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Dear Captain, 

I need scripts, and I need them ASAP.

I have 24 years of reasons (emotional abuse and toxic family environment) to hide why I am on antidepressants from my parents, and I have been doing so successfully for a year, paying for them out of pocket, because I am on a medication where I can afford that, though I am not in a position where I can yet go off my parents’ (very good) health insurance for my other (costly) health problems. My SSRIs have been great for me-I respond well to them and I am getting through grad school very well with thousands of miles of distance from my abusive parents, plenty of therapy, and at long last, medication I probably needed years ago! (medicate those brain weasels, plus learning weasel-charming techniques!)

But. I just found out that some no-doubt well-meaning person at my pharmacy put my most recent refill on my insurance, which my medical-trained mother goes through line by line every month.

I am desperately hoping she does not tell my dad, because that would make things a thousand times worse. As it is, she is probably going to corner me with the “But why didn’t you tellllll ME” and “You didn’t say anything about how you feel to me BECAUSE I’M A BAD MOM” and “You obviously don’t think that I AM TRUSTWORTHY ENOUGH” and make it her, her, her and I am just….I don’t have any scripts for this. And I’m going to be visiting them for the next month, starting tomorrow. (Dad is a “Only the weak use medication” and “Try exercise” and “Drink St John’s Wort tea because they’re all placebos anyway” type.)

Please, Captain. I need your help. The last time something like this happened, Mom and I had a huge fight because I didn’t tell her about a panic attack I had-I didn’t want to tell her about it because she made it all about her feelings about it, but I wound up telling her that I was just too ashamed of it too tell her in order to get her to shut up, because she would not let me leave. I’ve already spent weeks psyching myself up to deal with how self-centered she is most of the time, and knowing that she’s going to be reviewing my insurance statement line by line and then making it all about her feelings about it has made that psych-up all but useless.

(I can’t cancel the trip, either. One of my best friends is getting married and I spent a month’s rent.)

~Forced Out Of The Antidepressant Closet

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Dear Captain Awkward,

My siblings and I were all home-schooled, and we all turned out all right, finished school, have decent jobs…until tale-end Charlie was born twelve years after the rest of us. My parents decided to home-school Charlie (PUBLIC SCHOOL EVIL! DRUGS! GANGS! ROCK MUSIC!) except by then they were both tired of the time commitment and just…didn’t.

They kept Charlie home and didn’t teach him anything. Since they live in a state with zero government oversight (BECAUSE FREEDOM!) they got away with it. One of my other brothers taught Charlie to read when he was ten. I’m the oldest and I moved to another state when Charlie was seven, and moved out the house when he was four. I knew on one level things were slacking, but I was wrapped up in my life, finishing college, and getting the hell out of my hometown. I never spent very much time at home for various reasons I won’t get into, but my cousin would tell me Charlie doesn’t know this, or Charlie doesn’t know that so I’d talk to my parents and they always had a reason.

“We haven’t started the unit on that yet, that’s the next grade, we’re taking break for Nov/Dec because of all the holidays and we’ll start again in Jan, I just ordered this great new curriculum…”

I should have called the police on them years ago. But I didn’t. I still believed my parents could turn this around and teach Charlie like they taught the rest of us. I didn’t want to call the police on my own parents. But I should’ve. If I could go back in time I would.

Last fall, I had a heart-to-heart with Charlie via skype and his desires to join the military and Do Exciting Things do not at all jib with what he knows. Every time I asked him about school he’d say he was really studying hard, then (over skype) I got him to show me his ‘Math reviewing’. It was a third-grade adding-columns-of-numbers book like the dollar store sells. Which he couldn’t do because he didn’t know/had forgotten how carrying works. I flipped out on my parents, who promptly blamed everything on Charlie (who was deeply addicted to WoW and ‘wouldn’t study’, therefore it’s Charlies fault).

I live in another state so I started tutoring Charlie over Skype every second we were both home. We covered third and fourth grade math in three months. Charlie’s smart, he’s just *NEVER* had to study/take tests/learn how to push through frustration to comprehend information before. Right after he turned eighteen, he moved in with me and my wife. Using a hodge-podge of elementary school/middle school resources, we covered the basics up to sixth grade, and now he’s doing seventh grade work at a REAL, ACCREDITED, online middle school.

