Monthly Archives: January 2011

Dear Captain Awkward:

I appreciated your advice regarding being open to the possibility that two siblings can grow up in the same home but have completely different experiences and interpretations of the environment.

As I was reading I found myself identifying with the sister, whom the question-asker describes as still being stuck in the abusive situation but not seeing it as so.  Last year our small and close-knit church community went through a very painful split, with a handful of people leaving with claims that the head pastor was spiritually abusing them.  It’s a very (VERY) long and complicated ordeal, but I found myself wondering what sort of advice you might give to the “sister” who is still connected to the parents (or in my case, authority figure/pastor) whom other people have experienced as abusive.  In my personal interactions with this pastor I’ve actually felt very well cared for and respected.  He did our premarital counseling and has provided a great deal of encouragement, mentoring and advice to my husband and I in the first 4 years of our marriage.

Because my experience of him has been so different than theirs, I find myself really struggling to know how to connect with them in a healthy and productive way.  The feeling I get from these friends who’ve left is that the only version of reality they accept is their own, and any other possible explanation is just a symptom of the abuse.  In their eyes I am a naive automaton, enabling an abusive and evil man.  It’s really quite insulting and saddening.

Any advice for the other side of this question?

The Other Sister

Dear Other Sister,

Intern Paul and I have been Googling spiritual abuse, and it’s taken us to a dark and scary part of the Internet.  Can you help us define the concept and be a little more detailed about what your friends say happened?

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Friday is my birthday.  In lieu of presents, there is something I would like (many of) you to do for me.  Given that A Shy Guy Caught My Eye is the most-viewed post on this blog so far, I’m guessing that more than one of you can relate to this comic:

If you read and thought “Oh man, that’s me.  I like ___ so much, but I don’t want to ruin our friendship,” do something for Captain Awkward.

Just ask ____ out already. On a date.  A real, live date.  A DATE-date, where you make it clear that a date is happening between two people who are on a date.  With each other.

Listen:  Chances are very high that _____ already knows how you feel or at least has picked up on your Firthing.

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I like this post about how to promote yourself without being a jerk.  I’ve been linking hardcore on the Book of the Face and the Twitter. This is a good reminder that you have to self-promote your work (no one else will), so don’t feel ashamed, but also don’t be such a Dalek about it.

Penelope Trunk is brilliant about “thinking outside the box”, as in, it is a phrase that generally means “I don’t like any of your ideas” and the people who are great at innovating are the ones who spend a lot of time thinking about the box itself.

Sady Doyle has a baseline of being a pretty great writer, but sometimes she even transcends herself.   I recently read a critique of feminism right now “a bunch of bloggers writing about the pop culture that’s oppressing them,” can’t remember where, except…it was posted on a blog.  Sady writes about how stories shape us and warp us and sometimes save our lives.  Here are three great recent things:

1. Running Towards Gunshots:  A Few Words About Joan of Arc:  “And I don’t know if I believe in Jesus, but I believe in Joan of Arc… I ended up finding the trial transcripts online. Because I’d never read them before, and I was over the whole religion thing, but I ended up finding out that she was a real person. This real,  live, bitchy, funny, charming, smart, obstinate/contumacious/disobedient, gender-inappropriate, charismatic, determined person, who somehow managed to happen, a really long time ago. I don’t know what I believe about the God thing. But I believe that we’re human beings, and that the range of human possibility includes Joan of Arc.”

2. Ellen Ripley Saved My Life:

At a certain point, you have to ask yourself why certain stories are so important to you. Why they become, not just entertainment, but myth: Something you use to explain yourself to yourself, or to explain the world. A thousand times, on Dr. Who, the lady Companion insists that the Doctor will save them, and every time, the people are all “BUT PERHAPS THIS TIME HE WON’T AND WE ARE SCREWED THOUGH,” and every time, the music swells and the Doctor comes and he saves as many people as he can. And you love it, every time it happens. Because that’s the story you need: There is someone out there, someone good and wise and kind, and he will always come to save you. I mean, I get it. Some people go to church for less.

