It Came From The Search Terms: “When April Comes Again”

It is time to celebrate the mostly-monthly ritual of rounding up the snippets that people typed into search engines to find this place and answering them like questions.

Please enjoy this jazzy bittersweet tune about lost love and memory (When April Comes Again, sung by Mel Tormé).

 

1 “How to get over a long distance crush.”

The good news is you won’t run into them everywhere you go.

The bad news is that many of us carry a little device in our pocket that lets us see what our crush is up to at any moment of any day, and sometimes there are settings on that device and its various applications that give us a little ping when our crush has posted a new photo of themselves looking cute while they live life without us (or some other fascinating snippet of information). We are also able to respond immediately to any communication.

It’s time to stop monitoring them and haunting their feeds. Starve the crush by muting/unfollowing/filtering/turning off notifications. Then throw yourself into something local to where you live, with new faces or old friends, something that absorbs you, perhaps something where your convenient crush-monitoring device is best turned off and tucked in a pocket or a drawer. Unfollowing/disengaging is how you help time and absence do their work.

2 “What someone really means when they say they aren’t taking sides?”

They definitely aren’t taking your side.

They want to keep hanging out with everyone involved in the conflict.

They would prefer not to be a sounding board for your grievances with whoever is on the other side.

3 “Is it rude to invite someone to someone else’s party.”

If you know for sure the host is a “The more the merrier!” person or the invitation says “Bring anyone you like!” and it’s not a formal, invitation-only, sit-down fancy affair, then: Probably not rude! Just indicate when you RSVP – “Yes, I’ll be there, and I’m bringing [Name] FYI, so, 2 adults.” 

However if you’re wondering if it’s rude you probably don’t know the above things for sure, so, checking in with the host first can be a good idea. “I’d love to come to that, is it okay if I bring [Name]?” I’m reminded of the time I invited a few friends who overlapped with a message board community over for my birthday and one of the people announced it in the community chat. Hellooooooooooo, way more people than I’d cooked for, showing up unexpectedly to my home address for a party where I’d already invited everyone I actually liked! (RUDE)

4: “Ask vs. Guess Culture”

The previous question is a good case study for “Ask” Culture vs. “Guess” Culture , right? Here’s the great Metafilter comment that explained it succinctly. And I made a post about it forever ago, in the context of “What Are Advice Columnists Even For?”, but I rethink my assumptions about it all the time.

For the “is it rude to bring someone to someone else’s party” situation: 

“Ask” Culture = It’s okay to ask, it’s also okay to say “no,” which means asker must be prepared to take “no” for an answer. Someone who prefers this way of operating is more likely to say “Go ahead and ask the host, it’s not rude!” 

“Guess” Culture = People don’t ask unless they’re pretty sure the answer is already yes, so asking a host if it’s okay to bring someone to an event creates an implied pressure to say yes. Someone who is more comfortable in a “Guess” culture would be more likely to wonder, “What did the invitation say? What are this person’s parties usually like? What are the accepted rules in the social group around parties like this?” 

One is not necessarily better than the other, tight-knit communities who have ways of checking on each other and caring for each other that let everyone save face have their extremely strong points, though I have a lot of thoughts lately about how hierarchies and systems replicate themselves by being “Guess” (where it helps to know a lot of “unwritten” rules and have “cultural fit” to function there and where asking gets riskier the less relative power you have in the situation or b/c you mark yourself as an outsider). I think about this a lot in terms of social class, disability, neurodivergence, expectations around ‘civility’ and ‘norms’ in political power structures, and also when I think about “traditional” families and cultures where elders have authority and sway. If you’re not supposed to defy the elders, where does that leave people when the elders are the problem?

These aren’t necessarily rigid dichotomies or mutually exclusive states. I lean “Ask” as an adult, but I find “Guess” habits and assumptions in myself all the time (“Everyone already knows how to do x….“Jeez, read the room!” ). I find it fascinating when I find resistance in myself to the idea of just asking a question (for example, see the case of Party Smeagol). However you were raised and whatever you prefer, it’s good to know about other modes of operation, since you might need to adapt to the other in certain situations.

5 “When people ask me how my weekend was I prefer not to answer.”

This situation is what the words “Fine, and yours?” was invented for.

It is the quickest, most boring, expected way to complete the social circuit and get off the topic of your weekend without making it weird.

“But what if my weekend was NOT fine, Jennifer?” Idk, you just said you didn’t want to talk about it. ‘Fine’ = “Nothing to report, ask me no further questions.” If that super does not work for you, try “Nothing interesting to report. And yours?” 

If I casually ask how your weekend was, and you refuse to answer the question at all, or get all Why would you ask me that?” or “I don’t want to talk about it,” I’m gonna wonder about you and your weekend a whole lot more than if you’d just said “Fine.” Were you doing crimes? Are you secretly a sexy international spy?

6. “Roommate lives in basement suite and when I have company comes up uninvited.”

First I’d want to know “basement suite” as in separate apartment or as in basement room in the same house (y’all share a kitchen & other common spaces). The first is more of a neighbor problem, the second is more of a roommate problem.

As a bedrock principle, if I’m home in my house, and a party is happening in my house, I also get to be there, right? That’s probably the default setting? But if my upstairs neighbor is having people over, I do not assume that I am invited to that unless she knocks on my door or leaves me a note to say “Come up for a drink!”

But it’s negotiable, even when it’s a roommate situation. Part of living in shared housing is finding a way to give other people the illusion of space and privacy even when there is no actual space or privacy. There’s a lot of room between “We do everything together!” and “I’m gonna have 3 work friends over for a four-player game, can I claim the living room for myself that night?” You just have to talk about it and actually spell it out, preferably from the beginning. “What do you want to do about having people over – especially if there are times when you want it to be just you and your friends? Can you give me a heads’ up if that happens so I can make other plans or know to give y’all some space?” 

It’s harder to interrupt an established pattern, and probably the person’s just hearing people upstairs and thinking, “Cool, I wonder who’s here?” You can still ask, though. Do it with plenty of notice before the next event. “Can we work something out about having people over? I definitely want you to join us sometimes, so can I text you and invite you specifically when that is? But other times, when I just want to have a few specific people over, is it ok to just give you some notice so you don’t plan on using that space? And then you can do the same?” 

It will be awkward because who wouldn’t hear that and wonder if they’ve ever been actually welcome to anything, ever? The best way to reassure the person is probably to give them lots of notice when you are doing stuff where you want them to hang back, and to actually, enthusiastically invite them sometimes.

7. “I’m not a relationship type of person.”

If this describes you, no worries! You’re far from alone! Find each other! Kiss, or, equally likely, don’t! There are lots of labels and spaces where this will make total sense and you will be welcomed without question.

However, the context that *I* usually encountered that phrase in the wild was from people who would then start doing stuff like showing up at my place and/or calling every single day, wanting to spend tons of time together doing relationship-y activities, expecting a ton of time, kissing stuff, attention, listening to and supporting their hopes and dreams, accompanying them to family gatherings and life events, and acting in a way that is indistinguishable from “being in a relationship”…because we had a relationship, it was  just one where they also wanted to keep all their options open and remind me constantly not to ever need or expect anything from them.

Which is why I would suggest clarifying for yourself: Are you “not a relationship-type-of-person,” or do you not want a relationship with a specific person under these circumstances? Then you can be the right kind of honest.

8. “Should I be jealous my husband watches Game of Thrones.”

I mean, he’s watching it instead of what? You? Killing Eve? I love Killing Eve, but that’s what the DVR is for.

If you can hang out for three more weeks and this one’s gonna resolve itself. Or the jealousy will still be there, in which case, it wasn’t the show, which recently has been about 90% grimy, exhausted people laden down with Ikea fur rugs hanging out in shadowy corridors having feelings at each other and stabbing screaming zombies in almost total darkness (& I say this as an enjoyer). There are possibly easier ways to enjoy Adult Content.

Got GoT opinions/theories/spoilers/a burning need to communicate how deeply disinterested you are that you’re dying to share in the comments? Kindly zip it or better yet, come find me on Twitter.

“I never understood the fuss about…” BALEETED.

I’VE BEEN READING THIS FUCKING DRAGON TALE SINCE 1997, LET ME HAVE THIS.

