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It’s time for that thing we do, where we use the search strings people typed in to find this place as if they were questions.

First, as is traditional, a song:

Lyrics here.

1 “How to encourage husband to make friends.”

The subtext runs deep with this one, does it not? Like, where is problem originating? Is husband lonely and wanting to branch out socially and doesn’t quite know how? Is the husband treating the querent like his entire social world/cruise director/people-ing facilitator? (It happens). Is the husband fine being not very social but the querent is feeling squashed or mismatched here? (It also happens.) Did he ask for help?

I guess I would say that finding Our People is a lifelong project but Our People should not themselves be our projects. If the husband wants to make some more friends, he presumably has all the same resources that other people use to meet each other (MeetUp, hobbies, pubs, churches, sports, community theater/music, trivia night, political activism, volunteering) and all the modes of communication & social media people use to get in touch with friends from other phases of life at his disposal.

If a spouse wants to be supportive of this friendmaking effort, doing what you can to make sure there is time & money & space available for what he does want to do (“Sure, we can have a couple people over for dinner this weekend!” “Sure, go have fun! I’m gonna do my own thing tonight!” “Sure, I’ll be the designated driver, text me 20 minutes out and I’ll pick you up. Can you do the same for me on Thursday?” “Go ahead and take that art class on Saturday mornings, we’ll find the money.” etc.) is a pretty good place to start. Otherwise, he’s gotta take the lead and do the work, he’s not a toddler that you arrange play dates for or a dog you drop off at doggy day care. Also, in this process, make sure you don’t neglect your own friendships & social connections. These don’t all have to be shared.

2 “He just moved closer and now I want to break up.”

It happens. It sucks. I’m telling a story about it in Chicago this Friday.

With proximity, you have information that you didn’t have before. Be compassionate, be honest, be free.

3 “Breaking up because geography.”

Sometimes that’s a really good reason.

4 “Is it selfish to break up with my boyfriend bc I want to experience other people?”

Breaking up before the “experiencing other people” part might be the best order of operations if that’s what you want to do. I’m sure that’s not an easy decision, but what if you could make decisions about what you want without calling yourself names in the process?

5 “captain awkward how to dump someone”

Quick review:

  • You can have a face-to-face conversation, you can use a phone call or a text or a letter if that’s what you need to do to be safe.
  • Communicating your decision is more important than explaining your reasons. You don’t have to build an airtight legal argument that they agree with to leave someone.
  • Own the decision. “I’ve decided to break up.” “My feelings have changed.” “This is the right decision for me.” 
  • If they ask for reasons, that’s ok – that doesn’t make them bad people! – but you’re not a management consultant pointing out flaws in their operation, maybe you don’t have to list the complete list of their liabilities for them in a vulnerable and hurtful moment. It’s okay to say “You didn’t do anything wrong, but my feelings changed and I know I would be happier alone.” 
  • Don’t pressure the other person to stay friends with you and don’t feel like if you say “ok yes let’s be friends” that you’ve made an ironclad agreement that can never be revisited. Friendship is its own unique thing, not a holding pen for all the people we don’t want to kiss.
  • Have an aftercare plan for yourself – something where you get alone time, or see friends or family, and have space to feel sad or relieved or whatever it is you feel.
  • If they need comforting about the breakup, you don’t have to be the one who fills that role.

6 “Hi dad mom died sex”

Whatever word association game is being played here, I want out.

7 “Mum got angry at me but idk why and she wont tell me or even talk to me.”

Check out #5, here, re: The Silent Treatment.

There’s no fair way to play this game your mom is playing, so, DON’T TRY. If she won’t tell you why she’s mad, give her a wide berth. Let her silence be a gift to you instead of the abusive burden she intends. She has choices about how to communicate with you. She is making a bad one.

8 “How to tell friends you can’t afford to go out for expensive dinners.”

“I’m on a tight budget right now and I can’t afford to eat out so much, but I’d love to spend time with you. Can we do [something cheap or free] instead?” More here and here.

9 “My grandparents hate my tattoos.”

Your grandparents are entitled to their opinions but not to be jerks about it.

You are entitled to do what you will with your own body.

Sometimes a cheerful “well, good thing it’s not your body!” response works to cut down on the comments, and sometimes the sincere discussion works, i.e. “Grandparents, given that it’s my body and the tattoos are already here and not going anywhere, what are you hoping for when you comment on them that way? Do you really want our relationship to be about these tattoos you don’t like, or could we find a way to just be kind to each other?” 

10 “I’m scared my parents are gonna catch me stealing their Adderall.”

Well, yeah! Stealing another person’s prescription medication is illegal and wrong. It’s dangerous for you. It’s bad for them – your parents have that prescription for a reason, and if you’re stealing their pills they aren’t getting the medication they need. If you need evaluated for ADHD and to possibly be on your own medication, then ask your parents to help you do that. But stop stealing their drugs, please!

