The Plunger Syndrome

 

The Plunger Syndrome is available on Kindle and Amazon.
Plunger Syndrome

 

The Plunger Syndrome is available on Kindle and Amazon.

Preface

It started out like any other courtship. I was out at a bar, met some guy, and ended up having dinner with him the following evening. We went out again the following week. All was fine, sailing along smoothly towards “connubial bliss.”

These were his words, not mine.

After the first date, which started as drinks, turned into a Michelin-rated dining experience, and ended with champagne by the fireplace of a very nice hotel, he was already planning out our next six weeks together. In terms of investment to payoff, he was going about two months/hour of date.

It wasn’t particularly concerning. I live a fast-paced life in a city where dates often get scheduled 10 days in advance just to find time when both parties aren’t working, traveling, or sleeping because they’re exhausted from working and traveling.

Then came the more serious offense. The Plunge.

On date two, he suggested we head to a weekend in Virginia wine country. Hold your horses, pal. I just met you.

“Perhaps we can make it a day trip, instead?” I countered. Spend-the-night getaways put a little too much pressure on a fledgling relationship.

“Maybe we should talk about not seeing other people,” was his response, a bit extreme for a second date.
Many women are delighted by this kind of aggressive path to exclusivity. I am not one of those women.

Truth be told, he was an interesting enough guy, with lots going for him. But in the era of high-speed everything, relationships are one thing I really don’t have an interest in rushing.

Diplomatically, and sincerely, I offered, “Let’s revisit this conversation a little farther down the road.”

That apparently fell on deaf ears, because we spent the rest of the evening—still our second date—planning, well, basically the rest of our lives together. Forget weekend getaways. Now we were going on Sherpa-guided tours through Nepal to his favorite mountaintop. Seriously.

Why wasn’t I alarmed by these blatant red flags? For one thing, I liked the guy. It’s a fantastic feeling, to have reciprocal attraction from someone. For another, have you visited the dating world recently? Pretty much everyone has major flaws. I myself am terrible at feigning curiosity in dates’ esoteric hobbies, and sometimes I substitute dry shampoo for legitimate showers before even the nicest of dates. I do not generally lead with these qualities when getting to know someone.

To expose yourself so bravely, showing vulnerability to someone you’ve just met—that’s an emotional buy-in that almost no one, no matter how hardened or guarded or burned from previous relationships he or she may be, can ignore.

This is the Plunge. That immediate, rapid immersion into a full-blown relationship without any of the proper infrastructure in place to support such a lofty rise to coupledom.

The initial Plunge always feels great. You think things will be different with this person because he’s better somehow. Older and more experienced. Successful and more mature. Established and more secure. I thought all of these things about this person. To be frank: Surely a grown-ass 42-year-old with a young daughter, seven-figure income, and terminated but amicable marriage under his belt wouldn’t be playing the same games I’d dealt with in my last relationship with a 29-year-old. Surely.

The next day, following the thrilling, encouraging evening of reckless Plunging (no, not that kind), I received the now-infamous text.

I was stunned. I had no idea how to even react. I think many people in this situation think that by not responding, they are taking the high road. That’s certainly one way to look at it. However, as a decidedly and obviously outspoken and independent person—traits about which he had only 24 hours prior waxed poetic with admiration—I was not going to stand for someone attempting to alter reality. Sitting down and shutting up is not ladylike to me. It is defeatist and weak.

I grew up in a family where we often altered reality at the expense of my dad’s mental illness. If there was one thing I was not going to relive in my adult life, it was that.

I spent the day quite furious. Many people mischaracterize this kind of anger as bitterness that I’d been “dumped.” In reality, I was livid for a different reason altogether. I’d gone along on this man’s ride of crazy, and now he was getting off the roller coaster without me, duck-and-rolling into the next woman that wouldn’t turn down his immediate demands for exclusivity.

