Planning My Midlife Crisis

As I stare down the barrel of “the Big 4-0”, I’ve been giving some serious thought to my midlife crisis. This is the sort of thing you only get to do once, and I really don’t want to screw it up. There are so many options, and I want to be able to look back on it and say, “yes, I made the right choice”, instead of being one of those pathetic guys who is even more morose and unhappy after the fact.

So far, I’ve identified the following broad categories of Midlife Crisis:

THE CLASSICAL: Go out and buy an expensive car that you can’t afford, probably a Mercedes-Benz. Tool around town in it. Act like a tool. Pretend this makes up for all the failed and waste dreams of your youth.

THE NEO-CLASSICAL: Go out and buy an expensive sports car that you can’t afford, probably a Ferrari. Zoom around town in it. Act like a tool. Pretend this makes up for all the failed and waste dreams of your youth.

THE MODERN: Get a mistress, preferably one who is much younger than you. Lavish her with money, gifts, and promises that you will divorce your wife. Pray that nobody ever catches you.

THE POST-MODERN: Get a trophy wife, preferably one who is much younger than you. Lavish her with money, gifts, and promises that you will never divorce her. Pray that nobody ever catches you.

THE NOUVEUAU: Quit your job and do something “that would make the 15-year-old me happy”. Wait for your wife to divorce you.

THE ART-NOUVEUAU: Quit your job and take a swing at whatever unrealistic artistic endeavor you abandoned sometime in your late teens or early twenties when you decided it was “time to get serious about life”.

THE HOBBYIST: Devote all of your time and energy to some sort of meaningless and quite possibly insanely dangerous hobby, such as skydiving, bear-baiting, or gardening (REAL gardeners know what I mean).

THE EXTREMIST: AKA The Sampler. Quit your job, divorce your trophy wife, and let your mistress drive your brand new Ferrari over a cliff while you both go skydiving out the open top.


While I’m more than a little tempted to go for The Neo-Classical, I somehow doubt My Not So Humble Wife would approve. Plus I can’t drive stick, so a Ferrari is kind of out of the question. Besides, I want to do something truly exceptional, something that will set me apart from all the other men who have gone before me and had midlife crises of quiet desperation.

And so I have set out a plan. A most audacious, stunning, some might say awful, plan. It is epic in scope, awe-inspiring in its execution, and if successful, will enshrine me in the annals of history:


And then, as I spike the head right there on live television, I’ll look straight into the camera an say with a smile, “I’m going to Disney World!” because, you know, sponsors.

So that’s my plan. Is it bold? Certainly. Is it insane? Probably. Is it illegal? In every country and jurisdiction on Earth, with the exception of two. But it will guarantee me immortality.

And isn’t that what it’s really about?


The Dangers of Giving Advice

I made the mistake recently of giving someone advice, specifically unsolicited advice. It was a rookie move, and one I used to make a lot. I’ve avoided it for a long time, and for the very reason that seems to have befallen me now: I think it may have cost me a friend. To those of you who believe that giving advice, even well-intentioned advice, is a good thing or a noble act, I would like to take this opportunity to caution you against it and explain why exactly it’s a very, very bad idea.

First, chances are that the person you are speaking with is not looking for advice. They want to vent. This is a perfectly normal human need, and one that friends are supposed to fill. The desire to make things better is a strong one for a lot of us, maybe even most of us, but it is an egotistical, maybe even arrogant one. Consider: you are asserting that, given your limited knowledge of the situation, you can offer a solution that will make things better that they have not tried, that they can and will implement, and that won’t cost more than they are willing to invest. Looking at it that way, even if they are asking for advice, are you really qualified to give it?

Second, if they aren’t asking for advice and you try to offer it anyway, you’ve just communicated (either directly or indirectly) that you are not really interested in them, you are interested in yourself. I know that sounds backwards, but it goes back to what I said above. You’re more focused on how you would handle the situation they are in, not in how the situation is affecting them. Your focus is on satisfying your emotional needs in this situation, not theirs. Not the best message to send when someone has made themselves vulnerable to you.

