It Came From The Search Terms: Flaming September

Hello friends! It’s that time, where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they were questions. It’s a good way to check in with people’s preoccupations on a large, anonymous scale and it’s usually pretty fun.

First, as is traditional, a song:

(Lyrics at the YouTube link)

Also I know I used this one last year, but it came up when I was looking and I love it so:

Ok! We’ve got witchy autumn-themed music cued up, so without further ado:

1 “How to know if a girl wants to hang out?”

Say the words “would you like hang out with me” & include a specific place, day, and time in your invitation. If she says no & does not suggest an alternative time/day/venue, like, “Can’t make that, but I’d love to get together – can we do x instead?” and never follows up with her own invitation, she does not!

2 “What to do when your friends tell you to date someone you dislike and they dislike your crush.”

For the first person (the one you dislike): “If you like him so much, you date them.” 

For the second person (the one they dislike): “You don’t have to date them!” 

3 “What does it mean if my brother in law keeps saying flirty comments and trying to touch me in front of his brother which is my boyfriend?”

It means your brother-in-law is a creep & a sexual predator who is trying to groom you to put up with this. It’s okay to yell “gross, don’t touch me!” or “ew, why would you say that!” or “Nope!” and leave the place where he is and also avoid him forever, like, “Nope, I don’t want to hang out with your creepy brother, hard pass.” Like, you can make a giant stink and insist that this never happen again. Also, I DEEPLY question why your boyfriend doesn’t step in or stick up for you since this happens in front of him. Have you discussed it with him? Because it might be time to avoid the whole creepazoid family.

4 “How to send an email asking if anyone has dietary restrictions?”

In your email about the gathering/event, say “Please let me know if you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies I should know about!” 

I also like it when invitations say “The tentative menu is x, y, and z – please let me know if you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies I should know about!” 

People who have dietary restrictions are pretty used to this and will have no problem responding.

5 “He criticizes my clothes.”

Is he the boss of you or your closet? Criticize his fallacy that you care about his opinion about that.

6 “Reaching out to an ex boyfriend after many years.”

Why? Self-awareness about why you’re reaching out and low expectations for what you’ll find when you do will make this much easier than it might otherwise be.

7 “How do I know my best friend is not cheating on me?” 

Is your best friend not allowed to have other friends?

I saw this and then….whooo boy: 7a “My friend is overly possessive of me and wont even acknowledge anyone else as my friend.”

Friendship is not a pie. You’re allowed to have multiple friends, people who try to isolate you from others do not have your best interest at heart, and if this friend won’t honor that you’ll need to end that friendship.

8 “My boyfriend wont let me eat.”

Yeah, that’s a “get yourself safe & away from him” situation. You’re the boss of your own food. Please keep yourself safe.

9 “What to do when your boyfriend doesn’t shower.”

If your partner’s hygiene grosses you out, it’s okay to be very blunt, like, “I notice you don’t shower, what’s going on with that? Please take a shower when you know we’re going to see each other.” “I don’t want to have sex/be close to you when you haven’t showered, please take care of it.” 

10 “How do you tell your spouse of 50 years that they need to shower better.”

“Babe, I need you to be more thorough when you shower – you’re missing some spots.” 

You may have to get realllllllllly specific about which spots. In 50 years you’ve had to have survived some awkward conversations, what’s one more?

11 “Why does my daughter continue to pick undesirable men?”

I don’t know! Assume she’s getting something out of the relationship that you can’t see, assume she has different priorities from you about what desirable even is. Then, remind her that you love her, try to keep an open mind, emphasize her choice & her agency in her romantic decisions, keep lines of communication open, try to hang out with just your daughter sometimes (vs. having both of them at everything). If the dude is actually awful, this will help her find her way back to you. If he’s a decent person but just not who you would choose, this will help you keep a good relationship with your daughter while you give him a chance to change your mind or everyone waits out the inevitable breakup.

12 “My children want to live with my rich in-laws instead of me.”

There is clearly waaaaaaaaaay more story here.

13 “Guy said maybe in the future meaning.”

Not now, i.e., don’t make any life plans around this guy.

14 “When relative distances from you do you try to contact or leave alone.”

If I know the source of the conflict or if things seem really out of the blue, I might try one time to address it – “Everything ok?”

But also, in families, not everyone has to like everyone, sometimes we get along better with some breathing room & space. Am I sure that the distance is about me, specifically (and not something stressful in their lives they’re dealing with) & does it all need to be resolved right now or can I trust that a little time will work it out?

15 “My boyfriend won’t watch a show with me.”

Not everyone has to like or watch the same entertainments. Let it gooooooooooooo.

16 “Doesn’t want me to meet his friends to take it slow.”


“Taking it slow” can be a good/healthy/reasonable thing.

Wanting to hold off on introducing someone new to your friends because you’re not sure yourself whether this one is a keeper can be a good/healthy/reasonable thing.

If someone you’re dating says “Let’s take this slow!” aka “I really like you but I’m not fully-committed yet and I’m taking my time before I decide that (& so should you!)” then it’s a signal to adjust your expectations accordingly, like, slow down your own commitment/investment level, slow down introducing him to your friends & family, slow down on future talk, remind yourself to put some time & love into the other people in your life & not disappear into New Couple! mode, & maybe don’t delete that dating profile just yet. Also, let the person who said they wanted to take it slow do more of the work of staying in touch, planning dates, etc. Like maybe it’s a prelude to a rejection, or maybe it’s an opportunity to give yourself permission not to do much or any work around this person right now. They’re taking it slow! No worries, you’re busy with your own thing and will check in when you have some time!

Also trust your instincts and trust what you want! If you feel like you’re being hidden away & compartmentalized from your person’s actual life, or he’s all “take it slow” about meeting friends but really clear about wanting all your time/fidelity/attention/commitment, if something feels unbalanced or unreciprocated, maybe trust that itchy feeling that made you Google this and pull back entirely. People can fall in love at different speeds, people can also string you along because they like your attention and they’re incapable of managing the whole “when I said I was single I meant I was separated and by separated I mean I’m still very much married and I promise I’ll tell her soon and anyway that’s why nobody can know about you, but we’re still having sex tonight, right?” discussion and order of operations like an ethical & trustworthy adult.

17 “Don’t want to spend Christmas with disabled step daughter.”

Listen, your holiday plans are your own – spend them how you want. Also, this phrasing does not make you sound awesome, so, probably it will be a huge relief to your stepdaughter if you just go on a cruise somewhere with her parent/your spouse or better yet with your family of origin or some good friends!

18 “I ghosted someone and now he’s sending letters to my house.”

Yeah, that’s creepy. Safety experts advise communicating directly with the person one time to say “I’m not interested, please stop contacting me,” using a medium where you can document that you said this (text, email), to remove plausible deniability from the situation. Then, never respond to any communication again, the logic being that if someone sends you 100 letters and you respond to say “I told you not to send me any more letters!” you’ve taught them that it takes 100 letters to get your attention so next time they’ll send 101. Every time you engage with the person after you tell them to stop, even if it’s yelling at them to leave you alone, it’s like buying yourself a few more weeks of stalking behavior because they are getting that little jolt of attention they wanted. The hope is that if you starve them of all attention & feedback they’ll lose interest.

Additionally: Tell other people in your life what’s happening and ask them (esp. any mutual friends) not to engage with the dude or give him any information about you, tighten up your social media visibility (block him everywhere if you haven’t yet, be mindful of sharing location data & photos online, he’s almost certainly monitoring whatever he can find), check on your locks/make sure you close your windows when you go to bed or leave the house, save all the letters in case you need to show them to law enforcement, vary up your routine & commute.

19 “How do you get your neighbor to quit asking for stuff.”

Say “no” every time they do ask, be very selective about when or if you answer the door, even make it clear – “I can’t/won’t help you with that, please stop asking.” 

20 “What to do when your new boyfriend is a slob.”

People change slow if they change at all, and you can’t make them do it.

Use that information how you will. Either find someone who is more compatible with you around cleanliness & hygiene stuff, choose your battles & speak up about the stuff that affects you, at risk of him not taking care of whatever it is and outright deciding “hey, I don’t wanna change the sheets more and I don’t wanna be criticized about it, I’m out!,” decide that you will probably never share a household and that’s okay, or learn to love the mess. He is a new boyfriend and you have the choice to be like, whoa, you have the best smile and we like all the same books, but I don’t think this is for me.

21 “I can’t stop cheating on my boyfriend.”

You actually can, so let’s rephrase this: “Something about my relationship with my boyfriend is not working for me and I am unhappy with him, so I keep cheating on him instead of breaking up or talking whatever it is over, but I’m also afraid of losing him or hurting him so I keep delaying the inevitable.” 

Feelings happen and they don’t always happen at convenient times or in the right order.

Let’s take feelings out of it for a second and talk about safety. If you’re sexually active, if you agree to have a monogamous relationship with someone and they trust you to hold to that agreement, and you’re also secretly having sex with other people, you are messing with consent. You are not allowing your partner to make informed decisions about their own sexual health and risk tolerance. That is a really shitty, violating, possible health-destroying thing to do to someone and it’s in your power to not do that anymore.

22 “When mothers barge in son’s room to find him wanking.”

