The Predicament of the Week from October 12, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Could you please give me advice on permanently removing a leech from my bruised skin?
I’m a 33 year-old, good looking, stable, professional, financially-secure, in-shape, blah, blah, blah, GWM. But I’m totally inexperienced in relationships. Last December I got together for coffee with a guy from the personals without a detailed telephone screening in advance (never do that — if he doesn’t have time to talk on the phone and says “let’s just meet,” run away!). He turned out to be really cute and masculine-looking, but with no job and living with a friend. So I knew that a relationship was out, but it was Friday night and I had no plans so I took him home. The sex was great. He was fun to be with. A week later he had a job so I decided to date him figuring he’d quickly find a place to live and all would be OK.
But then, I introduced him to an experienced friend who the next day told me “This guy’s stupid, shallow, a user and a manipulator. You are fated to get totally involved with him and destroy your life. Mark my words and don’t come looking for help later.”
Not heeding my friend’s advice, I continued dating User and had a good time, except that he never looked for an apartment and he kept suggesting that he move in with me. By Valentine’s Day I had gotten my head on straight (at least temporarily), and broke up with him. I knew that he was a loser, that he would soon get fired from his new job, and that I had better not get myself in too deep. I had also learned from him (he is factually honest and truthful about many of his faults) that he had a long history of jumping from job-to-job and relationship-to-relationship being dependent upon responsible boyfriends who act as his surrogate parents.
He lost his job shortly after that, and lived as a gypsy for the next few months. I know this because we spoke on the phone every few weeks in regard to the issue of him picking up stuff that he had left at my place and him returning stuff of mine that he had borrowed (lesson: never keep contact; forget about your stuff, and mail his stuff to Brazil).
At the beginning of the summer I was feeling very lonely and in need of a summer boyfriend. Re-enter User. I had long forgotten the bad, and only remembered the good about him. We had a couple dates which lead to me letting him come stay with me “for a couple weeks” while he “got his life together.” I spent the next three weeks having a lot of fun with him while paying for everything with the understanding that he would pay me back when he got a job. I was also helping him with his resume, cover letters, etc., and lending him clothes for interviews (of which he did have many). After week three I woke up again, and a friend helped me change the locks on the doors and put User’s stuff in a monthly mini-storage while User was out at a job interview.
This would have ended things if I were not an unmitigated wuss. He kept calling me and begging me for money, etc. Meanwhile his father back home in West Virginia (whom I had directed User to get help from) had a massive heart attack (a story which I confirmed through the hospital — unfortunately all his “stories” always turn out to be true upon outside confirmation). He found a place to stay as a house-sitter for an insanely trusting (more so than me) person for a few weeks, but then I let him manipulate me into letting him back into my apartment. At this point he had found a part-time job and could pay most of his base-line expenses (like food and transportation to his part-time job and interviews). The resumes and interviews etc., continued. The rollercoaster went up and down between getting along and hating each other. By the beginning of September I couldn’t take it any longer and told him to be out by the end of the month (knowing that he would never actually leave without my having to lock him out again).
Since then, he has found a full-time job, but not earned enough money yet to live on for more than a few days. I’m in therapy and calculate that User has cost me about $1,500 plus therapy bills. I still want him out by the end of the month because I am ready to move on with my life, and he is psychotic, alcoholic, already going to lose his job (or ridiculously quit because he doesn’t like it), etc., etc. I’ve been tempted to let him stay until he gets one or two more pay checks, but I feel that I might literally have to move out of my own apartment to get away from him during that time. Every friend, relative, and therapist still willing to listen to me has told me to get rid of him ASAP (!).
