Behind a cut for the casual fatphobia, racism, and misogyny of entitled white folks of a certain age. Update: People are sharing some of the specific slurs and types of comments their bigoted relatives say and asking how to challenge those things esp. in the comments, so I would counsel POC and other marginalized folks especially to be careful before clicking – y’all already know this stuff and maybe you don’t need it in your eyes while we white folks sort out our bullshit.
I started answering this latest example privately and then decided, ahhhhhhhh, fuck it.
I’m going in.
I was very disappointed when I saw your reaction to the many emails you received concerning NFP. Your reaction was bitchy and immature. I mean, we’re all adults, so we’d better behave like adults…”
Bitchy, immature, and not behaving like an adult. Noted, Gentle Reader. Noted.
“1. NFP is not hard, if learned properly”
1) NFP is not hard FOR YOU. Great. Rock on with that.
“2. Just because she didn’t use it properly, it gives her no right to bash the method for her mistakes”
2) People who can’t remember to take the birth control pill every day at roughly the same time should probably look into a method that doesn’t depend on strict adherence to a daily routine.
People who don’t do well with hormonal methods should look into other methods (including Naturally Family Planning).
People who don’t trust themselves or their partners to have 100% reliable condom hygiene or who aren’t able to reliably plan for and place a barrier like a sponge or a diaphragm before sexual intercourse should use a backup method.
If you’re allergic to latex, then latex condoms probably aren’t your thing.
Some people don’t tolerate the IUD well. Insertion can be difficult on very young women and women who haven’t had children, and you’ve gotta check the strings hanging out of the cervix every so often to make sure it hasn’t moved. Those people should look into something else.
And people who can’t or don’t want to commit to NFP should find the thing that works for them, even if they were “never taught properly,” even if the issue is or was human error, even if the issue is or was specifically their own error.
Even if the Letter Writer‘s situation was a case of “Welp, I’m clearly not doing this correctly” (which by the way I am not assuming here), she doesn’t owe it to you or anyone to double down on that method before moving on to one that will give her more reliable results with less effort from her and more peace of mind. She can switch methods for any reason, including “I enjoy sex and do not want so much hassle or uncertainty associated with it” or “Dunno, felt like it I guess.”
“3. It is not just about her. This is public on the internet. People with similar problems will look for advice there. You should have set the record straight for them. NFP doesn’t deserve such a bad reputation and you should not take part in bashing it.”
3) This is where you are flat fucking wrong. It’s her body, her literal body, of which she gets only one, of which she is the sole boss and driver. It could not possibly be more about her.
She doesn’t owe allegiance to a method of birth control. She doesn’t owe it a positive spin, or further consideration. She doesn’t owe you or me or anyone ever having tried it in the first place.
Additionally, stating “This method didn’t work for me and I need to be done with it” is not “bashing” the method. Choosing a different method than the one you chose for yourself is not “bashing” your method. Choosing not to let people endlessly promote a birth control method when a Letter Writer has clearly said “I’m not interested in that anymore” is not “bashing” your method. You are projecting so hard it’s visible from space. You are doing the Internet equivalent of:
Letter Writer:“I’m having a problem with my PC, does anybody know how to fix this error?”
You/The League Of Very Concerned Citizens:“Well, you shoulda bought a Mac, there’s your problem right there.”
I would have blocked you on Facebook by now if you did that in my feed, but let’s say the Letter Writer is a nicer person than me and continues:
Letter Writer: “Ok but my work computer is a PC and I have to figure this out today, so, does anybody know about fixing this problem on a PC?’
You:“Well, on a Mac this would never happen. You should convince your company to make the switch to Macs.”
Actually, THIS is what you sound like:
Letter Writer, on social media outlet of her choice: “Ugh, I have my period, it’s like a Cormac McCarthy novel down there and I bled through a super plus tampon and my pad in an hour.”
You: “You should use the Diva Cup!”
Letter Writer: “Thanks, I tried the Diva Cup for a couple years, it wasn’t a good solution for me.”
You: “But did you try this kind Diva Cup? Or this kind? Or this other kind?”
Letter Writer: “Can’t say I have, but the one I tried, I really didn’t like it.”
You: “Well, it takes a lot of practice to get it right. Maybe you weren’t inserting it correctly!”
Letter Writer: “Cool, you’re probably right, but like I said, it wasn’t my thing.”
You: “Well, it works for me perfectly! I don’t see what your problem could possibly be, unless you’re just not very good at Diva Cups.”
