Short Answer Friday/Chat for September 14

Hello everyone!

We’re doing the thing today, where people can submit short questions at Patreon or on Twitter (@CAwkward, #awkwardfriday) before noon Chicago time and I will answer as many as I can this afternoon between noon and 2pm. Comments get turned on once everything is posted

Please enjoy this artsy photo of Daniel Striped Tiger hanging out in his new rainbow tunnel/bifrost.

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Image: Daniel Tiger inside a rainbow tunnel, walking toward camera like he’s in a Kubrick movie.

Q1: Starting my 1st kids theatre job, SO SCARED. So much to remember/could go wrong + stakes feel SO high bc KIDS. soothing words pls? The show is v. interactive so there are large parts where I just can’t know what will happen. We’ve had 2 days rehearsal. HELP

A1: The kids don’t know how it’s supposed to be, so if you make a mistake or forget something they won’t notice – you can come back to it later! The kids are there to have fun, be together, collaborate, and try something new. Their families will come to the show to see their kids and if the show is actually un-terrible it is a bonus. If you or someone else in charge chose a show that has improv or other audience interaction, those parts are probably supposed to be a little messy and probably supposed to teach the kids to be open to mistakes and happy accidents. Focus on safety, kindness, listening to each other, having fun, being gentle, trying new things, and don’t worry about creating the perfect show or teaching them all of theater. They’ll remember the experience more than the polish or perfection of any given performance.

Q2: I got back together with ex, what to do if my folks now hate him? They’ve got a point, and I can’t talk force them to reaccept him with open arms. I appreciate them looking out for me but at some level I wish they could stop being so salty about it?

A2: Give it time and don’t force it. If they have reasons for not liking him, is he self-aware about why that might be and is he doing his part to make amends to you and change those behaviors? Can you keep your expectations low right now, and say “I understand why you don’t like him – we broke up for a reason! As a favor to me, can you at least be polite/neutral when he’s around, not bring up old issues, and give us both a little time to try again?” Can you find a balance between “I want my partner to be included” and “I want my partner to be with me for every moment of every family gathering” to give everyone some space and time? The rest is time. If you are happy over time, that will make a better case than any script or conversation.

Q3: Hey Cap! I’m trying to meet new people with an app and about half the time it feels like the person is expecting me to entertain them. They will open with only a greeting and will not ask me any questions leaving me to carry the conversation. Is it rude to just unmatch these folks? In my experience bringing their lack of effort to their attention doesn’t work. How do you think I should handle this? Thanks!

A3: Unmatch away! At every stage of meeting people and dating, you are trying to figure out “would I like more of this?” It’s okay to hold out for people where you’re both curious about each other and the conversation flows.

Q4: I fucked up moderating a disagreement because i thought it was about difference of opinions but it was actually about boundaries; i just want to leave the group because I screwed up and can’t trust myself and trauma makes me feel like a bad person now.

A4: Moderating discussions takes a lot of energy and skill and time, and even if you’re pretty good at it, it can all go sideways sometimes. And it is really horrible when it goes wrong, if the stakes are high in the discussion and people are hurting each other. If you need a break from moderating or participating in that group, take one, but if the group is important to you, acknowledge your part in what happened, apologize, take a little break, and then come back when you’re ready. Communities go through growing pains and people make mistakes.

Q5: Hi Captain Awkward and Kitty Crew,

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year, and it feels like everything I do manages to somehow hurt his feelings or make him think that I am annoyed with him in some way. He and I have really similar emotional baggage, so I understand him well, but I’ve spent years working on my anxiety, perfectionism, and healthy boundaries, so I don’t feel like this happens in the reverse nearly as often.

When he does say something that hurts my feelings, I have gotten A LOT better at calmly explaining how I feel and asking for what I need. He often reacts with defensiveness like he needs to prove a point or how if I could “see things rationally” (not helpful, my dude!). Anyway, last night things came to a head when I wasn’t “excited enough” about some very minor things going on in his life and I didn’t feel like joking around with him when we had plans to try to reconnect as a couple after a long day at work. I’m burnt out and tired of feeling like I am some horrible person because of how much he takes on my feelings as a referendum for who he is. What, if anything, can I do? (she/her)

A5: If one person in a relationship always feels like they are messing up and owe the other person an apology or reassurance, something is messed up. You’re allowed to feel your feelings (even if those feelings are “I’m tired and not into joking around tonight, can we not?”) and not manage his (If he’s excited about whatever it is, and you said some version of “nice, that’s good news!” why do you have to perform a certain amount of excitement).

So…didja see all the posts from the last couple weeks about people who act like their feelings are the only important feelings and who pick fights about small stuff and make their partners feel horrible b/c they don’t have good self-soothing strategies and want their partner to do it all?  This relationship sounds like waaaaaaaaay too much work. Maybe it feels like you’re always annoyed with him because you are (and you should listen to that annoyance and follow it to new lands, new single lands).

Q6Hi Cap,
I’m 6 weeks into a wonderful new relationship with a great guy whose queerness nicely complements my own, and my question is how do I (they/them) navigate the line between letting him in on my baggage and insecurities without making them his problem to solve?

Occasionally he’ll say he’s not into something or that something I did made him uncomfortable, which should be normal boundary-setting stuff in a new relationship. But then my jerkbrain starts to panic and spiral into “He doesn’t like that, I fucked up, I always fuck up, I’ll never be good enough, he’s going to disappear, nobody will ever love me” etc. Obviously this isn’t true and an overreaction — I’m learning how to be in a relationship with him as he’s learning about me and there are preferences and boundaries to establish along the way. He’s been great about giving me comfort and a chance to process/explain when this happens, but I don’t want to be oversensitive or make him feel like he can’t say no to stuff without making me cry. So can you recommend any strategies for acknowledging and soothing my jerkbrain without relying on my new partner to constantly provide reassurance?

A6: Hi, this is a great companion question to #5, great timing!

Here’s what you do:

  • Work on your own feelings & insecurities with a therapist (or some non-therapy mental health option). That’s what the partner in Q5 owes the other partner – taking care of one’s mental health to the extent you can so that reasonable boundaries or small conflicts DON’T turn into existential crises.
  • Make sure you spend time with your friends/family/other members of Team You and cultivate a robust support and social network. You’re lovable and there are lots of kinds of love in the world – he isn’t the only source.
  • See if you can mentally reframe him saying “Oh, I’m not into that” or “Here’s where my boundary is” away from your jerkbrain’s well-worn narratives. What if “I don’t really like spicy food, can you get something mild next time we order food together?” or “Hey, please don’t touch that spot on my body, it kinda freaks me out” doesn’t mean “You fucked up and nobody will ever love you” it means I trust you and I’m telling you stuff you need to know so we can enjoy each other’s company.” 

Q7: Last night a really promising new relationship (my first in a long time) ended when we realised he wants children one day and I (she/her) don’t. Instead of continuing to date knowing there would be a limit to how serious it could get, we mutually decided to end things. We were kind to each other, respectful and used our words. There were a lot of tears. We’re taking a break from contacting each other right now and I’ve muted his social feeds until it’s less raw. We both want to try to develop an awesome friendship when enough time has passed for that to be possible. I’ve never felt the need to be friends with an ex before but I really believe this one is special and our friendship could be a valid and fulfilling relationship of its own one day. Tips to help us make this work when we’re ready?

A7: That’s so hard, so good job making a tough decision.

Suggestions:

  1. Give it a lot of time. For me it takes at least 3-6 months, maybe a year to get things out of my system.
  2. It will be okay if friendship doesn’t happen. It really will. You’ll have other people and other stuff in your life to sustain you and you don’t need him. When you believe that, you’re probably pretty close to ready.
  3. If a friendship is meant to happen, it will happen because the things you have in common (interests, hobbies, people, places) will bring you back together naturally.
  4. DON’T do date-like stuff (“Oh can you come to this wedding with me?” “Wanna come over and watch a movie at my place on the couch where we used to make out?”) as your first forays into hanging out again. DON’T drink or otherwise lower inhibitions. Don’t necessarily revisit old favorite places – do something new.
  5. It might not be the right time until one or both of you have met someone new.

Q8: I certainly don’t think it’s too early to think of Halloween, so Cap’n… what would a Captain Awkward Halloween costume look like this year. 🎃

Glasses, a black pencil skirt & graphic t-shirt with a cardigan over it, tights or leggings, Converse or ankle boots should get it done. I grew up in the 90s, I spent 15 years attending & working at an art school, I like stretchy fabrics & sturdy footwear.

Q9: My father retired 10 years ago and I (she/her pronouns) took his place running the family business, the only sibling to do so. One of my requirements was that he retire, not semi-retire, as I can not work with him / his personality. He’s a covert narcissist, wanting attention and adulation without doing any effort or putting himself out there. Periodically he gets bored or frustrated with his life and then start to make demands of me / the company. With the coaching from some friends, I’ve gotten better at keeping communications professional, refusing to engage in personal insults, etc. Any suggestions on redirecting his attention? He’s in his 70’s, never had many friends, limited mobility from health issues, so attempts to get him to “woodworking club” or curling or bridge haven’t worked.

A9: You’re so smart to completely limit his involvement in the company and you’re kind to want to channel him somewhere else. My first thought is: Is there some kind of networking or professional association associated with your field that he could be a mentor/volunteer/board member/guest speaker for, where his professional history could be recognized and an asset and people might be actually interested in the stuff he knows? Like, he could put on a tie and go glad-hand some people and maybe there would be fancy plaques and pastries? Something vaguely prestigious but time-consuming and non-essential that you get invited to do as head of the business now that you don’t really have time to do but could throw him at it?

My second thought is: By stating and maintaining your boundaries, you’re doing your part here, and if an adult man isn’t happy or able to find things that interest him in life, that’s on him. It’s okay to say “Sorry you’re bored, Dad, but our agreement about the business stands” and “Can’t talk right now, Dad, I’m swamped! Why don’t you call [sibling]?” 

Q10: I’m an adult person in my 30s. I’ve had some serious life stuff (TM) happen over the past several years and this year in particular. The stuff that happened this year, I held back from my dad. He found out about two weeks ago and was hurt. But the thing is: he went straight into advice giving mode. For one thing he straight up told me me what to do.