11 “Am I a selfish bitch for wanting more money?”

What if you could name the things you wanted without calling yourself mean names?

12 “Hinting that you want to get invited to someone’s house.”

Hinting doesn’t work. Try inviting these people to your house if you want to spend time with them, and if it really is about being inviting to something in particular just say it: “Next time you’re all playing badminton while wearing fancy hats, if you have room for me I’d love to join you.” Then withdraw. You’ve said your thing.

13 “Best response to someone who is seeking for a relationship from you.”

Hands down, the truth about what you want is probably best.

14 “Are grandmas always right about your gender?”

Not if their ideas about your gender conflict with what you know to be true about yourself!

15 “Why is my mom mad at me for taking a better job?”

IDK, but she’s not the one who has to work there, so your opinion is probably the important one here.

16 “How do you get your husband to set boundaries with his parents?”

He may or may not ever learn to do this and you can’t control that. So, you set boundaries with him, and with yourself. Basically “Husband, your relationship with your parents is yours to manage, but this is what I need from you to be happy and okay, so if your parents cross certain lines, I’m going to speak up and/or absent myself and let you deal with it.” 

17 “My boyfriend is always counseling me.” 

“Hey dude, if I want a therapist I’ll hire one.”

“Hey dude, if you want to be a therapist so bad, go be one!”

“Hey dude, even if you were a therapist, you couldn’t be my therapist, so stop.”

“Stop.”

18 “Best friend wants to be roommates but she’s too messy.”

Tell her “Friend, I love you so much, but I don’t want to cross those streams. I think we would stress each other out a lot if we lived together.” It doesn’t have to be a judgment on her, just, people will be happier living with people with similar definitions of clean when they are signing up to share housing. Knowing this about yourself is a good thing, decide accordingly.

19 “How to friendzone a guy you led on.” 

First step, RETHINK EVERYTHING ABOUT HOW YOU ARE DESCRIBING THIS. If we rewrite your whole question to “I wasn’t sure how I felt about this person, so I flirted with them, but now I’m pretty sure I just want to be friends, how do I let them know” we remove all the sexist assumptions that you owed your friend a certain outcome here.

Maybe try “I know we’ve been talking/flirting/kind of considering getting involved romantically, but I’m only interested in being friends.” 

Then, stop flirting (it’s the kind thing to do), and give the person a little space to process and decide if they want to be friends, too. You are not being mean when you do this, you are giving them true information that will help them make a good decision about what to do next. Friendship is not a consolation prize or a holding pen where we herd the people we don’t want to make out with, it’s its own valuable thing.

20 “What should I tell him I’m doing this weekend.”

A) Whatcha doing this weekend and B) Is it something you want him to know?

It’s the difference between “Oh, I’m busy with this and that, you know” and “I’ve got family coming into town, here is our detailed itinerary of fun!” and “I didn’t schedule anything in particular, why do you ask?” and “I’m going to the art museum on Friday, wanna join?” All are perfectly acceptable answers.

21 “Best response to ‘what are you looking for’ on Tinder.”

What are you looking for?

  • “I want to go to the comic book store and we’ll each pick out a comic for the other person.”
  • “I want to put on old soul records and make out a little bit but keep pants on at least the first time we meet up.”
  • “I want to come to your house and pretend that we’ll watch a movie.”
  • “I want to eat pancakes at midnight and talk about books.”
  • “I want to vanquish you at Scrabble.”
  • “I want to have one awesome night of no-strings-attached sex and then probably never see you again.”
  • “I want some cuddles and some good conversation but I’m not really about Teh Sex. Any fellow aces out here?”
  • “I want to throw a two person dance party in my basement, please bring disco ball.”
  • “I want to eat tacos and fuck.”
  • “I want to fall in love someday and not pretend that’s not what I’m after.”
  • “I want to play Dungeons & Dragons, but, you know, sexy.”
  • “I want to recapture a night from 1997, where we go see The English Patient and then close down one bar after another until we end up watching the sun rise from your car parked outside my house. I will provide costumes.”
  • “I need a cool extrovert to be my date to this swanky event and help me make small talk.”
  • “I need henchmen for my world domination plans, please submit application.”
  • “I’ve always wanted to build a pillow fort and then spend a whole Saturday in it in my pajamas. U up?”
  • “I signed up for this nonrefundable blacksmithing class with my ex and now I don’t want to go by myself. Any recently broken-up people out there want to learn a cool skill with me?”
  • “I never dated before and I want to try it out.”
  • “I’m in your city for the weekend for a work trip and I’d love it if someone who lives here would show me around. Can I buy you dinner at your favorite local spot?”
  • “Look this theater subscription isn’t going to use itself.”

