Bus Crushes, Door-Non-Openers, and “Scumbag” Siblings

I have a crush on a guy who rides my bus! I see him some morning and some evenings and I really think he’s handsome. What can I do? Can I ask him out? I’m moving soon and will be taking a different bus route, or probably the train, so there’s that. The thing that’s really stopping me, more than the fact that I don’t think anyone wants to be asked out on the bus, is that I’m not sure if he’s out of my league. As in, I maybe gained a few pounds in the last year and none of my hot-lady clothes fit right so I feel kind of frumpy on the bus, and not at all empowered to strike up conversations with Dudes. OK, so there are two questions: Is it OK to hit on people on the bus? And is there an objective level of hotness one should be at before even making such an attempt?

Question 1: Yes! Of course! Who wouldn’t want to get hit on on a bus? Or ever? Even if you weren’t into it at all you would for sure humblebrag to all your friends about it right after. “Oh, it was sooo awkward, this guy was so into me, it was awful. He must have thought I was absolutely the single most beautiful girl on the planet. Like, he would have ripped off his own face and fed it to me if I said I was feeling even the littlest, tiniest bit hungry. No, I know.” So do it! Worst case Ontario, well, he kills you. BUT HE WON’T. Realistic worst case Ontario he politely says no and you’re like, “OMG whhhhyy didn’t I try to squeeze into some of my hot-lady clothes!?” He won’t say no, though (unless he does, which will be because he’s married or something). It’s flattering! Plus, people love dates! They go on dates all the time. Also, I’m charmed by you already! Stay charming.

Question 2: There is no objective level of hotness at all ever in anything. I like girls with shaved heads! And huge teeth! It doesn’t even make sense, you like what you like!

I am a pretty great lady — smart, pretty, funny, etc. I have been meeting new guys from dating sites and everything goes great for a little bit, but there is a problem that keeps coming up. I was born with a lot of medical abnormalities and I don’t know how to approach the subject with a new man.

I am completely normal from the outside, but I have scars on my stomach from a Mitrofanoff procedure, which means I urinate from my belly button. Because of the surgery, I always have a band-aid over my belly button. I have a heart condition, which doesn’t really affect my life, but I take medicine for it. Two years ago, I had a cyst removed from my brain which was the most scary thing ever because on top of seeing double for three months, I also got meningitis from the surgery. I was also born without a gallbladder, which means that sometimes I get sick after eating greasy food.

So here are my questions: When is the right time to bring these issues up? In particular, I’m worried about how to address the whole “urinating out of my belly button” thing. I feel like maybe I should tell a new guy about the Mitrofanoff before clothes come off, because he might wonder about the scars and band-aid, but I have no idea how to approach it and I don’t want to scare them off. How can I explain these things to a new guy?

OK, so my advice for your problem is that it isn’t really a problem at all. What you have, actually, is a really good early warning detection system for jerk guys (ARGEWDSFJG). Just tell people about all your medical stuff; their reaction reflects more about their character than it does your state of “normalcy.” Maybe don’t bring it up on the first date, it is big news, but bring it up organically in the same way you get to know anything about a person. Do you have any brothers or sisters? What sort of movies do you like? When you pee, does it come out of the normal place or somewhere new and fun?

Some guys might be alarmed by all of your medical abnormalities and start looking for the nearest exit. However, there is a name for guys like this: assholes. If you tell some guy that you were born without a gallbladder and he runs away then that guy is a full-on asshole. You’re lucky you got to find out so early! Some guys are good at hiding it. My advice would be to unapologetically be yourself, and if the guys you meet have a problem with that, then you don’t need any of that noise in the first place. Actually, that would be my advice to any girl anywhere, at any time. You just happen to have a really good vetting process to tell you how decent a guy is in the first few days of knowing him.

