This summer I’m going to try resurrecting Live Chats on Fridays, where you can submit short questions on Twitter (@CAwkward, #AwkwardChat) or on Patreon for short quick answers in real time.

I’ll start answering at noon, Chicago time, today, so get your questions in before then.

I’ll turn comments on at the end of the chat – too much to keep up with all at once!

Update: Ok, comments are on. If you missed getting a question in, we’ll do this again next week in a slightly more organized way.

Let’s begin: 

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Turbulent month, turbulent song:

And yes, it’s that time of the month, when we treat the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions they want answers to.

1 “How to handle snubs from close relatives.”

Sometimes you end up related to people you would never interact with by choice.

If you’re the one who messed things up and you know it, apologize once and then try to do better.

If you’re not the person who caused the breach, or if your apology for what you did is not accepted, stop trying so hard to make the situation better. Your effort is probably wasted, and you don’t have to keep auditioning for the approval of people who regularly show that they don’t care about you or want you around.

When you absolutely have to deal with the person, it might help to find a basic amount of polite that you can be to them suitable to the occasion. Not because they deserve it, but because it might make you feel better if you have a plan for interacting with some dignity. If it helps, imagine they are distant acquaintances, like, employees of a satellite office of your company that you run into once a year at the holiday party. In that instance you’d say “Hi, happy new year!” and then you go talk to the people you actually like and want to see.

Don’t treat the family like a monolith. Form your own relationships with the people you care about and who you want to connect with. The uncle who hates you hosts Thanksgiving every year? You do not have to go to his house and choke down his grudge-turkey, but also you don’t have to let Thanksgiving and his turf be the only time you see any of these people. He doesn’t own your grandma or your cousins or the month of November.

 

2 “My aunt says my partner is not welcome, what do I do?”

“Well, Aunt, we’ll be sorry to miss you. Maybe next year.” It’s okay to skip events where your partner is not welcome.

Unless your partner is some form of Nazi. In that case, I’m Team Aunt and also you should dump that Nazi dickhead.

 

3 “Do you have to invite adult son’s girlfriend to family parties.”

Depends. Do you want your son to come to these parties and feel happy and welcome there, or do you secretly wish he’d stay away?

Also depends – is his girlfriend a Nazi? If so, definitely don’t invite her to anything.

 

4 “My neighbor doesn’t respect the property line.”

You need to find someone who knows the laws where you live. That’s not me, even if you live where I live.

 

5 “My boyfriend tells me how to eat how to exercise.”

Did you want a free volunteer personal trainer? If so, enjoy! If not, tell him it’s none of his beeswax.

 

6 “What do you say to someone who is trying to set you up with someone you’re not interested in?”

“I appreciate the thought, but I’m not interested.”

“No thank you!”

 

7 “I’m in New Jersey when is this oak pollen going to go away for god sakes.”

I’m in Chicago and I also want to know this.

 

8 “Where will Harry and Meghan live?”

Google says “Nottingham Cottage” in “Kensington Palace.”

 

9 “Stories of sexy young girl with huge tits.”

Stories of people who are not efficient users of search engines.

 

 

10 “Boyfriend wants me to better myself.”

Did you ask him to be your amateur life coach? If not, tell him to focus on his own issues and ambitions.

 

11 “I don’t like my grandchild’s name.”

Learn to love it, or learn to be quiet about it, or both.

 

 

12 “Coworker dating app.”

My jerk of a brain initially read this as “Oh shit did someone make an app to try to help people date their coworkers please god no” when really the person is probably looking for “what do I do if I spot my coworker on a dating app.” Picture my entire body seizing up with revulsion for a few seconds until my brain caught up with the more likely interpretation.

My instinct is almost always to say hey, just leave the person alone, it’s not like it’s some terrible secret that you’re both on the app, and it would be pretty cool if you could give each other the gift of a bubble of privacy while you both try to do something vulnerable, especially since you work together. If they spot you as well and are interested in you, they can find a way to let you know!

 

13 “Husband doesn’t want me on birth control.”

