It Came From The Search Terms: The Last Day In May

Hello gentle friends, it’s time for that thing where we treat the things people typed into their search engines to find this place as if they are questions in their own right.

As is traditional, we begin with a tune:


Then we begin the no-context guessing games and assumptions!

1 “Adult male using baby talk voice.”

If this person is talking to babies, kitties, puppies, or other actual baby cute things, this is extremely okay, let the man babble!

If this person is talking to a fellow adult in a baby voice, and you are that adult, and you presumably don’t enjoy this, my suggestion is to be very direct: “What’s going on with the baby voice? I don’t like it, please stop.”

Bonus: Ask A Manager has advice for how to deal with people using baby voices at work (because of course, someone was using a baby voice at work).

2 “Ex asks ‘are you still angry with me?'”

This one keeps coming up, so here are some discussion questions for whoever needs them.

Are you still angry? What’s the worst thing that happens if you say “yep, still angry”? Did this person ever actually apologize? Why are they bugging you about this, exactly? And why now? And how interested are you in discussing a relationship that you’re not in anymore?

You don’t have to keep working on past relationships, and you’re allowed to find whatever intersection of unfiltered honesty and “ugh, what will get you to go away and stop asking me this” that works for you.

3 “I’m so sorry, but my boyfriend has forbidden me to communicate with you.”

What in the what now?

Please allow me to make the argument that “my boyfriend forbids it” is not a good enough reason to stop communicating with someone you want to be communicating with. If you don’t want to be communicating anymore, that’s a good enough reason on its own, though I do get that sometimes “another dude has priority here” is the only thing that makes a certain kind of annoying dude actually go away.

4 “Quinton just got a promotion at work.”

Congratulations Quinton? Hey everyone, drinks are on Quinton!

5 “How to change a person with disgusting hygiene?”

You were probably looking for this, but in case this was a more general query:

You can’t change other people. You can ask for what you need, you can tell them what you need, you can ask them to take steps to give you what you need, you can break it down in detail like “Please take a shower, brush your teeth often, and wear clean clothes on days you know you’re going to see me,” you can inquire if there is something preventing them doing this and see if it’s something you can help with, you can teach kids to do this stuff if you’re a parent, but ultimately it’s up to them. You can care about people, you can’t do their caring instead of them.

6 “My neighbor wants to be friends, but she makes me uncomfortable, what to do.”

It never feels great to have this conversation, but when someone is trying really hard to be part of your life and your desires around that are mismatched, sometimes you have to balance whether it’s kinder to avoid/dodge/fade on them them and hope they eventually get the hint or whether it’s kinder to speak up with something like “You’re a good neighbor, and I can tell you’re trying hard to be a good friend to me, but I don’t want to [spend more time together][join your book club][connect on social media][buy your kids’ school fundraising crap][help you with your cat rescuel][be friends]. I know this is awkward, and I’m so sorry, but can we just go back to being friendly acquaintances, and I’ll see you around the ‘hood when I see you? Thank you for understanding,” and then move on with your life.

There’s no blanket answer for this kind of thing or guarantee that any of it will go smoothly, some people take direct rejection well, some people eventually get hints, some really don’t do well with either direct refusals or the soft no, reasons work on reasonable people and give unreasonable people something to try to fix or argue with. People often claim they “just want to know why” or “just tell me!” but so often, like every sentence with the word “just” in the middle of it, those things don’t necessarily make anybody feel better.

I’ve had to be the person who gives the “Hey, this is the tenth thing you’ve invited me to, and that’s so kind but I know I’m probably never going to make it, it’s okay to just stop asking!” talk and the one who realizes after far too many times that what seemed like a sincere offer to “totally hang out sometime!” meant never, the “sometime” was actually “never.” It’s confusing and weird because human connection is confusing and weird, nobody wants to be the Bad Guy or find out they were being  a nuisance. Anyway, sometimes what’s kindest is being kind to yourself and setting the boundary where you need it to be. If you’re sure you don’t want to be friends with a person who “makes you uncomfortable,” don’t be! You do get to decide who you invite into your life.

7 “What to do with a boyfriend that is trying to protect you but constantly lectures you.”

Tell him “If you don’t stop acting like Professor Dad, I’m going to dump you. No more lectures!” 

When he starts lecturing, leave the room! Go home!

Or skip straight to the breaking up part.

There is a short story by Claire Humphrey about the fallacy that protecting someone means controlling them, with a content note for mentions of domestic abuse and serial killer stuff. I constantly think about adapting this story into a film.

8 “Asking a coworker to go on vacation.”

Okay but…why?

Like, do you mean, asking them to take a vacation: “Fergus, you’ve got a lot of vacation days saved up, time to take a break, buddy!”

Or asking them to go on vacation…with you? But…why? You didn’t use the word “friend,” and vacation time is AWAY FROM WORK time, so…I would start smaller if you want to become better friends with this person. Lunch. Coffee. After-work drinks. Small hangs outside the office before disappearing to a destination. 

If you meant asking a coworker if you could tag along on THEIR vacation, that’s a hard no from me.  You either have the kind of friendship where they invited you already or you should let them goooooo. Speaking of which, I never press for updates, but I would dearly love to know what happened with all of this if possible.

9 “Friend gets mad if I don’t invite them to every outing.”

Here’s a possible script:

“Friend, sometimes I want to see you, and sometimes I want to do things alone or with other people. I need you to accept.”

If you set a boundary and someone gets mad, let them be mad, you’re not doing anything wrong, punishing you around something like this is so controlling and not okay.

10 “Asking out a former student.”


Leave your students alone. Do not treat your students – including your former students – like your personal dating pool, ever. And definitely don’t come to me to be validated about that. No.

