Exorcism

‘Lo childs! I hope you have successfully performed the solstice rituals pertinent to your local tentacled monstrosity, and that your sacrifices have been accepted with lavish blessings for all. My particular Old One is a lethargic beast who tends to be anywhere from two to four weeks late in showing up to be kowtowed to, so I will be going on vacation next week, over the new year. You’ll hear from me again on Sunday and then after that probably not a lot for a week, although I promise I’ll return with a great deal of sketching to show you. At least some of it might not feature naked ladies, but no promises.

This week I’ve been putting a lot of words into… well, a semi-autobiographical romance? The lengthy backstory to the unlikely epilogue I am currently living, perhaps. My Lady and I used to write together a lot, and I’ve missed it. It’s also somewhat an opportunity to reflect on our constant miscommunications and missteps over the eighteen years we’ve been totally failing to get it together. And an opportunity to channel some horrible shit from my adolescence and perhaps exorcise some ghosts! It’s all very cleansing and emotional, and as usual, I prefer to do that kind of raw, vulnerable self-examination IN NEON LIGHTS IN THE STREET, so here we are.

We gettin naked over here

One of the fun things about writing with someone else is that nobody’s process is the same, or even remotely similar. She tends to plan out stories in detail, and knock them down bit by bit. I avoid planning with a kind of superstition, and treat my writing like summoning a dark god: apply various oils, ungents, spirits and offerings of flesh, and excitement will doubtless result. I find her mild outrage at this… entertaining. It’s all going very well. But be advised that it’s very unfinished, and there are huge bits missing! We’re working on it.

AFS #4: Does insecurity and mental illness make me unlovable?

I found this question from Mr. LordMacbethh on Reddit’s r/RelationshipAdvice, and it made my heart hurt, because I see myself in the question and it’s taken me years to get to the point where I believe I deserve to be loved in spite of my issues. Here it is:

I believe that people with Mental Illnesses and people who are insecure are just as deserving of relationships as everyone else. Of course they shouldn’t let these things negatively affect their partner or significant other.

On flip side, I believe that all of my insecurities and mental illnesses make me unlovable. I’m 19M and gay and I’ve just started talking to someone and I’m concerned that my problems may make me hard to love.


I’ve had many bouts with Anorexia, and that’s something that’s likely to continue. It takes me like 30+ minutes to get dressed and choose my outfit because I want my clothes to fit a certain way to cover my insecurities & I want my clothes to project a certain image. The idea of just putting on clothes or just wearing comfy clothes is completely foreign to me. I’m constantly checking my appearance in mirrors and adjusting things, some of my friends think it’s annoying. I control my diet very seriously and workout a ton. Being shirtless/ nude around a romantic partner makes me really really insecure. I just generally hate my body. I’m also just very insecure about my personality, I’m always concerned I’m not funny enough or too overbearing, etc etc.

I have anxiety, depression, and OCD and they affect me of course. I’d never project them onto my partner or let my issues negatively affect my partner but I would definitely need a partner who is very supportive, empathetic, compassionate, and patient with me. I’m not necessarily controlling, like needing to know where my partner is at all times but if for example my partners behavior was drawing attention I’d get very anxious. I also have a lot of family related trauma. I think these problems would make it hard to be a romantic partner to me.

So my question is, what are your experiences with insecure partners? Can someone with mental illnesses and who is intensely insecure find someone who loves them and can be patient with them or is it likely to constantly be a barrier in their relationships? Any discussion is helpful!

Oh, darlin’. Before I even get started here I want to lay down a blanket statement, and I’d like you to write it down somewhere you can see it and repeat it to yourself for as long as it takes to start getting seriously on your own nerves: You deserve to be loved, protected from harm, and treated well by those around you. No quality you possess, from insecurity to mental illness to a face like a foot, can change that. It’s what you deserve, it’s a fact, and it doesn’t require a lot of data to prove it – I know you deserve love, and I don’t even know your name.

