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Hello! There are two meetups on the books.

1. From Wiley in Washington, DC:

I’m interested in doing a meetup for DC. I’ll be at Penn Social (http://pennsocialdc.com/) on October 11th at 7pm. There is a reasonable beer selection, snacks, and best of all, board and arcade games! Last time I was there I played dominoes and Skee ball. The upper level, which is wheelchair accessible (as is the entire bar), has long tables perfect for gaming and/or coloring and/or chatting. It’s very metro accessible, and reasonably priced. I’d love to meet DC Awkwardites of all stripes, but ESPECIALLY queer DCites.

2. And from Foxipher Jones in Seattle:

Hello, Seattle Awkwardeers!

I heard that the first Seattle Meetup was a hit, and I’m so glad to hear it. Some of us (including myself) could not make it, so another event or two are in the works, including this one!

On November 27th at 6:30pm, we have the two large tables reserved (20~ people since people tend to rotate in and out) at Wayward Coffeehouse, which is an all-ages geeky venue that serves organic coffee and vegetarian/vegan food, including tasty baked goods. (This is NOT Wayward Cafe, which is also a vegetarian place.) Wayward Coffeehouse is located at: 6417 Roosevelt Way NE #104Seattle, WA 98115
(the southwest corner of 65th & Roosevelt next to Ten Thousand Villages)

There is street parking on streets surrounding the venue, and it is within walking distance of the Greenlake Park & Ride as well as other bus stops. (http://metro.kingcounty.gov has bus schedules and a tripplanner). I will post closer to the event what to look for; Quartzpebble and I are planning to be there.
Please, as a favor to those of us with life-threatening allergies, do not bring nuts/peanuts to the Meetup, and please do not eat peanuts right before either, as I highly enjoy breathing.

I look forward to meeting you all.

Awkwardly,

Foxipher Jones

Here’s what you do if you want to plan a meetup where you are.

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Hi Captain,

I have a kind of strange problem. People say that I’m not good at expressing my opinions, but I think that is because I just have so few of them. I have some rather simple opinions such as “angelfish are pretty” and “all humans should be treated as equals”. Other than agreeing with certain political ideas and thinking things are pretty/taste good I don’t really have answers to lots of personal questions. The main issue comes up in social situations in which my opinion is part of the decision-making process. This often happens when choosing a restaurant or other social activity. It also happens when my boyfriend asks me what I want to do or asks “getting to know you better” questions. I always feel a bit bad when people ask me for my opinion on things and I say “I don’t know”, because it’s my understanding that “I don’t know” is the answer people give when they actually want to say “leave me alone”.

I have a couple questions about this situation:

1. What should I do about not having opinions? I’ve entertained the idea of making a notebook where I just list random things and then force myself to form opinions about them so that if anyone asks about things in that notebook I’ll have something to say. It seems a bit weird though because I seriously don’t care if we go to In-n-Out or Jack in the Box. It just seems like a weird thing to have an opinion about to me, but I guess most people expect to get an answer when they ask about it. So should I just formulate a bunch of opinions intentionally? It seems like most people just naturally care about stuff and automatically form opinions.

2. When people ask me for my opinion, what can I say instead of “I don’t know” or “whatever you want”? I really love conversations. I’ve typically gone with asking questions to the person I’m talking with, but there are some times where it doesn’t really make sense to do that. (like the fast-food question above.) I’ve thought that maybe I should just explain to people I interact with regularly that I seriously don’t know what I think about a lot of things, but it seems like that would come across as “I’m a shell of a person who has a very small personality”. The reason for that is because it seems to me like “personality” is formed out of many opinions, and the sum of all those opinions is what makes a person unique and interesting.

3. When people get tired of making decisions for me, they often tell me that they want to take my opinion into consideration because they feel bad for “never doing what you want to do” or “making you do what I want”. How do I explain to these people that they are not scaring or manipulating me just because they get their way all the time? I’d like a good thing to say that means “We don’t do what I want to do because I don’t care what we do” or “I always do what you want to do because I don’t care what I do (unless it’s dangerous)”. I think that people really think that friendships need compromise, but I don’t bring anything to the table for them to compromise with.