But for me, it’s always been about the girls. Specifically, the Strong Woman Action Heroines: Scully and Buffy, Starbuck in the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot, Ripley and Vasquez and, hell, even Tasha Yar. I love this; I need this; I eat it up. And yet, my relationship with the Strong Woman Action Heroine is… complicated? Let’s say complicated. And let me take a minute, or several, to explain how.

3. No One’s Ever On Your Side:  Betty Draper Francis Still Needs Your Love.

“We wanted Betty to read The Feminine Mystique and get her mind blown and rise above; or, we wanted her to stay a victim, so we could relate to her better, or at least keep feeling sorry for her. But sometimes, people just get damaged until they start damaging. Sometimes, people are lost. We hate Betty now because she’s not going to stay a victim, but the truth is, she’s also not going to be saved.

It was the scenes with the child psychiatrist that did it for me. Some will argue that January Jones is a terrible actress, and to them I submit: The scenes in the child psychiatrist’s office. She became an entirely different person for those few minutes of film; you could see her getting softer, and sweeter, and more human, every second. All because someone — a woman, older than her, an authority figure — talked to her gently, and quietly, and responded to her worst, yikesiest statements only with, “that must be a terrible feeling.” You know: It really must be. All of Betty’s feelings must be so, so terrible. But it was clear, even then, that this woman was scared of her, and scared for her daughter. You could see the potential for Betty to heal, in those few scenes. But that wasn’t the message of the scenes themselves. The message was that her chance was gone; she wasn’t a child any more, and she had to be judged by adult standards. She still needs love, so badly, but she just doesn’t deserve it any more, and giving it to her is just too risky. Help came too late. And how many stories is that, really?”

And finally my good friend Manboobz has been making milk come out of my nose with his descriptions (with examples!) of what happens when men who really hate women try to date them.

Space Invader Training Session

"First we will make suggestive comments. Then we will escalate to hugging. We will be greeted as liberators."

Dear Captain Awkward,

So, I have been friends with this one person for almost 10 years. She’s my oldest friend. We’ve had our ups and our downs, like anyone does, right?

Recently (well.. in the past few of years) I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that she was attracted to me (and was attempting to flirt with me.) I was only vaguely uncomfortable with the state of affairs, especially since she was all “Nope, I don’t want girls, I want boys. ALL THE TIME!” I know, I missed a red flag here.

Then, strange comments that couldn’t be missed started being said. “I slept with this one girl and I didn’t like it so clearly I don’t like girls.” Turned into “You don’t have a crush on me because I’m not a boy.”

…Which wasn’t true. I didn’t have a crush on her because I didn’t have a crush on her. I’m bi.

It’s getting to the point where I dread any interaction with her. I can’t canoodle with my girlfriend because she’s hugging up on me all the time.

Another problem I’m sensing is some friend envy? For the longest time, she’s said she’s wanted to get married, and have kids. So much so that she had a PLAN FOR SUCCESS where she planned out the time frame for meeting someone, dating them, marrying them etc., all the while I’m sitting here and being ‘eh, whatever happens…’

Now fast foward to present day, I’m happily married, have a daughter AND I have a girlfriend. (No fussing, I’m in an open relationship. Which maybe is also another point of friend envy).

I’m not sure how to proceed. Is this friendship salvageable? Or is it time for the African Violet of Broken Friendship?

Personal Space Invaded

Dear Personal Space Invaded:

Your letter made me feel like I’d just had a very special visit from the TSA, and you didn’t say one thing that you actually like about this woman besides “length of time known.”  If you’re not quite ready to visit your local florist, and you just want to enforce some boundaries while keeping her in your life, here’s a couple of things you can do.

Next time she drops one of her hints, say “You’ve brought up sex with women and whether or not I have a crush on you a few times now.  Is there something you are trying to tell me?

