It Came From The Search Terms: “Deep January”

In which we look at the things people type into search engines to find this blog, and answer them like questions.

1. “My parents are swingers and want me to join them.”

Nope. As in, I suspect this is a fake question/problem.

As in, here is your script: “Nope.”

As in, “Want to come to this swingers party with us?” “Nope!” “You should try swinging with us, I think you’d love it.” “Nope.” Come on, how can you even know you don’t like it  if you haven’t tried it? Once you see how much fun Mom is having, I know you’ll change your mind.” “Nope.”

Or, I think it was RoseFox who mentioned once upon a time in a comment thread here that kink, etc. tends to run in families, so if you are also a swinger, maybe you and your folks have to hash out who has priority in which parts of your scene or work out what to do if you have an awkward “…Dad?” moment.

2. “After our first date he said although I was definitely his type he felt we had more of a friend vibe.” 

“He” may want you to be a friend or an ummfriend (the thing about being his ‘type’), but not a boyfriend or girlfriend. Have fun, if you are having fun in his company, but do not wait by the phone or get super-invested in a romance with this man.

3. “Boyfriend won’t go in public with me.” 4. “Boyfriend won’t tell people about me.”

I’m trying to think of a non-sketchy reason for this. Okay. Hrm. Maybe he’s a Capulet and you’re a Montague and your families are locked in a battle to the death. Or maybe it’s a same-sex relationship in a really conservative place, and homophobia from family, coworkers, church, and the surrounding culture is making your boyfriend afraid to talk about you. Is it a cultural thing (which doesn’t make it less crappy for you, but it’s at least a reason that you can empathize with and talk through to a good solution) or a “you are his secret thing on the side” thing? Trust your instincts, and trust that you’re not selfish for wanting recognition. If something feels sketchy, it probably is.

5. “How to tell somebody politely to be quiet while watching a show.”

There are two methods that come to mind. One is to pause the show (if you can) and give the person your full attention for a few minutes.”What were you asking me?” Have a conversation with them, and then turn back to the show when you’re ready.

The other, more direct and active way is to say, “I really want to focus on this, can we talk later?”

I’ve been the jackass who thought it was a “we’re all going to make fun of this movie together” party when really it was a “we are quietly watching this movie together” party, and I super-appreciated being told directly.

6. “Should I say sorry for creepy behaviour.” 

Maybe. Is the person still talking to you (like, they initiate conversations with you that aren’t “what size would you like for that latte?” when trapped at work) or are they avoiding you? Once someone is avoiding you, and it’s most likely because you did something creepy, the best way to make amends is to show them that you get it and leave them alone. Go forth, and creep no more.

7. “What to be when you grow up and want to do something that involves English and science.”

Write about science, or edit scientific publications/textbooks/journals, or be a scientist who writes wonderful grants and papers are some things that come to mind. Readers, I feel like lots of you have cool jobs that combine these things. Take us to Career Day!

8. “I’m living with my girlfriend, and feel she’s taking financial advantage of me.”

If you think the person is taking advantage deliberately, that sounds like a good reason to end things.

If you think they are just being oblivious or not stepping up as you want them to, the big question I have is, have you ever had a talk about how you will handle finances, or did it just kind of happen along the way that you would do most of the paying? Sometimes people get into a role or a habit of how they spend without really examining it, and it can be hard to switch from Romance! mode to practical mode. It’s also hard to initiate conversations when you’ve been operating under the weight of so many assumptions. It’s so tempting to think that it will all work itself out without anyone having to spell things out, but this is a mistake. If things are unbalanced, or unworkable for you, and you want to stay in the relationship, then it’s time to work things out very explicitly and transparently. Before opening discussions, I suggest that you do some math. What are your expenses like? What do you each contribute? How do you want to handle money in the future?

A good way to start this conversation is: “Girlfriend, let’s talk about how we pay and split the bills. What we are doing right now is not workable for me, and I’d like us to figure out some changes in how we handle our finances together.” :show spreadsheet: “This is how our monthly rent, bills, and expenses look to me – is there anything on here that I missed?” If you invite her to be a partner in figuring this out together rather than starting off by berating and blaming her, you can make her an active player in finding a solution. If she won’t engage honestly with you, that tells you a lot about her (and whether you should stay).

Finding an equitable solution doesn’t necessarily mean splitting everything 50/50. There are lots of successful romantic partnerships where money is pooled, where one person earns all the money and pays for everything and the other partner contributes in other ways, or where people keep their money entirely separate. My parents, married for 47 years, operate by pooling everything, paying out all of the necessities, savings, and things they’ve budgeted for together, and then each taking an allowance for themselves that can be spent without running anything by the other person. After cohabiting for a year and change, for now I pay the rent and the bills up front and my dude reimburses me for his share because that works better around how and when we each get paid. We keep separate bank accounts and alternate paying for groceries and other stuff. I’m sure that will evolve with time, and that’s the biggest piece of advice I’d give to anyone who is figuring out finances with another person: Lay everything out transparently and make sure you build in the opportunity to renegotiate how you do things as your circumstances change. Ooh, one other thing I’ve learned: If you’re the partner who earns more, one challenge is realizing that if you want the other person to pay half of everything y’all do, you need to scale down how you live and what you do to be within what they can afford OR you need to treat them when you want to treat yourself without putting that on their account, so to speak. And you both have to be able to say “Sorry, I can’t afford that right now!” without shame or blame from the other.

9. “How to be a good Facebook stalker.”

In three! easy! steps!

1. Close your computer.

2. Go learn to paint or some shit.

3. In summary: Don’t.

10. “Is meeting her kids a big deal.” 

Short answer: “Signs point to yes.”

Slightly longer answer: “Take your lead and cues from her.”

11. “What is the best thing to do for a loved one who just got out a psych ward.”

I asked people who are in a position to know, and some answers were:

  • “Take them to Uncle Julio’s.” (Substitute the comforting, favorite casual dining venue of your choice here).
  • “Food in the hospital tends to be very bland, so if they like spicy food at all, take them somewhere with spicy food.” 
  • “Let them know you’re there for them without making a big fucking deal about it.” 
  • “If the place they stayed was a good place, they likely came out with some kind of aftercare plan. If you can, offer to help them with the implementation of that – stuff like getting to appointments, filling prescriptions, etc.”

My other suggestions are 1) Seek them out for the pleasure of their company, not solely to help 2) Ask if they want to talk about it and listen without judgment if they do. Respect their choice if they don’t. And remember, they are not there to prove or disprove your impressions of what mental hospitals are like from seeing Girl, Interrupted or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest 3) Offer hugs if they are hugging sorts and you have a hugging kind of relationship. People get very touch-deprived among strangers. 4) Find a regular way of keeping in touch. People getting out of any kind of hospital get a big surge of “what can I do to help?” at the beginning, but it peters out quickly. Be there consistently.

