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I had a bunch of travel in July and never got that month’s version up. So, here’s another round of that thing where we answer people’s search engine queries like blog questions.

1 “Awkward coworkers who wont get hint

.”

Hints don’t work. They just create a sea of plausible deniability for clueless people to splash around in while you get more and more frustrated. If you want your coworkers to understand or know something, you gotta say it, as briefly and directly as you can.

2 “Is it bad to break up with someone after a day

?”

It’s no fun for anyone to break up after a day, but it probably beats the alternative of continuing to date somebody you don’t want to be with and lying to them about it for more days. You get to change your mind! Do the kind thing and tell the other person now.

3 “Should you notify your estranged father of your wedding?”

I would say that if you’re estranged from your dad, you certainly don’t owe him an invitation or an announcement. If you do want to tell him, I would also keep my expectations very low about what he’ll do. Weddings and funerals and baptisms don’t fix the stuff that’s wrong in families (& often exacerbate it), so what are you really hoping will happen if you give him this news? I wouldn’t count on any of it happening.

Weddings are one of those things that really show it when “cherished fantasy of what a parent should be and do” and “actual parent” don’t match, and I’m sorry that a happy occasion is causing a new sting of grief for what was supposed to be.

4 “What to do if hubby abuses because of MIL?”

Ouch, what a gutpunch.

Whatever your mother-in-law has done or whatever she is like, your husband is still abusing you. Until he stops, gets some help, apologizes, and changes the behavior, it’s your husband’s fault and his responsibility, and offloading the blame or an explanation onto his mom doesn’t change the fact of what he’s doing. I hope you can talk to someone about getting yourself to safety. Here’s the number for the USA National Domestic Violence Hotline.

5 “What does it mean if a guy says I have a girlfriend at the moment.”

It means some version of “not you, not now.”

6 “My husband thinks I should work out more.”

Lots of people should probably work out more and wish they worked out more. Lots of people should also stop telling other people what to do with their bodies. Do you want to work out more? When and if you do, that’s when you’ll work out more. You are the boss of you.

7 “An sms to a boyfriend who treats you like shit.”

A. “Bye! We are broken up now. Leave me alone.” B. “New phone. Who is this?

8 “Why does my husband get mad when I touch myself.”

Who knows? Insecurity? Mistaking marriage for ownership of you & your body?

What I know is that you are the boss of your body, including your sexual relationship with your own body. You don’t owe your husband an accounting of your solo activities. They are none of his business.

9 “While using a dating site should you be upset seeing someone you’re talking to off the site.”

On the one hand, the people in the dating site don’t live in the site, hanging upside down like bats at OkCupid headquarters to sleep at night, and it is quite possible to encounter a potential date-friend in the wild. Sometimes the world can be very small.

The “upset” part comes from, how does everyone handle it when it happens? Do they act weird and overly familiar and talk loudly about where they know you from, like it’s your kid’s parent-teacher conference and the teacher is like “Kid, you didn’t tell me your mom was a babe! I totally swiped right on her!“? Or do they say “Hello, nice to see you” and act calm and relaxed and safe? That’s all good information to have.

Or, do you feel like they are trying to figure out where you work and live and hang out and you get a stalker-y vibe from it, like they were seeking you out, trying to run into you? That would make me pretty upset.

10 “I live in a condo and a neighbor constantly knocks on my door. How do I tell her to stop?”

Neighbor, please stop knocking on my door, let’s save that for emergencies where something is on fire or flooding or bleeding. If you need to reach me otherwise, please leave a note or use my email and I’ll get back to you when I can.” #hintsdontwork

Then, you don’t always answer the door, and if you do, jerk the door open and say “What’s wrong?” because you’re expecting an emergency.

11 “My boyfriend said he can manage my appearance.”

Your boyfriend appears to need a mannequin or Real Doll or a Barbie he can outfit as he pleases all the livelong day, and you appear to need a different boyfriend.

12 “My boyfriend is depressed and takes everything out on me.”

Depression is not your boyfriend’s fault.

Taking everything out on you is a choice he is making. Do you want to stick around to be mistreated?

13 “How do I make friends for my husband.”

If your husband wants friends, suggest that he try Meetup.com or take a class or find a hobby group or play a fun sport or volunteer somewhere. Then let him do 100% of the work of following through with that.

14 “I love my professor how do I know her feelings?”

I asked her her feelings and she said that she doesn’t love you back. She wants you to enjoy her class and learn a lot from it and then go and have a great education and happy life.

15 “Dating a married man is hard. You cannot call him.”

It is known. If things like “regular calling” and “not sneaking around behind someone’s back” are important to you, consider the non-married as your dating pool.

16 “Can you masturbate if your roommate is deaf?”

