strong, sex is great and emotionally we really get along well, but she seems to stray a bit. When I say stray I mean she gets really flirtatious with guys and in some cases she does some things I feel cross the line. We've spoken several times about this and she can tell that these types of things hurt me. Something has come up that might put a little strain on our relationship. The company I work for is opening up a new office in Seattle and they have told me that if I move there for a year and get the office up and running, I could move back to Indiana with a very nice pay raise. I have talked it over with my girlfriend and she is really supportive of the job experience, but as my job is important to me, hers is important to her. Because of this, she needs to stay here. Again, we have talked and for the most part we both think it's ok. The problem is I'm not sure I can trust her. If I go away there is a possibility that our relationship will soften and she'll possibly cheat on me. I'm really worried. Can I trust her? Is the job opportunity worth the risk of losing a woman who I have deeply fallen in love with?

What should I do?

Confused in Indiana

Let me start by answering the question you didn’t ask: you should go to Seattle. And I’m not just saying that because my only Indiana experience was getting stranded in the Fort Wayne “International Means One Flight to Canada” Airport.

Let’s look at the facts: You live in Indiana, not a state known for being a whirlwind of excitement. You’ve had the same girlfriend for five years. You have trouble talking to people. A year in a big city far away, learning to try new things, sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

So how do you keep the relationship alive? You say she “gets really flirtatious with guys” without giving any concrete examples. You say you can’t trust her, but, why not? Five years is plenty long enough to establish trust. The truth of the matter is that the “flirting” sounds more like your being insecure than her crossing the line. Generally, people who are insecure don’t have a lot to keep themselves busy: life begins to center itself around one person, and depending on one person to bolster your self-esteem is always going to shape up into disaster. Again, GO TO SEATTLE, not to build your career up so much as to build yourself up and gain some independence. She’ll thank you for it later.

If you’re bound and determined to stay together, that’s 90% of what you need to get through a long distance relationship. “If we’re meant to be together, we’ll be together,” is a philosophy for the lazy and incompetent. You wind up together with someone because that’s what both of you want and you’re willing to work at it. Long distance is survivable, you just have to establish some ground rules: 1. Visit often, but when you do, treat it as a regular weekend. Don’t have big dreams of a perfect time together, because then both of you will become terrified of anything going wrong. It’s a visit, not an audition. 2. Don’t read too much into phone conversations. “I’ve got to go, I’m tired,” means just that, and not “I’m sick of you, go away already.” 3. Find ways to be part of each other’s day-to-day lives. Email, write letters, send little “thinking of you” presents. Good luck!

Dear Shannon,

How do I use my advanced degree to get my own radio show? Dr. Laura has a Ph.D. in physiology, and Tom Magliozzi (from Car Talk) has a Ph.D. in business. My degree in pure mathematics seems to be the perfect background for hosting a political call-in show.

-Dr. Amy

First, I have to establish my own radio show, the “Shannon Hates Everyone Hour.” Then I'll work on yours.

Actually, I think the trick to talk radio is hooking into an angry part of the population: Dr. Laura appeals to misognyists, gay-bashers, and people sick of self-help claptrap, Rush Limbaugh appeals to angry white men. (They have so much to be angry about! Education, opportunities, money, there isn’t a single way that white men don’t get the shaft in America. Barf.) So, I think you ought to start a call-in show promoting the elimination of math in America’s high schools. Math does nothing to build the self-esteem of our nation’s youth, and you can buy into the backlash against the standards movement in public schools.

This Week’s Advice to a Stranger:

I hate everyone. No advice this week, because the world can go stuff itself.