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Iain Glenn holding some kind of lute-thing.

“What rhymes with Khaleesi? Greasy? I like the way you try to make Peace-y? Let’s live together, I’ll sign that Lease-y?”

Ever since I saw the fake Skyler White from Breaking Bad letter to an advice columnist, I’ve been a wee bit jealous that no one has tried to troll me like that. So Indiewire and I are trying out a thing where we construct letters from television characters and then I answer them.

I know there are 10,000 fanfic lovers who read this site regularly, so consider this a call to you. Binge-watching Orange Is The New Black? Texting your friends with “Sestra!”/”Brother-sestra!” after every episode of Orphan Black? Wondering how the Lannisters are going to sort out their big pile of Family Stuff or how Sansa is going to handle her creepy Uncle Peter on Game of Thrones? (We’ll save the FITZ IS CREEPY AND NOT ACTUALLY GOOD AT ANYTHING stuff for the start of next season of Scandal if you don’t mind, but we will get to it). If you’ve got an idea for a letter related to a current (currently on, up-to-date with what is happening on the show) TV show? Send ‘em with “for Indiewire” in the subject line and we may see more of these.

In other news, a while ago my friend and Wardrobe-producer Dimitri William Moore brought me a story by one of his friends about the thin illusion of privacy we have when online dating. Together with some friends, some talented former students on camera, lights, and sound, and two great Chicago actors, we adapted the story into a short film. We shot it in few hours one morning at Hamburger Mary’s (eat there!), and thanks to the kindness of their staff, the whole thing cost whatever you’d pay for a big assortment of bagels from the bagel place next store. Post-production moves slowly when everyone is working for free and doing awesome stuff like having adorable babies, but I’m pleased to say, that film is finally ready!

 

 

How long would YOU stay sitting at that table? Tell us in the comments.

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Thanks (?) to the nice Twitter friends who clued me into this horrible WikiHow on How To Stop A Wedding, or, as @KristinMuH put it, “a manual to help stalkers ruin their target’s special occasions.”

While I once joked that I would like to see this happen someday, it was, in fact, a joke. And the instructions to basically kidnap the person make my hair stand on end:

Take charge if things go your way. If he or she decides not to go through with the wedding, it is your duty to immediately escort the bride/groom away from the pressure of their family and friends. There is no doubt that friends and family will be angry or furious and will demand answers if the bride or groom doesn’t immediately flee the scene…Have a get-away car prepared so that the bride or groom doesn’t have to face the embarrassment of his or her friends and family.

EEK!

So, if you find yourself searching for instructions on how to stop a wedding, ask yourself:

Has the affianced person been kidnapped? Is it a child? Then stop the wedding by alerting the appropriate authorities.

Is this someone you think should marry you instead? And they know how you feel? And yet they are still obstinately not marrying you, to the point where they have planned an entire wedding with someone else? Okay, here’s what you do:

  • Find out when & where the wedding will be.
  • Book yourself a vacation to “anywhere but there.”
  • Block this person in all social media spaces so you’re not seeing photos and updates.
  • Try for someplace with very limited internet access so you reduce temptation to watch it unfold on real time at the wedding hashtag or whatever.
  • If you can, get a trusted friend to go along with you so that you are not alone and there is someone who can comfort and distract you.
  • Remind yourself that soulmates aren’t real, and that other people get to choose who they want to be with.
  • Or, if it’s more comforting, say to yourself “They are making a mistake, but it’s their mistake to make.
  • Wait it the fuck out and move on with your life.

And if someone pulls this whole shebang on you at your wedding, here is a script:

“This is inappropriate and I’d like you to leave now.”

Hopefully your friends and family and security will form a nice barrier between you and this person and make sure they are escorted from the premises.

Now it’s time for the monthly(ish) feature where we find out what search terms bring people to this site! Except for adding punctuation, these are unchanged. Enjoy!

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Jezebel has an advice column about friendship, which I wish was not called “Friendzone.” The first and third responses in last week’s post were pretty spot on, but the second letter, here, about the expat leaving town and the friend getting suddenly clingy, is unsettling and the response is also unsettling.

