The Big Bang Theory Season 12, Episode 5 Recap: Sheldon Sabotages Amy’s Career

I’ll be honest: I love The Big Bang Theory, but I have no idea what super-asymmetry is, nor do I think I’ll understand it anytime soon. But that’s why I write about TV and not science. For Sheldon and Amy, though, super-asymmetry is their baby—and it’s a storyline that Big Bang producers have said will feature heavily into this final season.

But it doesn’t take a scientist to know that being intellectually smart has nothing to do with street smarts or common sense. Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard have been poster boys for that notion since day one—and tonight’s episode, “The Planetarium Collision”—proved my point tenfold.

The episode begins with Amy in the lab working on her own project when Sheldon interrupts to discuss super-asymmetry. Amy says she’s busy, but Sheldon doesn’t get it. Or maybe he does, but he thinks Amy will want to hear what he has to say. Whatever the case, it’s typical Sheldon behavior.

So while Amy is working late, Sheldon recruits Penny as his audience of one to go over the latest super-asymmetry developments. (Perhaps she can explain to me what’s going on? Because I still have no clue.) During their talk, Sheldon confides that it feels like Amy hasn’t had time for their joint project ever since they returned from their honeymooon. He doesn’t understand why she puts her own “dull” projects over their collaboration. It’s frustrating that he’s so clueless about his wife’s passions, but this is Sheldon we’re talking about. Amy didn’t marry him because he says the right things.

Sheldon doesn’t always do the right thing either. In the next scene, he pays a visit to President Siebert and tells him that Amy is too distracted by the commitments she has to her own lab. Maybe he can free her up from that so she can focus on her project with Sheldon?

This is wrong on so many levels—Sheldon really should know better by now—but it’s also obvious that he thinks he’s doing a good thing. Case in point: He couldn’t wait to tell Amy the good news; it’s not like he was hiding this from her. Plus, as we later learn, Amy also told Sheldon she was spread too thin and wished she had more time to focus on her research. So while Sheldon’s move was selfish, I believe he didn’t understand the consequences of his actions. President Siebert, on the other hand, should be fired for his.

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PHOTO: Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment

When Amy returns to her lab later in the day, she finds a colleague—Dr. Park—in her place. He says he’s taking over now that she’s taking a temporary sabbatical to focus on other work. Amy is beside herself, completely at a loss for how this could have happened. Turns out, President Siebert took Sheldon’s suggestion and never bothered to confirm such a huge internal change with Dr. Fowler herself. Is that even legal? How does someone go on sabbatical without knowing they’re going on sabbatical?

Furious, Amy drops by President Siebert’s office. Siebert says he’s confused because Sheldon assured him this is what Amy wanted. Sheldon—who’s finally starting to catch on how messed up this is—tries to play dumb by adding, “Sure, so a couple of men get together behind closed doors to decide the fate of a woman’s career! I thought we had moved past this!”

Quite a concept, isn’t it? A man making a decision for a woman without actually consulting that woman or listening to what she wants. Infuriating much?

President Siebert apologies and assures Amy that she’s very important to the university. But he says it’s not so easy to course correct and get back her project. I’m not Amy, but if I was, I would have sued the man right there.

The next time we see Sheldon and Amy, they’ve gone to bed angry. Sheldon has a dream with Arthur Jeffries (Bob Newhart) where he learns once again why he was wrong. Sheldon wakes Amy and says he feels terrible about what he did and didn’t mean to be malicious. Amy says he wasn’t malicious, he was selfish. Then she tells Sheldon that the real issue is that she’s afraid of getting lost in their relationship. That the things that are hers are getting subsumed into theirs. Sheldon thanks her for explaining her fears to him—and for using the word subsumed—and the credits roll.

But the problem is that for most women, these infuriating issues in the workplace (and a marriage) aren’t tied up in 22 minutes or with the arrival of Bob Newhart. President Siebert most likely gets to keep his job without being reprimanded for nearly sabotaging a woman’s career. Amy may not. And while Sheldon instigated all of this, Siebert should have done his due diligence before signing off on such a major development. He didn’t. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out how wrong that is.