My prediction is that she will freeze like a deer and then backtrack, but if she goes all Mr. Darcy, you can say “Okay, I was wondering.  That must have been very hard for you to admit. I don’t have those feelings for you, but thank you for putting it out on the table in a way that we can just deal with it honestly.”

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The Decemberists, looking adorable.

This is just to say that I am enjoying the new Decemberists album quite a bit, even though I’m used to more songs about stabbing and murder from them. Did they go on antidepressants?  The Crane Wife is one of my “desert island” albums, but this is pretty good.  “January Hymn” is sad in just the right way, and “Rox in the Box” is pleasantly earwormy.  I need to listen a few more times before everything gels.

This is also an experiment with an open thread.  I’ve got a bunch of questions in my mailbox about Facebook and the whole process of “friending” and “unfriending” that I’m not quite ready to answer yet.  I feel a rant coming on about how despite appearances not everyone in your life is allowed to play in your sandbox all the time, but I need to sleep on it.

Questions? Thoughts?  Harrowing tales of Facebook drama? Favorite Decemberists song or album? Read any good books lately?  This blog is your blog.


Dear Captain Awkward:

So, it’s like this. I met a great guy, and get this, it’s one of THOSE love stories where the girl winds up with the guy she went to school with, it was him all along! Hurrah for fairy stories!!!

So, all well and good and life is great with us, but the snag is he has an ex-girlfriend with whom he shared 20 odd  (druggy) years. After they split they stayed friends (without the benefits) and were very close. She’s got some fucked up Bonnie and Clyde fantasy going on, romanticizing the good old days when they robbed book stores to feed their habits (yuck!) and, while she says she wants him to be happy with someone else blah blah, in reality is making all kinds of noises (via Facebook comments and sending cards in the post) to let me know that she and he were the golden couple and will be forever.

I can’t help but get jealous about their obvious ‘history’ but as we are in a (new) relationship I feel weird that she sends him cards saying how much she loves him, and sends them addressed from the love nest they once shared.  She posts that she loves him all over his FB page, KNOWING that I’m going to read it. (Hello, we are over 40 btw not school kids!)

Is she trying to send a message to me? and how do I deal with it? We aren’t in the same country for a start, which helps, but I feel as if there are three of us in the relationship as he messages her and texts her EVERY day.. I am getting pissed off but don’t want to act like a needy jealous whinge-bag..

Thank you Captain.

Not Needy or Jealous (well ok, a bit)

Dear Not Needy, Definitely Jealous:

I feel comfortable saying that this woman is trying to send a message.

People don’t go to the Post Office on purpose and stand in line to get the special stamps that will send letters to other countries without taking a little extra effort to work that into their day.  If you and your boyfriend lived in the same area as this woman, she would send you both a lot of messages, like sneaking into your house and peeing in all the corners and dressing up in your favorite clothes and rubbing her bizness all over your pillow so that you will go nuts trying to figure out why everything in your life suddenly smells like crotch.

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Mad Men Ladies

"Whenever I go into my boss's office, he sucks me further into his gross emotional problems. Should I be concerned?"

Intern Paul challenged me to write some shorter pieces. I agree that it was getting a bit Cary Tennis up in here, but with 100% fewer references to Burning Man so I’m still feeling ok about it.  Let’s dance.

Dear Captain Awkward:

Why African Violets?

-Just Curious

Dear Just Curious:

African Violets are lovely, but I keep killing them. So for me they symbolize something high maintenance that will soon die despite my best intentions. 

Feel free to give people you don’t like the plant of your choice.

Dear Captain Awkward:

Should I call off my wedding? I am having panic attacks. It’s in two weeks.

Runaway (Maybe) Bride

Probably?  No, it’s just cold feet? Here’s what I know about getting married:  I’ve been to some weddings?  Here’s what I know about being married: Jack shit.

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