It Came From The Search Terms: January Song

It is time for the return of the feature where we answer things people typed into search engines to find this place as if they are questions. Obviously we are missing details and nuance and the larger story. (That’s what makes it fun).

First, as traditional: music with the month somewhere in the song.

Second, the “questions.”

1 Wife refuses to take birth control.

The opposite/other angle of this post! Everybody’s the boss of their own body and your wife doesn’t have to put anything in hers that she doesn’t want to. So, if you are a person who can have the possibly-results-in-babies brand of sex with said wife, and you don’t want to risk making babies, I recommend the following steps to control your controllables:

  • Don’t do any of the sex stuff that could possibly result in babies until you have a clear and reliable path/decision about this. You can choose to not cause an unwanted pregnancy!
  • Talk to your wife honestly about what you want out of your life and your relationship. (Babies…never? Babies…but not yet?) and listen to her. Maybe she wants babies more than she wants you, and that’s sad, but giving her a chance to make an informed choice about that is the most loving thing you can do.
  • If what you truly want is “No babies (or risk thereof)!” your wife doesn’t have to go on birth control she doesn’t want. Instead, you could take steps to limit your own fertility.

2 “Mistake of loving a man who does not love himself.”

“How can you love anybody else if you don’t love yourself?” is the axiom, right? It’s one of those things that seems logically sound, but I’m not sure it is. I think it’s possible to love other people even when it’s hard to love yourself, I think sometimes that loving other people is how you teach yourself to love yourself (Like, “wait, would I let someone treat [person I love] the way I’m treating me?”), so I’m not always one to make “love yourself, then others” the absolute order of operations.

Given that, how does this man treat YOU. How are his behaviors toward YOU. What kind of care does he take of YOU. Is he good and kind to the people in his life? If he doesn’t love himself but he’s good to you, maybe you can work with that (though it’s up to him to figure out how to be better to himself, not you to make that happen).

If he doesn’t love himself and he’s not good to you? That’s a trap.

3 “My best friend had a baby and I can’t stand little kids.”

Here are your choices:

  1. Learn to “stand” your friend’s kids, at least a little, the way someone had to learn how to “stand” you when you were a tiny human.
  2. Don’t, knowing that you and your friend will grow apart.

If you Just Can’t with kids and babies, I believe you and I don’t want to fight with you. You can’t. So, don’t! Just, I strongly believe that decision will have consequences for your friendship and you should know what they are. The kids won’t always be little, but your friend will probably always remember if you disappear from her life when she has a child or treat her child like it’s something she inflicted on you. Friendships can grow and outlast big changes, and it’s possible to balance time with small kids with solo friend time, so I hope the people looking for this can realize kids are just humans and they live here, too.

4 “My friend never wants to go out anymore now that she has small kids.” 

Good timing! A common problem! Small kids can’t be left alone, “cool” venues and outings are wasted on them, and babysitters are expensive (like, mentally add $40-80 to every planned outing you want your friend to do and see if you still expect them to cheerfully do it). For years, Mr. Awkward and I have followed this program for brand new parent-friends:

  • Set a day and time. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight before naptime can be the best time (maximum quiet) or the worst time (the longer they sleep, the worse the diaper situation when they wake).
  • Show up to friend-parents house with food or makings of something hearty and large, a casserole or stew with strong leftover potential.
  • Parents leave house, go see matinee.
  • Awkwards keep baby alive and prepare large food thing.
  • Parents come home, we all eat.
  • Baby goes to bed.
  • Parents & Awkwards stay up, watch stabby television that needs parental guidance warnings, drink booze, play games with complicated rules and swears!
  • Awkwards go home, leaving a clean kitchen, alive baby & parents, and a fridge full of leftover stew behind.
  • EVERYBODY STILL HAS FRIENDZZZZ.

Alternately, parent-friends like to go out sometimes without their small kids, but sometimes you gotta alternate which parent you’re gonna entice out of the house because someone’s gotta stay behind (or spend $40-$80).

5 “Friends forgot my birthday quotes”

I don’t know about quotes, were you looking for this post?

I’m still sticking with “It hurts when people who usually acknowledge your birthday forget” and “If you are an adult who wants something in particular to happen on your birthday, please tell people! Please help them give you what would make you happy.” 

6 “Getting husband to buy flowers” 

Look, it’s the old “I don’t just want flowers, I want my spouse to want to buy me flowers ‘just because’ without being asked” problem, like, I know, we all want small acts of romance and kindness, but you married that person, the one who could clearly use some verbal reminding about flowers, so:

Do you want flowers, or, do you want to be married to someone else?

Legit either way, I guess? If asking “Would you surprise me with flowers once a month or so? It would make me so happy if you did that sometimes, even a really inexpensive grocery store bunch!” seems more difficult than divorce, you know your own life best. For example, I’m not gonna tell you you have to stay with the person who sees a direct request for a small happy-making thing as an opportunity to argue with you, so if you tell them they are like “it’s not really a surprise, now, is it,” and therefore “there’s no point” to doing a tiny thing that you told them would make you happy, leaving you both “without flowers” and “vaguely wrong for even mentioning them.” If you’re married to WELL, ACTUALLY, THEY’RE JUST WASTEFUL USELESS DEAD PLANTS, AND ALSO, I WAS PLANNING TO ‘SURPRISE’ YOU SOMEDAY BUT YOU RUINED IT FOREVER BY ASKING Guy,  here you go. Be happy and free!

But I don’t think it’s a happy path to expect love to involve a lot of mind reading and then setting up little tests for each other to (probably) fail. There probably are some “I simply love to surprise people with flowers out of the blue!” people on earth, but there are way more of the “Yay, I am happy to buy some flowers sometimes, I knew that was a thing Some People liked but not that My Person liked it so much, this will be fun, I’m glad they asked!” people. And we will bring you flowers sometimes, if you ask.

7 “How to ask for financial assistance from my uncle.”

Weirdly, this search term comes up EVERY SINGLE TIME I look at my search terms, but I have never (as far as I know) answered it.

:DRAMATIC SOUND EFFECT:

Until now.

My suggestion would be be very direct, specific, and get to the point. A mad lib:

Dear Uncle,

I hope you are well. 

Would you be willing and able to help me out with finances for [Reason you need the money]. The estimated amount I would need from you is [$$$$.$$. And yes, name the exact number, and name the maximum/most you would actually need right here, don’t underplay it to get someone to say yes with the expectation you can go back for more later], and I would ideally need it [when and how you need it paid, all at once, over time, once a year for x number of years, etc. Lay it all out clearly.].

[At this point, clarify whether you intend this to be a gift or a loan, and if it’s a loan, when and how you realistically expect to pay it back. Also offer to put any loan terms in writing].

Please let me know if you can help, I appreciate it so much.

Love,

[name]”

In my experience, people can tell when you’re about to ask them for a favor, the more time you spend psyching yourself up to ask or pretending you contacted them for some other reason or overselling the thing, the less respectful it actually is in the end and the more the person will want you to get to the point. If it’s worth asking, ASK. Make it very easy for the person to know what they are saying yes or no to.

Good luck, Niblings of Earth!

8 “Calling sister a slut.”

Don’t. I frown upon this. I don’t think it’s a word you get to apply to other people, or use as an insult.

9 “Why does your fiancé keep his toxic father in his life?”

I don’t know. Lots of reasons: Loyalty, nostalgia, they think they have to, hope for a different ending, a little bit of a relationship feels better than none, having a toxic parent feels better than having no parents, not ready to let go/give up.

I’m a big fan of letting people make their choices about their own relationships while also setting boundaries about how much a toxic person is allowed to annoy/inconvenience/hurt/alarm YOU. Abusive people tell their victims what to do and how to feel, who they can and can’t have in their lives, and they are generally terrible at boundaries, so one way to counteract (not undo, unfortunately, but thwart) their abuse is to say “Babe, you can have whatever relationship with your dad you think is right for you, you’re the boss of all that! If you want to take a break from seeing him, I support you – I don’t think you have to let him into your life just ’cause he’s family if he doesn’t treat you right, and I also know that I don’t feel comfortable around him, so I’d prefer to not spend much time with him, if any. But it’s really up to you, if you want to see him, please do. This is where my boundary is, so you know.” 

10 “How to tell my step dad my biological dad is walking me down the aisle.” 

Obviously this is a glimpse of a longer, more complicated tale. Without knowing that tale, I’d say some guiding principles are 1) Assume nothing about who is ‘supposed to’ do what at a wedding and assume nothing about your stepdad’s likely expectations around that, ’cause he may not have any? and 2) When you talk to him about it, do it in terms of asking  what you WOULD like him to do at your wedding.

Stepdad…knows…you have another dad? So, if it’s overall a good relationship, maybe instead of treating this like bad news that you’re breaking, you could say to Stepdad, “StepDad, I’m gonna have BioDad walk with me down the aisle, will you escort Mom, and then all three of you can stand there with me for the ‘who presents this person to be married?’ part?” (The truth of your relationships/relative affection for all/any of these people will be what they are even if they all stand with you for that moment).

I would also think about when/how you decide to communicate this depending on the relationship and how far away your wedding is. Depending on your aisle, the “walk down the aisle” is literally a few seconds and a photo-op, does the question of it need to hang over y’all for months at a time or is it something that can be sorted at the rehearsal, with a breezy, “Okay, you’re over here with me, you’re with Mom, glad all my Dads can be here, let’s do this thing, yaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy, so happyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!! (+ i.e. I’m getting married tomorrow and I goddamn dare someone to pick a fight with me about this)!attitude. The benefit of delaying this decision (or at least delaying communicating it): If a grown-ass man/dad figure is likely to get angry/punish you/act super weird and possessive about who is walking you down the aisle at your wedding, you always have the option to walk yourself down.

11 (plus) “How to say you want a relationship on dating apps?”

Straightforwardly! I find the whole “I’m looking to have a long-term romantic relationship someday, but I’ve internalized that the only way to find someone is to fake that it never even occurred to me fall in love with any living creature before, lest I scare them off forever with my enthusiasm!” game to be second only to the “I know we said we were getting married and we share a household, so when are you going to SURPRISE! ask me to marry you, as a total surprise?” game in pointlessness and tedium.

Say what you want. For instance:

  • “I’m interested in finding a long-term partner and I’m interested in meeting other people who are looking for the same thing.”
  • “I’m on this app because I’m looking to meet people who might be a good match for me for a long-term committed relationship. That doesn’t mean you have to fill out an application and have an audition tape before we can meet for a drink, but if you’re looking for something more casual we’re probably not a great fit right now!” 
  • “I’d like to date people who are cool with at least the notion of getting married and having kids, ideally within the next decade. As fun as it is to bait and trap a series of reluctant, relentlessly single people into a lifetime of domestic partnership they never wanted, why not work less hard at this and just admit from the get go that we’d really like to fall in love someday, with someone? 

I want the people like the determined child-free guy in this letter to find the child-free woman he’s looking for, without apology! And without wasting the time of people who want different things from life!

Looking over my inbox, there are lots of brave folks who want to meet new people to smooch (or emphatically Not Smooch) in 2019, so I adapted some of them into personal ads below. If you see your letter sort of adapted here (there are definitely composites), please know: I SEE YOU and I LOVE YOU and I WANT WHAT YOU WANT FOR YOU and I hope you will a) laugh b) feel seen and less alone c) feel like you can ask for whatever you really and truly want from your precious beautiful life, for real, just please say the thing you need even if it’s oddly specific or seems hopeless. Someone else is gonna see themselves here in what you wrote to me, and they may not be exactly your type/single/geographically feasible/into you, but you are not the only one who feels the way you do, I promise you.

Please enjoy (and freely copy/adapt) Some Highly Specific Dating Profiles I’d Like To See In 2019:

  • FRIENDS FIRST FER SURE: “I think I’m a demisexual,which means I like to get to know people for a very long time before the idea of any sex is on the table. I’d love to fall in love and have sex and all of it someday, but I need to take all of that verrrrrrrrry slow, which can make being on sites like this pretty frustrating: Frustrating for you as you wait to see if I’ll bang you someday and frustrating for me (as I wait to see if I’ll bang you someday, as meanwhile I fall in love with my friends one by one). Any fellow sexual snails/turtles/other slow-moving-but-completely-adorable creatures out there want to go on some dates with me? As friends?”
  • ACES IN (MEAT)SPACE: “I am asexual and looking for fellow local asexual people to meet and maybe snuggle with sometimes without pressure to do anything else about that. There has to be someone else on this app who is like ‘I think I want a romantic partner someday but not exactly in the way that most people mean that, so how do I even do this without it being soooooooooooooooo exhausting’, right? Everyone I know who identifies as ace is online and farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr away. They are wonderful, but a girl can’t live by Tumblr alone, so follow the ACE-beacon I’m flashing in the sky. I’ll buy the first bubble tea.”
  • I AM YOUR WILLING SEXUAL HOUSEPLANT: “I’m an extremely horny, mildly kinky, bisexual polyamorous graduate student with a long-distance fiancé and almost no free time, looking for someone who wants to have a really fun sexy date ideally once a month, preferably every third Thursday between 3pm and 12 am (no sleepovers, I have an early class the next day) as well as a standing invite to the regular 2nd Sunday metamour community potluck and D&D game. Who else has a totally crap schedule and would like the occasional hot make-out session with someone smart and nice and low-maintenance, especially someone who will not give you sad puppy eyes when you return to your research for weeks at a time? P.S. HARD NO ‘people who just love debating.'”
  • LET’S FIGURE THIS WHOLE DEAL OUT: “I’ve never dated anyone before, and at 28 I wanna go on some first dates but I don’t really know what I’m doing. What if we figured this out together? Let’s go dutch, do inexpensive fun things in the city, and not have too many expectations or preconceptions. Who’s with me? Maybe we’ll fall in love, maybe we’ll just help each other feel less weird about being alone and not really knowing ‘how’ to do this awkward thing everybody but me seems to already know how to do.”
  • MILD AGORAPHOBIA AND EXTREMELY CUTE CATS: “Listen, it’s winter. It’s cold outside. I want to meet you! But I have a low-level anxiety disorder that makes it so that don’t want to leave my house more than I have to. What if we met up in public/with other friends around for safety reasons and after that we could skip right to “friends/dating for 1 year mode” where everybody wears very comfy clothes, you bring over books and craft projects or whatever you like doing, I make us soup or order delivery, we sit under warm blankets and watch good (or bad) television together? If sex & love follow, great? I’d probably be up for that? And I could come to your house sometimes, I guess? I just…I don’t want to go ‘on dates.’ I like to be at home, which I promise you, is as cozy and welcoming as it can possibly be.”
  • NOT YOUR ______- 101 TUTOR. “I need to meet some fellow Gen-X queer and transgender POC lovelies who have figured at least some of their personal bullshit OUT. No disrespect to the newbies (I love y’all so much, but I just can’t right now), I need the people who ‘came out’ at least a decade ago, the ones who either figured out how to have a relationship with family or who wrote those jerks off. (I’m not playing the ‘No, where are you *really* from?‘ game with your Grandma ever again. I’m from Maryland.) Please also be… not a white person (I love…some…of you…so much, but I can’t right now), and please have a political agenda beyond making sure rich white Republican men who don’t give a single shit about the rest of us can claim each other on their taxes. If you have a therapist, great, if you’re on your 10th therapist, EVEN BETTER. I know I sound like a buzzkill but I promise I am a creature of joy and light (and really great shoes) and I swear we will have the BEST TIME. I’m just very tired of teaching unpaid impromptu Intro To The Local Scene workshops to the beautiful children and hungry to meet some grown folks. Let’s go to concerts and sit down in actual seats like God and my aching knees intended!”
  • EQUAL PARTS HOPE AND RESENTMENT ABOUT HAVING TO BE HERE: “I’m divorced. You’re divorced. We both have kids. We did not think we’d ever be doing this dating thing again, we’re not sure we want to, but we’re starting to think that sometimes it would be nice to have someone smile at us, laugh at a joke we told, do a small nice thing for us again (and appreciate the reverse),  or have an adult conversation. Does any of this sound good? Happy to schedule around custody stuff, I’ll save my ‘terrible ex’ stories for ‘not the first date’ if you will!”
  • GRANDMA. SCHOOLTEACHER (RETIRED). BASS PLAYER (NOT RETIRED). “I may be old but I’m not dead. Swipe left if you think what’s playing on ‘the oldies’ station sounds like ‘that racket’ your adult kids used to play before they all moved out. Swipe right if you want to go to shows and confuse the young.”

It’s 2019. New year! New plan! Stop trying to be open to every possible person, stop worrying about what’s “normal,” you don’t want every possible person, you aren’t for every possible person, you are who you are and you want what you want. Own. It. The good responses will be better, the crappy ones will have to try harder (and at least be more entertaining), and maybe some of the people who are just gonna bore you or waste your time will pass you by.

(P.S. The shy people who want to move slow? ARE LEGION.)

272 comments
  1. Bellebelle said:

    I love your dating profiles, like I laughed with tears in my eyes loved them. Ha! I feel Seen, as a demisexual, bisexual, 25 year old with no clue what she’s doing, thank you!

    • Evan Þ said:

      As an almost-28-year-old who’s never dated anyone before, I feel the same way!

