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Friendship

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a young woman, eighteen years old now, and studying at university. Three years ago, when I was in secondary school, I had an abusive friendship with a boy named Ned.**

(**all identifying details changed for quality assurance.)

Ned had no friends, and I, as a somewhat awkward outcast in a small country school, quickly connected with him. It became very clear that he was not a good fit for a friendship – he shut down my interests quickly while begging me to participate in his, he told me I “couldn’t” be friends with other people and that I was the only thing keeping him from suicide, and he reached the point of physically stalking me.

The Ned situation was handled, but it has left me feeling frightened of myself. I am at university and have a few very close friends now, but I’m terrified that I may end up clinging to them as tightly and as unhealthily as Ned did to me. As a result, I find myself pushing away from the people who are closest to me – I ask them, more than I should but less than I used to (yay therapy) if I’m doing something wrong, etc. I am frightened that, just like I felt about Ned, my friends are too frightened of me to tell me if I do something wrong.

I know that this hurts my relationships far more than just me being myself ever could, but I don’t know how to squash my insecurity completely. That, of course, just freaks me out even more, and I end up in this ridiculous cycle of panic and insecurity that really needs to go.

Do any of you humans on Team Awkward have any suggestions on how not to become a Ned-type person, and on how to stop being so afraid of it in the first place? I’m at my wit’s end.

Thank you!

Signed,
Nope, Not Ned

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a friend problem, lets call her Anne. She is a good and generally supportive friend, but she can be hard to deal with sometimes.

She constantly needs validation, from everyone Example, she makes a pie. She posts the pie on her 4-5 social media accounts. She messages her friends all pictures of the pie. When I meet up with her the day after, she tells me about the pie again and how her mum really enjoyed the pie. She will then repeat the pie story to every other person she comes into contact with.

She’s a story topper. I announced to a large group of my friends that I hadn’t had a drink in X days. (I was the group drunk previously, this was a big deal for me). She immediately announces that she’s barely had a drink in two months, for whatever reason. She isn’t a big drinker to start with. Another example – my partner came home from fishing with a huge fish he caught, he was really proud. Anne immediately launches into a tale of this one time her dad when fishing on a boat and this happened and that happened, etc etc. This story is told repeatedly to various people throughout the rest of the day.

She perceives any ‘criticism’ as a direct attack on her person. I’ll say ‘oh hey Anne, you forgot to put this game piece back in the box’. She’ll start defending herself, she forgot because this reason or that reason, and actually it wasn’t even her fault at all.

My main issue recently is that she considers herself the queen of social justice. I tried to have a debate with her about a hot-topic issue, and all she can do is patronize me, tell me I don’t understand the issue, and actually – she ‘splains to me A LOT. I consider myself a feminist, and she knows that, but her idea of debating is just shouting at someone until they just give in. We debated one article, and while I agreed with the general subject (BLM) I heavily criticized the author and the format of the article. She essentially implied I was racist, while assuring me that her opinion of me was not lowered.

Obviously this is a whole bunch of issues, but my question is how can I broach how rude and attention grabby her behaviour gets without her becoming defensive and overly upset? How can I let her know there are various ways to approach social justice without one way being the correct, true way?

Please can I remain anonymous
Thanks

She/her pronouns

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It’s time to answer the questions people typed into their search engine as if they really asked them.

1. “How to make him want to start a family.”

There’s no making anybody want anything. Do you want to start a family? Then tell “him” what you want and ask him what he wants. “I know I want to have children, and I’m feeling ready to get started doing that. What do you think? What kind of timeline makes sense for us?”

If he wants to have children, too, you’ll find out and you can get started. If he doesn’t want children at all, or if his answer is a perpetual “someday,” well, you’ll know that too and can make some decisions about how to move forward. If this is the right person to start a family with, ask him. Speak your heart’s desire.

2. “How to be uninhibited during orgasm without disturbing the neighbours?”

If you live really close to other people you’re all gonna hear stuff sometimes. Earplugs, white noise machines, headphones, carpets, and heavy curtains are your friends. Part of living communally is learning to tune some things out and deal with a little background noise. Your neighbors will survive hearing you Do It every now and then as you survive the odd loud party or bit of toddler parkour. Still, to be maximally considerate:

  • Be generally aware of school nights/workweek nights and keep it quiet when you know it will likely keep someone awake or awaken them too early. (Try kissing when you feel a yell about to come out).
  • Use music or white noise machines. I knew my former upstairs neighbors were having sex the second Wicked Game came on (every time…every single time) but I appreciated the muffling attempt and the plausible deniability, and no doubt they appreciated the sonic smokescreen that let them have maximum fun!
  • Sound-proof your space. A rug on the floor. Heavy curtains over the windows and sometimes around the walls. Cover or block the nooks and crannies through which voices carry.
  • Done some soundproofing? Have a good time.

