Go Ask Lev #4: Secrets, Shame and Internet Boys

If you’d like to Go Ask Lev, email him here.
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

1.

Hi Lev,

There’s this guy on the internet I’m interested in. He has a blog with a relatively large (though primarily local) following, and I would love to meet him in an environment where we could chat a bit. At the very least, I think we could be good friends. There are just a few problems:

1. I, obviously, have never talked to him. One time I sent him an email but got no response, unless you count his multiple blog posts where he apologizes for not having time to answer emails.

2. I am sure a ton of other people have huge crushes on him too so I don’t want to come across as just another creepy fan girl.

Should I email him again? What could I say without coming across as too forward? Or should I just give up on meeting him altogether?

Sincerest thanks,

Claire C.

***

Hi Claire,

Internet etiquette for strangers is similar to real world etiquette. You’re allowed to introduce yourself like you would to anyone you liked at a bar or a party, and you may even hit it off, virtually or otherwise.

The problem is your knowledge and interest in this guy, is, for the moment, one-sided. And, if he’s not interested in responding, that’s his right just as much as you’re allowed to politely reach out in the first place. He may have social anxiety, a wife, or just be a pile of dogs in a trench-coat. Either way, you can’t assume or project what you want — this guy to like you — as an automatic or fair assumption.

But again, I have sympathy for crushes. Crushes are legit!

So, this is the tricky part. I’d say you could either crush comfortably from afar, much like I do on Esperanza Spalding, who is the most beautiful, talented and otherwise swoon-inducing person in the world.

(Fun fact: if any of you can tell Esperanza Spalding that I say hi and you make me sound cool, then I am forever indebted to you in the world to come.)

You have my sympathies. Online crushes are tricky, and there’s no all-encompassing answer to give.

So, here’s the thing, Claire. I’d say you’re well within your rights to email–once. Just like anyone would be free to say hi at a bar or a party, you can politely, clearly and calmly make your interest known. After that, it gets tricky. If he’s blogging about not responding to emails, that implies he’s already made a point of doing that, and, as shitty as that is, I think it makes sense to accept it.

You could consider a second email the way you’d consider a second-text; as something you’d rather avoid and something you keep short, clean and kind.

After that, you should wipe your hands with no expectations. Maybe things work out! But if not, at least you know you followed your crush as respectfully and fairly as you could, and didn’t risk becoming a weirdo about it.

After that? Regroup, clear your head, and live your life, both online and off it.

Trust me. There’s a lot out there to find.

2.

Hi Lev,

I’m 18 years old and grew up an only child with just my mother around. She’s someone I go to everything with and I don’t feel uncomfortable about talking to her about anything. Sometimes when my cousins tell me things, I tend to slip that information to her. Here’s the problem: my mom tends to gossip with their parents and that includes sometimes the unsavory information they tell me.

Should I be ashamed that my mom is my go to person and that she’s my confidant? How can I get my cousins to understand that she’s all I have and that she doesn’t mean any harm?

Sincerely, Catherine J.

***

Hi Catherine,

First of all, you shouldn’t at all feel ashamed of being close to your mom. That’s sort of what happens. And if she’s your go-to person and confidant, that’s totally fine.

But not for your cousins.

See, their secrets aren’t yours to give out. They told you, and you passed it on; that’s not kosher, no matter how it goes. You can tell your Mom anything about your life, but that’s where that ends. The lives of others is gossip, and it’s the property of the other people; especially if you know that by telling your Mom, that information is going to get looped back unto the people who trusted you.

I know you don’t mean any harm, and I trust your Mom doesn’t either, but again, that’s trust. And if your cousins can’t trust you, they’re going to stop.

Stay close to your Mom, and feel free to tell her anything going on in your life, but keep your cousins out of it.

And there’s some nice little upside here. If those cousins learn they can trust you, you might learn to trust them, too.

3.

Dear Lev,

How do you deal with regrets and feelings of shame and guilt from things you have done in the past?

Anonymous

***

Hey Anonymous,

Shame and guilt are tricky concepts, especially without more context. So, for this piece, we’re going to look at the bigger picture.

First, you have to decipher what you feel and why. Is this embarrassment or a string of regrets typical within the human experience, like the time you at half of a leaf energy poke’mon card to impress some kids but realized halfway through you looked dumb and started crying and that only made it worse?

If so, exhale. Forgiving yourself is an important part of life, and an often forgotten one.

Let it go.

That, importantly, is about the feelings, and not about facts. If the guilt and shame you feel are rooted to an actual thing you’ve done that deserves shame or guilt, you have to make them right. Not for some deity, but, if nothing else, then for you.

I once collected money for a friend’s birthday in sixth grade and forgot to buy him a present. I remembered this for years, and finally- finally– bought him the present I’d settled on more than ten years previous.

It wasn’t because he needed it. It’s because I did.

Sometimes we avoid doing the right thing because we feel like we have to, and we ignore a strange, funny truth. Doing the right thing can be selfish. It can be the biggest relief.

Selfishness isn’t the best motivator, but if it gets you to do the right thing, follow it. Better it take you there than to all-you-can-eat wing night.

When it comes to guilt and shame, focus on the root. If this is something you can fix, fix it. If it’s something you can apologize for, apologize. And if it’s neither, for whatever reason, pay it forward. If something haunts you, use that engine for purpose and self improvement. Balance your karmic ledger.

Things might not happen for a reason, but you can build reason out of things that happen all the same. Use the drive of that shame and guilt to be a better person and let an imperfect past propel you to a better future.

You might as well, right? TC mark

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