The Book of the Face

Hey Captain!

I’m a single straight cis woman.  Some time ago I joined a new hobby group, and it’s been great!  There are lots of men in the hobby group and a number of them have asked me out on dates.  This isn’t the problem – I appreciate people who take the chance to ask me out outright and I am good at turning them down politely but firmly when I’m not interested. 

My problem is with the people who clearly appear to be romantically interested in me, but instead of asking me on a date they just kind of weirdly hover around me.  For example, they might suddenly take an interest in all of my Facebook posts, even when they have nothing to do with our shared hobby.  Or they might just keep starting chats with me online.  They might also try to engineer hangouts that are very clearly stealth dates, or they might focus all of their attention on me even when there’s a whole group of us and we are all doing the hobby together.  I find this very off-putting but I don’t know how to address it.  Since nothing is explicitly being said I feel somewhat paralyzed in these situations and tend to just act friendly but also kind of evasive in hopes that they will get the hint, but this doesn’t always work.  Is there a more effective way I can deal with this?

Thank you,


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Yo, Captain!

I have a friend who I care about dearly but he keeps sending quite rude (almost downright racist) messages over a group chat I have with all of my friends, often targeted towards me and my heritage. A recent example is that he sent a photo of a map from almost 200 years ago and said “Ha, look, your country isn’t even on this map! It’s not a real country lol.” Another was when he kept trying to explain and then lecture me (quite patronizingly) about this country’s history (with inaccurate information, if I may add that) although I have family from this country and have read books about its history. I have told him that I find this rude and I have heritage from this country but I grew up in the same country he has, so I don’t understand why he can’t accept me as at least both nationalities. I used to be bullied for having “foreigner” relatives and being related to said country and his behaviour is similar to how it started out when I first was bullied (by other people, to clarify) which is making alarm bells ring. As it is on a group chat and I struggle with anxiety and confronting my friends (he knows this), then I find it difficult to call him out on his behaviour and I try to ignore the group chat, however, I feel like if I constantly ignore it every time people accept this behaviour more and it hinders my ability to communicate online to my group of friends (also, they know I get upset about it but I don’t expect them to do anything).

My solution was to block him on Facebook so he can’t directly message me and to avoid him on the group chat, which worked except he found out that I blocked his messages and keeps trying to call me out on the group chat. Other friends keep messaging me saying “why have you blocked him?” and then they post screenshots on the chat (so far I’ve replied with “what? I think my messages are just messed up at the moment”) so I’m afraid to tell them because these kinds of jokes are often made by him so that’s partly why no one goes “hey that’s not cool, friend.” I don’t want to be seen as humourless by telling everyone, because then people treat me like they’re walking on eggshells. Am I being irrational? Are they entitled to an explanation? Are there any scripts you could possibly give me?

Thank you,


I Just Want To Talk To My Friend And Not Get Upset (she/her)

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Hi Captain,

This is a Facebook Etiquette question. I have a friend who is really more of an acquaintance; we have met face-to-face and worked semi-together on a project a looooooooong time ago, but I haven’t seen him in years and only follow his life on social media. He is a musician in a mid-sized city where we both live and is not blowing up the charts or anything, but he’s fairly well-known.

He recently announced that he and his wife of several years are getting divorced. He did it like this: He tagged her in the post and then asked everybody he’s connected with on Facebook to share their thoughts about their divorce (with the assumption being they would all be like, “that’s bullshit!,” I guess?). Since then, he’s written a few more posts that seem to be intended to hurt or embarrass her. The tone is very much, “She doesn’t know how great she had it/I was too good for her anyway,” and his friends are mostly supportive … of him … and no one (yet) has asked him why he is airing all this dirty laundry in public if he’s such a great guy. I’m really tempted to be the first.

I’ve never actually met this woman and she has no idea who I am. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s musical career has expanded his friend network to the point where there are probably lots of people like me who don’t know them as a couple but who are familiar with him and his work. (And I am a female, in case that matters or changes things.)