If you’re a person who can get pregnant, you are the ultimate boss of whether, when, and if. No exceptions.

 

14 “I want to call suicide hotline but don’t know what to say.”

“Hi, I’m [Firstname] and I’m having suicidal thoughts.”

“Hi, I’m nervous about calling this hotline and I don’t know what to say.”

You won’t freak them out or get it wrong. They want you to call even if you don’t know what to say. I really hope you get what you need.

 

15 “When family wants you to visit but they never visit you.”

Visit them when you want to and when it makes sense for you, and if they pressure you for more visits say “I won’t make it, but you’re always welcome to visit me here! Can we put a plan together?” 

 

16 “jean luc picard open shirt”

HEL-lo!

picard_on_holiday

Image description: Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard wearing shorts and an open shirt reading a book on a green lounge chair. First spotted on this site here.

 

17 “Is it rude to invite guests to someone’s house without letting them know?”

Almost certainly yes! Even if you know this person is very hospitable and wouldn’t mind extra guests, why wouldn’t you at least let them know to expect them?

 

18 “firthing”

Refers to the way Mr. Darcy (as played by Colin Firth in the 1990s Pride & Prejudice adaptation) treats Elizabeth Bennett when he develops a crush on her. Especially characterized by weird, intense staring bouts or standing really close to someone while studiously NOT looking at them, general glowering, and hostile non sequiturs intended to camouflage romantic interest. If unchecked, Firthing can lead to cornering one’s love interest and vomiting a bunch of feelings all over someone who didn’t even know that you liked them, or doing weird shit like showing up in the middle of the night to give them wordy letters.

Mitigating factors: A really nice house

Best avoided by: Asking the person on a date pretty soon after you know that you like them.

(Please tell me someone who knows Colin Firth reads this blog and has told him about this, it would make my year.)

NOTICE: By request, this behavior will from now on be referred to as “Darcy-ing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Awkwardeers! It’s time for meetup number seven.

When: Saturday, May 26th, 2018, 1 pm

Note: I am taking a bus into Boston. I will update here and on FOCA if something happens to the bus. (I hope nothing happens to the bus.)

Where: Boston Public Library Newsfeed Cafe, 700 Boylston Street, Boston

The closest T stop is Copley, on the green line. The library is directly outside the exit.

Venue: The cafe is in the newer Johnson building (the entrance that faces Boylston Street). The Johnson building entrance is accessible. There are some vegetarian sandwich options, but no vegan ones which I recall.

How to find us: I will claim a table and set up a paper sign. I will have my knitting. Due to Mercury being in retrograde*, I will NOT have any coloring sheets this time! Please bring your own coloring sheets if you desire coloring sheets!

What to bring: Crayons, paints, coloring sheets, a puzzle, advice about goats, thoughts about the most preferable breed of miniature cattle.

If you need more information, you can inquire on the “Boston” thread at FOCA.

*Mercury is probably not in retrograde.

Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX near Waterloo station, 19th May, 12pm onwards.

Crafting!  Feel free to bring any craft which won’t damage the venue, and bring stash/needles/etc for others to learn on if you can.  I can teach knitting to intermediate.  Or just come and chat with us.

The venue sell food in a cafe (standard sandwiches etc.), but they also don’t mind people bringing food in from outside. There are several other local places where you can buy stuff as well. The food market outside can serve most needs, or you can also bring a packed lunch.

Meet on the fourth floor, outside the Green Bar (go up in lift 1, sadly not as musical as lift 7).

Here is the accessibility map of the Royal Festival Hall: PDF map

I have shoulder length brown hair and glasses, and I will bring my plush Cthuhlu, which looks like this: 

The venue is accessible via a lift, and has accessible toilets. Waterloo tube station has step free access on the Jubilee line but not on the Northern line.

The London Awkward group has a Facebook page, which is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/549571375087294/. There is also a thread in the new forums for saying hello.

My email is Kate DOT Towner AT Gmail DOT com

(June meetup will be on the 23rd.)

Dear Captain,

(Resend with better subject heading)

I haven’t seen anyone write in with a similar story, so sorry if this is a repeat.

