I wrote a post on my Patreon page today. It’s about listening, and how people can really, really suck at it. Take a look if you like.
MY GRADING IS ALL DONE FOR THE YEAR.
Image description: A lady dressed all in pink with bright red shoes does an excited dance on the front stoop of her mint green house.
In celebration, it’s time for that tradition where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.
Here’s a mellow tune to relax you:
And now for the search engine snippets.
1 “How to make your parents divorce.”
This one is pretty much up to your parents. If they bring up “staying together for the children” as a thing they are trying to do, you might be able to say “I really appreciate that, but I want you both to be happy and I know you’ll be great parents even if you decide not to stay married.”
See also: “Wow, I appreciate the thought but that’s a lot of pressure! What would make you most happy? I know you’ll be a great parent even if you aren’t married anymore.”
2 “How to reply to a compliment about caring nature.”
“Thank you, I’m glad you think so.”
“Thank you, I do my best.”
3 “When your rich long distance boyfriend ghosting..does it mean that he’s testing to see whether you are a gold digger or not.”
I would say that when your partner does something that confuses you or hurts your feelings like ghosting on you, it’s okay to ask them what’s going on. “I notice you haven’t been in contact much, are we cool or is there something I should know?” I also think that instead of looking at the situation as a test you must pass, think of it as if you were giving the test: Is being ghosted ok with you? Do you let this boyfriend get away with treating you poorly because he has money?
4 “What to tell your coworkers who ask about you when you are on leave due to mental illness.”
It’s really up to you what you disclose. “I’m taking some time off to deal with some health issues, thanks so much for checking on me” is more than enough information if that’s what you’re comfortable sharing.
5 “Ran into a woman that I had an awkward date with.”
I’ve lived in the same city since 2000 and this has happened to me so many times
It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if everyone follows the rule of “treat everybody you meet like you will probably run into them again someday.” The way I generally handle it is to a) say a very quick and pleasant hello and b) if they are with friends, I do not bring up the fact that we know each other in a dating sort of way. There are a few exceptions, depending on why the date was awkward – Handsy McGropesalot or “Pilsen’s Most ‘Authentic’ & ‘Interesting’ Man (Ugh)” or The Guy Who Would Not Break Eye Contact Even For A Second get a terse “‘sup?” or nod followed by immediate evasive tactics. But a basically nice person I just didn’t click with? “Hey, how have you been, nice to see you!” and no worries after that. It’s a both a big world and a small world.
6 “How to reply to your ex if he asks are you still mad.”
You don’t owe this question an answer, but I think the truth can be pretty liberating. “I mostly don’t think about you. Why do you ask?”
If you’re still mad, maybe say that? “Yep, still mad.”
7a “I cant find anyone to date with good hygiene.” and 7b “How to handle a bf who happens to be dirty body and smelly mouth.”
There are enough recurring search terms like this that I feel compelled to say: What is happening out there?
Do you want to touch/date/be close to other people? If so, please bathe regularly (Once a day? Every other day? At least on days you know you’re going to see a partner?), wear clean clothes, and brush your teeth often. Do the best you can.
It’s okay to ask a romantic partner to freshen up before you do naked or up-close stuff or even before hanging out. “Awesome, let’s make out, but can we brush teeth first?” “Can’t wait! Wash the gym off first?” “Hey, I need you to shower and brush your teeth before you come see me.” Bodies are amazing and wonderful. Also, sometimes they get dirty and stinky. It’s okay to acknowledge that.
8 “What to get your son’s girlfriend for Christmas when you don’t like her.”
1 Ask your son if there is something that he knows the girlfriend wants or would find useful.
2 Get her the same thing you’d get her if you did like her? Like, if you’re going to get an “I hate you” present maybe it’s better to buy nothing at all?
3 Try something generic & consumable rather than an object she will feel compelled to display. For instance, a gift card to a big retailer that would be easy to redeem.
9 “Should you invite someone who assaulted you to your wedding.”
No. Just, no. Give yourself the gift of not inviting this person and not worrying about it anymore. Periodic reminder: Your wedding does not exist to spackle over all the rough edges in your family or social circle.
You don’t have to keep this person’s secrets. You don’t have to disclose the details, either. If someone asks you “Why aren’t you inviting _____?”
Stuff like: “We’re not close.” “______ knows why.” “Don’t want to.”
