It Came From The Search Terms: January 2021

It is that time when I pretend that the search strings people typed in are actual questions. Details? What details. Mitigating circumstances? Ha! It’s all assumptions, all the time!

1 “Dating two sisters at the same time.” 

Your life is your own, obviously, but I’m not going to encourage obviously terrible decisions.

2 “Why a lady tells you that ‘let’s have a secret relationship.'”

People that want secret relationships tend to be:

a) Involved with someone else and don’t want them to know about you, with a high chance that they are breaking some rules or agreements they have with somebody else and lying about it.  Cheating, forbidden office romances or teacher/student, doctor/patient type stuff.

b) People who have something super-complicated going on. Legal battles (esp. divorce/custody stuff), public figures avoiding gossip and security threats, superheroes protecting their alter-egos.

c) Both/all of the above?

Definitely ask why, think about whether those seem like good reasons, and double-check anything that doesn’t seem right. Somebody who will lie about you has a more than zero percent chance of being comfortable lying to you.

3 “Reply for ‘I don’t go for looks.'”

Edited: I got a couple emails about this one yesterday so let’s try this again:

This sounds like someone trying to either ‘neg’ you or reassure you that they don’t like how you look but they want to sleep with/date/be with you anyway. Whatever they intend, it’s probably not landing as a compliment, so I understand why it’s weird.

If you truly do not notice or care about looks as it relates to attraction (emailers citied autism, prosopagnosia aka “face-blindness,” and asexuality as possible reasons), I believe you. 

If you are responding to people’s self-deprecation, like, a person on a dating site is apologizing for having a non-idealized shape or hairline or whatever, and you’re been using “Oh, I don’t go for looks” to reassure them, I get where you’re coming from. They’re making you eavesdrop on a conversation between them and themselves and it’s weird, you’re trying to move them past it to what’s actually interesting about them.

Unfortunately, when someone wants to know if you like how they look, responding with “Oh, I don’t care about looks” might be true, but it is also not reassuring. “Am I pretty, Mommy?”  + “Oh honey, it’s what’s on the inside that counts!” = Huh, sounds like a ‘no’ on the pretty question. You may mean it as a compliment, or a statement of values, but there are ways to make it land softer: “I like how you look and you’ve got good stuff inside, that’s best of all worlds!” 

You can think beauty standards are fucked up, you can think the way we prioritize looks is messed up, or not really get it, and wish people would focus on personality and goodness more, I agree with all of those things, but maybe don’t be like the person who mistranslates “honesty” as “defaulting to the meanest thing you are allowed to say in all circumstances” or the one who “fights capitalism” by refusing, on principle, to tip the people who bring them goods and services.

If you’re truly neutral on the question of looks, and you like the person, why not split the difference in favor of “I think you look nice” or “I like your face” vs. trying to prove your absolute neutrality about something the other person obviously does care about? There is a difference between a dispassionate audit and a compliment, so choose which one you’re delivering. For self-deprecators, try “You look pretty good to me” + switch the conversation to what you find interesting about them. Can’t read or see faces? Clock this extremely delightful person’s approach.

Thanks for the emails about this, it did make me rethink things substantially. Hope this helps.

4 “What’s wrong with correcting an employee in front of a customer?” 

Well, I’m imagining a retail/customer service/waitstaff thing here. If you are a manager and you see someone doing something incorrectly, or a customer is complaining and wants your employee to fetch you, what’s stopping you from pulling the employee aside to quietly check in with them and give them a chance to correct whatever it is themselves? What’s stopping you from briefly stepping in instead of your staffer and helping a hostile or particularly high-maintenance customer yourself? Isn’t that’s why they pay you the slightly bigger bucks? The customer gets helped, your employee gets supported. There are ways to make your staff feel like you have their backs, even when they make mistakes, so use them.

I’m sure people can come up with all kinds of exceptions, and if there’s something absolutely wrong or unsafe going on, where it’s worth embarrassing an employee to stop something worse from happening, then correct away! Presumably knowing when and why to do this is also why they pay you more?

