It Came From The Search Terms: Fall Into November

It’s time for that mostly monthly tradition where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.

First, as is traditional, a song:

Now, the terms!

1 “Captain Awkward is fat”

Fuck yeah I am!

2 “Is it weird to feel lonely in a relationship of 6 months together”

It’s not weird, or, at least, it’s not necessarily unusual. It’s not that the attraction or the romance is lessening, necessarily, it’s just that the initial rush of compatibility and chemistry (sometimes called New Relationship Energy)  that brought you together is recalibrating itself. To me, it’s a sign that it’s time for questions.

  • Do you feel lonely because you’re not sure yet that you can relax and be vulnerable with this person?
  • Do you feel lonely because you got really wrapped up in this person and you need to reconnect with your friends and family and non-couple social life for a bit?
  • Do you feel lonely because you were expecting that a romantic relationship would make it so you never felt lonely anymore but you’re realizing that’s not actually true? (Everyone gets lonely sometimes, even partnered people, I think).
  • Are you having questions about longer-term compatibility? (This is a very good time to re-evaluate that).

3 “How to get rid of a Facebook stalker”

Looking for this?

4 “Is he into me quiz adults”

Here’s the quiz:

Question 1: Did you ask him if he’s into you?

Question 2: What did he say?

5 “Someone invited themselves to my house. How do I say no?”

“Oh, that won’t work for me. Let’s do _____ instead.” 

The ______ can be a lot of things. “I’ll let you know when it’s a good time.” “I’d rather meet you out somewhere.” “Oh, no thank you, I’m not interested.” 

6 “My elderly neighbor keeps coming down unannounced.”

Just ’cause someone knocks it doesn’t mean you have to let them in, though it’s hard to put that into practice with someone you know when they live in the same building and they know for sure that you’re home and you were raised to be polite to old people. Maybe try this: “Neighbor, these unscheduled visits really don’t work for me. I don’t want to be rude, but I really don’t like to be interrupted or to have people just drop by. Please text or call in advance and ask if it’s a good time to talk.”

P.S. You can ignore the texts/respond only when it’s convenient.

7 “Why doesn’t my boyfriend want me to masturbate?”

Better question: Why does your boyfriend think that he gets a say in your relationship with your own body?

8 “I’m divorced – should I give my 20 yo money to buy my Christmas gifts or should my ex?”

Hrrrrrmmmm.

I think you might want to set expectations around holiday gift giving for your kid so that you ask for a few things that are very, very affordable for a 20-year-old. (For example, my mom asked for “slippers, booty style” for years – she was happy to get ’em, I was happy to afford ’em). And if you want other things/more expensive things, buy them for yourself.

If both you and your ex routinely give your dependent offspring spending money, maybe a mutual/joint bump up of that spending money around the holidays is a good idea, like, here’s some extra $ for your allowance so you can get holiday gifts for people (people, plural, people, in general), and both of you throw in the same amount.

I don’t think your ex necessarily has to buy Christmas gifts for you by proxy through your child of voting age, and if you set that expectation, you’re gonna be disappointed and also throw things off-kilter in the relationship with your child.

9 “55-year-old boyfriend of 5 months says he isn’t on dating app but I know he is.”

What happens if we rephrase this as “My boyfriend of 5 months doesn’t tell me the truth about using a dating app” and work from there? Time to think seriously about whether you have compatible expectations around exclusivity and whether you want to be with someone you have to monitor because you don’t trust them to tell you the truth.

10 “I’m not good with relationships, how do I help my daughter do better than me.”

Without knowing more details, maybe start here:

  1. Take very good care of yourself. Figure out how to stand up for yourself and advocate for yourself and pursue your own well-being and happiness in relationships and out of them. It’s not too late for you to do this work!
  2. Be honest with yourself and with her about the pressures & messages you’ve faced that prompted you to stay in bad relationships and to value “relationships” as something separate from and above your own well-being.
  3. Push back against cultural messaging like “all relationships take work” and “you need to have romantic partnership in order to be normal/happy” or “romantic love is the most important thing” and the idea that there is something wrong with being single when you encounter them in the wild. For example, if you watch TV together, talk about the healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics that you see.

11 “Sister owes me money being difficult about repayments.”

In my experience, three things can help here.

Thought Experiment #1: What’s the worst that could happen if you never get the money back? Like, she definitely owes you the money and she should absolutely repay you and not make it difficult, but if you knew right now you would never get the money back, how would it affect your finances and how would it affect how you interact with her?

Thought Experiment #2: Given the answer to #1, would it stress you out less to make the money a gift? If you can afford it, would it give you a feeling of control back to say “Listen, I don’t want to fight about this anymore, please consider that money a gift, and when you’re in better financial straits, you can make the same gift to me or someone else.” 

Listen, I know it’s counterintuitive, but sometimes the cheapest way to pay for something is with money and if you can afford to make a one-time “the slate is clean” decision it might be less stressful for you. If you go this route, don’t lend her any more money or pick up the tab for something expected to be paid back in the future.

Thought Experiment #3: You need the money back and you don’t want to make it a gift. Then here you go! (link is long post about not letting a person off the hook about money).

12 “Husband’s sister wants him to leave me.”

Time to figure out if this is a sister-in-law problem (like, setting boundaries and giving yourself permission to not be anywhere she is or put up with rude behaviors from her) or a husband problem (like, he’s actually considering leaving you and blaming it on her or otherwise allowing her to make trouble in your marriage). She’s entitled to her feelings but she’s not really entitled to make those feelings your problem. Hope your husband is solid and this works out the way you want it to.

13 “Do I really love my partner if am hurting her/him?”

People can feel love and say the feel love and still make bad decisions/do bad things. Sounds like it’s time to stop doing the hurtful things, however the feelings shake out.

14 “Am I wrong to confront my bf’s ex?”

You might be perfectly justified, but take a look at question 12 above or a couple of threads from a while back and ask yourself, truly, is this an ex problem or a boyfriend problem?

To what extent is he inviting in or enabling whatever is going on?

Are you the right one to put a stop to it or do you need him to do it?

Will confronting the ex get the result you want (will the person listen to you, will it just escalate things)?

15 “How can you answer if asked ‘how you view relationships’?”

Since that’s such a strange way of phrasing that question, I’d guess the person has an answer they are looking for or a way they view relationships that they are dying to tell you/someone about. Dates are not job interviews, so I would have almost no qualms about saying “Hrm, interesting, not sure I know how to sum that up in a general way right now – Is there a specific example you’re wanting to hear about, or a way you view relationships that you’d be willing to tell me about?” and kicking this right back to them before I even tried to answer.

16 “How to approach a co-worker about BDSM?” 

Newp. Nope all around. Hard pass. Do not do this, unless you’d like a long strange trip to human resources.

Why I am so sure about this:

It’s not “a co-worker, who I happen to be dating/involved with,” it’s just “co-worker.” If you were already talking consensually about sexy stuff with this person, you’d have the “Hey, so have you ever tried or wanted to try [specific sexy stuff]?” conversation and the descriptor you used would be “gf/bf/partner” or some variant of.

If this were a sex club or dungeon or other BDSM-friendly or -adjacent environment, where “Hey, so, ever want to get together outside of Sexy Work and do [Fun Sexy Work Stuff]?” was remotely part of the accepted dynamic, that would be reflected somehow in your search term, Kinky Friend. It just would be.

Alternate suggestions!

  • Go find your local BDSM community and go to a munch and meet some folks who might like what you like.
  • The internet has sites like FetLife where you can find people specifically into BDSM.
  • Mention your interests in your profile on other dating sites, see who responds positively.

Follow your kinky heart/other parts! Just not at work.

17 “Co-worker keeps asking ‘am I alright/okay’?”

Assuming you’ve said “Yep! Fine here!” at least once and it’s still happening, try this:

“Co-worker, you keep asking me that. Is there a particular reason?”

They’ll say some stuff, and that will tell you if they are noticing something off about you (if your behavior has changed, like “You are being really irritable/forgetful/behind on your work/spaced out/off lately,” that’s good information even if you’re feeling normal/fine), and it will give you an opening to say some version of “Ok, good to know. If I need help with anything, I promise I’ll ask you, but for now I’d like you to stop asking me that question.” 

18 “My husband refuses to let my daughter get birth control.” 

Well, you’ve got some decisions to make, and one of those decisions is whether you will support your daughter in taking care of her body and her health in the way she decides is right for her (even if that means going around your husband), or whether she’ll have to figure out something on her own that she has to keep secret from both of you (with all the attendant risks).

I have no chill about this. Your husband isn’t the boss of other people’s bodies. If your kid is of age to have sex and to ask for birth control, she’s of age to do that responsibly and safely, so please make sure she is informed and protected, ok?

Also, I don’t like encouraging people to lie to their spouses or their parents, but when someone with power over you threatens your safety and bodily autonomy, you do not have to disclose your private health decisions to them. I think you owe your daughter more here than you owe your husband.

