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Aloha Stacey, First, I must flatter you: You rock! All right, enough of that. I am writing an undergraduate argumentative essay on the ways in which you use irony in your work, which will incorporate ideas from Barthes's pleasure principle (boring, I know). If you have any inclination to tell me how you personally feel about irony, even if your opinion is a snippet, a haiku...whatever comes to mind. I would simply like to have the benefit of your opinion without waiting for you to write your memoir (or a book 'on writing.') Thanks! -Julia Grace
You, Julia Grace, rock as well, and your paper sounds good even though I can't remember what Barthes said anymore. Didn't he like Japan? More boys should be named Roland. Here's what I have to say about irony: it can seem subversive, intelligent, obvious, or cutting, but really in the end, it's simply impossible to avoid. Try it. Good luck. We live in a world where there is no one thing we all believe in. Irony is inevitable. Amen.
What is your take on the prospects of a graduating college student given the current job market (or what you've heard about the current job market). On a more personal level; I have almost completed a major in Biology along with all the necessary research experience, publications, internships, and positive academic recommendations but now find academia boring and the sciences dull. Have I wasted my time? I do like sea creatures.
No, you haven't wasted your time! Sea creatures are awesome, and liking one thing is better than liking nothing at all--which describes some people when they were fresh from college like me. Another awesome thing is that the job market is in the crapper! All entry-level jobs inherently suck anyway so it's not like there ever would've been some fantastic job-plum just waiting for you to pick it. A shitty job market gives you time to think about what you want to do, rather than just going with what will make you a good income quickly-ish--there's nothing like that now! So you don't have to have the "should I go to law school?" dialogue. Lawyering's over!
Honestly Diego, there's nothing wrong with trying things, flailing, failing, succeeding, and changing your mind. I know how important getting everything all figured out seems to you now, but personally I wish I hadn't wasted my twenties worrying about what I was going to be or do with myself as though every month of my life was somehow being chiseled in granite. It made me unhappy, it didn't help, no one cared (except my parents), and I had to figure some things out, like the not-liking anything. When I graduated from college, the economy was also very bad. Very few of my friends could find real jobs; most had internships and waited tables and stuff like that. And they were all worried. And now they're all totally doing interesting, grown-up, impressive, satisfying things. I think the bad economy actually helped in the end.
What's your take on Occupy Wall Street?
I think it's neat.
Hi Stacey, I've been having vivid dreams almost every night for the past several weeks. Lately, the vast majority are apocalyptic in nature and last night's dream contained an unprecedented amount of gore I didn't even know I could imagine. I'm starting to fear my unconscious. Any advice on how I can dream about candy lands and puppies again? Do lucid dreaming techniques actually work?
I've been having them too. The first thing to try, which I haven't tried yet, is cutting out any insane, concentrated, large sources of caffeine, like those big guarana capsules I keep swallowing in the afternoon. So stop that, you. Then try taking 5-HTP at night with half a Benadryl (or a whole one, or none). Amazon has 99 cent hypnosis MP3's you can listen to as you're falling asleep. I like Gail P. Borden's "Sleep Deeply," though I think it has some annoying New Age music in the background. It kind of works the best if you don't think it's going to work and don't really listen while it plays. Having a purring cat on top of you can be extremely soothing; pretending you have one on top of you can help too. Don't underestimate the power of washing your sheets.
Or you could just go with it. After all, your subconscious is you, it's you, it is you; it's not a marauder or a Visigoth. Something is camped out in your mind right now, something dark or denied or unfinished or scary--why not take a look and see what you think? There's a lot to be said for not being divided from yourself, for letting the bad stuff speak. It's kind of great that you're having your dark dreams around Halloween, the one time when images of all our mean, bad, bloodthirsty, and angry desires become socially acceptable. Don't you kind of want to know about the apocalypse inside you, the gore? What's ending in your life right now, what's wounded?
