Benjamin Franklin spoke the truth in that the only two things known to be certain in this world are death and taxes. I am starting to develop my own theory involving a third, familiar experience. Consider it the millennial angle to a historical idea.
A known reality that everyone has endured is that people are going to disappoint you. People are going to hurt you. People are going to betray you. People, for the rest of your existence, will put strain on your happiness. Sorry Benny, but this is just as inevitable as Uncle Sam’s demands and my own demise.
I am not going to use this platform to gripe about all the people who have done me wrong. Instead, I simply am going to lay out the unfortunate, but necessary truth. Every time you meet someone new or rekindle old affections, you run the risk of psychological trauma. People are inherently selfish, so finding human beings who won’t abuse your vulnerability proves to be a difficult quest. No one is immune to anguish. This is unless you have dug a hole so deep inside yourself as to avoid human emotions all together. However, living an impassive life is not recommended.
Personally, what helps me accept this harsh truth is the “I’ll be fine” motto. Because I will.
No matter what the dating world throws at me, I will indeed be okay.
Now just isn’t our time. Maybe in the future things will work out . . .
I’m just not feeling it anymore. It’s not working.
I have too much on my plate right now; I can’t commit.
I warned you that I didn’t want anything serious.
That’s okay. I get it. I’ll be fine.
No sarcasm. No resentment. Just a simple sentence to cut ties and move on. I’ll be fine.
Now don’t get me wrong, circumstances are not always this simple. I certainly am guilty of over-analyzing, desperate for an explanation. I also have the tendency to play the blame game in hopes of finding a source of my anxiety. It is easy to obsess and waste away months of your life seeking closure. However, sometimes these actions are just that: a waste. A waste of your valuable and limited time. Especially, when there simply are no answers to your existential questions. You may never understand why people do shitty things. Nevertheless, what you can focus on is understanding that people will, indeed, always do shitty things. And that my friends, is a fact.
But I promise you, you will be fine. Cry when you need to. Scream when you need to. Talk to your best friend, your mom, your dog. Do whatever you need to do. In the end, you will withstand all the shitty things that people say and do to you. And every time you find yourself saying “I’ll be fine”, you gain a little more insight. Each and every individual in your life teaches you something about yourself. But as long as you keep belting out Aretha’s 1978 jam every day and believing that you will survive, nothing and no one can hinder your happiness.
It means that you let someone in.
You allowed someone into your private little world of feelings. You opened the door and let them walk right into your heart. You loved and you trusted. You allowed yourself to feel the full spectrum of emotions and you felt them all so deeply. You were consumed by these feelings. You embraced them. You welcomed them. You rode the euphoric high for a while and felt what it was like to love.
It means that you were hurt.
Your feelings broke like a heavy raincloud. You were betrayed.
Your heart, fashionably sewn onto your sleeve, had to creep back into the shadows. Your trust in love was broken. You feel broken. Something happened that made you doubt yourself, doubt others, and doubt the feelings you had. Did you love too much? Were you too invested? Were you blinded? All you are left with is pain and doubt.
You ache. You grieve. You heal.
It means you had to move on.
Eventually, you soften and learn to love yourself again. Though, over time you find yourself changing. Instead of sleeves laced with open hearts, you wear armor. You are guarded. Those feelings you once had are buried away and rest safely behind your emotional defense mechanism. No one gets in and nothing gets out. It is not that you don’t trust others; you don’t trust your own feelings. You might be ready to move on and meet new people, but they’ll only ever get your surface-level feelings. You’re not ready to feel again. You might not be ready to feel for a long while. That’s okay.
It means people will question you.
Why won’t you open up? Don’t you trust me? I’m not going to hurt you.
Why don’t they understand? It’s not them you don’t trust. It’s you.
You don’t trust your own feelings. Your head and your heart have not yet worked out a system that welcomes both logic and emotion. So you rely solely on instinct and rationality.
People will try to advise you. They will try to coax you from your inner shell. They will try to pry you away from the safety and comfort of your walls.
Clearly you’re not over your ex if you still feel this way.
It’ll be different this time around.
When will you be ready?
The questions will drive you nearly insane, but don't let them rush you. Don't second guess yourself. You are entitled to your space and all the time in the world to heal.
It means you will be smarter next time.