Periodic reminder of the greatness of Scarleteen goes here.

19 “Telling people I’m not having Thanksgiving this year.”

Keep it simple and do it soon. Notify the usual suspects and say some version of “I know I usually host, but I’m not able to/I need to make another plan/I won’t be in town/hosting doesn’t work for me this year. I wanted to let you know ASAP so you/we can make another plan.” 

You don’t have to have another complete plan ready to go in order to not host btw, which is why “so you/we can make another plan” has both “you” and “we” options.

20 “Boyfriend getting cold feet about moving in together.”

LISTEN TO THE FEET (OR THE COLDNESS OF THEM).

THE FEET/THE COLD ARE TRYING TO HELP YOU.

It’s very stressful to make what you think is a mutually exciting romantic plan and then have one of the people involved start expressing doubts.

In your shoes, hearing that my partner had cold feet about a joint living situation, I would stop all plans to move in together until this was worked out, for real. I would do nothing irrevocable or expensive or that involved signing legal documents until everyone was very sure about what they wanted to do next. I would ask questions like:

  • What’s giving you pause?
  • What do you want to do?
  • What would set your mind at ease?
  • What is our plan if we do move in and we’re not happy? (Ask this anyway, even if everyone is really excited!)

I’d ask the questions and  listen carefully and lovingly to my partner’s concerns and see what makes sense for the relationship, sure, but with my own housing and financial security uppermost in my priorities. Like, when someone says “I know I said I wanted to live with you, but I don’t think I’m ready yet” that is reminder for you to think in terms of what is best for you, just you, and make sure your housing situation will be stable and good. Maybe compromises can be had? But please make sure you have contingency plans that are just about you, and please trust me that living alone is better (and cheaper, soooooooooo much cheaper) than moving in and having to uproot yourself a few months in because you’re living with someone you can’t really plan on or count on. Or somebody who hides problems until they are very big problems. Maybe a happy solution awaits! Cool! Wait until everyone is sure!

Not all romances benefit from cohabitation, the best time to figure that out is before you move in together, and it’s good that this person can be honest with you even if it feels awful right now.

BELIEVE THE FEET (AND THE COLD).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

150 comments
  1. Mimi Me said:

    As always – spot on answers!!! 🙂 The Thanksgiving one really resonates for me. I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because for the last 10 years my husband has had to work on the day and my kids and I have had no interest in spending the day with relatives we really don’t care all that much for without him. We’re a house full of lazy chefs and picky eaters and the thought of preparing a meal that big for ourselves seems like overkill so we just don’t do the big Thanksgiving celebration. People act as if I’ve somehow ruined *their* holiday celebrations but not having my own. What the hell is that about? Make the turkey, have the stuffing, relish the time spent with loved ones if it makes you happy …we just don’t do it that way. We know our way is non-traditional, but after so many years of it, we like waking up late and then heading to a local restaurant for a meal before husband has to head to his shift and the kids and I head home to watch movies and have snack food. In fact, this year is the first year in a decade where my husband doesn’t have to work. We’re still not making a meal, but we are mixing it up by going to the movies to see the new Fantastic Beasts movie.

    • Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian said:

      I’m not a holiday person in general, and I get the same weird push-back from people if I tell them I’m not celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’ve done literally nothing to affect your holiday plans! I’m sorry you have weird feels that other people don’t have the same feelings around this time that you do, but please stop making your feels my problem!

      Christmas is exceptionally fraught, apparently. I’m surrounded by people that would love to start celebrating in September, and honestly, I hate the pervasiveness of it all. The day has no meaning for me, and I would honestly like to forget the whole thing, but I’m still required to participate by family. We have our get-together in January because they want to be sure I can attend (I live far away), but still insist it’s Christmas. I go along because it’s less stressful than pushing back, even if I want no part of the holiday.

      I just enjoy having the time off work.

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      I hate the way so many people get bent out of shape when they hear someone doesn’t celebrate holidays the way the culture says we are supposed to. That is the source of most of my holiday stress each year. I don’t have a partner or much family, and most of my experiences with accepting invites to other people’s celebrations were awkward and uncomfortable. I either go to a restaurant or buy some fancy food to eat at home and then go to the movies. It works for me. The expressions of awkward pity do not.

      • It is very odd. I think it’s sort of like, misplaced empathy? Like someone thinks, “Oh, if I couldn’t celebrate with my family, I’d be so sad! Anon Goodnight can’t celebrate with their family, so they must also be sad. If I were sad I’d want sympathy or an invitation, so I’ll give them that.”

        I mean, the golden rule is great, but it’s gotta be trumped by listening to a person and believing them when they say what they feel and what they want.

        This is my first year skipping family Thanksgiving, not because I dislike my family at all, but because I volunteered to cover a shift at the crisis hotline that day. Nobody else wanted to cover, and I don’t mind missing the celebration because the family members I like I see all the time anyway. I’m already getting vibes like, “That’s such a noble sacrifice!” and I’m like, uh, actually I don’t like huge parties and I enjoy the company of my crisis line friends, so, y’know. It’s actually a bit of a relief to dodge the event, but I won’t tell them that.

        • Nanani said:

          That’s very charitable.

          I think a lot of people just really instinctively hate to see anyone deviate from social scripts, whether it’s how to celebrate holidays or major life path things (like, get heteromarried and have babies), because THEY followed the script even though it sucks at least some of the time and how DARE you be happy outside the script!!!

          • True, that definitely also happens.

        • hummingbear said:

          I do not get along with most of my family of origin so when I was younger and working in restaurants I’d always volunteer to cover Thanksgiving and Christmas. The tips were GREAT and my coworkers were so grateful. Win-win-win!

    • FairestCat said:

      When I was in elementary school we’d always call my father’s parents on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as they lived several (western) states away. One year my grandmother accused my mother of “ruining Christmas” when she confessed that we were having Breakfast for Dinner (pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc.) rather than a traditional big meal.

      Both of my parents are great cooks, but I think my mom had been sick that year and neither of them felt like dealing with the hassle. Also Breakfast for Dinner was an amazing treat and us kids were thrilled!

      I remember my grandmother being similarly indignant the year she called on Thanksgiving and we were having steak.

      My grandmother was a very traditional, middle class forties/fifties housewife, my hippie mother never did manage to meet her expectations of what a daughter-in-law should be.

      • goddessoftransitory said:

        Breakfast for Dinner is AWESOME and wonderful and perfect for Christmas! When somebody’s rigid on HOW THINGS MUST BE they miss out on all the fun swerves and delightful meals in life.

        • Clorinda said:

          Breakfast for Dinner happens at least weekly in my house. Bacon, eggs, fruit, maybe pancakes if we’re feeling fancy. What could be better?
          Also, Leftovers for Breakfast is very typical of my morning. I’d rather have reheated lasagna than a bowl of cereal any day!

      • Marthooh said:

        Okay, you can ruin Christmas with too much consumerism, or with too little gratitude, or with not giving me that Barbie Dreamhouse I counted on, but you cannot ruin Christmas with pancakes.

    • Evan Þ. said:

      I still remember the Thanksgiving when were at the beach and ordered in a ham pizza for dinner. The sea was too cold to swim, and the meal was decidedly nontraditional – and it was fun! We were together, we could walk along the seashore (which we like more than swimming anyway), there were other fun things to do, and we had each other. I usually enjoy a more traditional Thanksgiving, but nontraditional can be great too!

    • FairestCat said:

      When I was in elementary school we’d always call my father’s parents on Thanksgiving and Christmas as they lived several (western) states away. One year my grandmother accused my mother of “ruining Christmas” when she confessed that we were having Breakfast for Dinner (pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc.) rather than a traditional big meal.

      Both of my parents are great cooks, but I think my mom had been sick that year and neither of them felt like dealing with the hassle. Also Breakfast for Dinner was an amazing treat and us kids were thrilled!

      I remember my grandmother being similarly indignant the year she called on Thanksgiving and we were having steak.

      My grandmother was a very traditional, middle class forties/fifties housewife, my hippie mother never did manage to meet her expectations of what a daughter-in-law should be.

    • TinLizi said:

      I still remember my grad school Thanksgiving. I was also working retail. I finally had a day off. I sat on the floor eating Chinese take out, playomg compiter games, and wearing pajamas. I didn’t see another person all day. It was wonderful.

      • Pam said:

        My sister and I will go to our favorite Chinese restaurant on Thanksgiving.

    • Q-chan said:

      I mean, heck, I did a traditional T-Day meal once just for me and my boyfriend and my brother, and people were STILL weird about it. “Oh, that sounds so lonely!”

      …No? Are you kidding me? I only had to cook for three people! Large gatherings are noisy and stressful!