The problem: Charlie WILL NOT study/do school unless I sit at his elbow. My wife and I both work full-time. Charlie has a job with erratic hours at a cleaning service to pay for his car and insurance, so there’s no regular time we’re all home, and he’s got to cover five years of school. I want to send him to school, but since he’s eighteen he’d have to go to the alternative school in town and each grade takes a year to cover…and he couldn’t go past the age of twenty anyway. This is bullshit. I can’t hire a tutor, we don’t have the money. I would like to do other things besides stick to Charlie like a tick on my few hours off. (I work 4 12s and a 6).

I am so angry at my parents for allowing this to happen, and I’m so angry at Charlie for screwing off and ‘catching up on Netflix/assorted bullshit’ instead of studying and working through his classes. I can log onto the website and *see* he only spent twenty minutes on a lesson, when I know (because I rolled him out of bed at seven before I left) he doesn’t go in until noon). If he’d bust ass and do it, he could finish school in about two and a half years but I don’t know how to make him understand working at the cleaner is not a successful life-choice. He’s really good at faking knowledge to get by. He says he doesn’t like learning all this because it makes him ‘feel dumb’. His solution is to ignore all the things he doesn’t know instead of learn them. He has no interest in a trade (probably because my parents have always sneered at trade-schools). When asked, he claims he wants to join the military and be an infantry commander. I have explained the military does not want him with his lack of education, he says he understands, but he’s NOT TAKING THE STEPS TO FIX IT.

What do I do? How do I motivate an adult? I want my brother to have a shot at a decent life. But he won’t do school without me right there and that’s not going to work for the *years* this process is going to take.

Please help me.

This is slightly edited – I missed the detail where Charlie lives with the LW the first time and thought he was still living with the parents.

I am going to start with a moderation note because I’ve seen the shitshow of amateur debate shenanigans that happens when you mention the word “homeschooling” on the internet:

Successful homeschooling exists. The Letter Writer had it. It in no way looks like the above model of how “Charlie” was educated. If you are here to talk about why homeschooling is the best idea ever, how it worked for you, and soapbox in favor of it, I will delete your comment. If you are here to talk about why homeschooling is stupid and useless and shouldn’t be allowed, I will delete your comment. It can be right for certain kids. It can be abusive and neglectful for other kids. This is not Debate Club, and I don’t want to read your arguments or collect anecdata for an unwinnable argument (since we don’t have a time machine and can’t go back and get Charlie what he needed as a kid). Please keep your comments to the above  specific situation and focused on constructively, actively helping the LW and their brother. If your experiences apply to that end, like, you were neglectfully homeschooled and then got an education later, by all means, share them. But if you want to write extensively about the merits or evils of homeschooling, may I suggest your own blog.

Thank you. We now return to your regularly-scheduled programming.

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Oh Captain My Captain;

I rent a room in a house with a pretty nice family, and for the most part it’s pretty cool. They’re very friendly and open, their eldest son and I share a lot of interests, and they aren’t really judgmental, though they are very vocal about their political views and beliefs, they know I don’t get involved in that sort of stuff and seem to respect my space as far as that’s concerned.

The problem is respecting space as far as everything else – I do my part around the house, cleaning bathrooms, mopping, vacuuming, doing dishes, laundry, helping care for their 19 year old cat and doing pretty much anything I can to make myself useful. My landlords, a married couple, also have two of their adult children living with them because finances suck for everyone except the elderly rich, which we are not among. Their kids, even though they are adults, are still very close to their parents and depend on them for a lot, and basically come off as young teens in a lot of ways. The main problem seems to stem from the fact that, although I am not one of their kids, because I’m younger than their kids they seem to feel the need to parent me.

Whenever I get anything in the mail, they want to know what it is, who it’s from, if it’s a package they want to hover over me and see what it is, who I ordered it from, how much did it cost, was it made in the USA? They have come in my room without permission several times, always ask me when I will be at work, how many hours I’m getting, what I’m paid, if I go out somewhere that isn’t work related where did I go, did I buy anything there? I can’t bring home so much as a single shopping bag without being interrogated or having it pawed through and my purchases commented on, along with how I dress, where I work, basically everything I do. They do it more to me than they do it to their own children!

