It Came From The Search Terms: Flaming September (2021)

There is a tiny bit of September left, so who wants some search terms?

If you’re new here, this is a recurring feature where I treat the search strings people typed in right before they found this place as questions and answer them. No context! All assumptions! 

1 “Dating profile example ‘looking for my soulmate’.”

“How to answer ‘what are you looking for in a relationship'” is a perennial search term here, which fascinates me both algorithmically (every time I answer it, I make it more prominent, right?) and culturally. We inhabit and ingest so many stories about what love is supposed to look like, but so seldom are invited to think through what we actually want it to look like. People imagine that there’s one right answer or set of answers that communicates “I am good and worthy of love, not too needy and not too closed off ,and I want just enough so that you’ll like me enough to go out again but not so much that it will freak you out, here is my Elevator Pitch for why you should be with me, no worries if not, though.” It’s just like with job interviews where you’re supposed to be able to reframe your weaknesses as all the ways you would actually die for the company’s bottom line. If there are such answers for relationships and dating, I don’t know them. (I used to know them for job stuff but then somebody asked me in an interview “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and we both saw the panicked “NOT HERE, I WANT TO LIVE!” flashing out of my eyes in the resulting silence, rendering me unemployable)

Back to dating, I think that if you’re looking to find a lifelong partnership, it’s okay to say that! If you’re looking for more casual stuff, say that. Pretending you want one when you really want something else because you think it’s what you’re supposed to say is going to disappoint everyone. 

“Soulmate” seems like a lot of pressure out of the gate for me, but that’s just me! Perhaps your Immortal Beloved is out there.  

2 “I’m 40 and my dad hates my boyfriend.”

You’re 40 and you can date who you want!

I think if a close, trusted friend or family member usually likes the people you bring around and then suddenly has strong misgivings about one specific person, it’s probably worth asking them why at least once. “He’s not nice to you.” “He’s not nice to me/the waiter/anybody except you.” “You seem down and less happy when he’s around.” “He tried to recruit me into a pyramid scheme.” 

Absent good reasons, remember, not everybody has to like everybody else in order to behave with a basic amount of politeness. Speaking of…

3. “What should I do when my parents are insulted by my husband?” 

The passive voice is doing a lot of work here. Is your husband routinely insulting your parents? That’s probably a “Be cool, husband! Apologize and quit insulting my parents!” conversation. Is your husband being polite and kind, but your parents are manufacturing grievances with him? That’s a “Parents, you don’t have to adore [Husband] but if you want us to do stuff together as a family then please figure out a way to get along!” conversation.

Either way, the question you typed in here is a question you can ask your parents and your husband when conflict comes up. “What, if anything, do you want me to do about this?”  You may or may not be willing to do whatever it is, but definitely ask people to spell it out before you volunteer for anything! 

4. “My bf’s family babys him and controls him.”

Generally, when someone you love is dealing with a controlling person, the most helpful thing is to be the opposite of that. Meaning, if your boyfriend complains about his family, before you jump in and give advice, ask him if he wants advice or just a listening ear. Instead of telling him what he should do about a situation with them, ask him what he wants to do. Controlling people convince their targets that they can’t do the simplest things on their own, and a good antidote is to honor the person’s strength and agency as much as possible. 

Your boyfriend might benefit from finding a therapist to work this out, “my relationship with my family of origin is messing with my day-to-day and I need to get a better handle on how to have a functional adult relationship with them” is classic material for therapy. Whether he gets a therapist or not, you’re not going to be able to fix his family relationships on his behalf, so figure out what your own boundaries are for spending time with his family and spending your time processing the behavior of his family so that those things aren’t ruling your life. If you ever feel like you and his family are having proxy battle based on “But I just want what’s best for him,” it’s probably a good time to ask yourself, wait, what’s best for me right now, do I want to fight about _____, and try to leave them to it. 

5.  “Confronting the women who won’t leave my husband alone.” 

Loretta Lynn* is the queen of “He may be trash but he’s MY trash” songs.

While that song is a karaoke favorite of mine,  I’m also like, dump him, Loretta, that lady did not make your dude up and move in with her! Come on! Want better for yourself! 

A grown man who actually wants to be left alone is capable of saying, “Leave me alone, I don’t want this!”  so why isn’t your husband dealing with whatever this is? Text messages do not have to be answered in the order received, or, at all. His social media accounts also come with a block button.“Ma’am, what a flattering offer, but I am both married and not interested, so let’s keep it friendly and professional from here on out, thank you.” 

There is no sassy zinger from you that’s gonna get this done the way him saying “I don’t want this, please leave me be” to whoever’s bothering him would. 

6. “Should I wait for proposal before I move to be with him?” 

Why wait when you could discuss it? 

Mr. Awkward and I  moved to a different apartment  *within the same city* a few months ago for mundane “lease ending” reasons, and I’m trying to imagine undertaking that logistical shitshow and having the other party on the lease being like “Huh, I’m not sure if I’m ready for such a big step, I haven’t really thought about it” and no, I cannot, not without laughing the hysterical hyena laugh that is also mostly crying.

Moving sucks! Uprooting your life for love is a big, expensive deal! My counsel is, make sure that you and your beloved have shared hopes, assumptions, and plans about the future before you do it. “I want to move and be with you, but I want it to be because we’ve decided to get married” is a reasonable condition to set from the start. 

7. “i start fuxking up text when triwd” 

Who doesn’t, friend. Who doesn’t. I type faster than I think sometimes and I skip words all the time. 😦

8. “Will awkwardness subside between me and my crush when we get together?” 

