It Came From The Search Terms: “I Can See The Sun In Late December”


Image description: A lady dressed all in pink with bright red shoes does an excited dance on the front stoop of her mint green house.

In celebration, it’s time for that tradition where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.

Here’s a mellow tune to relax you:

And now for the search engine snippets.

1 “How to make your parents divorce.”

This one is pretty much up to your parents. If they bring up “staying together for the children” as a thing they are trying to do, you might be able to say “I really appreciate that, but I want you both to be happy and I know you’ll be great parents even if you decide not to stay married.

See also: “Wow, I appreciate the thought but that’s a lot of pressure! What would make you most happy? I know you’ll be a great parent even if you aren’t married anymore.”

2 “How to reply to a compliment about caring nature.”

“Thank you, I’m glad you think so.”
“Thank you, I do my best.”

3 “When your rich long distance boyfriend ghosting..does it mean that he’s testing to see whether you are a gold digger or not.”

I would say that when your partner does something that confuses you or hurts your feelings like ghosting on you, it’s okay to ask them what’s going on. “I notice you haven’t been in contact much, are we cool or is there something I should know?” I also think that instead of looking at the situation as a test you must pass, think of it as if you were giving the test: Is being ghosted ok with you? Do you let this boyfriend get away with treating you poorly because he has money?

4 “What to tell your coworkers who ask about you when you are on leave due to mental illness.”

It’s really up to you what you disclose. “I’m taking some time off to deal with some health issues, thanks so much for checking on me” is more than enough information if that’s what you’re comfortable sharing.

5 “Ran into a woman that I had an awkward date with.”

I’ve lived in the same city since 2000 and this has happened to me so many times




It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if everyone follows the rule of “treat everybody you meet like you will probably run into them again someday.” The way I generally handle it is to a) say a very quick and pleasant hello and b) if they are with friends, I do not bring up the fact that we know each other in a dating sort of way. There are a few exceptions, depending on why the date was awkward – Handsy McGropesalot or “Pilsen’s Most ‘Authentic’ & ‘Interesting’ Man (Ugh)” or The Guy Who Would Not Break Eye Contact Even For A Second get a terse “‘sup?” or nod followed by immediate evasive tactics. But a basically nice person I just didn’t click with? “Hey, how have you been, nice to see you!” and no worries after that. It’s a both a big world and a small world.

6 “How to reply to your ex if he asks are you still mad.”

You don’t owe this question an answer, but I think the truth can be pretty liberating. “I mostly don’t think about you. Why do you ask?”

If you’re still mad, maybe say that? “Yep, still mad.”

7a “I cant find anyone to date with good hygiene.” and 7b “How to handle a bf who happens to be dirty body and smelly mouth.”

There are enough recurring search terms like this that I feel compelled to say: What is happening out there?

Do you want to touch/date/be close to other people? If so, please bathe regularly (Once a day? Every other day? At least on days you know you’re going to see a partner?), wear clean clothes, and brush your teeth often. Do the best you can.

It’s okay to ask a romantic partner to freshen up before you do naked or up-close stuff or even before hanging out. “Awesome, let’s make out, but can we brush teeth first?” “Can’t wait! Wash the gym off first?” “Hey, I need you to shower and brush your teeth before you come see me.” Bodies are amazing and wonderful. Also, sometimes they get dirty and stinky. It’s okay to acknowledge that.

8 “What to get your son’s girlfriend for Christmas when you don’t like her.”

1 Ask your son if there is something that he knows the girlfriend wants or would find useful.
2 Get her the same thing you’d get her if you did like her? Like, if you’re going to get an “I hate you” present maybe it’s better to buy nothing at all?
3 Try something generic & consumable rather than an object she will feel compelled to display. For instance, a gift card to a big retailer that would be easy to redeem.

9 “Should you invite someone who assaulted you to your wedding.”

No. Just, no. Give yourself the gift of not inviting this person and not worrying about it anymore. Periodic reminder: Your wedding does not exist to spackle over all the rough edges in your family or social circle.

You don’t have to keep this person’s secrets. You don’t have to disclose the details, either. If someone asks you “Why aren’t you inviting _____?”

Stuff like: “We’re not close.” “______ knows why.” “Don’t want to.”

10 “Can you break up after one day?”

You can break up after one minute.

11 “How to get rid of a guy on Facebook.”

Block them. Never look back.

12 “Partner leaving because I don’t like his kids.”

That sounds really hard, but I can respect that as a good reason to break up. “You hate the people I made/raised and have a lifelong commitment to, I don’t think love for each other can overcome that.”

13 “How to reply to someone who nags about your overweight.”

“I’m gonna need you to shut the fuck up about my weight from now on.”
“It’s really weird that you think my body is your business.”
“I don’t care what you think.”
“Please stop talking.”

14 “50 and husband criticizes my clothes.” 

“Husband, I am half a century old. This is what I’m wearing. This is how I dress. Let it go.”

15 “I made my boyfriend come with me everywhere.”

Ok? Why? Was he cool with that?

16 “How do you get your new neighbor to stop asking you for things without being nasty.”

Decide in advance that you will just say no to whatever it is without negotiating. That makes it easier in the moment to say, “Oh no, I don’t lend that out.” “Can’t help you out, sorry.” “No, sorry, please ask somebody else.” You can’t prevent them from asking but you can make it boring and unproductive for them to keep doing so.

17 “How do I stop a person from inviting herself to stay regularly.”

As in the example with the neighbor, you can’t prevent her from asking in the first place but you can say “no” every single time. “That won’t work for me.” “I can’t put you up anymore.” “Please stop asking.” “Please find somewhere else to stay.”

18 “She cut me off and now I’m having second thoughts about the break up.”

Oops! You could try to reach out one time to say “I’m sorry and I’m having second thoughts, can we talk?” as long as you understand that no answer is in itself a kind of answer.

19 “My ex keeps calling me but doesn’t want to date right now.”

You don’t have to keep taking these calls. “Hey, Ex, I respect that you don’t want to get back together! These frequent calls are making it hard for me to move on and let go of our relationship, so I’d appreciate it if you stopped.”

20 “Ex says he doesn’t want a relationship right now.”

Then the relationship is over.

21 “Boyfriend breaks up tells you good luck wish you happiness and lets be casual friends what does that mean?”

He’d like to part on friendly terms and he wishes you well. “Casual friends” = He’d like to be on friendly terms when he runs into you but not necessarily make an effort to be close or spend time together.

22 “So far retirement is endless dishwashing, clotheswashing, and ‘what’s for dinner?'”

TIME FOR A NEW ROUTINE FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THIS STORY. It sounds like people need things to do outside of the house, a rebalancing of household chores, and some serious alone time.

23 “Want to quit my 10 year job but feel guilty.”

You’ve given this place 10 years of service. If you’re ready to be done, it’s okay to be done. It’s not exactly comforting but chances are if they needed to fire you or lay you off, they’d do it without another thought.

24 “How to tell if a guy is too intense.”

If he’s too intense for you, then he’s too intense. Examples of behaviors that have made me write someone off as too intense for me in the past:

  • Upon connecting on social media, I feel like he is monitoring everything I have ever said and done. “Likes” and comments showing up on every single post, including stuff from long ago.
  • Wants to spend every waking moment together. Interrogates me if I say I have other plans. Wants to come along to literally everything.
  • Makes lots of jokes about getting married & having kids really early on. “Our kids will be so beautiful and smart!” “Um okay I’ve known you for 3 hours what kids.”
  • Seems to be making a ton of plans that center around me, especially really early on. “Well, I was gonna move into a new place but I don’t want to be 2 buses away from you!” “Um okay I’ve known you for 3 hours don’t plan your life around me.”
  • Overly quick to drown me in reading material and stuff to watch or listen to, like, “Date me, DATE MY POP CULTURE REFERENCES.” I already have my own taste, bro.
  • Doesn’t pay attention to reciprocity, like, I’d go into a movie or teach a class and turn my phone off for a couple hours and come out and have 10 long paragraphs of text messages.
  • Seemed overly vigilant and weird about male friends & colleagues, treating them like potential competition.
  • Way into public displays of affection & constant touching.
  • Too thick with compliments, especially about physical stuff. “You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.” “Um, okay, they’re brown?” I like being told that I’m pretty but I like being told that I’m good at something more and I don’t like lines that feel recycled.
  • If you’d like an audio-visual example, here’s a short film I directed about this.

Bottom line: It’s awesome to feel seen, it’s suffocating to feel monitored.

25 “Flirt someone internet regret.”

Aw, buddy. It happens to the best of us. Leave your regrets in 2017 if you can.

Love and light to all of you in Awkwardland.

