Short Answer Friday! Reading a story tonight! Kittens! Exclamation points!

Hello readers,

You can submit questions at the Patreon thread (advantage: you get more than 280 characters and first dibs) or on Twitter (@CAwkward, #awkwardfriday). Submissions close at noon. FYI answers will slide slightly later today and probably won’t be updated piece by piece since I have a last minute appointment at noon. Like, everything will get answered today, but if you’re planning to refresh over your lunch hour you might be disappointed. Comments open when the whole thread is posted.

In other news, I’m reading the true story of the person who inspired the Darth Vader Boyfriend tag on my site at You’re Being Ridiculous at Uncommon Ground in Edgewater tonight, and some tickets are still available as of this morning, come & see! The venue is accessible, the food is great, the lineup for the rest of the shows tomorrow and next weekend is also great (I’m gonna try to go tomorrow and see Lily Be & Clarence, two of my favorite Chicago storytellers. We couldn’t all be on the same bill or the awesomeness would shut down the city).

In other news: Kittens.

Image description: Two brown tabby kittens snuggling the everloving shit out of each other. Daniel is on his back with his belly exposed, Henrietta is spooning him.
Image: Henrietta, a classic brown tabby kitten, looking all elegant and fierce as she lounges in a window.
Image: Daniel Tiger, a “mackerel” tabby kitten, hanging out on his round ball toy and staring into camera with his pretty green eyes.

Ok, let’s do this!

Q1: Back on June 1st I asked you about finding a job in three months. I think I’m just going to slip under the wire with two part-time service jobs (though housing is currently being resolved). I’m still working through a certain amount of guilt and shame about being underemployed, but the job search was so harrowing for me that I’m probably going to be staying in these positions for a year or two. I’ve successfully used a half-truth in conversation — “I’m using these jobs to support my writing and illustration” — but only in passing. If I have to talk about it for more than thirty seconds, my anxiety about what the person I’m talking to thinks of me and what my future holds bubbles up. I’m working on making a plan for the future, but do you have any tips for making this conversation about what I’m doing right now (with myself and with other people) less weird?

A1: When I moved to Chicago in August 2000, the job I relocated for dried up three weeks later and we entered a recession. So began three years of odd jobs and temping, which everyone [everyone = mostly my parents & my inner critic, but also some friends who went to same fancy college chimed in now and again] decided was somehow beneath me. I had had a pretty responsible job back in DC, I was one of the youngest people at my company to ever be promoted, it aligned with my college major and looked good on paper, it was congruent with my idea of myself and my parents idea of me as a high-achieving person. But I was crushingly unhappy there – drowning in depression, hair falling out in clumps, losing time crying in the shower, literally saying I had “client meetings” and then sneaking out for whole days to watch movie after movie in a row in the local indie theater (which, since I did all my work nobody noticed for a year) – and when I left to do something else without really knowing what what was it felt like a victory. It felt like survival. It just didn’t look that way to other people yet and I didn’t have that very American way of answering what I did for a living as if it was who I am.

(I wasn’t even an artist or a writer then. I wasn’t even temping to support a Real Career that I could tell people was what I really did).

After one of the most godawful evenings of my life at a local happy hour for fellow young alumni of my college, where everyone seemed dipped in some kind of golden success paste and had a business card that said Vice President on it, I leaned the fuck into it. My work put food on my table. I literally could not afford to be ashamed of it. And I had to reckon with the shitty classist thoughts I’d had about being better than the people who did that work. Cleaning houses (badly, I am bad at that job) put food on my table. Waiting tables (badly, I am not great at that job) put food on my table. Working as the night receptionist for a taxi & limo company (badly, I am bad at that job) put food on my table. Working at a phone sex hotline for a single day (because you need to not laugh to to do that job and I was very bad at it) put at least a sandwich on my table. Temping for various corporations as the spreadsheet person or the WordPerfect guru (badly, I am bad at that job) put food on my table. For one particularly awful stretch my job was to stand inside a storage closet at a financial corporation and shred documents. I got in trouble for dragging an unused chair into the closet so I could sit’n’shred. I got in trouble for wearing headphones and listening to music while I shredded stuff. I literally got fired from a job shredding documents in a closet for not being good enough at it. I was white and had a fancy degree and used big words and had a set of real pearls, so people kept giving me chances to suck at things in their corporate settings. I was lucky. 

One time in 2001 I was at a party with some of the went-to-my-college young professionals and a dude there was kind of hitting on me and he asked what did I do? and I said “I work for you.”

“Come again?”

“I work for you.”

“No, that’s not possible.”

“Do you work for XYX company?”


“On the 25th floor?”


“And your office is on the south side of the building, near the printer?”

“Yes, is this some kind of joke?”

“You know the cube with the printer in it?”


“And sometimes someone sits there pretending to do data entry but she minimizes her browser window every time you come get a printout?”

“I hadn’t really noticed, but, sure.”

“Yeah, that person is me. I work FOR YOU.”

“But you went to school with Josh & Laura & all them.”

“Sure did.”

Guess who didn’t get laid that night.

Guess who had her temp position abruptly eliminated the following Monday.

Are you putting food on your table? Who are these people that you need to impress with your endless potential? You needed a job so you got two of them. And you’re a writer and an illustrator on top of that. You have literally nothing to apologize for or feel embarrassed about (nor would you if you were still unemployed). You have to pay your electric bill and be kind to other people. That’s all. 

In these conversations, people will take their cues from you. “I’m working as ____ while I get my next novel out the door.” “Oh, I work at ____.” Anyone who treats you as Less Than for putting food on your table with the tools & resources you have available is being a jerk, and that includes your Inner Critic.

Q2 & Q3: Probably a silly question but: I emailed someone about a posting for an extremely part-time job a month ago asking if they were still looking for people, and they replied saying they would be in the fall and asking me to say a bit about myself. That was a whole month ago, and I haven’t replied because I found it stressful to write all the right things and wasn’t sure whether I should attach a resume (I would have to completely revamp one for this position). Can I still reply now, and if so, is it ok to open with “Sorry, somehow I missed this email!” even though that is a lie? Or should I take my own procrastination as a sign that this is too much for me and let it go?

Actually, maybe a better question (pick your favorite, or neither!) is this broader one since I’m realizing this is a recurring problem for me: Is there a way to follow up on situations where I really genuinely meant to continue an interaction with someone but just….didn’t get around to it, possibly due to fear of saying the wrong thing, until a shockingly large amount of time has passed? And do you have any tips for not getting into these situations in the first place?

A2 & A3: I want you to try something for the rest of 2018.

For this job listing, I want you to send a note today, resume attached and a 3-4 sentence email about yourself. I don’t want you to use the word “Sorry” anywhere. “Hi, are you still looking for people, here’s my info!”

You’ll either get a call or you won’t. I want you to also start doing that with other contacts (social & business) that you want to get in touch with after a lapse or a break.

Like, write the email as you normally would:

“Hey Englebert, I’m so sorry I haven’t been in touch before. Do you still want to try to see Eighth Grade this weekend?”

Then delete the “sorry” part and ask them a question or say something nice. “Hey Englebert, how is everything coming with the new house? Any chance you have a minute to see a movie with me this weekend?” 

For the rest of 2018, just get rid of the part where you make people participate in your apology dance and say the thing (about working for them, about wanting their company) that you wanted to say.

Q4: We, 2 adults 2 little kids and 10 Fish, are moving next weekend to a house nearly half the size. My partner is looking forward to this, he thinks it will improve his health, he works all day away from home. I’m the SAHM, the house is my workplace, it’s a little notch down for me. It’s 10 min farther to ALL things. I’m telling myself this is an 18-24 month situation. Any mantra ideas to stay a good sport through the transition?

The deal is done, right? The decision is made, the house is rented/bought, the movers are booked, it’s happening, there was presumably a reason that this was the right next step for the family?

If you’re gonna complain (which, sure, it sounds like you’re the one losing out!), taking that to your friends and/or therapist or people outside of your partner & kids is probably the healthiest thing.

The rest of the work is probably making a nice corner that is just yours. Preferably with a door. That shuts.

Q5: I (27 yo) have a job that I absolutely love and that enables me to support myself in a really awesome part of the world. My mother, though, has decided that I should move into a higher-prestige career (say, “lawyer”), despite the fact that I lack the most basic qualification for said career (say, “law degree”). For the past few months, we’ve fought about this every single time we talk. When I point out my complete lack of qualifications, she takes this as an invitation to comment on my hobbies (specifically, I’m in a monthly D&D group…and obviously an occasional game of D&D is the only thing stopping non-lawyers from being lawyers). Help

A5: People who use any possible excuse to crap on your life choices maybe don’t get to hear the details of your life choices. Some possible choices:

1) Try giving your mom even less information than you already do about what you do with your time. Put her on an Only Small Talk diet for a while: the weather, a TV show you both like, what you’re having for dinner, questions about stuff you know she’s into. Nothing about your hobbies or friends or career.

2) When the conversation starts to steer into Time To Criticize You territory, get off the phone or otherwise bow out. “Ok, that’s all the time I have! Talk to you soon, love you!” & go. One time during the Temping Years above, my mom said that she wouldn’t have wasted all that money on my college education if she’d known I was going to end up as a temp (“End up” = I was 26). I put the phone (a landline) down on the counter and left the house for the day. Who knows how long she talked into the void. Same with my grampa who got it into his head for a while that I wanted to work in military intelligence (guess who had worked in military intelligence?). “Oh Grampa, you know I don’t want to do that, let’s talk about something else.” He’d keep right on talking like I hadn’t said anything, so, the phone would go down on the nearest flat surface and I’d go get some exercise. His long distance bill could take the beating but my ears didn’t have to. If you’re just calling to be mean to me, who needs it? And guess what? They stopped browbeating me!

3) Try this literally every time she says it: “Oh Mom, you know I don’t want to be a lawyer, but it sounds like you might!” 

Q6: I was on the subway yesterday. Some dude started smoking weed inside the train car. I said, “Hey, can I ask you to stop? That aggragates athsma and allergies.” I started getting heckled by some other people. “Weed doesn’t actually cause allergies.” “You can just move to another train car.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I told them to fuck off which wasn’t a great way of handling it. Short of calling the police, which I wouldn’t ever do for something like this, do you have any tips for de escalating or handling this kind of situation? I come across people smoking on this train once every couple of months, so it wasn’t a one off.

A6: Glad you’re not calling the police! Smoking weed on the train is annoying but it doesn’t need a potential death sentence.

This is one of those times that you’re in the right but the other person is playing with a pro level of “I don’t give a fuck,” so your polite “Could you not?” isn’t really going to register with someone who is already flouting social norms, rules, and laws even if there were somehow a perfect way to phrase this. Say your thing, expect to be ignored, plan to move to another car.

Q7: I‘m getting married soon and while I’m thrilled to be marrying my fiancé, there is a money issue stressing me out. My father passed away and left most of his money to my stepmother (but she never disclosed the amount). When I got engaged, she told me she really wanted to help pay for the wedding (he had paid for my sister’s) and she’d get back to me in April…four months ago, and not a peep since. We could really use the help for some final expenses but I don’t know how to ask without sounding greedy or like I expect it. Should I just leave it alone and hope she gives us money as a wedding gift?

A7: Congratulations!Figure out if it’s money you need to do the thing or if it’s more of a nice-to-have, and work from there. If you do ask her, just be direct: “You mentioned back in April that you’d be willing to help us with some wedding costs. If that offer is still open, we could use some help with x and y, let me know, thanks!” 

If she truly wants to help, and you know her to be generally straightforward, it is her privilege to help you and make you that kind of gift. You asking her isn’t an imposition, it’s a helpful reminder.

If she can’t help after all or the offer wasn’t sincere, it’s not your fault for asking – it was never gonna happen anyway.

Q8: Hi Captain,

I feel like I would like to identify as asexual, but I’m not sure there’s any point. I have sex because it’s important to my husband but even though I enjoy it I never actively desire it or think about it when it’s not happening, and could happily go celibate indefinitely. Having sex is just not part of my identity or passions.

How can I tell if I’m actually ace, or if it’s just resistance against/alienation brought on by patriarchal capitalism? (i.e. the fact that women’s bodies are synonymous with “sex” just by existing, according to the advertising industry).

Is there any point IDing as ace when it won’t stop people (men) viewing me sexually and treating me as though it’s my main purpose? I’m married & monog so there’s no real social need for friends or work to know about my bedroom feelings. Maybe the best way to ‘ID’ as ace is just to keep showing my non-sexual ideas/work/etc? Like how the best atheist is one who talks enthusiastically about astrophysics and leafcutter ants rather than shouting “god’s not real” at everyone?

But also, secretly, the label ace/asexual makes me feel like a cool, elegant, untouchable statue.

I guess: What’s the value of a) telling someone your label, if it doesn’t provide actionable information and b) what does it mean to give yourself a label if you don’t tell anyone (because it doesn’t concern them)? if a tree calls itself asexual and there’s no one around to hear it does it still fall? Is there any point IDing as something which won’t change how people treat me? I’m a cognitive mess over this.

A8: Here’s what I (a non-expert) can tell you:

  • You can feel like a cool beautiful statue if you want to. These labels and identities are there to serve you. You don’t serve them or audition for them. You are the boss and the decider here. If there’s a point for you, then there’s a point. So maybe start there – with self-description and self-acceptance – and work outward as it makes sense for you.
  • There is probably nothing that will make people (men) stop objectifying you. I wish it worked like that.

Q9: Hi Captain – so, it’s been a pretty terrible year due to deaths of several people close to me and assorted other significant family stresses. I love my job, but it is a pressure cooker requiring very long hours and allowing very little time off. What are your thoughts on keeping up with all my regular routines and responsibilities, vs. cutting myself some slack (such as, to read “fun” books instead of challenging history tomes, or to give myself an occasional scheduled binge-watching day) and asking others to take it easy on me? I get a lot of comments from people around me (including my therapist!) that I’m generally performing at life in a disappointing way this year and I’m not living up to my potential, and that I need to step it up and stop making excuses instead of asking for understanding. Advice on how to juggle everything would be greatly appreciated! – Behold my field of breaks, and thou shalt see that it is barren.

A9: IDK, what if you stopped juggling everything and drew even harder boundaries around your personal time? What if instead of asking for slack you made your schedule airtight, with a clear quitting time, and a deliberate unplugging/disconnecting after that time? What if instead of telling the story about how it’s a hard year and you’re probably not living up to potential you tried one that says “I work better when I have clear beginning and ending times and when I schedule a little down time to refresh.” 

One of the most busy & efficient people I know has a notepad of to-do lists that has just three things on it. When those three things are done, she’s allowed to be “done” for the day, and everything else she does is a bonus. Does she do only those three things? Nope! It was more about a mental reframing. She’s pacing herself and remembering to stop and count the work she does as success instead of always looking to the “to be done” part of the to do list.

Last year I stopped reading or answering any emails on weekends. I told students the deal in the syllabus – “I generally respond to emails within 24 hours, except on weekends” – and the world did not end. Right now I don’t really read comments on weekends. I maybe check in once or twice for a few minutes and clean out the spam trap. And the blog is still surviving, somehow.