Rihanna Declined To Perform At The Super Bowl In Support Of Colin Kaepernick

Rihanna has never been a woman to shy away from her values. Which is why we aren’t really surprised the “Umbrella” singer gave a hard pass to performing at next year’s Super Bowl Halftime show.

According to a report in Us Weekly, the NFL reportedly approached Rihanna to be its 2019 halftime entertainer. But she declined the offer as she’s firmly in support of Colin Kaepernick.

“The NFL and Fox really wanted Rihanna to be next year’s performer in Atlanta,” an unidentified source shared with Us Weekly. “They offered it to her, but she said no because of the kneeling controversy. She doesn’t agree with the NFL’s stance. She supports Colin Kaepernick.”

Kaepernick, as you may recall, famously kneeled during the national anthem during his time as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers as a way to peacefully protest police violence in America against the black community.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

At the time, the NFL stated, “…we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.” His coach Chip Kelly added that Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem is “his right as a citizen” and “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”

However, Kaepernick went into free agency the following year and his contract was not renewed. He has never received an offer from another team, a move that he feels the NFL perpetrated by blacklisting him from the sport. Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against thee NFL.

After Rihanna said thanks but no thanks, the NFL reportedly moved on and asked Maroon 5 to put on the show instead. They reportedly agreed, though no confirmation has come from either the NFL or the band.

As for who may join them onstage, Us Weekly reported that the band has Cardi B in mind.

“She is definitely being considered, but it’s obviously way too early to say for sure,” another source added. “Pepsi, the NFL and Cardi are all interested in her performing more than just her ‘Girls Like You’ verse.”

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Senator Heidi Heitkamp Mistakenly Identified Sexual Abuse Survivors in a Campaign Ad

North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp was already in a tough battle to retain her senate seat in a state that President Donald Trump won by 36 points. And now a mistake by her campaign could be costing her more votes.

Earlier this week, Heitkamp’s campaign published a newspaper ad that was meant to serve as a rebuttal to her Republican opponent Kevin Cramer, but ended up naming sexual assault survivors without their permission or misidentifying them altogether. Cramer has come under fire for his comments about the #MeToo movement in the New York Times. He questioned whether “you’re just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happened.”

“They cannot understand this movement toward victimization,” Cramer said, referencing the women in his life, including his mom, wife and daughters. “They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough.”

The letter was supposed to show Cramer “what prairie tough looks like.” It included signatures from more than 120 women who were supposed to be survivors of “domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape.” But once it went public, some women came forward saying they either weren’t survivors or had never given permission for their information to be used.

The campaign quickly apologized. “We recently discovered that several of the women’s names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again.”

But, that may not be enough. “I don’t know what she [Heitkamp] could do that would make it better,” Lexi Zhorela, a self-identified liberal and one of the women named in the ad, told CNN. “I know that’s why a lot of the people in this situation are reaching out to seek legal counsel because of, you know, what she did is wrong.” She went on to call the mistake “reckless” and said, “You know, the names that didn’t want to be out there are already out there for the world to see. You can’t really retract that, the damage is done.”

And, as of now, Heitkamp has lost her vote, according to CNN.

Heitkamp has been vocal in her support of survivors, including voting “no” on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She has also spoken out about her own mother’s experience. “I think it’s wonderful that his [Cramer’s] wife has never had an experience, and good for her, and it’s wonderful his mom hasn’t,” she said previously to the Times. “My mom did. And I think it affected my mom her whole life. And it didn’t make her less strong.”

It remains to be seen how this misstep will ultimately affect Heitkamp’s poll numbers, but the issue is almost certain to come up in her first debate with Cramer Thursday night.

