It Came From The Search Terms: Summer Pledge Drive Edition

I had a bunch of travel in July and never got that month’s version up. So, here’s another round of that thing where we answer people’s search engine queries like blog questions.

1 “Awkward coworkers who wont get hint


Hints don’t work. They just create a sea of plausible deniability for clueless people to splash around in while you get more and more frustrated. If you want your coworkers to understand or know something, you gotta say it, as briefly and directly as you can.

2 “Is it bad to break up with someone after a day


It’s no fun for anyone to break up after a day, but it probably beats the alternative of continuing to date somebody you don’t want to be with and lying to them about it for more days. You get to change your mind! Do the kind thing and tell the other person now.

3 “Should you notify your estranged father of your wedding?”

I would say that if you’re estranged from your dad, you certainly don’t owe him an invitation or an announcement. If you do want to tell him, I would also keep my expectations very low about what he’ll do. Weddings and funerals and baptisms don’t fix the stuff that’s wrong in families (& often exacerbate it), so what are you really hoping will happen if you give him this news? I wouldn’t count on any of it happening.

Weddings are one of those things that really show it when “cherished fantasy of what a parent should be and do” and “actual parent” don’t match, and I’m sorry that a happy occasion is causing a new sting of grief for what was supposed to be.

4 “What to do if hubby abuses because of MIL?”

Ouch, what a gutpunch.

Whatever your mother-in-law has done or whatever she is like, your husband is still abusing you. Until he stops, gets some help, apologizes, and changes the behavior, it’s your husband’s fault and his responsibility, and offloading the blame or an explanation onto his mom doesn’t change the fact of what he’s doing. I hope you can talk to someone about getting yourself to safety. Here’s the number for the USA National Domestic Violence Hotline.

5 “What does it mean if a guy says I have a girlfriend at the moment.”

It means some version of “not you, not now.”

6 “My husband thinks I should work out more.”

Lots of people should probably work out more and wish they worked out more. Lots of people should also stop telling other people what to do with their bodies. Do you want to work out more? When and if you do, that’s when you’ll work out more. You are the boss of you.

7 “An sms to a boyfriend who treats you like shit.”

A. “Bye! We are broken up now. Leave me alone.” B. “New phone. Who is this?

8 “Why does my husband get mad when I touch myself.”

Who knows? Insecurity? Mistaking marriage for ownership of you & your body?

What I know is that you are the boss of your body, including your sexual relationship with your own body. You don’t owe your husband an accounting of your solo activities. They are none of his business.

9 “While using a dating site should you be upset seeing someone you’re talking to off the site.”

On the one hand, the people in the dating site don’t live in the site, hanging upside down like bats at OkCupid headquarters to sleep at night, and it is quite possible to encounter a potential date-friend in the wild. Sometimes the world can be very small.

The “upset” part comes from, how does everyone handle it when it happens? Do they act weird and overly familiar and talk loudly about where they know you from, like it’s your kid’s parent-teacher conference and the teacher is like “Kid, you didn’t tell me your mom was a babe! I totally swiped right on her!“? Or do they say “Hello, nice to see you” and act calm and relaxed and safe? That’s all good information to have.

Or, do you feel like they are trying to figure out where you work and live and hang out and you get a stalker-y vibe from it, like they were seeking you out, trying to run into you? That would make me pretty upset.

10 “I live in a condo and a neighbor constantly knocks on my door. How do I tell her to stop?”

Neighbor, please stop knocking on my door, let’s save that for emergencies where something is on fire or flooding or bleeding. If you need to reach me otherwise, please leave a note or use my email and I’ll get back to you when I can.” #hintsdontwork

Then, you don’t always answer the door, and if you do, jerk the door open and say “What’s wrong?” because you’re expecting an emergency.

11 “My boyfriend said he can manage my appearance.”

Your boyfriend appears to need a mannequin or Real Doll or a Barbie he can outfit as he pleases all the livelong day, and you appear to need a different boyfriend.

12 “My boyfriend is depressed and takes everything out on me.”

Depression is not your boyfriend’s fault.

Taking everything out on you is a choice he is making. Do you want to stick around to be mistreated?

13 “How do I make friends for my husband.”

If your husband wants friends, suggest that he try or take a class or find a hobby group or play a fun sport or volunteer somewhere. Then let him do 100% of the work of following through with that.

14 “I love my professor how do I know her feelings?”

I asked her her feelings and she said that she doesn’t love you back. She wants you to enjoy her class and learn a lot from it and then go and have a great education and happy life.

15 “Dating a married man is hard. You cannot call him.”

It is known. If things like “regular calling” and “not sneaking around behind someone’s back” are important to you, consider the non-married as your dating pool.

16 “Can you masturbate if your roommate is deaf?”

Back to school time! It’s not all study tips and deals on extra-long twin fitted sheets, is it?

Masturbation is great and you should totally do it sometimes! However, if you share a bedroom with a roommate, wait until your roommate is not home to rub one out, ok? It’s just polite.

17 “Is it ok to just stop at a person’s house without calling first?”

But…you could call? “Hey friend, I’m in the neighborhood, any chance you’re home and want to hang out for a bit?

If you want to know if you have a “just drop by!” relationship with someone, here are three indicators:

  • They’ve told you to just “drop in, no need to call!” using words.
  • They also drop by your house.
  • You’ve asked “Is it okay if I just drop by sometime?” and they’ve enthusiastically said “Yes! Any time!”