      • Butternut Squash said:

        Sorta creepy, but I suddenly feel a kinship with y’all. I’ve been bemoaning being a 30 year old bisexual, religious, liberal virgin (and just now added demisexual to the list after reading the description) and I feel so validated knowing there are other “older” young people in the world who aren’t Experienced. ;P

        Captain, your dating profiles made my day. xoxo

    • “I am your willing sexual houseplant” made me giggle. I’m very much the opposite to the person described, but I love it because seeing these all together demonstrates so well that one person’s dealbreakers are another person’s “SIGN ME UP”

      • rontoad said:

        Somewhere out in the EveryWeb exists “Houseplants of Gor.”

        Go on, I dare you.

        • grumpybciamtired said:

          Oh. My. God. Thank you for that laugh, but I’m also horrified.

    • myzania said:

      Hi-five Bellebelle. Difference is that sometimes I feel like I know what I’m doing, then I question that. 😉

    • MusicWithRocksInIt said:

      You could do dating profiles as a career. A third career because I don’t want you to stop doing this – but still – you have the gift. “P.S. HARD NO ‘people who just love debating.’” x 1,000,000

    • Batgirl said:

      I’m not even dating & I want to use those profiles!

    • DropTable~DropsMic said:

      I WANT GRANDMA TO FIND LOVE

    • PlasterMaster said:

      Hey, at least you’re not the only person with no clue what the’re doing. I’m in a very similar place! This post happened just on time for me – I was going to open a dating profile for the first time ever, then realized I hardly have any pictures of myself that aren’t old OR any idea of what to write.

    • Elenna said:

      Those are the BEST dating profiles and I now have ideas for if I ever get around to making one 😀

    • Katie said:

      Wait, that’s me! I feel seen as a demisexual 50 year old with no clue what she’s doing! ARE YOU MY TWIN? Or the child I never had? Or a younger doppelganger?

    • I didn’t know that “demisexual” was a word, or that there was a word for that, and yet it’s basically how I’ve lived my life, without much interest in sexual involvement with anyone I don’t know well. And yet I don’t feel like it’s put much of a crimp in my love life.

      I have been wondering for a few years now how the prevalence of dating apps affects such people — I lasted all of two days the one time I tried a dating site. To me, dating sites/apps are just the same old problem sped up a thousand times — if I agree to a date with a guy, he will believe I’m already attracted to him, won’t believe I’m not, and on some level, no matter how mild, the date will be an exercise in fending him off. Needless to say, I’m never so at a loss to fill my time as to make that sound fun.

      (WTF is it with guys who run around claiming you’re in a relationship with them, when all that happened was that they asked you out, and while you didn’t say yes, you didn’t ax-murder them either?)

      Obviously, this makes me extra pissy with assholes who try the stealth date nonsense where they convince you something is not a date, then when you get there, they act like it totally is a date. I don’t get the point of that — “Let’s make sure she loathes me with the fire of a thousand suns! That’ll work!”

      I don’t know what to say to those younger than me having to navigate this current world where you’re supposed to make a decision on attraction from a picture without even meeting the person, other than the usual — if you’re out in the world doing things, you’ll meet people and get to know them, and that’s your best shot. And that it’s not required. You don’t have to be in pursuit of romantic pairing all the time no matter how much our society pressures you otherwise. You’re allowed to focus on other goals just like men have always been allowed to focus on other goals and have it be praised as ambition and dedication. I can say that the words, “I don’t know you well enough,” or “I don’t know you very well,” serve as a useful litmus test to sort out the guys who are both sane enough and interested enough to back the fuck off for a while and see if anything develops, and if it does, treasure it all the more. (Warning note: It does NOT weed out the stalkers. Those suckers spring up everywhere.) And I can say my happiest, longest relationship started with overwhelming mutual attraction and with me refusing to allow it to go past flirting for three years. He thought it worth the wait.

  2. theseus said:

    I felt the “not looking to date newbies” dating profile with my SOUL & am going to edit my own dating profile as soon as I remember the password to it. Thank you for that!

    • JenniferP said:

      “Send me your slightly grizzled gays, with their creaking joints, yearning to meet somewhere dancing is optional and the music is played at a conversational volume, and yet, we can hold hands if we want to and you promise you won’t introduce me as Your Friend From Work.”

      • buddleia said:

        You’re a dating profile alchemist (in addition to the being the Marie Kondo of breakups). How do you do it?! If you ever start charging to ghostwrite dating profiles, I will happily pay for that. Seriously. Feeling the “not your _101 tutor” one so hard.

      • Persia said:

        @Captain: I’m guessing “and yet, we can hold hands if we want to and you promise you won’t introduce me as Your Friend From Work” is for screening out the cheaters, right?

        • Vicki said:

          I read that as something like “I’m openly queer. If we’re dating, I’m not going to pretend we’re ‘just friends’ to your family or friends, and I won’t ask you to pretend in front of mine.”

    • Mary said:

      The process of your own attractiveness-zone ageing is SO fascinating, and I’ve never seen it discussed. I remember first noticing it when I was about thirty two: I’d see someone across the room and think, “oh, kinda attractive”. And then when I actually talked to them I’d notice they were starting to get laughter lines around their eyes and my brain would go, “oh! You’re a proper grown-up, not one of those only-just-grownups! You have a history and probably interesting stories! Let’s do a THING!”

  3. Sunny said:

    #2 – There have been a couple times in my marriage when I’ve said some version of “look, you are miserable right now, and have been for a while. And it’s getting bad enough that it’s making me miserable. Please go change something/get help.” And because my husband is a decent person, it’s been enough to kick him out of his rut and he goes and makes changes/gets help. There’s also been a couple times when I’ve used my desire to keep our relationship healthy as motivation to do things that I couldn’t do on my own.

    The end goal is being able to do things for your own sake, even really hard things. But until you get there, use any motivation you can find. Trying to be better to people that you love is a particularly powerful one.

    If you’re in love with someone who is depressed, and they’re not putting in *several times as much work* to fix it as you are, nah. Not worth it. Better to write tragic songs/poetry/journal entries about how much you love them, but you can’t be together because it’d kill you both.

    • JenniferP said:

      Your initial script for encouraging a partner to get help honestly and bluntly is so great.

      • Sunny said:

        Thank you! I’ve developed that communication style out of necessity. I will happily dissect my feelings for hours at a time, and my husband is 100% Not Like That. All our most important conversations have been two sentences spoken at very carefully chosen moments. It took me a while to figure out that a) that works for us and b) it’s a valid form of communication, because I’ve never seen it modeled.

        • JMegan said:

          Oh my gosh, Sunny – thank YOU! I struggle with this as well, and it helps so much to know there are other couples out there like mine.

          I’m the daughter of a psychologist and a lawyer, and we talked about feelings (and everything else) A LOT. So I came into adult relationships with the model of Talking About Things, with the expectation that both people would participate in the conversation and there would be some sort of resolution at the end of it. My partner is the son of 1950’s gender norms, and grew up with the expectation that men probably don’t have feelings, and if they do, they certainly don’t TALK about them, are you kidding me right now?

          So we butt heads about that a lot. We have also settled on your model of “All our most important conversations have been two sentences spoken at very carefully chosen moments” – it works, but I don’t love it. So I really appreciate you pointing this out and allowing me to flip the script – I don’t have to love it, because it works. Thanks!

          • Vicki said:

            Thank you for ” it works, but I don’t love it. So I really appreciate you pointing this out and allowing me to flip the script – I don’t have to love it, because it works.’

            That’s something I am going to make a note of for myself, elsewhere.

          • If someone tries to have FeelingsTalks with me, my default reaction is to tell them what I think they want to hear. My body language gives away what I’m really feeling, and the other person says, “Bullshit. What are you really feeling?” At that point, I am free to say what I really feel, because I have made a good faith effort to say the socially correct thing.

            I know that is not a nice pattern. It is a very bad pattern. I also know that saying the wrong thing can have Consequences.

          • Talk is cheaper than it's been in years said:

            We do this, I don’t love it, and I don’t think it works. It’s been a month since I told my husband I had some important sexual coming-out to do to him, and he asked to hear it and be able to respond to it at his own pace (great! Use your words!) but after the first half or so of these bite sized conversations, he just… Hasn’t brought it up again. I want to respect his need to have time to process, but how much is enough?

            Shit, sorry, I should probably take this to the Forums, shouldn’t I?

        • I LOVE short, blunt communication. I just had this conversation with my polyamorous friends, that my capacity for FeelingsTalks/processing is almost zero. I’m like “get to the point, what do you need?” It can come off as callous, but lots of words (not just feelings words, but detailed explanations and talky talk in general) completely drain me.

          Plus the conversation is rarely linear or rational or goal-oriented, so I feel like I’m sifting thru meaningless details, trying to find the point and resolve the issue. When for them, the point is just to verbalize their feelings, and that makes them feel seen and connected. For me it feels intrusive, and exhausting.

          I’ve also learned that: “I value open and honest communication” actually means “I value highly detailed, lengthy discussions/dissections about our relationship/feelings in order to feel secure and that you aren’t withholding.” Which is a completely valid thing to need! But it’s not The One True Way to communicate effectively.

          • Kacienna said:

            ‘I’m like “get to the point, what do you need?”’

            This is how I am when various activists and such on the street want to talk to me from their scripts. I can always tell when people are using a script and I hate how unnatural it feels, so I tend to jump straight to “I support your cause, but I don’t have a lot of time – what’s the ask?”

          • I’d rather get my wisdom teeth taken out again then have a conversation like that. I am terrified of saying the wrong thing and then getting lectured for hours about how I invalidated someone by not agreeing with them or something.

          • TrixM said:

            As a poly person who is rarely interested in Feelings!Talk , and almost never with metamours (if you have a problem with my partner, sort it out amongst yourselves!), yes, thank you for summarising that so nicely.

            And to anyone, yes, just let me know what you want/need. Context is great for understanding why, but I don’t need 2 hours of “discussion” for you to tell me you need X and for me to either agree I’m fine with doing that, or no, I need to do Y instead.

    • YES!!!

      I am a huge fan of being blunt and kind at the same time. Your script is a truly amazing example of that!

    • carabiner said:

      I’ve just left a relationship for with a severely depressed, anxious person, whose main driving force in life is self-hatred. It’s been excruciating to lose who I thought was My Person, but also really liberating to suddenly have the time to think about myself for the first time in 5 years.

    • Parenthetically said:

      I’ve done this too. The first round of “hey, this can’t continue like it is, you maybe could try therapy?” was really hard, but since then it’s been a lot easier to say, “hey things seem like they’ve gotten bad again, time to check in with your counselor probably” because now it takes a text and a tiny bit of schedule-wrangling rather than *insert primal scream about the months-long process of getting that first appointment*

  4. Carpe Librarium said:

    #7.
    When writing or asking about the $gift/loan, be upfront with the request per Captain’s example, then add pleasantries after.

    There’s an incredible difference between:

    “Dear Uncle.
    I hope you’re well. How is your interest in rice sculpture coming along? Is Aunt still enjoying her book club? Is Cousin coming home from college in the spring?
    I’m writing to ask you for [thing you want from Uncle, per Capt’s script].
    All the best,
    [Your name here]”

    Where the pleasantries at the beginning feel like cursory buttering-up questions all leading to the ‘real’ reason for contact, and:

    “Dear Uncle.
    I hope you’re well. I’m writing to ask you for [thing you want from Uncle, per Capt’s script].
    Aside from that, how is your interest in rice sculpture coming along? Is Aunt still enjoying her book club? Is Cousin coming home from college in the spring?
    All the best,
    [Your name here]”

    Where the request is up-front and the following pleasantries feel much more like genuine interest in Uncle beyond their ability to do [thing] for you.

    • JenniferP said:

      Perfectly stated, excellent example-work!

  5. Wendy Darling said:

    HOW I GOT FLOWERS, A TUTORIAL:

    Shortly before Flower-Giving Occasion, I declared loudly in the presence of my partner, “GEE I SURE HOPE SOMEONE GETS ME FLOWERS FOR (insert occasion)” while looking directly at him.

    Flowers resulted. Also it’s so overly passive-aggressive it’s downright direct.

    • JenniferP said:

      Wendy this was aggressive-aggressive (I approve).

    • Shira said:

      Agree. One night I spent a ton of time cleaning up the kitchen and then texted my husband, “OMG when you come home please compliment me on the kitchen.” Then he came home and of course went “Whoa, the kitchen looks great!” and despite the ridiculousness of the whole setup, it still made me SO HAPPY.

      • Wendy Darling said:

        I was delighted by my flowers. Maybe I would have been like 2% more delighted by surprise flowers but he almost never does surprise flowers.

        What he does do is occasionally turn up with surprise cakes, which I like BETTER.

      • Ainuvande said:

        My partner and I do this for each other all the time – to the point that “come see what I did!” now basically means “please praise the thing I did.” When we started with this intentional positive reaction (especially to household chores) it felt a little like small children begging for praise, but it feels SO GOOD to have and to give that recognition.

        • delveg said:

          I like that idea and evolution. Much as I’d like surprise compliments on all of the chore things, I’ll happily take complements. (I’ve become more direct in pointing out work I want to be praised for, but it’s nice to hear that you can continue extending along those lines.)

        • cavyherd said:

          It should be noted that this strategy works well for artwork and building projects, too. XD

        • BKC said:

          Yessss. The exchange in our household is “I did A Thing!” to which you must reply, “You did A Thing?” in a delighted, surprised voice.

        • Angel said:

          Dude, my best friend and I are like this. We send each other pictures of clean things and say stuff like “I need to do the laundry / I did the laundry” “time to collect all of the soda bottles for their deposits / I have two 30-gal bags of soda bottles” just so the other one will respond “I’m proud of you!” or “Good job babe!” or “It looks so nice”. It does feel a little attention-seeking, but it feels so damn good to be praised for household chores. More people should do this.

        • Amphelise said:

          My wife and I do this too – “I washed up, did you see?”, “I did, thank you so much!”. We both have ADHD and we struggle massively with executive function around household chores, so directing each other to notice and praise each other to the skies when we manage some has been an extremely useful form of mutual self-help.

      • Feminist BI-tch said:

        I do that sometimes – with my parents, who then argue for half an hour how “I want to control their feelings and reactions and that’s unfair yadda yadda”, and with my partner, who dutifully compliments me on the kitchen (or equivalent) and does the same with me ❤ guess which is frustrating and pointless and which makes me feel great

      • TO_On said:

        My family does this sort of communication quite often. Often with an undercurrent of humour or teasing. I suspect it was my mom who started it and taught us. It seems to work for us, and because of the tone used when giving these prompts and the memories I have, I have warm and amused associations with it.

      • Kactus said:

        YES to asking for compliments, praise, or attention as needed. I ask my husband to praise me for a chore I did, or for attention sometimes, and he gives me what I need. It is way better than sitting around sulking (what I used to do, no judgement on anyone else).

    • Renita said:

      My husband does not believe in flowers. He thinks they are silly. But Gifts are one of his love languages, so he gives me other things instead, including beer, chocolate, and Timid Monsters. And while I would never complain if someone gave me flowers, I do love the other things he gives me instead.

    • Jen in Oregon said:

      I did something similar a few Christmases ago: hubs, who never gets subtle hints, and I were in a store and I handed him a wallet and said “look at this! It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for! Too bad it’s so close to Christmas or I’d buy it for myself. I hope Santa brings me one. I’m going to Starbucks. Would you put this back for me?” I was about five steps away when I heard a really loud snort-laugh. I asked hubs later what that was about and he asked the sales clerk that had heard the whole thing “do you know where this goes?” and yes, he got me the wallet.

  6. Thank you, Captain, for the dating profiles. I feel seen, and they made me cry in a good way.

  7. Angle-a said:

    In Australia there’s a comedian called Judith Lucy & I’m sure in her book she wrote a section about her online dating profile. It was something like, “I drink a lot & have big tits.” She’s very droll.

  8. twomoogles said:

    I loved the dating profiles so much that I looked up others the Captain had written and they were all delightful. Also I notice a trend with disliking people who like to debate for fun. Hee. (Funnily enough, I sometimes/occasionally like debating for fun, but feel like I do not like people who would describe themselves to strangers that way…)

    • Spicy Onion said:

      I like to debate. I sometimes like to debate with my partner. But there are topics I just cannot hear my partner ever play devil’s advocate about. So to debate those topics, I find strangers in debate forums online. I like to challenge my beliefs and I like hearing all opinions. I want to see the other side. But I don’t want to hear people I care about and assume care about me ever EVER even pretend to carry “the other side”, because while I like to hear strangers’ stories and perspectives, I like to surround myself personally with people who make me feel safe.

      • Sunny said:

        Yes. I’m married to a pretty sarcastic dude, and it upsets me to hear him sarcastically parrot things that the president says. Like, I have to work hard already to filter that garbage out of my head, please do not make it harder for me.

        • *hands you a drink and noise-cancelling headphones*

      • delveg said:

        Yeah, I got dinged pretty hard early in my relationship for willingness to play Devil’s Advocate. I now explain my understanding of their view when asked, or point out structural reasons why that view exists and is popular, but clearly acknowledge the faults of the position I’m discussing. Too often I thought she was looking for something to intellectually discuss, but it turned out that it was fraught or personally meaningful.

