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bygones

Turbulent month, turbulent song:

And yes, it’s that time of the month, when we treat the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions they want answers to.

1 “How to handle snubs from close relatives.”

Sometimes you end up related to people you would never interact with by choice.

If you’re the one who messed things up and you know it, apologize once and then try to do better.

If you’re not the person who caused the breach, or if your apology for what you did is not accepted, stop trying so hard to make the situation better. Your effort is probably wasted, and you don’t have to keep auditioning for the approval of people who regularly show that they don’t care about you or want you around.

When you absolutely have to deal with the person, it might help to find a basic amount of polite that you can be to them suitable to the occasion. Not because they deserve it, but because it might make you feel better if you have a plan for interacting with some dignity. If it helps, imagine they are distant acquaintances, like, employees of a satellite office of your company that you run into once a year at the holiday party. In that instance you’d say “Hi, happy new year!” and then you go talk to the people you actually like and want to see.

Don’t treat the family like a monolith. Form your own relationships with the people you care about and who you want to connect with. The uncle who hates you hosts Thanksgiving every year? You do not have to go to his house and choke down his grudge-turkey, but also you don’t have to let Thanksgiving and his turf be the only time you see any of these people. He doesn’t own your grandma or your cousins or the month of November.

 

2 “My aunt says my partner is not welcome, what do I do?”

“Well, Aunt, we’ll be sorry to miss you. Maybe next year.” It’s okay to skip events where your partner is not welcome.

Unless your partner is some form of Nazi. In that case, I’m Team Aunt and also you should dump that Nazi dickhead.

 

3 “Do you have to invite adult son’s girlfriend to family parties.”

Depends. Do you want your son to come to these parties and feel happy and welcome there, or do you secretly wish he’d stay away?

Also depends – is his girlfriend a Nazi? If so, definitely don’t invite her to anything.

 

4 “My neighbor doesn’t respect the property line.”

You need to find someone who knows the laws where you live. That’s not me, even if you live where I live.

 

5 “My boyfriend tells me how to eat how to exercise.”

Did you want a free volunteer personal trainer? If so, enjoy! If not, tell him it’s none of his beeswax.

 

6 “What do you say to someone who is trying to set you up with someone you’re not interested in?”

“I appreciate the thought, but I’m not interested.”

“No thank you!”

 

7 “I’m in New Jersey when is this oak pollen going to go away for god sakes.”

I’m in Chicago and I also want to know this.

 

8 “Where will Harry and Meghan live?”

Google says “Nottingham Cottage” in “Kensington Palace.”

 

9 “Stories of sexy young girl with huge tits.”

Stories of people who are not efficient users of search engines.

 

 

10 “Boyfriend wants me to better myself.”

Did you ask him to be your amateur life coach? If not, tell him to focus on his own issues and ambitions.

 

11 “I don’t like my grandchild’s name.”

Learn to love it, or learn to be quiet about it, or both.

 

 

12 “Coworker dating app.”

My jerk of a brain initially read this as “Oh shit did someone make an app to try to help people date their coworkers please god no” when really the person is probably looking for “what do I do if I spot my coworker on a dating app.” Picture my entire body seizing up with revulsion for a few seconds until my brain caught up with the more likely interpretation.

My instinct is almost always to say hey, just leave the person alone, it’s not like it’s some terrible secret that you’re both on the app, and it would be pretty cool if you could give each other the gift of a bubble of privacy while you both try to do something vulnerable, especially since you work together. If they spot you as well and are interested in you, they can find a way to let you know!

 

13 “Husband doesn’t want me on birth control.”

If you’re a person who can get pregnant, you are the ultimate boss of whether, when, and if. No exceptions.

 

14 “I want to call suicide hotline but don’t know what to say.”

“Hi, I’m [Firstname] and I’m having suicidal thoughts.”

“Hi, I’m nervous about calling this hotline and I don’t know what to say.”

You won’t freak them out or get it wrong. They want you to call even if you don’t know what to say. I really hope you get what you need.