Three more weeks.

Yes, I realize the querent’s husband might not be all the way caught up on the show, thank you.

THREE MORE WEEKS.

9. “How to know if a socially awkward girl likes me?”

Ask her: “Are you flirting? I think you might be flirting but I can’t always tell.”

“Is this a friend-date or a date-date?” 

Or if you like her, tell her. “I like you a lot. Want to go on a date sometime?” 

She is the only person in the world who knows the information you seek.

10. “Would you make fun of or appreciate an apology letter 20 years later?”

It really depends on what the person is apologizing for. I’d like to think I wouldn’t ever make fun, but then there’s the time a few years ago that someone apologized to me deeply and at length for “breaking my heart” back in high school and I was like, “You did?” High school ended in 1992. My heart is fine.

Some people really do appreciate stuff like this. It heals a wound to know that the person who hurt them feels remorse, that they changed. Others really, really don’t. After 20 years, they’ve moved on, and now they have to think about it again and possibly deal with the feelings of the person who harmed them?

I think for best results the “better late than never?” apology crowd should be really honest with themselves: Am I doing it for the other person or am I doing this for me? Can you be brief, clear, take responsibility for what you did and said, and then leave it in the other person’s hands without expecting a response?

A letter is good because you drop it in the mail and let it go. Consider also that a letter is potentially very creepy because the recipient is now wondering how you found out where they live and if you’re gonna show up there. Find the least intrusive way you can to reach them.

11. “Reaching out to an old ex on her birthday.” 

Smooth. I notice you didn’t use the word “current friend.” As in #10, above, just be honest with yourself about why you’re doing this and what you’re hoping for, ok? And know that the the ex just deleting whatever it is is 100% a possibility, and be cool with that possibility.

12. “Decline last minute work.”

Script: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’ve already booked that time slot. Is your schedule flexible at all? I could take on something after [date]. Otherwise, good luck finding someone.”

Bonus: If it’s a client or employer you really, really like, and you know people who might be able to help who are looking for work, connect them!

To the client: “Would it be okay if I shared this with a few people who do similar work in my network?”

To the colleague: “Client X just asked me to take on a project, and I’m booked. Would you like me to put you in touch?” 

Check before sharing people’s contact details. It’s just good practice.

13. “Why in a relationship would one partner line up friends to insult the other partner?”

Signs point to the partner who recruits friends to insult someone they claim to love being both really mean and having mean friends. Sorry, you might be surrounded by assholes!

14. “Helping your ex through your break-up.”

My first thought when I read stuff like this: BUT YOU BROKE UP. IT’S NOT YOUR JOB.

I can think of a few legit good ways to help an ex with a breakup, assuming this is a “Farewell good person who was, alas, not right for me” breakup and not a “Never contact me again you controlling shitlord” breakup, are you ready?

  • Have good boundaries for yourself. If you need space and time to get over the relationship, be honest about that and don’t set yourself up to be your ex’s Chief Consoler. If you know you don’t want to ever get back together, don’t dangle that option. Don’t dump someone and then lean on them as your favorite listening ear. Ex-sex can be a fine, healing, understandable human activity, but there are times when you know it’s a bad idea and is going to make the other person have an even harder time detaching. You ceased already, so desist!
  • Be a little thoughtful about how you use social media. Don’t air this person’s private heartbreak everywhere, wait a hot second before you go all #FinallyFree #AtLast #TrueLove with your brand new beau, it’s cool to stay friends with people you met as a couple but maybe give your ex priority in their oldest friends at least until the dust settles, give them a heads’ up if you’re going to be at the same event.
  • Be really fair and kind about money and property. Return their stuff to them promptly and without drama, don’t make them ask or hunt or wait for it. Did someone relocate to be with you, or could someone use a grace period of NOT having to pay half the rent on a place they’re getting booted out of while also coming up with the money for a new place, can you afford to ease the transition for this person a little without stinting yourself? Then do it. If you still have to share living space for a while, be respectful about bringing new dates around.
  • Don’t write to their advice column under a fake name and ask for advice on wooing your new crush.

These tips are from my own experience and aren’t absolutes, you’re not necessarily doing it wrong if you have a different style, helping out financially isn’t always possible (and isn’t an obligation), and all bets are off if the other person was a jerk! But those are some ways to possibly be nice, and none of them involve nursing someone through their breakup with you! You broke up! You get to stop working on this person’s problems and life!

Thanks for joining us for this fun feature. If you would like Daniel & Henrietta content, they are SPACED OUT on catnip right now.

126 comments
  1. #5 in situations where any version of ‘not fine’ would be the honest answer: I personally go for something like ‘Oh, it was a pain but I’m still alive, how about you?’ ‘Don’t ask’ with exaggerated eyeroll is also a perfectly valid answer. The key is to a) keep the tone light even if you don’t feel it, and b) always finish the statement with some kind of redirect (‘How was yours?’ ‘Hey, did you have any good ideas about the Blahblah project?’ ‘Bloody hell, look at the weather!’) If your weekend was bad enough that you don’t want to talk about it, try having some redirects in mind pre-emptively.

    • JenniferP said:

      This works well!

    • nw hepcat said:

      I once asked my (now ex) boss how her holiday weekend was while we were washing hands in the ladies room, and she jerked her head back like this was completely out of bounds and after a pause said, “FINE.” I wanted to say, “I asked about your weekend, not your colonoscopy,” but restraint is the better part of valor.

    • M said:

      I’ve responded with only saying “How was yours?” I think 70% of people actually do not notice: you closed the social loop. I’ve only ever had one person double down on the question. And you can respond with variations of “nothing worth sharing” or “same” (if it’s been a tough week. :/)

      • K said:

        For me it’s more like 95%. If you can pull it off smoothly enough, no one will notice, short of those close enough to you to be asking out of genuine interest/caring rather than social nicety. Same goes for “how are you?” I generally reply “Hey, how are you?” and not a single person has said anything to me about it.

    • nnn said:

      Building on “Bloody hell, look at the weather!”, you could also say something like “rainy” or “sunny”, which is perfectly true, and allows you to segue to either “and how was yours?” or to a discussion of the weather

    • Cease And D6 said:

      I find that in all contexts except an actual long weekend, the answer ‘short’ is always true. Everyone always agrees that the weekend was short, regardless of whether the stuff that went on in the weekend was good or not. So, a quick ‘Short, how was yours?’ will deflect almost everyone with no follow up.

      • Yes! “Too short, as always!” is a great answer to “how was your weekend”.

        • GreyjoyGardens said:

          “Just flew by too fast!” with a chuckle is another good variant. Most people will respond with “oh yeah, mine too!”

      • slythwolf said:

        “Somehow shorter than advertised” would be the version for long weekends, which do always seem to be.

    • Emma9 said:

      Yup! My favorite circuit-closing non-answer is ‘got some stuff done’ – always true, because your body’s automatic processes are by definition ‘stuff’ if nothing else, but implies that you’re talking about adulting and errands (also sometimes true), aka boring and no one cares to inquire further.

  2. Drew said:

    That last bullet on the last letter has my jaw swinging freely in the breeze. Wow, dude.

    • Same! Seriously, do not do that!!

    • Chrystall said:

      Same! What the heck, buddy!??

    • storyranger said:

      I’m right here with you trying to pick my jaw up from the floor.

    • 5 Leaf Clover said:

      me too and MORE DETAILS PLEASE

    • felixthegolden said:

      Yes! I came down to the comments specifically to see if everyone else was as gobsmacked by that as me. WTF?

  3. Jessen said:

    For #5, I often use uninteresting facts. “Rainy!” typically gets the point across that there is nothing to discuss here. “Eh, weekendish” is also an option, as is “oh, lots of laundry” or whatever other boring task that adults have to do that ends up on the weekends a lot. When in doubt, the weather is pretty much always an option.

    • I have occasionally gone with “It was” and then follow-up/redirect.

      • Jane said:

        Also fairly good: the ambiguous head bob with a faint smile, accompanied by a “Hmm-mmm” and, as always, follow-up/direct.