10 “Can you break up after one day?”
You can break up after one minute.
11 “How to get rid of a guy on Facebook.”
Block them. Never look back.
12 “Partner leaving because I don’t like his kids.”
That sounds really hard, but I can respect that as a good reason to break up. “You hate the people I made/raised and have a lifelong commitment to, I don’t think love for each other can overcome that.”
13 “How to reply to someone who nags about your overweight.”
“I’m gonna need you to shut the fuck up about my weight from now on.”
“It’s really weird that you think my body is your business.”
“I don’t care what you think.”
“Please stop talking.”
14 “50 and husband criticizes my clothes.”
“Husband, I am half a century old. This is what I’m wearing. This is how I dress. Let it go.”
15 “I made my boyfriend come with me everywhere.”
Ok? Why? Was he cool with that?
16 “How do you get your new neighbor to stop asking you for things without being nasty.”
Decide in advance that you will just say no to whatever it is without negotiating. That makes it easier in the moment to say, “Oh no, I don’t lend that out.” “Can’t help you out, sorry.” “No, sorry, please ask somebody else.” You can’t prevent them from asking but you can make it boring and unproductive for them to keep doing so.
17 “How do I stop a person from inviting herself to stay regularly.”
As in the example with the neighbor, you can’t prevent her from asking in the first place but you can say “no” every single time. “That won’t work for me.” “I can’t put you up anymore.” “Please stop asking.” “Please find somewhere else to stay.”
18 “She cut me off and now I’m having second thoughts about the break up.”
Oops! You could try to reach out one time to say “I’m sorry and I’m having second thoughts, can we talk?” as long as you understand that no answer is in itself a kind of answer.
19 “My ex keeps calling me but doesn’t want to date right now.”
You don’t have to keep taking these calls. “Hey, Ex, I respect that you don’t want to get back together! These frequent calls are making it hard for me to move on and let go of our relationship, so I’d appreciate it if you stopped.”
20 “Ex says he doesn’t want a relationship right now.”
Then the relationship is over.
21 “Boyfriend breaks up tells you good luck wish you happiness and lets be casual friends what does that mean?”
He’d like to part on friendly terms and he wishes you well. “Casual friends” = He’d like to be on friendly terms when he runs into you but not necessarily make an effort to be close or spend time together.
22 “So far retirement is endless dishwashing, clotheswashing, and ‘what’s for dinner?'”
TIME FOR A NEW ROUTINE FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THIS STORY. It sounds like people need things to do outside of the house, a rebalancing of household chores, and some serious alone time.
23 “Want to quit my 10 year job but feel guilty.”
You’ve given this place 10 years of service. If you’re ready to be done, it’s okay to be done. It’s not exactly comforting but chances are if they needed to fire you or lay you off, they’d do it without another thought.
24 “How to tell if a guy is too intense.”
If he’s too intense for you, then he’s too intense. Examples of behaviors that have made me write someone off as too intense for me in the past:
- Upon connecting on social media, I feel like he is monitoring everything I have ever said and done. “Likes” and comments showing up on every single post, including stuff from long ago.
- Wants to spend every waking moment together. Interrogates me if I say I have other plans. Wants to come along to literally everything.
- Makes lots of jokes about getting married & having kids really early on. “Our kids will be so beautiful and smart!” “Um okay I’ve known you for 3 hours what kids.”
- Seems to be making a ton of plans that center around me, especially really early on. “Well, I was gonna move into a new place but I don’t want to be 2 buses away from you!” “Um okay I’ve known you for 3 hours don’t plan your life around me.”
- Overly quick to drown me in reading material and stuff to watch or listen to, like, “Date me, DATE MY POP CULTURE REFERENCES.” I already have my own taste, bro.
- Doesn’t pay attention to reciprocity, like, I’d go into a movie or teach a class and turn my phone off for a couple hours and come out and have 10 long paragraphs of text messages.
- Seemed overly vigilant and weird about male friends & colleagues, treating them like potential competition.
- Way into public displays of affection & constant touching.
- Too thick with compliments, especially about physical stuff. “You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.” “Um, okay, they’re brown?” I like being told that I’m pretty but I like being told that I’m good at something more and I don’t like lines that feel recycled.
- If you’d like an audio-visual example, here’s a short film I directed about this.
