It Came From The Search Terms: February Stars

It’s time to answer the questions people typed into their search engine as if they really asked them.

1. “How to make him want to start a family.”

There’s no making anybody want anything. Do you want to start a family? Then tell “him” what you want and ask him what he wants. “I know I want to have children, and I’m feeling ready to get started doing that. What do you think? What kind of timeline makes sense for us?”

If he wants to have children, too, you’ll find out and you can get started. If he doesn’t want children at all, or if his answer is a perpetual “someday,” well, you’ll know that too and can make some decisions about how to move forward. If this is the right person to start a family with, ask him. Speak your heart’s desire.

2. “How to be uninhibited during orgasm without disturbing the neighbours?”

If you live really close to other people you’re all gonna hear stuff sometimes. Earplugs, white noise machines, headphones, carpets, and heavy curtains are your friends. Part of living communally is learning to tune some things out and deal with a little background noise. Your neighbors will survive hearing you Do It every now and then as you survive the odd loud party or bit of toddler parkour. Still, to be maximally considerate:

  • Be generally aware of school nights/workweek nights and keep it quiet when you know it will likely keep someone awake or awaken them too early. (Try kissing when you feel a yell about to come out).
  • Use music or white noise machines. I knew my former upstairs neighbors were having sex the second Wicked Game came on (every time…every single time) but I appreciated the muffling attempt and the plausible deniability, and no doubt they appreciated the sonic smokescreen that let them have maximum fun!
  • Sound-proof your space. A rug on the floor. Heavy curtains over the windows and sometimes around the walls. Cover or block the nooks and crannies through which voices carry.
  • Done some soundproofing? Have a good time.

3. “Girl at work hardly ever speaks.”


4. “Not ready for a relationship right now after a bad break-up.”

It’s totally fine to need some time after a breakup to fall back in love with yourself and the world.

If someone is telling you this, believe them.

If someone is telling you this and sleeping with you/doing other relationshippy-sort-of-stuff with you thats full of mixed signals, also definitely believe them. If people really want to be in a relationship with you they are capable of making many, many adjustments in their lives to do so, and it’s okay to say, “I hear you, call me if that changes!” and walk away from their sexy-and-confused selves.

5. “My ex says she doesn’t want a relationship.”

Then you don’t have a relationship. It really is that simple.

6. “What does it mean when someone says they don’t have time for a relationship.”

It means they are choosing not to pursue a relationship (with you), very likely due to having too much other stuff going on. Always reframe statements like this as a choice. It will set you free.

7. “Should I tell my mom my dad hit me?”

Generally, yes, I think you should, but if what’s stopping you from telling her is an instinct that says “If I tell her I will be even less safe than I already am” then use your own judgment about that.

If your mom isn’t the right person to start with, please tell somebody. I don’t know how old you are, anonymous internet searcher, but a school counselor or other adult you trust can be a good place to start. Also, here’s the National Domestic Violence Hotline number in the USA if you need to talk to someone anonymously at first. If you’re not in the USA, get on a computer your folks don’t have access to or open an incognito browser window and search for “domestic violence hotline” and your location.

8. “When a guy asks if you’re mad at him.”

Are you mad at him?

Were you even paying enough attention to be mad at him?

If you aren’t mad, and you weren’t really even paying attention, try “No, should I be?” if he asks you about it again?

9. “How best to deal with someone you care about but they are mean to you?”

Tell them to knock off the mean behavior, and avoid them until/unless they do.

10. “How to dump a guy you kissed once.”

A kiss is not a contract, so, try some version of: “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you but I don’t want to be romantically involved with you. So sorry, I wish you all the best, goodbye.

11. “What’s the meaning of ‘no thanks but nice to meet you’?”

One possible translation: “Thanks for hanging out/coming on this internet date today, I appreciate the effort that you took to wear a clean shirt and make small talk with a stranger, you seem nice enough, but we won’t be doing that again. Have a great life!

12. “How to deal with your Catholic parents who are insisting that you have your child baptized Catholic and you don’t want to do that.”

You got to choose this for your children, I get to choose for mine. Let’s find a new topic, please, or I’m going to have to hang up the phone/Grandbaby and I are gonna have to wrap up this visit for the day.

Be alert to the possibility they might take your child to be baptized anyway behind your back since apparently that’s a thing people do.

13. “How can I tell my boyfriend he smells like urine when I go down on him sometimes.”

Awkward Sex Rule: If you’re close enough to someone that you sometimes put your mouth on their parts, you’re close enough to say “Babe, let’s pick this up after a shower” or to go “hands only” if you don’t want to interrupt the action right then and/or to let him know at another time”Hey can you take special care to clean up down there before we get it on? It takes me out of the moment if things are funky.

14. “Write a letter to your friend with whom you had a quarrel, giving three reasons why you and him should resume your friendship.”

Three reasons?

Maybe try this:

Friend, I’m really sorry for [specific thing that led to quarrel and us not being friends anymore, WITHOUT making excuses or trying to justify it or explain further, ONLY apologizing]. I really miss our friendship and I hope we can talk again soon when you’re ready.” 

Send it out there, give the friend time and space, and see what happens. That’s all you can really do – all the reasons in the world won’t outweigh a sincere apology and sincere request to reconnect or convince someone who doesn’t want to be friends to come back.

15. “My boyfriend tells me to exercise and watch what I eat. It makes me feel horrible.”

Dump. Him.

16. “When bf doesnt want u to meet his friends.”

Dump. Him.

17. “How do you describe a relationship whereby you’re the only one forever reaching out for that person?”

One-sided? Unsatisfying? Soon-to-be-over?

18. “My boyfriend only cares about himself in bed.”

Dump. Him.

19. “Husband doesn’t like short dresses.”

Husband should only wear long dresses then, on his body i.e. the only body of which he is the boss.

20. “My old teacher doesn’t seem to remember me.”

Aw, that can be a really sucky feeling, but it happens. Your teacher has known a lot of students and it’s reasonable to think they might have trouble placing you especially if some time has passed. Gently remind said teacher that you enjoyed his or her class and take it from there.

21. “Korean boyfriend ghost dumped me.”

Getting dumped sucks, no matter how it happens. I’m so sorry. Remind yourself “He didn’t even care enough to tell me it was over” as a way to help yourself let go.

I would read a novel about a breakup with a Korean ghost-boyfriend.

22. “How to tell your boyfriend you don’t want to live together.”

“I prefer living alone.” “I don’t want us to live together.” “I’m not ready to live with you.” “Let’s not live together.” “I don’t see us living together.”

If he really wants to live with you, and you don’t want to live with him, there’s no magical way to deliver that news that won’t hurt his feelings or make him sad, but you gotta tell him so that you can both make good decisions about your relationship and living situation. People can have good relationships and live separately. Trust your instincts on this one and do not “try it out” if you aren’t feeling it.

23. “Dear Prudence sucks.”

She used to suck especially with regard to consent and sexual assaultNow she’s Mallory, and she’s pretty great.

24. “What do you do if your cousin passed away but you weren’t close.”

Consider sending a card to his parents and tell them you’re sorry for their loss. Greeting cards were invented for just this situation, you just have to sign your name at the bottom, and it will be a nice gesture of kindness to them.

25. What does the big relationship elephant in the room mean?

The “elephant in the room” is an idiom that refers to “the giant glaring problem that everyone is pretending not to see or talk about.” So this would be “the obvious problem in the relationship that we aren’t discussing for some reason.” Here’s hoping that it’s a cute baby elephant?

26. “How to stay informed politically without anxiety attack.”


27. Random shoutout to my friend Erin Lynn Jeffreys Hodges.

Hi! Hi! Hello!

This post brought to you by Patreon supporters. This also marks the opening of the 2017 Winter Pledge Drive where I gently shake the tip jar in the general direction of my wonderful audience. Thank you for reading.










152 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: February Stars

  1. 14.: If you’re a student, don’t write in to advice columns to do your homework for you. School assignments mean nothing if you don’t write them yourself.
    If you’re a teacher, this is a pretty crappy assignment as relationships are not things people get “logicked” into having. Please cut it from your list anf stop giving toxic lessons to your charges and/or pissing off those who know better.

    1. Ha! I frequently get questions in the question box asking me to weigh in on some obscure book or philosophical point that are *clearly* homework assignments. One day I will post a list of all of them.

      1. I would love to see that!

        In this particular case, the “give three reasons” phasing just SCREAMS writing assignment to me

        1. I read it as one of those “I will logic you out of feelings!” people who will straight up give you a Power Point presentation if you try to break up with them.

          1. “If you’ll refer to page 6 of the appendix, you’ll see that smooches are up 45% over the most recent reporting period.”

          2. These are the people for whom the song “Nothing Better” by the Postal Service was made: “I feel I must interject here/you’re getting carried away feeling sorry for yourself/ with these revisions and gaps in history/so let me help you remember/I’ve made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear/prepared a lecture on why I have to leave”

          3. The opposite can also happen. True story: a guy in college to whom I repeatedly stated that I was not looking for a boyfriend brought a bullet point list of reasons why he would be a good boyfriend to the table where I was eating in the dining hall and read it out loud to me. He read the whole thing, despite me trying to stop him, then just going quite and trying to avoid eye contact with him and everyone else in the area. This was 1/3 of the way through a term where we were assigned to the same group for a term-long group project. Most awkward group project ever.

