Can I say how much I love this LW’s original email subject line: “A Soap Opera Problem–families torn apart over money, demanding parents, undutiful daughters who are me, sons trying to bear the whole burden.” Yeah!!!!

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’d really appreciate your advice on a family problem. Dad grew up
privileged, then was mostly-disinherited and lost his job when I was a
kid. Instead of retrenching, he incurred debt. Mom demands luxuries,
cheats, and is an alcoholic prone to rages. Now Dad asks me and my
brother A for money constantly, always at crisis moments.

Dad always believes that his financial issues will be over soon.
Unfortunately there’s a company he has a part in being sold, meaning
he might get some money one day—there’s some basis in reality but not
enough. He refuses to sell his house, because he wouldn’t get enough
money, and claims to be always economising because he doesn’t go on
holidays though Mom does and he belongs to an elite gentlemen’s club.

A and I have precarious jobs in which we are paid in irregular lump
sums, so we have the money to give him. We both consider ourselves
lucky. The emotional toll of these emergency requests is huge. We also
cannot afford them. Over 5 years, between us we’ve given Dad over

I wrote to Dad saying his behaviour is disordered and deeply hurting
us. He refused to go to his bank with us, blamed A for not giving him
enough, and hardly seemed to have read my message. He’s past hearing.
Saying he’s a good father otherwise is asking Mrs Lincoln how she
enjoyed the play otherwise.

I tried cutting him off altogether years ago: it ended when my
siblings exerted pressure on me to do a family Christmas. I’m proud of
my siblings (A, B & C, all younger) for getting through our childhood,
but I’m the one who rocks the boat. A gives money to Dad without me
knowing, so as not to risk alienating me. A has a more optimistic view
of the situation. My sister B agrees with me mostly, but B and C are
more sheltered (by me and A). C is college age, still living with my
parents. He’s begun suffering from panic attacks. He plans to get out
of the house next year: I’ll help him.

I’m considering not going home this Christmas, but I know it’ll upset
my siblings and I want to see C as neither of us is great at
long-distance. If I do go I’d like a script for talking to A, and my
other siblings, about this, and to make a plan for us going forward,
in how we’re going to react to my parents and stick together. I’ve
asked A to promise me not to give money to my father without telling
me: so far he hasn’t promised. It would make me happy if I could get A
to agree on no more money given directly to my father.

Thank you so much.

–Saving Only Siblings

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The post title was the subject of the email exactly as it came to my inbox. That will be important later.

Hey there Captain,

I recently moved to a job that not only frees up more time to focus on schooling, but pays better. On the last day at my previous job, a girl I’d occasionally worked with and spoken with in the breakroom, asked for my number.

If her interest wasn’t obvious enough, as I walked out the door for the final time, her question was whether I had a girlfriend. I told her no, and to my amusement, her reply was that she’d text me. Needless to say, I got a text bright and early the next morning and we’ve been texting a bit.

She’s nice and I get along well with her, but I’m unsure about making the choice to date her. There are a few things I see as obstacles, but can be worked through.

She’s the daughter of my previous manager. Introductions as a boyfriend would be awkward because my manager didn’t want me to leave. I worked hard, kept a positive outlook, and somehow managed to get along with even the prickly people there. I lit up many people in that glum environment.

While texting, she obviously wanted to get to know me better, so I took the lead, organized a meetup, and we had fun, went for coffee, and wandered around the mall.

It was a great chance to get a feel for her personality, lifestyle, relationships, and maturity. When I asked her what she enjoys doing, she said that she didn’t really have any hobbies, but that she enjoys hanging out.

During the meetup, she spoke mostly about how she doesn’t like work, her parents are always mad at her, her exes (about two or three by how she spoke about them), and her life in general. After the meetup, she told me she had fun and wants to meetup again next week (the next free day she has).

Clearly she enjoyed my company if she already wants to hang out again. I asked what she wanted to do, and she said “I don’t know, I’m good with anything”. This bothered me somewhat, but I’m a big boy, not everyone knows how to be assertive.

When I asked whether she’s doing post-secondary, her answer was the generic “I hated school, so maybe I’ll become a cosmetician”. She agrees with whatever I say and doesn’t have a lot to say about her day, goals, or hobbies. That bothered me more deeply. I’m easygoing, so I spent time reflecting on why this information bothered me.

I have my life together. I’ve got a great part-time job to cover costs, university and my budget balances at the end of the day. I pursue hobbies such as photography, programming, hiking, and cooking. I’m on great terms with my family. I know myself well and what I want in a companion. This girl is wonderful, but it seems she dates as a form of entertainment; escape from her life. I date for a strong equal to share my interesting life with, and I’m not seeing a lot of that in her.

I’m not interested in being a crutch and I can’t save her from a boring life. If there’s a way for her to grow up and not rely on me to fill up her open schedule, I’m open to sharing a life with her. Although she’s my age (19), I don’t think she’s at the point where I can tell her this without grievously wounding her undeveloped ego, especially given how she admires me.

My first relationship (a different girl), about a year ago, ended because both of us had been insecure. Since then, I worked at self-improvement, and I’ve honestly been impressed with my progress. I’m a much more confident and relaxed person than I was.

I know myself well enough to know conversation is important to me. I’d feel lonelier in a relationship than alone if the other person had nothing interesting to talk about, AKA, their own life. I’m looking for a healthy relationship where our worlds don’t revolve around each other, but where we know there’s respite in each other’s company.

How can I kindly tell her that she’s wonderful and brave, but not ready to be the female lead in my story?