Third, and this is the big one, there’s no win here for either of you. Let me lay some basic game theory on you. I see eight possible outcomes in this situation:

  1. They take your advice, things work out, and they give you no credit. You resent them for not acknowledging your part.
  2. They take your advice, things work out, and they give you all the credit. Now they start to rely on you to fix their problems in the future.
  3. They take your advice, things don’t work out, and they give you the blame. Suddenly it’s your fault.
  4. They take your advice, things don’t work out, but they don’t blame you. You still feel like an ass.
  5. They don’t take your advice, things work out. You feel like an idiot for giving bad advice, but no harm done.
  6. They don’t take your advice, things don’t work out, and they wish they had taken your advice. See #2.
  7. They don’t take your advice, things don’t work out, and they somehow blame you. Don’t ask me how this works, but I’ve seen it happen. You’re still at fault.
  8. They don’t take your advice, things work out. You have enough self-confidence to shrug it off and say “looks like I was wrong.” No harm, no foul.

Maybe I’m overlooking some possibilities, but the way I see it there’s a 1-in-8 chance of a desirable outcome, and that one outcome can be more easily achieved by not giving advice in the first place. All of the undesirable outcomes can be avoided by… why look at that: not giving advice in the first place.

This is compounded by the fact that most advice comes in the form of blatantly banal and pointless platitudes that are only useful to the people who don’t need them. Things like “be yourself”, “fight for what you believe in”, or “never be afraid to speak your mind”. Here’s the advice that should accompany all of those that nobody ever seems to give and everyone needs to internalize: actions have consequences. Feel free to “be yourself”, but if that means having multiple body piercings, visible tattoos, and a blue mohawk, you need to know that will limit your job opportunities. You can “fight for what you believe in”, but be aware that reasonable people can disagree vociferously about issues they feel passionately about, and that doesn’t make them evil or wrong; it simply means they disagree, and a refusal to compromise will get you nowhere. You can “speak your mind” as much as you want, but that doesn’t mean people will like what you have to say, nor does it mean you won’t be held accountable for having said it.

Which brings me back to where I started. I was myself; I spoke my mind; I gave advice; and those actions have had very real consequences. Once upon a time that friend read this column, and maybe still does. If so, I hope there’s still room for forgiveness. If not, I’ll live with the consequences. Because that’s who I am, and I’m not afraid to be myself.

Dating Advice From Historical Figures

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

Karl Marx would be happy to know this picture is in the public domain, giving according to its abilities, taking according to its needs.

Dear Karl Marx,

I have a question about blind dates. I haven’t been on the dating scene in a long time, and I’m not sure how to handle things. I’ve heard that the guy is supposed to pay for dinner, but I’m still struggling to get out from under some pretty horrendous student loans, and I can’t afford to be taking out a lot of girls I don’t even know, especially if things end up going nowhere. On the other hand, I don’t want to look cheap. What’s a guy to do?


Struggling in the New Economy

Dear Laborer,

It is truly disheartening to hear that even in this day and age the forms of capital are being used as a symbol of control in relationships rather than existing as a means to advance a fellowship of well-being and understanding. Ah, well; such is the way of the world until society is changed. In the meantime, I would advise you to reach out to those of your contemporaries who are of a similar understanding, building those relationships that you can gradually and with time, rather than with displays of bourgeois largesse. Perhaps meet her for a cup of coffee and discuss common interests so you can get to know her as a person; if she truly is a part of the struggle of the proletariat, she won’t mind going dutch.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

We hold this truth to be self-evident: that this picture is in the public domain.

Dear Thomas Jefferson,

I’ve got a serious problem and I’ pretty sure only you can help. I was at a party a few weeks ago, I got kind of drunk, and I ended up hooking up with this girl. Thing is, she wasn’t my girlfriend. I feel awful about it, but I don’t know what to do. I haven’t told my girlfriend about it, and I’m wondering if I should. I really love her, and I think she’d forgive me, but would it be right?


Too Much Southern Comfort

Dear Southern Man,

When you choose to overindulge in spirits, there is a race to determine whether you run out of wisdom or honor first; the only certainty, as you have found, is that you will lose. In this instance, your impulse to unburden your conscience to your long-suffering significant other is not one born out of compassion, but rather one of guilt and further self-indulgence. The only course of action open to you at this point is to bear the knowledge of your misdeeds alone; keep your own counsel on this matter of impropriety, and let history be your judge.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but this photo is always in the public domain.

