Ask Nick: Mad Men, Movies of 2012, Sex, Veggies, and Coworkers
For whatever reason, I get asked for advice. A lot. I’m talking since time immemorial. People ask me questions about movies, TV, books — especially relationships, for reasons I’ve never been fully able to comprehend.
So I was bored, got to musing, and figured I might as well turn it into a one-time article, just for s***s and giggles. I put out a call for questions on my Facebook, and what follows is the result of that mercenary endeavor. Because when life gives you a lot of questions, but not enough nonsensical answers, it’s time to…
I recently moved in with my boyfriend for financial reasons. Trouble is, I’m really not into my boyfriend at all anymore. He’s great, he is sweet and loving and kind. But it’s to the point where he won’t give me space to breathe. I’ve tried telling him this, but he just apologizes, gives me space for a few minutes, then is right back in my lap. He’s as bad as a cat. “Oh, you’re doing something? Let me just get riiiiiight in the way….that’s better.”
He’s hit that point of desperation that we all get to when we realize the other person in the relationship isn’t into it anymore, and though I’m very familiar with being that person, I don’t know what I could say to him. I constantly feel like I have a child or a monkey, or a really clingy cat just latched onto me at all times when I’m home.
What do I do?
More often than not, clinginess is the byproduct of a person’s insecurities, and resolving the issue often means confronting the source of those insecurities. It could be that he has low self-esteem and fears he’s one lame joke away from losing you, at all times. Maybe he can sense that you don’t really want to be with him, and is overcompensating to either get you to change your mind, or to get the most out of what little time remains in the relationship before the ax falls. Or maybe he’s just super possessive and doesn’t trust you, so he feels the need to be around you at all times, lest you trip and fall on some other dude’s giggle stick. (Not condoning that sort of thinking, just pointing it out. Any relationship worth its salt needs trust to survive — otherwise, it’ll shrivel up and die faster than Do No Harm)
There could be any number of reasons for his clingy attitude, so it’s best to just be blunt with him. Being straightforward could bring the true cause of the problem to light, as his natural defensiveness will clue you into why he’s acting the way he is (whether it’s his own self-esteem issues, lack of trust, or sense of an impending break-up). If self-esteem issues are the culprit, let him know that he has nothing to be concerned about, that you chose him, and that he doesn’t need to keep going overboard to get you to stay. But if it turns out that a lack of faith/trust in you is the culprit, then end the relationship right then and there, because nobody needs that kind of hot bulls*** in their lives.
That said, if you’re still intent on salvaging the relationship, go on to tell him that you need your space, and that his clingy attitude isn’t doing him any favors. Quelling bad behavior could be as simple as letting him know that it’s making him less attractive to you, not just physically but emotionally as well. He might be working under the mistaken notion that you want all this attention, and sometimes, all you have to do to curb that behavior is to disabuse him of that notion — because while some people like being needed, I can’t think of many people who like being smothered. Unless it’s a weird fetish thing, and the less said about that, the better.
Of course, all this advice kind of ignores the central premise of your email, as you said that you’re not actually into your boyfriend anymore. So this begs the question: why stay with him in the first place? I know you’re living with him out of financial necessity, but your bank account doesn’t actually require you to date him, does it? And realistically, you’re not solving your own money issues, you’re simply merging your own crummy finances with his, while also doing serious damage to your emotional and psychological well-being by tethering yourself to a relationship you feel you can’t break off, for risk of winding up homeless. That’s kind of a lousy way to live. So here’s my advice…
If you can end the relationship and remain roommates/friends, then great. But if the living situation isn’t going to work out without the relationship, then one of you has to move out, financial status be damned. Hit the classifieds to find roommates/sublets, and try to get a fresh start with a completely platonic roommate. I know you’re just trying to make the best of a bad deal, but sometimes there’s just no improving a lousy situation. You can cut the crusts off a s*** sandwich, but at the end of the day, it’s still a deuce between two pieces of bread.
So my dad is trying to get me into Breaking Bad and Mad Men. I watched the first four episodes of each, and I just can’t get into it. It’s not that I don’t like “awards TV.” Two of my favorite shows are Homeland and Boardwalk Empire. It’s why my dad recommended me the AMC shows. But it’s been a really hard watch. Does it get any better?
I’m sure you didn’t write just to have me tell you that “Hey, everybody has his or her own tastes. You like what you like, and you’re not wrong for it.”
But seriously, everybody has his or her own tastes. You like what you like, and you’re not wrong for it.
