Breakup’s Broken

July 10th, 2013

Dear English Gentleman,

Hello, I could really use some advice/perspective on my situation. My boyfriend of six months broke up with me the day before Valentine’s Day. His reason was that I am disrespectful and he doesn’t feel I love him because I make him feel like “[redacted]“. I am disrespectful because I wanted to see him more than he wanted to see me and this upset me so he said I was disrespecting his need for time and space by getting mad at him when he wouldn’t want to see me. I only saw him two or three times a week, I wasn’t around all the time like he made it seem. He also claims I didn’t love him and made him feel horrible all the time because I have trouble expressing my feelings to others. I truly believed my actions showed how much I cared for him, I did everything for him. But just because I had trouble verbalizing my true feelings (something I have struggled with my entire life and can’t even properly do with my own family) means I didn’t love him. I did tell him I loved him on multiple occasions however, but I guess that wasn’t enough. I don’t know why he couldn’t see it because I really did love him. He said I made him feel like “[redacted]” because I cried a few times around him when I tried to express my feelings to him and to him that meant I was unhappy with him because I was “always crying around him”. Crying is a way of expressing myself, not how I feel about him. He took things way to personally and as personal attacks, except when I did good things, then they were never enough to make him feel loved.

So after breaking up with me we still see each other in class. He ignores me in class but makes the effort to say Hi and Bye to everyone sitting around me and next to me. It is obvious he is blatantly ignoring me. Even on my birthday he did not say a word. I have not spoken to him since the breakup but it ended in a civilized manner. I cried, but I didn’t get violent or say mean things or anything of the sort. I was just very sad. In class he even asked my friend who sits next to me if he wanted to hang out after class. The two of them barely know each other and my ex knows that the guy is my friend. I don’t understand why he is treating me this way. He broke up with me. I should be the one who is upset and being a jerk to him. Instead he is ignoring me and trying to steal my friend away from me to isolate me. How should I deal with this? At the moment I just continue to ignore him and not speak to him but it seems to only make him try harder. Is he trying to get a response from me? Does he want my attention? He broke up with me though.

A reader.

Dear Reader,

I rather get the feeling from your letter that both you and your (ex)boyfriend are rather young and inexperienced with relationships. The reason I say this is because you mention you two broke up for “lack of respect” (according to him) and following the breakup you seem to be involved in a kind of game where you try to get a rise or reaction from the other person by ignoring each other (so how could that possibly work, exactly?).

Playing games, trying to get a reaction from the other person, strategising about what to do in order to provoke the other person into acting a certain way, well, that seems like control to me, not love.

I’m afraid that irrespective of how much you may be upset and hurt about your boyfriend breaking up with you, and for however immature or unfair or untrue the reasons he gave you for doing so, the point of the situation is that basically your ex-boyfriend does not want a relationship with you. No amount of trying to be mean to him or ignoring him or upsetting him is going to change that. And if it does, it would only be a temporary effect because he’d just be reacting to your next chess game move, not because he loves you and actually wants to be with you.

I also get the feeling, that if you are in a place right now where you feel you want to hurt him for breaking up with you (no matter how silly and wrong his reasons may or may not have been), that you don’t love him either. Because, as I said…love does not seek to control, it seeks to strengthen, to communicate, to commit, to protect, to support, to mature, and to grow, respectfully, and from both sides (yours and his). From what you tell me it doesn’t sound like your relationship had these things. So why do you want this relationship back?

What I would suggest is instead of reviewing the moves of a game, use the experience you gained from this relationship to grow as a more mature person. Stop worrying about what he is thinking or why he did things or how he should behave. Your responsibility is to go through life becoming a better person with each day. Whether he does that too or not in his life, ultimately, should to you be quite irrelevant. And then, one day, when you have the maturity to truly love someone completely, without games, without worries about whether you should or should not show your feelings or how you will be perceived for having expressed them, only then, you will find and recognize the person who will love you back in the same way: respectfully, without games, and without insults. And when you do, you will look back at a relationship like this past one and wonder why you wasted so much time worrying about your ex-boyfriend at all.

