It Came From The Search Terms: 33rd of August

It is time for the recurring feature where I treat search terms that led people to the site as actual questions. No context, no backstory, all snap judgments.

First, a song:

All right, let’s do this.

1. What to tell your girlfriend when she ask you “the kind of relationship you want?”

What’s the worst thing that happens if you take this as an opportunity to dream about what kind of relationship you want and then tell the truth about those dreams?

What do you want? From your life? From this relationship?

In the best possible world, where you get everything you want, what does it look like?

If you ask her the same question, what does she have to say?

2. ” Intelligent way to answer what u looking for in dating site so that you fuck her?”

Uh, there is no sentence string known to humankind that guarantees someone will want to have sex with you, but you’ll probably have the best luck if you keep it simple: “I’m looking for fun, friendly casual sex partners.”

3. “How to ask a friend if i can use her summer home without her in it.”

A BOLD MOVE! Maybe try “Do you ever rent the place out? I’m looking for a getaway spot for [A family gathering][A romantic weekend away][Some alone-time to recharge] around [dates]. My budget is roughly $_____.”

If you sense any hesitation from this friend, back off and find somewhere else to stay.

If the friend says yes, you will obviously leave the place in immaculate condition.

4. “What does it mean when your boyfriend introduces you as a friend.”

My first instinct is, he’s introducing you to people who don’t know him well or don’t know he’s in a romantic relationship. There can be lots of reasons for that, ranging from “He’s not out yet, or out to these people” to “Surprise! He’s married with an entire family” so a good follow-up question when you’re alone is, “Is there a reason you introduced me to so-and-so as your friend and not your partner?” How he answers this will give you lots of information.

Speaking of…

5. “My divorced boyfriend want to keep me a secret.”

Got you something.

Questions that immediately pop to mind:

Are you sure he is actually divorced? (In your shoes, I would literally check court records.)

Are you sure that he’s actually your boyfriend? Is this an “I’d like to keep my options open” kinda deal?

Is there some obvious reason, as in, is he your boss or coworker just trying to keep things profesh at the office? Are you dating someone who isn’t out about their sexuality or identity?

He may have his reasons, but you don’t have to help him prop up a lie. “Let’s break up. Come find me whenever you work things out so this doesn’t have to be a secret.”

6. “My husband lets his family walk all over him.”

You cannot fix your husband’s family, and you cannot fix your husband, so let’s talk about what you can actually do about it:

1) You can encourage your husband to seek therapy and tools for learning to set boundaries and unlearning some things about the way he was raised.

2) You can become the Emperor of Boundaries where your own well-being (and the well-being of any children you have) is concerned. He might not be able to say no to his family, but you can say no to them and to him about things that adversely affect your life. “No, your parents /your deadbeat sibling cannot live with us.” “No, they cannot ruin every single vacation and holiday celebration.” “No, your mom cannot be in the delivery room when I give birth.” “No, I’m not eating at their house anymore since every time I do they put mushrooms in the food.” “No, they can’t verbally abuse me or our kids and expect us to put up with it.” “No vaccines, no masks? Then no visiting the baby, period.”

See also: “I realize that your family can be very overbearing, but the way you’re pressuring me to go along with my own mistreatment right now is a you-and-me problem and I need you to stop.” “Difficult Family Member is going to get upset no matter what you do. If you keep [ditching our plans][giving them money we can’t afford][giving into their demands][Not standing up for yourself/me/our kids] every time they demand it, kindly remember that I am also your family and I will also be upset with you.

The saying no isn’t about getting him to change or getting them to change. It’s about protecting your peace by refusing to get caught up in their antics. For better or worse, your husband is in charge of how he handles his relationship with his family, but you have all the say in how he handles his relationship with you.

This question is incredibly, incredibly common here and in other advice forums around the internet, and it is a brutal dynamic to live with, to the point where “Hrmmm, I love this person a lot but they can’t seem to say no to anybody but me” is probably something to screen for *early* in the relationship.

7. “How to quit on being a godparent.” and 8. “How to quit bridesmaid.”

Ideally, before agreeing to be a godparent to a child or stand up in someone’s wedding (or accept a freelance assignment, or agree to some complicated favor), try this:

“I’m so honored, thank you! But, before I commit, can you tell me what that entails?”

ASSUME NOTHING. Ask the person to spell out what they envision your role to be. “Come to the baptism, say some words, give good presents on gifting occasions, be a trusted adult who also loves my kid” is different from “Be at every single event my child ever does and promise to raise them if something happens to me.” “Wear a nice dress on the day and be my friend during wedding planning” (s/o to Commander Logic) and “Plan, pay for, and attend nine separate events on three continents where you will both set up and tear down the decorations and also change your body so you ‘match’ the other attendants” are not even in the same universe.

