Intern Paul

Jerry Orbach as Lenny Briscoe

Protip: If you are feeling sad about a breakup, stare at this face for approximately 125 hours of Law & Order reruns and you'll be on the mend in no time!

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have never been in a relationship and yet somehow I often wind up being among the first people told about break-ups of others. Today a friend I haven’t known for long (couple of months but we hit it off right away) send me an email to apologise for not replying to my emails because her boyfriend had unexpectedly broken up with her. I don’t know what happened, but it doesn’t sound like it was a good break up!

I was at a complete loss what I should say and eventually merely said that to let me know if she wants to go for a meal sometime and that I find keeping busy helps. I suggested a night in w/ film/pizza/drinks (the usual) but I am not sure how to handle the situation should she want to do this. What kind of film? Preferably no rom-coms I guess. I don’t generally hug people although this feels like a situation in which I probably should…  My flatmate recently broke up with her boyfriend and we never spoke about it although I made sure to be around plenty for meals and stuff so she wasn’t alone.

As life goes on, I can only assume that as break ups are part of life, I will be in this situation again. What would your advice to awkward geeks be on how to handle other peoples problems?


Dear Not-Sure:

As someone who was recently a member of Team Sad Panda, I have a lot of thoughts about this. Well, one run-on sentency sort of thought like usual.

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A still image from a SuperMario game where Mario is trying to jump from the Friend Zone to the (much higher) Relationship Zone.


There’s no way to turn off comments to individual posts, so we’re on the honor system here as of Friday, 3:45 pm CDT.


Hello, Awkward Nation.

I get many versions of the question “How do I get better at meeting & dating women/men?” in the Captain Awkward Mailbag.

The answer is always some combination of:

  • Work on your social skills in general.
  • Dating is a crapshoot! For many geeks people that is incredibly stressful, because we like rules and being good at stuff. Give us the cheat codes! Tell us how to be good at stuff!  SORRY. IT IS TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE AND UNFAIR.
  • Your best chance is to throw out the weird sexist rules and expectations that you’ve inherited from romantic comedies, shiny magazines, beer commercials, and dipshits.  To quote Holly, “if you follow Cosmo’s advice, your dating life is going to be like trying to get asked to slow dance at the seventh grade socialforever.”
  • When in doubt, use your words.  Don’t infer; ask.  Don’t hint; say.

Fortunately, we have Intern Paul to answer today’s version of this question, and he can totally do it without a rantlecture about Jean-Luc Godard’s sexist portrayal of women as cruel childlike aliens who can never be understood (only desired) vs. Agnes Varda’s exploration of ambivalence or Vera Chytilova’s spectacular depiction of feminist rebellion as destructive play. Ahem.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I have a problem. It feels like whenever I meet someone I like and want to date, they like me back, but just as friends. I don’t mean that they tell me that as a polite way of turning me down, I mean that they are sincerely interested in striking up a relationship with me, but one that is completely platonic. Much of the time, that’s what happens. In fact, I’ve only had one serious relationship in my life (over ten years ago), but I’ve made about a dozen friends by asking out women I was attracted to.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

Like many single guys, I have a number of women I am interested in. And each relationship is fraught with its own issues leading to none of them moving forward. Perhaps you’d like to help me solve all of them? If you can’t do that, at least help me figure out who I should still try to date and who I should write off as a lost cause or terrible idea? That would be real swell.

1) The Ex

I moved a few years back, so all of our conversations are pretty much online at this point. (I generally don’t answer my phone when she calls because if I did, she would call ALL THE TIME. But after a few years of this, she’s stopped calling except for rarely, so it works out.) She still loves me. And I still love her. And we’re both still attracted to each other. And this is all why we were dating in the first place. But she has NO IDEA what boundaries mean, and appears unfamiliar with the concept of “alone time”. When we were dating, I did not get to have my own life. It’s why I had to break up with her. It’s why I’m hesitant to get involved with her again. On the other hand, is it insane to let boundary issues ruin what is otherwise a good relationship with good sex?

Like the Great and Powerful Bob, Intern Paul also rocks the skinny mic

2) The Almost

A friend of mine who I ALMOST dated, but after our three-night stand (we, uh, sort of skipped the dating part) she was talking about kids and I basically said, a) slow the fuck down, and b) I don’t want kids. She said she couldn’t date a man who doesn’t want kids, and I didn’t really have a good answer to that. But then she contacts me every few months and says how much she wants me, and how perfect I am, and how it wouldn’t have to be right away, but if I would just want to have kids eventually, she’d be willing to move here. I could probably just tell her “I might want kids, so let’s see what happens,” but this would be a big ol’ lie because I DON’T want kids, so I feel like telling her anything else would be misleading. And it’s like every time she calls it drives me crazy because she’s all “I miss you, I want you, just tell me you’ll want to have kids,” and it’s almost like she just wants me to say it to make her feel like it’s okay to date me, in which case maybe I should just tell her it’s a possibility, but I feel icky about doing that especially if I’m misreading and she actually thinks liking her a lot is going to make me want kids, which, no.