My brother is 25 years old and he is a great person. He has charm, for real, and in a good way. Like, people WANT him around — they request his presence. I’m talking his friends, family, MY friends, etc. I’m pointing this out because it’s very different from my life where I have my small circle of awesome friends and we barely see each other because there’s just no time. But in my brother’s case, it’s like his friends seriously wouldn’t know what to do without him. They probably wouldn’t even be friends with each other anymore if my brother weren’t around. My brother has a number of talents, particularly when it comes to music, and he has a really warm personality that obviously people are drawn to. Frankly, he shines and you feel special when you’re part of his world where things are exciting and people jam together and you never stop laughing. I love my brother immensely. But here’s the deal:

My brother is a scumbag. He’s on his second DUI — the second one cost him five days in jail and two years of probation. He just got caught driving on a suspended license and will most likely go back to jail for however long they decide — his probation was scheduled to end in SEPTEMBER.  He skips work — he’s an intern right now for my dad’s company — and not only is it bad to call off work because it just IS, but every time my brother does it, it’s like a slap in the face to my dad. If he doesn’t skip out on work, he goes in late and leaves early. When asked what he does all day, he says Sudoku puzzles…. and OK, so people joke that they have boring and meaningless jobs, but I think he’s serious. He doesn’t have a girlfriend and he hasn’t had a serious one in well over two years — there was this one girl coming around for a while, but it was just a fling. Obviously he’s horrible with money, since he barely makes any so he’s been asking to borrow from my dad. Well, my dad cut him off so he moved onto me next. I let him borrow $40 a month ago and I still have yet to see it again. Also, alcohol is prevalent in his day-to-day life, and he doesn’t have an off-switch.  Like, he drinks to the point of physically not being able to move  — not to the point of, “If I drink any more, I’m not going to be able to move!”

As far as I know, my brother’s friends don’t talk to him about this kind of thing and really, none of them are shining examples of motivation and ambition anyway. Whenever me and my dad try to talk to him, he shuts down almost immediately. The defenses go up and he becomes impossible to reason with. This behavior has been going on ever since he moved back home from college and it’s been really bad over the last two years. We’re worried. It’s getting to the point that shrugging it off and assuring ourselves that “he’ll learn” is not enough — he’s NOT learning. He’s not getting better and nothing is changing. I tend to think that his inability to deal with emotional issues stems from our mom dying when he was seven and I was nine. I was sent to group therapy throughout elementary and middle school and learned to deal with my issues. My brother was not given the same treatment and honestly, I’m not sure he’s ever talked about it with anyone. I am adding this in because it feels like lying to leave it out, since this event was traumatizing for my family. But I don’t know — I go back and forth between feeling deeply concerned and completely melodramatic.

Here’s what I would like to know, if you could help:

1.  How should I approach my brother on any of the above topics to get him to talk to me?  I want him to feel fulfilled in his life and currently, I don’t think he is. He’s obviously not happy with his job, but he needs to DO something about it! Is there any way I can help motivate him? I speak from experience that it is possible to change things around when your life has zero direction — I could help him.

2.  Should I just stop drinking in front of him all together?  I think it’s clear that alcohol is an issue here, but he does not think so. In fact, if I bring it up to him, he uses my drinking as leverage saying that what he does is no different than what I do. Well, I don’t drink and drive for one, and I guess he doesn’t pay attention to the sheer volume of alcohol he consumes on a regular basis, compared to what I drink. Maybe it would be easier for me to just stop?

3.  I need an impartial opinion because my brain is filled with episodes of Intervention and I can’t tell if this is just a case of quarter-life crisis/identity freak-out (like, fuck — I don’t want to act like an adult yet) or if is this a real problem that my family and I have to deal with. Am I overreacting because this is my own brother or am I pulling the wool over my eyes because this is my own brother?

Any advice you can offer is much appreciated.

Oh poor stranger girl. You can’t change anyone. No one. You are wasting so much time and energy psychoanalyzing and developing strategies and watching shows about how to fix your brother, and it’s all a complete waste. You can’t fix anyone. Not to mention that the conditions under which a person can be called “broken,” where they would need “fixing,” are extremely unclear. Here’s what you can do, though: You can develop new strategies and new ways of thinking that will make you happier about your relationship with your brother and give you more comfort in your day-to-day life. Also, if we can eliminate some of the more judgmental aspects of how you think about your brother, you might be better positioned to help him with what sounds like some very real alcoholism.