What if instead of trying to find something that would be widely & generally appealing, you just got really specific about what you would actually like to do with a couple of free hours in the company of a new person?

22 “Can you pay someone in blood?”

No. Ew.

Wait. What did you buy on Vampire eBay?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for the monthly tradition where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.

Before we get to it, it’s Pledge Drive Time! Twice a year, winter and summer, I interrupt our usual programming to remind folks that fun stuff like the Search Terms posts and the Friday short answers are funded by my kind and generous patrons and readers who support the site via PayPal and other ways. These donations allow me to keep the blog ad-free, invest substantial time in maintaining the community, reading the mailbox, and moderating comments, devote time to answering questions and writing new content, pay guest writers, and keep us functioning as an independent site. This year I’m trying to pull back on teaching and be a full-time writer, and your support is necessary and much appreciated for the care and feeding of me & my family. Please make a donation or become a patron if you can. Every little bit helps. (If you can’t afford to, don’t worry ’bout a thing, I’m glad you are here and reading.)

As is traditional, let’s begin with a song to set the mood. Lyrics here :

Read More

It’s time for that monthly thing where we answer the search strings people typed in to find this place as if they are actual questions. This feature is made possible through the generous support of 979 Patreon followers. They keep the blog ad-free and allow me to pay rent and eat cheese.

First, as is traditional: a song

Lyrics here.

1 “Cheating on your best friend by making another best friend.”

“Love is not a pie,” as the lovely short story by Amy Bloom tells us, and people can have more than one very close friend without taking anything away from anyone.

2 “How to ask your neighbor to text before she drops at your door.”

I know at cultural expectations and norms vary widely around neighbors popping in without calling first depending on where you live, and I fully admit my membership in the “If it’s an emergency or you need something real quick, please let me help you! But if you’re dropping by ‘just to chat’ that is my literal nightmare, sorry!” club.

Next time your neighbor drops by, open the door partway without letting her in and  – once you ascertain that it isn’t an emergency – say something like “Hi there! Forgive me, but I’m afraid now isn’t a good time! But let me give you my number, and let me take down yours, that way we can text first and make sure it’s a good time.” 

She’ll say something (hopefully something involving the words”of course”!), and then (and this is key) you say “Oh, thank you so much! So sorry I can’t chat today, bye!” and then you shut the door and go back to what you were doing. You can’t let her in once you’ve told her it’s not a good time, or she will never take it seriously.

It will feel very awkward and like you’re the one being very rude, but it’s important that you begin as you mean to go on once you’ve set this boundary. In the future, if she texts first, thank her for asking, and then tell her the truth about whether it’s a good time at that particular moment: “Hi, thanks for texting! I’m in the middle of something, so now isn’t a good time, but if you still need help hanging that painting I can pop by after 5, will that work?” Also, if you otherwise like this person, try texting her and inviting her over for a coffee every now and then when it is good for you. If she refuses to text first and keeps trying to drop by, there is no rule that says you have to answer the door at all.

3 “How to question a narcissist’s intentions.”

What an interesting question!

In my experience with narcissists, which I would list as “way more than I’d like to have,” I find it more more useful to examine a) their actions, b) the effects those actions have on me or the world and c) the future (what I would like to happen now) than to get sucked into trying to question or even determine their intentions.

If something makes a narcissist look good they will always pretend they intended it all along, if it makes them look bad they will claim that they never intended it (and that it didn’t happen like you said it did anyway, and that you’re stupid to think it did, and anyway, it isn’t their fault, and maybe also you kind of deserved it?). Arguing about their intentions just feeds them. Or tempts them to gaslight you. Or both.

But if you can truthfully say “You did x. Whatever you intended, the effect on me was y. From now on, please do z” you sidestep the discussion of their intentions entirely. They can say “but I intended a, b, and c, not y!” all day and you can say “Of course! But y is what happened, so I need you to do z from now on.” 

4 “Will my ex reach out?”

Yes and no. Yes = When they want something, or when you’ve already moved on, or when it would be maximally annoying. No = all the times you kept your phone by your pillow wishing they would.

5 “Want to break up but scared he will kill himself.”

If you seriously think a partner is in danger of killing themselves, hopefully you can direct them to relevant mental health resources and call in their family and friends to take care of them. You are still allowed to leave. 

Possible script for family/friends: “As you know, Alex and I broke up. They are taking it very hard, and have mentioned suicide more than once. I need the people who love them to check on them and support them in getting help. I can’t be the point person for that – for my own well-being, I need to take some space and make this a clean break – so can I count on you to call Alex/stop by and visit/encourage Alex to seek treatment and help?” 

If you leave and they do eventually die of suicide, it was not your fault. They had an illness, and you staying as their sole support system/guilt-hostage was never, ever going to be the cure for that illness.