Casting a Female Lead

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I’m in some troubled and rapidly freezing waters. I live with two roommates and it’s been a peaceful arrangement so far. I lived with one roommate, A, in my last place, and my other roommate, B, is one of my best friends and it’s our first time living together.

We’re responsible for filling an empty fuel tank for the winter, but didn’t realize this until recently.  The financial stress of filling this tank is being felt mostly by B and me (I’m a full-time grad student and part-time server, B needs to save for a car because of Family Stuff), and A is having trouble relating to us since she is relatively sound financially with her off-the-books job and reduced rent (which we agreed to since she had a smaller room).

Because we meet preliminary qualifications, I applied for state heating assistance, but to complete the application I need a social security card from A. Unfortunately, it has somehow been misplaced. A is incredibly lax about trying to remedy problems that might be much higher up on other people’s lists of Stuff To Get Done (ie, paying bills on time, cancelling missing credit cards, replacing a lost driver’s license). I’ve already told her about needing her to apply for a new card, so the ball is entirely in her court.  B is freaking out though, and it feels like there is literally nothing I can do beyond offering to drive A to the office and sit with her while she applies for a new card to ensure it gets done.

Confronting A, or when she gets stressed about out things, also causes her to shut down and lash out and procrastinate even more. B and I are stressed for many reasons, and A also doesn’t seem to understand why we are so pressed financially. Her proposed solution is to ask her boss for the money (and that’s a Hard No from me). B has been venting to me exclusively and it’s harder to handle and try to be the middleperson when I’m also angry and hurt. Long-term solution here is to not live with A again, but for the short-term what can I do to effectively encourage A and express the importance of how much this Needs To Get Done, as well as smooth things over between all three of us?


It’s getting a little heated, but not the kind of heating we need

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Carolyn Hax responds to a letter writer whose boyfriend thinks she should work on being closer to her somewhat estranged family.

If he were “very into self-improvement,” he’d be trying to get closer to your family, or his own. Pushing you to do this (or anything else) means he’s very into other-improvement.

Be very, very wary of that.

New boyfriend! So sensitive and helpful! So very helpful. Halpful. Helpy.

I like the Dear Businesslady series at The Toast and enjoyed this one, on how much it sucks to be a working parent in our barbarian country and on what to do when your work colleague aggressively wants to be your work friend.

Here’s the thing: some people just aren’t meant to be friends. And some people don’t realize that they’re not meant to be friends with certain other people. I’ve been in your position before, where I start to establish a rapport with a coworker only to realize “yikes, we need to dial this thing back into colleague territory”; I’ve also been in a version of Helena’s position, where my efforts to become buddies with someone are clearly being rebuffed. It hurts to feel rejected, but putting someone on the spot with any version of “why don’t you like me?” is a bad way to handle it. It’s like asking a partner to explain—really explain—why they’re breaking up with you: any useful intel you’ll get out of it won’t be worth the salt you’re pouring into your own open wound.

This personal essay on hunger, family, and memory is really good. Hard to read. Really good.

Edited to Add: Breaking! Friend Jess White’s essay Living in Laramie: After Matthew Shepard is up at The Toast. It’s about landscape and being haunted and the stories we grow up knowing in our bones. Read it.

What’s the single best thing you’ve read online this week?

I don’t have a Tumblr or a pensieve, so, here you go. I HAVE TOO MANY THOUGHTS SOMETIMES. This is my very first piece of fanfic writing for your amusement.

Contains mild S3 Hannibal spoilers through E7, “Digestivo.” Comments may contain spoilers for entire show, and commenters are invited to link their own ficlets about this or any show if they like.

If you don’t watch Hannibal, it’s super-murder-y and gross, so read with caution for cannibalism references and terrible jokes.

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My sweetheart gets out of the hospital today after a 10-day stay. He has bipolar disorder and had been cycling quite a bit for the past few months, and it just could not wait until the only psych appointment he could schedule with someone who takes our insurance and was also taking new patients…in April. He stopped sleeping, started getting more and more irritable and agitated (alternated with deep sads), and despite trying like hell to keep it all together until Spring his brain chemistry needed some major tinkering to keep him well and in this world.

The conversation about whether to go, how to go, when to go was one of the hardest and most necessary of my life. I’m forever grateful for this guest post, which let me know what to expect from hospitalization (he’d been through it all before).

I talked about it a bit on Twitter, but I’m still in the middle of FEELINGSTOWN and not fully able to write about all of it yet. My anxiety has been acting up, to say the least, and I may have freaked out crying on his (excellent) doctors on Monday when they told me he was out of the woods. They were like, are you okay, and also, here are tissues, you don’t have to wipe your face on your shirt and I was like DON’T YOU KNOW RELIEF-CRYING WHEN YOU SEE IT?

(They did)

My thoughts, in no particular order: He had the very best care and he’s got a good after-care and support system in place, I locked in a new therapist for myself, and our friends and family and community have poured out of the woodwork to support us. I can’t wait to see and kiss his giant face in 2.5 of the longest and shortest hours in human history, and I am going to ignore all y’all for a few days.

Jeremy at medieval times wearing a crown smiling

Behold: My favorite face.

Jeremy holding a tiny black & white cat

Favorite person holding second-favorite face.

If you’re feeling down, I hope you can reach out and find some help. If you love someone who is feeling down, I hope you can remind them that they are loved and steer them toward some help. Let’s let Margaret Atwood take us all out of The Februaries together and listen to a pretty song.


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