    • Zoikies said:

      I had a line in my dating profile about not being interested in people who think “Gee, we are exact opposites, let’s go get drinks and debate sometime.” Because this used to happen to me. A guy who sees that I am an absolute bleeding-heart crunchy tree-hugging liberal and introduces himself as a right-wing, mud-running, “family guy”, who wants to get drinks because it would be “interesting”? WHY

      • Cascadian said:

        Reminds me of dudes who think every (hot)lesbian needs to date him so they can experience the awakening of their true hetero self.

      • The most common thought pattern in dudes who do this is sneering contempt combined with looking at your picture and thinking, “But I’d fuck her anyway,” so their plan is to get off on fucking what they feel comfortable despising. Run like hell.

    • like an angry apple tree said:

      I’ve taken up debating with myself in a journal. It’s a victimless crime, I hope, and I aim to clarify my feelings about complicated things that way. Fingers crossed.

    • Nanani said:

      There’s a world of difference between people who “debate for fun” in the sense of intellectual conversations about TOPICS, in which the debating has been agreed upon by all participants and can be stopped as soon as any participant is done, and people who “debate for fun” by non-consensually demanding somebody defend their life, identity, and interests to the demander’s satisfaction.

      The latter are the ones being NOPEd, and the former, what with their necessary understanding of consent and mutuality, should understand why.

      • twomoogles said:

        Oh yeah I think this is a good encapsulation of my reaction – I do enjoy debating at times, but people who describe themselves that way are very often the latter, and will do things like try to make me see why all my favourite media are terrible and I should like Thing Dude Suggests instead. And yet often these debate-dudes, who mock you for anything they perceive as an “emotional” response, lose any shred of rationality pretty quickly. I once drove an ex of mine who was like that to scream-rage because I was mildly defending Twilight. It was a weird time…

        • panic at the everywhere said:

          +1 .I am fully up for a long conversation and debate about symbolism in Pride & Prejudice. I am not here for someone tying my value as a person to my opinions or feeling that they must defeat me personally.

      • Pear said:

        This is such a helpful distinction. Nightmare Ex was a “defend yourself to my satisfaction and oh by the way I am never satisfied” guy, and Fiance is a “let’s talk about interesting things we care about until one of us is done” guy and I’ve never been able to put my finger on why I have come to despise one loves-to-“debate” guy but still adore the other loves-to-actually-debate guy.

        • Yes. Some of my best friendships have had discussion of political/religious/philosophical issues as a core component. These were good friendships because we actually respected each others’ opinions and wanted to hear them, and were interested in finding the truth rather than proving ourselves right. And it still got really intense sometimes. Discussing political issues (especially anything oppression-related, but not exclusively) isn’t necessarily any less fraught than, for instance, fighting over money or child raising styles. And I don’t think anyone does that for fun.

      • WanderingUndine said:

        Yes. And privilege can manifest as seeing someone describe an oppression they experience constantly, perhaps a life or death matter, and assume it’s an invitation to an intellectual thought experiment or a lively debate. I realized this when I saw two of my friends, one trans and one cis, argue on Facebook over whether a certain much-discussed thing was unintentionally trans-antagonistic. Cis Guy insisted it wasn’t, and at one point exclaimed “I am LOVING this conversation!” Trans Guy replied “Well, I’m not.” Cis Guy is usually a decent ally to LGBT+ people, but here he apparently got carried away with the exhilaration of getting a rigorously-tested new perspective and failed to see that he was hitting Trans Guy with invalidation and demands for the emotional labor to ‘earn’ validation.

    • cavyherd said:

      I know people who debate recreationally. But, like sex, it’s an activity that should only be engaged in with clear, explicit consent.

      • blackbird said:

        Actually, I think any and all activities that are not done alone should generally be engaged in with clear, explicit consent (like, ‘Who wants to X with me?’ or ‘Let’s X, okay?’ already IS getting consent, there’s no rocket science about it). I’m horribly annoyed at the whole idea of consent being something about sex, when reasonable people usually agree that forcing people to do stuff they don’t want to do is bad. Consent should not be a part of sex ed, it should be a part of ‘How to be a decent human being’.

        (I know there are grey areas, like getting kids to eat their vegetables, or someone you live with to clean up after themselves, or cultural expectations you can’t get out of without looking bad, or, uh, I still need to pay my bills even if I don’t want to. But still)

        Anyways, this whole post has been a tangent and I don’t disagree with anything you said.

        • Nanani said:

          100% agree.

          Sadly I know a lot of people who think consent is at most a joke and at worst a challenge to do things you explicitly didn’t consent to. Our culture is garbage on this issue.

        • Jane said:

          Actually kids shouldn’t be forced to eat anything without their consent. Just makes them resent you and gives them a bad relationship with food. See: Ellyn Satter, DOR.

        • I think what’s frustrating for me is a lot of the pain in my life stemmed from those “gray areas,” and I still feel aggravated sometimes that our culture has decided it’s okay to pressure me to do xyz things I dislike or really can’t handle well, but I’m “pushy” if I try to push back on someone who said “no” to helping me with something I need. Fortunately, I’m rarely in a position anymore to need the kind of help that’s a hassle for others to give, and as a result a lot of my relationships are better and less tense.

          But, as a young person, both as a teenager and young adult on my own, I had the most trouble with meeting “normal” expectations: doing chores to my roommate’s standards, doing homework on time, speaking in front of a group, or enduring medical procedures that aren’t life-or-death issues. That last one caused huge problems down the line, and I actually had to undergo exposure therapy (among other things) to undo a phobia I developed of dentistry and other medical procedures from being forced to endure painful and unnecessary treatments against my will.

          And it’s like…I know two wrongs don’t make a right. But even today, I find myself resenting all the sacrifices I made to my mental health and emotional wellbeing to perform normal to other people’s standards. I now live alone, and clean my room to my own standards, and it turns out I’m really, truly fine. My job lets me use my strengths and doesn’t require any of my weaknesses (no work after-hours! no public speaking!), and I’m thriving. Weird how, now that I don’t feel like a failure constantly, I’m often happy and at peace!

          So, it turns out so many of those standards are actually arbitrary. They’re about forcing people to conform, not about helping everyone become their best self. Which is why I feel resentful, sometimes, when people exercise their right to say “no,” when I ask them for help. Maybe just comfort and company when I’ve been sick for a while, or maybe a lift somewhere when I can’t drive, or help doing a time-sensitive paperwork-type task. I have people in my life who say yes, and I’m absolutely grateful! But, still.

          Sometimes I hear an angry internal monologue saying, “why do they get to say no when you never did?” And the other internal monologue, the one that kinda hates me, is like, “It’s because your need for help matters less than everyone else’s desire for you to conform. Because they’re normal and you’re not.” I know that neither of those things are really true or right. But they are very frustrating to talk back against.

          Anyway, tl;dr, I agree with you about debates. And I think I agree with you about consent culture. But, I disagree that in our current culture, “reasonable people usually agree that forcing people to do stuff they don’t want to do is bad.” Unfortunately, I think in our current culture, that only applies if the person doesn’t want to do something our society has already decided is optional.

      • RNL said:

        YES exactly. My brother debates with me all the time, without consent, and I hate it. Everything I say, he’ll disagree with in this incredibly infuriating white dude way that is always staged as a leading question like “but isn’t it actually X, not Y?”. And he often has no idea what he’s talking about but he doesn’t let a little thing like education or knowledge stop him from stating things with confidence!

        And then I’m faced with this weird dilemma of either ripping him to shreds, which does not make for a pleasant social interaction, or letting him get away with his asinine comments and bearing the smug look on his face as a result.

        UGH.

        • Sunflower said:

          Ugh, I’m so sorry. My go-to for stuff like this is “Well, that’s an opinion.” Or “That’s an… interesting perspective.”

          • SqueakyHammer said:

            I’m a fan of, “well, you can’t argue with logic like that”.

  9. toniprufrock said:

    The dating profiles are SO GOOD
    I may steal the semi sexual/inexperienced ones…. that is if there is any way to recover the ol’ okcupid account from the void when the ‘forgotten password’ email never turns up.
    Anyway, amazing stuff captain.

  10. Oograh said:

    Re: flowers
    For me they are mixed up in gift giving angst. Because to me, all flowers are basically the same. There’s a green stick bit and a colourful bit and some stink nice . So I feel like a bit of a fraud because I’m giving something I don’t appreciate.

    Ditto jewellery, and multiply the feelings by the expense.

    • JenniferP said:

      Okay! They wouldn’t be your go-to. But if someone you loved asked you for flowers once in a while (with the presumption that they might also get you presents that you are into and they are not sometimes), would you buy ’em? Or would you explain that the small $5-$8 thing that makes them happy sometimes is a fraud and you can’t? You don’t ever have to buy flowers (or jewelry), but if someone you’re partnered with asks for those things once in a while (in a way that doesn’t break the bank), it might speak to incompatibility beyond “flowers” or “jewelry.”

      Anyway, the point in the OP is: If you’re a flowers person, ask.

      • Vicki said:

        And the related that “I don’t see why you want this” isn’t a strong reason not to get it, in this context. Yeah, If someone doesn’t like your favorite musician, don’t ask them to take you to her next concert–but you could ask for a ticket so you can go by yourself.

        If you actively dislike cut flowers, and don’t want them in your house, that’s different, and relevant if you live together: but “they all look the same to me” isn’t a reason not to buy them. A new warm sweater may be a good gift even if it looks just like the one it’s replacing.

        • amisamileandme said:

          And people who sell flowers will happily make the decision for you. ‘My partner likes flowers, I have $x what can you do?’ is a cromulent business exchange!

          • olivia0330 said:

            Gosh, yes! My cousin is a florist in my hometown. If there is a flower-sending occasion, I fb her and say, “My budget is x, with tip y, could you make it happen, Cap’n?”, and then a week or so later I hear from the recipient, “THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE GORGEOUS FLOWERS!” I know she probably cuts me a deal, because cousins. I also know she likes orders that she can fill 100% to her own (wonderful!) taste!

          • Bobbin Ufgood said:

            Yes! this is actually how you get the best flowers — people who do this enjoy it and are good at it! I want to spend X$ thank you! is all you need. [person] likes red or [person] likes spring can help them design it if you want to give more details, but I find letting artists do their art is a very effective way to get good stuff

    • minuteye said:

      Maybe try a different framing for yourself. Part of what you’re giving is your time, you thoughtfulness, and your “bothering to find out what they like and then remember it” (especially if you find out what kind of flowers they like). Even though you don’t appreciate flowers, I suspect you appreciate thoughtfulness and attention from people you care about.

      • (especially if you find out what kind of flowers they like)

        or, like me, are deathly allergic to!

    • purps said:

      The economics of this might be _very different_ depending on your location but IF it works for your budget and schedule (a big if), I find that farmers’ market flowers can be a surprisingly cost-effective way to wander up to a stranger and say “I need to buy flowers for my partner, but I don’t understand flowers very well. Can you hand me some of those and tell me a fact about them that I can use to demonstrate my engagement with this?”.

      Where I am this is an $8-$12 gift, which is also the price of a sandwich locally. That said, no one needs to feel any shame for just grabbing the bouquet nearest to the door in their usual grocery store. It’s flowers; unless your partner is super up on flower identification they are likely to like them. If you have a partner who either wants specific flowers (not tuberose! for example) or has a price minimum for “what is a good present”, they really will have to add that information somehow.

    • Moa said:

      I suspect most people buying flowers have a similar outlook regarding the green and colorful and smell. I have had great luck with buying flowers from salespeople who made me a bouquet or suggested a potted plant when I told them that I wanted flowers for my X for Y celebration and it should cost no more than Z.
      I don’t have any solutions for the angst and the not appreciation flowers problem, though. I usually buy flowers for people who don’t live at my place so I don’t see the flowers after I give them away.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      I don’t drink because I think alcohol – all alcohol – tastes like industrial waste, yet I don’t feel in the least fraudulent giving a good bottle of wine to a friend who likes wine or craft beers to my BIL. Most of my friends don’t understand my obsession with a particular kind of animal, but they give me things about that animal because they know I will like it.

      The only thing a giver needs to understand about a gift is whether the recipient will like it.

      • Renita said:

        “The only thing a giver needs to understand about a gift is whether the recipient will like it.”

        Yes this exactly.

      • Light37 said:

        Exactly. I had a friend who adored hippos, so when I got him a gift, hippos were often involved. Did I get his fascination, no, but it didn’t really matter. What did matter is that he would enjoy it.

    • Hummingbear said:

      After dating a couple guys who needed Detailed Rational Justifications for why I liked or wanted something different than what they liked or wanted (there is no Objectively Right Answer to these things, preferences just vary!), I came up with the blue socks thought experiment. If I told this person sincerely that I was really bothered by people wearing blue socks around me, can’t figure out why, it just makes my skin crawl… would they believe me and care enough about me to make the *infinitesimal* sacrifice of wearing different colors of socks around me? Or would they be more likely to interrogate and psychoanalyze me trying to convince me that I “shouldn’t” have this reaction?

      If #2, sorry, hit the road, Jack. “You shouldn’t like flowers because I don’t” is along the same lines. Don’t be the Blue Socks Guy.

      • I love that analogy, the blue socks thing.

        And yeah, sometimes it’s worth figuring out the whys and wherefores, but sometimes it’s just easier and kinder to all concerned to refrain from wearing blue socks; sometimes it’s just not a hill worth dying on.

    • ShadowAngel said:

      Not everyone is a flower person. And that’s okay!
      But if your SO is a flower person, sometimes there are hints in stories they tell; for example, my mom will see a hydrangea bush and tell me (again lol) about how her grandmother had a giant hydrangea bush, so hydrangeas remind her of her grandmother. So when I get my mom flowers, I tend to look for blue hydrangeas because of the connection.
      But even sub prime flowers are still a sign that you tried, if your SO is a flower person, and the grocery store ones have a sell by date on them so you can tell what’s fresher and go with that (mostly; different types have different lifespans, but it’s a start).

    • Megan_NJ said:

      How about a nice cactus! Some of them even flower sometimes.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      I think the whole point is to give something the other person appreciates, yes? Otherwise I’d be gifting my partner vintage hats and costume jewelry and he’d be gifting me video games and vaping stuff and we’d both be unhappy.

      • Exactly. When I was ten-ish my dad gave me a Dremel tool kit (like the KitchenAid of drills), which was so obviously just something he wanted for himself. Turns out I loved it and wouldn’t let him use it, and it drove him absolutely nuts. He didn’t learn his lesson and is still a lifelong gifter-of-things-he-thinks-the-other-person-SHOULD-want. I still have the Dremel and threw fit when my husband gradually began referring to it as “my Dremel.” It’s mine.

        • I love this story.

    • Emmers said:

      The gift is for the recipient, not the giver.

      Good user name, though!

    • If this is an active problem rather than a hypothetical/past relationships problem, asking the intended recipient (and remembering the answers or writing them down somewhere you can easily find them again) what their preferences are can go a long way. Both for flowers and jewelry. (You might also want to ask about preferences in terms of, preference for variety vs always liking the same things.) With jewelry there’s also the cheat where you look at what the recipient already owns and get something similar — if you’re really not good at distinguishing, you take pictures and show them to a sales clerk (who will almost certainly be better at distinguishing than you are) and say “I want something like this (in such and such price range)” or get a friend who Gets Jewelry to help you. Getting help is completely socially acceptable in this sort of situation, although you don’t necessarily mention that you got help when you give the gift.

      I’m reading between the lines and assuming the problem is “I don’t know if I’m getting the right flowers/jewelry”, and not actually “I feel weird giving something that I wouldn’t want to receive myself”, because the second one doesn’t actually seem like a problem to me, but I can get my head around the first problem.

      If the problem is actually “I’m worried that I’m just getting flowers or jewelry out of Social Expectation rather than because the recipient actually wants them” this is probably something you can ask about directly (just ask neutrally and don’t imply you think the answer should be “no” with your tone of voice or the wording.) I am a woman who has mostly dated men; earlier in my dating life I didn’t really see the point in flowers either, and I felt actively not seen when I was given jewelry as a gift because I wasn’t really a jewelry person, and it felt like my boyfriend was buying it for the abstract idea of a girlfriend rather than for *me*. And I would be 100% comfortable about communicating that directly if asked in advance. I could see someone who wants these things feeling reluctant to say yes if they feel like it would sound greedy, but if you ask in a context where it’s clear they’d be getting something special anyways and it’s just a question of what to get, I would think that would be a way around it. Additionally I think there’s a tendency for people to either want to stay on the heterosexual normality dating script a lot, or else be relatively comfortable talking about which aspects they want to keep and which ones they want to scrap, but I’m not 100% sure of that. (So, if you are a man who dates women, if someone you’re dating seems to stay on script about most things and gets annoyed when you go off script in other areas, that person is more likely to want you to “just know” to get flowers and jewelry without being asked and MIGHT even say they don’t want flowers/jewelry when they actually do, whereas someone who willingly goes off script in other areas and is fine with you going off script is probably going to be ok with just talking about flowers/jewelry yes/no/which kind, and give honest answers. Also you can decide if you have a strong preference for dating on-script vs off-script types.)

      As a side note: one thing that changed my mind on flowers is I spontaneously bought a flower (yes, just one) for my then-boyfriend and he LOVED it. Yay gender role reversal!

