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Oh, Slay Me With Your Flattery
If you want free advice from me, be a little bit patient. I know it's shocking to consider, but there's some chance that my world does not revolve around waiting for you to e-mail me with the details you failed to give me the first, second, and third time around.

It goes like this: It's Friday, July 20. The guy writes me for advice. He omits the essential detail from his e-mail -- exactly what was the mysterious lie he told his girlfriend that's making her refuse to speak to him? His question:

How do you make it up to a woman who is so mad at me, she will only talk to me through email? I lied to her in a big way and she found out about it.

I write back:

What was the lie? And tell me the details of your relationship - how long together, how old you are, how old she is, how committed you were, etc. Please copy this entire e-mail into your reply.

He writes back, still omitting essential details. I write back to him again:

Why did you do this? Please try to give me all the important details. I'd like to help you, and if you give me the essential information instead of making me ask you piece by piece, it's much easier for me. Please copy this entire e-mail into your reply. Best,-Amy

He writes back:

Tell me how this works. I don't want to give too many identifying details. Is this private (email only) or are you looking for something juicy to publish? How will I know if it is published? Are there release papers to sign?

I write back, Monday, 4:59 p.m.:

Look, either tell me or don't tell me. But why write to me if you're going to have me get thinking about this, and then you're going to get all squeamish? I may publish it, I may not. I don't identify people who write to me by name. You'll get the answer via e-mail if you actually follow through on giving me the information. Why write to me if you have reservations? I'm not psychic, so I can't answer a question without enough background information to tell me what the problem was.

So, finally he gives me the information, why he pretended he didn't have money when he was actually hiding a bag of cash (according to him, his girlfriend was something of a spendthrift). While I answered his earlier e-mails right away, by the time his e-mail with actual information in it came, I was on deadline.

I woke up at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, finished my column at 3:15 p.m., then started opening e-mails. Oddly, there were two from him, one with the details behind his question -- sent at 8 a.m., Tuesday, and another sent at 8:10 a.m. Apparently, he was peeved that I didn't answer his 8 a.m. e-mail milliseconds after he'd sent it. I guess he thought he'd insult me into responding:

I have to warn you: I think it is unfair to you, for me to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

Well, I'm all for fair. I wrote back:

Glad to know you feel that way. In that case, I'll let you answer your question yourself.

Posted by aalkon at July 26, 2007 1:04 PM

Comments

I guess with "Goddess" in your title, he figured you have access to a magic wand. And infinite amounts of time.

Posted by: doombuggy at July 26, 2007 2:41 AM

Sounds like a very odd reply. Almost sounds like two different people wrote the e-mail. It's odd that someone would go from defensive (not telling you what lie was) to offensive (insulting). He could just be a nut case. You kind of have to be tweaked to get offensive with the person you asked for help in the first place.

Posted by: vlad at July 26, 2007 6:09 AM

I'm shocked, simply SHOCKED that someone like this would have relationship problems.

Totally stunned.

Posted by: Shinobi at July 26, 2007 6:29 AM

Sounds very passive-agressive to me.

Posted by: Flynne at July 26, 2007 6:30 AM

Maybe he's Bartender-Funbags-Nurse's boyfriend! Oh wait, BFN wouldn't deny herself funding out of principle. If BFN loses her sugar daddy, Amy, maybe you can steer her to this LW, who will then have a more responsive girlfriend :-).

Posted by: DaveG at July 26, 2007 6:45 AM

Such weird people out there!

Posted by: kishke at July 26, 2007 7:56 AM

They all write to me. I'll probably answer this guy's question, but it's certainly been kicked to the back of the line.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 26, 2007 8:02 AM

People in my business (voice recordings) have noticed time and time again that the clients who are insist on spending the least are the most demanding.

What the fuck, man.

Posted by: Deirdre B. at July 26, 2007 8:50 AM

That's a pretty old insult. I'm inclined to think he intended that email for someone else.

Let's see...lying about money that you have stashed away. Really depends on the relationship. How much do they own jointly? Personally, I think opening joint bank accounts and dumping all your capital in it is a HUGE mistake.

I'd be inclined to say that she really has no business being peeved about the fact that he has money set aside in his name only (unless he's taking from any mutual accounts they have). That's entirely his business and no one else's. Not even hers. On the other hand, he lied about it.

Should have been up front. "Yes, I have my own bank account with some funds set aside, and that's all I'm going to say about it."

Pressed for details, he should simply state that he prefers not to discuss it. If she insists...well, time for a new girlfriend, dude.