Look, I know this is most likely a random porn search, but I grew up with a family who were pretty terrible about closed doors and privacy, so let me take this opportunity to say:

  1. KNOCK.

Kids are people, people need privacy and respect, if it’s not a life or death situation (like someone is not literally bleeding, exploding, flooding, or on fire) you can fucking well knock and wait 30 seconds for everyone to get their britches reaffixed. You want little kids to learn to knock & wait for an answer before they interrupt you, you want your older kids to have respect and privacy and feel safe where they live, so, be the change (and the knocking) that you want to see in the world.

23 “Captain awkward cries all the time”

I cry a normal amount of crying + 20% if it’s a sad movie or if unlikely animal friends are involved somewhere or if it’s the part of the book where little girls send letters to their heroine about how they want to be astronauts someday. I also cry if someone is mean to me or someone I care about, if someone is unexpectedly nice to me, and….[censored for politics].

24 “Feel guilt quitting job manager asking me to come back.”

Good news, you don’t have to go back.

You can say “Oh manager, it’s so great to know you value my work, but this is the right decision for me. Thanks for asking, but no thanks!” 

And like, it’s good to keep things cordial with former workplaces if you can, but once you stop working there you do not have to respond to every communication you get. Once the question’s been asked and answered, you can ignore future requests.

And hey, if you decide you want to go back, this seems like a great time to ask for wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy more money than you were making before!

25 “Husband supporting his adult children behind my back.”

Assuming “support” = financial support, yikes. Married couples need transparency & honesty about financial stuff. Maybe this is one for couple’s counseling and/or talking with a financial advisor to make sure that your shared savings & financial priorities aren’t being neglected and to dig into why he didn’t feel like he could tell you. Ya’ll need to open all the books and spreadsheets and accounts and air everything out, down to the penny.

One way to possibly handle this (after a full accounting/disclosure and some deep discussions) is to make an agreement going forward that X amount of money (the majority) goes toward your shared financial priorities & living expenses and Y (much smaller amount) of money gets split equally between each spouse to be spent/saved/invested as they wish without consulting the other, so if he wants to throw his monthly Y budget to his adult kids that’s up to him, you can still be confident that your savings & expenses are being handled and also have your own discretionary funds. It doesn’t remove the problem completely (I sense that the querent’s ideal amount of support for the adult children is zero dollars and no cents) but it does remove secrecy and lies.

 26 “Good headlines for dating profiles.”

  • “I’m shy and weird and nice.”
  • “Let’s eat cheese and do witchcraft.”
  • “Evil genius seeks henchmen for world domination scheme.”
  • “Winter is coming (Come hang out in my sweet blanket fort).”
  • “I just got divorced, everything sucks, wanna make out?”
  • “Let’s both put on a clean shirt and leave the house tonight.”
  • “Yes…and? Comedy/Improv dork seeks a willing player.”
  • “I promise I will never make you come to my improv shows.”
  • “My perfect date involves documentaries and crying.”
  • “Let’s canvass for the midterm elections and then fuck!”
  • “Severely allergic to cats, lilies, and people who ‘love to debate for fun.'”
  • “I like tacos, heist films, and books about space travel.”
  • “Let’s compare shoe collections (I wear a size 8).”
  • “Hold my hand during scary movies?”
  • “Weatherwax in the streets, Ogg in the sheets.”
  • “Ok basically my fantasy is to meet someone who wants to learn how to fence and then we’ll have duels and say witty, cutting remarks laced with sexual tension, who’s in?”
  • “My version of dating is to be really good friends who snuggle (a lot) and kiss (sometimes/a little) and do other sexy stuff (maybe/never). Who’s with me?”
  • “I express myself only in GIFs, memes, and rap battles.”

Be specific! To me, the secret isn’t to appeal blandly to the maximum number of possible people, the secret is to communicate your specific brand of weird in the hopes of attracting same. It’s okay to have fun with it, especially if the whole dating site seems like one big “I’m a chill relaxed normal person who likes to work hard & play hard, I have sanded off as many of my rough edges as I could before appearing on your app screen, I’ll break the news about the bagpipes and the family curse later, please swipe right!” avatar of the same person.

That’s all for this month. Live Chat/Short Answers return Friday 9/28 (I’m doing them 2x a month instead of every week, which I think I told Patreon but didn’t necessarily announce here), here is a kitten photo to tide you over:

Daniel Striped Tiger (L) and Henrietta Pussycat (R) are two soft brown tabby kittens who are best friends and excellent sleepy snuggle buddies.


















202 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: Flaming September

    1. Exactly, kitties! ❤ Seeing all these pictures of the lovely duo makes me wish I could pet those overly cute striped backs. I bet these two smell wonderful (when they are clean); one of my cats smells like rose scented powder. Please, dear Captain Awkward, pass gentle kitten sized Jedi hugs for them if you want and if they accept them.

  1. So, like, are the bagpipes the family curse, or are those two separate issues?

    Also: kitties! Soft snugly kitt0ns.

    Re #22 I still struggle with no expectation of privacy to this day. My parents never knocked at my door, just barged in whenever it suited them.

    1. ~So, like, are the bagpipes the family curse, or are those two separate issues?~

      Forget the rich in-laws, I want to read this story.

    2. That would be such a great comic thriller. “She returned to the family home… only to fall victim to… the CURSE of the BAGPIPES!”

      Bonus points for heroic snuggly kitties.

    3. I would be 100% sold on a bagpipe curse – like lets skip the coffee and do dinner! Unless their name was Kennedy – that curse does not mess around.

  2. Oh man, #20 – last year I dated a dude whose cleaning, um, left something to be desired. I commented on a few things, like the lack of soap in the bathroom, and his response was literally “My mom told me not to worry about this stuff because someday I’ll have a wife who will smooth out my rough edges.” And both of his parents worked full time. Byeeeeee

    And #26 is exactly what I’ve been wondering lately – thanks! Now off to adapt that “winter is coming” one…

    1. NOPE!

      Also, I really hate that people are telling their sons this stuff. “Oh don’t worry honey, you’ll meet a nice girl and she’ll do that for you.” I consider myself a nice person, but hell no am I gonna be some dude’s mommy because his actual mommy didn’t prepare him for adulthood.

      1. My son’s father once said, in the presence of our son (seven or eight years old), “I won’t do laundry.” Later, he claimed “That was a joke.” But, it wasn’t really. We broke up when our son was a pre-teen, though.

        Son (now mid-30’s) learned early how to do their (Son is a singular ‘they’) own damn laundry, and, since they’re now a cook (at a well-known establishment), they do most of the cooking at home, accommodating their girlfriend’s simple tastes. I cannot imagine telling any offspring, male-presenting or otherwise, that a spouse will smooth them out.

        1. It wasn’t until I was in college that I understood how unusual it was that my Dad did all the laundry when I was growing up. I’m grateful that he set that standard for me though! Your son sounds like a great partner to their girlfriend – I hope I can find someone like that

          1. I truly appreciate all the parents who teach their offspring not to expect their spouse to shoulder all the housekeeping duties. It is really great if people are prepared to do their share (according to their mental/physical abilities, of course).

            In our household we have shared duties according to likes and dislikes: I kind of love washing laundry and especially to hang it to dry out in the sun when we are in the countryside and trying to keep them neatly piled gives me satisfaction; when my husband does laundry he does it his own style and I try my best to thank him and let him do it his own way. I am so happy that he has volunteered to vacuum clean the house, I hate vacuum cleaning almost as much as the cats.

            It is really great to be able to do one’s housework or know how to do it from a young age. I must confess my teenated daughter is not the most diligent cleaner but her cooking skills are turning out quite well.

          2. My grandad was the one to do all the laundry when my mom was growing up, and she attributes a lot of her…practical feminism, I guess (like not taking shit from boyfriends about “women’s work”) to having a dad who demonstrated all the time that work was work and whoever was available should get it done!

      2. My in-laws apparently had this idea for their son. I looked at the man I would later marry and said, sure, we can make out. You want it to be more than that, I’ll teach you how to do laundry and balance your checkbook.
        He’s now the stay-at-home dad and deals with much of the housework and cooking. Our son, not yet two years old, helps load the dishwasher (so cute!). If men want to, they CAN learn to do this stuff, no matter their age, no matter what their family of origin taught them.

        1. Turquoise Dragon, that is so true! My grandfather was just like that: he was born in the beginnin of 1900, a WWII veteran and he was not raised to do much homework, but whenever it was needed, he was ready to learn. In 1950’s he built a washing machine for my grandmother (machines was his solution to almost everything; he would have made a great steampunk character). When my grandmother became ill, he began to do all the chores and he learned to cook; I never heard him complain.

          It is really great that your son is already learning household skills!

          1. My dad had a heart attack six months after my mom had a surgery that left her with ongoing energy and balance issues. He needed to stop eating out but my mom was not able to grocery shop and cook for him.

            A miracle occurred and this man who had insisted he was a completely incompetent cook for 30 years suddenly figured out how to cook. It’s amazing what household skills people develop when they are backed into a corner.

      3. I think sometimes my stepson thinks this, but he has at least enough self-awareness not to say it out loud in front of his father or me.

      4. I wish guys like that knew: there is very little that turns me so completely off like a full grown man who needs mothering. Nope. If I go into Mom mode with you, I’m not coming back out. Also probably not taking care of you either, because you’re not my child and you’re not in danger.

        They were so worried about the friend-zone they never even thought to consider the you’re-a-child-zone.

