Geek Social Fallacies

Dear Captain Awkward,

I think my partner has a big Geek Social Fallacy problem.

We live together in a small house in an expensive area where lots of people live with parents or roommates. So, ever since before we met, he’s hosted huge blowout theme parties for his entire geeky friendgroup. He always encourages them to bring new people and expand his social circle. Partner enjoys being The Cool Fun Host.

Partner was a late bloomer socially, had terrible ostracizing experiences and some related depression issues, so now he’s trying to make up for lost time. He wants to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Which sounds great in theory! He’s big-hearted and just wants everyone to be his friend.

When I first moved in with Partner, I enjoyed these parties — organizing them, coming up with themes. But the more comfortable I became thinking of it as “our house” instead of “partner’s house”, the more protective I’m becoming of my living space. The more I dread the thought of prepping the house for a destructive messy horde of nerds and cleaning up after them and yielding my space for a night. I’m finding I’m enjoying hosting smaller, more controlled gatherings.

On top of this, our good friend recently pointed out a Missing Stair in this friendgroup. Missing Stair has made a few people uncomfortable, and, who knows, may be driving away others. But we just know a couple of anecdotes, and while Partner admits Missing Stair is a jerk, he doesn’t know where he should draw the line. Because inclusivity. And Missing Stair hasn’t done anything egregious and maybe a few people just don’t like him. Partner isn’t comfortable disinviting _anyone_, much less this specific Missing Stair, because he knows how it feels to be uninvited and it’s evil and horrible.

So how wrong and awful does Missing Stair have to be for Partner to disinvite him? And how do we balance how much control over the parties I get to have? Obviously I think Missing Stair should be uninvited right now. But these are still mostly Partner’s parties, even though I help host and I live here too. I hate feeling like I’m trampling all over Partner’s fun and trying control everything now that we live together.

Normally Partner and I are great at communicating, but he has a terrible blind spot here.

— Killjoy

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Hello Captain!

I am looking for scripts/advice dealing with a situation that I tangled myself up in.

A friend I made over the summer, and became quite close to, recently started giving me the silent treatment (I’d say about a month ago).

Although it was hard for me to accept, I decided after olive branching twice that “Hey, this is the unspoken African VIolet. Alright. We were there when we needed each other, and this sucks, but it’s time to move on”

Except, my Best Friend on Team Me is also friends with this person I will call Gentleman.

Gentleman is best friends with *her* best friend. So, it is a given he will be at most social interactions.

I have tried my best to be smooth about this; I’ll give a polite “Hello” or something along those lines in a group setting. I will not venture to engage any more than is required.

Except he *pointedly ignores me*, will turn away from me, and also engage everyone around me so I have no one to speak to. Friends may notice but seem unsure what to do, and I often forget this is what’s happening, so I have to scramble to interact (or go silent, which results in me starting to panic).

It is made more awkward because if I disengage with this group, I lose my only close friends.

I am trying to pick up more hobbies, meet more people, but I cannot change that this is the small group I will interact with most. I am just…not sure what to do.

Which would be fine and dandy, except he..just invited me to his birthday on facebook? And my friends have insisted I go or I “am making things more awkward”? They seem frustrated with the situation (as am I!) but I have already offered an olive branch or two to him, and he clearly does not want this (that’s ok too!).

Suddenly changing my mind would upset the friend group I believe. But, I am worried because I get the feeling that mutual friends are trying to thrust us together in the guise of helping. I do not think it is helping, and Gentleman is a shy person.

What…can I do? How can I navigate this social necessity? I don’t want to be like “please don’t invite me if he is around”, as he is always around.

But I’d like to be able to, yknow, recover? It takes time for me to make friends, and accepting a “no closure but no friendship” situation is rough for me.

Suggestions, capt?


I Accepted The VIolet but My Mutual Friends Didn’t

The Geek Social Fallacies run amok in your circle! Even the person who super doesn’t like you carries them!

I think you should decline the party invite and give this person a little space.

And I think you should invite your friends (actual friends) to do some stuff one on one or in smaller groups. It’s time for you to put the idea of The Group on hold for a while. Groups & relationships only work if they work for the people in them. Suffering for the idea of the relationship, especially to preserve other people’s idea of what that relationship should be like, is madness.