I’m a very private person, and I hate discussing money with anyone, particularly when it’s really none of their business, and I really don’t want my every purchase judged and pawed through. I am one of those people that doesn’t want to talk about my day, I don’t want to talk about what happened at work or if I got a raise or if I bought lunch or something. I don’t like talking to people in general, but I try my best to at least be nice. It’s started creeping me out a lot that I can’t walk anywhere near the door with my keys without getting an interrogation on where I’m going, who I’m going with if anyone, what I’m buying, et cetera. If they had to drive me places, yeah, fine, I could understand them needing to know my work schedule or if I needed to go buy stuff or something, but I have my own car and drive myself everywhere so there is no reason they need to know any of this stuff. They also try to include me in their family events, even big holiday stuff like Christmas or Thanksgiving, even when they’re super loud and generally not the kind of thing I’d go within a hundred miles of if I didn’t live here, but when I live in the same house it’s kind of hard to avoid without it being painfully obvious that I’m avoiding it, particularly since I’m not social and generally don’t go anywhere other than work.

They seem to have semi-adopted me as one of their own kids, which is kind of problematic on it’s own, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Do you have a way for me to politely tell them to back off and stop questioning me about everything I do? I intend to move out soon, so I’ll have my privacy again eventually, but until then I’d like to get back at least a bit of privacy while I live here, without making things tense or possibly making them angry. They are a very close-knit, openly affectionate, rather loud kind of family, so I’m not sure they can even understand that no, I don’t really want to take part in all the loud, boisterous family stuff they do because I’m just not that kind of person. I like my quiet and privacy, and I would like to get some of that back.

Any ideas?

Thanks!

Not Their Kid

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It’s July, so time for the monthly “let’s answer the stuff people typed into search engines” post. It is, as always, a very mixed bag of topics.

1. “Is my partner’s family using my family for money? Help!”

I feel like there is a lot of backstory and context here that would be valuable to know, but one suggestion is to revisit and renegotiate current arrangements around money, and see what happens. It sounds like that you (or your family) are already uncomfortable with something about the financial arrangements that are taking place or requests that are being made, and that’s a good enough reason to pull on one of the threads and see where it goes. Do you feel like you are allowed to say “no, we can’t help with that, sorry?” Does it change how your partner’s family treats you?

2. “Should I be upset with a coworker who didn’t donate to a fundraiser in my name?”

Feel however you want, but I don’t think addressing it with the coworker, complaining to other people, or changing the way you interact with them at work is a good idea at all. Be grateful to the people who did donate, and assume the coworker who didn’t had completely understandable reasons that aren’t really your business. Let this one go.

I don’t feel shame about asking for donations here periodically, or for boosting charity stuff or crowd-funding campaigns for friends or causes I’m close to, and I don’t mind at all when people in my life ask me for help with their stuff, but that only works as long as everyone understands that a request is not an order and that gifts are voluntary. For real, the quickest way to make everyone you know go “fuck you and your cause” is to act like they are obligated to give. I also think, personally, that bosses should never ask their employees for charitable donations. Get some friends, boss. Get some friends.

3. “If someone with depression apologises for something they did, do u tell them its not their fault?”

Well, maybe it is their fault. Depression dulls and blunts a person’s ability to function within relationships sometimes, but it’s not an excuse for mean behavior, and we are still ultimately responsible for how we treat other people. If you want to say something comforting in response to the apology, howabout “Apology accepted, thank you.

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Dear Captain,

I was wondering if you could spare some advice on how to go dutch (AKA ‘make-people-pay-their-share) with people who are ‘sensitive’ (where ‘sensitive’ is in the ”easily-offended’ way, not the ‘sensitive-they’ll-figure-it-out-with-only-a-little-prompting’ way.) And these ‘people’ are all members of my in-law family which I would described as a relationships which are ‘generally-pretty-friendly’ but coated with a thick layer of ‘don’t-rock-the-boat’.