    • Light37 said:

      I’ve been doing a spa day for Christmas Day and whatever time off comes with it for a number of years. I live alone, so if I want to eat scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for dinner, I can. That, with a whole wheat roll, some fruit, and a dessert makes a delightful end to a day where I did things like play with makeup/facials/bellydance/walk/mani-pedi/do dress-up. And I don’t care if it’s not traditional- for one thing, I’m Jewish pagan. For another, my mom was Christian and loved Christmas, so without her, doing something traditional just makes me miss her and feel sad. Spa days don’t trigger that.

  2. Allison said:

    I really needed that link in #3, I had a similar Facebook stalker who liked everything (and often shared and commented as well) and occasionally sent me messages about random stuff even though I never responded. Don’t get me started on his use of the “waving” feature in Facebook messenger (did anyone need random people waving at them online? NO!). In fact, I’ve had a few like this, but one man was particularly bad and it was especially weird since we’d hardly even spoken in person and he was so much older than I was – the fact that he was gay, or at least told me he was gay, didn’t do much to set me at ease. I just imagined him one day showing up at my home, or at an event where I’d be, just to see me.

    The other dudes who liked everything I posted were just added to the “restricted” list and that seemed to fix the problem. The thing with this one bad stalker was that even after being put on the restricted list, he kept liking all the public activity – fun fact, sometimes when you RSVP to an event, it’s public, and your profile and cover photo changes are always public, and it got to a point where I didn’t want to change my profile picture because I knew he’d “like” it and I didn’t want him to.

    I thought maybe I could tell him to please back off a little, but I was pretty sure he’d just defend his behavior as being harmless, since he wasn’t into women, he just liked to send positive vibes and lift everyone up, he was a disabled shut-in and Facebook was his window to the world. But one day I decided it was too much and unfriended and blocked him. And then denied his requests to follow me on Instagram, and blocked him there, then he messaged me on LinkedIn apologizing for “whatever [he] did to hurt [me].” I really, REALLY hope he’s done.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      OMG this! Only with my former boss (don’t fb friend your boss even when she thinks you should). I think she was keeping tabs to ensure I didn’t make the company look bad by complaining unprofessionally about it but that resulted in her being the first, first! person to like and comment on ev-er-y-thing I ever posted. No.

      • Allison said:

        And I second guess myself, or imagine people arguing with me, when I don’t like this and wish people didn’t do it, because it’s *social media* and the whole point of posting something is for people to see, like, comment on, and share, and what are you doing on those sites if you don’t want that kind of attention . . . right? I don’t know, maybe it’s a silly millennial thing to want boundaries even when you’re online, or in public, but people keep saying that if you put yourself out in the open like that you gotta be cool with just about anything that people wanna say or do to you.

        • Megan_NJ said:

          gotta be cool with just about anything that people wanna say or do to you. —- Yes, the others can be cool with you blocking them. No one tells you what you need to accept.

          You don’t need to even be consistent about it. One day it’s fine, the next day it isn’t. Block, don’t block. Everyone else will be fine.

          There is definitely a difference between here’s a picture of my dog & here’s the entirety of my being, please tell me your opinions on how I do my own life. People will always try to tell you things, but you can just leave it there on the table. No one wants their Notes From A Boner.

          Waving? Ew. lol

        • winter said:

          Well, that would suggest that by going outside you consent to pretty much anything a stranger could do to you and I think we agree that’s not the case.

          In other words: These people are victim blaming, the Internet is a part of the Real World so rules like “Don’t make other people uncomfortable with your laser-focus attention” are still valid online. You are not weird that way.

        • CarpeFelis said:

          Not just a millennial thing. I’m 60 and feel the same way.

          • cavyherd said:

            ↑ ↑ ↑

        • hummingbear said:

          The kind of attention that users would like is not necessarily the kind of attention that Zuckerburg & Co want to monetize. Using social media wisely means hacking the system as best you can so you maximize the things you want and minimize the highly profitable privacy invasion the companies want.

          Never forget, “if you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” Have no guilt about trying to be less product-like online!

      • I never even friended co-workers. Your boss asking you to friend her – NO. Professional boundaries, people!

        If a future boss is really pesky and insists, make a fake Facebook account wherein you praise all things Company and let your boss think it’s the real you.

    • Clarry said:

      My “stalker” was my family. My mother would like everything I said. She has a history of objectifying me, so even her innocuous comments bothered me: “Oh, you went to Main Street Restaurant? I see.” Another relative questioned everything I said for more information. “How did you like Main Street Restaurant?” A 3rd relative jumped to wild incorrect conclusions. “You ordered chicken soup at Main Street Restaurant. You must have been sick.” A 4th got a kick out of letting me/making me google for him. He genuinely needed to know where Main Street Restaurant was. With him, I told him to google, but he insisted that he knew about Main Street restaurant- I must be talking about something else. He was so sure that I wondered if google was doing something where he was getting different results based on his search history. Turns out that wasn’t the case and he hadn’t ever really googled.

      I also was having trouble controlling who saw what, and it drove me nuts that people liked absolutely everything without ever volunteering anything of their own. I finally broke all facebook rules and opened a 2nd facebook page. I put all my relatives on that page. I friended all my work associates on that page. I use a variant of my pretty common name. (Clarissa, Clara, Clarry + relatively common last name) I put a picture of a puppy up for a profile pic. I friended all the offenders to that page. And I NEVER post anything to that page. Well, the exception is that every holiday I wish everyone a happy. Happy New Year’s Everyone. Hope you have a great Valentine’s Day. Remember to wear green for St. Paddy’s. And that’s it. They get no other information than that. On my other page, the one they have no reason to know about, if I want to eat at Main Street Restaurant and tell 100 of my closest friends, I do just that.

  3. Reading all these answers was so helpful today, because the underlying message always boils down to Communicate Clearly. It feels particularly soothing at the moment, where I’m in a weird pickle of post-breakup feelings with a very close friend who would like to replace Ex Love in my affections. But I know that I’ve been explicitly clear about what I can/want to and cannot/do not want to offer at the moment. And this is a good reminder that I can only control communication on my side, and trust that I have given Friend the information needed to make their own decisions.

    Thank you for being awesome, Captain ❤

  4. attica said:

    I know Q 20 isn’t literal, but I’m on the downswing of menopause right now, and this is the first fall in more than five years when my feet are actually getting cold. It’s delightful!

  5. blurfts said:

    #10: Vangie Foushee has done some wonderful research around helping families where a parent has experienced relationship violence discuss and address it through the Families for Safe Dates curriculum. It’s a series of workbooks and activities: they do cost money, but it should be possible to get them through a local domestic violence center (which often have lending libraries). You can also view the program outline here: http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/safe_dates.page which gives you some ideas of the topics that are important to discuss. If this is the issue, it might be a good idea to get in touch with thehotline.org and ask for referrals – this is a perfectly reasonable use of that resource.

    If the issue is more that the person googling flees relationships/fears commitment/feels that they drive partners away: well, that’s probably attachment, yeah? And the first person that a kid attaches to is their parent, so loving your kid a lot, being trustworthy and dependable for them, caring about their world, etc. is one of the best things that you can do to help your kid know that in the future, partners and other significant people in their lives should be loving and trustworthy and dependable. There are a lot of little details that are significant in the parent-child relationship, but loving your kid and being dependable and caring about their personhood is a strong foundation.

    That said, my parents (a generational trauma-fest) gave us the gift of _being in therapy themselves_ when resources allowed it, and wow did that make a huge change from my early childhood until now. (I wish the one parent who cycled out fast and never went back had continued – the parent that prioritized it even though they sometimes felt selfish for taking time and money for their own thing instead of spending it “on the family” had huge changes in their ability to cope and be warm and be emotionally available to us over the 16-odd years they went in and out of counseling.)

  6. GrumpyZena said:

    Is there a *chance* that the BDSM questioner meant to say “I have a co-worker who I see with visible injuries which I thiiiink might be from BDSM but also might be more sinister, how do I make sure they’re ok?”.

    Please say yes, because your interpretation makes me shudder.

    • Amy said:

      I mean anything’s possible, but I doubt it? It’s not ‘how to approach a co-worker about suspicious injuries’–it specifically assumes BDSM. Being a kinky person myself, I can attest that you usually can’t tell at a glance whether a given mark is from a kink thing, from a non-kink abusive thing, from MMO sparring, etc. at a glance. It would be a really weird assumption to see some bruises and immediately jump to “This person must be kinky, how do I bring it up with them?”

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Yeahhh my interpretation is this person has read way too much erotica and/or fantasized about fantasy-scenarios-that-can’t-work-in-real-life but not acted on them…and decided to try and bring a fantasy to real life….lw abort abort abort

    • Armada said:

      Other possible charitable interpretation: coworker wears a collar/some other low-key kinky thing to work; asker wants to, well, ask about it, but is unsure of the etiquette involved, with regards to it being explicitly kinky and not just jewelry. I do agree that it is far more likely asker is just being a creep.

