Hi Captain!

I’m going to be going on a vacation with my family soon. We are visiting multiple countries in Europe. I have planned every detail of the entire vacation because I plan all the complicated travel that our family does. No one else knows how to internet and I’ve been on a lot of trips by myself and have a lot of experience with them.

The problem is my mom. My mom does not really like to go out, let alone go on expensive trips, but she’s going anyways because of the family culture and I already know she’s going to complain about everything. (She’s done it before, on other trips I planned.) I feel bad for her- we suggested to her that she stay home several times, but she refused- but I also feel very attacked and unhappy when she starts to criticize the things that I spent so much time researching so that everyone would enjoy them. When we went to Vegas she pitched a fit because she wanted to see ‘a show’ but didn’t want to go to any of the shows we offered to take her to. She does this- picks something, decides that she wants it, bullies everyone into going with her or sulks when people don’t want the same thing, or sees how expensive it is and decides she doesn’t want it after all. I tend to plan things very carefully, so it’s really annoying when she just decides to go off on some improbable side path. Now that we’re going to Europe, I don’t trust her not to decide that she wants to go to some random city in Italy and then sulk when it turns out that we can’t do that because we already booked our hotels.

I’ve already tried asking her in advance if there was anything she wanted, and her initial suggestions were impossible (I want to go from Paris to Madrid by train- and I want it to take three hours!) When I explained why that wasn’t really doable, she sulked and now refuses to give me any input at all. I put a lot of effort into planning these trips and I really want people to enjoy them. Do you have any advice on getting her to complain less or for helping me feel less anxious and attacked when she does complain? I know on a surface level that these complaints aren’t always directed at me, but I still feel very unhappy when I hear them.


Harried Planner

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I am a 22 year old male and my crush is a 19 year old. We met by chance a few months back.
The first time we had a proper conversation she said that she didn’t want a boyfriend.
So, I eased on the flirting completely. After a couple of meet ups I started receiving signals from her. It may have been my wishful thinking.
I take her out for a movie, one thing led to another and we kissed.
When I dropped her home that night, she said she doesn’t feel the same way. So, I let it go.
The following day I receive a text saying that she didn’t want us to continue being friends anymore because she feels awkward and she can’t deal with it.
I have strong feelings for her. More than anything I don’t want to lose her.
Kindly Help!


Hello Yourself!

I guess you are part of a recurring theme, writing in the day after this posted.

This woman doesn’t want to be with you, romantically, or as a friend. She told you this directly. She, not I, not the Internet, and definitely not you, is the sole authority on this question, and she has communicated her decision quite clearly. The only right decision here is to respect her words and leave her alone. If at some point she misses your friendship, she knows how to find you.

Sometimes people don’t make up their mind about you all at once. They need more information, so they do things like “go on a date with you and kiss you” to try out the notion of you. That’s what happened here – she gave your kind offer some more consideration – and then she made a decision. You can’t “lose” her because “having” isn’t a thing; there is only choosing, and being chosen in return, and not being chosen.

I have had people try to convince me that I was wrong to break up with them or to decline to deepen or continue a relationship. The trajectory of those interactions ranged from sad to annoying to terrifying. I have tried to convince people not to break up with me, to give me one more chance. I can only pray that they (plural ‘they’, unfortunately, not the groovy gender-neutral singular construction) have long since deleted the Emails of Desperation and Neediness I sent. You’ve all seen how wordy I can be here, now imagine that “talent” and energy applied to convincing you that you really, really should stay with me even though you don’t want to, complete with numbered lists of reasons and airtight logic cases for why it really, really should work out.

Picard, Whorf, and Riker with Facepalm

Hounding those people – people who genuinely liked and cared for me but who just didn’t want what I wanted – is one of my true regrets in life. I would give a lot to be able to take it all back, to disengage more gracefully from those past relationships, to save my dignity, their patience, and to be true to a principle of consent in all things. Fortunately, I did eventually learn that you cannot logic someone into loving you back. My life got so much better when I learned that lesson and I hope yours does, too.

