Dear Captain,

This is a bit messy, please bear with me… One year ago, a long time acquaintance, “John”, figured out my interest in BDSM. It turned out him and his wife “Julia”, were a dominant and submissive couple in a polyamorus triad with another woman, who I will call “Katie”. Katie is not a sub, and told John he was free to look for another partner to suit his other needs. She gave him a list of requirements for this hypothetical new submissive and I happened to I fit the bill perfectly.

Unfortunately there was a complete breakdown in communication between John and Katie. Even though I met Katie’s every requirement in an additional partner, she essentially vetoed me from the relationship. She says she is not jealous, but she’s mean to me every time we meet, even though I’ve been nothing but nice to her. I’ve made several attempts to build bridges, and she’s burned them every time. At this point Katie has stopped talking to me altogether, which is kind of a relief, I guess. I know John finds Katie’s behaviour aggravating and nonsensical.

John and I never really got over our almost-relationship. The other day we finally acknowledged the elephant in the room: that we were still somehow having a D/s relationship, just not calling it that. To summarize, John said that he wants to have me as his sub ‘on the down low’. Essentially without Katie’s knowledge. I know John and Katie’s relationship has been rocky lately. I have no love for Katie, but I don’t want to hurt her and I don’t want to be responsible for a breakup… But I care deeply about John and want to be his submissive, even if it is in kind-of-secret… I’m in such a tangled web I have no idea what to do. Any advice?

Yours,
Lovelorn Sub

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[Trigger warnings: sexual assault, racist police violence, anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-Semitism, child sexual abuse]

Valerie Aurora teaches the Ally Skills Workshop, which teaches people with more power and privilege how to stand up in small, everyday ways for people with less. She also trains people to the lead the Ally Skills Workshop. She is a long-time Captain Awkward reader and recommends the blog in every workshop she teaches.

Hey Awkwardeers,

Many of us are grappling with how to use our skills and influence to resist the upcoming Trump administration and the hatred and violence that it inspires. As Captain Awkward readers, we’ve been practicing setting boundaries, standing up for our values, and making it awkward for the right person. We are uniquely prepared for a crucial part of the next few months or years: changing the minds of people who support the Trump administration, and standing up to the abusers they are empowering. This post teaches scripts and techniques to do these two tasks, along with the theory behind them. It’s for people living in the U.S., but it may be useful to people living elsewhere as well.

First, some terminology: an ally is someone who uses unearned advantages that society has given to them (a.k.a. privileges) to reduce inequality, with the goal of eventually ending privilege altogether. Targets are people who suffer from oppression – systemic, pervasive discrimination present throughout society that benefits people with more privilege, and harms those with less.

The first question to ask yourself is, how likely is it that you can act as an ally? Here are some things that might give you more privilege in the U.S.: being white, male, cisgender, straight, a natural-born U.S. citizen, a white Protestant (or can pass as one), abled, rich, middle or upper class, university-educated, securely employed, or in a position of power. If you have any of these characteristics, they gives you more power to stand up for targets and work to end oppression (and your own privilege).

Most people have some privileges but not all of them. That means that in some situations, you can act as an ally, and in other situations, you can’t because you are the target of oppression. For example, a Jewish man can act as an ally when someone is being sexist, but will be a target when someone is being anti-Semitic. It can get more complicated: a white Jewish person often can’t use white privilege to be an ally against white supremacy since that system often also includes anti-Semitism.

If you have relatively few opportunities to act as an ally, you can always encourage like-minded people with more privilege to learn ally skills. Either way, remember: you are far less likely to be attacked when you speak up for another group than when members of that group speak up for themselves. For example, a Black person in the U.S. speaking up about racism is far more likely to get racial slurs and death threats than a white person speaking up about racism (who may even get praise and gratitude for doing so).

So let’s get into a concrete example about a conversation likely to come up at Thanksgiving if you have Trump supporters in your family:

You’re a cis man visiting your family for Thanksgiving. Before dinner, you’re helping chop onions in the kitchen with several of your family members, including your loudest, meanest uncle, Uncle Joe.

Uncle Joe: “All those women are lying about Trump grabbing them. Besides, even if he did it, boys will be boys, you know. No use trying to stop them.”

You: [Stops cutting the onions and puts knife down.] [Calmly] “I believe women have the right to not be sexually assaulted. I believe that Trump assaulted those women. If you want to condone sexual assault, you can do it without me.”

You leave the onions half-chopped and walk out of the kitchen, leaving Uncle Joe to deal with the discomfort he created. In the living room, you see your younger cousin Fred, who overheard the conversation. Growing up, he was a sensitive kid who loved playing with you.

