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The Whippet #141: Say yes and figure out how later

McKinley Valentine — 12 min read

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So a neat thing is, I wrote an article for the ABC! (That’s the Australian equivalent of the BBC.)

Which you can read if you want:

Can’t bring yourself to check your inbox? Maybe you need a body double - ABC Everyday
McKinley struggles with procrastination. Even when she knows a task is really important it can feel impossible to get started. And then she discovered “body-doubling”.

But it was also very stressful. What happened was, an editor at ABC read me talking about body-doubling in The Whippet, and asked if I could write something up into a proper article.

Which I did! Made it about four times as long, propered up the grammar, gave it a better arc, etc., and sent it off.

And she wrote back and said: You didn’t interview anyone? When I said ‘include quotes from experts’, I didn’t mean ‘quotes from their blogs’, I meant ‘actually speak to experts’. (She was really nice about it, but that was the gist.)

She had somehow mistaken me for a reporter. Which I am not. I really must emphasise to you that I am not and have never been a reporter. But I did what all freelancers do — say “No worries, I’ll get on that!” and then frantically figure out how when no one’s looking. Even though your brain is going, “what if, instead of emailing busy experts who are complete strangers, you went and dug a hole and lived in the hole for the rest of your life?” (If you’re looking for career advice, that’s 90% of it.)

But I did it, and I ended up actually talking to the American ADHD coach who coined the term “body-double” in 1996 and NOW I’m allowed to go dig a hole and hide in it forever.

cf. ‘vulnerability hangover’ (Issue #135)

PS I am still on substack for this issue. My partner is a developer and says that tech projects taking twice as long as you expect is exactly how long you should expect tech projects to take.

Relatedly, I accidentally cut off my domains before the new ones were ready to take over, so I think I can’t send or receive emails at or for a few days, sorry about that

Bianca Passarge, 1958

17-year-old ballerina Bianca Passarge of Hamburg dresses up as a cat and dances on wine bottles, June 1958. Her performance was based on a dream she had.

(The post I saw added “she practiced for eight hours every day in order to perfect her dance” but I suspect that’s S.O.P. for ballerinas.)

I love this because it was probably a pretty crazy dream that no one else would be like “this should and will exist in the real world.” You can see she’s devised a stand that holds the bottles steady.

I can’t find any other information on her.

Guan Zhong writing about what makes a good friend, 700 BC

Guan Zhong and Bao Shuya were lifelong friends, meeting at a young age, sometimes being on opposite sides of feuding kingdoms, and eventually re-uniting.

Guan Zhong went on to become a respected chancellor, whose advice to the Duke of Qi helped him become one of China’s all-time most powerful leaders.

Here Guan Zhong is talking about his friend:

When I was in distress, Bao Shuya and I often did a little business together. But in dividing the gains, I often got more than he, but he did not set me down as avaricious, because he knew that I was poor.

When I consulted him about my affairs, especially in times of adversity, he did not look down on me as a fool, knowing well that fortune both smiles and frowns on men.

Several times during my official career, I lost my post. He did not, however, conclude that my character was bad, knowing well that I had fallen on inauspicious times.

When I fled from battle, he did not set my defeat down to cowardice but to the thought that I bestowed on my ailing mother at home. When [my lord] the Duke of Jiu was conquered, Shao Hu died for him, but I only underwent imprisonment and insult. Bao Shuya did not, however, conclude that I was therefore without a sense of shame but rather considered that I was only regardless of trifles, and that the only shame I feared was lest my merit and name were not known over the whole world.

My parents gave me birth, but it is Bao Shuya alone who understands me.

I like this. He’s talking about someone you can tell your failures to, because you trust them not to judge you for them.

Bao recommends Guan for chancellorship

At one point Guan Zhong tried to assassinate Bao Shuya’s lord, the Duke of Qi. The arrow bounced of the duke’s belt buckle, and he was caught. The Duke wanted to execute Guan, and also promote Bao to Chancellor.

Bao not only convinced him to spare Guan’s life, but also to make Guan Chancellor instead of himself. (He also had to convince Guan to switch allegiances and follow the Duke). Guan believed Bao to be more talented, and maybe was correct, according to historical record.

Guan does not repay the favour

When Guan fell seriously ill, the Duke of Qi suggested Bao replace him as Chancellor.