I know it’s terrible to contemplate losing both your hoped-for romantic connection and a friend, and I sympathize greatly with what you must be feeling. Please, take the time away from her as the gift that it is. Delete her number from your phone, hide/unsubscribe/unfriend her social media feeds, lick your wounds, grieve for what might have been, and throw yourself wholeheartedly into other connections and interests. Read books by women. Let time do its healing work (It will, I promise). Be a person who takes “no” for an answer.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I am 13, and the girl I love is 16. I have a higher IQ than I should at this age, so believe me I am 13. Anyways, I have been talking to this girl for almost 3 years. Throughout this she has had the same boyfriend, R. About 2 months ago she broke up with R, so I was kind of uneasy. I really wanted to expose how I felt to her, and I have flirted with her before, which she said I was cute. So anyways, I pretty much just vented my feelings to her and I think I might have caught her off guard. She declined my request to be her boyfriend even though as of now we have been best friends for 2 of the 3 years. She said she had a lot on her plate because she was moving from Texas to Tennessee. I live in Ohio, so this is sort of long distance. What do I do to show her I truly care for her?

Dear Letter Writer:

To show your friend that you truly care for her, believe her. 

Believe her when she says that she doesn’t want you to be her boyfriend.

Believe her when she says that she has “too much on her plate.” The translation for “I don’t want to/can’t be in a relationship right now” is “I don’t want that kind of relationship…with you.”

You were brave and honest when you told her how you felt. You didn’t do anything wrong when you did that, in fact, you did something wonderful and cool. But now that she’s told you that she doesn’t feel that way, it’s not up to you to make any more grand gestures to try to change her mind. If you need to take a break from talking with her or even stop being friends for a while because it’s too hard, that’s okay – limp off the field, lick your wounds and take all the time you need. Channel your feelings into writing songs or poems  or stories (that you don’t send to her) or finding another creative outlet and throwing yourself into it. Friendships can survive unrequited crushes, but they really do fall apart when one person won’t take no for an answer. You can’t win her heart right now, but you can respect her choices and show her that you do by giving her time and space.

Dear Captain Awkward,

One year ago my father passed away. It was a several year battle against cancer that he eventually lost, and I still miss him deeply.

My mother has struggled in the aftermath. She has been overwhelmed with loneliness and sank into a depression. She loved my father deeply and he was her rock, both emotionally and in a more practical sense (bills, caretaking, house upkeep).

Lately she has struggled more deeply because a chronic pain issue flared up. She has been to numerous doctor appointments, tried multiple medications and treatments, with no improvements. The medications make her groggy and confused, and she has been having trouble sleeping on top of everything. It seems like her life is a waking nightmare.

I love my mom very much, but I am struggling with how to help her. I am an only child, and we have few extended family members – none she feels she can rely on. She has friendships, but does not trust her friends easily/well and has withdrawn lately because she is too exhausted to reach out. She usually rejects the idea of outside/paid help and feels very vulnerable.

My relationship with her has always had some tension. She is a wonderful mom and a caring person, but our personalities have always clashed. She has always needed more from me than I felt capable of giving, but that need has grown immense and my ability to help her has, if anything, decreased. My own life has been challenging – a stressful new job, a wonderful-but-complicated marriage, and grieving for my father.

I try to visit as often as I feel can, have offered help in various forms, but visits are filled with her lamenting that she doesn’t have anyone to help, and my offers of help are turned down more often than not because they aren’t the right ‘kind’ of help (she has rigid parameters and a deep need for control). Her control issues are also triggering for me, because control issues are something that I struggle with as well.

I have always found visits with my mom draining, and even more so now in this acute time. Every interaction with my mother has the ability to send me into my own tailspin, but setting boundaries makes me feel incredibly guilty in the face of her deep need – and the fact that she is a good person and mother.

How can I navigate this tricky balance? How can I help my mom without losing myself in her bottomless pit of need? How can I maintain my own mental health without feeling like the worst daughter ever?