To say I was dumped is already sort of hilarious in itself. It’d been two dates. They were good dates, yes, but there were only two of them. When he’d attempted to establish some sort of actual relationship, I balked. We were decidedly not in any position where either of us could have dumped the other. Have we condensed, accelerated, and abridged our lives so much that suddenly two dates counts as going steady? And aren’t women often the ones accused of being the fast-tracking ones, CGI’ing pictures of the offspring made with the casual guy in their lives, doodling hearts and initials of their new lovers on bathroom stalls, and signing throwaway receipts using the surname of the man they just met?

In 2013, I was raped. This is not the focus of this book at all, but I cite it because following the event, my friends encouraged me to go to the police. This is what you are told to do. It’s the traditional path you take to find justice for such an outrageously depraved, intrusive act.

But I knew immediately this wasn’t the path for me. It would not give me any sort of peace, because it would be almost impossible to prove, and the perpetrator—a friend of a friend of mine—had millions of dollars at his fingertips to spend on better lawyers than I could ever afford.

What I really wanted was for this privileged, arrogant asshole to never, ever do this to anyone ever again. So, I took an alternative route.

I emailed his wife (yes, he is married) to tell her what happened. I gave her my contact information and told her to call me with any questions. She did. I answered truthfully. If you ever want to hear a heart breaking, try telling someone that her husband of a mere 10 months is running around on “business trips” raping 25-year-olds. It was not pleasant. Happily, I can now report that they are going through therapy, and I know I’ve done all I can possibly do to foment change in his behavior.

This sort of creative, alternative pathway is exactly how I responded to the guy that texted me. When you are so infuriated, sometimes conventional wisdom like “take the high road” is unsatisfying at best, and socially irresponsible at worst. As a woman living in a city where women are already faced with a smaller dating pool, I just wanted to make sure this person never did what he did to me to anyone again.

I started my blog, Little Black Blog, in 2009. I rarely write about anything other than events, society, and gossip. However, on rare occasion, I use Little Black Blog for personal stories that I think will resonate with my readership, which is about 85% under-30, single females living in America. The remaining 15% are a combination of older, gay American men; a number of Asian-country citizens; and a random stronghold I have in Turkey because The Hürriyet, the country’s newspaper, wrote a profile about my life above the fold of its lifestyle section in 2011.

All of that is to say, every person reading my blog has no doubt dealt with relationship woes at some point in his or her life. I wanted to share my frustrations with others to hear what they had to say.

So let’s return to this infamous text, which I received during the afternoon on September 23rd, a Monday. I called my lawyer that night. Incidentally, he is an ex-boyfriend, who knows me very well.

I explained the story to him.

“Well that’s shitty,” my ex responded. “Why don’t you text him back to go kill himself?”

I was definitely angry, but even in my anger, I didn’t really wish anything bad on this person. Temper tantrums are not my style. I have always found intelligence to be a much stronger persuader than hostility.

About 12 hours after the text, I was still mad. I hadn’t responded, and I’m sure at that point he thought he’d avoided any sort of backlash. Oh good, he probably mused, that was easy.

Reaching out to my lawyer was just a precaution, because I knew what I was about to do could open me up to a number of legal battles, namely defamation of character. For those who think this blog “accidentally” blew up, they could not be further from the truth. It was far more calculated than sending a kneejerk rejoinder.

As a brief synopsis, in case you missed it the first time around in September 2013, my reaction was, as it was with the rape, a creative, alternative response. I sent a text back to Joseph* telling him that after two dates, his “break up” was basically soul-crushing. Oh, and that I’d sent the unsolicited dick pics he sent me to his boss. And then I added some rather acerbic language about calling a 25-year-old woman a “girl”—namely to point out what kind of karma he was producing in a world in which his nine-year-old daughter would inevitably grow, mature, and date.

(*It’s in the disclaimer, dedication, and in basically every interview I’ve done, but it’s worth repeating: the man who texted me was, is, and will always be 100% anonymous. Joseph is not his real name.)

