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Season’s felicitations, Awkward Army! Elodie Under Glass here with two letters about accommodating your loved ones during stressful celebrations. Goodness, could this be a TIMELY POST? Here’s Letter #1.

 

 

Dear Captain,

 

I have a weird situation going with my dad. There’s a lot of history here so I’ll try to be brief.

 

When I left for university, mom took that as her chance to quit the soul sucking job she hated and move her and dad to the other side of the country for a job she loved. Five years later, a couple months after I graduated,  she went to sleep and never woke up. It’s been three years since then.

 

I’ve spent every holiday and Christmas with my dad since, including one where he joined us at my in-laws place, because I don’t want him to be alone. But he’s got it in his head that I should be adjusting my life to accommodate for him more. The first time he bitched the entire time about our apartment not having a guest room or an elevator to the top floor where we lived. He’s got MS and walking is hard, stairs are worse, and a lumpy couch is a crappy bed even if you’re healthy, so I sympathized. But he complained every other time too even though I warned him that nothing changed.

 

We recently bought our first house, and he came to see it. Because we’re kind of poor, it’s a real fixer – upper with three floors and no railings. I warned him and he said it was fine… but then complained constantly about how we keep getting these places with all these stairs. I spent the whole visit basically carrying him up and down between floors.

 

I work in construction so I’m not allowed to take time off. The two weeks I get over Christmas are the only rest I get for the year. This year, I really want to spend it just me, husband and cat. But when I suggested I wanted a quiet Christmas he just assumed he was part of that. How do I tell him I don’t want him here all the time, that it’s not quiet and restful for me when he’s here, without hurting him? I already feel super guilty for thinking of him as a burden.

 

Sincerely, 
A Terrible Daughter

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Image: a cheerful orange blob monster is chatting to a friend using a speech bubble containing a question mark and exclamation mark. The friend is a grumpy grey blob monster who looks away expressing grumpiness. Its speech bubble contains a grey scribble.

Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.

I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice  for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)

So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our discussion of the Low Mood Cycle. It’s a concept described in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I thought it would be useful to share.

I am not a mental health professional (more caveats on that at the end). But I felt that if these resources had been usefully presented for free on the Internet – especially during times where taking a train and a bus and a taxi to get to a day-long course seemed like organizing a picnic on Venus – it could have helped me that little bit sooner. Maybe it will help others.

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Oh Captain my Captain!
    For medical reasons I won’t go into here (long explanation with a bit of gross) I wear an eyepatch on my left eye, which may well become a permanent addition to my wardrobe, since I am rapidly going blind in that eye and it looks really weird and creeps people out, so it’s easier to just cover it up rather than deal with all the flak for it. The patch, however, comes with it’s own problems.

The first time I wore it out in public, I was waiting in line at the coffee shop, and a little girl in line with her mother (I’m guessing about four or five years old?) noticed the patch and asked, in that just-below-a-yell voice small children have, why I was wearing an eyepatch, and if I was a pirate. I generally don’t like children, but oddly enough, I get along really well with them and can be creative when it comes to interacting with them, in spite of social anxieties. I turned to her and told her ; “Yup, I’m a pirate! We’re on shore leave right now while Captain Hook gets the ship fixed up…Pan and the lost boys took it out for a joyride last week and busted the hull. (in a loud whisper) No one’s supposed to know we’re here, though, since adults don’t know about Neverland, so don’t tell anyone, okay?” She responded with the loud child-whisper “Okay, I promise I won’t tell!” while her dad was barely stifling his laughter, and everyone else in line (and the baristas) were grinning and had that little shine in their eyes that nostalgia and childish wonder tend to bring. I loved that, so when a young child asks me about the patch, that’s my usual response, and has had pretty good results. If they’re an older kid, I might give them a heavily sanitized version of the medical reasons, and adults naturally get the medical explanation, sanitized as needed, if they ask politely. The kids aren’t the problem, however.

It’s the adults. Surprise surprise.

I’ve had a few who were pretty snide about it, a couple who wouldn’t call me by my name but just ‘that pirate kid’ or some other nickname, which I don’t mind that much since I hate my real name, but it gets a little old, you know? I even had one guy who, while I was at work, actually reached over the counter and tried to grab my patch off of me to see what was underneath. I have pretty good reflexes so I was able to jump back before he reached me and I told him I would appreciate if he didn’t try to touch me or grab at me like that, to which he just huffed and sulked. I’ve had a few accuse me of just wearing it for the attention…yeah, I’m really sacrificing my depth perception and 50% of my already crappy vision, wearing a patch under glasses which is SUPER uncomfortable, just for lulz…or been told that I shouldn’t be working if I’m disabled, or that they think I’ll creep people out and shouldn’t be in public, et cetera. I’ve had one or two who insisted on using pirate-speak the entire time I was talking to them…but I can handle that. However, people trying to take off the patch, yelling at me about it or purposely sneaking up on my blind side or doing other things like that is really getting old. 