Based on their reply, if you have a strong, immediate “Yes, I’d love to!” or “Oh, that all sounds amazing, but I know I don’t have the funds/bandwidth/time/resources/planning ability to do it right, so can I RSVP now as an enthusiastic guest?”

If you’re on the fence at all (and/or if you’re a recovering over-scheduler), try: “Thanks for spelling it out, that all sounds exciting! When do you need an answer? I need some alone time with my calendar and bank account before I commit.” Then take a day or so and actually do the math. If the answer is no, try “I am so happy for you and excited to celebrate with you, but I can’t commit to the ______ role. I wanted to let you know ASAP so you can make another plan.” The person might get upset or try to negotiate, and that’s understandable. Ride it out. You know your own limits.

Unfortunately for these querents, it’s too late. I’m going to pull from past advice about breakups, quitting jobs, and moving away, and suggest that you think of it not as a negotiation, request, or exploration of reasons and past events. Rather, you are communicating a decision you have already made so the other person can make a new plan for the future. Give as much lead time as you can, and then be clear, direct, and firm.

Scriptwise: “Friendname, I am so happy for you and so honored that you asked me to be a [role], but I’ve realized I cannot follow through with what you need. I’m so sorry to upset all of your plans at this stage, but I’m going to withdraw as [role] now, before I get even more over my head, and while there is still time for you to make a Plan B.”

I’m assuming here that there is no glaring conflict where “Uh, you know why” would suffice. (I think there is an inbox question where “The groom hit on me, repeatedly. Fuck no I’m not being in your wedding anymore, are you even serious right now?” would be entirely appropriate.)

Brace yourself for some “But why?” and gnashing of feelings. If the person is reasonable, and you think there is a “why” they will accept? Tell them. “I just really and truly cannot afford either the money or the time commitment.” “I’m pregnant and your wedding is the baby’s due date.” “I can tell that ‘godparent’ means something totally different to you than it does to me, and I’m so sorry I didn’t ask you to clarify it from the start.” “I got into graduate school. In France. So I’m not going to be around to actually help you with any of this.”

Sometimes there is no “why” they will accept, and that’s when “I’m truly sorry, but I know this is the right decision for me” is all you can do. “I know you are disappointed, and again, I’m truly sorry, but my answer isn’t going to change.”

It sucks to feel like you’re letting a loved one down when they you to be a part of a very important occasion, but I promise, it sucks WAY LESS to say no up front than it does to agree because you’re afraid of disappointing them and have to drop out later.

9. Many, many variations on “how do I have sex as a fat person/with a fat person” that range from the earnest to pornographic

Start with Hanne Blank’s book, Big, Big Love.

If images and sexy videos are your thing, seek out media made by and starring fat performers. It’s out there, and you clearly have working search engine, so godspeed!

10. “Can I block clingy ex even though I promised to be friends.”

Yes. It’s not mandatory to stay friends with former partners. Even if they want it. Even if you promised. You get to change your mind!

If you want, right before you block, send one message along the lines of “I know I promised we’d stay friends, but I’ve realized that I need a clean break and I would like you to stop contacting me. I wish you well.”

Then comes the hard part. Do not reply to any further communications from them. If they ping you 37 times and you answer the 38th ping, you’ve shown them that it takes 38 pings to get your attention, so next time they’ll play it safe and go for 39. Every time you interact with them after you asked them to stop, you’re prolonging the detachment process. Once you block, let yourself be done! You don’t need to explain why, you don’t need to “work on” a relationship that you’ve ended or help someone get over you. If your ex deputizes mutual friends or people in your life to guilt you into resuming contact (a common tactic to get around blocks), tell those people “Ex and I aren’t in touch anymore, at my request, so I need you to stop passing messages and info back and forth.”

11. Captain Awkward Firthing

Originally mentioned in A Shy Guy Caught My Eye. Refers to the practice of staring balefully at someone you have a crush on instead of actually talking to them, and letting the feelings build up until they erupt out of you in a terrifying volcano of thwarted desire a là Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 Pride & Prejudice adaptation.

Mr. Firth has since gone on record that he’d prefer we call this “Darcying.”

As you were.

29 thoughts on “It Came From The Search Terms: 33rd of August

      1. Since “Darcying” hasn’t caught on, how about compromising on “Fitzing”?

  1. For #5 and #6, I dated a guy like this for a good eight months.

    My divorced boyfriend wanted to keep me a secret. Turned out he wasn’t divorced. Turned out he was barely separated. I met him three? four? weeks after his wife moved out. He wanted to keep me a secret from his wife in case she wanted to get back together (I think). Also, his wife had *finally* left him because he’d cheated on her A LOT. Secret keeping was his modus operandi.

