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Dear Captain,

My parents keep visiting me over the summer and living in my apartment on my couch. One of my parents is looking for a job both in my current state and in the state of my hometown (where she actually officially lives when she is not visiting me). She sometimes has interviews out here and I am her host.

My dad, meanwhile, stayed three weeks at my place over the summer. I repeat: three fucking weeks. I did not need his “help” (his reason for visiting), but I felt bad telling him because I know he is going through a difficult time in his life (unwanted retirement) and wants to feel useful. I know I don’t *have* to satisfy those feelings for him, and I’m in therapy to try to get over this thinking.

I feel like crying. I was (and still am) a “parentified child” (chaotic home, traumatized parents told me about their adult sexual and financial struggles as though I were a healthy confidant) and having to host my parents now in my early 20’s is really triggering the sad feelings of powerlessness and numbness I used to feel. The feeling that I have to care for and baby my parents rather than enjoy being young, being a kid and having a fun place to live *on my own*.

I was saying to my therapist yesterday that I need to balance what my parents want from me as a daughter, to what society thinks a daughter should reasonably do to help her struggling parents. I burst into tears because she said, “Well, and you also have to balance those things with what YOU want.” I hadn’t even considered my own desires in terms of my apartment and my boundaries with them.

Do you have any scripts on re-setting (or rather, setting for the first time) boundaries with my parents? I know that part of the process will probably involve my knowing what I actually WANT for boundaries–but frankly yesterday is the first time I have ever thought about it with such precision.

My mom still doesn’t have a job yet, and I know she is probably going to come back out for more interviews. I have suffered enough of my parents’ rage and regret over finances and lost jobs. I am so tired and fragile right now. I also am terrified of setting boundaries–I don’t know that I believe they can get on without my help. Plus, you know, I love them.

Any help or advice or scripts would be amazing.

–Healing from parentification

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Dear Captain Awkward,

One of my friends has mental health issues of severe depression (along with some other stuff) that is being ineffectively treated–a situation that they are trying to change, but solutions are slow going.

The depression brain weasels are causing my friend to regularly assume that everyone they know and care about is actively furious with them. I (and other mutual friends) will regularly check in with our friend only to hear how they were sure we were mad at them for a litany of tiny “infractions” that most of us would never even notice.

I know that my friend can’t help what the depression tells them. But it is also becoming incredibly difficult to spend the first hour of any interaction with this friend repeatedly reassuring them that no, really, I’m honestly not mad. The extended confessions (“I was so sure you were mad at me for the following reasons…”) seem to spin them up into a state of heightened tension and to be causing harm to them in spite of the “forgiveness” afterward. I think the harm is stemming from their viewing the confession as evidence that they are awful and that their forgiveness is predicated on our saintliness, which will surely run out someday.

In short: while I’m not mad at them and I do love them dearly, the weekly confessions are hurting them and are a genuine drain on my own limited spoons for social interactions, causing an avoidance spiral that doesn’t help them believe people aren’t angry with them. Is there a set of scripts you might can recommend for cutting through the litany of specifics each time and reminding them that we’ve done this before and those recurring feels are just the depression speaking?

Much love!

 

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I am part-time vegetarian. I feel like I get a lot of flak: ”well are you
are a vegetarian or not?” and ”we saw you eat meat; so why should you get
the special vegetarian food?” But I’m not waffling or being weak in my
convictions. I have good reasons to eat meat sometimes and require
vegetarian food at other times.

1) For various health reasons, I limit my consumption of meat to way less
than the typical North American diet. Which means that if you saw me eat
meat at lunch, then it doesn’t mean I’m eating meat now; in means I HAD
MEAT ALREADY and NEED TO NOT EAT MEAT NOW for a day. Or two.

2) I’m concerned about the environmental impact of meat production. The
solution to this, I believe, is to eat less meat. A lot less meat, but not
no meat whatsoever. Eating meat once a day rather than 3 times a day is
like driving a Prius instead of a Humvee. We don’t question the
environmental ethics of the Prius driver for consuming some gasoline.

3) My daughter, age 10, is aware of factory farming, and horrified. But
she loves meat. I don’t want to squash her empathy and compassion just
because it’s inconvenient. So, we talked this over, and decided that what
we can try to do is only eat humanely raised meat; which, in effect, means
that we limit meat to when I get to the froofy grocery store that has the
grass-fed beef and the cage-free chickens. I think this means we will have
to present as vegetarians when we go out. Otherwise we will come across as
total snobs: “yes we eat meat… but your meat isn’t good enough.”

4) I just plain like vegetarian food and vegetables and get bored with
meat, and disgusted by sausage in my food.

It would be simpler if I could just be a vegetarian, but I like some meat,
and my daughter would rebel; and, (due to reactive hypoglycemia)
occasionally I desperately need a high-protein meal, and in many
situations meat is the only option.

So… I am very interested in vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly
restaurants, what my vegetarian friends are cooking, and the vegetarian
options in the cafeteria. I eagerly discuss these topics with the
vegetarians, but then they act betrayed when they see me eating meat
later. The omnivores are just confused.

Is this all that confusing? Am I allowed some middle ground between
standard American “all meat all the time” and “don’t let any meat touch my
food”? How do I explain my food preferences so that I get the food I want
but not the flak?

