Overthinking It

If you’ve met someone online…

…made plans to meet up for a first date

…but then after you’ve made those plans, the person says or does something creepy (or racist) that makes you reconsider…


Use a text medium (preferably the dating site itself):

“Dear (Name), I’ve changed my mind about meeting up in person and am writing to cancel our plans. So sorry for the short notice. I wish you well. Your Name.”

No further explanation needed. You don’t have to tutor them about what they did to annoy you. Send and disengage.

They will react how they react. Rejection never feels great, but a good reaction is “Wow, that’s sad but I understand & wish you well, too” + leaving you alone.

If they react with extreme anger or clinginess or “you’re just like all flakes who always cancel on me” (typecasting), or demands for a chance or for reasons, think of it not as “you making them angry and owing them a correction.” Rather, they are confirming your instincts to not meet them. You changed your mind about meeting up. THAT IS THE REASON. YOU ALREADY GAVE IT. Don’t respond, block them everywhere.

“But,” you say, “I flirted with them!”

“But they told me a lot of personal stuff/I told them some personal stuff!”

“But we’ve been texting a lot, I am worried they will think I am rude or that I led them on if I just bail”

They might think that you are rude. So, do you want to tell them you don’t like them *during* the awkward date? Or afterward? Cancel! Cancel now and risk that someone you have already decided you don’t like won’t like you anymore!

I’ll go back to regularly scheduled posting of questions, but these were piling up and some of you are on deadlines with looming weekend dates to cancel. Cancel away, my friends!



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Hello Captain and friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tomato in the Mirror

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Hi Captain,

I’ve dug through your archives but haven’t seen anything specifically on this topic–apologies if I’ve overlooked something–but I’m wondering what advice you have to give for partners who make the decision to work through a mistake and rebuild confidence in each other.

Long story short: I’ve been dating my partner for a few months, but we’ve been very close & important presences in each others’ lives as friends for about 2 years before we began dating. About a month ago he made a very stupid, but not unforgivable, mistake involving an ex of his as they tested the waters to see if they could function as friends (turns out, no, they can’t). He has been nothing but honest and forthright about it since it happened, and although we were both unsure before this happened as to how seriously we could commit to each other (eg: neither of us felt comfortable using boyfriend or girlfriend as a term then or now, but agreed what we are is much more than just “seeing each other.” It’s somewhere in between), since this all went down we have both doubled down on supporting and prioritizing each other as a couple.

We are also both going through the joyful process of cutting an ex out of our lives, because in both cases they love us more than we can ever love them & cannot healthily function in a 100% platonic environment with us at this moment. So space and time is in order for healing. Which is giving us both anxiety (both for ourselves and for each other) and making us very sad. We are trying to balance that line of support–historically we have leaned on each other during times of anxiety and stress–and also take into play your “not my circus, not my monkeys” rule to manage our anxieties and control issues (eg: I think he’s taking the “typing with one finger when he could just use Chrome” route to cutting his ex out, and desperately want to tell him to metaphorically scooch over so I can do it for him, but his path cannot be my problem so long as he handles it in a way that doesn’t hurt me).

We both lead full lives with hobbies that we share, hobbies we don’t share, friends we share, friends we don’t share. I’m doubling down on the self-care and detachment (from trying to control the way he handles his issue with his ex) and he is staying present and vigilant about executing his goals while also practicing self-care. Even still, it’s difficult. Now that the holidays are over it has been particularly hard not to ruminate, and while I’m journaling and working through several aspects of this within myself, I also feel the need for support. (Just today I emailed my old therapist to see if she takes my new insurance) After keeping it to myself for a couple days I finally confessed to him that I’m still struggling and feeling sad/hurt/anxious. He said he is too, but that we’re living with it as we work through it, which feels very accurate. And then I felt guilty for bringing it up at all, which is a whole different barrel of social conditioning worms (I am female, partner is male–late twenties, early thirties respectively).