Posted by: Patrick at July 26, 2007 9:00 AM

That's a pretty old insult. I'm inclined to think he intended that email for someone else.

No, there was more. It was clearly meant for me.

And I find that people who aren't funny but like to think they are tend to have a few stock bits like that that they throw out...whether or not they actually fit the situation.

That's the difference, by the way, between wit and humor. Wit takes intelligence -- it's spontaneous, creatively applied humor. Geoffrey Miller writes about how it's a sign of mate value. Merely telling jokes isn't an attractor of women in the same way (it can even backfire). It doesn't indicate intelligence, merely memorization, and the need to trot out memorized jokes, I would say, diminishes a man in a woman's eyes.

FYI, when people say they're looking for somebody with a sense of humor, women are looking for somebody to make them laugh, men are looking for somebody to laugh at their jokes. Funny women do not do that well in the mating market.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 26, 2007 9:50 AM

I wrote you about a problem I had with my (now ex) boyfriend two, maybe three years ago, Amy. Not only did you reply within a day, you gave me some side advice about the situation that eventually proved to be spot-on. This guy will never know what he missed.

Posted by: Rebecca at July 26, 2007 11:04 AM

Thanks, Rebecca, for pointing that out. I do try to answer all my mail, although sometimes I'm just so deluged e-mails slip by me. People who write adequately detailed e-mails, but not of War & Piece length, and not in all caps, etc., are the easiest to respond to, and I can usually eke out an answer even if I'm tired. I love what I do, and I love answering mail, thinking about and solving problems, and helping people, but some people who write to me don't make it enjoyable or easy. And I especiallly love the sense of entitlement some people feel for something they aren't paying for. Quite frankly, I use a tiny percentage of the letters I answer for my column.

P.S. My personal favorites are people who send me e-mails expecting advice but tell me I can't use the letters for my column. Again, most people's problems aren't that interesting, and won't make it into my column, but I'd like people to approach this with the sense that I should at least be allowed to get something out of advising them.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 26, 2007 11:39 AM

I remember being pretty amazed at your speedy reply, Amy. I had never written to an advice columnist before, so I had no expectations. I was pleasantly surprised at your fast and friendly service. Best of all, you agreed with my course of action in the matter. And, like I mentioned, offered an additional bit of wisdom about something not related to the major issue--sort of like an extra marachino cherry atop the sundae of free (Hello, jerky guy? It's free.) advice!

Posted by: Rebecca at July 26, 2007 1:27 PM

Actually, now that I think about it, when I emailed you, you got back to me in less than an hour. I even made it to your column, actually. Mine was "Happily Clever After."

Posted by: Patrick at July 26, 2007 3:10 PM

"And I find that people who aren't funny but like to think they are tend to have a few stock bits like that that they throw out...whether or not they actually fit the situation."

A little too much information!

Posted by: Jim Treacher at July 26, 2007 3:15 PM

"Funny women do not do that well in the mating market."

Very, very, true.

Posted by: PurplePen at July 26, 2007 3:40 PM

I never realized that advice columnists answer the letters they aren't printing. Is it only you or is this everyone in your field?

Posted by: kishke at July 26, 2007 4:37 PM

Me.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 26, 2007 4:44 PM

Nice.

Posted by: kishke at July 26, 2007 6:22 PM

I think this guy I fuck emailed you a few weeks ago. He always sees me cracking up reading this site. I am pretty sure you responded because he has finally quit trying to argue with me about why marriage is the morally superior way of life. I want to thank you for whatever you said. He's been fucking more and speaking less. My life has improved significantly.

Posted by: kg at July 26, 2007 6:39 PM

I hope so! I think I know which e-mail you mean, too. Only wish I could find it. Once they go, they go. I don't save them. As it is, I'm being driven out of my house by books, journals, and studies.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 26, 2007 9:34 PM

AMY, MY LIFE SUX HELP MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

No, of course I'm not going to tell you any details. And you can't print this in your column. But I demand help! Right now! Stop talking to your boyfriend and petting Lucy and ANSWER ME! Or else!

...yeah, alas, I've found in life that some people just don't value what they can get for free, even if that free thing is, in fact, valuable. That doesn't mean I think you should start charging for your advice...just that you should keep posting about the really obnoxious letter-writers so that the rest of us can blow off steam laughing at them.

Posted by: marion at July 26, 2007 9:36 PM

"Glad to know you feel that way. In that case, I'll let you answer your question yourself."

Such a sly vixen. You left him with exactly what he was wanting to avoid: a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

Posted by: GPE at July 27, 2007 11:48 AM

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