Ask Carrie: Summer 2023

A quarterly column from Carrie Brownstein, who is better at dispensing advice than taking it

Ask Carrie: Summer 2023

Carrie Brownstein
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Q: This past year, I developed a crush on a guy who works in the same building as me. Although we talk nearly every day, it took me over five months to ask him for his phone number. Since then, we have been texting sporadically. Sometimes it takes him one or two days to respond, but more recently, it has taken him a little over a week to respond to one of my texts. While I don’t want to appear too desperate, I usually respond to his texts right away (or within a day or so at most). All my friends say he is not worth it and that I should move on. What do you think? Should I give up on this chance for love? Or should I outwardly declare my feelings to him?

Hopelessly in Love

Hartford, CT

A: A few years ago I found myself in a similar predicament. Tell me if this sounds familiar: You send a text, one carefully crafted to hit that sweet spot of witty but not silly, smart but not supercilious, sincere but not overly earnest, flirty but not desperate. There’s a lot to balance, which is why you’ve previewed your text in the Notes app. You hit send. Then for a few seconds—a whole minute, if you’re lucky—you feel a sense of calm. The serenity, unfortunately, is fleeting. Because now your entire life—okay, not your life per se, just your mood, appetite, attention span, sleep patterns, energy, and will to go on—is dependent on the reply. When the response doesn’t arrive within an appropriate time frame (immediately would be preferable, but who’s keeping track?!), you resort to magical thinking. When I was in the throes of this dynamic and didn’t receive a reply within a few hours, I literally thought, She probably died. Death! That is where my brain went, as opposed to the dozens of logical reasons for her lack of engagement, starting with the most obvious one: my feelings were unrequited. Worse, of course, is when you finally receive a text back: the internal debate as to how long you should wait to respond is excruciating—embarrassing, really. I probably spent more time on that mental equation than I ever did on high school algebra. So I really do have sympathy for you. But this is a terrible dynamic, anxiety-producing and enervating. Your friends are right: it’s not worth it. A better use of your energy would be to extricate yourself from this text message purgatory and focus on people who make you feel valued, secure, and loved. It’s so cliché, but I promise that if the crush is mutual, this guy will let you know. 

Q: My identical twin sister recently got married. However, despite this, her husband on occasion still mixes us up, which really bothers her. Most of the time he gets it right, but every once in a while he messes up. Is this a red flag to you? Many other people in our lives seem to be able to tell us apart with ease. 


San Francisco, CA

A: Is it a red flag to me? I need some context. A quiz: If he had two golden retrievers with blond flowing hair, would he need to put a bandanna on one of them? If his black Audi Q5 was parked next to another black Audi Q5, would he reach for the wrong door handle? Is he a man who mixes up the capitals of North and South Carolina? Are the words there, their, and they’re interchangeable for him? I want to make sure your brother-in-law isn’t a guy who is known for his confusion about similar-sounding and -looking people and things. If he isn’t, then I think there’s something further to explore. I’d start by suggesting that your sister tell her husband that his identity mix-ups hurt her feelings. Perhaps her honesty will elicit some self-reflection on his part, such as What is keeping me from truly seeing my wife?; Am I afraid of emotional intimacy?; and Should I have married a fraternal twin instead? Giving your sister’s husband the benefit of the doubt, I’m guessing that once he knows that the mix-ups bother his wife, he’ll be more careful and attentive. Ultimately, your sister wants reassurance that when it comes to the man she’s married, there’s no confusing her for anyone else, even her own twin sister. So I hope your brother-in-law can understand how for your sister, his occasional errors are not merely about mistaken identity but about her need to feel like a unique person. 

Q: I’ve always been picky about the kinds of TV shows and films I watch. If I’m going to sink hours of my time into watching something, I want it to be worth it. Recently, I haven’t found any show or film that holds my attention. My friends constantly recommend popular TV shows or films they’ve enjoyed. Occasionally, I start the first episode of a show or ten minutes of a film, but I can’t get into it. I don’t even know what I want to watch anymore, and I can’t rewatch things. I think my friends are also getting tired of me complaining about wasting more of my time looking for something to watch than actually watching anything. What should I do?


Margaret Clayton

Atlanta, GA

A: Assuming your friends have taste, and knowing you’ve rejected their recommendations, I fear my own suggestions will be in vain. Which is why I think you should give up on TV and films altogether. Your friends will be as annoyed by your new proclamation as they were by your complaints that there’s nothing to watch. But now they’ll feel judged, which means they’ll be forced to defend their habits. These justifications will be complex, heartwarming, and maybe even thrilling. From comedy to drama, absurd to experimental, you’ll witness a plethora of genres. Margaret, your friends’ passionate explanations about why they watch TV and films—and why you shouldn’t give up on these mediums—will be event viewing. Grab your popcorn. 

Q: I’ve been a copywriter for over thirty years, and I seem to have found myself in danger of being replaced by a machine. My bosses were whispering about salaries and layoffs the other day, and I’ve been freaking out ever since. Are you worried about AI taking over human jobs? Do you think I’m being paranoid? 



New York, NY

A: I forwarded your question to an AI language model. It told me that the idea of AI taking over human jobs was a “complex and ongoing discussion… It is unlikely that it will completely replace most human jobs.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel reassured. An ongoing discussion between whom? Sure, we know it’s a human debate, but are the robots also meeting on this? And what do they mean by “unlikely”? That’s a word sorely lacking in specificity. Wouldn’t AI, with all its algorithmic and predictive abilities, be able to give us some data, some numbers? Is it lying? Can it lie? Wait: I’ll ask. It told me, “I don’t have intentions, desires, or emotions, so I am not capable of lying in the same way that a human being might be.” Whew. Glad AI’s not going to deceive us in some boring humanistic way. Then I asked it why humans fear AI, and it answered that we fear the unknown. OK: trite but valid. It added that humans are scared that AI “could be used for malicious purposes,” and, whoa, it’s also blaming our perceptions on “popular culture depictions of rogue or malevolent AI, such as The Terminator or The Matrix.” I guess even AI is concerned about representation. The last inquiry I posed to my AI interlocutor was whether it would be a good advice columnist. While it noted that it would certainly “provide objective and data-driven insights not influenced by personal bias or subjective opinions,” it also said that most people would prefer advice from a human’s more “empathetic approach.” So, Jean, that is what I offer you: my empathy. Despite the uncertainty you face, try not to be paranoid. Try instead to remember you have a heart; you have feelings and experiences and a point of view. Not everything can be replaced or replicated.

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