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I tackle a catastrophe from across the pond. Meet a dilemma dealt with by Mariella Frostrup (obviously a strangely-chosen pseudonym) in The Guardian


I recently met another woman who I found very attractive, despite being aware that she is straight, and married. I came out to her and she told me she was very curious about women, and found me equally attractive. We entered into an incredibly passionate and intense relationship that lasted only two months. She told her husband about the physical aspect, and he was happy for her to explore this. Then she told me she was falling in love with me, despite her 10 years of marriage, and as a result could not see me again, as she wanted to make her marriage work. I am comfortable with my sexuality, but I wonder if I wasn't just an experiment to her? I can't stop hurting. To complicate matters, I still live with my ex – in separate rooms, and no sex for the past two years. I find it very difficult to forget her. Not that I want to. What should I do?


1) ..."despite being aware that she is straight, and married." I have no helpful comment to make. This sentence catastrophizes without knowing it.

2) ..."she told me she was very curious about women." Same comment as number 1.

3) I've included this cry for help not really because I'd like to respond to it in a catastrophizing fashion, but because it in and of itself is a catastrophe. If you find yourself believing the person next to you on the bus 
might be intelligent, read this letter. If you find yourself inclined to give humanity the benefit of the doubt, read this letter. 

3a) The letter-writer became involved with an attractive, "curious", straight, married woman. Perfect.

3b) The writer wonders if she "wasn't just an experiment". The fact she wonders at all indicates that she is 
somebody's experiment. Failed experiment. (Please note: that was meaner than I initially intended it to be.) 

3c) She lives with a former girlfriend and has for the past two years. We're not talking about a lease problem at this point. We're talking about someone you'd hate to be stuck next to at a party.

4) I am feeling a great deal of shame at this point, because I have hitherto neglected to address an important aspect of catastrophizing. Or rather, a certain type of 
catastrophizer. Perhaps I will call this type a catastrofabricator, although that is excruciatingly cumbersome. At any rate, the catastrofab (adorable short-form!) is unsatisfied by the miseries and disasters life doles out as a matter of course and makes a concerted effort to make ridiculous decisions in order to invite more confusion and anxiety into her life. The writer found a married, straight woman to dally with and has managed to continue living with an ex-girlfriend. The writer is clearly not convinced that life will provide enough tricky complications on its own.
Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.


 
 
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Question: what's a couch between friends? Answer: them's fighting words. Also, I'm not Amy. 
Dear Amy: 
A furniture dispute is turning an old friendship upside-down.

During a frenzied 500-mile move for a job, I agreed to lend a sofa to a friend and her roommates.I was moving to temporary housing, and they worked for a political campaign making very little pay. The couch would allow them extra sleeping space for campaign workers stopping through, and would save me some storage costs. I expected them to take good care of it.

Now that I am moving into a permanent apartment with space for the sofa, I discovered that the household cat has destroyed the couch.

Quotes to repair the sofa came back well above the total cost I paid for it new, so the only option is to replace the couch. This specific couch was purchased as part of a set.

I requested that the roommate pay me full price to replace the couch, but she is objecting, saying that she could buy a couch for half the cost on Craigslist. She is only willing to pay for half of the value of the sofa. She doesn't seem to understand that it is part of a set and was in, at worst, "like new" condition.

I don't see how I should have to pay for her irresponsible pet ownership when I was doing them a favor to begin with!

I don't want to ruin my relationship with my friend over a petty matter. Or am I being petty?Can't I get my couch replaced?


1) Your primary concern should be that you just wrote a novella about a dispute over a couch. Now, I am no fan of brevity, but a good catastrophizer should always attempt to anticipate the negative judgements of those around him or her, and those around you think you used too many words on a couch.

2) Your first mistake: lending anyone anything. This is always foolhardy. If a cat doesn't regularly attack it, someone will vomit on it (probably an overstimulated political staffer); if someone does not vomit on it, someone will probably urinate on it (probably an overstimulated political staffer). Trust nobody. Also, never, ever borrow anything. You never know when you might vomit, urinate, or acquire a cat.

3) Always make sure that the compensating you do for your insecurities is subtle. On the one hand, you are obviously smug about the fact that you purchased a furniture set and that you were in a position to lend this to your furniture-impoverished friend. On the other hand, you make it clear that the only reason she is furniture-poor is that she is donating her time to a cause. You're proud you have a job and that you have friends in the fast-paced world of campaign work. You feel superior because your friend was forced to turn to you for a couch. But you're obviously wracked with anxieties because your friend has a more exciting life than you do and all you have to show for your life is a furniture set. Or am I reading too much into this? I tend to do that when I'm feeling inadequate. I have, you see, no matching furniture set. 