      (Semi-related anecdote: I was out with my parents for lunch and when we went into the restaurant the hostess saw my collar and said, “I like your necklace,” with slight emphasis and I said, “Thanks, my girlfriend gave it to me,” with the same slight emphasis and it was like we had a whole secret conversation in code. It was fun!)

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        I love this story.

      • mossyone said:

        Is it normal to wear visible kink gear in places where kink would be innopropriate to bring up to most people? Is there a line you musn’t cross with what you wear and where you wear it? I ask because I would feel mortified if I asked someone about something they were wearing in public and it turned out to be sex related. I have many kinks of my own but I also have VERY strong keeping it private obsession for Reasons. (I know with your situation the hostess clearly knew what was up, so this is a new scenario I’m asing about.)

        • mstabbity said:

          It’s pretty common for a kinky person to have an “everyday” or “public” collar that just looks like a choker necklace to people who aren’t in the know, I believe that’s what Armada was referring to. I’m not a huge fan of people wearing visible kink gear in public either, but I think stealth symbols of your relationship are cute as long as they’re subtle.

        • This actually came up in the “can I wear a collar to work” question, with some kinksters saying it’s okay as long as you have plausible deniability (eg, if your collar could be mistaken for just a regular necklace then it’s okay, even if some people twig that it could be a kink signifier), and others saying no, absolutely not, anything that even hints at BDSM is out. Personally I’m more with the first group than the second; you see vanilla people wearing heart locks and stuff out and about without it meaning anything, so I figure anything that could be worn as an innocent mistake counts.

        • Amy said:

          There are lots of collars that are designed to look like a necklace, which you really wouldn’t suspect unless you’re thinking about it (which vanilla people usually aren’t). Think like those Tiffany’s necklaces and bracelets with the heart-shaped lock–they’re mainstream enough that no one would assume they’re kink gear, but just close enough that people who already have their eyes open for that kind of imagery might wonder. If Armada’s collar is this kind, the hostess probably didn’t know for sure that it was a collar until the slight emphasis got reciprocated in conversation…and she probably wouldn’t have thought to put it out there in the first place if she weren’t in the community herself.

          I’ve also known people who designated a nondescript necklace as their symbolic collar, which is even more subtle and will probably never be spotted by people who haven’t been told, even other kinksters.

          • Thanksforallthefish said:

            Agreed! Also plenty of vanilla folks do similar symbolic jewelry giving acts. I was given a heart-shaped necklace back in my young teen days and wore it every day I was overseas to help me feel connected to my loved-one. The heart made it kinda obviously romantic. I feel like we can all wear things that carry personal, deep significance and continue about our lovely lives none the wiser about what our coworker’s special necklace means if it’s none of our business.

        • Yavieriel said:

          Honestly I think this is more down to what people are comfortable with – there’s no real line for what even counts as kink gear when you’re talking about clothes that cover the socially-expected parts of the body. Lots of fetish-wear overlaps with alternative fashion and even just ordinary fashion, like there’s no real definitive line between fetish heels and fashion heels. Obviously ballet boots are fetish gear, but black patent peep-toe pumps? On the off-chance that an item is kinky for them, you really have to rely on them to be socially aware enough to not overshare the details behind their choices in personal attire. I’m into corsetry as historical fashion, as a contemporary look, and as a kink; what kind of detail you get about the black satin waspy I wore to the party is going to depend on what kind of questions you ask and how well I know you.

      • Amphelise said:

        This works with Phedre’s Marque pendants too, I can attest 😀

    • Or, I remember there was an AAM column a while back along the lines of “my coworker is into BDSM and wants everyone in the office to call her boyfriend Master at social events, how do we say no please stop telling us about this forever”.

      • Amy said:

        In that case the asker probably wouldn’t need to bring it up–the coworker has already brought it up for them!

      • Lil Fidget said:

        There was also a more recent AAM where a coworker noticed bruises the LW had gotten from BDSM … it’s possible the querent here was searching for one of those two articles and mis-remembering the deets. (“it came from the search terms” makes me paranoid about my searches! I’m usually looking for a letter I thought was somewhere in Captain Awkward but often was actually answered by someone else or just was not written the way I remembered).

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        Yeah, I was thinking, “How do I approach my co-worker about shutting the hell up about BDSM and answering my question about the new TPS topsheet?” Because that’s usually my problem. I mean, I feel complimented that you want to share all your golden, glowy New Lifestyle Energy with me, but you proooooooooooooooooooobably didn’t ask about my gray-asexuality because it isn’t for you, and even if you did, I feel that’s my too-personal thing and I don’t like people I don’t know getting their eyeprints on my personal thing… anyway. Harrumph.

        • Yeah I’m like 90% sure this question is “how do I get my coworker to not talk about BDSM around me” or something like that, not “how do I hit on my coworker but like for kink stuff.”

    • Vasha said:

      One time I had bruises on my face due to dental surgery and an acquaintance asked in concern if everything was all right in my life. She didn’t assume she knew the reason, she just asked neutrally. I appreciated her asking and was happy to tell her the real reason even though I don’t usually talk about medical stuff. If someone’s mind goes to BDSM as an explanation they’d be way out of line asking about it specifically!

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        Heh! A co-worker once asked me the same thing, referencing the bruises on my legs where I obviously had been hit many times with a long thick hard object.
        I explained that tail-as-weapon is a fact of life when you have a happy 160 lb dog.

        • Jackalope said:

          Right after I started dating my now-fiancé, I had this accident where I (legit) tripped and got all bruised up. I had one of my work friends who was deeply suspicious and made sure to check up on me. Thankfully my young man is not violent or abusive at all, but I appreciated knowing that my people had my back, just in case.

        • cavyherd said:

          Or a happy 60 lb dog, that uses the entire back half of his body to wag his tail.

        • Thank goodness! If I saw someone with lots of bruises on their legs, I would assume a blood disorder like ITP or leukemia or domestic violence.

    • It’s also *possible* that it’s “ran into my co-worker at a munch/party/discussion group/other undeniably kinky venue, now what?”
      In which case I recommend asking them out for coffee, assuring them that you would NEVER out them and know they would NEVER out you, and then working out whether or not you need to split up the party/discussion group scene somehow for mutual comfort.

  7. Eye said:

    As somebody who grew up with a mother who mandated handmade cards from children to parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles for birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, and Christmas (store-bought cards were explicitly banned until after you had a job, if then), and gifts were to be handmade or bought with one’s own saved-up money, #8 is so utterly foreign to me. The idea of a parent giving me money specifically so that I can buy them a “gift” even as a CHILD is weird; the idea of them doing it when I’m unarguably an adult is even weirder.

    Is this a common practice (giving your kid a holiday gift budget to be spent on yourself/your spouse), and is it then common to extend that practice well past the point when most adult children would be expected to be financially independent enough to at least save $20 over the course of a year (or would be able to brainstorm a cheaper DIY gift)? Or is this family as atypical as I think they are?

    • GrumpyZena said:

      I’ve known people who give their kids money to buy gifts, I don’t think it’s that weird really. My family didn’t do it though.

      BUT: If the parents weren’t together, it was always framed as a “general gift budget”.
      AND: We are talking about minor children here.

      Look, I know what it’s like to be 20 and broke. Most normal parents would prefer a nice heartfelt letter, or a cheap but meaningful gift (some cozy socks cus your mum’s always complaining about the cold, for example), or handmade treats, or even an IOU for various chores (above and beyond what the kid would usually do), than some material gift that you can’t afford (or that you’ve bought just for the sake of it). Trust me.

      If you want or expect that your ex should give your adult kid money to buy you a gift, you’ll more than likely be disappointed.

      • Allison said:

        Yeah I think at age 20 it’s not really necessary, but I still won’t side-eye anyone who decides to do it. If you have the money and that’s what you wanna do with it, who am I to criticize?

      • JenniferP said:

        In general, if you value a certain kind of holiday gift giving practice, teach it to your kids (and make sure they have the resources to do it).

        For the person searching, I’d reiterate – don’t assume your ex will or even should handle this, be honest with your kid about budget and expectations.

    • Jitz Girl said:

      I remember being a broke college student. Having neither the money to buy a decent gift nor the time to knit a blanket or something. Literally running through the shopping mall to minimize the time it took away from studying for finals. Ughhhhhh. “The joy of giving”? Ha ha ha. I never want my kids to feel like that.I can’t give them more hours in their day, but I can give them money to buy gifts with.

      • TootsNYC said:

        Or, I can give my kids gift ideas that cost very little (time or money). Like, a six-pack of root beer? Absolutely my speed.

        My college-kid son gave me a bottle of a fancy root beer he can get at the delis on his campus. I think that was my favorite Christmas present.