I’d like to focus on something interesting that is between the lines of this letter. You have a small circle of friends that you “barely see” because there’s “just no time.” Your brother has people who love him so dearly they would fall apart without him, request his presence all the time, adore spending time with him, etc. Have you heard of “medium chill”? One of the (perhaps surprising) findings of this awesome essay is that “social connections are at the heart of wellbeing.” This has been empirically demonstrated so many times in the social sciences that it has become a truism: The single most reliable indicator of whether or not a person is happy is the volume, depth, quality, and reliability of their personal relationships. What I’m dancing around is that your brother is probably a lot happier than you on a daily basis. He is intimately woven into a rich social fabric, and the cognitive benefit of that is immeasurable (no matter what you may think of his level of ambition). Human beings are so, so bad at predicting which life choices or decisions will make them happy. This is sort of what the medium chill thing is all about, I think (and also what your brother seems to have figured out on his own). Getting a more upwardly mobile job to which he can devote 60 hours of his week will likely make your brother a lot less happy, even if you think it’s in his best interest.

So any happiness or disutility you get from thinking that your brother is a “scumbag” is possibly unfounded. If he has a network of people who love and value him, he is much better off than most of us. Even if you’re correct that his choices are ultimately harmful to him, it isn’t appropriate for you to be deciding what is best for him in the first place. His rock bottom is waiting for him if his lifestyle is harmful. He will have to face his own tough realities, it isn’t on you to point it out. That said, there are some instances where his actions directly compromise your happiness, and those we have to address.

I know people like your brother, who are absolutely enchanting to be around. Often times, after they leave, you get a strange and murky sense that you’ve been taken advantage of (which of course disappears the moment you’re back in their company). These people can be amazing to have in your life, but often need to be kept at a certain distance with clearly defined boundaries. This is very difficult when one of these people is a sibling, and you’re compelled (maybe even duty-bound?) to be around them a lot. I would still definitely advise you to create clear boundaries. Don’t lend him money. I know you feel responsible for him, it’s all over your letter that you think his happiness and success is your job, but if he is compelled by circumstance he will manage on his own. The ability to make other people like you is extremely marketable. If you keep bailing him out, though, he won’t have to take care of himself, so of course he won’t. You might be right that his slacker work ethic takes advantage of your father. I think you should advise your father to fire him if his performance doesn’t add any benefit to the company. Handouts and free rides are no way to help someone like your brother.

OK, the drinking. Hoo boy. This, to me, is a completely separate issue from most of the character traits you think make your brother a “scumbag.” In fact, if you can really recognize the value of his personality, and see how someone like him has a few things really figured out with respect to contentedness and wellbeing, you’ll have more credibility when you talk to him about his drinking. I’m no doctor, but to me that shit is just bonkers. I think you need to say so immediately. There is absolutely no excuse for the drunk driving, you’re right to be disappointed in him and definitely give him a piece of your mind. Like, give up the keys, dude. Even if he can break that weird, dangerous, awful, and illegal habit, getting blackout drunk until you can’t physically move at every party will take an enormous toll on his health. Try explaining some stuff to him about epigenetics, maybe? How the choices that you make in your lifestyle directly influence the genetic fitness of your children? As in, by manipulating the diet of a hamster, they can (with pretty startling pinpoint accuracy) change the spots on the coat of its offspring. A hamster this fat will have babies with spots here, and then they are right. And it only goes back, like, two generations. Your height is determined mostly by your grandfather’s diet, or so they say. Alcohol has an enormous influence on your epigenetic fitness, as big as smoking and diet/exercise, so tell him that his future babies will be soccer pros if he just takes better care of himself? Because he is destroying his genes. Good lord, what am I even talking about?? I’m telling you this because it really helps keep me motivated to eat well and exercise, maybe it will help him too. Here’s a great paper about it, but it’s super heady. Umm… good luck!

So the lending money, the easy job, and the drinking (and driving) are three areas where your brother’s actions directly confound your ability to be happy, and you should address them as directly as possible without sounding judgmental. Use a lot of “I” statements. Rather than “you are a total piece of shit,” say “it frustrates me when I lend you money and you don’t pay me back, so I’m not going to do that any more.” These statements will keep the focus off your opinions about his lifestyle and keep the discussion where it belongs: how his actions directly affect you, and what needs to change for you to be more satisfied with your relationship. This last point gets to what I’m trying to say with this whole answer: Focus more on yourself, and what makes you happy, and your brother will take care of himself. It sounds like he has developed some really effective strategies for keeping himself happy, even though you may judge those strategies as somehow invalid. If you address the three ways he directly brings you unhappiness, all that’s left to do is stop taking so much personal responsibility for his success or failure and worry about yourself. Spend more time with your friends. Work less. In fact, don’t focus on others in general. Taking on the burden of other people’s problems, even your own brother’s, is a guaranteed route to the misery bin. You’re like that lady at the beginning of the romantic comedy who needs to learn from some handsome carpenter guy to stop planning her life and start living it. Is that what happens? I don’t actually know. But you get what I’m saying!