Of course Joseph knew none of this actually happened. He never thought he would be out of a job. Instead, as he has confirmed in the time since this occurred, I aimed to stir up within him a little nervous laughter. I wanted him to know that I certainly could do these things, so stop pretending to have the upper hand when you’ve already been turned down once.

I already had an audience, that of a blog I’d built up over four years, in addition to my books’ readership. This situation was one with which so many of my girlfriends in DC and around the world have dealt and continue to face. So, I moved forward with posting about this experience on my blog, sharing a frustrating, relatable experience with an attentive audience.

It’s telling that even though about three million trolls—those dregs of virtual society with literally nothing better to do than spend their days hating on pretty much anything—went out looking for the recipient of this text, no one found him. Then, actual journalists started looking for him. I’d walk out the door of my condo and find paparazzi hiding in bushes, who then followed me around to see if I’d be meeting up with this man again (which I did). Again, no one found him.

“I could get him on my show!” boasted Bethenny Frankel, who had me on her talk show (RIP).

No, sweetie. You couldn’t.

I’d made very sure this person was untraceable. Not only for the legal reasons, but also because I honestly don’t have any other concern about his life other than to stop this Plunge pattern.

For me, blogging is not just a hobby. It is a job. I study analytics like any marketing professional would. This is why I know my readership. This is also why I know that 11 AM EST is the time my blog is most read. And for this reason, I published my blog about this man, his text, and my response at precisely that time on September 24th, 2013, my 26th birthday.

Following my viral explosion, I was repeatedly asked by friends, journalists, family members, and strangers, “Are you worried you will never date again?”

Of course not!

There are many reasons why I did not think my viral blog would be the end of my love life. For one, I live an extreme life. This has been the case since I was born, and it will be the case until I die. Following the blow up, several ex-boyfriends, with whom I almost always remain good friends, reached out to offer congratulations. They knew being thrust in the public eye would not faze me, nor would the negativity that comes with any amount of notoriety.

Perhaps now the crowd is more self-editing, but there are no shortages of men who enjoy dramatic women. This also cuts both ways: Plenty of women (who are definitely not me) truly enjoy men who are dramatic. To each his own, and trust me, each has an own. Everyone has a type.

In the aftermath of that experience, many men who like my type, the extreme, strong-willed kind of woman, came knocking. Not every one of those men were Plungers, but several were, and several more will come. It is natural, at whatever level you think love spiritually occurs, to vibrate at the same wavelength of a certain kind of person. The key is to find people that cherish what you value in yourself the most. For me, that was encompassed in my public cameo.

And here’s another thing I’m asked frequently: “Did you ever talk to Joseph again?”

The answer to that is yes, I have seen Joseph since that blog. Over wine one evening, I asked him, tongue-in-cheek because I certainly do not think this at all, “You know you made me famous, right?”

His response was, “I didn’t do that. You did that. I always knew you were destined for greatness.”

Classic Plunger. He identified my dramatic side from the get-go, then watched it unfold in a spectacular array of blogging fireworks. It was a symbiotic relationship we (briefly) had: He had his Plunger needs fulfilled, and it certainly opened many doors for me.

We continue to be in close contact.

I. Defining Aspects of a Plunger

I did not realize it at the time of my blog explosion, but I have always attracted these Plunger types. Perhaps it’s because of my extroverted personality and high-risk lifestyle, which cause men to feel comfortable saying wildly inappropriate things to me. Perhaps it is because communication is now so hyper-speed and cheap, both financially and integrity-wise. Perhaps it is because DC is such a transient city, and people are vying to nail down whatever they can before it slips away with the next administration. For whatever reason, I seem to be a magnet for these kinds of people.

I’m definitely not alone. The reason that blog went so viral, apart from its in-your-face exaggeration, is because its content is relatable. I’ll take one aside to address once and for all that, no, I never sent those pictures, and not for one second did Joseph believe I did, or fear for his job. No lives were ruined in the process of this blog.