And your script for your friends is: “Hey. If you want to make things less awkward, howabout speaking up when Gentleman gives me the silent treatment to all of our faces? Instead of pushing me to make everything okay, and pressuring him to invite me to stuff, which means I end up enduring the ‘cut direct‘ on the regular, howabout we give everybody a little breathing room. Not everyone has to be friends with everyone else. I’d settle for ‘distant nod’ terms and I’ll come back to group stuff when Gentleman feels the same, but I’m not subjecting myself to the silent treatment ever again. He is being a jerk about this, and I’m sure he has his reasons, but that doesn’t mean I have to pretend that’s not what it is.” 

Reaching out to your friends in smaller groups, or singly, will mean a small cultural shift in how things work, especially if you are not generally the inviter/social fulcrum, but it’s work worth doing. “Can you and I go to breakfast, just the two of us?” is a nice invitation if you usually see everyone all together. I also suggest you throw yourself into another hobby or class or activity that takes you into a slightly different social scene for a bit, too. It will help you keep yourself aloof from friend-scene drama if you flex your “I know how to meet other cool people” muscle.


O Captain my captain (or guest!), please help:

I’ve got a problem that isn’t necessarily distressing to me, but it is very perplexing, and it’s something that has me feeling kind of stuck.

The quick background is that I am in a friends-with-benefits sexual relationship with my ex and best friend. Our friendship is one of the best things in my life: we’re open with each other, we make each other laugh, and we support each other. We both care very deeply about the other person, and the sex is connected and amazing. This has been going on for a little over a year, and we were together as a couple for a little under a year. In many ways aside from sex, our behavior isn’t all that different from it was when we were together: we hold hands in public, we’re cuddly, we see each other and talk to each other more than we do with anyone else in our lives. We try not to be very physically affectionate in public to avoid confusing friends and family though, and we definitely don’t call each other boyfriend and girlfriend. Because we’re so honest with each other, he knows I’m still a bit in love with him, and I know that he doesn’t want to be a couple and why.

While this sounds like it could be a stressful or unfair situation because of the feelings being “uneven”, I am genuinely happy with what we have! It provides me the best friendship I’ve ever had, intimacy, affection both physical and emotional, great sex, and a ton of support. I’m sure eventually the arrangement will end, but I do know I’ll be sad and will miss the physical parts of our friendship when it does.

So what’s the problem? It’s that I feel so much pressure to define the relationship further for the sake of others or to move on. My friends express concern that he should just “make up his mind” or “admit that you’re really a couple”, or that I should date. I’ve attempted to date, too! But I find myself comparing my dates to the established and happy intimacy I already have, and I don’t feel that would be fair to another person. I don’t know what my next steps should be. Am I fooling myself that this is something that could make me happy for now? Am I setting myself up for heartbreak somehow? Is it possible to move on while staying so connected to the person I love most?

Thank you,
Friends with Bafflement

Dear Bafflement:

Winter is Coming, and having a reliable and trusted friend/bedfellow is not the worst idea ever. You also don’t owe the world a relationship that other people can understand. Romances and sexual relationships don’t have to move forward in recognizable stages or last a lifetime to be valuable.

I can see why your friends are concerned if they know you to be someone who wants to be married, etc. someday. Sadly, The Dude Who Would Like To Keep Things Very Casual While Also Enjoying What A Good & Caring & Always-Available Girlfriend You Are is a common figure in our common folk mythology and his stories are not often happy ones. In your friends’ places I might wonder if you were being totally honest with yourself about how cool you are with everything. I would especially wonder this if “He” (how amazing and wonderful he is, drama around your past breakup, the mismatch in affection & relationship goals, etc. ) were a frequent topic in our conversations and if your case for how great things are sounded (out loud) like you are trying to talk yourself into something. When I’ve been obsessed with someone and talking about how no, really, our relationship is special, and these are all the very good reasons I’ve decided to accept less than I really want, wise friends have said to me, “Do you think he thinks and talks about you as much as you do about him?” Is that what your friends are saying, or are they projecting their own desires for security and certainty onto you (also possible)? Nothing makes a case like success, so if you’re happy, try going with “All good, thanks!” instead of a lot of details about Him for a while and see if their reservations recede.

As for your romantic life in general:

Am I setting myself up for heartbreak?