Finally, if you have any reason to think you are also in danger from a partner who threatens suicide (a depressingly common thing in abusive relationships), you get to choose yourself. You get to leave and not look back if that’s what you need to do to keep yourself safe. Call a domestic violence resource like The Hotline and get to work on making a safety plan.

6 “Make your male neighbour notice you are ill and come to visit you.”

Well, learn from the mistakes in #2 and definitely text before you just drop by his place!

And maybe try just asking him out already when you’re feeling better?

7 “Is it abuse if my dad hits me and kicks me.”

Yes. You might also find the hotline useful. It is wrong for anyone to hit or kick you.

8 “How to tell my parents I’m bi but I’m married.”

My inbox was a Pride month explosion of similar questions, so I’m glad to answer them all in one place.

Maybe try “Throughout my life I’ve been attracted to both men and women. I’m married to [Spouse] now, so I’m assumed to be or mistaken for a straight person, but please know that when people talk about the LGTBQ* community, they’re also talking about me.” 

9: “I’m bisexual do I have to break up with my partner.”

A) No and B) This is one of the annoying questions people who come out as bisexual get asked a lot by people who don’t get it.

You can be attracted to people of all genders and still choose to have a monogamous sexual and/or romantic relationship with one person.

10 “Nice guy keeps texting and won’t take no for an answer.”

People who won’t take no for an answer aren’t really all that nice. Let’s just remove that plausible deniability shield for his really annoying and aggressive behavior once and for all, ok?

If you haven’t done this already, text him one time to say “I am not interested, stop contacting me.” Then, never respond to any communication from him. If he texts you 100 more times and you respond, you’ve just taught him that it takes 100 attempts to get your attention, so he’ll start again at 101. Block him on all social media and generally lock down your info so it’s not so public. Don’t threaten him or yell at him in reply to his messages even if they get really weird or seem to escalate – every time you engage with him you buy yourself 1-3 more months of harassment.

Save the texts he’s sent you already, save the one where you told him to stop, document everything in case he escalates. Tell other people in your life what he’s doing (but also set the “DO NOT ENGAGE” rule for other people).

Most times, if starved for attention long enough, these guys drop it and transfer their fixations to other people. Other times…well…we’ve all read and seen the news about the other times. Be safe.

11 “How to answer to someone who invites you last minute to his party.” 

Do you want to go to the party y/n Can you go to the party y/n

If both are y, “Great, thanks for thinking of me, I’ll be there.”

If either or both are n, “Sorry, can’t make it, thanks for thinking of me, though!” 

12 “Is it reasonable to break up because you don’t like his kids?”

Kids are a huge part of his life, and, depending on their age, probably occupy most of his thoughts/efforts/money/priorities/time. Not all kids are likeable or gonna like you, but if you don’t like the most important people in your loved one’s life, maybe he’s not for you?

13 “What to do if a friend forgets to send a birthday card?”

If you normally trade cards, and nothing else seems “off” about the friendship, what’s the worst thing that would happen if you chalked it up to ‘they were probably busy and forgot’ and then you sent them a birthday card as usual? What if you called them or sent a postcard or text to catch up about general life stuff?

13 “Short bob with side bangs”

My One True Haircut.

14 “My husband doesn’t _____, but I like it very much.”

I’m really gonna need to know what’s in that blank before I comment further.

15 “Dating sisters”

Why, why, why would you do this? Did you defeat every video game you have on hard mode/achieve the pinnacle of success in your career/cross literally everything else off your bucket list? Why would you set yourself and an entire family up for so much failure and weirdness?

 

16 “How to be supportive when your man is gross?”

Gross…how?

And how gross?

And why is “supportive” the thing you’re trying to be? And not like, “Hey babe, please stop doing gross things/please do these things to be less gross.” 

I have so many questions.

17 “Why does a woman turn and show a man their back while talking?”

First, thanks to the Twitter follower who was like “I’m a blind man and even I can read this body language.” You made me laugh.

Second, if you’re a man wondering this, in the absence of other verbal cues from the woman like “Please follow me” or “Please keep talking, I want to hear this, I just need to look at something over there for a second,” maybe, stop talking?

 

 

 

Turbulent month, turbulent song:

And yes, it’s that time of the month, when we treat the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions they want answers to.

1 “How to handle snubs from close relatives.”

Sometimes you end up related to people you would never interact with by choice.

If you’re the one who messed things up and you know it, apologize once and then try to do better.

If you’re not the person who caused the breach, or if your apology for what you did is not accepted, stop trying so hard to make the situation better. Your effort is probably wasted, and you don’t have to keep auditioning for the approval of people who regularly show that they don’t care about you or want you around.

