Social Interactions

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m in my late sixties, and I have some health challenges that mean I’m occasionally caught short and need to use the ladies’ room rather urgently. This happened to me earlier today in a restaurant, where I was in the (single) ladies’ room for about ten minutes. After I’d been in for one minute, someone came and pounded (like, with the side of a closed fist) on the door. I said I’d just be a few minutes, and the pounding stopped. For about another minute, after which time it started up again. I said I was sorry, but that I’d only be a few minutes. I get that I’m not the only one in the world with this issue, but I was being as quick as I could. Really, I was helpless to leave at that point, if you know what I mean. When I was able, I completed my business, washed my hands, and opened the door, to find a woman of thirty-odd standing in the hall with a scowl and a raised fist. “There are four people out here waiting to get in there!” she snarled. (I looked. There weren’t.) “Maybe you should have used the men’s,” I said. “Instead of standing there arguing, why don’t you just get the hell out!” she said. Very loudly. People were looking, though they were trying not to meet my eyes. And I’m not proud of this, but I said, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” and collected my coat and purse in a leisurely fashion while she reared back and gave a Victorian-maiden impression over my use of the f-bomb. Nobody in the place would look at me as I left.

I don’t feel like I can ever go back to that restaurant, which is unfortunate, since they make a great scallopini. I feel humiliated, and I feel powerless, because that was the only comeback I could think of. What should I have done?


Dear IBS in CA,

You could have said “WOW” or “EXCUSE YOU” but I think you should take a page from Dame Helen Mirren, who regrets not telling people to “fuck off” more in life.

I feel bad for that lady, in exactly one respect, in that she probably had to use the bathroom really badly and was not her best self in that moment. However, that’s not your fault, abusing you was not the answer, and you don’t have to care about her feelings. Let her clutch her pearls forever while you go back to that restaurant any time you feel like it and eat some scallopini.

Let’s take this as yet another argument in favor of gender-neutral bathrooms.


Captain Awkward

Hi Captain,

A bit of backstory: last spring, Fiancée and I (both US citizens) returned to the US from Europe, where I had been working and she was going to school. My parents offered to let me stay with them while I looked for a job, and Fiancée went to stay with her mom several states away.

My mother has decided that Fiancée is a directionless gold-digger with no career prospects (Fiancée is a former professional ballerina who is now working on a degree in rehabilitative physiotherapy), and has also accused her of giving me an STD (apropos of nothing). Obviously, this makes the topic of Fiancée somewhere I’d prefer not to go, since it turns into a stream of baseless accusations (and then veiled threats if I try to refute them).

Now that I’m employed again (yay!), I am moving into my own place again. Having gone to university Far Away and worked for five years somewhere Even Further Away, most of Team Me isn’t accessible to help with the move, so my parents are helping me out. The problem is that my mom feels that if Fiancée moves in with me, this proves that Fiancée is a leech for not helping with the move. I get my mom’s point– it’s obnoxious to have someone reap the benefits of your hard work. My extended family, who I’d thought of as Team Me, agrees with her (and helpfully relayed to her that we’d had a conversation! Because the concept of a private conversation is lost on them, and now).

After some silent treatment after hearing from my extended family, my mom decided to offer to talk. Given her past behavior, I do not believe this will be a productive conversation– she is the master of derailing, belittling, gaslighting (‘I never said/did that! You’re clearly delusional/making things up!’ or ‘you just have a skewed perception’). But now if I outright refuse to engage, I’m 100% the bad guy, not just with her but with my extended family (‘I tried to talk, and she just ignored me!’).

How on earth do I navigate this drama bomb minefield with a minimum of stress and family awfulness?

-Want to Quit Drama Llama Farming

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Dear Captain,

I recently started dating a guy I really like. He’s a techie and most of his friends are friends from work. They do a lot of social stuff together. He’s been great about introducing me to them and inviting me to things like happy hours, which is important to me after having dated two guys who pretty much refused to introduce me to anyone else they knew for Reasons They Could Certainly Justify.