Bottom line: It’s awesome to feel seen, it’s suffocating to feel monitored.
25 “Flirt someone internet regret.”
Aw, buddy. It happens to the best of us. Leave your regrets in 2017 if you can.
Love and light to all of you in Awkwardland.
Video description: The Bangles cover Big Star’s September Gurls in Pittsburgh in 1986.
It’s time for the monthly thing where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are actual questions. This feature is generously funded by Patreon supporters.
1 “How to stop a neighbour and hubby putting me down every time I walk past .”
Ugh, your husband is being a giant asshole, and it’s time to tell him straight up to knock this behavior off. “Stop doing that. It’s rude, disrespectful, and it hurts my feelings.” If he won’t, you’ve got Husband-problems more than you have Neighbor-problems.
2 “What does it mean when a girl says focusing on school right now after you say your feelings .”
It means she did not enthusiastically say “Yes, I feel the same way, let’s definitely date each other!” It means she’d rather focus on school than go out with you. Interpret it as “No.”
3 “Anonymous STD notification letter.”
National treasure website Scarleteen recommends InSpot for sending an anonymous e-card and has a good how-to guide on doing this kind of notification. Australia has a service called Better To Know that lets you notify partners of possible Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) anonymously via text or email. In both cases, you enter info, the person gets a message that lets them know that they may have been exposed to an STI (+ there’s a way for you to enter which ones) and should get tested. There’s a good roundup of similar services in this article.
If you’re feeling blue and alone in this, the Netflix show formerly known as “Scrotal Recall” (now renamed Lovesick) is a romantic comedy about a man who must notify past sexual partners about possible chlamydia exposure.
If you don’t want to go anonymous, a simple text or phone call that says “Hey [Sex Friend] I recently tested positive for ________. You should get checked out, too” is a very kind and ethical thing to send. The more we all remove stigma and shame around STIs, the better job everyone can do taking care of ourselves and each other.
4 “My boyfriend mom prophesied that we are not meant to be together.”
Translation: Your boyfriend’s mom does not want you to be together.
What do you and your boyfriend want?
5 “When some knocks on door and says the Lord compelled them to stop and talk to you.”
Translation: The someone wanted to stop and talk to you.
What do you want?
6 “How to decline a neighbor asking us over .”
“How nice of you to think of us, but no thank you.”
7 “What to do when your friend sets you up on a blind date and the guy’s interested in her.”
Acknowledge the awkwardness, have a good laugh together, tell the guy “good luck, dude, tell her how you feel and maybe we can avoid this sitcom nonsense next time” and go home with your dignity. You didn’t do anything weird.
8 “Should you invite girls of interest to your party .”
Throwing a party is a great reason to invite someone that you might be interested in romantically over. That person can meet your friends, see your place, everyone can see how everyone gets on together, you can get to know each other better without having it be a DATE date, etc. Why not?
Now, girl(s) plural is an advanced move, but again, why not?
9 “What do you do when your daughter owes you money and is not paying you back but takes vacations and spends a lot .”
Ugh, this is a hard one. Here are some steps for dealing with friends and family members who are not good/prompt/conscientious about paying back loans,
a) Assume that you won’t ever be repaid. Take whatever steps you need to shore up your own financial well-being so that you’re not depending on that money. If you do manage to collect it it will be a happy thing.
b) Ask the person to repay you what they owe. If you bring up fancy vacations or their other spending they will get automatically defensive, so skip that part in your request (even if it is relevant to the issue). Why skip it? You don’t need the story about how she bought the tickets long ago or how they were really a gift from a friend and you don’t want to give her a reason to feel judged and aggrieved (even if judgment is warranted). The vacation money is spent. It’s not coming back. She knows that you know that she knows that she owes you money. Just be simple and direct and ask for what you need:
Script: “Daughter, you still owe me $______. When can we expect repayment?” or “Daughter, you still owe me $_______. Can you repay me by (date)?” Brace yourself for the wave of defensiveness and excuses that is coming. Do not, I repeat, do not get into the details of her spending or her excuses or reasons. Just repeat the question. “Okay, so, when can you get the money to me?“
c) Don’t lend this person any more money. You may or may not ever get the money back, but you can definitely control whether you lend them more. You now have a lot of information about how they’ll behave when you lend them money and you both have a hard, awkward lesson. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior here, and “I’m sorry, Daughter, I don’t feel comfortable lending you money since you didn’t pay me back” is a situation your daughter created, not you.
