Ex, mental health, narcissists

This sentiment really resonates with me right now…

Last night, an online friend and I were chatting on Facebook instant messenger. We had started conversing on my Facebook page, offering our thoughts about the new abortion law in Texas. I had mentioned that I hate Donald Trump for his part in this… and for many other reasons. And yes, I know Trump didn’t act alone. He had a lot of help from Mitch McConnell and other MAGA asshats who just want to keep people trapped in poverty as they hypocritically lecture them about morals. But basically, Trump is the face of a lot of really horrible people who only care about themselves and everybody else can just go to Hell. That is basically the very essence of narcissism.

Yep… that’s about right. People with money will always be able to get abortions if they want or need them.

My friend had basically said that she doesn’t care about Trump enough to hate him. She sees him like she’d see a scorpion. It’s his nature to be cruel. He can’t help himself. So she doesn’t expend the energy to hate him. I, on the other hand, am not like that by nature. People irk me and I react to them more than I should. And before I knew it, our conversation had segued from Trump to Ex. I wrote:

I understand that mindset [of not caring enough about Trump to hate him]. I just canโ€™t help myself. But there are people I dislike as much or more than Trump, like the Ex. Every time I try to feel compassion for her, remembering that sheโ€™s mentally ill, I am reminded that she stole from her own children, sexually abused my husband, and turns people close to her into her slaves. I just really hate narcissists.

I explained that I believe my husband’s ex wife is a narcissist. But I also think she is mentally ill. I’m not the only one. She has been diagnosed by professionals. But she’s also just a very manipulative, selfish, shitty person who has done real harm to others. Unfortunately, some good people are still struck in her sphere. There’s not much we can do for them until they help themselves. It’s an awful feeling to watch good people who are trapped, and haven’t figured out that they need to help themselves… or even that there are people who would gladly help them to help themselves. But, as they say, it is what it is.

My friend was skeptical that Ex is mentally ill. She asked me some questions about Ex, and why I believe that besides being a shitty person, she’s also got legitimate issues with mental illness. Some of it may be organic. Some may have been brought on by abuse and trauma. Some may be because she’s just a nasty person. I explained that I believe a person can be mentally ill, and they can also simply be mean. The two conditions are not mutually exclusive.

Then I PM’d my friend with some sensitive information that clarified things a bit. I didn’t go into specifics of what happened, because the specifics don’t matter. What mattered was that a few years ago, I might have simply excused Ex for being “sick” with mental illness. I can’t excuse her anymore, though, because she has done some things that are just beyond the pale and, I know they aren’t due to mental illness. In fact, she often uses mental illness as a crutch, excusing herself for being a shitty person. I didn’t find out about the personal stuff until a few years ago. When I did find out about what happened, I was absolutely livid. It forever changed my opinion about Ex– not that it was ever very high– and made me conclude that she’s plainly damaged beyond repair.

More wisdom.

The conversation with my friend continued, and she eventually took my word that Ex is probably both mentally ill, and a terrible person. But she’s not as bad as she could have been. Believe me, I have realized that she could have done more to make our lives hell. She’s no longer a threat to me personally, but she’s still a threat to Bill’s daughters and the family members who aren’t clued in to what kind of a person she is.

Personally, I am at a point at which I don’t really care much about Ex. I might feel about her the way my friend feels about Donald Trump. I might see her as a reptile who just hurts people because it’s in her nature to do that. But then Bill talks to his daughter, who isn’t quite ready to go no contact. If she goes no contact, there’s a good chance she will pay a dear price. She may lose contact with other family members, for instance. So Ex remains a topic of conversation, even though personally, I could probably move on from caring or talking about her at all.

And then, I noticed something posted by another friend. I don’t know this friend as well… but what I do know is that she’s been going through something with a narcissist. She’s been posting nothing but quotes about narcissism lately. I mostly don’t notice her posts, because I’m not big on posting quotes and memes without explaining the context. But every once in awhile, she posts a gem. Last night, she posted the below image.

This sentiment really resonates with me right now.

For most of my life, I have been trained to tolerate dysfunction. I’ve been conditioned to ignore bad behavior and be “nice” at all costs, so as not to upset the apple cart. I’m not as good at ignoring bad behavior as some people are. I do have a bit of a temper, and I will lose it when people go too far. Sometimes, when I feel like I can’t be assertive, I’ll be passive aggressive, which isn’t a good solution. But, for the most part, I do try to avoid conflict, and sometimes I give people too much power. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and will sometimes excuse them when they shouldn’t be excused. Or, I simply put up with bad stuff from people when I should let it, and them, go.

We’re living in some incredible times. The past five years have been awesomely hard for many people. Bill and I have been mostly fortunate, mostly because we haven’t been living in the United States. But we have been watching the turmoil from afar, and that has been very stressful and worrisome. I’ve found that living in Germany has given me some empathy for people who have come to America from countries where there’s a lot of strife. Bill and I are not in Germany illegally, but it’s still not our home. We love living over here, and we’re not in a hurry to leave. But we still have friends and family who are dealing with the strife as we look on from abroad.

Living in another country has its challenges, although things are pretty good for us. I’m not stupid enough to compare the United States with Afghanistan or El Salvador or Syria or Honduras… or any other place where things are just horrifying. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision is plenty horrifying, though… and it takes energy to process it and what it might mean for the future. Why should I let some low level idiot who is up to no good upset me? Especially when there really are much bigger fish to fry? They don’t care about me. Why should I care about them?

I don’t have the energy or stamina to put up with people who deliberately cause chaos, especially if I don’t have an investment in them, and especially when the chaos is over something really petty or insignificant. At this point in my life, I don’t have a lot invested in most other people. It’s probably because I do live in another country. I haven’t seen most of my family since 2014. I haven’t seen friends in that long, either. The ones I’ve made in Germany, by and large, aren’t real friends. They are friendly for a short amount of time, then disappear. So why should I tolerate any disrespect from them? Why should I let them upset me?

Of course, it’s probably in my nature to get upset. Just like I can’t see Donald Trump as a mere scorpion, I can’t help but be irritated by people who go out of their way to be manipulative, disrespectful, or just plain mean. I react more than I should, but lately, I’ve been trying to learn to let things go. I’ve been making a concerted effort not to get into it with people… especially people I don’t know. People who don’t care at all about me aren’t worth the tears. Peace is important, and I am as entitled to it as anyone is. So, instead of addressing stuff that I know will turn into something dramatic, I just quietly take out the trash.

