It Came From The Search Terms: February Seven

It’s time to answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.

Here is a seasonal jam by The Avett Brothers:

Lyrics are here.

1 “I can’t stand going to my friend’s house because she smokes inside.”

Legit! I have a very hard time with smoke (asthma trigger), the same way cat-allergic friends have a hard time hanging out in the kitten palace. Sometimes it’s possible to hang out for a little while at my lovely smoker-friends’ places with the aid of my inhaler (used both pre-emptively and refreshed periodically), sometimes it’s not. Sometimes my friends can hang out at my place for a little while with the help of Zyrtec, sometimes they can’t, and/or we need to cut the visit short. Nobody holds it against anyone (we all get to set our own risk tolerance, especially when it comes to breathing, and we all get to make our homes primarily serve ourselves). It’s okay to invite the friend out and generally try to meet in places other than her home.

2 “My sister has changed so much I don’t even know her anymore.”

What if you could let go of who she used to be, or how you imagined she was?

Pretend you just met her. Look at her like a friendly stranger might, someone without any baggage or history where she’s concerned. Try to spend some enjoyable time with her, find out what she’s interested in now, find out what you might have in common now.

Look for reasons to enjoy her company, be proud of her, look for things to be curious about and praise. If she’s unkind to you, or just an asshole, that’s different, obviously, but what if you started from a place of kindness and curiosity?

Sometimes I wish we could all do this with all of our family members.

3 “Tidying Up hard to understand her accent


As someone who has studied multiple languages and taught ESL to kids and adults, I have recommendations, though I should say up front that these suggestions require the ability to see the screen and read and I’m not sure what to recommend for people with visual impairments.

If you want to watch a TV show and you have trouble parsing the performer’s accent, try this:

  1.  Turn on the captions/subtitles.
  2. Remove other distractions (don’t try to watch it in the background while you keep one eye on your phone or sorting your mail or whatever). You’re going to have to pay closer attention.
  3. Get used to the idea that you might not catch absolutely every nuance the first time. You can rewind if necessary, rewatch if necessary.
  4. Stick with it for a few episodes. It’s very likely that it will get easier the more you listen and watch. You’ll pick up the cadences of speech better, and you’ll have more context clues, you’ll get to know the performers/presenters body language/facial expressions over time.

If you try that and it doesn’t get easier, maybe the show is not for you. Try the book instead, or find something else to watch.

Moderation Note:  Kindly refrain from cluttering the comments section with complaints/criticisms/feelings/arguments/jokes/incl. compliments! about Marie Kondo, her show, her book, her approach, literally anything about her. I find the intense discourse around her exhausting at best and racist at worst, and I will delete all of it (even nice things)(even jokes that are clever variations about whether something sparks joy). I like you an awful lot, let’s keep it that way.

4 “Can’t wear anything too “fancy” or my boyfriend gets mad


I have an idea, let’s look at pretty outfits and imagine what we might wear to a “I dumped that controlling jerkass” party.

Maybe something from the Vivienne Westwood ’94 collection? 

Or the recent Golden Globes?

5 “Flowers on dick.” 

Scroll down to #18 for all your funeral-arrangements-for-enemies needs.

6 “sexual favors”and “free rent” “massachusetts”

Well that’s wicked specific.

7 “My boyfriend expects me to eat from his squalid kitchen


Well, what happens when you say “I’m not comfortable with that?” 

I meant to add this to the “red flags & compatibility when meeting new people to date” discussion at the end of this post last week but I forgot, so I’ll add it here:

Visit each other’s living spaces  – after you feel safe/comfortable being alone with someone before you commit to an ongoing relationship. Are you comfortable there? Do you feel welcome? Can you relax? Is what you see (smell/feel) congruent with the person you’re getting to know and what you want?

“This person’s living space upsets me” vs. “What if they can’t help it?” is a well-covered discussion topic on the site. I am not interested in judging people, blaming people, diagnosing people, excusing people, shaming people, setting these conflicts up as moral contests. I am interested in giving everyone permission to factor how a current or potential partner keeps their living space into decisions about comfort and compatibility.

Back in grad school I made a short film about a laundry pile achieving sentience. It wasn’t a documentary due to biological impossibility…for now…but let’s just say my real-life hamper did all its own stunts. By contrast, my dad, the world’s tidiest man, can sense when you are close to finishing a soda. He hovers while you take your last swallow, pounces before you can put the can down on any surface, rinses it to restore factory settings, and ferries it gently to its rightful place in the garage, where his complex recycling system made up of 12 distinct bins and barrels awaits. He is an extremely good match for my mom, who prefers to maintain all surfaces in a state of surgical sterility.

A date who preferred my parents’ “we keep the correct vacuum cleaner for each room in a closet in that room” lifestyle would have looked at my MFA in chore avoidance and thought: “Nope! We would make each other miserable!” This is fine! We would! I would gross him out, he would remind me of my dad and send my shoulders up around my ears!

Maybe the boyfriend in the search string will clean his kitchen. Maybe he’ll get dumped ’cause he won’t. Maybe he’ll be the one who breaks up because the querent made him feel judged and uncomfortable. Maybe they’ll decide to live happily ever after on takeout and prepackaged things. Fine! This is all fine!

In no universe will I ever recommend anything resembling “Since some people struggle with housekeeping, love probably means swallowing your discomfort along with whatever they cooked, no matter how unsanitary you find it.” Serious incompatibility around housekeeping stuff is a recipe for intense stress and conflict, you’re allowed to have preferences, needs, and choose a lower difficulty setting for yourself and your relationships.

8 “Why does my boyfriend treats his daughter like his wife.”

He creepy?

9 “Niece hates me for no reason.”

She has a reason. It may not be a good reason, it may not be a reason you’ll ever get to the bottom of, but it exists even if it’s only her opinion.

When I sense someone doesn’t like me, and I can’t think of a plausible reason for the conflict,  and “Hey, have I done something to upset you?” doesn’t work (either b/c I asked and didn’t get a good answer or I don’t feel comfortable enough to even ask), I try to give the person a lot of space, be polite and keep it light when I do have to interact, and see if time either mellows the situation or gives me more information.

10 “BF’s ex-girlfriend warns me about him how do I respond


Do you actually need to respond? Do you need to respond to her?

In your shoes, I might say something very non-committal to her, like, “thanks for telling me, I’ll think about it.” It’s such an unusual thing to do that (in my opinion) it’s probably worth thinking about for a few days before you either act on it or disregard it.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if you do nothing about what she said? (Don’t respond, don’t address it with your boyfriend, brush it off).

What’s the substance of the warning? Is she trying to warn you about abuse? Have you noticed any red flags?

What’s in this for her? What reason would she have to lie? Like, is she trying to get you to break up with the boyfriend so she can be with him again, or to create trouble for him? Or is she trying to warn you to GTFO for your own safety?

Your answers to those questions will most likely point you in the right direction.

11 “Housemate comments on everything I do.”

I’m sure I wrote some more emotionally mature and useful responses and you should probably go read those and try those suggestions.

Right now what comes to mind is:”What are you, the narrator?”

12 “What does it mean when someone reacts to a minor little comment that bothers them with a barrage of made up hurtful things to hurt the other person?


Nothing good! Consider how much time you want to spend with someone who does this (if any).

13 “I feel like I am a burden on my therapist


This is probably worth mentioning to your therapist. Consider also that your therapist gets paid for the time they spend with you, most therapists have some choices about who they take on as a client, and you’re just one of many clients they see. It is unlikely they are thinking about you (as a burden or otherwise) as much as you think about them.

14 “How often to go to someones house.”