But you’ve got a rough road ahead of you. You know that. You know that growing up as a gay man at this moment in history is still a lot scarier and more isolating than it looks on TV. You know that people, especially men, don’t often treat men’s mental health issues with respect or compassion. You know that the gay community can serve to reinforce body image issues at times, because there are a lot of guys out there very much like you who will try to soothe their own insecurities by needling yours.

None of this is news to you… and yet, you’re not asking, “How can I feel better about myself?” or “How can I find someone who will fix all my problems?” When you look at potential partners, you aren’t thinking of what they can offer you. You’re distressed because you feel like you don’t have much to offer them. And that right there sets you apart from most people, especially most non-neurotypical people your age.

I want you to acknowledge this because the first important thing you can do to protect the people around you from your issues is remember that they are your issues to manage. You’re already doing this. You’re already anticipating the ways your behavior might affect a partner and trying to figure out how to mitigate that on your own, before you even have a partner. So let’s first acknowledge that you’re already ahead of the curve: you are ready to do your own emotional and mental work to get better, not put it on someone else. You are ready to do the best you can to give yourself to someone, not your mental illness. Two things I want you to focus on about that, two things you already believe, because you’re acting as if they’re true:

  1. You are not your mental illness. (Relatedly: you are not your thoughts. You are not your emotions. You are a being inhabited by those things.)
  2. You still get to choose how you act, however shitty those choices may be, and you are responsible for how you treat other people regardless of what problems you may be having.

That is a big-ass deal. Those are some advanced lessons, okay? It took me thirty years to get that far. Some people never do. The attitude that made you ask this question is going to make you a fantastic partner for whomever you choose to be with.

One more thing… I’m not going to nose into your family trauma too much, because you didn’t choose to go into it, but the data points you provide – anorexia, OCD, lack of self-esteem, desire to go unnoticed but still be exactly correct if anyone should notice – they also describe my life, and they paint a kind of picture. I think maybe the reason you think you don’t deserve love is because someone who should have loved you made you feel that way. I think maybe the reason you’re worried nothing about you is good enough is because nothing ever was, once. I hope you’re somewhere else now.

I’ll make some suggestions later on, but for now I just want to tell you that I know some of those people, the people who made you feel that way. They had ’em when I was a kid too. It took me a long time, but I found out that those people are wrong. They’re wrong for days. They’re wrong up one side and down the other, man. They are so wrong they have no idea what’s going on, and you know what else? What’s worse than being stupid, they’re mean. They’re fucking mean! They’re supposed to help you, protect you, love you, and they’re not just hurting you “for your own good” like they say. They are, in fact, doing something that hurts you, something that will never, ever make you better in any way, and they don’t care that it doesn’t work. Hurting you satisfies them.

That kind of person doesn’t know anything you need to hear. That kind of person has nothing to teach you. That kind of person can’t tell you who you are or what you’re worth – they can’t even see you. They only see themselves, so their judgment is meaningless, them projecting their issues on you. I know more about you from the few paragraphs you wrote here than that person knows about you, and I’ll bet they’ve known you for years. I know that you are trying not to burden someone you love with your pain like someone burdened you. I know that at nineteen you’re more of an adult than any of those people, because you’re preparing, with compassion and introspection, to manage yourself like an adult and give a partner something you were never given.

Now that we have established that you’re a catch, son, we can get down to business. To my mind, you just need a couple of things to help you manage your insecurity in a relationship:

1. A therapist

Get thee to therapy. No, I mean it. And I’m talking to all the rest of the class as well, now – everyone can benefit from therapy. We all grew up in a capitalist hellscape that places the value of human life somewhere below that of last year’s iPhone. You don’t have to have any kind of issues to benefit from someone whose job is to listen to you and not judge, to demand nothing, to help you understand yourself better. If you’re poor, I feel it, but you still have options. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a whole division just for helping you find support near wherever you happen to be, and it’s free. If you’re super poor like your gracious host, may I also recommend Medicaid? It’s saved my life, literally. Thanks, Obama! F’real tho, thanks.

