Open Thread

Still from The Flame of New Orleans
Still from The Flame of New Orleans, with Marlene Dietrich and Theresa Harris

Sorry for the light posting. My students are all in the middle of making films, so my job is pretty busy right now, and I took on an additional super-cool project. If you’re in Chicago, come see By The Way, Meet Vera Stark at the Goodman Theatre this spring. It’s a play about the African American actresses who played maids in Hollywood in the 1930s, written by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage. I’m line-producing  and working as the First Assistant Director for the film-within-the-play that opens the second act.

My colleague Vaun Monroe is directing, and we’re collaborating with the Goodman’s amazing cast and crew of designers and set builders and props people. We’re shooting black & white, 35mm film in the style of 1930s melodramas like Jezebel* or The Flame of New Orleans (We have a film historian on our crew – How awesome is that? – and I’m pretty sure our cinematographer said something about using pantyhose filters to get 1930s glamour closeups).

For those of you who don’t know what a line producer or a 1st AD does, I make the budget and the schedule, recruit the crew, negotiate costs for rentals, make the contracts, manage the money, and on the day of the shoot I make sure everything happens on schedule and all of the paperwork is filled out. Chief problem-solver and get-shit-done person, basically, or, the person who translates the stuff the creative team says at meetings into to-do lists, or, the person who must always keep her cell phone on. It’s a great honor to be involved in the project, and I love the script and the work. But it’s not a writerly mode of existence, for sure.

Commander Logic also has her hands full…with a new baby! That’s kind of a way bigger deal than a short movie, but I have not met said baby yet so do not have a 200 word synopsis of said baby ready to go. From what I gather from the Twitter, “sleepy” and “small for a human, large for a baby” are what we have going on.

Let’s make this an open thread. Seen any good movies lately? Have a question for the commentariat?

Edited to Add: Are you working on anything cool we should know about?  Based on a comment in the thread, I’m deciding to allow self-promotion of blogs/creative projects/crowdfunding/Etsy stores in this thread only, by regular readers only with a few caveats. Spam will still be deleted. If you never comment here but are de-lurking just to self-promote for commercial purposes, maybe refrain. Please don’t just post links without descriptions – introduce us to the work and let us know what we’ll find at the link, give content notes. Definitely warn if it’s NSFW.

A lot of us make art, and if we do this right it could be a cool repository of the art this community makes.

*ALL of Bette Davis’s reactions need to be animated .gifs. All of them.

341 thoughts on “Open Thread

  1. I was recently sick, and so I watched the X-Men movies again. I went in chronological order, so I did the Origins first.

    Aside from continuity errors, of which there were quite a few, what really struck me was how much more buff Hugh Jackman was in Origins than in the other X-men. Our expectations of leading-man musculature have changed a lot over 20 years.

    Also striking, how he does not seem to have really aged that much. The actor is not actually a mutant with regenerative powers who is thus basically unaging! Movie magic is magic, but wowzers. Also, he’s very pretty.

    But the most striking thing is how hard it is for any of the other actors to make space on-screen next to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. Even Jackman had a bit of a struggle, and he’s fantastic and had the lead!

    Aaaaaand I just realized I missed one of the X movies. First Class. Okay, then, I will have to rent that soon while I still have the rest of them in my head.

    1. For First Class, just replace McKellan & Stewart with Fassbinder & McAvoy. I mean, I’m sure other people are in that movie, but watching Magneto & Professor X wear mod black turtlenecks and have youthful chemistry at each other is pretty much what I remember.

    1. Uh, TW on that link for a very vivid description of sexual assault. I was expecting something about painting! I was wrong.

      1. TW indeed. Good grief, that’s one of the most upsetting things I’ve ever read. Amazing writing though.

    2. Here’s a non triggery, pretty inspiring section of the above link, for those who don’t feel comfortable reading the trigger-warning part.
      It’s in response to a LW who doesn’t know how to deal with anger that can come with recognising sexual inequality:

      “You may not be a Furie, my dear. You may not reach them all. But you are going to prove them wrong. You’re going to speak about the damage of these myths, you’re going to write about them, you’re going to fight them, and even when you’re not trying you’re going to defeat them just by being you. By being the exception to their misinformed rule. By being a happy, fully rounded woman with big dreams and a bigger heart; who embraces sex and love with the same sense of pride and joy; who speaks up and speaks out against pain and injustice and misogyny and feels that fury – but who also keeps singing of her love and hope for the world loudly from the rooftops.

      And this is also how you’re going to defeat your own myth; that as a feminist, you’re destined to be nothing more than just an angry young woman. Because even your chosen fight, my ferocious, fury-filled, glorious girl, has already proven you to be so much more. You’re a beautiful, complex, wonderfully human mass of passion and idealism and love and warmth and wonder and awareness and knowledge and hope. You are more than anger and fury. You are more than I could ever express, and more than they could ever imagine.”

  2. What are your thoughts on Bradley Cooper in Silver linings playbook? I thought he was great, and a fresh breath of air from all the Hangower flicks. But I recognize that portraying mental illness in a Hollywood work is tricky. I’m not bipolar, but it’s in my family.

    Still, maybe a good start?

    1. True story: I went to college with Bradley Cooper. We weren’t friends, but we ran in peripheral circles, and I remember him as being very sweet and also kind of a floppy poet dude – tweed jackets, big collections of Yeats, curly Ralph Fiennesy hair, oblivious to the theater nerds swooning after him.

      Boyfriend and I just saw Silver Linings and while it’s got some problematic Hollywood stuff, the thing I think Cooper did well was play a person with bipolar, not BIPOLARNESS. I felt like I’ve met that guy – SUPER INTENSE GUY – before in my life. My boyfriend said the conversation about meds & diagnoses was right on, though they would never release him if he was still manic and not taking meds. And I really enjoyed (or cringed) at the whole family dynamic and all the performances of the people in his family. The film showed us many kinds of “crazy” – treated/untreated, debilitating/tolerated as a quirk. Actors don’t write the script or shoot the movie or edit together, but I thought he did a great job with that material. As did Lawrence. She stole every scene, and he’s not an easy guy to steal scenes from. Nor is DeNiro.

      1. ” floppy poet dude – tweed jackets, big collections of Yeats, curly Ralph Fiennesy hair, oblivious to the theater nerds swooning after him”
        Ha, I love that description! And now love Cooper even more.

        And, yes, for all its Hollywood flaws, I did like the film showing how ‘crazy’ is all around us, even in the so-called ‘sane’, untreated people. It showed that getting treatment is a Good Thing.

    2. I just saw it last weekend, and I’ve been trying to write a blog post since then and haven’t been able to really articulate it the way I want, but that scene where he spirals out of control while looking for the wedding video? I white-knuckled it through that scene in the theater. It was SO SIMILAR to episodes a somewhat recent and quite serious ex-boyfriend of mine started having toward the end of our relationship. It was like Bradley Cooper secretly watched my ex have similar episodes with me/his parents to prepare for the role or something. Just… everything about the scene was so realistic, at least for me and my particular experience of life with someone with an untreated mood disorder.

    3. I liked how his manic episodes evoked discomfort instead of laughs. I liked how he started to stabilize not because of the love of a good woman, but because he finally started taking his meds.

      On the other hand, it annoyed me that the meds were such a perfect solution. The reason he fought against taking them in the first place wasn’t because he loved his wild mood swings, but because they made him feel foggy and had other bad side-effects. I would’ve appreciated just one scene in which he’s working with his psychiatrist to optimize the cocktail — a mix that would keep him sane without impeding his ability to think.

      If you loved the movie, I recommend the book.

  3. Awkward Army, what are your suggestions for supporting a long distance friend through a (currently ongoing) death in the family? Partner and I just heard about it today, we’ve sent an initial message and we’ll start keeping our phone ringers on and generally keep in touch, but I’d love any other thoughts.

    1. Is there any way you can send or organize something helpful for your friend where they are? Practical things like dogsitting or offering a ready to eat-meal can be very helpful. Love and support through practical actions. Perhaps try buying groceries online and have it delivered to your friends house?

      1. Or a gift certificate for something nice – a meal out, a massage, a movie pass. “I miss you and love you, and I’m really sorry for your loss. Please, when you have time, do something nice for yourself on me.”

      2. The logistics might be tricky (we don’t know anyone in the area where friend is) but I will definitely think about that. I like the gift certificate idea. Maybe something the family can do together with the family member who is in hospice.

        1. Try calling a local mom and pop restaurant in their area. Explain the situation and just ask politely if the restaurant will mail Friend a gift certificate for you. A few of the nicer not-chain-restaurants in my area would be all over stuff like that. Then again, I live in a small town, so ymmv.

      3. In keeping with the practical stuff, you might also consider things that might help your friend practice self-love, like a gift certificate for a nice restaurant or a massage. A lot of big companies that send flowers long-distance also have baskets with edible goodies or gifts. I’ve sent fruit baskets to people who mentioned that they were too stressed or busy to go grocery shopping, and they’ve always said they appreciated it.

        My mother’s mother died on my mother’s birthday, which was also Mother’s Day weekend. I figured Mom was sick of funereal flowers and didn’t want any Mother’s Day flowers, so I sent her a gift basket full of bath salts, scented candles, fancy lotion and the like. She later told me that taking long baths was her only moment of peace and solitude in the days leading up to the funeral, and if I hadn’t given her bath salts, she would have just showered instead. I like to think it helped.

    2. My friend Paula died recently, and in the memorials for her online, one person posted that when she was dealing with hard times, Paula called her and said, “I can’t bring you a casserole because I live too far away, but here is my tried and true casserole recipe. You hand that to someone who will make you one from me.”

      So if you know someone who knows the grieving person and is able to be your short-distance proxy, maybe call them up and say, “Bring Friend a casserole for me.”

      1. That is a brilliant idea. I don’t know anyone in the area (friend went back home to be with their family during the hospice period) but I will totally remember this for future long distance support needs.

    3. A classic condolence card, possibly upgraded to a short letter, is a great gesture. Easier to process than a phone call or email, particularly if you take time over the message.

      1. I just got the address where my friend is staying, so we are planning on sending a nice letter and probably a care package also. I keep letters like that and find them occasionally and it’s always heartwarming.

    4. Depending on how long distance you are maybe that could be an asset. ‘If you need to get away for a few days at any point you are welcome to come and stay with us’ is a message that has really helped me feel better in tough times, even when I didn’t actually take up the offer.

    5. If you have had a relationship with the dying loved one, a short note or even email sharing a fond memory or talking about what that person has meant to you can be nice. Obviously, it’s not about putting your grief on a par with theirs, but to say “yes, people besides your immediate family recognize and care that the world is losing someone special.”

      1. This is a very nice idea, although in my specific case I haven’t met the dying loved one.

        1. Then perhaps an acknowledgement of what the person means to them? Instead of a generic “I’m sorry for your loss,” “I know how close you were growing up,” or ” it’s hard, isn’t it, even when you don’t talk to someone that often, the thought of them being gone can be devastating,” or whatever the case may be.

          1. Yes, I think that will work. The loved one in this case is a parent, so I “know” a tiny bit of the parent through my friend, as well.

    6. If your friend wants to talk about things, she’ll appreciate you listening without offering platitudes or reasons she should feel better.

    7. Sending stuff in the mail is a really nice gesture. Especially if you remember to do so a few months after the person has passed away. The grieving person is still in the thick of it, most likely, and the initial support will have diminished a bit. Since you got so many good ideas for what to do right now I figured I’d add one for what to do after it’s been a little while. 🙂

  4. Congratulations to the Logics and welcome, Baby Logic! That’s great news!

    Would it be okay to use this space to talk about a project I’m involved with and currently fundraising for on Kickstarter? I think it’s AWESOME and think folks here might be interested, but I don’t want to dump advertising here without prior approval.

    1. It is decided: Anyone may self-promote a project in this thread with one post or link.

      1. Thank you very much!

        I’m signed up to co-edit Long Hidden, an anthology of stories featuring marginalized people around the world, set between 1400 and the early 1900s, with a speculative (SF/fantasy/horror) twist. There are some incredible authors already lined up to send us stories, and we’ll have open submissions as well. We’ve gotten a TREMENDOUS response since we launched the Kickstarter two weeks ago, and now we’re hoping to hit a stretch goal that will let us include even more stories. You can read more about it here:

        We are humbly and pathetically grateful to everyone who comes by to check out the project and cheer us on.

        1. This looks fantastic, and you’ve already got some really great people submitting stories! I can’t wait to read it!

          1. I haven’t a clue–this is the first I’ve heard of someone wanting to pledge and not being able to. Try another browser or email Kickstarter support, I guess? Sorry you’re having trouble!

          2. It might not? I don’t know much about the technical side of Kickstarter. Try Firefox, or email Kickstarter support.

          3. Just tried it in Chrome and it worked fine. Safari wasn’t giving me the “Next Step” button. At least I wasn’t missing something obvious. 😀

            BTW, this is the first Kickstarter campaign I’ve ever contributed to, after hearing about Kickstarter for ages. Thanks for the introduction. Now, if my band ever embarks on one of these, I just have to figure out how to be as fun to watch as you guys were …

        2. This looks amazing! For anyone of more of a folklore/fairytale bent, may I humbly suggest, which has submissions open right now?

        3. I didn’t realize you were part of that! (I have been very not-near-the-internet this week.) *goes to pledge*

      2. Hi Captain,

        Just checking, as there’s no time-stamp on your post edit: does that ‘anyone’ include people who aren’t regular commenters? (I’ve been lurking for most of my time here).

        I keep a blog about ancient history and archaeology things, mainly in the UK, in which I try to make history fun and accessible, and hopefully also quite humorous. Is it okay if I post a link (with adequate description)?

          1. I’m pretty sure the “regular commenters” thing is not intended to be exclusionary; it is simply driven by practicalities. Encouraging people to put links in their posts opens up the door to all sorts of commercial and/or nasty stuff that is not welcome in Awkwardland (which is why we endure the pesky spamfilter).

            Clicking through every link people post to make sure it is not noxious (or even that it is what it claims to be) could get waaaay time consuming. So the privilege of posting links is mostly extended to folks we recognize as good citizens of our community, who have revealed enough of their character via their posts to have earned some trust. If we don’t recognize you, we may or may not find time to click through and vet the link. Not because we assume you suck, but because in the interests of keeping things lovely here, we’d have to check the link, and this isn’t anybody’s main gig.

            If you’re confident what you’re posting is in the spirit of the site and the reason Jennifer opened this thread (the joy of sharing creativity amongst friends), 1) give a decent description so I/Jennifer can tell it’s not bulk-generated spam, and 2) understand that it may or may not go through if we don’t recognize you.

      3. Okay, I’m totally de-lurking to promote, but it’s for Mr. InTheWings’s project, not my own (so maybe okay, or at least well intentioned?) and it’s a project I think the Awkward Army would be into: a jazz-rock album based on the Odyssey, with cool original art for each song and a lovely poetic summary of the story. The Ulysses Cycle by Russ Kaplan + 7 will be released on Ropeadope Records on April 16th, available through Bandcamp and iTunes. In the meantime, you can view the art, read the accompanying story, and stream the tracks online here.

      4. If I may engage in some self-promotion, I’ve got a ragtime CD coming out soon – my own original ragtime compositions played by the best pianists of the genre. I don’t have it up on my CDBaby page yet, but if you are interested, email me and I will add you to the announcement list for when everything is finally up.

      5. Hey, I know this is really super late and chances are no one will ever see it (apologies for the random notification captain), but I uploaded a thing and I’m super nervous about it and could use some positive feedback so, uh, yeah. If anyone does happen to see this, here’s the link and please be gentle:

        1. Hi Lizzie, I just wanted to tell you that you truly have an amazing voice! I could totally listen to it for an entire album or something similar! 😀
          I’m sorry I can’t comment on the lyrics right now (which seems to be very important to you, seeing how you write that the song is very personal) but I’m not a native speaker and I’ll have to listen to it several times to completely get them – but I absolutely didn’t want to wait as long and just quickly tell you that you sound fantastic!

          1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. 🙂 If it helps, I wrote out the lyrics in the description, so that you don’t have to pick it out from the video. I know that even for native English speakers, it can be difficult to pick that stuff out in a video sometimes. And I sometimes have an unusual way of phrasing things, which probably doesn’t help.

  5. Let’s see if I can make commenting work this time…

    I actually do have a question for y’all. Due to a recent Series of Unfortunate Events, I’ve found myself wondering if having an intense emotional/romantic “connection” with someone is a warning sign of a potentially abusive relationship. It is a question to the audience rather than the Captain because I am interested in hearing a variety of *experiences* on the subject (as opposed to opinions). Have you ever been in an intense emotional/romantic relationship with someone that stayed intense and passionate without turning horrible for, say, longer than a year? If you are or have been in a “successful” long-term, stable, healthy relationship, could you honestly say that it started as or continued to be “intense”?

    I’m starting to suspect that my longing for such a relationship has mostly been created by Hollywood fairytales, and that in Real Life, a situation that starts to look like that should be a big flashing blaring neon red Warning Sign to Run Away Very Quickly.

    1. I like this question and have started a draft of a piece on this many times, so maybe this will lead to its own post.

      To help us out, can you be more specific about what “intense” means to you? Can you give specific examples/actions?

      1. I’ve been thinking about this since your 2/22 post, and part of the reason I haven’t written in is that it’s very hard to define! In particular, this sentence: “Sadly, Darth Vaders are the MASTERS of “You are the only person who has ever really understood me/Our love is different and outsiders wouldn’t possibly understand” and of getting their victims to defend indefensible behavior when it’s criticized by others and of isolating them from people who might give an alternate perspective.”

        I think part of it, the part that’s probably the biggest warning sign all by itself, is that it (whatever it is) happens *fast*. You go from “Oh hey, a new friend who’s kind of cute and who I can talk to about stuff” to “This person is my SOUL MATE and I have never felt this way about anyone in my life” in the space of a couple of weeks. If it was just one-sided, I’d say it was my own damn issue to deal with, of course; the warning sign is when this feeling is expressed and/or encouraged by the other person as well.

        The problem I’m having is that everything that I can think of as an example of the DV over-intense abusive-relationship-hook behavior is *also* an example of the kind of healthy relationships we’re all supposed to look for. Long, intense discussions; feeling like the other person *really understands* you; high levels of physical attraction; wanting to please the other person, and feeling over the moon when the other person does things to please you.

        I also think that “drama” is an important thing here. One person’s “drama” is another person’s “how my life just is, okay,” and it can be a very hard line to draw. It doesn’t help that if it’s directly affecting you or someone you care about, you can *see* exactly why it’s happening, and it *makes sense*; whereas to an outsider, it’s obviously all smoke and mirrors. And when there is “drama” in a romantic relationship, the urge is to deal with and try to fix it on its own terms, rather than step outside and critically try to understand just how important it really is. Of course, a side effect of that “drama” is the emotional hooks, the highs and lows, that can make getting out of an abusive relationship so damn hard in the first place.

        Wahey, this is getting pretty long, so I’ll send it in now before it gets any longer!

        1. The problem I’m having is that everything that I can think of as an example of the DV over-intense abusive-relationship-hook behavior is *also* an example of the kind of healthy relationships we’re all supposed to look for. Long, intense discussions; feeling like the other person *really understands* you; high levels of physical attraction; wanting to please the other person, and feeling over the moon when the other person does things to please you.

          I’d call that signs of new relationship energy, not signs of a healthy relationship. My healthy relationships involve companionable silence, joking around and laughing, supporting each other through hard times, and thoughtful, respectful discussion and negotiation. In other words, I look for healthy behavior. It sounds to me like you’re looking for particular feelings that signal that you’re doing the right thing. Alas, our feelings are often not the best arbiters of our relationship decisions, especially when abusers are so very good at evoking the sorts of feelings you describe.

