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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Dear Captain Awkward:

I am trying to not make this question sound like a pity party, but will probably slip up somewhere. Apologies in advance and gratefulness for making this the space you do.

I feel like I am just plain mean a lot of the time. 

It’s confusing because I try to be really caring and positive and encouraging to my friends, there’s just this fucking mean streak too. I also work in Profession where Being Kind and Supportive is a huge part of my job and I don’t have any trouble there. The few times my friends have been my clients (which is ethically fine in this field) I have felt lucky because I feel like they finally got to see me at my best.

But outside of that I feel like there’s just this continuous stream of negativity that slips into conversations even with people I love, and I dig at people in subtle and not-subtle ways and don’t even notice it until the words have already flown out of my mouth. 

I think it is a defense mechanism because I don’t do it as much when I’m around people I feel comfortable with, but when I’m in a new social setting or around people I’m not sure like me I am just like…negative thought machine word vomit spout. It used to be way worse, but it is still often enough to sting and be totally inappropriate. 

I avoid getting involved with people who I can tell are no-bullshit and have good boundaries because I feel like they would automatically dislike me because of it, which sucks because I really respect people who have those skills and I am working on them myself. Simultaneously, I try to avoid becoming close with people who aren’t necessarily good at standing up for themselves, because I’m afraid of hurting their feelings.

I’m also really hard on myself, like 24/7 negative self-talk, which I know is my stuff to deal with, and I’m working on getting back in therapy. I guess what I’m wondering about is how to deal with Jerkbrain: Externalized so I’m not always hurting people I care about and feeling like I have to avoid social situations so I don’t ruin them for the people who are there to enjoy them, not be insulted.

I already know that what I’m doing is shitty and I am trying to find tools to be able to stop, because shaming myself about it is, surprise, totally ineffectual. Tips? Tricks? Personal red flags to look for? Mantras to repeat under my breath in bathrooms at parties? 


Jerk but Trying

Dear Trying Jerk:

The negative self-talk and the negative other-talk are connected. So yes, please go back to therapy.

I’ve been in the headspace you describe, for sure. I believe the clinical term is “total misery.”

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From Dr. Jillenstein:
Hello Awkwardeers of Western North Carolina! Please join me for an Awkward Army Meetup on Tuesday, April 30, at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, NC. Delicious chocolate desserts and drinks are available and reasonably priced at this all-ages location. The first floor is fully accessible, there are gender-neutral bathrooms, and it’s right in downtown Asheville. I will be there from 7-9pm (or later if there is fun happening). I have curly hair & glasses, will probably be knitting, and will have a sign that reads “Awkward Army Meet Here.” I’m on Twitter @Dr_Jillenstein and I created a Facebook event page here:

Tuesday, April 30

7pm – 9pm (or later)
French Broad Chocolate Lounge
10 South Lexington Ave., Asheville, NC, 28801
(just south of Patton Avenue, around the corner from Salsa’s)

Have a great time. Jill & her husband are Chicago friends who recently relocated to North Carolina and are pretty much the best people.

Reminder, monthly London meetup is tomorrow. Sorry for not posting this sooner, guys! It’s been the week of 1000 meetings.

Dear Awkward Army,

London meetup this weekend, 23rd March!  All welcome.

11:00 am onwards, Leon restaurant, 36/38 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TT.

The venue so far has worked out well, so I’m sticking with that.  They’ve also offered us 25% off all our food and drink.

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).

I have long brown hair and glasses.  I will bring my plush Cthulhu to use as a table marker.  It looks like this: http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/7cb0/

My email address is kate DOT towner AT gmail DOT com

As discussed at previous meetups, I am happy to teach people to knit, so if you want to start or want help, bring something along!

By the way, I think it’s likely the April one will be on the 20th rather than the 27th, sorry about any confusion.




And now, a letter.

Hey Cap (and friends!),

There’s a little bit of background to this, but I’ll try to keep it short.

I have issues with my family. I guess you could say I’m the “black sheep” in a way. I’m the middle child, the only creative person, the only one who could be described as liberal, and (perhaps most importantly) the only one to inherit my mother’s bad depression, with a side of social anxiety. Add to this a big old heap of emotional abuse from my father and, later, my stepmother (who is thankfully gone now).

When I was in high school, I went through a lot of trouble, including self-harm, that was more or less ignored, and I didn’t do very well in school despite having clear potential. It was only later when I asked my parents about it that they said yeah, they always sort of knew that I had depression, and knew that it was holding me back, but they didn’t want to bring it up with me at the time because…they haven’t given a solid answer. As far as I can tell, they kind of sacrificed my academic future on the altar of not having an awkward conversation with me.