Real talk: Refusing to leave someone’s apartment, threatening tantrums, and making a person who is leaving town (and who, by the way, was always going to leave town) emotionally responsible for your happiness, including all the other times anyone has left/died, is NOT COOL. This behavior has escalated from “whoa, awkward” to “eek, unsafe!” and would have me second-guessing whether I want to see this person ever again at all. I get that the person has a lot of sadness and grief and is expressing it in a way that is self-sabotaging, but here’s the thing about self-sabotaging behaviors (like stalking/clinging/passive-aggressive comments/tantrums): They are actually effective at sabotaging relationships and are very hard to come back from. With a lot of self-awareness, some direct communication, and an ability to rein in the behaviors going forward on the part of the saboteur (which is within your control) IN ADDITION to a lot of grace and generosity from the other person (which you can’t control and should not try), friendships may survive. But there’s no a guarantee, and trying to manipulate a person who is leaving into staying is a guarantee in the other direction.

I would say, in that moment, the goal for the Letter Writer has to be to get the person out of the apartment rather than to dig into the feelings or behaviors. “I have no idea how to respond to that” or “You seem really not okay right now. I think it’s time for you to go home and we can talk about this in the morning” are probably the best I would be able to do in that situation.

It’s unlikely that this friendship will feel entirely comfortable again, but since the Letter Writer is leaving town anyway it may be possible to find a way to allow the friend to save some face and end the friendship less awkwardly. Once the person is out of the apartment, IF you feel safe and actually do care about the person, you might want to send an email asking how she’s doing.

Friend, you really scared and worried me the other night. I know you are sad about me leaving, and believe me, I will miss you too, but when you say stuff like (awkward stuff) and (refuse to leave the apartment/verge on a tantrum) it puts me in a terrible position. I felt very uncomfortable, and also like I had no idea what to say or do to make you feel better. This is not really characteristic behavior for you, are you okay?

Don’t apologize. You did nothing wrong. You are doing nothing wrong by leaving. You are doing nothing wrong by wanting to visit with your family and not include people who invite themselves along.

Don’t try to manage the feelings or whatever she does about them. Don’t give her advice. Just state your truth, that she freaked you out and you did not like it, and ask how she is. Give her an opportunity to share, straight up, what she is feeling and apologize. Any face-saving will come from her being honest and direct with you, not from you pretending it’s not a big deal.

Don’t initiate social plans for the nonce. Yep, she self-sabotaged in this situation. Her worst fear is that you won’t want to hang out anymore, and she made pretty certain that you’ll be wary of hanging out. That is a completely sucktastic cycle to be in when you feel sad and abandoned and like you can’t help yourself, and I feel her embarrassment & shame & grief keenly, but it’s an entirely predictable consequence of her behavior.

If you sent a “Whoa, not cool – what’s up with you?” email, and you got back some version of “Friend, I am so sorry, I know I was really out of bounds. I am okay (or I am not okay, but I am going to call my therapist/a good friend/take some other self-care steps). I would love to see you before you go, please reach out if you’d like to set something up” it would be a sign that this person can keep their shit together enough for you to hang out at least once more. If you send it and you get a 15-page FEELINGSMAIL/itinerary for every second of your family’s visit in response, you will know that you are on “this isn’t really fixable” territory and can act accordingly.

The most I’d agree to, planswise, is some kind of farewell dinner or coffee at a favorite place, very close to the time you are leaving. All the better if you have mutual friends and can make it a group farewell event. No going to her house, and definitely NO inviting her into yours. (Refusing to leave my apartment is a great way to get yourself never, ever invited back to my apartment. See also: Complaining that you were not invited to a thing at my apartment.)

I would not necessarily mention your family’s visit to her again. There is no reason for her to know any plans, for instance, and be watchful of what you share on social media. Definitely do not indulge the assumption that she is coming along. That was an assumption on her part, not a set plan. If she brings it up, you may have to be pretty blunt: “I know you wanted to come along, but I just want to hang out with my family during that time. Let’s schedule some (farewell event) just for us.” Watch out for favor-sharking here – “But I took that entire week off work so I could come with you!” ‘But I’ve arranged us an audience with The Queen!”  – “Wow, I am sorry to hear that, but no one asked you to do that. I know this isn’t good news, but I would prefer that you not come along with us.

If she really is incapable of respecting boundaries, it will manifest pretty quickly & obviously, and you will be able to lock things down accordingly. If this was a case of her being really sad and putting her foot in her mouth, direct communication is probably your best chance of salvaging a farewell where you both save some face.

Ahoy, Awkwardeers.

I graduated university about two months ago, and right now I work at a tiny indepedent publishing house. Well, I say “work”; they cover my travel expenses and feed me lunch, but I’m not getting paid, which I didn’t care about when I started because I thought it would be interesting. Nominally, I am a trainee.

