Social Interactions

Hi Captain!

I am hoping you can give me some scripts and tips regarding an incredibly awkward work trip that is approaching in about a month. I have been with my company for many years, but have obtained a promotion a year ago and am now remotely supervised. My boss also has another employee is in the same office as her, they have worked together longer, and seem to have a tight relationship, whereas I have only met my supervisor face to face three times. My former supervisor always gave me a lot of encouragement and feedback, but since my current supervisor is so far away, and she doesn’t give me much feedback, I feel like I have no read on how she feels about me or if she approves of my work.

My supervisor has worked hard to obtain a scholarship for an amazing multi-day training conference across the country for all three of us. She has also mentioned how important it is to develop relationships as a team during this time. It is possible that my co-worker’s sister, who works in the same field, may join us. My supervisor has let me know that due to funding restrictions, I will definitely be sharing a room with her, and all four of us may have to share a room. My supervisor is aware that I am an introvert and has joked that I should get as much alone time as possible before, since we may be all crammed into one room.

On top of this, I am terrified of flying and this is going to be a long trip and I can’t sleep on planes even with the anti-anxiety prescription I take when I fly. I tend to need more sleep than many people (nine to ten hours), and if I don’t sleep, I often get physically sick. The thought of the exhaustion of being with other people 24/7, being the odd one out when everyone else has established relationships, and trying to establish a professional relationships with everyone has sent my anxiety about this trip through the roof.

So I am asking advice on (1) how to recharge/complete self-care when there might not be any alone time, (2) good scripts to develop professional relationships, and (3) any tips on how to not completely break down physically and emotionally while traveling, since this is a professional trip and I really want to make a good impression. On the bright side, both my supervisor and co-worker seem like genuinely nice, kind human beings, so I expect them to be forgiving, but I still want to remain professional.
(she/her pronouns)


Terrified of Trip

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Dear Captain Awkward,

Met this girl through her uncle, have known her for
Over 20 months, we’ve met a couple of times, nothing much happened, but used to keep ourselves updated over texts, she asked me out for dinner or lunch a couple of times, I had important things to address at that point of time, nor was I sure about my feelings towards her, it’s been six months since she moved to Australia for her education, that’s when I realised she’s the one, i’m not active much on social media, don’t keep my profile updated, and I did confess to her about me liking her, she said it was overwhelming but she isn’t into anyone now and wishes to focus on her career and has a lot going on her plate now, and since then she says she’s busy with all her things back there, but i see she’s got a pretty happening life making new guy friends and isn’t as busy as she’d told me that she is, with all her assessments and assignments, according to her social media updates, when I’m back here in India, wasting my time thinking about her, she’s back in town but hasn’t kept me informed, got to know this through social media too, and I have no idea what she thinks about me, because the moment I told her I like her, she tried avoiding, when I stopped completely she checked on me a couple of times by leaving me texts and when I replied acting like nothing ever happened, I feel she’s brushed me off, saying she’s got her semester exams going, and is currently in town meeting all her friends here, and we’re twenty years old, please do not ask me to refer a forum!😛 Thank you.


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Hi Captain!

Okay, here’s the tale: I’m two years out of undergrad and was applying to grad schools this past winter, so emailed my senior thesis adviser to ask for a letter of recommendation (he’d already written me one for a fellowship a year ago). He never responded–after a month I checked that he wasn’t on sabbatical, sent another email, and then called his office and left a phone message, and finally figured that his lack of response was, in itself, a response. Fair enough, no one’s obligated to recommend me, but I was a little confused by why he didn’t simply reply and let me know that, which would have given me more time to find a back-up recommendation. But I got into my first choice program, and I really don’t bear any kind of hard feelings.

Here comes the question: he was the faculty sponsor of a club I was very heavily involved with as an undergrad and am still pretty connected to now, and since I’m planning on visiting friends on campus still in said club in the next few years, it seems not unlikely that we’ll bump into each other–if it hadn’t been for this, I would probably have deliberately stopped by his office to say hi. It was a pretty small department, and while I was working on my senior thesis we met once a week and talked about developments in the field, etc., as well as my actual paper.

As a college professor yourself, do you have any insight on how I should handle this? Should I go say hi anyway and just not bring it up? Assume that this means he doesn’t particularly want me to come say hi? Scripts for bumping into him? I get that a student-teacher relationship probably isn’t going to be a friendship of equals, but I would have liked to be friendly, since he’s a fun person and a great teacher, and I would have enjoyed getting to hear his thoughts about my continuing academic work.

