It’s Tuesday, so you know what that means — it’s time to answer some questions while eating all the candy we bought for trick-or-treaters, because HAPPY HALLOWEEN, YA’LL! In this week’s spooktastic installment of Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything, we’ve got a spectrum of relationship issues. Namely, one person hates their partner’s taste in music, and another person needs help being supportive to a partner who struggles with mental illness. So why is this so spooky? Because they came to US for help. How scary is that?
(Remember: you can email us at [email protected] and we just might answer you in an upcoming column! Entertain us with your wackiest questions, and we’ll entertain you with our most thoughtless responses.)
First up — this music snob:
I work from home/don’t really work and listen to music all day long. My husband has an office job so he can only listen to the music in the car. We drive around a lot together, which means I listen to a lot of the sh!t he likes.
What sh!t is that? Pop. Brain-dead, formulaic pop. I could put up with it if it disappeared when I got out of the car, but instead I find ear worms are stuck in my head literally every moment I sleep. Sia, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons, all those fake Irish bands that hit their guitars with their hands and chant “Oh-woe!” … I know all of the hits. I recently spent three months humming, nonstop, Despacito, which I think is Spanish for “Abandon all hope when this song gets in your head.”
Any ideas? Taking the bus and wearing earplugs are my top two solutions.
First off, your question brought to mind an old Winchester family saying…
Look, as you admitted yourself — you get to listen to whatever music you want all day long, if you care to. Maybe you just need to find your own ear worms. You know, music that you DO like, that will get stuck in your head. That way it won’t matter what your husband listens to — you can drown it out by singing Radiohead to yourself or whatever. Or work out a compromise where you alternate on who gets to pick radio stations or something.
But if you expected us to be sympathetic to your pop music meltdown, you came to the wrong place. Ain’t nothing wrong with pop music! The Beatles were pop music, for fucks sake! DO YOU HATE THE BEATLES?! Granted, not all pop music is as good as Carly Rae Jepsen (LET ME GUESS YOU HATE HER TOO?!), but there is nothing “brain-dead” about pop. In fact, the formulaic nature that you condemn is an art form all its own — something that isn’t as easy as you think to reproduce. I’m not saying I enjoy every song that comes on the radio, but there is room to appreciate the talent it takes to create an ear worm. Something that actually DOES stick with people, long after they’ve heard it. In fact, there’s a whole podcast called “Switched On Pop” which is dedicated to analyzing chart-topping songs from a music theory perspective — breaking down the styles and influences and showing how complex popular music really is.
However, just like your husband is entitled to love his Top 40 shit, you’re entitled to be a giant music snob. And really, neither of you has a right to hold the other one hostage to your music tastes. So either buy each other headphones or find music you can BOTH tolerate as a compromise. Start building an acceptable playlist that appeals to both of you. And let’s be honest: there ARE pop songs out there that are impossible to hate. Ones that even the snobbiest of music snobs will appreciate. Like, find me one fucking person who doesn’t sing along to Britney Spears’ Toxic when it comes on. FIND ME ONE. And don’t say Petr, because he admitted that even HE jams out to that song if it starts playing.
(On the other hand, not one Overlord would stand up and defend the Chainsmokers. Our reactions ranged from “Who?” to “The lyrics the fucking lyrics are so fucking bad I hate hate hate literally dies.” Actually, to be honest, our discussion of this whole question devolved into an extended rant about the Chainsmokers.)
And if this is all a little too “reasonable” for you, one Overlord might have a rather more dramatic solution to your problem: “Go down to the car late one night. Grab the tire iron. Smash out the window so it looks like a robbery and take the stereo and whatever loose change is in there. You know, make it look real legit.”
Next up: A nice person.
So you’ve probably answers some fun and silly questions at this point. Let’s talk real for a minute.
How do you date someone who struggles with mental illness? [feel free to rephrase to make me look like not a complete dickhead]
I’ve been dating a girl for about two and a half months who, though I don’t know for certain, has insinuated that she’s been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She also has medical issues that can cause debilitating pain for a few days at a time every few months. Lately, she’s been struggling with anxiety about her new job and another episode of her medical condition.
She has told me that lately she feels like I’ve been trying to be a hero or savior. I’m cognizant of the fact that I can’t “fix” her (thank’s You’re the Worst!), but I’m trying to be supportive. I’m trying to be the least difficult person in her life, someone she can be sad or angry around without judgement or having expectations, and I’m totally okay just sitting on the couch with her while she watches Law and Order reruns. Am I an asshole for encouraging her to go for a walk to get out of the house for a little bit after she recovered from her medical episode? How can I be supportive and encouraging without being season 2 Shitty Jimmy?
