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Dear Captain Awkward,

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my question! Here’s the situation: I got married nearly two years ago. For our wedding, we tried to keep things very simple and planned for two toasts, one from each side. I asked my best friend to give the toast on my side. Two days before the wedding, my Mom insisted that my brother give a toast too, since he gave a heartfelt and funny one at my sister’s wedding. I agreed, albeit just to appease her, because I love my brother and he’s a great speaker. I explained to him that I would be honored for him to speak and that Mom really wanted him to as well, and he agreed with a note that it might not be great with such short notice.
It wasn’t great. In fact, it hurt my feelings. The other toasts were sweet and funny with some loving jabs. My brother was okay at first, just some silly marriage advice. But at the end he was like “I know I’m supposed to roast my little sister: growing up, she was a poor sport and a tattletale”. The end. Nothing to blunt the jab, nothing about caring for me or that he’s happy that I found such a good match. We have never spoken about it.

If this matters, my husband agrees that it was harsh and maybe awkward. His brother roasted him HARD but did it in a way that showed how much he adores him and nothing had a sting to it.

Generally my brother and I have a good relationship. We live a few hours apart, text a little bit most weeks and see each other a few times a year. Typically we’re trying to make each other laugh or just catch up on life, but I think we could eventually be truly close.

For some reason I just can’t let this toast go. I know I’m being sensitive, but am I just being a “poor sport”? Also, I don’t know if I should talk to him about this. I mean, he DID warn me that it might not be great with such short notice. Maybe I should re-write the narrative in my mind that he tried to make a joke (based in truth) that just fell flat?

Thaaaanks!
Sensitive Sally

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Hi Captain,

I’m dealing with something that is new to me and I’m kind of seeking someone who can tell me whether or not my expectations are way out of line, or if I need to compromise them; my concern is that it’s a problem where any compromise I can think of leaves everyone miserable.

My longtime boyfriend and I (pronouns = she, her, hers) are getting married. He proposed with my own key ring because the moment was so right and the location so deeply meaningful for us that he went for it sans ring. He also knows I’m not a super girly person and have said many times that I don’t need a ring. When he proposed, however, he fell over himself apologizing for not “doing it right” and having a ring. I said whatever, we can discuss that later, right now all I’m focused on is this commitment I cannot wait to make official with the person who matters most in my world. I put the key ring on a necklace and proceeded to wear it nonstop, because I was damn proud of his ingenious substitute and loved what it symbolized.

A few weeks later, the key ring disintegrated in a mineral hot spring. (Pro tip: when they tell you silver will tarnish and you should remove all jewelry, believe them.) I balked at the loss of my symbol and he said we would go out and get a real one together. At this point I became very excited at the prospect of going out as a couple and hunting for something special from an antique store. I’m not a big “real jewelry with real rocks and metals” kind of person, but that has made me excited by the prospect of my one “real” piece being the most meaningful thing I will ever wear.

I found a jeweler in our city who specializes in antique rings and found a beautiful art deco one from the 1930’s for $1k — according to Google this is a bargain basement price for an engagement ring today. People spending money on me makes me a little queasy, so I was really excited to have found a place that had beautiful, unique rings that were ‘affordable’. I guess it may help to point out we live in the Bay Area so our work takehome is higher than other regions. Price expectations across all money-related things are skewed and insane here by default.

He did not see it this way. “That’s so much!” “Well I have no idea how much they cost.””I didn’t realize we were actually going to go get one.” All of these responses have me in flames. My problems as I see them:
– He has said several times now over several months that he has no idea how much they cost. Why then hasn’t he done any research in between saying this? In between saying we will get one?
– His attempt to say he didn’t know we’d actually get one is bullshit, per this letter so far.
– It’s NOT too much in my research. What makes this worse is that I make more than him but this entire time I was under the impression he has a lot of money in savings and is a good saver, barely spends. As of our fight last night, apparently none of this is true! In defense of his “too costly” assertion he stated he doesn’t have enough saved up; my eyes almost fell out of my mouth.