The next time you allow yourself to feel you will be in control. You won’t be blinded anymore. Your decision to feel again will be of your own free will. You will decide when to feel and whom you will share it with. You will decide how much you share. You’re opportunity to love again may come abruptly and catch you off guard, but ultimately it will be your choice to follow through or not. You will use your past as lessons to help you move forward. Eventually, you'll learn how to trust yourself, and others, once again. But this time you will be smarter, more aware.
It means you’ll have to be honest.
The hardest part about being emotionally damaged is trying to explain all this to a potential partner. First dates are usually not the best occasion to be frank about your situation, so avoid that. Honestly, it is very easy to scare people away. So you may find yourself avoiding the truth at the beginning of a budding relationship. But eventually, your facade will fade and the truth will need to come out. Be honest with your partner and also be honest with yourself.
I am complicated.
I sometimes don’t respond to text messages. I sometimes cancel plans out of fear and distrust. I tend to sometimes sabotage my own happiness. I overanalyze everything. I probably will still have doubts no matter how genuine you are. I may ruin something great for no reason at all, but simply because I am very complicated.
I am worth it.
I am more than long nights crying with a bottle of wine. I am more than the headaches that will come the next morning. I am more than my doubts and distrust. I am more than emotional instability. I am more than the twists, turns, and pulls in all directions. I am more than all the complications.
I am worth the effort.
Some people may never understand what you are going through. But the ones that do you’ll want to keep around.
It means you’ll need time.
The past is full of ghosts; even after they have left their effects still linger. The person who hurt you might be gone, but the scars are still there. You have a lot of potential to love. You have been there, done that. You know it exists. But being able to love someone whole-heartedly is not a switch that goes on and off. It is an experience that makes both parties vulnerable. It takes time to develop. Love is not an emotion that should be handed out freely. It is reserved for those that you trust and those that trust you. Love should be mutual. Never let someone pressure you into love. There are many things out of our control in this world, but love is not one of them. Don’t be afraid to love, but don’t be careless as to where you spread it. Those walls were up for a reason. Honor them. Listen to your head and follow your heart; let them work together and not against each other.
It means you are now stronger.
Your emotional baggage makes you stronger, not weaker. It is frustrating and complicated, but it means you know what it is like and have the capacity to love. You may feel hardened and lost some days, but have faith that soon there will be room in your heart. There will be room for someone special. Don’t rush it. Take care of yourself before anything else. Allow yourself time to heal and grow. Eventually, you’ll find someone who understands and doesn’t question your insecurities. They will respect your space and be patient through it all. Until then, have good judgment.
Open your heart slowly, gently, but be fearless. For there is no better feeling than to love and be loved.
I know how hard it is to be without a significant other. Being single can be alienating, lonely and discouraging. However, it doesn't always have to be this depressing. With a change in perspective, your time as a single can be empowering and insightful. You can learn a lot about yourself, others, and life in general (plus, there is hella less drama).
1) You learn how to be self-sufficient
Believe it or not, you can learn a lot from YouTube videos. Including how to change a lightbulb, fix your kitchen sink, grill a steak, assemble furniture, and program the television. You can even put your big girl pants on to kill that spider and lay mousetraps (or, like me, you can buy a cat that eats them). And you can pay someone to do anything else you need done. You learn a lot about your own abilities when you don’t have someone there doing everything for you. The only person you need to rely on is yourself. You are strong and capable.
2) You get closer to your friends/family
When you no longer have to stress about and overanalyze a relationship, you can focus on other aspects of life--like, your friends and family. Your attention and time tend to be compromised when you are tied down in a relationship. Especially, if your S.O. is not well liked by your friends and family. However, when you quit the full time job of being a girlfriend, those 40-50 hours can be dedicated to wine nights with your friends and family bonding. You have more time to strengthen all the friendships and relationships in your life. You can reacquaint with that long lost high school friend. You can rekindle the flame to that forgotten fling. You can be a better best friend. A better son/daughter or sister/brother. Be a better version of yourself and everyone in your life will pull in closer. Romantic relationships will come and go in your life, but the connections you have with friends/family are forever.
