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It Came From The Search Terms: Cold November Rain (aka Freezing Jerkwater From The Sky)

Every month we answer the things people typed into search engines like they are actual questions, adding punctuation but leaving the wording intact. If it sounds like me saying “but you could just not” 20 times in a row, that’s pretty much what happens every month with these. Enjoy?

1. “Ex will not stop calling.”

Tell them ONE TIME in a way you can document (text or email): “Please don’t contact me any more.

Then do not respond to any communications. No matter what they say, do not answer. Some people have success by getting a new phone number but keeping the old one active for a few months. Give the new number out to people close to you (with instructions not to share it with anyone, and if your friends break that rule, they are not your friends). Put the old SIM card in a friend’s drawer and let your ex fill up your non-existent mailbox with messages that you will never, ever listen to.Tell family and friends what’s going on, and consult law enforcement if you feel like you need to. But do not answer this person’s calls.

2. “How to reject a hug.”

If you can, when they put up their arms and start toward you, put your hand out and shake their hand instead, while taking a giant step backwards.

You could also say “I’m not a hugging person but it’s been nice to meet/see you” if more clarification seems necessary. But you have nothing to apologize for. Hugs need to be invitations, not commands.

3. “What does it mean when a guy says I can’t be you(r?) love(r?) and also can’t be just friends with you.”

I would personally translate this as either someone who doesn’t want to be in a romantic relationship but wants to leave the door open to casual sex, or someone who doesn’t want to be with you romantically but knows that the relationship is too muddy and confusing to be friends at all.

So, “sleep with me, but don’t expect anything but that” or “It’s a bad idea for us to be around each other right now.” In no world does it mean “Everything is great between us, let’s do this thing!”

4. “My ex says he doesn’t care about himself so how could he care about anyone else?”

For once on this beautiful green and blue earth, I wish a person hearing these words from an ex would just say “Okay then!” and back away slowly and not sign up for the 6 more months of angsty sex and staying up all night crying that these words prophesy.

5. “A message of how to tell a guy that you are not interested in a friendly way.”

Please strive for clarity above all things. Please. Everyone. Please. “Thanks, that is very flattering/kind of you, and I think it was really cool of you to put yourself out there like that, but I’m not interested in having that kind of relationship with you.

No “maybe someday.” No “If things were different.” No “not right now.” Please learn what a clear no sounds like in your own voice. It is seriously one of the best skills you can learn for yourself. In the moment it will suck, but you’ve just saved both of you from this hopeful crush lingering on in your blind spot for years.

6. “I said no and he said ‘it’s fine, I’ll masturbate.'”

Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww. I’m guessing that you, the Searcher, were not exactly psyched about this statement. Perhaps it’s because ‘he’ gave you Too Much Information right there. Masturbation is great, healthy, (Learning To Love Yourself is) The Greatest Love of All, etc. Telling someone who just said “no” to you that you are about to masturbate about them (near them?) is oogy.

ETA: Commenters are right, it matters if this is happening inside an ongoing relationship. If people are already sexual partners in a healthy relationship, this is a totally normal and respectful thing to say and do. I was reading this as people who are not sexually involved, one says “nope” and the other outlines their plans for the rest of the day.

7. “What causes a guy to be rude to you?”

His own jerkish whims are what. Take all the time that you would spend figuring this dude out and a) call a friend b) do something fun for yourself or c) go learn to paint or some shit. He can…maybe…have your attention again when he stops being a buttface about it. Maybe.

8. “What does it mean when a guy says ‘something just isn’t right’.”

If it’s a guy you are in a relationship of some kind with, that relationship is about to end, and he’s setting you up for that possibility so it’s not a surprise.

9. “What does it mean when a girl says she doesn’t wanna be in this relationship anymore?”

Delete her number from your phone. It’s over. You have been broken up with. Dumped. It is okay to be sad, but believe it when someone tells you this.

10. “Advice for teens on telling my parents I want to leave the Catholic Church.”

I personally failed spectacularly at this. Or, I told them, but somehow still ended up making a sham confirmation and having to go to weekly Mass until I moved out on my own, because it was clear that pretending was the price at the time.

Standard script is “I’m questioning my faith and I’d like to take some time away to think about everything.” You know what kind of parents you have, though, and I completely understand people who keep their religious doubts close to the vest until they are out of the house on their own.

11. “My husband lets his family disrespect me.”

That is a shitbird, love-killing way to behave, and I am sorry you have to deal with that. Families will do what they will do, but your husband should have your back, either on minimizing time spent with his family, backing you up when they say something rude, or creating (for example) your own holiday traditions where you’re not subjected to them. This is a YOUR HUSBAND problem more than it is a His Family problem. I hope you can work it out.

12. “My teacher crush is married with children.” 

Channel that crush into doing excellent schoolwork, never speak of it to your teacher, and let it pass. It will pass! Trust me. It will pass.

13. What it means if a guy says he cant date u because u live too far.”

He doesn’t want to date you. It might be tempting to move next door to him, but, don’t. Believe the sentiment (I don’t want to date you). Try not to focus on the reason.

14. “Son’s girlfriend is enormously fat.”

And if you say one word about it to him or to her, you will be Enormously Awful.

Stop hating other people’s bodies. Stop hating your own. Just be a fucking decent person, ok? Imagine this girlfriend person as a fellow human being whom you like, or want to like, someone you don’t know very well on whom you wish to make a kind and good impression. Like, maybe a new hire where you work. Cool. Now, don’t say anything to or about her that you wouldn’t say to that theoretical person.

15.” My mom disowned me as her daughter.”

I cannot recommend the book “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” by Dr. Karyl McBride enough. I wish you peace and every good thing.

16. “What to say when a person asks ‘why didn’t you invite me to your party?’

UGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH

TO REVIEW:

People who ask why they weren’t invited to things are confirming why they don’t get invited to things. If you’re not invited to something, it’s okay to be miffed, hurt, feel left out, etc., but if you want to fix whatever relationship that is, invite the person or people to an event that you arrange rather than asking why or invitation-grubbing after the fact.

“Why didn’t you invite me to your party?” = how to get someone to never invite you to anything ever again.

“Hey, it’s been too long since I’ve seen you! Would you like to have breakfast sometime soon?” = how to let someone know that they are important to you and you want to see them.

If someone asks why they weren’t invited to something, and you want to be as kind as possible to them, change the subject as soon as possible. “Huh, no good answer to that, really. But it’s good to see you now. Read anything good lately?/How’s that hobby that you like?” Save them from themselves, basically.

17. “How do I get my husband to brush his teeth more often?”

Brush your teeth before you anticipate kissing or sexytimes, and say, bluntly, “Hey, brush your teeth, so we can make out.” Or “I want to kiss you, let’s both brush our teeth, though.” Make it about right now. Blunt, direct, in the moment is the way to go here.

It is okay to ask someone to brush their teeth, take a shower, etc. before you put your body on their body. We all have bodies. Bodies are gross sometimes. Sometimes in a long term relationship you have to be like “Baby, I’d love to, but I’m made of farts right now” or “Why do you smell like pancakes…and feet?”

The more matter of fact you are the better.

18. “Best response to a date that said no.”

No to another date?

“Sorry to hear that, but you’re so cool that I had to ask. I wish you well!”

Then back off from contacting them. Stitch your pride back together in private, pat yourself on the back for being brave, and move onto the next thing.

No to…’activities’…on the date?

Go back and look at #6. Don’t be that person. Be graceful and cool and back off from whatever it was you were doing.

19. “I love cheating on my boyfriend.”

Consider giving him the gift of “just fucking break up already” this holiday season!

20. Can men and women be just friends?

Yes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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242 comments
  1. “why do you smell like pancakes …and feet?” is a thing that has been said to me in my marriage. Under certain stressful conditions I produce a defensive odor of maple syrup.

    Captain, I really like your answer to “why didn’t you invite me to your party.” Because YES. I HATE THAT BEHAVIOR. I DIDN’T INVITE YOU BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT YOU THERE.

    • Just Plain Neddy said:

      This. I asked this question a lot as a socially inept teenager on the margins of my friend group and you’d think that I’d have realised that there is no answer to it that is both honest and painless to hear much, much quicker than I did.

    • minuteye said:

      I think there are circumstances where asking why someone wasn’t invited is warranted. If it’s a really specific event that you’d expect certain people to go to, and one of them wasn’t asked. For instance, if my mom had a mother’s day lunch and asked all the siblings but me… that might be worth asking about. But even then it would probably be better to get someone who was invited to ask, e.g. “Uncle Sam, it’s great that you decided to host Thanksgiving this year, but why wasn’t my partner invited too?”

      • Well, I do not ask the host because I *know* why zie invites certain people at certain times and omits me some times and invites others. Because the world is hir chessboard and zie moves people as zie pleases. When it is work related, as in my case, the reasons are quite machiavellian rather than the ebb and flow of friendship. Still, there is little I can do. I only complain when someone else has had it done to them and complains to me. They I explain the personal chessboard metaphor and the lights go on.

    • Suzy said:

      GAH. Sort of in this situation right now and I’m not sure if it’s an oversight on their part or if they suddenly don’t want me there. Partner (who is invited) is trying to get me to go because they are sure I’m invited but I would rather miss a party than risk turning up uninvited. Also I know my ex will be there and they really hate me (we broke up several years ago and there’s a lot of bad blood on his side).

      So yeah….I do NOT want to be Party Smeagol (even though Party Smeagol has lots of really good reasons why he should be invited! ^_^)

      • That sounds difficult, and this party already sounds like the worst party. But the easiest way for you to collapse this waveform is for Partner to call the host and say “is Suzy invited” and they’ll be like “yeah” or “nah” and then Partner will be like “well, too bad, because you planned this party in a very crap way and don’t you know that Suzy and I are incompatible with Suzy’s ex? READ THE FRIENDSHIP DOSSIER, SADCHOPS” and hang up and then you actually have a nice evening instead?

        • Chrisell said:

          I love this 😀

      • Suzy said:

        Oh this friend knows the situation, I’m totally okay with my ex but they are not okay with me. This could be an oversight (like why invite my partner and not me?) but I would actually rather sit at home on my own rather than risk turning up uninvited. I mean I have projects but that isn’t the point. I’ve a lot of horrible insecurities around this, I would never assume I was invited and I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to get my partner to shoehorn me in. I guess I’m not sure if my ex will be there, but that was the conclusion I came to.

        I shall navigate this social conundrum!

      • uuuuuuuuuuuh said:

        Yea, either the hosts are sort of operating on the assumption that SOs are defacto invited as well(in which case your partner should ask that and you’ll get a straight answer as well) or they know you and your ex hate each other and would rather have you over when hated ex isn’t in the picture. Or if you don’t want to go b/c hated ex and you know you’re defacto invited, call and say “I’m worried that it will be a disaster if I’m at the same party as _hated ex_ but I’d love to see you, can we get lunch or coffee sometime”.

        • Suzy said:

          Oh, like I said, I haven’t an issue with them being there but the last time I tried to talk to them….they reacted quite publicly and sent me a poison pen email after. Anyway, it turns out it was genuinely an oversight, so all is well!

          (I do need to meet up with that friend for coffee anyway!)

    • Defensive maple syrup is a lovely mechanism! Sounds like it would cause friendly, helpful Canadians and New Englanders to rally to you.

      • CoolNewAnonymousNickname said:

        This made me laugh way harder than I should do while attempting to work! Sounds like it could also be some obscure maneuver a la “The Hunt for Red October”? “Deploy the maple syrup defense, and give two pings!” “But, Captain–” ” I said DO IT, Lieutenant!”.

      • stellanor said:

        I once had a cat who smelled of maple syrup ALL THE TIME despite never being exposed to maple syrup. It was kind of awesome. That cat was awesome, I miss him.

        • Yeees. I had a cat whose breath kind of smelled like clover. I loved burying my nose in fur he’d just washed.

  2. “What does it mean when a girl says she doesn’t wanna be in this relationship anymore?”

    It’s pretty amazing that this is a question that needs to be asked.

    • AW said:

      It really does sound like it came from someone who doesn’t think women say what they mean or that women’s “No”s don’t count. “I know that doesn’t mean ‘No’ so what does it really mean?”

      It could also be that they’re seeing the word “this” as a loophole. “She doesn’t want to be in THIS relationship but maybe she still wants A relationship.”

      • Ugh, yes, I find it way more terrifying than amazing. I hate that men are conditioned not to accept an extremely explicit “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore” but instead GOOGLE FOR THE HIDDEN MESSAGE. I would like to quote Elizabeth Bennett when she asks Mr. Collins to do her the honor of believing her WORDS HAVE MEANING.

        (I haven’t seen The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, but I would love to imagine there’s a scene of Mr. Collins googling many different variations of that query…)

        • JenniferP said:

          I don’t remember that scene, but the Lizzie Bennet Diaries are great. Go watch if you have time!

          • Recommendation duly noted! (By the way I just recently found this site and also read your essay “When My Mother Was an Astronaut” yesterday, it was amazing. Really impressed with everything you’re doing here.)

        • Anisoptera said:

          To give the most charitable possible interpretation, I’ve seen and been personally involved in situations where people have said stuff like “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore” and then continued to act exactly the same way, you know, not moving out, still kissing their SO and saying they love them… It still definitely means they are working up to a breakup, or at least are strongly inclined to do so if nothing changes, or want you to think they are, but people can be very confusing and send mixed signals around this stuff.

          Bonus points for situations where the SO responds “are you breaking up with me?” and they chicken out and say they’re not. Double bonus points if the SO is too scared to ask for confirmation like that and runs off to google to try to understand if it means breakup or just “I need stuff to change or we’re breaking up”.

          I think this sort of wishful thinking and confusion and mixed signals stuff happens more with people who are very new to dating, but I’ve certainly experienced it as an older person too. For an ugly twist, try those words from an emotionally abusive partner who just wants to make you feel unloved and desperate. Or from the partner who’s trying to make you break up with them because they say stuff like that but never actually *break up*.

          All of which is kind of moot, because if someone says that to you the best approach is to interpret it as a breakup and move on with your life.

          • Oh, man. Yeah, those scenarios do provide good insight, a little more fair than my unadulterated feminist rage.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Well, dudes who can’t understand no from a woman are also very much a thing. I just suspect we’re all imagining some lady saying this and then while she’s packing her bags and herding the cat into the carrier and calling her sister for a couch to crash on the dude is on google typing “But what does it mean?” Or less humorously there are those stalker exes who keep acting like you’re in a relationship until they decide you’re not. 😦

            But it’s also really hard to break up with someone you still care about, and that can lead to not wanting to say the really direct “I am breaking up with you it is over our relationship is no more” and instead making statements about how you feel and hoping the relationship sort of mutually goes away without you haveing to hurt that other person. Of course directness is better and kinder and the correct course, but well, people can be really weird and stupid about relationships without being horrible abusive stalkers.

      • Rowan said:

        This is a guy hoping that the girl will still want to shag him without that boring relationship stuff getting in the way.

        /cynical

    • Myrin said:

      Seriously. I can’t think of a statement that’s more clear (except maybe an added “…which is why I’m breaking up with you.” but that shouldn’t actually be necessary).