Every woman, and many, many men, has experienced something like this. A person getting turned down, only to freak out and try to reverse the tables for fear he or she is losing the upper hand in the relationship. It’s infuriating and unfair, and should be called out.

In this book, I do not only focus on women in relationships. I write from a woman’s perspective, since that’s the only one I’ve ever known, at least to my knowledge, but these kinds of personality patterns and relationship dynamics can be witnessed in both sexes. So, I use a combination of personal experiences, describing my counterparts with male pronouns, and generalized ones. (Is there anything as pretentious or cumbersome to read as using “his or her” with every antecedent in every sentence? I think not.)

This book is relevant to both men and women due, largely in part, to the increased power women hold. That power will continue to increase (for better or for worse/God willing), and with these radical changes in women’s rights and power statuses comes a new playbook of relationship guidelines. Additionally, the theories set out in this book apply to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, in addition to non-sexual relationships.

There are several key identifiers of the people I have termed “Plungers.” They are:

• Outrageously romantic, attentive, and nurturing

Within hours of your first date, this person will start “we-ing” all over you. He’ll casually drop inviting promises like, “We’ll go to the beach this summer,” “We’ll go out with my friends,” “We’ll have a great time at a Virginia wine weekend.” Beware the “we” dropped so instantaneously. It is a harbinger of his controlling and assumptive personality. Usually this manifests itself as condescending and patronizing during the break-up phase.

Another good sign of a Plunger is a person who will use “reasonable,” quantifiable methods to prove you belong together, such as the zodiac. “I’m a Leo,” stated. Generally people that characterize themselves as horoscope entities shouldn’t be trusted because seriously? Can you get a life? But it’s even more disconcerting because he used his Leo-ness to sum up himself in a few quick, positive, and charming traits: an attentive lover, a larger-than-life personality, and appreciative of surprising others.

I don’t think zodiac chemistry should be ignored, and this vignette isn’t to discredit those who put their faith in those things, but COME. ON. Lead with something else. Show, don’t tell.

Additionally, the whole star-crossed lover play is just unfair. I’m a Libra, apparently something called a cuspian, which means I am close to being a Virgo. I didn’t know or care about any of these things until this guy told me about them, telling me our auras were destined to intertwine because of our zodiac compatibility. That’s all fine and good, and I definitely don’t judge people who want to rely on these kinds of things, but this is a strong sign of the Plunge: telling the other party that he or she is destined by ancient rite to be your partner is ridiculous, duplicitous, and, side note: not based in reality.

• Effusive, delightful communicators

Ah, that elusive feature in a man that can make him so appealing. In the same vein of the aforementioned attentiveness characteristic, Plungers are excellent communicators. This is particularly appealing in a world of texting, when phone calls seem to be a vestigial appendage. When the Plunger is older, it’s even further compounded, because he or she is used to a time when people called, emailed, and even snail-mailed. What can now feel like a sweet gesture is really just the usual M.O. for these folks, but they are acutely aware of how it affects you because of its inherent rareness.

Additionally, Plungers are also great communicators in person, which is an exceptionally appealing aspect of anyone in a first (or second) date. They are likable, charismatic, and easy conversationalists. This makes them particularly hard not to like, because they are just such a fun time.

Great communication is very deceptive because of the newness of your relationship. In combination with the “we-ing,” this feels like a formula for success. And why wouldn’t it? You’ve found yourself someone who is both really into you AND really into hearing about your day, your life, your dreams, your messed up childhood, your hair day, your lunch, your trip to Lululemon that resulted in no purchases but turned into a froyo run. If there’s one thing people are good at talking about, it’s almost always themselves. It feels good to have someone appreciate the small details of your life.

Herein lies the problem. No one should be that concerned about your life after knowing you for a day. However, it just feels so good to have that kind of attention, that it’s nearly impossible to avoid developing feelings for someone.

