Escaping, Tipping, and Moving Forward

by A Coiled Rope

I’m a young professional guy, and I recently fell in love with my best friend. We slept together a few times, but she wasn’t ready for a relationship, and I really wanted one. We’re still very good friends, and we hang out regularly.

Now I’m with a new lady, and she’s amazing. She’s gorgeous, funny, intelligent, and dresses well. But I still think about my best friend constantly. What do I do? Do I tell the new girl? Do I stay with her?

I had a long answer all written up for you, but all I really need to say is: Don’t make your new lady an Eli.

Isn’t that all you need? That letter is a powerful cautionary tale against dating one person while still being in love with another.

Okay, fine, you want more? There are some amazing people out there — people who are gorgeous, funny, and intelligent, and who dress well, and who possess everything else you’d write down on a list of Qualities for the Ideal Mate. And even more importantly, they think you’re wonderful, too. Yet they’re still not necessarily for you. And your current lady sounds like a fantastic one, so please don’t let her keep dating someone who’s in love with someone else. You may think you’ll forget your best friend and fall in love with this new woman because of all of those great things she’s got going on, but that’s not going to happen! Instead what’ll happen if you keep dating her is that she may fall in love with you, and it’ll hurt her even more when you finally manage to get the courage to break up with her, or when she finally realizes you’re in love with your best friend and not her (or when, nine years down the road, your best friend — let’s call her “Bobbie” — shows up pregnant).

I mean, your new lady (let’s call her Ellie) seems pretty smart — has she hung out with you and Bobbie together yet, since you hang out regularly with Bobbie? Because if not, as soon as she does, Ellie’s going to get it, or at least, she’s going to start getting it. And if Ellie asks you if anything’s going on with Bobbie, you’re going to either have to lie to her (please don’t do that) or tell her the truth (that you’re in love with her but she didn’t want a relationship), and both those things are really going to hurt for Ellie. You seem like a good guy, and I don’t think that you want to hurt her like that.

Think about this from her perspective: her new guy, who she thinks likes her a lot because he uses lots of complimentary adjectives to write to advice columns about her, is in love with someone else. Don’t you want better for this amazing woman? Yes, I know you do.

Now, after breaking up with Ellie in the most respectful way you can manage, please stop dating other women until either a) you’re dating that friend you’re in love with, or b) you’ve gotten her out of your system.

How do I get over a guy I have to see every day? I have a lingering crush on a man in my grad program, and it’s a pretty small group, so I have to see him in all of our classes. And we share all the same friends. I know it’s generally a bad idea to get involved with someone you work with or have to see often, but it was pretty great for a short while, and I thought things were going well. Unfortunately, he wasn’t ready to jump into a new relationship after getting out of a fairly long one (fair enough). He went with the standard “I hope we can still be friends,” which I know might make a number of ‘Pinners here say “ugh, as if,” but I really do want to be friends with him!

Normally, I would just try to limit contact to try to get over my crush (as most would suggest), except that it’s almost impossible to not be around him at least once a day. I refuse to give up my friends — they’re all great! — but they’re his friends, too. Can you avoid someone and still be in the same room as them? I would really like to stop feeling like I’m tripping over myself around him.

Do I really need to become a social recluse/flee the country, or are there other secrets to stop acting like a total spazoid around this dude?

Okay, in my experience, there are two key ways to stop liking someone (if there are more, I trust that the comments will inform us!). The first — avoiding him at all costs until the feelings go away and/or you like someone new — is out for you, so this is when we go to Plan B: learn to hate him.

I don’t mean you have to hate him a lot, or hate him forever, since maybe you’ll eventually be able to be friends. But since you have to be around him all the time, you need to focus on all of his worst qualities. Is he a terrible tipper? Does he have awful facial hair? Is he always checking his phone? Does he wear pleated pants? This man has faults, and your mission is now to collect as many of them as you can. This way, next time he does something that would normally make you yearn for him some more, you can remind yourself that you can see his nasty nose hairs, and then you can relax a little. Soon, maybe, you’ll come to think of him as a normal person and not that guy you have to be anxious around all the time. Maybe your crush will totally go away, maybe it won’t, but this should at least help you chill out a little. And hey, when you’re noticing how he sweetens his coffee like a 14-year-old, or he drives like a bat out of hell and never signals, it’ll at least give you something else to think about besides yourself and what you’re doing and if he’s noticing you, which is really the thing that makes you so spazzy around him in the first place.