    • Amy said:

      My family doesn’t do this (and never did, even when we were children–the closest we got was parents buying craft supplies for us so we could make something, which feels different, and even that trailed off once we were old enough to be making a little bit via babysitting and such).

      But we also tend heavily towards the thought being the main point (much more than the actual object given). We don’t really make ‘christmas lists’ of desired gifts or anything, so there’s a lot of room for flexibility budget-wise; we can go fancy if we want, but we can also buy them a book, make their favorite cookies, do some artwork, give them an IOU for an outing together, whatever we think they’d personally enjoy. In a family where people do ask for specific things, especially if those things might be less budget-friendly, I can see how giving young adults some financial help could make the holiday less stressful and more fun for everyone.

    • Sam said:

      I have no idea how typical that family is, but mine is like that too. Growing up my parents would purchase gifts for grandparents, godparents, and gifts to each other from us kids. We’d still make homemade cards and would give other homemade gifts if we wanted, too. We did homemade stuff or small things we could afford for our siblings (we didn’t have allowances though, so the money either came out of birthday money or pet-sitting and babysitting money once we were in middle school).

      I’m 26 now and just get my parents what I can afford. My siblings and I will also often go in on a gift together. (I’m the oldest and my younger siblings are all 20 or older but some are still living at home/in school.) If we wanted to get our mom something we couldn’t afford ourselves my dad would absolutely chip in and we’d still say it was just from the kids. At this point it’s a combination of no gifts expected/but Christmas feels more obligatory than other holidays/kids will pay what they can/parents often pay for gifts too.

      We also would only ever ask Dad for gifts for Mom and vice versa, so I completely see where the question asker is coming from as a divorced parent.

      Also, if I “only” spent $20 on a gift for each of my siblings, parents, and partner that would still be $120 in Christmas gifts. I am able to save up that much but it’s still a lot.

      • ShadowAngel said:

        I set it at $25/present rather than $20, but my annual gift budget is $275 (Christmas, birthday, and parents’ days). It definitely adds up! And I’m the oldest, too, and tend to front any joint presents, which means I’m out an extra $20 at least temporarily.

    • TO_On said:

      It seems equally weird to me too. A hand drawn card is a present. Something bought with money that was even your money? I don’t get it.

      I have heard of people doing it with kids, though, even though that wouldn be my way… Doing it with an adult though does seem to be over the top to me.

      • TO_On said:

        ‘wasn’t even’

      • Jane said:

        With my parent she would never buy herself things. And like. I’m under-employed. If she wants presents, I need help to get them. And she does actually like opening presents on holidays, and also appreciates what I do for her to support her.

        • TO_On said:

          Sounds like it works for you and makes you both happy 🙂

    • Violet said:

      In most families I’ve known, the other parent takes the child shopping for a gift for them to give Mum/Dad, rather than handing them money and telling them to go buy something. My own 20-year-old daughter’s father died when she was young and wasn’t around to do this, so she grew up not giving me Christmas or birthday gifts, and she still doesn’t. I expect if he were still alive, we’d have phased that practice out by now anyway, though.

      The drawback to being a single parent with a non-gift-giving child is that you almost never receive gifts at all, which is kind of a bummer even as an adult. If I happen to get a Christmas gift from a colleague ahead of the holiday, I always save it so I’ll have something to unwrap on Christmas morning–it’s not as if I can’t buy a book or an assortment of gourmet jam for myself, but as they say, it’s the thought that counts.

      • ruinousillusion said:

        consider signing up for something like reddit’s gift exchange?

        • MsSolo said:

          LibraryThing has a great book based Secret Santa every year, which I love doing (plus there’s the review program, which means free books all year round!)

      • I’m sorry. Not sure if you want advice, but I’ll throw out there that, as a twenty-something person who can be clueless but definitely loves my mom, if my mom suggested a simple, straightforward way I could make her feel loved I’d do it, even if it wasn’t a tradition.

        Like it sounds like even asking for a small, $1 gift from her could be fine, since the unwrapping and thought is meaningful to you?

    • I dunno, my parents were kinda like, ‘Here’s allowance money,’ and then, around December, ‘here’s allowance money plus Christmas money.’ Had to buy one thing for each parent, one thing for each sibling. Usually each parent told us what they wanted, and conveniently always had three ideas (and three kids, hey!) and tried to make sure we coordinated.

      It was a bit silly. My brother and I did always make gifts for each other, because we were both creative and had a bit of a competition going– usually it was, like, a story or comic with an inside joke, or sometimes a mix cd with a “secret song” where we drew all the pages for the little booklet. It was fun. The winner, just between us, was whoever made the funnier / stranger / cooler thing, and it was usually pretty clear who the winner was.

      I sometimes felt bad leaving our sister out. She was older than us and “not creative,” and we’d end up adding the money meant for each other to the money for her gift, which was usually a really nice book or tea-related thing.

      That being said, I have no idea what’s typical, and by age 20 I was definitely expected to get everyone a present. Some of my income came from my parents, and some came from my part-time job, but there was no longer, like, a present-specific allowance bonus. Or even an allowance really; my finances in college were very strange. Sort of a transition in a lot of ways.

    • Manticore said:

      Maybe my family is atypical but it doesn’t seem that weird to me. My parents are well off and, even though I’m an adult with a job, I just barely scrape by. If I see or think up something I know my parents or brother would like I buy it myself if it’s within my budget but if not I ask my mum if she would mind sending me the money for it. There’s a substantial gap between what I can afford and what she is happy to send me and no one in my family has ever felt like it was odd.

      I can and have made presents before but a lot of handmade presents aren’t that cheap once you account for supplies. My mum has a phoenix I cross stitched for her hanging up in her bedroom but that was probably one of the most expensive gifts I’ve ever given her.

      If you don’t start from assuming giving money for presents is weird I can see how the original question might come about. Right now my mum handles all their accounts. Dad will happily agree to give me money if I ask him but chances are it’s mum who actually makes the transaction. If they divorced we’d figure it out but I could see some initial confusion and stress about it.

    • I don’t know how common it is, but it’s how my family did it during our childhoods. We didn’t receive allowances or anything, and when we were very young, we didn’t tend to get monetary gifts at birthdays and whatnot. So when Christmas came around, Dad would take us shopping to pick out something for Mom which he would pay for, and vice versa.

      However, this did not last into our late teens. We all started working summer jobs once we were old enough, so after that, we used our own money for gifts.

  8. Marna Nightingale said:

    I am NOT correcting your spelling because everyone has their variants and they are all valid.

    But the mental image I got from my first reading of “booty-style slippers” is gonna stay with me for some time.

    • Hornswoggler said:

      Me too. I’m glad I’m not alone.

    • Tara S. said:

      I came here to say something similar! My brain saw “booty style” and automatically supplied “booty shorts,” and the idea of your mom asking for and you giving her booty shorts was…amusing.

      • Lil Fidget said:

        Oh man I JUST got what that was (“booties”), I was totally thinking they were somehow similar to booty shorts, like these were the slippers you would wear with those, perhaps to dance around your living room. I did enjoy my mental picture though.

        • I was picturing what part of the booty-shape your feet go in and it was … very wrong. 🍑

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          My kid and I photograph thrift-shop offerings that we promise each other we will never, ever buy, wear, buy for each other, or cause to come into existence, and one of the things was a pair of intarsia booty shorts. Of thick knit that was immediately itchy to the hand. I’m now kicking myself for not realizing these were, in fact, socks for the booty.

  9. johann7 said:

    #6 is good; this could well be a generational norm, since I tend to see this more often with people who grew up before cell phone possession was common here. If the neighbor has trouble changing behavior around coming by unannounced, you could also ask how ze prefers you to let zir know that it isn’t a good time to chat when ze comes by unannounced, so that ze won’t think you’re intending to slight zir or be rude. (Of course, if the neighbor is coming by partly because ze feels entitled to other people’s time and attention at zir preference and is bad with boundaries, the answer might be, “There isn’t a way, becasue ‘not right now’ isn’t an answer I find acceptable,” in which case you can find advice on holding that boundary in previous question responses about such situations. But I like to start out assuming good faith, so hopefully it’s an easy behavioral redirection!)

  10. nnn said:

    One thing for #18 to work on in general and in the longer term is creating a situation where her daughter can get *any* sort of medical care without *any* parental involvement. (And, en route to achieving that, work on reducing the amount of parental involvement strictly necessary.)

    Examples:

    – Would she need a ride to the doctor’s office? Could you eliminate that by finding another doctor who is closer to home or school? Could you set her up with Uber or Lyft so she can call for a ride herself and have it billed to you? (That might be an idea for life in general, so your teen has a means to get home from any situation she might find herself.)
    – Would she need parental consent to get out of school? Could you eliminate that need with a doctor who’s closer to school, or has longer office hours?