I love literally any excuse to make a chart.

Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 5.52.01 PM
A Venn Diagram that shows the intersection of being invited to someone’s house and actually wanting to go to their house. Maybe you’ll need Zyrtec.


Happy Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate, happy “day before half price candy” for those who don’t. Be excellent to yourselves and each other.

133 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: February Seven

  1. Re #3, I generally find that the more time I spend listening to people with a particular accent talking while I’m working to understand it (the suggestions Capt. Awkward provides are often helpful), the better I get at understanding people with that accent. YouTube may be useful as far as providing more examples.

    1. Yes! I have slight hearing issues and starting working at an office with people who mostly speak with a British accent. It was very hard to understand them at first, but I watched a ton of BBC and spent two years around them and now I’m pretty good.

      1. I spent a college semester abroad in England (raised in Philadelphia) and my mom had to talk to the schools office. I had to translate because she could not understand what they were saying.

    2. Weeb here. Even after my hours of listening to Japanese media (okay, it’s anime), I still find Marie Kondo’s English a bit hard to follow. But her English is still lots better than my Japanese.

    3. As far as video goes, adjusting your audio settings and output method might make a difference too.
      Headphones could make it easier to understand speech over background music and other sounds in the video, or maybe your TV/speakers have settings you can experiment with. Turn off surround sound and switch to stereo when not watching a movie specifically made for surround and vice versa.
      The default settings aren’t always the best for everyone’s ears and environment!

    4. Translator and interpreter here. That’s actually what we have to do to prepare for each job! You research the speaker, their work, their life…, and listen to (and read) as many examples of their speeches/conferences as you can. This is both to get familiar with their voice and accent and to get to know them as a person, so your personal knowledge of them and their work fills up any understanding gaps (like references to early career events) you may have at the moment. It really helps 🙂

      In this case, if the asker wants to invest the time and effort, learning more about Kondo via her social media or interviews could pay off.

      1. How interesting! It makes sense when you explain it that way, but I never thought before about the prep work interpreters would need to do before a live event.

        1. I was in a musical Christmas event this year that included songs with Middle English and tricky references to things that aren’t talked about anymore (small beer, as one minor example). Our ASL interpreters came to a couple of our full run-throughs AND got a copy of all the lyrics beforehand so they could interpret it better. I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been for them to interpret that show on the fly.

          1. I bet! I imagined that people practiced for things like plays and things that were pre-rehearsed, but I never thought about the kind of prep people would do for live/unscripted events.

            I always think it’s really cool to learn new things about other people’s jobs, thank you, B., for sharing your experience!

    5. The evidence from linguistic research backs lexica510 up: the more time a person spends listening to the speech of ESL speakers, the better they get at understanding ESL speech. As far as I know, this applies generally (i.e. listening to somebody with a specific accent will help in a small way with all accents, not just the one they have). So draw comfort form knowing it will get easier to understand her with time.

      1. Minuteye, you’re spot on! I’m an ESL teacher and it takes practice to understand the speech of 2nd language speakers. But it is possible. I say that I wish people would “open their ears wider” b/c often the accented English isn’t that hard to understand, depending on the speaker!

      2. This was my experience in college (all my math profs were ESL speakers) so I’m delighted that there’s research backing it up!

    6. Another thing that might help – find some things to listen to in Japanese. You won’t understand it, but over time it can help “tune” your ear to make more sense of the sounds it’s hearing and sort through Ms. Kondo’s accented English.

      1. This is good advice. I have auditory processing issues–I can hear people speak just fine but my brain sometimes just cannot parse the sounds into language. I often cannot understand people with thick accents, but I rarely have trouble understanding people with either japanese or french accents because I have heard a lot of both languages, even though I speak no more than a few words of either. It really helps to know what phonemes someone is starting from.

    7. I would recommend watching until you are truly baffled by a word or sentence, and then running it back and turning on the subtitles and watching that bit again. See if you have a ‘moonchild’ moment where suddenly it is really clear.

      Short story long: When I was a kid I loved the movie NeverEnding Story, but I could never understand what his mother’s name was that he was yelling out the window to give to the Childlike Empress. Me and my friends watched again and again but had no idea what he was yelling out the window, it sounded like nonsense. Years later I ended up reading the book, which told me the name was MoonChild – which ok, that was not on my list. I discussed it with friends who decided they must have changed it for the movie, so we re-watched, and what do you know, it totally 100% sounded like Moonchild – how did we not get that before? So every time I don’t understand something, but once I know what it is it is super clear I call a Moonchild moment. And I’ve found the more Moonchild moments I have with any one persons accent, the better I understand that person going forward without having to read the book.

      1. The sound editing in that scene has always struck me as pretty poor. I had to read the book too, to understand what he said.

        I was actually disappointed when I finally made it out. I’d thought it being unintelligible was an artistic choice.

    8. also–be rested, and be patient.

      I live in a very diverse borough of NYC, and sometimes I find myself completely blanked at understanding the accent I’m hearing. Sometimes it isn’t even all that terribly strong, and even the grammar/syntax is perfect! So you’d think I could understand it.

      But if I’m annoyed, or tired, my brain will just quit.

      1. I sometimes listen to podcasts or radio shows from the UK. I’m Canadian, so the accents are different from what I grew up with myself, but the more I listen, the more effortless it becomes.

        However, they have a LOT of completely different accents. And sometimes I have noticed that if it’s an accent I’m less familiar with, I literally need the volume a little bit louder just when that one person is speaking.

    9. I can catch on to accents pretty easily. Recently I figured out that when someone is talking, my throat and tongue are moving with them, so I am essentially saying internally what they are saying externally, and I can “feel” their accent, and then I am able to translate. So, maybe try getting a recording (on YouTube, or rewatching on Net Flix) and talk along with them, maybe this will help.

  2. Maybe relevant: Marie Kondo is most often actually speaking Japanese when she is on screen! If you can’t do subtitles, Netflix offers Audio Descriptions that can be turned on just like captions/subtitles. These are definitely available for “Tidying Up”, and include English voiceover translation of the parts in Japanese, as well as other descriptions of what’s happening on screen.

      1. A good way to retrain yourself to *watch* the captions (and not browse your phone) is to watch foreign language films where the subtitles are all you, personally, understand.

    1. I have that on every time I use Netflix, it’s really useful since I have trouble hearing audio sometimes.

    2. That’s really helpful! I often listen rather than watch shows, and kept losing the thread of what was happening when they switched to spoken Japanese.

    3. This might be totally off-topic and if so please delete, but I just want to say that this feature can be used in really cool ways in addition to improving accessibility – if you haven’t, check out the narrative voiceover for the Daredevil show they did. The narration is so tightly written, so clear and yet evocative, and the delivery is so excellent, that it actually IMPROVES a fight scene to have this guy describing what’s happening in it. It kind of rules. Super interesting unexplored space for artistic expression.

  3. “You’re allowed to choose a lower difficulty setting for yourself and your relationships” is my new life motto, thank you.

    1. I just watched a movie called Broken Star where a main character says that doing something that makes your loved one happy, even if you don’t want to do it, is a sign of love. I also read that love is giving your partner what they need and being happy with what your partner gives you. To me, that means I don’t get to choose a lower difficulty setting for myself and my relationships, except by ending them. I think I’m doing something wrong here, but am not sure what it is.

      1. I’d interpret the sentiment a little differently.

        The way the characters you seem to be reading this is that love is a performative thing – you demonstrate your love by doing things you don’t want to do, and putting your partners needs ahead of their own (even if they’re not reciprocating??). To me, a relationship in which I do all the giving but never expect to take is…not a balanced one.

