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HI!

So I know church is maybe not your milieu, but I hope this question has some broader applications and maybe deserves a broader answer.

I’m a lady in my early 30s who has been dating my wonderful boyfriend (late 20s) for a few years. We’ve been attending our church for 3 years, which we chose together. I was raised small town Protestant and my bf did the recovering Catholic/atheist thing for a number of years. We chose our church because, although it’s very formal (incense, fancy vestments, the whole bit) it’s a denomination that’s known for being really open-minded and liberal. We also liked the individual church we chose because it’s really beautiful and historic, and located downtown–so really, right in the thick of things. I wouldn’t call it a bad neighborhood per se (mostly because the idea of a neighborhood being “bad” is pretty racist) but during the crack epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s, there were a few scary incidents and membership took a nosedive.

Fast forward to today. Our church’s membership is growing, and about 2 years ago my boyfriend decided he was interested in pursing a career in the church. To that end, he created a ministry that focuses on homelessness and food insecurity, which is an issue that’s very close to his heart, as both of his parents were homeless at different points. The bulk of the work is that, once a week, he hosts a lunch for anyone who wants to attend, free of charge. The demand is great, and seeing 100 people come through in 90 min is not unusual. Most of the people who come through are either homeless or food insecure, and many of them are people of color.

This is a ministry that a lot of people are really excited about–our priest has been a total treasure throughout the whole process, and Boyfriend is quickly gaining a reputation throughout the diocese. But there are others in the congregation who are…less enthused.

Having grown up in a really small town, I’m used to the petty politics of church life. Boyfriend is really, really not. I think the thing that’s been most surprising to me is how many people we consider close friends, despite the age and income gaps (lots of older, upper middle class white people), have said some really nasty shit just out of earshot. Just this last week, I found out that at our summer kickoff street festival (which was attended by a number of Boyfriend’s lunch regulars) a woman who I considered a friend apparently said, “This isn’t the [local homeless shelter]. This is disgusting.” I ended up making the decision to not tell Boyfriend about this, as it happened several months ago, and there didn’t seem to be any point in tainting his image of this particular woman. But suffice to say, this was not a one-off comment; there are A LOT of people who overtly or covertly agree, one or two of whom have been openly hostile.

I’m just flabbergasted. I think Boyfriend’s work is really important, and I’m super-proud of him. I’m just really disgusted because I feel like he’s really trying to walk the walk, as far as the Christian message goes, and he’s supported by the administration, but markedly less so by other people (some of whom I thought were our friends and/or are very influential in the community.) I mean, Jesus KINDA TALKS A LOT about the poor and the destitute…

How should I handle this sort of malarkey when it comes up? Chalk it up to an age/income/culture divide and let it lie? Quickly slap it down and put them in their place? I worry that not saying anything at all enforces the status quo, but equally I worry that going on the warpath against a bunch of old ladies isn’t a good look, either.

Thanks,

WWCAD?

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Hello Captain and friends!

This problem has been sitting in my mind, waiting to pounce, for months. Recently it came to the forefront and shocked me a bit.

I’m a 24-year-old graduate student pursuing a career that I’ve wanted since I was a preteen. Grad school has been good overall, especially for my confidence. I have wonderful friends, good family relationships (I live with my parents), and artistic hobbies that I enjoy (although I don’t put much effort into them). I was diagnosed with severe anxiety in 2014, did therapy for a year, and went on medication this summer. Therapy reduced OCD symptoms and negative self-talk, and meds have reduced daily nervousness. I’ve had four part-time jobs in food service, reception, and retail respectively. I always put my best face forward at work, and I make up for school-related procrastination with anxiety-fuelled planning and get really good grades.

But the other day I realized that I’ve never been good at anything, and I’m probably not good enough for my career path. My first boss called me “inefficient”. I made more mistakes at my second job than the newbies, even after four semesters. (Same goes for the campus kung fu club.) I was frequently reprimanded at my third job and got a few serious talking-tos. At my fourth job I often felt overwhelmed and scattered, and they didn’t call me back to work the holiday rush. I’ve never been fired, but I had to quit all of my jobs due to going to/leaving school. I wasn’t very good at my volunteer positions or hobbies, either.

Two days ago I got a performance review at my school internship. My supervisors are excited to ramp things up with me next term. Although my technical skills are at par, I’ve made social blunders due to my habit of acting without thinking when I’m anxious. In general, I don’t have the professional conduct skills to “fit in” at the agency or truly connect with clients. With some wheedling I got one supervisor to indirectly admit that if this had been a job, I’d have been fired by now.

Realizing that I’m bad at the work I value and have wanted to do for so long was awful. And I don’t know why I make so many mistakes. I realize that anxiety sabotages concentration and motivation, but now that I feel less anxious the problems have not gone away. I’m nearly certain that these mistakes were/are due to unchangeable cognitive or personality flaws. I started self-harming this summer to make my self-hatred more concrete.