Discussion Note: Everyone can keep their anecdotes about the one time this really worked out happily for somebody somewhere to themselves. Sometimes if you’re a happy exception to a rule, your happiness has to be enough for you. It’s not evidence in an argument to move where the rule goes, especially given how often people who flout this rule are abusing their power, and how rarely even the worst offenders are held accountable for that.

11 “What can I do about a neighbour that calls me a pervert and tells me to stay away from his kids.”


Some possibilities:

  • You’re being targeted by bigots. Are you some variety of queer and your neighbors are big ol’ homophobes, by chance? Or are you neurodivergent in some way and your neighbors are being ableist bullies? Sadly not unheard of, and the query has the ring of that going on.
  • There’s some other neighbor hostility thing going on (lawn care, parking, trash bins, noise complaints, they leave their dog out in all weather and you called animal control on them, or, your dog constantly poops in their yard, idk what it is, but if you think about it you probably do) and it’s escalated to nuclear levels with this kind of accusation,
  • You’re doing something creepy that is making your neighbor reasonably concerned about your behavior (if this is the case you almost certainly know what it is, so, stop it and get some help please).

Mentally I’m moving forward with “the neighbors are the problem here and the person searching for this is not the bad guy” scenario, here are some possible smart moves that don’t actually depend on knowing exactly what’s happening.

Mandatory: Have zero further interaction with these neighbors, especially the kids. Leave them be. There’s not one thing you could say to anyone in that house that would de-escalate such a risky and high-stakes situation. Don’t apologize, explain, clarify. Don’t even wave to them. Give them no ammunition. If one of the kids kicks a ball into your yard, the parents can come get it or it can rot there, not your problem.

This is incredibly not fair especially if you’ve done nothing wrong, but sometimes protecting yourself means disengaging and de-escalating from people who are bad for you. Plus being able to truthfully say “Once they made it clear how they felt about me, I never contacted them again” can be a shield down the road if things get even worse.

Additional Possible Steps: 

Document your interactions with these neighbors. This can be brief: Dates, times, who was there, what happened, what was said. When did this start? Was there some kind of inciting incident? Is this really about something else? If this thing escalates you’ll want this record. Screencap any texts, emails, or messages you’ve exchanged, the NextDoor thread where it all went awry, anything that shows the history of the relationship with these people.

Tell people close to you what’s going on. This is an incredibly stressful situation, right? Again, through the frame of “the neighbors are the problem,” if you’re being harassed by a bigot or bully to this degree, what else might these people do?

This whole kind of thing thrives on secrecy and shame, so telling people ‘Look, my horrible neighbors accused me of some gross stuff and it’s incredibly humiliating and scary but I don’t want it to be a secret ’cause I need your help and support, especially if this all escalates,’ is one way to fight back. Make your friends aware of the situation and the history with these neighbors. Lean on people: Counselors, community, friends, family.

Heck, if you’re friendly with other neighbors, make the ones you trust at least basically aware of the situation – “Just so you know, I’ve been having a strange conflict with ______, they called me _______, I’m trying to give them a wide berth and hoping it all dies down, but if you hear some weird stuff, that’s why.” The rumor mill is gonna do what it’s gonna do anyway, if you’ve done nothing wrong you don’t have to flee or hide from it.

I’ve been watching a lot of Killing Eve lately and one thing I’ve noticed about Eve’s character is that, for a supposedly bright and perceptive lady, she is EXTREMELY BAD at informing people around her about necessary information and DANGEROUSLY OVERCONFIDENT in her ability to handle situations by herself. “I just don’t want to burden anyone else with my secret problems” is TV logic, the kind that creates plots like “I have a mutual crush on a terrifying assassin, how can this all be as dangerous and messy as possible?” vs. helpful real-life logic, which is what you need. Resist the impulse to hide and keep this all secret with everything you’ve got.

Tighten up your privacy and security. This is where you Google yourself from a private browsing window and think about the truly awful question, “How could an extremely hostile person who knows where I live possibly use this information against me?” This is where you lock your social feeds down, this is where possibly you quickly search for your neighbor’s social profiles (adults only, probably do not search for their children by name under any circumstances) and specifically block those people from accessing any of your feeds (Facebook, etc.) This sucks so bad and it’s completely unfair but it’s the smart thing to do so I’m telling you about it. Also consider blocking/locking out any mutuals you share if those people are not completely trustworthy.

This is also where you think about physical security and safety. Doors. Locks. Gates. Pets (don’t let your pets go where these people can have access to them). Cars. Packages. Lights. Motion-sensors. Window blinds/drapes/shades. Routines. Who has keys? Maybe nobody but you should have keys for now.

If this escalates at all, seek expert legal advice where you live. If your neighbor is unfairly harassing you with accusations like this, and you sense they might escalate things, get an expert, tell them everything that’s been going on, and let them help you. A lawyer can talk you through scenarios like, well what happens if they involve law enforcement or try to get you fired at work or do other harassing things? Trust your gut if you think these are people who will never let a grudge go or have a pattern of escalating conflicts.

Keep living your life. I’m hoping that as horrible as this is it was a passing, “Classic Unoriginal Rote Bigotry” sort of remark and not something more specifically and violently targeted, but who the hell even knows right now. (Holy crap is that a depressing collection of words.) This got pretty long for a drive-by query but I’d rather see someone take something like this very seriously and implement some filters and precautions and not need them if the alternative is leaving themselves open to more harassment and danger.

Moderation Note: We’re not Internet Detectives and can’t possibly solve this situation for what’s actually happening or give people legal advice in absentia. If you’ve been the target of something like this from bigoted/homophobic neighbors in the past and have practical tips to share, that would be useful. I’d ask people to not try to exhaustively detail all the possibilities.

12 “How to invite yourself to stay at someone’s house out of state.”

This is one of those areas where, either you know that you have that kind of relationship with the person, where “I’m coming to your area on [dates], is there any chance I can take advantage of your guest room or sofa for a few days?” is a perfectly appropriate question and everybody knows that “nope, sorry, that won’t work” is a perfectly appropriate answer or you don’t.

