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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Dear Captain Awkward,

 I recently moved in with two of my good friends from college. Two of us are attending the same graduate program in the fall, and the other is graduating next spring. The two guys I moved in with have been living together for the past three years, and since moving in several very awkward situations have developed. 

One of the guys, lets call him Undergrad, has been treating me very differently since I moved in. I think he may be viewing me as an intruder into their relationship. He has been very passive aggressive and obviously trying to assert his authority over me and my other friend (Graduate student). This has escalated rapidly and frictions are developing between graduate student and undergrad student. Undergrad has taken to randomly walking in to Graduate’s room without permission, and refusing to leave. When Graduate asks him to do something he doesn’t wish to do, like leave his room, Undergrad either ignores him or gets angry. Now this is awkward enough, but I’ve been brought in to mediate these disputes. I have talked to undergrad, but he refuses to acknowledge my suggestions or give any confirmation. He won’t even assure Graduate and I that he’ll leave the room when Graduate asks. 

 Then last week things escalated even further. When Graduate yelled at him to leave his room Undergrad responded by attempting to choke him. I was forced to break it up. since then I have seen undergrad shove Graduate student aggressively. I have also talked to Graduate student and he says this has occurred before. Normally I would just kick Undergraduate out of the apartment, but we’re all supposed to be friends. The domestic abusive stuff is difficult to handle because we are all guys and are expected to handle this on our own. I really could use some advice.

 Sincerely,

Abusive Relationship?

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Dear Captain Awkward:

The background: I work for Hulk Associates, a charity that does Stuff for Green People.

In a couple of weeks I have to take a box of our literature and a banner and some free pens and maybe some sign-up sheets to an event that’s being organised a couple of hundred miles away. And for various reasons, though our usual thing is for two members of staff to go, I’m going to be the only one able to do it. So I put an ad out asking for volunteers, making clear that basically they get a free trip to Event, their lunch and coffee paid for, and to promote Hulk Associates at this Event. They also get at least an hour or so to wander around the Event. (The point of having at least two people on the stall is so that you can take a break, after all.)

The first and so far the only person to volunteer to help out is a lovely retired lady I know well: she’s very enthusiastic, always wanting to help. She’s also slightly disabled – can’t stand for long periods of time, can’t help carry stuff, and really isn’t that good at Projecting Enthusiasm (I think she just takes for granted that we’re a great organisation and forgets that you really have to tell people, especially at an Event where people will be passing by who may never have heard of us before) or indeed getting people to sign up for things. In short, she’s really pretty far from being the ideal person for this job. And I have a sneaking suspicion that one reason she volunteered is that otherwise there is no way she could afford the trip to Event, and she probably wants to go.

But I don’t want to offend her. And I don’t want to hurt her feelings – she is a lovely person and even if she’s looking forward to a free trip to Event, I don’t doubt she will do all she’s physically capable of doing to help out. And I don’t want to put her off volunteering for us. And perhaps worst of all – while she is really completely not ideal for the job, it would certainly be better to have her helping me than no one at all – though I’m continuing to run my request for volunteers.

Captain Awkward, is there any way at all to convey the message politely and without offense that while she’s lovely to think of volunteering, I’d rather someone else, unless there’s no one else, in which case she’s it? I have a horrible sinking feeling that there isn’t.

Desperately Seeking Someone Else

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Marlene Dietrich

So. You want to be alone.

I’m going to try to get through this week with no questions about inappropriate touching.  Ready, set, go.

Dear Captain Awkward,

All in all, it’s pretty simple: I really prefer to eat by myself at lunch. I love to read and write while I eat and not have to worry about making conversation. A little bit of time spent not working and not having to talk is heaven for me.

The problem is when I started work where I am now about six months ago, a friend from school started with me. We didn’t socialize a lot during school, but the whole thing was a huge trial by fire and we all bonded pretty firmly. So I’d consider him more than a mild acquaintance.

He hated eating alone, and so we ate together every day. I often wished I could tell him I’d rather eat alone, but I could never find a way. After he decided to switch to part time (I’m full time), I thought it would be nice to have lunch with him every other day or so, and I could occasionally have some time to myself.

But we had a new guy start. He’s a nice guy, and for the time I’ve known him I genuinely like him. I enjoy talking with him while we work in the office. But he started eating with my friend and I, and now that my friend isn’t here, I think he’s assumed we’re “lunch buddies” and that we’re always going to eat lunch with one another from now on. The fact that I don’t know him as well makes the idea of eating lunch just with him sound not-very-enjoyable, and frankly, I feel like I should be able to eat lunch by myself if I want. I’m a big introvert, but I like people, and I’ve learned to socialize and enjoy talking, but it’s EXHAUSTING, and I want a chance to be alone for an hour a day.

My family and other friends have suggested a few strategies:  Bringing my lunch (but I like to go out!), making up an elaborate excuse, sucking it up and using it as a “networking” opportunity, which is ridiculous because we all work in the same tiny room and we network plenty.

So here’s what I want: I want to let my friends know that, although I like them and enjoy their company and think they’re good dudes, I just prefer to eat alone so I can read and work on stuff on my own. Please help.

