It Came From The Search Terms: Busting out all over!

Hello! Let’s ease back into things with some short answers to some questions that people didn’t ask so much as typed into their friendly neighborhood search engines.

1. “My foot feels like it is slipping but it isn’t.”

Whoa, that is a terrible recurring dream I have, and I hope you solve this mystery for yourself because it is the worst. I can’t even imagine this being a daytime, awake sort of phenomenon. Or, I can. In chilling detail.

[Edited to Add: It’s doctor time, as this may be the sign of a neurological condition. Hopefully a treatable one.]

2. “Boyfriend doesn’t let me masturbate.” and 3. “My husband wont let me dye my hair.”

These aren’t really things where you need permission from another person to do them.Your body belongs to you!

Let’s all back away from dudes who think they get a say in these things.

4. “Does it mean she done when she cut off all ties?”

She is done. As always, I am incredibly confused by what possible other interpretation of “I am cutting all ties with you!” exists.

5. “How to cope with contact from a needy ex who wants to keep a friendship.”

Be honest with yourself about whether you really want a friendship, and think about taking a break of several months with no contact before you even attempt being friends.

6. “How to make crush jealous at school.”

Don’t? It’s a lot of work, with no guarantee that the audience will even notice.

7. “How to deal with silent treatment from mother.”

The silent treatment is cruel and abusive. My first suggestion is to find a counselor or other safe, trusted person to help support you so that you are not depending on your mom for anything.

8. “How to tell your date they have bad teeth.”


Your date probably knows and feels really self-conscious about it.

9. “I told him I love him and messaged him am I a stalker.”

Stalker is a strong word, though, if “I love you” was your opening line, and if “he’s” not answering and/or seems to be avoiding you, maybe, back off and cool off? Your watchword in future interactions with crushes is going to be “reciprocity,” where, it’s okay to ask someone out or tell someone you like them, but then you gotta give them some room to react and show whether they feel the same way.

10. “I want to fuck my old friend but he won’t talk to me.”

So, that’s a no-go, right?

11. “When your spouse makes jokes about your shameful past.”

YIKES. “Sweetheart, those jokes aren’t funny and they really hurt my feelings. Please stop joking about that time in my life. That whole subject is not really up for discussion unless I bring it up.

A good person who stepped over the line will recognize what they did, be very sorry for hurting you, and most importantly, they will stop doing it. A no-good-very-bad partner will explain to you at length why it was objectively funny and make you feel like there is something wrong with you for being upset.

I hope with all my heart that you have the good kind.

12. “My platonic friend said he dreamt about me.” 

This is not necessarily deeply meaningful, but if the context of the dream or the fact of him bringing it up makes you suddenly think, “OH LOOK AT THOSE INTERESTING PATTERNS IN THE CARPET. AND THE CEILING, HOW HAVE I NEVER LOOKED AT THE CEILING BEFORE?” then decide if you want to learn more about the dream or if you want to ADMIRE THIS BEAUTIFUL SOFA AND ITS INTRICATE UPHOLSTERY.


13. “What to do if I fall in love with my cousin sister and she hates me.”

I’ve read this a few times and there are a few scenarios where your cousin’s sister is not also your cousin but HOW NICE, A CHARMING BUILT-IN BOOKSHELF AND A WINDOW SEAT. WHO CHOSE THIS WALLPAPER?

Maybe this cousin sister isn’t the girl for you, if she hates you, or if your cousin will hate you as a result?

[Edited to Add: Thanks for fighting ignorance and helping me understand the translation, nice commenters! Person who searched for this, if you are out there, falling in love should be a mutual, participatory act. If the person you love is not in love with you, grieve for what might have been and give yourself some time to move on and find love with someone who doesn’t hate you.]

14. “How to tactfully tell people to clean up urine.” 

What tact there is to be found in this task is found in directness and brevity. “Please clean up the floor/toilet seat/_______, etc., there is still some urine there. Thanks.”

15. “Why would a man break up with me through a mutual friend?”

He’s really lazy? He’s terrified of confrontation? The person I am honestly the most curious about here is the mutual friend and why they decided to be the messenger. We (and more importantly, you) will most likely never know. I hope time moves quickly to the future, when this will be a funny story you tell.

16. “Is it possible to see a person’s faults and still like them?”

It’s possible to see someone’s faults and love them, even.

344 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: Busting out all over!

  1. “When your spouse makes jokes about your shameful past.”

    Sometimes this, rather than unthinking casual cruelty, is actively well-meaning, in that the person thinks that by joking about it they are demonstrating how much of a big deal it isn’t to them. Given that the intent is to make the hearer feel good, when they discover it’s having the opposite effect they should hopefully swiftly desist.

    1. This is a great point, it could be intended kindly! Still, when the butt of a joke isn’t laughing along, time to knock that joke right off.

    2. I think it’s not just the reaction to discovering they hit a nerve, but also the context in which they are making jokes about things you find actively painful. Are they just doing it around you? And then they’re like “oh shit, I’m so sorry, I meant to be funny but I see now it was a horrible error on my part”? Or are they doing it around other people?

      I think regardless of what they say about their intentions, if they’re doing it around other people when they know it’s a sore spot, they’re bad news, and they meant to be hurtful, or at least to show other people how magnanimous they are to be involved with you and your shameful past.

      (I dated a guy who was a 4, 5, 11, and a wannabe 3–yes the same guy.)

    3. I think here it’s mostly about the person’s reaction when told that they need to stop though, and intentions are largely irrelevant. I can easily picture someone with the best possible intentions (“helpy” is a word I learned around these parts I believe) still reacting very poorly when told to desist. People tend to get upset when they learn that they’ve done a bad thing, and the wrong kind of people will be especially happy to blame you right back when they feel that their wonderful pure selfless helpiness is not welcome.
      Or maybe I spent too much time around the seriously manipulative and emotionally abusive, and most people will not make you feel bad for being hurt. Still, “Gawd, I was just trying to HELP, what is WRONG with you!!!” is a big red flag to look out for.

      1. The stupid fallacy that good people never do bad things even by accident, maybe. Which means if you do something hurtful you’re not a good person, so you have to try to twist things so that you didn’t do something hurtful, the other person just took it wrong.

        When really, good people do bad things all the time. The issue is in how you react to being told.

  2. I LOVE your answer to #16. In fact, I might argue that’s getting towards a great definition of what love is.

    1. Yes. I don’t know that I love my partner’s flaws, but I do know that when I think of them, I don’t get annoyed. I think of them with a wry smile. Maybe an affectionate eye roll. They’re not invisible to me, and I do wish he didn’t have them (just like I wish I didn’t have some of my own less attractive personality traits that I’m working to improve on), but I love the whole package, warts and all. I love him just the way he is right now.

  3. “My husband wont let me _________ my hair.”

    This is such a weirdly common comment from my girlfriends, I do NOT get it. I try and argue them out of letting that happen too, but they just passively accept it. It bugged the hell out of me, until I started to to suspect that the reason they *let* their husbands/spouses/whatever do that is that they wanted to keep some limitations on their spouses as well. Which is just sad. Can we all just maybe be okay with letting each other play with ourselves in *whatever* way feels fun? (None of my girlfriends has brought up masturbation yet, but then I’m one of those people that would prefer not to know anyway.)

    1. Expressing a preference is one thing (it can be okay in some instances, it can be really not okay in others), but once we’re talking about “letting” and the physical self I get creeped out.

      1. Oh hell yes. There’s a lot of room for discussing preferences in a mature manner and coming to agreements that suit both parties. It never seems to come off like that though. It usually comes up in the first place because I (happily single, YAY) have tried something new with my hair and get a few “ooh I wish I could do that!”s. “So do it, it’s great!” “Oooh no, husband wouldn’t let me.” Like do you not even hear your own words coming out of your mouth right now? Either you’re telling the truth in which case STOP THAT RIGHT NOW, or you’re exaggerating and, uh… maybe you should consider explaining further instead of giving people the impression you’re in a relationship that’s SO one-sided that your own HAIR is off-limits to you. Like hey, everybody’s got preferences, like you say, so a simple “oh ha ha, by that I mean that he likes my hair long and I like it when he shaves his back, so we’ve compromised”. Or even “I keep it long because my husband loves it long and it doesn’t really matter to me either way.” But when I hear actual envy in their voices because I got a frigging haircut… yikes, ladies, go watch some Pleasantville and get back to me.

        1. I actually has an ex-husband like that. His family came from the Church of the Hyper-Creepy, one that made the Duggars look sweet. (Triggers for molestation and spriritual abuse follow) (“Your mother’s bone cancer is because, by feeling angry at the preacher who systematically molested you and your sisters as a child, you let Satan in through the back door. You should forgive and pray for forgiveness yourself,” they said to his mother.) Your body was considered the intellectual property of your spouse or future spouse Masturbation was considered infidelity, as was anything you did with someone you met before you met your spouse. Arranged marriages. as closely consanguineous as was legal, were encouraged, at least back in the ancient days of 2010.

          I think if I had taken the ulimate hard hit for the team, snorted in his face and said, “Stop being silly and help me with the Hitachi,” instead of protecting poor Innocent’s pwecious feelings at all costs, I would definitely have had a much longer marriage that was more fun for both of us. As it was… ick. You don’t wanna know.

          1. For a lot of people, there is a weird connection between a woman’s hair and her power. A woman’s hair is her “crowning glory.” Her attractiveness is determined its color, texture, curl, etc. If they can control the woman’s hair, they can subvert her power.

        2. With the haircut, I think sometimes “My spouse won’t let me” can be Southern for, “I don’t actually want to in practice, even though I kind of do in theory (and BTW yours looks legitimately awesome).” Guys might say the same thing when there’s something they want to buy, because saying “My wife won’t let me” is less humiliating than “I can’t afford it.” So it could be less creepy and more face-saving, though only in cultures where it’s expected that spouses half-humorously accept each other’s benevolent dictatorship.

          Switch out Southern for stereotypically non-avant-garde culture of choice.

          1. Yes, I’ve seen this kind of thing too. It’s not my favorite kind of face-saving for sure, but it doesn’t inherently mean an abusively controlling relationship.

            That said, I agree with others that if someone is searching for those terms, I suspect we’re talking something that’s a significant problem in their own life rather than a social script said to a third party.

          2. I think it depends a bit on how badly you want it too. There’s a part of me that would like a tattoo, for instance, but it isn’t strong enough to want to ignore my husbands preference there–if he wasn’t adverse to them I’d consider it more actively.

      2. I’ve seen third parties try to enforce this dynamic, and it creeps me out even more than the dynamic itself. I’ve heard so many friends complain about stylists who ask them if their boyfriends/husbands approve when they are making drastic changes to their hair. One friend recently had a breast reduction, and her co-workers were all concerned about what her boyfriend thought about it. *twitch*

      3. In some circles “my SO doesn’t let me [x]” is shorthand for “I don’t want to [x], and I don’t want to discuss it either, so I’m using my SO to shut this down”

        1. I was working from home the other day and someone knocked on my door trying to sell me loan consolidation. I was so unprepared for this interaction the only response I could come up with was, “I’m sorry, my husband deals with all the finances and he’s not home right now.” (I am super not married.)

    2. When I was with my ex husband, I made the mistake of mentioning to him that Michigan still has an antiquated law on the books stating that a married woman’s husband owns her hair. (I can only assume this made sense in some Victorian context of the woman chopping all her hair off and selling it for extra cash, and the husband having rights to said cash.) After that, every time I wanted to change my hair, he would “joke” about how he legally had the final say.

      Dude was bad news.

      1. It was probably exactly that, since during that time period, husbands were frequently in control of any wages their wife earned.

    3. Then again, I have also used “partner would hate it” as a way to shut up my sister when she wouldn’t leave me alone about something she wanted me to do to my hair that I didn’t want to do. Because “I don’t want to” is never a good enough reason for her.

      1. See, there’s a distinction between “partner would hate it” and “partner won’t let me.” Would hate it? That deserves considering – it’s what being partners means. It doesn’t get the deciding vote, especially on things like Your Own Hair.

      2. Can definitely see doing that, but as someone said upthread, there’s a big difference between saying that to a third party and googling it on one’s own, which indicates that it isn’t an excuse not to do something.

    4. The day after I started dating the man who would become my spouse, I cut off my chin-length bright green hair, and left about two inches of reddish brown hair where the roots had grown out. And then wore a hat, so he couldn’t see my hair at all. And then then took it off in the middle of smooching. He was considerably startled.
      He very politely said that I could, of course, do anything I liked with my hair. It was my hair, and he only got to have opinions about it. But could I please WARN him when I am going to do drastic things to it?
      These days, he gets cryptic text messages, “warning!”, with no explanation every few months. He didn’t ask me to tell him details! 🙂

    5. Ha! When I cut off all my hair (it was a waist length mess of split ends, I was so tired of it) the hairdresser kept asking if my boyfriend was going to get mad at me for cutting it. He even said, “You better not blame me for this if your boyfriend gets mad, I don’t want to get punched in the face.” I didn’t even know what to say, I was like, “uhhh… it’s my head.”

      1. I’m further disturbed by the implication that the stylist felt that punching was a reasonable concern, as though that’s actually happened to somebody.

        1. Yeah, my last stylist had a policy that if a woman made a “joke” about how her husband or boyfriend was going to be “so mad” about her new hairstyle, she wouldn’t do the style and would ask the client to leave. Why? Because one time, a client made that kind of “joke,” and a few hours later, the enraged boyfriend roared into the salon and threatened her with physical violence. So. It’s a thing.

      2. I have fired barbers / stylists for saying things like this. Why are you asking if my boyfriend is okay with me getting my hair cut? Grah.

