It Came From The Search Terms: SMARCH

The monthly(ish) roundup of the questions people type into search engines to find this blog.

1. “My partner thinks I have genital warts but I have herpes what do I do?”

Both of you should get a full STI screen, if you haven’t already, and talk about whatever you find there. (‘Cause maybe it’s both). Or, if you’ve just done this, say “We thought I had HPV, but the screen showed that actually it’s herpes. You should get screened, too.

2. “My girlfriend is rude to my parents.” 

“Hey, you were pretty rude to my parents tonight. I don’t appreciate you (specific rude thing she did). I think they deserve an apology, and I need you to calm that whole thing down.”

If you bring it up, does she acknowledge the behavior? Is she rude to other people who aren’t you? Is she rude to your folks even after you talk to her about it?

3. “I joined a dating website to hurt him.”

Spite Dating: seems totally reasonable and like it will bring you and your Spite Dates nothing but happiness!

Or, ahem, maybe this is a good sign that whatever relationship you’re in has run its course and it’s time for you to find the exit, take some good care of yourself, give yourself some room to mourn and heal. Join a dating site to remind yourself that you have options. And then, when you’re ready, use that dating site and find new people who will be into you the way you want them to be. But do it for yourself, not at your (soon to be) ex.

4.” ‘I love you as certain dark things are to be loved in secret, between the shadow and the soul’ what does the line means?”

Reading the whole poem, it seems to me the poet is describing a love for someone for reasons that would not be obvious to everyone, in a way that isn’t necessarily healthy or a good idea, but is true nonetheless. It reminds me a little of the song My Funny Valentine. Lit Majors of Captain Awkward, what say you?

5. “I just don’t feel ready enough yet to be in a new relationship because I’m tired and now I want to be alone.” 

Embrace the alone.

Make your living space exactly what YOU want it to be. Eat foods YOU like, watch movies YOU want, listen to YOUR favorite music. Throw yourself into work, into school, into creative endeavors, into meeting new people or trying new things for their own sake. Or curl up under a blanket and wait out this eternal February with a good book. Spend time with your friends and family and people who love you. Be really nice to yourself. Heal. Get some rest. Feast on your life.

And when people ask, in a well-meaning fashion, if you’re dating anyone new or if you plan to, smile and say “I’m sure I will someday, but I’m really enjoying being alone right now.

There’s this picture of Katie Holmes from a while back that people were criticizing for being “frumpy” or whatever. I kind of love her outfit and would wear it in a heartbeat, but mostly what I want to say is “LOOK AT HER SMILE. THAT IS A PERSON WHO IS FEELING LIKE HERSELF RIGHT NOW.”

That’s you. Alone. Walking through the world like you know a secret no one else does, and the secret is that life is huge and amazing and you are strong and wonderful and there are all kinds of love in this world and relationship-type love is only one of them.

6. “My boyfriend asked me what I like in bed.”

Cool! Also, “I don’t know, I’m still figuring that out as I go along” is a perfectly cromulent answer.

7. “Would you feel complimented if someone told you that they’d ‘fuck the shit out of you?'”

There is exactly ONE person on the earth from whom that would get a response of “Whoa. Okay then!” and not “Ew, really?” and that person is the person I already make it with on the regular.

From a friend/coworker/stranger/acquaintance/member of the social circle/someone you don’t already make it with or have a seriously flirtatious vibe where you both discuss sexy things, that seems pretty presumptuous and gross to me, and probably to you, since it’s bugging you enough to want a second opinion. I’m sure there are people who want to be propositioned that way, but it’s totally cool if you are not one of them.

“I’m sure you mean that as a compliment, but whoa, buddy! Too much!”

“Whoa, duder. That’s a lot of information!”

8. “Calling me creepy hurts my feelings.”

This is still the best explanation of what “creepiness” is that I’ve found on the internet. Someone who tells you that you are being creepy is trying to explain how you are making them feel, namely, intruded upon. Unsafe. Overly watched. Personal space invaded. It means “you are paying me too much attention and I don’t enjoy whatever it is you’re doing.

Someone who throws out the C-word wants you stop whatever that thing is and/or go away. It’s meant to sting, because it’s coming from a place of “Yikes! No!” Of course that is going to hurt in the moment, nobody likes to feel rejected and even people who are open to constructive criticism don’t enjoy the moment of realization that they are fucking it up or making someone uncomfortable.

If you’ve been called creepy once or twice, it meant “Stop whatever you’re doing and go away, I don’t like it.” It’s not necessarily a comment on you as an entire person, it’s a shorthand for knocking off some unwanted behavior, and it’s in the eye of the beholder.

If you’re routinely called creepy, it means you have a pattern of invading people’s space, fixating on people in a way they don’t like, maybe making unwelcome sexual comments (see question #7, above). This is information that you can use; it’s telling you that you have some stuff to figure out before social spaces are comfortable for you and for the people you’re hanging out with. It’s not easy work, but it’s work worth doing.

9. “I haven’t told my boyfriend I have a child.”

Rip that bandaid off, my friend. “I’ve never known quite how to bring this up before, and then it went on too long and got weirder and harder to talk about, but I need you to know that I have a child.” + “Here are the circumstances/custody/general deal with that.

The questions he’s probably going to ask are the questions I’m going to ask: “Why didn’t you tell me? Did you think I wouldn’t notice? What else aren’t you telling me?”

And I can’t lie and say that will be a fun or easy conversation or that you’ll still have a boyfriend at the end of it. That’s a pretty big thing to never ever bring up between “first date” and “I use the word ‘boyfriend’ to describe you.” Give him some time/room to process things, and be prepared – have a good friend you can call after you have this talk to help you process how this all goes down.

10. “How can you tell if you’re asexual or just waiting for the right person?”

This might be a good question to take to ACE-specific communities or the Friends of Captain Awkward community, because I think it’s a question a lot of people have and it might do you good to hear many perspectives.

My take is that learning more about asexuality might make you feel less alone and give you some ways to talk about your sexuality and figure out how you feel about becoming partnered or deciding not to. If you find that community and that identity really fits you and helps you think about who you are and who you want to be, embrace it.

