It Came From The Search Terms: Something ‘Bout July + Summer Pledge Drive

Time for the monthly tradition where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.

Before we get to it, it’s Pledge Drive Time! Twice a year, winter and summer, I interrupt our usual programming to remind folks that fun stuff like the Search Terms posts and the Friday short answers are funded by my kind and generous patrons and readers who support the site via PayPal and other ways. These donations allow me to keep the blog ad-free, invest substantial time in maintaining the community, reading the mailbox, and moderating comments, devote time to answering questions and writing new content, pay guest writers, and keep us functioning as an independent site. This year I’m trying to pull back on teaching and be a full-time writer, and your support is necessary and much appreciated for the care and feeding of me & my family. Please make a donation or become a patron if you can. Every little bit helps. (If you can’t afford to, don’t worry ’bout a thing, I’m glad you are here and reading.)

As is traditional, let’s begin with a song to set the mood. Lyrics here :

1 “Can my coworkers see my dating profile.”

It’s safe to assume that at least everyone on the same dating site who you haven’t specifically blocked can see your dating profile, so if your coworkers are also on that site they can see it (and you can see theirs). Also, it’s probably a good time to double-check your settings to make sure that your profile isn’t publicly viewable by non-members.

Confidential to my once-upon-a-time coworker who liked to use the shared work computers as his personal computers: LOG OUT OF YO SHIT, I BEG YOU and LOL literally forever at “I like to follow Kundera’s ‘Rule Of Three.'”  

Online dating: It’s silly, it’s vulnerable, everybody who does it feels nervous about people they know from other contexts seeing their silly vulnerable selves, you’re not alone, the awkwardness tends to fade once you meet some people you actually like. I realize I’m making fun of my former coworker a little but he has nothing (besides his abysmal information security and computer-hogging habits) to be ashamed of, nor did I when I was on dating sites, nor do you. Laugh at each other, laugh at yourselves, never bring it up at work, be as happy and horny as you want to.

2 “Found sex toys in my mom’s room.”

Put them back where you found them, leave them alone, that is her private stuff.

But! The internet is here for your questions about sex toys. Try Scarleteen for questions and answers, or use the search term “sex toys for beginners” – Just now I found a ton of guides for people with every kind of equipment…and equipment…in <10 seconds.

3 “‘Are you looking for marriage ?’ answer”

Well, ARE you? Are ya, punk? :-p

The right answer is the one that is true and honest for you. If you’re trying to meet romantic partners, it’s good to give people information that they can use to make good decisions. It’s not about you giving the “right answer” that will impress this particular person or be what they want to hear, it’s about finding people who are on the same page with what you want from your life. Ergo, there are lots of right answers as long as they are true answers:

  • “With the right person, absolutely maybe.” 
  • “Maybe? I don’t think about it that much.” 
  • “It’s not my priority in dating.” 
  • “Nope, that’s not something I think I’ll ever do.” 
  • “Nope, that’s not something I think I’ll ever do…again.”
  • “Well, if it ever becomes legal for people with my orientation, yeah.” (#NotAllCountriesYetButSomeday)
  • “Well, as long as it stays legal for people with my orientation, sure!” (Ugh, this stupid discriminatory world)
  • “Someday down the road, probably, but I’m in no hurry.” 
  • “I’m polyamorous, so while yeah, I might like to be married someday it might not look like what people traditionally imagine.”
  • “Yes, I’d really like to be married someday.”
  • “Yes, I’d really like to be married and have kids someday.”
  • “Yes, I’d really like to be married and have kids someday, and I’m looking to date people who want the same thing out of life. We may not be compatible in other ways, and that’s okay, but I don’t want to go out with people who know they never want kids or who are still unsure about it.” 

Anybody who asks this question should be pretty cool with you asking “And what about you?” after you answer.

4 “Why does my bf call me names?” 

This doesn’t have the whiff of “why does my bf call me fun names that I love?,” ergo, the simplest answer is that he’s being mean and you should tell him to stop and if he won’t you should dump him.

5 “Mothers silent treatment for days.”

Breaking off contact permanently with someone is not abusive, despite what the Cut-Off Culture Guy thinks. “Let’s make a clean break, please don’t contact me anymore and I won’t contact you.” 

Taking a break from contact with someone is not abusive, for example:

  • “I’ve got too much stuff on my plate right now and I just need a break, I’ll be in touch in a few months.”
  • “Listen, I’m getting too worked up to continue this discussion, I need to take a walk and cool off. Can we sleep on it and pick this up tomorrow?” 
  • “I’m pretty pissed off at you right now, and I need some time to stop being angry. Let’s drop this for now and I’ll give you a call in a couple weeks when it’s less raw.” 
  • “I’m in the middle of something and I can’t have this conversation right now. What’s a good time for a phone call later this week?” 

None of those sample conversations sound real fun, and there’s no guarantee the other person will still be around at the end of the break, or that the things that necessitated the break will ever feel good or be fixed, but that’s still pretty clear, direct communication that gives the other person in the conflict an idea of what to expect from you.

By contrast, the Silent Treatment is always abusive. A person who uses the silent treatment doesn’t want the person to go away, temporarily or forever. They want you to stick around and grovel for their attention. They want you to be punished by their silence, they want you to wonder and agonize over what you did, they want you to generate reasons that you suck and deserve what they are doing, they want you to chase them so they can get off on withholding communication and exerting power over you. It’s cruel. People who try to use this abuse tactic inside a shared living space, esp. parents who deploy it against children, really are being awful.

My one tried-and-true strategy for dealing with people who try to use the silent treatment on me is: “Welp, I hope you like silence!”

They want a tug of war? I just…drop my end of the rope. I never ask them what’s going on. I never apologize. I do not chase them. I just ignore them right back until they can talk to me about it like a person. If we never talk again, so be it, I guess the relationship wasn’t important enough to try to figure it out. What usually actually happens: My indifference makes them boil over like angry little teapots and they come roaring after me to finally state their grievances OR (hilariously) they try to play it off like nothing ever happened. They can’t actually maintain silence when what they really want is a power exchange.

6 “When he says ‘maybe in the future.'”

Maybe in the future = definitely not now = no

7 “Parents are putting pressure on me to lose weight.”

“Thanks for the concern, Parents, but my body is my business.” 

See also: “When I want your opinion on that, I’ll ask you.” 