A) he’s an engineer B) I’m his “little girl” C) I ended up feeling more like a teenager than an adult when we talked. You need to do x,y, and z. It’s so frustrating because I have a plan. With my spouse. Do you know of any resources of establishing an adult relationship with your parents?

I’m not 15 anymore.

A10: Hi! My sister from another mister!

I wrote this post from this exact place of frustration. My mom (a former manager and management consultant) has an extra frustrating side of thinking that every situation can be fixed and really can’t hang when something can’t be. Some of the ways I deal with the “I wasn’t asking for advice, I was just telling you a decision I made” conversations:

  • Oh, I wasn’t asking for advice, I was just telling you a decision I made.
  • Oh, I wasn’t asking for advice, I was just catching you up on what’s going on with me. It’s okay to just say ‘that sucks’ or ‘I’m sorry you were going through that’. You don’t have to fix it!
  • “I told you when I felt comfortable telling you.”
  • “I don’t really need advice, I just need my dad to say ‘I love you and I believe in you,’ and maybe give me a hug.”
  • If they argue with me when I don’t take advice or when they’re really concerned about something that I’m not concerned about: “Well, you raised me to be independent and to handle my problems, so, do you trust me to handle it or not?” 
  • “Thanks, I’ll think about it!” works wonders. I don’t have to take their advice. I don’t have to argue with them and convince them it won’t work, either.
  • I don’t talk to them when I’m in the middle of vulnerable things where I know their input would be harmful or maximally annoying. So yeah, they do find out stuff late. There’s a reason for that and I don’t want to fight about it or rehash it but I also am not going to change a thing that works for me.
  • I channel their advice-giving impulses to where I really do need help. My dad is an expert on home improvement stuff, the weather, the best way to get somewhere, everything about auto repair and maintenance. My mom is really good at financial stuff, insurance, keeping plants alive, baking, first aid. So I save questions for them about those topics even when I could figure it out myself. The questions are low-stakes enough that I won’t get emotional if they give me the wrong advice, I get actually useful help, and they get to feel needed/important.

One of the biggest lessons about being an adult in an adult relationship with another adult is learning to be okay if that other adult doesn’t agree with you or has sad feelings about how you handled your own life. You can love your parents, you don’t have to take your parents’ advice and you don’t have to take on their feelings about that as your problem.

Kitten Interlude. I have typed every word of this while this is happening:

 

They both tried to snuggle there in a big old kitten pile (which I could not photograph, as, arms were trapped) but it proved unsustainable.

Q11: I have a friend in an emotionally abusive marriage who lives on another continent, so I can’t do what I want (or rather, what I would do if she was closer) which is offer to take her (and her kid) in until she gets through a much-needed divorce and back on her feet (she does not have family that could take her in, both parents deceased). I need a mantra for calming myself when she talks about her specific problems in the marriage so that I don’t lose multiple hours to feeling anxious, angry, and powerless to help her and just mind-boggled that she will not just kick this freeloading abuser out of her house (she’s the sole breadwinner for the family). I would also like ideas for things to ask her that stay out of the nitty gritty details where we always seem to get tripped up on her coming up with reasons why she can’t leave and me thinking that none of them sound good enough to stay in an abusive situation like she is in, and I would like to able to be a source of support for her even though I am far away, but I fear that my rage at her vile husband is making me less effective in that capacity, so I could use some guidance on how to be a better support for her and if possible, help her find her way out (I realize it may not be possible). I can’t help thinking that the abuse is making it harder for her to see that she can just leave him _now_, even though it won’t be easy (I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy), but I know she has to be the one to be ready. I just need some ideas for how best to help both her and me until she gets there. Help!

A11: Hi there, this is so rough.

It’s okay to:

  • Talk about lighthearted subjects, seek her advice & support about things in your life, reinforce the pleasurable things about your friendship.
  • Limit how much you talk about this with her to times where you have the bandwidth. You’re not married to this jackhole, you don’t have to absorb every detail of it in real time, you can say “I’m so sorry, that’s all the sounding board I have in me today, can I check in later this week?” and then follow through and check in at other times. You can encourage her to expand her Team Her to other friends, a therapist, helplines in her country, online support groups, an attorney where she lives, etc.
  • Direct her to resources like Why Does He Do That.
  • Remind her that she’s the boss of her life and ask her questions that emphasize her agency. “What do you want to do about that?” “What do you think you’ll do?”
  • Say stuff like “You already know what I think” when you’re revisiting a topic for the 1,000th time.

If you want to help in a more concrete manner and feel like you’re DOING something, put money aside. She’ll need it, wherever she ends up.

It’s not enough, but you can’t fix the situation and setting some limits with yourself about what you can do is healthy for you.

Q12: I have a friend who I think is in an emotionally abusive relationship. However, I am having a very hard time finding resources for men who are in relationships with women who are being emotionally abused. His partner is isolating him, threatening self-harm and blaming him for not stopping her, calling his attempts to reach out “gossip,” and I’ve had a really hard time finding relevant things for him to read. She’s also leveraging “feminism” and his identity as a man and therefore inherently “the bad one” against him, which makes me really really sad and I think would make resources like “Why Does He Do That?” more harmful than useful. There are very few resources for men, and the ones that do exist focus on physical abuse, which isn’t his situation and I’m afraid would make him say “oh well that’s not ME, it’s not that bad” instead of recognizing his situation. Do you or any readers have recommendations for links I could send him?

Signed,

I wish MRAs actually cared about abused men and not just hating women

A12: Beyond googling stuff like this (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/help-for-men-who-are-being-abused.htm), I don’t know. Even that link is like “look at this list for women leaving abusive men and extrapolate.” I too wish that men would write about this stuff for men or that someone would produce a work like Bancroft’s with that depth of experience and research when abusers are not cisgender men. I confess, I do get my back up sometimes when people ask me about this, like, do, women have to do everything, and whose fault is it exactly that men have so little ability to see themselves in resources that don’t center their exact experience, how is it that we’re so shitty to all victims that male victims can’t bear to see themselves in that role, but I agree that it would be great if something like this existed and I do feel for the men who are left out in the cold. But I don’t have that resource, nor am I going to be the one to write it.

That said, let’s help your friend! What I might suggest for you in talking to your friend is looking at the big list of scripts in #1144, where the LW is looking for ways to tell her mom & others about the abuse without using that word. Can you turn those into questions like “Are you happy” “Do you want this to continue?” “It’s okay to leave if you are this unhappy!” “Do you think it’s okay to treat anyone like this?” “If someone were treating me like she’s treating you, what would you tell me to do?” Given the dearth of resources about men & abuse, and the way his partner is trying to use the existing resources against him (abusers will use anything they can to grind their victims down, and “you’re the real abuser here” is a very common projection tactic), is it about proving to this dude that he’s being A-abused, or is it about giving him space & tools to leave even if he never really acknowledges the A-word? The word “asshole” also begins with A, so maybe it’s “Listen, it sounds like emotional abuse to me, but maybe the problem is that she’s just an asshole and you deserve someone will be nice to you.” 

Q13: Hi Captain,

I am one of those unfortunate souls who has inherited a very strong caffeine sensitivity. Even decaf coffee or white tea leaves me feeling very anxious and headachey, and it can take days before I get back to normal. So, I could use a little help navigating the “I’m going for coffee, can I get you some?” ritual. For several reasons, I end up getting offered this pretty frequently at work by co-workers I only sort of know. At first I would very nicely say, “Oh, I can’t have caffeine, but thank you!” and a lot of times they would offer to get decaf or tea, and then I have to sit there and explain (and sometimes argue about the fact) that decaf still has caffeine, as do most teas, and it turns into this whole thing where it feels like I’m inadvertently arguing against their generosity. Sometimes I don’t feel like (or have time for) the whole conversation so I just cheerfully say, “No, I’m good, but thank you!” and then I get a range of weird looks- is that a weird response for me to have? Also, sometimes people can talk me into getting an herbal tea (and I either know the tea brand or trust the person to enough to know I will get a 100% caffeine free herbal tisane), but what are the expectations? Am I supposed to offer to pay for it, or give them cash when they get back (I pretty much never have cash on me), or is the expectation that at some point I will do the coffee run and return the favor? Finances are tight for me, and it’s just not the sort of thing I want to splurge on, but I don’t want to be rude, or to be THAT person who always takes and never gives back. Any insights?

A13: Hi, if you don’t want coffee it’s okay to say “I’m good, thanks for asking!” and not give it another thought. Nobody in this situation needs the details of your Story With Caffeine or your finances.

Given that this is coming up a lot, it’s maybe about more than the drink, it’s about the friendly exchange/doing something nice/the culture of your workplace/the chance to take a quick break. These folks aren’t trying to push caffeine on you or freak you out, they’re trying to make sure you’re included. So, you could say “No coffee or tea for me, but would you bring me back sparkling water/juice (something you can have)if you do want to participate in the ritual sometimes (and yeah, reimburse them, so do something within your budget only when you can afford it and have a couple dollars), and/or you could offer to go with them for the company and get your own drink, or maybe you never make a coffee run but you make cookies every couple of months. But honestly, it’s okay if you never participate. “Oh, I’m not a coffee or tea person, thanks for asking though!” is fine.

Q14: Hi Cap! I’m hoping to open a bookstore in my area next year and would love to have open-mic story events like you have highlighted in Chicago. Do you have any tips, suggestions, or recommended organizations to help make these events welcoming, meaningful, and successful? Thank you!

A14: Congratulations! I’m never on the producing side of these, maybe look at the You’re Being Ridiculous or Story Club or Grown Folks Stories or The Stoop websites and see how they roll. And go to the existing shows where you live and meet the people who do this kind of thing, ask them what they need and see what you think works or doesn’t work. The rest is space, chairs, time, trial & error.

I can tell you about current conversations around storytelling in Chicago:

  • Accessibility of venues
  • Not everything has to be a podcast (if you’re recording, ask consent/get a release/make it clear what you’re using the story for and that people can decline /and also maybe don’t keep people’s personal stories on your hard drive forever – use them for something or delete them)
  • If your audience & slate of performers is all white & straight, why is that, do you think?
  • Can we stop inviting the known assholes and harassers, please?
  • Hosting & curating an event is a skill, maybe we can weed out sexist/racist/gross material ahead of time and also maybe the host doesn’t have to top every story with their own story.

