It Came From The Search Terms: September Gurls

Video description: The Bangles cover Big Star’s September Gurls in Pittsburgh in 1986.

It’s time for the monthly thing where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are actual questions. This feature is generously funded by Patreon supporters.

1 “How to stop a neighbour and hubby putting me down every time I walk past

Ugh, your husband is being a giant asshole, and it’s time to tell him straight up to knock this behavior off. “Stop doing that. It’s rude, disrespectful, and it hurts my feelings.” If he won’t, you’ve got Husband-problems more than you have Neighbor-problems.

2 “What does it mean when a girl says focusing on school right now after you say your feelings

It means she did not enthusiastically say “Yes, I feel the same way, let’s definitely date each other!” It means she’d rather focus on school than go out with you. Interpret it as “No.”

3 “Anonymous STD notification letter.”

National treasure website Scarleteen recommends InSpot  for sending an anonymous e-card and has a good how-to guide on doing this kind of notification. Australia has a service called Better To Know that lets you notify partners of possible Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) anonymously via text or email. In both cases, you enter info, the person gets a message that lets them know that they may have been exposed to an STI (+ there’s a way for you to enter which ones) and should get tested. There’s a good roundup of similar services in this article.

If you’re feeling blue and alone in this, the Netflix show formerly known as “Scrotal Recall” (now renamed Lovesick) is a romantic comedy about a man who must notify past sexual partners about possible chlamydia exposure.

If you don’t want to go anonymous, a simple text or phone call that says “Hey [Sex Friend] I recently tested positive for ________. You should get checked out, too” is a very kind and ethical thing to send. The more we all remove stigma and shame around STIs, the better job everyone can do taking care of ourselves and each other.

4 “My boyfriend mom prophesied that we are not meant to be together.”

Translation: Your boyfriend’s mom does not want you to be together.

What do you and your boyfriend want?

5 “When some knocks on door and says the Lord compelled them to stop and talk to you.”

Translation: The someone wanted to stop and talk to you.

What do you want?

6 “How to decline a neighbor asking us over


“How nice of you to think of us, but no thank you.”

7 “What to do when your friend sets you up on a blind date and the guy’s interested in her.”

Acknowledge the awkwardness, have a good laugh together, tell the guy “good luck, dude, tell her how you feel and maybe we can avoid this sitcom nonsense next time” and go home with your dignity. You didn’t do anything weird.

8 “Should you invite girls of interest to your party


Throwing a party is a great reason to invite someone that you might be interested in romantically over. That person can meet your friends, see your place, everyone can see how everyone gets on together, you can get to know each other better without having it be a DATE date, etc. Why not?

Now, girl(s) plural is an advanced move, but again, why not?

9 “What do you do when your daughter owes you money and is not paying you back but takes vacations and spends a lot

Ugh, this is a hard one. Here are some steps for dealing with friends and family members who are not good/prompt/conscientious about paying back loans,

a) Assume that you won’t ever be repaid. Take whatever steps you need to shore up your own financial well-being so that you’re not depending on that money. If you do manage to collect it it will be a happy thing.

b) Ask the person to repay you what they owe. If you bring up fancy vacations or their other spending they will get automatically defensive, so skip that part in your request (even if it is relevant to the issue). Why skip it? You don’t need the story about how she bought the tickets long ago or how they were really a gift from a friend and you don’t want to give her a reason to feel judged and aggrieved (even if judgment is warranted). The vacation money is spent. It’s not coming back. She knows that you know that she knows that she owes you money. Just be simple and direct and ask for what you need:

Script: “Daughter, you still owe me $______. When can we expect repayment?” or “Daughter, you still owe me $_______. Can you repay me by (date)?” Brace yourself for the wave of defensiveness and excuses that is coming. Do not, I repeat, do not get into the details of her spending or her excuses or reasons. Just repeat the question. “Okay, so, when can you get the money to me?

c) Don’t lend this person any more money. You may or may not ever get the money back, but you can definitely control whether you lend them more. You now have a lot of information about how they’ll behave when you lend them money and you both have a hard, awkward lesson. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior here, and “I’m sorry, Daughter, I don’t feel comfortable lending you money since you didn’t pay me back” is a situation your daughter created, not you.

I hope you get a good result. Also, general thought, if you are going to lend money to friends or family, it’s a good idea to put something in writing: How much, what it’s for, when & how will it be paid back. Your script can be “Let’s just write it down so we all know what the agreement is and I never have to bug you about paying me back.

10 “Etiquette of peeing when surfing.”

We are people of action and lies do not become us: In the unlikely comedy of errors that lands me on an actual surfboard in an actual body of water, there is no way on earth my enthusiastic and prolific middle-aged bladder is gonna be able to wait until I swim to shore, find a land-based bathroom, and peel off my wetsuit in time to pee decorously in a toilet. This seems like a “it’s a big ocean” and “that’s between you and your wetsuit” issue to me, but maybe an actual surfer has insight?

11 “How to make girlfriend move out to Colorado.”

You do not make. You ask, and then she either moves or she doesn’t.

12 “I have to leave the Midwest or I will die but my husband thinks it’s all in my head.”

Ok, this seems like a REALLY specific situation and we are DEFINITELY missing context here but what if I said “Even if it were in your head, is your need to go so great and so urgent and so necessary that it’s worth going alone, even if that’s a difficult & sad decision?”

13 “Dating female academic awful

It certainly can be, since the prospect of relocation is always hanging over the whole deal.

14 “He said he wants to do his own thing and maybe see other people.”

Translation: “I am planning to see other people and have less energy/focus/time/interest for a relationship with you.”

It’s a prelude to a breakup, possibly one where “he” either wants you to be the bad guy and actually do the breaking up or where he’d like you to stick around in his life but in background/low-priority mode.

15 “My 23 year old son looks so unattractive, but he won’t shave or cut his hair

[Bad Advisor] Well, it’s definitely 100% his job to make sure his face and body look attractive and acceptable to you, his parent, at all times so definitely be sure to bring this up as often as possible! Your concern, constantly expressed, will only bring you closer together as a fellow adult human strives to please you in all things, including and especially the hair that is growing on his personal face and body where he lives and you do not.

Also, to be on the safe side, hide all of your copies of the musical about this very question, lest he get ideas about fur vests, naked dancing or protesting the Vietnam War.

It is not only your business but your duty to set this young man straight. [/Bad Advisor]

16 “What does it mean if you ask for a guy’s phone number and his response is he is antisocial

He did not want to give you his phone number, or, if he does/did, he is warning you that he doesn’t want to actually hang out. Try again, another dude, another day.

17 “Fucking past due invoices.”

Fucking the worst.

18 “Girlfriend of 11 years is leaving me

Wallow. Fuck Around. Do The Thing.

Repeat the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear to yourself.

(Or not, as it suits you).

19 “Angry that my husband allows his parents to come whenever they want

This would make me angry, too. His family may have a drop-in culture or agreement and expectations, but you do not, and therefore the family that you and your husband make together does not. There are several conversations/actions that need to happen if they haven’t already (and maybe they have and need to happen again):

a) “Husband, I want your folks to feel and be welcome in our house, but to make that happen I need some advance notice. Please ask them to call first and ask if we’re free, and please check with me before you say yes.” 

b) “In-Laws, I really want you to be and feel welcome in our house, but I need more advance notice than you’re accustomed to providing. Just dropping by, even when I’m happy to see you, really stresses me out. I know this is different from how you do things in your family, but I need you to call first and ask if I’m free or if now is a good time. Thanks!” 

c) “Husband, I know I’m somewhat ‘changing the rules’ on your family, but I really need some consideration here. Back me up.” 

d) When they just drop by anyway and your husband isn’t home try: “Oh, too bad this isn’t a good time, I’m just stepping out” + LEAVE (go to the library or run errands or something, just take a drive around the block on principle). Btw if they have keys and are in the habit of just letting themselves in, put the chain on when you’re home alone. Teach them that you won’t drop everything because they came over.

e) When they just drop by anyway and your husband is home, “Oh, too bad, this isn’t a good time, I was just about to take a nap” + HIDE (in your bedroom with the door shut  – keep books handy – and let him do whatever work of entertaining them). Risk seeming unwelcoming and unfriendly. You ARE unwelcoming…to people who invite themselves over.

This didn’t start overnight and won’t go away overnight but in my opinion it’s a battle worth picking.

20 “How to agree a girl for fucking if she dislikes doing it.”

Find someone else to fuck. Someone who likes doing it. Someone who enthusiastically likes doing it with you.

What the fuck, people.

21 “Got an apology from my ex after 15 years

That had to feel weird.

Whether this was welcome or unwelcome contact, there’s one important thing you should know:

It doesn’t obligate you to do anything or feel anything or re-open any kind of contact with this person. If you want to talk to them, ok? You could say “Thanks for the apology, I forgive you and wish you well” if that is true of how you feel.

But if you’d rather let the past stay in the past, you can 100% delete the weird Facebook message or whatever and go on with your life.

22 “Did the date go good or bad?”

This is a great question. You can’t control whether another person will like you, so after a date ask yourself:

  • Did I enjoy myself?
  • Was I relaxed and comfortable with this person?
  • Could I be myself around this person?
  • Did the conversation flow?
  • Did I feel like the other person was on my team, helping the date go smoothly and laughing gently at any awkward moments? Or did the awkward silences turn into awkward chasms on the edge of the awkward abyss?
  • Did the other person seem at ease and comfortable with me?
  • Was the actual time we spent together fun/enjoyable/comfortable/pleasurable?
  • Was it as good as spending time alone doing something enjoyable or with a good friend or do I wish I’d just spent the evening at home?
  • Was I bored? Checked out? Apprehensive?
  • Was it easy to make plans?
  • Do I feel like the person was listening/paying attention/engaged?
  • (If kissing is a thing you’re interested in) Can I picture myself kissing them?
  • Am I looking forward to hanging out again?
  • Were there any red flags?*

If the date went well for you, where you enjoyed yourself and felt good, ask the person for another date. The rest is up to the other person.

If you can get in the habit of checking in with yourself about your own comfort and enjoyment levels during and after dates, even a “meh” date can be useful because you’ll know more about yourself and what you’re looking for.

*Bonus list of some of my personal First Date red flags from back in the day when I bravely put on clean shirts and lip gloss and met strangers from the Internet for drinks:

  • Was the person I was meeting generally congruent with the person presented on the dating site and during any prior conversations? If you’re “single” on the dating site and suddenly “planning to get divorced btw we still live together and no one at work knows we’re separated so I’d appreciate your discretion” when we meet, if you’re 28 in all your dating site photos and 58 in person…it was not going to work.
  • Did the person monologue the whole time?
  • Did I feel like I was monologuing the whole time at someone who just shyly stared at me and nodded? (The Silent Type is a great type and it may be your type but experience tells me it was not mine).
  • Did I feel like I was an unpaid nonconsensual therapist while someone shared everything about their life?
  • Did the person constantly talk about their ex & exes?
  • Was literally everything they said a complaint about someone or something?
  • Were these complaints at least funny and entertaining?
  • In these complaints was nothing ever their responsibility? Was it just a long list of Ways I Have Been Wronged By Others with a subtext of Surely You Have A Duty To Not Disappoint Me Like Everyone Else Has (Now That You Know My Tale of Woe)?
  • Ugh, mansplaining, especially politics or philosophy, how movies get made, the “authenticity” of whatever food we were eating, the makeup & history of the neighborhood where I lived and they did not (for example when I failed to pick the “most authentic” taco place in Pilsen or Little Village), telling me why everything I liked was actually overrated.
  • Talking during movies. No.
  • Taking me to some sort of performance and then critiquing how much it sucks into my ear in real time. No.
  • Overfamiliarity, over-investment. “I can’t wait to introduce you to my son, he’s going to love you!” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing innuendo & sex talk too soon, like, “I just got a new bed, it’s very comfortable, you’ll have to come test it out with me later heh heh.” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing it with the touching. If dinner and a movie remind me of how my cat likes to constantly crawl all over me and make annoying biscuits everywhere it’s too much touching!
  • Negging of all sorts, especially “I don’t usually date ________, but you seem really cool.” (Bonus Nope!!!!! if the blank includes fat people, feminists, “women who seem really smart”)
  • Constant contact, expecting constant texts/calls/emails before we’ve even met in person, all up in my social media biz, “liking” every single photo/comment going back through the archives. It feels good to be seen and not so good to be surveilled.
  • Neediness  – We literally just met, so, surely there is someone else in your life who can drive you home from dental surgery or hold your hand while you put your dog to sleep or fly home with you to your father’s funeral or weigh in with you about whether you should accept this job offer? (All true stories of actual things actual men wanted me to do after a few emails and one hour-long bar or coffee date). I will move mountains to take care of people I love, when, you know, I have had a chance to figure out if love them.
  • Casual, “ironic” sexist or racist comments, dropping code sentences like “I hate all the political correctness these days, I feel like I can’t say anything.
  • Bringing your feature screenplay to the date for me to read.

Your Mileage May Vary, as the great saying goes. My list doesn’t look like anyone else’s and I may have had stuff on there that is not necessarily a problem in itself or not a problem for you, or where there are exceptions to be made (I did drive the guy home from dental surgery as a human favor for a fellow human being, I just didn’t date him more) or that are just differences in styles and interest levels. It’s not meant to be universal and it’s about compatibility with you vs. any one thing being Good or Bad.

I’m including the list because I developed it over time by paying attention to what made me feel good, comfortable, safe, relaxed, happy, excited and what made me feel the opposite.I stopped asking people “Is this normal/cool/okay thing when you date?” and started asking “Am I good with this?” and “Am I delighted by this?” Those experiences (and the decision to be picky about second and third dates) helped me avoid some entanglements that would have been fleeting at best and draining at worst, and it helped me know “Just Right” when I saw it.