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Sal has written with the details for the next LA Awkward MeetUp:

The first LA meetup was a really wonderful, friendly gathering, and
I’m very excited to host another one. Come join us!

Let’s meet on Sunday, May 10 at 10:30am at Barnsdall Park for a
BYO-brunch picnic on the lawn! I will also bring some pens and paper
because I know some truly excellent pen-and-paper games for those who
are interested. You can bring your own food from home, or get food at
any number of nearby places (including the Los Feliz farmers’ market,
which is on Sundays!) Or you can just come and hang out if you prefer.
Barnsdall Park is also on a hilltop, so the lawn treats you to really
lovely views of the city and the Hollywood Hills.

How to find me: I will bring a picnic blanket and also a small stuffed
bat so you can identify me. The lawn at Barnsdall Park is not very
big, so this should not be too difficult.

Barnsdall Park is easily transit-accessible, near the Vermont/Sunset
stop on the Red Line as well as the buses that run on Sunset, Vermont,
and Hollywood. There’s also a small amount of parking inside the park.

I’ve also posted this on the forums, so feel free to ask questions
here or there.

Hope to see you then!


Have a lovely time.

Dear Captain and Crew,

Ten weeks ago I asked my husband why sex and some other things hadn’t happened on a long weekend at home. He out-of-the-blue responded, “I’ve been thinking I don’t want to be married to you anymore.” It took several days to sink in, by which point we were out of town on vacation. On the seventh day after his announcement, I couldn’t stop crying and texted my sisters, one of whom called back immediately and saved my sanity.

After we returned home and visited our couples counselor, I put an aggressive self-care plan into effect of daily exercise, masturbation, journaling, and eating well plus weekly time with friends, my personal therapist, massage, etc. The self-care is working. Most days I keep myself balanced on the two positive long-term possibilities: 1) we end up with a stronger happier marriage or 2) we head off to separate new adventures, reconnecting as friends after a break.

After an exercise break due to illness, I’ve been teetering, sometimes to optimism that he’ll stay based on his “I love yous,” warm hugs, and clear attraction to me and sometimes tripping into the short term “14 years, he doesn’t want to be with me; I can’t share this incredible pain” mud.

So far the only friends and family who know of our limbo are my sisters, his mom, his sibling, and one of his friends. I’ve waited to tell my parents, afraid mom will say “I told you to get a handle on your mood swings years ago,” or “Where’s your faith that he’ll stay?” instead of comforting me. Yesterday husband announced he bought a plane ticket to spend Mother’s Day with his mom, so my mom will want to know why I’m coming alone to visit her that weekend.

And I don’t want to be “the woman who cried divorce” asking for friend help she didn’t really need or to bias my friends against husband if he does stay. In a month – he says he’ll decide by then – a good chunk of far-flung Team Me has our annual gathering. I am really looking forward to it, but also wonder whether I should tell my friends about our marriage-limbo.

1. Do you have any script suggestions for when/what to tell my parents?

2. Do I wait till/if we separate to tell my closest friends? Is it self-centered to want to tell them before the annual fun times, even before I know for certain, just so they can support me? Is it fair to my recently widowed friend to feel sad in her presence about my Schrödinger’s husband?

Thank you.

(P.S. I have read 250 and 16, several times, which helped me to draft the letter to Team Me for if we separate of please this/not that.)

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Dear Captain & Crew,

I’m a grad student and I want to write thank-you cards to a couple of my undergrad professors whose classes and mentorship were really important to my academic and personal growth. There two profs are my former advisor/PI and another prof who basically inspired what I’m doing for my graduate work – similar topic coming from another field. The problem for me is that when I was graduating and for a while after (aka prime thank-you time) my anxiety was out of control, but as that has become more manageable my feelings of awkwardness about the amount of time that has passed are increasing. I feel like I would be taking advantage of their time and professionalism if I just reestablished contact because it might be useful to me.

