Good morning! We’re doing the thing today!
To ask a question, patrons can post to this thread and anyone can reach me on Twitter (@CAwkward, #AwkwardFriday). Submissions close at noon Chicago time, at which point I’ll answer as many as I can between then and 1pm.
Comments are open! So many great questions! Thanks everyone.
Q1: I have a new baby, who is loved very much. He is the first grandbaby on both sides. Yay! This means at family events, everyone wants to love on him. Yay again! They all believe they are Good With Babies, and as he gets cranky and overstimulated everyone still wants to pass him around or get in his face in an attempt to calm him, which does not help. At all. Any scripts to say “Please back the eff off for now, and also please don’t be offended, we would so love to have you visit and play with the baby another time so I can have a break then?”
A1: Yay, a baby! You’re gonna have to get in there, scoop the baby up, remove him from the situation, and say “Ok! Time for a little break!” and take him in another room and soothe him.
And you’re his parent, so, you are the Boss of All Things Baby, and people will deal. Relatives: “Oh, I’m good with babies, let me calm him down!” gets “Oh, you are very good with babies, and you can definitely visit/hold him/play with him another time! But right now, I got this!” as you whisk him away.
If other people feel weird about that it is 100% their problem. Babies don’t give a fuck (it is one of their best qualities).
Q2: I cut off my Darth Vader parents many years ago, and everyone else fell away. Except for one cousin, whom I like… as long as we’re “small doses”, several states apart. They love phone calls, which I hate; I love letters, which they hate. So we occasionally text (which I like), and they give me gifts (ugh). /// Gift giving in my family of origin was a hot mess, and now I basically hate even the idea of gifts. /// I’ve told them 3 separate times that my pierced ears closed up *20 years ago* due to allergies, but I received another pair a few months ago. Cue the shame spiral about how apparently my words are as relevant as the screeching of cicadas. ///
I just want to retain a feeling that one person I grew up around cares about the person I am now, but when I get a text about a package awaiting me at our post office box, I’m overcome with dread and despair. ///
A2: Hi! I have four strategies for you. All of them involve a little bit of disengaging – this particular cousin and their annoying quirk are not responsible for :gestures vaguely: All Your Complicated Feelings About Family – so the more you remind yourself that this is just one person and their one weird thing (and not a statement on you or what Faaaaaaaaaaamily should be like) the less fraught this will be.
- Return to sender. You don’t ever have to go collect that package from the post office. After a certain amount of time, the package will be sent back where it came from (or lost in the void, which, ok!). If your cousin inquires about that, say “Oh, that was from you? Weird, I thought we decided ‘no gifts’? I hope you can find a good home for it.”
- Channel her. “I don’t like earrings/gifts, but you know what I do love? Postcards!” Get the postcards. Read the three sentences on there. Feel less weird. Send a postcard back sometimes if you are so moved.
- Donate immediately. Pick up the package. Swing by your local charity shop (in Chicago, I like this one). Drop whatever is inside the package in one of the bins. Someone will like it. Don’t send a thank you note or text, and if the person asks about whatever it is say “Oh, yeah, I donated it – I couldn’t use it, hopefully someone can!” You. Said. You. Didn’t. Want. Gifts.
- “That’s just their way.” Take a deep breath. Repeat this to yourself. “That’s just their way.” They don’t listen, they don’t really see you, but they are the least objectionable family you’ve got, and you’ve chosen to stay in touch, so, that’s just their way. You can’t fix it, so, decide how much of your feelings budget you want to spend on it.
Q3: How do I know if it’s time to give up on my dreams of being a college professor? My former advisors and academic friends are pressuring me to go “on the market” again this fall, and part of me is like, “Eh, why not?” But this will be my third year on the market and I’ve started to feel like I’m wasting my time applying to jobs I’m not going to get. Complicating matters is the fact that I currently have an objectively good, albeit uninspiring, non-academic job that I can’t justify leaving for a one-year academic job, so I’m probably being more selective with the jobs I apply to than I have any right to be. I’ve had a decent “hit rate” with getting interviews, but I recognize that the deck is stacked against me. When does pursuing this become a waste of my time and energies?