Even if those three things are true…I would still call or send a text. Again, why wouldn’t you? Are you being chased and need a quick place to hide?

18 “Can a girlfriend influence your teen son to be a bad person?”

I’m sure it’s possible? And if your teenage son is acting like “a bad person,” it might feel better and be really convenient if there is someone else to blame for all of it who isn’t your precious-sweet-angel-baby-boy?

But, again, if your teen son is acting like “a bad person,” then he is making choices to do bad things, and I think any conversation you have with him needs to not displace his choices onto the girlfriend. Focus on his behaviors and the choices he is making, please. Don’t buy into the narrative that how he behaves is the fault of others’ influences, and don’t let him do it either. He’s responsible for his behaviors, and no girlfriend (or parents) can influence him to act like a jerk without his participation.

19 “New boyfriend who makes you feel sad.”

“Hey New Boyfriend, I like you a lot but since we’ve been dating I feel sad all the time, so let’s break up.”

20 “Can I date an insurance agent?”


Insurance agents need love too!


Your insurance agent is at work and he/she has to be that nice to everyone. So I wouldn’t like, replace online dating sites with calling insurance agencies for fake quotes or anything.

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Are you there, Mayhem? It’s me, Captain Awkward.Image description: Dean Winters as “Mayhem” from the Allstate Insurance commercials. He is a white man in a suit slumped in the back of a very damaged car covered in seat stuffing.


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143 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: Summer Pledge Drive Edition

  1. I think #9 means they are talking to someone in a dating-type way IRL but they found them on a dating site too. In high school, we used to call it “talking” if both parties expressed an interest but hadn’t started doing romantic stuff yet.
    And I would say, well, you’re also on the site? If you’re just talking, that’s like not even at the level of casually dating, so I wouldn’t be upset.

    1. I just learned today from the Atlantic article on whether smartphones were ruining the young people that “talking” was the new lingo! Sounds like it’s been around a few years and I’ve just been out of the loop.

        1. Ha, I was in college 20 years ago, so maybe it’s just a regional difference! Or the dividing line was in the four years between us!

      1. “Talking” is not the new lingo. Like many things, it’s been “Columbused.” Black People have been using that expression since before I was in high school (I’ll be 50 this year).

        1. Thank you! I let the “woe is the youth” tone of the article lull me into critically thinking about that angle but not about the brief language mention.

    2. Oooh, good catch! I was still on the site for a while until I’d been dating someone for two months, and then I deleted because the creeps were getting to me.

    3. I read it as “I was talking to this person on a dating site and now they’ve deleted their profile.” As in, are they off the site because they found someone else? Are they still interested in me? Have they decided I’m “The One” and have taken themselves off the market?

    4. At my school “I talk to her” meant “we’re not officially friends but we enjoy conversations sometimes.” But that was an overseas boarding school so that was probably just our own lingo. We had a lot of our own traditions, including that anyone in your dorm could ask to look through your closet and borrow your clothes whether you were officially friends or not. Which got me into trouble later in college…

    5. Aha, I only encountered “talking to” after moving from New England to the deep South, and was confused at first and didn’t get the “interested but not quite dating” (kind of like it took me ages to realize “Netflix and chill” wasn’t just a low-key way to spend an evening), and wasn’t sure if it was particularly southern or particularly Kids These Days (I heard it from a younger cousin of my husband).

  2. The Mayhem pic made me chortle. It also reminded me of one of my favorite fanfics of all time where Mayhem, Flo from Progressive and the Old Spice guy roam a post apocalyptic America together, wondering what happened to all the people.

    1. There’s also that Tumblr fic about all the insurance company characters who team up to get revenge on incompetent demon-summoners. It’s… actually a lot better than it sounds. 😛

    2. I kinda love Mayhem.

      Also probably Mayhem happened to all the people. You know it was you, Mayhem, stop fronting.

  3. #8, if your husband is also mad when you touch yourself during together sexytimes, that is also not enjoyable sex.

    #9, I read as “seeing someone you’re talking to off the site [that you know from IRL] while using a dating site.” If that’s the case and you’ve not already made it clear when talking to this person IRL, tell them you want to date them if that’s what you want.

    #16, It only now, in reading this question 20 years later, occurs to me that sexile is a roommate option even when the person you want to have sex with is yourself. “Roommate, it seems like we’re always home at the same time and I don’t get alone time in our room. Could you maybe go to the library for a few hours this evening? Or could we set up regular schedule where we each get a little bit of time to ourselves in the room every day?”

    1. I’m guessing #8’s husband is mad at them because they’ re using a sex toy. Sex toys have been claimed to bring out insecurities about men’s equipment (size, stamina, etc.). Still, #8 is not responsible for hubby’s feels.

      1. Sadly, I have been involved with men who got upset about my masturbation regardless of whether I was using a toy or not. Sometimes insecurity is a trigger, but I think it is almost always an entitlement issue.

        1. Yup. His church considered it infidelity, and it made him horribly insecure. Eventually, I let his church have him back. Insecurity is not an excuse for emotional abuse. He and his new wife are doing okay, though, so maybe it was just me, or him + me.

          Regardless, a happy ending all around, especially for Duracell.

        2. 17 somehow feels to me like, “I don’t like it when people come to my house without notice and my drop-in guests think that’s weird/ rude/ unfamilial. Is it?”

          Two answers here:

          1. It is not;
          2. Even if it were, who cares, if it makes you uncomfortable?

    2. Or if you live in the kind of dorm where your room or your suite has its own bathroom, that’s what the shower is for.

  4. If you somehow know how to get in touch with Mayhem, maybe you could hook a sister up. I want to pretend to want to have his babies so we can try over & over to make them.