The only hitch is that you have to write down your dreams. Otherwise they wash away with the day. And when you write them down, they begin to change--in fact, writing down your nightmares might stop them. If you're looking for a reading list (and I know you are) the most intelligent thinker about our inner shitty side was Carl Jung. He's sort of unreadable though so I recommend the books Owning Your Own Shadow and Inner Work by the Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson. He's pretty dry but he's clear and his books are short. (One caveat: he's sort of a drama queen, and warns his readers to use caution lest they have a psychotic break, so powerful is the shadow within them--just ignore that. It's a legacy of Jung, who had a great imagination but went a little woo woo with the ghosts and extraterrestrials).
As for lucid dreaming, I don't think that's going to get the puppies back. Lucid dreams are cool but scary. I only had one, once, with the aid of a Lexapro. I was in charge but I also sort of wasn't--it's a dream! I flew around over San Francisco, Superman-style, then ended up in school (I go to school every night, college usually, though this was grade school) where I flew through the halls yelling "School's out for summer." The air was full of beautiful fish.
Say Stacey, have you taken the time to ingest any long form television lately?
No, but I dreamed I started watching Mad Men and had to turn off the TV very quickly in order not to see Don Draper looking at himself in the mirror saying, "Who am I?"
Hey Stacey. So, I've done a bit of thinking-- I haven't had the chance to wander off on the Appalachian Trail and meditate (work, familial obligations, etc), but I did go cold-turkey on the side action and that did give me some clarity. What I was able to come to terms with is that I am just not a monogamous person. I frankly don't know if it's in my nature. But, for the sake of my child, I don't want to break up my household. What I would like to do is to "open up" the marriage. Do you think there is a good way to broach the subject with my wife without totally crushing her spirit? I've thought about how I would feel if my wife was "getting some" from another man, and frankly, if it brought her the happiness that my fling has given me (and I didn't have to know the details), then so be it. From the time I learned what a mid-life crisis was I've wondered how mine would manifest. Welcome to my jungle!
No, there's no way. You're totally going to crush her and probably get yourself kicked out. I keep seeing a white stucco apartment complex, ski-lodge beams, a pool full of rotten leaves--a Brady Bunch purgatory. How did that end up in Maine? Maybe you're not really in Maine. Maybe you're kind of a liar, MUIM, if not literally then on the inside to your own self. Because you have to have a clue, a little clue-voice piping inside you, cheep, cheep it says, and also: This doesn't feel right! and Holy shit, what if this situation were reversed? and maybe even I fucking love her (though I don't know which chick gets your love, and God have mercy on her soul). Marriage is hard, open marriages are hard, and changing your regular marriage to an open one is really fucking hard. I'm going to go with a plumbing metaphor: if you're going to put that much pressure on a system, it better have strong pipes to start with. Otherwise there's going to be shit everywhere.
MUIM, dude, you've never said you love your wife; even after I admonished you for your coldness you didn't say it, and if you don't love her, why would she let you do whatever you want? What's in it for her? Are you doing anything to make her happy? Or are you just hoping she'll be a nice mommy to her little bad boy and let you skip school if you ask her real nice? Stop it, just stop. You're not a prince, your shit is not golden, and you are not going to get whatever you want because of the delightful fact that you exist. If you want a lot from your wife--to change the rules, to have a girlfriend, to have her be happy for you in your private life, which is separate from her--then you better be a great man for her. You better give and give to her, and give up things for her, and then give some more. It should be difficult, and painful, and change you. Then you'll be in a position to ask her to change for you.
To put it in concrete terms: if you want to keep your girlfriend and get your wife's retroactive blessing, then you're doomed, selfish, and an emotional idiot. I'm sure it's not your fault and that you'll feel pain eventually, blah blah blah, but it still makes me want to hit you really hard on the head with a piece of PVC pipe (from your broken plumbing) while screaming, "What's wrong with you?" over and over. Because, you know, what's wrong with you? This fantasy that your wife will go along with your all of your wishes is either laughable (because you're so clueless) or truly sad (because she may be in a position, emotionally and financially, where she feels she has no choice, even if she hates your guts).