    As for the other, his family walked all over him. How did I know I was a secret? He had to talk to his mom daily for an hour (during which she constantly berated him). When he was chasing me, he didn’t call her, so she called his wife, then his children to find out why he hadn’t called. Did he think this was a problem. A boundary issue. No.

    I noped out because I’m no one’s secret + he truly believed that one couldn’t have boundaries with family.

  2. Oh, wow, I agree, very bold move on the part of the searcher who wants to stay in someone else’s vacation home without them. I have seen so much vacation home drama over the years!

    The most intense, easily, was when a friend’s well-off, retired parents bought a vacation home close to where Friend and her family lived. Her in-laws (not so well-off, also retired) were very jealous. After Friend-and-husband-and-children’s first visit to the house, the in-laws sent everyone, including Friend’s parents, a very intense Feelingsmail all about how Friend’s parents should vacate the house for half the summer and allow them to stay there for “alone time” with “the kids” (mid-30s with their own children!), because it was “only fair.” It’s been a few years. Guess who’s never, ever seen the inside of that house? Three guesses and the first two don’t count.

    But there’s also the classic: original owners of vacation house died; house was split among adult children of owners; one child bought the others out; that child’s siblings expected all-expenses-paid visits to the vacation house, without the owners present, and bringing along whoever they wanted. They also got very angry if a piece of ancestral vacation-house furniture was moved or (god forbid) taken out of rotation. Sibling-who-bought-the-house couldn’t take it anymore, sold it and bought another with the proceeds.

      1. I have seen almost as many Vacation House Dramas as I have Wedding Dramas. It probably doesn’t help that Vacation House Dramas raise their heads every vacation season. Very yikes!

          1. I would LOVE details of this, if you ever care to share. The two most ridiculous kind of dramas got together and had a horrible baby! What a world!

    1. I am one generation below ongoing deep Family Vacation House Drama. Short version is, my aunt, who owns 25% of the house, acts as though it is 100% her house and starts drama anytime anyone does anything she doesn’t like. Things like Attempting to Set a Schedule for Use of the House, Every Single Godforsaken Year. There are little sticky notes everywhere with “helpful reminders” about how to use and leave many little things. All the cupboards and dressers are full of her food, clothes, and other things with no room for visitors’ items. It is A Lot!

      The main thing I have learned from the drama in my parents’ generation is that it’s not about the vacation house or the money; it’s about trying to get attention/control/love. And if I just nope out of interacting with and feeding it, my life is a lot more pleasant.

      I am already so excited that when my time comes to be actively involved in it (when my mother eventually passes, may that day be many years from now) I get to say NOPE! and divest myself from it and never visit again!

      And for now, variations on being the Empress of Boundaries from #6 above, skills I learned primarily here, are serving me very well on my infrequent visits.

      1. I have this exact scenario going on with my sister, except that it’s my mom’s actual house—the house we all grew up in (four sisters) and my mom is ALIVE.

    2. My mother has a very nice home. I would love to stay there sometime with her not in it. That will never happen while she lives. Which is totally fair. I would never even try. Your examples above take my breath away.

    3. I think it very much depends on the person and the relationship. I live in a resort town and have a house with an attached, seperate 1br suite. When I’m at home, I live in the suite and have long term tenants occupying the main house. I travel a LOT, for long periods of time, so I’ve offered and had friends ask to stay in the suite while they visit Resort Destination without me, and I have no problem with it at all. I’ve also stayed at my cousin’s vacation place a few times, I don’t think it’s a huge deal to ask if you’re sufficiently close and “no” is an ok answer.

  3. I have lived through #6, and in my case there was a straight line between “I’m not allowed to say no to my family” to “you’re not allowed to say no to my family” to “you’re not allowed to say no to me.” The emotional abuse was horrific, I escaped so hard I’m going to be living on a different continent, and the divorce cannot go through soon enough.

  4. +100 for “they can’t seem to say no to anybody but me”
    See also: “they are too ‘polite’ or ‘shy’ to ask for help from anyone besides me, so I have to be their entire support network”

    1. The flip side: “I can’t help it that’s just the way I am. Why no, i don’t act like this at work or out in public, why do you ask?”

  5. When my (future) mother-in-law would introduce me to her friends she always called me “Husbandsname’s Friend.” I assure you “friend” was said with aural quotation marks in an attempt to annoy.

    We had been dating more than a decade, and we definitely used the words boyfriend/girlfriend or partner.

    Since she is impervious to suggestions by me, and since I was torn between snickering and towering rage every time she did it so I couldn’t address it in the moment, I enlisted my mother to help. My mother felt MIL might think there was something childish about boyfriend/girlfriend. She slyly inserted “partner” whenever she was with MIL. Gradually MIL started to use “partner,” no quotation marks.

