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The Tale of Joe Smooth: An Emotional Blackmail Testimonial Quiz

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So you start dating a guy. Six months later he's put on fifteen pounds and he's whining because you're spending Friday nights at the office . . . and somehow it's all your fault.

I just kicked loose of one of the best emotional blackmailers in the business, and I've got a Grade-A beef with Joe Smooth. Read on to see if YOU can spot the early warning signs of emotional abuse. Props to the brilliant femme who spots them all (A link is provided to the Answer key at the end of this tale). I shit thee not, this is a true story.

"The First Date"

Joe Smooth and I have mutual friends. Heir to a multi-million dollar financial empire, he runs his own business. He is rumored to be witty, charming, brilliant, and similar in appearance to Clark Kent. I am intrigued. I go to a party at his house as the date of one of his employees. Yep, the rumors are true.

And Joe Smooth seems to think I'm a tasty crumpet, too, because he calls me the next morning to ask me out. He arranges a romantic restaurant on the river, deserted on a weeknight. Over dessert he tells me about the sailboat he's just sold. He takes me to an after-hours bar with soft light, chandelier, and fireplace. Over drinks he sits down on the bar piano and whips out a little Mozart. He kisses me in the elevator. And because I am the world's own prime sucker, my heart starts flopping around like a gaffed fish. I drive home with a big silly stupid grin on my face. Saints help and preserve us, I've met The Mythical Perfect Man.

"The Second Date"

After a 12-hour cooling-off period, I email Smooth first thing to say that I enjoyed our date but don't want to see him again because I feel it would be a slap in the face to his employee, who was also a friend-with-potential, and that I would feel awkward about the situation. Smooth waits until 2:00 a.m. the next morning to call me and says he's crazy about me and that I owe him a better explanation. He says he'll fire the employee if that's what it takes to see me again. So I capitulate, and keep seeing him.*

"The First Weekend"

Joe Smooth orchestrates a Romantic Weekend in the City, touring me around all the best restaurants, clubs, and hotels, dumping ungodly bales of money left and right. He tells me he is a pilot, and he takes me to his airfield (he calls it "his airfield" . . . as in "come see my airfield.") During the whirlwind tour he confesses he doesn't date much, he only "plays for keeps," because he has a short attention span and likes to have his cake and eat it too. I tell him it's a good thing I'm not husband-hunting, because he just blew it right there. (I'm a big fat liar.)

"Yes, He Actually Said That!"

Three weeks into the relationship, Joe Smooth takes me in his arms, opens his big green eyes very wide, and says, "I really care about you . . . I want you to live a long time . . . please consider giving up smoking." A few days later he takes me in his arms, opens his big green eyes very wide, and says, "Would you consider growing your hair? No? Not even for me?". A few days later he takes me in his arms, opens his big green eyes very wide, and says, "Would you consider taking my name? It would be better for the kids." I answer "no" to all three.

"As Things Progress"

I find out that Joe Smooth runs his own business because he couldn't get hired in any of the regular businesses in our field in this town. I find out he doesn't really have employees, just independent contractors, and at the moment he doesn't have any at all because it was too much trouble to keep track of them. I find out that although he's a pilot he's not licensed to carry passengers because he keeps failing the necessary flight tests. Joe Smooth, child of the leisure class, asks me not to tell his Daddy that he's failing the necessary flight tests.

"Sorry, Baby, Mommy Must Has To Work Tonight"

Six weeks into the relationship, Joe Smooth isn't a totally happy camper. He takes me to a yacht show and then to a romantic rooftop restaurant to tell me he's not seeing enough of me. I say I am sorry he feels that way but that I have a heavy work schedule. He installs a desk and a high-speed Internet connection in his house so I can work there. I start driving to his house and spending three-to-four day stints there. Okay, I'm a sucker.

But I still occasionally have to cut short our blissful weekends due to work commitments. Each time I have to, Joe Smooth's hackles stand up and he says it's really a shame that I care more about my career than about him. Joe Smooth says he makes time in his busy schedule for me, and I am terribly selfish not to pay him the same courtesy. Joe Smooth asks me if I want that kind of relationship, where I am always alone on weekends, or married to somebody "nerdy" who doesn't do all the fun things Joe Smooth does. Joe Smooth says he doesn't want a marriage where he is always wondering where his wife is, whether he'll get to see her, and never will, and if that's what it will be like, he's done with me.

"Guess Who Needs Therapy?"

When it's good, it's very very good, and when it's bad, it's horrid. Joe Smooth and I start to fight over the fact that I'm soon leaving the state to start a job I had accepted before I met him. Joe Smooth says he thinks I'm The One. His other girlfriends were spineless, shallow, or psychotic. If I really loved him, I would give up the job and stay here with him. Alternatively, I would give up the job and move with him in a new city, so that we were "both putting something into the pot, both sacrificing something to start fresh together." I shrug and invite him to come with me to the new state. Not acceptable, of course.

When he finally gets it through his thick skull that I won't give up the job, Smooth tells me sadly that relationships need compromise, clearly I don't understand that, and that he's been too good to me to be treated this way. He suggests I go into therapy to get my priorities straight. Ten days later he asks me about it; I lie and tell him I'm seeing a counselor.

"You Didn't Take Me to the Prom"

I tell Joe Smooth I can't see him Saturday night because I am scheduled to attend a professional event to attend with a colleague. Smooth gives me the silent treatment for a week, then breaks up with me because he is "reeling from the insult" that he was not my date. To nurse his wounded spirit, he schedules a month's vacation getaway to another continent. He leaves on a Monday. I have Monday meetings, so I offer to see him Friday night to wish him farewell. Joe Smooth decides that's not good enough and cancels Friday's date at the last minute, with the remark that until a few minutes ago he had planned to set aside time this weekend for me, but that since I could not pay him the same courtesy, he didn't want to see me at all, ever again. But he hopes we can "still be friends" when he returns to the United States.

By this time my heart's no longer doing the merengue when I hear his voice, believe me. So when his jet crosses the International Date Line, I heave a huge sigh of relief and set about getting back to my life. I do some Internet research and take a few minutes to examine what on earth led me into that relationship, and why on earth I let it go on so long, against all warning signs and against all common sense. I guess there is a first time for everything. Never again.

Epilogue

It's not quite over, bless his dark and scheming little heart. A couple days ago I received Smooth's email from some anonymous banana republic Internet cafe. The games continue, even though he's thousands of miles away. He wrote to me, and he picked out the best postcards for me, but he never sent them because he is so bitter, angry, disappointed, hurt, et cetera, ad nauseum. He is "more sorry than he can say that this didn't work out," but maybe it will in the future when "our priorities are more in line." He doesn't want to hear from me unless it's an apology, but he will always wonder what life would have been like if I had made different decisions. He hopes I will come visit him when my life is more settled.

Love, Joe Smooth.


* Impressive stupidity, I admit. I plead emotional-blackmail virginity. Bet your spike-heeled boots it won't happen again. [back]

And now, for the Answer Key. See how many manipulator ploys you spotted...


Forward this ARTICLE to someone who needs to answer the CLUE PHONE


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