196 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: “I Can See The Sun In Late December”

  1. Congrats on the grading, Captain. Thanks so much for all you do. Your blog is like carrying a perpetual candle round on a candlestick for me, helps all the time in all sorts of big and small ways. Have a great holiday season and happy new year :).

    1. I’ve been part of those games. They were not, in fact, fun… until I moved on. :rimshot and sad trombone of truth:

  2. #8 This will depend on the state of their relationship but the route we used to take was doing a joint gift, say something for the house or whatever.

    (These days we just plain skip him, but that’s after he pulled some majorly jerky stuff. I don’t actually advocate that route.)

    1. yup. I don’t much care for my nephew OR his girlfriend – they get a “date night in a card,” gift cards to a restaurant and a movie theater in their area. I don’t have to tell anyone that I don’t like them, I don’t get the family fall-out from skipping them, and it requires minimal effort on my part.

  3. 3: Healthy relationships don’t involve tests like that. And I’m not sure how your reaction to ghosting would prove one way or the other about interest in his money *anyway*– both “I am concerned because you’ve ghosted” and “you’ve ghosted, clearly you are not nice enough to date” are *both* perfectly healthy reactions having nothing to do with money. (As a sidenote, my roommate is *vocal* about how he’s dated a lot of gold diggers. He hasn’t, as far as I can tell, had very many second dates– and I rather suspect this has more to do with women hearing him complain about it and going “Welp, you are clearly too self-absorbed to date” than it does with his nonexistent money.)

    9: So very many Jedi Hugs. And no, don’t invite the person who assaulted you to the wedding. That is okay. That is allowed. You’re even allowed to cut this person out of your life in other ways as well.

    10: And if you know you’re going to break up anyway, done is better than not done! Don’t date the person for a while and then break up with them; that is wasting time that you could both be spending looking for someone you actually want to date. I’ve mentioned here before the story of the fellow who went on a date with me (and spent the week leading up to the date acting interested and enthused!) only to tell me at he end he’d never been interested in me and had basically been humoring me. (The phrase “you deserved a normative date” was used.) It was awful. Now imagine how much worse that is if the other person has a longer chance to start really liking you and thinking maybe this is going somewhere. If you want to break up with someone, please just do it.

    23: Wanting to quit is okay! Do you know what you want to do instead? It’s probably worth taking some steps towards doing it *before* you quit, just for reasons of continuous income, but start making plans to leave!

      1. You know how some people who grow up with a lot of money and privilege want to be nice but are just *that* oblivious because they’ve never really had to consider other people’s perspectives past a certain point or think a decision all the way through before making it? That’s what he’s like.

      2. “A normative date”? That is…a very weird choice of adjective. A normal date, okay, makes sense, but…normative? It’s…meant to establish the deviation from the mean? It’s about the valuation of things as good or bad? This is going to seriously drive me crazy.

        Also, Neal Brennan on gold diggers: “They exist. Not as much as you’d think. Yeah, you know how I know? I have a little bit of gold. And there has not been as much digging as I’d hoped.”

        1. Re: the first part of your comment: I agree that’s a weird adjective choice; that’s why I wondered “WTAF?” when I first saw that phrase.

          1. I can see my jerky BIL using that phrase. He’s a math major and would feel it separates him from the unwashed masses or something.

    1. Re: #3: ah yes, the “I can’t afford to live without a roommate but am certain that women are dating me for my tens of dollars.” Sure, Jan. Also, back to the original comment, how would ghosting prove that you were or were not into someone for their money? Wouldn’t that be more about how much attention you want from your S.O., as opposed to how much money you want from them?

        1. General Rule: If your default definition of women hinges on gold-digging, you are too misogynist to date women.

      1. I can’t really get into the headspace of people who engineer manipulative tests of their relationships, but the thinking may be something like, “People who are emotionally invested in me will have a worried reaction if I disappear,” and/or, “Someone only looking for a meal ticket is more likely to be pursuing multiple people at once and not notice/care if one person ghosts.”

        You’re exactly right it indicates how much attention/interaction someone wants; since the relationship is long-distance*, it doesn’t involve (frequent) physical intimacy, a shared household, rides to work, or anything else requiring physical proximity. One thing it presumably does involve is regular communication, so ceasing that leaves not much else – if there is financial support, that may literally be the only thing left, in which case the test would be to see if the person is unpreturbed by a relationship that consists only of cashing checks or getting gifts. Of course, the more likely explanation is that he’s breaking up by ghosting, that he’s a jerk who is intentionally messing with our searcher to keep zir feeling insecure, or that he’s dating (an)other person/people and ghosting when focusing on them. I suspect our searcher went right to “gold-digger test” because the wealth difference where zir anxiety about the relationship is most acute, and ghosting pokes relationship anxieties.

        *Knowing whether this is an ideally-temporary state of affairs where a member of an established couple moved for school or a job or to care for a family member or something like that and they’re looking for opportunities to be near-distance or whether it’s a relationship that has mostly/always been long distance might provide a clue, but with Search Terms we can only speculate. I lean toward the latter, since it seems less likely to me that someone in a long-established relationship would be worrying about a gold-digging test.

  4. “Flirt someone Internet regret”
    Never had a random string of words summed up my year so aptly. Good luck out there random kindred!

  5. My husband, whom I love dearly, has the bad habit of not remembering to wash his face—especially at night because he showers in the morning. It was an awkward conversation when I had to say, “Honey, I’m really sorry to bring this up because it feels weird, but you don’t wash your face at night and as a result kissing becomes kind of smelly and unpleasant,” but he took it in his stride and it worked out fine. Same with when he politely asked if I could please pin back my wet hair before getting into bed. If you have healthy communication, it should go okay regardless of the inevitable awkwardness of bringing it up.

  6. As someone who is invisibly disabled and can’t shower independently (and considers this information I don’t give out to people almost at all), is there a good way to reply if someone says the shower thing?

    1. Not the same thing at all, but I did once date somebody who had broken both of their legs for the summer. Summer in my state is muggy and horrible, so the poor dear was a sweaty mess constantly. I’m a person with a strong sense of smell, so for about two weeks after the injury, Pantsless Times were just not happening. We were both miserable.

      Then, when the Wanting to be Pantsless With My Partner vibes took over, they suggested that *I* bathe *them* for maximum efficiency. And, what do you know, it ended up being pretty sexy too!

      SIDE NOTE: I do not any malady that stops me from regular showering. But I *do* only really shower 2-3 times a week. The only reason I still get to take my pants off around Sexy People without getting turned down because I smell particularly ripe is because I wipe down the, uh, crevices of my body twice a day when I skip the shower. Just a nice wiping of the pits and Nether Regions with baby wipes or a clean wash cloth does the trick. (I also use a light and mild body spray but don’t recommend that for anyone who is allergic or sensitive to aerosols.)

      Hope any of this helps! 🙂

    2. Well, what someone means when they say “please shower” is “you stink. Please clean yourself so you no longer stink – I suggest a shower.” So I think the solution would not be to come back with some witty retort, but to find a non-shower hygiene routine that works for you so you don’t stink. Now, obviously I don’t know your disability or what you can and can’t do, but I’d be willing to bet that if you googled “hygiene tips for [name of disability]” you’d be able to find some stuff.

    3. In this example, the theoretical person saying the shower thing is someone who *wants* to be physically intimate with you and who likes you enough to initiate a really awkward conversation about it. It’s not a passing remark from a stranger, and it’s not an insult, it’s an attempt *to be closer.* So, what would you say/disclose in a situation like that?

      1. I would hope that anyone I’m close enough to have sex with would also be someone to whom I could disclose at least bare-bones info with, like, “For medical reasons I don’t want to discuss, I’m unable to shower daily.” YMMV of course.

        As a semi-fix, which I know nobody specifically asked for so please delete if this comment oversteps, I can say that when I’m too depressed to fully shower, I find that using makeup removal wipes/bathroom wipes are adequate for a quick scrub down in intimate areas and this seems to help.

    4. Sometimes I have trouble showering independently, and when my partner wants me to shower, I ask him to help me shower if I need help to shower. Sometimes it’s sexy help showering.

    5. If I understand you correctly, no one has actually asked you to shower more regularly or asked you to shower at a particular time. Your question is hypothetical, right? It could be that no one has said this because no one has perceived a problem. Great!

      There’s a fair amount of variation in people and whether they smell bad. There’s similar variation on the receiving end in how people perceive smells and whether they find them unpleasant. Add variation in things that can affect how people smell like exercise and garlic (or other dietary factors). I’ll use myself for an example. I only shower every 3-4 days and don’t use deodorant except for the days before and during my period or when I’ve been stressed and like the calming feeling of hot water. I can’t detect a smell on myself, and no one has ever commented on how I smell.) I personally far prefer the smell of normal armpit to any sort of deodorant or aftershave or perfume. I’ve been known to ask intimates to wash perfumey smell off with the unscented soap I use. I’ve also been known to ask intimates not to wash good healthy (different if someone’s been sick) smells off after moderate exercise. (Not talking about weeks on end without bathing, just no need to wash immediately after a walk or a day or being busy.) I say all this because it’s entirely possible that no one will ever say the shower thing over your whole life. On the other hand, I’m a stickler about mouth and breath smells. For those, it’s follow dentist and hygienist instructions to a T and check with them if there’s any smell at all on the breath.