I just thought of another thing that might just confuse people. Would it help people understand better if I said stuff in the form of “My opinion is that you should decide where we go for lunch”? That way they understand that I’m not just letting them walk all over me or something.

Thank you!

-You can call me Kathy or Katie or Katherine or Kat. It doesn’t matter.

Dear Kathy or Katie or Katherine or Kat:

Would it be okay if I spelled your name with a C? Probably, right?

In answer to your questions:

1. I think having a notebook and writing about things you’re interested in is a great idea for anyone to do. Maybe it won’t generate a list of Conversational Opinions for you. Maybe it will just be you figuring out how you do feel about things. Try it and see – three pages or 750words/day is pretty easy to manage.

2. “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it,”  is a perfectly cromulent answer when you don’t know and haven’t thought about it. If people push you and push you for an answer, it’s okay to be irritated with them. You don’t have to have an opinion just to satisfy people who like to argue about things. Hold your ground.

3. Your #3 is where it gets difficult, especially when you’re talking about making plans. Your friends and family may in fact be worried that they are manipulating or steamrolling you or leaving out your opinions, but I think the key words in that paragraph were “When people get tired of making decisions for me…” and I think it would help to frame it that way.

I had a partner whose answer to “What should we have for dinner?” was almost always “Whatever you want!

Over time, that answer transformed into what what it really was, “I don’t care.

On the surface, how accommodating and easygoing he was!

Over time, it was totally fucking irritating. Because “I don’t care” meant that I had to do all the work of coming up with the plan. There’s actually a lot of mental work that goes into figuring out budgets and groceries and recipes and going to the store and then making the stuff and cleaning up afterwards. There is mental work in picking the restaurant, in making the plans. Not ever having or expressing an opinion means that you are always the passenger and the other people always have to be the driver. They want you to be happy, so they do the mental work of trying to figure out what will please you. Sometimes (as you’ve found out) it’s awesome to be the passenger.

I have a Friend who lives in (major city) who has some Family wanting to visit later this fall. Friend asked Family, “What do you want to do while you’re here?” Family said “We’re up for anything!

Super easy-going and pleasant, right?

No. Infuriating, actually. Because it seems Family is expecting Friend to act as a tour guide and do all the work of planning the visit.

You may not genuinely care where you go and what you do! But when you abdicate all decision making in your relationships, you are making your friends do all the work. It’s lazy! It’s uncaring. Your words are literally “I don’t care.” That’s not actually an awesome thing to hear over and over again inside a relationship. Because eventually you might start hearing “I don’t care, either, so I might as well go home and hang out by myself.

You know this is causing tension, which is why you wrote to me, and I do have a couple of suggestions:

A. “My decision is that you should decide where we eat” is passive-aggressive as hell. Do not say.

B. When offered two choices, just pick one (whether you have an opinion or not). “Do you want dim sum or Thai?” Since either one sounds good to you and you would be happy eating both, do the other person a solid. Mentally flip a coin. You’ll both eat. You’ll be happy. You’ll stop having the conversation you don’t like where people push you to have an opinion. The decision doesn’t have to come from the center of your soul.

C. Make a list of places you know you like to eat and stuff you like to do. On your phone. Or in your groovy notebook (which seems like a better idea all the time, so good job!). Read the local weekly paper and find out when movies are playing or neat stuff is going on. When someone asks “Where do you want to eat?” or “What do you want to do this weekend?“, name one at random. Sometimes people are tired and they have decision fatigue and the best thing you could do for them is to just steer them in some direction. Maybe you’ll say “Pizza” and they’ll say “No, I had pizza for lunch. Could we have sandwiches instead?” and lo, a decision will be made.