An important caveat: trauma makes therapy… difficult. People with trauma often find traditional CBT therapists make them feel more self-critical and aggravate their anxiety. That was certainly my experience. I went through four therapists before I found one who could help me. The keywords you want to look for are “trauma-focused,” “MBCT,” or “EMDR” – those last two are therapeutic methodologies that have been proven effective with people suffering from PTSD or CPTSD. Psychology Today is a really good search tool and my therapist tells me that, at least around here, doctors keep it up to date and respond to it quickly, so it’s probably reliable. It’s okay to dump a therapist if they’re not helping you. Sometimes it takes a while to find someone you can connect with, and that sucks, but you’ll have a leg up if you find someone who understands trauma.

2. Support outside your partner

One way to take some pressure off your partner to be everything in the world to you is to make sure you have other friends, other things to do, a life of your own. This is also a good way to find a partner in the first place! You’re 19, this is your moment to figure out how you want to spend your time generally, so go try stuff. Join groups, take classes, go places. Go do interesting things; you will become more interesting, and there will be interesting people there who might share your interests! Your anxiety and depression will try to make you stay home, and that’s okay – don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. At my best I can manage about one social outing a week, so if that’s what you can handle, that’s just fine, do that. Don’t go with the intention of making a friend, that’s a lot of pressure. Go with the intention of staying for at least twenty minutes and talking to one person. (Person-talking script: “Hey, my name’s Macbethh, what do you like about this thing we’re doing? What got you interested in doing that?” People love to talk about themselves. Ask questions, back off if someone seems unenthusiastic, and you will make a friend.) If you have fun, go again. If you don’t, try it one more time – sometimes it’s just a low day – and then fuck it, try something else.

It sounds like you do have friends, and I suspect that you probably overestimate how annoying you are to them. We tend to assume other people are noticing a lot more about us than they actually are. One strategy I’ve found effective with this kind of insecurity is, when you start wondering what other people are thinking of how you look in some way, ask yourself… the person you’re worrying about, what were they wearing? Did they have cat hair on it? Was it stained? Do you remember their appearance with any kind of detail… or were you so worried about what they were thinking of you that you didn’t notice a damn thing about them? Here’s the big secret of life, seriously: everybody’s that way. Everybody, every single person is so concerned about how they’re fucking up they can’t possibly notice if you’re fucking up. The confirmation bias you have, the memories of people abusing you for your minute fuckups come from a vanishingly tiny minority of assholes, and once you’re an adult, you don’t have to listen to those assholes anymore. You don’t have to nod sagely and go, “Yeah, thanks Dad, I’ll contemplate your drunken wisdom at length once you put the belt away.” When someone says (like they never will in real life), “Hey, stupid, you’ve got a stain on your shirt!”, you know what you can say? “Why are you staring at my chest, weirdo? Fuck off.” You get to say that now. It works now. It’s nobody’s goddamn business but yours what you look like, because you’re an adult. Go out wearing your underpants on the outside like Superman, fuck ’em, what are they actually gonna do?

3. Strategies for advocating for yourself and asking for what you need

Minimizing the harm you do the people around you with your issues is mostly a matter of clear communication – asking for what you need and setting boundaries. Having a therapist and other friends will help you feel the confidence it takes to stand up for your own needs. Remember that whatever you need to feel secure in your own space and your own body is fine – you get to dictate that, and anybody who tells you otherwise is not someone you want to be anywhere near! You get to say, “Hey, I’m working through some stuff around my body image, and right now it’s tough for me to be looked at. Can we have the lights off for a while / you tell me some things you think are attractive about me / you just tell me I look great when you notice me fretting in the mirror?”