It will be fun & you should totally do it.

Here endeth the week’s session. Comments are open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

143 comments
  1. Kaos said:

    Kitty!!! Dawwwwww!!!!

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      SOOOO MUCH BELLEH TUMMY! *snorgle*

  2. Pam said:

    Clearly, the CA Halloween costume needs the kitten accessories.

    • JenniferP said:

      Sure but I’ve been a fat chick in glasses & black leggings for decades – they’ve only been here a month.

      • Nanani said:

        The cat hair will add itself.

      • C baker said:

        But they’re so cute!

    • Kater Cheek said:

      I suggest getting stuffed toy tabbies and actually sewing them to the cardigan so that when you wear the costume, cats are pre-attached.

      Also: Q#: OMG that happened to me too. All.The.Time.

      • Myrtle said:

        And then find some shed cat hair to sprinkle on a chair, sit down while rubbing other hand across cardigan’d chest and -you’re ready to go!

        • Kaos said:

          Or she could just borrow the pair if black dress slacks that fell down unnoticed and were turned into a bed (in my cavernous closet) by 1-5 cats for who knows how long. Cat hair for all…decades’ worth for all!

          • The Awe Ritual said:

            Or spend Halloween in a place with cats, and when you see them, go very, very still and sit down. Instakittie!

  3. goddessoftransitory said:

    I’ve never, ever enjoyed coffee or tea. The taste just never worked for me. I guess I’m so used to not drinking them it never occurred to me that anyone might find it odd.

    If your office culture is heavily predicated on regular snack/drink runs, I think it’s fine to ask for juice or whatever, if there’s some kind of kitty where everybody pays in a certain amount; it’s your money, ask for what you want.

    If it’s a “everybody gives Beth their cash/debit cards that she gets to try to keep separate while ordering eight drinks” setup, I’d skip it if you don’t want anything. Beth will thank you from the bottom of her frantically juggling heart, as will the barista and everyone in line behind her.

  4. Ankh-Morpork said:

    Q13 – You could start telling people you don’t like Coffee or Tea (I don’t like either, or beer, pretty much anything you have to develop a taste for). Sometimes not liking something includes not liking how you react to it (I’m looking at you tequila, I’m looking right at you). Or even “Generally I don’t like coffee or tea, but thank you!”. A general “No thanks, I’m good” is the path of least area for them to try to talk you into it, but saying you don’t like it could stop the questions for good. It stopped people at my work from asking if I want Thai food every time they go get it, which I was starting to feel kinda weird about turning down, and now they just say “Well we know Ankh-Morpork is out, anyone else?”

    • Anonyish said:

      + 1 I do not in fact like coffee or tea, and when offered it I just say no thanks, and if pressed, that I don’t like them. As the Captain says, the motivation isn’t to get you to drink something, but to be inclusive. So the aim in answering is to say no, and be clear that you’re fine with it.

      • Yes! I totally think this could be the case. If I or anyone else goes on a coffee/food run, they or I make super sure to ask everyone so no one feels excluded. I literally don’t even notice who says yes or no, the important thing to me (and other “food runners”) is that everyone got a chance to respond. No feelings are ever hurt if the offer is declined! I ask each time just in case the usual refuser changed their mind that day, but I don’t read in to their response at all. If you want something, ask for it! If you don’t, just say no thank you! *Insert quote about people only thinking about themselves the majority of the time and thinking about others very rarely.*

    • Butterfly said:

      I am allergic to coffee as well, Q13. It also tastes like ass to me, so I don’t miss it at all. I don’t get the obsession with the stuff, frankly.

    • Britpoptart said:

      I feel so much less alone reading these “not for me, thanks” comments, because much of my friend group socializing is all about coffee or beer kind of places. I also cannot eat Thai because (to me) Thai restaurants absolutely reek of coconut and I am repulsed enough by coconut that I get dry heaves around most suntan lotions, so you can imagine how little enthusiasm I have for eating in a place that would make me small bile every few minutes. I suspect I’m one of those rare birds called a supertaster, as many of the foods on the list of things supertasters avoid are also anathema to me (e.g., mushrooms) and others have to be prepared a specific way or they gross me out.

      (To be fair, I like SOME teas OK, but I’m picky, and the kinds I like tend to go out of business (WHY?) so I tend to do without unless I feel the urge to make them myself (or I default to an iced chai). I like coffee only in small doses, as a flavoring, as in tiramisu, Kahlua, chocolate covered espresso beans or Arby’s Jamocha shakes. It’s not a caffeine allergy or dislike, as I subsist on water, juice, and Cherry Coke Zero most of the time.)

      You would not believe the number of people who feel the need to try to talk me into experiencing The Joy of [Beverage] when I express disinterest in said [Beverage] (or maybe you would, since you also dislike these drinks). Why is this a thing?

      WHY? Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

      I think we all need a refresher course in how to say “no, thank you” clearly and in a friendly way, and also how to ACCEPT a “no, thank you” and then leave it alone without worrying about why someone has told you no when you’re “just trying to be nice” or whatever.

  5. TheseTinyKeyholes said:

    Thank you so much for answering my question (#6). I’m proud to report I’m already rocking your first two suggestions (therapy and Team Me) and the third is super helpful to start reframing the jerkbrain’s messages in a positive direction. So thank you!

    • isabeausuro said:

      Fistbump of solidarity — I think our jerkbrains have the same scripts.

      • TheseTinyKeyholes said:

        Thank you! It’s amazing how they all learn the same lines, isn’t it.

  6. Thanksforallthefish said:

    Q13 – I feel your pain. I am gf and lactose intolerant…but of the variety that means goat cheese and feta (sheep) is fine but cow dairy products are not and more particularly I can have Parmesan cheese but only if it’s been aged over 12 months…it can make me sound like the weirdest snob when at restaurants or when coworkers love to bring donuts or throw pizza parties and explaining all of that does get exhausting and ultimately not that helpful.

    I agree with listing safe things, “bottle of perier or apple juice sound great if you’re offering!” and for me things like “dark bitter chocolate is my favorite!” if someone wants to give me a birthday treat or something due to office cultural generosity. If they bring you something that has a wrapper, bonus points when it lists ingredients you can check and just tell them “Thanks! I’ll drink this in a minute!” then you check it and if it’s not safe you just keep it and quietly give it to a friend later if it turns out not safe…

    Basically there are two parts to this: either the person is trying to treat you/the office and you should have something in mind that you’d appreciate as a treat, or they’re coordinating logistics for group refreshments and you should decide what your budget/desire fits.

    Best of luck!

    • JenniferP said:

      Moderator note:

      I love you all, but I don’t wish to read the details of people’s very specific dietary requirements as I moderate comments, and in my experience these things tend to snowball. Have mercy! Thank you!

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Oops sorry. Would remove but I don’t think I can? Feel free to remove if you want.

        • JenniferP said:

          Thanks for understanding!

      • HindsightGraduate said:

        Noted, thanks for the heads-up!

        Q13, I have [redacted dietary issues] and wholeheartedly agree that either listing safe things or saying “Thanks, I’m good!” can ward off attempts to recommend alternatives you already know won’t work for you. If your issues interfere with enjoying the refreshments that get ordered for company meetings/training sessions, though? I’d say something to the person doing the ordering.

        My coworkers all know that my list of “cants” is very long, so I only join them for lunch once a week. It’s better for my wallet, and they can order whatever they want Monday-Thursday. Also, if someone brings treats for a birthday/a “thank-you”/etc. and won’t take my, “No, thank you!” for an answer, sometimes I push back with a lighthearted joke about what it would do to my body. YMMV!

  7. Myrtle said:

    Q9: You sound very comfortable with the reins to the business, congratulations on your success! It might be interesting to meet with your accountants and lawyers to see what the business is worth and whether this might be a good time to sell it. You could then buy another business that Dad can’t infringe on. You’ve already proven you’ve got the right stuff to jump in and take charge.

    • sayevet said:

      I N T E R E S T I N G

    • Midwest church lady said:

      As an accountant who deals with small businesses, dad will just try to jump into it. having a solid agreement of who is actually in charge ie whose vote matters will be more helpful. Thanks but the partnership agreement says I have control so nope

  8. Ainsley said:

    To the letter writer who inherited the family business: that is a recurring plotline on Modern Family! Often their father-daughter conflict is resolved when he admits his attempted attention theft is due to a deep fear of irrelevance, and she admits that his actions are hurtful since she wants him to be proud of her and his interference seems like a criticism. Obviously, YMMV, but maybe you can remind your dad that he IS valuable and needed and the SPECIFIC thing you really need him for is supporting you and giving you confidence.

    • Ainsley said:

      Or just sell the damn thing like Myrtle said! And congrats, it does sound really cool.

    • Lapras said:

      That’s great, but in the real world, baring your soul to abusive people only gives them ammo for more cruelty. LW should just stick to setting and enforcing boundaries.

  9. Emma said:

    Q14 – I have done this! It was great fun.

    I second the thing about the diversity of the audience and performers – ours were not all white and straight, but the audience was 2/3rds women and the people signing up to perform were 2/3rds men. It took a lot of hard work and encouragement to shift that ratio. Having featured performers helped, having female volunteers from the organising crew telling stories helped, approaching women in the queue to ask if they were there to perform helped… you will find your own strategies. But this is a problem you should definitely prepare for!

    Here are some more things to consider:
    – Will you be somewhere that serves alcohol? If so, how drunk is too drunk to be there?
    – How much swearing etc will you allow? We said that stories had to be all-ages until the break, then after that, kids could stay if their accompanying adult was happy with it, but we wouldn’t be responsible for what they heard. That worked very well for us.
    – Plan for a way to stop the people who hear “open mic stories” as “opportunity to practise my stand-up routine.”
    – How will you enforce your time limit? (You should definitely have a time limit).

    I feel like I might end up coming back and adding more…

    • JenniferP said:

      Time limits, very important, esp. if there is an open mic.

      Story Club puts a small digital clock with an alarm on the music stand/podium. When it goes off, tellers get to finish their sentence.

      • Q14 Asker said:

        Thank you so much for the suggestions!

        • Sarah said:

          I used to be part of an open mic that would give you a one minute warning and then start to play you off the stage – there was a gentle increase in volume so you could finish your thought, but the music definitely began at the 5 minute mark.