    • JMegan said:

      I was going to say the same. You can *always* say you did laundry, even if that’s not actually true. You can say you enjoyed (or did not enjoy) the weather. Watched some Netflix. Pick a show that most people are familiar with but that’s not super current – something like The Office or 30 Rock. The conversation won’t likely go on much past “Oh, haha, yes, it’s a great show!” at that point, and then you can change the subject or leave the conversation.

      • GreyjoyGardens said:

        Yeah, I always assume that most people are going to have boring mundane weekends (like mine!) and just want small talk. Laundry, Netflix, errands, pets, those are always anodyne subjects. Honestly, if I’m asking “how was your weekend?” just to make small talk, and the person gets all huffy and prickly, I’m going to wonder about them (and whether they are worth more than the minimum of politeness) but “I did laundry and watched some TV shows” is just boringly normal.

  4. Allison said:

    3. I’m all for people bringing significant others to parties I host, but yeah, for the most part I’d like people to ask before bringing buddies I don’t know or didn’t invite. I generally trust my friends to be good guests, but having people I don’t know in my home brings my visions of rude people and “missing stair” type humans – the type that’ll hit on my friends, start fights with people, go through my belongings, try to eat or drink stuff in the fridge or that we purposely had put away because we weren’t planning on serving it, wait out the clock on public transit and then whine about how they can’t afford Lyft so we have no choice but to let them crash, and then they lurk in our living room the next morning and we can’t get them to leave . . . actually that last bit seems unlikely, if they come with someone I would hope they would leave with that person. Still, I’ve had some bad hosting experiences before, so my mind goes through several unpleasant scenarios, unless I really trust that the person bringing said stranger can vouch for them and is willing to be accountable for their actions.

    5. I hate talking about my weekend at work, unless I’m geniunely excited about it or it was super interesting and worth talking about. I hate how people will go “oooOOOOooooh, that sounds like SO MUCH FUUUUUN!” regardless of what I say, it feels slightly patronizing at best; or worse, I get the passive-aggressive, “hm, well it must be nice to have time to do that. I have kids, so my weekends are all about them now.” I didn’t make you reproduce, Karen! But seriously, yeah, I get being vague, but it’s important to be politely vague.

    11. I’m turning 30 in a few weeks, and this question just made me cringe because holy fork I do not want an ex crawling out of the woodwork on my birthday. If we’re still good friends, rad, come party with us. If we haven’t spoken in years, let’s keep it that way. I’m planning a party for the day, plus preparing for a week-long trip we’re leaving on the day after said party, I do not have time for the emotional labor that comes with Mr. “I’ve been thinking about you, and I just wanted to . . . ” NO, keep your distance, please.

    I wonder if this stems from the assumption that birthday girls love attention from absolutely everyone on their birthdays. I like celebrating and receiving well wishes, but an ex reaching out doesn’t feel like a genuine well-wishing, it would probably feel like I’m being haunted. Or stalked.

    • “Hey, girl, it’s your special day, so I’m gifting you with this burdensome problem from the past!”

      • Susi said:

        THIS LITERALLY HAPPENED TO ME ON MY LAST BIRTHDAY!

        He apologized for being an ass and then said I should visit sometime. He is married, with a child. O_o

        • Drew said:

          “I’m sorry for being an ass.”
          “Is this a pre-emptive apology? Because it sounds like a pre-emptive apology.”
          “I’d love to have you come visit my happy new family some time!”
          “…and there it is.”

      • goddessoftransitory said:

        “Nothing like making YOUR birthday all about MEEEEEEEE!”

      • Qwerty said:

        It is oddly reassuring to know I’m not the only one with this problem and this reaction.

        Yes, it is my birthday, dude, and my wish is for you to *go away* and *stay away*.

    • An ex once mailed me a birthday present, some… 5 years? after we’d broken up, because he still had a reminder set on his Outlook calendar (personal, not work). That was his stated reason for doing so.

      I just… no. My “do not reply” policy continued.

  5. Jane said:

    Usually I answer “How’s it going?” with “It’s still going!” I find this to be accurate enough to appease my screaming inner rage-beast while not necessarily raising a lot of flags with the other person.

    • Jadelyn said:

      I tend to reply “Well, I didn’t kill anyone, so I’m counting it as a win. How about you?” But then, most of the people I talk to know I’ve got That Kind of a sense of humor. YMMV.

      • goddessoftransitory said:

        Or better yet, “Well, it turned out all that rain really softened the earth so digging the grave was easy…anyway, you?”

        • slythwolf said:

          Nice.

        • Steven Tyler's PJs said:

          Is it wrong that I want to say this as Wednesday Addams says things to that blonde Girl Scout in the recent(ish) movies? We have a really super-happy, unbearably chipper guy at work who wants to enthuse about the office K-cups all the time and I wonder if it might buy me some extra quiet at least once.

  6. the815 said:

    #10 – about a month ago, I got a Facebook friend request from the guy who dumped me for my best friend at my birthday party years ago (and they’re still together). My reaction was as CA said – “After 20 years, they’ve moved on, and now they have to think about it again and possibly deal with the feelings of the person who harmed them?”

    There are some ex-boyfriends that I’m Facebook friends with if not actually real life friends. I honestly had a totally innocent reaction to seeing them on the interwebs like, “Oh, yeah, that guy! How the hell’s he doin’? He’s married with cute kids now? Awesome!” So, maybe this ex- thought of me that way..? Don’t care. I felt like I was offered a handshake with a turd in it (HELL fucking no, and also, how dare you?).

    • K said:

      In my opinion, an apology that comes 20 years or so after the incident that precipitated it is about 19+ years too late. If a person who harmed me was truly regretful that they did, wouldn’t they have apologized at the time? Years later, it’s no longer about kindness to ME, it’s about making themselves feel better, which was the problem inflicted on me all those years ago in the first place. A long-belated apology is selfish, not conciliatory. And really, they don’t need to tell me that they’re still selfish, if I wanted to waste brainspace thinking about it I could figure that out on my own.

      And for the “but I was a stupid kid at 16” crowd — so was I, AND YET I still managed to incorporate kindness and empathy into my daily attitudes and behavior. If I made an error in judgment and hurt someone thoughtlessly or by accident, I apologized as soon as I saw that I’d hurt them. And I do take issue with anyone who hurts others ON PURPOSE; and bigger issue with someone who did and then expects me to perform emotional labor to soothe their guilty conscience years after the fact. They earned that guilt, so they get to live with it — far be it from me to take it from them. They want forgiveness, they can ask their priest/ess. If we haven’t had contact in multiple years, rest assured I’m good with that and don’t need or want to re-establish an acquaintanceship, so I won’t be forgiving them, thanks. They can stay in the past where they belong.

      • the815 said:

        **Years later, it’s no longer about kindness to ME, it’s about making themselves feel better**

        Exactly! It wasn’t even an apology, it was a stupid Facebook friend request. Like I want ANYTHING to do with that shitlord, even in the most loose, “let’s laugh at the same memes and like pictures of each other at the zoo” kind of way. No, I do NOT want pics of you and that back stabbing, weasel faced whore all over my FB timeline, thank you very much. I don’t wanna be a hateful person, so I just don’t think about them (so I KIND OF resented the invitation to start thinking about them again).

        • Goat Lady said:

          While I realize that you don’t like the person involved very much, please refrain from using misogynist slurs like “whore” here. See the Site Policies and FAQ for more information on commenting: https://captainawkward.com/site-policies-and-faqs/

          • the815 said:

            I’m sorry. The subject does not bring out my best.

  7. nw hepcat said:

    Re #10: I got a letter some 15 years after high school from a dude I had asked to a Sadie Hawkins dance, apologizing for saying no. Now THAT was a serious what the hell moment. He had become an Evangelical preacher, which he’s still doing, and I think maybe it was “outreach,” as he was married when he wrote, and he worked on me for quite a while via email. Our back-and-forth correspondence helped me cement my view that I don’t belief in hell, so it was useful, I guess. (I was a religious kid in high school, and that was his appeal, but even then I had NO interest in being a preacher’s wife.) But dude, that letter was weird.

    We’re still friends on Facebook, but when he posts something like a “trans women in the bathroom, omg” video he made, he received a free flame-broiling of his ass.

    • new hepcat: I think the dude was using the apology letter as a way to proselytize. Ick ick ick ick ick.

