Dear Lisa,

It's all I can do to get up each morning and drag myself to the awful job at the awful accounting firm where I've been working for three years. I'm well paid, but I'm not respected or appreciated or happy. The partners delight in making people feel stupid. But none of the other firms seem to be hiring. Should I stay or should I go? And if I stay, how do I make it work?
—Amanda, Minnesota

Oh, Amanda,

Here's what I've learned during my meteoric rise to the middle: If you're unhappy at work, go ahead and pout, sulk, grouse, kvetch, drop to your knees, look to the heavens, and bellow "Why, God, why?" at the top of your lungs. Just make sure you confine that behavior to exactly one weekend, and, tempting though it may be, do not—I repeat, do not—display any of the aforementioned toxic negativity in the presence of a coworker, a friend of a coworker, a friend of a cousin of a coworker's dental hygienist.

I'm not suggesting you don't have every right to be miserable. If you tell me you're working insane hours, I understand. If you say somebody's done you wrong, I believe it. If the lighting in the ladies' room makes you look like you're in the final stages of tuberculosis and the cafeteria is forever out of chicken fingers, let me assure you, I not only get it, I'm convinced it's imperative you hop off the hamster wheel of misery. I'm not saying this will be easy—nothing worth doing ever is. Still, you must do it, because spending time with people who chip away at your self-esteem will eventually curdle your blood, corrode your core, and lead you to vast quantities of heavily salted snack food.

So before you spiral any lower, screech any louder, retain water beyond all recognition, I want you to focus on forming a top secret escape plan that allows you to use your skills among people who value your contribution. You say you're well paid; I hope that means you've managed to save enough to live on for a year. If so, congratulations—you're in better shape than I am. If not, consider this your chance to cobble together some freelance jobs as a bookkeeper for small-business owners, a math tutor for the trigonometry impaired, a weekend babysitter, even a cater-waiter—anything that helps you establish a nest egg while expanding your word-of-mouth potential. And every time you have to sacrifice your pumpkin caramel chai double-shot soy decaf latte with extra whipped cream, remember you must cut back to move forward.

One more thought, Amanda. You say the other firms don't "seem to be hiring." Are you absolutely sure? Try tracking down a sage career counselor or a hungry headhunter to help you. Maybe there's a slightly longer commute in your future. I don't know your circumstances, but I do know that everything will feel much more tolerable if you're actively trying to take charge of your destiny. Where there's hope, there's life!

Dear Lisa,

Do men prefer sex with the lights on or off?
—Kayla, Colorado

Kayla, You Inquisitive Minx,

Because my parents are still living, I feel compelled to mention that I have not engaged in sexual activity with all 2.5 billion men who populate our fair planet—hell, there are parts of East Asia I've never even set foot in. That said, it seems to me that men are generally pretty thrilled either way. I say split the difference and invest in a dimmer switch.

Dear Lisa,

My girlfriend's beloved pug died two months ago at the ripe old age of 16. Christmas is coming, and I'd love to surprise her with a puppy, but everybody (her parents, her best friend, her assistant, even the guy who cuts her hair) thinks it's a bad idea. What do you think?
—Jim, Utah

Hey, Jim,

What I think is that your heart is in the right place. But I also think the words puppy and surprise do not belong in the same sentence. Your girlfriend needs more than two months to mourn her partner of 16 years. And when the guy who cuts her hair says it's a bad idea, you'd better listen up. A puppy has very different needs from an older dog, and you ought to be asking yourself who will train it, exercise it, wake up with it during the night, check in on it during the day, pay the vet bills, and replace the plum patent stiletto that gets mistaken for a chew toy. Frankly, Jim, I think you don't really get how hard it is to find a good plum patent stiletto.

You might want to talk to your girlfriend about the possibility of dipping her toe in the water by fostering a dog until it finds a good home, because I can assure you that come January, the shelters will be teeming with wonderful pets...all thanks to people who picked up impulse puppies during the holidays. This Christmas, I think a lovely locket with a picture of her pug inside might be a better way to go.

Lisa Kogan is O's writer at large and the author of Someone Will Be with You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life. To ask Lisa a question, email


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