        1. Yep. Once a guy has leaned on me like this, it never really comes back from there. It’s super hard to find someone sexy when you’re the one writing their resume.

  3. Hey #10, if this is a new development – as in, they haven’t had trouble cleaning themselves before – it may be time to get to the doctor. It could be some new pain or mobility issue is making it hard for them to reach everything, or it could be a sign of a cognitive issue like early stage alzheimer’s or dementia.

    1. I was thinking that too. If they’re married 50 years, then age would be 70ish +, and that’s when you’re much more likely to start seeing health problems. A good checkup is a VERY good plan.

    2. I know we don’t diagnose here, but I was thinking something similar. A gift basket with one of those scrubbies on a long handle and a body wash for sensitive skin (since regular soap can be drying/irritating on older skin) may cause an improvement in hygiene.

  4. Ugh, maybe I’ll take the 26 advice and give it one last try. I’ve given up and deleted my profile three times so far(different sites). It’s fun for a second and then it’s just sad and a new type of lonely. Just empty and a lot of spoons for nothing in the end.

    1. Online dating is not for everyone, and it’ s not for all the time. It’s just one way of meeting people – all the things people did before that still exist and apply!

      I’m someone who does better with words-from-a-distance than I do at meeting-in-a-crowd and way better than I did with many years of trying-to-convert-friends-into-lovers (A lifetime ZERO success rate, despite many longing looks and persuasive airtight letters about why we should logically be together), and I deleted my profile and took breaks sooooooooooooooooo many times. Like sometimes I had good “sure, why not?” energy and sometimes I emphatically did not.

      What helped:

      -Including a lot of photos, including “unflattering” photos helped (it weeded out a lot of creeps and assholes).
      -Let’s be honest: Being white and mostly straight and the “right kind of fat” (with big boobs) helped.
      -Experience & being really picky helped – someone kinda boring and not for me but there wasn’t anything wrong with him who I would have written back for months with at 28 got scrolled right past at 38.
      -Keeping first and even second dates really really cheap and casual and low-key helped. Yes I will take a shower and wear a clean shirt and brush my teeth. No I will not commute long distances or wear uncomfortable shoes.
      -Seriously, no shade to first date sex, I’ve had plenty of it and had a great time, but developing a personal Absolutely Not! policy when I was dating around the time I met Mr. Awkward was a great choice for me. It just took a lot of ambiguous & sketchy situations off the table. Nobody was invited to my personal space unless I really liked & trusted them, no overextending it with sexy talk that I might feel like I’d have to live up to, no trying to talk myself into liking somebody more than I did b/c orgasms.
      -NO chasing people. Everybody has a phone, everybody knows how phones work, if you’re not texting or calling me it’s ’cause you don’t want to and that’s okay, but I would not keep time/space/headspace/heartspace open.
      -HARD pass if anyone started treating me like a therapist or their mommy. I am a great cook and am nurturing as fuck, but that was for people who are close to me, not randoms looking for a wife-mommy.
      -Taking breaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaks. In the year when I met Mr. Awkward I probably had a profile up 2-3 months out of 12, max. I only dealt with any of it when I was feeling mentally & financially sound and otherwise on top of my shit.

      I hope the next round is fun, if you decide to do it again. Be nice to yourself.

      1. I LOVE the Weatherwax/Ogg line.

        I went with “Het ciswoman with a penchant for sarcasm and bad puns seeks Mario Kart rival.” Didn’t meet anyone that turned into a long relationship, but I had some hilarious conversations.

        1. I love the Weatherwax/Ogg line with all my heart. I think, if I’m being honest, that “Magrat in the streets, Ogg in the sheets” is far more accurate for me personally. 😛

          1. Magrat in the sheets, Nac mac Feegle in the sheets, myself. Crivens! Help! I’m lost! Where’s yer heid, ye fitted skunner!

        2. I’m not dating now, but I’m handing that line to a friend who is, because they’ve been looking for ways to communicate their specific fandoms / interests to potential partners.

          I ❤ this site so much for things like this.

      2. Thank you for this.
        I’m gonna think on it for a bit, last time around I had almost no pictures and none with my face in them, because strangers on the internet with pictures of my face and dreams of happiness can be scary. That didn’t work great at all though.

        1. I love the Captain’s dating advice. It was how I found this site a year ago. Her advice worked wonders for me. And hey, I went through phases where I was not comfortable putting my face up online, and unfortunately it just meant for me that online dating wasn’t for me at that time. And it is true that online dating is very different depending on age and race for cis dating (I don’t have experience outside cis). Like online dating (and dating in general) while in my 20s was an awful, lonely, and often times rather abusive experience. Dating in my 30s has been much better, because people mostly have had the veil of unrealistic expectations lifted and even the unemployed have their shit together more than most 20 year olds LOL. Also, experience. I used to get bummed when months would go by and I found no one. That was until I realized it was because of me! Because I was choosing not to date people I didn’t want to date! That I was putting up pics to keep *those people* away. It is not MY FAULT that the men online dating at the time were not my fit! That actually I was really freaking OK with being single. I haven’t lived with a man in 7 years. I have had a few longer term relationships, but I ended them all. It used to make me feel lonely or broken, but now I just realize it just makes me very discerning and independent. Reading this site and some other feminist blogs in my thirties helped me better internalize that nothing is wrong with me! Maybe that will help you and maybe not, but just know you aren’t the only one who has ever felt like this! I hope it worked out.

          1. YES! I am right there with you. I would so much rather be lonely by myself when I feel like I can expect it (and at this point, nearly 5 years into being single, it’s not very frequent but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t exist) than lonely because I’m in a bad relationship. I want something good and real where I’m at what my therapist and I jokingly call “full sparkle”. I don’t want to be anything less than that, and I can (mostly) be like that on my own. So unless my baseline happiness increases SIGNIFICANTLY with a potential partner around, I’m out. I’m not lowering my happiness level. (And even somebody who comes in and keeps my baseline the same will be a net negative because I’ll have to take their feelings and desires into consideration and do things I don’t want to do. Making sure my happiness level increases means it still averages out the same or higher.)

            So when I *do* have dating profiles up, I am 100% myself. I’m specific. I think my last profile had something like “YES: passport stamps, dark beer, good books. NO: smoking, white picket fences, kids”. Before that I had something like “Really just looking for a pillow on long-haul flights”. I’m not trying to appeal to the widest possible market, I’m trying to appeal to the tiniest niche market I can think of – guys who would be truly compatible with me the way I like myself best.

    2. Aud, I feel the same. I’m a lesbian in a somewhat low population/majority conservative area and the entire thing has struck blows to my confidence. It’s incredibly difficult to find gay and bi women here in meetspace. It wasn’t until this June I worked up the courage to *gasp!* put my actual pictures up on several dating sites. Before then, I told myself something like ‘how can I possibly know that no one wants me, I’m not really trying’. Now, I don’t have the fantasy to hold on to–I am putting myself out there…and no one wants me. That cuts to the core and I don’t know what to do. I have hobbies, not really any friends (getting older makes it harder, at least that’s been my experience) and do a lot of stuff by myself. I am painfully lonely. I have a cat–she is my baby and I LOVE her and she LOVES me, but I crave intimacy with a human. What’s that feel like? I have no idea. I have (at times) major issues with depression. I see a therapist, but therapy can’t substitute for a lack of relationships (friends and romantic). I truly am an awesome person–I like who I am. I’m not thrilled about my appearance (bad skin/acne, face isn’t much to look at and, while I don’t hate being fat nor do I think it’s gross, society really doesn’t like the size I am). The only thing I can change about my appearance is my size (yeah, not likely to happen)…and I kinda don’t want to, but no one wants me as I am now. I don’t know what’s ‘wrong’ with me so I can’t fix what I don’t know is ‘broken’, but I’m not broken, so…? It’s incredibly sad that none of the women I’ve ever been interested in has been interested in me (and I find quite a bit of different women attractive). I want to be desired. I want someone to look at me with lust and me the same for them. God this hurts

      1. Hi–

        That’s really painful. Jedi hugs.

        I don’t really have any relevant answers; I live in an area with a much bigger LGBT community than it sounds like you do.

        Still: I hear you. In my loneliest times, I wished I could just embrace my own inner awesomeness and just relish the wholeness of myself as a being in the universe– like Serenity in “Solitude” (by Ursula LeGuin), or Elsa from Frozen, or the deep part of Granny Weatherwax that never wants to come back to people when she’s been something else for a while. It seems easier to want to become that sort of extreme, wild introvert, someone who genuinely doesn’t need other people than to try and try and try to fulfil the longing for connection and fail.

        Even though I never became that, reading books and watching films about solitary women did help me. Nobody can change themselves so fundamentally, but I believe I took an unusual courage from them. LeGuin’s ‘The Lathe of Heaven’ is another lovely one.

        When you say you have a lot to offer, I absolutely believe you. I bet you’re amazing in ways you don’t even realize.

        Whether or not people like other people seems so random and strange sometimes. I know cruel and awful people who have tons of friends, it seems like, and wonderful people whose one close friend passes away and then they have nobody. And there’s no rhyme or reason to it, not really.

