SL Letter of the Day: Mixed Signals


"...he wants to feel like he has a girlfriend and/or lover without having to say the words."

Or do the work. It's like Instant Girlfriend, just add water!

As it were.
But she can change him, right? Because women who hang on to men like this always think "he''ll change" and "I can change him" and when they figure out they can't change anyone it's usually after they get pregnant.

But she is damaged goods as well,
so maybe it will work.

because, "love" and all......
Epic Fail, Danny.

she wanted you to tell her he was gay gay gay so she would know it was not her fault.

now, it too late.....
I can think of male - male couples that fit this same dynamic. Not to get confessional or anything, but why couldn't this letter have run ten years ago?
Wait, I KNOW I dated this guy! If she's gonna run, maybe he'll come back to ME, right?

Seriously sugar, I got decades of experience on you. This is NEVER gonna work. Find someone who really wants to be with you. It just works better that way, KWIM?
@4 - like most bigots, you're the only one in the room who always has gay sex on the mind. Contemplate that.

re: the letter - I also think there's a possibility that this guy is terrified of a romantic entanglement with someone who's rejected him so many times before.
She needed to be propped up by the Rugged Ice Man of the North in between boyfriends for twelve years? He abstained physically while sending romantic/erotic snail-mail to an ex off and on for the same amount of time? Honestly, they both sound kind of fucked up. Maybe it would've worked out had they got the location thing sorted. But I try to be an optimist in matters of the heart.
@5 It ran eight years ago. Not good enough?
@4 You seriously think about men fucking men more than gay dudes.
Sometimes mixed signals reflect mixed feelings, in this probably something along the lines of "I don't love you, but I want to paddle your canoe like a champ." If you're comfortable with that, I say go visit, but make sure to buy a return ticket.
Maybe #4 is this politician.…
@7 and @10:
All of this trolling will fall to the wayside once he experiences the vigorous yet strangely tender ministrations of a rough trick named Logan with whom he will fall in exquisite, impossible love...
@11: "Paddle your canoe"?
The Slog does this lovely job of hiding comments from unregistered readers, so that we don't have to work so hard to ignore them. And then, unfailingly, someone goes and reads the hidden comment *on purpose* and starts responding to it. WHY? WHY FEED THE TROLLS?! You are giving them what they want. Just ignore the content that this website so generously filters out for you, and speak to the people who are invested enough in a topic/community to register themselves as participants and stand by their own words.
@15: Not every unregistered reader is a troll- and being a registered reader does not exempt one from being a troll. As for ignoring the trolls altogether, I can only speak for myself but sometimes you just don't feel like rising above. I had an asshole in a pickup truck yell "Faggots!" at me and my boyfriend walking for about a month. We ignored him, gave him the finger, laughed between ourselves. Then one day, I snapped, ran up to his window, grabbed him by the collar and screamed "What the fuck did you say, asshole?" He tried to roll up the window and when I stepped back he sped off. We never saw him again. Sometimes you want to sink to their level.
@15 FTW. Thanks.

@16, Now imagine that guy speeding home and masturbating and then coming back to yell at you five times a day. That's more like these trolls.
@9 eight years ago I had already sent my mixed signal guy to his Alaska. But reading this might have helped me do it even sooner.
@17: That doesn't mean you always just ignore it. If you had any idea what it felt like when it's directed at you, you wouldn't be so dismissive.
I'm incredibly confused about this letter writer's timeline. She says she hasn't seen this guy since 1993 when they were graduating college together, but she's 34? I've never met anyone who has graduated college at 14. Did she mean to write that she's 44?
@20 - letter is from 2005
@20: The letter is from 2005.
@21: jinx
@ 16: A troll who has no actual investment in a topic and only wants to get people angry is far less likely to register, since they just want to drop off a steaming pile of shit and run. They won't register with their email address if they are worried about held accountable for their comments (like, receive a warning email from the administrator and then be banned from commenting if they repeatedly break the commenting rules). People whose intentions are not hateful and who are a part of this community typically have no problem with registering. This means that hidden comments are more likely be made by trolls. The shittiest part is that they frequently introduce an argument that seems like a real perspective that needs debating, when actually they are a 13 year old boy fucking around, or a person with mental health issues who doesn't represent actual public opinion. It's really actually better for all of our mental health and for the progress of liberation if we collectively agree to ignore them. Seriously, please don't respond to the hidden comments. If someone wants to join the conversation, they can take 3 minutes to sign up and confirm their email address.
Also, someone yelling at you from a truck does not equal a hidden comment on an internet thread, in that the former is intrusive and invasive and you don't have the choice not to hear it (verbal assault!), and the latter is hidden from sight and is only heard if you choose to read it. You are *choosing* to be subjected to insult!