Also, what the fuck, therapist? How is that a helpful thing to say? Can you ask this person to help you carve out good boundaries around using your time instead of judging you re: your potential?

Q10: Hi Captain – Quick question about a guy I’ve been seeing. He’s really into cycling and has two bikes that are prized possessions of his, he dotes on them and takes great care of them. He’s named them, which I also do with my prized possessions, and he refers to them by their names, but the part that strikes me as odd is that he’s named them after two of his exes. Specifically, using his words, “the only two women [he’s] ever loved” and the only women to break his heart. I don’t even know what to make of that. It sits uncomfortably with me, almost like he’s put these women on a pedestal by honoring them with his bikes. Am I just overthinking this or is it a little off?

A10: Once I got done laughing, I’d be like “Don’t name the next one Jennifer.” If he never brought it up with me again and everything else was great between us, I’d try to ignore it as a weird quirk. If he developed Bike Mentionitis, like, “I was out riding Audrey today, she goes faster than Iphigenia,” I do not know that I could keep a straight face. Good luck?

Q11: How do I tell my extended family and friends about my child’s Autism diagnosis? I don’t want the to treat her different as she is HF, but I want them to understand she isn’t NT so they aren’t offended if she acts weird or we turn down social invitations #awkwardfriday

A11: I have four suggestions:

  • If possible, ask your child what they think Grandma, etc. should know. “It means that sometimes I need a break from crowded spaces, so don’t be mad if I go in a room by myself.” Craft the message together.
  • It’s good news. Your kid is the same kid she was yesterday. There was a reason y’all sought the dx, and now you have answers. “Good news, we have a name to go with some of child’s preferences/behaviors, this will make it much easier for us to do x, y, and z cool thing/accommodation and to find other kids & parents with the same stuff going on!” 
  • Ask family for some specific actions/accommodations that would make your child more comfortable and more welcome. (Again, let your child help steer you).
  • Do some of the Googling for them. There are a lot of shitty resources out there. With the help of your child’s care team and instructors, direct your family to the good ones. One good question as you’re evaluating resources – Is whatever it is created by autistic people for autistic people? That’s probably gonna be the best stuff.

Q12:  I know rejection (for my writing) isn’t personal but it still makes me feel like shit. How deal?

Rejection means you are sending your stuff out there. That’s huge. Collect those rejections and brag on them – every single time you were rejected was a time that you overcame self-doubt and imposter syndrome and pitched your work.

The #ShareYourRejection hashtag on Twitter is pretty great this week, too.

Q13-?: Aaarhh so many questions!
I just finished the Valdemar saga by Mercedes Lackey and now i feel empty inside. What do I do??? 😭😫
I have so much tv to catch up on – where do I start???
What’s your favourite podcast?
Thinking about food & weight stresses me out – how do I stop?!

Read more books!

Start with the TV that feels the least like “work.” Stay away from the stuff that’s just long takes of white men staring into space while holding glasses of booze, even if it is pretty.

I don’t listen to podcasts. (I can’t pay attention to just-audio things).

It’s a process. Maybe start with Health At Every Size and The Fat Nutritionist.

Ok, have a good weekend people.

Comments closed as of 8/19.












225 thoughts on “Short Answer Friday! Reading a story tonight! Kittens! Exclamation points!

  1. LW 10 I think CA’s advice is spot on as per usual. I also know this would bother me…mostly the part where he says “the only women I’ve ever loved” to me the new potential “love interest” because with an ex I learned that sort of thing was the pre-curser to trying to date someone who was utterly emotionally unavailable.

    With my Ex Penley (absurd names ftw) he liked to display gifts from his exs and randomly tell me about the grand romantic gestures he made for them. He had this way of elevating an ex to this mythic level I could not possibly meet. Once I left that unfulfilling relationship, I heard through the grapevine he began doing the same to me. It’s so nice to be cherished when you’re not around….not!

    So keep an eye out for mentionitis

    1. I had an ex like that! I think that was part of a pattern in his life because with jobs and living situations, The One That Got Away was always the best one. Some people seem to be just perpetually dissatisfied and unable to enjoy what they have now. Which sucks for the compare-ee, but it’s not that person’s fault.

  2. Q12 — writing rejections! Oho, I have thoughts about writing rejections.

    Here’s the first one: you don’t have to feel good about being rejected. After the last major rejection I got, I cried for an hour and then took a long nap. I still feel pretty awful about it if I think about too much, so I’m busy making sure I have other stuff to think about. My mom and I have a shared piece of advice that we each give to each other when necessary: It doesn’t have to be pretty. You just have to get through it.

    Rejections might get easier, and they might not, but being angry at yourself or ashamed of yourself for not feeling the way you think you ought to will (in my experience) make things worse 100% of the time.

    Peeps will tell you that the thing to do is to send out so many stories that you forget what all you’ve got out, and so any one rejection feels like less of a blow (because you’ve still got five other stories out there). This is a nice idea if you can swing it, but if you can’t (because you’ve got a full-time job, or are taking care of someone else, or are too tired/depressed/in pain) that’s okay too. This random internet sprangly tree gives you permission to ignore this piece of advice if it’s too overwhelming, no matter how many times it is offered to you.

    A piece of advice that I received — right here on this very same website, six years ago! — that I personally have found deeply useful: consider creating an outlet for your writing where nobody can reject you. I have a story blog where I put up random clips of fiction. Some are good, some are not, but it’s my effing blog, so no one is in charge there except ME. You could also start your own webcomic or podcast or do microfiction on Twitter or Tumblr! Something that helps you connect with other people who are interested in what you’re making and doesn’t involve throwing yourself on the mercy of gatekeepers. Not only is this a lower-stress way of putting your writing out there, if you keep putting stuff up you’re going to end up with a portfolio of stuff you’ve, which is never a bad thing.

    Best of luck!

    1. “Rejections might get easier, and they might not, but being angry at yourself or ashamed of yourself for not feeling the way you think you ought to will (in my experience) make things worse 100% of the time.”

      This is so true. One of the things I’ve come to realize lately in, a large portion of any package of Bad Feelings tends to be made up of Resisting The Bad Feelings, or Being Ashamed Of Having Bad Feelings. I’ve started telling myself, “This is what I am feeling, and it sucks, but I’m allowed to feel it.”

      As a fellow writer, I have a two-phase response routine when the rejection letter comes in:

      1. A designated amount of time during which I don’t have to do anything but Feel the Feelings. During that time I have my own full permission to feel whatever I am feeling, accept that I am feeling it, cry my eyes out, eat a pint of ice cream, yell at the screen, read the rejection letter out loud doing my best impression of a very bad actor portraying Hamlet, whatever. I’m allowed.

      2. Appreciate that this rejection letter represents the end of one more cycle through the Writer Process: I submitted a story to a market, I got a response back from that market. I did the Writer Thing! That means I’m a writer!

      (I guess there’s a third step, and that’s deciding which publication to send the story to next. Do the Writer Thing again! But I don’t always do that on the same day, because sometimes just reacting to the rejection letter takes up all the energy I had allotted for Manuscript Submission Procedures today. That’s OK. Resubbing the story gets priority during tomorrow’s Submission Procedures.)

  3. Thank you for answering my (#2/3) questions! I will follow your instructions because they are good instructions and committing to do so will break me out of my indecision paralysis, I think. Also, the bit about making people participate in my apology dance is useful to hear.

  4. Q12: My recent psychiatrist had a poster on his wall that said in huge letters “Mistakes are proof that you are trying;” it is now my phone’s wallpaper. Rejections are not mistakes, nor do they necessarily indicate mistakes, but they are certainly proof that you are trying and trying is awesome.

    1. “Mistakes are proof that you are trying” – love this so much! Probably no coincidence that your questions also resonated with me. I’m a chronic procrastinator, in part due to anxiety and perfectionism, and definitely need to display this for myself somewhere prominent.

  5. Q8: If the label ace/asexual makes you feel like a cool, elegant, untouchable statue, then it is valuable!

    One question I had reading your letter is: to what extent do you share your [potential] asexuality with your husband? You talk about the possibility of friends and work knowing about your bedroom feelings versus keeping it to yourself, but there is one person who’s not you but is in the bedroom with you and might occupy some intermediate position of relevance here.

    1. Thank you (and thank CA), this has been helpful.

      I didn’t go into communication with my husband basically because there’s no issue there. I’ve talked to him at length (a label isn’t very useful to him – it wouldn’t give him enough information. More useful is lots of details about how I’m feeling, what kind of intimacy we both want, how to ensure enthusiastic consent, making sure there’s always space to communicate freely, etc. We have systems in place that we’re both happy with.

      I do have a slight issue in that I feel like IDing as ace would make people think he’s not getting laid, and that would make him look bad, but that’s 100% my own internalised misogyny – I’ve spoken to him about this, and he only cares about the interior of our relationship, not what other men think (also, he’s v proud and happy to be married to me, so if he did care what other men thinks, he would expect them to think he was lucky). But still, my brain worries about this sometimes. I definitely don’t want to be IDing as “ace, but don’t worry I still fuck!!” though, that’s messed up.

      1. LW8, if you’re interesting in further discussion with people who either identify as ace, or are thinking of identifying as ace, or have been asking themselves “am I ace enough,” or “would it even mean anything for me to identify as ace,” there is a new thread on the Friends of Captain Awkward forum, in the “support groups” sub-forum that is specifically for this.

      2. LW8, I sympathize with you strongly. I identify as asexual/demisexual but just like you I, too, live in a monogamous relationship with a man I love deeply. Still, what I feel for him is unique; the people I have been interested in sexually during my life are few and far between.

        In my opinion you should always be the one who gets to decide your own identity. I am with vanadiumoxide here: if you consider identifying as asexual beneficial, then go forth and proudly be an ace. For myself I considered it helpful because it gave an explonation to many of my experiences; I also felt like it gave me permission to not to try so hard to be interested in people sexually.

        You and only you can decide whether or not you want to tell about your identity to other people. I have told about mine to some friends but not to many older members of my family.

        Asexuality does not have to mean one thing: it can take many forms. As for me I am only interested in my husband and I really cannot explain it.

        Take care of yourself!

  6. Q8: There is an exquisitely wonderful novella by Seanan McGuire called Every Heart a Doorway, and the protagonist is ace and literally turns into a beautiful, cool statue because of her training in the Halls of the Dead.

    If the label feels right to you, that’s what matters!

      1. I taught it to my fantasy class last year, and they loved it, AND one of my students, who had never heard the term asexual before, realized that she was ace as a result of reading the book and was thrilled to have found a term that fit her. My little teacher heart grew three sizes that day.

        1. Oh, dear Dr. Snow, what a wonderful thing you have done! First of all, a fantasy class clearly rules and Every Heart a Doorway apparently helped your student big time. Finding an identity in a young age can be a very helpful thing.

          Take good care of your heart! I am sure it will grown even further in the years to come.

          1. Aww, thank you! I absolutely love teaching (I teach all sorts of folklore and fantasy classes), but that was one of my very, very favorite days. (Also, that student was just fantastic.)

    1. You have correctly identified a very eye-opening book for me – and I second/third/fourth the recommendation to anyone else

    2. OK, wow, I think I never got that book before. Unless I just got it differently, I guess. I did see that she was asexual, but to me it mainly seemed to be a book about suicide. If other people saw the halls of the dead and being a statue as something different than I did, then no wonder they had a different emotional reaction to it than I did.

      1. If it helps, the series (Wayward Children, of which Every Heart is the first) grew out of a gorgeous song that McGuire wrote that is literally about all the girls who get kicked out of magical lands (i.e. Alice of Wonderland, Wendy of Neverland, Susan and Lucy of Narnia, Dorothy of Oz), what they loved about those places and what they did after they were kicked out. I definitely do not think that Every Heart was intended to be about suicide, but I can see how you might interpret it that way! The Halls of the Dead are just one of many different underworlds, among many other different kinds of worlds, in the series in which people might find their heart home.

        1. The different worlds are very evident in the book. Just that they really read, to me, as metaphors for various mental health problems. It was a beautiful book, but I also found it very disturbing.

  7. Q8: The definition of asexual is someone who does not, or only under certain circumstances, or rarely, feel(s) sexual attraction. Much like bisexual does not = has sex with two or more genders, asexual does not = doesn’t have sex.

    Some ace people have sex. Some don’t. Some asexual people are sex repulsed. Some aren’t. Some ace people are kinky. Some asexual people have a high sex drive. Some have a low sex drive. Some gay people have low sex drives,for instance. Some gay people are sex repulsed.

    You can identify as anything you want, obviously, for whatever reason, but “doesn’t have sex” is not what the definition of asexuality is, and the assumption it is, is kind of… rough on us tbh. Asexuality is your sexual orientation, not your sex drive.

    1. I think maybe you misread my question? I said I *do* have sex and also I identify (or want to) as ace, so – yeah I obviously don’t think not having sex is what defines asexuality. I’ve read about a billion posts and forums and twitter accounts and articles etc, and I know I align with how a lot (not all) of ace people describe themselves. Of course, I am also full of self-doubt, which is part of why I’m writing here – but if I compare those descriptions to my feelings and experiences, they are the same.

      Maybe just the grammar of a sentence or my attempt to keep it short gave an ambiguous impression of what I think asexuality is.

      1. No, I didn’t. I read, “I never actively desire it or think about it when it’s not happening, and could happily go celibate indefinitely. Having sex is just not part of my identity or passions.”

        Whether you want to have sex or not is not what sexual attraction is, and asexuality is about sexual attraction. You never mentioned it. You solely mention having sex and sex drive.

        1. Okay, you’re right, I didn’t express myself well. There was a lot in my head and I was very nervous about writing it and also trying not to make it too long, and the stuff that should have come out didn’t. But now your comment is there so anyone reading will get the not get the wrong idea about asexuality.

          1. Why do you feel a need to label yourself? I’m not being snarky. I just don’t understand the need for a label.

            You are what you are, regardless of whatever word(s) you or anyone else use as a descriptor.

            Moreover whether youre ace, bi, gay, etc… whether youdo or don’t have sex and with whom is only your and the person/people you are or might have sex with business.

            I guess I’m saying that while there’s no need to hide being ace (::raises hand::) I just don’t see a need for anyone beyond me and my husband to know it because 1) it’s private and 2) most people don’t really care. Those that *do* care generally have an agenda.

          2. @Kaos I can’t speak for the LW8, but for me, labeling myself is something I do for me, not for anyone else. I do it to name and validate m experience, to put into words that part of who I am and to feel less erased by society. Sometimes I share those words and labels with my cool people, and sometimes I share them with people to whom it might benefit to know that there’re others out there with similar experiences and concerns.

            I’m in agreement with all the people who pointed out that, if defining herself as ace helps the LW feel good about herself, she should feel totally free to use that label. For herself. Because she’s enough, she matters enough to name herself and her experiences.

          3. I can’t speak for the LW either, but almost everyone labels themself, with lots of things–they’ll identify as Canadian, as having graduated from XYZ College, by religion or gender, as fans of a musician or television program or hockey team, as adventurous or conservative, creative or hard-working or liking to go with the flow.