My other take is that lots of people want to wait until they find the Right Person before doing anything sexual or only feel attracted to/sexual with someone they really love and trust, and feeling that way doesn’t necessarily constitute a distinct sexual orientation. If you find yourself in a situation where you want to have sex, for whatever reason (love, the Right Person, feel like trying it out and seeing what the fuss is all about, this person seems sexy/safe) that is okay and is part of who you are….ACEers have sex, non-ACE people have celibate periods or even lifetimes.  At the end of the day any descriptors or definitions are there to serve you, a complete person who is a universe unto yourself, and not the other way around.

11. “How do you know if he is into you via online dating?”

When you’re corresponding with someone, you have words and actions to look at, so it should be pretty clear pretty fast!

Words: If someone wants to get together with you on a date, they’ll tell you with words. “I’m really enjoying your messages, would you like to get a drink later this week?” Or they will respond to your invitation favorably, with “I would love to, let’s schedule something. How’s Thursday for you?

The more concrete the plans are – suggesting actual times & days, vs. “sometime” – the more interested the person is in actually meeting up.

Actions: If someone is interested in you on a dating site, and enjoying messaging with you, the messages will feel like a conversation. They’ll respond pretty promptly/regularly (not necessarily immediately, so CHILL), the conversation will flow naturally, and it will feel easy to suggest making plans. If it’s taking days to get an answer and the person isn’t telling you why (“It may take me a bit to respond, I’m in the middle of a big work project, but I’m always very happy to hear from you and will write back just as soon as I can!“), if you’re writing thoughtful stuff and their answers are really vague/terse/noncommittal/generic, that’s a sign of lower interest, bad timing, whatever.

If interacting with them feels like fun, and you feel like there is a good flow and reciprocity to the conversation, and it’s easy to make plans, then they at least like you in a “Let’s go on one date and see!” way, which is all you’re supposed to be finding out from the “online” part of online dating. If it all feels like work, like you’re parsing every statement, like you’re the one putting in most of the effort, then something is off here – either they aren’t interested enough or they aren’t a good fit for how you like to do things. While it’s easy to read that as rejection, I suggest reframing it as information you can use to make a good decision. Some people get invested in someone after a few positive communications (or a really cute picture/good profile) and then want to make all kinds of excuses for bad/indifferent behavior. “Maybe his office is surrounded by a freak lava eruption and it fried all the cables for the internet connection and that’s why he can’t write!”  Do you really want to chase down someone who never writes back to you and can’t schedule an hour to meet you? No. No you do not.

12. “I got no response to ‘we should hang out again sometime.’

When you say you got “no response” do you mean  you got an awkward silence?

You: “We should hang out again sometime.”

Other person: *crushing awkward silence*

Conclusion: They do NOT want to hang out again. Drop the entire question, scrape up what’s left of your dignity, go have a drink with a good friend.


You: “We should hang out again sometime.”

Other person: “Yeah, that sounds great.”

A person who really, really, really likes you and who is extremely confident that you sincerely like them will translate ‘sometime’ into “It’s now my turn to make a plan!

However, many people, even people who like you, will interpret “We should hang out again sometime” as “And I will get in touch with you again about a specific sometime.”

“Sometime” isn’t a date. It isn’t real. Next Thursday. Sunday morning for brunch. Lunch Friday? Those are real times.

13. “Boyfriend doesn’t like my height” and “Is how I cut my hair of concern to my fiancee?”

Everyone doubtless has preferences, qualities they are more attracted to than others, matters of taste, etc.

Whether to share those preferences is another matter. In areas that the person does not control, such as height, the right time to share opinions is NEVER. Never ever. Not at all. Shush. The person can’t change their height even if they wanted to, so the only possible effects that sharing your preference on this matter will have are 1) make them feel bad 2) make them think you’re a jerk.

In matters of changeability and taste, like haircuts, here’s a good rubric for figuring out if you should open your mouth about a partner’s physical appearance.

  • Always compliment what you like. “Nice haircut! It looks great on you.
  • Do it in a standalone fashion, without reference to the thing you don’t or didn’t like. When my mom tells me my new glasses are “a big improvement” it’s not exactly a compliment.
  • I’m sure there are cases where “The Chester A. Arthur look isn’t my favorite on you, but you always look great to me sweetheart” are within bounds, in response to the person directly asking your opinion or a specific set of circumstances. “Do you think I need a haircut before our wedding?” “Yes, yes I do.” or “Since you ask, I’d really like it if you did.” Or, as a reminder. “You’ve got that job interview on Friday, do you want to swing by after work today and get a haircut.” Okay.
  • But mostly you will never go wrong by shutting the fuck up about what people who are not you do with their faces and bodies. If someone is harping on your looks, and it doesn’t make you feel good, say “I don’t like it when you comment negatively on my appearance, it doesn’t make me feel good.” A person who argues their “right” to state their opinion after hearing something like that is a good candidate for the “My most recent Ex, _____ The Controlling Jerk” position that just opened up. In the floor. Beneath them. Over the shark pit.

14. “Should I listen to people question or critique my relationship?”

Are these people who you generally trust to have your best interests at heart? Then hear them out, once. Are their concerns valid?

After that one time or for people who aren’t close to you, “Thanks for your thoughts but I’m very happy, so let’s change the subject” the first time they bring it up and “Wow. No.” the next time and if there are more times than that a) your partner is seriously causing some kind of serious problem that means your friends *can’t* in good conscience hold their tongues (think safety issues) or b) you need new friends.

15. “My boyfriend is coming back home and he wants to suck my vagina but I’m not sure he will enjoy it.”

Hey, he might not enjoy it. Or, you may not enjoy it – it’s presented sometimes as the end-all, be-all of female pleasure but sometimes it’s not all that (or takes some practice to get there, like any sex act). But you should trust that if he says he wants to, he really wants to. What you do about that is entirely your choice. If you don’t want to, then don’t. If you are curious, why not try it out with someone who wants to? Whatever is really making you nervous here, that is real, and it’s okay to feel nervous if you haven’t done something before, but don’t make it about second-guessing what he wants to do. Look to yourself, trust yourself.

16. “What is captain boyfriend?”

