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Ahoy Captain!

I am a lesbian in her mid-twenties who grew up in a very religious (and homophobic) environment. In my last year of college, I began dating one of my best friends who lived in another state, and slowly began to come out to my social circle, which at that time was largely composed of friends I met at my religious college. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky and nearly all of the people I’ve told have responded well, but I still have not been able to tell any of my biological family. Her parents are both supportive of us, and paid for us to elope and have a short honeymoon in New York back in December. (Elopement has been on the table for a long time, but we wanted to make it official after the election.) They are also temporarily offering her financial support while she looks for a job here (she moved to be with me and we got an apartment last month). As far as my parents know, the trip to New York was an early Christmas present from her parents that she invited me on because we’re really close, and we’re just roommates.

Neither of my parents have any idea about either my sexuality or my relationship – I lived at home the whole time I was dating my wife, and I was very careful. My mom is the kind of person who would ask me directly if she thought I was gay (she cornered me after marriage equality passed for an hour-long “chat” about it) and my dad and I have never discussed my romantic life even when I thought I was straight. I love my parents and I’m pretty close with them, but they’re both openly homophobic, so I honestly don’t know how they’ll react when they find out about me. Part of me hopes that maybe now that I don’t live with them, it will get easier and I can be more open about my relationship, but I also know they’ll probably be at least upset that I lied to them for years. Do you have any advice about how to broach this topic with them? I’m considering breaking the news that my wife and I are in a relationship to them via email soon, but I worry that somehow they’ll find out that we’re actually married and it will upset them even further. I want to be as kind and respectful to them as I can be, but I love my wife and I won’t apologize for that, or for making choices that make me happy. Thanks, Captain.

-Almost Out of the Closet

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, it’s about 10:00 am on Friday in Chicago. From now until noon, I’m going to answer as many short Twitter questions as I can under the hashtag #awkwardchat. Patreon patrons can also submit questions to the post comments there. Turning off comments here until the chat is over to limit confusion (and # of characters/words).

Let’s do this!

“What do I tell myself when I have to memorize, for an exam, things that have proven to be inaccurate or false?” 

Howabout: “Once I make it through this class I will devote my life to setting the record straight. Now, my white-hot anger shall be my memory aid.

Depression, anxiety, and lingering grief and anger from a bad breakup are wearing on me, but I still need to Get Shit Done(tm). How do I approach doing that without ignoring how I am feeling? 

Give yourself permission to grieve for a short time each day. Maybe set a timer for 20 minutes and free-write in a journal in the morning  so that you can indulge the yucky feelings and get them out on the page. When the timer goes off, make a choice to put that aside and focus on the things you need to do. The journal will be there later, or tomorrow, when you need it. If you can make a ritual like this where you have permission to feel your feelings, you might also be able to give yourself permission to put it aside when you need to get things done. When that fails, I’ve heard the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear is pretty good.

I’m working through a poly/metamour communication issue. Any tips on balancing different personalities and needs? Also, I’m an “everyone needs to like me gal,” and I often put that in front of whether or not I actually *want* to be friends with this person. The answer to your question is in your question: You’re considerate of other people’s needs, sometimes at the expense of your own. You’re probably a fantastic partner and really good at the negotiations of poly life as long as everything is going your way. What if for the next little while you tried an experiment, where you gently/kindly state your own preferences and let other people do some of the work of balancing? “I don’t want to hang out this weekend.” “I like our friendship just how it is.” “I’m glad you and (Partner) are having fun, that’s great! I don’t want to join your hangouts/hang out with you one-on-one.” “I prefer waffles to pancakes.” 

How does one combine introvert and a very extrovert job (e.g. teaching) without feeling exhausted all the time? Dude. I wish I knew.

Ok, that’s not true, I *know* some ways, I don’t always *do* those ways.

Some strategies:

  • Remember to eat & drink – regular meals, bring a snack, drink water, plan to refuel.
  • Get up early on class days and use that time to prepare/wake up all the way.
  • Use the class breaks to get *away* for 10 minutes. Sometimes I go to the bathroom on a different floor so I can have a few minutes free of interaction.
  • Track energy levels and look for patterns. It’s okay to plan something social for right after teaching – when I’m on and in that mode, I’ll stay on for a while. I will need some downtime the next day, though, so, plan for that if possible.
  • Schedule blocks of time when I look at email/work with students.
  • Simplify other stuff I have to do that day as much as possible.
  • Have lots of teaching strategies on hand – get students working in small groups, get students presenting & sharing clips, get students moderating discussions & their own critique sessions, to give my voice/energy some built-in breaks.

Do you ever regret starting an advice column?

Rarely, if ever. Sometimes I regret that it took me off the road of making movies for a good while, but I love the work and the community. If I could do this as my main job, I probably would.

Ever regret answering a question?

Yes, a few. That one from the anxious guy, which I won’t link to, but if you remember it, you know exactly what it is. A few where I fucked up the advice, missed something really obvious, or didn’t think it through all the way. Some where the Letter Writer quickly became overwhelmed by All The Opinions of The Internet rolling in on their fragile life situation.

I’d love some Ask A Manager-style updates from letter writers. How likely is that too happen with CA?

I do get updates every now and then, some private, some with permission to post, but I never want letter writers to feel obligated to update us. I like Ask A Manager’s updates, too, and I know the woman who wasn’t allowed to pee haunts us all to this day. If you’re reading, we love you and hope you are okay. This sounds like a good January project, though. I’ll see what I can pull together.

HOW IS YOUR CAT SO CUTE? ARE YOU WILLING TO SELL? HOW MUCH $$$?

Her cuteness is a mystery – if only it came as a serum we could spray on not-cute things to make them cuter! As tempting as cash offer is, she is wrapped around my head like a tiny hat right now and winter is coming.

How do I overcome Resting Friendly Face?

I share your curse. Headphones. Always having a book with me. Helping people when I can, saying (while probably still smiling), “Forgive me but I have no idea! Good luck!” when I can’t. Basically, I can’t overcome it, so I try to live with it and then write a website about boundaries.

I’m going to be out of work to donate a kidney. I don’t have to tell my coworkers why. Pros/cons of telling?

I don’t have pros and cons, just questions.

  • Do you like your coworkers?
  • How gossipy are they? Do you think they are speculating about why you’re out of the office and coming up with weird reasons for it?
  • Would you tell them if you were having another kind of surgery, like, “I broke my foot, need surgery”?
  • Are any of them doing a giant favor by covering for you?
  • Are you going to need any kind of specific help or recovery time when you come back?
  • You sound like a person who is pretty private and who doesn’t a big deal made about you, which seems like a good reason not to tell. Maybe hold off on the specifics until after the fact.