A3: This is the first fall since 2003 that I’m not going back to school in any fashion and I’ve also given myself permission to stop trying to be any kind of college teacher for a while (a first since 2010), so there is a 10,000 word essay on this, like, vibrating out of my fingertips right now…
SO MANY FEELINGS #FEELINGS #WHYISACADEMIALIKETHIS #DREAMSDIE #ORMAYBETHEYCHANGE #IDONTKNOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
Maybe try this:
We’ve got a three-day weekend coming up if you’re in the USA, so, good timing for you to have a good think.
- Take a cursory glance at what’s available in your field. Anything grabbing you? Like, you read the posting and think to yourself “that’s my job” level of excitement? It’s okay to apply selectively and budget your energies.
- When is your field’s annual conference? Planning to go? Got something to present or do there? Got people you want to catch up with, and/or meet? Got the $ and some nice outfits? (“Nope!” is an okay answer to these questions, just, ask them of yourself and your budget).
- There is the job, and then there is…:pretentiously pushing up glasses:…The Work. If you didn’t go on the market this round, is there some enjoyable and exciting piece of research and/or writing and/or creative project on your topic of interest that you could work on? Could you tell your mentors (and yourself), “Oh, I don’t have time to apply for positions this year, I’m working on ______, though please let me know if you hear of something you think would be the perfect fit for me and I will rally!”
- The Professor Is In is probably a good resource?
- There is the job and then there is…Your Life. Is your life making you happy? What good things have you been putting off because you might have to drop everything and move? What trouble spots have you been ignoring because your energies have been focused on the job search?
- If you never became a college professor, what are five other lives you could be happy living?
Q4: Can you help me establish good boundaries with helping my husband with his job search? It’s a minefield of him feeling useless and unwanted; he spent almost 2 decades pursuing degrees that are hard to tie directly to full-time employment. He does have many good skills and experiences and I do think he would do very well at many jobs. I don’t want to fall into a dedicated “caretaker” role of reminding him to do things like stop agonizing over his resume and just submit the darn thing already or doing things that he is fully capable of doing himself, like typing “how to dress for an interview for [job] in [industry]” into Google, or talking him off an emotional ledge every.single.time. he gets less-than-100%-positive feedback from a would-be employer. He’s “too busy” for therapy (we have great health insurance through my job), and we have access to the same, excellent career service office at our mutual alma mater. On the other hand, I have some personal experience in job-hunting, and I do work for one of the largest employers in my city (though not in his specific discipline/area of expertise) so I could be a networking resource. In fact, my company has expressed the possibility of helping him with his job search as part of my own compensation package. I want him to succeed and find rewarding, stable work, and in general I enjoy helping people work their job searches, resume editing, etc. “No help for my husband ever” is not the outcome I’m hoping for.
I’m sure you are very capable and helpful and kind and if there was something your husband needed or wanted from you that would help him get a job, you would cheerfully do it!
But I think that disengaging a bit is possibly the most helpful thing you could do.
If your husband wants to send me a question along the lines of “Hey, I spent 20 years in school and it hasn’t really added up to a career. I feel fragile and scared and I’m kind of at a loss for what to do. I feel like I’m too old/too out of step to start something new. My spouse wants to help me, but I don’t even know where to start, so their offers of help are starting to freak me out!” I promise I will write him a thorough answer to the best of my abilities. But I can’t (and you can’t) transitively help him get his shit together.
The most telling thing in your whole question is that he is “too busy” for therapy. But he isn’t too busy for you to spend time “talking him off an emotional ledge every.single.time. he gets less-than-100%-positive feedback from a would-be employer.”
If I could talk to your husband directly I’d say “Dude. Go to therapy. Figure out what’s holding you back. Find something you want to work at or on or for. If you can’t find a paid job right now, volunteer at something that interests you. Phone bank or knock on doors for a candidate. Bag up groceries at the food bank. You’ll feel useful, you’ll be useful, you’ll meet people, you’ll make the world a better place, you’ll hopefully connect with the idea that there is work that needs to be done in the world that is separate from your exact dreams or your self-image or what you studied in school. Go to therapy. Volunteer somewhere. Make a start.”
For you, the querent, maybe the best thing you can say to your husband is “I want you to find work in your field and I want to help, but I want you to see a therapist and I want you to work with [outside coaching/placement resources in your discipline as available, which, it sounds like thanks to your job, some are?]. I think they can provide structure and guidance for you and give you a safe sounding board. If you have specific help you need from me, like, looking at your cover letter for a specific opening, let me know. I believe in you and I know you can do it!”