And while no, you don’t have to give up all of your friends … it might be a good idea to find some new friends. The Girl Scouts were right, one is silver and the other gold, and you need some of that silver when you’re in the middle of a tiny social circle. There must be other people at the university and in your wider city that you can be friends with, so that your entire social life doesn’t revolve around one group of people. Study at a different coffee shop, volunteer with a group at a food bank, join a book club, find a Pinup — broadening your social circle is always good, but will be particularly important for you in this case.

I’m 18 and currently a freshman in college. I stayed in-state because it was cheaper, and I go to a school 10 minutes away from my hometown, so I’m still living at home with my parents to save money. The problem is, I’m really unhappy here. I feel like I missed my chance to cut ties, move somewhere different, and actually start life. I really wanted to go to school on the East Coast, but it would have been too much money, and my parents wouldn’t pay for my applications. Now I feel like I’m stuck in arrested development. I keep comparing myself to other kids from my high school and everyone loves their college and is super happy, and it makes me feel even worse. I honestly don’t know what to do, or even what to really ask. Should I just take out loans and transfer somewhere else? Stick it out and try therapy? Please help.

First off, please don’t compare yourself to people you went to high school with. Many of them are anxious, homesick, and lonely, but that’s not what they tell their friends when they’re exchanging stories about how exciting life is in faraway college. So please try to take those stories with a grain of salt.

Second, listen to yourself and figure out what you want to do — I’m almost never one to discourage therapy, but in this case it’s pretty clear what’s upsetting you. You wanted to go to school away from your family and on the (I’m guessing distant from you) East Coast from the beginning, and now you’re basically doing the opposite of that — you’re going to school 10 minutes away and living at home. So your first mission is to move the hell out of your parents’ house. (It’s always going to feel like arrested development when you’re sleeping in your childhood bedroom, eating dinner with your mom and dad, and leaving a note when you’re planning to be out late.) You want to be independent; your first step is finding a new place to live. You live near a university, so there’s probably lots of cheap student housing — look around to see how much everything costs, and then figure out a plan. Consider taking out loans if you need to up front; educational loans are nothing to be scared of (super low interest rates! No paying back until you’re out of school!), and I say that as someone who has a whole lot of student loan debt. If you want to be in as little debt as you can, however, get a job if you don’t already have one — it’s (obviously) another way to be independent, and to meet people who live around you and your school who aren’t people you went to high school with. Or investigate study abroad programs to see if you want to spend a year doing that, and save all the money you can so that you can have a kickass year in Istanbul or Paris or Argentina.

And, finally, study hard so that if you do decide that after moving, finding a job, and throwing yourself into life as a college student in your hometown, you still want to get the hell out of there, you have the grades to transfer somewhere else. And if you read the preceding paragraph, and the thought in your mind was “yeah, I could do all of that, but I just want to transfer and move to the East Coast” — start working on transferring right now. Literally, right now, as soon as you finish reading this paragraph, click over in another tab to the website of a school you wanted to apply to last year but couldn’t, and see when their deadlines are for transfers and what their requirements are (come back after that, though, so you can read the comments). Lots of schools have waivers for their application fees — apply for them. And get that job anyway so you have some money for application fees if your fee waiver applications aren’t approved, and so you can have money in the bank for a plane ticket east. Good luck, we’re rooting for you!

What the heck is the current etiquette for working with a bathroom attendant? I appreciate that some people are doing whatever it takes to make a living, but I can turn on the faucet myself, thank you. Do I give her a dollar out of pity and embarrassment and run away? Do I make eye contact? Or casual conversation? What if I’m very drunk and just yakked in the toilet but did my best to aim toward the bowl?

Some good rules of thumb for treating people in service positions: be polite, and (if appropriate) tip well. And please don’t pity the bathroom attendant or feel embarrassed for her — she may be perfectly cool with her job and see nothing to be pitied for, or she may hate her job (same with all of us), but either way you acting like it’s something to be ashamed of is going to make her feel like shit, and kind of hate you. Just say please and be friendly — no need to tip her if you’re only washing your hands and you didn’t make her job harder, but if you were drunk and your “aim” was maybe not so good, please, please dig deep into your pocket.

Previously: Should I Have That Secret Wedding?

A Coiled Rope is one of several rotating coiled ropes who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Coiled Rope? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by Olivier Le Queinec, via Shutterstock