The Pool's agony aunt Viv Groskop


Dear Viv: are body jibes just a part of internet dating?

In episode 15 of Waving, Not Drowning, Viv talks dating-app insults, redundancy rumours, other people's bad parenting and strippers at stag dos

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv, 

I was talking to a guy on Happn who seemed really nice, but when I said I didn’t want to meet up, he started making jibes about my weight and saying he wasn’t interested anyway. It’s not the first time this has happened, but it still hits me hard. Should I pay attention to what he said?

Oh for goodness sake, what on earth is HAPPN? Happn must be some kind of dating appn, I presume. I give up. It so happns that I don’t particularly approve of dating apps and your question amply illustrates why. Just the mention of Happn, though, has made me feel about 157 years old and I feel like writing to Dear Viv myself and saying, “Dear Viv, I can’t seem to get used to the number of ridiculously named dating apps. I just can’t keep up with them and it’s making me feel really old. What is happning in the world?” 

I digress. Thank you for your question. Although my gut response already answers part of it. We’ll get to what this idiot said in a moment but let’s look at the context. Dating apps are weird. I’m sorry to say this if anyone is finding that they are bringing meaning and joy into their lives – good luck to you. But even at their best (and I’m not quite sure what that is), they are incredibly odd. And, I think, slightly dangerous for your mental health. They should not be used by anyone who is feeling fragile or vulnerable in any way.

By that I definitely don’t mean by the way that there’s anything weird or odd about using them, because everyone is and they have become part of life. But they are a strange kind of digital market in human flesh and faces. I’m sorry. But they are. So by all means use them but never ever forget that dating apps are unusual and possibly even slightly inhuman. Are you going to let your self-esteem be defined by an app that can’t even spell correctly? (it’s “happen” not “happn", you stupid appn!)

So that’s the first rule for you: be really careful how you use these things. If anything, expect abuse and difficult interactions and proceed accordingly. These apps offer an anonymity that can become a cover for bad behaviour. Your new friend is just inhabiting the territory. Or in the language of Happn, inhbtng the terrtry. He has followed the rules of the app: be anonymous, speak your mind, wound if you’re hurt, walk away. I’m not criticising you for saying you didn’t want to meet up with him (thank God you didn’t), but can you see what was going on here? You rejected him (rightly so) and he was hurt; he fought back and tried to hurt you. He succeeded. Now you’ve both rejected each other. It’s like two five year-old children in the playground: “Can I be your friend?” “No.” “Well, I never really wanted to be your friend anyway. You smell.” 

This man has said the equivalent to you of a five-year-old running up to you and saying, “You smell.” It’s up to you to decide whether to believe that or not, and whether to do something about it. He obviously hit a nerve so, if you are uncomfortable about your weight, do something about it. But do it because you want to and not because someone has inflicted a drive-by dating-app insult on you. And, in the meantime, go easy on your use of these sites. They require resilience and a sense of humour to get the best out of them and we don’t always have those two things close at hand, especially after a long and stressful day at work. And remember: when it comes to who you interact with and what weight you give to their words, you’re in control of what, er, happns in your life. Don’t waste your time on losers.

Dear Viv, 

There's a rumour at work that the company will be merging with another and making redundancies. We haven't officially been told anything and I know our boss will deny rumours so that none of us jumps ship, but I'm wondering if I should look for another job as I can't afford to be unemployed. How can I get my boss to ’fess up?

Ah, Dear Rumour-Loving Employee, you express the insecurities of many, many people. But this is an easy one. “How can I get my boss to ’fess up?” You can’t. This is one of my favourite bugbears: trying to control everything at work and “win” at being in charge. You can’t! You can’t be in control and you can’t win. You can only respond to the information that you have to hand. And the information has not been released yet and may not be released for some time. 

I don’t want to get all Dalai Lama on you, but your situation is a metaphor for life. We are not allowed to know what will happen to us in one hour’s time, let alone next week or next year. We are not allowed to know how or when we will die or – the thing everyone really wants to know – whether everything will turn out OK. We are definitely not allowed to know whether one day we might find ourselves facing redundancy or long-term employment.

I know these are the things you do not want to hear and you have probably had a heart attack now that I have said the words “long-term unemployment”. But the reality is, your boss probably doesn’t know exactly what’s going on. In these situations, everything usually happens very last minute because even the key players don’t know what’s going on until a crucial point has been reached. There’s no point in trying to second-guess it and there’s no point in trying to save yourself. If something bad is going to happen, it’s going to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.

What we are looking at here is the difficulty of living with uncertainty. I imagine you are scared of far more than “I can’t afford to be unemployed”. At the risk of giving you further cardiac disruption, there are a million scenarios here: you could be asked to take a pay cut in the merger; your boss might be fired and replaced with someone you hate; you might get demoted; you might have to re-interview for your own job. On the other hand, you might get offered redundancy and a massive pay-off that allows you to travel the world for a year; you might get a promotion and a pay rise in the merger; you might get offered another job when a rival company realises how much change is happening in your company; you might even end up as your boss. 

The point is, things are going to happen and you will not be in charge of them. The only thing you can be in charge of is your response. And your response at the moment should be to stay away from gossip and rumour because they will drive you insane – and I speak from experience here as many years ago I worked in company that went through a huge takeover and I can report that these things take far longer than anyone expects. In the company where I worked, it took 18 months for anything to be resolved. Eighteen months of rumour, gossip, conjecture and what if this and what if that.... is completely unbearable. Ignore it. Do not participate. Walk away from conversations if you have to. Yes, look for another job because it will give you back some measure of control and it can’t hurt. But, mostly, keep your head down, stop trying to know things before they even exist and support your poor boss. Try and be Zen. This too shall pass. You will survive it. This is what the Dalai Lama would say and he is never wrong about anything.

You can hear the answers to these and the following questions on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv, 

My goddaughter is four years old and a total charmer. Her parents really spoil her, and “treat” her with chocolate on such a regular basis that it’s a very normal part of her diet. But if she asks for chocolate at any point, they tell her off and say she’s getting fat, which is definitely not a helpful comment to make to a four-year-old! It’s a really hypocritical thing to do because, at four years old, she’s obviously not buying the chocolate for herself anyway, and they have complete control over her diet. I am gagging to say something to them about this! How can I put it in a nice way?

Dear Viv, 

My boyfriend is the best man at his friend’s wedding and has booked them into a strip club for the stag do. I’ve told him I’m not comfortable with this, but he isn’t taking me seriously and says it’s “just a bit of fun”. I feel really horrible about this. I don’t want to be a naggy girlfriend and I hate the fact that my boyfriend is someone who would do this.

Got a question for Viv? Email her at The Dear Viv podcast airs on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

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The Pool's agony aunt Viv Groskop
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