We focus so much on the auditioning aspect of dating – Am I good enough? Does the other person like me back? – that our own comfort and needs and pleasure can get lost right when we need them most. It was a good date if you enjoyed yourself and felt good and did your best to be kind and considerate. It was a bad date if you didn’t enjoy yourself. Whether a good date will lead to another one is up to more than just you.


295 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: September Gurls

      1. It could be a case where the one spouse is the main instigator and the other only joins in if the first one was already making comments.

      2. Some people have this weird thing where they can only have a platonic relationship with people of the same gender, and everyone else gets filtered through that. Like, if the writer for #1 is female, their neighbour is the woman, and the woman’s husband – who equally lives in the same house as the neighbour – is the neighbour’s husband. And if the writer were male, their neighbour would be the husband, and the wife would be “neighbour’s wife”. Because. Because I don’t even know. Because gender essentialism.

        1. Farmer’s wife. Farmer’s daughter. Because women don’t do shit on a farm, I guess. (And this was also my read, in part because of little linguistic dingleberries like those.)

    1. Same. I took it to be the neighbor, who LW knows, and the neighbor’s husband, who maybe LW doesn’t know, making comments to one another when LW walks past.

    2. Me too, in which case I advise putting in some headphones and pumping some sick beats at a volume that means you can’t hear them. Walk past with a friendly wave and keep right on going to Nopesville. Do not ever stop to engage. They are not being good neighbours and you do not owe them any of your time. Mutter to yourself about good fences making good neighbours if that helps you feel better about ignoring them.

    1. It could be taken so many ways, right? Dating as a female academic is awful, dating female academics is awful….

      Dating is awful until it’s not.

      1. As a female academic who finally landed a tenure-track job the *same day* I met my super cute neighbor in an elevator and who recently had to move 1000+ miles away from said neighbor for said job (to the middle of nowhere, of course) I also laughed and laughed.

        1. That stinks about your neighbor, but congrats on the tenure track job!! I’m NTT, but up for promotion this year. My poor husband laughed that being married to a female academic can also be awful.

          1. Awww, thank you @EmG 🙂 We’re still trying to make it work, since he can’t move for a while (he really is that cute, and smart, and supportive) so fingers crossed! And good luck with the promotion committee! I just left a place that was putting in procedures for promoting NTT faculty, which I thought was a really important move.

      2. A have a friend I’ve known since high school who is a stunning Barbie-esque blonde woman. She is also a college math professor. She’s had men literally flee dates when they find out what she does. It’s freaking bizarre. So I’m going with the “dating as a female academic is awful” interpretation.

        1. ugh that is so weird to me. I have kind of an opposite thing where people hear what I do for a living and think I must be super altruistic and gentle/sweet, and I’m like “you are setting yourself up for disappointment my new friend.”

      3. “Dating is awful until it’s not.”

        I think I need to print this out and tape it to the mirror. Perfection.

    2. ALSO LOL. This one (and also the bit where I owe my dad money and just went on a vacation, oops) was the first time I really felt convicted by the search terms. Only a narcissist would truly think people are googling them, right? It isn’t me, right? Hahahahaha/sob

    3. I cried laughing when I saw that one. My long-term relationship (with a fellow academic [male]) crashed and burned this summer, after 7 years together. It’s not every day you’re left by a partner who sneers at the prospect of two pretty good academic jobs in the same geographic region, so that he can take a bump in prestige but a slide in pay. I almost wonder whether he was the sad person searching that phrase.

      1. @DonkeyCabbages, I’m so sorry you went through that experience. I hope things are slowly mending. My first time on the academic job market I was in a serious, long-term relationship and at the height of the stress and preparation it came out that my also-academic ex really never wanted to move for me (my moving for him was fine – hello double standard!) and wasn’t willing to sacrifice even the tiniest amount of prestige so that I could have a career in my field, too. My life went into free-fall for a while but it was an immensely clarifying experience. Enjoy your new job! You are 100% deserving of someone who values your future and puts your life together first.

  1. 9) If she owes you money, just ask her “I’d like you to pay me the $X you owe me by [date] or I will ____.” If she claims she still can’t afford it, then extend your deadline but also make it clear she has to make this a financial priority and budget for the repayment. That might mean spending less on shopping or cutting back on her next vacation, but she needs to figure it out. Criticizing someone’s spending habits pretty much never goes over well.

    1. What’s in the blank, though? That’s the thing, I think. Who wants to sue their daughter? Or enforce, “You’re not invited to grandma’s birthday,” or whatever the consequence is.

      Thinking of Dan Savage’s “price of admission” metaphor, (that is, a person’s negative attributes that they won’t or can’t change are the ‘price of admission’ for being in a committed relationship with them; if you’re not up for paying the price of admission, or suspect you can’t continue to pay it five years from now, then you need to break up)– people are often willing to pay a much higher ‘price of admission’ when it comes to their parents or their children.

      I know people who really want to maintain a close / committed relationship with their parent or adult child who is verbally abusive, steals from them every time they come over, has hateful / bigoted beliefs, lies constantly, or worse.

      Any kind of enforced consequence beyond pestering the daughter to repay and refusing to lend money again risks creating significant enough distance between the parent and daughter. I suppose a consequence for not repaying wouldn’t necessarily be a relationship-ruiner, but since it’s already touchy, I don’t know what a reasonable consequence could be.

      1. I disagree with a lot of this. Yes, there are people who tolerate verbal abuse, theft, bigotry, and lying from their relatives. There are also people who never speak to family members again over wedding planning spats and jealousy over inherited knick knacks, and many other people who would consider allowing a relationship to chill a bit over a significant financial dispute. It’s up to whoever entered those terms in the search box to decide, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume everyone would (or should) tolerate a fairly high level of mistreatment by relatives.

        That being said, I don’t think threats make much sense unless the parent is truly thinking about a lawsuit. Most other things I can think of come across as empty emotional manipulation in this context. If the parent doesn’t want to invite the daughter to grandma’s birthday because everyone’s disgusted at her and no one wants to spend time with her, it seems more reasonable just to demand payment and cease invitations without talking about it beforehand. Further requests for money can be declined when and if the daughter makes them Facebook defriending can be done without prior notice, etc.

        1. I’m definitely not at all saying people *should* put up with the behaviors I mentioned; I’m just saying, as far as I can tell, people are very willing to with parents / children, when they wouldn’t with anybody else.

          It’s great when people don’t tolerate bs from their grown kids or parents. But, I don’t know, maybe I’m needlessly pessimistic, it just seems like people mostly just grin and bear it.

          I’ve never had children, adult or otherwise, so while theoretically I might say, “I’d disown an adult child who’s a bigot / thief / abuser” or whatever, I actually have no idea what I’d do in that situation. I suspect the, “just cut this person out of your life!” advice is so much harder to follow in that context. I guess that’s all I was trying to get at.

          I mean, if the Searcher wants to try to enforce consequences to try to find a middle ground between “disown” and “just assume the money’s not coming back, and drop the issue beyond not loaning money again,” it’s up to them.

          (Although Alison helpfully clarified below! She mentioned charging interest or not giving expensive Christmas presents, which seems more readily middle-path than a lawsuit.)

          1. I have young children and I sometimes run through worries about what if one is a terrible adult. Partly because they both seem a bit behind the developmental curve on ethics, mostly on general worry principles. People pick up misogyny and other evil, people screw themselves up with addictions, people fall in with horrible communities. I wish I could shield my children absolutely but I can’t.

            It would take a lot to cut one out of my life. Because it would be *my fault*, for one big thing. How should I have done better? Should I have lived stronger principles. Should I have backed off so they wouldn’t rebel.

            This Vader might be the worst Vader? Inextricably I can “feel the good in them”, no matter what else too. I know absolutely that they were once innocent.

            Well, this is a tangent from the loan.

          2. @caraway (sorry, ran out of nesting)

            Jedi hugs if you want them.

            Parenting is tough, you just gotta do the best you can.

          3. I’m not a parent, but I can’t imagine how hard it must be. I vaguely remember a quote – “Children are hearts that beat outside your body”. It must feel like a part of yourself, excruciatingly vulnerable, out wandering around alone and maybe causing a lot of trouble.
            At the same time, though, they are not a part of you: they are their own selves from the moment they’re born. You have control over their environment to some extent; you don’t have control over *them*. (I work with kids. Boy howdy do I know how little control adults have over them sometimes.) You can only help them as they develop themselves.
            Painful to hear? You betcha! I’m just a teacher and my lack of ability to make someone “better” through force of will is bad enough. But that’s what it is to work with other human beings of any age.

          4. I suspect the, “just cut this person out of your life!” advice is so much harder to follow in that context.

            As a person who gets up on the “hey you actually can cut terrible people out of your life if you want to, even if they’re your parents you’re still allowed and the sky still won’t fall in” soapbox every chance I get, even I fully agree that it’s got to be *so*, *so* hard to handle it when your child behaves really terribly. I don’t have kids and am not going to so this is all theoretical for me, but oh god it would be devastating to be in a situation where you’d have to consider cutting off contact with your child.

      2. Er, sorry, should have specified, I thought of consequences like “I’ll start charging interest” or “I’m going to be very stingy with your Christmas presents and you’ll probably just get socks,” not leaving someone out of the family or its functions.

        1. Ah, actually that makes sense. My mind jumped straight to “lawsuit,” but the kinds of consequences you mention are definitely less intense.

        2. Allison, that’s about what I was thinking. After asking for repayment (very important to do first), then I’d say a straightforward “If you don’t start paying me back, I will consider this to be your holiday/birthday gifts for [ever/the next 10 years/some other period].”

        3. I don’t think she ever specified this to him, but my grandma’s approach was, ‘…or I’ll say, “you know, he never paid me back that £500 I lent him in 1994” every time your name comes up for the next twenty years or until I die, whichever comes first.’

    2. I don’t loan people money, I give it to them and then am pleasantly surprised if they repay me later. Which also means I only give people money when I can afford to. I don’t know if this would work for other people, but it keeps me from feeling bad when I help friends out who need financial help and then they continue having financial issues and can’t replay me.

      1. Yup, I tend to take this approach about 90% of the time. The other 10% there will be a written agreement and a repayment schedule involved (if it’s an amount I’m less able able to suck up as a loss)

      2. Ditto, though it’s becasue I’m in a position to do so – I have enough savings that I can contextually afford to give people money to help them out without necessarily expecting it back (or back by a particular date, etc.). I would certainly suggest others adopt this view – if you can’t afford to give that money away, you also can’t afford to loan it – but recognizing that not everybody will or wishes to do so, writing that particular loan off and resolving to not loan any additional money is likewise what I would advise in this situation. As Captain suggests, for any future loans with anyone, if you really do need that money back by a particular date/ever, put it in writing. I know people can view that as uncomfortable, but it really is to everyone’s benefit to be on the same page from the start and make sure all expectations are clear.

        1. Yeah, I agree with putting things in writing. People view it as adversarial, but it doesn’t have to be. You’re not necessarily getting it in writing so that you have evidence to sue them if they don’t pay you back, just making sure you both clearly understand the agreement and don’t have to rely on faulty memory.

      3. This is a great approach, though it’s hard when the person you gave money to turns out to need more. And more. And more. Until the total is something you would have said No to :/

        In my case it was really genuine 100% need because my friend lives in a capitalist dystopia that is very hard to climb out of. But I had to switch to a No and “please make plans to pay me back someday when your life is more stable” is in the works.

      4. My parents have this attitude, but it bugs me. They said they’d “lend” me money for college so I didn’t have to get a student loan, and me being a dumb 18 year old I said “sure, and I will totally pay you back promptly.” After graduation I realized how much it was, and said “I don’t know how I’m ever going to pay this back” and they were like “oh don’t worry, whenever we lend money we consider it more or less a gift.” But this makes me feel guilty. Like, if it’s a gift couldn’t you call it a gift? Because if it’s a loan, then I should be prioritizing paying it back, and even if you’re not being a loan shark about it, I’m still a bad person if I don’t pay. But I’ve never been in a position to pay very much, so I’ll basically owe them forever. My mom says “pay it forward!” and I just don’t see that I will ever be in a position to just hand somebody 80k.

        I’d probably feel better about this if I didn’t hear them sometimes talk about my brother, and how he never paid back *his* debts to them, and there he is driving a fancy car. Maybe he got the fancy car because you said “think of the money as sort of a gift”!

        1. Would it help you to figure out a repayment plan you can manage? It sounds like your parents aren’t being jerks (to your face, though I can see how the comments about your brother might bother you – maybe he’s in a better position to pay them back or they never told him to consider it a gift etc., who knows?), so even if your plan is a 30-year (50-year?) deal, might that help you feel less guilty, like you’re doing as much as you can? And regarding your brother, you don’t have to manage that relationship between other people, so don’t and set a boundary: “Mom, dad, when you complain about [brother] in front of me, it feels like a passive-aggressive dig at me because I also owe you money. If my debt is an issue, let’s figure out a workable repayment plan [using our adult conversation skills] (ymmv on wry comments; you know your parents better than I), and if it’s not, I’d still appreciate it if you could not complain about other people who owe you money in front of me.”

        2. Also, “pay it forward” generally doesn’t mean pay that exact amount of money out to other people, more “help someone out if you’re ever in a position to do so”. It’s more like the Marxist slogan, “from each according to one’s ability, to each according to one’s need” – they’re not asking you to literally pay out 80k regional currency units to other people.

