Live Chat Today!

Submit your questions on Patreon or on Twitter (@CAwkward, #AwkwardFriday) before noon Chicago time today and I will answer as many as I can. Comments get turned on after everything’s posted on my end.

Great questions this week! Transcript below, updating sloooooooooooowly. 

1 Q: No question, but can you number the questions so they are easier to reference in comments, like you do for “it came from search terms”? Thanks!

A: Good suggestion!

2 Q: I made an internet friend because they needed help at a time I could provide it. Since then I’ve caught up with them a bit but not as often as they’d like. I’ve realized recently I don’t get any joy from our catch ups – I find them self-centered and overbearing – but they talk like I’m one of their only friends. How can I African-Violet or slow-fade this person without feeling responsible for their already-bad mental health afterwards? 

This came in from a Patreon supporter, and a kind person answered it in the thread there:

A: It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a bit of honesty. First the sugar, some compliment, “I used to enjoy our chats, I appreciated your input, etc. BUT I can’t handle all the negativity, I find that our conversations are all about you, etc.” The person can process your honesty and grow, or more likely, they’ll fly off the handle, insult you in some way, hold it against you and end it themselves.

What I’d add is, if this is a friend you do want to try to keep, try leading with lighter topics, common interests, and steering things away from discussing problems and that Helper/Helpee role and see if they follow your lead. Do you have stuff in common that isn’t their problems? If they don’t follow your lead, be more direct and specific, like “Hi, good to talk with you, but I don’t have the bandwidth to talk about [problems] today, can we talk about [fun topic]” or “I know we’ve talked a lot about [problems] in the past, but can we change it up a bit? I’d like your input about [totally different topic].” That makes it about you and your preferences & needs in the friendship vs. “You are doing something wrong by doing the thing I used to encourage you to do, and now I don’t like you, bye forever!” Sometimes those Helper/Helpee roles solidify out of habit, not malicious intent, and you’ll feel less bad if you give it a chance to be something else before you bail.

Related to the above:

3 Q: How to support my internet friend in maybe mental health crisis who feels other people I’m friendly with bullied her (some I agree was bullying, some not) who lashes out at me & assumes I have bad intent when we talk (esp. if I explain their perspective)?

A: Get out of the middle of the conflict between this person and your friends, for one thing. “I won’t defend my friends or try to explain away what they did, [xyz bullying behaviors] are shitty and you deserved better. However, I didn’t do those things to you, and I feel like you are taking some of your anger at them out on me. Can we change the subject away from [friends]? Or should I give you some space and we can catch up another time?”

Update: There’s a much better script in the comments.

4 Q: Needed: advice on how to handle the “When are you having kids?” Question from elderly relatives when my partner and I aren’t planning on having kids ever.

Sometimes it’s worth making the “We’re not planning to have kids, ever, also, stop asking people that because it’s an awful question for people who are struggling with fertility issues” argument and sometimes it’s easier just to gloss it over and say “Don’t know Aunt Bea, when are you gonna stop being such a troublemaker?” + change the subject.

5 Q: I’ve can identify bad shit almost TOO well, because advice columns lean that way, and I’m so afraid of missing another red flag. So Cap’n, how do you tell when things are good? What is a normal amount of suck (i.e. pining vs Bad Person, Run)?

A: Hard to say without knowing what the red flags are. Not all red flags are dealbreakers, they can just be indicators that you should ask questions and take your time getting to know the person to make sure that the person’s actions match up with their words.

How do you feel? Do you spend more time enjoying the relationship or worrying about the relationship? Do the things that suck feel surmountable? Is the other person self-aware and doing their part to work on whatever it is?

6 Q: Do you (or your followers) have any dating tips/safe sites for online dating for trans folks based in the UK?

A: Beyond classic online dating tips (meet in a public place, have your own transportation to and from, make sure a trusted person knows where you are going and who you are meeting, make a plan to check in with that trusted person periodically once you’re on the date, keep your phone charged, trust your gut), I don’t, and I don’t know the dating scene in the UK at all. Readers, some help?

7 Q: Hi Capt, trying to figure out how to talk to the Life begins at Conception ppl in my family about last week’s victory without forcing my views down their throats and being gracious about their beliefs. I want to be kind and respectful. Any advice?

A: First, take a second to celebrate the victory and the incredible organizing work. I think I read every post on the #HomeToVote tag. ❤ ❤ ❤

Second, what if you went with some version of “We both voted our conscience. I hope someday you’ll come to see that this is a good thing for Ireland and for women’s rights, but I am not going to try to sell you on it – please give me the same respect.” 

8 Q: How do I learn to REALLY let go of a relationship with my mom?

TL;DR edition is that my parents split, and my mom cracked. Did everything in the book you’re not supposed to do to kids in the middle of divorce, let her abusive boyfriend (now husband) threaten my dad and sisters, became an alcoholic to the point of needing a 4 month medical stay, and all the while has never been on iota of the mom other people get to have. My youngest sister and I have been more of a parent to her than vice versa.

I’m generally very comfortable with our relationship (that is to say none really beyond the cursory cards and texts), but there is still so much guilt. My middle sisters have “moved on” so-to-speak by making their relationship with our stepmom their primary “mom” role, but I’m not close enough to do that and regardless of how great stepmom is (and she is!) it doesn’t change this fact that my mom has never been, and will never be, what I needed her to be.

Do I just focus on the good from pre-divorce years (circa age 12 and earlier)? Focus on the good things, traits, experiences she was able to give me? How do I forgive her for not only failing young(er) me, but continuing to do so now into adulthood?

There is a book called Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by Dr. Karyl McBride about fraught mother-child relationships. It’s targeted specifically toward narcissistic mothers and daughters, but I recommend it often because I think the messages about letting yourself grieve the relationship you should have had, maintaining healthy boundaries, disengaging from conflicts, keeping your expectations really low so you don’t set yourself up to be hurt repeatedly, and giving yourself permission to keep your distance if that’s the healthiest choice for you are valuable for many kinds of difficult family relationships. Maybe cards and texts and not doing any more damage is as good as it gets for you and your mom. This book might be a good resource in helping you accept that this is the new normal for your relationship and let go of the idea that you have to make it be anything else.

I also think this is something worth exploring in therapy, if you’ve got access. Parental stuff is really primal, and if those old wounds are interfering with your happiness now it might be worth airing them out with the help of a trusted and trained professional.

9 Q: Captain! Please help. Long long long story short. My mom died six months ago. My uncle is a financial advisor and had been handling my mom’s retirement fund. It’s a pretty straightforward thing, to release a retirement fund (RRSP) to the named beneficiaries. But over about a three month period, my uncle wouldn’t respond to emails, or would only respond to parts of emails, or would respond with information that contradicted things he had previously said, or would respond with information that was clearly not applicable to our situation. I’ll spare you the details. He also repeatedly asked us about a tricky matter of estate tax law (I’ll definitely spare you the details of that!) and suggested that we should give a bunch of the money we inherited to my mother’s husband. My sisters and I found all of this really inappropriate and concerning – as financial advisor, he should just fill out the forms and get us our money. It was just roadblock after roadblock and everything he told us was completely incorrect. One of my sisters called his workplace, without mentioning his name, to try to get accurate information about the process of releasing an RRSP, and the workplace was horrified when she told them what we had been told. Everything he told us was wrong.

We decided that we had a choice: to let my uncle screw everything up (possibly in league with my mother’s husband, who dislikes us), or to let his workplace know he wasn’t handling our file properly, and ask to have someone else handle it. We chose the second. My uncle went off on stress leave, and we haven’t heard from him in three months. We’re not a particularly close family and so three months of silence is pretty normal. But we are pretty sure my uncle is hurt and angry about what we did. Now, however, I have to reach out to him to let him know some other awkward and controversial family news – I could write a whole other letter about that.

I have been trying to draft an email to my uncle and I think it has to include an acknowledgement of what happened. Don’t you think so? Or is it reasonable to just ignore that whole shitshow and just focus on the current shitshow? I know I can’t control his reactions and if I reach out, I’ll accept whatever response I get back. But is there a polite way to say “I know you probably think we betrayed you but we think you were betraying us, and I regret that you are going through a really hard time but I’m not sorry for what we did?” Or should I just ignore that and focus on the awkward news I have to share? – Inherited a Mess

A: I’m so sorry for your loss, and wow, that is a mess!

There was a 100% chance your uncle was being unprofessional about how he handled the process of distributing your Mom’s funds to you and like a 98% chance that he was being outright shady. It sounds like he hasn’t been in touch with you directly since the account was moved over and he went on leave, and it would take a lot of nerve for him to bring up the whole situation in the first place. Still, let’s imagine he did bring it up along the lines of “I can’t believe you ruined my life, you disloyal niblings!”

What would you say? Wouldn’t it be something like “Look, mixing money & family is complicated under the best of circumstances. While everyone was grieving for Mom, it just worked better for us if we didn’t cross the streams. I heard that you took a leave of absence after that, I hope you are doing much better and are taking good care of yourself.” Isn’t “Hey, that sucks, but now we know not to mix family and money stuff anymore, it’s just too awkward and hard for everyone, good talk” a better way to go than “Uncle, were you trying to help my mom’s husband steal her retirement fund from us or are you just really bad at your job?”