With that said, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has, ironically enough, gone on record recommending on-the-fence viewers give the show four episodes. His rationale was that, if you’re not feeling the show after four episodes, then it’s probably not a show you’re going to enjoy all that much, going forward. And I’m inclined to agree, although I’d recommend giving the entire first season a shot if you’re going to give it four episodes, since the first season is only seven. However, while the drama ramps up considerably, your opinion of the series isn’t really going to change if you don’t feel an attachment to any of these characters within those first seven episodes. It’s a fairly common reason viewers have bailed on the show in the past, as the characters can be off-putting, if not downright repulsive at times. For me, it really is one of TV’s best, but I can certainly understand why someone would pass on it.
However, I really would give Mad Men a shot. That’s a show that gets richer and deeper as it goes on, and it’s not simply a riveting, engaging drama, but it’s often one of TV’s funniest shows (sometimes by accident, sometimes intentionally — it has a wonderfully dark comic sensibility). The seasons are longer, so it requires more of a commitment, but it’s a commitment that I genuinely feel will pay off. It has some of TV’s best characters, portrayed by one of the best casts to come down the pike in years. I’d definitely recommend sticking with it.
You’re a dude. How do I get my boyfriend to eat his vegetables? (SERIOUS PROBLEM) We are both vegetarian, and I am sick of having to eat tofu and rice.
A vegetarian who won’t eat vegetables? That’s like a breakdancer that doesn’t understand the benefit of a nice, flat layer of cardboard.
But in all seriousness, you ever try grilling or roasting the veggies? The smoky flavor removes the inherently vegetable-like taste, which helps if he’s repulsed by the flavor. And the charred consistency gets rid of the slimy quality, if texture is the issue. Try grilling corn, or roasting some zucchini, sliced thin. Or you could get into the business of stuffing vegetables with other exemplary s***: Recipes for vegetarian stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant and even stuffed cabbage rolls are easy to come by online. Here, for instance.
And if he’s really being a pill about it, you could try winning him over with sauces. Hell, my brother used to slather his broccoli in duck sauce from the Chinese restaurant when we were kids. You could also give stir-fry a try. You could also sneak veggies into dishes he already eats. You’d be surprised what peas and carrots can do for rice. But it seems you’re thoroughly sick of rice, so I’d say just stick to the above, if possible. I don’t want it to come to the point where you have to withhold sex to get him to change.
So I don’t get out to the movies much and ended up missing most of 2012’s movies. I’m not big into that Oscar stuff, since I feel like their choices are dull, but blockbusters just come across as too empty.
What are some movies a guy like me might enjoy? (The movies don’t have to be out on DVD yet. I’ll get around to them eventually)
Well, it’s not as though it’s a binary option between award-winners or blockbusters. Middle ground exists in film, as with all things.
That said, my own top movies of the year are kind of a middle-ground collection of awards bait and blockbusters, strangely enough. I think, or hope, that you’ll find at least one movie you’ll love in this crop. I’ll split them up into categories and provide my pick for the best of each category:
Blockbuster: The Hunger Games (I was actually floored at how well-made this movie turned out to be, even though it’s essentially a more glamorous “Battle Royale”. There’s a real gritty, cinematic sensibility beneath all the polish that really shines through.)
Animated: Wreck-It Ralph (it really is the best animated feature since Toy Story 3. In fact, thinking on it, I actually enjoyed this a fair bit more than Toy Story 3. Just such a quirky, fun, cleverly inventive film with genuine heart)
Comedy: Moonrise Kingdom (I have a love-hate relationship with Wes Anderson movies, but this was f****** magic. It’s a story of first love that plays like a fable. One of the best movies of the year, bar none)
Drama: Life of Pi (Ang Lee is, arguably, the best filmmaker working today, and this is his best film, in my opinion. It’s not only gorgeous to look at, it’s also deeply moving in a way that big budget movies rarely are, in this day and age)
Action: Skyfall (People are calling it “The best Bond” for damn good reason. From the word go, Skyfall just keeps ratcheting up the tension, all while threading a nuanced, emotional arc throughout the film. And the cast delivers like few Bond casts have ever delivered before.)
Romance: Silver Linings Playbook (maybe it’s not a romance in the conventional sense, any more than Moonrise Kingdom is a conventional comedy, but it’s a dark comedy that makes for one of the few date movies that guys will probably like better than their girlfriends. The film, I mean. You shouldn’t like any movie more than you like someone you’re actually dating. Although if there’s a woman who can supplant my love for John Boorman’s “Excalibur,” I haven’t met her yet)
Special Mention: Argo (Though I personally would have rather had Life of Pi take Best Picture at the Oscars, Argo is that rare movie that absolutely nails every element of its production, from acting, to direction, to its outstanding script. It’s also one of the most well-edited films of the year, setting a wonderful pace that heightens and shapes its thriller aspects. Just an excellent film, from top to bottom)
Hope the list helps out.