  3. I’m not sure I understand your reaction to #6? Partner #1 wanted sex, partner #2 said no. Partner #1 said “Cool beans, I’ll go take care of this myself and I won’t pressure you to participate or guilt you into having sex with me.” There’s not even the implication that P#1 will be thinking of P#2 while practicing some self love, but even if that is the case, is that worse than…thinking of someone else? Watching porn? (I support porn actors, and I think porn is a really useful tool when it’s understood that most porn is not female friendly or realistic.)

    P#1 is being super respectful of P#2, as far as I can tell. And especially if this is in the context of a relationship (fuck buddies on up to a decades-long marriage) the fact that P#1 is thinking of P#2 while jerking off is actually pretty awesome. They’re so attracted to/in love with their partner that their partner is their spank bank, instead of someone else.

    • JenniferP said:

      I think taking care of your own needs when you get turned down is great. And we lack context here (which is the point). Inside a relationship where people are already partners, you are absolutely right, this is no big deal at all.

      However, to me it rang of people who don’t know each other that well (i.e. they are not already sexual partners). One person says ‘No sex!” and the other person says “Cool I’ll just masturbate then,” which is the right decision as far as *actions* go, but telling a person who said they don’t want to have sex with you about it makes them aware and weirdly involved in it to me.

      • That’s totally fair. To be honest, I’ve had this exact conversation but *only* in the context of long term partners so from my point of view it was pretty passive and respectful.

        • Adding: I also read a lot of loaded dislike of the act of masturbation in that, but again could just be my perspective. I said this in another comment, but I know women who think masturbation means their partner is no longer attracted to them, or that use of porn or masturbation are the same thing as adultery. Probably just because of the kind of work/research I’ve done, but that’s where I got hung up, was the perceived sex shaming.

      • HM said:

        Yes. This has happened to me on first and second dates (different dudes), both times after I said no not only to sex but to subsequent dates. It felt invasive and gross.

      • Rose Fox said:

        I have been in a situation where “Cool, I’ll just masturbate then” was meant with absolute sincerity, and it was totally fine. That person and I developed a lovely habit of mutual masturbation that was absolutely essential to helping me get over a lot of my anxiety about how to say no to sex, because it explicitly broke the link between my sexual availability and the other person’s orgasms.

        Where did that anxiety and that link come from? Well, in part from the ex-boyfriend of many years before who came over to my house shortly after we broke up, hung out with me in my room for a while, excused himself to go to the bathroom… and when I opened my bedroom door a minute later, was standing there outside my room jerking off. Because he knew he wasn’t going to be getting any more sex from me and he JUST. COULD. NOT. DEAL.

        So yeah, context matters on this one.

        • Private Editor said:

          My face just got all D: D: D: right in the middle of a clinic waiting room. Ugh, I am so sorry he did that. So uncomfortable. And to do it right in the hallway…! Dude, just No.

        • MamaCheshire said:

          Ew ew ew ew ew.

          When Darth Ex and I were in that horrible “we’re broken up technically but maybe we can still make this work somehow?” phase, the final nail in that coffin of dead darthly love was a similar incident.

          We broke up because of his pot habit, mostly. And I had a hard limit of “I will not have sex with you while you are stoned.” He showed up stoned and tried to get me to have sex with him. I said no.

          “Well maybe we could just fool around then?” NOPE.

          “So d’ya mind if I just like, lie here and masturbate?” YES I MIND NO DO NOT WANT GTFO!!!!!

          SO MUCH DO NOT WANT. *shudders*

    • Just Plain Neddy said:

      Yeah it makes a huge difference whether they already have a sexual/intimate relationship or not, and if someone’s typing this into a search box it suggests there’s something they’re not quite happy about. “You don’t want to have sex? I’ll just jerk off to pictures of you then, whether you like it or not!” is often used as a form of sexual aggression and an attempt to make the other person feel violated after a rejection. Or it seems to be, from the various “terrible dating site interactions” blogs I’ve followed.

      • By the same token, it could be someone who’s upset because (since it’s likely a woman) they’ve been taught by society that any sort of sex outside of penetrative hetero sex is not acceptable, including masturbation. I know some women who think that their husband/boyfriend masturbating means he’s no longer attracted to them, and I worked with some who thought masturbation was a form of adultery. I feel like as long as the objection was to the timing/inappropriately intimate nature of the *comment* rather than the *masturbation* I totally understand the response. But my assumption is that it was a combination.

        • Linden said:

          And I’ve known some men who think that they should never have to masturbate if they are in a relationship, because having a woman handy should mean intercourse is always available. It’s not just women who can be down on masturbation.

    • paddlepickle said:

      I think it depends on the context. If you’ve been intimate before and you’re comfortable with talk like that, all good. If it’s your first date and you’ve made out but the person makes it clear they want their clothes to stay on? Gross. I’ve had a guy actually ask if he could masturbate next to me because blue balls, even though I had made it clear when I invited him into my bed that all clothes were staying on– that was gross. Another guy, who I had stopped hooking up with during foreplay because I was having some weird feelings and not enjoying myself, said ‘hey whatever, I can always take care of it myself’ when I was apologizing for being weird and giving him blue balls, and I thought that was nice. But the fact that this person wrote in makes me think it was in a not appropriate context.

      • Maybe I’m just missing something, because you’re clearly not alone in thinking it was about the context, but now that it’s been pointed out I can see where that assumption came from.

        My immediate assumption was that it was a woman who was upset her partner was masturbating, rather than a woman upset about the context of the statement, but that’s just a difference in perspective I think.

        • paddlepickle said:

          Gotcha. I think if it was someone’s partner, the phrasing would be more like “I wasn’t in the mood so he went and masturbated”. It sounded like a first date or early-relationship scenario to me.

      • Linden said:

        Yup. I’ve been on the receiving end of this comment, and it was definitely meant passive-aggressively. “Oh, you won’t give me what I want? Well, I’ll just diddle myself in the corner here, guilt guilt guilt bad you.”

        • monologue said:

          Yeah I thought of this reading too. You won’t do stuff? Well I guess I’ll just have to resort to this then, siiiigh. Totally manipulative and gross in that context.

    • sometimeswhy said:

      I got it once from a long-term partner when I was feeling depressed and unsexy and said no. He didn’t go take care of himself. He literally masturbated AT ME. In bed. Next to me. While I was trying to fall asleep. That relationship did not last much longer.

      • Rose Fox said:

        D:

  4. Andie said:

    I really hope that number six is someone in a long-term, very comfortable and open relationship.. as that is only only way I can see that behavior being acceptable. But I have the feeling if that was the case, this person wouldn’t be googling about it.

  5. Jane said:

    Postscript to number 20, which should be obvious but has not been obvious to me in various addle-brained parts of my life:

    Can men and women be friends? Yes.

    Can the particular man and the particular woman in the situation about which you are concerned be friends? VERY POSSIBLY NOT.

    • BostonRobin said:

      How about, “if you ask this with someone in mind, probably not.” Give it time though, let the “feelings” fade!

      • alechra said:

        So, as someone in kind of this situation– is it wrong to just forge ahead with trying to make a good friendship while I’m still buoyed by, well, pantsfeelings? I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who’s had the unfortunate experience of falling for straight girls in the past and just kinda…goin’ on as normal as possible. This time it’s a guy who’s not available, but the principle is much the same– friendship very on offer, sex very not. I’m totally fine with this, although weathering a crush isn’t always emotionally comfy.

        Mostly just, I don’t want to do things that *look* a lot like rebuffing friendly overtures because I’m trying to get my pants sorted out, particularly when I don’t really have a reason to believe it’ll just die quickly.

        • Jane said:

          Well, I think it really depends on you and the particular situation. I have had situations where being friends was pretty much never going to be an option, because I wanted that person so. fucking. bad. And in that situation, the rejection was not a low-stakes thing, because . . . I wasn’t in an emotional place where it could be. My connection with that person was not one that felt good on a casual basis. Argh. I wish I could explain better, but I never got beyond the place where my innards stopped screaming THERE IS THE PERSON WHO DOES NOT WANT ME when I saw him. So. No friendship, and a lot of damage before I realized no friendship.

          There was another friendship where I took a time-out for a couple weeks to see if I was going to feel good around that person again (after asking him out and being turned down) and actually after three or four weeks things got a little better. The pantsfeelings didn’t exactly go away but they did subside. We didn’t do anything one-on-one for a long time though (three months? maybe even five?). [I would cautiously suggest that limiting a pantsfeeling-laden friendship to multi-person events might be a good way to control the weirdness.] THIS ONLY WORKED because we were not very emotionally intimate to begin with, so it wasn’t that painful to pull back to small talk about vegetables and bicycles.

          My last experience with this was a guy who I merrily bashed my way into a friendship with even though I had pantsFEELINGS for him, because we were doing a volunteer program together and I knew he’d be gone in a couple weeks. There was a damage control mechanism built in so I knew I’d have room to get my equilibrium back.

          I know the Captain has previously said that if it’s a good friendship, it will weather the storm of pantsfeelings, but in my experience. . . there are no friendships that are subject to pantsfeelings that cannot be destroyed by pantsfeelings. I am NOT saying this is going to be true for you, but just know that it is an option that is possible in the galaxy of human interactions. It sucks, but that’s the status of my mental health — I don’t relate well to people who have rejected me, so all I can do is cut that person out of my life as damage control. In conclusion: do not worry about what is right or wrong, but about what will work best in your own life. Yeah, maybe this guy will think you’re weird if you avoid him from here on out; he can fuck off to Hellas Planitia with a bag of dead rats. He is not in charge of taking care of your emotional well-being. YOU are in charge of taking care of your emotional well-being, and sometimes that means looking kind of weird or vaguely hostile in front of people. It happens.

        • Emily said:

          I go ahead with friendship when I feel like I might be developing confusing feelings for someone, and it usually works out for me. That said, I suspect that only you can know whether it’s okay in this case or not.

        • allya said:

          Yeah I think this depends a LOT on the person? For me it’s no big deal to be friends with someone I have a crush on, but usually I need to ask them out and get rejected first. Once I have that closure I can jump into being friends pretty quickly with minimal weirdness. I know not everyone is the same though, and I get that, because I struggle more to get over past relationships? But I’ve also managed to overcome that to eventually be really good friends with exes again so. Jane says “there are no friendships that are subject to pantsfeelings that cannot be destroyed by pantsfeelings” and that’s probably true, but I’d like to add that I think it’s also true that most genuine friendships CAN survive it if both people (or, you, if you are the only one that knows about the pantsfeelings) want to be friends enough. With that in mind I want to strongly second Jane’s comment that only you can know what’s right for you. If you can handle being friends and accept that the relationship’s not going to turn into anything else and be fine with that, that’s great. If you need some time out from interacting with the guy, that’s also totally fine. I don’t really think there are any wrong answers here.

          Also lol @ crushing on straight girls. *lies down on my face* As someone who has been there, I do think it’s a bit different to crushing on someone who hypothetically might be attracted to your gender but isn’t into you, because there’s more hope? Even if intellectually you know it’s not happening and wouldn’t want to ruin the guy’s existing relationship/interfere with whatever other reason there is that he’s not available, your heart is still doing the jumpy thing inside your chest like “BUT WHAT IF!” Hope is the worst and it’s the reason I always need to ask people and get rejected even when I KNOW they don’t feel the same; otherwise my crush is just gonna drag on forever. When I crush on a straight girl (or a gay guy, which has also happened to me *rolls away*) that hope isn’t there in the same way, so it’s easier for me to move on.

          Anyway, best of luck to you with whatever you decide.

        • Gggggg said:

          Worked for me. I fell for a lady who wasn’t into me, and fell hard. She was fine being friends with me, but wasn’t attracted to me. I spent something like 5-6 years nursing a hopeless crush on her, keeping a very very careful distance, and being a good friend. I wasn’t rebuffing friendly overtures, but I was careful to never talk about my FEELINGS, never touch her, and never make any overtures that could possibly be remotely considered romantic. I treated her the way I’d treat any other friend. I don’t think she ever knew I was in love with her, and I’m sure she never suspected just how much in love I was.

          Eventually, I decided to move on and start dating again (6 years is a looooong time to nurse a hopeless crush), met a wonderful girl, fell in love, and got over the hopeless crush. The wonderful girl and I are getting married. The former crush and I are still really really good friends. She’s going to be at our wedding.

          So I’d say don’t rebuff any friendly overtures, and as long as you keep a careful distance and never mention your feelings, there’s nothing wrong in building a friendship. But you do have to be very careful to not overstep your boundary here.

    • embertine said:

      Postscript #2: If your male friend’s favourite film is When Harry Met Sally, perhaps take this as a sign that, whatever he may say about how important your friendship is to him, he will wait eight years before FEELINGSBOMBing you in the middle of an airport and then spend the whole flight WHEN YOU ARE LITERALLY TRAPPED explaining all the things you did to lead him on.

      Example chosen entirely at random, of course.

      • PBnoJ said:

        That sounds awful.

        But I would probably watch that movie? Sorry.

        • Muddie Mae said:

          I would, too.

        • embertine said:

          Yes, and the fact that this person watches more films than he has real-life conversations, and talks about everything as though he is writing the screenplay for the Oscar-winning movie of his life, is not a coincidence. I think he planned it that way so it would make a good dramatic scene when he’s talking about it later to the next woman he fixates on.

          • Muddie Mae said:

            Nuts. If he’s writing it, it probably won’t be as funny as it should be.

        • embertine said:

          (That made me laugh a lot, by the way!)

      • chinchilla said:

        Ughhh that’s awful

      • Oh man for a second I was like “wait, is THAT how _When Harry Met Sally . . . _ ends?”

  6. attica said:

    I have a sarcastic bent, and people who know me for more than five minutes get this. Therefore, if/when somebody asks me why they weren’t invited to [event], they should know that my response will be: “Because I don’t like you.” Since they know about my sarcastic bent, they will take my answer as ironic. It will not be (or not wholly, anyway.); that’s the upside of A Reputation For Sarcasm.

    • heffalumps said:

      yes! I’d be far more likely to say “because I don’t like you” to somebody I *do* like, because (as it says on the badge I sewed prominently onto my bag) I am Fluent In Sarcasm, in fact it may be my primary language as well as my favored breath weapon attack.

  7. Muddie Mae said:

    Would it be materially different to tell a friend you were hurt that you weren’t invited? Some friends of mine had a falling out recently that was over a lot of things (of course) but culminated in a party snub and facebook defriending and blah blah blah. Anyway, I’m now wondering about my advice at the time, which was for Friend 1 to tell Friend 2 they were hurt and go from there.

    • Beth B said:

      To my mind: it depends a lot on how it’s handled. If the two friends are talking in general, and have not had a Let’s Just Be Sometimes Friends Who Chat About Nothing Important kind of talk already, then yeah, it can be handled productively. “Hey, so, I was kind of hurt that I wasn’t invited to [Thing], but I hope you guys had fun? Anyway, [offered subject change].” Or, if you really want to hash it out and really genuinely feel that that would be a productive conversation to have, “Hey, so, can we talk about our friendship? I miss you and I was hurt not to be invited to [thing], and I’d like to repair our relationship if we can, and if you’re interested.”