When you absolutely have to deal with the person, it might help to find a basic amount of polite that you can be to them suitable to the occasion. Not because they deserve it, but because it might make you feel better if you have a plan for interacting with some dignity. If it helps, imagine they are distant acquaintances, like, employees of a satellite office of your company that you run into once a year at the holiday party. In that instance you’d say “Hi, happy new year!” and then you go talk to the people you actually like and want to see.

Don’t treat the family like a monolith. Form your own relationships with the people you care about and who you want to connect with. The uncle who hates you hosts Thanksgiving every year? You do not have to go to his house and choke down his grudge-turkey, but also you don’t have to let Thanksgiving and his turf be the only time you see any of these people. He doesn’t own your grandma or your cousins or the month of November.

 

2 “My aunt says my partner is not welcome, what do I do?”

“Well, Aunt, we’ll be sorry to miss you. Maybe next year.” It’s okay to skip events where your partner is not welcome.

Unless your partner is some form of Nazi. In that case, I’m Team Aunt and also you should dump that Nazi dickhead.

 

3 “Do you have to invite adult son’s girlfriend to family parties.”

Depends. Do you want your son to come to these parties and feel happy and welcome there, or do you secretly wish he’d stay away?

Also depends – is his girlfriend a Nazi? If so, definitely don’t invite her to anything.

 

4 “My neighbor doesn’t respect the property line.”

You need to find someone who knows the laws where you live. That’s not me, even if you live where I live.

 

5 “My boyfriend tells me how to eat how to exercise.”

Did you want a free volunteer personal trainer? If so, enjoy! If not, tell him it’s none of his beeswax.

 

6 “What do you say to someone who is trying to set you up with someone you’re not interested in?”

“I appreciate the thought, but I’m not interested.”

“No thank you!”

 

7 “I’m in New Jersey when is this oak pollen going to go away for god sakes.”

I’m in Chicago and I also want to know this.

 

8 “Where will Harry and Meghan live?”

Google says “Nottingham Cottage” in “Kensington Palace.”

 

9 “Stories of sexy young girl with huge tits.”

Stories of people who are not efficient users of search engines.

 

 

10 “Boyfriend wants me to better myself.”

Did you ask him to be your amateur life coach? If not, tell him to focus on his own issues and ambitions.

 

11 “I don’t like my grandchild’s name.”

Learn to love it, or learn to be quiet about it, or both.

 

 

12 “Coworker dating app.”

My jerk of a brain initially read this as “Oh shit did someone make an app to try to help people date their coworkers please god no” when really the person is probably looking for “what do I do if I spot my coworker on a dating app.” Picture my entire body seizing up with revulsion for a few seconds until my brain caught up with the more likely interpretation.

My instinct is almost always to say hey, just leave the person alone, it’s not like it’s some terrible secret that you’re both on the app, and it would be pretty cool if you could give each other the gift of a bubble of privacy while you both try to do something vulnerable, especially since you work together. If they spot you as well and are interested in you, they can find a way to let you know!

 

13 “Husband doesn’t want me on birth control.”

If you’re a person who can get pregnant, you are the ultimate boss of whether, when, and if. No exceptions.

 

14 “I want to call suicide hotline but don’t know what to say.”

“Hi, I’m [Firstname] and I’m having suicidal thoughts.”

“Hi, I’m nervous about calling this hotline and I don’t know what to say.”

You won’t freak them out or get it wrong. They want you to call even if you don’t know what to say. I really hope you get what you need.

 

15 “When family wants you to visit but they never visit you.”

Visit them when you want to and when it makes sense for you, and if they pressure you for more visits say “I won’t make it, but you’re always welcome to visit me here! Can we put a plan together?” 

 

16 “jean luc picard open shirt”

HEL-lo!

picard_on_holiday

Image description: Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard wearing shorts and an open shirt reading a book on a green lounge chair. First spotted on this site here.

 

17 “Is it rude to invite guests to someone’s house without letting them know?”

Almost certainly yes! Even if you know this person is very hospitable and wouldn’t mind extra guests, why wouldn’t you at least let them know to expect them?

 

18 “firthing”

Refers to the way Mr. Darcy (as played by Colin Firth in the 1990s Pride & Prejudice adaptation) treats Elizabeth Bennett when he develops a crush on her. Especially characterized by weird, intense staring bouts or standing really close to someone while studiously NOT looking at them, general glowering, and hostile non sequiturs intended to camouflage romantic interest. If unchecked, Firthing can lead to cornering one’s love interest and vomiting a bunch of feelings all over someone who didn’t even know that you liked them, or doing weird shit like showing up in the middle of the night to give them wordy letters.

Mitigating factors: A really nice house

Best avoided by: Asking the person on a date pretty soon after you know that you like them.

(Please tell me someone who knows Colin Firth reads this blog and has told him about this, it would make my year.)