As I was telling my friend last night, there are some people in the world that want to deny you your vote. Yes, some people literally want to deny you your vote in political matters, but I’m also talking about your vote in interpersonal situations. Like, for instance, when Ex unilaterally decided to have Christmas at my in-laws’ house, and demanded that I show up there for two days of hell during the biggest holiday of the year. She never asked me what I thought of the plan. I was simply expected to show up and shut up, forfeiting my right to enjoy Christmas.

Well… I realized then that I had a vote. I had a right to vote “no” to her Christmas plan, and stay home. Yes, there was a price to be paid for voting that way. She decided to punish everybody else for my choice. On the other hand, those people– most of whom were adults– almost chose to accept her “punishment” and disrespect. What they really should have done was tell her to fuck off and kick her out of their lives. It’s hard to do that when kids are involved… I know that. But, even in that situation, there were choices that could have been made. Bill had the right to take the Ex to court, for instance. Or, the in-laws could have told her and #3 to get a hotel room. Or they could have refused to host her little drama altogether. In some way, they could have REFUSED to tolerate her bullshit and just plain not shown up or stuck around for it.

I’m sorry if this post doesn’t make sense. It makes sense to me. As I have said before, I think the universe often gives us multiple chances to learn valuable lessons. This is one of those times. I got a lesson last week, as a matter of fact.

Last week, I got involved in some petty dramas that upset me quite a bit more than they should have. I was upset and frustrated, when I should have been enjoying the Black Forest, which was genuinely beautiful. The people who were causing the strife weren’t people I’m close to or care about. I was simply indulging them and giving them a lot more air time than they deserved. I’ve done that for too many people… Ex included. The vast majority of people are simply not worth the consideration.

I don’t like blocking, unfriending, or even unfollowing people… and I mostly don’t like it when people do that to me (although there are times when it was actually a mutual decision… they just acted first). But– I realize we all have our limits, and X amount of energy. The older you get, the more you realize that time and energy are precious. So it makes sense to spend those valuable commodities on people and issues that truly deserve them.

People like “Dick”, the wine group saboteur, Ex, Trump, and any number of other people with whom I can’t reasonably collaborate or cooperate, simply aren’t worth my time, energy, or attention. They don’t appreciate the sacrifice. And so, today I’m going to try to make a concentrated effort to kick those people out of my life as much as possible. I already feel a lot better having dumped a few of those folks… kind of like I did this morning, purging yesterday’s shit from my system.

And now… Noyzi and Arran are telling me it’s time for a walk. So I’m off to blow off some steam. Hope you have a good Friday… and as my friend Wilbur sings, “Don’t let life chew the sweet out of you.”

“Itty bitty problems” aren’t worth the stress. This song is non-sensical, but it makes me laugh.

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memories, mental health

Repost: The futility of advising someone to “let it go”…

I wrote this post in the fall of 2018. It was “born” out of a comment I got from someone who was irritated about my tendency to “trash” my husband’s ex wife. This person, who wasn’t someone who had been reading the blog for a long time, thought I was just a bitter second wife. I’m pretty sure I know who the “anonymous” commenter was, as she had been sending me private messages about moving to Germany. In those discussions, she told me she was a “first wife” of someone. I suspect that she thought I was attacking all first wives, when I was really just commenting about my situation with Bill, and how I felt about HIS ex wife. Bill’s ex wife is a special kind of terrible. And no, I certainly don’t think ALL exes are like her, and thank GOD for that!

Anyway, the offended person left me a comment telling me how “inappropriate”, “TMI”, and “negative” she felt my blog is, and advised me to “let it go”, or keep my negative posts about Ex private. She said I came off as “bitter, petty, and snotty”. I was kind of scratching my head at those comments. Was she really expecting me to take her unsolicited advice, especially when they were delivered in an insulting way? I mean, maybe I would if she was a friend of mine, but she was a random person on the Internet who had left me a comment with the moniker “Wondering Why”.

Maybe I would have considered taking her suggestion if people were paying me to write this blog… but as it stands right now, I don’t even take tips for this space. I only recently monetized this blog as an experiment. I may decide to demonetize it, since I don’t like looking at ads any more than anyone else does. But the travel blog is monetized– so far it’s raked in a big fat $1.70. I get far fewer hits on the travel blog, so I would like to see if this blog does better, and if so, how much better.

This post from November 2018 is left “as/is”. It came in the wake of a post I had written comparing Ex to “Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write the coyote post after Bill told me about things his daughter had told him about growing up with Ex and some of the really fucked up shit she did (and continues to do). My husband’s former wife is legitimately toxic and crazy, and it was upsetting to hear about things she did to her own children. So I processed those feelings by writing about them in an admittedly “negative”, “personal”, and “snarky” post comparing Ex to a feckless cartoon character whose harebrained schemes never work out for the best.

Like Wile E. Coyote, Ex usually assumes she knows better… and in fact, she often seems to think she knows all. But the end result of a lot of her big ideas usually turn out to be disastrous, and they have ripple effects that harm innocent people– even people like me, who get upset at hearing about them and write blog posts that piss off clueless readers. I get rude comments, then feel compelled to write even more. ๐Ÿ˜‰ See? More ripple effects!

I should mention that at the time, I was feeling especially stressed out, because we were about to move out of our last house. I knew ex landlady drama was coming, as well as the sheer pain in the ass of moving, so my mood was definitely affected. I still think there are some pearls of wisdom in this piece. I was pretty gratified that several then regular readers left comments for “Wondering Why”, advising her to move on if she didn’t like my material. I still think that’s good advice for anyone. So here goes…

About twenty years ago, I was working as a temp at the College of William & Mary’s admissions office.  While I was working there, I became friendly with an older lady named Peggy, who, like me at that time, lived in Gloucester, Virginia.  As I got to know Peggy, I learned that she had a daughter who had been friends with my older sister, Sarah, when they were in high school in the early 80s. 

Over the few months that I worked in the admissions office at William & Mary, Peggy and I got to know each other better.  The work I was doing was pretty boring.  It was mostly filing and data entry on an ancient (by 1998 standards) computer.  You might be surprised by what high school seniors were sending to William & Mary in 1998.  William & Mary is a very prestigious school, and it receives many applications from outstanding students around the country and the world. 