3. “Girl at work hardly ever speaks.”

Okay?

4. “Not ready for a relationship right now after a bad break-up.”

It’s totally fine to need some time after a breakup to fall back in love with yourself and the world.

If someone is telling you this, believe them.

If someone is telling you this and sleeping with you/doing other relationshippy-sort-of-stuff with you thats full of mixed signals, also definitely believe them. If people really want to be in a relationship with you they are capable of making many, many adjustments in their lives to do so, and it’s okay to say, “I hear you, call me if that changes!” and walk away from their sexy-and-confused selves.

5. “My ex says she doesn’t want a relationship.”

Then you don’t have a relationship. It really is that simple.

6. “What does it mean when someone says they don’t have time for a relationship.”

It means they are choosing not to pursue a relationship (with you), very likely due to having too much other stuff going on. Always reframe statements like this as a choice. It will set you free.

7. “Should I tell my mom my dad hit me?”

Generally, yes, I think you should, but if what’s stopping you from telling her is an instinct that says “If I tell her I will be even less safe than I already am” then use your own judgment about that.

If your mom isn’t the right person to start with, please tell somebody. I don’t know how old you are, anonymous internet searcher, but a school counselor or other adult you trust can be a good place to start. Also, here’s the National Domestic Violence Hotline number in the USA if you need to talk to someone anonymously at first. If you’re not in the USA, get on a computer your folks don’t have access to or open an incognito browser window and search for “domestic violence hotline” and your location.

8. “When a guy asks if you’re mad at him.”

Are you mad at him?

Were you even paying enough attention to be mad at him?

If you aren’t mad, and you weren’t really even paying attention, try “No, should I be?” if he asks you about it again?

9. “How best to deal with someone you care about but they are mean to you?”

Tell them to knock off the mean behavior, and avoid them until/unless they do.

10. “How to dump a guy you kissed once.”

A kiss is not a contract, so, try some version of: “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you but I don’t want to be romantically involved with you. So sorry, I wish you all the best, goodbye.

11. “What’s the meaning of ‘no thanks but nice to meet you’?”

One possible translation: “Thanks for hanging out/coming on this internet date today, I appreciate the effort that you took to wear a clean shirt and make small talk with a stranger, you seem nice enough, but we won’t be doing that again. Have a great life!

12. “How to deal with your Catholic parents who are insisting that you have your child baptized Catholic and you don’t want to do that.”

You got to choose this for your children, I get to choose for mine. Let’s find a new topic, please, or I’m going to have to hang up the phone/Grandbaby and I are gonna have to wrap up this visit for the day.

Be alert to the possibility they might take your child to be baptized anyway behind your back since apparently that’s a thing people do.

13. “How can I tell my boyfriend he smells like urine when I go down on him sometimes.”

Awkward Sex Rule: If you’re close enough to someone that you sometimes put your mouth on their parts, you’re close enough to say “Babe, let’s pick this up after a shower” or to go “hands only” if you don’t want to interrupt the action right then and/or to let him know at another time”Hey can you take special care to clean up down there before we get it on? It takes me out of the moment if things are funky.

14. “Write a letter to your friend with whom you had a quarrel, giving three reasons why you and him should resume your friendship.”

Three reasons?

Maybe try this:

Friend, I’m really sorry for [specific thing that led to quarrel and us not being friends anymore, WITHOUT making excuses or trying to justify it or explain further, ONLY apologizing]. I really miss our friendship and I hope we can talk again soon when you’re ready.” 

Send it out there, give the friend time and space, and see what happens. That’s all you can really do – all the reasons in the world won’t outweigh a sincere apology and sincere request to reconnect or convince someone who doesn’t want to be friends to come back.

15. “My boyfriend tells me to exercise and watch what I eat. It makes me feel horrible.”

Dump. Him.

16. “When bf doesnt want u to meet his friends.”

Dump. Him.

17. “How do you describe a relationship whereby you’re the only one forever reaching out for that person?”

One-sided? Unsatisfying? Soon-to-be-over?

18. “My boyfriend only cares about himself in bed.”

Dump. Him.

19. “Husband doesn’t like short dresses.”

Husband should only wear long dresses then, on his body i.e. the only body of which he is the boss.

20. “My old teacher doesn’t seem to remember me.”

Aw, that can be a really sucky feeling, but it happens. Your teacher has known a lot of students and it’s reasonable to think they might have trouble placing you especially if some time has passed. Gently remind said teacher that you enjoyed his or her class and take it from there.

21. “Korean boyfriend ghost dumped me.”

Getting dumped sucks, no matter how it happens. I’m so sorry. Remind yourself “He didn’t even care enough to tell me it was over” as a way to help yourself let go.

I would read a novel about a breakup with a Korean ghost-boyfriend.

22. “How to tell your boyfriend you don’t want to live together.”