      But it’s really, really easy for “I was hurt that I wasn’t invited” to become some combination of “so you should FEEL GUILTY” and/or “so INVITE ME NEXT TIME if you don’t want hideously awkward conversations every single time you leave me out of a thing” and/or “so EXPLAIN YOURSELF, I DEMAND AN EXPLANATION OF YOUR REASONS” in the subtext, or to be heard that way even if it’s not intended to be putting the other person on the spot. Because, well, you are putting the other person on the spot.

      • Beth B said:

        (I should clarify: handled somewhat productively, in the best case. It’s still gonna be awkward, and addressing the party invitation isn’t necessarily really the best way to do it, because it’s focusing on one public awkward symptom and not on the root cause of the falling out. It’s hard to not have that kind of thing be a hurtful distraction from the main issue — if the main issue is even one that needs to be discussed at that time and in that way, which, maybe and maybe not, I don’t know. But basically, it needs a lot of really careful handling in just the right relationship to not have that turn into ACCOUNT FOR YOUR ACTIONS, which means either a guilt trip or some unwelcome truths possibly phrased unduly harshly or both.)

        • Muddie Mae said:

          Yeah, that’s fair – from what I recall the one friend was feeling generally not accepted by a group, and the party situation was just sort of the last straw.

    • AW said:

      “a falling out recently that was over a lot of things”

      The party snub was the final straw, not the root cause. I think making the statement about how they felt rather than want the other person did is an improvement but still not better than, “Hey, I’d like to hang out with you” or working out whatever issues existed prior to the snub.

    • Elizabeth said:

      I still have hurt feelings that I have been hanging onto literally for fifteen years, and I’m not sure what, if anything, to do with them. Some friends of mine and my husband’s invited us out to lunch to pick our brains about wedding stuff when they got married. Great, we had a fun lunch, no problem. They had a wedding that was by all accounts very nice. We weren’t invited, but we figured that it was probably “small” and we were outside the friend circle. No big deal, and we got them a very nice wedding gift without a second thought. Then, the evening of the day they got married, we discovered that every single person in our mutual friend group (a dance team) except us had been invited, and most had attended. OK, now we felt snubbed. We never said anything to them about it, and the friendship cooled down to not much left. We have since moved out of the area, and I haven’t seen them for ten years.

      I still wonder from time to time whether our invitation was misdirected and they would be mortified to find out what we’ve been thinking about them all these years, or whether it was an intentional snub, or some third explanation that I haven’t thought of. It would obviously be weird to talk to them about it at this point, so I just wonder about it from time to time.

      • Vanessa said:

        For what it’s worth, I think if you send out invitations to something like a wedding, and never get an RSVP from a particular person, it’s on you to contact them within a reasonable time period after the RSVP due date, just to say “hey, we haven’t heard from you whether you’ll be able to make it, would love to have you there”. That then leaves room for the “oh! We never got an invite! It must have gone awry in the mail!”

        I don’t know if that’s helpful but, assuming that this did not happen, I feel that it’s more likely you didn’t get an invite. Which means your reaction (send a gift, slow fade from friendship) was totally okay and gracious.

        • Rose said:

          This makes me think of the Discworld novel, Carpe Jugulum it was, I think, where Granny Weatherwax thinks she isn’t invited to a party, but in fact the invitation was stolen and everyone misses her, but she’s too proud to go there without invitation. The fact that she isn’t there makes everything worse, so I think … in some cases, you should at least try to find out whether the intended to invite you.

      • Connie-Lynne said:

        It of course depends on how close you are, but with close friends and weddings, I have three times reached out and said, “hey, I don’t want to stress you out but I haven’t received an invite to your wedding. I’m not invite-grubbing, I totally know what it’s like with weddings and if you didn’t intend to invite me _absolutely do not feel you have to_ but I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it in the mail.”

        We’re close enough that they know my “you don’t have to” is sincere. Turns out, one time, I wasn’t intended to be invited and two times I was. And, humorously, the time I wasn’t invited was probably one of my closest friends. We are still friends — because, hey, sometimes you just can’t invite everyone to the wedding.

        • And that sounds like a prime situation where it’s much better to clear the air than to let things fester. (Particularly if you were meant to be invited and the other party wonders why you didn’t come…). Sounds to me as if you (and Book of Jubilation below) used your words and used them well.

    • I don’t use “hurt” but I do use “sad”. Like, maybe I’m just blithely committing huge social faux pas all over the place, but I’ve said things like, “I’m sad I’m missing your party, it sounds like it’ll be fantastic. But Bob sounded so excited when he talked about it. I hope you all have a great time!” Then, depending on their response, I either accept an “Oh, I forgot to invite you!” invite, or cheerfully agree that it’s a pity restaurants can’t hold a thousand people/weddings are so expensive/their inlaws would hate being in the same space as me, tell them I’ll be there in spirit, and move on with my day.

  8. paddlepickle said:

    I’m all for free speech and whatever, but if I had the power to ban a topic of conversation for eternity, “Can men and women be friends?” would be pretty high on my list.

    • boutet said:

      The one up side to the topic is that a man bringing it up to me (woman) is a clear sign for me to reevaluate the friendship. At best he’s doing a roundabout “do you want friendship or are you angling for something else here?” in a really awkward way. Other reasons to bring it up are just crap I don’t want to deal with.

    • It’s such an annoying question, it takes away a lot of my awkwardness/guilt about being The Funtime Ruining Feminist. “I don’t know! I want to think there are good men out there who don’t see women exclusively as sexual objects, I’d like to think there are men in my life who can respect and like me as a real person, but some days I get really discouraged.” (People who point out that respect for someone’s autonomy and sexual desire for them are not mutually exclusive are allowed to escape me arguing with them like an angry goose.)

      • Helen Damnation said:

        I’ve tried to be friends with countless men, and the only one who hasn’t ruined it by girlfriendzoning me is questioning his gender identity. He is attracted to me and has feelings for me, but doesn’t have that sense of entitlement most men have. He’s actually content to be friends with me, he’s not just sat there, staring, *waiting*.

        In the end, no, it isn’t impossible, but I’m sick of trying.

  9. moseyonby said:

    “People who ask why they weren’t invited to things are confirming why they don’t get invited to things.” Um, no, not necessarily. Best friends in a group for years and years, suddenly excluded (rather indiscreetly and hurtfully) from a get-together that everybody else knew and was excited about? I think it’s a perfectly reasonable question. It’s not always a question asked in a whine, but sometimes in a feeling of total hurt and astonishment, so maybe some gentleness could be nice.

    • JenniferP said:

      My 100% advice is: Don’t ask this question. It puts the other person on the spot in a way that will not repair the relationship. If this is an important relationship to you, ask the person to do something with you and spend some time together. That will do 1000 times more good than whatever clarity you will gain from asking this question.

      It sucks to not be invited to something you wanted to be invited to, and hurt and astonishment are reasonable! But this is not the question that fixes it. You already know the answer, and the answer is some version of “I didn’t want to invite you.” If you ask the other person to list the reasons, they will not thank you for it, and the relationship will get worse, not better.

      • drawswithpens said:

        A socially impaired person might ask the question because they need the information about why they failed socially (again). I don’t think it’s fair to forbid someone information they need in order to be able to make better decisions in the future.

        • JenniferP said:

          I am trying to help people who might have social difficulty from making things worse for themselves by asking that question.

          If someone didn’t invite you to something, the first assumption should not be that you have “socially failed” in some way. People hosting an event have lots of concerns. Space. Time. Money. A mix of people that they want at that particular event. I can fit about 8 people at a time in my living room, so many people will not be invited to any given thing that happens at my house, regardless of how much I like them. I might want to do an event with one particular group of friends, not another this time. I may know that I’m going to see a lot of a certain person at upcoming things, so prioritize people I don’t see as much. There are lots of reasons that have nothing to do with you, being socially awkward, etc. By asking the question, you make it about you (even if it wasn’t). This is risky, especially if you are already insecure about the relationship.

          Other people are not your social tutors, and they owe you neither an invite nor an explanation. If you know that going in, which you do, because I am trying to tell you that it is so, and you are concerned and want to repair a relationship that might be going awry or want reassurance, the best thing you can do is not ask them to justify their past decision, but to take the steps to invite them to something new and demonstrate that they are important to you.

          • drawswithpens said:

            Ouch.

            Some of what you said was difficult for me to read, but you’ve given me a lot to consider. This is just a very sensitive topic for me emotionally, because I have a lot of shame about my social ineptitude.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Yes this. I had a casual friend for a while, mainly online. We got coffee one time, it was fine. I got busy and depressed and stressed out and never asked her for coffee a second time (she initiated the first). Then in an online discussion she was asking for advice re a rebuffed offer of friendship she’d made to a work colleague and I offered the opinion that she should respect his rebuffal. And she sent me this massive PM asking for advice on what she does wrong socially because we got coffee that one time and then I never followed up so I must have not liked her and why was that and how could she fix it? And ugh. I get the desire to ask that question. And yeah I’d been slack about following up but I liked her fine and was still friendly online and it was no big deal. And I thought about explaining all that and then I realised that I would then be expected to continue making friends with her, and I realised that I suddenly really didn’t want to. Because of that question. Because it was too much pressure to put on our nascent casual friendship. It freaked me out and made me feel obligated. And basically – I never replied, eventually unfriended her online and that was the end of that. Because anything else would have required me to get into it more deeply than I wanted to.

            So don’t ask that question. Don’t. It is a friendship killer.

          • twomoogles said:

            Yes, yes, so much yes, cosign all over the place.

            I *really* understand the urge to try to ‘fix it’, I really do! But this is not the way to do it. I can understand why intuitively it might seem like it is. But I have *never ever* seen it end well, ever. I think that it *can* be appropriate to say “hey, is everything cool between us?” with a close friend, but not in the context of an invitation.

            I have been on both the side of feeling like I was always on the outside of a group wanting to be more ‘in’, and also of being drafted as somebody’s social tutor. And one thing that seems to be pretty universally true, is that I know a lot of people that I don’t like enough to invite to everything, and it doesn’t mean they’ve socially failed at all. it just means we don’t mesh that well.

            The other thing with “why wasn’t I invited” is that it really never does come across as an honest request for information, but rather somebody’s hurt feelings spilling up and “why why why”. I sort of liken it to “why did you dump me” questions. There’s no good answer! And often we see situations where we tell someone why they weren’t invited/why we broke up with them and then they start arguing with our reasons, and really the reasons come down to “I didn’t want to.”

            I think wanting information about whether or not there’s something going on socially that can be fixed is fine (see above; social tutor). But I think it’s a huge mistake to make that about a specific party invitation, because it just ups the awkward factor by about a billion for everyone involved.

          • Just chiming in to say that to me, this is the complete OPPOSITE of social ineptitude:

            “Ouch. Some of what you said was difficult for me to read, but you’ve given me a lot to consider.”

            That is a very open, thoughtful response to something you probably didn’t want to hear.

            I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to avoid succumbing to the Lightning Sand of Shame, and I in no way want to negate your feelings. But maybe consider that you are not always as inept as you might think. As someone who is both embarrassingly emotional and pretty awkward socially, I’d be rather proud of myself for that response.

            Also, you draw with pens. Admirable skills all around.

        • Myrin said:

          I don’t know if I’m understanding you correctly but if I do, I have a hard time imagining a situation as you are describing. The whole talk about “information” and how they may need it “to be able to make better decision in the future” sounds to me like someone is doing something socially awkward/something they didn’t know wasn’t an okay thing to do that they get corrected on and that’s the end of the problem. Like, someone is staring very intently at everyone who’s talking to them to a point that they find it unnerving. Or they have a habit of touching your hand. Or they speak very loudly to a degree where it’s hard to listen to them. All of these are reasons for “social failure”, if you so will, that can be pointed out and that are actually very reasonable to point out because – in my experience at least – people often don’t realise they’re doing this and are happy to stop.

          But I think these are very different situations to someone not being invited to a party and asking the why question. If someone doesn’t want to invite you to a party there’s really nothing you can do about it – it’s not a social clue as much as it is one of either dislike or one of the reasons others have mentioned (space, money, combination of people etc.). Not being invited to a party doesn’t mean you failed socially. Most of the time, you won’t be able to “make better decisions” that then get you invited to the next party.

          • drawswithpens said:

            Yeah, my fears are pretty much what you describe, though in one case (not a invite to a party example) I actually did find out why a person had been acting towards me the way they did and not only was it over something I really couldn’t do anything about, but it was a really nasty surprise and the information was shockingly unhelpful. So I can get the advice not to ask about that kind of stuff from that angle.

        • Vicki said:

          It’s not about forbidding someone information, though. The problem is that asking may not get a useful-for-the-future answer. “It was a small wedding and we couldn’t invite everyone we wanted” can be the whole truth, but it’s also a recommended polite answer/excuse to the second cousin you haven’t seen since they put a frog down your shirt when you were children. Conversely, a harsh answer like “because you’re a pest and nobody likes you” could mean “that’s an annoying question and I’m going to make you sorry you asked” or “we’re both 16 and you just put me on the spot” or that the person being asked doesn’t want to identify the one person who dislikes the person who is wondering why they weren’t invited.

          The Captain’s advice has a chance of making us slightly less socially awkward, which in turn means a better chance of being invited to things in the future. It’s far from guaranteed, but at least unlikely to make things worse.

          • Muddie Mae said:

            Oof, yeah – most of the time you aren’t going to be able to do anything with the information. My bestie’s boyfriend is widely disliked among some of our friends, so unfortunately she doesn’t get invited to things where it would be normal to invite partners. If she asked she would either get a lie, or “we hate your racist, probably abusive boyfriend, so we didn’t invite you guys” which… there’s no way that conversation ends well.

      • MamaCheshire said:

        If you ask the other person to list the reasons, they will not thank you for it, and the relationship will get worse, not better.

        This.

        I was in a situation where I was pointedly Not Invited To A Thing that I really wanted to be part of, and the person whose Thing it was gave an initial elaborate explanation that boiled down to “because you’re poor and the rest of us are not and I knew you’d be all prickly and angry and embarrassed if I offered to pay your way” – which hurt but was accurate enough that I was okay with it and moved on.

        YEARS after the fact, I was given the “real reason” in a moment of impulsive confiding, which was “because my partner was firm in the belief that you and I would have an affair under that particular set of circumstances, especially if I was paying your way, and I couldn’t deal with the dramarama.” Which…is leaving me in the mode of side-eyeing that person’s partner until the end of time. Because, like, my boundaries are a little better than that, and it hurt that this person’s partner didn’t/doesn’t know and wouldn’t/won’t acknowledge that.

      • “You already know the answer, and the answer is some version of “I didn’t want to invite you.””

        The answer might equally be ‘I put it on Facebook’ ‘I mentioned it in the pub’ or ‘I e-mailed/texted you’ where the invitee isn’t on Facebook, had been to the toilet when it was mentioned, or has a different e-mail/phone number from the inviter’s address book.

        You’re always asking us to use our words and to clear up potentially awkward situations, so I’m finding this blanket advice of ‘just read the other person’s mind’ baffling.