  10. Re Q12: I know that RAINN has excellent resources for male survivors of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or CSA. Unfortunately, that’s the only resource I’ve ever seen that’s male-specific for abuse survivors. While I appreciate that it tackles questions male sexual abuse survivors tend to ask (i.e. “am I more likely to become an abuser myself?” and “did sexual assault change my orientation?”) as well as issues relevant to all survivors, RAINN is an org focused specifically on sexual violence, so their resources don’t seem to encompass emotional abuse.

    Still, when I trained to volunteer on a crisis hotline and became RAINN certified, I know a lot of emphasis was placed on non-judgement and gender-neutral language. I think if your friend calls his local crisis & suicide hotline for help, especially if it’s RAINN affiliated, he will likely find a supportive voice. Most crisis line volunteers are also trained in issues of people calling because a loved one threatens suicide, and will have experience talking them through what to do and what not to do. We can also educate on the addictive cycle of abuse, which is true regardless of the gender of abusers or victims.

    So, maybe that will help? I hope it does.

    • LW12 said:

      Thank you! I’m not sure he’s in a place to make that kind of call but I’ll definitely keep that in my back pocket.

      • Clorinda said:

        Maybe you can call and ask what they recommend.
        You sound like a good friend! I’m sure that you being there listening to him and not judging or shaming him is a big help, even if it doesn’t seem to be bearing fruit just yet.

      • azurelunatic said:

        Someone very dear to me went through something like this recently. I don’t have links, but I do have thoughts.

        * Validate that what she’s doing isn’t right, even if he’s not ready to put the label “abuse” on it.
        * Discourage couples’ counseling if it comes up: it just gives her more tools to hurt him.
        * Encourage him to get a counselor on his own, to hopefully be a resource. If you can do the legwork, see if you can find some choices which take his insurance and fit into his schedule. “Work stress” is often a good excuse for him to give.

        How much physical access does she have to him? I have some advice aimed at cohabitation.

        I am happy to take this discussion private; my gmail account is easy to guess.

    • Queen of scarves said:

      LW #12 I don’t have much to add except a little wave and sad smile of solidarity. I think Igmerriman’s suggestions are really good and I agree so hard with everything the Captain said. You’re doing better than I did, my friend’s girlfriend managed to cut me out of his life for a while, but when he got out of that relationship and got back in touch having read this blog was one of the things that helped me support him through it.

  11. Abe Froman said:

    So, I have been and can still be on the other side of question 10. I often want to jump to giving advice and helping. My wife, who is often looking for someone to just listen or sympathize, gave me permission to ask the question “Sympathy or advice?” when she is discussing an issue. This has been HUGELY helpful for me. Now I know what she wants and can provide it and not need to feel like a jerk when I thought I was being helpful but really wasn’t.

    • Anon said:

      I had a friend going through a rough patch a while back, and I used to go with “Do you want to talk about it, or do you want to be distracted?” – like, getting a break from the overwhelmingness of it for a little while. Am seconding this thing of getting input from the person with the stress on what they need in the moment to feel better, it’s really helpful as I also have those “want to fix” tendencies.

      • DesertRose said:

        Seriously, a lot of people will appreciate that kind of question, “Sympathy or advice or distraction?” and it helps the asking person know what will be most helpful to the person being asked. About the only downside I can see is if the person being asked is taken by surprise or maybe doesn’t know themselves what would be most helpful in that moment.

        I’m fairly well-known in my in-person social groups for being direct-but-kind, so having that reputation probably helps a lot when I ask that sort of question, and honestly, there are worse reputations to have!

  12. Clarry said:

    Q-13. This is a bit of a pain in the neck, but I keep the tea bags for the (herbal) tea I can drink in my wallet. When I want to share the experience of having a hot beverage with someone, I can say “love some” and hand them the tea bag.

    • Light37 said:

      Same here. I can’t have coffee or tea unless it’s decaf, lots of places don’t carry anything I can have (even the local health food coffee/tea bar doesn’t have a decent decaf or uncaf drink!) so I keep a couple of safe tea bags in my purse for days when I’m wanting something hot. I make a specialty out of finding really cool ones. At the SFF con I usually attend there’s a coffee klatch, I brought along a maple apple cider tisane that was delicious and everyone wanted to try it.

    • Clarry said:

      Oh, and this isn’t exactly the question asked, but if you do take a restaurant’s space and a server’s time to order hot water when you’ve brought your own teabag, be willing to pay and tip as thought you’d gotten tea. Thank the co-worker who did you the favor, etc.

    • This. I run a small business and one of my best sellers is wallets so people can carry their own tea bags/ coffee sachets. They’re all over places like Etsy. So you can ask your colleague to bring you some hot water, then make your own. You can even ask people if they want to join you in one of the delicious fruit or herbal brews you prefer and that can help with being part of the culture without having to risk your health 🙂

  13. Blooper said:

    Q3: Definitely trust your feelings and experience. Unmatch these people!

    You don’t have to engage with everyone that greets you. It’s perfectly okay to only chat with people you find interesting.

    I’ve absolutely used this situation as a litmus test. That is, if I only get “hey”, “hi”, etc… I don’t bother replying.

    • I think I just officially decided that my response to that initial contact is to say either “Greetings, fellow human!” or “Greetings, Program!” and see where things go from there. Because I never quite know what to say (yay social awkwardness! Yay forty years of suppressing the authentic me!) and so I’d be a hey, hi, or hello person because I’m afraid of foot-in-mouth disease.

      • TO_On said:

        Yeah, I have often not sent the first message because I was frozen trying to think of a good question or comment (like, if it’s too specific that feels like they might think I actually just want to know the answer? what if they’ve talked enough about that camping trip they mention and my question is boring? etc) I know that’s silly, but I kind of like getting ‘hi’ because it’s so clear that it just means ‘I am interested in chatting, are you’ and I can even just respond ‘hi’ back.

        What is different is when after a couple of messages or even a few days there’s still no content. Like it’s just ‘what’s up today?’ ‘hi’ ‘how was your day’, and one word answers to my several sentence messages, and various acronyms and mispellings.

        • ashbet said:

          Just FYI, be aware that some people use a screening technique similar to what the Captain describes — when I was on dating sites, I specifically weeded out “hi” or “you’re cute” messages.

          (And maybe you aren’t looking for a wordy chick like me, who really values conversation and people who have interesting stuff to talk about, and that’s totally okay! But, since I’m far from the only person who uses this to screen contacts, I figured I’d say something.)

          Anyone who read my profile and the hundreds of questions that I actually wrote out answers to, and could only come up with “hi,” was a bad fit… FOR ME.

          That’s not a criticism, though — it also depends on what site you’re using and the kind of person you’re interested in meeting.

          (I also had the “woman on dating site gets deluged by cishet dudes looking for hookups” issue, so I tried to screen out people who didn’t seem as interested in ME or my profile, bc I explicitly was looking for potential serious long-term partners, and have zero interest in casual sex… so, I was definitely looking for a specific type of person at the time, and being a good conversational fit was a priority!)

          My *personal* advice is that I’ve always responded well to people who opened with a question or comment about something in my profile, and I was FAR less concerned about whether they seemed super-cool and collected and perfectly-phrased (folks, I am a DORK and absolutely have my awkward and shy moments), and a lot more interested in whether they saw me as a person, or had bothered to read what I wrote.

          YMMV, and I wish you all happiness!!

          • TO_On said:

            Oh, when I send messages to guys I pretty much always ask them a question or comment on something in their profile. Just sometimes I overthink it for a while first.

            And I do find that most guys who message me do actually say something. But for me, normal real life conversations often _do_ start with ‘hi’ before you plunge into an actual conversation, so if a guy messages me with ‘hi’, if their profile looks interesting then I will respond back with ‘hi’ and _then_ we can start a real conversation. So here’s one data point saying there are women who don’t mind getting a ‘hi’. It will get me to look at the guy’s profile and I’ll respond or not based on that.

            For me the ones that I screen out are the ones that reference my physical appearance, use intimate sounding words like ‘babe’, or have no capitalisation or full words, or otherwise sound like pickup lines rather than an actual beginning of a real conversation with a real human being.

          • TO_On said:

            For me, I like wordy articulate guys, but I also like wordy articulate guys who are shy and slightly anxious :).

          • TO_On said:

            I’m not looking for any chick, I am a heterosexual woman looking for heterosexual men.

            When I’m sending messages I do put more content and ask questions, etc, because some men screen that way too.

            But personally I’m happy to just get messages, period, assuming they’re not rude or forumlaic (not young enough or new enough to get lots anymore), and if their profile is interesting and has lots of sentences in it, I assume ‘hi’ is just an initial opener and say hi back. If the conversation doesn’t quickly get interesting I won’t continue, but I don’t personally judge someone at all for starting a conversation that way. It’s how real life conversations start, after all.

            Just wanted to add a data point that there are women who _do_ reply to ‘hi’.

          • Jane said:

            @TO_On Can I ask if there’s a particular reason you’re only open to heterosexual men and not, like, bisexual or pansexual men?

          • TO_On said:

            Nesting failed –
            I’m not only open to heterosexual men, I just meant men who are looking for women. Though I suppose they do usually end up being heterosexual which is probably why that’s the word that popped into my head.

        • Pinpin said:

          Agreed. Big solidarity to Q3; feel free to just unmatch. This actually ended up being the most common problem I had doing the whole dating bit. I tried leading by example, I tried asking them direct questions, I tried persistence, all to no avail, and I began to despair, trying to figure out how I could this entice this potential beddable into using some fairly basic conversational skills… and then my brain decided to butt in with “Ewww! No! You haven’t even met and you’re doing all this emotional labour! Trying to “fix” him! WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE!”, so, thank you, brain.

          The ability to have a conversation with you, where it doesn’t feel like you’re doing all the work, is a perfectly reasonable standard to have. I wish I’d come across Captain’s response to letter #1094 (“How do I answer the “what are you looking for in a relationship” question when I’m not sure I know?”) when I started dating, because I really needed to hear this: “the point of dating isn’t to sand off your edges or hide your preferences in order to appeal to a wide variety of people and then narrow down the field to one lucky person. You say you’re worried about driving people away before you’ve gotten the chance to know them, but driving people who can be driven away by something that’s true and important about you is actually a good thing.”