      Now if someone does perceive a problem and does say the shower thing. My first suggestion would be a change in home equipment, some sort of shower head on a nozzle so you can wash underarms and whole genital area without help and without showering. (I don’t know the nature of your disability or the nature of your living space to know if this is feasible.) After that, I’d suggest seeing the problem as one you and the person telling you to shower have together. It’s not you alone. It’s not the other person alone. It’s something to be solved so you can spend close-up time together.

  7. Yay for completed grading! My campus just closed for the Winter break- no students until January 2nd. Love the search terms.

  8. “Fun” example of 24 I saw just recently: “I deleted my porn archive for you babe :-)” “uh ok that was pretty dumb of you”

    1. wow that’s an amazing display of forced teaming – I deleted my porn archive so now my entire sexual entertainment is your responsibility babe 🙂

      1. Normally I would not take personal that I am someone’s masturbatory material, as long as I don’t need to know who that someone is. Guy, I am not giving you material to fill that folder again!

        Asshole answer that I would have said aloud: “Geeze, I hope you’re not expecting me to delete mine. I have needs.”

          1. Well, it sounded less kind in my head… like “I would prefer not to imagine YOU naked, thankyouverymuch”…

          2. Well, not on the speaker’s hard drive, but realistically speaking, “accidentally” backed up somewhere.

    2. Wow. My response to that would probably be a very self-conscious “Um… did I do anything that made you think I wanted you to do that? Because I don’t care about your porn archive.”

      Like, wtf?

    3. I honestly think I’d just stand there with my mouth kind of open if I heard this. Is he a monk now? Is he expecting me to be his private, on call show? Seriously, WHAT THE HELL?

  9. “Date me, DATE MY POP CULTURE REFERENCES.” LOL! I had a guy I was sorta-seeing RENT ME A TV for a month because I didn’t have one, so didn’t get his TV-show references. He was a bit put out when I didn’t watch it. I mean, there was a REASON I didn’t have a TV.

    1. Exactly! Also, TV addicted guys who are already dating:

      Just because YOU wouldn’t mind, it does not mean that your SO won’t mind you playing on a DVD you recommended in the TV that you insisted to put in their bedroom while they is still asleep at your side and you’re are just bored.

      Waking at 8am a Sunday morning with Modern Family loudly in the room makes me pretty upset and, if you do not get why I would rage, the problem is yours. And you know what? I wasn’t particular to Modern Family. Now I loathe it.

      1. Ugh! no! I agree so much! Even if you are going to watch something you love out in a different room you better turn that volume down a lot. I had to have some tough conversations with my night owl partner. I love my sleep. Don’t mess with it!

  10. 8 “What to get your son’s girlfriend for Christmas when you don’t like her.”

    I was that girlfriend, and my nemesis was the whole exBF’s family (it was a case of Family Expecting Newcomer To Accept And Interiorize All Their Boundary-Crossing Quirks, who didn’t take well my I Fought Hard For Those Boundaries And I Am Keeping Them Thank You Very Much attitude).

    I don’t display family photos at home because… I don’t need to? I am still capable of remembering I have a family without the visual reinforcement, dudes. ExBF family was shocked about this, so this aunt thought she was making me a favour gifting me with a sparkly photo frame, which I gave immediately to charity because it was a Horror. I didn’t display it, she noticed, which resulted in larger and more glittery photo frames in consecutive years.

    ExBF’s sister found disturbing that I wasn’t a make-up person, so she decided to gift me with a beginner’s kit of make-up (I am 36, ffs). She, and everyone, could see I was not impressed, even after they literally screamed in my ears how a great gift that was because I could always make use of it.

    And another aunt gifted me bath bubble bombs. After she had been at our place and seen that our bathroom was shower-only. Great example of “I don’t like you, nor I am observant to you” plus “how can you live in a house without a bathtube, barbarian” gift. Also, those things smelled vile: I offered them to a friend who was satisfactorily civilised and had access to a bathtube and she said the only way those chemical weapons could relax you were by killing you.

    My advice: don’t gift anything unless you’re sure the gift will be well-accepted. No gift is far better than a potentially passive-aggressive gift.

    And it’s ok if you don’t like you son’s girlfriend, as long as you don’t use the occasion to induce her to change into somebody more of your liking or to press her to leave your son, which I guess you believe could do with someone more to your tastes. Make it easier for her and for yourself.

    1. “And it’s ok if you don’t like you son’s girlfriend, as long as you don’t use the occasion to induce her to change into somebody more of your liking or to press her to leave your son, which I guess you believe could do with someone more to your tastes. Make it easier for her and for yourself.”

      Yes. It’s fine to disagree with your children’s choice of partner; it’s not cool to try to control their dating lives.

    2. Once upon a time, when I was living with a now-ex Darth Vader bf, we spent Christmas at his mom’s. His grandmother gave me a skirt (I wore pants exclusively at that time). The gift was labeled with my first nsme (misspelled) and my bf’s last name (one of her grandchildren had the same first name as me.) When I opened the (hideous and clearly second-hand) skirt and performed my frozen-faced-smile-and-thank-you, she said (loudly enough for everyone to hear) that she wasn’t sure of my size, but I could let it out if I needed to. Darth BF didn’t understand why I was mad.

      1. A second hand skirt? Oh wow, that’s even worse than getting socks and underpants for Christmas.

        1. A second hand article of clothing I wouldn’t wear at the time given by someone who couldn’t be bothered to find out my name (and was possibly being passive aggressive about me shacking up with her grandson,) with bonus side of fat shaming. I almost injured myself keeping my facial expression under control.

    3. “What to get your son’s girlfriend for Christmas when you don’t like her.”

      Space. A role model of graciousness, dignity, and a woman being fiercely herself and doing no harm but taking no shit (or father or enbee parent doing the same, in which case, WHOOO go you!). A moment of connection and appreciation that you both love the same person. Also, a cute thumb drive, possibly decorated to reflect one of her interests (Wonder Woman or Princess Leia is a safe bet this year) or a moment she and your son enjoyably shared; a keychain or headlamp flashlight; a case of Blenheim apricot preserves; or an AAA membership. You may also try giving your son a gift certificate to a florist’s for a nice surprise when she needs a pick-me-up later this year— she’ll need it, it’s exhausting to date people whose family thinks that gifts should reflect one’s dislike of the recipient. (OR there’s a superstition that says if you give someone a knife or other blade, it will sever the relationship, if you want to be secretly nasty.)

        1. Immersion blender it is, then. Although if someone I didn’t like made me homemade soup, I might be forced to reconsider my feelings.

        2. jennylinskyb, the actual superstition goes, “The gift of a blade will sever a friendship.” It’s worked out that way enough times for me that I take it weirdly seriously, although I’ve only once, when I didn’t realize how cruel I was being by not setting proper boundaries for my creepystalkysadbonerfriend, done so on purpose. For the record, a Wilkinson sword and replacement blades did actually do the trick…

          1. I have given a knife as a wedding gift. The card read, “I know giving knives is supposed to be bad luck, but you know me: I’m not superstitious, and I live in fear that the people I love are using substandard steel.” (I knew that if I didn’t intervene, they would be using the same knives they had owned since they were both broke theatre students in university.) The couple sent me a thank-you card saying, “Cheers very much for the stabby thing. We will try to use it for cooking and not murdering.” They’re still married and we’re still friends, so.

          2. The version that I know is that a knife should never be given as a gift, but it’s fine to sell or buy one.

            So you give the gift of a penny or other small coin, which they use to buy the knife from you.

        3. Whereas my favorite wedding present was a knife, and my husband has gotten me several that I adore.

          It’s all about knowing your audience. And then getting gift cards for everyone else.

  11. “What to get your son’s girlfriend for Christmas when you don’t like her.”

    Happened to a girlfriend of mine. Her boyfriend got a car from his parents. She got… handkerchiefs.

    1. “Her boyfriend got a car from his parents.”

      Well, in all fairness, getting a car from a S.O.’s family would be awkwardly over the top, IMO. What’s wrong with handkerchiefs?

        1. Handkerchiefs are WONDERFUL, though. If you always have a penknife or multitool, a flashlight, alcohol wipes, and cloth handkerchiefs on your person, you gain an automatic reputation as a BAMF, because you will be ready for 90% of the really weird stuff life throws at you,

          They also work much better than cheesecloth for straining purposes.