Your partner can provide support and do a lot to make you feel sexy and beautiful, but it helps them if you can give them concrete things to do, rather than saying, “I feel bad, please change your behavior till the bad feeling goes away.” In a perfect world, how would they respond to you? If you can figure out what outcome you want, that’s actionable data for your partner. If you can’t… it’s possible you’re just trying to find a source for your bad feelings, but there’s not actually anything your partner could have done differently, and that’s a case where you have to manage those feelings on your own. You can also ask for space to process your feelings, and generally it’s okay to ask for time to recuperate and be alone if you need that. As a mentally ill introvert, I can take about four hours, max, of anybody, even people I love, before I need to go crawl in a hole and not be a person for a while. When I meet people, I say, “I try really hard to be up for fun stuff, but sometimes my brain clobbers me, so if I have to cancel on you for no useful reason sometimes, please know it’s not because I don’t want to be around you, it’s just because I don’t always have the spoons for social interaction with anyone.”

Generally, don’t be afraid to overshare with your partner. If they can’t take it, they are a douche, and I’m sorry, but you might meet a few. It’s getting better; there used to be more. If you’re feeling shitty and you don’t know why, it’s okay to say that. Your partner will be relieved to know you’re not expecting anything specific from them. Being somewhat impaired at expressing my own emotions, my go-to phrase is, “I don’t feel good.” This almost never means a physical illness, it means I don’t feel good; it’s nonspecific and true without feeling too whiny for me to say. “Hey, I don’t feel good, can you snuggle with me for a bit / bring me food / tell me I’m pretty and kiss my face?” Someone who loves you wants to do those things and will leap at any opportunity to do them! They were just sitting there trying to come up with an excuse to kiss your face!

In summary…

This is already lengthier than I intended, so I think it’s time for a TL;DR.

  • You deserve love. You are compassionate, brave, honest and capable of self-analysis. Anyone you choose to be with will be very, very lucky indeed. Don’t ever forget it.
  • Get a therapist who specializes in trauma
  • Spend time with your friends. Do new things, figure out who you are, not just who your depression is. Believe your friends when they tell you they care for you. Dump the friends who don’t and make new ones. Being by yourself is much, much better than being with someone who treats you badly – don’t do like I did and spend all of your 20s putting up with bullshit because you’re afraid to be alone.
  • Ask for what you need, be honest when you don’t know, and give your partner actionable ways to help if you can. It’s okay to ask for compliments! I’m shameless about it, man, I just come in the room all shiny and say, “Hi, tell me how great I am pleeeeease!” Someone who loves you will think it’s adorable.
  • Try very, very hard to perceive it and believe it when someone loves you and is good to you.

That last thing is gonna be important. Your brain lies to you, you know that. It tells you that your friends think you’re annoying. It will tell you that your partner doesn’t want to be with you, that they hate you, that they’re fucking someone else, someone more attractive, more experienced, whatever. Your brain is going to tell you a shit-ton of lies. Most of the time it’ll be telling you that your life sucks a lot more than it actually does. The only way you’ll have a chance is if you try very hard to see the stuff your brain is pretending doesn’t exist: your successes, your talent, your beauty, the love and kindness other people offer you. Your depression can make you totally overlook those things even when they’re right in front of your face. My therapist once had to tell me I’d done a “good job” three times before I actually absorbed it and felt a glimmer of pride. She was talking right to me and I couldn’t hear her, because my brain doesn’t want to believe that I can do a good job. Your brain doesn’t want to believe that you’re gorgeous, funny, interesting, lovable… but you are. You are. You really, really are. Find someone who will tell you as many times as it takes for you to hear it and believe it. You deserve that, and so much more.

90 – Never Stop

This one has some cool lines in it but I don’t feel like it came together very well. Sometimes the leaps in association I make are a little larger than other people are comfortable with and it results in me looking incoherent. That’s a great excuse for being a blithering idiot, I know; how’s it working out?

At any rate, it’s kind of about my marriage, by way of Ursula Le Guin. My wife and I disagree constantly, but not about anything important – we fight about story structure and game mechanics and language and interpretations of TV shows, but never about money, or parenting, or values, or honesty. We’re very different in our expression but very similar in our underlying structure, like when you go inside a house in a subdivision and realize it’s got the same floor plan as yours.

