It Came From The Search Terms: July 2020

Yes! It is time! Time to treat the search strings people typed in right before they washed up on these blog shores as if they are actual questions! Inside: Mask etiquette, reformed Nice Guy™ apologies, overly-neighborly neighbors, favor-sharking defined, and more.

Q1 “How to apologize for being a nice guy.” 

I’m guessing that this is about NiceGuy™ behavior, where a person is cloyingly nice to someone they hope to have sex and/or a romantic relationship with and then feels aggrieved and owed something when the object of their niceness realizes what’s happening and is like, “Sorry, I just wanted regular human kindness with no secret strings attached?” 

The best apologies name the behavior, precede changed behavior, and deliver both the words and the changed behavior without strings.

For example, “I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable when I came on too strong and then got angry when you didn’t want to date me, that was wrong,” followed by not pressuring them to reassure you that it’s okay or explain their reasons, or even still be your friend, depending on just how uncomfortable things have gotten. If they want to be friends, they know how to find you, and if they do, you can be sure they mean it, whereas if you chase them down, you’re just gonna end up in Weird Apology Town again on the way to Blockedville.

Two additional notes:

  • If the person has asked you to leave them alone, do not get in touch just to apologize. You demonstrate that you can respect boundaries by respecting them, not by looking for exceptions.
  • Whether or not the person outright asked you to stop contacting them, if the offending behavior happened long ago and you are not actively in touch with this person anymore (e.g. sharing a social circle, a workplace, a hobby scene where you’re apt to run into them from time to time), let them be! As nice as it might be to get an acknowledgement that you’ve changed, sometimes improved behavior has to be its own reward.

Love,

A Reformed NiceGirl™

Q2: “When relationships end because of geography.”

We romanticize stories where people are willing to give up everything else in their lives for a change at romantic love, but in real life, sometimes there is a mountain high enough (a visa requirement steep enough, a bank account small enough, a family situation that requires care enough, etc.) to keep people from being together in the same place, and all the love feelings in the world can’t fix it.

I wish everyone who searched for this question healing, peace, and good things closer to home in the coming year.

Q3: “How to stop neighbour coming into your husband.” 

Hee! I’m going to assume that this is a typo and the intended question is how do you stop a neighbor from coming ONto trying to seduce said husband, but the typo doesn’t change the answer:

This is a husband problem, and his magic words are probably something like, “Oh, thank you for the offer, but I do not want that.” 

Q4. “What does it mean if someone asks if you choose a person based on looks.”

Do you know how to spot a loaded question, by which I mean, a question that contains a strong hint that the asker obviously assumes or strongly hopes a specific answer will be forthcoming?

Whether “do you choose a person based on looks?” was directed to a potential date-friend, a hiring manager, or a casting director, the strong sense I get is:

  • The asker has strong feelings about whether choosing people based on their looks is okay, fair, allowed.
  • They also have strong feelings about how their looks stack up as a possible deciding factor.

When working out how to answer a loaded question, my first and best strategy is to stop and think about how I honestly feel. What’s the worst thing that happens if I just say that?

  • “I know I’m supposed to say no, looks don’t matter, but I definitely only swipe right or answer dating site messages from people when I really like their picture.”
  • “Well, it’s a Steve Buscemi biopic, so whoever we cast in the role needs to believably look like a teenaged Steve Buscemi.”
  • “You sound like you have something to say about that, care to go first?”

Usually honesty is the right way to go, even if I can tell that I’m not understanding all the subtext or delivering as expected.

If I were trading initial messages on a dating site, and my honest answer prompts a rant from my match about how “shallow” women are nowadays and how I’m not exactly a “10” myself, did I answer the question “wrong”? Or was the person just looking for a reason to neg me about my looks or go off about their own self-image issues? Doesn’t matter, my views are clearly incompatible with whatever the heck they’re on about, ergo we should not date.

If this were an audition for Steve Buscemi: The Flames Before The Fame, and Meryl Streep rolled up in a turtleneck and a firefighter hat with her best Young Buscemi take, let’s be honest, I’m going to sleep on it and probably finally watch that movie where Cate Blanchett plays Bob Dylan before I say a final no, but in the end I’m not going to waste Meryl’s time. Being honest about “yes, it’s a visual medium and my take is quite traditional, so looks do count” isn’t how I appeal to everybody, but it’s how I find just the right Young Steve-needle in the headshot-haystack.

Speaking of loaded topics…

Q5: “How to say you’re looking for a relationship without saying you want a relationship.” 

You can try something like “Ideally, I’d like to fall in love and settle down someday, but right now I’m pretty happy to meet lots of nifty new people” if you want to communicate “Calm down, buddy, I am not going to be writing Mx. MyFirstName Your-LastName in my diary at night the second I meet you.”

But, if you’re open to homework, I want you to grab whatever you use to take notes with and then stop and think very hard about why you think you’re not supposed to say that you want a relationship in those words.

I don’t think you are silly for thinking you’re not supposed to say that or for asking this question, I think there are pervasive tropes throughout pop culture where straight cis women who say that they want romantic relationships and then actively try to form romantic relationships are portrayed as “clingy,” “crazy,” “needy, “”obsessed,” “stalkerish,” “desperate,” etc. whereas straight cis men who say that they want romantic relationships and then try to convince someone to fall in love with them are “romantic,” “persistent” & “adorable!” even when they do meets-the-actual legal-definition-of-stalking behaviors.

I personally think true love means never, ever breaking into a high school student’s bedroom and watching her sleep at night, Stephanie Meyer and $3.3 billion dollars in Twilight book sales and movie tickets say otherwise, but where, specifically, are you getting that message? Where is the voice that’s telling you you’re not allowed to both want this and say that you do coming from?

Name it, make it cite its sources.

Next, consider how badly you want a romantic relationship with any person who you suspect might leave, detach, or freak out if they found out you actually wanted a relationship with them, and consider what happens if, as you date around and meet people, you make “I want to date somebody who makes me feel comfortable being honest about what I want” your baseline requirement. Maybe not stated as such on a checklist, or something you expect to know on the first date, but as you’re moving into Dates 3-20, what if you only keep seeing people who don’t make you feel like you have to hide what you want from your life inside a fortune cookie made of hints?

Q6: “My friend was hurt a couple years ago by his gal and she dumped him high and dry he never got an explanation she refuses to talk to him today.”

Hrmmmmmm.

I’ve been doing this advice column gig long enough to think that chances are that your friend knows or guesses why he was dumped and just doesn’t like the reason or the fact of the dumping, but say it’s true, say your friend was in love with someone who dumped him out of the blue completely without explanation and is still refusing to talk to him about it today.

There is actually a lot of information here that can help your friend put this all behind him, if that’s really what he’s after.

First, when someone breaks up with you and refuses to talk to you ever again, it’s probably safe to say they don’t love you anymore. “Why did she break up with me?” “Sorry bud, I guess she didn’t love you anymore.” 

When someone refuses to talk to you, present tense, about something that happened “a couple years ago,” that is not an unclear message. It means “Leave me alone, I don’t want to talk about it.” Your friend should leave her alone, no more answers are ever coming.

It’s okay if he was hurt by her sudden change of heart and puzzled by not having more warning or explanations, but the facts don’t change: She doesn’t love him anymore and she wants him to leave her alone. Somebody who would treat your friend this way is not the right match for him, whatever her reasons or quality of communication. It’s been years, plural. If this is still bothering your friend to the point that it’s interfering with his ability to form new romantic attachments, and especially if he’s still bothering her for answers (or trying to get you to to do it), he should take it to a therapist.

