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Elsa from Frozen making a "stay back" gesture

Some people deserve to meet the Ice Witch inside you.

Dear Captain,

I am an intense person! I have grown to accept this. It’s the way I am, it’s not going to change, and I’m in the process of working this reality into something like self-love.

Some people don’t like my intensity as much. One such person is a close friend of my boyfriend’s. This would be fine — I firmly believe that there are people in the world who are not meant to be friends, and that’s more than okay with me — except that he believes so firmly that we should be friends (on HIS terms) that it’s a conversation he has with me whenever we are in the same room. We have things in common like tangentially related careers, fierce intelligence, and, notably, my boyfriend; ergo, to this guy, we should be friends.

I don’t believe we make good friends. One critical reason for this is that I believe he is a manipulative person. This is evidenced, in my opinion, by the very fact that he claims the only reason we are not friends is because I am not friendly enough with him (“Well. You’re *my* friend”). When I am not being friendly enough with him, he grows sad and uncomfortable! (This argument held more weight with me when he lived with my boyfriend; it kind of sucks when your friend’s girlfriend is neutral to you in your own living room, I was told.) The heavy implication is that if I was a more emotionally generous person, I would already be his friend and then everything would be fine.

My not trusting him is not enough reason, to him, to discontinue the conversation, because again if only I were to change my mind about him everything would be fine (if only I would see him as a PERSON). I would prefer to reach a state of mutual understanding with this dude such that we civilly exchange hellos when we must share the same space and then go back to our respective lives without further ado. My endeavors to do so have so far been categorized as “unfriendly” and yield the same conversation. I am afraid of any attempt to freeze him out (e.g., repeating “I’m not interested in this conversation” over and over, as has been tempting) may result in all of my boyfriend’s friends disliking me, ice witch that I am. Community is important to him and it would mean the end of us if there was a schism between me and the rest of his crew. Do you have a good script for this?

Thanks,
Intensely Ineffective

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Hi

I am a man in the late twenties, who have zero dating experience.

I have recently met an insurance agent on the street who approached me to get my contact. Even though I mentioned to her that I already have my insurance adequately covered and personal agent whom I trust a lot and thus is unlikely to be getting anything else insurance-related from her, she remained friendly and said that she would still like to meet up for coffee one day and thus I gave her my contact eventually.

I have to admit that I was rather apprehensive at first since I was familiar with the insurance agents’ ‘modus operandi’. They would generally position themselves along the busier walkways and utilise a ‘throw everything at the wall, some will eventually stick’ approach by striking up a conversation beginning with a survey to get a brief outlook of your financial status and then arranging a meetup so as to perform a personal review and then to persuade the other person to take up policies from them. This is so as they are generally paid based via commission and have a target to hit every month.

As such, knowing myself that I would not be taking up any policies for certain and so as not to waste the other person’s time, I would try to avoid them or just decline politely. As in this case I was already upfront with her, I thought that there’s no harm meeting up just on a friendly pretext if she wants to.

Subsequently, we met up twice over lunch. During the first meet-up, we chatted a bit and eventually, she turned the conversation towards my financial position and on giving a second opinion. Once again, I reiterated my position (especially in addition to the fact that I’m currently taking part-time studies and am really strapped on cash).

Still, the whole lunch appear to go over quite well and I was keen on meeting up with her again. I asked her out over text and she agreed. The second time, we just chatted about stuff in general and did not mention anything insurance related at all.

I thought that things were going well, however, my past two attempts at getting to meet her up again have been faced with her attempting to postponing by mentioning that she is really busy with work. In our last correspondence, she even mentioned that unless it is to meet up for ‘business’ even though she ended with a ‘just kidding’.

Should I just forget about her and move on? I should mention that I’m a very introverted person in general and rather bad at reading social cues. Thus I have a hunch that my optimism was misplaced and that she actually just viewed me as a potential customer.

Thanks!

Head says yes but heart says no.

