Savage Love Letter of the Day: Her New Boyfriend Canceled Plans to See a Friend with Cancer

Comments

1
If he would just answer her calls, they could get back together, and she could totally DTMFA.
2
Yeah. That was an easy one.
3
...there had been a trend of him canceling our plans to hang out with his friends..."
That tells you all you need to know. He's just wasn't that into you. Sucks. Accept it and find a better match.

As always, the advice is easy to give when it's not happening to you.
4
Actually, upon further consideration, what is dumping etiquette in Kenya? Could it be that she is right in considering herself still undumped?
5
Maybe this thinking is too elaborate, but what if the visiting friend didn't have cancer, and the boyfriend set this up as a way to bail on the LW. He's not good at "this isn't working for me," but is good at "you've proven you're a horrible person. It's over." It doesn't really change the outcome, but it came to mind.
6
I've learned through experience, any action you take (or don't take) in a relationship is always and exclusively just a reaction to your partner. Literally anything you do that doesn't advance the relationship is a sign of betrayal and hatred. #Facts
7
I didn't know it was possible for emotional intelligence to get this low.
8
I'd have dumped her, too. Jeez. She sounds like a whiny 12 year old. Wait, I've met 12 year olds with more empathy.
9
This chick makes me super glad to be gay. Cuz dudes never pull drama. Never ever.
10
It's considerate of Dan to answer these letters the degree of professionalism that he does, but "only twice a year" sounds to me like the metric of the very young, for which all of my dating advice is "keep in mind, best case scenario you'll be dating for 3 years... tops."
11
LW is a stage 4 clinger.

She's the female equivalent of a "nice guy"... Markets themselves as giving / supportive, but ultimately fundamentally entitled/selfish.
12
I agree with the friend didn't have cancer theory. The bf wanted out of the relationship. He was a manipulative asshole, anyway, who kept breaking plans.
13
Kenyan boys, don't know much about their culture.
You are well rid of such a rude young man, LW. Call time of death of that relationship now, as you decide that with your next bf, any hint of such rudeness, and his sorry arse will be out the door.
You are the only one who can set the limits of what you will and won't put up with.
Hi from Australia.
14
@6 managed a comment almost as dumb as the original letter
15
A) Nailed it, Dan, and B) that headline is confusing as hell. I thought he had cancelled his plans to see his friend, not that he cancelled on HER, to see his friend. Eh. It's a little vague, is all. Y'all need a copy editor.
16
@14 You might wanna get your sarcasm meter checked.
17
I'm with @15--I was reading for the plot twist where the LW found out the boyfriend cancelled on the cancer friend to... sneakily go to the show by himself?
18
LW is MF. When you plug that into DTMFA, well... not to be unkind, but I call bullshit.
19
@16 I think you mistake what it is that @14 is describing.

Man, Sportlandia my man (?), you keep landing in relationships with these wacko chicks (?), what are the fucken odds, man, so sorry.
20
I feel for the LW.

She's a young woman in Kenya, a country with narrowly based ethnic allegiances (and a culture of senseless political violence; though maybe the US is getting that way)--somewhere on average much more homophobic and misogynistic than the context of (I'd guess) everyone who has responded so far. It’s an act of personal defiance and gesture of political affiliation for her to have found the Savage lovecast and to listen to it. She would think herself of the 'tribe of Savage'. A typical discussion of the morality of relationships among people in their young twenties, say, in her context is whether homosexuality is a perversion of divine intent or whether AIDS is a divine punishment for gay sex. In these discussions she's with Savage. She understands Savage is a beacon of charity and good sense in a messed-up world (which will be how Savage got her and her friends, some of whom are likely to be gay, through tough times). So it's inconceivable to her that the way she thinks, even about her own nascent love life, isn't how Dan thinks. The way his response paints her as insensitive (if not the actual advice) will be a shock to her--though maybe a salutary one. Then some of the privileged follow-on posters are dousing surgical spirit into the burn.

I'm actually not sure the fourth-stage cancer is germane here. Her four-month relationship was wildly up and down and, after dumping her, he doesn't answer her texts. That's why the break-up is definitive.
21
Beaver @19: Exactly. What are the odds? I wonder why all the well-adjusted, sane women pass up guys with misogynist chips on their shoulders. Just doesn't make sense. Hmm.