“I prefer living alone.” “I don’t want us to live together.” “I’m not ready to live with you.” “Let’s not live together.” “I don’t see us living together.”

If he really wants to live with you, and you don’t want to live with him, there’s no magical way to deliver that news that won’t hurt his feelings or make him sad, but you gotta tell him so that you can both make good decisions about your relationship and living situation. People can have good relationships and live separately. Trust your instincts on this one and do not “try it out” if you aren’t feeling it.

23. “Dear Prudence sucks.”

She used to suck especially with regard to consent and sexual assaultNow she’s Mallory, and she’s pretty great.

24. “What do you do if your cousin passed away but you weren’t close.”

Consider sending a card to his parents and tell them you’re sorry for their loss. Greeting cards were invented for just this situation, you just have to sign your name at the bottom, and it will be a nice gesture of kindness to them.

25. What does the big relationship elephant in the room mean?

The “elephant in the room” is an idiom that refers to “the giant glaring problem that everyone is pretending not to see or talk about.” So this would be “the obvious problem in the relationship that we aren’t discussing for some reason.” Here’s hoping that it’s a cute baby elephant?

26. “How to stay informed politically without anxiety attack.”

I DON’T KNOW. I AM NOT DOING A GOOD JOB OF THIS. DID YOU SEE THE ELEPHANT VIDEO, THO?

27. Random shoutout to my friend Erin Lynn Jeffreys Hodges.

Hi! Hi! Hello!

This post brought to you by Patreon supporters. This also marks the opening of the 2017 Winter Pledge Drive where I gently shake the tip jar in the general direction of my wonderful audience. Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Captain,

I have a school friend, “Susan.” We met last year when I started the program. Around the time this school year started, I started therapy to address Issues, and I came to the decision that Susan should become a Small Doses Friend.

I find Susan kind of draining to interact with, and I feel like she has a hard time respecting my boundaries. She often brings up subjects I’m uncomfortable with, and I feel like when I ask/ remind her that I’m not comfortable talking about X, it becomes a big production. I’ve also tried to explain to her that because of Issues, I don’t like to say “I love you” to friends because it feels smothering to me, but she often seems to “forget.” It also seems like lately when we hang out there’s a lot of complaining, nosy questions, and little honest enjoyment of each other’s company.

So, all of this considered, I thought it best to just enjoy her company when I can and detach when I can’t. We’ll both be graduating soon, I might be moving really far away, and I imagined we’d kind of naturally drift apart, as people do sometimes.

Just about the time I figured this out, though, she got engaged. She’d been talking for a while about how she wanted to get engaged and married Very Soon, so when she told me I was of course very happy for her and imagined that the wedding would be this spring or maybe summer at the latest. She asked me to be her Man of Honor, and I was really touched. I said yes.

A few weeks later, I asked her if she had an idea of when the wedding might be (thinking which month). She said they haven’t yet settled on a year, and the earliest possible date is a year from this summer. When I think about having to keep this up for at least another year I want to run away screaming.

I think I need to tell Susan I can’t be in her wedding, but I don’t know how to do that. I keep meaning to ask my therapist for help sorting this out, but then when I consider that I only have an hour each week to work on Issues with a professional, there always seem to be more important things to deal with than how to get out of a wedding. I’m wondering: is it wrong of me to want to ramp down this friendship? And how can I get out of the wedding commitment, since that seems to be what needs to happen?

Thanks so much,
27 Issues (he/ him)

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Hey Cap,

This is mostly an attempt to get an outside perspective, as I’m not quite sure if this is An Actual Problem Worth Discussing With Said Person, or if this is just something Jerkbrain is blowing up to be bigger than it is. So, my best friend and I have known each other for about 8 years, are currently living in different places but are still in very regular contact, and for the most part she is an amazing friend with whom I have a tonne in common. The current issue on my part is about exchanging birthday presents.To be clear, I don’t really mind if we give each other presents or if we don’t, the issue I have is that it’s so inconsistent- we never used to do presents, then we did, then one year I gave her a birthday present and she didn’t give me one (our birthdays are about three months apart, mine is after hers), so I figured we weren’t doing presents anymore and didn’t get her a present for her birthday the following year, but then she gave me a fairly pricey gift for my birthday three months later so I had an internal freakout about being a terrible person and got her an equally priced Christmas present (we don’t do Christmas presents, not an issue) and then this year, again, I got her a birthday present because based on last year it appeared to be A Thing We Do, and I got zip for mine. If I’m being perfectly forthright, this happens because, while BFF is a wonderful, smart, kind person, she’s a little…well, inconsiderate isn’t the right word, she’s not that bad, but for her outside of her immediate family and her boyfriend gift-giving seems to be on a more “if it occurs to me and I don’t have anything else going on” basis, whereas if I think gifts are A Reciprocal Thing We Are Doing, I will make sure I get a gift regardless of what else I’m doing.
Again, it’s not that I feel entitled to a gift, I really don’t! This situation bothers me primarily because

(1) the part of my brain that gets really stressed out about social interaction depends on cues from other people when figuring out stuff like gift-giving, and the current situation is profoundly unhelpful.

