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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Captain! My Captain!

Hi there, and thanks for running such an awesome blog. I have a question about schedule management and how to (politely) avoid overcommitting myself.

I’m a pretty busy person – I work 4 days a week, but seem to fill my time around this without much effort! I always have a project on the go, I seem to generate quite a bit of life admin (finances, doctors appointments, keeping my house nice, etc.) and I try to stay healthy and alive (lots of sleep, cooking at home, exercise, etc.). I live in a big, buzzing city where there’s always something fun to do and good people to do it with, and I’m non-monogamous, so I have 2 partners I see weekly, plus some ‘comets’ who zoom in and out of my life at various intervals.

Right now, my schedule is mostly dashing from one thing to the next, always worrying about how I’m going to fit everything in, be a good partner/friend/family member/employee and take care of myself as well. I don’t like this – it’s fine on occasion, those days happen – but I mostly want to feel like I’m not letting people down or making people feel like I’m squeezing them in around the rest of my life.

I try not to overcommit, but find it hard to know how to say no to social invites/suggestions for hanging out when 1) the people inviting me are lovely and good company and 2) I don’t have a reason to say no. I’m not busy that day, I just don’t want to say yes to a party or hanging out 3 weeks in advance because I get to that week and find that my calendar is full, getting enough sleep will be a struggle, I won’t see partners/close friends and none of my mundane (but fairly important) self care will get done.

Is there a script for saying no without sounding like a dick? Especially when someone lovely contacts me saying ‘We should hang out more, how about a drink sometime?’ I’d love to say yes, I know we’ll have a good time hanging out, but I’d rather leave that time open for closer friends, partners, personal projects and even a little spontaneity! I don’t want to come across like an asshole who thinks they’re too busy and important to make new friends (and apologies if that’s how I’ve come across in this e-mail!) – I just want to save most of my energy for the people already in my life, who are very important to me. And a little for myself 🙂

Thanks,

Not A Dick, Just Busy
(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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Hi Captain!

My problem is one that I imagine is very, very common, but I’ll start with a little background on my specific situation.

I recently started going to therapy for some pretty serious self esteem issues that had led to me isolating myself for a long time. Up until this year I hadn’t been to a non-family social event – including just one-on-one hangs – in over five years (and even before that it was pretty rare).I’ve made a lot of progress over the last few months; I have a few good friends that I can go out with and all in all, I have learned how to get better about relentlessly judging myself during and after every social interaction.

But even after all this (successful!) work, there’s one aspect that I just can’t seem to crack, even with my wonderful therapist, which is the possibility of a romantic relationship. It has been ten years since my last relationship (I’m in my early30s) and I haven’t been on so much as a date since then. While I was in my hermit state I vacillated between “I don’t really want a partner anyway” (a big fat lie) and “You’re not worth a relationship.” Basically the idea of being involved with someone in a romantic way seemed to be something that just wasn’t in the cards for me, ever. I always pictured myself alone.

Now, though, that I’ve started being around people socially, it’s starting to seem…not so insane. Like maybe it’s not out of the realm of possibility anymore, at least not when I think about it in an abstract way. But when it comes to a practical way – joining a dating site, talking to guys at social events, whatever – I can’t seem to break that bubble of “Why even bother? Who would want to be with you?” Even just writing this part of the letter made me feel embarrassed and silly.

There’s one important thing at play here that I haven’t mentioned yet: I’m fat. [details of weight redacted by Captain Awkward, per the site policies] I just can’t stop thinking of my weight (and looks in general, to a lesser extent) as my #1 defining characteristic.

It’s pretty easy to draw a straight line directly from media portrayals to my issues in this area. A fat girl talking about sex is almost always a punch line, a character for everyone else to make “ew, gross” faces about. Despite intellectually knowing better, I’ve internalized this message. For instance, occasionally I’ll use Tinder when I’m bored or feeling optimistic about the future (but mostly bored), and one time I ran across a co-worker. What should have been a “haha isn’t this awkward” moment sent me into a complete meltdown. I was *mortified* that this co-worker might think that…I don’t know, that I thought someone would be attracted to me? It was ages (like, literally a year and a half) before I could be around this extremely nice co-worker without wanting to crawl under the table and die. I couldn’t even talk to him.

So that’s basically where I am. This feeling that, no matter how funny or kind or interesting I am inside, it doesn’t even matter because my outside is so unappealing. I get so sad thinking about how no one will ever look at me and think, “Oh, she’s pretty, I’d like to get to know her”.