        I think it would be much, MUCH more helpful to come up with guidelines for when you might reasonably think yourself invited so that you can run this past yourself. And it might be that healthy people who are not depressed and have no anxieties can do this without prompting, but not everybody reading this blog fits into that pattern.

        It’s a complicated pattern of ‘is it reasonable to feel I ought to have been invited’ ‘how do I find out’ and ‘what consequences do I draw from this’? and it depends on the occasion, your relationship with that person, and general ways of how invitations are handled in your social circle.

        So while asking outright might put the other person on the spot (then again, if it’s a friend, I’d rather they express their hurt than just take it away/dump it on other people/withdraw) I don’t think pretending there’s no party elephant in the room is the right solution for every situation, either.

        • JenniferP said:

          Thanks for this, this is a good critique. And it’s clear that this is a big question not best addressed in a drive-by format.

          In a really close, secure friendship where you would expect to be invited to something and something went uncharacteristically awry, an honest conversation could help clear things up.

          However, I still think, if you are anxious about the relationship because of a lack of invite to something, the best first step is to make some gesture toward the person. Invite them to do something. Reaffirm the relationship in some positive way. Do some work yourself.

          And I think that when this question comes up, it’s coming about relationships that are on the edge of Acquaintance/Sometimes Friend/someone you’re just getting to know, so, not deeply comfortable relationships where it’s already 100% cool to ask.

          My reasons for this:
          -If you already have high anxiety/low trust about the relationship, is this information going to make it better, or is it just going to feed your inner sadness cycle? I like your suggestion, Hipposcriff, for coming up with some criteria for evaluating the likely consequences of this.

          -I think people are overestimating how much they want to hear the real reason someone didn’t invite them to the party the same way that people overestimate how they want to hear the reasons that someone doesn’t want to date them. Rejection sucks. Developing some resilience around what feelings are yours to manage vs. other people’s to manage is healthy. Either you are in a headspace where it’s not a big deal (in which case, it’s not a big deal enough to dig into), or where it’s a really big deal, but it’s riskier for you to bring it up. I don’t think people owe you this information.

          -I used to be the person who asked this question in college/high school. I probably wasn’t going to get upset about the answer, whatever it was, but other people didn’t know that. It lead to a lot of painful distancing because I was committing a faux pas and putting people on the spot. I was making people feel creeped out and uncomfortable. My life and my relationships got better when I stopped asking people this. Asking this question got me information at the expense of longer-term harmony. It didn’t get me good information, though, because: socially polite lies. Or, if they invited me to a thing next time, I couldn’t relax because now my inner head demons just assumed I guilted them into it. I personally got better results when I learned to hear about someone else’s good time and say “sounds fun!” and leave it at that.

          -I’ve seen and been in a lot of situations where people who do a lot of work to arrange parties and invite people to things and seek people out get put on the spot for Geek Social Fallacies reasons, esp. #1 and #5.

          “And it might be that healthy people who are not depressed and have no anxieties can do this without prompting, but not everybody reading this blog fits into that pattern.”

          Hi. Depressed. Anxious. Prone to overthinking stuff. Me. Person who writes this blog. I really sincerely am trying to help people navigate this and stop themselves from making a thing that already feels anxiety-making even worse, like “here is the unwritten rule that TEH NORMALS have, translated.” It’s caveat emptor, though, so if that isn’t how you roll, don’t do it! Anyone! Only do what works for you in how you run your relationships!

          For people who do ask this question regularly of their friends, I’d love to know different stories – How did it work for you? Did you get what you needed? Did you feel better?

          • Paulina said:

            My experiences are similar. I’ve been in situations where I was simply overlooked, largely because the goings-on were organized pretty casually, I wasn’t quite as thoroughly connected to the others, nobody thought to call or people just expected that I knew (or that someone else told me etc.), and: asking for why I was left out has *never* worked. Yes the situation fed into my massive insecurities about being not wanted, especially because with a prior group it turned out I was being left out on purpose, but my acting insecure about it turned things from a casual overlooking into a tense situation where they felt guilty (and surely didn’t like feeling guilty, thought I was overrreacting, etc.). And I didn’t want them to feel guilty, I just wanted them to remember I existed when they planned stuff. Or to know that it was okay for me to show up if I heard something was going on, which apparently it would have been but I had no idea.

            Looking back, I wish I had had the guts to take initiative on planning things. I think it’s the only option that had a chance of resolving the situation in a positive way. Because asking why you’re not being asked…. quite aside from the high likelihood that you won’t like the answer you get, just asking the question makes things tenser than you’d likely want.

            It can be a bit different if there’s someone who is invited who can ask the “okay if I bring X” question, though, if it’s done in a way that doesn’t imply that you’re stewing about it.

        • Jane said:

          I think in this case the question is probably different though — rather than “Why wasn’t I invited?” it is “Was I invited?” followed by a quick subject change.

          I’ve also had some luck with inquiring about the nature of the event that passed that I wanted to be invited to (if success is measured in “gathering information about what I might be reasonably invited to.”) So: where did you go? what’s so-and-so’s apartment like? who ended up coming? how did you know the host? who was organizing? how long have you known so-and-so? how did you meet so-and-so? did you do anything fun? did anyone cook?

          Played right, it sounds like friendly interest, but it’s very useful for information-gathering. You can get some sense of things like: do certain friends have small apartments and therefore limited social calendars? do certain people only like to get together in very small groups? who is the social organizer? who is the social glue? is there a need for certain people to contribute certain things, like food or games? is there a shared common interest that is uniting that group? is it an event for people who know each other really well or are really dedicated to a particular activity?

          Via this method I will often discover things like: J attended, and I HATE J, so I’m cool with not going. Or: H went, and I have a dynamic with H that is overwhelming for some people.* Or: oh, I like board games, but I don’t like THAT board game. Or: I get it, that’s a group of people from the Principles of Finance class, which I didn’t take.

          It’s also helpful in terms of planning your own event — what are people into? Can you offer something (food, expertise, knowledge of a certain area) that people are excited about? What clusters of people get on well together?

          *I have one friend (who I like a lot!) who is the conversational equivalent of a freight train: he stops for no one and diverts for no one. Many people deal with this by talking around him, but I deal with it by talking OVER him, and it fun and rowdy but probably a headache for the people nearest us.

    • drawswithpens said:

      Yes, exactly, It’s often someone wondering why an established pattern of interaction suddenly changed for seemingly no reason.

      • And the hard part is that the Correct Behavior is to take it on the chin, to smile and be super-gracious and never bring it up, because who knows what the real reason is and it may have nothing to do with you, and any assumptions you make (or know in your gut) might be just you being a Party Smeagol.

        But my goodness, I’ve seen some super-terrible reasons for not inviting people to things in my day, things that are way more about the host (nearly always along the lines of “if I invite this person but not this person’s partner, I’ll be able to do this behavior that would be inappropriate if the partner were there!”) and it is SO HARD to be the gracious person when you know the real reason why you weren’t invited.

        • drawswithpens said:

          Yeah, that kind of stuff is very counterintuitive for me. I just always leap to assuming that it’s something specific that I did.

          • Drew said:

            Possible reasons that aren’t “We don’t like you”:

            * We wanted to see some folks we don’t get to see very often.
            * We were mixing up the friend list because we had some people we thought would really hit it off, and those people filled the space.
            * We were playing board games / watching a movie / drinking expensive wine and we know you don’t really like that stuff.
            * We wanted to invite someone you don’t really like.
            * We wanted to invite someone who doesn’t really like you.
            * …and you think they DO.
            * You’re so awesome we hate when we can’t focus on you specifically. Let’s hang out soon, just us!
            * Oh my glob, we meant to and totally forgot! Our bad!
            * We thought you were busy that night. Wow, our bad.

            And that’s just a partial list. NONE of those are saying they don’t like you, but all of them are valid reasons why you might not have been invited.

          • Muddie Mae said:

            I hope this isn’t out of line, but have you ever considered unpacking that with a counselor? I thought in the same way for most of my life, and it was really frustrating and limiting. Seeing a therapist is helping me be a lot more flexible and forgiving (both to me and others) and unravel some of my not-useful thought processes.

        • drawswithpens said:

          I’m wondering though, when is it acceptable to inquire about someone’s behavior? I mean, say you’ve been close friends for years, and then a person starts being rather cool to you. When is it okay to ask, “hey, is there something wrong?” Because if you’re good friends, I think you should be able to ask about stuff like that. Not excessively, but I could see it being justified sometimes.

          • I have honestly been on all sides of this. I was once the friend who was told “you need to stop reaching out to me,” and I have told another person “you need to stop reaching out to me.”

            And I’ve also been on both sides of the “hey, are we okay?” conversations that are all “Oh, WOW, of course we’re okay! Let’s hang out next week! Life’s just been overwhelming for me lately! Did I respond curtly before, I’m so sorry!” and everyone apologizes and hugs.

            I don’t know. I’ll tell you honestly that the time I got told to STOP, full stop (and I did) was when a friendship grew apart due to distance, and for about a year I kept trying to have a long-distance friendship that was as intense as our in-person one. And I refused to see that my friend’s actions were changing (I mean, I was well aware that they were, but I was choosing to ignore it) because she had told me before I left that she loved me, and I felt like that gave me a free pass to message and call her whenever. I mean, that’s what you do with people you love, right? Once you hit LOVE STAGE, ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED you can just do whatever you want!

          • JenniferP said:

            You might well ask “are we ok?”

            But if you feel a close friendship drifting, my suggestion is to invite them to do something with you (not with a We Need To Talk agenda, just, for fun) and see what happens. Keep it low key and inexpensive, like, breakfast. Is it easy to make plans with them when you do the inviting? Do you have fun with them? Do you still feel connected?

        • Inflectionpoint said:

          I’ve gone through exactly that, and it’s very painful. I decided to discuss it with the person once I realized that – I had nothing left to lose.

          They’d decided to remove me from their friends group because I don’t sit back quietly when people are sexist and creepy to me and other women.They sent me a charming little condescension-gram, which told me that they were “defriending me” on social media because they think I’m too angry.

          For a moment I just went… what? This is 2014, I thought most adults just defriended, filtered, blocked, and moved on. The fact that a person felt the need to send such a nastygram is a true puzzler. If I sent a nastygram to every person I block, mute, or unfriend, I’d never get anything done!

          This happened at the same time that a friend of theirs, who is still invited to their parties, harassed me and threatened me. But they’re sitll on the party list, because I don’t even know why.

          I contacted the person who sent me the condescension gram and said, “I was hurt by your email. I want to talk to you about that.”

          I knew going in to the conversation that my goal was to plant the seed of understanding with them, let them know that their actions were not OK, and then move the hell on with my own life. It was a difficult conversation, because the person Really Didn’t Get that setting a boundary is one thing, dumping your emotional garbage on someone else is another. (Hint. The first one is very OK. The second on, really not OK.)

          They didn’t get several other things either, and I took the time to explain it. I knew that this was a relationship ending conversation, and I chose to have it, for several reasons.

          1) A person who sends me a nastygram like that is someone I don’t want to have contact with. Ever. Again. Unless there’s some very serious changes made.

          2) A person who is OK with creepy threatening behavior as long as it doesn’t rock the boat and stays private is someone very unsafe to be around. I don’t want to have contact with them unless they change.

          3) As far as I know, noone has ever called them on this behavior, and since I’m already out, I can do that. Perhaps they will think it through some day and realize that what they are doing is hurtful and harms others.

          So, if you are in the rare situation of having nothing left to lose in the relationship, and if you think it’s the kind of thing that should be called out, I’d say go for it. That is not the usual run of things though.

    • Carly said:

      Man, my social group had some drama recently because a couple of people in it were holding a pre-party before a Halloween performance our group was doing, and I mentioned it to Partner in passing because I’d assumed it was one of the frequent “everyone in Group is invited” events. Turned out it was not, due to reasons of space, and he was not on the list. Which would have been awkward enough, but to make it worse, Partner was worrying about this to a mutual friend who he specifically told not to mention anything to the hosts, and Mutual Friend proceeded to immediately go and do exactly that. So Partner got an invite to the party anyway, but he ended up not going because he was pretty sure it was a pity invite. There was absolutely NO good way to handle that situation once Mutual Friend started running his mouth.

      • peeta8 said:

        As a host, I do try to include guests’ partners & have sometimes scrambled to include one after omitting them at first. So it might be less a pity-invite than a remedial-invite? Still awkward, though!

        I also see this as a case where it’s fine to ask, before rather than after. I don’t find it Smeagolesque if someone says “oh hey, is Partner included too?” As long as they can still take a gracious no. “Sorry, we had to limit it to just the cast this time,” etc.

      • wordiest said:

        I think snubbings of an established partner are a different category. It’s okay to invite somebody at times and say you just want to spend time with them or want a smaller group. But for a lot of things, especially larger parties, the assumption is if you have a problem with either part of a couple (or any adult member of a poly household), then you do not invite any of them. Because you expect someone to tell their partner(s) about the party they are going to. And if the partner isn’t invited, then I expect the people to discuss together whether or not the invited person is willing to go to an event that snubbed the partner. And then a bunch of context issues matter. I often see invites that are emailed to the invitees or otherwise shared to a small group explicitly state “And partners are welcome, if I accidentally missed sending your partner an invite” or something to that effect.I think this evolves naturally from the rules that you do not talk about an event with people who are not invited to that event, and you do not expect partners to keep your information from each other unless you specifically get their consent for that in advance. Inviting just one person in a couple thus includes the implicit, I want you to keep a secret from your partner, which is not a nice situation to thrust somebody into.

        • dee said:

          I’ve had a friend invite me to her birthday, which was supposed to be a cishet-dude-free zone… which I didn’t realize, so I assumed my cishet-dude partner was also invited, as she likes him well enough. She ended up politely asking us to leave earlier than the others, which we were okay with since 1) sleep 2) we didn’t like some of her other friends and the dislike was clearly mutual.

          Which is to say: I guess some circumstances it’s socially acceptable to ask only one partner, and for the other partner to be okay with that? But I also think if I knew he weren’t invited, I wouldn’t have come myself since I prefer spending time with him (at a period in life where my free time was very limited) to spending it with this friend and her friends.

          • JenniferP said:

            Uggghhh she should have told you that she had party rules!

          • wordiest said:

            I don’t have a problem with gatherings that are explicitly limited in some way, thus the whole, I just want to spend time with you caveat for inviting half of a couple. But I do believe that when you invite only one member in an ongoing romantic relationship that the invite needs to be explicitly just for one person, and you generally need to give at least a vague reason. At least in my culture, inviting a partner is the default. But I do often do things without my partner, especially activities that some of my friends enjoy and he does not. It’s not like partners need to be glued together, just that for most gatherings, you invite them both or you invite neither.

        • Carly said:

          Oh, Partner is on cast too, which is the primary reason I was going on the assumption he was invited. And one of the hosts told me later (without my asking) that their party strategy had been to invite a certain number of people, and then as folks declined and “slots” freed up, adding more people as space allowed, and that they just hadn’t gotten to him in the list yet. How true that was, I’m not sure; it’s an explanation that makes sense given the circumstances. I don’t think there was any malicious intent to the situation in any case, but it was still pretty…oblivious?…of them to exclude him initially and not expect him to find out about that.