MORE: North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp Arm-Wrestles in New Campaign Ad

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp Mistakenly Identified Sexual Abuse Survivors in a Campaign Ad

North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp was already in a tough battle to retain her senate seat in a state that President Donald Trump won by 36 points. And now a mistake by her campaign could be costing her more votes.

Earlier this week, Heitkamp’s campaign published a newspaper ad that was meant to serve as a rebuttal to her Republican opponent Kevin Cramer, but ended up naming sexual assault survivors without their permission or misidentifying them altogether. Cramer has come under fire for his comments about the #MeToo movement in the New York Times. He questioned whether “you’re just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happened.”

“They cannot understand this movement toward victimization,” Cramer said, referencing the women in his life, including his mom, wife and daughters. “They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough.”

The letter was supposed to show Cramer “what prairie tough looks like.” It included signatures from more than 120 women who were supposed to be survivors of “domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape.” But once it went public, some women came forward saying they either weren’t survivors or had never given permission for their information to be used.

The campaign quickly apologized. “We recently discovered that several of the women’s names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again.”

But, that may not be enough. “I don’t know what she [Heitkamp] could do that would make it better,” Lexi Zhorela, a self-identified liberal and one of the women named in the ad, told CNN. “I know that’s why a lot of the people in this situation are reaching out to seek legal counsel because of, you know, what she did is wrong.” She went on to call the mistake “reckless” and said, “You know, the names that didn’t want to be out there are already out there for the world to see. You can’t really retract that, the damage is done.”

And, as of now, Heitkamp has lost her vote, according to CNN.

Heitkamp has been vocal in her support of survivors, including voting “no” on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She has also spoken out about her own mother’s experience. “I think it’s wonderful that his [Cramer’s] wife has never had an experience, and good for her, and it’s wonderful his mom hasn’t,” she said previously to the Times. “My mom did. And I think it affected my mom her whole life. And it didn’t make her less strong.”

It remains to be seen how this misstep will ultimately affect Heitkamp’s poll numbers, but the issue is almost certain to come up in her first debate with Cramer Thursday night.

MORE: North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp Arm-Wrestles in New Campaign Ad

Kendall Jenner Just Blasted TMZ for Releasing the Location of Her Home

Kendall Jenner tweeted a few choice words to TMZ on Thursday (October 16) after the outlet published a news piece that revealed the exact location of her home.

“I understand what I’ve signed up for but when you release the exact location to where I live THAT is when you’re putting my life in danger. Your home is your safe haven, but for me, ‘cuz of outlets like you, my home is anything BUT. You should be ashamed of yourself,” she wrote on Twitter. “And how do you guys think these terrifying people know where my house is? ‘Cuz you release not only photos but my location. It is so beyond unsafe. Is this not our one ounce of privacy we can get?”

Ironically, the TMZ piece that detailed this information was about a stalker who nearly broke into Jenner’s house. Law enforcement told TMZ that the 30-something man specifically broke into the community—which has also housed celebrities like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Christina Aguilera—to target Jenner’s home. This man also reportedly trespassed last month and was found by Jenner’s pool before fleeing the scene. TMZ reports that Jenner’s lawyer is trying to get the police to press charges against him for felony stalking.

Unfortunately, this isn’t Jenner’s first incident of feeling unsafe in her own residence. In 2017 she moved into a new house after her last home in West Hollywood was the site of yet another trespassing and stalking incident, plus a burglary.

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Reportedly Have a ‘Long List’ of Baby Names

Now that the news of Meghan Markle‘s pregnancy is public knowledge, there’s one question on everyone’s minds: What are she and Prince Harry going to name their royal baby? As it turns out, they’ve already got quite a few options to choose from.

While riding the tram with a group of young adults on Thursday during Markle and Prince Harry’s official tour of Australia, the subject of baby names came up. When someone asked Markle if she’d picked out a name yet, she replied that they were still working on it, with the help of their friends and family, according to E! News. “We’ve been given a long list of names from everyone,” she said, and noted that she and Prince Harry are “going to sit down and have a look at them” before they start narrowing things down.