He’s out there, I promise. But before you find him, reader, you have to find yourself.  Best of luck in such an intriguing and fascinating journey!

The English Gentleman.

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Non-platonic Musings

April 10th, 2013

Dear English Gentleman,

Lately a former coworker of mine has been calling me to ask me out to dinner. We used to share lots of lunches and even dinner or drinks after work when we worked at the same company, but I’ve changed jobs so this is a way we keep each other updated about old company gossip and each other’s goings on in life.

Yesterday, he called me on the phone to ask me out yet again. I’ve noticed he’s now inviting me to dinner about once a week, and the last time he called I noticed the telltale nervousness in his voice that denotes that this coworker may have more than a purely platonic interest in mind.

The problem is, I do not like my coworker in “that way”. He’s cool to have drinks with and gossip, but frankly I don’t want to see him as often as once a week and I also don’t want to lead him on, either. But on the other hand, if I were to tell him I am not interested, that would probably mean he’d be too shy to meet up with me every once in a while to gossip ever again.

English Gentleman, what’s the proper etiquette for these sorts of situations? Obviously I’d like to try to avoid anything awkward, and would hate to lose the friendship. What do you suggest?

Sincerely,

Mimi

Dear Mimi,

Oh dear. Sounds like a bit of a delicate situation, doesn’t it? Ordinarily, I’d suggest you do something similar to the advice I gave Bartender Boy not long ago, which, as you recall, involved doing nothing special, if the situation doesn’t bother you, or discreetly hint at the presence of a significant other in your life.

However, given that you’re a woman, and due to the tendency of many young gentlemen of today to be persistent in their pursuits of their love interest, you may have to be a little bit more direct with your communication. Short of accepting one of your coworker’s dinner invitations with: “I’d love to, but my boyfriend is in town, would you mind if I bring him along too? He’d love to meet you…” , which may not always be sufficient a deterrent to a very goal-oriented man, and depending on your level of confidence, you might consider catching your coworker casually at lunchtime or a similar time-limited occasion, and then having a quick, but frank conversation stating that, if he would excuse your possible mistaken assumptions, you were worried that he was showing a non-platonic interest in you which you’re afraid that you unfortunately do not wholly share. If you put this diplomatically enough, taking care not to hurt his feelings, this is the best way to be clear and open with him. As you know clear communication is also a prerequisite for friendship, and if he’s interested in a friendship with you, a tactful heart-to-heart explaining the concerns you wrote to me about will not put him off.

You’re right it is possible that your coworker may initially be flustered by your discovery of his secret non-platonic intentions. However, you say you’re interested in him as a friend. Wouldn’t a friend be frank and clear with things like this in order to avoid misunderstandings and possible distress? Were you not to speak out, would you be giving him false hope, and is that what a true friend would do? Consider clearing the air not just for your sake, but also for his.

Good luck Mimi, and remember that if he is a deserving gentleman, who sees you as a unique person of intrinsic worth, like all women are, regardless of any romantic potential to him, your offer for platonic friendship will not be refused.

The English Gentleman.

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

January 19th, 2012

Dear English Gentleman,

My boyfriend was the sweetest guy in the world when I met and started dating him. He bought me roses, planned beautiful romantic dates, told me he loved me and most importantly, showed me he did with his kind, gentle actions. A few months ago, however, it’s like he suddenly turned in to a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde character straight from the movies. Where he once was polite, he became selfish and self-centered, where he once generous and kind, he is now mean and hurtful, even to the point of calling me names and throwing criticisms and insults at me (like stupid, b*ch, and a host of other ones I can’t print here).