  10. BeldamSansMerci said:

    Urgh, there were several of these I was tempted to comment on but #4 just stood out above all the rest, like a neon (red and flag-shaped) light in the darkness:
    “My ex says he doesn’t care about himself so how could he care about anyone else?”

    It is, in fact, entirely possible to not care about oneself, but still care about others. I’ve been in that place several times! – and from memory of previous threads, so have many other commenters here. Claiming otherwise is just so ludicrous, it seems… bizarre, at first, but on closer inspection more likely flat-out manipulative. Possible translation: “I am going to blatantly not give a shit about anyone else’s [namely your] feelings, needs, or boundaries; however I expect you to put up with all this because I Am Sad and therefore you must be nice to me (even though I will not be nice to you).”

    Possibly there’s a genuine cry for help in there, in which case perhaps ‘ex’ could be steered towards a suitable source, e.g. a trained therapist. But mostly it sounds like someone declaring their intention to be an arsehole.

    • paddlepickle said:

      Yep, that sentence is pretty much the most effective way to turn a conversation from “I hurt you” to “You should comfort me because I hurt you”.

      • Anisoptera said:

        I have spent a lot of time comforting people who hurt me and then were upset by my negative hurt reaction to their behaviour. Just…nope. Nope. Nope.

        Nope Rocket to the Sun.

        These words are arsehole for “Flee Now I Am An Arsehole”

        • Laughing Giraffe said:

          An Interaction with an Ex, Post-Breakup: A Drama in One [very short] Act.
          (Character notes: Speaker #1 should be stoned. Speaker #2 should be drunk and crying.)
          “I feel bad that you feel bad. I want to comfort you.”
          “I feel bad because you were an ass to me. Your presence is making me feel worse. Please go away now.”
          “But I still feel bad!”
          “You want me to feel worse so that you can feel better about making me feel bad?”
          “We could try at least?”
          *shut door in face*
          End scene.

          (For those wishing to stage a sequel, repeat the above on the following evening and include a suggestion by Speaker #1 that he and Speaker #2 should have sex, “for closure”.)

          • Anisoptera said:

            Shuts door in face! \o/

    • Muddie Mae said:

      Everyone’s mileage may vary, but I’ve never heard that sentence (or it’s variations) from someone who wasn’t a manipulative ass.

    • The most useful takeaway from that sentence is, “Your ex just said he doesn’t care about you.”

    • Penelope Widdowson-Bonefat said:

      The most charitable interpretation I can think of is, “I need to learn how to take care of myself and my needs before I commit to a relationship that’s beyond my skillset and emotional capacity.” I would bet money that’s not what the subtext is, though. And either way, the result is the same: I can’t be in a relationship with you, definitely not right now, not for the foreseeable future, and don’t count on it ever happening.

      • Rose said:

        Um, I can somewhat imagine how someone could say this because … I’m a bit depressive and I really don’t have the energy to care about other people’s problems. I totally get that they have problems and maybe I should pity them, but I just don’t feel anything. And much less have the energy to help them.
        So, I kind of get that, but I agree that the relationship should end there.

        • wordiest said:

          Indeed. The most positive interpretation I can possibly think of is, your ex just said that he needs therapy. And you absolutely cannot be your ex’s therapist (even if you are a trained therapist, which you probably are not). Wishing your ex good luck in finding a good therapist and getting help and then moving on is probably the best thing you can do for him.

  11. AW said:

    Imagine this girlfriend person as a fellow human being whom you like, or want to like, someone you don’t know very well on whom you wish to make a kind and good impression.

    Speaking of the Bad Advisor, was anyone else reminded of this? http://thatbadadvice.tumblr.com/post/56428856208/to-what-extent-does-my-sons-girlfriend-have-a

    Or even this one: http://thatbadadvice.tumblr.com/post/97097083459/my-friend-is-fat-and-he-has-a-friend-who-is-also because you just know that whoever searched for #14 is looking for ways to “fix” her.

    Seriously, how hard is it to just not be a jerk? You literally don’t have to do anything to not be a jerk unless “jerk” is your default setting.

    • paddlepickle said:

      Oh god, that first one. “I tried bringing it up with her indirectly but she says she accepts her weight gain”. I’d be really curious to hear how saying something “indirectly” resulted in that conversation.

  12. TheLadyK said:

    The answer to #4 is pure fucking truth. Should be on t-shirts. Possibly a banner in Times Square (Just in time for New Years!)

    The world would be a lot less full of passive aggressive bullshit and pain if we started taking each other at our word.

  13. ona555 said:

    Dear #16:

    I am sorry. It really sucks to be the person who thought you’d maybe get invited to a thing that other people you know are invited to, but no invitation was forthcoming. Once upon a time I was (seriously) the only person in a particular social circle who did not get invited to someone’s wedding. It’s not like this person was a super casual acquaintance, either, we’d closely worked together most days of the week for two years, gone out together as part of a group, confided in each other, squeed over new relationships, cried over the death of her dog, and so forth, with all the indications of work-and-also-not-work related friendship. Every other single person in my circle who worked and socialized with this individual as closely as I did received an invitation. It stung, and how. What I did:

    I did not mention it.
    I repeat, I did not mention it.
    I did not huff and puff when everyone (seriously, everyone) talked excitedly about their wedding attendance plans in front of me.
    I smiled and was supportive the best I could.
    I went home and quietly was sad and rejected about it.
    I made some polite distance between myself and this person, because it was fairly obvious that I considered us better friends than we were.
    I stopped socializing with them outside of work, without being pissy with them while at work.

    I did these things because their wedding wasn’t about me. I did these things because I was deeply hurt and I needed to take care of my own feelings of inferiority and invisibility without imposing upon their happy event. It sucked to find out that my feelings of friendship weren’t reciprocated, and it sucked even more to suspect that the reason had to do with my income status, but at the same time I was able to stop putting energy into courting friendship with someone who wasn’t actually my friend, so there’s that, at least. I do still think kindly of this person and I do still wonder why I wasn’t invited, I do still remember our interactions fondly, but the effort at making or being friends was done from that point forward.

    Hugs to you.

    • Elizabeth said:

      I tried to post up above, but I think I’m in moderation now. The exact same thing happened to me (except that I didn’t find out about it until the day of the wedding), and I reacted exactly the way you did. And my feelings are still kind of hurt about it. But what am I going to do, ask them to have another wedding so I can come? What’s done is done. I feel sort of sad about it, because we had been, if not super-close, at least solid friends for some ten years before that, and the friendship faded away to nothing after the snub.

  14. Solidarity to the non-huggers! Other alternatives include the fist bump, the elbow bump, and high fives.

    • plumbicon said:

      I was at a planning session a few months back for a workshop we were going to hold (that ended up not happening) and one of the participants was a volunteer with the local crisis center. She demonstrated this *great* technique for politely keeping someone from hugging you. It’s hard to describe without actually doing it, but it’s something like this: when they put their arms out, you put your hands out, intercept their hands with yours, and gently pull their arms down. All the while, look them in the eye and warmly return their greeting. You end up holding each other’s hands at waist level. Properly done, it’s an amazingly cordial way to keep yourself from unwanted intimacy. It’s something I need to practice, because it was just awesome.

      • LadyK said:

        Ooooh…..

        I love hugs. I work very hard not to hug people who don’t want it, I ask permission and assume people don’t want to hug, but it can make me a little sad. As a consummate hugger who finds hugs a vital part of my existence – I love this holding hands warmly bit. It expresses basically everything I’m trying to express with hugs.

        Can we make this a normal thing? (Barring people who don’t do hand touching, who should still have their space respected)

        • plumbicon said:

          I really like that you ask permission to hug – that shows goodwill and respect, and means a lot. (And if we ever meet, LadyK, you have permission to hug me.) 🙂

        • FlyBy said:

          I have yet to turn down someone who’s asked if they can hug me. I love it when people do that, it shows kindness and boundary-respecting and generally tells me that they’re safe to get close to.

        • Drew said:

          I’m a serious hugger and I try to be aware when people are saying they aren’t receptive to a hug. And I don’t hug strangers — that’s just common politeness.

          Once, I was at a “how to polish your resume to a high gloss” mini-course around the time my employer was shutting down. At the end of this day-long and fairly useless seminar, the presenter GRABBED me, said “I’m a hugger,” and I was suddenly eating her shoulder. I’m a hugger, too, but not someone I don’t know, don’t expect ever to see again, and whose advice was so stunningly inappropriate for me and my situation that I dumped the course materials in recycling on the way home. GAH!

        • Betsy said:

          As a natural non-hugger, I am not crazy about being asked to hug… feel put in a bit of an awkward situation.
          I feel fine saying no — and I have before — but to me the request is akin to “Do you mind showing me your breasts real quick?” It’s a little weird and it kind of moves the conversation in a different place. But, that’s just me.

          • Linden said:

            No, not just you!

          • wordiest said:

            I’ve been asked, “Are you the sort of person who does hugs?” by people who were considering giving me a parting hug. I’ve really appreciated this question. I am curious if you find that sort of wording pressurey or if that works to make you comfortable saying no.

          • Elsajeni said:

            @wordiest, I’m not big on the “Are you a hugger?” variation on the question. I’m not generally comfortable saying “With some people I am, but not with you” (feels rude, even in its most polite form of “Not with people I’ve just met”), but I also feel uncomfortable saying “No” and then being seen hugging someone else. Like Betsy, I also feel a little weird about “Would you like to hug?” or “Shall we hug?”, but I think that’s the least-weird way to navigate the “I would like to hug you, but I’m not sure if you’re into that” territory.

          • Mary said:

            I quite like “do we hug?” Firstly, it’s a Buffy quote, and secondly, it puts the emphasis on the relationship rather than on either person defining themselves by their willingness to hug.

      • Sascha said:

        I think that’s called the Little Old Lady maneuver, I’ve had many sweet old ladies grab my hands and hold them whilst greeting/saying goodbye to me over the years.

      • Jenna said:

        I’ll have to practice this.
        The thing is, I like hugs….when I am expecting them and ready and ok with this person hugging me. Which means that when asked if someone could hug me, 90% of the time I say, “yes!” and it is fine. Unexpected hugs, though, I do not like. When I was obviously a cancer patient(no hair, knit cap, and skin condition probably made it fairly obvious) I got a lot of unexpected touching and hugging.
        Huggers who ask are great; huggers who just grab and hug are grabby people. By the evidence, they are grabby people, regardless of intent.

        • Irene said:

          Seriously? People touch cancer patients without permission? It didn’t occur to them that you might be immunocompromised, or in pain or something? That’s awful.

  15. Terrified Gardener said:

    Sympathies with #17. Directness is your friend here. My partner and I have, from very early in our relationship, both been upfront about personal hygiene and it is really helpful. Both because it’s easy to tell him when I find him a bit icky and also because I can trust him to tell me if I need to do something (I’ve frequently seen or been someone dancing around the topic with a friend who smells really bad, not knowing whether or how to say something and I would hate to find out that people have been doing that with me).

    • monologue said:

      YMMV about the friend one. I think it’s totally fair game with your partner because they are likely to be expecting physical intimacy from you but with friends the way you tell them is really important. You need to be pretty close to someone for your friendship to survive “yo your breath stinks.” Offering gum can be a good way to go that’s way less confrontational. Some people are pretty hardcore about physical hygiene and you don’t always know what’s up with your friend.

      • allya said:

        I mean, I’ve had a friend say to me, “Allya, I love you, but your feet smell like feet” as a way to ask me to put my shoes back on in her car. IDK if that would work for most friendships (we were pretty close) but I found it hilarious and charming and wasn’t offended at all.

    • deyne said:

      Yeah, my boyfriend and I are both non-NT and sometimes forget to bush our teeth, the totally blunt “Dude, I really want to kiss you but your breath is AWFUL” works really well for us. Plus we brush our teeth more often now.

  16. vass said:

    #2 is so timely with Christmas coming up. 😦

    I have tried the holding my hand out for a handshake instead thing, and had the person try to brush my hand away so they could go in for the hug instead. I just. Why.

    • And that’s when you put your hand on their shoulder and push them away. I’ve had to use that tactic a time or two.

    • EllyPDQ said:

      Ugh. I’ve had that happen. I’ve also had my upheld hand, palm out, in the “STOP!” position, totally ignored.

      I do not want to hug. I do not want to shake hands. No touching, please. Why is this so difficult?

      • winter said:

        I had some success with saying upfront that I’m ill. When I was honestly ill. But I’m pretty sure there are people out there, who will even ignore that.

    • Postosuchus said:

      Before I learned to Use My Words, I combined the following techniques to try to stop Creepy Clueless Dude from hugging me during coffee hour at my local UU church:
      1) Held up a furled umbrella between us like a horizontal barrier; 2) frowned and shook my head; 3) said “No!”

      Didn’t work. Turned into a wrestling match, umbrella and all. I guess I should have hit him over the head with it.

      • FlyBy said:

        I had to read that twice to make sure you weren’t talking about a dog that was trying to jump up on you. Good grief. I agree, use the pointy end of the umbrella next time.

      • Since when is “no” not a word?

    • DameB said:

      So, my BFF’s new husband and I have friction sometimes. BFF and I have talked it out and it’s fine now but the tension to a head during one particularly brutal heatwave. I don’t like being hot and I really don’t like hugging in the heat. As a “joke” her new husband would hug me, even though I’d said not to. The first time I didn’t say much, just pushed him away. Then second time, I tried to dodge and it didn’t work. The third time, I used my thumbs to dig into the soft hollows under his clavicles and snarled, “No means no.” He looked at his wife, who shrugged and said, “I told you not to do that. She said no.”

      My BFF and I hang out without her husband mostly, now.

    • wordiest said:

      Ugh. And this is how you tell the difference between the accidental, but good intentioned boundary-violater and the person who does not care about your comfort or wishes. I’d consider this a pretty big red flag.

  17. Alcor said:

    Agreed with all of this ever except one thing: 14. Yes, don’t tell her she’s enormously fat; she knows that. I’m sure she knows the health implications. Etc etc. But a parent can comment on their children’s significant others; this is as old as time. It’s not a jerk move; it shows concern. If I were dating someone unhealthily fat, I’d hope my parents would comment! Not in ways like “ugh your girlfriend is an ugly fatass” (which is just dumb) but in ways like “So, if you guys go long-term, are you ready to deal with any health issues she might have? If she suddenly decides to lose weight, will you be okay with her new appearance or will that be a problem for your desires?” So on and so forth. This may sound terrible, but watching my uncle go through his wife’s obesity-caused health decline, amputations, and death was serious shit. Sometimes it’s the parents’ job to break the honeymoon feeling and tell the harsh truth.

    • JenniferP said:

      NOPE to all of this.

      I’m sorry about your aunt’s suffering and illness, but commenting on someone else’s body is not okay, and it is NOT parents’ place to do this. This is concern trolling, not love.

      • Alcor said:

        Where I come from, family members are kinda right over each other’s shoulders and do stuff like this all the time. It’s just how life works there. Parents are parents for life. I can’t fathom the idea of telling my parents they aren’t allowed to talk to me about their concerns.

        • Ethyl said:

          “That’s just the way it is” doesn’t make it not intrusive, abusive bullshit. Not to mention that whole “fat is bad for you” stuff is factually and scientifically inaccurate.