“She said that she hadn’t thought of one as it was still quite early,” one 12-year-old in attendance told reporters, per E!.

At another point during the royals’ day out in Melbourne, one proud parent introduced the royal couple to her daughter, Harriet, a name that Harry seemed to like—for pretty obvious reasons. “As soon as I introduced my daughter to Harry, he said, ‘That’s a great name,'” Harriet’s mom said, E! reports. “Maybe they will choose it for their own child, which would be fun.”

Though the royals haven’t picked out a name just yet, that hasn’t stopped the public from guessing what it might be. If the baby is a girl, oddsmakers are betting on Diana (after Harry’s late mother), Victoria, or Alice as the most likely options. However, Markle already has a gift for her future child that may hint at a completely different name. As previously reported, she’s been holding onto a Cartier Tank watch that’s engraved with the initials “M.M.” with the intention of passing it along to her daughter, whose name will, presumably, have to start with an M.

“I had it engraved on the back, ‘To M.M. From M.M,'” she told Hello! in 2016. “And I plan to give it to my daughter one day. That’s what makes pieces special, the connection you have to them.”

Related: Every Single Outfit Meghan Markle Has Worn on Her Royal Tour of Australia

Maisie Williams Finally Set the Record Straight on How to Pronounce Arya Stark’s Name

Forget final season spoilers, because a long-gestating Game of Thrones mystery has been solved. However, it’s less to do with spooky White Walkers and more along the lines of … basic grammar.

In a new interview with The Guardian, Maisie Williams clarified once and for all the correct pronunciation of her character Arya Stark’s name. Take a deep breath. You ready?! Have you been disrespecting the Girl With No Name for all of these years?! “It’s Arr-ya,” she said with a laugh. “But I don’t like that, so I call her Arr-ee-ya.” Well, if either is good for her, we guess it can be good for us, too.

Unsurprisingly, the talk-happy Williams also divulged a bit of non-spoilery information about the show’s final season, which will be debuting in April 2019. (There will be six movie-length episodes in total, lest you forgot.) “I ended on the perfect scene. I was alone — shocker! Arya’s always bloody alone,” she said. “But I was alone and I had watched a lot of other people wrap. I knew the drill, I had seen the tears and heard the speeches.” Besides, she doesn’t think she could’ve handled any more bloodshed or tears, anyway: “I got to the end and I didn’t want more. I had exhausted every possible piece of Arya. And this season was quite big for me. I had a lot more to do. Mainly because there’s just less characters now, so everyone’s got more to do.”

Despite being a few months away, many Game of Thrones cast members have already been enjoying press rounds in anticipation of the show’s premiere. Earlier this month at New York Comic Con, for instance, Sophie Turner told a hilarious story about her and Williams’ elf-care ritual after long, hard days on set. “We just used to sit there and eat and watch stupid videos and smoke weed,” she explained. “I don’t know if my publicist will kill me for saying this. We’d get high and then we’d sit in the bath together and we’d rub makeup brushes on our faces. It’s fun.”

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*Get Out*’s Producer Is Catching Heat for Saying Women Don’t Want to Direct Horror Movies

Jason Blum is a key figure in the horror movie business. He and his production company, Blumhouse, are responsible for some of the most popular (and critically acclaimed) scary flicks of the past few years, including Get Out, Paranormal Activity, and The Purge. His recent comments about female horror directors, however, aren’t receiving the same praise.

In an interview with Polygon earlier this week, Blum said the reason Blumhouse has never hired a woman director is because female filmmakers aren’t interested in horror. “There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror,” he explained. (Hmmm, we can think of a few.) “I’m a massive admirer of [Babadook director] Jennifer Kent. I’ve offered her every movie we’ve had available. She’s turned me down every time.” Twitter users, unsurprisingly, weren’t too keen on his comments.