        You can read this differently though. If I don’t want to do something but find I’m willing to do it anyway to please a partner…that, to me, is a sign that I might be in love (or in like). My feelings for them override my feelings of antipathy/apathy towards the other thing.

        If you are giving your partner what they need and you are happy with what they are giving you then it’s the sign of a happy, healthy relationship. But it’s a consequence of love, not something you have to pay to get it.

      2. I think “a sign of love” can be something to look for, something that can happen some of the time, rather than something to be considered mandatory either in yourself or your partner. I think in most healthy relationships, each person sometimes does things they’d rather not for the sake of their partner, and sometimes nopes out. (Also, “don’t want to do it” can mean feeling neutral about it, ie I don’t actively want to do it, or it can mean feeling aversive to it. It’s an intrinsically ambiguous way to frame things. There’s a big difference between doing things you’re neutral on, doing things you kind of dislike, and doing things that you extremely dislike. There’s also a big difference between telling yourself that you’re happy with what you get from your partner, and actually being happy.) I think what you read isn’t necessarily wrong (for instance, never doing anything with your partner unless it’s something you would do purely because you want to do it, is probably a bad way to do relationships) but you may want to take it with a grain of salt, and balance it against other ideas about love.

      3. Oh hey, a soapbox! I have strong opinions about what love is, but your mileage may (probably will) vary.

        doing something that makes your loved one happy, even if you don’t want to do it, is a sign of love

        So this part I generally agree with, as long as there are reasonable limits on what you do to make your loved one happy. Using myself as an example, I would be miserable if I tried to do the digital nomad thing that’s so trendy lately, so if my husband wanted to go be a nomad he’d have to do it without me.

        love is giving your partner what they need and being happy with what your partner gives you

        But this part? Oh my fuck no I do not agree even a little bit. Loving someone does not even slightly obligate you to be happy with what they give you. I’m not even talking about abuse or even vaguely shitty behaviour that doesn’t rise to the level of abuse – I’m talking about people who just aren’t compatible, no matter how much they care about each other. Using myself as an example again, I’m a homebody. My ideal weekend involves a lot of playing videogames at home in my pajamas and drinking tea and reading books. If I tried to date an extrovert who wanted to go out and/or have a lot of people over all the time, I would make him miserable. Even if he really loved me, he still wouldn’t be obligated to be thrilled about staying home and quietly playing separate games. And I wouldn’t be obligated to enjoy all those awesome parties he wanted to take me to, that’s just not fun for me no matter how much I love the person who wants me to go to the party with them.

        An extrovert and I could maybe come to some kind of grudging compromise where I go out more than I like to and am kind of unhappy and he stays home more than he likes to and is kind of unhappy, but it would be a lot easier on everyone if we just admitted we weren’t compatible and decided to date people we are compatible with. I think that’s what the Captain’s getting at with the choosing a lower difficulty setting idea – you’re allowed to end relationships that you can kinda sorta force to work with an enormous amount of effort and choose people who are just easier for you to get along with. It doesn’t mean anybody’s wrong or never really loved the other person or that the relationship wasn’t worth while, it just means some people aren’t compatible no matter how much they wish they were and it’s a waste of effort to try to force it.

  4. Wait, did you just say “soda”? What are those Chicagoans teaching you?

  5. FTR it’s perfectly normal to have a vacuum for each room. 🙂 Also a dedicated vacuum just for sucking the air out of space bags that is not allowed to be used for anything else. 😀

  6. As someone who struggles with #3, thank you! I’m basically already doing the things you recommend, but it’s good to know that a) I’m on the right track and b) I’m not crazy. It’s so embarrassing to struggle to understand people when everyone else is handling it just fine. Is auditory processing therapy for adults with mild/moderate issues A Thing? Is it just a matter of exposure therapy? Anyone know?

    1. I’m not sure if it is a thing, but it sounds like it should be! “More exposure” has been a big help to me, though. FWIW, I had trouble understanding *my own dad* as a kid, because he has an unusual flavour of Aussie accent and I grew up in America. Now, though, I’ve spent significant time in a few different countries, and getting used to new accents is definitely a process. Even Kondo’s accent took a little bit of getting used to for me, and I did a semester abroad in Japan (so I am no stranger to a wide range of Japanese accents!) Getting used to the way that individual person speaks may take time, and I’m sure the time it takes to get used to it varies wildly from person to person, but listening to that person for a few minutes with the captions on really helped me “calibrate”, so to speak

    2. Well, they have hearing clinics, hearing tests, and hearing aids for adults. Maybe some of those organisations also have some experience with or help for auditory processing problems?

      1. In my experience, no. Ear, nose, and throat doctors (otolaryngologists) focus on the mechanical workings of the ear, not the brain and how it processes things. The ways I know of to see a specialist for that are through your primary care doctor or a psychologist.

        1. Some audiologists (hearing specialists) require PCP referrals and some don’t! An audiologist would definitely be a better fit for this kind of testing as compared to an ENT, though auditory processing is still fairly new in terms of research and anyone seeking guidance for it may want to ask a little about the audiologist’s experience with auditory processing disorders in order to find the best fit.

        2. I believe a Speech Language Pathologist would be an appropriate place to start for auditory processing of that sort. Most people thing of “speech therapists in terms of making sounds, but they also deal with comprehension and cognition around hearing of speech.

      2. If you have more trouble now than you used to, it’s most likely actual hearing loss and not auditory processing.

        I, personally, have lifelong, progressive hearing loss. People often have misconceptions about the experience of hearing loss — they think that if you can notice the sound (i.e. tell that someone is speaking) then it can’t be hearing loss. However, the things about speech that make you able to *understand* what the person is saying (rather than hearing mumbling) are the first things most people lose as their hearing worsens.

        (the sounds of consonants — which is what let you understand someone — are typically the first things you lose as you are losing your hearing)

        So — when you have mild hearing loss, you can *hear* that the other person is speaking, but you can’t *understand* what they are saying.

        Undiagnosed hearing loss is also one of the major causes of divorce/breakups in multi-decade marriages/long term relationships.

        Getting your hearing tested is a great idea!

        1. re the marital thing: there’s a history of otosclerosis in family, so when I found that I was having trouble understanding my husband’s speech I had full testing. My hearing was perfect, turns out he just a mumbler.

        2. That’s really interesting – I have a good friend whom I’ve known for about 15 years, and over the last year or so he’s started constantly asking me to repeat myself. I don’t think I’m speaking any less clearly than I ever have, so maybe he’s developed mild hearing loss? He’s only in his early 50s, but I guess it can happen at any time.

          1. It’s entirely possible at that age. Long term damage from loud noise exposure can also stroke in middle age.

          2. At my wife’s insistence, I got tested for hearing loss last year. I have mild hearing loss in both ears (18 db in the right ear, 12 in the left). I was 43 when I got diagnosed.

    3. It drives my husband crazy, but I love having subtitles on even when the main language is English (I’m a native English speaker, to be clear). Something about hearing it filtered through a speaker destroys my comprehension of sounds and words.

      Now, if it’s Mandarin, on the other hand, I have no problems. When I was in the military, my job was *redacted* so I got really really good at hearing and understanding all sorts of Mandarin at all levels of sound quality.

      I mentioned this above, but one thing that might help is to listen to some things in the native language of the person who’s accented English you are trying to understand. Over time it can help “tune” your ear to make more sense of the sounds they are using when they speak English.

      1. I was talking to a sound guy and he said that one problem with movies/TV shows is that, if they are optimised for five speakers and you only have the ones on your TV, the sound is not balanced right, and the talking becomes too quiet/not prominent enough.

