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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Hello! This is a question that is hopefully less fraught than a few of the other Holiday Questions and I hope will be an easy question for you all to answer.

My partner and I have been living together for over a year and together for much longer than that; it is a thoughtful, committed relationship and I’m very happy. My parents took some time to warm up to him but now like him very much (him wading in (yes, literally) to help at last Thanksgiving’s Sewer Explosion in the Parents’ basement went a long way towards them recognizing how good of a man he really is).

The problem: my family is deeply Catholic (not me) (and in the liberation theology, Nuns on the Bus, Vatican 2 kind of way, which helps). Until my partner and I marry, my parents will not allow us to stay in the same bed. We have no plans of getting married unless there is some extenuating circumstance, and then certainly not in the church.

I haven’t brought it up in the last year or so because 1) I want to respect their beliefs and 2) most of the times we’ve been home, I’ve been sleeping on a couch or with my sister anyway since it’s been for other family events where there’s a full house. But now it’s gone on for a long time, and aforementioned sister yesterday got in a fight with my parents about creating a “boys dorm” and a “girls dorm” for our next family vacation (this also will impact my brother and his girlfriend, who have been together since they were sixteen but also are unmarried). They told her that it’s clearly not an issue since I haven’t brought it up and she’s overreacting. She is not.

Look, I’m not trying to have wild kinky sex under my parents’ roof. I would like for my partner to not have to sleep on the floor (or as happened on other vacations, in a tent outside), and I would like to feel like my parents respect our relationship. How do I broach this topic and make it clear that this does, in fact, bother me, but I’ve thus far respected their wishes — but it is a problem that they don’t seem to respect me or my relationship as responsible, adult, or mature without the parameters of Catholic marriage? Do I even bother? Is this a passive aggressive nightmare waiting to blow up ten years down the road if I don’t say something now?

Help me, Captain Awkward! You’re my only hope!

Grandma’s sleeping in my bed this year anyway so it doesn’t even matter right now

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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

You’re worried about someone or something. You want to help. What happens if you don’t try to fix whatever it is and take care of yourself instead?

Dear Captain Awkward:

My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years and I dread every interaction with his family. He’s the youngest of five. The eldest brother will ignore my existence entirely. If his mom sees me not right by my bf then she comes over to explain how she wishes he would date his ex from high school because of how much skinnier, prettier, ect…she is. I spend every holiday with them now because if bf goes go with my family they explain how controlling and evil I am. So now my family had just been doing holiday stuff a little bit later or earlier so that both bf and I can attend. They keep trying to convince bf I am controlling him. It started when he became vegetarian after meeting me (I don’t care if other people eat meat; I didn’t care if he ate meat). I don’t make a big deal about eating I just take the things I can eat when we eat with them. They however endless “tease” (it can get mean) over it. I don’t want to just not go because I want to see my boyfriend on the holidays and it helps him withstand the abuse if I’m there to shoulder some. I just wish I knew what I could do to help make it better?

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Hi Captain Awkward,

You are a great resource, and I’ve referred a lot of friends to your blog.

My problem is something I think I should totally not be having, but I am. I have a friend who I’ve known for years who will be getting married soon. Suzanne and I used to live together, and were quite close when I lived in a different city. Since I moved away a few years ago, we’ve still been in touch, but have been in less touch the past couple of years. Because of our past friendship, and how much I value her, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding when I got married a year ago.

Suzanne is now getting married. She’s asked a few people to be a bridesmaid, but when I flew in to attend some pre-wedding festivities a few weeks ago, I realized that she wouldn’t be asking me. I’m not planning to talk to Suzanne about this. I know that it’s OK for people to choose whoever they want to be in their bridal party. But it still really hurts. I find myself comparing myself against some of the other people she’s asked. I also find myself questioning our friendship, and feeling like I may have misinterpreted how close we are, or have been in the past. I also then start to go down the road of thinking of other people with whom I’d like to be closer, but who don’t seem to return the feelings of strong friendship.

The logical part of me realizes that people move on, and recognizes that it’s natural that we’ve grown apart, since I’ve lived a way for a few years, and we now no longer talk on the phone regularly. The illogical part of me is upset and hurt that she didn’t pick me, and wonders if I should just let this friendship die completely.

Do you have any advice for moving on, and being mature about this? I’d like to reach out after the wedding to rekindle our phone call check-ins, but I don’t want to impose if she really has moved on.

Former Friend

Thanks for the kind words, Former Friend, and wow…”former” friend?

To me, the wedding party thing is a side issue, and you’ve already handled it/are in the process of handling it. You’ll let your weird hurt feelings be what they are, you’ll acknowledge to yourself that being asked to be in her wedding was something you were counting on and it’s more important to you than you initially thought, you’ll most likely go the wedding, you’ll say nice things to your friend and have a good time, and maybe after the wedding you’ll continue to drift or you’ll find a way to rekindle your friendship. I hope you rekindle the friendship. There’s “I would have been in your wedding if you’d asked me, you know! Is there a reason you didn’t?” and then there’s “I am so happy for you, and so happy to see you!” You know and I know which one is the right thing to say to someone you love who is in the middle of a big life event.

To me, this is a question about loneliness. Your friendship landscape doesn’t look like you thought it did or like you want it to. You’re a newlywed, still settling into being part of a couple and coming off a pretty busy year or so if you just got married, so this seems like a perfect time to take stock of where your other relationships stand and make sure you’re nurturing your own social connections. It takes more effort, or a different kind of effort, to maintain friendships when you don’t have proximity & being in the same life circumstances to connect you and to make friends as an adult. So what can you do about that?

Can I make a plug for the annual weekend away with a few close friends?