Letter Writer: “I’m glad you found something that works so well for you! I wasn’t asking for advice on period control, I’ve found what (mostly) works for me. I was just venting that it’s like Bryan Fuller directed a Very Special Episode of Hannibal in my vulva.”
You: “HOW DARE YOU BASH THE MOST HOLY AND AMAZING DIVA CUP, WHICH WORKS PERFECTLY FOR ME EACH AND EVERY MOST HOLY DAY OF MY CYCLE?”
Letter Writer: Wut
You: “It’s not just about you, you know! This is on the internet! Anyone could be reading it and you are lying about how great the Diva Cup is.”
Letter Writer: “Ok, that’s clearly enough menstruation chat for today, have a good one!”
You: “Why do you hate the Diva Cup? Why are you trying to stop me and others from using it or finding out about it?”
Letter Writer: “I don’t? I’m not doing that?”
You: “Now the uninitiated will be MISINFORMED about the Diva Cup. All because of you, and your choices. Because this was the sole possible venue where they could find out about the Diva Cup. You have been unfair! I demand an accounting!”
Letter Writer: “Have we even met before? Who even are you?”
You: “Once you try the way of the Diva Cup, you are forever sworn to its service and glory. I demand to be allowed to share a tutorial on proper Diva Cup usage, that all may know.”
Letter Writer: :block:
You: “How immature.”
That is what you sound like. NOT GOOD.
There is good news to be had here, though! You could create your very own website all about NFP and how great it is, and people could read that if they are very interested in finding out more.
“4. The lady from the letter has bigger problems than birth control, namely a pretty messed up marriage, that she and her hubby should fix before talking about future family planning.”
4) I’m glad you brought up problems in the relationship. The Letter Writer has been trying to talk to her husband for 2 years about finding a different family planning method. It hasn’t worked, to the point that she is scared to bring it up again because it might cause a huge rift between them or that he might try to withhold family funds from her. If there are problems in a relationship, where the partners need to work some things out as they figure out family planning (as you so aptly point out), one smart thing to do would be to put a reliable birth control method that does not rely on the participation of the partner who can’t get pregnant into place…so that you don’t accidentally have another kid while you work out any marital problems.
“5. NFP also allows to control one’s own fertility without any health risks, if learned properly.”
5) It allows you to control your own fertility…to a point.
You could do whatever NFP practices are currently working for you 100% faithfully and “properly” for the rest of your fertile life, and if your partner does not respect your “Nope, not today, today is unsafe!” request, or if you’re having what you think is going to be non-penetrative sex but all of a sudden he’s all “C’mon, just the tip, it will feel so good” in the middle of things without warning you, or he pressures you into sex a lot and sometimes it would be easier to just go along than to have another fight about it and you don’t 100% trust him to stop in the middle of things and don’t want to risk finding out for sure that he won’t…and also it just feels soooooooooooooo good…just this once….and shazaam!!!!! Rogue semen. Inside your body. Makin’ a zygote.
That doesn’t even get into reproductive coercion, or rape, or the connections between unplanned pregnancy and intimate partner violence.
If only there were a way for a person who can get pregnant to be self-aware about their own reproductive needs and to put a failsafe in place during times of unsteadiness and disagreement in a relationship, one that doesn’t rely on the participation and compliance of a partner and isn’t vulnerable to human error or sabotage!
“A mature and informed response would have provided the information that NFP is a safe method, and even if it is not the perfect method for the letter lady, it is still one of the best methods available and by telling that NFP is not safe, she’s basically lying.”
She is not lying, you unmitigated asshole.
“Please stop being a triggered feminist and return to the facts.”
Please enjoy this parting gift on your way to find a website where you’ll be more comfortable.
A very angry NFP user (with no unplanned pregnancies so far)”
Very angry NFP user, I’m glad you found something that works for you and I hope you have only the babies that you want to have when you want to have them. Your happy anecdata about how NFP works for you remains irrelevant to the choices of the Letter Writer, who is a separate person from you. She owes you precisely jack shit and I think you need to seriously examine why you feel so threatened by her decisions about her own body that you need to send me “bitchy” emails and accuse her of lying.
Women and people who can get pregnant bear enormous risks during pregnancy, including death. They are human beings who have a right to set their own risk tolerance. Everyone who can get pregnant should be free to find the method that works safely and reliably for them without judgment or recrimination from anyone. Everyone who wants to get pregnant should be supported in that choice, too! Birth control should be free for anyone who needs it or wants it, and so should fertility counseling and assistance.
