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Video description: The Bangles cover Big Star’s September Gurls in Pittsburgh in 1986.

It’s time for the monthly thing where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are actual questions. This feature is generously funded by Patreon supporters.

1 “How to stop a neighbour and hubby putting me down every time I walk past
.”

Ugh, your husband is being a giant asshole, and it’s time to tell him straight up to knock this behavior off. “Stop doing that. It’s rude, disrespectful, and it hurts my feelings.” If he won’t, you’ve got Husband-problems more than you have Neighbor-problems.

2 “What does it mean when a girl says focusing on school right now after you say your feelings
.” 

It means she did not enthusiastically say “Yes, I feel the same way, let’s definitely date each other!” It means she’d rather focus on school than go out with you. Interpret it as “No.”

3 “Anonymous STD notification letter.”

National treasure website Scarleteen recommends InSpot  for sending an anonymous e-card and has a good how-to guide on doing this kind of notification. Australia has a service called Better To Know that lets you notify partners of possible Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) anonymously via text or email. In both cases, you enter info, the person gets a message that lets them know that they may have been exposed to an STI (+ there’s a way for you to enter which ones) and should get tested. There’s a good roundup of similar services in this article.

If you’re feeling blue and alone in this, the Netflix show formerly known as “Scrotal Recall” (now renamed Lovesick) is a romantic comedy about a man who must notify past sexual partners about possible chlamydia exposure.

If you don’t want to go anonymous, a simple text or phone call that says “Hey [Sex Friend] I recently tested positive for ________. You should get checked out, too” is a very kind and ethical thing to send. The more we all remove stigma and shame around STIs, the better job everyone can do taking care of ourselves and each other.

4 “My boyfriend mom prophesied that we are not meant to be together.”

Translation: Your boyfriend’s mom does not want you to be together.

What do you and your boyfriend want?

5 “When some knocks on door and says the Lord compelled them to stop and talk to you.”

Translation: The someone wanted to stop and talk to you.

What do you want?

6 “How to decline a neighbor asking us over

.”

“How nice of you to think of us, but no thank you.”

7 “What to do when your friend sets you up on a blind date and the guy’s interested in her.”

Acknowledge the awkwardness, have a good laugh together, tell the guy “good luck, dude, tell her how you feel and maybe we can avoid this sitcom nonsense next time” and go home with your dignity. You didn’t do anything weird.

8 “Should you invite girls of interest to your party

.”

Throwing a party is a great reason to invite someone that you might be interested in romantically over. That person can meet your friends, see your place, everyone can see how everyone gets on together, you can get to know each other better without having it be a DATE date, etc. Why not?

Now, girl(s) plural is an advanced move, but again, why not?

9 “What do you do when your daughter owes you money and is not paying you back but takes vacations and spends a lot
.”

Ugh, this is a hard one. Here are some steps for dealing with friends and family members who are not good/prompt/conscientious about paying back loans,

a) Assume that you won’t ever be repaid. Take whatever steps you need to shore up your own financial well-being so that you’re not depending on that money. If you do manage to collect it it will be a happy thing.

b) Ask the person to repay you what they owe. If you bring up fancy vacations or their other spending they will get automatically defensive, so skip that part in your request (even if it is relevant to the issue). Why skip it? You don’t need the story about how she bought the tickets long ago or how they were really a gift from a friend and you don’t want to give her a reason to feel judged and aggrieved (even if judgment is warranted). The vacation money is spent. It’s not coming back. She knows that you know that she knows that she owes you money. Just be simple and direct and ask for what you need:

Script: “Daughter, you still owe me $______. When can we expect repayment?” or “Daughter, you still owe me $_______. Can you repay me by (date)?” Brace yourself for the wave of defensiveness and excuses that is coming. Do not, I repeat, do not get into the details of her spending or her excuses or reasons. Just repeat the question. “Okay, so, when can you get the money to me?

c) Don’t lend this person any more money. You may or may not ever get the money back, but you can definitely control whether you lend them more. You now have a lot of information about how they’ll behave when you lend them money and you both have a hard, awkward lesson. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior here, and “I’m sorry, Daughter, I don’t feel comfortable lending you money since you didn’t pay me back” is a situation your daughter created, not you.

I hope you get a good result. Also, general thought, if you are going to lend money to friends or family, it’s a good idea to put something in writing: How much, what it’s for, when & how will it be paid back. Your script can be “Let’s just write it down so we all know what the agreement is and I never have to bug you about paying me back.

10 “Etiquette of peeing when surfing.”