        1. That’s not it – even when the volume is right I really just have a hard time understanding it. No one else I know seems to have this problem, so I have to conclude it’s something with my hearing.

        2. I’m always in charge of the remote when we watch movies so I can turn the volume up and down. Otherwise, I’m deafened by the music at some points and can’t hear the dialogue at others.

      2. Probably a habit picked up from watching TV with my grandmother at a young age, but I always put closed-captioning on if it’s possible to do so. (Of course, the newer text-only captions aren’t as easy to see as the old black-box-white-text style…sigh.) Inevitably have a lot of ‘wait, what?’ moments otherwise.

    4. Is it possible you’re more of a visual learner than an auditory one? I know for myself I ALWAYS prefer to have a written component to any information I’m given, and I use subtitles on just about every show I watch, regardless of language. I wish I could have like a subtitle runner IRL. In professional settings and some social settings, I take a lot of notes and ask for things in writing. If someone has a particular accent or way of speaking that I have a hard time with, I will ask them to repeat themselves and apologize for not getting it. With foreign languages in particular, it’s pretty normal to grasp the written component before the auditory one.

      1. I think that’s more of a retention thing… I also prefer to get my information visually, to the extent that if someone starts speaking to me while there are unrelated readable words in front of my face, it’s impossible for me not to completely tune out the auditory information in favor of the visual. No matter how much I try to concentrate on retaining what’s being said, I won’t be able to even vaguely recollect it even seconds later–it’s just gone, like water through a sieve–unless I physically turn away from or eliminate the visual stimulus. It’s not as bad when it’s a handout/notes or a PowerPoint or something so the visual and auditory information are in tune with each other, but when they’re in conflict visual wins every time. I like putting on subtitles regardless of language because that dual input helps keep my focus solidly on the show where otherwise I’m easily distracted and will lose the audio the instant I glance down at my phone or whatever.

        I otherwise have no problem hearing and understanding what’s being said, though like pretty much everyone else I have trouble with accents I’m not used to (my partner watches a lot of British comedy TV shows and has developed the ability to immediately understand everything being said, while I struggle when he shows me a clip… and that’s all still English, which is ostensibly our native language). If the problem is hearing what people are saying to you as incomprehensible/mumbling even when you’re attentive and focused on understanding them, a quick hearing screening probably isn’t the worst idea.

        1. Hmmm interesting distinction. I suppose if we think of impaired vision as edges that are solid and clear in real life seem blurry to you, clear words that come across as mumbling could definitely a physical hearing issue.

          1. Absolutely. Most people with hearing loss don’t have the same hearing loss at all frequencies. It’s very very common to lose the higher frequencies while still hearing lower frequencies.

            The highest frequencies are consonants like s and f… The lowest frequencies are vowels.

            So it’s really common to have high frequency hearing loss where people sound loud enough but you’re missing so many consonants and bits of words that it’s hard to make sense of it.

            But whether it’s a physical hearing problem or a processing problem, going to a hearing clinic is probably a good first step.

    5. Auditory processing differences are absolutely A Thing. My auditory processing isn’t great (I used to find it very difficult to understand people in any kind of noisy environment, but it’s got a bit better, which may just be me getting better at lip reading) and my partner’s is pretty awful (can’t understand anything anyone says in a bar or noisy restaurant). We’ve both had hearing checks and it’s firmly in normal range.

  7. #13 There are some therapy situations where the work is intense and the therapist is not good at setting boundaries, where things like out of session contact can escalate (often despite the repeatedly expressed concerns of the client, who kind of wants it but simultaneously feels guilty about it) to the point where the therapist *does* feel burdened, but doesn’t know how to get both of them out of this situation without causing a great deal of damage in doing so. Those kind of therapy situations can result in abruptly dumping the client without any support or onward referral, and blaming them into the bargain, with a terribly traumatic effect.

    The answer is still to bring this up with your therapist. If it is a simply a case of anxiety over something like feeling like you’re not making progress “fast enough” your therapist should be able to reassure you fairly easily. If it is a more complex thing like feeling as if the therapist is out of their depth, or you’re getting a “pulling back after overcommitting” vibe but the therapist keeps saying nothing is wrong, it’s really important to listen to your gut and not just accept that reassurance, but to have a solid discussion about their training and experience with your particular problem and what their normal practices are around things like out of session contact.

    Some therapists are very experienced in managing potentially high demand clients like borderline personality disorder or complex trauma and are more flexible than your average therapist in things like offering extra sessions and out of session contact etc, but the key thing is that this is a planned and structured part of their management and NOT something that is just offered to one super-special client that they are trying to “rescue”. Firm but flexible boundaries, and saying no in a way that is not punitive, just like a good parent – with some clients the temptation to give more and more is very strong, and is often more about the therapist releiving their own discomfort than about doing what is best for the client.

    If the way the therapist is handling things is making you feel less secure rather than more secure, or they admit that they’re doing things or giving things they wouldn’t normally, those are red flags, and it may be worth changing therapists or at least getting another professional opinion.

  8. I’m asking myself whether your dad’s recycling system already existed when you were a kid, because I don’t know how people with kids find time to be neat freaks (or to recycle anywhere other than the house – we have a massive recycling station in our kitchen that does not pretty up the place in any way but probably aids food preparation more than anything other than the fridge and the job). All I can do is ride the wave of crap that arrives every day with my kids’ return from school.

  9. I’m asking myself whether your dad’s recycling system already existed when you were a kid, because I don’t know how people with kids find time to be neat freaks (or to recycle anywhere other than the house – we have a massive recycling station in our kitchen that does not pretty up the place in any way but probably aids food preparation more than anything other than the fridge and the job). All I can do is ride the wave of crap that arrives every day with my kids’ return from school.

  10. Let’s look at “she hates me for no reason” alongside “she hates me and I can’t understand why.” The second is what I say when I’m open to understanding her. The first is what I say when I’m not.

    “For no reason” strongly hints I’ve staked out the position THERE IS NO REASON THERE CAN BE NO REASON.

    1. Either that or “I know her reason and I do not accept it as valid.” Maybe OP thinks it’s too frivolous to be the ‘real’ reason, maybe they think it’s fundamentally incorrect, maybe they just don’t like it. But in my experience, very often when someone pulls out the “There’s absolutely no reason for this!” line, they’ve actually been told the reason already and have chosen to disregard what they were told.

      1. +1 exactly.

        99.9% of the time, they’ve literally been told the reason.

        Heck, the times *I’ve* said this, as a teen usually, I already knew the reason someone disliked me or was grounding me or didn’t invite me to their party or wanted me to do a specific errand or whatever the deal was. They’d told me, or it was obvious. I just didn’t like the reason. Maybe I thought it was an ignorant or unfair reason. But the reason wasn’t going to change just because I pretended I didn’t know what it was.

        I kinda had a problem as a kid/teen with befriending “hot-and-cold” girls. One day they seemed to like me and accept me completely and I felt awesome, the next day they excluded me. Sometimes later they’d randomly befriend me again. I would get obsessed with, “why are they suddenly rejecting me?” Thinking, if only I knew the *real* reason, I could just not do the things she disliked and amp up the things she liked, and then we’d be bffs forever.