        3. Heh, that exact issue came up recently at a lunch & learn session we had at work about personal finance – one of the presenters specifically mentioned that gifts aren’t always gifts and that if, say, you wanted to buy a house and needed help with the down payment, well maybe it would be a good idea to accept a gift from family, and maybe it would be best to look at some government programs to help first time home owners.

        4. I can understand why this bugs you, especially when you hear your parents complain about your brother not paying them back.
          That said, I can also understand why people “lend” money with no expectation of repayment, instead of just gifting it; one reason is that it’s about having respect for the person receiving money. Asking for (or being offered) a gift of money can be embarrassing; needing money can be seen as personal failure, unfortunately. Lending money doesn’t have the same sort of stigma – after all, lots of people borrow money to buy houses, cars, or educations. Needing money is hard enough; I don’t want to make things any harder for a friend that needs a hand.

    3. Ugh. I owe my parents money, and we have a written agreement, but it was always way over ambitious (it’s literally more spare cash than I have per month) so no matter how much I pay, I’m always under, *and* they’ve forgotten what it says. So now there’s just increasing passive aggression and resentment when I don’t Give Them Their Money on one hand and ‘of course you can go on holiday to visit your family overseas they would love to see you stop being pessimistic’ when I say I can’t afford a trip round the world on the other. Or criticising my spending choices then telling me I’m so clever with money and stuff. MAKE UP YOUR MIND PARENTS.

      But they do keep trying to do the YOU MUST PAY US BACK thing but also refuse to believe I literally do not have that money and never did. When they DO believe me, they move on to blaming me for being underpaid (technically true but not the actual problem) or suggesting I pick up extra work/they pay me for stuff (working a 6-7 day work week is NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER). They are not struggling, this is purely a ‘feeling like I should be paying them back faster’ thing.

      (They’re torn between control, generosity, and worrying over money, and it keeps coming out in wild contradictions and makes it impossible to discuss directly. I just give up and pay them what *I* can afford and try and maintain my boundaries).

      OTOH, when I lend money to siblings, I keep track of it and tell them not to pay me/worry about it for a few years because if they’re borrowing money, it’s usually when they have no money anyway and they just angst/avoid it while also insisting they will pay and then forget it exists. Then when they are feeling financially stable, I pop up with the email and go ‘so here’s the money, is now a good time to sort out a repayment schedule?’ and they’re usually very happy to pay me back. If I can’t afford to lend it, it’s only lent under very specific ‘I need this back by next month’ conditions where I’m just advancing them money rather than actually loaning them anything (or they have the money but need someone to use a credit card for them because they’re stuck in a random third world country and need someone to find flights for them, in which case they pay me FIRST 😀 ).

      It’s all about not expecting people who are already struggling to find money to suddenly HAVE money to comfortably pay you back, setting very reasonable repayments and not relying on getting money back in a certain time so don’t do it if you can’t live with that.

      1. That sounds really tough to deal with. If your parents were reasonable, I might suggest renegotiating the agreement to a smaller amount per month, but it sounds like that would just prompt another “You must really have the money/you need to work more” lecture. I mean, it might be worth asking anyway; you know your family best. Regardless, I like your way of lending to siblings, and I hope you can sort out the money stuff with your parents.

        1. I found the best way round it was not to talk to them, just to set a new repayment amount and stick to that 😀 They like seeing consistent repayments more than they needed a specific amount, but won’t admit to that and ‘let me off’.

          It falls apart when they get confused over the interest they think they are charging and when I don’t have enough to maintain the rate I set and have to talk about it again.

        2. ” Regardless, I like your way of lending to siblings, ”

          Heh, I just remembered that I mostly started this because otherwise they treated me as an inexhaustible source of money because growing up I was the one with a job and my parents were always ‘oh, why are you being mean and insisting on your $10 back, you have lots of money’. They always *promised* to pay me back later (but forgot, of course) and I decided to enforce that by just keeping track and letting them know in a non-pressured but undeniable way.

          It’s amazing how quickly they stopped asking me for random cash 😀 And they’re much less touchy/difficult about the topic because it’s not emotionally guilting or anything, they can just put it off until they are in a position to feel generous.

          1. It’s really, really bad for people to be allowed to borrow money and not be held to paying it back. It destroys part of them. It sets up horrendously bad habits and attitudes.

          2. @TootsNYC not… really. It’s bad to let people trample all over your boundaries about when you are okay giving money, but the main problem is just that our family likes to be generous and it’s okay to ask for help when needed, and better off people are expected to pay for dinner etc for the poorer people, but also it’s rude to just ask for money, so it’s always ‘but of course I will repay you!’. And yeah, my younger sibs got into the habit of assuming I could pay for stuff, but they weren’t deliberately assuming they could avoid ever paying me back.

            It just becomes a problem when one person needs a *lot* of help, and keeps thinking they just need a little bit and then can pay it back soon, but of course they can’t because they’re poor and student-y and stuff. Then it just becomes Emotions and Feels and Guilt and Money Drama. My family likes to pay back debts and give each other money, it’s just that most of them are really bad at tracking it over time and not freaking out about looming Debts. So I found a new way to manage that.

        1. I 100% support and agree with your “wow.” But I’m not sure telling someone who’s talking about the 16-hour days they’ve worked or the time they spent living in their truck eating cheese sandwiches how privileged they are is helpful.

          I mean, yes, absolutely, the physical health and endurance to work 12- and 16- hour days without ending up in the hospital, or at all, is a privilege, and a lot of people are not able-bodied. But since a lot of people view privilege either as only related to money and class or as having had everything handed to them, I think it merits more explanation. (Granted, a lot of people *purposely* misunderstand it so they can ignore the ways in which they *are* privileged.)

        2. @KellyK

          I hear you, but.
          When they include a line about how “the young people need to hear more about HARD WORK” that tells me they have privilege relative to people in objectively worse economic situations. They clearly didn’t learn a thing (or at least not the right things) from their time with less money. Like per your parenthetical.

        3. Speaking of assumptions, I think there’s a lot of assuming going on here that flynnthecat1 isn’t already working as hard as they reasonably (ie without destroying their mental or physical health) can to pay their parents back. That whole situation sounds infuriating, I have absolutely no doubt that if flynnthecat1 could pay their parents back at the rate their parents would prefer, they would do that just to get the damn thing over with.

          I think it’s really unkind to characterize flynnthecat1 as a bratty entitled freeloader when we hardly know anything about their life.

      2. The other side of it is if a family member is struggling, and you are not, and you can afford to just *give* money, maybe, do it? Without putting this giant obligation on them to work themselves to the bone? Or set more reasonable repayment terms? I would love to have enough money that I could just give it to struggling people I know and say “Hey, go thrive, pay it forward someday.” There is a difference between banks and friends/family in how they operate. Why is there automatic virtue in behaving like a bank?

        And also social safety nets are useful? Like, people who can’t work also deserve to live and be fed and ok? And I would not want someone to deprive or injure or endanger themselves over money? I don’t want to take anything away from your achievements or your struggles, but you don’t know everyone’s life.

        I think it’s important to honor agreements but it’s also important not to make agreements that are exploitive or unsustainable.

        1. “The other side of it is if a family member is struggling, and you are not, and you can afford to just *give* money, maybe, do it?”

          See, this IS actually my default family attitude. It’s just that certain parents also get very controlling and prefer to be generous on their terms and don’t like to feel ‘cheated’ or like the other person is in control of what gets paid, and get grouchy if debts continue for a long time even if they are supposed to. So I have to balance a lot of blatantly contradictory statements about whether I need to pay them back.

          My favourite/most frustrating part of this is that their latest excuse for wanting me to pay back more is ‘so they can help [other siblings]’ to which my (mostly internal) response is a) that is not my problem, [other siblings] are fine and you can easily give them money if they need it, b) if you can’t, it’s because YOU invested it all elsewhere in long term property investments, my measly debt is actually not going to help, c) bankrupting me is not really going to help reduce the overall ‘offspring needing assistance’ situation.

          …I don’t say most of that out loud, but the guilting/manipulation is pretty irritating as it’s just to cover the need for control to just MAKE ME PAY STUFF.

        2. I did this. I knew that trying to pay me back would be a burden perhaps bigger than the disaster she found herself in.

          But I didn’t want to be just giving money, and have the dynamic be “Auntie Toots will bail me out.”

          So I called it a grant.
          And said that there were conditions–she had to come up with proof that she had a plan to handle this expense/problem so that it didn’t recur.

      3. Ouch, that sounds tough. Would it be reasonable to just give your parents a note (maybe with your next payment) that says “Hey, I’m sorry this has dragged out so long. Here’s my new, revised schedule for repayment. Sorry it can’t be more per month, but it’ll be consistent.”? If it’s an e-mail or you have an electronic copy that could help make it easier to keep track of (for both of you). Good luck!

        1. I’ve done that a few times. They either don’t read the email, or congratulate me on my proactive communication and start discussing ways to let me off the interest or find ways to give me things. The concept of just reducing my repayments just gets blanked.

          (It’s mostly a control thing; they’d very happily LOAN me the money every month again, as long as I give it to them. Me just holding back what I can’t afford is Me Cheating Them and Hoarding Money).

          1. Yup. That’s pretty much what I had in my family. It took me years to realize that we wanted different things. I wanted boundaries and control of my own life. I wanted to pay back a reasonable same amount each month and decide how to spend the rest on my own. To me this was orderly, on a schedule, meant we didn’t have to talk about money all the time so we could all calm down, and was generally a good thing. They kept insisting on generous “gifts”, bringing up payments of loans, crying “after all I’ve done for you,” giving their opinions on everything I bought for myself which, if they didn’t approve, they felt they had a right to complain about considering that I owed them money. They wanted a lack of boundaries and control over my life. No wonder we were at odds. We were pulling in different directions. They didn’t want me to pay them back on a schedule. That would mean losing the ability to run around dramatically complaining and controlling.

            I recommend writing a single letter stating the amount owed and the repayment plan. Doesn’t matter if they read it or ignore it or praise it what. When they make a gift, acknowledge in the form of a statement and reiteration of the repayment plan. “Thank you for the gift of $200. Since this is a gift, it will not change my balance of currently owing $2000 which is being paid off at the rate of $20/month.” Or if you prefer, “no thank-you to the $200 you offered. If you like, I can apply that to my current balance of $2000 owed making it $1800.” Or whatever. Just stick to boundaries and control over your own life.

          2. Honestly, in that situation, I’d be tempted to borrow the money elsewhere (e.g., a peer-to-peer lending site) even at a higher rate of interest and pay them off just to get them off my back.

            What you’re describing sounds exhausting and exasperating, and paying more might be preferable to dealing with the mental/ emotional hassle. You might have a much more pleasant relationship once they don’t have something to hold over your head and control you with.

      4. Sure, a bank wouldn’t care, but we’re talking about family here. The bank doesn’t care if you only eat every other day, or if your blood pressure is scary and your mental health is non-existent because you have to drink coffee non-stop to stay upright for those 16-hour shifts and safely (you hope) drive home afterwards. But, family, the people who, theoretically, love you shouldn’t be asking you to work yourself into the ground to pay them back unless things are desperate for them too.

        It’s also worth pointing out that 12 and 16 hour days are not physically doable for a lot of people. Not everybody is able-bodied or in good physical health. And, again, capitalism is a brutal system, and you may literally have to work yourself into an early grave or wreck your back before you’re 40 because the alternative is being out on the street *now.* That doesn’t make it acceptable for your family to ask you to harm yourself to pay them back, unless not getting the money will harm them to a similar extent.

        I also doubt there’s a young person alive who hasn’t been told, repeatedly, that they need to get out there and work hard, or that no one will give them anything. I’m no longer what you’d call young, but I rarely go a week without seeing someone talking about how spoiled or lazy or entitled young people are.

        1. Seconded! I would never ask someone I loved to work 12 or 16 hour days 6 or 7 days a week to pay me back (unless things were so dire for me that I was already working worse hours), and if I found out they were doing that of their own accord I would plead with them to stop. If I love someone enough to give them the money in the first place (and given my bad experiences with lending money I’d have to really love them), I love them enough not to want them to destroy themselves.

          While I’m at it, it really doesn’t sound like flynnthecat1’s agreement with their parents was rammed through by the parents without thought to what flynnthecat1 could actually pay each month. You can’t blame someone for not holding up an “agreement” someone else decided for them.

        2. My wife told me to quit my job two years ago, and I did. Before that, I was screaming at 3 am and running around to try to get ready for work in the middle of a blizzard. I was also self-injuring at work and having nearly constant and highly disruptive meltdowns. She has generously been supporting me and my disability hearing is coming up in two months. She and I agree that I am much better off not working. I do the chores and take care of daily minutiae for her, so I am not using her.

        3. @mel Reams Yup, it was an arbitrary amount that came with the ‘we don’t want you to struggle so anything up to that amount will be great’ agreement so that we had something in writing. I rolled my eyes and attempted to revisit when things were calmer, but it’s always either ‘NO YOU NEED TO PAY stop saying we were wrong and trying to get out of things’ or ‘it’s fine! We are here for you! we don’t mind how long it takes’.

          If we actually had a fixed lower rate, they’d be very happy with the fact I met it every month, it’s the psychological/control stuff that’s screwing them over.

        4. @jennylinskyb, I’m glad to hear you got out of a job that was breaking your mental health! If you and your wife can do okay on her income alone, and that frees you up to do chores and take care of yourself, that sounds much better for both of you. Good for you, and I hope your disability hearing goes well!

      5. “Working a 6-7 day week is not an acceptable answer” can mean ‘working 6-7 days weeks would destroy my mental and/or physical health, perhaps irreparably’.