Back to school time! It’s not all study tips and deals on extra-long twin fitted sheets, is it?

Masturbation is great and you should totally do it sometimes! However, if you share a bedroom with a roommate, wait until your roommate is not home to rub one out, ok? It’s just polite.

17 “Is it ok to just stop at a person’s house without calling first?”

But…you could call? “Hey friend, I’m in the neighborhood, any chance you’re home and want to hang out for a bit?

If you want to know if you have a “just drop by!” relationship with someone, here are three indicators:

  • They’ve told you to just “drop in, no need to call!” using words.
  • They also drop by your house.
  • You’ve asked “Is it okay if I just drop by sometime?” and they’ve enthusiastically said “Yes! Any time!”

Even if those three things are true…I would still call or send a text. Again, why wouldn’t you? Are you being chased and need a quick place to hide?

18 “Can a girlfriend influence your teen son to be a bad person?”

I’m sure it’s possible? And if your teenage son is acting like “a bad person,” it might feel better and be really convenient if there is someone else to blame for all of it who isn’t your precious-sweet-angel-baby-boy?

But, again, if your teen son is acting like “a bad person,” then he is making choices to do bad things, and I think any conversation you have with him needs to not displace his choices onto the girlfriend. Focus on his behaviors and the choices he is making, please. Don’t buy into the narrative that how he behaves is the fault of others’ influences, and don’t let him do it either. He’s responsible for his behaviors, and no girlfriend (or parents) can influence him to act like a jerk without his participation.

19 “New boyfriend who makes you feel sad.”

“Hey New Boyfriend, I like you a lot but since we’ve been dating I feel sad all the time, so let’s break up.”

20 “Can I date an insurance agent?”

Pro:

Insurance agents need love too!

Con:

Your insurance agent is at work and he/she has to be that nice to everyone. So I wouldn’t like, replace online dating sites with calling insurance agencies for fake quotes or anything.

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Are you there, Mayhem? It’s me, Captain Awkward.Image description: Dean Winters as “Mayhem” from the Allstate Insurance commercials. He is a white man in a suit slumped in the back of a very damaged car covered in seat stuffing.

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Sometimes letters just stack up together in a sequence sort of perfectly. Thank you, Letter Writers!

Ahoy, Cap’n!

I am a frequent lurker, sometimes commenter, and I have a question that probably has a pretty easy answer, but as I am super awkward myself sometimes, especially in dating, I am struggling to figure it out on my own. Maybe you and/or readers can help.

Do you have any advice/scripts for what to do/say when someone you’re interested in dating wants to talk on the phone and you have an aversion to phone conversations? Like, I’m fine online, and through text, and I have no problem with face-to-face conversations. But something about sitting on the phone with someone (especially someone I’ve never actually met face to face, but even someone I’ve already met) gives me a serious case of anxiety. I only have long phone conversations with good friends who I’ve known for years, and that’s only once in a great while. I wasn’t like this as a teenager – I liked having long phone calls with boys! It’s just something that, as an adult in the dating world, I’m not comfortable with. Unfortunately, many of the men I try to date get awfully pushy about it, even when I say something like, “I’m not really a phone person.”

Do you have any advice for how to be more direct about this without offending anyone, or maybe how to explain it so that they understand that it’s not them, it’s really me? Also, am I weird for having this phobia at all?

Thanks so much!

Signed,
Always Hoping For Voicemail

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Hello Captain & Community!

The short version of my problem is: I am never going to have children. My mother refuses to accept this.

The long version is as such: Since the age of eleven, I’ve had a mystery medical condition. My mother has never accepted its existence. While I’ve never been explicitly told “You CANNOT have children” because of the condition, multiple doctors have told me many variations of “It will be VERY DIFFICULT for you to SAFELY have children.” Even if I wanted kids, which I do not, I would be looking at adoption, considering the circumstances.

I am now 26. I have recently finished grad school and am just starting out; I am currently living with my parents. I have one sibling; she is 31. My nephew was born a little over a year ago. My mother has since gone grandbaby-crazy.

My mother has a habit of offering unsolicited advice on all subjects and getting angry and retaliating if it is not followed. At every available opportunity, she lectures me to make career decisions centered around giving birth to and raising children. She also criticizes my long-term boyfriend (behind his back) about his salary and social standing (“he doesn’t make enough for you to not work!”) while simultaneously pressuring me to settle down and procreate because “the clock is ticking.”