          If you really want feelings signals (look, up in the sky!), go for relaxed and comfortable, the good cheer that comes from laughing-with rather than laughing-at (either the other person mocking you or the two of you bonding over mocking someone/something else). Look for someone who’s kind when you do awkward or difficult but important things, and helps you feel like next time you have to do a thing like that it will be easier. Someone who really understands you? Try someone who helps you really understand yourself, and copes well when you change and grow over time.

        2. My last long-term relationship (9 years) had that kind of immediate connection and attraction (we were exclusive after the first date) and, although it had its own problems, wasn’t a Darth Vader relationship at all. Sometimes, those things are signs that you met one of Your People.

          I agree with Rose Fox about what to look for. Also, if you have friends whose romantic compasses you can trust and who have seen you together, maybe get their opinions. When I was with Most_Recent_Ex many of my friends told me how relaxed and joyful I seemed in his presence, and how much he raved about me when I wasn’t around. This isn’t foolproof, of course (Darth Vaders are manipulators after all), and your feelings about your new partner trump all, but it was one of the checks I used to confirm that I thought he was a good egg.

    2. I certainly have – but if the question was, ‘have you been in an intense relationship with someone etc etc where there was no massive life-upfucking drama in your situation?’, I’d have to answer ‘No’.

      For me the relationship was definitely non-abusive and definitely wonderful, and everything in our lives was set against us being together. We tried for three years to make it work but it was never going to. I think the intensity of our connection was partly down to us knowing it could only ever be shortlived. But a lot of it was just chemistry – understanding what someone is thinking by the look in their eyes. I miss having that with someone, but it’s not everything.

      I met up with him ten years after we broke up and the excitement of two people ‘just getting each other’ was exactly the same. Physical attraction had gone, I was aware of his many flaws and I didn’t want to go back in time, but I haven’t found that particular magic with anyone else.

      I guess that type of thing is rare and exciting enough that Hollywood always wants to showcase it, which ends up becoming the lie that if you don’t feel that way, you’re not In Love.

    3. Great question!

      First of all, I’d say “intense” and “passionate” are not the same thing. A connection is intense, meaning that there’s a lot of energy going back and forth. Passion is more deliberate, directed, chosen. I can take a passionate approach to something that I don’t feel intense about, and maybe build intensity over time. I can have an intense connection with someone and never share a moment of deliberate interaction with them, or keep our interactions totally mellow and platonic.

      There’s also a big difference between emotionally and physically intense connections. I once met a guy and had an AMAZING intense physical reaction to him from moment one. He felt exactly the same about me. It was one of those “our eyes met and sparks flew” things. We immediately embarked on a super-hot physical relationship. The problem was that we also started dating, and we really weren’t suited for doing that. Our emotional connection wasn’t all that intense. We ended up breaking up in a very messy way. Next time I felt a physical click like that (with a guy who looked a lot like him–apparently I have a type), I carefully kept it at “friends with benefits” and we’re still good friends, though the “benefits” stopped years ago when he went off to be monogamous with someone else.

      Neither of those relationships was what I’d call abusive, incidentally.

      The worst relationship I’ve ever been in, which was codependent and wretched, started off with a long slow friendship. We faked intensity pretty hard–and the worse the relationship was, the harder we faked it–because it was easier than confronting our problems. So I’d say, watch out for intensity that gets in the way of having fun, doing other things like work/school, or raising and addressing issues. If you’re super driven/focused by your NEED to be with each other, it might be a sign that something’s awry. Lopsided intensity is also a cause for concern; that’s not a connection, but someone’s obsession.

      I’m in two fabulous decade-long relationships with people who I clicked with the moment I met them. That instant click is great, but it’s not enough to sustain a relationship. We’ve followed up on it with lots of hard work and good times. We’re still passionate with one another, and my connections with them are very strong. When one of them walks into the room, my eyes light up. So yes, that’s possible to have and sustain for a long time in a healthy way. But it’s not world-eating intensity and I wouldn’t want it to be.

    4. I’ve been thinking something like this too. My most successful and happy long-term relationship was with a guy who I dated because his interest in me flattered me. I really didn’t have a crush on him, but he pursued me, and I liked him, and it was nice to have someone to be romantic with, so I decided to go with it ‘for a while’. We stayed together for nearly four years, and they were some of the best years of my life. I grew to love him as a best friend with whom I also had fun sex, and with whom I wanted to build a life. I never really had those INTENSEFEELS for him though.

      I do still ponder occasionally on whether a long-term relationship would be EVEN BETTOR with the intensity of a crush added to the mix, or if it’s just a different route to the same destination. I’m interested to see more commenters’ thoughts on this too!

    5. I posted a reply, or thought I did, but it’s not showing up… Captain, what’s the algorithm behind which comments get spamtrapped? The ones I posted above worked just fine.

      1. I have no idea what the algorithm is, sorry. It even catches comments by Sweet Machine, Logic, and Alphakitty even though they have admin privileges. Multiple links, often. Lots of posts in a short time-span, often. No goddamn good reason = also often. We clean out as we can, sorry!

        1. The spam filter particularly likes my comments, and most notably ate one of mine on a guest post that I’d written. So I had the privilege to take it out. And it apparently saw no problem with this.

          1. By the way, elodie, I just wanted to tell that you that: 1) you have a lovely name, and 2) your blog is AWESOME! I just read your “Smash Sexist Science Reporting” piece, and it was wondrous. Thanks for being great.

          2. The spamfilter is indeed ravenous and utterly inexplicable. The reason I requested (and got) broader admin privileges a few months ago is that once I had guest-posted I could see everything in the spamfilter, but I could only liberate comments related to that post. I hated seeing real people’s thoughtful comments languishing. I know how frustrating it is when you’ve taken time to write, trying to help and expecting to be part of the discussion, only to have your comment go into limbo and not come out ’til after everyone else has moved on. And yes, it happens to all of us, even regular, trusted (even revered!) commenters and those with admin privileges. There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason to it.

            That being said, OMG, the spam!!! Mile-long incoherent paragraphs of random words someone thinks will capture search engine attention, laced with commercial links — sometimes in Russian or Chinese!! Phony, generic compliments and questions likewise laced with links! Weird insults!!! At least with the spamfilter only a couple of us have to wade through all that garbage. As annoying as limbo is, the site would not be better off without the filter.

          3. Regarding the spam filters: There may be an IP thing involved. If I post from home, no problem, my comment gets posted. If I post from work, often it doesn’t. (Which means this comment may get trapped in the spam filter, but I’m going to try anyway.)

          4. I think the spamfilter is hungrier on posts that have a lot of activity. It also seems to be hungrier for long comments than for short, pithy one-liners.

          5. @marillenbaum/ AK *hearts*

            @wondering/Carbonated, from what I’ve seen of CA’s traffic/spamfilter and my own blog’s traffic/spamfilter, it seems to be more commenter-specific than anything else? There are a bunch of short comments in the filter, too. I think it goes something like:

            1. ridiculous, obvious spambots
            2. people who post quite often on a single post, especially when they’ve brought links (RoseFox is in there ATM, as is wondering)
            3. people who try to use exciting coding
            4. comments that are suspiciously short or long (particularly #7s)
            5. sad people who are still overexcited that you got Freshly Pressed once and who desperately want you to go read their blogs, which are also sad and overexcited
            6. spambots who say hilarious things that, upon consideration, are actually quite deep.
            7. recommendations (“Try book X by author Y!”
            8. me, on my own posts, because I believe that I have a deep and meaningful relationship with the filter whereby it gives me just long enough to feel regret about posting.

          6. @alphakitty

            The first time one of my comments cot caught in the evil giant spider from LOTR-net of spam, I got all OH NOES! and e-mailed CA, half sure I’d crossed some line. I was so relieved that it was just a stupid filter.

          7. I know! Having your comment disappear feels like some sort of cosmic smackdown, doesn’t it? Like the universe is saying your thoughts aren’t valuable, “we’ve heard quite enough out of the likes of you!” or “you call that writing???” But it really comes down to the fact that we’re asking an algorithm to make judgments about what’s real and valuable, when that stuff really isn’t mathematicallly quantifiable. You just have to be as zen as you can about it.

    6. In my life, that super intense connection has been a sign of me attaching faster than warranted. I have never been in an abusive relationship, but I have been in plenty that were not good for me — and most of the time, the damage for me was compounded by how quickly and how deeply I attached.

      Partly, quick attachment is my style, and I attached quick in my current very healthy relationship too. The difference there, I think, is that my partner was also in the process of attaching in a healthy manner, and he did not feel threatened or smothered by me. That, and other stuff, helped me feel secure in the relationship. The intensity varies; I suspect we would be burning rather brighter if I weren’t enduring an array of spark-sapping medical conditions. We are at about four years.

      It seems to be a Thing for me that when I feel insecure, I try to fix it by just attaching more deeply and trying harder. I have been aware for a long time that a style like that is an invitation to abuse, and have claimed to myself that I’ve been super careful about that, but I think I’ve just been lucky that none of the latent abusers in my vicinity picked up on my vulnerability.

      So, I guess, I demonstrate that you can have a seriously intense relationship that is not abusive, and it can be good or bad depending. For me, the most intensely felt ones were bad because the real fuel for intensity was anxiety.

      Still, the most intense bond I have had is the healthy one with my spouse. It can be breathtaking how deeply I am attached; that moment can come when we’re watching Jeopardy and he’s untangling a toy for the cat.

      I guess the takeaway is that the happy is most important, and reality checks from outside are helpful, and yay therapists, and security is the most important thing for me.

      1. This is a lot of what I want to say too.

        The thing about rapid, intense attachments is not that they are, themselves, inherently unhealthy, but that they make it really easy to ignore or rationalize dangerous red flags. And if your attachment style is rapid and/or intense (mine is LIKE WOAH) you just have to force yourself to learn to watch for those things when you’re vulnerable. I think of it as emotional catbox-cleaning – it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the flu or have just worked a 100-hour week, kittehs still gotta have a clean litterbox. Policing internal boundaries, self-care and alone time away from the object of affection, reality checks with people you trust and really LISTENING to what they say even when you don’t like it, can feel like a real downer when in the throes of fabulous NRE, but if you don’t do it, it will just stink later. But don’t throw out the good with the bad! Intense attachments can be very, very good indeed.

        Among the “fall head-over overnight *ALL THE STARRY EYES*” attachments I’ve had, I’ve ended up with:
        – the crush who turned into my best friend, and still is, a decade later
        – the abusive ex-husband and variety of abusive, manipulative, mean, or just plain self-absorbed exes of both genders
        – the seven-year-long relationship that was one of the great joys of my life
        – the five-day-long staying-up-all-night-drinking-wine conference crush that I never had the guts to pursue afterwards, but think of fondly and often

        and the eight-years-and-going-strong awesome partner. The wonderful, complicated, thrilling, frustrating, enlightening, madly sexy, healthy, respectful relationship I have waited all my life for. Like carbonatedwit says – still breathtaking, heartstopping, magnificent after all this time.

      2. Yep. For me, the badness has happened when I’ve attached so quickly that my thinking when something feels “off” is “How do overcome this small challenge so that we can make this relationship work?” and not “Is this person good for me and am I feeling safe and comfortable and happy in the day to day?” When things move super-quickly, my ability to evaluate things gets subsumed. So I find myself trying to find reasons to overlook bad behavior, jokes that aren’t jokes, incongruous things that don’t add up so that I can keep having the love/sex/magic high, that’s a bad sign. When it’s good it feels amazing/but I feel insecure and spend a lot of time chasing that feeling/and use that feeling to justify the bad times or put up with bad behavior in the bad times does not equal = happy.

        Also, is your relationship something that feels good when you’re around your friends and family, just hanging out with your partner there too, or is it something that happens away from them and it only feels good in the bubble of the two of you? Not necessarily a dealbreaker in itself, but a question to ask.

        1. Oooh–very good specifics to ponder. This is really helping me understand what the warning signs were in my last Unfortunate Event, and why I missed them. Thank you!

    7. I’m going to echo Jennifer here–what do you mean by “intense”? I’ve had three deeply “intense” relationships, and they all came out differently in the end.

      One went sour within a year and he was terribly abusive and I barely escaped with my life.

      One, we’re still friends.

      The last, I’m married to him. We’ve been together for over four years now. If anything, the emotions are far more intense than when we got together. We can FEEL the natural chemical high hit when we’re cuddling, intimate or just hanging out. There are times when it levels out temporarily to the more “normal” level one would expect from a longer relationship, but we still make each other’s heart race at least twice a day. Don’t really know why it hasn’t subsided much for us, but we’re so grateful for the awesome, supportive relationship we have with each other we don’t question it much, because…well, why would we?

      So, the entirely unhelpful answer is…it depends.

    8. All of these comments have been very helpful to me, thank you–even the “it depends” ones, because they demonstrate that there *isn’t* a direct line between “intense, fast emotional connection” and “being eaten by giant spiders run away.” Also, tremendous thanks for the “quick attachment style” comments, as they are helping me feel less like I’m a terrible person for being that way and instead focusing on things to watch out for because that’s just the way I am. And I’d love to hear more!

      1. You’re not at all a terrible person for feeling that way! I make super-quick judgments about people I meet; it’s very rare for me to suddenly realize I’m totally into that person who’s been a casual acquaintance for years. I get annoyed at people who say love at first sight is a myth, because I vividly remember my at-first-sight connections with my partners, how safe I felt around J and how enthralled I was by X from the very beginning (and those are still hallmarks of our relationships). Sometimes you get that ZING and it’s so, so compelling.

        You just have to be careful not to lose your head, or mistaking one kind of zing for another, or think that sparks are enough for a steady fire that will keep you warm the rest of your life.

      2. You are definitely not a terrible person! I hadn’t thought to call it “quick attachment style” but I definitely am that way, too. One thing I have now learned is that much of the wonderful intense feeling has to do with me and the way I am and how I feel things, not with the other person. I mean, the intense feeling doesn’t happen with everyone, but the common denominator is me, not the other person. The presence of feelings of intensity does not provide me any information (positive /or/ negative) about the other person. I still have to gather that information in other ways. The specific type of thing I will look for is if the person acts in ways that prompt me to feel worthless and that I cannot measure up; that is my red flag. If, instead, the person consistently acts in ways that encourage and support me, then I know the relationship is a healthy one for me.

        This is true of feelings of love, too. I have learned that just because I strongly love someone who is amazing and wonderful in many many ways, that doesn’t mean that our relationship dynamics are healthy.

      3. The one thing I learned from my abusive relationship that I can easily watch for is after you’ve been seeing each other a while, sit down and write what you know about the person. If the person gets you and you have these long awesome conversations and zie remembers everything – like from the first conversation he remembers your favorite food and stuff like that. You think wow, he really cares, he hears me! Take a step back and write down everything you know about the person from those conversations. The red flag is, they don’t really tell you much about them – they hook you by seeming to be so into you but they reveal almost nothing about themselves.

        1. The last Darth Vader I was involved with was almost exactly the opposite; I could write a twenty-page essay about his life, problems, feelings, preferences, etc., but I’m pretty sure that he’d have difficulty coming up with more than three pages about me, and most of that would probably be inaccurate. Part of what led me to realize he was a DV was that when he wanted to reward me, he’d pretend to be intensely interested in me… and then a week later, he’d forget pretty much everything I’d said. It took me a while to understand that it was because his interest in me was completely fake. All he wanted was to ensure that I was hooked on him–as far as he was concerned, I was a convenient, interchangeable tool, nothing more. I still feel bad that I was fooled, but in my defense, he was *very* good at manipulating people int hat way.

          1. I think my ex was focused on getting me, he was just as you describe after we’d been together a long while. But at first he made sure he was pretty much everything I’d ever wanted in a spouse.

    9. I ended up rambling a little here, so apologies if this wasn’t really what you wanted!

      I would definitely describe my current relationship as both intense and long-lasting. We’ve supported each other through depression, anxiety (generalized on their side and social on mine), and suicides scares on both sides, and in the past year especially we’ve gone through a LOT of stuff that has convinced that no matter how hard things get we will likely never separate. Our relationship is good and healthy and a HUGE source of support for both of us, and because we are both the kind of people who place extremely high value on intense love and companionship, that is the kind of relationship we have.

      That said, though–I’m a really intense person emotionally, and I’ve always tended to quickly form very very close relationships with people I like. Sometimes those people end up being different than I thought they were, or unhealthy for me, or we go our separate ways for some other reason; sometimes they end up being some of the most important people in my life. Either way, I can’t really avoid the quick development of Intense Feelings for other people–and trust me, I’ve tried. The feelings are there and they will always be there because that is just how my emotions work.


      Emotions are irrational, and when trying to evaluate one’s relationships, keeping this in mind is key. If you’re in an intense relationship where the other person likes you and makes you happy and you like them and you’re happy being together, you don’t have to be afraid of it just because your feelings are intense.

      BUT, if you’re in a relationship where you are having INTENSE FEELINGS for someone who makes you unhappy, or who you’re afraid you don’t actually like as much as you thought you did, then that is the time to put Heart in timeout and replace it with Brain–in other words, to step back from your Intense Feelings for a moment and realize that the relationship is not working and that Intense Feelings are not a reason to keep it going. Some people–myself included, a few years ago–fall into the fallacy of thinking that Intense Feelings are a good foundation for a relationship. They’re not. They can be a starting point, sure, but as a whole relationships cannot function on Intense Feelings alone if other things are not working.

      Intense feelings aren’t intrinsically bad, and they’re not intrinsically good, either. They’re just a thing that happens to you sometimes. You don’t have to be afraid of them, but you also don’t have to let them rule your life.

      (All of the above goes for platonic as well as romantic connections.)

    10. I suppose it depends on what you mean by intense. I’ve had two wonderful long-term relationships that started out with that “This Person Gets Me”-feeling coupled with good amounts of sexual chemistry.

      But there was never any drama with either of them, and neither relationship would have made a good romantic comedy. (Thankfully)

    11. I second (eighth, eleventh, whatever) all the it-depends-ers! My red flags/green flags have pretty much zilch to do with the intensity of my feelings for someone. I still have -frequent- moments when I look at one of my partners and am just SO OVERWHELMED by how great they are and how ecstatic I am that they’re in my life and all I can do is sit there and grin and start tearing up.
      What I look for is: am I noticing and acknowledging to myself when I am upset about or dissatisfied with something pertaining to the relationship, when I feel overwhelmed in a bad way, when I need to take a break from being around people? Do I feel safe talking to my partners about those feelings, at least if I think about it logically? (Often, if I am just thinking emotionally, my anxiety takes over and I decide that if I show weakness to anyone then everything will be RUINED.) Do I feel comfortable contemplating the idea of the relationship ending, even if I don’t want it to and I know it would be upsetting?
      The relationships in which I’ve tried to suppress or ignore my feelings and put my partner’s needs ahead of my own have been bad. The relationships where I felt uncomfortable discussing my dissatisfactions or upsets or needing space for any reason, because it usually became All About Them (And How Awful They Were), have been bad. The relationships where talking about the fact that it might not last forever was the Worst Thing In The World were bad.
      Thanks for the question, Heffalumps. I’ve been having panicky feelings about my current relationships recently that I’m pretty sure are not based in current reality, and the extra bit of analyzing prompted by your comment helped. I hope it helps you, too!

      1. Very much THIS. I have learned, over the years, not to put a majority of trust in my “overwhelming feelings” for SOs because, well, those feelings of mine haven’t been very trustworthy. But what Sunflower has been able to do is something I also have found to be a huge help: can I talk with the SO when I feel like something isn’t quite right (with them or with me)? and can they engage with that? and can they do the same with me when they feel like something’s wrong? With practice, I’ve gotten better at understanding when I need to do that, but sometimes I’ve still dated people who haven’t been able to meet me halfway. And I’ve gotten better, in those situations, at getting out. I’m not saying logic trumps emotions, but taking the time to calm down and examine why I’m feeling things instead of impulsively running with them, or resisting and supressing them, has been huge for me. Another thing which, for me, has been a help is having a friend of mine who is generally down on relationships and trusts emotions less than I do. I don’t exactly take his advice on relationships, but talking with him helps because he’s tends to look more intently for the negatives in a relationship and I tend to look at just the positives, so I think we help balance each other out. He’s helped me see instances when I’ve needed to slow down emotionally that I otherwise may not have noticed.