People who have strong religious objections to certain methods of contraception should continue not using those methods on their own bodies, of which they are the bosses. People with strong religious objections to certain contraceptive methods have zero say, zero moral authority, and should have zero political authority over what other people do with their bodies. This should not even be debatable as public policy anymore! This should especially not be debatable by large groups of men. It’s definitely not gonna be debated on this blog.
So, in closing, thank YOU for once again allowing me to say that there is no moral hierarchy of birth control methods. None are 100% perfect or reliable, but fortunately there is enough variety and tested reliability that most of us can find something that works reliably and with few side effects or hiccups. We gotta keep defending our rights to this without apology and without shame.
Jennifer Women’s Rights are Human Rights Birth Control Is Great And You Should Use Whatever Kind You Like For Any Reason Planned Parenthood is a National Treasure Abortion is Necessary Healthcare Rodham Nunyabeezwax Big Fat Feminist Jezebel Every Sperm Is Emphatically NOT Sacred Captain Awkward Leigh Peepas.
P.S. Letter Writer #969 I am sincerely sorry if posting these updates brings more pressure and weirdness into your life. I continue to send you love and to think about what a great and loving wife you are, what a great parent you are and are going to continue to be, and imagining how you are going to start to slowly become the wise woman in your community that other girls and women turn to and rely on when they also need to take care of themselves around this. Please don’t let these nosy parkers bring you down.
P.P.S Do not fucking @ me about the Diva Cup.
I am a lesbian in her mid-twenties who grew up in a very religious (and homophobic) environment. In my last year of college, I began dating one of my best friends who lived in another state, and slowly began to come out to my social circle, which at that time was largely composed of friends I met at my religious college. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky and nearly all of the people I’ve told have responded well, but I still have not been able to tell any of my biological family. Her parents are both supportive of us, and paid for us to elope and have a short honeymoon in New York back in December. (Elopement has been on the table for a long time, but we wanted to make it official after the election.) They are also temporarily offering her financial support while she looks for a job here (she moved to be with me and we got an apartment last month). As far as my parents know, the trip to New York was an early Christmas present from her parents that she invited me on because we’re really close, and we’re just roommates.
Neither of my parents have any idea about either my sexuality or my relationship – I lived at home the whole time I was dating my wife, and I was very careful. My mom is the kind of person who would ask me directly if she thought I was gay (she cornered me after marriage equality passed for an hour-long “chat” about it) and my dad and I have never discussed my romantic life even when I thought I was straight. I love my parents and I’m pretty close with them, but they’re both openly homophobic, so I honestly don’t know how they’ll react when they find out about me. Part of me hopes that maybe now that I don’t live with them, it will get easier and I can be more open about my relationship, but I also know they’ll probably be at least upset that I lied to them for years. Do you have any advice about how to broach this topic with them? I’m considering breaking the news that my wife and I are in a relationship to them via email soon, but I worry that somehow they’ll find out that we’re actually married and it will upset them even further. I want to be as kind and respectful to them as I can be, but I love my wife and I won’t apologize for that, or for making choices that make me happy. Thanks, Captain.
-Almost Out of the Closet
Hi Captain –
I have a question about keeping yourself sane while trying to get out of a bad situation.
I’m trying to leave my job. Everyone I work with is too. I’m at a very small startup, and the main person in charge is both incredibly demanding and extremely volatile, which makes it virtually impossible to succeed. For a variety of reasons,* I can’t just quit, but I am actively looking and trying as hard as I can to get out.
The problem is that, for me at least, job searching is stressful too, and I’m much better at it when I’m in a good place mentally. Unfortunately, our head honcho makes this really difficult. It’s not just a matter of ignoring or deflecting manipulative or unkind comments; it’s that they’re in touch constantly, with all of us, making it hard to even get the time or space for reflection. They don’t have a lot of family and have devoted the last few years to making the company work, which means that they constantly want engagement and validation (even if they’re berating us), and they won’t stop trying to engage until we cave and give them the answer they’re looking for.