Any advice for how to deal with these adults who are either rude, obnoxious, nosy or sometimes flat out violent due to a medical condition I can’t help, particularly in a work setting when I can’t reply back snappishly or be rude right back to them as they so richly deserve? Especially if the patch becomes a permanent thing, which it’s looking more and more like it will every day. Can you or your army give me some scripts to deal with these jerks and preserve what sanity I have left?

Love,

Not Actually Hook’s First Mate

Oh, Matey, my Mate! Elodie Under Glass here, so very much rooting for you. I have been carrying you with me since you first wrote in. I have carried you through my life and thought of you and wished well for you.

For one thing, you are already excellent and your responses are already the best. I would like to send in my application to join your crew.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a pretty simple question. How do I nurture my own sense of romance?

A bit of background: I’m a twenty one year old queer girl. I was born in Mississippi, though I spent my teenage years in the north east. I’ve never dated a girl because of my own issues with repression. I’ve hooked up with girls, dated guys, and hooked up with guys. I’ve spent alot of time trying to be romantic guys, and have come to a place where I’m really happy with the friendship and sex I have with guys. (Yay!) I know thought that I want to be romantic with girls not guys, though, and I’m really confused on how to go forward with that. Let’s just say that all of the angst, self repression, disappointment, and forcing hetero romantic situations have left me a bit bitter. I’m not sure how to get what I want or even talk about what I want. I’m spent so much time being bitter and violent towards myself.

I’m basically just talking to girls I like and using the “you’re a person I’m a person maybe we could interact in awesome romantic people ways” rules to muddle through. Any advice on how to muddle productively? Do I basically just have to accept that I’m going back to being say where I was at fifteen with guys? On top of this I have the problem of not finding mainstream depictions of romance desirable- its all so based on magic and love fixing everything. Do you have recommendations for art that depict romance in a more nuanced and awesome way?

Onward latebloomers!
gallant_girl

Hi Gallant Girl, Elodie Under Glass here. This question! This is the sweetest question! Gallant Girl, it is so nice to hear from you.

Unfortunately, after the Captain gave me this question, I sat on it for four months. I discussed it with my friends while drinking wine in the Netherlands: “Where does romance come from? Particularly the kind of romance that we practice.” I asked friends who review books and friends who write books and friends who read books:  “What art depicts romance the way that we live it?” I asked queer friends, married friends, married queer friends, friends-with-kids, and people that just looked interesting. I started to lunge at people out of mailboxes: “HELP ME WITH THIS QUESTION ABOUT ROMANCE.

“How about Malinda Lo?” people suggested, “She did a thing. Or that movie where Piper Perabo and Lena Headley hold hands.”

“True, they’re good enough in their way, I guess,” I’d reply, “But I want, like, queer Dorothy Sayers banter, I want Tipping The Velvet but with a happy ending, I want stuff that isn’t stereotypical: I want stuff that will cheer Gallant Girl up.”

People said “Catherynne Valente! The L Word! A television show with dogs in it!”

All of which are wonderful but none of which quite touched the thing I wanted to tell you: that you’re right, that you should stop worrying if you can, that you’re doing pretty well.

 

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Hello Captain and Company!

About a year and a half ago I had my primary outbreak of genital herpes. It was excruciating, both physically and emotionally, but I’m finally starting to pick up the pieces and feel like myself again. I’m starting to feel like I maybe want to date again, finally (yay), but I’d like to be prepared for the inevitable awkwardness of telling a hypothetical partner about the herpes. It’s an awkward enough conversation to have when you don’t have anything communicable. Herpes isn’t the biggest deal as far as STIs go, but it isn’t kittens and rainbows, either. Being honest has always been important to me, but it’s even more important to me now since the person I got it from wasn’t– between telling me he’d been tested, that he’d tested negative over six months after my outbreak, and that he’d show me his test results, there was certainly a lie. Herpes doesn’t happen spontaneously, and his test results never materialized. So I really, REALLY want to be open and honest about it.