I’m glad you asked. He’s a hot, beardy bookseller, actor, and writer named Jeremy, sometimes styled in these pages as The Gentleman Caller. Large of girth, large of brain, largest all of heart; writing back to him on OKCupid is the best decision I’ve ever made.

Speaking of which, it’s time for us to figure out some lunch. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

85 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: SMARCH

    1. And except that her pants are about to be GROSS because HEM THAT SHIT GIRL, she also looks fab, and those fashion writers’ fashion sense needs expansion. There are so many ways to look good.

    2. I am seriously all about Katie Holmes (and people in general really) doing whatever the fuck she wants because Seriously Guys Scientology Is A Creepy Cult. Having control over your own decisions kind of important after getting out from any kind of abusive relationship, including cults.

  1. #4 Granted, I am a Lit Corporal but in addition to the Captain’s take I took away a feeling of a love that is not for show, not for public consumption or the admiration and envy of others but a closely kept love, a private one – it made me think of the couples who don’t feel the need to make out on friends’ couches or plaster “HUBBY!Boo!BLESSED!” all over their facebook walls; they’re strong and close without that. Nothing against couples who do those things, natch.

    #8 What a coink! Being creeped on hurts my feelings! How bout you stop being creepy and I won’t call you creepy anymore?

    1. I agree! Also, I might be projecting my own biases here, but I read the poem as a rejection of the Petrarchan tradition of love poetry, which I can completely get behind. Shorter Petrarch: “Oh cruel woman I saw once from a distance 30 years ago and who is dead now! Your existence has given me so much pain that I am compelled to write swaths of poetry about my special feelings, revealing how little I know about you!”

  2. Re: haircuts and preferences the way my SO and I talk about it is in preferences but not absolutes. He knows I find him even hotter with a beard (hellooo Commander Riker…) but in summer it is way too hot for him to be comfortable with a beard. Likewise, he likes me with long hair but when I cut it he’s not upset. For me it comes down to if I don’t have a preference then I’m happy to go with what turns him on or what he has told me he likes, but only one of us actually gets the final say in what I do with my hair and what he does with his face.

    Although once as a prank he shaved his beard to a 70s “pornstache” and I couldn’t look at him without laughing… sometimes doing whatever you want with your face does have consequences such as only doin’ it in the dark so your girlfriend won’t laugh at you mid-coitus.

    1. Speaking of doin’ it in the dark, my Chester A. Arthur example was not chosen willy-nilly. #MustacheMay

    2. Yeah I think expressing a preference, along with the idea that you don’t expect them to adhere to it, is all fine. Though probably once rather than once a day, lol.

      1. This, and there’s a difference between telling someone you’re already in a relationship with what you prefer versus telling someone what they need to do to win you.

  3. “10. How can you tell if you’re asexual or just waiting for the right person?”

    Ahh, I am all too familiar with this question, as I’ve posited it to myself on many an occasion. The bare bones of it is that if you don’t feel any sexual attraction to a person you’re asexual and if you don’t feel a need to engage anyone in a romantic relationship you’re aromantic.

    BUT! Things change. You could have felt those feelings at one time and then just kind of stopped caring altogether (like myself). You might not have ever felt those feelings, but could be surprised if they do pop up one day, given the right factors in the right person. You might never feel that way ever, you might have a low/non-existant sex drive, or a drive you feel that only you are qualified to cater to and everyone else can sod off and keep their mitts to themselves. You might want the emotional intimacy and engagement without the physical (asexual/romantic) or you may want the physical without the relationship aspects added on (sexual/aromantic). You may want to try some things out of curiosity but it is ALSO utterly okay to never engage ever. Don’t buy into the folks that say “you can’t know if you’ve never tried” because that is YOUR decision to make. You might or you might not try it, but there is never any ‘have to’.

    One of the important things to remember is, much like so many things regarding sexuality, this is a spectrum with a lot of fluidity. You might be somewhere in the grey area of the spectrum (greysexual/romantic or demi-sexual/romantic) and the possibility that you might slide up and down it is very real! And if you feel more comfortable not sticking a label on it and progressing through life as is most comfortable for you, that is also okay.

    The Captain’s recommendation to find a community to observe/interact in is a great one. Seeing others’ road to self-discovery and all the speedbumps along the way makes a huge difference. Whatever you end up deciding (and whether you ever make a hard classification or decide ‘whatever’) know that you’re not alone. 🙂

    1. Hearts to this comment!

      I would add that if you do find yourself in a relationship in the future, honesty about your lack of experience, and clear communication with partner if something is/is not working for you are good to have.

      Also thinking of physical/emotional intimacy as simply the way you and your partner choose to express your affection to each other is a good approach.
      It makes figuring things out into a cuddly exploration of love and takes the pressure of “SEX! We must have it!” off the table.

  4. Whether to share those preferences is another matter. In areas that the person does not control, such as height, the right time to share opinions is NEVER
    From #13

    PREACH. My husband told me once, a zillion moons ago, that he was surprised he was attracted to me since his “type” is short girls. Because they’re cute. I’m 5’9″. He’s never brought it up again, but it’s also never left my head. “Never” would have been a great option for his desire to share that.

    1. Ditto. My husband told me his type was “always blondes” and I am such a brunette. The weird thing was his previous ex has the same coloring as I do. I was like, “maybe you need to revisit your type…or, like, not have one.”

    2. Yeah…I generally like to stay the fuck away from dudes who talk a lot about what they do and do not find attractive, because there are the ones who comment on YOUR attributes…and then there’s the ones who comment on all the things that anyone could ever do which they might find hideously ugly. Because then you’ll be wrapped up in “can’t get fat! Can’t gain too much muscle tone! Can’t forget to shave armpits, ever! Can’t experiment with short haircuts! Wearing warm clothing in the winter is bad!” I agree with the Captain’s advice. Nothing good can come from those comments!

    3. This is not really relevant, but I honestly never understood how you could develop a physical “type.” (But then, I am in the aforementioned gray end of the sexual spectrum!) (I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, just that identifying someone as my type and then feeling attraction has never happened to me.) Like, I almost invariably end up physically attracted to . . . guys who are nice to me? And who are interesting and pleasant to be around? So my type is guys who have black/brown/blonde/red hair and dark brown/light brown/green/blue eyes and who are short/tall/medium height. . . erm. Often they have facial hair, though! Often they have interesting noses! (I mean, maybe it’s because I thought me having a sexuality at all was invalid that I don’t have well-defined attraction preferences? Does anyone else have the experience of never experiencing up-front physical attraction but later developing it?)