We are people of action and lies do not become us: In the unlikely comedy of errors that lands me on an actual surfboard in an actual body of water, there is no way on earth my enthusiastic and prolific middle-aged bladder is gonna be able to wait until I swim to shore, find a land-based bathroom, and peel off my wetsuit in time to pee decorously in a toilet. This seems like a “it’s a big ocean” and “that’s between you and your wetsuit” issue to me, but maybe an actual surfer has insight?

11 “How to make girlfriend move out to Colorado.”

You do not make. You ask, and then she either moves or she doesn’t.

12 “I have to leave the Midwest or I will die but my husband thinks it’s all in my head.”

Ok, this seems like a REALLY specific situation and we are DEFINITELY missing context here but what if I said “Even if it were in your head, is your need to go so great and so urgent and so necessary that it’s worth going alone, even if that’s a difficult & sad decision?”

13 “Dating female academic awful
.”

It certainly can be, since the prospect of relocation is always hanging over the whole deal.

14 “He said he wants to do his own thing and maybe see other people.”


Translation: “I am planning to see other people and have less energy/focus/time/interest for a relationship with you.”

It’s a prelude to a breakup, possibly one where “he” either wants you to be the bad guy and actually do the breaking up or where he’d like you to stick around in his life but in background/low-priority mode.

15 “My 23 year old son looks so unattractive, but he won’t shave or cut his hair
.”

[Bad Advisor] Well, it’s definitely 100% his job to make sure his face and body look attractive and acceptable to you, his parent, at all times so definitely be sure to bring this up as often as possible! Your concern, constantly expressed, will only bring you closer together as a fellow adult human strives to please you in all things, including and especially the hair that is growing on his personal face and body where he lives and you do not.

Also, to be on the safe side, hide all of your copies of the musical about this very question, lest he get ideas about fur vests, naked dancing or protesting the Vietnam War.

It is not only your business but your duty to set this young man straight. [/Bad Advisor]

16 “What does it mean if you ask for a guy’s phone number and his response is he is antisocial
.”

He did not want to give you his phone number, or, if he does/did, he is warning you that he doesn’t want to actually hang out. Try again, another dude, another day.

17 “Fucking past due invoices.”

Fucking the worst.

18 “Girlfriend of 11 years is leaving me
.”

Wallow. Fuck Around. Do The Thing.

Repeat the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear to yourself.

(Or not, as it suits you).

19 “Angry that my husband allows his parents to come whenever they want
.”

This would make me angry, too. His family may have a drop-in culture or agreement and expectations, but you do not, and therefore the family that you and your husband make together does not. There are several conversations/actions that need to happen if they haven’t already (and maybe they have and need to happen again):

a) “Husband, I want your folks to feel and be welcome in our house, but to make that happen I need some advance notice. Please ask them to call first and ask if we’re free, and please check with me before you say yes.” 

b) “In-Laws, I really want you to be and feel welcome in our house, but I need more advance notice than you’re accustomed to providing. Just dropping by, even when I’m happy to see you, really stresses me out. I know this is different from how you do things in your family, but I need you to call first and ask if I’m free or if now is a good time. Thanks!” 

c) “Husband, I know I’m somewhat ‘changing the rules’ on your family, but I really need some consideration here. Back me up.” 

d) When they just drop by anyway and your husband isn’t home try: “Oh, too bad this isn’t a good time, I’m just stepping out” + LEAVE (go to the library or run errands or something, just take a drive around the block on principle). Btw if they have keys and are in the habit of just letting themselves in, put the chain on when you’re home alone. Teach them that you won’t drop everything because they came over.

e) When they just drop by anyway and your husband is home, “Oh, too bad, this isn’t a good time, I was just about to take a nap” + HIDE (in your bedroom with the door shut  – keep books handy – and let him do whatever work of entertaining them). Risk seeming unwelcoming and unfriendly. You ARE unwelcoming…to people who invite themselves over.

This didn’t start overnight and won’t go away overnight but in my opinion it’s a battle worth picking.

20 “How to agree a girl for fucking if she dislikes doing it.”

Find someone else to fuck. Someone who likes doing it. Someone who enthusiastically likes doing it with you.

What the fuck, people.

21 “Got an apology from my ex after 15 years
.”

That had to feel weird.

Whether this was welcome or unwelcome contact, there’s one important thing you should know:

It doesn’t obligate you to do anything or feel anything or re-open any kind of contact with this person. If you want to talk to them, ok? You could say “Thanks for the apology, I forgive you and wish you well” if that is true of how you feel.

But if you’d rather let the past stay in the past, you can 100% delete the weird Facebook message or whatever and go on with your life.

22 “Did the date go good or bad?”