Q7: “Kind sharking” and “What is favor sharking?” 

These are both terms for a manipulation tactic where a person showers you with favors or gifts or “help” that you didn’t ask for in order to pressure you into doing a return favor that you don’t want to do or being in a relationship with them that you don’t want to be in.

A loan shark loans money at extremely high (illegal) interest rates and often uses threats of violence to collect debts. They make it easy to borrow the initial amount, pushing it on the borrower, and then apply pressure when the borrower is already obligated.

A favor shark bypasses asking you if you would be willing to do the thing they want (a request you might reasonably say “no” to) by creating a powerful sense of obligation that makes you feel like you’re the bad guy if you refuse. If you do refuse, they treat you like you reneged on a deal that you didn’t know you were making.

If you sense you’re in a favor-sharking situation, time to gut-check any proffered help or favors or requests with “Wait, did I ask for this?” and “Ok, whatever the other person assumed, do I actually want this?” and use the words “Oh, no thank you” liberally.

If you prefer your examples in song form, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s got you (spoilers within links).

Q8: “My boss wants to hire me to ghostwrite his book.”

This can go enough ways that I can’t quite sense the question. If you don’t want to, say no. If you’re considering actually doing it, my first piece of advice is to imagine an amount of money that would make you excited (not resigned to, not fairly compensated for, EXCITED) to ghostwrite his book, double that, and that’s your minimum starting fee, at least half to be paid as an advance on contract signing. Be expensive. Bosses who think “I should write a book, but actually, I should hire you to write it” tend to not value things that are not expensive, and if your boss envisions this as “a fun side project for pocket money in your free time” you want to find that out now, so that you can RUN.

My second piece of advice is to put absolutely everything in writing, including how many rounds of revisions there are, including what he is expected to supply you with (or be available to be interviewed about) and deadlines for him to give you that material, and to also put a strict end date on the whole agreement where you get to walk away (with your retainer fee) if you’re trying your best but it’s not working.

Q9: “I always pay my way and theirs when we’re out how do I stop?”

Can we please build a future where people who do things that cost money together can be honest, boring, and matter-of-fact about money when they plan said things and where people don’t feel like they have to quietly go broke in order to save face?

I think that one small step toward that beautiful universe involves making expectations about money as clear as you can when you’re making the initial plans, so nobody has to sit there dreading the moment when the check comes while mentally calculating their bank balance, or worrying that the other person is going to be surprised and let down.

That means, if you’re inviting someone out somewhere and you intend to pay, make it known from the start: “I’d love to take you to see that movie, my treat.”

In corporate or academic life, the expectation is that whoever is most senior on the org chart treats and that the company or institution picks up the check for prospective clients, students, and/or hires, but not everybody you might share a work meal with is born knowing that, so it doesn’t hurt anything to say “Care to have lunch? It’s on me/the company obviously.” When we can safely go back to restaurants someday, as a favor to me, do not make your intern sit there anxiously hoping the complimentary bread basket is a hearty one today only to find out that they didn’t have to pay at the end. Let them eat and enjoy that fancy meal!

It sounds like the person who searched for this has an established pattern of treating friends/family/date-friends and wants to break it, and the best time to do that is also before the outing. “Are we still on for Friday? Also, I know I usually treat, but can we start splitting the bill or taking turns from now on?”

You set up a pattern by paying for everything in the past, so it’s understandable that it feels weird to disrupt it, but patterns can get unmade the same way they got made. Tell the person what you need, give them a chance to run their numbers to see if they can afford it, make it okay for them to say “I’m so sorry, but I can’t afford it,” and offer the option of doing something cheaper or free.

Q10: Captain Awkward shuts down comments.

Yes.

I’d already closed comments now and then to spare the Letter Writer a pile-on or when I knew I had too many distractions to moderate things like they deserved, and sometime last year I realized that I no longer have the bandwidth to process a NaNoWriMo amount of words every time I want to write some words. I started leaving them closed more often than not to see what would happen, and what happened was that roughly the same number of people read and supported the blog and my mental health improved.

Many kind people have volunteered to moderate comments over the years, but it just doesn’t work for me. When we tried it in the past it made more work, not less, and it’s fundamentally one of those things where I need to do it myself or not at all, and I need to do it with my full attention or not at all, so, while I do really miss so many of your voices, this works better for me.There are places people hang out together to discuss posts here, and I will turn on comments now and then for old time’s sake, but “no comments” has been the unofficial default for a long time now. If anyone was still wondering, this can make it official.

I’m going to open comments on this, with a blunt request that people refrain from brainstorming ways to keep comments open on other posts on the site in the future. It wasn’t an easy decision but it’s not an open negotiation.

Q11: “How to fix someone who hates themselves.”

Don’t.

You can’t fix other people, and even if it were possible, I’m not convinced you should. It’s not cool to make people into projects, and it’s especially unwise to take on someone else’s self-loathing as your project.

Q12: “My best friend doesn’t know my birthday.”

PSA to all people of CaptainAwkward.com reading age who care about celebrating their birthdays and who have specific celebratory activities or birthday gestures in mind: 

TELL PEOPLE. When it is. What you want to do, eat, and see.

Remind them. Spell it out. Assume they might never remember on their own,  assume they’ll appreciate a reminder so they can make you happy, especially if the alternative is you suffering in silence convinced they don’t care about you.

If you feel yourself objecting, like:

“I shouldn’t have to remind people…”

“Friends should remember each other’s birthdays without being told…” 

Cool, next time you’re making new friends, quiz them about how they like to handle birthdays and pick only the ones who match your vibe.

With the friends you already have, next year try “My birthday is coming up on [date], and what I’d really like to do is _______.” If your birthday just passed and they forgot? “Oh hey, friend, my birthday was last week, will you do ________ soon to celebrate with me?” 

It is painful when someone forgets something that’s important to you, but this question comes up over and over again here and I do not think it has to be this hard.

Q13: “Is it rude to not want to reconnect with old friends?” 

Maybe?

Is possibly appearing rude to people you don’t want to be friends with better than faking a friendship you’re not into?  

Sometimes we outgrow each other, and I think it’s okay to wish people well and let them go.

Q14: How to tactfully get away from the neighbor who talks too much?

You’re going to have to interrupt them. You probably were taught never to do that, and you were probably also taught not to talk at people endlessly, and sometimes humans can have competing needs and conflicting styles without anybody being the asshole.

Scripts:

“Oh hey, good to catch up with you, but that’s all the time I have. Goodnight!” 

“Nice talking to you. I’m going to go inside now. Take care!” 

“Oh, that’s my timer going off. Later!”

Scripts like this that are meant as “GOODBYE, THANK YOU, I AM GOING NOW”  work best when you deliver them and then physically depart (close a door, shut a window, apply headphones).

Can I tell you a secret?

I have ADHD and sometimes I get really enthusiastic about something and forget to take turns talking, and pretty often when that happens I either don’t notice interruptions or am actively grateful when other people save me from the Word Kraken.

Can I tell you another secret?

There have been times I have been talking at someone more than with them and they got bored and uncomfortable and ended the conversation in a way that made me feel kinda embarrassed and unwanted, and not only did I live to tell the tale, in many cases I lived on to have a perfectly fine/normal/cordial/friendly relationship with those people because the information that they were not enjoying the endless talking helped me be more conscious and less nonstop about it. 

