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Hello, everyone! I ducked out to South Carolina for a few days to see family. Regular computer access is now restored.

Two links today:

Dear Captain Awkward:

I am a 14 year old and am a freshman in high school. I’m a guy by the way. There’s this other guy that keeps flirting with the girl I like. He’s kind of my friend but since he’s not in my grade, we don’t really talk much or hang out much. After school, I keep seeing him flirting with her and she talks to him and laughs with him occasionally. It gets on my nerves so bad! I really like her and I don’t like the fact that he likes her and is always flirting with her.

I’m jealous because he gets to spend more time with her than I do. I’m a freshmen and she’s a junior. We’re both in band together and that’s practically the only time I get to see her except in between classes, before and after school. I don’t think she likes me and I also don’t think she likes him. What should I do? I want her and I can’t stand to see him always talking to her and her talking to him. I’m jealous. What do I do and how to I get her away from him? She doesn’t really flirt back with him nor does she flirt with me. 

Jealous Guy

Dear Jealous Guy:

This is hard, painful, visceral stuff, but I’m glad you wrote in.

If you want to go out with this girl, ask her.

 

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Meet awkward people in NYC! Please RSVP to the host at the provided email address so they can reserve a table at the venue.

Hi Captain!
I’d like to invite all our Awkward Army folk in the NYC area to a meetup in Brooklyn on Saturday March 16th at noon. Let’s hang out and play board games! It’s at Maimonides of Brooklyn, 525 Atlantic Ave. (http://www.mob-usa.com/)  It’s a vegan restaurant that can do gluten free upon request, and they’re also wheelchair accessible. It’s close to the A, C, and G trains at Hoyt/Schemerhorn, the 2, 3, 4, 5, N, Q, R, B, and D trains at Atlantic/Pacific, and if you don’t mind walking a few avenues, the F train at Bergen. (Unfortunately, only the Atlantic/Pacific stop is wheelchair accessible.)
Please RSVP  to awkwardnyc@gmail.comso I can reserve a table, and let me know if you’re bringing any board games, or which games you’d like me to bring. I can bring Scrabble, Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples, and/or playing cards.
Can’t wait to meet you all there!
Xenophile
Gandalf & Darth Vader

Who would win in a fight? A common question posed by The Internet.

Hello, Citizens of Friday.

First order of business, this great nod of solidarity for the socially awkward from Dorothy Parker.

‎”Those who have mastered etiquette, who are entirely, impeccably right, would seem to arrive at a point of exquisite dullness.” -Dorothy Parker

Second order of business: This great post from The Pervocracy, “How To Have Sex on Purpose.” It’s an essay form of the talk about consent and what people can learn about sex from kinksters that Cliff gave at U of Chicago’s Sex Week last week.

Third order of business: Great Darth Vader Boyfriend song or GREATEST Darth Vader Boyfriend song?

That should segue us nicely into this question:

Dear Captain Awkward:

My best friend at work is romantically obsessed with her douche of a boyfriend. He has been both mentally and sexually manipulative and verbally abusive. All of her friends at work realized this. We were asked on many occasions for advice by her or listened to her vent, but she only tightens her grip on him, and increasingly pushes her own friends away. Any advice? Is she a lost cause?

Thanks:

Don Draper

Dear Don:

Your selected username is pretty unintentionally funny, because Don Draper is TOTALLY a Darth Vader Boyfriend. He physically assaults Betty, and tried to convince her that she cannot leave him. He totally broods his way into getting sympathy sex with ladies who he does not treat very well.

Silhouette of Darth Vader replaces Draper in Mad Men opening credit sequence.

Awesome design by Dann Matthews.. P.S. There are T-shirts.

Don’t know how long you’ve been reading, but we covered Darths at length in one of the first-ever posts on this blog. And we also covered how to tell a friend that you have had enough venting for the time being.

The points I’d reiterate here is:

  • Your friend does not have to break up with her boyfriend to please you. Even if he sucks. That’s just not how people and their hearts work.
  • But also, you do not have to endlessly listen to her talk about him. Her sun may rise and set by the cycle of her bad boyfriend’s moods and behaviors, but yours does not have to.

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There’s a London meetup this Saturday. Details below:

Hi Captain,

I’ll be handling the London meetup this Saturday. The details are:

23th February, 12:00 am onwards, Leon restaurant, 36/38 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TT.

Map: http://goo.gl/maps/i9COr

Leon have a variety of good food at very reasonable prices – for central London, anyway!  Menu here:http://www.leonrestaurants.co.uk/menu/

This branch has an accessible toilet, and we’ll be on the ground floor in the back (around behind the food service counter).

