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Mental Health

Time for (mostly) monthly feature where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they were questions.

1. “How to tell my parents I’m moving out.”

You have found the place, yes?

You have a way to pay for the place and a way to move your stuff to the place? If you are expecting resistance from your folks around the topic of moving out, having your financial and logistical house in order is a wonderful rebuttal.

Make your plan, and then tell them when the pieces of the plan are in place. “Mom/Dad, Mom/Mom, Dad/Dad, Mom/Dad/Moppa, I found a new place and I’m going to move there on x date. Thanks for putting me up, I really appreciate it.”

If these aren’t the sort of parents who will be happy about this news, don’t bother trying to sell them on the features of this or convince them that it’s a good idea or give reasons or get too far into the details. “I’ve got that handled, thanks for asking!” is a good non-answer for the intrusive.

2. “How to say that you want her but just can’t be together.”

What are you trying to communicate here, and what do you want to happen after you say this? If you can own the decision as a decision (and not throw your hands up to vague “circumstances”) you will put “her” in the best possible position to move on. “I really like you and care about you, but I’ve decided that we shouldn’t be together.” “I am so attracted to you, but I’m sorry, I know that I don’t want to be with you in that kind of relationship.”

3. “My cousin will not speak to me on the phone but will only text am I being avoided.”

Does your cousin text you back promptly, and initiate texting sometimes? Then it’s likely you are not being avoided, but phone conversations are being avoided. Does your cousin not really respond to communications? Then maybe they are avoiding you.

One way to find out/get what you want done: “Cousin, I know you prefer texts, but can we talk on the phone for a few minutes later today? I have some stuff to hash out and it will be quicker that way. Thanks.”

4. “What to say on a suicide hotline.”

“I’m having a rough time and some suicidal thoughts, can I talk to someone about that?” 

Those hotline operators have heard it all, my friend. You aren’t going to weird them out or somehow “do it wrong.” They are waiting for you to call and take a step toward feeling better.

5. “How to quit in a awkward workplace.”

Do it in writing. “Dear Boss, I am leaving my position as of (date). Best wishes,

Two weeks’ notice is usual in the USA. You don’t have to tell them where you are going or why, especially not in the resignation letter.

6. “My ex fiance made it very clear he doesn’t want to hear from me.”

Whatever brought about those circumstances clearly SUCKS, but I hope you’ll take him at his word and let it be a truly clean break for both of you.

7. “My ex wants to talk but I don’t.”

Tell them once: “I want to make this a clean break. Please stop contacting me.”

If you’ve already done so, good. Your next step in both cases is to not respond to any contact from them, no matter what form it takes. Set them to perma-ignore.

8. “What to say to an ex-boyfriend when he still emails you.”

Total silence is good. You can set up a filter so that these messages bypass your inbox completely if you like.

9. “How to deal with guy who says he doesn’t want a relationship with you but with another girl.”

Step 1: Believe his words.

Step 2: Ignore his existence.

Step 3: Go live your awesome life.

10. “What are the reasons for wife to be angry with me while we are in bed.”

This could be so many things. “Wife, I feel like you are angry at me, but I don’t know why. What’s the deal?

11. “My mom hates me and my boyfriend porn.” 

I’m sure it’s out there, because every kind of porn is out there. Seek and ye shall find!

12. “Don’t bother sending kisses to people who ignore someone when they have other things to do and people to see to.”

Solid call.

13. “A girl shows interest in public but ignores my fb msgs.”

She may never check her Facebook messages. Do you have another way to contact her?

What happens if you translate this as “A girl shows kindness/attention when we’re in public, but when I try to contact her more directly she ignores/rebuffs it”?

You’d probably stop sending her messages, is my guess, which is the correct path here. If she wants to message you, she can and she will.

14. “Movie set in New Orleans with African Americans.”

It’s a TV show and not a movie, but I’m partial to HBO’s Treme and the masterful performances by Clarke Peters, Wendell Pierce, Khandi Alexander, and others. Try to keep not dancing while listening to thisTrouble The Water is a powerhouse documentary, told real time during Hurricane Katrina by survivors. Kasi Lemmon’s Eve’s Bayou is set in rural Louisiana and is a freaking masterpiece of acting and directing.