I have a friend group who does this as much as possible, at least once a year, often 2 or 3 times/year. Not everyone comes every time, but everyone in the group is always invited, and here’s what it involves: You, them, snacks (cheese!), wine, an inexpensive vacation-rental-by-owner somewhere that’s near a major airport hub and also maybe on a lake, pants with no waistband, laughing until stuff comes out your nose, the anticipation of planning the trip, the 10,000 jokes and stories and inside jokes that come afterwards, trading books & nail polish colors, telephone pictionary, side trips to local tourist attractions/wineries/cider mills but lots of down-time with no real agenda, the prospect of karaoke & a spaghetti dinner at the local Legion post that we never actually make it to, no spouses. IT IS THE BEST THING. DO IT.

There are other ways to foster community and closeness with people near and far:

  • The monthly or weekly casual dinner.
  • Join a choir. (No, really!)
  • Write paper letters. (No, really!) What if you wrote a letter to Suzanne that laid out how happy you are for her and how glad you are to know her? What if you wrote one letter to someone in your life – friends near and far, family, former teachers & mentors – every week or every month? It can just be a card, if you’re not a writer. If you don’t know what to say, start with: Thank you. I’m proud of you. I’m thinking about you and wishing you well. I’m so glad to know you. I’m so sorry that (bad thing) is happening, is there anything I can do? I’m so glad that (good thing) is happening to you, that’s the best news!
  • Do some social stuff without your spouse, like a weekly class or workout group, a weekly breakfast or coffee with a friend or friends. You just got married, so I suspect a lot of the last year or so has involved a lot of “We…,” so what can you do that’s just for you and about you?
  • Get a subscription to a local theater company or concert series or museum membership for you and a friend. Built in friend-dates + seeing new stuff = nice!
  • If you can, take the older people in your family out to lunch or invite them over one by one and ask them all the things you’ve ever wanted to know. What was it like when they were young? Who was their first crush? What kind of stuff did they used to get in trouble for when they were kids? What was their wedding like? What’s their favorite place they’ve ever been? (This is a good Home for the Holidays strategy, too – seeing relatives separately from The Big Day of Celebration & Whatnot can be way more relaxing).
  • If you can, take the teenagers in your family out or invite them over for dinner one by one and let them talk at you about everything that’s on their minds. My godmother used to do this for me when I was a kid and it was seriously the best to have the company of adult who treated me like a person and not a student or offspring to be molded for a bright future.
  • Take up a cause. Help people register to vote, canvas for a political candidate, read to old people and kids, see if the library needs help sorting anything, work at the food bank, pet & walk shelter puppies. If it heals the world a little bit and you can and want to do it, do it.

That’s a giant list, so don’t do all of it! Pick one thing and try it. In a few months, try something else. You might not get exact reciprocity, and some of your friendships might remain not quite what you want them to be, and you might feel sometimes like “what am I doing this for” and that’s okay. It’s okay to be hungry, it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be lonely and think “but isn’t there something else that’s supposed to be happening?” The only way I know to deal with that hungry feeling is to put some love into yourself and into the world and see what comes back. It won’t come back exactly how you planned it or in a way that you can even predict, but it will come back.

Hi Captain and Army,

I have a problem with my dad’s girlfriend, namely that she tries to guilt-trip me. My dad had a party recently and at the end of it, as I was leaving, she started talking about Thanksgiving. Dad’s girlfriend said she would like to host this year’s Thanksgiving at her place. The guilt-trip was that since I spend every Thanksgiving at my mom’s I could spend the actual day of the holiday once with my dad. She also said that my sister and mother would be welcome to come too. I told her I’d think about it and get back to her.

My parents are divorced and have been separated for over a decade. My mom has custody of both me and my sister and we see our dad on our terms. We both live with her. My sister is estranged from our father and my parents had an awful divorce and make it a point to never be in the same room as each other. I have tried to see my dad on holidays, usually at a day not of the specific holiday, like a day before or after. My dad has a habit of making himself seem like a victim. I like spending the holidays with my mom, because it is more fun and way less full of awkward things and nobody has any bad history shoved under various rugs.

The problem is that I am sick of her guilt-tripping us. Apparently it is a part of traditional Chinese parenting and she is super traditional about everything including family and respecting parents. Both of them want to have picture perfect holidays at all times even if everybody hates each other. I wouldn’t mind seeing them on a day before or after, but when I hear the gross inaccuracies that she obviously got from my dad I don’t want to go at all. I also don’t want to have to smack down either one further guilt-tripping me for not going. If I don’t go, then I stay at my mom’s but if I go then I have to listen to dad’s girlfriend and dad being happy at ‘family’ while seething. I can’t see other family because they live back east and I refuse to be anything more than politely civil to my dad’s brother.

Is there any way I can call her out on her guilt-tripping that will make it stick? She’s tried to do this before. I don’t think my dad will back me up because he used to do it to me too. Should I tell her I can come for Christmas but not Thanksgiving?

Another year of holiday problems

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The news from Shannon:

Hi Captain and Co!

We in the rainy city are looking to have a meetup on 11/14 from 11am-1pm at Cafe Mox in Ballard. The menu has many options, including vegetarian and vegan, it’s accessible, and it has a bunch of board games and fun things!


I will aim to either arrive at the cafe early to get some spots or, depending on the interest, call ahead and reserve some space. I’ll also have neon green signs on the table saying “Capt. Awkward Meetup” and I’ll get sticker nametags for people to use if they wish.

I know this is a bit last minute, but I’d love to have this featured on the main Capt. Awkward blog, and it’s also been discussed at the Capt. Awkward forums.

Best wishes,

Shannon from Seattle

Have a good time.


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