This is long so bear with me, but I think it could be interesting:
I’ve had feelings for my best friend for years, over a decade in fact. We’ve been very close, have a great relationship yada yada yada but we’ve always been “really great friends”, but then I stopped believing in the “friendzone” and started not acting like I was owed things and we hooked up. And it was weird. Like not fully uncomfortable, but just awkward. You see, she has been very damaged and abused in her life, physically and sexually, to the point where she can only have sex when she gets herself so blackout drunk that she can just go on autopilot without really being present in the experience. Now while a hook up with someone you aren’t friends with for a night of passionless sex is fine, it’s not the kind of thing I would want from my best friend. And that leads me to what I’m struggling with; I need to fall out of love with the idea of her while continuing to love her.
Because we are really great friends, and not in that BS way that guys will say about girls they think are hot. We’ve been there for our best and worst moments. We genuinely care for each other and consider each other family in terms of our bond. I don’t want to lose that. On the other hand I know that sexually she can’t give me what I want. I want to have a relationship with my best friend, and she literally can’t do that. She can’t do that because she disappears when it comes to sex and becomes a husk of herself. I know that. But I still want it and when I hear about her having sex with random guys at bars even though I know it’s the same meaningless sex we had, and even though I know that those guys aren’t her friend and it’s just a hook up, and even though I know I could go out and do the same thing (and she’s been my wing before) I still get jealous/sad. Because in my mind it’s the idea I’ve created out there, not the person I love and know. How do I get rid of the idea and just accept what it is? Because what it is is pretty good and I don’t want to F it up.
I know it’s kind of a stupid question for me to ask, but have you ever actually thought of just telling her how you feel? Not necessarily that you’re in love with her, but that you have concerns about the way she lives her life? I know I’d be pretty devastated if my best friend told me she thought I wasn’t the same person to her anymore. If you’re really her best friend, you should be able to tell her things for her own good that other people might not tell her. The fair weather friends who are there for the random, meaningless sex aren’t going to tell her. Your friend is living a potentially dangerous lifestyle that will only get worse before it gets better. (Don’t get me wrong. Booze and casual sex are fine, in and of themselves, when practiced responsibly. It’s when you start using them to dull the pain of wounds that never fully had the chance to heal that I’d start to worry.) Only through addressing the root cause of her behavior — the psychological and physical abuse at the heart of the matter — can she begin to move past this lifestyle that’s consuming her.
But here’s the thing: you don’t want to get sucked into the cycle of self-destruction and abuse, so if you’re going to help her at all, which you seem to want to do, you have to recognize that it’s okay to step away from the situation if need be. You have to maintain a certain level of distance to avoid your life becoming entirely about her, and hers about you. You can only be a resource for her, not a solution.
As for how you can fall out of love with the idea of her while still loving her, the best advice I can give is to put away the idea of a relationship altogether, since neither of you seem in any position to pursue one, right now. You’re as much in love with the idea of being with her as you are by the idea of her itself. And really, there’s nothing in the world quite so dangerous as an idea. Ideas gets us into a ton of trouble and heartache when it becomes apparent that fantasy doesn’t match reality — because, honestly, it rarely ever does. You can love an idea all you want, but an idea isn’t a person. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll be able to accept that she isn’t really the person you fell in love with anymore. From there, you can either set about doing your best to get her help, or simply stepping back from the situation and taking a breather.
I recently made an offhand comment to my boyfriend about how Cannoli is an aphrodisiac. Now, he’s been stopping by all these bakeries trying to find some to bring home to me. Now, this is sweet, as cannoli is my favorite anything, but I really hate the idea that he expects I’m going to f*** him when he brings it home. It wouldn’t be so bad if we were in a great place relationship wise, but at this point, it’s just awkward. Thankfully, the bakery has been closed every time he’s gone by so far, but I’m really not looking forward to the day when he comes home and is like, “Hey, guess what I got! Cannoli!” We have sex pretty regularly as it is, but he’s always pushing for more, and sometimes I just don’t feel like it. But then he gets all pouty like he has some kind of entitlement about it. What should I say to him?
Well, first off, sexual entitlement is a slippery slope, in the sense that once a person starts to feel they’re owed something, they might tend to get belligerent or forceful when they don’t get it. It’s not a far leap from “pestering” to “abuse”. Of course, I can’t think of many problems that can’t instantly be solved by talking it out. Tell him you appreciate the cannoli, but that he shouldn’t necessarily expect sex for it, especially if you’re not really “feeling it,” at the moment.
Because it’s not as if you’re being all that unreasonable in refusing him, given that you’re doing The Disappearing Pencil Trick with him fairly regularly. And most guys would gladly take a girlfriend with a better-than-average sex drive, without a word of complaint.
