An oak tree in a field
An oak tree in a field
#emotionalresponses #dearpaul

Dear Paul: Felled Tree Makes Me Question My Relationship

Paul Kiernan

 He said I was just “being an emotional girl” about the whole thing. His comment made me want to stab him in the eye with a busted pencil. Should I?

Dear Paul,

Recently the board of directors of the town where I live ordered the cutting down of a giant oak tree that sat at the edge of the park that my office overlooks. I was very sad as I spent many summer lunch hours reading under the tree and eating sandwiches. I was telling my boyfriend about it and found myself bursting into tears. He said I was just “being an emotional girl” about the whole thing. His comment made me want to stab him in the eye with a busted pencil. Should I?


Livid Dendrologist

a thron dangerously close to an open eye

Dear Dendrologist,

Let’s get the legal ramifications out of the way first. It is, as you probably already know from reading, illegal to stab someone in the eye with a pencil, pen, fine-tip marker, protractor, ruler, or any other item you might find in your local Target's home office supply section. It’s technically called assault.

If the court finds that you expelled considerable energy and force and did great bodily injury, you can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Which pretty much solidifies the pen (pencil) is mightier than the sword. And even a short think about the situation will show you that stabbing someone in the eye WILL cause great bodily harm. However, if the weapon is not a gun, you can be charged with misdemeanor assault, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1000.00.

So, ask yourself, do you have an extra grand lying around, and can you take a year out of your life to sit in a cell in county lock-up?

But the bigger question here would be, is he worth it?

You’ve just lost something special in your life. A friend, on some level, has been removed from your existence. A mighty, beautiful, natural wonder has been brought down by machinery, and that has hit you hard. When sharing that with this person, with whom I assume you’ve shared other intimate details of your life, you needed comfort, understanding, and more, but what you got was dismissed and insulted. Or, he was attempting to insult you by calling you a girl. And thinking girl is an insult, well, that’s a whole other bag of llama poo.

Let’s stay focused on you for a moment. Being emotional about this loss makes you human. That’s all. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your emotional response, which is not to be judged. Right now, you’re thinking about your tree, the loss of it, the wonderful times you had reading, munching sandwiches, watching the world go by under his boughs, and the memories, which are painful now, will soon soften. Time and distance will give your memory lens a gauzy cover, and all will seem sweet and lovely. That’s what you have to look forward to now, precious memories.

Now, if you were to stab your boyfriend in the eye with a busted pencil, that would infiltrate the memory. If you act on this impulse, now your memories will be about the nightmare that will come from committing a felony: the trial, the news, and the social media opinions. If you think your boyfriend is unfeeling with his response, wait til you’re faced with the brain trust that is the social media sphere. There is an entire world of hate-filled people just waiting in their basements for a reason to put down the Cheetos, run their nuclear orange fingers over the keys, and send their First Amendment-protected opinion right to your screen.

It’s your boyfriend times one billion.

A skull in a black and white jester costume

You owe no one a reason. You owe no one anything. You had an emotional reaction to an emotional situation. Your boyfriend doesn’t get it, that’s ok; he doesn’t have to. But he does have to be human. He has to listen and be there, that’s all. His response was wrong on so many levels. He was wrong, not you.

Now, if you get weepy over everything, then there is a deeper problem here, and you need to get that checked. However, if this is a reaction to your connection to times spent in and around this tree, it’s okay; feel it. Express it. Be open, honest, and human and feel. Don’t be ashamed, don’t hide who you are.

So, I ask again, is he worth it? Is he worth sullying the memory? Is he worth stopping your life for? Is he even worth your time any longer? I believe the answer to all these questions is a resounding no.

I echo that no. Do not stab your boyfriend in the eye with a busted pencil. While I applaud the impulse, I decline to approve the action. You’re worth more.

And hey, the good news is, if you dump him and he doesn’t understand why, he’ll keep making this type of mistake, and eventually, you’ll read about him in the papers, in the police blog.

I’m genuinely sorry about your tree; I understand that loss. Stay strong, keep the memory pure, and keep your pencils in the desk drawer.

I hope that helps.

If you have a problem you want Paul to tackle, drop him a line at He’ll try to answer as many as possible.