Dear Sigmund Freud,

I’ve been with this girl for a while now, and things are getting pretty serious. I’m starting to think she might be The One. But how do you tell? I mean, I’m talking about making a commitment for the rest of my life. How can you be sure about something like that?


Ready to Make the Leap

Dear Superego,

It is understandable that you are hesitant about such a major life change, and decisions of such gravity bring a great deal of internal strife to everyone. Before settling on a course of action, explore your motivations; consider what might be driving you to take your relationship to this new and deeper level. Is it this girl in particular that makes you feel ready for a lifelong commitment, or are you simply responding to a suppressed need yet unfulfilled? While you’re at it, take a good look at her mother, because that’s what you’ll be married to in twenty years.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Public domain.

Dear Abraham Lincoln,

I’ve been married for a few months now, and I’m worried our life has gotten to be kind of routine. I want to mix things up a little bit, try to get “out of the rut”, but I’m not sure how. Do you have any suggestions of some fun, adventurous things we can do together?


Looking for Adventure

Dear Citizen of the Republic,

While I certainly respect and admire your desire to preserve the union you have with your wife, I wonder if you have given full thought to the many options available to you. While the drive for glory may seem attractive now, it soon pales before the simpler pleasures of hearth and home. May I suggest instead a special night in? Cook your new wife dinner; make some light conversation; perhaps a game of charades. Going out on the town is overrated.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

Public domain.

Dear Mr. Napolean,

I had this guy I really liked and I thought he liked me to and I had a friend who was supposed to ask him if he liked me so I could find out if he liked me like I liked him but instead she asked him if he liked her and now they’re going together and I’m sad. Even worse all my other freinds arent talking to me because I said she was a poopyhead. What should I do?

Your firend,


Dear Mademoiselle Jennifer,

I also understand the pain of betrayal; to feel as if you are the emperor of the world one moment and a mere exile from all that you know the next. But fear not! With sufficient effort and planning, you can stage a coup d’etat against those who rule your current circumstances, and once again take your rightful place in your social circle. Make use of what you know about those who stand against you, and do not hesitate to spread their most shameful secrets to the world. Press your advantage ruthlessly, and crush them utterly. Do not forget that this is war; you do this not out of revenge, but to teach a lesson to others who might be tempted to stand against you, and to prevent further battle in the days to come.



A true gentleman would know this is in the public domain.

Dear Confucius,

There’s a girl I go to college with that I’d really like to get to know better. We take a few classes together, but I haven’t gotten up the nerve to ask her out yet. I’m not sure if she’d be interested in me, and I’d be devastated if she turned me down. Should I go for it, or should I just try to stay friends?


Pining Away

Dear Junzi,

It is well that you are in college, for the pursuit of knowledge is in itself a part of the path of virtue. It is however only one part; self-knowledge, the cultivation of virtue, and filial duty also play their roles. If you are a true gentleman, what woman would refuse you? You say you have classes in common; surely that is something you can use as a place to start a meaningful interaction. Failing that, try taking her father out for a round of golf.

Patriarchal Misogynistic Tendencies

Recently I’ve been reading a lot more internet chatter about feminism, which I can only take to mean it’s on the rise again. This wounds me greatly, as I had hoped we lived in a Post sort of world. You know, post-racial, post-gender, post-political, Post brand cereals, whatever. But I guess that ship has sailed, and we’re right back to having the same arguments that we’ve been hashing over (and failing to reconcile) for decades.

So what does this mean for me personally? To be honest it means I’ve had to confront my own patriarchal misogynistic tendencies. Yes, I admit that I have them. Of course I have them. C’mon, I was born in the mid-seventies and educated in public schools. I’m lucky I can even spell “patriarchal misogynistic tendencies” let alone admit having them. And I do. But just like paranoid schizophrenics can still have enemies, misogynists can still be right from time to time.

