Last October, when Jeff Ragsdale, an out-of-work actor and stand-up comedian, got dumped by his girlfriend — the kind of breakup that puts your heart through the blender — he decided to crowd-source his loneliness. He posted flyers all around Lower Manhattan that read, “If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me. . . Jeff, One Lonely Guy.” His cellphone number was listed at the bottom of the flyer in little tabs that strangers could tear off — anyone who’s visited NYC will be used to seeing these kinds of flyers offering dog-walking services or futons for sale, etc.
In the months that followed, Jeff received tens of thousands of calls, texts, and voicemails. Someone took a photo of the flyer and posted it online and One Lonely Guy went viral — and international. He got calls from Spain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Taiwan, and Australia. He answered his phone all day long, speaking to as many people as he could.
After the first month he started saving the conversations, and eventually published them in a book, Jeff, One Lonely Guy, that mixes the strangers’ messages with essays about his own struggles. Some people called to offer help or solace, others called to confess crimes or sexual fantasies, still others wanted therapy for their own problems — breakups, addiction, abuse, dysfunctional families, and so on. Jeff says, “I became a relationship counselor, a sex therapist, a probation officer, a confession booth. I found that people just need someone outside their inner circle to talk to, who’ll just listen and won’t judge.”
We asked Jeff to put together some of his favorite breakup advice that he received as a result of this project. The following all arrived via text or voicemail from complete strangers:
It’s a big world out there though, Lonely Guy Jeff, and there are friendships to be found on every street corner! . . . May I suggest a book club? . . . Maybe take up an activity like bowling. . . . What you say?
Felicia, 15, (845-XXX-XXXX)
I wanted to tell you how happy I am after adopting a shelter cat last week. His name is Aleister, after Aleister Crowley.
Henrietta, 27, Texas (956-XXX-XXXX)
I think a marriage with a prisoner might be the best. They can’t hurt you as much as the dude in your bed who can torture you.
Relationships are best with no-contact orders.
Did you ever try going out, Jeff? Clubs? Bars? The library? The park? The supermarket? Gas station? I’m out of places.
I went out with this guy for eight months. He came over for the last time, looked around, then left. . . . Guys are really weird sometimes. . . . I smoke a lot of weed and just chill.
Do you have any fantasies that you didn’t get to explore in your relationship with Kira? . . . There’s life after a breakup. . . . That’s a tough one. . . . Are you into cross dressing?
Ruined. . . . Think my ex is already talking to someone else and we’ve been only broken up for a month and were together almost 3 years. . . . Time doesn’t do anything. . . . It brings in more pain.
I broke up with my girl last month. I lost my lover but I’ve got precious memories. Win a few, lose a few. That’s life. Right? From a Chinese lonely man
I don’t fall in love. I love jazz.
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