I hope you get a good result. Also, general thought, if you are going to lend money to friends or family, it’s a good idea to put something in writing: How much, what it’s for, when & how will it be paid back. Your script can be “Let’s just write it down so we all know what the agreement is and I never have to bug you about paying me back.”
10 “Etiquette of peeing when surfing.”
We are people of action and lies do not become us: In the unlikely comedy of errors that lands me on an actual surfboard in an actual body of water, there is no way on earth my enthusiastic and prolific middle-aged bladder is gonna be able to wait until I swim to shore, find a land-based bathroom, and peel off my wetsuit in time to pee decorously in a toilet. This seems like a “it’s a big ocean” and “that’s between you and your wetsuit” issue to me, but maybe an actual surfer has insight?
11 “How to make girlfriend move out to Colorado.”
You do not make. You ask, and then she either moves or she doesn’t.
12 “I have to leave the Midwest or I will die but my husband thinks it’s all in my head.”
Ok, this seems like a REALLY specific situation and we are DEFINITELY missing context here but what if I said “Even if it were in your head, is your need to go so great and so urgent and so necessary that it’s worth going alone, even if that’s a difficult & sad decision?”
13 “Dating female academic awful .”
It certainly can be, since the prospect of relocation is always hanging over the whole deal.
14 “He said he wants to do his own thing and maybe see other people.”
Translation: “I am planning to see other people and have less energy/focus/time/interest for a relationship with you.”
It’s a prelude to a breakup, possibly one where “he” either wants you to be the bad guy and actually do the breaking up or where he’d like you to stick around in his life but in background/low-priority mode.
15 “My 23 year old son looks so unattractive, but he won’t shave or cut his hair .”
[Bad Advisor] Well, it’s definitely 100% his job to make sure his face and body look attractive and acceptable to you, his parent, at all times so definitely be sure to bring this up as often as possible! Your concern, constantly expressed, will only bring you closer together as a fellow adult human strives to please you in all things, including and especially the hair that is growing on his personal face and body where he lives and you do not.
Also, to be on the safe side, hide all of your copies of the musical about this very question, lest he get ideas about fur vests, naked dancing or protesting the Vietnam War.
It is not only your business but your duty to set this young man straight. [/Bad Advisor]
16 “What does it mean if you ask for a guy’s phone number and his response is he is antisocial .”
He did not want to give you his phone number, or, if he does/did, he is warning you that he doesn’t want to actually hang out. Try again, another dude, another day.
17 “Fucking past due invoices.”
Fucking the worst.
18 “Girlfriend of 11 years is leaving me .”
Repeat the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear to yourself.
(Or not, as it suits you).
19 “Angry that my husband allows his parents to come whenever they want .”
This would make me angry, too. His family may have a drop-in culture or agreement and expectations, but you do not, and therefore the family that you and your husband make together does not. There are several conversations/actions that need to happen if they haven’t already (and maybe they have and need to happen again):
a) “Husband, I want your folks to feel and be welcome in our house, but to make that happen I need some advance notice. Please ask them to call first and ask if we’re free, and please check with me before you say yes.”
b) “In-Laws, I really want you to be and feel welcome in our house, but I need more advance notice than you’re accustomed to providing. Just dropping by, even when I’m happy to see you, really stresses me out. I know this is different from how you do things in your family, but I need you to call first and ask if I’m free or if now is a good time. Thanks!”
c) “Husband, I know I’m somewhat ‘changing the rules’ on your family, but I really need some consideration here. Back me up.”
d) When they just drop by anyway and your husband isn’t home try: “Oh, too bad this isn’t a good time, I’m just stepping out” + LEAVE (go to the library or run errands or something, just take a drive around the block on principle). Btw if they have keys and are in the habit of just letting themselves in, put the chain on when you’re home alone. Teach them that you won’t drop everything because they came over.
e) When they just drop by anyway and your husband is home, “Oh, too bad, this isn’t a good time, I was just about to take a nap” + HIDE (in your bedroom with the door shut – keep books handy – and let him do whatever work of entertaining them). Risk seeming unwelcoming and unfriendly. You ARE unwelcoming…to people who invite themselves over.
This didn’t start overnight and won’t go away overnight but in my opinion it’s a battle worth picking.