Repeat until the heat death of the universe or they STFU, whichever comes first.

A non-exhaustive list of resources you might like: Health At Every Size Community, OK2BFat, Dances With Fat.

8 “Reaching out to an ex who is hurting.”

I’m sure there are circumstances where this is the right thing to do for someone you care about and all will proceed without drama, but before you send that text:

Are you 100% sure that helping this person right now is uniquely your job?

Y’all broke up for a reason, and hurting people can get in touch with: friends, family, pastors, therapists, helplines, and lots and lots of people who aren’t you. Your ex is hurting, but what do you need right now?

9 “Partner arrogant and caustic and I don’t know what to do.”

If this is new, recent, uncharacteristic behavior, identify a few recent examples of upsetting behavior, and then talk to them. “Hey, Partner, you’ve been acting a bit off lately – for example […]. It’s mean and I do not like it. This isn’t like you normally, is there something going on?”

They’ll say some stuff in response that will give you an idea of how they see their behavior and how self-aware they are about it. If they are properly receptive and apologetic (and even more importantly, they stop doing whatever it is), then, good talk everyone! If bringing it up makes them double down on justifying the behavior, this is not good. If they were being arrogant and caustic specifically to you, and/or they turn this discussion into being mean to you...eek…time to find the exit?

If you’re coming to the sad realization that arrogant and caustic is just how they always are, maybe skip to the exit part? Life is too short to subject yourself to mean people.

10 “Boyfriend always corrects me and tells me how to act” 

See above and add “Hey, you’re my boyfriend, not my boss or my personal critic. When I want your opinion, I’ll ask you.” 

11 “How can I stop people from giving me unsolicited advice.”

We’re taught never to interrupt people (esp. our elders or authority figures) because it’s “rude,” but honestly, there are so many situations where the right thing to say is “Pardon the interruption, but let me stop you right there! I wasn’t asking for advice!” + throw in a subject change.

When they say they were only trying to help, confuse them further with “I know you were! Thank you so much! But I’m good!” + a subject change.

Try using your most cheerful, friendly voice. It confuses the hell out of them.

12 “Boyfriend doesn’t believe in me.” 

A) Were you looking for this? B) I don’t believe that he’s a very good boyfriend for you.

13 “Should a guy disown his sister because she has a boyfriend?” 

A) No B) What the hell C) Men don’t own the women in their families (or any women, ever, literally ever) so D) Fuck off with your misogyny and control and E) Mind your own business.

14 “Is it okay to ask one parent to stop complaining about the other.”

Absolutely. “You’re both my parents, I love you both, and I can’t be the audience for the conflicts you have with each other. Please talk to Other Parent directly, or take it to a friend or a counselor. It’s not appropriate for me to be your sounding board.” 

15 “Friend pushing me to like a guy.” 

Whyyyyy do people do this. Try “If you like him so much, why don’t you date him. I’m not interested in having these conversations anymore.” 

16 “Why would someone befriend you on Facebook and then request a video chat on messenger and strip for you?” 

Let me guess. Is the person otherwise unconnected with anyone in your network or life and extremely groomed and attractive in their profile pictures? Two possible reasons:

  1. Exhibitionism! They “generously” want to “share” their nakedness with the world, one new “friend” at a time.
  2. This is a form of sex work marketing, and the stripping/chat interactions will soon not be free.

Either way, their reasons aren’t nearly as important as your wishes & decisions about what to do now. If you don’t want this to continue, “I don’t like this and I didn’t ask for it, please stop” and the block button are both right there.

17 “Is ‘I will let you know’ passive aggressive?” 

Here’s a good review of what some passive-aggressive behaviors look like. The “Wistful Statements” one is one of my least favorite ones to encounter, “Procrastination” is the one I probably do the most.

“I will let you know” isn’t registering as necessarily passive-aggressive for me. For example, are you a person who tends to overcommit to things you regret later, because you don’t know how to say no in the moment or because the people in your life pressure you? “I need to check my schedule first, can I let you know?” is just…accurate? And useful? It buys you time so you can give a genuine answer.

Now, in the hands of someone you know to be passive-aggressive, everything from “I will let you know” to “You look really nice today” can be insulting, depending on context & tone. Contrast:

  • You look really nice today.” (Unlike Fergus over here!)
  • “You look really nice today.” (But what’s that smell?)
  • “You look really nice today.” (Compared to my low opinion of how you normally look.)

For “I’ll let you know” I guess the proof is in whether they ever actually let you know.

18 “When husband asks why do you put makeup on.”

“I like to.”

19 “He told me if I don’t go to gym with him he will lazy.”

I guess maybe he’ll be lazy, then? Go to the gym when and if you want to, for you. Some people really do benefit from having someone to work out with, but good news: “He” can find his own motivation and his own workout buddies.

20 “All of our friends’ kids have had weddings our daughter has a sort of elopement embarrassing.” 

I’ll take “when the answer to why your daughter probably eloped and why it was probably a great decision for her is in the question for $200, Alex.”

Is your daughter happily married? Then you/she/your family has good problems and I beg you to stop worrying about this if you want a good relationship with her.

If you want to throw a party to impress the neighbors, throw a fun party. For yourself. Exactly the way you want it. Invite them all!

21 “Feel suffocated and trapped in long distance relationship.”

Break uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup. “Suffocated.” “Trapped.” You don’t have to feel this way to have love in your life.

I know, easier said than done, but…break uppppppppppppppppppppppppp. You’ll feel so free, you’ll breathe easier, and (being long distance) you won’t even have to run into them all the time at the local spot.























130 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: Something ‘Bout July + Summer Pledge Drive

  1. For Q1, if you are browsing dating sites AT WORK on company owned equipment, your IT department (and therefore probably your managers) know what you are doing. Please review your proper internet use policy and make sure you aren’t in violation. (Normally this data sits unread in a server log file somewhere, and is only retrieved/reviewed by HR during an investigation, but I can’t guarantee that.)

    Regarding Q16, there is a common scam where someone young and attractive will unexpectedly video-chat or send nudes, followed shortly by their “angry father” or perhaps a “police officer” threatening you and asking for a payout because she was (supposedly) under-age. They may threaten to send video or chat transcript of you to your Facebook contacts if you don’t pay up.

    Be very careful to distinguish this from a consensual online fun.