Summary:

I’m having problems with a female friend that I previously had romantic feelings for. I told Friend about said feelings in late December of last year, and spent up to last week trying to get a “yes or no” on the question of reciprocated feelings, or interest to pursue things later (Friend made it clear she does not want to pursue romantic relationships until after university – we are both in Gr. 12 currently). After lots of avoiding the question and deflecting responses, the answer was determined to be no, as of last week. I feel somewhat hurt that she didn’t tell me sooner, so that I could stop further romantic advances and save us both a lot of time and embarrassment.

Long version with additional context:

I’ve generally had trouble understanding my own emotions, to the point where someone had to point out to me that I probably had feelings for Friend. As a result, I spend a good month making sure that was the case, and then another week or so to work up to nerve to tell Friend about these feelings. The telling occurred just before Christmas Break.

Shortly after the break, Friend responds saying she doesn’t know if she feels similarly towards me. I understand this, because of earlier stated emotional issues.

My thinking was that she was afraid to say no because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, so I assured her that that would not be the case. (Sure, it might sting a little, but once the band-aid is ripped off it feels better.)

In an attempt to sway Friend’s response one way or the other, I gave her a poem for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t so much a love poem as a “hey I might be a potential romantic option” type of thing (I had composed the poem before any potential feelings for Friend had arisen, so it’s not I like I went out of my way to write a poem for someone who may or may not be interested in receiving it). If the reception to the poem was good, then yay! If not, well at least Friend will still be just that – a friend.

Still no change in response.

Fast forward to last week. After a long-ish talk and more reassurance that it doesn’t matter to me what the answer is, as long as Friend is honest about it, Friend finally said she didn’t see me as a potential partner.

(It’s worth mentioning that my romantic interest in Friend had diminished greatly by this point, due to other difficulties in my life)

On to the FEELINGS!

I’m not upset she said no. I’m upset she said “maybe” when she meant “no”. If she knew the whole time, and I (hopefully) created an environment where we could both be honest, why couldn’t she just say so?

In the past I had issues with boundaries (mine and other people’s), so it’s kind of a big deal to me that I respect people’s boundaries as best I can. It feels like to me, by not saying no earlier, that she didn’t tell me about a boundary she had, and I crossed that boundary multiple times. It hurts me to know how uncomfortable she must have been during my advances. And oh god the poem. It’s a mistake to give someone a Valentine’s poem if you don’t know how they’ll feel about it, and an even bigger one when you know they probably won’t appreciate it.

I tried to have a conversation with Friend about FEELINGS, but ultimately it was a monologue. It was a pretty short monologue, as I didn’t want a FEELINGSBOMB to go off. Friend’s response was along the lines of “conversations with a high emotional content make me uncomfortable so I just shut down and hope the problem goes away on its own.”

The conversation did not help things.

This letter is getting very long, so on to the point:

How can I communicate FEELINGS without it getting out of hand? How can I explain that what Friend did was hurtful without her just shutting down in the middle of the explanation? Am I getting too worked up over this?

— Hurt, Confused, and Overthinking Everything. [Male pronouns]

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Did y’all read this letter over at Ask A Manager?

Alison deftly handled the workplace advice, but I can’t stop thinking about the letter and I want to say a few things to the poor Letter Writer about the family stuff.

Letter Writer,

This is a horrible situation for so many reasons. Your boss is cartoonishly awful. Your dad is her willing flying monkey. And your mom is no fucking help at all. You are about to learn a lot of very painful lessons all at once, and I am sorry.

If you can get any other job at all, please do it. Waiting tables sounds pretty great, especially since most places that would hire you will want you to start soon. You’ve got a knack for administrative work, so register at every temp agency in your town. You can find ways to volunteer and network and build a portfolio in your chosen field over time, and that will actually be much easier when you’re out of the toxic situation you’re in. Those board members who complimented your work – are they hiring, by chance? Above all, do not listen to people who want you to do “prestigious” things at the expense of putting food on your table.