15. “Hot sexy drunk texts.”

“The temperature is very high in here, I am drunk, and you are sexy,” covers most of these bases.

16. “Shit boyfriend and an asshole brother in law.”

The Toast, one of my favorite websites, has many readings that will appeal to you in this time of personal misandry.

17. “My boyfriend said I can’t visit because he is hosting his cousin.”

Don’t…visit?

18. “Had dinner with friends and wanted to let them know we enjoyed their company.”

An email or a text or a handwritten note that says: “It was so nice to see you, let’s do this again soon!” would not go amiss.

19. “How do you get rid of your son’s girlfriend.”

CONTACT THE SPELLCASTER

WIRE $1000 US TO ME BELOVED

Or, realize that who your son dates is not your decision, so chill out and wait. If she’s really as bad as you think, he’ll wake up to it a lot sooner if he doesn’t have to cleave unto her to prove a point to you.

20. “My partner ignores me for days on end to my face. Is this emotional abuse.”

Yes.

21. “Behold the field in which I grow my fucks.”

BEHOLD!

An old timey-sampler that says "Behold the field in which I grow my fuck. Lay thine eyes upon it and see that it is barren."

Hello! 

I’m struggling to find good ways to respond to my boyfriend when he tells me what I should or need to be doing. I’m in therapy to recover and get to a place where I think that I’m good enough & love and trust myself again (after years growing up having that constantly undermined), and therapy has been going very well. 

I believe that my boyfriend (of almost 2.5 years) wants to help me succeed, be better, and do what we both know I’m capable of. The way he goes about it though, is damaging my self-esteem and is a constant source of “you’re not good enough” for me. 

He wants me to exercise more, eat healthier, help out more with the cleaning, and take better care of myself. All good things. But the way he goes about it is “you need to exercise today”. If I tell him I already did, he tells me that walking doesn’t count, that it needs to be more strenuous exercise. He’ll get mad if he thinks that I’m not exercising often enough, or if I stop doing as many “good things” like eating veggies and working out, while he’s out of town. He never lashes out with his anger, he just doesn’t talk much when he’s mad. He says that he still loves me even if I don’t do these things (but it doesn’t feel that way to me). 

We’ve never reached a good resolution about this, and it keeps coming up. I’ve asked him to stop trying to get me to change, that you can’t change other people, but he refuses to accept that, to the point that he says it’s the stupidest thing he’s ever heard. We both are very logic- and reason-focused people, but he’s come to the conclusion that, “if she just does these things, I won’t have to deal with her being depressed.” 

It makes me feel like nothing I do will ever be good enough, that he will always focus on what I’m not doing instead of what I am trying to do. He says I need to do more, try harder, and not let myself be comfortable. Everything I do in therapy has been trying to build confidence, motivation, and self-respect from within and stop relying exclusively on it externally, and then I go home and grapple with someone telling me that I need to do these things to be better.

Is there a chance he will realize that the moods are part of the package, and something I’m trying to work on gradually, not all at once? How can I respond when he gets mad at me for not being good enough? 

Thanks, 

Terrible at Advice Column Nicknames

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Stinkor from He-Man, a humanoid skunk in an orange costume.

This is Stinkor, from He-Man. What would the action figure for Clingor look like?

Dear Captain Awkward:

My partner has told me that he is afraid that he’s boring and that he has an irrational fear that my ‘self-improvement’ means I will leave him for somebody “more exciting”.

A few years ago I was feeling really down, and during that period I decided to really work on myself by changing my lifestyle. I took up a sport, started eating better and got involved in my community. Now I can hardly imagine life before – the improvement in my life and moods has been significant.

It is now to the point where he’s jealous if I have too engaging a conversation with one of his friends, and has insisted that he comes along to anything I do that runs the risk of me so much as talking to men who aren’t related to me. I find this behaviour anywhere from irritating to suffocating.

I am not sure where this fear of his has come from, I don’t think I’m just ignoring my boyfriend and getting annoyed when he wants to spend time with me. I think the problem is that he has low self-esteem and that this feeling of low self-worth has turned into a fear that I’ll leave. In the past he has said he likes me because I ‘make [his] boring life interesting’, which I find extremely concerning. To me it sounds a lot like ‘I am making you responsible for making my life interesting’. Perhaps that is a harsh assessment, but I am frustrated that he has enough free time to latch on to my plans, but apparently not enough to go find something to do by himself.