3) You gain a new independence
You can do what you want and when you want it. The only person you answer to is yourself (and occasionally your mother). There is a certain freedom in being single. You begin to realize how much you value being in control. You can be selfish and make decisions that benefit solely you. You can have that extra glass of wine. You can flirt with that cute bartender. You can take up the entire queen-sized bed. You can stay in your pajamas and watch Netflix all day. You can go on that impromptu getaway. You can say yes (or no) to that date offer. You don't have to ask permission to go out with your friends. You don't have to apologize for coming home late. You don't have to come home at a reasonable hour. You can eat when you want, sleep when you want, work when you want, cry when you want. There's not much you can't do (well, besides walk around naked--your neighbors and roommates might not approve). You make all the decisions in your life. It is all up to you. No pressure, no hesitations, no insecurities, no worries. You are free to be 100% you.
4) You fall in love . . . with yourself
Being single means you have more time for self-care. Buy yourself that 90-minute massage. You deserve it. There is no better feeling than having the confidence to take yourself out to dinner. Experiencing things by yourself does not have to be lonely. You become more aware of the world and its surroundings when you don’t have to entertain anyone but yourself. Go for long walks, talk to strangers on the street, read a book, take yourself out on your dream date, flirt a little even. Do all the things that make you happy. Take the time to be happily alone. Because now is the time to do it. Marriage, children, a family, all those things that people strive for, they limit your amount of “me time”. Live in the moment and embrace the time alone. Eventually, when you find someone you love, you should not be their better half, but instead be your own whole person. You should be a whole addition to their life, rather than a part. Be yourself. Love yourself. Have confidence in you.
5) You stop settling for less
Being single makes you develop a strong sense of self-worth. You are your own biggest advocate, thus you know exactly what you deserve. You deserve that promotion. The most beautiful apartment. The nicest car. You deserve a man who values and appreciates you. A man that loves you just as much as you love yourself. You will find yourself going on a lot more first dates where the guy does not pass go and collect $200. I am sure he is a great guy (if not, then maybe you need to be rethinking your taste in men). He just was not the perfect fit. You didn't want to settle for his lack of table manners or strange sense of humor because you know what you deserve. Do not settle for anything less than the best. Know your own self-worth and honor it. Set those standards high and abide by them. You are worth it.
Sometimes, grief is just as strong when those you loved and lost are still alive.
It is natural for people to drift apart. Whether it be from distance, time, or a change in ideologies. However, when you are cut out of someone's life and given no explanation, a whole new form of loss develops. There is no closure, no answers to your questions. Ultimately, you are forced to sort through the mess and wonder exactly what happened and how you got there. Confusion bubbles into frustration. So many questions buzz through your head until you start to question your own sanity.
What exactly caused this?
Why exactly is she mad?
What exactly did I do to deserve this?
You can replay conversations over and over looking for answers. You can meticulously comb through every past detail until you turn blue. You can blame yourself or blame her. In complete honesty though, you may never know exactly why you lost your friend. Sometimes, you just have to accept that many things are out of your control. With that being said, allow yourself time to grieve because it truly is a loss.
Losing a friend is comparable with losing a life partner. You shared everything from clothes to secrets. And just like breaking up, losing a friend can come with confusion, grief, and heartache. You find yourself scrolling through old pictures remembering every detail of that night in the bar. You read old text messages and Facebook posts from your “forever friend”. You struggle to move on and accept your new life. Something happens, happy or sad, and you still have the urge to call your best friend. All the while, the hole in your heart grows wider and more vacant. Every day is a constant reminder of your lost friendship.
Losing a friend is heartbreaking. Knowing she still exists and living her life happily is like reliving your pain day after day. Seeing her latest Instagram post with all her best friends next-on-the-list hurts tremendously. You were her therapist, her caretaker, and her closest companion. You know the truth. You know that the only reason she is sharing vodka sodas with girlfriend X, Y, and Z is because she is lost and lonely. At least you hope. You hope she will not replace you. You hope it was not easy for her to leave you. You pray that the girl you loved has a heart and that she is grieving too. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell.
Losing a friend teaches you a lot. When you gain some distance from your best friend, you begin to see the flaws in your friendship. It becomes clear exactly how unevenly balanced it was. You recall all the times you cooked her dinner when she had $1.50 in her bank account. You reflect on all the late night phone calls talking about her parents’ divorce. The unconditional, judgement-free, 24/7 love you gave. With all the extra time on your hands, you start keeping score. The day your dog died and she never called. The unanswered text messages when you had a bad day. The rejected invitations and the myriad of excuses. You start to realize that she was only there for you when it was convenient for her.