As for the already-dumped MF, it sounds like both the people in this story were pretty unreasonable. He was a flake who kept cancelling plans. She unreasonably demanded priority over a friend with cancer. This relationship wouldn't have done either of them any good. Move on... but grow up first, please, before dating anyone else!
22
It's easy to agree with all who are saying to dump him. As I read, I was hoping I'd get to the part where the question was interesting, not so obvious. I thought I'd found it here:

"His friend has stage 4 cancer but has decided to live up his life so you couldn't really tell that he's sick just by looking at him or hanging out with him but it's there."

If you've got a boyfriend with a history of flaking out on plans,
if that boyfriend has had the Big Discussion (has been read the riot act) on not flaking out on plans,
if the dying friend in question has no discernible symptoms and is still able to work and party and has flown away from his usual medical team,

I was kind of hoping the question was going to turn out to be that Mostly Frustrated wanted to know if her boyfriend had discovered Bunburying.

There's also wondering what's going on with young women today. Or maybe it's always been like this. What happened that anyone would think this was a relationship in the first place? How could she think, how could she not know it was over? I don't often get nostalgic for relationships the way they were in the 50s, but I almost think this letter gives the idea that there's something to be said for not never phoning a boy, always waiting for him to make the first move, having nothing more to do with anyone who stands you up even once, (and not having sex with him until marriage).
23
"There's also wondering what's going on with young women today. Or maybe it's always been like this"

He does a good job trying to find a balance of general positivity and advice but Dan's advice letters are necessarily going to sway towards dysfunction (and notable enough to deserve a response.) Why would someone with everything going right bother to write in?

I think some human trends and anti-patterns can be observed from the letters, but I don't know how relevant they are beyond observing general culture shifts (the recent i anonymous article where the person doesn't get a text response for two days and freaks out comes to mind, more as an indictment of our driving need for instant and constant communication.)

I tend towards the position that the problems Dan discusses as iterations on ones that have always existed. The exact form may change over the years, but loneliness/insecurity/self-respect are still prime drivers no matter the cultural context.
24
When I read the headline, I thought the guy decided not to visit a friend with cancer. He "canceled plans to visit friend with cancer," not he "canceled plans with her to see friend with cancer instead." I was expecting her dilemma to be whether to stay with some heartless monster, not whether to stay with a guy who cares about his friend. And don't Kenyans have an election to worry about? Pay attention to that shit or you might wind up with a wannabe dictator who takes a dump on your most cherished institutions!
25
And to this end:

"I don't often get nostalgic for relationships the way they were in the 50s, but I almost think this letter gives the idea that there's something to be said for not never phoning a boy, always waiting for him to make the first move, having nothing more to do with anyone who stands you up even once, (and not having sex with him until marriage)."

Like "MAGA", it's best that we don't get wrapped up in false nostalgia for a time that never really existed.

A SL of the time would never have been published and any advice columnist would have been censored heavily. Honest speech being suppressed, and additional horrors of the time aside I think we'd see these same patterns popping up.

I get that you're not really calling back to it, but even in exasperation I can't see having less autonomy/choice would make someone more confident. I suppose I'm sympathetic in this sort of over-livejournaled world where I hear strangers' feelings on a regular basis the desire to hear a more structured narrative of dating and love and "how it just worked" is tempting, but we all know the myth from the reality, and silent suffering sucks far more than seeing so much loneliness, anger, and general bad feelings (and ideas!) online.
26
What does it matter if she's from Kenya or not? Cancer is the same in every nation. Oh wait I forgot as an American I'm too privileged to have an opinion on dying.
27
Thanks, undead, your comments make sense.

Now let me express my disappointment that no one picked up on my nod to the great Wilde in my reference to Bunburying.
28
@6, Sportlandia, two independent, and healthy adults don't need to play that game. And this letter is about a rude young man, who has been spending time with his ' cancer' friend (who really should have a night off between festivities), dumping his gf after pulling out of a date which was important to her. And it was a repeat performance.
To your sentiment, it did feel that way to me Some of the time in my marriage. Being connected to another intimately is hard work. Many benefits when you get it right and hell realms if you get it wrong. Especially if children involved.
Pick your partners wisely.
29
@25, undead, the 50's did exist, I remember them as a child. The dating rules were as Dan describes, this was pre - The Pill- time. And yes, once a man stands you up once without very good cause flick him. It's an indication of how he treats people, and who wants to be treated like that.
And all of you dumping on this young woman from Kenya, way to go.
30
Another vote for the friend doesn't have cancer, although they still don't have a relationship.
31
@29: "undead, the 50's did exist, I remember them as a child."