And then you pull back from some of the ledge-talking over time and redirect him toward solutions, like, “Yep, that sucks, so, what’s your next step?” /”What do you want to do about that?” /”What do you think you’ll do about that?” And also change the subject after a certain point, like, ok, that’s all the job talk for tonight, let’s watch TV!
If he asks for specific help, help. But stem the tide of brainstorming ways to help, not because you don’t know what will help (you definitely know!) but because it has to come from him.
Those are the hardest boundaries because they mean setting boundaries with ourselves, and they mean setting boundaries with ourselves when we can see someone we love is hurting. It’s so hard. But the current way isn’t working! He needs people who aren’t you to help him establish some accountability and some structure.
The level beyond that is, um, “Hey, so, do you actually want a job?” but that is definitely above my pay grade.
Q5: I’ve had the same friend group since high school and while we all went away for college, we’ve now all settled back in the city where we grew up and hang out pretty frequently. One of our friends, “Tina” moved a few states away (would be 4 hours by train) for a really demanding job with night-shift and weekend hours, and she’s been getting increasingly angry/jealous/hurt when the rest of us have been hanging out. Tina has expressed being hurt that she hasn’t been invited when we all hang out, and if she wasn’t invited she leaves passive aggressive comments on our social media posts like “#NotInvited” and “Wow guess I wasn’t invited…” We’re divided in the group if we should be inviting Tina to all our hangouts. Half say yes since she’s feeling hurt (and definitely experiencing FOMO) and it doesn’t take much effort to at least extend an invite, but I’m in the half that says no. I think it’s a bit ridiculous to have to invite a person who lives hours away every single time we get happy hour, have a board game night, go to a winery, etc. when we know she can’t make it! I’d love to get your take on this. To invite or not invite?
A5: If some things are planned in advance, and y’all would want her to come if she happened to be free, then invite her. “We’re going on a winery tour next weekend, who’s in?” Caveat: It’s okay to plan the thing for when it’s convenient for y’all and then invite/loop her in when it’s a set thing, you don’t have to negotiate everything you do around her schedule. If she keeps saying no, she can’t go, that’s fine! An invitation is not a contract or a command, she said she wanted to be invited to stuff, you invited her, her feelings about the rest are her own.
For last minute stuff/more casual stuff, it’s okay not to invite her, though if it is a weekly/standing event then it’s also ok to say “We play board games every Thursday at Guthrie’s, I know your schedule is crazy but if you ever want to make it you don’t need an invitation – just show up, or text me first if you’re not sure it’s on.”
Also, talk to Tina and say: “Listen, we miss you a lot! But we’re not hanging out AT you or to exclude you, and it’s not fair or reasonable to expect that we’ll factor you into every last minute pizza night when you live four hours away, so can you stop with the #notinvited posts please? Also, let us know when you will be in town so we can make sure to plan something then.”
It’s also okay if friends drift apart after high school. But if she is your friend, yeah, do a little work to include her.
Q6: A family friend became a single mom this spring. At her baby shower, I included the receipt. Since I forgot to request a gift receipt, it was my regular credit card receipt, which was a mistake because when she did return it a few months later, it went back on my card (my bank statement is how I found out). Not wanting to leave her with effectively no gift (especially since baby was in the NICU a month), I bought a Target gift card. What do I write in the greeting card that I’ll mail the gift card in? Also, I see her parents, brother/roommate, and probably baby this weekend. Do I say anything to them?
A6: “Hey, let’s try this whole gift thing again! So glad baby’s home to stay.”
She was probably way too busy to even notice where the refund ended up.
Q7: Long story short, my MIL is LW#1141 30 years from now, and is having an incredibly difficult time committing to actually divorcing her husband, even though she knows he’s toxic and has been destroying her spirit for decades (so I genuinely hope LW follows your advice!). My question isn’t for her, but for her kids/their spouses (including me): all of us think she should get a divorce, and have been trying to support her throughout the process of her leaving him, including letting her live with us in our houses, talking to her for hours, finding her therapists and support groups, reading Lundy Bancroft with her, letting her know we’ll support her financially, going to the airport and picking her up. We know that it has to be her decision to leave him, that people in abusive relationships go back and forth many times, and we have each other as a support group, but it’s incredibly wearing on all of us and has been going on for months. Do you have any resources or suggestions for how we can practice self-care and find support?