Clearly we have a bigger financial discussion looming on the near horizon. What really irks me is that now I feel like I’m forced to insist he be a man of his word, which means him spending money on me he apparently doesn’t have. And now I feel like even if he had the money, every time I looked at my ring I’d be reminded of the reminding and the nagging and the pushing to get him to even get one. I’d rather not have one at all, but I’m still really pissed off that he apparently doesn’t do any follow-through on what he says or promises.

He’s an idea guy, and always comes up with great vacation plans. He does zero follow-through, so I’m the one who always has to do all the reservations and pay upfront, even though I work 9-5 M-F and he doesn’t have to be at work until 4pm each day. It’s been the same with the wedding at large: we want it this year so I’ve been doing shit tons of venue research and sending him tons of emails filled with links to ones for him to vet. I asked him to start doing the same and you’d think I asked him to grow a uterus and give birth.

I feel like I have to do all the emotional labor and literal actions to see things through. I’m sick and tired of having to make an adult understand that you can’t just say something like “i want you to have a ring” and then not follow through or attempt to change my mind. True I’ve always been fairly indifferent about having one, but now that we’re engaged and he has time and again SAID he wants to get one, I’m super excited and really want one! But now I’ll feel like a greedy nag if I push for it.

He’s the kind of person who tries to change what I want by pointing out things he disagrees with or thinks could be done differently (his way), because he doesn’t like change and doesn’t want to confront having to do something he doesn’t want to. I’m sick to death of this, it’s insulting and I’m not an idiot and will NOT be gaslit.

This is probably insanely long and I’m not even sure anymore what my question is. I guess I am hoping for advice as to whether or not my expectations for a ring are worthy of pursuing, or if I need to just drop it. I’m prepared for anyone to tell me I’m being stubborn and selfish — if this were a letter from someone else I’d probably say as much myself, but now it’s me and it’s just how I feel. The not keeping his word is the core frustration here — it’s like I can’t trust what he says and that he’ll do it without me reminding him or him changing his mind and reacting like I’m insane for bringing it up again.

Anyway, feel free to tell me this is all par for the marriage course and that communication is key as well as compromise. I already asked him to come straight home tonight so we can talk more and try to get to the heart of it. This whole letter makes him sound like a trash monster but I hope the internet can trust that I love him and he is more than just this debacle. Debacles, plural? Probably.

Sincerely,
Between A Rock And A Hard Place

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Dear Captain Awkward,

My wedding is in a month.  There is new parental drama that makes me wish we were eloping.  How do I still enjoy my wedding?

Fiancée and I are introverts and did not want a huge wedding.  My parents do not understand why we would not want 300 guests (despite numerous attempts to explain). We compromised and invited almost everyone they wanted.  We will have 100 guests (a lot!).

A few days ago, amidst a calm discussion about wedding logistics, my dad got unexpectedly angry and bitter and said (I quote) “You have made a lot of choices about this wedding that your mom and I would not have made and you just have to live with the fact that you can’t make everyone happy.”  He said it in a way that clearly indicated he was bitter and resentful and unhappy.  It was out of the blue and really upsetting, very much the “you are a child and I am not going to engage with or respect you” tone of voice.  I am about to be 30.

I tried to engage in calm, thoughtful conversation (through tears) about his concerns, but to no avail.  He does not communicate about feelings, apologize or have discussions about his behavior.  My mom did not get why I was upset (???), but when I talked to her later she did commiserate that he does not apologize for things.  I assume he is still upset about invitations, which pisses me off because we invited all of his family (except for some adult children, which caused other drama, long story).  I may never know.

My primary concern is how to still enjoy my wedding next month. My mom is confident he will behave and be gracious, and she is probably right, but this outburst was unexpected so I am worried (A++ at anxiety). I also know that any conversation with my dad about this will a) not go anywhere, and b) make it take longer for things to cool down, making day-of wedding drama more likely.  But I am both a strong communicator and a strong woman and it is hard to feel like letting it go is letting him win.  Wedding planning has been a large source of stress for me (we had a variety of other family/friend invitation drama despite our best attempts), and this is just the icing on the cake.  Right now I feel like I am going to burst into tears from one unkind word at the wedding.