If you’re unsure of the difference, here’s a story about how not to be: The owner at a long-ago restaurant job I worked loved swooping in and being “The Mayor,” his whole schtick was “hands-on” guy, but it was never to back up the waitstaff, it was always to show how great he was instead of us. So he’d chuckle with the customers about how hard it is to “find good help these days” while I was within earshot, he’d grab whipped cream out of my hands to apply it “correctly” to a slice of pie without checking in about whether it was a special request from the customer, then yell at me five minutes later for “wasting” pie when I had to redo the order. He’d yell at us about accepting expired coupons and gift certificates before shift started, but when we’d say “no” to a customer during the shift, suddenly he’d be there to make sure “the customer is always right” and grant an exception. Whatever, it’s his business, but maybe skip the lectures and threats to take expired gift cards out of our tips if we accepted them? He once overheard me answering the phone when I worked the front counter with “Dude, please stop calling and get some help” and chewed me out in front of all my regulars about professional phone manners. Who was on the other end of that phone? The guy who called three times a shift to ask me if I had ticklish feet and could he masturbate on them. He also grabbed dirty dishes out of my hands more than once and threw them in the trash, making absolutely sure that the customer who used them, an AIDS patient from the nearby assisted living facility, could see and hear it.

Anyway, I quit that job in 1996, but last time I was in the area, I noticed there’s a new parking lot where his life’s work used to stand.

5 “I don’t like to chat on phone before meeting up.” 

If you are doing the online dating thing, probably filter for other people who share this preference or who will respect your boundaries and wishes, though I suggest considering some pandemic-flexibility around brief phone or video chats vs. in-person first dates, possibly with a decision matrix based on “how much you hate the phone” vs. “how bad you wanna meet any people/this particular person.” There are messaging apps and services like Google Voice that let you do this safely without giving out your cell# to anyone who asks.

6 “l want to free sex demon partiner online.” 

You want A free demon sex partner online? Maybe start with FetLife?

Or is it that you want TO free a demon who is also your online sex partner? Maybe revisit that Buffy episode where Willow tries online dating before you do anything Hellmouth-y.

7 “Is him watching my favorite shows a big sign of love?” 

It’s nice when someone you like gets interested in the things you like because you like them, it’s certainly not a sign of dislike or disinterest. But people don’t have to like the same media to like each other, love is going to need some conversations before you can count on it. May this be a good beginning!

8 “How do I break the news to my spouse that his youngest daughter moved in with her boyfriend?” 

What if it’s his daughter’s job to tell her dad what she wants him to know, when she wants him to know it?

You didn’t say she was your daughter, so get out of the middle and reject the roles of secret keeper or messenger. “You should call your dad or send him a note with your news.” “You should talk to your daughter about that.”

9 “Decided to post my first dick pic.” 

Wow, big milestone! I can’t congratulate you without knowing where you sent it and how consensual and expected it all was, so forgive me if I don’t immediately record it in the family newsletter, but good luck out there and remember, nobody wants to be surprised with images of your privates. If it’s not a forum where people share and expect to see that stuff consensually, or if you’re texting back and forth with someone, and it’s too awkward to ask first and wait for a yes, then it’s definitely too awkward to send it.

10 “I was fired for lecturing my coworkers about the vegan way of life.” 

Well, everybody loves being lectured, what could have possibly gone wrong?

This has inspired me to do some chart/visual-aid making, while I’m working on that, here’s what I’ll say with some confidence:

  • It wasn’t the veganism, it was the lectures. You were either so annoying about this that it didn’t matter how good at your job you were or so bad/mediocre at your job that it wasn’t worth putting up with how annoying you were. The better you were at your job, the more likely there was a series of meetings and awkward chats and warnings where they gave you every chance to knock it off before they showed you the door.
  • Nobody likes being lectured or preached at about anything, especially by coworkers, and nobody likes having their food judged. Do this enough, and even people who agree with you will start to groan when you start talking and find ways to avoid you, and there is not a single religion, lifestyle, political movement, fandom, or food choice that grants an exception to this.

I hope you land somewhere that’s a better fit for your lifestyle and obsessions and also learn the life-changing magic of keeping your eyes on your own plate when you’re at work.

Thank you for the diverting topics! I have deadlines this week so it was either “write post” or “read comments” but not both, so, enjoy.