One of the deepest foundations we share is a sense of identity as someone who perseveres. We are both never-say-die types, a tank/damage combo that has jumped from MMO to shooter to brawler to tabletop and back, infuriating teammates with our refusal to “just surrender and let’s move on.” She’ll taunt the boss without thinking if a healer screams, even if she’s got ten percent health left herself. I’ll be your top DPS and it won’t be because my gear’s good, it’ll be because I’m the only person still shooting when everyone else is dead and the boss is charging at my face. We’ve both spent our lives getting in trouble for never knowing when to stop.

There’s a kind of safety in that, from a relationship perspective. When I’m afraid, lonely, despairing, sometimes it feels like I’m in a space like the land of the dead that Ursula Le Guin describes in the Earthsea books – a dry, barren place, infinite miles of grinding rocks and bare dust, no borders, no light, no kindness, no mercy, no way to go back. All you can do is go on, into the dark, toward the other shore… which doesn’t exist.

In that place, where all you can do is push forward, keep walking on bloody stumps… the only joy in the world is someone who keeps walking with you. Someone you never have to worry will fall behind, drop to the ground, leave you alone. To not have to do it alone means so much. To know for certain, like gravity, a fact of the universe, that neither of us will give up. We will never stop while it’s within our power to keep going. Unlike Orpheus and Eurydice, no one needs to look back in doubt. If the distance between us can be devoured by effort alone, it’s nothing, and always will be nothing.

“Soul Clap Hands,” July 2006

The river got higher;
all the fish drowned.
We hit rock bottom and started digging,
hanged the navigator from the rigging,
tested our wings in vaults underground.

There’s a low wall at the top of the hill;
most people don’t go much further than that,
give up on escaping right off the bat –
what’s another millennium to kill?

You never fail to find me in the dark.
I never fear I’ll turn around and find
me out of your sight
you out of your mind
nothing’s heavier than someone else’s heart.
I won’t go back, and somehow you don’t mind –
love, like chair legs, stands best a bit apart.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

79 – Naked

I gotta get back at the Shadowplay rewrite, if only because the world is always and perpetually lacking for decent queer love stories and erotica, and Keshena is a person who, ahem… gets around. She has some of the same issues relating to women that I do, obviously, as she’s the poor puppet I invented to try out all my neuroses on. This one is from her perspective, but it has some of my own wistfulness in it.

Sometimes – especially if you are, like most of our congregants, a little fucked-up – and please, join the cult, take a taco – sometimes, you feel like the kindest thing you can do is spare someone the burden of knowing you. Sometimes you meet someone so arresting that all you can think is, “If I touch that, I’m gonna ruin it.” When you encounter someone from outside your little bubble of trauma and toxic people and mental illness, someone who doesn’t live in that world, you feel like a filthy animal on someone’s white carpet, terrified to move in case you destroy everything you touch.

I stayed away from women for a long time because I felt like that. It seemed like my love did people harm. An old friend who didn’t make it out of the Well once aimed a finger and a Texan laugh at me and said, “You got a head fulla bad machinery, darlin’.” And I do. This old thing don’t work right, and it will definitely leave oil stains on your sheets.

The fact is, it can be shocking to see a wound. Most people don’t like to without a little bit of warning. But it doesn’t harm them to see it, and it isn’t a sin to share your pain with someone, so long as they consent. In the words of Spider Robinson, trouble shared is trouble halved. When I am brave enough to stay, to be honest, to be naked… generally people aren’t as scared of what they see as I thought they’d be. Generally they’re a lot less scared of what I have hidden than I am.

Eyes on the ground, my creaking back is bent
from rolling stones down the hill behind me,
burning memories so they can’t find me.
But somehow, I sense this dream is different.

The ground is sticky for creatures like me.
This craft can only get airborne one time.
Just take your moment when our wings align,
and slip into the next cheap memory.

What if we were to stay this time instead?
What if we made a promise that we kept?
What if when the lady wakes up in bed
she isn’t alone with the tears she wept –
not just another notch above our head
not to retreat when we’re out of our depth?