        The flip side to that, though, is it can change for the better at any moment! You could bump into some random cool lady at the library and strike up a conversation about the book you’re checking out, or a cute dogwalker’s pomeranian gets loose and you help her catch it, and all of a sudden the conversation is natural and unpretentious and somebody invites somebody to their neighborhood’s block party or 4th of July barbeque and the 40 Years in The Desert of Loneliness is over! There they are. Your people. Just been there the whole time.

        Please don’t give up. I’m not gonna say “it gets better,” because that always sounded fake to me when I was depressed. But, I will say, the more you try, the more likely it is you’ll succeed. And you only need to succeed once. ❤

          1. You’re welcome ❤

            I kinda want to start a thread to get book recommendations about solitary women / female loners. I'm sure there are more of them.

          2. The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon has a main character who is an ace and totally rocks her world.

      2. I know so many people who are GREAT but single, like, there is no reason they would not be a good partner but they just aren’t in a relationship?

        Three of them have since met someone, one of them after moving cities. One of them is a gay guy. A number of other people have not, or not yet. I don’t think you’re broken because you are not having any luck meeting people to date or to make friends with. I think that is just actually kind of life. Not that you should be like “welp I guess this is my life forever now” but like – you’re not broken.

      3. FWIW, i’m 99% with you on this one (I’m cis/het, but the rest of your comment stands). I think I’m a fun, interesting person, possibly not everyone’s physical cup of tea, but I do my best with what I have. I have a couple good, lifelong friends who I know love me, I have close relationships with my family. But I want a relationship, and I’m just so GD lonely, and the more I try to meet someone and fail, the more like garbage I feel. All the therapy in the world isn’t going to fill the void in my life, the one thing I actually want for myself but don’t seem capable of making happen. You’re not alone.

      4. iratebowel, a big Jedi hug (if you want one)! Much in your message resonates with my experiences (though I am somewhat heterosexual/ace cis woman). I have also experienced periods of intense loneliness and indeed it does hurt. I am so happy that you like yourself – and what’s not to like, you sound fantastic! Also, a loving cat is great!

        I hope you will find more friends and romantic interests soon.

      5. ib, I feel you as well. I am happy that online dating worked well for the Captain! But I’m always a little awed that she managed to make it an epistolary meeting of minds thing. I found online dating to be incredibly, incredibly image-heavy, and how to say this – I think that we have all been trained from birth to see a CERTAIN sort of person in photographs, and to sort photographs into “good” or “bad” based on how they compare with model and actor faces. It’s just the way it is, it’s just how we’ve learned to do. I do it to myself unless I catch myself. People who knew me as a BABY will delete pictures off their phone where I’m laughing or smiling too hard because “it’s unflattering”. The whole thing’s a mess, and it’s not your fault and doesn’t actually mean no one can like your face.

        Offline, attraction is all kinds of things, like the timbre of someone’s voice or a sense of emotional resonance etc. etc. Online I found it to have all the common humanity of online shopping for throw pillows. (As people know, I’m married now, but I once loaded up my OKC profile through a friend’s account to see what my point attractiveness rating was from other users, and then I cried for a week.)

        You know your life best, but do you have possibility/bandwidth to do a gay thing (a low-pressure one. A book club.) in a drivable-if-obnoxiously-far city a couple of times a year? If you’re in the US or similar, would a Unitarian or other actually gay church be a possibility for you, again, several times a year? I grew up in a conservative rural area. Being without any community in those places feels a little like I can’t get enough air in my lungs.

        1. p.s. I don’t mean “that just the way it is” as in “it’s unreasonable to push back against unrealistic beauty standards that leave most people out of them and are, like, patriarchal tools to control us”. I mean more that I felt better once I was like “well, this is a phenomenon that comes from beautiful teenagers being (under) paid to sell toothpaste and car tires at us every moment of our lives, so it MAKES SENSE that people are weird about photographs.”

        2. Purps, the thing you mentioned about our possibly subconscious beauty standards is so true. I have tried to learn out of it by choosing to watch pictures of different kinds of people and it has helped somewhat but we see so many pictures each day and a big percentage of those are of slim white celebrities and that does mess with our perception. Having suffered with anorexia (and still battling the thoughts induced by the eating disorder lurking somewhere in the shady area of my brain) I am all for body positive/radical body love. I hate it that pictures play such a huge role in today’s internet dating and dating apps. I hope I will never have to delve into that world; I have a very lively face so taking a good looking picture of me is a real challenge, I am always caught mid changing expression.

          Gay book club sounds awesome!

          I bet Iratebowel and Jadis and all the others in here are wonderful people and also look lovely. Now I just wish I lived closer to everyone in here so I could invite everyone over for tea/coffee/blackcurrant juice and baked goodies, play board games and watch a movie.

          I have not yet managed to get myself to the Friends of Captain Awkward forum so I do not really know, but would it be possible to connect with other Awkwardeers there?

        3. Hello! There’s a Unitarian church nearby, but that’s not my jam (atheist here who has no interest in a church-like setting). I don’t have a car, but I’m working on it. Wore a pride shirt this weekend and someone recognized it (a gay man) and we griped a bit about online dating (hope to talk with him more, he’s pretty cool). So, I found a member of Team Rainbow!

          I changed my tinder profile last night to say that I’m a lesbian looking for friends to do friend things and changed my options to show men and women and I’ve got 25+ likes already. When looking for women only? *tumbleweeds roll across the screen*

          Sometimes I wish I was bi b/c I could probably get a date with a man. Like, ladies? *waves* I’m super gay and super available and I talk and ask questions and ask women on dates and *buzzer noise*


    3. I tried online dating for a long time, and in the end I cancelled every single date I set up because I chickened out and didn’t want to go. I also mostly replied to messages that said things I wanted to argue with (protip: don’t say Sansa is your favorite GoT character on a public dating site if you don’t want to get a bunch of 🙂 🙂 why do you think something so stupid 🙂 🙂 you’re cute when you’re angry). In the end I wasn’t using the platform effectively at all. Every guy I’ve actually dated and had a serious connection with started with a long friendship and deeply-established respect via previous interactions, including my current husband, so it’s okay if it’s not for you.

        1. I love Sansa and am firmly of the belief that people who hate Sansa never read past when she was 13 years old and age-appropriately an asshole.

          1. Yeah, Sansa is pretty cool (though not my most favourite one). I have the theory that a lot of people who hate Sansa but e.g. love Jon are nothing but thinly-veiled misogynists.

          2. So I (gasp!) am a GoT watcher, not a reader of the books. And yes, Sansa simpering over Joffrey was bleah, but totally understandable given the character’s age. I truly came to love her in the scene where she and Arya are sympatico in dispatching Littlefinger. I enjoyed seeing these two finally come together as allies, bringing their respective and different ferocities to the plot.

      1. I just wish it was for me, it’s really hard to meet people in meatspace. Wish I could wear the equivalent of an Amulet of Mara to let women know I’m available. Oh, well

  5. I’m actually going to disagree with the Captain about the married person who’s husband wants to financially support his children.

    A lot of people who remarry after having adult children actually choose to keep *separate* finances, specifically because they may have different financial interests, such as a family business or adult children, etc. This works only if each person has their own income, so it’s not always feasible. But I want to acknowledge the option that marriage doesn’t automatically mean full financial merging.

    I don’t agree with the lying, regardless of the situation. Lying about money is toxic in a marriage. But I understand wanting to make my own decision about how much help to give my own children. My spouse should not have to sacrifice for this of course. The approach I might take is for each person to contribute a certain amount (a proportion of income) to all the shared expenses, make sure each person had retirement savings covered, and then the rest is each person’s to do with as they please.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been a separate-finances person my whole life — pooling money never worked out well for me (and I’ve been married.)

      However, LYING about money (and/or feeling like you HAVE to lie or sneak) is a huge red flag that there are problems in the marriage/relationship.

      A reasonable amount of transparency about financial decisions that affect both parties is crucial.

      I’m phrasing it that way because I feel strongly that I don’t want to be nitpicked about personal spending decisions — when I was financially entangled with partners (married or living together), I paid my share of everything, and the rest of my income was MY MONEY.

      I could put it toward fun couple travel, or buy Stuff that I wanted, but I am a full-fledged adult, and I do Very Poorly when I feel criticized about my spending — importantly, I wasn’t using credit or living beyond my means.

      But, yes — not pooling personal money is fine, if that’s how it works best for any given household/partnership… but honesty/disclosure is important, and feeling the need to *hide* spending is a bad sign.

    2. tbh, something about the phrasing made me wonder if he’s supporting his children behind op’s back because op doesn’t want him supporting them at all.

      which, like, the lying is crappy, but different parents have different types of involvement, and also different ways of showing love.

      I mean, it could be any number of things, and without more info we just don’t know, but it makes my shoulders go up.

    3. This is so context dependent though.

      The adult children may be habitual moochers who have either never learned to stand on their own two feet or just don’t want to and it’s easier to tap Dad for resources. In which case, the searcher is somewhat justified in their frustration.

      Then again, some people consider 18-21 year olds to be 100% fully fledged adults who should instantly know how to adult and support themselves, in which case, occasional parental help is normal and a sign of an invested, present father to his kids. If it’s this sort of situation I can appreciate the asker doesn’t like it happening behind their back but to prevent any help whatsoever for young adults just figuring things out makes sink or swim more drastic than necessary.

      1. I’m 25 and my parents still pay for my health insurance copays and my cell phone. Up until last year they did for my sister as well, and she’s 31. They also bought my brother a car outright when he graduated from high school, so he could drive to work without having to borrow one of their cars.

