Short Questions & Answers For July 26, Part 2

Part 1 is here. This is a feature where patrons of the blog have first crack at getting short questions answered, it lets us cover a lot of ground and have interesting discussions. Please consider supporting the site at Patreon or via other channels if you can, I appreciate it greatly.

Onto the questions! In this batch: What happens when your family gets mad you wrote about them, quelching an inconvenient crush, fictional recs for healthy conflict resolution, heading off body criticism around tattoos, habit trackers for ADHD folks, and resources for improving positive body image.

Q7: I recently was published in a major outlet. A family member texted me that she was angry I’d insulted her in print. I found a single sentence that mentioned her. She wasn’t identifiable. It wasn’t anything damning or embarrassing. I was baffled. I told her I was sorry I’d hurt her feelings but she yelled at me so much I ended up blocking her number. How do creative people avoid blowback from family like this? (she/her/hers) 

A7: Congrats on placing your work! You now know something about this relative: They would prefer not to appear in your published work (or to be asked first), they have absolutely no chill about it, and when things get contentious, they are okay with being really mean to you. They don’t seem like a person who roots for your success. What if this is a That One Relative-thing and not a You-thing?

If you’re going to keep writing (and you are going to keep writing) I don’t think you can avoid this ever happening again. You can decide that in the future you won’t write about family without giving them notice or asking permission because it feels like the right thing to do for you (and/or it’s not worth the fallout), but you’re not required to do that. I’m sure most people would say, “Why NOT run it by me first?” or “I would prefer it if I knew when a family member wrote about me” and that’s legit, it’s okay to prefer or want that, but also, for example, child abusers are not the bosses of how or where they show up in their victims’ writing even though they probably would appreciate advance notice or permission quite a lot. You’re allowed to write true things about your life, you’re not obligated to paint a flattering picture of everyone you ever encounter or run every mention of anybody by the source, it sounds like you told the truth and took steps to make sure that this wasn’t a public, personal shaming, so ethically you’re good! Then again, people who show up in your stories are allowed to have feelings and opinions about how they appear there, though their feelings don’t mean that you sign up to be cheerfully screamed at forever or pretend it never affects you, so blocking was almost certainly the right choice.

Authors aren’t supposed to respond to negative reviews, and when I’ve published stuff on sites where there is no comment moderation I try hard not to even read comments or engage there. I’ve blocked and muted people who confuse “You really messed up here, please do better” critiques of my work (i.e. legitimate and important feedback) with “So that means I get to tag you constantly in diatribes about how awful you are, yell about how you are ignoring me if you don’t respond, send my followers into your mentions en masse to call you terrible names, and scream about how you are bullying me if you do respond, snitch-tag prominent people to try to stir up conflict, and find your personal and day-job profiles and photos and unload a ton of hate there, sometimes for months and years at a time” (i.e. I don’t think I’m the one who hurt you, beloved.) The first few times this happened some more experienced writers gave me some very good advice, which boiled down to:

  • Writing in public is messy, you can’t control or predict how people will respond, it’s normal for weirdness to grow as audience/profile grows.
  • Figure out who you are writing for, then worry about your friends and fans. Don’t chase the approval of people who obviously hate you and who rejoice in and who can’t miss a chance to mention your errors.
  • You’re not a robot, you don’t have to always be the bigger person or ignore trolling and abuse, but also, 1) Be aware of power differentials, 2) When in doubt, don’t respond to negative shit when you’re in a terrible mood or a mental health slump, you won’t like yourself or the results, and it does affect the community.
  • Apologize when you fuck up (you will fuck up) and learn from your mistakes, you can’t undo them but you can endeavor to never repeat them.
  • Realize that certain mistakes might mean people trust or like you less, that’s their prerogative, all you can do is proceed with integrity and hope that it shows over time.
  • Make community with fellow writers so there is someone to marvel at the wonderful stuff and the weirdness with you and someone who can tell you honestly, “Sorry, it’s you, not them” and “It’s them, not you” when something goes sideways.

Good luck with future writing, the petty part of me hopes this relative has a business and your next piece is a glowing writeup of all their competitors so you can say “But I thought you didn’t want to be written about?” with a raised eyebrow while wearing a really excellent outfit.

Q8: I have a crush on a close friend. I don’t mind having the crush, but it’s too high key for me. It wouldn’t be a good idea to date them. Also, I would rather not risk our friendship. (We’ve even talked and agreed that it could easily go poorly, best we not.) How can I encourage my feelings to be more low-key? (she/her/hers)

A8: I believe the great Carolyn Hax once suggested picturing one’s crush during stinky  toilet activities as an antidote to sexy and romantic fantasies. As with the “Wow!” when someone says something awkward, she has truly given us so much. ❤

You can’t really control what you feel, and you can make yourself miserable trying, but I think you can both honor your feelings and starve a crush and give yourself some time to get over it: See this person less right now (you’re not a bad friend if you need a little space, they’ll know why), interact with them in non-date-like ways (group hangs in public venues vs. one-on-one dinners at your place, which you cooked specifically for them, making all their favorites, and served by candlelight on your very comfy couch), bow out of being their sounding board or helper with life things for a bit (esp. about dating/romantic/sex topics, they’ll know why), maintain boundaries about touch (“We can snuggle and hug a lot and sleep in the same bed, we’ll be just like siblings” = YOU WON’T, THO).

Also, this is not for everyone certainly, but in the past I’ve personally found that crushes can be motivating along the lines of “Do I want to fuck this person or BE them” (i.e. Is there some aspect of my life where I need to be bold and seize the day and level up) and “Is it This Specific Person or is it a sign that my desire/sexuality/romantic side is awakening after a long hibernation and my crush is merely one avatar?” (a.k.a. Is it time to go on some internet dates/meet some attractive new people/take this cute outfit and giant serving of unfulfilled desire out on the town to sing karaoke and kiss new acquaintances).

When in doubt, there’s always writing bad poetry or better yet, good poetry!

The rest is time.

Q9: Do you have any good examples from fiction of healthy conflict being modeled in long-term relationships? Most of what we get exposed to is conflict for the sake of drama that’s fun to watch—high-intensity, lots of shouting, big resolution (or lack thereof). Any examples of partners or friends who manage to disagree about important things but then work it out in a healthy way? (He/Him/His)

A9: I like this question so much, but I’m going to completely punt this to the commenters.

Readers: What stories do you read/listen to/watch that fill this need?

Ground Rules, because weird shit happens every time we recommend or discuss media here:

  • If you’re recommending something, content notes and spoiler-free sentence or two about what the show/book/movie is about are appreciated. Example: Unforgotten is a British detective show about solving long-ago murders, we meet the potential suspects long after they’ve committed the crimes so often you’re rooting for people to NOT have done it, the second season has multiple plot-lines about sexual abuse and assault. The two lead detectives have an enormously respectful and collaborative relationship, you get to see a male detective be admiring and supportive of his female boss. There is also an awkward coworker crush that is treated with gentleness and good humor.
  • We can like different stuff! If you’re commenting to argue with someone about their recommendation, please also recommend your own alternative that you like.

Q10: I am getting my first-ever tattoo soon and I am excited about it — I’ve wanted this one for 5 years. My mom has been disapproving of me or my brother getting tattoos in the past. I…don’t have to tell her beforehand, right? What is a chill way to tell her that also communicates “don’t tell me if you think it will ‘poison’ me, don’t tell me if you hate it”? (I’m 24/financially independent.) (she/her/hers)

A10: You don’t have to tell her ahead of time! People who are judgmental about your life choices self-opt out of being consulted about your life choices, plus your mom has one beautiful irreplaceable body of which she is the boss (her body). Yours belongs to you.

Past relevant threads: a) My grandma made a huge fuss when I got a tattoo b) Parents, appearance, and opinions.

You can snap a picture and send a group text to her and the rest of your family, you could just share it generally on social media, you can say very positive things about how excited you are (“I’m so excited at the work that [Tattoo Artist] did, love the colors“), you can text just your mom a photo and say “Hi Mom, guess what I did today? Before you answer, I know you’re going to hate it, but I love it, so let’s get the weird part over with! Love you!” and let her respond however she’s going to. She can’t control your body, you can’t control your feelings, probably just rip the bandaid off (metaphorically, leave the actual bandaid in place as recommended by your tattoo artist) and let her have her weird reaction. Become an expert subject-changer if the Mom-weirdness continues past the healing and the itching stage.

Q11: This might be one to throw to the comments section, but have you found any habit trackers/habit formers that work with your ADHD and/or bullet journal? I’ve tried bujo habit trackers, Habitica, Todoist, & a couple others. I use them for 5 days and then forget. I think next step is setting alarms but I use my digital calendar for other things, & clock alarms I just turn off and then forget about. Thanks! (she/her/hers). 

A11: Hi, this is one for the commenters, since those habit-trackers don’t work for me at all. I use a blank journal for thinking and then cross reference plans and tasks with my phone calendar (and set a bunch of alarms)(that I sometimes turn off or forget about).

There’s one useful thing I’ve held onto from Gretchen Rubin’s book about habit-forming, about knowing what motivates you, which has to do with what she calls “the four tendencies.”  She explains:

  • Upholders (not me) like following rules and are good at obeying internal and external expectations. Forming a new habit for them is pretty easy, “I decided to do x” + then they do x. Weirdos! :-p
  • Obligers (sometimes me) like pleasing people or at least not letting them down, so external accountability to a buddy or the group is motivating. Maybe some of the habit-tracking apps have a buddy system that makes them work well for some people, or you could institute a buddy system about certain things?
  • Questioners (a little bit me) will follow an expectation if there’s a good enough reason to do it, so logically connecting the habit with a larger goal is motivating for them. (Given recent conversations about Optimizers, I think some y’all might hang out here, finding the BEST WAY to do a thing is motivating.)
  • Rebels (heyyyyyyyy it’s me again, what’s up Fellow Bartlebys!) resist both outer and inner expectations, and Rubin is frequently at loss with what to do with us, but suggests that we might be motivated by authenticity, so that if we can convince ourselves that the habit we want to form is all our own idea and that nobody is making us, we can motivate ourselves with that.

Where I sometimes find success is applying Benchley’s Law (“Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he’s supposed to be doing at that moment.”– Robert Benchley) and create competing priorities where I can take advantage of structured procrastination. If today my plan is to do my laundry, make several involved phone calls I’ve been putting off, and write a blog post, I can designate one task as the thing I’m supposed to be doing right now, which makes the other tasks a form of rebellion/procrastination, which makes me immediately want to work on one of them first. By the end of the day I’ll probably get all or most of it done, plus I’ll have permission to hyper-focus and switch tasks as my attention budget fluctuates. If that sounds like a mess, it is! But it works, in that my house gets cleaned when I have a writing deadline, and some of my best writing happens when I have guests coming and need to clean my house.

Q12: I am working on my body image and would like to know if you have suggestions for body positive resources (websites, books, shows, etc). I’d also be interested to hear if anything specifically worked well for you! Thanks! (she/her/hers) 

A12: Hello, that is an excellent project.

I have a long writeup with a list of resources and some of my personal process for changing my gaze and attitude at this post (with more in the comments). Some of my best practices were a) seeking out and curating inspirational/aspirational images of people with fat bodies (to retrain my eye) b) making a habit of not saying mean things about my body or anyone else’s body or engaging in diet and weight-loss content (which is still off-limits here, if anyone was wondering).

More recently, I enjoyed watching Shrill on Hulu (the pool party episode is the best thing), I was a guest on the Fat Like Me podcast. I’m reading They Don’t Make Plus-Sized Space Suits by the force behind Ok2BeFat. We can’t shop our way to the revolution, but I got to visit the new store one of my favorite size-inclusive clothing brands opened in Chicago last week and try on lots of things that were just my size, I gotta say, being able to evaluate clothes based on whether I love them (vs. what is the least sad thing in the joint that even fits me or whether it’s worth having to deal with the shipping and return process) feels really good.

I personally have better luck and find better resources when I look for resources tagged fat acceptance than I do when I look for body positivity, first because I am FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT and second because I don’t always feel positive about my body but that body still deserves respectful, science-based medical care, accessible spaces, dignity, respect, and human rights, and third because I can usually trust “fat acceptance” resources not to bait and switch into a bunch of weight loss advice and diet tips. You don’t have to be fat to get something useful out of Health At Every Size and the follow-up, Body Respect, or Michelle Allison’s healing work around intuitive eating, whereas a lot of “body-posi!” content is the same old collection of diets and yoga mats and “Goop” products, just marketed across a slightly wider sample size of “acceptably” thin able-bodied white women.

This week I  received an update from a reader about a successful shutting down of weird body obsessions, this seems like a good time to share it:

Hello, this is LW 1126 with a one year later update!

My husband ended up sitting MIL down and having a serious conversation with her. I don’t know the exact details, but apparently it embarrassed the living hell out of her that we thought she had a “weird fixation” on Relena’s body, SO SHE STOPPED TALKING ABOUT IT. Like, we have not heard a single comment about Relena’s weight since. There is occasional health talk, but it’s now muuuuuch more heavily weighted towards the “Relena is giving us an update on something” variety, and it mostly occurs when Relena initiates it. This is, frankly, a much better outcome than I’d hoped for.

No one here will be surprised to hear that MIL has also traditionally had a real treasure-trove of opinions on the bodies and clothing choices of strangers. Separately, I’ve used the “We’re trying to teach the kiddo that we only say kind things about people’s bodies…” script, and it’s no magic bullet, but it has really helped! We were out walking recently and I literally heard my MIL deep-inhale to share her opinion about whether a human who’d just passed us should be wearing a crop top, and then—nothing. She stopped. I’m sure if she’d been with her friends instead of with me, she would have said whatever awful thing and they’d have all clucked together and felt morally superior. But she was with me, so she said nothing, and that feels like a real victory.

MIL and I are not bosom buddies or anything, but it has been meaningful to me to see her effort here. She and Relena have a visibly warmer relationship, and while they’re probably never going to be particularly close, “less fraught” is nothing to sneeze at with in-laws. Thanks to everyone here for your thoughts, advice, and anecdotes–Captain, you have built a really special corner of the internet.

We can’t always change people’s minds, but it’s good to have a reminder that we can shift conversations into less harmful pathways. May this be a summer (or whatever season it is where you live) of feeling good in our skin and being kind to all bodies, everywhere.

Comments are open, have at it, and have a great weekend!








248 thoughts on “Short Questions & Answers For July 26, Part 2

  1. Q9: check out Elementary. It’s a Holmes/Watson story where they solve mysteries but
    1. Watson is female but there’s no romance
    2. Their relationship is based on communication.
    3. Watson is great at boundaries. Holmes is aware he has mental illness tendencies and a history of addiction and always strives to act in a healthy way.

    1. You beat me to this one! The way the characters on the show navigate their relationships – not just Holmes and Watson, but Gregson and Bell and Kitty too – consistantly feels real and adult and reasonable to me in a way a lot of shows don’t. There are problems, but the problems don’t spiral out of control due to minor misunderstandings.

      CW for the usual police procedural stuff (blood, murder, rape cases, bodies stuffed into the walls), and also for an extensive storyline dealing with rape in season three – I’d say it’s pretty well handled, but the material makes it hard to watch, and I have no doubt it could be triggery.

    2. Also, unlike a certain other Holmes/Watson show, this one has the characters actually doing the work, not just running around in circles, flapping their arms and screaming “Look how smart I am!!!”.

    3. Great example. That show reminds me of how my favourite friends are the ones with whom I can not only have a conversation, but also have a meta-conversation about how we relate to each other in the conversation. It was a huge shift in my thinking when I realised that actually, it is the grown-up thing to do to directly address in words how interpersonal shit works. Holmes and Watson always seem, in Elementary, to have that kind of basic trust in and respect for one another.

    4. I was going to say this one too! The show is full of conflict and drama (I mean, it’s a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, murder and crime are major plot elements, of course there’s drama and conflict) but it frames the relationship between Holmes and Watson as a relative safe haven of care, communication, and boundaries amidst all the crazy stuff. Which isn’t to say they never fight or that their relationship is always easy and comfortable–they do, and it’s not. But they clearly have a lot of respect and affection for each other, and work to keep things healthy and communicative in a way that I’ve rarely seen on TV. It’s pretty fantastic.

    5. Can You Wear A Crop Top: A Simple Decision Matrix

      Do you have a torso? If yes, you can wear a crop top

      If you do not have a torso or anything that can reasonably pass for a torso, e.g. if you are a digital consciousness composed entirely of light or you are a flamingo, you PROBABLY cannot wear a crop top but you are still welcome to try if you like.

      1. Oops… Replied instead of making my own comment because I fumble fingers-ed the mobile UI.

      2. Way, way back in the day, I used to play a ridiculous browser game where one of the skills you could get was “Torso Awaregness” (the g is because you got the skill from gnomes). Once you had Torso Awaregness, you could wear shirts, thus allowing you an extra piece of armor/equipment.

        So, basically, my pedantic addition here is that you must not only have a torso, but you must be *aware* of having a torso, otherwise you will not manage to get the crop top on.

      3. When I was a kid, I took one of my cheap wanna be Barbies apart and attached her head directly to her waist.

        She definitely could not have worn a crop top.

    6. I agree that Elementary works well for this on TV. Including with the characters dealing with the intersection of various persona land professional relationships – friendships and mentors, co-workers and friends, not just romantic relationships.

      On paper, if you enjoy uban fantasy you might like Patricia Briggs books. There are 2 interlinked series – The main protagonist in one series is a ‘walker’ (Native american shifter) and most of the other key characters are werewolves, although there are other other supernatural beings, in a world very like out own except that, in the recent past the fae revealed themselves, so now the general public know that there are a lot of extra kinds of being out there, and are having to work out as theygo along how all of that fits into ‘normal ‘society.

      The relationships grow and develop over tht ecourse of the books. In each case, the key characters have various issues in their past (and, in some caes, during the books, so there is some potentially triggering stuff around issues of abuse and violence).

      I like the fact that the characters and their relationships change and develop, and that even though the characters do (mostly) deal with their conflicts in a healthy way they do also make mistakes, and recognise that issues just don’t disappear just bcuae you’ve alked them throguh once.

