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Question for the readers: Doing the Impossible

My friend posted this doozy of a poem the other day:

“Fairy-tale Logic”

Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—

You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.

–A.E. Stallings

It made me wonder what impossible things we’ve all done. When did you defeat the monster in its lair? When did you think something was going to be impossible, only to look up a year later and realize you’d done it already, you’d survived? WHAT ARE YOU KICKING ASS AT THESE DAYS? Tell us your proud moments, people.

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#563: I have a hard enough time making friends for myself. How do I navigate the special hell that is arranging playdates for my children?

Hi there Captain!

I’m a 36 year-old mom of two adorable boys (6 and 2). I also have no friends. I’m not entirely OK with not having friends, but I’ve gotten used to it over the past 30 years or so of not-having-friends-ness. What I’m less OK with is that my Big Guy seems to be following in my footsteps, and it’s making me worry.

A bit of background:

I grew up being *that kid*, the one who is always picked on, outcast, and very lonely (but not bullied, really). Elementary school was *really* tough. By the time I got to high school, I had a regular table I could sit at for lunch, Science Team and Quiz Bowl competitions I could attend and do well in (with said lunch-mates), and excessively high grades and test scores. Still couldn’t really call them “friends”. *They* all hung out and did the usual social stuff that high school nerds do outside of high school. I was just never included.

Those high grades? Came about because of my parents, who prioritized high grades above EVERYTHING ELSE. Including a social life. I mean, I’m sure they were concerned about my social life, but it was always “Studies first, (dance second), and anything that can distract from your studies can come afterwards”. So I complied, because my father’s commitment to making sure I succeeded academically was *really* intense.

As an adult, (as in, many, many years after the fact), I figured out that I had/have ADHD-inattentive type, which led to me not being able to finish my homework/keep track of all my crap. And also makes it hard for me to follow a conversation without spacing out in the middle of someone else’s sentence. And then have a hard time knowing what to say next. So: schoolwork not getting done, leads to me “not having time” for a social life. And in school, my fellow nerds were nice and friendly and let me sit at the lunch table, but I still felt like an outsider, because I was always ten steps behind them conversationally.

College was worse than high school, because my family uprooted their entire lives and moved three whole states so I could live at home in a three bedroom apartment and commute to school. They would make sure I didn’t flunk out (see above re: intense commitment to my academic achievement). And since I was at the most competitive, intense university in the world, you can fill in the blanks about how much of a social life I was able to manage.

So I never had a chance to navigate friendships and relationships as a kid and teenager (and young adult). I got married because Arranged Marriage is a common thing in my culture and I was completely OK with it. My husband is a bit of an introvert who doesn’t feel the need to have many friends, and likes his peace and quiet and political blogs and weird YouTubes of politicians from our country screaming at each other.

So how does this affect my kid? I don’t know how to make mom-friends. I was supposed to “join a playgroup” and “set up playdates” and then socialize with each other while our babies did their baby-stuff. But I didn’t know how to get from “Hi, nice to see you at our monthly breastfeeding support group” to “Hey there friend! Wanna get together for (whatever it is that friends *do* together. Seriously, WHAT?!)”. And now that he’s in Kindergarten, I STILL don’t know. All the other moms somehow know each other already. Their kids go on playdates with each other. They all stand around in their little circles on the blacktop before afternoon pickup and talk about whatever it is they talk about (Seriously, WHAT?!?!?). Big Guy gets the occasional birthday party invitation, but even there, the other moms know each other better than they know me, so I’m the odd one out again. (WHAT DO THEY TALK ABOUT IN THEIR LITTLE CIRCLES? I edged into a circle once, and one of the moms was asking the other where she got her hair done. I get my hair done at Supercuts.)

Continue Reading »


It Came From The Search Terms, April Showers Edition

Every month(ish) I answer the questions people typed into search engines to find this blog. Except for adding punctuation, I don’t change the wording. Enjoy!

1. “Mother-in-law hates me. How do I tell her I’m pregnant?”

That sounds like a job for your spouse, her (presumably) son, who should be doing all or most of any communicating with his mom that needs doing.

2. “How to get a passive-aggressive man to talk to you?”

Pretend you don’t want to talk to him but make weird backhanded insults in his presence about how he shouldn’t talk to you, creating an endless loop of passive-aggression. He will be unable to resist your gambit.

"Relativity" by MC Escher

“Your endless staircase of insinuation and feigned dislike reminds me of the much nicer one I have at Pemberley.”

Or try “Hey Steve, nice to see you. How are you today?” like you would with anyone else.

3. “My boyfriend passed away 7 months ago. When is it okay to date again?”

I am so very sorry for your loss. This is actually an easy question to answer in short form:

You are 100% the boss of when you start dating again. If you’re ready now, now is the time. If you need more time to grieve, take all the time you need. Don’t let anyone pressure you, don’t let anyone guilt you, either.