12. “My husband leaves a brown film on the toilet seat.” 

Is he eating the Bro’det every night?

Is this a new behavior? Is his overall hygiene getting worse? Is this related to illness or aging? Because my first thought is that maybe something is deteriorating about his ability to notice things like this, and a medical checkup might be due.

Alternately, I suggest putting some Clorox wipes (or similar, we’re not brand-loyal) within easy reach and saying, “Can you please wipe down the toilet seat after you use it?” If he’s a person who walks away from toilets without checking to make sure everything is cool, it’s unlikely he will notice on his own or do something without this level of directness, so rip the bandaid off.

13. “How to tell your ex u don’t want to be friends.”

“Ex, I know I said that I’d like to stay friends, but now that some time has passed, I think I need a truly clean break in order to heal and get over things/put the relationship behind me. I’m so sorry, but I don’t think we should stay in touch anymore.” 

If they’ve been contacting you a lot and making you uncomfortable, sometimes you have to be more literal “I need a clean break, which means that I’d like you to stop contacting me.” It’s okay to send all that in an email. End with wishing them well. If they send something back, don’t reply. Hopefully time will do the rest and you’ll both heal and move on.

14. “BF wants me to Skype at 9 pm every day.”

I am guessing that you do not want to Skype at 9pm every day, or you wouldn’t be searching for this.

Is it that every day is too much for you? Is it that having a set time, or having it be that time is inconvenient?

I suggest sitting down and figuring out when it would be good for you to talk, so you can offer something more realistic.

“Boyfriend, I love that you are so attentive to keeping in touch, but 9pm every day isn’t working for me. Can we do [schedule that works for you]?”

15. “It’s only been a few days but i want to break up.”

Do it. Don’t drag this out. “[Name], I am so sorry, but I do not want to be in our relationship anymore and am ending it.”

You could try “I really liked you, so I wanted to give things a chance, but I know now that it isn’t right for me.

Own everything about ending the relationship. Don’t list the other person’s faults, or try for objective reasons. “I don’t feel that way, I’m so sorry.”

It’s gonna suck but you will feel so relieved a few days from now.

16. “Rejected someone but changed my mind.” 

Have a good think first. There was a reason you rejected them. You sure about this?

Okay, try this: “Ever since we talked, I’ve been kicking myself for missing out on my chance with you. Is that offer still open/Would you be willing to give it another try?”

If they say no, be graceful and cool. “Well, you are nifty/keen/cool/super, I had to ask.

Here endeth the lessons. Stay warm out there.







87 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: “Deep January”

  1. 7 – writing about science is pretty popular right now. Not stable employment, but you can blog and vlog about science and sometimes that turns into writing articles for websites. Science journalism. Writing fiction involving science – books, comics, tv shows, movies.

    There are definitely roles in science that require language skills – I know one institute in my city has a ‘management’ stream that’s meant to handle grant applications and editing articles, writing press releases etc, and I have an Arts/Science degree and my boss is increasingly flinging things my way to be proof-read. In my experience these jobs tend to be science first, and language-based as a secondary skill. But I focussed on getting a science job, so I’m probably quite blinkered as to what’s available.

    1. There are stable opportunities out there. I work for a publication that still employs full-time writers (the job title is “Associate Editor” but I’m basically a full-time writer). We just had a guy retire after a 35-year career. And then we hired someone to replace him.

      I wish I could tell you the secret for getting a job like that, but for me it was mostly being in the right (figurative) place at the right time. My background is purely in science – the last time I had an English class was in high school. I’d finished my PhD and was working as a posdoc when I realized that I didn’t actually like doing research after all, so I started applying to every job I could find that I might conceivably be qualified for. I almost didn’t apply for this one, because the job ad listed “demonstrable editing skills” as a requirement, and I’d never edited anything in my life. But it turned out that “demonstrable” is different from “demonstrated” – they had me take an “editing test” for the kind of skills they wanted. And here I am.

    2. I know someone who did a master’s program in scientific journalism, and she has a BS in chemistry. Her original plan was to get a PhD in chemistry, but with her scientific journalism degree, it was actually easier for her to find a job than competing for a tenure track position. She also can work from home, which is really great because she has a baby. Its definitely something to look into!

  2. #7: The question wasn’t very specific about type of science: might you have any interest in linguistics research of some flavor?

    1. Neat idea! Could you maybe describe what some jobs are like in that field? “A research linguist does x, y, and z. They go to ___ kind of school for it. It’s satisfying because _____.”

      This is a kid putting stuff in a search engine, not someone with a specific knowledge of academic disciplines.

      1. Not the OP, but a linguist does a ton of really fun stuff! Linguists look at how language works: grammar and syntax and all the things that create meaning in language outside the actual words. They might think about the experiences of people learning a second language, or they might look at how children learn language. Some linguists look at the science of the brain and investigate how it affects language and speech: what bits of the brain allow us to speak? What happens when someone’s brain is injured, and if an injury affects speech, are there ways of helping with that? Some linguists are more interested in the social aspects of language: who speaks what dialects? How are dialects and languages formed? How do class, race, gender, etc intersect with language? Some linguists are interested in the history of language: how has it changed over time? Why?

        In the UK, you can do a BA in Linguistics where you would get to study a bit of all of the above (depending on where you went to study it, some programmes focus on particular aspects of linguistics). I work in an English department which does literature, language and linguistics. Some of my linguistics colleagues work with people in medicine. You can also do a degree which focuses on speech and language acquisition, which is more focused on the practical applications. The US system probably makes it easy to mix and match the different aspects of linguistics even more, but I’ll let someone else weigh in on that.

        Linguists can continue to research in all the above areas as academics. They can work in healthcare and work on helping people with speech and language difficulties. They can also take the skills they learnt and do something else entirely: a friend of mine studied linguistics and now works for a large housing company. She uses her data crunching skills (linguistics involves a lot of this) to analyse housing needs and trends, and her writing skills to write reports on this which shape policy on future housing plans.

        1. Linguists might also be found in Philosophy, Anthropology, Cognitive Science, or Psychology departments (at least in North America, we get around).

        2. There’s also computational linguistics! It’s a type of applied linguistics where you can e.g. help program computers to understand people better, and interact with them. There are signal processing jobs like understanding soundwaves and turning them into a guess about what someone might have said (this is called Automatic Speech Recognition), or taking what someone said and trying to understand what they meant by it (Natural Language Understanding), or trying to say something to them (Natural Language Generation) – even try talking to them with an artificial voice (Text to Speech).

          I’m pretty focused on the conversational parts (because I like it the best, and it’s my job), but there’s more to computational linguistics, too. I’ve known linguists who wanted to do field studies, particularly about languages with very few speakers, or very little documentation. Linguists who wanted to study historical language change for patterns. Linguists who wanted to find patterns and make generalizations about how people communicate in specific circumstances by studying large corpora of collected data.

