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.
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:
- Exhibitionism! They “generously” want to “share” their nakedness with the world, one new “friend” at a time.
- 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.