Flowchart: What to do when you discover you’re the side-chick, pt. 2 of 2

The first time I ever dated someone and discovered he had a girlfriend, I was 20 years old.  I remember feeling hurt and betrayed.  I remember thinking, “WHYYYYY didn’t he just tell me?  If he’d just told me first, I could have made a consensual, intelligent decision.”  I was jealous.  Angry.  Upset.  I told him…

10 better questions to ask someone than “How are you doing?”

There were at least sixteen years of my life where my automatic answer to the question, “How are you doing?” was (either) “fine” or “good.”

Lately, I’ve veered into the more grammatically-correct, “Well.  I’m doing well.”

Usually, it’s all a lie, though.  Some of us, on particularly horrible days, will answer with a, “OK,” or, “It’s going.”  And that’s as deep as it gets.

Once, when I waitressed at Red Lobster as a teenager, I asked a customer how he was doing.  He sincerely answered my question, detailing the events of his debt, his sense of aging, his last birthday.  The level of confusion I felt as he prolonged the required, 1-sentence answer?  Unparalleled.

But I think about that still.  What if we really wanted to know the answer to the question, “How are you doing?”  What could we say?  It’s such a broad, general question.  Maybe part of it is, also, just asking a better question.

Here are 10 questions I often use with some of the toughest-to-crack people I know: teenagers.  These are questions I also ask of adults.  They throw people off their game a little.  They evoke a laugh, a double-take.  They often spark sincerity.

How to write a fake apology letter: a real-life sample


I am cleaning out my house for a major life change, and flipped through a large stash of mail.  Magically, I stumbled across this piece of work, aka: one of the most grandiose, non-apology letters I’ve ever gotten.

Note it is on paper.  It was delivered courtesy of US Post Office.  Though I won’t reveal which year this was written, it was sent in the last 10 years of the 21st century: an era in which people send text messages, emails, and make phone calls (not send paper letters), as evidenced by that first sentence (“thank you for your text message expressing your desire to see me”).

What I love about this non-apology is that it is completely couched in positive-sounding words.  It’s beautiful in that regard.  So, without further ado…. let’s learn from the best and learn how to write the “fake apology”!

Part 1:  Avoid proactively repairing the relationship.  Be passive so as to avoid the situation.

How to deal with reverse gaslighting: Calling it out (part 2 of 2)

how to deal with gaslighting

Do you ever feel like an ATM machine, everyone withdrawing energy from you and never giving back?  Do you know someone who starts spouting self-hating diatribes every time you assert your own needs?  Do you find yourself apologizing whenever you bring up your own needs?

Could it be….. that you have a Reverse Gaslighter in your life?

STOP!  You deserve better.  You deserve reciprocity.

Hey, I’m not mad at you — I understand why you haven’t walked away from this one-dimensional relationship:  You love this Reverse Gaslighter.  You understand this Reverse Gaslighter.  You feel their struggles.  How could you simply leave?  What if they hurt themselves, or hate themselves, and it will all feel like your fault?  (Click here for Part 1: Spotting the signs.)

So what can you do?  Here’s one possible solution:

How to deal with reverse gaslighting: Spotting the signs (part 1 of 2)


ELISA’S NOTE: I invented the term “reverse gaslighting” because there needs to be a term for this, however, I’ve not found any that exist.  At first, I was hesitant to use it, because I think gaslighting frequently has far worse consequences, but “reverse gaslighting” was apt and there are so many similarities between the two.  Please, do spread this term widely or suggest an alternative!

How to deal with reverse gaslighting: Spotting signs.  (Click here for Part 2: Calling it out.)

A quick illustration of the two situations:

Exhibit A, Gaslighting:

You (making a totally reasonable, proactive request):  “Hey, will you please text me when you arrive?  I’ll leave my house after that.”

Gaslighter:  “Why?  Why can’t we just meet there at 7:30?”
You (answering the question in a reasonable, proactive way):  “Uh…. because the last few times we planned to hang out, you were either late, or you just flaked out on me.  So, I want to make sure that you’re at the bar before I drive all the way there.”

When I really need someone to rescue me from myself

help me help myself

Here’s the punchline first:  Two years after we stopped dating, I wrote a kind, understanding email to my friend Richard.

I was in Seoul, Korea, the city of my ancestors, and I’d enjoyed a merry night of drinking soju with friends of all nationalities. After taking one shot too many, my friends had started regaling me with bad sex stories, like that time their orthodox, Catholic roommate walked in, the girl’s cat sat on their head, or they sprained their ankle while rolling off the bed.

It was during this very conversation about sex that sparked a slow, alcohol-induced realization that Richard, whom I’d liked in college, and who had also liked me, had ended our budding romance because he’d never had sex before.

Green Flag #7: How to spot a true friend or fabulous date

find a true friend and good date

Two of my friends have recently complained to me that I “thinly veil” their identities on Girl Growing Brighter.  I guess I see their point: maybe switching first names into initials isn’t so crafty, after all.****+

I’ve been lucky to find fantastic people who continue to be friends with me as I share embarrassing tales about them with people around the world.  (Thank you, friends.  Thank you, awesome blog readers.) So, how does one find amazing friends like L and C, who’ve recently put up with my poor anonymization skills?****^^ Great question!  Here is Green Flag #7, a continuation of Green Flags #1-6: How to find a true friend or awesome partner.

A better way to fix someone’s broken trust in you

fix broken trust

Unless we live inside a paper shopping bag, far, far away from everyone in the world, we are going to hurt others simply by living our lives.  This is bound to happen no matter how hard we try to make sure it doesn’t.

But stop!  Is this the end of the world, though?  It doesn’t have to be. 

If you’ve hurt someone to the point they have lost their trust in you — and you sincerely care about rebuilding trust with them — read on!  Here is a simple road map back into their heart.  (Word to the Wise: Only for the sincere.)

Step 1:  Understand the problem from both sides: yours, and theirs.  If you do not understand what you have done, why you have done it, and how you have hurt someone else, the rest of the steps will be meaningless.


It can be easy in this moment of conflict to panic, and start apologizing for everything under the stars just to make amends.  OR, it can be easy to get defensive and blurt out, “I did nothing wrong!!”

6 Green Flags for finding a true friend or a fabulous date

how to find a true friend

When I was younger, I wrote an article called, “10 Things to Know before Trying to Date a Cool Girl.”  Or something like that.  It included warnings and useful tips on subjects like, “How to NOT be a fool.”  Warnings that are still useful today, but today, I’d rather focus on the positive.

I have met so many cool, amazing people in my life.  And I would like to pass along to you ways that I spot “winners,” or, people who I would like to keep around, as friends, and also as romantic partners.

Green Flag #1:  They make you a meal, or two, or three.

My Mom once said to me, “Food is love.”  Maybe this is the Korean in me, or maybe this is just a universal truth.  My friends cook me meals when I am sick, when I am in town, or when I am just hanging around.  I cook for my friends, who reciprocate by showing up, keeping their dates with me, or bringing over ice cream for dessert.

Later, we will often do something else for each other: bring a flower, or call and say thank you, or cook a meal in return.  Food + Reciprocity = Green Flag!