          At my school, a lot of people thought that linguistics meant being an academic forever (some people really like that) – but there are lots more jobs than that. Even if you’re not into computer programming, the market for helping people understand language data by tagging/annotating it is growing because of the technological advances that let us access vast data stores quickly and cheaply. And some people who study linguistics go on to be editors, and speech therapists, and like Zooey said, lots of them used the skills they learned in linguistics (lots and lots of pattern identification, for example) to do jobs that aren’t specific to linguistics, but require some of the same general skills.

          1. Yay computational linguistics! I work in academia as a computational linguist, teaching machines to talk about objects and trying to figure out how this whole communication thing works. I get to spend my time thinking up interesting scenarios and research questions, writing code, running experiments to see how it all works out, meeting with people and talking (talking is such an important part of research!), and writing stuff down in papers.

            Whenever I get a chance, I tell my linguistics students that the way to be actually working in their field is to go into computational linguistics. The field is growing, and has reached the point where commercial applications are coming up everywhere – and there are still only very few well-trained computational linguists! Also, not that many people have the talent and mindset to be good at both linguistics/language and programming/computer science stuff, so if you are interested in both, you really have an edge. Also, this is an awesome way to spend your time!

      2. Depending on the age of the kid, one fun way of getting an idea of what linguists do is from reading David Carkeet’s hilarious mystery Double Negative, which is set in a daycare center/research facility for linguists studying language development in toddlers. The two main mysteries the lead character tries to solve are a) a murder and b) who described him as a “complete asshole” to the attractive new employee.

      3. My cousin majored in linguistics in undergrad, and then got a masters in speech pathology. Now she spends her days helping people who have various problems that affect their ability to speak. It’s a bit of language, a bit of science, and a bit of medicine, and from what I hear pays pretty well too.

  3. Re: #7: I am a for-realsies scientist studying neurodegenerative disease, and honestly I spend half my life writing. Grants, publications, reviews, email requests, whatever. It is such a necessary skill for scientists to have, and it is SUCH a shame that it isn’t emphasized more in undergraduate science programs. So many people in science have really poor communication skills and it just makes life harder for everyone. The person who wrote #7 might do to study science primarily, but keep their writing skills sharp. It will give your career a big boost!

    1. Agreed! Scientists do an enormous amount of writing, and enjoying that and being good at it will make your life sooo much easier. If you help your colleagues who are not so good at it, they will like you for it (I’m the only native English speaker in my group so I do that a lot). And even if you’re not the BEST scientist you will get a lot of love in your field if you’re the best explainer of science.

    2. Yes! My husband did electrical engineering, went on exchange for a year and missed the ONE paper (in a four-year course) that covers writing for science. He seriously regrets it and wishes there had been more emphasis on it, because when he went on to do a Masters, he couldn’t write well at all.

    3. Not a scientist, but I’m just finishing a PhD in maths and… writing a thesis requires so much in the way of writing ability! Also, I write fiction in my spare time and was genuinely surprised at how much of what I knew transferred to the extremely technical nonfiction writing I was doing. (Although my supervisor did have to call me out on ‘trying to surprise the reader’ a few times, whoops.) So “if you stay in science you WILL get a chance to write and it WILL give you an advantage” was my first thought too.

  4. Re: 13, does anyone have any advice on what do you do if you did implement No Contact and you made it clear to your ex (who, let’s say, dumped you in a really nasty way that involved temporary homelessness and then announced that he was actually not getting divorced after all like he told you) that you wanted No Contact from him Ever Again and then he continually tries to get contact? Like, even though you blocked him on Twitter he still finds a way to reach out to you there, mentions you on his blog and makes a video “open letter” to you on YouTube that mentions some very personal things you told him? If you ignore him will he really eventually go away?

    1. Document this stuff (and/or get a friend to help you with it so you’re not looking at it). But have a file of his attempts to contact you.
      Do not respond and tell your friends not to respond to him. He gets zero attention from you or yours. Asking him to stop or take it down = attention, which is rewarding him.

      Chances are he will stop with enough time and silence (often because he found someone else to latch onto) or he will escalate it to a point where you may have to involve law enforcement. Not awesome, but (according to Gift of Fear) every time you engage even if you are just telling him “jesus, stop it already you pathetic piece of shit” you buy yourself 2-3 more months of shenanigans.

  5. I studied English and later got a social science Master’s, and a lot of what I do is explaining science to people in the front line who need help putting the latest research into practice. Training, writing manuals, mentoring. It’s a lot of fun!

  6. Being a patent attorney is pretty much bang in the middle of English and science. In the US/Canada, you need to get at least one science degree, then go to law school, which is fairly onerous. In the UK, where I am, you join a patent attorney firm as a trainee after your science degree (s) and train on the job while taking professional law exams. I think the rest of Europe is fairly similar.
    What you do as a patent attorney (very broadly) is to represent your clients in communications with the Patent Office in your country by writing patent applications that explain their inventions in both technical and legal terms, and then arguing their case if/when the Patent Office comes back and says they can’t get a patent, or can’t get as broad a patent as they would like. I think it is great, because you see a really broad range of science and it turns out I love really nitpicky precise writing almost as much as I love the creative kind.

    1. A friend of mine who has a bachelor’s in biology and is a pretty spiffy writer got certified as a patent *agent*, rather than *attorney*, in the US. The exam for that is still pretty intense, but it’s a year or so of after-work class to prep for the exam, not years of law school. Applications will differ, but for our company it meant that she wrote the patents and ran them by a patent attorney who made sure she had all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed before submitting them.

      This means that the company doesn’t have to pay the attorney to write the patents, only review them (cheaper!), and we (the team doing the patentable stuff) had somebody right in our building who knew us and knew our work intimately. We didn’t have to explain six times over the phone; we had to explain *once* to someone already embedded in the project who could come out to the lab and look if she wanted. And we didn’t have to wait for an attorney to get around to us; the agent was dedicated to us alone.

  7. 14: There are several possible readings, but if you’re expected to talk to your boyfriend at this time or else [he’ll get jealous/accuse you of things/questions your commitment to the relationship]: It’s okay and normal to not want to be controlled like that. This is not-okay behavior.

    1. I’m glad someone else had this reaction. 9PM is a really good time to choose if you want to make sure someone isn’t going out for the evening. I’m not saying there are evil bees here, but there might be evil bees here.

      1. I took bf to mean best friend not boyfriend. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to talk to your best friend at 9 at night. You’re probably winding down from your day and want to watch tv or snuggle with actual boyfriend. Who knows? Either way, you should probably decide what time you want to talk and call her then.

    2. Hello! Delurking to say that I also had a bad feeling reading number 14: I had a very controlling/abusive boyfriend in the past who called me every morning at 7 to make sure I was alone. Enforced Skyping at 9pm sounds, as KL says, like a good way to ensure someone isn’t leaving the house that night.

