Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Those Pushy, Neurotic Girls

Those Pushy, Neurotic Girls

Delores Hays

Those Pushy, Neurotic Girls

Dear Lola,

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for four years. It’s a great relationship, we’re very open with each other, and I know he’s the guy for me. We’ve talked about eventually getting married practically since the first year we were dating. I was never in any rush, but now I’m turning 28 and have started thinking about it a lot. My boyfriend has always been very romantic and excellent at surprises, and I know that when he finally does pop the question, he’ll find some very unique way to do it. My problem is that I’ve started expecting it during every trip we take, every special occasion, etc., and it’s driving me nuts and giving me tons of anxiety. I know he loves me and that one day he’ll do it, but honestly, I don’t get why he’s still waiting. I don’t want to be one of those pushy, neurotic girls, but I feel like I’m boiling inside. Should I say something?

—Increasingly Impatient in Brooklyn

Dolores Hays

Dear Miss Impatient,

Of all the problems a girl could have, a romantic boyfriend who is excellent at surprises does not sound so bad. But I take your point. A proposal is something you clearly want, and where and when—and, frighteningly, if—it happens is outside of your control.

I want to tell you to try to let go of your expectations and take control of your anxieties. A carefree attitude will make you more attractive, the proposal more exciting, and your life much easier to live. But it sounds like it’s far too late for that.

So, I think you have two choices. First, you can talk to your boyfriend. Calmly tell him you’re feeling anxious about your future together, and see what he says. Your ability to communicate with each other about issues of emotional importance will be a good indicator of your compatibility in the future.

Second—and I suggest this whether or not you decide to approach your boyfriend on the subject—you can step back and use this period to really reflect on your urgent desire for a proposal. Why do you want him to pop the question? How do you feel a proposal will change your life and your relationship? A proposal is not a magic question that once uttered will guarantee a life of love, happiness, and stability. It won’t make your troubles go away. Make sure you’re not relying on a proposal (or a wedding or marriage or children) to make an otherwise unfulfilling relationship more exciting. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for a painful and potentially expensive disappointment.

There’s no shortage of books on disappointing marriages, but Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is exceptionally insightful. Other recommendations: Revolutionary Road, The Stories of John Cheever, and the Ice Storm.

I’ve Been Worried Shitless

Dear Lola,

I’m a senior at a small liberal arts school. I’ve always been an excellent student with a great relationship with my professors. To the point that my art history prof is coming to my graduation dinner. The problem is that I recently got very burnt out from working so hard. I had four papers due at once and completely froze. It was 6am and I had to hand in my art history final at 10, and I ended up paraphrasing a few paragraphs from one of the books I was using. The book is pretty obscure, I didn’t include it in my bibliography, and I don’t think anyone would ever suspect that I would do such a thing. Also, I paraphrased it pretty well, using very different vocabulary and syntax, so I don’t think that it’s traceable. Ever since I handed in, though, I’ve been worried shitless. I can’t sleep and I can’t really face my professor (who’s already told me how good my paper is). I feel like I’ll definitely be discovered and can’t bear the thought of the grad dinner. Help!!!

—Ravaged by Guilt in Ohio

Dear Ravaged,

I am not an ethicist, so I will not respond with an ethical discussion of plagiarism and why you should not do it. You obviously know that you committed the ultimate academic sin. And that the consequences, if caught or if you confess, would severely deter your seemingly promising career as the next Birgit Rausing. But go for a run, bake some cupcakes, watch cable news, or take a Xanax and try to get some sleep. In all likelihood, you won’t get caught (especially because the professor already told you how much she liked the paper— rest assured she has better things to do with her time than reread take home final exams with the goal of uncovering academic dishonesty).

But, dear Ravaged, I implore you to remember that the point of a college education is not only to get all of your papers and exams in on time but to learn Important Life Lessons.  You now know the emotional toll claiming someone else’s ideas as your own takes on you. It’s a heavy weight to feel like you let down a professor who has exhibited faith in you as a scholar. And you, clearly, know that you’re better than that.

So take this as a warning that the consequences of plagiarism are overbearing whether or not you get caught. And if you continue along the academic track, you should know that that this world becomes much more scrutinized and ruthless on the graduate level. Graduate school is like the movie Heathers except that the popular kids are socially awkward, exhibit a fatal combination of insecurity and arrogance, dress terribly, and cannot play croquet. Confronted with your intellectual prowess, they will surely search the furthest catacomb of library stacks to find that “obscure“ book on Shishkin’s birch trees solely to discredit you.

Though I’m feeling strained to think of a good book on plagiarism, per se, Phillip Roth’s The Human Stain is a great book on harboring secrets, experiencing shame, and academia. Also read Crime and Punishment, but skip the confession and redemption parts.