          1. They also work much better than cheesecloth for straining purposes.

            What!!! Where has this wisdom been all my life??!? brb, have to finally make actual good hashbrowns

        1. They are vastly easier on your nose than even the softest tissue if you have to wipe frequently. I say this as someone who’s been sick a lot the last month or so.

        2. My brothers and I (33, 32, 30, 21) do and always have, my parents (60, 62) do, and my husband started to after we started dating in our teens.

          I also handmade handkerchiefs (in favorites colour combos) to my brother and his wife for their wedding, and some 26 year old friends for their wedding. I’ve also made some for my toddler (2 years old), and she uses them.

          1. I feel like adding: the toddler ones are toddler sized, I can’t recall exactly but around 7″ wide? Some in black and white gingham, some in a floral and woodland creature print. She knows where they are, she can grab one and wipe her nose when she wants, she sometimes keeps one in her pocket (especially if sick). She sometimes puts them in the laundry basket after only one wipe but eventually she’ll better understand their reusable nature.

  12. “It’s awesome to feel seen, it’s suffocating to feel monitored.”

    Oh, my, yes. Especially when it’s quite possible for someone to *monitor* you without in the least *seeing* you. It’s far more about aggression and control than about loving concern.

    (Also, too, as well: “Meet in a Public Place” had me watching through slitted fingers. Run awaaaaay, indeed.)

    1. I felt so oddly *relieved* at “Meet in a Public Place.” Like, I’m not the only one that happens to?

      (I really hope the color choices in costuming were conscious. Like a non-douchey Hitchcock foreshadowing.)

  13. #2: I like CA’s response if the compliment feels genuine. If it feels like the complimenter is instead fishing for you to take care of them (and you don’t want to), I’ve found that a simple “That’s nice of you to say” gives some breathing distance.

  14. “You can break up after one minute.”

    I basically did this to a guy once. We were eleven years old, he asked me out at the start of recess and I said yes because he was nice enough and I knew he’d had a thing for me for ages. My friends teased me so much that I realised I was never actually that into him to begin with and by the end of recess I’d broken up with him. (My friends were good enough to apologise and tell me they hadn’t meant to make me change my mind, but by that point I was sure how I felt). He was technically my first boyfriend. Ah, childhood.

  15. “Can you break up after one day?”

    Yes, *and* expect that your creepy ex will not proceed to write a bitter, creepy, shitty song about it A YEAR LATER that is a huge flashing neon red flag to the “someone special” he mentions exactly once in his song that is otherwise still entirely about how ‘over’ you he is and how mean you were to change your mind and let him know that as soon as possible.

    1. Well, he sure showed you… he even highlighted and underlined every letter that spelled out the words, “Excellent decision.”

  16. #8 Yes please no passive aggressive gifts. A shipment of steaks is not a good gift for a vegetarian. A bottle of wine is not a good gift for a recovering alcoholic. And if you go with a joint gift, like say a membership to a museum, please include her actual name in the membership. Not Son Plus 1 – so he can take anyone he wants (when he breaks up with you which we hope he does)!

    Also – don’t use gifts to insert yourself in your kid’s domestic disputes, even if you think you’re being “helpful” or just making your kid happy. Like if your son complains that his SO nags him picking up after himself, no, a cleaning service is not a good gift. The problem is not just the mess, it’s that your kid is being a lazy jerk. Actually let’s cross off cleaning service as a gift idea unless specifically requested by all adults who are living there. See also: buying All the Games for your gaming addict kid whose SO is ready to cancel their internet service; All The Craft Supplies for your kid who’s trying to turn the spare bedroom into a craft room over their SO’s wishes; music equipment for someone who doesn’t have a soundproofed space and is driving their SO crazy with the noise, etc.

    1. Oh, well, suddenly, exBF getting complete TV series packages packs for Xmas makes much more sense now… He was constantly watching shows and I complained to him that I wanted more time for activities that we could both enjoy. At least I was able to ban the TV in the bedroom…

    2. Actually let’s cross off cleaning service as a gift idea unless specifically requested by all adults who are living there.

      Thank you for saying this. My MIL keeps offering to pay for a cleaning service for us, and…no. If I wanted to hire a cleaner, I would want to interview them, read reviews from other clients, make sure I was paying them a good wage, and give pretty explicit instructions. Otherwise I would be dealing with a mess of paranoia and guilt.

  17. I feel you, #1. I’ve been waiting since I was 7 for my parents to divorce. I’m 32 and they still haven’t.

    1. Same, kol, same. My parents really, really should have split up when I was about 8 and they are still, somehow, together. Yes, divorcing or not is their decision, but that decision is directly affecting your life and quality of life in some pretty major ways.

      I would actually go one further if they bring it up.

      “blah blah staying together for the kids”

      “Actually, I’d rather if you just rip the band-aid off and got a divorce. You guys seem like you feel pretty miserable all the time and that’s making me feel pretty miserable all the time, too.”

      Or after their next moderate to major altercation, individually give your blessing to each parent to divorce?

      “Parent, if you and Parent ever decided to get a divorce I would be totally okay with that and I’d do my best to help out with Siblings/around the house since we’d each be one adult down. Just so you know.” (if you’re okay doing that).

      1. ““Actually, I’d rather if you just rip the band-aid off and got a divorce. You guys seem like you feel pretty miserable all the time and that’s making me feel pretty miserable all the time, too.””

        Honestly, I didn’t even care if they were miserable or how they felt. I cared that they were fighting all the time and endless shouting and making *me* feel like it was all my fault. After all, if it’s for the sake of the kids, then it’s the kids fault, right? Right? The kinds of things my parents would do to each other, it’s the kinds of things that show up in childrens books about how siblings dont get along and in the end they all learn a lesson ,except it was my parents actual behavior, and no, they didn’t.

        Thanks to my parents, I am now the most pro-divorce person you will ever meet.

        1. I was 10 when I learned what divorce was. I came home that day, so happy. “Hey Mom, guess what I learned today? You can get a divorce!” with the conviction that they must not have known in the same way that they didn’t know (or had forgotten) that there were four states of matter or the capitol of Arkansas. She was not as happy as I thought she would be.

          They finally divorced when I was 30. It was not a pleasant divorce. My father was abusive as long as he possibly could be. I am so happy he she’s free of him.

        2. Thanks to my parents, I am now the most pro-divorce person you will ever meet.

          Me too! My parents eventually did get divorced before I was in my teens and I still believe they should have gotten their shit together earlier. What I learned from my parent’s marriage is that it’s normal to live with someone you can’t stand and fight with them all the time. Gee, I don’t know what could possibly have caused me to think it was normal to be miserable when I lived with my emotionally abusive dirtbag exboyfriend and fought with him all the time. It’s such a mystery.

          There are definitely some tragic situations where parents really, truly *can’t* just get a divorce (I’m thinking of the awful and terrifying health insurance in the US, for one), but I firmly believe that the vast vast vast majority of “staying together for the kids” situations are simple cowardice. Would you tell a friend that it’s normal and okay for them to be scared and miserable if they lived with roommates who hated each other and fought all the time? No? Then don’t tell your kids it’s okay for them to be scared and miserable all the time because the adults, the ones who are supposed to protect and care for them, are the ones making them feel scared and miserable.

          Aside from my bitterness on the subject (fucking get it together, cowards), a commentor who I wish I could credit but I can’t find the post again, once said about their parents’ marriage and refusal to get divorced already that they never wanted to be the lock on a cage. Don’t make your children the lock on a cage, they never asked for that and it doesn’t do anyone any good anyway.

          1. My parents are still together and from what I can tell, their relationship is better now that my dad is entering retirement and he has fewer external stresses. (I am pretty sure that dad is borderline autistic or has some sensory processing issues, which made having to deal with an office environment very stressful for him. Unfortunately, his stress responses include screaming and throwing things, and he also seemed to find dealing with three young children who didn’t know how to help out around the house to be stressful.)

            While it definitely would have been much, *much* better for me and my siblings if my parents had divorced while we were kids (and my sister and I repeatedly asked mom why she was still with dad), hindsight has let me figure out why mom never did leave: we lived very far away from her side of the family (it was a bi-annual road trip from Ontario to Nova Scotia, to visit them), and she had a lot of evidence to support the idea that she’d be without any support from dad’s side of the family if she tried to leave; both of my paternal uncles have been divorced, and as far as my paternal grandmother was concerned, those women were dead to her as soon as the divorce was finalized. I was old enough to actually be properly aware of how nasty my grandmother got when it came to the aunt-by-marriage who divorced my uncle, especially on the topic of who got custody.