This is a great question. You can’t control whether another person will like you, so after a date ask yourself:

  • Did I enjoy myself?
  • Was I relaxed and comfortable with this person?
  • Could I be myself around this person?
  • Did the conversation flow?
  • Did I feel like the other person was on my team, helping the date go smoothly and laughing gently at any awkward moments? Or did the awkward silences turn into awkward chasms on the edge of the awkward abyss?
  • Did the other person seem at ease and comfortable with me?
  • Was the actual time we spent together fun/enjoyable/comfortable/pleasurable?
  • Was it as good as spending time alone doing something enjoyable or with a good friend or do I wish I’d just spent the evening at home?
  • Was I bored? Checked out? Apprehensive?
  • Was it easy to make plans?
  • Do I feel like the person was listening/paying attention/engaged?
  • (If kissing is a thing you’re interested in) Can I picture myself kissing them?
  • Am I looking forward to hanging out again?
  • Were there any red flags?*

If the date went well for you, where you enjoyed yourself and felt good, ask the person for another date. The rest is up to the other person.

If you can get in the habit of checking in with yourself about your own comfort and enjoyment levels during and after dates, even a “meh” date can be useful because you’ll know more about yourself and what you’re looking for.

*Bonus list of some of my personal First Date red flags from back in the day when I bravely put on clean shirts and lip gloss and met strangers from the Internet for drinks:

  • Was the person I was meeting generally congruent with the person presented on the dating site and during any prior conversations? If you’re “single” on the dating site and suddenly “planning to get divorced btw we still live together and no one at work knows we’re separated so I’d appreciate your discretion” when we meet, if you’re 28 in all your dating site photos and 58 in person…it was not going to work.
  • Did the person monologue the whole time?
  • Did I feel like I was monologuing the whole time at someone who just shyly stared at me and nodded? (The Silent Type is a great type and it may be your type but experience tells me it was not mine).
  • Did I feel like I was an unpaid nonconsensual therapist while someone shared everything about their life?
  • Did the person constantly talk about their ex & exes?
  • Was literally everything they said a complaint about someone or something?
  • Were these complaints at least funny and entertaining?
  • In these complaints was nothing ever their responsibility? Was it just a long list of Ways I Have Been Wronged By Others with a subtext of Surely You Have A Duty To Not Disappoint Me Like Everyone Else Has (Now That You Know My Tale of Woe)?
  • Ugh, mansplaining, especially politics or philosophy, how movies get made, the “authenticity” of whatever food we were eating, the makeup & history of the neighborhood where I lived and they did not (for example when I failed to pick the “most authentic” taco place in Pilsen or Little Village), telling me why everything I liked was actually overrated.
  • Talking during movies. No.
  • Taking me to some sort of performance and then critiquing how much it sucks into my ear in real time. No.
  • Overfamiliarity, over-investment. “I can’t wait to introduce you to my son, he’s going to love you!” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing innuendo & sex talk too soon, like, “I just got a new bed, it’s very comfortable, you’ll have to come test it out with me later heh heh.” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing it with the touching. If dinner and a movie remind me of how my cat likes to constantly crawl all over me and make annoying biscuits everywhere it’s too much touching!
  • Negging of all sorts, especially “I don’t usually date ________, but you seem really cool.” (Bonus Nope!!!!! if the blank includes fat people, feminists, “women who seem really smart”)
  • Constant contact, expecting constant texts/calls/emails before we’ve even met in person, all up in my social media biz, “liking” every single photo/comment going back through the archives. It feels good to be seen and not so good to be surveilled.
  • Neediness  – We literally just met, so, surely there is someone else in your life who can drive you home from dental surgery or hold your hand while you put your dog to sleep or fly home with you to your father’s funeral or weigh in with you about whether you should accept this job offer? (All true stories of actual things actual men wanted me to do after a few emails and one hour-long bar or coffee date). I will move mountains to take care of people I love, when, you know, I have had a chance to figure out if love them.
  • Casual, “ironic” sexist or racist comments, dropping code sentences like “I hate all the political correctness these days, I feel like I can’t say anything.
  • Bringing your feature screenplay to the date for me to read.

Your Mileage May Vary, as the great saying goes. My list doesn’t look like anyone else’s and I may have had stuff on there that is not necessarily a problem in itself or not a problem for you, or where there are exceptions to be made (I did drive the guy home from dental surgery as a human favor for a fellow human being, I just didn’t date him more) or that are just differences in styles and interest levels. It’s not meant to be universal and it’s about compatibility with you vs. any one thing being Good or Bad.

I’m including the list because I developed it over time by paying attention to what made me feel good, comfortable, safe, relaxed, happy, excited and what made me feel the opposite.I stopped asking people “Is this normal/cool/okay thing when you date?” and started asking “Am I good with this?” and “Am I delighted by this?” Those experiences (and the decision to be picky about second and third dates) helped me avoid some entanglements that would have been fleeting at best and draining at worst, and it helped me know “Just Right” when I saw it.