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Hi,

I’m very attracted to a man I see in my local supermarket, I’ve seen him in there many times over the past year and we acknowledge each other, smile etc. unfortunately I’m too shy to ask him face to face if he would be interested in meeting for coffee or having a beer. I have found him on an online car forum and I’m not sure whether I should try sending an email through the online forum or whether that would that be stalkery and rather creepy? Any thoughts?

Thanks,
T.

P.S. I’m in my mid 40’s and he’s a similar age.

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Once a month I try to answer the things that people typed into search engines to find my blog as if they are questions. It’s an exercise in mixed results.

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Hello Captain!

Here’s a few things about me to help you understand my story. I am 23, a virgin, and have never had a romantic relationship with a man besides a date.

A few weeks ago I recently went for a night out drinking with three guys that I work with. One of whom, Greg, I invited along because I’ve had a slowly developing crush on him for the past few months and wanted to hang out with him outside work. The night was fun, but took a different turn than I expected once Greg started getting really drunk. We’d flirted earlier in the night, but once he was drunk he started hitting on another girl, clearly hoping to go home with her. She ended up leaving and when I approached him to say he should get home he asked me if I would go with him and sleep with him. I told him no because he was really drunk, but said I would give him a ride home. On the way he started talking about how it’s better to remain closed off because he’s opened up in relationships and put in a ton of effort and only gotten hurt, but wasn’t sure why he was telling me this because nothing would come of it. When we got to his house he invited me in and we talked for a while before we kissed. We started making out eventually and he asked me to spend the night. I did, but we didn’t have sex. The next morning was awkward, neither one of us saying much, and we agreed to just see each other at work.

The following week we had a discussion about it at his place and he said he didn’t want a relationship. I told him I’d like to get to know him better and to try to be friends and he agreed. We spent the night talking and watching movies and I slept over again, though nothing physical happened. A few days later he sent me a flirty text and we spent the night flirting, agreeing to meet up again. I went over later in the week and we talked, watched movies, made out (I initiated it), and played chess until 5 in the morning and I spent the night again.

This last week we’ve had conversations via text about personal things, getting to know each other. A few days ago we had another work outing at a bar and each of us said how it was a possibility we would go home together again. As we left the bar he texted me to say I should come over if I wanted, so I did. At his place he shared personal things with me and eventually we went to his room. We almost had sex, but I stopped it. He respected my decision, but I think he was upset and we did other stuff (which I enjoyed) without actually having sex. I wanted to have sex with him, but wasn’t sure if I should because we’re not dating and he doesn’t want to date me. He said he hasn’t fooled around with anyone besides me in a year and half, but said that we’re not exclusive, which definitely bothers me.

When I asked him what he would call us he said that we’re friends and that he is someone I can talk to about anything I want if I need to. He did however say that he doesn’t form emotional connections, which is confusing because it seems like that’s what we’ve been doing. I am a major overthinker, something he knows and has been trying to help me with. I struggle with opening up to him because I’m afraid of what he’ll think and he has been really great with trying to let me know I can share things about myself with him. He’s been very open with me.

We’ve left things saying that we’d like to keep doing what we’re doing because it’s fun and he told me I “shouldn’t ruin a good thing with my overthinking.” I want to enjoy this without obsessing about it too much, but I’m not sure how. My questions are:

Should I just relax and enjoy this despite the fact I want it to be something more?
Does Greg seem like a good guy?

Thank you for reading!

Sincerely,
Confused Overthinker

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The Goat Lady, who sorts my inbox, kindly created a tag called “low intensity” for questions such as these.

Dear Captain,

I am in a fairly recent relationship with a wonderful man I’ve been infatuated with for years (…on and off – we weren’t Firthing!). When we first started dating, I was nervous about a whole host of potential pitfalls (long distance, exes, contracting Oneitis) that delightfully turned out to be illusory, and at this point, we’re comfortable with each other, communicate regularly and openly, and have a lot of fun together.

