Search Terms Quickies

I answered some questions that popped up in the search terms on Twitter yesterday. It was fun. Here are more.

“what should i do to be attractive for my bf after one year”

You keep doing you. You’re already great!

“awkward clumsy giant lesbian”


“my husband left me last month 2013 to another woman i need help to get him back”

My heart aches for you, but there’s nothing you can really do here except take very, very good care of yourself. Surround yourself with friends and family. Find a counselor you can pour your heart out to. And don’t be afraid to call a lawyer –in a situation like this, that can be a deeply self-caring act.

“my husband thinks sleeping in his chair is spending time with me”

“Husband, let’s plan a DATE. I love you and I miss hanging out with you.”

ex says they want to be friends but doesn’t attempt to be

Your ex either a) doesn’t actually want to be friends now that they’ve had a chance to think it over or b) needs more time with no contact between you to really get over the relationship before a friendship is possible. Either way, your path is the same: disengage, stop contacting them, put your love and your energy into other friendships. The break in contact probably feels like more rejection on top of rejection, and that sucks, but it is really good for you in letting time do its healing work.

“how do i tell my abusive ex why i want no contact?”

Sadly, explaining “why” doesn’t really work with abusers. You could craft a beautiful note with airtight logic, write it on the finest paper in ink made of gold, put it in an envelope that also contained concert tickets to his favorite band & a coupon for a lifetime supply of therapy and have it carried to him by two hummingbirds. You could write a perfect breakup song and have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir surround his house and sing it in exquisite 8-part harmony. An abuser who has really latched onto you will just try to poke holes in your logic until they get what they want, which is access to and control of you.

The way to handle this is, one time, say “I don’t want us to be in touch. Please stop contacting me.” Then show the person that you don’t want to be in touch by not responding to any contact from them. Block them on email and all social media channels. Change your cell number, give it out only to close friends. Keep the old number turned on for a while so the person can leave messages for and text the void. Gather your friends, family, and other support system around you. Simple doesn’t mean easy – it takes a lot of patience and strength sometimes. But if your ex keeps hanging on, it’s not because you didn’t explain it correctly or because of anything you did. It’s ok to cut off contact and give yourself time to heal.

“what to text a girl who blew you off”

Nothing. You text her nothing.

“what do you say when someone messages you on a dating website and you aren’t interested”

You’re not obligated to answer at all and sometimes that’s the best way to send the message. But if the person put some time into crafting a response and seems really cool, try this:

I’m so sorry, I do not want to meet up. But thanks for your thoughtful response, it is a good reminder that there are great people on here. I wish you luck.

If they write back with any form of “But whyyyyyyyyyyyy?” revert to No Answer Is An Answer.

“he wants to break up because i contacted my best friend which is a guy”

This dude sounds jealous, insecure, and controlling as fuck. Let him break up with you, or, summon the hummingbirds and the choir and do it yourself. Listen to this on repeat:

“i’m 13 and straight but my best friend keeps trying to cuddle with me”

I suggest that you stick to addressing the behaviors you don’t like and leave the complex stuff about feelings/possible crushes/orientation alone. “Friend, when you try to cuddle me like that it makes me uncomfortable and I don’t enjoy it. Please stop.” Your friend is probably trying to figure out a lot of stuff right now, and you can have compassion for him or her while still enforcing good boundaries about what kind of touch is okay for you.

“how to get my boyfriend to be more hygienic”/”boyfriend stopped brushing teeth”/ “boyfriend unclean habits”

I suggest being blunt. Before any kind of kissing or touching happens, say: “Awesome, but let’s both brush our teeth first.” Or, “Would you mind taking a shower first?” Or try, “Boyfriend, you are one sexy dude, but your hygiene has been seriously lacking lately and it makes me not want to make out with you in the style to which I have become accustomed. What’s going on? Can you be more careful about tooth-brushing/wearing clean clothes/showering? Because this isn’t cool and doesn’t really seem like you.

Goddamnit people brush your goddamn teeth and take a goddamn shower once in a while! This should not be popping up over and over again!

“fat dating”


“20 years old and still can’t find a boyfriend”

Please, please, please do whatever you have to do to question and fight the idea that a boyfriend is something you are supposed to achieve by a certain age. I know you feel this way for a reason, and everything in pop culture is backing up this insecurity and worry in you, and I hate it on your behalf. If dating isn’t working for you right now, pour your energy into something else, like being a great friend and finding things you love doing and doing the everloving shit out of them.

“how to make a gal in a long distance relationship fall for u”

Don’t vulture on other people’s relationships.

“how to emotionally express your feelings to your long distance girlfriend”

Use words. Maybe poems. For example:

Long Distance Isn’t – Samuel Hazo

Separated by a sea, two shores,
the clans of Vercingetorix, the Brenner
Pass, the boot of Italy
from just below the knee to halfway
down the calf, we nix them all
by phone.
Our voices kiss.
Who cares if the Atlantic bashes
Maine, Land’s End, or Normandy?
We leapfrog hemispheres the way
the mind cavorts through God-knows-what
millenia, what dynasties, what
samples of our kind from
australopithecus to Charlie Chaplin.
The body’s place?
Cross latitude
by longitude, and it is there.
The body’s age?
Count up
from birth or back from death,
and it is there.
But words?
We launch them out like vows against the wind.
Creating what we are,
they wing through seas and continents
and make us more than elegies
to yesterday.
Forget the cost.
Talk louder and ignore the static.
Pretend we’re walking through the dark.
Don’t stop.
Don’t stop or look
behind you.
As long as you
keep talking, I can find you.

Topography – Sharon Olds

After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sunn rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


Forbidden Fruit – Michael Lally

all the forbidden fruit I ever
dreamt of–or was taught to
resist and fear–ripens and
blossoms under the palms of my
hands as they uncover and explore
you–and in the most secret
corners of my heart as it discovers
and adores you–the forbidden fruit
of forgiveness–the forbidden fruit
of finally feeling the happiness
you were afraid you didn’t deserve–
the forbidden fruit of my life’s labor
–the just payment I have avoided
since my father taught me how–
the forbidden fruit of the secret
language of our survivors’ souls as
they unfold each others secret
ballots–the ones where we voted
for our first secret desires to come
true–there’s so much more
I want to say to you–but for
the first time in my life I’m at
a loss for words–because
(I understand at last)
I don’t need them
to be heard by you.


Love Rode 1500 Miles — Judy Grahn

Love rode 1500 miles on a grey
hound bus & climbed in my window
one night to surprise
both of us.
the pleasure of that sleepy
shock has lasted a decade
now or more because she is
always still doing it and I am
always still pleased. I do indeed like
aggressive women
who come half a continent
just for me; I am not saying that patience
is virtuous, Love
like anybody else, comes to those who
wait actively
and leave their windows open.

That should hold you for a while. 🙂

135 thoughts on “Search Terms Quickies

  1. “And don’t be afraid to call a lawyer –in a situation like this, that can be a deeply self-caring act.”

    This is excellent and important advice for anybody that’s in a marriage where a split is likely. We got this sense at some point that once the lawyers get involved it’s just two people trying to tear the flesh off each other. That’s not necessarily true. If you tell your lawyer “I still love this person and want what’s best for them” or whatever your situation is, she will usually listen and even take that into account, but she’ll also be able to put her foot down if you’re considering doing something that’s not in your best interests.

    A marriage coming to law isn’t fun but a lot of the emotional damage people do to each other in divorce comes from things they do after they’ve needlessly put themselves in a bad position, which a lawyer can help you avoid.

    1. once the lawyers get involved it’s just two people trying to tear the flesh off each other

      A good lawyer can help prevent the two people from tearing the flesh off each other. Your lawyer isn’t (or shouldn’t be) emotionally involved, and so can communicate without all the “what s/he did to me!” baggage. And s/he can help you focus on your ultimate goal(s), rather than all the stuff that can’t be changed.

      1. “A good lawyer can help prevent the two people from tearing the flesh off each other”.