        And, honestly, someone who seems like a moocher to someone who hasn’t known them for long might actually be a caring, hardworking person who struggles to support themselves due to mental or physical illness. It makes sense for a parent to have more compassion and willingness to help out than a parent’s new partner, especially if the illness is “invisible” in some way.

        I know there’s a lot of potential context. I guess I just feel like, who has the right to criticize someone helping their own family?

        1. I’m 37 and have given up on asking my mom not to slip me envelopes of cash and buy me household items when I say I need them. She says she feels bad because she an my dad don’t ‘help me’ financially or practically as much as my older sisters.

          We have all been financially independent for decades and none of us actually needs any help. But for my parents it feels good and just something families do for each other. (And they are financially fine themselves too). l think it’s part culture, and part personality types.

        2. Hear! Hear!

          I remember my uncle (who is considerably wealthier than my branch of the family) looking askance at my parents when they sacrificed to support me even though I was unemployed/partially-employed for several years and did not appear to be actively job-hunting. He seemed to think that all it would take to motivate me to “get a job” and “stop mooching” (not that he ever used those words) was for my parents to show me more tough love. He did not know how much tough love my parents had already privately attempted.

          His entire demeanor towards me changed once I came out about my psychiatric diagnosis. Of course, I have since learned that that was yet another misdiagnosis, but it’s awesome that the lines of communication have been opened. When a family is functioning as it ought (in other words, not like Captain Awkward’s faaamily examples) they’re the best support system in the world. And being a parent is a lifelong commitment (even if the initial pregnancy was accidental), not something which stops when the offspring reach 18 years of age. Just ask the parents of people who are visibly cognitively differently abled!

          Basically, as usual, there’s much that we don’t know here, but there may also be important things that the parent’s partner doesn’t know because parent’s adult offspring is not ready to share that info yet (and may never be ready). Obviously, none of this has to due with the shared finances and lack of disclosure part of the equation.

          P.S. My friend is 31, her husband is 35, and they have a 3-year-old child. I don’t know if this is still the case now that their careers are more established, but throughout their 20s their cell phones were each being paid for by their respective parents, as were sundry other living expenses. I think this is pretty normal for people who graduated at the height of the Great Recession, especially if their parents can afford it.

  6. Re: No 17 – I sincerely hope that is an ADULT step-daughter. If it is a child, then searcher needs to really rethink their commitment to the child’s parent.

    1. That would take it from awful to evil, I agree.

      I wonder if the stepdaughter’s other parent is alive/involved enough to be aware of the antipathy here. If someone treated my daughter like this, I would not want them around her ever.

  7. “Weatherwax in the streets, Ogg in the sheets.”

    I hope to god someone uses this because I would totally date them.

    1. SAME THO.

      Even if I’m VERY solidly Weatherwax in the sheets (so like compatibility issues with that are probable for a romance with someone who self-describes as Ogg in the sheets but also friendship is def on the table there) and like idk…Carrot? in the streets.

  8. Aaaaand now I’m going to spend the weekend trying to pair cheeses with the appropriate spell goal, thanks. (Imagine the possibilities. Mascarpone for love charms? Pepper Jack for courage? String cheese for binding? )

    1. Tw creepy crawlies

      The cheese for courage has to be that one that isn’t okay to eat until it’s covered in maggots.

    2. I was reading this comment section backwards, and thought you were talking about a secret language of cheeses like the secret language of flowers and even it I weren’t down for la sorcellerie de la fromage, I am SO HERE for the language of cheeses…

      1. Aw, dangit, now I’m going to have to write this as a fic. Is “Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s AU” even a thing? Should it be?

      1. We found spreadable Limburger for my mother in law on our last grocery shopping trip.

  9. #24 I’m leaving my job in early October and I have a feeling I may get guilt-tripped by my managers. I’m already practicing my ‘My Favorite Murder’-style BUH-BYE for when I have my very last day. It makes me feel better about the entire thing. Maybe try it?

    1. Eff ’em. Seriously. Be nice about it, but eff ’em. I say this both as a fellow murderino and as a person who took ten years to escape from a workplace so full of bees it might as well have been an apiary and then ended up working remotely for the damn place for another six months out of guilt (and that despite me giving them six weeks advance notice).

    2. The one note I will make is that when I left my last job, I did offer to contract with them after I left, and kept it up for about two months. But it was on my terms, I charged them through the nose, and it was only when I had an hour or two to spare.

  10. Ugh, that link about men who don’t know how to wipe their arses and just leave skidmarks everywhere…. what in the sweet hell?! Like, are they for effing real?! 🤤🤢😨

  11. #22 My mother eventually got the hang of both knocking and waiting for an answer, but she had trouble with the idea that “what is it?” is not a synonym for “come in!” Eventually, my parents let me get a locking doorknob – just the privacy knob kind that can be opened with a skewer. This actually worked quite well, though I think it helped that she was already on board with me having privacy in theory, she just had a lot of trouble changing her habits, so how well it would work for other families might depend on how the parent views the situation.

    It did have the downside that when she comes to stay with me now, in my apartment where my bedroom doesn’t have a privacy knob, she still opens my bedroom door in response to “what is it?” But that’s not often enough for me to worry about it too much.

    1. My mother did the knock-and-open thing throughout my childhood and adolescence (which was sometimes VERY AWKWARD, including her walking in on me at least once), which was a symptom of her conviction that I wasn’t allowed to have any boundaries or privacy.

      I’m low-contact with her as an adult, but I stayed overnight at her house once, a few years ago, was on the phone with my boyfriend, and — yep, she walked in on me. I was in my late 30’s!! GAH!!

      1. We did not have knocking at all in my childhood– in *either* direction; we were not taught to knock on parents’ doors and it was made *very* clear to me that I did not have the right to ask people to knock on my door. (It was expected that we were not to be doing anything we would mind being walked in on– again, in both directions.) Boarding school was a great blessing to me in so many ways, which included the lesson in how to privacy, but it still startles me when my partner will knock on the door before entering when he stays over, or when I stay over with him and he knows I’ve been left in his room. Like, theoretically I get why he’s doing that, but it’s still not an expectation I would have. It’s been, I will note, almost fifteen years since I left for boarding school.

      2. I had this fight so many times. My dad eventually stopped bcs he walked in on me a time or two while I was changing (embarrassing for both of us), but my stepmother refused to give me the courtesy of knocking and then waiting for an answer before walking in. Eventually she did start knocking instead of just barging in but she would knock as she was opening the door which….didn’t help. I was often reading or imagining things and it’s not that it was private even, but I wanted time to collect my thoughts to face another human (yes, I’m an introvert, why do you ask?).

        My door had a lock on it that I could open as easily as breathing from the outside as I was walking through the door, but for some reason she could never figure it out. So I kept my door locked all the time. If I was lucky I could jump up and run to the door while she was trying to open it and then just hold it locked so she couldn’t get in. Drove her crazy, but given how many times she chose to completely ignore the reasonable boundary I had set, her reaction bothered me not at all.

    2. Yikes! I had a housemate like that once, but she found out the awkward way not to just walk in at “what do you need?” when she barged cheerily in to find I was in the middle of trying to wrestle a sports bra over my head, tits akimbo.

      1. trying to wrestle a sports bra over my head, tits akimbo.

        That’s the best description of getting a sports bra on I’ve ever seen.

        1. You’re welcome? I feel like it’s almost a step up from walking in on someone rubbing one out, but not quite as bad as walking in on someone trying to apply certain topical ointments.

      2. My (then future, now ex, sadly) son-in-law came from a “no knock” household when he came to live with us in his teens, and it took a few false starts to adjust. I am HOPING that I am more traumatized than he was…

      1. Doesn’t help when you actually want to know what they want before proceeding.
        Information? Can be given through the door without opening it, which means you don’t need to hide your screen and put clothes on.

        1. I agree, but it could help the problem of the door immediately opening. “Just a minute” gives a clear verbal cue that the occupant is not ready for company. If changing the behavior is what they’re after, then…

    3. Right now my kids are at the “will sleep through/forget to set the alarm, still gotta get up for school” stage of life, so morning knocks are followed by coming in to roust them out of bed. I predict it’s going to be a hard habit to break but I’m trying to make sure that’s ONLY for morning wake ups, and ONLY if their light isn’t already on.

      1. Try this. Tell your kids that it’s their responsibility to be awake by X time on all school mornings. Give them a choice of alarm-type gadgets to help them get up. Spell out what (dire dreadful) thing will happen if they’re not up by that time. (Barging in on them is not an option). Explain that they’re growing up so being responsible for taking care of their own morning routine is important. Tie the good part of growing up (privacy!) to the responsible part of growing up (not allowed to sleep through alarms any longer). Further explain what sorts of health emergencies will result in your walking in without knocking (serious illness, recovering from surgery, etc.) Expect a few missteps in the form of teenagers testing to see if dire dreadful thing really will happen, but make sure it does. It’s the only way they’ll learn.

        1. Frankly, I’d prefer my mum to come into my room to wake me up for school if the alternative is her making sure something really dreadful happens to me to teach my to get up by myself.

          1. Seems sort of like a natural consequences thing? Like, hey, you oversleep, you’re late to school and you get a tardy slip. Or, you have to pay for a lyft / uber /taxi to school out of your allowance because you missed carpooling with mom on her way to work.