it's a 'sex' column, dude.
perhaps you are looking for the knitting blog?
get help......

you too.
its a letter from a woman.
try to keep up...

we don't click strange links.
a girl can't be too careful.

oh; do you promise?
Logan is such a nice name, too.
we'll go ahead and get the towels monogramed...

you are reading,
about an EIGHT year old letter and you worry about wasting your time reading The Troll?
if you say so.

you should send that story to Penthouse.

are you kidding?
he was furiously wanking off when he made up that story.
"take THAT! you Brute..."

Take a deep breathe.
TheTroll is your friend.
Now. Go home and reconsider your life....

you have our sympathy.
at least once syphilis gets to the brain the end comes quickly....

you are so precious.
HomoLiberals ARE best off when they hide from opinions that differ from their own.
Since The Truth has a nasty habit of ripping them new assholes when they deign to expose themselves to it.
I'm not really investing in responding to trolls. I'm invested in being able, whenever I see fit, to say my peace. And simply because the comment is unregistered does not mean it has no impact- there are often useful in that they illustrate the ignorance and unspoken prejudice (in polite company) that undergirds the issue at hand. I am not "choosing" victimhood or to be abused; the comments put forth by the trolls can be quite "invasive" and "intrusive" and sometimes not responding is to be tacitly complicit. I know your "choose life" and "better just to ignore them" edict is well-meaning and meant to illustrate solidarity. It would be sweet if it weren't so presumptuous and condescending.
fuck this thread I'm outta here
Ha. I have one of those. Broke my heart when we were just kids. Shows up years later for a weekend of outrageous protestations and PDA, then mocks me (in his ever-gentle, ever-classy way) for having feelings, then lays it on thick about his memories and undying affection ("Send me a picture so I can show it to my mom. She remembers you"--really?), then vanishes. Complains on Facebook about being lonely. Pops up at random on my profile with intimate compliments, giving other guys the wrong idea, doesn't reply when I message to see how he's doing. Basically, he's a drifter and always will be. It's taken time and effort, but the porch light is finally off for good. F'in drifters.
27 was for 24
Is it that hard to understand that he probably has some type of family in Alaska and is just using her as some kind of vacation fuck toy? The emailing off-and-on during serious relationships means he was fishing to see if anything was available if he had the means to go places. Duuuuuuh?
@24 People get banned from Slog??? I'm surprised half of us still have accounts.

I have no idea what you said in that rant, save the last line, which is the only one that employed that wonderful reader-friendly tool that is the paragraph break.

Choose paragraphs, bro.

Though I had up to that point been following your back/forth regarding the trolls and will admit to reading the trolls comments pretty regularly. I'm not proud -- it kinda feels like watching 'Cops' at times, in that its just voyeuristic and fascinating to see how the other half thinks and lives.

Seriously though -- paragraphs.
@32: Most every website which asks users to register to comment enforces some sort of rules about what is acceptable for posting. That's the whole point; registration is meant as a deterrent which decreases the amount of actual thread policing that must be done. While Slog's policy seems to be to let people hang themselves with their own idiocy, this too must have its limits. I doubt they would allow people to post threats of violence, for example.