I mean, really, this gets on my nerves. Yes, sex is awesome, and important to a healthy relationship. But the idea of entitlement in adults is a wholly repugnant notion, and it seems to apply to monogamous relationships far more often than any other form of emotional attachment. Sure, we can occasionally feel entitled to certain things from our family: a call at Christmas, for instance, to use an utterly banal example. And maybe the more irritable among us might feel entitled to an invite to a party from our friends (although I don’t know why you’d even want to be at a party to which someone didn’t even think to invite you). Yet the bonds of monogamy seem to form an expectation of what is owed to each party, and that’s not really a fair, or even healthy, way to think.
Think of it this way.
Say some guy (we’ll call him “Troy”) wanted to play Mario Kart with one of his friends (we’ll call him “Abed”), but the friend didn’t feel like it, either because he’s busy or because he played all the Mario Kart he could stand the day before? Should Troy expect Abed to play Mario Kart anyway? I know it’s not exactly a crime to expect someone in a relationship to do something they don’t want to do (how many boyfriends husbands have had to sit through Nicholas Sparks adaptations over the years?), but I feel like this is a different situation altogether, since you “play Mario Kart” with him pretty regularly. If he can’t go a day without Mario Kart, then Blue Shell his ass and be done with it. There are plenty of other fish in the sea surrounding Koopa Beach 1.
Is it a good idea to date a coworker?
Dating a coworker belongs in the Bad Idea Hall of Fame right next to Zubaz pants and “You know who’d make a great April O’Neil? That girl from Transformers!” It’s the age-old adage about not s***ting where you eat, and it’s age-old for a reason. But beyond that, there are logistical quandaries to an office romance. Realistically, what are you going to discuss at the end of the day? You both know what happened. You were both there. Worse, the size of a workplace setting means that you’re always around one another, to an absolutely oppressive degree. People in relationships now might hate their jobs, and love to call in sick to spend the day cavorting about with the missus, but what they might not realize is that the job they hate so much might actually be saving their romance. Work might not count as “personal time”, but it’s a distinct period of time where, for 8-12 hours a day, you exist independent from the context of your relationship. Then, once home, you exist as an entity independent from your workplace. But when you blend those two social contexts, you threaten to lose any grasp of your own individuality. You begin identifying yourself by your relationship and by your work, and you’re always situated within the context of one or the other. And really, it gets awfully hard to miss someone when they’re always around. That constant presence can be a relationship-killer.
Of course, this isn’t to say that a workplace romance can’t work out. Look at Jim and Pam! Castle and Beckett! Aria and Fitz! Okay, I used fictional examples, but that still doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to work something out. Here’s how I’d go about doing things:
First, if you have any intention of actually keeping your job, you need to make certain that you aren’t in violation of any company policy, since many companies have a prohibition against inter-office dating, and those that don’t tend to have a rule prohibiting spouses/significant others from working in the same department. (All this presupposes that she’s into you too, and you’re both looking for a way to make this relationship viable)
Also, it would be ideal if one of you isn’t the superior of the other, but sometimes this can’t be avoided. However, extra precaution is necessary in this case, particularly since any actions on the superior’s part could be read as preferential treatment.
With all that out of the way, you then need to be certain that this isn’t just some fling. If, after a few dates, you realize that it’s probably not going to work, don’t drag it out. Cut the chord before a stronger attachment forms. But if you find that you’re serious about this relationship, then use discretion in the workplace. Open displays of affection are only going to make you the subject of office gossip, which kills chances for career advancement quicker than complacency.
As for when you’re outside of the workplace, try to find common ground and similar interests that have nothing to do with work. It would be very easy to allow your professional lives to consume your personal lives, so it’s best to do everything you can to keep from being defined by your work environment. (This means no gossiping about coworkers when you can’t think of anything else to talk about. If you can’t find common ground outside of work, you probably shouldn’t be together).
Ultimately, as with any relationship, its likelihood of success is dependent upon the amount of work you’re willing to put into it.
If you’re dating upwards of your social class range, do you think it’s appropriate to try to clean up your rough edges? Maybe try to look a bit nicer, cut back on the swearing? Thanks.
I don’t think it hurts to try and dress a little nicer and act with a little more decorum, even if I hate the idea of a social class, since it inherently separates and categorizes people by a set of criteria external to who they actually are as individuals. But it’s a bare fact of society that these social constructs exist. So yes, I certainly do think it’s appropriate to round off the edges. But only to an extent. If the person you’re dating (girl or guy) doesn’t see the effort you’re making to tone down your more uncouth aspects, and insists you conform to some standard of what they deem appropriate, then the relationship probably isn’t a good idea. No adult should have to retrofit himself to fit into a certain set of parameters to be accepted by someone whom they presumably love.
And that’ll do it for me! Doing this column has been a fun little experiment. Email or tweet me any questions you might have (contact info below), and if there are any decent ones, I could see myself doing another one of these. Regardless, hope you all enjoyed reading it. Have a good one.