 

15 “When family wants you to visit but they never visit you.”

Visit them when you want to and when it makes sense for you, and if they pressure you for more visits say “I won’t make it, but you’re always welcome to visit me here! Can we put a plan together?” 

 

16 “jean luc picard open shirt”

HEL-lo!

picard_on_holiday

Image description: Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard wearing shorts and an open shirt reading a book on a green lounge chair. First spotted on this site here.

 

17 “Is it rude to invite guests to someone’s house without letting them know?”

Almost certainly yes! Even if you know this person is very hospitable and wouldn’t mind extra guests, why wouldn’t you at least let them know to expect them?

 

18 “firthing”

Refers to the way Mr. Darcy (as played by Colin Firth in the 1990s Pride & Prejudice adaptation) treats Elizabeth Bennett when he develops a crush on her. Especially characterized by weird, intense staring bouts or standing really close to someone while studiously NOT looking at them, general glowering, and hostile non sequiturs intended to camouflage romantic interest. If unchecked, Firthing can lead to cornering one’s love interest and vomiting a bunch of feelings all over someone who didn’t even know that you liked them, or doing weird shit like showing up in the middle of the night to give them wordy letters.

Mitigating factors: A really nice house

Best avoided by: Asking the person on a date pretty soon after you know that you like them.

(Please tell me someone who knows Colin Firth reads this blog and has told him about this, it would make my year.)

NOTICE: By request, this behavior will from now on be referred to as “Darcy-ing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Captain Awkward,

SHORT SUMMARY:

I’m trying to find a way to normalise relations with my future sister in law (“Sally”). She has been with my husband’s younger brother (“Bill”) for many years and they’re marrying soon. I’ve been with my husband (“Frankie”) for about half that time and married a year. Sally is simultaneously very polite and welcoming, but quite cool and sometimes scornful (it seems) of things I have done. I admit in several cases this is my fault and would like to make it right. Other times she seems to deliberately exclude Frankie and I from events or avoid invitations from us. Frankie does not like her at all and I try to defend her and get Frankie to accept her, because she is Bill’s partner. I would like to get on better with her and get Frankie to accept her, for peace in the family.

LONG STORY!

Sally and Bill are very successful late-20s professionals in a big city, own their own home and have solid careers. Frankie and Bill’s parents are retired in a nice town. Frankie and I are in our early-30s, work in poorly-paid fields, rent in a much poorer area, and are not as set up in life due to planning to move elsewhere (so we live cheaply and are saving up).

I quite admire Sally, as she has excelled in her (demanding) field, seems to be a really decisive and motivated person, has gone through some hard legal stuff, has made the house look amazing, is really stylish etc. I try to ask about her achievements or compliment her skills (eg. the house, her work, even a nice dress) but she is very dismissive of any compliments. (I don’t say things like “wow you’re the best ever at your job!” but “that sounds like a cool job”, so I hope I don’t come across as sycophantic).

We have never seemed to click.

On the one hand, Sally is a consummate hostess. They hosted Frankie and I several times in their previous home, when we travelled to their city to see the extended family – I would try to buy them dinner in thanks but it was politely refused. (I felt as though we have taken advantage of them, and would suggest staying in a hotel, but Frankie would ask and I wanted him to spend time with his brother. I have said many times I will return the favour if we live somewhere they want to visit).

On the other hand, Sally has sometimes seemed … disgusted (?) by things I have done. Some family friends had visited from abroad, and I had failed to book a restaurant for all of us for dinner – she actually curled her lip and rolled her eyes at Bill. (the dinner turned out fine BTW). I have offered to plan a holiday for us all and pay for a cabin, but never been taken up on it. I have invited them to Frankie’s birthday and chose a date that suited them after contacting Sally to check, but then Sally booked a cabin for herself, Bill and Bill & Frankie’s parents on that same date. I have offered to help with wedding preparation etc but have not been taken up on it.