When in front of my (huge, nosy, omnipresent) extended family, I let these comments slide because I value my privacy and displaying anything but familial respect gets the whole family involved. (Spoiler alert: they’ll agree with her). In private, I try to address it with her. Whenever I explain my medical reasons for not having children, it’s like she’s never heard them before. She refuses to acknowledge any problems exist and accuses me of lying when I cite to her specifically which doctors have said what and when. On the rare occasion when she “humors me,” she tells me that I “should be doing everything possible, no matter the expense” to correct the problem immediately, which just isn’t possible. I’ve let the “even-if-I-could-I-wouldn’t” component alone so far since I suspect that would start a never-ending argument. I am afraid that if I keep standing my ground like I have been, she will retaliate. I am exhausted. What should I do?

Sincerely,

Enough Already

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I did not grow up in a house that did conflict- I joke (but not really) that I wish my parents had fought in front of their children. Because there was never an emphasis on healthy conflict, all conflict equals bad conflict. While I feel that I can talk to my dad about issues, the real problem is my mom.

When my mom calls (every day/every other day), I go through a nerve wracking thought process. If I don’t pick up the phone (because I had a long day, because I don’t want to talk to her or anyone), she’ll become more and more anxious and escalate communication attempts. I find myself yelling to the phone, ““What do you need!?!” as it rings and before picking up. If I do pick up the phone, immediately she’ll ask, “What’re you doing?” in a tone that implies I’m doing something bad. When she calls, it’s rarely about anything time sensitive or an emergency- it’s mostly just to chat.

If she calls when I’m in traffic, and I pick up the phone and say I can’t talk, I’m dealing with driving, her tone is disappointed. However, sometimes driving is the best time to call her, because I can say that I’m home now so I have to go.

For example: I had a very busy day at work. My mom texts me a general “How’s your day going?” type of text. Nothing time sensitive, not an emergency. I see the text and ignore it because I’m in meetings all day and don’t have the brain space to deal with it right then. That evening, I go to a bookclub that my mom and I are a part of. She sees me, and immediately has a wide eyed expression, and exclaims, “Didn’t you see my text? Why didn’t you answer???” Then I have to reassure her that I was busy all day, and besides, I would see her that night.

Recently her most passive aggressive text: She posted in the family text chain, “Any recommendations for a Pandora running station?” at 5:00pm on a Sunday evening. No one responded that night, and the next morning, she posted, “Thanks fam!”

I feel that I’m good about getting back to her- I usually respond to a text within a couple of hours, and never more than 24 hours.

I’ve seen her and my dad every weekend for the past month (which is way too much in my books, but it included some family event things). When I’m at their house with my brother and sister, I find myself constantly making sure that she doesn’t feel neglected or teased. If she feels that we are not bonding as a family as she’d prefer, she lashes out and becomes mopey and angry.

I’d like to not go full nuclear and destroy the relationship, but I’m tired. I’m tired of constantly checking my phone, because if I miss a call I’m going to hear about her anxiety and how much she freaked out. If I miss a text and don’t respond for a couple of hours, I’ll get a “You ok??????” type of text and escalating from there.

What I really need: a way to tell my mom that her constant need for contact and communication is too much. Basically my mom has no chill and low boundaries, plus a heaping dose of mother anxiety. Help me!

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I am working towards going on a year-long trip around the world. Besides the fact that it’s just this dream I’ve always had, I’m doing this for a few reasons.

1) I hate my life where I’m living and who I’ve become. It’s nice enough, if you’re already married with children. But I was recently in Berlin and I loved being in a city that had 24-hour public transport and interesting artsy things to go to all the time. I felt wonderful there, like I was an interesting, capable, sexy person, and I didn’t want to come home. Here I feel stagnant and boring. I moved across country to live here after college because my parents live here (big mistake, although at least now I have my own apartment).

2) I’ve always wanted to have children, and in particular adopt children. I’m 32, so I’m hitting the age where I have to start thinking of that as a serious goal if it’s going to happen at all. But I want to travel the world first, because after I become a presumably single parent it’s going to be a lot harder to travel. Possible, but harder.

The issue is with my parents. I have a troubled relationship with my dad, who is neurotic, has used money as a means to control me, and constantly orders me around like I’m his employee, so I knew he wouldn’t be on my side. But I had high hopes that my mother would be more supportive. That’s not what happened. They both recently held a little intervention in which they basically told me not to do it. Specifically, they said that they thought I should have a job lined up when I got back. I feebly told them what my therapist told me when I expressed worries about that same thing, that this trip was going to open doors for me and that it wasn’t important to have everything set in stone just yet. That did not go over well. I’m planning on having an extra $10,000 saved up as a cushion when I get back to the states. They don’t think that’s good enough. They don’t think that $20,000 is enough for the trip budget even though I have studied the budgets of other travelers who have succeeded to do this. They told me that I should just keep the soulless job that I have and travel somewhere for two weeks every year. I’m nauseous even thinking about that.