      Also urban fantasy – CE Murphy’s books: Her ‘Walker Paper’ series is about a sceptical and very pragmatric police mechanic who discovers that she is, whether she likes it or not, a Shaman and follows her attempts to learn to live with that new part of her life. I has some very goos (non-sexual_ relationships including those betwen the priotagonist and her co-workers and others.

      1. I love reading both Patricia Briggs series and I highly recommend them as Urban Fantasy. They are generally structured as murder mysteries, so there’s lots of violence, kidnapping, rape threats, and mental/magical manipulation.

        I would also caution that the Native American stuff is poorly handled. A consistent theme is that European supernaturals think they have completed a genocide of all of the Native American shifters and they are startled to learn that this kind of American Indian is still alive, Mercy is extremely assimilated to white/werewolf culture and does not interact with American Indians for at least the first 5 books. To the best of my recall (I haven’t read any books in the series for a couple of years, while I’m waiting for the ebook price to drop), Mercy doesn’t have citizenship or formal affiliation with any Indian nation, country, tribe, or people. I can’t remember if her father’s identity is ever narrowed down to a specific people or not, his situation is weird because ~magic~ and also she’s never met him.

        Also warning for consistent homophobia in werewolf culture, a weird werewolf version of aging/leading to loss of self-control (it’s not dementia, but it might hit those buttons for you) is a continuing theme, and a Spanish moor from the ~14th century is a continuing character, so one might have feelings from that.

        I do enjoy the books, this is just stuff that didn’t bother me when I started reading them 10 years ago which I side-eye a lot more now.

  2. For LW9 – I’m constantly impressed by the TV show Madam Secretary for how it depicts Elizabeth (aka Madam Secretary) and Henry McCord and their marriage. I always see clear respect and kindness in the conversations they share, the arguments they have, and the times they find their own political lives absurd but know they can get through it all together.

    1. I was coming to the comments to recommend the exact same thing. They’re my favorite couple on TV television, because they handle things with so much mutual respect and love without either making one less than the other, if that makes sense.

      1. Oh, I forgot to add a brief synopsis, sorry OP9 and Captain! It’s a political/current events show, kinda like West Wing but IMO much better. It does a very good job of showing that for some decisions, there are no truly good options or good endings, even if it does pull out probably more than a realistic share of happy conclusions for politics. A lot of deep thought and philosophy and stuff to think about without being heavy.

    2. Yes!! The show is SO good, and their relationship is portrayed so well – even when they’re (righteously) furious with each other, they treat each other with so much love and care and respect.

  3. For LW 9 – I would recommend Madam Secretary, I really love the way the relationship between Elizabeth McCord (aka Madam Secretary) and her husband Henry interact. I always see respect and kindness in their conversations, even when they have different opinions, I always get the sense that they can make it through the rough patches because they’ll do it together.

  4. For LW9: Friday Night Lights is a show about high school football in Texas, and the marriage between the coach and his wife is really the backbone of the show, and imo such a fantastic depiction of a marriage. The show itself is essentially a soap opera– there’s a rape plot, an abortion plot, and probably lots of other things I don’t remember right now because I watched it years ago. The marriage is really what stood out to me. The pilot episode is really good, and will give you an accurate sense of whether you’ll likely enjoy the rest of the show (the episode does include a serious injury that is dealt with in subsequent episodes with varying levels of grace).

    1. I came here to make the same recommendation! I love the depth and nuance of the coach’s relationship with his wife. I don’t even understand, much less like, football, but I love this show.

    2. Ooh, yes, Friday Night Lights! One of the things I appreciated most about the relationship between Coach and, as the players call her, Mrs. Coach, is that they sometimes *fight.* They have real disagreements, sometimes bickering played for laughs (an argument both are trying to conceal during a party comes to mind), but sometimes genuine arguments that are painful and vivid because they obviously love and respect each other. Let Tami Taylor be your role model, as she is for so many of us.

  5. LW9 – if you can handle gore, body horror, excessive vomit, Nazis, swearie words, drinking and drug use, murders and suburban life, I highly recommend Santa Clarita Diet as an excellent example of a family communicating through very drastic life changes.

    As in, one of the becomes a zombie.

    1. Seconded!
      And to be clear, the Nazi’s are shown as the bad guys.
      There’s a wonderful bit quite late in the series when one of them says to the other “thank you for spending the afternoon doing [spoiler] with me, I know you really wanted to do [spoiler] instead and I appeciate that we did this together”.
      The most wholesome series about so many murders.

    2. I was also going to rec Santa Clarita Diet! To elaborate, it’s a dark comedy, the gore is mostly cartoonish, and making fun of Nazis (and then eating them) is a recurring plot point. I really liked the relationship between the main couple, Joel and Sheila. They do argue a lot, but they are very committed to the fact that they love each other unconditionally and support each other through some very strange and stressful situations. It’s on (US, at least) Netflix.

    3. Love this! It’s the most unexpected show to feature a really healthy relationship. I want to add, though, that if you have emetophobia you REALLY are going to have a hard time with the first episode, and any subsequent ones where someone becomes a zombie.

      I remember that I marathoned a large chunk of that show last autumn when I’d just had major surgery and my pain relief had basically failed – that was an interesting near-48 hours awake, but bizarrely, the time spent watching the show was the most bearable.

    4. I can handle blood and guts, Nazis, swearing, and drugs, but I draw the line at suburban life! /s

      Really though, I’ve only seen like an episode and a half of Santa Clarita Diet but I can cosign that it’s very good.

    5. Came here to recommend this – so glad I am not alone. Joel and Sheila are my favorite TV marriage. Plus other than the supernatural elements, the most realistically happy marriage. They just feel so real to me, the way they bicker and tease each other but really love one another. Sometimes they realize the other one was right and admit it. Sometimes they compromise. They really trust each other. It is just a great example all around. Bonus that the show is hilarious.

      Would also like to give a shout out to Rizzoli and isles as the best example of female friendship I’ve ever seen on TV – and some of the best written females in a cop drama ever.

  6. LW9: I feel that the sci-fi Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie (first book “Ancillary Justice”) handles this really well in many ways. It’s got communication and coping mechanisms and sexual tension and really every time I talk about it I need to go back and re-read it because it is so stinkin’ GOOD. It’s a space-opera type thing, with aliens and conquest and religious systems and a hilarious character called the Translator, and I love it to pieces.

    LW10: Also referencing Hax, I believe she was the one who said if you have to ask your parents for permission, you’re not old enough to do the thing (though it could have been Amy.) Why does your mother’s approval or lack thereof matter so much? Are you just trying to avoid a scene, in which case…you can’t, or are you yourself waffling on the decision. I’m covered in tattoos, which I love, and I don’t give a rat’s ass who approves or not, but the cliche is true: they’re a permanent part of you and that can be daunting.

    1. Content warning for Imperial Radch: the main character uses the same pronoun for everyone they talk about, regardless of the other person’s gender. I’m trans, and I found that misgendering so triggering that I had to stop reading.

      But other people *love* the book, and think that a genderless world is great. Read a preview, and see how you go.

      1. I think it’s more accurate to say that the *main societies* use the same pronoun for everyone, unless/until they don’t, and the main character tries extremely hard to code-switch based on what culture they’re interacting with at the time.

        Still, I can see how that would be triggering, and appreciate the addition to my post.

      2. It’s more accurate to say that in their society, gender doesn’t exist and their third person pronoun only distinguishes between animate/inanimate.

        The main character works really hard to get the gender correct when interacting with people from societies that DO have gender and also mark gender grammatically.

        I can understand that this might be triggering or upsetting for you, but even in the real world there are languages (Hungarian, Mandarin, Tagalog, Malay, Kurdish…) that don’t distinguish gender in their pronouns. Some of them don’t even distinguish between animate and inanimate – he/she/it are all expressed with the same word. I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that just because those languages don’t have a distinction we have in English, speakers of those languages are all therefore misgendering each other all the time.

        1. T didn’t say that, though. They gave a content warning so others can better enjoy this recc, which is very kind of them. I find it very weird and in poor taste that you are correcting T about their own experiences and getting huffy about something that they never actually said. When you take a trans person affirming themselves and turn it into a discussion on linguistics, you’re derailing, invisibilizing, and being transphobic. Please stop.

          PS: T, I guessed gender-neutral they would work to address you, please correct me if that’s not the case.
          PPS: I’m an nb translator who deals with translating gender diversity into linguistic systems which work differently from English. Addressing gender in those languages is absolutely possible and routinely done by speakers. We could stay here all day discussing each culture’s and language’s tools and nuances. Given the context, though, that derail would still be transphobic and unappreciated.

        2. @C Baker, no.

          We’re not speaking Hungarian, etc., we’re English speakers talking about a book written in English and a fellow poster is offering information about how it affected them that might help other people, in a respectful way, including “Read a preview, and see how you go.”. You’re not the boss of what is reasonable, and the linguistics lesson, however you meant it, is patronizing and unnecessary. The fact that your only comment in the thread is to tell a trans person what’s “reasonable” (you’re not offering recs of your own, as was requested) makes it even more egregious. Don’t do this.

          @T, I’m sorry, this came in in the night when I was asleep. I appreciate your comment, Leckie’s pronoun and gender shifts are designed to put people off-balance and rethink how we assume gender in so many ways, you made me think.

    2. I absolutely love Ancillary Justice and the trilogy! However, it does deal a lot with colonialism and colonialist violence. It’s completely condemned, but the book is also mostly from that POV (i.e. the main character lives in a heavily colonialist society and that society is where much of the books takes place) so cw if that kind of thing bothers you. The book has a decent amount of violence in general, space opera violence but still. The relationships also deal a lot work power differences in societies and relationships, with grace and I really like the nuance but still. The main character unexpected punches someone in the face in the first book during an argument/conversation also.

      I’m nonbinary trans and really liked the way they dealt with gender, but they do use she/her pronouns for everyone often regardless of gender so I understand how that could be really upsetting. If it bothers you then you might try “Provenance”, which is actually set in a world that lets people choose their gender from a trinary system so everyone in it explicitly gets to pick their pronouns and as far as I can remember no one is misgendered. (Wait, maybe briefly in one scene near then end.)

      “Provenance” is set in the same universe and by the same author, but it doesn’t deal with/have a lot of the same issues. It deals with parent-child and sibling relationships a lot and has much less violence though there is some murder. I hope this is helpful!

    3. I love, love, love all of Ann Leckie’s works. I can see how misgendering would be triggering for trans folks, but for me it was delicious that the character demonstrated that using a single descriptor to address people of any gender others everyone who does not match that descriptor. (See also: dude, man, and guy are not gender neutral! Adding a single male to a group of females does not turn their pronoun masculine (looking at you French and other gendered languages!) )

      Definitely have run into cis men who were uncomfortable with the universal female pronouns and it started some interesting conversations.

    4. Yeah, I feel like maybe the gender stuff in the Imperial Radch trilogy maybe missed exploring the implications of its cultural setting .. .See, the main character is a non-gendered A.I. who lives in a culture that strongly prioritizes not expressing or talking about gender in any way. This situation suits Breq perfectly and she assumes that humans in the Radch are equally comfortable with it. But we get absolutely no sense of what gender means to the humans … I bet there’s a lot going on there which Breq doesn’t see. Even a human who identifies as agender might have a different perspective. I think the author might have been deliberately trying to give a disorienting perspective flip: what if we tell a story from the perspective of a non-gendered character who is in a culture which is as suited to her as our current culture is to binary gender? But by sticking to that perspective she left out a lot and didn’t explore a lot of implications.

      1. Honestly I think the fact that we default to mentioning someones gender whenever we talk about them to be a weakness of our language.
        It forces people to either mis-gender people if they don’t know their gender or put in real effort to not mention their gender.
        It also tells us that just below if something is a someone in importance is if they are boy someone or a girl someone.

  7. for Q12 – assuming “fat acceptance” is indeed helpful to this questioner, I would say check out my friend ( ) who has an anthology coming out VERY SOON NOW “The other F Word” — “the first YA anthology about fat acceptance. It’s 30 fat voices creating a new way to love and celebrate your body for teens and anyone new to the fat acceptance movement.” She is, in general a fantastic source for fat positive resources and, like, general good vibes.

    1. Thank you for sharing that! My partner is a public librarian and is always looking for books to make their collections more inclusive and supportive, and I’m going to send them a link to pass on to the appropriate acquisitions person.

  8. LW9: I think Parks & Rec generally does a great job showing healthy conflict resolution between people in all different kinds of relationships (friends, coworkers, romantic partners, various combinations thereof, etc.). It’s a workplace comedy set in a municipal Parks & Rec department that follows Leslie Knope, a highly motivated and enthusiastic government employee, as she tries to do good in her small town and gets into various weird situations along the way. The show is actually mostly driven by the relationships between the characters in the large ensemble cast (who are all extremely likable!). As far as CWs go, there’s a recurring fat joke about the general population of the town that has not aged super well and there are a couple of minor characters who are cartoonishly sexist/gross, but it’s a pretty lighthearted comedy overall. There are some shouty arguments at times, but usually the shout-er realizes that their behavior wasn’t cool and apologizes/otherwise makes up for it. Also has good examples of how people’s relationships change over time and how that can lead to conflict/re-negotiation of how people interact with each other.

    1. I identify very strongly with Ben, and I want a Leslie Knope in my life. Maybe not even as a partner! My boyfriend is more of an Ann Perkins, and I love him, but I do well with people who are the exuberant social-circle planners and see the best in everyone.

      Actually, come to think of it, Ann and Ben are very similar, and they both compliment Leslie well.

    2. I love how Leslie is genuinely thoughtful, like when she gives Ron his perfect birthday, and it’s perfect for HIM, not for her ego or what she thinks he should want.

    3. You beat me to it! One thing I love about P&R is that it constantly shows people learning from their mistakes and using communication to solve problems. One of the biggest messages of that show is that good relationships, whether romantic or platonic, take intention and work, and that you have to Use Your Words. The relationship between Ron and Diane in the later seasons has some fantastic examples of this, particularly one very blunt conversation where she tells him that they are a team and he *must* communicate with her, even when he’d rather disappear into the wilderness and never speak to another human. There are also a ton of examples of characters discussing complex emotions and difficult decisions.

      But yeah, it has about a trillion fat jokes. I wish the characters learned from their own mistakes on that front. Yuck.

    4. I was gonna post this as well. I personally love how they portray Leslie and Ben’s relationship: super supportive with some disagreements from time to time. The portrayal is little unrealistic, but I appreciate the episodes where Leslie and Ben argue about how she tends to railroad people who disagree. Or even where Ann and Leslie fought (that one time). Or the fact that Ron and Leslie consistently disagree over everything, and yet they become such great friends.

      As much as I love the show, there are parts that have not aged well (yes, the obese town jokes and the cartoonish minor characters). But I think it has a solid foundation for showing how people from different backgrounds can work together and be respected.

      1. Sub category of why Leslie and Ben’s category is The Best, their major recurring life drama is that they are both extremely career driven, and how do they balance each others’ need to succeed? The answer is sometimes with conflict but usually with grace. And it’s nice to see an example in TV of a male romantic partner deliberately stepping aside to center the career aspirations of his female life companion.

    5. I would qualify any Parks & Rec recommendation by noting that the entire cast horribly bullies one character CONSTANTLY. I don’t know why people don’t talk about that more when it comes to this show – I get that Leslie/Ben is adorable etc., but they are all just consistently horrible people to Jerry Gergich. They don’t even bother to remember his name.

      That show has a lot to answer for, imo. I’m glad that Mike Schur finally got rid of that awful dynamic in The Good Place.

    6. Parks and Rec is such a good show overall, and I was sad to stop watching it, but Aziz Ansari pretty blithely handwaved his predatory behavior with women and then went on the attack against online shaming (the first retreat of the exposed missing stair: “How dare you all continue to talk about my bad behavior after I’ve apologized one time?”). So now I find it very hard to watch his character act like the exact same kind of slimy entitled sexist he’s accused of being in private.

  9. De-lurking for Q9 — The Glamourist Histories series by Mary Robinette Kowal does a really good job with good long term relationships. The first book is Shades of Milk and Honey which is billed as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but with magic. The rest are AU historical fantasy.

    The subsequent novels after the first all star the protag couple (I’m purposely not naming names, because spoilers) as they get into interesting historically-rooted hijinks (one of the sequels is a heist novel). Specifically though, the portrayal of their relationship is really beautiful. The conflicts that they do have are about making their relationship stronger as opposed to wrecking it for dramatic effect.

    1. Her newer Lady Astronaut series also does an incredible job with the main character’s relationship with her husband. Plus it’s about space and feminism and social justice and other things that give me feelings.

        1. Oh yes, I totally agree! I think most of Mary Robinette Kowal’s novels do an excellent job of this. Including Ghost Talkers (WW1 AU with spirit mediums). That one is a standalone, so if you didn’t want to tackle a novel, it’s a good one to read.

    2. Also, she scatters in Doctor Who references. I didn’t figure that out until (I think) Book 4-the one in Venice, and then I think I read something about how she does that in all the books, so at some point I’m going to have to go back and reread to look for those. Although, if I’m remembering incorrectly, will someone please tell me so that I don’t drive myself bonkers trying to find something that’s not there?

      1. A different regeneration of the Doctor gets a cameo in each of her novels, I believe, and I think always as an actual doctor. You’d think it would be obvious to spot them, knowing that, but I once passed right over a character meeting a medical doctor with curly hair and a ridiculously long scarf because the interaction felt like a natural part of the story. (It was a later scene meeting a notably-named military officer that reminded me I should have been keeping my eyes open.)

        1. That’s funny-the medical doctor with curly hair and a ridiculously long scarf was the one that really stood out to me! But then again, I’m only really familiar starting with #9, and the curly hair/long scarf doctor was referred to in “The Day of the Doctor.”

    3. I came here to make the same recommendation: Kowal’s books are *fantastic* examples of what LW9 is looking for. All of the sequels to Shades of Milk and Honey are spot-on perfect for this, as you said.

      I’d say that her Lady Astronaut novels (The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, so far) have significant elements of it as well. Others have already mentioned them briefly but without a full description: they are set in an alternate history in which a meteor destroyed Washington, D.C. and caused major climate disruption, and humanity rushed to space in response (years earlier than in our actual history), and the books include strong nods to Hidden Figures (though the main protagonist is white) and directly take on big issues of racism, sexism, and other issues of social justice. The main character and her husband are again a really strong team who confront challenges inside and outside of their relationship and do their best to handle them well together. The one warning I’ll give is that it can be *hard* to read about these characters you care about facing injustice after injustice: it takes a long time before things begin to work out the way they should.