        • I also come from a culture where everyone is up in everybody’s business. 100% all the time actually I should check my texts right now make sure I haven’t missed any in the last hour that I was working.
          I am also a fat person.
          The most violent, horrible, awful thing for my health is people giving unsolicited advice about my weight.
          There is actual trufax scientific research to back up that the worst thing for fat people’s health is other people assigning stigma to fat regardless of actual health metrics.
          I have made it quite clear to my aunties and uncles and cousins and all assorted family members that my health is none of their concern. Same would go for any partner I might bring home.

          • Rattakin said:

            Exactly. I’ve always been thin, but in the past few years I’ve [REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED- moderator]. And you know what? I don’t care. If I cared that much, I would work to lose the weight. “Health concerns” my Aunt Fanny. These same people don’t go around to wineries and tell people they shouldn’t drink. Nor do they stand outside smoke shops and tell people how bad cigars are for them. When the person at the next table orders pasta carbonara, do they lecture them about cholesterol? I’m guessing only if they’re fat.

          • JenniferP said:

            STOP MENTIONING SPECIFIC WEIGHTS, EVERYONE.

            Love,
            Your moderator

        • Bibliophilian said:

          You know, I’m from a similar culture of in-each-other’s business and I still think there’s some situations where parents should keep their own counsel about their children’s partners. My partner has a genetic disease that is managed, but will very likely have some consequences for his health later in life. When we first started dating, my mom asked if I was sure I wanted to think about building a future with someone that might be facing those complications. I was furious – I had found someone I loved, and she wanted me to bail out because he might get sick(er) 30 years down the line?! I damn well knew what I was signing up for, and there are no guarantees in life – I would much rather take the path that involves a love story. She had only briefly met him at that point, and it felt like she was judging him for factors out of his control, instead of whether he was a force for good in my life.

          There are some questions about my partner that my mom asked that I thought were reasonable and indicated her concern/interest in my well-being:

          1. He has a genetic disease – is that a concern for eventual children?
          2. Does he have a good support system that is not just you?
          3. Is he taking care of himself to lessen the chance of those eventual consequences? (She took “no, but it’s his health to manage and I’m not involving myself” as an answer from me without further debate. Happily, he decided to take charge of that not long after!)

          These are different, to me, because they are mostly focused on factors he can control, or choices that I might have to make that involve him (biological children). They do not suggest I leave my relationship based one one aspect of a partner (that is my call to make).

        • winter said:

          Then it’s obviously okay for your parents to do that because you consent to it but you do not get to make that decision for anyone else, but yourself.

    • paddlepickle said:

      You would really hope your parents would ask you specific details on your attraction to your partner’s appearance? And “are you ready to deal with any health issues she might have” is a question that applies to ANY long-term relationship, because if you are going to be with someone forever, guess what? They’re gonna get sick, and they’re gonna die, regardless of their weight. The superiority and judgement in this comment is really disturbing.

      • JenniferP said:

        The son knows exactly how she looks, and together, they know exactly the amount of medical hysteria around fatness that exists.

        • paddlepickle said:

          This. And I’m sure it would be very comforting for this commenter’s uncle to hear, “If only had someone had warned you before you decided to fall in love with and marry a fat woman”.

      • Alcor said:

        Yeah actually. I want my parents to tell me what they think about my life, because otherwise they’re just kind of like “nope go do your thing, we don’t give a fuck anymore now that you turned 18.” There’s hands-off and there’s “not giving a shit” and I’d rather my parents try to keep up with me, my life, and any concerns they may have should be something they are allowed to discuss with me. That’s just the way my family works I guess. Everyone’s mileage may vary here based on how well they get along with said family. Granted I come from a culture where parents are considered wise authority figures well into their kids’ adulthood, rather than meddling folks who are making everything miserable or some such.

        • Beth B said:

          I respect that you’re coming from a culture different from mine, where the expectations of parental advice and involvement are different not just in the amount but in the details. One culture’s standoffishness can be another culture’s respect, and one culture’s loving involvement can be another’s nosy condescension. (Also: one individual’s.)

          But please don’t imply (or, uh, pretty much outright state) that if adult children don’t want their parents discussing their attraction to a partner’s appearance, etc, it’s because they don’t care and the family doesn’t get along. That’s factually untrue, and really condescending.

          My parents and I are extremely close; I love them dearly, I talk to them often, I’m glad to go home for holidays and for “just because” weekends, and they visit me often too. I respect their opinions and their wisdom a lot. I talk over serious decisions with them. And oh my god, I would never talk with them about my partner’s appearance, and they would never comment on my partner’s or friends’ potential health issues unless I brought up the subject. If they tried to concern-troll someone I loved for their body shape, I would be shocked because I don’t expect that kind of thing from them, and I would also say something like “Uh, I don’t actually want to discuss that, it’s his/her business and not mine or yours, okay?” and change the subject. Or, if it was something like a partner’s health that was my business: “Uh, we’re handling it,” or “No, that’s not a concern,” and then subject change, unless I really needed to do a polite “I love you, Mom/Dad, but wtf??” Because love and respect do not preclude boundaries, in any culture, even if the details of what those boundaries are widely variable.

        • Serin said:

          And what is the desired outcome of this conversation?

          1. You break up with her and date someone who is more successful at appearing to be healthy.

          2. You don’t break up with her, but instead begin a full-on onslaught of “well-meaning” attempts to get her to change her body. Mama and Papa will help, I’m sure.

          3. You don’t break up with her and you don’t mess with her, but Mama and Papa (confident that you see this as evidence that they care about you) do the “well-meaning” attempts all by themselves.

          Either way, their giving a shit about you has somehow translated into your hypothetical girlfriend’s body, clothes, food, and exercise being laid out for criticism. Whom does this benefit?

        • Northlight said:

          When I want my parents to comment on my life I ask. The best gift my dad gave me as an adult was to tell me that he’d always have opinions on my life but that he’d only share them when asked. That’s nice because it allows me to seek out his opinion if I feel it would be helpful but all of his You’re Not Doing It My Way commentary stays under wraps during regular conversation.

          • JenniferP said:

            I think there is a culture difference going on here, but also a lot of body hate and shame wrapped up in concern.

          • Ethyl said:

            Right. There’s the *fact* that the parents comment on things in your life or give you unwanted and unasked-for advice, then there’s *what* exactly it is they feel compelled to criticize. Either one can be cause for setting boundaries, and both are culturally-influenced. But when you are the target of well-meaning parental interference along an axis of oppression, that is *harm.*

        • Vicki said:

          If your parents are actually wise authority figures on this—rather than well-meaning but sometimes clueless humans whose comments may have more to do with prejudice than with whether someone is actually a good partner for you—that’s great. Though even loving parents can say “I just think that it would be harder for you than a more conventional/acceptable relationship” when what they actually mean is “I’m not comfortable with your dating other women/having a partner of X race or religion/how fat your girlfriend is.” That doesn’t necessarily lead to seeking out partners of the parentally desired category. In my case, it meant not mentioning the next few women I was dating, because I knew I wasn’t going to get a comment about whether someone was specifically good for me, because they weren’t seeing past not wanting me to date women at all.

          The important point is that I expect people who have that sort of relationship with their parents ask their parents what they think of the person they’re dating, or for advice on things like jobs and whether to go to grad school and is it a good idea to buy a car right now.

        • garlicknitter said:

          There’s another option here between your parents being all up in your business versus not giving a shit about you. Maybe they could care about you deeply, trust you to make good decisions now that you’re an adult, and come to them for advice if you want it.

          • notleia said:

            Oh hell yes. There is a wiiiiiide range between hands-off and no-shits, but my ex-longterm-boyfriend’s family didn’t believe so, either. And the dude would dutifully relay his parents’ concern that I hated them because I didn’t talk enough to suit them. As if that was supposed to make it easier to talk to them, and I never seemed to talk enough to reassure them for long.

        • blackcat said:

          There’s a difference to me between a parent discussing their concerns about the long-term compatibility of a partner with their child and specifically criticizing an attribute of that partner. Saying “From where I’m sitting, your partner shouldn’t be doing X. Are you okay with X? What’s going on?” Vs “Your partner is fat/skinny/the wrong color.”

          My mom has several chronic health problems. I find it painful that my MIL tried to get my husband to reconsidering partnering with me because of this. She is worried about those conditions being genetic (which at least 2 are not) and her grand children having them. It comes from a place of concern, but it still says that she thinks that the slight possibility that our children will be susceptible to several rare conditions outweighs all of the ways in which I am a good partner for my husband. It would be better for all of us if she had kept those concerns to herself.

          • I might also argue that it would have been better for you if your husband hadn’t then mentioned her concerns to you.

        • AW said:

          False dilemma. False dilemma everywhere.

          Also, your life != the body of your SO.

        • toxicnudibranch said:

          Yes, because heaven forbid your child befriend/date/marry a fatty, amirite? Good thing the grown folks are there to swoop in and remind them that Fat Is Lazy/Insta-death. /sarcasm

          I, also, come from a long line of Very Involved (and well-meaning) Relatives. The entire family is like that. Everyone I know in the area is like that. However, just because they are well-meaning doesn’t mean they haven’t been absolutely shitty in the course of their questioning.

          “Loving/Supportive/Well-Meaning” Questions I have been asked about people I dated who were (respectively) Not White, legally blind, or older than me:

          “Honey, X seems like a really nice person, but don’t you think you should end it now and find someone who is going to give you the kind of life you deserve?” (Makes them sound like a shiftless bum, right? Nope. Kind, funny, smart as hell, with a good career and a penchant for the same weird shit I was into. I was really happy while we were together, but they only saw that they were a different color.)

          “You’re so sweet with him; don’t you want a relationship with someone you don’t have to look after?” (Riiiiight, because blind people are helpless little worms that must be coddled, not fully functional adults who can’t see.)

          “Aren’t you worried about what people will think? I tell you, they’ll think you have Daddy Issues is what they’ll think.” (No, they’ll think “Hey, it’s toxicnudibranch and her boyfriend.” Or they’ll think nothing at all. Or they will think that and Who Fucking Cares? What the mysterious They think has no bearing on reality.)

          My point is that just because someone means well, and just because you’re used to all sort of nosy, judgy bullshit, doesn’t really mean that said nosy, judgy bullshit is okay.

      • I have health problems because of my weight too. You see, I’m medically underweight. No one ever seems to concern troll me about that, maybe because “health” is just an excuse to dump on fat people.

        Interestingly, (and while BMI is bullshit on an individual level) it’s generally healthier to be in the “slightly overweight” category than “normal”, and healthier to be “normal” than “slightly underweight”. Our whole perception of what’s healthy is skewed downwards.

        • popesuburban said:

          Yes, this! I have a dear friend who was, for a long time, severely underweight. He tried to correct it, because holy shit, it was not helping his overall health (Quoth his doctor, who told him to drink instant breakfasts with his breakfast), but it took years of diligent work and some sheer luck in recent months. And no one ever said boo about it. Funny thing, a former roommate of mine who struggled similarly also did not get concern-trolled, even though her doctor also developed a diet for her because her health was not optimal. It’s almost like it’s not really about health, but about people looking “icky” to other people, who lack the common goddamn decency to realize the world isn’t there to please their own personal eyes all the time.

        • wordiest said:

          Yes! My health problems (or maybe genetics, it’s unclear) make it hard for me to keep weight on. When I lose weight due to health issues, I have to work very hard to gain it back. When I briefly gained weight as a drug side effect, I went back to my normal weight very quickly with no conscious effort after going off the drug. Yet I see my heavier friends get more concern-trolling about their weight (even though they are all in better health than me). And when I did finally get back up to my goal weight, there wasn’t a lot of positive from other people, even though I was really pleased. Fortunately, I think I have mostly stopped my mother from commenting on how impressive it is that I have kept myself thin as I’ve gotten older by repeatedly replying with how I work very hard to keep my weight up.

          There is a lot of baggage around weight, and it rarely seems to truly be about health. Although I am actually pleased to have relatives who have correctly shown concern when someone has had significant sudden weight loss (both times it was actually related to health problems, in my own case a known one I was working to deal with and in the other case one that hadn’t yet been diagnosed and I wish the concern had been taken more seriously to have had the problem caught sooner. But sudden large weight changes are a very different thing from just being at a particular weight.)

        • Phospher said:

          Huh, really? When I was underweight, and even when I was the very skinny end of what the BMI said I should be, people concern-trolled the fuck out of me. Sometimes strangers in the street.

          • wordiest said:

            I am sorry to hear that. While it’s less common, it is no more acceptable. I only once had a stranger negatively comment on my weight in childhood (for being thin), and that was another child, so I just chalked it up to some kids are mean and do that sort of thing.

      • Anothermous said:

        Right?

        Funny story: I got cancer in my 20s. No family history, no risk factors, I just fucking “won” the cancer lottery. Funnily enough, when my partner and I decided to get married, no one was concerned about whether or not he was prepared to deal with my long-term health implications, even though statistically I’m probably at way more risk than the son’s fat girlfriend, because I’ve already had cancer once.

        I wonder why “are you prepared to deal with any health issues she might have” is considered a “reasonable” question to ask someone dating a fat girl, but never came up when my husband married a literal cancer patient?

        • Vanessa said:

          100% agreed on this. Similarly: you cannot, cannot predict “health” just by looking at someone. My partner looks like he should be the picture of health, according to our thin-obsessed weird culture, until he was off work for three months with debilitating kidney stones & related complications.

          I think there MIGHT be space for a conversation along the lines of “partner’s Specific Health Problem seems like it could put pressure on you both/be something that you both find difficult to cope with. Do you need any help with that? I am here as a support person if you ever need assistance.” And that would be a lovely thing to hear from a parent! It shows they’re willing to accept partner and to provide support in a way that works for partner and their adult child, as asked for BY THEM.

          But to bring it up out of the blue just because someone is fatter than you think is healthy? Fuck right off.

        • Tamsyn said:

          “when my partner and I decided to get married, no one was concerned about whether or not he was prepared to deal with my long-term health implications”

          I have a partner with a chronic illness that has caused serious complications for his health. When things were really bad, my mum had a chat with me when and at the time I was really miffed about it but it was also kinda helpful and important. She said to me, “This isn’t going to go away, you know? This is something he’s going to be dealing with for the rest of your life and you will therefore also be dealing with that, and you need to make sure that that’s okay with you.” And I was like “UGH I KNOW MUM JEEZ” but it was good that she said it ‘cos the point of it wasn’t really the *conversation* but that it sat in my brain and I chewed it over.

          Obviously I wasn’t going to leave him in the middle of having [health issue], but if I hadn’t been okay with it long-term, it would have niggled over the next few months and given me a good idea of what my needs were and what I had the strength to deal with in a long-term relationship. Sometimes saying that sort of thing is important so that people make sure that they’ve really thought about the impacts something can have on not only the sick person but also their main support.

          Of course, the thing is, this is all very context dependant, you know? We were already serious and my mum was right about me needing to think about whether I was okay with supporting him with stuff like this for the rest of our lives. It wasn’t a shallow judgment made on zero information outside of a shallow kneejerk fatphobic judgment.