In this case, since he’s not bringing it up, I’d just send an email along the lines of “Hi Uncle, I wanted to loop you in on [messy family situation relevant info] + [what you want or need him to do about it, if anything]. Love, YourName.” It communicates the info without dredging up the conflict.

10 Q: How do I sit with the discomfort of having been a jerk and made someone unhappy? I cut ties with someone that needed more emotional investment than I could give, and while I’m glad I set boundaries, I know how much rejection sucks and I’m sorry to have put that on them.

A: It just takes time, I think. If you sensed you’d be better off without them, and you’ve already done the awkward thing and cut ties, you just have to let enough time go by that you can relax into the decision. Try putting energy into other friendships and other areas of your life, even if it’s just sending a thank you note to an old mentor or a postcard to a relative.

11 Q: As one fat femme to another, where do you get tights? What are you’re strategies to prevent each thigh from flaying the other in a skirt on a hot day?

A: ‘Tis the season!

12 Q: How do you schedule your day so that you make time for writing? I’m trying to develop a system of self-enforced time management, because my job is independent and my manager is very hands-off. I’ve got a lot of writing and class-planning to do this summer, and I feel the days slipping by with admin work and ADD focus issues! Thank you!

A: Hello, my ADHD buddy!

For a very long time I subscribed to nebulous but very persistent fallacy that “Writing is what you get to do when you’ve taken care of all your chores, young lady!!!!!”

I knew intellectually that this was a cognitive distortion, some vestigial rule from childhood that I was self-imposing on my poor writer-self, but I could not shake it for the longest time. So what happened is I would build longer and longer lists of tasks that “had to” or “should” be done before I could settle in and write. And I would rarely or never actually get through all the “small” tasks, and I would feel awful and torn and unproductive, so then I would beat myself up about how I should be writing.

Life got much better when I realized that I do my best writing in the morning, after breakfast and before opening up email, any social media app or website, or doing any administrative or household tasks. I find that I get a good burst of focus during that time of day, but I have to budget that focus, and if I spend it all on emails and routine tasks I will burn up the whole day without making progress on anything.

So my advice is: Figure out the time of day when you have the most energy and focus. Do the good, interesting, fun stuff during that interval, when you have a lot of brain for it, then check your email at a set time each day for a set interval, then do any admin stuff that comes up. Don’t let your email inbox be the boss of you.

13 Q: Where would you draw the line between – generally crappy parents, and parents who are emotionally abusive?

A: Here’s a list of emotional abuse signifiers that might help you make that determination. A question to chew on with a therapist or counselor (or journal) might be “If I decided what happened during my childhood was abuse, how would it affect how I take care of myself and interact with my parents now?” 

14 Q: I love flowers. I would really, really like to have a partner of mine bring me flowers. I feel like asking them for flowers undercuts the sentiment of having someone bring me flowers – that, instead of a spontaneous action, it becomes something I’ve told them to do. I am open of my love of flowers, have them often, and post about how happy they make me on social media – not as hints (currently there is no partner to be hinting to anyway!) but just as a genuine expression of happiness because I have flowers. I also have at least one friend in my life who is likely to tell my partners how happy I’d be if they brought me flowers.

So, should I just ask for what I want, even if by asking, I feel like it changes how I feel about it? Or should I buy myself flowers when I feel like it, and hope that someday I meet someone who can see what makes me happy, and wants to take action on their own to make me happy? It feels like setting myself up to fail either way!

A: Buy yourself flowers sometimes, and also communicate to your future partners (deploy the friend if you must, put it in your online dating profile) that you really like getting flowers. Then you’ll have flowers! And evidence that your person pays attention and listens to what you like! Keeping it as an unspoken test just seems doomed to disappoint you.

15 Q: I’m mid-forties, have been in the same corporate profession/role for over 20 years. There are many things I still like about it but due to family/care needs and just my overall sense or intuition about what is going to work for me best in future, I’m looking at making some mid life changes to what I do, when I do it and the hours I do in that job to balance with other things that also make me feel happy, healthy and fulfilled. I’ve got a three month period to work this out while doing some part time work, and I’m looking forward to exploring and working out what the next chapter looks like (whether that’s a few months or several years). I have lots of good general transition skills but am interested in your advice and that of your readers on on making life changes that aren’t due to a sudden or sad event (e.g. the breakup of a significant relationship, moving house/city, change in health status). I don’t need to take a partner into consideration, but do have shared custody of my teenager, and I’m not expecting or needing that to change at all. And I would just also like to hear your or anyone’s mid life or general transition stories that they would like to share…your advice is great and you have a great community here (and also cause I love hearing about “late blossomers” or people who changed their lives midstream and / or did something they thought previously they never could or would do). Thanks for everything you do!

A: You sound like you have a solid plan and a timeline, and all I really want to do right now is ask you about the cool exciting stuff you plan to do and watch your face light up when you tell me about it.

So I’ll put this one out to the community: Where are the mid-life career changers and how did you do it? I know a lot of people find Brene Brown’s books really useful and inspiring around this kind of thing. My favorite “starting over/late bloomer” story is this one: Julia Sans Julie.

16 Q: My MIL tells my sweetie or his bro they should change hair, clothes etc, often bc “girls/employers prefer ABC” (um no). W/ sweetie I can laugh it off, “I like you this way!” It makes me irrationally angry but isn’t aimed @ me. Keep laughing? Sit and chafe?

Whenever a parent or older relative gives me a lot of advice based on what employers and/or the opposite sex like, I mentally substitute *I* would like it if you changed your hair/clothes/didn’t slouch so much/majored in economics.”

You could always say something joking along those lines to your MIL, like, “Are you sure you aren’t just saying you would like it better if Sweetie did x?” but I think this is probably one of those “choose your battles” situations – if your spouse and bro are shrugging it off into the great backwash of unheeded parental admonishment, follow their lead and don’t escalate.

17 Q: What are some ways to reward yourself that don’t cost money? Inspired by my teacher friend. I’ve been doing a “behavior chart” for myself and reached my goal but money’s super tight right now. Thanks!

A: Things that are free: New music, movies, and books from your library. Free concerts and gallery days and museum days where you live. Permission to do something “unproductive” with a certain block of time (sleep in, take a nap, play video games, enjoy a solid masturbation session). Wear or use something that you normally save for special occasions. Call or Skype a faraway friend that you never get to see. Write a letter of encouragement to yourself and mail it (just costs a stamp). Reread a favorite book. Use something like Pinterest to collect images of things that make you happy. Waste an hour looking at Things Fitting Perfectly Into Other Things. Memorize a poem. Sing in the shower.

18 Q: Strategy tips for when you have ~3 months to find a job to support yourself in an expensive area, your employment throughout your 20s was sporadic and unimpressive, and reading Ask a Manager sends you into a depression spiral about how you’re unemployable?

A: I have been in this situation more than once! There’s probably nobody that’s going to give you better resume, cover letter, or interviewing advice than Alison, but I can talk about self-care strategies.

Step 1: Catastrophize! No, really. Give yourself permission for a temporary freak out. What’s your worst case scenario if you don’t get a job within that timeframe? Will you have to get a roommate/move to a cheaper area that might have fewer job opportunities/take on work that’s outside of your chosen field just to pay bills/move back in with parents/ask friends or family for financial help/take on more debt/become homeless and need to find a homeless shelter.

Everyone’s list is going to look different. Not everyone can ask friends or family for help or move back in with their folks – that’s one of the differences between “broke” and “poor” – so identify what your worst case scenario(s) look like.

Step 2: Figure Out What You Would Do If One Of Those Scenarios Happened

Let’s take a pretty bad case scenario – you might be homeless! – as an example. You probably won’t be, but you sound like you have reliable internet access and employment or financial resources for at least the next three months, and planned homelessness is a lot better than unplanned homelessness.