A7: You’re doing all you can to support her, so make sure you spend time together (with your mom, with each other) that is not about taking care of Mom. Ask her advice about stuff in your lives. Find pleasurable hobbies or ways to spend time together. Laugh. Do fun things together. You don’t have to make your whole lives about #ThisFuckingGuy.
Q8: You know that thing where you eat something so awful that you want to make everyone around you taste it too, just to confirm it’s really that bad? My husband is like that with Trump news. Every time there’s another tiny update in the reality show that is our country, he feels the need to read all the news and talk to me about it. Unfortunately, my tolerance for the Great Pumpkin is a lot lower, and talking about it all the time makes me sad and upset. Any tips for setting limits on how much I can take?
A8: As someone who used to literally hide in another part of the apartment when past roommates watched The Apprentice so I wouldn’t have to hear that voice or look at that face, I FEEL YOU. I will die mad that I ever had to think about that asshole or anyone in his asshole family, that he ever had power over anything in the world. I FEEL YOU.
So. There are problems and injustices in these United States that he did not invent. He is not the center of everything, much as it feels that way at times. And there are activists who have been working on these problems for a long time, and they could use help. So, maybe focus your own energies on stuff like the largest prison strike in US history (happening now!), or supporting progressive women running for office or helping us hold onto voting rights or making sure people who need abortions can get them or petting all the dogs in your local shelter or making sure people where you live can eat. Put books in the hands of people in prison. Find some local politics to get excited about. The work of repairing the world has been here and it will be here after that guy is flushed down history’s tacky gold toilet.
And tell your husband that. “I can’t focus on him or hear about him, I need to work on other stuff. And I can’t be your Trump Anger Absorbing Sponge, I am overflowing, so you’re gonna need to join a message board or some shit.” Also, monitoring every policy turd that dude drops is not the same as taking action, so, redirect him to action. Like, every time your husband bitches about Trump, he’s gotta make five calls before he can even talk to you again.
Q9: I keep faking it but rarely do I feel like I make it. At what point does one give up and admit (to oneself at least) that I’m A Fake? And it’s time to stop? Or, am I supposed to use external measures – does feeling like a horrible fake even matter if others on the ground with me seem to think I’m doing fine? Maybe what I’m really asking is, how much stress and anxiety is too much?
A9: It’s therapy time, friend.
Q10: Dear Captain, this question comes from my now 15 year old daughter. She has a friendship issue which has been going on for a few years now and does not seem to be easily resolved. She is geeky and very interested in science and finds herself different from the other younsters in her class – but she used to have one close school friend. The friend is very different from her. She is calm and the friend is very active, she is considerate and the friend tends to blurt out inappropriate questions. This is why she put their friendship on hiatus a year ago in the first place: the friend kept asking her all kinds of very personal questions related to sexuality, for example: “Are you considering to auction your virginity?” “How does the penis go to the vagina” and that sort of thing. My daughter was very embarrased by these questions and asked her then friend why she kept asking thins like that. It turned out that the friend had all these questions and my daughter was the only one she trusted enough to ask them. Their friendship has now been on a hiatus for over a year and now my daughter is pondering whether they should try being friends again or not. In my opinion she initiated the hiatus very well, using scripts learned from you, dear Captain. We would love your input on this problem. My daughter is very much a hugger, so she wishes to send you her thanks and a big Jedi hug, if you want one.
A10: Hi there! Hugs back!
It’s okay to be friends with people who are really different from us, so if you’re missing this person and want to be friends again (and, very important, if they want to be friends again), why not?
This time you know what you’re getting into (this person is going to be pretty exuberant and doesn’t really have a good filter), and this time hopefully you’re more able to say “Wow, I have no idea what to say about that question/I’m not really comfortable talking about stuff like that, but did you know there’s a website called Scarleteen that answers all kinds of stuff about sex?”
Q11: Hi Captain! What’s the most ridiculously cute (or just plain ridiculous) thing the kittens have done this week?
A11: Funny you should ask, though it’s in the category of cute-but-gross:
Also, they keep GROWING. So large.