I was discussing the appeal of false nostalgia.
32
How is it false nostalgia, and it is a time that existed. The changes over the last fifty plus years have freed women and others from a lot of constraints. And imposed a lot of others.
33
@26. TheLastComment. A liberal outlook in Nairobi will not be identical to one in Seattle. Emotional maturity and articulacy won't be the same in both places. The pattern of people having many relationships before committing to marriage (or long-term partnership), and the premiss of equality between the sexes in access to work opportunities, mean liberal Americans discuss dating differently to most Kenyans.
34
Fichu @27: I picked up on the Earnestness of your comment!
(Only this is not a Bunbury situation, as the friend exists, and LW has met him. The cancer may or may not, however.)

Undead/Lava: As a queer person I am very pleased not to live in the 1950s. Also very pleased that I've had the power over my reproductive system that's only been available since the 1970s. Rigid heterosexual rules and mores may be less confusing but they certainly would be oppressive to those who don't fit them. Today, it's marginally more acceptable for women to enjoy sex for its own sake, and to admit as much. Though we still have many double standards to overcome.
35
FWIW, I read the headline as "Her New Boyfriend Canceled Plans [In Order] to See a Friend with Cancer."
36
Thanks, BiDan. It's nice to be understood.
37
@Fichu: I award you the Vennominon for using a character out of classic British literature in your discussion. I appreciated the reference.
38
The friend may or may not have cancer. The couple had problems that signaled this as being a not-ideal relationship. The lw was dumped--no need for her to DTMFA.
For reasons unknown, except maybe that Dan started it and we're a bunch of goons, the commentariat is piling on this woman like she's Jeff Sessions.

@22 Fichu did indeed express false nostalgia for a simpler time that never existed: "There's also wondering what's going on with young women today. Or maybe it's always been like this. What happened that anyone would think this was a relationship in the first place? How could she think, how could she not know it was over? I don't often get nostalgic for relationships the way they were in the 50s, but I almost think this letter gives the idea that there's something to be said for not never phoning a boy, always waiting for him to make the first move, having nothing more to do with anyone who stands you up even once, (and not having sex with him until marriage). "
Yes, it's always been like this; people see what they want to see; people live in hope. I don't know what it takes for you to define some interpersonal relationship as a "relationship," but for this young woman, the fact that she's been dating the guy for 4 months and there have been some good times was a qualifying condition ("I've been seeing this guy for about four months and the relationship has been littered with ups and downs—but the ups have been really great"). We have no idea what kind of defining conversations they had or did not have about the nature of their relationship. If you had been dating someone for 4 months and presumably having sex with him, would you take umbrage at someone suggesting that it was foolish and stupid of you to to have considered that to have been a relationship? What constitutes a "relationship" to you--only one that ends in marriage or cohabitation? Is there a length requirement? If so, what is it?

Girls got dumped in the 50s; girls called boys on the phone in the 50s--they were just shamed for doing it; people had sex before marriage (read Stephanie Koontz), and many marriages were hastily arranged when the woman became pregnant (or there were a lot more fully-formed "premature" babies in the 1940s and 1950s!); insisting that girls must wait for the boy to make the first move robs women of agency and turns them into objects to be gained despite objections that must be overcome. This wasn't a simpler time and it sure wasn't a better time. The "rules" were harsh and unforgiving to women, who were stigmatized far more than they are now if they strayed outside the "good girl" boundaries. Date rape happened with no way to define it and no way to prosecute it, and it was the woman's reputation that suffered for it to a far greater extent than today.
39
Yes to all your points nocute, the 50s
were repressive and I'm glad I didn't come of age during them. Still, there was an expectation men married and supported women they got pregnant, not ideal, neither is one woman struggling to feed kids on her own. Society doesn't give a toss about that anymore. Young women are subjected to young men who have learnt the moves from porn, and she's expected to come across, day one. I don't see it as nostalgic to appreciate some aspects of a time past.

40
The freedoms women have now are immense compared to the fifties. They also have to juggle a job and the kids. Capitalism has ripped the gains to shreds, for some.
41
@39: "Still, there was an expectation men married and supported women they got pregnant"

Right, but men still shirked their responsibilities, and when they didn't, the women felt the societal brunt, even more than today.

"I don't see it as nostalgic to appreciate some aspects of a time past."

