Q: Dear Indy,
I don’t understand how money works.
A: Dear Anonymous,
Money is paper, sport.
cf. The Merchant of Venice; The Muqqadimah; The Great Gatsby. —LL
Q: Dear Indy,
Should I stay with my boyfriend of two years after graduation?
A: Dear Vague, Ambivalent Lover,
Does he wear deodorant? Would he kick a dog? Does he come from a good family? These basic questions are essential, and that you think you can come here, to our house, and disregard standard advice protocols (i.e. specific details), is frankly ridiculous.
But really, you’ve been dating this guy for two years, so he must have something going for him, even though you haven’t taken the time to explain to us what that might be. I do understand your anxiety. Perhaps you should try to be with him now, in the moment, and not let the imminence of graduation hold you from enjoying all the good times you can be having in the meantime.
If you guys are still together come graduation, then more serious questions about your future will arise. A lot will depend on geography—are you two going to be living far apart from each other? Maybe he’s applying to doctoral programs in the Bay Area, which is not where you want to be. If this is the case, then you’ve got to make some real adult decisions about your priorities. Does place matter? Can you be happy with him anywhere? Are you willing to disregard your natural aversion of the Bay Area if that means you can be with him? The answers to these questions find their expression, I think, in distance. You need to gain some critical distance from your relationship—not the same as leaving him— in order to better see what it may amount to.
I tend to think that if you’re anonymously submitting questions like this to an advice column, then that means you have some doubts. And always—and this is true of all the relationships in your life—make sure to be transparent about your intentions and the reasons for your uncertainty. —LL
Q: Dear Indy,
Last night I had a dream about parallel parking. Please help me interpret. Thanks, 2cylanderdreamer.
A: Dear 2cylanderdreamer,
The last time I parallel parked I was sixteen with a DMV instructor breathing down my neck. Some of you may be thinking, “how can this be relevant to me at this moment?” But think about it for a second: parallel parking is really about locating yourself in a sound position. It’s about conforming to certain rules that you obey only because you’ve been told that they’ll keep you safe. Maybe there’s something happening in your life right now that’s stripped you of agency, or asserted an impersonal authority over you. Maybe you’re feeling trapped by a fear of confrontation, or the sense that you should just follow the lines on the ground and stick to your personal space. Is it serving you well to avoid conflict right now, dear motorist? Or is this the time to break the linear constraints that are holding you back?
There’s also a chance that you are sensing parallel dimensions or universes manifesting themselves in the built environment. Dreams of this sort suggest feelings of regret, or a wish to go back and change decisions from the past. Parallel parking is stressful, sweet dreamer. You already know that from Clueless. Do you want to avoid it and pay $20 at the garage? Or are you going to take a second to check your mirrors, use your signals, and get close to the curb, as it were? —RP
Q: Have you noticed the squirrels in PVD these days? They seem frantic, desperate to get in. I suspect that they are trying to tell us something. Does the Farmer’s Almanac confirm this? Are we headed towards a drastic winter chill? Please provide me with some answers to nature’s mysteries. Thanks.
A: I have noticed them. They’re deranged. Hoarding acorns like fiends. I swear one of them is messing with me. He’s always hanging out near my house, and every time I come home he gives me the dirtiest look, I shit you not, beady eyes and all.
Anyway, I guess this PVD-squirrel-paradigm is sort of the rodent equivalent of dogs scurrying out of a room because they’re hyper-sensitive to movement and can somehow feel earthquakes before we humans can. Conjecture, but it seems plausible. I did a Google search on acorns and winter and found some dusty Almanac wisdom: apparently some cultures use this acorn-index to measure the severity of the coming winter. The idea is that trees possess some kind of prescience that we don’t—when they know that there’s about to be a particularly harsh winter, they produce more walnuts to provide for predators (squirrels, deer, chipmunks, etc.) who will need them.
Other research suggests differently. We are experiencing what is called a “mast year,” an abundance of acorn production that occurs every 2-5 years. Conversely, a year with paltry acorn production is called a “bust year.” The reasons for these irregular cycles of, erm, nut development are unclear and even contentious. Explanations run the gamut from chemical signaling to increased pollination to environmental triggers. More concretely, two biologists—Warren G. Abrahamson, a professor emeritus at Bucknell University, and James N. Layne, the executive director of Florida’s Archbold Biological station—conducted a study on acorn production between 1969-1996. The results are, for our purposes, sad but illuminating. The Accuweather article I’m getting this information from says, “The volume of acorn production each year is partly controlled by external factors like precipitation affecting the acorns during different stages of development during prior years.” So in this way—because current acorns are the product of, like, the past three winters and their varying ecological cycles—acorns don’t forecast the winter, they hindcast it, at least according to Dr. Abrahamson.
But yes, acorns and nature’s mysteries aside, this winter will probably be cold as shit. —LL
Q: Dear Indy,
Why do people want so desperately for other people to be “happy”?
A: Dear Empathetic Ernie,
It’s strange, isn’t it? Half the time I’m retweeting @sosadtoday and half the time I just want to bring everyone home with me so I can cook them dinner and cheer them up. But on whose behalf are you asking, dear anonymous writer? Do you want someone else to be happy? Or does someone else want happiness for you? Anyone who’s checked in with the internet since c.2002 could tell you that our cultural relationship to happiness is kind of bananas right now, and perhaps that’s what you really want to unpack.
But in any case, there are a lot of reasons—cultural, sociological, even biological—to want others to be happy. You could say that caring about other people helps you improve yourself or get ahead in life. You could also just say that we have a hard time pinning down what happiness means, and I think that’s really the heart of this. You know that—you even put “happy” in quotes in your question! You’re picking up on the fact that you can do good things for others, and that the desire to do so is different from wanting other people to satisfy some “happiness quotient” in your life and theirs. Doing good things, helping friends live their fullest and realest experience—these things can be hard, and they can sometimes seem to fall outside the apparent parameters of “happiness.” It’s as if happiness has become more of an aesthetic question than a real signifier of, I don’t know—contentment or meaning or validity? I think you’ll learn the answer best by asking yourself whether you want people to be happy. —RP
Q: Dear Indy,
Therapy is making me resent my parents... but I really do love them! And I don’t think confrontation will solve anything.
A: Dear Down In Duluth,
Trust your instincts. You are right that confrontation is not worthwhile. The energy you expend being angry with your parents, which in certain ways is an essential aspect of eventually forgiving them, will in the final instance be better channeled into reconciliation. That is to say, be angry with your parents. Likely there are reasons to be angry, though as St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) said, “There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust.” This is because anger, I suspect, is never really the basis for any action—instead, it is a feeling that obfuscates the bases for your actions. Regarding confrontation, to initiate has usually something to do with thoughts of retribution, revanche, etc. The fact is that I cannot tell you what to do. But you’ve laid everything out in your question so nicely. You love your parents. You are angry with them. And you know that confrontation is superfluous. You are already wise.
But this is no answer. I’ll defer to Matthew 5:22-24 for that: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” –Jay Mamana, Current List Editor, Future List Editor Emeritus, Man About Town