It’s good to be sensitive to other people’s feelings, but people will not wither and die if they receive data that you are done talking for today. Greet your neighbor for a few minutes, and then interrupt and GTFO!

Q15: “Why does a man keep you a secret from an ex-wife.” 

Why indeed.

We could brainstorm good reasons, like, “She’s abusive and has no boundaries and he’s trying to shield you from becoming a target of her bad behavior.” 

We could name common, obvious reasons, like, he’s still married, or he’s trying to get back together, or he’s trying to keep his options open there a little while longer, or he’s still involved in the divorce proceedings and the fact that he has a new partner will affect things somehow.

Does he keep you a secret from everybody in his life, or just her?

How long has this been going on and what does the endgame look like?

What does he tell you the reason is?

What does your gut say?

Q16: Is it rude to wear a face mask to talk to a neighbor?

You may have noticed there is a pandemic on, so it is the opposite of rude. Wear masks! 

Let’s knock out some inbox mask etiquette stuff real quick while we’re here: 

  • If you can* wear a mask, wear one, get your kids & household & people you have immediate influence over to wear them. Make it a habit.
  • If you host public events, preside over public spaces, run a business, etc. go ahead and require masks for employees and patrons and be very specific and clear about guidelines.
  • Even better, if you can, give masks to people who don’t have them. “We’re asking people to wear masks inside, can I offer you one?” “Do you need a mask? I’ve got an extra in my purse/car/pocket.” Again, IF you can, possibly this is more effective (say, for a business owner, who can get some logo-ed ones) and nicer (say, for a neighbor) than saying “Yo, asshole, wear a mask!”

If you’re comfortable, experiment with treating people like of course they wear masks, they just forgot today, the way the maitre’d in fancy restaurants in movies smoothly asks if he can “offer the gentleman a jacket and tie.” 

A Twitter friend specifically asked about managing rage at people who don’t wear masks, and here’s what I think about that: Rage is gonna happen sometimes, what you do with it is really, really depends on where you are and what your relationship is to the other person.

Is the non-mask wearer a neighbor, who you see every day, and who always wants to stand too close talking to you and not wear a mask?

Hi neighbor, do you need a mask? I’ve got an extra one inside I can get for you, also, I need you to take about 5 steps back, thanks!” They may grumble, but this is someone you have a relationship with and theoretically *can* influence.

Is it the non-mask wearer a total stranger and are you somewhere it’s possible to keep your distance?

Control what you can control: You can wear a mask, you can give them a wide berth, you can assume that a stranger yelling at them isn’t going to accomplish anything, and when you get home, you can channel your frustration into action: What’s your building, neighborhood, town, city, state doing to encourage mask use, make it possible for people to get access to masks, and where can your “I need to speak to the manager” impulse do the most good?

You’re the best judge of your own safety: Do I have a script to help you personally stop the violent anti-mask rioter who is going apeshit in the Trader Joe’s? No! Move away, do not engage! You’re the expert on where you live and on how likely this situation is to involve gunplay, so if you need to put your basket or cart down right where you’re standing and skedaddle, do that!

You can’t fix other people: Do I have a script to convince your conspiracy theorist mask-denying MAGA relatives to wear a mask? No! I don’t have a script to convince those people to do anything. What I suggest is that you tell your personal skeptic relative collective why you wear a mask, offer to help them pick some out or otherwise obtain them if they want help with that, tell them that they’ll need to wear a mask if they want to be around you (& grandkids) anytime in the next year, and then from there make the best & safest decisions you can for yourself. 

*If you are one of the statistically small sample of people who *cannot* wear a face mask, hello! I know that you exist and I am sorry if you are getting caught in the net of selfish, entitled mask-resisters, especially in the U.S.! You know what would probably help a lot? If everybody who could wear a mask just did that. Then we could assume that anybody not wearing one has a good reason and trust that there are enough of the rest us to make it work.

Literally everyone else: MASK UP and spend your store of internet argument energy making mask use more widespread, less costly, and easier for people where you live vs. arguing that since some people might not be able to wear masks nobody should ever be expected to.

Signed,

An asthmatic person with an anxiety disorder who needs a nebulizer and 10-minute practice sessions to tolerate a mask for any length of time, i.e. You might theoretically find someone who is less interested in hearing about mask excuses, but she sure doesn’t live on this website.

149 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: July 2020

  1. Hello, I can see a few spots in the post where the font is suddenly tiny, and I have tried everything I know to fix it that doesn’t involve messing with the CSS.

    I need to log off for the night, so this is to inform people a) I’m aware of the issue, no need to let me know b) It’s just gonna be like that until tomorrow until I can dig back into the template CSS with sufficient attention units, sorry.

    1. It’s not the CSS, it’s something in your backend that’s applying a “style” attribute to your HTML to make it a specific font size. Probably in the preview or your editor that was the exact size the preview text appeared and then it looks funky when that’s not the size your CSS has the bulk of your text being. Check for some weird style being applied between the words “not only did I live to tell the tale, ” and the words “in many cases I lived on to have”. (I was hoping it was CSS so I could offer advice on what to fix but it doesn’t seem to be, sorry)

      1. Same for me, places where the font goes smaller and then larger again. I just hear the voice in my head leaning in for a more confidential chat, before leaning out to regular conversation mode again.

      2. WordPress also has a “feature” where if, while you are composing your page/post using the WYSIWYG editor, you paste in text from another source (another website, a Word doc, &c) it’ll cheerfully carry over the original formatting (or a mutation threof) from that source.

        The only two ways I’ve found to defeat that behavior are to either 1) paste the text into Notepad/TextEdit or similar to strip out the formatting, and then copy the text out and paste it into WP as naked ASCII, or 2) use the “Text” tab in the WP editor. In both instances, this will also strip out any links or bolding/italicizing, which you then have to reapply manually, so that’s annoying.

        There’s also 3), which is edit the post/page as you are accustomed to in the WYSIWYG editor, and then click over into the “Text” editor, scroll through to the problem text, and manually strip out the (probably cryptic) formatting code (without stripping out any of the text you’re trying to work on).

        None of these options is optimal, but that’ll eventually get you to cleanly formatted text. Just budget extra time for tears of frustration.

        —signed, someone who deals with this nonsense daily ::HEAVY sigh::

        1. I’ve used these workarounds before (since I’m copying & pasting letters from gmail) , thanks for the reminder about that last thing!

        2. There’s a nice little app called PureText that strips formatting from copied text before you paste. Same effect as pasting it into Notepad first but much, much faster.
          –someone else who deals with similar nonsense daily and also sighs heavily at it

          1. I use a clipboard manager to similar effect (I like ClipX, old but works on many platforms and is tiny). Its main purpose is to save multiple copied items so you can paste them in a different order or go back to a common thing multiple times, but in doing so it also strips formatting. Which is what I want it to do.

          2. You can also past with Control-Shift-V, the simplest way (I know of) that strips all formatting.

      3. Follow-up on my previous comment (which seems to be in moderation at the moment), the relevant keyword (on my work’s WordPress site, at least) for the WYSIWYG editing modual is “Visual”, whereas the one where you explicitly type in the html code is “Text.”

    2. I thought that was where you were whispering quietly, especially as the first spot I noticed was when you pointed out the “other website” where people exchange comments ;).

    3. Two things about formatting:

      1. There was a point some time ago where the site looked much as it does now, except with a serif font instead of the current sans-serif. I really preferred that; I think it improves readability.