    • ReallyLilyReally said:

      THIS! I LOVE THIS COMMENT. This is so helpful and useful and SO IMPORTANT once your kids get to mid-teens, let them have a bit of autonomy over their medical treatment (where appropriate). This should go for things like the dentist/hairdresser too. Important developmental babysteps, raising independent adults, yo!

      Also please, please questioner#18, PLEASE take this opportunity to make sure your daughter is absolutely 100% clear on the fact that she and ONLY SHE gets to make choices about her reproductive rights. No man’s opinion should ever override her choices about birth control, whether he’s her dad or her partner or the freaking president. If she wants to be on birth control, she gets to choose that, and it is your duty as her parent to make sure her (really sensible) choices are upheld.

    • Lil Fidget said:

      Yes, maybe if OP can’t stomach connecting the daughter to birth control herself (or deliberately subverting the father’s stated position) – which would be the case in my conservative family – they can just focus on empowering daughter in medical access generally and keep out of the specifics. Many generations of Fidgets have covered their ears about what their children discuss with their doctors.

      • TO_On said:

        Ha, that brings back a memory. Me in high school and my mom making me a doctor’s appointment for me and then telling me I was old enough now to talk to the doctor alone without a parent there.

        The doctor of course, with a teenager, asked me questions about sex and asked if I had any questions… I was sooooo not at that stage in my life and it was an embarrassing appointment, but I appreciated my parents making that space for me.

        Neither of my parents said anything explicit about that doctor’s appointment or what they thought I should or shouldn’t discuss with the doctor. And I don’t know if they even explicitly meant it to be a sexually related appointment. They just said I wasn’t a little kid anymore so I should be able to talk to the doctor alone.

        • Kaos said:

          When I was about 18 my dad asked me if I was taking BC. I told him it was none of his business. My mom walked a fine line between minding her own business and being all up in the middle of mine. It was a weird dynamic but she somehow managed it.

          About the time I figured my son was sexually active (I was correct BTW) I dropped a bag full of condoms on his dresser one day. Later he said “Mom did you put this bag of condoms on my dresser?” “Yep.” “Oh ok.” and that was the end of it. I kept him supplied with them for the rest of his life.

          Seriously though some parents think that not getting their kid (more with female children than male children…go figure) BC will keep them from having sex. Hahaha magical thinking from someone who will sooner rather than later stop being “Mom/Dad” and start being “Nana/Pop Pop.”

          • Or end up *never* being the Gran and Gramps they want to be, because their children will, after having “if you get pregnant, I will toss you out in the cold and you can try walking to town before you die of exposure but don’t you come back here” drummed into their heads from the age of 11 until they leave home at 17, decide to opt out of the whole thing.

            😀

        • Clorinda said:

          The last doctor visit, I left my teenager with the doctor alone for the first time. It felt like such a milestone! My baby girl is so grown up. I won’t deny, some tears were shed in the waiting room–it was sort of like the first day of kindergarten all over again. {sniffles}

    • Knitting Cat Lady said:

      I think my parents sent me to the GP on my own from the time I was 14 or 15 on. Living in a big city in Germany meant that I could walk or cycle there.

      Same went for all other doctors.

      The only thing they accompanied me to was picking out glasses, as they needed to pay for those…

    • Lissa said:

      Fully agree, and I 100% agree with the Captain. Just wanted to add this to the #18 thread.

      It’s also important to remember that BC is NOT just taken to prevent pregnancy. I’ve been on BC to help control my migraines waaaay before I became sexually active (and hey, being on the pill by the time I decided I was ready for sex was one less thing I had to worry about – my side of pregnancy prevention was taken care of). BC can also be taken to help get cramps under control, help with mood variations, clear up hormone related acne… a bunch of medical reasons! So not only could Father be attempting to deny Daughter a way to be sexually active safely (which again, assuming she’s of consenting age, is nobody’s business but her’s), he could be attempting to deny something that could actively help her medical needs.

      Hormonal birth controls does not always mean sexually active.

      • JenniferP said:

        Great point that BC is not just taken to prevent pregnancy and dad might be jeopardizing more than just reproductive choice, but I’m also 100% not countenancing so-called moral objections to taking birth control for exactly what it says on the tin. People who can get pregnant have an absolute right to make decisions about that, and if Dad’s feelings are getting in the way of “want sex/do not want babies yet or at all” it’s still just as much of a problem.

    • kwallio said:

      Somewhat OT comment – I drive for both uber and lyft and teenagers (minors under 18) are not supposed to ride alone. In most municipalities it is actually illegal (as well as a violation of TOS) and the driver could be cited. If uber/lyft find out that your account is being used to request rides for teenagers it can be suspended. Please, for the love of god, do not recommend that teenagers take uber/lyft alone. Refusing rides from teenagers is something I have to do on an almost weekly basis (and its cousin, moms without carseats) and it sucks.

  11. LAF said:

    Folk Implosion! Love it!

  12. johann7 said:

    #7: For some reason (e.g. religion, more general cultural norms, unusual possessiveness or narcissism – this is a case where I think the why might matter in terms of whether seeking to change his mind is worthwhile, whether the searcher should be on guard for other possessive behaviors, etc.) he thinks your sexuality should be about him and him only. That’s a fairly common message for people to internalize thanks to our toxic possessive norms about dating/romance/sexual partners, and it’s also a red flag for controlling behaviors. If that’s the only controlling thing he does, you might be able to explain that your relationship with your body/yourself is nobody else’s business, including his (unless YOU wish to make it someone’s business); if it’s part of a pattern, you might want to look at other info on asserting and holding boundaries and/or break up with him.

  13. Megan_NJ said:

    watch TV together, talk about the healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics that you see. — SO MANY terrible ones that could be solved by a nice #4 ….. Did you ask what the problem was?!?! Did you use words or secret eye blinks.

  14. Sam Sepiol said:

    Thing that creeps me out about #18 is that it says MY daughter not OUR daughter. If I’ve read that right it is EVEN CREEPIER. I hope you are ok, unlikely as it is you’ll ever read this.

  15. Jenny Islander said:

    No. 18: IME men (and women) who do this think that somehowwwwww if they deny their children the safety gear for [activity], those children will decide not to [activity]. At precisely the age when your brain is telling you “Yes, risks exist, but immediate benefits are more important.” (Ofc. there are also the parents who think that if they pretend really hard that [activity] doesn’t exist, at least in the lives of their children, then the children won’t independently imagine [activity] and try it out, with complete ignorance as their guide.)

    So, LW, I suggest pointing out to your husband that if all the kids are poppin’ wheelies on the back of Neckbreaker Mountain, refusing to buy your kid well-fitted safety gear will not prevent them from borrowing somebody else’s bike and poppin’ wheelies too. But definitely don’t wait for his permission. Not his body. Not his choice.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      This.
      Authoritarian parents think they’re teaching their children to obedient. They’re teaching their children to lie.

      • Nanani said:

        In my observation, authoritarians assume everyone is lying anyway, regardless.

      • CarpeFelis said:

        I can attest to that! My mother’s picture ought to show up under any reference to “authoritarian personality”. I was firmly under her thumb until I went off to college, but after that – that is, when I actually started to have a life – I found it necessary to either lie or just not tell her things. She was fanatically Catholic (should’ve been a nun rather than anyone’s mother) and threw a major fit snd threatened to pull my tuition when I told her I wasn’t going to church anymore. (I had to explain exactly how terrifying it was to have to step into the damned confessional every week.) And then she wondered why I stopped telling her things… gosh, can’t imagine why.

        • DameB said:

          My mom explicitly told me to lie to her.

          She’d always emphasized what she thought parents were supposed to say: just tell me the truth. But then in my junior year of college I went away with my bf for a weekend and she’d somehow convinced herself that his parents were there and that (I guess?) they’d enforce separate sleeping arrangements?

          When I came back, she was asking me about the trip and something I said clued her in to the reality. She asked outright “Were you there ALONE with him?”

          “Yes.”

          She stopped talking to me for two days and then finally came back to me and told me, in situations like that in the future, “just like to me.”

          Shockingly, we have a really awful relationship today.

      • blurfts said:

        Yes. Reasons are for reasonable people, and honesty is for trustworthy people. The breach of trust here is in a parent trying to refuse common and, given what pregnancy and childbirth can be, potentially life-saving medication to an adolescent who needs it. Everything the daughter does after that is responding to a breach of trust, not creating one.

        The googler can give it one more try with her husband, but if he refuses then her choices really are to:

        1) Set up a situation where she doesn’t have to KNOW-know, like taking her daughter for a “well woman” checkup and giving her money for prescriptions but not asking.

        2) Lie to the daughter’s father, encourage her daughter to lie to her father. I think that this is frankly the best solution in 99% of situations.

        My opinion: it’s better that the daughter knows that she can confide in one parent if she has bad birth control side effects, or, heck, has anything go wrong in life that isn’t perfectly in line with her dad’s image of her. Like abuse, or sexual assault, or an unplanned pregnancy, or – idk, but stranding her to deal with whatever that is by herself is an abdication of responsibility.