NOTICE: By request, this behavior will from now on be referred to as “Darcy-ing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School/life has been kicking my ass this semester and I am really behind on search terms posts, friends. Let’s make up for lost time!

1 “I feel like I have said too much”

You are in the right place!

2 “Boyfriend won’t take showers”

Try bluntness. “Please take a shower, babe, you don’t smell so great.” 

3 “My new partner has a filthy toilet”

Try bluntness, again. “Hey, this is awkward, but can you clean the toilet at your place?” 

The longer you let stuff like no showering or a sketchy toilet go, the longer it bothers you, and the more awkward the eventual conversation gets.

4 “Guy doesn’t want a relationship because of depression”

Guy doesn’t want a relationship. Hope he gets some help for the depression and transfer your time and attention to a different guy or (better yet!) your badass self.

5 “Boyfriend is a MRA/My husband is a men’s rights activist”

(+ many more variations of this)

I hate saying “he is lost to you” but HE IS. Get yourself safe and far away as soon as you can.

6 “How to get the girl from long distance”

Ask the girl if she wants to be with you.

7 “My husband tells me I’m socially inept”

You might have a social awkwardness problem. You definitely have a mean husband problem.

8 “My bf makes fun of mental disorders”

Try bluntness: “Stop making gross ‘jokes’ about mental illness.” If he won’t, make him your ex-boyfriend.

9 “What effect on a new relationship does ‘getting intimate too fast’ have.”

If you’re asking about “when is it ok to have sex” my answer is “Whenever it seems like a good idea to both you and the prospective other person.”

One reason I advise going slow in getting to know someone and watching out for people who escalate relationships very quickly is that sometimes unsuitable people do this deliberately so you’ll be too high on orgasms and love notes to stop and evaluate a) whether they are really a good fit for you and b) whether the idealized picture they present in early dating is congruent with who they really are. The Dirty John podcast & article series (which gets allllllllll the warnings for stalking, violence) is a good cautionary tale about ignoring a lot of warning signals and outright lies because the feeling of being in love with someone who is so focused on you is so powerful.

10 “Boyfriend wants a love triangle with ex”

Hope boyfriend enjoys that love segment that he and ex are about to be in, minus you.

11 “How to respond to “you’re not my dad” from a 30 year old roommate”

“No, I’m not your dad and I don’t want to be, which is why reminding you to [do household chore][pay the cable bill][keep your mess in your room] is equally annoying to me! Can you just do the thing please? We’ll both be happier.”

12 “46 years old and my mom gives me the silent treatment”

The silent treatment is cruel and abusive. The only way to really fight it is to take the silence of an abusive person as a gift they are giving you. Your mom wants you to bow and scrape and ask her what you did wrong and chase her approval and attention. What if you didn’t do any of that, and just decided, hey, that’s her problem? If you’ve never worked with a therapist, this is a good time/issue.

13 “My family hates my bf because he hit me”

I mean…yeah? Do you get that this is a pretty reasonable position on your family’s part? Instead of trying to change your family’s mind about this guy, I hope you can work on getting yourself free of him.

Here’s a short film by a father and a daughter about her high school relationship with a boy who abused her. It is painful to watch (again, all the content warnings apply) but they made it to help people who have been there, or prevent others from going there.

14 “Coworker wears tons of makeup”

That’s your coworker’s face, not your face, ergo you are not the boss of it ergo nunya beeswax.

15 “How to reject short notice invites”

You can just say “Sorry, can’t make it” on a case by case basis, but if it’s a recurring thing with a person you really like, maybe try “I’d love to, but with my schedule I need more lead time to plan. Can we plan something for [future date] instead?” 

16 “Do I have to extend an invite every fucking time Captain Awkward”

Apparently you do? If you’re always the person who does the inviting, it’s okay to pull back if you don’t have the energy for it, and tell the other person “Hey, can you make the plans next time? I’m a little burnt out on doing the inviting, but I do like seeing you.” 

17 “Is it a disservice to give someone else your junk”

Most of the time, probably!

18 “Thank you for letting me know the decision and good lick to you”

Good lick to you!

19 “How to react if boyfriend wants to fix you”

“If I want a life coach I’ll hire one.”

20 “11 reasons why you should be bummed about missing big guava”

I’m guava-neutral, but, tell me more?

21 “He’s still on the dating app after a month/I know he loves me but he’s still online/Why is he still on the dating site/Why is his dating profile still active”

There is one person in the world who knows the answer to each of these questions, and that is the “he” in the equation. Could be he forgot to delete it. Could be he’s keeping his options open. Only one way to find out!

Step 1: You’ll need the head of a creepy doll, a bundle of hot chili peppers, any piece of political campaign literature stolen from a recycling bin, the grossest leftovers from the back of the fridge (something green is best), and glass of a refreshing beverage of your choice.