Blum was later asked about his comments by Variety, and he admitted that he “totally misspoke.” “I made a mistake about it,” he said. “Our audience is 55% women; the executives at the company we have are 50% women. I am passionate about hiring women, and I totally made a mistake in the way I represented that. We already work with a lot of women … today was a great day for me because I learned a lot and because there are a lot of women out there that I’m going to meet as a result of today so I’m grateful for it.” To further his point, Blum also issued an apology on Twitter, reiterating how he’ll be more cognizant of women creators going forward.

Let’s hope he stands by his word.

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The 10 Best Mascaras for People With Sensitive Eyes

Go it alone, and figuring out the best mascara for sensitive eyes is an exercise in misery. Pick up a random tube, and maybe you’ll be fine—or maybe your eyes will let you know ASAP that you’ve caused them immeasurable pain. Because everyone’s sensitivities are different, it’s tough to make any generalizations about ingredients to avoid, but there are a few strategies you can try. Hypoallergenic, ophthalmologist-tested mascaras are the way for some people; tubing mascaras are the ticket for others, if mascara flakes in your contacts are the bane of your existence. Beyond not making your eyes feel like they’re dying, the best mascaras for sensitive eyes also do the stuff you actually want mascara to do, like thickening, lengthening, and defining your lashes. It’s a tall order, but here are 10 gentle mascaras that do the trick.

I Had an Affair With a Married Man—and We Never Even Kissed

He was married. I was single. We had an affair—and we never even kissed. It was a yearlong emotional affair, a nightmare where everybody cries and nobody comes. To understand why I got into a friendship that metastasized—and stayed in it for months—I’ve had to look frankly at my background and choices. And some of it ain’t pretty.

When I started talking to Josh (not his real name), I was getting over a five-month bout of bronchitis that often kept me wheezing and crying. I lived alone and worked from my small studio apartment. Conference calls for work left me breathless and embarrassed about my periodic hacking fits. Too tired to cook, I relied on childhood comfort food: McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and anything I could get delivered.

As my physical health suffered and I worked in relative isolation, my mental health took a nosedive. This was no surprise, as I have a history of depression, panic attacks, and agoraphobia. When I go to therapy, take my medication, exercise, eat reasonably good stuff, and sleep enough, I do very well. But being sick made it easy to neglect that recipe for health. When I felt well enough to emerge from my apartment, it was usually to drink with friends. I knew it was dangerous to drink alcohol while on an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), but I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel less conscious. Less present. I wanted to escape.

I was lucky to make a good middle-class income in a city, Los Angeles, where that’s increasingly rare. I was grateful for my copywriting assignments, a screenplay revision and an outline for my next novel. But I was lonely as hell, and depression can turn up the volume on pessimism and choke optimism into silence. Sometimes I ordered things online I didn’t really need just because it made me feel better, for a moment. But I soon found other ways to get a quick hit of good feelings, too.

A few months prior to first chatting Josh up, I had an uncharacteristically healthy realization: I often lost myself in my relationships. I chose men or women who I decided needed “fixing.” Sometimes they told me I was the only one who could save them. That made me feel important. I was woefully codependent. Sometimes I stayed with people I didn’t even respect, doing my best to be indispensable to them so that they’d never leave me. I paid their bills, went beyond healthy support into the realm of endless emotional labor, covered for them when they screwed up, and pretended everything was going to be fine. I told them what I thought they should do. I helped them sketch out action plans. And I didn’t look at my own glaring flaws. They would complain that I was condescending while availing themselves freely of what I called generosity. My fear of abandonment was so great that I allowed myself to be used, because I was a user, too. I was addicted, and my fix was fixing others.

Early on, he briefly mentioned his wife and kids. I felt a little disappointed, but immediately recalibrated into friend mode—heck, why wouldn’t he be married? He was so great!