        1. Seconding that. In my mid-late 20’s I worked a job that I loved doing something I was passionate about. Our bosses had poor boundaries and most of us did as well, so by the end of my time there I was working a crazy and untenable schedule that involved (among other things) working 12 days in a row out of 14 (every other weekend I had a 42 hr shift, every other weekend I was off). I finally told one of my supervisors that I was going to drop one of my shifts; since she approved my request I decided not to tell her it was *not* in fact me asking but me telling her (to the point where if she said no, and they’d fire me if I stopped doing the shift, I would have gladly left even though it would have meant moving out of the country and completely relocating everything about my life [to be fair, I was planning to leave in a few months anyway, but didn’t want to leave my colleagues in the lurch]). I returned home 4.5 years after I started that job (to be fair, the first 2 years were more reasonable) so burned out I didn’t even know I was burned out, I just knew I was weary and exhausted in every possible way. I spent 2 years living in a basement room of my friends’ house and working a part-time job that was all I could handle. After a few years of a saner schedule, regular meals, semi-reasonable sleep, and jobs with boundaries, I was preparing for a routine physical (this is fastforwarding about 4-5 years from when I came home, when I had a permanent job that had health benefits). Normally I come up with a list of any health concerns, and as I sat down to make my list I realized that a number of physical health issues that had come up while working the crazy job (some mere nuisances, some potentially serious) had gone away in the last few years once I’d found something more manageable. Thankfully I was in my twenties and have always had a solid constitution and good immune system, so I don’t think I ended up with any permanent health problems from that job, but if I’d stayed there much longer I could see “destroy my mental and/or physical health, perhaps irreparably” being a reasonable consequence.

        2. Jackalope, a 42-hour *shift*? That’s impressively ridiculous, especially without days off around it. No wonder you burned out. I’m glad you’re out of there and doing better now!

      6. I would like to highlight “That’s a message I think a lot of young people need to hear” (ie, work harder) as the sort of wording that tends to provoke strong reactions. As a reasonably young person myself, there’s a lot of older people going around grumbling about how young people just need to have a better work ethic and how much better they handled things when they were young, without acknowledging that economic realities have changed (housing costs more, college costs more, decent benefits-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree are thin on the ground.) I remember reading a personal story from someone who went to UC Berkeley in the 60’s or 70’s and was able to pay for all her living expenses and student expenses without incurring debts, by working a few hours a day as a waitress, and I could have cried. I also nearly cried when I realized the amount my parents were paying every month for a full-sized house in a good neighborhood, was about the minimum I’d be paying for a room in a shared apartment in the cheap part of town. Lots of young people pay their rent and pay their student loans and they’re the same amount of money (and it’ll be decades before the loans will be paid off in full.)

        And, some young people are doing just fine financially, without necessarily working more than the young people who are struggling. And then, I don’t really fit into either story and I’m very awkwardly conscious about how I’m telling the Story of the Young and most of it isn’t even mine, because I don’t know how to tell mine? Sigh.

        I think it’s possible to share your story, about how for you working mega overtime without a day off was an option, and to advocate for that, without feeding into the whole “young people are lazy” thing.

        1. @bydabayou: You never said young people are lazy. Ok, I’ll take you at your word. If young people are not lazy, then why do we so desperately need to hear that we need to get out there and work? Are you genuinely concerned that we have never heard of work before?

          You never said young people are entitled. Fair enough. Then why remind us that no one is going to give us anything? If we’re not entitled, then we already know not to expect a free lunch or a handout.

          You definitely never said (or typed, at any rate) those words; but I think you’re aware of the implications, and I don’t think you’re all that surprised at the reactions you’re getting.

          You sound like you’ve had a really difficult life, where not a lot of people have been generous with you. I’m so sorry that happened. It seems like you’ve been forced to pave your own way and believe in the myth of the “self-made man” in order to survive what you’ve been through. I know what it feels like to grow up with people who are stingy with time, money, affection, support. I know how it hurts – that weird mix of pride and pain that comes from looking back at your life and everything you’ve had to support yourself through, knowing there should have been others there to help. It’s a lonely sort of pride.

          I look back at that, and I know I don’t ever want anyone else to go through that. So I am as generous with my time, money, love, attention, as I can sustainably be. I’ve fought hard to get to a point in my life where I can give to those around me in a way that is significant to them, that will make a difference. I believe that if everyone practiced generosity – emotional and material – to the best of their ability, we’d all find this world a lot easier to get through. I’ll bet you’d like it if you gave it a shot. It’s really easy to push people away, reject love and help and money, believe that you’ll make it on your own or not at all…. but we all need others. We all need the generosity of friends, family, and strangers. That’s how this whole ridiculous world works.

        2. @bydabayou: I don’t see anybody asking to be given anything.

          Except a living wage. And banks that don’t gouge them with late fees because they can’t put thousands of dollars in at one time. And hours that let them also rest, and talk to friends for a bit, and perhaps cook a meal at home. And a bunch of other things that the rising generation in the United States **simply does not have anymore.** Have you heard what the state of South Dakota just did? The **government** of South Dakota? They searched out everybody with college debt, bought the debt, declared that somebody making regular payments on a 4-year plan must pay the loan off within 1 year and 8 months instead, and passed a law that says that they can take away the driver’s license of anybody who can’t afford to suddenly triple their loan payments. Thus drastically cutting their ability to get to work at all. Squeeze the last bit of health and hope out of anybody whose family doesn’t have clout: that’s the life of young people today.

          As for being given individual things, I just left a job that involved getting local stores to stock more Proctor and Gamble product. Why? Because when I go to popular social sites and search on PNG, I see angry posts about the cost of PNG product. The young people making the posts don’t want to be given the stuff. They don’t want it at all. They hate the price tag, they hate being scolded for not propping up their elders’ corporations by buying laundry enhancer (or cruises or golf memberships or meals at mid-range chain restaurants or new homes or paper napkins or anything else they can do without because they are working as many hours as they can pack in and STILL have trouble paying for both rent and food), and they are not going to be swayed unless and until we bring back the things my parents’ generation took for granted. Like a minimum wage that can actually support a single adult.

      7. “A bank would not allow you to not pay. It would not care in the least if you are struggling or not.”

        That’s not even true. Pretty much every bank/creditor offers a financial hardship plan. It’s in their best interest: getting regular payments of any kind is almost always financially advantageous to the creditor, because charging high interest/taking the debtor to court/sending the account to collections is expensive. There’s a reason that bad debt is sold off at pennies on the dollar.

        1. Yep. One of my sisters had her payments reduced from $250/mo to $30/mo when she finally decided to stop avoiding the phone calls and talk to the lender. It meant she’d be paying on the loan until the end of time, but it was manageable and MUCH better for her credit score than defaulting. Banks are not…you know…great…but mostly they’re usually willing to work with you so that they get their money, even if it’s slowly.

      8. “That’s a message I think a lot of young people need to hear.”

        coming from someone who may well be older than you are… you do realize you’ve entered the “GIT OFF MAH LAWN”/Old Person Yells At Cloud stage, yes?

      9. “A bank would not allow you to not pay.”

        Wrong. A bank sets up contingencies if you can’t pay, like seizure of collateral. Sometimes it does this badly, for thousands of people, at which point it holds the entire country’s economy hostage if it isn’t handed billions of dollars of public money. My point is that banks are fucking terrible and should not be anyone’s model for anything.

        1. My point is that banks are fucking terrible and should not be anyone’s model for anything.

          lolsob, as the kids say. You are super not wrong about banks being terrible and also good god, if you can’t treat people in your life better than a bank would, well then you just don’t deserve to have people in your life to be a heartless jerk to.

      10. I didn’t say this was a loan. I said I *owe them money*. Short version; I bought a house they partially owned, they wanted market profit, I literally did not have that money because the bank capped the amount they would lend because I did not earn enough to borrow more, so in order to make the sale and still get the money they wanted for it I’m paying it off over time. The repayment rate was based on ‘this sounds right but if you’re struggling, we’ll help out, we want you to be okay and we can look at the numbers again later’ and they frequently had to loan (*actual* loan) me money over the next year, which somehow didn’t clue them in.

        If I was paying this to a bank, it would be a quarter of the amount per month. Oh, and they get offended if I imply I’m prioritising my *actual mortgage*. I’ve always been the one with steady work and savings, so they just can’t comprehend that I don’t have thousands hidden in savings anymore. Because I already gave it to them. I’d show them my bank account, except a) not actually their business (I’m trying to push back on the idea that my spending and earning is their business because I owe them money, hence the outrage at them deciding I should just pick up extra work – something they will support me NOT doing in any other context), and b) they start analysing every possible dollar I could pay towards them instead. They’ve told me to pay them before the bank and to stop paying into the automatic retirement fund through work.

        If i had no money, they’d turn around and give it to me. They’re not poor. They repeatedly tell me they don’t want to make any profit off me while overlooking the fact that the entire amount I’m paying them is profit.

        Sometimes you don’t get to sign up with clear agreements and full knowledge with family. Sometimes it’s more about them wanting to make sure you HAVE that money for [thing] than about making a careful investment that you can definitely pay back. Sometimes owing/borrowing money is not about what reasonable parties agree to and should ethically/honourably do. It’s about one party getting confused and controlling and anything the other party says just sounds like an excuse not to pay them because clearly they should just ‘go out and get a job and pay back the money they agreed to pay’.

  2. #21. That sort of happened to me once. My college boyfriend who broke up with me right before graduation and then vanished sent me a facebook message 8 years after the fact. It was a combination apologizing for breaking up with no explanation and lying to me and coming out of the closet message.

    It was actually a very well written apology, and I did appreciate it, although I was very confused about why he took 8 years to come out, and I had sort of figured it out by that point. I think he just didn’t feel comfortable coming out until that point, and wanted to do damage control.

    So sometimes those kind of things can be good, sometimes not. We did end up talking on the phone, because I wanted to know what was really going on in college. I hadn’t realized how even at a large public university in the early 2000’s, a lot of people, including him, didn’t feel safe coming out.

    Anyway, I’m happily married to someone else now, and I really hope that he finds happiness too.

    1. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was the blast from the past letter sender. In my case, however, I was A) still legally married to the recipient and desperately needed a divorce he had not at prior points been amenable to granting so my apology was a way of buttering him up before broaching that topic B) needed to make sure that really was his address for when the sheriff delivered the papers. It worked, so yay.

    2. My experience wasn’t quite so dramatic, but the guy I was seeing the first few months of freshman year mailed me a guitar pedal I’d done the letting on for him. This was four years after the last time we spoke. It was accompanied by a kind message, but it was sort of a case-in-point of all the advice you ever get about why one ought to avoid that sort of scenario — sending the message and the — package? (I’m not sure you can call it a gift because I don’t play the guitar.) It was definitely all about him, and the contact only served to make me profoundly sad. I had no idea what to say in resopnse. “That was a bad part of my life and it’s taken me a long time to get past it, so being reminded of it is not awesome” was a little too true and a little too cruel.

      1. Yeah, I mean, getting apologies or whatever from exes has actually never made me feel better. If anything it just kindles up whatever anger/pain I felt, and I’d rather just not hear from them at all. Unless the apology is including some sort of actual restitution (like hey, any time my ex from many years ago would like to apologize and pay me back that would be great) I just don’t want to be reminded of it.

        1. Oh yeah my ex “apologizes” all the time and then keeps right on doing the same things, so I don’t need to hear “wow sorry I didn’t pay child support for 10 years” unless it’s accompanied by a cashier’s check for the $30,000 he owes. I mean, the kid is 20 years old now, we could certainly use that for her college fund.

    3. My first boyfriend did a similar thing too. We dated 3 years, after which he ghosted (we were long-distance, so communication was easier to abruptly stop). After waiting a while I moved on, then he showed back up to tell me he had been with another girl before ghosting, and now she had dumped him so he wanted to get back together with me. He really didn’t understand how bad that all was. I blocked him and went through the process of healing again, now with added cheating, and again moved on.

      Years later, he shows back up to say how sorry he was that he hadn’t realized how bad his actions had been. At this point I’m in a good place and feel like “sure, I would be okay being friends again, just probably not super close ones” so we chat, and when he suggests we watch a movie together like we used to do, I respond with “sure, we can set something up, but I’m with my boyfriend now so it’ll have to be in a few days when my visit is over and I have time.” And… then he ghosted me again after a boyfriend was mentioned. Yeah, that apology certainly seems to have been all about him.

      ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m happily married to that new boyfriend now, and don’t bear this guy any ire, since he’s just a name from my past now.

    4. I had a similar situation happen. I briefly “dated” this woman who was still generally closeted and filled with such self-loathing that she would simultaneously parade me around and hide me like a heroin habit. It was so very strange. I was wined and dined but she wasn’t ready to admit to herself what was going on and got really angry/defensive when I tried to tell her the whole world could see what was going on between us (as she cooked me breakfast in her apartment while I wore her bathrobe and her roommate walked into the room). I stopped things because it was all too much.
      Many years later I got a call out of the blue from her saying she had had the same recurring dream about me for 15 nights in a row and something told her it wouldn’t stop until she called to apologize to me for how she behaved back then. In this case I appreciated it because I could see the issue from a mile away and we only kinda dated for 2 months so I wasn’t overly invested in it as a relationship. It was nice to learn she learned from it and hear how much better she was doing…at the time she called me she had come out to her rural parents and was living with her awesome girlfriend.
      But it was self-serving. She literally apologized to me to get her bad dreams to stop.

    5. I recently had a therapist who was really into the “making peace with your mistakes by sending weird, out of the blue apologies” thing, and I feel really justified to hear that people don’t like getting them.