The wording of the request matters less than the strength and nature of the relationship. “Mind if I crash at your place during [week]?” vs. “Is your guest room open to visitors next month” vs. “Will trade some free babysitting and chef skills for space on your basement sectional” vs. “Hey Grandpa do you still keep the key to the lake house in the mouth of the fish? Mind if I head up that way this weekend?” matters less than whether you feel comfortable asking this person about this in the first place. Ask or don’t, consider also that you won’t lose anything by making a plan B for if they say “no.”

13 “How to handle jealous husband as female musician.” 

How stressful! Possible script if this were a scene in a movie:

“Dude, being a performer means that sometimes I get attention from people who want to flirt or who have crushes on me. I try to have good boundaries about that and be friendly without encouraging people or crossing any lines, but engaging with fans, even really enthusiastic ones, is part of the job and it’s not going away. Their feelings about me are not my fault or my problem to manage, nor are they something I need to apologize to you about or account for. And yeah, sometimes I’m going to wear ‘sexy’ outfits on stage or for photo shoots. It’s part of the brand, plus I like wearing them.

You knew what this was when we got together, I’ve never cheated on you and I don’t plan to change that, but it’s time for you to accept me and my job. You either trust me not to cheat on you or you don’t. If you trust me, stop [describe the behaviors – hovering/accusing me of cheating/being a jerk to my bandmates/being a giant hostile weirdo about it]. If you don’t trust me, we should think seriously about ending our marriage. I’ll hate to lose you but I can’t keep living with you being so mean and suspicious all the time. I’m not submitting to surveillance or constant checkups or soothing your feelings every time another dude looks my way.

Please think about it, talk it over with friends/a therapist/people you trust and tell me what you want to do. Just know that I’m not having this fight with you ever again. We have to put this to rest.”

Jealousy happens, not always rational, not always controllable. It’s the behaviors and reactions to that jealousy that are under our control, and it’s okay to ask people to get those under control if the alternative is living your life around their unfounded fears!

14 “I hate last-minute invitations.”

Don’t accept them. In the moment you can say “That sounds awesome, but I can’t join you. If you give me a little more notice next time, I’ll see what I can do. Have fun!” 

Tell people who are close to you who you hang out with a lot what’s up: “Hey, I’m a planner and I like to schedule things in advance/I need a lot of notice so I can get the night off from work/find a babysitter/budget my introvert energies/get a ride/set aside enough $, so I can’t always say yes to last-minute invites even when I’d like to see you. Thanks!” 

15 “I dreamt my ex invited me and his ex girlfriend in his house and had sex with us at different intervals what does it mean.”

Are you joking? Your true destiny has been revealed! Call them at once!

Or, just possibly, your brain’s hard drive was sorting through some old footage the other night and decided to show your sleeping self a movie that would push a couple of buttons real hard (maybe the ones marked “horniness” and “emotional stuff”?) and the dream isn’t necessarily meaningful in itself.

I never want to say that dreams aren’t important. I am a meticulous, vivid, immersive dreamer and I often remember my dreams upon waking. I can tell I’m anxious about something when I spend my nights waiting tables in a restaurant where suddenly I’m the only one working and a bus full of old people has just pulled up and I can’t stop until every one of them is satisfied, or I’m taking the final exam for a class I never signed up for but am unable to drop, or worse I’m TEACHING a class where I am totally unprepared and have no idea what the topic even is but the room is full of students looking expectantly at me and there is something on the white board that might help but try as I might I can’t read what it says. I have had recurring bad dreams about seemingly innocuous people from my life who turned out to be unsafe down the road enough times that I know to pay attention or at least ask why a person is suddenly showing up in my brain as the Devil. Those I’ve loved and lost visit me in dreams all the time, sometimes it’s Beadie, full of purrs and intense stares, and my childhood pets show up too, and we all walk together through a vast forest. Sometimes it’s my Grandma, red-nosed from drinking her single glass of rosé, destroying me at Rummy. And yup, sometimes I’m back in one of those situations, pressed close against some hot and confusing person in an encounter that I thought I’d deleted from the directory long ago but I clearly didn’t empty the Trash folder since my dream brain’s impressions are shockingly faithful to actual events.

My dreaming self isn’t the boss of me, she’s more of an observer, so if I happen to carry a strong memory of the night’s jumble of images forward into the day I always find it interesting but not necessarily instructive, in a “data isn’t the same thing as information” sense.

What do you think this dream means, if anything, and where is it pointing you in terms of what you need and desire? That’s probably what it means.













78 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: The Last Day In May

  1. #1 – I was in this very situation with a former coworker! This particular adult male was in his 50s and used baby talk when trying to get his coworkers – female coworkers – to do his work for him. He would say something like, “I need hep wit my com-pooter…..” in this super whiny baby voice. ALL THE TIME. TO OTHER ADULTS. I WANTED TO SCREAM. To this day it enrages me.

    So my tactic for dealing with him was first to go, “Huh?” like a confused cocker spaniel, and keep on acting like I couldn’t understand anything he said. When he finally would make his request in regular speech, I’d respond with either “Nope you know how to do that” or “there’s some documentation online.” And then go back to whatever I was doing. Eventually he left me alone when he realized I would not do his work. I coached all the other people he tried this act on to respond the same way, and after many, many months….we finally won. He stopped asking people to do his work. He talked in a normal voice. He still silently pouted a lot, but The Boundary was enforced and he dared not cross it again.

    1. That is an exceptionally satisfying anecdote to read, thank you. I’m glad the boundary stood.

      1. My mother-law, and gods only know what she’s trying to do. Listening to long voicemail messages of a 70-year-old woman talking in babytalk is as disgusting as it is annoying.