Here’s my favorite example: I’ve had a crazy ex-girlfriend or two. Now don’t get me wrong on this; I actually have several exes, and for most of them I hope I hold the place of “pleasant memory”, and I more likely hold the place of “bullet, dodged.” Most of those ladies I don’t even think of anymore, and while I may have in my callous youth said some unkind things about them I at least have enough class to regret it. But the fact is I do have one or two truly crazy ex-girlfriends. I even have objective witnesses of both genders to back me up. But here’s the problem: everything I’ve seen in the feminist orthodoxy says that’s wrong. That somehow I’m as much to blame as they are, if not more so, simply because I was a willing participant in the relationship. Boy, that’s not blaming the victim much, now is it? Only I can’t be a victim, because of my gender. That’s one.

My next favorite is things like quotas, preferences, and government set-asides. There are plenty of these designed to help women get ahead in school, in business, and in civil service. Setting aside the question of their efficacy, I wonder about their essential morality. Is this just? Is it right to single out one gender and favor them over another? And if so, for how long? Sure you may feel you are correcting some sort of societal imbalance, but when there’s no limit set the assumption is that injustice is either endemic to society or the individuals that comprise it (which are basically one and the same). With women graduating from college at higher rates than men and getting more advanced degrees than men these days, have we reached the day we no longer need these set asides? If not, will we soon? Will we ever? That’s two.

And hey, for the third issue, let’s go for a hat trick of issues that all tie together: divorce, custody, and child support. Despite the great gains that have been made by women in the workplace and men in the home, the default assumption that is near impossible to overcome in any divorce proceeding is that a man should support a woman “in the style she has become accustomed to”, and if there are kids they will almost always go to mom unless dad has absolute iron-clad proof she is a drug-addled child molester. In that case the kids will probably wind up with her parents. Fathers without custody will be tasked with child support (don’t get me wrong, I’m all for that) and hunted down like the dogs they are if they miss a single payment (a bit draconian, but hard to argue with), and in the rare event a mom doesn’t have custody she has to… well, how often are they ordered to pay child support? And when was the last time you heard the phrase “dead-beat mom”? And please don’t feed me some line about women being “nurturers”. Remember, we don’t assign gender roles in this classroom. So that’s three.

Last but not least is a real touchy one and the one I expect to catch the most hell over, but I feel the need to say it since nobody else will. First a clarification: I am not taking a stance on abortion here. That’s another post entirely. I do have an opinion, a strong one, but I don’t want to cloud the issue with that argument. Let’s simply take as given that Roe v Wade is the law of the land. So women have the right to decide, once they are pregnant, whether or not they will have a child. What right do men have in this arrangement? If he disagrees with her choice, either way, he is powerless. Completely at her mercy. He can beg, plead, persuade as best he might (and please don’t suggest threatening because I will gladly see a man in jail for that), but he has no recourse before the law. If you believe that is fair, turn the situation around. Put a woman in ANY situation in which she is bound for almost twenty years by a single decision that a man makes on her behalf, even if he is bound by that same decision, and tell me that it’s still fair. Here’s an alternative: let him surrender his parental rights if he doesn’t want the child. It’s not everything, but it’s more than nothing.

Life’s not fair. I get that. But why is it that women get to cry “life’s not fair” and call it a movement? Why do men have to stand by on the sidelines and simply accept the slow chipping away at our dignity and all the good we have in order to make the world an acceptable place? There is injustice in the world, this I understand; that is a fact that is not limited by gender, ethnicity, or politics, and we should all stand against it. But robbing from Peter to give to Paulina does not create a better world; injustice is not the answer to injustice; misandry is not the cure for misogyny.


Related posts:

The Road Away from Hypocrisy

How Is This Still a Thing?

Whose Body Is It, Anyway?

The Dating Rorschach Test

I’m sure everyone has their own guidelines for what makes a good relationship. Between two friends of mine I have heard the entire spectrum, from a simple “am I as happy with this person three months in as I was the day we first met?” to a test that runs to several pages (I am not making this up). For myself, I long ago developed my own simple guidelines that have worked exceptionally well, and that I am at last ready to share with the world. They are as follows:

  1. Can I wake up next to this person without flinching?
  2. Can I put up with their shit?
  3. Can they put up with my shit?