In the case with Kevin, another Plunger I dated (see his case study on page 25), he would text constantly. Often, he would even triple or quadruple text, sending multiple inquisitive, personalized correspondences without my having replied to any of them. For women, even just double-texting can feel nagging. We don’t do it because we don’t want to seem clingy. Yet, when men are such effusive texters, it’s considered desirable, like this person really cares. It’s a classic double standard that will never go away, but it’s worth noting that this is definitely a trait of a Plunger, no matter what gender.

• INTENSE

I must say, I am sucker for these kinds of people. As an extremely Type A+ intense person myself, it’s great to find someone who can hang. This intensity can show itself in any number of ways. Kevin, for example, met me at a black-tie party for our first date. It was extreme, but that is a lot of my life, and the fact that he could go with it was appealing. This is also the case with Patrick (see his case study on page 67).

Following my date with Kevin, I was taking the 6 AM flight out of National to see my sister in L.A. It is not at all strange for me to stay up all night to make these flights, which I always seem to book because I want to maximize my experience in any city. It is very strange, however, for a first date to stay up with you, partying until the sun rises.

I do believe the Plunger Syndrome cuts both ways on the gender divide, but surely women who exhibit this kind of behavior are immediately lambasted in some lame navel-gazing Daily Elite article about the kinds of women you should not marry. When Kevin did it, it was alluring. Even more alluring was when he texted me as I waited in the security line, and when I landed from my five-hour flight to find a string of texts expressing how amazing he thought I was. TRAP.

Similarly, during both dates with Joseph, his romanticism, mixed with his intensity, was unparalleled. We would go to restaurants where he would not stop holding my hand and looking into my eyes to tell me how beautiful I was. It was almost disgusting, except I actually liked this person so it was more encouraging than serial killer. It got to the point that, during our dinner at Zentan, a fusion concept restaurant with some of the best food in DC, the executive chef had to awkwardly disconnect our hands just to find space to put a hot stone down to cook the Miyazaki beef. Yes, Chef came out, likely because she thought we were a newlywed couple given our attempt to break the world’s most passionate, concentrated staring/handholding contest.

All of this, even to someone significantly less high strung that I, is appealing because it demonstrates an “all-in” level of investment from the other party. Many relationships fail because one person is a narcissist. This was a very 90s and early millennial struggle. Americans nurtured in those years grew up privileged, exposed to boom times, outrageous prosperity, and a near-universal acceptance of more casual relationships formed online and over text. Plungers are not actually narcissists at all. Instead, they play to a trait intrinsic in every person: the attention-needy ego.

Plungers are the Darwins of relationships. They’ve advanced beyond the narcissism to play to others’ narcissism. One step ahead of the average, unsuspecting single person, they’ve developed the ability to appear vulnerable to you without actually putting any of their own skin in the game. If I didn’t dislike their manipulative ways so much, I’d actually be really impressed. Indeed, I am friends with many Plungers, because they make for undeniably entertaining and interesting friends. Just so long as you don’t get romantically involved with them…

• Pushers

This should come as no surprise, but Plungers like to push. They walk the line between “too nice” and “bad boy” with absolute aplomb. They’ll coax you into doing and saying things you normally never would. The thought of gazing into the eyes of a man nearly twice my age over his $300 glass of scotch and my vintage wine is almost too vomit-inducing to type. And yet there I was, offending the senses of the general public by fawning over this person in a way that is so uncharacteristic of my behavior.

This was similar to Kevin, who asked to be exclusive after one date. In an ill-advised attempt to get over a guy I’d been dating off and on for nearly four years, I obliged. It seemed like a great way to go on the record that I was NO LONGER IN LOVE WITH THAT OTHER GUY, OK? Normally I’d never agree to such a locked-down situation, but because nothing was actually wrong up front, and because he appealed to my need for stability and normalcy, I was talked into doing something out of the ordinary for me. It’s a dangerous thing.