          2. Do most kids even care about such consequences? I knew in an abstract way it would cause trouble near the end of the year, but in the morning that often seemed worth it for a bit more sleep/avoidance, and other kids seemed way less averse to doing “bad” things than I was.

            Also, that’s a heck of an allowance if it can cover the cost of a taxi.

            …and I think I agree with Eli. Dreadful things just make me more inclined to hide in bed anyways. Detailed descriptions of the dreadful things *definitely* make me want to hide more. Also, my dad was too nice to wake me up for things I actually wanted to be awake for, which really sucked when I was too young to make myself get up, and was part of the reason I didn’t live with him. Not that I liked my mum’s forceful approach either, but, it seemed the better option at the time. :/

          3. One could, you know, ask the children what they’d prefer and make an agreement with them on the base of it.

      2. When I was baby-sitting and I had to wake the kid up for school, I always just knocked and then waited a couple moments. She was almost always still asleep, but it’s helps the habit of waiting after knocking. If they’re awake, they’ll have time to answer. If not, well, a few seconds of waiting won’t kill you.

        (I wouldn’t always trust the light thing. You can masturbate in the dark, after all.)

  12. > 21 “I can’t stop cheating on my boyfriend.”

    > You actually can, so let’s rephrase this: “Something about my relationship with my boyfriend is not working for me and I am unhappy with him, so I keep cheating on him instead of breaking up or talking whatever it is over, but I’m also afraid of losing him or hurting him so I keep delaying the inevitable.”

    Using a throwaway for this one because I’m not out as polyamorous in all contexts, but wanted to add an alternate take from experience: if you find yourself repeatedly cheating while in relationships that you are actually happy with, you could be wired for non-monogamy. If so, the good news is that you aren’t alone and there are many people with whom you can practice this, CONSENSUALLY. I recommend consensual because, aside from being the ethical choice as the Cap’n said, you also don’t have to spend as much time hurting people you love and then dealing with the fallout and self-hatred.

    As a teenager I didn’t know “open relationships” or any variant of polyamory was a thing, and I spent years committing to serial monogamy, falling in love with more than one person at once, pushing boundaries, hurting everyone including myself, and generally feeling like something was wrong with me because I couldn’t* keep promises I wholeheartedly intended to, and desperately wanted to, keep.

    * I agree with the Cap’n that technically “you actually can” but that phrasing is also a little reductive. Sometimes feeling that you are incapable of doing, or not doing, something provides important information about your needs. Like, deep-down “I need this to survive” level things, that maybe you are putting yourself into intolerable situations and you’re not able to see a better way out. Hating myself for being incapable of holding to a monogamous relationship agreement as a hormone-flooded teenager ultimately made me suicidal because all the information I had access to was telling me there was something wrong with me for having the needs I had. And I was very deep in denial, so I suppressed a core part of myself so hard that it would basically build up and then I’d act out in ways I didn’t feel 100% in control of.

    Or maybe the Captain is right and what you’re denying is that something about the relationship isn’t working. Either way, I have a lot of compassion for the pain and confusion I hear in that question. (I’m not proud that I ever cheated on anyone, but also, the last time it happened it was someone who was gaslighty and emotionally-abusive, and I had tried to break up with him multiple times but he kept logicking me out of it and being oh-so-reasonable that we were just going through a rough patch and should work harder on the relationship, and it would confuse and exhaust me until I agreed to stay, and in retrospect it is 100% clear to me that sleeping-with-someone-else-so-he-would-righteously-dump-me was not the most mature way of dealing with that situation.. BUT it was a path that was available to me to remove myself from a bad situation, and I try to have compassion that it is the path I took. So I know that, as easy as it is to view cheating as the peak of selfishness and moral repugnance, in real life it’s not always that simple.)

    So. Sorry for the long comment. Please be honest with everyone. They deserve it, but also, you deserve it, and I promise you don’t have to suppress parts of yourself or lie in order to be happy.

    1. SO MUCH THIS. I tried to be monogamous for a long time because, despite saying things like “why can’t I have two boyfriends” since I was 15 and being at my happiest in college/early 20s in the messy sleeping-around stages before I “had” to settle down with one, I didn’t have the knowledge or the role models or even the words for ethical non-monogamy. I craved domestic stability but I didn’t want to ever get married because the concept of “you are never allowed to have sex or even make out with anyone else EVER AGAIN FOR THE REST OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE” felt like a horrible prison that I knew I’d eventually try to escape. Finally, at 32 (and speaking of specific dating headlines) I sat down and rewrote my OKCupid profile to lead off with something like “No more monogamy dammit, you must embrace my slutty side!” And about 3 months later I met my now-husband, who took me to a sex party on our fourth date. We’ve been happily polyamorous for seven years and I finally feel fully accepted, no longer having any shameful secrets to hide or cravings I constantly struggle to suppress. So #21, if you haven’t yet explored this, check out the website More Than Two and Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up. Open relationships ***are*** an option.

    2. Just wanted to say thanks for this. ❤ Sometimes the answer to "why can't I just behave like a Normal Person" is not "because you're not trying hard enough".

      1. You really should. I posted it upthread a bit, but this is the only place that has ever given me sane effectual dating advice and put it in context where I am some how not to blame for *failing* (why do they tell people they are failing all the time like something is broken with them? It only makes it all the worse!). I had amazing luck applying your principles even in this hugely misogynistic area I unfortunately landed in when younger.

        Haha also include your amazing Boundaries advice along with it!

  13. “Weatherwax in the streets, Ogg in the sheets.”
    I foresee myself randomly thinking about this and scaring other people by laughing at apparently nothing many, many times in the future

  14. Okay so very important what is one thing you love about each of your cats? Having only seen pictures my favorite thing about them is their wee outlined noses that look like something out of a hand drawn on a tablet animated film

    1. Daniel is a snuggler. He loves pets and snuggles and will just dig his chonky little body right in there and snuggle.

      Hen is an excited screamer, like, food is exciting! Seeing you is exciting! Playing is exciting! She’s not loud all the time, thankfully, but the really enthusiastic mews make me laugh every time. She also gets a great Very Concerned face.

  15. I just finished reading Carpe Jugulum and I love this suggestion “Weatherwax in the streets, Ogg in the sheets.“ so hard. Actual laughter-induced tears formed.

  16. “Evil genius seeks henchmen for world domination scheme.”

    The one person I have dated twice (about a decade apart) had THE most amazing Swoon profile that talked about world domination and monkeys and giant robots and mad science.

    We’re still good friends, something like… 18–19 years later!

  17. #15 On the off chance he is watching the show, just not with you, also let it go*. Your viewing styles may just not be compatible.

    *Unless spoilers are involved.

  18. I suspect #23 may have been looking for advice from Captain Awkward on the fact that they cry all the time?

    1. I suspect they were trying to find a particular letter that they half-remembered. But the Captain’s interpretation made me laugh.

    2. I was trying to find a letter I thought I remembered reading. Apparently it does not exist as shown by the point that led me to typing in the phrase above. One of my friends (she/her) is in her first long (5 months) relationship. She asked me for advice and I was trying to find a way to tamper my initial non empathetic response of “dump her” into something useful.

      Long story short, the girlfriend cries whenever she doesn’t like something. GF suggested going to a party, instead of the already planned weekend activities, my friend said “That’s too much social for me, why don’t you go without me” and the girlfriend burst into tears. That sort of thing. I’d understand once in awhile (maybe its life stress, maybe hormones, maybe other stuff going on). But it only seems to happen when this girl isn’t getting her way. And my super introvert friend is suffering as a result (general exhaustion, and skipping out on other stuff to have the energy for GF’s stuff, sorry trying to keep it vague).

      I don’t know, it feels like emotionally manipulative? Because then the conversation switches to “oh noooo you’re sad how can we fix that” instead of like actually talking through the party plan and finding a compromise (take separate cars?, go for a little?, dont spring large group outings on anxiety ridden introverts with less than 12 hours warning?). If my friend doesn’t switch it up to how can i make you less sad and tries to keep discussing the plan the GF just keeps crying. Also super awkward.

      My friend and i get along because we’re both more logical than emotional in deciding things, also both very blunt. And I recognize that yeah, I have no idea how much crying is a normal response. Or how to handle a crying person.

      All that said, I loved the captain’s response, it made me laugh.

      1. I have three anxiety disorders and cry a lot when I’m stressed or angry or scared. I still side-eye the crying GF. Crying only when you don’t get your way is not normal past toddlerhood.

      2. I’m an obnoxiously frequent crier – it’s frustrating and aggravating because all of my emotions show on my face and sometimes leak out of my eyes (sometimes they’re not even REAL FEELINGS they’re just things I imagine I might maybe feel in another person’s situation or because it reminds me of something COMPLETELY UNRELATED hello that one time I started crying in front of my boss who was trying to offer me a promotion to shift supervisor because it reminded me of, idk, being called to the principal’s office?!). Being able to grit my teeth and tell the person to whom I’m speaking “Look, just ignore what my face is doing, it’s doing it without my permission” is how I cope with the utter mortification of crying in front of other people. People who disregard that and go with “Okay but you’re obviously upset?!” and try to soothe me just … it makes it worse. Because

        “If my friend doesn’t switch it up to how can i make you less sad and tries to keep discussing the plan the GF just keeps crying. Also super awkward.”