  8. #7: “So many people in science have really poor communication skills and it just makes life harder for everyone.” YES THIS. I have two science degrees and after working my way through three research labs, then consultation, then industry, I landed in government writing science-based environmental policy and it is AWESOME. We have a lot of very technical people in our group who cannot write, and we have a lot of terrific policy people who aren’t familiar with the science, so people who can do both are highly prized. It is so important to be able to clearly communicate scientific ideas and describe the consequences of our policies and laws. English majors are also good at summarizing huge amounts of information in an accessible way, doing research on specific topics and linking them together, and describing cumulative effects of multiple policy changes. All those things are much needed in a policy setting!

  9. Ugh, 14 (the regular Skyping) reminded me of a kind of similar-but-different situation I faced years ago: My parents had split up and my father had moved out and then he would call every. Single. Evening. At 10 to 8. I still don’t know what was up with that specific time but it was so annoying. We didn’t have a very good relationship before that and didn’t talk a lot and suddenly he wanted to know what’s up every day. I think my sister said something after a few weeks after which he called only every second day (small blessings). Curiously, the calls stopped once my parents were divorced. Yeah.

  10. 5 – I think going to poetry nights (where people HAVE TO SHUT UP or you can’t hear shit) has made me utterly shameless about hushing people. ‘Shh!’ is quite an aggressive noise, so I end up making a noise, like, ‘hushushushushush…). If you wave a hand at the speaker, point at the thing you’re trying to listen to with your other hand and smile at them then it can be warm/funny rather than harsh.

  11. #7 – don’t discount the private sector. My company has a couple of clients in pharma, and we write a lot of internal things for them that I can’t actually elaborate on because I signed an NDA…they do more internally as well, and when we search for new employees and freelancers for their projects, we search for “medical copywriters”.

    Think about it this way: the Cymbalta ad that so beautifully characterised depression? /someone/ wrote it, and it wasn’t a pharmacologist.

    I’d hazard that you could find similar employment with agencies that serve the industrial sector as well.

      1. There are not a LOT of openings, maybe, but they come up pretty regularly on “Medical writer,” “medical copywriter,” “science writer,” “scientific writer,” and “pharmaceutical writer” will find most of them.

        For medical writing jobs in academia/hospitals, I search for “medical writer,” “medical editor,” “scientific editor,” and “communications specialist.”

        — Medical journals copy editor 1998-2006, hospital medical editor 2006-2013, medical writer (title, “Scientific Editor”) 2013-present, and all with a BA in Russian Area Studies

      2. Would that I knew–I came into my position through the admin/secretarial/janitorial track, and it took three years with the company & making friends with the content director before I got to write stuff.

  12. The publishing industry is always looking for people with science degrees to commission, edit, copyedit and proofread materials in the hard sciences, because the amount of editing one can do when one does not understand the topic is limited; but scientists rarely think of publishing as a potential career.

    1. As someone in publishing, I second this. Because most science-y people tend to, you know, go into science, it can be hard to find people with the technical knowledge to be science writers and editors. LW#7, if you’re interested in this kind of thing, there are multiple ways to go about finding out more about the field and building the necessary skills:

      –Seek out someone in science publishing and ask them about their path into the field, types of job opportunities, etc. You can also do some basic searching for jobs in the field, even if you’re not at that point yet, which will also give you an idea of the range of jobs.
      –Look for a science writing program (usually a certificate program, not a degree). I know UC Santa Cruz has a reputable one, but I’m sure many other schools do as well. People I know who have done this kind of program do a number of different things, like acquiring science books for a publishing company or writing publicity releases for a scientific organization.
      –If you already have a science degree or you anticipate getting one, think about looking into some editing or publishing classes. My knowledge of these is fairly limited, but, as an example, I took copyediting courses at Editcetera in the Bay Area, which also offered courses in proofreading and developmental editing, as well as seminars on successfully networking and building a freelance career. Again, I’m sure this kind of professional editorial development is available in many places.

  13. Re: the filthy husband –
    You’ve got to back this up with a plan to hire cleaning help if he won’t clean up after himself. Which he would have to agree to pay for. Not that I envy someone else having to clean shitty toilet seats even for pay. But the wife here is going to lose all sexual or even social interest in her husband pretty quickly if he can’t even keep his shit out of her sight.
    Oh but wait – does this mean his butt is covered with shit all the time?
    I think this marriage is doomed…
    Unless she likes his shit or something (though it sounds like she doesn’t).

    1. This comment is kind of mean. I didn’t really understand ‘brown film’ either but I think it’s quite possible this is a medical thing given the way it was searched for in such a specific way. Otherwise it would be something like ‘husband leaves shit on toilet seat that he doesn’t clean up’. In which case it certainly is embarrassing to bring up to him and may not make you feel like sex but… people’s marriages can make it through toilet-based medical issues. Even if they are permanent. They can also live through non-ability-related bad hygiene issues. Wasn’t there a reader question a while ago from someone who enjoyed anal-play with her boyfriend but found his hygiene was not great? The Captain had some good suggestions for that.

      1. I apologize for sounding mean. You’re right that there could be all sorts of reasons for a husband leaving a brown film that don’t involve him being dirty and not caring about it and expecting his wife to clean up after him.
        I guess I immediately jumped to the image of that German guy who was sued by his landlord for allowing urine to stay on the marble floor around the toilet until the floor was permanently stained. He successfully claimed that it was his right as a red-blooded male to let his pee fall where it might, and presumably also his right not to have to clean up after himself.

        1. The only time I’ve left a “brown film” on the toilet seat was during an unfortunate affair with tanning lotion. Maybe she doesn’t know he’s doing it? Lots of people treat it like a terrible secret.

    2. I don’t think “brown film” necessarily translates to “shit.” I mean, it might, but I know that sometimes if I’m wearing dark-wash jeans I leave a blue film on the toilet seat (which I clean up), so it could be dirt or something, especially if he has a particularly filthy job.

      1. Yeah, that’s happened to me. And it was so gradual that I didn’t even realize it until one day I went “wait, has our toilet seat always been blue??”

      2. Ah ha, that’s how my toilet got that blue tinge. I was wracking my brain trying to remember when I set my jeans on the toilet, and didn’t even think about it transferring to my legs and then to the seat.

  14. Re the person who wants to keep your relationship a secret. In the absence of a good reason (like say that you will be persecuted by bigots or disowned by family and made homeless or something equally serious) this is a worrying sign.

    On the one hand, I once knew a couple who kept their relationship secret for months because they were very private people. They both liked the idea of others not knowing, and when one of them suggested it the other was relieved and happy. They have been hapily married for more than a decade now. So it isn’t necessarily a disaster.

    On the other hand this has happened two times to me. The first time it was because the guy was ashamed of me (oh highschool, how glad I am that you are now 20 years in the past). The second time I’m pretty sure the guy was trying to keep his options open with another woman he was interested in – once she made her rejection clear suddenly it was OK to be seen with me. On hindsight this was a sign of how much he respected me, and while we went on to have a long relationship of many years it was not a good one.