So, my question is this:

While we’ve been friends for years, this isn’t a BEST Friends Fall in Love Story, and I’m sometimes surprised by how different it is to talk with him than with most of my close friends. Other than the boyfriend, the kinds of friends I stay up all night with are huge readers and unabashed lovers of pop culture, and we love nothing more than to conduct elaborate feminist critiques of Game of Thrones or debate the literary merits of fanfiction. I don’t expect (or want!) my boyfriend and I to like all the same things, and I know we’re still in the process of figuring out what we like to talk about when the “how was your day”s are done. And to be fair, he’s offered some pretty interesting feminist critique of Game of Thrones himself, but such discussions don’t seem to fascinate him in the way that I’m used to, with each of us tumbling out thoughts faster than we can speak and getting caught up in the joy of endless critical analysis. So even when we DO like the same things, I don’t know that we like to talk about them in the same way.

Since there’s the whole “I’ve been infatuated with him for years” thing going on, I can’t tell if this is something we’ll probably get past as we recognize not just the WHATs but the WAYs we like to talk about things, or if it’s a bigger problem of mismatched perspectives and ways of engaging that I’m choosing to ignore because LOVE.

How important is a similar conversational dynamic to happy, healthy relationships? I am currently very happy and in love, and I love that we have comfortable silences as well as witty repartee, but I’m constantly taken aback when conversations I expect to last ages seem over quite suddenly and would love to hear your thoughts on the role this plays in life/love/etc.

Thank you,
Not Awkward, Still Silence

Dear Not Awkward,

I don’t know what to tell you. Some possible explanations for what you are experiencing:

1) Your Jerkbrain, unused to contentment, is looking for something to worry about and has decided that this is it.

2) The years-long fantasy of this dude was better/more interesting than the reality of life with this dude, who is kind of boring when you get right down to it.

3) In long-distance relationships you can’t really coast on proximity, so the quality/quantity of conversation is looming larger as a factor as you try to find an equilibrium.

Since things are good, why not keep enjoying yourself and let time sort it out?

Hi, Captain!

Not a huge crisis, but I wonder about your perspective on an etiquette issue.

I have a lovely set of in-laws who are chronically, perpetually, and often extremely late. This is a huge pet peeve of mine, as I see arriving promptly to be a matter of respect, and I function exponentially better when my life is carefully scheduled. This is annoying enough when they are late on me. But my question is when we have a plan as a group and there is a danger of them making me late.

We have a family event coming up soon, where my husband and I will be staying with them for a period and attending a series of events in their company. I dread the idea of arriving continually ten minutes, thirty minutes, an hour late to the people who are expecting us, and to events I am looking forward to. I worry that being too insistent on timetables and getting after them too much to keep moving will make them think I’m a nag, or too controlling. Do you think it would be okay if, when the appointed time to leave has past, I cheerfully tell them that Husband and I are heading out and will meet them there when they arrive? Or do you have a better idea to keep to a respectable time table without coming off as rude or inflexible?

Thanks!

- Early bird

Dear Early Bird,

You nailed it when you suggested that you and your husband should make your own way to these events. Treat that like it’s Plan A, not a sacrifice you are making because of their lateness. Only mention your plans when you have your coats on, your keys in your hand, and are heading out the door – you’re informing them of the plan, not discussing or negotiating it. If you need some handy excuses, try: “We want to get there early/make a stop on the way/we might want to stay longer/leave sooner than you/we’d just rather take separate cars, thanks” and keep your tone friendly and light as you glide out the door.

Everyone in their extended family knows exactly how they are, you know how they are, your husband knows how they are, and I’m pretty sure they know how they are. They are of an age to have raised an adult child and are not suddenly going to change their habits. This is one of those times where you have the chance to just do what you need to do with the least amount of friction possible, so take the easy way!

Moderation Note: Thread closed. Turns out that my budget of fucks for reading contentious, self-righteous discussions about lateness and rudeness = zero fucks. 

Dear Captain,

I’m a recent college graduate and was interviewed yesterday on national TV about the field I’ve started working in. The other people on the panel were way more experienced than I, and some of them are are moderately famous. The program wanted a young voice/perspective, and I was so honored to be asked to do the kind of TV appearance a more senior colleague would normally do. I was also a little terrified and worked really hard to prepare.

The interview went great, and I left the studio walking on air. I felt I came across as confident and informed and that I had represented my employer, my field, and my generation (corny as it sounds) extremely well. I’ve never been so proud.