        Husband used to pull the babytalk, too. When ignoring it didn’t work, I told him I thought I’d married an adult, and that babytalk was a disgusting turnoff guaranteed to keep me away from sex for days. He hasn’t pulled it since.

        1. Maybe I should have done that! He and I have been divorced for decades now, so it doesn’t matter.

          In 2008, my son moved to my husband’s and my rental, and his father helped him. My husband heard Ex on the phone with his then-wife (now his second ex-wife) and told me “[Ex] was talking in a high voice, and it was creepy.”

  2. I love this take on dreams! I also have vivid dreams that I usually remember, and find that they can provide insight into what kind of subconscious processes are happening. So in that sense they’re important and meaningful, in the same way astrology can be meaningful: it can provide a space to sidestep the logical mind and attune to intuition or emotion or whatever else is happening in the less verbal parts of the mind/heart. But that’s not the same thing as saying they’re meaningful because they mean what they seem to mean, or that the messaging is straightforward, or that there’s a such thing as destiny or seeing the future or anything like that.

  3. #11
    Regarding your online privacy.
    Crash Override Network page is no longer active, however the website is still up and the Resource Center has a heap of useful guides and links for online privacy. Helpful for finding and deleting defunct online accounts, how to deal with being doxxed, how to lock down a bunch of stuff.

    It was created in the wake of GamerGate to help people who get harassed on line etc so it might not all be relevant to you, but some of it could be useful.

  4. I treat dreams the same way I treat tarot, which is not that I necessarily believe they are telling me a magical precise future, but that when I get a tarot reading boy does it tell me a lot about how I actually feel about complicated situations and what I actually want to happen, not just what I think I should want to happen. Dreams are similar, they aren’t an exact science, but they can give you some really valuable information that your logic brain might be ignoring.

    1. I’m learning to read Runes and I feel the exact same way – they’re not going to tell you your future, but they *are* great at clarifying situations that are otherwise difficult to verbalise or get a handle on. I always say it’s kind of like having 24 tiny Viking therapists.

    2. Yes, this. I’ve have a few tarot readings done ‘for fun’, yet they ended up being more like therapy sessions. They pin-pointed specific issues I was struggling with and helped me clearly see the different choices I had before me. Very interesting and useful.

      I rarely remember my dreams but a handful of times I recognized the nonsense going on in the dream was a metaphor for whatever emotional turmoil I was dealing with. Almost always it was when I remembered really bad dreams that pushed the subconscious stuff to the surface.

      1. The best tarot reading I ever got was at a party where girl was giving tarot readings using Pokemon cards. It was a lot like this; I think the Pokemon cards helped because we (er, millennials) all had more gut-level associations we would blurt out when we saw, say, Eevee or Ghastly than we did with the conventional tarot figures we didn’t know much about. It very much became like a therapy session.

    3. Cool way to look at this topic – I’ve used the ‘flip a coin and then see if you’re disappointed about what you get’ method to make decisions a couple of times, and this sounds like a more in-depth version of that.

    4. This is a good way to look at it, I think. I have a tendency when I’m trying to choose between two options to flip a coin, and whether I want to abide by its result or not tells me which one I secretly wanted to pick the whole time.

    5. I’ve read the tarot for decades and can confirm I do the same. It’s not telling the future (in fact, my favorite spread has past and present positions in the layout), it is a tool for my subconscious to use. I now know this particular vocabulary of symbols and colors fairly well, and what elicits a “click” of recognition is useful, and what doesn’t is static or to be set aside for now as a puzzle.

      My subconscious used to torment me via stress nightmares, but however it worked, getting REALLY ANGRY at being awakened for the umpteenth night in a row from nightmares and tantrumming about it mentally seemed to get the message across to my brain gremlins and the nightmares mostly stopped (OR I don’t remember them, which is also OK). I now have a mental “choose your own adventure” kind of dream programming where I can pause, rewind, and make a different choice or switch “channels.” My brain particularly likes “someone stole your purse” storylines, which do nothing but make my dream self upset, so it’s nice to “rewind” and say, “oh, there it is, yay, problem solved.” I’m grateful for the lucidity with regard to the dreams I can remember upon waking, because I have bouts of insomnia and wasting dream time on anxiety dreams that don’t help with any actual real anxiety-provoking stuff was a drag.

  5. #11

    Some people are bound and determined to create a story with themselves as the hero and you as the villain. Listen to the Captain. The only winning move is not to play!

    I once lived in a big old house that had been converted to apartments. My original upstairs neighbors were lovely, but they moved out. The new tenants had owned the house, as a single-family dwelling, before they left town. Now they were back, and they had decided to rent a few rooms in their old house. Actually I think it was the wife’s decision, because the husband was a silent nebbish and the wife said to me, with her mouth, in words, that the house belonged to her.

    She said this in the course of harassing me out of the house, of course. I was a newly minted adult with a very flimsy support system and Heavy Shit Going On, so she managed to do it. I laid out exactly what she had done to me in my letter to the landlord, packed my stuff, and went.

    This is a small town. Nevertheless, I avoided them as best I could. If I saw them at the store I immediately turned around and went to another aisle. If I saw them on the sidewalk I immediately crossed the street. Etc. Not one word, not one gesture, not even a second more eye contact than was necessary to identify them.

    But remember, people like this need to be the hero, so they need a villain. After some period of time between six weeks and four months, her husband the nebbish lawyer sent me a cease and desist letter. I was naive in the ways of such people at that time, but luckily I made the right decision and dropped it into a drawer. What she wanted, of course, was for me to contact her husband to find out what the letter was even about, which would have resulted in lots of legal grief for me and more opportunities for Harpy Poodle Lady to shriek in my face.