I love that you think we’ve gotten silly questions. HAVE YOU READ THIS COLUMN LATELY? Everyone asks us serious shit. Feminism, racism, bullying. I’d fucking LOVE it if people would ask us fun things for a change, like “Are flip-flops the greatest or an abomination?” I have thoughts on that! I could share those thoughts! But instead, ok let’s talk about your relationship.
Good news — it sounds like you’re doing a great job. Honestly, I think that every partner should try to be the least difficult person in their significant other’s life, just generally. And trying to keep things low pressure while allowing your girlfriend to be herself without judgement or expectation seems like it’s exactly the right instinct in this situation. Because you really CAN’T fix her. In fact, the “fixer” mentality is something to be wary of.
Look, it’s early days yet. Only two and a half months into the relationship, and already you’re thinking about how to be the best partner you can be given her conditions. But I’m also not surprised that you don’t have a full rundown of exactly what your girlfriend has been diagnosed with, or what her history is. Insinuations plus what you’ve seen with your own eyes isn’t a lot to go on, but the fact that she’s let you in as far as she has is meaningful. Because whatever her diagnosis is, it’s a part of her. It’s just one part of who she is. And it’s her story to tell. While you’re still getting to know her, it’s important that you learn to accept her — without jumping to conclusions. And by that I mean that she isn’t defined by her mental illness, or her physical illness. They might contribute to her emotional reactions, but they also might not. She could be having a bad day because she’s having a bad day, not because of anxiety or depression or anything else. So unless she’s talking to you about her mental state, don’t speculate. Be open and nonjudgemental, and trust that she knows herself well enough to clue you in to what you need to know, when you need to know it. Be supportive by simply being there if she needs you. But don’t assume that she’s always going to need you.
The fact is that everybody has issues, whether they’re medical or mental; whether they’re diagnosed, or temporary, or due to circumstances beyond our control. We all have our ups and downs. Life happens. People are complex, and learning to navigate another person’s complexities is the main challenge of any new relationship. And while her ups and downs may be harder for you to learn to navigate, it doesn’t mean you necessarily need to approach this very differently than you would any other relationship, with the caveat that it’s even more important that you learn to just listen to her. Don’t do. Just listen.
Not everyone likes to feel like someone is hovering over them, worrying. It can feel patronizing, or suffocating, or just irritating. Which may be why she’s already saying that she feels like you’re trying to be a hero or something. While I’d say your instincts are great, I don’t know how they are coming across in practice — that is something you need to pay attention to. When you mentioned trying to get her out of the house, I can see that it might come across as being a little too hands on, because it is clearly a suggestion for HER benefit. But what if you instead decided that YOU wanted to go on a walk, and invited her to join you. And if she says no, you go anyway on your own. Because taking the pressure off of her is key. You aren’t doting on her. You aren’t structuring your activities around her. You aren’t codependent. You are inviting her to be a part of YOUR activities, because you like her company. It’s just normal. And if you get more concerned, and start feeling like she really should be getting fresh air or whatever — try talking to her about it. Because she may have reasons for not wanting to leave, and it gives her an opportunity to understand your thought processes, so instead of getting annoyed with you later on she can appreciate what you’re going through.
Another thing to be mindful of is that it is easy to become so concerned with her mental or emotional state that you ignore your own. Everyone in a relationship needs to vent, to talk things out, to gain perspective from friends or loved ones outside of the relationship. So don’t lose sight of the fact that YOUR feelings, needs, and mental health are important as well. And that means learning how and when to address problems in your relationship with your girlfriend. Because just as you’re concerned for her, she should be for you as well. A healthy relationship goes both ways. It’s finding the right balance. So you’ll support her if she has to cancel on plans at the last minute, but you’ll also need to find the right time to tell her how that made you feel. Maybe it’s after the moment has passed, but don’t be so concerned with protecting her that you shove aside your own feelings forever. That isn’t healthy. Relationships are built on communication, and now is the time you start figuring out how to communicate effectively with each other. And if you’re lucky, you’ll continue to figure that shit out for years to come. BECAUSE IT NEVER FUCKING ENDS.
And yes, some days she may need to wallow. Some days she may push you away, or take things out on you. Some days you may do the same to her, for your own reasons! But as long as you aren’t judging her or blaming her, you’re in a good place. I can’t say for certain that you’ll never need to push her or urge her to do something, but for now that shouldn’t be your concern. You are still in the get-to-know-you period, so just focus on getting to know her. Not her illness, just HER. And make sure she is getting to know you as well.
That’s all for this week, folks. May your evening be full of tricks and treats, may you all practice the appropriate level of jack-o’-lantern fire safety, and remember: those masks could be hiding ANYTHING. Trust no one.