There’s a familiar pattern when it comes to my parental interactions: I want to do awesome, scary thing. They disagree with the thing, most of the time bringing up money or them not wanting to support me as the reason why it won’t work. I either do what they tell me or come up with some sort of compromise. Eventually, I realize that I should have just done what I wanted and become regretful and bitter. I don’t want to keep doing that. I’m tired of trying to manage their anxiety over my life choices on top of my own worries. When I was in Berlin, they insisted that I email them twice a day, once when I woke up and once at night like I’m on curfew or something. What the hell? I know they do this because they love me and they worry, but their worries really trample all over my self-confidence.

Compounding my problems is that, aside from my therapist, I don’t really have a lot of people that I can talk to. Many friendships from college have faded due to distance, and I haven’t made any new ones. I have a night job, so social stuff that is usually held at night is off limits to me now.

So I’m asking for 1) scripts to deal with my parents, because when they get into intervention mode I tend to shut down and not say anything, and 2) avenues to find emotional support for making my travel dreams happen.

Sincerely,

Wants to be Nellie Bly (she/her pronouns)

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and just love it! Your answers and the community here are both awesome. So thanks. My question is really tough and I’m afraid your answer is going to be “there is no actual compromise possible here.” But I’m going to try.

My husband and I were both raised as extremely religious Catholics. When we were dating (courting??) we both agreed that we wanted to have lots of kids, like a dozen, and homeschool them all. Over eight years of marriage, we’ve both changed a lot. We’re both a lot more liberal and our kids are going to public school. After the third kid, we both agreed that we no longer wanted to have any more kids. But, being Catholic, there are only two allowed solutions: NFP (natural family planning, also known as Vatican Roulette), and total abstinence. We did that for a miserable year and a half and then, predictably, got pregnant with our fourth.

I cannot describe how horrible this has all been to me. Four kids is A LOT OF KIDS, especially given that the oldest is only seven. I loathe being pregnant with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. All of them have been high needs. I haven’t slept well since 2009. My husband is exhausted too; he cried like a baby when he found out we were having the fourth and I believe he is still depressed about it four months after she was born.

And I no longer see any point to this punishingly difficult lifestyle since I am no longer Catholic. Between kid 3 and kid 4, I did a lot of studying and am now entirely agnostic. My husband was really upset by my deconversion and mostly prefers not to talk about it at all. He’s become a lot more skeptical about his faith, but he does think it’s true and it worries him to think I might be going to hell. Meanwhile I now think that birth control is definitely the greatest thing since indoor plumbing.

Our birth control method now, given that NFP so obviously does not work, is abstinence. Every couple of weeks my husband can’t stand it anymore so we have non-PIV sex. Only there is zero communication about this. I think his perspective is that, if he’s got to “sin,” at least he’s not going to make it worse by premeditating it. The problem is that it’s obvious both of us want to take it further and I know from experience how hard it is to think clearly when you’re horny. I am terrified that sooner or later we’re going to get pregnant again. I cannot, CANNOT go through pregnancy again; I get the shakes just thinking about it. Meanwhile our sex life is completely screwed up from the NFP and then the whatever-this-is we’re doing now, so that neither of us is really enjoying it that much and we both kinda feel like roommates. It sucks and the thought of doing this till menopause is awful.

I want to go on birth control. He doesn’t even want to discuss it. He told me some time ago that if I did go on birth control, he’d continue to feel obligated to never have sex again because contracepted sex is a sin. I don’t want to do something unilaterally if it truly would upset him, but on the other hand I feel like his religion will make it impossible for him ever to agree to it, even if he WERE okay with it, because that would implicate him in the “sin.” So I can’t find out how he really feels about it. And then there’s the money issue … we don’t have insurance and all the really effective birth control methods are pretty expensive. With his cooperation we could easily save up the money for it in a couple of months, but since I’m a full-time carer for the kids, I don’t have much in the way of my own separate money. And it’s not like a couple thousand dollars are sitting around in the bank right now for me to just take and use … even if I would feel okay unilaterally spending that amount of money, given that normally all major purchases have to be okayed by both of us. And I have almost no one in my life who isn’t fanatically Catholic, certainly no one I could call on to drive me home from getting my tubes tied.

What, dear Captain, would you do? Can you help me come up with a script for “seriously, we need to actually TALK about what we’re doing and your Catholic guilt and denial are not helping”? I have been quietly waiting for the past two years or so for him to come around, but he hasn’t, and I feel our disastrous fourth pregnancy is my fault for agreeing to rely on the broken fire escape that is NFP instead of going behind his back and somehow getting an IUD. Yet I still hesitate to make such a big decision unilaterally; I’m equally scared to tell him (and face his hurt feelings) or not tell him (and have a big whopping secret looming over my head). And of course there are the practical issues.

Thanks for reading my lengthy novel,

Offred (Just Kidding) (Mostly)

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