      1. She also does such a great job of portraying flawed characters–Elma holds some preconceived notions too, and the way MRK shows her working through them is one of the best depictions I’ve seen. Elma takes personal responsibility in confronting and working out her own racism without tasking others to do the work for her. There’s no hand-holding or apologia or justification. There’s just this character recognizing her own bias, apologizing and learning from it, and doing her own work to be better and not harm other marginalized people.

  10. For body neutrality (which is my personal goal – accepting that my body is a part of me, not aiming for loving it but moving beyond hating it and making it just one part of the person I am as a whole), poodle science and Blair braverman’s recent thread about her sled dogs have been WONDERFUL. I also have worked really hard at pinning down the feeling I’m actually having when I’m generally dissatisfied with my body, and naming it very specifically had helped me move from focusing on my body because it feels controllable (spoiler alert, it’s not) to focusing on my mental/emotional state and healing whatever is going on there has been great in helping me see my relationship with my body in a new way. It’s a long road, but every step feels so much better than the last.

    Oh! Also, of you haven’t already, diversify your social media in alllllll possible ways – it helps shift your “normal” from straight sizes only to the actual incredibly, wonderfully diverse world we have.

    1. Oh yes, I was so into the sled dog thing, because I might be mean to myself, but I am always kind to dogs. So mentally imagining myself as some variant of sled dog really helps me accept myself.

  11. today my plan is to do my laundry, make several involved phone calls I’ve been putting off, and write a blog post, I can designate one task as the thing I’m supposed to be doing right now, which makes the other tasks a form of rebellion/procrastination, which makes me immediately want to work on one of them first

    OMG Captain. This might actually work for me.

    1. Peg Bracken, the humour writer, said her solution to procrastination was to forget all about “finishing what you start” and just to start all three things at once — ie, sort the laundry basket between lights and darks and plunk the basket down in the hallway, then set up a notebook beside the phone with a list of all the calls you want to make, then write a sentence or two of the blog post. Then just keep going — her argument was that once you get things started, its easier to maintain momentum. And I have found that to be good advice over the years.

      1. Q11 here–I do this sometimes, only I start like 5 things (or rather, I start 1 thing, and then that thing cascades into 5 things) and I can usually finish like 3, but then I lose momentum and whatever half-done project I didn’t finish sits for literally weeks. I have successfully harnessed the “fail at multitasking but still get stuff done” strategy a couple times, though, so maybe I just need to be more conscientious about it (and start 3 things instead of 5).

  12. For Q11 – I can’t recommend an out-of-the-box habit-creation system, because I find out-of-the-box systems are always almost-right enough to hook me and just-wrong enough to lose me. But I’ve got a couple of tricks that have helped me test out and adapt systems.

    I’ve ripped a lot of processes from agile development (yeah I know I know, I sound like a corporate tool but cut me some slack it works for me). I set weekly appointments with myself, in my calendar, with alerts, where I do a retro on the previous week and set goals for the coming week. The goals are not to do with specific accomplishments, but with systems for tracking tasks. So a weekly goal might be “I will write a todo list every morning and check it every night,” or “I’ll set an alert for all my calendar appointments to tell me when to leave so I won’t be late.” At the end of the week, I look back at how those goals worked. Did I do it for five days and then forget? Why did I forget? Would a new reminder system help? Or did I resist the task for some other reason? If I did the thing, did it actually help? I then work out what changes, if any, I should make for the next week, and set new goals. I write out my retros longhand in a notebook, so it is an actual conversation with myself rather than me just sitting there thinking to myself.

    My two rules for retros:
    1. Retros are blameless. If I bounced off a process, or forgot to do it, or I did it and it didn’t help, it’s because the process isn’t working for me and my brain. It’s not because I’m stupid, careless, lazy, or any of the other shame-spirally thing ADHD folks internalize about not trying hard enough.
    2. I do not “just need to apply myself.” The solution to how to fix a system is never, ever “just do it right next time.” When a bridge can’t bear weight we don’t send the same weight over an identical bridge and tell the bolts to “sheer less this time.” If I forgot, I’ll forget again. If the system didn’t work, the system needs to be updated or discarded, or the blockers preventing it from working need to be removed. “I will not just (cussing) remember next time” is my unofficial motto.

    The other trick gets into the motivation piece the Captain was discussing. I have zero qualms about bribing myself. People will tell you “don’t reward yourself, you’re not a dog,” but honestly, cuss that. My dog is very good at routines. I, too, would like to be good at routines. I don’t want pupperoni but I will 100% pay bills for high-value cookies. If stickers or fun ink or whatever helps you stick a habit, go forth and bedazzle that notebook.

    I’m probably an “obliger” per Cap’s descriptions, but I’ve found a useful hack when it comes to sticking to habits: I tie them to medium and long-term goals, which then makes them a thing I’m not doing for myself, but for a person I love, who is the person I will be in one, three, or six months. (This is distinct from “just apply yourself” and “won’t you be glad when x is done” because I actually physically write out those goals. I have monthly and quarterly goals, and I tie my tasks to them explicitly). And when slogging through habit-forming processes that I hate I will sometimes literally write notes to the person I am doing it for. I have left more than one “dear future me: you’re welcome” comment in code that I structured properly even though it slowed me down.

    I like to think of this as an interactive process, because when future-me sees that note and thanks me, I will be there, and so I will know I have been thanked, even though my time has passed.

    When it comes to specific systems, I am frequently reminded of something my godfather told me about Bridge. He’s an avid player. He told me that there are four winning strategies to Bridge. If you employ any one of these four strategies, you will win the game. Most advanced Bridge players know this.

    But then how, I asked, does anyone lose at Bridge? And he told me that while most advanced bridge players know these strategies, they nevertheless try to optimize by combining strategies, and then they lose.

    There may be commenters here who play Bridge and do not agree with my godfather’s assessment of the game; I don’t play myself. But the lesson I take from what he said is that a perfect strategy is unnecessary. My strategy just needs to be Good Enough, and it needs to be something I can stick to. If I’m struggling to stick to a system, there are plenty of other systems that could be effective, and I’m not failing at The Only One True Way To Win At Life.

    My ADHD is not your ADHD, and your mileage may, as always, vary. You can probably glean from my strategies that one of my chief concerns is avoiding the ADHD shame spiral, because that thing’s a jerk, and my internal emotional security system relies on keeping it off the bridge of my mental enterprise. But for me what’s worked is constantly de-constructing what I’m doing and whether it’s working, rather than telling myself that Any Functional Adult Would Be Able To Make X System Work.

    And I’ve now written a long comment that makes three completely different bridge analogies, only the last of which was utterly forced, so I get a cookie.

    1. For me, giving myself treats isn’t so much about rewards as it is about having something that will feel good, because I don’t get the intrinsic pleasure from completing a task that most people apparently get, and if I do too many things without any good feelings I’ll start feeling desperate and getting the urge to either flip tables or hide under them. It’s not a reward, it’s a coping mechanism.

      I totally agree about the no-blaming and you-won’t-remember rules too 🙂

      As for apps… I use DGT GTD, because it has a zillion features. I can set up things to remind me, or just have them show on a widget, or hide them away until they’re needed again, and I can easily switch things up when a strategy inevitably stops working.

      PS: the form remembers my email again! Yay!

    2. Karon Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot the Dog (which I first heard recommended here) has many good insights but the one I think I appreciate the most is that you are going to do much better reinforcing good/correct behavior through rewards than you are teinforcing bad/incorrect behavior through punishment. This is so true! For example, if you are practicing the piano and make a mistake then ignore it, but if you do it correctly then praise yourself. We remember more of what we emphasize, and so beating ourselves up for mistakes means we are actually reinforcing them and making the same mistakes more likely in the future. I thought she must be wrong, but she was so right!

      First example that seriously convinced me of this: my job changed from a door code that we had to input to get in to using our badges. I had spent WEEKS trying to remember my badge and being hard on myself when I forgot, and no luck; for some reason I just could not remember. I read this book, thought about it, and then started praising myself whenever I remembered to take my badge. Within a day I remembered it every single time and now months later I’ve only forgotten it once since that day. Could give other answers but just wanted to say that this is now a big part of motivating myself (and others around me, like my spouse): praise for doing the right thing, ignoring the mistake. (Obviously there are some things you don’t want to ignore, but this is great for reducing your errors and such.)

    3. Hello! I really like this comment. Personally have never been diagnosed with anything adhd-adjacent, but I started getting into adhd-aimed resources because some stuff (shame spiral! Time=emotion!) is deeply familiar. Conversely, I have been working with autistic children and some of them use a token system for motivation. I liked this so much I now have my own treat-based system.

      Warning: this only works if you have a tiny bit of spare cash. I’m coming off some lean years, so buying clothing that’s not necessary for work/other treats registers in my brain as “bad spending” and I find it hard to justify. Enter the unf*ck your habitat/pomodorro method, where I pay myself a bit of money per 20 minutes of task. Yep, I pay myself to clean and deal with invoices. The token board is a corkboard that I put a pin in whenever I complete 20 min of exercise, cleaning, admin, writing or self-care. A pin is eqivalent to a small amount of money that I then spend guilt-free. Rewarding myself makes it feel like there are 2 separate entities – the worker and the rewarder. I got to do pretty lettering on the token board itself. I might add stickers next to make it fun.

      Does it work perfectly? Well if I forget to set a new reward, the motivation goes down. But overall, treat-based task economy is the way to go for me, because the rewards keep changing when I buy a thing and then I don’t get bored….

    4. Rewards can also be a good way of getting myself to, and through, something difficult. I decided a couple of years ago to treat myself to ice cream sundaes after going to political protests. I don’t always do that, especially since my favorite ice cream place moved to a location further from the T, but “this is worth doing, and after we stand around I will go to Tosci’s” works better than just “this is worth doing, but ugh, too much standing around waiting.”

      Decades ago, my dentist gave coupons for free ice cream to children and teenagers after appointments. It didn’t make me want to see the dentist, but I think it helped some. Both of these examples depend partly on geography–the dentist’s coupons were redeemable at the convenience store in the same building, so he could give them to 11-year-old me and I could get a Good Humor bar on my way home, without going out of my way. Adapt to your circumstances, which include not being 11 and being able to wander more widely.

    5. Repeated for truth:
      Retros are blameless. If I bounced off a process, or forgot to do it, or I did it and it didn’t help, it’s because the process isn’t working for me and my brain. It’s not because I’m stupid, careless, lazy, or any of the other shame-spirally thing ADHD folks internalize about not trying hard enough.

      I tell myself this same thing again and again, and I am starting to believe myself 😉

      Gathering and compiling self-information is _not_ a way to place blame, it’s a way to find out what works and what does not work, so that you can try something else.

      1. it’s sort of like a science experiment, the scientific method.

        No experiment is a failed experiment. It tells you what doesn’t work. Even if you measured the completely wrong thing–at least now you know, right?

        Life is one big science experiment. Even something we’d label a “failure” has something to tell you.

        I fixed my procrastination problem this way–I figured out that when I don’t do something, especially at work, it’s because I’m not certain what the right decision is. So I now go get the info and clarity to inform that decision, and them I’m good to go!

    6. “… send the same weight over an identical bridge and tell the bolts to “sheer less this time.”

      I somehow need a poster of this or something.

    7. I wish I could figure out how to bookmark this specific comment. Or burn it into my brain forever.

    8. This comment is completely awesome and I want to thank you for it. Clipping it to my Evernote with a quickness.

    9. Q11 here! There are so many amazing suggestions and I wish I’d been here days ago, I’m not sure who’s still commenting/reading. Your statement of why out-of-the-box habit-creation systems don’t work for you is exactly the trouble I have with them.

      I also LOVE this: “If I forgot, I’ll forget again. If the system didn’t work, the system needs to be updated or discarded, or the blockers preventing it from working need to be removed.” Seriously, this so much. I’ve been learning this slowly, even before I was diagnosed (which was recently). I think it’s one of the reasons bullet journaling has stuck for me–if it starts to get boring or routine I figure out a new daily or monthly spread, and suddenly it’s shiny again. I’m learning to game the system instead of trying to make my brain be different.

      I probably need to do some thinking about goals, not just for managing/mitigating my ADHD, but also just…life. It’s been a little while since I got out of my hamster wheel and looked around. Thank you!

      1. Hey spandrella! High-five Team ADHD. It can be really hard for us to treat ourselves gently and learn that it’s okay to adapt the world and our tools to us, instead of trying to adapt ourselves into some idealized version of what we “should” be able to do. And yeah, it’s one of those lessons I’ve had to learn over and over again–constantly reinforcing the sandbags that keep the zeitgeist’s damaging and incorrect impression of ADHD and people who have it from taking over.

        1. Just adding to the chorus of people grateful for your insightful comments. I left my wallet at home again this morning and now I’m hungry and low-key scrambling to figure out how to pay for lunch (because you can bet I wasn’t prepared enough to pack one), and I’m in therapy and I’ve started (very helpful!) medication and I’m still just sitting here at work thinking “you fucking idiot, no matter how hard you try you can’t even manage the basic human skill of feeding yourself.”

          And, uh, maybe the way I should be looking at it is that I remember my wallet and phone and necessities WAY more often than I used to, I’ll never be someone who doesn’t lose things, and holding myself against the standard of “person who never forgets anything or makes a minor mistake again” is perhaps a touch unrealistic?

  13. Is it time to go on some internet dates/meet some attractive new people/take this cute outfit and giant serving of unfulfilled desire out on the town to sing karaoke and kiss new acquaintances).
    Aw gawd this isn’t me but it might as well be. I’ve got a crush on a work colleague so would be terrible terrible idea to act on it. I’m trying to find people I could actually date but drawing all the blanks. All the far-away cool-people like me but none of the close-by cool-people do. (Why is this?!) There’s one gay night that suits me every few months where I live, it just happened and was amazing but no kissing or dates happened and it won’t happen again for ages. What can I do?!

    1. Is there OKCupid in your area? In my experience it’s got the most LGBT users, percentage-wise. More than Tinder for sure, at least around here.

      1. Tried ok Cupid, tinder, POF, HER and hinge. Nothing (at least no one local enough to actually consider meeting up with). I’m gonna deactivate them and have a rest, I got a strange message this morning and I’m just done trying at the mo. Thank you anyway!

        1. Solidarity and virtual beverages of your choice, Shiny Swampert! In my experience, the queer dating scene is super fraught and difficult to access to unless you are a cis dude who is into casual sex (insert rant about the difficulty of finding local queer ladies to befriend and maybe kiss here), so I hope your break proves restful and relaxing and that you find cool activities to do in the meantime.

          1. Thank you. I very much appreciate the solidarity, kindness and virtual cup of tea 🙂

        2. In my experience, the most important part of online dating is the taking breaks from it when it’s not working or you’re tired of getting weird messages or whatever. It “works” when you perceive it as helping, and if deactivating it is what helps right now, that’s it working. 🙂

  14. Hey fellow Bartleby.

    I *think* I’m a Rebel, but I’m not sure how much of that is a personality trait and how much is my jerkbrain interfering, because the “suggested” strategies sound like absolute garbage to me. E.g. “I’m going to lay around in bed all day, because Who I Am is a lazy good-for-nothing, and here are 20 years worth of examples to prove it.”

    It’s absolutely miserable. For the most part I manage to push through and get essential things done but they’re often half an hour to many hours later than I want them to be.

    1. Take the assessment. It’s free and online. You can find it at and there are a number of strategies for working with whatever your tendency is. I use the assessment in my work, and it actually works best when combined with a couple of other assessments to give you a better picture of the nature upon which your Tendency (which is mainly instilled by nurture from what I’ve observed) is working, in my experience. Enneagram is useful for a lot of people (free online at, and if you’ve taken MBTI (a properly administered and interpreted MBTI, not an online quiz), that can be helpful for some who don’t resonate with Enneagram.

      1. Hey, just to let you know, that’s – Gretchen with an e. gretchinrubin redirects to a phishing site.

    2. You know, the only thing I’ve found to help for that is to sit in my feelings and ask myself, “What do I WANT to do?” I can spend a lot of energy in my head trying to force myself to do what I think I should and it’s like trying to force a window: if you’re frustrated and having to use a ton of energy probably there’s something in the way. If I can notice myself doing that flailing emotionally, though, a little kindness and stepping back to think goes a long way in helping myself not be my own enemy.

      If what you really want to do is lay in bed, maybe that’s what you should be doing! But also, if you really feel what you’re feeling, sometimes you probably do want to go pay the bills so they’ll be done and stop hanging over you and you won’t have to wonder if your electricity will get turned off. You may not know how or you may be afraid of what they will say, but that’s a different problem from “ugh so lazy just need to yell at myself more”.

      I found it surprisingly hard the first times I tried to really ask myself “what do you want?” and get in touch with those feelings. But rewarding.

      1. I have taken to changing “should” to “want.”
        And instead of sayign, “I should work out,” I say, “I want to work out.”
        And then, when I get that instinctive recoil, I dig into it–what created that? And so I don’t want the work or the boredom, but then what DO I want? I want the ease of movement that comes with my body feeling more in tune with itself. And so i say that: “I want to move more freely; I’ll get that if I go work out.”

        Or even changing “should” to “could.”
        What could I do with my Saturday?

        1. I love this! It also helps you recognize ways you might meet the need (clear headedness from intuitive body movement) without as much of the thing that causes resistance (work, feeling obligated). In this example, I started hula hooping while watching TV. I got the boost from movement without having to push myself into a full workout.

    3. Ack! I know that head-demon. I solve it with mantras. I will literally lay in bed and repeat to myself “I am capable of getting up. I am worth food. I matter.” over and over until I convince myself to make myself breakfast.

      At night it’s “I am safe here. Everything will be ok.” until I stop panicking about what I might not have done today that will blow up in my face tomorrow.

      In any case, solidarity.