@ 27: It's neither presumptuous nor condescending to suggest that ignoring the comments which are being hidden on purpose is a better course of action than engaging internet trolls. I'm not attempting to show solidarity with you, although I was being humorous when I said "choose life." I seriously want you and others to stop engaging those idiots and stop clogging up the internet discourse. Slog is one of the few places where I can read the comments without wanting to expatriate; shut the goddamn door and stop letting the trolls in. THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS.
Oooh, this is the column that turned me into a Savage Love reader when I ran across it in print in 2005. I still quote the "Alaskan National Damaged Goods Refuge" line to people on a regular basis. Great to see it again!
Clue #1: Hot Guy That Hasn't Had Sex In 12 Years...
@34: If you think ignoring the comments is going to stop the trolls on this or any other comment thread, you're more of an idealist than I am. If you weren't attempting to show solidarity you should probably not refer to the members of the thread as "we". BTW, there's a difference between engagement and simple, terse response. Speaking of which, since I'm not telling you who to talk to (which would be presumptuous) I'd greatly appreciate it if you minded your own goddamn business. The goddamn door is already wide open and it's not up to any one of us who to let in and who to shut out- which is as it should be. You tend to your nice things and I'll tend to mine.
@37: Right, the only real solution is to actually have the writers ban the insincere trolls. The anons are content to have nobody read and respond to their ravings as often as they can make them.
Heading back to the letter now...

Mixed signals = he's just not that into you.

I had several cheerful, interesting dates in a row with a guy in a (large) music group that I'm in. He didn't contact me after that. I mourned for about two seconds, then realized that he's just not into me, and moved on.

I think it's appropriate to tell someone who is laying it on thick but not following through that the mixed signal stuff is just plain wearing you out. And move on.
I enjoy The Troll. I think he/she is funny. (Except when he/she's trying too hard.)
@38: Exactly. And who's to say the trolls aren't sincere? It'd be nice to think that nobody actually thinks like that, but that would be idealism in extremis.
I find it interesting that he, apparently without any prompting, told her he was terrified of her showing up in Alaska. Because to me, that reads like, "Please come to Alaska unannounced so I can berate you and pretend I don't want you there, then show you off to all my friends as the desperate chick who follows me around, and have explosive sex with you.

Dan is correct: nothing good can come of this. RUN!
Seeing Dan labelling someone a Damaged Good makes me pretty uneasy - probably because, as a survivor, some people, most prominently my ex-husband, have taken pleasure in labelling me a Damaged Good, and in staying with me because of being great people full of pity, but of course they couldn't help treating me according to my Damaged Good quality - who can help that ? so I was treated like shit.

Of course that's not the advice that Dan gives in how best to deal with this guy ; his advice is to sever all links and run. That's the advice I would give to anybody thinking of dealing with my ex-husband, paradoxally enough (or not).

But still. Reading those two words brings back bad, hurting memories.

Good advice though, about running away from senders of mixed signals.

I was really wondering about your ex husband.
It should be pretty obvious that the troll is going nowhere regardless of whether he or she is ignored or countertrolled. This isn't first grade. "Ignore the bullies and they'll leave you alone" is not a legiitimate policy on the Internet. However, since this IS the Internet and all you can do is say things back at them, it's not like they're ever going to be motivated to shut up. I recommend ignoring the trolls for the sake of having a good conversation without sidetracking on his or her weird crush on Dan, but I'm not going to criticize anyone for getting off a zinger if it makes you feel better.

@43: I'm sorry that those words have been used to hurt you. I don't want to take the "they're just words" route because obviously they aren't, but I think the takeaway here is that "damaged goods" are stuck in the moment of their damage and are unable to build healthy relationships past that. If you're able to realize when people are treating you like shit, then you're already taking big steps past the Alaskan borders, imo.
Personally, I think "don't feed the troll" harangues are themselves a form of trolling. They remind me of lefty activist meetings plagued by endless debates about who should be allowed to speak and who shouldn't. In that vein, if Dan says, rightly, to run! run! run! from the mixed signals, I would say, similarly, run! run! run! from any group that claims itself an "ally" of some other group. Oh the fucking handwringing...