      1. Oh wow, I think I’m being censored by Word Press. I keep trying to post the following reply & it’s not showing up, but my “testing” post did.

        I was speaking about the character, not the actor lol. Winters is ok, but Mayhem makes me weak in the knees (originally I posted gave me a lady-“word that rhymes with stoner”. (His “OMG” makes me break out in a sweat). I’ve had a thing for cishet dudes who…let’s go with “seem a little chaotic”, for years now (Stop Making Sense era David Byrne, anyone?).

        1. The spam filter eats comments sometimes for no good reason. I clean them out as I can. If it ever happens again, there’s no need to keep posting the comment! Sorry about that!

          I know you meant the character, but hey, if anyone knows “Mayhem” it’s Winters. The character also has a Twitter account if you’d like to get your low-key flirt on.

          1. Something about the fact that Twitter will verify a fictional character but not ban Nazis is striking me as extremely funny in a hahaha-sob kind of way.

  5. I had a husband who passively-aggressively encouraged me to work out more. That was the best 180 lbs I’ve ever lost.

  6. On the husband wanting the spouse to work out more: I’ve seen a lot of those in het couples where the husband wants his wife to work out more, but won’t do a decent or even safe job of caring for the children while she’s at the gym or won’t even make himself available enough for childcare that she can even leave for the gym. There are too many cases out there where, “if you want to work out more, you will,” isn’t true for mothers.

    I tend to advise things like locking the little ones in the bedroom with him when he’s sleeping, leaving a note, and heading out for the workout of choice, but I’m not married nor do I have children, so what do I know?

    1. Your point is absolutely valid, but doesn’t sound like the issue in that particular case. It certainly reads more as husband thinks I should work out more, but I’m perfectly happy and healthy as I am. In which case, Cap’s response of dismissing *his* concern over her body is perfectly adequate.

      If in fact it is a case of husband thinks I should work out more (and I kindasorta agree), but won’t provide the support to make that an actual option, then I would go with a variant on Cap’s advice more along the lines of “if you want me to work out more, then do XYZ so I have the time or childcare to do so”, and consistently ignoring/shutting him down unless/until he picks up the slack so she can.

      And even if he thinks she should work out more as a response to concerns she’s expressed about her own health or activity level (my own knee-jerk derail, cause that’s me), there’s a right way to do that and a wrong way to do that, and free-floating concern about “you should work out more” is 100% the wrong way. Support, mild accountability (e.g., “hey, what’d you do at the gym today?” after her scheduled gym time), and, like you said, making sure she has the time and childcare to get to the gym are right ways, but that’s still not the question that got asked.

      1. Well, if the discussion has to be constrained to answering the question asked, verbatim, and not consider that what people type into a search box usually doesn’t describe fully what they’re after, then we can’t actually discuss that one at all because the person did not ask a question.

        1. People do, however, generally search for things pretty close to what they’re looking for, and if the issue was needing support to actually get to the gym, wouldn’t they have searched something like that, rather than just that someone else has an issue with their body?

          1. How would any of us know? Humans come in wondrous variety.

            Sure, it’s not valid to assume from what was written that the person who wrote it wants more exercise. It’s also not valid to assume from what was written that the person who wrote it doesn’t want more exercise. Either could be true. Both could be true. Acknowledging more than one possibility does no harm, especially since there’s nothing in what was written to give sound reason for insisting on only acknowledging one possibility.

          2. Does it matter? We are all in the hypothetical here, why would being “right” about the searcher’s intent even matter? It’s likely multiple searchers anyway if it’s showing up as a common search term in the stats. Helen, I thought your perspective was great, thanks.

    2. I am always stark horrified when I run into one of those couples.

      Like, I recently went on a research trip for almost 3 weeks and worried not one single bit about whether my kids were being cared for adequately because why would I? They were with their dad!

      And yet, this is clearly untrue enough of many a male parent that it’s an actual worry for a lot of women. Whhaaaaaat.

      1. I think pop culture plays into it a lot with those couples– just about any TV couple you see, the man is going to have no ability to take care of children. There’s a reason “men were suddenly abandoned with baby” is a Standard Comedy Trope. (This is actually why I think “Home Improvement” had one of the better marriages on television– it was shown repeatedly that while Tim wasn’t quite as on top of things as Jill was, he was a competent parent, and if the kids were left alone with him things might be a little more chaotic but would be otherwise fine.)

        And I shudder to think what would have happened to me if my mother had been the parent whose job required travel. I don’t think I was ever left alone with my father for prolonged periods of time until I was old enough to fend for myself and to some extent for him as well.

        1. Yes, that and those awful “moms know…” “moms can….” “moms want”… in that smiley, fakey voice. Every time I see one of those, I yell at the TV, “Right, because all DADS are for shit and can’t do anything right!”

          That fucking dishwashing detergent commercial where she unloads everything he put in because he didn’t presoak, that raging dumbass. UGH.

          Those fucking Johnson & Johnson commercials where they do what moms love. Because God knows no MAN could ever properly clean or feed a baby. UGH.

          And WHAT is with everybody assuming we’re all in heterosexual marriages?

          You know what commercial I love? I can’t find it on YouTube, but it’s a Rice Krispies commercial showing a black man showing his two little blacks sons how to make treats, all cute with the giant spoon and the marshmallows. A black man in a kitchen, taking care of kids. That should NOT be mind-blowing, but it is for TV.

