I am not going to strain your mercy today so I will not share Ask Polly’s thoughts about her newest letter writer. You know already that, whatever the woman’s problems, Polly is going to share some irrelevant and uninteresting information about her own life , then to tell the woman to feel her feelings.
As might be expected, women who write to Polly are often whiners. Today’s letter writer is different, because she has a wee bit of perspective on her habit of complaining about her good life. She dubs herself: “Whiny McWhinerson.” I am not sure why she had to tack a “son” on to it, but she gets extra credit for her self-deprecating humor.
In any case, Whiny McWhinerson is seriously upset about the lack of justice in the world. She is not going to storm the barricades and burn down the White House. She is not going to protest for women’s rights behind a leader who thinks that women have it great in Saudi Arabia and she is not going on strike behind a female terrorist who was convicted of murdering Jews.
Whiny’s problem is not really about her life. It is about her ex-boyfriend’s life. You see, Whiny has it pretty good. She has the baby she wanted, she has a wonderful boyfriend and she lives in a nice house, etc. She is not sick and she is not crazy. She has it pretty good. She says nothing about wanting or not wanting to be married, so we will ignore that question.
In this luminous paragraph Whiny describes her ex and recounts in some details the horrors he subjected her to. Gruesome does not begin to do it justice:
I sometimes feel consumed with thoughts about my narcissistic ex-boyfriend. I by no means want to get back together with him, as he is a glistening turd of a human being. He treated me like shit for the three years we were together, like straight-up emotional abuse. He was often very cruel to me, and there were times when I feared him. He would criticize my every move, refuse to pick up his phone for days on end, humiliate me in front of our friends, blame any- and everything on me … the works. He had no empathy, and I’m certain he has some kind of personality disorder. When he eventually dumped me after three exhausting years, I was devastated.
But, Whiny recovered:
A year later, I met my current boyfriend, who is a lovely, kind, and loyal person. I got my happy ending, however cheesy that may sound. So why am I not … happier?
You will readily agree that Whiny has a way with images. Think of it—better yet, try not to think of it—a relationship between a glistening turd and a piece of shit. It sounds like an assholistic relationship.
You are also thinking to yourself: why did she allow it to go on for three years? Admittedly, she was crushed by being dumped, but-- Heaven help us—why did she not do the dumping? If he was as bad as she thought, what was she waiting around for—a metamorphosis that would turn him from a glistening turd into a prince?
If it was as bad as she says—I do not doubt her word—and she stuck around for three years, refusing to disengage, what was she thinking? She does not tell us, so we will not speculate.
Anyway, Whiny is completely unhappy to see that her glistening turd of an ex-boyfriend has moved on and is doing very, very well, indeed. Alchemy has turned him into a golden boy.
My ex has a new girlfriend, and they seem to be in love. Whenever I run into him (we have the same circle of friends), he goes out of his way to convince me that he’s redeemed himself and his life is an assembly of highlights. Today, when I checked his Instagram (ugh … I know, I know), I saw he bought a huge house with her. He is a film director and makes shitloads of money. He flies business class all over the world. When I saw the picture of their house, my heart sank, and it is NOT because I am still attracted to him or wish I were in his girlfriend’s shoes. It’s not even jealousy (I think). I’ve mulled it over, and I’m pretty sure my question is this: Why does this complete and utter shit-stain get to have everything after the way he treated me?
Of course, if he treated her so badly why did she not dump him? As for the transmogrification of a glistening turd into a “shit-stain” it seems clear that Whiny is trying to tell us something about someone’s bathroom habits or sexual predilections. But we will not indulge in further coprophilic speculations.
Anyway, his newfound success feels to Whiny like a cosmic injustice. She is beginning to doubt God or Zeus or whomever:
I know I’m not God or Zeus or whatever and I don’t get to say who gets to have what, but COME. ON. I’m certainly not a saint and have made my share of mistakes. But I think I can say that I’m a good and sincere person who has always tried to do right by the people around me. I’ve never hurt someone deliberately or been cruel like he has. And now it feels like that all means nothing. Like there’s no point in trying to do and be “good.” I know this must seem very childish, like I’m on the floor throwing a temper tantrum right now and whining “It’s not faaaaiiiir.” I know nothing in life is fucking fair. I see bad things happen to far better people than me every day. And there are FAR, FAR worse problems to have. My thought process is probably flawed in that I think in terms of: good person + hard work = “success,” love, happiness … whatever. I know life isn’t a candy machine, in which you put a coin and get out what you want. I know all that. Then why do I feel so shitty?
In a world defined by her conception of justice, her ex-boyfriend would be suffering the guilt of the damned. He would not be a famous director—when did it happen that film directors became paragons of propriety?—but a grunt pushing around klieg lights on a movie set. He would have no money and would certainly not make more money than her new boyfriend, father of her child. Yes, I understand that she says nothing about comparing the two men, but still, the question does arise.
As for why she feels so shitty… maybe she misses the anal sex?
Of course, I did not really mean that. One notes a couple of salient points. First, that she has told us nothing about what attracted her to her ex. She has made the relationship seem like it belonged in the fifth circle of Dante’s Inferno and then tells us that she did not have the courage or the gumption or the good moral sense to debark from it. One suspects that there was something good about it. Otherwise she is making herself look like the perfect victim and an utter fool.
Nonetheless the question remains intriguing. Allow me a speculation. If she imagines that X was involved in a very bad and abusive relationships with her shittiness but has found a warm loving relationship with another woman, she might conclude that she was part of the problem. If she recalls him being a mediocre aspiring filmmaker when he was with her, what other conclusion could she draw from his current great success and his “shitload” of money?
Naturally, Polly does not have a clue. So, I will tell you. She seems clearly to be questioning whether the problem was not him, but was her. Did she manage to bring out his worst? Did she provoke it? Did he need a different kind of woman to be happy and loving and caring? Did a different woman provide what he needed from a woman, something that she, good social justice warrior, did not or could not or did not know how to provide?
This makes it sound as though she might be blaming herself. And yet, she has only provided one side of what was happening between them, so we are reduced to speculation. For all we know the Strurm und Drang excited her and turned her on. If she understood clearly that she did not deserved to be mistreated and had done nothing to provoke it, why did she stay?