But I am unsettled and bothered by what he is posting, and I wonder what would be the most ethical thing to do in this situation.
– Ignore him and his posts until it blows over
– Unfriend him and let him follow his course
– Point out that a “nice guy” who’s actually nice wouldn’t do this to a significant other, soon-to-be-divorced or not

Would there be any sense in doing that to show his almost-ex-wife that not everyone who reads it is swallowing this nonsense, or is that just wishful thinking on my part? I’m almost positive it’s just wishful thinking but I thought I’d ask anyway. She seems like a nice person and she isn’t responding at all to what he’s saying/doing online (probably a good move on her part), but I feel like someone (maybe a therapist?) should tell this guy he isn’t being classy or awesome right now, he’s being emotionally manipulative and possibly even emotionally abusive.

What do you think?

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Dear Captain Awkward and friends,

Due to frequent moves both by me and by many of them, the seven or so people I consider my closest friends are scattered across three countries on opposite sides of the globe. (And most of them don’t know each other.) Nevertheless, I keep in frequent contact with them – we communicate at least once a week, often more. I’ve known them all for years (several of them for decades), they’re all very important to me, and they’ve been there for me in tough times, so I don’t think this problem indicates a major break in our friendships or anything like that, but. Yesterday was my birthday, and not one of them remembered it.

My birthday isn’t public on Facebook because I never liked the hollow “hbd” posts from people who I don’t really interact with. So the lack of a Facebook reminder is almost certainly a factor here. But I know that these seven friends know when my birthday is, and all of them have sent me birthday messages unprompted in the past. I didn’t even expect messages from all of them this year – it’s just that not receiving even ONE hurt a lot more than I thought it would. Especially because it’s not a secret that my birthday is important to me, moreso now that I have stopped celebrating most major holidays. Maybe it makes sense that more of my friends wished me a merry holiday-they-know-I-don’t-celebrate-anymore than wished me a happy birthday, but it still sucks.

And I don’t think I’m being a hypocrite here! I try hard to remember my friends’ birthdays, whether or not they have them on Facebook, and I make sure to send them birthday greetings. Which was all I wanted in return. One birthday text from a friend and I wouldn’t be writing to you!

Anyway. Any thoughts on how I should handle this? Do I bring it up with them? Do I admit how much it hurt? Should I obnoxiously remind them next year? Or should I focus on the nice messages my family sends me and the kind words from the friends I’m making in my current location, and try not to worry about my friends elsewhere? Do I just need to accept that if I don’t let Facebook announce my birthday, no one will remember it?

Thank you,
Birthday Girl

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Hi Capt,

Surely this has been asked before, but I can’t find anything this straightforward in the archive. What do you say when someone wants to be your friend but you just don’t like them?

I feel like at any given time there are a few people in my life who really want to be my friend but who I just don’t find all that interesting or fun or my cup of tea. Usually they have done nothing wrong and are in no way offensive; I just don’t like them. Usually they pursue me pretty hard, inviting me to things and politely but persistently trying to schedule friend-dates. Usually we are socially connected so there’s no ghosting on them forever (also that’s mean), and also it means bearing the burden of showing up at a real friend’s party and having not-my-friend be super excited to see me and be all “it is so awesome to see you, we need to catch up!” Ugh.

I sound like such a jerk in this email. I don’t want to be a jerk! I also don’t want to spend time with people I don’t like, and I don’t need new friends badly enough to give these folks a chance, and inevitably they are the sort of people who stubbornly refuse to notice that their invitations are never reciprocated. I also wonder why I seem to attract oblivious quasi-groupies when I am definitely not the cool one in my friend group and also I am really not that nice to people I don’t like. Like, I’m not an asshole (I hope), but no one could claim that I lead these not-friends on; it’s not like I say “omg we def need to catch up but I’m just soooo busy rn,” I’m more like “sorry, can’t make it! EOM”.

Got a script for saying “no I don’t want to hang out with you and it’s not that I’m busy, I just don’t want to” without making it a Huge Deal? Or for telling a new acquaintance that no you don’t really want to get coffee some time or friend them on Facebook? Also what’s with people friending folks on FB who they met once for like a hot second and then being offended that you don’t accept the request? Hi I don’t know you so I definitely don’t want to see your vacation photos nor you to see mine.

Maybe I am just a jerk.

Oh lordy these people probably write to advice columnists about me.

Not Your Friend

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So I’m dicking around online this morning, and a friend shared some theories about a show she’s been watching (with spoilers amply warned for) and an invitation for friends who are also watching to discuss. Other people who watch the show weigh in and are happily trading theories and easter eggs and everything is fine until…




A janky homemade Kool-Aid Man bursts through a wall.