You’d probably want to acquire or look into stuff like:

  • A library card and access to a public library with wi-fi
  • The most inexpensive gym membership you could find, so you have a place to take showers and also a place to go during the day when many homeless shelters close their doors.
  • A way to keep your most important stuff with you (literally, what bag would you pack it in, what would you put in the bag).
  • A storage unit or place (like a friend’s garage or basement) to store things you can’t take with you.
  • Do you need to temporarily or permanently re-home any pets? (If so, that sucks, but it’s better to plan than to not plan).
  • Speaking of pets, could you find a gig as a house sitter or pet sitter that would take care of your housing needs in the short term?
  • Do you have a working cell phone so you can be reached by employers?
  • Could you ask a friend or find another place that you could use as your address for mail, employment applications, financial stuff, voting, etc.
  • If you have decent credit, you could apply for a credit card now that you could use for emergencies later. Is taking on consumer debt an awesome financial idea? Probably no. Does your safety maybe depend on you being able to get a cheap motel room for a couple of nights, and will you feel better if you have the option even if you ever use it? Almost certainly.
  • If you have student loans you could fill out paperwork for a temporary forbearance or deferment.
  • You would cut way down on bills, cancel non-essential services, and stop automatic payments from coming out of your bank accounts.
  • You would compile a list of all the shelters that you could go to and their hours & policies.
  • You could gather numbers & info for churches, food banks, social services organizations.
  • If you have health insurance for the next three months, now would be a good time to take care of any and all checkups, refills, ask your docs for samples of prescription meds, and you’d probably at least look into the process for applying for assistance with health care costs (Medicaid, subsidized ACA premiums in the US).
  • A flattering & low-maintenance haircut would be a good investment, Job Seeker!
  • You might make a plan for selling objects that you can’t store or take with you.
  • You might sign up with every temp agency and recruiter in town. If they have steady work, great, but even a few days of answering phones or data entry here and there can add up.
  • You might sign up for “sharing economy” services/apps, especially now while you have a permanent address and resources. If you have a working vehicle, you could drive for Lyft or Uber. If you don’t, there’s TaskRabbit, Fiverr, Rover (dogwalking) Instacart/Peapod shoppers. Is there healthy debate about whether these services are good for cities and/or workers? You betcha! Could a little cash get you from “possibly homeless” to “not homeless anymore”? Maybe worth a try.
  • If you graduated from college, does your university have a career center or alumni network? If you’ve never tapped into this before, this is your time!
  • What other skills could you trade for money? Babysitting? Yardwork? Housecleaning/organization? Light accounting?
  • Make a list of every local museum and cultural institution’s free days & hours. You can only send out so many resumes in day, and you’ll need to feed your brain and your soul with something joyful and beautiful.

Do this for all your worst-case scenarios. What do you fear will happen? If that happens, what will you do about it?

Ok, now for the secret: What’s on your list almost doesn’t matter. It’s a process thing for stopping the anxiety/paralysis cycle. As you made the list(s), you took an inventory of your resources, assets, skills, and needs and you figured out how you’d solve each eventuality. Your past jobs may not have been “impressive” (whatever that means) but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a resourceful or worthy person. Apply that same process to job hunting. What do you want to do? Where/how will you find the resources to do it? What’s your backup plan if that doesn’t work?

Step 3: Make some kind of sustainable, consistent schedule for looking for work.

Commit to sending a few applications/resumes each day or each week, doing one thing to build your skills each week, and maybe doing one thing to meet people in your field each week. When you hit your target for that week, give yourself permission to stop and do pleasurable stuff. Feeling like you have to be “on” 24-7 is exhausting and unsustainable, you’ll go better if you pace yourself.

That last one probably should have been its own post, huh.

That’s all for this week. Comments are on.

















121 thoughts on “Live Chat Today!

  1. @Q12:

    This is a thing I’ve been working on recently myself! The Captain gave great advice, and I just wanted to add a couple different things that have helped me a bit.

    [] I also have the nebulous but unhelpful “I have to do all the tedious boring stuff first like a Responsible Adult”, and I find that if I try to just completely avoid that stuff I end up feeling weirdly guilty even if I am able to get writing done. To combat that, I’ve been giving myself cut-off points for the tedious To-Do list. For example, I’ll say “Okay, I will work on that list until 1pm. However much I’ve done by then is enough and I am allowed to shift my attention to writing*.” Adjust as necessary depending on when your Bursts of Energy and Focus occur.

    [] Personally, I’ve found that Ultra Rigid Scheduled Productivity Times mostly just contribute to my “If I’m not doing something useful for every second of that chunk of time I have failed” feelings, so “I’m going to do NOTHING BUT WRITING FOR 60 WHOLE MINUTES” has become “I am going to work on writing for [a lengthier chunk of time] and it’s okay if I’m not typing for that entire chunk, as long as my attention is more or less** on writing.” Sometimes this produces lots of good writing, sometimes I don’t get a ton of words out, but I find writing comes much easier when I’m not hyper-anxious about Am I Being Productive Enough.

    * I write as a hobby, so maybe this doesn’t work as well if you are being paid to meet specific deadlines?
    ** whatever you define this to be.

    I can’t make guarantees about success obviously, but I hope you (or anyone else who isn’t me?) finds some use in these. Good luck!

  2. 17. Dog park or farmer’s market + resolution that you’ll ask every person on the end of a leash if you can pet their dog. Bonus: If you can afford a box of dog biscuits, break them in half, put them in your pocket, and ask if you may give their dog a biscuit.

    1. I would recommend against bringing treats to the dog park, because some people will say no and the dogs will react to the fact that some of them do and don’t have treats in possibly not ideal ways.

      1. Seconding. Also, dogs have allergies too and it can be a pain to try to figure out why your dog sudenly won’t stop itching his face again.

      2. Agreed. In addition to possible reactions to inequality, some dogs also get territorial over food, especially highly prized items like treats. Dogs that like people will be excited just to have someone paying attention to them, no food needed!

      3. Yeah treats at the dog park can lead to getting unexpectedly mugged by dogs. Also some dogs can get a little shirty around food and other dogs. (Those dogs should probably not be at the dog park but we go to the dog park we have, not the dog park we wish we had.)

        Feel free to ask me if you can pet my dog though because you totally can.

    2. I was thinking of the dog parks we have around here where there’s a lot of space. Dog owners frequently bring their own treats. I’ve never seen other dogs react badly when one owner is running through a bunch of training exercises and using food rewards. At the farmer’s markets, all dogs are on leashes, and again, there’s a lot of space between dogs such that dogs aren’t likely to notice a difference in treatment. Naturally it’s whatever is best for the dogs in that situation.

  3. Q18 Related to “tradeable skills” I would also throw in catering in the mix, too; caterers & event organizers are often in need of last-minute help to serve/bus/expedite dishes. Online job boards (especially those that are gig-focused) should have a decent amount of listings looking for last-minute caterers. The only investment you’d need to make is the basic outfit (white button-up shirt, black slacks, comfortable black shoes, tie).

    Added perk: you almost always get fed too and possibly get leftovers of whatever that wasn’t served out.

  4. #4 doesn’t require an argument, just, “We’re not,” and then a refusal to engage on the subject, physically walking away/hanging up the phone/closing the chat window/etc. if the person won’t respect the boundary. Be honest and direct and defend your boundaries.

    For #7, I like the bodily autonomy argument for exactly this reason: one can think that a fetus is a person* and still think that abortion should be universally available without any qualifiers or barriers. Bone marrow and liver lobes grow back – do they support mandatory harvesting of those against people’s wills? Money isn’t even part of your body – should the government be able to seize all of your cash of someone else needs it to live? Or consider housing – should the government be able to insist that they house people who need shelter, since being forced to allow someone to stay in one’s house for 9 months is clearly less invasive than inside one’s uterus? Rinse and repeat for whatever hypocrisies are specifically a function of their views (there will be some, unless they’re self-acknowleged misogynists, in which case I’d suggest cutting contact). Anti-abortion arguments are always and necessarily rooted in misogyny, specifically the belief that women are not full people with the same right to determine what happens to them that men enjoy.

    #14: Unfortunately, humans cannot read minds. What you want is not possible, sort of like my desire for humans to be universally rational, pro-socially-oriented, and stop fearing death so much. Deploy appropriate coping mechanisms.

    That said, you can get flowers without asking in the moment by making this desire known as a general fact about you, per CA’s suggestions and what you’re already doing.

    #18: I wrote my response before reading, and it was a less-thorough version of some of the professional response. So, all I have to offer is good luck!

    *Though I’m yet to meet someone who actually does for any purpose other than preventing people with uteruses from determining what happens to their own bodies.

    1. “Anti-abortion arguments are always and necessarily rooted in misogyny, specifically the belief that women are not full people with the same right to determine what happens to them that men enjoy.”

      I mean, that’s just not true; that’s what makes all this so hard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro-choice, but I was pro-life for a long time. I was never a misogynist. An act that ends a life is ethically different than passively allowing someone to die. That’s why a choice to terminate a pregnancy and a choice to refuse to donate blood or bone marrow are different: while both choices result in death, one choice is letting nature take its course (a sick person dying without the necessary transfusion) and one choice is averting nature’s course (ending the natural process of pregnancy leading to birth). Any action, even the smallest, most lifesaving action (“give this child some of your food when you have so much or she will starve”) is fundamentally different than inaction (“refrain from stealing food from a hungry child when you have food already.”)

      LW #7 doesn’t have to try to win the argument with her relatives; I think the Captain’s advice is good. But if pro-choice people really want to persuade pro-life people to change their minds, they need to genuinely understand and empathize with pro-life women. I know women who find their greatest value in being a mother, and I know women who’ve been coerced into terminating a pregnancy when they didn’t want to.

      My mind changed when people genuinely listened to my point of view and empathized with where I was coming from, rather than accusing me of hating other women or trying to control people. I practice a pacifist religion, and I previously viewed abortion as active violence, in the same way killing an animal for food is violence in my faith. My spirituality centered, and still centers, more along the lines of “do not do evil” rather than “do good,” and laws preventing evil are considered alright, but laws enforcing good are seen as overbearing.

      I was ultimately persuaded by people portraying abortion as an act of mercy. That to choose to bring a child into the world (at any stage) is an act of admirable hope, and to choose not to (at any stage) is an act of incredible mercy, not violence. Because life involves suffering and it involves good things; some people bring more bad than good into the world, and some more good than bad.