So I’d decided to take a break, which in my case meant no boyfriends or girlfriends. No monogamous relationships. I would have occasional hookups with friends and nothing more. I figured I could get what I wanted sexually and spend the rest of my time becoming a happier, healthier person – as if we can compartmentalize our lives like that. As if I wasn’t using the hookups to numb my fear of being alone. Somehow, I thought this revised method would lead me to a healthy relationship. Not long after I went solo, bronchitis hit me hard, which made even casual liaisons impossible. So despite my intentions, I was forced to face being alone. And being alone was scarier than being sick. Naturally, I found a way around it.

A few months into my illness, I watched a funny video on Josh’s Instagram. He was an artist I knew through mutual friends and we followed each other, but we’d never met. I didn’t know much about him, but he was cute and seemed smart. For the hell of it, I sent him a private message: “That video cracked me up in the middle of a long workday.” Working from home means I do a lot of chatting via social media, and I’m not shy about messaging someone to say I enjoy their art. I don’t expect anything in response, but it happens that I’ve met some lovely real-life friends that way.

Josh responded nearly instantly: “Hey, thanks! You live out here now, right?” We chatted for a while about our respective work projects and our mutual friends. We both thought it was odd that we’d never met. We chatted a little the next day, and the day after. Early on, he briefly mentioned his wife and kids. I felt a little disappointed, but immediately recalibrated into friend mode—heck, why wouldn’t he be married? He was so great! He told me a little about her and how they met, and she sounded really impressive, like a talented boss and entrepreneur. She worked outside the home and he did the bulk of the childcare. He didn’t bring his family up again—at least not for a while.

Within a couple weeks, he told me it was hard to type while he was working on his art, and I suggested we use FaceTime. We started doing that every day while I worked in my bed, propped up on pillows.

Within a couple weeks, he told me it was hard to type while he was working on his art, and I suggested we use FaceTime. We started doing that every day while I worked in my bed, pale and disheveled and propped up on pillows. It was easy for him to set up his phone on a little tripod and show me his work. It was easy for me to prop my phone up on a stack of books I was supposed to read for potential endorsement and blurbing, and comment on his art instead. He was such a talented painter. I thought it was awesome that he was letting me have a window into his works in progress. And I felt a kind of pathetic gratitude that he seemed to still like talking to me even though—gasp!—I wasn’t wearing makeup or nice clothes. I thought I looked like shit. Meanwhile, he was tan and healthy and looked a lot like a guy I’d had a crush on in high school who had never showed any interest in me.

Chats about art and sports quickly expanded to include more complex topics. One day, he nervously told me he was in treatment for a mental health issue for the very first time, and felt ashamed about it. He hadn’t told anybody else, he said, but he knew he could trust me. I told him I was honored, and to keep going to therapy. I said I’d missed going for a little while, but I blamed it on my illness. I didn’t add, “But I still seem to find the ability to go out to the bar when I have a good day!”

He went on a family vacation and told me when he returned that he’d listened to the entirety of my memoir on audiobook. He said he’d loved it. It did not occur to me that it was odd for a man I’d never met to listen to my voice for eight hours on an airplane while sitting with his wife and kids. “What a nice guy,” I thought. “What a good friend.”

“Don’t you have a passcode on your phone?” I texted back. I was acting like we were having an affair—because we were having an affair.

Over the next couple of months, our communication increased: text, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, phone calls, emails. Once, he was late picking his kids up from daycare because we’d been chatting for so long. He said it was okay; he’d just blame traffic (in Los Angeles, you can always blame traffic.) Another time, his daughter walked into his studio while we were on FaceTime. The look on his face before he abruptly hung up was one of sheer terror. Panicked, I texted him to ask if everything was okay. He texted back immediately: “Yes, but I think it’s better if we just message in other ways. Texting isn’t secure.”

“Don’t you have a passcode on your phone?” I texted back. I was acting like we were having an affair—because we were having an affair.

“Yes, but she knows my passcode,” he texted back. Red flag! Red flag! Red flag…that I ignored.

“Got it,” I said. And then we stopped communicating over text.

Sometimes he’d talk to me late at night while he was supposed to be working. Now it had the flavor of something secretive. Even in my commitment to denial, I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t odd.