“I haven’t gotten around to watching that yet.”

“I watched the first episode but didn’t like it.”

“It really doesn’t seem like my thing.”

“I never really got the appeal.”

Let me translate all of those for you:

“Hello! I have literally nothing to add!”



I’ve written before about how tedious I find Geeky Dominance Displays where “I am a fan of X, do you also like X?” gets answered with an automatic”No, X sucks, let me tell you the reasons!” or “Cool, let me download everything I know about X into you and truly test your knowledge to see if you are a Real Fan!” Those conversations can suck but at least everyone is, like, engaged?

Nobody having a fun discussion of a thing they are intensely watching was waiting for you (not YOU-you since y’all are pretty great Internet Discussers, but, General Internet You) to weigh in just to tell us that you don’t know anything about it. It’s okay if you haven’t watched whatever it is – there’s no pop quiz! There are also no extra points awarded for class participation.

If someone in an online discussion asks you specifically if you’ve seen something or like something (you’ll know when, because they’ll use your name), then of course answer truthfully. And as a default, if you want to talk about something you haven’t seen or suspect isn’t your thing…


…I don’t know…

…you could…

…start with a question…?

Such as: “I haven’t watched it/I suspect it’s not my jam, but what did you like about it?

It is also okay to scroll on by casual conversations your friends about things you don’t like or care or know anything about! Your silence can be its own beautiful communication of your lack of interest! Find (or start) a separate discussion of the things you care about!

Maybe it’s also my 53-day-and-counting USA election hangover, but we’ve also got to kill the “I didn’t bother to read the article you linked but I am going to argue extensively about what I suspect is in it + unrelated matters I have opinions about” comment. If you care enough to type, care enough to read.  If you didn’t care enough to read, maybe you don’t care enough to type. See how easy that is? It’s okay if you don’t have time to read everything your friends post. It’s okay! No need to weigh in on something you haven’t read and don’t know about. Tell your friends and family and let’s make this beautiful Internet 10,000 times less tedious.

Crankily yours,

Captain Awkward & Family

P.S. Awkward Spouse would like to send out a special message to people who review online recipes like this:

This recipe is terrible! I substituted every ingredient with a different ingredient, cooked it for a different length of time using a different method, and followed not a single instruction. It didn’t turn out at all! One star!



Sherlock slamming the door on Anderson with the text “Yes, thank you for your input.”




P.P.S. Awkward Cat also says Happy New Year, or, what she would say if she cared about years or internet comments, or anything at all.


A tiny black-and-white cat with huge eyes.








Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall with text "Professor McBadass"

There is more to teaching and life than having a good small-talk game.

Dear Captain Awkward,

This question is not so much about a single major situation or a crisis as it is about a recurring, if minor, situation that I encounter again and again. I am a graduate student at a medium-sized research university where graduate students do a lot of teaching. As a result, I encounter former students on campus on a very regular basis. I hope very much to keep teaching college students long-term, though who knows what my future holds.

The problem I have is this. My classes are often fairly popular with students, in part because my teaching persona is very warm and approachable, and in the classroom, I am good at not taking myself too seriously and putting other people (i.e. students) at ease. In real life I am none of those things: I am awkward, introverted, and ill-at-ease with social acquaintances, and I overread Every. Damn. Detail. of routine social interactions. I often feel that students who run into me in public social settings (at coffee shops, libraries, etc.) are surprised by what they perceive as a change in my affect, and that–put bluntly–I make them feel uncomfortable when they greet me after our class is over. I hate that. I feel I talk too long, or not long enough, or that I greet them when they’d rather avoid me, or that I avoid them when they’d rather greet me.

I should say that, while many college instructors resist or resent outside encounters with students, I don’t feel that way at all. I enjoy keeping up with former students. Even more importantly, I think that students at my large, cold, competitive institution need as many one-on-one adult contacts as they can get, and that it’s important for them to feel like they are part of a supportive social network made up of people of many different ages. I think that having good, positive, low-key, supportive encounters–not with every single student, but with students who actually want to say “hi” or catch up briefly in passing–is an important part of my job. But I’m not good at it.

I’m asking you because I know you are a college professor, and I imagine that–like me–you have a lot of students who would like to keep in touch, or who check in when you pass them in the hallway. Any advice on how to make these encounters productive, or at least comfortable?

Wants to Be That Supportive Former Teacher

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