      2. Any chance of getting the type size for the comments to be the same size (i.e., larger) as the Q&A text type size? Unless this is part of the suddenly-tiny issue, in which case, ignore.

      And thanks for the site! It’s one of the permanent pages kept open on my browser.

      1. 1. No serif font. I don’t like them and changing to a sans-serif one made fewer overall weird style issues. Sorry.

        2. It’s on my list, thank you.

  2. Hello, everyone everywhere!

    My birthday is November 4.

    Election Day is November 3.

    All I want for my birthday is to wake up to the news that Donald J. Trump gets to Find Something New ™ in 2021.

    Please vote! Please tell all your friends to vote. If you weren’t going to do it anyway, do it because it’s for my birthday. I know we’re not actually really friends, but I’ll bet you’d like me if you met me.

    1. Congratulations for this great example on how to apply the Captain’s advice re:birthdays in real life! 😀

    2. My birthday is October 24th. For my birthday, I will do my damnedest to make sure you get your birthday wish, which is also my wish for every damned birthday I will ever have and also Xmas and every other holiday there ever was.

      All I ask is that you do the same, which I bet you would have anyway.

    3. Our state election official sent out forms to all registered voters ahead of the primary to request absentee ballots. There was a huge response and no lines at the polls on primary Election Day. Our brilliant legislators have forbidden this now, citing budget issues. Now many county election officials are sending the forms in their county and I got mine yesterday. How can absentee voting be so controversial?

      1. It’s controversial when one group of people is actively doing everything they can to prevent many other groups of people from voting.

    4. As a birthday gift, I have written 365 Get Out the Vote cards and letters (so far) to be mailed to Dems in October. I’m planning to write more, but have taken a bit of a break! Sorry to spoil your gift, but y’know, I’m making them by hand!

      Elect Someone New!

    5. Oh, snap! My birthday is also November 4 and this is also my wish. And my middle name is Clover 🙂

        1. Complete derail: What’s your sign?
          (Hi, My name is Sylvia, and I’m a fact’oholic)

          How many people know their star sign? Is it a generation thing?
          *google google google….* April Fool’s Day is an Aries? Does that mean being war-like?

    6. I want that present for you too, and I will vote, and I will make sure my newly-minted voting-age kids vote. Here’s to a happy, happy birthday to you!

      1. I like this spontaneous scorpio club that sprung up 🙂 I’m a mid-November scorp and not USasian so can’t vote in the US election unfortunately

    7. I will most definitely be voting, telling everyone I know to vote, and aiming most severely disappointed faces at anyone who dares pull the “I don’t like either choice so I’m going third party” shenanigans that some people I know pulled last time this was a thing.

      1. I could understand if people genuinely liked the third party option they are voting for, but it seems like the people I know who did that didn’t actually care about the third party either. So I don’t get it.

    8. That must have been such an awful birthday. I am so sorry. I spent that whole day feeling like I was punched in the face. No one wants a birthday punch in the face. I hope if you get your birthday wish it will make up for that birthday.

    1. He was a firefighter! He was married to the same cool performance artist lady forever! He just seems real neat!

      1. At first I thought this was a reference to when he was a bad PI posing as a student on 30 Rock (“how do you do, fellow kids”) when you paired it with an unbelievable casting choice.

        Then I mentally put Meryl Streep’s face in that meme 🙂

  3. The first time comments have been on & no one has left a comment yet?

    Okay, I’ll take one for the team:

    We love your columns, we love your blog, and however you choose to handle comments or the lack thereof is enirely up to you, as it should be. We love your stuff no matter what, and want to see you healthy & stress-free. Stay well!

    1. Seconded! ❤ Thanks for setting an example of having good boundaries and doing what works for you.

      1. Well, I’m not THAT altruistic: if the Captain’s less stressed & not exhausting herself playing comment-moderator, that means we get more awesome Captain posts. 😁

    2. Well said! And I’m really glad and relieved it has not affected your readership or revenue, Captain, that’s great news!

  4. I did not know that term “favour-sharking”, but damn if I can think of people who’ve done it. The term I have heard is “covert contract”.

    Also, never ever ever let someone drag you for closing comments. Modding is WORK, and to my understanding you have a career (and life) away from this blog. Alison Green is a modding machine over at her blog, but she’s pretty candid that it’s a huge time commitment. If you don’t want to spend whatever spare hours you have modding, that frankly seems like a pretty smart way to be.

    1. Yeah, I am also highly familiar with that–my boyfriend in undergrad did it constantly, and basically anytime someone who I don’t know well starts buying me things or being overly Nice to me, I get suspicious. It’s not great.

  5. Re: “choosing people based on looks”: THANK YOU!!!!

    Could we also abolish the concept of “leagues”? This being a common part of the diatribe I used to get from the sort of person who a. wanted to date me b. was mad that I may or may not have considered physical attraction as part of that package. “Oh, I know I never should have bothered, you’re way out of my league.” “I should have figured you wouldn’t want to date out of your league.” It feels like something invented by manipulative jerks to make others feel bad about having standards.

    1. I’ve begun to mentally turn “out of my league” into “out of my not quite 3 miles of distance” which sounds completely meaningless, as it should.

      1. Hey traveling almost a mile and a half can be inconvenient. And sure if you were really into the other person you would make it work but lots of close relationships would not have formed if initially it took actual work to see the other person

    2. “Leagues” do need to go, not just for manipulative reasons, but for low-self-esteem-having people (such as myself), it’s too easy to turn it into “that guy seems great! Way out of my league tho. I’ll go back to the angry jerks who *are* my league.” I’ve actually caught myself in this sort of thought process.

      1. Yeah, I’ve definitely done that. Not angry jerks, but I get in weird loops where if I attracted to or charmed by someone then they must therefore meet some objective attractiveness and charm standard and therefore are probably out of my league and I will be humiliating myself if I let on in any way that I like them.

        1. Then your remember that if everyone thought like that no one would ask out anyone they were actually into.

          1. I try to, but my personal experience hasn’t really taught me to be wrong about this… Sometimes I think it’s better to embrace being weird and not most people’s taste.

            The thing I am trying to do is to get better at brushing off rejection and not being so humiliated or ashamed of having ‘overstepped’.

            Also to be aware that it’s a little self perpetuating. Thinking that way makes me act more weird or nervous or closed off, which tends to set up scenarios which end up confirming my fears.

          2. @TO_Ont (sorry, ran out of nesting).

            I also try to rekindle myself that if someone rejects me in a really rude or cruel way, that’s on them. We all know how to kindly turn someone down, and if you’re respectful in how you express your interest, you’re not doing anything wrong. (I say this struggling with the same things, so I fully get that it’s much easier to say than to do).

            Related, one point I’ve been mulling over, that you mentioned too, is the effect of being very reserved or closed-off. We’re so socialized that women are positively bombarded with male attention everywhere they go, and that’s true for some – but not others. For many people of many genders, attraction and connection are a two-way street where you also have to participate. What I read awhile back was, if you’re reserved/closed-off/trying to blend into the wallpaper everywhere you go… most people won’t connect with you, and the ones that will, will be on the opposite extreme of that spectrum in some way or another. That resonated with my own history. It makes sense to me that regular people with decent boundaries aren’t going to connect well with people who are aloof.

          3. @Jaybeetee
            Yes, I think you’re onto something about being reserved. It’s hard to throw it off even when you want to, but healthy nice people who want genuine connections (and thankfully those are always the ones I like) tend to find it hard to connect to. I don’t get jerkish rejections, I get nice ones, but then that just confirms to me that I like the person and am missing out :).

