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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?

Hello! It’s that time again, where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they asked the questions. First, as is traditional, a little song to get us in the mood:

Now, we descend into the Id of the Internet:

1 “How to ask out your TA (teaching assistant).”

Leave your TA alone until well after the class is over. This person is at work. They have to be a certain amount of nice to you and available to you. And this should go without saying, but, TAs, leave the students in your classes alone until well after the class is over.

If you fall in like or love with each other, the world won’t end if you wait a few months to express it.

2 “Everytime I mention my husbands skidmarked underwear he gets abusive.”

Sounds like your husband is a man who should do his own laundry, by himself, in a house he lives in by himself, alone, forever.

3 “I found sex things in my parents’ room.”

Put them back, leave them alone, and leave the topic alone. It’s not your business.

Monthly plug for Scarleteen as a resource if you have questions about the stuff you found.

4 “I don’t want to move in with my boyfriend yet.”

Listen to that instinct and don’t move in together until or unless you really, really want to and look forward to it. Not everyone we love makes a good roommate, and it’s very expensive and annoying to unlink households once you’ve linked them.

5 “How to invite yourself to dinner.”

Here’s an idea: Maybe invite the other person to have dinner with you another time, at an event that you host and arrange.

Failing that, be direct: “Is this a private event, or can I join you?” or “Next time you host one of these things, I’d love to join you” and be prepared to take no for an answer.

6 “Do you stay with the first person you have sex with?”

Nope! Some people certainly do, but it is 100% not a requirement for a happy life. The first person you have sex with does not own you and you do not own them. It’s okay to move on from a first love or a first sex relationship and find other people to be with. Your very favorite person to have sex with might be your first, or your 10th, or your 100th. Make love and commitment decisions based on what will make you truly happy.

7 “He said he couldn’t see the relationship working out right now.” 

This is a breakup, or a prelude to one.

8 “Holidays when parents hate spouse.”

Annual reminder that you do not have to “celebrate” with people who are mean to you and yours.

9 “How to go about a situation where you both like each other but she doesn’t want a relationship.”

Put the majority of your energy into other friendships, other dating possibilities. If “she” changes her mind she knows how to find you.

10 “How do I get my husband to be friends with my friends?”

This might not be possible, so my advice is: don’t force it. Invite him to spend time with you and friends, respect him if he doesn’t want to or wants to only in small doses. Not everyone is compatible with everyone else. Strive for friendly, fun, low stress interactions rather than pushing for deep mutual friendship. Give it a lot of time.

11 “Should I let him into bathroom when I’m there.”

If you are above the age of “little kid who needs help with the potty” and you need bathroom time to be Alone Time, that is an okay thing to want and to enforce.

12 “I said terrible things when my boyfriend & I broke up should I apologize?”

If you want to make a real apology and can do it without expecting anything in return, try this: “I know I said some pretty terrible things to you when we broke up, and I am sorry.” Then let it go.

13 “Is it a crime to say ‘fuck you’ on Facebook.”

Nope! Fuck you, Harvey Weinstein. Fuck you, Woody Allen. Fuck you, Kevin Spacey. Fuck all y’all predators and abusers.

 14 “My girlfriend keeps asking me if I’m okay.”

It’s good to check in with the people you love: Are you enjoying this, is this okay, how are you, how was your day, etc. But there is a point where it crosses the line especially if it’s constant and if you’ve already answered. Sometimes the answer to that question is “yes!” Sometimes it’s “Nope.” Sometimes it’s “Eh, I don’t know, but I don’t want to talk about it.

If you’re in this situation, 1) Be honest about your relative level of okayness when the girlfriend asks 2) Ask her to accept your first answer.

15 “How the feck do you get over someone?”

With a lot of time, and throwing yourself into other pursuits, and being gentle and kind to yourself. Mostly time.

16 “I don’t know why my boyfriend’s even with me he just won’t break up with me.” 

If he loves you and wants to be with you, and you want to be with him, what would it take for you to trust that? If you’re waiting for him to dump you, why not make the decision to end the relationship yourself? He’s not the only one with power here.

17 “Girl says ‘you deserve someone better’.”

Girl is saying “You and me, it’s not going to work out.

18 “My boyfriend doesn’t believe in my blogging.”