      . . . so here’s hoping that there are some guys out there who also operate on a “what I am really attracted to about you is the you-like shape of your you-ness” basis of physical attraction. . .

      1. I am a person who’s just attracted to a LOT of different kinds of people, and the best I can figure as a universal “type” connecting all of them would be “open and expressive faces” which is something I tend to notice a lot. But beyond that, I’ve dated a range of genders, body sizes, hair colors, etc. I sometimes notice patterns, but honestly that seems related to my environment as well (for example: I moved to San Francisco where there are a lot of sweet-faced stocky beardy dudes and I find myself noticing them more, but I think some of it is that there are just MORE of them than in my previous town).

        Also, I have found myself becoming attracted to folks that don’t instantly ping my “wow you’re super attractive” radar. Friendliness and an emotional connection can go a long way! So I’m not a person who doesn’t experience it up front, but I don’t *only* experience it then, at least.

        1. Tall, bookish-looking guys tend to turn my head, but I’ve found that my slight preference can often be overridden by a winning personality and smile once I’ve conversed with someone. Slobby dressing, bad hygiene, and/or smoking will sink anyone in my estimation, however.

          1. I am a U.S. Midwesterner who went to an engineering university and then moved to Europe. My radar has not yet recovered.

            “I think . . . I might be . . . attracted . . . to you?” (pause) “Wait, no, you’ve just combed your hair and are wearing a nice shirt and pants that fit. Never mind.”

          2. I do have a type (glasses, big noses, darker hair) but it has been overridden before (“generally thin” used to be part of it, until 2009; and I’ve fallen for dudes with smaller-than-my-ideal noses). It’s the same kind of thing you’re talking about: someone can look average, close-ish to my type but not quite there, and then compatible senses of humor/similar interests/similar beliefs/personality will turn them into the most attractive person in the world.
            Conversely, if a supersexy person turns out to hate poor people or is anti-choice or hates books or makes fun of the stuff I like or thinks my degree has no worth? (Or a lot of other things?) NOPE. I’ll instantly start noticing tiny flaws and do whatever I can to extricate myself from the conversation. I’ve had that relationship, to one degree or another, it sucked, not going there again (mostly hypothetical since I’m engaged, but whatever.)

        2. I don’t have a specific physical type, but I tend to find androgyny/genderqueerness attractive in relationship partners.

          Looking back at past partners I can definitely see physical patterns, but as you say that has a lot to do with geography (three groups of people from specific regions settled here, and you can see who belongs to which extended family in their face and body type).

        3. Conversely, I’m feeling a little guilty now because I very much have a “type.” It’s not an exclusive “type,” but I will almost always sit up a little straighter when presented with short, dark-haired, bespectacled guys (with Eyebrows. Is that a weird thing to say? I think maybe Eyebrows make it easier for me to read facial expressions). But especially short guys, for some reason.

          I also know that being a nice, awesome person is not enough to override my physical preferences. I think that might be because my libido runs pretty low. So 99% of the time, if I’m around an awesome person of whatever gender, I’m thrilled to just hang out and enjoy awesomeness. To actually have any kind of pantsfeels, someone’s got to trip my “you are physically attractive” triggers pretty hard. And if they don’t, it doesn’t matter how amazing they are, or even how close we are (like me and my best friend)–my pants are doing nothing.

          1. Having a type is fine. One time long ago I met my ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend and she was basically my doppelganger down to the Danskos on our feet and the cool glasses on our faces and the books on our shelves, and we both knew it immediately, and it was hilarious (I LOVE HER). Telling someone you’re dating that they are not your usual type or how they differ from that type tends to be the kind of comment that sticks in their mind forever, and not in a good way.

            Most people should out the template of what faces/bodies/types you are attracted and are not attracted to in your head, with your inside thoughts-voice, not out loud, at the person you’re doing it with.

          2. Oh please don’t feel bad — I was feeling more awkward and inquisitive about this phenomenon. Attraction works in such different ways for everybody!

            I do think it’s handy to have in mind the range of ways other people click with other people — the most classic example, I think, is the spectrum of “click right away” to “click after a long time” types of people, which can make for some sadness and discomfort if you don’t realize the other end of the spectrum is possible, or misidentify which kind of person you’re dealing with.

            I sure as fuck don’t want to HEAR about how I don’t fit a dude’s physical type, but the fact of types existing is a useful thing to have in the back of my head. I think it’s also uber important to question one’s own preferences for factors of racism, ableism, fat hatred, etc. — not necessary as an obligation to change them, but to think really hard about where those preferences come from and what stereotypes they are or are not based in.

            I feel you on the Eyebrows. While I don’t really get Pantsfeels on any regular basis, my aesthetic enjoyment of other people’s face is upped by a Nose. Preferably a NOSE. But Eyebrows! are good too. (Random side note: do you read Lackadaisy Cats? There is a fabulous fair of Eyebrows! that are practically their own character in that comic.)

          3. Eh, you can’t control what your pants are feeling! I don’t think it’s something to feel guilty about. I get my hackles up when folks are jerks about the overall attractiveness/worthiness of anyone who falls outside of their preferences, but I don’t think anyone’s obligated to be attracted to any particular person or a certain percentage of people.

            Also, reading that initial comment I made, it kind of looks like I’m patting myself on the back for being such a cool guy who likes so many people, which wasn’t my intent for sure. I don’t think having a wide range of attraction is inherently better or worse than having more narrow preferences, it’s just something I’m painfully aware of in my daily life.

          4. I’ve got a type, too – at least, a type that I crush on, HARD. If a tallish, tattooed, dark haired punk boy crosses my path? Hand me a mop, I need to get rid of this puddle of drool that suddenly appeared. (Weirdly, I always date blond farm boys that listen to acoustic rock and folk and want to go to things like FloydFest with me.)