        Absolutely this. I am a divorce lawyer and I have no interest whatsoever in creating or fuelling unnecessary conflict. I try to help people reduce and navigate conflict, resolve problems, and move on. It is not unusual for clients to be hesitant about consulting me because they think I am going to be some Arnold Becker (dating myself there, hehe) go-for-the-throat shrew. I tell people who want that (and there are some) to go find it elsewhere. I hate dealing with other attorneys who are into conflict, and they do exist.

        This does not mean that I am always concilatory when that is not in my client’s interests. You can be assertive on behalf of a client without stoking a conflict. Clients can get very focused on being ‘amicable’ not because things genuinely are friendly, but because they think this is how they ‘should’ behave, are under pressure from third parties to make nice, or simply because there was already a power imbalance in the marriage and the spouse is simply using the legal process to continue bullying them. In such cases, legal advice and representation is essential to help the person redress the imbalance and achieve a fair outcome. I am all for people being amicable and constructive wherever possible but divorce can affect one’s long-term financial future, especially for women, and it is essential to make decisions about this based on a proper understanding of what the law entitles each party to claim.

        Getting legal advice before you make the decision to separate is a really good idea. Don’t be afraid to ask the attorney about his/her style, approach and ethos, as well as other stuff like their fees and where they graduated from. It all matters and you need to trust us, so don’t be afraid to choose on this basis.

    2. Husband and I are reconciling after a 6 month split. I went to a lawyer after 3 weeks to get help with how handle money,property, and child custody.
      Many places will offer a reduced fee advice session if money is an issue. I had no job at the time, so it was for me.

      I emphasized that Husband was the father of my kids no matter what, and that maintaining a good parenting relationship with him was top priority. All the advice she gave me focused on protecting assets I needed for the kids while making sure Husband had enough to be okay.
      Getting these things straight right off the bat helped us focus on the problems in the relationship and what we wanted to do about them, or if we wanted to work it out at all.

      You cannot see the best in each other when you are arguing over who pays joint debts, and exhausted from trying to deal with the logistics of separating.
      One of the reasons we got back together was seeing how concerned we were for each other’s welfare made us realize there was a lot of love under all that shit we had piled on.

      Also formally looking at how much work and money it will take to divorce, and getting a realistic idea of what your finances and lifestyle will be after the divorce can help you figure out your what you want to do, especially if you have children. You both are less likely to burn bridges that could lead to reconciliation, and more inclined to spend time working on the relationship if you both understand how devastating it will be in every part of your life to break up.

      If after seeing all that, you or they still want to divorce, then it’s dead, and you can work on letting it go and moving on as best you can.

      TLDR: Lawyers, sometimes they are very helpful!

      1. That is excellent information and a perspective I had not heard before. Thanks for writing it out!

      2. Also formally looking at how much work and money it will take to divorce, and getting a realistic idea of what your finances and lifestyle will be after the divorce can help you figure out your what you want to do, especially if you have children. You both are less likely to burn bridges that could lead to reconciliation, and more inclined to spend time working on the relationship if you both understand how devastating it will be in every part of your life to break up.

        If after seeing all that, you or they still want to divorce, then it’s dead, and you can work on letting it go and moving on as best you can.

        Yes, yes, yes. There have been times Spouse and I have been Very Upset with each other, but even informal and brief consideration of the sheer logistical clusterfuck that would ensue with trying to disentangle our lives will turn us pretty rapidly to, “Gee, is there some way we can solve this other than splitting up?” And fortunately, the answer has always, always been yes.

  2. “20 years old and still can’t find a boyfriend”
    Your response to this question could’ve been more detailed, though I guess answering in full would be worth at least a single post of its own, and such a post doesn’t fit the mold of your usual content. What bugs me is that you’re answering an “I’m not good at X” question with “stop wanting to do X”. What you said is correct, especially in this culture, but…it doesn’t answer the question, if she actually wants to keep trying.

    1. Ok, so, “Go on more dates, then, until you find one.”

      The “hows” of dating are covered EXTENSIVELY on this site. This post & its comment section is a good place to start if you need detail.

      And we’re not sure the questioner is a “she.”

    2. I had two boyfriends in high school, neither of whom I particularly liked. And then all through university, I just could not find someone to date. And I honestly felt like a failure. And it was all socially constructed, especially since I was involved in a church where I was starting to be an old maid at 21 and single! I could have done with the reminder to stop beating myself up about it. I think the Captain has a fair point in the post.

    3. Here’s what’s really tough about this situation.

      “Finding a boyfriend” (or girlfriend) is really about gaining access to your intuition about who you want to be around and who wants to be around you. A boyfriend is not an accessory you acquire but an experience you have in being around someone and that they have in being around you.

      Well, the trouble is the mortal enemy of intuition is anxiety. “20 years old and still can’t find a boyfriend” describes an anxiety, a very acute one. That anxiety is going to block intuition just like any other type of anxiety.

      “Get over it” isn’t helpful advice but maybe “learn to recognize the difference between a genuine desire for companionship and anxiety about your social status” or something of that nature is more helpful.

      Or, to put it another way, I fear you will not reach Mecca, O Traveler, for you are on the road to Turkestan.

      1. I love this.

        You nailed why the in-between place of not dating, but thinking about it all the time is so awful.

      2. Oooh, now all of a sudden the advice that made me rage makes sense! You know, the – “When I stopped looking for a boyfriend I finally found the love of my life and we are getting married~, so you should just stop looking!” advice. Which I always found condescending and not realistic because wanting a boyfriend seems a legit want to me.

        Then I realized I didn’t actually WANT a boyfriend (I mean, having a boyfriend/girlfriend would be cool, but it’s not something that’s currently on my wishlist if you get me) and all the socially constructed check lists were dookie, so I stopped looking. But that’s because I figured out my wants and a lot about myself so I was more comfortable in me. And if I did get in a relationship now, it would be with a awesome person who fit me pretty well! Whereas four years ago I would have been waaaaay too concerned with pleasing whoever that person was on a date and probably wouldn’t have succeeded in my ‘MUST HAVE BF’ quest.

        So, yeah. Now we need to switch people from saying ‘stop looking!’ to ‘take some time to really get in touch with yourself, and keep putting yourself out there! And don’t settle!’

        1. Thank you for how you articulated this!! My personal experience bears out what you are saying: I had a long spell of time where I didn’t have the time or money to date, and just decided to focus on other things (school, learning a foreign language). When I decided I was ready to date, I looked really carefully to find someone I clicked with and was able to do so pretty quickly (the quickly part was pure luck, I’m sure). However, this comes up with a few good friends of mine and I really appreciate the re-frame for how to discuss this; e.g. when Friend says, “but it’s not fair, you found a good one on the first try,” I have a better idea of what to say. Yay Awkward Army!

        2. A wonderful comment that pretty much exactly expresses how I feel.
          I’m 22 and have never been in a relationship and I’m actually not looking for one, either. If I randomly met someone tomorrow and we’d hit it off, I wouldn’t be against it, but as far as actively looking for someone? Not really, I’ve got other great stuff going on in my life and I think I’ll feel it when I want to add a boyfriend to that great stuff.

      3. This is very true. When I was eighteen I was terribly anxious about sexual and romantic inexperience. I went through two very long spells of voluntary singledom and now a decade onwards I feel like I finally know what I want, and I am thinking about dating in a serious way.

        A year or two if you’d asked me I might have said this is impossible.

  3. I will never understand why the hygiene question refuses to die. Basic stuff like brushing your teeth or using some deodorant is step #1 in solving some of the general woes you may have about interacting with others. Bad hygiene is a good way to get a really quick brush-off and form a bad first impression with others. Taking a moment to make yourself presentable (I’m not even saying ‘put on makeup/dress a certain way/etc,’ but just being relatively clean and managing your personal odors) does a great deal in the way of social interaction.

    1. From a few different people I’m close to and some child welfare/mental health case files I’ve had to review at work…sometimes it’s a sensory issue. The teeth-brushing in particular. There is something that is unpleasant about the physical act of brushing teeth, that is then made worse by the fact that not taking care of teeth tends to make it hurt worse when one finally tries to do so, then putting the person off of doing so and it’s a horrible vicious circle.