      • Sunflower said:

        it felt like my boyfriend was buying it for the abstract idea of a girlfriend rather than for *me*.

        I absolutely had this experience with a couple of my early boyfriends’ gifts. Fortunately, I also make jewelry, so after breaking up with them I took apart what they gave me and stashed it to be later made into things that were more “me”—which sometimes ends up being gifts for people I care about.

  11. tawg said:

    If you want to go out with a friend who has small kids… be okay with going to play cafes! Ask your friend if they have somewhere they go to regularly with their small kid and ask if you can join them. The more time you spend engaging with the small kid(s), the more free time your friend will get out of the outing. And maybe it’s not what I would consider an IDEAL outing with my friend… But it’s not kind or practical to expect a kid-free outing, and I can do something kind and practical by spending time with my friend and her kids in a ball pit.

  12. #10– I was that stepdad, so I can tell you how we negotiated it. It was really complicated. Me and my stepdaughter’s mom were dating for about 10 years, starting when she was nine and we broke up when she was 20, she got married when she was 21 and I promised them I’d never disappear from their life because her mom and I weren’t together (her mom has a history that, and the men involved have a history of ghosting the whole family because they were cheated on, we’d broken up and gotten back together once with a year-long gap in the middle there, hence why it’s so complicated) Her biological dad always put strings on the child support, and generally tried to bully his way into her life rather than earn a place, his financial contribution to her wedding was significant, hard to replace (I’d have done it but she didn’t want to ask for a few thousand MORE dollars from me than the few thousand I’d already given) and entirely contingent on him walking her down the isle.

    So we swapped, I walked her down to the isle, handed her off to her mom’s new husband, he walked her to the part where the congregation started from the back door of the hall, and her biological dad walked her down the rest of the isle, he was happy, I was just happy to be part of my little girl’s special day, and the wedding went swimmingly. It was a fairly elegant solution to a thorny problem of a lot of big egos in the room. Would I have preferred to have the honor? well, yeah but it’s not MY wedding, she did what she had to do to mend fences and avoid the wedding turning into drama.

    Also, as an aside to #1– Be honest with yourself, and her, and let her make the decision. I tend to take the view that all things in a relationship are a negotiation, ultimately you can’t force her but that doesn’t mean you cannot ask, the fact you use the word “refuse” means you probably have, so knowing what you know, your relationship is what it is and you’re not likely to change it, does it make sense for you to stay? I feel, on one hand that it would be cruel if this is a stay-or-go issue for you and she didn’t have that information before you decided that means its time to go, on the other hand it’s also not wrong to say “I want enthusiastic participation not grudging participation in something that important, risky and potentially fraught”.. Personally, for me, it would be time to say goodbye, maybe for you it’s not. It’s okay if it is, sex and intimacy are a huge part of a relationship and erecting barriers to that is a perfectly valid reason to leave a relationship.

    • In response to your response to #1, I agree that it’s fine to decide that a partner being unwilling to take birth control is a dealbreaker. Everyone gets to decide on their own dealbreakers. But I think you’re understating how big an ask “take birth control” can be. Many people find that birth control causes unpleasant side effects for them. Characterizing a reluctance to risk or put up with side effects as erecting barriers to sex and intimacy seems unfair.

      Again, you can certainly still decide a partner’s unwillingness to take birth control would be a dealbreaker for you, I just think it’s not useful to treat this as a minor ask when for some people it really isn’t.

      • Anonbunny said:

        Thank you – I was really struggling with the response to #1 and couldn’t articulate why, but this is it.

        Only being willing to have sex with people who are using certain types of contraception is both fine and (if that’s all that works for you) a responsible position to take. But it is also perfectly fine to not take certain types of contraception if they don’t work for you. Not taking certain types of contraception isn’t withholding enthusiastic participation or erecting barriers to intimacy. It is making a medical decision based on what is best for you as an individual.

        Relationships are a negotiation, but sometimes that negotiation can be “The option you want most is off the table, so how do we make this work otherwise?” Perhaps the answer is “We don’t” (and again – this is fine! You do you!) but trying to move this away from “What works best for you and your body and how/can I accommodate that?” to “I need you to do this or you’re being unenthusiastic” is dangerously close to blaming someone for their medical decisions? If someone said that you refusing to use certain contraceptive methods was putting up barriers, would you feel they were really respecting your decisions and the reasons for them?

        • Aunt Nonny said:

          Yeah hmm, I have had too many partners who are unwilling to use condoms but feel that my taking birth control is non-negotiable. There are other options in the world, I don’t automatically default to the one that’s easiest for him and hardest for me!

      • Parenthetically said:

        Agreed 100%. And not just “unpleasant” side effects but, like… death. As in my friend who cannot use hormonal birth control ever because she could die of a stroke, like the one she had when she used to take the pill. People’s reasons for not using hormonal birth control can be everything from “eh, don’t feel like it” to “I buy hormone-free meat so I’d like to also be hormone-free meat” to “I gained 60 pounds on it, never again” to “I have X disorder and taking the pill could literally end my life” and it’s unfair to trivialize that.

        • Exactly!

          If two people want to have sex without risking pregnancy, there are a lot of options to do that. There are variations and combinations of diaphragms, male or female condoms, spermicides, or Plan B (obviously not ideal, but it exists). There are also lots of sex acts that don’t involve PIV!

          It’s one thing to be on a different page about whether or not you want to have kids. But if both people in a couple want to avoid pregnancy and still have sex, eliminating one out of six options isn’t a deal-breaker in most relationships. Just try the other options until you find something that works for everyone involved.

      • Sunny said:

        I think they’re also conflating “solve the reproductive question” with “uterus owner must take hormones”. Solving the reproductive question is a biggie, and yeah if you have a partner who’s not a willing participant in handling that issue, that’s a major problem. But assuming that the only answer is hormonal birth control, with all the accompanying expense, physical risks, discomfort, and inconvenience for the one with the uterus (and conveniently none for the one with testicles) is a dick move. If you’re rejecting the possibility of barrier methods, non-PIV sex, or a vasectomy out of hand, you don’t have a lot of grounds to complain that she isn’t willing to consider hormonal birth control as an option either.

        • Ainuvande said:

          Yeah, my first thought on that one was “condoms are a thing, dude.” Hormones can be a bad idea for a whole host of reasons, but we have perfectly workable barrier methods that you can buy at the convenience store.

          • there’s a HUGE difference between “as applied over one year” 95% efficacy and 99%. Now there’s a ton folded into that number, I realize, including “you fail sex ed forever” types that use both condoms and hormonal birth control ineffectively or engage in fundamentally unsafe practices but think a condom is a magic shield, but even so that’s the number that’s out there to work with. I’m really not comfortable, personally, with an option with a one-in-20 fail rate (over a year, with the caveats above) being used as the only method, the only exception would be with a person whose reaction to a condom failure would be an immediate “so you’re going with me to the pharmacy to get Plan B as soon as they open, right?”. Unfortunately all of the 98-99% options are on the one with the uterus at this time. That said the other options are not all hormonal! I would hope that the searcher has explored those options first, if not there might be a really easy solution here.

          • dwintermute, you need to back way up and check your privilege, and also your basic sense of personal responsibility. “Unfortunately all of the 98-99% options are on the one with the uterus at this time,” is a blatantly false statement. Your choosing not to like the other options doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that you are being responsible to decline them — you’re not. The responsibility is still on you 100% to manage your own fertility by managing your own body.

          • jude314159 said:

            dwintermute: both the NHS website and the planned parenthood website say condoms are 98% effective if used every time, with zero side effects. non-hormonal birth control for the uterus owner in the 98%+ range means getting a copper IUD fitted. except during childbirth, the opening of the cervix is about 2-3 sperm heads wide, so forcing a piece of metal through the cervix hurts.

            also, both surgical options are highly effective, so that’s an option.

      • I didn’t mean to act as if it was a minor ask, it’s big. It’s a complicated, fraught issue, especially because there are so many medical parts to it. Unfortunately there’s really only one method of birth control that is an option for males, everything else is sort of on your partner. That said I should have mentioned the solution may be as simple as “are there other contraceptive methods that would work for you?” and there are tons of good options out there.

        • I can name four off the top of my head, actually. I’m gonna assume a partner who’s on board with not getting pregnant who doesn’t want to be on hormonal birth control for medical and/or inconvenience reasons (rather than religious objections), though that might not be the case. I’m nervous about commenting on the possibility of religious objections to birth control, but I think probably someone should?

          There’s condoms, a very popular option which can be made more effective by pairing with spermicidal gel or film and by, you know, actually using them every time (the main reason the theoretical effectiveness and actual effectiveness rates differ, IIRC.)

          There’s getting a vasectomy — extremely reliable, but not a good option for anyone who might want kids some day, or who has difficulty accessing health care.

          There’s also withdrawal, which is not the most reliable method but is mostly dependent on the dude (in cis-het circumstances) and is actually not *that* bad for someone who’s committed to the method, has good impulse control, and can reliably tell when he’s about to ejaculate — couples who do it perfectly have a 96% effectiveness rate. With a partner who’s willing to do this it can also be combined with fertility awareness (ie, using withdrawal during the less fertile periods and abstaining or using condoms during more fertile periods.)

          There’s also the “outercourse” or “having oral/manual/mutual masturbation/anything but PIV sex” approach, which barring sexual assault is completely under the control of either party, and is 100% effective in theory (although I’d hate to see the in-practice effectiveness rates.)

          Info on effectiveness rates: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control

        • Off the top of my head I can think of at least four options for people with a penis and testicles and no desire to make a baby.* Try harder, my dude.

          *Abstinence from baby-making activities, withdrawal, condoms (internal or external), and vasectomy, in case you were wondering.

          • I tried a similar reply earlier that fell into the void, but whingedrinking got the essence of it. I would just add that for me “abstinence” implies avoiding all kinds of sex; it is possible (for some people anyways!) to stick to things like oral sex and mutual masturbation and just forgo the PIV, and this is also a legitimate not-having-a-baby strategy. (Part of my high school sex ed was “abstinence-based”, unfortunately, and they were NOT encouraging everything-but-PIV.)

          • Funnily enough (in a darkly humourous kind of way), plenty of teenagers took “anything but PIV is A-OK” as a lesson. Hence the origin of the term “saddlebacking”. Don’t google that one at work, friends.

      • Emmers said:

        The thing is, though, it’s irrelevant how big an ask “take birth control” is, because “have baby” is an infinitely bigger ask.

        This issue is a dealbreaker for many people. And that’s okay. It’s a fundamental incompatibility.

      • Fiona said:

        There are lots of hormone free birth control options. It’s not hormones or bust.

        I completely understand that women shouldn’t be left in charge of birth control, but I hate seeing people act like the pill is the only way.

        I do wish more people treated long term condom use as a desirable birth control method, but if you don’t want condoms or hormones, you still have other options.

    • Kit-Kat said:

      This is exactly what I was going to suggest. Or at least the notion that you don’t have to stick to what’s “traditional”. I have friends who’ve walked themselves, walked only with their mom, and walked with both parents.

      I am nowhere near being engaged (need one of those dating profiles lol!!) but I have a really special relationship with one of my grandfathers. I would want him to walk me down but love my dad too! So I always thought I’d have them and my other grandfather all split the walk or go together.

  13. Dutch Introvert said:

    #4, you sound like awesome friends! We are currently in possession of a tiny human and it took a while to adjust. Luckily the grandparents love to watch (and hold and cuddle) the new addition to the family, so we get the occassional weekend to ourselves. And a friend nearby loves all babies and small children and happily watches her. She doesn’t do evenings, but I’ll take anything really. I don’t mind an 11 AM movie.

    So yeah, going out isn’t as easy anymore. It will get easier again in time as the kid grows. Until then, we do our very best to still see our friends, but everyone understands it takes a bit more planning these days.

    • I was thinking exactly the same thing. As a parent of a 3-year-old and a baby, I wish I had friends like you and Mr Awkward.

  14. myzania said:

    I love the dating profile section. Love it. :*
    Thank you.

  15. zaracat said:

    I think there’s a need for a further dating profile, because I’m sure I’m not the only one whose experience in previous relationships is so horrible that it almost doesn’t count towards nurturing a new one, except as a lesson in *OMG never do that again*.

    I HAVE BAGGAGE BUT I DON’T EXPECT YOU TO CARRY IT “My previous dating life has been a shitpile and it’s taken me a long time to venture out again. I’d like to meet someone who is kind and patient and willing to sometimes pretend that I’m doing this all for the first time, because that’s often how it feels. Yes, I have a lot of baggage, but I also have this really cool hobby where I’m building a robot army trained by me and my therapist to carry it for me. OK, so maybe they can’t _actually_ do that, but hey, I’d really rather talk about my hobbies and my workshop than my past relationships any day. If making things is your thing, then drop me a line and maybe we can get together over a glass of wine.”
    [substitute your own cool hobby as required].

    (I’m not even going to try throwing in the additional spanner in the works which is coming to terms with maybe being ace. Let’s just say I’d find it waaaaay more attractive if a potential partner knows how to weld than if they know how to kiss.)

    • JenniferP said:

      Yes, this is a strong entry in the canon!

      • Yep this one absolutely resonated with me!
        Also I’m SURE I’m not the only person with a low, low libido due to anxiety/other meds BUT I’m not willing to stop or change those magic damn pills … and frankly I don’t miss pantsfeelings.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      May I use that too? I gave up so long ago after experiences that were so bad I think I am doing this all for the first time.

      • zaracat said:

        Be my guest. Although, to be honest I am not especially optimistic about how well this will work in the setting of online dating – my previous (admittedly limited) attempts were all very negative.

        Men in my age group (50’s) were EXTREMELY intolerant of (a) baggage [which, just … LOL … NOBODY gets to the age of 50 without baggage, and even if that were possible, they’d be the most boring person *ever*] and (b) any degree of ambivalence, hesitancy, or uncertainty about what you actually want or how to negotiate for it, which they characterised as “game playing” or wasting their time. There was a pretty clear expectation that by the time you’re 50 you should know exactly what you want (which is manspeak for “know within 30 minutes of meeting them whether you’re up for sex”).

        My reality is that even with a background as a trained medical professional, at the age of 53 I’m only just grasping that freely given, enthusiastic consent is something that applies to *me*, and after so many relationships where I did things I didn’t want to do, or had those forced on me, I’m not sure what I do want and will need to muddle my way through very slowly and work it out by trial and error.

        The question of asexuality only adds to that. It’s thanks to this site that I even know there is such a thing as asexuality or that romantic attraction, sexual attraction and sexual response are not inextricably linked, but I’ve only just started to explore those ideas. With equal parts “that explains a lot” and “crap, I thought the dating pool was small before, now I’m doomed to die alone”. I’ve just joined an ace MeetUp group and am looking forward so much to being able to socialise without the fear that merely talking and smiling to another person will be construed as flirting.

  16. panic at the everywhere said:

    Oh, wow. I’m not the “LET’S FIGURE THIS WHOLE DEAL OUT” LW but I kinda want to use that, with some modifications, on Baby’s First Dating Site Profile that I’m going to be setting up soon on a likely dating site.

  17. Lathyrus said:

    LOVE the dating profiles
    I’d actually love to crowdsource some dating profile ideas from y’all if you wouldn’t mind?
    —–
    Change of plan: drafting this comment basically wrote my dating profile for me! Thanks team, good hustle.

    (That actually happens to me all the time with Captain Awkward, I have written so many questions and in the process of writing the question, realised the answer – you are fab, thank you!).

    • cavyherd said:

      Heh. Welcome to the User Support Secret Weapon. “When I do the thing, other thing breaks and won’t do—Oh. Right. Thanks for your help!”

      • Elenna said:

        LOL. Not to mention Secret Weapon #2 (unfortunately less helpful for advice sites): “When I do the thing, it doesn’t work, see, it – huh, it worked. …I’ll take it.” 😀

  18. MusicWithRocksInIt said:

    #1 – Ugh with the bullshit ‘woman are in charge of birthstone’ nonsense. You don’t want babies? You do things to YOUR body so that babies won’t result.

    When my husband and decided to try for kids I went off the pill about a year before we wanted to try to clear it all out of my body after 10+ years of constantly taking it (which comprised of the majority of the time I had been sexually active). And you know what happened? I felt AMAZING! My sex drive shot up like a spaceship escaping an exploding planet! I had my fist big O! The world was a different and exciting place!

    I’m not saying that the pill is a bad thing, my body is delicate and super sensitive and these are just the things i’ve experienced. But I know I am never going back again. And if I had a quarter for every dude I’ve heard saying they ‘just don’t want to’ get the fricken snip even though they don’t want kids or more kids and it is 1000x less destructive to their bodies than most things woman go through but they have no actual good reasons for it I could buy a castle and call it Hogwarts and make the staff wear robes and wave wands around while saying spells all the time.

    • Anonbunny said:

      “And you know what happened? I felt AMAZING! My sex drive shot up like a spaceship escaping an exploding planet! I had my fist big O! The world was a different and exciting place!”

      SO MUCH THIS! Coming off of hormonal contraception was THE best health choice I have ever made. It’s a life changing/saving choice that all women should have access to, but that doesn’t stop it having some serious drawbacks, particularly for certain women.