You: “It’s really hard when family members act like sexual assault is no big deal.”

Fred: [Looks troubled] “Well, my friends say that sometimes women lie about it for the attention.”

You: [Looking Fred in the eye, speaking kindly] “Hey, I used to think that too: that people who were complaining about being hurt were just whiners who wanted attention, or maybe money. Then a friend of mine told me that when her high school coach pinned her against the wall and put his hand in her shorts, she didn’t tell anyone because she didn’t think anyone would believe her. And then she told me that half her friends have a similar story. I felt so bad for her. I realized that most sexual assault victims never say anything at all because talking about it ruins their lives. Now I assume women are telling the truth about sexual assault until I have a good reason to think otherwise.”

Fred: [Looks a little shocked and taken aback]

You: “Hey, I didn’t mean to lay that on you all at once. But if it’s hard for you to hear that, imagine how hard it was for my friend to actually have that happen to her for real. And on top of that, she couldn’t tell anyone about it. It really sucks.”

Fred: “Huh, I never really thought of it that way. But don’t women lie about rape sometimes?”

You: “Yes, rarely. The thing I realized is, plenty of people believe all women are lying. My job is to be one of the few people supporting them. That’s how we find out the truth.”

Fred: “Wow, I didn’t think of that.”

You: “Yeah, I didn’t think about any of that either until my friend told me about her coach. I’m so grateful my friend trusted me enough to tell me that. I want to support people like her because I want to end sexual assault.” [Long pause] “Hey, so what do you think of the Steelers this season?”

Conversations like this follow a broad pattern. We’ll summarize that pattern, then go into more details about it, and end with some more scripts and examples.

  1. Start by evaluating your ability to influence others in this situation: Who respects you? Who wants something from you? What can you give or take? Who might retaliate against you if you act?
  2. Identify whether you are likely to influence or persuade anyone (including the audience), and choose one of the following:
    • If you are unlikely to change anyone’s mind, just set a firm boundary about not doing that behavior in places you control, and enforce it.
    • If you think someone might change their mind, state your position once, firmly but calmly, then set the boundary and enforce it.
    • If you think someone is likely to change their mind – they are a potential ally – then follow the next steps to start a warm, compassionate, safe conversation with that person.
  3. Figure out what values you might share with the potential ally.
  4. Make a gentle statement about how your shared values shape your understanding of the topic at hand.
  5. If they become defensive or angry or argumentative, de-escalate the situation and change the topic while making it clear you still hold to your values.
  6. If they respond with curiosity or confusion or even apathy, keep going.
  7. Find a way to express compassion and understanding for how the potential ally ended up with the opinions they have now (tip: develop compassion and love for your past self, who was almost certainly more racist, homophobic, etc. than you are now).
  8. Make yourself vulnerable in some way: share a time you made a mistake, or something you feel ashamed of, or a time you were hurt.
  9. Share a personal story about the topic: something that changed your mind, or an “aha!” moment when suddenly you understood why something was wrong (but be sure to preserve the privacy of others when appropriate).
  10. Help them have compassion for the targets of oppression: talk about how the target must feel, make an analogy with a group the potential ally has an easier time empathizing with, share your own feelings of compassion and love for the targets.
  11. Restate your values and how they inform your opinion on this topic, warmly and clearly.
  12. If they have another comment or question, repeat from “Find a way to express compassion” until they run out of questions, or you run out of energy.
  13. End by changing the subject to something you both enjoy, or expressing your feelings of warmth and connection for the potential ally.

All of these guidelines are intended to help you: spend your time and energy in an effective way, build psychological safety so the potential ally feels comfortable asking questions and expressing doubt, serve as a role model by consistently acting warm and compassionate while also sticking to your values, continue the discussion only as long as the potential ally is still making progress, and end in a way that makes them feel safe coming back to talk to you again.

Here are a few example scripts for each part of the conversation. Let’s start with the example comments that you would be responding to:

  • “What I think is that if Black kids would just stop playing with toy guns, they’d got shot a whole lot less.”
  • “You have to admit, it just makes sense to be more suspicious of Muslims trying to get into the country. I don’t know that I’m against the ban on Muslim immigration.”
  • “I can’t believe how rude my granddaughter was. Why didn’t her mother tell her she had to hug her grandpa? Can’t you talk some sense into her?”