20 “How to agree a girl for fucking if she dislikes doing it.”
Find someone else to fuck. Someone who likes doing it. Someone who enthusiastically likes doing it with you.
What the fuck, people.
21 “Got an apology from my ex after 15 years .”
That had to feel weird.
Whether this was welcome or unwelcome contact, there’s one important thing you should know:
It doesn’t obligate you to do anything or feel anything or re-open any kind of contact with this person. If you want to talk to them, ok? You could say “Thanks for the apology, I forgive you and wish you well” if that is true of how you feel.
But if you’d rather let the past stay in the past, you can 100% delete the weird Facebook message or whatever and go on with your life.
22 “Did the date go good or bad?”
This is a great question. You can’t control whether another person will like you, so after a date ask yourself:
- Did I enjoy myself?
- Was I relaxed and comfortable with this person?
- Could I be myself around this person?
- Did the conversation flow?
- Did I feel like the other person was on my team, helping the date go smoothly and laughing gently at any awkward moments? Or did the awkward silences turn into awkward chasms on the edge of the awkward abyss?
- Did the other person seem at ease and comfortable with me?
- Was the actual time we spent together fun/enjoyable/comfortable/pleasurable?
- Was it as good as spending time alone doing something enjoyable or with a good friend or do I wish I’d just spent the evening at home?
- Was I bored? Checked out? Apprehensive?
- Was it easy to make plans?
- Do I feel like the person was listening/paying attention/engaged?
- (If kissing is a thing you’re interested in) Can I picture myself kissing them?
- Am I looking forward to hanging out again?
- Were there any red flags?*
If the date went well for you, where you enjoyed yourself and felt good, ask the person for another date. The rest is up to the other person.
If you can get in the habit of checking in with yourself about your own comfort and enjoyment levels during and after dates, even a “meh” date can be useful because you’ll know more about yourself and what you’re looking for.
*Bonus list of some of my personal First Date red flags from back in the day when I bravely put on clean shirts and lip gloss and met strangers from the Internet for drinks:
- Was the person I was meeting generally congruent with the person presented on the dating site and during any prior conversations? If you’re “single” on the dating site and suddenly “planning to get divorced btw we still live together and no one at work knows we’re separated so I’d appreciate your discretion” when we meet, if you’re 28 in all your dating site photos and 58 in person…it was not going to work.
- Did the person monologue the whole time?
- Did I feel like I was monologuing the whole time at someone who just shyly stared at me and nodded? (The Silent Type is a great type and it may be your type but experience tells me it was not mine).
- Did I feel like I was an unpaid nonconsensual therapist while someone shared everything about their life?
- Did the person constantly talk about their ex & exes?
- Was literally everything they said a complaint about someone or something?
- Were these complaints at least funny and entertaining?
- In these complaints was nothing ever their responsibility? Was it just a long list of Ways I Have Been Wronged By Others with a subtext of Surely You Have A Duty To Not Disappoint Me Like Everyone Else Has (Now That You Know My Tale of Woe)?
- Ugh, mansplaining, especially politics or philosophy, how movies get made, the “authenticity” of whatever food we were eating, the makeup & history of the neighborhood where I lived and they did not (for example when I failed to pick the “most authentic” taco place in Pilsen or Little Village), telling me why everything I liked was actually overrated.
- Talking during movies. No.
- Taking me to some sort of performance and then critiquing how much it sucks into my ear in real time. No.
- Overfamiliarity, over-investment. “I can’t wait to introduce you to my son, he’s going to love you!” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
- Overdoing innuendo & sex talk too soon, like, “I just got a new bed, it’s very comfortable, you’ll have to come test it out with me later heh heh.” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
- Overdoing it with the touching. If dinner and a movie remind me of how my cat likes to constantly crawl all over me and make annoying biscuits everywhere it’s too much touching!
- Negging of all sorts, especially “I don’t usually date ________, but you seem really cool.” (Bonus Nope!!!!! if the blank includes fat people, feminists, “women who seem really smart”)
- Constant contact, expecting constant texts/calls/emails before we’ve even met in person, all up in my social media biz, “liking” every single photo/comment going back through the archives. It feels good to be seen and not so good to be surveilled.