      I would never, ever go back to contraception now, the health costs are just waaaaay too much. #1 someone choosing not to take contraception that literally changes how their body works and can have serious side effects and long term effects for them (one of the side effects of some contraception can still, in extreme cases, be death, and there are a myriad of awful daily effects that can come with it) doesn’t have to mean babies and doesn’t have to mean major operations for you (unless you know you definitely never want children/more children and would like to have the operation). Used responsibly, there are a few options that are all but as effective as the pill without any of the side effects.

      You need to decide what works for you. So does your wife, and she has. Now you figure out a compromise which respects that, or decide if you have mutually incompatible red lines that necessitate a much wider conversation. (Which isn’t easy, but is sometimes what happens in relationships) Remember, though, that however you choose to approach this, your wife has made a reasonable decision, and “talking her out of it” isn’t a reasonable response. (Not to say that you were going to, but something that I think is worth saying)

      • Ariaflame said:

        Of course that depends on what you are using it for. And there are different levels and balances. My main use for it is medical rather than contraceptive and I *remember* the rollercoaster of emotions before I was on it, so if it works for you to go off it then fine, but it’s not an option for me.

        • JenniferP said:

          “if it works for you to go off it then fine, but it’s not an option for me.”

          TRUE OF EVERYTHING, LITERALLY EVERYTHING.

          🙂

        • H. Savinien said:

          Same. I didn’t have access for about six months because of healthcare nonsense (switching jobs and states), and I am very excited to return to the genitals that don’t bleed unpredictably between 7 and 20 days per month, with a brief hiatus for stabbing ovary pain.

        • It can be so fraught to talk about negative experiences with hormonal birth control, because it actually is ok for a lot of women, or actively beneficial apart from the contraceptive thing even when taken primarily for contraception, and I know I don’t want women who’d be fine on it to be scared away from going on it, because most birth control alternatives that aren’t permanent are either less effective or significantly less convenient (=less likely to be used consistently) and pregnancy can really mess up your life too? But yes, hormonal birth control is BAD for some women (*not sure how to make this trans-inclusive), and it can be bad in ways that aren’t immediately obvious or aren’t obviously linked and it’s important to talk about that too.

          I think, when I see someone talking about BC being bad for them, either it’s talked about in terms of “BC is bad for women IN GENERAL” or I read that into it when it’s not there. So that’s something to keep in mind. Different bodies are different, and can be affected in dramatically different ways by the same medication. And it’s important to talk about that.

          Personally, I had no noticeable problems with BC for years (in fact, it miiiiight have had a stabilizing effect on my depression, but I’m not sure one way or the other since being on BC tends to overlap with being in a relationship for me) but I’m off it now because it miiiiight have been making a new chronic health condition even worse, and I’m not sure about that but I’m also not willing to risk going back on it. Even though I miss having regular periods so much. My body has decided “anywhere between 25 days and 60-some is a regular cycle, right?”

    • Mate, I hear you! I’m waiting to have my tubes tied so I don’t have to think about implants and what not. I discussed with bf the possibility of him getting his tube ‘tied’ but geeeeezz you’d think it was full castration! Even the doc he spoke to about it suggested I go in for a new implant instead! I guess women are so thoroughly socialised to have stuff done to our bodies that it seems like less of a big deal? Drives me nuts.

      • Dutch Introvert said:

        My SO is the same way. No way he’s ever doing that, says he. Neither of us is ready for anything definite yet, but in the future it might be nice if one of us gets their tubes tied. So I’m prepared for a discussion somewhere down the line, because l really think it should be him.

        • It should totally be him: men can get a vasectomy basically on demand but many gynocologists won’t even CONSIDER a tubal ligation for a woman under 40 that doesn’t already have kids (or a ‘good enough’ reason in their medical opinion to consider never reproducing, like carrying a dangerous recessive gene). It’s insane. I’ve had a friend who’s been trying for a decade, with a number of doctors, not one would do it because she “might change her mind”, when men don’t get NEARLY that kind of pushback for their own sterilization procedures. He’ll probably be able to go to one doctor, set one followup and be in and out in 15 minutes, sadly you will probably face a psych evaluation, and potential doctor refusal, on top of it being a more involved procedure.

    • Megan_NJ said:

      This was a good discussion of the procedure & their discussion, with answers from the husband. It was a short in-office procedure! – https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/are-we-done-having-kids

      My favorite part – “Snip snip, burn, and sew it up. Oh did you catch that I just said burn? Yep, that’s not a mistake. They cauterize the tube so there’s no chance of it growing back together. I actually live streamed the puffs of smoke on my phone to some of my more squeamish friends. They didn’t think it was as funny as I did.”

    • You don’t want babies? You do things to YOUR body so that babies won’t result.

      Hard agree! I’m sort of one of the lucky ones, in that I tolerate hormonal birth control really well (the not so lucky part is that I have really painful, miserable periods and need hormonal birth control to manage them), and I’m still entirely over the idea that birth control is always the person with the uterus’s problem. God forbid a man take responsibility and get himself a vasectomy, which he can do so much more easily than a woman/person read as a woman by their doctor can get their tubes tied because sexism. Oh and of course guys like that would never even consider just not having PIV sex.

  19. Okay, if I wanted to “borrow” the sexual houseplant one…how much do you charge in royalties?

    • Becca said:

      I came here to ask this question. Like, of course we credit the Captain, but do I also call Julio’s…?

      • JenniferP said:

        The tip jar on PayPal and the Patreon are always open if you feel like it, but I want people to adapt these freely if you want to!

        • Becca said:

          Tip jar! Thank you for reminding me that this excellent resource exists.

        • Anon said:

          The last time you mentioned this sort of advice for dating profiles, I added a section about what I enthusiastically want.

          This time I’m expanding a bit, pulling from Sexual Houseplant and Not Your 101!! (Amusingly, I am probably much younger than the average Not Your 101 type, which makes it even more necessary for me to specify, LOL)

          Thanks for the inspiration, Captain 🙂

  20. Count me in as another fan of the dating profile scripts! If’when I feel ready to attempt to date again (for the last several years, I’ve been dealing with medical crap that kicks the “Romance/Sex” item waaaaaaayyyyy down the Great List Of Priorities), I’m going to come back to a cross between the “mild agoraphobia” and “not your 101 tutor” ideas!

    I’ve done the cougar thing, it was fun, I’m still good friends with my former partner that is 12.5 years younger than I am, but when I dip my toes in the dating pool again, I’m pretty sure I’ll be looking for possible partners within ~ten years of my own age.

  21. Chrystall said:

    Captain, your Awkward Family Hang for New Parents is turning my eyes into hearts. It’s so perfect.
    Also for Q4 person, do you by chance enjoy walking or hiking? A dear friend who I’d see for a couple of cocktails and dancing of an evening is now my Saturday morning walk buddy. She brings her dog, I wear my babe, and we actually get to talk a lot more than we used to.

  22. nnn said:

    For #9: I’m not your fiance, but the reason why I keep my toxic father in my life is because completely avoiding him would mean not getting to spend time with awesome family members.

    My father is married to my mother (who is awesome! No, I don’t understand why she married him), so it’s not logistically possible to completely shut him out while still having my mother in my life.

    On top of that, extended family members invite him to extended family events (probably because he’s married to my mother), so completely avoiding him would also mean missing my beloved grandmother’s birthday or not getting to meet my cousin’s adorable new baby.

    (And yes, I do try to see family members individually or in configurations that don’t involve my father, but it’s not possible to do that 100% of the time without missing out on a lot.)

  23. S said:

    So tempted to add the “Sexual House Plant” title to my “Solo Poly after years of monogamy” profile.

  24. A-plus advice to the friends whose friends are having kids. I have to say, I was very nervous when my friends started having kids because I thought that meant I wouldn’t see my friends anymore. That turned out to be mostly untrue! Sure, there are some friends I see much less of. But for my close friends, the kids sort of fold seamlessly into the friend hangs. After all, little kids DO sleep a lot. When they are very small, they are fairly portable and just sit like potatoes in their carriers while friends catch up at the lunch table. When they are a bit bigger but still need a lot of supervision, that is the perfect time to make a meal together in the kid’s home, or to take the kid on an adventure that would be slightly annoying with 1-2 pairs of hands and eyes but is pretty great with 3-4 pairs of hands and eyes. (Have you ever been to a zoo with a toddler? It is a delight!) And trust me, I do no childcare at all–I’ve never changed a diaper in my life–but I do friendcare, and sometimes friends need a helpful and friendly adult who wants to talk about adult things while chopping onions and low-key keeping the toddler away from kitchen dangers.

    Besides, as it turns out, my friends’ kids are mini versions of my friends, and I mostly enjoy their company.

  25. nnn said:

    For #3, a way to perhaps avoid disappearing from your friend’s life or treating her kid like something she’s inflicting on you while also avoiding spending time with the little kid is to invite your friend to grownup stuff as a treat. Not every single thing you ever do (i.e. she isn’t going to want to deal with “Let’s go to the club!” every weekend), but things that are special or would make a nice break.

    Example: “That Band We Loved In High School is having a reunion tour! Wanna go?”

    Example: “I want to try Interesting New Restaurant! Is there a time you can leave the baby with Partner/Grandparents so I can treat you to dinner and uninterrupted adult conversation?”

    If she says she can’t go, don’t get mad – just shrug your shoulders and say you understand completely. And if she can go,focus on giving her an enjoyable experience and a break from the role of Mommy.

    Everyone I know who had a baby got to a point where they just wanted uninterrupted adult conversation. That’s something you can provide.

    Even if she isn’t ever able to accept your invitations, you’re still demonstrating ongoing interest in the friendship by thinking of her and including her. But, at the same time, you aren’t rejecting her child – you’re just offering her something different.

    When she emerges from the other side of the little kid years, you won’t be The Friend Who Disappeared, you’ll be someone who continued trying to include her and didn’t abandon her when her life changed.

    • JenniferP said:

      Wonderful, yes!

    • Laura D said:

      This is exactly what I was going to say. It’s okay not to want to be with the kids, but offer alternative, grown up outings. Keep offering even if the friend can’t go, and don’t get upset if they say no or back out because of kid issues.

      • Aunt Nonny said:

        +1. I don’t think your option is either “get on board with babylife or get out,” I think you can offer what you’re able to offer with love and understanding if they’re not up for adult time (yet). Sometimes the friend with the baby can also be understanding and be flexible about the change in your friendship, and if you both have good intentions you can come back around.

    • Amy said:

      Yes! These are great ways to invite a friend to some adults-only time.

      But also be prepared for your friend to sometimes come back with “I’d love to try Interesting New Restaurant but can’t get a babysitter–do you mind if kiddo comes along?” or “I can’t make it to Band We Loved In High School but do you want to come over to watch Show We Used To Love?” And consider taking them up on these kid-friendly hangouts once in a while. Your friendship will last long-term best if you compromise with their new circumstances; invite them to do things that require them to suck it up and find childcare coverage, but also suck it up yourself sometimes and hang out with their little one(s) present.

      • If you can afford it, can you pay the babysitter fees? That would be a nice gesture that would make going out more affordable for the parents.

        • That might be a situation requiring a good bit of discussion, since finding a babysitter the parent(s) trust is pretty personal, but, assuming Non-Parent Friend has the means to do so, expressing a willingness to pay the sitter once the parent(s) find one they like can be a good starting point for a discussion of “Can we have some kid-free social time?”

        • Amy said:

          Sure, that’s an option if your relationship is such that offering money is a) possible for you, and b) not something that will make them hugely uncomfortable!

          But my point is actually not about the specifics of why the kid(s) might be around sometime, or how to get around those specifics. My point is that if you 100% refuse to ever spend time with your friend when their kid is around, that’s eventually going to become obvious, and it probably won’t feel great to your friend. You can probably get away with planning adults-only activities 90% of the time, if you’re willing to put the work into planning and making sure they have childcare and all that, but it’s probably better for your friendship long-term to be at least a little bit flexible on being around their kids once in a blue moon.

          • aebhel said:

            Agreed. I have two small children. Most of my friends at this point are childfree, and run the gamut of perspectives from ‘GIVE ME ALL THE BABY CUDDLES’ to ‘oh god small children are sticky and irrational, i don’t understand why you would do this to yourself’, and we still manage to be friends. The people I am not friends with anymore are the ones who insisted on pretending that my kids didn’t exist or weren’t real people.

    • Kacienna said:

      Another thing that worked well for me when my friend had a baby, and may work for you if you cook: “Hey, I’d love to see you and I know it’s hard to get out. Would you like me to come over with a pot of [tasty, nutritious food] so we can chat over [meal]?” This might also work for toddlers and maybe grade school kids, especially if the kids are in a picky stage and the parent(s) aren’t up for making both interesting adult meals and simple kids’ meals. The rules of inviting yourself to someone else’s house can be loosened when one party has circumstances that make it hard for them to get out; I think the trick is that you’re not asking them to host you, you’re almost being the host but at their home.

    • Anon said:

      Love this comment! I’m recovering from a phobia of kids and was very worried about losing one of my friendships when she had a baby, since my ability to engage with the subject is fraught/limited.

      I was honest with her, she was understanding. I have a limit on the type/duration of kid talk I can handle, but I do try to actively listen during that time and find aspects of it I can respond to. I can’t do babysit/kid present hangouts since her child is still quite young. Obviously a phobia and general dislike are different, but I’m trying to say it’s not necessarily a death knell as long as you are not rude and still show an interest in your friend in the ways this comment mentions.

    • That’s been my strategy! I’m happy to listen to my friends’ parenting stories and make appropriately sympathetic faces at all the right times, but I Just Cannot Even with kids who are below elementary school aged. It helps that I knew most of my friends before they were married, so going out with just them and not them + their spouses to catch up is a well-established tradition; spouse stays home with kid(s), friend gets Adult Conversation Time with me, and I get to spend time with my friend. Everyone wins!

      • Persia said:

        I used to be terrified that I would accidentally say a cuss word/do other bad thing and get yelled at by a parent for corrupting their baby. Then I moved to my current neighborhood where parents say things like “Sit your ass down and shut the fuck up!” to their own kids. (I’m not condoning that, BTW.)

  26. Vega said:

    One more for the chorus of dating profile fans! My current Tinder profile is a modified version of a line from a previous Search Terms post; might be time for an update

  27. catsinshinyhats said:

    Not having to do with anything in the post, but I’m an Ace who thought she would be (happily) single forever but I have found a great man who is super respectful of me being Ace. Ten years of happily single, but three months of happily not. I just wanted to share.

  28. Eye said:

    Maybe it’s just me, but the “Not Your ____ 101 Tutor” example profile reads as… kinda racist. Like, uncomfortably caricature-ish in its speech, as though maybe you’re trying to sort of sound Black without really sounding Black, but, uh, failing. (“Y’all” every other word. “Bitch” as punctuation. “Folx.”) Not least of which because “POC” isn’t an adjective, and pretty much the only people I ever see use it that way are other white people who are trying to look like they listen to people of color but don’t actually know (or at least read things by) that many.

    • JenniferP said:

      I am definitely paraphrasing an actual letter from an actual person, but, this is fair & I will revise. Thank you.

  29. First time commenter said:

    Your Awkwards Program for new parents legit brought tears to my eyes. When partner and I had our twins my friends dropped from many and diverse to 2. I was devastated. Now that said twins are older and post-partum depression is treated, I’m finding it hard to forgive the friends that never reached out. Thank you for being a person that does this. Your friends are truly lucky to have you!

    • JenniferP said:

      The system was definitely a COLLABORATION with the new parents (esp. Commander Logic), we didn’t just spring it on ’em fully-formed, it was like “we want to see you, what do you need?” and the need was, overwhelmingly, “We need the party to come to us.” Ok! We can do that!

      So, I’m not gonna tell you to forgive (you know your friends best), but if there’s a chance that your friends want to see you and help but totally do not know what to do and don’t want to invade your space so they are hanging back, you could also try initiating something like this, aka: “I want to see you but it’s hard to leaaaaaave right now. Can you help us get back in the habit of seeing grownup faces? On this day/date: Please come see a baby for a little while, we’ll order some pizza, we’ll put the kid to bed and grownups will hang out!” and see who bites. It’s awkward to start/restart something and helpful for people to know what to do.

      • D said:

        I really like that script! I would respond well to it, and I think most of my friends without kids would too.

        As a person without kids who’s entering the age of friends having kids, something I’ve noticed is that some of our social etiquette doesn’t quite work with modern childcare. For instance: my mom taught me that it was always rude to invite myself over to someone else’s house or event, and the only polite way to make a plan was to suggest meeting at a precise time at my own house or at a third location. So I’m only now learning to say “Can we hang out at your house sometime?” or “Can I tag along the next time you go to the zoo?” or “I have no idea what a five-month-old can handle, can you tell me what you’d like to do?” And it’s really nice when the friend with kids takes the initiative on the plan and tells me what to do and what to bring over to make their lives easier.

        (Also, as a person who’s dealing with something similar to First time commenter but with grief instead of kids–sometimes people get very awkward about Big Life Events and don’t know what to say, and then the awkwardness compounds with time, and eventually they assume you don’t want to speak with them anymore because it’s been so long. You’re not obligated to forgive the people who didn’t reach out, and sometimes Big Life Events have a way of separating the ride-or-die friends from the casual acquaintances, but if you do want to see some of your old friends again they may respond well to you reaching out.)