        1. Yep. And in case it wasn’t obvious, there is no ACTUAL “angry father” or “police officer” and perhaps (depending on the version of the scam) not even an actual girl (pics or clips acquired elsewhere); you’re talking with the scammer each time.

      1. That one’s been around for literal centuries: it used to be a young lady “accidentally” meeting a mark and inviting him back to her apartment; just as she’s down to her corset “angry” “Husband/Father/Brother” bursts in and demands money from mark or he’ll spread the scandal all over town.

        Thanks to the internet nobody has to leave their living room anymore but the basics never change.

  2. Q20: I suspect that none of your friends have given Thought One to your kid’s elopment. Or if they have, it’s ‘oh, good, one less dress I have to buy, or weird relatives I have to wrangle’. But most people are just concerned about their own goings-on, and you can let yourself off the hook. (Caveat to members of cultures for whom this kind of scorekeeping is socially crucial. I still think you can let yourself off the hook, tho.)

    1. My reaction would be “oh that’s interesting, I wonder why” and then moving on to google the etiquette for wedding presents if the couple elopes. And not “I wonder why” in a “I’m going to dig until I find out the Juicy Secrets” sort of way, more of a “this is somewhat out of the norm and therefore is worthy of remark” way.

      (unless, of course, I knew about contributing factors–a really overbearing mother, for example?–which would make me nod understandingly and carry on with my life)

      1. I’d just be like “guess they didn’t want to plan a wedding and didn’t need any China – oh well.” Some people just hate planning weddings, and it’s NBD.

    2. I Strongly Concur. I have never thought for longer than 2-3 minutes about why someone had a small wedding or no wedding — I usually just assume that it’s because Weddings Are Very Stressful.

      1. Yes, I have literally never wondered more than ten seconds over anybody’s wedding choices; my assumption is “guess they wanted it that way, congrats guys!”

    3. Seriously, this. The most thought about other people’s weddings I’ve done is “Wait, did attend this one? Or was it while I was living overseas?” usually in context of some wedding-related story being related and me trying to figure out if I forgot, or was actually not there.

    4. My (non-binary, amab) child’s girlfriend’s mother is very ill, and it would not surprise me if they decided to get married while the mother is still alive to see it. So, it’s possible they’ll opt for quickie wedding in girlfriend’s hometown. And that would be FINE. I think even my most rigid sibling would understand.

  3. Q17 is my life. I mean I was raised steeped in the culture like when grandma would say “well isn’t that…interesting,” and all of us would cringe a la “the devil wear’s Prada.” I think I’m mostly out but I have to fight to keep passive aggressive tone out of my life. I hate it when others do it. Sometimes I still do it. Just, bah!

  4. Q21 – also, don’t feel like you have to wait for a visit to break up. It may seem like a face-to-face break-up is kinder but it can actually be a pretty upsetting to realize you planned and got ready to host or spent the time & the money to visit and finding out your significant other planned on dumping you.

      1. Shout out to my old college roommate who spent his spring break in California with the girl he planned to propose to, only to get dumped halfway through the week with no way to change his flight plans back home.

        For extra credit, she dumped him at Disneyland.

        1. Well, it is the “happiest place in the world”? Maybe she thought it would soften the blow. /s

          1. @sistercoyote: And watching your now-ex cavort with her new boyfriend. It was an upwardly fornicated spring break and I felt awful for him.

        2. I’ve heard that quite a lot of people dump and/or abandon their significant others and families at Disney. Like that will maybe soften the blow?

          1. Disney is the Happiest Place on Earth, but it’s also a high-stress environment even for a person having the best day. If you’re already having an awful day, though, or you already weren’t sure you wanted to be with a particular person, I could easily see a relationship-ending blowout happening at the Park.

            As far as abandoning families, etc., if you go in the middle of summer there can be more people “playing” at Disneyland than live in some of the surrounding communities (I’ve forgotten what the highest in-park was, but I know I’ve lived places with lower population!) So it’s an easy place to ditch someone, if you have any idea what you’re doing.

    1. I got dumped once by a guy I was seeing upon his return from a month-long trip home. He got back together with his fiancée about a week before he came back and just stopped IMing or emailing me, then met up with me for dinner–I was so excited to see him too–and dumped me in a restaurant. I should have known when he didn’t order anything.

      I would so much have preferred him just telling me when it happened than putting it off and hoping a miracle would occur or I would die in traffic before he had to break up with me.

      He later attempted to “be friends with me” (translation: since his fiancée still wouldn’t move to Canada he wanted to get laid) and I told him where he could shove his good intentions, once folded tightly into a many-cornered figure.

      1. I just wrote an essay about being dumped by someone the morning after I arrived after he asked me to move cities for him.


        1. Oh god. I dated a guy who had dumped the girl before me in slow motion (this is the guy who ultimately cheated on me) by first moving across the country, then telling her that long distance was too hard. He thought he’d finally found the way to dump people while not having to be the bad guy! And then she moved across country for him. 😦

          If I’d known this story before we started dating, I’m not even sure it would have helped, because really understanding what went on depended a lot on having both sides (which it obviously took me a while to obtain) and also a pretty decent grasp of what a spineless coward he was, which also took some time.

          1. I’m laughing at what a terrible method that is of breaking up with a person.
            “Welp, I’m not really feeling this relationship anymore. Damn, and I liked this city too. I wish I hadn’t just renewed my lease and also gotten this promotion. *Sigh* “

          2. It’s so much better–he moved across country because the woman he’d had a crush on since high school had broken up with her boyfriend, and he (still dating the woman before me) texted her and was like “now that you’re single…” and she, instead of saying “I do not want to be with you” demurred with “long-distance is too hard” (I don’t know if she knew he was dating someone). SO HE MOVED CITIES AND THEN DUMPED HIS GIRL only to find that she still wouldn’t date him.

            What a tangled web of broken leases we weave when first we practice to…be incompetent. Or something.

          3. I’d like to propose “what a web of broken leases, that we weave when we are skeezes”.

            Work for you? 🙂

        2. A friend of mine arrived overseas and her boyfriend informed her on the way to his parents’ house that he’d started dating a coworker in that awesome new career she helped him get. Email or letter or phone calls really would have been fine.

        3. I once got dumped ON MY BIRTHDAY because my partner had moved away and realized long distance wasn’t gonna work, and that was the first chance I had to visit, and thus her nearest opportunity to ‘do the right thing’ & end it irl.

