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From your host, Julia/Sunflower:

Portland, Oregon meetup first weekend in August!
When: Saturday, August 2nd, from 2:00 to 5:00-or-whenever
Where: Tiny’s Coffee Southeast, 1412 SE 12th Ave
What: Crafts and/or games; I’m bringing Imaginiff and some yarn and crochet hooks.

I (Sunflower on the comments and forums, Julia in meatspace) will be wearing a bright red bandanna on my head or neck. If you’d like to rsvp or suggest activities, or have more questions, feel free to email me at jaybird at rattlebrain dot com

Have a great time!

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Event details, from Liam:

SATURDAY 26TH JULY 12ish at THE RON COOKE HUB, THE UNI OF YORK, YORK,YORKSHIRE, UK.

This is really short notice and might not work but hey it’s worth a try.

Do you like Captain Awkward? Do you like LEGO? Do you also like low key no obligation to talk social events?

Come along to the free LEGO exhibition at the Uni of York. The cafe *should* be open and getting there is easy – get a number 44 bus from the station (return ticket should be £2) and get off when you see a big sort of bronze building with “Ron Cooke Hub” written on it and a lake next to it. Cafe, lego exhibition and accessible bathrooms all on the ground floor of that building.

I’ll figure out someway of identifying “our” table(s) in the cafe and post info in the comments here, on the forum and on the facebook event page. I’ll also tell the Porters at the reception desk to direct people to me if they’re looking for the “Awkward Meeting”

York and Yorkshire in general people are very welcome to join us, as indeed are any Awkwardeers who happen to be visiting York at the time.

Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/521513847978233/

I’m Liam Smith on the Facebook event and YetAnotherLefty on both the forum and twitter if you’ve any questions.

Your Sunday earworm, from me.

Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall with text "Professor McBadass"

There is more to teaching and life than having a good small-talk game.

Dear Captain Awkward,

This question is not so much about a single major situation or a crisis as it is about a recurring, if minor, situation that I encounter again and again. I am a graduate student at a medium-sized research university where graduate students do a lot of teaching. As a result, I encounter former students on campus on a very regular basis. I hope very much to keep teaching college students long-term, though who knows what my future holds.

The problem I have is this. My classes are often fairly popular with students, in part because my teaching persona is very warm and approachable, and in the classroom, I am good at not taking myself too seriously and putting other people (i.e. students) at ease. In real life I am none of those things: I am awkward, introverted, and ill-at-ease with social acquaintances, and I overread Every. Damn. Detail. of routine social interactions. I often feel that students who run into me in public social settings (at coffee shops, libraries, etc.) are surprised by what they perceive as a change in my affect, and that–put bluntly–I make them feel uncomfortable when they greet me after our class is over. I hate that. I feel I talk too long, or not long enough, or that I greet them when they’d rather avoid me, or that I avoid them when they’d rather greet me.

I should say that, while many college instructors resist or resent outside encounters with students, I don’t feel that way at all. I enjoy keeping up with former students. Even more importantly, I think that students at my large, cold, competitive institution need as many one-on-one adult contacts as they can get, and that it’s important for them to feel like they are part of a supportive social network made up of people of many different ages. I think that having good, positive, low-key, supportive encounters–not with every single student, but with students who actually want to say “hi” or catch up briefly in passing–is an important part of my job. But I’m not good at it.

I’m asking you because I know you are a college professor, and I imagine that–like me–you have a lot of students who would like to keep in touch, or who check in when you pass them in the hallway. Any advice on how to make these encounters productive, or at least comfortable?

Wants to Be That Supportive Former Teacher

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Hello, nice people, Digital Tart has arranged another outing for you:

Date: Sunday, 7/20/2014

Time: 4:00pm

Location: The Chicago Cultural Center Lobby (1st floor), 78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602.

Transportation: By CTA, a whole slew of busses and trains. By Metra/Electric District/South Shore Line, Millenium Station. By car not recommended due to obscenely high cost of parking.

How to Find Me: I’ll have a big sign saying ‘The Awkward Table’. And have name tags this time.  They are dorky but so useful.

How to Get in Touch Before the Meetup:  I will be reading and replying to comments as ‘DigitalTart’ both on this post on the CA main page, and the thread in the forums at http://friendsofcaptainawkward.com.  Any suggestions about improvements to or new activities for Chicago meetups are encouraged.

Thank you!

Have a lovely time!

Oh Captain My Captain;

I rent a room in a house with a pretty nice family, and for the most part it’s pretty cool. They’re very friendly and open, their eldest son and I share a lot of interests, and they aren’t really judgmental, though they are very vocal about their political views and beliefs, they know I don’t get involved in that sort of stuff and seem to respect my space as far as that’s concerned.

