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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ask Aunt Messy

(Photograph copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

Hello again, Darlings! I Do Hope that you are Coping Well with this horrible Cold Weather and Snow. It is Perfectly Dreadful outside today and Even my Beloved Poodles, Edgar and Winston, are Reluctant to go Outside for anything more than Necessary. It is Sunny outside, for Which I am Most Grateful. I am Sitting in the Conservatory among the Citrus Trees and enjoying the Sun as Best I Can. Usually I Enjoy Winter, but this Weather has been So Sudden and Severe that I am quite Taken Aback by the Violence of it.

I have a New Letter for you This Week! How I do Enjoy getting Letters!

Dear Aunt Messy,

I find myself in need of advice. Not just any advice, some seriously awesome, ass-kicking, solve-the-problems-of-the-world with a side of saving-the-children advice. Ok, maybe it won't have that much of a global impact, but it would certainly help me. I need relationship advice. Pretty run of the mill, really, and yet I seem to foul it up every.single.time.

I've been friends with Matt for years now. We've known each other since elementary school, run in the same circles, and are friends with each other's siblings and parents. We've been friends - not SUPERCLOSE friends, but friends- for awhile.

Two years ago, Matt decided he liked me and wanted to begin a relationship. We started hanging out a LOT more than usual and throughout the course of it all, I realized that I didn't really like him as boyfriend material. I wasn't attracted to him physically, his personality got on my nerves, and we came from a different place with regard to how we perceive life and the world in general.

I broke it off with him. He didn't really go quietly - that last conversation was LONG - but he did go. And by "go" I mean "dropped off the face of the earth." In 2 years, I heard from him twice. Both times were on my birthday. He would text me some congratulatory note and I'd read it and ignore it. I wasn't interested in giving him anything he could misconstrue as "interest".

Last December, he came back. He began to come to my family's weekly get-togethers and since he's a family friend, we welcomed him. Each time he came, I was cordial and polite, but never had a one on one conversation with him and did my best to steer clear without being obvious. He didn't seem to be showing me any favoritism, so I was starting to think everything would be fin and he was 100% truly over whatever it was he had 2 years earlier.


This past Sunday, he texted me out of the blue, asking me if I was interested in seeing Wicked. I had considered going to see it with my best friend, but her husband is taking her. I'd go with my sister, but I would have to pay her way and I can't afford to buy two tickets. After about 30 seconds of deliberation, I said yes. I said yes because I desperately want to see this musical that I love. I later asked him what day and time, because I assumed his mother had gotten a pair of free tickets. Wrong again. He told me he bought them after I said yes and then gave me a date and time.

I talked about it to some friends of mine (both genders) and they have assured me that I am not "using" him, since I was not proactive in getting him to propose the date or buy the tickets. It may be a case of "protesting too much", but I refuse to believe that by accepting something that I want from this guy that I'm obligated to give him something in return or else I'm using him. I planned on keeping the "date" confined to the musical and then informing him that I was in no way interested in any kind of relationship. It was not meant to be. He has asked me to get together for lunch sometime this week.

Aunt Messy, I have NO DESIRE to spend loads of time with him, especially now that it's clear he's still interested in me. I have no problem being his friend and hanging out, but I want to be clear to him that I don't feel obligated to him JUST because he gives me something I really want.

Does this make me a terrible person? Oh, and what should I do?

Seriously - just friends,


(Letter has been edited for length.)


Do come in! It is so Kind of you to Visit an Old Lady in this Foul Weather. I Would Not have Blamed you for an Instant if you Had Called with your Excuses. The Drive over here Must have been Most Unpleasant and the Radio Announcer said that the Roads are Icy. Come and Join Me in the Conservatory, Dear. Would you care for a Glass of Brandy? Lovely.

I Read your Letter, and I'm Certain that you Know what my Answer will Be. However, there are a few Small Details...

Matt sounds like a Decent Young Man, and it is Common for people's Feelings to Change over the course of a Long Friendship. There's nothing More Romantic than the Realization that one's True Love has been under One's Nose all along. Unless of course, one's Feelings are Not Reciprocated. I commend you Heartily for Spending Time trying to see if You could feel as He Does. I also Assure you that you Did the Right Thing by Breaking Off with him when you Realized that you Can't. It was the Only Decent thing you could have Done.

(Another brandy? Cookie? Oh Dear, it's Snowing again!)

I also Commend you for Allowing him to Attend your family's Salons. It is Kind of you to Make Sure that such an Old Friend feel Included. He and His Family are Old Friends after all, and I'm Sure that your Parents were Glad to See Him. Polite Avoidance was Exactly the Right Course to take with him.