This “ugly” personality of his is sometimes interspersed with apologies and nice gestures, but these have started to become less and less frequent and his “nice” periods last a lot less time than before. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells all the time and constantly have to watch what I say and do in the hopes that the mean behavior isn’t triggered without warning by a casual comment I’ve made or some innocent action I took, sometimes many months before! It is a nightmare living in constant fear of when and where his next mean outburst is going to be coming from, and in the meantime the nice treatment that made me fall in love with him is disappearing–we no longer go on dates (he prefers me to cook something for him and watch a video at home instead) and he sometimes doesn’t even speak to me despite my efforts to contact him via texts or email after he simply leaves and “disappears” for days on end. The worse thing is is that although I’ve tried talking to him and explaining how his behavior hurts me, after a rather insincere-sounding apology he just goes back to doing it all over again as soon as the very next day!

English Gentleman, what happened to my boyfriend and is there anything I can do to get the sweet, loving man I once knew to come back?

Confused.

Dear Confused,

Good and evil, kindness and unkindness, civility (politeness) and barbarity (meanness) exists in every one of us, every single one. Every single man and woman has the potential and ability to behave badly, inconsiderately, and, if you excuse the expression, like  a “ jerk”.  Yet not all of us choose to do so. Or at least, one would hope, not the majority of the time. The question is, why does your boyfriend?

I don’t know why he makes the choices he does…it could be he’s met someone else, or he was always like this and is now after the honeymoon phase more secure about you and comfortable enough with the loyalty you’ve shown him to display his true colors. It could be that he’s stressed or depressed or doesn’t know better or that’s what he’s learned from childhood or by watching too much Jerry Springer and Jersey Shore on the telly, or a substance addiction or who knows the reasons, but I’m afraid there’s no magic wand you can wave or anything you can personally do to change him back into the man you thought he once was because his behaviour and choices are his and his alone.

For every person that chooses to behave in a morally questionable or hurtful way there are 10 or 100 or maybe even 1000 other people who will make the opposite choice. This is and must be true because otherwise polite society would simply cease to exist!

The question is, why do you put up with this behaviour? No one deserves to be treated in a way that makes them suffer, especially after you tell them that their behaviour has hurt you. Once you’ve held up your end of the responsibility—to make him aware that the behaviour is not acceptable to you—, it is his end of the responsibility to stop the behaviour, and any man who cares for you will do so immediately, no questions asked. His repeated actions are showing you that he doesn’t value you. Love is a rare and precious thing, and you deserve to be with a man who shows you he knows this. Constantly. Not at some vague, distant point in the past.

I say your boyfriend has lost his chance to build a future with you. Cut your losses and move on.

The English Gentleman.

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

December 25th, 2011

Dear English Gentleman,

Is there such a thing as true, unconditional love?

Virginia.

Ah, Virginia. In 1897 a child with your same name asks if there is a Santa Claus, but as an adult your question, transformed, is no less important, is it? Because they are, in a way, the same question, are they not?

And is the answer much different? In 1897 The New York’s Sun editor Francis Pharcellus Chuch wrote: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Well, does it? Does true love abound? In his famous answer, Church also wrote: “VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.”

A child loves like a child: expectant, it must receive what it cannot yet give, she believes, because faith and innocence is all she has. But a child also waits to be taken care of by another, because innocent and young and small they cannot take care of someone else.

An adult knows better, he has seen and been battered, disillusioned, and often led astray in life. But an adult also has gained experience, and if capable has made choices that transform this experience into wisdom and beauty. If you’re asking this question, my suspicion is you have not actually seen your Santa Claus with your very own eyes. But every adult knows, where Santa Claus is found on Christmas Eve.

True love is not something you find like presents under the tree on Christmas morning. True love does not depend on whether you were a good little girl or boy this year. True love is not something that comes to you or finds you if you’re somehow patient enough, lucky enough, or diligent in searching enough. True love is something you give.

Virginia, the answer to whether true love exists is within you, just like Christmas and joy and devotion and Santa Claus is within all of us, as Church most artfully implied.

Does true love exist? I think this is not the question that matters. The question is: do you have true love to give? If you do, then it exists, and you’ve seen it, you need no more proof than that.

Virginia, dear reader, I wish every one of you a happy Christmas and an inexhaustible supply of love to give.