Sometimes this has definitely been my fault: in one case, a lawyer friend offered to refer her to a colleague re: her legal issue, unfortunately this somehow turned into my friend grilling her for an hour over the issue (when I was not there to stop her doing it!), and I was mortified (I had just wanted her to pass the contact details to Sally, as I had asked Sally beforehand if she wanted more information, and I don’t know how it turned out like it did!). Another time, Sally had very kindly asked if I was OK due to some relationship stress, I confided in her a bit (and was really grateful as no one else had asked) and then I think she attempted to help, in her forthright way (it came across quite bluntly), but Frankie became very angry and stormed away.

It doesn’t help that Frankie has never approved of her and I am concerned that Frankie and Bill’s parents also are (secretly) cool towards her. They have always been very kind to me AND to Sally, and Frankie has said his parents never outright expressed opinions on any partner he or his brother has brought home.

But – at the parents’ house, I made the mistake of laughing a bit about a text Sally had sent me (it can be hard to read tone and I was initially very upset, but was later laughing about it and how I had misunderstood), and somehow that turned into a conversation about her blunt manners. I left the room and later Frankie seemed pleased that maybe their parents share his feelings.

So I am very, very worried that some kind of “them and us” situation will develop, which will cause a division; I often stand up for Sally in discussions where she is not present, as Frankie can be critical of her. I ask: “How would you feel if Bill said these things about me?”; “I can empathise with her, I have similar worries” etc.

I accept that we’ll probably never be bosom friends due to the age gap and different interests, but I would like to become allies and maybe one day friends due to shared experience. I worry perhaps that she might see me as an interloper/stealer-of-thunder, as Frankie and I got engaged and married in a much shorter timeframe?

So I guess I am looking for scripts for three things:
1) to apologise to Sally for those past instances where I’ve made things awkward
2) to say I would like us to have a better relationship, or at least start on making one
3) to help Frankie understand that Bill has chosen Sally, and Frankie needs to get over the issues he has with Sally (I have outright said this, as have his PARENTS, repeatedly, but it is not sinking in!)

Please help –
Stressed-Out Soon-To-Be Sister-In-Law

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Dear Captain,

I’ve been out as a trans man for about three years. I came out to all of my extended family, with the exception of my grandfather. This was because he’s increasingly doesn’t have a great grasp of what’s happening around him, and my parents thought it would be too hard to explain it to him. I was of the opinion that it probably could have been explained to him at the time, but my family were overwhelmed by the stress of my transition and I decided not to push it.

So for the last few years, I’ve basically dealt with this situation by avoiding him. I have no idea who he thinks I am. Once, before I was out to my extended family, he loudly asked ‘Who’s that boy?’ So I don’t think he recognizes me as Former Granddaughter. This was a fairly awkward situation because he had no idea who I was or why I was at every family event. His condition has deteriorated enough since then that he frequently doesn’t recognize other members of the family, so it sticks out less that he doesn’t know who I am.

He’s now in the hospital and it doesn’t look good. I’m worried that my dad might ask me to visit him. I don’t know what would happen if I turned up at his maybe-deathbed. I really don’t want to be misgendered or referred to by my birth name, but it seems selfish to not visit a maybe-dying man for that reason. I also don’t want to have to try and explain all this to him when he is likely not going to be in a state of mind to take it in. I’m worried that my dad, who I’m very close to, will think I’m selfish for not wanting to go. I just know that being called BirthName is absolutely not an option, and I just don’t want to enter into the painful and confusing arena of trying to explain now, having avoided the subject for going on three years.

Am I being selfish? Should I suck it up and go? If so, how do I handle this situation, given that pretending to be his granddaughter is not an option? And if not, how do I explain this to my dad?

Love,

Only In The UK Would We Think This Was A Tenable Solution

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Hey Captain,

I spend most of my tender youth in an abusive relationship that really fucked with my sense of what is normal. I’ve had lots of therapy to come to terms with it but honestly, I think at this point that it’s just going to be something I have to deal with for the rest of my life, so there isn’t really a “when I’m better” timeline I can look forward to. And yeah, that sucks, but I’m handling it as best I can. That’s not what I’m writing to you about.