So, that’s great, right? Except hanging out with them is quickly becoming excruciating. I am not a shy person and am a pretty good conversationalist – hell, my JOB is making people feel comfortable and welcome and I spend a lot of time having dinners with people in my industry where I’m pretty much there to hear them talk about work and convincingly feign being fascinated.

What will happen is that he’ll extend an invitation, I’ll accept, and then I’ll spend anywhere from 1 to 5 hours staring at my plate or glass of wine while they talk about work. Constantly. Nonstop. If it’s not the highly technical details of whatever program they’re working on now, it’s dissecting everyone else they work with. I’ve tried gently steering the conversation towards not-work topics and contributing where I can (limited, because 1. I don’t know the people they’re referencing and 2. I don’t work in the tech field) and I’ve not been successful.

After the last outing, I asked him if hanging out with his friends = all work talk all the time? And he seems vaguely apologetic but also like yeah, this is how it is and will always be.

So. He’s spent time with my friends, most of whom are not people I work with, and we’re all able to have lively conversations about things we’re all interested in – not rehashing all the inside jokes from the last tech convention that only those who attended would get.

Applying the Sheelzebub Principle, if I have to put up with this for a few more months, much less 5 years, I will lose my mind. But I do like this guy and I want to give this a chance (I have been known to hit the eject button on new relationships very quickly in the past).

Thoughts? It’s important to me to be on good terms with his friends, even if I’m not interested in making them my friends, and he does a lot – a LOT – of socializing with them. I’m hesitant to bring this up with him because it will make me feel like that Whiny Girlfriend Who Doesn’t Understand Coding and wants everyone to dumb things down for her sake, which is not the case, and I also get that he does not control their behavior (although he certainly isn’t helping things when we’re in this situation, because he’ll sit there and do the All Work All The Time Channel too).

I get that some of these people probably are used to not having others understand what they’re talking about, and there is a fair amount of on-the-spectrum-y, social awkwardness going on here, but I come from a family of peeps with autism and actually worked in the engineering field for a while, so I consider myself pretty good at empathizing and interacting with people who might, for certain reasons, be a little wrapped up in explaining to you how the widget works, even if you’ve no interest.

– It’s Ok to Talk To Me Even if I’m Not a Programmer

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Hurricane Joaquin…everybody ok so far? Be okay.


My wife (Carole) and I (Clark) have four children and share our home with a childless couple (John & Priscilla) who I met in college. We’ve done so for roughly two years now with surprisingly little friction.

Recently John talked to me about how he’s come to the realization over the past year that he is polyamorous. The rest of us are not.

John also confessed that he’s had a crush on someone outside the house for a few years and that there are other infidelities over the course of his marriage.

I am having a difficult time discerning if this is actual polyamory (which I am not terribly familiar with) or just rationalization of bad behavior and a desire to have shackles taken off so he can date other women without guilt.

John discussed the possibility of romances (plural his) going forward and not liking the idea of primary/secondary relationship – so in theory these other women would have the same status in his life as Priscilla.

Putting myself in Priscilla’s shoes – this would be hard to swallow. I fear that our happy home is about to be torn and I am hoping for some help with resources / tools I can use to help them both while maintaining healthy boundaries.

(I am not concerned about having random lady friends over with children about – before moving in we all signed a contract that included the right of any one of us to veto someone coming over if for any reason it made us uncomfortable. John will have to get any lady friends approved by his house-mates before they can come over or will have to leave.)

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Sweaty shirtless Chris Evans you're welcome

Even Mr. Mountain Lodge Candle himself needs a bath sometimes.

Hi Captain,

So I just started officially dating this really sweet guy, and it’s been going really well! However, he is a huge runner and usually runs every night. We are both in college so we usually hang out after he runs, but he never showers before we hang out! At first I thought it would be a one time thing but it keeps happening, and I really don’t like cuddling with him all sweaty. How should I approach this? We just started dating and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I really wish he’d just rinse off or something. Am I being too picky?