    • e271828 said:

      I received a weird apology letter many years after an incident I had completely forgotten! Apparently this dude, who did not phone me after saying he would do so, and on whom still-teenaged me probably had an obvious crush (I genuinely don’t remember), was in some kind of twelve-step program that required him to apologize to everyone he could think of he had ever wronged. Let me tell you, twelve-steppers, contacting an old professor to obtain the address of someone who has forgotten not only the incident but you, so that you can write your weird apology decades later, is not only not apologizing, it’s creeping.

      Write your letters and mail them in a lit woodstove, twelve-steppers.

      • Clarry said:

        I’ve found this too! There’s seems to be a weird interpretation of steps 8-10 where the emphasis is on the apology but the bit about making amends is lost. You get people running around apologizing all the time without a thought to whether the apologies are accepted or whether efforts are made to change the behavior or whether any of it is good for the person being apologized to. It’s still all about the self-centered person who was self-centered to begin with. “Believe patterns, not apologies” is being needlepointed on my next pillow. (Maybe neon lights would be better. I haven’t decided.)

      • JMegan said:

        I once received a great apology from a twelve-stepper. Here’s what made it great:
        *she was specific about how she had hurt me and my family
        *she understood her addiction as an explanation for her behaviour but did not excuse it
        *she said what she was doing to make sure it didn’t happen again
        *she clearly said that she didn’t expect anything from me, including forgiveness – she just wanted me to know that she knew she had hurt me and she was sorry.

        So an apology after the fact *can* be good, as long as it’s carefully and respectfully done, and as long as it doesn’t ask or expect anything from the person you’re apologizing to. You also need to remember the second part of “making amends,” which is that whatever you’re doing shouldn’t cause any further harm.

        It’s not easy to do, and not everybody would welcome even a well-done Step 9 letter. But if the act of apologizing is really important to you AND you can do it sincerely without creeping the other person out or making them wonder what you’re up to, then it’s certainly possible.

      • Jackalope said:

        This always makes me scratch my head since to my understanding the 12 step program is supposed to encourage you NOT to do that sort of thing. I believe I read part of the manual once when I was trying to support a friend going through the program and it specifically gave ideas for Poole you wronged that you aren’t still in touch with. Things like your suggestion of writing a letter and burning it. Or making a vow not to wrong someone else in the same way in the future. Or doing the apologizing version of paying it forward. (For example, if you mocked someone bcs of their race, make a donation to a scholarship for someone of that specific race. Or whatever.) The idea was to find a way to make amends without dragging the original person back into it if you weren’t still in touch with them.

        • Jackalope said:

          Sigh. People, not Poole.

        • Clarry said:

          Something I didn’t realize until I ran into a 12-stepper who kept apologizing for things she was doing even in the present. That is, in addition to screwing me over in the past, she apologized for the way she was screwing me over when she still had the ability to fix it. She was proudly telling me about how close she’d become with her online 12-step buddies and how important it was to take inventory every night, like asking herself if she had apologized to Clarry to make sure she was clear of her obligations when I would have said her obligation was not to screw me over. I found the whole thing bizarre and merely decided to keep away from her. Then I looked up 12-step programs and realized that there’s no international organization with top down quality control. Each 12 step group is a bunch of loosely organized people who decide to help each other so if one group goes off in a stray direction where they encourage others to dance the hokey pokey and apologize to the moon, that can become a guiding principle for that group. Add that this was an anonymous online group, and the potential for bizarre interpretations of the easily available 12 steps becomes greater.

          • +1 This. 12-step programs, and most “_____ anonymous” programs, don’t have any kind of monitoring or official seal of approval. Now, the hopelines and hotlines do; people who answer the NA hopeline are trained and vetted, for example. But the irl groups can be basically any group of people in recovery. Some of these end up being incredibly helpful, but others end up going off the rails or even get into another addictive behavior.

            Also, the original AA wasn’t really based on a scientific understanding of addiction and substance use psychology; the research wasn’t out there yet. It was more just a person (I think a Quaker?) who found that these steps helped him overcome his issues so he formed a group to teach others. Contemporary metedata analyses have shown that substance-use disorder and addiction recovery groups are significantly less effective than one-on-one sesstions with a therapist specializing in substance use disorder.

            Not that that’s a viable option for everyone. Just that, I agree that a lot of 12-step groups (although not all of them, or maybe even most) cause more problems than they solve. And, the more people work with a trained professional, whether in a group or one-on-one setting, the more likely the outcome will be positive rather than destructive.

  8. Number 8, I know how you feel. See, a past ex-partner used to be a (marathon) series freak. Meaning, he was hooked on different series and, when the new seasons were announced, he would spend the two weeks prior rewatching former seasons to refresh memories and details of the argument. He followed at least a dozen of series on a steadily basis, who also happened to have a lot of seasons, which would mean that for several months each year he would devote all his free time either rewatching or watching tv series.

    I am an introvert, but I am also are a person who loves to talk with those close to me. Also, I do not like to spend all my time seated in front a TV. During TV series season I would feel abandoned. Trying to make see him talk to me more often made him angry because “hey, this is what I do to unwind! stop trying to make me guilty for things I love!”. My take home message, at a time when I still didn’t know that I was spiraling into depression, was “series matter more to him than having me in his life”.

    He was onto Game of Thrones, too. I am into the books. We could also have shared GoT awesomeness, but he refused to talk to me because what if the books contained SPOILERS of things to come?!?!

    It’s been two years already, and I swear to you all that my first thought every time I see a GoT meme is “thanks to all stochastic events that I can spend this year without his yearly marathon and having to be cool about him enjoying himself whilst I was left waiting for his attention to focus on me again”.

  9. Persia said:

    #4: Captain, thank you for recognizing the impact of Guess Culture on neurodiversity. As an autistic, I always find it’s best to ask. When I guess a social rule or the reason for it, I default to what I know (evangelical Christianity circa 1990s). This makes me come off like I just dropped in from the Middle Ages.

    • Dr. Rebecca said:

      I ask with the *spoken* caveat that I am honestly unoffended by the word know. It combines the best parts of both ‘ask’ and ‘guess.’

      • Harpy with a harp said:

        Weirdly for me as an abuse survivor with very bad PTSD, I feel a whole lot safer and more comfortable within Guess Culture. I guess because way too many times someone has gotten very angry with me or worse if I said no. I only seem to get on well with Ask Culture individuals if they make it really clear that they are ok with my saying no if they ask me for something, or if they are people that I’ve known a long time and have proven that they are safe to say no to.

        Also for me the more unusual or large an ask is, the more it reads as a threat, sadly because way too many times for me it’s happen just that way, where somebody makes a request that is way outside the norm for the relationship that I have with that person and often something I physically can’t even do (like an acquaintance we’d only known for a few months asking my husband and I to help them move when I’ve got scoliosis and my husband had recently just been hospitalized with some major stuff), and they either get very angry with me or have some sort of epic meltdown, or take to Facebook and vaguebook about how cruel their friends are for not helping them.

        It’s hard when it’s not only my abusive ex who’s been like that so I could just write it off as well my ex is horrible and others aren’t like that, but I’ve frequently gotten that kind of treatment from friends and acquaintances too. And it leaves me feeling like sometimes I have to say yes to things I don’t want to do out of fear, or say no and risk someone being angry at me or having a meltdown at me or an epic vaguebook rant about me.

        Or the other thing that is hard, is I say no to a thing, like “can you teach a class at event X” and I check my schedule, realize I have some other major commitment, tell the person sorry no I’m committed to doing thing Y that weekend, and literally get the response of “Oh I guess that’s a good enough excuse” instead of just saying ok have fun at thing Y. Getting that kind of response makes me feel as if my reasons for saying no are being evaluated and judged, even if on the surface that person politely accepted a no, and it makes me scared and anxious and afraid to say no to that person for future requests unless I feel that I have a “good enough excuse”.

        • Sunflower said:

          That sucks to have encountered that behavior from so many people, especially when it’s something you already have wounds around. I’m hoping for a future for you where you are surrounded by people like my friend who today replied to me saying I wasn’t available for a favor with “Thank you for taking care of yourself,” and where the people who react to being told no by trying to make their behavior a bigger inconvenience than fulfilling their request have a minimal, if any, presence.