Plungers are masterful in their execution. You don’t even realize how you are getting sucked in, because they are so adept at manipulating your emotions.

• Doin’ big things

As part of the flashy, big money lifestyle, Plungers are wildly successful. They apply their prime manipulating abilities that they use in their dating lives in their career lives, which is why they are so successful.

In the case studies following, you’ll see that nearly all of these men hold powerful positions. Frequently, they are entrepreneurial, or are CEOs, EVPs—whatever they do, they’re both professionally respected and financially impressive.

This often makes Plungers even more appealing, because in addition to having that winsome air about them, they are spending their very valuable time on you. When someone’s billable rate is in the thousands of dollars an hour, and they spend 12 hours on a first date with you, that makes you feel like a million bucks (though technically significantly less than $1mm; you get what I mean).

This also feeds into how legitimate it can feel when the Plunge happens. They live a fast and busy lifestyle, so you give them a pass when they sidestep the whole “getting to know you” part of setting a solid foundation of a relationship. That’s a minor detail that you think makes no difference in the end game, when in reality this kind of ceding on your part is a bright, flashing green light to a Plunger. Warning: curves ahead.

• Exhibitionists

Dear reader, I hate to embarrass you, but there’s really no reason to beat around the bush here: Plungers love dick pics. I personally have never sent anything even remotely raunchy because—UM WHY?!—and no judgment, but I will never understand why people enjoy receiving these things. I am not your mother, but please don’t send them. Apart from not being enjoyable to an unsuspecting woman you’ve dated once ever, they will go everywhere. A brunch group of mine in DC has a group chat called DROD. DROD stands for “dick pic ring of death.” Literally any time any one of the 16 people receives a dick pic, it’s blasted out to a network that spans all of DC. These dick pics never elicit an, “OMG I need to get on that man right now!” reaction. Rather, they elicit almost nothing positive, like “ew,” “#dumphim,” “why is it so small?!,” and “here are some numbers to a waxing specialist.”

People will know. You don’t want to do it.

And yet, despite my absolute abhorrence for dick pics, somehow I seem to choose plenty of men who think it’s an awesome idea. Even now, after a major publicity event that marks me as extremely Google-able, I still receive them from some men who apparently have no sense of decorum. I’ll leave the psychological analysis of men who need so much attention for their member to a professional, but suffice it to say that I don’t know any woman who actually enjoys receiving one of these from someone they’ve known for less than a week.

At the very lowest level of psychoanalysis, Plungers who send dick pics are simply trying to find other ways to get your emotional buy-in. It’s all part of that “I showed you mine, now show me yours” mentality. Whether or not you do or you don’t send a picture back, you still, at some inescapable level, have seen an intimate part of this person. You cannot help but feel “closer” to this person, because he has shown you so much of himself. It’s part of his takeover of your emotional stability.

• Really, really good at keeping you a secret

Despite all that “we-ing,” and despite their promises, you will never meet these people’s friends. This can be for any number of reasons, including the fact that he or she is probably seeing a bajillion other people, but it’s an important characteristic because it keeps you from getting any outside intel on this person.

On the flip side, Plungers are often very good at meeting your friends. This goes hand in hand with playing to your ego, because you feel legitimized by someone you care about meeting your friends. He buys them all drinks, he’s charming and complimentary of you, and it all feels like it’s bumping along nicely.

This is one reason why no one (apart from a few good friends of mine) knows who Joseph is. When Bethenny countered that she was sure he had discussed me with his friends, even though I said I had concealed his identify, she was exhibiting a misunderstanding of the situation entirely. No, he hadn’t discussed me with his friends. Despite making me feel like an extremely important person to him, I’m sure I was not the topic of his guy’s nights out. This is because these people often court you for sport.

• Quite possibly pet owners

This sounds strange and rather specific for a chapter devoted to characteristics about the human condition of Plunging, but it’s actually a tangible, oft-present quality of Plungers. Much like how not all rectangles are squares but all squares are rectangles, not all pet owners are Plungers but, more often than not, Plungers are pet owners.