For example: they’ll ask, on a weekend, if a previously-undiscussed deliverable can be done by Monday. If I say it can’t, they’ll ask why we’re not working on the weekend when everyone else is working “like mad.” They’ll then keep messaging me asking what it is that they haven’t explained properly about the opportunities before me, and what they can do differently so that I understand it, and then ask if I’m receiving the messages. If I don’t answer, I’ll receive a talk on Monday asking what it is that can be done to make sure a situation like that, in which we’re unreachable, doesn’t happen in the future. (This is often followed by “I’m tired of arguing with you and want to make this work, but I don’t know what else I can do.”)
So my options boil down to either a) completely acquiesce to all requests, regardless of their merit or any other factors, or b) have a pointless, hour-long conversation that consists mostly of being reprimanded. I should also note that they also want to hang out socially with all of us a lot, and pout if we won’t, which, as you can imagine, also affects the workplace dynamic.
I will be much, much better off if I can stay in this position until I find another one or am in a better financial position to leave. In the meantime, though, I’m so stressed and busy that it’s hard for me to do anything, including look for other jobs. Do you have suggestions for scripts I can use on *myself* here in order to keep myself going? My therapist says just to remind myself constantly that I won’t be here forever and that I am leaving as soon as I can, but the more frustrated I am, the less likely that seems. And I feel like this is a situation that a lot of people get into – cutting toxic people out of your life is necessary, but it’s so complicated.
Working on Freedom (she/her)
*You can include these reasons if you want, but I left them out for brevity. I’m including them here to indicate that I really have thought about leaving, and really have decided that the best option for the moment is to stay until I get another job. Those reasons are:
– I have < 1 month of rent in my savings account, and am reluctant to borrow from my parents
– My job history has quite a few short stints, mostly due to coincidence and/or bad luck (yearlong grant programs, getting laid off, leaving a part-time job in order to take this one, and, yes, one where I was a bad fit)
– I’m in a weird specialized field where the work I’m doing is actually hugely beneficial to my ability to get a job in the future
I have a bit of an odd quandary. I am divorced, and I divorced young. My relationship was a very bad and abusive one, and that was a dark time in my life. I have gotten therapy, learned a lot about myself, and I think I’m doing well. It’s daily work to deal with lingering issues, but I typically feel most comfortable addressing those to my therapist or close family who knew me then. It’s intensely personal to me, and revisiting it in casual conversation isn’t something I’m interested in doing. I have PTSD, and it coming up usually sets me up for a good day of feeling anxious and awful.
I’ve since moved across the country and none of my new friends really know much about my divorce or that I was ever married. I don’t hide it, and a more in-depth peruse of my social media probably holds some clues, but I don’t proactively bring it up. I’m an age where many of my friends are getting married and navigating serious relationships for the first time, so it’s very plausible and even likely that none of this ever happened. People assume that (I never lie), and I don’t correct them.
That said, I’m fortunate that some of these relationships are becoming closer, which raises two issues:
1. It is normal to not tell a minor acquaintance your life story, but it is starting to feel like a purposeful omission to people whom I see often and confide in me. I know I’m not obligated to share it, but occasionally they’ll find out and when they do there’s a bit of “whoa, that was a pretty big thing to leave out.” I stammer and ineffectually mumble some sort of half-apology, but I have no idea how to even start. I don’t feel like I need to apologize, but I always feel like I kind of lied, even though I didn’t.
2. I’ve been asked, directly, a few times – “were you once married?” and I don’t want to lie. I also, however, want to be clear that it isn’t something I enjoy talking about without disclosing more about the relationship than I’d like to.
I want to set a boundary, I don’t want to lie, and I don’t want to sensationalize. I feel like I need to give a reason why I never said anything, but that gets into self-disclosure I’d rather avoid (“Yes, I was, but it was a difficult and painful time and not something I talk about” generally creates pity and curiosity and gossip and more prying, all awful.) Not giving a reason or changing the subject generally creates a weird, stilted conversation or doesn’t adequately communicate that it’s off-limits so then it comes up again.
I need a polite way to communicate that this is not a secret but not something I talk about without making it into a bigger deal than it is and not making anyone feel as though I’ve slighted them by leaving that out. I’d love to have scripts for either of these instances because right now I’m just floundering, it’s awkward, and it’s starting to become the elephant in the room, and I’m sad I can’t think of something better to say.
Thank you so much. She/her pronouns.
I changed my name two years ago. I changed both my first name and last name and removed my middle name. My previous name was fairly innocuous although it more obviously denoted my heritage (Irish). My current name is also fairly innocuous and my first name is also quite similar in many ways to my old first name.
Most of the people in my life have adapted very easily and respectfully to calling me by my new name.