I just don’t want to be incompetent anymore. I don’t want to let people down.

Regards,

Tomato in the Mirror

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I wrote letter #243: Mother’s Day: Not Always a Holiday and…Biological Mom passed away suddenly last weekend.

I can’t pretend my relationship with Biological Mom wasn’t fraught with heartache, disappointment, and a lot of sadness…but her sudden death has brought the painful emotions of the abuse, the disappointment of choices, questioning the boundaries I set…so many simultaneous and interchangeable rounds of sheer sadness, deep anger, and complete numbness.

Enough time had passed that our relationship had leveled off to a distant, but nice status quo. Nothing had been resolved nor were there any apologies, but she was respecting my boundaries. I was even thinking about inviting her to come visit my out of state home.

But now she’s fucking gone. Gone.

Now, what do I do about funeral arrangements? How do I work with her husband, a fucking sexual predator, to give her the proper funeral and send-off? How do I support my older sisters who did not experience the abuse while not compromising my own heavily conflicted grief?

So far the husband/step dad has been open and allowing me to participate and giving me reasonable space to be involved, but not directly interact with him.

I’m clinging tight to my twin and my Dad who understand, but I feel so lost.

Afterwords I’m going to track down a therapist, I promise.

-Missing My Moms

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Ahoy, Captain,

So, the holidays are coming, and there are some issues which I am pretty well obligated to deal with, but have not yet (being a weenie, largely), here’s a list of facts:

– I am transgender
– I have started hormone therapy (testosterone), my voice has dropped noticeably, I should probably shave, and an awful lot of people in the community call me by a different name, and he/his pronouns
– I am closeted to one rather conservative maternal vulcan uncle
– I am closeted to both my maternal and paternal grandmothers.
– I am known to be transgender to my other uncle, and his wife and children
– both grandmas live within a kilometre of me
– I am 24

My maternal grandma is essentially the matriarch of the family. It is considered unspeakably rude to point out when she is wrong. She doesn’t know. I’ve tried to tell her, she lives very close and I see her at least once a week, but she’s very conservative, likes being in denial about things she doesn’t like, and is starting to develop Alzheimer’s. Either she ‘forgot’ or she forgot. So, how do I tell all of these people? How do I deal with this at the holidays? Should I just shave, put on drag, and count on everyone around me to ignore the obvious? Being trans is an obligate coming-out, so I know I can’t put this off forever. If not this year, I have to deal with it next year, and short of moving overseas, I don’t know how I’d avoid that.

– A Transponder

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Edited to add additional follow-up from the Letter Writer below the jump.

Dear Captain Awkward,

First off, I want to let it be known that we are a family of Christians; I believe there is only one true God and that to be saved it must be through Jesus Christ. I have raised both my children “Paul” – 19 years old – and “Mary” – 24 years old – to be strong in faith and put their trust in God.

However, I fear for my daughter’s life. She recently confessed to me (this past summer) that she is seeing someone, let’s call him “Jim.” Jim is not who I want for my daughter and I worry that their incompatibilities and differences will lead to her being hurt.

One, his family is Catholic. We are a Baptist Christian family. I don’t believe in the teachings of Catholicism. Even worse, Jim is an atheist and does not believe in God and I feel that he will drag Mary down spiritually. This is the biggest thing that I am scared of, and while I have tried to tell Mary that she should break up with Jim for her own wellbeing, she will ignore me or pretend I didn’t say anything. It hurts me deeply that she would choose to ignore her own mother like this. She should know that God’s love is not to be taken lightly.

Secondly, We are a Chinese family and Jim is from an American family. I worry that the cultural compatibility will be an issue.

Three, Mary has a masters degree whereas Jim has only his bachelor’s. I feel that he will come to resent my daughter for having a higher education since he is the man in the relationship (and I have seen many relationships end because of this).

Four, I am scared that he will be a bad influence on Mary. He does not smoke or do drugs but according to Mary he does drink on occasion. Mary tells me she does not drink (she claims she does not see the point) but for how long until she gives into the temptation of drinking? What about peer pressure from hanging out with his family and his friends?

Five, I feel like Mary is settling in life and Jim is a result of that. Another example: She is in a marketing job and they are not paying her very well (only 40K and she has a masters degree). She says she loves it but I don’t think she does, I think she’s just trying to rebel against me. She doesn’t even listen to my suggestions that she move back home to Virginia (she lives in New York) to save on rent or so that I can help her grow.

Six, I am scared that Jim will pressure Mary to do sexual things. I have already warned her that her purity is an important gift from God, but I am so scared that she will ignore my pleas. And because Jim is a man, I am worried that he may rape her even if she says no.

Mary has always been very independent, but she is still young and not mature. I need help in making her realize that Jim is not a good person for her and that she will suffer in the long run as a result from being with him. If she does not break up with God, how can I help lead them back to God so that they can have a Christ-like relationship?