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

61 – Prism

I don’t mean to be one of those guys, but I was dating people on the internet before it was cool. It was decidedly UNcool when I was doing it, and the way I was doing it, by the standards of my parents and the wider culture at the time. I was one of those fifteen-year-old girls who got ensnared by the internet and started flirting with thirty-year-old men in the form of orcs and strapping hero lads, is what I’m sayin’.

Nothing really horrible ever happened, though. I’m not saying all of those relationships went well, even the ones that got as far as an in-person meeting (not until I was nineteen and living on my own). But they went bad for the same reasons they would have gone bad had I met these people somewhere other than MUDs and IRC rooms and WoW – because we were different ages, or because we were both teenagers and breathtakingly stupid, or because we couldn’t ever quite figure each other out. I never met anyone who substantially lied about their appearance or age. I never met anyone who tried to deceive me in any substantial way, until I looked too hard into the bottom of a bottle toward the end. Even that could have gone much worse. Lies weren’t the worst of him – it was when he said what we both thought was true that he hurt me the most.

The internet has largely been kind to me, in terms of helping me find my people. I’ve had many long nights of feeling that needy knot in my chest like an ember, watching for the message window flash, lifting freezing fingers from the keyboard to press them against my burning cheeks. I’ve also had many moments of standing in the airport, or at the bus station, or on one side of my front door, holding my breath and staring into a pair of eyes I’ve never seen before, searching them for someone I love.

Most of the time, what I find looks nothing like what I thought I fell in love with. But that can be the incredible thing about being with a person over time, if you can let them – and yourself – change and grow independently: every day you find a new way to love each other. Every day it’s a new dish in your favorite flavor.

Of course polyamory helps with this, helps you find takers for your other flavors that your partner isn’t into. Cause sometimes you’re like, “Oh, I love that, but not with noodles,” and then they can be like, “Oh that’s cool, I’ll just find someone else who wants my noodle then, you’re still into the sauce tho?” and then you’re all, “Yeah totally, just load me up with that, you know what I like, baby,” and then you both get thrown out of the Cheesecake Factory but it’s a really positive relationship moment anyway.

“Ne Me Quitte Pas,” September 2007

I often fall in love with people’s words.
It takes some time, if we should finally meet
to match the words to the person I see,
hear your words in a voice I’ve never heard.

Sometimes I worry that it won’t happen,
I’ll look into your eyes and feel nothing,
or I won’t recognize you in your skin,
but can’t tell what just what it is you’re lacking.

It’s not like that, though. Like hearing covers
of a song I love, like seeing you wear
different dresses, or when you dye your hair.
One body, a thousand different lovers.
You show up in my dreams and my nightmares,
bringing a new treasure to uncover.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

23 – Afterimage

It’s a breakup poem! I don’t want to spoil the story by saying who it’s about, but it’s from Shadowplay. There’s a lot of heartbreak in that one, I’m afraid. It’s actually mostly heartbreak. And drugs. They say every painting is a self-portrait, right?

I don’t go to your side of town these days.
The glutinous air in the afternoon
smells like the incense you kept in your room.
You’ve stolen this city in all kinds of ways.

On paper I can’t add up what went wrong.
I took down each word that you said, you see,
then add in the answers you got from me –
of course I have to bring my notes along!

You scarred each sense with your silhouette.
Each bottle of your favorite beer haunted,
a heart attack in the sound of each step,
each kind touch a blow to nerves you taunted.
Can’t square up all the sorries and regrets
Can only hope you found what you wanted.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

Phrases That Make Me Swipe Left

and other reasons your online dating profile is not getting you laid

I am an attractive young white person who enjoys travel, long walks on the beach, and being a real human who definitely exists.

Once you’ve been doing the online dating thing for a bit, whatever app or service you use, your eyes start to glaze over. Especially if you’re femme-shaped, you see people calling for attention all day long, every day of the year, until they all start to look the same. The same happy, pretty pictures, the same generic phrases about work and play, the same copy-pasted, low-effort messages so nobody gets caught caring too much about the outcome… This will not do. For your own sanity, you have got to establish some hard-and-fast criteria for eliminating people.