- Neediness – We literally just met, so, surely there is someone else in your life who can drive you home from dental surgery or hold your hand while you put your dog to sleep or fly home with you to your father’s funeral or weigh in with you about whether you should accept this job offer? (All true stories of actual things actual men wanted me to do after a few emails and one hour-long bar or coffee date). I will move mountains to take care of people I love, when, you know, I have had a chance to figure out if love them.
- Casual, “ironic” sexist or racist comments, dropping code sentences like “I hate all the political correctness these days, I feel like I can’t say anything.“
- Bringing your feature screenplay to the date for me to read.
Your Mileage May Vary, as the great saying goes. My list doesn’t look like anyone else’s and I may have had stuff on there that is not necessarily a problem in itself or not a problem for you, or where there are exceptions to be made (I did drive the guy home from dental surgery as a human favor for a fellow human being, I just didn’t date him more) or that are just differences in styles and interest levels. It’s not meant to be universal and it’s about compatibility with you vs. any one thing being Good or Bad.
I’m including the list because I developed it over time by paying attention to what made me feel good, comfortable, safe, relaxed, happy, excited and what made me feel the opposite.I stopped asking people “Is this normal/cool/okay thing when you date?” and started asking “Am I good with this?” and “Am I delighted by this?” Those experiences (and the decision to be picky about second and third dates) helped me avoid some entanglements that would have been fleeting at best and draining at worst, and it helped me know “Just Right” when I saw it.
We focus so much on the auditioning aspect of dating – Am I good enough? Does the other person like me back? – that our own comfort and needs and pleasure can get lost right when we need them most. It was a good date if you enjoyed yourself and felt good and did your best to be kind and considerate. It was a bad date if you didn’t enjoy yourself. Whether a good date will lead to another one is up to more than just you.
I had a bunch of travel in July and never got that month’s version up. So, here’s another round of that thing where we answer people’s search engine queries like blog questions.
1 “Awkward coworkers who wont get hint .”
Hints don’t work. They just create a sea of plausible deniability for clueless people to splash around in while you get more and more frustrated. If you want your coworkers to understand or know something, you gotta say it, as briefly and directly as you can.
2 “Is it bad to break up with someone after a day ?”
It’s no fun for anyone to break up after a day, but it probably beats the alternative of continuing to date somebody you don’t want to be with and lying to them about it for more days. You get to change your mind! Do the kind thing and tell the other person now.
3 “Should you notify your estranged father of your wedding?”
I would say that if you’re estranged from your dad, you certainly don’t owe him an invitation or an announcement. If you do want to tell him, I would also keep my expectations very low about what he’ll do. Weddings and funerals and baptisms don’t fix the stuff that’s wrong in families (& often exacerbate it), so what are you really hoping will happen if you give him this news? I wouldn’t count on any of it happening.
Weddings are one of those things that really show it when “cherished fantasy of what a parent should be and do” and “actual parent” don’t match, and I’m sorry that a happy occasion is causing a new sting of grief for what was supposed to be.
4 “What to do if hubby abuses because of MIL?”
Ouch, what a gutpunch.
Whatever your mother-in-law has done or whatever she is like, your husband is still abusing you. Until he stops, gets some help, apologizes, and changes the behavior, it’s your husband’s fault and his responsibility, and offloading the blame or an explanation onto his mom doesn’t change the fact of what he’s doing. I hope you can talk to someone about getting yourself to safety. Here’s the number for the USA National Domestic Violence Hotline.
5 “What does it mean if a guy says I have a girlfriend at the moment.”
It means some version of “not you, not now.”
6 “My husband thinks I should work out more.”
Lots of people should probably work out more and wish they worked out more. Lots of people should also stop telling other people what to do with their bodies. Do you want to work out more? When and if you do, that’s when you’ll work out more. You are the boss of you.
7 “An sms to a boyfriend who treats you like shit.”
A. “Bye! We are broken up now. Leave me alone.” B. “New phone. Who is this?
8 “Why does my husband get mad when I touch myself.”
Who knows? Insecurity? Mistaking marriage for ownership of you & your body?
What I know is that you are the boss of your body, including your sexual relationship with your own body. You don’t owe your husband an accounting of your solo activities. They are none of his business.
9 “While using a dating site should you be upset seeing someone you’re talking to off the site.”
On the one hand, the people in the dating site don’t live in the site, hanging upside down like bats at OkCupid headquarters to sleep at night, and it is quite possible to encounter a potential date-friend in the wild. Sometimes the world can be very small.
