AdviceHey, Bonita!

How Do I Reconnect With Last Semester’s Crush?

I was dating a really great local guy when I left UGA last semester. We said we’d stay in touch, and we did, for the most part, but it was different. Not as much texting, no FaceTime, and his tone was just a lot cooler. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get dumped, but I got back last week, and I really wanna see him. I’m just so nervous to reach out now that we’re both back in the same town, and he acted so weird over the summer.

I know we’ll see each other eventually, but do you have any tips on how to drum up my courage? Anything could happen, and I just wanna rip this bandage off!

I like your attitude. You’re optimistic, but also realistic. I hate being disappointed, too, but this is a local Athens boy, so you seem resigned to the very real possibility of that, which is good. Why does Atlanta seem to steal all the good dudes?

I think you’re right to expect to get dumped, but you never know. Maybe he’s not the most communicative via text, or maybe he’s FaceTime-averse (as am I). You did notice a change in his communication, however, so who knows? It’s nerve-wracking, but you just gotta take a deep breath, pick up your phone, and let him know you’re back and you wanna hang out. I recommend laying it all out in your first text in the shortest and simplest way you can. He’ll either go for it, or he’ll spill the beans.

One serious caveat: I’ve known men who wanna get one last roll in before they dump you, so it’s possible he could ask to meet up for sex and dump you days later. You said you were “dating” this guy, so ask him out on a date. That word is like a line in the sand for an Athens guy. Use it, and you’ll learn the truth.

Puh-leeze: two columns referring to an individual as “they”? I’m no grammaticist, but a plural pronoun referring to any non-gender-specific person? Setting aside that sensitive gender issue, is there not an “it” synonym that would work? Surely Strunk & White, the NYT Manual of Style and Usage or The Chicago Manual of Style could suggest a less cumbersome term?

I entreat you to spare me from pluralism.

Best Wishes,

[Name Redacted]

The use of “they” as a singular pronoun has been common in the English language since the 14th Century. The 2017 AP Stylebook states, “‘They’/‘them’/‘their’ is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy,” and The Chicago Manual of Style states, “Because ‘he’ is no longer accepted as a generic pronoun referring to a person of either sex, it has become common in speech and in informal writing to substitute the third-person plural pronouns ‘they,’ ‘them,’ ‘their,’ and ‘themselves,’ and the nonstandard singular ‘themself.’”

While it’s true that it’s not preferred in technical or formal writing, this is an advice column. The real reason you see the singular “they” so much in this column is because, like all advice columnists, I follow the pronoun usage laid out in the questions I answer. Flagpole doesn’t pay me enough to hunt down anonymous people and ask them the gender of the person whose identity they’re clearly trying to obscure.

You know this magazine is distributed city-wide, right? I’m never surprised to see a litany of “they”s in any question I receive, because I wouldn’t want everyone knowing my business, either. The singular “they” is grammatically correct and appropriate, as my editors clearly agree when they let it go to print.

[Editor’s note: What they said.]

Need advice? Email, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.


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