Yes, but you always were, and you always will be as long as you love other people. Heartbreak is the human condition. The most obvious thought experiment is: What happens if Friend meets someone else next week or next month or after five years of being with you all the time and does really want to be in an exclusive romantic relationship…with them? And all the cromulent reasons for ‘not being a couple’ that you patiently understood all this time become not true when it’s this person? That would completely gut me in your shoes, like, Stevie Nicks + Lindsay Buckingham Performing Landslide Together-gut me. Less obvious but true: Romantic relationships can end on amicable terms and for great reasons mutually decided upon, and it can still hurt like hell when they end. And hell, Lindsay and Stevie look beautiful on that stage.

“Is it possible to move on while staying so connected to the person I love most?”

Yes, in that your life is going to move and change no matter what you decide. If your heart’s desire is a monogamous relationship with someone who is long-term committed and devoted to you, it’s going to be hard to meet and fully engage with someone who might give you that if your heart (not to mention time & energy) is still engaged with Mr. Friend and if in your heart of hearts you still wish things were different with him. Still, you can date new people if you want to. Try to realize that nobody new is going to compare to someone you’ve had a great time with in bed and out of it for a year when you’re eating awkward first date dinner with them. You’d have to compare things to back when you and Friend first met. Poly dudes might be your best bet for right now, because they are also the most likely to be accepting that you have this amazing connection with someone else and not try to compete with or displace it. Always remember: The wonderful qualities in you that brought such a sexy and fun relationship your way in the first place are still in you, and they don’t belong to Mr. Friend, they belong to you. In meeting new people, you might be surprised by someone who makes you call up Friend and say, “that was great and I’ll always care about you, but I’m done with the sexytimes kthnxbye.

You could also decide your dating plate is happily full for right now. If you take this route, I would encourage you to throw yourself harder than ever into your work or school or artistic pursuit or hobby and to make sure that your social life includes many people who are not Friend and who are not connected to him. You’re getting happily laid on the regular, you’ve got good friends, so take all the effort that “dating” takes and apply it to other things you really want to do with your life. I say this because while I take you at your word that things are great, I also take you at your word that you are more into Friend than he is into you, and I think it would be smart to make sure that you’re doing the other things that make you happy and fulfilled.

I’m glad you are happy and hope that you remain so.


Hello Captain,

First off, thank you for all the work you’ve done on your blog. Thanks to reading through your archives, I was most recently able to tell the boss on a project I was working on, “Sorry, can’t do that,” to an additional task that was So Not in My Job Description and that I didn’t want to do without offering a rambling litany of excuses that were only half true! And guess what – the project was successfully completed anyway, and I got praised for the efforts I did put into it! Yay!

But of course, there’s a “but,” one that is unrelated to that project. My best friend was recently sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison, and in another, inconveniently located state, no less. I haven’t exactly been blurting this out to everyone I know for the sake of my friend’s privacy, but a few people I consider close friends are in the know about the details, and for the most part, they’ve been nothing but supportively awesome examples of a fantastic Team Me.

The problem is one friend, “Thomas.” Thomas is, shall we say, a bit of judgmental prick when it comes to violations of the law and my friend’s violation in particular. He seems to be of the opinion that my friend got off easy and that serving his term in a different state (which is, as you might imagine, somewhat distressing to his family and friends), is only appropriate, as my friend has to learn that his actions have an impact on others around him. Naturally, my usual reaction to this is to throw my phone across the room and go out for a walk to clear my head.

I’ll then get a text hours later to the tune of, “Sorry if I’ve offended you.” To this, dear Captain, I usually have no response. So far, I’ve been ignoring the pathetic attempt at an apology and switching topics with no lead-in when I do get around to texting him back, but I’d really, really like to tell Thomas where he can shove both the apology and the high and mighty opinions that led him to needing to make one. Is there a script for doing so with less vulgarity than I’ve fantasized about putting into my response? I know the obvious solution is to simply not discuss my newly in-depth knowledge of how law and order actually works in America with him, but Thomas already kind of knows, and it’s been my go-to for brushing off why I really can’t get interested in his latest girl drama.

I know I’m likely to get some reaction along the lines of, “Well, why are you still friends with him?” to which I respond that I have good reasons for which I obviously don’t need to seek advice.


Friends don’t tell friends to go chew on broken glass, do they?

Good job asserting yourself with your boss, and I am so sorry about your best friend. That must be so scary for both of you.

This topic came up in a slightly different way recently, but sometimes the answer a friend needs is “You can think and feel whatever way you want about x, and you can also try to have enough sensitivity and care for my situation to keep it to yourself. When something affects my life and my loved ones so harshly, I’m not in a place where I can treat it like Debate Club.The old “comfort in, dump out” or “ring theory” of “not being a poophead to people in pain” comes to mind.