    6. I mean, I get that preferences are a thing, but when a haircut becomes anxiety-inducing because you don’t know how your partner is going to react, that’s a SERIOUS red flag.

      (My own pixie cut was my boyfriend’s idea–and next time I get my hair cut I’m going full-on Furiosa because awwwwwwww yiss.)

      1. Just make sure you get a hypoallergenic black greasepaint for your forehead! You wouldn’t want to break out like crazy. 😀

    7. I once went from waist-length hair to a pixie cut, and was asked on three separate occasions by Latin-American men whether I had gotten my husband’s permission. I HAD asked my husband’s opinion on the matter; after all, he has to see my hair more than I do…If he had been against it I probably would have opted for something less drastic. But I never would have married someone who thought that what I do with my body is his decision. We should all be choosing partners because we value their opinions and they support us in our decisions.

    8. I wish I could not let my husband

      1. Have boxes of old bills (seriously – from 1997 – that he moved from California – to Wisconsin – and then from an apartment to our house) in the basement
      2. Buy more beer even though we already have 300 bottles of wine, that he has collected over 20 years, in the basement (next to the boxes of old bills)
      3. Spend the past 2.5 months dealing with his father’s crap because his parents failed to make proper plans for the possibility of ill health (wait! Nobody gets sicker as they get older!)

  4. The cousin’s sister who is not also your cousin is…hir stepsister? half sister with the unrelated parent? Or sister-in-law and the googler adopts the charming Regency convention of referring to siblings-in-law as siblings?

    For some reason u both want to know more about this family and really, really don’t.

    1. I’m getting the impression that “cousin sister” is a bad translation. It could come from Spanish, for example: “primo hermano” (brother cousin) and “prima hermana” (sister cousin) are references to the closest kind of cousins, that is, the children of your parents’ siblings.

      1. Cousin-sister is also an expression in South Asian English meaning “female cousin”. I’ve heard it used for first cousins and also more distant relations.

      2. Neat, I didn’t know that! That seems like very useful language (says a person who is close with her own cousins, her mother’s cousins, her mother’s cousins’ children, etc., and would like a quicker way to convey which group of them she’s talking about than listing them by name).

        1. It’s actually the same in English: we’d call them first cousins. Your parents’ cousins are your first cousins once removed, and your parents’ cousins’ children are your second cousins.

      3. I read it as a variation of “sister wife” and wondered what was really going on over there.

        BTW, I would be delighted to have a sister wife as long as I could be the Boss Wife and make her do all the housework.

        1. *tilts head*

          What you’re looking for is domestic help, which is a paid position deserving a fair wage.

          That or you’re making some kind of cruel jab at the polyamorous among us. Or making fun of people living in actual abusive situations.

          I realize I may be coming across a little strong here, but I’ve read two comments from you today so far that gave me a “Hang on a second” reaction, so I’m replying to this one.

    2. It’s possibly a South Asian thing. Coming from that background, when someone refers to their “cousin sister” or “cousin brother” they just mean cousin.

      1. Ayup – or not even their actual cousin, in some cases.

        My first cousins’ other set of cousins are my cousins too, even though we share no blood relationship.

        Basically, everyone who is not an aunt or an uncle is a cousin. (True story, I was a teenager before I realized that ‘auntie’ had a specific meaning of parent’s sister, and did not just refer to any female person who socialized with your parents or grandparents.)

        1. I had to explain that fact to my husband–that in the US dominant culture, aunt and uncle denote very specific kinds of familial relationships. He’s Sri Lankan and basically any adult that is of his parents’ generation (more or less) or older is “auntie” or “uncle” whatever-their-name-is. And that in fact, man of the people he calls Aunt or Uncle are in reality some sort of cousin of his mom or dad or, in many cases, not related to him in any kind of way at all. Same for his cousins–they are in fact our children’s cousins as well, even though the kids do call them aunt or uncle as a term of respect.

        2. We were talking about words for relations the other day in the context of Māori not having many specific words for non-immediate family. The word for cousin is kaihana, which is a transliteration. But on the other hand there are multiple words for siblings depending on age, your gender and their gender (which is a pain for genderfluid or agender people…). It’s easier when you talk to people older than you, they’re all whaea/matua (for your parents’ generation-ish, and those words can mean either mother and father or aunt and uncle, though technically uncle is mātua kēkē) or kuia/koro (for the more elderly especially respected ones). Though I have aunts and uncles there’s a lot of people I’d call whaea or matua and not a single one is related to me – for context I’m white but have heavily cross-cultural friend groups.

    3. I thought it meant a cousin who is also a sister. Like the Lannister children.

    4. I assumed half-sister with the unrelated parent. Some of my cousins have siblings who fall into this category, whom I’ve never even met.

      That said, the correct response in any event is, of course, “If you have concluded that this maybe-or-maybe-not-related-to-you-person does not like you, move on.”

    5. Where I grew up, it was pretty common for people of Indian or Pakistani descent to refer to a male first cousin as a “cousin-brother” and a female first cousin as a “cousin-sister”.

    6. In a lot of South Asian cultures, the brother/sister after cousin just denotes genders! As a diaspora kid this is one of those weird constructs I’ve used all my life.

    7. I use sister cousin all the time with my first cousins. Our moms are sisters, we all grew up together as next door neighbors, and we’re all as close to each other as we are to our own sisters. It’s just a fun, joking term of endearment to denote the emotional relationship more than the genetic one. But I wouldn’t be interested in dating any of them.

        1. In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, “What would I bring to the relationship?”

    1. After six months dating, I manage to finally upset my overall optimistic, understanding and always pleasing significant other. He just shouted, releasing some steam, but cut it immediately when he saw my watery eyes. He was really concerned that I was going to cry until I told him that he didn’t need to worry. “These are tears of joy: you’re human after all!” Never trust anyone until you have seen a bit of their worst.

        1. Bluh, yeah. My most recent ex girlfriend wasn’t especially patient or kind if I messed up and upset her(misunderstandings, drinking too much once, etc). Never mind that I did far less often than she did… But yeah. She also lectured me about my anxiety.

          This is part of why she’s my EX.

  5. #4 I’m sure someone, somewhere has meant “I’m cutting all ties” as, “come chase me”, but they’re probably as delightful to be involved with as someone who’s googling that phrase for hidden meanings.

    1. Well, the neat thing about that is, if you take people at their word that they are cutting ties and leave them alone and totally ignore them, and they in fact envisioned some kind of Pepe Le Peu situation where you chase them, your failure to chase them will bring them running. It won’t be a mystery!

      1. Aaauughh Pepe le peu! Haven’t thought about that in years. The cartoons with him always creeped me out as a kid, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain why. HELLO BOUNDARIES.

        Captain, thank you for providing a public [emotional & relationship] health service, among other things.

    2. I know this person. She broke up with my friend in a terrible and hurtful way and then called him back 4 hours later to yell at him for not trying to change her mind. They’re still together.

      1. Ugh! 19-year-old me had a boyfriend who did this. Whenever I did something he didn’t like, e.g. go out for after work drinks, stay with a friend for the weekend, etc. he’d break up with me. He knew that I’d call him within a day or two and beg him to reconsider. On one of those weekends, I met a charming and attractive young man and realised there might be other, better, boyfriends out there.

        I didn’t call ex-boyfriend back to beg his forgiveness. After a few days, he drove to my house and asked, in a shocked tone, why I hadn’t begged him to come back. I told him it was over, and he ‘chased’ me (1980s speak for stalking) for about a year. Unwanted gifts, flowers, begging family and friends to intervene on his behalf, waiting outside my workplace, etc. etc. Eventually he met someone else and left me alone. But, for the next 15 years or so, he’d call me out of the blue every 18 months or so to ask me how I am – he always managed to work how much money he makes and his new sports car into the conversation. Thankfully, that petered out too.

        Now, I look back in disgust at his manipulative bullshit. 46-year-old me is happily single and isn’t ever going to accommodate douchebag behaviour again.

        1. The only thing even approaching stalking that I would like would be John Cusack standing outside of my bedroom window with a boom box. Other than that, nope. (And John C has gotten way too political for me since then – I don’t want to know what an actor’s politics are, even if I agree with him. Just keep your mouth shut and look pretty.)

          And the only person who has ever begged me to take him back broke up with me first. And didn’t even beg – he just showed up nine months later and told me he was getting married. I was happy for him and asked him whom he was marrying (although I was thinking, “It’s been only nine months! You work fast!”). He told me he was marrying me.

          Which was the first I had heard of it.

          He didn’t even beg. He didn’t even say, “I made the biggest mistake of my life when I broke up with you and I am begging, on my knees” (and here, it would have been good for him to get on his knees) “for a second chance.”

          He was a big cheapskate and I did not lose one minute of sleep over turning him down:

      2. I remember reading a webcomic back in the day where a character said to her girlfriend, basically, “I can’t deal with your issues any more. We’re done,” and the girlfriend responded with, “Fine, we’re done then. I’ll go stay at my friend’s place tonight and get my stuff in the morning.”
        The forums were FULL of people yowling about how awful the girlfriend was. Didn’t she CARE? Why didn’t she try to fight back? Didn’t she realize that she needed to promise to change?
        I proposed that if what the first character meant was, “Your being so jealous bothers me. Can you try to rein that in?” she was eminently capable of saying so, and that if I personally had decided I was through with a relationship and said so, the last thing I would want would be for a partner to start promising to change. This comment was not well received.

        1. Curious as to which webcomic this was, since I used to be a fan of one that had similarly contentious fora.

      3. This happened to my 13 year old – she broke up with him at a public event and texted him afterwards to ask why he didn’t stop her. Now she texts him every month or so to tell him about her crushes/dates and ask him if he is jealous.

      4. I was broken up with by a guy and I said “oh okay” because that’s how adults react, in my world, and told him I needed some time and I’d let him know when I felt able to be in contact again. I’m sure you can guess how that worked out, but we managed to salvage a friendship and a few years later he said, talking about that time, “I just told you how I felt and you didn’t talk to me for months. It was very hurtful and I still don’t understand. You didn’t respond or anything. You just said okay and went away.”

        And I was like …what part of, when you break up with someone you don’t get to control how they react are you not getting? No, I’m not going to argue with someone who wants to break up! Why would I do that?

    3. I imagined Searcher #4 as a bystander hoping that the answer was yes — “She says she is cutting off all ties with Darth. Does that mean she’s really done? Is our long friend-group nightmare finally over?” Although I think the answer is basically the same in that case — take her at her word, follow her cues on the subject — with perhaps a brief addendum about standard breakup-that-might-not-stick protocol, i.e. try not to shit-talk Darth to her too much.

  6. I needed #14 so badly 2 years ago and instead I just lived with constant pee-covered and stained floors from older roommates I was too nervous to confront. Age does not maturity equal apparently. I learned the hard was to USE YOUR WORDS OR WALK IN PEE ALL DAY.

    Also I knew my boyfriend was perfect for me when I said “I’m thinking of dying my hair purple” and he replied “Cool. You really love purple. Call me when you do it so I can see.”

    1. Yes! My boyfriend is so adamant that he doesn’t want to exert influence over the decisions I make about my physical self that I can barely get an opinion out of him when I’m thinking about making a change and want to talk it over with someone.

      1. I think I might be that partner. He wants me to have an opinion on his beard, but I like his beard as it is! And if he wants to shave it off, I like that too!

        (I actually have gotten better about this because I got the impression it kind of annoyed him, so I’ve started saying things like “well, you could trim it around the edges here and I think it’d give you a good jawline” or “I think the blue shirt brings out your eyes better” with, of course, the expectation that he could completely and totally ignore those things if he wishes.)

        1. It’s normally not much of an annoyance, but recently, I really wanted some advice. I was near the end of griwing a pixie into a short bob, and I hated it. I was trying to decide if I should cut it again, and was getting angsty about it. I said, “I’m not asking permission, but I really do want your advice.” He told me that he liked my hair both when it was langer and when I had the pixie. Then he pointed out that he noticed that I complained about my hair regularly when it was longer and almost never when it was short. He was right.

    2. My husband did the same thing, much to my shock, as he’s more traditional-leaning in many ways. I casually mentioned it would be kind of cool and he heartily agreed, and since then, he keeps encouraging me to do it! (I haven’t got the nerve up yet.)

    3. Nice. 🙂

      When I mused aloud years ago to my ex that I was thinking of putting some blue or purple highlights in my hair his response what that if I did so he couldn’t bring me to work gatherings because he’d be ashamed of me. Yeah, there’s a whole host of reasons he’s my ex.

      1. I used to have dark electric blue hair and was told once by a total rando that I shouldn’t expect to be invited to anyone’s special occasions while I had blue hair because I would ruin all their photos.

      2. As someone who actively despises work gatherings, that would have sent me running for the dye. I’m glad he’s an ex.

  7. Ugh, the “letting” thing. This may be yucky, but it may also be a social script, at least when it comes to the multitudes saying it. (Though I am more used to hearing it from men, so maybe I am off-base here?)

    I have a strong preference for facial hair on my husband, and I have talked with him about our limited closet space & he has agreed to a scheme whereby he only accepts new (free) conference shirts if he gets rid of something else. With both of these, he likes to refer to them in conversation with others as things I don’t “let” him do. We have had conversations about this, and he is now trying to own his decisions. (“My wife likes my facial hair, and I like that, so I am keeping it.” “Sorry, I don’t have room for more shirts; if I take that, then I will have to get rid of something else.”)

    The search strings sound problematic, though, because they are pretty clearly by people who feel controlled.