He is a great guy when he’s not being gnawed on by the hounds of insecurity, but I cannot carry on like this – I don’t have a problem with telling him where I’m going or who I’m with, but sometimes I just want to do things without having to justify why I want to be alone. I am at a loss – what can I do? I’ve suggested therapy and a hobby, but he doesn’t seem to understand that his attempts at keeping me close are pushing me away.

Thanks,
Pushed not pulled

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Dear Captain,

I have only one sibling, an older brother. He is in his late thirties and still lives with my parents. He’s never lived on his own, whereas I moved out as soon as I could at 18. He has a BA in Accounting, he works full time, he pays rent to my parents and handles his own laundry, etc, but he still has never wanted to move out. My parents have threatened to make him leave in the past, but they’ve never followed through.

He’s always been socially awkward and a loner, and most of our family suspects he has some variety of mental illness/personality disorder/is somewhere on the autistic spectrum/etc, but after one failed try at family therapy when he was four, my parents have never gotten him professional help. My dad has his head in the sand about it, and mom doesn’t know what to do at this late point in Brother’s life. Brother is in complete denial that he could benefit from therapy or medication or even a diagnosis.

Within the past few years, he’s gotten fixated on politics and turned into a walking uber-conservative caricature. Worse than that, he’s become paranoid, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic … the list goes on. He’s not quiet about his beliefs, and he is constantly turning every conversation about the most innocuous subjects into a political rant. He spouts hate and vitriol against liberals and everyone who isn’t like him. He doesn’t listen to dissenting opinions, he talks over everyone all the time, and he gets very upset and ragey very quickly. I am a liberal, and I consider myself a feminist and fairly well-read about social justice issues. I am also bisexual, but not out to my family, and have lots of friends in the LGBT+ community. A lot of what he says is extremely hurtful to me, and it’s very difficult for me to listen to without responding. He often gets angry at me for arguing and then turns things personal and belittles my intelligence and life choices. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for five years, and being called stupid is one of my buttons. Brother knows this.

Whenever I’m around him, I try very hard not to engage, to just ignore his ranting and remind myself that he has serious mental/emotional issues. But I have trouble even talking about neutral subjects, because he seems hellbent on twisting everything into a politically charged fight. He’ll even interrupt the conversations of others. I have walked away many times. I’ve (mostly) accepted that he doesn’t care about me or my feelings (or is incapable of doing so). He ignores conversational boundaries I’ve tried to set. He never asks about me and my life, nor did he show any concern when I was being abused, even though I tried to reach out to him. I’ve never felt like I had a real brother, just some mean asshole who lives with my parents. This makes me incredibly sad, and I feel guilty whenever I snap and say something back to him.

Do you have any advice on how to handle things better? I want to be a good sister, but I honestly don’t know where to start to help him at this point, especially since he has no respect for me. I would just like to be able to be at their house without feeling so constantly insulted and harassed.

Sincerely,
Stressed Sister

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Hello awesome awkward people!

I’m in a poly relationship, my partner (of four years) has a wife of 20 years (her & I have been really close but have grown more distant the last nine months or so) who has really been struggling the last couple years with what she feels is depression (I’m phrasing it that way because there’s no official diagnosis it’s not to invalidate her). We thought it might have been menopause/hormonal but everything with the docs has checked out. She is seeking finding counseling now but more so because things really got to a crisis level. Her husband gave her an ultimatum to go. He ended up rescinding it but being explicit in things are bad and for his own well being if she doesn’t take getting herself better seriously he’ll have to eventually do what it takes to keep himself healthy.

We typically work very well together and in the 20 years of their open marriage they’ve never had issues like they’re experiencing now. About two years ago there were some serious life stressors (job, money, health etc) and she broke up with a very toxic boyfriend just prior/about this time.

We’re coming out of those things and everything is moving forward and looking so promising but she is struggling. We are working VERY hard to be supportive yet set healthy boundaries.