However, your Friends have done you a Disservice regarding the Musical, and I think you Know it, too. Your Avoiding Conversations with Matt Tells Me that you Knew of His Feelings for you. The Fact that he Asked you to go in the First Place must have been a Hint that his Feelings for you have not Abated. Your Acceptance of his Invitation can only have Given him Hope that he could Convince you to Resume your Romantic Relationship with Him. Knowing this, you Know that you are Taking Advantage of his Feelings for you, and that is Never a Kind thing to do.

(Another? I will.)

Matt Regarded this as a Date, a Romantic Occasion, and no matter How Much you Protest, you Know that what you Did to him was Cruel. He fancies himself in Love with You, and Knowing That, it is Unethical and Unkind to Take Advantage of That just to see a Show. He spent Quite a Bit of Money on those Tickets, as you Found Out after he Invited you, and He didn't Do That only in the Spirit of Friendship. Of course I Agree with you that even if you Were interested in him Romantically, a Date does not Entitle him to Anything. However, you Know that the Two of You had Different Expectations in going together.

I Understand your Desire to Keep him as a Friend. It is Laudable, and the fact that Young People today Seem Able to manage this Speaks Well of your Generation. However, this is Not always Possible. It is Apparent to Me that Matt's Feelings for you are Much Stronger than yours for him. To Give him Hope by Going out with him on Occasion is only Holding him Back from Realizing that he would be Better Served searching Elsewhere for Romance.

I'm Afraid that you Must Speak to Him. Tell him that your Friendship will Never Progress beyond that, and that you Understand, but Will Never Share his feelings towards you. Acknowledge that while it may be Unpleasant for him in the Immediate Future, you are Not Interested in Having any Contact with Him, because you Know that you can Only Hurt his feelings. If you Haven't gone to the Show yet, Tell him that you Cannot Attend, because you would be Going under False Pretenses and have no Desire to Date him.

Ask him not to Contact You and Suggest that he Stop Attending your Parents Soirees for Awhile. Make it Clear that you Know that Being in Contact with You and Knowing that you have no Feelings for him Hurts Him, but to not Budge. He will be Upset, poor lad, but Young People are Resilient, and he may find that Someone has been Admiring him From Afar who would Make a Caring Partner for him. I know You don't want to Give Up this event, but I Also think you Know that its the Right Thing to do.

And of Course you are not a Horrible Person! This is at Worst an Error in Judgment and Easily Rectified.


Oh my Goodness, look at that Snow! I'm Afraid that the Road is Impassable. I Hope you Won't Mind spending the Night? The Snow Plow will be Through Early in the Morning. Good, that's Settled. The Blue guest room is Ready for you and you will find an Assortment of Pyjamas and a Bathrobe and Slippers in the Wardrobe. The Bathroom should have Everything you Need.

Now what shall we Do this Miserable afternoon..... I know! We can Watch some Movies. My Dear Brother Osgood has converted the old Screening Room to take DVDs, and I was Thinking it Might be Fun to watch Some Old Comedies! Have you Seen Pillow Talk? It's one of my Favorites. Let's See what we have, Shall We?


  1. If the authoress has not seen it, may one commend to her attention a 1981 publication entitled *Love and Freindship*? It is a collection of a portion of Miss Austen's juvenilia which retains the original spelling and Capitalizations.

  2. I was thinking a little closer to home. Have you ever read Don Marquis' "Hermione and her Little Group of Serious Thinkers"? It's hilarious, as one would expect, given the author, and designed to poke fun at silly pseudo-intellectualism. I figured Hermione was perfect as an inspiration for Aunt Messy.

    Don Marquis is best known for archy the cockroach, but he wrote a lot of other wonderful stuff. Look for "The Old Soak, Hail and Farewell" (on Prohibition), and a book called "Chapters for the Orthodox", which is his take on religion. Chapter Two of the latter consists of a debate between God and Satan on whether a man that they both claim should go to Heaven or Hell.

    Both of those books are out of print. I found copies on A Libris, but you're in school, so no doubt the library can get hold of them for you if you're interested. A little light reading.

    One of my minors was kidlit, so I've done a lot of reading that some people tend to find a little odd. So be it. It's fun stuff.

  3. Bravo, Auntie! Bravo! I think the most important point here is that, yes, the LW knows what she's doing is wrong and that she does NOT go, even if young master Matt insists, dejectedly as he will, that it's okay to still go and that he understands how the LW feels. Accepting gifts like that *is* using someone. Period. I'm glad that I could tell from her language and tone that she knows that, too. And I'm glad that you advised her to once again break off all contact. It's for the best.

  4. Dear Auntie, your advice is perfect. The advice seeker gave herself away by saying how much she wanted to see that show --it's indeed best to be honest and not fan the flames of false hope lest they'll need to be dampened with a storm of desperate snow flakes... (sorry, I couldn't resist...)