I guess my question is: we’ve decided to stick it out and work through a difficult time… now what? Both of our ingrained reactions are to cut and run when things get messy, but we want to try (with the understanding that it could fail anyway) and I’m feeling a little lost for what to do. Is this just how it is?

Longing For A Reset Button, Would Be Happy With A User Manual

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Ahoy Captain,
I was hoping you could give me some scripts for internal use only.

A few years ago I was in medical school in city A. In my final year, I failed my exams & had to repeat the last semester – and know this sounds ridiculous (“the worst thing to happen in your whole life is failing an exam, you lucky, over-privileged jerk?”), but I have never felt worse, more devastated and humiliated, in my life before or since. I was the only failure in my year, & all my friends graduated without me. Ultimately, I graduated at the end of the semester, have been a doctor for several years, and my supervisors give me satisfactory reports. My self-confidence was not-so-great for a while and I have issues with anxiety. But a year ago I moved away to work at City B Hospital. It was a natural progression based on my experience, but I was entrusted with more responsibility, less supervision, learned a lot and people tell me my confidence has noticeably increased.

This year I’ll be moving back to work at City A Hospital, for many excellent reasons, not least because they will be giving me a type of position I’ve been trying to get for the last 2 years, and necessary for getting onto the training program for the speciality I’m interested in. I’m looking forward to this move on the whole, but I’m worried about how I’ll deal with seeing my old friends, many of whom still work there. They are not the problem – they were and still are great to me. But most of them are registrars now (kind of a middle-management position) while I’ll still be a junior. I’m worried that, working with these guys, probably being told what to do by them sometimes (as part of our jobs), I’ll start thinking what a loser I am again. I already feel a little depressed when I hear about one of them passing an exam or getting a promotion (because I am a terrible person). I mean, I try to tell myself stuff like “They know more than you because they’ve been studying for specialty exams / they’re further along because they had a head-start /it’s not a crime to take longer to progress in your career – that doesn’t make you a loser”. But then I go “Yeah, but they didn’t fail and you did, therefore all of that must be interpreted in the worst possible light – so you kind of are.”. 

Captain, have you got any other suggestions for how to convince my self-doubt to STFU?

Thanking you in advance,

Doc With Doubt

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If this blog were a child it would be a five-year-old today, and I would buy it Star Wars action figures and a bake it a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting in my mom’s old Mickey Mouse-shaped pans. Happy New Year/Blogaversary, Awkward People!  Here is a poem that I think is about forgiving yourself:

Attende Domine (Thomas Lynch)

To lie in the tub on New Year’s morning
awash in bath oil and resolution
observing the Feast of the Circumcision
is to seek the water’s absolution,
according to the law that juxtaposes
Cleanliness and Godliness. I suppose
it is time to examine my conscience,
to make a clean breast of it and amends
to such as those I might have offended.
Attende Domine et miserere! Lord
I’ve sinned with my eye and did not pluck it out,
and with my hand and yet my hand remains
blessing myself against your righteousness.
I’ve sinned with my mouth and loved the sound it made.

I took an honest-to-goodness vacation (I saw family and friends and met a camel and read Goblin Emperor, finally) instead of writing intense 2015 recaps or 2016 pronouncements, so, let’s just dive back in to what we do here.

Today’s question is about when a past toxic relationship bleeds into the present. How do you know what’s reasonable to ask for? And how do you correct someone or set a boundary with a new partner without constantly calling back to the old one?

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Hello everyone! Are you reading Ask Bear at Bitch? It is great. So is Ms. Opinionated, especially this one about sexism and the service industry.