“I think Josh has a crush on me,” I told my friend Carol. She’s one of my best friends and she’s a real straight shooter.

“Yeah, and you’ve got a crush on him,” Carol said. “He’s an idiot and he wants you to seduce him so he can fuck you and then blame it all on you. Stop talking to him.” (See what I mean about the straight shooter thing?)

“He’s just a friend,” I said.

“I’m just your friend,” Carol said. “He’s using you for emotional support because his wife is busy actually earning money and being a real adult. And you’re using him for the same reason. You don’t know how to be single, so you have a sexless substitute boyfriend.”

My gut knew she was right, but my head said, “We can fix this!”

It was a familiar refrain for me. I frequently chose men or women I thought needed “fixing.” I stayed with people I didn’t even respect, doing my best to be indispensable to them so they’d never leave me. My fear of abandonment was so great that I allowed myself to be used because I was a user too. I was addicted; my fix was fixing others.

Josh called. He sounded nervous. “I have to talk to you about something,” he said. “I’ve realized that my feelings for you have…”

I blurted out “Turned into a crush?” at the same time he said “Begun to eclipse my feelings for my wife.”

Now that scared me a little. That was more serious than what I’d expected to hear. What I should’ve said was, “Josh, this is wrong. I wish you the best but we shouldn’t talk anymore.” But what I said was, “We can fix this!”

We arranged to meet in person for coffee in a public place to talk things out. I advanced the ridiculous notion that meeting me would take all the sparkle and mystery out of our feelings for one another. We’d see that we were real people with flaws, not just magical beings who were always there for each other long-distance. He agreed.

As soon as I saw him, my heart leapt. He was better-looking in person, and we laughed nervously as we hugged awkwardly. We spent a nice time talking about how much better and more appropriate it was in person and how relieved we both were. I made sure to ask about his family. He made sure to ask about my work.

When we parted, I texted him. “Do you actually feel differently now?”

“No,” he responded. “I lied.”

“Me too,” I said. “We should probably not talk for awhile.”

Soon after that, he went on a trip and drunkenly texted me that he missed me. I said that was inappropriate and then we spent a half hour texting about how inappropriate it was. I reminded him to delete the texts. Very normal stuff.

After about three months of pseudo-friendship, Josh told me he loved me. I said I loved him, too.

“What do we do?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

It went on and on. A couple of times, when we were both drinking, our conversations turned into phone sex. After each time, we’d both declare we couldn’t speak to each other again, and then we wouldn’t, for about a month. I’d lean on my friends for emotional support and they’d tell me I was doing the right thing. Then I’d crack, or Josh would, and it would start up again.

“I missed my chance,” he told me. “If only I’d met you before her. You are perfect. I want to be in love with her, but I don’t think I am. She’s so great. Why can’t I be in love with her anymore?”

Any rational adult could see it was better for children to experience a healthy divorce than a terrible marriage. But was his marriage actually terrible?

“You could leave her,” I said hopefully. “I doubt she wants to be with someone who isn’t in love with her.” I thought: And then you could get a real job, and a place by yourself, and after maybe six months or a year we could start dating for real, and it would be healthy and aboveboard, and then we could get married and live together, mostly happily ever after.

“No,” he said. “I’ll never leave her. I don’t want to mess up my kid the way my parents messed me up when they got divorced.”

But was that really the reason? Any rational adult could see it was better for children to experience a healthy divorce than a terrible marriage. But was his marriage actually terrible? I thought about it. The wife sounded great, and he seemed to actually think she was wonderful. He never complained about her to me. He had a pretty sweet set-up. She made all the money. He did most of the child care. His kids would be in school full-time soon, and he could do his art all day and hang out with his friends. He didn’t have to work hard, and people thought he was so sweet and so talented. He didn’t have to be a real adult. I took care of his emotional needs, she took care of his financial and sexual needs. He was set. And this was the person I loved?

I should just kill myself, I thought.