    • Suzette said:

      It brought tears to my eyes too. I still remember how fucking lonely I was after I had my first biscuit and several of my closest friends either vanished from my life completely or started treating me like I’d caught a contagious disease. Bonus points for the friend who took passive-aggressive jabs at me until she got pregnant herself, then tried to poach the friends in the new-mom support group I’d joined. I would have burst into grateful tears if someone had brought me food when my baby was little. It’s been years and the memory still hurts. You are an awesome friend, Captain.

    • felixthegolden said:

      Seconding this big time. I would have loved it if any of our circle of friends had done something like that. Sadly most of our lot were awful cooks, and like you, we had twins, and like you, we found that a bunch of people just fell off the face of the earth. I think having twins kind of shatters any illusion that life is in any way the same – like, one baby is a game changer for the parents but if you’re hosting, one person can be doing baby stuff and chatting while the other one cooks and you can carry the conversation between the two of you, but with twins everybody has a baby and you hardly get to chat and for the first six weeks you wonder how it will ever again be possible to eat dinner unless you get a cook. And it proves actually impossible to eat dinner until the kids are anything up to about three depending on how they sleep. How old are yours now? It gets easier every few months, but we found that once they hit about 4 and a half, that’s when it actually started to be fun.

    • If it helps, maybe some were trying to give you space because that’s what they thought they were supposed to do?

      There are many things where, to accomplish them, someone has to pretty much give up a social life temporarily. People who are used to that idea would be quite likely that having twins is one of those things and might think they’re being a good friend by bowing out for a while.

      Plus, the range of what new parents want is so huge that people guess wrong a lot and you can’t expect people to correctly divine where you are in terms of wanting help or reaching out. Many new parents want to be left the fuck alone completely for at least the first 6 months. Some want continual visits and help with the baby. But others see offers to help with the baby as annoying attempts at baby rabies and note that they wouldn’t have had the baby if they didn’t want to spend every minute with it. Even more confusing, what new parents think they will want and what turns out to actually work for them is often miles apart, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it does make it impossible for others to accurately guess what you want and what will work for you, and there’s the very real possibility that at least some of your friends did their best to do what they thought you wanted.

  30. FlyingKal said:

    I haven’t dated, kissed (romantically), or cuddled in a very long time, but your “Let’s figure this whole deal out” profile made me want to get online and give it another shot! And I have almost 20 years more life experience than the fictional person in the profile.

  31. catsinshinyhats said:

    I am an old letter writer, 305, but I just want to tell everyone that my own situation got super better and the last bunch of years has been great in part thanks to the awkward army. I spent a lot of years happily single and now am happily not single with a great person who is awesome with the fact that I am Ace. I have a job now, and rent gets paid without panic! I like me a lot!

    I don’t comment much, but I really value everyone who does because I have learned so, so much from you all.

    Thank you.

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      Yay, congrats!! I’m so glad things got better for you!

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Woohoooo! Congrats!!

    • Yay! Thank you for the update, and I’m glad things are better for you!

    • Modern Culture said:

      I just went back to read your letter and I’m SO happy for you! Well done!

  32. kitmharding said:

    6: And then there are the times asking doesn’t work. One of my many romantic incompatibilities with my now-former partner was that time he said he couldn’t think of any romantic gestures and that was why he didn’t do them, so I made him a list of small romantic gestures and asked him to do around one a month, and he couldn’t even handle that, because former partners had yelled at him for doing romantic gestures the wrong way so clearly I was going to do it too. (He also insisted he had tried and failed at more complicated romantic gestures but hidden all evidence of this failure from me so I wouldn’t get upset. Every time he managed something even vaguely romantic gesture-like I followed the “don’t punish the behavior you want to see” rule and praised him highly for it, but he still insisted I was going to get mad at him if he did romantic gestures and therefore he couldn’t handle doing them.) It got to the point where I was like “JUST BUY FLOWERS NOW AND THEN!” and he was still insisting that if he got the wrong kind of flowers I would get upset. I was getting more upset because he refused to do such things at all ever, but logic was not a thing that entered into this equation.

    11: I’m always sort of confused by how to respond to the polyamorous equivalent of “I don’t date newbies”, because they usually want you to have X years of experience of (insert type of nonmonogamy), which I do, but most of that was abusive relationships, so it’s like “yes, I have technically been in this community for ten years and done this style of relationship before, but.”

    • first bit: I am seriously annoyed at your former partner on your behalf. (I’m getting way too many memories of the ex-partner who thought that if he wasn’t pretty sure he was going to be up for PIV sex, that meant he shouldn’t even kiss me, because then he’d be letting me down or something. Even after I explained that I really, really didn’t see PIV as an inevitable or necessary end to making out/other kinds of sex. Then he’d kiss me as I was leaving, for the first time since I’d come over, presumably because I couldn’t possibly expect to have sex then, and I’d cry, and he wouldn’t understand why.)

  33. lasers said:

    I’m a new parent, and I was surprised at how much having babies changed my friendships. Some friends are SO INTO BABIES which is lovely but sometimes slightly invasive; some bring over dinner and have a regular conversation with me while maybe holding a baby (my favorite); and some will make time to see me but then ask me literally zero questions about my life. Like, not even “how are you doing.” Which is… really hurtful.

    What I wish people understood is that my kids are a fundamental part of my life. If you’re not down with them, you’re not down with me. That doesn’t mean every hangout must or should be Baby Time, but I require a baseline of positive regard.

  34. “I think it’s possible to love other people even when it’s hard to love yourself, I think sometimes that loving other people is how you teach yourself to love yourself (Like, “wait, would I let someone treat [person I love] the way I’m treating me?”), so I’m not always one to make “love yourself, then others” the absolute order of operations.”

    Just wanted to pull this out and highlight it, and stand up and cheer. FUCK YES to this!

    • FlyingKal said:

      I think I agree with you, as I often have rather low self-esteem, and I’ve never allowed myself to treat a person I love the way I treat myself.

  35. Thank you, thank you, thank you from a lifelong Billy Bragg fan!

  36. #4: Gamers Edition

    New parents absolutely have to change their hangout patterns. They literally don’t have a choice, unless that choice include being a terrible parent to a small child. If you and they desire to continue the Hangouts of Friendship, you have to work with them.

    I’ve run tabletop gaming groups for [mumble] decades, and it happens. A member or a couple members decide to start a family. If they and you want their participation to continue, you have options.

    Things We’ve Done:
    * Moved the game to their place. Naturally this only works if there’s only one household making babies. Also, be prepared for more frequent breaks, because small children need a lot of care.
    * New parents play remotely. Welcome to the 21st Century. Remote presence easily supports mixing remote players with physically present players.
    * Game night is designated night away from kid. This only works when only one of the parents is in the game. The other parent agrees to play single parent on game nights. Sometimes, an extended family member is happy to play parent once a week or so.
    * Alternate nights. Like the previous, but a gaming couple alternate game nights with single parent nights. Easier for borad games and card games than roleplaying games, but one of the best solutions I’ve seen another group do had the couple making a single character between them and they played as a split personality.
    * Change the mode of play. Alter the nature of participation to allow playing without being present. For instance, I sat with a new couple in their place on a separate night a week and designed two factions in the campaign world, one for each to play. I kept them up to date on campaign events, and they gave me directions, specific and general, for how their faction would react to current events and to changes. Occasionally, one or both managed to be present for a major confrontation between the PCs and their factions, so they got to play senior henchmen or the actual leader of the faction.

    • Michelle said:

      Totally seconding this. I’ve played tabletop games on and off with some parent-friends for years. When the kids were really little, we played during nap time, or they played on the floor during game sessions. When they were a little bigger, another pair of parents joined the group, and all four kids played together in another part of the house, and the parents took turns checking on them / resolving disputes. Now the kids are teenagers and sometimes join in. It turns out the kids of people you like usually end up being pretty neat people, too.

    • Nanani said:

      Option 1 is how game night at my sister’s place works now that I have a nephew. Game night is at theirs, and the game starts when baby is in bed. There might be (will be) interruptions. Baby will only -be- a baby for a little while, after all. Not long before you have a new player to introduce to the game!

    • As someone who played tabletop RPGs for years, I’m laughing my head off over the “a single character between them and they played as a split personality” option — my group would have LOVED that for the sheer WTF factor it would introduce into the game.

      • I wish my group had been responsible for that bit of brilliance. It was just something I knew another group did.

        Then when it appeared in The Knights of the Dinner Table last year, I had to wonder whether a member of that other group had sent in a strip idea.

    • CMart said:

      This is so spot-on.

      My husband is part of a long running RPG group, and the “leftovers” (aka: the partners of the RPG people who would rather stab our eyeballs out than play or ::shudder:: watch a campaign) would meet at a different home for a potluck/movie night. When my husband and I had a baby and that baby stopped being able to just fall asleep wherever, the Leftovers Night took up semi-permanent residence at my place.

      There was tacit (and some explicit) agreement that everyone understood my kiddo might make noise or need attention, and people should feel comfortable to host themselves while I put her (now “them”, I upgraded to two) to bed. As well as my being understanding and not feeling left out when someone else wanted to host, or it was inconvenient for people to come to my house which meant I can’t participate.

      Life changes for the parents, and if you want the parents to stay in your social lives everyone needs to adjust their expectations. I can’t expect people to be super thrilled to hang out at a house infested with toddlers, but my husband’s friends can’t expect 100% loyalty to the game from him. Everyone being willing to be understanding makes life a lot better 🙂

    • Jane said:

      If we’re specifically talking about games, perhaps also shorter campaigns might be a consideration? If a person has only one night now and then, or if they, you know, can’t stay as long as they used to, that might be something to think about.

  37. felixthegolden said:

    I want to tell the Q9 person to think hard about how switched on the fiance is about whatever toxic dynamic is going on, and if they are considering having kids one day, to remember that that toxic father will be their child’s grandfather. Boundary setting gets a whole lot harder if you have kids. On the one hand it’s a damned sight more important, as kids are more vulnerable to the whole smorgasbord of toxic bullshit behaviour, but on the other hand you have your other half, who is also a parent of this child, possibly trying to tell themselves or unable to refute the idea that toxic parent has turned over a new leaf as caring grandparent. So what are you going to do, wait till they’ve been abusive towards your child before limiting or stopping contact? I know people who send their kids along with their spouse to see the toxic in-laws – but if you won’t see them yourself why on earth would you send your children into the lion’s den, you know?
    I think you have to talk about it beforehand – I think if one or both of you have a difficult family background, a good principle is “we’ll only have contact with relatives we both give the OK to.” And if there’s anyone that seems likely to be trouble, you highlight those ones.

  38. SometimesALurker said:

    I am simultaneously the demisexual and the willing sexual houseplant, or at least I simultaneously have those desires. It’s complicated.

    • I don’t think that’s all that unusual.

      A realistic sense of caution about personal safety can be enough reason for someone to live a “demisexual” pattern of behavior — the odds of finding great sexytimes, if you are a cishet woman, they are not great. The risk that a dude could go Aziz Ansari on you is all too real.

      Wishing you could have a safe and guaranteed-mutually-pleasurable willing sexual houseplant situation in lieu of the nightmare of trying to navigate finding someone compatible and safe, which includes trying to figure out how you even figure out if someone is compatible and safe, is perfectly natural.

      Basically it’s the age-old wish for consequence-free sexual pleasure. When you involve another human, though, it’s never consequence-free.

      • Jane said:

        Demisexual = only feeling sexual attraction after establishing a bond. Doesn’t mean you don’t wanna have sex at any particular time, as one isn’t required for the other.

        • TO_On said:

          It’s such an aweful aweful aweful word though. Implying that people who aren’t attracted to strangers are somehow half sexual, and that being attracted to people within relationships is such a weird thing that it requires a special name to describe it, while being aroused by someone you just met doesn’t require a special name.

          • TO_On said:

            So so many people I know who married their high school or even university sweetheart fit this pattern, but they never needed to ‘explain’ it or give it a pseudoscientific name, since they were lucky enough to meet someone early in their life.

          • Jane said:

            If you feel sexual ATTRACTION (not arousal) to strangers or people you don’t have a strong emotional bond with, then you are probably allosexual. There’s your special word.

            There are many things that have special names that not experiencing doesn’t, as that’s how finding personal labels work.

            And as someone who identified as demi for a long time, I highly disagree it’s an “aweful” word.

          • Kacienna said:

            Yeah, I’m somewhere between demi and ace, and it was really helpful to find out that my experience didn’t match that of most people and to have a term for it. I never found the term demeaning, but of course there’s no need for anyone to use it to describe themselves if they don’t like it.

          • Kacienna said:

            Also, I don’t see the name as being “pseudoscientific” any more than any other social label is pseudoscientific. It’s not about science, it’s about having language to describe our experience.

          • Jane said:

            And no, most people who married their high school/university sweetheart don’t only feel sexual attraction to that person.

          • TO_On said:

            I personally have had many conversations with people of all ages who felt that attraction came naturally from friendship and that it did not come outside of it. Doesn’t mean they were only ever attracted to their spouse (I mean, they had lots of friendships!). But ‘falling in love with a friend’ was the most common norm I was familiar with growing up, based on married family members, older siblings, and many of my favourite books.

            Most married family members I have pretty much described this to me.

            And the idea of describing all these people as ‘half sexual’ bothers me and feels very inaccurate.

            Maybe demisexual doesn’t mean what it’s often described to mean, I don’t know, and maybe I have simply never actually known someone who it genuinely described, and certainly the fact that the word repels me so strongly means to me it’s not me…

          • JenniferP said:

            TO_On, I’d rethink saying a label people use to describe themselves is an “awful word.” If it doesn’t hit for you, cool, but if people are using it to self-sort, it’s not hurting you.

          • TO_On said:

            Nesting ended, replying to Jennifer:

            Fair enough. I think it probably bothers me a lot because I see it frequently applied to others or very frequently, implied that it applies to others who haven’t chosen it to describe themselves and never would have (including to myself).

            But yes, someone choosing a label to describe _themself_, that does feel accurate to them, is generally a good thing.

  39. cavyherd said:

    The “program for brand new parent-friends” for Q4 seriously needs to win some sort of award for its sheer poetry. Really, it’s just glorious!

  40. cavyherd said:

    It’ll be fascinating to see if Q7 stops showing up in the search terms, now.

  41. Jackalope said:

    As someone who has lots of friends with kids, here are some suggestions for things I have found helpful in maintaining friendships. Use as is helpful. YMMV, but I hope these spur some ideas.

    – As other people mentioned, move the party to their house. Show up at whatever time is helpful for them; I’ve had friends who wanted me to come for dinner and leave before bedtime, others whose kids I had special relationships with who wanted me to come for dinner and stay until just *after* bedtime because “Aunt Jackalope” was the most in-demand for bedtime stories, and some who wanted me to come after bedtime so they could enjoy adult time. Obviously your schedule matters too, but see what works with them.

    – Be willing to let the kids come to you (obviously if you can’t stand kids, this doesn’t work). I have a small box of toys and a collection of children’s books, plus until recently I lived half a block away from a large park. Depending on the time of year we would often either go to the park and let the kid(s) run around, or plop down the box of toys so they could have fun (I don’t have the most exciting toys in the world, but novelty makes up for a lot). I had outlet covers and I have cats so don’t really have knickknacks of the breakable variety, so this was fairly easy.

    – Phone calls can help, as can quick get-togethers.

    – Flexibility can be key; find some way that you can work in possible child-related schedule disasters. (For someone who isn’t extremely punctual to begin with, this might end in not doing anything with a specific schedule like seeing a movie or a play for awhile.) I have, for example, had friends with small kids who would say they were coming over “in the afternoon”, and then would call me when they were on their way or when they were about to leave. (They lived more than a half hour away so this gave me the chance to go to the grocery store and so on, then be home when they arrived.)

    – Be willing to listen to baby and kid stories. This doesn’t mean that all conversations ever must be about their life and not yours. At the same time, esp for brand-new parents, often the main thing on their mind *is* taking care of infant humans, and saying you don’t want to hear about that at all is going to be hard for them.

    – Many couples that I know will alternate adult time every week or every other week or so (i.e., one half of the couple will go out every Monday for yoga class and the other half will go out on Thursdays for book club, or what have you). If you really want to avoid kids, see if you can get in on that time somehow (since it’s not always as structured as a class, sometimes just hanging out with friends).

    – Extend regular invitations to people. If you’re having a get-together, let them know. Even if they can’t make it for a long time, maybe several months, it’s still nice to know that you’re remembered and wanted. (If there’s a way to make the get-together child-friendly, that’s helpful too.)

    – Ask them if there’s any particular way to help work with their current schedule/needs.

    • CMart said:

      Extend regular invitations to people. If you’re having a get-together, let them know. Even if they can’t make it for a long time, maybe several months, it’s still nice to know that you’re remembered and wanted. (If there’s a way to make the get-together child-friendly, that’s helpful too.)

      Yes. Please keep inviting me to things. I pretty much have to say no to 99/100 invitations due to budget and schedules (ours and the kids’), but that won’t be the case forever. I will be able to go out again someday, and it would be nice if my friends still remembered I we exist when that someday comes.