4. “These little old ladies want to be fucked in my phone number 530.”

Image from old "Where's the Beef?" Wendy's commercial. Three little old ladies yell "Where's the beef?" into a phone.

How extremely specific, yet vague. We need details, son!

5. “He never read my Facebook message.”

He probably did, tho.

6. “My housemates complain about me having sex what can I do?”

Be quieter, is my guess, if it’s a noise complaint. Do it at your partner(s)’s house(s) more, if it’s a “but they’re always AROUND and using the shower when we need it and watching our TV and eating our food” complaint. Plan to move if it’s a “we are judgmental of the fact that you have sex at all or who you have sex with” complaint.

Living with housemates requires a certain amount of “I will just choose not to ever notice anything that happens in your room when your door is closed” attitude to make the social contract work. But housemates do actually have the right to say “I signed up to live with you, not you + another person who is always here” and ask you to pitch a road game once in a while if you have overnight guests more than 3-4 nights/week, and they do have a right to ask you to keep it down between certain hours.

7. “I had fight with mybf bcoz of short dress help.” and 8.”Why is he so mean to me?”

Read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and get yourself to a safe place that’s Away From That Guy. I’m so sorry.

I’m reading this now (for blog discussion reasons, not personal ones, though it was pretty funny to have my boyfriend buy it for me from the bookstore where he works with “It’s for my girlfriend!”). It is very, very good and will help you see controlling & mean behaviors as part of an overall pattern of deliberate behavior, not anything that is your fault.

9. “Making letter for a friend that you cares about at the same time you mad at him somehow.”

If you don’t want to end or take a break from the friendship, keep the letter (or whatever communication you use) focused on the behavior that bugged you. And try, if you can, to keep it focused on the most recent instance of that behavior. “When you asked me to be your date to the party but were reading your phone/texting all night it really hurt my feelings” is better than “You are always on your phone when we hang out!

10. “How to impress a teacher you have a crush on.”

Do your best work for the class, learn what you came to learn, and move on when the semester is over without confessing your feelings or putting your teacher in an extremely awkward position. Crushes can be motivating personally without ever having to be acted on or expressed, this is one of those kinds of crushes.

11. “Is being tipsy attractive?”

To other tipsy folks, at closing time. Is that who you want to attract?

12. “Do people with Aspergers hate being interrupted?”

While it varies from individual to individual, in my limited experience, they hate this somewhat less than many neurotypical folks do. If you can’t reliably depend on social cues or body language to know when someone wants to tune out from what you’re saying, and a function of your personality is that you can and want to talk for a long time about things that interest you, having a friend or a coworker say “Thank you for that info, but I have all I need now” or “Hey, can we talk about X instead of Y for a minute?” is actually helpful if done kindly. We’ve got a lot of readers who can shed more light on this for you.

I don’t have Aspergers, but I am a geek and a college teacher and can definitely natter on about things, and when I’m in The Talking Zone I definitely appreciate a kind redirection as well.

13. ” How to avoid being the rebound girl?”

Easy. Just make sure that you date someone only after they’ve dated at least one other person since their last breakup.

Waterfall by MC Escher

Only date people if they’ve dated someone else since their last breakup and you will guarantee that you will never be the rebound!

Sorry for the impossible logic problem. It’s because I’d like the idea of the “rebound” to go the way of the “friend zone”: AWAY.

These can be true statements:

“I was dating someone but it didn’t really go anywhere because they were just too hung up on their ex/not looking for anything serious right now/the timing was wrong.” 

This is the truer statement:

“I was dating someone but it didn’t really go anywhere because they didn’t want it to.” 

You can meet someone right after getting out of a serious relationship and, if you like them enough and everything clicks well enough, go right into another one. Or you can be a person who needs a lot of time to regroup after a breakup and doesn’t even want to think about dating anyone seriously…but some makeouts that remind you that you have a body can be nice, or going on a dating site to “see what happens” can be a nice reminder that you have options. These are the On The Rebound people you are keen to avoid, and you will know them by their avoidance of any talk about feelings or the future.

But you can think you are that second kind of person and intend to date casually, until meeting a person you really love shakes you out of that mode. And you can think you are that first kind of person….ready for loooooooooooove!!!!!!….but not get into anything serious because it takes a while for you to meet the right person. Which leaves us with: There are two kinds of people and they are both just…people.

If the other person is really into you, and you are really into them, the timing won’t matter so much. So risk it like you would any other potential love relationship, but also listen to what the other person is saying and pay attention to their actions like you would in pursuing any other potential love relationship. Believe them when they say stuff like  “I like you but I’m just not ready for another serious relationship right now” “Let’s keep this really casual” etc. and don’t try spackle those things over with your awesome chemistry or how well you *should* work on paper. Those statements translate as I don’t want that kind of relationship with you.