My mom struggled but she mostly tries and sometimes does a mashup of my old and new names. I just remind her of my new name and she takes the reminder well.
I have a problem with my aunt though. She believes that I need to give her a good enough reason for why I changed my name before she will call me by my new name. My reasons are entirely for spiritual growth/soul thrill but most people are going to be weirded out by that so I just say because I feel the name suits me better as a person (which is also true).
She’s not someone who would be respectful of my spiritual beliefs anyway.
I just don’t know how to approach this claim that she needs to validate my reason of my name change! My reply at the time was a swift F you and EXIT SCENE LEFT THROUGH DOOR THAT DID NOT SLAM PROPERLY… but I would really like to wrap my head around it and be able to stand up for myself more calmly.
Thank you so much for your time whether you post or not!
Someone who loves my new name!
Dear New Name,
I don’t know how much you hang out with this aunt after the Day of The Unsuccessful Door Slam, but when you cross paths again, if your name becomes an issue again, try this:
“I don’t know that there is a reason that will satisfy you. It was important to me to do it and it makes me happy to have done it. I don’t want to fight with you or keep having to justify a decision that’s mine to make. Do you want to have a relationship with me, New Name, or not?”
If Aunt still refuses to call you by your name, then you know she’s chosen “or not.” It’s your human right to name yourself, and it’s a really hostile & rude thing to purposely and continually call someone by the wrong name.
I hope the next time you see her it all goes better.
Hi Captain Awkward!
I have a younger sister (very close in age – Irish twins). She is beautiful, talented, intelligent, witty and fun — one of those life of the party types, kind of universally beloved. I am more of an average person, and had a tough time growing up under my sister’s shadow. My family is very competitive and I always came up short. One hilarious/tragic example is that my first two (TWO!!!! BOTH OF THEM! as if this happened more than once!) high school boyfriends both told me that they only started dating me to get closer to my sister since she’s the one they were actually crushing on. Other high school kids called her “the hot one.” I was not. People in my grade would invite her to parties but not me.
This was not her fault! She didn’t ask other people to be cruel. She did kind of act like your typical popular teenage girl, though, and we were pretty bitchy to each other — but I don’t think it was any worse than normal teenage siblings. I just took it really hard. My parents tried to be understanding, but they also have very high expectations and growing up I just always felt out of place, didn’t feel like I belonged or was valued.
Anyway, the result is that in my midtwenties, I now live very far from the rest of my family and try to limit my time with them. I see them three times a year at major holidays. I call my mom almost every day and I have a good relationship with her one-on-one, but I always feel sad when I have to spend time with my extended family — in fact, the sad feelings last for a couple weeks even after I return to my home in a different city. I also notice that when I’m with my family, I have trouble being my best self. After moving away I became an outgoing, happy, well-adjusted, confident person, but as soon as I get home I turn into a shy sad little clam (although I think they would describe it as sullen and ungrateful).
My sister has grown up into an accomplished, non-teenage jerk-y person, and she has a GREAT relationship with the rest of my family — they all live in the same city. The issue is that my mom regularly bugs me about why a) my sister and I aren’t closer (we don’t talk to each other apart from holidays, although it’s definitely always civil); b) I don’t come home more often; c) why I choose to live so far away.
My question is just … how to deal with this?? For my own sanity, I’ve kind of taken the “run awaaaay!!!” route and it’s worked for me. I’m happy when I’m not around them. I’ve got a great “chosen family” of friends that I’ve made since leaving home. But I realize that a lot of my family drama is my own issue now, and my mom’s feelings especially are hurt that I don’t spend more time with them so we can be a happy close family that does all kinds of stuff together. For example, soon I’ll be in their area for a weekend with my boyfriend (for a non-family event), and my mom keeps asking “but I just don’t understand why you won’t just stay with your sister?!?? they have a spare room!” (he and I have booked a hotel room instead).
It’s hard for me to just say “Hey, I’m just going to be home for Christmas for a couple days but then I’m going to travel” when it’s not really THEM that’s dysfunctional, it’s me. I think my mom is getting increasingly twitchy about this because we’re approaching marriage and baby-making age, and also she and my dad are getting older so she worries about us staying in contact when they’re not around anymore.
Do I have the right to just set these boundaries for myself even though I’m pretty sure I’m the messed up one here? If so, how do I do this kindly and appropriately while still taking care of myself?
Sibling Rivalry Up the Wazoo