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How strangers reached out to help one lonely guy

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 familiar with New York 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:

718-XXX-XXXX
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.

917-XXX-XXXX
Relationships are best with no-contact orders.

321-XXX-XXXX
Did you ever try going out, Jeff? Clubs? Bars? The library? The park? The supermarket? Gas station? I’m out of places.

973-XXX-XXXX
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.

Richard
Do you have any fantasies that you didn’t get to explore in your relationship with Kira?… There’s life after a breakup… Are you into cross-dressing?

956-XXX-XXXX
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.

011-86-XXXXXXXX-XXX
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.

Vanessa, 22, Minnesota
My best friend was naked, hiding in the bathroom. He was still lying in bed when I walked in on them. I dated him for two years, thought I was going to marry him… I’m a Psych major. I like rock climbing, snowmobiling and skeet shooting… I didn’t kill him because I was too devastated. A year later I met Jared. He’s the love of my life.

414-XXX-XXXX
Women will break your heart, men will break your heart, it’s part of life get over it move on. It’s a lesson learned, Anybody out there who has never had his or her heart broken isn’t living.

218-XXX-XXXX
Jeff, wake up bro! Go jogging and realize life is beautiful. CPT Sam Ross, U.S. Army, Fort Benning, Ga.

011-85-XXXXXX-XXX
Hi Jeff, I am Sulina from Hong Kong, I read about your story and I feel sorry. I had a very painful experience too. My ex cheated on me and can you imagine watched a video that my ex husband having sex with other woman? So forget about the past and looking forward to having a great day everyday.

Nancy, MO
Didn’t mingle enough at the singles event. Should have had 2 drinks, not 3. It was a long week, so was just happy to sit in a comfy chair. I talked with the same guy all night. Conversation was good. I came to know a little more about myself which is always a good thing. I won’t go back I don’t think.

715-XXX-XXXX
What more can we do?… We can’t just show up naked, can we?… There is little to be done beyond that.

Benji
We came up with a few options of what you could do about being a lonely guy. You go out, find a party, a friend, anything, or you can stay home and masturbate and become sexually enlightened to your hand. Peace out, buddy.

Chuck
Obviously it didn’t work out with you and Kira. You wanna switch teams?

Joanie
When my sweetie + I broke up last June, I cut all my hair off. Bad short, very drastic.

Carla, American short-story writer living in the Netherlands
Bad relationships have always fueled creativity. I’m glad I’ve been neglected. I’d be at IBM if I hadn’t.

Amy, single mother of 8-year-old boy
I’ve been married twice, but there’s no man in the house now. The truth is I’m a swinger. I like orgies, that kind of stuff.

725-XXX-XXXX
Jeff, never be afraid to fall apart as it provides you the opportunity to stand up and look in another direction.

Heather
I don’t like dating. You can’t trust new people… I am in a relationship, though… It’s the first time I’ve ever been with a guy who treats me really nice. In the Bronx, all my boyfriends were gangster types… All my friends know him, so I can’t ask other guys for their numbers in front of everybody… He’s really nice, but I feel stuck with nice.

Jack
I don’t fall in love. I love jazz.

630-XXX-XXXX
Hi Jeff, I’m texting from Chicago. I stumbled upon your story. Heartbreak is never easy but you must learn to move on with your life and love yourself and know there’s someone better out there for you. I’m going through heartbreak too and I just keep reminding myself it’s his loss. If you ever need a friend, or want to vent, please call or text.

College girl, Silicon Valley
I went through a traumatic breakup. Now I want to work in finance.

Jim, 30, lumberjack, Maine (260-XXX-XXXX)
Keep on keepin’ on. You want work, Jeff, we’ll put ya ta work springing trees or splittin’ wood in the mill. You won’t be lonely no more… I’m hitting the club tonight. Only got a couple around here, so it’s slim pickins. Keep on keepin’ on.

Katrina
Last night I had a one night stand… Today I got new frames for my lenses.

402-XXX-XXXX
My girlfriend of 3 years just broke up with me. Hang in there buddy, we’re all in this together.

646-XXX-XXXX
I suggest a tour of the largest garbage dump in the world. It’s so close, Staten Island. The garbage dump’s been closed for 10 years. The smell has been preserved as if it closed yesterday. I’m sure you’ll leave with a different outlook on life.

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Photo credit:
Jeff, One Lonely Guy