          • Anothermous said:

            Yeah, I totally agree–these things are context dependent, and in areas where there is a known serious health problem, it’s certainly something that should be discussed. My husband and I absolutely talked about “what ifs” re: my illness and the future. I think the key aspect of this is what you said re: the necessity of the information. In our cases, the serious health problem aspect is a known factor. I knew I had cancer. You know your partner has a chronic illness. The fat girlfriend in the example, no one actually knows anything about her health. It’s being assumed that she does/is going to have serious health problems because she’s fat, and therefore, dating her will involve Serious Business Caretaking from the boyfriend so thus it’s 100% okay for the parents to concern troll over this.

        • FlyBy said:

          Similar thing here, I got no guff about wanting to marry a guy with chronic fatigue syndrome. I remember some serious conversations with my mom, but they involved all the stuff that one considers before a long-term partnership, not just medical stuff, and I was thinking it over pretty carefully myself. No-one went “ew, are you sure?”

          Bonus points: My mom really dislikes the look of crooked teeth and has made rude “ugh, can you believe it?!” comments about acquaintances. My husband has crooked teeth. She’s Never. Said. A. Fucking. Word. about it.

        • paddlepickle said:

          Heh, “The Fault In Our Stars” would have been a very different story if everyone was just like, “ew, his girlfriend is enormously tumor-ridden, does he really want to be with someone who doesn’t take care of her health?”

          I’m glad you’re doing better, and thanks for lending your experience to this conversation!

          • Anothermous said:

            Thanks! And I definitely at a chuckle at your comment. Very insightful!

      • Anisoptera said:

        Yes, for heaven’s sake anyone can get sick, or injured in all sorts of ways. It’s something we sign up for in long term relationships. Even asside from the incredibly shaky ground most health data about fatness and the possibility of changing your body weight is resting on.

    • The “harsh truth” that any prospective SO is mortal and will someday die? I mean, date whoever you want, but if you’re like “Don’t date someone with a potential sickness/disability, your life will be awful and it isn’t worth it! Only date people who are guaranteed to be healthy forever!” that’s basically saying no one should ever get into a relationship with someone with a disability. That people with health problems aren’t worth loving.. Are you seriously saying someone should have told your uncle not to get together with his wife, that he’d be better off now if he hadn’t?

    • Well now, it’s sure true that parents can ask about significant others! For example, here are the things my mother has asked me about Mr Hypotenuse, over the past 18 years:

      1. What does he want for Christmas?
      2. If I lend him tuition money, is he reliable enough to pay it back?
      3. I know his father was abusive. Are you ever scared of him?
      4. Do you think he could come fix my computer?
      5. How does he like being a dad so far?
      6. He threw his back out again? Is it healing up OK?

      I mean, my mom’s boundaries were drawn by a very incompetent cartographer but I’m pretty sure those are all reasonable things to ask me and show concern for my life and well-being, and Mr Hypotenuse’s life and well-being, without being completely inappropriate and intrusive and abusive bull puckey.

    • The thing is that health declines, amputations, sickness and death are NOT the sole realm of excess adipose tissue.
      Someone’s son could be dating the fittest, most attractive looking person with 3% bodyfat and still need to face hospitals and medical bills and watching their spouse suffer.

      A conversation about changing desires and dealing with medical issues is perfectly valid to have with one’s child, but I believe it’s a conversation that should happen before your kid even begins dating because those things are a fact of life for anyone. And yeah, maybe if a parent is worried about their kid because they seem unhappy in the relationship, it’s probably okay to do a check in and ‘How are you doing? What’s going on?’ kind of conversation.

      It is definitely not a conversation that should come about because your kid is dating a fat person and you can’t stand it and you try to use the topic as a way to break them up or try to get your kid on the ‘let’s make this person feel so horrible about themselves that they do what we want’ manipulation bandwagon.

    • Rose said:

      Well, my brother’s girlfriend is very, very ill and needs someone to be with her all the times … at the time my brother brought her home, she appeared perfectly healthy and was, you know, thin. Fat people are not unhealthy by default, nor are thin people healthy by default.
      Also, would you think it appropriate to do the same thing with a girlfriend who smokes? Tell the son that she’ll likely get cancer and how that will affect his life?

    • Anyanka said:

      Uhh…would your parents also have that conversation with you if you were dating someone thin? Or literally dating anyone at all? Or does your family only think that fat people can have health problems?

    • AW said:

      “This may sound terrible, but watching my aunt go through her obesity-caused health decline, amputations, and death was serious shit.”

      There. Fixed that for you.

      • “This may sound terrible, but watching my aunt go through her health decline, amputations, and death was serious shit.”

        Amended.

        A lot of health problems – and some of the medications people need to take to combat them – cause weight gain, directly or indirectly. Metabolisms are weird.

        • AW said:

          Ah, thank you. I was so irritated by the lack of sympathy toward the person actually having the health problems I missed the “she was obese, therefore all her health problems were caused by obesity” bit.

          But she’s still a human being, regardless of how the weight happened or what, if any, affect it had on her health.

  18. AJB said:

    My teacher crush lasted a while, but I followed his subtle boundary-filled lead and, a decade later (wow, really?), he went from crush to mentor to friend. I realized that there were qualities in him I wanted in a long-term partner and that’s what was causing the crush. I filed those away and when I met my long-term partner, I recognized them in him, and we’ve been together for years now.

    • That is such a wonderful insight. Thank you for sharing it.

  19. SpiderKitten said:

    Re:6 It depends on *how* it was said too. If it was passive aggressive then it’s not cool regardless if they’ll were in a relationship or not. That goes double if it was being used to guilt someone.

  20. Chiaro said:

    #1 I changed my number because the sister of my ex was harassing me and it’s been wonderful since. It only took me one call to my provider and I was done! Didn’t even need a new sim. Some people will keep trying, maybe your ex is one of them but emails are easy to block, someone’s fb as well but with your phone… I know there are some apps that immediately let someone’s call go to voicemail so that could be an option too.

    • popesuburban said:

      Also, there are apps that can straight-up block calls. After my partner cut ties with his abusive family, I thought it prudent to install one, because they have no boundaries when it comes to trying to stir up drama or get what they want. Either they haven’t tried or the app is working beautifully, because I’ve enjoyed five months of blissful silence. I highly recommend that kind of thing to people who have smartphones.

  21. Ginger said:

    These answers helped me today; thank you!

  22. tawg said:

    With regards to #16, I had a weird situation at work. I have a coworker who will tell me about social events that I didn’t know about after the fact. When it comes up with the wider group people will say things like “you should have come!” and then I tend to reply “No one told me it was on”.

    I don’t mind them going out without me (I am pretty low energy at the moment) and I don’t mind not being invited to things because there are plenty occasions where it wouldn’t make sense to invite me (like celebrating the birthday of someone I barely know, etc). But it feels like something weird is going on. People seem to think that my coworker will automatically invite me to these things if I’m not around when they’re planned, and my coworker seems to think it’s cool to let me know that they all had fun an no one invited me. Am I being too sensitive?

    • Rose Fox said:

      If this is a repeated pattern, no, I don’t think you’re being too sensitive.

      Options:

      “Coworker, I’d appreciate it if you could stop telling me about fun social events after the fact. It emphasizes that I wasn’t invited, and then I feel left out and sad. I’d feel a lot better if you just got on with your socializing and didn’t bring it up with me.”

      “Other coworkers, coworker doesn’t generally invite me to things, so please stop telling me about those events and saying that I ‘should’ have gone to them. I don’t want to go where I’m not invited.”

      Once you’re less low-energy: “Hey, other coworkers, want to hang out sometime?”

      Emphasis is not on the inviting but on the conversating. They totally get to decide who to invite. You totally get to say “don’t rub my nose in it”.

    • monologue said:

      This could potentially mean that the planner type coworker is leaving you out on purpose. If you want to go sometimes, you could ask someone other than that person, “hey, let me know next time when you guys are going for lunch, it’d be nice to go.” and then see if you get an invitation, or invite some of the people you like out to a lunch you plan sometime.

      If you don’t really care whether you go or not, I usually go with, “Oh, I wasn’t invited. Glad you all had a good time!” Say it positively or matter of factly so it’s clear you’re not frustrated about not being invited. This has the effect of letting people know that you’re not joining because you weren’t invited, not because you’re actively avoiding group activities or something. You could also use, “Oh, I didn’t know about it, how was it?” or something similar.

      I’ve had to use this a lot at my current work because people often don’t tell you something’s on and then get irritated when you don’t attend. They assume not attending means you actively don’t want to be there, so it’s important to communicate that that’s not the case. You will likely be able to tell what’s up at your work based on how the other people (not the planner who’s acting weird) phrase the, “Oh, you weren’t at lunch today.” At my work this is an implied “where the fuck were you don’t you give a crap about birthday person/going away person/new baby person?”

      • tawg said:

        I think the tangle is that my coworker isn’t the planner, she’s just more mobile in the workplace and so she crosses paths with people more frequently than I do. BUT I am now wondering if this is her way of trying to break the pattern where she’s the bridge between me and the rest of the social group? We’re sometimes seen as a bit of a package deal, and since that sometimes rubs me the wrong way I can completely understand why she’d like to be her own person around our friends rather than one half of a pair. So maybe her telling me after the even is her way of making it clear that she’s not going to be my social coordinator and other arrangements need to be made.

        So yeah. After that alternative occurred to me, I did make some moves today to organise something myself and maybe more effort on my part will help us find a balance *fingers crossed*

        • monologue said:

          Ah yeah, could be that they’re all assuming that if they invite one of you theyre getting both automatically. Good luck sorting it out!!

    • AW said:

      “When it comes up with the wider group people will say things like “you should have come!” and then I tend to reply “No one told me it was on”. ”

      What do they say when you point out that you’re not being invited to things? Is there an apology? An explanation? I don’t understand complaining at your absence when you weren’t invited. I get this happening once or twice if they thought co-worker was inviting you but this shouldn’t be a repeated thing. It should occur to someone that, if they really want you there, they need to be the ones inviting you.

      People repeatedly telling you that you should have shown up to an event you weren’t invited to may actually be a legit reason time to ask, “Why didn’t you invite me?”

      • tawg said:

        They tend to assume that word will get around. I think people intend to tell me when they see me, but I don’t cross paths with a lot of these people during work hours, and recently I was working off site for six weeks. I’ve tried telling people to e-mail me, since I always check my e-mail. Then someone suggested I add him of facebook since he does a lot of facebook. Those two conversations haven’t yielded any noticeable change, but my new FB buddy has been overseas for part of that time, and right when he came back I went off site. And then I was invited out, but I found out an hour before the event started and I already had other plans. Social lives are hard :p

        It’s a group of about eight of us, and “you should have come!” is yet to be said to me by the same person twice. But I’ve been making a point this past week to reach out to people myself, and ask if people are free to grab lunch in the near future etc. I think there might be some weirdness going on, but it might also be a bunch of people thinking it’s not their problem if I don’t stay connected to the social stuff.

        • 30ish said:

          It sounds like you’re dealing with this in a good way. I would definitely try to reach out to others and organize something. I think that with groups organizing events it can very easily happen that no one is in charge of invitations specifically and that there’s also no explicit agreement with regard to who should be invited. Especially if it’s low key stuff like going for drinks, for example. In those cases it might really be the case that whoever hears that something’s on and wants to go gets to join, with no formal inviting happening. To me the “you should have come” statements sound like no one thought to invite you specifically, which is unfortunate, but they would still have liked to have you there. With more spontaneous gatherings, you might have to actively try and stay in the loop in order to hear of them.
          I usually try to include people in events of this sort, but it has also happened to me that I sort of spontaneously came up with the idea for an event, and just told a few people about it. I was open for others to spread the word, but didn’t make sure this was happening. I would have been a little upset if people had then held me responsible for making sure that everyone was informed because in those cases I simply hadn’t intended to be in charge of the event in this way. You might also be onto something that your coworker who was invited is somewhat resenting her role of passing invitations along to you, or just doesn’t want to have that responsibility, or simply forgets to pass the invitation on to you sometimes.
          All in all, I would only suspect weirdness if this is a systematic thing that continues even after you make an effort.

  23. blackcat said:

    I really need to echo the UUGGGG of #16.

    My husband and I came up with a wedding guest list of a) our immediate family and b) 5-10 friends each+their spouses. I had two not so close friends from college ask me why they were not invited. I gave the standard answer of “We wanted to have a small wedding, so only our immediate families and closest friends were invited.” Which was the truth.

    One of these people essentially said “Oh, ok. I thought you had a big family and were going to have a big shindig?” Which led to a nice discussion about how to tell family that you love them, but they are not invited to your wedding (she was intrigued, as she also has a large family). She and I are still on “that person from college I talked to on IM sometimes” friend level–about where we were before.

    Another person stopped talking to me all together (and immediately–this was over IM). I suspect she felt a level of closeness that I did not. I miss her–we would chat from time to time, and that was nice.

    Both times were very, very awkward for me. Both forced me to say “You are not a close enough friend to make this cut.” Which is an unpleasant conversation. Ugh. No fun.

    • JenniferP said:

      The other side of it, not even related to weddings, is that hosting is work. It’s fun work, but it’s work, and it’s work that opens you up to balancing so many critiques and preferences and anxieties of your own (will anyone come, will they like it, will I accidentally leave someone out or get the mix wrong or forget someone’s food allergy), etc. If you’re going to do the work of hosting, you get to decide who you’d like to come.

      If people want to figure out why they weren’t invited last time, it’s like the movie High Fidelity where the dude goes around and asks all his ex girlfriends why they dumped him: I guess you’ll get information, but you’ve burned that bridge for a while in the getting of it. If you want to be invited to the next thing, let the last thing go and invite the person to something of your own.

      • Sparky said:

        Will I move a blanket on the sofa to arrange it for my guests and find a small, dried, cat turd, that fell off the bum of the long haired cat, ’cause sometimes they get stuck to him? Will we all pretend nothing happened while I grab a kleenex and whisk it away?

        I almost never entertain, and I had four people over a couple of weeks ago and had this delightful surprise. Luckily we’re all cat people. And we all pretended it hadn’t happened.

      • peeta8 said:

        Yes! Hosting parties is work I enjoy doing. Coming up with an answer to “Why wasn’t I invited?” is work I would literally never talk to that person again in order to avoid doing.

      • Jenna said:

        I have a party coming up and I am stressing over who to invite and how. Who will get along with who,and are aware and ok that I am poly because this is an out party. How to invite, and should I just verbally invite, phone, IM, evite? Blargh, I am the very opposite of a natural hostess, but, I want the party to happen!

      • The other side of it, not even related to weddings, is that hosting is work. It’s fun work, but it’s work

        THIS.

        I work in advertising tech. You know what is the busiest time of the year? THANKSGIVING. You know how many days off I’ve had in the last three weeks? 1. Tomorrow I get to stay home. I get to put my feet up. I may end up working remotely. I am NOT hosting anything or going to any parties, damn it.

      • Yeah. Like, we’re having people over tomorrow, and Mr Hypotenuse wanted to invite 2 particular people (who are some of our best friends). I said “yeah…but…I don’t think they’ll get along with [other couple] at ALL.” And they won’t! I don’t want to be refereeing that along with all the other hosting work!