    My mother is fabulously kind. And it had never occurred to me that anyone would find “girlfriend” a childish term. So even if it wasn’t true, it was immensely helpful for my blood pressure to think it so. Luckily I now know all my MIL’s friends.

    1. Oh Yes! My mother does this but it’s not so much to annoy as she seems to have decided no romantic relationship is real unless it has achieved fiancé(e) or spouse/husband/wife status. She even did this for herself when she remarried, she introduced her future husband as “friend” with aural quotation marks denoting in this case “special significant friend” status to everyone until she could call him fiancé followed by husband. People are strange.

    2. I like the term ”girlfriend” / ”boyfriend” actually, especially for people who are middle-aged and older. I myself am very long-married, but a close relative has been in a relationship for around 30-35 years (with several children) and they still call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, and it’s actually quite romantic. It helps that they’re genuinely very happy together and do fun stuff and are cool people generally.

  6. #2 is on the wrong website. If what ze wants is primarily/exclusively to fuck someone rather than building an involved relationship with a compatible person, then what ze needs is a sex worker, not a woman on a dating site (some of whom will be looking for NSA sex – they tend to note that in their profiles, so #2 should already be selecting from that pool – but most of whom will be looking for prospective long-term partners).

    Maybe we could get anti-sex-work ‘feminists’ on board with making sex work legal and safe if we point out that safe, legal sex work would reduce the number of people like #2 messaging them “sup” and immediately escalating to sexual solicitation on dating sites, Facebook, Instagram, etc.?

    1. I’m not sure what immediately got me defensive about your response–like, there is a place for using dating websites for hookups. Like you noted, there are a lot of people of all genders who are looking for NSA sex. And I concur that decriminalizing sex work is a necessary good for society! But I think the idea that “This person is rude on a website, therefore they should pay a sex worker” is just off. Sex workers don’t need rude customers. The problem is entitlement.

      I’m a woman, I’m not looking for dates as I’m aromantic, and sometimes I use dating websites to try to find fuckbuddies. Maybe you always intended to include that under the correct uses of a website but it did feel like I was being caught up in your generalization. Not all of us who primarily want to fuck are assholes about it, and some of us may prefer the amateur space rather than paying a professional.

    2. ‘Maybe we could get anti-sex-work ‘feminists’ on board with making sex work legal and safe if we point out that safe, legal sex work would reduce the number of people like #2 messaging them “sup” and immediately escalating to sexual solicitation on dating sites, Facebook, Instagram, etc.?’

      It wouldn’t. People don’t behave that way because sex is unavailable, they behave that way because they don’t care how they treat women/female-presenting people. Regardless of the legality/availability of sex work, there is absolutely nothing to stop someone who wants casual sex from putting that in their profile, focusing on people whose profiles indicate that they want similar, and behaving in a polite and non-pushy way about it. The fact that many people choose not to do this is not something that can be solved by having sex workers available. (I fully support decriminalisation of sex work, but not for this reason.)

  7. Like #4, my girlfriend introduced me as her “friend” for almost the first year we were dating. It was nothing nefarious: it’s her first romantic relationship, we were friends for a few years before we started dating, and “boyfriend,” “partner,” and other terms just sounded wrong to her at first. There is indeed a wide range of possible reasons, and only conversation with the relevant person can resolve the question.

  8. RE: Question #9 this is something I’ve considered writing about myself. I’ve always been extremely overweight, and sexually active for around 25 years now, but my long term current partner marks the first time there’s been a considerable size disparity. While in the past I’ve read Hanne Blank and other ‘go to’ texts they focus almost entirely on reassurance and empowerment which is obviously a much needed thing, but not the place I’m in right now. All the advice seems to be of the ‘don’t worry you won’t crush them!’ type rather than the ‘when trying this position, resting your weight on X rather than Y can make you less likely to cramp or risk winding them’ type.

    I’m fairly internet savvy (I work in tech) but I keep hitting this issue and it feels like it’s almost impossible to find material that’s helpful in a practical sense? And pretty difficult to find non-gross material full stop (gross here being used to describe fat bodies being fetishised/objectified/dehumanised in an upsetting and negative way, rather than to kinkshame).

    1. This this. I’m actually the opposite end of the spectrum – older virgin in my first long term relationship – and I want a book about the physical positions and dynamics. And every book I research, the reviews all of them say the same thing: “reassuring and empowering but very little practical advice.”

      I’m (mostly) comfortable in my body, I just want to know what positions won’t tire me out or hurt my knees! I want practical, physical, tips.

      1. I don’t have a great answer, but the How To Do It collumn on Slate might be able to point you towards some resources? I read it fairly frequently and they seem to have good practical advice on there.

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