      2. I’m in a wonderful online baby group for people with babies all born in the same month. Plenty of people have perfectly supportive and equal partners but the fact that a handful of the others are often posting about how the fathers of their children can’t/won’t care for the babies is horrible. So many posts about “DH texted me that baby won’t stop crying and he’s getting really annoyed. Turns out the last time he fed him was 8 hours ago. What do I do?? I can’t leave work!”

        Abject horror. What a terrible position to be in.

        1. Personally, given nine months to find out stuff about what’s probably the most important responsibility you’ll ever assume, I would have done some damn research – but now that the baby’s here, IS GOOGLE NOT A POSSIBILITY.

          1. Yeah, I’m not at all sympathetic to the ‘clueless dad’ syndrome; I didn’t know anything about caring for a baby either when my firstborn came along, but I figured it out! Google exists! It’s not like there’s some magical Mom Gene that makes us all experts the instant the kid comes out; we’re all just muddling along. It’s just that some guys seem to think that it’s not really their problem, and society by and large lets them get away with that. It’s infuriating.

            (My spouse is a perfectly competent co-parent; in fact, of the two of us he’s usually the more involved. But I know way too many people for whom that is emphatically not the case.)

        2. I’m going to be honest, I’m a little afraid. There’s just random things my husband needs a weird amount of guidance on. He’s generally willing to learn, so I just hope we run through all his blind spots before we’re ready.

          My dad didn’t know how to do laundry when my sister and I were 19 and 21, so…

      3. I went on a “girls’ cruise” for a friend’s 40th birthday. We went to the town the ship was leaving from an entire day in advance and stayed in a hotel. I was so confused. Why so early? It turns out, everyone’s phone was blowing up with questions from their husbands, who had given no thought to the fact that they were going to be solely responsible for their child(ren) for a week. My traveling companions built in a day when they would still be stateside so they could answer questions like “what time does school start?” and “I am scheduled to work Saturday, what do I do with the kids?”

        Out of ten of us, I was the only one who knew everything would be fine. I was really surprised!

    3. The number of men who apparently can’t be trusted to competently care for their own children is… really depressing.

        1. It seems to me like a lot of guys treat the news that their partner is going to have a baby the same way I treat the news that my landlord is fixing the roof: as if they’re hearing that there’s going to be some noise and disruption around the house, but they’re not going to get up there and do an equal share of the work, because they wouldn’t have the first clue what to do and it’s not their job anyway.

          1. It’s a little insidious because if breastfeeding mom is just going to be way more intensely involved than dad while that is going on. And paternity leave in different parts of the world can be pretty minimal. It’s pretty easy to fall into the habit of doing everything for the baby without really thinking about it. In our family husband compensates by doing way more of the domestic work now and as the kids are getting older more activities like reading, etc; but with babies I think that is one area we can argue biology heavily encourages moms to get more practice than dads. So it’s hardly surprising dads have a learning curve when it’s time for them to get the baby all day for the first time or whatever.
            (And yes I’m aware same sex couples exist and I’m not an expert on the family dynamics there so I cannot comment)

          2. Oooooo this is an excellent metaphor! It completely explains why I have always seen myself as a single mom and co-parenting never appealed to me. The idea of Some Dude hanging around that I have To Deal With but won’t be at all helpful, made me nope right on out of the idea of co-parenthood.

            That said, no idea how this became so ingrained in me since my dad was the opposite. I blame entertainment media the oh so hilarious Helpless Man trope.

        2. I also have met a surprising number of women, even otherwise progressive women, who are super possessive of the ‘expert’ role, and will constantly put the dad down and undermine him and push him out of the way. It’s a weird phenomenon. It’s like society puts so much value on parenting as a sign of women’s worth and accomplishment that some women end up feeling threatened by a man being able to do it to?

    4. Ironically, I often see a setup that seems to be equivalent, but is not – instead of the guy who imagines himself emperor of his girlfriend’s body, imagine the older couple where the guy has actual medical limitations on eating/drinking, and instead of acting accordingly, he outsources this work to his wife and treats the situation as if he was the victim of unreasonable (and unforeseeable, illogical) limitations. Can I eat cake? No dear, you are diabetic, ok, maybe a little bit. Let’s drink the brandy before my nagging wife arrives and can yell at me (about meds that should never be combined with alcohol). Poor me, my wife is so strict. As if he had just de-activated his own superego, because of fighting rational restrictions coming from others is more fun – and also he could frame eating like an adult with a condition as Doing Favours. And this cultural pattern of course interacts awfully with people’s ability to recognize abuse, coming from any gender.

      1. Oh god, blech. I hate that. “My wife won’t let me” – you are a grown-ass human being, not a child, and your spouse is reminding you SO THAT YOU DON’T DIE.

        1. Swear to God, the next time a guy says this the answer should be “Maybe she SHOULD let you, so she can upgrade to a guy who takes care of his health on his own.” (Chinhands)

      2. Oooh, yeah. This happens. I have totally disengaged. The fact that you want all the sugar and your toes are on fire are related, and I’ll go cry on someone else’s shoulder about it, but I’m not your mommy and I’m not going to fight you on it. If you want to eat yourself to death it’s your decision.

  7. yeah hints don’t work. I’ve outright told my managers, don’t give me hints, tell me what to do. It still doesn’t sink in sometimes.