We focus so much on the auditioning aspect of dating – Am I good enough? Does the other person like me back? – that our own comfort and needs and pleasure can get lost right when we need them most. It was a good date if you enjoyed yourself and felt good and did your best to be kind and considerate. It was a bad date if you didn’t enjoy yourself. Whether a good date will lead to another one is up to more than just you.

 

Hiya Cap’n!

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for just over three years, and after a stint of long-distance, the two of us have recently moved in together.

Captain, it’s not going well.

Most of the ways it’s not going well are problems on my end, though, and they’re all pretty minor, falling into the category of ‘either suck it up and compromise or use your words to try to fix the problem.’

Captain, how do I tell the difference between us not being compatible and me not being enough of a grown-up to put in the work? I’ve never been in a relationship this serious before, so I don’t have much of a sense of how this is supposed to go.

Here’s the crux of the matter, I think: I am really freaking organised. I had a very chaotic childhood, where my ‘organisation’ sometimes determined whether my brother and I would eat that day. As a teenager I was then taken in by a foster family whose idea of fun was a multi-day backpacking/rock-climbing trip — great training in how to plan. My early career was spent working jobs where the health and welfare of myself and those around me depended on my ability to mastermind; due to disability, I now work an office job in a different industry, but my current role still boils down to ‘be the most competent person in the room.’

Anyway, I’m really on top of household stuff (and also an excellent cook, if I do say so myself). My boyfriend is…not. My boyfriend’s the type of person who constantly starts fires in the kitchen. Who loses household bills. Who forgets to go to important doctor’s appointments. Who is late to everything. Whose bedroom looks like a tornado hit. Whose fridge still contains leftovers from three months old that are now incubating the most amazing mold.

I would be delighted to take over all household chores. Really. I like cooking! I like cleaning! I would so, so, SO much prefer to, say, just take the trash out myself than to have to bug my boyfriend several dozen times to take out the overflowing, rotting trash. I would so much prefer to ask Boyfriend what he wants for dinner and then to make it happen myself than for it to be ‘Boyfriend’s night to cook’ which often turns into ‘it’s late at night and there’s nothing to eat in the house because Boyfriend forgot and LW only reminded Boyfriend twice rather than three times, and somehow it’s LW who goes to the store and ends up making dinner anyway.’ Boyfriend is welcome to take care of the garden (I freaking hate plants), the car (disability = I can’t drive), anything in his name (hey, it’s not messing with my credit score), anything that he himself owns, etc, but I’d really just as soon do any joint household stuff.

Boyfriend, though, keeps having tantrums about this. Like…we were having some friends around for dinner, and Boyfriend asked if he could help, so I asked him to set the table, but he didn’t, so an hour later when it was dinner time, I just set the table myself. MAJOR MELTDOWN. Apparently I was supposed to interrupt Boyfriend, who was entertaining our guests, and remind him to set the table. And I’m like: ??? It’s fine? It’s just a table? It’s not a problem for me to set it, I was in the kitchen cooking anyway? Or, a few times when Boyfriend has done our joint laundry, a bunch of my clothes vanished into the waist-deep chaos that is his bedroom (and then as near as we can tell, he later donated them to a charity shop, not realising they were mine???), and I don’t have the spare cash at the moment to replace these clothes, so I’ve started doing my own laundry separately. And now every single time Boyfriend sees me doing a load of laundry that is clearly just mine, Boyfriend freaks out. And I calmly explain, ‘Boyfriend, I’ve had X, Y, and Z items disappear, so I’m lot more comfortable washing my own clothes, but I really appreciate the thought, thanks,’ but that doesn’t really work. So now I’m doing my laundry in secret to avoid a Boyfriend!meltdown? Which is probably my own fault, but also kind of sucks?

So, Captain, what do I do?

I know from Boyfriend’s perspective, I’m being controlling. The answer may just be ‘chill out, LW, learn to live with a bit of chaos.’ I also know that there’s a lot else going on in our relationship that I’m not particularly happy with that is not going to be fixed by one or both of us chilling out. (We aren’t sexually compatible.) (I’m a politically active antifa SJW, whereas he comes from a pretty conservative culture and is fairly ‘meh’ about politics.) (He tends to monologue, and I find this exhausting.) (He doesn’t think ‘people like us’ should get married — think ‘I don’t think a Muslim and a Jew should get married’, though that’s not our specific demographics — and I’m still fairly saddened by this, both because I would love to get married and because I think this reveals a disturbing level of internalised bigotry.)