Many thanks!
-Unrecommended (she/her pronouns)

Dear Unrecommended,

Next time you visit campus, pop in and say a quick hello to the guy. You’ll probably never get an answer as to why no recommendation and since the need has passed and you met your goal it’s hardly worth pursuing one at this point. There is a greater likelihood that your request fell through the cracks than that he hates your guts. You didn’t do anything wrong, and saying “hello” on your schedule and your terms will let you put this behind you and not spend your whole visit stewing about it or dreading when you run into him. You learned a lot from this person, you’re carrying on in the field, and I think all is (or will soon be) well. You got this!

For students requesting recommendations after some time has passed:

  • It’s not a strange request, it’s part of the job. Though if the professor is an adjunct, know that they are writing this for you in on unpaid time and that they might be harder to get a hold of.
  • If they say “no,” it’s not necessarily personal: I will say “no” rather than write a lukewarm or negative letter (who has time for that?), I will also say “no” to writing too many letters for the same opportunity.
  • In your initial request, say immediately that you are asking for a recommendation and for what (don’t make us guess at what you want). Briefly remind the professor who you are, what class you took with them and when, a little about the work you did then. Give them the “elevator speech” about what you are applying for and why you want to do it. It’s not personal if they don’t remember every little thing about you and your work.
  • Be ready to collaborate a little bit. I will sometimes ask students to send me a few bullet-points that they’d like me to include in the letter, or if there’s anything they’d like me to play up or mention specifically. I’ve had profs ask me to write the whole letter and then give it to them to beef up & sign. Writing part of your own letter is awkward (and a tad unethical?) but it’s not uncommon. Bottom line: Help the person help you.
  • Send the person all the info for formally addressing the letter – “Please address the letter to Graduate Selection Committee, Department X, University Y, Complete Mailing Address.” And work out all the logistics about confidentiality & submission ahead of time – sometimes it needs to be in a sealed envelope on letter head with a signature over the flap that you collect and mail in with your application, sometimes there’s an online submission process. You need to be knowledgable about how to submit this thing and not make the professor Google it the night before the deadline.
  • Give the person lots of lead time and have a backup plan. Also, I would advise telling them you need it about 3 weeks-1 month before you actually need it, so you have a cushion to find a backup plan.
  • Send a thank you email and let them know the outcome of your application. (We like to brag on you.)
  • If you weren’t the greatest student, own it, but don’t shame-spiral about it. I know that my students are dealing with adjusting to college, big important life stuff, mental health stuff, money stuff, etc. and that how they do in one class is not the whole story of who they are and how they are going to do. Someone who comes back a few years later to say “I was having a really hard time personally when I took your class, and I know I wasn’t always the best student, but here’s what I learned from you and how I applied it. I really turned things around, and now my work now is about x, y, and z,” is telling their teacher a GREAT story. We deal in growth and change, after all.❤

What am I missing, Awkward-demics?


Dear Captain Awkward,

Last year, my neighbor and I helped to rescue a small dog from a bad situation (owner got divorced and for whatever reason, just stuck him in her dog-hating father’s backyard, where he may have been abused. I should note that I live in Cancun right now, and he was there for two months with no shelter or love). When I found out, I offered to foster him, and by that time he had a disease from ticks. He ended up staying with me for months, until I started talking about finding him a home. She then adopted him as her own. (I have reasons for not being able to adopt him)

Anyway, all was well and she was very attentive and caring to him and her other pets (extremely attentive) until her husband left her. Not long after that, she told me she had to work a lot for a couple of weeks. I agreed to take him back for that time. Well, two weeks became a month became three months, only one of which she provided some food for him. The rest, I paid for his food and other needs, including the Revolution for ticks. I noticed that she began dressing a lot nicer and wearing make up, causing me to believe that she had started dating again. I don’t judge her for this at all, but she could have been honest with me. I suspect she wasn’t because she knew I’d be upset that she was ignoring her dog so that she could date freely.

He had to go back to her when I recently went on a week’s vacation, and not long before that she told me that her “work” was coming to an end and she could also look after my dog – she was pushy about it, in fact. She also finally fessed up to having a boyfriend, but insisted she’d have the time. I went with my instincts and instead paid for boarding at a vet’s office where the staff are all very fond of my dog and vice versa. I should note that due to the initial arrangement during the rescue, she’s had a key to my house. While I was away, a friend was feeding my cats and called to let me know that little dude was back at the house for a day. This upset me and leads me to believe she only offered to “take care” of my dog so that she could have an excuse to keep him here too.