4. Your friend is a bitch. She should obviously pay for a new couch. This raises a major concern: why was she your friend in the first place? Because her failing really reveals a bigger failure in you.


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.


 
 
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The New York Times's Social Q's missed the boat on this answer, so I will catch the boat and then pilot it. Badly.

The Enemy Next Door

A longtime neighbor responds to my greetings with stony silence. I suspect this has something to do with a noise dispute I had with an upstairs neighbor who was then her employer. But that was a decade ago! Now, she avoids taking the elevator if I'm on it. Should I confront her and clear the air?

H.S.
Answering letters of this kind is really one of the most irresponsible things one can do, as one is provided with so little context. One, however, will proceed.

1) What
are those greetings that are greeted in return with a stony silence? Do you say, "A pleasant morning to you," or do you, say, drop your pants and say, "What would have happened if the Nazis had won the war?" 

2) In terms of the noise dispute - who was responsible for the noise ten years ago? Was it you? Is it possible you're still creating a stupefying amount of noise and she's too shy to reprimand you? At what level
do you play Poison's Unskinny Bop repeatedly?

3) I find your dilemma to be delicious in a catastrophic sense because there is more than one right answer. Whatever you decide, you will most likely spread interpersonal poison. If you do not confront her, you will stew and brood and your elevator rides will be exercises in quiet resentment and tension. If you
do confront her, there's a good chance that you will manage to alienate and upset her and that your elevator rides will become exercises in quiet resentment and tension. If she manages to avoid riding the elevator with you, try to dawdle near her front door or parking space so that you can cultivate that quiet resentment and tension. At least then, you'll know the feelings are mutual.
Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.
 
 
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Ask Ellie's Ellie would have you believe that Upset's worry "heightened" his reaction. Read as I heighten her reaction.
     
      Last week, my bride of 50 years drove the two blocks to our community mailbox. Roads were slippery, so I watched for her safe return. After 20 minutes I was concerned, starting to go find her just as she drove in.    
      She explained that she’d met a man (a stranger), at the mailboxes and had a pleasant (15-minute) chat with him that delayed her.     
      My reaction: What is she doing talking to a strange man for 15 minutes, exchanging addresses, etc. when she must have known I’d be worried if she didn’t come home in less than five minutes? Am I wrong to feel hurt … or more?
      - Upset

1) Why is your bride driving two blocks?

2) Why are you calling her your "bride"? It's a distressing word choice.

3) No, you're not wrong to feel hurt. Or angry. Or completely betrayed. Are you aware of what the kids today mean when they say "exchanging addresses"? Your bride is not worth your concern.

4) If you're worried about her behaviour, don't ask her about it. She'll only lie. The only way to know for certain whether she makes a habit of meeting men by the "community mailboxes" is to watch her constantly.

5) Don't let the fact that you have been together for fifty possibly happy years affect your judgement of this situation. It's possible that after fifty years you have simply begun to bore or repulse her.

6) Don't worry about this unnecessarily. Or rather, know that your rich and unnecessary worrying won't last forever, because your marriage won't last forever. It doesn't really matter whether she's been "collecting mail" with strangers, as very soon you both will die. You've been married fifty years, after all.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided 
HERE
. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
 
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People can be foolish. People can frequently and fatally be foolish. People can also frequently and foolishly be fatal. Dear Catastrophytes, have these facts always on your mind. Do not allow them to be submerged in the ins and outs of the everyday. The everyday, you see, can also be fatal.

Even the most skeptical and wonder-less of us can occasionally be tempted by lotteries. By the possibility that we could be that person in a thousand who is rewarded with a cruise or money enough for a kidrobot room. The truth is, there is a possibility we will be this lucky person. One person has to win, and nothing says it can't be us. The chances are slim, but they are not none.

So we yearn and we believe and we buy our tickets, despite the teachings of probability. 

And yet, every time there is a disaster, a grand disappointment, a sizable personal loss, we see people on the news declare: "I just never thought it could happen to me." Never? Not once? Why not? The chances are far greater that something terrible will happen to or near you than that you will win a new television on which to watch people declare they never thought something terrible could happen to them.

You must adopt a new mantra, my young Catastrophyte. Whenever you come across a distressing story, think "this could happen to me." That way, if it does (and it will - the only question is whether it will be worthy of being televised), you can say "I always thought something like this would happen to me."