Step 2: Gather these items and bury them at the crossroads during the dark of the moon. Or, don’t gather any of these things – they don’t really matter, except for the beverage.

Step 3: Drink the beverage so your throat isn’t scratchy. Then ask the dude what’s up and tell him where your head and heart are at with this whole thing. For a new relationship, try “Hey, I’m thinking about taking my dating profile down – I’m really happy with how things are going with us and I want to see where this goes without the distraction of dating other people. What do you think about that?” For a more committed relationship, it gets a bit more awkward & blunt, right? “Hey, I thought we were in a committed relationship – is there a reason you’re on dating sites that I should know about?” See what he says. See if it washes. Talk about what you want from a relationship and see if y’all want the same things. See if you’re on the same timeline for figuring all that out. And if you haven’t already, please make sure you have those awkward, important talks about safer sex practices and STI testing if that’s something that affects you & this relationship. Sometimes you gotta be awkward in the name of protecting yourself!

 

 

 

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

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.

It’s time for my favorite Captain Awkward Dot Com Tradition: That thing where I answer the search strings people typed to land here as if they are questions. First, a musical interlude (Merle Haggard’s If We Make It Through December, lyrics at the YouTube link):

Now, the meat of it:

1 “How do you tell a friend that they can’t come over when you already invited them?”

Do it as directly and quickly as possible. “I know I invited you over later, but I need to reschedule, so sorry!”

2 “My ex wants to work on things but I can’t right now I don’t feel anything.”

Y’all broke up. One benefit is breaking up is that you don’t have to work on the relationship anymore.

There are exceptions to this, of course:

  • If you have children together, you have to work out a way to be polite and fair to each other as you deal with custody issues and also how to keep your child’s well-being front and center.
  • If you have property & financial entanglements, you have to work out a fair way to wind those down.

BUT THAT’S IT. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE TALKS ABOUT FEELINGS ANYMORE.

3 “A male friend disrespected me by touching inappropriately publicly how to stop him and not feel awkward.”

Unfortunately there is no possibility of “not feeling awkward” because touching someone inappropriately is a really awkward thing to do! Being groped by a friend is a really awkward thing to have happen to you! The awkwardness is a given.

You can still tell him to stop. “Don’t touch me.” “I don’t like it.” “Stop.”
You can still tell him that what he did in the past bothered you. “I didn’t like it when you touched me that way, I need you to apologize and never do it again.”

You have nothing to apologize or be ashamed of here. The awkwardness fallout belongs to him and him alone.

4 “Guy can’t get over and stop thinking about girlfriend’s sexual past.”/ 5 “Love everything about my gf except her past.”

If you are having intrusive thoughts about your girlfriend’s past that are messing with your ability to enjoy your life and relationship with her, visit a therapist or counselor and do whatever it takes to work out your own issues around this. The issue is yours to solve, not your girlfriend’s. Your girlfriend’s past isn’t your business, it isn’t some burden you have to bear, it isn’t about you at all. Get. Over. It. or get out of her life and let her be with someone who doesn’t have these gross hangups.

6 “My sister bought me a car now she wants it back because she paid for it.”

I have no solution for this without knowing a lot more, but here’s a blanket reminder that when money is involved, put something in writing. Even for family. Especially for family.

7 “How to tell him the relationship is not working out so let’s just be friends.”

I don’t think our romantic relationship is working for me and I’d like to end it. I care about you a lot and I’d love to be friends someday, if you’re up for that.

Then you give him some space and let him determine the timetable of a friendship, if one is meant to be.

8 “He never hardly talks his communication is distant his hygiene gone what wrong he is so different or is it me.”

Big changes in someone’s appearance, hygiene, and communication style are worrying! The start of this conversation could be: “You don’t seem like yourself lately. Is something going on with you that I should know about?” You can be detailed – “You don’t seem to be bathing or taking care of yourself, you’ve gone really quiet in our communications.” Then see what he says.

9 “He wants to move in with me to save money.”

It’s okay to want to save money and move in with other people. HOWEVER, If your heart isn’t in this, if you’re not ready to move in with ‘him’ (either as a romantic partner, family member, friend, roommate), if you don’t think he’ll be a good roommate for you, it’s okay to say no. Other roommate situations exist and he can find one.

10 “How to tell your parents you’re moving in with your boyfriend.”

Send them a note. “_____ and I are getting a place together, our new address is ______.” Present it like the happy news that it is. Their reactions will be whatever they are.

11 “How can I make my mother accept my boyfriend she once rejected.”



You can’t make her do anything. What you can do is live your life as you wish – including dating who you want to date – and be happy. You can stop subjecting your boyfriend to her disapproval and limit how much time you spend with her. You can make sure she doesn’t have opportunities to be mean to him.

Your mom may come around with time or she may not.