        Last note: if there’s a chance that her father will react super badly to finding birth control pills or condoms then this poor kid needs a method that is less detectable. No one should be put in the position of having to hide your birth control from your parents like they’re a birth-control sabotaging boyfriend, but there we are.

        • cavyherd said:

          “honesty is for trustworthy people.”

          <blink> How…obvious. And yet, so counter-intuitive.

          …or worse, have the birth-control confiscated by a controlling parent.

          • blurfts said:

            I googled to see if there was any guidance on this and the internet is full of Quoras etc. where people are relating that every time their daughter comes home from college their husband searches her things and throws away her birth control etc.

            There are many loving families that don’t have their act together on reproductive health but I think it’s worth remembering that the balance of power between parents is weird in a lot of families.

          • hope3494 said:

            Just today, at work, I nearly did not have one of my young adult volunteers (think between 18 and 25 in age, going to college full time/saving money by living at home) because of the following sequence of events:
            After they got home last night, their dad hid their bag. This morning, their mother would not let them leave the house until their bag was found because mother thought they had mothers debit card. Standoff ensused until dad woke up and said, “Oh, I have your bag under the bed. Mother, go through it and make sure they have no condoms in there.”

            Because my volunteer otherwise presents as a fairly responsible young person, I’m pretty sure they have condoms tucked away somewhere much more difficult for dad to discover. And also, no, they did not have mother’s debit card either.

            The denial parents put themselves through is utterly astonishing.

    • Jane said:

      While it’s obviously absolutely fine if the girl IS having sex, I’ve also heard a great many stories about teens who were denied birth control to treat awful periods and I kinda think it’s important not to forget that aspect, especially in a teen. No one should have to, say, miss school due to cramps. She should be allowed to make the medical decisions that are right for her, no matter what the reason.

      • lynxwings said:

        High school friend of mine had awful periods — painful, long, super frequent! — and her parents denied her birth control because sex. Astoundingly cruel, honestly. I have very strong opinions in favor of teenagers owning their bodies and having resources to take care of their sexual health but I can at least UNDERSTAND that parents have feelings about their kids’ sex lives and don’t always handle those feelings well. Handling those feelings so poorly you force your kid to endure severe physical pain is another level. If the daughter asked for birth control because she wants to have sex, the husband is still wrong. But if she asked for birth control because of debilitating cramps it might be time to throw the whole husband away.

        • kwallio said:

          I had a dermatologist recommend BC because of acne, which my mom refuse to allow me to take because of ” MY DAUGHTER IS NOT A SLUT” (<– actual words yelled at Dermatologist by mom. I was 13). BC was, in the end, the ONLY medication that controlled my horribly painful cystic acne (and I couldn't access BC until I was OUT of college because of stupid momly reasons). She also refused to allow me to take pain pills for my period cramps. She was catholic, of course.

    • Kaos said:

      Yup. Like I said in another comment, those parents will soon start being called Grandma/Grandpa.

  16. denali denali said:

    I have another possible angle on #14 because I’m fresh from reading “Why Does He Do That?”… is your bf badmouthing his ex and accusing them of mistreating him? Do you know this is absolutely true, or could your bf be misrepresenting the ex? Ask some questions, tread carefully, maybe don’t take your bf’s account as 100% truth until you’re able to get some outside verification.

  17. #20: When my fiancé (50 days! oh god! what is time!) and I moved in together, we did so with a lot of initial deliberation and discussion, and one of the things I said was “If living together doesn’t work out, does that, to you, mean that we have to break up? Because ‘together but living in separate dwellings’ is TOTALLY a valid choice as far as I’m concerned, but if to you moving out means breaking up, I feel like I need to know that up front.”

  18. BigDogLittleCat said:

    #20 – cohabiting is high on the list of life decisions where the rule is “If in doubt, don’t.”

    It’s up there with getting married, giving copious amounts of money to person of unconfirmed reliability, parachutes, and shark diving cages.

  19. nnn said:

    Extrapolating from (but not not specifically useful to) #8: one thing I think all parents should coordinate on is how much help (financial, logistical, brainstorming) they give their kids with gifts for the other parents.

    My mother was always very proactive in helping with gifts for my father, and my father never did anything to help with gifts for my mother. (In retrospect, I suspect he might have helped if I’d asked, but as a kid I took the lack of proactive offer to mean that I wasn’t allowed to ask.)

    And for my entire childhood, I felt horrifically humiliated and guilty that my gifts for my mother weren’t anywhere near good enough. Every single gift-giving occasion I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die, which I suspect isn’t the effect my parents were going for.

    • nnn said:

      But in terms of practical advice for #8, one thing I’ve found useful in gift-giving relationships of financial imbalance is to make the work of shopping the gift.

      Example: “I’m looking for mindblowingly soft towels. I went to the store where I usually buy towels and they were okay, but they weren’t mindblowingly soft like my previous towels.”

      The work of finding mindblowingly soft towels is that you have to go to a bunch of stores in person and feel all the towels, which takes time and energy and I hate doing. So the other person does this as their gift to me, and the effort they’ve saved me is worth far more than the price of the towels.

      If you already have a give-your-kid-money dynamic going on, you could give them the money in advance and ask for something specific, with the understanding that their gift to you is finding the softest towels in town.

      • I think *for me* as a gift giver that approach wouldn’t work well, because I’d spend a lot of time second-guessing which towels were really the softest and whether they were soft enough. But then I have a lot of anxiety around gift-giving in general, and I can see this approach working for other people. And I do agree in general that picking out a gift and/or putting in the actual effort of shopping is itself a gift.

  20. whinypants anon just needs somewhere to leave these feelings said:

    #13, I ask myself this far more often than I’d like to. Being openly, unrepentantly queer + poly hurts my parents, and sometimes it hurts my partners, and sometimes…sometimes it hurts my children, and that’s hardest of all. (How many playdates do they not receive from parents who disapprove of my “lifestyle”? I pray I never actually find out.)

    In moments like this when I am feeling brave and certain: it does not mean I love them any less for being true to myself.

    In every other moment though… oh gods, what have I done, who do I possibly think I am for having the temerity and the selfishness to do these things to people I say I care about.

    And so maybe I’m projecting far too much. Maybe you’re asking about something with a far less complicated answer: contempt, control, and nonconsensual contact are all anathema to healthy relationships, and if you are engaging in behaviors like those, get some distance and then get professional help.

    But in case I’m not… Jedi hugs, if you want them, and a warm cup of comforting beverage of your choice.

    • Sometimes there’s sort of a middle area too, where someone is hurting someone with something that’s genuinely harmful, like, their addiction, or their eating disorder. Unlike being queer or poly, where the hurt wouldn’t exist at all if a person /culture weren’t bigoted in the first place, and being open is the only way to evoke change.

      But with eating disorders or addiction, someone you love hurts because they empathize with you when you hurt yourself. Or because your addiction pushes you to cover it up with lying, or feed it by stealing from them.

      Sometimes the answer is, yes, it is possible to love your partner, and still hurt them. And that’s tough because it’s one of those things where love in and of itself just isn’t enough to cure a disorder or treat an addiction. Love might not last long enough to get the treatment you need even if you want it.

      And someone might distance themselves from you to protect themselves from that pain, and that could hurt you, and in this way it is possible for two people to both love each other and both hurt each other. I’ve seen this happen too often. I’m not sure what the answer is.

    • Vicki said:

      I can’t tell you how to balance being openly yourself with what’s best for your children (and probably couldn’t even if I knew you), but modeling honesty is also something that your children will benefit from. I can tell you that I want–and am fortunate to have–partners who are positive about me being openly queer and poly. That doesn’t mean their families, or anyone’s coworkers, have had all the details–I’m okay being “this is my friend Vicki” instead of “girlfriend/partner Vicki” to someone’s colleagues I may never see again–but it would hurt me to make an effort to hide.

      Who you are is the person who has the temerity to tell the world “I love them” about your partners, and to push back against the selfishness of relatives who can’t or won’t see you even when you hand them a captioned photograph.

      (I don’t think you, or anyone, owes the world more openness than you’re comfortable with–but I do think we don’t owe it to closed-minded relatives to closet ourselves for their comfort.)

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      To be honest, I think loving and hurting someone are entirely unrelated. You can feel neutral about someone but still treat them well, you can love someone and treat them badly, and you can love someone and treat them as best as you can, but still hurt them one way or another. I think you just have to decide whether or not you are behaving reasonable, ethically and considerately towards someone, whether or not you love them.

    • Marginally related, this is partly why I think the “born this way” type arguments for why it’s OK to be queer aren’t enough. Who you’re attracted to isn’t a choice, but who you date is. So if the moral justification for why it’s OK to be queer/why straight people should not be assholes to queer people is “oh, they can’t help it”, then what does that say about the things you *can* help? Does that mean you should be as minimally queer as you can possibly make yourself? No. (Sending lots of love and support your way.)