            Plus, my father’s side of the family has always been…”financially comfortable”. Mom grew up poor. She tried to protect us as much as she could, but she didn’t want us to have to deal with material deprivation that she could prevent; I suspect she justified it to herself as all parents making some sacrifices for their kids. And if she’d felt that it was a choice between keeping us safe or making sure our material needs were met, I never actually doubted that she’d pick keeping us safe; we went to the local women’s shelter twice that I recall, and I suspect a third time only didn’t happen because they would have insisted she actually start taking steps to leave dad at that point.

        3. Yup. Mine did lots of shouting at each other when I was young, and I was so patiently waiting for them to get a divorce. All my friends had divorced parents, and maybe if they divorced I’d get a nice stepsister or something who wasn’t evil like my sister is. And they never did. I’m still not sure if sending their children to boarding school (as they did, eventually) was the thing that fixed their marriage or the thing that removed us from the house enough that we didn’t have to see all the ways their marriage was disintegrating, but they had so much less opportunity to make me miserable when I wasn’t there during the week, and it was great!

    2. Same here. They don’t fight, they just don’t really talk to one another, and are clearly unhappy so…

      I brought this up in therapy once that I felt that my parents didn’t get along. I was maybe 15 at most, but I’d been feeling this way for a long time. Therapist called my mom in and asked her, and Mom got *very* defensive and said that they loved each other very much and clearly I didn’t comprehend what being a married adult was like. I never brought it up again. I think even the therapist was skeptical at that point. sigh.

      1. I remember that, with the added bonus that every time they fought I somehow ended up getting in trouble, due to my mother going into BEC mode afterwards.

  18. #9 – I might delete “_____ knows why” from the list of scripts. I think it can come off like “Go ask _____ if you want to know,” even if that’s not the speaker’s intention — like it contains an action item for the listener. So maybe a substitute would be, if the questioner keeps pressing after a noncommittal answer, “It’s actually between me and _____.” Conveys the same notion, but with an extra dollop of “this is not your problem to deal with.”

    1. Also, unfortunately, in my experience many offenders will swear up and down that they have absolutely no idea what they did. Even if they’ve been told 20 times, they will insist they have no idea whatsoever what you’re upset about.

  19. What’s with all these super long search terms? I picture these people confidently typing a full paragraph into Google hoping that multiple other people had the same (very specific) relationship problems and phrased their requests for advice in exactly the same way. “What to do if your boyfriend is leaving tomorrow to tour with the Bolshoi Ballet and you want to go with him disguised as a trained bear but your librarian doesn’t approve…”

        1. Which is exactly why I no longer babysit for paranoid heads of state! Someone hands you a baby and says “take care of it,” next thing you know, you’re chased by bears!

    1. Well, with the sheer number of people on earth and the power of google, it’s astonishing what wild things google will help you realize has happened to others and that you’re not alone. Oh, and shoujo manga — I’ve yet to find a bizarre concatenation of romantic circumstance (those sorts of things happen to me a lot) that hasn’t shown up in a manga or manhwa at some point. It’s terribly therapeutic to find that commonality of emotional experience right when life is seeming extra-improbably insane.

      1. Years ago a friend and I had a pact that we would consider anything shoujo manga like in our respective romantic lives to be a red flag to warn the other about. Just saying.

        1. Oh definitely. I have a rule that if anything I’m planning reminds me too much of the slapstick setup for a bad movie, don’t do it. It’s a good rule.

    2. DuckDuckGo sent me to the IMBd listing for _V_ and then a bunch of other random things with the letter “V” in them. Strange are the ways of the Internet.

      Do I need to upload more cat pictures?

    3. As a librarian, I would suggest disguising yourself as a trained wolfhound. They’re easier to smuggle than a bear.

  20. Re: 7…one of my only close friends is someone who believes that if you stop bathing regularly and cleaning your teeth regularly, you stop needing to do this. I don’t know if anyone else has encountered this view but I have seen it in other places too. I know this is specifically what my friend is doing because they have told me. Things like ‘I only clean my teeth [x very infrequent space of time] and it’s working great’ or ‘I shower once a week now and I don’t have a problem with body odour at all, it’s amazing’. The most amount of contact we have is hugs and for the record, I agree that they do not seem to have any serious body odour problems (though they don’t seem to have any views about not washing clothes often and I’m sure regularly washed clothes are key here). If we were sexually intimate, it may be more of an issue as that requires such a strong level of closeness. And, unfortunately, my friend does have bad breath due to their views on oral hygiene. However as I don’t kiss my friend or come into close contact with them, I don’t mention it because that’s not the kind of friend I want to be. If I did kiss or have sex with my friend, or someone else who held these views about hygiene and it was an issue, I hope I would be able to bring it up.

    I’m not bringing this up to make it seem like my friend is gross or to be judgmental about this viewpoint at all, but I guess because the Captain phrased it as ‘What is happening out there?’ I wanted to bring up this view some people have. I think it’s similar to the view that skincare products are bad and unnatural, which some people extend to include soap and toothpaste. It is true that the amount everyone needs to shower is totally subjective and people know themselves best. I’m a thin person who doesn’t have strong body odour and I’ve been to music festivals and thought nothing of not showering for 3 days straight. My boyfriend is a fat person who is extremely wary of the ‘smelly fat person’ stereotype, and I think when he was a teenager he did have BO and was bullied at school for it. He feels incredibly uncomfortable if he cannot have a shower every day, even though he does not have strong body odour. It’s such a sensitive issue, and I hope that the people searching for these questions already have the kind of relationship where you can talk about things like this, personal things in general. When I was younger and got in relationships I was in a bad way mentally, though I didn’t realise it at the time, and the result was I was in relationships where we couldn’t talk about personal things and these guys I was dating were people who didn’t care to know about me beyond surface stuff. There’s no way those relationships could have survived or sustained a sensitive talk about bodily hygiene for bedroom/kissing stuff. So I hope anyone who is searching for things to do with this is already talking with their partner about personal things, because if so and as long as you phrase things with great sensitivity, I just know it will be ok. It will be awkward but you can manage this. Better to say something than to not.

    Re: 24- When I was 17 I dated a guy a few years older (definitly one of the ‘I can’t talk to this person and he doesn’t really care what I want or feel’ people I mentioned above) who really wanted to settle down immediately, get married and have a daughter named Svetlana. Specifically that name. Every time I see the name Svetlana in anything I think of this. We had already gotten together through talking online but he brought all this up on our first date! I want to note that 17 is over the age of consent where I’m from (UK) but still! Other than this guy having serious dating intensity problems, what really highlights the problem with our age gap is that I had no experience in dating and I was young and had been treated badly so I just rolled with it and in my head went ‘ok, this is how things are going to be now, I’m getting married to this guy in a couple of years probably and having baby Svetlana.’ If I had been older and more experienced I wouldn’t have stuck around for any time at all after these bizarre pronouncements on the first date, as it was I thankfully broke up with him after 8 months, which doesn’t sound very long but it is when it’s your first relationship and you’re 17. I sometimes wonder if he ever did get married and if poor Svetlana is out there somewhere, good luck to her if so. I hope this guy is not still going after teens in (quick mental count) his early 30s, also. 😦

    1. I am the complete opposite. I have gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to shave my legs, because I feel dirty and unclean if I am not completely smooth at all times. I also have a weak sense of smell, so I am afraid I smell bad if I skip my daily bath and every-other-day shampoo. My hair is a bit dry, so I can get away with skipping a daily shampoo.

    2. On the “what is happening out there” front, I’m currently dealing with medical instructions to avoid deodorant as much as possible. My nose is over-sensitive to such things, but with loose clothes and a regimen that involves a lot of sweating every day (and usually 2 showers a day), it’s been surprisingly easy. The one problem is that my work clothes aren’t loose enough in the armpits, but once I checked with the doc that it was allowable to put deodorant on the clothing surfaces instead of my skin, that got rid of that problem too. I learned the deodorant-on-the-clothes thing from my dad, who said that when he was a young Marine stationed in the tropics, they were told to spray deodorant liberally in the armpits of their clothes, but not to put it on their skin as they would need to sweat freely in the extreme heat/humidity.

      Oh, and how you wash your armpits in the shower makes a big difference on going without deodorant — you know how the recommendations for handwashing to get rid of germs involve, soap, warm/hot water, and at least 20 seconds of brisk rubbing? Doing the same to your armpits makes a HUGE difference in terms of staying odor-free with no deodorant.

      1. Ooooh, thanks on the armpit washing tip. I actually can tolerate deodorant, but cannot tolerate antiperspirant (and the majority of what is sold these days is actually antiperspirant, or an antiperspirant/deodorant combo – it takes some careful shopping to get deodorant-only). Sadly, while deodorant alone is enough to get me through the day most days, some days it fails spectacularly partway through my workday. It’s been embarrassing enough to make me consider trying antiperspirant again (maybe the painful rashes aren’t as bad as I remember them?). I will try your deep-clean recommendation first and see if it helps. (I’d try the clothing treatment tip also, but antiperspirant seems to also be excellent at permanently staining or bleaching my clothes.)