  15. LW9: Brooklyn 99 is great about this! It’s a cop comedy (with a reasonably diverse ensemble cast!) that involves a bunch of people who sincerely care about each other. The characters disagree constructively with each other (in work and personal and romantic situations) and apologize when they mess things up. There is the occasional storyline that falls flat in this regard, but generally my partner and I watch it together and go “isn’t it great how [character] and [character] make a supportive couple and don’t constantly just fight and have drama?”

    1. Oooooh, seconded for Brooklyn 99! It’s one of the few ‘adult’ things I love when kids watch, because it’s great to see the characters reason through their problems (often hilariously).

    2. B99 was my first thought too! I love all the characters’ relationships, and how supportive they are with each other. I love Holt trying to help Rosa be open about her emotions when she’s dating, even though they’re both uncomfortable with emotions. I love Jake and Charles’ friendship–it would be so easy to just make Charles a dweeby little tag-along that Jake takes advantage of, but no, Jake genuinely likes him and cares about him, and is just as supportive of him. (And as you say, when he’s not, he realizes that he was being a jerk and makes an effort to change and I love it.) I love Rosa and Amy and how they’re such drastically different people, but they prop each other up. I love Charles and Rosa–like, that conversation he has with her when he realizes his crush was making him be not a good friend, and he preferred being her friend than not–AND THEN FOLLOWED UP by not making her uncomfortable anymore (well, her specifically. he makes everyone uncomfortable sometimes) and just being a good friend. I love Terry with EVERYONE.

      And yes, the main couple. It’s so easy for a couple to be annoying and fighty after a get-together, especially if they’re an “opposites attract” type couple. But instead they stay just as loving and just as supportive and just as funny as they ever were, loving each others quirks and working through their differences with honest communication even when it’s hard for them, and ugh I love this show so much.

      Also, Doug Judy.

    3. B99 is largely great, but has some problems with fat-shaming and food stuff, so if that’s a trigger for you take care of yourself.

    4. I also LOVE B99, but must offer the heads-up that Jake is OBNOXIOUS in the first season. His character development is part of what’s great about the show, but boy howdy is he a dick early on. I have a friend who couldn’t make it through the whole first season because of him, and when my partner and I rewatch the show, I spend the first half of the first season cringing so, so hard.

      Also there are some weird, really mean jabs scattered through the series. Sometimes the show calls people out for them, but other times it doesn’t, and it always makes me twitch. Also there’s a handful of fat jokes.

    5. Additional CW for B99: there is some not-great equation of fatness and laziness/dumbness which they have complicated but not abandoned by 6 seasons in (Hitchcock and Scully) and also Charles is a capital-C creeper and Nice Guy for pretty much all of season 1, which they eventually acknowledge and redirect. He is improved, but much of the humor surrounding him still comes from inappropriate sexualizing and forced intimacy, except it’s now written as genuine This Man Has No Social Graces and not relentless sexual harassment directed at Rosa.

  16. I am pretty into iZombie, and the series finale is next week. While there is manufactured relationship drama in the first season (er, and an amnesia plot in season…3?) overall there are a lot of positive relationships where conflict stems from external stress, or different stances on serious moral dilemmas, but the three main couples always treat each other with respect and compassion, even when they end up on opposite sides.

    The initial premise is the protagonist, Liv Moore, is a medical examiner and a zombie. She becomes a detective when she discovers that eating the brains of murder victims gives her visions from their life– including, sometimes, who killed them. But, a side-effect is, she takes on aspects of the murder victim’s personality. It strikes a pretty good balance between drama and comedy– Rose McIver is a surprisingly good impressionist, and Liv has a lot of compassion for people. I think it’s one of the few shows I’ve watched recently where the protagonist isn’t an anti-hero or an unlikable-but-necessary person; Liv is a genuinely kind person who finds herself in a weird situation and wants to make the best of it. She wants to do right by people– initially the murder victims and her family, and later…more people.

    The show has since morphed into an ensemble drama-with-jokes as the zombie virus is increasingly poorly contained, but in addition to Liv and Major, the other two couple protagonists also have loving, interesting dynamics built on mutual respect, with most of the conflict coming from external pressure. There’s even a plot where (sorry, small spoiler) a character finds out he might be the father to his ex-girlfriend’s baby, and his current girlfriend reaches out to her to support her. They actually become friends.

    TW for gore and action-violence, and while it’s ostensibly PG-13, if you’re at all squeamish about gore, maybe have a friend watch the trailer first?

    1. I also love all ships in The Good Place. Eleanor and Chidi. Jason and Tahani. Eleanor and Tahani (maybe???) Jason and Janet.

      The whole show is about people learning to be better to each other, and part of that is trying to practice treating each other well in relationships. It’s by Mike Schur, writer of ‘Parks and Rec,’ and it’s a bit like, “what if we took the vibe of ‘Parks and Rec’ but the setting was an increasingly surreal, time-bending afterlife that served to explore ethics, and the plots deconstruct tropes about what makes people good or evil?”

      If you think that sounds too serious, look up “The Good Place Janet Cactus scene.” It’s technically from episode 5 of season 1, but I walked in when my friend was watching this episode, saw this scene out of context knowing none of the characters, and laughed so hard I had to sit down and catch my breath.

      1. It’s a good thing I misplaced my drink because now I’m remembering the cactus scene… Roflmao 😀

        Anyways… How about Steven Universe? */ Why don’t you talk to each other, just give it a chance… */

        1. Steven Universe is one of those shows that I wish I liked! I’m just not a big fan of animation in general, I think, although there are a few exceptions. Can’t exactly say I *dislike* Steven Universe, but after seven episodes it still didn’t grab me. But definitely a lot of my friends like it.

          I think one reason I wish I liked it is because so few of my fave shows have multiple LGBT characters. Books and webcomics? Yes. But tv? Not really.

          I love Orphan Black, and I love all the protagonists, but I wouldn’t recommend it on this thread because so many of the relationships involved abusive, or at the very least messed up / codependent dynamics. I actually had to pull back from the fandom space because of all the uncritical support for a frankly abusive ‘ship just because it was a canonical wlw relationship. And while, yes, that relationship changed for the better… I actually don’t like that representation either. Because abusive dynamics so rarely change for the better, and abusive people so rarely stop their abuse when they’re out of a stressful situation.

          And SU was around at the same time and seemed to be the complete opposite– great LGBT representation, great relationships. Plus, a pretty cool style! So I wish I could say I was into it, but it just never clicked with me.

          1. It took me 12 episodes to get into Steven Universe. Granted, they’re only 11.5 minutes long, but it was a very slow, yet ultimately excellent, ROI for me. Now I consider it one of the best shows I’ve ever watched.

          2. @Gecko – ah, I feel like 12 episodes is a lot to push through if you’re not feeling it. Tbh usually my max is three, and if nothing in episode 3 makes me want to watch episode 4 then I’m out. I know the episodes are short, but even so, seven ho-hum episodes in a row was too much for me.

            But, I respect that people I like enjoy the show! And, mm, maybe enjoying the show involves having a more patient personality, or more ready enjoyment of ambiance / vibe than I do. Which are both good things 😊

          3. I love Orphan Black too but had the same problem with the wlw relationship. I get that it’s representation, but it was still…bad.

            Q9: I second the recommendations for Santa Clarita Diet. I also have been watching Workin’ Moms on Netflix, which is a Canadian show about a group of women in a “new moms” group. It’s a sitcom, so there are some wacky misunderstandings/situations but the characters usually do a good job talking through things.

          4. First seven, I think. I was at a friend’s house, and after like 90 minutes of “okay, but it gets better!” I was like… I just watched a movie’s worth of cartoon shorts about characters I’m not into and you are…so probably this isn’t for me, let’s watch something we both like? Or stop watching TV and do something else?

            I suppose she might’ve showed me, like, her personal seven favorite episodes, but there wasn’t anything in any of them that struck me as not making sense, or that I missed something. It was more like… she connected to the characters and found the jokes funny, and I just wasn’t feeling it.

          5. Definitely makes sense. The early episodes are rough, to be honest. It feels MUCH more like a kids show than it does later on. I think I enjoy them now mostly because I can go back and see the context/character growth. The entire show is basically about Steven growing up, and there’s a real (rather slow, but organic-feeling) growth to his character as time goes on, and the show itself grows up with him. The show definitely starts hitting its stride more like halfway through Season 1 (which is a looooong season). I ended up putting together a ‘must watch’ episodes list for friends who felt like the early eps were kind of a slog, basically including only anything that was important for canon/context or was particularly good, to catch them up to the point where every episode becomes a ‘must watch’. (I’d be happy to share it with anyone who is interested.)

            That said – obviously not everything is for everyone! It’s okay for people to not enjoy things! 🙂

          6. Yeah that’s a good point – for anyone thinking about starting Steven Universe, you might want to skip the first dozen episodes and come back to them *after* you’re hooked on the show.

        2. Fair warning that Steven Universe features a lot of the characters being *very bad* at communication before they get good at it. Lot of delayed gratification if you’re looking for healthy relationship dynamics, but they always get there eventually.

        3. If the description magical kid with annoying voice doing random stuff doesn’t hook you. I suggest watching like three episodes for context than skipping to Monster Buddies. There are like one or two episodes before that which might be good in their own right but are easy to see as more of the same. Monster Buddies through Ocean Gem are all good episodes in my opinion. Then I personally suggest plowing forward for a while.
          The thing about the show is I almost feel like it wanted to be scorned and underestimated by adults at first and as a result many of the early episodes range from just bad to needing context of later episodes to be good. That or they were simply trying to hook people who are not us.

    2. I love love love iZombie, but a TW heads up, there’s at least one sex work-related episode where their treatment of the subject matter was a heavy handed parody that made it difficult to watch

  17. For LW10, re Moms And Tattoos: I have a mother who is otherwise deeply loving and liberal and very chill but is weirdly Weird about tattoos and facial/non-ear piercings, and I feel this question. When one of my longtime friends got an eyebrow and then nose piercing when we were in high school, she was very “but YOU don’t plan to scar your face like that, right?!” So when I started getting tattoos, I simply…did not tell her. I made sure my shoulders and ankles were covered when I visited her for YEARS, which wasn’t hard (note that if you plan on getting a wrist tattoo or something, this may be more difficult), and then a couple years ago at a family Thanksgiving that was at my sister’s house with her live-in long-term boyfriend, we were having a conversation in the kitchen comparing tattoos, and she walked in and was like, “Bess, you have tattoos?” This was the opening I was waiting for—I told her yes, and said, “Wait, I’ve had these for YEARS—” (I had) “did you not know?”

    Not the MOST honest thing since I’d purposefully concealed them from her over that time, but what it meant was that, since she had walked in on the conversation with a potential future son-in-law whom she liked who ALSO had tattoos (and more visible ones than mine), in HIS house, and the turkey and pies eventually needed tending, she wasn’t able to make a huge negative deal about it, and we all moved on. She now knows, and hasn’t mentioned them since.

    This obviously won’t work for everyone, but the “wait until it’s old news and reveal at a strategic time when she can’t make a big deal” worked BEAUTIFULLY for me, so I thought I’d throw that out there as an option for you. Best of luck!

    1. I did the same thing — I have a full backpiece, but it doesn’t show if I’m wearing short sleeves.

      Eventually, when my Dad was dealing with cancer (he knew about my tattoos and didn’t care, my mother is the Highly Difficult/narcissistic parent), we took a 3-generation family vacation that included a beach trip, I wore a swimsuit, my mother told me I looked like a “circus freak,” I shrugged it off and said that I’d had them for years and she’d never noticed, and while she still occasionally makes the odd comment, it’s pretty much a non-issue.

      My (adult) daughter now has a tattoo, and just plans on never being around her grandmother in shorts, because neither of us feel like dealing with her drama.

    2. Yup, add me to the “just don’t tell them ahead of time” advisory group. My first tattoo I got while living abroad and was easy to conceal when I got home. By the time they saw it, it had been there months and the reaction was much more minimal than it would have been had I called them beforehand. By telling them beforehand, you’re implicitly saying you’re expecting a reaction, and you’ll probably get one. Once it’s done, it’s done.

      1. Sometimes its easier on a parent not to know. When my daughter went for her first skydive, we didn’t know about it until she was safely back to earth. And we were actually grateful because I would have been terrified — instead, we didn’t have to go through any worrying or anxiety at all. She had a wonderful time, too.

  18. Steven Universe a cartoon show about a boy whose mother was the famous (or infamous) leader of a rebel group who were in a war a thousand years ago. The characters are imperfect, but the show covers a lot of great topics, from consent to mindfulness. Throughout the show, characters really try to improve their relationships with each other, in both romantic and platonic contexts. There’s also some pretty great boundary setting!

    And for bonus points, it’s got a lot of queer representation–more than you’d really expect for a kids show!

    1. Can I add body positivity to this? Because women on this show also come in MANY different shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful and lovely and wonderful.

  19. LW10- My mom has a big hate-on for tattoos and piercings other than a single lobe piercing. I have 2 tattoos and a non-standard ear piercing (a daith). I didn’t ever inform her of any of these. She has seen the ear piercing and one tattoo (the other is on my ribs and she’ll provably never have cause to see it). She just saw them in the normal course of events, and aside from a snide comment to my sister “is everyone getting tattoos these days?”, and telling me. It to get any more piercings because “jobs”, she has t said anything. I don’t know your mom, but with my mom, telling her ahead of time so she wouldn’t get mad when she saw them would be like giving her permission to be mad. Just act like it’s totally normal and not worth commenting on. They’ll usually get over it with one or two little digs, if anything.

    1. I have several tattoos, and each additional one causes my dad to roll his eyes and harrumph anew… the key difference here is that, over the years, I have stopped caring. I wish I knew how to help someone else get there (or help myself get there around other topics!!), but that has been the key for me. I get tattooed, he kind of judgmentally crumples his face, I reassure him that I will never make any tattoo decisions for HIS body, and we all move along.

      He doesn’t tend to opine on this topic, but on those topics we regularly find ourselves “discussing” again, I have go-to phrases like:

      – I don’t need you to enjoy this, I just need you be believe that I do.
      – I think we are going to have to disagree about this one.
      – I know you don’t want to DO this (teach middle school, be a foster parent, etc), but can you acknowledge that you see the value in it? (He is capable of genuinely doing this when reminded.)

  20. For Q11, Seconding Gretchen Rubin! She makes the four tendencies easy to understand and is non-judgemental about all of them. That was so freeing for me because I no longer felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough, I was just being lame, why didn’t I just buckle down and do it already, etc. She reiterates that it is almost impossible to change your style, it is much better to find strategies that work. I am an obliger, found two others on her app and now we keep each other accountable for writing and occasional projects. I love it and it works so well for me. She has many examples of different strategies that you can try to craft your own unique system.

    Remember that you are a work in progress. It is okay to try a strategy and give up if it isn’t working for you!

    1. Q11 here–thank you! I will def look into Gretchen Rubin more. I wonder if having an obliger buddy would be helpful. Being part of a “guild” didn’t motivate me when I was trying Habitica, but I also didn’t know anyone in the guild and didn’t talk to them, so it didn’t feel like I was letting anyone down if I didn’t do a habit.

  21. Q11: Depending on what you’re trying to track, incentive apps might be helpful. This past week I installed an app where I join group bets for completing a certain step count 6 days per week for 4 or 6 weeks. If you screw up avweek, you’re out of the bet. I’ve been raving to EVERYONE about this app all week because it’s actually making me walk! I’ll be damned if I lose money out of laziness! There are other apps that let you accrue points every time you Do The Thing, and after X many points, you can get a Starbucks gift card or something. At least for me, I find those things very motivating.

    I mentioned it before, but I’m experimenting lately with “carrots” instead of “sticks” for motivation. Finding ways to make new habits fun or feel good, instead of just shaming myself when I miss the mark. Like, “if I leave for work early enough, I can stop for coffee on the way.” That kind of thing – then you get the feel-goods of actually succeeding at it. Us ADHDers are sure good at criticizing ourselves – we’re less experienced at “if I Do The Thing I can have This Awesome Reward, and now I’m excited and more likely to Do The Thing, and now I feel great because I Did The Thing!”

  22. Oh my god, I’m such an Obliger. I find it helps to tell other people what I plan to do for myself – that way I feel accountable to someone else and not just to myself. And for really important/difficult things, sometimes I need to set up a system to check in with someone else regularly to keep me accountable, like I did in college:

    See, I was having serious trouble writing my senior thesis. Large projects tend to overwhelm me, and I end up avoiding working on them because I don’t feel like I can even face them enough to figure out where to start. I had weekly meetings with my thesis advisor, but it wasn’t enough to keep me on track – I would spend most of the week procrastinating, then the day before the meeting I’d feel so guilty and anxious over getting so little done that week that I could barely concentrate. And then I’d get more and more behind and everything would feel even more overwhelming.

    So I asked my mom if I could email her daily updates on my progress, and she agreed. And it worked out really well! Every day I would think, “Okay, I need to get at least a little bit done on my thesis so I have something to report to my mom.” And usually, once I got started, I could keep going and get more than a little bit done. But at the same time, these email reports didn’t make me too anxious to function, because I knew that she’s my mom and she loves me and if I really had a bad day and could barely get anything done, she would be understanding. It helped me feel accountable without feeling like too much pressure. I’m really grateful that she agreed to help me this way.

  23. LW9– I honestly don’t think this actually fits your prompt, but I still want to recommend it to Captain Awkward readers: the podcast 36 Questions. It focuses on a recently-estranged couple after the husband discovers the wife has been lying about her identity for their entire relationship. It starts out being, maybe, a little gimmicky, but it deepens into an extremely honest, realistic look at the central relationship and all of its flaws. The first time through it blew me away with how well it explored all the nuance of the situation and refused to go in for the easy, conventional narrative arc. I mean, I’m always a sucker for false identity stories so I may be biased, but it’s funny, has some killer musical numbers, and is only three hours long, great for car trips or maybe working around the house.

  24. Also, Q9: Oddly enough, I find Modern Family good for this kind of thing. Yeah, they’re silly and neurotuc, but the conflicts rarely get big or dramatic. Phil and Claire in particular are kinda couple!Goals considering they’ve been together for decades in the show. They disagree and bicker about things, but it’s rarely heated at all, and you can tell they’re super in love with each other.

