There’s this article in The Cut that’s gone viral today: “I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless, and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life”. I read it earlier on today with my wife and it’s been bugging me ever since. I couldn’t put my finger on why until just now. I reread it and now all is clear. What “Haunted” says in her letter to “Polly”, advice columnist Heather Havrilesky, is powerful and profoundly moving. But Polly’s response to it is just plain terrible.
It’s like Haunted is this hardcore addict who’s finally hit rock bottom. She’s confiding in Polly. Telling her how much she regrets all of the bad choices she made in life. And Polly’s like: “No, dear, you’re fine just the way you are. Don’t quit heroin. Seriously, you’re all good.”
Sometimes, when you really regret some choices, it’s because they were bad choices. Sometimes, when you feel overwhelmed by feelings of regret, it’s because you’ve done a bunch of regrettable shit. That’s called a moment of clarity! That’s called having a conscience! As I read this, I kept thinking of that wonderful scene in Spanglish (2004), wherein the mother tells her daughter: “Lately, your low self-esteem is just good common sense.”
Here’s what the beginning of a thoughtful response to Haunted’s heartfelt epistle might look like: “Dear Haunted: You’re only 35. So it’s not too late to turn this shit around. But you’re gonna have to prioritize different things (e.g., start making time for your friends and family; make a list of everyone important to you and resolve to remember their birthdays from now on).”
Learning to love yourself isn’t the greatest love of all.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2018)