        On a related note, any other antiperspirant-free folks out there, and if so, are there any deodorant-only brands that you’d particularly recommend/that work especially well?

          1. Yeah, I know shaving brings out some complicated feelings for many people. Choosing to leave the hair there is a perfectly valid choice! But I sweat like crazy and can barely deal with the hair on my head, let along body hair, so I shave evvvvvvvverything and I do notice it being easier to keep armpit smell to a minimum when it’s just skin.

            Side note: An undercut has done WONDERS for me, because I have about half the amount of hair to get annoyed with but still look like I have loads.

          2. Shaving helps me out, but other people find that not shaving reduces odor.

            Pro-tip, though, if you’re prone to rashes, do not use hair removal cream. I only made THAT mistake once. Waxing was/is fine though, for me.

        1. I’ve been using Tom’s of Maine for years (because when I first went looking, that was the only deodorant-only brand I could find). Read the labels carefully, though: since they also sell anti-perspirants and the packages are similar. I use the unscented, but if you want something scented, both the ones labeled “for men” and the ones without gender markers include deodorant-only choices.

        2. I’ve been using solid baking-powder based deodorants from Lush and found them somewhat messy to use, but very skin friendly.

          And if you’re anything like me, the rashes are at least as bad as you remember.

          1. I’ve had good results with The Greeench (?sp) dusting powder from Lush. It’s very absorbent, and full of tea tree, thyme, and other antibacterial herbs that stop the beasties that break down sweat and make the smell.

        3. I strongly recommend Arm & Hammer’s “Essentials” deodorant. I get Tom’s of Maine unscented or lemongrass when that’s out of stock (I usually buy deodorant when I’ve actually run out, so I can’t wait for a restock – I really ought to plan ahead better in this case), and that seems to work fine some days and fail mid-afternoon other days, but I’ve never had a problem with the Arm & Hammer. It’s not super strong-smelling, which is nice for me, as I tend to dislike perfumy smells, especially if they’re really strong.

          1. FYI, Arm & Hammer tests products on animals – the deodorant itself is free of animal-derived products, but it is not suitable for people who categorically oppose animal testing.

        4. I 2nd the Tom’s of Maine recommendation.

          Also I’ve recently been using a brand called Stinkbug Naturals, which lists their ingredients as “organic coconut oil, organic beeswax, baking soda, organic corn starch, organic essential oils”. It tends to go on a little thick, so I had to learn to apply really lightly compared to others. The thing I like most about the Stinkbug is that they have options for simple, easily identifiable smells. The one I use is called “pine cone” and it smells pretty much just like pine tree sap. And I like that the labeling/packaging isn’t gendered.

          I don’t know how long lasting either the Tom’s or the Stinkbug would be for you. I work from home and tend to only put on deodorant when I leave the house or have company.

        5. This may not fly if you have very sensitive skin, but on days when I’ve forgotten to wear antiperspirant, I find a every-six-hours rub of hand sanitizer keeps me totally odorless. I’m pretty sure rubbing alcohol would be the same–I think it’s that it kills the bacteria causing the smell.

        6. i love Native brand! Tom’s stopped working for me, but Native really, really works. i also have somewhat sensitive skin, and this causes no issues.

          their site:

      2. The armpit wash is very crucial for me, and another thing that has helped me is that I stopped shaving. The hair gives more protection against tight shirts rubbing against the armpits. I cut it with scissors once a month instead. Not more rashes either, so I could keep the deodorant I used before.

    3. If your friend has brought up the no-shower/no-teethbrushing thing more than once, I’d guess that they’re doing it because they’re trying to convince themselves by convincing you. They may even be testing you to see if you’ll say anything. Who knows.

      What I’m seeing in the friend’s behavior is something I’ve seen elsewhere. It’s this idea that one can be a free-thinking maverick by going against established tradition even where that tradition has been shown to be beneficial. It’s as though any idea that’s widespread or taught to just about everyone has to be a conspiracy and wrong. Not showering and not teethbrusing has to be one of the more bizarre examples I’ve run across. Sometimes there’s a reason for not wishing to shower. There might be a lack of bathroom facilities in one’s living space, for instance, or someone might have dry skin in the winter that makes frequent bathing the wrong thing to do. There could be water conservation considerations. But most people find the experience of getting warm, wet and soapy now and then to feel nice. It’s an inexpensive harmless pleasure. I can understand that teethbrushing can hurt especially if one’s gums are already sick and sore (from not brushing), but if you’re healthy in the first place, brushing teeth isn’t that inconvenient.

      Here’s the information the friend needs– unless she’s rebelling against everything the scientific establishment recommends. There’s considerable evidence that frequent handwashing prevents the spread of colds and other illnesses, some mild, some serious. If your friend is bragging about not washing hands after using the bathroom, it’s time to stop hugging them too. Definitely don’t eat anything they’ve prepared.

      There isn’t a scientific reason to wash the rest of the body. The daily shower isn’t necessary from a health standpoint. It could be that the friend has mixed up social standards with scientific recommendations. Wouldn’t be the first time.

      There’s overwhelming evidence that brushing teeth is important to health. There was some provocative news recently questioning whether flossing is actually necessary, but brushing with a fluoride toothpaste does prevent tooth decay. And flossing is at least harmless and is still recommended and takes less than a minute. So even if one doesn’t care about one’s breath’s effect on others (and a breath problem might not show up immediately if one stops taking care of general oral hygiene), it’s likely this friend doesn’t want to lose their teeth.

      I don’t know if you’re the one to deliver this news to the friend. A dentist or dental hygienist would be perfect, but let me guess, Friend has decided that regular dental check-ups aren’t necessary.

      When I run into people like these, I finally come around to the idea that the hygiene isn’t the problem. It’s a lack of compatibility on worldview. My reality includes believing the evidence that comes from the scientific community on what health practices work. I don’t care to spend a lot of time with people who rebel for the sake of rebelling or who believe sources that strike me as crackpot.

    4. Another thing that might be going on in some cases is buying in to PUA/MRA/MGTOW/toxic masculine internet culture. The idea that basic culturally normative hygene is feminizing/emasculating/gay/an evil feminist plot is apparently a common enough trope that I’ve seen it show up in a number of fora; here’s ab NSFW post at We Hunted the Mammoth noting an example of this trope:

        1. There apparently was a thing on Reddit about it too:


    5. I blame the No-Poo shampoo thing. A lot of my friends swore by it a few years ago, but nobody’s doing it now…

      And I say this as someone who showers every two days, if she can get away with it, and doesn’t wear deodorant. Bodies vary. Chemistry varies.

  21. #1: When I was 13, my dad disappeared on yet another bender, and I guess I’d finally gotten surly and teenaged enough to ask my mom point-blank why she stayed with him. She said she didn’t want to ‘take away our dad’, I blurted out “we thought *you* liked him?!” and by the end of the afternoon she was getting the locks changed. The rest of my adolescence was way more peaceful after that. My mom is much happier and my dad is…about the same, but elsewhere.

    It’s your parents decision, even if it seems like they’re really unhappy together. But, if someone you love seems miserable in their relationship, it can be good to open the conversation and see what they have to say.

    And if you’re a minor who’s parents miserable marriage is fucking up your life, figure out who you can trust most (a parent, another relative, maybe a friend’s parent, best-ever teacher or someone?) and say so. By the time my folks split I’d been looking up emancipation laws and early college admissions to try to get away from my dad sooner. I was lucky, and my mom was more than ready to help when I asked. If things had gone differently, finding some other safe, stable living arrangement for myself would’ve been a necessity, and in retrospect I would’ve needed way more outside help with that then I realized.

    1. “we thought *you* liked him?!”

      That’s beautiful. It reminds me of The Gift of the Magi somehow. I’m glad you all cleared up that miscommunication.

  22. I do think the hygiene thing is maybe one where if personal preferences don’t align, you just aren’t well suited for each other. I think of it like body hair- you’re allowed to have your preferences, but you really need to be careful to not present your preference as the one true way. I recently broke up with a dude who thought that armpit hair (on women, naturally) was dirty and disgusting, and freaked the fuck out when I stopped shaving. I am still dealing with the emotional aftermath of having to deal with his shit around that issue, thanks asshole!

    1. you’re allowed to have your preferences, but you really need to be careful to not present your preference as the one true way.
      Seriously. I don’t shave my legs, but I shave my armpits. I’m not a very hairy person, so I only need to shave them every few weeks; sometimes I forget. My husband doesn’t seem to care one way or the other. One of my exes, though, went into full Lecture Time Mode about armpit hair–it was okay that he didn’t like it; I don’t particularly like it either. But I didn’t need to keep hearing how gross it was, how my friend who never shared her armpits was disgusting (dude, you’re not dating her. Shut up) or how my leg hair was fine because it’s so light-colored and soft but if it wasn’t he would have problems. So rude.