          Best of luck and lots of fun to you!

          • Neuroturtle said:

            Please go back in time and bestow your wisdom on my 20-something self!

            When I was dating the kids were using OkCreature and not Firething, so there was the potential for long-form messages. And oh my… about 96% of messages were either “hi” followed by a… less-than-enticing photo, or a five-paragraph essay on how I was the perfect girl to fix all the damage their horrible exes did to them. And boy, was I a sucker for hard-luck cases. You are hurt, let me heal you with my not-like-other-girls(tm) vagina magic!

            FWIW, my intro message to Spouse was “hey, I am literally running out the door to catch a flight right now, but your profile looked so cool I didn’t want to forget to message. So, hi!” Married three years now. =)

      • LaMaria said:

        I encountered my first alien yesterday (~60-year-old cabby came up to me to ask how to enter the bog-standard elevator, then couldn´t figure out which of the 6 available buttons would get him to the floor he wanted to visit even though he knew which floor that was. If ever aliens visit earth I hope they´re as polite as he was) and it got me thinking about the things I´d like to ask someone from a different planet. Next time someone has nothing to offer besides “hi” on a dating platform and I have some time to kill I might start asking those questions.

      • Neuroturtle said:

        Starting with “greetings, fellow human!” would guarantee a response from me. That’s delightful!

    • Jackalope said:

      Back when I was on a dating website I specified in my profile that I wouldn’t respond to anyone who messaged me without giving me a question or comment to respond to. I then felt perfectly justified in ignoring blatantly the msgs that said nothing more than “hi” or “hello” or “your cute” or whatever. If someone happened to catch his mistake and wrote me a real msg later I’d probably respond but I decided that if someone couldn’t even bother to read my profile and see that this was important to me then I wasn’t wasting my time with him either. Made life much happier. And what do you even SAY to the one-word msg from someone you don’t know??

      • Spicy Onion said:

        You say “Hi back. How are you?” Like you do IRL. The “hi” people are likely overloaded as well. And it honestly doesnt hurt to say it back. You will know pretty quickly what they are about after one or two back forths right after that. Lol its not that big of waste of time.

        The important things to look for are the “youre cute” and “hey sexy” type things. Also the rambling run on sentences. These people are letting you know straight out what they are about.

        • Sarah said:

          Yeah, when somebody on a dating app leads with “You’re cute” that’s them telling me exactly what they prioritize about me – because if you didn’t think that, we wouldn’t have matched! So maybe let’s talk about literally anything else.

    • Lily said:

      Yeah, I use it to screen out undateable men, specifically. Everyone who won’t put in the effort to make a conversation work won’t put in the effort to make anything else work, and I’m so done with that bullshit. It happens strangely often, and there is this pretty strange version of it where the first message is okay, and after I answered, they just… I don’t know… don’t know how to engage? Don’t even try to? I mean, in my case it’s on a hookup site so it feels even stranger? But if you won’t keep a conversation going because you’re not even trying, I know how you will be in bed.

      • if you won’t keep a conversation going because you’re not even trying, I know how you will be in bed.

        Ahaha I love how you put that!

        Q3 I totally agree with just unmatching too. You do not have to put more thought or effort into responding to someone than they put in when they messaged you in the first place, you can just unmatch and go on with your day without worrying that you’re being rude.

    • hummingbear said:

      I loved the old OKCupid – I met my husband there!
      I hate the new OKCupid, which has eliminated introductory emails in favor of IM only. IMing with a stranger is incredibly awkward for me. There’s no context and I feel enormous time pressure to come up with a response (maybe this is a generational thing?)
      Maybe I need a pseudo auto responder that says something like “sorry, but I really hate IM when I don’t know somebody, would you mind sending me an email-length message and allowing 48 hours for me to respond in kind?”

  14. LG said:

    Eye contact while snuggling! Oh Daniel Tiger, you are ridiculous. I love all of your kitten photos, Captain!

  15. pit love said:

    Q1. Hello! I hope your new job is wonderful! Not knowing what will happen is part of being around kids. Some amazingly good things will happen, some will make you wonder if physics was temporarily suspended (“how did that get up there!”). Fortunately the process is more important than the product.. A successful outcome is if everyone – including you – comes out of this with more confidence, a happy memory, and no broken bones.

    When suprising things happen, be honest, be brief. A short and sweet “I’m so nervous!” and “I made a mistake” are things kids rarely hear from adults. Give lots of praise, (“that was great!” and “I loved how you did that!”) and encouragement (“I know that’s not how you wanted it to go. It’s Okay. The audience all thought it was supposed to be like that/everone understands that happens sometimes/lets get you cleaned up/take some deep breaths”). Give them calm acceptance and a safe-but-relaxed feeling, and they will be happy you are there.

    *unless you are mean. Do not mock, tease, push, put down, yell at, blame, shame, or make uncomfotable, Jokes yes, jokes at anyone’s expense (including your own) no, and make sure everyone knows where the nearest bathroom is.

  16. Oh! Also, just remembered another resource for Q12. Love Is Respect (a non-profit that educates about cycles of abuse, red flags someone may be an abuser, etc) has a whole page dedicated to when a partner threatens suicide. It is excellent: it uses gender-neutral language and doesn’t assume or judge anything about a couple’s status (monogamy / polygamy / unmarried but living together, etc). LoveIsRespect.org has also been hugely helpful for LGBT people stuck in abusive relationships.

    Here is the resource page titled: When Your Partner Threatens Suicide https://www.loveisrespect.org/content/when-your-partner-threatens-suicide/

    • JenniferP said:

      Thank you!

    • rafi said:

      Love is Respect is an excellent resource, I hope the LW sees this. I don’t have experience from the het side but this has definitely been valuable in my queer community. They don’t label, they just helps. And there’s coverage for emotional abuse issues, not just physical. A+ would recommend.

      • rafi said:

        *help
        Also, they’re available in Spanish!

    • LW12 said:

      Thank you, this is exactly the type of resource I was looking for. Really, really appreciate you connecting me with it. I knew Captain Awkward and/or her commenters would have the answer!!!

      • You’re very welcome! ❤ Good luck

  17. obie said:

    I realized I was missing out on socializing and the corresponding networking when I declined coffee. If you’re interested in participating I sometimes will say, no thanks, but I need to stretch my legs, let me come help you carry.

    • Kitty said:

      Same. Our team does a morning coffee run every morning, and I almost never buy one, but I come for a walk and to do the daily newspaper trivia quiz. 😊

  18. Q13, the heart of your question is one that has plagued me for years as well. I also have had many a coworker who would say, “I’m going for ______, do you want anything?” I always found it pretty awkward because it was so impossible to tell from the phrasing whether they were offering to buy or whether they were just offering to pick something up if I gave them the money. For years, I just avoided the issue by politely declining in the way you describe. Usually nobody acted like it was weird. I still do this occasionally. However, with a few people when I turn them down, they will clarify with something like, “Are you sure? I’m buying,” or “My treat.” So with those I will sometimes pause thoughtfully and either decline again or accept the offer. And then I know in the future that when those people make those offers, they are indeed offering to pay, with no real expectation of the favor being returned. For all others, I tend to continue with the polite decline. If people act like that’s weird, it’s on them. I don’t think it’s at all required to have to explain why you don’t want a particular food or beverage at any given time.

    • A said:

      If the payment situation is ambiguous and I’m up for having a tea, I’ll grab my wallet and hand over a few dollars. Usually the person says its on them, (in which case I’ll make a mental note to reciprocate in some form at some point), but sometimes they take the cash, in which case I’m glad I offered (and didn’t just assume it was on them). Then again, I may err too far on the side of “I feel guilty if someone does something nice for me”.

  19. Belle said:

    Sigh. I wish men/masc people would write that stuff too. I did a whole giant paper on men as social victims in literature (Toni Morrison holla) and honestly it was the most deflating experience to have every “reasons men have a tough time” text basically boil down to “women expect them to do things like listen, rather than boxing”, aside from writers like bell hooks. I DREAM of the day a man writes this stuff properly and with compassion for himself and everyone else.

    • Jaybeetee said:

      I feel dis. I knew a guy who seemed very similar to the guy described in Q12. Had two back-to-back LTRs with “headstrong feminist” women who were actually emotionally abusive but justified it under the “headstrong feminist” banner. All parties involved were working-class small-town, I don’t think it occurred to those women (or to him, at first) that it’s possible for a woman to be abusive. In his case, he became prime MRA fodder, in that his mother had been Housewife Extraordinaire and pretty well his entire “education” about feminism came from these two awful women. I don’t keep up with him anymore, but I heard he’s in a new relationship and I hope it’s going better for him and that he’s gotten his head straightened out after those bad experiences.

      Abuse towards men is definitely something that needs to be researched and discussed more, especially since what little is known about it suggests that it CAN be quite different from the experience of a woman being abused – different tactics and issues, different barriers to awareness, different types of shame and hiding (especially in the cases of female-on-male physical abuse). Many people think abuse towards men is likely waaaaay under-reported, because a) many male victims don’t recognize emotional abuse for what it is (see: “headstrong feminist”), and b) are ashamed to admit if a woman has been violent with them.

      Finally, I wanted to mention that Cracked.com, of all sites, ran an article once about a guy who had been drugged and raped at a party, and all the weird fallout from that. Few people took it seriously because they figured a man couldn’t “really” be raped. Guy friends joked that they wished it had happened to them. It eventually lead to his relationship breaking up because even though his GF said she believed him, she still essentially reacted like he’d cheated on her. We’re still *really* bad about the concept that men can be abused too.

      • Private Editor said:

        Thank you for that Cracked.com article. I found it very affecting. Patriarchy hurts everyone.

      • Raptor said:

        Cracked also wrote what I consider to be the best article on why women don’t necessarily want compliments, written right after that really well-known catcalling video.

    • bettereveryday said:

      Could you clarify if you’re t lumping butches and gender non-conforming women into this “masc people” box? So frequently people forget that we actually get the same socialization as every other woman and that we don’t have anything in common with men. I find that a lot of people have been reworking “male privilege” to “masculine privilege”, which is hilariously nonsensical if they would ever stop to consider the extreme amounts of violence that we endure for daring to step outside gender norms.