            The problem of course is that lowering that reserve and those walls is easier said than done, and being nervous or afraid of what impression you’re making makes it much much harder.

    3. I feel like anyone who has no problem describing a relationship with you as a sporting event is just openly declaring you made the right choice when you turned them down

    4. Yea and if you could sort people into clearly delineated levels of relationship desirability based on some objective criteria (already a pretty big stretch), it’s hard to believe such a sorting could be done based on first impressions, which is typically how “leagues” is thrown around. It’s pretty absurd.

    5. I’ve encountered more than one person who levels the accusation that it’s “shallow” to care about sexual attraction in a romantic relationship, even a little. I prefer to have sex fairly early in a relationship, both because I enjoy sex, and because if we’re not compatible in the bedroom I’m not going to hang around and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
      Oy, the reactions.
      * “Why have a relationship at all then, why not just be FWBs?” (I’m non-monogamous and FWBs are great, but you can want more than one thing)
      * “You can’t fall in love under those circumstances” (…except I can and have done.)
      * “That’s so clinical and calculated” (As opposed to the beautiful fiery passion of counting ceiling tiles during intimacy with someone you’re not attracted to?)
      * “What if the person is really nice and great and lovely? Then what?” (Then we can have a non-sexual relationship, like I do with the overwhelming majority of people I know. It’s not like breaking up with someone means you think they’re a worthless pile of garbage.)

  6. I am really really pleased that your changed the margins from bright red to pale blue, it is a lot more accessible for me. [Migraines, attention problems]

    1. Seconding this as another reader with migraines, ADHD, and sensory stuff! I loved the red colourwise, but dark backgrounds make it hard for me to read longer blocks of text. This look is a lot more accessible, so thank you!

    2. Yes, glad to have an opportunity of commenting on the new look – that hot pink/red colour was just too eye-straining, although it’s okay in small doses for headings etc. The present colour combination is fresh and clear, and if you can get the font size issue sorted out it should suit the majority of readers.

  7. I was just thinking today about how cool it was that you (and your Team) give such good advice and write it in such interesting ways that comments aren’t necessary, and how cool it was that you must have realized that and chose not to invest a lot of time and emotions moderating comments. I’m glad you explained, and I will still read. (I can’t remember if I supported or just thought about it, so I’ll go check that. )

  8. Q8, “My boss wants to hire me to ghostwrite his book.” — Danger, young Robinson.

    Take my husband as a cautionary tale. My husband has been editing his boss’s book draft for weeks now. My husband is expected to do the editing (10+hr/wk) on top of his regular, full-time job duties, for no additional money on top of his very modest salary. By strict deadlines that my boss gets to set. For bonus fun, he agonizes over every comment he writes because, you know, writing is personal and, like, power differentials.

    Proceed with caution!

    1. Yes! Also, this is an extreme example of crossing the streams. If your boss doesn’t like your ghostwriting, or you decide to walk away form the project, do you get to keep your job? Will your boss hold it against you when it’s time for reviews, raises, layoffs, etc.? Here be dragons.

    2. I had an old boss who loved to ask me about entirely-un-job-related projects (she knew I liked DIY, would I come and paint her front room? Or do some gardening as I was an outdoors person?).

      I always responded with a big smile and a cheerful “Oh, that sounds lovely! Draw us up a contract and we can pick a date!”. Surprisingly, she never did….

  9. I’ve always felt that having the comments closed on a post is a great example of boundary setting. I’m all about you doing what’s best for you Captain. Seal it shut if you need, this is your house.

    All the love.

  10. Although I greatly enjoyed the comments, I am glad that you have chosen to relieve yourself of the work of managing them! We’ll get along perfectly well with that new normal. After all, how many blogs have spawned their own discussion forums? You rock, Captain! To all the other readers/commenters: continue to be excellent to each other, and party on!

  11. Is Q2 perhaps looking for letter 1106? https://captainawkward.com/2018/05/29/1106-breaking-up-because-geography/ That’s the first thing that came to my mind.

    For Q3, my sympathies, and also full agreement with the captain: you need to talk to your husband and get *him* to put an end to the coming onto/into/somewhere in his vicinity. This problem would not exist if he firmly said “I need you to stop with these prepositions” and then held that boundary. It can be done! My spouse recently told a pushy friend that two-person dinner parties to try out her favorite childhood foods are off the table (pun intended) because: pandemic, and also, you can’t just invite one member of a married couple like that and totally ignore the other one who’s right there on the call. (Now she’s not talking to us, and I can’t find it in myself to be upset by this.)

    1. I know you mean proposition but the typo is making me imagine the neighbour seductively saying, “At…under…in…after?” with suggestive eyebrow action and now I can’t stop giggling.

      1. Oh no, I totally meant preposition (I had to look up what part of speech onto and into were for that pun, even).

        “How about we go… around?”
        (a dozen well-coifed elderly ladies gasp and clutch their pearls)

    2. If the husband explicitly shuts it down and it doesn’t stop, you no longer have a “coming onto/into my husband” problem, you have a “my husband is being sexually harassed” problem, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

      1. Yeah, you’re right. Though now that you mention it, it’s not clear from the question if maybe that’s what’s already happening. A conversation with the husband needs to happen, and if it is sexual harassment, he’ll probably need support in getting awayyyy from this boundary-crossing neighbor.

  12. Q12- You’re more likely to get the birthday celebrations you want if you… just tell your friends what you want. I don’t even remember the exact dates of the birthdays of most of my family, but tell me a couple days in advance and I’ll happily do something for it. People aren’t psychic – not everyone places significant value on their own birthdays so people will assume that if you want to celebrate you’ll tell them. (this year I was just happy getting myself some cake, for instance – it doesn’t really matter to me if others recognise the date or not).

    1. It’s true! I know my BFF’s birthday, husband’s birthday, and the birthday of my siblings. You’re not one of them and you want to hang out? Cool, tell where and when and I’ll show up with a little gift! But don’t wait until after the fact and sulk. Then we’re both bummed out.

  13. A suggestion for the paying for dinner search: add “if it’s not in your budget we can do something cheaper” to the end. That way you give them an out without insinuating they have less money than you (which should be a neutral fact, but society isn’t like that right now). Maybe the thing they’ve budgeted for instead of eating out is rent or toilet paper, maybe it’s a house deposit or a private jet. We can all just pretend it’s the latter, let them save face and have fun doing something cheap without embarrassment.

    1. I suggest starting with something inexpensive as the first time or outing to get out of the habit. It helps separate the reset from a discussion about money, takes the pressure off of the invitee to try to afford things, and also makes the change more about the structure than the inviter trying to save.

  14. Thank you for the single best description of my ADHD chattiness ever. I beg my friends to stop me if I become oblivious but they often don’t. So anyway, thanks for sharing those secrets!

    1. Absolutely. That’s an excellent out, and I love offering it pre-emptively “Not in my/your/their/our budget” is probably the most useful phrase for any and all money-related conversations. No weird class implications about how much money anybody has, and no value judgments about how much they “should” have or what they “should” spend it on.

    2. I live in a country where we had a protracted quarantine and for many many weeks I saw nobody in person. I live alone and although I always Zoomed and such, now that I can meet people in person I Cannot. Stop. Burbling. I did it only today with an acquaintance I randomly met in town, and she was so gracious about extracting herself. I really appreciate people gently stopping me: it means I don’t feel shamed for talking too much but they also don’t have to listen to me until the shadows lengthen and the foxes prowl.