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
 
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Dear Catastrophizer -
I've just received a Facebook friend request from someone I really don't like. I worked with her last term and she's not a nice person. Unfortunately I have to start working with her again next week. What should I do?
                                                 - Gil Grissom

I'm not sure I understand your dilemma. Facebook is about driving up the friend numbers and trying to find photos a) taken from angles that make your face not look fat or b) so ironic you'll make former high-school rivals weep with envy. Facebook is not a place that should be complicated with issues of integrity. So accept her friend request and then complain about her behind her back with real friends in person.

That said, it does sound as though your life should be suffocated by a giant shroud of dread. This person sounds genuinely unpleasant and you will be obliged to spend time with her. This presents an interesting opportunity that should be grabbed by both of your non-fat hands. For some reason, which will I do not doubt be discussed at greater length in a future post, other people often find catastrophizers bizarre and tedious. By "often", I mean "always." Catastrophizers are, probably rightly so, viewed as unnecessarily preoccupied by things that are unpleasant to think about. So why not revel in the fact that you do not like this person and treat her to lengthy discussions of upsetting and morbid things?

Examples:
This egregious person: OH! I can't believe we have so much work to do!

You: You'll think of all of this work with fondness when you're so old and decrepit you're unable to make your own soup.
                          OR
This egregious person: What a great day this was?

You: Really?! Great? All I could think about was that today brings me one day closer to my inevitable death.  

On a positive note, though, imagine spending time with someone whose opinion you care nothing for. You can be profoundly dull; your face can look entirely fat; your conversation can be graced by not a single witticism. And why should you care? You are lucky enough to be interacting with someone whose Facebook friendship offer you were reluctant to accept. Such people are rare and should be welcomed as periods of calm between the storms of the people whose good opinion you actually crave.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
 
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I have received my second reader question! From someone who is not in the least related to me! Read on:

Let's say you're the parent of a very successful catastrophizer--should you feel pride, because so much of you lives on in a new generation? Or sadness and regret because your offspring has arguably been infected by your own congenital and over-arching pessimism?

      -
Anonynomous Individual Not 
        Responsible for Fathering the
        Catastrophizer


Before going any further with this answer, I should make one thing very clear: you should always feel sadness and regret. Very occasionally, you may allow yourself to feel pride, or joy, or elation, but only because those sensations will add a certain piquancy to your subsequent feelings of sadness and regret. Don't be concerned about having to force the return of the sadness and regret; they will come back without much prodding because life is full of things that cause them.

Feeling pride that part of you lives on in the next generation can quite easily be made to result in profound depression (although all things, obviously, can be made to result in profound depression). First of all, that pride is necessarily bound up in the fact that you yourself will die, a fact which is likely to be interpreted as a downer. The individual in whom your qualities (fine ones, I will admit) will live on will also die, possibly without issue. Even if that individual were to produce offspring, those offspring would eventually die, and so on. Even if you belonged to a family that regularly produced progeny, all of whom inherited your qualities, remember that the world itself will most likely shrivel up and disappear at some point in the vast expanse of future time. Your pride will, one way or another, be short-lived.

You should absolutely believe that it is because of your style of parenting/doomed genetic bequest that your child has developed catastrophizing tendencies, because as you've indicated, that line of thought will undoubtedly produce more sadness and regret. However, if you were lucky/unfortunate enough to produce an even vaguely observant child, that child, one way or another, would have grown up catastrophically. The beige and brown Ford Fairmont had nothing to do with it.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
 
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The question I will be considering today is the following:

Are there telltale signs a man isn't happy in his marriage?

I am including a link to the original answer from the New York Post, not because I think you should read the original answer, but because the link itself is instructive:

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/spitzer_babe_answers

If you were unfamiliar with the name "Ashley Dupre", never fear: the New York Post refers to her here only as "Eliot Spitzer Babe." That's right: readers of this paper can get love advice from none other than the call-girl who brought down the once untouchable governor of New York.

Unfortunately, she has not updated her advice column since mid-December. I choose simply to believe she has been deliberating ponderously over her next pieces of advice.

But on to the telltale signs. Yes, there are many telltale signs of unhappiness in a relationship or marriage.

1) Detachment. He may sidestep questions, avoid glances, fake sleep to get out of conversations.

2) Forced intimacy. He may enfold you in embraces constantly to prove to himself he still loves you.

3) A strange seesawing between detachment and forced intimacy. Not knowing yet whether he will force himself to stay and rekindle the feeble flame of love or allow himself to leave and have some sex with people, he behaves erratically, one minute clutching at you, the next, talking about having some sex with people.

4) Anything else. You see, catastrophytes, anyone you're involved with can already, right now, this very second, be planning to leave you. Anything can really be a sign of this intention, if you're looking for it. Or you're just paranoid, in which case, that's the tendency in you that will ultimately make him leave you.

4) He's having sex with Ashley Dupre.


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.