    X-files, if you’re feeling a little more retro. OTOH, I’m not sure you could define Milder and Scully as “healthy” even if they’re not having big blowout fights all the time.

  25. Q9: Consider WWW Search . It’s available on Viki. There are three main characters. One learns how to reclaim her life from some fairly unpleasant relatives. Another main learns how to talk with friends and lovers, even when she’s nervous. She’s remade her life and dreams in the past too. The third learns to use her words and when and how to trust.

    Through all of this they run web portal companies, deal with politicians and criminals and odd HR policies.

    The attempt to create communities at work, and to transfer skill between personal and professional lives is another theme.

    Here’s the Wikipedia page

    Content notes: it’s a kdrama. It blends a few types of drama, but if they aren’t your thing, this won’t work for you. (Specifically, there’s a noona romance, office intrigue, office romance, chaebol arranged marriage, tons of product placement, political and industrial corruption).

    Content warnings:
    It’s very heteronormative.
    Some of the familial relationships are abusive. So are some of the work relationships. (The show knows they are abusive relationships.)
    There’s a lot of drinking.

    There’s some violence (taekwando and judo).

  26. Q9 I love British mysteries and dramas because they lean heavily toward interesting characters and great dialogue. I second Unforgiven I am also really loving 800 Words, set in New Zealand, standard big-city fish-out-of-water in small town full of quirky people story. Very heteronormative, one family with abusive dynamics, school bullying, etc but these are recognized as problematic and dealt with, along with healthier forms of conflict. An older one if you can find it is Pie in the Sky, which shows a great marriage between the pseudoretired detective turned restaurateur and his accountant wife.

    Q10 Why tell your mother? Is this even a need to know thing for her? I didn’t bother to tell my mom when I got my tattoo because she’d made her opinion about them clear years go. Why would I share my excitement and enthusiasm about something with someone who just won’t? I got plenty of other people in my life to share my tattoo with.

  27. Q9 – I love the Glamourist Histories Series of books by Mary Robinette Kowal. The setting is essentially Jane Austen with magic, but after the first book, there’s more of a healthy dose of adventure and intrigue than a traditional Regency courtship novel.

    The main couple get together in the first book, which is nice. But what I really love is seeing their relationship grow over the next four books. And the arguments that they have are not silly stuff that could have been solved by talking about it. Well there is some of that in book 2, when they’re newly married. But then they learn from it!! And they get better at communicating. And their conflicts feel so natural, and resolve so naturally to.

  28. First off, I cherish this blog, not only for the questions and their amazing answers but also for the comments and commenters, but on question one – I had zero privacy as a child so as an adult it is one of my most valued possessions. I would not have ranted and raved as the family member did, that was wrong, but I would have felt it as a betrayal. Writing about someone without considering their reaction strongly implies that your content creation matters more than their well-being (to me – I can admit the possibility that I am the only one who feels this way) and that is highly likely to colour any future relationship between them.
    If you write about me anonymously is the next step that you write about me in a way that is identifiable? (Is the thought that would go through my mind…)
    Even without being in an abusive situation, or without going through events that are best kept private for safety reasons, there are people (and family members) who would be horrified at the thought that others know things about them…without their consent. I am one of them.
    I understand that what a person writes about is up to them and I would defend that right as strongly as I would defend the right of a person to live without fear or abuse but in a just world it would be a two way street.

    1. I think what makes this so challenging is, if someone writes personal non-fiction (creatively), other people in their life are inevitably part of their stories. Nobody can write a story with only one character. And while an ethical writer won’t lie or defame anyone, they don’t really have an obligation to be flattering.

      CA has written about her brother, her parents, her grandparents, her exes, and other people in ways that were helpful to read about because CA told those stories honestly. If CA’s brother, mom, or exes got to read the blog posts beforehand, and CA felt the emotional pressure to censor her writing so as to not betray them in any way (by their definitions of betrayal), the resulting stories would be less true. In fact, this blog might not exist at all; at the very least it would be less personal and meaningful.

      I think it’s not so much that “content creation” is more important than others’ emotions. It’s that writing honestly is more important than writing in a way that ensured nobody’s feelings are hurt. Wellbeing is another consideration– if someone is hiding from an abuser and could come to harm, that’s a different level of severity than a bruised ego or a reputation tarnished due to accurate description of events.

      But I also think most ethical writers know that. Not wanting to run a draft by an aunt or an ex is worlds apart from trying to docx them, or even using their real name.

      1. For the most part I agree, everyone has the right to tell their own story, including the other people in it, but we often do not know when others are in abusive or painful situations and the possibility of something like that was not discussed (or was not even seemingly considered) in either the question or reply.
        No-one ever has to run a draft past anyone, but when you get a reaction such as the one LW did should we not at least consider that we made a mistake before dismissing their concerns?

        1. The writer apologized to their relative for upsetting them and then got repeatedly screamed at to the point they had to block the person’s number. Clearly they hit a sore spot in some way without meaning to, and if they’d known it would go like that they might have cut the mention of the person, but it crossed over into something disproportionate in the aftermath. I am not sure from what was submitted that the author even got an inkling of why the thing was so upsetting. Is it past trauma or the reveal that they are in the Witness Protection Program, or is it (more likely, given the refusal to let it go) about control?

          My family do not read the site. I do not run things I write about them by them first (or ever) and I most likely never will. If they read something they didn’t like (possible) we’d probably argue. I’d still do it. If they screamed at me to the point I had to block their number, I’d still do it. I’m not lying about them, naming them, sending harm their way, exposing their secrets, so, I’d still do it. In documentary we talk about informed consent and have subjects sign release forms, I’d be reluctant to make a doc a about someone without their participation, though people are allowed to make adversarial docs (crime, political). In journalism we talk to sources about our work and turn over source lists for fact checking, ethics prohibit journalists from reporting about family members. In other media – fiction, creative non-fiction – there’s more discretion. If I were going to tell someone else’s very personal story in a major publication, especially in a way that made them recognizable, I might run it by them, but I might not for a passing mention that doesn’t use their name. Does every letter writer to this site (for example) owe the other people in the question a heads up or permission? Hard no. It’s awkward to be written about, but, I’d still do it.

          If someone close to me had a direct request: “Please never write about me (again)(even nice things), it makes me very uncomfortable,” I’d know for sure that writing about them without permission would damage our relationship and think carefully about how to proceed in the future, maybe I don’t need to write about them. I once started making a documentary about someone – with permission- and abandoned it when they were uncomfortable with being on camera, because my relationship with them and their comfort was more important than any film. But that’s not what the questioner in this case experienced.

          1. This has been an absolutely fascinating discussion, thank-you CA.

            I relate to this question a little differently, as an onlooker to a very tense writing situation. My brother left a complex romantic relationship in which he was being violently abused and controlled (think: LW354) about eight years ago; subsequently, the other party also claimed that my brother was abusive. I trust my brother’s account reasonably well, because all the available evidence supports his version of events and directly contradicts the account of the ex-partner, as do other family members who lived with them at the time. He’s also tried to leave the other party entirely at peace after the break-up, while they have harassed and attempted to re-establish control over him ever since. There are various health conditions which affect the ability of all parties concerned to accurately remember or report past experiences.

            The mother of the ex-partner is a journalist and has been writing extensive personal material about the alleged abuse my brother committed for years now, including repeatedly laughing at his claims of being abused himself. I am quite sure the mother just believes her daughter and is attempting to support her and process their pain in their own way (what a natural human thing).

            They’ve been careful not to use a direct name or very identifying information (although there is some), but it’s been very hurtful and distressing to see things that are very personal and intimated covered, with things that are either from a single perspective or demonstrably false being described as fact. This is especially true as it’s very identifiable to all their mutual friends and there is a power dynamic where my brother’s side of things will never be covered and no reply or correction can be made.

            So, to the creator on this one: a line of neutral-seeming content does not merit screaming. I don’t really think almost any level of writing merits that. But I encourage all creators to really think about this question, because it is a lot thornier than it seems and can cause a lot of distress to have your own story distorted and retold by someone else because they have a prominent platform from which to speak.

            I’ve never felt able to really talk about this online before for fear of identification and hassle, so thanks for providing a space that feels safe 🙂

  29. LW9: Jane the Virgin is surprisingly good at showing healthy relationships. It’s a US telenovela, so the plots are hyperdramatic with lots of kidnappings and murder and love triangles and amnesia, but at its heart it’s about 3 generations of women loving and supporting each other and communicating really well about their feelings. There’s too much “this person is upset with me, so I’m going to shower them with grand gestures until they forgive me”, but nothing’s perfect

    LW12: Sofie Hagen’s book Happy Fat is really good and contains a big list of fat activists you can follow. She’s screamingly funny and takes no prisoners. There’s even a chapter on how to be a good friend to fat people that you can read to your long-suffering housemate over breakfast.

    1. +1 to Jane The Virgin forever! Watching Jane and Michael talk about money as they set up a household budget, or watching Rafael set boundaries with Jane after their break up, as they tried to co-parent literally changed my life. I really related to the reader’s question about needing models for healthy relationships, and that show did more for me than having a therapist even (don’t tell my really excellent therapist). True, there are some grand gestures and lots of wacky hijinks but I that’s part of the charm of the genre.

  30. LW9 I can highly recommend the web comic Check Please! The main character is a gay college student from Georgia at university in Massachusetts. He enjoys baking a LOT and is also on the university’s ice hockey team. There’s lots of queer and poc characters. You have to wait until year 3 till we get the “proper” relationship conflict but it is worth the wait! Best news is that it’s mostly online and the last bit has a monthly update schedule.

    CW for alcohol abuse, hazing, under age drinking, panic attacks, scene of drug abuse/addiction, and sexual content.

    1. Oh! Webcomics! Questionable Content (QC) is great. It’s set in barely fictionalized Northampton, Massachusetts and features humans and AIs in various types of relationships. Conflict happens and is addressed, characters grow and learn, and it’s funny as hell. Last year I went back to the beginning and read the whole thing and it was SO MUCH FUN.

    2. Another great webcomic is El Goonish Shive, which is an urban fantasy with all kinds of transformation and magic shenanigans. The characters are supposedly juniors in high school, but they’re more mature than like 50% of adults I know.

      If you are non-cis it may be a bit difficult to read at first, but it gets much, MUCH better as the characters and the author learn more about gender and that it’s okay to not totally conform. A recent plotline has a trans side character gain sex-swapping magic, and one of the main characters has to balance between not outing him, not outing the other magic-users in the cast, not breaking the Masquerade, and wanting but not being able to share her own story, despite being 110% sure that if she spilled all the secrets everything would be fine.

      Also, Word of God confirmed that the entire main cast is at least some degree of LGBT+.

      Also also, the art gets WAY better, stick with it.

  31. Q11: My executive function skills are really poor and I also suffer from an ingrained habit of dissociation on a daily basis. Being able to choose a habit system is not the problem, retaining enough awareness to implement it is. For me, I downloaded a free mindfulness bell app that I can tailor works. It’s a basic soft bell chime, that goes off randomly during my waking hours (it has a do not disturb and an off setting) and all I do when I hear it is pause and notice how/whether I am dissociated right now. I don’t even meditate when it goes off, I just check in with my level of awareness.

    I find that helps to bring out of the autopilot of my daily life; where I am functioning well enough to pass as ok but not enough to actually be in touch with what I want to do. It has also been useful to work with body positivity stuff, (am I thirsty? Hungry? Sleepy? Have I been drinking a lot of caffeine? Is this a meal time now?)

    Once I get used to tuning back in to my own self, I can stay there long enough to decide what I need to do in the next few hours.

    1. Q11 here–thanks for this suggestion. I can definitely see maybe doing something like this and taking the moment to see how hard I’m procrastinating and what I need to redirect back to, especially when I’m at work.

  32. Q9, a tv drama that came to mind was the BBCs ‘detectorists’ a show about two male metal detector hobbyists, both trying to find treasure whilst dealing with romantic, family and friendship relationships in the context of being a certain type of personality. It’s a gentle, funny, sweet comedy that models working through conflict vs avoiding it, and also getting to grips with ones own personal ambitions, ones history and sense of place. As an abuse survivor, sometimes I need a show that isn’t full of sad, chaotic scenes, this is it.

    1. I adore Detectorists it is so sweet but genuine, nothing over the top, and really funny. There’s also a lot of gorgeous countryside. It’s short but not a second is wasted, and somehow it still feels like it’s taking its time. A real treasure (sorry)

      1. Right? It felt like a really calm, enriching little comedy. And the countryside, aaah.

  33. Q10 – I’m in a similar position, getting my first tattoo in a few months and from a very anti-tattoo family. One piece of advice I’ve found helpful is to wait a month or two after the tattoo is fully healed before you show it to anyone you know will react negatively. It means that you get to savour all the excited happy feelings and self-esteem boost that come with a fresh tattoo, free from haters.

    Also, it gives your brain time to start seeing the tattoo as part of your body, rather than separate to it. Then when your mom trots out the inevitable criticism, it won’t be so raw. It will feel less like she’s criticising your recent choice to get a tattoo, and more like she’s criticising your arm/elbow/wherever, which will sound more silly than hurtful.

    With me, I find change difficult, and I know there will be days at the beginning when I’m unsure about my tattoo or I’m still adjusting to it. I know if I showed it to my mother, she would play right into that and make me feel like I’d make a giant mistake. So I’m choosing to not give her the opportunity to criticise until I’ve settled into the tattoo, and it’s settled into me.

  34. Q11, a lot of the habit forming apps etc do not help me. (Pokémon Go has gotten me to exercise, solely because it rewards me for mileage walked, but you can’t really use it for other habits.) I’ve had the best luck tying new habits onto habits I already have – for example if you have to take a pill or feed the cat in the morning and do remember to do that, you can make feeding the cat a cue for doing the dishes or taking out the trash or something. I’ve also found it easier to try to make one little change at a time than setting a bunch of goals, then getting frustrated at myself for my brain working how it does and not handling it well.

    I also keep a single big to-do list. Once I hit the end of a page on it, I have to get stuff done and start crossing things off. When it gets messy I move what’s left to a new page. Basic but all in one place.

    1. Echoing this. I got my first tattoo in October, and I did exactly that. I didn’t tell my parents until April. I am in my 30s.

      The first tattoo can be a really scary experience — you are making a permanent change to your body. For me, at least, there was a lot of cultural baggage and fear messed up in it, too. It was a really vulnerable time, and I am glad that I went through it. (Similar to coming out of the closet actually, for me, personally. It was true to me and amazing, but not necessarily easy.). It is ok to take that time to yourself to deal with those feelings. It is ok to not also have to deal with anyone else’s feelings about it at the same time.

      At this point, anyone expressing a negative opinion on my tattoo is like a negative opinion on my ankles, like, cool story, thank you for your feedback, next.

      1. Thank you for this comment! What you’re talking about sounds exactly like what I’ve realised I’m going to go through when I got mine done. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one. It’s good to know that in the end, you were glad you went through it.

  35. I use two strategies for habit tracking. Also, glad there are other Carolyn Hax readers here, she said, “Don’t allow anything to become a habit from which you emerge feeling worse.” So I track both habits I want to cultivate, and things that slip into habits if I’m not careful. How do I remember which is which? Well….

    Strategy one: Battery Pages in the BuJo

    I have what I call my “battery pages” in the bullet journal. Pages are labeled +/-, -/-, -/+, +/+. The first two are things that I try to AVOID making habits, because they make feel worse (i.e. activities or people or situations that drain me). For something I hate but know is good for me (I’m lookin’ at you, exercise!!), those are a minus-plus — I feel negative about exercising at first (don’t wanna!), but feel positive the rest of the day because I did it, and it gives me more energy and really helps my moods. Simply reminding myself that certain activities have known pay-offs is a motivator for me. For a few minutes of “don’t wannas” as I put on my sneakers and go, I get a whole day of feeling good. Just seeing that on the -/+ page helps me remember, “Oh yeah, I’ll have hours of feeling good about this for the rest of the day, if I do it.”

    Battery pages with extra voltage: For some things I even write down lists in the journal about why it is so awesome to keep up a particular habit (how does it affect me? what happens if I don’t do it? What will happen for future me if it is/isn’t a habit). I can turn to the page, and say, “Oh yeah, this is why it is worth it to ME (important, I have strong rebel tendencies, it had better be my idea…).”

    Strategy two: a reminder app (just an app for reminders, nothing else)

    I also use a reminder app on my phone for meds, because I really don’t want to take them and seem to forget, even though I know there will be consequences. However, I love to swipe the reminder when it pops up on the phone — but only when I’m done!! Took ’em – swipe – ha-ha — and the joy of the swipe has helped me there.

  36. To the LW of Q9: Lois McMaster Bujold’s _Komarr_ shows a strong female character (newly introduced for that book) emerging from an unhealthy relationship and figuring out what she CAN do right. _A Civil Campaign_ shows the same character’s tumultuous-ultimately-constructive interactions with a new partner who makes a problematic decision early on.

    1. I also loved the book immediately before Komarr, Memory. The book is about the MC making a terrible mistake, and the world not ending.

      1. Memory is one of the only two books that has ever made me cry. And I cried BUCKETS. I had just had a baby and was not coping well, and when the horrible thing happens I just could. not. handle it. The idea that things that were your whole life could just end, and not come back, upset me so much.

        That said, it was a good book. But you know, be aware. If you’re a Miles fan, it may be the hardest book of all to read.

      2. I loved _Memory_ as a Giant from Stephen R. Donaldson’s world would love a [traditional grief ceremony of that culture]. Excruciating but validating, especially when a relative had memory problems a few months after I read it.

      1. Also discussion of coercive mental health treatment, medically necessary for at least 1 character and…arguably less so…for another character.

        1. To clarify: the coercive treatment sightings occur in Shards of Honor and Barrayar.

          1. That reminds me, Brandon Sanderson’s characters can be quite sensible. I loved the way relationships developed in the Wax & Wayne books.

    2. Also, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, from the other end of the same series, is pretty awesome about relationships, too.