      To choose hope is good. But to choose mercy is also good. Someone who is never born cannot suffer. Someone who is never born cannot inflict pain unto others. An unborn soul rests in the hand of God, or is at peace in non-being, or gets reincarnated.

      Both choices are good. That is why I am pro-choice. I believe to reduce abortion rates, if that is a good goal to pursue, we need to give people more reasons to have real hope that their child will not suffer and will give good to the world.

      But I wouldn’t have become pro-choice if people kept portraying abortion as a bad thing (as bad as denying someone lifesaving treatment or shelter if it’d save their life) that they ought to be allowed to do anyway. I don’t think that’s the way to go. And when people accused me of being something I knew I wasn’t (misogynistic, hateful) then I shut down; if they weren’t going to listen to me, why would I listen to them?

      1. I tend to try to be understanding, though admittedly I don’t really get into many discussions about this anyway.

        The most important thing about abortion from my perspective is: Mother and unborn child are incredibly connected – you cannot increase the rights of one without DEcreasing the rights of the other. You cannot save an unborn child without forcing the mother to go through nine months of pregnancy plus birth, both of which carry significant risks and can inflict lasting consequences on the body (plus possible further consequences if mental illness is involved). If you force a rape victim to carry out the child of the man who assaulted her, you also extend the shame and humiliation of the victim, who has to go through all the struggle of pregnancy and birth on top of dealing with the psychological consequences. If you insist on a risky pregnancy and/or birth because the unborn, potential human MIGHT live that decision includes the possibility that the born, grown, adult mother in the middle of her life MIGHT die.
        You CANNOT have one without the other. This is an imperfect world. In a perfect world, I’d be against abortion. But the real world where any of these laws take place is HERE, in the world with rape, abuse, grief, genetic diseases, poverty, fear, anxiety, mental illness* and what feels like a thousand possible pregnancy complications.

      2. I was pro-life for a long time. I was never a misogynist.

        So, if misogyny isn’t the word for prioritizing an embryo that isn’t aware it exists and therefore loses nothing if it ceases to exist over the wellbeing of a an actual person with thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams, what is the word for that?

    2. For #7, I would strongly advise against the housing argument, and stick to bodily autonomy. First, a government can and will force you to house a person against your will for a limited length of time, or if you are trying to get rid of them “for the wrong reasons”, just ask a landlord who has tried to evict a tenant in one of the more tenant-friendly legislative locales. Second, and more importantly, arguing that uterus is just a room to live in, is… ick.

  5. #12, I have this problem too with my singing. I like singing, I want to practice and get better, and I keep… not. For me, what has tentatively started working is to really have a routine. Mine is – “Feed the cats, then do some singing.” I don’t put pressure on myself in terms of how much or how long – just that I have to do *something*. Some days I’m tired and it’s 10 minutes, some days I’m inspired and it’s longer. Some days I’m out of the house and I don’t do it. But it’s so much better than just continuing to tell myself that I’ll do it tomorrow and then inevitably something happens and I forget and it’s too late at night or whatever.

  6. I have loved so many things the good Captain has said over the years (and so many that are more meaningful or poignant), but this might be my favorite, in response to Q11: “Long enough skirts so I don’t have to sit like a lady.” That is also my favorite chafe-recovery/avoidance strategy.

      1. Does anyone know how to delete comments? I somehow got my facebook page linked up there, and I don’t know how to undo it.

      2. I cut the lower legs off my old tights to wear under skirts. I leave them long enough to give me room to zhuzh so they don’t roll up. Lighter than shapewear and already paid for.

        1. I do something similar but with thigh high stockings, the ones with the sticky wide top that stays up on its own. They work great! Though I’d recommend the smooth rather than the lace top, which gave me even worse chafing than not using anything.

          1. Liquid talc is phenomenal and also helps with heat rash, which is mainly what I use it to avoid. L’Erbolario does some great ones but they’re expensive – there are brands who do cheaper versions. It’s much less messy than talc and easier to reapply on the go.

        2. HOW do you make them not roll? I must have bought a thousand pairs of underwear, tights, leggings etc., all sold as “non-roll” or “anti-roll”, and by god they all roll. I’ve basically given up on ever wearing anything form-fitting because it will just become a roll on my belly or thighs.

    1. Q11 is more important that it seems – I appreciate the suggestions and the suggestions of commenters. I’ve stopped wearing skirts, so this may allow me to comfortably wear them again.

  7. #11 I also love Sock Dreams for plus size hosiery. They do a good job of showing how their products look on lots of different bodies. They also usually include maximum thigh and calf circumferences, especially helpful for over-the-knee socks and thigh highs. For summer chafing, I just placed an order at TomboyX for some 9” boxer briefs. They go up to size 4x and have fun colors as well as nudes in like five different skin tones.

    1. I love my TomboyX 9″ boxer briefs. I need to get some more this summer.

  8. #14, can you split the difference and tell a partner that you like receiving flowers randomly? I also love flowers and buy them for myself. And when my spouse and I were dating I told them “I love to get flowers generally. If you ever want to get me anything, flowers is a good choice.” And now I get surprise flowers from them sometimes.

  9. #17 Congrats on meeting your goal! I feel pampered by a long hot bath with a favorite book or other indulgence reading. Maybe award yourself with some sort of brief vacation or freedom from something you feel is expected of you, but actually won’t have much in the way of consequences if you let it go for a day or weekend. Proudly wear something sparkly if you have it, in lieu of a tiara. You are royalty for the day in the happiest and most benevolent of ways!

    1. Meant to add, I find it at CVS and assume it would be findable at other large drugstores – in the section with yeast infection treatments, douches (ugh), etc.

    2. I have had great success with pure corn starch (aka cornflour): it was recommended to me by a nurse many, many years ago, and it has never let me down. It’s dirt-cheap and available at any supermarket, and is the basis of a lot of the fancier brand-name anti-chafing powders. It doesn’t have any kind of scent, but I personally prefer that.

  10. #3

    I have been bullied, and I encountered so many people who decided to judge what was and what wasn’t really all that serious, ‘get out of the conflict’/not take sides/not get involved and close down the conversation. The effect has been to cause me to close down just about every social connection, every friendship where these things are said. This may seem extreme (it is) but being bullied changes how we relate to the world and suddenly nobody is safe; everyone becomes a potential bully. It is a really horrible feeling. We struggle to find someone; anyone – to talk to, but nobody wants to listen. And yes, there can be lashing out. If we consider that emotional pain registers in the brain in a very similar way to physical pain, perhaps it would be easier to understand. Once at this point the smallest comment is magnified because it is, in effect, being punched on an existing bruise.

    The suggested response above to someone who may already be in this state of crisis after being bullied here is, in effect; ‘Yeah, bullying is shitty but it wasn’t me so let’s talk about something else.’ This is not a neutral stance; this is silencing someone who is struggling to articulate the pain they are in, and doing it pretty badly because that is what pain does to people.

    Would the answer be the same if the wrong behaviour were racism, or homophobia, or some other nasty bigotry? Would we accept ‘some I agree was x, some not’ in that case? Would we try to ‘explain their perspective’?

    An alternative approach; First; ‘I believe you.’ Second; ‘What do you need from me to feel supported, bearing in mind that I am only me?’ Third; ‘What else are you doing to get support, because I can only do so much, and most of this really has to come from you.’ Fourth; ‘Let’s do something to forget all of this, just for a while, because you deserve a bit of space from it all; what do you suggest?’

      1. Thank you. Returned with extreme trepidation and peeped through my fingers; relieved not to have to run away from here as well. x

        1. Great huge ups for writing your comment, cathy. And a respectful, shy-person (me) hug.

        1. >OP could say that they believe their friend’s pain is real.
          If someone said that to me in this situation, I would be offended by how patronizing it sounds. “I don’t believe that’s actually happened, but I believe you deluded yourself into thinking it happened”, is what it would sound like to me.
          cathy, I’m very glad about your post, because I wanted to say the same thing, but probably less eloquently. Neutrality is an illusion in this situation. My advice to LW would be, stop being friendly with bullies? LW’s friend is right in being upset when LW doesn’t support her.

          1. Thank you, L. I agree with you; it is the bullies who should be judged, not the target.

            The pain of being bullied is nothing compared with the betrayal by people we thought were friends, but who simply didn’t want to get involved/weren’t going to take sides/didn’t want to know.

      1. You raise a good point, and I am happy to clarify what I meant. This is not a question of not believing, but of policing; judging the seriousness of the bullying from the outside and deciding what the target’s response should be. The person asking the question admitted that some bullying had happened, but decided to minimise it. As stated already, none of us (I hope) would take this approach if a friend told us they had been subject to sexist, racist or homophobic abuse; we would first of all (I hope) affirm our friend’s reality and that we stand beside them. Friendship is not a court of law and it does not demand proof beyond reasonable doubt on every statement; it is about trust and relationship. If we doubt someone’s word when they talk about their own experience of the world. especially when it is of the; ‘This happened and I am hurt’ kind, then we should be honest and stop pretending to be their friend.

