The monthly(ish) roundup of the questions people type into search engines to find this blog.
1. “My partner thinks I have genital warts but I have herpes what do I do?”
Both of you should get a full STI screen, if you haven’t already, and talk about whatever you find there. (‘Cause maybe it’s both). Or, if you’ve just done this, say “We thought I had HPV, but the screen showed that actually it’s herpes. You should get screened, too.“
2. “My girlfriend is rude to my parents.”
“Hey, you were pretty rude to my parents tonight. I don’t appreciate you (specific rude thing she did). I think they deserve an apology, and I need you to calm that whole thing down.”
If you bring it up, does she acknowledge the behavior? Is she rude to other people who aren’t you? Is she rude to your folks even after you talk to her about it?
3. “I joined a dating website to hurt him.”
Spite Dating: seems totally reasonable and like it will bring you and your Spite Dates nothing but happiness!
Or, ahem, maybe this is a good sign that whatever relationship you’re in has run its course and it’s time for you to find the exit, take some good care of yourself, give yourself some room to mourn and heal. Join a dating site to remind yourself that you have options. And then, when you’re ready, use that dating site and find new people who will be into you the way you want them to be. But do it for yourself, not at your (soon to be) ex.
4.” ‘I love you as certain dark things are to be loved in secret, between the shadow and the soul’ what does the line means?”
Reading the whole poem, it seems to me the poet is describing a love for someone for reasons that would not be obvious to everyone, in a way that isn’t necessarily healthy or a good idea, but is true nonetheless. It reminds me a little of the song My Funny Valentine. Lit Majors of Captain Awkward, what say you?
5. “I just don’t feel ready enough yet to be in a new relationship because I’m tired and now I want to be alone.”
Embrace the alone.
Make your living space exactly what YOU want it to be. Eat foods YOU like, watch movies YOU want, listen to YOUR favorite music. Throw yourself into work, into school, into creative endeavors, into meeting new people or trying new things for their own sake. Or curl up under a blanket and wait out this eternal February with a good book. Spend time with your friends and family and people who love you. Be really nice to yourself. Heal. Get some rest. Feast on your life.
And when people ask, in a well-meaning fashion, if you’re dating anyone new or if you plan to, smile and say “I’m sure I will someday, but I’m really enjoying being alone right now.“
There’s this picture of Katie Holmes from a while back that people were criticizing for being “frumpy” or whatever. I kind of love her outfit and would wear it in a heartbeat, but mostly what I want to say is “LOOK AT HER SMILE. THAT IS A PERSON WHO IS FEELING LIKE HERSELF RIGHT NOW.”
That’s you. Alone. Walking through the world like you know a secret no one else does, and the secret is that life is huge and amazing and you are strong and wonderful and there are all kinds of love in this world and relationship-type love is only one of them.
6. “My boyfriend asked me what I like in bed.”
Cool! Also, “I don’t know, I’m still figuring that out as I go along” is a perfectly cromulent answer.
7. “Would you feel complimented if someone told you that they’d ‘fuck the shit out of you?'”
There is exactly ONE person on the earth from whom that would get a response of “Whoa. Okay then!” and not “Ew, really?” and that person is the person I already make it with on the regular.
From a friend/coworker/stranger/acquaintance/member of the social circle/someone you don’t already make it with or have a seriously flirtatious vibe where you both discuss sexy things, that seems pretty presumptuous and gross to me, and probably to you, since it’s bugging you enough to want a second opinion. I’m sure there are people who want to be propositioned that way, but it’s totally cool if you are not one of them.
“I’m sure you mean that as a compliment, but whoa, buddy! Too much!”
“Whoa, duder. That’s a lot of information!”
8. “Calling me creepy hurts my feelings.”
This is still the best explanation of what “creepiness” is that I’ve found on the internet. Someone who tells you that you are being creepy is trying to explain how you are making them feel, namely, intruded upon. Unsafe. Overly watched. Personal space invaded. It means “you are paying me too much attention and I don’t enjoy whatever it is you’re doing.“
Someone who throws out the C-word wants you stop whatever that thing is and/or go away. It’s meant to sting, because it’s coming from a place of “Yikes! No!” Of course that is going to hurt in the moment, nobody likes to feel rejected and even people who are open to constructive criticism don’t enjoy the moment of realization that they are fucking it up or making someone uncomfortable.