A few months ago, I moved out of state to live with my boyfriend and see about continuing into college now that I have things more under control. But every time I talk to my parents or my brother and sister, it seems like they have nothing nice to say at all.

I love my brother and sister, but every time I chat with them, they seem to be always upset with me. “Why haven’t you called us? Why haven’t you called Dad? You need to call us more and not be so ungrateful. You don’t even want to be part of the family.” Even putting aside the fact that they know I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to talking on the phone, I don’t understand how being busy up here and not able to contact home every day counts as ungrateful.

Then, the other night, a minor disagreement on Facebook randomly spiraled into them accusing me of hating our father, of not wanting to be a part of the family, and of being selfish in even moving away. These overtures were common before I’d moved, but now it’s been magnified so that they’ve become outright vicious about it.

I’m out of a toxic environment, but now the environment is starting to follow me. How do I tell my brother and sister that I still love my family (I really do!), but they need respect my decisions and treat me like a person?

Oh goody, when your abuser recruits others to do their abusing for them.

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Dear Captain Awkward:

I have had a very complex life in the last couple of years. I have gone from having a fairly normal life in regards to health and then I went on dialysis. Since that point I now have a kidney transplant.

My girlfriend currently has a really hard time wrapping her mind around the changes in lifestyle that I have to live. She almost finds my precautions somewhat unbearable.

What should I do? She also makes fun of my situation or lightheartedly jokes about it.

Unfortunately they don’t offer empathy transplants.

Was your girlfriend with you since before the changes? Because I would imagine that watching a partner go through dialysis and a kidney transplant would make it sink in that 1) Hey, you could have DIED 2) Following your doctors’ recommendations carefully is  serious business. If she met you after the changes, maybe the seriousness of it hasn’t really sunk in. Which isn’t an excuse, but it gives you a place to start in deepening her perspective.

If you want to try to make things work with this person, I think there is both a Big Serious Talk to be had and some day-to-day scripts.

The daily script is, when she makes a joke, to say something like “Whoa, that really hurts my feelings.”

After you say that, be quiet, and listen to what happens next. There is going to be a very awkward moment, and it is not your job to smooth it over – the awkwardness is the way that you get to the resolution. If she stops, apologizes, and changes her behavior, that’s a good sign. If you’ve been putting up with the jokes for a while, it may take a few tries for it to sink in – you are subtly changing the “rules” of how the relationship works and some people don’t get it right away. You can openly acknowledge the rule change with “I know I usually let it go, but….” or “I know you mean that as a joke, but….” when you say things like that, it really hurts my feelings. Can we find another way to talk about x issue?

If after saying that her jokes hurt your feelings, she doubles down on the joking, or starts justifying why it’s okay for her to make jokes that hurt your feelings, she is pressuring you to ignore your healthy routines, she calls you “too sensitive” and tells you to “toughen up,” or for whatever reason the conversation ends with you apologizing to her for bringing it up and being upset, here there be Evil Bees.

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This is a very smart post on moving on and setting boundaries with an ex from Jenn Vicious at In Our Words:

“There’s this thing that sometimes happens when people break up but still care about each other: they want to continue working on things that were problems in their relationship. Don’t do that. My opinion on it is that if you break up with someone, then you are done working out the problems in your relationship. You are more likely to get to a place where you can genuinely care about each other as friends if you actually stop relying on each other for the same support you provided when you were together. You have to change your patterns of behavior, change the expectations you have of each other when you interact. It isn’t easy, but if you didn’t know that you needed to do it, you probably would have stayed in the relationship.”

(Bolding mine) That’s my opinion, too, which is why I say to not use the moment when you break up with someone to critique everything about them that you don’t like. You don’t have to make a case to someone about why your heart moved on, you just have to tell them your decision and then figure out how to live with it. Also, it’s true that when what someone wants (you!) is fundamentally different from what you want (not them!) there is no magic way to extricate yourself without hurting them.

And now, a letter:

Hello Awkwards:

I’m a 22 year old single female student studying library and information science. I’m a gamer, computer – roleplaying and boardgames it’s all the same.

I also don’t drink alcohol. My family thinks it’s a bit weird but prefer it to an extreme in the other direction and don’t bother me about it anymore, strangers and friends however are a different story. Most assume that I’m either religious (in some strange way), on a cleanse (HA!), a recovering alcoholic or even pregnant.