I want to avoid turning these thank-yous into a FEELINGSDUMP. One of the things I appreciated was my advisor being supportive and calm about my (at the time undiagnosed) panic attacks and general graduating/life stress, but I don’t think that’s the kind of long-winded screed they really need, ya know? I also ideally would like these notes to maybe be the start of a friendly-professional correspondence. I think they’re cool people, and we’re facebook friends so though we don’t actually talk there I think they are open to being in that sort of contact with their graduated students.

Scripts? General tips on how I should approach the situation from a professor’s point of view?

Grateful Also Awkward
PS I use she/her pronouns.

Dear Grateful:

Keep it short and sweet, but please don’t fear that saying “thank you” to a teacher is an imposition even if some time has gone by. Your teachers all did their work without ever knowing what would take root or how students would receive it, and getting the confirmation that something stuck with you is a gift that you’re giving them, not an imposition on their time. Script:

“Dear Professor, as you may know, I’ve been doing graduate work in (field of study), and I wanted to tell you how wonderfully your class set me up to succeed here, especially the way you covered (specific topic). Thank you again for your class and for the mentorship and advising you gave me. I hope all is well with you. Best wishes, Grateful.”

Since you’re casually in touch on social media, that will do the rest to keep the doors open.

P.S. Thanks for telling us what pronouns to use. It didn’t come into play here, but it’s so helpful to know.


Since we’re in that time in the semester, I want to make a public service announcement to college students whose academic success is being derailed by stress and mental health issues:

Universities aren’t magical places where stigma about mental illness doesn’t exist, but you (yes, you! and you!) are not the first students having genuine difficulty that your professor has seen. Unfortunately, “not giving a fuck” and “having a major crisis” can look exactly the same to your professors, so if you can, communicate. They can often steer you toward advising and on-campus health services to help you pull through. With some notice, they can maybe set up alternate structures for you to complete your work. The sooner you reach out, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to get back on track in some way. The very last week of the semester, “But I need a good grade in this class I never come to or do work for to graduate/keep my scholarship” isn’t really gonna work.

If you’re behind on your work, and you’re overwhelmed about how you’re ever going to catch up, let me help you prioritize that shitpile:

  1. What’s the assignment that’s due next? Ignore the old stuff for now. Focus on the next thing and hand it in by the deadline.
  2. Hand in all future things by the deadline, i.e., show that you can respect deadlines and respect the professors’s time and get caught up.
  3. Once you’ve made a plan for future work, what’s the outstanding assignment that’s worth the most points toward your grade? Try negotiating an extension for that one thing.
  4. When asking for an extension, your profs don’t need all the details of why. Look at what the syllabus says about late work and/or extensions, and if you have to ask, just do it. “I am having some personal issues and I need an extra week to finish my assignment. Can I turn it in on x date? I understand that this might affect my grade.” Your profs don’t spend all their time thinking about you or your missing work. Tell them what they need to know, ask them for what you need, and do it with the least amount of friction for them.
  5. Show that you are aware of what you need to do and suggest a realistic plan for getting the additional work in. Asking a professor, “What assignments am I missing?” is kind of insulting (see also: “Did I miss anything in class today?“). If you haven’t been reading the syllabus or the class website, now’s the time to read it or fake that you have. Grading late work is a pain in the ass, so make it easy for busy people to help you.
  6.  Is the missing work from the very beginning of the semester? Maybe let that stuff go. You don’t want to do it and your prof probably doesn’t want to read/grade it.
  7. Attend all classes, even if you aren’t quite caught up. Students who shame-hide because they haven’t finished their work: We see you! Or, we don’t, because you are skipping a class you paid a lot of money for because you’re worried about what we’ll think of you for missing an assignment, but we’d like to see you! Come back! Show that you’re interested and committed to catching up.

I have had students fail a class or withdraw from a class because they were going through a really bad time and then come back at it a semester later and do beautifully. It makes me so happy when that happens. It’s not embarrassing, it’s awesome!


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