        In relation to bullying/abuse there are three options; 1 We support the person who has been hurt, 2 We support the perpetrator 3 We don’t give a tinker’s cuss; see 2 above. There are no other options.

        1. I think my essential problem with what you’re saying is that you’re are implying or assuming that the target is correctly framing the oppressive abuse. But…as a member of marginalized groups, there’s plenty of times where a member of the oppressors group’s socialized fragility cannot or will not distinguish between attack and criticism AND this unwillingness or ignorance leads to a mix of both from those marginalized people who are fed up with it. Attack shouldn’t be encouraged, but it’s not correct then to say that there are only three options that require no judgment of intensity or validity from the OP. It’s certainly not an expression of friendship to let social fragility dictate responses.

          It feels…dishonest to me, intellectually anyway, to pretend that this isn’t a common occurrence, or at least common enough that it has to be taken into consideration here, and to acknowledge that we don’t have the information necessary to judge OP’s framing of the bullying, imo. I can’t from experience assume good faith on the target but not the OP.

          And I don’t appreciate to a large extent the divorce of social axis from a consideration of what happened, to mere comparison of ethics.

          So while I think you have a good framing for something clear cut, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that this is.

          1. I took Cathy’s remarks to mean within the context of friendship, where the target’s friend does know and trust the target and where there is a pattern of bullying. “Neutrality” in that case is siding with the perpetrator.

            Certainly you should be able to trust the target to correctly frame the *impact* of the percieved abuse. That’s where a friend is supportive of the target, validating and sympathizing that they were hurt.
            If one genuinely believes the interaction was not abusive and that the “target” misinterpreted what happened, or is overreacting or socially fragile, then one can support one’s friend by validating their feelings in the context of how they *experienced* the interaction, and when they are in a better space, help them reevaluate the interaction to a healthier perception.

            If the OP cannot be emotionally supportive of the target, then maybe OP needs to reconsider their friendship with target. If for whatever reason, OP thinks target’s perception and reaction is unreliable, or target is too sensitive, or target’s hurt feelings are too exhausting to deal with, then maybe target isn’t the kind of friend OP needs.
            I had to dissolve a friendship with a woman I very much enjoyed spending time with, except for her finding slights, insults, or oppression behind every tree. She would attribute malicious intent or callous disregard to the most benign misunderstanding, and when I realized I had stopped caring if her feelings were hurt because her feelings could be hurt by anything, I realized we could not be friends any longer.

          2. Comments noted. Following your comments about intellectually dishonesty I have nothing further to say to you.

  11. To LW #18, all of the above but also, don’t assume you’ll find a job within your alloted time. Sorry, I don’t mean to be harsh, and I’m sure you’re more qualified than you mention in your letter. I’ve been unemployed about three times in the last three years and it feels like each time it’s taking me a bit longer to find a job. The Captain makes some great suggestions for getting some income, like working for the gig economy (I was an Air BnB host which also gave me a reason to shower every day and clean the house) and working for temp agencies, but I found it harder to get a job when in my mind I thought, “oh it only took X amount of time last time, I don’t have to worry.” So, while I’m not saying you should worry, per se, I think you should deploy every weapon in your arsenal from day one, to maximize your chances of getting a job. Also not mentioned on the Captain’s list: job/employment centres in your local area are great! Sort of like a government-funded recruitment agency with free resources. Finally, with a patchy work history myself, I like to pick and choose my experience to tailor each application to the jobs I’m applying for. Try looking for common themes among your previous jobs, like leadership experience, or project-based work, or customer service positions. A career counselor or recruiter can help you with this if you’re having a hard time with your resume. Good luck!

    1. Yes, I definitely need to sign up for a bunch of recruiters and temp agencies!

      I am *sort of* qualified — I’ve got very good educational credentials — but my work experience is not relevant to what I studied, and the longest I’ve worked at one job was 21 months (not continuously). I’ve also freelanced with satisfying artistic but horrifying financial results, traveled a LOT, and done a lot of side jobs, with significant gaps for burnout.

      I would say I have the opposite problem from you — I have previously spent eight months being totally unable to apply for jobs, because I was so overwhelmed by low self-esteem and. . . stuff. Past a certain point, the pressure in my head is so intense that I just stop making progress at all.

      I have a couple of different resumes I use, and I try my best to write genuine-sounding cover letters. (Another Ask a Manager thing I can’t do is give solid numbers for my achievements at previous places of employment — for me it would be something like “made coworkers’ lives 34% less miserable by redoing horrible new hire’s work” or “produced 1254 safety documents without exploding anybody.”)

      1. Oh I totally understand the headgremlins preventing any sort of job application success. The reason I’m saying to deploy all strategies is because the same thing happens for me unless I keep myself busy enough to not even give the gremlins a chance to speak up. That being said, if anyone asks about an 8 month gap on your resume, it’s not lying to say you were unable to work or look for jobs for medical reasons. If you had any other medical issue that kept you out of work for that long, you wouldn’t hesitate to frame it that way, right? Also, your personal medical history isn’t an employer’s business, and at most they can ask, “are you well enough to work now,” so no need to give them further details. As for the short term work and travelling, that’s not that unusual, and you could even spin it to your advantage – short term contracts gave you a taste of different industries and helped you make up your mind and realize you’re well suited to Job You’re Applying For, travel helped you broaden your horizons, learn about other cultures, see how people live in the rest of the world, etc. Honestly where you’ll stand out is that you’ve taken the time to think about why you’re doing everything, and that emotional intelligence is attractive to employers. And when JerkBrain is telling you to not bother applying because you won’t get the job (that’s my JerkBrain’s favorite line), you can just remind it that every application is good practice and you never know, you might just get an interview! Best of luck, seriously.

      2. A local friend of mine was in a somewhat similar situation–basically bullied out of a job and not at all sure what she was going to do next. She just got a long-term temp job in a call center (and plans to keep looking for something better-paying and wise more appealing); would you like me to ask her what agency she found this through?

      3. i employ tech writers and “produced 1254 safety documents without exploding anybody” sounds great to me. Obviously not worded as “without exploding anybody” but to me it speaks of patience, attention to detail, and success.

        1. I *am* a tech writer, and I also think that sounds really good.

          (Especially if you can say that you had to test all your writing, and you *still* didn’t explode anybody.)

  12. 11. If you can find some, bamboo shaper shorts (like spanx bike pants type things), are supposed to be good for this. I haven’t tried them myself, but they seem to have good reviews from people saying they stop chafing while keeping you cool because they are made of bamboo.

    1. Bamboo fiber is a bit of a button for me, feel free to ignore the following soapbox.

      From a fiber perspective “made from bamboo” means one of two things and neither one is going to be magic here. If it’s slippery/soft, it’s rayon, just rayon where the original cellulose is from bamboo. But once you run cellulose through that much acid and high powered chemistry to make it a plastic, rayon is rayon regardless what plant the original cellulose came from. It’s not deeply environmentally friendly and isn’t going to be cooler or more antibacterial than any other rayon. It will be nice and slippery though, because rayon is an extruded fiber that’s very smooth.

      If it’s crisp/crunchy like linen and costs a million dollars, it’s using the inner fibers of the bamboo (the bast fibers) that have been mechanically beaten into something that can be spun and then woven/made into fabric. Nominally environment friendly and cool, but not commercially common, and going to be harsh against your skin until you wear it in.

      1. …and very expensive, besides. Thank you, LadyK. I used to really love vintage dresses from the 40’s made from that heavy thick rayon that made back then, but nowadays all I can think of is factories and chemicals and “extruded goo”. I’m so glad the fad for yarn from weird substances has slowed down, because you’re right, it doesn’t matter if you use recycled newspaper or virgin bamboo, it’s still rayon and that’s still an industrial process.

      2. From what I understand, the ‘greener’ argument for bamboo comes from the fact that it’s a fast growing plant and hence sustainable to harvest.

        But yes, the marketing is often very misleading about just how ‘natural’ or ‘environmenally friendly’ the process is.

        It’s a super intensively chemically processed human-made material, that uses a sustainably grown source for it’s largest ingredient.

        Which is maybe still something, but maybe not as much something as people sometimes assume when they read ‘bamboo’. Actually I think I recall a law recently here that it needs to be labelled ‘rayon from bamboo’.

  13. Q18: I went from library science to medicine on my late 40s/early 40s, and finished residency just before age 50. Realizing the road would be very, very long, I had to resolve to enjoy the journey. You can’t hold your breath for ten years. I found a group of other mid-life pre-med and medical students to help me plan and give me support and I kept my j job while finishing the pre-reqs. I took that first pre-req general chemistry class as a sort of trial, and I was hooked. Figure out your dream; find others who share it; and set up your plan so you’re not committed until you are sure. You’re probably not to old for what you want to do, but you are definitely not too young.

    1. Thank you for this advice and encouragement! It’s always a relief to remind myself that I have time to get where I’m going. (Also go you! Both of your careers sound pretty great.)

      I definitely have a bigger goal — full-time writer of fiction — but progress is slow. I took five months over the winter to work on nothing but fiction, and while I was very happy with the stuff I produced, I’m still struggling with the income part of the equation. -_- At least I’m slowly building up a bigger online community of writers!