I don’t mind being generous (and I come from a family of similar) but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to deal with my in’s who are all financially well-off but when a bill comes around for a shared service are always suddenly stuck by the need to ‘go to the bathroom’ or ‘get something from the car’, have forgotten wallets, don’t have cash on them right now, will ‘get the next round’ or ‘are really short this week’.

I’ve tried some techniques in the past -

  • Pre-arranging payment methods beforehand (these get ‘forgotten’, wrong payment is brought, or guilt is brought out ‘I didn’t know it was so expensive here’)
  • Only bring a set amount of cash or trying to remind them that I had the last round (the ‘bring only a set amount’ has been a disaster – its resulted in long moments standing awkwardly round the till in silence with everyone looking at me while I muttered pathetically “Sorry, I only brought enough for me” or worse, they have all walked out/vanished leaving the bill unpaid. A member went back and paid it once we realized it hadn’t been covered but the experience was very unpleasant. The ‘I had the last round’ is met with excuses similar to if payment is pre-arranged).
  • Ask my husband to speak with HIS family about this. This had been met with either apathy and sympathy but no results. (“Yeah, they are like that and it is annoying. But that’s just how they are.”) (“Just don’t go out with them then.”)

I like spending time with my in-law family and we do a lot of other free fun things together but I’d also love to occasionally go out for a meal, see a movie or get my nails done in their company without having the pay for the pleasure.

Advice?

Not-Made-of-Money

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Dear Captain and friends,

I am terrified of talking to my mother. If I, or my partner, do something she doesn’t like, even if it has no impact on her life, she will worry and blame me for that worry. Sometimes this is because she finds a way in which it will affect her later (she thinks that if anything ever goes wrong for me financially she’ll have to bail me out despite my assurances to the contrary). She often implies or says outright that I’m childish and should always do what she says (I’m 27). When I was 18 my psychiatrist used a garden metaphor for my life so sometimes when I am trying to communicate with her I use that. At the moment I think she is trying to walk into my garden and rearrange everything, and keeping her out is stressful, but she says she has the garden next door and I am letting weeds from my garden get into hers. I have no idea how to deal with this massive conflict in how we see the situation.

At the moment I am hiding something big from her and I don’t know what to do. My partner left his job a few months ago because the commute was exhausting. We didn’t tell my mum he’d left, just that he was looking for something closer to home. He was offered a job with a reasonable commute and great pay, but he quit after two days because he couldn’t stand the corporate culture (which wasn’t apparent at interview stage). We made the decision together, because although I’d love the security, I didn’t want to risk my partner’s well-being and looking for a new job while working there would be basically impossible. We have enough money for him to be unemployed and job-seeking for a few months, although I don’t know what happens if he doesn’t get a job before the money runs out. Some of this money was a wedding present from my parents, and while legally they can’t impose conditions, I expect criticism if they realise that the money is supporting us while my partner is unemployed. We told my parents when he accepted the job, a week before he actually started (and quit). My partner wants us to tell my mum that the job fell through because they no longer needed him. I am anticipating a world of pain as my mum has sleepless nights about his unemployment and passes the blame to me for being with him when she thinks he’s lazy and makes my life harder. I want to be honest but I am terrified of her reaction. What should I do?

Thanks so much,

Terrified Gardener

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Once I was Cool Cover

My friend wrote a book! My friend…wrote a book! My friend! Wrote a book!

Reading comments, I realize I sorta whiffed the question on telling parents about a pregnancy.  Redo:

1. Most importantly: Tell anyone you feel comfortable telling in whatever way you feel comfortable at whatever stage you feel comfortable telling them. This was the piece missing from the original response, and it matters. It matters a lot. I am sorry.

2. Delay telling (i.e. inviting opinions) from people who are known to be judgmental and crappy until there is something more concrete to tell. Parents who don’t think you should even be married definitely don’t need to know about the “trying” stage. But a good friend or a close family member might be a great support through the “trying” stage.

3. Use the “Miss Manners rule” of announcing good news with the enthusiasm you’d like it to be received. “We’re so excited to let you know, we’re having a baby!