— vegetable eater

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Lady Sybil and Branson the Chauffeur from Downton Abbey

Lady Sybil and Branson the Chauffeur from Downton Abbey

Dear Captain Awkward,

I just read your response to the question of how a person can deal with disapproving parents in the relationship area. It was a very good response. I am now asking as a PARENT what we are to do when our daughter is involved with a person we do not approve of. Our main complaint is his lack of manners, a lack of confidence, and a lack of personal motivation. Our daughter is a beautiful 32 year old professional, and part owner of a successful small business that we, her parents built. Her boyfriend is 36, a nice unmotivated man who seems to us to be looking for an easy deal. They plan to move in together soon. He just doesn’t fit in with our family. We doubt that he could really ever provide for our daughter, and hate to see her waste time waiting for him to kick in. We have been very patient with our daughter in the past, always hoping she would find a strong confident man for a life mate. Should we just say nothing and keep hoping that this fairly new relationship will soon come to a graceful end?

Dear Parent,

It doesn’t sound like this man is mistreating your daughter. It sounds like your main concerns with him are about class, career, and/or economic standing (“doesn’t fit in with our family” “doubt that he could ever really provide for her,” “manners,” “unmotivated,” etc.) It sounds like she provides just fine for herself (and that you, by building a business, have put her in a great position to provide for herself), which leaves her free to seek out other priorities in a partner.

If things aren’t meant to be between them, trust that your daughter will figure that out for herself in time. At thirty-two, she is the sole decider of her love life, and even if she were making a mistake, it’s her mistake to make. I think that trying to separate her from the man she loves will only alienate her from you. So, what do you lose by being kind to him?

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,

Uninvited?

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Dear CA,

I’m a partner dancer, namely blues. There’s a guy in the group who gets too close when he dances. I mean the blues can be very close, but it just feels different with this guy, icky, and other female follows have backed me up that he gets close in a kind of creepy way. He’s also just over-friendly, and does hugs with kisses on both cheeks. I’m not the type of person who likes to talk when there’s dancing but he tries to make awkward conversations happen. There’s social dance not just practice, (you change partners, blues is never set couples,) if I’m looking round for a lead and someone whose resting notices that he is free they often say “oh why don’t you dance with him?” And I’m left looking for anything less awkward to say than “I just don’t want to…” or “he gives me the skeevs…” These are not options, as they would make people ask what/if anything had happened. Well no, nothing concrete, it’s just vibes, we just don’t click. And also apart from a few trusted people, I’ve not told anyone in case it gets back to him. He’d be either hurt or angry, because he hasn’t done anything, he just is creepy. More often than not, because I have made clear that I do actually wish to dance with someone, I have to accept. There’s still a bit of the outdated notion that you have to accept dances when asked unless you have a concrete reason not to (the scene is trying to change that.)

I’m not sure he means it, he seems like he’s trying to be nice. Over a recent blues workshop weekend he let me borrow his flat when I put out a plea to dancers on Facebook that I had no accommodation where I usually live for that period. I accepted, 1) I couldn’t afford a hotel, 2) he wasn’t actually there that weekend and 3) I couldn’t turn down a perfectly good offer of accommodation for seemingly no reason. His offer was first and visible on Facebook, everyone saw so no one else offered. I will end up giving him a bottle of wine for that, to show some gratitude. It was an unexpected offer, this guy and I don’t know each other well. He thinks we’re friends I think, but I just don’t want to be! My main questions are, how do you politely give someone signals that they’re making you uncomfortable? And how do you avoid spending much time with someone you just don’t like when they mix in the same places as you regularly? And should I trust my gut?

Yours Sincerely

Awkward Dancer

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CA,

I have a great stepdad, and a pretty not good dad. My dad has been in my life the entirety of it, so he’s not an absentee dad- but he’s controlling, emotionally abusive, financially manipulative (he’s a millionaire, and uses that to try to exact control over you) and just pretty cruel in general. He is married to a woman who hates me and my siblings, and they have both been honest with us about this since we were kids and they got married. They both think we haven’t tried hard enough to get her to like her or to “earn” our way into being part of their family, which we currently don’t deserve (his words.) I have tried to keep him in my life as much as possible and do what I can to prove to him I’m a good person, and always have.But he’s been pretty consistent in his vocal belief I’m not a good person, and never will be.

Now I’m an adult and I take nothing from him, and pay my own way 100% of the time. I wanted him to see what I wanted was the relationship, not the money. When I got engaged, he offered to help with the wedding, which I should have just said no to. But I was seduced by the idea we could all be a family and do this big day together, and as dumb as it is, I love my dad. Of course, by two weeks after our engagement, things had devolved. My dad, and then his wife had called to insult me and my mother (whom my dad still hates, almost two decades later) and call me names etc. My dad was apparently in the room and let her do it. We haven’t spoken since. That was 3 months ago.

I don’t want his money. I just wanted him to be a good dad. The shitty part is, I LOVE my dad! I wanted him to be a part of it and walk me down the aisle and be my dad. But I don’t think he can be. My stepdad is a good dad and always has been. I want him to walk me down the aisle, but I know this will break my dad’s heart. And frankly, now that my dad can’t show off his money, which he loves to do, and the event won’t be about him, I don’t even know that he’ll come.

My fiancé hates him and doesn’t want to invite him. I don’t want to invite my dad’s wife, but know I will have to if I even want a chance to have my dad there. Which I’m not sure if I want, either, to be honest.

How do I even begin to decide how to handle this? to be fair to my dad, my fiance, and my stepdad all at once? And most of all, to keep our wedding the happy day it’s meant to be, and not the Divorced Family Dysfunction Hour?!

Thanks,
K

PS- Yes, I do have a therapist. Specializing in family conflict. And a great support network.

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