Well, after my return I gave limits as to when he could be here. She agreed, but I came home from work last Thursday to find him in my living room. When doing my customary post-walk “tick check” on both dogs, I found that he was covered in them. To say I was pissed doesn’t cover it. I ended up paying for a night of boarding and a bath as he couldn’t stay in the house, obviously. When I picked him up the next day, I was told he should see a vet as he was covered in red marks all over his body, only revealed with the hair cut. Yeah, he has yet another tick disease in less than a year. Turns out when he couldn’t stay with me, she sent him to a friend’s house – a house infested with ticks – and she was aware of this when she brought him to my house. I’m extra pissed now.

She is aware that he’s sick again (and yes, I paid about $90 for the vet visit and will need to pay even more for 21 days of pills) yet she hasn’t visited or checked on him. I suspect that she is so wrapped up in this new romance with a guy that seems to not like dogs, that she is putting everything else aside. She was even planning on sending him back to the friend’s tick infested house for her upcoming vacation!

I had the lock changed today, so the key issue is solved. But I’m wondering how to deal with this. I’m planning on telling her that until she has time to properly care for him, he’s staying with me, screw what I said about Monday to Friday. I don’t know if that’s considered pet-napping or not, and if she insists, I’ll probably have to give him back. But hopefully she at least lets him heal before, you know, farming him out to a tick-filled house again. Or maybe she’ll just be relieved that she doesn’t have to fuss with him and can enjoy dating.

I don’t know the state of her other dogs (five indoors and one outdoors that seems mostly OK) but there is little I can do about that. I do know (by her own admission) that her large outdoor dog hasn’t been walked for a long time, possibly two months. And that dog seems desperate for attention when I walk by.

My questions are the following: first, am I wrong to want to insist that little dude stays with me until she sorts her shit out and two, is it inappropriate to somehow bring up the fact that since she started dating again (sorry…working a lot, as she’s again insisting on now that I’m back from vacation) she’s providing sub-par care for little dude (at the very least) and seems to just be farming him to to wherever is convenient. I find her attitude hypocritical as she was very angry at his former owner. Even the vets office has noticed her declining care of her pets and it’s been mentioned more than once that they assumed he was my dog now. Fortunately, they know me and my dog well, so they are letting me make the decisions regarding his care.

I also want to possibly broach the subject of rehoming him, if she is really this uninterested in his well-being and may continue to be if she stays with this guy. I mean, I hate to say this, but I kind of hope this romance doesn’t work out so that she has to give her head a shake and learn for next time about balancing fun and responsibilities. As it stands now, she’s planning on moving to a different city with him, where the dogs will not be allowed in the house. She is Ok with this, which is miles away from how she used to regard her pets.

I should add that the reason my house is a convenient option is that both little dude and my dog have disk degeneration, so my living room is already arranged in such a way that they can’t access the stairs or furniture. Her argument for him not staying at her house has always been that he has to stay in the kitchen when she isn’t there, and he hates solitude (this part is true, he gets sad). Still, it’s all about balance.

I know this may seem like a minor issue, but despite her over-stepping several times (she even borrowed my fan without permission during my vacation) I don’t want to be hurtful or over-step myself. Do you have any scripts or advice for how to handle this? I know a new romance can be powerful, but she is definitely old enough to know better. (she’s at least in her late 40s).

Oh, and while I’d love to get the money back for the vet costs, I know realistically, I probably will not. Since my main concern now is the dog, I’m reluctantly accepting of this. Oddly, when I mentioned him being sick again, she had the nerve to ask what vet I took him to, as she only trusts one vet who is notoriously difficult to get in to see due to her skill. Blood tests were done, so I know the vet I went to (in the same office as the highly skilled one) isn’t just guessing. But her not really caring yet still questioning my choice of vet is very irritating. I suspect she knows that I’ll step up, so she feels liberated from worrying. Ugh.

Confused and concerned animal lover/annoyed neighbor

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a great, strong, smart female friend who has fallen head over heels for her boyfriend. They’ve been dating for under a year but already live together.

This friend has been attending a weekly trivia night with us now for over a year. When the new guy came on the scene he said how much he loved trivia and asked to join. We are a very inclusive team with friends from all over so of course we let him.