The thing is that I just don’t like the taste and if/when they find this out it’s no longer accepted for me to abstain. It’s always just this one beer or drink or wine that is going to convert me. And I like hanging out with my friends when there’s drinking. I can watch out for everyone and still have an awesome time with just soda. Still someone always asks and I always have to explain and then be pestered.

“It’s to bitter” I will say and they will reply
“Ah but this drink/beer/wine is different, try it”

and no it’s not it maybe sweet compared to other but that doesn’t make it actually sweet or remove the aftertaste of alcohol.

And I never send out the signal that this is something I want solved. I don’t desperately want to get drunk, I’m not in dire need of a drunk Yoda to guide me in the way of the drink. And not to make light of others problems but when I have to compare to trying to convert others to your faith/sexuality just to make them stop trying to enrich your life it’s gone to far- can someone give a way I can try to convince people to leave it alone without referring to these sensitive and more serious issues?

Please help a frustrated absolutist

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Still from The Flame of New Orleans

Still from The Flame of New Orleans, with Marlene Dietrich and Theresa Harris

Sorry for the light posting. My students are all in the middle of making films, so my job is pretty busy right now, and I took on an additional super-cool project. If you’re in Chicago, come see By The Way, Meet Vera Stark at the Goodman Theatre this spring. It’s a play about the African American actresses who played maids in Hollywood in the 1930s, written by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage. I’m line-producing  and working as the First Assistant Director for the film-within-the-play that opens the second act.

My colleague Vaun Monroe is directing, and we’re collaborating with the Goodman’s amazing cast and crew of designers and set builders and props people. We’re shooting black & white, 35mm film in the style of 1930s melodramas like Jezebel* or The Flame of New Orleans (We have a film historian on our crew – How awesome is that? – and I’m pretty sure our cinematographer said something about using pantyhose filters to get 1930s glamour closeups).

For those of you who don’t know what a line producer or a 1st AD does, I make the budget and the schedule, recruit the crew, negotiate costs for rentals, make the contracts, manage the money, and on the day of the shoot I make sure everything happens on schedule and all of the paperwork is filled out. Chief problem-solver and get-shit-done person, basically, or, the person who translates the stuff the creative team says at meetings into to-do lists, or, the person who must always keep her cell phone on. It’s a great honor to be involved in the project, and I love the script and the work. But it’s not a writerly mode of existence, for sure.

Commander Logic also has her hands full…with a new baby! That’s kind of a way bigger deal than a short movie, but I have not met said baby yet so do not have a 200 word synopsis of said baby ready to go. From what I gather from the Twitter, “sleepy” and “small for a human, large for a baby” are what we have going on.

Let’s make this an open thread. Seen any good movies lately? Have a question for the commentariat?

Edited to Add: Are you working on anything cool we should know about?  Based on a comment in the thread, I’m deciding to allow self-promotion of blogs/creative projects/crowdfunding/Etsy stores in this thread only, by regular readers only with a few caveats. Spam will still be deleted. If you never comment here but are de-lurking just to self-promote for commercial purposes, maybe refrain. Please don’t just post links without descriptions – introduce us to the work and let us know what we’ll find at the link, give content notes. Definitely warn if it’s NSFW.

A lot of us make art, and if we do this right it could be a cool repository of the art this community makes.

*ALL of Bette Davis’s reactions need to be animated .gifs. All of them.

Hi everyone. If I ever get done grading midterm projects and catch up on sleep I’ll post an actual letter.

In the meantime, Kate Donovan has posted a list of non-therapy mental health resources and is seeking additional recommendations. Go check it out.

And New York wanted to remind everyone about this weekend’s meetup:

Hi Captain,
Would you mind posting a reminder on the website about this weekend’s meetup in Brooklyn? It’s at Maimonides of Brooklyn at 525 Atlantic Avenue. (http://www.mob-usa.com) Please RSVP to awkwardnyc@gmail.com so we can update the reservation if necessary, and feel free to bring board games. You’ll know me by my tiger-shaped hat.
See you there!
Thanks for setting this up, Xenophile.

I’m in grad school for creative writing. It’s hard. Right now, I’m taking three classes, which means that I’m reading 500-plus pages a week, in addition to commenting on my classmates’ writing and producing a poem every week. Plus, I’m teaching a basic composition course for struggling writers, and a literature course (for the first time ever), so I’m writing lesson plans and grading essays for nearly 60 students. AND I work ten hours a week to supplement my stipend enough to buy things like toiletries, books and the occasional beer on a Friday night. Also, I need to clean my apartment and do laundry and run errands sometimes. And in addition to all of THAT, I’m expected to participate in meetings, go to outside lectures, and attend all the readings by my classmates and visiting writers. And I WANT to, because oh my god I love school. School is the best thing ever. I work my ass off and I LOVE IT. This is not really about grad school.