O Captain, My Captain,

I searched the archives and came up with nothing that directly addressed my awkward situation, so here it is. A few months ago, I started dating a guy. This was not my idea, but we were really good friends. I let him convince me that we really ought to give it a try. This wasn’t the last instance of pushiness on his end. He’s been dropping hints about us moving in together, looking at random kids in restaurants and comparing them to our own future children, you get the hint. I’m still feeling kind of raw after my last relationship with a super intense guy, so even if I did like this new one as more than a friend, I’d still be hearing the alarms loud and clear. I broke things off this week and blocked him since I’m pretty sure he’s got a moderate to severe case of the “but whyyyyyyys?”

I need to figure out what to do with his stuff. He loaned me a couple books he thought I’d find interesting. I didn’t find them interesting, but I took them anyway, because it seemed important to him, I guess. He’s also given me a bunch of little gifts, like inexpensive jewelry, T-shirts, a recipe book, stuff like that. I want to give all of this back to him without being subjected to a FEELINGSBOMB. This probably means sending it back, but I don’t want to pay for shipping when I know it’ll probably be expensive and the post office will be crowded right now. Can I get away with dropping a box on his front porch when I know he’s at work? Do I have to send him a courtesy text to let him know? Should I suck it up and pay for shipping?


Too gifted

Dear Too Gifted,

Return the books he lent you. Drop them in the mail. Don’t text, just let the Postal Service do its work and return them. Don’t bother including a note; he’ll know exactly what they are and who they are from. My reasoning is 40% “they were lent, not given” and 60% “he will use asking for them as an excuse to contact you, so head him off at the pass.”

Trading favorite books can be a really fun thing to do, but raise your hand if you have had an annoying guy push all his favorite pop culture on you right at the beginning of a relationship but mysteriously doesn’t read or listen to anything you like or ask you for any recommendations?

:raises annoyed hand at past self for putting up with this:

Donate or toss the gifts. If they were like, family heirlooms or could be sold for significant $, giving them back would be a nice thing to do, but they aren’t, and gifts belong solely to you now, so returning them is like an extra “fuck you” at this point. Since you want to disengage from him and not re-engage via hostility, let the gifts go out of your house where neither of you will think about them anymore instead of back to him where he will maybe dramatically throw the jewelry into a nearby body of water like he’s in a student film and smell the shirts to see if they smell like you.

It sounds like you made exactly the right decision to end this, and it sounds like you won’t be talked into a relationship by someone pushy and smothery any time soon, so, good talk everyone.



Dearest Captain,

I have had a rough few months in which I have temporarily moved home to deal with a highly stressful situation. The crisis itself has largely passed, but I’ve decided to stick around for the holidays, since I do love my family and they don’t seem to mind me crashing with them for a while longer.

The most prominent issue in my life right now is with one of my new friends in my new state. He’s a nice guy and all, but he’s kind of…irritating. I didn’t say much to him before I left to go back home, but he knows that there was an emergency and that I’d be out of town indefinitely. Since I left, he hasn’t stopped pestering me to ask me how I’m doing (crisis situation, wtf does he think?) and sending me pictures and motivational quotes in the name of trying to cheer me up at least once a week. The latest was a picture of a rainbow intended to “Brighton [sic] your day!”

I’m aware that there are far worse problems to have, but he’s driving me nuts. I haven’t responded to him in nearly two months because of other priorities, including not wanting to get sucked into a drawn-out conversation I don’t have the energy for, and he is damn near impossible to shake once he’s got any sort of handhold. However, he’s also damn near impossible to shake even after two months of silence on my part, go figure.

I feel like I’m on the other side of Letter 366, where I’ve got the avoidant attachment style, and the harder people cling, the harder I push them away. I consider myself very independent, and I know that’s feeding into this as well…if I’m going to be cheered up or have my day brightened, I want it to come from within, when I’m ready to start feeling better on my own. My close friends know to let me wallow in self-pity until I arrive at a more balanced frame of mind on my own.

Is it all right to tell him, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you?” I’m not necessarily sure I want to cut him out of my life entirely, but I am sure that I need him to drop the contact attempts way back and make the ones he does send less saccharinely feel-good.

-Let Me Mope in Peace

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