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WordPress has changed the way that it displays these, but I have remembered to periodically collect the good ones. Let us now answer the search strings that people typed in to find this blog as if they are actual questions in the traditional way.

1) What does “I told you its over between us” mean

Rough translation: It is over between you, and the person would like you to stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing (calling them, hanging about, inviting them to stuff) because they want their relationship with you to be past tense.

2) My UK wife opens the front door naked

Sure she does.

On the off chance that this is a question and not a fantasy, a) does it bug you b) have there been strange consequences, like, with delivery people or neighbors c) have you tried asking why she does it?

3) When he criticizes your dress

“He” is being a jerk.

4) How to seduce a girl with chats

I don’t give seduction advice, but let me try to help you out at least a little bit:

Make friends with spelling and grammar and you will set yourself apart. Remember that dirty talk is fraught with peril and that one person’s sexting is another person’s staged reading of hilarious things out loud to their friends. Pay attention to what that particular girl likes and take your cues from her.

5) He mistreats me but his family loves me what can I do.

Mistreatment is never ok. I hope you can get away from him.

6) Boyfriend trying to make me better

Better, as in, no longer sick with the flu? Or some flavor of “improved” as a person?

One of these is acceptable. Hint: It’s the one that involves rest, broth, and marathoning Slings & Arrows.

7) How can u win a girl u love but have never met

Meet her and get to know her. Tell her you’re interested in her, but hold off on talk of “love” until you actually know her – that’s kind of intense out of the gate and it doesn’t work the way it does in movies. See what she says about that.

8) What does it mean when you only talk to someone when you’re sad

This may not apply to you, but one of the most common letters I get is a version of “Someone I care about is going through something really hard, and I want to be there for them, but I feel like their unpaid 24-7 therapist and it’s way too much for me. But I’m afraid that if I disengage, they will take it very hard because they don’t have anyone else to talk to.” Even people with the best of intentions can fall into unbalanced patterns and habits of communication. It’s great to have willing sounding boards and crying-shoulders who have your back in a crisis, but maybe re-evaluate this dynamic a little bit and call/text/chat/see this person when you are in better spirits sometimes. Seek out a therapist or counselor who is trained to really absorb and work with your sad feelings, or try a daily ritual of dumping your negative thoughts into a journal. See if you can leave some of your problems there so that you can be more present for your friend and have more reciprocity in your relationship with them.

9) My wife like to call me captain

Aye aye

10) Roommate repeatedly enters my room without permission

Animated gif of a girl riding an octopus and saying "nope!"

Install a lock. Say, “I do not want you to ever go into my room.” Start looking for a new roommate if this is not respected.

11) How to reply to a compliment from a friend

“Thank you” is the simplest and the most common/expected response.

“Please don’t compliment my appearance, it makes me uncomfortable” if you’re at work and it makes you uncomfortable.

12) How do you handle someone who invites others to your party without your permission

Tell them bluntly, “It’s not cool for you to invite people to my party without my permission, at least ask me!”

If they apologize and understand why you are upset, issue solved. If they try to explain to you why it’s not a big deal, don’t invite them to things anymore.

13) I’m not interested stranger facebook

If a stranger messages me on Facebook with anything remotely flirtatious –an overabundance of compliments, “I’d love to get to know u”, or most hilariously “hey” (as in, ‘I have done the work by reaching out, now, entertain me, woman!’), I don’t say I’m not interested. I skip straight to “Block.” In my experience, any attempt to say “Hey, do I know you/you’re coming on kinda strong” just leads to an annoying conversation where they get super-mad at me for not wanting to listen to their sales pitch. YMMV.

14) Become ambidextrous

Now you have me Googling this. Science seems to say “don’t.”

15) Sex with my captain

If you are in the armed forces having sex with someone in your chain of command is a very bad idea and could lead to career consequences for both of you.

16) When you see the real person and they are mean and 17) Someone whom always make u feel like shit

Disengage from them. Spend time with people who make you feel good.


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