Guan Zhong spoke against it, on the grounds that Bao Shuya was too honest, upright and unyielding. Guan Zhong stated that Bao Shuya held himself to very exacting standards, but also expected others to do the same; this meant it would be difficult for him to work with the rest of the court. [Wikipedia]

It kiiiind of seems like Guan Zhong was not a great friend — but maybe he was right, and maybe Bao was relieved not to have to be Chancellor.

Six hundred years later, in 145 BC, historian Sima Qian, writes: “Talented people like Guan Zhong are not rare in the world. Rare are the people like Bao Shuya who can recognise talent.” [wikipedia]

Their friendship became a common cultural reference. In the 1870s, a Chinese envoy travelled to California and met a pair of American friends. He wrote back home: “I did not expect to see, in this foreign land, friendship of the kind between Guan Zhong and Bao Shuya, and to such a degree!”

The anchor chain of the Titanic

r/Damnthatsinteresting - Workers standing next to the Titanic anchor chain at Hingley and sons,1910

Workers standing next to the Titanic anchor chain at N. Hingley and Sons (1910).

The largest anchor on the Titanic weighed 15 tonnes, and the combined weight of the related chains and fittings was around 100 tonnes.

In 1850, the company’s catchy slogan was “Messrs. Noah Hingley & Sons are extensively engaged in the manufacturing of anchors, anvils, and chain and chain cables.” They also made the anchor chain for the ocean liner Lusitania, most commonly mentioned in the phrase “The Sinking of the”.

“Can I call myself a [label]…?”

People spend a LOT of their lives asking variations on this question. Can I call myself a writer if I’ve never been published? Can I call myself queer if I don’t have any sexual experience? Can I call myself autistic if I fit 100% of the DSM V criteria but can’t afford to get officially diagnosed? Or alternatively: do I have to call myself x, if I technically am x?”

I tend to avoid calling myself a “copywriter” because it has advertising vibes, but it is literally what people ask for when they want to hire me, so it’s counterproductive to avoid it. Spiritually I feel like I’m more of an editor: analytically taking apart writing to make it better. But this is a ridiculous distinction — writing is editing is writing.

If you have questions of that nature, they are answered in this song! It covers every possible label related query you might have.

I’m being a little glib, but it really did permanently put my mind at ease about a personal label conundrum I’d been having. (Oh there’s one properly NSFW lyric even if your W is fine with swearing.)

Jude Perl has labelled herself a comedian — she’ll be performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (April 19—24), the Sydney Comedy Festival (May 22) and the Brisbane Comedy Festival (May 26—28). Links here.

If you have labels you try to avoid for vibe-based reasons (like me and copywriter) I’d be interested in hearing about them, and why you choose one label over another.

On living apart from your spouse

Quite a few people asked me to talk more about living separately from my husband, and how we manage it, so I’m gonna do that here. This is the last thing in the newsletter, so you can safely stop here if you’re not interested in that!


My first reaction was that there’s nothing to say — it’s the same as anybody lives. You get up and make breakfast and eat it. It doesn’t take a special method to do that alone.

But that’s not very helpful so I’ve tried to put more thought into it:

The symbol of commitment isn’t there, so you have to show commitment in other ways
There are two elements to living with a romantic partner. One is whether, on balance, you prefer it to living alone. The other is that it’s a cultural symbol of commitment. So if you don’t want to use that symbol, you’ll need to really clearly and emphatically communicate your seriousness and commitment in other ways. (Such as e.g. words). I think my partner and I had a conversation along the lines of, “I want to be at the moving-in together stage, but not actually move in together.”

(Someone mentioned non-monogamy - it’s a separate question. You can live apart and be monogamous or live together and be polyamorous. It’s just another one of the elements of a relationship you have to figure out how you feel about. But it IS similar in that it’s a cultural symbol of commitment, so if you discard it, there’s more onus on you to indicate your commitment clearly in other ways)

You never get frustrated with each other about household management stuff
My husband I both lived with housemates for much of our marriage, and it’s way better for those frustrations to be had with someone else I reckon. It doesn’t matter if we have different standards of cleanliness.

You don’t get all the little in-between moments
Like, just seeing each other in the morning as you get ready for work. Normally that’s fine because we spend dedicated blocks of time with each other. But when one or both of us is overworked/overwhelmed, then we don’t have dedicated blocks to spare, and then it can get lonely because we don’t have the little interstitial moments other couples have.