        But the real reason tended to be:

        _she likes the power of the ‘hot-and-cold’ game (aka, she likes being liked by me more than she likes me, and will try to befriend me again when she realizes I’ve stopped liking her)

        _she’s shallow and rejected me when she had cooler / prettier / richer girls to hang out with

        _she’s nice but was never truly friends with me, and I read too much into nice / inclusive gestures (aka sitting together at lunch =/= hanging out after school or on weekends)

        _her hobbies or beliefs changed, so we don’t have anything in common anymore; but, sometimes she feels nostalgic and lonely, so she tries to phone me up again

        In two of these cases (#2 and #4), my ex-friend told me the reason outright. These reasons are all bummers, so I went into denial mode and said things like, “She’s rejecting me for no reason!” But, denial didn’t resolve the problem. The thing is, the solution is to mourn the friendship, move on, and make new friends, which fortunately I eventually did. But it’s tough to let go of the impossible solution, the one where we’re friends and have a good time.

        1. Arghh yeah, I remember in middle school, there were these two other girls who walked from the bus stop right past my house and I would try to get in on their conversation and be friendly with them because we walked the same route and I was desperate for friends. One day they basically confronted me and outright said their “walking home” time was a time for the two of them to catch up and they wanted to be left alone and asked me to essentially walk several paces behind them. It was a devastating rejection and totally shitty (you can’t suck it up and just be friendly for the 10 minute walk?), but at the same time I was not entitled to their acceptance, and we had literally nothing in common other than our houses were located in a similar area. They had stuff in common with each other and not with me. It took me years to get that.
          Similarly, because I felt so rejected by the “cool” kids in high school, I sometimes find it difficult to get along with people now, as an adult, who remind me of that experience or those individuals. There are a number of people I have real walls up around because they have personalities and histories, through no fault of their own, that remind me of that painful time, and while I wouldn’t say I hate or dislike them, they are difficult people for me to be friends with or even physically be in the same space with sometimes. That might feel like “no reason” to them, but it’s very much a reason, maybe not a good reason and certainly not a reason they have any control over.
          Also, the niece in question is a teenager, so she might be feeling all of the above in some way and just not know how to verbalize it. It doesn’t mean she’s never going to come around on her own.

      2. the familiar “she told me why and it was just a lot of yelling!!!” situation.

        But speaking as a niece, I think the families where nieces are encouraged to really make their views known to uncles are few and far between. Lord knows my family, which is not usually very regressive, was big on “just let the men talk” when it came to uncles. So it’s entirely possible that this woman/girl sees her uncle three times a year at family events, has heard him talk enough that she doesn’t care for him, and has never had a social window to say anything back, so she just glares and avoids. That would be how it went down in my extended family, at least.

          1. Hah! Assumptions that tell everyone more about the gender makeup of my parents’ generation than I thought I was revealing!

        1. I have those uncles and none of them would even bother caring IF I liked them, much less care about why.

    2. The only one I’d suggest is if said niece is an actual infant. Sometimes infants “hating” you can come down to “you are not my parent” or “you have a beard and it’s scary because I have never before met anyone with a beard” or “you used to have a beard and now you don’t so you’re a stranger”.

      1. Heh. When my niece was 4, I came over to visit and she wanted me to spend the night. I told her “no, I’m spending the night at Grandma’s. Grandma has a room made up for me, and that’s where I’m going to go”. She spent the whole evening trying to convince me reasons to stay at her place, (my room is cooler than grandma’s! I’ll share my stuffed animals!) to no avail. When I left, I asked if she wanted to hug me goodbye and she yelled “No! I hate you! You’re mean”.

        It hurt more than I felt like it should, but I let her have her emotions. I could say that it was for “no reason” but the reason she gave (I’m mean) wasn’t actually true. She was mad because I didn’t spend the night. That’s a really immature reason, but it is a reason.

        I saw her the next day and she had forgotten she hated me.

      2. My dad shaved his beard when I was like 3, and I refused to be in the same room with him until he grew it back. He tried to soften the blow by taking me into the bathroom to watch him shave, but that backfired because at the time I had no distinction between the beard’s attachment to his face and something like his arm’s attachment to his body, so I thought he was cutting his face off. I remember the part where he shaved in the bathroom and I ran out screaming, then I don’t remember anything else, and my next memory is my dad with his beard. He’s never shaved it off since.

    3. ooh, I hate the “for no reason” phrase.

      Once, my 3yo was crying because we’d told her she had to stop doing Fun Thing and get ready to leave Grandma’s house. She started crying. When she didn’t stop right away, Grandma said, “you’re crying for no reason,” dismissively.

      I saw literal red. And said, “Never say that to her. She has a reason. She is crying because she is disappointed. And crying is a reasonable way to react to being disappointed.”
      To my kid I said, “I understand that you are disappointed. I am sorry that we have to disappoint you. But no one is being mean to you. And now it is time for you to figure out how to stop crying, because while we are sympathetic, we are tired of hearing you after these many minutes.” And she stopped.

  11. For #3 I second (third? Fourth? whatever) the use of closed captioning. Sometimes it annoys me (I find it hard to pay attention to the actual film/movie/whatever is showing), but it’s SO helpful when I can’t quite understand what the person is saying. Used it just the other day after having missed a few lines and I got SO much more out of the film! (This particular film had a lot of muttering in the background that I otherwise would totally have missed, and some of it was extraneous, but some of it added a lot.)

  12. #8 Could be he’s not physically or sexually inappropriate with her and the situation is more like she’s doing all the cooking, cleaning, getting beers for him while he sits on the couch etc. Terrible if she’s a kid. If she’s a an adult: you know who’s going to be doing all that shit when she moves on …

    1. Or even the more benign but still problematic case of “Divorce left companion-shaped hole in Dad’s life that Daughter stepped into to feel secure and stable.” The “spousification” of kids post-divorce can occur just because both parent and child are feeling lonely and unmoored, without any sexual overtones. But. It’s still very unhealthy even in the most benign of circumstances, and family therapy to help disentangle and set boundaries needs to happen ASAP.

      1. Even in small, subtle doses, this parent/child dynamic can ruin other relationships. Some parents don’t realize (either by design or by accident) that their primary relationship is with their child, and no matter how you slice that, it’s wicked unhealthy.

        I have to work with this in my marriage, as my husband has a just-shy-of-too-close relationship with his adult daughter. To his credit, he admits that a huge gap in his first marriage created a friendship dynamic with both of his kids that was not cool and had to change.

        And, change it has. However, old habits die hard, so he continues to work on being aware of a tendency to fall into old patterns because even the teeniest, tiniest hint of it creeps me out. I’ve read quite a bit on this subject, and was surprised at how ubiquitous it is. Many parents have no clue that they are crossing boundaries. It makes me angry-ish because it’s a selfish (or self-absorbed) way to go about your job as a Mom or Dad. I wish I had the luxury to give away my Clues.

  13. #6 Landlords asking for sexual favours in exchange for low or no rent is an increasing and very horrible probblem in the UK. “That is wicked specific” is (to put it kindly) an oddly low-level comment for you to make, Captain, on what is a real threat to people who can’t afford decent housing and end up in abusive situations.

    Anyone thinking of offering this needs to think again – in some places it may cross over into illegal territory, and in any case it is vile and abusive behaviour.

    Anyone thinking of taking up such an offer needs support to find better living conditions and not to have to submit to unwanted sexual attention in order to have a roof over their head.

    1. Didn’t mean to minimize shady business practices – it was like “how the hell did this lead someone HERE.”

  14. #2 “my sister has changed so much I don’t even know her” – I get the sense the person who asked this feels rejected by their sibling. “You’re not the person I used to know anymore” sounds like “you changed and didn’t include me in that”. I can relate to being upset by that.
    What if you acknowledge the changes when you talk to her? e.g. “you seem to be really into X lately, do you want to tell me more about that?”. Or say “we used to hang out so much and I miss it, can we get back to that?”
    Try not to think that your sister has changed AT you or to be mean to you. people create their own identities when they grow up, and it’s natural that your relationgship with your siblings changes over time too. Maybe this is a chance to make some new traditions that better fit the people you are now.