    12. Within a few days of meeting Dr Glass, he asked if I could help him assemble one of those cheap pieces of IKEA-type furniture that needs two people. And there I expressively threw up on his porch for no apparent reason. I wasn’t drunk or sick; I very rarely throw up at all. I think it was literally just me trying to express how much I liked him while simultaneously channeling the elegant social savvy of a sea cucumber. (Sea cucumbers throw up their guts to escape predators; while the predators are distracted by the guts, the sea cucumbers run away and grow new ones. CLEARLY A GREAT ROLE MODEL FOR USING YOUR WORDS.)

      It was a glorious moment. We were both pretty stunned by it. There weren’t too many social scripts for “HERE. I HAVE APPARENTLY BARFED UP MY HEART ON YOUR SHOES AND ALL OF YOUR NEW SHIT. SHALL WE LEAVE OUR RESPECTIVE PARTNERS AND GET MARRIED NOW?” Like, there is no Disney movie that clarifies that “The barf means I love you!”

      So yeah, I felt so intense about it all that I just FEELINGSVOMITED.

      I don’t recommend making a regular habit out of it, but it worked out brilliantly for me!

      1. Wow, I thought that was a thing that only happened on South Park. ^__^ Glad it worked out well for you though, and it makes a great story!

        1. The more I see of the world, the more I become convinced that South Park is really a documentary.

      2. OMG! LOL! How wonderful/terrible! I’m glad it worked out for you. Wow. That’s kind of awesome!

    13. For me, it took getting a really intense connection with someone to make me push past the 3 month mark for my relationships.

      Prior to meeting my fiance, none of my relationships ever made it past 3 months. Something would happen, I’d freak out and think that clearly if the relationship isn’t super smooth sailing anymore then clearly it isn’t right for me, etc.

      I had been convinced by Hollywood that if the relationship wasn’t perfect, then I shouldn’t “settle”. It took falling in love (quickly) for me to realize that relationships take work. I mean… of course if there were giant red flags it would be another story…but I’d always dump guys without even waiting to see if the “hiccup” would right itself. And more importantly, without telling them why I was really breaking things off.

      With my fiance, since I fell in love with him very early on, when those hiccups came along, it made me want to talk to him about how I was feeling and what I was going through, so that we could work through it together. And our relationship got better for it. I’ve never met anyone I’ve matched so well with… we argue, but it’s always resolved very quickly and effciently, since we both use our words and talk to each other… and I don’t expect him to be perfect or be my everything. I also seek to strengthen my already existing relationships with my family and friends from before he came along.

      So for me, the intensity of how he and I feel for each other was a good thing… I don’t know if I’d be where I am now (happy and content) if that hadn’t happened. I can definitely see how getting too intense too quickly can be a bad thing… but I can also see the good side of it, from my own experience.

    14. i’m late to the party here but i love this question and its responses – they have been very helpful food for my brain squirrels.

      my current relationship, which i’ve been in for almost a year and a half now, started out SO intense. like, “who are you, how are you real, where have you been?” levels of intense. other people have said wise things about intense attachment styles and red/green flags so my advice is more about sustaining things. taking a few big steps back helped. it was partially circumstantial for us – neither of us are in the right place in our lives for a super committed/partnered relationship. we both want to focus more on other areas of our lives and connections with other people. but we also wanted to be together. it took a while to calibrate the right level for ourselves – so as not to just fall into a more partnered level of commitment but still get what we want out of being in a thing together and spending time together. it involves being able to trust that the feelings are there even if our relationship doesn’t look the same as it might were we in the place to take big next steps.

      granted, you might be in the right place for a partnered relationship. that’s awesome! but when something starts out super intense it can be really good, once some initial trust and bonding has been established, to set up boundaries and not spend too much time together. if it is the right connection and something more serious builds – that is great. but boundaries, i’ve found, don’t erode a connection that is strong. they do a lot more to strengthen it. if your intense whirlwind suffers from having a little space built into it, that’s important information. it could mean you need to tinker with your boundaries and expectations or it could mean something is off with the relationship. if something starts out intense and looks like it’s headed to cohabiting and building a life together, taking a little more time to yourself at the beginning doesn’t have to mean missing out on something. it can help give perspective and reveal more of what is actually going on in the relationship.

    15. I’m a bit skittish over very intense relationships myself, since my very bad first relationship was like that – it wasn’t abusive, but it was so intense that I felt smothered, and I couldn’t really articulate why I wasn’t feeling good or why I wanted to get out. And all that intensity also led to a lot of drama and hysterical weeping at 3am and wild accusations and all sorts of other stuff like that. I can’t handle that anymore.

      When I met my current girlfriend, I realized that there was no intensity there. I didn’t feel this instant “rush” of emotional connection. We had a lot in common, we were basically similar people, I liked her a lot – but it wasn’t “OMG OMG WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE????” It was more along the lines of “Wow, you seem nice; let’s date a bit more and see where things go.” And I loved that. Gradually, we kept dating and I found out just what a wonderful person she really is, and we’re still together – but it’s all mellow, and we’re taking it slow, and there’s no intensity. I love her, but in a calm way.

      I do have this idea – perhaps mistaken – that it’s the less intense relationships that last longer. My parents have a fantastically wonderful marriage, and have been together for 48 years, but it’s not at all intense. They love each other a lot, but in a calm and mellow sort of way.

    16. I had one very intense relationship that ended abruptly after about a month. It was not healthy (he was significantly older than me, recently divorced and I reminded him of his ex-wife (who was also much younger than him) to name a few problematic things). We were Hollywood-style attracted to each other, to the point where I genuinely felt I could not control myself when it came to him. It was exciting, and I liked feeling that wanted, but it was scary at the same time because I felt I couldn’t control myself.

      We were both total dramallamas too, so every little thing became this huge OMG DRAMAZZZZZ! deal that wasn’t good either.

      He ended it out of guilt, I think he thought he was “ruining” me or something.

      The whole thing was pretty upsetting, but I’m glad it happened. I learned a lot about myself and my sexuality, so in the end it was a net gain.

      (I am now with someone who I liked a lot once I got to know him, but it was never stupidly intense and I welcomed that).

    17. Belated reply for Heffalump, because this is an excellent thread full of useful case-studies that I have really enjoyed reflecting on. I think that intensity alone isn’t necessarily a RUN RIGHT NOW sign, but inability to safely and securely back off from that intensity on either side definitely is. I have had two relationships (years apart) which were or became abusive, which once they began locked us into a sealed bubble of intensity that couldn’t be breached until I actually, finally left the partner involved. By intensity I mean that in both cases I was chemically overwhelmed by my feelings, and felt physically shaky from the force of them. Every attempt on my part to gain distance (physical or emotional) would trigger renewed pushes of gruelling connection (sometimes long, heart-exposing, sobbing conversations, sometimes hours of emotionally-wrought marathon sex, sometimes suicide threats or other catastrophic life situations), and this was a pattern that was repeated from the very beginning to the very end of both of those relationships. My departure from each relationship had the strong feeling of pushing the Eject button in a fighter jet: suddenly launching myself out of this disastrous high-speed situation that I couldn’t even see properly until I was outside of it.

      I am now in a relationship that is also breathtaking and sometimes quite shocking to me in it’s intensity, and this has worried me. But when I need space from my partner, they give it to me without hesitation- even if it doesn’t feel nice for them to be asked for it, in the moment, they grant it immediately. Our intensity does not destabilise me or make me feel that my autonomy is threatened. It’s an intensity that I feel safe within, in which i am able to give myself priority, and within which I feel secure and loved rather than desperate and confused. I feel nourished and enlivened by our epic marathon sex and long heart-to-heart conversations, rather than drained and exhausted. I felt a foreshadowing of this intensity from the first time I laid eyes on them, and felt it increasing constantly as we grew closer, but I also felt the permission I had- from them and from myself- to step away from it whenever I wanted to from the very beginning. And of course my partner has this permission as well. Our experience of love for one another doesn’t need us to create an impermeable bubble within which to trap it.

      I conclude from my own experiences that emotional “OH MY GOD SO IN LOVE” intensity alone is not a warning sign, but if you are not able to turn it down or step away, or if attempts to do so result in increased rather than decreased intensity, then it is possible that giant spiders are coming to eat you and it might be wise to be wary.

  6. Oh, and I’m on a YA kick! I just finished the Maze runner trilogy + prequel and now I’m halfway into Gone by Michael Grant. I’d love some suggestions on similar books.

    1. I’ve only skimmed the description for Gone, but the flavor of post-apocalyptic and with adults not really around reminds me of Pure by Julianna Baggott. It can get a little Chosen One in places but was also a lot of fun to devour in a a weekend.

    2. Have you tried Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher? I feel like they have a similar “flavor.”

    3. Ooo, I liked both of those books. I’m all over some dystopic/post-apocalyptic YA fiction.

      Try these:
      The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (it’s the first in a trilogy that only gets better the more you read).
      Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (it’s the first of 4 books, the newest to come out in September)
      Delirium by Lauren Oliver

      Obviously there are tons more, but these three are my favorites. And if you like Michael Grant’s writing in general, he’s K.A. Applegate’s husband and an uncredited cowriter for her Animorphs and Remnants series.

      1. Thank you.

        I finished Gone and started on Hunger, but I don’t know. Quinn is really getting on my nerves. I’m almost on Team Caine (or worse, Drake) when it comes to him.

      2. If you like Delirium, Fox has ordered a pilot for a TV series based on the books. I’m not positive when it’s supposed to come out, maybe in the fall?

    4. I’m going to second all these recommendations, and add:

      -Divergent by Veronica Roth (hugely popular with our YA crowd)
      -Those That Wake by Jesse Karp
      -Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

      Matched, by Ally Condie, is another one that I liked a lot as a fun weekend read. Think grown-up version of The Giver. Delirium is a much better written We Will Tell You Who To Love! book if you’re only going to read one, though. In my opinion, of course 😉

      1. So Divergent is good, yes? I’ve been wondering whether or not to pick it up. I know it’s been SUPER popular lately, which frequently for YA means really good, but not always. 😛

        1. Yes! Divergent is pretty good, though I admit I haven’t read Insurgent yet. ALSO AND I’ve heard Kate Winslet is slated to play one of the grown-up type people in the film adaptation. Yay, Kate.

    5. YA you MUST READ: Sarah Rees Brennan. Her previous trilogy, The Demons Lexicon/Covenant/Surrender are about two brothers who are being hunted by magicians because their mother has a charm she stole from them. Only problem is, if she takes it off, it’ll kill her. Nick, whose perspective the story is told from, is pretty hated by his mother and finds Emotions incomprehensible and his way of dealing with stuff and seeing the world is really, really interesting. He’s a take on the Brooding Mysterious Man archetype. All of it is funny and interesting and heartbreaking. Her new book, Unspoken, is just out, and is also AMAZING SERIOUSLY READ IT NOW. I’m terrible at describing it sans spoilers but it’s a modern gothic romance/detective story/hilarious adventures in imaginary friends and is similarly brilliant and heartbreaking.

      Her stuff can be found at – there are free short stories and excerpts, so you can see if you like her!

      I recently also read ‘What’s Left of Me’ by Kat Zhang which I think you would really enjoy.

  7. Thanks for the opportunity to self-promote a little!

    I’ve been blogging at Red Pen Reviews for a little over a year now doing book reviews of SF/ fantasy books, with occasional detours into YA when I’m not drowning in editing that genre. The goal is to go all English-major on the writing itself while also calling out hostility to consent, cultural appropriation, and other unpleasantness…all while keeping the jargon absent or low enough that no one is going to trip on it.

    While it would be *deeply* cool if anyone stopped by to read, what I’m really looking for is advice, because this reader/comment base is exactly the kind of people I would love to talk to in the comments. If SF/fantasy reviews are your thing, what do you like about them– length, snark, funny macros? Are more general “here is a stupid trend” posts more your thing, or perhaps writing advice? A lot of problems in published books are things I get paid to fix during my freelance editing gigs, so I’m also very willing to talk about what makes a scene tick, or write up lists of best opening sentences….I just look at the list of possibilities and flail a little.

    In short: I love reading and writing *all over* my pet genre, I’m just not sure what sorts of posts people would want to read or share around. My current quasi-essay reviews are fun for *me* but feel like talking to an empty room.

    1. I love the idea of of short writing advice, especially because YA/SF/F is my pet genre too. Most “how to write” books are so terrible and kill every writing boner I have but I love the idea of a “tricks” sort of thing, like what you mention about scene ticks or opening sentences or what have you…

      Sometimes what is frustrating for me about writing is not knowing how to incorporate new experiments and tricks into my writing the way that I can when I learn a new kind of chord on guitar or something.

      1. Thanks for the advice! I’m now in the middle of writing a post on opening sentences– turns out I’ve been chewing on it in the back of my mind for a while. And I hear you about most writing books. x.x Authors all have methods and personal philosophies that work for them, but then they think that naturally it works for everyone and that the functional way is the Super Correct Method.

        I don’t do a whole lot of writing, but I enjoyed working in a lot of weird little tricks during NaNoWriMo by browsing the forums for advice and making the novel more a series of loosely connected scenes to see what felt natural or flowed the best. Having side projects to muck around in can be a lot of fun, and less pressure than “but what if this messes up the main thing I’m writing?”

    2. I like the idea of writing advice too, if only because it helps me figure out why a passage worked/didn’t work for the reviewer in question. Since I’m currently working on my own SFF, that sort of thing would be really really useful.

      For me, personally, I like snark when I’m reading reviews. Macros can be good too, so long as they’re not overdone!

      1. Thanks! Long passages might be tricky, since the things I give feedback on are generally either published work or manuscripts that belong to authors who are trying to sell them to publishing houses, but it’s definitely a good idea. Right now it looks like I’ll start with opening sentences and work outward from there, but long-term I might consider a round table thing: people send in short scenelets, maybe a few hundred words, and then I write up my feedback and have discussion in the comments.

    3. Writing advice/stupid trends! Sometimes I second-guess myself when critiquing manuscripts. I wonder whether the thing that bothers me will bother everybody, or if it’s just a personal quirk. Reading about how other people react to (for instance) a glut of made-up words in a fantasy novel helps me separate those things out.

      1. I am cracking up right now at the glut of made-up words, because OH GODS is that the most annoying thing in epic fantasy for me. That is absolutely going on the list of posts to write, since made-up terminology can be bad and made-up slang has the potential to be hilariously awful when writers are trying to sound like, say, street urchins.


          This recently came up for me when a manuscript bombarded me with made-up words. I had to ask myself why I had the urge to skim when the story in general was pretty interesting. After I figured it out, I wondered if I was just being stupid or something — each neologism was easy to understand in context, so what was my problem? What I realized was that all those words act as little speed bumps. If there are a lot of them, they’ll slow you down considerably.

          Still, it’s nice to know it’s not just me. 🙂 I will enjoy reading that post when it’s up.

          1. Along those lines, the author of the manuscript I just read gave a few chapters to several editors. He’ll eventually settle on one of us to review his entire series. It’s a clever idea. If I’m not the ideal reader for his book, then at least one editor will contradict me.

            That said, I think it’s worthwhile to tell writers when they’re putting off readers who’d otherwise enjoy the story. A writer who feels those neologisms are vital to the world building might consider keeping them in, but spacing their first uses farther apart.

            I agree with you on one-size-fits-all writing advice. My favorites are “never use adverbs” and “always use ‘said’ for dialogue attribution.” Really? Just because some newbie writers are addicted to adverbs, the rest of us aren’t allowed to use them sparingly (adverb!)? Just because some fear redundancy in their dialogue tags when they don’t need to, no one is ever allowed to use “asked”?

          2. Another good example: present tense. I’m fine with it for first person, but it almost always drives me insane for third person. A lot of people feel the same way I do … but not everyone.

            Last year I critiqued a novel written in present tense. I explained to the author why it could be problematic. I warned her that the sense of immediacy evoked by present tense wouldn’t make otherwise draggy passages more interesting. Then I suggested that she rewrite a few paragraphs in past tense, ask other readers to compare them side by side, and see what they thought.

          3. I’ll have to track down that book– I’ve never seen an author take quite that approach before. Neologisms don’t have to be The Worst Thing, but for that example…for me, it would depend a lot on the presence of an author’s note mentioning that there is no glossary. If you’ve got the spare time and internet connection, that could be the best impromptu linguistics lesson you get in a year. If you grab it planning to take the thing on an airplane with no wi-fi, it might be a lot more annoying to feel like you could work out the etymology but don’t have the resources.

            In any case, that sounds a lot more intriguing than the epic/high fantasy trend of making up fifty apostrophe-spangled words without a smooth glossary. x.x

            The one-size-fits-all rules tend to spring from good intentions, I think, and then get made into ironclad rules that don’t help. Avoiding adverbs will usually ( 😛 ) help keep sentences, especially dialogue tags, from clogging up too hard. And “said” tends to be almost invisible, which is better than every sentence being hissed or spat or snapped or (please no) ejaculated. Some new writers go for adverbs and purple prose and dramatic ways of describing speech because they feel colorful, and it feels/tastes like they dumped half the saltshaker in– from there, the easiest advice is “leave it out,” not “learn how to scale it in delicately,” even if the more nuanced advice is in fact going to lead somewhere better.

            It reminds me a bit of math classes, where every few years a teacher says “so, all of that was a convenient lie: here’s how it really works.” And then another teacher does the same thing again a few years later because it’s impossible to encapsulate every layer at once…and much smoother to hand out a few hard-and-fast formulas that you can fit on an index card. That said, some advice sticks at the rigid level and tries to keep everyone in 101-level hell forever, which is obnoxious in a different way.

            /rambling (that I should turn into a post)

        2. That reminds me of when I read Tamora Pierce’s book Terrier about one of George’s ancestors and the biggest thing I can remember about it is that she used “peaches” as slang for breasts. Like, were they fuzzy or something? Coz breasts usually aren’t!

          1. Did you like Terrier? I am mad for Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, but every time I pick up Terrier I want to put it down again. If you recommend it, I’ll give it a serious try.

          2. Terrier is….it depends. If you like journal-style stuff in the first person, it can be fun, and I think that a lot of the magic, particularly with the pigeons, is good. Beka is also at the far end of Pierce’s slow trend towards protagonists who are a little less Chosen One and more based in hard work. I go back and forth on how much fun it was.

            Agreed on the “peaches” thing, though I think she was going for a spin on the whole melons/apples slang train of terrible fruit-based euphemisms.

          3. I didn’t mind it but I haven’t followed up to see if other books about her are out. I also haven’t much bothered with the books about Kelry though I might track them down at some point. I have found that in general, her writing has really developed well as she’s gone on, and her later books can be REALLY good – I’ve reread both Will of the Empress and the two Trickster books multiple times, whereas while I liked Daine at first, I started eye-rolling as she got more and more magical and goddessly, though happily it wasn’t annoying enough to put me off entirely!

            Actually I suspect Terrier is rather an “intro to the character” type book, so I wonder if it’s worth skipping ahead a bit. That will definitely involve some internet searching for me – for some reason every single book store stopped stocking Tamora Pierce books, to the point where I once actually double checked with my online friends that she did exist and I wasn’t going completely round the bend 😛 I have to check if any of them have come out in electronic form yet too – previous searches have only dug up German translations.

    4. I’ll fourth the writing advice thing, but to add that please don’t make it all snarky “this is how not to write” type of stuff. I’ve read so many articles that act like the author will smack me with a ruler if my prose gets even the slightest purple tinge that it’s very hard for me to put in any description at all.

      Not that occasional sporkings are un-fun to read, but I think your idea of “things that make writing tick” should outweigh the things that do not at all.