      • ktjp said:

        thank you for this comment. in the past, the comments section here has been split about the “butches have male privilege” thing and it can be a little exhausting. I don’t think people always do it intentionally but it’s like, I live my life in fear of being one of the straight men that people are so quick to assume I am in the first place.

      • Jane said:

        I’d assume they’re talking about resources that include nonbinary people who identify as more masculine, or nonbinary men.

      • eben said:

        I am not qualified to comment on whether women and GNC people have masculine (though not male) privilege. But I would like to point out that I am a guy who has dated guys who do not have masculine privilege. As someone with male privilege, I need to ALSO acknowledge that I have masculine privilege. That is in addition to male privilege. Feminine men can have male privilege but not masculine privilege and end up being targets for violence in ways that masculine men aren’t.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Agreed. Obviously we need to pay more attention to the problem or men being abused, but it’s frustrating that somehow this always seems to be said with a pointed look at women. Other than the whole “women have to take care of everyone else and then make sure no one needs a sandwich before they’re allowed to look after themselves” issue, women aren’t going to be able to create a for-men support culture the way men could. They can be supportive allies, but they aren’t going to be able to approach it the same way – especially since one of the huge problems with men being abused is that domestic abuse is seen as a women-only problem.

  20. Vasha said:

    I think the reason that Lundy Bancroft’s model of abuse as patriarchal control resonates so strongly is that patriarchy is omnipresent and so whenever a man is an abuser it’s bound to come into play, and it will contribute its brand of effed-upness to all interactions between men and women so that you can never ignore it when trying to understand things. BUT this isn’t the only component of abuse and the other ones are bad too. Being able to think about what else is going on doesn’t mean ignoring the role of patriarchy, it just means having a more complete understanding, which is clearly necessary.

  21. Socially-not-amazing dad solidarity! said:

    Q10 — I could have written this 10 years ago. I was lucky that my father was (is) fundamentally a well-meaning, loving man who wanted a good relationship with me. He could, however, be a real bull in a china shop with respect to emotionally delicate situations. The Captain’s advice is great within that context (maybe outside it, too!). Be very cautious and intentional in what you tell him + don’t engage with his advice-y-ness + ask his advice on things where you actually think he could give helpful advice, if such areas exist and you want to. One other thing I’d add is to keep the conversation moving briskly around sensitive subjects — “… anyway, we had great weather last week. Oh, Serious Life Thing (TM) happened so I decided to do X, Y, Z, and that’s that. How was your tennis match last week?”

    • Socially-not-amazing dad solidarity! said:

      Blah, wish I could edit this! don’t engage with his advice-y-ness within your personal life or arenas where you don’t want it! Make it boring for him to tell you how you should make Major Life Decisions ™.

  22. Socially-not-amazing dad solidarity! said:

    A13 — can you say that you don’t like coffee or black tea? That could be a simple way to express that you don’t want to drink those things without room for (reasonable) people to try to change you mind. Plus it avoids the “decaf” discussion.

    • Lily said:

      But it risks that helpful people get you Green Tea, White Tea, Mate or whatever different caffeined plants there are in the teas lately.

      • HindsightGraduate said:

        What Lily said! “I’ll have a sparkling water/juice/herbal tea” has far less room for error or pushback from what Q13 needs, which is to avoid caffeine at all costs.

  23. Q3:

    I think what is going on here is that a huge number of people have bought into the idea (based loosely on How To Win Friends and Influence People, although you don’t have to have read the book to have picked up on the cultural trickledown effect of it) that people like to talk about themselves, and “good conversation” means asking questions and never talking about yourself.

    I also hate this and feel like I’m being expected to provide entertainment on command. I think it’s a bit of a “there’s two kinds of people” thing – some people like it when each person takes turns sharing stories and leaves space for the other to share, some people like it when people take turns asking questions

    It would be fine except for some reason The Discourse has decided that communication style #2 is correct and style #1 is wrong and you should try and suppress it. People on dating sites are more-than-usually likely to follow the “rules” of what they’ve been told is good communication, than to talk naturally. They may think they’re being nice/polite by not talking about themselves, not dominating the conversation. (Again, I fucking hate that one conversation style has been determined “the polite one” so people I would actually get on with suppress their style and just ask questions.)

    So you absolutely can just block and unmatch because you have different styles, immediately, but if you WANTED to, you could try to let them know that you actually would like them to talk about themself. So maybe do reply once with some equivalent of “tell me a story about yourself” and see if they actually do. If they just go “haha not much to tell how bout u” then unmatch.

    That’s not about giving them a “fair chance” or whatever, it’s just about helping you find people who are suited to you.

    • Ace said:

      What I understood from the LW was people who don’t even ask any questions — don’t even do the minimum to sustain a conversation — and it drives me nuts too. I’ll get someone messaging *me* (gay man) and I’ll respond, asking about him, and he’ll respond in monosyllables. These guys are bores. I’ll go no further than three questions deep before I answer with a “Cool :)” and then he needs to ask ME a question if he expects the conversation to continue. I’m not going to do all the work. It’s honestly embarrassing and I don’t know how these guys ever hook up if they won’t even *talk* to people they showed interest for/attraction to in the first place.

      I actually haven’t had the problem you had, where someone’s just interrogating me. In person, I more often have the opposite problem. I’ve had guys talk about themselves during an entire date, and what they’re saying may be interesting and engaging, and I’m asking tag questions (“Oh really?”) and offering feedback/riffing (“Something like that happened to me once, …”) but eventually I realize they’re not doing anything to get to know me the way I’m getting to know them. I’m left feeling like they expect me to find them interesting by default but don’t anticipate there to be anything interesting about my life, which I find annoying. Maybe I’m being uncharitable, idk. Maybe they’re sitting there wondering why I’m not opening up to them, but that isn’t how it seems at the time.

  24. Amy said:

    #13: I also have a caffeine sensitivity (not as bad as yours, it sounds like, but bad enough that I avoid coffee completely and non-herbal teas most of the time). “No thanks, I’m not a big coffee person!” is usually plenty to turn down this kind of offer. Every so often someone replies with a jokey “Wow, I can’t even get out of bed in the morning without coffee!” type response, and I just tell them that caffeine gives me stomachaches so I avoid it–that pretty much puts an end to the topic, there’s nowhere to really go from there. I think the less you make it a big deal discussion, the more people are willing to just accept it as a quirky thing about you and think nothing of it.

  25. Amy said:

    #3: I also hate this. I can’t tell you how many ‘conversations’ I’ve had that were just a long streak of them asking questions, me answering fully and asking something back, them giving some one-word reply and then going right back to questioning me. It’s like…I’m not auditioning for your attentions here, do you not realize this is a two-way deal?

    I usually handle it by turning it back on them. I start giving short, noncommittal answers and mostly just asking questions about them. A lot of the time it goes nowhere, and after another round or two of this, I just stop answering and unmatch. But sometimes they do pick it up and do better! I think some people have this idea that they’re ‘supposed’ to be showing interest by asking questions, and just need the push to remind them that they also need to tell me who they are.

  26. Couch Potato said:

    Q. 12 – there is an Australian support service (MensLine Australia) which has information on it for men in an abusive relationship. Perhaps the LW could use the information there as a guide to how they talk to their friend. Not sure if we’re allowed to link to things here so I won’t but it’s easy to find via google.

  27. 13, are you me? I also cannot handle caffeine (very serious mood swings – I would be either unable to concentrate/form a cohesive sentence because of brain firing on all cylinders or looking for tall buildings…VERY glad I worked out the trigger!). When I started a new job, I got a nice water bottle for my desk. On day one it was explained to me that there is a general kitty for office tea/coffee supplies, I explained that I would not be joining because of not using those supplies, ever. I then joined the regular drink runs, learning who liked tea, who was decaf coffee, who had sugar and who didn’t, etc, and just having water for myself. This was seen as completely normal and acceptable by colleagues within two days (OK those two days were an annoying loop of but don’t you ever drink tea/how about herbal/but we have decaf coffee…no thank you/no thank you/thank you for thinking of me but really, I prefer water!) and being the person who would normally do the morning drink run helped me integrate socially into a new group.

  28. Q1: I used to work bringing opera to primary age children, so I can relate! Mostly, remember that even things going wrong is part of the magic of live theatre – which kids really don’t have much chance to experience so it’s super exciting for them. Also, there will be tough days, unfortunately. The days we had kids who didn’t want to be there, or a cast member split their pants I used to think to myself: “I get to go home and play video games and drink grown-up juice, and if these kids are lucky they can only do one of those things.” YMMV depending on what your personal version of video games and wine is, but I found the tough days were easier when I remembered I was an adult who could do what I wanted when I got home.

    As the opera folks say: toi toi toi!

    • Seeking Second Childhood said:

      Thank you for doing that job!

      I was one of the hordes of NY area kids bussed to the Metropolitan Opera House in the late 70s & early 80s for the free-to-us full dress rehearsals. I learned to love live music with every bit of my heart… I don’t listen to studio recordings of opera, but live shows give me goosebumps. I keep hoping some new recording technique will catch all the overtones and resonances so I can enjoy it in between my infrequent chances to get out for live music.

      • Thank you for enjoying it! Sadly on the recording front we still break microphones…

  29. SoADHDmuchADHDwow said:

    Q13: Oh, heavens, I wonder if you’re in my area of the country. Before I moved up here permanently (I have lots of relatives here that I’d visit periodically, so I knew the culture), I actually TRAINED myself to drink coffee, which I hated at that point, because it seemed simpler than refusing. Honestly, in my family, rejecting coffee is like rejecting love. It did not matter how many times or how politely I told them I was not a coffee person, they’d always ask and look really, genuinely confused and sad when I turned it down, stating that I don’t drink coffee. For the fifth time. In one day. And they’re a good, loving, reasonable, boundary-respecting bunch of people in every other way!

    (We live in a culture that is generally not demonstrative of affection, I think all the urges to be affectionate to non-children-people get sublimated into coffee.)

    (And it’s not just my family, either. Honestly, someone should write an anthropological take on coffee rituals around here.)

    Clearly, training yourself to drink coffee is not a viable solution for you. However, I think the advice to request or accept or offer SOMETHING in these circumstances, occasionally, is spot on. It’ll satisfy their deep longing to express comaraderie via non-alcoholic beverages, which is really what it’s about.