I’m skeptical of the viability of relationships between where partners don’t like or believe in the other person’s creative work. If you love blogging, keep doing that.

19 “You meet someone and find out you have mutual acquaintances. Is it ok to ask friend for number?”

Sure! I generally don’t give out my friends’ phone numbers or emails without asking their permission first, so maybe this is a better way to make contact: “I’d love to get in touch with [mutual friend]. Do you mind passing on my number or email to them and making an introduction?” That way the person has the information they need if they want to get in touch with you but they get to maintain their privacy.

20 “What do I say when I don’t want to get together with a neighbor for lunch?”

“No thank you!” “Thanks for the invitation, but no.” 

21 “How to tell your boyfriend he needs to shower.”

Babe, please take a shower.” Directness is kindness.

22 “How to tell him you only want sex.”

I’m in this just for the sex. Is that cool with you?” Directness is kindness.

23 “Poor boyfriend wants to move in with me.”

There’s nothing wrong with not having money or wanting to move in with a partner, but the wording of this search leads me to make this recommendation again: Do not combine households with a romantic partner unless you enthusiastically want to live together and are excited to live together. It’s okay to say “I love you, but I’m not ready to take that step yet. You should make another plan.

24 “What does it mean when someone says ‘maybe in the future?'”

They mean “Not now.”

25 “Ten kinds of people not to invite to your party.”

  • People who don’t know their own limits re: substances.
  • People who have done crappy stuff to you or your friends.
  • People who don’t respect other people’s space or stuff.
  • Racist people.
  • Sexist people.
  • Homophobic people.
  • Transphobic people.
  • Missing Stairs” (source: The Pervocracy, which is awesome but may not be safe for everyone’s work browsing)
  • People you don’t like.
  • The guy who sees that you have a guitar, grabs it without asking, and starts “jamming” in the middle of your living room.
  • People who use the word “sheeple.”

Let’s help this poor content mill writer who Googled this out!

26 “My new boyfriend suddenly became a jerk.”

What if you took evasive action now, and broke up with this jerk?

27 “Why is my crush everyone’s crush?”

Some people are just foxy.

28 “I refused to open my door to my friend who visits too often.”

If you are a person who drops by unannounced and uninvited, you gotta get used to the idea that people might not always be available, so I hope they took it in stride! Script: “Friend, I’m not always ‘at home to visitors.’ I need you to stop dropping by unless I’ve invited you and we’ve set something up in advance. Can we agree to that?

This script can be easily adapted for neighbors who like to just pop by (there were like 17 of these in the search terms).

Happy Halloween! I look forward to viewing many photos of animals and cute kids on social media today.

 
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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
.”

Wallow. Fuck Around. Do The Thing.

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?”

Pro:

Insurance agents need love too!

Con:

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.

maxresdefault (1)

Are you there, Mayhem? It’s me, Captain Awkward.Image description: Dean Winters as “Mayhem” from the Allstate Insurance commercials. He is a white man in a suit slumped in the back of a very damaged car covered in seat stuffing.

————————————————————————————————————-

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!

Video: Snappy dance music, Polish soccer, what’s not to love?

It’s that time again, when we answer the things people typed into search engines like they are questions.

1. “Dating a Midwestern man”

High probability of at least one of these things going on: beer, cheese, beards, & warm, burly hugs. What’s not to like?

 

2. “My crush doesn’t make a move even though I feel we have chemistry. Why?”

There is literally one person on earth who can answer this question for you. (Hint: It’s your crush) If you like this person and feel like you have good chemistry, why aren’t you making a move?

 

3. “friendsporn???” 

??? If this is porn based on the 1990s TV show “Friends,” HARD PASS.

If this is you trying to make porn with your friends, make sure you have clear consent –  like “signed release-forms!” clear.

4. “How to sabotage someone’s teeth.”

Teeth are useful and important. Please don’t do this.

5. “Girlfriend is over emotional and oversensitive.” 

Better break up with her and find someone with your exact level of cool, logical detachment!

6. “I impregnated a girl whose parents and mine are not in good terms please am confused what do I do?”

Be kind to the ‘girl’ in this situation and ask her what she wants to do about it all. She’s the one carrying the heaviest load here.