  21. Leigh said:

    Q6. I stopped answering the door to my old woman neighbour over a year ago after reading a few of the captain’s posts on such a topic. I don’t like her and I don’t think she is a good person (racist etc), and every time I felt I had to talk to her it ruined my whole day. I know she has plenty of people coming to her house (like care in the community type people) because I see their cars in her driveway, so apart from that, I couldn’t give a crap if she is lonely and wants to chat, because I don’t want to chat to her. Pretty much everyone on my block doesn’t answer their door to her I have found out which eliviates some of my guilt. If you live alone, you also have tons of excuses such as on the toilet, in the shower, napping, listening to music and didn’t hear the door, in another part of the unit and didn’t hear the door, meditating, cooking with stuff boiling away on the stove etc etc. my neighbour turned a bit mean afterwards and started doing things like reporting me to the council for my dogs (barking etc which were dropped), but I just rode it out and now happily ignore her.

  22. Kaos said:

    18: Your husband/her father does not own her body. He does not own her sexuality. Get her BC…even if you have to do it behind his back. Show your daughter that women need to stick together and support each other, especially in the wake of entitled, authoritarian males.

    I know he’s her father so yeah I understand the paternalism in that particular context, but she needs to understand right now, and as an on going lesson that males are not in charge of women’s’ choices. If she’s old enough to need BC, then she is old enough to not need to inform Daddy. Her body, her business, full fucking stop!

  23. twomoogles said:

    Because one was right after the other, I imagined 16/17 being related. “Why does my coworker keep asking if I’m OK?” “Because their kink is comforting their coworkers about their bad days!”

  24. I immediately assumed #17 is neuroatypical in some way; I think every single autistic, OCD, and ADHD person has at some point been asked “Hey, are you okay?” because we forgot to perform body language, facial expression, or tone of voice. When neurotypical people have flat, affectless expressions, they’re usually pretending not to be angry/hurt/sad, so well-meaning people ask if we’re okay. If it’s being asked repeatedly, this might be why.

    My response as a kid was to rigorously train myself to emote. If I were getting those questions now, I’d say, “Yeah, my face/voice/body language just does that thing sometimes. Usually it happens when I’m distracted or intensely focused. I promise I’m fine and you don’t need to ask me that.” And if they kept asking, I’d ask whether they were concerned that I was angry at them or upset about something they did, and assure them that if I had any kind of problem with them I would bring it up directly.

    • Maddie said:

      I, meanwhile, wondered if the co-worker was from the UK, where saying “are you all right?” is a common way of saying “how are you today?” and has no subtext of “is something wrong?” at all. It’s aThis confused me for many months when I first lived there. And then I started doing it and confused many people when I returned to Australia.

  25. Jessen said:

    On #17 – is it possible that the coworker is from another country/culture? I ask because I had such a time with that with our british office at the last job. Some of them use “you alright/you ok?” the way we use “how are you?” – i.e. in a way that’s not really a question at all, just an expected pleasantry. But I went through a lot of racking my brain until someone clued me in!

    • sarai0989 said:

      Yes! I came here to say the same thing. My sister (Aussie) moved to the UK and found it hard to get used to. In our culture that question implies “you do NOT look ok!” but in theirs it’s just a friendly “how’s it going?”

      • Maddie said:

        And I should have read further down, because that was my thought too!

  26. Andy said:

    I feel like maybe #13 missed the mark. You can love someone and still have to hurt them sometimes. I mean, honestly, sometimes it hurts me when my best friend wants to hang out with other people when I want to hang out with her. But I suck it up because that’s a totally reasonable thing for her to do! I don’t think it would be right to tell her, “If you love [me], stop hurting me.” Sometimes having personal boundaries hurts other people and that’s okay.

    (Of course, if you hurt the person by, e.g., hurling slurs at them, that’s very different. But I think it’s case-specific…)

    • JenniferP said:

      Good point!

  27. cavyherd said:

    Q16: TW for stalking:

    ::shudder:: Reminds me of the time a (female) coworker received a gift of soft restraints. Anonymously. Through inter-office mail. With the note: “I’d love to be bound to you.”

    During the all-staff meeting, the division director’s hands were visibly shaking.

    And then there was the following week, passing male coworkers in the hallways, wondering, “Who?”

    • mossyone said:

      That makes me extremely angry. I bet the person who did this did it in such a public way to enjoy the non-consensual humiliation aspect, which adds an extra layer of ick.

    • EEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!! I hope the creep who sent that got a short trip out the door permanently!

      • Also, a woman could have been the sicko as well.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      AHHHH. Wait, does the “director’s hands were visibly shaking” mean you thought it was the division director who sent them? Or the director was super angry on behalf of the coworker? Or the coworker was the division director?
      No matter what, that story is awful and gross and creepy.

  28. egl said:

    #9 I’m interpreting from your query that he still has an account, but is it possible he’s no longer checking it, so sees that as “no longer on the dating app”?

  29. Susanna said:

    Re 17: in many parts of the world (such as parts of the UK) “are you all right?” is equivalent to “how are you?” and the expected answer is “you all right?” back again. I know many Americans I’ve spoken to have been initially confused about this, so maybe check that this isn’t happening here. (And if it is, it’s not really okay to ask them to stop using it!)

  30. Amtep said:

    “Do I really love my partner if am hurting her/him?”

    I just want to bring this up for anyone who needs to hear it: a known abusive dynamic is for the partner to be “hurt” by healthy things you’re doing for yourself, thus gradually discouraging you from any kind of self-care or independence. This can be pretty mind-twisting, so I encourage you to get some kind of outside opionion about what’s going on.

    • Cassandra said:

      This is an excellent point, Amtep

  31. Nothing to say about the letters this time; I just want to say that I really enjoy the monthly music picks. I’ve listened to this one a few times over, and September Girls by the Bangles has been in my ears for the past two months as well 🙂

  32. Belle said:

    Regarding the moving in situation in #20, I see a lot of “doubt means don’t” or “if it’s not a hell yes it’s a no”, and I just wanted to point out that for some people any big change or raising of stakes will come with more panic than excitement, especially if you have anxiety. I love my partner to the ends of the earth, but we’re talking about moving in together and I’m far more scared than I am excited, purely because I can’t not think about how things could go wrong and how painful that would be. Negative forecasting is unfortunately just what my brain likes to do, and I always have to push past that and accept that I’m scared and doubtful and do the thing anyway. when I see the idea that any misgivings means I’m making the wrong choice it pisses me off because I generally feel like if you make a big step with absolutely zero fear or doubt, you haven’t thought it through properly. Living with my partner might be amazing, but it might bring out bad things in us, or change the dynamic in a way that doesn’t work, and I don’t need to obliterate any doubt from my mind before I accept those possibilities and make the leap.

    I know cap’s advice is way more nuanced than the usual stuff but I always think it bears emphasising that if I held to the idea that I had to be raring to go with zero doubts and no fear before I did anything, I’d literally never do anything. I definitely agree with the idea that having solid contingency plans in place is important, but not that all cold feet are feet that should be driving the decision.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for this perspective! I’m an anxious person to (both diagnosed big A and little a) think even in this case, halting the moving process long enough to ask the kind of questions and have the kind of talks that lead to “Look, it’s just my anxiety, my decision is still a go” is valuable. Like, if someone is expressing anxiety or doubts, I want to find out what’s really going on with that, not try to sell the person who is having doubts on the plan or keep the plan intact at all costs.

    • Anxious for days said:

      Thank you for writing this! I too am having a lot of anxiety about moving in with my partner and I literally can’t even come up with a convincing living together related issue – we are similar levels of cleanliness, we communicate really openly, we both like some alone time and we both have hobbies outside the house a couple of evenings a week so we should easily achieve that alone time, etc. I just have a terror of breaking up with someone I live with and the potential housing instability that would bring with it, especially given that neither of us have relatives living nearby. For now we are putting the apartment hunting on hold for a few months and I’m using the time to gather the necessary savings for deposit+furniture+’emergency move out fund’. I think the most important thing is to be able to communicate with your partner about what the cold feet are about. I mean, I also just got a new job and I went from overjoyed to worrying about whether they would honour my prebooked holiday or be upset about it within about half an hour, I’m just a worrier.

  33. Dynamitochondria said:

    I’d like to say thank you for #18 without going into why. Just thanks.

  34. Cora said:

    Re #2, it’s never weird to feel what you feel, including loneliness in a relationship of whatever length. In 22 years of marriage, I’ve felt intensely lonely at times. Having a partner, even for the committed long-term, doesn’t cure loneliness. It’s just something we all have to cope with at times. Which sucks, but, you know, Jedi hugs. You will find out a way out of loneliness.

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