            I’m not sure I’ve ever seen or heard “why do you feel the need to label yourself?” in response to mainstream labels like “I’m a Red Sox fan” or “a lawyer” or “a Texan” or “a mother.” Most of the people who “don’t really care” that :LW8 is ace also aren’t going to care that I’m a New Yorker or someone else is a hockey fan.

            Yes, the person who cares about you or the LW being asexual might have an agenda–but the agenda might be “talk to someone safe about thinking they might be asexual” or “ask for a way to explain this to their parents” or “I just found out my $relative is asexual, and could at least use a pointer to a FAQ before I say something stupid.” I once had someone at a party ask if it would be okay to ask me some questions about polyamory, because he’d heard me say things that made it clear that I’m polyamorous and had had those questions for a while. I don’t always want to do polyamory 101 (or any other 101) at a party, but in that case I could have told him “not right now, I want to talk to Jerry.”

        2. I don’t think it’s helpful or fair to insist that asexuality be defined in one specific way. And it seems, quite frankly, rude to attempt to parse the specifics of someone’s personal understanding of their sexuality in such an argumentative manner. If LW8 (or anyone else) identifies as asexual, they get to define what asexual means to them.

      2. My other comment got hit by moderation, and this is really bad for my blood pressure so the last comment I’m going to make is:

        There are a lot of bisexual people who describe themselves as bisexual and define it as as “attracted to men and women”. That doesn’t mean they aren’t bisexual, and it doesn’t mean that can’t be what it means for them, but that also doesn’t mean that “attracted to men and women” isn’t an outdated, exclusive definition of bisexuality.

        1. Hi Barlowstreet.

          I find most of your comments very valuable. But when you make statements like this: “but that also doesn’t mean that “attracted to men and women” isn’t an outdated, exclusive definition of bisexuality”

          It kind of begs for additional resources.

          I’m not saying that you’re wrong!

          I’m saying that there is an overall vibe where you have decided that my comments section is the place to have some of these discussions, and you’d prefer to have some of them as arguments/debates born out of drive-by comments and statements like this, and you want to be seen/consulted as an authority on sexuality (esp. asexuality) and gender identity, but without links/archives/writing/context – something that a person who doesn’t really know about this stuff or who is only marginally conversant but who wants to know could look at and say “Oh, this makes lots of sense, thank you!”

          The feeling I get when I read statements like that (which may or may not be what you intend, it’s just my feeling as a person) is that we’re all missing out for not already knowing the stuff you know and getting it wrong, but without the “if you’re interested in this, here’s what you could read” aspect that might, idk, make some of these discussions go better?

          FYI I have a show in 2 hours, I’m probably not moderating much for the rest of the weekend, the spam filter is hungry (I’m not sending each and everyone of your comments to moderation to stress you out, but I’m also not babysitting it rn).

          No need to reply. And nobody else needs to weigh in. Just, maybe think about…in a perfect world, what do you want us to know/read/understand? I’m grateful for corrections, but not so much for drive-by escalations. And I feel like every time I research and link to “here’s a good resource on asexuality” in a post here everyone’s like “Not that one!” but with no “try this one instead”, which isn’t just you, but it is A Thing.

          1. No offense, Captain, but the idea of having to do Asexuality 101 every time I say basic facts about my identity sounds absolutely exhausting, and not remotely like something I will ever have the spoons to do for free.

            Good luck at your show.

        2. And, also, most people IME use language that assumes a gender binary most of the time and somehow bisexuals get way way more flack for “I’m attracted to men and women” than gay or straight people do for stating their orientation in similar language. (And of course straight people have the advantage that they often don’t have to state their orientation at all.) Unless you’re going to go around asking straight and gay people to explicitly state whether they’re attracted to nonbinary people or not, maybe don’t pick on bisexuals?

          And this IS picking on bisexuals. The “the word bisexual is intrinsically transphobic” was enough of a *thing* a few years back that I has serious reservations about marching in the bisexual visibility contingent at Pride because of the *word*. How much has that idea limited bisexuals/pansexuals’ ability to organize and advocate for ourselves?

          (FWIW I do think that language that explicitly acknowledges more than two genders is a good thing! And also… maybe not all bisexuals have enough data to figure out whether they’re attracted to NBs or not? Or to some NBs but not others? Some bisexuals have attraction that isn’t gender-based, other bisexuals are attracted to men and women (and nonbinary people if applicable) in different ways. So someone could legitimately say “I am bisexual because I am attracted to men and women” because that person … is attracted to men and women, and not to nonbinary people in that person’s experience, or is unsure about whether they are attracted to nonbinary people or not. (Or because they’re talking to people who have a lot of misconceptions about what bisexual means and don’t want to have that conversation and the gender spectrum conversation at the same time.))

          For more reading:

          On the one hand, this is way off track. On the other hand, gatekeeping of who is “queer enough” or whose queerness is most legitimate can negatively impact bisexuals AND asexuals, so maybe it’s not that off?

          Apparently I’m still on a tirade from that “the word monosexual is homophobic” thing from earlier this week.

          1. Personally, I default to gender binary language all the time, even though I think I shouldn’t. Only a very tiny minority of the time is it in context of me discussing my orientation. So, if everyone just decided to let the gender binary language slide specifically when bisexuals talk about their orientation…there would still be a ton of opportunities for people to call me out on that, because I mess up on it a lot. Like most people.

          2. I was at a pride today, in which I helped to staff a bi space. We had several discussions (and a workshop!) about that label and how it means different things to different people, and how that is actually OK. The range of people went something like this:
            * Bi activist, kind of identifies as pan because their attraction is mostly emotionally based but still use bi as a label because it’s been useful to them
            * Identifies as pan, likes being made welcome in bi spaces
            * Identifies as bi, but is sexually attracted to people on all points of the gender spectrum
            * Identifies as bi, mostly is attracted to binary gendered people but is open-minded
            * Bi but has a preference sexually
            * Bi but has a preference romantically
            * Little fledgling bi not sure how they want to identify but immediately surrounded by protective bi aunties (of all genders)
            One of the things we all agreed on is that the gatekeeping of who is queer enough helps no-one, and harms many. If the label is used as a limit, we’re Doin It Rong™. It should be a way of making people feel safe and accepted, not of putting them in a nice neat box and forgetting about them.

          3. No. You are a cis person acting like trans people are demanding inclusion AT you, in a world where concerned parents just declared open season (LITERALLY) on a trans child for trying to attend school. That is what cissexist language achieves, not to mention prioritizing cis resentment over trans visibility, and that is why people are having a donnybrook over it all over tumblr.

            You’re on so much of a tirade that you apparently feel the need to defend casual transphobia.

            It isn’t biphobic to challenge potentially binary and trans-exclusionary language. And it isn’t value-neutral to treat nonbinary and trans people as a weird new idea you just aren’t sure about and therefore cannot reference. It isn’t value-neutral to use cissexist language because it makes things easier for you as a cis person. Like, that stance amounts to transphobic exclusion. You have just described bigotry.

            Just like it would be transphobic for a cis lesbian to specify an orientation towards cis women because oh, well, maybe trans women just aren’t a very significant part of her experience. Just like it would be transphobic for her to use cissexist language because she’s pretty sure that the people she’s talking to are ignorant and it’s gonna be a whole thing to talk as though trans lesbians exist.

            And even though you may not be aware of it, of course there are corresponding trans- and enby-led discussions about binary and trans-exclusionary language happening among other people in the queer community, and of course they include cis gay men and lesbians. Sometimes, they include very spirited discussion about terms whose cissexism is controversial among trans and enby people – look at the assertion that “queer” is more trans and enby inclusive than “gay” or “lesbian.” There is also a very widespread, ongoing discussion about the tendency of all kinds of cis queer people to use language that centers genital configuration and assigned gender and excludes trans and nonbinary people.

            That is kind of how marginalized people stop marginalization when it is pervasive in the communities where they live. It is how we got to where we are now, where cis people display a modicum of self-awareness around terms that were totally acceptable among cis LGBQ+ people ten years ago, like “biological males” and “women and transgenders.”

            Cis bisexual people have not been singled out by a demand for equality. You may never agree with me that terms like “male-partnered” and “monosexual” are more harmful than helpful, but you can do way better than whining about a long-overdue push by trans and enby people to raise self-awareness around cis people. At this point, you’re saying a bunch of gross, exclusionary, hostile things, and you need to stop.

          4. Look, Jen, I know you’re sick of internecine discussions that don’t resonate with you, but this isn’t avocado toast. This is a cis person talking about an ongoing community-wide trans-led fight for inclusion as though it is about the mean trans. And their intolerance towards well-meaning bisexuals who just don’t know enough about nonbinary people to talk about them as though they exist.

            Off the top of my head, here is a list of counterexamples:

            – the cotton ceiling post, which was directed mostly at lesbians
            – the ensuing conversation about hostility towards trans women as partners among cis lesbians
            – ongoing conversations about “penis repulsion,” “genital preference,” and “lesbians don’t like dicks,” which focused on lesbians
            – ongoing conversations about using cissexist language about bodies, like “no uterus, no opinion”
            – the controversy around the pussy hats from the inauguration protest
            – “women-born-women” and “women-only” spaces and their long tradition of transmisogyny
            – “people with penises” and “people with vaginas” as alternatives to “men” and “women” and why they are actually terrible
            – the backlash against Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie when she insisted that trans women and cis women were simply different
            – the call to make Planned Parenthood’s rhetoric more trans-inclusive
            – simultaneous discussions about trans-inclusive, non-binary language around reproductive and sexual health
            – discussions about whether #MeToo was cissexist in its references to men and women
            – discussions about whether #MeToo-related discussions about predatory male behavior were being used to exacerbate transmisogyny
            – discussions about whether “queer” is more inclusive than “gay” and “lesbian”
            – discussions about words like “female,” “biological female,” “female-bodied”
            – discussions about “femme” as an attempt to broaden the category “women”
            – discussions about “women-only,” “women, trans, and nonbinary,” “no men,” and “no cis men” as boundaries for creating safe space
            – discussions about sexual and intimate partner violence incorporating cissexist generalizations about men and women
            – discussions about which words combine to create the most gender inclusivity
            – discussions about the meanings and uses of words like “genderqueer,” “gendervariant,” and “nonbinary”
            – “transfeminine” and “transmasculine” and the extent to which they are binarist
            – how to refer to “all-gender” bathrooms?
            – the loooooooooooooooooooooong history of transmisogyny in the radical feminist and cis lesbian communities
            – the long history of gendervariance and genderqueerness in lesbian communities, including stuff like he/him pronouns

            And of course how can we forget:

            – PRONOUNS

            All of these discussions have explicitly implicated gay, lesbian, queer, and feminist communities, demanding that they examine core language and the assumptions it perpetuates about trans and nonbinary people. There’s a bunch of additional stuff going on with queer men that I’m just not so exposed to. And this is all a work in progress, and a lot of it involves spirited discussion of examples of cissexism/transphobia that are controversial. And yes, sometimes people fold in their other unexamined biases, and yes, sometimes a proposed problem or solution will trend up or down (“transsensual”).

            If you want some recent examples that I find controversial, you’ve got:

            – “toxic masculinity in the lesbian community”
            – “masculine of center” as a more trans/nonbinary-inclusive way to refer to butch lesbians
            – “bisexuals are more accepting of trans people than gays or lesbians”
            – “queer” is more trans- and nonbinary-inclusive than “gay” and “lesbian”
            – “we should use they/them pronouns to refer to everyone”
            – “we should use ‘queer’ to refer to everyone”
            – “we should use ‘femme’ to refer to all trans women”
            – “‘lesbian’ does not include any trans women”
            – “queer-identified people are more likely to be progressive and accepting than people who identify as gay or lesbian”
            – PYNK came up at one point

            And all of that is just within the past few years and only about language. I’m not even going to talk about ongoing efforts to make things like services, community spaces, and Pride events more inclusive. I’m also not going to talk about vintage stuff like “women and trans” and “SOFFAs.” But you are not being singled out, and you shouldn’t make trans inclusion about you, because doing that is actually transphobic.

          5. I’m not saying “don’t push back on harmful ideas in comments here.” Or even “don’t ever have these discussions here.”

            I’m saying that my understanding of this is more 101 than I’d like it to be, definitely many commenters’ understanding is more 101 than I’d like it to be, and I’m also saying “essay-length posts in my comments section going after someone hard for not yet understanding all of this yet where y’all vent on them are wearing me the fuck out, consider redirecting this to articles, on your own platform, that will live on once this thread is buried in archives.”

            Anyway, comments are closed. We’ll try another day.

          6. I’m NB, and I get *very* annoyed about the ‘bisexuality is transphobic’ meme. Like, if someone prefers to use different labels, more power to them, but I don’t like the implication that they’re doing me some massive favour by doing so. Particularly when they conduct themselves in a way that attempts to drive a wedge between me and my bi friends. Actions speak louder than words.

          7. I want to say that I thought that randomly being exposed to interrogations about what theoretical people you would and would not date based on your SO-CALLED ORIENTATION was a special bisexual hell, but no, it is a special LGBT hell. We all get it. This is very different from the very necessary interrogation of transphobia in the LGB community – it’s a weird gotcha game that a lot of us recognize on sight. (And it tends to use NB people and trans people generally as discourse pawns, which, it would be great to stop doing that.)

            That said, “gay” is a term that originally referred to sex workers of many genders, and the Greek island of Lesbos is so unhappy that “lesbian” is a thing that they’ve sued for control of the term in Greek court. (They lost). Personally, I identify mostly as “queer” with a side order of “bisexual”. I’m happy to tell you, with heavy sarcasm, that there’s no negative discourse around “queer” at all. But it’s only really “queer” and “bisexual” that I’ve seen people try to actively stamp out from within the LGBT community. (I could just have not seen it in other cases).

            As for me: “pansexual” was introduced to me lo these 18 years ago as a term that described either a political open-mindedness to date regardless of gender (absent real proof, since indeed none of us knew out nonbinary people at the time) or as a statement that ~personality was more important than gender~, which, I am often attracted specifically to peoples’ genders as a part of their personalities. I felt like both stances were writing checks that my experience couldn’t cash and settled on “bisexual”, which I now define as “I’m attracted to a couple of genders, more or less, on any given day”. At this point I am stubbornly wedded to “bisexual” because I suffered a lot for that term, I went through a lot of questioning and doubt, I had the bisexual experience of coming out and not being believed many, many times (again, this happens to other people too, but it happened to me as a bisexual). It is mine and no one is taking it. Mine mine mine.

            That said, the pansexual flag colors are way, way cuter.

    2. So as a sex-repulsed ace who is currently pregnant and got there the usual way, YEET to all of this, that’s all

        1. I have no idea but I want to know because it sounds like a fun thing to yell when you super potently agree with someone. YEET!

        2. It is a happy sports yell! Like when someone makes a basket in basketball you can yell “yeet!” Or tweet “yeet!” If you are livetweeting basketball.

          Actually, come to think of it, I don’t know if it’s an all purpose sports fan exclamation or if basketball fans are the only ones who do it.

        3. In this instance I think em is referring to a popular vine, where a young person yells YEET before throwing a can away. I don’t think em agrees with the comment at all.

  8. You are truly fantastic, Captain. Thank you for you advice and time. I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing, joy-filled weekend.