  15. I’m sorry, this is completely off topic, just wanted to say I adore the new layout, and I adore how you handled the changeover to give all us neurodiverse please-just-do-not-with-the-change people time to adjust.
    Mwah.
    I appreciate you and your work, and I think I am a better person, and a better friend, and a better personfriend, because of your advice.
    Love and jedi hugs.

    1. I’m glad someone else has needed time with the changes. When The Captain put up her initial post about the vapors I thought she was perhaps being a bit much. Then all! of! the! colors! changed! And my first instinct was to curl up in a ball on the floor until the world made sense again. Once again, The Captain was right and I’m starting to like the new look now that I’ve had time to adjust.

  16. In case Q3 was not a typo, just ask the neighbor to wear a condom. Boundaries are sexy, and boundary talk definitely belongs in the bedroom!

  17. Related to Q2, Q12, and Q16:
    My birthday is in a few weeks and what I would love most is to see my sweetheart in person. Sweetheart lives 90 miles away and works in essential retail, so while we were used to being “medium distance” before, it’s now been over 4 months since an in-person visit with no end in sight. Most of the Captain Awkward readership can help me see him again someday: wear your masks if you can, and if you’re in the US, pester our government to pay people to stay home.

    What I will actually probably do is set up group video chat calls with other friends, invite one responsible friend to a masks-on distanced hangout outdoors for the first time, and hope none of those friends think too much about those birthday plans being my far distant second choice.

    1. Jedi Hugs internet stranger. I just closed two and a half years of medium to long distance with my parnter in November. It is awful.

  18. Just wanted to say I love the new layout and I applaud you for always modeling boundary setting! This site is pure gold.

  19. Q9 reminded me of the time a job interview included an invite to lunch and I was shocked to discover, after being seated at the table with a group of people I was hoping to work with, that I was expected to pay half the cost of my meal, as part of an announcement by the department head that they would be paying half of my tab oh so generously but not the tab of the other staff. I had $11 in cash, no available credit, and no job. I was not a stellar conversationalist as I tried to work out refusing shared appetizers and ordering the cheapest item I could. Luckily, perhaps, I had said something remarkably stupid earlier in the process and they rejected me sooner than they told me they’d be making their decision. Writing this out, it occurs to me this may have been a test of sorts less about my qualifications and more about whether I was in their in-group.

    But yeah. That’s not something I expected. “We like to eat lunch with our candidates, to see how people would fit as part of the team, would you be able to eat out with us” does not scream out “so bring cash.” I’m pretty direct about asking and telling who is paying now.

    1. I’d say you dodged a bad situation there. “We require our employees to attend mandatory lunches but don’t cover the expense” is a big red flag.

      1. Seconding what a massive red flag this is. Some employers seem to forget that interviews are as much about employers selling themselves. Lunches are 100% a culture fit analysis–I say having done a few of them for big law firms, none of which made me an offer–but this half-tab thing elevates this to a truly gross level.

        (And, like, I have $4 in cash on my person right now. Yikes, bread basket for me!)

    2. I once showed up for a Job Interview to be told that hey, they were all gonna eat lunch during the interview, so they ordered me something too, aren’t they so nice? Except I had already eaten before I came because it was a long interview around noon, and I never would have ordered what they decided to get me. So I had to sit there, on a totally full stomach, eating a messy sandwich that tasted gross trying to answer interview questions while also trying to chew and not appear like a total sob. I’m pretty sure I was radiating discomfort like a beacon. Did not get the job (shocker) which I am still a little sad about because it was so ridiculously close to my house. So now I feel that eating is much to touchy a subject to work into the super tense atmosphere of a job interview.

      1. When I was on grad school we did a search for a new faculty member. One of the most amazing moments of social grace I have ever witnessed was the at a breakfast for students and one of the candidates. Once the meal was served the head of the department turned the the candidate and said: “It’s so hard to eat and answer questions, so I am going to ask a very long question so you can get a few bites head start.” It was so brilliant because it was both practical – the candidate did get a chance to eat a few bites – and it acknowledged the like socially challenging situation she was being asked to navigate.

  20. I interpreted the question about looks differently, like the LW wants to know how to handle their choice of partner being dissed by their friends/family. Like, “Oh, did you choose your partner on their looks?” indicates that the querant finds nothing else of value in your choice of partner.

  21. I have occasionally missed the comment threads, but I know where the forums are. My usual thought on seeing the “comments are closed” line is “Oh, good, CA is taking care of herself/protecting the LW from potential fallout/generally making an excellent decision about allocation of emotional and mental resources.”

    The only time I really wished the comments were open was one day when the site’s experimental layout and colour scheme gave me a splitting headache and I desperately wanted to be able to say “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON’T DECIDE TO USE THIS LAYOUT OWWWW”. (This reaction was intensified by having been driven off Ravelry by their recent botched redesign and horrible ablist pushback.)

    1. Ha, that was the post that I most needed no comments because weirdly, design changes take *time* and my priorities were overall Structure/Template first and colors & fonts dead, dead last since fiddling with detail stuff on a template if I am not going to actually use it is a time sink. Don’t worry, your concerns were conveyed in many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many emails! 😜

    2. You definitely weren’t the only one who was upset about Ravelry because they put in a “classic” option to change it back now!

      1. Yes – but they’re not planning on allowing the “classic” option permanently, and they’re continuing to double down on their terrible handling of the whole thing. Apparently it’s yet another instance of the older, established customers/users — the ones with the disposable income, who actually support a business — being sacrificed for the benefit of the young hip customers, the ones the business does not have and thinks it needs.

        We’ve been told that we’ll be given a six-month warning before the Classic option is revoked for good. So the site owners remain fully committed to making it unusable for me, and many others, and regarding this as an improvement.

  22. Just wanted to say hi, thanks for all your posts during the pandemic, it has really helped to know I’m not alone with my anxieties and fears. The new format is easier for me to read.

    Loved all your responses!

  23. While we’re on the subject of masks, I hope we can soon move toward masks which work with poor hearing. Transparent masks are available to those that seek them out, but I will need the majority of other people to wear them if I’m to be able to work out what people are saying, even with hearing aids and my own mild hearing loss. I don’t think there is currently an environmentally-friendly mask which allows lipreading. I’m scared people will get angry with me when I can’t understand what they’re saying. And I’m far from the only person affected by this – my understanding is that it’s around one in eight people, many with far more severe deafness.

    I wonder whether some of the anti-mask rage is poorly-handled fear of this situation in older people, combined with a toxic dose of refusal to admit vulnerability.

    Wear a mask yes, feel free to encourage others to wear them, but recognise that a masked population is terrifying for a significant number of people, unless inclusive design and production change a lot from where we are now.

    1. I have some hearing loss, as well. I found an entrepreneur who sells various things to indicate HOH or Deaf visually, including masks. I was initially interested for decals for roller derby helmets to put on my deaf side.

      https://instagram.com/deafwearables?igshid=suulvgc5tlb3

      Kind of a wild tangent, but I had changed my insurance to have an FSA so I could afford hearing aids this year, but now it looks like they’ll be a 2021 event. Thanks, covid…

      1. Just in case you didn’t know, one of the relief bills allows you to make mid year modifications to your FSA. So if you don’t have a plan for that money you might be able to get it back, or at least stop funding it for the rest of the year.

    2. Just this morning I saw masks with transparent plastic at the mouth area, at wish dot com! It’s China based so you’ll get it, just not immediately. Maybe try Amazon too?