 I talked about this with my therapist and we are working on practicing being okay with people I care about being upset at/angry with me. I care about my parents very much, but my dad has been the largest source of wedding-related stress, and telling him that will only make things worse.  I have a good Team Me in my fiancée and close friends, but it is hard to know what to do so that I can enjoy my wedding while also feeling angry.

Help?

Thank you,

Maybe I Should Have Eloped

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Dear Captain,

I am transgender (he/him pronouns), and came out to my immediate family last year. I have not come out to my extended family because – well, I don’t consider it their business! In my mind it would be like telling loosely connected acquaintances.

The issue is this: my younger brother is getting married at the end of this year. I’m very proud and want this to go perfectly. But, it’s likely that a fair number of the family will be present. I’m not part of the wedding party but by being family I am going to be alongside the main feature. I wouldn’t pretend to be [birth gender], but my physical appearance is changing and it’s unlikely that I could, anyway. (And I’m really glad that I’ll be able to look more like me in photos that will be around for years to come.)

I haven’t spoken to most of the extended family for several years. Aside from their aggressive take on their religious beliefs, they are rude about physical appearance, unkind about hobbies, and subscribe to very gross politics. There’s practically no pleasant conversation, and if I interact with them I usually find myself wanting to argue, so I Christmas with friends, avoid other family events, and no one has ever rang me up to say they missed me.

My immediate family are supportive – to an extent. I don’t want to ask my younger brother to help handle the family, because he’s got a wedding to care about. My older brother will probably be happy to defend me but I don’t want to the potential for volatile conversation (we both have a fight-first kind of attitude). My parents barely support me to my face, but have acknowledged that I’m an adult and will do my own thing. Primarily they are concerned about appearances, and worried about being judged for their parenting, and concerned about how comfortable the extended family will be.

Because it is my brother’s wedding, beyond family the people will belong to his close-knit social circle, and it’s unlikely that I’ll have a friend I can latch on to. The engagement party had a lot of people in a small space and I managed to avoid the family there. When it comes to the actual wedding, I’m not sure I’ll be able to manage the same.

I’d love some tips on coming out to people you don’t care about and don’t interact with, and coming out to people who are very set in their ways, and ideas on how to quietly inform people who are wondering where [deadnamed me] is, or shutting down unpleasant conversations in a wedding environment. I don’t want my gender to overshadow or interfere with my brother’s wedding.

Thanks

Hello and thanks for your question. I think this answer will cover:

  1. Ways to spread the word ahead of time.
  2. Ways to make the event itself maximally safe and comfortable for you.

In your younger brother’s shoes, I would 100% want to be “bothered” by this if it was causing you anxiety, and there would be no way that your transition or your gender could possibly “overshadow” my wedding. If your extended family’s bigotry ruins the wedding, that’s not your fault for being who you are, and I would never, ever think that or make you responsible for it, and I would want to help if I possibly could. Also, good news, there’s something specific and concrete he could do to help you:

After the invitations go out, he and your other brother and your brother’s intended spouse could call or email or text the people they are closest to and the people who are the most likely spreaders of family news in the extended family and say, informally:

Hello, you may not have heard this yet but [Deadname Sister] is now [Your Name/Brother]. I know it’s been a while since we’ve all been together, and I’m not quite sure how far he’s spread the word in the last year since he told us, but it’s really important to me that people don’t call him the wrong name or ask awkward questions at the wedding. This is a really happy thing for our family, and I’m trying to call up the relatives I can trust to be cool and supportive about this ahead of time so we can all relax and celebrate at the party, can you help me spread the word?

Principles:

A. Treating people like you trust them to be cool and supportive and telling them how they can show you that they’ll be cool and supportive is a good way to sort of back them into the corner of being cool and supportive.

B. As the groom, your brother use his clout as the person at the center of the event to everyone’s advantage: You in a snappy suit and your cool new name is not ruining the wedding, but someone making you uncomfortable would be ruining the wedding. “Behave yourself as a personal favor to me” may compel good behavior where, like, common human decency might not.

C. Getting the word out beforehand removes the drama of people being surprised in the moment. They’ll have a little time to react before you have to see that reaction.