      1. That’s really a shame, but I know what you’re talking about; people read purple prose and get a little trigger-happy about making fun of every adjective in sight. I may have to make a point of writing about Tolkein’s pages of tree-porn description and how every word of it is lovely, or the difference between lush/evocative and just purple; writing gets downright bland without the occasional space to linger on something that engages the senses.

    5. The thing I’d most like if I were reading would be assessments of the politics, done without plot-spoilers. So e.g. “queer female main protagonist, good range of character ages, but dodgy on body image stuff”. That would help me to find stories I’d enjoy that I hadn’t yet read.

    6. Hello from a fellow reviewer! I’m really in favor of negative reviews when they’re warranted. What I look for from a reviewer’s body of work, in general, is honesty; occasional thoughtful negative reviews (not putting the boot in, but “here’s why this didn’t work for me”) tell me the reviewer is willing to be honest about not liking something, which means that when they say they do like something, I know they mean it.

      I would also recommend coming to Readercon, a small SF/F convention in the Boston area that’s very popular with critics and academics, and with a strong focus on issues like respectful cross-cultural writing. (Disclosure: I’m the program chair this year.) You’d make some great connections and learn a lot, which I don’t at all mean in a condescending way–it’s the sort of convention where everyone goes to learn things.

      1. Negative reviews are quite honesty my favorites to write sometimes, though it’s sometimes hard to stay purely thoughtful instead of dissecting exactly why I am Not Best Pleased with the book. If you don’t mind my asking, where are you posting yours? I had to give up on several review blogs in disgust for assigning every other book the highest possible rating, and I’d love to read someone else who does a balanced set.

        I’d heard of Readercon once or twice before, but the website sounds *extremely* promising, especially given the low admission fee, and it’s small enough to maybe not set off my issues with crowds. I’m down in North Carolina, so transportation and hotel expenses might be a little tough, but if I get another few freelance gigs, I will *absolutely* come and check it out.

        1. I review and edit reviews for Publishers Weekly. (I am greatly entertained that the default assumption when one says “I’m a reviewer” is that one has a blog. Nope, I work for an actual magazine, on paper and everything.) All our reviews are anonymous, though, so I can’t tell you which ones I wrote!

          1. Color me very impressed. ^^ I keep running into other editors at ink-and-paper publishing houses online, but you’re the first magazine reviewer– smaller pool, I suppose.

  8. I’m trying to convince myself to study for my exams next week, and prepping to perform at an open mike night with a friend. I’m really nervous, because while I used to sing in a choir, I’ve never been a soloist, and I have Angst about performing even in front of people I know. On the bright side, there was a sale on microwave popcorn at the grocery store AND I’ve found a church that makes me happy for the first time in nine months! Good things!

    1. Open mics are the best! They give you the opportunity to challenge yourself, but in front of a relatively forgiving and generous audience. Open mics are where I sang in public for the first time. Can’t imagine where I’d be now without them.

      1. Yeah, anyone who goes to an open mic is absolutely willing to think the best of the people who perform, because people who are highly critical assume it’s all going to be lousy and stay away. And they miss out, because some open mic performers are brilliant, and I’m sure you will be too!

  9. This’s month marks the one year anniversary of me taking back my life from old childhhod scars, and from my bipolar disorder. It’s amazing how much calmer life has gotten. It’s not the sort of thing I’m comfortable talking about, so my IRL team-me was pretty small* during the healing process.
    The Awkward Army was an incredible help during that time, and I want to thank you all. It’s been so helpful to have access to useful advice within the context of a safe, supportive community. The Good Captain and her crew have a knack for solid advice that’s applicable to many situations, and the commenters are equally helpful.

    You’re an amazing bunch, and I’m grateful to have found this bastion of awkwardness.
    Thanks, y’all!

    * small, but powerful, that is.

  10. Hello open thread! I am going to promote two things, if I may. One is mine and one is not.

    I am currently keeping a self-discovery blog called Project Authenticity, a lot of which consists of my ruminations on Learning To Boundaries. My most recent post is a rant on this theme and, since Awkward Army folks are fond of boundaries generally, perhaps some of you may find the post an interesting read.

    Project Authenticity: On Being A Nice Girl

    Also, this popped up on my Facebook news feed today, courtesy of the glorious Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies ( It gave me a little added hope for the future of humanity so I hope you enjoy it too.

    * * * * *

    Benny and I were just wrestling and tickling. I had him pinned and was chewing on his leg when he giggled and screamed “Stop!”. The dog jumped up and barked, so I didn’t hear him. I started to give him a zerbert on his tummy (Benny, not the dog. That’s weird.) but he grabbed my hand and said very firmly, “MOM! I said stop an bren someone tells you to stop you breespect dem!”

    I apologized and said he was right, I should have stopped horse playing the first time he said stop. I told him he always has the right to be the boss of his body, and that all kids have that right.

    There is a national debate right now about the idea of teaching boys not to rape as a viable why to stop rape. That should be a full stop, not sure why there debate. This all coincides with the criminal trial in Ohio of two high school students accused of the heinous rape of a drugged and unconscious girl.

    We teach boys not to rape by starting in our homes and starting when they are small. Scratch that, they don’t need to be small, just start talking. I’m not going to talk to my preschool aged son about rape and Rape Culture. Instead, I’m going to teach him a foundation of respect for himself and for others so that when the day comes that we do have that talk, he understands to his very core that every person has the right to expect respect for their body, and to trespass against that is entirely wrong.

    * * * * *

    Good luck with all your grading, Captain, and congratulations to the Logic family!

    1. I salute you on your awesome parenting skills. What you’re doing with your son is so very important. Thank you, so so much.

  11. Hi y’all, I started reading the blog a couple of weeks ago, and I figure an open thread would be a good place to introduce myself. 🙂 I’m Suz! And I love Captain Awkward, associated bloggers and the Awkward Army SO DAMN MUCH I CAN’T EVEN. Thank you all for being ridiculously, overwhelmingly awesome. 😀

    Also, Cap’n, I am *definitely* onboard with seeing this play, and I’m so glad you plugged it here. Thanks!

    1. I am piggybacking off your intro, Suzers (Hi, Suz!) to do an intro of my own. Hope that’s okay!

      I discovered Captain Awkward over the summer (shortly after discovering The Pervoracracy–it was a pretty good summer, blog-reading-wise). And yeah, I adore it. The past few months have been tough for me, with things just starting to turn around–I went from being an unemployed college grad living with her parents, majorly anxious about the job search and physically distanced from her friend group to being a newly-employed person, still living with her parents, working through lifelong anxiety via therapy and honing a social circle that is both local AND long-distance–and the Captain Awkward posts have helped me keep things in perspective and have helped me get a feel for how to function in the intimidating “adult” working world. I love it here. : )

      Anyway, life story aside, my name is Sara. And hi!

      P.S. My new job is in the theater world, albeit not in the Chicago theater world, but in my job hunt I spent some time researching theaters, including The Goodman. They do amazing work, Captain, and I’m totally wowed that your film will be part of a Goodman play! I wish I could come see the show.

    2. Nice to meet you both! I would offer you cookies, but this is the Internet (and also my silly flat doesn’t have an oven). Still. The sentiment applies. Welcome. I hope we can be pals.

  12. Awkward Army! I has a question!

    I am a member of a Super Neat Recreational Organization and our national convention is coming up. Only a small fraction of our chapter is going (about 10 people) and I am not close to everybody who is going. One of the Neatos, I have been told, can be fairly clingy at these types of events. While I fully intend to spend time with all my fellow Neatos, how do I (firmly but kindly) draw boundaries around the amount of time spent with this person without resorting to dodging and ditching to get some space? I’m not proud, but it’s happened and I don’t want to do it again. Or is there even an acceptable way to say “I don’t want to have dinner with you/go to that seminar with you/go to that party with you”?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. “Thanks, but I promised myself I’d spend time with everyone, and I haven’t gotten a moment to hang out with ____ yet, so I’m going to go see if they’re free.”
      “Thanks, but I said I’d call [partner/parent/child] at that time.”
      “Thanks, but I’d rather not.” [Why not?] “Because I’d rather not.”
      “Thanks, I’m afraid I can’t.” [Why not?] “There’s something personal/work-related I need to deal with.” or “I have another commitment.” or “Personal reasons I don’t want to discuss.”

      I’m totally in favor of lying in this sort of situation if necessary, but it’s best if it’s not necessary, so see if you can make arrangements in advance to have dinner with particular people, etc.

    2. With seminars, obviously don’t miss sessions you want to attend, but if this person wants to come to the ones you go to just to be with you then maybe suggest they attend parallel sessions so you can feed back to each other later to get the most out of the event?

    3. I have been on both sides of this! Conferences/conventions/events can be overwhelming and it’s easy to latch onto a familiar face. A little redirection, served with sincerity and kindness, goes a long way.

      “I’m so sorry, I have plans this evening, but have you seen the list of open socials on the schedule?”
      (echoing Manatee upthread) “We should split up and do separate sessions! We can compare notes on the trip home!/next meeting/etc.!”
      “I can’t do lunch today, but how about coffee before sessions tomorrow?”

      The key here is balancing boundaries and space with not just spending some time with your cohort, but making a point of letting zie know that you’re doing it intentionally. It sounds like you’re already sort of dreading this; that just sets up a situation where you’re putting zir off pre-emptively, which will just prompt MORE anxiousness and clingyness. Giving zir some assurance that you’re not actively avoiding zir, in the form of sometimes initiating social contact, might help ease that and make going off in separate directions easier.

      One thing I find useful is setting mental limits in advance that are generous enough to let me enjoy my own time, and within those limits, resolving to genuinely enjoy the company of these people. When I go to conferences with coworkers, it’s travel time+1 meal + 2 “catching up in the hall between sessions” per day. I do not socialize with co-workers after hours; a conference, for me, is also a semi-vacation, and I’m going to VACATION, dammit. It’s obviously a lot harder to enforce if you’re staying in the same hotel or whatever; something to consider.

      And there is, seriously, NOTHING WRONG with coordinating with your other travelmates; just be attentive, again, to doing it from a place of kindness. There’s one woman in my social group who we all genuinely adore, but her crippling low-self-esteem and social anxiety are EXHAUSTING. Several of us have developed a “having Sarah* fatigue, can you be Safe Friendly Face for a bit?” high sign, which allows us all to get a breather and continue to enjoy her company. (*not actually her name, obviously!)

      1. “…not just spending some time with your cohort, but making a point of letting zie know that you’re doing it intentionally.”

        I think this is the key. It’s been my success strategy at conferences. I’m really clear upfront, “One thing I love about conferences is getting to meet a million people, and I know I won’t do that if I hang out with people I know and like. So expect me to spend most of the conference running around alone. Catch ya at the hotel at the end of the night!”

        Nearly all my conferences are work conferences, though, so the social dynamics are a little different. (More awkward for me, because the personal-life people whose opinions I care about are people who get “I love you, but I am going to ignore you for three days” and not get fussed about it, whereas I have to walk the “I like you well enough, but you are not My People, and I will kill somebody if I spend every second with you for a week.” line more carefully with work folks.) But being super upfront with “I am going to go at it alone because {Reason}” helps stave off the awkward when you ditch someone or wave but avoid at a mixer or chat in line but peel off once you’re inside.

  13. Many congratulations to the Logics!

    I’ve got a craft blog here if anyone’s interested: Mostly this is about the creation of a very complex embroidered waistcoat, but there are other projects here too. I suspect those that may garner most interest are the posts in which I show you how I made Sam Tarly’s dragonglass dagger (Game of Thrones) and the Doctor’s fez. (You want to make a fez? Any size from small cuddly toy to full-grown elephant? I can show you how to do it, and what’s more there’s maths. 😀 )

    1. Wow! That waistcoat is amazing! I used to work in a theatre costume department, and we had to rejigger this coat for Voltaire that involved cutting out tiny flowers from a chintz-type fabric and sewing them onto this black coat one by one. It was very labor intensive and I almost never wanted to see it again except for those moments when I wanted to wear it forever. I’m seriously impressed by your work.

  14. I hope I am a regular-enough commenter to promote… though it’s not self-promotion per se, more self-promotion-by-proxy.

    I have a girlfriend who is starting a female-friendly stand-up comedy scene in the Seattle area, christened The Comedy Womb. You can see details here: and on the Faceyspaces here:

    She is offering workshops where anyone interested in trying stand-up can come to work on material and get advice from veteran comedians, as well as a weekly open mic night specifically geared toward women and female-friendly comics. Workshop participants get priority at the open mics, so not only do you get a chance to refine your set but also to perform it in front of a welcoming and encouraging audience, in a safe space.

    She is amazing, y’all, and the scene is long overdue for some feminist comedy. If you’re in the Seattle area and want to either tell jokes or watch other people tell jokes… check it out. It’s going to be legen… wait for it….

    (The self-promotion part? Yeah, I’m totally in the workshop. You should be, too. Y’know, if you want to be.)

    …dary. Legendary.

    1. Cool! I don’t want to make people feel weird or unwelcome to share, just, “Hi, I found your blog during a Google Search today, let me tell you about my business plan!” isn’t necessarily cool (or a good way to drum up business). Hopefully people know that? The statement in the OP was in case they don’t know that.

  15. I’m taking a class! I graduated in 2011 and thought I’d never have the money/time to go back to school with debt/big girl job but I found something I liked and wrangled up some spare cash (well, all my savings/travel money for next year) and decided to just DO IT.

    It’s super scary. I never thought it would be. What if I suck? What if I don’t have time? What if I start and THEN don’t have time and fall behind and ahhhhhhhhhhhh. I haven’t even really told many friend.

    But, I know this is what I need to do because really, when will you ever REALLY have time? I’m proud of myself for deciding to do it and it starts next week 🙂

    Just wanted to share. This feels like a safe space to share happy/nervous news. Thanks guys.

  16. A couple days ago the husbutt wanted to see a movie and I wasn’t really in the mood, so he went without me. He came back and I asked him how it was.

    “The special effects were nice, but… it’s strange. I get used to all the stuff we watch treating women like people! I don’t think I’ll watch it again.”

    In the interest of self-promotion, this is the etsy we share. I do the sewing stuff, he does the crochet stuff.

    And finally, this blog really helped me come to terms with some family potential drama. (Short version – dad invited me and the husband on vacation last year. We ended up spending all week playing Cinderella to stepmom-to-be and her three teens until I finally broke down in full on panic attack from the stress. This year he invited everyone again. I quietly dealt with the rage “He promised this year would just be us!” and the guilt “If I don’t go, he’ll be the one running himself exhausted.” and told myself he was an adult making his own choices and politely, casually, let him know I just have no desire to do a huge busy get together this year. It went well and it’s a huge weight off my shoulders. Thank you, Captain!)

  17. I usually only lurk around these parts, but the Awkward Army is so awesome and helpful, especially regarding mental illness, I’m hoping I can ask a bit of advice.

    My younger brother is going through some seriously hard times with depression right now, and has had to drop out of college and move back in with my mom because of it. He needs the financial support, but my mother has some problematic and judgmental ideas about mental illness and she tends to be pretty judgmental and passive-aggressive generally. I happened to be visiting home just at the time that this happened, and talked one-on-one with both my brother and my mother and did my best to serve as a buffer while I was there, but I live on the other side of the planet from my family and I’m feeling very worried and useless. What are some things I can do to help my brother from a distance? Can anyone recommend some good resources on coping with depression for my brother, or maybe something that would get it through my mother’s skull that depression isn’t laziness or a lack of willpower, and that snarky, passive-aggressive comments about him sleeping a lot or not having a job yet are the exact opposite of helpful?

    1. I think it’s really great that you want to help out your brother. I think that keeping in regular contact would be a good idea, and maybe you could encourage him to look for low-cost mental health services in the area where he lives. Also, maybe send him a link to this site? There have been some really great ones about working through depression and things, though I can’t think of specifics off the top of my head. As for your mom, we can never make people see sense like we’d hope, but if she brings it up in front of you, you can calmly correct her assumptions, and remind your brother that just because your mom says something (that might sound a lot like what his jerkbrain is telling him) doesn’t make it true.

    2. For your brother, try the book Feeling Good, which is basically how to do cognitive-behavioral therapy on yourself. It’s helped me a lot. Obviously an in-person therapist would probably help too, but I expect you know that.

      For your mother, maybe start by confirming that she really wants to help your brother get better–she may be trying to help in a snarky, passive-aggressive way, but presumably her commenting at all means she cares and wants a future where he’s happy and energetic and working and so on. Once you find that common ground, that shared goal of your brother’s wellness, then you can shift away from scolding and onto working WITH your brother–not at him–to achieve it. I’ve found an emphasis on collaboration very helpful when sorting out my own mental health stuff and getting support from other people.

      You can also reassure her that loving someone with depression, and especially living with someone with depression, can be weird and hard and scary, and urge her to seek her own therapist and/or Team Her. Maybe when she sees him mired in depression, she gets angry and jealous because she’s always wanted an “excuse” to lie around and not work, and her urging him to get up and get a job comes from that place. Maybe she battled through her own depression once and now can only think “I did it, why can’t he?”. Maybe she’s never experienced anything like that and truly has no understanding of depression as a debilitating illness, so she genuinely believes he’s just lazy. Maybe there are cultural issues in play. Whatever is going on, and no matter how rude she’s being, this is probably pretty hard on her, and even rude people need support sometimes. Plus that support may well help her figure out her own baggage and become less snarky and more supportive toward your brother.

      1. Seconding ‘Feeling Good’ – my own copy is now travelling the world because I passed it on and someone else passed it on and so on after we all found it really helpful.

        I would say the most important way you can help your brother is to be a safe space for him. Remind him how awesome he is, and that you love him whatever he does and trust him to do what’s best for him. Let him rant about your mum without telling him ‘she means well’, which she does, but he will know that, and something we all just need to let off some steam. Encourage him to get and continue getting help, even when it seems scary.

        You probably can’t get your mum to behave much better, I’m afraid. But you can help your brother A LOT by being a family member he can talk to without having to worry about what they’re going to say.

  18. I’m Dienna (my blog name’s how my name’s pronounced). Other than mentioning it for my name’s pronunciation, I’m not going to self-promote it here. I don’t comment here enough (I believe I’ve only posted once prior to this), but I discovered it a few weeks to a month ago and am starting to become a regular reader. I may not be able to relate to every aspect of an advice asker’s life, but I find bits and pieces in most of what I’ve read so far that do relate to me in some way. I do want to be less of a lurker and more of a regular commenter, but a lot of times people have either said what I would’ve said already (and there’s no point in repeating it), or I can’t think of anything to say. I’ll make an attempt to be more involved in the Awkward Army, eventually.

    I’ve become a definite fan of this blog, and like a lot of what you’ve had to say!

  19. Lurker coming out of lurkdom here. I read “come see ____ at the goodman theater” as”goddamn theater” and wondered what on earth was wrong with the theater and why you would promote going there if it was so bad. That’s all

  20. Long-time reader/lurker/enthusiast here!

    This may not be the time or place and if that’s the case I apologize in advance, but I was hoping some of my fellow Awkwardeers could suggest tried and tested strategies for getting rage under control. Both of my parents were/are rage-y people, and in spite of swearing to myself that I wouldn’t inherit their bad tempers, I totally have. I’ve got a pretty long fuse, but once it goes the explosion is massive and I often feel the urge to lash out physically. I never attack people or other living things, but I’ve been known to punch and kick walls/furniture, slam doors, beat my fists against tabletops, and sometimes even throw things. I yell, rant, and say awful things I honestly don’t mean and immediately regret. Once my head has cleared I feel terribly guilty about it all, but in the moment it’s like a fog of anger descends over me and I can’t see through it. (It might be worth emphasizing that this is a fairly rare occurrence, as in once every few months. It’s not something I experience daily, and it isn’t interfering with my relationships, ability to hold down a job, etc. Mostly it just scares me and makes me feel guilty.)

    To make matters (possibly) weirder, I’m a woman, and I’ve never personally known another woman who has violent freak-outs like I do when angry. I’ve known plenty of guys who Hulk out and smash shit up when they’re pissed off but not women, so in addition to scaring myself I feel weird and isolated.