    (If you don’t live in a ridiculous coffee culture like mine, NM, don’t overthink it, just politely turn it down, you’re fine.)

    • AndTheRest said:

      OMG, I have never liked the taste of coffee (not even coffee flavored cookies or desserts), and although I’ve gone back and tried it several times to see if my tastes have changed, I can’t imagine training myself to drink coffee! I’ve usually been fine saying some version of “Not my thing, but thanks.” Although I’ve never been asked 5 times in one day (good grief!), I’ve had some close family members ask if I want coffee when I visit them for dinner, and I every time I say “No, I don’t drink coffee.” But then I noticed that these family members never had much interest in me or my life, so we are not close anymore. Ugh, societal bondary-crossing with regard to food and drink sucks.

      • ashbet said:

        I spent 7 years with a partner who hated coffee and tea flavors (period, in anything), and while I did learn not to offer them a Hot Breakfast Beverage as a form of love, the one thing I’d perpetually screw up was absentmindedly offering tiramisu.

        (For me, it’s the MOST! DELICIOUS! THING!, and I wouldn’t even share a bite with someone I wasn’t exceedingly fond of… but I don’t particularly think of it as being coffee-flavored, in my head it’s all about the sweet ricotta and liqueur.)

        At least my ex recognized it as a sincere attempt to offer a bite of a Nice Thing, and we’d laugh about it, but that kind of thing can be such a weird social blind spot!

        I had no trouble remembering his other food preferences, so I’m just going to chalk that one up to Tiramisu Intoxication 😉

        • Thistledown said:

          As a non-coffee drinker, I really hate tiramisu because it always sounds like lovely dessert, and taste like horrible, horrible coffee. So, you’re not the only one who forgets; it’s very sneaky.

          • DameB said:

            I make my own coffee- and alcohol-free tiramisu for just this reason. It’s excellent.

          • BigDogLittleCat said:

            I forget too. I remember that I don’t like tiramisu but not why, so every now and then I “try it again” and ptooi! oh, right, that’s why!
            😦 the person who invented mocha.

        • Kacienna said:

          Tiramisu is a triple no for me: coffee, ricotta, and sogginess! The people who enjoy it are welcome to mine!

    • Monica said:

      I also trained myself to drink coffee, however it’s because I was applying for work in cafes etc and thought that if I’m selling the stuff I should know what it tastes like when it’s good!

      Turns out I do like coffee, but only the good stuff lol

      Not helpful I know but another data point for you 🙂

  30. Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

    Q1 writer here! I don’t think I did a great job of explaining how the job works, as it’s fairly unusual and I only had a couple of tweets. We’re not rehearsing an entire show with the kids, and nobody’s coming to see it- the audience is whichever kids are not actively involved at any given moment.

    The show is scripted, but there’s a section near the start where we each get given a group of kids (like maybe up to forty of them) who we then have to brief. We each have a list of characters we have to brief- I have 12 speaking roles to give out and then the rest of the kids are all doing the same non-speaking thing as a group. I have to find out which kids want speaking roles, corral some extra ones if there aren’t enough volunteers, hand out parts, make sure everyone is sitting in the right place, and then brief each kid on their line(s) and actions. This whole briefing section has to happen in twenty minutes, so all I’m going to have time to do is say to each kid ‘When I (or whoever’s saying their cue line) say _____, you say ____’, and then maybe go over it a couple of times and move on. There won’t be time to go into any more depth than that, or to go back to any kid once I’ve moved on.

    I’m probably most nervous about the briefing, because there is SO MUCH TO DO and I have to move SO FAST while also having no idea what they’re going to do because, you know, kids. But since the kids are involved in pretty much every scene, that adds layers of complication and unpredictability to pretty much everything. I have to know my lines twice as well as usual, because there’s a good chance that whatever they say will not be what I told them to say. I have to know all of their lines, too, in case they forget completely. If I accidentally skip a line that’s a cue for a child, that kid isn’t going to get to do their bit.

    The Captain is right that this is ultimately not the most important thing that will ever happen to them, I’m not going to ruin any lives, but I hate the thought of letting any of them down when it’s supposed to be all about making them feel special and like the stars of the show. I screwed up really badly onstage in front of children a couple of years ago (think: said a Bad Word) and it just adds to this horrible fear I have that I’m not fit to be around children. Being queer and trans only adds to that.

    • Kacienna said:

      It’s good for kids to encounter queer and trans people! The kids who are queer or trans need to see people who are like them, and the ones who aren’t need to see people who aren’t like them! I wouldn’t worry too much about having said a swear word (I assume that’s what you mean by a bad word, and not a slur) in front of the kids either. They’ll learn them all soon enough anyway, one way or another, and if they didn’t hear it from you, they’d hear it from someone else. I’m not saying don’t bother trying to watch your language in front of kinds, of course, but more for their parents’ sake; hearing a scatalogical term won’t actually damage them.

      • Elder Grantaire (LW 1101) said:

        Yes, I meant a swear word. I did my first show today and it was chaotic, but nothing went horribly wrong. I don’t think any of the kids had any idea I was queer or trans. Not that it would be bad if they did, but they were little enough that several of them solemnly asked afterwards if we were the real [historical figures we were playing], so the details of our personal identities didn’t really come into it. I am knackered and have to be up at 5am tomorrow to do two more performances, but I think it went okay. My brief was within time and I didn’t do or say anything inappropriate.

  31. Kshoosh said:

    Q12: Hi! I’ve married a wonderful, kind, loving man who has a child with an extremely emotionally and verbally abusive ex-wife. (The hardest part of the whole thing has been the automatic assumption of her innocence by all authorities in spite of documented history and all she’s been convicted of. Legal restrictions, DVOs against her, CPS involved to protect their son from her physical abuse, texts and emails where she threatens him, and yet they still assume the worst of him and the best of her… )

    A resource that’s helped me understand her and them: http://shrink4men.com. The book at that link may be “problematic” for some people but it really helped me, along with lots of CA resources. A daily mantra for me is CA’s “Reasons are for reasonable people.”

    You are not alone. Violence of women against men is a serious thing that happens and no one really wants to talk about, and courts are not set up to help protect men. Women can and do abuse, and just because they’re women doesn’t mean they are any less terrible people or any less harmful when they abuse.

  32. hamsterpants said:

    Q2. What if you let your friends and family have their own feelings about your boyfriend as a person rather than needing them to echo and amplify yours? Like, maybe *you* can forgive your boyfriend for the reasons you broke up in the first place, but your friends and family might not forgive him for (directly or indirectly) causing you hurt as easily.

    Maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family as you go over a relationship rollercoaster can be very hard! You might consider having a few visits with a therapist on how to navigate your particular situation and needs.

    • Jitz Girl said:

      They can have their feelings. But there’s such a thing as not saying every single thing you’re thinking. If they’re re-iterating for the ten millionth time, “well, I just can’t get over how he gave you a bowling ball with his name on it for your birthday” or whatever, at some point, it’s time to give it a rest.

  33. Friday said:

    A13 – I am the boss in a coffee culture place. And many people in my team never drink actual coffee. Answers like “no I am good”, “I already got a drink”, “I will come for the walk” or “could you get me some juice please” are all perfectly acceptable. It’s more about the break, having a conversation outside the office and making everyone feel included

  34. Jessen said:

    I honestly could have written Q12, only it’s a family member in my case. One of the big problems I’m seeing is that the abuser will actually reference feminist literature and literature on domestic violence, in order to justify her abuse. There’s a lot of twisting things around to basically make it look like if he stands up for himself or tries to protect himself at all, she will claim that he is trying to dominate and control her.

    Unfortunately, much of the problem I’ve seen is she’s convinced him that everything that’s wrong is because of him and how abusive he is. That’s the hard part to get past. She’ll pull out a lot of stuff about abusers and explain that he’s unhappy because he has an “abusive mentality” and she’s trying to fix that. Leaving would be abusive towards her and all her behavior is of course justified by how he’s abusing her. But that’s the part that I don’t know how to help with, the part where she’s convinced him that all his unhappiness is because of what a terrible awful person he is and if he would just let her help everything would be great.

  35. Convallaria majalis said:

    Dear Q13: it is so nice to intermeet someone who share this same quality with me. I really, truly, cannot drink any coffee because of the same problems you describe (plus extra irritating arrhytmias in my heart) – and here in Scandinavia coffee (and alcohol) are the Things That Make You A Grown Up. I am in my 40’s and in some parties I still have to get my drinks from the table for children. A jedi hug (if you want one)!

    Coffee run is not that much of a ritual in here but I kind of get the idea and it does sound thoughtful. I like The Captain’s idea to ask for a drink suitable for you. I second the idea of bringing cookies once in a while (home baked or bought) – or if you are like me and love baking, perhaps some other home baked form of pastry.

    I wish I could send you a big mug of herbal tisane. Have you tried rooibos? That is the favourite evening drink in our family.

    May you have lots of happy non-caffeinated times!

    Dear Q14: Your bookshop sounds SO COOL! Oh, how much I wish it was in Europe so maybe I could visit. For years now I have had this dream with my friend of a bookshop/café with geeky events, live music and a large selection of inclusive baked goods and drinks. For us it is a dream – but you are making this real! Yay for you!

    … and finally for the dear Captain: first of all, your Halloween outfit sounds fantastic! Now I wonder how you would like Scandinavian print t-shirts? Wow, how fast are Daniel Striped Tiger and Henrietta Pussycat growing! They look so cuddly and soft and adorable. ❤

    • Seeking Second Childhood said:

      “Intermeet” Hurrah…you’ve given me the word I’ve been looking for!
      I shall use that elseweb with great fervor!

  36. Q12: There’s a YouTuber I enjoy whose handle is “Richard Grannon SpartanLifeCoach”. His focus is abuse by narcissists. So, that may be a problem as it may not relate to your friend, or you may find it is helpful– just check it out and use your best judgement. He is part of a YouTube community focused on abuse by narcissists, and Grannon’s channel will probably lead to other knowledgeable, considerate men who have been abused and discuss it openly. For some reason the “narcissism community,” though certainly not perfect, seems to be much more balanced in terms of the gender fluidity of abusers and their targets than other abuse communities in general. They also tend to focus more on non-physical abuse. But it’s YouTube, so take it all with a huge grain of salt and approach with caution.