      2. I would LOVE to see this. As a Patreon patron, I’d happily chip in a few extra bucks for a It Came From The Ask Box special edition: Do My Homework For Me. (Bonus points for ludicrous answers.)

    2. It sounded like a spell to me. You know, write a letter, put it under a dish of water, burn a blue candle next to it, and chant this rhyme, then throw it in a river on a Tuesday when the moon is waning and in Taurus, that sort of thing.

    3. It sounds exactly like certain suggested topics in some writing textbooks I’ve seen/used. The thing is that “write to a person in your life whom you miss” could be a wonderful assignment, and “give three reasons” is a good basic standard template, but they just make a really terrible combination.

    4. I read it as some dickhead ex friend was like “Oh yeah? Give me _three_ good reasons why I should be friends with you.”

      1. To quote Lucy Van Pelt, I’ll give you five good reasons. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
        *looks at fist*
        *decides if you have to punch someone so they’ll be your friend, this friendship is not meant to be*
        *moves on with my life*

  2. Re: 26, here are some things I’ve found helpful (as ever, YMMV):
    1. I keep my news consumption very structured–only certain sites, for a set amount of time.
    2. There are certain times that are No News Zones. For me, that’s meals. If someone wants to talk about politics and I am having lunch, that person can talk to someone else. I can listen to Kendrick Lamar on my headphones.
    3. If someone asks the breathless “Did you see ____?!?!?!?”, it’s okay to say no! It’s okay to say you’re being deliberate about your news consumption.
    3b. If someone gets snotty with you about this, totally get frosty. “I have my own system, thank you.” and walk away. You don’t need to meet other people’s standard for informed citizenship, especially if they want someone to do the Ritual Freak Out Dance with them.
    4. Make America Kittens Again. It’s a plug-in for Chrome that replaces images of certain terrible people/white nationalists with photos of kittens. You might want to know what’s going on, but that does not mean you have to see their horrible orange face.
    Good luck! It’s hard out there, and as someone who’s also trying to juggle staying informed (IR grad student) with not kicking off their anxiety disorder, it can be an extra challenge.

    1. The Kittens Again extension is brilliant! Thanks for letting us CA readers know about it. I’m already using a word replacer extension (I use “Evilcheeto” for you-know-who) and it’s not just a clever concept, it really does help with the stress, at least for me.

    2. “Ritual Freak Out Dance” -> I know exactly what you mean, great phrase. I am also structuring my news consumption carefully, and have decided it’s ok to nope out of this 100% of the time. It’s neither informative nor cathartic for me, but I think that for a lot of people it’s still the latter. Which is great for them! and they can do it with someone who is not me

      And agree on the No News Zones – for me it’s no news first thing in the morning or for 1-2 hours before bed.

      Also, getting serious about meditation as a way to deal with physiological stress symptoms like (racing heart, anxiety dreams) – even 5 minutes seems to help a bit.

      1. that link is PERFECT. it’s exactly the sort of thing i’ve been looking for. thank you, thank you, thank you *internet hugs*

  3. The closest answer I could come up with for 26, is to read real news articles, like the NYT, and listening to WNYC, while staying away from facebook and memes. I find that the short meme posts, or dramatic headlines set me off into rage/depression/anger ( any form of negative emotion) far more than a well written article. I still don’t feel great about what I am reading, but it’s with more clarity.
    Other than that, I have gone back to painting, to take my mind off things. And taking some time to call representatives of my state, gives at least a tiny sense of not just standing by.

    1. Washington Post and NYT, in that order, seem to be the best newspapers that I’ve seen. Avoid opinion section pieces and TV news at all costs. I’ve seen decent commentary (which is different from an opinion section) in various places, but those I have a lower tolerance for.

      1. The only time I have watchd tv news is when I have been at someone’s home. And every time when I see the evening news, I just think how shallow and bad it is. Then I worry that this is how a lot of people get their information just that way. Will check out WP. I’m subscribed to the NYT and like the quick morning and evening briefing.

      2. I just got an HD TV antenna so I can watch live TV (been living on Netflix and Amazon Prime and the like for a while), and ok, so I could watch the Super Bowl. And as I was scrolling through the channels to find said game, I realized I was really revolted by most of them and don’t really miss tv that much, except for sports and PBS. Thank goodness the antenna was cheap so I don’t feel like I paid a lot for crap I won’t us.

      3. The Daily 202 from the Washington Post comes straight to my inbox, is extremely thorough, links to other articles should I want to know more (I usually don’t), and best of all, in email form has no comments section.

    2. I recommend Politico. They deliver the news with a lot less drama than what might pop up in your Facebook feed–I was getting a lot of anxiety that way. Check out the little arrow in the top right corner of posts in your Facebook feed, you can stop pages from showing up even if your friends share the posts. Or unfollow the friends who post too much of that stuff.

    3. I cannot abide any discussion of politics unless it’s delivered by This American Life or 538 and I’m not sure why. I think I’ve listened to the podcasts so long and am so used to their soothing voices that they counteract the MASSIVE FREAKOUT I WOULD OTHERWISE HAVE.

      My SO likes to watch the PBS Newshour most nights and I put on my headphones and go watch The Expanse in another room.

  4. I have very, very strong feelings about No. 26: if people need to be politically apathetic to protect their own mental health, let them.

    Too many activists these days are using guilt and shame to force their friends and family to “pay attention” and become politically active. Don’t do this, ever. Please, please, don’t do this, ever, not even once, no matter how high you think the stakes are. That’s bullying. That’s emotional abuse. That’s wrong in every instance and under every circumstance, and it’s so cruel and smug and privileged. It’s just as bad, just as cruel, just as manipulative, just as selfish and smug and cruel as sharing images of tortured and dead animals to protest animal welfare – and just as short-sighted.

    At best your friend will remember which side bullied and guilted and shamed her for trying to protect herself and will decide to support the other side (because at least they respected her by leaving her alone); at worst your friend will have to deal with increasing mental illness and may even choose to take her own life.

    You be you; you protest and be active and post a hundred things to social media. But DO NOT guilt, shame, and bully people into being as active as you. I’ve seen half a dozen attempts at this already and in every instance it’s caused pain and anguish. DON’T DO IT, EVER. Gah.

    1. Yes, everything you said! I have seen a lot of this too, often saying things like “I can’t choose to ignore this like you can because I am X” which makes a whole lot of assumptions all around.

      Also I wish people would stop the thing that they seem to be doing a lot more of lately — shaming people who ARE activists or involved in certain types of protests/issues for not being involved in *all of them*, or the ones that *they* think are most important. People only have so much mental energy, and mocking/shaming people as fake activists for focusing on one or two issues important to them is super uncool and I know personally made me want to crawl back into my bubble and say “ugh, why try, I’m not perfect”.

      1. THIS. And the insidious “while you were all DISTRACTED by this other terrible thing (that isn’t as terrible for me personally)” shaming.

        None of it is a distraction, it’s all terrible.

        1. Oh, that liberaler than thou shit: “You were at yoga class? I WAS MARCHING FOR QUEER LIBERATION” “You enjoyed the Super Bowl? PEOPLE ARE DYING”. Nope

          1. Well, yes, that, but I was referring to the phenomenon I’ve seen of people yelling that XYZ atrocity is a distraction from ABC atrocity that they personally care more about. “While you were distracted by the immigration ban (insert all the other terrible shit here)”

            It.s All. Terrible.

          2. I saw at least two articles declaring that the refugee/immigrant bans were a “headfake” that were there to distract us from “the real issues”. I’m sure the people trying to get into the US (some of whom already live there, some of them fleeing for their lives) were comforted by knowing that they were just splash damage and not the real targets.

          3. One thing that always makes me grit my teeth with annoyance is when someone in a comment section on an advice column writes “First world problem”. I called a fellow on this once and he went into a long whiny diatribe about how I didn’t know anything about him, and how dare I judge him… Oh, you mean the way you judged this person by smugly writing “First world problem”, dude?

      2. Yes on that second one! Or the related sentiment of shaming people for being late to the party and making it seem like they must not ACTUALLY care about something if they’re just now becoming active in it. Everyone has to start somewhere.If now is the time that they’ve been moved to get involved, don’t waste time chastising them for the years they’ve missed out on.

        1. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of in-fighting on comment walls between Bernie and Hillary supporters (both sides ranting about how if the other side had just voted for THEIR candidate, we wouldn’t be in this mess). What good does this do? The election is over; Donald Trump won. Bernie and Hillary supporters are more alike than they are different; stop yelling at each other and unite to make sure Trump and an unchecked Republican legislative branch don’t destroy the country.

          1. Even worse: people who may have voted for Jill Stein, or may not have voted, or may have voted for Trump in some weird #neverhillary protest vote nonsense (I’m not quite sure which one, just that she thought Hillary was too corrupt or whatever)…and are still defending it because it’s making everyone rise up now “and they wouldn’t do that if Hillary had won.” Um…yeah, because there wouldn’t be Muslim bans or white supremacists named to the National Security Council. It’s gross.