4. For the LW’s judgy parents, a phone call or a greeting card sounds like a great way to do it. Postal mail-that-is-not-a-bill is exciting to receive and thoughtful to send. It takes the pressure off the parents to make the correct face or noises in the moment, and takes some anxiety off the shoulders of the expecting couple. Plus you can seed the entire family at the same time. You can’t control if the parents will call you with “LOL WUT” but you can save yourself experiencing that in person.

Thanks for all the pregnant folks and parents who set me straight in the comments section.

If anyone needs me today, I’ll be reading my friend Megan Stielstra’s new book of essays, Once I Was Cool. It is really, really good so far, if you like that sort of thing, and if you like reading this site I bet you do. She’s going to be reading at Story Club next week, if any other Chicago people want to head there with me. June 5th, The Holiday Club on Irving/Sheridan, get there by 7:00 if you want anything resembling “a seat.”

Ahoy Captain & Company!

I have a question that is not 100% relevant yet, but may be in the next few weeks. My husband “A” and I are planning on starting a family. Although we are young (by the time any baby is born, I will be 23 and A will be 25), we have been together for eight years, married for two; we have stable sources of income, ample savings, and a plan for how we will support ourselves. The problem? How to tell my parents once we have good news to share. A’s parents will be over the moon, but mine… Well, when we announced when we were going to get married, it led to a public meltdown at my birthday dinner. Judging by comments that my mother has made in the recent past, I have a feeling that any baby news would not be welcome. Add to that the fact that my extended family is not too keen on me right now (black sheep, etc.) and I am completely lost about how to tell them.

Again, this is a totally premature question, but this is stressing me out more than any other part of the whole process. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Maybe Baby

Dear Maybe Baby:

Tell people who are not your spouse that you are starting a family after you’ve had the “You’re three months pregnant, let’s see if this thing is really gonna take” tests. Not before. It’s not only about medical reasons or viability, it’s about giving yourself time to get used to the idea before inviting the whole world into your body and your choices. Being a pregnant woman is vulnerable enough (Everyone can see! Everyone feels like they have something to say about it!), so don’t make it public until you’ve had a chance to get right with it yourself.

No one can critique or weigh in on your hypothetical life choices if they don’t know about them. If you don’t need your parents’ judgy input, then don’t invite it (It will show up on its own later, no need to roll out the red carpet). When you tell your parents three months in, I strongly suspect that your mom will make a show of being hurt that you didn’t tell her right away. That’s okay, because you say yourself, she would be weird no matter when you told her. You can say “We wanted to make sure everything was medically a go before announcing” and she can fucking deal. Or not. If she doesn’t deal, that will limit her access to you and to her grandchild, because you will have too much to do to put up with one lady’s need to be the center of everything.

Also, it’s always kind of weird when people I know say “we’re…trying” in that insinuating way. What does that mean? Removing birth control? Fucking constantly? I’m happy you’re getting it on the regular (kind of assumed that already, sport!), and happy at the prospect of new awesome people in the world, but I don’t need to see the recipe.

Parenting is going to change your life in ways that we can’t even imagine. One way is that what your mom’s judgment of you is going to matter less and less. She had her chance to parent. If she wants to offer help, support, wisdom, and encouragement, great. But this is your time, and you have the final say on when you tell, how you tell, what you tell.

Bonus: Tell people what you are naming the baby when you say “here is my baby, Name” and show them the baby (or a picture of the already-born, already-named baby). Trust me. Just, trust me. Names are easy to hate in theory, harder to hate when they are attached to an adorable wee person.

 

Hey Captain & Company,

I haven’t seen my father since I was 8. We were in contact until I was 16; he was emotionally abusive throughout that time. I have a brother and sister by his previous marriage, and part of his abuse involved keeping us from having a relationship with each other. We have reconnected as adults and are tentatively trying to learn how to be siblings. It’s very difficult with my sister because she is very close to our father and is really insistent that I should be as well.

My husband, on the other hand, has a great relationship with his parents, his brother, his extended family. And that’s good! They’re all great people! (His mom and mine are like bffs now). Sometimes at his family events I feel like Jane Goodall observing emotionally healthy apes.

