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Info and RSVP for the next Awkward Meet & Geek for singles (and “available” poly folks) is here. I hope I will see some of your smiling faces.

The “is there one true right way to do things” discussion reminded me of a story from my childhood:

When I was very little, my parents taught me that if you have to fart, you should try to get away from other people, especially if it happened at the table during a meal. You should also say “excuse me” after you do it. We also called farting “pooping” in our house. Poop was “Number 2″ or, and I say this with a visible cringe, “dumpies.”

What this meant, in practice, is that three little kids…and my dad, to set a good example (and possibly because he was the chief offender)…would frequently rise from the table, walk over to the doorway into the back room where Muffin the Great Dane was gated during meals, fart in the dog’s general direction, cheerfully say “excuse me!,” and then sit back down. Hilarious, right? It is possible that my brothers and I made this a competition, of sorts. I dunno, my mom was part of a hippie food co-op, we ate a lot of brown rice and carob and grew our own vegetables. We were gassy people.

So, imagine me starting school. Imagine me feeling the urge, getting up from my seat, marching to the door of the classroom, pointing my rear out into the corridor, firing one off, loudly exclaiming “excuse me!” and then sitting back down in my seat. I didn’t understand why everyone laughed. I mean, I thought I did…I thought they were laughing because it was awesome and they were jealous of how stinky & loud it was. That turned out to be not why they were laughing.

I did this a few times before my teacher took me aside at recess one day to say “Hey, about that…why…maybe…don’t” We agreed that if I felt like I had to fart (once the distinction between “poop” and “fart” were made clear), I should just ask to be excused to the rest room, and if I didn’t catch it in time and it was loud/stinky/obvious to others I could say “excuse me.” How she did all of it with a straight face, I will never know.

Lots of us are taught truths and manners and practices that hold up only in one specific context. So, I’m curious to know, what’s a thing that you were taught at home that did not hold up in the outside world?

 

 

 

Once a month I try to answer the things that people typed into search engines to find my blog as if they are questions. It’s an exercise in mixed results.

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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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Captain and Crew,

I’ve been married to a wonderful man for almost 5 years now. He and I have worked hard to have a marriage based on openness and honesty.

We decided fairly early on we weren’t in a hurry to have kids, if ever. We wanted to have time to be just us. Then I had some medical issues which required a snip of the tubes, so it hasn’t even been an issue for many years.

The second question my MIL ever asked me was if I was going to give her grandchildren. To the point she stopped talking to us for a year after the marriage when we told her it wasn’t happening.

My husband has always, always handled her and stood up to her on our (and my) behalf. He’s never tried to make me do what she wants even superficially for “family harmony”.

Adding to the tension is the fact that for ten years her ex husband brutally abused my husband. When my husband finally talked to her about it and asked why she didn’t allow him to live elsewhere, her reply was “I didn’t want to admit I was wrong. I would rather you be abused and hurt than hear ‘I told you so’ from my mother”. She has also Whitewashed the abuse and makes it like they had a Rockwell childhood.

There has been therapy for all of this, don’t worry. And continues to be.

Husband and I are now talking about having kids in the next couple years, especially now that we have found out My body has reversed that surgery all on it’s own (super mutant Fallopian tubes for the win).

We will need to set boundaries, probably All over again. Going into it this is what We would want:

1. She would never be left alone with any of our kids. Ever. She has a history of poor decision making and drug use.

2. We would need to restrict how much time she is visiting for our own sanity, and to be honest, mainly mine.

3. That she will not argue every aspect of our parenting choices.

So when is the best time to establish these? What’s a good script that doesn’t involve my overprotective tendencies an easy out? Can I just hide being pregnant until the kid is like 13?

We are not telling anyone I am fertile again, but we are discussing all of this potential madness.

Thanks for your advice

Not yet a momma but already dreading grandmomma drama

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Hi Captain,

I was re-reading post #247 about highly difficult people (they will not change!) which I have found very helpful and I have a question. I have a highly difficult person in my life (my Mother-In-Law) who blessedly lives very far away (yay!). So most of the time I live my life like she doesn’t exist. Until…there is a visit. It seems like a lot of your advice is try to be nice, and when shitty people get shitty, leave. You also advise for the offspring of the highly difficult person to do around 50% of the visits alone. But what do you do when visiting involves an airplane flight. I feel like “Suzie couldn’t come because she had to wash her hair” won’t fly.

Also what do you do when you are staying in their house or they are in yours, for like multiple days? I think you are probably going to say hotels, but hotels are like a huge deal for my husband’s family. They don’t do them (I know crazy right). They would rather sleep on the world’s most uncomfortable sofa bed than pay for a hotel. Do I lay down the law and say we are staying in a hotel when we visit? What about when she comes to us? I am all about boundaries and keep setting them in relation to her as time/need arise and my husband is mostly on-board with these. He still suffers from a bit of the ‘don’t rock the boat’ syndrome. And staying in a hotel would like capsize it.