      What has helped the people I know is finding a way to ease back into it in ways that don’t trip the sensory triggers – for one person, this is brushing with baking soda instead of toothpaste (an old Girl Scout backpacking tip); for another, it’s using a strong mouthwash multiple times a day, which is probably not as good as brushing teeth but is at least doing something.

      (I write this as I’m home sick because I chipped a tooth at a point when I didn’t have time to deal with getting it fixed, and now am forced to deal with it because it has abscessed. Which I don’t recommend this because OW PAINFUL.)

      1. Yep, my fiance puts off showering because he can’t stand being damp afterwards.

      2. So I have to write myself all kinds of reminders to brush my teeth, because regular toothpaste and toothbrushes make me gag and therefore I never got into the habit, because why would I get into the habit of doing something that made me sick? Yuck! And mouthwash, oh man, that stuff is super disgusting (to me).

        These days I have prescription toothpaste with a very mild flavor and no grit, and electric toothbrushes with small heads, so brushing my teeth doesn’t make me gag…usually. Sometimes it still does. Not so helpful with the habit-forming, that.

        I totally agree that it’s gross not to brush your teeth…but I also get why it doesn’t happen sometimes.

        1. Yeah, I tend to get so distracted by other things I just forget until I am in my bed and way too tired to get up. I have gotten better slowly though, and will almost always remember to brush before I go out to shop/hang with people/etc.

        2. I found it helpful to switch to a toothgel isntead of paste … particularly not one of the Big Name ones (which are disgustingly, nauseatingly sweet). I’m fond of Tom’s of Maine, but there’s probably other options (over in the natural/hippy/etc section).

          There are also tooth powders you can get, but I haven’t tried them.

          I’d love a decent mouthwash that wasn’t oversweetened.

          1. I tried Tom’s, but even that is flavored too strongly for me. I’m happy with my prescription toothpaste, as long as they NEVER EVER CHANGE IT (oh please not ever).

            My problem with mouthwash is both the strong flavor and the burning. Apparently there are non-burning mouthwashes now, but I doubt they have mild enough flavors for me. Plus I had an unfortunate fluoride-swallowing accident at the dentist once, so the whole idea of it scares me a bit.

            I wouldn’t call any of it “sweet”, though, what an unusual way to put it!

        3. I have a similar problem, except that it’s not gagging, it’s the fact that most toothpastes will make my tongue burn. I apparently have those extra sensitive taste buds that means hot (as in “hot spices”, not “very warm”) food is literally painful to me at a level way below that of most people. And something in most toothpastes have that effect as well, as does mouthwash.

          I’ve managed to find a toothpaste that doesn’t burn too much (Sensodyne’s Repair, if anybody else has a similar problem) and since I started using that I’m much better at brushing my teeth at night. I managed to get some serious dental problems before finding that solution though, so there’ll be a hugeish outlay for me in the near future.

      3. Yes, this. Sensory problems are a big one. Also, executive function problems can make it really hard to form a fixed habit like “brush your teeth every day”.

      4. Just commenting on this because I use a toothpaste that’s salty rather than minty and also doesn’t grow in your mouth. makes all the difference to me. In the Netherlands it’s sold as Parodontax and in Ireland it just came on the market as corsodyl daily. It’s marketed for gum problems, but for me it is a life saver just because it enables me to brush my teeth without throwing up.

        1. I had no idea so many other people grappled with the “brushing teeth makes me want to vomit” thing! My hygiene is, I hope, very good, but that means I’ve been just grimly enduring it every morning for, oh, ever, trying not to actually hurl is part of my routine! And occasionally actually inadvertently making myself throw up. Fun! And I had no idea there were other stratgies! And I have anxiety issues (though they’re okay right now) and when they’re bad it’s so much worse, because my throat’s already tight and I feel like throwing up the whole time anyway. So thanks for the tips, I will look into these small toothbrushes and non-foamy pastes!

          1. I’ve had problems for years, ever since I accidentally aspirated some toothpaste. I eventually became queen of my gag reflex, and that has served me well in other ways. But still, I have to sometimes Go To My Happy Place while brushing…

            Using the electric toothbrush has made a world of difference. It feels completely different and so it doesn’t trigger me. I recommend trying it!

          2. I am super attentive about cleaning my teeth, but I *have* to be in the bathroom while I do it. My husband can wander all around the house doing little going-to-bed errands (locking windows, etc.) but if I’m more than 5 feet from the sink (or someplace else I can spit the foam) I feel like I’m going to vomit. It’s the worst feeling. +1 to “so glad I’m not the only one.”


            Also, for the texture-based (not taste-based, unfortunately) sensory people…I’m not a dental professional, but you would probably be better off (better than nothing) if you could floss and rinse with something hardcore (like Listerine), if those things don’t make you gag. It would at least *slow* the bacteria buildup, even if it doesn’t fix it.

      5. I avoided showering for years in part because most soaps dry out my skin. As far as I knew, the only choices were smelling bad or feeling like ants were crawling all over me all the time.

        1. Same here. I had a skin condition where my dermatologist was like, “You are not allowed to take hot or long showers anymore.” And seriously, trying to get yourself all clean in tepid water in five minutes in the winter…sucks.

      6. I have a sensory thing about the taste of strong mint: When I taste it, I get a sudden stab of pain in my collarbone, like being jabbed with a big needle. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
        And even non-minty flavors of toothpaste like orange have a backbone of mint to ‘make you feel fresh,’ so there’s no escaping it. And baking soda is bad for your teeth, since it’s basically sanding their surface down.

        1. This may or may not be remotely helpful, but the prescription toothpaste I get which (in a very mild mint flavor) is also available in vanilla. I’ve never tried it, though, so I don’t know what it’s like.

        2. My partner vastly prefers the flavor of cinnamon. We’ve been trying out different nonstandard flavors of Tom’s of Maine toothpastes. The cinnamon is better than the anise or fennel to my tastebuds.

      7. I always hated brushing my teeth until I tried a wacky alternative medical diet during which I wasn’t supposed to eat anything containing mint. Discovered this yummy anise flavored toothpaste in a natural food grocery. All of a sudden, I looked forward to brushing my teeth and had to restrict the desire to do it too often!

        All the “normal” toothpastes available in regular stores (here in the US.) have a very sharp, harsh intensity to their flavorings which I find unpleasant. If I eat real mint and drink orange juice, it’s fine. But if I brush my teeth with standard toothpaste and then drink orange juice, it’s a nasty experience!

    2. “I will never understand why the hygiene question refuses to die.”

      My guess is that it’s mostly coming from teenagers. Unfortunate though it may be, it’s pretty normal for teens, especially younger teens, to take some time getting up to speed with all the hygiene stuff.

      1. I don’t know about that :/ I know some pretty stanky people with plaque you can see from five feet away.

        1. Yeah, some of my friends from our gaming group (Two of whom are guys who have been hitting on me, one who told me flat out that he doesn’t handle rejection well…so, psychological pressuring and manipulation, anyone? Ugh) have TERRIBLE hygiene, and they’re grown adults! One has this perpetual green crud all over his front teeth, which are black along the gums and always grayish-yellow everywhere else, which makes me want to vomit, and others just generally don’t bathe or shave or do anything to keep themselves from being repulsive, and constantly complain that girls don’t want to date them because girls are shallow and just want to date an Adonis. Uh, no, girls just want to date someone who doesn’t have mold growing all over their teeth and smells like the east end of a rhino going west!

          1. “smells like the east end of a rhino going west!”

            Big gold star for clever imagery!

            Seriously, though, what kind of guy just flat-out tells a girl “I don’t handle rejection well?” What kind of weaksauce Bruce Banner-esque threat is that. Honestly, the only response I could imagine to that was “I don’t handle threats very well.”

            Those guys sound like some pieces of work. Ladies like all kinds of men, but most of us prefer for them to perform basic hygiene.

    3. Yeah, for some folks it’s a mental health thing. I know I have trouble with self-care when I’m in a bad place emotionally. Hygiene isn’t usually an issue for me personally, since long hot showers and nice-smelling lotions are two of my favorite ways to self-soothe. But laundry? Housework? Taking medication? Forget it. So I can very easily imagine a person getting into a bad headspace, and just not having the wherewithal to keep clean.