After your period of grieving, you should take one thing from this experience: Losing a friend is not your fault. Seriously, it is not your fault. The day you stop blaming yourself for the actions of others is the day you are free. Free yourself from second guessing and low self-esteem. Grow a thicker layer of skin and understand that sometimes shit happens. People go crazy. People change. People are selfish. People abandon you. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it is devastating at times. Yes, you should grieve for as long as you need. But, ultimately, it is not your fault. The cruel intentions and actions of others are not a reflection of you. However, your reaction absolutely reflects your character. Look back on your friendship with peace of mind, not bitterness. No matter how shitty people treat you, all you can do is be kind. Be a good friend, even with the possibility of abandonment looming. Never let the maltreatment from others change you. You cannot control people, but you can control how they affect you. Learn from it. Grow from it. Never stop being a good friend, because, eventually, good friends will come and they will stay.
I remember watching Cinderella when I was a little girl and admired the beautiful girl swept off her feet with the help of a little magic and some killer shoes. I dreamed of wearing a ball gown and meeting my Prince Charming. He would be handsome, romantic, and—well, naturally—charming. I have lived my whole life believing in fairytales. When I grew out of princess movies, I moved on to romantic comedies. I watched as every leading lady found her happily-ever-after. She got everything she ever wanted: a man and true love. They got engaged or married shortly after the on-screen kiss. It was a perfect ending to a perfect love story.
However, it is these dreams that turned my 20’s into a nightmare.
I have only now begun to realize that these movies are selling lies. I have spent twenty-two years waiting for love-at-first-sight. And you know what, I could wait fifty more years and would still need glasses to find it. Even Prince William does not fit the Disney mold (and he is a real-life prince). The man depicted in every princess movie is merely a character created to boost societal gender roles. He does not exist. The sooner we realize this, the happier we will be.
A man does not have to be a prince for him to treat a woman like a princess.
Media representations of love create impossible expectations. They present a vision of what love is “supposed” to look like. It is supposed to be chivalrous, romantic, and passionate. The strong and suitable man is supposed to save damsels in distress. A white horse is supposed to make for a happily-ever-after, storybook ending. Unfortunately, this type of love exists only there: a storybook. When we spend our entire lives waiting for a perfect man, we miss out on a man with the greatest component of all: imperfection.
I constantly sabotage my own happiness with the impossible standards I create. I find myself hoping that everything about him will be perfect. He will walk the walk and talk the talk. I need to stop comparing every man I meet with an idealized version; ultimately, men are going to do whatever the hell they want. I am the one that needs to change.
Love will never look or feel like it does in the movies.
Even though this shortcoming of mine roots back to media representations of love, I must learn to overcome it. I need to retrain my brain to be more open and accepting of others’ flaws. I am truly tired of everyone not living up to my impossible expectations. The day I can start accepting people for all their imperfections will be a freeing day. Freeing me from all the disappointment and shattered hopes.
With all this being said, Disney has not completely failed me. If I have gained any insight over the years it would be to always fall for the beast. If you can learn to look past all his beastly imperfections, eventually, he will turn into his own version of a prince.
Most women will tell you they abide by the “girl code”. You know, the code of moral guidelines that assure friends-forever status? There are many unspoken agreements, but the most commonly broken rule is chicks before dicks.
Sure, it all sounds good as shared by two single girls over a glass of wine. But in reality, not even the most heartfelt pinky promise can seal this deal. I will never let a man get between us. I’ll always pick you first. It is hard to doubt these vows when they are coming from your best friend. Unfortunately, it is blindness that leads to broken hearts and promises.
There is no better feeling than watching your single girlfriend get swept off her feet by a new love interest. You have spent months, years, waiting for the perfect man together. You have listened to all the bad date stories and picked up the pieces after all the break-ups. However, happiness is a double-edged sword. The inevitable disguises itself among the first few honeymoon weeks of the budding love affair. She might bail on a wine night or two because Mr. Right got off work early. Or maybe you notice a series of unanswered text messages beginning to develop. Regardless, you are still in the honeymoon phase yourself. You are simply happy that she is happy.
Before you know it, two months have passed and if they are indeed still together, then things are getting serious. Jealousy and loneliness begin to replace your pride and joy. You battle the two personalities within you:
You should be happy that she finally found someone.