7. “How to knock your fucken dad out because he is a fucken asshole.”

You know I’m gonna suggest “no violence” but the phrasing of this made me laugh and reminded me of the fan-generated ad campaign for this brand of liquor that’s popular among my Chicago dirtbag friends:

malort

Image = ad for Jeppson’s Malört with a photo of the bottle and the text: “Tonight’s the night you fight your dad.”

(Don’t drink this, it’s repulsive)


8. “He blocked me and I have no way to contact him.”

Yes, that is the general idea.

9. “My weight loss captain.”

Is piloting another ship, far from here.

10. “How to get rid of my son’s girlfriend before he goes to college.”

You don’t.

Look, I get it on some level. At my teaching job I see a lot of college students who spend more time Skyping and texting with their sweethearts back home than making friends and engaging fully in their classes or campus life. We, who are older, want to say “You have your whole life to be in love and only a limited time to be in college, so seize this opportunity with both hands!” But your son gets to decide who he loves, and any move you make to separate them will probably only drive him away from you. Let them be. If it’s true love, it will shine through no matter what you think or do about it. If it isn’t, The Turkey Drop will take care of it on its own without any help from you.

11. “Very dangerous when girls chews dicks of boys for serious.”

Much dangerous, many serious.

Reminds me of this video I saw once. Video description: Comedienne Ellie Kemper plans to give the worst head ever.

 

12. “I love my boyfriend but my mother doesn’t like him because he is abusive, what do I do?”

As reasons not to like someone go, that’s a super good one. What’s the worst that could happen if you listened to your mother?

13. “Estranged friend’s mother died should I reach out.”

Think about whether a grieving person who doesn’t talk to you anymore would find a card or email or text comforting or intrusive right now. Is your desire to reach out right now about them or about you?

 

14. “If someone texts a message when drunk is this the truth?”

“In vino veritas” the saying goes, but there are so many caveats here! If you’re looking at drunk texts for proof of something that’s important to know, why don’t you try asking the person about it when they are sober?

15a. “How to defend yourself when caught with the wife of a married man you dating.” & 15b. “I fell in love with a married guy and I’m not really into apologizing.”

Sometimes these things just go together like magnetic poetry.

#15a: If you mean how do you defend yourself physically, leaving the situation as soon as possible seems like a good idea?

If you mean how to defend yourself verbally, maybe…don’t? What could you even say? “I’m dating your husband! I have really good reasons that I think you’ll want to hear about right now!”

#15b Is this the new “I’m not here to make friends?”

16. “When she won’t watch the shows you like.”

Watch them by yourself or with friends who do like them?

People can have good love without overlapping pop culture tastes, as long as everyone is respectful.

17. “Is there any point visiting someone in mental hospital?”

If the person is allowed to have visitors and wants them, and you can make the time, visiting can be a great thing. It can be so isolating in the hospital and seeing a familiar face of someone who loves you can be such a lifeline. Keep it light, let the patient guide the conversation.

18. “Neighbor won’t answer doorbell.”

If I’m not expecting someone and I don’t smell smoke or hear screaming, I don’t answer the door. Your neighbors might feel the same. Try calling, texting, emailing, or slipping a note under the door with whatever you wanted to tell them.

 

 

 


 

It’s time for the monthly ritual where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they were actual questions.

True story: In 1986 my 6th grade class did a medley/pageant thing from Camelot and I sang a highly edited version of this song wearing a flower crown, an ice blue polyester bridesmaid’s dress that had been adapted to be somewhat ren-faire-ish, and (of course) my giant plastic 1980s Dawn Weiner/Sally Jesse Raphael/Log Lady eyeglasses.

1) “I can’t have romantic feelings.”

a) You don’t have to! and b) You might be aromantic. Look it up, find your people, be happy.

2) “As a bi girl am I doomed to end up with a guy?”

Depending on where you live men who like women may be more numerous than women who like women, so it may take you longer to find women you connect with. However, please don’t “end up with” or even “date” anyone who makes you wonder “Is this my doom?” Be picky and choose people who fucking delight you.

3) “He can’t be with me because of depression”

He can’t be with you.

4) “Introvert boyfriend broke up with me”

He broke up with you.