FWIW, my therapist thinks I should leave him. But I’m disabled and broke and his emotional and financial support are pretty great and he really is a lovely person.

Halp.

I don’t want to do all of the household chores *and* navigate my boyfriend’s ego. (She/her.)

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Hi, and thanks for an awesome and helpful site!

My situation: I’ve recently begun a new relationship, and am experiencing some…friction. I’m having trouble telling how much of the issue is incompatibility, and how much is me being “rusty”/ungenerous/inflexible, and I would love some outside insight!

A bit about me: I’ve never been a big dater, and being in a sexual/romantic relationship has never been a priority for me–I’ve been happily single for long stretches, including recently. I know that I have some real trust issues and some sensitivity around body image and bodily autonomy, probably stemming from “Stuff From the Past” (nothing deeply traumatic, but still stuff). I enjoy sex, but I’m not a big cuddler or casual toucher, and I am strongly anti-PDA.

My new date-friend is *much* more oriented towards physical affection: his actions make this clear, and he has straight out said that touch is his primary “love language”. The way this has been working out in practice is that we have fallen into a pattern where he is always instigating or escalating different kinds of touch, or talking about my body, and I am always shutting him down/pushing him away. Examples: we were in the midst of a conversation (that I thought was going really well! we were having an emotionally intimate moment) and he kissed me mid-sentence, before I could finish what I was saying…Or, he wants to rub my knee during the entirety of a hour-long car ride…Or talk about my “sexy hips” in a family restaurant at 2PM. Or make out in a public place. Even his “thinking about you”-type texts are always touch/body based–“Sending you big hugs”, “I wish I could see your pretty face”, “I want to tickle your tummy and give you kisses” (That last one I had a really visceral negative reaction to, and we did have a conversation about how tickling is NOT my thing…)

All these things make me *so* uncomfortable. I’ve tried to explain my boundaries/comfort levels, and I genuinely don’t think he is trying to make me uncomfortable, I think he just deeply doesn’t understand. To him, touch always feels great and is a sign of affection, compliments about my body are meant to make me feel good, etc. And he never makes me feel unsafe–whenever I have told to him to stop doing something, he stops right away. But I don’t like to have to keep saying “stop”! It feels shitty and mean.

I have also been second-guessing myself and my own feelings: I’ve definitely had the thought of “Don’t put your hands on my body in public like you own me” but I think that has more to do with my own current political rage, and less about him as an individual, and that seems kind of unfair? And then another part of me wonders whether I should be trying harder in general–maybe I’ve been single too long, maybe I’m too guarded, maybe I should learn to be more affectionate, maybe my hangups are getting in the way of me having something really nice, maybe my discomfort with touch is not a true preference but a result of all my past issues and it would be “good” for me to work through that a bit. Maybe it’s really sad that compliments about my body make me cringe, maybe it’s weird and cold and ungenerous of me to be like “touch me during sexy time, please, but omg can you just keep your hands to yourself when we are watching Game of Thrones?” Or, maybe we are just straight up not compatible and we will only make each other unhappy!

What do you think? (she/her pronouns are fine)

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Dear Captain,

Every year I go on holiday in a cottage somewhere with the same group of 10 people. It’s lovely and a really important chance to catch up with old friends I don’t see enough. But every year I end up resenting the half of them who don’t pull their weight with the chores.

Not all of us are decent cooks, and it seems perfectly reasonable that only the people who are good at it cook dinners. And we have a “you cooked, so you don’t have to clear away after dinner” rule. But that’s only a tiny fraction of the cleaning that goes on during the week. We also need to load the dishwasher at several other points in the day, do the shopping, plan what we’re going to do, keep tidying things away, organise the holiday itself… All of this emotional and logistical labour and the majority of the cleaning/ cooking is done by the same small group of people.

As you might have guessed, there’s a strong correlation between gender and whether or not people do their share, although it’s not clear cut. My (male) other half is one of the cleaners, and one of the worst shirkers recently came out as non binary, so I don’t want to make a thing of the gender issue as it isn’t as simple as just the women doing the work and the men avoiding it.

I have in the past said something like “it feels like the same people do the majority of the chores, partly because a lot of it isn’t noticeable unless it doesn’t get done, so please be aware of whether you’re doing enough”. This has increased the amount of chores the shirkers do slightly, but not to their fair share, and it hasn’t changed the balance of emotional/ logistical labour. It also resulted in one of the shirkers hiding in a corner not talking to anyone for a couple of hours. (They’re in bad mental health and will do this occasionally throughout the week).

Policing other people’s chore is a) annoying and b) yet more emotional labour I don’t want to do. I’ve tried just not doing the chores, but this results in them not getting done until one of the people who already does too much work does them.