          We needed to break up either way, and I was gonna be sad about it for a while no matter how I got the news. All in all I would’ve preferred to get dumped by phone or email a month before my birthday, cry on my own couch, and save the airfare money for ice cream and movie rentals.

        4. God what is with this particular bullshit? It’s like, rather than admit I have a flat tire I’m gonna ride the rim, rear end the car in front of me, cause a six car pile up behind me, spin out into a telephone pole and cause at least three vehicles to burst into flames because changing a tire is HARRRRD.

        5. I once knew an English lady who met an Australian man, was engaged to be married and had quit her job and sold her apartment and packed up her life to move to Australia (from England) with him. She was literally boarding her flight to Australia when he texted her to tell her it was over.

          She moved to Australia anyway and afaik is now happily employed and married to somebody else.

        6. Texting also means the person can ask a friend for support while the conversation is happening. (Fun story: I was chatting with my then-just-friend-now-husband when my last BF broke up with me via IM.)

        7. Did this result in physical violence? Because I don’t think I could have someone do this to me and not end up fucking punching them.

      2. Oof I was dumped this way too. The BF spent a week at his parent’s house, got home, called me to ask if he could come over right away. Yes! Of course! He borrowed his roommate’s car and got there in like 12 minutes (instead of 45 via public transit). Eager! Me too! Yep, eager to break up with me because he just couldn’t foresee building a life with someone who didn’t share his religious convictions. Which, he hadn’t ever even mentioned? Like, we spent most Sundays at brunch together? Must have been quite the parental visit…and yeah just break up via phone thanks.

        1. My ex-bf broke up with me because I “wasn’t close enough to [my] family” which is also the first time I had heard that was a problem for him. I guess because I wasn’t living with my parents (like him) and I didn’t tell my parents everything like he did.

          Looking back I’m glad since our ideas about what parents needed to know about our lives would’ve caused many, many disagreements, but it sure sucked to be presented as something that was supposedly deficient in me at the time.

          1. “I’m not close to my family because they kept trying to pressure me into telling them things that weren’t any of their business. Sounds like you’d fit in with them GREAT.”

          2. I was close to my parents, and sometimes lived in their house out of necessity, but I there was PLENTY of stuff didn’t tell them just because it was NOTB.

        2. I had an ex dump me because of previously-unmentioned religious objections to premarital sex, too! I was like, dude, I would have been fine holding off on the sex for a while if you’d said something… before you slept with me?

          Funny how religious convictions come AFTER the orgasms.

    2. I once broke off a relationship a couple weeks before going to visit him. I’d purchased the tickets and had no other reason to be in the area so I just ate the cost of them. HE APPARENTLY had planned all sorts of other elaborate, non-refundable fun for us during the visit without telling me about any of it until he told me I’d need to pay half (but did not, of course, offer to pay half the cost of the airline tickets I was absorbing.)

      To this day I wonder if there was a ring involved.

      I am SUPER glad that conversation took place over the phone and not in person, in his home, dependent on him for transportation because “don’t rent anything, you can just use my car.”

    3. An old college boyfriend did this. He flew to GERMANY to break up with me. I had taken off time from school. My head of department had planned dinner, etc. for us.

      I was mortified.

    4. I once had a guy dump me after I’d flown him out *at my expense.*

      Then, when I cancelled his return ticket (no, that’s my $170 to fly somewhere else since it was Southwest), his *mother* called me 5 times to try to convince me to re-buy him plane fare home and threatening to sue me. I was in law school, and told her if she wanted to fly to my state and come at me in small claims court, I was legally fine but she could bring it on.

    5. My first relationship was long distance and he was a Darth Vader. Towards the end, I was visiting and broke up with him (I didn’t plan to; we argued I guess? Honestly I can’t remember the precise nature of the bullshit that made me declare An End, but frequent and flabbergasting bullshit was very much in his character); I packed my things and headed for the train station.

      He followed me.

      I took him back.

      At the time, I tried focusing on how he seemed so sincere and how he needed me and he’d promised to get better… although really what I was thinking was ‘He’s following me to the train station… Will he get on the train with me? Will I have to time it so I can leap on to the train just as the doors are closing? No, the trains are every half hour, there’s going to be a wait… Will he follow me onto the next train? Will he follow me back to halls? Will he refuse to leave? etc. etc. etc.’

      SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT: things didn’t get better. They limped on for another couple months before he did another very in-character thing and I realised I’d had enough. He was very resistant to breaking up but did impress upon me that things would be fine if I wasn’t such an awful bitch (he turned very nasty… all the while insisting that we should definitely stay together?). This debate went on for some time before I called it quits, blocked him on all messaging things we shared, and cried myself out.

      My mother came in while I was crying.

      “Oh my goodness, my poor little baby! What’s wrong?”
      “I just broke up with [Darth Vader].”
      Mama: “YEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSS!” *punches air triumphantly* *assumes a look of deepest sympathy and concern and comes over for a hug*

      She listened to me talk about how horrible he’d been (yes, I was shocked. I know… I was very young…). She didn’t talk much at the time (though she did at sporadic intervals gleefully pump her fists and exclaim “YES!”), but some time later she elaborated on all the ways she absolutely hated him. My papa still hasn’t really elaborated but he has mentioned ‘He might be the only person I’ve ever met where I’ve had to leave the room or risk punching their face’.

      ANYWAY! MORAL OF THE STORY IS you don’t “owe” anyone a face-to-face explanation! 😀

      1. Yuppppp.

        When I was a teenager, I got involved with this older guy online. (I was 17, he was 24.) We didn’t meet IRL until after I turned 18, but he was a Darth all the way through. I was a mess and still recovering from a total breakdown that resulted in medication, regular therapy, and a school transfer bc I got pushed out of my first school for being kind of crazy.

        He was sympathetic, got me to trust him, and then started doing things like tell me he fantasized about a friend I’d had a crush on for awhile dying a painful death. I was not thrilled by those sorts of declarations, so he started threatening suicide. When I tried to break up with him, he told me he was going to go stand on the train tracks, hung up on me, and then refused to answer his phone.

        So 18 year old Zillah called 911 sobbing about how her boyfriend in another country was going to kill himself and here was his address. It actually got through to his local cops, who found him. He was furious with me and threatened to kill my family and my dog. (It read as an empty threat, and he took it back pretty quickly. But still.)