After that relationship, and a couple of flings here and there, I met with a wonderful man I’ll call John. I originally intended to keep it casual but John was just such a lovely person that I quickly found I didn’t actually want that. He deserves a whole heart, and I wanted to offer it to him, so we got serious.

John was patient, understanding, supportive, honest, and loving to me. I tried my best to skirt the line of caring deeply for him and trying to protect myself from flinging into the terrifying bottomless pit of love without restraint that ate me alive before, and I don’t think I completely succeeded, because after about a year of dating he dumped me. It was a few things. I wasn’t as emotionally available as he deserved, he wasn’t as upfront about his insecurities as I deserved, and there was a maturity mismatch (John is a little bit younger than me, and I’m jaded as all fuck). He also said he had a “list of pros and cons” about dating me that just… does not compute in my head. I just can’t think that way, so his words on it really cut me deeply. We parted with a lot of crying and hugs, but I think he was right, and it was for the best.

The problem is this: I miss John terribly. I think I might still be in love with him because after all that I still can’t think of anything substantially negative to say about him. And he asked me if we can get together for coffee. I know closure is a myth, but mostly-healthy non-abusive humans can be happily friends with their exes, right? (Please tell me that’s right.)

Part of me is terrified that one look at that suave grin of his will have me head over heels all over again. Part of me is certain that there’s nothing he can say that will get me to hook up with him again. Part of me thinks that even thinking about it is just a terrible idea altogether. And part of me wants to prove to myself that I’m not unlovable, that I’m not destined to make every ex hate me forever, and that I can stop fucking someone and still be good enough to be cared about.

So…. how do I know when/if I’m ready to see him again?

Hopefully,

How do I human? (She/her)

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a middle aged man, married 22 years with a son. My former best friend and I lived next door to each other , we became friends when I was 9 years old. We continued to be the best of friends into adulthood.We went on vacations with other friends and with our wives. When we got married, we were each other’s best man. We attended each others kids birthday parties, etc. up until 2003-2004.

In 1997 I was a manager at a large securities firm on Wall Street. My best friend was working in a hotel at the time, had no financial background or college education. He called me up desperate-essentially begging me to help him get a job as he wished to marry his girlfriend and start a family but could not afford to do so on his salary. Due to my position and influence in the company I was able to help him get a job working in my department. Later I left the company and moved on to a more prestigious firm which paid better. My best friend reached out to me again and once again I was able to help him increase his income by getting him a job in my department.

The first couple of years, things were fine. In fact I felt we became closer as we now had one more thing in common. My friend was younger than me and our relationship was similar to a big brother/little brother interaction. He would come to my desk and hang out at the end of the day and wait for me to finish my work-just so we could walk a few blocks together on the way home (we lived in different cities by this time) we would also have lunch together several times a week and email back and forth throughout the day.

About three years later, I noticed that my friend had become a bit distant. He stopped coming by my desk during the day. He stopped emailing and when I emailed him, he would not always reply or say that he was too busy to chat. I asked several times if anything was wrong- But he always denied it . After a few weeks of this,We sat down face to face -and I again asked him to tell me what the problem was. He claimed he was just very busy and had some problems at home which he would not elaborate on, and he reiterated that it had nothing to do with me. This only made things worse for me, as we had always been open with each other about our problems and now he was holding things back. All of this took its toll and with the tensions of working closely together, we began having arguments at work. At first these were minor disagreements which would quickly blow over. But things began to get more serious and eventually we had a huge fight. We both went too far and I felt bad about it. This took place right before I was leaving on a family vacation.When I returned home I checked my email and found one from my friend notifying me that the friendship was over. I was shocked that he would take things this far after 25 years and also very upset that he would be so heartless as to do this with a one sentence email offering no explanation.