    • zaracat said:

      with the standard caveat applicable to most internet sites (CA and a few others excepted ❤ ) – never read the comments

      • Oh God no! There are some gems in the comments of those videos, but one must be in a very sturdy head-space to fish them out.

  37. Q11: I was the friend, and was really happy to have had support from someone who lived on a completely remote island, who nevertheless kept saying: “Yes, you are right, that’s awful/not normal” and “Have you made a plan? Are you ready to jump ship yet?” until I did. Please don’t underestimate being the person who believes your friend’s story is real and keeps reminding them that being unhappy is a perfectly legit reason to leave!

    • Virginia said:

      I was coming in to say something similar. It took me a long time to be ready to admit how bad things were and then a long time to be able to just go. I’m eternally grateful BOTH to the friends who believed me and encouraged me to care for myself AND the friends who would talk to me about normal, happy things and make a space to breathe and feel “normal” for a few minutes.

      Both groups of friends have told me afterward that it was hard, because they wanted to FIX NOW, but what I needed were their small actions. Those small actions saved me until I could save myself.

  38. ET said:

    Q12: Most resources that I’ve found for men who are abused are focused on sexual abuse, but even some of those might be useful. But resources for men by men do exist, even if they’re hard to find. MaleSurvivor is a site mostly focused on sexual abuse but they have a forum where he could post and, I’ve found in the past, people are very open to anyone posting, even if they’re not sure they belong. Here’s the forum; the website might have useful stuff too. http://www.discussion.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=cfrm

    Some folks also run blogs for abused men. I run this one intermittently, although I’m only occasionally active. You are he are welcome to check it out though. https://www.tumblr.com/blog/male-victims-and-survivors It is for all forms of abuse, sexual, physical, emotional, etc.

    I’m also in a IRL support group for sexually abused men run by men, and it’s not the only one that exists, although there aren’t nearly as many as I wish there were. Again, the focus is sexual abuse, but I just wanted to point out that there are actually a lot of non-MRA guys out there who are advocating for male abuse victims and I don’t like that people seem to get the impression that we don’t exist or that we all expect women to do our work for us. We are out here making a difference in the small ways we can!

  39. Twitchy said:

    LW 13, are there any specific herbal teas you like? Ones that aren’t usually paired with actual tea? You could say something like, “I’d love a cup of chamomile, if they have it.”

  40. One Tiny Action said:

    Q12: Some specific recommendations for those who want to actively help in this kind of situation.

    My first recommendation would be to get as much documentation as possible about what is happening so as to have some kind of written record that can establish a pattern of behaviour. Either by encouraging him to document things or if you have the energy for it, documenting things yourself. For documentation, I would recommend including date, time, and what happened. If the abuser makes false claims as part of their abuse, document as many of these as possible. If you are in an area where one-party recording is legal and you (or he) would be comfortable recording the abusive interactions, this would also be a useful record. If you are comfortable and he is concerned that the abuser discovering the record would put him in a worse situation, you can offer to safeguard the record.

    If you want to intervene more actively, the information from bystander intervention resources would be relevant. One particularly relevant area is to encourage him about setting boundaries and affirm that he is not the problem when the abuser breaks them.

    Challenging the misinformation (either in the moment or talking with him afterward) would help give him another perspective and see that he is not the abuser. In particular, if your demographics would lend credence to challenging parts of the information, addressing those would be especially helpful.

    If you are particularly close to him, then helping to affirm his identity and value outside of the relationship can be helpful. Many men have to deal with society’s expectation that they base their identity on protecting and providing for their partner and it sounds like his abuser is using this when they place blame on him for not helping, so affirming that he is a valuable person even if he doesn’t necessarily fulfill those roles might help him.

    If things do rise to the level of physical abuse: It is dangerous for a man to call emergency services when he is being physically abused, as research (admittedly a small sample size) shows that men have a troublingly high chance of being arrested even when they are the one who calls for help. If police intervention becomes necessary, it is safer for a man to go to the authorities later and request a protective order (ideally with the documentation of abuse). Because of this, I would encourage him to seek a protective order sooner rather than later.

    • azurelunatic said:

      Yes, being able to refute the gaslighting is so important. I had time-stamped IRC logs. Notepad will insert a timestamp with the f5 key.

      • Britpoptart said:

        I use Notepad all the time, and never knew that timestamping trick until right now. Thanks!

  41. For Q13, I think it’s pretty reasonable to say something like, “I’m trying to save money/paper cups by bringing my own tea and home and not buying drinks right now, catch you later!” As the captain says, you don’t have to say anything, but to reassure your anxiety around this I’d say I’ve heard this exact thing many times.

    It depends on the work culture, but I think people bringing in their own thermoses and brewing their own coffee/hot comfort drink is pretty normal.

  42. Q13: Obviously YMMV, but if you want to engage in the coffee culture thing at least once in a while, maybe ask for hot chocolate instead?
    At least around here a lot of coffee places offer some kind of cocoa beverage so it might be worth a try if you enjoy drinking it. If not, just stick to the “no thanks” and what everyone else suggested.

    • Vicki said:

      Fond as I am of cocoa, this doesn’t solve the stated problem, because there is some caffeine in chocolate. Maybe not enough to wake you up, but enough that I wouldn’t recommend hot chocolate to someone with the sort of reactions Q13 describes.

      • Jaybeetee said:

        Hot apple cider is another common alternative at coffee shops, at least where I live, and it generally isn’t super expensive either. Though I’m not sure if that’s a regional thing and it’s not available elsewhere.

        I just became a coffee drinker in my 30s (even now I strongly prefer cold brew/iced coffee to hot coffee though), and throughout my 20s ran into versions of this. When I was overseas actually was the worst – they had this strong idea of “white people drink coffee” and a couple people were really baffled by me declining it (this tied into cultural concepts of hospitality, where they were going out of their way to offer something they thought I’d like, and my turning it down was actually borderline rude to them – an implication that they were offering me crap or being poor hosts).

        • n.b. said:

          I lived in a country for awhile where accepting not only hot, caffeinated drinks by day seemed unavoidable, but by night, alcoholic drinks were just as unavoidable for any casual visit to anyone. People who had moved away dreaded coming back to visit all their family and friends because to make the rounds of the village would result in intoxication of one sort or another. I knew several who would keep visits secret except to one or two households because they could not stand more than one or two coffees/drinks per weekend. Next time, they would visit only a different one or two! And it all had to be kept secret or everyone would be eternally offended they hadn’t visited and shared an unwanted beverage. The houseplants of that place had to be on a continual buzz. I certainly shared drinks with a number of them.

    • TiffanyAching said:

      To piggyback on the “coffee culture” piece, another way to engage without having caffeine would be to occasionally say “Oh, no thanks, but I’ll join you for the walk!” or some such (if they are leaving the office to get the coffee). I’ve found this works well in my office, and allows me to do the same kind of goodwill-building/coworker-bonding that would otherwise come of the “Can I get you coffee?” deal without having to A) have the coffee, or B) buy coffee for others later.

    • aebhel said:

      I was just going to recommend Dr. NerdLove! I don’t agree with everything he writes, but IME he’s generally been very good on this topic.

  43. BigDogLittleCat said:

    Q#10, My father was well-meaning and wanted the best for me, but his idea of best included telling me what to do. He was not abusive, but he was very controlling.

    In my mid/late-20s, I asked him to lunch and set new ground rules for our relationship, one of which was that he was not allowed to tell me what to do. I would *ask* when I wanted advice or help, and if he thought I was making a terrible mistake, he could *offer* advice, but he had no right to expect, much less demand, that I follow it. I defined terrible as objectively going to harm me or someone else or be financially damaging– that is, a difference of opinion did not qualify.

    To avoid making him defensive, I started the conversation with identifying all the ways I contributed to the rockiness of our relationship, promising to stop, and asking him to let me know if he thought I was doing it again. So when I told him what I expected from him, it was clear I wasn’t making him the bad guy.

    Of course, if my father were not a good man, this would not have worked. I trusted his attempts to control were motivated by concern for my well-being, rather than authoritarianism.
    Q#10, can you try something like this?

  44. jaynn said:

    As the family in a situation like Q2, the Captain’s advice is spot on. We pretty much ignore him, but we’re not out to start anything either—all we really want at this point is for him to treat us the same way. I know that’s awkward all around, but the only thing that can help is the passage of time and evidence of improvement on his part (sadly the latter is lacking). “Making up” doesn’t matter if the pattern of problem behavior continues. So don’t ask them to make nice, they may not be there, but asking them to not start shit is totally reasonable.

  45. EC said:

    Oh Captain, I am your mom’s sister from another mister. But I’m trying to do reign it in with my twentysomething daughter. I’m not succeeding enough of the time though.

    But I keep trying, it’s important.

  46. reallyanon said:

    I really want to thank the folks here for the resources re Q12. I have a friend who is going through something like this in his workplace (it’s a long story, and I suspect what’s happening to him may be a form of mobbing) and these resources are really helping me think about how to support him. There’s definitely some problematic turned-around “feminism” in play, and it was a relief to see a commenter or here too mention that as something they’d seen. I had thought about asking about this on AaM, but I’m concerned that the commentariat there might lean towards me distancing myself from him b/c of the mobbing aspect, since the focus there sometimes tends to be about protecting your own reputation. These resources have been much more what I’ve been looking for.

  47. The unserious idea that popped into my head for Q2: Can he hold a boombox up outside your parents’ house, John Cusack style, and play Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson”? XD

  48. BrittleSoup said:

    Q10- Look up “It’s not about the nail” on YouTube (Jason Headley’s channel). I send that video to basically everyone I know – family, friends, close coworkers, even a boss once. It’s a hysterical, relatable video about just wanting to complain about a problem rather than fix it. (It does play on gender stereotypes a bit, but I don’t think it crosses the line). Then, anytime I just need to complain about my problems, I can interrupt someone with a playful “Have I shown you ‘It’s not about the nail’, because this is totally a nail situation! I just really need to vent”. 99 times out of 100, people get it immediately.
    (Conversely, when I want advice from someone that doesn’t realize I’m NOT venting, I can reference the video and let them know that it really is the nail and I need advice)

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