The other piece that I’m not sure is relevant is my parents happen to be Amazingly Wonderful People and we love when they come visit and they do stay with us and it is all rainbows and unicorns. So I am asking then to treat our Moms in very different fashions (I know they are different people duh, but I feel a need for evenness – get over it right?).

I guess I’m looking for either a magical solution to multi-day visits of awfulness or permission/encouragement to rock the boat and let it sink??

The Ship is Going Down Anyway

Hello!

The ship IS going down anyway, so talk to your husband so he’s not blindsided and you both have some scripts ready to go, and go ahead and rock that boat! PERMISSION GRANTED.

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Captain Awkward,

I want my parents to get divorced.

There’s been a lot of unexpected changes from their marriage to today, but everything always seemed okay, at least topically.

But a big reason my mother married my father specifically was because he was a Christian. Recently, his views have changed, and he is an atheist. This is partially due to a domino effect from my coming out. I am an atheist as well, and my sister is Christian.

This has sort of put a spilt through family dynamics, because religion is a very large part of my mother and sister’s lives, and, in the case of my mother, recovery and dealing with mental illness. Non-religion is a very large part of my father and I’s lives, and, in my case, recovery and dealing with mental illness.

The atmosphere has been tense for weeks. They’ve been arguing, assuming things about each other, and their already very different personalities have started to seriously clash. I’m not sure my sister notices it, but my father has noticed that I’m noticing, and we’ve talked a little bit. He says he wishes I weren’t so perceptive. Right now I’m inclined to agree.

And it bothers me. More than that, it’s making my anxiety, feelings of guilt, and general mental state get significantly worse.

My father brought up “staying together for you kids”, but that kind of atmosphere is tugging at my seams. It’s stressful to watch, and I want it to stop. But… it’s not my relationship, and even if my father doesn’t feel the marriage is working out and is coming to terms with “the D word”, my mother denies the tension and seems to err on the side of marriage being held super importantly and not getting divorced unless things absolutely implode. Neither of them are faultless in this, not by a long shot, but if this carries on the way it is, to the point where someone breaks down or things and collide?

That implosion would hurt like hell for me. But I feel selfish that I want them to split up, at least partially for my sake. But I don’t want to relapse from stressful second-hand emotions. But it’s, above all, not my relationship.

How can we, as a family, discuss this and come to a solution? I have no idea what to say, or what to do, or if I should even do or say anything.

A Deer’s Divorce Dilemma

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Comments are closed as of 10/12, thank you.

Dear Captain Awkward,

My family has managed to kill the buzz of new marital bliss…or at least I’m allowing them to in my mind.

After a decade-plus long marriage, children, and lots of misery, I divorced, and later married a long time friend.  We have a very solid relationship, my children adore him, and life is as good as it can be with our hectic schedules.  Other than my parents, there was no wedding for my family to attend.  Because this was my new husband’s first marriage, and he lives out of state, we were married there so that his family could all be present.  My family was aware that we were getting married, and explanations were made regarding the wedding location.  Our wedding happened, and life moved on.  The problem is, I haven’t….at least not in my mind.

Many families are “quirky”, and mine is no exception.  Heck, Hollywood seems to have a whole film genre for uncomfortable family comedies.  It’s all fun and games until it’s your own, though.  Since our marriage, exactly one family member (in my sizable family) has called to wish us congratulations.  Not a single card.  Lest you say this is sour grapes over not receiving money or gifts, or some obnoxious etiquette whinge…Maybe deep, deeep down there is a bit of truth to that.  I can’t imagine not giving my own sibling/niece/grandchild a wedding gift.  It is my second marriage, and there was no wedding for them to come to, so it is understandable.  My greatest concern is (in addition to the fact that his family now thinks mine must be pure evil and worries about what he has married into), my husband feels hurt and jilted, when he has moved away from his EXTREMELY, UNBEARABLY close-knit family to be here. He has inferiority issues regarding my first husband. He makes less than half of what the Ex made, he is missing the 15+ years of family history my ex had with us, etc.  He could use some friends here, or at least acknowledgement that he exists. 

No one has reached out, invited us over, or has tried to get to know him in any way.  In fact, I was told by my sister not to bring him with me (during our engagement) when I visited her out of the country, “because it would be like having a stranger in her house.” That trip to see her was taken at the cost of our honeymoon. (It was all the money I could save in two years, and all of my PTO from work.) I thought that was the final straw, until no one even acknowledged that I had gotten married at all.

My family does not still seem to be grieving for my previous marriage or Ex.  Our divorce was very friendly, amicable, and we still raise the kids together exceptionally well.  My divorce did not inconvenience the extended family in any way (not even so much as a babysitting request), so I just can’t wrap my head around what is going on here.  Yes, some cards of gifts for our wedding would have been nice, but having them welcome the man I love into the family would have been the best gift of all.  Too bad none of them can bother.

Can’t wait for Thanksgiving

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