I’m Back (and some thoughts on Billy Idol)

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Dear Readers, I’m back.

This was not planned. I assumed that the column was over at the end of last semester because The Gazette rarely continues columns past a single semester and I knew that the longer I wrote the column, the harder it would be to remain anonymous. But I had a problem. I missed y’all too damn much.

So for Freshpeople and upperclassmen who don’t often look at The Gazette, hello! You have stumbled upon Swarthmore’s only relationship column. This is not very much like other relationship columns – the ones that you’re likely used to seeing in women’s magazines. It is not a sex column and it’s not focused on purely straight, long-term, monogamous relationships. I’m not afraid to get a little political, or a little personal. And while I’m female and generally identify as straight, it is one of my main aims to make this a space that all my readers can feel that they relate to.

For those of you who read the column last semester, a quick epilogue. As predicted, Snuffleupagus and I parted ways at the end of the year. He wasn’t ready for the seriousness that would have come with maintaining a relationship over any distance, and I give him many, many bonus points for being able to recognize that and for being up front about it with me. We parted on good terms, and he might be my favorite ex-boyfriend. Hey, if Jane Fonda gets a favorite ex-husband, I can have a favorite ex too, right?

But of course, everyone that you date isn’t going to work out quite so well. We all have break ups or even full relationships that we don’t have warm fuzzies about, which is where my summer comes in.

I started dating someone else, code named Billy Idol. If I could show you a picture of him, this pseudonym would instantly make sense, but of course that would be a gross invasion of privacy. We got serious pretty quickly. I was sleeping over in his apartment fairly regularly and he met my parents within a month. And then he pulled the dick move of all dick moves: he stopped answering his phone with no explanation.

In this age of technology, refusing to answer your phone is the relationship equivalent of playing dead. It’s cowardly and pathetic and should not be done past the age of five unless you happen to be a dog. Even worse, Billy would answer text messages if I initiated as long as they made no mention of seeing each other again, which is a lot like squinting your eyes open every so often to make sure that people think your “play dead” act is convincing. Because of how close we’d been, I didn’t expect this kind of behavior from him. I spent quite a while convinced that he was really busy, that he was just kind of dim and didn’t realize that one text response every few days does not a relationship make.

As a result, it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what he was doing. And when it finally dawned on me, it was during a screening of Friends With Benefits. There are few worse places to discover that your boyfriend has pulled a disappearing act than while watching Justin Timberlake go down on Mila Kunis in wall-sized projection. Luckily, it was an empty late night screening, so the only person bothered by my expletives was the employee working the projector, who probably found it amusing.

As pointless as the relationship turned out to be, I did ultimately learn a lot from Billy Idol that could be useful for others avoiding such failures.

Too many differences can be overwhelming

Billy Idol was unlike anyone I’d ever dated before. We had a pretty sizeable age difference. We came from different socioeconomic backgrounds, different educational backgrounds. We had different senses of humor, different ways of talking, different ideas about relationships. He’s a recovered drug addict and I’m a lightweight who often avoids drinking. He absolutely hated cheese, while I could probably eat nothing but cheese and happily drop dead of malnutrition rather quickly. Difference is what makes life interesting, and none of these things are necessarily a problem, but having them all together made any and every interaction a minefield. This was especially true because he seemed to be very focused on these differences, without really producing anything helpful to say or do about them. People in a relationship need to have something in common, or you won’t be able to interact with each other.

The “spark” really isn’t everything

Both times that I had been in love before, it deepened from a really strong initial attraction. I had that with Billy, so I assumed that it would follow the same pattern. If I had been paying attention, it would have been pretty clear pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to be the case. We stopped having much to say to each other very early and I never really felt relaxed with him, which is kind of a big issue when you’re spending a lot of time together. Whether it happens in a matter of weeks or of decades, the spark almost always fades. It cannot be your relationship’s foundation. If it’s all you’ve got, either move on to sturdier building grounds or erect temporary sex housing.

Beware of “we” talkers

Billy was a “we” talker, always going on about vacations that we would take, things that we should do, saying how excited he was to visit Swat in the fall, but he never seemed that interested in what was going on in the present. Judging by how much he talked about ex-girlfriends, he was way more into the idea of being in a relationship and what that meant than he was actually into me.

Compliments are so important

One of Billy’s strengths was that he was very good at complimenting me often, and when he told me I was beautiful (or smart, or funny, or whatever), it didn’t feel like a throwaway statement. He said it like he believed it. It changed the way that I felt about him and how I felt about myself, because he consistently reminded me of my own value. Looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever been with someone who actually said nice things about me on a regular basis. When we’re in a relationship with someone, we tend to take for granted that they know we think they’re pretty awesome, and it’s really nice to hear it sometimes.

Sometimes it’s worth it just to let go

I can get pretty neurotic around the end of relationships. In this case, I was mad for about a day before telling myself “You know what? This is absolutely not worth my time.” And moved on with my life. And you know what? It felt really good. When I told my dad what happened, he very sincerely went “He wasn’t The One, Honey.” and I laughed.

Clearly, the person who can’t figure out how to verbally dump you isn’t going to be your soul mate, if such a thing exists.

A little while later, I stumbled upon Billy’s key in my room, I thought for a minute about what I should do with it. I definitely didn’t want to keep it and throwing it away seemed vindictive and frankly way more emotional effort than I really wanted to put out. I ultimately put it in an envelope with his name on it, drove to his apartment and put it in his mailbox without ringing the doorbell or even flipping off his window. Instead, I went home and victoriously ate a rather large piece of gruyere all by myself. And that, dear readers, is what I call maturity.

It’s going to be an interesting ride this semester, and I’m excited to have y’all with me. As always, I take questions submitted in the comments.


  1. “He’s a recovered drug addict and I’m a lightweight who often avoids drinking. He absolutely hated cheese, while I could…”

    love that juxtaposition.

    I’m a graduate and I still read your column. Keep it up, SM!

  2. Aww, thanks guys.

    My Gazette email wasn’t working, which is why I said that people should submit through the comments, but it’s up again so you can pose questions there too. You can also send me questions clarifying that you just want answers sent back, rather than having them published. The Gazette email IS through gmail though, so if you send it via your gmail account, it’ll tell me who you are if you have a name attached to it. If you want it to be anonymous, you can use an address from another provider.

  3. Yay SM! I am so glad you’re back. You are up there in my 3 favorite advice columnists, and I consume advice columns like you consume cheese.

  4. Sometimes it’s worth it just to let go. Teach me to be ‘mature’ like you! That is such a great victory. I love this column.

  5. SM, you’ve stumbled upon something my girlfriends and i have been discussing for the past 2 years. given the choice between cheese and oral sex, we choose cheese. (most of us).

  6. Could you clarify what you mean?

    What is a stuff of un-ambiguity?

    What is a stuff of preserveness of…etc.?

    Really, just: what is it you’re trying to say?

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