  3. 10) Fellow surfer here, I feel there’s nothing wrong with going in your wetsuit as long as you’re waist deep in water. Do not pee while standing, unless your wetsuit goes all the way to your ankles and no one will notice, but you still might get some pee on the board which someone might notice especially if you’re sharing or renting. Also, don’t pee near other people.

    1. #10 – I surf in cold water and everyone pees in their wetsuits. The waves usually wash it out. I always rinse the wetsuit in fresh water after I’ve taken it off so it doesn’t get too nasty and the salt doesn’t eat away at the neoprene!

    2. Fourthed.

      However, definitely don’t pee in a drysuit, Searcher #10. There’s nowhere for it to go except around your body; you’ll be even colder than you were before and you’ll smell of pee.

  4. Aaaaaaaaah, online dating. I laughed, I cried, I lost all faith in humanity.*

    re: #7, I am now dating someone who was set up as a blind date with my best friend, she wasn’t into him, he wasn’t into her, I cleared it with her first, she is now dating someone awesome, it all worked out and now we have a humorous “how we met story,” but if she’d been remotely interested in him I would have not pursued it.

    *somewhat regained by all the people I know who met their awesome partners online, I was not one of those people

    1. I met my awesome partner online ten years ago when it was slightly less of a jungle out there and “I do not have to deal with online dating in the foreseeable future” is definitely on my list of reasons I’m happy it worked out. Smartphones were not a thing when we got together and camera phones were less common and MMS was super expensive, so online dating was not yet a dick pic/”send boobs” gauntlet. I feel very fortunate I came in under that particular wire.

    2. Whether or not you meet your partner of a lifetime online, the process is just so. dang. exhausting. I have no idea how I used to do it, and the thought of having to do it again fills me with existential dread.

  5. #5: Anyone who says “the Lord compelled me to stop and talk to you” would get a door slammed in their face, plus a call to building security. I would assume would-be cult recruiter or serial killer.

    1. True story — my husband and I were in the checkout line at Walmart and a friendly woman walked up to us and told us the Lord had told her to buy our groceries. We insistently declined and she was quite nonplussed, but accepted our “No, thank you, we got it.” The groceries totalled about $45 US.

      After she left my husband said quietly to me, “Why doesn’t that ever happen to us when we’re on our regular huge twice monthly shopping trip and it would have cost $300? I would have said hell yes to that!”

      I laughed and laughed.

      But it was a nice thing for her to try to do? I guess? It was weird.

      1. I love the (bizarre) idea that the Lord has a big wall planner with a quota of peoples groceries that must randomly be paid for by his brethren. Grocery targets!

        1. I like to imagine a Joan of Arcadia/Wonderfalls-type backstory, where God tells seemingly random people to pay for someone else’s groceries to set up a domino effect reaction with unexpected consquences.

      2. It is a bit weird; I’ve seen this happen a few times, although I kinda get it (not the “the Lord told me too!” part, but the rest). I mean, at first I thought, “Why not just buy groceries and give them to the local food bank?” It weirded me out because it struck me that the motivation was probably that they wanted attention, to be seen as a generous (and in her case, Godly) person, whereas at the food bank you just drop off groceries and you don’t get much beyond a “thank you” and a pamphlet about upcoming events. There’s no audience.

        But now I’m kinda like, “Well, wanting attention isn’t such a terrible thing to want. Everyone wants at least a little attention. And if someone aims to get attention by buying groceries for strangers, more power to ’em.”

        1. My guess is that suddenly offering to buy someone’s groceries is a good way of identifying people who are very stressed, desperate and just barely holding it together (by the emotional way they react to the offer). These same people are good targets for recruitment. The missionaries I know of go to entire psychology training camps to learn how to identify people who are ripe for the picking, so to speak. So I have trouble viewing this in a charitable light.

          1. Eek! I never thought of that. In my case, those people would be wasting their efforts. All they’d get is a very happy Pagan girl who has more money for something else.

          2. “My guess is that suddenly offering to buy someone’s groceries is a good way of identifying people who are very stressed, desperate and just barely holding it together (by the emotional way they react to the offer). These same people are good targets for recruitment. The missionaries I know of go to entire psychology training camps to learn how to identify people who are ripe for the picking, so to speak. So I have trouble viewing this in a charitable light.”

            I’m sure there are people like this out there, but in general this strikes me as overly cynical. Not sure about other faiths, but as someone raised in the Christian church, there is a great deal of focus on kindness and generosity of spirit, and on extending that outside your immediate community. Whether that’s speaking a kind word to someone who looks like they’re having a rough time or trying to share your faith (which if you’re trying to do so, presumably means it’s been a good part of your life and you want other people to have that good thing), or sharing your resources (buying someone a meal/groceries/gas, helping them move and hauling boxes, whatever) with people, including people you don’t particularly know. Humans are complex in our motivations and so it’s possible that some of the reason people do this is for attention, but most of the people that I’ve spoken to who do things like this (referring more here to the random attempt to purchase groceries, although I know people who go door to door for similar reasons) are more motivated by trying to be kind and generous. Which certainly doesn’t mean you can’t say no, but I think assuming that someone is trying to manipulate you into joining their religion by buying your groceries is less likely than that they just saw you and thought it would make your day to have someone buy your groceries (or believe that God told them to buy groceries for you.)

            (It may be more logical to donate the money to a food bank, bcs they often get more bang for your buck, but humans don’t tend to work that way. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn have talked in their books about how it’s much more effective to fundraise by giving people one person to connect to and then asking them to help an organization than to just say something like, “Give money to end poverty/stop starvation/bring medical treatment to [location X].” You can consider that a good thing [helping the people you have a direct connection with is better for your community’s survival than helping random strangers] or a bad thing [outsiders have fewer resources offered to them], but it’s definitely a thing, regardless of your religious background. And while I haven’t heard bad things about food banks, there are so many charitable organizations that have been found to misuse funds that some people just prefer to give to individuals instead.)

          3. That’s really creepy. That level of cynical exploitation is probably limited to actual missionaries, though, since even most really religious people aren’t going to special camps to learn how to sell their beliefs. At least from my church experience, it’s likely to be a mix of good intentions and a feeling of a duty to “witness” to everybody. Like, you do the nice thing with the hope that God will “open a door” to pray with them or talk about Jesus, but the nice thing also matters in and of itself. But, then, it’s been a long time since I attended that sort of church.

          4. I may definitely be overly cynical here. I was raised atheist and my secondhand experience is with LDS missionaries, so it’s quite possible there’s a big middle ground of non-coercive “good Christian” behavior that I haven’t been exposed to. 🙂

          5. Nah, from my religious experience, I’d say it’s more like this: “You never know when someone is going through a really tough time, and if they are, and I buy their groceries, then maybe they’ll think it was a miracle and I was sent by God to pay for them, and they will be so amazed by this miracle they will convert on the spot.” Basically they’ve trained themselves to feel randomly drawn to do various things and they convince themselves this is divine prompting, and that way they’re part of really cool stories that are happening to other people.

            I knew a lady who used to tell every young man she say that she had this feeling that they’d make a good priest. “Just sowing seeds,” she’d tell me. “Maybe this will end up being part of someone’s call.”

          6. marmoset- Sadly there’s no way this is out of the question, for the Christian faith can lean pretty far towards the fucked up. 😦

            My perspective: as someone who spent my childhood and most of my adolescence trying to hear God…my impression is that some Christians hear that little voice in your head that might say ‘why don’t I pay for that person’s groceries as a random act of kindess?’ and intepret that voice as a message from God. Who can ever prove it wasn’t, I guess?

            I’m agnostic and I’m not going to say I don’t believe anyone has ever heard God’s voice but…I think quite often it is the above.

        2. It weirded me out because it struck me that the motivation was probably that they wanted attention, to be seen as a generous (and in her case, Godly) person, whereas at the food bank you just drop off groceries and you don’t get much beyond a “thank you” and a pamphlet about upcoming events. There’s no audience.

          As you note, wanting attention isn’t itself bad, but by making it about themselves, these people are more likely to fall into e.g. racist (or other tribalist) patterns of whom they’re offering to help. Those two families panhandling at the door weren’t good enough to buy $45 in groceries, but my financially stable self was? Hard pass, though in that particular situation, I’d accept the offer and then loop back through the store to buy the equivalent value of non-perishables to put in the food bank collection bin we have at every grocery store around here.

          1. I have the weird experience of repeatedly getting proselytizers who are looking for [Specific Ethnic Group] coming to my house. Once, I answered the door only to have the man say indignantly “You’re not Armenian!” He was correct, I am not. My neighbors may have been, though, so maybe he just had the wrong house.

            And then just a few weeks ago, a couple of people toting Bibles came to my door and said “Oh, sorry, we were told this was a Vietnamese household.” I’m pretty sure the homeowner is Korean and the previous tenants were Hispanic (and I am suuuuper duper white) so I was still confused.

        3. It’s definitely going to depend on how it’s handled, but reasons to buy groceries would be: you’re doing it on impulse because there’s a Need right in front of you and it just feels like a favour to another human being (and it doesn’t rule out donating to a foodbank); you can’t logistically handle donations but paying for something on the spot is fine; you’re jumping straight to the end point and helping one person more effectively (donating to a foodbank still means that the right stuff has to reach people and may limit the actual help that an individual receives and takes some of their personal choice away).

          Donating food to a foodbank is usually far less helpful/efficient than just donating money, so donating money directly to buy someone’s pre-selected food is more helpful than donating food in general. The help is just targeted to one person, not spread out.

          But in general, sending money to a foodbank is going to be more useful than patrolling supermarkets paying for people’s groceries. The people who need the help most will never even get to the checkout anyway.

          1. True, but it’s less emotionally rewarding if you can’t see the individual person you helped. If we were optimally efficient, we’d all give money to malaria prevention or famine relief, but we’re not, and people want some warm fuzzies out of their charity dollar.

            Personally I wouldn’t pay for people’s grocries like that, but as I don’t really give anything to charity at the moment, it would be hypocritical of me to judge someone who is doing more than I am, because they’re not doing it better.

          2. I don’t know how all food banks work, but in my experience, customers come through and pick out what they want anyway. I know they usually have restrictions on how many items in a particular category, but you’re still picking the items you actually want to eat (again, in my experience).

          3. @eleanor377 Oh yes, in theory. But food banks often get very… random donations or a lot of very cheap practical stuff that isn’t going to expire immediately, so it’s not the same as being able to choose from a full range at the supermarket. It’s going to be dependent on the size of the foodbank and how many other people in the area also need help, of course, but the ‘please stop donating corned beef’ is practically a cliche at this point. Foodbanks are very good things, but if I had to choose between someone paying for my shopping vs being offered the exact same value at a foodbank, I’d probably prefer the former even if it’s less efficient.

            So practical, not really, but emotionally/morally beneficial, yes.

      3. I would have said “thank you” and let her do it. A guy asked if he could pay my bus fare and gave me $20. I thanked him enthusiastically. He said “No. Thank God!”

        In both cases, we were in public and people were offering us favors. The scenario in question five is just…creepy and intrusive.

        1. Provided I could easily pay for the groceries, I would probably decline because I don’t know what the other person is going to want from me. It’s probably cynical and kind of antisocial of me, but I don’t want to get a lecture about Jesus, or even have to deal with appropriately expressing gratitude for such a completely random gesture. If I seem to actually need help (maybe I suddenly realize I forgot my wallet when I go to pay or something), that’s another issue entirely, but if I’m just going about my business buying my groceries that seems to up the chances that the other person will want some sort of indeterminate social capital in exchange for their random act of kindness.

          1. I can see that. I naturally thank people to the point that I am an “abject thanker,” plus I am extremely bubbly and friendly. I’ve actually had people complain that I thank them too much.

      4. When my SO was moving out of his apartment a pair of friendly Mormons turned up and offered to help us haul boxes out of his third-floor walkup.

        He said no thank you. I was like, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU TWO POLITE YOUNG MEN COULD HAVE CARRIED YOUR CRAP TO THIS MOVING TRUCK. He said he didn’t feel right letting them help since he had absolutely no interest in what they were selling. I think he was probably morally right but… dammit, dude, two polite young men could have hauled boxes instead of, yanno, me.

        1. If he felt that way I would totally have recommended saying instead, “I’m not interested in a conversation on faith but I’ll take the moving help if it’s no strings attached,” or something like that, and then they could decide if they wanted to help. Not using them, they know up front what his thoughts are on a faith conversation, and more help with moving!

          1. Bingo! I was raised Mormon (the rest of the family still is) and it almost certainly wouldn’t have stopped them from helping. A lot of times, it isn’t wholly about trying to convert people so much as trying to show people that Mormons are decent people who don’t have horns (demonic ones, not like trumpets. Lots of musicians in church.) Offering to shift boxes without any payment (including going to church) fits the bill.

          2. Honestly I would have bought them a meal in exchange for the moving help, and happily. When SO’s employer paid for his move I bought the movers McDonalds AND Starbucks and those dudes got paid. Although it turns out if you feed them they will very cheerfully help you reassemble all your Ikea furniture.

            Most of the Mormons I’ve met have been kind and helpful people who I have accidentally scandalized by swearing creatively.

    2. I lived in a place where the manager’s sister allowed a prosleytizer into the secured building to harass the tenants. When I called her out on it her response was “so what”…and the owner’s assistant blew me off when I reported it there.

        1. I was just about to move across the country and had had enough of them. The manager would also shriek that she would evict me for the way I walked every time I took out my trash. After speaking to a lawyer friend of the family who let me know that she couldn’t I sent her a letter stating this and after that she shut up.