Setting a firm boundary and enforcing it:

  • “It’s important to me to value and respect people of color. I won’t participate in a conversation that doesn’t respect that.” + leave the conversation if they don’t stop
  • “I believe we should judge people by their actions as individuals, not by their religion. If you disagree, take it outside.” + broken record of “Not here.” “Take it outside.” “We can’t continue until you leave.”
  • “Girls’ right to control their own bodies is non-negotiable for me. Let’s change the subject.” + keep suggesting new subjects until they get distracted

Gentle statement about shared values and the topic at hand:

  • “I think every kid should have a safe and happy childhood, so it makes me incredibly sad that Black children are being shot by the police more often than other children.”
  • “I think part of what makes the U.S. great is our founding value of religious tolerance, so excluding people from the U.S. just because they are Muslim makes no sense to me.”
  • “It’s so important to me that every young girl learn that she has the right to decide who touches her body, so when you tell her to hug someone she doesn’t want to, I think about what message she is getting about saying no in other situations.”

Express compassion or understanding:

  • “You know, I used to wonder about that too.”
  • “I remember having that question too.”
  • “That’s a really good question, and it took me years to understand the answer.”
  • “I can see that.”
  • “I hear what you are saying.” + kind and compassionate recap of what they said

Make yourself vulnerable and sharing your own mistakes:

  • “Sometimes I still get nervous when I’m walking on the street and see someone who looks like a mugger on TV.”
  • “For many years, the only Muslims I could name were terrorists who had killed a lot of people.”
  • “I remember feeling annoyed and suspicious when one of my relatives told me that our uncle made her feel uncomfortable when he hugged her or looked at her. I thought she just wanted to get attention.”

Share a personal story about when you changed your mind or had an “aha!” moment:

  • “But when I read about Tamir Rice playing with a toy gun and getting shot when he was only 12 years old… I remember so vividly playing with my BB gun in my neighborhood when I was 10, and I was only worried about my mean neighbor Bill shouting at me. Not getting shot by cops. I suddenly realized that the reason I’m alive and Tamir isn’t is that my skin is a different color.”
  • “Then in my poetry class, we read some poetry by Rumi. His poems were so beautiful, about love and freedom from fear. I started reading more about Sufism, which is a very mystical part of Islam, and realized that Islam was just as complicated as Christianity. Some Muslims are pacifists and some are moderates and some are fundamentalists. I realized it made as much sense to assume all Muslims were terrorists as to assume all Christians were televangelists.”
  • “Then I found out years later that that same uncle had molested one of my cousins several times. I felt sick when I realized I’d been on a camping trip with them during that time. I think that if we had taken my relative seriously about not wanting to hug my uncle, maybe my cousin would have felt safe telling us what was happening to her.”

Help them have compassion for the target:

  • “I just imagine, what was it like for Tamir, being 12 years old and playing, and how terrified he must have been when the cops arrived, and what it was like in the seconds before he died? No one should have to go through that.”
  • “I thought, what would it be like to be someone who cared deeply about love and peace and kindness, and have people look at me with fear and revulsion. How would I feel if I got on a plane and the person next to me called the flight attendant and got me kicked off for acting suspicious, because I looked Muslim to them? I’d feel sick all the time.”
  • “I felt sick just knowing I was nearby when my cousin might have been molested. How much worse was it for her? Knowing that even if she told us what was happening, we would probably accuse her of making it up, the way we did with my relative who didn’t want to hug him. How lonely and afraid she must have felt.”

Restate your values and connect them to the topic:

  • “I just think all people are humans, and deserve the same care and respect I get automatically for being white.”
  • “I want to live in a country where people can feel safe from religious persecution, and part of that is not keeping people from immigrating based solely on their religion.”
  • “I want girls and women to feel in control of their bodies, and that means supporting girls when they say they don’t want to hug someone, even if they are a relative.”

Reassure them that you still feel warmly towards them, and change the subject:

  • “Thanks for listening to me, your opinion means a lot to me. Hey, have you watched that new superhero movie?”
  • “I’m really glad we could talk about this, even if we don’t always agree. So, what colleges are you applying to?”
  • “I really appreciate you thinking about this, even though it feels uncomfortable. Do you think it’s time to check on the chicken?”

Now it’s your turn, commenters: What are some the ways you developed the skills necessary to follow these scripts? How did you learn to feel compassion for someone who shared your values but believed something horrible because they’d been lied to all their life? How did you learn to recognize your sources of power and influence? How do you stay calm when someone doesn’t mean to be cruel, but says something awful anyway?