    3. You’ll get no argument from me about the need for better masks!

      Possibly some of the pushback on it is about hearing loss (and many sympathies to people who depend on lip reading and now have that plus an illness risk to fear), but in the United States you can never discount plain old entitlement and willingness to die (and and endanger others) if the alternative is being inconvenienced.

      1. I did see a short TikTok from a doctor who was using a speech-to-text app on his phone to provide real-time “subtitles” when talking to Deaf/hearing impaired patients. I don’t know what app it was sorry but if anyone is in this situation, it could be a handy thing to google.

        I’ve also noticed that Microsoft Teams has this “subtitle” feature built in.

    4. Rebirth Garments are a small company run by a disabled queer trans person of colour, and they’ve been making masks with a clear panel for Deaf and Hard of Hearing folks. They’re working on getting sliding scale payment options available, and all their proceeds go to Black Lives Matter campaigns etc. Definitely worth checking out! (Sorry for the horribly long link)
      https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/813185410/window-face-mask-non-medical-washable?ref=shop_home_active_5&crt=1

    5. This concern is 100% legitimate, but I do take issue with conflating it with the USA’s uniquely aggressive reaction to masks.

      I’m living abroad in a country that was hit hard by Covid (the USA has recently passed our maximum case per capita peak though) and also a country with a large elderly population.

      The mask reaction is so different here. Almost everyone is wearing the masks, and no judgement for the small percentage that aren’t (the assumption being they aren’t because they can’t, and people give them a lot of space either way). It helps that the government put guidelines into law, which for me is way less stressful than the ethics-sniping/shaming happening in the US. The mask thing is just chill here, like we’re happy we’re out of lockdown and we’re happy to have some protection.

      I’m assuming there’s similar or larger rates of hard of hearing folks here, and we aren’t seeing anyone throwing public tantrums about the masks.

  24. This post reminds me that I do not understand the popularity of the Twilight series of books. I can understand the first book’s popularity, I have vague memories of being in high school and not really having access to any way to order books that weren’t in stock at the bookstore when the first book came out, and the combination of new Fantasy! book! Available in stores! And Not! In the Middle! of a Series! With the first three not available! and the fact that several people read it and thought it was good meant a lot of people read it on their word.

    But how did later books become popular? After the first book it was apparent that the series was awful.

    1. They are popular because supernatural YA gothic horror-romance is fun, and they had GREAT cover design and a first movie adaptation that’s way better than it has any right to be.

      I’m not mad about anybody enjoying it, I just think it’s a horror story, not a love story.

      1. HA! I had forgotten that but the cover design really was great. I remember picking those books up at least a few times thinking “Oooooooooo…. this looks good. Oh, no wait.” And yea, don’t judge a book by it’s cover is what they say, but my mom read a lot of romance novels so I growing up I pretty much knew what I was getting into if there was a buff dude wearing a kilt and nothing else on the cover of anything, and that never really went away.

    2. My girlfriend read all of them after a bad breakup in her late 20’s (not long before she and I met, actually). She says they were trash, but they were entertaining trash that took her mind off the problems in her life. The protagonist wasn’t especially interesting, but she got everything she wanted in the end, which made it comforting to occupy her for a while.

    3. I mean, I can’t fully explain why they became such A Thing, because they’re not especially great. Lord knows there’s plenty to criticize about them. But I did generally enjoy the time I spent reading them (I was 19 at the time). They were fine. They were sufficiently entertaining. I did comment during the first one when someone asked me how I was liking it, “It’s good, but I realized I’m about two thirds of the way through the book and hardly anything has happened.” I do not feel compelled to own them or even reread them, but I’ve definitely read worse things.

  25. Birthdays: I know one friend’s birthday for sure because it’s the day before a major holiday. For everyone else, it’s, “It’s June, I think Dave’s birthday is this month. No, wait, it’s Jenny. June 22nd. Or is it June 27th? No, Sal is the 27th, but it’s July, not June. I think. Right? Crap.” Your friends can love you a lot and still get muddled about your birthday. I am that friend.

    Chatty neighbor: I’ve had some success with pandemic-related excuses: “Sorry, I can’t chat, I have a Zoom meeting soon.” “Sorry, but I have to log in and get some work done, my schedule is all over the place these days.” “Sorry, but I really need to go to the grocery store. It’s safer because fewer people go at this time.” “Sorry, but I have an appointment to pick something up curbside and really can’t miss it.” Say it with an apologetic smile and a cheery wave and, most importantly, keep walking/close the door.

    Masks: I carry a mask at all times and wear it the few times I go into a building these days (usually the grocery store or the pharmacy). However, I’m an immigrant with an accent, and I have had to remove it a couple of times so the person I’m talking to can understand me. So that’s another reason why you might see someone not wearing a mask.

  26. For Birthdays – You can also try channeling the energy of the most social-planny person in your friend group or extended family or sports club (if those ever come back).

    Remind a selected few of your birthday. If the few (or the one) is selected well, they’ll likely get you the celebration you want (because you told them what is) but you still get to see everyone else involved remember your birthday without having been told by you. Win win!

  27. Thank you for the discussion of Favor-Sharking. I recently ended a long-term friendship over this behavior and I had a lot of guilt over it. But being able to name it and recognize it as a tactic of control is really helping with my feelings of guilt and ickyness. I don’t make friends very easily, and this person had been a close friend for over 15 years. The favor-sharking had always been a mild thing there, but over the last several years, it had been almost constant. Every time I pushed back I got guilt trips and huffyness and a bunch of “after everything I’ve done for you!” behavior. I finally had to resort to just ignoring this person for a week during my exam period because they would not accept that I was busy and didn’t have the time or emotional bandwidth to allow them to use me as a handyperson/therapist and because I used the “silent treatment”, I was given an extensive lecture on all the things this person has done for me, told that they “needed time to think about our relationship” and haven’t heard from them since. I have been feeling like this was my fault, but I’ve really started to realize that I was not being treated like an actual friend, and that if this person wants to drop me because I pushed back, that’s on them not me.

    So yeah, thank you for that.

    1. If only they could have taken their time to think about the friendship and not contact you during the period you asked them to let you focus on your exams, you might still have been willing to be their friend! This is not your fault.

  28. Transparent face shields may be an option for folks who have trouble wearing masks; they offer a vapor barrier without having to have a physical thing sitting over your nose and mouth.

  29. Love the website design! One minor accessibility suggestion: some sort of non-color indication for links, at least those in the body of a post. Like an underline, although I’ve read that can make it tricky for people who’re dyslexic… Just a thought. It’d also help abled folks distinguish when there are links one after the other. 🙂

    1. YES seconded on having a link indicator that isn’t colour alone please!! Are there links in the post above? Are they red? Red text in amongst black text looks black if you’re red-green colourblind, which is one reason blue link text is more common and underlining is also used. If there are links above I can’t see them at all and I’m only partially colourblind. I’ve never commented before but I’ve been a reader for many years. Any help much appreciated!

  30. the new layout looks really nice! i hope it works well for your purposes as well as everyone else’s. i love reading the comment section and occasionally leaving comments for you, but i can’t imagine knowing that if i put out a post of any length i was going to have hundreds of people talking at me for a week and i would need to keep an eye on it to make sure no one was saying anything terrible. i probably would never put any words on the internet again. it is a gift to us that you occasionally leave comments open, and i hope that it helps you with taking care of yourself. i hope everyone is doing as well as they can be.
    i don’t get to tell this to tons of people and i’ve made occasional posts about it in comments sections, but i finished my bachelor’s this spring after nearly ten years of chipping away at it as a very disabled person. i am trying to be proud of this. i am stuck having to get some kind of certificate or master’s thing before i can actually do the job i got the degree for, and that is on hold, but i did do at least the first part.