Sincerely, 
Kinda Hungry

Hello, Hungry:

BOY DO I FEEL YOU ABOUT EATING ALONE.

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Darling Captain Awkward,

Most of your writers are adults. They deal with adult men. I, a female in high school, come to you with a even worse malignancy… teenage boys.

Oh, but you say: teenage boys? They’re perfectly harmless except for the stray sexual innuendo or the occasional Death Ray Pimple. But I’m also a scientist and mathematician, and I’ll let XKCD summarize what I usually deal with on a daily basis: http://xkcd.com/385/. Maybe add a few more pimples to the guy though. And maybe have, say, a guy to girl ratio of 10 to 1. And maybe fill up that page with sandwich jokes. 
Ignoring them is difficult during activities and labs because we work in teams. I’ve tried standing up for myself but I don’t really do well in panic situations and I’ve ended up gotten in some physical scrapes (nothing bad, but I’m kind of weak). The school has made it clear that they will only slap these guys on the wrist because they’re “honor students.” Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to just tells me that this isn’t a big deal and that I should just let it go. I’m disappointed in myself for not being able to figure this out, and I feel (and have been told) that I bring this onto myself by not laying low and batting my eyelashes. Am I overreacting?  How do I deal with this in the future?

I try to make light of what happens but, really, I am brokenhearted. I’m upset that most of the guys are going to top colleges and that I might not get in. I hate myself for not being able to let this go even though most of them have graduated, and I hate the social standard that I’ve noticed– when talking to my guy friends, they always talk about something productive; when talking to my girl friends, all we talk about is guys and other trivial things, and they don’t want to change. Mostly I’m just sad, lost, and afraid (and that’s not helping me deal with any of this). 
So, thanks, and I would love to hear your input.
Sincerely,
Pi Squared
Harry Potter holding a wand

"Contracepcio!"

This article (yes, it’s old) in the Washington City Paper about men who don’t understand how birth control works made me laugh.  And then feel sad.  How can people not understand how birth control works?

Ok, listen.  I’ll try to keep it really simple.

Barrier methods like condoms, the cervical cap, and the diaphragm physically block semen from ever reaching the egg.  Most times these methods are combined with a spermicide which murders the little swimmers before they can reach their goal.

Hormonal methods like The Pill, the NuvaRing, the Patch, or Depo-Provera interfere creatively with a woman’s cycle.  In some cases the hormones interfere with ovulation.  In others, the hormones will turn the womb into a barren, rocky place in which your seed may find no purchase.

The copper IUD is the closest to magic. It’s a T-shaped piece of plastic wrapped with copper that’s placed directly in the womb.  No one knows exactly why it works, though the theory suggests that the “rocky soil, seed can find no purchase” explanation is the true one.  The Mirena IUD also goes inside the uterus, where it releases a low dose of hormones.

The Morning After Pill is a higher dose of the hormones in the regular birth control pill.  Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can rush to the scene of the crime and attempt to prevent ovulation and may prevent implantation.

More details here.

All these methods have some risks and side effects.  Some pills can run $50/month, even with insurance. The Morning After Pill runs between $40-$60 depending on where you get it. The IUD is very cost effective over time, but the initial install can run $1000 between the device and the insertion procedure.

Finally, I’ve run into a lot of guys who vote Republican but who like to have sex with women.  Guys, we can argue all day long about economics, taxes, and foreign policy, but here’s a fact:  The Republican Party in the U.S. officially works to limit family planning rights for women.  They cater to a section of the population who thinks hormonal birth control = abortion.  They work to limit abortion access and rights.  They tried to defund Planned Parenthood.  They love funding abstinence-only education which is designed to prevent teenagers from knowing how their own bodies work. Basically, the platform of the Republican Party in the United States is this:  “Every time a penis goes inside a vagina, a baby could be made, and that potential baby is the most important thing ever.”   Democrats are not perfect, and not perfect on this issue, but they don’t have “Punish those evil sluts” baked right into their national platform.

There’s a temptation to think that birth control is some icky women’s issue that men don’t have to worry about.  Gentlemen, ask yourself some questions, like:  Do you want to make a baby right now?  Do you want to make a baby every time you have sex?  Do you think everyone should make a baby every time they have sex?  Do you think your girlfriend waves a wand and says, Harry Potter-style, “Contracepcio!” to prevent unwanted pregnancy?   If you’re going to have sex with a woman, it would be good to know what kind of birth control she’s using and how it works.  If you’re in an ongoing relationship, it might be nice for you to offer to shoulder some of the financial burden. Please get educated before you fuck.  Or vote.

Hello, Captain!

My last question asked about friendship jealousy. Since your answer, things have been massively improved, but I am facing an upcoming trial by fire; my friendship group, including the new girl who was provoking a lot of jealousy, all going on holiday together.

I already plan to never talk to this girl again after the holiday is over; this is sort of the last hurrah of our friendship group before we scatter to the winds post-university, so I’m not really required to keep in contact with her. But basically I need some survival tips for living in the same house with someone who annoys the shit out of me for a whole week.

So far the planning of this trip has been filled with fire and drama and ridiculousness.

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