Advice Columns

Commenter Dizzy, aka SPC Snaptags, has compiled and elaborated upon the Dude Social/Sexism Fallacies we were generating in the comments the other day, and added her own:

1.3 It is acceptable for me to put a down payment on your vagina without telling you that’s what I’m doing. It’s unacceptable for you to accept my gifts but not pay the price, which I didn’t tell you about

This has happened to me, and it is not fun. There were a number of times, particularly in the Army, where a male I thought was my friend would offer to do or buy something from me. It was usually something inexpensive or unimportant. Often, it would be something like a cup of coffee. I assumed he wanted to do something nice for me as a friend; he thought I understood that, when I accepted the coffee, I owed him sex. (I wish someone would phrase it like that—I’d love to negotiate what $1.98 of sex is).

Then, at some point, when he believed he had put in enough time and money and wanted his return, he would be furious when I refused to pay. To me, there was nothing to pay; if we were entering some kind of financial relationship, I expect to be told the costs up front. Trust me, if I had realized I owed Specialist Creepbag $1.98 of my vagina, I would have bought my own goddamn coffee.

I really like what Jennifer Pastilof is doing over at The Manifest Station with her “Dear Life” series. People write advice letters, Jen matches the letter writers with authors she knows, stuff like this happens. Thoughts: 1) Letter Writer, your cold feet are trying to save you from a miserable life. Stay cold! 2) “Sometimes you have to just put yourself in motion: do the right thing until it changes you,” is a hell of a line.

Two Chicago Events are coming up:

1) April’s Awkward Meet & Geek is on April 15 at Geek Bar Beta.

2) I’m reading at That’s All She Wrote, April 19. Venue is Great Lakes Tattoo, 1148 W. Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL.


The Emperor from Star Wars saying "Be My Pal-Patine." There’s an Awkward Meet & Geek this Thursday at Geek Bar Beta in Chicago. Games! New people!

This guy who wrote into Carolyn Hax sounds FUN and definitely does not remind me at all of someone reading a consumer report trying to find the best smartphone. “What if I find something with great battery life and an intuitive interface, but the color I want is not available?” :flashes Bad Advisor signal in the sky:

And now a question:

Hi Captain!

Any thoughts about surviving St. Valentine’s for a single-and-never-ever-been-on-a-date-much-less-had-a-SO student?

Many thanks! And thank you for the whole site.

all the best,

Hi Oort Cloud!

Use the day to:

  • Han Solo: "I'll be celebrating Valentine's Day Han's style...Solo." Do something nice for yourself.
  • Do something nice for a friend or family member. There are lots of kinds of love, and there are lots of people in your life who might like pancakes or a new book or a card or a mix tape.
  • If you’re feeling down, ask your friends to be nice to you. “I’m feeling a bit blue about Valentine’s Day. Anyone feel like having Palentine’s Day?
  • Do something nice for a stranger – paying for the coffee of the person behind you in line, volunteering somewhere, shoveling sidewalks in your neighborhood.
  • Do you have a crush on someone? Perform this outside their window.*

It’s a perfectly good Saturday, so:

  • Don’t beat yourself up for not following a certain script in your life. If you read the site, you know that the “haven’t had a date or a significant other yet” club is large and adorable.
  • Don’t buy the necklace made from 2 butts stuck together.

Sometimes it feels better to make cutting remarks about how it’s a stupid made-up holiday created by advertising executives and greeting card companies and nurse your fierce proud cynic’s heart. Do what you feel, but try to do it without pooping directly on someone else’s fun, ok?


*This is a joke. Do not play this, or any music, outside someone’s window.

When I meet people for the first time (for example, at a party) often the first thing they ask is “What do you do?” (meaning, what paid work do you do.)

I have very severe health problems that prevent me from working, but that’s a very painful, personal subject, and I really don’t want to mention that when I’ve just met someone.

I don’t look sick, and I don’t want to come out as invisibly ill/disabled to someone I’ve just met.

What’s a good response that doesn’t make me seem odd, or make the other person feel uncomfortable/awkward?
Read More

Iain Glenn holding some kind of lute-thing.

“What rhymes with Khaleesi? Greasy? I like the way you try to make Peace-y? Let’s live together, I’ll sign that Lease-y?”

Ever since I saw the fake Skyler White from Breaking Bad letter to an advice columnist, I’ve been a wee bit jealous that no one has tried to troll me like that. So Indiewire and I are trying out a thing where we construct letters from television characters and then I answer them.