Now, before I catch any grief over these questions, allow me to point out that this is the Dating Rorschach Test™. What you get out of it is what you put into it. Let’s take it one question at a time and you’ll see what I mean.

Can I wake up next to this person without flinching?

I’ll admit it, when I first came up with this question, I was about 15, and it was my entire standard for dating. And yes, it was all about looks. But then, as I got into my early twenties, it took on new depth and dimensions, like carefully leaning over and checking her ID, hoping not to wake her while I make sure I won’t get arrested- well, anyway, the point is I grew as a person. By the time I met the woman who would become my wife this question took on some real meaning. Will I still have self-respect when I wake up? Can I seriously see myself discussing matters of import with her? Does she fulfill my intellectual and emotional needs as well as being beautiful? (Hey, I never said I stopped being shallow). So what do you need in order to be able to wake up next to someone without flinching?

Can I put up with their shit?

I added this one in when I was about nineteen or so, after a string of short, tumultuous, and painful relationships that seemed to have one common thread: wacko girlfriends. I was absolutely convinced that every single girl I had dated to that point was batshit crazy. Quite the coincidence, and if I had any concept of basic probability I would have seen the flaw in my logic, but it took another few years for me to sort that one out (see below for that). The one good thing that came out of it was that I was able to recognize that, if I was going to sustain any kind of relationship, I was either going to have to find the perfect woman who had no flaws whatsoever and then convince her that she wanted to date me, or I would have to learn to live with another human being’s imperfections. All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, even I didn’t have the kind of hubris necessary for option A, so I went with B. I know this doesn’t sound like much of a leap, but seriously, I’ve seen a lot of “adults” who still need to pick up on this one, so cut my younger self a little slack. The key, I realized, was to find someone whose craziness was compatible with mine, or that I at least didn’t find too noxious.

What does this mean for you? Whatever you need it to mean. Does leaving dirty socks on the floor drive you crazy? How about owning too many shoes? How do you feel about Friday night being “hangin’ with my boys night”? Or saying “whatever” and walking away being considered a perfectly acceptable way to end a conversation? Think about it, because what seems cute now might getting annoying a year from now, and what’s annoying now will drive you batshit crazy a year from now. And after almost a decade dating and married with my wife, I can say this is one of the most important points to consider. The other one is…

Can they put up with my shit?

So it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I figured this one out. As one Demotivational poster points out, “The only consistent feature in all of your dissatisfying relationships is you.” I finally realized that it’s not enough for me to be happy with the person I’m with; it might be within the realm of possibility that it’s just barely a chance there could be some fraction of a notional option of a thought I could be somewhat close to less than perfect (I’m able to acknowledge my flaws). Put another way, I’m an acquired taste. I may even have the occasional annoying habit, like leaving dirty socks on the floor, according to my wife. Although I still swear that was the dog. That we didn’t get until we had been married for a year. He has a time machine, like Mr. Peabody. He’s been using it to get me in trouble for years.

The point is tolerance in a relationship is a two-way street. We always think of relationships as being about love and respect and sex and sunshine and rainbows and all that jazz, but the reality day to day is that more often than not relationships are about listening to somebody tell the same story you’ve already heard a hundred times and I really don’t care about your level twenty barbarian honey but you go ahead and tell me anyway if it’ll make you happy and- sorry, got a little carried away there. What was I saying? Oh yeah. The point is relationships are about living with another person, in close proximity, every day, hopefully for the rest of your life. That’s a recipe for friction more often than happiness, which is why you need to find someone who can tolerate your bad habits, whether it’s leaving dirty socks lying around, telling the same stupid stories over and over, or blaming it all on the dog.

The Dating Rorschach Test

So there you have it. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have your own standards for finding a mate. But at least I can say mine worked for me. And in the end, that’s all I ever wanted out of it.

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Played

I’ve already given guys a blast of bile for their pathetic attempts at making women the source of their perpetual dating woes, so I feel it’s only fair that I turn the petty hate machine (dodged that copyright bullet!) on the gentler sex. One of the biggest issues I have with women, and this is not all women but a significant enough minority to be worth mentioning, is the ones who engage in the following pattern:

  • Date “the wrong guy”.
  • Insist on making an issue out of it/complaining about it. Loudly.
  • Go back to him for more. Repeatedly.
  • Finally break up with him.
  • Rinse and repeat.