There will be a Cthulu sign at the counter. I do not have any fun cuddly toys at hand, but will be carrying a copy of “Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men,” because I’m awkward like that (also, it has a red cover).

Take care,

Maartje

Have a great time, everyone!

I’ll be quick- After getting my teaching degree abroad, I’ve moved back home with my folks because I have no money, and there are no teaching jobs (or really ANY jobs) in my area at the moment. I’m also transgender. I came out to my dad about a year ago while we were travelling together, and he said he wanted me “to be the best version of myself I can” and that we’d work through it together. I haven’t told my mother yet, however… because she and I have a very different relationship, based mostly around her trying to make me more feminine.

So… how do I use my words to tell her who I really am? I’m terrified of her A, making this all about her, B, going all Jesus-y on me, or C, just refusing to accept this, which leads to D, me no longer having a place to live, or parents that love me.

I’m so scared. But I’m stuck, and can’t move on with my life until something gives way.
What can I do?

- I need to get on with my REAL life

Hi Real Life,

Corporal A. Beard here!

Since you have come out to your dad already, it may be helpful to have a talk with him first, to let him know you’re about to come out to your mom. If there are specific things you’d like him to do, like being on-board with modeling the name and/or pronouns that make you most comfortable, trying to calm your mom down if she does get really upset, or even just reiterating the supportive things he told you when you first came out to him, then this is a great time to ask. Also, if being kicked out of your house is a real concern, I’d absolutely bring it up with him before you talk to your mom; hopefully he can be your advocate in this as well if it comes down to it.

Being in the closet feels like trying to stuff yourself into all sorts of ill-fitting clothes that aren’t even the right color.

He was supportive in that initial conversation, which is a positive sign, but sometimes you won’t know how people will react to certain parts of your transition until the moment arrives. Some folks are big on Supportive Talk but have a hard time, you know, actually being supportive in concrete, asked-for ways or dealing with visible changes when they start to happen. I don’t know your dad and certainly hope you don’t get pushback from him, but it’s possible that it will happen, or that you might have to re-explain some of what you told him earlier. Or maybe since then you have talked about this a lot and he has a great understanding of the best way to be supportive, and if that’s the case, fantastic! You have a strong advocate in your home already.

Coming out to someone, especially a family member, is a big deal, and important conversations can be trying in a lot of ways – I often react by completely forgetting what I actually mean to say and fumbling around for the point. If you want to do this in person, it won’t hurt to plan the hell out of this conversation. Maybe even write a script – you don’t need to read off of it while you are standing in front of your mom but it might be helpful to write down something you can practice off of and are familiar with. I think it would also be fine to write a letter you hand her – maybe as you say “here’s something really important I’d like you to read, I’m heading to the park/a movie/a friend’s house and I’ll be back in a few hours to talk more about this with you.”

As to exactly what you tell her, I’d break it into two or three parts:

1: The basic information that you want your mom to know about your identity.

“Mom, I’m transgender, which means [whatever that means to you],” possibly with a side of “this may/may not be a surprise to you, here’s a little detail about how I came to understand this about myself” if you have a quick and easy way to sum that up and want to share it with her. However much or little of your identity as you feel safe telling her, just lay it out in the most basic way possible. Your sense of your mom’s gender-savviness may give you the clues you need to work out the details here. (My own Mean Grandma responded to my coming-out letter with “all I know about transgenderal people is those silly-looking men in dresses I see on daytime tv,” along with some other snide comments, which demonstrated that she had no idea what I had just explained to her.)

2: What you need from her.

I think there can be an extra layer of confusion among people who hear comings-out from others but still wonder “yes, but what do I do about it?” If you can give her concrete changes to make and specific ways to be supportive, this will clarify the issue and give her things to work on. Here is where you ask her for any language change you want (name/pronouns), a break from the femininity-policing, or anything else you need. This is one reason I suggest you ask your dad for these things too, beforehand; having someone at your back who is able to model proper behavior can be a real help.

3: What might change in the future.

If you have plans to change your name, start hormone treatment, make significant changes to your wardrobe, etc. and feel like you’ll want to explore some of that in the near future, especially while you’re still living with your parents, now’s the time to give your mom a brief-as-possible explanation. This may not even be part of the initial coming-out announcement, actually – depending on how things go, you might say “there are more plans and details I want to talk about later, but for now I really want you to know the most basic level” and come back to this another time. If all you know now is that you have a lot of options you’re still mulling over and you don’t have concrete plans to share with your mom right now, that’s ok too.