    The point of the above story is that no matter what you say or do or don’t say or do, these people have decided that you are the enemy and they will most likely try as hard as they can to play out a scenario in which they triumphantly vanquish your evil scheme. The fact that they announced to your face, “You are a pervert,” means that you have been tagged in. You are It. It doesn’t matter why they picked you. The root cause may be as irrational as Harpy Poodle Lady deciding that the house she had sold still belonged to her. Maybe they don’t like your skin color or who you kiss goodbye at the door or your fashion or your car or your not-being-a-member-of-their-particular-tiny-religious-group or your friends or the fact that they even have a neighbor. Do not try sweet reason. Do not try to find a middle ground. Assemble Team You and back right the heck away.

    TL;DR: The Captain is wise.

    1. ^^ This is a really good point. Some people will twist themselves into a pretzel to make themselves the wronged party.

      We had neighbors a few years back who tried to accuse our very young child of abusing their toddler. (Think kindergarten-aged.) The thing was, their older child had a pattern of hurting little kids. She’d come over to play, entice the younger siblings into a corner alone and would do things that would make them cry while the parents were out of the room (slapping, pinching, pushing them down etc.). I think she was acting out her negative feelings about having a younger sister.

      I noticed this dynamic, said something to the mother (who refused to intervene) and promptly stopped inviting that family over to my house. By the time they made the allegation, several months had passed since my kids had had any interaction with theirs. I felt sick when I read their message because they were accusing my child of pinching their toddler hard enough to leave marks…when in fact, that’s what their daughter had been doing to my LO. They also said it had been happening recently, when the kids had not been anywhere near each other.

      I wrote back once and asked for examples, dates and times when they had witnessed my child hurting theirs. I said, “Since the kids have had zero interactions in the last X months, I am confused as to when this incident allegedly occurred.” In my case, the neighbors backed down and said they were “just trying to raise a pre-emptive flag.” I copied my child’s teachers and principal on the correspondence and asked them to please make sure the two older kids were no longer in contact at school. And then I made absolutely certain that none of us ever interacted in any way with that family again.

      If you need to document the fact that you’re avoiding these people, perhaps a Ring doorbell or motion-sensor cameras around your home can also provide security backup for you, LW.

  6. I read #8 as “ask my coworker to use some of their vacation time because they are stressed out and driving me batty” but that’s probably my reading into it because I’m in a similar situation XD

        1. A management professor praised a man who worked seven years without a day of vacation. I’d be worried if one of my employees did that.

  7. Related to #12, the Captain touched on something my dad always taught me and has stuck with me through the years….if you want to try and set up a get-together with someone, always give specifics so that they have a graceful face-saving way out in case they just don’t feel like it but don’t want to hurt your feelings. (i.e. “hey, you want to get pizza this Saturday?” rather than “hey you wanna get pizza sometime?”. Then they can go “Oh, sorry I have plans that night!” and if they really do want to hang out with you, then they can suggest another time that will work for them).

    So, Seconding the “hey, could I possibly crash on X week at your place?” because then they can respond with either “sure!” or “Sorry, we’re really swamped that week and not up for hosting anything”

    1. Good for your dad. I would have loved not having to hit on that strategy the hard way, instead of having to be on both sides of uncomfortable clinginess on various occasions.

    2. I will never forget the time a friend texted me and said “hey, do you still have a guest room?”

      I said yes, of course, thinking “yay, we’d really like to see her and have her visit us.”

      Instead she replied “oh thank goodness, my spouse needs a place to stay for a while since we’re relocating and can’t afford to buy a place yet we’re both ready to move. He’ll be there in three days!”

      Important note: I’d only met the spouse once before.

      1. Noooo! Did he end up staying? I’m dying of curiosity!

        This is exactly the type of thing that taught me never to respond definitively to requests that don’t have an exact activity and timeframe attached to them. Nowadays, I don’t say yes to “are you free on X date” or “can you help me with X” requests unless I know exactly what I’m being asked to do, when it’s happening, and how long it’s going to take. I’ve also gotten a lot more comfortable bailing if it turns out to be something different than I expected, and planning an escape route so that I’m not stuck anywhere.

        A decade ago, my mom told me that she’d volunteered me to help my grandma’s landlord with an hour of household tasks. It turned out to be several strenuous unpaid hours in which my wife and I both helped the landlord get a rental unit ready for showing, with the promise of being treated to dinner that never materialized. I successfully said no to *one* of these tasks (moving a very heavy appliance that would have definitely hurt my back), but if I had to do it again today, I’d have 100% said no to going in the first place. If I’d gone, I’d have left after the promised hour, and I would also have made sure to have a better escape route than having my mom (who can’t say no to anyone) drive me home. I’m taking these lessons with me when I visit my family later this month — I’m renting a car, staying in an AirBnB, and refusing to get roped into whatever endless set of chores they try to thrust on me!

      2. … I.. … I’m horrified by this! Please tell us how this ended! (You poor thing, what an awful situation to be put in.)

  8. Like, do you mean, asking them to take a vacation: “Fergus, you’ve got a lot of vacation days saved up, time to take a break, buddy!”

    I’ve actually been in this situation; I always have tons of PTO because I live like a French medieval peasant and never go more than five miles from home if I can help it. Every now and again my managers make me use some because it’s just piling up and piling up.

  9. #12 Heh. The last time we did that, it went poorly. My now-ex was very good friends with the husband of the couple, and we invited ourselves to stay the weekend with them while we were in town for an event, both as cheap lodgings and to catch up with them after their relocation out of state. The husband was enthusiastic and had a great time with us. The wife was deeply unhappy because she had to work all weekend, their bedroom was at the head of the stairs, and the late night drinking and discussion funneled loudly up the stairs into her ears like one of those giant ear horns for Victorian older gentleman. So she didn’t get to visit with us and didn’t get to sleep much and didn’t really consent to our being there that weekend in the first place. Not only that, but she suspected her husband was cheating on her and used the opportunity of his distraction to search his unguarded phone, find evidence, and confront him with us present as witnesses. Yikes! The irony is that they’re still married and have been in couples therapy for a few years, but we have since broken up.