That’s when I knew I’d hit my limit. I hadn’t had that dark thought in many years. I was sad it had taken me getting to the point of suicidal ideation to get out of yet another shitty relationship, but I knew things had to change. Whatever I had with Josh, it wasn’t worth feeling like this.

I went back into therapy. Talking about this bizarre, mutually obsessive thing made it more real. I could deal with what was real. And it hurt like hell, but I spoke to Josh less and less. I knew that my life required more than just getting rid of some dude—more even than therapy. I resumed the meditation practice I’d abandoned a decade prior. Instead of looking for someone else to take care of me, I started taking care of myself. After all, I worked 60 hours a week for a reason: to earn money. It was time to start using it wisely instead of wasting it. I ditched the fast food, caffeine and sugar habits that kept me on an all-day roller coaster. I went to the nutritionist to learn how to eat better. I went to the chiropractor to help with my tricky back. I looked at my debt and refinanced. I created an actual budget.

I went two months without talking to Josh, and then I ran into him at a party. My heart leapt in the old way when I saw him. We drank a lot, ate a ton of terrible bar food, and walked around the block several times, talking. He told me he was in couples therapy and it was going okay. He hadn’t told his wife about our relationship, and didn’t plan to. He told me he was still in love with me and missed me. I said, “Me too.”

At one point, we held hands. We’d never done that before.

“Are you going to kiss me?” I asked. “This is probably your last chance.”

“I can’t,” he said.

“I know,” I said. And I immediately tripped and fell down on the sidewalk. My drunk coordination was certainly sub-par, but maybe I needed a physical wound on my knee to remind me of what I did to myself emotionally every time I talked to this guy.

I said goodbye to him.

In the Lyft on the way home, I knew it had gone as far as it was going to. There was no joy left in it, no excitement. There was just shame and guilt. Safe in my own bed, I cried, but there were tears of relief mixed in with the grief. He emailed me later to say that he loved me truly, and he hadn’t been using me, and he was very sorry for everything. I wished him well and said I was sure I’d see him around some day. And that was it. It’s been nearly a year, and we haven’t spoken or seen one another.

With the distraction of the emotional affair finally gone entirely, I took an honest look at all the things I’d been using to escape being alone with myself. And that’s when I made the biggest move of all: I stopped drinking.

With the distraction of the emotional affair finally gone entirely, I took an honest look at all the things I’d been using to escape being alone with myself. And that’s when I made the biggest move of all: I stopped drinking. I look at what Josh and I co-created, and I think we both took advantage of one another. I used him the way I used alcohol or sex, or online shopping—to distract myself from the fear and emptiness within. To call our relationship “love” would be a perversion of the term. Love doesn’t always last, but overall it yields healthful benefits for both parties. What we had was a mutual addiction and one that could’ve hurt other people terribly.

I wouldn’t do it all over again, but I’m using the experience as best I can to fuel writing that will hopefully make others who were in my position feel less lonely. I wrote a pilot about an emotional affair and called it “Codependent AF.” And my next novel centers on an alcoholic ensnared in a decade-long affair. I’m so sorry I did some real-life research for these projects, but maybe some good can come out of it. Hell, if it prevents one person from making some of my shitty mistakes, that’ll be a good thing.

I’m still single. I read a lot, and meditate, and do my work, and enjoy cooking and baking. I go to restaurants alone. I see friends who put in as much effort as I do. I’ve cut loose those who don’t. I’ve retired from trying to “fix” anybody, and I’ve let go of the hubris that I could or should have such powers. I take a long walk whenever I can, because it helps me practice staying present, looking at the beautiful flowers and trees and strange and wonderful sights my city has to offer. I don’t know when I’ll have a real, loving romantic relationship, but I trust it will happen when the time is right. I’m doing life one breath, one step, one moment at a time. And I’m done being anyone else’s dirty little secret.

Sara Benincasa is a stand-up comedian and author of Real Artists Have Day Jobs.

Illustration by Javier Jaen