    Love kid lit. Some of the coolest writing and illustration are in it...

    Interesting photo: the photographer's photographs her medium and its history. Neat!

  5. Hi Aunt Messy!

    I think this LW knows she done wrong, but I DON'T think she'll do the right thing and not go. She wants to use the boy for the show, and lay it on the line after she gets what she wants. It almost seems as if this one could have used some SHADDUP advice, but who am I to say when I myself asked to be spared?

    BTW, my sis has backed off. I have been quite firmly busy busy busy. And I have not called her and only sometimes been available to pick up the phone when she calls. The result is a more distant relationship. HOORAY.

    Poor little J, my daughter, who adores her cousins. But she'll have to see them at grammy's. That's certainly better than nothing!

    Take care, wise one!

  6. Hi Bella, glad to see you again! You're right about the LW, she didn't want the SHADDAP! treatment, and I can't blame her either - even though that advice usually ends up being pretty benign, there's always that first hit of...what should I call it... oh yeah, snark.

    I'm also glad to hear your sister backed off. You obviously stopped giving her what she was after, and there's nothing wrong with a little distance, is there? I know when I stopped talking on the phone to a Certain Female Relative I was a lot more pleasant to be around. I had no idea how stressed I was about it before.

    The cousins will survive. It gives them a chance to visit their grandmother and they can get in trouble at HER place instead of yours.

  7. Hello, Auntie M, and so nice to see you again, says the V-lady reincarnated, as true Victory seems to have escaped her recently. Your advice is spot on, as her accepting Matt's "gift" would have been merely using him...oh, yes, you said that, didn't you? My question is, do you have an extra guest room? I can bring my own slippers and robe...and journeys in the snow don't ruffle my feathers at all. I'll bring you an extra bottle of brandy, also.

  8. Aunt Messy can find accommodation for anyone that's in a fix....or trapped in the snow. Naturally, the way is meant to be paved with a letter....

  9. Messy,

    Think you were a bit too kindhearted in your response to the LW. She knew she was wrong, knew she was using this guy. She wanted you to tell her not to worry, go ahead and go to the concert, then toss him away.
    Girls like this are the ones who make some really nice young men bitter and relationship-phobes. After you get jerked around and used by these oh so sweet young things, you stop trying.
    Five years from now, this young woman will be wondering why she only meets jerks and not nice guys. She is setting the stage now, because this guy will tell all his friends and she will get the reputation as not a nice person and the nice guys will avoid her.

    Now for the good, I really like your composition on this and your other photos. You have an excellent eye. Keep them coming, I appreciate the work.

  10. OK, here's the LW in real, live...cyber-form...and I'm taking umbrage at some of the comments and implications here.

    First off, I'd like to state that after writing to Aunt Messy (but before reading the comments here), I set up a meeting over coffee with 'Matt' and explicitly explained to him everything I wrote in the email. I told him I enjoy being friends with him, I enjoy the time we've spent together throughout the years, but I am not interested in any kind of relationship other than friendship with him.

    I laid it all on the line BEFORE the performance (thanks Bella, for that nice tie-in). I told him that I hoped he wasn't expecting this to be the start of a new relationship, and if he was, that I would have to decline going to the show with him. I even offered to compensate him for the ticket if that was the case.

    After I laid out my case/proposition before him, he spent the next several minutes assuring me that he knew where I stood and was not intending to 'make another go at it' as it were. He said that he was simply trying to get his social life back after forgoing it for the last 2 years in college, and in addition to refusing my offer to reimburse him, said that if I didn't want to go, he would simply give the tickets to someone else.

    Now. Having said all that and gotten everything onto the table, I felt perfectly fine accepting his offer as friends. We went, saw the show, and a marvellous time was had by all.

    No doubt several (re:ALL) of you will still think that I 'used' him, and if that's the case, I'd really like to know why you think that. I didn't manipulate him into buying the tickets for me in the first place. I didn't let him think it was a date. I gave all my expectations upfront and even offered him a way out that would have resulted in some financial recoupment.

    Oh, and to jburd1--I would never 'toss' anyone who wasn't completely repulsive away. I find value in pretty much everyone I meet, even if they're not quite my cup of tea. And pretty sure all of 'Matt's' friends...are my friends too. Highschool, remember?

  11. Whoa, there!

    My concern is only that he'll keep on hoping that he has a chance with you, and that is to be avoided. I'm glad you talked to him about it - I've never understood why people write to advice columnists about their friends and family. These are people who care about you, if you can't be blunt with them, then what's the point?

    Matt sounds like a really nice man. I'm glad you don't want to hurt him. However, you still have to keep an eye on the situation. Is he dating? Has he let go? You know him better than anyone here, so you'll know if he's still hoping for more.