    I know therapy is the obvious solution, but I live on a VERY fixed income and other than a couple of emergency crisis centers there are no relevant mental health resources for low-income people available in my area. So I turn to you, Awkward Army. Surely there’s another Lady Hulk among you who has learned to tame the she-beast inside. Any advice?

    1. I don’t know how much help I can offer, but I used to go into Berserker Rages. My vision would flash blue or white and the world would slow down so I could move very fast, and I got strong enough to take down guys 3 times my size. And I’m a 5’3″ cis gender female. Getting it under control wasn’t easy. For one thing, it felt kind of good. All ambiguity was gone and I had a clear goal. (Usually to tear some man limb from limb and crush his skull.) Not going into rage took so much energy and left me shaky and sick. It got a little easier with practice. I can still get triggered, but I haven’t tried to kill anyone in decades. One big factor for me was realizing that I have a failry sever reaction to MSG and any chemical like it. I get homicidal. So you might keep an eye out for dietary links to rages. Good luck.

    2. Hello from one Lady Hulk/she-beast to another!

      Without turning this into a totally unhelpful diagnosis thread, I’ll just tell you the things that worked for me: Talk therapy, 14 months of medication, quitting caffeine, sleeping 9 hours per night, meaningful work and volunteer opportunities, living alone and later living with a supportive awesome partner, and eating real food.

      Note – I am not the Mistress of Zen. I still get angry sometimes, but as other folks have said around here, I have (mostly) tamed my rageosaurus.

    3. erm, mindfulness? I found that when I’ve been that way, I’ve usually been trying to stifle anger for months. So I try to notice early when I’m getting angry and ask myself why, and whether I can talk it through with myself. Going for a walk helps to let the angry energy out. If I can catch it early I only have a small to medium sized amount of anger to work through, which is easier to manage. I used to feel like the oomph of getting really angry every once in a while was my reward for being a good person the rest of the time. But I wasn’t being a good person, I was just trying to appear that way to others.

      Also, getting a decent vibrator can be useful.

    4. 1. Just in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the awesome Rageasaurus post and discussion thread:

      2. Can you train yourself to go away from people when you feel yourself getting angry? It isn’t a solution exactly, but much better to rage at a tree or an empty room than at people. You would then feel less guilt afterwards as well, and of course it’s better for them.

      This is probably the single most necessary interim step.

      3. I also have found it helpful to attack big soft objects which can’t hurt me (i.e. sofa, mattress) – you can punch one of these pretty hard without hurting either it or you, so you can use up your frustration without damaging anything.

      4. Another option is martial arts training. Groups vary widely even within styles (and some have icky attitudes to women) so you pretty much have to try some and see what you think, but if you find one that works for you it can be great.

      I know this sounds counterintuitive, but it actually works great to have an outlet where agression is channelled and used for something, rather than being seen as always negative.

      [Some styles are expensive/pyramid scheme crap, some are very cheap – try student or YMCA etc. Price has no relation to quality.]

      Plus for me at least exercise helps mood.

      If you don’t like the idea of MA, or it’s too expensive or whatever, some other exercise where you can push yourself hard may help. Run sprints up the nearest hill or multistorey building (walk down and repeat until shaking too much to do again), or whatever works for you.

      5. Why are you angry?

      What sort of thing are you angry about?

      Are you typically blowing your top at the person/situation who triggers you, or are you actually angry or tired or frustrated at one thing, and taking it out on another?

      Is the anger warranted but expressed badly, or is it disproportionate?

      This may help you work out the patterns, so that you can either address the underlying cause, or recognise and remove yourself from situations in advance, whichever is appropriate.

      6. Because your parents did this, part of you has learned that it’s the right way to respond to certain situations. Think about what those situations are, and what other responses might work.

      7. As Sarah says above, sort out your self-care as much as you can, in the way of sleep, food, time off to muck around, etc.

    5. Hello Mnemosyne,

      My experience with anger is that once it’s already rage, it’s very difficult to change. I can think logically that it is not called for, but that doesn’t change it. The best I can do is leave the situation/room/argument.

      I’ve also heard anger described as a secondary emotion – the anger is what you see/experience, but the cause is often a different feeling – fear, sadness, desire.

      What has worked for me is being attentive, to notice what gets me there, what triggers the anger, and deal with it before it reaches the boiling point. Sometimes anger is very useful; it helps point out that we are not OK with certain behaviours and situations, it gets us out of the inertia in a harmful status quo. But the rage itself is hard to direct and use, it is too powerful. Also, by knowing what is the underlying need, I can work directly on having that met.

      You say you’ve got a long fuse. In that case, I would suggest, once you notice the fuse is lit, deal with the situation in a constructive way, change it if you can, leave it if you can’t. If that approach doesn’t work immediately, spend some time taking note of your anger – what causes it, when does it happen? Then either avoid those situations or change them while you’re still cool-headed enough. If you can’t do that – at least the rage will not surprise you in the same way, just knowing about it, when it’s likely to flare up gives you a head start

    6. John Lee’s books about anger and regression are aimed at men, but I found them and his workshop very helpful back when I was female-identified. Maybe you can find cheap used copies.

      Anger is messy, hard stuff. Best of luck with it.

    7. I’m way late to the party, but hi from another rage-y woman. You are definitely not the only one. Admitting you want to change the way you deal with anger is so important, so, go you.

      It’s hard for me to do, but I agree with other commenters that if you can notice you’re getting angry early or when the anger is smaller, it’s easier to work with at that stage.

      For me, once I’ve gotten to actual rage, logic and guilt and trying to apply my willpower do nothing to stop the anger. I don’t know if this will resonate for you, but my therapist told me, “The way to tame a wild horse is to give it more pasture.” This is the way I remind myself that I can’t just grab my angry self by the lapels and shake it and say, “stop freaking out!” and expect it to listen. That’s not how horses work, and that’s not how anger works either.

      Breathing deeply and/or going for a walk seem to help. I also find it helpful to tell myself that it’s ok to feel angry and I can’t control my feelings. I sort of try to face how I’m really feeling and just observe it, even for a moment. As I understand it, this is basically a mindfulness technique.

      I almost always have freakouts when I’m hungry and/or tired, so eating and sleeping enough helps too.

  21. Many many mazal tovs to the Logics! I am glad to hear that everyone is in good health and sleeping.

  22. Hello! I actually had a question posted some time back about lacking a Team You and feeling burned out about being a caregiver to my elderly mother. I got some great support and advice, and would have liked to continue replying. Unfortunately my computer suffered a massive hard drive failure and had to be sent off for repairs, so I missed a window of opportunity.

    First I wanted to thank this site ever so much for replying to my question. I didn’t expect to see it posted and it meant a great deal to me. Just knowing I wasn’t alone and having that encouragement to make changes was meaningful beyond expression.

    Since this is an open thread, I wondered if anyone had advice specific to one aspect of my situation that is frustrating me above all others. Basically, how does one ‘argue’ with a person who is not rational? My mother has many health conditions, but can’t always remember what doctors she has seen, what tests have been done, and the duration of her symptoms. We tend to get caught in looping conversations like this:

    Mom: My back is killing me. I have a raging kidney infection.
    Me: You were tested just two days ago, it isn’t a kidney infection. Anyway, your kidneys aren’t located where you have pain, and you’ve had that pain since January.
    Mom: So where’s the pain coming from?
    Me: We don’t know yet. The doctors have done a lot of tests and ruled a lot of things out, but they haven’t found the cause.
    Mom: So you’re saying it’s all in my head??!!
    Me: No. I’m saying they’ve ruled out some things, and one of the things they ruled out was a kidney infection.
    Mom: So where’s the pain coming from?

    This can go for an hour, just endlessly looping back to “where’s the pain coming from?” I don’t know how to stop this cycle (and it occurs in other conversations, not just the specific kidney infection example.) Logic doesn’t work at all. By the forth or fifth go round, I can feel my blood pressure climbing and hear a nasty edge creeping into my voice.

    If this isn’t appropriate for an open thread, please feel absolutely free to delete. I’m just rather frustrated. I’m a very logic minded person, so it’s difficult when that tool is removed from my toolbox, so to speak.

    1. As you’ve noticed, it’s totally impossible and frustrating to attempt to argue with someone who isn’t rational.

      Since your mother is forgetful, I wonder if you could sort of redirect her until she forgets again, sort of like you might do with a toddler. My grandmother had Alzheimers for close to 10 years before she died, and we used to do this when she got on a stubborn kick about something.

      So, for example, your mother says “My back is killing me. I have a raging kidney infection.” You say something much vaguer but still supportive like “I’m sorry to hear that. You have an appointment with Dr. Acula on Tuesday so we can mention it then” and you hand her an ibuprofen* and change the subject.

      *Assuming, of course, that her docs have okayed taking OTC painkillers

    2. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to say something like, “Mom, I understand this is [upsetting/frustrating/whatever] for you, but we have already had this conversation and I don’t want to have it again right now.”
      I’ve gotten about a zillion times better at recognizing my limits and setting boundaries since being a part-time caregiver to my partner, who has a chronic illness; I’m fortunate in that zie supports me setting boundaries and checks in with me frequently about whether I’m feeling burned-out, so I can only imagine what it must be like to be a caregiver to someone who acts entitled to your support, but it seems like that would just make it that much more important to be able to say no to them when you need to.

    3. Hey! Good to hear from you.

      It’s late where I am, so I’ll be brief, but I have 2 suggestions. For the health stuff, keep a log/journal and write her symptoms, questions, and concerns in there, so you remember to raise everything at her next doctor’s visit. Then, at (or after) the doctor, record the answers to each. (Maybe questions/concerns/symptoms on left pages, answers on the right?) stuff like “could it be kidneys?” Then “Dr. X says no, because 1) they’ve tested kidney function, 2) pain is not where it would be for kidneys.”

      Between visits, refer her to the log for answers, but don’t argue about questions that have been asked and answered. Just agree that if she’s still concerned about whatever-it-is, it should go in the book for your next visit. No matter how many times she raises an issue, you can just say “that’s a good question! I’ve got it in the book! Feel free to check if you like.” (One reason she may keep asking is because she’s afraid she’ll forget by the time you get to the doc if she doesn’t). And remember, it is OK if she asks the doctor the same thing every visit; the doc should understand that forgetting and needing reassurances are part of her medical condition.

      You don’t always have to answer the question, either. Sometimes it may be better to respond to what she’s not saying: “it stinks not knowing, doesn’t it? You’d think with all the tests they’ve run, they could tell us what’s wrong with you. Sometimes it feels like ANY diagnosis would be better than the uncertainty. But then sometimes I get scared, and I feel like if it’s something horrible I’d rather not know. How are you doing with that?”

      My mom’s mom had a slightly different issue in her dementia: she kept thinking that she had just spoken with her brother, though he’d been dead twenty years. At first my mom would correct her, gently reminding her her brother was dead. But then she realized that the effect was to make my grandmother suffer that loss all over again, and that accuracy was not as important as kindness. So she just said how lovely it must have been to see him. The way that translates for me is, don’t feel like it is your responsibility to keep your mom firmly grounded in the facts all the time. Make sure she understands critical things at critical times, to the extent she is capable of that, so she can be a participant in decision-making to the extent appropriate. But otherwise, let her be a little fuzzy about things.

      1. Kind of responding to everyone here, forgive me…

        In answer to some suggestions, I do keep track of what I call ‘the timeline’ where I note when her symptoms appeared, what tests have been done, unanswered questions, etc. This helps to some extent, but the problem is when she gets ‘focused’ on a concern, it doesn’t matter if the timeline disapproves it. This can create real problems with her medical care.

        For example, she started experiencing back pain as far back as Jan 17th. A lot of tests were done, all were negative for any findings. Mid-February, she was diagnosed with a UTI. This was an incidental finding unrelated to her back pain, and a previous culture in Jan. was negative. She was prescribed antibiotics for the UTI. She took two doses, then started complaining the antibiotics themselves were giving her back pain and refusing to take them. No referencing the timeline and showing her that the pain predated the antibiotics would convince her. So the timeline is more for my benefit. When she starts asking me these looping questions, having her look at the timeline or assuring her the information is in the timeline doesn’t work because she quite frankly doesn’t care.

        The other thing I have to be careful with when she gets into this pattern is giving too much sympathy. That sounds cold, but she’ll escalate and convince herself she’s dying. Today she had a headache, and the looping question of the day was if the headache could be called by her brain aneurysm. If I didn’t refute this concern in someway, she’ll end up wanting to go to the hospital (and we’ve been there already twice this month and the doctors couldn’t find anything.)

        To be clear though, I’m not saying she isn’t having real pain, be it headaches or back pain. She has a number of auto-immune conditions and any one of them could cause that kind of pain. But when she gets ‘focused’, there is only ONE possible cause for a headache or chest pain, and it’s whatever she can think of that is most lethal.

        I kind of combined everyone’s suggestions (and I’ve had plenty of chances to practice this new script these past few days.) This seems to be somewhat working in that it stops the cycle earlier on and also helps me stay calmer.

        Mom: I had a terrible headache. I think it’s my aneurysm.
        Me (deep breath, sympathetic tone): I’m sorry you’re in pain. You’ve had this headache for four days, and the doctors at the hospital strongly felt it wasn’t related to the aneurysm. Greg (my brother, who she tends to trust more than me) also agrees with this.
        Mom: Then what’s causing the pain?
        Me: I don’t know, and I know that’s frustrating that we haven’t gotten an answer yet. We’ll discuss it with Dr. X at your next appointment.
        Mom: Could it be my aneurysm?
        Me: That’s very unlikely. We’ll discuss possible causes with Dr. X at your next appointment. Hey, did you hear Midwives’ new season starts soon/?

        We’ll do the whole thing over again a few hours later, but at least it isn’t just an hour straight of the same discussion.

        Thank you so much to everyone for your suggestions and support! I’ve been kind of locked in a rather angry place that I didn’t like these past few weeks and could feel myself losing sympathy. I knew that wasn’t a good mental place to be, but now I feel more able to show some empathy.

        1. God, that sounds exhausting. I hope you cut yourself all kinds of slack for being in an angry, heading-toward-unsympathetic place. I really wish I could do something more substantial for you. Like get some regular respite care for your mom, or haul in one of your siblings to take a long weekend so you can go away with a friend, or just take care of yourself.

          You don’t say anything about prospects for changing things — either siblings stepping up to relieve part of the day-to-day load in the here and now, or prospects for you getting a job somewhere else that would require them to step in your place altogether. I know on the one hand that looking for your way out may feel like One Thing Too Many when you’re barely keeping your head out of the water. But the thought of this of this continuing indefinitely makes me want to cry, and I’m not even the one going through it.

          1. Part of my fear with this angry, unemphatic head space is that one of these days, it WILL be the aneurysm or her heart. I’m at that point where I’m discouraging her from going to the hospital if her symptoms don’t seem to have changed because we simply can’t afford it. The insurance company just sent a notice for this past notice saying they did not feel it was medically necessarily, and I have no idea if that means the hospital will come after us directly for all of the money (I just got the notice today, so I haven’t been able to call the insurance company to find out yet.)

            But then I get caught in my own loop because what if this headache really is different from the last one? Scary! So I don’t want to be too cold and ignore her, but I also simply can’t take every time she says “this is the worst headache I’ve ever had” at face value.

            In more direct answer to your question, I DO have plans to attend PAX East in Boston (it’s a huge video game con) this coming week. I’ve gone the past three years and it’s the best three days of the year for me. Really, it’s kind of the only big thing I do each year for me (to the point I get really twitchy when any family members show interest in it because it’s MINE, damn it!) I’ve made arrangements for someone to stay with mom. The way this week has been going, though, I would not be at ALL surprised if mom ends up in the hospital the night before the trip.

            Next month she is supposed to fly out for a week to stay with my sister, but I will be positively shocked if that actually happens (even though the ticket has already been purchased.) She’s terrified of the trip, and I think my sister is terrified too. Both of them started making noises about her not going about an hour after the plans were finalized.

            To give you a bit more information than you asked for…when I was around 13, mom was struck on the head and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Though she did recover, it took years and her symptoms were severe (short term memory loss, severe emotional outbursts.) I remember very vividly making the conscious decision that I was going to put my wants second to her needs. The concept of responsibility is very important to me in that it’s basically my entire moral philosophy, and has been from a very young age. And one of the things I believe about responsibility is that you can’t do it halfway. You either are responsible or you’re not. I also believe that responsible has to be chosen and entered into freely.

            I’m saying all of this because I’m trying to explain a rather poisonous mindset that I put on myself very young. It’s very hard for me to step back and give any responsibility because it’s not just failing at being responsible, it’s failing at being ME. Because who I am is a responsible person, if that makes sense. And because I made the conscious decision to choose this particular responsibility, it’s even more of a failing.

            The real problem with this mindset is that I didn’t include any responsibility toward myself. It’s only now that I’m older than I realize this is, you know, kind of a real issue. Still, it’s really hard to stop thinking this way…I’ve been contemplating moving out for years now. But especially now she seems to be deteriorating, even in the time since I sent my original letter. What if she has less time than I thought before? Shouldn’t I be here for it? Would she forgive me if I did move? She mentioned the other day that she doesn’t understand how our grandmother’s daughter moved out of state when she knows her mom is elderly and has health problems. Mom denies vehemently she she’s my responsibility and hates hearing anything that implies it, but to me that statement indicates she does think children have the obligation to stay close to their aging parents.

            Okay, I’ll stop now before I eat the board. Please don’t feel obligated to respond, I’m kind of just musing. Although it has taken years, I feel I’m getting closer and closer to the breaking point where I just sneak off into the night.

    4. Oh man, I’ve been a caregiver and feel how tiring and frustrating it can be. Would keeping a notebook with lists of symptoms, tests done, diagnoses ruled out/made, results of doctor’s visits that you could show your mom help? It could take it out of the realm of being an argument between what you think and what she thinks and just a matter of checking what the notebook says. Good luck!

    5. I’ve got no advice, just sympathy. I hope you keep checking back to let us know how you’re doing. Your letter is one of the ones that’s really stuck with me. I hope you’re getting the support you need, and that the day is coming when you’re no longer the SOLO caregiver.

    6. I second much of the advice here, especially the bit where Sunflower suggested reaffirming her feelings. You won’t be able to argue sense into a loved one who either can’t remember the previous conversation/visits, or who wants a reason for why they are hurting right now (or for it to stop). You can keep a log of what has been done and what hasn’t, as well as how often symptoms occur and how severe they are (as another commenter suggested), which would help keep you both up to date about what has been done and what needs to be addressed. I’m guessing that an affirmation that you understand that she’s hurting, such as “I’m sorry you’re hurting; I’m going to make a note so that we can make sure we talk about it at our next doctor’s visit. Is there anything you’d like to add? It’s frustrating waiting to know what’s wrong, but in the meantime, is there something I can do to help you feel better/distract you until things get a little better” might go further than a looping conversation that sounds like it’s wearing and frustrating for you both.

      I know that memory/aging issues are not the same as being out of touch with reality (as in psychosis), but whenever we had callers experiencing psychosis, we were instructed to avoid reality checks, and concentrate on validating their feelings. Think how frightening or scary it must be to not remember what is going on or know what reality is, but to be in pain or convinced that something very bad is happening. That’s what is real to that person at that moment. You can’t force someone to see your reality, but you can listen to them and validate that you are hearing what is bothering them, and that you’d like to help the best you can. In my small and limited experience, the tactic was very effective, and eventually they (lovely people, by the way) were either soothed or snapped back to reality of their own accord.

      Also, do your best to find an hour or two, at least, to take care of you! Being a caregiver is an important role, but it can also take it’s toll, and you deserve the occasional time out.

  23. Since this has turned into an introduction thread, hi, Awkward Army! I’ve been reading for about a year now, I think (I too came here from the Pervocracy). This blog has been incredibly helpful to me in dealing with the FEELINGS in my life. I wish I could get everyone I know to read your advice.