    • Kaz said:

      Also autistic and also came here to say thanks for that. I’ve poked at it from different angles, I’ve seen people passionately defend it, and still I simply cannot see how Guess culture could ever work for me.

      (Although I do tend to think it’s not a firm dichotomy and there are things it’s considered inappropriate to ask basically everywhere.)

      • Goat Lady said:

        I live in the south, and it’s not really “guess” so much as “offer” culture. I feel like calling it “guess” culture is framed by people from “ask” culture rather than giving those of us from “offer” culture the courtesy of letting us define ourselves.

        Anyway the rule is actually not that mysterious: if you’re not close friends with someone, you wait for things to be explicitly offered. A very hospitable host from offer culture for instance might overwhelm you by offering a variety of drinks and food, because it’s understood that making your guest ask for them is rude. If something is not offered, it’s rude to ask for it. Generally “offer” culture people feel very uncomfortable saying no to a direct request, because it’s understood that someone won’t ask directly unless it’s very important that you say yes.

        When I visit hosts from “ask” culture I feel very adrift, because they say something vague like “make yourself at home” and I don’t know what it’s ok to ask for.

        • JenniferP said:

          I love this description, pls. remind me to add it to the main post tmw.

          • Goat Lady said:

            Will do! For me, “ask” culture is very much “guess” culture. “Make yourself at home.” OK, I’m thirsty, what is available to drink? Can I just go get it? Would that be weird? Do I have to justify my need for a drink and tell them I need meds? WHAT IS GOING ON JUST OFFER ME SOME WATER PLEASE.

            I also find unwritten rules of social hierarchy and who can ask what of whom are…endemic throughout both cultures. As is the condescension of “Doesn’t everyone already know how to X?!?” And framing “offer” culture as inimical to neurodiverse people is also weird, since I know a lot of autistic southerners who are perfectly comfortable with it, having been raised in it like I was, who are likewise adrift when they make forays into “ask” culture and suddenly ALL THE RULES ARE DIFFERENT.

            I think an “ask” person coming to my house will find the initial greeting weird and overbearing — “Can I get you something to drink? We have coke, water, lemonade, sweet tea, hot tea, coffee, whiskey…? Maybe something to eat? We have x, y, z…? Don’t mind the dogs, just shove them off you if they’re too much. The recliner is the comfiest chair but gets you covered in cats. Are you sure you don’t need anything?” just like I find “Hi! Make yourself at home!” to be weird and vague to the point of unsettling.

          • JenniferP said:

            See, I’m a wretched Yankee and I also offer things to guests specifically – something to drink, listing it out, telling them about the one side of the love-seat recliner that doesn’t recline, etc. though if you’re a houseguest staying more than one night we switch to a “If it’s in the kitchen and you see it and you want to eat it or drink it, and we’re not home or awake yet or you’re worried about asking, please go ahead and eat it or drink it” rule. “Here’s the internet password, here are the remotes for the TV, there are the books, please watch/read/listen to anything you like, you don’t have to ask first to borrow a book or catch up on your stories.”

            “Make yourself at home” with no additional direction would freak me way out, too!

            I think all of us live in both kinds of cultures to an extent. The “if you don’t know someone well” rule applies to everyone, different comfort levels, different formalities. So maybe some of our job here is clarifying: “Here’s when it’s okay to ask/Here’s what an indirect refusal looks like/Here’s why it stresses some people out when you ask.”

          • anonforthis said:

            I’m a Yankee who’s been in the south my entire adult life, and it’s just so much easier to say “Help yourself to whatever you want in the fridge” then to try to remember/list whatever I have on hand at the moment. Especially if I’m still doing last-minute cooking or have had six guests just come in or otherwise have my hands full. I try to ask “What can I get you?” one-on-one so people know I care and am happy to serve them, but I feel like I’ve achieved maximum hospitality when someone is comfortable just getting a glass and whatever they want.

    • songofstorms said:

      Yeah. I’m autistic too. There was a point in my life when I realized that people will say “yes” to things they absolutely do not want to say “yes” to and then will resent you forever afterwards for asking. That was also the point in my life when I decided it was best never to ask anyone for anything, ever. I didn’t WANT to make people do things they weren’t comfortable with, but I wasn’t able to tell beforehand what people WOULD be okay with, so it felt safest to assume that none of my requests were reasonable. (This also taught me that you HAVE to say “yes” when someone asks for something, no matter how much you don’t want to. Which is. Not great.)

      Logically, I know now that it’s fine to make requests as long as I’m not pushy about them. But it’s still so, so hard for me to ask for anything.

    • eclipse said:

      ALL OF THIS.
      I witnessed the 3rd and 4th examples in that link simultaneously, and it was…pretty soul-destroying.

    • WanderingUndine said:

      Some of those seem like valid feelings/mindsets, and it’s sad if people feel unable or unwilling to be honest about them instead of hiding them behind vague and lofty proclamations. But I’m uncomfortable with the claim in #4 that if a man is really into a woman, he’ll obsessively “chase” her until he makes her his. We see that message everywhere, and it’s dangerous.

      • eclipse said:

        Agreed, WanderingUndine (love the name!). That claim and message normalizes toxic behavioral patterns.

        In less harmful ways, the messages of “people who like you will act like they like you” or “if they wanted to make the effort, they would make the effort” also describe well the concept that was trying to be explained. Is that a better choice of phrasing?

        Witnessing people actively making efforts for other people in front of you while saying to your face that it’s “all good” when you’re an afterthought or doing the bulk of the effort for them is still a really painful thing to experience.

        • WanderingUndine said:

          I agree. “Showing they care” can mean meaking a strong effort to demonstrate they want to praise, help, and spend time with someone…*and* responding respectfully to the reactions of the desired person, not necessarily persisting beyond what that person rurns out to want

    • The frustrating this about this is, many of those underlying things are actually fine: it’s okay to want casual sex or comfort sex after a hard relationship, it’s okay to want friends-with-benefits who never move in with you or meet your parents, it’s okay to want multiple partners. It’s just…you’ve gotta get enthusiastic consent from everyone. You have to meet people who also want what you want.

      I’m currently in a “I want comfort sex / friends with benefits, but not a romantic partner” frame of mind right now, and it’s going well so far because it’s clear that nobody’s exclusively with me, and I’m not aiming to live with anyone else or get married someday or do romantic things. And people get that if they want those things, I’m not going to be heartbroken if we stop having sexytimes (or even a non-sexual friendship) because they commit to someone else.

  10. e271828 said:

    #14 Jennifer, you have a fine sense of dramatic pacing and reveal!

    • JenniferP said:

      I DO.

      “Burying the lede like a pirate’s treasure or a landmine” should possibly go in my artists’ statement somewhere.

  11. JayNay said:

    Oh my, #2…. thank you Captain for answering that. Very true words. I’ve lost friends who “didn’t want to take sides” against abusers and their friends (or thought the abuse was bad but couldn’t be bothered to take a single consequence from this realization). “not wanting to take sides” means people just don’t want to make themselves uncomfortable.

    • Jules the 3rd said:

      While I will always take sides against abusers and their enablers (and I am deeply sorry that you had to deal with people who wouldn’t), sometimes the situation is not so clear.

      Example: in a social group I was once in (early 20s), Ann’s boyfriend Bob cheated on her with Cathy. I treated Ann kindly and sympathetically. I did not ‘take Ann’s side’ to ostracize Cathy. I didn’t explain to Ann that I’d either be ostracizing *both* Bob and Cathy or *neither* – Ann didn’t need the pressure around her relationship with Bob. Since Ann stayed with Bob, I ostracized neither. I’d have dropped both Bob and Cathy in favor of Ann in a heartbeat, but I’m not going to treat the two bad actors differently from each other. They both made the choice of their own free wills.

      There’s a lot of levels to ‘taking sides’, not all are due to abuse.

      • JenniferP said:

        Even when it’s abuse, sometimes the real answer is: “I believe you, this is not your fault, but [bad actor] is [someone I am very close to and have a ton of history with, like a family member] so while I do not condone what they did, this person is still going to be in my life in some capacity, which might not make me the safest or most comfortable person for you to be around. I understand if you need to keep your distance from me because of that, I’m so sorry.”