      I try to make this explicit with my friends though. “Won’t be able to make it, but please keep inviting us! Someday the stars will align :)”

      • Can I add to this? On the 1/100 time when I do manage to make it, by all means be pleased to see me but don’t make me feel bad about all the times I didn’t come. There are a couple of social groups (well, one in particular) that I avoid altogether because the couple of times I have gone along, I’ve had to deal with many many rounds of “where have you been? Why haven’t we seen you for so long? You need to come more often!” I know that they 100% believe they’re being warm and welcoming, but it is exhausting and makes the whole thing not-fun – particularly when they try to problem-solve/reassure me: “but X brings their child and it’s fine” – and then I feel as if I have to justify my choices, sometimes to the point of deciding whether to share personal information about my child with well-meaning but insensitive acquaintances.

        (Whew, sorry – apparently that rant had been brewing for a while!!)

  42. Amy said:

    #11: I’m on dating sites right now and most of these sound like people I’d want to have a conversation with! There are so many profiles that say “I like to travel and hang out with friends” with nothing whatsoever on how or why or where they travel, or what they do with friends, or literally anything specific to engage with. Or worse: “idk just ask me!” I like the quirky ones better any day. If their specific things aren’t my thing–that’s fine, we’ve saved everyone time by having that be clear up-front. But if they are? Now I’m not only intrigued and excited about connecting with you, but also equipped with some specific things to message you about! It’s a great combo.

  43. Your Awkward hangouts with new parents idea is brilliant, and I may have to try it. I have had many moments of mourning the friendships that have faded since my friends started having kids. One couple is totally down to hang out, often sans kids, but my husband and I try not to invite them to kid-free outings much out of respect for that whole need-to-book-a-sitter thing. Another couple, I think, would hang out even if it meant they needed to bring the kid along (which I’m fine with), but alas, they live in a different state and our visits require quite a bit more planning. But then there is my friend who I have barely seen since she started having kids. I have tried so many times to invite her to things, only to have 90% of them fall through. Perhaps it’s time to try bringing the party to her.

    • Please do! I have a kid and my BFF did something similar- “I’m bringing food and wine, and we’re gonna relax together!” It was the best thing ever. Bonus points because she made funny faces at the kiddo long enough to entertain him so I could catch up on dishes and switch over the laundry. It was magical.

  44. WanderingUndine said:

    I love flowers, but have a serious phobia of dead ones (a peony fell apart in my hands when I was a young child, traumatizing me for life). On the rare occasions when I’m given cut flowers, I lay them to rest in some hidden outdoor spot as soon as possible and hope the person doesn’t do so again because it’s a weird thing to ask someone *not* to do.

    YES to the inaccuracy of “You can’t love other people if you don’t love yourself,” which implies that you need to somehow develop self-love entirely unassisted — an impossible-seeming proposition for some of us — and ignored the fact that many people are more kind and loving to others than to ourselves. (I often am, because I feel responsible for controlling my own behavior and know that I can’t change anyone else)

    Greating dating profile examples! The fourth one describes me well, except that I’m 31 instead of 28. And I don’t think I would categorically mind dating/trying for a relationship with someone who had ‘figured it out’ to some degree, provided they didn’t hold my inexperience against me or try to convince me that it means I don’t know how relationships work, like the asshat wannabe-PUA who raged that I would be single forever if I believed in the need for consent (thanks to feminism for teaching me otherwise).

  45. ralinn said:

    Flower Guy reminds me of my ex, who came home on my birthday and told me unprompted that he’d thought about buying me flowers but decided not to. If the flowers are actually about a lack of respect and care, and not something that can be fixed by asking if they’d buy you flowers once in a while, get out of the relationship – it won’t improve.

    • Some men never think of it.
      You did. You’d come along
      And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
      But something had gone wrong.
      The shop was closed. Or you had doubts –
      The sort that minds like ours
      Dream up incessantly. You thought
      I might not want your flowers.
      It made me smile and hug you then.
      Now I can only smile.
      But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
      Have lasted all this while.
      ~Wendy Cope

  46. Hummingbear said:

    #6, I want to share this Kathleen Edwards song, “Asking For Flowers.”

  47. Amy said:

    #1: I think it makes a huge difference WHY your wife refuses to take birth control. Does she want to have a baby now? Does she react badly to hormonal birth control and want to use a different method? Does she have religious (or other) objections to birth control as a concept?

    If the problem is that she doesn’t want to use ANY birth control, then the Captain’s advice to not have baby-making sex is exactly what you should do. There are lots of fun non-PIV things that you guys could explore if you want to maintain a sex life without the risk of pregnancy. You can also decide to stick to abstinence, of course.

    If the problem is specifically that she doesn’t like how hormonal birth control affects her body, maybe it’s time for you to step up and take on the birth control management. Condoms are commonly available and highly effective. Vasectomies also work well, though this one may be too permanent if you think you might want kids down the line. There are dozens of non-hormonal birth control options out there (of varying levels of ease of access). Maybe some googling will lead you to one (or a combo of several) that will work for you?

  48. Pam said:

    Hooray for the Search Terms!

  49. Magpie said:

    I need “willing sexual houseplant” on a t shirt. No, I will not sleep over, I work 2 jobs on random schedules and spend every spare moment skiing, but I *would* like to spend 2 hours post-apres working out all those endorphins. And if we meet each other on a lift, I’ll totally show you my favourite gladed powder stash if you promise to keep it secret.

    • I need an Ace Beacon to go with my avalanche beacon, so I’ll be happy to exchange pow stash tips if we agree to go our separate ways after the apres (so, apres the apres…?)!

  50. Parisienne said:

    #9: I find the lobster in the pot analogy helpful here. A Difficult Person has often spent (literally) decades grooming their spouse and children to think that their behaviour is acceptable and normal. They’re like the lobsters that were put into a cold pot and had the water slowly heated, and haven’t noticed they’re getting cooked alive.

    Then one of the children gets married, introducing a new person into the family. They’ve had the good fortune to grow up in a basically functional family where no one behaves like this, or thinks it’s normal so to do. Having not been around for the decades-long heating stage, they are the lobster that gets thrown alive into the now boiling pot, and they do notice it’s hot in there. “What are you doing? Ouch ouch ouch get me out of here! Don’t you realise we’re all getting cooked? Don’t you care?” What to do about this is not simple, in my experience. (Scrabbles pincers against the side of the pot.)

  51. OldMom said:

    On flowers: my experience with flowers was with a decades-ago Darth boyfriend who would bring me silk flowers – very nice because they last – regularly as we were cycling through the typical abuse/beg forgiveness/take him back stuff. By the time we finally broke up, our room was filled with the things. I can’t help but think of flowers now as a sign of trouble. I would be happy in a relationship to never receive flowers. I’ll buy them myself if I want them and they will be real. (baggage, you say…. why yes!) I realize this doesn’t help people who want unsoliticited flowers inspired only by True Love. But there is some element of traditional masculinity that looks at flowers (or more expensive gifts) as a get-out-of-crap-you-did free card. No flowers at all is preferable to apology flowers.
    On friends with kids: in the long run, all those kids will grow up and you might still be friends with the parents. In two short decades, you all will be “without kids” again. I remember vividly the constraints of that early parenting period, but so often, with this kind of question, it feels like people think parents will be permanently saddled with babies. (Yes, once a parenT, always a parent, but that period of intense involvement passes quickly.) my suggestion would be to focus on the long term, find ways to stay connected (easier than ever before with technology), and view those family years as a temporary setback to maintaining friendship… like if your friend moved away or took a time consuming job. If there is interest on both sides, the friendship can continue, maybe at a lower level of regular interaction, and then be revived once parents have more time. Again, I realize this doesn’t help in the immediate sense for those faced with losing their long term friends to child rearing, but it might give some perspective…. if you love your friend now, won’t you still love her in 20 years? So all you have to do is get from now to then.. the Captains advice is great for that. The time flies by.

    • Vasha said:

      “there is some element of traditional masculinity that looks at flowers (or more expensive gifts) as a get-out-of-crap-you-did free card. ”

      There is a cartoon by Jules Feiffer that stuck in my mind for a long time. Shows a man facing a woman at her door holding a strongly, droopy bouquet. Dialogue, paraphrased from memory:
      Him: I brought you flowers, now forgive me.
      Her: But they’re dead!
      Him: What do you want, it’s a gesture!
      Her: Well, OK, but this is the ”last” time.

      • Vasha said:

        That “strongly” should be “straggly.

        All apology flowers are smelly, rotting flowers…

  52. Twitchy said:

    I think it’s normal for friendships to wax and wane with time and circumstances, and if your friendship wanes a bit when your friend has kids because you can’t stand to be around kids, that’s okay. It’s way better than you being around kids when you can’t stand them. It seems like that would make you, your friend, and the kids miserable. I think my advice in those circumstances would be to keep inviting your friend to do adults-only things when they have the time, keep politely declining their invitations to family events, and see how things shake out as the kids get older and need less supervision.

  53. Stevie said:

    The answer to #3 seems a little… off? A bit condescending, while also being defensive. People who don’t like being around kids aren’t feeling that way ‘at’ parents. The LW said very little, and nowhere did they say that they thought the friend’s baby had been “inflicted” upon them. Nor did they imply that they needed to be reminded that kids are people too. That answer hints of disapproval and doesn’t offer any helpful tips and suggestions like the answer to #4 did; is that because LW#4 didn’t say that they can’t stand kids?

    • JenniferP said:

      Someone saying “I can’t stand little kids” is striking me as…off? …condescending? They can’t stand ALL of them? Even the ones they haven’t met yet, made by a very important person in their lives? Ok then! I’m not going to tell them how to feel, but I truthfully think their friendships are going to get shaken if they can’t readjust some things.

      The thing about the search terms post is we don’t have the nuance, and, I don’t have to manufacture it in its absence. It gets to just be my opinion, which, nobody has to agree with or implement.

      • I get what you’re saying. But that phrasing could easily be for differing ability reasons.

        Here’s an example: If you’re on the spectrum, even if you know it, which you very likely don’t, probably no one told you that there’s a real chance you literally experience the world as far louder than most people do. All you know is that many people unaccountably label stabbing pain as “fun” and get all over you for wrecking things or being a bad person because you call it pain and try to get away from it. So finally you give up and decide to just let them label you as the nightclub-hater or baby-hater because you can’t fake loving that level of agonizing pain. So you say things like you “can’t stand little kids” — sure it pisses people off, but they’re going to be pissy and hate you anyway if you don’t smile when they inflict pain on you.

        Now maybe it would be nice if we lived in a society where all such people were identified and given correct information so they could plead for mercy in a politically-correct fashion. Maybe not though — because then they’d still have to plead for mercy from having to taking the pain, and they’d be required to waive their right to medical privacy just to plead for mercy without necessarily getting it.

        Or here’s a fun one: My autoimmune condition is currently in a state where being exposed to the infectious disease vectors that are children could be the end of me. If I say that to people, will they keep their kids away from me? No, some will not. If I claim to hate all children and want to toss them in ovens? My chance of living through the next few months goes up sharply.

        Check your privilege.

        • Really? said:

          Yeah, no, “can’t stand little kids” isn’t a protected class. Your invention of a narrative where the search-terms-typer is literally allergic to children is not really something anyone needs to check their privilege over. If they literally can’t bear to be around children, they can find a way to say it that isn’t aggressive toward an entire subset of inherently vulnerable human beings. “I’m uncomfortable around children.” “Being around little kids puts me on edge.” “I have sensory issues and children are difficult for me.” The things people think are fine to say about kids that they would literally never say about any other population are bizarre to me, and I’m childfree!

        • anon because family mod if necessary said:

          I hear you and I think just like a real friend would be willing to deal with some texting about baby news, a real friend would be interested in the details of this and care about protecting your health, even if you didn’t have a fancy diagnosis to brandish to prove it. If we are talking about indifferent acquaintances/the general public: well, yes. Harsh verbal measures are often necessary with them because they haven’t already been selected for not-sucking like friends have.

          At the same time without oversharing: 50% of births in the US are unplanned. People who are just at the end of their bleeping rope when they have to be around kids include people who have had kids. (My mother is pretty clearly on the spectrum and the sound of children crying does in fact torment her and give her migraines. You will note I said “my mother”. She is from a background where kids did not feel optional. Was this a fun childhood for us HOO BUDDY. Was it fun for her OH WOW.)

          But like: because my mother is a woman she did not have a diagnosis, and because my mother is a woman everyone pressured her to have babies, and because my mother is a woman once she had them the majority burden of care and being-in-the-house-with-screaming fell on her even though my father legitimately LOVES babies and loves hanging out with them.

          So when I hear someone just drop “I can’t stand kids lol, I don’t want to see them outdoors, I expect my friends to be able to do the same socializing we did before kids, I expect to never interact with or see a child” what *I* hear is the risk of further isolating someone like my mother and making it more and more her burden to just… be alone with screaming toddlers forever with no friends, not even phone-level friends, and nothing to do outside the house that isn’t a frantic performance of trying to keep the kids calm and still.

          I mean, yes, you are right that ableism should be checked, but so should misogyny? And in this discussion they are often, OFTEN on a collision course, so.

          • anon because family mod if necessary said:

            And I should say, because this is exactly the kind of lay-diagnosis I know the Captain is trying to avoid: I also have sensory issues/executive function issues very like my mother’s but … sideways, and I love being around children, it’s easy and fun for me. (Honestly it’s so much easier than being in, for instance, a cubicle office). So I don’t want people thinking I’m saying “if you have some kind of spectrum-adjacent thing, you automatically hate children”. It’s not true for me.

      • purps said:

        Yeah, there are people in my life who I… just see less of because they expect to never see little kids, and I don’t even HAVE little kids. But if it comes down to “having friends who have a kid at my potluck” and “excluding friends who have a kid because someone’s plus-1 has an objection to the entire genre of humans under 10” it’s like… sorry? I’m afraid that that’s not a preference that I can accommodate.

    • aebhel said:

      Well, no, but if I have a best friend who can’t stand my kids, that person is probably not going to remain my best friend. That’s life. My kids live in my house and take up a substantial amount of my mental and emotional real estate, and I’m not likely to spend much of my already limited social energy on someone who wishes they didn’t exist. Most parents I know feel the same way.

      What advice would you give #3?

      • I’d tell them to offer invitations for interactions that get around whatever they need to avoid.

        If you need to avoid being around the kids, offer invitations that don’t involve that, or consider options that mitigate whatever the issue is, like going to the zoo. Still show interest by asking your friend about the kids if that works for you, because this is now the most important part of your friend’s life, and damn well should be.

        Or maybe it’s the talking about them that’s the problem — maybe you don’t mind being around the kids and playing with them, but your friend has got kid-religion and won’t stop pressuring you to have your own, so it’s the talking about kids you want to avoid with this particular friend. Luckily if that’s the case, kids are a convenient change-the-subject-opportunity machine and you and the kids can go galloping off chasing bubbles or imaginary lint every time your friend starts prescribing other people’s reproduction. I’ve found bursting into song is also popular with the little ones and shuts up rude adults.

    • Kacienna said:

      I don’t think the advice would change because I don’t think there is any way to change it; dealing fairly positively with a friend’s kids is part of being friends with them when they’re raising kids. There might be an available range from about 90% kid-free hangouts to about 90% hangouts-with-kids, but where you are in that range will probably also affect how often you get to hang out. That said, I totally get that kids aren’t a lot of fun for everyone, and it’s very possible to feel positive towards a kid but negative towards their current developmentally appropriate behaviors (see: nibling going through the very repetitive play stage where playing with them meant re-enacting the same script over and over; see: nibling getting progressively louder in demands for chocolate milk because adults are occupied and kid can’t get it themself). Having kids around doesn’t have to be your preference, ever, but being able to cheerfully accept them sometimes is a useful skill.

    • Anonyish said:

      + 1 They’re not saying it to the parents, they’re thinking it to themselves and trying to find a way to deal with it in terms of remaining friends, and that’s a good thing. If they didn’t get that this was an issue, they probably wouldn’t have googled.

      There are many positive suggestions made about friendships when one party has kids, and those are great and I have used many in the past myself. But in terms of maintaining friendships I think it is also useful to remember that if you don’t like interacting with kids much – or you do, but not in every way – you are allowed to set boundaries yourself, too. You are allowed to say that you don’t wish to hold the baby, and that you are not to be climbed on by a toddler and to have these wishes respected. You are allowed to go round to your friends’ a lot because that suits them, but for your birthday go to that awesome restaurant and if they can’t come, well that’s just how it is, you aren’t going to the restaurant at them any more than they had a baby at you. You are allowed to ask that a child with an infection not come to your house, because you can’t afford work sick days or just don’t want to risk being ill. You are allowed a child-free wedding if you prefer that. And you are allowed to expect your friends to also acknowledge your own life and to make an effort themselves when it is appropriate. Because the fact is that loads of parents are great, but parents are people and some people are, unfortunately, selfish, and parenting like any change in life can reveal that.

      • purps said:

        Yeah, but this is, genre-wise, a little like “my friend is getting married and I can’t stand married people.”

        Your friend may or may not become one of THOSE married people, just like the child may or may not become your exception (like “I hate all dogs but I love your dog, but I’m still never going to dogsit”). But the fact is that this is happening, that it’s really not about your friendship, and that if you can’t accommodate it then you’re making one half of a decision about continuing this friendship.