  24. I don’t know how many sports fans there are amongst my fellow Awkwardeers, but I did want to give a quick self-promotiony shout out to the fantastic sports blog network that I wrote for called Aerys Sports — The site was founded by and for women, all the editors and lead reporters are women, and I think we do some really excellent work. We cover baseball, football, hockey, basketball, soccer, racing, NCAA, really just about everything that’s remotely a mainstream American sport. For all that sports can be a male chauvinist testosterone fest, I’ve had such a great time writing for the site both for professional and personal reasons. Hope some of you enjoy it!

    1. WHOA! You’re awesome! I’m heading straight there. Thanks for letting me know you exist.

    2. This is amazing! Thank you for the link 🙂 Sneaky question – do you think you might cover MMA at any point?

  25. Hi! I’ve been reading and lurking for a long time and I’m only finally … erm, decloaking, I guess.

    I’ve learned so many things here about how to deal with situations and FEELINGS and all sorts of other stuff. I’m just so grateful for all of the Awkward Army and the helpful people here.

  26. Bit of a lurker here, myself! I just got a WordPress, since I’m writing stories to submit for publication.

    Currently I’m working on a Tam Lin retelling, but there’s a larger project up ahead for me that involves a WoC heroine and equippable allies. There’s PoC and LGBT themes, and since I’m a straight WoC, I’m trying to be respectful when depicting these issues. (Do any of you have recs for works by LGBT authors? I’m all ears.)

    Also, thank you, Captain Awkward, and the Awkward Army, for this place! I get super helpful advice without any of the judging or condescension, so it’s like a lifeline for me.

    1. Ash by Malinda Lo is the best LGBT YA fantasy book I’ve come across in a while, and I think Lo herself may be as well. It’s got a really nice light touch, making the protagonist’s choice between loving a man and loving a woman about her comfort levels and the power dynamics involved, with gender as….really a side side issue to her emotions for them both.

      The adult SFF stuff I’ve read lately with that element has been not so good, with the exception of Santa Olivia (very X-Men postapocalyptic with werewolf influences?) I reviewed it last year ( ) and thought it did a really good job of conveying the characters’ attraction v. necessary relationship choices even when the main character is bad with articulating how she ticks to others. Jacqueline Carey is LGBT and tends to make all of her protagonists attraction-fluid, with “straight most of the time” being about as rigid as it gets.

      …And wow, it is five in the morning, I should go to bed. Hope you enjoy one of the books!

      1. Oooh, I’ve read Lo’s Huntress (I think she said she was LGBT too). I was struck by the main relationship and how it was depicted, even if the storytelling was a bit slow for my taste. I’ll have to check out Ash at the local library, though.

        And thanks for mentioning Carey; I’ll have to check her out too!

        1. I keep meaning to get around to Huntress; Ash was pretty slow, I admit, but it managed to hit that “dreamlike” sweet spot for me.

          Fair warning that all of Carey’s Kushiel stuff is pretty slow as well, running around like…700 pages a pop on a short day . Most it works, but I’ve had friends swear it off for taking too long to get to the action, so YMMV.

          1. Huntress…well, I could see what she was doing with the culture. I’m not sure if it worked for me, necessarily, what with some of the ways she decided to have the names pronounced, but it involved some imagination and research, so I didn’t think too much of it (unlike another Cinderella retelling with an Asian setting, which makes me rage.)

            Hmm. Dunno if you read George R.R. Martin’s stuff, but he’s known for substantial books. Is Carey’s pacing similar to that? If so, I might be OK.

    2. Check out the Outer Alliance; it’s a group of QUILTBAG SF/F authors and fans. The website is broken at the moment but our old blog still has a list of members that will get you started:

      For great writing about queer POC, check out Nalo Hopkinson’s YA novel The Chaos.

    3. RedPenReviews beat me to Ash. I’m not LGBT, and even if I was, I couldn’t speak for every single one of them by a long shot, but my advice would be that, when in doubt, avoid stereotypes, and just concentrate on writing relationships between people. Kudos to you for boning up on your knowledge base, though!

      I like to watch LGBT videos on Youtube. I find the differences in appearance, perspectives, attitudes, and interests vary a lot. As far as I can tell from reading/friends/videos etc. a person who is LGBT is different in a very small way, and that small way has little if any bearing on the rest of who they happen to be (except when culture is handing out judgement, and it’s extra evil twin harassment). Whether the culture in your novel is one that magnifies that small difference in a way to create conflict, or a culture that sees LGBT as a normal part of life, or a culture that celebrates, is entirely up to you and the rest of your novel. You might not discover what, if anything you want to say about it, besides simply that there are these people in a relationship, until after you’ve written the first draft or two.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is what you already know, or you wouldn’t have asked this question. LGBT people are people, pure and simple, and they can like or dislike something or react one way or another just as easily as anyone else. If there’s any common thread I can see, it’s that some of them might come to a realization about how screwy our culture is about gender a little sooner than others.

      You might also consider finding an online community and asking for beta readers to critique that particular part of your work after you’ve written a couple of drafts. I’m sure you’ll find some lovely, helpful people to offer some valuable feedback, and if they understand that your prime motive is to make sure that you’re not crossing some big red (invisible to you) line, and you ask nicely, I’m sure many will be glad that you asked before you tried to publish it in a world some will see as representative of them.

      Reinforcing, again: you can’t represent all of them anyway, no matter how hard you try, just as I can’t represent every woman and your minority friend is not the representative of all people of that minority group. So, keep trying, listen well, be observant, try not to crutch on stereotypes without excellent reason, and remember that you can’t please everyone all the time.

      1. Thanks for the input! I am aiming to write the LGBT characters as people and avoid stereotypes–the problem I’m most worried about is, by writing them as “regular folks,” that my lack of perspective might erase or gloss over issues that they face every day. I’m on a writing community online and found this out the hard way when one member wrote a Chinese-American family minus any cultural background, and got a heapful of non-Asian-splaining for pointing it out, so I’m trying not to do the same here.

        The story takes place in our society, present-day–and based on what I’ve seen with my LGBT friends, yes, the difference seems small, but it’s not an assumption I necessarily want to make. I have some who are willing to beta, which helps, and in return I’m their POC consultant (as best as I can be, anyway.)

        Basically, I just don’t want to fuck it up, if that makes any sense.

        1. Exactly. I figured you knew all of that, and you seem like you have the best reasons at heart. What I meant by “small difference” was as in actuality, it’s only one part of who they are, not that society’s reaction, and the dominos falling in succession, didn’t determine what they might cope with everyday, or change them in some ways. That’s why I brought up culture. I’m not sure if your book is meant to be more on the realistic or fantasy side, or based in a certain time or place, and that can make all the difference in how the issue is approached. You seem like you’ve thought all of that through, though.

          Thank you for your reply. Right after I posted this I got terrified that my effort at help sounded condescending, when I’m sure you’ve thought of a lot of this stuff through at depth, or you wouldn’t have even asked the question in the first place. I didn’t mean it that way at all! I know the awkward army knows these basic things.

          Best of luck on your novel. I’m sure that all of your hard work will earn you dedicated readers.

          1. Well, yes. That was what I was stating in my response–that it is one facet of who they are, but as I’m straight, I’m not sure exactly HOW it works, and messing it up might lead to offending others. That’s the last thing I want to happen.

            I mean, to apply it to my situation as a WOC: my Chinese heritage is only one part of who I am, but it does inform me in ways that are markedly different from my non-Chinese peers, and some of those ways aren’t easy to catch or understand. And while that writer in that online community was trying to write that Chinese-American character as a regular person, none of those nuances were there at all, which irritated, and dare I say, offended me quite a bit. I’d rather not do the same to my LGBT readers, especially those who are my friends.

            I definitely don’t want to lean on stereotypes. Doing so is lazy, and perpetuates the issues I’m trying to combat. Having said that, the culture in the novel is going to be mainly modern-day society, as I stated earlier: it comes into play because one character is trying to be the perfect Asian son while hiding in the closet, because he fears ostracism from the community. (I can’t speak for other Asian communities, but the one I’ve grown up in still is conservative when it comes to homosexuality.)

            Thank you for the well-wishes. I’ll try my best.

    4. Sara Ryan has a couple of good YA books with queer female protagonists; Laurie J. Marks has the Elemental Logic series/sequence, which have lots of queer characters and neat family/relationship dynamics–the first one is called Fire Logic; Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente also has a bunch of queer characters; Elizabeth Bear’s book Dust has a range of characters with various gender and sexual identities; and anything by Ellen Kushner. (I don’t think any of these are PoC authors, and none of the books are great at having PoC characters, sorry.)

      1. Yeah, Malinda Lo aside, I’m not aware of any POC/LGBT authors right now. Asian POC authors seem few and far between, although my favorites so far are Ruth Ozeki, Ken Liu and Aliette de Bodard. (Ozeki’s not SFF, but her latest novel has those elements.)

        Thank you so much for the recs! I will have to check some of them out.

        1. Samuel Delany is both, but hasn’t written much speculative fiction lately–Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is from a few decades back, but I loved it.

          You’re entirely welcome! I hope that they are useful to you. (I will have to look up Ruth Ozeki, I haven’t run across her work before.)

          1. Oooh, I’ll have to look him up. I’ve been finding that books written from a while back do tend to be better, sometimes (as I found when comparing The Perilous Gard with other YA books–the former’s for elementary school kids and was way more substantive.)

            Ozeki’s latest is called A Tale for the Time Being; I highly recommend it, although there’s bullying, sexual assault, underage sex and suicide attempts/ideations in the book.

        2. I’ve read and enjoyed two books from Linda Nagata, with a Pacific emphasis (vs what I think of as an Atlantic feel) and (me from Massachusetts) they felt very different.

          1. Huh. That’s interesting–do you mind telling me what the difference was between Atlantic and Pacific? I’m from the Midwest, and only have some California experience, so I’m curious.

        3. I have another Asian POC author for you! Nina Revoyr’s first book, The Necessary Hunger, is about two female high school basektball players as their lives get socially entangled by their parents (the father of one marries the mother of the other) and romantically entangled by their growing up and trying to figure out sexual orientation and falling for your #1 rival (and, you know, now they’re stepsisters). It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember liking it.

          I have only just started Southland, another of her books, but it seems that she is not afraid to tackle complicated and nuanced issues, particularly relating to race. I don’t know if any of her other work includes LGBT characters.

  27. Captain Awkward, your advice is helping us navigate our lives, now that we’ve up-rooted them to travel across the country. If I hadn’t discovered your blog last summer, I would not be this good at using my words, and using my words allowed me to tell Boyfriend that I want to travel the country and do good deeds, and happily, he’s on board with me!

    So that’s my self-promotion. We are Weirdo-Do-Gooders, traveling the country in a custom camper, giving away free pie starting in San Francisco on March 20. We’ll be going to apx 20 cities around the country in the next 6 months. We blog! We facebook! We tweet! But most importantly, we make pie.

    1. Free pie?!?!?! Good deeds?!?!?! This is SO COOL. And when you’re in Philly, let an Awkwardeer know. I’ll bring you my recipe for boozy key lime pie.

      1. That would be awesome. Philly will be after DC, near the end of our tour. See you there!

      1. See you there! Probably late May-ish. I loved Minneapolis last time I was there.

      1. Chicago is totally on the list. Can’t wait to meet my favorite advice giver in person!

    2. Oooooooh, love this idea!

      When you come to Chicago, I’m going to try to bring my sister and maybe my aunt/her daughter along. They all love baking and my cousin plans on going to culinary school**, so I imagine you might have some interesting conversations, or some “Follow Your Dreams” advice to give them.

      (**And frankly, my sister should as well, but after our parents willingly paid all of expenses so she could attend Most Prestigious University In The World, I don’t think they’d be too supportive since they definitely view this education of hers as an investment)

    3. Pie! I like pie! This is really cool! I live in Ithaca, NY, which is an excellent place for finding fringe weirdos. I don’t have any space to park a truck myself, but if you would like to visit Ithaca I’ll see what I can do!

      1. Thanks, we’ll be working our way back to Michigan through New York at the end of August. Any stops along the way will be gratefully accepted!

  28. Best thread ever! Thanks, Captain. Here’s my shameless self-promotion, especially for music lovers and invisible illness advocates.

    I wrote a song, “Everybody Knows About Me,” to help raise awareness for myalgic encephalomyelitis. ME causes chronic pain, crushing exhaustion, a host of other incredibly nasty symptoms, and sometimes early death. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of ME, that’s probably because it commonly goes by the name “chronic fatigue syndrome,” which is a stupid name for a disease that can fucking kill you.

    An ME sufferer and her husband used our song for a video they made about ME. We’ve gotten a lot of positive responses, particularly from people with invisible illnesses/denigrated diseases.

    “Everybody Knows About Me” (minus the video) is available for free download at our band blog, see the last song in the player widget on the right sidebar. Feel free to forward to as many people as you want. Particularly people who like to say, “So what, I get tired too.”

    If you’d really really like to pay for “Everybody Knows About Me” … um … you can’t do that. It’s free or nothing. 🙂 But there are other Cinder Bridge songs to sample, and if you like those, there’s a “Buy Our Album” link under the player widget, which will take you to our CD Baby page.

    Thanks again, Captain. I’ve really enjoyed seeing what the Awkward Army gets up to when not commenting here, and I hope the links keep coming.

    1. That is such an awesome song! Nice work.

      I just wanted to let you know that the evidence on XMRV is starting to look pretty conclusive on there not being a link to ME. Carl Zimmer wrote a fairly good article about this, which has the links to the original research and other articles, which you might find interesting. (It’s here:

      I know this issue can get really contentious, and I don’t want to turn this into a debate over XMRV, but I thought maybe you’d appreciate the information. If I’m offending anyone, I apologise – I know ME research sucks and you guys get a horrifying amount of bullshit from a lot of people, I really don’t want to add to that. Equally, as a scientist I do want to make people aware of current research, and hopefully this means the scientific community can start looking in other places.

      1. Thank you!

        The video is old, made long before the final nail in the XMRV coffin. The sense I get is that some researchers still believe there’s something retrovirus-y going on, but it isn’t XMRV.

        I wrote another song after everything started falling down around the ME community. I was in a bad place, and this was an attempt to stay positive while not dismissing the bad stuff that happened. There’s no specific reference to specific happenings in the song … I can’t even imagine detailing this particular mess in a format that rhymes. 😛 Listeners can apply it to whatever setbacks or backlashes they’ve experienced in their own communities.

        (The accompanying blog post was written before the Lipkin study, so you can ignore most of it.)

  29. I have nothing to promote, but 2 things…

    1- go captain! Makes me wish I was in Chicago to check it out.

    2- congrats to commander logic! Once your baby has a bit of head control, if you bounce her on your knee facing you and supporting everything that needs it, you can make her do a jaunty sailor dance and it’s hilarious. Warning, do not attempt right after a feeding.

  30. Congratulations to Commander Logic and family! Best wishes for the new tiny human. 🙂

    As the Captain has kindly allowed us to do a bit of promotion, here’s a link to our (my partner and me) tiny, online science store: Quarky Science Our goal is to make science stuff more accessible to everyone and we go to local fairs and events and let kids (and adults) use microscopes and telescopes and stuff like that. It’s a labour of love for us, so even though it’s not crafting I hope it fits the personal bill.

  31. So, I’ve written a book. Fantasy, somewhere between Rowling and Tolkein. It’s in the revision stage, mostly because it is too damned long (“commercially viable” length for a first-time fantasy novel is apparently capped at 120k words; I’ve edited it down to about 188k (from an absurd 270k)(and am still editing). (I acknowledge some of that cutting down was surely a good thing, arbitrary word caps aside).

    If anyone was interested in reading it, I would send it to you a couple of chapters at a time; read some, and if you like it I’ll send more. The “price” in lieu of cash would be to say a couple of things you liked and a couple of things that you didn’t like or think need some work in the section. I’ve had readers, of course — you wouldn’t be my first guinea pig. But I actually need people willing to say “I think you could do without that stuff there,” not people who know me too well and are all “Noooo! Don’t change a thing!” when I KNOW there is still room for improvement.

    I’m also looking for a professional editor at some point soon, I think. NOT for grammar-level stuff, but for pacing and structural stuff and some polishing– to make sure it is really is as good as it can be before I send it out.

    If you have any interest in either of those things, respond to this post with either “critiquer” or “editor”; since I have admin privileges, I have access to the e-mail address associated with your wordpress account, and I’ll take your response as consent to contact you for that sole purpose.

    1. You probably don’t know me from Adam, but of all the awkwardeers here, yours are the posts that stand out as mature, articulate but also very compassionate. I am sure anything you write would have those same qualities and it would indeed be a privilege to get to read your book

      in other words: pick me, pick me!

    2. Congratulations on finishing your book! I second what atma said about loving your posts and comments and being really intrigued to see what sort of book you’ve written based on that.

      As it happens, I’m a professional editor who specializes in working with unpublished authors of SF and fantasy, and I would be delighted to chat with you about the services I offer. You can also hit up for my rates etc.

    3. That’s wonderful, alphakitty! Congrats on finishing your book!

      If you don’t have enough pre-readers yet, please sign me up. I’ve done editing in the past, although mostly of a technical nature, never for fiction. I love sci-fi and fantasy and could hopefully give you useful critique. My only caveat is that I couldn’t give you a properly thorough response until after having read the entire novel, since that’s the only way to check for potential plot holes, accidental inaccuracies, that sort of thing.

      And Rose Fox, if I ever get my novel finished, I’m going to look you up. 🙂

    4. Thank you all for your compliments, and for your exuberant willingness to pitch in! The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll wait a day or so and then complile an e-mail list to contact folks and find out what format(s) work best for people.

      When i send the book a little at a time, I’m looking for overall feedback: “huh?” moments (e.g., when you think maybe I’ve left out the backstory for something); awkward transitions, incongruities, anachronisms, or other things that pull you out of the story; sense that a paragraph drags/is superfluous; if a character’s behavior seems out of character without the change being justified by new circumstances; “I think this section needs reworking/tightening up”; or just scenes/characters that leave you feeling “meh” even if you can’t put your finger on why. That kind of stuff. If you think revising somethng will make for a better book, by all means say so — that’s the point. On the other hand, please try to use I statements like “I was a little confused in this section,” rather than “this section is confusing;” they are less likely to make me feel like “this sucks, it will never get published!” (Obviously, compliments are welcome, too, and do make critique go down easier… A Spoonful of Sugar and all that).

      When you have it all, that’s when I’ll go looking for more structural stuff…. and I’ll probably come up with a way for us to dialog about it. Anyone can bail out at any time, if it turns out the book just isn’t your thing (no book resonates with everyone, even if they enjoy a particular genre), or if they don’t have feedback to share at that level. I think that kind of thing is where professional editing is really valuable — and I will expect to pay someone like Rose Fox (quite possibly EXACTLY like Rose Fox) to do it. I just want to feel like I’ve really done my best when I start that stage.

      1. Sounds like you’ve got a great plan here! Just keep in mind that responding to structural feedback can often mean doing a lot of structural reworking, and after that you’ll need another round of editing/feedback to smooth everything out. Build the house, then paint the house, basically.

      2. Beta Reader volunteers — I’ve sent you all an e-mail, except Rose Fox (whom I am saving for later)! If you don’t get it, it means I’ve misread the email associated with your wordpress account, or it has gone to spam or something, so let me know.

      3. Thanks to all who have volunteered to be readers — I’m going to have to cut this off now, lest I wind up spending too much time servicing my lovely new critique group and not enough revising — and I can tell, given what the group consists of now, I’m going to get lots and lots of high quality input!

        Perhaps at some later stage I’ll ask again.

    5. Fourthed. I’m a professional editor, and while I don’t specialize in SF/F, I do like it.

      My last critiquing project was for the first few chapters of a science fiction novel. The client gave those chapters to several editors, including me, to get a feel for how we all work. It’s a neat idea. Different editors are going to focus on different things and may even contradict each other, but if all of them flag the same issue as problematic, you can be more confident that it really is problematic.