Then the interview aired and I stared horrified at my screen as my eyes narrowed in on the noticeable sweat marks under my arms. I can’t help but feel that what should have been such a professional joy is ruined by… armpit sweat. I feel so stupid for wearing a color that really showed it. Rookie wardrobe mistake. Rookie, sweat-inducing nerves.

The interview aired at a time most people I know were at work, but it can be streamed online starting today. Now I have a long list of proud friends, family, and former professors/mentors who are expecting a link to the online clip. My grad school program wants to share it on their social media account. I’m so embarrassed at the idea of all these people seeing it. I didn’t tell my parents I would be interviewed, because I wanted to surprise them with a link to the clip in clever email (note to self: not everything has to be clever). Now I’m just dreading my mother’s comments about what a shame it is I didn’t wear a darker color. Surely I’m not the first person this has happened to, but I also can’t recall having ever seen armpit sweat on TV, so part of me is also convinced that this was a uniquely stupid thing to let happen.

I’m also beating myself up for being so obsessed with my appearance and not able to get past it to be proud of my ideas and composure. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? How can I convince myself that my professional awesomeness trumps my sweatiness? How can I get past the feeling that the interview is ruined or somehow embarrassing and send it to friends and with pride?

Smart and Sweaty

Dear Smart & Sweaty,

The interview is done, and the clip is out on the internet now, and it can’t be undone or taken back. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t make reassuring “it’s not that bad!” noises your way, but I suggest that you show it to a trusted friend or mentor without mentioning the stains and see what they say. We all search our own appearances for flaws in a way that most other people do not.

I think you should share it and encourage others to share it without commenting on the stains at all and focus only on the content of the work. If anyone brings up the stains, a) that’s a pretty weird, rude thing for them to do, and b) I think you will feel much better if you find a way to play it off if it happens. “Wow, thanks for noticing! I was worried no one had.” “Would you call it a stain, or more of a river?” “Next time I’m going to wear that old bridesmaid’s dress, so that the stains really pop against the seafoam organza!’ “Yeah, thanks for pointing that out, Mom.” 

You have nothing to apologize for. You didn’t know it would happen. Your words were still your words. TV lights are hot. Sweat happens, you are a human being with glands. People who go on camera for a living have teams of paid professionals helping them look perfect. I feel gross for linking to this listicle on Celebrity Sweat Incidents especially since the tone is “they should take better care of this issue,” but I want you to have some visual aids that show that even people with tons of camera experience and teams of staff devoted to how they look are human and have glands. I also found this media training PDF for how to prepare yourself for a TV appearance from the University of New Haven that has, literally 100 separate tips for how to look and behave during a TV interview. I don’t want to panic you further by making you memorize 100 new things you should have done, but the takeaway is: Being comfortable on camera is complex and there is a learning curve to doing it.

Please stop beating yourself up! I suggest that you do some more TV appearances as soon as humanly possible. The more you appear on camera, the better you will get at it, the more variety of clips there will be, and the more you will become recognized as an authority who can handle themselves on camera. Please do not let this one quirk of biology shame you out of the excellent career you just beginning.

Dear Captain Awkward,

So yes, this is a happy problem. You’ve written well on work matters in the past, so I’m hoping you can help with this.

I have spent a few years in a frustrating job/environment, but started an excellent new job about three months ago. I am now a senior manager, with only two people above me in my specialism – the Exec Director, and the Deputy Director who is my line manager.

The job has been full on from the start, but I’m really enjoying the new opportunities and the trust, and as far as I can tell I’ve done well so far.

However, I just found something out which has thrown me slightly.

I thought I was one of four equal senior managers, with the others having more time in post. But this turns out not to be the case. Both of the Directors have told me that I am third in command, and that they appointed me with the intention of grooming me for the Deputy Director job in a few years. I can have (nearly) any training I want.

Woohoo, yes? And part of me really wants it, but part of me is petrified with the fear of failure. I am a nerdy/dorky/socially awkward woman – (still with substantial privilege, cis and white, and I read as upper middle class despite having grown up very poor). I have worked hard on the social awkwardness but it is still A Thing, and I have low confidence in my ability to be socially smooth. And the previous frustrating job has knocked my work confidence.