      1. Hey there, this is also my goal – full time fiction writer – and I wanted to say go you! for working at that so hard because it is murderously difficult, and also to ask what writers’ communities you enjoy. I’m trying to figure out where to go to get good feedback and build an audience.

  14. LW8 here, thanks so much for your advice, Captain! I’ll reach out to my uncle this weekend and if he brings up the issue, now I know how to shut it down politely. I showed your response to all my sisters and everyone found it really validating and spot on. ❤

    1. I’m glad. My hope is that by just telling him the thing and not bringing up the past/money/mom issues you can both find a polite new normal way to communicate about family stuff. If he’s feeling a lot of shame, this is you saying “hey you’re still part of the family and you deserve to know about family stuff.” Good luck.

  15. #14 I think it would really just be best if you said you like be surprised with flowers.

    People are really different. I love flowers, and post flowers on Instagram constantly. At the same time, I don’t really like bouquets from florists. Not my thing. At some point, I was talking about flowers with my then-boyfriend and mentioned I prefer to be surprised with snacks. He left a big bag of chocolate pretzels at my office for me, and now we’re married.

    1. I’m sure there were a lot of steps in between, but I’m feeling pretty charmed by the “he brought me chocolate pretzels and now we’re married” cause and effect there!

  16. Q11. Bodyglide! ( It’s this amazing wax like rub that was originally developed to prevent chafing for marathon runners. It isn’t sticky, is unfragranced, doesn’t feel hot or heavy – is in fact barely noticeable once rubbed on, and lasts all day, even if you are otherwise dripping with sweat. It also stops blisters from new shoes or hiking. They have now bought out various versions for different body parts and a pink “for her” version for thigh chafing but I still use the original “body” formulation. Also a bar lasts for ages and can be kept in a handbag or car dashboard.

    1. Can vouch. Bought a container of this maybe five years ago for hiking. Am still using the same one (and while I am on crutches temporarily, I am using it every day to keep the skin of my underarms and ribcage happier). I still have heaps, after giving portions of it away to friends in need.

    2. I am also a huge fan of Bodyglide, but (on my thighs) it does occasionally require re-application, which can be awkward depending where you are. Also, skip the pink “for her” version, IMO, it isn’t as effective as the regular version.

    3. Yes! Yes! Bodyglide is near miraculous. Depending on changes in my size and the level of heat/humidity, when I wear this I sometimes don’t even need to wear shorts under my skirts. It does feel expensive when you buy it, but I can also corroborate that one bar lasts a long time.

    4. I just rub clear deodorant on my thighs and it works fine. Bodyglide might be better, though. I’ve never tried it, but it looks cool!

      1. Most antiperspirants seem to work okay in a pinch. I find they lack staying power but if all you have on you is your regular armpit stuff it’s definitely better than nothing.

  17. LW #18 here! Thanks very much for the advice. I think I have more options than I was picturing at first.

    It’s possible that I’m already in one version of a worst-case plan — I’m outside my city of choice, working on a farm in exchange for food and board until the end of June. I have enough money to move back in for two months after this arrangement is done, which is where my 3-month deadline comes from. My stuff is already in storage, and I’ve already narrowed down what I’m carrying with me to a backpack, a duffel, and my bicycle. I have no debt (thank god) and a couple of credit cards with decent limits.

    I can move back in with my parents, but would deeply prefer not to (this being my third attempt to get out of their house and my home state permanently since 2010, sigh).

    I’m still working on what my consistent schedule can be — I did 11 applications in May, but perhaps obviously I would really like to kick out more than that in June. . .

    1. When I was caught up in the post-2008 millennial employment crappiness, I got a lot of mileage out of temporary agencies. A lot do temp, temp-to-hire, and direct hire for the same individuals. So you can pick up piecemeal work w/ a paycheck while getting interviews for permanent work. The agency also does a lot of the work of applying for you, which was hugely helpful to me when I was super depressed at one point during an unemployment streak. It might be worth looking into the agencies in your area.

      You should know: the job listings they post on their websites are usually fake. A legit temp agency will never ask you to pay for their services (the company hiring you pays the temp agency). Some recruiters will say anything to get you to interview for a job: trust your gut if you think one is completely unscrupulous, but also be aware that they’re basically trying to “sell” you to their business clients, so they’re approaching both you and the client trying to put the best polish on everything.

      1. The other benefit of temping is that you can put your time at the temp agency under one point on your resume and list off all your responsibilities and achievements under it, meaning you get a longer stay on your job history. Temp jobs are EXPECTED to be short term, so you can already start counteracting your patchy job history without landing a long term job. You won’t look like a job hopper.

    2. So, I am a teacher in the US, where I have gotten a lot of good use out of a website called Schoolspring, that aggregates teaching jobs and makes it pretty fast to apply to them –yes, I know individualized cover letters and all, but having a basic template saved that I can then add a handful of relevant details to meant I could apply for a new job in ~20 minutes instead of an hour.

      If you can find any sort of big aggregate site in [LINE OF WORK], it was incredibly helpful (for me, ymmv) to get into the habit of applying for one job a day, every single day. I set myself an arbitrary span of time, and the first day I did it, I just made a big list of links to job postings with like..the minimum info about each job. Then, on every subsequent day, I could check for new listings (which I then added to my list) and pick something from my list to apply to. I managed to keep it up for over two weeks, which was amazing for this ADHD kid.

      I wish you the ABSOLUTE BEST OF LUCK and all the good job-hunt-goodness in the world.


    3. Hey Jane, sounds like some of your story/life experience is at least nominally similar to mine. I think sometimes it can help on the brain gremlins front to acknowledge when you’re trying to meet mutually competing goals: like, upthread you mentioned taking 5 months to focus on fiction writing, and that you’re happy with what you came up with, which seems pretty cool! but you also acknowledged it wasn’t good for your finances. So, in this phase of your life you’re trying to balance Being Independent And Not Living With My Parents with Writing Fiction And Hopefully Making That A Career with Travel/Exploration and I don’t even know what else (if you’re even more like me, there’s also a Saving The World goal in there), and of course when you’re trying to pursue multiple big-picture goals in a relatively limited period of time it’s much harder to get a reasonable amount done on any one of them. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in one area to get things done in another. So if your brain sometimes likes to spin this story about how you’re a failure because you’ve had to move back in with your parents or whatever…well, being semi-successful at three or more different big goals can be as hard (and as impressive an accomplishment) as being solidly successful at one big goal, and lots of people are ONLY focused on Independence or Writing or one other big thing and still have lots of trouble with it. I hope that makes sense.

  18. Q11, I use Zeasorb Super Absorbent Powder. It has very little to no scent, which is important because I get migraines. My dermatologist recommended it to me and it’s been a lifesaver. I dust my inner thighs before going out in summer and it holds up well, though I do keep a bottle in my personal office. It’s also great for armpits, sandals, or anywhere you want something to help soak up a little sweat.

    1. How do those work in summer? I’m kind of worried about the lace causing a rash or making me hotter- it’s really humid here and I have no car so when waiting for the bus/metro I’m outside in the sweltering heat.

      1. I’ve tried Bandelettes and I live in Taiwan, so I can vouch for their efficacy in hot &humid weather. I found them nice for walking around in, but too tight for sitting in my office all day (and I’m too lazy to keep taking them on and off)

      2. I haven’t used these specifically but do something similar by cutting the hose part off of thigh high stockings. I don’t know if these have the same stickiness that thigh high tops do, but I’ve found those stay very well even in really humid and hot weather. I would NOT recommend ones with lace though for the reason you mentioned. I tried that once and it was a million times worse than just chub rub.

      3. hi! i wear these and love them, but i get the full opaque ones, not the lace, because i got a WORSE rash from the lace than from just the friction of my thighs. the plain ones are a game changer for me though – someone who walks at least 1.5 miles each way to work everyday.

  19. Q14, you could try asking all your first dates “How do you like to treat yourself? What do you do for a little pick-me-up?”

    First of all, it’s a light, fun, but still revealing way to get to know someone. If you keep seeing them, you’ll be happy to know their answer so you can do nice things for them. (And if they don’t have an answer, that’s good to know, too.)

    Secondly, unless they’re an utter cad, they’ll ask you the same question. Then you can tell them how much you love flowers, and if they’re at all a suitable date-person for you, they’ll remember that and bring you flowers.

  20. Q6,

    I don’t know anything about the UK or trans dating sites there, but I’m trans and have dated, and a lot of my friends are too. So maybe I can help a bit.

    I have the fact that I’m trans public on my dating profile. Even though it attracts creeps sometimes, and (I’m pretty sure) reduces my response numbers, at least those people are weeding themselves out. If you want to come out to people later, that’s fine, but for safety, do it in a public place. Transphobes can hide in plain sight, and you don’t want to get hurt.

    Everything else is just what Captain said- the only one I think she didn’t mention specifically is googling your date.

  21. #4: the best response to this I’ve ever heard is, “Well, we tried multiple times last night! Would like to come and watch, maybe give us some pointers?”