I know there are 10,000 fanfic lovers who read this site regularly, so consider this a call to you. Binge-watching Orange Is The New Black? Texting your friends with “Sestra!”/”Brother-sestra!” after every episode of Orphan Black? Wondering how the Lannisters are going to sort out their big pile of Family Stuff or how Sansa is going to handle her creepy Uncle Peter on Game of Thrones? (We’ll save the FITZ IS CREEPY AND NOT ACTUALLY GOOD AT ANYTHING stuff for the start of next season of Scandal if you don’t mind, but we will get to it). If you’ve got an idea for a letter related to a current (currently on, up-to-date with what is happening on the show) TV show? Send ’em with “for Indiewire” in the subject line and we may see more of these.

In other news, a while ago my friend and Wardrobe-producer Dimitri William Moore brought me a story by one of his friends about the thin illusion of privacy we have when online dating. Together with some friends, some talented former students on camera, lights, and sound, and two great Chicago actors, we adapted the story into a short film. We shot it in few hours one morning at Hamburger Mary’s (eat there!), and thanks to the kindness of their staff, the whole thing cost whatever you’d pay for a big assortment of bagels from the bagel place next store. Post-production moves slowly when everyone is working for free and doing awesome stuff like having adorable babies, but I’m pleased to say, that film is finally ready!



How long would YOU stay sitting at that table? Tell us in the comments.

Thanks (?) to the nice Twitter friends who clued me into this horrible WikiHow on How To Stop A Wedding, or, as @KristinMuH put it, “a manual to help stalkers ruin their target’s special occasions.”

While I once joked that I would like to see this happen someday, it was, in fact, a joke. And the instructions to basically kidnap the person make my hair stand on end:

Take charge if things go your way. If he or she decides not to go through with the wedding, it is your duty to immediately escort the bride/groom away from the pressure of their family and friends. There is no doubt that friends and family will be angry or furious and will demand answers if the bride or groom doesn’t immediately flee the scene…Have a get-away car prepared so that the bride or groom doesn’t have to face the embarrassment of his or her friends and family.


So, if you find yourself searching for instructions on how to stop a wedding, ask yourself:

Has the affianced person been kidnapped? Is it a child? Then stop the wedding by alerting the appropriate authorities.

Is this someone you think should marry you instead? And they know how you feel? And yet they are still obstinately not marrying you, to the point where they have planned an entire wedding with someone else? Okay, here’s what you do:

  • Find out when & where the wedding will be.
  • Book yourself a vacation to “anywhere but there.”
  • Block this person in all social media spaces so you’re not seeing photos and updates.
  • Try for someplace with very limited internet access so you reduce temptation to watch it unfold on real time at the wedding hashtag or whatever.
  • If you can, get a trusted friend to go along with you so that you are not alone and there is someone who can comfort and distract you.
  • Remind yourself that soulmates aren’t real, and that other people get to choose who they want to be with.
  • Or, if it’s more comforting, say to yourself “They are making a mistake, but it’s their mistake to make.
  • Wait it the fuck out and move on with your life.

And if someone pulls this whole shebang on you at your wedding, here is a script:

“This is inappropriate and I’d like you to leave now.”

Hopefully your friends and family and security will form a nice barrier between you and this person and make sure they are escorted from the premises.

Now it’s time for the monthly(ish) feature where we find out what search terms bring people to this site! Except for adding punctuation, these are unchanged. Enjoy!

Read More

Jezebel has an advice column about friendship, which I wish was not called “Friendzone.” The first and third responses in last week’s post were pretty spot on, but the second letter, here, about the expat leaving town and the friend getting suddenly clingy, is unsettling and the response is also unsettling.

Real talk: Refusing to leave someone’s apartment, threatening tantrums, and making a person who is leaving town (and who, by the way, was always going to leave town) emotionally responsible for your happiness, including all the other times anyone has left/died, is NOT COOL. This behavior has escalated from “whoa, awkward” to “eek, unsafe!” and would have me second-guessing whether I want to see this person ever again at all. I get that the person has a lot of sadness and grief and is expressing it in a way that is self-sabotaging, but here’s the thing about self-sabotaging behaviors (like stalking/clinging/passive-aggressive comments/tantrums): They are actually effective at sabotaging relationships and are very hard to come back from. With a lot of self-awareness, some direct communication, and an ability to rein in the behaviors going forward on the part of the saboteur (which is within your control) IN ADDITION to a lot of grace and generosity from the other person (which you can’t control and should not try), friendships may survive. But there’s no a guarantee, and trying to manipulate a person who is leaving into staying is a guarantee in the other direction.