I don’t know if it’s still true today, but back in the late 90s, Virginia had a law that required in state publicly funded colleges to admit a certain number of students from Virginia.  That meant that gaining admittance to William & Mary as an out of state or international student was extremely difficult.  Consequently, not only did the admissions office receive stellar test scores, personal essays, and transcripts from hopeful students; it also received a lot of other supporting documents, all of which needed to be filed.  That’s where I came into the picture. 

It was really an eye opening experience to see what people sent to the admissions office in their personal quests to become members of the “Tribe”.  It was insane, and created a lot of work for temping drones like me.  I noticed that most of the extra stuff did nothing but add detritus to each applicant’s folder.  It was pretty rare that an extra supporting document would result in an offer of admission to someone who otherwise would have been rejected.  Some of it was entertaining to look at, though.

I remember one girl’s mother sent a photocopy of her out of state nursing license and a picture of a younger version of the girl standing in front of the Wren Chapel with her family.  There was a supporting document from the girl’s dad, a police officer, stating that the family planned to move to Williamsburg to support their daughter in her academic endeavors.  I recall that this young lady didn’t gain acceptance to William & Mary.  I hope she found a school that she liked just as much.  Having been rejected by my first choices when I was a high school student, I understand how rejection feels.  But then, I did manage to find a great school for my purposes, so it all turned out fine in the end.

Anyway, this story comes up in the wake of yesterday’s minor drama on this blog, in which a first time commenter advised me that I need to “let it go”, regarding my husband’s ex wife.  Telling somewhat to “let it go” is kind of akin to telling them to “get over it”.  Personally, I think it’s an extremely rude, dismissive, and short-sighted thing to say to another person, particularly someone you don’t know.  I do understand why some people think it’s constructive advice, although frankly, I think it’s futile to tell someone they need to “let it go”.  Sometimes, it’s just not possible.  I came to that conclusion while I was working with Peggy.  She offered an analogy that I’ve not forgotten in the twenty years since we met. 

I was sitting on the floor next to a giant filing cabinet and Peggy’s cubicle.  I had a huge stack of essays, drawings, certificates, test scores, and the like, that I was stuffing into manila folders dedicated to each new applicant.  It was mindless work that numbed my brain as it chapped my hands.  Peggy helped me pass the time by telling me about her upbringing.  It turned out that, like me, she was raised by an alcoholic.  However, while my dad was the alcoholic in our family, in Peggy’s case, it was her mother who drank too much.  Peggy’s mother was extremely abusive to her.  Consequently, Peggy grew up suffering from depression and anxiety, and she had lingering feelings of hatred for her mother.  There was no love between Peggy and her mom, because Peggy’s mother had repeatedly beaten her up mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I felt sad for Peggy that she had those feelings toward her mom.  I may not always love the way my own mom behaves, but I do love her very much.  She was the sane parent; which isn’t to say that I didn’t love my dad.  I did love him, and mostly try to remember him fondly.  He did have a good side.  But he was often mean and abusive to me, and those memories are hard to erase.  I am now kind of “saturated” when it comes to abuse from other people.  I simply can’t tolerate it.

Peggy explained that as the years passed, her depression lingered, even though in 1998, she was probably in her 60s and her mother was long dead.  Peggy didn’t seem depressed to me in person.  In fact, she was bright, funny, friendly, and cheerful.  A lot of people have described me in the same way.  More than one person has told me they think I’m “bubbly”.  Some people even think I’m hilarious.  In person, I joke a lot and laugh and giggle.  A lot of “funny” people are like that.  Humor is a way to mask depression and anxiety.   

In 1998, I, too, was suffering from significant clinical depression and anxiety, and at that time, it had gotten really bad.  I had actually had these issues for most of my life, but in 1998, it was especially severe.  That was the year I finally decided to seek professional help, and got prescription medication for the depression that had dogged me for at least ten years.  I was not under a doctor’s care when I worked at William & Mary, though.  At that time, I was too poor to get help, and I had no health insurance.  Also, I didn’t know I was depressed and anxious.  That was the way I’d always been, only it was much worse in ’98 than it was in the preceding years.  That year, I thought of suicide fairly often.  I still sometimes have those fleeting thoughts, but it’s not nearly like it was in those days.  I’m probably more dysthymic now than anything else.

I remember Peggy explained in detail what she’d endured during her formative years at home, when she’d had no choice but to endure her mother’s constant insults, taunts, and physical abuse.  She got away from her mother as soon as she was able to and married a man with whom she was not compatible.  They eventually divorced, and Peggy was left alone to raise her daughter, which was very difficult for her.  At the end of her story, I remember Peggy telling me that having clinical depression is a lot like trying to function with a broken arm.

If you met a person with a broken arm, would you tell them they need to “let it go” and “get over it”? Would you assume that you know what the timeline should be for them to “heal” from a physical injury?  I’m sure there are cases of people who heal from broken bones very quickly.  Maybe you’ve had a broken bone and bounced back in just a couple of weeks.  But does that mean that someone else can heal in that same timeframe?  Maybe the other person has mitigating circumstances that make healing more difficult for them.  I think it’s often the same for depression and other mental health issues.  Some people heal faster than others.

I have never forgotten Peggy’s comparison of clinical depression to having a broken bone.  In either case, the condition is crippling and painful, especially without treatment.  I was especially clued in to how astute the comparison is when I did seek medical help in 1998.  It took about three months, but I finally found an effective antidepressant that literally changed my life.  When I got my brain chemicals straightened out, I was amazed at how much better and more competent I felt.  It really drove home to me that depression is a real illness and not just made up bullshit in my head. 

For so long, I felt so guilty about who I am.  I thought there was something truly “wrong” with me.  When I finally took the right medication and eventually felt the way non-depressed people feel, I realized that I didn’t have to feel guilty about being depressed.  Depression was, indeed, a sickness that was beyond my control.  I couldn’t will myself not to be depressed.  I needed help to move beyond it.  In my case, potent antidepressants and counseling from an empathetic psychologist did the trick.