    • blackcat said:

      Oh, I forgot the must strange “I wish I was invited” comment that I got!

      We had both college and high school friends there. After a few pictures went on facebook, someone who is apparently a good friend of Spouse of Husband’s close college friend and my high school friend (who, to my knowledge, had no other link than me), posted a comment on this picture saying “OMG, SpouseofHusband’sFriend and HighSchoolFriend! You two know each other?! Where was this fabulous party with two you and not me?! I should have been there!”

      My thought was a) privacy settings fail, and b) who the fuck are you dude? I appreciate that you think that my tiny wedding was a fabulous party (it was, and yes, hosting it was WORK), but what makes you think that you should have been at this event? The first two sentences (even the third) are fine. I get it–two of your people were in the same place without you and you are curious as to why. But WTF to “I should have been there!” No. It was my tiny wedding. My husband and I do not know you. Ergo, you should not have been there.

      I did not respond–I think I deleted the comment after a couple of days.

      Hosting on the scale of a wedding, even a small one, was so stressful. We ultimately paid a lot more than we needed to to have magical wedding elves running everything once we got there. They were magical elves who were prepared to accommodate every guest with dietary restrictions on the spot. A+, would hire again. If I still had that pile of money sitting around.

      I tend not to host dinner parties precisely because of the difficulties of balancing everyone’s needs and the limited dining seating I have in my house. I’m much happier to host potluck open house style parties. Then I can invite everyone! Each person will be able to eat at least one thing! And still, sometimes it happens that a week after I send the invite out, I think to myself “Oops, I completely forgot so and so.” Because keeping track of the moving pieces of hosting are HARD.

      • Hmm. From here, that actually sounds more like a silly way to express delight that two of this person’s friends know each other (isn’t it always delightful when that happens? I think it is) and less as a sincere wish to be invited to your wedding. They probably don’t really think that. I mean maybe they do, but I don’t think I’d immediately jump to that conclusion.

  24. Taiga said:

    “What does it mean when a guy says I can’t be you(r?) love(r?) and also can’t be just friends with you.”
    It means he wants to have sex with you in secret but never acknowledge you in public because he thinks you’re not good enough for him. It also means get as far away from him as you can and stay there, because it’s him who isn’t good enough for you.

    • Anisoptera said:

      Agreed that if he follows up with “but we should totally sleep together” then your interpretation is likely correct – assuming this isn’t part of a conversation where he’s explaining why you can’t hang out at all anymore, which would be totally reasonable. A dude who wants to sleep with you, doesn’t want to date you, and also doesn’t think he can just be your friend isn’t even a good candidate for a friends-with-benefits type arrangement. Appropriate partners for that sort of thing are people who can be very respectful of boundaries and are capable of maintaining friendships with people outside of hanky panky and pants feelings.

      And if you want to walk into that sort of “just sex” relationship you have to be very very clear on what’s on offer and if it’s what you want. If you want to actually date, don’t do it. Just…do not.

    • ‘spose it’s possible that he can’t just be friends because he has feelings for you, and he can’t do anything sexual with you because baggage and/or complications. Doesn’t matter, though. Take the words at face value and don’t try to be his friend or lover.

    • sorcharei said:

      Maybe it means that he has pantsfeelings for you that he is choosing not to act on, but which are getting in the way of his being your friend. It’s entirely possible that in the future, when his pantsfeelings die down, he will be able to be your friend.

      Or maybe it means he wants to sleep with you but be able to absolutely discount and ignore your feelings because he *told* you.

      In either case, your best action is to back away from this dude. If it’s scenario one, that’s the best way to respect his situation and honesty; he’ll move closer if and when he can. If it’s scenario two, backing away is your best method of avoiding the hell that is involvement with a total glassbowl.

  25. KT said:

    #12 Teacher Crush: Whatever you do, don’t stand up and sing “Apple Bottom Jeans” loudly when your teacher-crush enters a room one day. Happened to a colleague of mine. Extremely awkward for everyone.

    • AW said:

      OMG, what? Was this on purpose or did the student not realize they were singing out loud?

      • KT said:

        I think the student thought it would be… charming?

  26. Anyanka said:

    UGGHHH people who want to hug you and refuse to take no for an answer/get hurt feelings and then loudly display them AT YOU. Sorry, it’s just a huge pet peeve of mine, because since I’m very huggy/cuddly with my siblings and parents people assume that I want to touch everyone all the time, when, like, whether or not I want any touch at all at any particular moment is dependent on my relationship to the person, my moods at the time, their hygiene and my hygiene, whether or not I’m initiating or they’re initiating, how sensitive I am to touch at the moment etc etc.

    The worst was when a guy I barely knew, a friend-of-a-friend guy, tried to like bear-hug me upon meeting me in person and when I backed up FOLLOWED ME and then when I raised my fist and repeated even louder “I do not want to be touched. Back off. Now.” he still tried to persuade me to let him hug me and then spent, like, the next thirty minutes sulking loudly about how he’d just wanted a hug, god, some people are just cold-hearted and mean, wah wah wah.

    Disclaimer: It’s fine to feel rejected or have hurt feelings when someone doesn’t hug or touch you or ever be fine with that. It’s not fine to make that that person’s problem.

  27. JoanofAnon said:

    #6 is actually a delicate one, I think, and it really depends on the context of your relationship (or non-relationship). If you’re cool with it, that’s great, but I don’t think even being in an established relationship means that this is automatically okay. The pressuring, domineering aspect of that statement may still exist and I don’t think being in a relationship actually guards against that in any way. It’s nothing to do with an issue with masturbation being bad or whatever, it’s why is that person saying it and what are they trying to get.

    For one thing, I think it’s a bit weird to feel like you need to follow up a refusal of sex with anything other than “okay, cool”. “okay, cool, excuse me, I want to go and masturbate” makes sense, because that’s pretty much a factual “I am going to the bathroom now for reasons” and it would be really odd to just get up out of bed and leave without saying why in this scenario. But, for someone to turn you down and say “it’s okay because I can just go masturbate” is not cool. That is NOT why it’s fine for someone to say no to you, not matter what is going on in your relationship. It is skeevy as hell to be okay with them expressing their needs and desires just because it doesn’t effect you. Like, what are you really saying there? “It’s okay because I am willing to masturbate instead. Were this not the case, I would be pissed at you.” It implies a huge amount of responsibility on the other person for meeting your sexual needs. There’s a very small difference in the behaviour in those two scenarios but they have very different meanings.

    It puts me in mind of the kind of sexual negotiating that some sex “advice” writers (example, Dan Savage) advocate. There’s a difference between being explicit about what you are up for (“I don’t want to have penetrative sex but I’d enjoy giving/receiving oral tonight”) and going for the path of least resistance when your partner isn’t cool with you saying no (“I don’t want to have sex at all, but I guess I could give you oral and get this over with”). Similarly, masturbating *at* you, masturbating in bed next to you, etc etc as “compromise” isn’t compromise so much as pushing on boundaries. These are all on the same spectrum of doing something sexually that you are not actively into and justifying it with the societal expectation that people in a relationship are required to meet each other’s sexual needs.

    Regardless of relationship status, you are required to do nothing. Yes, “I’m going to go masturbate” can be completely reasonable, good communication and positive sexual openness. But if you feel uncomfortable about it and you feel like what they’re really saying is that you should be meeting their sexual needs, that is a giant red flag and it needs to stop. Trusts your instincts.

  28. #2: If these are people you see on a regular basis, be prepared to repeat the “no hugs” policy frequently until it finally takes. People seem to think that if you don’t want to be hugged, you’re just having an off day, especially if you’re female.

    #5: Also be prepared to repeat this one if you happen to run into the dude around town. Definitely block calls and texts. It’s been my experience that too many dudes (not all, of course, just more than a few that I’ve had the misfortune to be acquainted with, an experience I’m sure is sadly common) think that rejection means, “I have to try harder to really sweep her off her feet!”

    #6: This could also be your partner’s passive-aggressive way of being a dick, literally as well as figuratively.

    #9: See #5. Man up. Move on.

  29. sirch1989 said:

    On the social tutor note, where is a good place to start with that if someone is lacking in social skills ? How is someone supposed to figure out what he or she is doing wrong?

    • winter said:

      reallifesocialskills.tumblr.com also offers a wide array of advice.

  30. Light said:

    #3 should cause you to back carefully away from the person as well, I think. It’s like a lead in to “Pine for me but don’t expect me to really care about you.”

  31. sirch1989 said:

    i’ve seen that site, thank you! 🙂

  32. Emmers said:

    Holy hell, #10 is ME ME ME, almost sixteen years ago.

    Search-termer #10, if you ever see this: It’s okay to do whatever you need to do to get through your teenage and college years with a solid foundation for life (both emotional and financial, let’s not put too fine a point on this).

    If you do make a sham confirmation: You are not worthless. You are a human who made the best of a difficult situation. You are not terrible. You are a child of God, or of the universe, or both, whatever floats your boat. Everything will be okay. Your parents won’t disown you. [And alternately, even if they do disown you: you WILL find a family-of-choice to take you in. That wasn’t me, but I’ve seen it elsewhere. They’re doing okay too.]

    You will get through this.

    (Sorry, got all projecty there.)

  33. TeslaEnergy said:

    I have a problem with your response to the invite question. There are various situations in which this question can come up, some inappropriate but others rational or even necessary. That some questions about invitations are unfair impositions does not make it inherently wrong.

    Asking does not mean you are obligated to answer. No one deserves a response. But many invite issues are about an error, grievance, wrong assumption or context in which communication is the only way to resolve things.

    Not making the distinction between good and bad question seems less about preventing unfair ones and more about wanting respect and boundaries without the effort and discomfort this sometimes involves. Momentary awkwardness is part of growth and understanding.

    Blanket statements like “People who ask why they weren’t invited to things are confirming why they don’t get invited to things.” rarely works to put off rude people as intimidate those who have reason to ask. It’s also the sort of thing people say to blame others for being upset by something they did.

    Questions from the excluded are uncomfortable because reasons can be both justified and harmful, or one has rationalized the harm in a way that works as long as no one questions it. To me, this is why the question is necessary – self-reflection is a much better way to manage awkward moments than avoidance.

    For example, regular gatherings of workplace friends may evolve to a size or frequency where it’s an issue for workers who aren’t invited. This concern may or may not be valid, but it’s far to ask when it’s impacting one’s job and a good idea to do so before it poisons one’s work.

    Yes, it’s hard to deal with the negative consequences of our choices, intentional or not, but being adult is negotiating such complexity – not ruling it out.

  34. TeslaEnergy said:

    Forgive if this is a double post.

    I have a problem with your response to the invite question. There are various situations in which this question can come up, some inappropriate but others rational or even necessary. That some questions about invitations are unfair impositions does not make it inherently wrong.

    Asking does not mean you are obligated to answer. No one deserves a response. But many invite issues are about an error, grievance, wrong assumption or context in which communication is the only way to resolve things.

    Not making the distinction between good and bad question seems less about preventing unfair ones and more about wanting respect and boundaries without the effort and discomfort this sometimes involves. Momentary awkwardness is part of growth and understanding.

    Blanket statements like “People who ask why they weren’t invited to things are confirming why they don’t get invited to things.” rarely works to put off rude people as intimidate those who have reason to ask. It’s also the sort of thing people say to blame others for being upset by something they did.

    Questions from the excluded are uncomfortable because reasons can be both justified and harmful, or one has rationalized the harm in a way that works as long as no one questions it. To me, this is why the question is necessary – self-reflection is a much better way to manage awkward moments than avoidance.

    For example, regular gatherings of workplace friends may evolve to a size or frequency where it’s an issue for workers who aren’t invited. This concern may or may not be valid, but it’s far to ask when it’s impacting one’s job and a good idea to do so before it poisons one’s work.

    Yes, it’s hard to deal with the negative consequences of our choices, intentional or not, but being adult is negotiating such complexity – not ruling it out.

    • twomoogles said:

      I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s inherently wrong, but I think it almost never goes well. You say “those who have reason to ask” but who are those people? What’s reasonable to one person is definitely not to another. I think that there *are* exceptions to this rule, but they are so rare as to not really be worth mentioning. I have never once in my life seen a “why wasn’t I invited” go well. I think rationally, logically, there are times when it should be fine to ask, and I totally get why people are pushing back against the blanket “noooo don’t do it”. If my best friend of a decade had a party and didn’t invite me, that would be *really* weird and out of character, so yes, I’d probably say something in that case, not gonna lie. Or in a case where there’s a genuine “maybe I actually was invited, but something went wrong” I can’t say I wouldn’t do a bit of digging.

      But every time I have actually heard/heard of this question being asked, it’s not someone asking someone they’re extremely close with, but somebody asking someone who is for example a friendly acquaintance who they’d like to get to know better. Often, it’s not a matter of exclusion but rather a matter of ‘this person wasn’t close enough to me and I didn’t want more than a certain number” rather than “I’m going to invite everybody in a certain group except this one person.” And if it is deliberate exclusion, I just don’t see it going well; any potential good that could come out of it (like if they say “oh, we didn’t think you liked us!”) could also be dealt with by inviting them to something yourself.

      I am not going to say that one hundred percent of the time it’s a terrible idea, but it’s hard to ignore my own experience with this, which is that it’s never helped!

    • eipps said:

      I do appreciate your point about blunt comments. They do no deter the rude, but scare off the extremely insecure, regardless of any other context. And of course, context is the final factor. But even then, in cases where asking does not ruin a relationship, Captain’s actual advice is still a better alternative. For the worker’s case? Reach out to some workers and invite them places. Strike first!

      But I am confused about who you are referring to in some on your comment. Specifically, who is supposed to be self-reflecting in these cases? The inviter already knows why they did not invite the other person, and as for the uninvited, self-reflection does not need a confrontation, especially if the only result is a worsened relationship.

      Do you have the case of a problem-person in mind for this? Someone who’s behaviour is so outlandish that people actively don’t want to be around them, with the thought that someone telling them why would perhaps snap them out of it? Because in those cases, they are putting the duty of teaching themselves basic etiquette on others. Not only do I think that one shouldn’t do this to another person, but I also highly doubt it would work. If the uninvited is a boor, it’s not going to be polite to sit there and list reasons why they’re terrible human beings. The invitee is very, very unlikely to do that, both as kindness and as protection. So, harmful, justified, but not helpful anyways.

      Unless I misread that part, in which case, NVMD.

    • Well, I think that the problem is that asking “why wasn’t I invited” is almost always intended by the asker as a way to be invited to more things in the future. If they really want to never be invited to more things by the askee, then by all means, go right ahead and ask.

      The reason for the blanket condemnation is that the negative result in this case is almost always “you do not get what you want.” Not just, “You now have a pile of awkward to deal with” or “everyone does a little soul-searching.” The result is “No more invites for you, because you’re making it difficult to plan social events around you.”

      Are there exceptions to the rule? Sure. But they’re few and far between. And if your goal in going into the conversation is really “I’ll make that party-planner feel awkward by making them reflect on the reasons they really didn’t invite me!” then, uh, I think there are more problems with this dynamic than can be solved by commenters on an advice website.

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