      1. I’m not currently in the market for new sexual partners, but if I was I like to think I would finally in my life have the mental strength to say ‘hey, if the idea of performing oral sex on a vulva with hair around it is so disgusting to you, maybe it’s time we say goodbye forever’. I’m not talking a preference for a shaved pubic area before oral or vaginal sex (fine, though not compatible with my body) I’m talking about people who Really. Want. You. To Know how vile and disgusting they think pubic hair is and making ‘dental floss’ references and ugggh *shudders* Keep these people (literally) out of my hair.

  23. For several seconds, I read #2 as “a compliment about how Nature, i.e. the abstract entity, cares for us” – and I was thinking, “Why’s Google-Searcher thinking they need to reply to that? Unless Abstract Entity Nature Itself is getting on Google?”

  24. I… really don’t like the implication that The Guy Who Would Not Break Eye Contact Even For A Second is not also ‘basically a nice guy’. :/ If that was uncomfortable for you, sure – would be for me, too! – but someone doing that is almost certainly doing so because they’re autistic, not because… they’re a bad person in some way??

    Sorry, it’s just I’m neurodivergent and have some stims and things that often twig as Weird (plus I don’t like eye contact but I’ve long since learned to force it…) and the thought of people being upset just due to me being in my natural state is… really awful and a big part of why I tend to avoid people in general 😦 Like I certainly hope being haven’t been thinking anout me like that, but if even progressive bloggers are… 😦

    1. Eye Contact guy is a character from a true story I have told elsewhere on the blog long ago. He was dressed like a vampire caricature and he was doing it on purpose to try to dominate me (nonconsensually).

    2. ” …almost certainly doing so because they’re autistic, not because… they’re a bad person in some way??” – no, we have no way of knowing this. he may, or may not, be some flavour of neurodivergent, but we are not qualified to diagnose him on the basis he had a staring contest with the captain.

      it’s unfortunate that a lot of maybe-autistic behaviours are read as creepy by women. it sucks for Autistic Dudes Who Just Want To Connect. it sucks for women who interact with said dudes. it especially sucks for autistic women, who get stuck worrying about this from all angles (is he harmless & genuinely clueless, or a threat? am I also accidentally creepy? how would I know if I was? if he’s clueless, am I being ablest because I don’t want to hang out with him?). the way to deal with this sucking for all concerned is to tell the people doing things read as creepy that the things they’re doing are creepy (and to normalise saying that). that way, Well Intentioned Autistic Dude then has a chance to stop sabotaging his attempts to date/make friends, and more autistic women will feel safe in autistic community spaces.

      (2 years ago I attended an autistic conference. on the first night, a regular attendee asked for a goodnight hug. I said no, he asked why, I did a brief goldfish impression then deflected. if that had been the end of it, it would’ve been fine, but he cornered me the next day to ask why. because of reasonable survival instincts [for any woman who, say, uses public transport alone at night], this dinged my creep-dar, so I complained to the organisers. they…didn’t handle it well. they Knew He Was Harmless, and Didn’t I Understand His Struggle? I won’t be going back there. not because one guy was kinda creepy, but because the organisers used the Poor Autistic Dude excuse to defend him and that means it’s not safe for me.)

    3. Why would it be autistic? Lots of people with autism actually don’t like to look people in the eyes. To me, that seems to be an odd assumption to make.

      1. Koala dreams: Any awkward and weird/creepy behavior is excused by the well-meaning-but-clueless under the autism stereotype.

        jude314159: Yuck! I’m sorry you ran into creepy guy and crappy ableist grossness at the autism conference.

        1. Any awkward and weird/creepy behavior is excused by the well-meaning-but-clueless under the autism stereotype.

          Seconding this, that’s a thing I’ve seen a lot of and it makes me really mad. A lot of creepy behaviour is actually very socially adept (figuring out who you can creep on without risking actual consequences, hiding your creepiness from people who can enforce consequences, getting people on your side so that even if your victim tries to speak out about your behaviour, she won’t be believed), so it makes no sense to jump directly to “he’s just autistic you can’t blame him for creeping you out and ignoring your boundaries.”

          Also I’ve literally never (like literally literally, not figurative literally) seen anyone bend over backwards to make excuses for an autistic woman’s behaviour the way I’ve seen people bend over backwards for men who may or may not even be autistic, which has me pretty much convinced that “but what if he’s just autistic?” is not in fact about being a decent human being to people with imperfect social skills and only about silencing women who don’t want to be creeped on.

          1. I think (when it’s real) “but he’s autistic” is the one exception to needing lots of social skills to be creepy. generic creeps keep it hidden to avoid consequences, but being male with an autism diagnosis is sufficient protection on it’s own. I’ve definitely seen parents/teachers/other authority figures watch autistic dudes creep and then defend them.

            but, yeah, it’s very gendered. it’s like “boys will be boys” on steroids. it’s always the woman’s fault, even if her autism makes social situations trickier.

  25. #17 – Call them and tell them you have bedbugs that you haven’t been able to get rid of, and ask if they have them too, as if they might have brought them to you. You probably won’t get any more self-invites. If they do call months later, tell them since the bedbug outbreak, you won’t let anyone stay over.

    1. Yeah, no.

      In general, when soft “nos” haven’t worked giving a reason won’t either. That’s because people who don’t hear soft “nos” treat reasons as the beginning of further negotiation.

      And this “reason”? It’s pretty nasty.

  26. Yay on no more grading!

    #10 Yes. I hooked up with one of my swing dance friends on Wednesday (it was planned), saw him Thursday night for our regular dance, and texted him that night that I didn’t want to do it again. That was slightly more than a 24-hour window, but I still call it one day.

    Also, whoa those intense dudes are intense.

  27. I finished my grading this evening, too! Woohoo! I’m teaching the same class again next semester, and my husband is stuck writing a paper all evening (and all weekend, probably), so I’m going to use this free time and modicum of motivation to lesson plan next semester while it’s fresh in my head. Also: Netflix. And wine. Not a terrible evening all around.

  28. 7. I shower maybe every other or every 2 days (during the times of the year when I don’t sweat a lot) + around every day during the summer, but I never leave the house without deodorant or having brushed my teeth + washed my face. Since I shower a little less often than the average person, I’ve point blank asked partners (and close friends) before if I smell OK, and I’ve never received an answer other than “you smell fine”.

    I really wish there was a socially acceptable way to tell someone that they smell not great (the equivalent of telling someone their skirt is tucked into their underwear or that they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe). Just because it’s not something that one can really easily check on their own.

    24. I loved the short film! I found it really interesting that Fiona gave him the benefit of the doubt. I would have run screaming after the coffee order. I feel like it’s not super-uncommon to “research” a date online, but revealing the results of that research to that person smacks of terrible judgement. Like, I would be so much less weirded out if I saw the person’s laptop open to my Facebook circa 2013 than I would be if they *mentioned* seeing something on my page from back then.

    1. “I really wish there was a socially acceptable way to tell someone that they smell not great (the equivalent of telling someone their skirt is tucked into their underwear or that they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe).”

      I think a big difference is that the skirt or shoe can be fixed immediately, wherever you are. If you’re going about your day and someone tells you you smell, and you can’t get to a shower then, it just makes your day worse.

  29. Folks who don’t want to use toothpaste: Please brush your teeth anyway, without the toothpaste. My sister is a dental hygienist and says that technically toothpaste isn’t NECESSARY, that a thorough brushing with just water will do the trick.

    But brush, and floss, because it isn’t just bad breath we’re talking here. You can lose your teeth if you don’t take care of them, and dentures just aren’t the same as your natural chompers. Nutrition can become an issue, and there’s bone loss to contend with (which can change the shape of your face), and gum disease has been linked to heart ailments.

    Congratulations, Captain, on making it through another semester (quarter?) of teaching.

    1. Fascinating! I didn’t know brushing with water would do the trick.

      Also re: showering: yes, it’s true that washing your hair daily with shampoo is bad for it, but it’s the shampoo, not the washing. (It strips its natural protective oils, which causes the oil glands to overcompensate and make your hair overly greasy very fast so you have to wash with shampoo again… etc…) There are systems for washing your hair with other things, for which the search term is, for some reason (sigh) “no-poo.”

      I wash mine with baking soda & vinegar (no, you don’t actually mix them although that would be hilarious) every other day, and once a month I use shampoo. It works great, it’s very clean and I don’t get split ends now till my hair’s halfway down my back.

