“Tens,” Office Racism, and a Molehill

by A Lady

1. I’m seeking your advice regarding how to deal with words said in anger. During a fight, my boyfriend of nearly a year basically told me that his friends are “surprised” he’s dating me, which I took to mean that they think he’s traded down, that I’m uglier than he is. He then proceeded to say he can’t help the fact that all of his exes are “tens” and that he was attracted to my non-physical qualities.

He knows that I’m insecure about my appearance, and even though he’s told me on other occasions that he thinks I’m beautiful, I’m having a tough time letting go of what he said. Partly this is because while he’s apologized, he won’t admit that he called me plain. While I know I should dismiss the comments, I can’t help but feel that he agrees with his friends. I don’t exactly need more reasons to feel bad about myself. A Lady, how can I move on from this?

Oh no. I’m so sorry. Cruel things said in anger are terrible, and they can never quite be unsaid or fully recovered from. (Although sometimes they make character-building scars. Or, something something silver lining.) You’re a good person, though, for not being tempted to share with him that you can’t help the fact that all your exes were not only more generously endowed but more sexually gifted in general, and that the only times you can come are when you’re pretending he’s Jeff. Or Luke. Or Bob.

Anyway, so that was good of you. But I’m going to spiral backward from the only things you’ve said about your boyfriend, which are that 1) rather than admit he’s wrong or otherwise graciously bow out of a fight, he’s capable of indulging his insecurity and fighting dirty, seeking out one of your most emotionally vulnerable spots to dig into. And that 2) he has — or claims to have — really unpleasant (and, I’m guessing, very young) friends. So, he’s either very young and not much of a catch, or not so young and really not much of a catch. But who knows — maybe he’ll get better as the years go on.

You don’t have to break up with him, obviously (who am I to tell you what to do? Just kidding — *wields magical sword of action*), but from here it looks not so great. The good(ish) news, though, is that ultimately it’s worse for him than it is for you. Because while you’re hurting now, he’s currently stuck being a childish coward. (Alternately: we’re all humans who have low moments, and maybe there’s more to this situation than a 200-word description can provide.)

So, if you want to stay with him and move past it — and this might sound a little New Age-y, but I’m just going to go for it — I’d say stop trying to make him admit that he called you plain (nothing to gain there!), and start pitying him and his friends. Not to his face, but lightly, warmly, inwardly. It’ll give you a powerful glow. And the glow will get stronger and stronger, and he’ll sense it, and become increasingly entranced/intimidated. And then eventually you won’t like him much anymore, I’m predicting. Because power is beautiful, and can act as an interesting if unpredictable balm. Aaand I’m worried I sound like a crazy witch, but hopefully something somewhat useful is coming across.

2. My boss is super racist and it’s creating a whole new layer to the shitty cake that is my job. I made the mistake of telling her that I wasn’t a big Obama fan (I left out the part that it’s because he isn’t progressive enough), and she took that as her cue to start hating on all black people. I figured the shocked look on my face and my total lack of contribution to the conversation would be her cue that I’m not “like that” (i.e., a racist), but she didn’t get the hint. The floodgates for her hate speech have been opened, and I am desperate for her to shut the hell up.

So here are my questions:

A. Is there anything I can say to this relatively crazy woman? Can I ask her politely to stop with the racist remarks in my presence without embarrassing her to the point of firing me?

B. Any coping strategies for a super toxic work environment? I know that finding a new job would be the best solution, and I can assure you that I’m working on it.

I know this issue’s a little heavy, but I need real advice. Not your standard “Go tell HR” advice (we don’t have HR, it’s a small company and I need this job). Any advice is much appreciated.

The best person I can think of to answer this question is Andrew Ti, of the very funny and smart site Yo Is This Racist. So I sent it over to him, and he very kindly responded. Here’s what he had to say:

At this point, it seems like the best thing to do would be to make an actual record (i.e., direct quotes, date and time, and who else was there), of every time she says some actually racist shit. Even if you don’t end up using it in any way, that record is probably the only ammunition you have in this messed up situation. Hopefully even gathering that information will help you feel a little less helpless and stuck in your situation, while you try to get the fuck out of there, and it could give you some kind of leverage when things come to a head.

But in the meantime, if you honestly don’t think there isn’t any way to confront her without getting fired (I’m wary that you seem concerned about embarrassing her, which, let’s be real, it’s sad that anyone even hesitates for a second to embarrass racists), you’re going to have to bear it, and just keep working on getting a new job. If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone if having to grit your teeth at the frankly astonishing amount of racist shit that all of us have to overlook in order to function in society.