The basic stuff, of course — a certain age bracket you’re comfortable with, certain red-flag topics that you definitely will not agree on, maybe you’re not into blondes or beards — that’s the first level of filtering. But you’ve done that, and you still have thirty-five dick pics to sort through. It’s time to get petty. Here are a few minor sins that will instantly send a profile to the nega-zone left of the phone, to languish forever among the bigots and catfish.

1. Headless chest or ab pics

If I see a beheaded bathroom-mirror shot of your sunken chest one more time, Trevor, I’m going to track down your Facebook and tell your mom how you’re acting on the internet. Here’s a pro-tip, straight men: women don’t give a shit about your abs. They really, really don’t. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve all got one Edge Case Bobbie in memory, one woman who was literally only into you because she saw your rippling pecs in her dreams, but that doesn’t change the reality. Statistically, women look at men’s faces first—when you ask women what features they find attractive in men, sure, chest and abs will be on the list, but they won’t be at the top. The top of the list is always a sampling of the following in random order: eyes, hands, arms, smile, facial hair. That’s what women look at, and men, that’s not news. We’ve been telling you this for decades. You know women aren’t as interested in your abs as in your face, and yet you continue to offer me pictures of your naked torso that cut off at your clavicles. You know what that says to me? It says you’re arrogant and self-involved, more concerned with enhancing your ego than sharing who you are with me. Hard pass.

2. “NO FAKES! Sick of being friendzoned. I value: loyalty! Honesty! THIS MEANS YOU.”

Listen. I know online dating is tough for men. I get that there are a lot of scammers and catfishers out there, I do. But you don’t need to dump all your resentment on every new person you meet. When you lead with aggressive, wounded warnings, when your profile is a laundry-list of what you don’t like and don’t want, it makes me wonder why you’re not writing anything about yourself. Is the huge chip on your shoulder the most attractive part of you? Are you interested in anything but your own pain and anger? If we go on a date and it doesn’t work out, will you add an all-new passive-aggressive rant about “people like me” at the bottom of your profile?

Don’t make the next person you interact with responsible for what the last person did, and don’t lead with your resentment. It’s one thing to express reasonable frustration about how tough online dating is for men. It’s another thing entirely to conclude that women are to blame for all your suffering, and they need to fix it by having sex with you.

3. “Things I can’t live without: air, food. I’m really good at: being myself. What I’m doing with my life: living it.”

Yeah, yeah, you’re hilarious. Just like the last ninety-five people who made that joke. It’s a dad joke, and unless you’re a dad, you need to let them have it. If you are a dad, you need to stop trying to date people the same age as your kids. Just sayin’.

4. “If I say too much here, what’s the point of getting to know each other? Just ask me anything you want to know.”

Both men and women pull this one, and it’s extremely rude. If you’re on a dating app or site that uses long-form written profiles, (and if you’re not, why are you reading this? Go back to waving your penis at innocents on Tinder) that means that all the people you’re trying to attract have put effort into their profile. Why did they do that? To help you. To give you things to talk to them about, to assist you in starting a conversation, to help you know ahead of time if you want to rule them out entirely. People aren’t writing these profiles for their fucking health. They did all that work to make your life easier before you even showed up, and the very least you can do is make the bare minimum of effort to fill out your profile. If you have so little personality that you’re able to spoil all of it in a box marked “What I’m doing with my life,” I promise you, we’ll be bored before dinner arrives regardless, because you are a boring person.

5. “I love to laugh.”

Holy shit, where have you been all my life? I’ve spent years surrounded by dour human Eeyores who cry out in physical pain when I crack a joke! I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed laughing before; you must be a unicorn!

If you’re saying you have a great sense of humor, fine — just say that. If you’re saying you like your partners to make you laugh a lot, that’s fine too! Use your words. But “I love to laugh” is right up there with “I’ve been eating every day since I was a kid” and “I would rather not be killed” in terms of telling your audience anything about you.

6. “I hate to lose.”