I’m not really super into PIV sex, but I really like to cuddle, and sloppy, sexy makeouts are fun! And low-risk, if pants stay on, which I kind of want them to until I’m sure that the person I’m making out with is someone I can really trust and connect with. I’d really like to be able to bring up the conversation waaaay ahead of time, and to maybe talk about the kinds of things I do and don’t want to do, and how to manage the herpes and be safe and really, to give the other person a chance to really decide about whether they want to have fun sexy times with me. I know this sort of thing probably just takes practice and will always probably be awkward, but do you have any ideas about how to have that conversation? Any advice for minimizing stammering and embarrassment during it?

In herpitude,
Dental Dams Are Your Friends

Hi Dental Dams. This is Elodie Under Glass here. I am so sorry that this happened to you, and so happy that you are getting better.

I am really glad that you wrote in. You sound like you’ve already got your feelings well in order, which I admire. And you’ve opened up a great new topic to tackle: STDs.

When the good Captain offered me the chance to answer your question, I was initially super-excited because it’s a really, really good question – but also pretty nervous, because immediately I was like “I am unqualified to answer this question, for I have rarely negotiated sexytimes/STDs with strange men!”  followed by realizing that this question, like all questions, runs far deeper than that.

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Ahoy there,
I have this general problem. I am almost 30, and I am not a grown-up person. I am a college drop out, have never had a ‘real’ job. I’m working for almost 3 years now at a job that doesn’t pay a lot, but really easy and it’s basically the only one I could get. And I also still live with my mum [I live in a country which is in a constant, 25-years long economical crisis, so it’s not really easy to get away from that] Also, most of my life I’ve been really shy, so no girlfriend ever either. I do feel much more confident in last 2-3 years, but some things I still cannot overcome.

Most important, I cannot commit to anything really. Whatever I start doing [like trying to learn some program language to maybe be able to work in IT], I never finish, I easily get bored, lose concentration. It’s like that with almost everything. I always delay things, because of laziness and sometimes fear. I get in a fight with a family members cause I’m keeping everything inside, and than it explodes and I [and them] say stupid things. I don’t even know what I want to be in terms of professional career. I have one idea, start reading about that, than I get bored and go to something else.
I live in a small town, most of my friends moved to a bigger city. I want it too, but in order to do that, I’d have to find a job. That is really hard right now even for someone who has a college diploma and better skills than me. I know I’m not stupid, I know I am good at some things [though my knowledge in any area is too general], but how do I make that step and start really trying hard to be better at something? Obviously, that’s not my only problem, but I feel like I have to change something in this area to be able to improve in some others…

El Capitan

Elodie Under Glass here.

Yes, adulthood is a scary horse. You can make up all sorts of excuses not to get onto its back: “Oh, I have a funny feeling in my leg. My horse allergy is playing up.” But in the meantime, you’re not winning any races, and everyone else knows that you’re secretly afraid of horses. Your dreams are big! Your intentions are good! But you have to get on the horse.

Captain Awkward: The Horses In Costumes Edition

“Hey kids! COME FOR A WILD RIDE IN A RECESSION ECONOMY.”

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Howdy Cap’n~

My mother had an affair and left my father for my former best friend and coworker, whom she met thru me and my job. This happened over a year ago, and I’m past the initial shock.. I came to realize I cannot change what happened, and that I can either stay angry about it forever or accept and try to help my self and the rest of my family by incorporating this new unwelcome person into my life.

My parents marriage had been unhappy for over a decade (not an excuse for her behavior), so them finally breaking up was a relief. I had been raised/trained to be the one that kept the arguments diffused, that kept us all laughing, that would try and keep a semblance of a happy family. I know now that was really unhealthy, but I did it since I was a pre-teen.

So it wasn’t the splitting up that hurt- It was the way it happened and the fact my mother asked me to cover it up when I found out (I did not). With the support of my wonderful husband, friends, and family, I became less angry. I have put up firm boundaries with mom. I’ve become a stronger person for it.

So I’m ok with it…For the most part.

But sometimes, when I’m out with her, and she starts to talk about wonderful X is to her, or he calls and gets all stupid sappy over him, I have this…massive two part rage towards them and her.

1) She hurt my family and he hurt his and they hurt each others so deeply, How can I just idly hang out with these people who hurt us all so much, never mind go to their house and eat dinner at their table?

2) I was my moms best friend (in an unhealthy way, I know that). If I suggest a girls day, she will suggest he comes along. She only invites me to lunch if he is out of town. Sometimes I just want time with my mom, and I can’t seem to make her understand that.

But then the rage simmers back down (Or i beat it with big stick, whichever) because I’m so tired of being angry. I’m so tired of feeling hurt over the whole fucking mess.

Am I a weak coward for this?

Thanks,

Retired Family Ref

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