          1. The way you walked?!? wow. I’m guessing she thought your walk was sinful or something? That is so strange.

    3. I’d be more likely to assume the lord was going to “compel” them to pull this routine with my neighbors too, rather than serial killer.
      Of course, I live in a town with a JW hall in it, so I’m use to religious door knockers. (Door slam if I don’t see them coming and just don’t answer.)

      1. I get JW knockers too, but I think it’s best to say pleasantly, ‘No thank you, but have a nice day’ before closing the door. They’re under orders to doorstep and it’s pretty rough on them, and the more hostility they get from outsiders, the more afraid of the non-JW world they’re going to get and the less likely to question anything that makes them unhappy in the church. I have the suspicion that making followers provoke hostile responses from outsiders is one of the main reasons they’re told to do it.

        At least where I live, they take a ‘no’ just as well if it’s said nicely, so you might as well be kind.

        1. There’s usually something on the lines of, “Sorry, not interested.” before I shut the door, but I do it before they go into their spiel. More a metaphorical door slam than an actual one.

          I agree, it’s probably about reinforcement, not conversion since 1)the one time I humored them, the copy of The Watchtower they gave me was used and 2)my dad use to discus points in the bible that made no sense with them (They’ll apparently leave quicker if you prop the screen door open, instead of just holding it) and after he did that a few times, they started skipping our house.

          1. The ones in my neighbourhood are actually very polite; when I tell them no thanks, they just accept it and go away with friendly farewells. I have the feeling they’re rather nice people.

          2. Hey, can we not assume that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have internet access and don’t/can’t read the site? Honestly. Door to door ministry can be irritating and it’s okay to not answer the door or to just say “no thanks” but let’s end this subthread.

        2. I agree with Ice and Indigo. As someone who grew up in a church (not JW) that required their teenagers to do this, I realized years later that the effect was to make me feel more isolated from the outside world and that that was intended. For me, part of the key to my eventually leaving that church was that some of those people I visited made me feel very welcome, but were incredibly good at getting the topic to how I felt about school, what did I like, etc. Probably would have no effect on many folk, but did on a few of us early teens. I actually visited one of the sets of older folk for several years and quit the biblical conversations after a while; just visited as a friend.

          1. I have done it too. (I was in a Catholic cult; most Catholics don’t knock doors but we did.) The main purpose isn’t to convert people, it’s to solidify the commitment of the missionary. I’ve tried to argue with them, but they’re mostly trained not to and they just come more often because they think you’re “open,” so now I just be as kind as polite as I can and wish them luck on another house. Same for salespeople. I don’t really like being bothered by them, but it is their job and being rude gets me nothing and ruins their day. I just say “not interested, good luck though!”

          2. The youth group at one of our local churches once did “random acts of kindness”. No talk of religion like at all, they just showed up a couple weeks before Christmas and gave me free cookies and then left.

            This was an approach I liked.

    4. Yep. Funny how the Lord always tells such people what they wanted to do all along.

      A not very close acquaintance wrote to me once to say the Lord had told him that we were to be married and telling me to ‘come straight over to talk about it.’ He also wanted me to help him cheat in an upcoming exam because once married we would be one person, not two.

      I really, really enjoyed writing my reply to that one; told him I didn’t know who he had heard from but it certainly wasn’t the Lord because he hadn’t mentioned it to me; not a whisper. And how dare he.

      Never heard from him again. Result.

  6. Good advice on #7. I suspect the friend already knows, but a little directness wouldn’t hurt anyone involved.

    I might add that it would be wise to decline blind dates set up by that friend in the future. Matchmakers tend to be divided between those whose pairings sometimes work and sometimes don’t and those whose suggestions are the stuff of romantic tragicomedy. A friend who sets you up with a man who’s interested in her is in the second group, and however good a friend she is otherwise, her set ups are probably always going to be ones that could make her life easier rather than bring joy to yours.

    1. My read on that one was definitely that the matchmaker knows the guy’s interested in her, isn’t interested, and is working hard to foist him on someone else. And yeah, that’s not a great situation in which to play matchmaker.

      1. Yeah, I can say with 100% confidence that if you know the guy’s interested in you…and your friend doesn’t, and you set them up with the guy who likes you…it’s really probably not going to end well and it might also cost you a friend.

      1. Yes! Doggo memes often use “friend” or “friendo”. Now I want to put my younger dog in a coat and make the caption say “I am still wearing my coat slow down friendo.”

        I did just take a picture of her wearing a jabot – her name is Barracks (it’s a New Orleans thing), so I called her “Justice Ruff Barracks Gooddog.”

    1. I read it as an ee cummings style poem.

      ok but u
      just met me
      i am still
      wearing my coat
      slow down

      1. It totally works as a haiku as well:

        ok but you just
        met me i am still wearing
        my coat slow down friend

        Way to go Cap with the unconscious poetic styling!

        1. That phrasing really cracked me up — I just met someone the other night, whose company I enjoyed, but who was pushing it way too fast with the touching… I wanted to say “Dude, I *like* you, but slow your roll before you blow your chance!”

          (I said “BEHAVE” about playing with my hair, and he stopped — which means that if he asks me out, I will probably say yes. Not taking that signal would have been a dealbreaking red flag.)

  7. The trouble with dating is that I literally never go on a first date where I wouldn’t rather be at home watching Doctor Who or reading a book. I have social anxiety and meeting new people is just stressful for me. I can put on a show of charm but it’s exhausting. I used to be better at it, but I think paradoxically treating my anxiety has made it harder because it used to be a symptom for me that I didn’t like to stay home alone and would rather be out, even on an awkward first date.

    1. That’s rough. I think you’ll need to adjust your criteria somewhat to allow a space for that anxiety and be really gentle with yourself as you go. Nothing on these lists is meant as a measuring stick or something to beat yourself up about.

    2. I don’t think there’s any reason you should have to “put on a show of charm.” You are who you are and that’s OK! If you are wanting to be dating but don’t like the commitment of going on a whole formal date with an Internet stranger (or someone you’re set up with), would you consider a more indirect approach of expanding your social circle by doing things YOU would be interesting in doing? Like going to a book club or a Doctor Who-watching meetup party (if there is such a thing)? You can put yourself in situations where you’re more likely to meet someone who would also rather sit at home with a book than go out on dates, but if it doesn’t turn into a dating thing you’re still doing stuff you enjoy with cool people who enjoy the same things. Just a thought — feel free to ignore if this sounds more anxiety-producing than going on first dates 🙂

      1. I don’t think there’s any reason you should have to “put on a show of charm.”

        I’m reading this in the sense of someone for whom interacting with other people at all rather than fleeing to be alone constitutes putting on a show of charm, due to the noted social anxiety. Me being who I am (and that’s okay!), for example, is me not interacting with you, for most values of “you”. Others may experience something similar to a greater or lesser degree, and I can certainly understand how dating – even for dates one anticipates with excitement – may necessitate being “on” to an exhausting degree even if one is performing as oneself.

    3. 1, remember that first dates ARE awkward so that “I would be having more fun doing something entirely in my comfort zone” is a natural feeling. As the Captain says, be gentle with yourself when you feel that feeling.
      2, sometimes you have to push through the discomfort to get things you want. Perhaps you can talk to your psych/doctor/etc about some strategies.
      3, have short first dates (one coffee!) so there’s a time limit involved.

      1. I sometimes try to think of something like, “I can see myself in the future thinking that hanging out with this person is better than being home by myself, even if first dates are awkward and this is agonizing,” or “We had a few minutes of conversation that flowed naturally even though we don’t know each other and I find myself being drawn in to getting to know this person,” or things like that. Since apricity is totally right about first dates being awkward just in and of themselves, at least for many people.

    4. Do you WANT to date, though?
      Maybe you do, and this isn’t relevant, but you don’t actually have to date.
      Anybody at all.

      And if you do want to, in principle, you still don’t have to date strangers off the internet or any strangers at all. You can decide to only date people if you’ve met them before in non-date ways. You can meet people in group settings/with mutual friends/in other stuff and work through the new person stress before even thinking about dates, if that is a thing your anxiety is amenable to.

      Or you know, opt out, especially if Dating just doesn’t seem worth it.

      1. I am one of the “opt out” people, though occasionally I find myself questioning whether I should try Dating at some point (usually when I’m having an acute depressive experience and fear I shall end up eaten by an Alsatian if I don’t find SOMEONE, ANYONE). It works for me, and I’m sure it works for other people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing to say: nope, good with dating myself, thanks.

  8. #9 My mother made sure my work clothes and shoes were up to standard when I first started out and wasn’t making any money. She lent me money for shopping and then I paid her back $25.00 a week, every week. Regardless. No excuses. I paid her that $25.00 for YEARS. I was never so proud as when I could go shopping and didn’t have to borrow money to buy something professional.

    So pick a number that you and she are comfortable with and make sure she sticks to it. She’ll learn a $$ lesson and you’ll get paid back.

  9. #20. Why does this keep being a thing?

    It’s like, okay, he understand that consent is mandatory, but on some level doesn’t get that you shouldn’t try to persuade or seduce someone out of their “no.”

    I see this frustratingly often among my friend group unfortunately–even among women and genderqueer people. Like, nobody in my group would ever rape someone, and they understand that having sex with someone asleep or unconscious is rape, I mean, they get it. But there’s still this underlying frustration about people saying no to them. It’s just a frequent venting topic that a date or a partner keeps turning them down regarding sex, and they want to figure out how to convince them to want to have sex with them, and it’s like ????

    I mean, maybe there are solve-able reasons why the person doesn’t want to have sex, and you can have a sexual relationship eventually if you’re both committed to figuring out the underlying problems. But 99% of the time the answer is, “find someone else.” And if they can’t find someone else, then the answer is, well, find a way to deal with being single.

    But nobody wants to hear that :\

    1. This was one of the guys I dated in college. Never physically forced me to have sex, but on nights where we’d hang out and I just wasn’t in the mood, he always seemed to talk me into having sex anyway, and eventually I thought “hey wait a minute, that’s not okay . . .”

      In hindsight, it also seems like he wasn’t satisfied with just having a meal together and watching a movie, the evening had to end in sex, and that bugs me.

      1. Oh yeah! I had Darth boyfriend in college. He had this way of making a lot of friction around my no. He had the line about how he just couldn’t relax and go to sleep if we didn’t have sex before going to sleep. If I really said I’m not in the mood, then he would sigh and “accept” it then proceed to fidget and sigh loudly and move around a lot in the bed right next to me until I GAVE IN just so we could get it over with and I could actually go to sleep. Then he would be upset that I didn’t look like I was enjoying myself during it….
        So glad he’s an ex.

        1. Ugh, what a jerk. It’d serve him right if his next partner said, “Well, I can’t sleep if we have sex right before bed, so either way somebody’s not sleeping” or better yet, “Whatever you’d do if I weren’t here, feel free to go do that.”

    2. It’s probably because our society is terrible about consent in general, and has created mores that normalize consent violations from a very young age, and also much of our media about romantic attraction has the general message of “I can magically talk my partner out of their shitty behavior/ into loving me again if I am good and righteous and persistent enough.” That message rubs off on EVERYONE.

      Hooray for rape culture!

  10. Reading the Lyster article, there’s only, like, two things in her list that I can find in my umvelt. Followed up with the Wikipedia because of course. Looked at the photo and thought: “You sure that isn’t just Jeff Daniels with longish hair and a beard?”

    Yeah, yeah, I’m a Philistine, I know….

  11. – Or if they play on their phone while in a movie/ the theater. This is not at all motivated by the guy sitting in the front row of IT last night who didn’t put his phone away the entire time – or my hope that he never finds love because of it.

    1. We may be seeing more people take out their phones. For me, my smartphone is very much how I cope with tension/anxiety, and while I have not yet done this, I can very well imagine sitting in a cinema and feeling trapped and not wanting to make a fuss by leaving but also needing to dump some adrenaline, fast.

      No excuse for ‘the entire time’. If you hate the film that much, wait in the foyer.

      1. So I’m not the only one who uses my phone to dump stress. I often wonder what I ever did with that stress before I had a phone. Was I less anxious back then and didn’t need it, or did it ramp up forever, or am I just addicted to the dang thing?

        Don’t know, but playing on my phone instead of interacting with people got me through a very miserable visit with the inlaws when I was having a rough time and wasn’t up to being social. I am sure people talked about me as being so antisocial and addicted to my phone, but it was that or crying the whole time, so I have no regrets.

        1. Getting up and walking out can still feel pretty conspicuous, though, especially if you’re already feeling tense/anxious.

        2. And less distracting than having a sudden BRIGHT LIGHT in a theater. Even if you don’t see the phone screen itself, the ambient light is still a jolt.

          1. Yeah, the bright light is the real problem with using a phone in this (kinda understandable) manner. That’s why it’s rude.

            Maybe learn to knit instead?

  12. I had an ex apologize years after the breakup. He wasn’t necessarily interested in getting back together, just that he felt bad about the circumstances that led to the breakup, and how he handled the breakup itself. It helped me feel like I wasn’t crazy for being so upset with him, and it was nice to see that he’d grown up.

    But then we went into this weird, hot and cold yo-yo friendship where sometimes he acted like my bestie and other times he would ice me out for months, then come back into my life apologizing again. I got tired of it because it made me feel like I’d done something wrong each time and wondered what it was, so eventually I told him “this time, just keep your distance.”

  13. I kind of think it’s neighbor and neighbor’s husband? Or maybe I just hope it is?

    “12 “I have to leave the Midwest or I will die but my husband thinks it’s all in my head.”

    I’m not sure if I’m projecting or if I’m applying hard-won domain expertise here but if b) I FEEL YOU MY FRIEND THE MIDWEST ALLERGY ZONE IS THE WORST. Says the woman who I-Shit-You-Not has to add three EXTRA allergy meds to an already complex regimen to visit there.