Overall, I think you want to keep the entire explanation as simple and direct as possible. If you have conflicted feelings about certain labels or are unsure about some steps you may or may not take… now is not the best time to get into the complicated details. There will be time for a more in-depth discussion with your mom in the future, if you feel safe opening up to her more, but I think it will make things easier on everyone if you streamline things to start out with.

The tricky thing is this: you can do your best to plan out how the coming-out process will go, but once you let that information out in the world, there’s really no way to know or control how your mom will react to it. People’s emotions are often unpredictable and messy; she might indeed make it all about her, or about Jesus. A lot of parents worry that they did something wrong when they find out that their children are trans, like they dropped us on our heads or didn’t nurture us in the exact right way. I don’t have any insight into what made me the way I am; if you have a strong belief about it you can certainly share it with her, but whatever reaction she has may just be something she has to stew in for a while before she can really come to accept what you have to say.

She’s entitled to feel whatever feelings come up during this process; to be honest, I roll my eyes at the “I must mourn my son/daughter” idea because hello, I’m right here and not dead at all, but at the same time I realize that it is a process many people go through. I don’t have to like it to understand that it happens. Parents have all sorts of hopes and expectations for their children, and even if you’re approaching this from the angle of being really happy that you’ve sorted out something important about yourself, she might fixate on the fact that specific things she may have imagined for your future might not happen, or might happen in a way she didn’t expect. Especially since you say she relates to you a lot through trying to encourage femininity, she might take your identity as a rejection of her idea of womanhood, or may mourn an imagined scenario of helping you shop for a huge fluffy wedding dress, or something else along those lines.

Ideally, though, she will do her own mourning/processing on her own time; she may have a lot of feelings surrounding your identity and your transition process, but those are hers, not yours, to manage. If she tries to suck you into being her therapist, do not go down that road with her! You really don’t want to be in the position of having to apologize to her for doing what you need to do to be happy. It might be helpful for her (and your dad) to look up a PFLAG chapter or similar support group for parents if there’s one in your area. Depending on where you live you may have luck finding a regional group as well; I found several in various parts of the US using a search for variations on “transgender parent support group.” (I am not as familiar with non-US resources, but if you are located elsewhere and want to give a general location in the comments, I can try to find something near you.)

This period of time might be really painful for you, and I’m really sorry if that turns out to be the case. It can be really hard to predict how people will react in this situation, and sometimes even folks who eventually wind up being great allies will say incredibly hurtful things at first. My dad has told me on more than one occasion that his opinion on trans and queer issues in general changed completely once he realized that “those types” were actual people with names and faces, including one of his own children. My own experience coming out to my parents was a bit of a disaster; I wanted to wait until after a big family reunion to come out to them, but at the time of the trip I had been on testosterone for five weeks, my voice had just started to change, and I was insisting that everyone call me by my now-legal name.

As you might imagine, my plans to stay under the radar during several days of Family Togetherness did not go so well! On the last day, my dad cornered me and basically badgered me until, completely unprepared and unscripted, I came out to him in the most awkward, disjointed way I can imagine. I did a poor job explaining myself to him, and I didn’t even get a chance to talk to my mom directly – he insisted on telling her himself, and I don’t even know exactly what he said to her. Things were really awkward after that! My mom called me, crying, and asked me to stop taking testosterone, and my dad’s initial research apparently just turned up porn sites, which he somehow assumed were an accurate representation of trans experiences.

Our relationship was uncomfortable and strained for a while, especially in those first few months. But several years later, while things right now are not quite perfect, they’re much better than I had initially imagined. Eventually, we came through the worst of it with a much better understanding of each other and of how we were going to relate to each other as adults. So even if you feel like it does go poorly, you may find that things improve once your mom has had a chance to process the situation, get over any feelings of loss she may have, and see how much happier and more comfortable you are as your transition progresses.

The goal here is for you to have the space to find out what *does* fit and feel right to you.

The earliest parts of my process of coming out to friends and family and starting my social and medical transition were pretty confusing and stressful. The fact that I had space to figure things out while living and spending time with supportive people made the entire process a lot easier. If you’re stuck living with your parents and the situation at home is either actively hostile or just plain awkward for a bit, it’ll be even more important to find outside sources of support.

What does your general support system look like right now? Do you have trusted friends who can offer support or, at the very least, listen with a sympathetic ear if you need to vent about your parents? I think now is a great time to look at your self-care practices and make sure you’re doing everything you can to be good to yourself.Is there an LGBTQ center in your area that offers support groups you could attend? There are a lot of great online spaces for trans folks and I don’t want to discount them, but I personally find in-person support groups to be a lot more helpful. The quality and usefulness of these groups can vary based on who’s attending and what you want to get out of them, but if there is one near you I’d give it a try to see if it’s a good fit.