This may start as going through the motions. You really don’t care! Sure. Okay. So do a little work to find something that you think will please the other person, and be the one to take the risk and say “I think we should ________.”

D. Help your friends/family/partner communicate better with you. I have several sets of married friends where one partner is clearly the Alsatian, making the plans and herding everyone to the optimal good time, and the other partner is more happy to go along. Anecdotally, a few things seem to make this work:

  1. If A asks B, “What do you want for dinner?” and B says “I don’t know, whatever,” A gets to pick without further consultation. A should take B at their word that they have no preference, and B is not allowed to complain.  No back-and-forth!  To get this to work, tell the person you’re with directly: “If you ask me, and I say ‘anything is fine,’ take me at my word and pick something. I promise I’ll be happy, but we’ll both get annoyed if it becomes a long exchange.
  2. In some cases they spell out whose turn it is to (make plans/cook) on a calendar. This might work for you to give you some structure with your boyfriend.
  3. B partners recognize that what A partner does is valuable, and shows appreciation and also steps up from time to time. A gets to say to B periodically, “Hey, can you make the plans today?

Reading over this answer I am obviously biased towards opinion-havers. I absolutely don’t think you should be forced to have an opinion about current events or books or ideas and have to express it on demand the way I make my students do in a film class. That’s annoying and you are more than allowed to shut it down. But when it comes to planning basic things like where you’ll eat and how you’ll spend your time, I do think that by never expressing a preference you are slacking in your relationships. If you could get it to something like 70% They Choose/30% You Choose that would be an improvement. Over the long-term it’s not really fun to be around someone whose baseline is “Meh.”

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’ve been with my partner for close to a decade now.  In the past year or three, they’ve been getting way more into their career, to the point where they are barely home.   Even when they are home, they’re not dependably home, if that’s clear — they’re sometimes present and delightful and wonderful, and sometimes exhausted or continuously busy or distracted as hell.

To compare, I don’t have a career.  I have my job, and I enjoy my job fine, but it’s a job.  I come home and I don’t continue jobbing, except for infrequent requirements.  (Every two or three months.)  My partner is investing in their career, which I applaud as both a feminist and their partner, but also am dismayed by.  Unhelpful too is how they sacrifice personal care for their career, like sleep or eating regularly.  That is even less my business, but I’m still concerned, and I’m not sure if I’m right to be concerned.

I don’t even know what question I’m asking.  How can I deal with this resentment in order to be more supportive?  I feel both proud/pleased and resentful, and these emotions are not conveniently mutually exclusive.  Given that I love them and want to be with them for the “long haul”, given that when my partner’s present I genuinely enjoy my time with them, what can I do to reduce my resentment and increase my usefulness?

Thank you.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I write this as I lie in bed, too stressed to sleep. You think tonight I’d be feeling good. After more months then I’d like to admit to, I’ve finally got an interview on the books for one of the many jobs I’ve been applying for – one that I really want too.

There is, however, something of a problem that’s stressing me out.

The job is interstate. Which of its own is not a huge deal. I have family there who I like and get on with who will help me out and are enthusiastic at the possibility of me being closer by.

My mother is not one of them. She lives here. Not too close by – a blessing since we don’t get on fantastically – but close enough. And as yet she doesn’t know about the potential move. She won’t react to it well and since she doesn’t believe in keeping feelings held in I don’t plan on telling her bupkis until its a done deal.

I know how she’ll react. She’ll feel abandoned and that I’m choosing those other relatives (who she hates) over her. And considering the dramas I dealt with from her when I visited them earlier this year, news about me moving lock and stock will sound the deaths knolls on an already rocky relationship.

I guess my question is what to do and how to do it. As a long time mummy’s girl who has already weathered the souring of what used to be the single most important relationship in her life, I’m finding the looming end of it a bit hard to handle.

Yours sleeplessly,

Stressed out.

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Patty Hewes and Ellen from Damages, in the breakroom drinking coffee.