Through all the transitions and upheavals the last couple years I can’t help feel it has almost been a trigger for a midlife crisis type event for her. There’s no doubt she’s a people pleaser. She’s always happily gone in the direction her husband was going. He’s a strong personality but not manipulative or abusive. His friends have always been her friends, his interest and hobbies became her interest and hobbies. I’ve maintained and continue to cultivate life outside of our relationship and he’s always been 1000% supportive in that. He tries to do so with her but she lacks drive/motivation.

He and I were discussing this, the whys etc and he had a lightbulb moment of she’s such a people pleaser and he doesn’t think she even knows what she wants. Today I’ve done sooooo much reading about P-P and it’s so text book! I’m not going to tell her this is what’s happening but I’m wondering if there are healthy ways to help guide her in exploring this concept. I feel like it’s made doubly tricky because of the P-P attitude. More than anything we want to support her. We really want her to have opinions and to KNOW what SHE wants.

We want her to accept and believe we love her and value her because she’s awesome not because she does everything we’re interested in or that we want to do.

We know that ultimately that is on her to realize that but we would like to be supportive as best we can while maintaining healthy boundaries for everyone.

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Captain,

I was wondering if you could help me sort something out with my friend S. My life has gone through the wringer the past 2 years, in terms of friendship dynamics turning scary and unhealthy, being assaulted/ stalked, my emotionally abusive/ homophobic parents, and the basic drama of becoming an adult. My friends have been an incredible support for me, and balance the acts of being there for me and still just hanging out and having fun.

I’ve been in therapy for these issues, and am working really hard on my anxiety and depression. I am working hard to ensure that my stalker (who has a history of violence and threatens harm to himself and others) does not threaten my physical or mental safety. I am proud of how assured I am in how to do self-care and how I am able to doubt myself less. My biggest issue has been trust issues and worrying that the people closest to me don’t believe me.

S. has been there for me, even when we were in different countries this past couple months. Now that we are back in the same place things have gotten… weird. Her new attitude is “question everything”, because she wants to be a teacher and apply that philosophy everywhere. Yet to me, her questions don’t seem to be coming from a place of wanting to know or understand, but to get me to self reflect. She has also said it is important for her to question me so I can “have a better understanding of the larger situation”, especially because I tend to “overreact”. It may sound dramatic, but I feel like I’m being interrogated a lot of the time. I don’t want a life coach that inadvertently victim blames me (which is why I go to my super lovely therapist), I want nerd out with my friend.

I told S. that I love her ability to ask good questions, because it means we have really excellent dialogues, but that sometimes just jumping into questions about my personal issues without starting with validation or support is too much for me, and she responded with “I can’t change who I am.” She also brought up my previous request for verbal affirmation, and told me it was annoying to tell me she loves me all the time.

I love her to pieces. She has been an incredible friend. But this new shift in how she communicates/ treats me is bringing up major trust issues, yet I feel like I am asking for way too much. She has also been talking a lot to my friend G. about me (something she told me, not something I am “overreacting” to), and all of a sudden G. isn’t talking to me. My immediate move has been to step back and let them initiate contact, because managing this group dynamic feels really hard on top of taking care of myself.

I don’t want to change her, but I also want to feel safe hanging out with her. Is this my anxiety/ just my problem? Or do you have any suggestions for scripts that I should use? Are there any paths of action to get my relationships with S. and G. back to mutually healthy places? I really love them and our histories together, regardless of the tensions now.

– Questioning the Questioner

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In which we look at the things people type into search engines to find this blog, and answer them like questions.

1. “My parents are swingers and want me to join them.”

Nope. As in, I suspect this is a fake question/problem.

As in, here is your script: “Nope.”

As in, “Want to come to this swingers party with us?” “Nope!” “You should try swinging with us, I think you’d love it.” “Nope.” Come on, how can you even know you don’t like it  if you haven’t tried it? Once you see how much fun Mom is having, I know you’ll change your mind.” “Nope.”

Or, I think it was RoseFox who mentioned once upon a time in a comment thread here that kink, etc. tends to run in families, so if you are also a swinger, maybe you and your folks have to hash out who has priority in which parts of your scene or work out what to do if you have an awkward “…Dad?” moment.

2. “After our first date he said although I was definitely his type he felt we had more of a friend vibe.” 