I’ll also note that some queer community centers that offer support groups will also offer job placement programs; this might be worth a look as well. There’s some good content in the archives here about working through sub-optimal work and living situations; #110#370, and  #449 are a good place to start.

Before we jump into sad, serious things, Gollum dreamed a dream (of coming to your party?) Courtesy of my friend @spyscribe. You guys watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, right?

Now, some letters about living situations gone bad (#451) and very, very bad (#452).

Dearest Captain,

I need some help with relationship ambivalence.

It’s been 3 years and we live together. This is going to sound awful, but I recently has the thought that I am better than him at almost everything. He is extremely unsure of himself and is very dependent on me. He needs help/frets about making even the tiniest decisions. His indecision about inconsequential things used to be something we joked about, but now I just feel very smothered. He often makes his problems/feelings my problem or responsibility. I have had the occasional moment of, “this is definitely right for me”, but more often I have had doubts about whether I really want to be with him.

Here’s the wrench: My whole life has been in a shake-up recently. In the past two weeks, I found out I am losing my job (a job I REALLY love), found out I didn’t get accepted into grad school, then, last week I witnessed a stranger’s death. I was one of the first people to stop and help him. I stood over him as he died, before medics even arrived. The experience has really had a profound effect on me. I was very disturbed by what happened. BF knew I had all this going on though that didn’t stop him from wanting to have a big relationship talk about feeling that we’ve been in a “rut” for the past week. This was two days after the stranger’s death. 

On one hand, I feel like I should not make any major life decisions in such a period of upheaval. On the other, I get the feeling I am being tested and have a gut feeling towards making changes in my life. 

I have a gut sense telling me to end it, but I can’t *rationalize*why because everything seems fine between us. He is a very kind person, intelligent, insightful, sweet, cute, great sense of humor and he loves me very much. We live together very harmoniously. On the downside, he has depression that he has never attempted to do anything about. Recently, on my urging, he agreed to talk to a psychiatrist and then asked me to give him the number to a psychiatrist. Later, he blamed me that he hadn’t called because I never gave him the number. This is the kind of responsibility-shifting that really upsets me and makes me sad. 

In my society, there is a slavish devotion to “rational” thinking and I doubt many of my intuitions. Then here I am being the one who is indecisive and generally at-sea!

I have no idea what to do and could use a little wisdom! 

Private Secretson

Dear Private Secretson:

Your vague gut feeling that you want to end it IS the reason.

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From The Neverending Story, Atreyu tries to pull Artax out of the swamp.

“Artax, how many times do I have to remind you that the TPS reports get put in the BLUE binders? Not the green binders. A little focus next time, please.”

Hey, Captain and Co.

I spent the past two years of my life being really depressed (and, honestly, who knows how long before that — I was only diagnosed last year, but I’ve felt pretty awful for as long as I can remember), and, through some supportive parents and medication and an awesome partner and therapy, I’ve been slowly climbing up out of it.

A year ago I was in university, but I was too depressed and dropped out. Then I spent a few months focusing on getting to a place where I could function again. Last summer, I was part of a program designed to get me back in the working world, but that fell through when I had a really awful panic attack and the program coordinator kicked me out for being too “unstable”.

Then, by some stroke of luck, I managed to get myself a job. I promised myself I would thrive there, because I wanted to live with my partner and be independent. I’d had enough of being treated like a baby who needed constant care. And, for a long while, I actually succeeded! Things went really well — I got a raise, my co-workers and bosses seemed to like me, and I was able to pay for my apartment and develop some new skills and hobbies. 

Recently, I went through another rough patch. My partner and I had some issues that needed working through — there were noises on both sides of potentially breaking up — and it was just a very stressful time. My performance at work suffered because of this (It’s been extra hard, since they recently moved and are only in once a week, so work has been very chaotic and disorganized), and my bosses pulled me in to talk about that. I promised them I’d do better, and since they talked to me, I have been doing a lot better at work! 

Only, because my eternally-absent bosses haven’t seen my improvements (someone is still complaining about me, for reasons???), they’ve taken me off the schedule and I’m 99% sure they’re going to fire me.

I just don’t know what to do any more. I just want to get back to normal, but I can’t. I want to be independent again, but I can’t seem to succeed at that.

I dunno; I guess I respect your opinion and need some advice about what to do next. Y’all are smart and usually know what to say.

I hope you have time for me.

Thanks.

For a short, sweet question this answer got pretty long and rambly.