If you’ve been called creepy once or twice, it meant “Stop whatever you’re doing and go away, I don’t like it.” It’s not necessarily a comment on you as an entire person, it’s a shorthand for knocking off some unwanted behavior, and it’s in the eye of the beholder.
If you’re routinely called creepy, it means you have a pattern of invading people’s space, fixating on people in a way they don’t like, maybe making unwelcome sexual comments (see question #7, above). This is information that you can use; it’s telling you that you have some stuff to figure out before social spaces are comfortable for you and for the people you’re hanging out with. It’s not easy work, but it’s work worth doing.
9. “I haven’t told my boyfriend I have a child.”
Rip that bandaid off, my friend. “I’ve never known quite how to bring this up before, and then it went on too long and got weirder and harder to talk about, but I need you to know that I have a child.” + “Here are the circumstances/custody/general deal with that.“
The questions he’s probably going to ask are the questions I’m going to ask: “Why didn’t you tell me? Did you think I wouldn’t notice? What else aren’t you telling me?”
And I can’t lie and say that will be a fun or easy conversation or that you’ll still have a boyfriend at the end of it. That’s a pretty big thing to never ever bring up between “first date” and “I use the word ‘boyfriend’ to describe you.” Give him some time/room to process things, and be prepared – have a good friend you can call after you have this talk to help you process how this all goes down.
10. “How can you tell if you’re asexual or just waiting for the right person?”
This might be a good question to take to ACE-specific communities or the Friends of Captain Awkward community, because I think it’s a question a lot of people have and it might do you good to hear many perspectives.
My take is that learning more about asexuality might make you feel less alone and give you some ways to talk about your sexuality and figure out how you feel about becoming partnered or deciding not to. If you find that community and that identity really fits you and helps you think about who you are and who you want to be, embrace it.
My other take is that lots of people want to wait until they find the Right Person before doing anything sexual or only feel attracted to/sexual with someone they really love and trust, and feeling that way doesn’t necessarily constitute a distinct sexual orientation. If you find yourself in a situation where you want to have sex, for whatever reason (love, the Right Person, feel like trying it out and seeing what the fuss is all about, this person seems sexy/safe) that is okay and is part of who you are….ACEers have sex, non-ACE people have celibate periods or even lifetimes. At the end of the day any descriptors or definitions are there to serve you, a complete person who is a universe unto yourself, and not the other way around.
11. “How do you know if he is into you via online dating?”
When you’re corresponding with someone, you have words and actions to look at, so it should be pretty clear pretty fast!
Words: If someone wants to get together with you on a date, they’ll tell you with words. “I’m really enjoying your messages, would you like to get a drink later this week?” Or they will respond to your invitation favorably, with “I would love to, let’s schedule something. How’s Thursday for you?“
The more concrete the plans are – suggesting actual times & days, vs. “sometime” – the more interested the person is in actually meeting up.
Actions: If someone is interested in you on a dating site, and enjoying messaging with you, the messages will feel like a conversation. They’ll respond pretty promptly/regularly (not necessarily immediately, so CHILL), the conversation will flow naturally, and it will feel easy to suggest making plans. If it’s taking days to get an answer and the person isn’t telling you why (“It may take me a bit to respond, I’m in the middle of a big work project, but I’m always very happy to hear from you and will write back just as soon as I can!“), if you’re writing thoughtful stuff and their answers are really vague/terse/noncommittal/generic, that’s a sign of lower interest, bad timing, whatever.
If interacting with them feels like fun, and you feel like there is a good flow and reciprocity to the conversation, and it’s easy to make plans, then they at least like you in a “Let’s go on one date and see!” way, which is all you’re supposed to be finding out from the “online” part of online dating. If it all feels like work, like you’re parsing every statement, like you’re the one putting in most of the effort, then something is off here – either they aren’t interested enough or they aren’t a good fit for how you like to do things. While it’s easy to read that as rejection, I suggest reframing it as information you can use to make a good decision. Some people get invested in someone after a few positive communications (or a really cute picture/good profile) and then want to make all kinds of excuses for bad/indifferent behavior. “Maybe his office is surrounded by a freak lava eruption and it fried all the cables for the internet connection and that’s why he can’t write!” Do you really want to chase down someone who never writes back to you and can’t schedule an hour to meet you? No. No you do not.