        I use married people as an example because a) some married people DO stop hanging out with single people, which I think is a little rude and b) I don’t have kids but I’m married, and it’s true, married people can be smug af. At the same time, if doing explicitly single person activities is central to a friendship, then, like… it’s not my fault that my life is different? I’m not going to say that everyone should get married, or encourage anyone else to change their mind on marriage, but if all people want to talk about is how they disapprove of marriage, and they hate even the sight of my spouse, that’s… their thing and not mine.

        (This leaves aside that I CAN leave my wife at home alone and it is rude of me to not SOMETIMES do so, whereas I have had friendships in my friendgroup break up because someone took it as a personal affront that a couple who were on WIC couldn’t afford a babysitter to come do cool late-night hangs.)

        • Kacienna said:

          At the same time, I feel like there are some fairly predictable characteristics of children that not everyone is going to want to deal with, and maybe especially not people who have decided to be non-reproductive because they know they don’t handle those predictable kid traits well. Children are going to do things that I wouldn’t tolerate in adults, and this is because they’re still learning and developing, and that makes it easier to handle on an intellectual level, and I’m generally not angry with them, but it doesn’t make aversive stimuli actually less aversive.

        • Yup, both people get to set their limits.

          It’s not wrong to center your life on the kids, especially when they’re small and more work. I’d say it’s very much a good thing to do if you can.

          That doesn’t mean anyone else needs to join you in “It’s All Kids All The Time Land” — I had a lot of trouble with people in my life not getting that I don’t want to live in that country and a one-way trip to Mars sounds damn good by comparison.

          Yes, your lives may diverge. And figuring that out may involve googling things like, “My friend had a baby and I can’t stand kids,” or “I had a baby and my friends don’t come to see me.” Or you may google those things and figure out how to come together. There’s no One Size Fits All.

          • purps said:

            I think my only point of real irritation is when people don’t try to be curious about the constraints a friend is under. Like “hi! My immune system is borked because of my medical condition! I REALLY ACTUALLY can’t be in the same room as your sticky child and their preschool germs.” or “We genuinely cannot both pay rent and get a babysitter, this is not a choice about whether I value your company.”

            The thing that gets up my nose in general is when one person’s life changes in a way that adds more complication or constraint, and the friend whose situation hasn’t changed is just… mad at them that things are different without trying to understand, or even without asking about it. To me, that’s where the first set of choices called “this friendship isn’t worth it to me” are getting made.

            So I think my actual advice to the googler would be “well, get curious about your friend’s life and imagine they’ve taken on something more sympathetic, like, idk, running a goat hospice single-handedly. You don’t have to get in there with them! They’ve just taken on a heck of a life complication and their schedule will be a mess. You might become essentially long-distance friends for a few years because they’re up to their elbows in goat straw.”

    • Twitchy said:

      Agreed. Some people really can’t stand kids. Yes, all kids, even the ones they haven’t met, just because of the things they do by virtue of being kids. These people should not be around kids. I was around a lot of them when I was a kid, and I can’t say I really benefited from it.

      • Amy said:

        This is true–people are allowed to have stringent objections and boundaries around whatever they want/need to have them around. Some people are categorically unable to be around kids, and either unable or unwilling to figure out any kind of compromise on that. And yeah, respecting that is better for both those people and any kids that might otherwise be subjected to them.

        But I suspect the reality is that when these people’s friends become parents, the friendship has reached its natural ending point. When people have children, there is a period of several years where their lives naturally revolve heavily around said children. That’s just the reality of raising small children (assuming you’re not, like, a distant millionaire parent who foists their kids off on nannies and governesses or something). They’re logistically not going to have much time/availability for someone who will not under any circumstances be around their kid…and on an interpersonal level, they may not have much to talk about with someone who doesn’t want anything to do with a thing that’s so central to their lives.

        That doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone’s in the wrong. It’s normal and fine for parents to spend a lot of time focused on their kids; it’s probably for the best that people who absolutely can’t tolerate kids stay away from them. But people with such different circumstances probably aren’t going to stay close over the many years that it takes for kids to grow up. So OP3 probably needs to either figure out how to be around kids in a way that’s safe and functional for everyone, or accept that this friendship is not going to last.

    • I’m still kind of working this out myself. With that said, I mean, it’s not ok to say you “can’t stand” any other type of human being, right? Like “I can’t stand old people” or “I can’t stand gays” or whatever. Kids are still people, being a kid is a thing someone is not a thing someone does and could maybe stop doing, everybody who’s an adult now was a little kid once. (I have a limited tolerance for, eg, being around loud noises for extended period, and young kids and loud noises tend to be highly correlated. So I can’t be around young kids for as long as I can be around relatively quiet (ie not in drunken party mode) adults. But I wouldn’t express that in terms of “I can’t stand little kids.”) Additionally…not being around little kids does make it very, very hard to be around parents of little kids, so “I don’t want to be around little kids” also means, by extension “I don’t want to be around parents of little kids” to a large degree, and the more people have that attitude the more isolated parents (especially moms) of young children get. It’s not really a morally neutral thing. I think — again, I’m still working on this — that not wanting to be around young children tends to be a preference/mild to moderate inconvenience issue. But being a parent and keeping your kids from inconveniencing others, throws your life and theirs out of whack far beyond the moderate inconvenience level. And people can’t just not have kids — some people can of course, but not everyone.

      Another way of looking at it: if I “can’t stand” the spouse of someone I care deeply for to the extent that I refuse to spend time with that person, I may not intend to have that reaction “at” that person, but refusing to spend time with the spouse is *going* to impact my relationship with my friend or family member or whatever, to the point where we may well not have a relationship any more. Having someone in your life usually means you at least politely tolerate their spouse and invite them to events, no matter how much you personally dislike that person. A parent-child relationship is no less significant than a spouse relationship.

      • Anonymous said:

        Sure, but the searcher didn’t ever “SAY” out loud she couldn’t stand little kids. She googled it, in what she thought was the privacy of her own browser. So it’s pretty harsh to come down on her as “condescending” for thoughts inside her head that she never even spoke aloud.

        Full disclosure (and reason I’m posting anonymously): I too really do not enjoy the company of little kids. I understand that children do not choose to be children, just like dogs don’t choose to be dogs (but it’s still socially acceptable to not like dogs).

        When people say they can’t stand gay people or old people, it’s based on stereotypes. Not all gay people conform to that person’s stereotype. By contrast, every single toddler on the face of the planet *really does* scream, whine, have sticky fingers and naptime meltdowns, etc. It’s not a prejudice, it’s a reality.

        I actively advocate for better parental support in the workplace and so forth. I’ll suck it up and deal with children for the purposes of keeping parents I care about in my life. It’s part of being an adult, dealing with things you might not like. But I don’t think I’m a bad person for personally and privately not liking kids.

      • purps said:

        Yeah, predictably I have a huge double standard here (as a non-parent baby person): if a woman in my life is like “uhhhh babies freak me out I’d prefer not to be at events that are CENTERED on hanging out with a baby, and I don’t want to touch it, and if it starts wailing I’m going to go hide on the porch with my phone, and also I feel like if it comes to my house it’s going to find one of the 10,000 non-baby-proof things here and then perish so please no” I’m like yeah okay. I don’t get it but you do you.

        If a man in my life is like “ew lol why is there a BABY here take that thing somewhere else” (and this difference in how the issue is stated is fairly typical in my experience) I’m like well, sir, you can suck it up in order to be a member of FLIPPING SOCIETY. What makes me the most mad are the men I’ve known who expect to have uninterrupted baby-free social time with their male friends WHEN THOSE FRIENDS HAVE BABIES. Like, whose job is that going to be? Argh.

      • TO_On said:

        Yes, and it’s totally reasonable for people to be upset by strong negative statements or unveiled dislike towards their kids, as it would be towards any other family member. And it’s kind of tp be expected that if you let a friend figure out you hate people who are beloved to them, there’s a big chance it will affect your relationship.

        I mean, if someone activity dislikes or disrespects my sister and doesn’t hide it, or is rude to her, or tells me they can’t stand to be around people like her, you can bet it would affect our friendship. Even though with a sister there aren’t even any practical impediments to them just never ever seeing each other (most of my friends have never even met either of my sisters). It’s one thing to be friends with someone without also being friends with their family, that’s not automatically a problem, but if you actually hate or are disgusted by someone I love??

        And a sister is an adult and not my child, so there isn’t even all that extra protectiveness you have of a child.

    • Fiona said:

      Yeah, I find it weird that people expect non-parents to make all the sacrifices/accommodations for parents. I also find it weird that people expect parents to drop everything else in their lives for their kids.

      I have friends with kids. I don’t like kids. Some of my friends with kids also don’t like kids. When we talk, I ask how they’re doing and listen if they have kid issues, but my friends know I’m not the person who will understand parenting dilemmas. (I will listen to them vent about kids without judgement). We do adult things and it’s fine.

      Different relationship fill different needs. If people are too busy bc they have very small children, that sucks, but it’s life. It’s not like having kids means you drop the interests that you had in common with friends.

      It’s one thing to have less available time and energy. It’s another to believe your priorities are not important than someone else’s priories.

  54. goddessoftransitory said:

    Ahhh, the old “You can’t love others until you love yourself” thing…

    I remember Cynthia Heimel, who wrote a lot of humor stuff in the eighties, had a great take on this. Paraphrasing, she basically said this isn’t true. “Even if you utterly despise yourself, you can always scratch up a few suckers who will love every hair on your unworthy head.

    But you’ll hate them for it.”

    That always stuck with me. It’s not that a person doesn’t or can’t have people who care about them in their lives no matter how self-loathing they are, it’s that those people are probably going to be blamed for “wasting” their affections or whatever.

    • Anon said:

      One of my favorite quotes on this subject is a tweet by Anthony Oliveira:

      “… loving is the hardest fight, bc it is a permanent, impossible asymmetry – u have to love more than you are loved. Kindness isn’t Einsteinian; it propagates outward from a hollow centre.”

      I think about this all the time.

      Here’s the link for full context: https://twitter.com/meakoopa/status/1005228770045939712?s=09

  55. I followed a couple of links from this page and found a link where the Captain tells a male poster to remember that women are not all the same, and he shouldn’t, for example, assume that what disappointed one woman will be disliked by all women.

    I thought it worth reminding everyone that the same is true of men: They are not all the same, not by a long shot. There are a great many out there who prefer a slower development of sexual contact in a relationship. But a culture of toxic masculinity means that many of those won’t feel like they know how to admit that.

    So we get a lot of women AND men who don’t really want to feeling like they have to be more sexual than they want earlier in the relationship than they want in order to have a chance at a relationship at all. And that nearly always injects some slow poison into the relationship.

    As a note of hope for others out there: The times in my life it was an everybody-knows-it open secret that “Helen is not that kind of girl,” it didn’t put a dent in my suitors — it brought out those who were happy with that. I saw above that this didn’t work out for someone who got all the pervs instead, so your mileage may vary.

    But I’ve also spent a lot of years in all-male environments winding up hearing their concerns, and there are a lot of guys out there who don’t like the insta-sex model and don’t know how to deal with what they feel is expected of them — they feel like they have to act ready to have sex at the drop of a hat or they fail at life.

  56. Indie said:

    My late dad used to buy my mother flowers whenever he saw them on offer. He knew she would be pleased with the thriftiness as well as the thought and this proved a pleasingly random and regular surprise. I think it is ok to ask for this as long as you say ‘How would you feel about…’ because some people just hate flowers and dont wanna buy them. But there are always stand ins for flowers. Always.

  57. Caraval said:

    Your profile outlines are amazing! I need to switch out the line in the Grandma one though, I’m a “you just heard songs on the Oldies station that you listened to on the schoolbus and realized that was 25 years ago and now you’re in shock”.

    Also, there’s a flip side to the flowers bit, if they ‘surprise’ you with things that you’ve mentioned multiple times you don’t like/have a problem with (ex. flowers when you have an allergy/scents give you a headache) they’re not listening and there’s a problem. I had one of those.

    • ell. said:

      Oh gosh, me too, with the flowers flip side. I’ve gotten flowers so many times from my husband (spending joint money, no less) who has been told plainly, repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms that I hate receiving store bought flowers. Ditto with so much milk chocolate when I like only dark. And flowers and chocolate are his entire gift giving range. Oh, except the time he gave me a ridiculously expensive and fragile necklace and I never wear necklaces, almost never get dressed up, and had told him that I find necklaces uncomfortable.

      • Emily said:

        My very well-meaning boyfriend once gave me a necklace for Christmas and instead of making me feel happy and loved (the intent) it made me feel disappointed and confused because I don’t usually like to wear jewelry (to the extent that almost all of the jewelry I do own is at my childhood home!) and didn’t understand why he’d get me that when there were at least two other things (in a similar price range) that he knew I did want. I’m over it now, but at the time it felt kind of bad (and then I would feel bad for feeling bad, because it made my boyfriend feel bad too).

        I later learned that there were some reasons/backstory behind his choice, and he’s learned to stick more closely to the list for big gift-giving occasions (surprises can be amazing, but I would rather get a thing that I’ve said I want than a surprise that’s missed the mark). But that necklace was a one-time thing! I can’t imagine why your husband is repeatedly giving you things that you’ve specifically said you don’t like. :/

        • ell. said:

          I think he’s following a script for “things husbands should buy their wives” and can’t be bothered to remember/care what I personally might want. As Caraval said, “they’re not listening and there’s a problem.”

          • Nanani said:

            Yep. He’s treating you like a vending machine or video game quest giver. The manual said to give Wife this item!

            Dump people who don’t treat you like people.

  58. Carlie said:

    #4: If anyone had done anything remotely like that for me ever at anytime between the birth of my kids and, say, when they were in high school, I would have cried for days in gratitude. I’m tearing up just imagining it now.

  59. caraway said:

    A whole full length book of dating profiles. I would buy it.

    • Kacienna said:

      OMG yes!

  60. Literarily said:

    Your highly specific dating profiles are amazing! Also a great writing prompt.

    I wrote this one:
    Not-So-Chaste Nun seeks first girlfriend
    Twenty years ago I chose a relationship with God over a relationship with one of my mother’s picks of pious controlling men ten years my senior. God has been great and we’re now ready to open this relationship UP! Looking for dance sessions where we do not leave room for the holy ghost, making out pressed against the chancel and figuring out how to orgasm with someone who knows what she wants and wants to take the lead.

    If you are not prepared to join this holy trinity—you, me and Jesus—that’s all good, we can make–I believe the poly kids are calling it a vee these days? But you also can’t freak out if he comes up in conversation or you see his name on my google calendar.

    • Kacienna said:

      Polyamorous, demi-ace, Christian here! I love this dating profile so much!

    • Kactus said:

      I love this ^_^

  61. slythwolf said:

    I am literally divorced from the guy described in the answer to #6!

  62. Mikko Saarinen said:

    Just wanted to chime in here regarding the Medium article that when you want to get pregnant the female orgasm is actually not irrelevant.

    I agree completely that all unwanted pregnancies are caused by men since like the article suggests we can always either use condoms or pull out to prevent ejaculating inside a vagina (ejaculation being different from orgasm).

    However the female orgasm is not irrelevant. We unsurprisingly know very little about it but what little we have studied seems to indicate a higher chance of getting pregnant either right after or curiously (iirc) about an hour afterwards. Again the actual pregnancy is cause by the sperm entering the egg so if you remove the sperm the woman can have s billion orgasms without causing a pregnancy. Also the female orgasm isn’t a requirement for the pregnancy like male ejaculation is.

    • Jane said:

      “I agree completely that all unwanted pregnancies are caused by men”

      No. Not everyone with a penis is a man. And not everyone who gets pregnant is a woman, or female.

  63. SqueakyHammer said:

    The “here you go!” link under #6 is broken. Not a major thing, but I admit to being curious what it’s supposed to be.

    • JenniferP said:

      How to find a divorce lawyer in the US. Will fix!

  64. veronica wolfe said:

    I used to be one of those people who thought UGH! I don’t like kids. But I have come to realize I just don’t like poorly behaved children and parents. I mean, I still don’t get why people just love babies they just sleep eat and poop, Like I dont mind them but I am also not fascinated by them either.
    I have discovered over the years that I really didnt mind visiting or hanging out with people who had children no matter the age as long as they took care of their children the majority of the time. Like I dont mind holding your child while you do something or even to give your arms a break but I am not a child sherpa or a nanny. No I do not want to change your baby unless you cannot do it for some reason. No i do not want to spend the entire visit telling your child no over and over about the same thing because you wont( I mean behavior I know is not tolerated in their own home) If you cannot ask anything about my life and all you can talk about is your child eventually that is going to get old. If your child is older than 4 and I cannot hold conversation with you because they interrupt literally every time you try to speak no I do not want to hang out with you until you can actually have a conversation .
    I feel like it isn’t kids most people dont like it people who dont want to watch or parent their children that people dont like, I also do not like poorly behaved animals or adults. While I do understand children will have good and bad days if every time i visit is a bad day or every time i visit I spend the entire time taking care of your child and not actually getting to spend time with you. Chances are I am going to fade out as quickly as I can

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