When it’s just one of us, the other can go further out of their way to find available pockets of time, but when it’s both of us it can be hard.

Spending time together is a conscious choice, which makes it more meaningful
It’s really nice knowing that, every time you see your partner, it’s because they made the choice to be with you, not just because they happened to be in the same physical location by chance anyway. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice. Also, I quite like the 3-minute walk to my partner’s house! I always spend the 3 minutes looking forward to seeing them!

We can have wildly different schedules without friction
I think cooking and eating meals together is really lovely, but we wouldn’t do it anyway, because I have full-on dietary restrictions and eat at random times of day, and they like routine and get stressed if they don’t have breakfast at the same time every morning. (We do still have some meals together but it’s like planned date-meals).

Sometimes my whole lifestyle completely collapses for a week, and I would feel bad if that caused trouble for other people.

You have to speak up if you’re sad and need company
If you’re not in the same space, your partner isn’t going to just pick up that you’re feeling low, so if you want comfort, you have to directly ask for it. You have to be willing to state needs very directly, which feels very vulnerable if you don’t trust the other person to meet them (I do, but I’ve been in bad relationships so I know what it’s like to avoid saying “this really matters to me”, because if you said it really mattered and they still didn’t do it, it would be unbearable.)

So we usually will specify, when we message to see each other, “It’d be nice, but it’s not a big deal if you want a solo evening” vs “I really want to see you” vs “I’m sad, please come over”.

Actually I’m typically terrible at remembering that last clause, I’ll be like “My day was awful and I received bad news and I’m incredibly sad, how was your day?” and he’ll say “oh no! I can come over now if you want?” and I go “Oh yeahhhhh, I probably do want that, hey. Clever idea, very clever.”

You probably sleep worse when you sleep next to a partner, even if you think you don’t
People get defensive about this, but micro-disturbances just do give you more interrupted sleep, even if you don’t actually remember waking up. People with sleep apnoea don’t remember waking up a tiny bit dozens of times throughout the night, but it still affects them. This is especially true if someone snores or you have different sleep schedules. Even when I’ve lived with partners, I’ve usually had a separate bedroom. (You don’t need to get defensive! You don’t have to prove it’s 100% unalloyed positive to sleep next to a partner, you can just say it’s worth the trade-off!)

It’s more expensive to live separately. Although not TWICE as expensive - my apartment is much smaller than you’d want to live in if you were sharing it. I will note that living apart doesn’t mean you can’t share finances. If you wouldn’t split expenses evenly when living together (because one person earns a lot more), there’s no reason to split them evenly when living apart.

(In terms of who spends more time at whose house: I’m horrendously allergic to my husband’s cat, so that’s never been a difficult question.)

There’s a bunch of stuff online about it
If you want to read more, the terms to google are ‘LAT’ (Living Apart Together) and ‘apartners’ which I can’t decide if it’s cute or nauseating. E.g. this article in Psychology Today.

But honestly, it feels bizarre to treat it like a ‘movement’, it’s just living your life, doing the stuff you normally do. People live away from their partners all the time - for work, because their partners in the army or in prison, FIFO workers, academics, their partner goes home to take care of an ailing parent. (FIFO = Fly In, Fly Out. People go to work in the mines for 14 days then have 14 days at home, or 7 and 7.) It’s not a THING.

Some people I know, they got divorced, and their next relationship, both people already had independent households, and maybe they didn’t want to rush change for their kids, so they hold off on moving in together. And after a while they realise they prefer it how it is.

If anything, “How do you manage living with your partner?” seems like a more natural question to ask, since that lifestyle involves more sacrifice and accommodation.

Sometimes when people hear about this, they say, “But what if one of you gets sick / you feel differently in the future / circumstances change!”

This is a bizarre objection. If circumstances change, we’ll talk about it and decide to do things differently. “What if you change your minds in the future” is an imaginary problem.

Okay, I have no idea if that gives people the answers they want, feel free to ask questions, sorry if it was boring to everyone else!

Thanks for reading!

The new Ghost site’s gonna be so good, you’ll love it, or more likely you won’t care but I’ll love it. I’m not gonna NOT put in the “please consider supporting the whippet by becoming a paying subscriber” button, but I’m feeling low-key on it since I’m still on ol’ platform substack today.

(this literally doesn’t make a difference, the subscriptions will all transfer over, but that’s my vibe)

Thanks again,



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