The English Gentleman.

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Gifts for a Gentleman

December 7th, 2011

I often get requests to write about what would make a good gift for a gentleman. Without further ado and in light of the coming Christmas holidays, I present a few suggestions that may do for a gentleman young or old, ranging in taste from the classic to the modern.

 


The Bottle:

This versatile gift is appropriate for occasions as simple as an evening dinner or as important as a christening or wedding. Assuming the recipient is not abstinent (and here the reader is entrusted to exercise the utmost caution so as to not cause offence), this gift is appropriate for any gentleman no matter the social distance from the gift giver, whether family or professional acquaintance.



The Gadget:

Appropriate for young personalities, the gadget gift is bound to delight as much as a box of sweets on Christmas morning. Accessories for existing gadgets also make good gifts if the man in question already has a primary gadget like a cell phone, a laptop, or a video game console, whose capabilities can easily be expanded with a modest gift of software or hardware.



The Tie:

A simple, no frills gift, known to save the gift-giver from unsolvable or pressing gift-giving quandries (i.e. you ran out of time). While ties can vary tremendously in quality and price, a silk tie is absolutely imperative if your recipient is a gentleman. Polyester is a major faux-pass, and will tend to embarass both recipient and gift giver, so do your utmost to avoid. Same thing goes for ties with flashing LEDs, unless the gentleman in question is a very young university student studying engineering.


The Intimate:

These are the sorts of gifts you give a gentleman of your intimate acquaintance: toiletries (cologne, shaving kit) and items of clothing (shirts, undershirts, boxer shorts). Because the kind of gift can be an explicit statement of the intimacy level of your relationship, caution is suggested so as to not give the wrong idea. Also do not give briefs to a boxers man and vice-versa! Though boxer-briefs might be a good compromise. Additionally, do not give gifts in this category to a man if you are also a man.

The Hobby Accessory:

Chances are the gentleman in your life has one or several hobbies he indulges in during his leisure hours. If you are well-acquainted with his interests, a missing item in his collection or tool to engage in his passtime activity will be very much appreciated. This gift is particularly significant because if you are able to hit the mark with this one it will send a clear signal to your man that you appreciate him and know him well.  

 

The Watch:

A timeless classic, this item is sure to please the gentleman in your life. A versatile gift, the watch indicates more about the wearer than the mark of the hours. Models ranging from zany and modern, electronic to winding, and economical to collector’s items worthy of a family heirloom make this item a sign of status and personality. Choose well on this gift and the man who receives it will likely treasure and cherish it forever.

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To Be or Not to Be

November 6th, 2011

Dear English Gentleman,

I am a young energetic girl who enjoys having fun. I tend to be wild, loud, and outgoing but end up being considered “strange” by others at times. I want to become an elegant, refined young lady but I don’t want to surpress myself to the point of being stiff or change my personality completely. What should I do?

Wild ‘n Young

Dear Wild’n Young

Isn’t it wonderful, that we live in such modern times? In this day and age, individuality is celebrated, diversity is encouraged, and as people we enjoy more freedom to engage ourselves in whatever interests strike our fancy. Gone are the days where adversity had to be faced with a “stiff upper lip”, emotions supressed, and grief and joy had to be hidden and private. Even in Britain, with its long tradition of pre-Victorian stoicism, the public support and empathy for Princess Diana’s death in 1997 was an indicator that slowly, but surely, the world was becoming a more “connected” place, in some sense. Perhaps we have modern technology, the influence of foreign (especially American) media, and the ease and of global communication to thank for all of this.

What I’m trying to say, Wild n’ Young, is that gone are the days where one had to behave in rigidly pre-defined behavioural roles in order to conform to societal expectations of gender and social position. While it is commendable that you’d like to act like a refined and well-educated lady, in this day and age this no longer means that in order to do so you must sacrifice who you truly are inside.