“How do I always find myself in this position?” is a refrain I have often heard. Let me answer that bluntly: by opening your eyes after you have already put yourself in that position. No, I’m not trying to blame the victim here, I’m trying to get everybody, men and women alike, to start taking responsibility for the choices they make and the consequences of those choices. Let me play Jacob Marley for a moment and introduce you to the Ghosts of Your Choices Past, Present, and Future. They may help shed some light on the reasons you end up reliving the same “relationships” over and over.

Going to clubs and bars to meet men. I’ve heard that women go to clubs to dance and have a good time. This is a foreign concept to me and every straight man in existence (I can’t speak for the gay men, although the ones I have known generally favored clubbing as a means of picking up guys as well.) That’s the first strike against meeting someone at a club; you’re there for two completely different reasons. You may want to meet someone to hang out with; he’s there to meet someone to hook up with. Even if you are both interested in more than a one night – if that – stand, consider the environment of a club. It’s crowded, loud, dark except for the flashing lights, and oh yeah, you and everybody else is likely to be drunk. So your expectation is that… he’s going to be charmed by your rapier wit? The depth of your knowledge on the Crimean War? Or the tattoo of Mickey Mouse on your thigh? Speaking of which…

Dressing like a whore. Dave Chappelle covered this one already in Killin’Them Softly, so I’m just going to quote him verbatim: “The girl says ‘Oh uh-uh, wait a minute! Wait a minute! Just because I’m dressed this way does not make me a whore!’ Which is true. Gentlemen, that is true. Just because they dress a certain way doesn’t mean they are a certain way. Don’t ever forget it. But ladies, you must understand that is fucking confusing. It just is. Now that would be like me, Dave Chappelle, the comedian, walking down the street in a cop uniform. Somebody might run up on me, saying, ‘Oh, thank God. Officer, help us! Come on. They’re over here. Help us!’ ‘Oh-hoh! Just because I’m dressed this way does not make me a police officer!’ See what I mean? All right, ladies, fine. You are not a whore. But you are wearing a whore’s uniform.”

Showing no respect for yourself. This goes well beyond where you go or how you dress. This goes into how you approach your entire life. Simply put, when 90% of your time in a given situation is misery, and you stay in that situation, you are not respecting yourself. I don’t care if this is a relationship, a job, a housing situation, time with a “friend” (why do we even need the term “frienemy” anyway?), or anything else. No, life is not perfect, and sometimes you have to suck it up. But just because 10% is great does not justify the other 90% being misery. Stand up for yourself, treat yourself right, and don’t let others treat you differently.

Showing no respect for the men you date. Ever wonder why you can’t keep a good man? Take a look at the way you treat them. There are women who take advantage of men, use them as walking credit cards, ignore their emotional needs, dump on them all the time, screech at them and deride them. My favorite is the physical abuse double standard. “Gentlemen don’t hit ladies.” “It was just a little tap.” “Oh, get over it you big baby.”  And then they wonder why he left. Here’s a hint: spend one day letting a guy treat you the way you treated him. Be honest. See if you can make it a full twenty-four.

At the end of the day, you picked them. Here’s a hint: if you have ever uttered the words “you’re a nice guy, but…” to a guy who has asked you out, you are part of the problem, not the solution, and I’ll tell you why. Option one is you lied to him. He’s not a nice guy, you would never date him, and in fact you are looking for someone to recue you at this moment. Unless you are in fear for your physical health, this is a cheap cop-out. Option two is that you do mean it, he is a nice guy, but you just can’t see yourself dating him. But then you really don’t have a good answer for the follow-up question; you think you do, but you don’t, because you ask the same question yourself in a different form all the time.

Here’s that question, and you need to think about it in solitude, when you’re not under emotional pressure from some guy trying to hook up with you: “Why?” Why can’t you see yourself dating him? You just admitted he’s a nice guy. Or to flip it around, you so often ask “Why can’t I find a nice guy to date?” There he is. He came to you, and you turned him away. But you said yes, time and again, to the guy who was bad to you and for you.