How can I start to escape the “overweight=unfuckable, unfuckable=unlovable” cycle?

-Want To Make The Rockin’ World Go ‘Round (She)

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m not sure whether I’m being ungenerous or this really is rude; hopefully you can help!

I’ve been with my firm for a long time; longer than most of the staff. I have a ton of institutional knowledge, and am the in-office expert on several specialized processes. Between that and my love of teaching, I find myself giving a lot of little tutorials and helping to troubleshoot issues, and it’s generally really great!

However.

I get interrupted. A lot. I know my explanations can get fairly detailed (out of necessity!), but I don’t think it’s right to interrupt someone whose day you’ve disrupted, and more often than not it’s to ask a question that I was actively addressing. It should be noted that these are people stopping by my desk, not emailing or calling with their questions.

The worst is when people interrupt me to “correct” me on something I know extremely well. I’ll explain the format something needs to be in, and they’ll interrupt with “Well actually, it needs to be an excel document” when I just said it needs to be a *.csv. Because it needs to be a *.csv. I had one guy do this on his first day, as I was explaining something to a neighboring employee!

I don’t know how to make this stop. There’s a huge expectation that I be friendly and polite, but I want nothing more than to tell them “You’re clearly not interested in learning. Please leave so I can work,” and forward them a link to a search engine (and possibly a muzzle). I try not to let these interactions spoil my day, but they sometimes get me so bent out of shape I cancel my evening plans so I can decompress angrily at home.

Possibly related: despite my experience level, I’m relatively young, and even younger-looking. I’m also a woman. My older coworkers seldom pull this nonsense, and neither do women my age. Men my age are not just the worst offenders; they’re they only offenders. At this point I kind of dread every new male hire under 40. I don’t want it to make this a sexism thing, but it really does seem like one.

What do I do to stop the interrupters?

Sincerely,

Wishing they would fall in a Well, Actually

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Hi, Cappy! I recently discovered your column and am so grateful for it. You’re amazing and helpful!

I really could use some situational advice, but it’s a long and complex story, sorry!

I’m a single parent of a 1st grader. Child support basically doesn’t happen.

3 years ago I was (thankfully) laid off from my research position. I’d worked hard after grad school to achieve success in an almost exclusively male-dominated and competitive field, but it was hard to raise my daughter working the crazy hours and with the amount of travel required for my job.

As a result I returned to school for graphic/web design; a field I thought would provide me with a more flexible schedule, increased job opportunities and potentially more money. I started a two year program at a technical school, with tuition and childcare 100% paid for by government benefits.

Enter “Donny”. Donny was a friend who was a neuroscientist at the University I’d attended and worked at. Despite having very different values, he had become a trusted friend. Romantic interest in Donny = 0. Divorced and childless, he is middle aged. He seemed kind and supportive when I really needed that. He was also the only positive male role model that my daughter had. He was not very involved in our lives at this point.

Donny started a tech company outside of his university position and became wealthy enough to retire from the University this year. He has a low emotional IQ, lots of anxiety and few friends. However, Donny loves my daughter and dotes on her. I don’t think he has ever said “no” to her. I’ve never had weird “vibes” about his relationship with my daughter. She was like the daughter he’d always wanted.

Back to me. Two years ago, after finishing year 1 of my program, Donny convinces me to drop out of school and work with him at his tech company instead. He says I am wasting my time at school and that he, the wealthy and successful entrepreneur, would teach me “real-world skills” and his special coding “secret techniques” from start to finish. He told me people would pay lots of money to learn his secret and that I was lucky he was willing to share this very profitable knowledge with me. He started paying me to do small projects, such as writing copy and some print work for his company. I was thrilled, thinking I was embarking on a new, lucrative and fulfilling career.

Fast forward to a year ago. Donny has stopped sending me any work but continues to pay me a barely livable wage each month to essentially do nothing. Projects are always just over the horizon but wind up “falling through” at the last minute or he doesn’t have the time to teach me anything because it’s a rush job, etc…. I make barely enough to cover my bills most months, but through decreased spending, I can still live check to check. I am ridiculously busy parenting (with no breaks), trying to stay organized, maintaining/improving my small house so my daughter has an un chaotic place to live, and being involved with my daughters activities while occasionally making stuff, but I have no social life (unfortunately that often goes along with single parenthood). I would like to make more money, but confess I am also enjoying the opportunity to be there for my daughter since I am her only family and her whole world. We are very close.