The “upset” part comes from, how does everyone handle it when it happens? Do they act weird and overly familiar and talk loudly about where they know you from, like it’s your kid’s parent-teacher conference and the teacher is like “Kid, you didn’t tell me your mom was a babe! I totally swiped right on her!“? Or do they say “Hello, nice to see you” and act calm and relaxed and safe? That’s all good information to have.
Or, do you feel like they are trying to figure out where you work and live and hang out and you get a stalker-y vibe from it, like they were seeking you out, trying to run into you? That would make me pretty upset.
10 “I live in a condo and a neighbor constantly knocks on my door. How do I tell her to stop?”
“Neighbor, please stop knocking on my door, let’s save that for emergencies where something is on fire or flooding or bleeding. If you need to reach me otherwise, please leave a note or use my email and I’ll get back to you when I can.” #hintsdontwork
Then, you don’t always answer the door, and if you do, jerk the door open and say “What’s wrong?” because you’re expecting an emergency.
11 “My boyfriend said he can manage my appearance.”
Your boyfriend appears to need a mannequin or Real Doll or a Barbie he can outfit as he pleases all the livelong day, and you appear to need a different boyfriend.
12 “My boyfriend is depressed and takes everything out on me.”
Depression is not your boyfriend’s fault.
Taking everything out on you is a choice he is making. Do you want to stick around to be mistreated?
13 “How do I make friends for my husband.”
If your husband wants friends, suggest that he try Meetup.com or take a class or find a hobby group or play a fun sport or volunteer somewhere. Then let him do 100% of the work of following through with that.
14 “I love my professor how do I know her feelings?”
I asked her her feelings and she said that she doesn’t love you back. She wants you to enjoy her class and learn a lot from it and then go and have a great education and happy life.
15 “Dating a married man is hard. You cannot call him.”
It is known. If things like “regular calling” and “not sneaking around behind someone’s back” are important to you, consider the non-married as your dating pool.
16 “Can you masturbate if your roommate is deaf?”
Back to school time! It’s not all study tips and deals on extra-long twin fitted sheets, is it?
Masturbation is great and you should totally do it sometimes! However, if you share a bedroom with a roommate, wait until your roommate is not home to rub one out, ok? It’s just polite.
17 “Is it ok to just stop at a person’s house without calling first?”
But…you could call? “Hey friend, I’m in the neighborhood, any chance you’re home and want to hang out for a bit?”
If you want to know if you have a “just drop by!” relationship with someone, here are three indicators:
- They’ve told you to just “drop in, no need to call!” using words.
- They also drop by your house.
- You’ve asked “Is it okay if I just drop by sometime?” and they’ve enthusiastically said “Yes! Any time!”
Even if those three things are true…I would still call or send a text. Again, why wouldn’t you? Are you being chased and need a quick place to hide?
18 “Can a girlfriend influence your teen son to be a bad person?”
I’m sure it’s possible? And if your teenage son is acting like “a bad person,” it might feel better and be really convenient if there is someone else to blame for all of it who isn’t your precious-sweet-angel-baby-boy?
But, again, if your teen son is acting like “a bad person,” then he is making choices to do bad things, and I think any conversation you have with him needs to not displace his choices onto the girlfriend. Focus on his behaviors and the choices he is making, please. Don’t buy into the narrative that how he behaves is the fault of others’ influences, and don’t let him do it either. He’s responsible for his behaviors, and no girlfriend (or parents) can influence him to act like a jerk without his participation.
19 “New boyfriend who makes you feel sad.”
“Hey New Boyfriend, I like you a lot but since we’ve been dating I feel sad all the time, so let’s break up.”
20 “Can I date an insurance agent?”
Insurance agents need love too!
Your insurance agent is at work and he/she has to be that nice to everyone. So I wouldn’t like, replace online dating sites with calling insurance agencies for fake quotes or anything.
Thanks to everyone who donated via PayPal or Cash.me or became a Patreon supporter this week and throughout the year. You help me devote time to answering questions and comment moderation while keeping the site ad-free, and Patreon especially has changed my life by giving me a steady & predictable income. Here’s to 1,000 more letters!
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
16. “When bf doesnt want u to meet his friends.”
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.”
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 assault. Now 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.
- 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.