Also, if you live with either of your parents, it is time to move out ASAP. I know this is scary, but I promise you: A house full of roommates and a lumpy futon in a room with a door you can shut is going to be better than living with either of these people. You’re gonna need some space from your parents – especially your dad – before you can think about rebuilding a healthier adult relationship.

Keep your plans absolutely secret until you’ve got another gig and can quit. Your dad is not a safe person right now. If it helps, think of him as Theoden, King of Rohan while he’s still very much under Grima Wormtongue’s spell. You can love him but your safety depends on working around him. His advice to you sucks. He is not on your side. Do not consult him about or alert him to your plans. Your mom is also not a safe person right now. She is prioritizing the fear of a theoretical resumé gap over your actual well-being. It’s time for them to both hear a blanket “Thanks for the advice, I’ll think about it!” whenever they counsel you to do something about your career. You will think about it, and then you’ll do what is best for you. It is very, very hard to come to terms with the fact that the people you’ve trusted all your life to take care of you and steer you wisely are not up to that job.

When you leave working for Jill, expect an extinction burst of her trying to keep you in place. She might offer you more money. She might offer to give you a more regular schedule. She might promise to not leave the baby with you anymore. Don’t believe her. Do not be sucked in. She has already shown you that she will abuse you, the damage is already done, there is nothing she can do to turn this awful job into an acceptable job. The longer you stay, the more time she has to damage you professionally and personally. She may turn to threats – “I’ll break up with your Dad if you leave this job!” And like, what can you say besides “Okay?” or “Good?” or “Do whatever you want, I’m still out of here!” It may help you to find neutral scripts you can repeat to Jill, like “Thanks so much for the opportunity, but [New Job] will be a better fit for me.” You can alter it for your dad, like “Thanks to you and Jill for finding me a position when I really needed one, but I think [New Job] will be a better fit for me.” You will never convince them that your reasons for leaving are good enough, so, stop giving them reasons and stick with platitudes. Reasons are for reasonable people. Unreasonable people just see your reasons as things they can argue with.

Also get ready for Jill (and your dad, by proxy) to tell a bunch of lies about you. Do not use her as a reference, for anything. The  story will become how she gave you a job out of the goodness of her heart and you were bad at it and also ungrateful. The truth is you are pretty good at your job and would thrive in a functional workplace with functional people. The truth is she would have a very hard time finding anyone to replace the work you do, and definitely would have a hard time finding someone who would put up with her whims as patiently as you have, especially for the bullshit low wages she is almost definitely paying you. This is a very hard lesson to learn, but sometimes people will tell stories about you that aren’t true to try to punish you or manipulate you, and your best option out of a bunch of bad options is for you is to let them think and say whatever they want, because for you to stay and try to argue with them or prove them wrong gives them more access to abuse you. Abusive people like Jill are experts in creating an alternate reality, where you are both the worst person who ever lived and someone who is completely irreplaceable and owes it to them to stay forever (and let yourself be abused). It’s easier to get out of this trap when you know it’s coming.

Finally, if you can put some mental health support resources in place for yourself, do it. Here are some places to start. A trained person who be a reality check against the gaslighting and terrible advice from your parents is a valuable resource.

May you be in a new job very, very soon.

May this seven months of hell not even warrant a line on your resume.

May this become just an entertaining story that you tell at cocktail parties someday. (In your shoes I’d be tempted to go to at least one couples’ counseling session because: story fodder and to ask the therapist to his or her face “What the fuck made you think this would be a good idea?” but I also don’t have to look at any of these people again, so, do what works for you)

❤ and luck,

Captain Awkward

 

Dear Captain Awkward,

SHORT SUMMARY:

I’m trying to find a way to normalise relations with my future sister in law (“Sally”). She has been with my husband’s younger brother (“Bill”) for many years and they’re marrying soon. I’ve been with my husband (“Frankie”) for about half that time and married a year. Sally is simultaneously very polite and welcoming, but quite cool and sometimes scornful (it seems) of things I have done. I admit in several cases this is my fault and would like to make it right. Other times she seems to deliberately exclude Frankie and I from events or avoid invitations from us. Frankie does not like her at all and I try to defend her and get Frankie to accept her, because she is Bill’s partner. I would like to get on better with her and get Frankie to accept her, for peace in the family.