Lots of my thinks this is just one week a year and I should just deal with it and not make a scene or sit there stewing when half the group aren’t contributing. But I’m really pissed off by the injustice of it, especially given the gender divide. And as a friend, I also think my heterosexual male friends are much more likely to have happy romantic relationships if they learn how to divide labour more equitably.

Any advice?

Yours,
I Am Not Your Mother
(She/ her pronouns)

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I would like some advice on how to deal with this. Let’s start in the beginning. It was the beginning of the school year (8th), when a boy asked for my number. (We will call him Earl) I gave it to Earl only to wait for practically half the school year until I get a text from him. Of course, I could have talked to him in the single class we share. But I was extremely awkward and did not know how I could initiate a conversation with him. Our text conversation was very awkward. After several other conversations, Earl suddenly asked for a selfie of myself. Right after that, he sent a (unwanted) photo of himself, which made me feel like I had to send him a photo in return.

Several weeks later, I saw Earl in the hallway and was about to greet him when I saw him walk towards another girl and hug her. I assumed that she was either a family member (many students’ relatives attend our school) or a close friend. I later found out they were actually dating, that Earl was actually a player, and showed off the pictures he acquired from multiple other girls to other boys. He also asked for a few of my friends’ numbers, even when I was in the same room! I was devastated and felt like it was my fault it happened. Earl even sat with my friends and I during lunch and asked for their names (Just thought I would add that). That was a month ago. We have not talked in that time. Two days ago, he began texting me again. Once again, Earl requested a photo of myself. This time I declined. Immediately after I said no, he just (and I quote) said “K, gn”. I would like to cut ties with him completely. I’m not sure if this is a bad enough problem for you to share some advice, but I would be grateful if you could help.

Sincerely,
Troubled Teen

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Dear Captain Awkward,

An anniversary is coming up, but I am so frustrated with my husband! When I met him, I looked a certain way (i.e. hair length, weight, etc.).

I used to be a fitness instructor and went to the gym in my spare time, all the while juggling multiple jobs and trying to go to school. So, I was always toned out and at a happy place with my weight. I then got a full time job that still requires me to work out, but not as often as I used to.

Anyway, due to the heat, my new job, I wanted a change to my hair. I did not want to change my hair if my husband would not have liked it. So, I asked him and confirmed close to a million times as he kept saying, “Yes. Do it. I can’t wait to see how it will turn out.” and I did. Chopped it all off and it was a drastic change that took me a long time to get used to. In between that time, my husband kept asking me to do different colors and styles of my hair. So I did with no hesitation (okay, maybe sometimes, but I still agreed and went with the flow). He loved every single look I did and the one he had the brightest reaction to was dying my hair back to my original color. Other events in between all of this, he would bring up my previous hair style and how attractive I was with it. The insecurities crept in and crawled under my skin. But he stopped bringing it up when I came home with my original hair color.

Anyway, now, he brought it up again, mentioned how I used to be, how I used to look, the past this, the past that. So now, I feel almost guilty for ever beginning to change my hair style the way I did. Now, it’s going to take months, maybe even years to get it back to how it used to be. So now, the insecurities really dug under my skin and are clawing, scratching hard inside. During me trying to get my look back to how it used to be, I feel like it won’t amount up to what he wants–the original “me” until then and it worries me that when I do get it back, he’s going to keep addressing what I used to look like during this time, or that time, or that he wants me to go back to my current look. If that makes sense Am I over thinking this? Am I wrong for being hurt and feeling the way I do? I have been at a loss for words with talking to him about this situation and whenever I would try, it would be me jumping to conclusions rather than trying to calmly address the situation and find a happy medium for both of us.

Trying to remember my breathing,
The Palette Wife

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I started answering this latest example privately and then decided, ahhhhhhhh, fuck it.

I’m going in.

“Dear Jennifer,

I was very disappointed when I saw your reaction to the many emails you received concerning NFP. Your reaction was bitchy and immature. I mean, we’re all adults, so we’d better behave like adults…”

Bitchy, immature, and not behaving like an adult. Noted, Gentle Reader. Noted.

“1. NFP is not hard, if learned properly”

1) NFP is not hard FOR YOU. Great. Rock on with that.

“2. Just because she didn’t use it properly, it gives her no right to bash the method for her mistakes”

2) People who can’t remember to take the birth control pill every day at roughly the same time should probably look into a method that doesn’t depend on strict adherence to a daily routine.

People who don’t do well with hormonal methods should look into other methods (including Naturally Family Planning).

People who don’t trust themselves or their partners to have 100% reliable condom hygiene or who aren’t able to reliably plan for and place a barrier like a sponge or a diaphragm before sexual intercourse should use a backup method.