    13: Water (35 L), Carbon (20 kg), Ammonia (4 L), Lime (1.5 kg), Phosphorous (800 g), Salt (250 g), Saltpeter (100 g), Sulfur (80 g), Fluorine (7.5 g), Iron (5 g), Silicon (3 g) and fifteen traces of other elements.

    15. don’t date married men that aren’t in a relationship where all parties consent to the dating. there problem solved.

    16. I’m imagining this with a different tone to the question. I fail to see how someone else being deaf would prevent you from being to masturbate. Unless they also project a libido killing field. This person msut be studied.

    17. depends on circumstance like if it’s an emergency or youv’e been told specifically it’s fine but in general people appreciate warning, see number 16.

    19. similar to 16, I’m left wondering if they mean is it physically capable of happening. Like when you become an insurance agent do you swear off dating ever?

    (I’m being silly)

    1. Oh but now I’m picturing an amazing post-apocolyptic anime world where insurance agents are basically Shaolin monks who devote their lives to the similar purpose of defeating Mayhem, and I really, really want to see that.

    2. ’13: Water (35 L), Carbon (20 kg), Ammonia (4 L), Lime (1.5 kg), Phosphorous (800 g), Salt (250 g), Saltpeter (100 g), Sulfur (80 g), Fluorine (7.5 g), Iron (5 g), Silicon (3 g) and fifteen traces of other elements.’

      To where should we send the Internet you’ve just won?

    3. For 16, I think it was that you normally wouldn’t masturbate if you share a room (like, you share a bunkbed or something) but they figure that if the roommate’s deaf s/he won’t notice so it’ll be ok.

        1. Also, depending on your process, if you create some sort of rhythmic motion, a deaf person is very likely to be aware of that.

          1. And is likely to be annoyed if they notice you’re making assumptions based on their deafness. You don’t want to share a room with THAT atmosphere hanging over you both for the rest of the year!

            I mean, if you have a method so discreet that a hearing person wouldn’t notice either, then sure, whatever. But otherwise, probably not.

  8. #1: I actually think that if you want to use hints the first time you suggest something, you do you! Indirect communication styles are a thing, and some people will pick up on it.

    But plenty of people won’t even notice you’re doing it, and even more will misinterpret it and get the message wrong. So, when someone isn’t picking up what you’re putting down, you need to be prepared to follow up shortly with clear, straightforward words. And you can’t resent it when someone doesn’t get it. You’ll be a lot happier if you feel lucky when someone does get it, than if you feel disappointed or upset when someone doesn’t. (And if something is time-sensitive or particularly high-stakes, do everyone a favor and skip to the more certain communication methods.)

    1. Haha memories…

      In college there was a guy I liked, and I’d read his fantasy-novel manuscript, and in it the hero kept finding these mysterious holly leaves around, which turned out to be b/c his pseudo-elven love-interest had followed him on his adventure even though he’d told her not to, and she… had a habit of strewing holly leaves around? I forget.

      So to tell him I liked him, I put some holly leaves in his mailbox. It was the MOST ROMANTIC GESTURE EVER YOU GUYS.

      He was like “What are these leaves doing in my mailbox? Weird.”

      End of story, he later told me he liked me and we dated and were not good for each other. Anywho.

      1. That story is amazing and I can 100% see myself being that guy. “Hey, why are these leaves here?” Heh. I would totally say that.

        The first time an ex of mine tried to give me a gift he didn’t explicitly tell me it was a gift, he just kind of thrust it at me, so I just thought he was kind of awkwardly showing me something, and I proceeded to give my unvarnished opinion on it.

        1. I once left a message on my boyfriend’s (now husband) car window before he had to go to a really early flight. I drew a picture of an eyeball, an elaborate heart and an ewe (I put a bow on it to give it recognizable feminine symbolism, not genitalia fyi). I thought it would be a pretty easily interpreted message of “I love you”.

          He came back and said “I got your note. I like getting notes from you. But why do you love sheep?” That was the solid hint that I needed to be pretty literal with him. But once we figured out the best ways to talk to one another, it worked out pretty well.

          1. I was (I thought) flirting with the guy who ran the boot camp exercise class I attended. He was a former Marine who would tell us to put on our big-girl panties.

            I didn’t know that was a saying.

            I bought a pair of (oh God I am cringing as I write this) underwear at Target (not too expensive because even though I was clueless, I was not wasteful), put them in a plain manila envelope, handed the envelope to him, and asked if this was what he meant.

            I can’t remember who initiated the next contact, but he asked, “Ummmm…. I opened the envelope in front of my 14 year old son and didn’t really know how to explain it to him.”

            Don’t do this. Don’t give underwear to someone.

          2. This story is amazing. “Don’t give underwear to someone” is one of those rules that will stick with me for life!

    2. I like to use an escalating ladder of hinting-bluntness for communication, and go up that ladder as appropriate or as you say start higher up if it’s high stakes/time sensitive. On one end is vague hinting and body language, then through more direct hinting, then soft qualified language, then bluntness with a friendly tone, then eventually curt, blunt statements possibly with added anger and/or explicit walking away as needed.

      Learning how to communicate stuff directly and clearly has been like developing a super power. It took quite a lot of effort though – I used to be so focused on making people like me that I didn’t even know what my feelings were in a given moment and only later would I realise I didn’t like them. And then for a while I’d get horribly stressed and feel mortified if I had to be direct (which meant I was kind of incapable of the blunt-but-still-friendly tone). But now that I can do it I avoid a lot of misunderstandings or irritation with well meaning people and not-so-well-meaning people have way less ambiguity to hide in. I do think there’s a place for hints and softened language – most people in a shared culture will get it and when it works everyone gets to save face and avoid awkwardness. But being willing to get direct when needed is soooooooo helpful.