          2. @Cactus: Interesting. I used to have a few loud, enthusiastic Jill Stein supporters in my feed. Some of them actually believed she could win. Some of them believed it didn’t matter if she couldn’t, because HRC and Trump were equally evil, might as well just do the protest vote.

            Those people have gone silent now. Oh, they’ll talk about their lives and maybe even politics, but not one solitary word about how Hillary would’ve been just as bad. Reality is a harsh mistress.

          3. @Cinderkeys: I guess if someone’s conceited enough, they don’t need to worry about the harshness of reality.

          4. OK, this shaming of Jill Stein voters is pretty uncalled for here. There are perfectly valid reasons for many groups to believe things wouldn’t be better for them under the Democrats. For instance, the Obama administration deported more Latinos than any in American history, with hardly a word about it from the mainstream media; the Democrats have lost a lot of trust with that community as a result. I know many Muslims with relatives at risk of being bombed by drones, and that’s something else both parties do equally well. It’s actually those with the most to lose who are most critical of both parties, in my experience.

            Furthermore, trashing 3rd-party voters is a way of deflecting from your own party’s failures. Ralph Nader isn’t even close to one of the 10 biggest reasons Gore lost in 2000 (why not talk about all the registered Democrats who voted for Bush?), and 3rd-party votes actually *helped* Clinton more than they hurt her overall.

            Please, above all, don’t blindly assume these criticisms always come from a place of privilege. That’s hurtful in its own way, and it erases the experiences of countless marginalized people who bear the brunt of both parties’ policies.




            We have a secret ballet in the U.S. You don’t ever have to tell people who you voted for. If you do tell people who you voted for, they can have opinions about that, like, thinking you chose wrong and re-evaluating your whole relationship based on that choice. Or, not wanting to hear any more of your political opinions, ever, and not taking them seriously. It’s a two-way street.

            A two-way street that can happen somewhere I don’t have to read it. Knock it off, all of you. All of you.

      3. Oh my goodness yes. A lot of the “you have the privilege of ignoring X” stuff bothers me because it’s functionally telling people “you have to out yourself as a particular category to be taken seriously.” And so many people have so many good reasons to not want to reveal their race, gender identity, sexuality, disability status, whatever, online. I am now an out bisexual woman, but I was told “you have the privilege of ignoring queer issues so you can ignore them, but I can’t” back when I was closeted for my own safety, and it hurt like hell because it was a one-two punch of silencing and erasure, and coming from an ostensible ally.

        Also, a lot of the time these days I want to get a big bullhorn and yell “OBJECTING TO TRUMP IS NOT A ZERO SUM GAME.” We can object to him because of racism AND environmental issues AND homophobia AND xenophobia AND transphobia AND sexism AND health care access issues AND transparency-in-government issues AND employee rights AND all the other things that I’m forgetting. We don’t have to have a knock-down-drag-out fight to determine The One Most Important Issue. We can tackle the shitshow from multiple directions at once, and indeed, that’s what we need to do–because there are a LOT of issues that are important.

        (I speak as someone who just saw a huge fight go down on my Tumblr dash about whether immigration issues were more or less important than climate change, and I just… I’m exhausted. They’re both important. They’re important in different ways, but we really don’t have to go “massive human rights violations or massive ecological disaster, PICK ONE.” We really don’t.)

        1. I honestly just don’t see the point of doing that – most people only have enough energy/time to work on a couple issues anyway, so why not let people focus on what’s most important to them? I’d think it’d be more productive anyway because people will likely do a better job with the issues they already care about/feel passionately about. I get feeling like what’s important to you is being ignored for something more “immediate” but calling an issue that’s really important to some “trendy” and other things I’ve heard is not cool IMO.

          1. Right; we all have to make choices, because our time is not infinite.

            Not to mention–I talk more about queer and feminist issues because I am a queer woman. I donate time and money to many other causes, but I am less likely to talk about them. Why? Is it because I think that queer and feminist issues are more important than other social justice issues? No, absolutely not–as my checkbook could prove (if I still used a physical checkbook). But because I am intensely aware that it is inappropriate for me to speak for or speak over POC, and that my lack of lived experience means that I may, even having educated myself and with good intentions, misrepresent things simply because I have not lived them. I have an inherent right to speak on issues pertaining to bisexual women, so I do. I am much more careful about issues pertaining to other groups. That doesn’t mean that I don’t support them in real and tangible ways.

          2. why not let people focus on what’s most important to them?

            As a blanket concept, this tends to lead to minority issues getting neglected, as being a minority by definition means there aren’t all that many of you. In addition, marginalized people have fewer resources. For efforts on the margins to get traction, people who aren’t personally affected—allies—need to step up.

            The advice I’ve seen is to pick one issue that affects you personally and one that affects a marginalized group you don’t belong to, and focus your efforts there. I’m a white trans person, so I focus on queer advocacy and supporting Muslims. Narrowing my efforts helps keep me from burning out, but not narrowing them too far helps me use the privilege I do have for the good of others who don’t have it. And ideally somewhere there’s a straight cis person whose second issue is queer and trans safety, and so on.

          3. Out of nesting, but in reply to Rosefox:

            Sometimes, focusing on what matters most to you may be the only way minority issues get any attention. There’s a long history of white people telling Blacks that civil rights should wait until after the war was over, of men telling women that they should ignore sexism within the anti-war and civil rights movements, of disabled people being told that XYZ was less important than their issues, groups that call themselves “LGBT” either ignoring bisexuals and trans* people or being hostile to either or both groups, and so on.

        2. Turtle Candle- I love your first paragraph. Tumblr’s social justice heyday had such a problem with this. Only recently are people starting to say ‘hey, you really shouldn’t have to have a laundry list of the privileges you do and don’t experience, complete with ones you’re not even out to your loved ones about, just to be able to interact here’. It also discourages nuanced thought about privilege axis which means that complicated systems of oppression get dismissed as ‘too hard, let’s put you in a box!’

          I’m a closeted to most people bi woman who is pretty fed up with hearing about what ‘the straights’ are doing, and pretty over jokes about ‘lol my straight friend said/did [x]’- whatever happened to assuming someone’s sexuality being a part of heteronormativity? Yeah, I used to say I was straight too. So did a great number of LGB+ people (note: T emitted not for erasure but because it’s not the same as sexuality). That is how powerful heteronomativity is. Didn’t you have a system to criticise somewhere in there? Also, FUCK people who make ‘lol the straights!’ jokes about abusive situation between a man and a woman. How dare you. >:|

        3. There’s an article on Medium: “How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind” that talks about that specifically and I found it super comforting. One of the suggestions is actually to pick only 1-3 issues that you are super passionate about and focus on those while signal boosting the others.

          I also like Rosefox’s advice: The advice I’ve seen is to pick one issue that affects you personally and one that affects a marginalized group you don’t belong to, and focus your efforts there.

    2. All of this. I will also note that all the guilting and shaming I see comes from armchair “activists” projecting their own feelings of inadequacy over doing not much of anything. All the people I know who are making serious efforts to create positive change in the world—whatever those efforts look like for them—are way too busy with that to shame anyone else about perceived inaction!

    3. I fully agree, but I’d also like to add that there are lots of less stressful political activities that are – in many cases – as impactful as going on marches and kicking up a fuss on social media. There are always roles like delivering leaflets, handling childcare, making cups of tea for the people doing the phone bank and so on, which can all be done by people who aren’t necessarily particularly politically aware.

      I’m mentioning this because I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to be very up-to-date with everything that’s going on (and that seems to be where a lot of the pressure comes from – the “what do you mean, you didn’t know about THIS?!” stuff) but you can actually make a huge contribution without all of that.

      Having said that, I’d like to echo Charlene again; the lower-stress activities that I’ve listed are also going to be too much for some people, and that is fine. Bullying underprivileged people is not usually a good way to help underprivileged people.

      1. This is super important, thank you. I remember I spent years not volunteering for things because I am very much an introvert and I have bad social anxiety, and all the ‘starter’ volunteer tasks were things that involved a lot of interaction with strangers, stuff like asking for donations or staffing a booth at a fair or manning a call center or whatnot. My lightbulb moment was talking to someone who works at a meals-on-wheels type operation who said, “Seriously, we would love someone who is happy to just come in once a week and chop fifty pounds of onions.” I can’t ask for donations, I can’t glad-hand the big donors, I can’t deliver the meals, I can’t cold-call… but I will chop potatoes and onions until my fingers fall off without complaint, and it turns out that’s valuable, too.

        1. Seriously. I have no problem stuffing and addressing envelopes for hours. Or chopping onions. Or sorting donated clothing. But going door-to-door getting people to donate to something or promise to vote for something? Or phone-banking? Eeeek!

    4. I needed to hear this so badly right now. The only person I’m bullying is me, but damn I’m doing a fine job of it. I need to remember to be gentle to me and to let me Activism at my pace.

      Thank you.

  5. Question 26 said: How to stay informed politically without anxiety attack

    I can relate to you! First of all, if you are not in therapy, please get counseling to help you deal with the anxiety. Also, you may wish to avoid the news altogether, at least for a short while.