He is ruining your friendship.
She is a little preoccupied, but she will come back around eventually. Just give it time.
You have officially been replaced. It is only going to get worse from here.
Which side is more logical? Which side states the truth? Your best friend finally found her person, but unfortunately she is still your person.
At this point, the question is not who will she choose, but rather what kind of person do you want to be? You have two choices:
1) You can confront her. Tell her that you miss your best friend. Basically, put her in a situation where she has to examine her priorities. This conversation has potential for success, but must be handled delicately. Depending on her level of attachment, she may become offended and see your honesty as selfishness. She may ask: “why can’t you just be happy for me?”. So approach this path with caution. With this choice, you risk losing her altogether.
2) You can accept things the way they are. No matter how strong of a bond you share, you simply cannot change people. Frankly, no friendship in the world can replace the emotional and physical benefits of being in a relationship. Yeah, I know. This choice sucks. But sharing her is sometimes easier than losing her.
The summer of senior year in college is generally a time to get out any last minute basic-college-girl needs before true adulthood sinks in. However, in my case, I never expected that urge to lead me to a country singer’s tour bus. The month of August is hot enough without a bottle of Jack Daniels and a smooth, southern drawl.
I drive two hours South with a friend to see a concert of a nameless, faceless man I had never heard of; but, the words 'free tickets' inspires me. I have never despised country music, yet I never thought it was worth Ticketmaster's processing fees. Nonetheless, I have the day off and always love a good road trip. So I slide on my $300 boots from Nashville and keep the drinks coming until my red lipstick fades and I miraculously can sing along. I watch as a 6’4” cold glass of water struts around swooning everyone in his path. After the show, he does a lap across the stage to charm his adoring fans by signing cleavage and cowboy hats. My friend hands over her Red Sox ball-cap as I daydream about a cold, gin-and-tonic. She wakes me from my reverie so I can meet her celebrity crush; ergo prompting Cowboy Casanova to offer me an autograph. Not wanting a foreign signature on my high-end boot, I loftily decline and ask for a kiss on the cheek instead. Impetuously, I gain a false confidence, grab my ticket stub and scribble down ten digits--off goes my “ticket to fame”.
Are you the girl who kissed [him] on the cheek?
That was me alright. The next twenty minutes leads to five perfectly crafted messages and our invite backstage. I trade in my gin for Miller Lite and my innocence for faux fangirl. Between solo cups in the backstage bar and pitchers of JD at the VIP club, memories blur into a blonde-bearded face and a famous name. I learn about the dog tags he wears, the death of his father, his farm in Tennessee, past girlfriends, and other drunken stories slurred with a North Carolina accent. He pulls me in with the sweet public displays of affection and soft serenades of old country songs. After the first few hours, I feel like I know him better than his #1 Fangirl. Minutes turn into hours and before I know it we are packing up. Naturally, I tag along and find myself aboard a patriotic, nicer-than-my-apartment tour bus.
Endless conversation and laughter make for a long night.The two voices in my head bicker about how to far let this go. My instincts and overall aversion to intoxicated men insist I join my friend back in the living room. Whereas, my natural curiosity and lust for adventure dare me to proceed. My moral compass decides on a modest, middle-ground--no harm in a few sloppy kisses and a good story. However, when Mr. Country strongly encourages me to go far more south than Tennessee I decide the party was over. Famous or not, I am now genuinely annoyed by the man and his unorthodox requests. So I planned my escape route.
As three in the morning rolls around, I grab my friend and head toward the door. They have a long trip back south and us up north. With a kiss on the cheek, exchange of numbers and a quick selfie (per his request), we are Boston-bound.
Great hangin with ya. Drive safe
That is the first message of a three-month exchange between the country star and myself. This extended game of cat-and-mouse consists of spicy conversations, a detailed recap of August 19th, and desperate attempts to not sound like a crazy fangirl.. He tends to be a hard-to-reach man, but every text flashes that Top Country Billboard name in my contact list.