If you’re allergic to latex, then latex condoms probably aren’t your thing.

Some people don’t tolerate the IUD well. Insertion can be difficult on very young women and women who haven’t had children, and you’ve gotta check the strings hanging out of the cervix every so often to make sure it hasn’t moved. Those people should look into something else.

And people who can’t or don’t want to commit to NFP should find the thing that works for them, even if they were “never taught properly,” even if the issue is or was human error, even if the issue is or was specifically their own error.

Even if the Letter Writer‘s situation was a case of “Welp, I’m clearly not doing this correctly” (which by the way I am not assuming here), she doesn’t owe it to you or anyone to double down on that method before moving on to one that will give her more reliable results with less effort from her and more peace of mind. She can switch methods for any reason, including “I enjoy sex and do not want so much hassle or uncertainty associated with it” or “Dunno, felt like it I guess.

“3. It is not just about her. This is public on the internet. People with similar problems will look for advice there. You should have set the record straight for them. NFP doesn’t deserve such a bad reputation and you should not take part in bashing it.”

3) This is where you are flat fucking wrong. It’s her body, her literal body, of which she gets only one, of which she is the sole boss and driver. It could not possibly be more about her. 

She doesn’t owe allegiance to a method of birth control. She doesn’t owe it a positive spin, or further consideration. She doesn’t owe you or me or anyone ever having tried it in the first place.

Additionally, stating “This method didn’t work for me and I need to be done with it” is not “bashing” the method. Choosing a different method than the one you chose for yourself is not “bashing” your method. Choosing not to let people endlessly promote a birth control method when a Letter Writer has clearly said “I’m not interested in that anymore” is not “bashing” your method. You are projecting so hard it’s visible from space. You are doing the Internet equivalent of:

Letter Writer:“I’m having a problem with my PC, does anybody know how to fix this error?”

You/The League Of Very Concerned Citizens:“Well, you shoulda bought a Mac, there’s your problem right there.” 

I would have blocked you on Facebook by now if you did that in my feed, but let’s say the Letter Writer is a nicer person than me and continues:

Letter Writer: “Ok but my work computer is a PC and I have to figure this out today, so, does anybody know about fixing this problem on a PC?’ 

You:“Well, on a Mac this would never happen. You should convince your company to make the switch to Macs.” 

Actually, THIS is what you sound like:

 

CormacMcCarthy_BloodMeridian

Image description: The cover of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Light red writing on a dark red background with an abstract desert image in the middle.

Letter Writer, on social media outlet of her choice: “Ugh, I have my period, it’s like a Cormac McCarthy novel down there and I bled through a super plus tampon and my pad in an hour.”

You: “You should use the Diva Cup!”

Letter Writer: “Thanks, I tried the Diva Cup for a couple years, it wasn’t a good solution for me.”

You: “But did you try this kind Diva Cup? Or this kind? Or this other kind?”

Letter Writer: “Can’t say I have, but the one I tried, I really didn’t like it.”

You: “Well, it takes a lot of practice to get it right. Maybe you weren’t inserting it correctly!”

Letter Writer: “Cool, you’re probably right, but like I said, it wasn’t my thing.”

You: “Well, it works for me perfectly! I don’t see what your problem could possibly be, unless you’re just not very good at Diva Cups.”

Letter Writer: “I’m glad you found something that works so well for you! I wasn’t asking for advice on period control, I’ve found what (mostly) works for me. I was just venting that it’s like Bryan Fuller directed a Very Special Episode of Hannibal in my vulva.”

You: “HOW DARE YOU BASH THE MOST HOLY AND AMAZING DIVA CUP, WHICH WORKS PERFECTLY FOR ME EACH AND EVERY MOST HOLY DAY OF MY CYCLE?”

Letter Writer: Wut

You: “It’s not just about you, you know! This is on the internet! Anyone could be reading it and you are lying about how great the Diva Cup is.”

Letter Writer: “Ok, that’s clearly enough menstruation chat for today, have a good one!”

You: “Why do you hate the Diva Cup? Why are you trying to stop me and others from using it or finding out about it?”

Letter Writer: “I don’t? I’m not doing that?”

You: “Now the uninitiated will be MISINFORMED about the Diva Cup. All because of you, and your choices. Because this was the sole possible venue where they could find out about the Diva Cup. You have been unfair! I demand an accounting!”

Letter Writer: “Have we even met before? Who even are you?”

You: “Once you try the way of the Diva Cup, you are forever sworn to its service and glory. I demand to be allowed to share a tutorial on proper Diva Cup usage, that all may know.”

Letter Writer: :block:

You: “How immature.”

That is what you sound like. NOT GOOD.