    So. If you’re all “wow s/he gets me I want this to be just for us with no one gossiping! Squee!” when they suggest the secrecy then yay! If on the other hand you’re wondering if they’re ashamed of you and frantically googling maybe trust your gut? And also turn an evaluating eye on how they treat you and try to actually see their actual behaviour without passing it through the wishful-thinking filter. Because, it’s not a great sign, generally.

    1. I think what’s kind of key here is whether it’s a mutual decision to be private about an relationship or whether it comes entirely from one of the people involved. I would guess that a person wouldn’t look for advice if this is a decision arrived at mutually? So I’d say it’s likely that a person doing such a search is wondering why their partner doesn’t want to tell anyone about the relationship. The only way I can work it that this isn’t a warning sign of some kind (because, as you say, there’s a lot of different things this could point to) is if the one asking the question is just clueless about societal fall back (such as the case with the same-sex relationship), and needs an explicit explanation from their partner, which their partner likely considers self-explanatory (such as “if we become open about our relationship, my entire family will turn their backs on me, and I’m not ready yet to lose my entire support system except for you”).

  15. Agreeing with everyone that scientists (and engineers) do need to do quite a bit of writing (and after reading quite a lot of reports and emails, it definitely makes a difference if that person can write well). One of my engineering profs had a duel engineering/English degree and is quite accomplished. (My school also did emphasize scientific writing quite a bit–Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style was a required text book at one point.)

    That being said, scientific writing for reports and such (in my experience) is very different from English/Journalism class writing with an emphasis on clarity/brevity and less human interest and description (you don’t really want to use adjectives in science, you want to try your best to quantify things with a number or picture). You also are slightly more limited with stylistic choices too–one of my favorite short story devices where you think one thing until the very end when the author turns everything on its head doesn’t really work for science–you have to give away the ending in the abstract!

    That being said scientists don’t only write scientific papers. Brian Greene, Lisa Randall, and Steven Pinker are all famous scientists that write books about their research for the general public. Plenty of scientists also keep blogs about their work like Kelly Weinersmith ( or even Steven Levitt ( (I’m calling economists scientists for the purposes of this post). Googling “science blogs” or “science blogs best” will bring up quite a lot of fun and interesting information.

    There are also quite wonderful people that write about science for the general public and include some of those stylistic elements missing in papers and reports. Two of my favorite ones are Mary Roach and Dava Sobel, but there are enough wonderful articles that every year a compilation of “The best American science writing of ___” is published.

    There are also authors who apply parts of their scientific background or interest to their novels. Neal Stephenson, for instance, has writes fiction with quite a bit of code-breaking, science history, and speculative technological advances. Marie Brennan (whose “A Natural History of Dragons” I absolutely love) describes herself as “a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore”. Pat Rothfuss, whose “The Name of the Wind” is both immensely popular and has a really interesting magical system, originally studied chemical engineering in school.

    Personally, I did love both english and science in school, but went the engineering route in college because I felt the field had better employment opportunities (not that I haven’t had difficulties), slightly more certainty, and fewer essays (I love my work now). One thing to consider is what type of writing you like to do–short blog posts, longer articles, fiction, non-fiction, editorials and how much fun you have analyzing data, coming up with theories of why things work, and coming up with a logical way to approach problems. Also how much math you like. Most of the engineers I know will list their favorite pre-college subjects as math and a particular science, and even those that don’t use calculus often need things like a good grasp of statistics to tease out what information is relevant.

  16. Hum hum #7 two ideas:

    1. I study building science, my branch of which looks at how the form and materials of buildings affect the conditions of the interior climate, with particular focus in my case on daylight (but also, air quality, sound quality, thermal comfort, and energy usage.) Obviously one can become a professor with this sort of specialty (which o god the writing ALL THE WRITING,) but there are also multiple companies (in places such as: Germany, Austria, California, etc.) that research architectural products (such as windows, light pipes, and innovative building materials) to improve the interior climate quality. Things I have gotten paid to do with regards to this research almost all involved writing: a. composing my research project results into a paper to be submitted to conferences b. writing copy for a website that served as a research database for various technologies produced in this field c. writing slightly less tech-y articles for a lifestyle website relating to some fields of my research. Many people like to read about advances in science, so getting good at parsing technical papers in your science subject of choice into easier language will probably net you a fair number of freelance articles.

    2. One of my friends studied cancer research for about six years before getting an associate’s degree in graphic design. She is working on a developing things like: educational websites about science concepts, promotional materials for educational organizations and tech-y startups, etc. Obviously you might not be into the artsy part of this, but there’s still a lot of writing involved, and her science background makes her much easier for clients who need posters/fliers/websites to deal with.

  17. #7, there are so many cool careers that combine science and writing! The ones mentioned by the Captain and other commenters were great. Here are others:
    – Working for a university PR office. They do things like write press releases about research being published by the faculty and their uni.
    – Writing white papers for pharmaceutical companies
    – Writing for the communications office of a professional society
    – Teaching science/technical writing
    – A number of science policy jobs involve a lot of writing about science

    1. I’d add along the lines of university PR communication specialist for government agencies focusing on sciences. In the U.S. that would include NIH, CDC, NASA, NSF Good health communication literally saves lives.

  18. 7. I work in natural resources/wildlife biology/land management etc, and when I was in college just about every guest speaker mentioned something to the likeness of ‘dear god please learn to write’. There is technical writing such as consulting reports, grants, proposals, and so on but there is also space for persuasive and prose style writing. The science fields need people who are good at translating technical stuff into knowledge people can understand with nuance. Having a flair for creative and accurate writing will only help you.

  19. Yes! I am a palaeontologist and a huge chunk of my time is spent writing. Strong writing skills are absolutely essential in science. You need to be able to write about the science you just did in order to get papers published in scientific journals, and you need to write compelling arguments about why a grant agency should give you money to do more science. And if you’re like me, you might write about your science on a blog, or write press releases for cool discoveries. Other things I have done: written scripts for an online course about dinosaurs, written study guides for that course that are (hopefully) going to get turned into a book, and written copy for museum displays. A lot of focus is put on having strong math and analytical skills if you want to go into science, but equally there should be a strong emphasis on developing your writing skills! And not just in the sense of having good grammar, but in being able to construct interesting narratives about science.

  20. On #7:
    If* you have another language in addition to English, become a translator!
    Patents, technical publications, scientific papers, etc need a lot of translating, they pay well (especially compared to pop-cultury translation work), and you get to keep up with the latest science/tech stuff while getting paid to do it! This will feel great after paying your own money to do it in the course of your degree.