 5) He says he wants us to be together eventually, what does that mean?

He doesn’t want you to be together now.

6) “What does ‘I can’t be what you need from me’ mean?”

“Don’t count on this relationship to be what you need.” “I am checking out of/trying to end this relationship.”

7) Boyfriend makes fun of medical condition.

What. A. Jerk.

8) “He doesn’t give me allowance but he wants to control my appearance.”

Even if he did give you an allowance he doesn’t get to control your appearance unless you have an explicit “this is a fun thing we like to do/kink we share and enjoy” agreement.

9) “I don’t like my boyfriend’s physical appearance.”

Okay? Options:

  • Learn to like something about how he looks and enjoy the beautiful love you share.
  • Admit to yourself that looks are really important to you and gently set him free to find someone who loves how he looks.

10) “Too many Indian neighbours.”

Move. Your neighbors shouldn’t have to live next to a gross xenophobe like you.

11) “Should I try speed dating?”

Sure! If you you don’t like someone or they don’t like you, there will be a new person in a few minutes, and if you hate it you never have to go back.

 

12) “Can men and women be friends?”

Glad you asked! I run an entire website devoted to this.

13) “I won’t allow my husband to play with female band mates.”

Women are half the human race, so, that’s a pretty sucky thing to do.

14) “How can I proceed to relationship that I already know she is not interested in relationship yet?” & 15) How to make a long distance girl you don’t know fall in love?

Or, you could just…not?

If you know for a fact someone is not interested in a relationship, leave them alone?

If someone lives far away and doesn’t know you exist, maybe…leave them alone and find someone a) closer to home b) who knows you and c) already likes you?

Stop trying to project-manage unattainable love?

16) Is 3 weeks too late to apologize to guy?

Probably not, as long as you offer a clean, real apology:

  • Step 1: “I’m really sorry for [specific thing I did that hurt or upset you].”
  • Step 2: Hope for the best but let it go. Let him be the one to decide if he forgives, when he forgives, and what happens now.
  • Step 3: Don’t do the thing again.

17) “Social anxiety play dates.”

This person was probably searching for this thread about arranging play dates for your kids when you have social anxiety, but it would be so cool if this were an app or a service that hooked people up with social anxiety buddies.

18) Ugliest floral arrangement for a funeral for someone you hate.

Yessssssssssssssssss! Let’s be hate-florists!

floral-arrangement-fail-penis

Description: Pink carnations and roses sculpted into a penis and balls. For when you care enough to send someone a dick.

Would a corpse flower be prohibitively expensive? Are those even commercially available? If not, worry not: Here are some other stinky plants and flowers.

I found a website listing traditional flower meanings.What if we combined:

  • CANDY TUFT – Indifference
  • GERANIUM -Stupidity; Folly
  • LILY  Orange – Hatred
  • MONKSHOOD – Beware; A Deadly Foe is Near
  • NARCISSUS – Egotism
  • NUTS – Stupidity
  • NASTURTIUM – Conquest; Victory in Battle
I don’t know if it would be sufficiently hideous – a lot of those flowers are quite pretty – but you’d know exactly how much shade you were throwing.
Now I wish that the Language of Flowers had an app where you could see each flower and build a virtual hate-bouquet (or like-bouquet, or “That secret sex we had was AWESOME and it fills me with shame. Elope with me?” bouquet) from them.

 

It’s that time of the month where we treat the search strings people typed in as actual questions.

Before I dive in: The trip to France was wonderful. We ate all the foods and saw all the arts and drove many kilometers and met lovely France-based Awkward folks who had excellent ice cream recommendations. I think it took Mr. Awkward a whole day before he was like “How do we move here forever?” and once he saw Lyon, where we tragically only had one day, he was actively in “No, seriously, let’s live here” mode. My favorite place we stayed is here. If you can go to Normandy, go, and let Vincent and Corinne envelop you in their hospitality and cook for you.

Came home to this:

onyou

The top half of my face visible above a black and white kitty stuck to my neck like velcro.

Sometimes it’s this:

onyou2

Same Jennifer, same black and white kitty, only this time I’m on my back and she’s on my shoulder/face.

As for this month’s theme song, I love Prince and I still feel his death last year pretty keenly. There was only one song this month could be:

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