I would say, in that moment, the goal for the Letter Writer has to be to get the person out of the apartment rather than to dig into the feelings or behaviors. “I have no idea how to respond to that” or “You seem really not okay right now. I think it’s time for you to go home and we can talk about this in the morning” are probably the best I would be able to do in that situation.

It’s unlikely that this friendship will feel entirely comfortable again, but since the Letter Writer is leaving town anyway it may be possible to find a way to allow the friend to save some face and end the friendship less awkwardly. Once the person is out of the apartment, IF you feel safe and actually do care about the person, you might want to send an email asking how she’s doing.

Friend, you really scared and worried me the other night. I know you are sad about me leaving, and believe me, I will miss you too, but when you say stuff like (awkward stuff) and (refuse to leave the apartment/verge on a tantrum) it puts me in a terrible position. I felt very uncomfortable, and also like I had no idea what to say or do to make you feel better. This is not really characteristic behavior for you, are you okay?

Don’t apologize. You did nothing wrong. You are doing nothing wrong by leaving. You are doing nothing wrong by wanting to visit with your family and not include people who invite themselves along.

Don’t try to manage the feelings or whatever she does about them. Don’t give her advice. Just state your truth, that she freaked you out and you did not like it, and ask how she is. Give her an opportunity to share, straight up, what she is feeling and apologize. Any face-saving will come from her being honest and direct with you, not from you pretending it’s not a big deal.

Don’t initiate social plans for the nonce. Yep, she self-sabotaged in this situation. Her worst fear is that you won’t want to hang out anymore, and she made pretty certain that you’ll be wary of hanging out. That is a completely sucktastic cycle to be in when you feel sad and abandoned and like you can’t help yourself, and I feel her embarrassment & shame & grief keenly, but it’s an entirely predictable consequence of her behavior.

If you sent a “Whoa, not cool – what’s up with you?” email, and you got back some version of “Friend, I am so sorry, I know I was really out of bounds. I am okay (or I am not okay, but I am going to call my therapist/a good friend/take some other self-care steps). I would love to see you before you go, please reach out if you’d like to set something up” it would be a sign that this person can keep their shit together enough for you to hang out at least once more. If you send it and you get a 15-page FEELINGSMAIL/itinerary for every second of your family’s visit in response, you will know that you are on “this isn’t really fixable” territory and can act accordingly.

The most I’d agree to, planswise, is some kind of farewell dinner or coffee at a favorite place, very close to the time you are leaving. All the better if you have mutual friends and can make it a group farewell event. No going to her house, and definitely NO inviting her into yours. (Refusing to leave my apartment is a great way to get yourself never, ever invited back to my apartment. See also: Complaining that you were not invited to a thing at my apartment.)

I would not necessarily mention your family’s visit to her again. There is no reason for her to know any plans, for instance, and be watchful of what you share on social media. Definitely do not indulge the assumption that she is coming along. That was an assumption on her part, not a set plan. If she brings it up, you may have to be pretty blunt: “I know you wanted to come along, but I just want to hang out with my family during that time. Let’s schedule some (farewell event) just for us.” Watch out for favor-sharking here – “But I took that entire week off work so I could come with you!” ‘But I’ve arranged us an audience with The Queen!”  – “Wow, I am sorry to hear that, but no one asked you to do that. I know this isn’t good news, but I would prefer that you not come along with us.

If she really is incapable of respecting boundaries, it will manifest pretty quickly & obviously, and you will be able to lock things down accordingly. If this was a case of her being really sad and putting her foot in her mouth, direct communication is probably your best chance of salvaging a farewell where you both save some face.

Ahoy, Awkwardeers.

I graduated university about two months ago, and right now I work at a tiny indepedent publishing house. Well, I say “work”; they cover my travel expenses and feed me lunch, but I’m not getting paid, which I didn’t care about when I started because I thought it would be interesting. Nominally, I am a trainee.

This has its perks; I work with two people I get on quite well with, the food is good, and there’s a cat. But the job itself sucks. I thought that being taken on as a trainee would involve some kind of, you know, training; I was told I’d get to experience the day-to-day workings of a publishing house, learn my strengths and the like. It’s not like I didn’t expect that to involve some initiative, but I did think there’d be someone to vaguely oversee what I’m doing. There’s not. There’s the boss, two other trainees, and me. Nobody knows what they’re doing, so nobody does much, and the boss isn’t very involved in the company except for when he panics and snipes at us all for not having known to do what he thinks ought to have been done. The only work I get is work I scrounge up for myself. I am frustrated and bored.
Read More