  22. Re: Thigh Society, OMFG YOU ARE MY HERO brb I need to spend all my money right now.

  23. RepealedtheEighth OP here. Thank you so much, Captain and Johanna7 for such good language to use when the subject comes up. I genuinely respect that their point of view feels right to them (there’s a few pro-life/anti-choice ppl in the family and I’m not in a position to distance myself from them) but I am hopeful that the script here will help smooth things over should the subject come up.

    I don’t think they understand how oppressive it was to me, growing up knowing that I’d have to go to England to get standard healthcare. They will never feel the relief I experienced when the exit polls came in because the Eighth Amendment never affected them. And because it didn’t affect them they don’t believe it affected anyone else. And that makes me so angry that I either don’t talk about it or I get sweary and that is not the way to show them my point of view.

  24. #16 Danger Danger! If you confront MIL about this it could easily go down the route of “you don’t know what’s best for him; *I* know what’s best for him.” It is 100% your sweetie’s responsibility to handle his relationship with his mother, and trying to take over this emotional labour for him will lead to resentment on three sides, I guarantee it. Pretty much the only thing you can reasonably do in this situation is keep having the “wow, your mother is really something, isn’t she?” conversation after the fact.

    1. LW #16: It is totally his responsibility, yes! There have been times I’ve asked him to communicate to his parents, and he’s generally good about it, depending on the subject.

      I’m not even trying to engage on this subject on his or my BIL’s behalf; it just really bugs me to hear it! Unsolicited advice + unkind commentary on body/appearance get right up my craw even when it’s not aimed at me. And the cherry on top is that her advice is often just wrong; for example, she doesn’t know the norms of their industry and what actually is common/acceptable.

      But yeah, convos after the fact is primarily how it’s gone so far and I suspect how it will continue to go. I maaaay also play with what the Captain noted about MIL’s “should” being a personal preference. Mainly I just needed to hear that this is not my battle, keep to the sidelines. I re-enter when she engages me on the subject of the number of calories in a tablespoon of olive oil. We have a vacation together upcoming, so this has been on my mind lately.

      (Also, ha, I am laughing at the wording of my Q because it was on twitter within twitter’s space constraints. I was very impressed with myself for getting it all down but whew it looks weird outside of twitter!)

      1. Thanks for the response! I can sympathise to some degree because my MIL can be very critical of my wife. In her case I know it’s a projection of my MIL’s own anxieties onto her daughter, but that doesn’t make the comments any less hurtful.

        I think the best thing I can do is to actively counter the comments after the fact, to fight the gaslighting effect. “You *are* capable, remember when you…”, “You are *not* selfish, remember when you…”, and most importantly “I love you and you don’t need to change.”

        Stay strong!

    2. LW #16: It is totally his responsibility, yes! There have been times I’ve asked him to communicate to his parents, and he’s generally good about it, depending on the subject.

      I’m not even trying to engage on this subject on his or my BIL’s behalf; it just really bugs me to hear it! Unsolicited advice + unkind commentary on body/appearance get right up my craw even when it’s not aimed at me. And the cherry on top is that her advice is often just wrong; for example, she doesn’t know the norms of their industry and what actually is common/acceptable.

      But yeah, convos after the fact is primarily how it’s gone so far and I suspect how it will continue to go. I maaaay also play with what the Captain noted about MIL’s “should” being a personal preference. Mainly I just needed to hear that this is not my battle, keep to the sidelines. I re-enter when she engages me on the subject of the number of calories in a tablespoon of olive oil. We have a vacation together upcoming, so this has been on my mind lately.

      (Also, ha, I am laughing at the wording of my Q because it was on twitter within twitter’s space constraints. I was very impressed with myself for getting it all down but whew it looks weird outside of twitter!)

      ((had a log-in situation, so apologies if this double posts))

  25. I’m the writer for Q13, about crappy parenting v. abusive parenting. Thank you for the link, it was very helpful!

    The question comes from my Dad’s treatment of me. Not to get into the laundry list of slights and put-downs, I think the worst thing he did was when I was 16. He did not live with us – I saw him every other weekend or so – and one day we got into a fight because he didn’t like my boyfriend. For reference, I was a very good kid. Never in trouble, did chores I wasn’t asked to do, honor student, no drugs, etc. Anyway, this argument culminated in him telling me, “You know, you are not worth all this. You are worthless and I just don’t care anymore.” And he proceeded to give me the silent treatment for TWO. YEARS. Short of ‘pass the salt’, he didn’t have anything to do with me and it CRUSHED me.

    Now, when I won a pretty prestigious scholarship at 18, things changed, but it was, “Look what MY daughter did!” His change of behavior was simply pride-by-proxy.

    ANYWAY! I asked the question because I’m thinking that if I can categorize my treatment/upbringing, maybe I can accept it (and in turn let it go). It’s like when you know you are sick, and you don’t know what’s really wrong, then you finally go to the doctor and she says, “You have X.” Even if X is a very unfortunate diagnosis, at least then you have the relief of KNOWING. You know?

    Thank you again!

    1. Yeah, silent treatment and telling a kid they are worthless = abusive. I’m so sorry. ❤

    2. OH MY FUCK WHAT KIND OF MONSTER SAYS THAT TO THEIR CHILD?! And then gives them two years of silent treatment?!

      Yes, that’s abuse. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been to have to spend so much time around someone who thought you were worthless and made sure you knew it.

      Also emotional abuse can be subtle and your laundry list of slights and put-downs counts too. My emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend didn’t scream at me or outright call me an idiot, but he sure made it clear that everything I thought, felt, said, or did was stupid and wrong. It’s still abuse if it’s sort of polite, if it doesn’t raise it’s voice, or if it doesn’t use any words you can’t say on TV.

  26. #15, career changer. I am 50 and just finished my first year of public school teaching, through an alternative certification program, after 20 years of freelance/adjunct/being the parent who could pick up the kids right after school. There have been moments! It’s a big adjustment and I’ve had to give up a lot of things, like going to the gym in the middle of the day. Even if the change is something you really want, you still have to say goodbye to the other things. That’s okay. I love teaching, but sometimes that class right after lunch drives me up the wall. There are still some things I need to learn and it’s hard to go from being a fulltime adult to basically a beginner, when people 15 years younger than I am are experts. So my advice, if I have any, would be: ask for all the help you need; be honest about what you’re giving up; see if you link back to your student self, when you expected to be encounter new knowledge every day; and let me repeat, ask for all the help! People are so generous. And I think it was Ben Franklin who figured out that if someone does you a favor, they are then more kindly disposed toward you. It’s a good way to make new friends in your new workplace (as long as you aren’t whiny and annoying).

  27. I’m the writer for Q13, and thank you for answering! I wrote a follow up (with background and appreciation) and it’s not appearing. Maybe it got lost?

    I don’t want you to think I’m unappreciative.

  28. 2. You began this relationship with someone who sought you out for the specific goal of you helping them. Was great of you to help but that was the dynamic and how they see you. They might be myopic this way in which case honesty is good. They might just be very self centered and there is no chance of equality or reciprocity and here honesty is good too. A person who wants to be a friend will be mortified and will redirect accordingly. Selfish folks will just be nasty or go away or both.

  29. @Q14: For lots of reasons, I have a really hard time asking for what I want and need, especially in romantic relationships, but I recently had a minor epiphany: asking for things doesn’t mean they don’t count. Interestingly, as I’ve started to get better at asking for things, my partner has gotten better at remembering to do the things without being asked. Ymmv, but it might be worth a shot.

  30. #6 I am non-binary, UK-based, and I use OkCupid. There are a lot of trans/NB/genderfluid people on there. There’s also at least one queer dating FB group.
    I tend to put all the stuff I think some people might have issue with up front in my profile, so being NB, queer, disabled etc, on the basis that it will (hopefully) rule out most of the people who have issues with that stuff. Also I don’t reply to anyone whose message or profile feels off to me. Maybe I am missing out on some great people, but it makes me feel safer.

    1. Seconding OkCupid.
      Besides that, are there any open-minded communities that you might want to be part of? In my experience there are many subcultures that have a high percentage of the trans members: geek groups, gaming related stuff, kink communities, swordfighting/HEMA groups, alternative/goth clubnights, circus/firespinning groups, polyamorous meetups etc etc etc. They might be great places to meet potential datepeople?
      Finally, I don’t know if you identify as queer, but if you do then trans/queer specific events, meetups, performances are a lovely place to meet cute people who very well might be looking for someone awesome to date (and who won’t be surprised to find out a potential partner is trans). Most cities have places like this in my experience, and they’re great for finding community/friends and potential dates.

  31. #17 I wanted to add to the Captain’s idea of sending yourself a letter and suggest the website You can write yourself (or anyone) an email and schedule it to be sent in the future. And it’s free.

  32. #16 – People/Family keep making scissor motions at his beard, but he got a few laughs when he told people I said, “I wouldn’t want to stifle your creativity.” It’s his face.

    1. Oh my goodness, I love this! That’s exactly how I feel–hair, faces, whatever!

  33. #7: I’m Catholic but pro-choice, because I don’t believe in forcing my religion on others, and to me it’s absolutely religious tyranny to say that because I believe God says life begins at a certain point, that the law must codify that belief. I was in Mass yesterday and the priest talked about the unwillingness of Catholics to “vote their beliefs” and in the very same sermon, mentioned the ways that the Church of England harassed Irish Catholics for generations. He seemed to miss the irony of decrying one religion imposing its beliefs via the law while expecting another to do the same.