This plays into the Plunger need for both an audience and for affection. Many women feel entitled as mothers because they have actually birthed a human, regardless of how well they parent. They often feel like they have “done good.” After all, they produced life, and they are making serious sacrifices for these new kids. Plungers feel similarly about their pets. Often they scoop up rescue pets, which is a worthy and noble endeavor, but one that plays more to their egos than to their selflessness.

Several men outlined in this book are pet owners. The kind of attention a pet demands is exactly where a Plunger wants to spend his time, because pets are a built-in, readymade audience for love, attention, and affection.

• Gaslighters

I don’t enjoy movies, but Gaslight is a fantastic piece of cinematic genius. The movie is about a man who slowly and methodically convinces his wife that she is crazy. He does this by telling her she is hearing sounds that aren’t occurring, remembering things that never happened, and planting items in her possession to frame her for crimes she couldn’t remember committing because she never did.

All of this was part of his plot to kill his wife and take a bunch of valuables, which is where that movie sort of loses its relevancy to modern day relationships (unless you’re in a really messed up situation).

The text that came from Joseph was a prime example of gaslighting in our current world. I’d already turned the man down for an exclusive relationship. It wasn’t because I didn’t like him; it was because he was moving too quickly and I’d finally hit my wall of what I was willing to cede as my personal nature. Instead of backing off, he immediately doubled down. That evening concluded with some pretty outrageous plans for upcoming vacations. The following morning, he “dumped” me, attempting to convince me that he was the one who was in the position to do so.

Patrick, whom I dated post-viral blog explosion, was also a gaslighter. Following our amazing first date at a Christmas party at the Kennedy Center, we began discussing New Year’s Eve plans. That’s normal enough, but his plans for “us” were not. He planned to pick me up from the airport after I came back to DC from flying back home down South for the holidays. Then, we’d go on an extensive day date, followed by a three-night staycation at The W, which he booked for us with Starwood Points. My blog was cohosting another black-tie party for NYE, and he bought a ticket to join me for the evening.

That was all fine and good until the night before he was to pick me up from my DCA arrival. He texted me that he could no longer make our plans work. Similar to Joseph, he wished me the best, and hoped I had a great start to 2014!

Gaslighting at its finest. No, I did not make up that he had aggressively moved the ball forward, nailed down plans for a high-pressure holiday, and triple confirmed that we were still on for these dates he set up. Getting an Uber home from the airport was the least of my concerns, but it was still an annoying additional detail to sort out given that I’d just gone from having half a week of plans to no plans for a major party holiday.

Not to worry, by the way. Patrick was on the receiving end of a pretty scathing text sequence. Hey, he knew what he was getting into when he live-Googled me at the bar where I met him. The fact he was not deterred by the article, “Warning All Men in DC: Do Not Date Quin Woodward Pu” made his interest in me seem that much more legitimate, especially since we went out after that.

Gaslighting is the very dark side to Plungers. Anyone who can manipulate someone so thoroughly to cause him or her to think he or she is crazy is a threat to national security. If not for any other reason than to get out of such a dangerous situation, dump your Plunger right away. Otherwise you’ll soon be living a 21st century Hamlet. There’s only so long you can withstand being told you are crazy when you know you are not before you actually do become crazy.

Like an actual plunger, people afflicted with the Plunger Syndrome will eventually pull back. With this action comes the inevitable flush of emotions, a confusing byproduct of being involved with such a surprisingly and efficiently scheming person. Plungers often repeat this pattern over and over with the same person. You are sucked back in with their newest Plunge, and it feels so good that you forget about the foreseeable backlash that will come.

No matter the time, no matter their excuses or apologies, the fact of the matter is: Plungers are full of shit.

The Plunger Syndrome is available on Kindle and Amazon.

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