    1. I agree with this. I have the opposite response to facial hair, I absolutely cannot stand it and the idea of kissing someone with a beard makes me feel really grossed out. Whatever, that’s my thing to deal with. But my husband can grow a beard if he wants to and I’d try really hard to get over it. He still used to tell people I wouldn’t “let him” grow a beard though. It’s just an easy social short hand.

      It does bother me a bit to always be the bad guy though, so he is starting to change it up.

      1. Iris, the Brom grew a beard. It was a BAD beard. It was patchy and scraggly and the Acorn had a better one in a week.

        And it was on his face, and made him happy, so I kept the “OMG WHY” to myself.

        When he shaved it off last weekend, though, I did a little dance (and gave him extra smoochies).

      2. I am with you. I find facial hair a complete turn off. I believe it’s because facial hair – of any length- damages my skin (a lot).

        So even though I’d like to be the person who says “it’s your face honey” – when this came up in the past I was stuck with “it’s your face honey, but if you grow facial hair, your face can’t touch my skin.”

        1. Hahah that’s where I’m at too. My man’s got really thick hair, so his stubble is like sandpaper. I don’t like kissing when he’s not freshly shaven; making out is out of the question. It’s hard to deal with without feeling like I’m blackmailing him a little, even though I try not to ask him to shave.

          1. It seems reasonable to me to say “sorry I really can’t” when it’s the truth (as it clearly is in your case)

            One issue is that someone whose skin is not easily irritated doesn’t quite understand that it’s a problem!

    2. Yeah, I suspect that in conversation, “my husband won’t let me ____ my hair” often means “I’m scared to ______, but that doesn’t fit with how I want to seem right now, so I’m cloaking it in this excuse”. That said, this clearly doesn’t apply where someone has Googled the phrase. That is straight-up ick.

    3. THIS. I call it The Nagging Bitch excuse.

      My roommates (a married hetero couple) got in a huge fight about this. Husband was on the phone with his father who is very long winded and regularly ignores Husband’s “ok I gotta go” proclamations. Recently he was talking to his father during our family movie night and after trying to get off the phone a few times he resorted to “I have to go, Wife is mad at me because it’s movie night and I’m not participating.” This was not true, Wife wasn’t mad at all, but it was the only thing his father responded to with an “oh ok. I’ll talk to you later.” Of course, when she overheard him say that she did get mad because he was basically casting her as The Nagging Bitch and he was super defensive about it.

      For men I think this sort of behavior is an easy out. For certain people, it’s more socially acceptable to be “whipped” than to just be an autonomous person with boundaries, especially when interacting with another (or group of) dude(s).

      1. For women, it sometimes isn’t just the easy out, but the only out. Which is why I think it is okay to get rid of clingy guys with “My boyfriend/parents would not approve of me spending time alone with you”, or such.

        Men should, generally speaking, just own up to their choices. Or discuss beforehand with their girlfriend whether she accepts being cast as the “Nagging Bitch”. (In my opinion, random salespeople at the door are a self-defense situation wherein everything is allowed in order to get out of buying something.)

        1. Yep. It used to make me want to RAGESMASH in my single days when I’d tell a guy, “I don’t want to go out with you,” 10 times and he’d ignore it. But I only had to say: “My [imaginary] boyfriend doesn’t want me to talk to you anymore,” once, and he’d head for the hills.

          1. My sister’s and i actually bought those 10$ fake engagement and wedding rings that walmart sells in silver, the ones with glass gem’s because”I’m married” is more effective than “I’m not interested”

          2. ^I bought a fake engagement ring when I was 23 and traveling solo through Italy, thinking it would be an easier Sleaze-B-Gone charm than trying to explain, “I wouldn’t sleep with you even if I didn’t have a boyfriend [which I did at the time],” through a language barrier. It didn’t actually stop the swarm of horny gnats, and I got a rash from the cheap metal. :/

      2. I had something like that with my father. He’s always been an overpacker, and I’m better at just packing what I need. So we’re on a camping trip and he has, no joke, 6 storage tubs full of various things he ‘might need’ plus a suitcase and I have one duffel bag of essentials. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with that.

        Except when people would come in and go “Whoa, did you leave the kitchen sink at home or is it in tub #3?” He’d roll his eyes, point at me and go “Well, you know what it’s like camping WITH WOMEN!” And they’d share a dude-laugh and I’d feel the urge to cram my one duffel bag somewhere uncomfortable for him. I think I just started loudly going “Actually, I have no idea what it’s like traveling with women, but I do know guys pack WAY too much stuff! Come see how well packed my duffel bag is? I got everything I need into one tiny bag!” And he stopped doing it.

        1. What? That is some serious bull. It says he knows he’s doing something unreasonable, but instead of stopping doing it, he’s going to blame it on someone else in a gross gendered way. Frustrating.

        2. I went on vacation with a dude recently; it was a three-day cruise to a tropical country. I brought a messenger bag and a small backpack, and at that I feel I overpacked a little. My buddy turned up with a giant hockey bag and another (large) backpack. I looked at it in the middle of our tiny cabin and said, “What all is in there, your goalie kit?”
          “I know, I know,” he said. “I pack like a girl.”
          “My friend, I have gone on multi-week backpacking trips across countries ranging in climate from Nordic to Mediterranean with women who brought packs smaller than that!”

    4. Yep, this is one of those things where it can be hard to tell the difference between “social script” and “legit controlling”. But I assume anyone searching for that on the internet sees it as a real problem in their relationship :/

    5. “The search strings sound problematic, though, because they are pretty clearly by people who feel controlled.”

      yeah. I might, without even thinking about it, say “oh, my husband would never let me” to get out of something I didn’t want to do (usually where the asker has a known history of not listening to me saying no, or is a door-to-door salesman).

      but if I go and google that crap it’s for a different reason. i am not trying to make someone go away, in that case; i am trying to find out if a thing is ok or bad or what.

      (not that I have had occasion to go and google that crap, but if I did)

  8. For #15 – I agree that it’s weird that a friend would agree to be the messenger for a breakup – so weird that there might be another explanation.

    If the breakup came out of nowhere, is it possible that the “friend” invented the whole thing, out of jealousy or disapproval of your relationship, and your boyfriend has no idea what happened? Normally I support not contacting people who want to break things off, but this could be worth a check in. Something like, “Hey, Chris told me that you’re dumping me. If that’s true, that was a crummy way to tell me, but I’ll respect your choice. If it’s not true, you should talk to Chris.”

    1. This thing actually happened to me once, but we we in SEVENTH GRADE. For grown-ups? Or dare I say high-school & up? Ridiculous.

      Smashing Ginger makes a good point, though. It’s almost easier to believe in a troublemaking “friend” than it is in an adult who would do a proxy breakup.

      1. Seconded! Having a friend break up with your partner for you just sounds so incredibly junior high, I’d rather believe the “friend” is just stirring up trouble too.

        Although, come to think of it, if a mutual friend tells you your partner is dumping you *and you believe them*, I think the relationship is done for whether or not the “friend” is a liar.

        1. I can top this, unfortunately. I once had a guy’s MOTHER break up with me for him. He was 25.

      2. I dunno. I friend recently had her husband of 35years dump her via TEXT, so I’m kinda thinking that some adults are in fact that infantile.

        1. Sadly, yes. I know a guy who did the same thing. On Thanksgiving. When his wife was literally in the apartment below theirs (iow a 10 second walk away)

          1. My ex told me he’d filed for divorce on my birthday, while I was 2000 miles away, visiting my family. He had the stones to use the phone — but that meant I could hear the party he was hosting in the background.

            (It was 20 years ago, no hugs needed.)

      3. This actually happened to me in both 8th grade and high school. The second time, it was apparently an invented break up, made up by the supposed proxy… but I just ended washing my hands of the entire social circle instead of finding out for sure. Because, even when I was 14, I did not have time for that bs.

  9. That foot slipping thing…it’s doctor time. There are physical problems that can cause stuff like that and among them are some scary degenerative neurological conditions and also brain tumours. Heh. Not to send anyone off into total hypochondria-town where a random stranger on the internet puts the idea in your head that you have several terrible illnesses! Because maybe it’s nothing serious and just like a pinched nerve or something. It’s just that weird sensations that persist can be a serious symptom and should be checked out by a doctor. In fact, if anyone does start getting worried about some scary medical thing I strongly endorse seeing a doctor sooner rather than later rather than just stewing in terror for way way too long – it’s better to know what’s up, even if that information is bad.

    Now I’m curious as to what algorthim lead that particular question here… weird. :-/

    1. As an addendum to that: at least some of those scary neurological conditions are treatable and it’s better to treat them as soon as possible.

    2. A coworker of mine had an issue a couple months back where her right hand would randomly relax and drop whatever she was holding. It sounded really scary, but turned out to be a pinched nerve that was easily treatable. She’s fine now.

      So yeah, go get it checked out. Either it’s a serious problem and you need to know, or it’s not a serious problem and you can deal with it and move on.

      1. Yes! Could be scary, but could be not at all, get it looked at and you’ll feel much better knowing.

        I had a bit of nerve damage after a blood-letting went a bit wrong. I couldn’t grip very well for a while with my left (dominant) hand. I was a bit scared, but I went to the doctor and they gave me some exercises and it’s all fine now. They reassured me that it was just a minor neurological quirk and nothing to worry about. Only odd remnant from it is that if you stroke the side of my thumb I feel it in my elbow. 😀

        1. This belongs in a spooky Gothic romance. I totally see you in drippy aged lace with hollow eyes as you describe your whoopsie with the bloodletting and how you feel it in your elbow.

          1. STOP WATCHING MY HOUSE, HANNAHBELLE! But seriously, it was official NHS blood-letting, but nerves are always in weird places in the arm and these things happen. I sometimes used to pretend that my hand was possessed though.

          2. LOL. *stashes lorgnette in drawstring purse and steals away through the weeping vines*

      2. Yeh, some of the scariest stuff if caught right away is very fixable. Even tumours, but the longer you stew and worry, the worse the problem becomes. If it happens more than once or so and it’s recurring, get thee to a doctor ASAP.

    3. My brother had something very similar going on with his feet–constantly tripping, trouble walking and running.

      He got the MRI of his back just in the nick of time. His spine was in serious trouble, and he needed major surgery.

      He’s much better now, and much happier, and glad he didn’t wait any longer to ask the doctor about that.

      1. I used to have fainting / trembling / tripping problems and it turned out to be just low blood sugar. I am also glad I didn’t wait any longer to ask the doctor! So I echo the “go see a doctor so at least you’ll know” sentiment.

        (Also, HI STEVE! /waves at previous commenter who loves the same movie I do)

    4. I get weird sensations of movement (sort of like I’m on an elevator) when I have panic attacks, sometimes before the actual emotions of panic and terror set in. It is definitely worth checking in with a doctor to figure out what, exactly, is going on. (Did you know it’s possible to live a life where you have fewer panic attacks? I didn’t, for a really long time, and wish I had gotten some help way way sooner.)

  10. #1 Re: Footslipping. I had that problem a lot, except that I did actually slip one out of every 10 times that I felt I was slipping. Turns out that my feet didn’t fit my shoes just right – I have narrow feet, but was wearing a lot of wide-cut shoes because that is what’s available out here..

    Maybe consider checking your shoe size. If your foot is turning about in the shoe, you may end up with a sprained ankle or a broken toe! (I did.)

  11. “Cousin sister” is Indian English for “female first cousin”.

    “Does it mean she done when she cut off all ties?” could be literally asking for the meaning of “cut off all ties” (especially considering that the grammar of the question could indicate a non-native English speaker). STW (Search Term Writer) may be wondering what neckties have to do with the end of their relationship. But in any case, the answer is: she done!

    1. ““Does it mean she done when she cut off all ties?” could be literally asking for the meaning of “cut off all ties” (especially considering that the grammar of the question could indicate a non-native English speaker).”

      Oh, true, that makes sense and is possible.

      1. More like someone didn’t bother to put “apostropheS” into their search string. I rarely punctuate or use proper grammar when I search.

    2. Also, “cousin sister” is Melanesian English for parallel cousin. In Melanesia, and I think in some other places in the Pacific, too, it is incest to marry your mother’s sister’s children or your father’s brother’s children (parallel cousins), but it is okay or even good to marry your mother’s brother’s children and your father’s sister’s children (cross cousins).

    3. I didn’t notice the grammar issue at first read,but I was reading quickly and for a moment did think that the woman in question had cut Up/Off all the writer’s neckties… Funnier than the real meaning, and perhaps a more ambiguous action (if quite problematic as a method of communication).

  12. Ick ick ick ick ick that “won’t let me masturbate” one is the worst–I knew a couple of people in that situation in high school/college, and even then my (incredibly naive) school-age response was WHAT?! He won’t let you do WHAT?!

    I wish I didn’t know how that becomes a thing, but having grown up in a religious area that didn’t exactly treat its ladies right I know EXACTLY why that’s a thing. Ladies (and gents), run away. Run away fast, all the way to the lovely store with the perpetually buzzing display.

    1. Ugh yeah my ex didn’t like it if I masturbated, because it was like saying he “wasn’t good enough in bed”. Except this was a guy who verbatim said “ugh, I suppose you want to come TOO?” after he was done once, so … he really wasn’t.

      1. Wooooowwwwww. That’s a pretty serious pair of ego-blinders he had on, there. Dang.
        Also, bet you any sum he didn’t obey the same rule.

  13. I’m not trying to start anything (really, I swear) but re: #13, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with incest or being attracted to a cousin, so long as all parties consent. Of course, if she hates him (or her) then it’s a non-starter.

    1. Different cultures have different concepts of what incest is and who your family is. My own great-great-grandparents were first cousins. My vaguely formed theory on why Western culture doesn’t consider that acceptable anymore is that we have a wider range of potential partners due to technological advancements in transportation and communication.