        Which is not the same as “Oh, I’m not going to take sides.” Keeping someone in your life doesn’t make you responsible or to blame for the harm that the offending person did, but it might not make you a safe person for their victim to keep in touch with. I think we’d all benefit from being honest about that.

        For a Not-Abuse example, I have a former colleague who haaaaaaaaates one of my dearest friends (and trust, it’s mutual), not b/c he’s an asshole or a creep, they just clash and had to work together and have totally different styles and points of view. Colleague would always try grinding axes about Friend with me, and I was like “yeah but he’s my friend,” and Colleague would keep at it, and it’s like, YEAH BUT HE’S MY FRIEND, TELL SOMEONE ELSE, HE GETS TO COMPLAIN ABOUT YOU TO ME, THAT’S HOW BEING FRIENDS WORK, IT IS NOT MULTILATERAL RECIPROCITY TREATY. I didn’t actually say that, it was more like “But you know we’re friends, why do you keep telling me this stuff? If you want him to do something differently, talk to him about it, I’m not your ambassador.” But that is also not a “Oh, I don’t like to take sides” situation. I took a side.

        • Aella said:

          My Worst Aunt apparently still believes that if only she can get her son and her daughter in the same room, everything will be fine and she can pretend everything is like it was, matriarch of one big happy family. Except what it was was only ever my cousin not being able to speak up, and some things you cannot put back in the box, and that side of the family is, frankly, a mess of people who do not want to take sides and the people who cannot understand how you can’t take sides (because that is, in itself, taking a side)

          I confine myself to saying ‘I will never be in the same room as Cousin A ever again and if someone asks me why I WILL TELL THEM’

      • anonforthis said:

        Yeah, I’ve definitely dealt with stuff like this, along the lines of A and B had a bad breakup, but A isn’t a bad person, they just want different things, or C did something that sounds kind of shitty but didn’t alter the course of D’s life, and it’s understandable if D doesn’t want to be their friend, but also I’ve never heard C’s side of it and D has a history of burning bridges.

  12. glitterary said:

    I have some input on 10. I broke up with a really lovely guy a decade ago–no-one was at fault, we were just in different places–and I said something clumsy and hurtful during the breakup. We stayed friends for another year or two, then he got a new girlfriend who didn’t like us hanging out and pretty much lost contact except for Facebook (which he barely uses).

    I thought about and felt guilty about my stupid breakup comment several times a month for EIGHT YEARS. It all came to a head when I saw he and his now-wife had a baby, and I felt the urge to both congratulate and apologise all at once. Fortunately for me, I ran it past my friends and my partner at the time, who all pointed out that the apology would completely undercut the congratulations, and most likely just be a weird sidebar when he had moved on and clearly had wonderful exciting things going on his life.

    I was absolutely devastated and couldn’t explain why. My extremely patient partner talked me through my feelings, and I realised that yes, I regretted my awkward comment–but I had transferred all my guilty feelings about the breakup into that one sentence, and that gave me the feeling that if I could just take it back I could undo all the hurt, even though the breakup had been remarkably mature and neither of us had done anything genuinely bad. I was just sad that I’d lost someone who had been very important to me. Apologising at that point would have just burst my ex’s happy new dad bubble, and the hurt I’d caused at the time was negligible compared to the agony of guilt I’d put myself through. I didn’t send the apology.

    Obviously, ymmv depending on what you feel you need to apologise for–but ask yourself WHY you feel the need to apologise. Is it to make the person feel better, or yourself? Is your desire to apologise proportionate to the infraction, or is it standing in for something bigger (which may not require an apology)? Would a reasonable person still be thinking about what you said or did? Do you genuinely believe that the person you want to apologise to will benefit from the apology? If not, it may be better to find some other way to lay your feelings to rest.

    • >>I was just sad that I’d lost someone who had been very important to me.

      I think this is such an important part to acknowledge. An apology years after the fact says “I am still thinking about this Unfinished Business between us”. Not helpful if the receiver didn’t consider it Unfinished, but now the apologiser has gone and opened it all up again.

      • glitterary said:

        Yep, absolutely. I needed to ask myself WHY I considered it unfinished business, and whether that was a good enough reason to impinge onto the life of someone who was clearly doing just fine without me.

        I’m sure there are people out there who would appreciate an apology after the fact, but it would have to be handled extremely delicately and differently in each case. If it’s a non-relation who has distanced themselves since the infraction, I think it’s probably better not to say anything in the vast majority of cases.

  13. Nanani said:

    All the applause on number 10.
    Self awareness is crucial to the OKness of sending such a letter.
    Also key is considering whether you are responding to external pressure to do this. Just because a third party, however well meaning, suggests getting closure doesn’t make it a good idea.

    I gotta say that “Sorry for breaking your heart in high school” person sounds like a bit of an ego? Takes a bit of self-inflation to believe that anyone is still broken hearted about you, from high school, decades later. I laughed.

    • JenniferP said:

      I think the person did have an ego and had definitely been thinking about me WAY more than I had about him, considering also that he called my work repeatedly to try to find me because he was going to be in town and wanted to grab dinner but found no other way of contacting me even though I am Extremely Online, still friends with his sister, my parents have not moved or changed their number in our hometown, etc.

      On the other hand, I used to write super-intenso letters like this person after breakups, so it’s possible he had reason to think my anguish was larger than life.

  14. Nanani said:

    Extra thoughts for no 5.

    Back before I went freelance, I got a lot of free weekend talk-fodder by having one specific interest be “public knowledge” so to speak, at work. It was a band, so whenever they were touring my colleagues would (usually correctly) assume I’d been at a concert, and when they weren’t I could just mention the band’s latest TV appearance or something.

    This method should work well with any work-safe interest. You don’t need to dive deep – “I watched the local sports team/latest Epic Show episode” or whatever works and importantly, shifts the small talk to the thing instead of your life.

    • Secret Squirrel said:

      Dogs. “We took the dogs for a walk in the neighborhood Saturday, and to City Park Sunday.”

  15. attica said:

    Regarding the spaced out kitties: A former landlord of mine planted lovely purple shrub-like things around the perimeter of our front yard. Catnip. AALLLL the neighborhood felines would come by for a hit all spring and summer. I’d come home and see something furry buried amongst the stalks, and they’d look at me, guilty, all ” Yeah, man, I know, I know, I’m trespassing, but I’m just too baked to move just now. Are we chill?” Yes, kitty. We’re chill. Bake on.

    • Katie said:

      Attica, this is adorable, and I wish you had pictures!

    • Speaking of kitties, this cute meme is making the rounds on Facebook. (Image description: A person with fair skin and short dark hair, wearing a gray t-shirt, jeans, and a dark green (?) bum bag/fanny pack is standing on a concrete patio in front of a brown house. The person is holding what appears to be cat food or cat treats, and there are many cats of various colors gathering around the person. It is caption in large white block capitals, “I was like, here kitty kitties, and the kitties here kitty kittied.”)

  16. Cora said:

    Daniel can totally see the music.

  17. nnn said:

    For #14, with the understanding that this varies widely from person to person and you know your relationship and the people involved better than I do:

    Apart from heartbreak, the biggest inconvenience of being broken up with is the logistical problems of no longer having a #1 person to depend on. So if someone broke up with me and then wanted to help me through the breakup, a kindness they could do is offer to uphold their logistical commitments, or to help with with any logistical problems caused by the breakup.

    Example: if I’ve scheduled an outpatient procedure with the expectation that they would be there to take me home while I’m all groggy and recovering from sedation, they could say that their offer to take me home still stands.

    If I have to move because of the breakup, they could offer to help with finding boxes, packing, disassembling and reassembling furniture, finding replacements for household items that I wouldn’t be able to take with me, etc.

    Whether I would accept their offer depends on a lot of variables, but that would really be the help that is most useful to me.

  18. nnn said:

    An idea for #10, if you analyze the situation and find that you’re doing it for yourself, you can write up the apology without naming the person’s name and post it on your primary online presence.

    If the person does think about you, they’ll google you from time to time and eventually stumble upon it. If you have mutual acquaintances, the information might reach them through natural channels. (And the more they ask mutual acquaintances about you, the more likely the information is to reach them.)

