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Every month I try to answer the questions people typed into search engines to find this place as if they were questions people asked me. I add punctuation, but I leave the text alone.

1. “Ex no longer contacts me.”

If you have shared custody or financial entanglements, this is a problem. If you don’t, this is probably a healthy evolution of things that means that time is doing its healing work.

2. “Nerdy desperate dating problems.”

You’re probably in the right place. Start here.

3. “I want to hang out with my ex because I’m bored.”

That is not a good reason. Probably you should call literally anyone else.

4. “He says he wants space. What does he mean?” & “What does he mean when he says he can’t give me what I want?”

Statements like this are very often a preludes to a breakup, or a break, or a request to hang out less, or a request to take the relationship down a level in terms of seriousness and time together. Whatever the person telling you intends, a good message to take away from statements like this is that you are being asked or warned to invest less of yourself in whatever this thing is. Don’t make big plans with this person, like, getting a place together or moving closer to them or adopting a pet. Reach out to people in your life who are not this person, and put your energy into other friendships and connections.

5. “Uncle touch breasts petting the cat on my lap.”

There are accidental touches, and then there are touches that might be bad touches (and you know because they make you uncomfortable and they make you type things like that into search engines). If it happens again, this is one of those times to visibly startle, yelp, say “HEY!” and stand up and maybe the cat will end up sort of on your uncle’s face. Someone who touched you totally by accident will be sheepish and embarrassed and never, ever, ever do it again. You’ll know a creeper because he will try to shame you for making a big deal, as if you are the one in the wrong. I give you full permission to make a SCENE. 

6. “I feel cheated on when friend wants new friends.”

That is a sucky feeling and it is really hard to just sit with it and deal with it without making it your friend’s problem, but if you are an adult and you want to keep this friendship, that is what I suggest you do. There is no script for “I wish you wouldn’t hang out with other people without me” that sounds good. Be really nice to yourself, find an outlet for those feelings like a journal or a therapist, and give it some time.

7. “I fuck goats.”

I do not think the goats enjoy that, like, at all. NO BUENO.

8. “Terrible names to call your sister.”

You should probably leave your sister alone and just go your separate ways rather than name-calling, but the Shakespeare Insult Kit is kind of fun.

9. “Once a rapist always a rapist?”

Statistically speaking, yeah. Rapists rape repeatedly.

10. I have a gay boyfriend but I keep masturbating. 

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. It’s not cheating. It’s not wrong.

11. “What does it mean when a man says he doesn’t want you but he doesn’t want anyone else to have you.”

It means that this is someone you should avoid, completely, forever. This is such a shithead thing to say.

12. “Its my husband’s responsibility to clean his poo stain.”

Is he physically able to do this? If so, you’ll get no argument from me.

13. “I feel guilty for breaking a blind date.”

Forgive yourself. You didn’t want to meet that person.

14. “You know she wants to have sex just need to say the right thing.”

The “right thing” probably is to ask “Do you want to have sex?” and see if “she” answers “yes.” Then you’ll know, and you’ll have said the “right thing” to find out.

15. “How to politely, firmly stop attending club meetings due to physical disabilities.”

Email the organizer. “Hi _____, I wanted to let you know that won’t be at club meetings for the forseeable future, so please don’t plan on me. I’ve got some (personal/health/other priorities/whatever you are comfortable sharing, keeping in mind that you don’t need to give a reason) taking my attention right now, I’ll let you know if anything changes. Thanks for all you do!”

Then you don’t need to reply to anything, and you don’t need to go.

16. “What does it mean when she says when and if the time is right we will meet?”

She may want to meet someday, but she does not want to meet either “now” or “soon” or “anytime that is actually planned out and committed to on an actual calendar.”

17. “What kind of question to seduce a female?”

A female what?

P.S. Don’t call women that. It’s dehumanizing and gross.

18. “Is it bad to break up with someone after a week?”

Is waiting gonna make it better? “I am so sorry, I am not feeling it, and we should break this off.” Set yourself and that person free.