      You might consider a similar strategy — go with a science fiction/fantasy specialist like Rose Fox for the whole book, but hire a few editors to look over your first two or three chapters. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about my services and offer discounts to Awkward Army posters. 🙂

    6. I would love to be a critiquer (for free because this sounds delightful) and/or an editor for you; this sounds like exactly the sort of thing I’d enjoy.

      My rates and background are here, but I’m also open to barter if you have an in on graphic design (I’m hunting for a small business card logo and potentially a website banner).

  32. I touched on my project way, way back when I sent in my own letter (*waves* hi!) and while I’ve made little progress, I wanted to say that I am still married to my boat, and while we’re having some troubles with exclusivity (I maybe want to date my best friend, she’s been seeing a troubling number of squirrels), I don’t see the relationship ending any time soon. Hopefully, as the weather improves, the blog linked in my name will blossom with photos of new progress and I might even be able to get her off the trailer in my yard and into some water.

    1. (I maybe want to date my best friend, she’s been seeing a troubling number of squirrels)

      That is honestly the best sentence I’ve read all week.

  33. I have a blog, I have just started a new series about my experiences with various gynecological procedures and my reactions to them.

    Also coming soon: Weaving pictures!

    Originally I wanted to have an advice blog but just as I was trying to get that started, I found Captain Awkward… this blog is everything I wanted mine to be and more, so I just comment here instead.

    1. Hi! I love your comments here, and your blog is great too, and fyi I tried to leave a looonng comment on your blog, on the exercise story, because yay go you! but I forgot my password & timed out on the attempts and ARGH but the main point: hello & hi & you are nifty!

      1. Thank you so much! I will bask in the yay of the comment that might have been. I am still in the “no way, people actually read this?!?” stage of blogging!

  34. Awkward Army, I need some job-related advice.

    I work for a mortgage company…I won’t go into a rant about how I already feel kind of horrible for being in this industry, because I hate processing loans that I know we’re selling to horrible, exploitative banks.

    But we recently put out a new requirement for all files when we’re reviewing documents, and I think it’s terrible and transphobic and am not sure what to do. From now on for all files the “borrower’s name must match with their gender”.

    This is not something I’m going to check for, because honestly screw that. But what is going to happen to people who don’t fit the gender binary? Is this company going to deny their loan? On top of that it’s also just a stupidly impractical rule, because everyone is going to have a different idea of whether or not a name “matches” someone’s gender, and there are plenty of gender-neutral names out there.

    I’m wondering if there’s any way I could bring this up to upper management, and if so how I could phrase it.

    1. Whooof. That’s a tough one.

      I’d go with the super-practical approach. Ask how you should handle files where:

      * The person is transgender and has not obtained a legal name change. (Say this with the tone of “Because SURELY we would never deny someone a loan just because they’re trans”.)
      * The person is a boy named Sue, i.e. has a “mismatched” name from birth.
      * The person’s name is gender-neutral: Marion, Shawn, Malone, Lee, Chris, J.B., Moon Unit, etc.
      * The person’s name comes from a culture you’re not familiar with, so you’re not sure how to verify whether it’s a gendered name.

      The way I see it, there are two possibilities. One is that they’re trying to avoid being scammed by, say, a teenage boy getting a mortgage in his mother’s name. The other is that they are very purposefully creating rules to deny trans* people loans. In the first case, ask whether there are other ways of achieving the same ends. In the second case… well, if I were in your shoes I’d look for another job, because discrimination against trans* people may still be legal in a lot of places, but it’s also entirely reprehensible.

      1. Oh, forgot one (which is embarrassing since it’s the one most likely to apply to me!)–the person’s presentation is gender-ambiguous. Do you really want your loan officers to say “Excuse me, but are you a man or a woman?” before you approve or deny a loan?

      2. Also, name gendering CHANGES. Typically it’s when people start using a “boy” name for girls and gradually people stop using it for boys because ew girl cooties or something, but there are a ton of names like Lesley, Stacy (yes, Stacy was once a boy’s name), Ashley, Kelly, etc that people might now think are girl’s names but a man who’s old enough could still have.

    2. Good grief! As you say, how do they even plan to enforce that? Are they planning to deny loans to people whose names they in their infinite wisdom deem mis-aligned? Idiocy.

      If I were in charge, there’d be a rule that people can ask for information on gender, race, etc., only if there is a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason why that information is relevant to the function for which the form is being used, and even then to have an “other” option and better yet a “prefer not to respond” option. And “we need that info to facilitate erroneous snap judgments about people’s worth!” would not qualify.

      Unfortunately, I do not appear to be in charge. That being the case, perhaps you could call the provision to the attention of the legal department, “seeking clarification” and expressing concern that at the very least this provision seems to put employees at risk of causing offense as they blunder about making ill-informed, culturally biased assumptions about people’s gender and the gender a name supposedly implies, and that it could even expose them and the company to liability for discrimination on grounds of gender. Because, of course, if you are saying gender matters enough to your decision-making process that it is company policy to prioritize pinning that information down, you are suggesting the company would treat the person differently depending on what the answer is.

      1. Actually, wouldn’t it be great if there was an “it’s complicated” option? Not just for transgendered people, but for the increasing number of people whose race is not just either-or but some of that and some of that and some of that — and remind me, somebody, why you need to know this?

        1. There’s a lot to be said for “other” and a place to fill in the blank if you like.

          I think one of the deep assumptions in this culture is that race and gender are public information because you can tell just by looking. The notion of them as private–regardless of whether other people can in fact tell just by looking at you, or think they can–is really new.

    3. To add to what RoseFox said, you might point out to the legal department that this could get them in trouble with federal law for race discrimination: what happens when they deny a loan to Mr. Shevan $lastname from Sri Lanka because the loan officer thinks his parents were misspelling the traditional Irish woman’s name Siobhan? At that point they have basically denied a person of color a loan because he didn’t fit into their white-person-name box. If your employer is called out for that, the feds are going to look at patterns and statistics, not at their stated intent. (This specific example because, at the gym last night, my trainer called out “Hello, Shevan” to a man, and when I looked around and then commented that I’d only heard that as a woman’s name, she told me the guy, who was out of view by then, was from Sri Lanka. (I have no idea how he spells his name.))

    4. Thank you so much for your advice on this, everyone! I’m going to draft a letter to our legal/ethics department about this asking for more details. I’m not part of the group that would check this initially, but they’ve asked us to check it when we’re going over documents and I’ve told my team to just not bother. It’s not enforceable and we won’t get in trouble for that.

      But I’d like to know their reasons for this policy and why they think it’s useful or even workable in the long run. If it IS for some discriminatory reason it’s time for me to find new work.

  35. Hey Awkwardeers, I am in serious need of some advice. My sister is going through a rough patch, and while I love her dearly and would really would like to support her, I have been fucking up by genuinely forgetting to call her (grad school is eating my soul + she can often be difficult to deal with and we don’t have much in common= problems remembering to spend time with her). I am trying to negotiate a new way of handling the phone, because clearly our current system where I promise to call at “time” and then forget is lousy behavior, but she is really really hurt and keeps telling me to not be in touch at all. This also means that when I do call, the call is more about us arguing than about me helping to deal with her other problems. Do I take her at her word? Do I keep trying to figure out a new system?

    1. Yes, take her at her word; she may be setting boundaries out of hurt, but she still gets to set them for whatever her reasons are.

      I suggest following up with email:

      Hi Sis:

      Wow, I really fucked up by forgetting to call when I said I would. I love you very much and I’m so sorry I hurt you by making a promise I couldn’t keep. I hadn’t realized just how thoroughly grad school had eaten my brain, and now I know I’m not reliable in that particular way. Given that, are there other ways I could reach out to you that would help you feel the love and support I want to send your way? I may not be able to keep to a schedule right now, but I’m glad to do whatever I can to help you get through this rough patch. [Maybe fill in some ideas here but ONLY if you KNOW for SURE that you can do them. This is not a place to push yourself by making promises you hope to be able to live up to. Go for easy and reliable over grand gestures that are setting yourself up to fail.]

      I hope you’ll let me know if someday you’d be okay with taking calls from me again. In the meantime, I will respect your wishes and not call you. Please feel free to call me anytime you want to hear a friendly voice.

      Lots of love,
      M Dubz

      Some people care a lot about scheduling, but there’s also a lot to be said for spontaneity. If you can’t handle a schedule, try spontaneous gestures of affection. When you think of her, text or email. If you see something she’d like or that reminds you of her, take a photo and send it to her. IM her links to lolcats. Buy a bunch of pretty or funny postcards, stamp and address them in a batch, write jokes or draw pictures or just put “thinking of you” on them, and drop one in the mail every once in a while. It takes two seconds and helps her feel noticed and loved.

      I should take a lot of this advice myself; someone I really care about has similarly been going through a rough patch, and so have I, and we’ve both been trying to reach out to each other but it’s hard because, well, we’re going through rough patches. So thanks for the prompt to think of low-key easy non-scheduled ways of saying “Hey, I care about you, hang in there”.

    2. I think you can send an e-mail or a letter. There are some great suggestions upthread on supporting someone you’re not physically close to. But I wouldn’t call when she’s asked you repeatedly not to. That just seems like ignoring her wishes.

      I’m not asking this to be mean and I apologize if I come of as coldhearted, but are you a support for your sister now? It sounds like she’s upset by your actions. Although she loves you, maybe you’d just be adding more fuel to the flames by calling. Does she want you to get involved?

      In that case, send an e-mail apologizing for your actions, maybe do something nice for her (again, see upthread) and leave the ball in her corner. Good luck!

      1. @Kellis- Totally legitimate questions! It sort of goes in waves based on what I can handle. So, there was a period where I called every other day, and then there was a misunderstanding about going to visit her (she thought I was visiting, and I didn’t think she’d wanted me to come), and so she was mad and I backed off. And then later I took her out and we had a looooong conversation and I was on winter break so I called more often, and then school started up and I started forgetting to call again. And when I was more able to be a good support, I think she appreciated what I had to offer.

        I’m trying to make her sandwiches in other ways that she has asked me to (helping her research therapists, sharing information that she has asked me to send out, putting her in touch with people). And that I’m able to do. The problem is that the main way she wants me to be there for her is by calling, and I don’t have the mental energy to stick to any sort of schedule, so I’m definitely doing more harm than good.

        I think you’re both right, that I should back off at this point. I told her that I wanted to try a different way of being in touch with her that worked with my inability to remember to call, and she didn’t take kindly to that, so I think I’m just going to let her alone for a while.

        1. That sounds very reasonable. I’d just suggest dropping her a quick note to say “I’m backing way off because I think the things I’m saying are upsetting and hurting you, and I don’t want to upset or hurt you, but I’m still totally open to talking if you want to initiate contact, and if there’s anything else I can do to help you please let me know” so she knows you’re not giving her the silent treatment. It’s really easy to misinterpret silence sometimes, especially if things are already hard and one is prone to assuming the worst.

        2. It does sound like your sister wants you to do something for her that is difficult for you, as a way to show her that you care about her. Bound to lead to disappointment and her feeling even worse, but maybe you could think about other ways to communicate that she is valued by you.

  36. I’ve been cheekily copying bits of Captain Awkward posts to make the Flashcards of Awkward, for those who would like to practise their Awkward Skills through a silly flashcards game. I’d be happy to get feedback and/or new question-and-answer suggestions!

  37. Wow – AD gig! Good luck with the shoot, Captain 😀 And congratulations to Commander Logic!

    I’m an AD on low budget feature films, so I know your feels! In fact, I co-wrote and AD’d a horror-comedy that got released last year called Gangsters, Guns and Zombies. In the interests of self-promotion, we’re on Amazon and in Walmart etc! If you like zombies, comedy, a bit of romance and British accents, you’re in for a treat.

  38. Thank you EVERYONE for your kind thoughts. As I type this, it’s about 5:30AM, I just finished a feeding, changing, head-nuzzling session, and am currently pumping. WeeLogic is eating and pooping and sleeping like a champ, and as those are the main skill sets she needs to be working on right now, we’re doing great.

    For privacy reasons, I will not be posting pictures, but then again as a newborn, she kind of looks like Winston Churchill. They all kinda do. So imagine Winston with a smattering of ash blonde hair.

    Thanks again, Army! You’re all fabulous!

    1. Congratulations! Don’t you just love the feel of that soft little body melted bonelessly against you, fuzzy head brushing your chin?

  39. Hello Awkward Army! Firstly, many many congratulations to Commanger Logic 🙂 Secondly, I wonder if anyone could help me find out if there is a name for a certain type of relationship behaviour. I’m thinking of situations where someone leaves you hanging, never gives a straight answer about plans, then turns up unexpectedly whenever they feel like it. I am trying to google for advice but can’t come up with the right search terms!

      1. Oh, there are replies! I thought my comment hasn’t posted so I haven’t bothered checking back til now. I have thought about writing in about this particular situation, but I know the only sensible response would be ‘for god’s sake dump him now’. I’m just trying to find ways to cope until I feel able to do that. But thank you very much for replying!

  40. I’m just going to vent here for a bit. Hope that’s okay.

    I got the flu a few months ago. Maybe because of my lowered immune system, maybe because I was to active, I contracted a secondary disease. It’s a heart thing that makes you very tired and out of breath all. the. time. The first step after diagnos is bed rest, giving the heart a chance to heal. So I spent a few weeks in bed. But the symptoms are still there, I’m no better.

    I was just at the hospital this week and got monitored. They looked at my heart rate, oxygen and did a few tests to make sure I’m not in any risk of dying of this. But they’re not sure I got the right diagnosis at first, and they’re not sure of how to treat it now. I’m glad they’ve ruled out heart failure and I got a new medication to try for a week. If that doesn’t help, I’m due back at the hospital for further tests.

    It’s just… I’m so sick of bed rest! All my spoons are going to keeping my cool and having some sort of patience. I’ve done all the research possible, going so far as being more well-read than one of the cardiologists. I’m bored and I’m not sure that any of my symptoms are ever going away. The statistics say that around 85% of all patients heal with enough rest, but what if I’m not one of them?

    For now I’m taking my meds and reading All the books and watching All the documentaries. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far.

    1. I’m sorry to hear it; enforced stillness can be as rough as a long day of physical activity sometimes just because there’s energy that has nowhere to *go.* Here’s hoping that the new medication helps. :/

      If you are hardcore bored of books and documentaries and remotely into computer games, I recommend one of the really long turn-based strategy ones. They’re deeply heinous timesinks, but if that’s what you want, then stuff in the Heroes of Might and Magic/Civilization vein is very capable of eating six hours at a go.

    2. Can anyone physically come to you, or can you occasionally relax elsewhere?

      I’ve been having similar-ish issues lately and being able to relax/rest with a friend for an extended period of time away from the house has helped me a bit, at least temporarily. It’s helped me realize that regarding quite a few issues I’m currently dealing with, a big stressor is my current physical environment.

      While this definitely may not be a cure-all, it might make your current situation at least a little more bearable.

  41. Hi Awkward Army. Long time reader, first time commenter. I’ve been wanting to ask the Awkward Army if they have any resources specifically for chat-based/Skype-based/or other online therapy and/or counseling options. The thought of talking to someone in person or even over the phone makes me want to crawl into a cave and hide. But I do feel I’d benefit from talking to someone. Thanks for any suggestions you have, I appreciate any thoughts.

      1. Hi, and thank you. I did look at that post, and chat-based helplines are not quite what I’m looking for. I apologize for not being more clear. I’m really looking for more of a therapist who works with clients via chat/Skype/something similar. Thank you.

    1. Try Terry LaFrazia, . I emailed a bit with her when I was looking for therapists. She’s super super super nice and I would gladly have done Skype sessions with her if I hadn’t found a great local therapist.

    2. Some therapists are comfortable doing Skype, others aren’t. My guess, although I’ve never looked into it, is that they’d be less into chat, as they wouldn’t be able to see or hear you.

      I don’t know of an efficient way of weeding out the therapists who won’t Skype. You may have to call a few over the phone and ask them. The good news is that this can also be a way for you to interview prospective therapists. You’re asking a straightforward, yes-or-no question, which is easier than talking about what you’re coming to them for right away.

      The conversation can also give you a good sense of their personality, whether they’d be a good match or not. If they act annoyed that you have a special request instead of just saying they’re not set up for Skype, that’s a big ol’ red flag.

    3. Also, maybe get in contact with some physical rehab-facilites. They tend to offer therapy for people living there, but also they know good resources regarding therapists who don’t have to be in the same room with someone in order to be able to help. I’ve a friend who injured her spine and they helped her, even when she moved out of rehab.

    4. There are legal and confidentiality issues about providing therapy over the Internet. So it is a relatively rare service. I think there are several websites that lead you through a CBT kind of therapy, although I do not have any links on hand.

      You may succeed in finding a local therapist and asking them to communicate with you over email or chat? You can use Skype to make the initial call, too, for a surprisingly small annual fee.

      You could ask a local friend to help you set up something like this, either to call and screen therapists for you or go with you to an initial appointment.

  42. Oh I hope I didn’t catch this open thread before it calmed down. I need some advise! I don’t think it is quite worthy of a letter to Captain Awkward, but I could really use the collective knowledge of the Awkward Army.

    Boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together within the next few months, and while mostly all the organizing has been going pretty smoothly, we’re having problems with my cat. My cat, Oskar, doesn’t like Boyfriend. He doesn’t attack Boyfriend, but will hiss at him, and in general be on edge, whenever he is over. I’m really worried how our living situation will work out if Oskar continues to behave this way.

    The problem is most likely mine. I will admit Oskar wasn’t very socialized. As long as I’ve had him I would go to other people’s homes for social events and didn’t really have many people over. I’ve since been more of a host to close friends and Boyfriend, and Oskar is usually fine when friends are over, but not with Boyfriend.

    Does anyone have any tips that will help relax Oskar around Boyfriend before we move-in together? One thing we are trying is to have Boyfriend bring Oskar treats and give him one when he comes over, but it seems once Oskar gets his treat he goes right back into hating Boyfriend. 😦


    1. Congrats on the moving in together!

      Have your BF tried the following (play Poe!), more than once and without any demands on the cat?

      * dropping a favorite cat treat near the cat when he passes
      * letting the cat take every lead in physical contact
      * playing together with something Oskar really likes. It’s best if your BF starts to play by himself, and if Oskar jumps in, great! If not, that’s okay, he’ll get another chance. I’d recommend a toy that superfun and only comes out at BF-play time. Something that is long and doesn’t make Oskar being near your BF is probably best to start with.
      * having your BF serv food and fresh water
      * if Oskar’s been introduced to clicker training, then maybe let your BF try teaching Oskar something. It’s fun for both of them and there is no press on Oskar to do something he doesn’t want to.

      I’d say your BF should ignore the hisses. You know Oskar better and can read his body language and mood and you can step in or otherwise direct if necessary.

      There are some pheromone thingies on the market, like Feliway. Check your vet’s office or Google for more info. Good luck!

    2. My cat also hates my boyfriend, though there is some perestroika recently….He wasn’t here for a while and I think she maybe forgot him? Anyway, he lets her take the lead in any contact and basically ignores her. But as Kellis suggests, he sometimes plays with the wand toy or offers her the beloved comb and lets her mash her face against it. I’m also nervous about what happens when we’re all sharing space someday.

    3. Awesome! Thanks for the tips!

      I think the big problem is lack of consistency. We try to have BF feed Oskar whenever his visits coincide with “breakfast” (that’s what I call Oskar’s food time), give him treats whenever he comes over, and plays with Oskar’s lazer pointer – but BF just isn’t over at my place very much. We usually spend time at BF’s place so it is easily over a month between times BF is even over to interact with Oskar. (Oh how I wish we spent more time at my place – BF needs a serious crash course in Unfuck Your Habitat!)