Although we had unquestionably both made mistakes, the thought of losing his friendship was just devastating to me, so I took full responsibility for the fight that we had and apologized profusely and repeatedly. I was desperate . I emailed, called and left a note of apology on his desk. I heard nothing for three days. Then he called me at my desk and invited me to go to lunch. I was relieved, I apologized a few more times and he told me not to worry about it. By the end of the lunch hour we were laughing and joking as though nothing had even happened.

As it turned out that was the last time we spoke face to face. A few days later he once again stopped speaking to me. I repeatedly asked why , and he offered little explanation, only saying he thought we needed a break. I strongly suspect that inviting me out to lunch that day was a cruel vengeful tactic on his part- just to make me think we were cool, and then cut me off again. I accused him of this a year later and not surprisingly he denied it.

I tried for the next few years to get him to explain his actions. I cannot understand to this day how he could end a 25 year friendship over what was basically a rough patch that we hit for a couple of weeks. He refused to explain or even respond to my letters or emails which were I admit increasingly angry due to the frustrating and hurtful behavior on his part. After three years of this I stopped contacting him.

In the meantime he has relocated to another part of the country and he is a Vice President . Although I have had a successful career and am well compensated, he has now achieved a position which I have never reached in my 28 year career. I find this particularly galling, since if it weren’t for me he probably would be working as a waiter or bartender , and now he has surpassed me in my career. Instead of being appreciative or grateful- he refuses to even speak to me.

The older I get the more I feel the expression “life is too short” and I recently attempted to contact him again. I contacted his sister via social media and asked her to try to get through to him. I made it clear-and this is 100% true-that I have zero interest in patching up the friendship. All that I really want-and I think I deserve it- is an explanation for all of this. Why did he treat me this way after all I had done for him ? Why did he do it in such a coldhearted manner? He declined through her- stating that he does not want to “re-hash” everything. The problem is he never gave a valid explanation in the first place. He has managed to avoid facing me like an adult about this for 14 years.

I don’t imagine there is anything else that I can do to try to get to the bottom of this but I would welcome any advice or suggestions as this continues to frustrate me 14 years later.

Thank you.

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Hi there,

I’m 36, my (ex)gf is 25. Met in August last year. Fell in love. Never met anyone like her and ticks all the boxes. I felt set for life (love, kids, the lot) and when she was there, there was no one else in the room (not something I had felt before).

We fell out over something stupid and then spent the next two weeks kinda reconciling but not really making progress.

Short version: she thought I deliberately misunderstood and belittled her, didn’t like it when I would storm off in some situations (it was completely unacceptable) and was upset that I didn’t ask her about her past. I hadn’t asked because it sounded horrible and I didn’t want to put someone I love through that again. I made the wrong call. Our sex life was strained due to an pre-existing psychological ED issue, which was exacerbated by her reactions.

On the other hand, I refused to be judged by the incredibly low standards her mentally and physically abusive, serially cheating drug dealer ex had set – she called me out about an innocuous photo on insta which kicked things off. I didn’t feel heard in the relationship and I had started to feel more and more peripheral to her life, despite the fact I’d looked after her through illness and post-operation.

Communication was poor and we had both made mistakes. A bit of regrettable game playing on both sides ensued, but throughout everything, I always thought that it was all temporary and we would get back on track. We just needed to talk it through and listen to one another.

She had given me the silent treatment on a few occasions and I was reaching out to try to reconcile. Then she sends me a message effectively ending it. I tried to message, I tried to call. Nothing. I wrote her a letter in which poured my heart out and gave it to her when she came out of work. She promised to read it. Nothing in reply. I sent her cacti (sentimental symbol for us), one each day for a week, each with a sentimental note. Nothing in reply. It’s been nearly a month since her last message.

I’ve effectively been ghosted, but from a relationship that was six months of love and plans and fun and joy.

I know she’s the one. And I know we can easily overcome the things we argued about. But we can’t do that if she won’t talk. What can I do, to either win her back (as unlikely as it seems) or move on with such little closure? I’m sad, angry, lonely, frustrated, scared, confused, desperate and utterly heart-broken. I still love her.

Any help here would be most welcome.

Thank you.

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