3) The Married Woman

You probably see this and right away you probably think it’s a terrible idea because having an affair is bad. But this woman and I have been friends for about two years, and she has recently told me that she and her husband have an open relationship and would be open to starting something. This is crazy, right? Like, people who are married don’t just get to be with other people and have it be cool, right? Because this feels totally weird and crazy, but on the other hand I like her so maybe I should just get over myself? I DON’T KNOW!

4) The Co-Worker

I know if it goes badly, it is going to make my job a living hell, because even though we’re not in the same room, it’s a small company and news travels fast and I just don’t want to deal with it. Plus she recently got divorced, and I’m not sure she’s totally in her right mind at the moment. Those are reasons against. But she’s a fellow programmer who also appreciates old film noir stuff and whenever a bunch of us go out for drinks after work, I wish I could spend more time talking to her because I feel like we have a lot in common. I think if we weren’t co-workers, and she hadn’t just gotten out of a messy divorce, I’d totally try to date her. But maybe these are two good reasons to either forget it or at least delay indefinitely?

So do any of these seem like decent prospects? Should I just wait for someone with no issues? Or resign myself to life as a stereotypical lonely geek programmer?


Crap At Dating

Yes friends, it’s time once again for America’s favorite game show “DON’T FUCK THAT LADY!” where confused boys must decide between their better judgment or the irrepressible urges of their groin.  And here’s the host of DON’T FUCK THAT LADY, Intern Paul!

Thank you, thank you everybody.  I’m sure you all know the rules, so let’s get right to Door #1!

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People hear what they want to hear.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m just over thirty and left my home and career in the US to live in Europe a little over 6 months ago. I’m now a full time student and also involved in several groups and volunteer work. I like having a very full schedule, I’m a bit of a workaholic and really have very little experience dating. I met an expat from Italy and I’ve been dating this guy for about a month now. He’s a few years older and divorced. I went into the first date not expecting much and ended up hitting it off despite the fact that he’s a little bit shorter than me. I tried to overlook it but I still feel a little embarrassed introducing him to my friends. He has no problem with our almost 2 inch height difference. I’m afraid to be seen in my town with him and meet him in his city.

At first we agreed to keep it casual and see other people. I’ve exaggerated a relationship with a classmate and I’m actually very busy and can’t really meet him as often as he would like. Progressively he keeps telling me he keeps feeling a unique connection and that he can fall in love with me. We do get along really well and have great sexual chemistry. Knowing how commitment-phobic I am, he keeps joking about introducing me to his parents and planning a wedding. Every time he has these romantic moments I keep reminding him that I don’t want anything more than what we have now. Other than those moments, and even those moments aren’t so awkward, I feel so comfortable and relaxed with him.

He keeps trying to passively but progressively move things to another level. He wants me to keep stuff at his place or give me a spare key to his apartment. I don’t think it’s necessary. He’s less willing to come to my place, but I don’t want to make a bigger deal of it because I don’t really want to run into friends of mine with him. I’ve even been avoiding becoming facebook friends with him! I’m afraid that I’ll find that his status is “in a relationship” with me! He seems to keep baiting and switching on me. For example, he asked me if I wanted to meet his 2 male friends. So I figured it was an excuse to show off that he has a girlfriend to his geek friends. I agreed to it but when I meet him and it turns out to be a double date. All of a sudden we make plans to see a few movies and dinners together with this other couple. His friends are really very nice and I’d like to get to know them but they are his friends. It feels like some trick to accelerate things. He has also been pushing to go away for a weekend together. At first he joked that we should go to his family’s city for the weekend. When I asked if we had a chance of running into his family, he joked that there would be no way we could go there and not run into his family. It seems so weird to me that he seems to want to introduce me to his family.