      Also, being dirty or smelly is generally regarded as very shameful, so it’s super awkward to talk to someone about it. If we had the kind of culture where one could say “Hey buddy, you need some deodorant” without it being a whole big THING, then these sort of questions wouldn’t keep showing up on advice blogs.

      1. I think we should make it less of a horrible secret thing that can never be talked about. You can be compassionate, but directness is the most respectful thing in a bad situation. If a partner needs a gentle nudge, just say it. “Did you forget to shower today? Why don’t you take one now and then we can go to dinner.” If a partner has something bigger going on, “Are you ok? You don’t smell ok. Let’s talk.”

        Pretending that it’s okay when it’s not okay because you’re worried about shaming the other person doesn’t work. They get more stinky (and miserable). You get more miserable (and grossed out). If someone can’t get it together to clean themselves regularly, do them a solid and kindly reach out.

        As for depression and housekeeping….no one is invited to my house right now. I feel you big time.

        1. Going back to the old thread a bit, it can be a medical thing too. The person I’m dating sometimes has sweat that smells like cat piss. I told them about it, they weren’t aware of it, and it turned out to be something medical they needed to talk to their doctor about.

          Yeah, it was awkward and they were particularly embarrassed about it because they had really poor hygiene as a kid and this reminded them of that, but they also thanked me for telling them because with their health stuff it was something where it was like, “This means I either need to drink more water or else one of my organs is failing.”

          1. Unfortunately I’ve been on the receiving end of this one. Lets just say I wasn’t a fan of spray deodourant (the spray/aerosol smell makes me feel ill) and roll-ons feel gross because they take ages to dry. Hot days got unpleasant, and when I was leaving my HR job due to leaving uni my supervisor took me aside and asked if it was a health issue or something else.

            I was upset, embarrassed and mortified but I took it on the chin and did something about it. I’m glad she had a word and dealt with the awkward. Also Dove started making a roll-on that’s paraben, fragrance, colourant and alcohol-free celled Pure and it’s the boss. I don’t get horrible spots in my armpits any more!

            The teeth cleaning thing was also an issue I didn’t solve til I was about 22. My friend and I were bitching about her douchecanoe of an ex-boyfriend and she was griping about his teeth cleaning or lack thereof and I realised my habits were similar. Like I knew intellectually that not cleaning my teeth was bad but that really hit home. I sorted it and finally got into the habit of cleaning my teeth every morning and evening. I found soft bristle small headed toothbrushes were much nicer which made it easier. The chlorine smell from the tap water still makes me gag occasionally but eh, I can deal with that by not leaning over the sink!

            So yep, as the Captain said, do people a favour and bring these issues up.

          2. Yeah, the smell of my armpits changed after chemotherapy. To me, it smelled awful and not like me at all. On top of it, I was not allowed to use deodorants at the time because the metal ingredients would potentially interact with radiation treatment. Plus shaving could lead to nicks and scratches that could provoke lymphedema. I tried one or two natural deodorants, but they were not satisfactory. Since then, I have stopped shaving or using deodorants, so I just trim the hair and scrub extra hard with lavender Dr Bronners. I keep meaning to try making the homemade natural deodorant based on baking soda or something similar, but have yet to get around to it. Sigh. Mostly, I try to take it easy to minimize sweating.

          3. solecism, if you’re interested in a natural deodorant, I’ve found the best is literally zero effort: just straight up baking soda. Especially if you don’t shave so you’ve got some hair to trap it. Just dampen your fingers, dip them in baking soda, and rub on your pits. It’s like some weird sorcery that removes all odours and makes you wonder if you’re even still there (at least for me).

        2. I heard some advice once about how to tell people they need to shower and/or brush their teeth more often that I’m going to leave here on the off chance it might be useful to someone. Disclaimer: this advice is only helpful in some situations (it was given in the context of keeping things from getting awkward at work), and probably actively harmful in others. Use at your own discretion, no warranty express or implied 🙂

          Anyway, the actual advice was to build up the conversation so that the thing you want to talk about sounds much more serious than it actually is, so that when you get down to “please shower more often”, the not-so-fresh person is so relieved that it’s not a bad performance review or something, but just a minor issue they can fix without a whole lot of effort that everyone walks away from the conversation feeling pretty good.

          Now, this is kind of manipulative and would just be mean to do to someone with anxiety or depression or self esteem issues, but with some thicker skinned people it might be useful. If in doubt, go with the captain’s advice, though.

          1. That would make me nuts. People can spot that kind of manipulation from miles away!

          2. Same. That would just make me mad at the person. It reminds me of the thing on the American version of the Office where Steve Carell’s character tells Pam she’s fired as a joke and makes her cry.

          3. Stabbity,

            (Are you an Order of the Stick fan? Love the icon and name.)

            I disagree.
            I’ve been approached both ways and have had to approach others, too.
            Was once told about a problem I didn’t know I had by a boss who was so jumpy I thought I was about to be fired; he made a passing comment about how hard it was on *him* to have to have the conversation. Clueless.

            I am thick skinned and was still disgusted by his handling of the topic–he came off looking both insensitive and stupid. All he needed to do was pull me aside for 10 seconds and point out that my new deodorant wasn’t doing a good enough job, so I needed something better. (That’s all thick skinned me needs. I tend to ask questions about what’s going on and phrase it more gently if I’m the one making the observation.)

            Keep it private. Keep it simple. Don’t get hysterical (no puppies are going to die from this!) Just point out that they don’t seem to know about this thing that could cause them trouble, so here’s a head’s up.

        3. There have been a couple times in my life that I have been taken aside to point out hygiene issues. The first time was when I was an exchange student in Central America. I was accustomed to showering every other day, and moreover, the shower of my host family was mostly cold water, which made me hypothermic with my long hair dripping down my back while soaping down my body. Add in the fact that I often walked a mile home for lunch and back to campus or engaged in other physical pursuits but forgot about working up a sweat once I’d cooled down, and I really must have been stinky. Mind you, I don’t understand now how I didn’t notice the stickiness, since these days I have to shower to get rid of that feeling. About halfway through my stay, my host mother finally asked me to bathe more regularly. I was absolutely mortified because she had waited several weeks to bring it up.

          The second time was when I was a wildland firefighter surrounded mostly by men. We would often go days at a time when spiked out without access to bathrooms. Then it was well understood that not much could be done. But early in the season before being dispatched, when we were mostly working with chainsaws to thin tree stands, the guys would have contests to see who could go the longest without laundering their fire shirts, to the point where they could practically stand upright on their own, not to mention the farting and scatological conversations. And yet, when I joined in with the general attitude, I was the one who was unreasonably stinky. My squad boss was way more embarrassed than I was in that conversation. But I got the message: not okay for me to not launder my fire clothing or to fart or otherwise skimp on personal hygiene. I shrugged at the double standard and stopped trying to fit in.

          1. At first I was stunned by the double standard — for heaven’s sake, you’re out there fighting wildfires, and they’re allowed to stink but you’re not? And then I realized it’s because you were undermining their whole schtick that not giving a shit about personal hygiene because you’re busy fighting fires is MANLY. If you stink, too, then you’re all just a bunch of firefighters smelling bad because hygiene isn’t really practicable, which takes all the romance out of the stench.
            (Not saying it’s not still wrong and unfair; just, now it’s more like, “silly me, not to have seen that right away.”)

        4. This is an ongoing battle I have with my 14-year-old daughter. She gets very huffy when I tell her that she needs to take a shower because she smells, and I keep trying to explain “Look, it’s not a moral judgment, it’s biology. I would stink if I hadn’t showered for five days too.” I don’t enjoy it, but given the choice between offending her and letting her be the smelly kid at school, I’m going with offending her.

      2. I’m sort of the de facto go-to person for *ism issues among my peers at work (FSM help us all, haha) and one of the things I try to focus on, while talking to a bunch of stereotypical engineers, is that you *can* and *should* approach issues — even issues that SEEM straightforward, like hygiene — veeeeery carefully. If someone stinks because they don’t shower, well, you solved that one easy! But if their body odor is due to a medical condition (or, indirectly, if they don’t shower because of that medical condition) then you (the team lead) NEED to be diplomatic and considerate to them.