    So if it’s a married couple, think about your relationship with *both* of them and make sure you ask them together, and that both of them consent.

    #14 I too am a very vivid dreamer with often very complicated sequences of events, usually very science fiction. Mostly, I don’t read that much into them beyond an interesting story or scene. But I did finally figure out that my frequent dreams of being unable to find my way back to a certain door or street corner or room or whatever, or hiding from people who are looking for me, or desperately fleeing pursuers usually through people’s backyards, or struggling to decide just what to take with me on the run are all different kinds of anxiety dreams.

    My now-ex still turns up in my dreams occasionally as my partner. That tells me that subconsciously I still haven’t quite let go, even though I am glad to be single and not living with him anymore and no longer yoking myself to his choices and inactions. My abusive ex before him rarely shows up in my dreams, but he’s the personification of fear for me. Over the last many years, his dream appearance has been progressively closer, from in the same city, to on the bus, to in the neighborhood, to just outside the house, to in the next room. The last one was several months ago, and I dreamed he had found where I lived, broken in, climbed into my bed and tried to have sex with me while I was sleeping. In my dream, I woke up, discovered him, screamed at him about what the hell was he thinking, and threw him out. I am really hoping that this was some sort of metaphysical end point and I never dream about him again. That would be really nice. Because I don’t want to think about what the next progression point might be. Ugh. Similarly, while I was still with abusive ex, I had a series of recurring dreams about an old flame with a similar progression: I was somewhere in the city looking for his house, then I was in the neighborhood, then I was just outside the house, and then I was in the house but he had moved out and a woman was there who told me to leave him alone. At that point, I no longer dreamed about him, then broke up with that abusive ex and moved on with my life. These have been all pretty straightforward to interpret.

    A dream about a three-way with an ex sounds like some sort of unfinished business, unresolved feelings, feelings of being played, triangulation, etc.

    1. Eh, I’m going to disagree with you on the exes featuring in dreams. My first serious boyfriend occasionally does and after trying in vain to look for common themes I figure it’s nothing more than my brain occasionally uses him as the original avatar for SexyThings.

      1. Totally agree! Could be nothing at all. Could be ex’s face has been slapped onto something as its representative in the subconscious, such as your SexyThings avatar and my Face of Fearful Things. Could be ex is representing ex and processing the former relationship. Who knows?

  10. If #3 was searched for by someone who has been told that (rather than someone who is saying it), then maybe consider a reply that includes something along the lines of ‘that sounds very controlling and inappropriate of your boyfriend, are you ok?’ Especially if you are a friend rather than some random dude who was trying to hook up. I say this as someone who was forbidden to see a lot of people by an ex. It sounded so reasonable at the time, especially wrt other guys, but I know now that it was abusive and kept me controlled and isolated. I didn’t know this was wrong of him at the time (I was very young and it was presented as him caring about and protecting me as well as a sign of his love) and maybe it would have helped me escape sooner if people had spoken up about this behavior being massively not ok. (Not that it’s anyone else’s responsibility, but just in terms of making the world a better place, breaking the awkward silences that benefit abusers can be a really positive thing if it is within your safe capacity to do so.)

  11. Captain, re: #11, thank you for recognizing that ableism is a possibility – that did my heart a lot of good. I have a physical disability that makes me somewhat “creepy-looking”, if you’re the kind of person who thinks that way, and I’ve gotten the STAY AWAY FROM MY KIDS routine a number of times, occasionally from people I didn’t even know had kids.

    My approach has always been to just stay away from those people as much as possible, and to surround myself with allies as much as possible. I think the other suggestions you provide are also great, particularly if this is about queerness and not disability.

  12. 13. Did Husband think she was going to give up all the touring, performing, and fan-interacting once he put a ring on it?
    Because that’s a thing (r/relationshps gets retweeted into places where I can see it. IT’S A THING)

    It’s a gross thing and husband needs to shape up asap.

    1. I know I can’t be the only one thinking about that one post where the dude wanted his girlfriend to give up a strip club she owned (and basically rebuilt from the ground up) in order for him to propose to her.

        1. He updated and said she dumped him the second he made the request. A happy ending.

          1. And he then went over to the “relationship advice” section of the site and told them that HE dumped HER and wanted advice on getting her back. So he’s a jerk AND a liar. She’s well rid of him!

    2. I am a person just learning how to deal with my partner touring, and it is really hard and painful and we worked with a therapist beforehand and made a plan and it all exploded anyway. Being with touring musicians is very hard, and I don’t think it’s cool that we all jumped to “he’s jealous she’s going to sleep with someone else.” He is also probably hurt that he doesn’t get much time or communication from her, or that when he does make the effort to come visit her on tour or at gigs that he’s constantly sidelined and has to deal with feeling like it doesn’t matter that he’s there.

      Your band is your family, and it can be very hard as the partner to feel like you’re consistently being de-prioritized for the band, especially since the partners of musicians often provide a lot of support to them. After you’ve done a bunch of stuff to make it possible for them to pursue their dream (without you) like make the money, watch the cat, being patient about all the nights you don’t get with them because of gigs, it can feel like a real slap in the face to make the effort to attend a gig and then wind up sitting at the bar all by yourself because they didn’t tell you there wouldn’t be any time for you (or worse, they told you there WOULD be time and can’t follow through). They get so wrapped up in the tour stuff that they forget to love you the way you need. It’s a constant push-pull of “I really want them to get their dream!” and “I’m never going to be a part of this thing they love so much/will they ever love me as much as this?”