      Also LOL forever to Crooked Bird’s holly leaf guy. >_<

  9. For number 5, particularly if it’s said in a disappointed way, this might possibly mean “I am completely bowled over by you and want to marry you today but can’t”. If you are completely into him it might just be worth a “here’s my number, you should totally call me if at some point in the future you don’t have a girlfriend”. No guarantees of course…

    1. Wouldn’t even do that. Would you really want to be with someone who was willing to hang onto someone’s phone number as a just-in-case while in a relationship with someone else?

    2. “I have a girlfriend” is sometimes intended to be taken as “if only I wasn’t already involved I would pick you, please stick around.” If that’s what it’s intended as, then its real meaning is “I am a selfish jerk who wants you to keep thinking of me in case I eventually decide I want you, but I probably never will.” Giving these people your number just-in-case gives them an undeserved ego boost, leaves you hanging, and increases the chances that you may eventually date Mr. Maybe.

      Or it’s intended as a soft no, “I’m already involved so I’m not even going to consider you, this is not a reflection on your attractiveness in any way, let’s just drop it.” Giving these people your number just-in-case is creepy and suggests you don’t listen to what they say.

      If they’re really bowled over by you, then they’ll do something about it without you giving them your number.

      1. I have very little love for the *~grand romance~* of “oh my poor heart, if only we had met earlier/if only I wasn’t attached”.

        It’s so disrespectful, both of the recipient of the sentiment and of the person’s actual partner. Imagining my husband saying that to someone else just guts me. Do you really want to be with someone so callous to their current partner that they will say behind their back “my partner isn’t as good as you, but I’m going to stick with them anyway I guess, because I have to or something”?

        1. I’ve had men say that to me and I get so angry when I hear it. You’re right, it’s completely disrespectful and dismissive of their partners and makes me think they’re a big jerk, not that we’re star-crossed lovers with a tragic tale of what ~*~*might have been*~*~

  10. 11. I kinda manage my husband’s appearance but he asked me to. He will default to wearing long sleeved yard work t shirts unless he’s at work unless I request other shirts. He’s happy with almost whatever I pick.

    But you wouldn’t google it if you wanted it.

    1. Same. We both have the explicitly verbalized agreement of “please let me know if you’re going to be embarrassed by my appearance.” It works for us because we both think the other person has reasonable, albeit sometimes different, expectations. This agreement has had him change from “nice” jeans into slacks for an outdoor-but-cocktail attire-wedding and me not wearing the flashy new heels I was excited about to a party his friend threw that mostly involved sitting around a bonfire drinking beer.

  11. 13: My method of making friends for my husband is to make friends for myself, introduce them to my husband, and hope they get along. A friend of mine just asked my husband out on a date, so this seems to be working pretty well.

        1. I (aro) sometimes use the word date to refer to plans I have with people. Lingo varies as well.

  12. 17 brought back memories for me. One day I was out for a walk and happened to be going past a friend’s house (she lived close to me so this wasn’t a weird thing). I noticed that some people across the street were giving me a really creepy vibe; they were all staring at me and talking to themselves and then staring again, and then started to walk towards me. My gut was screaming “Escape!” So I casually walked through the gate into her backyard as if I lived there, since she and her family were all gone at work or school, then hung out there for a few min to calm down and wait till they had probably left. I slipped out the back of their yard where no one else could see me and went home. (I did write and let her know later and she of course told me that if I were nearby and feeling unsafe I could use their yard whenever needed.) So you hit the nail on the head, Captain!

    1. In case it wasn’t clear, the part about us living close so it wasn’t weird is that I wasn’t stalking her or anything, it just happened that her home was in my daily route that time.

  13. I’d actually change 19 to some version of ‘It’s been good to meet you, but things just aren’t working out and we need to end this. Have a great life.’ Key thing being that you don’t get into the ‘feel sad all the time while going out with you’ bit. There is such a thing as TMI; telling your dumpee the reasons *why* you don’t want to go out with them does in most cases fall into that category.

    1. It also opens the door to attempted negotiation: “But whyyyyyy are you sad? I can fix that!” Which, they can’t. If being around someone makes you sad all the time, that’s not likely to change.

  14. 18: Jic you’re using “bad person” as an euphemism for “have sex”, have a frank talk about birth control, STDs, and consent, then back off.

  15. If #18 is using “bad person” as a euphemism for “have sex,” then that questioner needs a crainalrectomy. Having sex does not make you bad, no matter how old you are. Having sex can be risky/stupid/unethical, depending on the circumstances/partner etc. etc. etc., but sex in and of itself has no moral value.

  16. For #17, I think it depends partly on how well you know the person. I think close friends can probably drop by each other’s places without a call first. But if you have to ask… you probably shouldn’t? Cuz it’s probably someone you don’t know well enough to do that with.

    1. I think this is something that’s going to vary from person to person – even with my closest friends, I would want them to call first because on any given day I probably have a very messy kitchen or a huge amount of grading and reading to do or just insufficient mental health to cope with being social.

      1. That’s part of why a call or text first can be a good idea even if you’re two minutes away. “Would you like some company?” is a yes/no and if you say no, I don’t have to tell you I was a block away at the bus stop, and “please can I come over, because $problem” still gives me a minute to grab clothes even if you’re right around the corner. My girlfriend and I have keys to each other’s apartments, which is very convenient, but it’s not for dropping in without warning: it’s for letting myself into her building for a visit, dropping off groceries when the other isn’t home, and spares in case one of us locks herself out.