        And honestly — it *never* hurts to be diplomatic and considerate in the first place. It’s like the social version of Universal Access. Curb ramps help everyone, not just wheelchair users, and being diplomatic and considerate *also* helps everyone. Win-win.

    4. The other thing to consider is that different people have different hygiene requirements. As in, some people physically NEED to take a shower every day, and some people just …don’t. My ex? Never sweated. He could be in a black turtleneck in a SoCal summer and not sweat a drop. He could get away with showering once a week if he had to and just swipe specifics with a washcloth in between. Now me, I don’t regulate temperature well so I could not possibly do that without feeling skin-crawlies, and my poofy curls require a thorough wetting if my hair is to do anything but a bun. So I shower daily.

      Now consider the varied upbringings people may have had about what “normal” hygiene routines are. If you were raised by my ex, you might think twice a week is what everyone does and then be surprised if you sweat in the unladylike manner I do. And in the converse, if you’re a daily bather you might experience non-daily bathing as more “ick” from the idea than the actual physical dirt/smell on that person. I thought my ex’s bathing habits were kind of icky, but objectively he did not smell. (And that’s not why we divorced).

      tl;dr: Not everyone has the same idea of “normal” or the same hygiene needs, and those ideas can come into conflict if the people involved have trouble expressing what they want or need.

      1. Similar to your ex, I shower when I need to because dry skin sucks, I also have dry hair that doesn’t seem to understand it should have oil in it, so I wash it about every two weeks otherwise it breaks badly. BUT, when I’m in a relationship and there’s any possible sexy times on the event horizon I bathe whether I need it or not. I want my sexy times partner to enjoy.

        1. I’m with you. I can’t shower every day because my skin tends toward dry. Happily, I don’t make much BO and I use this great deoderant cream (Lavalin). But I offer you this advice about your hair: stop using shampoo. Srsly. I don’t use it anymore. When I shower, I scrub at my scalp a lot with hot water, and I use conditioner generously, but I don’t use shampoo at all. My hair is about neck-length and my wife’s is about waist-length and we both follow this routine. Good luck to you.

          1. A good alternative, if one doesn’t want to go completely shampoo free, is a paraban/silicone/SLS free shampoo. You can usually find these as shampoos marketed to women with curly hair, since the verboten products make curly hair into fork-in-electric-socket frizz.

            Personally I’ve really like DevaCurl’s no-poo. It’s a little expensive up front, but you don’t need a ton of shampoo so the bottle lasts forever.

          2. Not to get too far down the haircare rabbit hole, but I just wanted to add that if you go shampoo-free or SLS-free, it’s important to make sure any styling products you use are water soluble – otherwise they can start to build up on your hair since you aren’t using the harsher sulfate products that would normally strip all that stuff out. There’s good info at if anyone’s interested.

          3. A friend of mine also went the no-shampoo route. He explained that his hair was pretty gross at first, but it soon got better. I can attest that it is now very soft, not oily, and pleasant to see and touch!

      2. The need to bathe or use products to control body odour is genetically determined. If you have the “fragrant” version of the ABCC11 gene you produce dry earwax and your sweat doesn’t contain lipids so bacteria do not grow it in and so there’s no smell. This was best explained on Channel 4’s “Embarrassing bodies” but the best I can find available to all is . . .

        1. That makes a lot of sense. I’ve never understood deodorant before… I sweat plenty but it doesn’t stink unless I go waaay too long between showers. I always figured the whole “sweat is inherently stinky and gross” thing was something deodorant companies invented for marketing. Guess not!

      3. Boy oh boy do I hear you on this. I am the super oily offspring of a woman with very dry skin (and, apparently, mega control issues). All through puberty we battled because she would ration my water usage. I was only allowed to wash my hair every other day. If I tried to take a shower every day, she would yell at me for being wasteful. She also refused to let me shave my legs until I was 15, even though I had gorilla hair on my shins, because “you’re just too young to be dealing with all that.” So I would shave in secret, and I couldn’t use water so I’d end up with a million cuts all over my legs.

        Now that I am adult, in full possession of my own shower, I am kind of a freak about hygiene issues…I guess this is why. The fact that everyone’s needs are different is so, so true and cannot be overstated.

      4. Yeah, I’m one of those people that HAS to shower every day or my hair is a greasy mess and I stank. If I forget a day because I am not in a good headspace or ran out of time? I get people looking at me and acting like I rolled in sewage. I have learned to spritz with some perfume and double up on deodorant, maybe take a quick trip to the bathroom in the middle of the day to wipe my face and soap my pits if this happens to negate the worst of it. Oh, and hats and headbands are my friend.

        It probably happens only once a year that I go more than 24 hours without a shower. In that case, I usually slink around corners and try to avoid interacting with people because I’m such a greaseball.

      5. Thank you for this. The hygene thing probably keeps comming upp because people are different and have different definitions of normal. I, too, am one of the no-shampoo-people. My hair is happy but people sometimes think it’s gross when I tell them, even if they just complemented me on my healthy hair. So much of it is about what we learned to believe, just like the thing about haveing a boyfriend.

        Showering everyday sounds idiotic to me, dryes out the skin and hair and doesn’t do a thing to make me moore fresh. I smell bad only when I’m misserable and then it really doesn’t matter how much I wash or use deodorent. The sweat from stress or anxiaty stinks like hell and just keeps comming.

        Brushing teeth is a heath issue and a whole different thing, if you don’t brush ’em they’ll brake.

    5. With bad breath, it seems that some people really can’t tell they have it and even for those that can they don’t realize how bad it is. When you breathe your breath is going away from your nose so you won’t smell it as well as the person in front of you. Another problem is that mouthwash that contains alcohol can actually make the problem worse because it dries out your mouth. So they may actually be using good hygiene but not taking care of themselves as far as drinking enough water. (Maybe even drinking a normal amount but the mouthwash would require them to drink more.)

      Another thing that can mess with body odor is medication. I don’t know why they don’t always warn of this in the paperwork you get for a prescription but even some over the counter supplements can give you a weird smell.

      1. *raises hand* I can’t tell when I have bad breath. I’ve been told to go brush my teeth a couple of times, and even then I couldn’t tell. I think I’ve figured out a routine that’s adequate to keep it at bay, and I check with my husband sometimes. I appreciate it when people let me know there’s a problem!

      2. Once, a BF thought I was just being mean when I said he needed to brush teeth. So, I had him do this experiment, and I did it along with him. Lick your hand. Don’t just use the tip of your tongue–get as far back on the tongue as possible. Let the saliva dry for a little while. Then smell your hand where you licked. He was blown away, and immediately went to go brush!

      3. I don’t think anyone can smell their own bad breath. Morning breath has a kind of taste to it, and obviously so does garlic breath or onion breath, but otherwise? I brush my tongue after I brush my teeth and hope for the best.

        I’ll have to try that hand-licking trick.

      4. I’ve heard that your ability to sense a smell goes down as certain nasal receptor cells become saturated and sort of go numb (smell-wise). You are smelling your own breath all the time, so the constant exposure makes you unable to tell.

    6. I can’t speak personally to people who don’t brush their teeth, but I do know a bunch of people who are effectively not wearing deodorant, because there’s a link between the ingredients in deodorant that actually work to prevent bo and Alzheimer’s. Some of them have tried to switch to natural alternatives to stay safe, and the natural alternatives are mostly not doing the job that deodorant is supposed to do. It’s not my favorite thing, but I get the not wanting Alzheimer’s piece of things. Of course, none of this is to say that if bo grosses you out you should date people with it anyway, just that there are things besides total lack of awareness and social skills that can lead to people having bo.

      1. Sigh. Yeah. I go fragrance free with all my personal care products, and deodorant is the only one I have a problem with. Even when I reapply frequently, it just doesn’t work that well. I really, really miss my baby-powder-scented brand.

        1. I actually learned from a previous CA comment thread that plain baking soda, mixed with a little water, works amazingly as a deoderant. You can also put it on dry, but then it can be a little scratchy.