      Also BF is convinced he is really really good with cats and knows better how to care for them. He’s had cats in the past and in general gets along with cats – Oskar is the first cat in his life he didn’t immediately get along with. I, on the other hand, have just been doing the best I can taking care of Oskar ever since he (kinda) landed in my lap as a kitten. I try to take BF’s advice since he obviously knows more, but it seems he is getting frusterated and is kind of trying to force affection from Oskar. He will try to “trick” Oskar into letting him pet him after feeding him or refuse to play with the lazer pointer because Oskar will just go right back into hating him. BF even called Oskar boarderline-ferral this last weekend.

      Wow, this got a bit ranty. Sorry about that.

      I think I’m going to have to work on enforceing boundaries and let BF know I will have to call the shots on how he should behave around Oskar. He knows more about cats, but I know more about Oskar.

      1. That last sentence sounds like the right way to approach things. Generalizations almost always need to give way to specific knowledge about a specific situation. Oskar gets along well with you and not with BF; therefore you demonstrably are more of an expert in getting along well with Oskar. If BF’s ego is bruised by this, or by a few hisses from an anxious cat, then that’s BF’s problem to deal with.

        I can tell you as the owner of a very skittish cat that tricking affection doesn’t work with cats any more than it does with people. You have to love them until they love you back, and that means giving them space and treating them kindly and respectfully.

        Unsolicited advice here, but it sounds like the two of you might also want to have a talk about expected levels of cleanliness/organization before you move in together.

        1. Oh, don’t worry about the cleaning issue. We’ve been having many discussions about it, and BF wholeheartedly agrees with me about his need to get better about cleaning. I’m just a tad frusterated it isn’t happening as fast as I would like.

          Besides that, YES to everything else said. Oskar is difinitely a character – there is a reason why I affectionatly call him an asshole, and really the best way to have him like you is to simply ignore him and let him call the shots. That’s a boundary I’ll have to work on with BF.

          1. Agreeing does not mean it happens. I speak as the messy one. Also I think your BF really really does need to learn to back way the heck off your cat, and let the cat come to him. He is pushing that cats clearly stated boundaries, all over the place, so no wonder the cat hates him!

      2. Yeah, boyfriend is kind of mansplaining the cat. And not really respecting its boundaries and preferences for, um, not him. You sure he hasn’t shown any signs of that kind of thing with you? I hate to say it, but maybe your cat is trying to tell you something. It’s a good test in a way.

  43. “’small for a human, large for a baby’ are what we have going on.”

    I love this comment, this perfectly describes my cousin’s baby. Wearing 1-yr clothing at 3 months old lol.

  44. I do have a question re: job searching/raising money.

    Long story short, I’m trying to move back to Spain for a few reasons, through the Auxiliar de Conversación (Language and Culture Assistant) program. I’ve been job searching for months, in addition to dealing with a ridiculous amount of drama, trauma, abuse, and catastrophe, which has affected my job searching in terms of time, energy, general health, susceptibility to illness, fatigue, etc.

    (A little more background: I currently live with my parents in the south suburbs of Chicago and have no reliable transportation/access to a car, which has also been a HUGE hindrance in my ability to find work. I can walk to a Metra station to go into the city, and sometimes I am able to get a ride to/from the Metra, but it’s 40ish minutes away so the weather needs to be semi-decent for me to be able to do this. Also, my life has had enough trauma, drama, etc, that I’m inspired to finally writing a series of memoirs, so let’s just that 28 years of dealing with hostility are taking its toll on me, both in somewhat positive and very negative ways)

    Anyway, since I’m hoping to be in Spain in mid-September, now my financial goal is to save up enough to head out there, a few thousand dollars. I’m looking into temp agencies and am trying to work on my health so I can manage working full-time, and plan to save aggressively once I find a job…but that being said, do you have any other job searching/raising money strategies or advice?

    What’s especially hard is since I currently don’t have an income, I can’t make any adjustments to it in order to save money. My parents are also struggling financially (and let’s just say my mother was abusive towards me BEFORE they were struggling with money, but that’s another story), and although I’m very well-liked and have accrued a “following” of sorts on FB and several people have urged me to start a blog, I honestly have few people that I would consider to be “friends,” so I don’t really have much of a support system.

    1. I would look at eLance (and can other Awkwardeers recommend other freelance writing sites), writing gigs on Craigslist, and other ways to churn out short written pieces for money. It’s not a lot of money per piece, and it doesn’t really pay for your time, but if you do it regularly it can add up.

    2. I’ve done a good bit of online freelance stuff… most of the sites that are easy to start out on don’t pay well at all (I’ve personally used eLance, textbroker and Amazon Mechanical Turk) but could be worth it compared to no income. I would second looking to craigslist for work, and do some googling re: making a living freelancing from craigslist. I began my decent-paying sideline (academic editing) by responding to a craigslist post.

  45. One more question, I’m asking for a friend who’s also a filmmaker here in Chicago:

    A very good friend of mine is one class (well, his thesis) away from receiving his MFA in Animation. His degree was initially an MS in Digitial Cinema, so he has a lot of experience along the film spectrum. He’s also an artist — works with printmaking, painting, charcoal, etc. Eventually he’d like to move to NYC both for professional and personal reasons. Professionally, he’d ultimately like to edit films and possibly have an opportunity to spend some time working on fine art.

    Career-related problems he currently has in Chicago are:
    -lack of a team/reliable friends to collaborate on projects
    -lack of time to fine tune his animation skills (Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut, etc) so he can at least attempt to be the type of editor he ideally would like to be
    -lack of money in general
    -the fact that’s Chicago’s art scene largely seems to focus on Chicago-related art (i.e. he told me that the art that really seems to sell has something to do with Chicago, like a new interpretation of the Chicago flag, something related to the skyline, etc)

    In short, do you have any advice regarding him getting more involved in the film scene in Chicago?

    I recommended that he may want to utilize Craig’s List to find people to work on projects, as someone who’s had a lot of luck with online friendships and is similarly jaded regarding relationships with people I intentionally met in person (I reminded him that even though we went to college together, our relationship really started on LiveJournal, which definitely gave him some perspective). That aside, I’m not sure what options he has. He’d like to avoid having to go back to working in food service to keep his bills paid, so I’d like to help him figure out how to simultaneously find time to work on his film career and earn enough money to feel a least a little more secure financially.

    1. Just had a look and it’s great. No commenting options other than Twitter, Facebook and WordPress though – was that deliberate?

      1. Thank you for reading!

        Yeah, we agreed that since we’re talking about such delicate and personal topics, and some of our writers write under their real names, we want some level of accountability in commenters. WP accounts, though, require the least info about you, if you’re looking for an easy/not tied to your real info way to comment.

  46. hello awkward army! i may have missed the boat on this open thread but i’ve had a lot on my mind with regard to some issues that get talked about a lot around here so i am throwing down.

    basically, i am fucked up and lonely. my mom died over the summer, WORLDS OF SUCK. i was unemployed for a year and just started a new job. while the new job is good, i am having a hard time adjusting due to being unemployed for a while plus general grief/mourning/life issues. my local friend base dissolved pretty solidly over the past couple years because of general friendship changes and people moving. i have great friends who aren’t local but i am really missing having people to hang out with. i have a fantastic boyfriend but we are taking it slow and trying not to spend too much time together due to our own unique life issues and circumstances. (which is great – i would not want to find myself in a closely partnered/time consuming relationship while trying to deal with all this Stuff.)

    bottom line: i need more support and some new friends. i have a few local acquaintances and i’m trying to set stuff up to be social with them in the near future, which is a good start. (though I don’t feel like these acquaintanceships are going to build into stronger friendships – that ship has sailed.) i have a great individual therapist and i’ve decided to find and join a grief counseling support group because i think having a chance once a week to sit in a room with other people who are also living in grief-world will help get me out of the house and feel more connected. but i would love to find more friends.

    i just don’t feel like i have the energy to dive in and put myself out there right now. ideally i’d like to work up my okcupid profile and try to go on some friend dates. i live in a big city (chicago) and i think this could potentially work. but fuck-all if i have the energy for it. i’ve never even successfully real-dated (my few relationships have been unique one-offs that happened out of the blue, more or less) and it all kind of terrifies me and triggers The Anxiety. i want to do this at some point in the next few months, i don’t feel ready to do it right now, but i’m still hella lonely and tired of being cooped up in my apartment all the time.

    i guess i’ve found part of an answer in writing this out: yes to groups and non-commitment based social things, no to confrontational “we are going to meet and decide if we like each other and tick it off on a box like this y/n ok bye.” what i would like, if possible, is anecdotal stories about people in similar situations to me who have had good experiences via meet-up or other groups. i don’t have a specific hobby that i can easily find a group for right now. i wish i played more games or was more into knitting or other stuff that has a good built-in niche. i love reading sci-fi and fantasy and watching the good tv and am too addicted to feminist media criticism to easily enjoy anything (i mean that in a good way)! and i’m in a really lonely, strange, isolated place in my life and i want to start reaching out a little more.

    TLDR: lonely person in chicago looking for stories about how people became less lonely while also dealing with the big life feelings.

    1. I’ve had some really good results from asking friends to introduce me to people they think I’d like. Maybe you could do a small dinner party thing: invite three people, ask each of them to bring someone you don’t know, cook or go out–whatever’s easier for you–and see if you click with anyone.

      A few years back a friend of mine did a blog post asking people to share requests for things they wanted–tangible things, not “world peace” etc.–and others to chime in if they could help. One person said “I’m in New York and I need friends!” and I said “Hey, I’m in New York and I have friends! Come to my regular Monday group lunch thing and let’s see if we click”. She’s now one of my closest local friends and through the lunch she’s met lots of other people she likes. So a few good introductions from someone who’s a social hub can really help.

      Are there local university/college SF groups that are open to non-students? Or you could try going to a nearby convention: . Volunteering is a great way to meet people at cons and make friends.

      Best of luck!

      1. thanks, rose fox. random thing – i read your livejournal and have found your posts about relationships and being poly/managing life in general to be really helpful and great to read. so – thanks!

        unfortunately, i don’t feel like i have a good enough friend base right now to try the small dinner party thing, though i love that idea. i’m starting a bit more from scratch right now, or rather it’s what i’m choosing to do. but i’ll think about how i could potentially work something out with more of my local acquaintances. there are several people in my city who i am friends with on facebook/other internet places and have spent a small amount of time with in person but don’t have established friend relationships. maybe i can tentatively reach out to them a bit more/see if they are planning any events that i might be welcome to.

        i like your ideas and thank you for taking the time to post them. 🙂

    2. When I lived abroad, I went to Couchsurfing events, either “official” CS group events or get-togethers initiated by other members (the latter I pretty much always enjoyed, the former was hit-or-miss). I’ve yet to use CS now that I’m back in Chicago, but this could be a good option to help you to meet people. Admittedly enough, I’ve only made so many “lasting” friends from this, but I generally enjoyed the events and I would have utilized the site more if I didn’t have to leave Spain fairly abruptly. This could be good to get you back into socializing. is another option, the main group I’ve personally been to is the Chicago Spanish Language Group. They have groups for seemingly everything, including “New to Town” and 20-and-30-somethings-who-want-to-hang-out groups. I’m contemplating going to the Spanish language meetup to go to the movies (EU film festival) , so that could be a good kind of meetup to go to if you want to get out of the house and meet other people, yet don’t want the pressure of having to socialize the entire time.

  47. So, nothing to do with movies, but is there something non-therapy-y that folks here would recommend to someone who has spent much of the past month literally and figuratively, depending on (time of) day, curled up, dealing with intense thoughts and plans of suicide? It’s like a loop that I somehow can’t break out of. I can’t do long term work on my thesis or even apply to/prepare for upcoming conferences because I have various things prepared that could/would make long (or even medium) term planning superfluous. Just askin’.

    1. I am so sorry you are in this state right now. It’s super-hard! I am glad you are fighting through it, though.

      Do you have a TV/cable? I like the Animal Planet’s Too Cute series. It’s kittens and puppies. Hard to do much better than that. I also personally love cooking shows. But sometimes I run out of those.

      I have gone through Law and Order phases, CSI phases — basically, any TV show with a lot of seasons. Star Trek, Buffy, Simpsons, Muppet Show on DVD. That can get you through a lot of hours. At my worst time, I actually watched several hours of Teletubbies, and it was exactly correct for me.

      If you can read, look for a genre that is super easy for you to read a lot of, and that is relatively fluffy. I had an intense flirtation with supernatural-romance-fantasy stuff, before Twilight, because that’s how I swing. Jim Hines’s stuff is on the light side while also being satisfying for me.

      These are all pretty much in the “distract until you have more capacity” line of things to do. When you do have some capacity, besides therapy and meds: call a friend or chat with them online. Take a shower or a bath. Go outside, even in your pajamas, who cares.

      Also you can call one of the hotlines.

      The key to breaking a loop is to figure out both what’s feeding it (probably overall depression and whatever else is going on?) and what triggers it (what do you do before the loop starts?). You want to ultimately work on what’s feeding it, but in the meantime sometimes all you can do is a tiny little change to what triggers it while you spend most of your energy surviving it.

      You might notice that you start your loop of awful when you start thinking about a certain thing, or maybe it’s the same time every day. Maybe it’s after you check email or try to do some particular task. The tiny bit of energy you have, shove it in right there and see if something breaks loose.

      You can make it. You are awesome and stronger than you know! *I* know, because I know how hard it is to ask for help.

    2. That really sucks. I’m so sorry you’re going through that.

      This might seem counterintuitive, but you could try working on some of those long-range planning things, exactly as though you were going to be around for them. Make commitments. Write your thesis. Apply to conferences. Buy plane tickets. Give yourself lots and lots of reasons to not act on those suicidal thoughts: “I have to stay alive at least until August because I said I’d give a paper then.”

      I also get a lot of mileage out of the three-column exercise in Feeling Good, where you write down the irrational thought you’re having, the fallacy or fallacies underlying it, and a rational/factual thought to replace it. Mine might look something like:

      Irrational thought: If I ask my partner to stop doing a thing I find stressful and annoying, she’ll be mad at me.
      Fallacies: Predicting the future–if I’m going to do this I should do it based on actual past events, rather than phrasing my fears as facts. Mind-reading–I can’t be sure what’s in my partner’s head; I can only go by what she’s told me and done in the past.
      Rational/factual thought: My partner has repeatedly encouraged me to tell her if I have a problem with something she’s doing. I trust her to be honest with me about that being an okay thing to do. And in the past when I’ve brought things up, she’s listened and changed her behavior and hasn’t been mad at me at all.

      I’ve found this very helpful for digging down to the core underpinnings of my depression and anxiety, and identifying and breaking out of the bad habits. It was quite terrifying the first time I did it, because writing down that irrational thought made it feel real! But writing down the rational thought to replace it also made that feel real, so the end result was very comforting.

      When in doubt, remember: you reached out. Some part of you really wants to stay alive and is looking for ways to make that happen. You’re a smart, determined person and you will find your way through this. Hang in there.

    3. I posted a long comment and the spamfilter ate it, so until that gets freed up and posted, I just wanted to say that another internet stranger believes in you and is cheering for you. Hang in there.

    4. A list here.

      Also, consider calling a hotline.

      Google: Suicide prevention hotline + your location/country and you’ll come up with some stuff.

      If you feel like it’s imminent, call 911 or the equivalent emergency services number where you are. Have someone come get you. You are not putting people to any trouble – it is literally their job to come and get you.

      Please don’t kill yourself! It is good you are asking for help. But this comments section is not equipped to help you, so you need to call someone who can provide you with immediate comfort, care & recommendations.

  48. Hi, Open Thread! LW #440 here. I’m a bit late to the party, I know, but I thought I may as well update y’all on what’s going on with me (since, owing to the very sensible 30 day rule, the thread on Question #440 has now been closed).

    So. I’m still living with my parents, but I am looking EVERYWHERE for my small, quiet room. Literally everywhere within 10 km of my job, and “bad” suburbs be damned despite my mother’s pearl-clutching (and besides, there aren’t that many “bad” suburbs within 10 km of the city), because I don’t think living in a teeny flat or bedsit or sharehouse in a non-posh place could be any worse than living in my fancy house in a fancy suburb with people who abuse me. It’s getting to the stage where I’m thinking I should just quit my job and move to Other City with my friend, but I do like my job and my city and my choir, and I hate the thought of having to find all those things anew. Particularly the choir, because I love singing with my friends and I would be sad if I could not.
    Thanks to all your sensible advice (love you, commenters! Jedi hugs if you want them!), I am looking at sharehouses too, now. I guess I’d rather be in a place with only one or two other people, but I might not have the choice. But I’ve decided I’d be OK with living with people who, you know, respect clearly stated boundaries, don’t shout abuse, don’t hit… Things that shouldn’t have to go on lists because they’re a minimum freaking standard.
    My main criteria for a home are now: allows cats, less than an hour’s commute from work by public transport (and less than ten minutes’ walk from public transport), less than $250 per week, not actually falling down. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, but apparently it is remarkably difficult to find something that fits all of those things. I also wouldn’t have thought that not falling down was necessary to add to the list, but it was. (Seriously, who asks $200 per week for a granny flat that is FALLING DOWN?! As in there were cracks in the outer walls large enough to fit a finger in, and the ceiling in the bedroom was literally held together with duct tape, and there was black slimy mould under the kitchen sink! Yeesh. Apparently this makes me “too fussy”. Thanks, Dad.)

    It’s scary and hard but I have to keep on with it. Things like envisaging the layout of My Very First Studio Apartment (mini-bedroom created by wardrobe, desk-with-attached-bookshelves and blanket box; mini-living room with sofa-bed and cheap TV behind wardrobe; mini-study which is really only my desk-with-bookshelves plus my laptop and a chair; psuedo eat-in kitchen because there is no room for a dining room; hot pink towels in bathroom because why not?) are keeping me hopeful.
    Also keeping me hopeful: my baby goddaughter, who is maybe five weeks older than WeeLogic. She bites people she doesn’t like, and she throws up and poos on me, and she prefers green to any other colour, and she is an awesome tiny human who will be an awesome big human when she grows up, and an awesome medium-sized human in between. She lives in Other City, so I’ve only met her once so far, but I’m going to visit soonish. I don’t have any godparents, so I don’t know what I’m meant to do. Love her, I suppose.

    I am so thankful to you, CA. I’m not out yet, but I’m closer than I was. I probably would have been able to get this far without everyone’s encouragement, but maybe not, and I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

    1. Hello, Ms. Kittenwhiskers!

      I can’t remember whether I mentioned the Homesharing option to you — the idea is that one person has a home with extra room, another person needs housing but maybe can’t afford much rent, but would be willing to do minor household chores or just be a low-key companion (someone who’d notice if the home-owner got sick, or fell, someone to have a little human interaction with on a regular basis). (A lot of times it’s an older person whose family has grown up and moved away, but they don’t want to move out of their house, and they could use help with homeowner stuff like taking the trash out, moving heavy stuff, or maybe shoveling some snow (not so much an issue where you are, I guess!). Here is a sample of the kinds of things home providers may be offering/looking for (taken from current listings of a local organization).

      Where I live, we are fortunate to have a couple of programs that help match people up. I just found out one of them has a manual to help people in areas without programs put it together for themselves.

      Here is a link to one of those programs, to help you visualize it working. (It also has a link to a sister organization in our state).

      And here is a link for people in the U.S., for other states that have programs.

    2. Best wishes to you!

      I’m trying to do something similar, in part because of your post. Frankly, I don’t currently have much faIth that I’ll succeed, I’ll be honest (I’m trying to move back to Spain. Frankly, I pretty much have a job lined up for the next academic year, I just need the money to get there), but I guess it’s not over until it’s over.

    3. In case you’re still checking this thread, I just wanted to tell you to stay encouraged, no matter what stage you’re currently in ❤

  49. Just read this post on how to spot an emotional abuser, and I needed to share it with this community. (You can read the previous post for the setup on what’s going on with her kid, or just read this one.)

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