        He managed to guilt me into visiting him a month or two after. Shortly after that visit, I decided to break up with him again. He kept threatening to kill himself, and eventually I told him to go ahead, it wasn’t my problem.

        Shockingly, he did not follow through. He did, however, keep trying to contact me occasionally for a few years, including once on Valentine’s Day.

        I wouldn’t call the cops now, but I’m not sorry they scared the shit out of the 25 year old white lawyer who was trying to control his almost underage girlfriend with threats of suicide. I think everyone I knew was real pleased to see him gone.

    6. Best friend / ex-girlfriend dumped me six weeks before a planned trip to her state. Asked me out again two weeks before the trip. Dumped me again while I was sitting on her couch while she was at work, over text. We’re polyamorous and were both dating another girl in her hometown, so I called the other girl and asked her to pick me up before ex got home. It was a serious nightmare and I cried for two days.. during the other girl’s birthday. Long distance relationships make long-distance breakups way way way more palatable.

  5. Q5- I hate the silent treatment, but if someone wants to play that game, I can play. Much like CA, I go about enjoying my life and ignoring the one ignoring me. This really drives the silent one bonkers. Fortunately, the people in my life have learned that I don’t cave to that tactic and they would rather try to talk over the situation after a period of cooling down than deal with silence for a month.(Yes, I had a friend give me the silent treatment for a month. We were supposed to go to a movie together but of course didn’t because she wasn’t speaking to me. I went with another friend, as did she, and she broke down rage-crying at the theater when she saw us.)

    1. I probably shouldn’t find the rage-crying at the theater funny, but I really, really do.

    2. This is what I’m trying to do with my dad, who lives overseas and has been giving me the silent treatment for 4 months. If he can’t use his fucking words to tell me what’s wrong, he can suck it.

      I know better than to ask what’s wrong or try to cater to this bullshit. But sometimes I get so angry at the way he’s treating me that I want to send an expletive filled message about what an asshole he’s being. I know that wouldn’t really help, but I still kind of feel like he’s “getting away with” it if I don’t call it out.

      And he’s not the type to come roaring back when the other person doesn’t grovel, he can keep it up for a while, he once dropped out of contact for a whole year.

        1. And then when he finally talks to you: “Oh, were you angry? We’ve both been so busy… I guess it has been a while since we’ve talked, huh?”

  6. Not exactly Q5, but related: one time I accidentally broke up with someone who was trying a variation on it! After a fairly minor disagreement that happened because of a misunderstanding, he told me that he just couldn’t see himself being with me anymore. So I said “Well, if that’s how you feel, I can’t exactly argue with that” and moved on with my life. I was sad, but from where I was sitting if he’d end the relationship over a misunderstanding without even talking about it, there wasn’t much there.

    A week later he texted me to ask why I hadn’t been talking to him. I said “Uh, because you broke up with me?” Apparently in the script in his head, that *was* talking about it and I was supposed to convince him to stay. Whoops! Bullet dodged.

    1. That, or he knew exactly what he was doing but he changed his mind and tried to see if he could gaslight you into going back to him. Either way, same conclusion – bullet dodged.

    2. Wow bullet totally dodged! As CA always says “believe them when they tell you who they are.”

    3. “Uh, because you broke up with me?”

      Were you dating my ex? After he dumped me, he kept coming by complaining that I wasn’t paying attention to him. My constant response was “We broke up.”

      1. Hahahahah! Did you not know how this works? I had an ex (who dumped me twice) throw rocks at my window the night I was packing to move to college because someone told him if he didn’t talk to me he’d “regret it for the rest of his life”….after that I really wanted to hunt that “friend” down and give her a piece of my mind.

      2. After I broke up with my horrible college boyfriend (over the phone, we were long distance, I had just started grad school elsewhere) he called me back two weeks later to yell at me for *not sending him a birthday card*.

        Me: But I broke up with you.

        Him: Oh, so I guess things still aren’t good with us?

        Me: I broke up with you!

        Him: (getting angrier) So I guess you don’t want me to come down for Halloween, then?

        Me: No, because I broke up with you!

        Him: (angrier) So I guess you won’t be flying up for Thanksgiving, then?!?!?

        Me: I sold the plane ticket already! I BROKE UP WITH YOU!

        Him: Man! So I guess this is really over, then!

        Me: !?!?!1!?1!

        (He went on to become a lawyer).

          1. I can laugh about it now (mostly), but yeah, that guy was bad. I remember thinking “but they don’t make birthday cards that say ‘Drop dead!!!'”

    4. I once had a guy I was involved with tell me “I don’t want to be your boyfriend” and I said “oh, okay. I’m going to need some space” and then two weeks later he was blowing up my phone with “why aren’t you talking to me?!” When I said “well, you broke up with me and I told you I need some space” he said he hadn’t broken up with me and was just telling me how he felt.

      But come on, if you tell someone you’re in a relationship with “I don’t want to be your boyfriend” rather than whatever it is you plan to later claim you mean by that, they can be forgiven for taking you at your word! Don’t use breakup-coded language if you don’t want to break up. (I think, although it’s hard to be certain, that what he wanted was for me to cry and beg him to reconsider, and when I didn’t he just didn’t have a road map for the interaction.)

      1. Oh hey looks like that guy really gets around! This actually crystallized the definition of “withholding affection” for me. In the past I had wondered things like “How do you tell what is withholding affection from what is just needing space and not feeling affectionate?”

        My conclusion: someone who wants space will be relieved when you leave them alone and come to you when they’re ready. The fact that you respected the boundary they set will be a good thing. But someone who is withholding affection doesn’t actually want to be left alone. They want to set you up as the one who Done Them Wrong and you need to earn your way back into their good graces.

        1. Someone who’s withholding affection is trying to make it more valuable on the market by increasing its scarcity.

          1. Okay, I should not have just taken a sip of water…

            I do love economist humor.

          2. Not realizing that the demand for “confusing douche” falls when a supply of “freedom from confusing douche” is handy

          3. This is definitely the best “economics of dating” that I’ve ever heard.

            Cause usually that stuff is about how women who have premarital sex ruin the market for marriage. This is WAY MORE ACCURATE

          4. Oh my godddddd. You just described my ex-boyfriend. He was an economics major who looked at everything in terms of cost-benefit. (Actual quote: “If I met someone else, they’d have to be really hot for the potential benefits to outweigh the cost of losing our relationship.” Romantic, no?) He was also a cold, emotionally withholding toolbag. I could never figure out why he couldn’t just be affectionate to me and this. Is why. THIS IS WHY.