Sometimes what we learn from our mentors is how not to be.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I live and work at an isolated location with six other people. We are nearing the end of our work rotation and everyone is wearing a little thin emotionally so that might be partially where this problem stems from.

I have a really good relationship with the woman that I spend the most time working with. She’s about twenty years older than me. (I am twenty-three.) She says shocking things sometimes and it has never bothered me before. She says that she lacks a “filter” and that she always keeps going when other people stop. Anyway, she never seemed mean and her outspokenness was kind of refreshing but today she really knocked me through a loop. Another coworker was in the kitchen with us and we were joking and talking and I’m not even sure what the topic was but someone said “young and a virgin.” She looked at me and said “you’re two for two there.” I was shocked because I had never said “I am a virgin” to her before and I wasn’t aware that it was that obvious. I also have feelings for the coworker that was there with us and it was embarrassing to have that said in front of him.

I am bewildered why this comment hurt so much. I had to fight back tears for the rest of the day and was pretty much incapable of talking to anyone. I know that she felt really bad and she apologized. I didn’t want her to feel bad so I tried to act normally but I really wasn’t able to. The coworker whom I have feelings for knew that something was wrong because I wasn’t talking to him. I wished that I could just tell him which comment specifically bothered me but I really couldn’t because I was afraid I would start crying.

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Hi Captain,

I want to move out at the end of the year and I had the idea of moving into my Grandmother’s unoccupied flat (she lives in a home).The only problem is my family. My Mother is my Grandmother’s Administrator so she makes all the big decisions when it comes to my grandmother’s affairs but because she is my mother, she can’t be seen as giving any preference to my because I’m her daughter.

The issue with this is that even if it’s something she’d do for one of my cousins, if she does it for me then it’s favouritism. So she can’t make the decision and it has to be decided by her siblings, all 6 of them, most of which live interstate

So the next person who the majority of the decision falls to is one of my aunts who does not get along with my Mother at all (which makes me sad but that’s a story for another day). She is on the board of directors for the family business (of which the flat is part of the building) and so would be setting the contract, rent etc.

The first thing is that the flat needs some work before it’s habitable long term, the carpets need replacing because they are full of dust and mould, a proper stove needs to be installed and the bathroom may need refitting. 

Because this is such a potentially touchy subject, I can’t work out a way of asking whether it’s okay to move in (I am happy to pay for all utilities and rent as long as it’s appropriate) as well as bringing up the subject of renovations.

The other part of the issue is that the kitchen gets used by staff members of the family business for lunches and also that the flat is usually available for visiting family. 

I am happy for these things to continue and to vacate if family need to use it but I’m not okay with paying top dollar if this is the case. I don’t feel that it’s fair that I have to cover water and power usage of the staff members either so I would like that to be reflected in what I have to pay as well.

But I don’t know how to say that without causing a huge uproar or offending someone because I can see them taking it as if I am being selfish/cheap and un-family like. Is it right for me to ask these things? I’m not being unreasonable for not accommodating other people just because they’re family, right? I believe that family and business should be kept as separate as possible.

Thanks in advance,

Sick of Family Politics

Yoda

“Close you do not need to live for hugs in Jedi Way to be offered.”

Hi Captain,

You’ve provided some great advice for meeting new people. However, I’m wondering if the Awkward Army has any experience or advice for meeting people in a rural setting.

I live in a rural state, and in a pretty isolated area (population around 20,000…hour and a half away from from the Big City That Is Not Actually Very Big).  I moved here for a job a year ago with a boyfriend in tow, and we have now just broken up. I’m realizing that I really haven’t made very many friends and my Team Me is all long-distance, except for my therapist.

People don’t really do the bar thing here, I don’t have kids so can’t meet other parents at kid events, and I’ve already scoped out meetup.com. Add to that a culture of exclusiveness among people From Here, and I’m starting to feel isolated in more ways than geographically.