Now… this does not mean that a person can’t learn techniques to combat depression, and it doesn’t give a person an excuse to be a jerk to other people.  However, I did finally realize that depression is real, and it will probably always be a part of my life.  Being negative, grumpy, and bitter is a part of having depression.  Maybe some people don’t find that side of me pleasant and they think all they need to do is tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”.  I’m sure it seems that easy to them.  It’s not that easy for me.  I write in this blog to process those feelings instead of acting on them in a destructive manner.  In other places, I try to be less negative and bitter.  Some of my readers interact with me in other places and have seen that I’m generally not as “bitchy” there as I can be here.  It’s because I have a place to put most of the bitchy stuff, and that’s here in this blog. 

I realize that some people don’t like me or stuff I write.  Fortunately, I’ve gotten to a point at which I no longer feel the need to try to please others.  I do wish I were a more likable, positive, friendly, and popular person.  I have accepted that I will never be those things, and that’s okay.  I don’t take antidepressants now.  Maybe I will again at some time, but at this point, I’d rather not.  So I write blogs and publish them, and I make music.  Sometimes people like my efforts, though I think more people are either indifferent or think they can fix my problems by telling me to “let it go”.  My own mother has, more than once, told me to “let it go”.  I actually love my mom and I haven’t been able to take her advice.  What makes you think you’ll be more successful at giving me that advice than she’s been?  And why does it even matter to you if I’m “inappropriate” or share too much information?  It’s not your life, is it?  You don’t have to read this stuff.

I suppose I could make this blog private and I have openly suggested doing that before.  However, I have had several people tell me that they enjoy reading my blog.  So I leave it public for them and anyone else who understands.  If you don’t understand, and you find me unpleasant, I won’t be upset if you move on to another place on the web.  You’re certainly not the first one to find me unpleasant.  But please don’t glibly tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”.  That is a very dismissive thing to say to another person and it’s not right to discount other people’s feelings, particularly when you are a guest in their space.

As for my husband’s ex wife, I’m sure it would be amazing if I could simply “let it go” that she did her best to destroy my husband’s happiness, career, and connections to people who love him.  I wish I were that mature and magnanimous.  I’m not there yet, and I don’t think I will ever be there.  How do you forgive someone who sexually assaulted the love of your life and then denied him access to his children while spreading vicious lies to his parents about the kind of person he is?  I’m sure if it had happened to me, my husband would be equally angry.  So, you’ll have to excuse me for not “letting it go” where she’s concerned.  It will probably take a much longer time than I have left in life to completely get over it.  But with every day, there’s fresh hope. 

Don Henley’s good advice… but has it worked out for him? He’s still pissed at Don Felder, isn’t he?
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healthcare

The laundry hamper… don’t neglect it!

Proper hygiene is very important. It may be even more important today, thanks to COVID-19. The following anecdote was originally posted on my old blog, but I’m sharing it again as a lead into today’s topic.

My dad, who died in July 2014, had a habit of wearing clothes that probably should have been tossed in the laundry basket. He was a typical guy. Bill is better about putting his stuff in the hamper, but there have been a couple of times when I’ve had to tell him that his t-shirt is a bit rank. I definitely have a stronger sense of smell than Bill does.

I have three older sisters. One sister mostly upsets me when I’m around her, but she does have a knack for clever quips. One Christmas, we were all staying at my eldest sister’s house to celebrate the holiday. For his birthday the previous February, I had given my dad a sweater that he really liked. He wore it all the time, even when he should have tossed it in the laundry hamper.

My sister noticed and said, “Dad, you’ve been wearing that sweater for days now.  Don’t you think you should change?”

My dad responded, “I really like this sweater and it’s just easier to wear it since it’s already out of my suitcase.  If I have a high fashion affair to attend, I’ll change.”

And my sister snarked, “How about a hygienic affair?”

I have to admit, that was a pretty funny comment.  My dad good-naturedly smacked her on the head with a rolled up newspaper, which I also thought was funny and well-deserved. I think not long after that exchange, we had a fight. That’s what almost always happens at our immediate family gatherings. That’s why I live in Germany and don’t attend them anymore. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I do enjoy a clever witticism, and that was a good one.

The topic of hygiene comes up again today as I want to impart a PSA to my readers about face masks. I have a casual Facebook friend whose husband had to go to the emergency room the other day. The side of his face was all swollen and painful, and he and his wife didn’t know why. He ended up being admitted and, as of yesterday, was on two IV drips delivering potent antibiotics. Why? Because he has facial cellulitis.

At first, no one knew how he got the infection. But then a student doctor said that they had recently seen an uptick in facial cellulitis cases due to unhygienic face mask usage. People are wearing them repeatedly, but not washing or replacing them. The dirty surface comes into contact with the face, and bacteria enter the skin via a break– say a nick caused by shaving. Presto! You have a serious skin infection that lands you in the hospital!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I despise face masks. I know they are required– FOR NOW– and I know that they are necessary until we can get a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic. But I also know that they are problematic for a number of people, and I hope and expect that their use, at least among people who aren’t in the healthcare delivery profession, will soon be obsolete. Even if the masks are helpful in preventing the spread of the virus or preventing allergy symptoms, they do no good if they’re unclean. I would like to see us come up with something better than masks for slowing the spread, but for now I feel the need to remind people to use clean masks as much as possible.

The fact that this guy wound up hospitalized because he kept wearing a dirty mask is just one reason why the masks are a potential threat. Lots of people recycle their masks rather than washing them (if they are reusable) or replacing them. I don’t think it has anything to do with money, either. I think people are just busy or lazy or whatever, and they forget.

Folks… I have had facial cellulitis myself. It is not a fun experience. Cellulitis is painful and disgusting, and if you’re not careful, it can recur. Below is a somewhat graphic account, so brace yourself.

In my case, I was getting recurrent skin infections for awhile before I finally saw a doctor about them. I’m not totally sure, but I think I picked up some kind of wandering germ when I lived in Armenia. From June of 1996, I kept getting these nasty, extremely painful infections that caused my skin to occasionally abscess. It was painful and messy, but since I didn’t have health insurance and wasn’t systemically ill, I just kind of lived with it… even when a couple of the infections were in embarrassing areas that made sitting down extremely difficult and painful.