    1. Agree, sister hasn’t changed AT the LW, but it can still be upsetting.

      If it were a friend and not a sister, would LW want to put effort into understanding her as a new person as the Captain suggests? If they’ve grown apart, that happens, and being sisters isn’t necessarily worth the effort to get re-acquainted.

  15. Q10 — I want to reemphasize the importance of not addressing what the ex says with the boyfriend. 1) If it’s unfounded then you’re just allowing her to create drama. Repeating untrue gossip just makes it stronger. 2) If it’s founded then he won’t be a good resource. By which I mean, if he is, say, an abuser, he’s not going to admit it but just deny it. Take note of what the ex says and see if it fits, then go from there.

    1. Agreed. It’s such an extreme thing to do that the two possibilities are: 1) she’s jealous / meddling / otherwise not a great decision-maker; or 2) her bf is a nightmare from hell and she cannot in good conscience keep silent. No way to know which one it is from the outside.

      If it helps, a long time ago when I still maintained the fantasy that my toxic ex and I could be friends, my ex used to pull my new partner aside and talk to him “man to man about what type of person Athena is.” Since I was the victim and he had all the power in the relationship for as long as we were together, what he would say to my partners was a very twisted version of reality, reframed so that he was the poor victim of “his crazy wife.” Didn’t matter how long it had been, he would still try to pull this stunt.

      I no longer speak to my ex, but that’s one possible explanation for the ex-gf’s behavior.

  16. LW2: Wise advice from the captain; I wish my own family would follow it. Sister isn’t the person she used to be, or you thought she was, X years ago. I dare say she won’t be this same person X years from now. People change, adapt, maybe mature, maybe regress. The good news is this doesn’t have to be for the worse. You can build a strong relationship with your sister on this new ground (assuming she has not changed in unhealthy, jerkish ways).

  17. #4: Yup, get rid of the entire boyfriend.

    #7: My partner kindly refrains from commenting on my standards of housekeeping, and also kindly takes me to lunch more often than not. In turn, I attempt to make sure that dishes are washed/crumbs are off surfaces when he’s over.

  18. 12 “What does it mean when someone reacts to a minor little comment that bothers them with a barrage of made up hurtful things to hurt the other person?

” I would have to question how minor that comment really was, and whether the barrage in response was truly “of made up hurtful things.” I have been in a long process of ending an old friendship in which the last “minor little comment” was to look at my one year old grandson and say, “still sucking his fingers I see.” That was it. She said it every time she saw him, when he was 3 months old, at 6 months old, and again, for the last time a couple of months ago. Tucked it neatly in between positive comments, but got the jab in all the same. I had put up with many such “minor little comments” over the years—but because she had not directed a single one of them at or about my daughters and other grandson, I had let them pass. Here, she crossed a line. For some reason, in retirement, she had increased her criticism of everyone around her beyond my tolerance level anyway, but then she made a comment that is critical of a baby, my baby, because my grand baby IS my baby in my heart—and thus I am done. Were you to ask her if she thought her comment out of line, she would tell you that she shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around her friends. I know this because when I have called her out for her minor little comments to mutual friends, that has been her defense, that she should be able to be critical of her friends—because, in her words, “that’s just the way I am, I say it like it is.” So it is possible for a person to react to what truly IS a minor little comment with a barrage of made up hurtful things, but often, when somebody blows up in response to what feels like nothing, that nothing is actually something you have been getting away with for too long.

    1. I mean, in some cases, sure but in other cases the other person really is insecure/whatever and is taking that out on you. Fifty percent of the conversations my future MIL has with me are her complaining about her own family and me trying to avoid engaging because no one wants someone unrelated complaining about their family. One time, I agreed that her parents could be difficult (her father has deliberately been a jerk to me in order to “rile me up” for his own amusement).

      Her response to this was to corner my fiance and tell him that he needed to not escalate the bad feelings about the family and “defend the family” from me and that I was poisoning him against his family. None of which actually happened. So sometimes you make one minor comment and the response is a barrage of hurtful, made up things.

      My response was to tell my fiance I was not interested in having any of his mother’s complaints repeated back to me, that next time it comes up with his mom he should tell her that I am also his family and that she can take up any issues with me directly, and that if he has something he would like me to do differently to support our relationship with his family, I would do my best to do that.

    2. > “that’s just the way I am, I say it like it is.”

      “That’s just the way you are, unpleasant to be around.”

      1. ^this…usually people who use the phrase “I say it like it is” are also the people who tend to focus on “truthtelling” only cruel, mean things. The fact is…you can say whatever you want but if you are not kind, you will inevitably drive people away.

        Either way, the answer is…whether it’s a barrage of true things or a barrage of false things, it is never the less a barrage of negative energy. I think the “friendship” is done or at least on a break. “Woah, I had no idea you felt that way, I’ll see myself out,” then take it as the gift it is and don’t try for that friendship anymore. If they were really suffering and just had an awful moment and live to regret it…they can reach back out later. If not…both of you will be happier apart anyway.

    3. This. Was it a single minor little comment, or was it one in a long series of minor little comments? Microaggressions are cumulative. Death by a thousand comments, as it were.

      Ugh. Some day your former friend might learn that while she is “allowed” to be critical of her friends, people are allowed to not be her friend.

    4. Nine times out of ten, “I tell it like it is/that’s how I am” means “I know I’m being a dick and can’t be arsed to change my behavior.”

      1. Probably more than 9 out of 10. Especially since the “that’s just how I am” people are, in dispensing their criticisms, not allowing those around them to be just how *they* are. They’re taking the privilege of “just being themselves” for themselves alone.

        “I should be able to relax and just be myself around my friends and family!”
        Yeah, well, so should I, and people like that make it impossible.

  19. For anyone struggling with accents or English as a second language speakers, I really really encourage people to learn another language. No, not necessarily the language of that particular person, but just in general. In the US, our foreign language education is really atrocious, and a lot of people don’t get how much grey area there is between “Not knowing a word of English” and “being completely fluent in every way, with just a slightly adorable accent.” That area still has a lot of potential for understanding, but you have to be calm, slow down, and simply be patient. Learning another language and practicing it with native speakers will allow you to explore that grey area yourself. I’ve seen this a lot with my grandfather, who has studied English since he was in high school (he’s a retired meteorologist, so he had to learn English to gain access to many academic papers), but because he’s really not had to use it many day to day ways, it takes him a little longer to explain some things or understand them and people are so damn impatient with him.
    I remember when my grandmother was dying (like literally in the last 24 hours where it was clear she was in the home stretch), and the social worker coming in was like “OKAY YOUR WIFE IS DYING, DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT? HER BODY IS NO LONGER WORKING AND SHE’S GOING TO STOP BREATHING. THEN SHE’S DEAD. DO YOU UNDERSTAND???” OMG lady yes he understands. He was trying to figure out if you needed any additional paperwork.
    Likewise, just a few weeks ago, my parents were out of town while Gramps had a medical emergency and I rushed to the hospital to help out. I spent most of the day making sure the hospital had his medical history correct, explaining to him what they thought was wrong, and eventually, explaining the remote on his hospital bed. Finally, I turned to the nurses and was like “if you don’t need any additional information about him, I’m going to go home and come back in the morning,” and the nurses freaked out. “What do you mean you’re going home? Is he going to be able to communicate? Do we need to call in an interpreter??” Someone with his grasp of English may not be able to tell you exactly what prostate cancer procedure he had 15 years ago, but he’s going to be able to communicate that he’s in pain or not, that he needs to get up, that he’d like water, you just need to be a little more patient. As someone who has had to learn a number of foreign languages, you understand that there is a whole bunch of stuff you can understand and communicate even if you can’t hold up a conversation or understand medical jargon. Of course it was all fine, and Gramps is out of the hospital, a happy and healthy if mostly blind 90 year old.