    Also, if you specialize in the SCIENCE stuff, rather than being a language person with an interest in science, employers/clients will love you and your background with the relevant subject matter. Seriously

    *The second+ language thing is a big IF, but worth suggesting anyway. Multilinguals, we’re everywhere.

  21. All (successful) scientists need to be able to write well, as arcya says. My career day plug: I’m a doctor and I was an English major in college. And yes, I knew I wanted to go to med school and I did all the pre-med stuff, too. You don’t have to major in biology. I spent 20 years in primary care and now I’m a hospice medical director. I spend all day listening to stories and trying to figure out what they mean. Advanced training in narrative has been far, far more useful to me than a deep understanding of the Krebs cycle. Science and English are not opposites. Love them both and see where it takes you.

  22. Wrt. question #7: one of my colleagues at university double-majors in English and Biology, and once she mentioned during class that she was doing research on the scientific poetry of Erasmus Darwin. May not be the thing you’re looking for, but it made an impression on me, for sure.

    (Also, hi! I’m a long-time lurker who finally caught the chance to contribute meaningfully to a conversation here, so I jumped in.)

  23. 8 – one thing that concerns me is that if the person writing in is a guy, then it’s possible that the girlfriend is performing unpaid domestic labour or something like that, and that’s something to really keep in mind when you’re negotiating finances. The phrase “taking financial advantage of me” while living together gives me a lot of instinctive heebie-jeebies in the context of a straight couple (if that is indeed the context), because there’s something of a cultural narrative where men are breadwinners and women (who have less opportunities to take the breadwinner role) take care of the household. It’s okay if one of you does more housework than the other, and it’s okay if one of you supports the household financially more than the other – if this is negotiated beforehand. But there’s a lot of “invisible work” that women do, and if you didn’t speak about finances before moving in together, you might not have spoken about division of housework either.

    1. Agreed. “Taking financial advantage” is such a vague phrase, and could mean a lot of things. Does the question writer make more money, and is expecting their partner to pay half for things they cannot afford? Can their partner afford to pay half of their bills and just refuses? Does the partner demand a very expensive lifestyle that the writer cannot afford (as in, the partner buys a lot of things like expensive clothes etc with the writer’s paycheck that stretches them beyond their means)? Does the partner contribute in ways that the writer just doesn’t consider to ‘count’ (as in housework, etc)? Does the partner make more money, and yet the writer pays more than half (or all-I guess this is the reverse of the first situation) of their bills?

      At any rate, the question writer needs to organize their thoughts on the breakdown of expenses and contributions (including housework!) and talk to their partner in an organized, non-confrontational/blamey way and discuss how they want to navigate this going forward.

  24. Number 15- Yes. Yes. Yes. Do it, asap. I feel like that person might be quite young and young people really aren’t taught that they can break up with someone. I really hope number 15 found some good advice on here on how to be direct on the breaking up, and kind while still leaving no room for ambiguity. I know there’s a lot of it!

    By the way, I myself have a nature blog (not on wordpress tho) and my favourite search term so far has been ‘naked queen of the forest’. That person was disappointed.

    1. “I feel like that person might be quite young and young people really aren’t taught that they can break up with someone.”

      I think it’s very likely this is playing into it. How much YA fiction or movies geared toward teens are all about loyalty or sticking with the love-at-first-sight through everything? Even the other person being a jerk?

      1. I remember a discussion I had with one of my younger students who was upset because she had tried to break up with her boyfriend and he “wouldn’t let her”. She was surprised when I told her that if she had said “I’m dumping you”, then the relationship was over whether he agreed to it or not.

      2. Totally! Not to mention the idea that once you’re in a relationship, everything will be perfect. So the act of getting into a relationship becomes the most important thing, whether or not the person is actually right for you, and then it’s followed by confusion at how bored and crappy you already feel in that relationship. I’ve been there.

  25. Re: keeping the relationship secret, is this ‘hiding the relationship from the world” or is it “waiting to introduce and/or merge social circles”?

  26. Or, I think it was RoseFox who mentioned once upon a time in a comment thread here that kink, etc. tends to run in families, so if you are also a swinger, maybe you and your folks have to hash out who has priority in which parts of your scene or work out what to do if you have an awkward “…Dad?” moment.

    Ha, yep, that was me. I’ve known siblings who had to negotiate who got to go to which parties because the thought of running into each other was unbearable, and also had a friend who cheerfully did kink play at the club owned by his father and stepmother. So there are lots of ways to resolve these things, but they all require some honest conversation.

  27. #5, At a public show, the standard polite thing is “I’m so sorry, I’m having trouble hearing over your conversation.” And I would urge you to act sooner rather than later, both to spare everyone’s enjoyment of the show, and to prevent resentment from simmering into a roiling boil. If that doesn’t work, signaling an usher to intercede might be the way to go.

    I was at a concert one night, and the two ladies seated next to me chatted animatedly during every song, stopping only when the singer finished each song. That’s right: they stopped talking to applaud! I confess I was not as polite or as prompt as I recommend above, when I finally leaned over to them mid-convo and hissed “You MUST be quiet!” They correctly identified the murderous glint in my eye and piped down for the rest of the first half. At intermission, they apologized profusely. Second half was delightful! Truth be told, they weren’t rude so much as hammered (they’d had a liquid dinner, which I learned from their non-stop chatter), and just needed correction.

  28. Also, for #7, there are LOTS of ways to combine English and science!

    If you focus on science: Doing science means writing articles about the science you do, so that other scientists can learn all about it. If you advance in your chosen scientific field you may be able to help edit a scientific journal and/or peer-review the work of other scientists. You can teach “writing for scientists” classes at a college or university. You can teach science classes for kids and help them learn how to explain and describe their work.

    If you focus on writing and editing: You can provide editorial services to other scientists. Since most scientific publishing is in English, there are a lot of scientists from non-English-speaking countries who hire editors to help them get their work ready for publication. You can work for a science magazine or blog, or the science section of a newspaper. You can write articles for non-scientists about science. There are newspapers and news magazines for people in science and medicine (I used to write a lot for Pain Management News, to give you an idea of the variety out there–they get very specific!) where you can write or edit articles about presentations at conferences or innovative work being published in journals. You can write for hospital newsletters that explain their latest innovations to their patients. You can write science fiction stories or novels based on real science, and/or edit science fiction magazines or anthologies. You can write or edit ad copy for pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment companies.

    Having done a lot of these things and met a lot of people who do these things, my strongest advice is for you to try lots of stuff and see what works best for you. Just be warned that it’s good to have a strong ethical compass before going into the med/pharma end of things, because there is a LOT of money floating around and the interests of the people with the money are often not the interests of patients. I turned down a fat paycheck in pharma ads because it just didn’t sit right with me. Know your limits and stick to them, and you’ll do just fine.