Q12: I moved to the country a few years ago, and now have a commute, several kids, a demanding job, livestock, a partner, aging family and in-laws… basically, I don’t go back to see friends as often as I’d like, due to sheer lack of time and spoons. Any suggestions for a) good ways of staying in touch with people I value (right now that’s sporadic text messages and occasional Skype dates) and b) making new social circles in a super-rural environment?
A12: For old friends: texting, Skype dates, postcards, social media, and maybe arranging an annual getaway where you all meet up for a long weekend or they come visit you on the farm? “Getting away” sporadically is hard, but maybe “This is the big annual trip that we do every year, it is sacred time” is easier.
For making friends in rural areas: Churches, community theater, arts, music, nature preserves/sanctuary/environmental stuff, farming organizations, political & advocacy groups, book clubs, trivia, Dungeons & Dragons, knitting/craft groups, all the same stuff as anywhere (only more driving). What’s on the bulletin board at the local grocery store or coffee shop? And could you put something there about what you’re interested in?
It does take energy, but I think community is there if you look. We’re communal animals.
Q13: I’ve been dodging a Casual Acquaintance who seems to think that we’re better friends than we are for months, and clearly the message that I’m not terribly interested in a deeper friendship isn’t coming across. I don’t want to be rude because they seem like a good enough person, but they have a tendency to disrespect boundaries and to ask for complicated favours in rude ways (due I think to just extreme social awkwardness). I feel bad for ghosting/vagueness, but we are both part of my city’s small-ish writing community, so something like deleting them off Facebook isn’t really in the cards. Are there any other ways to communicate distance than just continued “sorry, too busy to hang right now!” kind of refusals, or should I just keep at it until they get the message?
A13: Nicole Cliffe answered this beautifully.
I think you keep saying no to the favors, like, “No, won’t do that!” and maybe the next time they ask you to hang out you can say “Hey, no thanks! I’ll be glad to see you at [Writing Group Events], but I really don’t want to get together outside of that.”
If you don’t want to delete/unfriend outright on social media, there is the Unfollow and the Filter. Use them!
Q14: What’s a good way to roll with other people’s shock/disbelief when you deviate from a common social script? For instance: a common social script for a man who doesn’t want to help a woman with a problem she’s having is to gaslight her about the “legitimacy” of the problem. Since this is awful, I don’t do that, but many women in my life don’t seem to know how to process it when I acknowledge a problem as legitimate but still tell them I can’t help.
A14: Hrmmmmm, I’m not sure I’m following about the “common social scripts” part but if you’ve said “sorry, can’t help you” and the other person is upset/surprised by that, and you’re sure that you don’t want to change your mind, what can you do except repeat what you said and then try to change the subject or move on from the conversation? Like, “I can see you’re upset, but I really can’t help.” And then…don’t help? And let their reaction be whatever it is?
Q15:One of my closest friends just does not like my boyfriend. It’s not for anything other than personality differences, as he’s truly an amazing partner and supports me and loves me fully. Essentially, he is just not good socially in anything other than very small groups, and she loves to have parties at her house with 8-15 people a lot. So he’s very quiet, especially with her because she makes him uncomfortable, which she perceives as aloof. In fairness, he does not try very hard to change this perception. They are both adults, and their relationship is theirs to manage, but it bothers me, and upsets me when I know we have not been invited to something because she doesn’t want him around. Should I just continue to stay out of it? Ask him to make more of an effort with her for my sake? Ask her to try harder to cover up her dislike for him when she’s around me?
A15: You can’t control how she feels or who she invites to things, but if this is an important friendship to you, here’s some stuff you can control:
- Go to her parties solo sometimes. Boyfriend can amuse himself and not be uncomfortable in the home of someone who doesn’t like him. You might have to talk to her about this, like, “Hey, I’m bummed not to be invited to stuff – would it make a difference if it were just me and not me+1 next time?”
- Invite her to do one-on-one stuff, and make Boyfriend an off-limits topic of conversation, like “Look, I know you don’t like him, so I will try hard to talk about other stuff and you will try hard to keep that look of disdain off your face if I do mention him.”
- Try crossing the streams with them again, in a very small group, where your boyfriend knows/likes most of the people, and y’all are the hosts, approximately a year from now. Just leave it alone until then.