    Maybe see an allergist, get a full report, and show it to Husband? If that gets his attention there are a bunch of things you can do to protect your health and reduce your histamine load, and they may work! Or not, in which case, yeah, you gotta move, alone or not. If the allergist’s report doesn’t do it for Husband, I’m sorry. He means “it is not convenient for me to believe you or take you seriously about this really important thing” and at that point, I’m honestly not sure how much marriage is left to save.

    1. Oh Lord, I had imagined that the questioner was talking about the political climate in parts of the Midwest. I had not even considered what merry hell it plays with my allergies. ANYWHERE ELSE IS THE WORLD is better than here for breathing purposes. ANYWHERE.

      1. Hah. And I projected onto the letter my extremely debilitating depression and suicidal ideation that was constant when I lived in the midwest and still returns every time I go to visit family there. I’m convinced I wouldn’t have survived, much less gotten healthy, if I hadn’t managed to move away.

        1. *midwestern struggles fistbump*

          Yeah, there are a lot of reasons I don’t thrive here (too much driving + weather from the bowels of hell, for starters), but I feel you.

          1. I thought the seacher was looking for a specific letter. This rings vague bells (but not CA bells).

    2. Oooh. I was thinking that something medical made the most sense for a statement like that (and for it being dismissed as ‘all in their head’), but wasn’t sure what. If I could choose one problem for medical science to completely solve within the next decade, allergies would be a serious contender.

    3. Not sure if this is true of all parts of the Midwest, but where I live in Ohio we have 3x higher rates of asthma and emphysema than the national average, partially due to native flora, but also largely due to awful air pollutants due to the number of coal power plants here. The sky looks clear, but that doesn’t mean the air is good to breathe.

      1. Oh my, moving to Ohio for college right as I developed seasonal allergies was awful! Never in my life had needed so much as a claritin, suddenly I was popping them twice a day just so my face would stop leaking for a reasonable amount of time, and still needed more from the campus doctor.

  14. I love the Bangles so, so much. Thanks for that!

    I’m entertaining myself that the ‘how to I make her move to CO’ questioner isn’t him/herself moving to CO, and he thinks the girlfriend should apply to the Air Force Academy or join a John Denver tribute band or something, and send back postcards. “I’ve always wanted to see the Rockies, but only through somebody else’s eyes! If you loved me, you’d go!”

    1. Now I’m picturing that scenario too, and really wishing that I had someone in my life who was willing to fund my travel to various locations in return for postcards. I may not excel at everything, but I have quite the talent for writing four snappy lines of text on the back of a thoughtfully chosen image (or a cheesy one, if that is my patron’s preference – my artistic sensibilities are not strict!).

  15. No. 21 could be because they are pursuing a 12-step programme and have reached Step 9 on making amends. In that case there is no focus on your reaction to the apology anyway.

    1. Well, that would explain why that step has always annoyed me. The apologies I’ve gotten from people who I know or suspect were 12-steppers were pretty obviously about them. It does not heal the relationship.

      1. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a ninth-step apology from an ex, and it irritated the hell out of me. “Stop calling me. I don’t ever want to hear from you again,” doesn’t lose its meaning just because someone has decided to address his alcoholism.

        …aaaaaaaand now I’ve realized I have the same problem, am going through my fourth and fifth step, and have some dread about my ninth. Thankfully, my sponsor has assured me that I won’t be encouraged to apologize to anyone who’s unlikely to want to hear from me. There are a lot of ways to make amends, and I wonder if some of the problem is people who are supposed to be providing guidance not stepping in and pointing out that sometimes an apology can be the easy, lazy way or the annoying, manipulative way.

        1. How would a compulsive apologizer handle step #9? Or someone who thinks that “harm” means accidentally bumping into someone or something equally trivial? I am being serious.

          1. This isn’t a process you’re supposed to go through by yourself. You’re supposed to go through this process with a sponsor – another recovering alcoholic who acts as your mentor. In theory, they’re supposed to call you out on that long before you get to the point of trying to identify everyone you’ve ever bumped into, and instead point to the compulsive apologizing as a character flaw. In practice, sponsors are people, and they vary in their wisdom and ability.

            I’m not on the ninth step yet. I’m still at the stage where I’ve made a list of things I’ve done to hurt others and am talking about it with someone else. People do sometimes make amends for trivial things, though, especially those that add up into something less trivial. I know people who make amends for throwing beer bottles and cigarettes everywhere by participating in litter clean up projects. I don’t know how you’d try to make amends for a lifetime of bumping into people, though!

        2. From what little I know of the steps, they’re doing it wrong.

          “Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

        3. @lunchcoma I think your sponsor’s judgement is on point. I’ve even heard of a recommendation that amends shouldn’t be made to exes. I agree that what they call “living amends”, i.e. making a real effort not to repeat the behaviour, are much more meaningful.

        4. Yeah, I think that’s a hugely important point. You can make amends with people who are still in your life. For those people, an apology is the first step of amends, but it’s not the last, and it’s not enough all by itself. To me, making amends means fixing what was broken, to the extent that you can. If you broke your kid’s toy that they were being loud and obnoxious with when you had a hangover, you get them a new one. If you owe someone money, you pay it back. Etc.

          If someone doesn’t want to hear from you, maybe symbolic amends are the way to go. You could write an apology letter that you never send, wherein you also promise not to do the things you did to hurt that person to anyone else, and keep that as a reminder. You can also make symbolic amends with some sort of charity donation or through helping someone who needs it. Like, for example, your ex put you through college and you were supposed to do the same. You can’t go back in time and give them money for school, but you can donate money to a scholarship fund for someone else who needs help paying for college.

        5. Or the people who are supposed to be providing guidance don’t know any better themselves, had no better guidance from their own mentors.
          It’s doesn’t reflect badly on them; it’s a common thing that happens in groups where training or evaluation aren’t required to get into leadership or mentoring roles, especially if the group is *for* people who have problems of some kind.

      2. That has also been my experience. My ex-husband’s so-called amends boiled down to “I only married you because I was so sick at the time” – biggest non-apology ever.

        1. Yup. I have SO MANY deep and profound apologies, and I know the objects of my fuckwittery would prefer I not bring it up. This is why I HAVE a Livejournal/ Dreamwidth account (well, that and Black Mirror fanfiction). 1. If they actually want to hear me talk about it, it’s right there. They usually know where to find me if they would find it soothing, and I’m pretty good at hearing when someone wants to bring something awkward up and just marvelous at staying the hell out of the lives of people whom I have wronged; 2. Just as you suspect, my unsent apologies, when I go back and read them, are not about easing the pain of people I hurt, but finding ways to avoid screwing up in the future: about me, not those who survived my missteps.

          Sorry you got a shitty apology (and that you had to go through that marriage!), glad you have the maturity to shrug it off.

    2. Once I received a 12-stepper apology from a former boyfriend that I was completely unaware had hurt me… Since he had to explain to me how he had hurt me and what he was apologizing for, it was pretty embarrassing. He also had to kind of remind me who he was, because it had been a couple of years and he had a beard and looked different.

      1. This remind me of Dennis Duffy’s apologies to Liz Lemon and Jenna Maroni after he joins sex addicts anonymous.

      2. @KarenM I’ve had a similar experience, which the Search Term reminded me of. I was baffled that the person felt they owed me an apology, even felt a little discomfort that they’d apparently borne me ill will I hadn’t given a moment’s thought to, but you can’t really reopen a wound if it isn’t there in the first place I suppose. I don’t know if it was literally Step 9 in that case, but when I learned of that practice, it helped me to potentially make some sense of something strange.

        1. Right! First he had to tell me that he had hurt me, so that he could apologize. My response to him: “Oh, that’s OK.” It may not have been the dramatic moment he was expecting.

      3. Not 12-step related, but this kind of reminds me of the friend of mine who once received an apology from an ex-boyfriend for…having had sex with her. Because his new girlfriend, you see, had helped him realize that premarital sex was wrong.

    1. Heh — in that case, I think the etiquette is limited to “Please bear in mind that other people may be waiting for your stall” and “Consider muting the volume.”

  16. A tangent on #10: I am rather unathletic, and I took a surfing lesson in Hawai’i earlier this year, and I would recommend the experience to other rather unathletic people even if no comedy of errors occurs. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s not as scary as it looks! Or at least, a good beginner lesson is nowhere near as scary as the sort of surfing that actual surfers do looks, so long as you are comfortable in the water. The instructor takes you somewhere with rather tame waves, and shoves you into the wave so you don’t have to actually worry about catching it, and tells you when to try to stand up, and then you just attempt to stand up and fall off the surfboard* and paddle back to where the instructor is. Or walk back, if they’ve taken you somewhere shallow enough. I did find paddling/walking back to be the least enjoyable bit, because paddling a surfboard is rather tiring and walking in chest-deep water may cause your feet to encounter sharp rocks.

    *The falling off is non-optional, as even if you do good at the standing up bit, it turns out deliberately falling to the side is the safest and easiest way to cease to be standing on a surfboard.

    1. Thanks for the advice! I’d like a surfing lesson, but have always been scared that I’d get shoved into a BIG wave! 🙂

      1. Well, the instructor did say the surf wasn’t great, so you might get shoved into a slightly larger wave than I was. But I’m sure they wouldn’t shove you into a BIG wave; our instructor seemed decidedly in favour of us not drowning.

  17. #7 Made me think of a situation described in the comments once where someone was set up on a blind date by a “friend” with said friend’s stalker… the friend was hoping she could scrape his attentions off onto someone new.

    1. Ugh, I did something similar once. Awful dude gaslighted me into believing he was a good guy (he wasn’t— earliest possible release date from Butner is July 2025) and it was my moral responsibility to fix him and his life, since I had irresponsibly made him fall in love with me. I literally did not realize that I was not put on earth to serve the narrative of white guys who think they are the hero of the movie, or that non-fictional people over the age of five were capable of maliciously misrepresenting a situation for their own personal gain.

      I feel it needs to be promulgated more, that not shoring up your personal boundaries can be deeply damaging to others, not just you.

      Tl; dr: I am sorry your friend did that shitty thing to both of you. It was indeed a shitty thing.

      1. I still remember the first time I had to tell a guy that a particular action of mine had nothing to do with him, or with any guys at all, and he refused to believe me. Sadly, it was not the last time. (The most egregious was having to tell my brother that women do not choose their reading material on the basis of what will or won’t get them male attention when they’re reading in public. No, not even if they’re reading A Song of Ice and Fire.)

  18. Thank you for introducing me to the concept of cats making biscuits. I had to Google it, and the youtube videos that turned up made my day.

    1. Yes, we always know when it’s time to bring the claw clippers out, when the biscuits start drawing blood. My husband is on blood thinners so it doesn’t take much.

    2. My husband calls it “making tortillas.” We fight about this.

      My parents just call it “kneading,” which leads to all sorts of “I can’t do the dishes right now, Moose KNEADS me” in a super dramatic voice.

        1. *waves at Ankaret* (I was recommending your books to someone yesterday!)

          I grew up calling it “kneading” and didn’t learn the term “making biscuits” until I was an adult, and I find it ridiculously charming ❤

          …although Bastian gets his claws trimmed every time he starts attempting to hand out un-requested nipple piercings!! 😮

      1. Yeah, where did the “biscuits” idea come from? You specifically do NOT want to knead biscuit dough, or handle it too much, because it’s supposed to have bits of butter distributed though it flakily. That’s why the ones made from rerolled scraps are not as light.

        1. Yeah, childhood picture books notwithstanding, cats are TERRIBLE bakers. They tend to get yolk in the meringue, too. It’s like they subscribe to _Cooks’ Illustrated_ just to sleep on it…

  19. geez, I’ve fallen for the “Ways I Have Been Wronged By Others with a subtext of Surely You Have A Duty To Not Disappoint Me Like Everyone Else Has (Now That You Know My Tale of Woe).” Well said.

    1. @n.b. I have too, with bonus points for “I Was Suicidal Last Time Someone Let Me Down”. I love the Captain’s idea about having a check list, ideally one that’s been established ahead of meeting someone. I actually think some of her points, especially the Red Flags, are more universal than personal. To take the mileage image a bit further, dating could be compared to buying a used car. Some requirements will vary from person to person, but others should invariably be deal breakers – the kind of thing surely no one is comfortable with deep down – especially if several are present simultaneously. I’m fairly convinced that Tale of Woe + constant contact on the basis of a short-lived and superficial connection + instant overfamiliarity can ever be anything good, for anyone.

    2. I’m tempted, whenever someone gets into Everyone Disappoints Me mode, to say, “It seems like the common denominator in all your relationships is you.” I don’t. But I think it real loud.

  20. How about a singing telegram for STD notification? Sung to the tune of “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Rollerskates”
    “I’ve got a brand new crotch infection
    I think it’s an STD
    I think that you should come to the clinic
    and get tested with me…”

      1. Funny how parodies of songs tend to last longer than the actual songs. In the grocery store I heard an insipid Backstreet Boys tune that was popular some years ago and immediately started substituting the words to Weird Al’s eBay song instead.

        1. I still struggle to remember that it’s American Pie, not The Saga Begins.

          My my this here Anakin guy
          Maybe Vader someday later
          Now he’s just a small fry
          And he left his home, kissed his mommy goodbye
          Saying “Soon I’m gonna be a Jedi,
          Soon I’m gonna be a Jedi…”

  21. I’ve been on five first dates via one of those dating apps, and so far come out mostly unscathed. All of them have taught me something more about what kind of partner I want, and I’ve got a new friend or two 🙂

    (One of them accurately sussed out I was being suicidal, which gave me text massages I could show my shrink which led to me now being under evaluation to see if I happen to be bipolar)

  22. “I hate all the political correctness these days, I feel like I can’t say anything.“

    100% my answer to this would be a calm but leading, “What is it you would like to say?”