So next Friday is D-Day. I’m taking a day off from work to (again) change the locks on the door and put his stuff in mini-storage. Again I will be paying for a month of mini-storage and giving him the key. Again I will have him calling me, and showing up outside my apartment and my office begging me, crying, letting me know that he is scared with noplace to go and no money (except a few hundred dollars from his most recent paycheck)… that he will have to offer himself up sexually for money, that he has no proper clothes for work except those he borrows from me, that he will lose his job and it will all be my fault, that his relatives on Long Island will not let him stay with them, that he cannot ask his parents to send him money (these people probably know the deal and cut him off long ago), that he needs to know that I still care about him…
By the time you respond, Breakup Girl, all these things will be going on. I am hoping that maybe you will have some advice or encouragement for me, at that time, as to how to be heartless and save myself. After all, he is not on the Titanic, and my lifeboat is full at this point anyway, so-to-speak (forgive the stupid analogy). This is not going to be easy because I am not completely confident that I have completely sunken to the absolute depths of my loser-hood. As User once said to me, half-kidding, “I’ve seen your financial statements and I know that you still have money that you are holding back from me.”
BTW: As a post-script I’ll mention that I know from secret snooping that he has already begun placing and responding to personal ads to find his next victim. Watch out, gay male NYC!
– Big L
Dear Big L,
Lots of people write to ask about detecting the subtle signs of a potentially dicey relationship. Here’s one: when your personal hottie says, “I have a long history of jumping from job-to-job and relationship-to-relationship, being dependent upon responsible boyfriends who act as my surrogate parents!” Someone wears that T-shirt, it does not mean you should not give them a chance (BG is all for rehabilitation). It does, however, mean you should be on your guard. But you knew that.
Yeah, no point in making you go sit in the corner with a “DUH!” cap. Especially because somehow, somewhere, a fraction of your Use-ee status arises from genuine kindness and generosity, sincere concern and love (lust) for your fellow man. I’m sure you do “know better” in other areas of your life (for further reassurance on the complex human confusion over our own prurient vs. best interests, read last week’s predicament).
We also don’t need to go to far in analyzing “User’s” personal m.o., except to point out that it’s rather effective. Come to think of it, it’s kind of like that ittybitty irony where The Man has the derring-do to mobilize an international air strike in a heartbeat, but can’t get it together to… feed the children. You know? Analogy: User is, in a sense, so “good” at persuading people and problem-solving and advancing an agenda — how come he can’t use it for good and not for evil? You’d think those skills, applied “correctly,” could, you know, get him a job.
But anyway. You want advice and encouragement? Okay. The key to being “heartless” and “saving yourself” is looking at what you’ve been getting out of this whole thing. You burn yourself on your gas stove, you don’t go, “Well, all right, I’ll touch it again. But just this once.” If something sucks — but you keep doing it anyway – there’s something in it for you. Let’s make a list.
1. “Fun.” If you say so. But at what price? Perhaps you also groove on the danger, the impermanence, the Melrose drama at your doorstep, the “this could fall apart at any moment” thrills and chills. Dunno if that’s true or why, but it’s worth thinking about. What is it that’s less “fun” for you about the “good” boys? Hmm.
2. You get for his demise not to be “your fault.” Legit … in feeling, not in fact. He’s plucking your heartstrings, extended dance version. You feel bad, you don’t want to be responsible. Understandable. But the phrase “tough love” does leap to mind.
3. You get to be the big nice good sweet sugar daddy. You say you’re “stable;” how stable do you feel? Only by contrast? As in, when someone else stumbles into you? Do you need someone hapless around to make you feel hardy? Hmm.
So yes, Big L, you need to be strong … only strong for real — not strong in the way that someone [apparently] weaker makes you feel. Because User is smart. Your grifter-a-go-go doesn’t have resources to spare: He’s not gonna waste his time hounding someone who’s not gonna help him. Send him that message. He’ll deal. He has before, and he’s already looking again, anyway. And when you start looking again — if you want a relationship that’s not measured in month-to-month Mini-Storage leases — well, here are the key words: “stable, secure.” In your ad, and your intended’s. And also, not just on paper.
P.S. As a practical aside, until U. gets the hint, be extra careful about his showing up at your office. It’s essential that we all keep up the appearance of not bringing “home” to “work.” Consider calmly and responsibly acknowledging any intrusions up front with colleagues, superiors, security, whatever. Just a thought.