      For the wife, we obviously have very little context here, and of course if he’s being shitty about your faithfulness or interfering with what you NEED to do at your JOB, that’s different, but also consider that he may just feel unimportant and forgotten. Set expectations with him about what you will and won’t be able to do if he decides to come see you, and most importantly stick to them. Agree on an amount of time you’ll chat on the phone every day on tour, or that you’ll send a big email at the end of the day talking about your adventures, etc. Maybe he can come join you on off days and you can give him that time completely so he won’t have to share you with the band for once. He may just really want to feel included in something he’ll never be a part of.

    3. I’ve heard of men who start dating women in the adult entertainment or sex worker industries (and seem to love being able to tell people they are dating a porn star or stripper) who then expect them to quit, no longer do scenes with men, etc.
      Pure effing BS. If they can’t handle it, they shouldn’t be dating women in those industries in the first place.

  13. Off-topic, but vividly and consistently remembering your dreams is a sign that you are not sleeping deeply enough. Anyone experiencing this should consider seeing a sleep doc, if you can afford it.

    1. Interesting! I remembered most of my dreams for most of my life, and they were always extremely vivid, lifelike, etc (and usually incredibly bizarre.) I have also always had a tendency to sleep like the dead- it’s extremely difficult to wake me up if my body isn’t ready for waking yet.

    2. Huh, my psychiatrist told me that *not* remembering your dreams (like, not even recalling what was just happening/where you were in the most recent one before waking) was sometimes a sign of vitamin B6 deficiency. I then started taking B6 and sure enough, I remember dreams fairly often now, though not every night. Nothing else about my sleep has significantly changed.

      (This is NOT a suggestion that other people’s bodies and responses to B6 will work like mine, just a contrasting medical professional’s perspective on dream memory.)

  14. 11: Apologies if this is breaking the mod note, but a scenario that immediately came to mind is that the searcher was interacting with the kids in a way that was innocent but made the parents uncomfortable, giving them presents or rides or whatnot, and they jumped to the conclusion that the searcher was a predator and targeting the kids.

    The advice to have zero further interactions with these specific kids and parents, including explanations or apologies, absolutely stands, but it would also be a good strategy to watch your step in situations like this, and if you want to be friendly or mentor-y to the next generation, seek out official volunteer opportunities.

  15. Q11: I met a person once that gave me “vibes,” so I did my best to keep my kids away from him. But he never *did* anything that I could point to as proof that he was actually some sort of predator. This question is the exact reason I never said anything to him or his wife; until there was something like evidence (and I made sure that there never would be any with my family), I couldn’t bring myself to point the pervert finger at someone. I think it’s possible to give someone the benefit of the doubt when you don’t have proof of wrongdoing, but still protect yourself and your loved ones.

  16. I loved that linked short story! The parental language was spot-on perfect. Getting the infantilizing safety lecture from my husband made me extremely nauseated and explosively rageful (shockingly out of character for me). He stopped safety-lecturing because he realized that although he didn’t quite understand my experience, he trusted me that The Lecture was not kind or empowering and I had my own reasons to feel that way. And that he needed to find a different way to be supportive. I never had to explain it, rather he sorted it out himself with his own brain and effort, and then said his thing without me bringing it up. LW, I think explaining your rejection of the Safety Lecture to your boyfriend is a waste of time. What are you going to explain anyway? The concept of humiliation? the basic meaning of “stop doing this to me”? the predictable effect of infantilization on sex drive? the obvious fact that you already live with fear? make a PowerPoint presentation pitching the idea that you’re a fellow adult just like him? use sock puppets to demonstrate how to interact supportively as equals? Maybe you can get him to see the light, but however hard you have to work to get him to understand basic concepts is exactly how hard you’ve just taught him you’ll work to deserve basics from him.

    For the “are you still angry at me” ex, if I were still angry and did NOT feel like discussing it with the ex, I might say, “well that isn’t any of your business now that you’re an ex, is it.”

    I really enjoyed the description of dreams.

  17. Dreams are a good insight into your subconscious, but beware of taking them literally — just because you dream it does not mean you should be it, do it, or necessarily tell others about it. A good thing to do is to keep a dream journal: a cheap notebook by your bed. When you first wake up, spend about 10 minutes writing down any dreams you remember, in as much detail as you can. After a while, you start getting a feel for your personal “language”, and the journal helps clear your mind for the day, too.

  18. It could be entertaining to answer “Are you still angry at me?” with “Yeah, duh!”

    (As ever, “entertaining” does not necessarily equate “advisable”)

    1. I dunno, it can sometimes come across as the ex wanting to feel they still have a hold on your mind. It might be better to say “yer wot?” with an incredulous expression on your face. Followed by, “am I bovvered?”

      1. Alternate answers.
        Quit asking that.
        Not answering that.
        Walk away.
        Only when I think about X.
        Mostly I’m moving on.
        Why are you asking that?
        Sort of.
        Wasn’t now I am.
        Yea and quit asking that.

  19. My sister would use baby talk in a restaurant to order ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert — I think because it was “bad” or “silly” to do this, in her mind, so she deflected the “blame” by pretending to be just a “liddle kid”. She would say to the server something like “I want ice queeem, with lots and lots of sauce, choco sauce!” I’m not sure she even realized she was doing it.
    I ended this, around me at least, by one time just saying in a normal adult tone “so you are ordering some ice cream with chocolate sauce?” — like it was a completely normal and unremarkable thing to do, don’t ya know — and that seemed to jolt her out of it. She just told the server “yes, that’s what I want” and I have never heard any baby talk since.

    1. Yeah, this. People use inflection and presentation to skirt around things that make them uncomfortable, or they think the other person might find uncomfortable, or whatever. Using a goofy voice can be a way to invite the other person to see the humour or forgive the awkwardness in a situation – “I know I’m being weird/silly/kind of a pain in the ass, it’s okay for you to laugh at me a little.” The trick is doing it in the right situation with the right person. (Note to the doctor who actually used “coochie coo” instead of “sex” or “intercourse”: if you were trying to joke with me, it didn’t work.)