    If you must watch the news, avoid partisan news sources, such as MSNBC and Fox News. Both of those are notorious for their bias and outright lying to their viewers. Also, spend as little time on Facebook and other social media as possible, because fake news spreads like wildfire on those platforms. Rational Wiki and Snopes are excellent sources for fact checking. As for the media itself, The Guardian and the New York Times are excellent. Avoid online clickbait, as that is designed to make people anxious.

    Finally, resistance can help empower you. You can visit and click the Search button for a list of current bills. If you wish to write your congresscritter, click on the Representatives and/or Senators link at the bottom of the page to find the public servant(s) in your area. That will also help you stay informed about what is going on without having to wade through a bunch of irrelevant nonsense.

    Good luck!

  6. Two major changes I’ve made recently to help with my post- election anxiety:

    1) I quit facebook. It sucks not being as informed, but it helps me keep other people’s (genuine and justified!) emotions from bombarding me at all times and helps me stay present in what is happening to me right now. I still engage, but I do it on my terms.

    2) I turned off all notifications from my news apps on my phone. No longer will I be enjoying a lovely dinner only to have my phone interrupt me with the latest terrible news. The terrible news will still be there when I check in later, and knowing something as it’s happening will not actually change the outcome, it will just make me feel terrible and powerless at a time where I should be recharging.

    It has also helped me a lot to tune into the physical warning signs of impending anxiety/panic attacks. When I start to freak out the first thing that happens is that my jaw clenches and my shoulders tense up, so taking a second to release those muscles, take a deep breath, and remind myself that in the current moment I am safe helps me to regroup. You can’t be effective if you are on the floor with anxiety, and the first step to being an activist/helping others is to make sure that you’re in the best state possible to be able to do that. (At least that’s what my therapist tells me).

    1. “The terrible news will still be there when I check in later, and knowing something as it’s happening will not actually change the outcome, it will just make me feel terrible and powerless at a time where I should be recharging.”

      This is very apt, and not just in relation to political issues (in my case, it’s also financials and family health that provoke that feeling).

    2. Less social media or unfollowing people that are constantly talking US politics is key i think. Facebook for me in particular is a place i go to see what people i know/used to hang with irl are up to. It’s not a place i go to get updated on current events or politics, so getting bombarded with a lot of US news on fb outside of time I’ve decided to do that feels really jarring and unproductive sometimes.

  7. The best technique I’ve found for dealing with politics right now is reading NPR’s website. They tend to be very calm and thoughtful and go into more detail about the complexities of situations than many other sources. They also don’t do breaking news, they tend to be 12-24 hours behind, which means that much of the initial panic and confusion has faded by the time they get around to covering a story. They’re liberal-leaning (which I’m entirely okay with), but very trustworthy about getting actual facts correct. There will likely be a push to defund them soon, but for the time being they’re getting my viewership.

    1. I love NPR. It is so nice to have a news source that tries to speak calmly about things. And yes, you can pick up on the left lean, but they do make a reasonable effort to present both sides, and they typically avoid belittling ideological opponents or their concerns.

      1. This. For me, a source that has a lean one way or the other is more than fine, as long as there’s actual facts and intelligent analysis. Makes it easy for me to identify where I agree, where I disagree, and why.

    2. I realized that I really needed to be pro-active to preserve my sanity, so I have done several things:

      1. I take a walk in nature every day that I can–get outside, breathe fresh air, think about my surroundings and not other stuff.

      2. I truly believe that “in silence there is complicity” so I have, for the first time, been calling and emailing my Congressional representatives and senators. It feels like at least I am doing something to resist the new regime.

      3. I have scaled my Facebook exposure way, way back.

      4. I decided I needed to learn a new skill to take the place of Facebook, so in the last month I have taught myself to crochet! I am a rank beginner, but the texture of the yarn, the pretty colors, and the accomplishment have been quite therapeutic.

      5. No TV news! I read the local paper which is pretty good, and it has a feature that says how my congressmen have voted on various things, giving me fodder for writing to them.

      1. Re: #4: If you haven’t discovered yet, check it out. Lots of FREE knitting and crochet patterns. Learning knitting helped when I was trying to deal constructively with the no health insurance blues while also having no antidepressant meds. (The health insurance situation has improved greatly for me since, but the knitting as a stress buster remains!)

  8. Play some very dramatic opera while making love and nobody will know if it’s orgasmic screaming or a mezzo soprano belting out a Wagnerian aria! I guess I’m really lucky, in my whole life I’ve only had two bad neighbours, despite living in a condo apartment for 21 years, a duplex (semi-detached house) for 9, and a town house (terraced house) for the last 7 years. My current pair of neighbours includes a classical pianist, how lucky is that?
    By coincidence, a long ago neighbour also played classical piano, but she had some sort of brain injury and could only remember the first few bars of any piece. She crash down on the keyboard in frustration and not play again for months. It was very sad and surreal, sitting out on the balcony on a warm summer day and listening to this poor damaged woman trying to get the music back.

    1. Early in my relationship with my now-husband, he was working as live-in support staff for a disabled person, meaning that he basically lived and slept at work, in his own bedroom, and had to be there even in his off hours. We were long distance at the time, and I came over to that house exactly once. He (rationally) absolutely did not want his coworkers or clients to hear what was happening in his bedroom when I was there, so he put his iTunes on shuffle all music mode, and turned the volume up full blast.

      Shuffle all turned out to not be the best choice, because when a John Phillip Sousa march came on I just about died laughing, which definitely killed the mood a bit. Triumphant, patriotic marching band music isn’t exactly the sexiest thing around.

      After that we started just getting hotel rooms for the night whenever I came into town. Way less awkwardness, and no need for marching band music, either.

    2. We put on the cable-jukebox alternative station until a song about rape came up, whereupon we switched to classical

      (I’ve told this story under varying names and with varying levels of detail, but I’m pretty sure I use the word “whereupon” every time)

  9. Another vote for filtering in order to stay informed and not freak out. My filtering includes getting most of my news either from non-US sources (right now I like the CBC, Guardian, and BBC) or specifically local stuff (I’m looking at and for local news).

    I’m considering setting up a second twitter account with no politics in the feed (meaning almost no news that isn’t astronomy). I have “low-stress” filters for LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, and I gather similar things can be done on Facebook.

    As marillenbaum says, it is entirely okay to ask your family, friends, and co-workers not to talk news/politics, or to save it for specific times (like not over meals, or not until after breakfast, or the like).

    Sometimes I consciously remind myself “you just got up. The lights came on, the stove works, and you have running water. The world hasn’t ended yet, you can make tea and pet the cat and think about the news a bit later.” (I have dealt with power outages, but have yet to wake up to one when the electricity was working the night before.)

    Another bit of filtering I’m working on is unsubscribing to activist/political emails from organizations whose main message is “this is horrible, please send us three dollars!” in favor of ones that are also asking for actions other than money. That’s partly that this works better for me, and partly that the “please send money! Now! The sky is falling!” ones are fond of endless “did you see our last email” and “final messages” that aren’t, and send a lot more panicky emails than the other kind of organization.

      1. Another +1 for Guardian, but a warning: it may seem like the kind of place where it would be safe to read the comments, but its not. 😦

    1. “I’m considering setting up a second twitter account with no politics in the feed”

      Just as a practical data point – a somewhat similar effect can be achieved by making a “List” on Twitter. You can have loads of “Lists” for different purposes, and they all function as separate feeds to which you can add people/accounts you want to read. So if you want, you could have a “List” for friends, a “List” for kitten photos, a “List” for astronomy and a “List” for “only read when feeling robust”.

      I’m not saying it _isn’t_ a good idea to have a completely separate second account. It’s “horses for courses”, depending on how you use Twitter. E.g. having two completely separate accounts would divide their @-messages as well as the feeds that you read. Just saying that “Lists” are another option to consider for curating your feed(s).

      1. Yep. I don’t mind seeing political posts, but I have set up a list of people who I don’t trust with seeing MY political posts. And they basically see nothing but my thoughts on TV episodes and goofy things my husband has done.

  10. 13 – I would ask him (in a non-sex context before you have sex again) to freshen up a bit if he’s planning on initiating. If you don’t smell it before you get your face down there, he probably never smells it at all.

    When I initiate sex, it’s usually right after he showers after work. I never phrased it as “you’re sweaty!” More as “I can’t get enough when you’re so fresh and clean!” Which is true.

  11. No. 12: My mil baptised 2 of her grandchildren without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Which is why she does not get left alone with my child, ever!

  12. 26 — What I’m doing (which is helping but not the silver bullet because there’s a lot of anxiety-inducing b.s. going on! And also I am not perfect at doing this list but I’m posting it here as much for myself as for you, because I know it works for me, Hi, Self, are you reading this?!) —
    1. Action is the antidote to despair. Can you:
    1a. Donate to a non-profit that supports an issue you care about?
    1b. Make a phone-call to your senators/reps on an issue you care about, every week? every day? (save the names & #s in your phone or planner & it’s very fast & easy.)
    1c. Find other local people/groups to do actions with, decide what actions you’re going to do, do them, and then (important) don’t ruminate about the actions when you are not actively doing them.
    2. Log off social media, internet, screens, etc., when you are not actively doing something. and instead do whatever it is that is proven to not make you freak out.
    3. If you have spiritual practice, now is the time to actually do it.