Unfair crack about Alaska. We have some seriously undamaged cuties up here. Though there is some truth to the old line about chasing Alaska guys: "the odds are good, but the goods are odd."
This is horrible advice. Sometimes relationships only work in a certain setting. Not everyone you meet or fuck is going to work as a life partner. Not every connection or situation has the potential for real life, day in day out love. Some relationships can only work long distance. Or tortured.

It seems like this works for him. Maybe he's a very independent person. He likes being on his own, but he also likes the idea of this woman. He likes having someone to write to and to adore, fantasize from a distance - but is well aware that he's not able to love this person in a real life, day to day environment. To say this person is damaged because he doesn't fit into the relationship role that any "normal" person would is so fucked up. There is no normal. There isn't just one way to have a relationship.

If this woman thinks about it, they've had a passionate, steamy, tortured love affair for 12 years (a successful relationship by modern standards). OF COURSE IT WAS EXPLOSIVE! They had been edging those orgasms for over a decade. But to think that the unique circumstances of their romance could ever be converted into a day to day relationship is naive. Maybe that's just not how they work. She should be happy for the special relationship she has with this man. Date other people. Get married. Have kids. And stay in contact with your rugged fuck buddy. Let him be that relationship in your life and be happy with it. And love him. Love him from where you are. Love him even if you fall in love with someone else. Because I guarantee you, whatever magic and beauty she feels for this man only exists in the current arrangement.
@41: I mean, they're sincerely hateful, but they're not going to listen to anything, just heckle creepily from the sidelines.

@46: Eh. They're decent advice, but probably boost the trolls' confidence more than the original attention.

@48: "To say this person is damaged because he doesn't fit into the relationship role that any "normal" person would is so fucked up. There is no normal"

As a young guy, he claims to have not had sex or anything else for twelve years and only seems to be able to keep a connection with someone he's not seeing IRL (unless he's lying, has a girl in every "port", etc.)

"A few days later, I called him and told him I loved him. He said it wasn't reciprocated. However, he continues to write me daily e-mails. He often tells me he thinks I'm beautiful, sexy, smart, funny, etc. For a guy who's not interested, he sends some VERY mixed signals. He claims he was never in love with me, though, and doesn't think he'll ever love anyone romantically."

This is not a healthy person and your advice sounds overflowingly optimistic, like a "fixer". When someone tells you they have problems, it's good to listen to them. There's finding unconventional ways to happiness, and there's being incapable of love. Whether he's lying or not about that, sometimes you have to take someone at their word.
48 & 49

Seems to me that both can be true - that what they had was good for what it was, and there is no need to denigrate it and see it as all bad AND that he's not what she needs in her life as an actual lover and partner. She can love what they had and may have now and then in the future, while never deluding herself for one second that they're ever going to get married and have babies together.

It's something like loving an alcoholic or addict. You can understand that it's not workable, and that you need to protect yourself from the person. You can also love that person, and get quite a lot from the very limited relationship that it is safe to have. The two are not mutually exclusive, as long as you don't give in to the temptation to pretend that it's something it's not.

I think the LW is in some denial about how fucked up this guy really is, and that's not good. But if she can see him clearly, she may be able to have great sex and bittersweet romance every five years or so until she gets tired of it all. It can't be the only love she has in her life, but as an occasional bonus, it's not bad.

@50: "It's something like loving an alcoholic or addict. You can understand that it's not workable, and that you need to protect yourself from the person. You can also love that person, and get quite a lot from the very limited relationship that it is safe to have. The two are not mutually exclusive, as long as you don't give in to the temptation to pretend that it's something it's not."

Except for him saying that he doesn't love her and will never love her. She's "confused" by this and is constructing an alternate world where that's going to change. I get what you're saying, but sounds like she can't handle the reality for what it is, a guy who's stringing along keeping her from moving on but would completely lose interest in her with any period of time longer than a few weeks.

