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Overthinking It

Every month we answer the things people typed into search engines like they are actual questions, adding punctuation but leaving the wording intact. If it sounds like me saying “but you could just not” 20 times in a row, that’s pretty much what happens every month with these. Enjoy?

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’ve recently been making an effort to meet new people via online dating, and it’s been pretty great so far – I’ve met a few cool, interesting people who I enjoy hanging out and exploring potential romantic stuff with. Most of them have super interesting lives and a lot of cool stories to tell, which I like listening to. The problem is, they never ask me about myself and it’s starting to bother me!

I was raised to believe that it’s polite to demonstrate an interest in the person you’re talking to, and that asking them questions about themselves and their opinions is a good way to make someone feel at ease when you’ve just met. Plus, when I like someone, I usually WANT to know all about them and to collect as much info about this cool stranger as possible. The combination of the above means that on first dates I tend to spend a lot of time asking my date about the interests they listed on their profile, what they think about X global event, what they like to do in the city, etc., but I’ve started to notice that the effort is rarely (and sometimes never) reciprocated. This includes people who messaged me first and asked me out, so I know they’re interested in me romantically. I date people of all genders, so I know it’s not just an entitled dude thing (although the dudes are worse).

I’ve tried leaving pauses after a topic of conversation wraps up, for them to ask me something about myself (doesn’t work, they usually start telling a story about themselves or drag out the previous topic a little longer), and occasionally I’ll answer the question I just asked them uninvited (e.g. Me: “So where are your favourite places to hang out in the city?” Date: “Oh, I like X Y Z” Me: “Cool, I’ve been planning to check out Z sometime! Personally I like F and G”), but it makes me feel selfish to do this too often when they’re not showing more than a polite interest. I’m pretty sure it’s not shyness that’s stopping them from asking me about myself, because there are plenty of questions I ask them that they could easily ask back onto me (this is another thing that I was taught it’s polite to do when possible, but I accept that mileage may vary on things like this).

Plenty of these dates lead to a second or third date, and the trend of me feeling like I’m interviewing them continues even when we get to know each other better (or at least, I know THEM). Am I just dating assholes, or is there some script or social convention that I’m missing out on here? I’m not looking for a date to talk AT or for our dates to turn into back-and-forth quizzing sessions, but it’s starting to make me feel uninteresting and unappreciated!

Yours,

The Date Interviewer

Dear Dating Interviewer:

Hello, you are me from three years ago. Open to dating. Interested in meeting lots of people. Able to carry on a conversation with most anyone and put them somewhat at ease. Meeting a lot of basically okay people with whom I could pass a pleasant hour, but few kindred spirits. Meeting a lot of expectant looks across cafe tables. Feeling sometimes like I was putting on a show.

You could try keeping quiet for a bit and seeing if the other person jumps in, but honestly I think you should keep doing what you’re doing, but use it more as a screening process. If you get through Date 2, and the other person hasn’t asked you a single question despite you giving them many openings to do so, you know that they are not for you and there should be no Date 3 (unless they make all the effort to make one happen and make some kind of massive conversational rally). You can also say, explicitly, “I’d love to hang out again next week, why don’t you choose the place” if you’ve been taking more of the lead in planning stuff. The person will either rise to the occasion or not.

And when you run across someone who takes as much of an interest in you as you do in them, where it feels like a conversation rather than an interview, where things flow and it doesn’t feel like you are doing the work of keeping a conversation going, you’ll know you’ve clicked with someone. This is less about finding people who are interested in you (a lot of them are, and a lot of them will be) and more an exercise in finding out who passionately interests you.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Take breaks when it gets to be too much. Among the moths drawn to your flame, you’ll find someone who burns as bright as you.

<3,

Captain Awkward

 

 

 

the doctor and rose, in separate dimensions, on the other side of a wall from each other, cryingDear Captain Awkward,

I may or may not be in love with my best friend. We have been close for over 10 years, and dated briefly at age 18, 8 years ago, when we broke up due to long distance and the mutual feeling that we both needed to have college experiences and relationships and sex, and to develop individually as people. We remained very close, rebuilding our friendship from there, and supporting each other through the stages of growing up, relationships, jobs, etc, from afar (with the exception of Christmases, a couple summers at home, and visiting each other, we have lived in different parts of the country for 8 years). We have always been able to talk very frankly about our boundaries as well as about our mutual attraction. We have also been able to adjust very well when either of us was in a relationship with another person, adapting the intimacy of our relationship to an appropriate level and giving each other space when we needed it. I know that if he fell in love with someone I would genuinely be delighted for him, and vice versa, because it has happened a couple of times, without issues. We would re-draw our boundaries and adapt our friendship. However, right now he and I are both single, and we are about to have a month together for christmas. I know that historically those circumstances lead to me feeling very romantically and physically attracted to him. On one hand that is great, but on the other hand, we are still on opposite sides of the country for at least two more years until we finish our degrees.

The thing is, neither of us wants to do a long distance relationship, and honestly he and I have already discussed the fact that the distance, and the fact that there has never NOT been distance makes it difficult for either of us to know how we really feel about each other romantically. When we see each other it is in these emotionally intense bursts, and I don’t know how he would fit into my daily life or how I would fit into his, whether we would truly be compatible romantically, or whether we are just building a romance in our heads. We have said that if we lived in the same city, and were single, we would probably give dating a try, since we like each other so much, and actually our long term goals are very compatible. We’ve also promised to NOT pull any “My Best Friend’s Wedding” stunts. I guess my question is this: should I keep my hands off him this Christmas? As it is now, in two years, he and I can have a conversation about actually ending up in the same state, (we’ve discussed that we are interested in many of the same cities and as of now, it wouldn’t have to be a huge romantic pressure thing to try to end up in the same city). We have never actually slept together, though we have done other things over the years when we were both single. Would it change things in such a way that it would BECOME a romantic pressure thing?