19. “He says no relationship but he acts like he is into me.”

Believe the words and get some distance from him. If he changes his mind, he knows how to find you and how to tell you about that, but I’d hate to see you hanging around waiting for that to happen.

20. “Captain Awkward, how do I get my ex back?”

You reach out once to say “Ex, would you be willing to give it another try?” and then you abide 100% by whatever they tell you, is my suggestion. No guarantees, but this one approach is at least honest, respectful, and will get you an answer without wasting a lot of your time.

 

 

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The Bachelor group shot

“One of you lucky ladies is going to get tenure!”

Hi Captain (& friends),

I have been dating an awesome guy for a little over a year now. It’s not really my style to gush over a romantic partner, but this is possibly the happiest and most comfortable I’ve ever been with someone. However, we have one big difference: I’m a graduate student getting my PhD in a science field, and he never completed his bachelor’s and is currently working in the service industry. He’s taking online classes and collaborating on a startup, but doesn’t plan to finish his degree.

This doesn’t bother me, or adversely affect the relationship. He is extremely intelligent and genuinely interested in my research work, and I like hearing wild stories from the club he works at. He challenges my ideas and experiments in ways that are interesting and helpful, since they’re not coming from within the academic culture. And besides, we have a lot of shared interests, like programming, caving, and gaming, where we are at similar levels of accomplishment and feel like we can challenge each other.

But this doesn’t stop me from getting anxious about the education discrepancy. When I first met Boyfriend, my out-of-town friends told me I needed to be aiming higher. All my in-town friends are grad students / PhDs, and they’re all dating other grad students / PhDs. They spend date nights writing new theorems; I spend date nights playing Starcraft. It can make parties a little weird: “Oh, your partner developed an entirely new model of fish ecology? That’s awesome! Mine couldn’t come because he’s still washing tables.”

I already have a lot of anxiety about my career. Thanks to ever-present imposter syndrome, my brain loves telling me that I’m my department’s pity hire, I actually don’t know anything about science, and I will crash and burn horribly. So now I’m afraid that I’m somehow sabotaging myself and my career with this non-academic relationship. Is it going to turn me into a lesser scientist? Am I wasting time? Are my priorities all out of whack? I feel awful for making this all about me and my flawed, academia-instilled value system, but my brain won’t shut up about it. For what it’s worth, Boyfriend knows about this anxiety and tries to help (like, by scheduling Thesis / Startup Work “Dates”, to help with my fear that I’m spending too much time with him and not enough time in the lab).

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Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter movies

I’m sure she put smiley-faces on all of her o-mails.

Dear Captain Awkward,

My younger sister, let’s call her Bee, works as an executive assistant in a large, urban, corporate environment. Bee’s manager has recently mentioned, twice, that she is “coaching” my sister on developing better professional communication skills. In particular, she has expressed concerns that Bee is not “nice” enough in her emails to co-workers. She has mentioned that my sister does not use “smileys” and doesn’t start emails out with praising statements before doing something like asking for information. There has been no actual professional coaching, only these hints that my sister should be “sweeter” in her emails.

Here’s where I come in. When I say my sister is “nice,” that doesn’t quite get at the root of the matter. She is really, really nice. Doormat sweet. Works like a dog. Seriously. Rave performance reviews. Hours of overtime. Her superiors notice this–she is often singled out for extra projects, work, trips, etc. For example, she recently has been given some account management tasks and was also recently asked to attend a conference in Europe (where she literally worked so many hours a day she didn’t even go outside, but hey). I am 99.999999% sure there is no professionalism issue with my sister’s email communications.

Can you give us some scripts or ideas on how to talk about this with her manager?