Donny continues to point out how rich he is, but keeps my pay at poverty level. He is also increasingly manipulative and controlling with his money, even believing he is entitled to having input in decisions I make about my and my daughters life, parenting, my house, friends, etc. He is by nature condescending and a master mansplainer. I ignore him and avoid confrontation because after 3 years of rarely seeing my daughter I still feel lucky to have this opportunity.

A month ago I ask Donny for more money for the first time because bills are mounting. I know I need to start a job search, but have been putting it off because —what the hell do I do now?

Donny tosses out a figure 33% higher than I’ve been getting monthly. He says he could even pay off my student loans “if he wanted to”. (They are not getting paid because I don’t make enough to pay them.) He tells me to send him the amount I owe and he will pay them off because he “doesn’t want the government to play any role in my life” which sounds generous, but is actually paranoid and a little conspiracy- theory ish. I send him the figure and he ignores me. All three times. I don’t rock the boat, but never even get a response. When that month’s check arrives its less than the amount he’d promised. I don’t say anything, feeling grateful to get anything at all, but irritated that he has changed the amount without mentioning it.

This months check was even less, back to the original too-low amount. I finally tell him (at 11:30 at night, probably sounding crabby) that it is hard for me to budget when I don’t know how much money I will be getting. At the first sign of what he perceives as questioning him or “conflict”, Donny flips out and says he could easily pay me more money but that he wants me to “work for it” by doing sales for him, which I’ve been clear from day 1 that I was 1) not good at and 2) not interested in doing or I would have pursued a sales career.

Then starts the classic rhetoric all single Moms hear: that I CHOSE to be a single parent and that I CHOSE to have a baby with that person, that my current situation is all my own doing. Followed by hinting that I am lazy and that I need to take “personal responsibility” for my predicament. He then drops a bomb by asking “how long am I going to do this?” I get mad and remind him that I was halfway through my degree which was PAID for and that I had wanted to finish, but that he was right, it was my fault that I had believed his promise to train me and give me work, which he not followed through on in 2 years. So now I have no money and no skills– nothing but some extra time to be a good parent to my daughter.

Then Donny says “I wanted you as a partner, but now Im not so sure,” which had failed to ever be mentioned to me. Apparently I had no say in that either. I got mad and told him not only do I not have time for any relationships, but that we have nothing in common, which we don’t- he voted for the One Who Is Not to be Named -not to mention a hearty “no thanks!” to all the boundary-crossing behaviors I put up with like never knocking but just walking into our house unannounced and at varying degrees of earliness to keep me guessing I guess. Locking the door makes him crabby. I have tolerated these behaviors because 25 years ago he emigrated from a culture where personal boundaries are not a priority, so I thought I was being understanding.

I have not heard from him in 6 days now when normally I get multiple texts per day. I assume he is pouting and will contact me with reasons why I am an ungrateful and overall crappy person. I actually feel enormous relief at not being scrutinized or controlled but am frightened for my financial situation.

What I want to know is: was it wrong of me to go along with this arrangement for so long? What if he contacts me and wants to continue this arrangement for more money? I intend to secure my own employment temping or something, but I am really regretful that I didn’t complete my education. Donny has been really generous, but at this point I feel so manipulated and disrespected that I don’t know if a can have any sort of friendship with him, whether he continues to pay me or not. He will see me as ungrateful and leaving because the money dried up.

I have been very appreciative and grateful and thank him constantly for his generosity, but it never seems to never be enough. He tells me I should just “be a good parent to my daughter,” which I am. I and my daughter make things for him and involve him with my daughters activities, but it’s still not enough. He is feeling under appreciated but doesn’t actually know what he wants. Donny has done a lot for us and I don’t think his behavior is conscious. I believe he is emotionally stunted for some reason. However, i cannot handle any more controlling and condescending bullshit. I am also aware that I am equally to blame for my situation. My motive was wanting to be able to be a good Mom for my daughter, no matter how short-lived. Finally, Donny was the only male figure in our lives my daughter could depend on, but I also don’t want to set a poor example by being manipulated and controlled by Donny.

Scripts for what to say to conflict- averse Donny if and when I hear from him would be greatly appreciated!

-Master Builder of Gilded Cages

she/her pronouns please, he/him for Donny

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