      2. I have two awful stories for this, involving two different friends and two different terrible people they were dating!

        The first one was a high school friend whose terrible, awful, no good, very bad boyfriend proposed to her by telling her “I don’t want to be your boyfriend anymore.” She was stunned. He kept repeating it till she started to cry. Then he got down on one knee, brought out the ring, and said, “I want to be your husband.” When she told me this story, she framed it as romantic and joyful. Thankfully, they did not make it to the wedding.

        The second one, years later, a different friend’s terrible boyfriend came to her house to break up with her, but told her “Even on the way over here, I wasn’t sure whether to break up with you or have sex with you.” Guess which one they ended up doing. *sigh* Eventually they split too.

        1. Hey, the first one sounds like a pretty honest proposal… “I wanted to set the tone for our marriage by making you cry. That’s gonna happen a lot.”

          1. Truth in advertising!

            I gotta say I choke-laughed so hard at this, and I wasn’t even eating/drinking anything! TY for that! 😂

      3. I had a friend who told her fiance (a very good friend of mine) “I not attracted to you anymore and I don’t think I am in love with you” and he sought affection/physical reassurance from her, which she declined and he respected that, went a bit catatonic and cried a bit, and then she left to stay with another partner. The next day he called me and told me they broke up, and I happened to only be a few hours away, and a few days later he got on a train to me, and I drove him across the country where I live for a week of break up mourning and having all the feelings and getting a bit of space, then he went back home and put his life back together and moved and whatnot.

        About a month later I made a comment to a mutual friend about her breaking up with him, and friend said “Well, he’ll being telling people that but it’s not true. She’s really upset he’s been lying about that, because he broke up with her.” I was surprised by this, and being also friends with her for years, I reach out to her to check in about this, whereupon she told me *verbatim, same exact words, same exact story* their break-up story, except in it she was “JUST BEING HONEST ABOUT HER FEELINGS* and “never intended to break up” and it was so very unfair that she told him she neither loved him nor was attracted to him, then physically left their shared home, and that he took that as a breaking off of their engagement. The gall of him!

        I was utterly aghast and did not cover it well.

        1. Yeah, it was some bizarro world shit. She actually told me “Well, I was always told honesty is the best policy” and I probably less eloquantly was like “Well, yeah, it was better to be honest about that before the wedding because what was the alternative but ‘honesty’ doesn’t absolve you from all responsibility of how your feelings and truth land on others you tell.” And like wtf outcome did she want anyway??? That was still never clear to me.

    5. LOL. I had a boyfriend who broke up with me, except a week later he found out that I was basically saying screw it to the entire damn state and was all sad “I just meant for us to take a break.” (I really hated living there, had only stayed for the last 2 years because of him.) My response was basically, you broke up with me, you don’t get to take it back, fuck you. Within 2 months I’d gotten a job and moved 2000 miles. With a massive pay bump.

      He was drunk/sad texting and calling for a bit, but eventually seemed to get over it. Meaning: left me alone.

    6. I lived with a guy in college who said he wanted me to move out for the summer and have us take a break. I told him that if I moved out that we were breaking up permanently and that I was not coming back. He thought about it for a week and still wanted me to move, so I did. Like CLOCKWORK, he showed up at my new place that fall trying to get back together with me. When I said, “No, we’re done. I told you that,” he claimed that he didn’t think I was serious and tried to enlist my mom’s help to convince me to change my mind.

    7. So I totally had the opposite problem. Dude was talking marriage the last time we saw each other before going long-distance (would you take my last name? Etc) and I assumed that meant hey, we were still together. For nearly two years. Because he kept signing his letters “Love, Dude.” And so, when we were getting to the point where we’d see each other again soon, I said something like, hey, what are your plans, and Then about Two Years Later, he says, oh we broke up.

    8. I just love when somebody gets genuinely bewildered that you aren’t playing the part they cast you in in their mental soap opera.

  7. Q17: I’ll admit that I definitely use “I will let you know” as a script for people who either won’t take the hint, or for whom giving them a straight “no” would lead to a lot more drama. Not passive aggressive, just trying to shut down a venue for someone else to start drama.

    For example, my super-religious Trumpster mother-in-law gets an “I’ll let you know” when she asks if the kids can go to her church specials–I don’t feel like explaining why we don’t want to attend anything there AGAIN.

    My own mom gets “I’ll let you know” a lot in regards to helping out or getting together–she’s a “give an inch, take a mile” type person, and if if there’s not a hard boundary, she tends to crowd other people out of the room our out of roles that should be theirs.

    For a lot of people, when I say “I’ll let you know” it means just that–I need to check on something else before I can commit.

    I think the way to judge what your friends really mean would be to look at, do they *actually* get back in touch with you later? Or does that effectively end the conversation?

    1. I kinda wonder if what’s happening is that the asker has been accused of being passive-aggressive, either after using it in self-defense like you say or being straightforward with someone who is angling for an immediate yes

    1. So just out of curiosity, I searched the guy’s name and… I should NOT have done that! Holy Hell, y’all.

      He was so pissed off about The Captain’s response and the commentariat’s reactions to him here, that he wrote *another piece* that is astonishingly *even worse* about what a victim he is of the Internet Rage of Feminists. Because being told that he’s wrong by women is just like MRAs harassing women bloggers online – true story (/s). Gaslighting City doesn’t even begin to describe it. He has constructed an entire Gaslight Universe with a force-field the no one is getting through, calling criticisms “misdirected rage” at “those moments when real vulnerability happens in men.”

      Even his friends are suggesting that he just might have a blind-spot about the power he holds here – including the power dynamics around telling the story to begin with – and he’s more interested in talking about “creating a safe space for people holding all points of view” (No, not as long as Nazis and Men Who Believe They Are Entitled To Women exist) and how “shaming people won’t create the change we need.” Who exactly “we” is in that sentence and what exactly he thinks “we need” I’m still not sure about. Because what *I* need is for people like this to never feel emboldened to voice such a toxic stance again, and for major publications to stop giving them a platform.

      Just… Wow.