Thank you to Mary Gardiner, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Leigh Honeywell, and Kendra Albert, who all contributed to the Ally Skills Workshop and this article. This post is licensed Creative Commons Sharealike-Attribution 4.0 – please reuse and modify with attribution to Valerie Aurora and the above co-authors.

Hi Captain,

Since my adolescence, I’ve not had sexual desire. I identified as grey-A for a while, and then switched to identifying as asexual when it seemed clear to me that I would not develop any sexual desire. I was happy with this assessment. I have been active in various ace forums since I was a teenager, and have many friends I’ve met that way, both online and in-person friends.

In the past year, I was diagnosed with disorder that affects hormones (not directly related to sex hormones–thyroid, etc.). I took medication for it, to relieve the chance of various serious health issues (increased risk of cancer, osteoporosis, some other things). As I did so, I–for lack of a better word–developed a sex drive for the first time. I am no longer, by any reasonable definition of the word, asexual, or even grey-A or demisexual. I have a frequent and persistent attraction to people and desire for sex, and it’s not exclusive to people I know well. There’s no real chance of going back, without risking the health issues that I took the meds for to begin with.

Captain, I’m terrified that I’m going to lose my friends. The whole “you’ll grow out of it” or “have you checked to see if something’s wrong with you?” tropes are both so common and so toxic to the asexual community, and so frequently off-base, that I’m hesitant to even acknowledge what happened to me. I feel like I’ve failed my community in a massive way. Part of me wants to just lie (that is, remain celibate and claim to still be asexual), but I know that’s wrong (and the ‘remain celibate’ part would be difficult). Part of me wants to just drift away so they never have to know that I was a fake asexual. I don’t want to lose my friends, but I have no idea how to say, “Guess what! I saw a doctor and went on meds and now I’m a sexual!” without badly hurting people.

Help?

No Longer Ace
(They/them pronouns)

Dear No Longer Ace,

Whatever happens with your friends and how they take the news (if and when and however you give them the news), please know this: Your sexual identity is there to describe you, in all your wonderful complexity. You are not here to “live up to” or perform it. Changes over the course of your life in how you feel about sex don’t mean that you were faking something before, and “I used to identify as ace, but that changed as I got older/dealt with some medical stuff that was affecting my sex drive” is a valid story to tell about your life if it is the true story.

Also, you treating your medical condition and having unexpected results isn’t a judgment on or a prescription for anyone else, so please resist any attempt to paint it that way. I can see why the implication that asexuality is a changeable condition that “just needs treatment!” is damaging to that community, but science also tells us that medication side effects and certain medical conditions can affect the human sex drive in multiple ways and directions over the course of a lifetime. You can’t be the only one who has ever been in this situation, so try to find the others and seek out their stories.

Here are some other suggestions for taking care of yourself right now:

  • Go very slow and give yourself time to get used to everything. Figure out your own desires and well-being. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of anything, especially not right this second.
  • If you can, find a trusted professional you can talk things over with.
  • When you’re ready, find one or two close trusted people in your ace friend group to talk things over with. These should be people you have lots of things in common with in addition to ace activism and bonding. Tell them what’s up and see what happens. Tell them how scared and worried you feel about breaking the news. Don’t try to approach it as a Whole Group-issue. One on one is best.
  • If they really are your friends, hopefully they’ll be kind to you and reassure you. They can be the ones who tell the rest of group for you, if that’s something you want to do. And hopefully the long history of affection and things you have in common will carry you.
  • If they express shock and discomfort, here’s a script: “I didn’t choose any of this – not how I felt before, not how I feel now. I’m still the same person who is your friend.
  • If they are mean to you and/or dismissive of you or accuse you of hurting them or the community, I’m so sorry: You’re gonna probably need to bail on that conversation and try again another time. You’re not hurting them, or anybody, by being who you are. 

 

 

 

Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX near Waterloo station, 19th November, 11am onwards.

Bad book swap! Bring any book you don’t want, for any reason (wrong colour cover, too few dinosaurs, etc), and take away a book someone else didn’t want! Or just come and chat with us.

The venue sell food in a cafe (standard sandwiches etc.), but they also don’t mind people bringing food in from outside. There are several other local places where you can buy stuff as well. The excellent food market outside has loads of different food options, which can fit most food requirements, or you can also bring a packed lunch.
Meet on the fourth floor, outside the Blue Bar (go up in the JCB lift, lift 7, which is bright yellow and quite musical). I have tried to check with the centre to make sure the Blue Bar is free, but if not I will update this post and in the Facebook group to say where we are – or email me if you’re lost…

Here is the internal map of the Royal Festival Hall: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/sites/default/files/documents/RFH_map.pdf

I will have my Cthulhu with me, which looks like this: http://forbiddenplanet.com/3950-cthulhu-baby-plush/ One time I forgot it but I will do my best this time, however if I forget again I will put up a sign. I have long brown hair and glasses.