During one particularly excruciating period, I had a large abscess over my butt crack. One day, I noticed I was feeling better. I went into the bathroom, and found that it had burst all over my underwear. A week later, it recurred in the same spot. I didn’t know that was cellulitis and it hadn’t made me sick with a fever. It just hurt like the dickens. Unfortunately, I was temping at the College of William & Mary, broke, and couldn’t afford to see a doctor, even if I had relished the idea of showing my ass crack to one. So I put up with it, and soon got a job working at a popular restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. I planned to finally make some money so I could escape my parents’ house and get out on my own. But then, I got a case of cellulitis I couldn’t ignore.

The first time I was formally diagnosed with cellulitis, it was April 1998. I was living in Gloucester, Virginia and I had it on my stomach. It was a bright red, extremely painful, swollen rash that kept getting bigger. I eventually developed a high fever (102 degrees) and was really sick and in severe pain, so I went to the emergency room in hysterical tears, where I was put on an IV drip and given high powered antibiotics. That fixed the problem quickly, and I was able to leave the hospital that night. I spent a few days recovering at home, then I was back to work. My savings was completely wiped out, and I was soon buying health insurance!

The second time I was diagnosed with cellulitis was in January 1999, when I had it on my face. The infection started on my left cheek and the whole side of my face, as well as around my eye, was all swollen. That time, I went straight to the doctor. He wanted to put me in the hospital, since the infection was near my brain. He sent me to the emergency room, but the doctor there was less concerned, and sent me home. The next day, the original doctor called me at home and urged me to see another doctor in Newport News, Virginia. That doctor, who was the best of the lot, wanted to admit me to the hospital. I was insured by then, but trying desperately to save my money so I could escape my parents’ house. I told the doctor I didn’t want to be admitted. Since I didn’t have a fever and had never developed one in that case, he reluctantly agreed.

Fortunately, that doctor was very amenable to helping me avoid hospitalization. I got several shots of Rocephin in my hip and took powerful oral antibiotics. A couple of days later, my face deflated, and I looked and felt much better. But then I got shingles, thanks to being run down. The third and final time I got cellulitis, it was a few months later, and I got it on my waist. But that time, I went directly to the doctor and got it taken care of immediately, before it got too large or made me physically ill. I guess that last bombing of my system must have finally killed off the germ, because that was the last time I had cellulitis. Of course, every time I had to take the antibiotic bombs that kill cellulitis bacteria, I also got yeast infections. That was fun to deal with… NOT.

Anyway… after having had cellulitis three times officially, but more times unofficially, I know how uncomfortable, unpleasant, and dangerous it can be, especially when you get it on your face. I don’t have any pictures of myself when I had it, but I can assure you that I looked really scary. Click this link to see some photos of people who have had cellulitis on their faces– I looked a bit like them when I had it. I went in to the restaurant where I was working at the time, showed them my face, and they told me to take off as much time as I needed. I looked hideous. And that infection really can make a person very sick. Not only can it lead to sepsis, but when you have it on your face, there’s nowhere for the pus to go, so it can threaten your eyesight, among other things.

The pus, by the way, is super disgusting. Every time I’ve had it, it’s been thick, sticky, oily, smelly, and tan colored, tinged with blood. Granted, it’s kind of satisfying to see it drain, especially when you look and feel a lot better in the aftermath. But the process of draining it is really stomach turning. It’s just gross.

So… the moral of the story is, practice good hygiene. Don’t poke your face with anything dirty; wash your hands before you touch your face. Be very careful with your face masks. Make sure you wear a clean one as much as possible, and don’t wear the same one for weeks on end, not having washed or replaced it. Trust me. You do not want cellulitis on your face. It’s an unsightly, expensive, and potentially very dangerous problem. And now, more than ever, you want to avoid hospitals, if you can. I mostly survived that experience with no ill effect, except if I look closely, I can see a tiny reddened/scarred area on my face where all of the revolting pus drained out. Yeccch!

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family, marriage, musings

DINKs whose marriage might be about to sink…

First off, sorry about yesterday’s post. It’s a good one that took me some time to write, and it’s probably about 90% fine to share publicly. Anyone who wants to read it can send me a PM and I’ll give you the password. Actually, it’s 100% fine to share publicly… and I probably will at some point. Just not right now.

Now, for today’s topic. This morning, I read Carolyn Hax’s advice column in the Washington Post. Today’s letter was written by a 33 year old man whose wife, aged 26, has decided that she would like to have a baby. The man, who signed himself “Baby Rabies” explains that he’s looking out for his wife’s best interests. He claims that although they both have good, stable jobs and health insurance, she doesn’t realize how much work babies are and how expensive they can be. He worries that she will regret having a baby so “young” (since when is 26 too young for a baby?) He wants her to enjoy being DINKs (double income, no kids) for a couple of years longer, since they’ve only been married two years. He says her friends will have settled down and started having babies and she won’t be so “isolated”.

Apparently, the letter writer tried to tell his wife that his thinking is for her own good. She is upset because she thinks he’s “infantilizing” her. But he insists that she hasn’t considered the long term consequences of having a baby and what that will mean for their marriage.

Carolyn points out that yes, of course, this guy is infantilizing his wife. I would take it a step further, though. I have written about projection a few times in this blog. Many people don’t know what it is. I think this is an obvious case of projection. Letter writer is apprehensive, immature, and not ready to be a dad, but instead of owning up to that, he’s claiming that his wife isn’t ready because she’s “too young” and his statements indicate that he also thinks she’s immature, since he assumes she hasn’t considered how much “drudgery” is involved with caring for babies.

When I read this guy’s letter– a letter that is all about his opinions about his wife’s emotional and mental states– I hear a man who doesn’t want to become a father yet. But instead of simply admitting that HE doesn’t want to be a dad yet (or maybe even ever), he’s putting it all on his wife. And yes, he’s insulting and infantilizing her, because instead of hearing and understanding his wife’s thoughts about how SHE feels, he’s claiming that his opinions and impressions of her feelings are more relevant and correct.

I sure hope the two of them discussed their feelings about having children before they got married. If they didn’t, this marriage may soon wind up on the rocks. If I were “Baby Rabies'” wife, I would be very pissed off and offended by this guy’s overbearing attitude, especially regarding decisions about MY body. Moreover, if they aren’t on the same page about having a family, this is sure to be an issue that will cause a serious rift in their marriage. No matter what happens, they will probably end up deeply resenting each other.