            Anyways! The point. The last guy I was seeing told me, “I’ve never been interested in anybody as tall as you are before,” and had made a big deal – in a good way! – about how his ex could drink like a fish and smoked like a chimney. I….yeah. Will never smoke or drink a bottle of Jack on a Wednesday night just because it’s Wednesday. And I’m never going to be the tiny pixie type he seemed to want. And it made me feel like absolute shit. I was an insecure mess. It was horrible and soul crushing and I wish he had never, ever, ever said any of that to me.

            But then, when he said his type was American girls, I freaked out because then I felt interchangeable. “Oh, I’m just your latest American then, huh? When will the one after me come along?”

            It’s not that he had a type that was the problem – it’s the way he said it and the way it made me feel. I was either not what he wanted at all or part of some long chain of women that went on into the sunset. Types, man. Having them is fine, you just can’t win by bringing them up.

        4. I have a much easier time finding personality patterns in people that I’ve been attracted to — a certain type of teasing humor, a wide streak of silliness, (often but not always) ready expressiveness, reliable kindness, a self-aware and compassionate owning of the awkwardness*, etc.

          Which always makes me worry a bit about online dating, because I’m selecting first based on photos, but that’s. . . not how attraction works for me in real life.

          * Does anyone else have this turn-off? Where someone self-identifies as “weird” or “special” with this sort of chip-on-their-shoulder special-snowflake-ness, and then turns out to be super regular (“I’m so special! I like to travel AND read books AND I don’t want to work a 40-hour regular workweek!” or “I’m so weird! I am interested in literature AND science and I find social interaction kind of painful!”) or at least comfortably within the range of human variation, and while I deeply identify with feeling out of place and lost, I also feel like MOST humans identify deeply with feeling out of place and lost, for different reasons and in different ways. When people set themselves apart from EVERYONE it just makes me wonder if they lack empathy or listening skills. Like yes, own your weird, but be tender toward and interested in your fellow human beings, because they are ALL weird and fascinating.

          1. I think using sites like OKC primes us to REALLY read into each word and the phrasing. Not even in a bad or paranoid way. What people decide to write and put out there can say a lot about their personality. I definitely like my men nerdy and a little wacky, but I might side-eye that kind of phrase in a profile. It wouldn’t be the automatic turn-off for me (for me, the automatic turn-off that “should” sound nice is anything emphasizing what a gentleman he is, or the word “old-fashioned), but if there were any other pale pink flags fluttering around, they might add up enough pigment to make one red flag.

            It’s always worth being on the look-out for that awkward bitterness that being socially awkward can sometimes bring. Socially awkward isn’t a terrible thing, but bitterness? Eh, who has the time?

          2. @thathat: Heh, the “gentleman” thing! I didn’t even consider that a “turn-off” because I was thinking of situations where I was otherwise already considering the guy — like during the first date — whereas that phrase = BLOCK AND DO NOT INITIATE CONTACT.

            I think both the “I’m so weird” thing and the “gentleman” thing both fall under the category of “not self-aware” for me — I love people who passionately follow interests that are not particularly mainstream and who embrace their own unusual qualities, but when they set themselves up as simplistically contrarian or superior to the mainstream and use that as an excuse to not learn about other people it . . . makes my skin crawl.

            Also good to watch for is that guy who has comforted himself his whole life by saying, “Well, even though I’m a geek, I’m SMARTER than everybody else!” That guy does not want to hang out with you unless you want to be the Pinkie to his Brain. Sigh.

          3. I can certainly identify with that turn-off, Jane. I’ll say it now: I’m pretty weird. But you probably wouldn’t know it from looking at me (not that there’s anything wrong with people who “look weird” according to societal definitions), nor would you know it from an initial, brief conversation. I’m not really a fan of people who desperately brag about how weird and unique they are; I’ve found that in many of those cases their “uniqueness” is comprised of entirely secondhand characteristics. (Okay, so you can quote every Monty Python sketch and every George Carlin routine. But what makes you uniquely weird and funny?)

      2. I’ve found that there are traits I like about people visually if they’re folks I am just looking at and don’t know well, but none of those things have translated into a “type” that holds true as a pattern across people I’ve liked, dated, or even kissed. For example, I really love purple hair, septum piercings, and brightly patterned foot and leg wear, and tend to spend a little bit more time looking at people with those traits. However, what I’ve realized is that liking those traits is not even so much about those aesthetics as it is about the fact that those are all traits possessed by folks I’ve known who play in wonderfully weird street bands, and so I consider folks with those traits slightly more likely to share my affinity for street music. Things I like about people visually tend to be shorthand codes for what their hobbies, tastes, and politics might be, and the attraction either grows or fades independent of their looks if I talk to them more and see how accurate the visual shorthand really was. I’ve never actually dated anyone who had all three of the traits I’ve listed above, and most of my partners have had none of them. I can’t imagine having a visual “type” that could override or take precedence to someone’s personality.

      3. “. . . so here’s hoping that there are some guys out there who also operate on a “what I am really attracted to about you is the you-like shape of your you-ness” basis of physical attraction. . .”

        WIN! Love this.

    4. How is telling someone that they’re surprised they’re attracted to you supposed to be a compliment? That was an awful thing for him to have said to you 😦

      I think that kind of thing can be a mess even if you aren’t saying it specifically about the person you’re talking to. Like, even if you never say “wow, it would be great if you were five feet tall because short people are so cute!” but instead you only ever compliment the attractiveness of short people… people are oblivious to hints a lot of the time, but when it comes to what physical attributes our partners are into people can be really sharp at catching that sort of thing.
      Example: I have a friend who, when he’s paying attention (ie putting effort into it), will tell me I’m beautiful. When he’s not paying attention (ie when he’s not editing himself and being entirely honest) he is very down on overweight people. That pattern makes it so that any time he says I’m beautiful what I hear is “I think you’re ugly, but you’re my friend so I’ll lie to you” which leads to me avoiding spending time with him.

      1. Yeah, I used to get attention from guys on the rebound from anorexic women. It was specific and odd.
        It’s not a complement to hear “You ought to be ugly, but you’re not” or in my case “You’re not my type, but it’s sexy to watch you eat.” Uh, thanks?

        1. Flames. Flames on the side of my face.

          I had a guy tell me he wasn’t “usually into women who cared so much about their food” but it was “refreshing” to watch me enjoy – wait for it – fresh guacamole.