Thomas may remain your friend, but he’s not currently a safe place for you to talk about your best friend’s situation, so I hope you can vent elsewhere. I think you well within rights to say, “You have offended me and that ‘Sorry if...’ text wasn’t really an apology, was it? You have a right to your opinion, of course, but I have no idea what made you think I want to hear about it right now.” See if you get a real apology and go from there. It might be time for Thomas to become a very “Small Doses” friend for a couple of months.

Dear Captain and Awkward Army,

My roommate and friend, Pat, is lonely and under socialized. Not always, but often, when Pat enters a conversation, he does not respond to the organic flow of the conversation or attempts to change the subject. Instead, he will wait until you are fished, then be like “Cool. So anyway, about the story I was telling you before…” and then just keep going. Or sometimes Pat will be like, “Hey, remember that thing we were talking about 20 minutes ago?” and then launch into a story.

Pat’s stories are usually pretty mundane, but in a group of people, Pat will make sure any new person to the group hears the pet story of the day, no matter how many times the other group members have heard it already. Pat is always 100% sure these stories are great and fascinating and will hype them up before telling them. He also seems to be oblivious to signs of disinterest and boredom.

Recently, I had a couple of chatty extroverts over and Pat still managed to dominate the conversation for 2 or 3 hours. I had to leave the room a few times to get a break. This was both exhausting and disappointing because I wanted to catch up with my guests and instead I mostly just got tickets to the Pat show. Though in Pat’s defense, I think my guests were entertained and not put off.

Some of my friends think that Pat is self centered, but I think it’s mostly that Pat is oblivious, eager to socialize, and insecure. Based on some of the stories Pat has told me me, he struggles to make friends and maintain friendships, and due to some of the details of these stories, I think this may be a contributor.

I would like to help Pat expand his friend circle (especially to include people who share Pat’s main interest and would find his stories interesting, since I don’t) but I don’t really want to sit down and have an awkward conversation with Pat where I have to explain that he is boring me and making me tired. It’s not a fun conversation for anyone to have, but Pat in particular has an overactive jerk brain and will likely be very hurt.

I would also like to make an effort to spend more time with Pat, but I don’t want to be talked at for an hour and a half while I feign interest in the ins and outs of Pat’s 18th century literature course and how awesome and smarter than everyone else in the class Pat is.

I know Pat doesn’t come off great in this letter, but he really is an awesome person when he can get out of his own way, and I want to help him.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter.

Signed: Introvert Hides Under Porch

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Ahoy there Captain!

So, there’s this super awkward couple that my gentleman and I are both acquainted with through a Meetup group I used to run. We used to be closer, but we’ve started distancing ourselves, because the closer we got, the more we saw that we didn’t really care to be around. For example, the she-half of the couple (Greta?) is extraordinarily passive aggressive… Greta’s catchphrase when addressing the he-half (Irving?) is, “IRVING!!! CAN YOU WASH THE DISHES *PLEEEEASE*????” Of course, in the snottiest tone she can muster. Irving, of course, is no prize himself… he’s a secret asshole, presenting as super-chill and totally laid back but having a sneaky side to him that is hella lazy and dismissive of anyone who may hold a different opinion.

So we moved them from Always Friends to Sometimes Friends, and made our excuses so that my gentleman could stop running a tabletop game that included them as participants (Greta had a bit of a habit of actively pouting (at age 30!) whenever things in the game didn’t go the way she wanted for her character, and Irving would always make excuses about ending the game early whenever she’d get in a funk, which started happening with exponential frequency). Following the end of the game, Greta blew up at me directly when I announced my exit from the Meetup group, demanding ownership and making a huge production about why we didn’t talk anymore. I snapped back at her that I didn’t appreciate her making something that was painful for me (the possible dissolution of my Meetup group) into a referendum on our friendship, and if she wanted to talk to me about the fact that we weren’t very close anymore, she could have chosen literally any other time.

We haven’t spoken much since then, and Greta hasn’t brought up our last real conversation at all. We’ve seen one another at other events and while everyone’s been polite, we haven’t had much contact. They recently sent us a Save The Date for their wedding, but when it came time for the bridal shower invites, I was snubbed (I had another event that day anyway, and I actively dislike bridal showers in general, so that was no hair off my backside). Now our mutual friends have received their wedding invites, and my gentleman and I have not.