This has its perks; I work with two people I get on quite well with, the food is good, and there’s a cat. But the job itself sucks. I thought that being taken on as a trainee would involve some kind of, you know, training; I was told I’d get to experience the day-to-day workings of a publishing house, learn my strengths and the like. It’s not like I didn’t expect that to involve some initiative, but I did think there’d be someone to vaguely oversee what I’m doing. There’s not. There’s the boss, two other trainees, and me. Nobody knows what they’re doing, so nobody does much, and the boss isn’t very involved in the company except for when he panics and snipes at us all for not having known to do what he thinks ought to have been done. The only work I get is work I scrounge up for myself. I am frustrated and bored.
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[Content note: purity culture]

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am married. My husband is a very lovely, supportive man, very devoted and considerate, and a great father to our small child. We’ve been together nearly a decade, and married for most of that time. We are a good partnership. He was the first person I ever slept with – the first person who liked me that way that I wasn’t either freaked out or repulsed by. Before him, I was a total wreck every time I liked-liked someone and, thanks to my religious upbringing and eating disorder, severely neurotic about the importance of sex and being naked and all that crap. After him, I’m a lot more relaxed about it, thankfully, and I’m not sorry he was my first (though I am sorry he was my ONLY), because he made it really easy. 

But our sex life is…problematic.

I have very little in the way of pants or OMG!CRUSH feelings for him any more. I’m not sure I ever did, really. I liked him enough to want to try it, and not so much that I was freaked out by it, and I enjoyed his company and being in a relationship, and I came to love him very much. I still do, even if I don’t particularly feel “in love” with him. But I also don’t particularly want to fuck him. Or rather, I can’t really be bothered to do the work of doing it the way we normally do it, because I’m tired and it’s not going to do much for me.

He was my first sexual partner, so I hadn’t ever had a chance to explore what I liked sexually except in the confines of my own head (more on that in a minute) or what it was like to have sex with someone I was burning with lust for. He, on the other hand, explored A LOT, so he came into the relationship knowing pretty well what he liked and what he didn’t, and what he likes is pretty vanilla. Admittedly, I haven’t been totally forthcoming on the things that might work for me, though when I’ve tentatively put out feelers for a bit more kink, he’s not really been keen. So I got shy and backed off, and we always default back to the same thing. I’m still really inhibited about talking about sex. And I hate to admit it, but I’ve faked orgasms for the whole of our relationship. I know, this is a bad, bad thing, but he was trying so hard, and at the beginning, it was all new and I just didn’t want to say “this is not going to happen” every single time. Or, you know, ever. So it’s become kind of self-perpetuating.

Additionally, my fantasy life has been fucked up in the extreme since I was an early teen. It was one of those “masturbation is bad, thinking about sex is bad, ergo the worse the fantasy is, the sexier it is”. I don’t put any moral judgement on the content of fantasies, so I don’t feel GUILTY about it, but I’ve found a lot of it incredibly disturbing when considered when not horny. I don’t actually want to play out any of my actual fantasies with him, because they’re more extreme than I think I would actually enjoy in real life. But I don’t get turned on with the stuff that we do, I don’t get turned on by him (though at least I’m not turned OFF by him), and I don’t know how to get that way.

And…I don’t want to spend the rest of my life never having pants feelings and never, ever really having great sex. But I don’t know what we would actually have to do that would result in mindblowing sex for ME, that could be a happy medium between what he’s comfortable with (and he’s NOT really comfortable with kink) and what actually turns me on, and I don’t know how to communicate that to him after all this time without completely destroying his trust and hurting his feelings. I don’t know how to talk frankly and comfortably about what turns me on without getting embarrassed because I’m freaky or how to deal with his reactions if he DOES think I’m freaky and doesn’t want to try anything else.

Captain Awkward, I really want to have pants feelings for him. I want to want to have awesome sex with him. I want to HAVE awesome sex with him. I want to stay married to him, I just want the sex part to be better. How do I move this forward so that I’m sexually satisfied without destroying our relationship as it stands? 

Help!

Liar Liar Pants Sadly Not On Fire

Hi Pants! This is Corporal Dianna here. The Captain asked me to write a response to this question in her stead, as I write frequently about this area. I’m going to answer this as I would if it came through my email, as I do get these kind of questions from time to time.