    2. Check with your own hygienist before going without toothpaste. This could be an individual thing where the recommendation for some is that toothpaste isn’t necessary and for others it is. To the best of my knowledge, the fluoride in toothpaste has value.

      1. Good point. Thanks for bringing that up. Mostly my comment was aimed toward people someone else mentioned: Those who don’t want to use shampoo, soap or toothpaste because chemicals, I guess. But those who decide to try the plain-water route will be foregoing fluoride.

        1. The way to sum up is: If you’re in a situation where you can brush with a fluoride toothpaste and floss with regular products, then do so. It’s important for you own health and for the people around you. Most of us have access to running water, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss. Use them. If you’re in a situation where for some reason you can’t use all three, do the best you can. Brushing without toothpaste is better than not brushing at all. Running toothpaste around your teeth on your finger when you don’t have a brush is better than nothing. Brushing without flossing is better than skipping it. Products such soft-piks and floss on a disposable handle are good when something is preventing you from holding the floss. And while I’m at it, no one enjoys dental check-ups, but it’s less painful to get a small cavity filled than a large one, less painful to get teeth worked on than to have them pulled. All this is certainly better than trying to enjoy life without teeth.

      1. That sounds like a very extreme medical exception, where the consequences of brushing (insta-vomit) are worse than the consequences of not brushing (dentures and heart disease). Your specific valid exception doesn’t change the validity of the overall advice.

        Reminds me of the “not everyone can eat sandwiches” trope over at AAM.

        I’m sorry you have to deal with that; it sounds very unpleasant.

        1. I like my Waterpik but there are other water spraying flossers that are good for removing debris from gums and plaque. Maybe that wouldn’t trigger the vomit response and it’s chemical free. I improved my gums per my dentist using it daily for 6 months.

      2. That definitely sounds like you’re in “consult a professional” territory, whether that’s a dental professional (to figure out what if any dental care you can do that won’t cause that reaction) or a therapist (or maybe some other kind of doctor) to try to do something about that reaction. If you have already tried that and it didn’t help, please accept my sympathy.

      3. I have a friend who’s allergic to all toothpastes. Yes probably even that one you’re thinking of.

        Teethbrushing is not something they talk about much.

        1. I sometimes brush with just straight baking soda on a damp toothbrush. It works great – better actually than most toothpastes.

          That said, it’s got a strong taste so I’m sure wouldn’t work for everyone, and if someone gagged particularly easily it would probably set that off.

          1. you might want to check with your dentist but I’ve heard that baking soda is fairly abrasive and thins enamel

          2. LOL, my dental hygienist was the one who recommended it. And my teeth have been awesome ever since I started using it.

  30. I first read No. 15 as something extremely messy, and secondly as something risky involving al fresco or public places. Just saying.

    More on No. 24 (on the same theme as the bottom line): asking me how I got on with my parents at the second meeting. Responding to my failure to mention a father by pointedly asking “And your father?” Looking at my body and saying “You’ve lost weight.” Telling me deeply personal stuff after little acquaintance then saying “I’ve never told anyone that before.” Responding to the soft no of “I have to do some shopping” with “I’ll come with you!” Spending a lot of time at the first meeting going on and on about how they’re ready to meet the big love of their life and that’s their primary focus right now.
    Essentially, anything that makes you feel uncomfortable because it’s too intense. The lack of reciprocity where you don’t feel comfortable telling someone personal stuff even if they tell you something intimate, or if they ask questions that make you uncomfortable.

    1. “The lack of reciprocity where you don’t feel comfortable telling someone personal stuff even if they tell you something intimate”

      Whoa. This was for sure an early warning sign in TWO entirely separate friendships that I ended this year, both with women who considered me their best friend and told me ALL their problems ALL the time. I considered them casual acquaintances at best, and only told them my important news when I’d already fully processed things with my ACTUAL close friends and had already decided how to handle things.

      As a woman who was raised to be the eternally patient holder of every other family member’s feelings, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to scale things back instead of awkwardly and disingenuously reciprocating the frequent FRIENDFEELINGS avalanches out of sheer “politeness” (survival) instinct. Eventually I realised I didn’t actually want these friendships at all, and several months later I finally gave myself permission to disengage. One friend was, I think, savvy enough to realise I was stepping back, and stopped pursuing. The other friend did not, and I eventually had to be direct. It was unpleasant for us both.

      So lately I have been thinking a lot about how to avoid getting caught in the trap of mismatched FRIENDFEELING in future. This is a perfect red flag to keep in mind, thank you!

  31. Congrats on the grading!

    As for the stinkiness? I’ve encountered a few reasons, but they mostly boil down to: people can’t smell their own stench.

    So if we aren’t not practicing daily cleaning, we typically don’t notice when we are stinky (because we don’t smell ourselves).

    The reasons people give for not cleaning daily vary. I’ve encountered a few themes:
    – Too much cleaning is bad for your skin
    – Too much cleaning is bad for the environment
    – Too much cleaning is bad for my clothes
    – I’m not smelly am I?
    – Aikido related: I only have one gi

    1. I only had one gi back when I was doing karate, and I washed that sucker five times a week. Possibly not the best for the environment… but I sweat so much that if I didn’t wash it after training, it would be able to get up and do kata on its own the next day.

      1. If you’re in the situation where you only have one set of exercise clothes and you can’t wash them daily, let the clothes thoroughly air dry before enclosing them in anything smaller than a room. It’s not just your sweat, it’s your sweat sitting there and growing bacteria that’s causing so much stink.

        No, the clothes will not be anything like fresh, but they won’t smell so much like hockey locker room, either.

    2. Why does it seem to be mainly men who neglect the hygiene? I suppose there must be some women out there who do this, but it seems that it’s mainly women complaining about smelly men.

      1. Women are also socialized that certain things about us are automatically disgusting: body hair, body odor, menstruation/vaginal secretions (for those assigned female at birth), et. al. We are told that we smell like fish. Many of us feel we have to spend lots more time in the shower in order to take care of shaving/waxing/washing away all the above. This gets rid of our body odor (all the extra cleaning/grooming, not the internalized misogyny).

        1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a shower with the special anti-misogyny soap could take away all the internalized anti-misogyny? I really miss that soap. 😦

  32. When you brush your teeth, standard medical advice is to wait half an hour before having sex (or making out, I guess).
    It decreases your risk of transmitting an STI.
    (As does knowing your partners’ STI statuses, but that’s a whole other conversation.)

  33. I’m impressed #22 made it as far as retirement before realising how mundane domestic life is.

    1. I (and I think the Captain) interpreted #22 as “my husband and I are both supposed to be retired, but he’s expecting me to do as much work as ever while he takes it easy.” That might be a situation where wife and husband both retire from paid jobs, and never discuss her second shift of household maintenance work. Or a single-income couple in which the man (if not his wife) assumes that since he’s retired and no longer has to go to work, he has no obligations, without considering that fairness would mean they both got to retire, and split such chores as need doing, or hire someone to help, rather than her having to do as much work as ever.

    2. I get it. My early retirement was not entirely by choice, and it seems to me sometimes that we just finish cleaning up after one meal before we start another. It doesn’t help that the dishwasher died a few weeks ago and we haven’t replaced it yet.
      When I was working I was eating lunch at work, so cooking and cleanup only took place twice a day, at least 10 hours apart.

  34. On 12, that seems like a reason I’d pretty much have to break up with someone over if I had kids. Assuming my kids weren’t secretly the Children of the Corn, if you don’t like them, I don’t think we could have a longterm relationship that involved living together or having you be part of their lives. It’s not fair to put them in a position where they have to live with someone who resents them and wishes they were anywhere else.

    This one also got answered pretty well here, I think.

    1. Does the way I handle this make the site *more* accessible or *less* accessible for people using screen readers? If it makes it less accessible I will look for ways to change it up. If it doesn’t adversely affect accessibility for people, I will keep doing it the way I am doing.

      1. I don’t know. I asked the question because I thought you might know something about accessibility that I do not, not because I thought you were doing it wrong.

        My only evaluation, as someone who knows just about enough about website accessibility to be dangerous, is that, as far as I can tell, you’re not doing a blank alt text (alt=””) on the images themselves, so a screenreader is going to wind end up reading both the image file names and your later image description. I don’t know how annoying or inaccessible this would be to someone using a screenreader.

        1. Okay? I did it this way in response to a request from a screenreader user and I’ll wait for screenreader users to tell me if they want something different.

      2. As someone who does not use a screen reader, but does have neurological problems that make moving bits embedded in text really uncomfortable to look at, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the way you do image descriptions (although it only impacts me for animated gifs and embedded videos), and hope that you keep doing it that way. Of course if it turns out to negatively impact people who do use screenreaders, I absolutely support changing. Sometimes it can be hard to support everyone at the same time.

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