    And if they don’t think about you at all, you haven’t disturbed them at all, but have still attended to your own emotional needs by confessing your sins.

    • nnn said:

      Actually, this could also work with #11. Post on your social media (not your ex’s, not tagging your ex) “Happy birthday [ex’s name]!”

      If they’re checking, they’ll see it.

      • Drew said:

        Sorry, I disagree with both of these. If you need to attend to your own emotional needs, see a therapist. Vaguebooking/-tweeting just makes people who don’t know what’s going on ask questions, and makes the people who DO know wonder when you’re going to move on already. I say this as a recovering vagueposter; it doesn’t make you feel as much better as you think it will, and it stirs up drama that doesn’t need stirring.

        • Lizzie said:

          100% agree with this. I don’t want to read my friends’ vaguebook drama.

        • anonforthis said:

          See, my take on this is that my social media is for me. Of course I’m not going to share other people’s information in boundary-violating ways, but if I need to vent, FB is definitely a place to do it. Those friends who want to ask what’s up or offer an ear can do so, and those who don’t can scroll on by.

  19. Hi I'm New Here said:

    Oh, the memories are coming back….

    The guy who broke my teenage heart messaged me out of the blue with an apology that basically went, “Sorry I was crappy to you, hey, have you heard this great new band?” I have no idea what prompted it, but it was so flippant he might as well not have bothered. It wasn’t even a good band.

    Someone once invited me to someone else’s party. I was just out of college and had moved to a new city. I was lonely and desperate to make friends. The guy assured me the hostess wouldn’t mind. He was wrong. He obviously hadn’t warned the hostess because she was taken by surprise. It was super awkward — I obviously wasn’t welcome, but everyone was too polite to ask me to leave; and I didn’t have the skills then to excuse myself gracefully, so I tagged along with them as the clunky extra wheel. The guy who invited me must have realized he screwed up because he was standoffish the entire time. Now I never assume the person inviting me asked or guessed.

  20. CarpeFelis said:

    #13 sounds like a classic abuse tactic. Run.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      It’s sad and scary that someone even asked this. We can only hope that they have already run, but one would think that people would know the answer without having to ask. “Because they’re assholes” seems so obvious, but apparently it’s not.

  21. Erin said:

    #11 is especially bad if the person asking doesn’t actually remember the right date for the birthday. My ex husband texted me a couple of times on the wrong day, which just made the attempt to connect that much more awkward and cringeworthy.

    • Reed said:

      My ex texted me a ‘cute’ message referencing my food allergies and hoping I could still get a nice cake.

      He got my food allergies wrong. Less than a year after we broke up. After a 20-year relationship.

      Cool cool cool.

    • Secret Squirrel said:

      My first husband and I weren’t yet divorced on my birthday in 1995, and he called me the day before my birthday to wish me a happy one. I noted that he was a day early, and he insisted he wasn’t! His birthday is in January, the same “day” as mine in October, (e.g. 26 January and 26 October), and we’d been married 11 years.

      • JenniferP said:

        He tried to tell you your own birthday was wrong, can’t imagine why it didn’t last.

        This reminds me that yy mom addresses mail sometimes as Mr. and Mrs. Mr.Awkward’sLastName.

        I kept my last name. She knows this.

        She said it’s “just easier” to do it that way.

        But I have the same last name as her last name, the same one for 45 years, the one she assigned me.

        Easier. Huh.

        • Em said:

          My mother’s entire family still does this. She kept her name when she married *40 years* ago, has never used my father’s, and her child (me) has a combo last name. She is a well published person in her academic field and at this point literally the only people who make this “mistake” are her own blood kin (my father’s family is on board–he married once before my mom and that lady did take his name and is still wandering around with it, which always strikes me as odd).

        • This made me laugh while cringing.

          My MIL addresses mail to me as Mrs. (Husband first name) (Husband lastname). She also writes that on gift tags at Christmas. I have never used my husband’s last name, and I have my own first name too, for goodness sake! And she knows this! We have discussed it many times!

        • Secret Squirrel said:

          Our then-pending divorce was final shortly before *his* birthday.

          In late 1996, I was a chaperone on our child’s chorus trip to New Orleans. After the children sang at Canal Place*, we then went to the Riverwalk for the children to shop. This happened:

          https://www.nola.com/living/2016/12/the_riverwalk_miracle_bright_field.html

          That evening, I called ex, who’d by then moved to another state, to assure him that we, and all of the children and parents, were safe and sound. He insisted we *weren’t* at Riverwalk when the barge hit it. I said “I evacuated from the Riverwalk with five little boys; don’t tell me where I was.”

          *These days, I live in New Orleans, and work in Canal Place (the office tower part, not the mall part).

          • JenniferP said:

            That is some master-level “let me correct you about your own life” stuff he tried there. Not for amateurs, such jerkiness, not for beginners. :-0

  22. WanderingUndine said:

    #5 brings to mind a poem by Jeff Moss, titled “Hiw are You Today?” I don’t actually use it as an answer, mostly because I can hardly recite it without laughing, but just thinking of doing so makes me smile:

    I’m feeling very awful 
    And low and mean and mad 
    And dreadful and deplorable 
    And rotten, sick, and sad 
    And nasty and unbearable 
    And hateful, vile, and blue 
    But thanks so much for asking 
    And please tell me, how are you?

    • WanderingUndine said:

      *How, not Hiw

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        There’s A.A. Milne’s “Politeness Poem”: basically, if people ask, the narrator always says, “Fine, thanks, you?” and the last stanza is “But SOMEtimes/ I wish/ That they wouldn’t.”

        Sigh. I’m sure Milne is a Milkshake Duck par excellence (I know that his son was bullied as a result of his association with the Winnie the Pooh books and my ex sure did make me feel like an asshole for liking them and “teaching the next generation that it’s okay to feel helpless and stupid’), and I’m afraid to look. But he was right about that.

  23. lowbudgetcyborg said:

    Earlier this year I did have someone I’d once been close to apologize for his part in our friendship break-up about 20 years ago. It was actually kind of nice to hear he still thinks of me once in a while, since I regret this friendship breakup more than any romantic breakup ever. There wasn’t a creepy “how did you find me?” aspect because we were already connected on social media.

  24. WanderingUndine said:

    I’ll never grasp the concept pf a “Party Smeagol” as an undesirable thing. Smeagol (combined with Gollum) is the fictional love of my life, always and forever, since 2004. Life is a party when he’s on my mind, and anyone who emulates or even speaks well of him tends to earn my ardent devotion. “Your inner Smeagol will not help you get invited to parties”? Emulating him might not have helped my in-person social life, and some behavior associated with him (hitting people with a plastic fish if they annoyed me in my nurtured vindictiveness) did get me deliberately not-invited to a party in college once. But my obsession led me to the online LotR fandoms where I spent many a wild and reckless night, the light of my social life as a teen who physically couldn’t access parties (I lived in a rural area and couldn’t drive) and an adult who doesn’t like them.

    Regarding #9: As a socially awkward girl in the past, present, and future, with visual impairments that prevent me from detecting or sending nonverbal signals of attraction, I would have VERY much appreciated it if someone ever asked outright whether I liked them. (Provided they accepted a “no” gracefully if I gave it.) I can blame myself for not doing the asking when I was attracted to people — if I’m ever attracted to someone in my vicinity again, I hope I’ll be able to use my words — but can also wish that other people had done so.

  25. Every single time an ex has contacted me after ages of no contact, it has meant one of two things. Either he had an “exciting” multi level marketing opportunity to tell me about, or he wanted to have sex/attention from someone other than his current girlfriend and thought I would provide it. Once it was both those scenarios at once. Using the excuse of Valentine’s day.

    Ummmmm NOPE!

    Now I am second guessing myself because this has happened several times, which seems strange. Like I have the words “I am gullible” tattooed on my forehead. Yikes!

    Probably best to think carefully before contacting significant others from the distant past. Consider the motivations first, maybe?

    • Serin said:

      If others view you as female, you have the words “Come to me to get all your needs met” tattooed across your chest at all times.

      (If you’re not viewed as female, you must have run into some of those people who just have it painted across the insides of their glasses so that it shows up on everyone they see. Not your fault.)