This is…a big question. But you’re not alone, so take heart. You are not somehow freakish or weird for discovering that your husband and you have some incompatibility after the wedding, especially if you were raised in a culture that forbid exploration until then, and you’re certainly not alone in questioning it and wanting to be satisfied.

You mention a religious upbringing, and some negative sexual messages during your formative teenage years, but don’t say what your religious beliefs are now, so forgive me if I make an assumption that’s incorrect. What you were raised in sounds like sex-negative evangelical purity culture – no sex before marriage (especially for women), and then promises of mindblowing sex after (which often results in a lot of disappointment). Additionally, purity culture has the trappings of no masturbation or sexual exploration by yourself, which forces many people into sexual repression.

Through my research of interviewing women like yourself, I’ve discovered a trend – one which atheist blogger Libby Anne documents here – in which women who experienced purity culture growing up develop extreme kinks or “disturbing (to them)” nonconsensual fantasies that scare them a little when they consider them outside of the fantasy world. I want to assure you, first and foremost, that this is surprisingly normal for someone raised in purity culture, and there are all sorts of longwinded reasons as to why.

Purity culture isn’t one that lends itself well to women speaking openly about their sexual kinks, fantasies or even basic desires, and you’re probably remembering some ingrained parts of that when you try to speak about it with your husband. That’s okay. That happens. I decided to throw off the shackles of purity culture years ago, and I still have latent embarrassment about a lot of those related things (the other day, I spent twenty minutes waffling over whether to mention menstrual cups in a conversation on Twitter. Menstrual cups!). But, using your words is pretty much the only way to solve this particular dilemma.

You can’t predict or control how someone else will feel about information you give them or discussions you bring up. Since this is not a workable situation for you, it is important that you say what you need to say. It is better, in the long run, to work with your husband to get to a point where you can both be sexually satisfied and figure out ways to increase compatibility, than it is to protect his feelings and fake orgasms for the rest of your life. Honesty, as they say, is the best policy.

So how do you communicate this? First, determine what needs to be communicated. There’s a lot of stuff in this letter that needs to be discussed, and it’s all wrapped up and intertwined. But I’ve teased it out into four main points that might help you boil things down:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the current way your sex life operates, which leads you not having pantsfeelings for him.
  2. A fantasy life that gets you off but scares you a little at the same time, making you embarrassed and afraid to suggest new things – leading back to #1.
  3. A history with your husband which suggests that he may not be comfortable with the things that you think might turn you on, leading you to back off, and returning you back to #1.
  4. A personal history/religious upbringing that further complicates what you see as “normal” in the sexual world, making you scared of your own predilections, which makes you embarrassed to talk about them, which leads us straight back up to #1.

See how all these different levels ultimately result in dissatisfaction, and there are various reasons for it? So there isn’t going to be one simple solution or script that will magically solve all these issues.

If you have the resources, seeing a couples’ sex therapist (one who is not religious in nature) may be useful for the both of you. This places the conversation in a safe, guided environment that will allow you to become more comfortable with the discussion and for your husband to understand your side of things better.

If that’s too much right now, or isn’t financially feasible (therapy is expensive), try to start with a conversation, away from and outside a hot and heavy situation. There’s no easy, set script for a situation like this, but doing it in a way that doesn’t spring it on him mid-coitus is probably a good strategy. In the interest of guidance, here are some do’s and don’t’s:

  • Don’t make it about how he “doesn’t satisfy you.” He needs to not see this as you blaming him for dysfunction, because you’re not doing that.
  • Do: Be clear you love him, want to stay with him, and want to work on this to make an already good marriage better by bringing the sex up to a standard that matches the partnership you feel you have in other areas of life.
  • Don’t feelingsdump. You hinted toward this in your letter that you try little bits here and there without success, so I think you’ll avoid this, but just as a reminder – don’t dump everything out all at once because that might be overwhelming and read like you’re asking him to solve all your sexual issues in a night.
  • Do be honest and approach this as a problem that can be broken down into chunks and worked on, together. Start small. Ask if you can do a little something different – nothing big, nothing too out of the ordinary for him, just different – and ask if he would be willing to try and see if that works. As always, mutual consent is paramount, so if he decides halfway through that it doesn’t work, make sure that’s a decision he feels safe making.
  • Don’t frame it as something where he needs to become comfortable with all your kinks or you’ll leave him. That’s coercive and makes for some very unhappy sexytimes.
  • Do frame it as an exploration, a journey you guys are taking together to make this work for the both of you. Since you, yourself, say that you’re not sure what actually works for you or not (just that you know you want something more than what you’ve been doing), framing it as an exploration of your sexuality as it functions together. This is his sex life too and you are two separate people who are developing this together.