          1. I think I’m the one who recommended it last time (and up thread here), and ime it lasts all day, but ymmv

        1. I know that’s all a pile of nonsense. I also know that antiperspirant consistently gives me an itchy rash–and it’s the aluminum compound that works as an antiperspirant, not any of the scents or inactive things, so switching brands doesn’t help. I do my best with one of the few available deodorants that is not also an anti-perspirant, and frequent washing.

        2. I don’t wear deodorant/anti-perspirant. Not because of faux-science, but because of real eczema/psoriasis. Nothing like painful scaly red underarm rash to make one hesitate to apply anything to the area. I’m under the impression I don’t smell terrible–nobody’s called to complain, anyway.

        3. One way to avoid stinking without using deodorant or antiperspirant is to use an antibacterial soap When i was riding my bike a lot I was plagued with saddle sores due to sweating, friction and an unfortunate combination of skin and hair textures.

          The dermatologist had me washing the entire vicinity with Panoxyl 10 Cleansing Bar. I found that knocking the bacterial population of the skin way back not only prevented saddle sores, it also meant that when I did sweat, it didn’t stink.

          You can’t hardly find Panoxyl Bars any more due to some sort of manufacturing issue, but their foaming cleanser is a decent (albeit more expensive), and I’ve also been ordering Coral Active’s Benzoyl Peroxide Bar. It’s not as nice as the Panoxyl, which leaves no soapy film on the skin at all, but the Coral Actives Bar works just as well for treating/preventing acne, saddle sores and sweaty crotch stank.

    7. Hmmm. Well, when I can’t brush teeth for days at a time it’s a good indication that I’m really depressed or otherwise messed up. Showering and other stuff will eventually go, but tooth brushing is the canary in the mine. Even before things when it is obviously vital, like job interviews.

  4. “Goddamnit people brush your goddamn teeth and take a goddamn shower once in a while! This should not be popping up over and over again!”

    Broke up with someone partially due to this. I don’t wash my hair every day, but seriously, wash your armpits and crotch every day and brush your teeth. My dad’s dentures cost more than my car and they were still uncomfortable for him.

  5. I love this post!

    On the boyfriend that’s not taking care of himself, story time:

    Throughout my childhood, my mother alternated between emotionally neglectful and emotionally abusive. Fun times! This all came to a head my sophomore year of high school, when she decided I needed to go live with my dad. My dad and I actually get along pretty well, but the entire situation was really upsetting to me, on top of the preceding couple of years, which had been getting worse and worse.

    Like a lot of abused/neglected kids, I developed very strong coping skills and wouldn’t have said anything too negative if you asked me about my emotional state. BUT! I had what I now recognize as some fairly classic signs of depression – I wasn’t doing well in school all of the sudden, I started smoking, I was sleeping a lot (even for a teenager), and… I stopped taking care of myself. In particular, I stopped brushing my teeth regularly. This lasted for a few years.

    I’m sure some people that don’t shower and brush their teeth regularly just have different “dirty” settings, or ingrained habits, or other more obscure issues. (Example – an ex with serious tooth problems hated brushing because it was intensely painful, which unfortunately just exacerbated his tooth problems.) In my case, though, it was definitely a symptom of how depressed and hopeless I was.

    PSA: Throughout my entire life I’ve had excellent dental care, and I started brushing my teeth again around age 19. It has taken me years to recover from a few years of neglect. I had literally 10+ cavities every cleaning from age 19 to age 28. I think I’ve finally turned the corner on it, and I seriously teared up a little bit when I got my first cavity-free check up last year.

    1. I’m so glad you turned things around. Is there any way a partner or a friend could have helped you during that time if they’d noticed something weird? How would you have wanted to be told, “Hey, could you brush your teeth before we make out? Thanks!”

      1. Oof, that’s hard to say. Specifically with me, the brain weasels that resulted from interacting with my mom make these kinds of conversations difficult. I would generally ignore/subsume/minimize my own feelings. When I was forced to address them, I reacted either very defensively or by deeply internalizing even the slightest sense that I’d done something wrong. It’s like being a field of land-mines – you have to watch out for them while you are getting rid of them.

        My dad and stepmom did try to address my school performance and smoking, but my recollection of those conversations was that they were framed as “MuddieMae, you are so smart. Why are you doing these not-smart-people-things?” I think they were truly concerned and they were trying to be supportive by reminding me I was smart, but the result was that I questioned my own intelligence and competence because I just couldn’t make myself do the smart-person-things (go to school, not smoke, brush teeth).

        I think it would have been helpful if my dad and stepmom had explicitly acknowledged the situation I was coming from and maybe gotten me to a therapist that deals with abused/neglected children. But they may have been in a different situation than an adult’s romantic partner in that they were in situ, so they were more aware of my past.

        I suppose ultimately, if a partner’s bad hygiene is part of a mental health issue, the approach probably needs to be different depending on the specific issue. If I were to hear something matter-of-fact like “hey, can you take a shower before we have sex?” I would have gone into a spiral of anxiety and paranoia. But someone else might respond well to treating the issue routinely, almost casually.

        And I imagine that might be really hard to a partner, especially a new partner, to parse out.

    2. Lots of positive feelings going out towards you! Thank you for sharing this. I am so glad to hear that you finally felt some relief from this cavity business!

      I wanted to throw this out there, too, just in case you get cavities again in the future: they are not 100% of the time indicative of how you are doing. Obviously I am not arguing with your experience here! I just mean that if someday in the future you are still taking good care of yourself and get cavities again, it is OK.

      I have a problem with the shape of my molars and have recently had dentists (I move a lot) tell me that it’s not just me, it’s my teeth. I have better dental hygiene than I’ve ever had before (not that it was bad before, but I have just really grown into dental hygiene as a thing to master), but I’ve also had to accept that I’m just going to need to budget for filling a cavity or two every few years.

      1. Also, folks who have issues with gastroesophogeal reflux (like FirstKid and my dad) can have dental problems as a result of that.

      2. “I just mean that if someday in the future you are still taking good care of yourself and get cavities again, it is OK.”

        Yeah, I’ve got cavities when I was being good about brushing and flossing and having regular dental checkups, and not had any when I didn’t do as well (brushed but didn’t floss much or go to the dentist for a few years).

        Cavities have to do with lots of things — what foods you eat (e.g. people don’t always realize how big an impact acidic foods make; it’s not just sugar), things like brushing and flossing, but also just genes.

        You can certainly lower your risk of cavities but there’s still an element of luck involved.

      3. Definitely true! I had more cavities than some of my friends when I was a child. In my case I noticed a significant increase following the not brushing period, and I got cavities in places that are really unusual in (to be frank) white, middle-class people with no underlying medical issues. These days I’m pretty ok when I have 1 or 2 carries at an appointment – I know I’m taking good care of myself and I have dental insurance through my job.

      4. Yeah, I am horrible with keeping up on my teeth. A big part of it is depression coupled with bad habits and forgetfulness. When I was a kid it would maybe be once a week I would brush, but now I have gotten better to the point where I at least brush 3-4 times a week (more if I have events or shopping or in public things to do-though for some reason work is half and half on whether I do it).

        With that said, in 24 years I have never had a tooth problem more than gingivitis and plaque build up. Everyone else in my family who are super vigilant about their dental hygiene? Multiple cavities and a ton of dental work done.

        I won the genetic jack pot on that one.

  6. Idk, I think for some it’s just pure laziness not to wash properly. I have a new acquaintance who bought a handsoap he didn’t like, Grown man with a job and partner. I thought it odd that his hands were so dirty with the soap being there all eager to be used and he explained that he didn’t like the smell of it so he just didn’t wash his hands. The thought of simply going out and buying a new soap hadn’t ocurred to him. He thought it was fine to just rinse his hands in water. I was like “okay, no touching ever unless you start washing your hands for real”.

  7. Also to the giant lesbian from a tiny lesbian: if you are a butch especially you would be crawling with ladeez in like three seconds in my city. But even if you’re not plenty of queer female people like tall feminine women, myself included.

  8. Okay, so the long distance girlfriend one made me cry so hard, because they are exactly the type of things my long distance boyfriend used to send me.

