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Samuel Jackson from Pulp Fiction

“That had better be one charming pig.” – Jules, Pulp Fiction

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a problem. I am a feminist. Why is that a problem? Because my boyfriend, as generous and thoughtful and funny and sweet as he is, doesn’t get it. At all. We’ve been dating for over a year and I love him, which is what makes this so hard. About three months into our relationship, I noticed that when I’d bring up some women-centric issue (i.e, the Steubenville rape case), his argument was “Well, she shouldn’t have been drinking so much.” Which, of course, is awful and, yes, I may have gone to bed angry that night.

I chalked it up to him just “being a guy” and being influenced by the world’s habit of blaming the victim, etc. But then, as our relationship progressed, these things just kept. popping. up. To the point where he told me that he believes in Men’s Rights and he thinks feminists are crazy and damaging. I’ve told him my feelings on this and how hurtful and scary I think these opinions are. He’s told me that he may be influenced this way because of a (really bad) past relationship, a relationship which I knew all about when we started dating.

If I knew he had these opinions and this hate back when we first started dating, I would have walked away in a heartbeat. But I’ve been sucked in. I love him. But every time this comes up, like if there’s a news story that’s big (Gamergate and the Ugly Shirt Comet Guy were big topics) where he feels “feminists” are getting out of line, I feel sick inside.

I’m embarrassed when we go to parties and my level headed friends (both men and women) don’t share his opinions, I feel my stomach tighten when I’m browsing online and see a story about feminist issues – not because the story makes me upset, but because I’m worried about what HE will think about it. I’ve honestly told him ALL of this and he doesn’t want me to change my opinions for him. He says that my opinions and views don’t change the way he feels about me. But do they change the way I feel about him? I think so. 

I know all of this sounds like a laundry list of reasons to break up. But he has so many fantastic qualities and there’s a reason I’ve stuck around this long. Do you have any suggestions for how to… I don’t know… fix this?

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Dear Captain Awkward,

So, I’m turning 30, and I don’t know how to interact with people. I think it’s because I’ve had OCD from at least the age of 9—real OCD, with repugnant obsessions about incest and such, not “I color coordinate my sock drawer”—and like a lot of people I kept it a secret. And I had panic disorder, which made me agoraphobic. Also, starting around 12 I felt like I was constantly stuck behind a pane of glass, which according to Wiki might mean I was dissociating, but whatever you call it, it was unpleasant. So to sum up, all the important things in my life were a horrible dark secret, other people didn’t seem real, and I basically couldn’t leave the house without fearing I’d have a panic attack, and frequently having one. It was not conducive to making friends.

In college I was lucky enough to make one super good friend—entirely through her initiative—and several good-ish friends. And then senior year I had a nervous breakdown and scraped through graduation and had more nervous breakdown and went on drugs and into CBT. That was six years ago and I’m much better now. But I don’t know how to deal with people. I didn’t realize this before, because I never wanted to deal with people—I thought I was just introverted and misanthropic, and I liked being that way. Now I don’t know what I am. I don’t think I’m shy. In a crowd I’m not nervous; I’m just nonplussed, like if you walked up and randomly gave me a lathe: I’m like, “Wtf is this for?” I still automatically say no to all social invitations, because even though, so far, I haven’t had real panic attacks on the drugs—and hopefully never will again, knock on wood—my instinct is still to stay home all the time. To my mind you have to have a really, really good reason before you leave the house. And people make me tired. When I have to associate with people, e.g. at work, they apparently like me, and I generally like them; but when getting together is optional, I just… don’t. But I’m lonely.

Romance is particularly a problem; or at least, it’s the problem I mind most acutely. I’d ruled out ever having sex till a few years ago, because repugnant obsessions. (Use your imagination.) Now that I’m better it seems like a possibility, but I feel… well, warped, I guess, like I missed some formative experience and it’s too late for me to be fixed. But dammit, I’d like to have sex, and not just sex, but a relationship. I get filled with hopeless romantic longing on a predictable monthly basis and also any time I see Robert Downey Jr. All my friends are married. I want that shit. But again, I’m almost 30; I don’t have time to replicate all the socializing experiences I should have had when I was 8. What the hell do I do with this lathe?

More Awkward Than You Are

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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

Dear Captain Awkward:

My boyfriend, before we started dating, moved in with a friend and his wife. When I came into the picture, the wife excluded me from things and invited only my boyfriend. If my boyfriend tried to invite me, she’d throw a fit and my boyfriend would have to call me to say sorry, you can’t go. If she did invite me, she told me that I had to pay my own way, even though she bought tickets or whatever for my boyfriend. And she openly flirted with him, even when I was there in front of her. When I told my boyfriend about it, he would get mad, tell me that I was jealous for no reason, and that I was making stuff up.

Well, her and her husband began getting worse, and my boyfriend would frequently get kicked out of the house because she “wanted to kill anyone who came through the door” (what my boyfriend told me she said to him over text). Eventually he moved out, but it still bothered me because she would call him and text him, asking my boyfriend if they could hang out. We’ve had a lot of fights over her because she keeps butting herself into our lives, and she’s a toxic friend, but it’s like he can’t see that. I’m not jealous about her because I know he doesn’t like her like that, but it hurts that he doesn’t understand how I feel about this situation. I’ve told him that I’m going to unfriend her on FB and he got mad at me, saying it’d cause a lot of drama between her and him, but when I asked why it mattered since he always says she’s not his friend anyway, he wouldn’t answer.

I don’t know what to do about this. My boyfriend and I are in a long distance relationship (we’ve been dating for a little over a year and a half), but when he’s home, she’s constantly trying to see him and get together with him. I’m at a loss about what to do, especially because talking to my boyfriend about it results in fights. Any advice would be great.

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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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