My sister is not comfortable with direct confrontation and doesn’t always have a lot of self-confidence when talking about herself, but she is an amazing and hard-working woman. The thing is, I feel like this is a feminist issue. Strike that. This is a humanist issue. I believe that my sister is being penalized because she appears to be striving “above” her “place.” The suggestions her manager has made are not ones that will make my sister appear more professional–they are items that will make her seem more subservient, sweet/cute, passive, etc. I do not believe that these “suggestions” are being made in earnest, or with the intent to actually help my sister move forward in her career.

My sister doesn’t know much about Captain Awkward, but I’m a faithful reader. We would love some advice!

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I wrote this to maybe read at last night’s (EPIC!) Story Club, but the name-draw for open mic slots did not go my way. Still, I didn’t want it to go to waste. So here, without ado (and without comments enabled , b/c it’s a performance piece, not a discussion piece) you go.

Notes From A Boner

They pop up from time to time on Facebook. Time-stamp 3 AM, from an old friend I used to mess around with in college. “Hey, what’s new? I was just thinking about you.”

I bet you were, buddy!

Sometimes they show up in the film class that I teach. I play a clip from Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, to show how color temperature isn’t just a technical thing and you can manipulate it to create mood. “What did you see? What do you think?,” I ask the students.

Every time I do this, a freshman boy says something like “She’s sooooo hot” or better yet, “She used to be so hot,” referring to Jennifer Lopez, who frankly kills it in this role. The girls and gay boys don’t say anything about The Clooney, and I quickly change the topic to “What did you think ABOUT THE LIGHTING” while delivering my best over-the glasses disapproving mom look. The one that says “It is I, Queen Femicunt¹, First of her Name, Khaleesi of the Bitchrealms and the Isles of No Funnington.” I want that boner to slink away and think about what it did. But its presence still lingers. Every clip I show, I now have to think about from the point of view of a taunting, persistent boner.“You’re teaching cinema, I see. Did you know that nearly everything ever created in this medium was designed to make ME happy on some level? Muahahahahaha!

Sometimes the notes from boners get delivered on the street, or on the eL. “Smile!” “You should smile more!” “Hey baby, where’s that smile?” and if I don’t smile, or I smile like this (using two middle fingers to hold up the corners of my mouth),“Bitch!” “Fat bitch” “Ugly bitch” Here I was, walking around, grocery shopping, registering to vote, minding my business. I didn’t know I was making the boners sad. Fortunately The Committee for Boner Rescue and Repair was on the case to educate me. I imagine their letterhead, with Notes from a Boner! Stamped! at the top, ready to deliver humbling memos to grateful citizens everywhere.

Sometimes I write back back to the boners. Like, when I tried to sell my bike on Craigslist, and a guy sent me a dick pic from hisrealname@wherehereallyworks.com. Not wanting that boner to go to waste, I shared it with humanresources@wherehereallyworks.com. Boners are spontaneous. They live in the moment. They don’t always think things through.

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Dear Captain Awkward

I have been with my partner for over 5 years now, and I love him to pieces, I can’t imagine my life without him, but I am scared that if I propose to him he’s going to say no, from what I know we are very happy, and I know that he loves lots of ‘girly’ things as well as ‘male’ things, wearing dresses, cosplay, ribbons, romantic comedies, video games, and shoujo manga.

I thought it would be a great Idea to propose to him later this year by taking him to the largest convention we have in the UK for a romantic weekend away, wine-ing and dining him, I’ve booked the hotel room, saved up nearly all the money I need and bought a ring and a Tardis ring box to put it in.

But I keep second guessing myself now, thinking what if he wouldn’t want me to propose to him, or at the least having no idea what I would say, would he feel weird about his girlfriend proposing to him, I mean I’ve asked him in the past and he always said he hasn’t had a problem with it, but since I’ve started researching how to propose as a woman, I’ve found so many posts saying just not to do it, that it takes something away that is solely for the man to do, that I’d be robbing him basically of him being able to do it and that I would emasculate him by proposing to him, that he would become a laughing stock amongst other men. Despite reassurances from his and my male friends that if their own girlfriends proposed to them they’d be ecstatic, and they think he would be too, since he is not a traditional male.