The problem is respecting space as far as everything else – I do my part around the house, cleaning bathrooms, mopping, vacuuming, doing dishes, laundry, helping care for their 19 year old cat and doing pretty much anything I can to make myself useful. My landlords, a married couple, also have two of their adult children living with them because finances suck for everyone except the elderly rich, which we are not among. Their kids, even though they are adults, are still very close to their parents and depend on them for a lot, and basically come off as young teens in a lot of ways. The main problem seems to stem from the fact that, although I am not one of their kids, because I’m younger than their kids they seem to feel the need to parent me.

Whenever I get anything in the mail, they want to know what it is, who it’s from, if it’s a package they want to hover over me and see what it is, who I ordered it from, how much did it cost, was it made in the USA? They have come in my room without permission several times, always ask me when I will be at work, how many hours I’m getting, what I’m paid, if I go out somewhere that isn’t work related where did I go, did I buy anything there? I can’t bring home so much as a single shopping bag without being interrogated or having it pawed through and my purchases commented on, along with how I dress, where I work, basically everything I do. They do it more to me than they do it to their own children!

I’m a very private person, and I hate discussing money with anyone, particularly when it’s really none of their business, and I really don’t want my every purchase judged and pawed through. I am one of those people that doesn’t want to talk about my day, I don’t want to talk about what happened at work or if I got a raise or if I bought lunch or something. I don’t like talking to people in general, but I try my best to at least be nice. It’s started creeping me out a lot that I can’t walk anywhere near the door with my keys without getting an interrogation on where I’m going, who I’m going with if anyone, what I’m buying, et cetera. If they had to drive me places, yeah, fine, I could understand them needing to know my work schedule or if I needed to go buy stuff or something, but I have my own car and drive myself everywhere so there is no reason they need to know any of this stuff. They also try to include me in their family events, even big holiday stuff like Christmas or Thanksgiving, even when they’re super loud and generally not the kind of thing I’d go within a hundred miles of if I didn’t live here, but when I live in the same house it’s kind of hard to avoid without it being painfully obvious that I’m avoiding it, particularly since I’m not social and generally don’t go anywhere other than work.

They seem to have semi-adopted me as one of their own kids, which is kind of problematic on it’s own, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Do you have a way for me to politely tell them to back off and stop questioning me about everything I do? I intend to move out soon, so I’ll have my privacy again eventually, but until then I’d like to get back at least a bit of privacy while I live here, without making things tense or possibly making them angry. They are a very close-knit, openly affectionate, rather loud kind of family, so I’m not sure they can even understand that no, I don’t really want to take part in all the loud, boisterous family stuff they do because I’m just not that kind of person. I like my quiet and privacy, and I would like to get some of that back.

Any ideas?

Thanks!

Not Their Kid

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I’m still writing fanfic masked as advice columns for Indiewire, so if you are interested, check out the recent columns for Orange Is The New Black (what do you do when your friend is telling an big & obvious lie but you don’t want to rock her fragile mental state) and today’s Halt & Catch Fire piece (what do you do when you’ve slept with the boss and your coworkers are making a fuss?). What (currently running) TV show should we tackle next?

Illustration of Godzilla and another lizard battle over the Golden Gate bridge.

Jerkbrain and Rageasaurus battle for control of the emotional landscape. Godzilla movie concept art by Frank Hong.

Dear Captain,

I have always been way too sensitive to criticism. In high school we had an assignment where we had to ask our loved ones what they thought our best and worst personality traits were, and EVERYONE told me that I take things too personally. I terrified of looking dumb in front of anyone, even strangers, so I hate anyone calling attention to the fact that I’m less than perfect.

This is true for criticism of a personal nature, an artistic nature, and a professional nature. Blunt or tactless questions are awful, of course, but even much-need criticism framed in a very constructive way can put me on the edge of tears.

This has been a problem lately at my work, because I’ve gone from part-time to full-time, which means (a) more time at work, so more time to mess up/get blamed for something, and (b) getting called upon to do tasks I’ve never done before or tasks that I’m TERRIBLE at (like covering phones, which is a nightmare to an introvert, especially one so bad with names she routinely forgets the caller’s name mid-transfer). I have a tendency to get defensive when I’m corrected on something, especially if it’s something I usually get right or that I wasn’t responsible for, even though absolutely no one is putting me on trial. They just want it fixed. Or I get so flustered that I just make more mistakes, get more criticisms, etc ad nauseam. Today at work I screwed up something I didn’t know I was supposed to do, and getting called out made me too upset to talk (one of my coworkers walked by and marveled at how red my face got), when a more rational response would probably have been “now I know I need to do that next time”.

How can I take criticism better? I NEVER want to become “the girl who cried in the office”, and when it comes to things that I really want to get better at, I know that hearing and responding to criticism is an important step. I’m just so bad at it. Help!

-Paper-Thin Skin

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