12 “After 9 years together his family still wont accept me.”

That sounds incredibly painful, I’m sorry. After nine years, you know everything you need to know about how this is likely to go and what is likely to happen with this family. I hope you can stop putting any energy into trying to win the approval of these people. I hope your spouse/partner backs you up and doesn’t expect you to subject yourself to their bullshit. To me, that’s the big issue. Does your partner support you and defend you and shield you from his family, or does he expect you to play big happy family with them?

13 “How to behave at a dinner where a sister in law doesn’t talk to you.”

Strategies:

  • Ignore her and focus on the people you are glad to see and who are glad to see you.
  • Hash it out with her. “It’s super weird that you refuse to talk to me. What’s going on?
  • Don’t go to stuff that’s at her house.
  • Host your own extended family stuff in smaller groups and don’t invite her. If people ask why, tell them the truth. “She doesn’t talk to me, it’s weird, I can deal with it now and again for Grandma’s sake, but not in my house.”

It will probably never not be weird and she’ll probably never like you. I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to break bread with people who act like they hate you. It’s okay to call attention to the weirdness.

14 “My husband allows his kids and friends to torment me in our home.”

This is abusive and terrible and it needs to stop. A spouse who won’t stick up for you and who enables other people in abusing you is deeply in the wrong. I know step-kid-step-parent relationships can be fraught, but the kids’ parent needs to be able to say “You don’t have to like or love Step-Parent but you do need to be a basic amount of polite and respectful to them or there will be consequences.” Marriage counseling may be in the cards, or, if this is ongoing and hasn’t changed despite talking about it, divorce court. You deserve better.

15 “My boyfriend wants an open relationship but I’ve never been in one.”

Strategies:

  • If your instinct is to say “nope!” then say “nope!” You might end up breaking up if he wants an open relationship really badly and you don’t, but you don’t have to go along with this if you don’t want to.
  • Think about (and read about) open relationships and see if it’s something that interests you.

Bottom line: Your relationship needs to work for you. You don’t serve your relationship or the idea of the relationship or do something you are uncomfortable with to preserve it.

16 “If your boyfriend accept friendship but he want sexing for u only once is this true love.”

This is probably not true love.

17 “Did he really break up with me because the timing wasn’t right?”

Whatever the stated reason, he broke up with you.

18 “He doesn’t want me to watch porn but he does.”



Welp, this is a double standard. Are you comfortable with that?

19 “If he likes me why is he still online dating?”

This is one of those questions only “he” can answer. You could ask questions like “Do you want us to move toward being exclusive and dating only each other? Because I think I’d like to do that, if you are ready” or “Are you dating other people right now?

It’s a vulnerable question, but one well worth asking. If it reassures you, Mr. Awkward & I met on OKCupid, and I know we were both winding down some old business/going on some dates we’d already scheduled with other people in the first weeks of our relationship. We liked each other a lot from the beginning but it took a little while for it to all click in.

20 “Is it healthy to stay in a relationship with your first boyfriend.”



I get this question in the mailbox A LOT.

I can only ask questions in response:

  • Are you happy now?
  • Are you excited about the future you are planning together?
  • Are your daydreams about what your life could be like fulfilled within this partnership?
  • Do you feel like you are living the life you want to live? Do you feel like that life is possible?
  • If you want to change something about your life, is this person going to support you and roll through those changes with you?
  • If you wanted to make a big change in your life do you feel like you could talk it through honestly with this person?
  • Do you use language like “I feel suffocated,” “I feel trapped,” “I feel guilty” when you talk about the prospect of staying with him?
  • Are you tempted to cheat on them or already cheating on them (a common thread in the letters in the mailbox)?
  • What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen if y’all broke up? (Most likely answer: You’d both be sad for a while and then you’d be fine.)

Some people meet the right person/a right person for them really young and they grow and change together. Some people do not. I am in the second batch. I don’t know what’s right for you, only, make sure that staying with this person is a positive, active, happy choice for you and not just one made out of inertia and fear of being alone. Being alone can be so very liberating and great.

21 “What to say when you don’t want to hug.”



I tend to take a big, obvious step backwards and offer my hand to shake instead. See also: “No thanks, I’m not much of a hugger.”

22 “How to tell family I’m not coming home for the holidays this year.” 

Send a nice card or note. “Family, I won’t be joining you for the holidays this year, but I’ll be thinking about you a lot! Love, ____.” 

Greeting cards get made fun of a lot, but they are SO UNDERRATED as a medium for dealing with complicated/estranged-but-not-totally family or situations where you don’t really have words.

23 “Mindfuck of being a mistress for years.”



Sounds intense! It sounds like it should be a line from a poem, like:

“Her emotional accounts were well in arrears
From the mindfuck of being a mistress for years…”

Can we write this out as a group effort?