14. “What does it mean when a girl says that she likes you but we just cant be in a relationship right now?”

It means she’s not interested in a romantic relationship with you and wants to let you down gently, so she’s using what she thinks is a culturally-approved script to do so. Read it as “she is not attracted to me or interested in ever being my girlfriend,” grieve for what might have been, and don’t bring the topic up again.

15. “He says he feels a deep connection.”

….but? You guys can hear the “but,” right?

16. My girlfriend asked for no contact but can I wish her happy birthday?

No contact is no contact.

My question is, do you want to be involved with someone who doesn’t want any contact with you?

17. “Men who are too intense too soon.”

Let’s reframe and rephrase this.

“Men who like you way more than you like them.”

“Men who creep you out or alarm you with their attentions.”

“Men who try too hard to lock in a relationship before you are ready.”

“Men who don’t pay attention to reciprocity and who come on way too strong.”

“Men who are controlling and needy.”

“Men whose relationship style is not compatible with yours.”

“Too intense” at the beginning of a relationship is often a red flag for someone with violent and controlling tendencies. Listen to those instincts and strongly consider breaking ties with whoever inspired you to search for this.

18. “He dumped me and got angry when I refused to be friends.”

Let’s reframe and rephrase this:

“He made me sad but then immediately made me relieved to be free of him, forever.”

“He suddenly made it much easier for me to put the entire sad business behind me.”

“He thinks that only he gets to decide the terms of our relationship.”

19. “How can you tell if someone has a mean streak?”

They do or say enough mean things to inspire you to Google that question, is my guess.

20. “How to piss off someone who has to have the last word?”

Remove their audience and replace it with sweet, cold, delicious silence.




Munich Meetup April 17

The first Germany meetup is happening! From Mercy:

Awkward Army goes Germany – first Munich meetup!

The first Awkward meetup in Munich will take place on the 17th of April, 3 p.m. at Café Klenze

The address is:
Cafe Klenze, in der Alten Pinakothek, Barer Straße 27

It’s is on Tram line 27, the Schellingstr. stop, or the Pinakotheken stop of Bus line 100 (which runs between Hauptbahnhof and Ostbahnhof).

Website: http://www.victorianhouse.de/index.php?id=191

The café sells cake and small food stuff (soups, salads, quiche, bagels), but are fine with people only ordering drinks.

We have checked with the café, and they say it’s ok if you want to bring your own cake due to food allergies or the like, as long as you order the drinks there.

You will recognize the Awkwardeers by the small green stuffed frog on the table, and by the crayons and/or markers which we will bring for our shared activity – anyone who wants can join in colouring pictures from
the Fat Ladies in Spaaaaaaaace! coloring book and other fun coloring books (bring your own pictures if you have any that you would like to share!)

We will also have some conversation starter sheets to help us get going, just in case :-)

According to this website, the cafe is handicap accessible, although the counter is poorly designed for people with wheelchairs: 

It has a ramp to the entrance and so does the building. There’s an accessible toilet, too.

You can come and join the meetup spontaneously, or let us know by sending an e-mail to munich-awkwardeers@rauschpfeife.net , or by posting in the Germany Thread of the FOCA forums (http://friendsofcaptainawkward.com/forum)

See you there!

Malin, Mercy and mooocow

Thank you for setting this up, and have the best time.


#562: My friend and collaborator has gone AWOL on our project. How do I get them to focus again without ruining our relationship?

Dear Captain Awkward & Associated Awesome Awkwardeers,

My longtime internet friend and I have a serial writing project that we publish casually online for free; we’ve been writing on it practically since we met. We have a very small fanbase, but they are extremely dedicated and patient as we work to get the writing up. We missed getting our latest installment up on time, and since then I’ve tried to work on it every evening, but Friend has been a little less into it, and it can’t go forward without the both of us. It’s not like we have Real Obligations though, and the muse wants what the muse wants, so I’ve tried my best to be cool about things even though I’m desperate to finally get it online.

Recently, however, Friend decided to sign up for another writing challenge that will take 1-2 months to complete. (It’s annual, like NaNoWriMo.) They asked me first if I would be cool with it, and I said (honestly!) that I would be sad about our project, but if they aren’t feeling it they aren’t feeling it, and they shouldn’t be forced into writing something they are sick of, because that’s a surefire way to get them to hate it and hate me for pushing it. I told them to go for it.