While he isn’t the favourite at trivia (he is very competitive and we are very bad at trivia but we have fun) things had been mostly fine, until he lost his job. He has been unemployed now for about 4 months, which I get is tough. However, he went from having a few beers at a casual Monday trivia to having 6+ over the course of 2 hours.

It’s awkward when he gets drunk for sure, but again I could have put up with this. I get it being sad about not having a job is hard. However, in the last month there has been a pattern of him not paying for said drinks. The bar we go to refuses to do separate tabs, so what often happens is people put their cash down and go. Consistently it seems he doesn’t put enough in or any at all, and by the time we realize those of us who are left are stuck with the bill. It’s one thing to forget once or twice, but it seems to be a pattern.

I’m not really sure what to do. I don’t want to embarrass him, and I don’t feel we are good enough friends for me to confront him about it. But I also know my best friend wants to spend the rest of her life with this man, and I’m worried that if I bring it up she’ll get angry with me. Money is such an awkward subject, what do I do?

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Dearest Captain,

I have had a rough few months in which I have temporarily moved home to deal with a highly stressful situation. The crisis itself has largely passed, but I’ve decided to stick around for the holidays, since I do love my family and they don’t seem to mind me crashing with them for a while longer.

The most prominent issue in my life right now is with one of my new friends in my new state. He’s a nice guy and all, but he’s kind of…irritating. I didn’t say much to him before I left to go back home, but he knows that there was an emergency and that I’d be out of town indefinitely. Since I left, he hasn’t stopped pestering me to ask me how I’m doing (crisis situation, wtf does he think?) and sending me pictures and motivational quotes in the name of trying to cheer me up at least once a week. The latest was a picture of a rainbow intended to “Brighton [sic] your day!”

I’m aware that there are far worse problems to have, but he’s driving me nuts. I haven’t responded to him in nearly two months because of other priorities, including not wanting to get sucked into a drawn-out conversation I don’t have the energy for, and he is damn near impossible to shake once he’s got any sort of handhold. However, he’s also damn near impossible to shake even after two months of silence on my part, go figure.

I feel like I’m on the other side of Letter 366, where I’ve got the avoidant attachment style, and the harder people cling, the harder I push them away. I consider myself very independent, and I know that’s feeding into this as well…if I’m going to be cheered up or have my day brightened, I want it to come from within, when I’m ready to start feeling better on my own. My close friends know to let me wallow in self-pity until I arrive at a more balanced frame of mind on my own.

Is it all right to tell him, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you?” I’m not necessarily sure I want to cut him out of my life entirely, but I am sure that I need him to drop the contact attempts way back and make the ones he does send less saccharinely feel-good.

-Let Me Mope in Peace

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I’m a 17 year old homeschooled dual-creadit student who attends my local community college. I have a 4.0 there, and I am part of the honor society and an officer in the Honors Student Organization. I’m not, at least not in by my family’s standards, brilliant, but I am smart. I always try to be a nice person and do good things, but I am worried that I come off as condescending and sometimes bitchy to my class mates. My grades are a large part of my identity because I am so focused on school, and because of that I have a reputation as an overachiever in all of my classes. I use my reputation as, at least somewhat, a defense mechanism. I have never had a boyfriend, had any alcohol,done any sort of drugs, etc. The people in my classes call me a baby because I don’t lie about being extremely inexperienced, and I don’t really mind that. I my be inexperienced, but I am not as naive as they seem to think I am. I use my inexperience as a reason I don’t throw parties when my parents leave me home alone for sometimes up to a week (they both travel for work). I don’t hide my grades from my fellow class mates; in fact, I share them openly. However, sometimes I worry that I come off as condescending because a lot of people make Bs or Cs, which I consider failing for me. I know that considering that a B is failing isn’t healthy, but school is my life and I don’t know how to let it go. I generally don’t understand why people don’t try hard in school and do their best. I understand that a lot of people have a job, kids, or both; but those aren’t really the people I’m talking about. The people I don’t understand are the ones that complain about doing poorly on tests and having to drop classes and then do to festivals on the weekend when they have homework. I also know that sometimes I can see the world in too much black and white and not take into account the environment somebody grew up in. I want to understand them better, but it is so much easier to call them stupid and write them off in my head as a lost cause. How do I learn to think of people as people and try to understand where they are coming from? When should I stop giving them leeway and say they need to step up and try harder? How do I not let my school define myself and my life when they are so important to me? How do I/ should I hold back on what my grades are because I may come off as a insensitive and condescending? Why do some people ignore their school and then freak out because they are failing?

Thank you for your time,
– The Overachiever

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