        1. thank you all so much! started at 17, finished at 26. i switched from illustration to psychology after my wrists gave out on me. it was weird to not have a graduation ceremony and finish the semester stuck in my house, but them’s the breaks for everyone this year.

  31. Can I just say, I love how big the icons in the comments are now! The default monster icons are very fun, now that I can see them lol.

  32. As someone who has been socially distancing from her same-city partner (roommates, poor decisions, in one of the early hotspots), including on my few-weeks-past birthday: socially distant Jedi fist bump of solidarity for Doing the (Really Hard) Responsible Thing!! I hope your birthday rocks and is full of mostly joy.

    1. Oof, that is so rough. Thank you for taking one for the team. It is the responsible thing to do, but I can’t imagine it was very fun. I hope next year around you can do something really nice for your birthday, to make up for it.

  33. On comments: that sounds like a great mental health decision.

    It also sounds like it will change the dynamic of the site a lot. Something I really value about this blog, Captain, is that as a long-time reader, I watched you change your mind about things in response to comments. I especially appreciated seeing your anti-racism and anti-transphobia becoming more robust as you interacted with a lot of us.

    I know that interactions online aren’t always easy these days for many reasons, and closing comments sounds like it’s totally the right move for you. I just wanted to let you know that that was a valuable part of this site for me, and to say thanks, and I hope there are future days and ways that interactions can happen again that work for you.

    1. Thank you, I don’t dispute the value of the community input in influencing my evolving views and I am very grateful for it, and it will change the site culture (or, more accurately, it has already changed the site culture) to leave something that was very special behind. Still, it turns out I can read about, think about, and have discussions about those things without constantly *presiding* over them and without being round-the-clock responsible for how everyone else handles themselves throughout, so I do not see discussion coming back as a regular feature. 9 internet years is 900 regular years, and 9 years has to be enough.

      1. I’ve had just enough experience of moderation to understand how wildly disproportionate the level of effort required is. Like, 1000/1. If less comments means more CA, then (with all love to the community), I’ll selfishly go with less comments.

  34. As someone who has been subjected to *all* the “masks don’t affect O2 levels” and “Asthma isn’t an excuse, just use your inhaler” Facebook rants: THANK YOU!

    I can wear a mask indoors, in a climate controlled store, and outdoors without doing anything strenuous. And I will, because I want to protect others around me however I can. But for me it isn’t getting enough O2 that’s the problem, it’s having to suck air through a couple layers of material. Just that..just that tiny bit of added difficulty will leave me with a post-exertion headache under normal activities (yes, I know why. I have a DR. appointment lined up. Stupid bofy is being stupid at me).

    Sincerely, my moderately asthmatic, worse in humidity, anemic ass.

    1. Hard same from a fellow asthma sufferer. I have trouble getting enough air in through a mask if I’m doing any amount of physical exertion, especially now that it’s gotten hot and humid. It means that I’ve gotten horribly out of shape because it’s legitimately impossible for me to go jogging or for long walks, and I can’t do cardio exercises in my tiny apartment.

      But I still wear one (and therefore haven’t gone jogging since March, since I’m not willing to do it maskless like so many jerks in my area do), because I don’t want to catch covid and die, or accidentally kill a bunch of people if I’ve already caught it but miraculously managed to luck into getting the symptom-free version. (Honestly, like the Captain, it makes me even less patient with people who won’t wear them. Like, if I can suffer through gasping for breath through this stupid thing for the common good, you can too, buddy).

      1. The reason no one is jogging with masks is because approximately zero public health authorities think they are necessary when you are exercising outside. We have a lot of data, worldwide, from contact tracing and outside transmission under any circumstances is rare, and entirely unknown from incidental contact on a running path.

        Go for a walk! We’re in this for the long haul, you’ll be happier getting to do some regular movement, and you aren’t endangering anyone.

  35. I very much like this layout, after a bit of time spent blinking at it and clutching my figurative pearls because OMG CHANGES.

  36. I have a chatty neighbor. The things he has to say are often pretty interesting, but he will keep going no matter what. I say “I’m in a hurry tonight, I need to shower now” and he says “okay” and resumes his story while I stand in the bathroom doorway (the place I live has shared showers for people whose individual home doesn’t have one) and after saying “I need to go now” several times I give up and just close the door. Often mid-sentence because there are no breaks between sentences.

    On the other hand he doesn’t seem to mind at all that I often cut him off. So I listen to what he has to say about epidemiology or fish or whatever for however long I can devote to socializing (which is unfortunately just 30 seconds sometimes because we tend to cross paths when I’m rushing through my evening routine) and then say “sorry, I have to go” and then close the door or walk away.

    I don’t like cutting him off but I think maybe good ways to socialize with most people and good ways to socialize with one specific person can look very different.

    1. It’s possible he comes from a family where that’s just how you end conversations, and until you actually walk away saying you need to go just gets translated as ‘they’re letting me know they’re going to leave and end this conversation soon’ rather than as ‘the conversation is now over’. If walking away after such a warning works and he doesn’t seem upset I’d say don’t worry too much about it.

    2. I tell myself that if you’re accustomed to giving continuous strings of words to whoever will stand near you, then you must also be accustomed to those people ending conversations mid-sentence! You can’t be the only one that this nice man has done this at.

  37. Love the layout. Lov(ed) the comments but totally support what works best for the Captain. Thanks for ALL you do!

  38. This was one of the best comment spaces I have had the pleasure to participate in while it lasted! You did a wonderful job with that, Jennifer, so thank you very much. I’m glad you have found a way to make running this blog more compatible with good mental health. ❤

  39. Although I often liked the comments, they were intense (sometimes even as a reader or commenter) and one thing it helped make clear to me is how much very intensive, very high quality moderation is the closest thing to a secret of good internet forums. VERY intensive. And I’ve noticed from other boards that the person doing it and their relationship to the community matter a lot – it’s a community leadership position, so the job can rarely easily be replaced by someone who isn’t a leader in that particular community, even if the person theoretically has the skills to be a good moderator.

    So basically, the same things that made it good mean that I can very easily see why it would be just way too much to do sustainably as a regular thing on top of actually *writing* the columns plus like, the whole rest of your life.

  40. I am a neurodivergent chatty human who’s still learning how to apply what I know about conversations, tangents, word-blurting and redirecting self. I have a few scripts around this but do appreciate when others stop me politely. I get exceptionally anxious about it because, growing up, the redirections were not polite *enough* (it was seen as a problem that I should be able to fix). But I’d still prefer people tell me.

    Also, re: comments. I’ve loved the comments but completely understand why you’re closing them. I enjoy what you do and have heartily recommended your work on this site to others, so whatever makes things manageable for you is a good thing. 🙂

  41. I kind of feel like this is my last chance to thank the Captain for her amazing work. Captain, adore your site, your compassion, your humour, and your wisdom. I’ll keep reading as long as you keep writing.

  42. Do I choose a person based on looks? My honest answer is that I don’t know. I’m sure that’s part of how I’m attracted to someone, but only part, and I’ve been attracted to people with very divergent and not always conventionally attractive looks, so… (shrug).

    As for the “league” metaphor, ugh. Not gatekept and not a trophy.

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