      1. In the more remote and difficult-to-reach parts of the state I live in, the standard used to be that first cousins were acceptable but double first cousins were not. (First cousins share one set of grandparents; double first cousins share both. This usually happens when siblings marry another set of siblings — like if my sister married my husband’s brother.)

        1. Which makes sense – my understanding is that double first cousins are genetically about as similar as full siblings, while first cousins can already be much more genetically diverse. Especially if they’re from a region where everybody hasn’t already been marrying their cousins forever.

          @ Slythwolf: The thing that’s always struck me is that as the range of potential partners broadens, so does the pool of ancestors, so if anything it seems like the occasional cousin-marriage would be becoming more socially acceptable in modern Western culture again these days. But that doesn’t seem to be the trend so far (though I imagine it could still swing back again in a few more generations) and I have no better theory to suggest instead. I do have the (also vaguely-formed) impression that the discovery of a bunch of genetic diseases was happening around the same time as the advent of railroads and such, so I think your theory sounds probable for how we got where we are now.

      2. it’s not even all Western culture as here in the UK there is not wrong with first cousins getting together and it isn’t considered Incest at all.

        1. I’m not so sure about that as I wouldn’t know anywhere in the UK where it would it be considered odd or unusual. I thought only second cousins was legal here?

          1. First cousin marriage is legal in England and Wales (not sure if that’s true for Scotland or NI). Even so, at best such a pairing would get a LOT of side-eyeing; more likely, I would expect that they would become social pariahs, were it generally known.

          2. First cousins are defently legal here as you get a lot of them writing into advice coloms in the papers asking if they would be breaking the law if they got together and the answear is tht it’s legal but some people might not like it.

        2. It’s legal in California and most of the east coast of the US, too. Honestly, I find it a little weird that people call it incest at all, since it’s usually very different than marriage to a sibling whom one has grown up with, or abuse.

        3. First cousin marriage is legal in the UK – my Mum dated her cousin for a while, but the broke up because his Mum didn’t approve, because they were cousins. Mum’s brother was married to a cousin from a different set of parents for a while. It is seen as weird, but maybe more approximate to dating a second cousin in the US.

        4. Swede here: marriage between first cousins is legal, but probably very rare. It’s just not A Thing, and I honestly always found it weird how often the cousin taboo comes up in US media (TV, movies etc). The Western World is just not one culture.

    2. I feel like the key issue is the power differential — a big one making for a bad, scary, abusive situation — and a priori there tend to be more existing power differentials among family (even of roughly the same age) than between any two given strangers.

      1. Also, if it doesn’t work out, you will always have people in common, including people you may be very close to and unable to cut off, and you will have to see each other at family events for the rest of your entire lives.

      2. The other big thing is that the Westermarck effect should stop people being attracted to people they grew up with, so if attraction does happen it indicates other issues are going on. Consensual incest inside a household basically doesn’t happen.

        Cousin-relationships are a recent taboo even in the West, though. There’s probably some fascinating history about this that I don’t have time to look up.

        1. I thought that even third cousins could be too close from a Church (Catholic and Orthodox) perspective – and that progressively more distant relations were forbidden throughout the Middle Ages. (I’m writing from not necessarily accurate memory of Eunachs for the Kingdom of Heaven-

          1. Prior to 1215, marriages were only allowed between relatives who were at most 6th cousins. In 1215, the Catholic laws were changed to allow third cousins to marry, but only with special dispensation. (I’ve been reading Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter–set it medieval Norway, written in the mid-20th century, and Undset was known for her meticulous research).

          2. Huh — so does that mean that all the royal/noble families who were inbreeding constantly were always applying for dispensations to get that approved? Or was this law generally recognized to be only enforceable on the peasant class?

            (I have to say I’m very surprised — I always had a vague impression of Middle Age Europe as not caring too much about even incest, let alone the minor degree or inbreeding that would result from marrying someone who had the same great-great-grandmother as you. Though I suppose inbreeding would be more of a threat in a situation where travel is quite difficult, and so more likely to be legislated. . . I also am frankly astonished that they had good enough records to enforce the six-cousin thing! I know plenty of people NOW who can’t trace their relatives back to their great x 5-grandparents, which I *believe* would be the common ancestor with a 6th cousin.)

          3. It means that they were always applying for dispensations.

            Please note that godparents counted as parents so you couldn’t marry their children, nephews and nieces, and whatever degrees cousins.

            This was part of the privileging of virginity over marriage

          4. Echoing mrsmorleystea — the rich were always applying, and paying, for dispensations. Peasants didn’t often have written records of family lineage, so it was actually a lot harder to enforce for them. Which had nothing whatsoever to do with their lack of ability to give the church lots of money, I’m sure.

          5. The whole Henry VIII fiasco had to do with this problem (the problem of royalty having an incredibly small set of spouse candidates due to inbreeding). He had a dispensation to marry Catherine of Aragon (who was semi-married to his brother, thus should have been off limits) but all these marriage eligibility questions were a judgment call by the Pope, and being in a bad political spot with the pope at the time when he wanted to switch spouses to someone who could give him more kids, he couldn’t get a dispensation to say the Catherine marriage was invalid. So he decided to take drastic measures in hope of securing the succession. It had less to do with wanting to legalize divorce or have an English church than with not being able to get things done through the usual channels.

        2. I don’t know a huge amount about the Westermarck effect, but IIRC all the studies had exceptions? I think it’s a bit of a leap in logic to assume that every exception to the rule must have other issues going on which makes it basically non-consensual.

          1. Okay I get your point, but I also think that due to the power imbalances that happen as well, that it is very reasonable when something like this happens to assume something sketchy is going on. As far as I’m concerned, immediate-family incest is not something you can be progressive about and in fact is everyone’s business, because the cost of not safeguarding people is worse than the cost of breaking up some relationships.

            Cousins are fine though. Like personally I wouldn’t, but it’s not a giant red flag.

        3. “Cousin-relationships are a recent taboo even in the West, though.”

          I read somewhere that the taboo arose in the early 20th century as part of various eugenics movements. Certainly with modern genetic screening (like, checking that both partners aren’t Cystic Fibrosis carriers or such) the real issue is consent and power imbalance.

      3. That is very true, and it does make the issue of consent a lot more difficult. I know I’m still unthinkingly obedient to older family members in a way I never would be to a stranger of any age – it’s hard to lose some of the mentality of a child with people who have known you since you were young.

        I think I just don’t like the immediate reaction that says incest = eeeew, icky.

    3. I believe you, but as a victim of incest I had a very difficult time reading this. I think there are several wrong things with incest, but this is probably not the time and place to talk about them.

      1. I’m very sorry that happened to you, and I’m sorry if my comment was upsetting. Like I said, as with any interaction, everybody consenting is the vital part.

  14. One of my boyfriends once broke up with me through a mutual friend. We were 15. He did it so three days later he had plausible deniability and could say that wasn’t what he actually meant at all. Which worked out, since it gave me the opportunity to dump him to his face

  15. A subset of ‘my husband won’t let me change my hair’ is the idea that if women don’t visually please their men, they’ll forfeit all of their worth.

    Once upon a time, I cut off all my long, undyed hair and dyed the resulting bob black. It looked darling. A coworker of mine gasped in surprise when he saw it and then whined –out loud and to my face — “But you had such pretty long brown hair!” He clearly felt betrayed that I’d change my look in what must have been defiance of his internal beauty standards, and that I should apologize for doing so. Dude, I don’t even know you that well. If you don’t like the ‘do, well, you don’t have to, but it’s not like I did it for you, or more importantly to you.

    Anyway, my reply was “And now I have pretty short black hair!” There may have been a pivot and a flounce out the door; my memory is fuzzy on that. 🙂

    1. Yaaaas. Kudos on that response!

      For hetero, cis, women especially, there is this cultural obsession with hair and femininity. There is a certain look that one must maintain in order to attract a man: long hair on top | none anywhere else. IMO controlling jerks want to control everything but hyper-focus on hair because of it’s cultural importance. For a woman to cut off, dye, or style her hair in an unconventional way is not only an act of autonomy, but also a visual symbol of shirking traditional femininity and therefore, women’s roles as soft, pliant, agreeable doormats.

      Or maybe I have thought about this WAY too much since I stopped removing my body hair and have had oodles of people comment on it including from my liberal, feminist sister asking me to wear pants because “I just don’t know how I will explain it to my daughters.” *sigh*

      1. Ohhh, this drives me nuts. Particularly since I’ve bought into it and can’t shake it. It makes me angry every time I shave all my body hair, and yet I still keep doing it because I like feeling conventionally attractive. But it still pisses me off.

        I have a dear friend who does not shave her legs, not as a statement but because she prefers not to. She explains to her three daughters matter-of-factly that some women choose to shave and others don’t. I love this about her–come to think of it, she has very short hair as well, and I use her as an example to my own daughters to combat that horrible idea that “real” or “attractive” women have long hair.

        1. I haven’t shaved since 1977– because I prefer not to. No political statements here either. I can’t imagine what the statement would be. I do tend to wear jeans and sweat shirts, but that’s because the weather where I live tends to be cool even in the summer. But when the occasion calls for a bathing suit or shorts or a skirt, I just wear them without a thought to hair.

          Here’s the good news: Over the course of my life I’ve run into a negative comment only a handful of times. Most people don’t notice, or if they do notice, they have the good manners not to say anything. And if they did say something, I’d shrug. Under these circumstances, a positive comment is still a negative one because, if someone were to come up to me to say I like your leg hair, it would still be pointing out that I stand out as weird. So I’d shrug for that too. This may surprise some: Those small handful of negative comments? They’ve all been from straight women (including my mother) (a long long time ago when she still thought she had influence). Men (in my experience) don’t care one way or the other. It’s the women (a small number of them) enforcing some sort of social norm. Or maybe they’re being competitive or the advertising has all been targeted towards them to the point where they really believe that hair is gross. I don’t know given that I never stopped to ask what they were thinking.

          It’s with that in mind that I doubly wonder what’s going on when “my husband won’t let me” is given as the excuse for a woman’s choices on hair or appearance. I have to believe that they’re telling the truth, and I have to believe they’re not asking my advice when they make that statement. But privately, I have to wonder “Really? Your husband’s affection for/attraction to you would wither if you made a different choice about how you do your hair?” (As far as I’m concerned, shaving or not shaving leg hair is the same as cutting head hair in different styles or lengths.)

          1. I haven’t shaved in a few years myself. Also not a political statement–I happen to be A) lazy and B) not fond of dry skin and cuts, both of which are inevitabilities for me if I shave. I live in coastal Southern California, which is widely reputed to be the Land of Impossible Beauty Standards, and the amount of comments I have gotten on my leg or pit hair? Zero. Which is not to say that bucking social standards is easy or always leads to such smooth (heh) sailing, but I know I’m clearly more comfortable letting my body and head hair wave in the summer breeze, and for me, that’s all that counts.

        2. I decided to get laser hair removal because, at the time, I was pretty near sighted and hated wearing contacts. The person who did the treatments would tell me stories about her other clients — not by name, more in a I commented that it hurt and I would hate to be getting it done elsewhere more sensitive and she talked about her one client who was a swimsuit model and if she had one hair anywhere, she wouldn’t be considered for jobs kind of way.

          But the ones that made me sad were the women whose husbands insisted they get all their pubic hair lasered off. Apparently, just getting waxing was not good enough. I cannot imagine ever asking anyone to do something like that, or being so afraid or whatever that I would just meekly do it to keep Himself happy. (that was the description of this one woman, she didn’t want to do it, but her husband demanded it of her, IMO, time to file papers) I mean, laser hair removal is permanent, it’s not like tattoos that you can cover over or get removed. And it hurts, a lot depending on where you’re getting it done and your pain threshold in general. It’s just not right to demand that of someone if they do not want that for themselves.

          1. Police are not an automatic answer to abusive situations, unfortunately, and doing so can escalate a percolating scary situation into a VIOLENT violent situation.

          2. You are right, police doesn’t always help, BUT there’s the morally dubious situation of doing something permanent to someone’s body they don’t really want done. I feel that “Oh, well, let’s do it, maybe it appeases her hubby” wouldn’t be the correct course of action.

          3. sellmaeth, I think calling the police is a bad move for the hair removal technician, not only because it could escalate an already bad situation (as CA has rightfully pointed out already), but also because you’re depriving the person you’re ostensibly trying to “protect” with your call of their personal autonomy – you’re basically saying that your judgment of what that person “needs” to be “safe” is superior to the person’s own judgment, and pulling rank on him/her. It’s not okay to do to another person, especially when your only relationship with that person is as their laser hair removal technician.

            To someone in an abusive relationship, it can feel like a “helper” who end-runs around them and substitutes their own judgment for what’s “best” for that of the person actually in the relationship doesn’t seem to be acting all that different from the abuser – the helper’s intent is different, sure, but the total dismissal of the other person’s right to personal autonomy in the name of “doing what’s best” is, well, kind of the same.

            (To be clear, I’m not saying NEVER CALL THE POLICE, because there are situations where you find yourself a witness to, say, a physical attack or other altercation or circumstance where someone is in imminent danger, and when that happens, yes, call the police, but what you’re describing here doesn’t rise to that level, at least to me. It sucks, and if the person getting the laser treatment asked me for help disentangling from the d-bag partner, I’d help in a heartbeat, but absent that, I don’t think “forcing a partner to get laser hair removal” rises to the level of “actual legal crime,” and, at least where I live, there isn’t much – if anything – the police could even do about a report like that from a third party.)