      1. Yeah, he tries to stir it up every now and then that I harassed him and it’s like, nope, never @’d his screenname or contacted him directly on any platform, untagged & blocked when people tried to tag us both into convos on Twitter, wrote exactly 1 blog post about his work, can provide screenshots of me telling my readers NOT to leave comments on his site or otherwise engage. You can’t harass someone you’ve never interacted with except to write about public words he wrote on my own public website. Thinking his ideas are dangerous and oblivious is not “harassment” the same way not talking to someone you don’t want to talk to anymore isn’t “violence.”

        I continue to think people from our community should not comment or otherwise engage him – he’s shown he’s tenacious and won’t take no for an answer, and I don’t want to fuel his little persecution complex, but like Marie Claire’s Rich I still sometimes think: “Ayyyy, this fucking guy.”

        1. Geez. Welp, now I know why she dumped him in the first place. (As if I was wondering…!)

        2. I checked the year on that Marie Claire blogpost – TWICE. Nope, still not 1950. Then I sent it to my sort-of boyfriend with a THANKS FOR MAKING ME DIRTY SNOW and he is (reportedly) laughing too hard to text me back in complete sentences. #CAFTW !!!

        3. “Yeah, he tries to stir it up every now and then…”

          My first reaction: “JFC that article and CA’s reaction to it were 4 years ago hasn’t he moved the fuck on yet?”

          Then I remembered the timeline represented by his article, which was itself part of that timeline. No. This guy does not move the fuck on. That is a major part of that fucking guy’s entire fucking problem.


  8. For #5 and #17, passive aggressive mind games are the worst. The wooooorst. Any time someone can’t just come out and tell me what’s wrong, and instead uses everything else – strategic word choices and phrasing; vague, ominous, oddly timed remarks; tone of voice and sounds like sighing and grunting; body language; and actions like slamming doors and stomping – to let me know they’re angry with me, and it’s my job to put it all together to figure out how they feel, what I did wrong, and what I need to do to fix it before they explode at me and irreversable damage is done to the relationship, it’s upsetting. I don’t want to play that game. Talk to me about the problem so we can fix it, or acknowledge that your feelings are petty and that’s why you don’t feel like you can say anything, and then deal with that crap yourself.

    1. It’s a “the only winning move is not to play” situation.

      For example: recently I was the recipient of the silent treatment (with bonus triangulation and manipulation) and instead of playing the game and spending my time in misery trying to figure out what I’d done and therefore should apologize for I decided I was just going to let it go on — sent texts like I would have normally, answered like I would have normally, and refused to engage with whatever mind-reading was expected of me. I didn’t play the “manage the other person’s emotions” game.

      It was so liberating, only to have to know what was going on in my own head (tricky at the best of times).

  9. For Q 13, if the person writing in is the sister, I’m so sorry this has happened to you. If it comes down to a choice of keeping your boyfriend, or getting your brother back, consider whether you think your brother would do this to you again if you got another boyfriend in the future. If a boyfriend were treating you the way your brother is, what would you do? Are there other things your brother is doing or saying that are making you feel uncomfortable? Regardless of whether you stay with your boyfriend, consider talking to a therapist or pastor for help on how to deal with your brother (or the lack of your brother if he follows through with his threat), and if you need to make a break from your brother (and/or other family members) but are worried about your safety, seek help from a domestic abuse hotline or organization.

  10. #17 – I have a friend, who I was fairly close with for a while, who used to (maybe still does? I’ve distanced myself) use “Maybe” as a way to avoid saying “No” when she didn’t want to disappoint people/burn bridges/whatever. It wasn’t passive aggressive in the sense of deliberately trying to be a covert asshole, but it always caused bigger problems than if she had just said no, because now she just had people stringing along behind her waiting for a real answer. A few times she told one person that maybe she would do a thing, and then later told another person who she didn’t have as much to lose with that she would definitely not be doing that thing, which led to even bigger messes.

    So it really depends on what’s happening with the “I will let you know” stuff. If someone tells you that and then gets back to you pretty reasonably, or at least answers the question once you remind them a bit later, then I wouldn’t call it passive aggressive. But if it seems like a way to get you or others off of their back without straight up saying no, it might be.

    A really important caveat, though, is that sometimes people use the soft no because they don’t know if the person they’re talking to is safe to say a real no to. Especially if you’re a masculine-presenting person and you’re hearing this from women you don’t know super well, especially in dating/sexy contexts, take it as a no, don’t take it personally, and move on.

    1. I have a friend I love quite a lot whom I almost never see outside of our shared activity because I quit keeping my schedule free when he said, “Maybe we could get together for lunch this weekend.” Maybe invariably turned into “Actually, the kids are cranky and I didn’t get sleep and it’s just not a good time, but next week for SURE,” and my life is too short and my time too golden to wait on a next week that never comes.

      I do love my buddy and the few times HE has proposed something that fits my schedule, I’ve gladly said yes. But after the Nth time of me saying “I love you and love your kids even if they’re cranky and I just want to come hang with my friend for a couple of hours” got no response or “not a good time,” I took the damn hint. I just wish I didn’t have to interpret his soft “yes” as a “no.”

      (A couple of times he’s gotten really huffy that we “don’t hang out anymore.” He didn’t like it when I pointed out that my schedule is basically open on the weekends, so anytime he wants to hang out, he has my number. I’m done always being the one reaching out.)

      1. This is the worst. Constantly cancelling and then never reaching out to make plans themselves. I can’t help but feel that our friendship really isn’t worth that much to them, which feels crazy because we have so much fun together when we do hang out. But if they wanted to hang out with me, I guess I wouldn’t be at the bottom of their list of priorities.

  11. I have always taken “we’ll see” or “maybe” as “no.” This has resulted in me being called overdramatic because I assumed the event was called off.

    1. Different people use it different ways – it’s very context dependent- so if it’s people who are consistently in your life you can often figure it out from patterns over time.

    2. I also tend to err on the side of interpreting tentatives as nos. It can help to have a cutoff date in mind.

      You: (On Sunday) “Wanna do [thing] next Saturday?”

      Them: “Maybe!”

      You: “Okay, cool! If you’re interested let me know by Wednesday, because I have to buy tickets/line up a sitter/pick up snacks/do my laundry on Thursday instead/[insert reason of choice].”

      1. I do this too, except with immediate family, who I have learned treat “maybe” as “Yes, but some details are fuzzy.”
        Most of the family members in physical doing things distance work in the same field and tend to forget some of us (read: me) aren’t on that field’s hours so assumptions, they get made.