    1. I hate political correctness these days, because… people are finding new ways to corrupt the language and the words I am accustomed to using are suddenly full of landmines. Because I don’t hang out with bigots and I don’t know the new pleasant code-words for nasty ideas.

    2. I hate political correctness these days, because… people are finding new ways to corrupt the language and the words I am accustomed to using are suddenly full of landmines. Because I don’t hang out with bigots and I don’t know the new pleasant code-words for nasty ideas.

      Really, what’s a nice language like you doing with ideas like that?

      1. I hate CALLING it “political correctness.” It’s pure redundancy of language; we had perfectly nice (as in, “accurate, precise) phrases for it before: “common courtesy,” “being a decent human being.”

        @SylviaMcIvers,good point!

      2. I’d phrase that as “I hate that bigots and asshats are turning perfectly good words and phrases into racist/etc. dog-whistles, thus rendering language full of landmines.”

        (At least, that’s the advice I’d give if you don’t want to be mistaken for one of those people — when someone starts complaining about “political correctness,” it’s generally a bigot complaining that they can’t tell misogynistic or homophobic or racist jokes at the office anymore.)

      3. Aw, this made me think of someone over at Ask a Manager who needed a way to tell their not internet savvy coworker that maybe using a dancing frog that looked like Pepe was not the best idea right now! I get it though, there are lots of things that are apparently coded that I had no idea about….

  23. alternative interpretation of #16: he hates phone calls and is expecting that anxiety to sabotage any chance of hanging out with you. But if he didn’t follow up with an email address or some other alternative, he may still not want to hang out with you either.

    1. As someone who is super anxious about phones, this was my interpretation of that comment. It sounds to me like he’s still figuring out how to explain to people that he’s not comfortable communicating over phones. Currently I’m just ignoring the request for phone numbers and just replying with “I’ll give you my email”, though I’m sure some people interpret that as rudeness/disinterest. For the searcher’s specific situation, I would just ask “Are you not comfortable talking with me on the phone or at all?”

  24. There are people who don’t pee in the ocean? 😀

    I hang out with surfers and I’ve heard one story (I haven’t asked if it’s common) of having to actually take a crap while out in the water, because it was too far to get back to shore before said crap decided to exit on its own. Apparently that’s a “roll off your board, drop your shorts, hope nobody decides to come join you before you’re done” situation.

    This is warm water surfing, obviously.

    1. I had to do a bit of prevention on this one once. A friend of mine had found some sort of ‘truth about the moon landing!!!’ video and posted it on facebook with the caption ‘hmmm, very interesting. I might have to use this as a topic of conversation for my online dating!’ and I was like ‘woooooah no no no, DO NOT do this it’s one of the creakiest, famousest, most thoroughly debunked conspiracy theores there is!!’ In my mind I was like leaping between him and some poor girl on a coffee date when he starts up with ‘so I saw this video about the moon…’, taking the bullet. Honestly, it’s not that he’s normally a conspiracy theory believing person, I think he had somehow against all the odds made it to his early 30s without ever encountering the faking of the moon landing conspiracy theory.

      1. Ugh! I hope your friend now knows he’ll attract insane people if he talks about conspiracy theories on the first date. I give a HARD PASS to another conversation after someone expresses a belief in crackpottery.

    1. Obviously I don’t know the gender of the person and it’s not just men who rape, but this just reminded me of that study that showed more men would say they’d do something that was rape but not called rape versus the amount of men who said they would rape.

      1. Apparently a similar thing is also happening with white supremacy in the USA. White people will say they disagree with white supremacists, but then agree with white supremacist principles.

    2. I try to interpret ICFTST as generously as I can. The best I can come up with “I agree, A Girl! You dislike fucking, and I respect that you know your feelings on the matter, and even though I think fucking is great, I won’t try to change your mind! I just had to Google advice columnists to find the language to express my support of you! Please let me know if I could adjust my behavior or language to make you feel more comfortable. Now, how do you feel about taquitos?”

  25. I have sympathy for #15. It might not be any of my “business”, but when I leave the house with any of the offspring (aged 15 to 20), and they’re rocking the hobo-chic look … yeah. Not thrilled. I think it’s nice to at least pretend that you have access to personal hygiene.

    1. This is sort of catching people in the crossfire who I don’t think you’re necessarily meaning to put down.

        1. I can’t speak for Dia, but I see two things here. One is that there are people who actually don’t have regular access to showers, soap, and such, and you’re insulting those unfortunates in your comments about your offspring. It’s pretty hard to “pretend” you have a place to wash without actually washing.

          Also, there is a real difference between someone who doesn’t cut his hair, is trying to grow a beard, or just hasn’t shaved in a few days, and actual neglect of personal hygiene. It’s possible the Captain misread that search, and it’s from a parent worried about a son who hasn’t washed in a week, rather than someone who wants him to be clean-shaven and short-haired, but “is so unattractive” and “won’t” sounds like different style choices.

          1. Hm. Very good points.
            I’m probably projecting, myself, anyway. ‘Cause we *do* have access to showers and such, so it irritates me that they’re happy to walk around like that. Realistically the bit was only about hair and beard – so it was *my* mind that jumped straight to the great unwashed currently in the loungeroom.

    2. That makes me think of when I was in high school and in my heavy-Goth phase…in retrospect it was ridiculous for me to be embarrassed to be out with my mom.

  26. Re: dating, for me, one of the biggest questions was whether the other person took the time to ask me questions about myself, show interest in my thoughts and learn who I was. This is true of friend dates as well as romantic dates.

    I am good at getting people talking and sharing, and I find there are a lot of people out there who, when given conversational space, will just take that space and soak up the attention… without giving it back. This is particularly true of clever dudes with deep feelings, though not exclusive to them. So I’m there trying to give them leads to talk about me for a bit which they just don’t take. They then want to meet with me again, the nice lady who listened to them so well on the first date and seemed so interested in everything they have to say.

    Meanwhile, I’m all like eh, I actually have a lot of thoughts and feelings myself, and if you’re not willing to extend me the interest I extend you… no thanks.

    I’m partnered these days, but it was a big sign for me back when I was dating 🙂

    1. Haha. One of my personal no-nos is the opposite — guys who ask too many questions and mainly only talk when directly asked questions.

      Some of them I think are genuinely conversationally lazy, others just have a conflicting conversational preference to me. Either way we’re better off parting ways sooner rather than later.

  27. #8 also people of interest may meet each other at your party. Watching people connect is fun 😁

    If you are a sociable person, parties (giving, and attending) are good places to meet people of interest.

    1. My friends arranged a party specifically to introduce 2 people to each other, and those 2 are now getting married in 3 weeks 😀

  28. #20: You are scum. Do not interact with humans until you have thoroughly absorbed, preferably by osmosis, exactly what consent is and is not.

  29. For #1: “The National Institute of Jealousy Studies has continuously reported that statistically, 98% of people who insult others are doing it out of sheer jealousy, so I’m guessing you must really like my lifestyle. Wanna go shopping sometime?”

    Just pray they don’t ask about your p values.

  30. #21 and the belated apologies exes give that are more about their feelings their yours:

    Granted, this was only some eight months after the break-up, maybe a year, but maybe college months are like dog-years or something. Anyway, I get the email from him saying he can’t stop thinking he blew a real chance at happiness when he broke up with me, and he was wrong, and he knows he can’t fix it and we’re never getting back together, but maybe we can still be friends.

    And I email back, pretty clinically, that the relationship ended because there was no friendship. He didn’t treat me like a friend. There is no “still being friends” to hold onto. There is no there there.

    His furious response to my rebuffing of his magnanimous gesture was priceless. The magic phrase, damn near word-for-word as far as I can trust my memory, was, “Your bitterness will be your undoing in the end.”

    It has been… 22 years now, and I’ve been happily partnered-then-married for almost all that time (to the high-school crush who, unbeknownst to me at the time, also had a crush on me, and when the college boyfriend was out of the picture we had room to compare notes about that and get together at last), but I still sometimes wistfully imagine getting a years-belated message from that ex that I can laugh at. Because inside I am still sometimes 19 and hurting, and having new reasons to laugh at the guy that caused the hurt is therapeutic. But most of the time I know that I only wasted like 6 months of my life on that dude, and living well really is the best revenge.

  31. My version of “Ways I Have Been Wronged By Others with a subtext of Surely You Have A Duty To Not Disappoint Me Like Everyone Else Has (Now That You Know My Tale of Woe)” was an ex’s play that he had me read, shortly after we started dating. It was an autobiographical piece (with some names changed: real-life “Jason” was now “Mason,” etc.) that seemed to mostly be how friends and former partners had Done Him Wrong, over and over again. I’m sure he was treated poorly in at least some of these situations, but they were definitely one-sided (like how badly he was treated by the partner of the guy he was secretly sleeping with, who didn’t appreciate being cheated on).

    The creepy part is that the final scene involved his character meeting a New Guy! With a monosyllabic name kinda like mine! Who was sweet and kind and implied to be The Answer To His Problems! At the time I was kinda flattered but also thinking “we do NOT know each other well enough, and haven’t been dating long enough, for you to set me up like this.” After the most awkward breakup conversation I’ve ever had, I often found myself wondering how he wrote me out of the play/set me up as another villain, and if he added another scene featuring the next savior-partner to come along. Ugh.

    1. SPARKLEBEARD: WOW. Thanks for that red flag, fella! [ties red flag around neck like a cape. Exit stage, er, up, flying with the most rapid acceleration our tech team can safely manage.]

    2. Epic and impressive. Pretty sure you take the bright red cake for most obvious red flag of Nope!

    3. I’m imagining this like a family quilt or something, but with breakups. After every relationship he lines out the last couple of paragraphs and rewrites them, and then sews on a new roll of parchment for the next relationship.

  32. Hello, I have an annoying request! When you do the search terms posts, could you make each question linkable, so that I can link people to specifically the question? The html for what I’m asking is this: and it’s pretty simple, but I don’t know if the wordpress internals make it that simple. Thank you! 🙂

  33. “all up in my social media biz, “liking” every single photo/comment going back through the archives. It feels good to be seen and not so good to be surveilled.”

    OMG that last line is perfect.

  34. #9. If a friend owes you a bunch of money you know they’re unlikely to pay back, is been a few years. You consider it a gift at this point. Do you mention it? I would occasionally vaguely worry the rest of my life they were mad at me for it. But is it better to just not say something? Or tell her? By email? Postal mail? I don’t want to be at her house and bring up a shitty part of her life then go back to talking about animals and novels. (Rented to a friend, for various good reasons rent wasn’t paid towards the end. I don’t want any apology, we knew it was a likely possibility from the beginning.)

    1. That really feels like an “it depends on the friend” thing. In one case, I just quietly didn’t mention it, but when she asked to borrow more, literally over a decade later, I said that I wanted it to be a gift, because that way neither of us would have to worry about it, and because in that case it seemed extremely unlikely that she would be able to repay it (given the financial effects of her and her partner’s health problems).

      If she had brought up the first loan and said she was sorry about not having repaid us, or not being able to, I would have told her not to worry, forget about it, and treat it as a gift.

      In your case, it sounds as though email or paper mail would be better if you decide to bring it up at all; that gives you time to find a phrasng you’re happy with, and gives her a chance to deal with her reactions, good and bad in private. (If I was sending that email, it would include a note that she didn’t need to respond, you just wanted her to know that there’s nothing to worry about here.)

  35. Dear #12, it is OK to care about where you live! It is OK to care about the weather and scenic beauty! It does not make you shallow or difficult. I grew up under midwestern ‘lake effect’ skies of gloom and it took me until I was 25 to FINALLY live in a sunny place and realize that a huge part of my crippling depression was *severe* seasonal affective disorder. And now I live in California and I still have problems and the cost of housing is ridiculous but I don’t want to literally kill myself from January to March and that is worth *everything*. Some people don’t care about where they live, but if you do, that is a part of you that deserves to be honored and taken seriously. Much love.

    1. I know of a blogger who is basically allergic to Maine. She goes back to Florida where she grew up and she still has food allergies, but suddenly she can breathe, and sleep comfortably, and doesn’t hurt. But she lives in Maine, and like most of us she can’t “just” move. So she is either on vacation in a place that makes her temporarily well, or she’s working sick.

  36. Yo dude, it sounds like that person’s comment really upset you. You’d have to be pretty upset to respond the way you did. I don’t agree with the way you phrased your comments, but I can empathize with the emotions that would lead to you getting increasingly angry like you did. Nobody’s their best self when they’re angry. I want you to know that nobody’s trying to gang up on you. You came in swinging from the word go. I’m sorry about what you went through, but the fact of the matter is that what you said was condescending and unnecessarily nasty. You’re right that no one is going to give you things for free; and no one in comment threads is going to coddle you for free. When you say something rude, you have to deal with the social consequences. I hope once you’ve cooled off you can think about what happened here from any narrative but “all I said was x and people jumped down my throat.” You’re not the underdog, you’re just a person who made a mistake. Next time you comment on stuff, maybe try assuming the best about people. Good luck. I genuinely hope we get to see you comment again sometime – maybe under less fraught circumstances.

    1. Um no, I did not come in swinging. I was not looking for coddling. I will take note of the “condescending”, as that is not something I wish to be. Yes, I was majorly pissed off. With all said and done, I learned a good lesson. Thank you for your kind post.

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