      1. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the show, but there’s a character on “Friends from College,” played by the inimitable Keegan-Michael Key, who does this (not baby talk but various goofy voices), including when called on it, and it is every bit as agonizingly uncomfortable to watch as it’s meant to be.

  20. The most interesting thing about #4 is that, according to Google, Duck Duck Go and wordpress search function searches, the name Quinton does not seem to appear anywhere on this site other than in this exact post.

    (Congrats, Quinton!)

    1. Quinton! If you’re reading this, go you! (and it is also really interesting just how search terms lead to sites sometimes)

  21. 11– make sure your WifI is using WPA2 and a good, long password that is not obvious to someone that knows all about you. Set it not to broadcast the SSID unless you have to for some very good reason and used an SSID that does not identify you in any way (bad: “Fergus’ wifi” “Jane’s House” still bad for other reasons: the default your provider gave you, Good: “Home-FE37-A22” “S900PXWIN08”). Change the default router name from your provider if you have one because it gives away who you use, and may give away the default passwords or admin passwords if they do get connected. Likewise, change your router default passwords. Even though it’s a huge pain, consider enabling WPS (Wifi Protected Setup) where you have to push a button on the router to put it into “pairing” mode the first time It’s connected to a new device (sorta like how bluetooth works).

    It’s been known to happen that people convinced someone is up to no good decide to bolster their claim by doing dodgy things on their wifi network in hopes of attracting attention.

    10– There are more eligible singles on heaven and earth that are dreamt of in your philosophy 100-level.

  22. Maybe this is just a me thing, but I really don’t understand teachers who find their students attractive. Like, at all. To me, someone saying, “I’m thinking about pursuing a relationship with my student” is going to get me reacting with, “But they’re your STUDENT” the same way I’d say, “But they’re your SIBLING.” I can intellectually acknowledge that one of my learners is attractive, or sweet, or funny, or whatever, but there’s just no circuit to that with “and I wanna make out with them”. Such a thought actually takes me straight to the “ew, no, wrong!” place.

    1. I teach undergrads and honestly, same. I just can’t view 18-23 year olds* in any sexual capacity whatsoever. I’m getting to the point where I’m old enough to be their mother, and I’m in such a different point in my life than most of them are that it’s just unimaginable to me.

      *not all undergrads are 18-23, this I do know, but most of the ones at my institution are.

      1. Note: I am not talking about the 50-year-old whose heart goes *kerflop* for a particular 23-year-old who is not under their authority in any way, and who thinks hard about the potential pitfalls of a cross-generational relationship (assuming that it’s mutual).

        Some people just cannot feel secure in a romantic (or sometimes any other) relationship unless they have the social high ground. Dating students means that their chosen person is more likely to view them as the more knowledgeable and less impulsive person. Dating much younger people means that they don’t have to own their shit as much because the younger person may not have learned to even see the shit yet.

        And then there are the people who are not quite ephebophiles…but they think that they deserve the best, the most attractive dates with the highest social value…and in our culture, that means conventionally attractive young adults.

        Both types of relationship tend to crumble. In the first group, the less mature person eventually does mature, and tends to dump the older person. In the second, the older person no longer finds the younger person attractive past a certain age and does the dumping (and then, even though they themselves are older, they go back to the same age group for another try).

      2. Reminds me of a high school teacher of mine. Once in class, the topic of high school teachers getting caught being sexually involved with their students came up. Our teacher (who was young-ish and fairly attractive as the teachers in our school went) told us that she and a friend had been discussing the topic, and her friend had asked her, “Would you ever do that?” Meaning, date a student. To which our teacher had replied, “Well, the thing is, even if there was a particularly attractive high school boy, they all live with their parents!” She found this to be an obvious and immediate turn-off.

    2. The one place it’s not creepy for me is if you’re talking about graduate students, provided the instructor is around the same age. Then, you’re both more or less self-sufficient adults with just a power differential in regards to this specific situation. Dating while you’re actively teaching someone, no, bad, do not do. But in a year or two when you’re now professional peers and the sparks are still there? Cool by me.

  23. #11 reminds me of a recent post on r/amitheasshole from a person who’d called someone’s behavior around their kid creepy. Apparently the OP’s daughter had flipped off this guy from the school bus, and he happened to live in the same neighborhood and decided to follow the kid home and inform the parents.

    The OP wanted to know if they were the jerk for telling this dude that it was creepy to follow an 8-year-old home, despite being glad he could address the behavior with his kid.

    This feels like it could be the counterpart to that post.

    1. Yeah, the only time it *might* be appropriate to follow an 8 year old home is if

      a) you saw them do something that could result in serious injury to themselves or others; or

      b) you saw them do something that DID result in serious injury to themselves or others;

      c) they’re not well enough to get home under their own steam.

  24. I frequently wonder what happened with the Tokyo Traveller! I hope they had a fantastic vacation and creepy coworker is no longer bothering them.

    1. I read all the comments in the hopes the Tokyo Traveller posted an update!

  25. #5 How to Change a Person with Terrible Hygiene:

    1. Remove diaper.
    2. Wipe all areas clean.
    3. Put on fresh diaper.

    …. I’ll see myself out.

  26. #7 was something I really needed an answer to. “… the fallacy that protecting someone means controlling them.” Yup. That short story was amazing. For me it was my dad, and I never had the words before to describe one aspect of the years of emotional abuse, so thank you for that, thank you for WORDS. Words are things my therapist can understand if I say them, words are something I can use to explain to my husband why a thing isn’t okay for me. Most importantly, words help ME understand, help me give the abuse a name. Help me understand WHY it hurts and why it was so awful in a way I couldn’t before. I’m not crazy, I’m not making it up. It was this nebulous slippery thing before that had substance but every time I tried to pin it down to get it to tell me what it was, it got away.

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