  37. Q9: When I was younger, the relationship between Zoe and Wash on Firefly was a revelation for me. So much media aimed at teenagers (and adults, if I’m honest) focuses on the beginning of the relationship, the will-they-won’t-they, drama and near-misses and whatnot. And after that it’s all boring domestic bliss where they settle down and the high drama subsides. But here’s a happily married couple who are still hot for each other, who are very different and sometimes that matters but mostly it doesn’t, and they still live lives of adventure and danger, and they fight sometimes but mostly they’re so committed and loyal, and there’s no cheating drama (except for one episode where they actively poke fun at it) and as characters they’re not even a little bit defined by their relationship. Yeah, that got to me. That changed how I write stories and characters myself. I think it kind of changed how I saw marriage and relationships. (We had the Firefly theme as our opening dance at our wedding, so there.)

    I’m also a huge dork for Elementary. The main relationship there is between Holmes (a mostly sober addict) and Watson (a sober companion) and how they make that work. It’s so refreshing to see a smart and competent and ornery man respect the hell out of the women in his life, or at the very least take them seriously. The show is as much about Watson as it is about Holmes. I’d argue she’s actually the main character. But I think all relationships in this show are modeled with a very lucid and aware mindset. Even the destructive relationships (Holmes and Moriarty is a biggie) are contextualized to not be about “fun” high drama (although there is that) but an interplay between deeply human psyches and their needs and fears. I think it’s a great show about how real people, people with damage and flaws and mental illness, conduct all sorts of relationships. And it’s a pretty decent crime procedural too if you’re into that sort of thing.

    1. Your first paragraph sounds a lot like why I love Madam Secretary (rec’d by others above!) and also the older shows Medium and White Collar. It’s kind of frustrated me that the only tv romances I truly enjoy, where the conflict is real and explored without every other episode being a clickbaity IS THIS THE END OF THE RELATIONSHIP??? plotline, are ones where the couple in question is already married when the show opens, because I’d love to see the transition from new-relationship awkwardness and willthey/won’tthey to actual solid reliable couple, but at least there’s something.

  38. >> Do I want to fuck this person or BE them” (i.e. Is there some aspect of my life where I need to be bold and seize the day and level up) and “Is it This Specific Person or is it a sign that my desire/sexuality/romantic side is awakening after a long hibernation and my crush is merely one avatar?

    Q8, I feel these answers in my bones. I have an inconvenient crush right now and OMG these answers are already helping me take it apart and turn it into something health and productive.

  39. “Do I want to fuck this person or BE them?”

    Caroline Knapp writes about this in her collection of essays, The Merry Recluse. How crushes can be simple sexual interest, but often are more a part of you that you’ve been neglecting or don’t know about trying to come to the surface.

    If the crush is on a friend like the LW’s, it may very well be that that friend (whom LW presumably likes and respects) is embodying traits or actions that the writer wants to incorporate into their own lives, and it’s coming out in her conscious life as crush feelings.

    1. This is so true and I wish I had appreciated it sooner. Most of my crushes have been on people who embodied traits that I wanted to embody myself. Not that wanting to be like someone and wanting to fuck them are mutually exclusive! One of the reasons I married my husband is that being around and with him made me more like the person I wanted to be.

  40. Q10: my grandma has always vehemently hated tattoos and I wasn’t sure what my mom would say when I got mine….so I didn’t tell her. I literally said nothing about choosing an artist, making my appointment, how the healing process was going…I kept my mouth shut. I *LOVE* my tattoo and it was so hard not to be excited about it with her, but I waited until we saw each other in person and there was no hiding it. This meant that I could enjoy the whole process without any posisble thoughtless comments raining on my parade. I think she was very surprised and kind of shocked when she saw it, but at that point it was too late for her to really do anything about it! Even if they say something rude after you get yours, you don’t have to entertain their judgment the whole time and invite them in to your process while you’re getting it.

  41. Q9 Leverage: found family robin hood competence porn.

    It’s about a group of thieves that try to make the world a better place. There is some boundary crossing to their marks, who tend to be bad people, but you can tell how much everyone cares about each other, and there are fantastic female characters, including the great relationship one of the main has with his ex-wife, and a implied throuple who all have their own great individual relationships with each other. There’s conflict, but its mostly resolved by people asking for what they want as best they can. There’s also growth from how these characters realize that some previous relationships weren’t great. It’s super wonderful and there are many many heists.

    1. MB, hi! I adore both you and Leverage (thanks for introducing me! LW9, really recommend it), and I just rewatched Season 4, but I’ve got to say… I really can’t see the throuple there. Eliot is literally dating someone new every second episode!

      1. They’re a trio, but not a throuple. Eliot’s an older brother to Parker and Hardison, not a romantic interest. And now I’m going to have to watch the DVDs again.

      2. Mileage may vary. I will say that if you’re actively TRYING to see it, watching The Rundown Job from that perspective may help, but the dynamic is great to watch whether you consider it to be a portrayal of a budding throuple OR of a couple and their friend where all three of them are vitally important to one another regardless of romantic interest or lack thereof.

  42. Q9: The series “Easy” on Netflix is, in my opinion solely about what you are asking. The series follows different story lines/characters and revisits some of them every couple of episodes. One is about a lesbian couple, for example, and how they negotiate and re-negotiate what is freeing and empowering to each of them depending on their values, backgrounds and personalities. Another of the story lines is about how a successful white man learns to listen to the women in his life. This one has the best example I have seen of how a normally self-centered person can make an honest effort to realize that the other people in his life experience the same events very differently. A lot of the time, even across the different stories, people are truly just trying their best, fucking things up, trying again, being imperfect at it. I really like the approach and it’s very refreshing and honest.

  43. Q9: I recommend “Medium” starring Patricia Arquette. She’s a medium – talks to dead people to help solve their murders and/or prevent crimes. Some of the shows are triggery – sex assault, suicide, etc. Maybe reading the show synopsis can help people skip shows that might cross the line in the trigger areas, however I LOVE the relationship between Allison and her husband Joe. They have fights – very realistic and it’s not always cleanly fixed at the end. They severely disagree on lots of things but when the chips are down, they are loyal to each other and fight for each other regardless of the fight they just had. They love their children beyond measure but there are rules and consequences when rules aren’t followed. It gets messy and they manage to work out a new normal.

    1. I loved Medium so much. In turn, Madam Secretary (which others have extolled the awesomeness of above!) is the first show since then to offer a dynamic that reminds me so much of Allison and Joe, so you might want to check it out if you haven’t.

  44. Q9: “Catastrophe,” a British series about a couple who meet during a fling, she becomes pregnant, and they decide to marry. They face a lot of life stresses during the series, and they fight a lot, and the show doesn’t hesitate to show them sometimes as unsympathetic. But they seem like real people and even when they fight, there’s an undercurrent of mutual support, friendship, and attraction. It’s a great portrait of a marriage.

    I also really love the relationship of David and Patrick on the Canadian sitcom “Schitt’s Creek,” which follows a filthy-rich family who lose all their money to an embezzler and have to move into a crappy motel in a tiny town. David and Patrick are very different, but they truly understand each other, and their relationship isn’t based on the cutesy bickering we sometimes see when faced with an “odd couple” pairing. And when they do disagree, their true friendship, their mutual respect, and their strong attraction (seriously, it’s very PG-rated but still one of the sexiest relationships I’ve ever seen on TV thanks to the great writing and the wonderful acting and, quite frankly, the fact that both actors are very easy on the eyes!) carry them through. “Schitt’s Creek” in general is actually a great show for seeing how strong couples and strong families weather conflict. Even though it’s a comedy, it’s unexpectedly wise and touching.

    1. Schitt’s Creek is SO GOOD; at it’s core it’s about a family learning to love each other and also themselves – the first half dozen episodes really rely on sitcom tropes, and took me a little while to get through, but once it hits it’s stride – especially going through the end of season three into season four – it’s fantastic. It’s like the sitcom equivalent of wrapping yourself up in a warm blanket. Highly reccomend. The relationship between Johnny and Moira is also fantastic! They love each other dearly and it’s evident in all their interactions, even the ones with conflict. (And because it’s a soft sweet sitcom, the conflict is always very low key.) Also, David and Patrick are my absolute favorites and probably my favorite TV couple.

  45. yeah – I (she/her) just had a 2 month fling with a long time friend (he/him) that I had a big crush on for years. He doesn’t live nearby, so we would only see each other every now and then at mutual group activities.

    Well, turns out being friends with someone and entering the sexual realm are two way different worlds. It wasn’t long before he soon started doing subtle little put downs, ordering me around a couple of times, etc. Turns out he’s a big time verbal abuser! I thought I was going crazy, because he’s known as a “super nice guy, that’s always available to help anyone!” There was some physical stuff that crossed the line, too.

    He wanted to rush into a forever lifetime relationship right away, having me move in with him. It took me weeks to figure it out, but I let him know the romance is OVER. He came to my town a couple of times to try and ‘work on it’, but I stood my ground. Thank god he lives hundreds of miles away.

    The upside is that I’m reading a fantastic book on Verbal Abuse and it’s opening my eyes and ringing bells all over. I grew up with an abusive father, so I’m recognizing these behaviors and it’s such a relief!

    1. I found “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evans very helpful.

      In this book she talks about the different types of verbal abuse (boundary violation) and gives tips on how to respond to them.

  46. Q9: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ is a wonderful show about kind of awful people learning to care about each other and have healthy(er) relationships. It’s a pretty wholesome comedy – the only content warning I can think of is that Moira, the matriarch, has some personality disordered-tendancies, which might be triggering if you have a close family member with a personality disorder.

    Also, courtesy of Harris O’Malley’s ‘It’s Dangerous to Go Alone’ (which is a great book on how to have a healthy relationship – totally reccomend!), Gomez and Morticia Addams as portrayed by Raul Julia and Angelica Huston from the ‘Addams Family’ movies. They were made in the ’90’s, so I’m positive that there’s a fair amount of material that is problematic and has not aged well, but if you want to watch a married couple who respect and adore each other, they’re #couplegoals.

    1. I rewatch The Addams Family and Addams Family Values a lot (they’re my most-beloved movies) and I find they’ve actually held up pretty well! As a fair warning, Addams Family Values does have a Pilgrims-and-Natives play at a camp, with some fairly stereotyped acting by the kids dressed as Natives, but it also acknowledges explicitly the violence done by white settlers and takes vengeance for it (via Wednesday). It doesn’t have a ton of nuance and it’s not entirely politically correct, but the message is very, very clear: white people murdered native people and deserve punishment. Our sympathies, and those of the Addams Family, are with the marginalized! There are lots of wonderful relationships, including between (mild spoiler) Margaret Alford and Cousin Itt; she explicitly escapes an unhappy marriage after being treated as beautiful and wonderful by one of the Addams. By the time we get to the second movie, she’s clearly much, much happier and embraced as an Addams (without being asked to change who she is).

      In the main characters, Gomez and Morticia are my model for a loving committed relationship!

      1. Yes!!! Gomez & Morticia are so ckearly in live and have so much joy in the other! Hearts!!!

  47. Possible suggestion for Q11 here! I, too, have tried Habitica and loved it, but stopped because there was a point where I was tracking too darned much.

    I might suggest looking into Streaks? You can find it by going to Streakapp dot com, as well as a vid re: using it. It’s simple, lets you say how many times per day/every other day/week/ (etc…) you want to do said action, will let you set alarms to remind you if they aren’t completed, and will even ask you if you want to do something more/less often (like, step counting and such). I use it for a reminder to check my blood sugar, blood pressure, take my meds, feed the cats… You get the idea.

    And, it somehow manages to be the reminder app I’m still using because it’s pretty low maintenance and yet just enough of a poke to actually Get The Things Done. Streaks is a reminder app that I’d recommend to anyone looking, but with a tendency to shame-spiral if you skip out on Habitica! 😉

    1. Thank you! I have been using an app called Ike for the last couple days that is basically a to do app that sends reminders, but I like the sound of this too. I’ll check it out.

  48. “I personally have better luck and find better resources when I look for resources tagged fat acceptance than I do when I look for body positivity, first because I am FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT”

    Yes – if your body image issue was with something else *instead* of weight and/or shape (for one example of many, see ) then “fat acceptance” would have been a less useful search term than “body positivity.”

    What if the questioner’s body image issue is something else instead of weight and/or shape?

    [my apologies if this is a duplicate – I don’t know if it got through before]

    1. To be honest, I don’t read a wide variety of body image resources. Fat acceptance is an urgent, life and death question for me and also the lens/trail of breadcrumbs that led me to greater self-acceptance. It’s not that other things aren’t important, but I don’t have the capacity (or the same urgency) to be an expert on all of it, so I shared what I know (vs. answering it as a *research* question where my guess/Google results are going to be as good as anyone’s).

      Thanks for sharing the link, hopefully people will share more, if the questioner needs something specific they can clarify in the comments (and people with expertise can recommend things specific to that need) and the forums at are there for ongoing discussions.

    2. Mina, I don’t know what body image issue you have in mind, but here is one of mine. As a motor-neurodiverse person I have found Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga and the poems of Vassar Miller (who had CP and evolved from keeping it out of her author bio to fully avowing it) mirroring, validating, and nourishing. Kim Stanley Robinson’s _The Blind Geometer_ as well (the main character is very mobile but avers that he has to be *bold* to navigate the world daily and hourly…this refrain has a background of the imagined sound of a Washington DC intersection from a pedestrian’s auditory point who couldn’t see it.) My hubby read me that passage when I’d utterly failed at walking outdoors after freezing rain and was ready to spit nails. Both the passage itself and the act of applying it to a proprioceptive funk were world-changing for me.

    3. “What if the questioner’s body image issue is something else instead of weight and/or shape?”

      Thanks for bringing this up! It can be difficult to find good resources for some body image stuff and things like scars and skin conditions. I’ve had luck googling the stuff and thing I have feelings about + the word “positivity” or “acceptance”, e.g. “skin acceptance”. Specifically for scars, the “Behind the Scars” photo series by Sophie Mayanne is awesome (though potentially triggering b/c scars come with sometimes hard stories & recently banned from facebook b/c the series captures diverse & occasionally partially nude bodies).

  49. Two TV shows I like for their portrayals of long-term relationships, though they’re certainly not perfect:

    1. I appreciate how in later seasons of The Office, they show Jim and Pam navigating some very realistic relationship conflicts, and in particular I appreciate how they have to reckon with how some of the things that made their initial love story romantic and dramatic have left lingering issues in their partnership (Jim resenting Pam for almost marrying Roy, Jim making Big Romantic Gestures that leave Pam out of major life decisions).

    2. Oddly, the OC. Sandy and Kirsten certainly have their share of over-the-top drama and poor communication to feed into that drama, they do have a steadfast commitment to each other that lasts the entire show, and I appreciate that they’re very different people who change and deepen their understanding of the world as a result of their marriage to each other.

  50. The description of different motivational types had just given me a framework to understand what is happening when I’m happily working on something, my partner comes downstairs and starts drinking coffee while reading the news on his computer, and all of my motivation vanishes and turns into anger that he’s not doing the thing with me.

    The obvious piece is anger at seeing a gendered distribution of labor, but I’ve just realised even more than that it’s that I’m getting myself to do things by telling myself they are required according to some (secretly arbitrary) decision I’ve made, then I get mad at him for not following the rules. I’ve decided this set of things “needs” to get done and that I “have to” get it done before having any fun and he comes waltzing in and skips straight to the fun!?!? The *nerve*. It undermines what I had subconsciously set up as the “rules” and when those fall apart I don’t have a good reason for why I’m doing the thing anymore.

    1. Oh, it’s really interesting, because I’m basically on the other side of the dynamic. I live with someone who has health problems and should probably rest a bit more, but will get up and say, “I have to vacuum this morning.” It always irks me because she really, really doesn’t need to. But it’s helpful to see why someone uses the “this *has* to be done right now” framing in a positive way. It drives me bonkers, so this will help me empathize.

      1. Yeah, what it really means ideally is “I would like these tasks to get done, and I have the time to tackle it right now, so I’m going to prioritize it.” Or that I know if I let myself get started on something fun first I won’t get back to the stuff that would be satisfying to have done at the end of the day.

  51. For Q-11

    I’ve also gone through a lot of the trendy systems to keep myself “on track” and none of them have really stuck. I have found that setting up a sparkly new system is an excellent procrastination technique and a way to feel like I got a lot done without actually having accomplished any of the tasks on my list. I found myself getting annoyed that the fun new apps don’t work for me. I really wanted to be that kind of person for some reason.

    Reward systems never work for me. If I tell myself I’ll get a cookie for completing the task, my brain will immediately focus on the fact that a cookie exists and I could have it right now and there’s nothing stopping me from having a cookie except myself. Introducing a cookie is introducing a distraction, not giving me a goal.

    What works for me is an old fashioned to-do list and a google calendar. I will often work backwards from a deadline, giving myself a rough sketch of what needs to get done every day in order to meet the deadline. I really need to be able to sit quietly and plan ahead or else I’ll forget about the things I need to do and just jump from one rando task to another. I find that once I leave the house and get to my studio, my brain will notice a thousand things i could/should do in my studio BUT the trick I’ve found is that I cannot allow myself to amend today’s to do list once I leave the house. I need to trust Morning Me who had a plan, and just put in my earbuds and execute the tasks on the plan.

    I think what I’m actually doing is hijacking my Early Morning Brain, which is usually more calm and clear and can be pointed at a task to focus on (making a to-do list that will get me to where I want to go) so that I have something to re-direct my Rest Of The Day Brain towards. Rest Of The Day Brain is easily distracted, and when I get pulled off a task to help a customer or something, it will often not just go back to the original task. It’s like ROTD Brain will randomly cast around trying to remember what it’s supposed to do. With my to do list, the only thing I have to remember for the whole day is to look at the to-do list. It’s weird how sometimes even remembering to do that is hard, but I’ll usually eventually remember to look and will get back on track.

    I guess the sucky thing is that there is no substitute for trial and error. You’ll find what works for you, but you’ll have to try out a bunch of stuff that doesn’t work first. If you have a lot of similarities to me (Good Early Morning Concentration, a workflow that can be easily broken into tasks but needs to be executed in order, and the ability to do the tasks on a list if you can only remember to make and look at the list) then you might find this helpful. If your life or brain is different, which is likely since we’re all different, you might not find much help here.

    But I hope you find comfort? In the idea that you’re not broken if a task tracker or system doesn’t work for you. That task tracker was built for a certain type of person with a certain type of life and brain. I’m sure it works for some people. But it wasn’t built for me and doesn’t work for me.