      2. Yeah, I remember really early on, when we were starting out and had fab chemistry and were seeing each other naked for looooong, looooong stretches, my ex told me he was mostly into petite girls. And I am IN NO WAY, SHAPE (HA) OR FORM PETITE. It was a bit ping-y and hurt-y. It would have made my life a wee bit better not to have been told that. (Plus – HIS EXES WERE 75% OF A SIMILAR BUILD TO ME I.E. NOT FREAKING PETITE.)

    5. I dated someone who told me that he was usually attracted to curvier girls and I was the smallest person he ever was interested in…I actually got this quite a lot (when I was smaller) and there was sometimes this attitude of “I can say this because girls like being told they’re small!” It was still kind of odd just in a “not sure how to take this” way.

    6. Huh, I’ve always been weirdly flattered when men tell me they’re attracted to me even though I’m not “their usual type.” I’ve always taken it to mean I’m so attractive I supercede all other taste!

      1. Yes… I don’t think I’ve had it said exactly to me, (though I was once called a “blip” appearancewise in a man’s dating history and liked it) and clearly it can be said very badly and offensively, but surely it CAN be said as a compliment? “I thought I wanted thing 1, but you, who are all thing 2, are so amazing it has just overwritten that whole part of my brain/libido and all my preconceptions are blown away and I am reeling in this brave new world of Thing-2-ness.”

        I mean … finding out you DO fit their type is not necessarily plain sailing either, right? Like, oh, I guess I’m just a hair/skin colour, body type and possible fashion sense to you?

        I guess it depends partly on if it’s a trait that one might be sensitive about if or is socially less approved or whatever, plus how it’s said. I mean, “my normal type is curvy women, but I love your body, I wouldn’t want you any other way!” would feel like compliment to me, whereas “I don’t normally like flat-chested women, but on you it works!” is techiniclly the same information but also clearly just a neg.

        1. So I have Thoughts on this.

          I think it goes back to two things: 1. The source of your “type” and 2. The motivation for telling someone you have a “type.”

          1. The source.
          We all have a right to be attracted to whoever we are attracted to, but that doesn’t mean that very personal senses of attraction are not laced with racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc. I think it’s important to think very, very hard about who we are attracted to and why, even if we don’t have the ability or inclination to change.

          Simple example: The first time I was attracted to someone non-white, it was a surprise to me. The source of that “type” was straight-up racism. Thus, I kept that shit to myself and did some heavy thinking about my assumptions.

          2. The motivation.
          When I hear “wow, you’re not my usual type” I hear shades of “you’re not like all the other girls.” It can be a manipulative tactic that forces the person who does not fit the “type” into a role where they have to be a model representative of their “type,” because the type-haver has set up himself (usually), herself, or xirself as the arbiter of What Is Good And Is Attractive and You Better Watch It Or Else You’ve Proved to Me That All People Like You Are Gross. It’s a way of shifting blame and responsibility off the person who is possibly admitting to something very nasty (e.g. thinking all Black women or fat men are unattractive.)

          I think if you are ever tempted to express a statement like this, beyond thinking about the things the Captain mentioned already — you should think about whether you are setting up a dynamic of My Type Is Good vs. Your Type Is Bad. “I’m not usually attracted to fat girls,” is an obvious example — there’s an embedded value judgment there that’s pretty gross. But even, “I’m not usually attracted to girls who don’t know anything about music” can be dangerous, if what you’re really saying is “You are inferior in this way and don’t you forget it.”

          Whereas I think if I guy said to me, “I’m usually attracted to women who are into poetry, but I find your interest in architectural writing really cool,” yeah, that would strike me as a compliment, because it’s referring to a personal choice, and both of the options given are awesome, so it’s clear that it’s a PREFERENCE, not a judgment.

    1. Me too, and I’m excited to see them referred to as “monthlyish”! (I mean, maybe they have always been monthlyish and I just didn’t notice — either way, I’m pleased to know that they are *officially* a recurring feature.)

  5. I want Katie Holmes’ sweater. Her smile is the smile of someone who is happy right now probably in part because they are wearing comfortable clothing.

    1. Ha, yes, the smile of “I’m wearing comfortable shoes and can walk at a normal pace instead of mincing along.”

  6. I love that Neruda poem so much I had it as a reading at my wedding. My take, as someone with a Lit degree but who never studied Spanish poetry: it’s about a kind of love that you feel in your bones, a dark, intuitive recognition, a love that brings out the darker sides of you because it evokes your insecurities and your passions, because you connect to the other person so profoundly that they become an aspect of you. I don’t think it’s an unhealthy love, necessarily, although it would be unhealthy to stay in that space with it all the time. I think it’s a love that brings you face-to-face with yourself, with your real wants and needs, which is not always a super-pretty picture.

    1. Correction: Neruda was a Chilean poet. At any rate, it makes me wish I spoke more Spanish and could really feel the texture of the original.

    2. We had it at our wedding too! Also a lit degree but I’ll admit I went with emotional reaction to the poem rather than in depth study. I read it as being a love that happens privately and without need for fanfare or public spectacle (and had it read at my public spectacle about our love). A love that is simply love, being felt deeply into the core of your self. What I really liked about it is that there seems to be no demand in it. In a lot of poetry there seems to be some need for the poet to do something, or for the love interest to respond, or some goal to be achieved. This seemed more like love as I know it, just being there, accepting what is there. Experiencing love rather than pursuing it.

      1. Dammit, I instantly wanted to have it read at my wedding upon meeting it, and now that two people I’ve never met did the same thing I feel unoriginal. Bah.

        1. Love what you love, do what you want to do. It’s silly to do something you don’t like because it’s popular but it’s just as silly to -not- do something you -do- like because it’s popular. So many people have gotten married, you’d have to go really out of your way to have a wedding full of only things no one has done before 🙂

        2. heh, I’d say classics are classics for a reason. that’s a beautiful poem there and if you connect with it, why not use it?
          (disclosure: never been even engaged and don’t particularly plan on getting married ever, but I enjoy weddings)

    3. I like the poem, thank you for sharing it CA. As an abuse survivor what I took away from it was entirely different. Loving the broken, not with clear thought, not understanding why, nor knowing any other way to love and ultimately becoming part of the darkness that I love and don’t understand, except it’s different now. Yet the poem has a certain seductiveness that can’t be denied.