    1. Making phone calls isn’t easy for a lot of people. If you have trouble making phone calls, consider sending postcards ( has templates for cards you can print at home) or faxes ( lets you fax senators and representatives for free) or emails through your reps’ websites (emails do get read if they’re clearly written by the person who sent them and not forms pre-filled by organizations). Letters in envelopes are also good but can take longer to process because security teams have to make sure they’re not full of anthrax.

      I really like postcards because they bypass that security screening and also force you to be pithy and eloquent in limited space. Also, the postmark proves that they come from a constituent. The advice I’ve seen is to send them to D.C. offices if you’re asking about national legislative matters, and to your local office if it’s a local matter.

      To do extra good, buy postcards or note cards that support a worthy charity. ( and are good clearinghouse sources for note cards; some individual charities sell postcard packs.) Then use those cards to lobby politicians to do the right thing.

  13. 26– My suggestions:

    Limit time. Give yourself a half hour every day or every other day to keep informed. Think of it like homework. I like internet headlines, even outrageous scary biased ones. I take notes on names and places. (Because my memory goes wonky when I’m trying not to look.) Sometimes I take the headlines from things facebook friends post. (I have a small and good group of facebook friends.) Then I look up in depth news stories based on those headlines. It could be a half hour of NPR or other news radio while getting some exercise. It could be a half hour of BBC World News. Sometimes I read the NYT in the library. The important thing is that when the half hour is up, your homework is done, and you can put on music or finish exercising in the clear sunlight without feeling like you ought to be doing more.


    Link being informed with taking action. Now you’re all upset from getting informed. Immediately after, take a few minutes to write one letter to a representative in congress or to send one check, whatever you can afford, to a good group representing your views. I don’t go much for online petitions or phone calls, but they are better than nothing. Action can also be less implicitly political. Do a kindness for someone in a targeted group. Knit a hat for the next march. Write, or create other art. Even working on something that will take longer to complete like a well-reasoned political article counts as action.

    1. I do this too: treating news like “homework”. For me, I take about two hours, once a week, and read as much news online as I can read in that time span. I hit most of the major news outlets, just to see who is reporting what and in what way. After that, I ignore (or try to ignore) national news for the rest of the week. I can stay informed without having heart attacks.

      1. I call it “dosing” and take the news like Tylenol: cautiously, because there’s very little difference between “sufficient dose to be effective” and “toxic dose”.

    2. Same here. I have a once-a-week news ‘appointment,’ at a time when I know that I will have the freedom to do appropriate self-care afterward. (I’ve found that it’s almost always sufficient to just catch up on news once a week; the things that need your truly immediate attention are very rare indeed.) I catch up on what’s been going on the past week, then take some time to exercise, have a bubble bath, and watch Leverage reruns with cocoa when I’m done. (When I’m really wound up, I found that 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise followed by a specific relaxing comfort ritual is the best way to fix it; mileage obviously will vary.) The news still sucks, but the suckitude has boundaries, and I know that I can decompress after.

      1. It’s heartening to see that so many of us have figured out that it takes relatively little time to read/see/hear enough news to be well enough informed. Every now and then I’ll read an editorial that I think is particularly good, something that opens me up to understanding the news in a way I hadn’t known before, something that shows me another point of view that I’m glad to know. I’ll read it and think that if I spent more time on the news, I’d find those sorts of good editorials all the time. It took me a short while to realize that no, I only see those sorts of good articles rarely because they really are rare. The rest is all repetitive where you hear a bunch of voices but don’t get any better knowledge or perspective.

        Another advantage of limiting the time you spend on news is that you quickly become more efficient at it. You stop clicking on the things that are just sad and start getting better at reading the news stories that include the old fashioned who, what, when, where, and maybe some thought as to why, plus some historical perspective.

        Rose Fox– I love your comparison to Tylenol!

  14. Oh hey, I just wrote a blog post about #26, because this is a topic on a lot of people’s minds. It’s primarily aimed at Twitter users, but I expect it’s probably useful for Facebook too.

    As a person with an anxiety disorder, I really understand the urge to conflate being ANXIOUS with being MOTIVATED. The reason I understand that so much is that it is a lie anxiety whispers—or sometimes yells—in my ear every day. “You need me!” anxiety says. “Without me you wouldn’t notice or accomplish the important things! Without me you’d be a useless lump!”

    This is a LIE. L I E pants-on-fire lie.

    For one thing, anxiety often paralyzes. For another, it occludes judgment. “Fight, fly, or freeze” is the choice anxiety presents to you. These are immediate, adrenaline-powered responses to immediate threats. They are useless in the long term. Their only purpose is to keep you alive long enough to have a long term. Panic consumes all your energy in a single explosive burst and leaves you exhausted. It is very bad for your brain and your body.

    Right now, what we are facing is a very large, multifaceted set of threats, short-term and long-term but not immediate. Panic will actively impede our ability to respond to those threats. It will not motivate us. It will only harm us.

    If you have been feeling anxious or panicky about the news, please take a moment to make a plan for how to prevent and treat your anxiety. “I will go on social media and say I’m scared and everyone will reassure me/be scared with me!” is not a plan, and it poisons the well. A lot of what’s stressing us out so much right now is that everyone around us is broadcasting their stress.

    Read @TGStoneButch’s #DailyCoping threads (that’s a roundup link on a blog for those who don’t read Twitter) for some really good specific pointers on dealing with different kinds of stress responses.

    Right now, my primary anxiety prevention strategy is “close the tab”. Anything that makes me panic is harmful and I will move away from it. This doesn’t mean cutting myself off from all sources of information—only panic-inducing ones. I get a lot of political emails. If they fearmonger, I unsub. I keep the ones that are about concrete action, like and

    I unfollow or filter out even dear friends who only post about being angry and frightened. I love them, but I need to protect myself. And I reach out to them by email and IM instead so that we can connect in other ways.

    If I am feeling anxious, I take anxiolytics. I make myself do this even when the anxiety is screaming that I need it to survive. It is very hard to treat anxiety. Sometimes I envision it as a living entity that wants to survive at any cost. I even feel bad for it. But I need my brain more than my brain parasite does. So I take my anxiolytics, and breathe and meditate, and do other #DailyCoping things.

    I take small positive actions, like sending postcards to my reps or to orgs that are doing good work (if you have a printer, get a pack of Avery printable postcards and go to for customizable templates with useful addresses already filled in), or teaching kids and teenagers, or giving advice and support to artists who are struggling with their art in a difficult time. If you already volunteer in some way, keep doing it! You don’t need to give up something that fulfills you and helps other people just because it’s not directly political. Every action taken toward repairing the world is twice as necessary when there are people actively trying to dismantle the world.

    For longer-term treatment of anxiety, I work with my therapist and my family on various strategies. In the past I’ve taken SSRIs.

    So that’s my plan. I really strongly encourage you to make one too. Especially if you haven’t been anxiety-prone before now.

    I spent yesterday in crisis mode. I spent today having the belated panic reaction that would have kept me from functioning yesterday. So I am super aware right now of the difference between panic and responding appropriately to a crisis. We are in a crisis. We can’t let our totally understandable anxiety about that prevent us from taking appropriate action.

    And please, if you feel anxious or panicky, DO reach out for help. But DON’T just broadcast your panic; it’s infectious. Call a friend or a hotline or your therapist. Email or IM or DM someone. Enact your plan.

    Social media has been our collective id for nearly a decade. It’s very vulnerable right now. Please take care of it.

    BTW, I’m really pleased to see a lot of people returning to LiveJournal/Dreamwidth. That’s a great place to write about big feelings! You can filter them, and cut-tag them, and let people opt in to them, all while expressing yourself at length. Dreamwidth accounts are free and it’s a wholly user-supported company with great community aspects. I recommend it highly.

    1. I don’t know how effective this will be for people who have straight-up anxiety disorders, but I learned a bit about the stress cycle from reading Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are (an excellent book in general). It basically goes like this: perceive danger -> react with an intense emotional/physical state (by running away, fighting it, or freezing up) -> danger either passes or kills you -> if you survive, return to your tribe, tell your story, reconnect, eat, sleep, dance, have sex, etc. -> feel safe and okay again.
      In modern times, we can’t complete the stress cycle in the same way. Many of the things we perceive as threats aren’t immediately life-threatening and are fairly persistent, so our minds can’t go, “Good, we’re safe now” as easily. Most modern threats also can’t be fought or fled, so we don’t get that burst of physical activity, and often instead of making an effort to confront our stress and reconnect*, we try to push it to the backs of our minds and try to ignore it. Nagoski suggests that we can make substitutions like exercising regularly, creating stress-free physical spaces, maintaining strong connections with loved ones, using meditation techniques like focused breathing, and so on.

    2. The anxiety/motivation point really speaks to me right now. You’re so right about the stress adding to the anxiety.

  15. If I could have a handy baby elephant nearby to wrap her wee trunk around my leg on occasion, I could do anything.

  16. 15. “My boyfriend tells me to exercise and watch what I eat. It makes me feel horrible.”