      2. Me too! And in the summer, there are friends who I’m on “drop by on 5 minutes notice” terms with while still not on “not wearing pants” terms with, so I appreciate the warning 😉

        1. Seconded! If it’s an evening or weekend and I don’t have to be anywhere, it’s probably no pants o’clock 🙂 Just because I’m happy to see someone on short notice doesn’t mean I’m comfortable hanging out with them in my pajamas.

      3. Oh for sure. I’m just not a fan of a blanket statement saying you can never do that, yknow? I’ve had several friends where dropping by unannounced is fine. But it definitely varies.

    2. Yeah, I’ve definitely had friendships where dropping by without warning is normal, but if you have to ask, then it is, by definition, not that kind of friendship.

    3. Personally I wouldn’t like someone just stopping by even with my very closest friends and family. I always think of the worse-case scenario. What if I happened to be masturbating when they ring the doorbell? Of course it could be something less extreme than that, I could be having a shower or a nap or doing a vital chore that must be done today. I’d rather have at least the five minute warning of a text message.

  17. Re #2: I was broken up with after a day one time! Yes, it was awkward and no fun. Not that it would have been any less awkward or more fun if he’d waited for more days to break off the relationship. Breakups are (as a general rule) no fun, no matter when they happen.

  18. Re #11, I’ve been thinking recently about how gendered this is. I have a friend who has never really bothered with his appearance: he always wore old, boring, ill-fitting clothes. That is, until he started dating his new girlfriend who has, in the time they’ve been dating, totally revamped his wardrobe. He dresses pretty well now (or, more accurately, she dresses him pretty well). And everyone thinks it’s great! And this situation doesn’t seem all that abnormal: women overhauling how their male partners dress and/or groom themselves is common enough to be a trope. But reverse the genders and it immediately reads as abusive.

    1. It is gendered, and I think it can be gross both ways – women definitely should not be trying to force men to wear the clothes they want them to. However, I would say that men are much more likely to *ask* women for help with dressing better, because we’re assumed to have more knowledge about fashion and style and what’s appropriate where/when. Moreover, there’s a directly sexual element to women’s clothing choices that’s usually not present in men’s attire. A woman telling a man what to wear can read as “she’s doing him a favour to make him look better”; a man telling a woman what to wear reads as either “he wants her to conform to what he likes” or “he’s trying to control her interactions with other men, ie, not look too sexy/desirable”.

      1. Yes, there’s the idea that a woman’s beauty belongs to her man and is for his enjoyment. But a man’s spiffiness is for general admiration and his success in the world. And it’s expected that what he wants from her is increased sexiness, but what he should have is a sharp, pulled-together, competent, confident appearance. So if he’s working on her appearance, it’s more likely to be just for his sake. But if she’s working on his appearance, it’s also more likely to be for his sake. She might appreciate a well-dressed man, but he accrues tangible benefits in the world like increased status or income. If he’s tweaking how sexy she looks, she’s probably getting nothing but trouble apart from pleasing this one controlling guy.

      2. I also think this is one of things that’s indicative of femme-phobia and homophobia. Like, it’s very hard for men to be into their appearance or have a personal style on their own without the fear of being perceived as (*GASP*) gay. They need the security of a female partner to a) prove they’re not gay just by her role as Girlfriend and b) to have a female to blame for their newfound style.

        I think that part that squicks me out about it regardless of the gender/sex makeup of the couple (if there is not abuse present) is this message that: you aren’t enough. You need to change to be good enough for me. Perhaps that just me because I dated Guy A) who had great personal style but we weren’t happy together and I was constantly trying to change him to make him meet my needs, and that spilled over into his clothes and wanting to pick out his entire wardrobe. And then I dated Guy B) who has ZERO personal style but I don’t even notice because I’m too busy feeling great around him. And I actually take pride in my personal style (which has been described as “Italian Widow meets Zoe Kravtiz”) but I am not the least bit ashamed to walk next to this guy in his boring, sports-oriented wardrobe cuz I know he’s awesome.

    2. I agree! I suck at fashion and it’s always been a point of insecurity for me. If someone I dated knew enough about women’s clothing to give me solid advice and assemble outfits for me, I’d be very grateful. But I’d expect this to be an offer, not a directive. And sadly it’s never happened yet.

    3. “my girlfriend says she can manage my appearance” doesn’t really sound great either. The idea of one partner pushing to alter another partner’s appearance makes me cringe whatever the genders. Though I’ll agree the stereotypical picture it evokes is an order of magnitude less ooky in the other direction.

    4. My ex-husband and I only told each other “no, go change” if a: I was wearing something impractical/unsafe (skirts in certain neighborhoods or high heels to the park) or b) he was wearing something with holes/full of stains/falling apart. Once a mutual friend and I forced him into the shoe store we were walking by and made him get new shoes then and there, as it was almost winter and the soles were literally coming off his shoes. Frostbite is not your friend.

    5. yes, it’s definitely gendered. I think because men might just Not Care, but women are less likely to Not Care in the same way. also, maybe there’s a difference because it’s more effort for the woman either way?