Now, you have understandable fear that he’s going to be disappointed/sad/angry/upset that you’ve been faking all this time. And it is okay for him to feel those things, and the initial reaction may need some time for him to get over, depending on what reaction he has. But you also shouldn’t beat yourself up about it – what you did then was what worked for you, and now it’s not working anymore and you want to change things in order to make your relationship better. Apologize, affirm that his feelings are valid, and make it clear that you are being honest so that you can move forward in this as a couple. This sort of discussion is going to happen over several conversations, not just one.

This is, at heart, a communication issue that has a lot of emotional/religious baggage attached to it. Evangelical purity culture makes discussing sex openly and honestly –especially talking about compatibility issues – hard. But remember that you are not alone in having these issues, and this is something that you two can work on, together, to work toward the awesome sex life purity culture probably promised you.

I’ve just scratched the surface, but a helpful book for further reading might be What You Really Really Want, by Jaclyn Friedman. It’s an exploration of how to figure out your own sexual proclivities and explorations aside from what various different cultural influences are saying. As the great prophets say, know thyself.

______

Dianna Anderson is an author and blogger from South Dakota. Her first book – DAMAGED GOODS – is an exploration of feminist theology and sex-negative American evangelical purity culture. It is due out from JerichoBooks in early 2015. She blogs at diannaeanderson.net and tweets @diannaeanderson.

I have some practical things to add to  today’s Bibliomancer column (which I love reading, but today = eeeeeeesh).

Letter Writer, whatever you decide to do about investigating & interrogating the effect “Doug” holds on your past, there is some practical shit you can do to get the actual dude out of your actual life. You obviously wrote for literary advice, so here is a book recommendation: The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.

1. You are not overreacting. BLOCK.

2. Ask your friends to block him without further ado. Don’t apologize. “That dude is creepy, he is messaging me and insinuating himself among my friends in violation of my express wishes, please block him. The best way is to do it without comment or prelude, just refuse all contact and don’t respond to anything from him.

3. Filter his emails so that they bypass your inbox without you even seeing them. I would tell you to block him there, too, but you may need them later in case he escalates his behavior.

4. You’ve already told him that you didn’t want to be in touch with him, and he kept writing to you and in fact, escalated his efforts to be in touch with you and make sure you’d notice him. Telling him again won’t really register or make a difference, it will just confirm that he has your attention. The only way to dispel this particular kind of ghost is to starve it of your attention.

5. AAAAAAAHHHHHH I HATE DOUG I HATE HIM SO MUCH I AM SO SORRY THIS IS HAPPENING TO YOU

7. You are not “bad at relationships.” You are a survivor of a relationship with a manipulative and controlling man. Here there be ghosts, and ghosts, and ghosts. But you are not doing anything wrong by wanting him out of your life forever.  give you permission to go ahead and hurt his pathetic little stalker fee-fees in preservation of your own peace. He has no right to keep intruding into your life when you have asked him not to. He needs to dispel his own ghosts on his own time.

<3,

Captain Awkward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darth Vader beckoning to Luke in Empire Strikes Back.

“Everything’s more dramatic and exciting on the Dark Side of the Force!”

Before we dig into today’s letter, I really like this “Ask Polly” piece at The Awl, I Miss My Maniac Ex. The Maniac Ex is what we around these parts would call a Darth Vader boyfriend.

So you focus on that one magical night, in the middle of a sea of terrible nights, where he held your hand and treated you like a person and you drank too much and that awesome song was playing and you imagined, in that moment, that you two were destined to be together forever, and your whole life might be this good. Lucky for you, your whole life turned out even better than that, it just doesn’t feel like it because you’ve become acclimated to love the way you used to be acclimated to suffering. Those highs you miss are the sorts of highs that occur in a life mostly made up of lows.

There are plenty of different kinds of bad partners. A Darth Vader, to me, is one who strings you along with tiny bits of your heart’s desire at carefully controlled intervals. Not enough to actually sustain you, but enough to keep you hooked. Enough to make you abdicate everything you know about what’s good for you.

Her advice about how to refocus these pangs and get past it is quite good.

Today’s letter, the first to come into the new inbox, is also about exes and regretting the past.

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