    About the only time it’s a good idea to “tell someone” to exercise and watch the food intake is when someone in the family who has medical issues. “Daddy had diabetes, didn’t watch what he ate, went blind” or “Grandma had high overweight and needed heart surgery” can make anyone a little paranoid.
    But even if “be careful don’t get sick” is coming from loving concern, it should not equal “makes me feel really bad”

    Another time someone should tell you to watch what you eat is when they have carefully constructed an ice cream sundae, with pretzels and licorice sticks holding it in shape. Watch what you eat, or it will collapse! Enjoy!

    1. I’m not sure it even applies in the case of Daddy with diabetes or Granny with obesity. They are full grown adults, they know perfectly well that they have diabetes or other health problems, and they won’t likely respond well to be treated like children and lectured.
      In the case of Granny with the weight, don’t assume that was the cause. Plenty of thin people get heart attacks. In fact, in my husband’s cardiac rehab class, I can only remember two other participants who were even overweight. One person in the class was a thin 40-something marathon runner who’d had a heart attack a few hours after a run, the other was a very healthy looking woman who’d always been slim, active, and paid attention to what she ate.

      1. True that.
        However people with illness in the family see it everywhere, and “my loved one got sick, I don’t want you to get sick too” is not the same as “you don’t look like my Hollywood daydream, go fix that.”
        The former can be dealt with by a joint trip to the doc for health checks all around, the second can … ban Hollywood for the boyfriend? Can we do that?

        1. It’s not the same, no, but it’s still not OK.
          Nope nope nope to “dealing with” health issues that are not your own.

          If another adult has not asked you to do so, butt the heck out.
          “but family!” or “but it’s coming from a place of LOVE” doesn’t make it ok.

      2. Yeah.
        I’m having health issues that are causing rapid weight loss. My doctors were much happier with fat and stable.

        The number of people who will tell me to my face that my body not functioning is better than my body being fat is staggering.
        Or that I can’t really be sick because I look better than ever.
        Well thank heavens for that! I have children, but bringing my appearance in line with your aesthetic standards is what really matters.

        Health and illness don’t always look the way they “should” in people’s heads.

    2. *About the only time it’s a good idea to “tell someone” to exercise and watch the food intake is when someone in the family who has medical issues. “Daddy had diabetes, didn’t watch what he ate, went blind” or “Grandma had high overweight and needed heart surgery”*

      Not even then. Please let me assure you that physicians really have that area covered.

      There is nothing you can say that tops the physical discomfort/disability of their disease for motivation to get better. Also “better” doesn’t always look like what you think it should look like.
      The person with diabetes or heart disease is already paying someone to give them information.

      Whatever your knowledge base about that disease is, unless you’re the one looking at their test results, you don’t know about THIER disease.

      A co-worker “helped me out” by taking Secret Santa candy off of my desk, and exchanging it with someone else’s gift because I have diabetes.
      The person who gifted it to me knew it was my favorite, and that I kept small pieces at my desk in case my blood sugar got too low.
      As my doctor had advised.

      I told her she had five minutes to get my candy back.

    3. No, the only time when it’s a good idea to tell someone to exercise is when they have asked you to. If I say “please remind me to do my stretches,” then it’s reasonable for my partner to do that. That doesn’t make it reasonable for other people to do that, and my having asked someone that doesn’t suddenly mean I should tell them to exercise.

      Similarly, if an adult has asked you to check in on whether they’ve eaten that day, or gotten some fresh fruit, or whatever the specifics of the food thing are, it’s cool to do that. (A friend of mine, when he was in grad school, could get caught up enough in his work that he would forget to eat for a day or more, and was glad of the occasional reminder from his partner.) The rest of the time, it’s not.

  17. A piece of advice given to me years ago that has held me in good stead: when considering whether you’re disturbing the neighbors, treat the noise you make as similar to a less-culturally-sensitive form of noise at the same volume.

    That is to say, think about when and how loud you’d play music, or watch prestige television with lots of yelling and explosions, or have a party, or practice a musical instrument. If it’d be okay to do something else of similar volume during a particular timeframe, it’s okay to have noisy sex during that timeframe. If it would be okay to make some noise but not a lot of noise, maybe try to save the screaming orgasms for later and go for quieter sex. And if it’s a timeframe where people have a reasonable expectation of not being rudely awakened–say, 3am–if you aren’t sure how quiet you can keep it, then maybe hold off.

    This is obviously unfair to the people who are naturally loud, sort of like how you’re probably going to find that you have more socially acceptable times to practice the oboe than if your passion is for the tuba. I’m not sure there’s a solution to that. But nonetheless, the rule of “could I be similarly loud doing something other than sex?” has held me in good stead, both in making me feel more uninhibited during ordinary “noise is okay” times of the day, and in not annoying my neighbors with 3am screaming.

    1. (Relatedly, I had a roommate who was, I think, genuinely trying to make me not feel awkward with regards to her sex with her boyfriend, since our rooms were separated by one thin wall. She thought, somewhat fairly, that hearing her gettin’ it on might be a little awkward or annoying. The problem was that her solution was to schedule her sexytimes for when I was asleep–because then I would, theoretically, not have to hear it–except that she and her dude were loud enough to actually wake me up. I finally swallowed my embarrassment and told her that I would much rather deal with the mild awkwardness of hearing her have sex at 10pm than to be waked up with an OHGODYES! at 3:30 AM when I had to be at work at 8.)

      1. I had upstairs neighbors a few years back who regularly had sex so loudly that it would wake me up at random hours of the night. We didn’t get along already (they were awful neighbors in many ways) so I couldn’t just ask them to keep it down or whatever, so I’m afraid i went and left a big note on the front door of our building (“4am, you know who you are, stfu” or something like that). I would say I’m not proud of going the passive-aggressive route, but hey, it worked.

  18. 21. It’s not quite the same, but I LOVED Yangsze Choo’s book The Ghost Bride, which is about a Chinese girl in Malaya whose father wants her to enter into a spirit marriage with a dead man. The ghost haunts and threatens her in her dreams, and she ends up going on a quest through the afterlife to get free of him. It was my favorite book out of 100 or so I read in 2015.

      1. I thought of that one too! It was one of my favorites in the whole collection (which is saying something, as it’s a phenomenal collection)!

  19. ” Part of living communally is learning to tune some things out and deal with a little background noise.”

    Which I really don’t do well. Even ten years later, I am so grateful to be in a house where I don’t hear other people’s music/tv/etc. (I mean, I’ll hear my husband’s, but we keep similar hours so it’s not an issue.) I don’t mind the sounds of kids playing outside, occasional dog barks, cars, birds, etc, but the way low-frequency sounds go through walls made me miserable sometimes living in an apartment (let alone dorms!) I wish detached houses and/or serious soundproof insulation for everyone else who also has low noise tolerance!

    1. Me too, I get so annoyed and frustrated when other people are playing loud music or standing in the parking lot talking or whatever. It isn’t too bad in the winter, when all the windows are closed up, but in summer, when everything is open? Ugh.

  20. No. 12 – My parents wanted to let me make my own choice of religion when I was old enough to choose on my own. Turns out, grandma’s best friend distracted my mom in the other room while (super Catholic) Grandma baptised me at the kitchen sink. Grandma didn’t tell me until after I chose to be baptised Catholic as a college freshman. I get that she really believed my soul was in peril if she didn’t, but so disrespectful! I came out an atheist in the end anyway – only managed five years as a Catholic before I realized I couldn’t support the Church, or believe in God.

    1. As an ex-catholic now-atheist brought up in the church …I don’t think a kitchen sink baptism by a lay person (because Catholicism doesn’t have ANY ordained women, even nuns are lay) would have counted anyway o.O O.o
      what even the fuck, your grandma

      1. Kitchen sink baptism would “work” actually. Any Christian can baptize, and as long as they use water and the “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” wording, it’s official. Many churches do “conditional baptisms” if they’re not sure whether the person has already been baptized – basically the same as a regular baptism, except include a phrase like “If you are not already baptized, I baptize you…”

        That said, it’s really only meant to be done by a lay person in emergencies, and certainly not against the family’s wishes or without their consent. (In the case of an infant. If the person to be baptized is older and has initiated the request on their own, things get more complicated). In denominations that baptize infants and very young children, part of the baptismal vows on the part of whoever is presenting the child for baptism include raising the child in the faith – there’s really no point in doing so if that’s not part of the plan, which it really can’t be if just doing the baptism goes against the parents’ wishes. Aargh!!!

        Random other bit of info because I’m a bit of church geek: any Christian can baptize, but a non-Christian cannot baptize even if they’re with someone who actively wants to be baptized. So if two atheists are on a desert island and one of them has a conversion experience, the other one can’t baptize them even if they’re willing to do so. Yes, I did ask my priest this specifically.

        1. I don’t care about the technicalities, I’m still having my future-possible child baptized in the river by someone dressed in wizard garb, using my PIkachu mug, in the name of Cthulhu, Athena, the old gods and new, and before all the forces in the universe. Relatives can’t complain, kid was baptized.

          1. You know, I read your comment and the first thing that popped into my head was an image of that nativity scene made with assorted action figures (Riker & Troy as Joseph & Mary, with Batman on the roof, plus other assorted characters. And a T-Rex, because you always need a T-Rex.)

