Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Case of the Fool

It's a glimmer of hope for the upcoming New Year. In her latest foray our favorite advice column Ask Polly actually makes some sensible remarks. Unfortunately, if  you keep reading down her bloated commentary you will find that she quickly falls back into psychobabble—bad old habits are hard to break—but why not accentuate the positive. It will brighten your day.

Today’s letter writer calls herself Fool, and the name seems perfectly apt. Get this:

I was with this man for over five years. Two weeks into the relationship I found out he was still spending time with his ex-girlfriend and her family. He denied it at first but after a year he finally admitted they stayed together. After this it was his ex-wife. His son lied to me and brought her to confront me. She assaulted me and I took her to court. He would not go to court with me, he claimed his back was bothering him. I had to end up taking her back to court again for calling my phone — by the way, he has no idea how she got my number. Then I had to deal with his sister’s friend. She was all over him, but when I confronted him, she started with me. I told him I was not dealing with her. I was told I ruined a 20 year friendship. They picked and played like it meant nothing to him. I knew he was acting strange. I got his phone and found text messages from a girl he had under the name Adam. He was calling her every day, texting her, saying things to her he was saying to me. I took his phone and contacted her. She claims she was told I was his old fat crazy ex-girlfriend. I got in his face and called her from his phone, which he did not want me to do it. Then I found another girl’s number on his phone, he said someone else contacted her, not him. I confronted the guy who he said used his phone and the guy knew nothing about it. This man has left me so many times in the past five years. Two weeks and he would come back. I need some help. I need someone to tell me what a fool I am for wanting him.

We will point out that she is writing in the past tense. She is writing about a relationship failure, about a man who she stupidly still wants in her life, but who seems no longer to be a direct part of it.

Now, for the good news. Polly replies:

I don’t usually answer letters like yours, even though I get a lot of them. I know it sounds unfair, but here’s what your letter and other letters like yours have in common: They are usually just one big, unbroken block of text, like they were written very quickly, late at night. There is a central villain who has committed one crime after another. There are a lot of confusing twists and turns. Sometimes these letters go on for three pages, but by the end, it’s still hard to tell who’s who. It’s hard to tell when things stopped and started. It’s hard to tell why anyone is doing what they do. It’s like being thrown into a house of mirrors, populated only by other confused people who seem like they might be out to get you, for reasons that are lost on you and on them.

How do you get out? And once you get out, what do you do?

Here’s what you do (and what other people in your position do): You go back inside. Why? Because you’re so used to living in a house of mirrors that the real world feels unbelievably empty and lonely and sad by comparison. At least when you’re inside the house of mirrors, you have something to do: Run away. Chase. Confront. Investigate. List everyone’s transgressions. Look for witnesses. Build your case.

Correct. Those of us who like contrarian advice are especially taken by the notion that Fool should simply jump back in. In truth, she has been trying to pull herself out of her mess of a relationship, with no success, so Polly recommends that she simply give in. It is sound advice. Good point.

Polly’s reasoning is correct, too. This relationship provides Fool with permanent psychodrama. And not just psychodrama—courtroom drama. The story contains criminals and victims; it looks for prosecution and trial. Better yet, it fill’s Fool’s mind. It is so all-consuming that she probably has no real focus left for anything else or for anyone else. She has probably wrecked most of her friendships with her constant complaining about her sometime boyfriend. Thus, she can choose between the drama and emptiness, or anomie.

Polly continues to talk about herself. Since she fills most of her columns with solipsistic meandering, so why stop now. And then there is the psychobabble about how Fool can develop a better relationship with herself.

A less charitable soul would point out that Polly’s initial advice, to the effect that Fool loves the drama, will make it impossible—radically impossible—for her to replace the constant drama of her relationship with this man. To tell her to get into herself is to tell her to stay in the relationship. She has heard it before. She does not need to hear it again. She needs to hear what Polly told her: jump right in!


Jack Fisher said...

"In truth, she has been trying to pull herself out of her mess of a relationship, with no success"

It appears that Fool is exactly where she wants to be and is not trying to leave. I tend to judge people on what they do over what they say. Some people are addicted to the Drama. At least she's got some kind of identity. I've read that even a dog would rather be kicked than ignored.

Sam L. said...

It's Hell living in a soap-opera, but it's HER Hell and HER choice, so who am I to tell her differently? Or Polly?

James said...

It's indeed a hoary old chestnut, but in this case..............well, "birds of a feather flock together".

Jack Fisher said...

James, better part of the quote: "Beast knows beast ..."

James said...

Yeah, and they found each other.