On the other hand, if you're really serious about simply being a non-monogamous person in your journey of life, I'll stop hitting you over the head. Fine, good, you go you avant hippie art-boy. Monogamy is for accountants and bankers and this is what you need to do: give up your girlfriend, permanently and for real. Let six months go by. In that six months, try to be a mensch, which is Jewish for a good man. Listen to your wife when she talks and look in her eyes. Don't fake-listen, listen listen, like you did when you were dating and you didn't already know what she was going to say before she said it. Do what she asks you. Be a good daddy but makes things be about her too. Help her before she asks. Tell her she looks beautiful. Try to love her. Stop rating her in bed and start trying to make the moves she thinks are hot. I don't care if you have to meow like a kitten and lick her ankles, it's not going to kill you, so do it. In fact, meow like a kitten and lick her ankles. Be nice, be funny, pay attention to her. Keep at it for six months (just don't start it all at once or she'll wonder what's up).
Only then, after you've built a foundation of good feelings, can you launch into The Talk. This is when you tell her how much she means to you, how much you love her, and how your life would be meaningless without her, meaningless, empty, and bleak. However, you don't think you're built for total monogamy. You're afraid you're too much of a low, horny bastard to be monogamous forever, and you are a shithead for not telling her that BEFORE you got married. You didn't know before you got married, but now you do, ergo you are a shithead. Keep saying the word shithead. Then say you need to ASK HER if she thinks your wonderful bond could withstand a little meaningless sex on the side, for recreation, discretely, now and then, hardly ever, but not in total betrayal and secrecy because that makes you feel like a hoarded piece of moldy cat shit.
If I were her, I would instantly reply, "Why, is there someone else?" To which you will reply, "No, but there was." Don't lie, she may not have caught you so far but she'll catch you then. Also, for some reason you want to tell her the truth, so tell her. Then you will look at her and wait. You will answer her questions truthfully. And since you are a mensch who understands that a relationship involves two people, you will honor her wishes.
So basically, you have to cut out your heart and put it in her hands. She might say no, she might say yes, but you need to let her decide. Otherwise, you're just another asshole. Sorry, but you asked.
You ever hear of Stacy Sutherland? I just typed in "a loves thats sound stacy" (sic) to pull up a lost album, and out of 9,568,492 hits you came up fourth. I find this strange because 16 years ago we had a drink at some party in a parking lot. Remember? You were so goddamn cute, but I just assumed you turned lesbian because you were so chummy with Anna Keefer. Oh, well. And, speaking of that, sort of, did you ever get that film transferred to DVD? I believe the last time I asked you requested that I check back in 6 months. I think that was 5 or six years ago? So that is 4 questions so far! But all of those questions lack import! So...what is the nature of our veiled realities in relation to the palimpsest of our consciousness? Seriously. I have no idea what the fuck anything means. Help me out here.
No Gravy, I haven't heard of Stacy Sutherland and I don't remember you. In fact, I'm pretty sure we've never met, though it's hard to know since all I've got to go on is a parking lot, a beverage, and that fact that you're a pussy (I know because lesbians scare you and you won't tell me your name). Also, assuming you're male, the use of the word "palimpsest" suggests that you don't live in Tucson (sorry fellow Tucsonans). So no.
I'm still working on the meaning part of your question...I need a snack for that.
Thank you for those much needed words of advice. I spoke to a friend of mine recently and he told me pretty similar things. He equated my situation to one of a junkie with the mind-blowing sex being the drug and the woman being the pusher (and the price of the drug being my sanity/marriage/job etc) and I need to detox. I thank you for your frank words and I'll update you in a few weeks.
You're welcome. Thanks for trusting me with such a difficult question.
In Your story about the beauty mark the main character is appalled that the girl that cut her returns to school wearing clogs. What's wrong with clogs? Clogs are really cool shoes! Even the trendy kind that don't have wooden soles.