        2. Total tangent here, but — according to what I’ve been taught, a non-Christian can in fact baptize in an emergency. It was expressed to me as “the person must know what the church means by this action, and have the intention to do what the church does.” I know that non-Christian nurses and social workers have carried out Christian baptisms in NICU situations because they knew that was the desire of the parents, and in my tradition at least that is regarded as valid.

          But, yeah, kitchen sink baptisms without the consent of the parents falls into that category of “valid baptism, wrong thing to do …”

        3. I’m now contemplating the similarities between that and the “only a witch can make a witch” line adopted by some branches of Wicca about initiations, and going off on mental tangents about the similarities and differences between baptism and initiation.

      2. I was told in RCIA that any Christian can baptize, but unless it’s some kind of emergency (like someone having a deathbed conversion with no priest handy) it’s not the best option. I guess Grandma thought it was an emergency, because she didn’t want me to land in limbo if I were to suddenly pass on. Since my heathen parents were heathen-ing about.
        Totally uncalled for and something she absolutely shouldn’t have done; but when I told my mom (now the ex-daughter-in-law), she just rolled her eyes and said, “That’s your Grandmother, all right.” Though she did say she would’ve been super upset had she known at the time
        Relatedly, there was about a year when I was four or five when Grandma couldn’t babysit – because I came home confused once about whether I was going to Hell, she burned her second chance to knock it off, and it took her that long to agree to and actually cut out talking religion with me. I didn’t even remember until Mom told me, thankfully. The fuck even, I don’t know. I love Grandma, but she has some issues – mostly related to that old school superstitious Catholicism and a hefty dose of repression.

  21. ” Part of living communally is learning to tune some things out and deal with a little background noise.”

    It’s entirely possible I had an ADD space-out if/when this was covered in freshman orientation in college. I had no clue about the etiquette of sex sounds / movements until I was 28 and discovered motion transmits through floorboards to waterbeds, so I could feel the people in the next room. I’m sure I flubbed the conversation with my housemate/the homeowner horribly. The whole lying in my bed feeling the motion thing made me feel like a participant in some way which was icky, but I’m still not sure I did the right thing in speaking up.

    1. Trina, I think you did the right thing. There’s no way that was not going to be awkward for everybody on all sides, but better they *know* and *work with you to solve it* and be prepared for next housemate/homeowner after you so there’s a lot less awkward and icky in the future. Good on you for doing the tough thing!

  22. #7 – The only thing I would add is to recommend that your FIRST step should be to find a domestic violence hotline and talk to them. They may be able to offer you an outside perspective on your situation and help you figure out if your next steps should include telling your mother or not.

  23. Ha, my grandma secretly baptized me when I was a baby! In my case I think it was something my parents were sort of ok with— like, “we don’t want to be involved in baptizing her, but if you do it without us knowing we don’t care, since we don’t believe in that stuff anyway”. But yeah, she was visiting my parents and watched baby-me, and I think she had a priest come over and everything.

    1. My grandmother did this, but she did it herself with us in her kitchen sink.

      I completely understand how some people would view this as a violation, but since my parents were more of the “Eh, we really don’t care” variety like yours, I think of it fondly. It warms the cockles of my heart to picture my rotund little 4′ 8″ Lebanese grandmother bellying up to a sink with one of her grandchildren in her arms, “baptizing” us with her own hand because she believed it would protect us.

  24. Re: #26, here’s what’s been working for me. It may be extreme to some people, but this is what I’ve done.

    1. I no longer have any active social media accounts. One year ago, I deleted all accounts except facebook and tumblr, because it was my last year of college, and I was trying to balance work, my senior thesis, my remaining classes, and adjusting to a serious downturn in my health (I have chronic respiratory illness as well as an anxiety disorder). After less than a month, I found it surprisingly easy and didn’t miss those sites at all. Over the year, I gradually cut back more and more on facebook and tumblr, going on week-long, and then month(s) long hiatuses. I returned to facebook briefly after the election, then finally deleted both my tumblr and facebook altogether (altho I still have the fb messanger app).

    All my close friends can contact me via fb chat, text, phone, email, and while initially there was an adjustment period wherein I missed invitations to things that went out via facebook, I am now in the loop again.

    2. I stay informed via NPR and weekly news magazines, which I read at the library once a week. All the weeks news sectioned off into one day, unless a friend calls or texts to tell me. I have taken to reading the local newspaper, of all things, to stay on top of what is specifically happening in my town. Six out of seven days per week, though, it is not on my mind.

    3. I have a pretty tight daily routine. This is something I need anyway due to my health, which affects my sleep. I have integrated making five phone calls to my representatives, at 10am each day, into this routine. This takes 15-30 minutes. Now, I realize that phone calls are not feasible for everyone. However, for me, it does make me feel much more relaxed afterwards. It feels like getting the dishes done, it’s not hanging over my head then. I’ve done my part. In a strange way, it relieves me of guilt I might otherwise feel over not going to in-person rallies and marches (which I cannot due to my disability) or donating money to organizations (which I can’t because I’m pretty broke right now).

    Perhaps not coincidentally, the housekeeping part of my routine has gotten better. I cannot fix my country but I can vacuum and fold the laundry while listening to an audiobook.

    In tandem with what someone said above, being off social media has been key, because activism-shaming has been meeting poverty-shaming in a strange and awful way lately. “Oh, you have money to buy a new book, but not to donate to the ACLU?” Um, yeah? I mean, did you immediately sell all your possessions to donate the money, or do you still buy things for yourself and just have more money left over because you’re middle class? So, hey, not having that argument 10x per day has been a huge relief as well.

    4. Conversational re-directs. When someone vents about the awful things happening, I’ve gotten pretty good at saying things like, “That’s awful; I really don’t want to talk about that right now though, it’s too stressful and what can I do about it? But anyway, how’s [your dog doing?] [did you see xyz tv show yet?] [is your mom out of the hospital yet?]” It usually works, and I rarely have to re-direct more than twice.

    On a related note, scheduling frequent, in-person hang outs with my friends and close family members has been vital. I do not want to be alone right now. Interestingly, being off social media has made me more motivated to call people and set up hang-outs, which seem to be more fulfilling than socializing with everyone at once on facebook anyway.

    4a. If someone tries to shame me for not wanting to talk about it, or tries to one-up regarding activism, and they ignore a statement like, “I’m not a good person to talk about this with,” or something boundary setting, I leave. I hang up the phone, or walk out of the room. So far this has only happened once, and I think this person no longer wishes to be friends with me. But I have a lot of friends who manage to both be compassionate regarding the big issues and also empathic with people’s mental health.

    5. Daily prayer / meditation. So, okay, I’m religious, and if you’re not this might be less helpful. But taking time to try to see current events through a cosmic lens seems to be helping me.

    This has been working for me so far.

    1. Conversational redirects and requests for topic changes are GREAT. Everyone understands needing a break from politics sometimes. At my mother’s birthday lunch, I participated in the first round of political discussion, but when a second round started up, I said, “Can we please not talk about politics over the cake I baked?” And everyone very obligingly turned to complimenting my cake (not my intent! but I sure didn’t mind) and then other matters. I’ve also asked friends to avoid specific what-if scenarios that really stress me out. And I’ve sometimes pre-arranged for lunch or dinner dates to be relatively politics-free* zones so we don’t even have to think about it.

      * Impossible for it to be completely, since we all know the context for daily life things like me renewing my passport or my friend rushing to get married. But we try.

  25. I think my comment got eaten 😦

    Well, the tl;dr version is, regarding #26, I did three things that really helped. I have a chronic respiratory illness and an anxiety disorder, btw. First, and this might seem extreme, but I’ve deleted all social media accounts. This basically happened in December, although I’ve been whittling down my time spent on them for the past year. My friends can contact me via text, email, phone, skype, fb chat–and they do, and we hang out in person quite a bit now. It feels good.

    Second, I maintain a pretty tight routine / schedule. All the normal stuff (work, housekeeping, hygeine, eating enough, make dr’s appointments, etc) plus, at 10 am every morning I call five representatives, which takes 15-30 minutes, tops. Every time I do something on my mental checklist, whether it’s vacuuming or calling representatives, I reward myself, and (this maybe sounds stupid but) I give myself a little compliment. Specific enjoyable things–like painting while listening to music, or going to the cat shelter and petting all the cats–are scheduled into the routine.

    Third, I only engage with news once or twice a week, by listening to NPR or reading The Week magazine. I occasionally Google during these engagements to figure out exactly what to request from my representatives this week. I never spend more than two hours in a news engagement session, and I never do more than two per week. Once I’ve listened to enough news to figure out what I am specifically going to say to my representatives, I turn the news off.

    Fourth, I’ve been practicing boundary-setting in conversation, and changing the topic to something less stressful (or, if stressful, than at least something personal, like “I heard your mom is in the hospital; how’s she doing? Does she want visitors?”) I think it helps people to remember that they have friends who care about their personal, day-to-day lives. And most people respect not wanting to talk about Trump / politics. I’ve only had to enforce a boundary by physically walking away once. If I feel the need to vent, I usually write it out first. If I still feel the need to share, I’ll contact a person whom I know will likely be up for it, and isn’t as anxious as I am.