Social smoothness, and leadership skills, negotiation and influencing, and change management and all that stuff, are more and more important in the senior jobs. That’s what I need to learn in the next few years.

But how? I can do the technical part of my job, and standard line management, but….?

I am pleased they see potential in me, but I don’t see it myself. How do I avoid holding myself back?

How do I learn something so nebulous? How do I know if I’m getting better at them? How do I learn to get over my awkwardness and my assumptions that I am crap at these things? How do I develop a model of myself as a (nerdy, female) leader?

I don’t even have the tools to start to learn, or know what to look for in myself.

Please help!

Signed,
Not A Leader

Dear Not A Leader,

You’re familiar with Impostor Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger Effect? Good.

Your mentors have offered you training, which is wonderful, because it demonstrates that:

1) They don’t expect you to already be an expert in leadership/communications/management, etc.

2) They recognize that these are important skills unto themselves in addition to the technical competencies you possess.

3) They are building in time and a budget for you to level up these skills so that you will be ready when the time comes.

In other good news, there is training out there to be had. Since I don’t know exactly where you are, I did a Google search on “professional communications management training” to give you an idea of what kinds of things might be available.

You could study online (though I think you might find this very basic).

Harvard University has a ton of continuing education-type courses and seminars in the very subjects you want to learn, with titles like “Advanced Executive Communication Skills,” “Communicating With Influence: The Art of Persuasion,” “Cultural Competence for the Global Workplace,” etc. What’s the fanciest pantsiest business school closest to you, and do they offer such things? There’s no reason not to make this both a learning and a professional networking experience and get something shiny for your resume. There are tons of non-university affiliated training organizations that do this sort of thing, too, at every intensity and budget level. In addition, you could ask your mentors if they’ve ever taken courses that they think were particularly helpful in developing their management skills.

Conclusion: You’ve got this and you’re going to do great. This also seems like a good idea to watch & read a lot of epic sci-fi and fantasy stories where humble people who are convinced that they are not leaders become leaders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theme of the day: Don’t work harder at someone who isn’t working at all at you.

Hey Cap,

So me and this girl met and started talking, at first she thought I was a jackass then she saw the better side of me. We became best friends for the better part of a year and then one of my friends suggested we date. After that my feelings only grew for her incredibly. I’d hang out with her more often then finally asked if she would be mine. We dated happily for a couple months and then things started going downhill. She would always blow me off to hang out with friends, never hang out with me, I seriously believe I’m at the lower list of her priorities. This girl is my everything, but she just treats me awfully. Anything I can do to fix this?

Sorry, dear heart, I think your choices here are 1) a soon-to-be-ex girlfriend who never hangs out with you and treats you awfully or 2) an ex-girlfriend. The wonderful fantasy girlfriend you had during those few happy months is long-gone. Script: “Girlfriend, I don’t feel like you actually enjoy spending time with me, and it hurts my feelings. Let’s just end this before it gets worse.” I *just* got this, hopefully we’re in time to save you from buying her an expensive Valentine’s Day present. Keep your receipts.

Here’s a poem:

What Cowboys Know About Love

-Louis McKee

Last night on the sports channel
I watched the rodeo.
Those cowboys have it right;
the best and the beauty of it.
You cannot win, so you ride
for as long as you can and enjoy it.
When you dismount,
whether it be on your own or not,
it won’t look pretty. You’ll limp off.
But you’ll feel good; your heart
will be pounding like it never has,
and walking away, one crazy step
after another, your ears will ring
with the loud approval
of those who never felt so good.

Dear Captain,

This pertains to my close friend, S. S and I have been friends for a little over a year, got closer over the last half a year and, four months ago, became casually physical as well (we had a bit of an FWB-style holiday fling). However, in the last few weeks, S has become increasingly emotionally distant, both in terms of “quantity” (going from talking every day to much less frequently) and “quality” (actual conversations to “how was your day” fodder). At first I thought this was because we’ve both been rather busy but S’s event ended and he’s still behaving this way.