        YES, YES IT IS AWKWARD. But I can’t, actually, physically, make myself stop crying, so if we could all please just get on with things…?

        So, idk. Maybe the girlfriend is manipulative as fuck – which is what I’m leaning toward if like, she’s not making an effort to *not* let the conversation become about her crying – but maybe also she’s just a crier who is also grossly embarrassed about her face doing the thing and doesn’t know what to do about it.

        1. Weepy solidarity! My face also leaks without my permission at the slightest thing. It’s especially frustrating because when I’m having an argument with my husband (for example) and I start crying more or less at once, but I don’t WANT that to mean that it’s “drop everything to comfort me” time, because I am trying NOT to manipulate him with my tears. I just can’t make them stop! Please ignore what my face is doing and continue what you were saying, and it will go away much faster.

  19. I am slain by your kittens, omg, that’s weapons-grade cuteness. It’s so lovely that you and Mr. Awkward got to bring home these fluffmonsters. Congrats again!

  20. As a Pagan witch, the witchcraft headline would work on me, lol. I actually mentioned Paganism the last time I had a dating profile, and heard from two Pagans who I got to enthuse about our religion with for a while.

  21. 7 “How do I know my best friend is not cheating on me?”

    I think it would help to know what “cheating” means here. If the best friend is going out with other friends and not inviting and not telling the person, I don’t think is completelly OK. I mean, is OK if they don’t want to spend time with that person. But tell the person that, even if it might be hurtfull would be better on the long term. At least it gives the oportunity to plan for other things to do and to hang out with other people. Or look for new friends.

    Of course people should be free to have all the friends they want to. But is better if they tell you that they don’t want to see you or that they are doing other plans (that doesn’t include you) so you can move on.

    The other potential meaning might be “telling secrets to thirth parties”. The part about possesiveness is quite creepy, but for me that sentence is ambigous.

    1. …I literally never tell my best friend that I’m going out with other people. Like, ever. I love her dearly but she’s not friends with all my friends and doesn’t like all the same stuff I do. There’s no such thing as cheating on a best friend, by any measure.

      No longer wanting to be friends with someone is a different issue entirely, or wanting to take a step back from the friendship (oh, how we need African violets), but…that’s not cheating. Me going out with Friend X without inviting my best friend is not cheating. Me going to a party where my best friend isn’t on the invite list isn’t cheating. She’s my friend, not my romantic partner.

      1. I wouldn’t proactively tell my best friend “I’m going to be seeing Kermit on Thursday” because she was “entitled” to know, but I also wouldn’t hide it from her. If I already had those plans and my friend suggested dinner the same night, I might tell her that Thursday wouldn’t work because I was going to be having out with Kermit, the same way I might say Thursday wouldn’t work because I had an appointment with my personal trainer, or had to work late, or had already made plan for Tuesday and Wednesday and needed a quiet evening at home with the cats. Not because a best friend has the “right” to know what I’m doing Thursday night, but because if I was that close to someone, I’d mention dinner with another friend the same way I’d mention other plans, or past activities–“thanks for the invite, but I already saw that with Kermit” the same way I might say “thanks, but I’m not into superhero movies” or “I’m sure Super-Spicy Chili Palace is as good as everyone says, but I can’t eat chili.”

        We sometimes say that “Reasons are for reasonable people.” Sometimes that means you can and should explain. If I valued someone enough to call them a best friend, I would treat them as reasonable, not expect them to try to argue me out of a decision. “That sounds great, but I’m busy Thursday” to my best friend means they might ask if another time would work, but “I already saw that with Dawn” means no to this specific thing, but yes to the kind of thing (superhero movies, whale watching, what-have-you). That doesn’t mean you have to explain, it means it can be reasonable to say “I did that with Dawn” or “I’m having dinner with Kermit that night.”

    2. Huh? Why would your best friend assume that you’ll be spending all your time with them, or that they need to know what you’re doing at all times? I mean, don’t make plans with your best friend and then break them, but the absence of plans does not mean “glued to best friend’s side,” and friendship is not presumed to be monogamous.

  22. Q11 The Captain’s advice is great here. Passing judgement on the men your child dates will drive your kids away from you. At one time I dated someone that my parents thought was “beneath me” and they wrote me an email listing the reasons they thought this. Besides being extremely patronizing, it was also none of their fucking business. I drew back significantly from them for YEARS after that email.

    1. All parts of Q11 advice is needed. My parents didn’t tell me they thought a guy I was with was bad for me (until after we broke up) … but they also didn’t show individual support for me, respect choice and agency, validate feelings, etc. Of course, they didn’t do that before I met the guy either.

      I’m not particularly close with them. I don’t think they realize just how distant I am. I keep conversations pleasant and very superficial.

  23. Search terms and kittens! Search terms and kittens! Wheeeeee! (Geez, now I think on it, that might be a good profile header for me.)

  24. It’s so cute that your kittens cuddle each other Captain. I have 3 cats and they just tolerate each other for the most part, they would never cuddle. One of my cats does cuddle up with one of my dogs though, and grooms his face, so that is very cute.

    My mum filmed this a few years ago :

  25. Gaaah, #7/#7a That feeling when someone comes to a party at your house and extracts phone numbers from all of your friends whom she’s never met before, and then decides that you can’t see your other friends on your own anymore unless she is invited too because “I really like all your friends, they are so awesome and we should all hang out as a group now!”

    Nope! Nope!!! NOPE.

    1. Yup yup. Or immediately finds and friends all of your close friends on BookFace to secure an ‘in’ and employ Geek Social Fallacies to keep being invited to stuff.

      I do have sympathy for the searcher as a reformed Jealous Friend myself, but what helped me most was chilling out and realising that people weren’t hanging out without me AT me, they were just having a normal independent friendship, and I could also hang out with other people and have independent friendships. It was hard to unlearn ‘but we do everything together’ and ‘but you were MY friend FIRST’ but it’s been well worth it!

  26. “…you are fucking with consent.”

    Really think this needs to be rephrased – I read it the first time as “You are having sex with consent,” which is the opposite of the intended meaning (I think!). “You are fucking with the concept of consent” is probably the more intended meaning.

    “Fuck”….sometimes it’s TOO versatile a word!

  27. #3, it might be time for you to screw your courage to the sticking place and MAKE. A. SCENE. This is the only thing that truly stopped my creepy-ass brother-in-law from making comments about how hot I was, or touching me, or whatever. Moving away from him didn’t stop him. Saying “Ugh, gross” didn’t stop him. Saying “Please stop” didn’t stop him. I had to jump up from my chair at a party and yell “DUDE! STOP F*CKING TOUCHING ME!!!!” in front of all our friends.

    He was the classic “Missing Stair” of the group, including to his own brother, my husband (with whom there was A RECKONING w/r/t not standing up for me before). BIL was hand-waved as “that’s just Creepy Mc.Creeperson” by all the guys in the group, even though we found out that BIL had literally made EVERY SINGLE WOMAN in our friend group uncomfortable with his creepiness at some/multiple points. From that point on after I yelled, my husband went 0 contact with his brother until he completely apologized to me and agreed to stop his gross behavior. Husband also mobilized the friend group to not include him in events until this happened. And you know what? He apologized, and the creepy behavior has totally stopped.

  28. Re. Q 18: I ghosted someone and now they drop by and walk around my backyard looking for me. I have just sent a letter (having disconnected in every other way already) saying I do not want them to do so. Fun times.

    1. “now they drop by and walk around my backyard looking for me”

      Like an actual ghost. How creepy.

    2. Wow, aspen, that is truly scary! I hope this person you ghosted is not physically dangerous?

    3. You know, you shouldn’t really need to *tell* someone that you don’t want them to enter your backyard uninvited. I hope your letter included “if you do it again, I will call the police.”

      Stay safe.

  29. #24- When I left a workplace that was full of evil bees, one of the things that actually really helped me was having a musical anthem to hold onto (while people wore being idiots during my last two weeks and afterwards). For me, that was We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift, but I think a lot of ‘Hit the road, buddy’ breakup songs will work.

    I found that having a musical anthem to think about made it easier to resist guilt-tripping/self-doubt/etc.

    1. This is very good advice. Mine was “So What” by Pink – more self esteem affirming and less hit the road buddy but that was what I needed.

    2. When I was on the verge of switching PhD supervisors, I kept finding myself silently singing ‘I got to get out of this place; If it’s the last thing I ever do’. It felt positive and motivating somehow.

    3. Oh wow, it wasn’t just me? Mine was that song by Atomic Kitten that goes “see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!”

  30. Replying to lgmerriman above, who wrote, “I kinda want to start a thread to get book recommendations about solitary women / female loners” (having already named Ursula LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven and “Solitude,” Elsa in Frozen, and Granny Weatherwax).

    This is an awesome question. The main character of Smilla’s Sense of Snow is one. And Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher has written a number of stories about tough self-sufficient witches, my personal favorite being “Pocosin.”

    1. Grey in Kate Horsley’s “The Changeling”
      Adah in “The Poisonwood Bible”
      Tenar in Le Guin’s Earthsea series
      Birdie in “Caucasia”
      Denver in “Beloved”

      1. So many of my favorite books as a kid were along these lines — “Julie of the Wolves” and Julie Edwards’ “Mandy” and “Island of the Blue Dolphins.”