However– that being said– I also think that Baby Rabies must have a say in their family plans. Clearly HE is not ready to be a parent. And ideally, he should be ready to have a baby before his wife gets pregnant. Since he wants to wait a couple of years and she doesn’t, she may want to consider– 1. whether or not she wants to wait, and 2. how long she’s willing to wait– for her husband to get on board with a pregnancy. I think that would be the wise thing to do. Unfortunately, when it comes to having a family, a lot of people don’t take the other person’s wishes into account. But then, maybe she’s like me and doesn’t find willing partners all that easily. ๐Ÿ˜‰

As I have written many times before, Bill married his ex wife after she had already had a son. Bill was committed to treating the ex’s son as if he were his own, which, frankly, was a mistake, since Ex obviously considers her children to be solely her possessions. In the earliest months of their marriage, she got pregnant, claiming that the birth control failed. Bill was happy to be a dad, but they were not financially ready. Moreover, it’s clear to me that Ex’s birth control didn’t fail. She just unilaterally decided that she wanted to get pregnant and quit taking it. Meanwhile, Bill didn’t wear a condom (which he definitely should have, if he truly wasn’t ready for fatherhood). She did the same thing two years later. Then, when she married number three– sure enough, pregnant within two months and again three years after that. These were ALL her decisions alone, and it was unfair to Bill, and their kids (and their other fathers), although they could have chosen to wear condoms or abstained (but you’d think a man should be able to trust his wife when she says she’s using birth control).

I do think that men– prospective fathers– must have a say when it comes to family planning. I think that both parents should be fully prepared for the responsibility of starting a family and, as much as possible, ready to take it on, especially in this day and age, when everything regarding child raising is so expensive and complicated. It sounds to me like Baby Rabies simply isn’t ready to be a father yet. But instead of just admitting that he’s not ready, he’s putting everything on his wife, and being very insulting to her by claiming she doesn’t know how she feels or what she’s doing. That attitude is bound to piss her off.

Frankly, I think that the fact that he’s projecting his apprehension about having a baby onto his wife is a huge red flag, especially since he’s already seven years older than she is and probably thinks that means he’s “older and wiser”. Some women do like that– but a lot of smart, independent, modern women don’t. This ain’t The Sound of Music— we’re not “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”, needing someone telling us what to do. (as an aside, I’ve always liked that song, even though the lyrics are incredibly sexist and insulting– the melody is nice.)

Blecch… in the end, it turns out that Liesl is a lot less of a child than Rolf is.

I think Carolyn Hax did a good job with her advice to Baby Rabies. I completely agree with what she wrote. But talking about this with Bill this morning reminded me of a truth that has served us well. When I married Bill, I knew there was a good chance we’d never be parents. He’d had a vasectomy when he was with his ex wife. And I am about to digress for a moment, so please excuse the next two paragraphs–

In retrospect, having a vasectomy was a very smart thing for Bill to do, since Ex uses her children as weapons and she clearly wasn’t done having them, as she had claimed before Bill had the surgery. She has had children with each of her three husbands, and when she divorces them, she forces them to take her side and denies them access to their dads. She did it with her first ex husband, and she did it with Bill. Number three is still married to her, but it’s reportedly not a very happy marriage. We’ve heard that Bill’s daughters were forced to call their stepfather “Dad” because he got jealous when Older Daughter once referred to Bill as “Daddy” in front of number three’s baby. Ex reportedly said that she didn’t want her third marriage to fail, so the kids were expected to latch on to number three, forgetting that they already have a father who loves them (which they evidently weren’t able to do, despite appearances to the contrary).

Now– I’m not sure if number three actually felt better when the kids started calling him “Dad”. My guess is that he knew it was bullshit, and he’s likely been unfavorably compared to Bill a lot. Ex probably told him many times that he doesn’t measure up to Bill. I only say this because this is what narcissists do to keep their victims in line. Once you’ve been around them, you realize that they all have the same playbook. They aren’t faithful; they constantly look for supply; and they always have to keep their victims just a little bit insecure so they’ll fight for their position. It takes awhile before the victims realize that the position they’re in is not worth fighting for. I did notice, some time back, that number three had a picture on social media of all of the kids and he referred to them as “All my kids”… but we later heard that it was mostly a sham, done only for optics, and a lot of that stuff was put out solely to punish Bill.

When I married Bill, I knew that I might not become a mom in the usual way. Yes, there are a lot of ways a person can become a parent. We could have adopted a child, although our nomadic lifestyle would have made adoption a challenge. Bill did undergo a vasectomy reversal, which did not result in my getting pregnant (and we aren’t sure why). We could have resorted to getting fertility assistance, which we couldn’t afford and I didn’t really want to do. Also– moves all the time made that prospect difficult.

Eventually, I mostly made peace with the idea that I won’t be a mother. What it came down to is that I decided I would rather be Bill’s wife than be a mother. I don’t think I could find anyone else who is quite as perfect for me. I wouldn’t want to try. I would not trade my marriage to Bill for a baby, although I know that not everyone feels that way. What I have for him is real love. I never saw him as simply someone to fertilize my eggs. I also deeply appreciated that he was willing to have the reversal surgery. He was fine with not having more children, although I know he would have loved to have had a baby with me. I was so grateful that he was willing to try, though. It meant a lot.

I don’t know Baby Rabies’ wife. It sounds like she’s ready to be a mother and has given a lot of thought to the prospect. It’s possible that having a baby is non-negotiable to her, and not having one, or at least trying to have one, will be a dealbreaker. She may have to decide if motherhood, right now, is more important than her marriage. If she does get pregnant and her husband isn’t ready, that could end up being bad for their relationship.

Or… maybe Baby Rabies will fall into line, kind of like the guy who insists he doesn’t want a pet, but then falls in love. It’s hard to tell based only on his letter, which frankly makes him out to be a bit of an overbearing and insensitive jerk. But that letter was probably heavily edited to give us the biggest bang for the buck. He may not have come across as so heavy-handed in the original letter. For all we know, he’s really more of a worry wart, rather than someone who’s boorish and controlling. I can understand a man worrying and being apprehensive about being a father. That’s understandable. I have much less understanding for men who think they know their partners’ minds better than their partner does.