    If he's just waiting for a chance, though, you'll have to cut off contact with him for awhile. If the guy is really in love with you, then he needs to get past it. If that means you have to go your separate ways for awhile in hopes that he'll stop torturing himself, then so be it. (I've been there.)

    You could also short-circuit the whole romance thing by taking your sister with you if you can afford the ticket. There's NO chance of anything happening (like a Big Talk) if she's along, right?

  12. IMHO, he's let go. I could see it when we talked over coffee. I was very straightforward, and while I think he was a little disappointed, he also seemed to kind of expect it. He didn't go into the depths of despair or rant and rage. He was actually quite wonderful about the whole thing.

    Like I said, after that, we went to the show, and we had a great time. We talked like we used to (as friends) and there wasn't any awkwardness or avoidance. He enjoyed the show, I definitely enjoyed the show, and we had a fun time together as old friends.

    I haven't heard from him since (it's been about a week now), so I think he's personally decided to put some distance there for himself. I'm happy and sad about that. I'm glad he's moving on because he is a wonderful guy. I'm a little sad because he is a friend who I enjoyed spending time with.

    Hopefully he'll get past this and we can go back to some kind of friendship afterwards. It may not be the same and we may end up being friendly acquaintances, but that's ok with me. I don't like losing friends because they all bring something different into my life, so I'll take whatever he can give at that point. :)

    Oh, and I do LOVE Pillow Talk (the movie). I feel the urge to go home right now and watch it. Alas, work yanks be back into its harsh grip. So, until the weekend.

  13. Whew! I suspect he did have high hopes, but he seems to have rallied - not that I was too worried about him. A close friendship is something that's going to take time. Let him lead the way on that.

    I can't resist, could as they used to say, double date at some point in the future. WAY less awkward.

  14. Vicatella,

    There is exactly one kind thing you can do for this guy: cut him off completely.

    He did/said the only thing his ego could possibly allow when you told him what you told him prior to the show. Deep down, I think you know this and knew you'd still get to see the show of your dreams on his dime and on his heartstrings. Yes, I do still feel you should not have gone. Him thinking the whole thing up, him paying, with his feelings being what they were---that boils down to one thing and one thing only and that is that you used him. He allowed you to use him, asked you to do it, but you did it. Look yourself in the mirror, face that, and move on. Or not. Its up to you to decide what kind of person you want to be. At the very least (and this still would have been less than ideal in terms of this guy's heart), you should have paid, insisted on it as a condition of your going. Full stop.

    Go to shows you really want to see on your own dime, with people whose feelings you reciprocate (friendshp to friendship, or mutually hoping for romance).

    Sorry, but that is the reality. You are just kidding yourself any other way. And your friends are encouraging you in your heartlessness. What you all seem to be saying is that this guy is a chump, and that is HIS fault, not yours. Sorry, but that is heartless, selfish, unkind.

    Best wishes, Bella

  15. Tie it up, wrap it in whatever bow you need to feel good while seeing your favorite show for FREE, all while tromping on this "friends" feelings and his heart.

    He needed his friend to say No!
    You needed to see Wicked.

    All the wrapping is off and you are no present!

  16. You've proven you'll cause a friend pain for an extended period to get what you want. To get the money you want. To get where you want.

    Your behavior raises many questions.

    Do you have any boundaries regarding friendships? Will you sleep with your best friends husband?

    Do you show a lack of good judgement?
    Do you lack integrity?
    Are you trustworthy?

    What are you capable of doing in order to get what you want? Whenever you cannot afford what you want?

    Will the friends in your circle upon hearing your name begin to ask these same questions?
    What answers will they come up with?
    Will that effect your life in any way?

    Will you in the coming months upon reflecting about how you got to the theatre to see Wicked cause you to grimace at your behavior? Will it somehow taint the memory of that moment?

    Your life is your choice, how you choose to walk through this life is up to you. What questions your friends raise is part of your journey.

    I find your behavior to be quite wicked to your friend, but I don't have friends like you. I put people who would make the same choice in the column of acquaintances that have no value, they have proven they cannot be trusted and in my life trust is number one.

  17. Wow. That was...perplexing.

    I don't know how to make it any clearer, and it's old history now so it's hardly worth the time or effort. The only thing I really want to say is that no, I don't grimace when I think about the show, I think about what a wonderful time I had with someone who is an old friend, and how much I enjoyed sharing my love of 'Wicked' with him. That's the part that surprised me the most and the part that I cherish the most.

    Boundaries, judgment, integrity, loyalty...I have all of these thing and more. I'm not perfect, I make mistakes, but thankfully I don't feel the need to go about my life living up to your standards of these qualities.