D. Let your brothers absorb any “gross” “political” “religious” objections for you!

Script for asking him/them:

[Brother], I’m really happy for you getting married and excited to be at the wedding. I don’t want to put more work on your shoulders while you’re in the middle of planning this thing, but I also don’t want that event to be some kind of ‘big reveal’ of my transition – would you be willing to spread the word to our relatives and ease the way? I don’t interact with them all that much and I haven’t yet found the right way to get the word out.

Then, if he’s open to it, give him a rough script of what you’d like him to say and let him handle it. If both or either of your brothers are willing to do this for you, let them do this for you. 

You know your brothers best, and if they aren’t up for this or you don’t think it’s a good idea, then it’s probably up to you to call your most chatty and talkative relative or relatives and/or your coolest, most liberal cousins and spread the word to the people who can spread the word.

Hello [King/Queen Of All Family Secrets Far & Wide], how are you? I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I could really use your help with something. Don’t know if Mom/Dad told you, but last year I came out to them as transgender. I go by [Name] now, and use male gender pronouns and male presentation. I’m really excited for [Brother]’s wedding and for the chance to catch up with family I haven’t seen in a while, but I’m also a little nervous about it and I really don’t want this to be a big deal on someone else’s big day. Would you be comfortable spreading the word in the family for me, so it won’t be a surprise? I know you’re so great at staying connected with everyone, it would really help me out.”

Then you can give that person a little bit of Transness 101 as it applies to you, for example, “Please just call me [newname], I’d really rather not answer questions about medical stuff or “how did I first know” especially at a wedding, yes, coming out is hard because there’s so discrimination against trans people, but I’m happy to feel more like myself.

You may have to answer some of their awkward & gross questions and hear some religious platitudes, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve found “I’ve prayed about it a lot and I trust that God loves me” to be a good catch-all when the moralizing comes out, and bookmarking a good 101 resources so you can say “I don’t feel comfortable talking through all that just yet/I don’t quite know how to answer that question/This is all so new to me that I don’t feel like an expert yet, but if you want to read more about it I’m happy to send you some links.” The person’s initial reaction might not be their only/forever reaction, and if you can get them on your side and make a genuine connection, they will be a) honored to be “chosen” to be in on the “secret” and b) chuffed to be recognized for the work they do keeping everyone connected to what’s going on.

If you can, connect what you want them to do to helping your parents out, too “I’ve got great friends and coworkers around me, my brothers have been great, mom and dad are doing their best to adjust and be supportive, but I think that they are nervous about what the rest of the family will think, so you’d be helping them out a lot by spreading the word, too.

All this word-spreading is only a good idea if you think it would make you more comfortable. If you’d rather go completely low-profile the way you did at the engagement party, then fly low! If you were close to your family, they would know the important things about you, but you’re not and they are not, so, they don’t get to be mad that you didn’t call them up personally and audition your identity for them. One possible answer to “Wait, where’s [deadname]?” is “Not here!” or “Hey, I go by ____ now. Nice to see you, cousin!” or letting them wonder, forever.

I hate all this for you, my dear Letter Writer, I really do. You deserve love and a place in your family. You deserve to not have to take on all this emotional labor and risk so you can go to a party. My message to your family and all transphobic and homophobic people is basically:

twin-peaks-season-3-the-best-gifs-to-use-in-your-completely-normal-everyday-life-cr-1434873 (1)

Image description: David Lynch as Twin Peaks’s Gordon Cole, in a dark suit with an FBI badge and hearing aids in place, with the text “Fix your hearts or die.” He said this to the FBI colleagues of Denise when she transitioned from male to female. I want it on a t-shirt.

Now, let’s talk about the wedding itself.

Can you bring a plus one? If so, and if you don’t have a romantic partner who wants to go, I suggest bringing a good friend who is gregarious and able in social situations (that person who gets described as “Oh, ____ can have a conversation with anyone about anything!“) to be your buffer. If no “plus one” has been invited, I think it’s worth breaking wedding etiquette and asking your brother if you can bring somebody. If it’s out of the question, he’ll say ‘no.’ You’re not a jerk for asking in this situation.