The few times I’ve tried to talk S about this have come up short. His explanations are usually things like “I still like you and care about you but things just feel off” or “I feel like we’ve drifted apart”. When I asked about how exactly things feel off, like if I was doing anything wrong, he’d just say “idk, they just do”. It’s been vague and confusing. That said, he has indicated the physical dimension our relationship has adopted as something that, now, has made things quite weird. For him, the reality that it can’t be continued (to preserve the friendship, to concentrate on studies etc.) came crashing down pretty hard. This is fine – while I enjoy the physical intimacy, I’d give it up just to keep him as my friend.

My approach thus far has been to attempt to initiate Talks About Our Friendship to figure it out together (though he says “there’s nothing to figure out” ??). I have since found this post and realized I probably shouldn’t, especially with S who does not communicate very well/tends to avoid difficult situations.

So…
1. Is there anything I can do to hold on to S and prevent us from “drifting apart”?
2. Can I follow the advice you gave the aforementioned LW (accepting S’ priorities/feelings have changed, letting him initiate rather than the other way around etc)?
3. Unfortunately, problems with S a. coincide with a period of Unwellness and b. come at the end of A Year of Personal Crises and Losing Many Close Friends for Different Reasons. So his problem with S has been wrecking me emotionally and given my jerkbrain seemingly valid ammo against me (HE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOU! NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU! YOU DO NOT DESERVE FRIENDS! YOU’RE DESTINED FOR LONELINESS! is basically on loop in my head). Is there really something wrong with me and if not, how do I remind myself there isn’t?

Would greatly appreciate any advice you have, Captain!

With love,
Feeling Like A Castaway Lost At Sea

Dear Castaway,

You read the right post on here, so, in answer to your questions:

1. No. He’s making it very clear that things have changed for him within the friendship. The unambiguous message isn’t “try harder,” it’s “stop trying.” You say “with S who does not communicate very well” but actually he is communicating pretty directly. He’s just not giving you the answers or explanations that you want.

2. Yes, and realize that he may not initiate contact for a good long while, so disengage, disengage, disengage.

3. I am so sorry that this is happening to you during an already difficult year. Jerkbrain gonna jerk. Please see: Counter-Intuitive Friendship Fixing Advice, which is all about loving yourself and being good to yourself, and The Kwisatz Haderach/Golden Retriever of Love which is about mourning after breakups, which this sort of is. You’re not broken, you’re just dealing with rejection and other hard things.

You also get a poem:

The Stupid Jerk I’m Obsessed With

by Maggie Estep

The stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
stands so close to me
I can feel his breath
on my neck
and smell
the way he would smell
if we slept together
because he is the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and that is his primary function in life
to be a stupid jerk I can obsess over
and to talk to that dingy bimbette blonde
as if he really wanted to hear about her
manicures and
pedicures and
New Age ritualistic enema cures and
truth be known, he probably does wanna hear about it
because he is the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and he’s obsessed with doing anything he can
to lend fuel to my fire
he makes a point of standing
looking over my shoulder
when I’m talking to the guy who adores me
and would bark like a dog
and wave to strangers
if I asked him to bark like a dog
and wave to strangers
but I can’t ask him to bark like a dog
or impersonate any kind of animal at all
cause I’m too busy
looking at the way the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
has pants on that perfectly define his well-shaped ass to the point where I’m thoroughly frantic
I’m just gonna go home
and stick my head in the oven
overdose on nutmeg and aspirin
and sit in the bathtub reading The Executioner’s Song
and being completely confounded by the fact
that I can see
the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with’s face
defining itself in the peeling plaster of the wall
grinning and winking
and I start to yell,
Get the hell out of there
You’re just a figment of my imagination
Just get a life and get out of my plaster
and pass me the next painful situation please
but he just keeps on
grinning and winking
he’s the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and he’s mine
in my plaster
And frankly, I couldn’t be happier.

 

Finally: Here’s a poem for both of you, Letter Writers. Neither of you did anything wrong by caring about somebody. Be nice to yourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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