"if she can see him clearly"

If she could see him clearly, she wouldn't be so excited. She wants the fantasy guy.
Youch! our ears are on FAYA!....

The busybodies who scold others for reading the trolls are so amusing.

The notion of not exposing ones self to ideas different from your own, now that's just sad.
And scary in a democracy.

We LUV the Slog exactly because we are exposed to values that we would never ever encounter in the Real World.

We enjoy encountering others' views; it reaffirms in our mind why we believe what we believe.
And actually the give and take has helped us discover, in some cases, 'why' we believe what we do. We knew what we believed, but having to explain it made us look at why we believed it, and it is actually a very stimulating enlightening exercise.

As for registering, we have registered at least eight times.

We are always cancelled within a few hours and a few posts of registering.

Obviously Danny has no stomach for The Truth.

Oh well. His house, his rules.

Which breaks our heart because we find bold and italic so much fun to use.

And it surprises us how often a link to "Sweet Home Alabama" seems needed....

When we try to register now we instantly get some cute message about "technical difficulties" and "do we want to contact the technical staff..." sure. fuck you, assholes. there. consider yourself contacted.

So we toll away in the foggy mists.

Advocating The Truth in The Belly of the Beast.....

There's a Greasemonkey script that allows you to hide specific commenters on Slog. It's very useful for hiding comments from registered trolls and it's also useful for hiding comments from insistent trollbaiters. They're free to express themselves and I'm free to ignore the fuck out of them.

@43: Recognizing that someone is damaged goods means it would be wise to steer clear of them until and unless they go get their goods repaired. It doesn't mean a license to continue to engage with them without having to treat them respectfully. IOW, just because someone appears to be broken doesn't mean it's okay to break them more. Doesn't sound like your ex understood that.

@48: When you have to try that hard to rationalize inconsistent or dishonest behavior, it's not open-mindededness, it's delusional. This isn't some epic long-distance star-crossed romance, he's just not that into her - or, apparently, much of anyone, unless he's busy building closets in that wilderness, something she doesn't appear to have considered.
"Do you know what the funny thing is about mixed signals, OCC? In most instances mixed signals are actually one loud, clear, unmistakable signal: 'I'm a fucking mess! Run! Run! Run!' "

This is so very smart! Half the people I know need to see this. Seriously, Dan, you should sell tee shirts or something with this on it.
@54 There likely are, if Greg Behrendt had any say in the matter. That dude turned his one line ("Maybe he's just not that into you") from Sex & the City into a book deal and a talk show and a rom-com. I'm sure he had t-shirts too.
Come on Dan who's giving mixed signals. This lady has been ending it consistently for 12 years and then after a week of sex says she loves the guy.

The guy on the other hand his kept up contact and indicates he's interested in her but not seriously. Maybe he has his reasons, maybe he is "damaged goods" but you can pay attention to someone, even sexual "I like you" attention and not want to fall in love with them or want them up in your alaskan wilderness with you.
@56: Just to play at his rationale, he's in the middle of nowhere and probably has an email inbox full of these conversations with women he makes feel "special". Both sides of the keyboard have their masturbatory fodder, which is cool, but this woman (and any others) need to stop making this into something that it's not.

It vaguely reminds me of the persons who send love letters to prisoners.
This reminds me of the I, Anonymous letter this week..
Just for the hell of it: theories.

1) He's lying about the no sex for twelve years thing.

2) He's basically asexual (or sexual but not with partners) and you're his way of testing himself from time to time to see if he's changed. (I know several people who do this every couple of years, in the hopes that they've become "normal".)

3) He really does have feelings for you and can't seem to get over you, but something inside is stopping him from being honest about his feelings for you.

Could be any or none of those. The thing is, it's basically moot. He says he doesn't love you, or can't love you, and he's stuck to that line whenever you enquire. Maybe it's the truth, maybe it isn't, but unless he tells you differently then there's not much you can do. Worst case scenario, you have a man who doesn't love you and never will. Best case scenario, you have a guy who loves you but is screwed-up enough that he refuses to admit it to you or himself. Or maybe the best and worst are swapped around, depending on your viewpoint. Either way, neither of those are conducive to any kind of satisfactory relationship.

