Overthinking It

Hurricane Joaquin…everybody ok so far? Be okay.


My wife (Carole) and I (Clark) have four children and share our home with a childless couple (John & Priscilla) who I met in college. We’ve done so for roughly two years now with surprisingly little friction.

Recently John talked to me about how he’s come to the realization over the past year that he is polyamorous. The rest of us are not.

John also confessed that he’s had a crush on someone outside the house for a few years and that there are other infidelities over the course of his marriage.

I am having a difficult time discerning if this is actual polyamory (which I am not terribly familiar with) or just rationalization of bad behavior and a desire to have shackles taken off so he can date other women without guilt.

John discussed the possibility of romances (plural his) going forward and not liking the idea of primary/secondary relationship – so in theory these other women would have the same status in his life as Priscilla.

Putting myself in Priscilla’s shoes – this would be hard to swallow. I fear that our happy home is about to be torn and I am hoping for some help with resources / tools I can use to help them both while maintaining healthy boundaries.

(I am not concerned about having random lady friends over with children about – before moving in we all signed a contract that included the right of any one of us to veto someone coming over if for any reason it made us uncomfortable. John will have to get any lady friends approved by his house-mates before they can come over or will have to leave.)

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Sweaty shirtless Chris Evans you're welcome

Even Mr. Mountain Lodge Candle himself needs a bath sometimes.

Hi Captain,

So I just started officially dating this really sweet guy, and it’s been going really well! However, he is a huge runner and usually runs every night. We are both in college so we usually hang out after he runs, but he never showers before we hang out! At first I thought it would be a one time thing but it keeps happening, and I really don’t like cuddling with him all sweaty. How should I approach this? We just started dating and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I really wish he’d just rinse off or something. Am I being too picky?



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Dear Capt. and Company,

This is a post-party wedding question, at least on the surface. The outline: asked friend M to be a bridesmaid in late 2013, wedding was this June. Friend M withdrew as bridesmaid January 2015, as funds were tight and she is 16 hours away. I offered to cover her dress and half the estimated ticket, but she declined. I was really, really sad, but didnt say anything. She texted me 4 weeks ago, wanting to know how the wedding went. That was the only thing I heard from her since ~March. She didnt respond to bachelorette invite or formal wedding invite, and didnt text, call, send a card, a Facebook message—radio silence until “hey love you miss you can’t wait to hear about the wedding” text. 2 months after the wedding. And I am just speechless. My sister (also v good friends with M) says M would never intend to hurt me, and weddings are “not the only thing people have to think about.” Which leads to the submerged bits of my question…

I really wanted to be a laid back, no stress bride, & probably failed to indicate how important some of the wedding stuff was to me. I’m fat, and not pretty, and non-traditional, and thought I had accepted myself as I am, Achievement Unlocked. But bride stuff fucked with my head–I really wanted to feel pretty and special and celebrated, and lots of stuff combined to make the whole planning process painful. No one offered to throw a shower. I didnt want one! But I am crying now, writing this, because no one wanted to. My mom didn’t have any opinions, didn’t want to go dress shopping with me….didn’t really care about much. I know this is a problem lots of people would like to have. But without writing a novel, wedding planning felt really lonely for me, and Friend M going AWOL still twists my guts in knots.

The actual wedding was very nice, and I did feel like I had semblance of community show up to celebrate. And yes, I did get to marry the partner I love, which everyone says is the definition of a successful wedding. But I am sad and hurting.

If you have insights, advice, etc., I really could use some ideas.

From reading the Offbeat Empire off and on, I can tell you that the post-wedding blues and unexpected post-wedding feels, including loneliness, are A Thing. Forgive me for the John Updikeness of this, it’s an apt description of that “meh” feeling after you do something that was much anticipated:

“Back from vacation”, the barber announces,
or the postman, or the girl at the drugstore, now tan.
They are amazed to find the workaday world
still in place, their absence having slipped no cogs,
their customers having hardly missed them, and
there being so sparse an audience to tell of the wonders,
the pyramids they have seen, the silken warm seas,
the nighttimes of marimbas, the purchases achieved
in foreign languages, the beggars, the flies,
the hotel luxury, the grandeur of marble cities.
But at Customs the humdrum pressed its claims.
Gray days clicked shut around them; the yoke still fit,
warm as if never shucked. The world is still so small,
the evidence says, though their hearts cry, “Not so!”

-John Updike

Your sister has forgotten that “intentions are not magic.” M. would never intentionally hurt you, but hurt you she did. My read on M’s behavior is that she felt guilty about dropping out as bridesmaid and subsequently detached, whether due to guilt or being overwhelmed with life stuff. I think it was crappy of her not to RSVP to anything, or at least call or text you and say “Can you stop sending me pretty invitations for right now, I already told you I can’t afford to come and it bums me out to get them when I know I can’t be there and I hate disappointing you.” It must have been very hurtful and anxiety-making for you to keep sending overtures and hear nothing from her. If you love her, clear the air with her, and say what’s on your mind, “I’m so happy to be back in touch with you. Not being able to talk to you these last few months was really sad and lonely for me. Can you tell me ‘why the radio silence’? Are you ok?” 