    I recently got dumped by him in what I consider to be the worst way: to just not answer my calls/emails/texts and hoping I’ll go away. I made sure that he wasn’t dead/in hospital or anything, then wrote him an email (he wouldn’t answer the phone) saying that while I did not know the reasons behind his silence, if he didn’t get in touch within X days I would assume that he had lost interest, and I’m very sorry because you are special to me but I respect your choices blahblahblah. X days passed, no contact was made, so the fact is: we’ve broken up.

    I don’t know how he’s doing, of course, but I have been crying at the drop of a hat ever since the deadline passed. I know a break up is a break up and regardless of how he handled it, I would still be just as, eh, broken up with, but seriously… not letting someone know you’re dumping them is, for my feelings, even worse than the infamous break-up text. Especially as this happened shortly after a visit during which I felt we really came closer together. I still love him, and want the best for him, and hope he’s happy and all that. But that lovely future together we (or perhaps just I…) had been dreaming of is off the table. Heartbreak hurts so much.

    Anyway, that became completely off-topic, but I feel a lot better for writing it anyway. I hope whoever searched for that, will make their girlfriend very happy.

    1. You know what? Breaking off a relationship without ever saying “Sorry, my feelings have changed, I wish you well” is shitty behavior and you deserved better. You don’t owe anyone a complete list of reasons or a friendship afterwards, but it is pretty cowardly to just disappear and wait for someone to get the message if we’re not talking about a few online messages or one internet date. I am really sorry.

      Here’s a poem that won’t make the hurt go away, but I think you’ll like it:

      What Cowboys Know About Love

      Last night on the sports channel
      I watched the rodeo.
      Those cowboys have it right;
      the best and the beauty of it.
      You cannot win, so you ride
      for as long as you can and enjoy it.
      When you dismount,
      whether it be on your own or not,
      it won’t look pretty. You’ll limp off.
      But you’ll feel good; your heart
      will be pounding like it never has,
      and walking away, one crazy step
      after another, your ears will ring
      with the loud approval
      of those who never felt so good.

      Louis McKee

      1. Thank you for kind words. And it’s a very appropriate poem. I’m okay with feeling bad for a while because something less-than-classy was done to me. I know in time I’ll be just fine and get back on the horse. These things are part of life, I guess.

    2. That sounds awful! I’ve been cut off like that, and for me it was the most excruciating experience I’ve had outside of major depression. I hope you’ve got a Team You assembled and looking out for you.

  9. “my husband thinks sleeping in his chair is spending time with me”

    “Husband, let’s plan a DATE. I love you and I miss hanging out with you.”

    Also get his heart checked. A sudden love affair with a chair was an early indicator of heart trouble for me.

    1. Yeah, check All The Medical Things. One of my exes had incredibly severe sleep apnea, and Spouse turned out to have a pretty bad case of it as well (his, thankfully, was responsive to surgery). Passing out mid-conversation turned out to be related to pre-diabetic blood sugar issues, for me. So yeah, this is generally something that a professional should be aware of and looking at.

  10. I love that Judy Grahn poem. This is also one of my favourite long distance relationship poems: A Valediction Forbidding Mourning by John Donne

    As virtuous men pass mildly away,
    And whisper to their souls to go,
    Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
    “Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

    So let us melt, and make no noise,
    No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
    ‘Twere profanation of our joys
    To tell the laity our love.

    Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears ;
    Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
    But trepidation of the spheres,
    Though greater far, is innocent.

    Dull sublunary lovers’ love
    —Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
    Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
    The thing which elemented it.

    But we by a love so much refined,
    That ourselves know not what it is,
    Inter-assurèd of the mind,
    Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

    Our two souls therefore, which are one,
    Though I must go, endure not yet
    A breach, but an expansion,
    Like gold to aery thinness beat.

    If they be two, they are two so
    As stiff twin compasses are two ;
    Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
    To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

    And though it in the centre sit,
    Yet, when the other far doth roam,
    It leans, and hearkens after it,
    And grows erect, as that comes home.

    Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
    Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
    Thy firmness makes my circle just,
    And makes me end where I begun.

    As far as I’m concerned, the sixth stanza is the real core idea of them poem. Not a breach but an expansion.

  11. LOVE.
    Love the poems, love the answers, and I too would like to say “WELCOME” to the awkward clumsy giant lesbian. Come sit by me.

  12. The thing I feel like asking when I hear stuff like this (e.g., self-reportedly ‘unattractive’ or in this case ‘gross’ guys saying girls are shallow for not wanting to date them), is whether there’s anything they find a turnoff in girls they meet.

    Sometimes the person genuinely just doesn’t care that much about physical stuff, in other people as much as in themself… But more often they themselves do have their own ‘standards’ – often quite picky ones.

    Depending on the person, sometimes this hypocrisy comes from a kind of self-centeredness, but other times they partly hadn’t entirely realised it, and if they ever do (which you can’t really make them) they might eventually start to reconcile the way they look at others and the way others look at them, whether by getting better at seeing more than only the physical in others (and/or genuinely learning to enjoy the diversity of human forms more), or just being more understanding and accepting of others reacting to the physical in them, and not taking it so personally.

    1. Hmm… this was meant to be a reply to a post a bit further up, (faetouched
      June 18, 2013 at 8:27 pm).

  13. As a guy who’s subscribed to Match on a few occasions, I’d like to point out that I really appreciate the author’s advice on how to respond to members you’re not interested in. I sent out more messages than I care to count, but always made sure to explicitly engage with what the recipient wrote in her profile and WHY I was interested in her (rather than just a generic “Hey, you’re cute”). I’d say the vast majority of my e-mails went unanswered but I always appreciated when, if the woman wasn’t interested, she sent back a an e-mail wishing me luck in my search, or even just one of the automated “Thanks, but I’m not interested” responses.

    As JenniferP said, no one is obligated to reply to anyone else on these sites. And from reading blogs online, I know many women who DO write back either end up being pestered with “But why?” follow-ups or subjected to hateful tirades. However, for me (and I imagine scores of other sane men), a polite response can be a sign that the recipient recognizes that we’re all “fighting in the trenches” together, and can make the search for a partner seem a little less Sisyphean. (I know that’s bleak, but that’s how it can feel.)

    Also, I don’t want readers to the get the impression that I never got ANY dates, but the response rate was VERY low. Of course, I realize this isn’t unusual, given the lopsided gender-ratio on these sites and the fact that women who subscribe are often flooded with e-mails. And it doesn’t help that I’m a grad student in a college town… The university itself is large, but the number of local women who actually use Match is much smaller than what you’d find in a large metropolitan area.

    Rant over.

    1. When I sent back a “Your message was so thoughtful and kind” notes, a feeling of “We’re all in this together!” is exactly what I was going for. We’re all in this together! Just humans meeting other humans! Go forth and be an awesome human!

      Grad school is a hard place to try to date from. I hope you meet someone great.

    2. See, for this reason I’d like to respond more, but I have serious anxiety problems when it comes to emails or messaging. Not just in a dating sense, that includes business-related e-mails too, networking stuff, and just keeping up with friends. I have no idea why, but I HATE writing responses, and I’ll put it off, or freeze up and panic if it’s over something really big (I missed out collaborating with a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed for years because I just kept getting more and more nervous each time the ball was in my court).

      So 95% of messages on OK Cupid probably aren’t getting a response because having one more online conversation that I’m just not feeling sounds exhausting.

  14. “20 years old and still can’t find a boyfriend”
    I used to have the same concern (I had my first relationship at age 19), but it kills me to see other people with the same anxiety, especially really young ones. Not having a relationship or losing your virginity by Arbitrary Age X doesn’t necessarily say anything about your character or “failure” as a person. Everyone experiences this stuff for the first time at different ages, and that’s okay – not everyone is ready at the same time, either. Shaming the sexually active teens while simultaneously mocking young adults who have yet to be in a serious relationship doesn’t do any good for anybody.

    Also, the end of Forbidden Fruit literally brought me to tears. Thank you for introducing it to me, Cap’n!

  15. I can think of three wonderful long-distance relationship songs. One of them is traditional Irish, and it’s called “I Live Not Where I Love”. Then there’s “Love at a Distance”, recorded – and I think possibly also written – by the very talented Ulster singer and guitarist Kieran Goss.