  29. Re #7 – I’m a science postdoc and writing is a HUGE part of my job: papers for publication, grants, summaries for the general public, etc. etc. I write all my own material, but there are people both within my own department and at the university level whose jobs involve writing grants, press releases, and other materials for professors. Also, there are lots of scientists out there who are struggling to learn how to write (I know it took me a long time, and I’m still learning!), and most of us don’t get science writing classes in school – we just figure it out by trial and error. I think there would be plenty of work available for a science-writing consultant who’d teach classes, edit materials, even help write papers. Even better if you speak another language (or languages) and can help non-native speakers translate their work. I personally know a bunch of great scientists, many non-native English speakers, who are sitting on several papers’ worth of data each because they dislike, and struggle with, writing so much. Keep at it and I think you’ll find lots of doors opening for you!

  30. “I’m trying to think of a non-sketchy reason for this. ”

    Here’s the one I know from experience: He’s married, his wife doesn’t know he’s having other girlfriends. Then, she leaves him, and he’s still more worried about his reputation than he is about your relationship. Conclusion: Run. Run fast. Run far. He can’t be seen in public, can’t be bothered to show you to his friends? Whatever reason, it’s more important to him than you are and that’s not a good sign.

  31. Yet another answer for #7: I work as an ecologist for a consulting firm. The majority of my job involves turning the results of field work into comprehensible reports which describe existing resources and how they might be impacted by various things, and what permits you might need from different government agencies. It also requires keeping abreast of recent developments in policy and environmental science. If you like writing about science stuff and like research, but do not love going outside, there is a huge market for 1) competent grant writers and 2) people who can do CEQA/NEPA analysis (environmental protection acts)

  32. I also really like english and science! There’s a lot of flavors of science though. Mine ended up being geography, and up until yesterday I helped people navigate land laws and also loosely drafted legal agreements for them (despite having no legal training haha). I’m now debating going back to school for a paralegal course. It depends so much on how hard you want your science and how creative you want your english.

    On a side note, O captain my captain, in the self care thread you wished me luck finding a new job. Only a couple days later I did, through a bizarre set of extremely unlikely coincidences. Maybe you gave me a little good luck. 😀

      1. Any chance I could get a similar blessing, o captain? I could use all the help I can get. 😀

  33. (1) Bro’det == lolz + hurl!

    (2) How do you even leave a brown film on the toilet seat. I could imagine brown spots or brown smears or brown specks, but how does one leave a brown film?

  34. #15 Reminds me of one guy I broke up with after two days. Awesome decision, would endorse again. Dating is a decision, not an obligation. Just because you agreed for while does not oblige you to keep agreeing forever.

  35. #5 is why my husband and I worked out a deal. First time watching a movie together is watch-only, second time is for talkies. Unless it turns out the movie is terrible, in which case he starts it first (I am not bugged by talking during movies, he is) Especially if we can pause it later times if there’s serious discussion to be had, but often just for joking around we let it keep going.

    #12 makes me wonder how he’s leaving it! Like is it post-sitting? Is he trying to wipe it down after and doing so well? Is it his job to scrub the toilet and he’s doing a substandard job? Is he perhaps in film making and this is weirdly literal? There are so many possibilities.

  36. As the the recipient of the #5 interrupter pause I give it a two-thumbs up as advice. I’m quite easily able to continue following along with a show while also having a side conversation and didn’t realize (cause I’m a self-centered idiot) that not everyone can or wants to. After I recently started doing a weekly ‘netflix night’ with my Mum I found it really beneficial to our relationship when she started pausing the show when I started talking about something. Firstly, because it showed she was paying attention and that allowed us to have some really meaningful conversations spurred by something in the show that we wouldn’t have had otherwise and, secondly, because it taught me to pause and think if what I was about to say would be worthwhile to contribute or if I was just making noise.

    Also for #11, what I found most useful when I got out of the psych ward was to have pre-scheduled weekly get togethers. Low key things like ‘come over for dinner on Wednesday’ or ‘how bout I come watch the new episodes of Elementary with you’. That puts you together so that you are available as part of their support team if they need or want you and gives you something to do if they just want to socialize and, most importantly (at least for me it was), takes part of the pressure off them to reach out because when struggling with mental health issues and making changes in life it is easy to feel like a burden and that people won’t want to be with you. Also it stretches out the commitment because as the Cap’t says there is a surge of support and sympathy right when you get out when you (usually) are doing a bit better which peters out when you are facing the reality of having to adjust your entire life.

  37. Another option for #7:

    Combining English and science is actually A Thing That Is Happening in public school right now. In fact, the new Common Core English standards are officially titled “English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.” There’s a big emphasis on combining, for instance, science fiction and nonfiction science reading in a way that guides students to think and write critically about the meaning and implications of the science content. You might have to hunt around for a school that fully embraces that at the moment–mine doesn’t–but it’s where we’re supposed to be headed. Also, in elementary and some middle schools it’s possible to be both a reading/English teacher and science teacher at the same time.

    [That said, I feel morally obligated to disclose: the K-12 teaching profession is not for the faint of heart right now, as the current political climate is trying its damnedest to turn K-12 teaching into a barren, blame-scorched hellscape. It’s also an odd sort of stress and work load that’s difficult to fully understand until you’ve tried it. Do not choose this as a career without thoroughly researching it.]

    #7, if you just want to write and be a scientist, it’s sound like one of the many excellent scientist-as-writer suggestions upthread is definitely the way to go. But if you want to dig in to English beyond just writing it, this is an option. For my money, the glorious day I can fully embrace teaching science fiction alongside science fact will be totally worth all the bureaucratic bullshit it takes to get there. It’s not a job for everyone, but consider it if it sounds interesting to you.

    Also, pro tip: choose middle school. You will think it’s awful–everyone thinks it’s awful, because everyone’s middle school years were awful. But it turns out that middle school is actually really great once you’re no longer going through puberty. As a scientific bonus, everyone around you IS going through puberty, so every day is a like a giant social experiment. There are times when I feel a little like Jane Goodall doing field observations. It’s pretty great and never, ever boring. 6-8 rules.

  38. #7: I’m another person at the science/writing interesection. I’m the managing editor of a medical journal. Before this I was an associate editor of an ecological journal. Mostly proofreading, plus editing and some writing. Lots of helping authors present their information more clearly and coherently. It would be lovely if all the scientists were good writers, but so many aren’t. And of course the people heroically presented their work in a language not their own are a significant part of the scientific literature. I stumbled into this work after years in the field, so there are plenty of possibilities and pathways and not just one trajectory to success.

    #3: We kept our relationship private for the first few months. And even once I started telling people about dating, I wasn’t comfortable naming the name for awhile. But we got over that stage. And then there was the married ex who lied to me and kept me a secret. That was a whole lot of bees. You deserve respect and love and daylight.

  39. A friend of mine didn’t get into his local kink community until he had moved to Distant City, because his dad was a part of the kink community in Original City. And then a couple of years later his dad also moved to Distant City. I haven’t actually heard how that has gone, but my friend was all kinds of awkward about the prospect. Especially since his dad is pretty bad at TMI.