Hi Tom. Here's the thing about clothes, youth, and judgement calls: since you're not a 22 year-old pop star, the simple fact that you think clogs are cool means that teenagers will find them extremely not cool. As I'm sure you know, opinions expressed in short stories are not necessarily those of the author. I actually like clogs. They're so geeky that they wrap around the corner and become cool again. I hope you introduce them to your summer wardrobe because they look especially great when worn with shorts or swimsuits.
I have been married for over a decade and my wife and I have a young child. I still care very much for my wife and I couldn't imagine not having our child as a daily part of my life. The sex with my wife has always ranged from adequate to pretty good. I figured it would be wise to marry someone who I got along with more so than someone who I had crazy hot sex with, because that part eventually cools off and the sex becomes less of a part of the marriage, right? Well, ten years down the road, my libido hasn't quelled much and the sex has gone from infrequent to barely adequate. Since the birth of our child my wife has even told me that she's less interested in sex and enjoys it less. Recently I met a single woman who knows I am married and she is willing to have sex with me on occasion. She is totally discreet and even said she does not want to break up my marriage. The sex with this woman is some of the best I've had all my life. It ranges from amazing to mind-blowing (and I'm not just comparing it to the sex with my wife). I am middle-aged (so is she) but this woman has me doing things I haven't done since my 20s (and never with my wife). Since I've met this woman I feel younger, my heart is light and I've become more productive at my job and getting more done around the house. My question is this; do you think there is any way I can tell my wife about this so I don't have to sneak around? I know this sounds pretty fucked up, but what do you think?
No, there's no way you can tell her and not have to sneak around, not unless you want to be ejected from your home and go live in an apartment complex. If you tell her, you turn over your fate to her--your life, really--because you have no idea how she'll react. Your wife might seem as stable and familiar as granite but if you wiggle her base there's no predicting what she'll do. She might leave you and never look back, she might smash your Precious Moment figurines, and I'm pretty certain she'll demand that you stop seeing your girl on the side. Yes, people have open marriages, but they make the arrangements beforehand. They share lots of love and a mutual disdain for monogamy. This doesn't sound like that.
You need to decide what you want, and that's not going to be easy. You are a guy, Mixed up, who likes things to be organized, but you need to know how you feel about all this and trying to organize feelings is like trying to corral a cat. Emotions are slippery and independent and chaotic and full of unnatural patience; they will wait out your efforts to control them. You need to know how you feel so you can know--not all the way, not perfectly--what to do. Everyone needs love to survive but only you can decide what kind of love you need most. There's passionate hot-sex love, family love, daddy love, and the wife-you-get-along-okay-with-love. I'm sure you'd like to have them all, and maybe someday you can, but it doesn't look good right now.
Why? Because you are a retard about feelings, Mixed up, your own and others. How can you ask for what you want if you're clueless about what you feel? Your emotions are in little pieces stored in separate boxes: your heart and your penis and your mind and your soul. You say you "care very much" for your wife. Dude, that is icy. It's an entire ice sculpture. You're supposed to love her. Life is long; marriage is longer. "Caring" is not going to take you all the way down that road.
You're even worse when it comes to the other woman. There's a robotic ring to the line "she's willing to have sex with me on occasion." It contrasts starkly with the adjective "mind blowing" that occurs further down (I don't know what the two of you are up to but please let it involve clown suits). Then you say you're lighthearted, and frankly I'm not surprised to hear mention of the heart because that kind of sex is a big fucking deal. For both of you. It's nice of her to say she doesn't want to break up your marriage, but what's she going to say? "I love wrecking homes"? Maybe she's in love with you. That would not be so unusual. Maybe you're in love with her. It kind of sounds like you are, or it sounds like you kind of are. Pretending that you're not swapping any emotions during these occasional outings isn't going to make things any clearer.
I recommend a walkabout. How about a week on the Appalacian trail? Alone Mixy. Figure out what's going on in there then decide what you have to do about it. You can love your other woman and not leave your family, you can not love your wife and live happily with her, you live as a hermit in the woods--whatever. But don't let it just happen because you're confused and torn right now. There will not be a perfect solution. There might not even be a good one. But it's still your life and you have the right and the responsibility to choose your own fate. So do it.