            (Additional note, I am in the US, so this is all based on experience/interactions with US law enforcement – I acknowledge the legal options available are likely totally different elsewhere.)

        3. I was in a grocery store post-workout once upon a time (a few years ago), and a little girl in a shopping cart asked me my name, which I provided (Jen). She paused a moment and then asked me if I was a girl — I’ve had a pixie cut for over a decade now (I want to update it but haven’t picked a new style yet). She wasn’t my kid, so I just explained that yes, I was a girl, I just had really short hair.

          I revel in explaining to my daughter that some girls have short hair and some boys have long hair and it’s up to them to pick what they want. I’m trying to teach her that not all girls like pink and lots of boys like pink, but that one’s a bit tougher to get through (she’s not yet 4, I have time).

          1. I’ve got a similar story but with clothing. A little boy once asked me if I was a boy or a girl solely because he was confused by my shirt. It was a standard t-shirt with sleeves. His mom was with him and completely embarrassed by the whole thing.

          2. “I’m trying to teach her that not all girls like pink and lots of boys like pink, but that one’s a bit tougher to get through (she’s not yet 4, I have time).”

            Haha I remember vividly being 4 or 5 and subscribing enthusiastically to all sorts of binary “rules” like that, even though child-me broke a lot of them. I think it’s a brain development thing, like the one where kids will always select a taller container as having “more” liquid in it even after demonstrating to them that it contains the same amount as a shorter, fatter container.

          3. Yeah, I mean I’m not trying to force her mind wide open right now so that she doesn’t have any kind of rules she follows, but I do try to challenge the ones she sets. Right now she’s been telling me that when boys grow up they get paginas, so I’m acknowledging that some do while also trying to let her know that that isn’t the most common trend for boys.

      2. Gosh I don’t get what’s with hair, societally speaking. Apparently it gained a huge cultural significance…but if you think about it, it’s a very mutable thing. No matter what awesome or shitty things you do to it, it will grow out again, and you get a new blank slate. Something like a tattoo is way more permanent. (And tattoos have in fact been around for ages, historically.) Same with piercings. But hair keeps growing out.

      3. I have fairly long hair now, and I have for most of the past 15 or so years. When I was a kid, though, I mostly had shorter hair. (It wasn’t really something I thought about.)
        My asshole college boyfriend found a bunch of pictures of me as a kid in old photo albums at my parents’ house one time and acted like it was a giant moral travesty that my hair was short as a kid. As in, he started mocking me for all he could, saying I looked like a boy, laughing, calling me ugly.
        I was a pretty nerdy kid. I wasn’t exactly popular. I got enough mockery as it was. That whole episode with my ex put me right back in that mindset as an elementary/middle-schooler, only now the bullies weren’t my peers, they were a 20-something man, who was supposed to love me, who I was supposed to feel safe around.
        Every time after that that he did something goofy, and I started teasing him, he’d throw my perceived childhood ugliness in my face. (Keep in mind, he also teased me about my less-than-brilliant moments in the present, as well–he dished it out but could NOT take it at all.)
        I hate this whole phenomenon.

        1. Oh, ew, what a jackass. My BF and I will goof around and mock the general bad fashion of the 70s and 80s and the bad taste our parents might have had in what to dress us in, but not each other’s actual looks/body.

      4. I’m so confused by your sister’s comment here. Does she mean she doesn’t know how to explain to her daughters that… leg hairs are a thing? I’m pretty sure her daughters also have it? If anything, she should worry about explaining the phenomenon of shaving to her daughters since it is, you know, not the natural state her daugthers surely already know of.

        1. She is my half sister and her children take after her in appearance with sparse, blonde hair. I take after my Mediterranean/Middle Eastern father with very dark hair. I am also *very* hairy. My guess is that them seeing a woman with long, bushy, black leg hair plus lots of hair near the genitals (we were going to be in swimsuits part of the time) made her anxious about explaining puberty.

          Though these are the kids who learned about periods when they were toddlers so . . . I am pretty much at a loss myself. And I was too flabbergasted by her response at the time to ask.

          1. Strange. I don’t think anyone ever explained body hair to me when I was a child. You see it, you know it exists, and that’s it. Why would someone have to explain it?

            In case they ask, “Auntie has Middle Eastern roots, that’s why she has darker hair” should be sufficient. Unless, that is, the half-sister thing is a family secret and the daughters believe you’re full sisters. That would, at least, be a more interesting reason than just a prejudice against body hair.

          2. I feel like I would have had a hard time not asking, “And how are you going to explain why you think it’s okay to comment on other people’s bodies?” I have an overactive snark gland, though.

        2. I would guess that at least part of what she means is that she doesn’t know how to explain to her daughters that this is completely not an acceptable thing for them to do and is “just not done”, even though their aunt does it.

          1. Right on, Brooks. Sister called me a few months ago to ask my advice on how to tell her 10 year old (who is hitting puberty already, poor thing) that she needed to start shaving her bikini line because she was oblivious to her shameful (sparse, blonde, nearly invisible) hair growth. So yes, I think in her brain, body hair = unacceptable. I also think my physical (ethnic) differences are a component in her discomfort as they have always been a trope in my family – especially my hairiness.

            [sorry – I hope this was not too much of a digression from the topic]

      5. my liberal, feminist sister asking me to wear pants because “I just don’t know how I will explain it to my daughters.” *sigh*
        I have to admit, I’d be tempted to go the Louis CK route on this one (“How will I explain gay couples to my children?”).
        “How is that my problem? They’re YOUR kids! You decided to have ’em, you signed on to explain shit to them.”

    2. I used to have this friend who turned out to be super sexist and a major Nice Guy (emphasis on the “used to”), and once I mentioned that I was overdue for a haircut and he literally whined, “No, don’t cut your hair! It’s so cute like that!” I usually get pretty tongue-tied in the moment and think of the perfect comeback 40 minutes later, but this time I said right back, “My goal isn’t necessarily to look cute for you.” He just said, “Oh…” very timidly.

    3. I see this all the time with celebrities. Remember the outcry when Emma Watson got her super-short pixie cut after Harry Potter was over?

      Something I have also noticed is that since I got a pixie cut, I get less street harassment.

      1. Her super-short super-adorable super-hot pixie cut! 🙂

        That’s interesting that you’ve noticed less street harassment with the shorter hair. Hmmm.

        1. That’s been true for me as well, except when I had REALLY short (like, Furiosa-short) hair, which got me more street harassment, but of a very different nature from what I got with long hair.

        2. It dropped off *sharply*. I got harassed multiple times a week from age 11-12 until about 3 years ago when I did the chop. Now I get harassed maybe once every few months.

          1. Did any of you experience a difference in harassment depending on how you wear your hair? I wear my very long hair in a bun and almost never get harassed, but I think I live in an area where street harassment isn’t common, so it doesn’t prove anything.

          2. When my hair was long, I never noticed a difference in up vs down vs ponytail or fixed up vs plain hairstyle. I also never noticed a difference based on makeup or what I was wearing (sersiously–I can’t even count the number of times I was harassed while wearing sweats, tennies, and no makeup with my hair in a ponytail.) I only noticed the change in frequency when I cut my hair shorter than chin-length.

          3. Yeah, I’m growing my hair back out and yeah, harassment has picked up, unfortunately.

          4. My hair varied wildly in length when I was in high school and college, and the harassment didn’t stop, it just changed, from straight dudes who wanted to tell me that I should fuck them to straight dudes who wondered why I was such a man-hating dyke (and that fucking them might cure me). FUN!

        3. It dropped for me when I stopped colouring my hair; of course age-related invisibility is now an issue, but in some ways it’s preferable.

        4. I wonder if street harassment drop-off vs. street harassment change (in type, but not frequency) in response to haircuts has anything to do with how much the individual is perceived to adhere to beauty standards independent of that? Like, I’ve had my hair ranging from shaved to sloppy pixie and unshaved body hair for years, and I tend to get almost no attention one way or another from skeevy dudes, even though there have been a number of times where read-as-women folks walking near me have been targeted by faux-complimentary or openly vitriolic sexual harassment.

          The guess I’ve been sitting with is that, while I ~violate~ feminine presentation in some very noticeable ways, other factors (I’m thinking face and body shape) check Idealized Cute Chick boxes through no effort on my part, so I have the blessedly lucky option of occupying a neutral space where I’m neither womanish enough to warrant hitting on (for either a dude’s own entertainment or for scoring points with his bros) nor unwomanish enough (by the most narrow-ass standards of womanhood) to deserve punishment for failing to be adequate window dressing in a world centered around [Strange Dude].

          This speculation is just based on my extremely limited viewpoint, though, I haven’t found a chance to talk it over with anyone else.

      2. Now that I think about it, hair length has a link to unwanted hair touching as well. I tend to keep my hair long because it’s very naturally curly, think corkscrews, and if I cut it short, I look like Sideshow Bob’s love child. I’ve noticed that if I let if get past my mid-back, people are much more likely to touch it. When I kept it around shoulder length, no problems. but if it’s longer than that, people in elevators, the grocery check out line, the subway, the movies, will pull a curl, stretch it all the way out, usually while saying, “booooiiiing” or similar, and then let it spring back. If I wear it in a braid or ponytail, some people will yank it, sometimes really hard. These are not children, mind you. These are adults.

        First of all, assholes, I don’t know where your hands have been. Don’t touch me. Also, I don’t know you. Don’t touch me. Third, that hair is attached to my head. And it hurts when you yank on it.

        And they’re always ALWAYS shocked when I tell them very firmly, “DON’T. DO. THAT.” Shouldn’t I appreciate the fact that someone likes my hair? They don’t mean anything by it! Why would I have such long hair if I didn’t want people to touch it?

        No. You should probably learn some impulse control.

        I now wear my hair up in a bun or twist most of the time if I have to go somewhere I don’t know everybody. Because I like my hair this length, but I shouldn’t have to explain to grown adults why they should keep their hands to themselves.

        1. Same. When my hair was knee length and I kept it in one big braid most of the time, people would sneak up behind me, grab the end, and then “whip” my back with it as though I were the equine component of a pony-and-cart and my braid were the reins. Often saying “giddyup” or similar. My braid weighed a lot (thick hair), and being beaten about the back with it was painful! They acted SUPER petulant when I’d tell them to leave me the eff alone, too. Like, how dare I exist in the world thinking I have the right not to be manhandled!

          It was worse when I left it down, though. The nature of the touching went from “annoying and unpleasant” when my hair was braided to “let me show you on this doll how the bad man made me feel” when it was down.

          1. I am so sorry but I laughed (horrified) at the visual on the giddyup thing … people are completely clueless !
            They did totally deserve a loud neigh and a sharp backward kick on the shins…

          2. Yikes, that sounds horrible For the last 10 years or so my hair has also been knee-length and spending all it’s time in a big braid. I’ve missed this whipping/giddyup nonsense, but I’ve had a few incidents with people acting like my braid is some kind of bell-pull, which were not fun either. My sympathies.

            There was an incident that I really enjoyed in the breakroom at work recently, though. When I called the hair-puller out (we’ll call her “Hera”), she tried to claim it was all totally the fault of other-coworker “Athena”! Because Athena lets Hera play with Athena’s long dreads all the time, so now Hera is just in the habit! And then Athena walks in, and for some reason Hera decides to tell her the whole story and try to get backup on this Not Being A Big Deal. Athena joined me in giving Hera a deadpan stare, with bonus raised eyebrows. “I see. So, you think it’s my fault that you can’t keep your hands to yourself because I let you get away with it? Oooookay. That’s – interesting.” Hera kind of deflated and slunk away. She hasn’t messed with my hair since. I hope Athena is so lucky too.

        2. OMG YES! My child has hair past her butt. Long bright blonde hair usually worn in adorable and complicated braids. (I spend a lot of time brushing and braiding it so I’ve learned to do the fancy braids just to entertain myself.) People love to do that — touch her hair. They get shocked when I intercept their hands — “Please don’t touch her hair without asking her first.” Those who don’t whine at me usually ask ME for permission to touch her hair. And then are confused, so confused, when I redirect them to “ask HER, please.”

          This shouldn’t be this damned hard.

        3. Oh, man. My youngest daughter has long curly hair that people fawn over, too, but I’ve never seen someone try to touch it yet. She’s told me that kids touch her hair at school (which she hates, rightly so) but I expect that sort of thing from preschoolers. It never even occurred to me that adults might do it!

        4. I remember this. It was bad because my hair is also red (read different). It was mostly older women who would touch it, so I didn’t always yell at them. But I did hit a guy in a bar, when he touched my hair a second time, after the warning. “Don’t touch my hair,” means … don’t touch my hair.

      3. I got more when I had short hair.

        I get somewhat less in my Gray Fifties than my Henna Twenties, but something happens everyday

        Side note:

        At some point in my late teens or early twenties there was a fashion article about “the new short feminine hairstyles” and how hair would be short and feminine this year.

        My best friend and I had hair below our waists (I think hers was below her butt). And she turned to me and said “Great! We’re finally butch!”

        1. *tilts head*

          In some communities/cultures, long hair is actually a really butch/masculine thing. Dunno why that joke is supposed to work….

          1. Then I guess that story fell flat for you. Remembering the oh-so-conventionally-feminine looks that we had (my friend and I) I still smile at her comment.

    4. Yeah. it’s even weirder for female shaped people that aren’t necessarily interested in appearing feminine. If you generally have very short hair, any hint of a slightly longer or more feminine haircut brings weird praise from cis-gendered straight people and weird whining when you cut it off again. Wake up cis straight people, not everyone is trying to follow your gender and attractiveness standards.