(2) As the local oddball, I’ve always found it difficult to make friends, and I’ve been in situations in the past where I’ve made waaay too much effort to make friends with people who didn’t give a shit about me, and it’s always made me feel like shit about myself. This means that as a rule I don’t give presents anymore unless I’m absolutely sure it’s a reciprocal thing, because one-sided gift-giving reminds me of those times, and I never want to feel like that again.

(3) Related to (2), I’m not gonna lie, it is a little bit hurtful to spend ages looking for the perfect gift for a person and get nothing in return.

But again, as Frank Underwood would say, I’m entitled to nothing. My natural impulse would be to stop giving gifts to BFF, but for all I know I might get something from her next year and the whole awful cycle will repeat. So then I should say something, right? But what do I say? BFF doesn’t know this is a problem for me, and I doubt it’s a problem for her- I’m worried that if I say something it’ll come off as me guilt-tripping her. Any ideas? Or is this just my problem and I should keep it to myself?

-A Grey Warden

P.S.: She/her pronouns all round

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Hi Captain,

Since my adolescence, I’ve not had sexual desire. I identified as grey-A for a while, and then switched to identifying as asexual when it seemed clear to me that I would not develop any sexual desire. I was happy with this assessment. I have been active in various ace forums since I was a teenager, and have many friends I’ve met that way, both online and in-person friends.

In the past year, I was diagnosed with disorder that affects hormones (not directly related to sex hormones–thyroid, etc.). I took medication for it, to relieve the chance of various serious health issues (increased risk of cancer, osteoporosis, some other things). As I did so, I–for lack of a better word–developed a sex drive for the first time. I am no longer, by any reasonable definition of the word, asexual, or even grey-A or demisexual. I have a frequent and persistent attraction to people and desire for sex, and it’s not exclusive to people I know well. There’s no real chance of going back, without risking the health issues that I took the meds for to begin with.

Captain, I’m terrified that I’m going to lose my friends. The whole “you’ll grow out of it” or “have you checked to see if something’s wrong with you?” tropes are both so common and so toxic to the asexual community, and so frequently off-base, that I’m hesitant to even acknowledge what happened to me. I feel like I’ve failed my community in a massive way. Part of me wants to just lie (that is, remain celibate and claim to still be asexual), but I know that’s wrong (and the ‘remain celibate’ part would be difficult). Part of me wants to just drift away so they never have to know that I was a fake asexual. I don’t want to lose my friends, but I have no idea how to say, “Guess what! I saw a doctor and went on meds and now I’m a sexual!” without badly hurting people.

Help?

No Longer Ace
(They/them pronouns)

Dear No Longer Ace,

Whatever happens with your friends and how they take the news (if and when and however you give them the news), please know this: Your sexual identity is there to describe you, in all your wonderful complexity. You are not here to “live up to” or perform it. Changes over the course of your life in how you feel about sex don’t mean that you were faking something before, and “I used to identify as ace, but that changed as I got older/dealt with some medical stuff that was affecting my sex drive” is a valid story to tell about your life if it is the true story.

Also, you treating your medical condition and having unexpected results isn’t a judgment on or a prescription for anyone else, so please resist any attempt to paint it that way. I can see why the implication that asexuality is a changeable condition that “just needs treatment!” is damaging to that community, but science also tells us that medication side effects and certain medical conditions can affect the human sex drive in multiple ways and directions over the course of a lifetime. You can’t be the only one who has ever been in this situation, so try to find the others and seek out their stories.

Here are some other suggestions for taking care of yourself right now:

  • Go very slow and give yourself time to get used to everything. Figure out your own desires and well-being. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of anything, especially not right this second.
  • If you can, find a trusted professional you can talk things over with.
  • When you’re ready, find one or two close trusted people in your ace friend group to talk things over with. These should be people you have lots of things in common with in addition to ace activism and bonding. Tell them what’s up and see what happens. Tell them how scared and worried you feel about breaking the news. Don’t try to approach it as a Whole Group-issue. One on one is best.
  • If they really are your friends, hopefully they’ll be kind to you and reassure you. They can be the ones who tell the rest of group for you, if that’s something you want to do. And hopefully the long history of affection and things you have in common will carry you.
  • If they express shock and discomfort, here’s a script: “I didn’t choose any of this – not how I felt before, not how I feel now. I’m still the same person who is your friend.
  • If they are mean to you and/or dismissive of you or accuse you of hurting them or the community, I’m so sorry: You’re gonna probably need to bail on that conversation and try again another time. You’re not hurting them, or anybody, by being who you are.