Q16: My (she/her) wife and another of her partners (also she/her) have been together for 20+ years (almost a decade longer than my wife and I) and they’ve always had a tricky and somewhat turbulent relationship, but also clearly loved and cared for each other. But lately things seem to have gone past turbulence into active dysfunction in a way that makes me uncomfortable to witness.
They seem to be clashing more and more, and partner spends a lot of time bitching about my wife when she’s not present. (We’re neighbours and our lives are quite entangled) and I’m having trouble navigating my role in this situation. I’ve said to my wife, “if I had a friend whose partner talked to and about them the way partner talks to and about you, I’d be telling them to reevaluate their relationship,” and I kind of want to tell partner something similar (“if I had a friend who talked about their partner the way you talk about wife, I’d be asking them how much they still wanted to be in the relationship”) but I know that the actual conversation that needs to happen here is entirely between them. I guess I need help figuring out where my boundaries should be and how to better defend them.
A16: I love your “if I had a friend whose partner talked to and about them the way partner talks to and about you, I’d be telling them to reevaluate their relationship” script and I’m just gonna add one tiny thing to it, which is “I am super-uncomfortable being a sounding board about this, y’all are going to have to figure it out together or separately, but we’ve gotta change the subject.”
Get out of the middle! It’s okay to make that clear.
Q17: How do you get stuff done when you have no deadlines, and you have depression & perfectionism, and are paralyzed anytime you try to start? I don’t know if I need a kick in the pants or a sabbatical or a strict routine or a new life.
A17: There is a good book about habit formation called Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which I’ll recommend with the caveat that I definitely tuned out some “better eating habits” content. Anyway, what I found valuable about it was the way she broke down how to find out what motivates you, like, maybe you are someone who is motivated by having external accountability, so having a study group or a writing group or a buddy to check in with about what you’re working on would help you, or maybe you’re motivated by reminding yourself why you need or want to do what you’re doing. (Rubin is kind of a natural rule-follower, which, uh, does not apply to me).
I also like the Pomodoro method (adapted well by friend-of-blog Rachel Hoffman) of setting a timer and just picking one thing and doing it for a set amount of time as a way to break analysis paralysis. Like, it doesn’t matter what order, even, just, pick a thing, now, do it for 5 minutes. Action can be its own motivator.
You might in fact need a sabbatical, a strict new routine, therapy, a coach, a kick in the pants. Some of the stuff on your to-do list might be bullshit that you don’t actually need to do. IDK. P.S. If you have The Impossible Task, ask for help with it?
Q18: Question is: what are practical tips for building a morning routine? Currently mine is like “smoke 3 cigarettes while staring at Twitter” which is… not a great way to start the day. But putting Energy into anything else in the morning is so hard!
A18: You might like that book on habits that I mentioned above. Also the UFYH-author has a great “unfuck your morning the night before” list of things:
- Wash the dishes in your sink
- Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
- Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
- Make your lunch
- Put your keys somewhere obvious
- Wash your face and brush your teeth
- Charge your electronics
- Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
- Set your alarm
- Go to bed at a reasonable hour
I am a disorganized person with ADHD. Most mornings, my slightly more organized husband wakes me up and feeds me breakfast, I get some meds into me, I feed some kitties, and then I get started with whatever I’ve got going on. Mr. Awkward started school this week and his whole schedule shifted earlier and he didn’t have time to make breakfast on Tuesday and after he left I was like…
…what even is life…
…I think I finally ate a food around noon that day…
…what are meds…
…so I’m not exactly a crackerjack.
Two things do actually help me: 1) Free-writing a few pages, either in a notebook or online. I have been sucking at this for the last month or so because petting kittens is more fun and by the time I would do the morning pages it’s time to start the day’s Real Writing, but it’s a touchstone and whenever I go back to it I’m more functional.
2) The second thing is I’ve started putting my phone and anything that connects to social media in a different room (literally on a different floor of my apartment) after a certain time of the evening. So a) there is a definite quitting time in the evenings where I read books and don’t look at the Internet and b) in the morning I don’t read Twitter or anything about the world until I’ve had a food and some meds and petted some kittens. IT IS GREAT A+ HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Oh also I turned off almost all notifications on my phone. ALSO RECOMMENDED.