  31. On internet dating tag lines:
    (A) “Weatherwax on the streets, Ogg in the sheets” is my new favourite thing ever. Greetings fellow Kevins!
    (B) I met my now-husband online with the tag: “Axe-wielding maniac seeks willing victim.” He used a profile photo of himself with a monkey on his head. We are living proof of wearing your weirdness on your sleeve to attract a mate.

  32. “I’m a chill relaxed normal person who likes to work hard & play hard, I have sanded off as many of my rough edges as I could before appearing on your app screen, I’ll break the news about the bagpipes and the family curse later, please swipe right!” is ALSO an A+ headline.

  33. Re: 25, I can see the flipside here: my dad’s current wife came into our lives when I was idk 13 and my brother 7 or so; she has resented every dime he’s spent on us since. She takes his check book. She gets extremely sanctimonious. She audits his spending. Overall he seems to enjoy her company and honestly they’re kind of the same level of awful sometimes, but it has definitely made what was once a smaller wedge a much larger one. But even so, he most certainly sends us money for holidays/birthdays “behind her back” sometimes.

    I don’t disagree that married couples should be transparent about money but…well, it’s just very clear that she wishes he never spent any of it at all on his children.

    1. Yeah, I got a similar impression from the search term. Also, my dad has definitly given me money that my mom was not okay with, not behind her back but despite her protest, because she occasionally makes power trips by later attaching strings to previously-promised-support. And where I live, supporting adult children through university is a legal requirement, not a choice, not many parents act like it is, and who wants to sue their parents? I agree that in this case they probably should have a serious conversation or split up already but it’s possible that the husband in this case *has* to support his children, and I’ve seen to many partners of parents of adult children who won’t see this and resent every cent the parent gives to the kids, no matter how obviously the parents have to do that.

  34. For #1 – Sometimes you *should* listen to your friends. These friends sound a little off if they are trying to make LW date someone that LW doesn’t like, but if your good friends are not keen on your boyf or gilrf then it might be worth asking them why. I read a lot of problem pages that say things like: “help, my SO is abusing me, I can’t talk to my friends because they all told me not to date him”. It’s usually because the friends could see the SO was a wrong ‘un but sometimes you don’t see it for yourself because LURVE and HORMONES and HE’S REALLY PROTECTIVE OF ME WHICH IS SO CUTE (shudder).

  35. I’m currently taking a break from dating but if/when I dip my toes in online dating again, i am absolutely using some combination of “Let’s eat cheese and do witchcraft” and “My version of dating is to be really good friends who snuggle (a lot) and kiss (sometimes/a little) and do other sexy stuff (maybe/never). Who’s with me?”

    It feels so – empowering, I guess? To realise it’s okay to be specific and weird on a dating profile and look for The Right People instead of Oh God Someone, Anyone, Please Like Me.

  36. I think 24 was me! I quit, he said he was bummed but wouldn’t guilt trip me. My new job pay wayyyyyy more than my current job and my current job had been dragging on a promotion. I’m in my notice period now and he asked if I was sure I wanted to leave since I’m still embedded in a lot of projects and I said yes.

  37. 18. About ghosting. Doesn’t it depend on the nature of the relationship BEFORE the ghosting? I can see if a couple meets online, meet for coffee once, and one decides not to pursue a 2nd date. If the other starts hanging around the date’s house. That’s creepy and horrible and should be shut down immediately. I imagined something different: A situation where a relationship has been established. They’ve gone out, talked, laughed, maybe gotten sexy, seen each other a lot, met each other’s friends, and then one of them out of the blue and with no argument preceding it stops speaking to the other. Just stops. Doesn’t return calls or texts or say anything. In that circumstance, mightn’t the ghosted party be excused for trying to figure out what might be the matter or at least see if the person they’ve been dating is alright? I don’t know what the letters say, but if they say anything along the lines of “you okay, what happened?” I have a little sympathy. I suppose the advice is still to contact once saying stop, but I wouldn’t put all the creepiness on the ghosted one.

    1. Showing up in someone’s backyard and looking for them is . . . beyond the pale.

      If you want to know whether someone is okay, ring the front doorbell, leave a phone message, send an e-mail. There are ways to check for “proof of life” without skulking around the back of someone’s home — that is stalking and harassment.

      Also, if someone drops contact and you DO know they’re alive, but not speaking with you — don’t keep pressing the issue.

      If they have made it obvious (by blocking/not answering) that they don’t want to communicate with you, it’s okay to be sad or frustrated about it, but MOVE ON GRACEFULLY (to a location that is not their backyard.)

    2. If someone does things out of allegedly “being worried about me being in danger”, I ask myself: Did the person do things that would have been helpful if the danger had been there? E.g. if they were so worried about me having been struck by the cupboard in my room (instead of just complaining passive-agressively about the noise), why didn’t they barge into the room to check if I was seriously hurt or incapacipated by it? Sending a text asking if I was alright wouldn’t have helped me if it had been true! The same goes for every “worried about my well-being” stuff from family etc. Worried that I’m dead/severely injured in a ditch? Why didn’t you call emergency services to check on me or the ditch? Calling and waiting wouldn’t have helped me in the ditch! Showing up at my home but not calling emergency? Wouldn’t have helped me!
      If the people don’t do what would have helped me, they are not worried about me but about themselves. (And, yes, I’m from a family where the Concern Trolling is plenty and annoying.)
      (For the record, I work in the medical field. If you’re acutely worried about someone being dangerously unwell, you need to act right this second to be clear about whether there is this danger or not and take the appropriate course. It doesn’t help in an actual emergency to wait three hours and write message after message.Someone who does this is worried for the worrying and not for the other person.)

  38. #4 My inner event planner woke up immediately after seeing this “question”. I LOVE to organize events so I am very used to writing these kind of questions to invites: “If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, please contact me by sending me e-mail”. In my opinion it is best to get this kind of information in written format, in an e-mail, text message etc. I myself am lactose intolerant but luckily it is so common in where I live that usually in bigger parties all the food is lactose free.

    If you are organizing a large event (say, a wedding or a funeral) and you have hired a catering service it is probably best to let the guests contact the service directly. When you discuss the menu first time with the service it is usually a good choise to consider options which would be accessible to people with the most common dietary restrictions, whatever those might be in your area or culture. In my case I have made sure that all the food is lactose free and there are vegan and gluten free options available.

    If you are going to cook the food yourself (like I often do – I LOVE cooking and baking) be mindful of hygiene. For example, do not use same bowls for gluten free flour and flour which contains gluten. Many vegans I know also appreciate it if their food does not contain any traces of animal products. Also some allergies are really tricky: one of my friend is allergic to yeast and that stuff is everywhere. I am very happy that we live in EU and the regulations on information on contents of food are very strict: one might suspect that only pastries would contain yeast but that is not the case – so if your guests have allergies, be mindful and take precautions. Sometimes allergies can be very severe, triggered by trace amounts or smell in the air.

    Best of luck with your parties!

  39. Precious tabby kittens! I want to kiss both their little noses! They have such beautiful stripes, and Danny Boy looks like he’s got some big paws!

  40. It is amazing to see fidelity failings phrased in terms of consent; not something I have seen anywhere else. It strikes at the heart of why it traumatises those affected. Too often people mistake the pain for bitterness or jealousy or they focus on possible failings in the relationship. (People would set you free from a failed relationship!) For me, both my privacy and my body were violated. Years denied the truth about my relationships with them both. She probed me for extra ‘girl talk’ facts. Everything he said was calculated to keep me in the triangle.

  41. “Weatherwax in the streets, Ogg in the sheets.”

    This might be the best thing I’ve ever read.


    I can explain the context, or leave it, if y’all prefer to invent your own scenarios.

    1. I was actually in a management class for my graduate degree and we were discussing what to do at work if you are a natural, emotional crier (i.e., tense/high-emotion situations make you cry even if you are not necessarily as distressed as crying leads the observer to believe). I was looking for stuff from Ask a Manager, couldn’t find what I wanted, and searched for the Captain as an afterthought.

      Although now I see in the earlier comments that SOMEONE ELSE CLAIMS TO HAVE ALSO GOOGLED THIS. I AM NOT ALONE.


      1. I think I have given advice about that on Ask a Manager before… Although trying to remember what it was would be difficult.

  43. I’m way too close to a # 21 for my own comfort. One would think I would feel contempt. Instead, I just ache. She used the affair to kick her way out of what I didn’t realize was for her a suffocating marriage, and she is stubbornly refusing to admit that the (absolute bounder and calot and son of a calot and grandson of a calot) man she left her husband for is not only not her True Love, but starving her emotionally and treating her with condescension and contempt, and what felt like freedom for a while is only higher walls in different places. I am hoping that my advice to take some time to figure out who she is on her own (she has not been single since she was twelve, and she’s in her mid/late twenties now) does not make her dig her heels in harder, but in the meantime, I’m sending her lots of links to CA that have nothing to do with her situation, hoping she gets addicted like I am and starts drawing her own boundaries, whatever they may be…

    Which is to say, I’m an enabling asshole but however she gets herself out of this soap opera mire is just fine by me!

  44. What’s a calot?

    Also, if someone found you suffocating, railing on about how you don’t like their next choice kind of screams that you have control issues; it might be more productive to look into that than to worry about what your ex is doing.

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