    Best of luck finding what works for you!

    1. THANK YOU. I am so glad I’m not the only person who reacts to reward systems that way!! I like dividing parts of the day brain into different entities – I might try that.

    2. “my brain will immediately focus on the fact that a cookie exists and I could have it right now”

      Huh. Now that I think about it, my treats all seem to involve leaving the house. If I go to the gym I can stop at the liquor store, if I buy groceries I can get chocolate…

  52. Q9: one of my favorite examples of a solid LTR is “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. They have a relationship out of sequence and still manage to make things work. It’s an all time favorite of mine.

    1. I have to disagree. I found Time Traveler’s Wife to be soooo creepy. The husband “has seen the future,” so the wife doesn’t get to make any choices of her own.

      Telling a little girl that you know she’ll be your wife because you’ve “seen the future”? Manipulative and creepy.
      Beating up another guy she tries to date? Beyond abusive and horrible (she’s not his property).
      Saying to your wife “Nope, we won’t buy this house because I’ve seen the future and this isn’t where we live” have I said manipulative and creepy?
      Later saying to your wife, “We can’t entertain any of the baby names you like because, again, I’ve seen the future and know what we name our baby” yep, you’ve got it: manipulative and creepy.

      I only ready it once, for a book club right after it came out, but it’s really stuck with me for all the wrong reasons.

  53. I enjoyed the relationships in the TV show “Chuck” a lot, primarily because although they kept the “will they, won’t they” element going on a bit too long with the main characters, once they got together the show explored a lot of interesting territory – different communication styles, moving in together, long-distance relationships, commitment issues, etc. that usually get ignored. And the friendships are really beautifully done. It’s also a delightful spoof of spy shows/movies.

    1. Agreed, this is a good one and Captain Awesome/Chuck’s sister have a good relationship too.

  54. Q11: I 2nd and 3rd David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I fall of the wagon with that but the process makes it somewhat easier to got back on. Also I have an accountability friend I talk to for 15 min Mon-Fri. we each pick one important thing to to done that day and the next day we check back in. We pick just one thing to check on so it doesn’t get overwhelming but it helps a lot!

  55. Q11: I 2nd and 3rd David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I fall of the wagon with that but the process makes it somewhat easier to got back on. Also I have an accountability friend I talk to for 15 min Mon-Fri. we each pick one important thing to to done that day and the next day we check back in. We pick just one thing to check on so it doesn’t get overwhelming but it helps a lot!

  56. Q9: Don’t laugh, but… The Waltons. It’s on Amazon Prime, and my household has been watching through all the seasons. (Just avoid season 9, when it turns into a pure soap opera). They actually model sharing of motives/reasons/explanations in all of their arguments, at least by the end of the episode! Some are of the bad argument followed by reflection and then explaining type, but eventually everyone has talked it out.

  57. LW9: If you have Netflix, check out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries! It’s a detective drama set in 1920s Australia. It’s a fun, lighthearted show (especially for something with ‘murder’ in the title!), and also happens to feature a lot of examples of people figuring out how to navigate interpersonal problems. For example, the protagonist, Phryne Fisher the private detective, and the local police detective Jack Robinson don’t always see eye to eye on how to investigate cases, especially at first, but they figure themselves out and develop a very positive relationship over the course of the series. Two other characters navigate religious disagreements while dating (protestant vs catholic–which to them is clearly a big deal, but they figure it out together!).

    1. Came to recommend this! While the murder-of-the-week characters don’t handle relationships so well (hence the murder), the regular cast has many different disagreements about how to solve a problem or get over a disagreement.

      Most episodes are plain murder, but some episodes feature drugs, human trafficking, serial killers, an abusive relationship, unkindness to children, war, coerced sex/sexual assault, weird/gross murder, or spiders (no on-screen rape, torture, or gore, just mentioned). I’m quite sensitive and these are just within my tolerance because the overall tone is very light, bad guys get what they deserve and everyone ends up all right in the end, but you may want to skip some episodes some times.

      I would also recommend the Expanse book series/TV show (on Amazon Prime now). It features a diverse cast of characters from the competing human civilizations of Earth, Mars, and the asteroid belt who encounter strange alien life(?). Two protagonists have a healthy relationship where they negotiate with keeping secrets about each others’ past, loyalty to a cause vs. each other, being cool with their other friends, navigating a work relationship on top of a romantic one. Other characters have blended families, same-sex or polyamorous relationships, no relationships but very close friendships, crushes/unrequited relationships. One thing I love about the series is how characters have such different personalities and deal with conflict and interpersonal turmoil and stress in different ways.

      As for content warnings, there is violence including occasional weird violence (TV and book) but I can’t recall any “on-screen” torture or on/off-screen rape. Unscientific experiments throughout season/book 1 and 3. There is some child abuse especially in season/book 3 and book 5 (5 includes mentions/reference of child sexual abuse). Description of a past toxic relationship/depression in book 5. Frequent catastrophes and war throughout, and characters are under a lot of stress. But the overall tone is exciting and I would say hopeful, and many of the characters are inspiringly strong.

  58. Q7: Your family member isn’t identifiable in what you wrote. You wrote a thing that is true, to the best of your knowledge. You did not write it with the intent of it being embarrassing or shaming, or with the knowledge that they would feel that way if they saw it. You did not write anything that was shared with you in confidence.

    I don’t think you did anything wrong here. I think you happened to stumble on something that was a sore spot for this person, which you couldn’t reasonably have anticipated or avoided. That happens sometimes to all of us (even non-writers; this stuff comes up all the time in just day-to-day casual communication). You handled it fine; you apologized and explained, and when that didn’t calm things down, you disengaged. I don’t think you can prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future, either. I mean, you do now know that this particular person prefers not to be written about even in the vaguest possible way, and you can choose to respect that if you want to minimize conflict with her…but odds are you’ll eventually stumble across someone’s unexpected sore spot again in the future, whether in your writing or just in your daily life. Don’t be too hard on yourself over it; if you’re doing your best to be kind and considerate, people eventually forgive the rest.

    1. I love Miles interacting with Nikki. Especially the scene where he digs Nikki out of the bathroom. And the discussions with Ekaterin around that. All the hearts….

  59. For Q9 I’d say Jake and Amy on Brooklyn Nine Nine. Just a lovely, funny, sweet and respectful relationship. They clearly adore each other and communicate with other but when they get into it, they give as good as they get but never cross the line to meaness.

  60. A side thought on Q7: if you’re writing/presenting stuff about your family, think about their reactions before inviting them to your stand-up comedy night, or handing them the story, or sending a link to the song. This isn’t what the OP did–she had something in a major publication with her name on it and other people noticed–but it’s just connected enough that this feels relevant:

    A cousin of mine does stand-up, and when I was still living in New York she invited me to see her performance at a small club on a weeknight. Sure, why not, maybe it’ll help her to have more people in the audience.

    It turned out that “why not” was that a bunch of her act was about our family, very explicitly so–she named people and relationships. It wasn’t horribly squirmy stuff, but since I’d known these people all my life, I was parsing it as “cousin is talking about our relatives” rather than “people do funny things” or “someone finding the humor in something about her family.”

    My cousin wasn’t doing anything wrong by talking about our family that way: she didn’t say anything horrible or obviously untrue. But I was really the wrong audience for that show, and I don’t think she should have invited me without some sort of content note about her act. It’s a little harder to remember that someone isn’t joking AT you when they’ve invited you personally to see something you probably wouldn’t have found without the invitation.

  61. It doesn’t look like anyone’s mentioned Rose Lerner (romance novels about an Edwardian town), but she writes what I would describe as “gently trauma-informed romance” where the hero and heroine (so far all straight people) genuinely try to understand each other and end conflicts in a better place than they started.

    Her books are sexually explicit (and usually in ways that aren’t to my taste, so there’s lots of page-flipping for me). Listen to the Moon does have a long and very gently-handled subplot about sexual abuse of a minor and trauma recovery, and emotionally abusive parents crop up throughout the series. (If a romance whose plot point is “I was persistently invalidated as a child so it’s hard to know what I want in a relationship, but my partner and I are determined to navigate this with frankness and courage” sounds good: Rose Lerner)

    1. Rose Lerner’s stuff is quite good. Along the same lines (period England romance), I’ve enjoyed Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series, which has some great interpersonal communication and friendship along with the romance. There are definitely some breakdowns in communication at times, but the resolution thereof is really nice. Also mostly cis-het, but there’s a couple of queer women as side characters.

      1. Yes yes yes! I was scrolling through, looking and waiting for the romance! LW9, romance novels are all about relationships, and some of the best modern ones show these relationships growing through emotional conflict, often times with one or both of the characters (99% are monogamous) dealing with their own problems as well as coming into relationship with the other person. I got started on romances with Courtney Milan, as H says above, and she’s still one of my favorites. If you like the historical side, I’d also recommend Tessa Dare, my favorite romance author, and Alyssa Cole’s historicals — Black spies during the Civil War! Alyssa Cole is my favorite author for contemporary romances as well. Sometimes there will be issues of past trauma, so check out a synopsis before reading. I *highly* recommend diving into the world at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (.com) to read reviews that include content warnings.

        If you’re like Purps and not interested in the sexually explicit stuff, there’s romance out there for you too. Sometimes called Sweet Romance or Light Romance, it’ll have all the relationship building stuff without the physical stuff.

        If you’re ever in Los Angeles, stop by The Ripped Bodice, a delightful romance-only bookstore run by the most amazing sisters and their staff. They have every kind of book with a ridiculous amount of knowledge. It’s a treasure.

  62. As for the habit trackers, I miss Mindbloom so much! That was one that worked for me. Not to be better about tasks per se, but very much at labelling them as positive: if I did something, whee, bonus! Rain and sun, because I did something. But if I did not something, I crossed of ‘resting’ or ‘taking care of myself’ or ‘correctly identifying resistance’ or ‘noting brain chaos’ or whatever, and still bonus! Which helped so much with the stress around doing tasks. (Also, it was just visually nice. I enjoy visually nice. Throw all the slick design tricks my way!)

  63. Q11: I have ADD and depression, and I have never learned to use lists, schedules or habit-building apps on regular bases. What has been helping me lately is deconstructing the whole idea of to-do lists, habit trackers, etc. I do need stuff like this, but actually very rarely and for a few specific things. I get best benefits from habitica by using it for the few of the busiest weeks of my year, or when I feel like my life is spiralling into chaos, and then I can forget about it when my life is more or less back on track or the Huge Deadline has been passed. I only need a to-do list when I have a lot to do and very little time (like before going traveling or for preparing for the first day at a new job), but actually most days of the year I don’t need one, and I don’t get any sense of accomplishment from making one and crossing things out, like some other people do. For most part, I want to be the kind of organized person who uses these apps and journals and lists and enjoys it, but I’m actually not, and trying to be that person is just stressful and eventually always disappointing.

    Instead, I try to focus on building habits I actually definitely need, like keeping my phone charged, using calendar for at least the most important things (using calendar is super hard for me, always has been), checking my email, taking my meds and doing laundry and going grocery shopping regularly. Sometimes I use habitica/other tool for like a month to get this habit started, but sometimes I just do it by trying again and again in different ways. I try to remember that it takes at least half a year to form a habit that really lasts, and I try to be gentle with myself. I try to observe myself: what I do every day, at what time, what causes problems and why. Then I try to fix small things, one at the time, to make the structure of my life more resilient to things that can happen in life, like suddenly being super busy, being depressed for a month, being sick, being broke or having a life crisis. I actually need resilience more than I need lists and schedules, I need space to fail and break down without messing up my whole life more than I need a system to stop me from failing and breaking down (cause there isn’t one, at least not for me).

    My failure previously has been this idea that with a shiny new app or tracking system or journal I can get *everything* in order and learn *all* the good habits, like everyone else, when in fact I don’t need have everything in order and I don’t need to have super good habits, I only need good enough habits that work for me.

    Also, learning to use my memory and creativity and reasoning to do the things other people use lists for, like grocery shopping, remembering when I did something the last time, even remembering appointments if they are in a few days, etc, is not all bad. Sometimes I fail, of course, and sometimes there is simply too much stuff to remember or things are too important to be left only for memory (and then I use calendar, with alarms), but I would say that my success rate is still better than when I try to use almost any kind of list or journal or scheduling app. Of course this kind of lifestyle comes with limitations of what I can do for a job and how much things I get done in a week and it does come with a need for me to check things often. I might texts my friends that “Did we plan to meet this week? I think we talked about Saturday”, or check dates from emails and texts when I remember that there is a thing I’m doing but I’m not sure when exactly it is, and generally I want to make plans by text messages or chat, so that I only need to remember what I’m doing on some specific day, but I can check the exact time and place from chat backlog. I need to keep my schedule quite open for this to work, obviously, but for me it’s a small price to pay for being able to remember the plans I have and to follow through with them. Also having a regular schedule helps: job that starts and ends always at the same time, hobby at the same day of the week. Often there is also an invisible schedule with friends: there are some time slots that usually seem to work for both of you, so it’s easy to remember what you have planned, cause it fits the patterns of your lifes, or easy to remember it as an exception, that you always meet on weekends but this week you meet on Monday cause both of you have a day off.

    Anyway, I suggest thinking really hard what you actually, really, need the lists and habit tracers and schedules for, and can you achieve the same thing without them. If not, then trying to use the app or journal only for the thing you most need it for and forgetting about having it as a tool to change your whole life for the better. Remember that using app or journal is also a habit, and it takes like a half a year to learn to do it regularly, maybe even more.

    You can do great things and achieve life goals and live according to your values without being super organized and there are many ways of being organized enough, or organized only in things that are most important. My way is to build my life around the fact that I need to remember most of my plans and appointments even if I don’t write them down anywhere, I need a regular and easy-to-remember schedule for my everyday things and I need to have a lot of time slots where I have scheduled nothing. It’s usually not “free” time, it’s time to do chores or time to draw and write, the two things that are really important for me but that I never get done if they are on some to-do list, and often time for last-minute change of plans. I also need to learn other skills, like getting myself out of hyperfocus (hard, but not impossible), doing things immediately when they come to mind (very hard, but not as hard for me as having a to-do list and achieves pretty much the same goal), and slowly, slowly learning to clean and organize my stuff better, etc. But mostly it comes down to how my life, habits and schedule accomodates the way my brain works, and not how I can change my brain to fit a lifestyle that I’d like to have, but can only achieve for a few weeks before breaking down from stress.

    1. Thank you! We definitely have different brains–if I don’t write down my tasks and things somewhere, they rattle around in my head and distract me from whatever else I’m trying to do. I get so anxious that I’m going to forget them. Even if I write something on a scrap of paper that I don’t look at again, it still helps (and the act of writing seems to help me remember to do it). But I really like your philosophy of using a habit tracker or reminder for a certain period of time (like using habitica to start a new thing) and then setting it aside. Like, why do I approach every single habit tracker with the hope that it will work perfectly and solve my problems forever and ever? Why haven’t I just been setting the expectation at the outset that I’m going to stop using this eventually? Rolling with the way your brain works, and setting expectations around how you’re actually functioning vs how you think you should be functioning, is a huge form of self-compassion. I admire your ability, which sounds like it was hard-won, to give yourself space to both have goals and fail at them. And your ability to keep your schedule largely in your head. Thanks for sharing what’s helped you.

  64. Q9: I like the Cormoran Strike books a lot. it’s not exactly this, the main characters are not a couple, but they are both nice people (without being perfect dolls) and communicate well (but still, not perfectly, that would be boring).

    But also, I found Robin and his Giant Asshole Fiancee Mathew to be… realistic, mature adults? Don’t get me wrong, Mathew is a massive douchebag, but their conflicts are generally resolved in a civilized and realistic manner. It was a bit dissappointng, I wanted to see furniture thrown, but it was also refreshing.

  65. LW9 here: Thanks everyone for all the wonderful recommendations! I read through all your comments and made a loooong list and I’ll be sure to report back in several years when I’ve worked my way through it 🙂

    1. I know I’m coming late, and your list may already have more than enough on it, but in case you are looking for even more suggestions:

      Mad About You is a show from the 80s (I think?) about a couple who starts out the show newly married, or maybe dating, I forget. The show follows their marriage so you see them coping with things like attraction to others, having a hard time getting pregnant, etc. They have conflict but resolve it well. Also, they super love each other and are a great couple.

      This Is Us is a show you may know already (at least, I see ads for it all the time when a new season is about to start). It’s about a family and there are separate story lines following each of the family members, but the story lines are all integrated and also involve how the people in this family relate to each other. The show explores addiction and death, and many of the episodes have made my husband cry, so if you don’t want to feel devastated after watching something, this maybe isn’t for you. But it’s a good kind of devastation and I think this show is spectacular. In terms of conflict, you can see conflict both within marriages and within other kinds of relationships, like the mom and her kids. It’s all handled well, I think, though sometimes not right away, which I find very realistic.

      Call The Midwife is a show that I think I got from someone else’s recommendation here a few years ago. It’s about a group of midwives, some of whom are nuns and others of whom are secular nurses, who live and work in Nonnatus House in England in the 1960s (maybe the 1950s in earlier seasons, I forget). The show doesn’t focus on romantic relationships, although there are some, but the focal point is the relationships between the people who live and work at Nonnatus House. So there are opportunities for conflict to arise and get handled there. There’s usually one central problem per episode that gets handled by the end of the episode, and I find it really heartwarming, but it can also be a bit simplistic or unrealistic (like, not everyone in life always handles conflict so well all the time, not everything gets resolved in the lovely way the show resolved it, etc.). My very favorite character from this show is no longer on it, but I think it’s worth watching the first few seasons just for Chummy, even if you don’t like anything else happening in the show.

  66. Q9: Outlander (book series, i’ve not watched the TV series). Yes there is a lot of drama, but it is an example of a (heterosexual) couple who are together for a very long time. I always liked how Claire and Jamie approach their difficulties with each other and life. They have some serious ups and downs but find a way to work it out. There are definitely parts that veer into true soap opera territory, but I think their behavior with each other plays out like a real long standing married couple.
    Trigger warning for sexual abuse it comes up in multiples of the books for multiple characters.