Regardless of whether he and I worked out romantically, I want him in my life and it would be lovely to be in the same city. I just don’t want for either of us to sabotage other relationships because we are secretly holding onto this one, and I also don’t want to sabotage this friendship or to do anything that could prevent it from developing into something romantic if that was the right thing.

Advice?

My feeling is, if after knowing this person for eight years you are working toward goals like ending up in the same city someday, referencing My Best Friend’s Wedding as a Thing That Might Happen, routinely renegotiating your boundaries and level of intimacy around whether one of you happens to be dating, and arranging your current romantic and sexual decision-making around this eventuality to the point that you would not get together now for the mere CHANCE to try it out “the right way” later, then the “Isn’t it rich? Are we a pair?” cat is already well out of the bag. However, I am kicking this one to the commenters, since logistics and timing are real factors here, and since “Oh, just fuck* already, you’ll figure out a lot from that and you are clearly burning for him” is probably not the thoughtful response you deserve. <3

Commenters?

*contingent on respectful discussion and mutual consent

Hey Captain and Crew,

I’ve got… well, let’s say I’ve got some guilt on how I handled a situation, and I could really use an objective perspective. I’m a master of the JerkBrain Guilt-stravaganza, and I can’t tell if I should tell my brain to shut up or if it’s on point.

I’ve been working at a job I dislike for a long time (almost 10 years). It was relatively steady work and in the economy no one else seemed to want me. This past spring I took additional education, in the hopes of that making me more viable. Since July I’ve been actively (read desperately) hunting for a new job. Yesterday I was contacted by a headhunter I’ve been working with. She had a “possible” with the catch of having to start immediately.

I’d gotten nothing but rejections, and things have been so bad here at the office I was considering just leaving anyway. I told her to put me forward thinking it would go nowhere. That same day she came back with a positive response. I’ve been offered a temp-to-perm opportunity for more money and while not the position I was hoping for, it’s at least in the industry I just trained for.

I didn’t think, not for more than a moment. I accepted, and felt the bottom fall out of my world. I told all my bosses that Friday is my last day. They’ve been resigned and more or less gracious about my sudden departure. There have been a few barbed comments about how I probably owed them better after so many years. Captain, I’m a creature made of guilt right now. It’s never been a secret I was actively trying to leave, but this isn’t how I wanted the final farewell to go.

I guess I wanted someone else’ opinion- how much of the guilt I’m feeling is appropriate? Did I just act like a total jerk to people I’ve known a decade? I’m already so overwhelmed trying to wrap up everything at my old job, and mentally prepare for my new one that this guilt-monster is just, exhausting and beginning to convince me I’m a bad person who was nasty to people who’ve been more or less good to her.

What do you think Captain? Any insight would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Job Jumping

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Dear Captain:

Earlier this year I was asked to resign from a job in my preferred niche area of my profession, which was a devastating experience. About a month ago I started a new, different position for a new agency, but in the same area as the old job, both geographically and professionally.

So far the new job is working out well, which is great, because I’m proving to myself that I failed at the old job because it wasn’t a good fit, not because I’m a bad person. However, there’s a lot of interaction between agencies in my field, so I have to communicate with people from my former company on occasion. Usually it’s by phone/fax/email to people I didn’t work with directly, but there are pending meetings where I will be in the same room as former colleagues I did collaborate with. My former coworkers are friendly enough, but I was working solo most of the time in my old job and didn’t socialize with them. I was very withdrawn and depressed for the last several weeks of my term there, and didn’t really give anyone notice that I was leaving until my last week.

I’m still feeling a lot of shame over being fired. I’ve avoided places and events where there were chances of running into old coworkers, plus I generally tend to avoid people and situations that didn’t work out for me, such as not keeping in contact with exes. But now, these interactions are inevitable, I’m not sure how to navigate them, and thinking about it makes me pretty anxious. Any advice/scripts you could offer would be incredibly welcome.

Yours truly,

License to Fret

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Closing comments because, WTF, people? 

LW, your coworkers are not going to care about this that much. It’s gonna be fine.

 

Hi Captain!

I changed careers and started a job in a brand new field about a year ago.  Around the same time, I started dating someone new.  I kept quiet about my new relationship at work for a few reasons:

  • Being new on the job, I didn’t know my coworkers so well, and I wanted to get a better sense of the culture around personal talk at my company.
  • I didn’t have a great sense of whether or not the relationship would be a long-term thing or just a fling.
  • I identify as a lesbian.  I’m dating a guy.  All my coworkers are straight.

A year later, I’m pretty invested in the relationship.  My community has been supportive and wonderful; everyone I hang out with gets that identity, desire, and behavior are separate things.  It feels like I’m back in the closet at work though.  I initially came out to my coworkers as lesbian and haven’t told them I’m dating a guy just yet.  I play the Pronoun Game occasionally, or speak about “one of the people that I’m dating” in vague terms, and I’m tired of it — I’d like to come out and let people know.

My coworkers are warm, kind, respectful humans.  I am sure they have the capacity to understand, but I’m struggling to come up with the best way of explaining the situation.  Do you have any scripts?

Thank you so much!

Cheers,

Complicated Queer

 

 

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

1. “Ex no longer contacts me.”

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

2. “Nerdy desperate dating problems.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. “I fuck goats.”

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

8. “Terrible names to call your sister.”

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

9. “Once a rapist always a rapist?”

Statistically speaking, yeah. Rapists rape repeatedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A female what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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