Maybe? The question of “I like you, do you like me?” will hopefully be answered, but the “I want _____, do you also want ____?” conversations don’t magically melt away when you’re dating someone, you just fill in the blanks with different stuff, like, what’s for dinner.

Cautionary Tale: If you’ve ever read Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, you’ll know that Harrison Ford was a taciturn, remote, mostly stoned, extremely boring dude before they started having sex and that didn’t change after they started having sex. Is your crush someone who is easy to talk to, in general, about regular stuff? If so, that would help a lot! 

9. “How to make your boyfriend realize that you are irreplaceable.” 

There’s only one of you, so you are by definition unique and irreplaceable. But there are a lot of people on this planet who might be a good match for your boyfriend, the same way there are multiple possible happy matches for you. If he’s not choosing you of his own accord, that’s not something you can change by pouring yourself into what you imagine the perfect vessel to be or making an airtight case about it. My advice is worry less about being the perfect partner and worry more about making sure you are getting your own needs met, including the need to know that you are special and valued, including the need to be with somebody who doesn’t leave you guessing about that. 

10. “I invited my friend somewhere and now she’s inviting extra people its annoying.” 

One script could be “Oh, you probably didn’t realize, but when I invited you to _____, I intended it to be just me and you. If you want a big group thing next time when you’re initiating plans, go ahead and plan something, but please don’t assume it’s a ‘the more, the merrier’ deal when I’m making the arrangements.” 

This probably won’t solve the issue of the current plan, since if she’s already invited people she may be reluctant to get in touch with all of them again and disinvite them, so you may want to build in some grace for this instance in exchange for clearer boundaries in the future. 

Speaking personally, I greatly appreciate friends who ask before including additional people in plans. Like, maybe I *will* sit next to a good friend at brunch while [they and their latest datefriend eye-grope each other][their parents are visiting from out-of-town and decided to tag along][they invited all their coworkers to come, too], but I’ll be a lot happier about it if it’s not a surprise and if it is an actual informed choice on my part. 

11. “Captain Awkward housecleaning” 

I am not a champion housecleaner, but here are some resources I like: 

Obviously, the things I need help with aren’t what everyone needs help with, so only use what works for you! I am not a cleaning researcher; no comprehensive guide to every possible cleaning issue is forthcoming.

In terms of interpersonal relationships and cleaning, I generally think that you should try as much as possible to share housing with people who have similar needs and approaches to cleaning as you, since there’s no magic way to turn a messy person into a neat person or make a neat person ignore mess. I also think that assumptions are bad, assumptions based on gender are worse, and spelling out who will clean what when in as boring and straightforward a way as possible is the best antidote to those assumptions (and best chance at household harmony). 

12. “Polyamory that involve a sibling relationship dating the same person morally ok.” 

This was an actual question in the past, was this what you were looking for? 

My sexual “morals” are based in informed consent, not religious codes, and my views haven’t really changed in that people who think it’s a good idea to date siblings at the same time are not only knowingly signing up for a certain amount of jokes and side-eye but also playing with a higher degree of difficulty and Giving No Fucks than I personally possess. If this seems like a good idea to you, and everybody involved enthusiastically and knowingly signs up for it, then you probably don’t need my permission anyway. 

13. “While drunk insulted group of people how to apologize.” 

For best results, be sober, be specific, and be responsible.

“I’m so sorry I said __________ last night when I was drunk.” 

That’s the apology sorted. The lesson is, next time you see these people, drink less (or not at all), and don’t repeat the incident. 

14. “Gay male seek bi male roommate who must be ok with male penis exposed in kc mo” 

Missouri, I swear, I’ve been getting this one in the search terms EVERY MONTH for like A YEAR will no one look at this guy’s LONELY DONG have MERCY 

Friend, are you sure that your sexual fantasies and your daily routine need to be mixed in this way? What if the potential roommate is okay with nudity but never pays bills or washes any dishes? Exhibitionist fun-times can probably be arranged with willing gents without a 24-7 commitment to “Surprise!….Again!! It’s my genitalia!”

A meme: Jessica Jones with Kilgrave standing way too close, she's thinking "Me Watching Labyrinth" and he's "David Bowie's Bulging Penis"
A formative film for many, to be sure, but there are limits!

Speaking from experience,  I once had a roommate who aggressively walked around naked all the time, bathed and went to the toilet with the door open, and repeatedly tried to show me/my dinner guests naked pictures of herself and it was so, so tedious. “Bisexual” and “Wants to see your neverminds at all hours” are not the same. Honestly, I wish she had put that shit in her roommate ad from the start, it would have saved me a lot of “Can you move? You’re blocking the TV. Also, put on underpants or throw a towel down if you’re going to sit on my couch.” 

So, good job being specific about what you’re looking for, I guess, and good luck with all that! 


Before we go, this isn’t a search term, this is me marveling at this Ask A Manager question from yesterday. Sometimes in this job I think, “I have seen it all, the most dramatical drama, there can be nothing new under the sun,” and then there is a coworker who prayed for a dude to die, told him about this out loud, and is now miffed at being left off his wedding invitation list and is getting the rest of the team riled up. “Ted,” Alison advises “clearing the air” with “Sally,” and sure! This is a good time to be like, “Remember when you told me that you prayed for me to die? I thought that was really weird and a good sign that we should keep work at work!”  But in your shoes I would not meet with her alone under any circumstances. You want open doors and witnesses, lots of witnesses, for whatever bananas thing this person does and says next, and you probably want a new job as soon as you can find one. Congratulations on your wedding, though! 

*Sadly, Loretta Lynn passed away quietly in her sleep sometime before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or so I choose to believe. RIP to a Great One.