This is an etiquette question — I have a lovely fella who’s terrific fun to be around and generous with his feelings. There is one thing — he never opens a single door for me, always charges ahead first, and when we leave a restaurant — instead of waiting for me to gather my things and put on my coat — charges outside to chomp at the bit or check his phone. A few times I have asked: “Where’s the fire?” to no avail. In all other ways he’s not inconsiderate.

I really noticed this was a problem when I realized my dad (who’s 70) always opens doors for everyone, stands up when a lady is taking off her coat and then finds a spot for it, makes sure everyone is comfy (male or female), and is generally very courteous and aware of people around him. I guess I’ve grown up with this as an expectation.

So my question is this: How do I gradually encourage more of the latter behavior in my fella without telling him he’s inconsiderate, or that his upbringing might have been a little, er, lacking? Is there a kind way to do it? Without charging ahead too much myself — what if we have kids? I wouldn’t want them to act like this either! Many thanks.

Ohhh you SNEAKY SNAKE, you, this is NOT an etiquette question! This is a how-can-I-change-my-man-because-there-are-things-about-him-I-don’t-like question! The only real advice my dad ever gave me about women was this: “when a man sees a woman he likes, he thinks ‘I want her!!’ and when a woman sees a man she likes, she thinks ‘y’know, I could really make something out of that.’” I have no clue if that’s right, but it seems to be what you’re after. So let’s come up with some strategies here. First, decide how important this is to you. Is it super, super important? Dealbreaker? It will be very useful to you in the future if you can accurately value this characteristic in someone you think of as a partner. You’ve already thought about how it will impact your future children, which I think is a good indicator of how important it is to you (very).

Armed with this knowledge, tell him about it. Be totally non-confrontational and non-judgmental when you bring it up, which will be harder than you think. It’s like a lie detector test. You can only fool it if you actually believe what you’re saying. All this stuff about his upbringing being “lacking”? Get rid of that in your thinking itself. That pejorative language isn’t gonna help anything. I’m a huge, huge believer in opening doors, taking off coats, being generally chivalrous, etc. But as the comments on this very website taught me, some girls hate that. Hate it. So your fella might be a perfect match for one of those girls. The idea is to eliminate the idea that his upbringing was “lacking,” and consider it only “different.” Then tell him what works for how you see the world, since you should be the only girl he’s interested in pleasing.

I really buy the idea that conflicts between couples usually come from speaking different languages of love. Some people buy little gifts to show someone that they love them. Some people work to organize their partner’s day, to make their life easier and show that they love them. Some people express their love physically, some people use actual spoken language, etc. The problem arises if I’m saying “I love you” and you’re just hearing that talk is cheap (because your love language involves actions and gifts), or I’m buying you little gifts to say that I love you and you’re just thinking “thanks but you can’t buy me off, why don’t you ever just say you love me!” So in your case, let him know that you understand that he loves you, but these little gestures are a message you can easily receive and would like to hear more often. If he really is someone who is generous with his feelings, I can’t imagine that he would turn down such a reasonable request. Not to mention that it will be twice as effective now, because you will know every time he opens a door for you that it isn’t his natural way of being but he loves you and is trying to tell you so. Yay for love!

If he won’t do it, or can’t do it, even after you’ve made clear to him how important it is to you and that this is an important way for him to express his love to you, then… uh oh. RED FLAG. He now speaks your language and he just isn’t saying it! What a jerk! Remember that you need to learn his language too, though. Two way street!

Great! OK, let’s all eat something tasty straight from the jar with a spoon while we read the comments! I piiiiiccckkk… NUTELLA! Everyone on here is like, twice as smart as me I’m sure they will have way better advice for you.

Previously: Best Exes.

A Dude is one of several rotating dudes who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Dude?

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