12. “I got no response to ‘we should hang out again sometime.’“
When you say you got “no response” do you mean you got an awkward silence?
You: “We should hang out again sometime.”
Other person: *crushing awkward silence*
Conclusion: They do NOT want to hang out again. Drop the entire question, scrape up what’s left of your dignity, go have a drink with a good friend.
You: “We should hang out again sometime.”
Other person: “Yeah, that sounds great.”
A person who really, really, really likes you and who is extremely confident that you sincerely like them will translate ‘sometime’ into “It’s now my turn to make a plan!“
However, many people, even people who like you, will interpret “We should hang out again sometime” as “And I will get in touch with you again about a specific sometime.”
“Sometime” isn’t a date. It isn’t real. Next Thursday. Sunday morning for brunch. Lunch Friday? Those are real times.
13. “Boyfriend doesn’t like my height” and “Is how I cut my hair of concern to my fiancee?”
Everyone doubtless has preferences, qualities they are more attracted to than others, matters of taste, etc.
Whether to share those preferences is another matter. In areas that the person does not control, such as height, the right time to share opinions is NEVER. Never ever. Not at all. Shush. The person can’t change their height even if they wanted to, so the only possible effects that sharing your preference on this matter will have are 1) make them feel bad 2) make them think you’re a jerk.
In matters of changeability and taste, like haircuts, here’s a good rubric for figuring out if you should open your mouth about a partner’s physical appearance.
- Always compliment what you like. “Nice haircut! It looks great on you.“
- Do it in a standalone fashion, without reference to the thing you don’t or didn’t like. When my mom tells me my new glasses are “a big improvement” it’s not exactly a compliment.
- I’m sure there are cases where “The Chester A. Arthur look isn’t my favorite on you, but you always look great to me sweetheart” are within bounds, in response to the person directly asking your opinion or a specific set of circumstances. “Do you think I need a haircut before our wedding?” “Yes, yes I do.” or “Since you ask, I’d really like it if you did.” Or, as a reminder. “You’ve got that job interview on Friday, do you want to swing by after work today and get a haircut.” Okay.
- But mostly you will never go wrong by shutting the fuck up about what people who are not you do with their faces and bodies. If someone is harping on your looks, and it doesn’t make you feel good, say “I don’t like it when you comment negatively on my appearance, it doesn’t make me feel good.” A person who argues their “right” to state their opinion after hearing something like that is a good candidate for the “My most recent Ex, _____ The Controlling Jerk” position that just opened up. In the floor. Beneath them. Over the shark pit.
14. “Should I listen to people question or critique my relationship?”
Are these people who you generally trust to have your best interests at heart? Then hear them out, once. Are their concerns valid?
After that one time or for people who aren’t close to you, “Thanks for your thoughts but I’m very happy, so let’s change the subject” the first time they bring it up and “Wow. No.” the next time and if there are more times than that a) your partner is seriously causing some kind of serious problem that means your friends *can’t* in good conscience hold their tongues (think safety issues) or b) you need new friends.
15. “My boyfriend is coming back home and he wants to suck my vagina but I’m not sure he will enjoy it.”
Hey, he might not enjoy it. Or, you may not enjoy it – it’s presented sometimes as the end-all, be-all of female pleasure but sometimes it’s not all that (or takes some practice to get there, like any sex act). But you should trust that if he says he wants to, he really wants to. What you do about that is entirely your choice. If you don’t want to, then don’t. If you are curious, why not try it out with someone who wants to? Whatever is really making you nervous here, that is real, and it’s okay to feel nervous if you haven’t done something before, but don’t make it about second-guessing what he wants to do. Look to yourself, trust yourself.
16. “What is captain boyfriend?”
I’m glad you asked. He’s a hot, beardy bookseller, actor, and writer named Jeremy, sometimes styled in these pages as The Gentleman Caller. Large of girth, large of brain, largest all of heart; writing back to him on OKCupid is the best decision I’ve ever made.
Speaking of which, it’s time for us to figure out some lunch. Thanks for reading and have a great day!