“He” may want you to be a friend or an ummfriend (the thing about being his ‘type’), but not a boyfriend or girlfriend. Have fun, if you are having fun in his company, but do not wait by the phone or get super-invested in a romance with this man.

3. “Boyfriend won’t go in public with me.” 4. “Boyfriend won’t tell people about me.”

I’m trying to think of a non-sketchy reason for this. Okay. Hrm. Maybe he’s a Capulet and you’re a Montague and your families are locked in a battle to the death. Or maybe it’s a same-sex relationship in a really conservative place, and homophobia from family, coworkers, church, and the surrounding culture is making your boyfriend afraid to talk about you. Is it a cultural thing (which doesn’t make it less crappy for you, but it’s at least a reason that you can empathize with and talk through to a good solution) or a “you are his secret thing on the side” thing? Trust your instincts, and trust that you’re not selfish for wanting recognition. If something feels sketchy, it probably is.

5. “How to tell somebody politely to be quiet while watching a show.”

There are two methods that come to mind. One is to pause the show (if you can) and give the person your full attention for a few minutes.”What were you asking me?” Have a conversation with them, and then turn back to the show when you’re ready.

The other, more direct and active way is to say, “I really want to focus on this, can we talk later?”

I’ve been the jackass who thought it was a “we’re all going to make fun of this movie together” party when really it was a “we are quietly watching this movie together” party, and I super-appreciated being told directly.

6. “Should I say sorry for creepy behaviour.” 

Maybe. Is the person still talking to you (like, they initiate conversations with you that aren’t “what size would you like for that latte?” when trapped at work) or are they avoiding you? Once someone is avoiding you, and it’s most likely because you did something creepy, the best way to make amends is to show them that you get it and leave them alone. Go forth, and creep no more.

7. “What to be when you grow up and want to do something that involves English and science.”

Write about science, or edit scientific publications/textbooks/journals, or be a scientist who writes wonderful grants and papers are some things that come to mind. Readers, I feel like lots of you have cool jobs that combine these things. Take us to Career Day!

8. “I’m living with my girlfriend, and feel she’s taking financial advantage of me.”

If you think the person is taking advantage deliberately, that sounds like a good reason to end things.

If you think they are just being oblivious or not stepping up as you want them to, the big question I have is, have you ever had a talk about how you will handle finances, or did it just kind of happen along the way that you would do most of the paying? Sometimes people get into a role or a habit of how they spend without really examining it, and it can be hard to switch from Romance! mode to practical mode. It’s also hard to initiate conversations when you’ve been operating under the weight of so many assumptions. It’s so tempting to think that it will all work itself out without anyone having to spell things out, but this is a mistake. If things are unbalanced, or unworkable for you, and you want to stay in the relationship, then it’s time to work things out very explicitly and transparently. Before opening discussions, I suggest that you do some math. What are your expenses like? What do you each contribute? How do you want to handle money in the future?

A good way to start this conversation is: “Girlfriend, let’s talk about how we pay and split the bills. What we are doing right now is not workable for me, and I’d like us to figure out some changes in how we handle our finances together.” :show spreadsheet: “This is how our monthly rent, bills, and expenses look to me – is there anything on here that I missed?” If you invite her to be a partner in figuring this out together rather than starting off by berating and blaming her, you can make her an active player in finding a solution. If she won’t engage honestly with you, that tells you a lot about her (and whether you should stay).

Finding an equitable solution doesn’t necessarily mean splitting everything 50/50. There are lots of successful romantic partnerships where money is pooled, where one person earns all the money and pays for everything and the other partner contributes in other ways, or where people keep their money entirely separate. My parents, married for 47 years, operate by pooling everything, paying out all of the necessities, savings, and things they’ve budgeted for together, and then each taking an allowance for themselves that can be spent without running anything by the other person. After cohabiting for a year and change, for now I pay the rent and the bills up front and my dude reimburses me for his share because that works better around how and when we each get paid. We keep separate bank accounts and alternate paying for groceries and other stuff. I’m sure that will evolve with time, and that’s the biggest piece of advice I’d give to anyone who is figuring out finances with another person: Lay everything out transparently and make sure you build in the opportunity to renegotiate how you do things as your circumstances change. Ooh, one other thing I’ve learned: If you’re the partner who earns more, one challenge is realizing that if you want the other person to pay half of everything y’all do, you need to scale down how you live and what you do to be within what they can afford OR you need to treat them when you want to treat yourself without putting that on their account, so to speak. And you both have to be able to say “Sorry, I can’t afford that right now!” without shame or blame from the other.