  9. Q13-?: I just finished the Valdemar saga by Mercedes Lackey and now i feel empty inside. What do I do??

    Mercedes Lackey has written at least 50 books- there are plenty more to try. I can also recommend Catherynne Valente, Becky Chambers, Diana Wynne Jones- the list is endless. (cue evil laugh)

    1. Pam, we clearly have similar taste 🙂 I’ll add Theodora Goss’s The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (about the fabulous, monstrous daughters of the classic 19th-century literature monsters), Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood (creepy fairy-tale goodness), and Circe (basically Greek mythology and The Odyssey from a feminist, witchy perspective).

      1. I super recommend the first three Green Rider books by Kristen Britain. They feel a lot like Valdimar, and the main character is wonderful. (Fair warning, I have serious issues with the later books due to the series being expanded from a planned set to an indefinite length, which makes the fifth book in particular feel like filler. But the first three are spectacular, which is why I still recommend them)

        If you are looking for an ongoing series, The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson is amazing. Book 3 of a planned 10 just came out last year.
        Also the rest of his books. He comes up with the most unique magic systems I’ve seen, and Elantris is one of my all time favorites.

        Also Jim C Heins’s Stepsister Scheme and the following books in that series – a really clever retelling of classic fairy tales with kick-ass princesses.

        First Truth by Dawn Cook/Kim Harrison

        Seconding the mention of Tamora Pierce. She’s an excellent author.

        Also seconding Anne McCaffery’s Pern series

    2. Tamora Pierce. David Eddings. Anne McCaffrey. diana Wynne Jones. and more, but I’m too lazy to get up and walk to the bookcase right now.

      1. Tamora Pierce’s Alanna The Lioness series is a good place to start if you liked Heralds, and so is her Circle series, which focuses more on magical misfits going through their schooling. (They are set in two different universes, btw).

        You might also like the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane

    3. I love the Valdemar books!! I have read and re-read that series SO many times.

      Other things you might enjoy:

      Tad Williams’ series that starts with “The Dragonbone Chair”

      Tanya Huff’s Quarters series (starts with “Sing The Four Quarters”)

      Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books

      Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince/Dragon Star series

      Charles de Lint’s entire written output

      Terri Windling’s “The Wood Wife” (modern fantasy, but amazing)

      Emma Bull’s “War for the Oaks”

      Tanya Huff’s “The Silvered” (werewolves and mages and manners!)

      1. Look out for Anne McCaffrey’s super weird, super outdated views on homosexuality. If “this author is at a couple points a complete idiot about homosexuality” is something that will ruin your experience, probably give her a skip. If you’re someone who can just do THE WORLD’S LARGEST EYEROLL and keep moving, however, go nuts, it’s a series about people with pet dragons for psychic BFFs so it’s fabulous in many ways.

        1. I liked Anne McCaffrey as a young teen, but even then I found a couple of her ‘romance’ stories disturbingly rapey. I don’t know if there were subtleties I wasn’t understanding that made them less rapey than they seemed, but they made me uncomfortable at the time, even while I LOVED the worlds she created, and the telepathic dragon-human bonds.

          1. I’m I’m remembering correctly, wasn’t the homophobic/rapey subtext a subset of the telepathic dragon thing?

            I loved those books as a kid too, but the “dragon mating flight = human sexytimes/life partners” part was just… ick.

          2. It’s not just you. I haven’t read the earliest books in years because every time I see the covers I go “Eww, rapey and really uncomfortable.”

          3. Iirc her third pern book has the hero doing a date rape and acting like helping his girlfriend with her chores after somehow made it ok. Disclaimer: I read this close to 30 years ago so could be misremembering. But that was the last of her books I ever picked up.

        2. If you’d like a gorgeous deconstruction of the psychic animal bond/mating heat thing in the Pern books, read the trilogy by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette that begins with A Companion to Wolves. It’s also a great story of Norse-inspired cultures & huge dire wolves, with dark elves & trolls, & moral complexities, and I can’t recommend it enough.

          1. Went to the Amazon page for this. The first two reviews were negative, one because it was OMG ripping off Anne McCaffrey how mean and one because it had gay characters in it “for no reason”. Promptly clicked “buy now”.

    4. Ooh, so many people with taste so similar as mine! Thank you for all the great recommendations!

      After my recent Mercedes Lackey period I found the steampunk books by Shelley Adina and have recently been enjoying them (one of the heroes of the books is a chicken!). Just like Pam said the list is endless. There are obviously the wonderful classics by Ursula K. LeGuin and if you prefer fantasy, Robin Hobb and Mary Robinette Kowal.

      If I can also suggest some Scandinavian authors I have recently been reading books by Johanna Sinisalo and Emmi Itäranta and there are translations available from both of them.

      I completely get how it feels to have finished reading something truly wonderful: so empty and sad. Still, you can do it! How about giving a try to “Fire and Hemlock” by Diana Wynne Jones? Or if you enjoy the books by Jane Austen, perhaps “Shades of Milk and Honey” by Mary Robinette Kowal?

      1. OMG Fire and Hemlock is LIFE. Also seconding Emmi Itäranta. I read “The Weaver” (in English) and it was very interesting.

        1. OMG, I am not the only one to whom Fire and Hemlock is LIFE. I read it every sommer and now I have read it for 15 times or so and it never grows old.

          I also read The Weaver and I enjoyed it a lot. To me there was something reminiscent of storytelling by Ursula K. LeGuin in it. Emmi Itäranta has so far only published two novels, so I hope there will be many more books by her.

    5. Shout out to all my fellow Mercedes Lackey fans!

      If you’ve finished the Valdemar books and you’re in the mood for more of her epic fantasy, try tracking down her Bardic Voices books (if you can find it, go for _The Free Bards_ omnibus which collects the first 3 in that series). After that, her SERRAted Edge and Diana Tregarde books are an awesome gateway into her urban fantasy books. All 3 of these series were written around the same time as some of the best of the Valdemar books (imho) so they’ll have the same feel and focus with different characters.

      And after that? My friend, Seanan McGuire and her kick ass body of work is here for you. And I second or third every other author mentioned in this thread.

      Oh, and for podcast reccs, if you want them: The Black Tapes, The Magnus Archives, The Bright Sessions, Ars Paradoxica (especially season 2 and beyond), Wooden Overcoats, Greater Boston, and Wolf 359.

      1. And Terry Pratchett! How could I have forgotten Terry Pratchett? ALLLLLLL the Terry Pratchett. *runs off to reread _Witches Abroad_*

      2. Note of caution about Lackey’s urban fantasy (the elves in LA stuff especially)–if you are kinky, there’s some really cringey stuff in a lot of her earlier work. She used “into kinky sex” as a marker for “is an evil person who destroys people” a LOT. There’s a hint of that in some of the Valdemar books (Hulda and Ancar, Falconsbane, Hadanelith) but I remember it as being a lot more blatant in the Serrated Edge books.

      1. Seconding Robin McKinley and (from other posts) Catherynne Valente. Adding Patricia McKillip. Adding Diane Duane’s YOUNG WIZARDS series if it hasn’t already been mentioned?

        I’m not sure it’s useful to mention in connection with “What’s next to read after Valdemar?” but I’ve been doing a Richard Adams Epics reread, beginning with Watership Down and Maia, and for me it scratches some the same itches. Does create other itches–I always need some sort of feminist palette cleanser after reading his stuff. Come for the language, yell WTF?! about his treatment of female characters, which is… mixed. Maybe following up the Maia reread with Kushiel’s Dart.)

        Ooh! Jacqueline Carey. Everything by her, not just the Kushiel’s Dart series. And Carrie Vaughn! “Kitty and the Midnight Hour”, “After the Golden Age,” all the Vaughn.

        1. My recommendations for Valente are The Refrigerator Monologues, which are a bunch of superhero girlfriends in Hell, telling their own stories of how they died. If you’ve kind of liked superhero comics but want to scream at how often male heroes’ love interests are murdered & mutilated just to generate nanpain, this book is the primal scream rage for you.
          My other rec is Radiance, which if you are a lover of classic cinema — silent movies — you will love. The author describes it as deco-punk, with space whales, as in art-deco, and it’s set in a solar system of early sci-fi — where we can get to every planet & live on each. It’s a lushly described, non-linear exploration of the fate of a documentary filmmaker, who disappeared while filming on Venus — and she was the daughter of a famous (and infamous!) maker of cinematic melodramas. Great stuff.

  10. LW8 – First of all, “cold” and “untouchable” are really negative stereotypes about asexual people, so maybe please expunge those from your mental associations ASAP? You can absolutely fashion yourself as a marble Artemis on a pedestal if that makes you happy (believe me, I see the attraction), but that actually has zero to do with whether or not you’re asexual.

    Most asexual people I know found the label helpful to explain and normalize something about them that was previously confusing or painful. “Asexual” moved me personally from an agonizing state of “what is wrong and broken about me such that I burst into tears and ruin everything every time my spouse and I attempt sex and am probably ruining my marriage?” to “okay, what will our relationship look like moving forward?” I don’t wear the identity on my sleeve, I’m not part of any support or community groups, I don’t go to Pride–none of those things are my style–but I do try to share my story when it’s relevant, simply because another married ace woman being open about her journey was helpful to me at critical moments.

    It sounds like there is probably something missing from or unsatisfying about how you see yourself (and how you see others seeing you). Will the “asexual” label make you what you want to be? Well… you’re welcome to it, either way. But maybe also start thinking of additional ways you can demonstrate yourself to be the regal ice goddess of your dreams (Elsa cosplay?) because the fact that you’re waffling on the benefits of the label suggests that you want something more demonstrative than just “I’m asexual.”

    1. As another commenter noticed, it came from an asexual character in a book who is a living statue. I was using it to describe the emotion of how nice the label felt. But I take your point that out of context, it’s a trope that can hurt other people. I don’t really want to be more demonstrative (I said in my Q, “would it still count if I never told anyone?”) and I’m not trying to claim queerness or anything (I’m in a heteroromantic marriage, I know I have it easy by society’s standards).

      In terms of being unhappy with how others see me – of course I am. I don’t like being sexualised or seen as sexual. I wish I could say “that has nothing to do with me” and people would stop seeing me that way. It’s not that I want to be seen as regal and icy (I’m a warm and approachable person by temperament), I just don’t want to be seen as sexual. CA is right that that’s basically inescapable though.

      1. an an ace person who has identified that way for *years* I give you my official blessing to describe yourself using whatever tropes you want. go in peace and uh…idk. be the beautiful marble statue you want to see in the world? U DO U, I believe in you

        1. my emotional reactions to people’s comments are giving me a lot of useful information

          by which I mean: thank you

          1. LW8, I’m definitely not an expert on sexuality, but it was really clear from your question that you are grappling with figuring it out, and whether/how it applies to you, and what that might mean. That sort of thing can be a fraught process, and I think that the people who are informing you that you are Wrong About Asexuality are being extremely unkind and unhelpful. It strikes me that in trying to defend themselves from the pain of someone being, in their opinion, wrong on the internet, they are probably being quite hurtful to you, and I wish they wouldn’t do that.

            You are allowed to talk to people about this and process it even possibly be mistaken about things– or, as seems more likely, simply see them in a different way from someone else.

            I struggled for a very long time to understand and accept my identity as bisexual, and one of the reasons is how a lot of queer people will be extremely harsh on someone who isn’t talking about or performing bisexuality “correctly.” Now I also have shame and embarrassment for how late in life I’ve worked this out for myself.

            This kind of label policing hurts people. And I see no indications that LW8 is not approaching this in 100% good faith. So maybe people could be a bit kinder?

      2. LW8, reading back over my comment I don’t think I was clear enough in saying that you can absolutely be and identify as and call yourself asexual without reservation. You are enough, you are asexual enough, you are not using the identity wrong or for the wrong reasons.

        As you and the Captain have noted, it’s functionally impossible to opt out of society’s commodification of sex, no matter how you identify… but figure out how to get that cool and untouchable statue feel in as many ways as you need, whether that’s speaking up with a, “hey, can you maybe not” when someone makes a sexual joke or reference you dislike, or reading and writing stories about asexual characters, or Elsa cosplay, or whatever. But also, if knowing in your heart that you’re asexual is enough to always have that feeling, go forth knowing in your heart that you are asexual and be happy.

    2. Hey, if LW8 sees herself (am I gendering you correctly? Apologies if not) as a cool untouchable statue and enjoys the image, why should anyone complain? You do you and LW does LW.

      1. I said at least twice that LW can like to feel however they like to feel and that’s okay? And if asexual feels like the right identity to them, that’s absolutely fine? They can have both, without one being necessarily because of the other? But I’d like to encourage that we not associate “asexual” with things like “untouchable” (or inhuman, or robotic, or, or, or) because those create a very common negative perception of asexual people and asexuality.

    3. I think there’s an important distinction between LW saying “I as an individual feel like X and I like that,” and a broader societal trope of “Ace people are X.” Promoting the latter isn’t great, obviously–it forces people into boxes that almost definitely won’t suit everyone that’s getting shoved in. But trying to prohibit the former can also end up up having a prescriptivist effect; ace people can be cold and untouchable just as easily as they can be warm and cuddly, and all parts of that spectrum should get to talk about their own identity.

    4. Do you also get mad at gay people whose personalities are too “stereotypical,” and blame them for the existence of stereotypes? Because, uh. Don’t.

      1. I’d probably raise my eyebrows a bit at someone who said “I’m a woman who only feels romantically and sexually towards other women, and I don’t really /know/ if I want to use the word ‘lesbian’ because I don’t see how it matters what I call myself, but I like how it makes me feel like I’ve got an undercut and a leather jacket and ride a cool motorcycle and don’t shave my legs,” yeah? Like maybe I misinterpreted the LW but I felt undercurrent of “I want to use the word [X] for myself because [X] people are like [Y] and I want to be like [Y]” to the question, but “feel like a cool and untouchable statue” and “asexual” are no more related than “have an undercut, leather jacket, motorcycle, and unshaved legs” and “lesbian.”

        I’m not blaming LW for the stereotype, or telling them not to call themself asexual. I’m pointing out that the association exists as a stereotype and that, while THE LW CAN HAVE BOTH OF THOSE THINGS AND THAT’S FINE, they are not actually coupled.

  11. LW9: As someone in the mental health field myself, your description of your therapist made my head explode in flames. That said, I do wonder if your therapist is a kind of psychoanalytic/psychodynamic, blank-slate sort? Like, you say something about how you feel about something you did, and you get, “Hmmm…” and a long pause, maybe a rephrasing of what you said with a hint of a question mark at the end? I get the impression you are struggling with whether to feel disappointed in yourself. If this gets reflected back to you, it may be easy for your jerkbrain to read it as “S/he thinks the same thing about me that I do!” If this rings any bells, my biased ass still says fire your therapist, because psychoanalysts are not great for facing day-to-day real crises (honestly, I’m not sure what they’re good for, except spawning Woody Allen movies, and we see where that has gotten us). Supportive psychotherapy, if being heard is going to help you the most, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, if you’re the sort that likes an action plan, are both good models for treating the diagnosis of “Life is tough right now, and that sucks.”