Anyway… this is an academic situation for me. I am not going to have children. Instead, I will have dogs. I may, at some point, have livestock again, too… although that is looking more and more doubtful, the older I get. Fortunately, I am not one of those women who feels compelled to have a baby. I thought it was very important, but it turns out it wasn’t– at least to me. For all the shit we’ve been through in our marriage, I love Bill more every day. I count myself lucky. Hopefully, Baby Rabies and his wife will come to a consensus soon.

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modern problems, musings

Half boiled eggs…

This morning, before he went to work, Bill and I were talking about an article I discovered this morning. Someone had found several letters from advice columnists like Dear Abby and Carolyn Hax, as well as sites like Reddit, and aggregated them into a single article. Three of the five profiled letters stuck out to me. Each of the three letters that captured my attention were about the so-called importance of image, which is a recurring issue in my life.

Bill and I have both had to deal with image obsessed people. My late father, for instance, often conveyed that he was ashamed of me. On multiple occasions, he criticized me for not being more like my eldest sister. He had problems with everything from how I laugh, to how I look, to the fact that I hadn’t achieved enough success in life. Even the things I did well, like music and writing, were sources of shame or envy for him. He made it clear that he thought the image I projected reflected poorly on him. Yes, it was upsetting and offensive to hear one of the two people responsible for my very existence constantly telling me about how I hadn’t measured up to his expectations. It was depressing, and I knew that even if I did start doing things to appease him, it would never be enough.

I eventually told him that his issues with how I turned out were his problem and he needed to get over it. I am certainly not a perfect person by any means, but I’ve done plenty of things that should have made him very proud of me. When I pointed this out to him, he was shocked and probably very embarrassed. He backed off. Unfortunately, a year later, he slid into dementia and spent the next few years dying a slow death.

Bill, likewise, had many issues meeting his ex wife’s expectations. Because of the traumatic way she grew up, she felt she should be living an idyllic existence. She wanted a small town life in a cute little house with a picket fence. She wanted new cars, new furniture, and attractive landscaping. She was only interested in her image, and making it look to others that she was somebody special. Unfortunately, she didn’t spend much time working on the internal structures of her life– the things that actually supported her existence. Her focus was all about the external and what other people thought… not what the people involved in the relationship thought. Their relationship failed.

All of the advice seekers in the article we were discussing had what one might call “first world problems”, but the ones that really stuck out to me were about people who wanted other people to change for them. The core issue was mostly about image, and how the perceived importance of image causes relationship problems. Bill said “It’s like a raw egg versus a boiled egg. On the surface, a half boiled egg looks as perfect as a boiled egg does. But when you crack beneath the surface, there’s a gooey, uncooked mess.”

Letter #1

The first person’s letter was written by a woman in her 60s who claimed that men never appreciated her for her mind. They only seemed interested in her looks. She claimed to look at least twenty years younger than her age and was tired of people thinking she was just a pretty face. Dear Abby told her that she should appreciate what she has, since so many people would like to be considered “beautiful” when they’re in their 60s.

I could kind of see the letter writer’s point. I was never a “hottie” myself, so the vast majority of men who are my friends are friends because they value something in me other than my looks. Most of them seem to think I’m smart or funny or talented. They don’t just talk to me because I have big boobs or a nice ass… And while there have been times when I wished men found me more physically attractive, I can also state without hesitation that women who are only valued for their looks don’t have it so easy. It is a legitimate problem.

I’m reminded of an incident I once wrote about in my old blog. Back in the late 1990s, I was in my 20s and working at a very stressful restaurant. I hated the job, but I made pretty good money and some friends. Because the job was very physical and I often worked long hours without eating, I lost a significant amount of weight without trying. Back then, I looked pretty good, even though I was also constantly sick. Of course, it was all relative. Even though I’d lost about 35 pounds, had a new wardrobe, and had started getting my hair done, some people still didn’t think I was all that cute.

One night after work, a bunch of my work colleagues showed up at a local bar at the same time I was there. One friend, a very attractive young woman a few years younger than me, was dancing to Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. There was a young guy standing there. He said, “Hey, are you with her?” gesturing at my gyrating blonde friend.

“Excuse me?” was my response.

“That girl over there. Is she your friend? And is she here with anyone?” he repeated.

I don’t remember what I said. Obviously, he had spotted her across the room, appreciated her rhythmic movements, hot body, and pretty face, and decided to make a move. However, instead of speaking to her directly, like a real man, he’d decided to speak to her less threatening “fat friend”, to see if it was worth his while. I remember thinking he was an asshole because his message to me was, “I don’t think you’re cute, but your friend is hot. I’d like to meet her and then…”

And then what, Junior? Do you just want to “talk”? Or did you have something else in mind?

At first, I will admit that I was merely insulted by the guy’s tone deaf query. But then, years later, reflecting anew on that incident, it occurs to me that maybe I was the lucky one. Because I don’t think I would enjoy having to deal with randy guys hitting on me all the time simply because they liked what they saw. To be clear, as a female, I have certainly been hit on before. Most women have had that experience. It’s generally not a compliment when some guy who doesn’t know me at all makes it plain that he’s just looking to hook up because he’s horny. Most of the ones who hit on me were not very appealing anyway. Women like my friend probably have to put up with that kind of shit all the time. Relationships built on the external are usually flimsy, at best. They often end in heartbreak.

Maybe some women enjoy being able to charm men with a cute figure and a pretty face, but I don’t think I’d want to be valued simply because of the way I look. I’d much rather someone like me because they think I’m funny, talented, or intelligent. I’d much rather be respected for what’s on the inside, especially since looks often fade. Most of the men in my life are there because I bring something to the table besides big boobs and a dazzling smile. So I can see why the first letter writer was having issues with being called “beautiful” all the time, even if her complaint comes across as obnoxious to some.

Letter #2

The next letter was written by a guy who had taken his girlfriend of three years to Vietnam and Cambodia. They’d spent an amazing two weeks hiking, visiting spiritual places, eating good food, and enjoying themselves. One night, when they were in their hotel room, the guy pulled out an engagement ring and proposed. His girlfriend accepted the marriage proposal, then hit the shower.

When she came out of the shower, the guy’s girlfriend was in tears. She gave the ring back to her beau and said that she was disappointed in how he’d proposed to her. She had pictured a more dramatic proposal, one that didn’t take place in a hotel room. She encouraged him to propose again somewhere more suitable.