9. “How to be a good Facebook stalker.”

In three! easy! steps!

1. Close your computer.

2. Go learn to paint or some shit.

3. In summary: Don’t.

10. “Is meeting her kids a big deal.” 

Short answer: “Signs point to yes.”

Slightly longer answer: “Take your lead and cues from her.”

11. “What is the best thing to do for a loved one who just got out a psych ward.”

I asked people who are in a position to know, and some answers were:

  • “Take them to Uncle Julio’s.” (Substitute the comforting, favorite casual dining venue of your choice here).
  • “Food in the hospital tends to be very bland, so if they like spicy food at all, take them somewhere with spicy food.” 
  • “Let them know you’re there for them without making a big fucking deal about it.” 
  • “If the place they stayed was a good place, they likely came out with some kind of aftercare plan. If you can, offer to help them with the implementation of that – stuff like getting to appointments, filling prescriptions, etc.”

My other suggestions are 1) Seek them out for the pleasure of their company, not solely to help 2) Ask if they want to talk about it and listen without judgment if they do. Respect their choice if they don’t. And remember, they are not there to prove or disprove your impressions of what mental hospitals are like from seeing Girl, Interrupted or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest 3) Offer hugs if they are hugging sorts and you have a hugging kind of relationship. People get very touch-deprived among strangers. 4) Find a regular way of keeping in touch. People getting out of any kind of hospital get a big surge of “what can I do to help?” at the beginning, but it peters out quickly. Be there consistently.

12. “My husband leaves a brown film on the toilet seat.” 

Is he eating the Bro’det every night?

Is this a new behavior? Is his overall hygiene getting worse? Is this related to illness or aging? Because my first thought is that maybe something is deteriorating about his ability to notice things like this, and a medical checkup might be due.

Alternately, I suggest putting some Clorox wipes (or similar, we’re not brand-loyal) within easy reach and saying, “Can you please wipe down the toilet seat after you use it?” If he’s a person who walks away from toilets without checking to make sure everything is cool, it’s unlikely he will notice on his own or do something without this level of directness, so rip the bandaid off.

13. “How to tell your ex u don’t want to be friends.”

“Ex, I know I said that I’d like to stay friends, but now that some time has passed, I think I need a truly clean break in order to heal and get over things/put the relationship behind me. I’m so sorry, but I don’t think we should stay in touch anymore.” 

If they’ve been contacting you a lot and making you uncomfortable, sometimes you have to be more literal “I need a clean break, which means that I’d like you to stop contacting me.” It’s okay to send all that in an email. End with wishing them well. If they send something back, don’t reply. Hopefully time will do the rest and you’ll both heal and move on.

14. “BF wants me to Skype at 9 pm every day.”

I am guessing that you do not want to Skype at 9pm every day, or you wouldn’t be searching for this.

Is it that every day is too much for you? Is it that having a set time, or having it be that time is inconvenient?

I suggest sitting down and figuring out when it would be good for you to talk, so you can offer something more realistic.

“Boyfriend, I love that you are so attentive to keeping in touch, but 9pm every day isn’t working for me. Can we do [schedule that works for you]?”

15. “It’s only been a few days but i want to break up.”

Do it. Don’t drag this out. “[Name], I am so sorry, but I do not want to be in our relationship anymore and am ending it.”

You could try “I really liked you, so I wanted to give things a chance, but I know now that it isn’t right for me.

Own everything about ending the relationship. Don’t list the other person’s faults, or try for objective reasons. “I don’t feel that way, I’m so sorry.”

It’s gonna suck but you will feel so relieved a few days from now.

16. “Rejected someone but changed my mind.” 

Have a good think first. There was a reason you rejected them. You sure about this?

Okay, try this: “Ever since we talked, I’ve been kicking myself for missing out on my chance with you. Is that offer still open/Would you be willing to give it another try?”

If they say no, be graceful and cool. “Well, you are nifty/keen/cool/super, I had to ask.

Here endeth the lessons. Stay warm out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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