    P.S. My prescription (professional hat off, reader hat on): Never read anything that’s not for fun in your actual, personal downtime. If reading dense history tomes is fun for you, by all means, have at! When it’s not, just don’t.

  12. Q1, I have a story for you. I once held an awesome postdoc which sometimes included extremely fancy dinners with extremely smart and fancy people. Nobel Prize winners were de rigeur. Stephen Hawking came once.

    Once, one of my friends mentioned that he didn’t get the opportunity for much intellectual conversation at work, so I invited him to one of these dinners.

    My friends, this guyis a mechanic. He never finished college. And yet he and Fancy Nobel Laureate had a really nice evening in part talking about his mechanic stuff.

    No matter what it is, your work is interesting and has value. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that isn’t worth your time.

    1. The bursar of my college once sat next to a French guy at a college dinner and they had a great time talking about pensions. It subsequently turned out the French guy was Jacques Derrida. The bursar said he would never have dared open his mouth if he’d known. The moral of the story is you can talk to all sorts of people about all sorts of things if you don’t let your own imagined inadequacy get in the way (much easier said than done, I know, but I’ve always found that story inspiring when I’ve been nervous about talking to people at parties).

      1. While Ivwas still in undergrad (my undergrad is anthropology) I went with a professor to pick up “a guy” at the airport.

        Wonderful conversation, I felt like he treated me well…as if I have a brain (uncommon in old guy, male anthros…getting better, but still).

        The “guy” was Don Johanson…the “guy” that discovered Australopithecus afarensis aka “Lucy.”

        You just never know…

  13. Q8 – I don’t have that exact experience, but sort of an analogous one–I came out as bi last year despite being happily married to a straight man for nearly 6 years. I had a lot of the same feelings as you! What’s the point of coming out when I’m happy in my relationship and don’t want it to change, so my bisexuality isn’t really relevant? Am I really attracted to women, or do I just gravitate to women more because so many men are dangerous and awful? I also felt like I hadn’t “earned” coming out because I am straight passing due to my marriage so I didn’t deal with active persecution or struggle. :/ All of your questions feel very familiar and I think a lot of people could chime in here and say yep, they fretted over similar things!

    It was still very worth it to come out. When I was pondering all of this one of my best friends told me that sexual identity isn’t about a scorecard or check list or things you need to do–it’s just being honest with yourself about how you feel. One of my favorite things about honesty is that it is freeing. Admitting to myself who I am and getting comfortable with it just feels good. I feel more like me. I feel more comfortable in my skin. – I – know who I am, and that matters a lot to me. I feel more complete as a person to know there is nothing I am denying myself.

    It sounds like we are similar–I’m a pretty private person about sexual stuff, so there’s been no big post on FB or anything declaring myself “out.” I feel no need to sit down with my dad and say “hey, I’m bi!” And that’s all totally fine. Coming out is personal, and you get to do what serves your health and happiness. You aren’t less asexual because you aren’t blasting it to the world. I don’t make big declarations but I still show myself in ways that are comfortable to me, like wearing the sparkly rainbow shoes I got for pride this year or retweeting pictures of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth together on twitter, ha! You do you, in the way that makes you feel comfortable. You are valid just as you are. I hope the journey leads you somewhere happy.

    1. Thanks, I really appreciate this comment. I’ve realised from people’s replies that what I thought was clearly expressed could actually be read quite a few ways, but this is the way that I meant it – it’s the fact that I’m generally private and it’s not really ‘need to know’ info for anyone that confuses me.

      This analogy makes a lot of sense, thank you

    2. Yep, I was going to post something similar. Also queer and private and a cis woman married to a man (16years).

      I’ve been mulling over / wrestling with the question of how out to be and how to be authentic pretty much since I came out to myself as bi 28 years ago. My answer keeps changing.

      CA’s advice to start with what feels right personally/ privately and just let it spread from there is excellent.

      Recently I’ve realized that I’m (maybe) demi as well as bi. At the moment, I feel like being demi is something that explains a lot and that also feels very personal and not like something I need to share with the general public.

  14. Re Q11: If anyone knows of good autism resources like this, could you post a few here? One of my friends is high-functioning autistic and I’d like to learn more about it so he doesn’t have to explain everything to me himself.

    1. I’m not autistic, but ASAN (Autistic Self-Advocacy Network) is run by autistic people and has some useful resources.

    2. hi, I’m autistic! Thanks for wanting to understand and support your friend! I have trouble keeping track of what’s out there and my bookmarks folder is A SHAMBLES but lemme see what I can rustle up 🙂

      Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism has a lot of really good articles.
      ASAN (the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network) and the Autistic Women’s and Nonbinary Network are highly regarded. I haven’t made much headway with navigating their websites but I’ve definitely seen some good articles from them.

      I’m slowly working on doing some writing myself. Here’s one of the main pieces I have so far:

      On the subject of functioning labels (i.e. “high/low functioning”)– your friend is absolutely in charge of how they identify, but I’d encourage looking into how these labels are pretty harmful to the autistic community. The bonus of bringing it up here is that these articles also give some insight into what being autistic is like:
      1. a classic from Musings of an Aspie, another good blog IIRC:
      2. I hope this link works, I had to dig it up from the Wayback Machine
      3. This one from Divergent Minds makes some neat points and also talks about the social model of disability, which is an important thing to understand if you want to support autistic loved ones:
      4. Some good points and some good illustrations of what being autistic can be like:

      REAL quick intro to the social model of disability: Disability isn’t an individual deficit but is a relationship between a person, their environment and the demands of their environment. To quote the Divergent Minds essay above, the emphasis is on “putting the onus on the environment to be accessible rather than on individual people to deal with a world that has not been set up for them.”

      I would also add quickly that disability often isn’t about a hard physical limit to what we can’t do — more often it’s about how much it COSTS us to do the same things other people do. So for autistic people something like going to the grocery store can be hugely costly (and painful) due to the lights and the noise and the bustling and the mental demands of picking out your groceries and the physical coordination needed to load them onto the conveyer belt, etc. It’s not that we can’t go grocery shopping necessarily, but it might cost us an hour or three to recover, and it might rob us of the ability to do other things that day, and it might make us feel physically unwell. Abled people aren’t usually expected to do things that cause them pain, but disabled people are often accused of being lazy etc when we try to set limits and boundaries around things that dont work for us.

      That’s all I got for now, I’ll add more if I can 🙂

    3. One thing I would recommend avoiding is Autism Speaks. Also, your friend might identify as high-functioning and if so, cool. But a lot of autistic adults are pushing back on that labeling because what exactly does “high-functioning” mean? What if you can’t speak but you can live independently and hold down a job? What if you can speak and can have a job but need help doing laundry/cooking/household stuff? What if you can speak some of the time? and on and on. Again, if your friend identifies this way, then definitely follow his lead. But I personally hate it when people call me high-functioning because those people have never known about all the help I do get, and the label is just pressure to be “normal”.

    4. One I’ve heard is *really bad* (from autistic people) is Autism Speaks. It’s very parent-centric and apparently promotes some very wrong-headed ideas about autism. Also anything with images of puzzle pieces (again, tend to be associated with wrong-headed ideas about autism). (not on the spectrum myself, but follow the blogs/Twitter accounts of a few autistic people)

      Very good resource: Ada Hoffman’s blog. She’s autistic, and has awesome resources – including book reviews. 🙂

      1. I’ve heard that too.

        Also I remember liking Temple Grandin’s books, although I don’t remember hardly anything about them 🙂

        1. Dr. Grandin is diagnosed autistic. She has written a few books which discuss growing up with autisim, however, she focuses on obtaining her degrees and her professional work with domestiacted farm animals and people. She credits her successful career with her ability to understand domestic animal behaviour which she aligns with her ability to see the physical world in a different way than most people due to some of the attributes of autism.

          I found her books incredibly interesting and an insight to both how some people with autism may perceive/function with the world around them, as well as her work with domestic animals.

    5. I’m an autistic person who provides health care for autistic kids and is part of a local adult autistic advocacy group. I second/third/ninth the advice to read things written by and for autistic people. There’s a lot online. Online has been really good for autistic communication, community and culture.

      ASAN has a good “welcome to the autistic community” packet

      The Autism Women’s Network (Now the Autism Women and Nonbinary Network) has a packet for autistic women and a one for parents of girls that I think can be useful for non-women/girl people too.

      If you are up for a whole book, “Loud Hands” was the first autistic cultural anthology. It grew out of this blog post:

      Your friend decides what language works for him, but FYI most autistic advocates that I know avoid using “high” and “low” functioning language as a sign of solidarity. My favorite quote on the subject is by Laura Tisoncik, “The difference between high functioning autism and low functioning is that high functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low functioning means your assets are ignored.”

    6. I had a whole reply typed up and then the page refreshed and I lost it 😭

      So, to sum up:
      use the #actuallyautistic tag to find people on Twitter etc to follow and learn from. They’re a good bunch.

      Look for organisations that are run by autistic people or at least are guided by them. Ie If they’re a research group check out their board members and advisory panels.

      Autism Speaks is anathema.

      The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is a great webpage to start.

    7. One thing, and really it’s just that you reminded me and also LW11 used this terminology, is that there’s really no such thing as “high functioning” or “low functioning”. Different traits emerge and present themselves in completely different ways, and referring to us as various values of function is common, but still no less rude and dehumanizing.
      ASAN is a good resource for basic understanding, but really if your friend is willing to talk to you about a few things then listen to him – his experience with autism is his own, and not something that can be researched.

      1. I have heard some people suggest the terms ‘high needs’ when it was really relevant, to describe autistic people who needed a lot of support for activities of daily living. I don’t know if this is widely accepted or not though.

        The other part of it, I guess, is figuring out when the distinction really is relevant and when it’s being used just to divide people in less helpful ways.

    8. This may not help you relate to your friend, but as a general rule, this quote has helped me a lot: “If you meet one person with autism . . . you’ve met one person with autism.” There are no hard and fast rules or commonalities in how people with autism present and function in the world.

      I work in education, and we often talk about ‘the spectrum’ or ‘being on the spectrum’–but it might be more useful to think of it as a constellation. A spectrum is two-dimensional, with greater and lesser degrees (high functioning, low functioning), while a constellation is 3-dimensional. As said above, someone can do fine in crowds and noise–but find handshakes and eye contact very difficult. Or any of a million things that NT folks do unconsciously every day.

      1. As someone who works in early childhood mental health, sometimes with kiddos who have an ASD diagnosis/suspected ASD/are in the diagnosis processs and who has not heard about this before, thank you for this visual metaphor and new perspective. I found it really helpful and am going to chew on it for a while…

  15. Q2+3: Speaking as someone who always feels like my friends have disappeared, pleeeeze just get in touch with them and spare them the “sorry!” dance. I don’t want to have to do that dance with you — really I just want to hear from you! —- I seem to have a lot of friends who struggle with depression (myself included), but I’m more likely to be the extroverted one. And since I’m a shy extrovert, me depressed + lots of incommunicado friends rough. There’s one in particular who disappears for long stretches due to depression, and I think he thinks that he has to be OK in order to contact me. This is me putting out to the universe, and my friend, that a) I like/miss him no matter what and b) he doesn’t have to be OK! “Hey Sophylou I’m not doing great” is not going to make me run away screaming — it’s going to let me know that he’s alive (yay! alive!) and still my friend. Bonus points (serious, serious bonus points) if someone gets in touch because they want my company!

  16. LW8, I am strongly of the opinion that in the privacy of your own mind you can call yourself whatever you like and apologize for nothing. It doesn’t obligate you to tell anyone anything. If you want to tell others, you can, but if as you say it doesn’t give them any actionable information, there’s nothing wrong with identifying as ace and keeping it as your own precious thing.

    Also, not telling people now doesn’t mean you can’t tell them later if you change your mind.

    1. It seems so strange to me that I genuinely didn’t see that as an option until you and CA said it. I have thought about this so much and I ended up in a huge knot.

  17. LW12, I have yet to get a writing project even to the level of being ready to submit it. Rejection is far enough in my future that I aspire to it. So for what it’s worth, this random internet stranger is proud of you for reaching that point.

  18. LW #13 — Some other great book recommendations:

    The “Young Wizards” series by Diane Duane (starting with “So You Want to Be A Wizard”, “Deep Wizardry”, & “High Wizardry”.) These books are emotional roller coaster rides, & Duane doesn’t pull any punches. Fleeing school bullies, 11-year-old Nita takes refuge in the library, where she’s found by a very odd book that teaches her how to be a wizard…

    Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness”, “Protector of the Small”, “Provost’s Dog” & related books. Pierce is another awesome writer: the Song of the Lioness were her first books, and Pierce’s world & writing just keeps getting better & deeper with each book. “The Protector of the Small” is freakin’ wonderful for its portrayal of a girl battling for her knighthood in a culture shifting from misogyny, feudalism & classism to egalitarian rule of law.

    Zenna Henderson, “The People” stories (currently collected in one large volume called “Ingathering”, but there’s older collections out there, too). These are a bit dated, but The People are still my favorite “alien-exiles struggling to hide on Earth” tales. Henderson’s tales are Christian-based, but encompass all the love, acceptance, tolerance & welcoming that far-too-many leave out nowadays.

    Gael Baudino, “Gossamer Axe” (standalone), “Strands of Starlight”/”Shroud of Shadow”/”Strands of Sunlight”/”Spires of Spirit” (series). All of these may be out of print, but are well worth a used-book search. Gossamer Axe is about Christa, a time-lost Gaelic harpist trying to free her (female) lover from the grasp of the Sidhe…with the power of rock & roll; the Strands series follows the struggles of Elves & humans to overcome hate & persecution from Medieval times through to modern-day. All these books are filled with love, compassion, & true spirit.

    If you’re into graphic novels, give Linda Medley’s “Castle Waiting” a try. A bit hard to describe — it’s a slow gentle tale that takes its time to build & isn’t afraid to delve deeply into its characters. It starts with a re-take of the Sleeping Beauty tale, then segues into Jain’s story, an abused lady running from her noble husband after becoming pregnant by her wood-spirit lover. But it’s so much *more* than that…so much more…

    1. Just popping in to say OMG, I’ve never seen anyone else mention Gossamer Axe! I read it…oh gosh, ten years ago? It’s a wild ride.

  19. LW12, someone on a writing community said recently that she had been experiencing the same difficulties with rejections, and so challenged herself to get X number of rejections in a year, as a way of getting herself used to the feeling. She found that once she’d flipped the narrative, she started getting way more acceptances, including to publications that she’d thought were out of her league, because she was submitting things much more often and taking more chances. I love this reframing and wish I could do it myself (but sadly I only write novels, so it doesn’t really work!).

    1. I love this! I’m going to take that concept for my job hunt. Can I get 100 job rejections before the end of the year?

  20. Q6: I cannot help you but I would like to know about people who watch TV shows without headphones on public transport. Do they know it’s unpleasant for others but not care? Are they unaware? Do they like it when other people do that, and they’re just applying the Golden Rule?