 S.O.S., Awkwardeers!

Sincerely,
Moose Tipping Is My Last Resort

Dear Moose-Tipping:

I’m really sorry about your breakup and sorry that it feels extra-hard due to your location.

I’ve spent my entire adult life in cities, so I don’t know how to do this. And I’m applying to film professor jobs all over the country, so I may eventually need this advice very much myself.

Thanks, readers. Help us out.

Sam the Eagle weeping glitter tears

“I’m mostly weeping because this email forward is written in Papyrus.

Hi Captain Awkward,

I want to preface my email by saying that I really love my mom. I really do. We had a great relationship when I was growing up and we still do, for the most part. Generally she is an accepting, loving, level-headed person, albeit gullible at times.

She is a Christian and a Republican. There is nothing wrong with that. People are allowed to have their own political and religious views as they see fit, in my opinion. That’s part of being an adult. She knows I do not have the same views as her politically or religiously, though, and she claims to respect that.

However, she sends me these incredibly racist/anti-Obama/anti-Liberal/anti-Muslim/anti-poor person/anti-Mexican/anti-gay/etc. email forwards all of the time. Normally I try to ignore them because I don’t want to cause a rift in the family, but it’s gotten pretty unbearable. I have asked her several times to not send me emails of that nature and she always stops for a while, but then starts up again a few months later. For the record, she never mentions any of these emails when we talk on the phone or in person. It’s like she has a secretly hateful side or something.

If I were to advise someone else, I’d probably tell them to block emails or send a sharp reply, but I can’t seem to give myself the same advice. I only get to see my parents a few times per year (they live a few hundred miles away, but I have no car and I’m poor, so it’s hard to get down there to visit), so every bit of contact from them is like a gift to me and blocking would make me feel terrible. And like I said before, I don’t want to cause a rift in the family by starting a fight. 

But these hate-spewing emails make me sad; sad that there are such hate in the world, and sad that my own mother would spread it (and perhaps sad that my mother is not the loving angel I’ve made her out to be in my mind…). There have been several times where I’ve started an angry reply, only to stop myself and walk away.

With election season coming up, they’ve been coming again in a fairly steady flow. It’s gotten to the point where I get agitated if I see an email from my mom in my inbox. 

What would you advise I do about this? Block her email? Ignore the emails? Delete them? Refute them with facts? Remind her that she’s supposed to “love thy neighbor”? Something else?

Thanks in advance,
Beth

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Ooh, these are posting out of order because I had several drafts in the hopper and scheduled them in the wrong order. We’ll live with it.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am recently married and also a newbie mom. Before marriage and my then pregnancy, I had always considered myself a cheery person. But when I stopped working and got stuck in the house to take care of my baby, I got so bitter and envious of my husband. I feel bad about this because I know he’s doing great in his job because he wanted a better life for us, yet I feel insecure of his accomplishments. It makes me feel inferior, stupid, and useless.

I never wanted to admit this insecurity to my husband but I told him that I really wanted to work and staying in the house just makes me feel depressed. I always knew how much I hate staying in the house but it’s only when I became a mom that I realized my lack of fondness for babies. I love my child because she’s ours but I don’t love the idea of staying at home. I told my husband about this and he agreed that it would be the best decision if both of us work. We do have this option anyway since we still live with my parents and we’re not really on the rich side so we do have to work.

When my aunt came to the picture she said that I was being selfish about me wanting to work. She said that I should just stay at home and take care of my baby, that it’s the ultimate sacrifice a woman has to make, even mentioning her daughter who became a housewife since her firstborn. I was disgusted with what she said it made me reconsider if I was just being practical or just being selfish. It also made me thought if the depth of my insecurity is just part of postpartum depression.

But my point is, I know in myself that I had done well in finishing my college degree and I don’t want my dream to end with the arrival of my baby. I don’t know if I need any advice but I just wanted to talk about this to someone like you.

 Sincerely,

Awkward Mom

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