      1. So true. I’ve been growing out my hair a bit for the first time in a while, and the only reason it’s been frustrating is suddenly all the cis men are suspiciously eager to be nice to me (which to me reads as “are aggressively gendering me”). Why, in this world of “man buns,” can I not have a nonbinary bun???

      2. OMG YES. Not necessarily about hair but omg yes. I wear pretty andro stuff to work and anytime I wear something the least bit feminine people fall all over themselves to point it out to me. One time I wore the exact same kind of thing that I always wear, except this time I wore sandals with heels, and one guy literally told me, in all seriousness, that he didn’t recognize me.

        Also I really wish people would stop assuming that because I wear andro stuff it automatically means that i am OPPOSED FOREVER to wearing “feminine stuff.” Stop asking me if I own skirts people JEEZ.

      3. This is my problem, too–compounded by the fact that I live with my mother and am dependent on her until I graduate university. I’ve taken to growing it out (it’s chin-length now) rather than getting the buzz cut I really wanted, and every time it gets another half inch longer she starts in with the compliments again. So creepy and overriding.

      4. This happens to me all the time, too. Also a really high number of people have felt the need to inform me that “guys prefer girls with long hair.” That’s nice? I don’t care?

        1. I used to “threaten” to cut my long hair off to see how boys in my life would react. It was informative. Still haven’t actually gotten that pixie cut, unfortunately (for my own reasons), but I know that when I do, it won’t inspire threatened masculinity and rage.

          1. That is brilliant. I cut my hair to my chin a few years ago, and my boyfriend (who had been skeptical and protested when I told him) fell over himself telling me how cute I looked. I was pleased he liked it and kept it that way for a while, but then I just stopped getting it cut and now it’s just below my breasts. Every few weeks he’ll run his fingers all the way through it and say something to the effect of “I just love your hair long…” in the happiest voice. I think he would be sad for about two days if I chopped it again, but then he’d be right back to telling me how cute I look.

            We’ve also had friendly disagreements over the coloring. He liked me blonde, but my hair stopped being that blonde color when I started dyeing it (bottle brown, then red, then henna ginger for the last few years). Now he notices every time I get the henna retouched and comments how nice it looks. I’ve always been partial to the brights — pink, blue, hot red — though he doesn’t like them. I told him a few days ago that there’s a good probability I’ll experiment with dyeing the ends purple after my next henna touch-up, and he was surprisingly supportive. I think I got a good one.

    5. Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhh, I hate that shit.

      My hair is very short already, but sometimes I’ll get an undercut and the top will often get shaggy and end up in my face when it starts to grow out too much. Whenever I express a wish to cut it on social media, there’s always gotta be one or two dudes who will come in like “noooooo don’t cut it I like your hair loooooooong.”

      There’s also a dude who I can’t complain about my glasses with, because he’ll be all “well, you should just get contacts then!” and when I tell him that I will be doing no such thing (because, while glasses can get annoying, they still look good on me and are a pretty important part of my identity), he gets huffy.

      It’s just…whenever dudes like these make “suggestions” about my appearance, they’re not really suggestions, they’re edicts.

  16. Ah yes. Bad teeth. I have snaggle teeth, and I promise you, I know. It’s not like I don’t look in the mirror every morning and haven’t looked in the mirror every morning of my life. (And I could rant here for a few paragraphs about how tooth condition is a class marker in the US, but that’s an argument for a different day.)

    Anyway, my freshman year of college, I started dating a dude. We had an incredible meet-cute and hit it off right away, whirlwind romance, everything like something from a Meg Ryan movie or a pop song, you name it. We also did a lot of the thing where you sit and reminisce about the adorable way you met as a way of keeping the feelings fresh. And then one day, a few months into the relationship, dude decided to “break it to me” that I had bad teeth, and that because of them, he almost hadn’t approached me at all.

    Screeching record needle noise!

    OK, first of all, I knew I had them; by this point I’d been self-conscious about them for, oh, 6 years or so already, since puberty. I knew. I’d just foolishly thought I’d met a guy who didn’t mind. But no–I’d met an ass. (He may well have matured beyond asshood by now. It’s been almost twenty years, who knows.) He not only soured the relationship as it was that day, he retroactively soured the entire memory of our meeting, which to this day I can’t think about without remembering “Oh, but it almost didn’t happen because of my stupid teeth.” I’m not still upset–because twenty years–but what should have been a cute memory of first love can never be one again.

    Fortunately, a lot of people stop being so all-fired shallow as they grow older, and I’ve had my share of romances since then, some with people who thought the teeth were cute, some with people who didn’t care either way, some with people who, I suspect, didn’t adore them but were kind enough to never tell me so.

    So, to sum up: She or he knows. Decide–in the privacy of your own head–whether this is a dealbreaker. If it is, don’t date them. If it’s not, date them, and don’t tell them. They know.

    1. Yeah. That’s right up there with thin people who think they need to tell a fat person that they are fat. Seriously? Do you think I don’t own a mirror or have never walked past a reflective surface? Did you think my clothes magically appeared in my closet and that I didn’t know what size they are?

      1. Hey, there’s one bonus of having gotten fat–nobody bugs me about my teeth anymore. LOL. But they’ve both been handy asshole filters at times.

    2. Snaggle toothers unite!

      “Lucky” for me, I’m also fat, so the jerks tend to comment on that while ignoring my teeth. Which are also yellower than the norm, hurray.

    3. Several years ago, my bff and I were at the beach and there were a group of younger, very broish bros occupying the next log over. A late-arriving bro brought his very attractive Eastern European girlfriend, and the group seemed to be having a good time together…until she went off to the ladies’, and she was barely out of earshot before the other bros began twitting their bro about his girlfriend’s teeth. “Bro, if you’re gonna get serious about her, you gotta buy her a new grill,” says one. The others chimed in. The bro started gritting his teeth a little, and then excused himself to go meet his girlfriend at the washrooms and buy her an ice-cream.

      She had small, crowded teeth, not unattractively so as I recall–North America prizes that big wide shallow half-moon arch shape with a very specific size and shape of teeth, certain proportions between incisors, canines, and molars, etc, but that preference is by no means universal. The only people I know with that perfect wide shallow arch all had surgery to get it, incidentally. And there are cultures that find crowded teeth a sign of beauty. Anyway, that bro–who was by far the hottest of his friends, most of whom had a summer six-pack going for them and nothing else–seemed super happy with his girlfriend.

      But yeah, definitely–especially in North America, if you have bad teeth you are aware of it. Nobody needs to tell you. I got mine fixed a few years ago, braces etc, did not opt for surgery because seriously now, and I think one of the most depressing things anyone said when I got my braces on was an old friend who said, not unkindly “Oh good; I think you will find that your career advances significantly.” The worst part is I wish that was a ridiculous thing to say.

      1. I mean, and that’s if your teeth are relatively *healthy*, just misaligned. My mom has bad enamel, and she’s spent in the neighborhood of $30,000 to keep some of her teeth. Anyone with less financial stability/liquidity would probably have just had to get dentures.

        1. Yeah. I mean, mine were pretty badly misaligned, to the point that now that they’re aligned, I’m not sure how I ate all those years. I spent a lot of money on braces as a result, and had to go to an expensive ortho because he’s the only one who would touch me without jaw surgery, which I didn’t want, but fortunately my teeth are healthy and my enamel is pretty good (looking at getting some fill or overlay work done on a few molars in the next few years, due to brushing misaligned teeth I wore the enamel on some of them a bit more than is awesome).

          I sympathize a lot with the “straight teeth are a class marker, and it’s oppressive and a beauty standard” etc, but on the other hand, getting my teeth fixed completely changed my quality of life, and when my ortho examined me the very first time he said “you are catching this just in time–a few more years and your teeth would be so badly worn from your uneven bite that there would be no way to correct the wear, and you would have no hope of keeping them all long-term”. Not that I was going to lose my teeth in the next year, but that over time, a bad bite actually affects your teeth, your jaw, and your overall health, in addition to your self-esteem.

          They can do some good things with dentures these days, but your natural teeth are always best if you can keep them.

          1. I think the thing that is an absurd class marker is the *whiteness* of your teeth. You can have perfectly healthy and aligned teeh that are kind of gray/yellow. To my knowledge, bleaching actually harms your enamel, but cultural enforcers like women’s magazines tend to assume that it is a Required Activity.

            (Not sure what life would have been like with my misaligned bite, since it was mostly an overbite, but for purely cosmetic reasons I am thankful that my front teeth no longer stick out from my face at 45 degree angle. :P)

          2. Argh, that kind of digressed toward Albuquerque. But, really: I do think that even though there are *huge* health impacts of dental health and tooth alignment, there’s a lot of pressure to do the thing that looks best rather than the thing that would have the best health outcome, or the thing that has a similar health outcome but a lower price tag, etc. The example I can think of is that one of my front teeth is fake (middle school accident.) I got a nice long-term cap on it, but my dentist insisted that I get my cap changed because the tooth stump had darkened a bit underneath it. It was a little noticeable, but not *that* noticeable. It seemed like kind of a waste of money and time to me. (I did it mostly because my parents agreed to pay for it. :P)

          3. I bleached post-braces, and do some maintenance bleaching periodically, and I admit that it’s all vanity, but I like vanity and it works for me. 🙂 I went with the option that my dentist recommended though, and didn’t do OTC stuff. I also suffered for it–turns out I have a bad reaction to the runoff from the bleaching stuff. They want you to use it overnight, but I can manage maybe 1.5-2hrs at a time, and I have to be awake for it because if I swallow any of it at all it makes me super woozy. The first time when I slept in it, when I woke up and went to take out the trays/rinse I actually passed out and smashed my face on the hardwood floor and had to go to the dentist, the ER, and my regular doc and get a bunch of tests because no one wanted to believe it was the bleaching stuff!

            I also have ended up keeping a tiny gap around my right lateral incisor on the top (which is a smaller tooth than its counterpart on the left), because the ortho’s idea was for me to cap or veneer or get a composite buildup on it so it matches, but honestly I kind of like the unevenness of it. I think it keeps a little character in my smile.

          4. Vanity is a perfectly good reason to make decisions about one’s appearance! And I adhere to other beauty standards primarily for vanity (WHAT UP HAIR REMOVAL.)

            But as far as teeth go, I was super relieved to realize that I myself don’t care if other people don’t have yellowish or gray or crooked teeth (mostly because I don’t want to give up things that stain my teeth, don’t want to get my lower teeth straightened again, and am generally not able to muster the extra executive function to do even one course of bleaching, let alone the repeated courses which would be needed to mitigate the coffeeeeeeee.)

          5. Hi lovely people! I think Continued Discussions of The Exact Details of Teeth Bleaching, etc. are a thing that can go to the forums, maybe?

          6. I had a dental hygienist (for a dentist that I fired not long after this for reasons in addition to but not excluding the attitude of gross and unwarranted ownership every member of her office took toward MY mouth) tell me one time “you should only drink maybe ONE cup of coffee per day, a small one, if you really MUST”, and I said “I’m sure there’s a universe where some version of me only drinks one cup of coffee a day, but it’s not this one. You can just deal.”

    4. Sorry you had such an awful first love tarnishing like that. The only adult who ever mentioned my unattractive grill to my face turned out to be an abusive asshat to a friend of mine, and I was so glad when she divorced him.

      I’m right there with you with that class marker rant. I had this realization in Peace Corps, when a bunch of us volunteers got together for a Thanksgiving celebration. Or Christmas? I don’t remember which, but I had so much culture shock from my fellow volunteers more than from the people of our host country, really. In this instance, after a holiday meal together, we were chatting and conversation turned to reminiscences about teenage orthodontic work. That I had no experience with because welfare doesn’t cover such “cosmetic” procedures, though I’ve had lifelong minor issues due to the overbite and the teeth way too crowded and TMJ and so on.

      Now I’m middle-aged and now effectively middle class with a white collar job, and I suppose I could afford to get such dental work done. But why bother? It’s part of who I am now. I am glad to have a new dentist though, who doesn’t bring up bleaching or other procedures every time I show up for a cleaning. The teeth, they don’t look so beautiful, but no cavities ever in my life.

  17. So I’m from (and in) India, and people here usually say ‘cousin brother’ or ‘cousin sister’ when they mean ‘cousin’. Because in Indian languages, they are referred to as brothers or sisters. Maybe that’s what’s going on here?

  18. Re: #13: In some cultures (the ones I’m aware of are South Asian), there is a sort of conflation in naming of siblings and cousins, and it’s relatively common to call your parent’s sibling’s daughter your sister and your parent’s sibling’s son your brother. Where those cultures overlap with U.S. / European cultures that do make that distinction, it’s not uncommon to refer to a female cousin as “cousin-sister” and a male one as “cousin-brother.”

  19. On the hair thing, and preferences about your partner/spouse’s looks:

    I have had several boyfriends try to assert ownership over my hair length. It always made me want to cut my hair more.

    With my husband and I, I know he likes my hair long, but he would never dream of telling me not to cut it. Likewise, I prefer he keeps his facial hair, but I tell him all the time that if he really wanted to shave, he should, and I would get used to it. Also, I will never force my children into haircuts they don’t want (the way my own mother often would.) If they’re old enough to have an opinion about their hair length, I let them share it with the stylist when they are in the salon chair, and then nod serenely when the stylist inevitably looks at me to see whether I’m going to approve.

    1. That’s also how my husband and I have handled all hair-related discussions. We don’t plan on having kids, but your plans for yours seem totally reasonable and loving.

    2. How about “old enough to care for the hair themselves”? If you’re still responsible for washing, brushing, braiding, twisting, or otherwise looking after long hair, I don’t think it’s totally unfair for you to have a say in how long.