Another rare beast! Where do they keep finding all these mutants who don’t enjoy coming in second? I can’t be bothered with that; I prefer to surround myself with career losers, the kind of people who actively seek out failure and revel in it. I find they’re much more interesting.

The thing about someone who “hates to lose” is… they’re seeing losing as a blow to their ego, an entirely unproductive event that diminished them. They don’t see losing as an opportunity to learn, an attempt during which they gained experience and skill, or a genuine acknowledgement of someone else’s ability. They just see it as injury, an attack on their perception of themselves as a “winner.” Do you know anyone else who talks about “winning” all the time? Who needs very much to convince you that they are a “winner” but doesn’t have any actual wins to show you? Almost presidential behavior, wouldn’t you say? Swipe left.

7. Your Myers-Briggs type

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Myers-Briggs is pseudoscience. It’s loosely based on untested, inconclusive work by Carl Jung, it‘s stunningly unreliable, inconsistent, and incomplete even for the purpose it purports to serve, and it indicates nothing about you except what you would like to believe you are. Myers and Briggs were not psychologists and didn’t learn the psychometric testing techniques they used to back up their theory until after publishing the theory — in other words, they decided what they wanted to believe about human nature and then went out to find data that agreed with them. Between a third and half of the published material on the Myers-Briggs test has been produced specifically by the Center for the Application of Psychological Type, which provides training in the test and is funded by sales of the test. There is no evidence that this test relates to reality in any meaningful way. Myers-Briggs is a horoscope for people who think they’re too smart for horoscopes.

8. “I can’t see likes/I don’t pay money for this service, so just message me!”

Okay, class, eyes up here. Clearly I need to explain this shit, because no one seems to understand how this system works and that it’s working as intended.

Most dating apps use some permutation of the “like” and “friend” structure. In this structure, you can “like” or “favorite” someone you’re interested in, and “friend” or send them a message if you really want to get their attention and are willing to make the first move. When someone you’ve liked also swipes right on you, you’re both given a notification of that, to prompt you to start a conversation.

This means that the function of the “like” button is to indicate that you’re open to interacting with a person in a low-pressure way. We know you can’t see it — 99% of users do not pay money for these services; we can’t see the likes either. That’s not what they’re for. If you could see them, they wouldn’t be low-pressure. If someone isn’t brave enough to message you, they also wouldn’t use likes if they thought you could see them regardless of your interest. Online dating tends to appeal to people who find face-to-face interactions more intimidating — for this reason, dating apps have geared the service toward allowing you to put yourself out there without risking rejection, only interacting with people who have deliberately chosen you. This is a good thing. You don’t want everyone to see you, you want people who want you to see you. The only way you lose in this scenario is if your dating strategy was the shotgun copy-pasted message spammed at everything with tits, and sorry not sorry, if that’s you, you are the problem.

9. “I like watching Netflix.”

Do you get that this is the modern equivalent of saying, “I like watching TV”? What are you trying to say? You enjoy watching moving images, just any kind? Will a screensaver do? Maybe you’re a huge devotee of the Netflix corporation specifically? What if I don’t have Netflix, do you like watching anything else, or will you walk out if you see the Hulu logo? Please, I’m begging you, go get a personality. There are plenty on Netflix, just pick one.

10. “I love to travel.”

Nope. Nobody loves to travel. I’d believe you if you said, “I love traveling to relaxing beaches,” or “I love exploring Buddhist sanctuaries,” or “I loved all those years I spent hitchhiking in Europe,” but I do not for a second believe that you enjoy sitting in airports, carrying luggage, exchanging currency, worrying about your phone service, or driving long distances with someone you got sick of eight hours ago. Perhaps you’d like to tell me why you like traveling? Where you’ve been and why you picked that place? What you saw there? Because when you say, “I love traveling,” all you’ve told me is, “I’ve been privileged enough to travel a lot, and I intend to maintain that level of privilege if at all possible.” Cool story, bro. We’re all very envious. Sure is a shame you didn’t learn anything on your travels.

11. “I think outside the box.”

No, you don’t.