    But yeah, play around in foreign languages, which I think is also a great hobby and good way to meet people, and a good relatively safe space to practice failure. It will give you a lot of empathy and respect for ESL speakers 🙂

    1. I really liked how you laid this out here.

      For me, it was really eye-opening to realize (when I was an adult!) how little someone’s fluency (or accent) in English might reflect the knowledge in their head. Like you wrote, learning a non-English language (English being my first language) and finding out how difficult it is to express your thoughts with any kind of fluency to someone who speaks the language you’re learning, but not English – and realizing how un-impressive you must sound – well, suddenly it’s very clear just how much more someone might *know* compared to what they can *say*.

      1. Yeah, it’s a really humbling experience, because you have to communicate, get information across, with a limited bag of tools. Suddenly, what sounded like a stupid way to say something when an ESL person was talking to you seems like a creative way to say something. A big part of it is having to be okay with sounding stupid, but just about everywhere else people are really appreciative of the effort. One of my craziest foreign language communication experiences was in Istanbul, where in a gift shop a Czech woman was yelling at the Turkish sales clerk in German, who was responding in English because she didn’t know German, and I tried to translate between the two, both myself and the Czech woman being in this grey area fluency of German. The information to get across: “Can’t she go faster in the ringing me up because my tour bus is about to leave?” “No she can’t and you yelling at her is slowing the process down.” And those moments when both you are able to understand what’s being said is actually a really cool and rewarding thing.

      2. I’m an English teacher and I get very grumpy about people who are all LEARN ENGLISH as if it were the easiest thing in the world for a random adult to pick up a whole new language in a few weeks. I started learning French when I was four, I know it well enough to live in a French-speaking area, I am routinely told by francophones that my grammar and pronunciation are excellent and not to be embarrassed – and I still get frustrated because I am just never going to speak as well, or understand as much, in French as in English. There will always be jokes I won’t get, or won’t be able to make, concepts that I understand perfectly but cannot explain clearly, and so on. It’s an experience I really wish more people had.

        1. Yes! And the same people get all upset that people are rude to them when they visit another country, or a cultural neighborhood in the US with a different primary language, and make no effort to learn anything in that language. Dude, you’re in their house! Learn like a word or two in their language before just demanding they speak in English. You’d be surprised how far a “I’m sorry I can’t speak [BLANK], can you speak English?” goes.

    2. YES. I was an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher for around a decade. My cooperating teachers were often astonished at the good and even excellent grades the class clowns and troublemakers would get in my classes (and would be very concerned about typically “bright” students’ poor grades). The X factor for beginning to learn a foreign language–or having the ability to continue improving–is nearly entirely based on how willing you are to appear “stupid” in front of your peers. The Y factor is how willing you are to take risks.

      Obviously, the class clowns love making a scene, so they absolutely flourish as they wisecrack their way through the semester. The mischievous, “bad” students (who are often either very gifted and bored or else struggling mightily and pretending they don’t care they fail every class) will rise to the occasion to do all of the crazy tasks the foreign language teacher gives them because they’re either finally being challenged and want to participate or they see that, for once, everyone is starting from square one. They are all totally accustomed to being the “problem”, and when they get to instead become the strongest students, it’s truly incredible.

      By contrast, the “good” students who would rather walk through fire than fail (a whole separate issue…) will hesitate to even raise their hands, so afraid of being wrong, no matter how many times you tell them that trying and failing is more important than being right. That they need to do that in order to grow. And, in a class that’s heavily weighted towards participation, they are the ones who typically struggle the most! (Don’t get me started on the parents who don’t want to let them fail. Ever. What a recipe for disaster!)

    3. Yes, about remaining calm. I’m learning another language while living in that country, and the phrase, “could you please repeat that?” must be the most useless thing I’ve ever learned. No one has ever just calmly repeated the thing, of which I’d understood 90% but not the crucial last 10%. They either freak out and speak faster and more verbose native language, or switch to English and start the entire exchange over again from the beginning. It’s the worst when there’s an unexpected explosion of words that catches me completely off guard; stress and language comprehension don’t go well together.

  20. I haven’t even read the column yet, but “February Seven” is one of my favorite songs of all time from my absolute favorite band. I make a point of listening to it every year on the date and having a moment of quiet reflection.

  21. I’m pretty good at accents – I am Cajun and some remaining older relatives have that accent.

    The more you listen, the more you’ll understand *any* accent. One of the people I work for is a native Spanish speaker, and these days, I speed up his dictation and fly through it. So, yeah, the more you listen, the better you get.

  22. #8: For some reason I didn’t picture FLOTUS as an awkwardeer, but I think she could find comfort here…

  23. Hi Uptown Transcriber! I’m from north Louisiana, and will be moving back that way in 2023 after I retire. I hope to be down in south Louisiana playing petanque! Nice to know there’s a Cajun among the ranks of the awkwardeers! This made my day. (And yesterday, my birthday, my favorite author wished me happy birthday on social media!) It’s been a good week.

  24. #1 – I feel like there is also a distinct difference between “I can’t go to my friends house because it smells like smoke” and “I can’t go to my friends house because she smokes while i’m there”. I know it is your personal space, but I cannot with people who smoke in front of people who hate the smell of smoke. If you friend lights up when you are around even though you have expressed to her you hate it – then don’t go over there anymore.

    I am often trapped at my in-laws house during holidays and while they don’t smoke when they have a lot of guests – at a certain point people will leave and we are there for the night, they will start chain smoking and there is no escape. They know it bothers me, but it never stops.

    1. Upon being discharged from the ER after a bronchial spasm, the nurse told me to not let people smoke around me, and I was like, um, have you never lived in an apartment complex??

      1. Huh. I have yet to rent a place where you are allowed to smoke indoors. Doing so is a good way to kiss your security deposit goodbye – if not also incur a huge fine and piss off all your neighbors. I got crap for smoking out on the back fire escape from both my landlord and neighbors when I was a smoker. This is probably a regional or city/suburb thing though.

        1. Even if people smoke on their balconies and not indoors, it still tends to seep in. And if you get any ridiculous ideas about opening a window a crack during the height of summer, now your home is full of smoke. And I’m one of the lucky ones, I live in a row of townhouses so I only have one neighbor on each side. It’s way worse in an apartment complex.

          1. My apartment has a designated smoking area. And I’ve never noticed that myself personally, before it was built, and I leave my windows open all the time.

          2. You’re quite fortunate to have neighbors who follow the rules, or an office that enforces those rules, Jane.

        2. My boyfriend and I only found out after moving into our current place that it was a smoking building! I feel like they should’ve mentioned that when we were looking at units (we’re in a complex and there were a few options), especially since the woman showing us the apartments asked if either of us were smokers. I had honestly just assumed the same as you – that smoking wasn’t allowed in most rentals. Until our bathroom (which has a vent/fan in it) smelled like cigarette smoke and I went to complain and found out that probably no one in our building was breaking any rules.

          Luckily, neither of us has respiratory problems or allergies that we’re aware of, so it’s more of an annoyance than anything else, but I feel like I’ve learned my lesson and won’t assume next time.

        3. The worst neighbours we’ve had stood downstairs, outside _our air vent_ and smoked. There were days I could not be in my own home because I could not breathe. Not fun times.