    I would give anything to know

    1. As someone with a respiratory disability, the smoking in a closed space thing bothers me so much! Like, I swear, I do so much to accommodate other people who might *in any way* be inconvenienced by my disability, to the point of intentionally seeking only work-from-home jobs so I don’t potentially inconvenience co-workers by using the sick leave I’m actually granted, which was a stressful experience. I’ve never let so much as a bad yelp review for a private space that was not accessible to people like me, even if it meant missing out on something I was looking forward to. I get it; the world is not designed for me, not everything has to be about me, and not everyone has to accommodate me. The last thing I want to be is selfish.

      Yet, advocates for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities push for *years* to ban public smoking indoors, so public venues are actually, practically accessible to people with respiratory disabilities– which, you know, we pay just as much in taxes as everyone else, and we can’t actually choose to put off being disabled until we get home–we finally get it, finally we think, “oh, hey, there’s enough disability acceptance here that people agree I’ve got a right to be in public spaces without seriously risking my health; the vote came out in our favor.”

      But no. There isn’t, and we haven’t. Most people still act like we haven’t got the right to be disabled in public.

      I wish I could say I had a better response than LW6, but unfortunately the last time someone snarked at me after I quietly, politely, managed to get up the courage to ask them if they could please not smoke in here, and they started making fun of me: I cried. I am so embarrassed to say it, but I felt so overwhelmed I just burst into tears. It is, to this day, one of the most cringey, blush-inducing experiences of my life. I felt so stupid. Childish. A grown-up would be cool with other people smoking, right? Why would an adult be so fragile?

      But. I’m just. Fragile. People (friends) say it’s not something to be ashamed of, that physical weakness or emotional fragility isn’t a crime, but I don’t know how to push the shame out. I believe, in my head, that I have a right to stand up for myself. I know that I can’t get ADA accommodations if I don’t ask for them, and that I can’t breathe alright for the next hour if I can’t mention to the smoker next to me that I need him to stop. But it’s so, so hard. And then, like LW6 found, it doesn’t work anyway.

      Honestly, I wish I had it in me to swear like she did. It wouldn’t make me look better, I know. Maybe it would’ve felt better, tho.

      1. Respiratory problems here, too, although I think maybe not as severe as yours. Cigarettes, marijuana, the whole state of California, really just knock me on my butt. I lived near the Rim Fire in 2013, at the time one of the biggest in California history, and I pretty much had to sit or lay perfectly still in bed. Got lots of knitting done, though.

        Dudes who smoke (it’s almost always men) on the train platform and in the car are physically harming me. I’m not okay with it.

        And why the fuck can’t someone be allergic to marijuana? Is there a plant no one in the entire world is allergic to? I’m allergic to carrots, and those are super healthy! People are allergic to peanuts, watermelon, strawberries, walnuts, mustard, citrus, paprika… Sure, marijuana is fine for most people, helpful for some, but literally why do people think no one is allergic to it?

        I have shouted “And peanut butter is delicious but it can kill millions,” at an arguing smoker, but that was at a relatively chill party full of acquaintances, not on a train where the person could be violent.

        1. If someone’s smoking something, there is SMOKE. Regardless of what specific burnt plant chemicals are in it, smoke in and of itself is irritating and damaging to mammalian respiratory systems, and plenty of people will have asthmatic or allergic reactions to it _whatever_ is in it.

          1. Yup! Pot doesn’t bother me (so long as I don’t try to smoke it myself) but I can be sent into coughing fits just by being *near* someone who recently smoked tobacco.

            I’m having trouble with the forest fires, too. I made the mistake of going to the gym a couple of days ago and spent the next day in bed :p

        2. ❤ Right! And, seriously, if I was about to unwrap a peanut butter sandwich and someone asked me to wait until I was off the train because they have a lethal peanut allergy, I would wait. But, y'know, some people wouldn't do that either, so 😛

      2. Yeah, I think I wouldn’t have called the cops on that guy, but it’d be close. Fuck you for smoking on a train, buddy, and fuck you twice for being a dick about it.

      3. I am allergic to tobacco, and am also a user of buses. I have been physically threatened for asking people to stop smoking so many times that I get anxiety attacks when I smell smoke in addition to my throat swelling up. You’re not fragile, you’re dealing with unreasonable people who have proven their unreasonableness by choosing to smoke in enclosed spaces covered in signs saying that smoking is not allowed. People who are physically able to endure smoke get to opt out of engaging with them because they can write off breathing in smoke as minor unpleasantness.

        I have always told the bus driver when someone has refused to stop smoking when asked, but not all of them will enforce it, and on one occasion it was enforced, but then the driver did nothing while the smoker shouted slurs at me for the rest of the journey. The bus company did nothing when I complained about it. It is one thing to say that you have rules to make spaces accessible and safe, it is another to enforce them.

          1. It sounds like it isn’t allowed, but that some people do it anyway and neither the bus driver nor the other passengers have the authority or skills to enforce it.

            Personally, I live in a big city and work in another municipality, so I take two separate transit systems to get to work and back. I’ve definitely never seen or even heard a story of someone trying to smoke on either. That’s really really nuts.

          2. Yes, what TO__Ont said. It is illegal, but the law is not enforced without calling law enforcement, and calling law enforcement can be a dangerous escalation. IME bus driver doesn’t enforce it either.

        1. Unfortunately, bus drivers have zero law enforcement tools available to them, other than to say “stop”. They’re also seated in a very vulnerable spot – where an angry person cat hit, beat, stab, or shoot him/her, and the bad guy is literally standing between the driver and their only escape route off the bus. They can call and report and wait for (eventual) help if something happens on the bus. It also depends on how local law enforcement will handle calls from bus drivers (besides emergency 911 calls).

          Yup, my dad was a bus driver, and just like the rest of us, he had to pick his battles with riders who were doing something obnoxious, illegal, or violent. He had to consider his safety as well as the safety of the rest of the passengers. It’s not a fun job.

    2. “I would like to know about people who watch TV shows without headphones on public transport. Do they know it’s unpleasant for others but not care? Are they unaware? Do they like it when other people do that, and they’re just applying the Golden Rule?”

      YES. THIS. And in restaurants too. Was there just enough of a gap between the popularity of cassette or CD walkmen, and the explosion of smartphones everywhere, that headphones just… went out of style? It’s infuriating, especially when someone’s watching something with lots of unpleasant, even triggering, noises of violence and suffering that I *cannot deal* with being forced to overhear.

      Am I just turning into Old Person Shouting At Clouds, Kids These Days, Get Off My Lawn?

  21. LW5: Oh, yes, the lawyer-obsessed parent. Lawyer here! I don’t pretend this will dissuade her (parents tend to drool over “prestige at all costs”), but here are some additional points.

    Getting a law degree is a massive investment of time, energy, and above all else…money. There is a massive glut on the market of newly-licensed lawyers that’s likely to last at least 10 years according to industry experts (probably because so many college grads are being pushed for “prestigious” and “guaranteed” careers). Cost of attending a decently-accredited law school STARTS around $50,000. Cost of attending a big name law school that MIGHT give you an edge in the field was $165,000 when I attended one in the class of 2006. Now students are graduating schools like Northwestern, Georgetown, George Washington, etc with up to a quarter million in student loan debt. Ivy League…even higher.

    I realized about halfway through law school that this career for a woman with anxiety disorder was a mistake, but it was too late – I was already $80 grand in debt and had no choice but to see it through. Now I’ve been in this field for 12 years – my mental health is a disaster, I’ve had multiple abusive workplaces, my physical health is a mess in my 30s. My current job is great, but the pressure of this industry is inescapable.

    If you’re happy in your career, fight with all your might against any jerk who suggests you should be pushing for something “higher.” This lawyer from a prestigious law school with a spectacular income and actually a pretty good job envies you.

    1. Yeah, I’ve seen several friends who went to law school get out and struggle to find any kind of job, and these are people who went to big name schools. Some have had to move several states away to get work, others are in jobs they hate but need to keep because they have huge student loans to pay.

      It seems like everyone’s parents say, “Go to law school!” Mine certainly did. Luckily I didn’t listen.

      I had a friend who went to law school, graduated, became a lawyer, paid off her student loans (which fortunately weren’t that big) and promptly quit and went to library school. She came out with more loans, but a job that she liked.

  22. I do not want to debate LW8’s self-identification. If she feels like “ace” describes her, awesome! But I did want to mention that it is pretty common for women in particular to experience “responsive desire” — enjoying sex when sexy things are happening, but not thinking about sex when nothing sexy is happening, and probably wouldn’t go way out of their way to get sex. Emily Nagosi’s book “Come as You Are” was a huge eye-opener for me and my husband. The idea of responsive desire in particular was a game-changer, that we could both stop thinking I “wasn’t very sexual” because I don’t really think about it out of context.

    1. I don’t know… that sounds a little to much like “you aren’t reeeaaaallllyyy asexual.”

      1. “How do you knoooooww you aren’t just repressing your REAL sexuality? Mayyyybe you just need to try different sex things with different people”

        Read in a zombie drawl for best effect :p

      2. There’s no contradiction between recognizing that responsive desire exists, and may be something the LW experiences based on their description of their sex life, and identifying as asexual.

        1. I learned something new from this comment and appreciate it. I also learned demisexual from comments on an earlier post (which I now think describes me best). These are super helpful for understanding the possibilities and that I’m different but not alone in being different, which helps be feel normal.

        2. Replying to someone who specifically says they are feeling ace with “but have you heard about THIS kind of sex” is not contradictory, but it is nevertheless a bit iffy. Trust that ace people have heard about the sex thing. Still ace.

          1. It’s not a type of sex, it’s a description of one way that human sexual *desire* can function. It’s directly related to asexuality since that is also a description of how human sexual *desire* can function. It was helpful to me when I was wondering about being asexual but unsure, but assumed it must be asexuality because I didn’t know there were any options between “completely lacks any and all sexual feelings” and “experiences spontaneous desire”.

    2. Not LW8, but this is very helpful! I sometimes wonder if I’m asexual but also it doesn’t really match. It’s cool to know about the close alternatives to be able to explore them.

  23. Q8: I’m in a sort of similar position to you of feeling like maybe somewhere on the ace spectrum would be a fit for me, but also like the whole process of Coming Out As This Label is maybe not useful to me right at this moment and what’s the point really, but maybe I want it anyways, but what if I’m wrong (I mean I also sort of vaguely id as bisexual??? but maybe I’m just biromantic??? or maybe I’m gray-ace and bisexual when I happen to be on the sexual side of it??? what if I pick the wrong words and tell everyone and then I have to backtrack and do it again???)….etc. etc. etc.

    What I’m trying to say is, I’m glad you asked this. It makes me feel so much less alone to see someone else in the same swirl. And it’s really helpful to see CA’s advice–it’s so on point! We can identify with ‘ace’ if we want to; it’s valid for us to identify with that label if we feel it fits; and while we don’t have to share it with anyone else, we can if we want, there doesn’t have to be a ‘practical’ reason for them to know other than us rejoicing in finding an identity word that fits.

    I do wish it would make men stop objectifying me. I would kind of love to never ever hear a stranger’s thoughts on my body ever again. If anyone ever finds the magic spell for that, please send it my way.

    1. Since I became disabled I get so much less harassment from men than I did back when I was able bodied. I barely ever get ‘accidently’ groped, no wolf whistling or being told to smile or any of that stuff. I do occasionally get speculation on whether my vagina still works, but that only tends to be large groups of drunken men and so is easyish to avoid. Though I do have to deal with being pitied constantly and then there’s accessibility issues. Not exactly a magic spell but it has been an upside of disability. Although I probably wouldn’t feel that way if I was single, as I would imagine dating whilst everyone considers you non-sexual would not be at all fun.

      1. “I do occasionally get speculation on whether my vagina still works”

        Gh my GOD, even the worst catcallers don’t generally explicitly talk about my vagina’s function in front of me! What is wrong with these people???

      2. I rarely wear my wedding rings because they are heavy and I worry about the stones falling out. However they are gorgeous and today I decided to wear them…to the grocery store.

        Some dude kept ending up in the same area as me and even once literally sprinted across the aisle to pick up a package of mint that I’d dropped. Three aisles later he said “we keep running into each other.” I was like “really? Hmmmm, hadn’t noticed.”

        All while wearing three pretty obvious rings on *that* finger. SMH

      1. Yeah, I am past forty now and the number of people who seem to be sizing me up sexually has dropped precipitously.

    2. I’m in a similar boat. I’ve dated men, I’ve date women, never actually WANTED sex with either, and it took me a long time to realize it’s not because those partners were wrong, it’s because I don’t want to sex.

      A big part of the difficulty for me, was sorting out all the SEX SEX SEX EVERBODY WANTS SEXY SEX SEX IS THE BEST SEX of society. Society is wrong about a lot of things, so isn’t just exaggerating the importance of sex to sell stuff? Isn’t all just patriarchy? (Because society’s promotion of sex is overwhelmingly focused on hetero, male-gazey, woman-objectifying kinds of sex)

      But I eventually realised that other people do feel a desire that I do not. So I identify as ace.

      I still don’t understand why some people feel the need to police the label with hair-splitting about sex drive vs orientation or whether having had sex sometime is disqualifying or whatever the hell – for me, not being oriented toward any gender or partner is the same thing as not having a drive to have sex with anyone. But I believe other people who say that’s not how it works for them.

      And then there’s the whole “proving a negative” problem. If you don’t experience a thing, how do you know it?

      My conclusion is, if the label feels right, embrace it.

      Ace isn’t het, erasure sucks, and label police can go away.

    3. This isn’t much of a magic spell, but this is my experience:

      I have always been “overweight”. I was a fat kid, a fat teenager, and a fat adult. A few years ago I decided enough was enough, I had a lot of time and energy and not much to do and the personal, societal, and financial freedom to spend my time however I wanted and I focused on losing weight like it was my job. I lost 80 pounds and reached the realm of “normal” weight, and suddenly I understood what all these women were talking about! Men are shitty! People were telling me to smile! I was being catcalled by 13-year-olds! I couldn’t go out dancing anymore without getting groped! It sucked. I also found myself being roped into a lot of forced teaming about fat shaming, self shaming, talking about makeup, talking about men, talking about diets, talking about working out, guilt about food, etc that I had never experienced before.

      I have subsequently put my energy back into things like work, passions, hobbies, etc and subsequently gained all 80 pounds back and most of that unwanted attention and forced teaming have disappeared. YMMV.

      1. This one hasn’t worked for me–I’m quite fat, have been for most of my adult life, and catcalling and other forms of harassment are still a daily reality. People also still pull the diet talk/food-shaming/fat-shaming/etc. nonsense with me–like, not with me as the target, but in the social-bonding type way–despite that I’m very visibly fat. I don’t know. People are weird.

  24. LW1, it’s worth keeping in mind 90%+ of people who ask the “What do you do?” question are just trying to make polite/non-invasive small talk and learn enough about you to keep the conversation going.

    I understand why some peole don’t like it and I have been trying to find alternatives but it’s such a solid small talk question (not overly personal, usually folks have an answer, usually you get enough info you can ask follow up questions), I doubt it’s going away soon. I think Captain’s ‘people take their cues from you’ advice is good. I hate when folks answer this question dripping with shame or embarassment because it makes it so much harder to keep the conversation going, and now I feel bad for making you feel bad.