The picking and choosing and excluding obvious horrors is what makes it a false nostalgia, a yearning for a time that (as prettified) never existed in reality.
42
Why you keep saying it didn't exist, when it did exist. Yes, some aspects were punitive, just not sure they were more punitive than now, for some. And many lawmakers are taking women's rights back to the fifties, and society still expects two workers in the family. Child rearing is squeezed in there somewhere. There's still no male Pill, and women have suffered physical side effects from contraception, women still do the majority of work tending the house, or there is two tired people fighting over the chores at the end of the day. The women in the fifties stayed home, at least while the kids were pre school, because one wage covered the family. Once women demanded change, they got jobs and kept their prior chores. Society hasn't adjusted to feminism, capitalism has co opted it.
43
I can see why so many women and men choose to not have children, the culture is less geared to that task now. A woman soon finds out how much autonomy she has, when she becomes a mother.
44
@Lava @54: "Society hasn't adjusted to feminism, capitalism has co opted it."
Truer words were never spoke.

As Lava isn't yearning for the 50s and pretending they had no downsides, I don't think this is false (or true) nostalgia. It's just noting that along with the things that got better, some didn't. That's fair.
45
NoCute @38: The social rules that Fichu described, and you quoted, do sound logical except for one thing: the female sex drive. Why would a girl want to call a boy instead of waiting to call her? Because she, too, likes sex. Why not "make him wait" for marriage? Because women, too, like sex. The female sex drive wasn't invented in the 1970s, even if the (slow to catch on) idea that we shouldn't be shamed for it was.

"I've been seeing this guy for about four months and the relationship has been littered with ups and downs—but the ups have been really great"
FWIW, I'd place strong odds on this meaning "we argue a lot but the sex is fantastic."
46
@BiDanFan: Please don't think I ever lived by those rules (I came of age in the 70s) or that I approve them. Yes, they fail to account for the fact that women like sex, but men wanting sex and women wanting love and security have been built into the narrative for a while now.
47
@44: "As Lava isn't yearning for the 50s and pretending they had no downsides, I don't think this is false (or true) nostalgia. It's just noting that along with the things that got better, some didn't. That's fair."

My point is that the myth of the family-oriented 1950s involved many layers of lie built upon each other. The difference today is honesty in reporting ones mental state, the ability to function single or divorced, to report or not expect abuse.

To claim otherwise is the very definition of false nostalgia. From the state of US politics it's obvious that living though the time doesn't prevent a person from bullshitting themselves about the reality from the narrative.

Since recorded history we have false nostalgia and claims of how the concept of "family" has been corrupted in later generations. It's as deceptive of an argument now as it was in the time of the ancient Greeks.

There's a lot appealing in the idea that there's something materially different in honesty, and honesty is often unpleasant. But voices exist now to give truth to narratives. Maybe still not powerful enough to challenge them, but queer/female/POC voices can at least be found, and far more difficult to suppress.
48
TL:DR, having a set and understood role when people "have their place" and know it is... simpler but not a desireable end-goal.

It's also incredibly different when one doesn't fit into their assigned-by-birth place in society.

Do I think it's as different as it should be? Fuck no. But thank goodness there's some consciousness, the unsureness of not knowing what to do with it is a problem better having.
49
@47. You don't think people still live under layers of lies? You not been reading the letters. Ability to function as a single person, a single woman, yes.. big gains. Single parent, not so easy to function. Family life is more fraught with the demands on it, the work load is bigger.
I saw how it worked, I lived the fifties as a child. I used to walk round my street at five, visiting friends. My mother was home after school. My parents did the yards looking after the children they brought into the world. They had fun too. Parties, my father with his photography, my mother with her church groups. It wasn't all that bleak, for a white person, a white child.
50
No undead, looking back to earlier times re family cohesion is not some fancy nostalgia. And you have assigned roles now, in your life, don't you? I'm guessing you haven't reared any babies, that's when the extended family comes in handy. Also, when the old need care. In our culture,now, with the majority, non family members fill those rolls and we pay them.
And what good is reporting ones mental state, if all that's offered is pills? I remember when the psych hospitals were operational, and then in the sixties/ seventies, and earlier with some, the whole mental health world was confronted. Did they and the state look to incorporate these new ideas, or did they see an opportunity to put people out of institutions, out on the street, and manage them with drugs.
51
I'm not suggesting the advances in pills to aid mental health hasn't been of great benefit to many. Just looking at the mind as if it's just a bunch of chemicals is not the whole story.