If you can live with flirting and occasionally having (incredible) sex with a man who doesn't seem to either a) know or b) be able to verbalise what he wants, then go for it. Otherwise, I'd let this one go. Healing damaged men and teaching them to love again in the hopes that they'll realise it was you they wanted all along only works in Harlequin romance novels.

Righty-o, I'm off to take my own advice. (Just FYI, I think we may be seeing the same guy.)
@48, an interesting point of view. I agree that not fitting into a traditional relationship dynamic doesn't necessarily mean you're damaged. I know that I go through phases where I want to be with a partner all the time, and then other phases where I just want to be left alone with my books and I'd happily go weeks without talking to my bf / gf. That doesn't always make for a "normal" sort of relationship, and it's rare partners who are able to cope with both the clingy and the aloof sides of me.

So you may well be right about saying that this guy isn't necessarily damaged, he's just found a relationship that works for him. But it doesn't seem to be working for her. It's hard to tell from the letter if she's really been blunt and honest about her confusion and her not wanting to continue this pattern. If she hasn't come right out and told him that she's not happy with how things go, she needs to. But if she has, then he's persisting in pressing his presence on her, in forcing a continuation of this relationship which may very well work for him but which is clearly making her miserable, and that is fucked up. If she's clearly been saying to him, leave me alone, I don't have room for this in my life, or for you, and he still continues to contact her, then we're not talking about an unconventional relationship that works for both parties, we're talking about a relationship that works for one person and makes the other one miserable.

Of course, she could just block him from contacting her. And she probably should. But it's hard to do when you feel strongly about someone. When they're around, you convince yourself that having some of them is better than nothing. It's only when you're in a no-contact period that you start praying that they stay out of your life. Even then, though, it's not easy to find the strength to take that final step of blocking their phone number or IP.
@60: "So you may well be right about saying that this guy isn't necessarily damaged, he's just found a relationship that works for him."

Eesh, the "fixer" is strong in you.
Wait, _who_ is the damaged goods here? Let's review:

-- They get together, have some fun, then she breaks up with him -- oh, because she is "seriously involved" with someone else.
-- Some time later, they get together _again_, have some fun _again_, then she breaks up with him _again_ because she is _again_ "seriously involved" with someone else.
-- Lather, rinse, repeat. For TWELVE FUCKING YEARS. But the whole twelve years, they never quite get as far as having sex. Always she ends it, and usually (not always, but usually) because there's another guy on her string.
-- Finally, the two of them happen to get together when she isn't currently "seriously involved" with someone else, they actually get as far as fucking like rabbits for a week, she falls for him hard, only he is as gun-shy as can be.

Gee, who could POSSIBLY have foreseen that?
Oh, no, avast, it's worse than that. This is the *only* time since college that they actually got together. The other times were correspondence only,
Oops, you're right. That does change matters somewhat. Also, the fact that he was always the one to resume contact does sound like he was quasi stalking her. Still ...

You have to stop writing me, I'm involved with another guy.
(months pass) Okay, I'll start accepting your letters again.
Actually no, you have to stop writing me, I'm involved with another guy.
(months pass) Okay, I'll start accepting your letters again.
Actually no, you have to stop writing me because...well no good reason. Just not working for me.
(months pass) Okay, I'll start accepting your letters again.
Actually no, you have to stop writing me, I'm involved with another guy.

Honestly, how many cycles of that before the poor schmuck rewrites his history to say that no, he never loved her, in order to protect himself from yet another round of being cut off cold?

I mean, yes, he sounds pretty creepy and obsessed for not giving up and going away for good after the first couple of times, especially if he isn't lying about no sex with anybody else for the whole twelve years. But how can she expect to be able to say "Okay, I'm finally ready, I love you, honey!" and have everything just click back into place, after a history like that?