    So, Kinky Parents, please understand that if your kids refuse to discuss/participate in your kinky communities it isn’t necessarily because they’re judging your lifestyle. They might be way into a very similar lifestyle. It’s because you’re their PARENTS.

  40. Re No 11

    This isn’t going to be a situation that’s the same for everyone. Some circumstances that might affect things:
    Was this a voluntary admission or not? How long have they been in hospital? Have you been in contact with them while they’ve been in there? Do you know whether they are comfortable talking about mental illness with you, or if they would rather avoid the topic?

    From personal experience, some things I wanted to do were:
    * Have dinner at a time that was later than 6pm
    * Spend time outdoors, maybe in a park or other natural environment
    * Talk about all the TV I’d missed out on and all the oddly fascinating real estate shows that I had managed to watch
    and, a pretty subjective one
    * Not be treated like a china doll that would break into pieces at any minute. Yes, obviously I had been pretty unhappy and unwell to have been in there, but not every period of silence or frown or mention of feelings is a Big Important Sign about my Progress. I just wanted to have normal conversations
    Obviously that last one is a personal experience rather than universal, but maybe it will be an useful perspective to someone.

    1. Oh yes to the china doll thing.

      I loathed how I felt like everyone was walking on eggshells around me with fear that they would do something to set me off or just fall apart randomly. In a lot of ways it actually made things worse because I felt the need to manage other people’s perceptions (something that was a factor in why I’d been admitted in the first place) to convince them I was alright when they treated every thing (insignificant or otherwise) as being a BIG SIGN.

  41. For #11, if this is a loved one you’re now living with again, normalized socializing and physical contact are definitely important, but so is letting them have time alone if they need it. Hospitals in general tend to have no privacy, and psych wards even more so.

  42. Career day for science and english: you cod work at a museum!

    Curious people from all walks of life come in every day – and being able to choose the right words, register and topics needs a nice balance of scientific and linguistic knowledge.

    You can end up writing exhibitions, identifying things that people bring in, designing trails and activities for families, helping researchers access collections or giving presentations (I think ‘scicomm’ is a whole other profession, where you do imaginarium-style shows).

    A lot of museums will let you come in for work experience, to see if it’s for you. We always want to share our collections, so it’s worth a shot 🙂

  43. If you’re dating someone for a few days, and you met up solely to date (as in, you weren’t friends ahead of time), then I think you don’t even really need to say anything but “sorry, it’s not working out.” If that. If it’s after a *first* date, I mean, it’s nice to let them know, but so many people take the “don’t call, don’t converse, don’t interact” nuclear approach to it that I think folks could take the hint. Though again, I still think telling them is better.

    11. I’ve dealt with this matter before. when a friend of mine had to be admitted. My experience of course won’t speak for everyone, but here it is.

    – My friend was *insanely* bored. They were on suicide watch, so they weren’t allowed even basic things like a pencil (you could stab yourself in the eye or some shit) or anything else that could *remotely* be used as a weapon. Bring books and other utterly nonthreatening things to them while they’re there, and when they get out, give them something to do that they couldn’t do before. This might be “everything ever,” this might be “I just want some better food.” Notably, *bring yourself.* They have spent the past while probably bored to tears, so spend time with them, and make them feel like a part of the world again.
    – Don’t make a big deal of it. People see being in a mental hospital as some kind of Line that is crossed, like at that point, you’re a Crazy Person, or at that point, you’re somehow Different than everyone else. Try to dispel this by just treating them like anyone else who has to go to a hospital. Some people’s legs break; some people’s brains break. Both will heal at least somewhat with time. Both are not identity changes. Don’t make it about who they are, and don’t act as if they’re suddenly a different person.
    – You might have to take the initiative in your relationship for a while. This person did just go through an intense experience, or at least a disrupting one, so try to be accommodating. Don’t just ditch them and wait for them to call you; call them and ask if they want to (go to the movies, cook dinner together, play video games while eating pizza on the couch, go for a nice nature walk, etc). The less they have to handle on their own, the easier life will be for them.
    – Don’t stack all your effort at the beginning. As anyone with a chronic condition can probably say, people get really tired of helping after a while, and some sort of “initiative fatigue” sets in once your condition ceases to be an acute problem in that person’s eyes. At that point, they just sort of assume that You’ve Got This and they don’t have to be available. Granted, they do need to tend to their lives…which is why you should distribute your time reasonably instead of hanging all over the person at the start and then being too tired/busy/catching up to help them later when many people have already bailed.
    – If you *are* busy or can’t help with something, please take the initiative to find someone who can *for them* if they’re okay with it. If one friend can’t do it, call up another. Be a support *network*, not a support “flower” where every person is singularly connected to the friend and doesn’t enlist anyone else to help. Such things lead to burnout on both sides, as supporters fail to be available all the time and as the friend loses the spoons required to call up yet another person.

    5. On TV shows/movies and the folks who talk during them. Well if you’re me, you tell them you HATE IT WITH A PASSION WHEN PEOPLE TALK DURING MOVIES and tell them to shut up. If you’re not around friends or you’re a less irrationally wrathful person about the matter, tell them you really can’t hear dialogue/etc over the sound of their voice and you really want to watch the movie, not talk. These folks are going to the Special Hell, for all you Firefly fans out there. STFU unless you’ve agreed with every single person in that group that you’re going to MST3k whatever you’re watching. Somebody wants to hear what the main character just said, and you ruined it. Even worse when done on TV shows currently airing, where you can’t just rewind.

  44. “If you invite her to be a partner in figuring this out together rather than starting off by berating and blaming her, you can make her an active player in finding a solution. If she won’t engage honestly with you, that tells you a lot about her (and whether you should stay).”

    An important 2nd step to this, IMO, is your partner actually walking the walk. Not-great money habits can be deeply ingrained from childhood and kind of hard to break. My ex and I went through this and had more than one Big Conversation about how we were going to do money. He’d be fully engaged, on board with some plan, and then a month or two later he’d revert to his old patterns. I wasn’t willing to just take his paycheck every two weeks and manage all of the bills, we’d stall out and go back to square one with a new strategy.

    It was an enormous factor in our breakup. And, incidentally, he’s still got the same problem – he identified an amount of money that he wanted to pay to me since I supported him for a few years and started paying me back, and then after a couple of months it just stopped.

    No matter what your partner says about doing something differently, don’t let the good words mask non-existent follow through.

  45. Re: #5, I know a couple of people who always talk all the way through telly programmes and films, and in both cases I’m pretty sure it’s because of hearing problems that mean following the plot properly is a real effort. So they just keep an eye on the visuals while chatting away. It’s a long shot but could that be what’s going on here? If that’s the case, the only advice I have is to avoid watching shows you really love with that person, and stick to things you can watch more casually.

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