Q19: My surname is common for my ethnicity, rare overall (this isn’t it, but think Nguyen). When I’m in a class/job/etc with someone of the same name, people often say “oh, are you related?” or “It must be nice to be at the same school as your sister!” I try to say “oh, we’re not related!” as breezily as possible, but it still feels awkward, especially when they’ve presupposed that we are related and I have to step the conversation back to correct them…I never leave the convo feeling good. Any other tips?
A19: If you have the energy to engage, and especially (for example) if the people making this mistake are white people of the American variety, try adding “Oh, we’re not related! You probably didn’t realize, but it’s a very common name, like Smith or Jones.” They’ll likely apologize at that point and you can say “I appreciate it! And now you’ll know not to make the same mistake when you talk to [Your Not-Sister With Same Name], right? Spread the word?”
Q20: I already have one cat who likes being an only child, but your kittens have stirred something deep inside and now I want two kittens more than I have ever wanted anything in my life. Talk me out of it?
A20: 1) They poop SO much and it smells like DEATH. 2) Beadie, were she still alive, would have cheerfully gutted these little motherfuckers and left their corpses on my pillow for me to find. Barring that, she would have rage-peed on everything I own. And then they would have peed. And then she would have peed more. AN OUROBOROS OF HATE AND PEE. You made a commitment to your cat, who loves you, and who doesn’t deserve this nonsense.
(I love them so much)(I still miss her so much)
Q21: My mom & sister are mad at me for not letting them visit when I was in the hospital recently. Neither one is a comforting presence or relaxing & I was sick & stressed enough as it was. They say they’ll visit me next time, like it or not because FAMILY.
A21: Guess who you won’t call when/if you go back to the hospital, and who will always find out about any hospitalizations well after the fact?
Why are people like this.
Q22: What’s the best way to shut down someone’s(usually an older white man) Bad Opinions(tm) when you’re easily flustered and bad at debate? These opinions come on a tide of plausible deniabity and build on normal suppositions one feels inclined to allow/agree with but somehow always concluded things like “and therefore diversity is bad.” In the moment it’s hard to notice the point when it goes from normal to bigoted.
A22: On social media, I started telling these dudes that my debate-a-stranger rate was $500/hour, payable in advance, 2 hour minimum, automatic 20% surcharge for libertarians or anyone with “contrarian” or “devil’s advocate” in their handle or display name.
Nobody’s sent me money so those dudes are all muted or blocked forever now.
In real life it’s harder to invoice, but what I’ve learned is that I can usually see these guys and their “plausible deniability” antics coming from a mile away (and probably so can you) and I don’t have an obligation to hang out until they get to the explicitly racist stuff (and neither do you). Telling an older white man that you don’t really care about his thoughts is a risky thing (sometimes they get really angry and violent), but you can say “Oh, I don’t want to listen to this” or “Oh, I don’t enjoy debating about this” and bow out of the conversation completely if you want to. They don’t want to actually discuss it, they want a forum to be loud and wrong and dominate you, and you can deny them the satisfaction.
Q23: Advice for Interview Brainspace for a Super Awesome Job interview about 3 months after being dismissed for “fit” – and still working through it!! (she/her)
A23: When you were dismissed, there was a lesson. What was that lesson, and what is the three sentence story you could tell about that lesson if you had to?
- Like, were you a bad fit for the place? Why or why not?
- Were they a bad fit for you?
- What do you need out of your next workplace and a job re: fit?
Interviewer: “So, why did you leave Company X?”
Previous You: PIT OF DESPAIR AND AWKWARD SILENCE AS INSECURITIES GRENADE DETONATES
You Today: “It was a bad fit, which I was pretty upset about at the time, nobody likes acknowledging that, but now that I’ve thought about it I realize it really was a bad fit, and a company/position that has x, y, and z [where x, y, and z are facets of the new job] qualities would be much better for me.”
Q24: I have an OK thesis draft, a kind & supportive advisor, mostly effective anxiety meds, but the thought of letting my advisor read my thesis is making me panic (& making it hard to revise.) Not worried about things going badly – just AAAAGH. Any advice?
A24: Just fucking send it already. It’s your advisor’s job to read it and to help you shape it into what it’s going to eventually be. This is just one draft in a series of drafts. Send it!
Then immediately after you send it do something really nice for yourself.
Thanks for the great questions, comments are open now, but moderation will be light after 6pm or so today and through the weekend, so please don’t panic if your comment gets eaten by the spam filter – I’ll release them as I can.