By now, you may have heard that a global music superstar among the most studied celebs of our era (heh) who is now on an endlessly headline-generating, heavily TikToked tour across the U.S. appears to be dating a man of, let’s say, deeply questionable moral character. We’re not here to litigate the wisdom of this pairing (although plenty of fans have), and although we know, logically, that this almost-billionaire is NOT our friend (despite the intimacy she cultivates), we can’t help but be reminded of all the times we’ve watched slack-jawed as our real friends brought around The Worst Men on Planet Earth™. We’re not talking about minor matters like employment (if any) or grooming habits (if any) here. We’re talking about dudes who follow up wildly offensive statements with, “GAWD, I was JOKING”; those who appear to have an uncanny knowledge of Joe Rogan’s episode catalog; those whose entire personality consists of “let’s just say for the sake of argument” buried under 15 layers of irony. Unfortunately, these men lurk among us, in Bed-Stuy bars, at birthday parties, and in English rock bands.
Here, Cosmopolitan editors weigh in on this intractable modern dilemma with the best wisdom we’ve gleaned for stealthily plotting a breakup and/or grinning and bearing it until your loved one hopefully comes to their goddamn senses.
May I Recommend Disassociating?
For years, I had a close friend who was dating a worm. The Worm was very good to her…but in a kind of over-the-top, smarmy way that made me suspicious (that may have been my deep-seated cynicism and perpetual singledom talking). The Worm was prone to sharing his expert hot takes like “men don’t like women who wear lipstick,” which made me want to smear it all over my face like Viking war paint. Of course, it got worse: One glorious spring day, we were picnicking in the park when someone in the group offered a nice, benign anecdote about seeing an exhibit on ancient Indian civilization at a museum. And there it was, from the man my friend had been actively swapping bodily fluids with: “Well, if they were so advanced, why hadn’t they figured out how to use toilet paper?” Real original, my guy, haven’t heard that one since the third grade. My friend emitted a high-pitched squeak and made eye contact with me, the only brown woman there, to gauge how mad I was on a scale of 1 to 110. I just continued to swill my lukewarm rosé.
You cannot be expected to do hand-to-hand combat with every invertebrate who comes across your path. A boss once offered me a Sun Tzu proverb about how to deal with an odious colleague: “If you sit by the river for long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.” I think this applies to pretty much all noxious situations. When the Worm eventually broke up with my friend in a catastrophically callous way, I waited a respectful amount of time to make sure they weren’t getting back together and then unleashed every single uncharitable thing I had ever thought about him, from his ill-fitting khakis to his dumb haircut. And I’m still wearing my lipstick like war paint.
—Naureen Khan, senior editor of news analysis and opinion
Girl Most Likely to Date Pete Davidson
Let’s just say I’m the girl of my friend group who would definitely date Pete Davidson (oops). So no one was really fazed when I started seeing this guy who was distinctly iffy. It quickly became clear, though, that this dude and I were not particularly aligned on anything aside from both being available at 2 a.m. most Saturdays. Not only did he proudly claim he had never read a book for fun, but he laughed when I cried over the impending doom of the 2016 election and tried to play off his weird comments about sex work as ~a jOkE~. My friends tried to do the whole “Are ya sure about this guy???” thing, just one rung below a full intervention, but became even more concerned when they saw how terrified I was to come out as bisexual to him.
TBH, they easily could have dropped my ass, assuming I had the same values as this dude I’d been forcing around my friends. You are (temporarily) who you invite to your birthday party. But instead, they took a much more mature approach and communicated with me one-on-one about how uncomfortable and awkward they felt when he was around. Ya know, because of the ~jOkEs~. It made me feel kind of like an asshole, until I ultimately pulled myself out of the tattoo-covered, 6'4" haze I’d been in and realized, nope, he’s the asshole, dumped him, and pleaded with my friends for forgiveness. I’m still making it up to them with free beauty samples.
—Beth Gillette, beauty editor
Manifest a Breakup
My first word to the wise: SHED ALL GUILT. If your friend’s perplexing partner choice has left you feeling judgy, betrayed, or flat-out repulsed, you’re not a killjoy or a groundless hater (although what’s wrong with that?). You can go the passive route (aka not shitting on this person’s entire existence during every linkup) without having to compromise and/or silence your moral compass in order to maintain peace. I think it’s totally valid to assess what that union says about your friend’s beliefs and raise any concerns. But for survival purposes, if you decide to casually “support” the partnership, I do personally recommend some poker face practice. When you’re forced to interact with said edgelord and they’re on another rant about how woke culture has sanitized their favorite mediocre middle-aged white comedian or whatever, please don’t take the bait. The fact of the matter is, you’re not about to successfully reverse-red-pill this dude over bottomless brunch, no matter how many mimosas you’ve both imbibed. Burn some sage and continue to manifest your bestie’s eventual awakening. If it doesn’t look like their situation will fizzle out anytime soon, there’s no harm in reorganizing this friend’s position in your life. You’ve gotta protect your peace. Godspeed, y’all.
—Annabel Iwegbue, assistant editor
The Sherlock of Assholes
I like to think I’m an expert at sniffing out terrible men. For myself? Of course not. But my detective skills are damn near Sherlock levels when it comes to my friends’ love interests. I can just smell the ~shittiness~ aroma emanating off of them. Like the time my friend dated a man who was mainlining red-pill, anti-woman TikTok content, idolized Andrew Tate, and believed in all that “high-value woman” bullshit (for those unaware, just another strain of online misogyny about positioning yourself to attract men), oh my f*cking god. But did I say anything? Of course not. The number one rule of the “my friend is dating a shithead” club is: You cannot talk about the shithead. You know he’s bad, she knows it too, but you cannot discuss it or risk your friendship. Rather, the best advice is to STFU and smile. You don’t have to vocalize your distaste for your BFF’s boy toy for her to know you don’t like him. Just put down a few boundaries, and eventually she’ll take the hint. I didn’t talk to my best friend for months while she dated He Who Shall Not Be Named, and did I spend my time melodramatically crying? Yes…in the beginning, but then I realized that I couldn’t wait around for her eyes to open. Sometimes the best thing we can do for the people we love is to let them live their lives, make mistakes, and (hopefully) learn the hard way. One of life’s hardest lessons is that you can’t always protect everyone.
—Mel Curry, assistant editor
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