    Upbeat emotional honesty is also a good option: “I work a few shit* jobs to put food on my table! It’s giving me the space to figure out what’s next and pays the bills.” or “Man, I kind of hate that question because my job is unglamorous and not really part of my identity, but let me tell you about my exciting hobby/side hussle/etc.”

    *not to shit on important labour, but it does not sound like you personally love these jobs, but use what language feels right to you

    Somewhat relatedly, last night at a party, someone I’d never met before asked me “So what’s you’re whole life story?” as their very first question, which I normally hate, but I was a bit drunk and surrounded by fellow queerdos and had had a hard day, and was like “Well, that’s an intense question for someone I just met, but (long rambling description of a giant air-out-three-decades-of-laundry conversation that had come to a head with my father and they learned way too much about my life, ha. It worked for that situation, but it’s an awful, fraught small-talk question. Come up with an answer that keeps the conversation going and doesn’t derail you in shame, and no one but you is still thinking about it.

    1. Advice I’ve seen on this site: You can totally respond to “What do you do” and similar conversation-opening questions with something that’s not actually related to your job. Like, mention a hobby, maybe, or even respond with a complete non-sequitur or interesting fact or something. Even if it doesn’t technically answer the question, as TZ says, 90%+ of people just want to make conversation and will be fine with jumping onto your subject.

      1. Another option, if you feel caught on the spot and just aren’t coming up with a comfortable answer, is to give something really quick (“Oh, your typical office work, you know how it is!”) and then immediately pivot into “What about you?” The majority of people are just fine talking about themselves for a bit, especially if you’re showing interest and actively listening. And maybe they’ll say something you can spin off into a tangent to continue the conversation–it only takes one thing at a time!

    2. I think I saw this advice on here — ask people what they do FOR FUN. Seriously. It’s just as small-talk as asking about a career, but it GENERALLY AVOIDS THE SHAME SPIRAL.

      Signed, a disabled woman who can’t work in my chosen career anymore, and genuinely LOATHES the “what do you do” question.

      1. I don’t know if there is a single magical question that won’t make anyone uncomfortable. When I was depressed and working a very stressful job 60-70 hours a week, “what do you do for fun” would have made me burst into tears, because the answer was “absolutely nothing, ever.”

        1. I like “How do you know the host” for stuff people are invited to, or “how did you get into (hobby)” for meetups.
          Doesn’t reach beyond the space already delineated by the context of the social occasion, and very easy to “how about you?” with.

          1. Ooh I do like this one! And if you’re in a public space/meeting at random, then you can ask “what brings you to this bar/restaurant/festival/place”!

    3. Urging people to remember that it’s a common question and why is pretty unhelpful. Everybody already knows that. No amount of “keeping in mind” changes the shittiness if you experience it as shitty.

      Personally, I find “what do you do” pretty intrusive since answering even a little bit honestly leads to 20 questions of grilling, and I suspect that’s similar for a lot of people who don’t have a conventional, easy-to-understand answer in the form of a job people have heard of.
      Reminders that most people can answer it honestly in an easy way doesn’t change that?

      Strategies for redirecting, however, are very awesome.

      1. Not the person you’re replying to, but I apologize for bad phrasing because I’ve said a similar thing. What I try (fail, I suppose) to communicate with “reminder that it’s just a common question” is that often times, “What do you do?” is how a lot of US society codes “I request to commence conversing with you; I request that you say some things so I can listen to and then respond to them.” So you can say most anything in return. Bringing it in, even in a very nominal way, to the way they phrased their question is a bonus but is generally optional.

        Possible responses that I like:
        * I do this and that, but what I really love is reading! I’ve been currently reading Book ABC, which is about XYZ, are you familiar with it?
        * I stay at home and mind the house most days, but last week I went on a great vacation to Place! Here is what I loved about it!
        * I am a Professor of Rocket Surgery at Ivy League University, and what I love about it is ABC.
        * I’m currently in year 8 of my PhD. I hope one day to do Thing because Thing is important to me for ABC reasons.
        * I’m currently in year 8 of my PhD and not sure what the future will hold. I like to leave my work at work, so when I’m not at the library, I’m cooking. I just found a great new recipe for ABC, it goes like this…
        * Haha, I only work to pay my bills so I can spend my time focusing on XYZ.
        * I used to do XYZ and that’s how I met the host, let me tell you an anecdote about the fun we’ve had together over the years!
        * [General description of the parts of the job that inspire YOU, even if they’re not officially part of the job title.]

        All of these are responses in themselves. All can be paired with, or replaced by, a question for the person you’re talking to: What do you do? What do you like to do outside of work? How do you know the host?

        1. My point is, -everyone already knows this-

          To me, this sort of reminder in an advice thread just comes across as ‘splainy.
          It would be different if the context was English conversation class, maybe.

          1. I don’t think everybody knows this. I certainly didn’t for a long time; in fact, I learned that it’s okay to answer in a non-work-related way from a post on this very site by Goat Lady.

            So, I dunno, I think it’s helpful to remind my brain weasels that most people who ask this question aren’t searching for some reason to judge me, they just want to make conversation. Knowing this makes me less socially anxious, and also let’s me feel like I’m not being “fake” if I give a non-work-related answer.

            Honestly, being judged as though I should already know some social thing is the biggest reason I developed social anxiety in the first place.

          2. @Igmerriman I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said “everyone” since you are right, not everyone knows it.

  25. Captain, I just want to add a note that your photo captions are A+ and have helped me realize that like film subtitling, they make things better for EVERYONE. ❤

  26. LW9

    Your letter hit me in the feels.

    It sounds like you may benefit from looking into the ‘gentle/firm’ paradigm. Meg John Barker, Rewriting The Rules–I have actually only read the free kindle intro, and it honestly changed my life and how I took care of myself under those kinds of pressure.

    Also when I was going through something similar, this article broke me. But in a ‘resetting a bone that’s healed wrong’ sort of way.

    tl:dr: Give yourself a goddamn break. Give yourself all the breaks. Fuck your potential. Take care of you, right now, not some sort of hypothetical potential you.

  27. “Working at a phone sex hotline for a single day (because you need to not laugh to to do that job and I was very bad at it) put at least a sandwich on my table. ”

    This is the greatest sentence I have read in a long time.

    1. Gawds I sure wish I could have laughed at the people I talked to on phone chat/phone sex lines! I just ended up getting so fucking disgusted at their attitudes that my libido completely disappeared for months.
      The number of women in that office who started working there dating men, but at some point during their tenure started dating exclusively women might be astonishing to some, but it wasn’t surprising at all to anyone who had to deal with that shit on a daily basis.

  28. Q10 – my husband and I had a spatula we used to call Vinnie. Then it broke and we had a “funeral” for Vinnie. We put the spatula in the trash, said some words (“he was a good spatula”), and then drank some red wine. Vinnie would have liked it that way.

    This was just a goofy thing. We have not named any subsequent spatulas.

  29. Also, LW8: Identify as whatever you need!

    I ID’d as asexual for a long time before coming to terms with being a deeply closeted / repressed lesbian. Fortunately, I did not coerce myself into thinking I was attracted to men or wanting to have sex with men, so at least I dodged one deeply harmful thing that many repressed lesbians experience. (also, for those who previously knew me as IndoorCat and were part of a very validating comment thread here: hi! I’m Indoor Cat, WordPress just made me change screen-names).

    But, you know what? Being able to say, “I’m asexual,” for 9 years, even if it didn’t turn out to be true across the board or deep down or whatever, was hugely helpful to me. It let me put aside the idea that I needed to “fix” my sexuality to fit heteronormative society. It let me prioritize the things I really enjoyed in my life, and it helped me sort out things in therapy and leave my past behind me in a way that would’ve been more complicated if I thought I had to sort out all sex things at the same time. Maybe I was, in fact, asexual, if that’s a thing that can change? I didn’t have sex for a decade and didn’t want to; I wasn’t bothered by it.

    Now, I do want to have sex. With women.

    I did tell my friend group that I was asexual, and since we’re a pretty LGBT friendly group, it did have the positive effect (within the group) that guys didn’t hit on me. But, of course that didn’t extend to the culture at large. I also became the person who re-directs conversations away from romantic drama and love-triangles and into literally any / many other potential subjects! I had a lot of friends who would talk to me specifically because they didn’t want to talk about sex, and sex seems to saturate every aspect of our lives to a maddening degree even if you’re not asexual.

    For many people, regardless of how they identify, sex isn’t easy. Seeing it everywhere can feel overwhelming, and if someone doesn’t enjoy sex or want sex the way they’re “supposed” to, it can be alienating and exhausting. For me, that’s why the label asexual was so, so helpful. And, fwiw, it attracted, friendship-wise, other people who found exhausting the constant sexual-romance plotlines and non-stop sexualization and objectification everywhere.

    However, it’s totally valid to ID as ace privately, without talking about it with your friends.

    1. This is a point that bears reinforcing: LW8, if identifying as asexual is meaningful to you at this point, go ahead and identify is asexual. If, after a period of more soul-searching and questioning you decide that identifying as asexual doesn’t quite fit, it’s okay to say you’re not asexual. No one should be judging you or saying you were “faking it” when you did ID as asexual, because people find out new things about themselves all the time and sometimes sexualities change. I used to identify as solely asexual, until I discovered the asexual/aromantic spectrum. Now I identify as hetero-romantic a-spec (my interest in doing the sexy ranges from idle curiosity to repulsion, and there’s a possibility I might be gray-asexual or demisexual, but I really don’t care enough to try to pin it down to The One Most Accurate Label).

      As for how to dissuade sexual attention, I’ve honestly been wondering that myself. Clearly it’s not impossible, because the amount of weird sexist shit I get is on par with the average cis-hetero-normative man’s experience, and I’m not really sure if I’m just lucky, oblivious, or if it is something I have a limited amount of control over but without making myself out to be some kind of special Not-Like-Other-Women snowflake? The best I can come up with is 1) I’m not conventionally attractive and 2) bitchy resting face.

  30. LW1: I’ve weathered a lot of ups and downs caused by mental health problems while doing a job which is considered “less than” by many of my colleagues (I have a medical degree but I only work part time and the particular work I do is often done in other countries by nurses or technicians), and the mind shifts caused by the depression have given me an interesting insight into how important reframing a situation can be.

    When I am well, I think “My job is truly awesome and I am so lucky. I can earn a decent living doing something I really enjoy and which is a great match for my skill set, and it pays well enough and has flexible enough hours that I can afford to work part time and have lots of time left over to pursue my other interests while other people are chained to their desks.” Working part time feels like an active and positive choice, a great way to achieve work-life balance. Conversely, when I am struggling with depression I feel like a complete failure who is “unable” to cope with the hours and decision making of full time work in the usual jobs in my profession, that I have essentially “wasted” my degree and my intellectual potential and that my life is a succession of bad decisions.

    Each of those mental stances feels entirely correct and real at the time, but with time and therapy I’ve been able to stand back and see that nothing has changed about my situation except the way I perceive it. So now I make a much bigger effort to try and reframe it positively even when it doesn’t seem so, in particular telling myself that it is much more important to be in a job which gives me what *I* need (eg enough money to live on and the flexibility to adjust my workload when I am ill so I’m not setting myself up to fail) than to be “successful” in other people’s eyes (and the bar is pretty high among the people I work with every day: think 7-figure incomes, beach houses and ski chalets and Ferraris, along with elite level academic qualifications and participation in cutting edge medical research).

    Having confidence in your own worth and the validity of what you are doing to earn a living is very helpful when it comes to dealing with other people’s expectations. The way I have found works best is to refocus the conversation away from “what I do to earn money” to “here is some other interesting thing about me and stuff that I do” especially if it ties in with an interest of theirs (noting that if you’re ever lost for a topic most people love to talk about themselves and will heartily welcome having the conversation turned in that direction). NOBODY cares about my job description or my working hours once I start telling them about the fire breathing dragon automaton I designed and built.

    1. I have worked at lots & lots of ‘less than’ jobs because my multiple executive function & learning disorders went undiagnosed for decades. I learned in my early 20s that my particular bar for success needed to be real, real low. Am I holding down a job? Do I have a roof over my head/food in my tummy/a little extra to hit up the thrift store every now and then? Then by golly, I was MAKING IT and what other people thought wasn’t my concern.
      Not giving up any mental bandwidth to other people’s pipe dreams about what my life should be like was basically a survival instinct (since I literally don’t have the mental/physical energy for that kind of anxiety/stress) but it’s one that’s served me in good stead ever since my mental paradigm changed to accommodate it.

  31. Q6, I am also a “confront strangers in public about antisocial behavior”-type person. If your goal is to change behavior — rather than to take a more general stand about correct behavior — then what I have found to be most effective is extreme sweetness and humility. Act as if you are asking for a huge favor that you would be ever-so-grateful to have granted, rather than requesting basic human decency. (The truth of the matter you can keep to yourself. Flattering jerks to get your way =/= actually condoning their behavior.)

    Many people like to feel like they’re being a good guy. Pointing out that they’re being bad guys makes some people bristle into defensiveness, even when they’re in the wrong. On the other hand, if you approach as if they are already being good guys, and now could be even more amazing, more people will respond positively. For your smoking example, if I were to speak up I’d say something like, “Hey, I am so sorry to bother you, but my lungs are really sensitive to smoke. Could I possibly ask you to put that out just for a few minutes? It would mean a lot to me!” And then if they do — “Thank you SO SO MUCH! I really appreciate it!”

    Again, this only works if your goal is immediate outcomes rather than making a general statement. Personally I’m willing to flatter a jerk if it means getting what I want, but I understand if that’s not in your style.

  32. q6, I’ve seen intercom buttons to alert the conductor in the newer transport cars of several cities.

  33. Fellow asexual here, and I have to say that identifying as asexual most certainly serves me more than anyone else. It helped me understand myself in a way that I didn’t understand before. I know myself better because of this identity (which I didn’t even know about until I was 32 years old!). Before “coming out,” I kind of felt in limbo, like there was something unresolved about me. I knew I didn’t have the desire to date* anyone or have sex with anyone, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know if it would somehow magically happen if I met some magical person. I got a lot of “You’re just too much of a coward to date,” and part of me wondered if that was really true, like I was lacking some special courage that everyone around me had somehow overcome.

    Finding asexuality was finally understanding what I was going through and being sure that it was my true self. Coming out as asexual definitely feels…somehow different from coming out as something else. Because, it is more like “Hey everyone! Guess who doesn’t want to have sex? THIS GAL! OK, just FYI, that’s kind of the end of the story, no action needed!” I still haven’t quite figured out how to come out at work. It seems weird to say to people “BTY, I’m not having sex! It’s because I don’t have sexual desire!” and yet I still want to come out, but I hope to cross that bridge soon.

    So, if identifying as asexual does that for you, then it’s there for you to have. There are no dues to pay, applications to fill out, or hazing rituals to perform.

    *Plenty of asexuals DO date, get married, have sex, etc. I just am not one of them.

    1. I feel this so hard.

      I’m at the point where I can comfortably reply to “You NEED to date!!” with “No. I don’t, and I don’t want to”
      but I really wish medical professionals would actually listen the first time I tell them I don’t have sex and stop repeating the same questions about sexual activity 500 times.