      1. that wasn’t clear and this may not help; “I love you as the plant that never blooms” and the rest of it, reminds me of the darkness of a love that won’t work and only serves to bring a darkness of soul that can’t be overcome as you water the love and it never *really* grows, the other’s love brings that darkness into you. The best poetry is endlessly interesting with what it says to each of us. I’m saving that one.

        1. I took it that way too, and am a fellow abuse survivor. The “plant that never blooms” bit struck me the same way. Everyone’s personal experiences definitely inform the way we read things!

    4. I just love muttering “salt rose, topaz” … and with both of you ladies on the interpretation. Mostly I just love reading that one out loud …

      And as a certified lit person, in the spirit of the site, if you, question-asker, are confused or curious about what it means to the person who quoted it to you — then use your words! discuss! talk together about the poem, your feelings, all the rest … you could have worse jumping-off places than Neruda. (And then you have the other nineteen of the Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair to explore together … ). Oh have fun young lit lovers …

  7. “I don’t like your height.”
    “No worries, I’ll just go get a few extra pairs of kneecaps installed.”

    True love.

  8. Huh, I read that poem as being about very healthy love. Loving someone in a way that is so unobtrusive and all-encompassing that, like air, you can hardly notice it’s presence. And that love comes from a source that isn’t flashy or ephemeral.

    Re: #10
    How do I know I’m asexual? Because my sexuality is “No thanks!” I’m just not interested. Never have been. There may be a Mr or Ms Right out there waiting for me, and when I meet them suddenly I’ll start feeling the sexyfeels and all that jazz. But I feel no desire to go looking for that person because there’s no hole in my life where a sex partner ought to be. It’s not just that I’ve never met anyone I’m attracted to, it’s that I’ve never felt an urge to look for someone.

    If you want a lover, good for you! Go forth and find one. And be as picky as you want… if someone just doesn’t do it for you, that’s okay. You don’t need to justify your feelings.

    If you don’t want a lover, that’s also fine! Don’t waste time looking for something you don’t want. And if someday you change your mind, well, sure. But live your life for the person you are now, not the person you might be someday.

  9. Huh. The *poem* maybe about a good relationship, but that *line* reads to me as “I have a girlfriend and I don’t want her to find out about you.” /cynical

    1. Yes, I definitely wanted to know the context in which the person came across the line or the poem. Because my cynical head jumped to an NSA or FWB thing that they’re “keeping private” for reasons but it’s actually one person who is uncomfortable/ashamed with going pubic but doesn’t want to lose the sex. Darn cynicism! I thank the commenters who shared their wedding stories for providing a happier contextual reading! I do think Neruda’s work can encompass so many meanings.

  10. Re #13: I shaved my head recently, and I do think it was reasonable for my boyfriend to have an opinion on that. It wouldn’t have been reasonable for him to tell me no, you must never do that. But I think he was being perfectly reasonable when he asked me to postpone it a month until we’d finished moving across the country and our lives had gotten less stressful in general.

  11. Re: 10: Also, even if you are not asexual, my experience with the community is that they are mostly okay with people hanging out there if they’re not sure they are or not, although I myself haven’t been active there for years so my advice there probably isn’t the best to take (naturally there is a lot of bullshit policing about “good” asexuals blah blah blah…) Regardless, if you are not sure, you are okay to call yourself asexual as long as you feel that way! And then if you learn you’re not, that’s okay too; you will not have hurt anyone and you had a comfortable place to hang out while you were not into sex.

    Also Captain, is there a reason you capitalized ACE? I’m not saying this to be a pedant, I’m just behind the times and don’t know if it now stands for something other than “I don’t want to keep typing the whole word”. And we have a zillion words that are hard to keep track of haha.

    1. Seconding the capitalising thing, except I am being a pedant. It makes it look like an acronym, which it isn’t.

      Much agreement, very yes to the rest of the comment too. Asexual covers a pretty wide base and isn’t necessarily permanent. I know it’s confusing; it’s pretty hard to prove a negative, and aesthetic attraction can throw off false positives, and maybe this, maybe that, maybe the other… just try not to get tangled up in it all. Call yourself Ace and stop worrying about it, and if you do someday meet someone who gives you pantsfeelings, go for that instead (unless it would be a REALLY BAD IDEA, in which case file the information away in your brain and apply it in reference to other people).

  12. You know that meme:
    “I’ve been single for a while and I have to say, it’s going very well.
    Like… It’s working out.
    I think I’m the one.”

    I’m kinda rocking that meme right now. To the peeps of nos 5 and 10: feel free to rock it with me 🙂

  13. “Large of girth, large of brain, largest all of heart…”

    Oh, Captain. Your Gentleman Caller sounds exactly like my best friend, who is also big and brainy and beardy and super cute. I wish there were more ladies around with your obviously excellent taste, because he’s single and miserable about it.

    Asexual or possibly-asexual peeps: AVEN is an excellent place to start, especially the FAQ section, which is very clearly written and non-judgemental. They also have a chat forum, but I got a bit fed up with that after a bit because there was too much arguing for my taste, and, you know what, I’m too old for all that. (And happy to be, but that’s a whole ‘nother matter.) However, there are a lot of excellent ace groups on the Book of Face; the main one is just called “Asexuality” and is large and rapidly growing. Those resources should be quite a lot of help to anyone trying to figure out exactly where they fit on the bewildering spectrum of (a)sexuality.

    Oh yes, and another thing: asexual people are *really diverse*. In my experience, aces seem to be even more diverse than sexual people. I think this may be because once you’ve asked the question about whether or not you’re even sexual at all, it becomes a lot easier to start asking other questions. (It certainly worked like that for me; once I realised I wasn’t actually sexual, it became a lot easier to understand that I didn’t have a gender either.) So there’s no need to worry about being the odd one out in the asexual community, because you can bet your boots there’ll be at least one person who is exactly like you. Good luck!

