The Tale of Joe Smooth: An Emotional Blackmail Testimonial Quiz
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
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.
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