What people think an MFA is like.

Except it kind of is. I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which causes, among other things, crushing migraines and extreme fatigue. And there’s no cure for it, because ovaries, ew. Mostly, I manage. But there are days when I can barely drag myself around, and did I mention all the stuff I’m supposed to be doing? Sometimes I can’t do it all. Sometimes my whole body feels like a bag of wet sand that I’m not strong enough to lift. Sometimes I have to lie down and rest before I die. So I miss the reading, or the lecture, or the lunch meeting.

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Leslie Knope holding a big binder that says "Bowling Comment"

“I made you this compilation of my thoughts and feelings. The agenda for our conversation is on Page 3. Please call my office to schedule our relationship discussion.”

Dear Captain Awkward:

My boyfriend and I are in our mid-twenties and have been together for about half a year. He treats me well, takes an interest in what I do and enjoy and is generally a good boyfriend. We have a lot of similar characteristics and the same silly sense of humor. When we first got together it was supposed to be a casual thing, but it ended up escalating into something more serious almost immediately. Right now we are together almost five days of the week and almost never go out alone. We sleep in a tangled pile. We are comfortable with just being in the same room doing our own thing. I have never pressured him into anything and neither has he, everything just happened. It feels SO nice and natural. He seems to enjoy it too.

I am developing some Serious Feelings for him and I can definitely imagine a future with this man, but I am not sure about what he wants from our relationship. I would definitely want to be with someone who wants to have a family and this is not something up for compromise. My problem is that both him and I are absolutely terrible at talking about emotional things. I even have trouble saying „I like you“ out loud, asking „where do you see this relationship going“ is something I feel is beyond me. I’ve tried to find a good moment to force myself to bring up this topic with him, but can’t seem to find one (or I can’t make myself to open my mouth). I’m also afraid that he will not be able to answer my questions for the same reasons (I know I’d have trouble with it). I don’t want to lose him and yet I don’t want to waste my time in a relationship that will not lead anywhere.

So I guess my question is, how do I get over this unnatural fear I have of talking about my feelings/relationship goals? Suppose I get over it, how do I make the conversation comfortable enough for him? Do you think it’s viable if we’re both funny the same way?

Miss Wordless

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Doctor Who on the phone.

“Hello Bruce? I have these ideas about the nature of the universe and advisability of vigilantism that I’d like to talk through with you.”

Hello Captain Awkward team!

Since I started college, my mother has been driving me crazy regarding calls home. Specifically, the frequency of my calls home. I am introverted and don’t express attachment and affection openly. In the beginning of college, if I didn’t call every single day to reassure her I was not dead in a ditch somewhere, she’d go crazy. If I don’t pick up the phone when she calls within the 3rd ring, she thinks I’m ignoring her. She once even called campus police to report me as missing, all because I took a prolonged sleep to recover from an allnighter and didn’t think it was that big of a deal to call her! She’s gotten a lot better now but calls every 2 to 3 days is still very demanding for me, especially during midterms when I barely even have time to eat.

If I don’t call her for a week, she’ll get angry and then refuse to pick up her phone when I do call. So then, I don’t bother to call her (it’s immature behavior in my opinion) until she caves in and calls me, all upset because “You don’t love me anymore and don’t call me!” Gee I wonder why. I told her to get texting (she doesn’t have it) or check her email since I like reading over talking but she says those mediums aren’t good because “They aren’t as human as talking on the phone. Also, if you were kidnapped, texts and emailed could be falsified by your kidnappers so I won’t call the police in time to save you!”

I’d rather be able to call her once a week, which is more reasonable for my schedule. She, however, sees this as me not appreciating and loving her anymore. She has a great fear of being a failure as a mother (I’m the eldest child) since she had a horrible relationship with her own mother. I’ve tried to reason with her but she just complains and whines about how I don’t love her enough to take the effort to call her. Her solutions are also ridiculous; she suggested I call her every time I use the bathroom, which is gross to me and a bad idea for a klutz who has dropped phones into the toilet multiple times.

It doesn’t help very much that I hardly see her since my school is far away. She also doesn’t understand I don’t run in crowds that would likely get me kidnapped. Since I am currently going through a bout of being ignored, do you have any suggestions for improving the situation once she gives in and calls me?

Hello, Tired Introvert:

First, being introverted and “preferring not to express attachment and affection openly” are two different things.

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