      1. That sounds reasonable as well. My daughters (so far) like to keep their hair long and just down. Every once in a while they ask for a ponytail or pigtails, but nothing complicated. And they handle the brushing themselves. Whenever they complain about brushing, I always remind them that they could cut their hair shorter – and then they stop complaining and just brush their hair. LOL

        1. Man, hair-brushing used to be such a battle with my mum. I wanted long hair from about five or six, but it wasn’t until about nine or ten that I was responsible enough to actually enjoy brushing it, and it’s very thick and just curly enough to get in awful knots if it’s not brushed properly. “If you don’t let me brush or brush it yourself, you have to have it cut” was a near-constant refrain for about three years. I’ve now got an eight-month-old daughter and am wondering what her hair will be like!

          1. My spouse and I have a baby a little younger than yours, and I wonder what her hair will be like, too!

            Right now we’ve agreed that we won’t cut her hair at all until she’s old enough to ask for it. But then, we both have super-long hair that we never cut. My wife fought for long hair as soon as she was old enough to communicate. Meanwhile, I put up with pageboy cuts through my early years, but sobbed my eyes out every time I needed a trim, because for some reason haircuts always stir up a big nest of weird emotions for me.

            Which I imagine means that our kiddo will decide she wants a crew cut as soon as she can talk and wonder why we ever made her deal with hair-brushing, but that’ll be cool too. In the meantime, we sort of figure that haircuts are a form of body modification, and it’s not really our job to make that choice for her. We will have to figure out some strategy to keep it out of her eyes soon, though, since it will be a while yet before she has enough to really pull back and there are a few wisps getting pretty far down her brow now. I suppose we might end up trimming a wisp or two for a little while, since “not in my eyes” is an opinion that she’ll probably be able to express without learning to talk first.

          2. Adding to my previous comment: Realized my comment could come off as judgier than I meant, as I forgot to make clear that I think it’s fine for other parents to cut their little kids’ hair if that’s what works for their family. Just not our thing right now. (And even that could potentially change if hairbrushing turns out to be a huge and avoidable family battleground sometime in the future.)

      2. Yeah. This was an issue when I was about 6. I have obstinately straight (won’t take a permanent wave) hair that is very fine. When I was little enough to require help with my hair, my mom kept it long and generally put it into a ponytail, because that was the easiest for her to do.

        I went to visit my dad when I was about 6, and my dad and stepmom didn’t couldn’t be arsed to help me with my hair, so I looked messier than they thought I should. Their solution was convincing me that I wanted a Dorothy Hamil haircut and getting it done.

        My mom was LIVID. That haircut is only “easy care” if you have some natural wave in your hair. With hair like mine, you have to use a curling iron or hot rollers over your entire head to make it look halfway decent. So, without asking her, my dad and stepmom set my mom up to have an extra 30-40 minutes or so of work every weekday morning until it grew out.

        1. Oh, the Dorothy Hamill cut. I was a little girl living in Texas when that was the thing, and gladly traded my long braids for that cut. And that was how I learned that I was apparently the spitting image of country star Glen Campbell.

  20. On the cousin thing, I have several cousins who are not remotely related to me. My “aunt” is my mom’s best friend from like, high school. They’re family through love. I didn’t even know that until I was late teens, and it made me feel better because there was a lot of talk about me dating my cousin that creeped me out when I was old enough to know the words incest and inbreeding.


      1. Re-reading old novels is a bit of a strain now when the hero and heroine finally get together and it’s all lovely and funny and happy AND THEY ARE FIRST COUSINS. (Georgette Heyer I’m looking at you.) It’s still legal in the UK but very unusual except among certain immigrant communities. My American friends just screw their faces up when informed of this fact and I don’t blame them.

        FUN FACT: Charles Darwin married his first cousin. He later blamed this (and himself) for his daughter’s health problems and early death. So not a fun fact at all 😦

        1. Oh my god, your first point reminds me of when my English teacher showed us the movie Frankenstein, which has Dr Frankenstein and his love interest about to do it, and she’s his adopted sister who he grew up with since childhood. She says something like ‘now we can forget we were ever siblings forever!’ I think it’s supposed to be sexy in the scene but my teacher was like ‘ewwwwww that’s not the right time to remind him of that!’ I don’t remember if they officially get together in the book but I’m sure no line like that was ever said. It’s super uncomfortable.

        2. Or “Mansfield Park,” where the cousins falling in love at the end is all the more jarring when you recall that in the beginning, the family rationalized taking Fanny as a ward in part because if she grew up in the same house as her cousins, they would be MORE LIKE BROTHERS (and therefore no danger of one of them wanting to marry their penniless relative). Yep.

        3. Even (less) funner fact: Darwins and Wedgewoods had a tradition of intermarrying over several generations, and Darwin wavered between a couple of cousins before opting for Emma! I agree that in the UK it’s perceived as a little icky (and I say that as someone with posh cousins who are like my brothers, and their friends DO marry cousins) but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they become ‘social pariahs’, as an earlier commenter did. It’s been in the news lately because in certain communities made up of people who are strongly consanguine, the health effects are starting to become really visible – but there’s also a lot of right-wing media crap attached to that. I think it’s less about degree of blood than about your relationship, and the trade-off between potentially upsetting a lot of family members vs having a potentially great relationship.

  21. #7 – the solution to the silent treatment is to ignore it. People who pull that crap want you to chase them and beg for forgiveness and approval. Sadly, if you do just ignore it, they will very probably drop the silent treatment and move on to the next step in the Being a Controlling Asshat Handbook, although at least you will have had a few days of peace and quiet in the meantime. And if you’re not actually a minor, or dependent on your mother for housing/money etc, remember that ignoring her bullshit can, in fact, be extended indefinitely.

      1. A boy once emailed and tried to blackmail me into proving my value as his friend, because he felt like I “wasn’t managing my personal life properly” (aka I told him off for being mean to his mentees, behaving badly in public while repping the school, and stalking my friend/his ex gf). The punishment threatened? Him not being my friend anymore. The reward offered? Presumably years of his crap behaviour under the guise of friendship.

        They just don’t teach proper blackmail like they used to these days. You’re supposed to threaten something the person DOESN’T want!

        1. Reminds me of the guy who threatened women with not finding them attractive anymore should they choose to become feminists. Really, blackmail is not what it used to be.

    1. I’ve been disowned by my mother two or three times. Each time she seemed floored by the fact that I didn’t care, and in fact welcomed the peace and quiet. It never lasted very long, though. A few months at the outside and she’d be calling again.

      1. Man. I wish my mother would disown me or give me the silent treatment. She’s an intrusive, controlling narcissist and I would be thrilled to have some space and be left the hell alone. Sounds like bliss.

        1. I just noticed I used the word “man” as an interjection. I should probably look for alternatives, given that it is so very unnecessarily gendered. (I also use “dude” like it is going out of style and about to get pulled from the market.) I suspect sound like, I don’t know, maybe like I am old enough to have attended Woodstock in a tie-dyed antique tablecloth but while not actually remembering being there. I need better verbal tics.

          1. I find that I’m only moved to say, “dude” as an interjection when someone is behaving badly–usually in the manner of an entitled dudebro, though sometimes in the manner of a racist asshat. It’s a gendered comment, but it feels appropriate to the situations in which I fond myself saying it. (Typically, “Dude, what’s your problem?” or, “Not cool, dude.”)

          2. There seems to be an argument to be made for “dude” having achieved gender-neutral status. I’m sure I could cobble some research together and throw the weight of my M.S. in linguistics behind it as justification for your as well as my continued use of that interjection. 😉

    2. I have come to deeply enjoy my mother silent treatments. That said, I am safe, far away, and an adult. I did not enjoy them when I was a dependent child and I do hope that if #7 is a minor or in any way dependent upon said mom, they has a great support network.

    3. I was the daughter and later the girlfriend of people who just didn’t seem to understand that there was this concept called peace and quiet and that some people (yours truly) might want to indulge in it, even in the company of others. So when I managed to piss one of them off in ways completely beyond my ability to predict or comprehend, I learned to relish the peace and quiet. Of course, I had options–when I lived with my mother, I always had the security of knowing that if things got REALLY bad, I could go move in with my dad, and with my ex, I was the one paying rent, so I did have more control over the long-term outcome than #7 might possess.

  22. I suppose there could be some person somewhere who says “I’m cutting off all ties” meaning something else: “I am in the closet with scissors and about to apply them to my/your neckties!” In that case, my response would depend on whose ties were being cut: if it was the speaker’s own, I’d be interested in what art project she was doing; if it was mine, I’d be rather upset and ask for an apology and probably new ties. And if she refused to apologize for cutting all my ties, I’d probably cut off all ties with her in a very different sense.

    So, one way or another, unless it’s her own neckties, “I’m cutting off all ties” probably means you and she are done.

    1. There’s a local cowboy-themed restaurant that will cut off your necktie if you come in wearing one….

      1. I hope they warn you first and give you a chance to take it off and stuff it in a pocket!

      1. YES.

        …now I want to read an Amelia Bedelia break up story. “I read you cut off all ties after a break-up. Can you bring me some scissors?”

  23. No 13 on cleaning up urine. This is not a direct parallel but yesterday I came out of my mom’s apartment building to find a man happily peeing (hopefully next to and not on) my car. It was not a little tinkle but a giant stream that he eventually shook off (mostly on himself). I looked at him and said something along the lines of, ‘That is my car and that is a really gross thing to do. Can you not do that again?’ He said something about it being OK because he is Irish and then told me I should think about losing some weight. Now I know that the level of self-awareness in 50-something, non-homeless white dudes who pee on the street is probably not high, but I was still amazed that he found it in himself to immediately turn things back on me, as though it was I who was being offensive by being plus-sized. Incidentally, this man was also not a slim person.

    I know this is a bit of a non-sequitur but I am still feeling weirded and grossed out and wanted to share with some reasonable folks.

      1. I feel there is an incredible, best-selling coffee table book in your future. All we need is a great photographer or someone who can draw comics.

    1. As a reasonably reasonable ladyperson, I am also weirded and grossed out and offer Jedi car washes because eww.

  24. “The world is my bathroom, but I’m not completely happy with how it’s decorated.”

  25. I’ve been in the position for #3 before. I went ahead and changed my hair anyway and aside from some petulant whining which tapered off quickly, everything was fine. I mean if someone is Googling it there could be serious danger, but there’s also “he won’t let me because he’s going to act like a big baby about it and I just don’t want to deal with passive aggressive bullshit for weeks.” In which case you tell him to put his big boy pants on because you’ll do whatever you damn well please with your own hair. (Also I’d make him sleep on the lumpy couch until he got it through his thick skull that he doesn’t own your body, but that’s just me.)

    I worry for #2 though, I know they were lumped together under “he won’t let me” but it seems a great deal more serious. As they say around here, the house is full of evil bees #2, get out before it’s too late. This is a person who thinks they not only own your body, but your entire sexuality. It only gets worse from there. The world is full of potential partners who respect your sexuality, and until you find one, the world is full of toys that produce enjoyable buzzing sensations for your giggle bits.

  26. The great joy in these brief, not elaborated on questions is that they can be interpreted almost any way we like. When I saw the urine question, I pictured families with little kids, toddlers to maybe 5-6 years old, visiting relatives or close friends. Kids make messes, and the host family generally cleans up the spilled oatmeal and plastic cups after the visitors have left. I can imagine real confusion over who’s expected to clean up what– especially when the kids are old enough to be considered toilet trained but not yet old enough to have good aim and good hygiene habits in the bathroom. That, while still awkward, is a good deal more benign that imagining adults, perhaps embarrassed elderly adults(?), spreading urine around.

        1. In the Netherlands they paint little “flies” in the bottom of the public toilets/urinals so the guys have something to aim at. (This after having to clean up the aftermath of people peeing after real flies.) It worked, too.

      1. I still remember the time I was 8.5 months pregnant and someone was hogging the single-person woman bathroom so I decided to use the single-person man bathroom. It was early in the day and it looked clean.

        I sat down and noticed that the wall across from me, at seated eye/standing penis level, was…covered in old dried urine, soaked uncleanably into the textured wallpaper. Like some be-penised folks were clearly peeing on the wall 180 degrees from the toilet, instead of into the toilet, for…reasons completely incomprehensible to me.

        I mentioned it to Mr Hypotenuse when I came out, horrified. “Some guys do that,” he said. “I don’t know why. It’s completely fucking gross.”

    1. Heck, let me tell you about what the women’s washroom looks like sometimes in the university building I work in. Supposedly it’s due to people doing the “hover pee” so that their buttocks don’t touch the (sanitized daily) seat. Now no one can sit there! (thumbs up)

      1. Oh, gawd. The women’s bathroom nearest my office is frequently used by women who hover. And the toilets are self-flushing, so the have less reason to look at the toilet after they are done. It’s awful.

  27. See, when I have dreams about people, it’s always stuff like “so-and-so was piloting a fighter jet to kill the invading pteronadons” or whatever. But then, it’s on me to say that part up front so I don’t make things awkward.

    Bad: Last night I dreamt of you.

    Good: I had the craziest dream last night! You were a fighter pilot, and…

    1. I had this friend in college who was a Dream Person. Everyone who knew him, regardless of gender, had dreams about him. All sorts of dreams. We’d meet up for lunch and someone would say “Sooo, I had a dream about…” and we’d all chime in “Jeff!” He was the generic stand-in person for so so many of us. Dream Jeff did a lot of really cool things.

    2. Real conversation which took place once upon a time.

      Male colleage: “I dreamt of you last night.”
      Me (not thinking twice): “I honestly hope it wasn’t sexual.”
      Male colleage: “No, you were a serial killer and I was trying to convince you to stop because I didn’t want you to get caught by the police.”
      Me: “Did I get caught?”
      Male colleage: “Nope!”
      Me: “I love your subconscious!”