    All this to say – I’ve never gotten very far when making the religious freedom argument with other Catholics, but I still do it on occasion because I think if anything is going to get through, it would be that. You don’t owe anyone a debate or explanation of your own beliefs, but if you want to engage with them, that might be the place to start.

    1. Thank you for this. I was raised Catholic but I have so many issues with the RCC’s treatment of women and sex in Ireland that I find it … problematic at best. I also agree that it’s not right to put religious edicts into state law and that the State made a huge mistake when they enacted the Eighth (which I remember being told once was “a very Important law” because it was so pro-life, but my arguments against it were the arguments of a ten year old and were dismissed as such *shrug*). This will help me to make my point and also remain respectful. When I get flustered or angry (and it is a hot-button topic for me) then I get sweary and lose any high ground I make in an argument. I doubt I’ll change any minds but I don’t want to burn any bridges or dismiss anyone’s faith while also defending my joy and relief at getting the Eighth out of the constitution.

      1. Congrats on tanking the Eighth. Now, to get the legislature to craft laws that allow meaningful access.

  34. On #4, I shut a couple persistent people down when asking” When you are getting married?” by saying “After everyone stops asking.” “Or every time someone asks, the clock resets.” I was kidding, of course, but I think it did give some people a small amount of worry that they were stopping the very thing they wanted to happen.

  35. (sorry if repeating –didn’t get to read the comments yet)

    #14: My buddy! my friend! my alternate-self who wrote the letter that I could’ve easily written five years ago and definitely could also write today! I feel for you SO HARD.

    ((If it matters, I’m female-assigned (but nonbinary) and most of my partners are male-aligned.))

    One of the weird things that has worked for me is giving my partners flowers. It’s not at all the same kind of attention, but it scratches the itch of “flowers are pretty and I like having them” while also sending the message of “this is a way that love can be shown in this relationship”. Is it “secret subtle relationship game” playing? A little bit, but I mitigate that by focusing on the parts where I wanna do something nice and where, if it’s one of my local partners, I get to see the flowers for the next few days at their house.

    I’ve only gotten live flowers from a partner once –after one of my dance recitals*, even! This was after something like seven years of officially dating, and the way that I *gushed* I think was a good reminder to him that he should do this again sometime. I’ve gotten flowers-that-do-not-die a few more times, and written pretty extensively about how much I like it in the past –I should do that again sometime as a general reminder to my friends that this is a thing I like.


  36. #8, you gave me a great excuse to get up on one of my favourite soapboxes, so I’m going to rant a bit and I hope you will ignore anything I have to say that isn’t helpful to you.

    How do I learn to REALLY let go of a relationship with my mom?

    Shit I wish I knew. Part of me still has this animal longing for a mother who loves me in any meaningful way and that woman just does not exist. I cut off contact with the female biological parent I do have years ago and I still feel shitty about it sometimes but I’ve more or less accepted that having contact with her made me miserable and that even if I did have contact with her, I still wouldn’t really have a mother so what’s the fucking point?

    To paraphrase the Captain a little (I don’t remember exactly which post she said this in): for some people the price of having a relationship with their parents is pretending their childhood didn’t happen. For me personally, there is nothing that woman can offer me that would ever be worth a thousandth of that cost.

    I’m generally very comfortable with our relationship (that is to say none really beyond the cursory cards and texts), but there is still so much guilt.

    Like the Captain, I recommend talking this one out in therapy. A lifetime of societal programming about how you have to love your mother and how she obviously loves you (even though she’s unable to show it in any meaningful way?) is really, really hard to throw off and it’s not going to happen all at once.

    How do I forgive her for not only failing young(er) me, but continuing to do so now into adulthood?

    And here’s where I get on my soapbox. Fuck forgiveness. You don’t have to forgive her to move on and be happy and frankly I don’t think you should. She profoundly wounded you and you’re allowed to be angry about that.

    The reason I get so table-flipping HULK SMASH angry about “forgiveness” is that I’ve never seen anyone be urged to forgive for their own good, it’s always to keep the peace, to pressure the wounded party to shut up so that everyone else can pretend everything is okay and not have to make any tough choices about whether to keep an abuser in their lives. Fuck that noise. Don’t forgive. Feel the hell out of your feelings, talk about how you were wounded, mourn the mother you wish you had, but don’t ever feel like you need to act like it’s okay that your mother harmed you so badly.

    What I do think is useful is acceptance. Your mom sucks and so does mine. There’s nothing either one of us can do about that, we can’t go back and change the past, we can’t make them admit they fucked up and apologize sincerely, all we can really do is face what our situations really are and decide what we want and what we can realistically get.

    For me, what I want (acknowledgement that she made my childhood terrible) is not something I’ll ever realistically get, and what I can realistically get (a greeting cards + occasional superficial phonecalls relationship) isn’t something I want, so I just don’t have contact with her. Just because I don’t have contact with my mother doesn’t mean that’s right for you, I just want to harp on the point that you get to choose. She is not owed a relationship with you just because you survived to adulthood.

    1. thank you so, so much. it’s hard to find people who “get it” re: why I don’t have a relationship with my mom when she wasn’t outwardly / outright abusive in the way(s) that most people would go “oh, right, obviously.” to my response as to why we don’t see each other or really even speak.

      1. Oh geez I hear you about people who don’t get it. I dodge the question of how my mother is doing and whether I go home to visit family for Christmas or whatever as much as I can because I’ve told people before that we aren’t in contact and been asked “why not?” There’s no way that question can possibly have a cheerful, acquaintance appropriate answer, so I really don’t get why people think it’s okay to ask that.

  37. I’m late to the party, but I have some suggestions for #12, if you’re still reading. I also have ADHD and a hands-off boss, and I know what it’s like to struggle with priorities!

    I’ve been on a bit of an agenda kick this year, and I’ve spent waaaay too much time and money on finding the One True Perfect Planner. Turns out there isn’t one, but there are several that come close. I find paper is better because it deliberately limits the space allowed for planning – once you’ve used up the space, those are all your priorities for the day! My two favourites are Passion Planner and Panda Planner (both have PDF versions you can try out for free.) I also looked at Momentum Planners, and if you get all hyperfocused on “planning to plan” like I did, you can check out Agendio, which allows you to customize a planner to your exact specs.

    As for using the planners to actually get the work done, the key for me is to treat “planning” as an activity separate from “doing.” I make a list of “must do” and “should do” items, and also a “do not do” list if I’m likely to get distracted (for example, by commenting on blog posts on the internet, ahem.) The “Must Do” list is as short as possible – hopefully no more than 1-2 things. If I’m feeling extra distracted, I actually take a piece of scrap paper and write the word FOCUS in big giant letters, plus the *one* thing I’m supposed to be focusing on in that moment. Then I draw a line underneath, and the word “Next,” and every time my brain squirrels off in another direction, I write it down in the “Next” section and get back to the main focus. Any physical reminder of “focus on this, not that” is helpful for me.

    Finally, I’ve found the book “ADHD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life” by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau to be an excellent resource for managing ADHD in general. Good luck!

    1. I wasn’t the original poster, but THANK YOU for this! I too have finally figured out that having a paper planner is a Good Thing for me and my brain, and I’ve been spending the last couple years trying to figure out what exactly makes the most sense with it.

      I love your idea of a FOCUS and next list. I will be borrowing that, I think!

  38. I know I am getting kind of late to this discussion – but I really wanted to say a few positive things – and to tell a story.

    First of all: dear Captain, you are amazing. How you answer with kindness and empathy is inspiring – and I was especially awed how you promoted Cathy’s scripts (which, from a bullied person’s point of view, are excellent). You set an example to us all. Thank you so much for that and for this fantastic page.

    Then the story, as a sort of an answer to the question 4 about inappropriate questions about future babies. This is a story I once heard and I simply wanted to share it with you.

    I have an acquintance, a lovely lady, who was almost 40 years old when she found a man she liked. In their engagement party an elderly relative approached her and said: “I love family get togethers and parties. We should have more of those. So, are you planning to have kids soon?” My acquintance does have quick wits and she does not hold back her words. She replied: “I, too, love family parties! It is always so good to see everybody. So, are you planning on dropping dead soon?”

    I do not know if there is any moral to this story except that it is very inappropriate to promplty ask people of their plans to procreate. I can relate so well, my ex-mother-in-law used a very passive aggressive tactic of showing me hundreds of pictures of all the possible babies in her big family. May you all have much strength.

  39. I’m a little late, but for any future readers looking for chafing solutions (#11): they may be a little tighter than is comfortable for some people, but my absolute favorite solution is men’s compression/bike shorts! I’ve found that for me (a tall person, around 5’8″) they’re exactly the right length to not be seen under knee-length skirts, they’re designed to be comfy and breathable when you’re sweaty and gross, they don’t roll up/ride up like stretchier cotton-blends do, and they tend to be way cheaper (around $12-15) than things like Bandelettes or the Thigh Society shorts.

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