There is good news to be had here, though! You could create your very own website all about NFP and how great it is, and people could read that if they are very interested in finding out more.

“4. The lady from the letter has bigger problems than birth control, namely a pretty messed up marriage, that she and her hubby should fix before talking about future family planning.”

4) I’m glad you brought up problems in the relationship. The Letter Writer has been trying to talk to her husband for 2 years about finding a different family planning method. It hasn’t worked, to the point that she is scared to bring it up again because it might cause a huge rift between them or that he might try to withhold family funds from her. If there are problems in a relationship, where the partners need to work some things out as they figure out family planning (as you so aptly point out), one smart thing to do would be to put a reliable birth control method that does not rely on the participation of the partner who can’t get pregnant into place…so that you don’t accidentally have another kid while you work out any marital problems.

“5. NFP also allows to control one’s own fertility without any health risks, if learned properly.”

5) It allows you to control your own fertility…to a point.

You could do whatever NFP practices are currently working for you 100% faithfully and “properly” for the rest of your fertile life, and if your partner does not respect your “Nope, not today, today is unsafe!” request, or if you’re having what you think is going to be non-penetrative sex but all of a sudden he’s all “C’mon, just the tip, it will feel so good” in the middle of things without warning you, or he pressures you into sex a lot and sometimes it would be easier to just go along than to have another fight about it and you don’t 100% trust him to stop in the middle of things and don’t want to risk finding out for sure that he won’t…and also it just feels soooooooooooooo good…just this once….and shazaam!!!!! Rogue semen. Inside your body. Makin’ a zygote.

That doesn’t even get into reproductive coercion,  or rape, or the connections between unplanned pregnancy and intimate partner violence.

If only there were a way for a person who can get pregnant to be self-aware about their own reproductive needs and to put a failsafe in place during times of unsteadiness and disagreement in a relationship, one that doesn’t rely on the participation and compliance of a partner and isn’t vulnerable to human error or sabotage!

“A mature and informed response would have provided the information that NFP is a safe method, and even if it is not the perfect method for the letter lady, it is still one of the best methods available and by telling that NFP is not safe, she’s basically lying.”

She is not lying, you unmitigated asshole.

“Please stop being a triggered feminist and return to the facts.”

Please enjoy this parting gift on your way to find a website where you’ll be more comfortable.

bagofdicks

Photo by me, of an art piece that hangs up at my hairdresser’s. Image description: There is a bag marked “dicks” and the words “Here’s that bag someone told you to eat.”

“Thank you
A very angry NFP user (with no unplanned pregnancies so far)”

Very angry NFP user, I’m glad you found something that works for you and I hope you have only the babies that you want to have when you want to have them. Your happy anecdata about how NFP works for you remains irrelevant to the choices of the Letter Writer, who is a separate person from you. She owes you precisely jack shit and I think you need to seriously examine why you feel so threatened by her decisions about her own body that you need to send me “bitchy” emails and accuse her of lying.

Women and people who can get pregnant bear enormous risks during pregnancy, including death. They are human beings who have a right to set their own risk tolerance. Everyone who can get pregnant should be free to find the method that works safely and reliably for them without judgment or recrimination from anyone. Everyone who wants to get pregnant should be supported in that choice, too! Birth control should be free for anyone who needs it or wants it, and so should fertility counseling and assistance.

People who have strong religious objections to certain methods of contraception should continue not using those methods on their own bodies, of which they are the bosses. People with strong religious objections to certain contraceptive methods have zero say, zero moral authority, and should have zero political authority over what other people do with their bodies. This should not even be debatable as public policy anymore! This should especially not be debatable by large groups of men. It’s definitely not gonna be debated on this blog.

So, in closing, thank YOU for once again allowing me to say that there is no moral hierarchy of birth control methods. None are 100% perfect or reliable, but fortunately there is enough variety and tested reliability that most of us can find something that works reliably and with few side effects or hiccups. We gotta keep defending our rights to this without apology and without shame.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Women’s Rights are Human Rights Birth Control Is Great And You Should Use Whatever Kind You Like For Any Reason Planned Parenthood is a National Treasure  Abortion is Necessary Healthcare Rodham Nunyabeezwax Big Fat Feminist Jezebel Every Sperm Is Emphatically NOT Sacred Captain Awkward Leigh Peepas.

P.S. Letter Writer #969 I am sincerely sorry if posting these updates brings more pressure and weirdness into your life. I continue to send you love and to think about what a great and loving wife you are, what a great parent you are and are going to continue to be, and imagining how you are going to start to slowly become the wise woman in your community that other girls and women turn to and rely on when they also need to take care of themselves around this. Please don’t let these nosy parkers bring you down.

P.P.S Do not fucking @ me about the Diva Cup.