    And then there’s my personal favourite. I’m going to modernise the spelling of the words for clarity, because it’s a lute song written by Thomas Morley, who was more or less contemporary with John Dowland:

    Absence, hear thou my protestation
    Against thy strength, distance and length;
    Do what you dare, for alteration.
    For hearts of truest mettle
    Absence doth join, and time doth settle.

    Who loves a mistress of right quality,
    His mind hath found affection’s ground,
    Beyond time, place and all mortality.
    To hearts that cannot vary,
    Absence is present, time doth not tarry.

    By absence this good means I gain
    That I can catch her where none can watch her,
    In some close corner of my brain;
    There I embrace and then kiss her,
    And so enjoy and so miss her.

    This one is on an album called simply “Lute Songs”, recorded by Charles Daniels (tenor) and Nigel North (lute). If lute songs are your thing, you will adore this one.

    Also, another hi to the giant lesbian from a medium-sized genderqueer asexual. 🙂

  16. “what to text a girl who blew you off”

    I would send something, especially if the girl is part of your social circle, and you will probably see her again.

    Send something like “Hey, I was expecting to see you at … Is everything OK?”

    If you get no reply then leave it, but you might get a reply like

    “OMG! I’m so sorry. (really good excuse) ….”

    I think one of the places that captainawkward really drops the ball is when socially awkward, non-predatory guys ask questions about dating / interacting with women, and the captain gives a reply appropriate for abusive asshole. Some guys are shy, and do need telling that it’s OK to talk to girls.

    1. The query wasn’t “what to text a friend who doesn’t show up when & where you were supposed to meet them.” Because – duh – if you’re meeting a friend whose desire to hang out with you is a known fact and they don’t show up, then you wait a bit (flickering between annoyance and concern) and then try to get in touch with them to see if they’re just running late, or totally spaced out on the date and you need to reschedule (or not), or if something dreadful has happened. If you don’t get in touch with them then, you go home and check in with them later to find out what happened. You don’t query advice columnists for just the right thing to text them.

      The query “what to text a girl who blew you off” is about a guy who doesn’t really have a relationship with the woman in question, suspects her no-show is intentional, and feels he had a right to expect her. And it’s not about what to say while he’s there waiting (when the obvious thing to text, as with a friend, is “are you on your way, or did something come up?”) No, it’s about how to zing her for having stood him up.

      If his belief that she owed it to him to be there was all in his head (“You going to X’s party?” “Yeah.” “See you there!”) he’s just going to look like a dirtbag for getting pissy about something he had no right to in the first place.

      If she stood him up by accident, she will realize that and get in touch. Women do have agency; it’s not like “But he didn’t text to check in! I couldn’t possibly text him an apology or an explanation if he hasn’t texted me asking!”and thus a relationship that was otherwise meant to be never gets off the ground.

      If she stood him up on purpose (either because she had felt pressured to say yes but never wanted to go, or because she changed her mind but wasn’t considerate enough to let him know), there is no happily ever after in the offing here, and a nasty little zinger of a text a) won’t be that satisfying, and b) may well come back to bite him on the butt, when it turns out she’s pals with the woman of his dreams (or prospective boss) and she quotes his nasty text.

      Hence: you text nothing.

      1. Right– and really, maybe it’s a regional thing, but I really see “she blew me off” used to mean “she said she didn’t want to meet with me/didn’t respond positively to my hint that I wanted a date” more often than I see it used to mean “I was stood up”? Which just makes the “you text nothing (because she owes you nothing)” reply even more appropriate and valid.

        1. Yeah, out here “blowing off” someone usually means ignoring someone’s unwanted advances.

      2. I interpreted it as a date situation. I did not suggest that he get “pissey” or try to coerce her into coming.

        I suggested that he ask if she was OK.

        The underlying premise is that something probably happened in her life which pushed the date down her priority list.

        1. I wasn’t saying that’s what you were saying, but that you were answering a nicer question than the one being asked.

          For me, at least, the accusatory, resentful tone of “girl who blew me off” isn’t actually about someone who’s concerned about the woman’s welfare when she doesn’t show. It’s about someone who felt entitled to something and is annoyed he didn’t get it. I tend to bristle at that — not because no guy ever deserves better than he has gotten, but because the attitude of entitlement often arises whether or not there’s a legitimate basis for it.

          Actually, if the fellow really had a solid “yes,” and got it without undue pressure, I think he absolutely does deserve to have her initiate an “oops I’m sorry” conversation if she forgot her plans with him, or an “actually, I’ve changed my mind” conversation if she decided she regretted saying “yes.” If she doesn’t think he deserves that, I’d say he’s better off not pursuing.

    2. And some guys think that they are just a bit socially awkward and definitely not predatory or manipulative but then behave in a really entitled way over women. I think the Captain does a great job with calling people out on this to give them the opportunity to learn and to check their privilege. It’s also super important for that calling out to be visible to other women (eg on this website) so that they can learn to recognize red flags and know that they don’t have to put up with that crap.

      That aside, I think this is slightly at cross purposes as your suggestions are good ones for ‘what to text a girl who stood you up’ which, as far as I understand, is different to blowing someone off which is an actual ‘I’m not interested’ communication of some variety, in which case I agree with the Captain’s suggestion.

  17. I really hope this is actually somebody’s eclectic internet shopping search terms, e.g.:

    ‘ Long coloured scarf Tom Baker Dr Who’
    ‘Micro-brewed oatmeal stout’
    ‘Awkward clumsy giant lesbian’

    You have received a match! I also have stout!!!!

  18. If I can query the Awkward Army a bit, recs for toothpaste without ‘flavor’ or ‘natural flavor’ in them? We’re doing our best to cut out all of those in our food, as they can be from undisclosed animal byproducts or allergens, but lots of items like toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. all have them!

    1. I really like the herbal stuff I find in Asian shops. I’m told by my mum it’s becoming a fashionable alternative to standard toothpaste, but I got it because I just hate mint foamyness (gag, bleh). I don’t know if the ingredients are what you’re looking for or not but it’s worth a look? There are a few brands/types.

  19. Re “how do i tell my abusive ex why i want no contact?”

    If whoever typed this is reading this, my heart goes out to you. The Captain’s advice is spot on but (maybe I’m projecting here) I feel like there is also an additional hidden question which hasn’t been addressed and that is about closure.

    One of the hardest things for me once I actually got out of my abusive relationship was the injustice of the fact that he never got his comeuppance or had to face the things that he had done to me. To this day he is swanning around happy in the deluded belief that he is not an abuser, and probably not even aware that I think he is one. It hurt me so much and made me so angry that he never acknowledged what he did. I would imagine that this is fairly common because abuse so often silences us, makes us incapable of saying anything other than conciliatory platitudes to our abusers. Also getting out safely often means that even if we could find our voice, the moment of getting out is usually not the right time to explain the why of it.

    But as the Captain says, explaining to an abuser will not make them understand what they have done, and so I think it is important to recognize that you can’t get closure from someone else, it is something you can only get from yourself. When I finally accepted that my abuser would never acknowledge what he’d done, and was able to let go of caring what he thought of me, or of our history, or what narrative he told, I was finally able to shake off the final vestiges of his control over me and become a whole person again. That was my closure.

    I wish you safe healing and all the happiness in the world.

    1. Yes, the important thing is to look after yourself, and take actions that make your life better.

    2. Oh, Manatee, THIS. This times eleventy billion and change. “Closure” and “forgiveness” are trite little words often thrown at abuse survivors to make them stop (the much needed healing process of) talking about what happened. You are so , so right about these guys’ wildly inaccurate conception of themselves as Good Guys who are *Really* the Victim Here. They are neither. But a day comes when you literally just do not care what happens to them, what they say, etc, and it’s usually a sea change—you won’t be able to pinpoint when you start moving on, it’s very subtle. Big jedi hugs to the person who typed that also.

  20. For Long-Distance Relationship words, I recommend the song “Atlantic” by Eddie From Ohio. It’s wonderful.

    “Stand on a rock, and see each other wave; for now, that’ll have to do.”

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