On Aging Gracelessly, Simple Men, & Little Guys

Do not go gentle into that good light.

Attempting the Impossible (1928) by Rene Magritte

After a few months of feeling pretty off my game, I’ve written some new stuff that’s mostly free, so I thought I’d include links here.

First, I wrote about the inherently undermining concept of “aging gracefully” for The Cut:

“Whenever someone on social media or in a glossy fashion magazine refers to the fine art of growing old gracefully, I remember a wedding I attended many years ago. I was sipping a cocktail before the ceremony when a man with a head like a grouper observed that I looked completely different since I’d had two kids. He fixed me with one fish eye stuck in the side of his head like a Picasso painting and told me that just a few years earlier I had been very hot indeed, but now? Utterly unremarkable. ‘You gained weight, sure, but that’s not all,’ he gurgled. ‘Your face isn’t the same. Like I didn’t even recognize you.’ His gills hissed and spat out seawater as he laughed, spattering my dress with little bits of seaweed and foam from the tides.”

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A reader reminded me of this prehistoric Ask Polly from my old blog (The Rabbit Blog!) that’s one of my favorites. It’s about the problem of dating men who are too simple for you. Easy, right? Just don’t date them! But simple men can be extremely seductive and alluring, even when they can’t handle 90% of what you have to say and they literally don’t know who Bob Dylan is:

“Bob Dylan himself might not care that much about Bob Dylan. And even if you sighed and took a sip of your beer and looked at him and thought, "My god, we are so very different and it made you a little depressed, it might also make you want to kiss him, right then and there.”

Simple men are a recurring challenge for some of us! This foreshadowing of Ask Polly is good enough to be recycled here in full, but for now go read it on my ancient internet sea scroll.

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My evil twin Molly wrote about Little Guys - you know the ones, because they’re everywhere. But please note that Little Guys and Simple Men are two different species. Simple Men are perfectly benevolent human beings who just don’t happen to love complex conversations that circle around big ideas and big emotions. In contrast, Little Guys are sexist dickholes:

“It’s not just that little guys aren’t that smart. It’s not just that little guys don’t remotely understand women and don’t experience them as fully human. It’s that little guys are utterly allergic to new ideas and perspectives, because those things make little guys feel even littler. So little guys stay tightly focused on reinforcing their preexisting assumptions. That’s what they were raised by other little guys to do. That’s how we got a little guy running a whole country full of little guys.”

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Last week’s Ask Polly is about the flavor of shame that leads you to believe that you need to work harder and harder just to be good enough for your life and the people around you. Yet somehow you’re always a few steps behind, always failing yourself and everyone else, always incapable of enjoying the life you have. Working harder won’t fix it. Instead, you have to understand that your core view of yourself is warped. Once you reckon with your twisted beliefs and adjust your warped lens on yourself, satisfaction and even joy become possible.

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A giant thank you to everyone for signing up for the Ask Polly newsletter! This Wednesday there’ll be a new Ask Polly column here, and next Wednesday I’ll run a public thread on how this year’s apocalyptic conditions have forced us all into a deeper reckoning of our friendships and how they function in our lives. I have many thoughts on this, and I’m sure you do, too.


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