What I want to help you with is some small tricks that will maybe help you handle depression better plus some small, mostly cosmetic changes you can make so that you appear to be keeping your shit together at work (whether or not you actually feel like you are keeping your shit together).

I don’t know how to tell you how to feel normal again or get back to ‘normal.’ I don’t know what normal is for you. I don’t know what you do next, or what you want to do.

But I do speak “corporate boss” and I can help you (and maybe others who are in your same shoes) keep your job until you decide you don’t want it anymore, and if you can’t keep this one maybe this will help you keep the next one.

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I don't need to flirt, I will seduce you with my awkwardness.I’m filling in to teach a class for a sick friend + have a giant pile of work to do, and there’s probably no way we’re topping this as a Valentine’s Day post, so, here you go. [<3]

Consider this an open thread to share stories of ways people (friends, family, partners, teachers, coworkers, anyone!) have shown you that they’re on Team You.

Hi Captain!

My main question is: how do I keep going? I have 99 problems, I need to fix at least 95 of them but right now I can’t even seem to fix 1 so I am stuck. I’ve been actively job-hunting for over a year now. I know others have it worse, either through bad jobs or no jobs at all, but I just really need to move on. I can never get past the first interview though, if I’m lucky. I’ve even written to Ask a Manager (http://tinyurl.com/9fvsx3r and an update here: http://tinyurl.com/aavl7hb) but things have only gotten more frustrating and stupid at work. I’m in debt and trying to get out.

I moved back in with my parents last year to save money. I would like to get my own place again. Or get a job much closer to my parents’ house because the current commute is REALLY getting me down. I’ve been doing this commute for eight years now and, I can’t deal with it. It’s long, stressful, involves multiple modes of transportation, etc. I work for a university and theoretically, once you’re in their system, it’s fairly easy to job-hop. If I’ve applied for let’s say, 100 jobs in the past year, with my current employer, then I’ve gotten interviews for like, 8 of them. That’s not counting applications outside my current employer. I’m seriously wondering if I’ve been blacklisted but don’t know it (I’ve had three jobs with this employer and only one was an actual bad fit so my supervisor and I were both happy that I moved on). I feel like my life needs to undergo a serious change but I don’t know how. I’m turning 30 this summer and the thought that my life at near-40 will be the same as my life now…I can’t. Things could be so much worse but I’m sure it could all be better too.

I’ve had dreams of being a professional novelist all my life and I was a journalist for a while but let that go too but then I just feel like I squandered those freelance opportunities to stay with my current employer, because it was a full-time, steady paycheck, health benefits, etc. I’m trying to keep my head up but I just feel like something needs to give/change soon– an actual job offer, winning the lottery, a friend saying “Hey, I’m moving to the other side of the country and need a roommate/admin assistant?”, etc. I’m even wishing I would lose my job even though I know that wouldn’t help my current situation. In short, how do I just keep going? 

Letter writer, you are going through a really hard thing. It’s hard enough to answer the big questions of “Why am I here? And what do I have to contribute? And what will people pay for me to contribute so I can make a living?” without having to live at home and have a hellish commute. There are a bunch of baby steps and small incremental changes you could make to make your situation better, covered in this old post about clawing your way out of a depressing living situation and  in this post about how to keep moving forward when your brain hates you that I found today (good post!). I think a lot of people feel like you do right now and can relate to your situation. Some suggestions and questions for you below the jump.

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Superman flying above a city.

“Saving the world is just what I do; save your many synonyms for ‘amazing’ for someone who cares.”

2/11/13, 7:30 pm, comments on this thread are now closed.

 

Dear Captain Awkward:

How do you non-awkwardly handle compliments and being thanked?

I’ve always hated being praised or thanked, even as a kid. I never know what to say.

My mum constantly thanks me for stuff that is a normal part of being a housemate. She really does not need to thank me for hanging the washing or doing the dishes – its what people who want to live in cleanliness and household harmony do. Not something extra. How do I say “you’re welcome” three times in five minutes while sounding sincere?

Also, how does one make being thanked for buying gifts less awkward? I know it was nice to do, thats why I did it, I don’t need to be given more than a cursory thank you and perhaps an update as to how they enjoyed it.

I loathe being praised, so much that as a child I would hide good marks on assignments so my parents wouldnt praise me. If I’ve done good, generally I just enjoy the thing well done.

But since I know thats my issue – how does one graciously accept praise and what are ways to quickly change the subject?

Yours,
Awkward Turtle

Dear Awkward Turtle:

The answer to this is always “Thank you” or “You’re welcome” or “It was my pleasure,” and the subject will change itself.

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