      Asexuality: It’s not repression, it’s not lying, it’s real.

      1. I discussed the doctor-sex questions with my doctor, and she explained to me that even though she understood that I was not having sex because that was my sexual orientation, it was still good medical practice to do things like STD screenings and the like, because for a very small amount of people, they might feel they have to say they have not had sex, but in reality may have experienced sexual trauma. For example, someone for whom it is culturally important that they be a virgin, but they have been raped, and they don’t want to disclose that. So she screens everyone and gives everyone information that may keep them safe, on the off chance of helping someone who needs it. That conversation really helped me see it as potentially helping a rape victim, rather than not being heard as an asexual.

        Of course, my doctor said explicitly that she heard me and told me the reasons why she was doing it, which other doctors may not be willing to do or express in the same way (or even have the same reasons as my doc does). But I hadn’t thought about that perspective before and I’m glad she took the time to explain it to me.

        1. All the book reccs in this thread are filling my library queue very fast!
          Thanks everybody who shared, you are filling many a book void

          1. Woops, that was meant to be a general reply, not a reply to you NoActionNeeded.

            As for your points from your doctor, that all makes perfect sense when dealing with a new person. But when it’s your primary care doctor and you are not a new patient? When they have known you for a while? Then it goes right back to being disbelief, refusal to hear, and pressing a narrative of “asexual people are repressed and/or lying”

            The off chance of helping someone ELSE, coming from a medical professional who should know by now, because we have told them, that we don’t fit that chance, is not a good reason to refuse to hear us ace people.

          2. Re: medical questions (out of nesting). I work in a hospital and I hate to say it but we ask a lot of questions that are not very patient-specific because they are related to hospital or nation-wide ‘core measures.’ I work in an acute/emergency field and yet I’m still supposed to ask people with breasts and cervixes if they want them examined while they’re in the hospital! (Like, you came in with broken ribs from a car accident and I’m supposed to see if you want a breast exam?!)

            Most of the time it feels ridiculous, but sometimes we get patients who *do* need care and for a variety of reasons haven’t been able to access it.

            I will speculate that PCP offices operate under the same guidelines (ie: a combination of over-cautiousness and mindless box-checking). I’m not denying how frustrating it must feel! Massive health-care systems do ‘big data’ pretty well, but they suck at individualization.

    2. NoActionNeeded, I was also 32 when I found out about asexuality. Until then I had just felt like there was something badly wrong in me and I became so familiar with questions like: “Why are you not interested in me? Everyone else is?” “Why are you not interested in sex?” “Why do you not talk about sex as much as other girls?” I wish I would have known about asexuality back then.

      Best of luck to you to coming out at work!

  34. Agreeing with Tamora Pierce, but my favorite of favorites is her Beka Cooper trilogy: Terrier, Bloodhound and Mastiff. If you liked Valdemar, check out Lackey’s Elementals series, the Dragon Jouster tetrology [Joust, Alta, Sanctuary and Aerie], and her Bedlam’s Bard series, some of which are co-written with Rosemary Edghill, who is also not to be missed (R. Edghill also publishes as eluki bes shahar). Then check out Tanya Huff’s Enchantment Emporium trilogy and her Blood series, plus, if you like science fiction as well, her five-volume Valor series, which leads into her Peacekeeper trilogy. And if you have never read them, run, do not walk, to get Jacqueline Carey’s original Kushiel’s trilogy: Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, and Kushiel’s Avatar. Carey has written other books as well, two other Kushiel trilogies, one of which is ALMOST as good as the original, and a duology called Santa Olivia and Saints Astray. Her latest is Starless, though that is quite recent and only available at hardcover pricing (yay, libraries!). Might also enjoy Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas under Red Skies, and Republic of Thieves, if you like stories about rogues; the Gentlemen Bastards series is planned for seven, but only three have been published to date. Robin Hobb has a number of fantasy trilogies, which are for various tastes. Guy Gavriel Kay has done some interesting work. The late George Alec Effinger’s Budayeen cycle, starting with When Gravity Fails. Louise Marley’s The Terrorists of Irustan, and others. And, of course, almost anything by the late Kage Baker, the late Sheri S. Tepper, and the recently-late and much-lamented Ursula K.LeGuin. That ought to hold you for a week or more.

    1. Oooh, quite a few that I haven’t read. Judith Tarr and Barbara Hambly are other authors worth seeking out, and, of course, C.J. Cherryh. That’s another week sorted 😉

  35. :/ The bike thing is squicking me out, due mostly to those being objects that you “ride,” hurr hurr. Maybe he’s not thinking in those terms, but it would surprise me. It feels creepy. Do Not Want.

    1. I also am giving this some serious side-eye. It feels like his response to bring dumped was to literally objectify his exes in such a form that he can continue to ‘use’ them every day, and… just nonononono.

  36. For Q5 – one thing that has helped me to draw/enforce boundaries when my mom gets fixated on one of my life choices and how it could be better is to recognize that (1) she is anxious about something, (2) this is her anxiety, not mine and (3) I don’t have to do anything about it. Helps me keep my cool in the moment and end the conversation or change the subject. Also helps me move on after the conversation so I don’t get derailed by her anxiety or feel guilty for refusing to engage.

  37. For reading, try the Marks Reads website. He reads series (usually sci-fi/fantasy) chapter by chapter, and blogs about it. He and the commentariat examine work through a social justice lens, in addition to squeeing in fandom glory.

  38. To the reader:

    Read ALL OF THE VALDEMAR BOOKS. Then read the Serrated Edge, and Bedlam’s bard. Read all of Mercedes Lackey.

    I met her at a con and I promised I was gonna be a Cool Fan but instead I cried and she hugged me.

    1. Oh, Karak, Mercedes Lackey has hugged you! I would have probably fainted in the spot. I still wonder how I managed to keep my wits about me last year in Worldcon.

      Thank you for the great recommendations! ❤

  39. LW for Q9 here. Thank you, Captain, for the extremely helpful suggestions! Setting some boundaries around work is a great idea. I can’t implement 100% as suggested because I’m in a client service business and sometimes there are urgent items required to meet deadlines during late hours, but I can definitely work on cutting off work at a reasonable hour for my industry (say, 8 pm, or when I’ve gotten key to-dos done for the day) barring any dire emergencies, which will give me a pocket of time every day to concentrate on other things without exhausting myself.

    For those commenting with concerns on my therapist – I actually asked her to be something of a hardass! So I think that’s on me. I have been to therapists numerous times in my life, and before this one they were all very nice, kind, compassionate, etc., but aside from providing a safe space and someone to talk to during whatever crisis sent me to therapy, absolutely zero progress was made on my deeper mental health issues. When I started therapy this time (a few months ago), I specifically stated I wanted something of a “boot camp” approach – i.e., for her to call me on my crap when necessary and not let me weasel out of commitments I’d made to myself (because believe me, when the going got tough, I’d try to weasel, based on past history; I have a significant history of second-guessing and sabotaging myself). So when she says, “You really have the potential to do more here,” she telling me that yes, I CAN accomplish all my goals despite the Year of Many Deaths, and that I shouldn’t sell myself short just because I’ve had a rough go of things. And with this approach, I have made SO MUCH PROGRESS on my issues – or at least, I was doing great until a couple weeks ago, when I lost yet another person who had been a very important presence in my life for 20+ years, and suddenly felt like I was unraveling again and wanting to hide at home in my pajamas eating takeout and watching Netflix all day.

    Anyway, I love the idea of continuing to work really hard at core life responsibilities (where I’d seriously be inconveniencing or letting down someone else who matters to me if I don’t get those things done), but giving myself a modest of time in my schedule where I can indeed cut myself a break and do whatever is going to be fun without judging myself for it not being serious enough or intellectual or whatever.

    1. If it helps: Your therapist may be a person with a lot of training and experience surrounding mental health treatment, but she is still just a person. She is not the end-all be-all judge of what’s reasonable for you to accomplish; she is not the ultimate arbiter of how much grief you as an individual can function through at a given moment; she’s just a person. She’s going to get the balance wrong sometimes, because everyone is wrong sometimes.

      What do you think would happen if you told her: “Look, I know I asked you to push me and not let me back out of my goals, but the circumstances have changed and with the weight of this latest loss, I’m just not able to power through things as well as I usually can. Your calling me on my weaseling out of goals has been really helpful in the past, and it probably will be again in the future, but in this moment it’s just making me feel terrible about myself. Can I have a month or two to be gentle with myself while I process this latest loss/Can we work together to develop some new strategies for functioning while feeling overwhelmed by grief/Can you help me prioritize and adjust my goals to what I can reasonably accomplish under these circumstances?”

      Sometimes being productive and accomplishing goals isn’t the most important thing. Sometimes something more important (like taking the time to properly grieve a loved one, or preserving our own mental/emotional health) comes up unexpectedly–having the flexibility to intentionally adjust our priorities when circumstances change isn’t weakness, it’s actually a strength.

  40. A friend of mine once wrote a splendid rant on how concern about “not living up to your potential” can absolutely be abusive at worst, clueless and unhelpful at best.

    It cleared up a lot of things for me. You are not just your potential, and whether or not your particular potential is deemed larger/more valuable/whatever than someone else’s is utterly irrelevant. You are not wasting it. You are not failing. You are living your life.

    Are you enjoying that life? If so, fuck “potential.” You don’t owe the world all the labor it would take to fully realize it.

    (And if you’re not enjoying your life, because trying to “live up to your potential” has become the end-all and be-all, and it’s exhausting and stressful? I give you permission to say “fuck you” to your potential and those expectations. You are valuable RIGHT NOW, just as you are.)

    1. Wooaah. This is spectacular advice and I really need to internalize it. I think I am going to print this and put it on my wall, and will definitely be reading that link. Thank you so much.

    2. Thank you, for this link and for reminding me of Chris Clarke’s blog. Also, while I don’t remember getting the crappy version of this in adolescence, it may explain a thing or two about my troubled adult relationship, and then lack of relationship, with my father, which broke when he tried hard to push those buttons.

  41. Q5/A5: I’ve started using the, “You sound really into her, you should totally ask her out!” response template with my mom whenever she’s encountered someone she thinks I should date and is enthusiastically describing the person’s great qualities. 10/10 would use this strategy again.

    Offering unsolicited (and unwanted) suggestions about something that is as much a matter of personal preference, interest, and compatibility as one’s career or romantic partner is so absurd on its face that an enthusiastic, absurd* response is the best option IMO.

    *in my case, anyway, where the genders and age ranges of romantic partners in which my mom and I are respectively interested are not at all the same

    1. I use this same technique with my mom when she starts telling me how much better the kids of her friends are than I am!

      “Bonnie’s daughter is happy to have her mother come visit! They even went on vacation together!” (implying that this should mean I should want her to visit and be willing to go on vacation with her.)

      “Well, maybe you could ask Bonnie’s daughter to invite you as well next time!”

      It doesn’t win me any points but it does tend to end the conversation.

  42. @Q12: I love to read and read mostly SFF and have for years. I am excited to make some suggestions, which you are of course free to ignore!

    First: two birds in one stone, how about books about relating to one’s body in a more positive way? I loved “Landwhale” by Jes Baker (memoir/fat liberation book). It was a super quick read and legit helped me feel more at ease around food/weight stuff I had been thinking about a lot lately. I am also loving Shrill by Lindy West.

    For SFF, may I recommend Sourdough by Robin Sloane (standalone) or the Mercy Thompson series (first book is Moon called)? they are both light easy reads which delighted me. For an non-SFF, compelling epic fiction, I absolutely LOVED “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee.

  43. Q12 poster: I once interviewed a young adult author who saved all his rejection letters. When he got a book contract he used them to paper his downstairs bathroom walls.

    Another author saved all her rejection letters and at one point did a ritual burning of them. (She eventually wound up being a New York Times best-selling writer and has produced at least three dozen books thus far.)

    Rejection stinks. Even if it’s not personal it sure feels personal. But I agree with the Captain: You are writing and you are submitting your writing. Hats off to those who actually do the work rather than just talk about the work they will one day do. (Guilty of that myself, I’m afraid.)

    I hope that you will write back in one day to tell us all about the successes.

  44. For #9, it might be useful to designate a specific amount of time where you cut yourself as much slack as possible, and perhaps even a schedule for ramping it back up after a certain period of time.

    Some cultures have (or historically have had) defined periods of mourning with different stages that gradually let up in intensity. Maybe it could be useful to draw on that to determine the periods of time that are right for you.

  45. Fist bump for the long terrible years of jobs that never coalesced into a ‘career’. I had to unwillingly ‘retire’ in 2009 (after the recession), and now I never have to field uncomfortable questions about ‘what I do’ because I’m basically a hermit.

    LW6, I’ve been allergic to smoke for 30-some tears, so I feel your pain.

    LW9, Please consider learning how to put yourself first. I’ve been trying to learn that since 2005, so I admit it can be a lengthy process, but so worth it. I trust my own judgment now!

    LW11, After self-dx’ing as autistic in middle age, following autistic people on social media (and reading their books, if they had books) turned out to be more helpful than reading books about autism. Ada Hoffman, yes; SFF writers Rose Lemberg and Bogi Takacs; Max Sparrow, etc. Reading the SFF novel _On the Edge of Gone_ by Corinne Duyvis, with the awful mother (so much like my own) was a godsend (although the book is emotionally wrenching for other reasons).

    LW13, I second so many recommendations here, including Emma Itaranta – _The Memory of Water_ is fantastic. Sherwood Smith’s Inda series; there’s an asexual main character in her _Banner of the Damned_ in the same universe, but 400 yrs later. Her Change series, co-written with Rachel Manija Brown, is also wonderful – I can’t wait for the 4th & final book to come out. (Queer, lots of diversity, polyamorous, disability including PTSD.) Cold Magic series by Kate Elliott. Elemental Logic series by Laurie J. Marks (queer, diversity).

  46. LW11, I forgot Anand Prahlad, who wrote the excellent memoir, _The Secret Life of a Black Aspie_. He’s on Instagram, where I follow him.

  47. Q8: I am not ace, but I am trans. One of the early coming out stages that I unfortunately had to go through was a period of “I’ll never pass, what does it matter, I should pretend to be a girl forever because nobody will ever see me as male so the labels are just going to cause Teh Drama”

    I’m, uh, still a bit in that phase really, but what helps me is both exactly what the good Captain said (labels are for me, not for everyone else. It helps *me* to know what I am) and finding fellowship with other transmen who went through/are going through the same thing (so I could really convince the imp in my head that this is normal and not a sign i’m Not Really Trans After All). Maybe seek out other asexuals and see if this is a common thing for them as well? Or if they have suggestions that can help? I kind of accidentally ended up in a group full of trans men and I wouldn’t have guessed how much it helps beforehand.

  48. Important Kitten Question! The tabbies I’ve met look like Daniel. I’ve never met one with a coat like Henrietta’s and aren’t these called Tortoise-shells? When she’s lying on her side I can see the repeating outline patterns. And isn’t she also of the type that some call a “moggie?”
    They’re both going to be beauties when they grow up. Lovely faces and fur. I look forward to more photos.

      1. That is quite the reference! I appreciate those links, thank you! I like the word “moggie”

Comments are closed.