  67. Q8: I know it sounds silly, but my way of dealing with attractions that would be inappropriate to act on(due to work relationships, marital status, etc.) is to think of them as “parallel universe people”. As in: “In a parallel universe where we were both free to act, I’d be on their doorstep with flowers, but not here and not now.” This lets me be comfortable with the feelings — it’s ok to acknowledge the attraction — and comfortable with not doing anything about it. Telling myself I shouldn’t feel the way I felt never worked for me. For some strange reason this does.

    “…(a.k.a. Is it time to go on some internet dates/meet some attractive new people/take this cute outfit and giant serving of unfulfilled desire out on the town to sing karaoke and kiss new acquaintances).”
    My favorite venue for friendly new faces is contradancing. Smiles, eye contact, someone new in your arms every 30 seconds. 🙂

  68. Q12: My best success with reframing my body image was taking advice from Heather Corrina in one of the articles they published on Scarleteen – focus on the positive things your body does for you rather than what it looks like or even the negative aspects of it (I have chronic pain issues from permanent damage from the worst time someone hit me with a car, so there are things my body does that suck for me no matter what – the advice isn’t to have a reality-denying, universally positive self-regard, but just to remind oneself of and accentuate the positive). Biking for transportation was hugely helpful, because it’s a persistent, almost daily reminder of something awesome my body does, moving me around. Not everyone is in a position for that, specifically, of course, but typing out stories, making visual art, even supporting brain function are all things our bodys do, and nearly everyone can identify SOMETHING useful their bodies do for them.

  69. I discovered that the tv series Arrow showed me how to have healthy communication with a partner who is stubborn and who thinks he needs to take care of me when that is not what I want. As I saw the relationship between Oliver and Felicity grow, I could see how healthy communication was more important than anything else and that sometimes a relationship can be two steps forward and one step back. It also showed how having an older couple to mentor healthy relationships (and admitting to how non-communication torpedoed their marriage the first time) can be good.

    Luckily, I don’t have to be kidnapped numerous times to drive home to my DH how much I mean to him, but it does help to see someone portray on tv a love language of deeds without being controlling and how demanding to be treated as an equal can work out or that you can be loved for what you are, even if it is not the same as everyone else around you.

    Plus, it was kind of nice to see the girly-girl with brains get the guy in the end, even if it isn’t a happy ending.

  70. Q11: I have found a combination of undated calendars + a CBT structure for planning really helpful for habit tracking and time management! Turned out I always felt like I was unable to keep up because I would schedule, say, five separate hangouts in three hours (true story). Idea is that you sit down and write down every single thing that worries you, or makes you spiral, or you need to do, from paying a bill to calling a family member, or working on a piece of writing. Once you have the list, you divide each day into three sections: morning, afternoon and evening, and each section can only have three tasks. Preferably those would be a mixture between things that you have to do, and things that nurture you, though obviously sometimes that does not quite happen. Do that once a week, just get every single worry and stressor out on paper, and it allows you to actually relax and know that time has been assigned to dealing with whatever it is. Also, it is a lot easier to remember three things you have to do, because the number never changes and it is small enough to keep in mind, and allows you to decide what exact order to do the things in.

    It has forced me to prioritise too; most of my morning entries now consist of working out, mindfulness, and walking the dog. Not because I don’t have other things that pick at my attention, but because those routines form the basis of a life that makes me feel well and able to handle the rest. Once you have your three things done, you can spend your time however you want, because you have actually achieved what you set out to do. Everything else that you accomplish is a bonus, but you will have found time to do the things that you think are most important. I use Seeso Graphics Undated calendars, because it allows you to just jump straight in and it doesn’t matter if you miss a day or a week.

    Finally, if you are able, it turned out that for me a weekly therapy session was the best form of habit tracking, because I would never have sat down of my own volition and devoted an hour to thinking about how I do things. If you are able, it might be worthwhile trying to find a therapist that can help you find what motivates you, and how to form healthy habits, to build up a strong sense of what habits and routines are actually important to you, and then track how to best put them into action in daily life without depending entirely on an external thing like a planner or an app! I hope you find what works for you, and lots of ghost hugs (if you want them)!

  71. Lord, I feel old suggesting this, but for Q9: Mary Tyler Moore. She actually stands up for herself in real-life ways in several episodes (the one where she tells off Betty White to stop f*cking Phyllis’ husband is GREAT). I also really like the movie “Flawless” — no the one with Roert DeNiro and Phillip Seymour Hoffmann, but rather the other one, with Demi Moore and Michael Caine. It’s a beautifully done heist movie set in London in the 1950s, with serious drama, but no unreasonable screaming fight-pickers.

  72. The update on 1126 makes me so happy. It’s great when people, however flawed, are truly making an effort to be kinder.

    When people are constantly making judgmental remarks, I think of the saying, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” They have that judgy voice inside their heads saying that crap TO THEM all day long, no wonder it comes out.

    And by deliberately shutting it down, maybe MIL can start to get free herself.

    1. “When people are constantly making judgmental remarks, I think of the saying, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” They have that judgy voice inside their heads saying that crap TO THEM all day long, no wonder it comes out.”

      I’ve been thinking about exactly that lately. A few months before I wrote in, my MIL’s own mother died. A year later, she’s still dealing with the grief, but she’s also told me things about her youth and childhood that I don’t think she has talked much about before—certainly my husband didn’t know these (mostly perfectly pleasant, non- traumatic… but a couple are rough) stories.

      She’s begun some of them with the sentence, “I don’t think I could have said this out loud while my mother was alive, but…” My MIL is 65! Her mother was widely beloved by the family, but also did shit like X a grandchild’s face out of a family picture because she mentioned THINKING about getting a tattoo as a 22 YEAR OLD. I would never want to minimize my MIL’s grief, but I can see a part of her coming out that I didn’t even know was in there—for her, I think, that “judgy voice” was very literally her mother’s, and maybe it is at least getting a little bit quieter now.

  73. LW9, if you happen to be into this sort of thing, ‘Shane’ is a classic western with a thoughtful and serious take on gun violence (between white settlers). It handles jealousy and feelings in and around a marriage in a sensitive, mature and generous (though understated) way. CN for brief mention of the dispossession of indigenous Americans from the land prior to the story.

    LW12, I second the recommendation for Michelle Allison (The Fat Nutritionist), her work helped me a lot. I also have benefited from using the app Recovery Record to develop a healthier relationship with eating and body image, through tracking meals (no calorie counting or measuring) while also logging self-compliments and coping strategies.

  74. Q12: Actually, this isn’t specifically a body-positivity site but the Sock Dreams site shows legs, male and female, in all colors, shapes, and sizes. It’s mainly for selling socks, but it’s fun to see size diversity normalized in a fashion context.

  75. Q11: I think my getting a tattoo–in my 50s!–was finally my mother’s bridge too far. She disapproves of piercings and tattoos and does not herself have pierced ears (she’s in her 80s). I have pierced ears but I didn’t pierce them until I was no longer living with my parents as I didn’t want to have to justify it or argue with my mother about doing it. My daughter, in her 20s, has multiple piercings, some of which I don’t particularly like but it’s not my business to approve or disapprove since she’s an adult; she also has a number of lovely tattoos. My mother has been vocally unhappy to my daughter, and to me, about my daughter’s piercings and tattoos, though less so in recent years, perhaps because she has realized she has had no impact.

    Last year I got a tattoo, on my arm. If I wore anything with a full or 3/4 sleeve, it was covered, so for a while, I covered it when I went to visit my mother. Not because I cared what she thought but because I am tired of her generally negative commentary on life. I don’t cover it any more. My mother has not said one word about it to me, or, as far as I have heard, to anyone else in the family. I think I finally shocked her into silence.

  76. Q11: I struggle A LOT with forming new habits so I was cheered to see this question come up. I do not have an ADHD diagnosis but I do have some perfectionism/anxiety/depression/executive function stuff going on, in a way that sometimes how adults with ADHD describe their experiences with motivation and follow-through really resonates with me. I’m also becoming sort of an expert on “habit-forming habits that don’t work for me.” I think what kind of habit tracker might work depends partly on what you want to get out of it. If what you really want is just to *remember to do the habit*, may I suggest: contextual Post-It notes.

    How this works for me is, I identify what I want the trigger for the habit to be, then I put a Post-It reminder in a place that I will naturally discover at the right moment/context. I already brush my teeth habitually and I do it in the bathroom, so if I want to build a flossing habit, I put a Post-It that says “FLOSS” on my bathroom mirror. If I want to build a habit of reading for 15 minutes after I get home instead of collapsing in front of the TV, I put a Post-It that says “READ” where I’ll see it right when I walk in the door. Bonus #1: I can physically pick up the note and carry it around with me until I do the thing, so that I don’t forget about it while I’m putting down my bag and hanging up my keys.

    Bonus #2: If the habit feels a little bit hard, I can expand the reminder note to include a message that will get me through starting the activity. If I want to do 5 pushups when I get out of bed, I can write a note that says “I bet you can do just 5 pushups!” and stick it on my alarm clock. (Sidenote, I’m very proud of myself for this one: I want stop getting back in bed after I turn off the alarm, so I put the alarm clock itself in my bathroom, the first place I usually go once I actually get up. Admittedly this might not work if I had roommates.) I say “get me through starting the activity” because my therapist once wisely pointed out that while I hate to stop what I’m doing and start doing the dishes, I don’t actually hate doing the dishes once I’m doing them – or if I do, it’s at least much easier to power through once I’ve already started.

    The whole idea is to eliminate the part of habit forming where I have to remember to look at the habit tracker, and instead I build my habits and reminders into things I already do. I’ve heard that habit-forming works better when you tie the new habit to an existing “trigger” (like tying the new habit of flossing to the old habit of teeth brushing), so I sort of hope these contextual reminders will help my brain actually build a new habit so that perhaps one day I won’t need the reminder. I haven’t gotten there yet so I cannot confirm if that part works!

    I have not tried this, but if you really want to *track* your progress, you could put a little checkmark or the date on the Post-It note when you complete the task. I personally find that obsessively tracking “progress” too easily turns into inventing new ways to fail (e.g. judging myself on how long my “streaks” are or whether I do the thing perfectly every day, instead of just celebrating the times I did it), which soon becomes a distraction from the actual habits I care about and saps my motivation for continuing to try. Recently I’ve tried adding *just one habit per month* as a column in my monthly bullet journal spread (the way Ryder Carroll himself does it, very low-key [], NOT with a fancy calendar the way some Insta BuJo folks do them, which makes designing and updating them too much of a distraction for me). While doing this, I make sure to remind myself a lot that 1) every day is a fresh start and 2) any day I do the thing is a win. I hear that streak-building (i.e. “don’t break the chain” method) works as a motivation for other people; obviously YMMV. In any case, I don’t rely on the *tracking* system to *remind* me to do the thing, so I don’t miss the reminder if I forget to do the tracking part.

  77. Q10: Re: Tattoo. I broke the news to my mother thusly: “Hey, so I know you are really concerned with my personal safety. Well, I want you to see my tattoo, and here is a copy of the design, just in case I disappear or something.” (Mom has read ALL the mystery novels and has an obsession with her children being snatched by Strangers with Candy–I was 27 at the time.) She still said something unencouraging about my design choice, but since I wasn’t framing the conversation about whether she liked it or not, more just informational, it was more comedy fodder than a source of disappointment.

    The other tattoo conversation was comparing tats with my cousin at Christmas dinner. I have single small one, he has a couple huge ones. My mother was always like: “Why can’t you guys be more like [10-years-younger cousins].” If Sainted Cousin “Daniel” can have giant tattoos, why can’t I. It served as a distraction anyway, as Daniel likes to be the center of attention and I don’t.

  78. Q10: hi! I am also a 24yo female-bodied person who just got my first tattoo(s) after 3+ years of thought! At the time I’d firmly decided what and where I would eventually get it, I posted about it on FB and BOTH MY PARENTS separately sent me “this is a terrible decision” emails. I didn’t answer, and that was that until… I got them three weeks ago. (They’re highly symbolic wrist pieces that say “I AM”/”stardust”.)

    I went with a friend for moral support because I was still freaking out a little about actually getting them. I sent pictures to a few friends and family members who would gush or coo over them. I posted pictures to a few sites where I’d get positive feedback. I let people in my everyday life exclaim over them as they noticed them. By the time my mom visited me last week, I’d (1) basically forgotten I had them (despite seeing them literally daily; I’m a special flower) and (2) basically forgotten she didn’t know I had them.

    “Uh.. did you draw on yourself with sharpies or did you get tattoos?”
    “Oh! I got tattoos. I did them two weeks ago.”
    And then I changed the subject. And that’s that.

    Granted, my mom is somewhat okay at keeping her thoughts to herself when we’re past changing my mind. But I found letting them come up naturally to be a way nicer reveal than trying to figure out what to say / how to announce them. And frankly it’s kind of fun to have friends say “OHMYGOSHYOUGOTTHETATTOOS!” when they see me for the first time in a while.

    Tl;dr – you do not need to tell your mother before inking. If they’re in a visible place, you might not ever have to tell her! And she can grumble all she likes once they’re in your skin — at that point it’s over and done!

  79. I recently read ‘The Art Of The Memoir’ by Mary Karr, and the chapters on how to write about relatives and what to tell them was really useful. She talks through her personal experiences with her family story (which featured some abuse) and ways she feels she got that publishing issue right or not so right – with her mum and her sister. She deals with the different ways relatives may react but also affirms the writer as the central owner of a story. It includes examples of memoirs where writers had made various valid choices re:what they wrote. I would recommend it to the writer whose relative is angry, it struck me as a non judgmental, no bullshit take on the situation.

  80. I’m fairly new to Captain Awkward and a first time commenter – THANK YOU for these great body image resources. Does anyone in this fabulous comment section have similar suggestions (body positivity, fashion) for women with disabilities? I’m a woman with a significant, visible disability that means my body is just never gonna look typical, and disabled women’s bodies draw a very similar level of disgust and hatred as fat women’s bodies (and woe betide the sisters who are both). Almost everything that has really helped me feel okay in my skin has come from the fat acceptance resources I have read, because the perspectives are helpful no matter what makes you different from the culturally-approved norm. But I don’t really “belong” in that community because I’m of typical weight (so I don’t participate in comments or discussions because I don’t want to be a weirdo), and the fashion resources for fat women don’t help me with my own challenges.

    Much of the ‘fashion for women with disabilities’ resources I’ve seen on the web are for women with typical looking bodies who happen to use wheelchairs. Those of us who walk (though awkwardly) or use orthotic devices are never addressed.So I’m left to my own devices to figure out how to feel powerful and confident in my professional workplace.

    Thanks, Captain, for making this an inclusive corner of the internet.

  81. I definitely have the rebel tendency, and I use a habit tracker!

    It only works for me if I have the right mindset. I put it on a spot on my phone where I opened another app all the time, so I was constantly opening it for no reason. I also in my head thought of it as an identity thing, like “I want to be a disciplined person, and success starts with habits.” My questioner husband would never, ever understand this because he needs a why to it, but I don’t.

    I also don’t tell people about my habit tracking, so no one accidentally sets off my rebellion by telling me I’m doing a good job and to keep at it (which makes me want to stop).

  82. Q12. I highly recommend the website Beauty Redefined ( It’s changed my life! It deals with the way women’s bodies are treated in society. It was started by twin sisters who have their PhDs in communication and focuses on positive body image. Also, there’s a TED Talk too. I love them. Their mantra is “Women are more than just bodies.” It’s about how society has viewed women solely based on their looks (like having after-baby body, losing weight for your wedding, dress codes for school girls, etc.), but that the body is an amazing thing and women deserve to be seen as more than their weight or looks. I’m not explaining this very well! Just know their website is for all women and are about owning our power because we are human! They post quotes from everyone like Anne Hathaway to Gabourey Sidbe. I follow them on Instagram and Facebook because they post positive things that make me feel better about myself.

  83. For LW9, you might try the “In Death” series by J.D. Robb. I’ve seen people complain that the hero, Roarke, is too arrogant/overbearing. That’s probably true in the earliest books, though he mellows somewhat as time goes on, but if you think this will annoy you, try Divided in Death. That is something like 18th in the series, and shows a major point of their marital conflict being grappled with and overcome. That book worked okay as an entry point for my husband, who found it lying around the living room and read the whole thing despite not having read any of the others. TW for the series as a whole, history of child sex abuse; tw for this particular volume, deception/gaslighting by a spouse. Plus, of course, Eve Dallas is a homicide cop, and so there are murders in every book.

  84. Q8 one of the things that I’ve found helps with crushes where they can’t be acted upon but I want to keep the friendship is to be SUPER careful (similar to what Capt Awkward said) to treat them like any other platonic friend. There was one case where I found I was just going a *little* too far out of my way to go to a party with them at it / possibly touch them / etcetera. That just feeds things!

    In that particular case I actually had a friend I met at a similar time who I felt completely platonic about (despite them also being the gender I am attracted to) so I had a perfect point of reference. “Would I go to this party if just X was going to be there? Would I agree to do this with X?” If I had any uncertainty I’d pull back.

    All that said, the things that helped me the most were 1) time and 2) them ending up in a relationship with someone else.

  85. Q9: Light reading but fun- The “In Death” series by J.D. Robb (AKA Nora Roberts) Same primary characters, the main romance has its ups and downs with each book, over 20! It’s a slightly futuristic cop drama/love story and it’s fun to see their relationship evolve through the stories. Warning though for those who want/need to avoid violence &/or sex crimes. The female character is a survivor & became a cop to help others and the crimes she usually investigates will be triggers. (Somehow the futuristic element (50 years forward) works for me as distancing and my subconscious seems to get that these are made up people and doesn’t wake me up to worry about them.

  86. Q9: Also, if you are into urban fantasy, Patricia Briggs has two multi-book stories-werewolves-that is awesome! The primary protagonist is actually a shapeshifting female mechanic-coyote who is completely outmatched by the werewolves, bad guys, etc. …or so they think. ;-). She eventually becomes part of a couple and their relationship continues to evolve. There is also a spinoff series that is just as fun with the werewolf boogeyman and his lady. Nalini Singh has another extended relationship story in her Archangel fantasy series. And my newest favorite is Lisa Sheerin with her SPI series (imagine Men in Black but supernaturals instead of aliens). Funny as heck! I had no idea wasp spray could be used that way! Hah!

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