“Clay” doesn’t understand why my family isn’t the same as his. I was, admittedly, not very forthcoming about all the issues I have with my father and siblings earlier in our relationship, so he was a bit weirded out when, for example, he found out I’d never met my nieces & nephews. We finally had a discussion about it when he objected to not inviting anyone from my paternal side to our wedding, and I thought he understood.

But now I’m pregnant, and looming fatherhood has made him VERY WORRIED about my father’s feelings. Clay wouldn’t want to be cut off from his child for mistakes he made years ago, and although my father’s mistakes were terrible and I have every right to be angry, can’t I see it from his point of view? (spoiler: no). My sister mentioned that my father has been sending annual Facebook messages to me, reminding me that he loves me and if I “ever need to talk” he’s there for me, and Clay has taken that as evidence that he’s changed and deserves a chance to know his grandchild. The last time Clay and I argued about this he called me unreasonable, and I’m sorry to say that after that point I pretty well lived up to it.

I’d like a script to SHUT IT DOWN, but I guess it’s possible that Clay’s right and I am being unreasonable. I still have a hard time calling my father’s behavior abuse out loud; maybe I haven’t gotten across how really really terrible just the idea of him makes me feel. He does superficially seem like a better person than he was, but I still don’t want him near my child, and I don’t want him near me. I’m hoping someone on Team Awkward has suggestions how to fix this mess or myself.

Thank you so much!

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A grumpy cat "there are two things I don't like: Change and the way things are."Hey Captain:

This has been a problem for a while but strangely it only occurred to me to write you about it after your recent post on polyamorous parents inviting their girlfriend to their kid’s wedding.  I had a lot of feels over that post because I’ve been having a similar concern. Namely, I hate my parents’ new wife. But I feel like the ship on which to mention it has long since sailed.

For the majority of my life I was happy living with the idea that my parents were monogamous and happy about it.  But then a couple years ago they approached me with the idea that now that I was grown up they were going to start dating around. I was confused and upset (Are you getting a divorce? But wait, aren’t we Catholic?  Why now? Am I supposed to do something about it?) but they were able to explain things for me.  I can’t say I’m the most thrilled panda on the planet because on some level I think I just don’t “get” it. I’ve never had the desire to date more than one person -anything else seems stressful and difficult- but I support anything that makes them happy. So I took a few weeks to think about things and decided that their lives were their own and it was not my place to judge.

When they got a new girlfriend I even tried really hard to be nice to her – we did the whole family dinners thing. The girlfriend – “Carol” – was nice enough and I feel like I might have genuinely liked her had we met under different circumstances.  We had a lot of “weather talk” conversations and were genuinely polite/pleasant to each other, but that was it. She and I never did anything alone, and her being Mommy and Daddy’s Close Friend seemed to work out for all of us.

But then they got married. Not legally of course, but there was a service and she moved into my parents house. Marriage changed everything. It seems like I can’t see my real parents alone any time, and whenever I want to see them Carol is always around. What’s worse, it seems like they expect my relationship with Carol to upgrade like theirs did. Carol wants that too – recently she’s been pushing for more “girl time” and keeps trying to talk about more personal things as though we’re good pals. The more she pushes the more I realize I actually loathe her. For a while I denied it and tried extra hard to be friends because that’s what noble, progressive, open-minded people would be. (at least, in my mind) But I never wanted to be friends, I was mostly being nice because she was important to my parents. But because I started out being more friendly than I felt I feel like I’m now locked into this permanent state of being cool with Carol. My parents are upset that I’m still keeping her at arm’s length (since we’re all one big happy family now!) and I know that if it came to her or me they’d choose me. Still though, I don’t want to force them to choose but I don’t want to be all buddy-buddy with her either. They feel like I’m rejecting her and their lifestyle, and I guess in a way I am? I’m just not ready for their lifestyle to become mine.  How can I tell my parents that I’ll never love Carol as much as them, and that while I value their relationship with her the less of a relationship *I* have with her the better? And is that even a cool thing to want?

Signed,

Not Down for Family Christmas Carols

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