3. A bit of context: I’m Australian, in my very early twenties, and last year my very best friend Kate had her best friend from England (“Harry”) came to live with her for two months. To cut a long story short, this is more or less what happened:

He left but we kept talking, every day, for the rest of the year. I think about him all the time, I miss him a lot, and he is coming back to Australia in September. Though there are other reasons (his friend lives here! It’s a beautiful country!) I’m pretty sure he is mainly doing this for me.

Obviously we live very far away from one another in normal life, so we didn’t try to stay together after he left. I have, however, been dating, but no one has really lived up to this dude … until this new guy, Bruce. He is funny, smart, entirely lovely, so pretty that it hurts a little, and, most importantly, lives in my country 365 days a year. We’ve only just started seeing each other, but I feel like this could be something fairly serious.

Do I wait for Harry — like I’ve been doing almost all year? We haven’t made any explicit promises to each other, but there’s an underlying assumption that we’ll be together when he comes over again. I have really strong feelings for him … but he lives so far away! Is it a completely dog act to have a boyfriend when he comes over? Should I tell him before he does? Am I making mountains out of English boys? Help me please!!

I’m now envisioning a heap of English boys, you crouched on top, feral, a strip of rugby shirt between your teeth. Get it, girl!

No, but you don’t have any obligations to anyone. Although if you start dating Bruce exclusively, it’d probably be the honorable thing to let Harry know before he sells all his belongings in exchange for a one-way ticket and a long-stemmed rose. But he’s his own person, making his own choices, having his own adventures, and if you haven’t talked specifically about being together when he arrives, there’s nothing he can really fault you for. Plus, there are plenty of nice Brucettes out there for him, too, if things don’t work out between you two.

PS — Do you think Sandy and Danny made that sandcastle themselves, or do you think it was some little kid’s? Either way is a little strange.

4. I’ve been dealing with an emotional quagmire concerning my ex-boyfriend and his current girlfriend. I broke up with said ex-boyfriend two years ago, but we continued fucking and remained emotionally involved for at least six months after that. Basically, I cheated on him, broke his heart, continued to involve myself with him while stomping on all of those broken pieces of his heart until he finally got it together and told me it was over.

He started dating a girl I had become good friends with post-breakup, who I confided in and looked to for advice. She and I lived together the summer before I moved to a foreign country and he came over often and things were generally unpleasant/awful. I hated seeing him and I felt betrayed by her. I’ve been away for almost a year now and I have visited home once. I saw the ex and the girlfriend a few times — she and I got brunch and were friendly, but I didn’t enjoy seeing her very much. I saw him twice and he avoided making eye contact or engaging in a conversation past “hello.” These people live in the same building as my hometown best friends and thus are fairly unavoidable during trips home. I’m going back again in a couple of weeks and I’m getting really anxious about it.

The thing is, that no matter how much I rationalize things to myself I still get incredibly worked up over these people. I’ve tried to be zen and let it go — on my last trip home I reached out to both of them to get coffee and talk separately, he turned me down and she and I had the aforementioned awkward brunch. My interactions with them made everything worse. I’m totally blinded by irrational hatred and jealousy. They’re both good friends with one of my best friends from home, and it makes me feel jealous and insecure about my friendship with him, especially because I live so far away and we don’t talk as often as I’d like. Besides that specific point, they generally make my blood boil and kind of ruin my day when I see them or even think about them.

The weird thing about all of this is that I’m really, really, REALLY happy to not be dating this guy anymore. He has serious self-esteem problems that manifest in intellectual elitism and general snobbery, and on top of all that the sex was pretty bad. He’s not a bad guy, and he wasn’t a terrible boyfriend, but it was not a relationship worth staying in. I’ve been with the best guy ever for about a year who makes me incredibly happy and gives me amazing orgasms. So WHY do I still get so worked up over these stupid people who don’t even live in the same hemisphere as me??? How can I work through these feelings? I’ve been trying and I can’t figure it out. Please help!

How can you work through which feelings? Your frustration that someone you cheated on doesn’t feel like indulging your selfish desire to … what exactly? Prove to yourself that you’ve still “got it” and could break them up if you wanted? Or your annoyance that your old friend doesn’t want to spend much time with the woman who broke her boyfriend’s heart?

The answer to both of these, and to the “quagmire,” is to leave these people alone. What do you possibly hope to gain? Break off all contact, sever Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/whatever connections, and let them do their thing while you savor your many amazing orgasms.

Previously: Smoking Alternatives, Troubled Parents, and the Unappealing Business Trip.

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

Photo by Ina Schoenrock, via Shutterstock