I want to propose to him so much, but in doing so would I just humiliate him?

Yours sincerely

Dearly befuddled

Dear Befuddled,

How exciting for both of you! Two thoughts:

1) After happy five years with someone, surely a discussion of “do you want to keep doing this”/”should we formalize this thing we’ve got going on in one of the ways open to us under the law” is not a completely foreign one. The saying of the question in so many words, the presentation of symbolic gifts, etc. might have an element of surprise involved, but the prospect of the decision is surely not a surprise, right? If it is, then maybe a “Hey do you ever think about wanting to get married someday? How do you want us to go about making that decision” conversation before the whirlwind weekend is probably in order. If he has strong feelings about where and how and when this should all go down you’ll find out about them.

2) Someone who would not want to marry you or who would be humiliated because you were the one who asked the question, someone who would poop all over the awesome thing you’ve planned because: Traditional gender roles! is probably not right for you on a number of levels.

It sounds like the worst thing that could happen here is that he is like “Yes of course, let’s get married. Though I had this awesome surprise planned for you” and you say “we’ve got the rest of our lives to surprise and delight each other, you silly gorgeous man” and then you kiss a lot and get married some day.

Go live your awesome love story without fear or apology!

Edited To Add:

While we’re on the subject of lasting commitment, an Awkwardeer is seeking help with their wedding vows.

Hi Captain!

I love your blog, and the direct approach you have with words and creating good space for oneself in a relationship. My question is of the happy problem variety … I’m getting married at the end of May to a fantastic guy, and am looking for advice on building a strong marriage (and some inspiration as I start to write my vows).

We’re in our late thirties and have pretty similar romantic histories (very few relationships, none of which lasted very long), which means that we don’t have a lot of personal experience with the ins and outs of long term relationships. Our approach has been to “use our words” as much as possible, and while we don’t always agree, I can’t think of anything that has turned into an actual fight. (We’ve both wondered if this will create a problem at some point, but haven’t been able to imagine it.)

So. We’re getting married (hooray!). And I’m really interested in your (and the awkwardeers) thoughts on maintaining and keeping a strong partnership over the next (hopefully) 50+ years.

Thanks!

What makes love stay? Got any favorite poems or quotes or readings? LET’S CYRANO THE DE BERGERAC OUT OF THIS.

 

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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Dear Captain,

I have a dilemma. I’ve been having a terrible year in 2014 (and 2013 was pretty shit also!) My husband and I have been having a rocky year in our marriage, I have just started an antidepressant to deal with my ongoing and dangerous depression, we have a $25,000 fee to pay to our condo I still don’t know how we’ll finance, and I have been balancing full-time work and full-time school schedule for nine months. Basically, I’m tired to the bone physically and emotionally.

My husband, Jack*, and I are currently in the process of going through some counseling and things on that front seem positive and hopeful. The problem is, he recently asked me if his brother can come stay with us from June to August to work in our town. Jack’s brother, Bill*, along with the rest of his family members, live in a faraway province with little economic action. We live in a booming economy with many jobs, especially in Bill’s area of interest.

I had not been planning to take any courses over the summer and was looking forward to some rare downtime and the chance to recover and feel like myself again. With an air mattress in the basement serving as a “spare room” and only one shower, living area and kitchen, it’s inevitable that Bill would end up encroaching on our space. Although he’s in college now he’s still a teenager, so I’m also concerned about his cleaning ability or lack thereof. Plus, frankly, I just don’t want to deal with a houseguest for the whole summer!

Jack misses his family a great deal. This would be a great chance for him to catch up with his brother and bond, to say nothing of the opportunity for Bill to build work experience in his field. I can’t help but feel like the bad guy if I say no, but I’m already mourning my lost, private summer full of reconnecting with Jack and having plenty of alone time. Should I kibosh the trip and live with the guilt? Say yes and quietly resent every moment? PLEASE SEND HELP.

Yours,
Houseguest versus Hag

*all names changed

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