        Anyway, nothing wrong with deciding that YOU aren’t going to accept “maybe” and attempt to change the culture by insisting on hammering things down at least a little before you commit.

      2. This is exactly how I interpret them. Only positive-confirmation, not negative-confirmation for me and my planning.

        For a couple people it’s because their “maybe!” is borne from deep anxiety around saying “no” and not wanting to let people down, but it always ends up being a “no”. So I let them save face and just assume I won’t see them.

        For others it’s because they work erratic schedules or have unpredictable family situations (sick toddlers do not care about your weekend plans) and really won’t know for a bit but are definitely interested.

        Other people just have FOMO and maybe want to see if a better offer comes along, and I’ve made inner peace with that.

        Either way, a deadline to move on has saved me from a lot of stress and emotional upset when my expectations got dashed.

  12. The URL of the passive-aggression article previews as “3462 signs you’re being passive-aggressive,” which gave me a chuckle. (It’s not incorrect; that’s just how it renders. It’s 7 signs.)

    I could… probably approach 100 signs I have witnessed or perpetrated in my day, but 3,462 would be some serious next-level listicling.

    1. I like “steam-spitting kettle” . And, sometimes, that kettle calls the “lid-popping pot” black.

  13. Kundera’s Rule of 3 explains a lot of my dating history. I didn’t know there was a rule behind it, I just knew when my current guy didn’t ghost me after date number 3 that there might be something promising there.

    1. The character who articulates & follows it is a gross serial philanderer, so, you know, grain of salt and all that.

  14. 17: I’ll let you know can be very PA. My ex used to use that one for custody matters. I’ll let you know. No contact. I said I’ll ket you know. He would literally not answer up to minutes before said event. Power move. Judge wrote into parenting plan timelines to prevent this. Was embarrassing to have to enter modifications to constantly account for each new PA and power move. So it depends on context. If someone really needs time they should be able to provide a time frame for when they will gave that answer. I don’t know right now but I’ll know before day x. Why don’t I call you then? Etc. I’ll let you know can also be an indirect ‘no’ depending on context. A guy asks you out and you feel nervous to give a hard no. Are you busy Friday? Not sure I’ll let you know.

  15. Ugh, the “wistful statement”, my mum does this alllllllllll the time. Why don’t you just ask for what you want! Your fear of hearing a no means you’re much less likely to get what you want. >_<

  16. #10: Perpetual caveat for the cases where the person writing in/searching is an inconsiderate, entitled asshole whose lack of consideration does harm to everyone around zir and needs zir behavior checked.

    #13: Consider that directed at your brother if you’re the sister whose creepy, controlling brother has disowned her for having the ABSOLUTE GALL to date someone, like she’s a person with agency or something.

    #14: I’m so sorry. I’ve been there, and it sucks. That boundary is absolutely one worth holding.

    #15: CA has this one, but I have an answer for the question in the answer. People do this because most of them are allistic and all up in everyone else’s social relationships, relative social hierarchies, and normative social roles by definition. Selective pressures (applied to genetics and/or social norms) in the context of small, genetically related, culturally homogenous groups are why THAT is the case.

    #16: The third possibility is that this is a catfishing scam of some sort, and the striptease is a prerecorded video. In all cases, disengage; this person is bad with norms and boundaries to the point of doing something that counts as sexual assault in some jurisdictions.

    1. 15: Many allistic people don’t do that, though, so I think this is a bit of a blanket statement.

      Another reason people do it is the same reason people kept telling me to try rock climbing even though I’m afraid of heights – sometimes pushing people outside of their comfort zones means they experience new things that they enjoy. And sometimes, it just means they’re hanging around outside their comfort zones wishing they could go back into them. (For the heights, I enjoyed some rock climbing and disliked others. Now I’m an adult I am better placed to predict which situation is which. Hooray.)

      Sometimes people are trying to validate their choices by getting other people to make the same ones, or there is a strong cultural pressure to follow the same path. Experience will help the LW determine which one it is, or if there’s a bit of both in there. Whatever the reason, they can always ask the other person to knock it off.

  17. re: silent treatment

    I confess I have employed silent treatment in relationships. I don’t know where I saw or learned it first – maybe it was cult thing where after a person left we would shun them? I dunno. I know it’s crappy and I’m working on it with my psych. It gets confusing sometimes though because I get so angry I don’t know what to say so I stop talking. And then once I stop I don’t know how to start.

    All of this is different again from (say) ignoring a child who is arcing up for attention and you need to ignore them till they change their behaviour. That’s a very specific behaviour-response technique that should be employed carefully so you don’t cross the line from encouraging-appropriate-behaviour into abuse territory.

    1. I think the people who are doing it probably feel at least part of the way that you do – “I don’t know how to talk about feelings right now, so I can’t talk about anything” and they shut down almost as a safety mechanism – but that can be part of metacommunication with the people you live with, right? “Sometimes when I’m upset I shut down and I don’t know how to turn it back on again. If I ever do that, give me like, 24 hours of space and then gently re-open the conversation and I’ll do my best to un-turtle and talk about it.” And in that 24 hours you can write down some things about your feelings or do some practices you learn in therapy so you’re ready. Grownups can need Time Outs, too.

      It’s the “If you don’t know what you did, I’m not going to tell you” version that is just so, so abusive.

      1. Sometimes I sort of feel bad that my father would probably say that’s what I’ve been doing to him for 13 years.
        And then I remember that he stalked me online and tried to get my mother to throw me out of the house when he found out I was kinky so he really should know what he did.

  18. Oh god, I had the most toxic PA housemate who would use the silent treatment constantly, punctuated with angrily knitting at me and long-suffering glares in my direction, for such offenses as inviting a date back to the house or coming home from work unexpectedly with a migraine. The final episode ending with her exploding in a facebook post where she tried to present me as being this horrible, abusive person who had been “treating her like shit” by having the AUDACITY to not be a perfectly deferential guest while legally subletting a room in her house and paying an equal share of the rent. Needless to say, I don’t play that game anymore.

    1. “Angrily knitting” is definitely a thing. You know you’re a pretty good knitter if you can angry-knit without dropping stitches or having stitches so tight that they are about the size of a gnat’s anus and mess up your nice even “pretty calm, don’t even want to strangle someone with this skein of yarn right now” tension in the rest of your WIP.

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