The thing is, I have put most of my emotional eggs in this basket. I suffer with depression, anxiety, and other physical health problems that make it hard to even get out of the house, much less find work, I am trapped an abusive household, I am broke, and I have no healthy “real life” relationships with anyone. For years, this project has been my reason for getting out of bed every day, but I haven’t been out of bed since Friend broke the news. I’m extremely disappointed and embarrassed about letting down the people who follow us, and my jerkbrain is irrationally terrified this means Friend is getting tired of our project FOREVER (and tired of me by extension).

I know Friend deserves space and to work on things that interest them even if it doesn’t make me happy. This shouldn’t be a big deal and I don’t want to make it one. I don’t want to be anyone’s obligation and I don’t want Friend feeling guilty. I think if it weren’t for that recently missed deadline I could just deal with it, but I keep going back and forth between bitter resentment and blame-throwing, and then feeling horrified at thinking like that about someone I love so dearly. I’m afraid letting on how upset I am will lead to a FEELINGSDUMP, or that I’ll FEELINGSDUMP anyway, and make things seriously awkward. But suffering in silence feels dishonest and neglectful of my own needs, while making a big stink feels childish and clingy. I just don’t know how I’m going to get through these next months without messing everything up.

Please, please, PLEASE help me, Awkardeers. You’re my only hope! My entire social circle knows this person, and I don’t have a single other soul I can confide in or ask for objectivity from.

much love and many thanks,
Trying To Deal Responsibly

Dear Trying To Deal:

If your friend were in fact ready to move on from this project permanently, is the work important enough to you to keep doing it alone?

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#561: “I had an affair with a married guy three years ago. His wife just found out and rang me up.”

Edited To Add: If you wrote one of the many (now deleted) treatises on The Darkest Evils of The Other Woman And How They Deserve Our Collective Scorn and Hatred, and how they must accept the possibility of violence at the hands of those they’ve wronged as the forseeable fruits of their sins, thanks for the shortest window between posting a thread and closing comments in Captain Awkward history!

I have three things to say to you:

1) Sometimes married (or committed-ly coupled) people who are looking to get laid LIE not just to their partners. “We’re separated!” “The marriage is all but over, we’re just working out the details.” “We have an arrangement where this is all okay as long as she never finds out.” “We no longer even sleep in the same bed anymore.” “S/he’s cheating on me.”

2) This Letter Writer is not responsible for your pain. She stopped behavior that didn’t feel right to her and changed how she approaches relationships several years ago. She apologized to the wife. She read the hurtful, vitriolic email. She doesn’t have to absorb your vitriolic-emails-by-proxy that you couldn’t send to the people who your partner cheated with so now you dump it all on her. Her actual question was “I’m very aware of how I screwed up here and feel really guilty, but also she said stuff that makes me feel scared for my safety.

3) Not cool, guys. Not cool.

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London & Bay Area Meetups: April 12

London rescheduled their monthly meetup to April 12. Details from Kate:

Dear all,

Sorry about this, but I’ve ended up moving the April meetup from the previously advertised date.  It will now be the 12th of April.

Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX near Waterloo station, 11am onwards.

For this month’s theme, bring or talk about something awesome. This can be any of the following:

- something awesome you’ve made yourself
- something awesome you’ve been given or bought
- an awesome real life anecdote

- an awesome project you’ve been involved in
- an awesome news story of awesomeness
- an awesome YouTube video
- etc.

Please let me know if you have other icebreaker ideas for the future.  Otherwise I may have to start repeating them, with unknown consequences.

This venue is working out really well.

They sell food in a cafe (standard sandwiches etc.), but they also don’t mind people bringing food in from outside. There are several other local places where you can buy stuff as well. The excellent food market outside was sadly closed last time, but I’ve confirmed it’s reopened this time.  It has loads of different food options, which can fit most food requirements, or you can also bring a packed lunch.

Meet on the fourth floor, outside the Blue Bar (go up in the JCB lift, lift 7, which is bright yellow and quite musical).  If you have been to a meetup previously on the second floor, we are now in the equivalent place horizontally, but two floors up vertically, if that makes sense?

I will have my Cthulhu with me, which looks like this: http://forbiddenplanet.com/3950-cthulhu-baby-plush/ I have long brown hair and glasses.

The venue is accessible via a lift, and has accessible toilets.

The London Awkward group has a Facebook page, which is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/549571375087294/.  There is also a thread in the new forums for saying hello.

My email is Kate DOT Towner AT Gmail DOT com

(May meetup will be on the 17th.)



Bay Area Meetup:

Can we get a signal boost for the San Francisco Bay Area meetup next week (Saturday April 12th 2014) at Lake Merritt in Oakland? I’ll be there at 1:00 PM, easily identifiable by my rainbow shoelaces and red baseball cap. Details are still being hammered out; people can contact me at pellew at gmail dot com (not putting out my phone number in public, but it’s on the forums for members) to give input.

Consider your signal boosted. Have a great time.



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