You say that you enjoy having fun and being outgoing, but perhaps it makes you uncomfortable when other people find your behaviour unusual. What I would suggest to you would be to try to find a way to perhaps moderate the expression of your “wild” and “loud” behaviours to the appropriate situation. An outing at a nightclub, for instance, would hardly find loud talking or exhuberant dancing disturbing, but this behaviour might raise a few eyebrows at a quiet dinner party hosted by your fiance’s parents, for instance.

In short, Wild ‘n Young: never sacrifice who you truly are, but try to keep the expression of the more colorful or controversial aspects of your personality to the appropriate times and places. As for the other occasions, remember simply that politeness is nothing more than respect and consideration for the needs of others. If you are able to articulate this genuinely, no stiffness nor change in personality will be required.

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Valentine’s Dilemma

February 6th, 2011

Dear English Gentleman,

It is shortly Valentine’s Day and since our one-year anniversary will coincide with this very romantic date, I want to buy my girlfriend a set of super sexy lingerie. I have already done my homework and scoped out some potentially nice shops where I could buy her very classy, tasteful, and beautiful silk undergarments, but to tell you the truth I’m a bit intimidated once walking in the door. I mean, what’s all those different bra sizes and cups with double letters and numbers AA, AB, B, C, D, E all about? And then how does that correlate to panties size? Honestly, I don’t know where to start, not to mention that I don’t want to look like an idiot or a pervert standing in the shop with all these beautiful ladies walking in and out and being the only guy inside! Is there a solution to my predicament?

Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,

Firstly, do some research – have a discrete look in you girlfriend’s underwear drawer. Brassieres or bras are bought by band size (e.g. 32 inches) and cup size (e.g. B cup), 32B for example. AA means smaller than an A cup and DD bigger than a D cup. Have a look for these numbers and remember them. Don’t worry if your girlfriend has bras in different sizes – they do vary – just try and find what her ‘average’ size is. Don’t worry about the style of your girlfriend’s bras. Now for the lower half. Have a look at your girlfriend’s panties – the size will be marked either as a number e.g. 8, 10, 12 or as a letter, e.g. S (small), M (medium) and so on. Have a look and remember the number or letter. The next thing to think about is style: make a mental note of what her most skimpy pair looks like (front, back, sides). I’d always advise buying separate (but matching) bra and panties – there really isn’t any correlation between tops and bottoms!

Your mission is to get your girlfriend underwear which (a) fits (but see my caveat below) and (b) is more sexy than anything she already has. You need to build on what she has already – so remember those panties? Buy something slightly more skimpy but avoid anything radically different. As for the bra then be brave and buy something which you think looks very sexy. Remember you are buying something special – not everyday wear.

An important caveat: Women cannot rely on labelled bra sizes to identify a bra that fits properly, so there’s a possibility that whatever you purchase may not fit perfectly. The same applies to panties. But it’s very much a case of the thought which counts! Your girlfriend will appreciate having a boyfriend who is not ignorant about such matters and there’s always an excuse to buy more lingerie later on.

Now for the shopping. You will need at least half a day. Find a good street with (ideally) several lingerie shops. Go straight up to the shop assistant and say “I am looking for something for my girlfriend”. Simple as that. This avoids the “I’m just looking” ploy which thus avoids your concern of ‘being a pervert standing in the shop with all these beautiful ladies walking in and out’.

Tell the shop assistant that you’d like a matching set, in silk, in red or black. The rest will be easy and non-stressful. Enjoy it. But be warned – in my experience you may well have to visit lots of shops; typically one shop has everything but not in the desired size, or not in the right colour, or not the style, or not in silk. Avoid buying something because there seems to be nothing else; take your time. When you eventually find something – and you will – buy it. Do not ask for it to be gift-wrapped, rather gift wrap it yourself. Buy a nice box, tissue paper, and ribbon…

One final thought. Remember that the lingerie is just part of your girlfriend’s Valentine’s Day: be romantic, perhaps surprising your girlfriend with a bed of scented rose petals, chilled champagne and your gift-wrapped lingerie…

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