      I don’t care enough to put on a full face of makeup every day/learn to walk in heels/whatever, so an attempt to overhaul my look in that direction would be huge amounts of effort for me. as far as I can tell, wearing a neat, put-together outfit for a man doesn’t make getting dressed more complicated than it was when he was wearing his baggy t-shirt & old jeans. a boyfriend trying to make his girlfriend look “better” probably isn’t going to do all the work to achieve the “better” look, just demand she changes. a girlfriend trying to make her boyfriend look “better” might go shopping for him so he has stuff she thinks looks good, then he carries on as before.

      (I can’t imagine wanting to dress a partner, though. it seems weird.)

  19. Re #17, the last time I had pop-in privileges it was with a group of people who all lived in one house together, and I was friends with all of them to one degree or another. So rather than send a “can I come by to hang out” group text or something every time, I’d just go over there. Their place was right around the corner from mine, so if nobody was home or they didn’t want to hang then it was no big deal. But otherwise, I was like their Kramer – I pretty much just opened the door and walked in whenever I felt like it. It was the kind of place where people were always coming and going anyway, so nobody cared.

    If it’s a specific person, yeah, you might as well text first. If nothing else, that way you know that they’re home and can let you in.

    1. I remember a similar situation in college: friends of mine lived near a convenient entrance on the ground floor, and since the rommates’ social circles mostly overlapped, people were always hanging out in their room. Basically, if the door was open, it was cool to stop in and say hi; if not, knock for important stuff or wait until you inevitably saw them at dinner.

  20. You can’t break up with someone after a day, because someone you’ve been seeing for one day is not a relationship by any stretch of the imagination.

    It’s so incredibly weird that American youth are expected to sleep in the same room as a complete stranger.

    1. That’s unusual? Wow. Are all dorm rooms singles where you’re from, or are dorms just not a thing?

      1. @AllanV: It’s incredibly weird to me too. I’m from the UK and students get single rooms here (BTW, the buildings would be referred to as ‘halls of residence’, not ‘dorms’).

        Also, I think students in the US stay in dorms for the whole of the college course? I may have that wrong, but, if I’m right, it’s another difference; in the UK, typically a student would stay in the hall of residence for the first year (it’s not compulsory but it is usual, as it does make it easier for a young person during what is typically their first year away from home) and then rent a room after that, usually in a house shared with other students.

        (Disclaimer: It’s over twenty years since my own university days, but this is how things were when I was at uni and I don’t think they’ve changed that much in that respect.)

        The other difference that I always notice is US people referring to post-18 education as ‘school’. In the UK, the term is much more specific.

        Sorry, just realised I’m probably derailing this thread far too much. I’m just fascinated by differences between countries that the people living there take so completely for granted, and I always love hearing what things about the UK call forth the reaction of ‘Wow, that’s weird/different/unexpected’ from people who live elsewhere. Would love to hear where Bobobob is from!

        1. Oh, this is fascinating to me too. 🙂

          US students often do stay in dorms all through college, but it depends on the college. I went to a large public university without enough housing for everybody, so first-year students were guaranteed a (shared) dorm room if they wanted it, but after that it was rented rooms in shared houses for most of us.

  21. For #3 I would add that, especially if you think there’s the slightest chance your estranged father will show up and cause a scene, it’s totally OK to send a notification of the wedding *after* it’s already happened,

  22. “I have a girlfriend” or “I have a boyfriend” can mean so many things, as others have said, it could be a soft no or it could mean “maybe we can date sometime in the future if my current flame and I don’t work out,” but I would drop this. You don’t want to hang on to someone hoping a) they’ll break up with their current SO and b) you’ll be next in line. Rooting for a relationship to fail is awful, and that person may not want to date you when they break up, they might want time after the breakup or they might want to date someone who isn’t you, and that will feel pretty crappy – also, asking someone out, or even asking if they wanna “grab drinks sometime” right after they break up is crappy, it may sound like you’re taking advantage of the situation, and you have plausible deniability (being a “supportive friend”) so they can’t call you out on it, but they will see through you considering you have expressed interest in them.

    Have you ever played “freeze tag” as a kid? Some people would stand around the people “frozen” and people called it “babysitting,” as in “hey, no babysitting!” to get someone to stop hovering like that? I sometimes wanna say that to guys who awkwardly and obviously hover around me when I’m in a relationship.

    Don’t wait around for someone who might become available to you someday, forget them and find someone who’s available now. It’ll save you a lot of heartbreak and it’ll save both of you some awkwardness down the road.

  23. #17- totally depends on your relationship with them.
    I never have a problem with drop-ins because I don’t feel an obligation to answer my door (or phone). If I don’t want to see (talk to) anyone, I ignore it. This is easier to do since most of my friends do call ahead, so if it’s an unexpected knock, it’s probably a solicitor or Toxic Family Member.

    1. Same here. Will not answer door/phone if don’t want to, but problem where I live is that I work outdoors at home, so there’s nowhere to hide. I actually gave up and get relatively gussied up first thing in the morning to do dirty barn chores because I have to be ready for drop-ins!

  24. I feel like after the advent of cellphones that #17 no longer was a polite thing to do unless it was already established.

  25. It might depend on what they mean by hint?

    If someone hints something, I usually but not anyways pick it up.

    If someone passive aggressively hints something, I’m all like “subtext? What’s subtext?”

    Me: “Hey, can you tell me where [form I’ve used maybe twice ever but you use all the time] is?”
    Office neighbor: “Oh sure, it’s right here, in [Folder A], where it’s always been, but sure, I can just spend all my time getting forms for people.”
    Me (cheerfully): “Okay, [Folder A], thanks”

    I am pretty sure I’ve seen that on this blog.

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