    So, scheduling and routine has been really key for me. How about you all?

    1. re: deleting all social media, I haven’t had to go that far yet, but just deleting the Facebook app from my phone has worked wonders for my mental health. I used to just open it and browse it whenever I was bored, now I have to actually consciously open it on a computer (which usually means I have something specific I want to see there— pictures of friends’ kids, say, or a few Facebook groups I’m in that are really interesting and helpful discussions among people in my particular line of work).

  26. What I always find most fascinating (as opposed to amusing – CA’s responses usually check that box, though sometimes the searchers step up) is trying to figure out the intent behind some of the search terms as search terms. Especially when the search terms are simple assertions of fact. Are they looking for reasons people do that? Coping techniques? Prevalence metrics? Tweets where someone has said the same thing with a bunch of retweet comments reading “SAME”?

    But, hey, maybe Google is better at determing intent these days than I am!

    2: Your question is a contradiction – worrying about the neighbors is an inhibition, so you can’t simultaneously care about disturbing them and lack inhibition. I don’t know how to turn empathy off, so I would suggest addressing the concern behind your inhibition as CA notes so that you can be still-inhibited when orgasming but not have your inhibitions impact your experience.

    3: Is there an implied “to me” at the end of that sentence? If so, and it’s not necessary for work projects, get over your entitlement to other people’s attention and stop bothering her. If it is necessary for work projects, talk to your supervisor, her supervisor (if different), and HR, in that order, to look for solutuons.

    If there is no implied part of the sentence that is not stated, and you’re worried that she’s not feeling comfortable, tell her supervisor that you’ve noticed that she might not be comfortable at work and let zir handle it.

    At any rate, most people go to work because jobs are necessary for money is necessary for food and shelter and fun. For some people conversing makes this more pleasant, for others conversing unnecessarily makes it even less pleasant. Unless there is a particular problem (that is unrelated to your sense of entitlement to conversation with someone), leave her alone, including not monitoring how much she is or isn’t talking.

    6: CA’s advice is good, and I would suggest also recognizing that the person is lying to you (the intent is likely kindness or self preservation as opposed to malice); people who lie to you are not the best options for romantic partners.

    8: Given all of the image macros I’ve seen on the Facebook with captions consisting only of temporal qualifiers, I think this may have been looking for one of those. That said, he may have noticed that you are behaving in a manner consistent with your behavior when you’re mad at him.

    10: CA missed the video link for this one –

    11: The person isn’t interested in whatever you’re offering and is being polite by telling you ze enjoyed meeting you, which may or may not be true.

    12: Set a boundary and opt out of contact if they won’t respect it.

    21: I’ll run with taking the ambiguity in the other direction – being dead, a Korean ghost has different priorities than living people. He may have realized that the living and dead have fundamental incompatabilities and dumped you as a result.

    26: Don’t watch or read anything coming from the administration directly, get it filtered through a couple news sources you trust. Dedicate some of your disposible time to activism; doing something helps one feel better about the state of the country/world. Move your body in a way you enjoy. Try drugs – this kind of stuff is why we invented them.

    1. I have a job that gives me access to a large database of search terms, and I often end up staring curiously trying to figure out what exactly they thought putting that in was going to get them back out of the search engine. I think on the whole most people don’t know how to structure a search query so it gets them the results they want.

  27. I like all of the suggestions that people are giving for #26. I’m going to throw out one that I didn’t see anywhere else; I get the majority of my news from my local newspaper. As in, a paper and ink document dropped off at my place every morning. For one thing, my brain seems to react better to that format anyway. For another, my local newspaper doesn’t sensationalize things like the internet does, and they do a good job of having GOOD news as well; I can count on it having regular articles about the totally awesome local high school teacher winning an award, or the Mexican folk life concert and how life-changing it’s been for those involved to get in touch with their roots, or a story of a local green card holder from one of the currently banned countries making it back here yesterday, or whatever. It’s a nice blend of national, state, and local (with some international but not as much as I’d like), and on days when politics are too stressful I can just skim over the headlines and then read about the new baby tigers at our zoo.

    I also find that going for walks helps a lot. I know people have mentioned exercise, and probably any form that you particularly enjoy will work, but I like walking because I can do it at any time for free; just open up the front door and go. That has made life much easier.

    1. My local fishwrapper was founded by white supremacists back in the day, and still has a strongly conservative bent, complete with grammar/spelling errors, “gotcha!” editorial cartoons that rely on misinformation to a great extent (e.g., the old chestnut about the KKK being founded by Democrats that conveniently leaves out the whole “but Dems were extremely conservative and unwelcoming to people of color and indigenous peoples prior to civil rights actions in the 1950s and 1960s, whereupon the parties not-so-gradually flipped ideologies…and most, but sadly not all, adequately educated people are aware of that fact” bit.

  28. I just wanted to add to the various people responding to #26. I have had to almost completely disengage, but I am trying to get back in slowly now and in addition to filtering news carefully and self-care, I’ve done a couple other things.

    1. I have started wearing a safety pin all the time. It says that I’m a safe person to approach for help, but also I think of it as a non-verbal expression of resistance. I’m white and straight-presenting and I feel like a safety pin can be shorthand for “don’t bring your racist/misogynist/homophobic bullshit here and expect agreement. I don’t agree.” It helps me feel less complicit in the white supremacy going on and is a little daily resistance that doesn’t drain my limited time/energy/money.

    2. I also have a few phrases I repeat to myself when I start feeling panicky: “survival is resistance and I’m still here,” “the arc of the universe bends towards justice,” things like that. I find that I start feeling panicked because it feels like I have to solve all the problems NOW when of course I cannot singlehandedly solve any of the problems. These little things help me cope with the powerlessness and anxiety, and engaging only in a limited fashion with the news helps those feelings not come up too often.

  29. 4. “Not ready for a relationship right now after a bad break-up.”

    I interpreted this to mean that the searcher is the one who isn’t ready. Which is normal. This isn’t one of those things where you’re supposed to get back on the horse right away. Take whatever time you need to heal and ignore the friends who want to set you up or talk you into putting up a dating profile.

  30. Delurking to say I feel you, #12. I feel you a lot. Partner and I don’t have any kids yet, but I’ve STILL had to have preliminary conversations with my mother regarding baptism. These chats have led me to believe that, as and when the kid thing happens, things will be ugly.

    I suspect the reason is that for her (conservative Lutheran) it’s Child’s Immortal Soul, for me (agnostic) it’s awkward–where are we going to find a church, for starters–and should be up to Child to decide, and for Mr Rhi (atheist) it’s one big F NO.

    My mother is a lovely person, but I can definitely see her doing the kitchen sink thing (see commenters above) because the alternative in her mind is ‘damned’. It’s…pretty hard to argue with, unfortunately, so anyone with scripts would be welcome.

  31. Number 24. I know this might seem a bit formulaic, but this is how I write letters of condolence.

    It’s basically – 1) acknowledge their loss and that their lives have changed forever; 2) tell them of your sympathy and/or sorrow; 3) give them a good memory of yours to think about and to remind them that their loved one lives on in people’s minds; 4) send love.

    It’s often useful to spend a minute thinking about the deceased, and seize on the first (and therefore probably strongest) positive image that comes to mind. Then use that for point 3. It can be a really tiny thing, e.g., ‘their warm welcome whenever I came to your house’, or ‘they let me play with their Lego when I was a child’.


    1) Dear [Aunt and Uncle, whoever], I am so sorry to hear of [Cousin]’s death.

    2) I really feel for you in your loss, and I realise your lives will never be the same again.

    3) Although I have not seen [Cousin] for a while, I remember when they and I met at [family event] and had such a lovely talk. I will always remember [their warm smile/their sense of humour/how clever they always seemed/how much I admired their specific achievement].

    4) I join your family and friends near and far who are all thinking of you in your sorrow (or praying for you if religious). Much love, your niece/nephew, Number 24.

    This can last three pages or be fitted on the inside of a card.

    1. This is wonderful. Condolence letters are so hard to write, but your template really hits the important points – love, sympathy, specific fond memories. Thank you! Saving this just in case!

  32. I have to disagree about the new Prudence. Unfortunately she tends to ignore red flags of physical and mental health issues in the letters she gets, at least once has directly told a letter writer to ignore their therapist’s advice to get a medical check because they could have serious health issues, and distributes legal and financial advice without consulting legal and financial experts.

  33. Your response to 19 is highly excellent and I will definitely be remembering that one!

    I know it’s a typo Cap’n but I am amused by the idea of the U.S. having a secret ballet that you all participate in once every four years. Perhaps casting your vote via interpretative dance?

  34. One thing I say to myself on #26 is, “If I spend my days in a depressive funk/panic attack/constant state of outrage, then the Trumpians have won.” I realize this doesn’t help with a full-on, catastrophic mental health issue, but it helps a bit with my magical thinking of “I must worry about this ALL THE TIME to prevent it from happening.”

  35. I remember when a Black woman wrote to Prudence (pre-Mallory) about her White husband bring racist and Prudence basically said that’s what she got marrying a White man. Prudie sounded HEATED that 1) this Black woman had the nerve to marry a White man and 2) that she though she had the right not to have to deal with racism in her own marriage.

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