Only a few months later, Southern Charmer makes his way up north yet again and proclaims his excitement to see me. Tickets were placed at will call under my name and I try my damnedest to erase any expectations; after all, the psychology major in me knows his type. Still in a birthday hangover from the night before, I lazily sing along to the same covers from Garth Brooks, Blink-182, and Tom Petty. Backstage, I recognize the same bar and bandmates, the same drawl and dog tags. However, the tall brunette taking tequila shots in the corner looks far from familiar. I do some socializing at the backstage party and learn a thing or two about the girl in snakeskin boots. At first, hearing she was just his opening act, my anxiety lessens. The tour manager quickly dissolves all sense of hope when he reveals that the two singers are sharing more than just a stage. At this point, I wish my birthday party did not destroy my liver the night prior because a shot of anything would make this night easier to bear. As I swallow my pride and a wave of nausea, I make my way toward the leather couch. At this point, the man of the hour spots me and approaches. With an short embrace, a kiss on the cheek, and playful banter we replay our last thirty seconds together back in August. There is smiles and small talk for all of four minutes until southern belle distracts him.
My frustration rises as fast as my patience level drops. I spend the next fifteen minutes arguing with myself about whether or not I should accept defeat and leave. I eventually announce my departure--after a total of thirty-five minutes backstage--only to be led into the most uncomfortable encounter. I listen as he sprawls out excuses for his distance and utter lack of respect. “This is what life on the road is like, I never know what to expect. I don’t want to hurt or disappoint you.” I bite back tears of hurt and disappointment: “I get it. You’re you. I’m me. I’m a big girl. I can handle it.” Our last spoken words are tragic for both my ego and the course of that night.
I dismally miss every exit driving home and turn my phone off to avoid making a foolish mistake. However, I replay the night over an unhealthy amount of times and I cave after thirty-six hours. It is a shame the other night didn’t work out . . .
His tenacious spirit makes an appearance with a snarky retort claiming he warned me about his wanton ways. The last blue bubble to be sent displays my attempt at aplomb; ultimately, teaching me the most effective way to get blacklisted.
I have too much self respect to deal with this right now.
Enjoy your high-school-aged girlfriend, [nameless, faceless man].
As a single girl living in Boston, I am cursed (or gifted, depending on your perspective) with the pressure of finding a companion. I bought a cat to help fight the lonely blues, but he is only good for the cuddling. Finding a man these days is generally an easy task with social media, dating apps, single meet-ups, and such. Nonetheless, it is the psychology of dating that throws me through a loop. As a psych major and the daughter of a therapist, I like to think I am good at reading people. I can sort through and categorize the bachelors as either charming or straight out creepy with ease. If someone passes the initial judgement, then we enter what I like to call the “Five Date Series”.
The first five dates, no matter how drawn out, provide the the time to ask questions, flirt, and test the waters. I like to cover all the bases I would for a short story: Who? What? When? Where? Why? If no red flags appear after my W’s are explored, then the series continues on. Personally, I am giddy about planning dates. Maybe it is the suppressed romantic in me, but there is nothing like a well-thought-out date running smoothly. Museum of Fine Arts followed by a light afternoon lunch. Sunday brunch prior to a walk around Boston Common. A steak dinner leading up to a film showing at the independent theatre. Every detail is meticulously planned--starting with the shoes and ending with the goodnight kiss. This period of time is fueled by adrenaline, anxiety, and hopefully, lust. It is what lies after Date #5 that has really left me puzzled lately.
These days, male millennials have developed a very, bad habit. They appear to have every trait of Mr. Right, until the prospect of Date #6 is hanging in the air. At this point in the dating series, both parties usually know where things are heading and have developed a solid game plan. The behavior I have seen lately is the result of a man deciding that things just are not working out (for whatever reason). Most adults, would communicate these feelings delicately and present the logic behind the decision. However, the new pattern I have noticed causes the male party to simply ghost. No calls, no texts, not even a ‘like’ on my latest Instagram post. For days, weeks, months, I simply never hear from him again. Sometimes I find myself wondering if he had an unfortunate, head-on encounter with a bus. Honestly, I would prefer a feeble excuse over avoidance.
I think this type of rejection is especially hard. Over the course of five dates, I build expectations around the budding--well actually, wilting--relationship. If I really like the guy, I have visions of romcoms dance in my head. If I feel the need to move on, then I prepare and rehearse a heartfelt speech. Howbeit, I never get the opportunity to perform. Instead, I impatiently wait for days and days until I am so pale my roommates remark, “Wow, Sam, you look like you’ve seen a ghost!”