  14. There’s this picture of Katie Holmes from a while back that people were criticizing for being “frumpy”
    Change the “f” to a “g”, and you’ll describe those “people” to a “T”. (Apologies for the alphabet soup.)

    As someone who lives in the NYC area, I think she’s got good NYC street style. And, yeah, she looks like someone I’d enjoy spending an hour with in a coffee shop (or on a park bench, if the snow ever goes away 😦 )

    (BTW: am I supposed to know who Katie Holmes is?)

    1. She’s an actor who was married to Tom Cruise and was in the first Nolan re-launch of the Batman movies . . . I feel like she’s one of those people whose public visibility mostly has to do with rude speculation about her private life, so if you don’t absent-mindedly read the tabloid headlines in the grocery store line, then maybe she wouldn’t be on your radar.

      1. Oh (and to make sense of a comment by the good Captain above) she’s somewhat taller than her former husband, and it always rather seemed like she was trying to shrink into herself to make that fact noticeable.

        I feel her current cultural significance on the Interwebs now is as the reason Suri’s Burn Book can exist.

        1. I remember a post on TLo’s site from right before they broke up with Tom and Katie and the red carpet. She was wearing high heels and they pointed out that it was the first time in forever that she’d worn heels like that at an event where she’d be photographed with Tom.

  15. I wish people labeled creepers would take your advice. Sadly, most I’ve known are convinced beyond dissuasion that their own hurt feelings are infinitely more important than the fear they cause others. I’ve never been able to get through to them that people aren’t being mean to them: it’s their own fault 100%.

  16. I am almost loathe to post this comment just because the type of person CA is addressing hardly needs the encouragement to think of themselves as being different from THAT type of creepy, so this is a general disclaimer of: if you have been called creepy, please take a moment (or several moments!) to reflect on what the Captain has written; they could be words that you need to hear and process.

    BUT. Without any other context there are lots of reasons where someone might call you creepy and you have no reason to take it to heart! If it’s “She’s never had a boyfriend and doesn’t like to go to parties, how creepy” or “Yeah he likes birdwatching, it’s creepy” or “Haha your [speech impediment/mobility disorder/involuntary movements] make you look creepy,” then generally? Fuck ’em, they’re the problem. (Now, with the first two, there’s room for expansion– like, maybe you’ve gone on rants about how partying is stupid or have been a little intense and oblivious to disinterest in your passion for birdwatching, so that even if they are still mostly the problem, there are changes in your behavior you COULD make to pave the way for a smoother relationship– but, mostly, if it’s just a case of a friend/social group using “creepy” as a synonym for “different in priorities/interests/life situations than myself,” fuck ’em.)

    This comment brought to you by hearing the word “creepy” to describe behaviors such as: being a cat person, enjoying Lord of the Rings, not enjoying jogging, ENJOYING jogging (different people!), following gymnastics as a sport, eating the same type of cake on your birthday every year, eating pizza with a knife and fork, having a deaf accent, going to the library… Yyyyyeah.

    1. I second this comment. Hearing feminists talk about how creepy is ONLY EVER about violating someone’s boundaries etc tends to really bother me because my own experience directly contradicts that — I’ve been called creepy for being TOO QUIET and withdrawn (which definitely didn’t help with my tendency to get into a vicious cycle where I’m quiet, and I notice the awkward pauses and freak out about how horribly I’m failing at social interaction, which makes me become even MORE terrified, which leads to more awkwardness and makes it even harder to say anything at all …).
      And I see it used plenty often not just for people whose behaviors seem weird or make others uncomfortable but whose *appearance* is weird or disconcerting, whether they wear a lot of gothic makeup or have gotten a lot of plastic surgery or just have a naturally funny-looking face. If I ride the bus and notice someone with cat-eye contact lenses that makes looking them in the eye kind of disconcerting, I might be inclined to use the word “creepy” when describing them to my friends later, but that doesn’t mean that they owe it to me not to provoke that reaction, and if we shared a mutual friend group and they found out that I’d been talking about them like that, I think they would have a right to be upset about it.

      Which is not to say that it wouldn’t be completely off-topic concern trolling to bring this up in the context of Schrödinger’s Rapist discussions or where someone is clearly using the word to describe unwanted attention or other inappropriate behavior, but I don’t really see how we can know that about some random person on Google. We don’t even know if they were being called creepy to their face (more likely when you’re actively pestering someone, versus merely existing in public) or if they found out that people were making fun of them behind their back.

  17. Cap, your Gentleman Caller sounds like a real-life version of Joshua from Girls With Slingshots.

    (That’s assuming Joshua doesn’t turn out to have some horrible dark secret or something. Danielle’s been striiiiinging us along with him for months now, but right now, he’s kind of amazing.)

    1. Oh. My gosh. Yes. And I just have to have a squee about the current story arc, because eeeee they are so cute separately, and even cuter together! They are my ship to end all ships.

      1. Burn your ships, Cortes (or Feanor, if that’s more your style). Clarice/Joshua forever.

  18. I love hair with grey in it. Can’t help it. I was once with somebody who dyed theirs. Every now and then I’d tell her how much I like grey hair and oh how nice it would be see hers. Wasn’t gonna happen.
    Luckily for me time is on my side.
    But hey–I’ve had girls tell me it’s time for a shave/haircut/new shirt and in the scheme of give-and-take (but more because they were obviously correct) I would yield to their preference.
    In fact I once grew a beard (mine is ratty unbenevolent and not really cool) and shaved it down to a handlebar Mo. My friends understood the temporary joke, but for my girlfriend it was not a libido-lifter. I took the hint since nobody at all ever said “Yay great moustache.”
    As for “types,” I think it’s a bit of a myth. No two women I’ve dated have been all that similar in appearance. Maybe height wise but really–once you are horizontal and the lights are dim…

    1. I have spent almost a decade using online forums as a way to refine my communication and listening skills. I still step in the poo sometimes, but am much better than I was.
      Your comment looks very much like something I would have posted when I first started. Which is why I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt that you were aiming for whimsy wit, and are feeling embarrassed and a little defensive that you landed in the Bog of Creepy.

      If even the people closest to you are not responding the way you intended when you use humor, it may not be the best way for you to communicate.
      You might get better responses from people if you stick with a straightforward communication style.

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