Thank you,
Concerned Mother

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Hi,
I’m a 17 year old homeschooled dual-creadit student who attends my local community college. I have a 4.0 there, and I am part of the honor society and an officer in the Honors Student Organization. I’m not, at least not in by my family’s standards, brilliant, but I am smart. I always try to be a nice person and do good things, but I am worried that I come off as condescending and sometimes bitchy to my class mates. My grades are a large part of my identity because I am so focused on school, and because of that I have a reputation as an overachiever in all of my classes. I use my reputation as, at least somewhat, a defense mechanism. I have never had a boyfriend, had any alcohol,done any sort of drugs, etc. The people in my classes call me a baby because I don’t lie about being extremely inexperienced, and I don’t really mind that. I my be inexperienced, but I am not as naive as they seem to think I am. I use my inexperience as a reason I don’t throw parties when my parents leave me home alone for sometimes up to a week (they both travel for work). I don’t hide my grades from my fellow class mates; in fact, I share them openly. However, sometimes I worry that I come off as condescending because a lot of people make Bs or Cs, which I consider failing for me. I know that considering that a B is failing isn’t healthy, but school is my life and I don’t know how to let it go. I generally don’t understand why people don’t try hard in school and do their best. I understand that a lot of people have a job, kids, or both; but those aren’t really the people I’m talking about. The people I don’t understand are the ones that complain about doing poorly on tests and having to drop classes and then do to festivals on the weekend when they have homework. I also know that sometimes I can see the world in too much black and white and not take into account the environment somebody grew up in. I want to understand them better, but it is so much easier to call them stupid and write them off in my head as a lost cause. How do I learn to think of people as people and try to understand where they are coming from? When should I stop giving them leeway and say they need to step up and try harder? How do I not let my school define myself and my life when they are so important to me? How do I/ should I hold back on what my grades are because I may come off as a insensitive and condescending? Why do some people ignore their school and then freak out because they are failing?

Thank you for your time,
– The Overachiever

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a woman who is a graduate student. One of my fellow students, a man who I’ll call Nigel, takes up a lot of space in seminar. He speaks over people, interrupts, makes noises while other people speak, and doesn’t wait his turn. If unchecked, he will dominate seminar and prevent nearly anyone else from speaking. Nigel doesn’t seem to interrupt other men, but only other women of all ages, including our instructors. Multiple female professors in our department have noticed this behavior and taken steps to correct Nigel. Multiple women and men in our department notice and have commented on this behavior. I know of at least one occasion where one of our peers has said something to Nigel about this behavior. None of this has had an effect on Nigel, and he continues to run roughshod over his peers whenever he is able. The only professor who doesn’t seem to mind Nigel’s constant interruptions is his adviser, Dr. John Smith.

What I am struggling with is a recent turn in my relationship with Nigel. While in the past I’ve managed to hop over this missing stair, things have come to a head and I’m not sure what to do.

Nigel made a point in seminar last week that was incorrect (not to mention offensive). I spoke up, noting the factual error only. He told me that I was wrong, and something in me just couldn’t let it go, so I didn’t. This point applied broadly to my research, and was entirely unrelated to his. In the two classes we have had since this time, he has interrupted me each time I have attempted to participate. Every. Time. This has made it difficult for me to participate, and other people are noticing, which is embarrassing me. I really despise conflict, and I hate to think that this is becoming a ‘thing’–being professional is important to me. At the same time though, I refuse to let a rude dude prevent me from participating.

Today, in seminar, we came to a head–he said something, I disagreed, he told me I was wrong, I disagreed, he attempted to explain something to me, I told him that the issue wasn’t with my knowledge and that I didn’t appreciate it, and Dr. John Smith (his adviser) asked us to ‘agree to disagree’. I feel like instead of seeing the issue with Nigel, Dr. Smith thinks I’m the problem. I was harsh–my exact words were “I don’t need a lesson on this, I have google”. That wasn’t ok for me to say, so maybe I am? He also told me I didn’t know what I was talking about–how do you respond to that?

Captain Awkward, I don’t know what to do. I’m tired of having to learn around Nigel. I’m not sure there is much doing if the professor of this class doesn’t mind or notice that the missing stair is missing at all. I’m frustrated that I am being antagonized, and I’m frustrated with myself for taking the bait. I’m frustrated that I seem shrill or antagonistic. It feels to me that this is much more an issue with Nigel’s professionalism than mine, BUT it has affected mine as well and I’m upset with myself about that. I’m not afraid of letting it be awkward, but I do not want to develop a reputation of being ‘difficult’ in my department.

I am too close to this issue to see straight, so I’m reaching out to you. Any scripts, advice, or suggestions for living with Nigel and managing my own responses to him would be very much appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Grad Student, Interrupted

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