On the one hand, my gentleman and I are not that into weddings. On the other hand, I think it’s rude as hell to send out a Save The Date and not follow up with an invitation. Part of me wants to contact Greta and Irving and let them know that they’re continuing to behave unacceptably, and if they miss us as much as they’ve made reference to towards our mutual friends, this is not the way to mend fences. Part of me is glad I don’t have to buy them a Himalayan Pink Salt Block and Shaver for their wedding. Part of me, though, knows that the mail is not the most reliable vehicle for sending messages and maybe it got lost, and I don’t want to be half of that Awful Couple that didn’t even RSVP to a wedding invite (and thus lose the Moral High Ground).

My question is thus… we’ve been plopped into an Awkward Spot by having to pick a discreet follow-up versus a discreet Total Fadeout. How to best mitigate it? Which to pick?

Your humble servant,


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Commenter Dizzy, aka SPC Snaptags, has compiled and elaborated upon the Dude Social/Sexism Fallacies we were generating in the comments the other day, and added her own:

1.3 It is acceptable for me to put a down payment on your vagina without telling you that’s what I’m doing. It’s unacceptable for you to accept my gifts but not pay the price, which I didn’t tell you about

This has happened to me, and it is not fun. There were a number of times, particularly in the Army, where a male I thought was my friend would offer to do or buy something from me. It was usually something inexpensive or unimportant. Often, it would be something like a cup of coffee. I assumed he wanted to do something nice for me as a friend; he thought I understood that, when I accepted the coffee, I owed him sex. (I wish someone would phrase it like that—I’d love to negotiate what $1.98 of sex is).

Then, at some point, when he believed he had put in enough time and money and wanted his return, he would be furious when I refused to pay. To me, there was nothing to pay; if we were entering some kind of financial relationship, I expect to be told the costs up front. Trust me, if I had realized I owed Specialist Creepbag $1.98 of my vagina, I would have bought my own goddamn coffee.

I really like what Jennifer Pastilof is doing over at The Manifest Station with her “Dear Life” series. People write advice letters, Jen matches the letter writers with authors she knows, stuff like this happens. Thoughts: 1) Letter Writer, your cold feet are trying to save you from a miserable life. Stay cold! 2) “Sometimes you have to just put yourself in motion: do the right thing until it changes you,” is a hell of a line.

Two Chicago Events are coming up:

1) April’s Awkward Meet & Geek is on April 15 at Geek Bar Beta.

2) I’m reading at That’s All She Wrote, April 19. Venue is Great Lakes Tattoo, 1148 W. Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL.


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?

Intensely Ineffective

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Hi there,

I was with a guy for just under two years and in that time, I included him in my busy social group. I have a very large, very close group of friends that I have been friends with for nearly a decade. When I met my ex, he didn’t really have any friends of his own but made a few friends in my group and was friendly with just about everyone. We broke up 3 months ago due to him having kids and me not wanting kids, which I have a lot of guilt about, despite knowing it was the right decision for both of us.

Here’s the problem. He’s still showing up to our parties and events. I KNOW I can’t tell him who to be friends with – but I also wish he would stop coming around. I already have one ex in the group, my ex-husband, which is awkward enough, but we made friends with these people at the same time. This guy was only around for maybe a year and a half and while my friends liked him well enough, he was definitely still seen as MY boyfriend and not a member in his own right. Cliquish? Yeah, probably, although no one would ever be unwelcoming to him and as a group we are HEAVILY infested with Geek Social Fallacy #1 so I doubt that he’ll stop being invited to things.

I feel like a giant, selfish jerkwad because I know he doesn’t have (m)any friends of his own so he wants to cling to the ones he made through me and he IS a good guy – but I also feel like these are MY friends and having him around is uncomfortable and awkward. It will be even more so as I have started dating someone else and while I’m not ready to start bringing the new guy around yet, I will at some point and then will have to deal with him meeting not one, but TWO of my exes.

I don’t know what to do about this as I am fully aware of how selfish this desire is and that I sound like a total jerk. I know that a lot of this is a reflection of the guilt I feel over our break up and seeing him just reminds me of that, which I understand is my problem and not his. I get that I can’t tell him not to come around anymore, but short of just stopping going to events myself, what can I do? Do I just have to deal with this or is there some middle ground I’m not seeing? If it is something that I just have to put on my big girl panties and deal with, do you have any suggestions on doing so?

– Not normally a jerk, I promise!

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