LONG STORY!

Sally and Bill are very successful late-20s professionals in a big city, own their own home and have solid careers. Frankie and Bill’s parents are retired in a nice town. Frankie and I are in our early-30s, work in poorly-paid fields, rent in a much poorer area, and are not as set up in life due to planning to move elsewhere (so we live cheaply and are saving up).

I quite admire Sally, as she has excelled in her (demanding) field, seems to be a really decisive and motivated person, has gone through some hard legal stuff, has made the house look amazing, is really stylish etc. I try to ask about her achievements or compliment her skills (eg. the house, her work, even a nice dress) but she is very dismissive of any compliments. (I don’t say things like “wow you’re the best ever at your job!” but “that sounds like a cool job”, so I hope I don’t come across as sycophantic).

We have never seemed to click.

On the one hand, Sally is a consummate hostess. They hosted Frankie and I several times in their previous home, when we travelled to their city to see the extended family – I would try to buy them dinner in thanks but it was politely refused. (I felt as though we have taken advantage of them, and would suggest staying in a hotel, but Frankie would ask and I wanted him to spend time with his brother. I have said many times I will return the favour if we live somewhere they want to visit).

On the other hand, Sally has sometimes seemed … disgusted (?) by things I have done. Some family friends had visited from abroad, and I had failed to book a restaurant for all of us for dinner – she actually curled her lip and rolled her eyes at Bill. (the dinner turned out fine BTW). I have offered to plan a holiday for us all and pay for a cabin, but never been taken up on it. I have invited them to Frankie’s birthday and chose a date that suited them after contacting Sally to check, but then Sally booked a cabin for herself, Bill and Bill & Frankie’s parents on that same date. I have offered to help with wedding preparation etc but have not been taken up on it.

Sometimes this has definitely been my fault: in one case, a lawyer friend offered to refer her to a colleague re: her legal issue, unfortunately this somehow turned into my friend grilling her for an hour over the issue (when I was not there to stop her doing it!), and I was mortified (I had just wanted her to pass the contact details to Sally, as I had asked Sally beforehand if she wanted more information, and I don’t know how it turned out like it did!). Another time, Sally had very kindly asked if I was OK due to some relationship stress, I confided in her a bit (and was really grateful as no one else had asked) and then I think she attempted to help, in her forthright way (it came across quite bluntly), but Frankie became very angry and stormed away.

It doesn’t help that Frankie has never approved of her and I am concerned that Frankie and Bill’s parents also are (secretly) cool towards her. They have always been very kind to me AND to Sally, and Frankie has said his parents never outright expressed opinions on any partner he or his brother has brought home.

But – at the parents’ house, I made the mistake of laughing a bit about a text Sally had sent me (it can be hard to read tone and I was initially very upset, but was later laughing about it and how I had misunderstood), and somehow that turned into a conversation about her blunt manners. I left the room and later Frankie seemed pleased that maybe their parents share his feelings.

So I am very, very worried that some kind of “them and us” situation will develop, which will cause a division; I often stand up for Sally in discussions where she is not present, as Frankie can be critical of her. I ask: “How would you feel if Bill said these things about me?”; “I can empathise with her, I have similar worries” etc.

I accept that we’ll probably never be bosom friends due to the age gap and different interests, but I would like to become allies and maybe one day friends due to shared experience. I worry perhaps that she might see me as an interloper/stealer-of-thunder, as Frankie and I got engaged and married in a much shorter timeframe?

So I guess I am looking for scripts for three things:
1) to apologise to Sally for those past instances where I’ve made things awkward
2) to say I would like us to have a better relationship, or at least start on making one
3) to help Frankie understand that Bill has chosen Sally, and Frankie needs to get over the issues he has with Sally (I have outright said this, as have his PARENTS, repeatedly, but it is not sinking in!)

Please help –
Stressed-Out Soon-To-Be Sister-In-Law

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