If your brother doesn’t want to inform the family for you, who does he suggest you hang out with at the wedding? Can they seat you with the young & fun & liberal friend table? Was there anyone cool from the engagement party? “Brother, can you seat me with the cool kids, thanks” is a reasonable request. You’re attending to support him, but he’s the host of an event, and your safety & comfort are important.

Can you make sure to have your own transportation to and from? Sometimes just knowing that you can bail if things get upsetting can help you endure.

Can you be Chief Errand Runner and Behind The Scenes Helper? Can’t stop to talk about the state of your eternal soul or what you keep in your pants if you’re going to grab more ice!

If you can’t bring a buffer person, can you have a support system available by text? Sometimes being able to Tweet The Madness is the only thing that gets me through an awkward family moment.

Is there a safe, quiet spot (your car, the rest room, the coat room, outside) at or near the venue you can retreat to if you need a moment to yourself? Scout it out when you get there. If you need to bail at any point during the reception, bail. Your safety and peace of mind matter, too, and the groom is going to be way too busy with all the hoopla to worry if one guest left at 9:30 instead of midnight.

Gross politics are extra thick on the ground right now, and it sounds like you will be deep behind enemy lines. Decide if you’re more of a “Well, that’s a horrifying thing to say, Aunt Bea” person or a “Hrmmm these mashed potatoes are delicious and aren’t the flowers beautiful?” person, and lean into being that person. You don’t have to fight every fight right now when you’re just trying to survive. Adopt “I am here to support my brother, these people are not really important to me” as your inner mantra.

I was at a wedding deep in Tr*mp country earlier this spring and while everyone was on good, non-politics-talking behavior, seeing the super liberal Aunt-in-Law (who came out in her 40s)(and rolled up  wearing these magical Doc Martens) was a deep balm to the soul. Your family is not a monolith, and while I 100% believe you about why you stay away from them, I hope someone at that party is gonna be glad to see you exactly as you are.

I know a lot of our readers have been through similar situations, so, tell us what helped you.

This is also one of those times that I’m going to ask straight, cis- commenters to hang back and read more than you post. Transgender people get harassed, discriminated against, and sometimes murdered for their identity every day in this country and I’m not sure any of our “This is exactly like the time I had to deal with an awkward situation at a wedding” stories are the most relevant here.

We’re all sending you love.

 

Captain,

My partner (he/him pronouns) and I (she/her) have been together for 7 years and are getting married this summer. Our wedding will be a week away in a different state than we live, and we are so excited to spend the time with our family and friends. My partner’s sister is an alcoholic and drug addict with many coexisting conditions. She is abusive to my partner when she feels he isn’t “there for her,” and he went no-contact a while ago and told her to get sober if she wanted a relationship with him. She tried to kill herself on a camping trip with us one summer, and someone nearly drowned trying to save her. We cannot have her at the wedding. She is a danger to herself and others when alcohol is involved, and we do not trust her not to drink. She has made no efforts towards recovery and just last month got a DUI. She has been hospitalized multiple times in the last year on involuntary mental health holds, and was arrested for attacking a nurse. In our state, she has gotten off relatively easy. The state we plan to marry in is much less forgiving. If anything happened over the week the family is staying, she would be stuck very far from home and possibly imprisoned. She trashed her last apartment and was evicted, but was taken in by their mother. Due to her living with mom, we have seen her on rare occasion. At the last family gathering, she spoke as though she was coming to our wedding, and not wanting to rock the boat at their mother’s engagement dinner, we did not correct her. I feel some degree of manipulation is involved, as she was *not invited to the wedding*. Now we plan to write a letter to her laying out the reasons she can’t come along, but she will be crushed and angry. We intend to word it in the most respectful terms possible — on one hand we are dealing with a textbook addict, but on the other we have a family member with severe mental health issues that we want to be sensitive to. I am also afraid of the fallout. Mom wants to do a family sit-down and give it to her, but that seems cruel to me as there is nothing up for discussion. I would rather she process our decision on her own. How do we break it to her?

Signed,
Just want to relax during my wedding

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Ahoy Captain!

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

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