My read on the general post-wedding slump is that you can’t go back and re-do it, and people (like your mom) won’t really get it if you bring awkward things up now. It’s unfair, because there is so much pressure for this one event to be healing and performative and perfect and meaningful, and then so many mixed messages, like, “Which is it, Zeitgeist? Is my wedding day the most important and special day of my life where I must be a perfect pretty pretty princess or am I a complete self-absorbed trivial asshole for caring so much about something so petty (and girly)?” Having looked at a Pinterest board or seventeen, I am fascinated with the current aesthetic in a certain kind of wedding right now, which mixes “EVERY DETAIL IS HANDCRAFTED THOUGHTFUL PERFECTION AND ORIGINAL” and “Oh, this old thing? You don’t think we put actual effort into that, do you? We just wanted to throw a good party and focus on what’s really important, like love. It just happens that our kind of love means handcrafting the paper for our special favors out of recycled driftwood over a period of three years using an antique stamp from my spouse’s ancestral crest and (shrug) and ink made from things we found in dumpsters.”? You were caught in the Cool Girl (also known as Chill Girl) paradox, where you are supposed to both be perfect while doing something stressful and act like you are not trying at all. Who wouldn’t be drained after walking that tightrope of decision fatigue and cultural pressure?

Your project now is to:

a) Forgive yourself for caring a lot about certain parts of your wedding and forgive yourself for having uncomfortable feelings even though the result was happy. Some feelings demand to be talked over and some are just vague uncomfortable longings that can’t necessarily be solved. If you have to ritually expiate those feelings by dressing in blue glitter and singing Let It Go three times in a row at karaoke one night, I will not judge.

b) Figure out what kind of relationships and people you want in your life now and going forward, and how to build and nurture them. How can you keep old friends like M. in your life, but hold them a little more loosely during an off-cycle? How can you meet new people, and invite the warm, funny, caring ones in? What weekly or monthly rituals can you put in place to find that community you crave? What do you have in common with your mom that might form the backbone of an adult relationship? In my opinion almost everybody needs a social space and friendships that don’t center a romantic partner, so make sure you cultivate and hold onto yours.

c) You planned the giant party and survived. You did it! What other projects do you want to do that aren’t giant parties but maybe involve a lot of anticipation and cooperation? Do you need to go on a trip every year with your best friends and maybe your sister? Do you need to learn something new? Do you need to make a movie or a giant collaborative art project? What dreams and projects of yours sat dormant while you planned your wedding? Pull them out. It’s time.

d) How’s work/school? How is your sleep? How are you eating? When was the last time you got a physical/got your eyes checked/went to the dentist? Have you told your doctor about feeling run down or blue? When was the last time you got a few hours alone in your house to just do as you please? Institute self-care protocols, please.

Much love and congratulations to you upon the occasion of your marriage. These particular blues will pass. You’re not weird for having them.

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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The Captain's cat, Beadie, on her desk with a fat tail and anime eyes.

“HAI, I HAVE INVITED MYSELF TO YOUR DESK!” – this morning in my house.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I was recently called out for inviting myself over to my friend’s home to show off my new bike. It didn’t occur to me that that was what I was doing, I was just excited, don’t get to see her much, and the bike shop is close to her home.

I have routinely over the last year asked if she were free for me to drop in for a hug when fetching mail (I receive mail in the same building as her office) and that’s seemed fine. The only difference I can tell between this and the bike incident is that it was about a bike and it would be me dropping by her home rather than office.

I already add a fair number of caveats to my speech, my precise meaning often misunderstood. For example, I often add ‘in the (near) future’, when asking if someone would like to get together as a number of people thought I meant right now. I can’t tell if this is a serious enough thing that I should consider a caveat for this type of thing too.

I’m not sure if it’s germane to this issue, but I considered her until about a year ago my best friend. Even before then she’s become increasingly distant and I’ve been getting the impression that if I’m not in her life in a certain way, she doesn’t have space for me.

Regardless, I’m wondering how big a transgression this is- another blog said that inviting your self over to someone’s home is viewed as rude and presumptuous and should only be done seldom with a very, very close friend. Is this something I should be policing in my speech? I used to, when my father called called me on inviting myself over to a classmate’s home for her next birthday (I said let’s do x instead of y next year) when I was 7 or 8. Moreover, I don’t quite understand what I said wrong (I wish I could remember the exact words I used)

I’d appreciate any words of wisdom you can share.


Moderately Confused

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Hi Captain!

This isn’t anything serious but I thought you would have some great advice or direction.

My ex and I are seeing each other again. We dated for 4 years, 2 of which were living together. We were in our early twenties and the living together was much less a mutual choice and more so charity/kindness on his part as my student loans made it impossible to live on my own and living with family was not a healthy option. I think between us both being young, in a stressful almost depressing point in our lives (job issues), not having the best communication skills, and my moving into his (not our) place waaay too soon were all reasons for the breakup rather than a we’re not good for each other sort of way. After breaking up, we took about 6 weeks off but then started talking again. This time around, we’re going slowly (we’re doing things casually, not being exclusive, going at our own pace), being clear about our expectations with regular check-ins to make sure we’re both on the same page, and communicating like professionals; we’ve both grown and matured astronomically. Overall everything is exactly where I want it to be. I’ve never been happier with him or in my life and all past issues seem like a bad dream. If things continue as they are, I can see us eventually trying again with potential for it becoming really serious.

However, in the back of my head I’m worried about getting hurt. My friends, who are more like siblings, were around for the most of the relationship are skeptical and concerned. They want me to be happy and wish only the best for me. When I give them updates on my romantic life, I sometimes get comments like “make sure he’s not using you” and “I don’t think you guys are right for each other, but I hope I’m wrong.” I know that my friends have an outside view of my situation so they might see flags that I’m blind to, but also that they come with their own expectations for relationships and separate past experiences that don’t apply. My gut rarely fails me, but I am also scared that my gut may be too optimistic and might ignore sage, heart saving advice. How do I know when to trust their input to guide some choices, when to take it as an idea to mull over, or just thank them and ignore it?

Thank you much!

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