Life is not simply what happens to us as we are passive recipients; life is the result of our active choices. As Geddy Lee sang, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Your love life is the same way. It does not happen to you; it is the accumulation of the choices you have made, and will continue to be exactly that. When you want to have something better, you will need to make it for yourself, or at the very least recognize it when it comes along.

John Cusack You Ain’t

Today I want to reach out to the lonely guys. The ones who sit by themselves, pining away for the perfect girl who just hasn’t noticed how perfectly perfect he is for her, and one day they will live a perfectly perfect life together that will be just perfect. You know who you are. Chances are you think you’re this girl’s best friend; hell, she’s even told you so on more than one occasion. It just kills you a little more inside each time she does, but that’s okay, because someday she’ll see the real you, and dump that asshole boyfriend she keeps going back to. Yeah, it’s gonna happen. Any day now.

I’m here to tell you some truths you need to hear, some things you may not have heard before or maybe you have, but I say them in a way you haven’t heard them before: I say them with love in my heart, because I was you, once upon a time. Yes, my friends, I was that guy. If you don’t believe me I can provide more than a few character witnesses, but suffice to say I had my angsty teenage moments that stretched into years, and I finally found the cure.

Here’s what I want you to do: put down the half-caff latte. Step away from the copy of “Say Anything”. Drop the composition notebook full of shitty love poetry that you refuse to show to anyone anyway because “they just don’t understand you”. Understand this: you are not John Cusack, and life is not a romantic comedy. Two hours from now you will still be lonely, she will still be with him, and nothing will be different.

Now here are some of the unhelpful things you may be used to hearing, along with the typical responses (which happen internally more often than not):

Them: “You just need to be yourself.”

You: “Who else am I?”

Them: “You just need some confidence.”

You: “How am I supposed to do that?”

Them: “You’ll find the right girl… eventually.”

You: “When?”

I’m going to address these one at a time, as they are generally a mix of (as you have guessed by now) hopeful optimism and outright deception. Let’s start from the top. First off, who you need to be depends on what you want. If you keep getting rejected time and again by women, maybe “being yourself” shouldn’t be the top of your priority list. Instead, consider being somebody else. For instance, consider being someone who doesn’t come across as creepy. Also, being someone who has a job, doesn’t live with his parents, owns a car, understands basic hygiene, and has some concept of social graces can do wonders for you. Assuming you already have all of these going for you, you can move on to the next item on the list.

Confidence. Ah, that old canard. Maybe the problem isn’t confidence but communication skills. Here’s a phrase to practice while looking in the mirror: “Yes, actually.” Use this phrase the next time the girl who thinks you’re “best friends” asks something like “Are you asking me out?” or “Did you think this was a date?” or “Wait, are you straight?” You’ll be amazed at how quickly it will change the dynamic of your relationship. Most of the time it will end your relationship, but at least you will be confident about where you stand on getting a date with her. Ever. Oh, and while you’re looking in the mirror, how about comparing your wardrobe to that “asshole” she’s dating? Is he wearing the same kind of clothes now that he was wearing in the seventh grade? Are you? If the answer to one of those questions was “yes”, I bet I can guess which one. (Unless he’s a hipster. If she’s dating a hipster she deserves him.)

Finally, you’ll meet the right girl when you stop chasing after the wrong ones. Everybody has heard that women can smell desperation, but nobody has any idea what that means. Well, lucky you, I’m going to give you a little hint. WOMEN ARE NOT STUPID. If a woman sees you panting after every other woman around and asking them all out, getting shot down by each in turn before you deign to ask her out, do you really think she’s going to be grateful you finally got around to her? Conversely, if you hang on her every word, doing everything she asks of you all the time in the hopes she may grace you with just a morsel of her attention, why should she give a damn about you?

So what do all these things have in common? Respect. Respect for yourself, and respect for the woman you want to have in your life. When you respect yourself enough to hold yourself to that higher standard, others will see it and want you for who you are. When you respect others enough to clearly communicate your wants and needs without being needy and without treating them like objects or simply placeholders, you come across as confident. And when you see women as intelligent partners in meaningful relationships, not simple conquests or objects of worship, the right girl will find you.

Mine did.