I’m hoping all of the newness and glow of this will wear out soon. It seems ridiculous to break up with him because he likes me too much and I’ve been honest all along about my intentions. I like things as they are and I like feeling loved and desired, but I’m afraid of things become more serious without realizing it before it’s too late. I also feel so horrible saying this, but I feel like I can do better.
Awkward Abroad

Dear Awkward Abroad:
There is a lot going on in this letter.
On the one hand, I want to call him and tell him to stop dating a woman who is so hung up on a slight height difference that she’s ashamed to introduce him to her friends. I mean, we’re all attracted to what we’re attracted to.  Plenty of guys I’ve met aren’t into fat chicks.  I’m not into smokers or guys who don’t spell out the words “you” and “are” in electronic communications, plus, you must be at least as smart as me to ride this ride and it helps if you’re really competent at something.  Sometimes I like to just sit around the house watching Intern Paul assemble computers while we discuss the politics of the day.
Where was I? Okay, height difference – read the wisdom of The Manolo on this subject and/or the Vorkosigan Saga.  You’ve said the sexual chemistry is good, and all cats are gray in the dark, so if you like this guy and want to keep seeing him, this one is squarely in the category of Your Weird Issue, and you’ll probably be happier if you do some thinking about why it’s so important to you and find a way to let it go.
On the other hand, I worry about you dating someone who you are embarrassed to introduce to your friends (and are you sure it’s just the height, or are you seizing on that because you can’t articulate anything else that’s ‘wrong’ with him?).  I worry that you are dating someone who is not hearing your “no” when you talk.  No, you don’t want to meet his family right now – ONE MONTH IS WAY TOO SOON TO BE TALKING ABOUT MARRIAGE & MEETING FAMILIES.  I want you to think about what happens when you state your feelings and say no.  Does he hear you?  Or does he laugh it off and then keep bringing it up in a “joking” way again?
You told me yourself how you feel at the end of your letter:  “I feel I can do better.”

Intern Paul has some words for the second letter writer in today’s Dear Prudence, aka, the girl who went through a slutty phase and has now been basically kicked out of her super-Christian family because her judgmental controlling turd of a brother snooped in her email and told everyone about her wicked ways.

First, here are my words for the brother: Way to shine the light of Christ’s forgiveness, fucko. Truly you are an example to us all. Did you go through all of the private communications of everyone in your wedding party to make sure that no human frailty would mar Your Special Day? I mean, that’s just due diligence on your part, right? You wouldn’t want anyone who has ever committed a sin to put on formal wear and stand near you on such an important milestone in human history.

You know who else thinks that the sexual behavior of their female relatives is their business? The Taliban. Yeah, awesome. I guess we should be grateful that you didn’t feel the need to stone your sister to death or burn away her face with acid.

I’ll let Intern Paul take it from here.

Dear Penitent Whore (and it fucking pains me that you called yourself that):

Your brother is an asshole shitbag, and you need to contemplate cutting him out of your life completely. Seriously. I’m not going to comment about the supposed “wickedness” of your previous behavior (about 100% of the population has engaged in at least 2 of those 3 things), but I will take your word for it that it was getting to be too much. And do you know why I will take your word for it? Because it was YOUR LIFE and the only person that was being potentially hurt by your behavior was yourself, so you are the best person to judge what was going on. Not your shitty brother, not his shitty wife, not your shit-enabling parents. Your brother doesn’t care about you one bit, if he did would he still be shaming you for your previous behavior at every turn? Is that a good way of dealing with somebody overcoming addiction issues? To constantly remind that person of how “repugnant” they are? All your brother cares about is showing off how “Godly” and how “better” than everyone else he can be (I am reminded of the lyrics to “No Earthly Good“). I am even tempted to think that he relishes the thought of you “falling” again because it would be a big boost for how he views himself.

I am not a Christian, and I think that the Captain is right that your brother’s investment in your sexual history is some scary, reactionary, Taliban-level bullshit. But I’m going to make this argument to you from a Biblical place because that is where your worldview is coming from. If I really had my druthers I would ask you to just tell your brother to fuck off and go back to the drinking and sex if it made you happy. Hell, it always works for me.

But no, even the Bible condemns his behavior. Prudence hit the big one with Matthew 7:5, but there are others. Proverbs 16:28 – “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.Philippians 2:3 -“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Would your brother say that Mary Magdalene (the original penitent whore) wasn’t good enough to consort with Jesus? Or to be the first to witness His resurrection?

I realize that cutting your family off is much easier said than done. Clearly your parents have been no help (as I said: shitty). I would ask if your pastor has any thoughts, but given that your family is probably all in the same church I doubt he would be very supportive. So here’s what you do: 1. Get therapy (preferably of the nice non-judgy secular kind) to help you with the guilt and self-esteem issues stemming from how your family has shamed you. 2. Issue them an ultimatum: Either your brother apologizes and the shit stops or you are done with them. After all, “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw away.” Causing you to hate yourself over how God has made you sure sounds like a fucking sin to me. Given the way they feel the need to police your behavior in order serve their own warped esteem issues, you’re probably going to need to invest in some African violets. This will be hard, and it will be painful, but with the support of a good therapist and good friends (please tell me there are some who haven’t bought into your family’s bullshit) you can do it. Your life will be better for it.

Intern Paul