My first reaction to that letter was, “Run!” And sure enough, the letter writer, who was crushed by his girlfriend’s shallowness, was considering breaking up with her. He wanted to know if he was being unreasonable. My thought is that if you’ve gone from wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone to considering breaking up with her over her disappointment regarding a marriage proposal, your relationship is in deep trouble. You shouldn’t consider getting married to someone with whom you are considering breaking up, especially if it’s because she’s “disappointed”.

Girlfriend threw up a major red flag when the proposal wasn’t “good enough” for her. I have a feeling that a marriage to her would mean years of his never quite measuring up and her constant dissatisfaction and disappointment. I was reminded of a story Bill told me about his ex. They were at a gas station and she’d asked him to get her a drink. He went into the store and bought her a bottle of Coke. She said something along the lines of, “If you really loved me, you’d know I wanted a fountain drink.” Their marriage was full of these kinds of situations, where she’d demand something and it wasn’t enough, wasn’t done right, or didn’t project the image she’d had in her mind. She was never happy, and before long, neither was Bill. And if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know how their story ended.

I think the second letter writer’s hesitation in a marriage proposal “do-over” is another red flag. If he married his girlfriend, there would almost definitely be a divorce in the future. Think about it. A marriage proposal is supposed to be a very happy occasion. Ultimately, it’s not the proposal or the wedding that makes a marriage work. It shouldn’t matter where the question was popped… and I don’t think doing the proposal over in front of a waterfall or next to a holy temple is going to erase the memory of her reaction to his first proposal. I think it would be a thorn in their sides for the rest of their time together. Divorce is messy and expensive, especially when children are involved. So, I hope he did follow his instincts and dump her, so they could both find partners who are more suitable.

Letter #3

Finally, there was a letter from a guy who was dating a very beautiful, funny, intelligent woman with whom he wanted to have babies. The trouble was, he was ashamed of her because of her weight. She was too fat for him, and because of that, he had avoided introducing her to family and friends. However, he “loved” her and would be heartbroken to lose her… and, of course, he was “concerned” about her health.

As I was reading that letter, I inwardly groaned. Here’s a guy who wants to “fix” someone. She’s too fat for him and he sees her problem as something she should be willing to overcome. If she’d just lose weight, she’d be just “perfect”. I can just hear him now saying, “If you loved me, you’d lose weight.” But what happens when something happens and she gets heavy again? Will he still love her if she loses weight, but then regains it? Or will she be on a tightrope the whole time they’re together?

Well… that just sucks. As someone who has heard insulting comments about my body, I can honestly state that I would much rather be alone than be married to some guy who obsesses over my looks. I know being overweight is considered unhealthy, although I doubt there are many people who are, in fact, in perfect health. If you’re not a healthcare professional with intimate and current knowledge of another person’s stats, you aren’t really in a place to judge their health. You can assume someone who is “fat” is unhealthy, but in most cases, you really don’t know for sure, and it’s beyond offensive to make that assumption.

I’m not saying that people in relationships should not encourage healthy habits in their mates. If girlfriend wants to lose weight, he should encourage and help her within reason. His first concern should be for her health and happiness. If he’s not attracted to her the way she is, the relationship is probably doomed. Plenty of people lose weight and put it right back on, along with more. She could lose fifty pounds for their wedding, get pregnant, have health issues, and put it all back on and never lose it. Would he still love her then? Or, she could lose weight and decide he’s not good enough for her. I’ve even heard of people who thought they didn’t like their partner’s weight realize that after weight loss, it wasn’t the weight that was the real issue in their relationship.

Someone who utters the phrase “if you really loved me” is probably going to eventually end up in divorce court. Again, divorce is expensive, messy, and heartbreaking. So I hope the letter writer in this case broke up with his girlfriend who doesn’t “measure up” to his preferences and found someone more to his liking. However, I have a feeling that he’s a fixer and would find something to dislike in a thinner person, too. Fixers usually have their own issues that they haven’t worked on, so they focus on the flaws of other people. Thinner gal would probably have crooked teeth or crossed eyes or something that he’d want her to fix for him… if she really loved him, that is.

I feel very lucky that Bill and I accept each other for who we are. Sometimes I’m a cranky bitch who complains too much. I have issues with anxiety, and a tendency to look on the dark side of things. I don’t wear makeup every day, fix my hair, or sometimes even get dressed. I could stand to lose weight, and a new haircut would probably do wonders for my appearance. I definitely have my problems, and could make many improvements and changes.

Bill is, likewise, a fantastic spouse, but sometimes he’s too eager to fix everything and please other people. He’ll bend over backwards for others, even when they don’t appreciate or acknowledge it. Being so eager to please gets him into trouble, because he often doesn’t speak up until things have really gotten bad. Then, instead of a little mess to clean up, there’s a much bigger mess.

Bill sometimes does little things that irritate me. For instance, he has a habit of repeating things I say right after I say them. I’ll add something to a story and he’ll repeat what I just said, as if I’d never said it. It’s annoying when he does it in front of just me, but hurtful when he does it in front of other people, because it implies that the other person didn’t hear me and needs him to speak for me. I ‘ve told him about this, explaining that I know that he doesn’t do it on purpose. He knows why I get upset this way, too. It’s because my whole life, people have discounted me, ignored me, or told me I either didn’t matter or wasn’t good enough. I know that’s not how he feels about me, but sometimes that’s how it feels to me– that yet another person doesn’t think I can speak for myself.

Fortunately, we can talk about these things. And even when talking about our issues and idiosyncrasies leads to one or both of us getting upset, it doesn’t kill the love or appreciation we have for each other. We acknowledge that neither of us is perfect, and never will be. What’s most important isn’t the perfect image of a smooth, oval, chicken egg… it’s what’s beneath the surface that counts. Is it a gooey, uncooked mess? Or is it carefully cooked, easily peeled, and waiting for a dash of salt?

I don’t think it’s a good idea to start off a marriage with residual disappointment or with the idea that the other person is a “project” who needs to be improved or changed. Look beyond the external image and consider whether or not that person is someone with whom you are compatible. Bill loves me despite my flaws, because I make him laugh and find fun stuff for us to do together. We’re very compatible, and enjoy each other’s company. We empathize with each other and are each other’s best friend. I think that’s what’s important. If you don’t have that basic compatibility with a significant other, and you can’t love them for who they are, it may be better to be alone.

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