  28. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with a not good version of No.3?
    (I’ve been inspired to get a pixie crop by this thread no less. Last time I had a short haircut, my narcissistic personality disordered mother remarked, “Mummy likes girls with long hair”. I was 28, not that an actual child shouldn’t get some say in their hairstyle).
    I’m thinking, “That’s interesting,” + SUBJECT CHANGE

    1. The only thing I could add to your excellent “That’s interesting” plan is that the SUBJECT CHANGE might be to something you like and that’s similarly irrelevant as your mother’s opinions on hair. So the subject change might be “I like big dogs” or “I like farm fresh strawberries.” Bonus if you can think of something bland that you both agree on. Much better than the “Face it, your opinion means nothing to me” that I blurted out once. It felt good to say it, but over the long run, it led in directions I actually wish I hadn’t gone.

    2. Excellent, but you could drop the “that’s interesting,” if you like. After all, her comment is a total non sequitor (I assume you are not going to ask your mom’s opinion…). It doesn’t need a response at all.

    3. My mom does a similar-ish thing (telling me a story about a lady who got divorced because she had a pixie cut for years and years and her husband eventually left her for a lady with long hair right after I get back from the salon where I just got the best pixie cut of all time), and I usually respond with “And?” As in “and you’re telling me this because….?” She’ll usually say something like “I just thought of it blah blah blah” and then I get to say “okay, so anyway, how about that something-else over there?” You could also skip right to “okay, so about those strawberries…”

      (Also, if my mom has interrupted a conversation we were having about an actual thing with an unrelated passive-aggressive story designed to tweak me, I’ve had luck with, “okay, but we were talking about X, can we go back to that?”)

      If she won’t take the hint or follow the subject change, you can go nuclear (I had to with weight talk, all weight talk is now banned with my mom), and it may be a little uncomfortable at first, but might get you out of hair talk completely in the long run. When I did the whole “mom, we can’t talk about weight at all anymore thing,” she got petulant about it at first, but ultimately she wanted an audience (me) more than she wanted to talk about any one specific characteristic of said audience, so she got with the program and I don’t have to hear back-handed stories about other people’s weight-related foibles anymore.

      Also, as a member of Team Short Hair 4Eva, please allow me to say Join us! Join us! 🙂

      1. She did respond well to boundary setting when I refused to take the bait of comments about how I raise my kids. As above I didn’t answer anything that wasn’t a question, or say anything at all on the topic she’d raised, and she got the message.
        I wonder where your salon for the best pixie cut ever is? Nowhere near me probably. I have booked an appointment for tomorrow afternoon!

    4. I usually go with “Hm. How about that local sports team?” I can usually count on there being someone else around who will jump in with “I think they’re going to go all the way this year!” though, so it might work less well without such backup.

  29. I like it. You could go with a more direct, “I like my haircut and I get to decide how my hair looks” but that’s only if you have the spoons for the argument that may result from that.

    1. I’m all for being direct in a functional relationship, but here, being direct wouldn’t match the indirect attack: cf. No. 11, there are the good people who will see they were wrong and apologize. I have no good experiences of any attempt to be reasonable or even essentially play fair with the other sort! My mother would say incredulously: “Of course you get to decide” and then say loftily “Of course Alicia gets to decide xyz” at intervals forever afterwards.

      1. Ugh – I feel ya. This is also my mom. I am still working on how to communicate with her in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling either infuriated or exhausted so I have no words of advice, just some internet stranger solidarity.

        I will say for me, I absolutely NEVER use “I” statements as that will illicit the “oh well of course, because it’s always all about Tiger!” Why yes actually, my hair choices *are* all about me. Thanks! And what is it with this “of course” nonsense???

  30. I’m confused – you appear to be all in favour of “cutting someone off” if you dislike their company (I agree!) but say that “the silent treatment” is abusive… Yeah, your own mother cutting you off is kinda shitty, but I guess she would have her reasons for that, and you just get to live with the fact that she ain’t in your life any more. Just like your shitty ex has to deal with the fact that you aren’t in their life any more.

    In what circumstances is my choice to stop returning X’s attempts at contact good and in what circs bad? Or does “the silent treatment” here mean something other than “not responding to attempts at communication”.

    1. The way I read this one (obviously tinted by experiences from my own past) was that the person searching for this was a minor and still living with their family of origin. So where cutting someone off would involve ceasing all contact, the silent treatment in that context would involve conspicuously ignoring someone while sharing living space with them. Which is a pretty hurtful thing to do, especially to one’s offspring.
      And generally, people don’t completely cut off close relatives without a pretty good reason; it’s usually a good deal worse than not enjoying their company.

    2. My experience with people using the silent treatment is that they’re not actually wanting you out of their lives; they are trying to manipulate you into doing something on their terms, and hoping that you respond to their threats of holding the relationship hostage by capitulating to whatever they want. (For example, I have a friend who’s mother just used the silent treatment to convince Friend to go on a family vacation that she did not want to go on. Her mother’s goal was not to actually cut off contact; her mother’s goal was to scare Friend into going on this family vacation.)

      On the other hand, when you cut someone off, you aren’t trying to manipulate them into doing anything. You just want them to not contact you, so you are not initiating contact, or responding to contact.

    3. Yes, ‘the silent treatment’ has a specific meaning – it’s a manipulation tactic designed to punish and control the person it’s practiced against, and it’s a pretty common one for (certain types of) emotional abusers. It’s usually done in person, and often accompanied by various other kinds of passive aggressive behaviour – glaring, eyerolling, non-verbal sounds of anger/disgust/contempt, elaborate attempts to draw attention to the fact you’re not speaking to the person – and as such is more a performance of ignoring a person which is directed *at them*, rather than a genuine attempt to not interact with them. The big difference is in intent. If I cut X off, what I want is to not interact with X anymore. If I give X the silent treatment, what I want is to punish X, make them feel bad, and (usually) manipulate them into doing something they don’t want to do in the hopes that I will stop the treatment. Also, it’s absolutely a thing that abusive parents use as a form of discipline and can be tremendously damaging in that context, so if the LW is a minor or had this tactic used against them when they were there’s a whole extra layer of Bad there.

      1. My emotionally abusive ex, during the last time she lived with me, communicated with me entirely by notes left when I was out. Now she’s living with her mother and stepfather, and doesn’t even acknowledge his existence.

        1. My dad did the note thing to me as a kid, which can be another important distinguishing factor between “silent treatment” and “cutting ties:” Power differentials. Often, the difference is whether or not the person actually CAN leave.

    4. The way I understand the difference is that ‘cutting someone off’ means ending the relationship, while ‘giving someone the silent treatment’ is a short term tactic to change someone’s behaviour. “Giving someone the silent treatment” implies that you have no real intention of ending the relationship, but are using social distance as a deliberate attempt to punish or manipulate someone into doing something you want.

      I guess the point is to say what you mean and mean what you say. So if you truely want to end a relationship, that’s fine, but then really do end it and don’t be surprised if the person accepts that you mean it and also stops contacting you (in fact don’t cut off ties unless that’s really what you are choosing).

      I agree that there are situations where two people can misunderstand each other about which is happening, though…

      1. > I agree that there are situations where two people can misunderstand each other about which is happening, though…

        Luckily, the correct response to being cut off or to getting the silent treatment is exactly the same (between adults), so that problem kind of solves itself.

    5. It’s the difference between walking away and staying in the same space and refusing to interact. If I cut someone off, I wouldn’t be having dinner with them. If someone gave you the silent treatment, they would still show up for dinner/expect you to show up, and ostentatiously not talk to you, even in response to direct questions or requests like “Please pass the salt.” If there were other people there, they’d talk to the other people–and would ask someone else to pass the salt, even if it would be easier for you to reach. Or if the household was just the two of you, they’d sit there with their phone or a book or newspaper, and again ignore things like “please pass the salt” and ordinary remarks like “I really like this meatloaf?” or “how was your day?”

      1. Exactly. An important characteristic is being ostentatiously friendly towards absolutely everyone else.

    6. In my definition, it’s the actions accompanying the lack of verbal communication that make the difference. “The silent treatment” usually connotes (at least in my experience) people who are living together or are otherwise seeing each other, by choice or by circumstance, on a regular basis, and one is (again, this is very, very anecdotal and based almost entirely on the experiences and those of my friends) so peeved at something the other has done that they respond by effectively ignoring them for a given period of time without making any attempts to actually avoid the peever’s presence. It’s also been my experience that the peeved is cold-shouldering the peever in a none-too-subtle way that deliberately conveys the peeved’s irritation without doing anything to explain what the peever did to cause such irritation, which is different from cutting off in that the cutter-off makes every attempt to make a clean break so as not to aggravate either themselves or the cut-off by intruding on each other’s lives any further.

      1. Just chiming in to express all my love for the word “peever,” which is now officially part of my vocabulary.

        Carry on.

    7. These are all great explanations. It’s all about intentions. Ignoring someone because it makes you feel powerful when they eventually give you what you want (other than returned silence) = abusive. Ignoring someone because you want them out of your life = not abusive.

      If you are on the receiving end, it’s almost impossible to figure out other people’s intentions. For me I can tell the difference based on how I feel in regards to that person rather than trying to figure out what’s *actually* going on – because that’s super hard to do if you are not a bystander. The silent treatment feels confusing, infuriating, and crazy-making. Physically, when I am around dysfunction I feel “hot” as in my body actually feels hotter and more electric. Agitated is a good word. Whereas when I am rejected I feel the opposite: tired, sad, nostalgic. Even a little cold.

    8. Others have explained it well, but let me take a go:

      If you really don’t want someone in your life, that’s a choice you get to make, and after you’ve said “Sorry, I don’t think this is going to work out and I’d prefer not to be in contact,” being silent is not abusive or wrong – it’s you sticking to what you said you wanted. You don’t want the person to be thinking about you or how to get back in your good graces, you want it to be over.

      The silent treatment is different. If you’re giving the silent treatment, you want the other person to stick around in your life and feel bad about themselves and work to please you so that you’ll talk to them again. You want them to be thinking about you, wondering about how to please you, wondering what they did wrong. It’s an abusive power play, and in a parent-child relationship or other close, intimate relationship it is abusive behavior.

      Cutting contact ==> you want the other person gone.
      Silent treatment ==> you want the other person groveling to you.

  31. I think “the silent treatment” as the Captain refers to it means intentionally ignoring or shunning someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship. Usually it’s because you want to punish/intimidate/control them, but it can also be used to advertise contempt for someone, or to make a nonverbal statement about your feelings/boundaries rather than using your words. It’s basically a self-serving manipulation strategy that can really mess with people’s hearts and minds. Whereas cutting off contact means you’ve ended the relationship, which is a whole different thing.

  32. Re: the hair thing…

    One of the most spectacular moments of deeply surreal sexism was when I cut off my hair (like, cut it down to an inch) as a young teenager and dudes I didn’t even *know* felt the need to all tell me how little they liked it, how my long hair had been so pretty and blah blah blah. Literally, for like two weeks, every time I went to school I would get unsolicited comments about how random-ass guys liked my hair better when it was long. Girls would tell me my hair looked HORRIBLE, or make dramatically sad faces at me, or a whole host of other bizarre tactics to…make me go back in time and not cut off my hair??? I never *did* figure out what exactly they wanted.

  33. Random personal reactions to all the body hair and assorted personal appearance discussion:

    When I was in training for Peace Corps in the country next to where we would be placed, when a volunteer actively working in host country came to visit us, all of us female-identified types asked the burning question about to shave or not to shave–what do the women there do? They don’t shave he answered. Such relief. And then it turns out they don’t really have much body hair. Totally the wrong question.

    I myself go through phases of shaving or not shaving legs based entirely on my own preferences about my own texture when I run my hands down my legs. Been unshaved for a few years now, contemplating returning to smooth legs but can’t get over the lazy factor.

    I stopped shaving my armpits during chemo and never went back. Lymphedema means trying to avoid any sort of minor traumas such as nicks from razors from my hands to my upper torso.

    I experienced short hair for the first time in my life again during chemo. Up to that point I’d pretty much always kept it in a ponytail except when I sometimes put in the effort to braid. The first time it grew out it was great. It looked fantastic with no effort on my part. The second time it grew back, well, I am still trying to adjust to it 5 years on. No longer quite wavy/curly. No longer blond. The dandelion puff phase of growing out was pretty funny. I’m trying to figure out what works best for it, and what I might like, and what I can deal with in terms of hair routine after having avoided all of this learning process for decades.

    My partner’s been fantastic. While zie expressed that zie enjoyed my hair long, zie has supported me in every body appearance choice I’ve made. And zie absolutely refused to express an opinion about options and appearance after mastectomies.

    But yeah, the hair policing by strangers, coworkers, whoever, particularly men…disturbing and creepy. When I was a firefighter, the men would try to bond with me by pointing out how unattractive the dykes on the crew were with their short hair, amirite? And both men and women give me more compliments the longer the hair gets–the change in frequency is very noticeable. Only my friends compliment the short cuts.

    Don’t get me started about the long hair as the epitome of womanhood and female power. That was the one thing that really bugged me above all else about the Vorkosigan books–the Cetagandan hair fetish of the haut women. Plus, not all people have hair that grows indefinitely long. I spent many years without haircuts and never got it beyond midback.

  34. For the foot poster: I have that! It’s horrible and scary but in my case, a combination of neurologist and cardiologist were able to figure it out and *in my case* it wasn’t something to worry about, just live with. Find yourself a good doctor if you can!

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