      2. I am lucky enough to live in a non-smoking building, can’t recommend it enough. Historically, when this was not an option for me, things could get pretty bad.

  25. One more re the accents. Yes, train yourself to their voice.
    At one time I worked with a pair of scientists, one of whom had a very heavy Indian accent and the other a very heavy Persian accent. While discussing complex scientific and legal matters. When I started, I focused on learning one’s voice and then the other, so I was fine speaking with either, and then I had to learn to switch back and forth when meeting with both of them.

    I have hearing issues, so if I can do it, anyone can.

  26. For the person asking about your sister, how old is she? Is she anywhere from mid-teens to early twenties? It may be that she’s changing because she’s learning about he world, and learning about herself in the process. It’s normal for people to grow and change and develop a different identity from their family members. And even if she’s in her thirties, forties, fifties, etc., I think this is a natural process that may happen.

    The question is, are you unhappy about the change? And if you are, why is that? Is it because you don’t have enough in common to relate to each other anymore? If that’s the case, the captain’s advice is good. Perhaps try to get to know her as a new person. You could try talking to her about her new interests, and see if there’s any common ground. You may find that you still share some common values, even if you become very different people.

    If the reason that this is bothering you is because her core values are widely different than yours, if longer can respect her, if she’s endorsing things you find unethical, that’s a different situation. That can be really sad, and it may be that all you can do is grieve the relationship you used to have and/or the relationship you might have had, and accept that you are not going to be close. You’re not obligated to be close to somebody, especially if they espouse beliefs you find repellent, and you have to do what is best for your own well being.

  27. 9 “Niece hates me for no reason.” Oh, there’s a few reasons. Seriously, my estranged uncle had 2 of his other nieces talk to me & and my parents about how he is are “all alone” now at my other uncle’s funeral last week. They were hoping that my dad and uncle “would bond now that it was just the 2 of them, though they knew there was some family history.” I said “yes there is” & laughed sarcastically. One said something about forgiveness & I noped away, as I was not expecting this “but faaaaamily” nonsense at all.
    My uncle had 3 kids from his 1st marriage, 2 still living, and multiple grandchildren, none of whom talk to him for various reasons which are none of my business. He lived closest to my grandparents & supposedly was checking in on my grandma on a regular basis after my grandpa died. He neglected to tell anyone he was going away for a few days and she fell & was unconscious for an unknown length of time. She was released from the hospital into a nursing home & never went home. We might have been able to get over that, but he sold her house & all the money and belongings somehow disappeared. As in, Gram felt like she had no money to get her hair cut or get new underwear. She “didn’t want to bother him”, so my mom & sister & I brought clothes & put money in her account at the nursing home so she could get her hair done on a regular basis. He made her feel like she couldn’t ask him about anything, even though she should have still had her own money. He either sold or kept all my grandparents’ belongings and left Gram with nothing. He had no answers for my parents, sister or other relatives and was a condescending jerk towards anyone who questioned him. So yeah, there’s a reason.

  28. #7 Seconding the advice.

    Trying to be kind, I ate in friend’s squalid kitchen for years. In his squalid house. Eating food from a fridge that smelled like rotten meat and spoiled milk. Prepared with unwashed hands and tons of raw meat cross contamination. With five unscooped litter boxes in the kitchen. Sitting on the kitchen chairs smelling of body odor.

    Coming home and immediately dropping everything I was wearing into the washing machine, then taking long, scalding showers with tons of soap. All the soap.

    Bringing home a fruit fly infestation that lasted nearly a year. Always scared of bringing home something worse.

    Finally melting down about it at 3 a.m. to my poor, sleepy boyfriend (bless him!). I opened my mouth and years of repressed feelings came pouring out.

    It took me far too long to realize that it’s ok to put my safety and sanity first. That it wasn’t kind to myself to put myself in unsafe conditions or through the mental/emotional strain. That no matter how sweet and kind my friend is, I never have to eat at the YuckHaus if I’m not comfortable. That I never have to visit anybody’s YuckHaus again.

    So, he became a very small doses friend (because the foul living conditions are by far not the only bees present in the relationship). We see each other occasionally for a scheduled activity that has a short time limit and takes place outside of our homes. We get to enjoy the best parts of each other for a short amount of time.

    Best part? All eating is done in restaurants. And yes, I know, I watch Kitchen Nightmares, too. But at least there’s no cat poop underfoot.

  29. Hi! I don’t know if this is the right place to ask, but I browsed the site’s FQA and couldn’t find anything, so: Lately, there have been many posts without a comments section. Does anybody know why that is, or can you point me in the direction of where the answer is? Thank you so much!

    1. I’m not sure where the exact post is where it was explained, but my understanding is that moderating comments is so intensive (in time and effort and patience) that Captain Awkward decided to have some columns open for comments and some closed to keep things more manageable and healthy while still keeping the high quality of moderation.

    2. Hi there, B., I probably should post a general update about this, but TO_Ont has summed it up. December was a Lost Month due to some health things, so I’m trying to get back into the swing of blogging AND I’m trying to get some longer-term, longer-form writing projects off the ground this year which means that sometimes when it comes to the blog I can either generate new posts OR moderate discussions, but not both. I’m trying to be respectful of my own time and energy and not open the door to comments if I know that realistically I won’t be reading them or engaging with them substantially.

      I find the commenting community to be generally extremely valuable (and your posts specifically to be very valuable indeed!), but (additionally) in the past few months the audience has grown and there’s an influx of new readers.

      -That is nice! Very gratifying to know that the site has reach! We’re currently averaging 8,000-13,000 visitors a day, for the month of January, 177,000+ PEOPLE stopped by, pageviews were over 1.1 million.
      -It presents a moderation challenge, though, since rules must be explained & enforced, sometimes multiple times over, and if I tune out of it b/c I’m working on other things, upsetting things can proliferate that make the site less usable/friendly to established posters. “Why is this person being allowed to break the rules?” etc.
      -I tried having volunteer guest moderators, it failed utterly. Even if someone is doing the best job, if they make one mistake, it generates a ton of cleanup work for me. I’d rather do it (and not do it) myself as needed than open the door to that again.
      -If someone knows a way to limit the size of the text field for comments for, INBOX ME. Another issue with comments is that people write essays, which is so wonderful in so many ways, but also, do I have to read multiple essays every time I write an essay? I submit that after eight years maybe I do not? And that there are certain topics where I definitely do not? Since this is primarily a blog where I write advice, not a message board, if something has to give, it’s gonna be comments. I don’t want to lose the community or what makes the site fun to hang out. Preserving that means limiting it.
      -Speaking of discussion boards, there is one at (which I can’t read or moderate, I literally don’t have access, but AFAIK anyone can request to join) and there is also a subReddit at r/captainawkward (which I don’t read or moderate, though I theoretically CAN read it if I want to)(I don’t/won’t). A fan made a Facebook once page, which was very kind, and ceded ownership to me, which I’m thankful for, and then I deleted all the content on it and blocked people from posting there because if I wanted a Facebook I’d make one (I don’t).

      Thanks for checking in, I hope that answers your question.

  30. “When I sense someone doesn’t like me, and I can’t think of a plausible reason for the conflict, and ‘Hey, have I done something to upset you?’ doesn’t work (either b/c I asked and didn’t get a good answer or I don’t feel comfortable enough to even ask), I try to give the person a lot of space, be polite and keep it light when I do have to interact, and see if time either mellows the situation or gives me more information.”

    THIS is super good advice for my socially awkward, social anxiety-ridden, AND anxious attachment style-having ass.

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