      • Thanks for that, Serin.

        I try to remember that, but sometimes my brain weasels get the better of me.

        I wish brain weasels were as adorable as real, actual weasels.

        • While I agree with the sentiment, I have to say that brain weasels are in some ways as adorable as real, actual weasels, because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get us to pay attention to them.

          To get us to come closer.

          So they can rip out or brutally damage parts of us with their nasty sharp teeth and claws.

    • GreyjoyGardens said:

      Oh god, MLM’s. A pox on all of ’em. I don’t want to hear about your essential oils or funky leggings or miracle potions! Go ‘way! MLM’s ruin everything they touch. Sincerely, someone whose long ago and far away ex had an “exciting opportunity” he just haaaaad to share

  26. Lol the “adult content” portion of GOT didn’t even occur to me as a reason for jealousy; my first thought was “I’m jealous because he’s watching GOT and I’m stuck doing the dishes.”

    re: writing the apology letter, I’d go with NO, since the question was concerned with the letter being made fun of rather than hurting the receiver. Like, if you’re genuinely sorry then I feel like you’d be ready to accept a little snickering as an acceptable consequence for what you did, on the off-chance that you can put things right. But you’d be more concerned about the letter messing with the receiver.

  27. HolyGuacamole said:

    My first through RE: Game of Thrones was that the asker was jealous their husband was watching without them?

    • mm said:

      Yes, I read that one and thought this has *nothing* to do with dragons. Either he’s watching ahead without her or she’s not into it but he insists on watching when it airs all the same, etc.

  28. ks said:

    I’m sorry, but that very last thing on that very last note–somebody actually did that? What kind of asshole does that? The fuck?!?!?
    I am completely floored at the utter I don’t even know what of that person.

  29. ell. said:

    Maybe this comment is standing at the intersection of #4 (ask/guess) and #9 (does she like me?) because I think I might die if I were asked, “Are you flirting? I think you might be flirting but I can’t always tell.”

    I’d encourage LW#9 to think about their own feelings rather than focus on the possibilities of someone else’s for a lot of reasons. If LW likes her, go straight to asking for a date, as the Captain said. Kind of like making a phone call: you identify yourself before asking to whom you are speaking. The owner of secret feelings doesn’t owe an honest reply to an idle question.

    I’d add that when one suspects one is the object of an undeclared and unrequited crush, it is kind to forego the ego boost of leading someone on to maintain the crush! Even weirder, I’ve had somebody think I had a crush on them though I was unavailable. They took that as a safe spot from which to get a free bonanza of ego boosts/kindness/cookies/practical assistance. I thought they were hurting and needy and was trying to be compassionate. So the whole time, he thought he was King of the Dudes but I was feeling sorry for him. Would have been nice if he’d quietly created a little distance when he thought he was the subject of an impossible crush, rather than leaning in for the kill.

    • Vicki said:

      Someone recently told me that one of their relationships had started with a friend saying “I’m trying to flirt with you,” which my friend hadn’t parsed as more than general friendly conversations. This came up in the context of me saying that I am very bad at flirting and rarely try, because on the rare occasions I even notice, I can’t distinguish between “I am talking to someone who enjoys flirting for its own sake” and “this person is expressing sexual/romantic interest in me and trying to figure out whether I feel similarly.”

      That dude you describe was doing something very weird, and not just from my viewpoint of figuring that I’m doing well if I can identify my own feelings, and definitely need to ask about other people’s if the answer to that question matters to me. (If someone found me attractive, but didn’t want to pursue that for whatever reason, they might prefer for me not to know about it.).

      I’m not sure if this is advice or not, but if you’re interested and don’t say anything, the other person may not know whether you’re attracted to them, and definitely won’t know whether you want to act on that possible attraction.

  30. S.H. said:

    Regarding the delayed apology, another factor is, how severe was your infraction? Was it something that they would want to press criminal charges for? Was it deeply traumatic for them? If so, chances of causing harm by reaching out are much greater than the chances of bringing peace to the offended party. In that case, please don’t apologise or contact them.

  31. Harpy with a harp said:

    I’m almost always ok with people inviting others to my gatherings, if they run it by me awhile in advance before I’ve bought groceries for it, especially if it’s a houseguest situation or something like that where they can’t really leave the uninvited person alone without it being awkward and weird.

    But what I really don’t like, which has happened to me before, is a person invites a friend of theirs who I never met before to one of my gatherings, doesn’t bother telling me about it til the day of, and then only asks permission belatedly from me after they already invited their friend I never met to my house.

    That is probably beyond guess culture. Maybe into what I’ve heard described as “tell” culture, given that the “ask” in this case was way after the fact and I was already put on the spot and couldn’t really comfortably say no without feeling bad.

    • anonforthis said:

      Yeah, I’d be unhappy with that too. I get along with most people, but there are a few people tangential to my circles that I really don’t want to have over at my house. I just include on my invites that if people want to bring someone it’s probably fine, but please check with me first. There’s also a maximum group size I can really enjoy, so asking people to check in first helps make sure the numbers don’t get out of hand.

    • lordofthebuns said:

      This!! My friend once asked if she could bring her friend to my birthday (in my tiny NYC apartment I shared with a roomate) and I said sure. She shows up with six people from her grad school cohort. Like no! Wrong!

  32. PandaGrrl said:

    For #10, shortly after I started out on FB I had a guy who’d been in all of my classes since Grade 7 message me, apologizing for not standing up enough for me when I was being bullied. I didn’t reply right away, but posted about it on my feed. A lot of people thought it was sweet. My BFF thought it was horribly rude, dragging up the past. I finally did reply about 6 months later, after a young girl in the States committed suicide after being bullied. Nothing. 10 years later, and still nothing. Yep, you’re real sorry for all the contact you didn’t force on me in the mid-90s.

    I also have a former friend that I’d like to apologize to, but fully realize it’s 99% about me and nothing to do with her. I regret treating her the way I did when we fell out of touch and then she reached out to apologize to me. I wasn’t ready to hear it at the time, but that’s no excuse for the way I replied. When I can finally craft a letter that doesn’t stink of me-me-me, I will send it.

  33. Emma9 said:

    9. As a socially awkward girl, I would respond more positively towards the third suggestion than the first two. It’s nicer to hear ‘I feel X, your thoughts?’ than ‘Your behavior confuses me, please clarify’.

  34. SarahTheEntwife said:

    14. If it’s an amicable breakup (or at least a nobody’s-fault kind of breakup) one thing that you can do is make this very clear to any mutual friends, so that they can then serve as a support system and not feel like they have to pick sides with whichever partner they were initially closer to.

  35. Allison said:

    I know it’s super late but I’m gonna chime in on #10, I would actually appreciate knowing that the people who hurt me in high school remember what they did, feel bad about it, and want to make it right all these years later. My high school boyfriend, for example, turned out to be an ass – shortly before our 2-year anniversary I found out he’d been cheating on me for months, and what followed that revelation was months of verbal and emotional abuse before he finally dumped me in a rage, and when we tried to be friends years later he acted like I was the bad guy. From what I’ve heard, his behavior got even worse after the breakup. More than ten years later, he’s married with kids, a part of me wants some assurance that he’s finally grown up, he doesn’t still think that behavior was okay or justified, that he feels bad for how he treated me and that he’s committed to being a good husband and father. Sometimes I worry about reading a new story about a family murder-suicide and it’ll turn out to be him . . . and the press will want a comment from me . . .

    As long as an apology doesn’t seem to come with an expectation that you’ll become friends or get back together, I don’t think it’s the worst thing to want to make amends.

  36. 1: Long-distance or otherwise, figure out how to hate the person. Catalog every terrible thing ze did, all zir flaws, and just unload some loathing on zir. Contempt can work, too. Do this in your own head – don’t actually communicate your hate to the person (or third parties), because it will fade, and you don’t want to unnecessarily burn bridges with someone whom you liked well enough to crush on.

    The STRENGTH of one’s feelings will tend to fade over time, especially without contact (so please do follow CA’s advice to disengage), and that goes for both positive and negative regard. I don’t know that there’s a way to hurry that process, so in the short term, if you can substitute hatred for lust/love, it will hurt less while the time-based fading thing happens.

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