The venue is accessible via a lift, and has accessible toilets. Waterloo tube station has step free access on the Jubilee line but not on the Northern line.

The London Awkward group has a Facebook page, which is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/549571375087294/. There is also a thread in the new forums for saying hello.

My email is Kate DOT Towner AT Gmail DOT com

(December meetup will be the 10th and will be our 4 year anniversary.)

Cheers,
Kate

Hello, Cap and friends! I have a couple of questions about boundary-setting with people who don’t believe in boundaries.

The Awkward team’s advice and scripts on setting boundaries have been so wonderfully helpful in my life, but what (if anything) can you say to people who believe that setting boundaries in a family is controlling?

For an example, there are wonderful scripts you linked from the SPLC center, on how to set boundaries with family members being bigoted:

>”Your ‘jokes’ are putting unnecessary distance between us; I worry they’ll end up doing irreparable harm. I want to make sure those ‘jokes’ don’t damage our relationship.” “You know that respect and tolerance are important values in my life, and, while I understand that you have a right to say what you want, I’m asking you to show a little more respect for me by not telling these ‘jokes’ when I’m around.” “I don’t want this rift to get worse, and I want us to have a good relationship. What should we do?””

In my family (parents + siblings, I’m 30), the responses are simply, “There wouldn’t be a problem if you just laughed” and “You’re trying to control what I do by saying that. It’s manipulative to say that I’m disrespecting you if I keep saying [awful insults about minority groups, or about me personally].” I mean, in a way they are kind of right? I am literally attempting to control discourse to a degree, but somehow that feels like they are missing the forest for the trees in a way I can’t articulate. Especially since they get offended if you don’t laugh at their ‘jokes!’

Is there any way to rationally respond to people that think that attempting to set boundaries (or tears at being insulted) is “childish and manipulative”? They see that as a truly deeply harmful thing, and it would be really wonderful if it was possible to get them to understand the idea of **mutual** respect.

Thank you so very much for ANY ideas.

– A Weary Woman

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It’s time for the monthly ritual where I answer the questions that people typed into search engines to find this place.

1 “I have a crush on a guy who treats me badly.”

Crushes can be fun, but unlike what you’ve seen on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and every other show/movie/comic, love doesn’t turn assholes into acceptable boyfriends. My recommendation: Fantasize darkly about dirty-hot-hate-sex with him at your leisure, but save your actual affections and time outside your head for people who are kind to you.

Now more than ever we must hold the line and not waste our time with charismatic assholes.

spike

Admire my cheekbones from afar. Do not waste your precious life trying to turn me into an acceptable person to date.

2 “Talk about sexual relation first time.”

There is a site called Scarleteen. It is a national treasure, and while it was built so that teenagers could get non-judgmental, scientifically accurate, kind and sensitive sex advice, adults should read it, too. This topic is covered amply in their archives and forums.  The creator of the site, Heather Corinna, wrote a book called S.E.X. It’s great. They also have volunteers who answer questions confidentially.

While we’re on the topic, here are some other good books about sex:

Probably more recommendations in comments.

In the movies, sex just, like, happens. People stare at each other intensely and then grab each other and kiss and suddenly clothes are off and it’s all seamless and softly lit.

In real life, it’s important to talk about things with the person you plan to have sex with, especially when one or both of you is new at it. Everything from what consent looks like to “What are we gonna do about contraception (if that’s an issue in your pairing) and safer sex?” to  “I think I’d like it if we….” to “Definitely please do not ever….” to “That doesn’t feel good, please stop!” to “That feels really good!” Real life sex is awkward, and vulnerable, and that’s part of what’s great about it. Get thee to Scarleteen.

Happy talking! And everything that might come after!

3 “Working with the person you had an affair with now its awkward.”

Aw, buddy.

Without knowing the particulars (relative power structure in company, how it ended, what the feelings were and still are, how much time it’s been, did anybody know, what was the fallout, how much each person respectively likes/needs this particular job, etc.), some smart steps that you can control might be:

  • Keep your distance. You probably work in somewhat close quarters, which is how the whole thing started in the first place, and you can’t fix that or at least fix it right away, but you can start to mentally work on keeping your distance. Stop keeping track of the other person – their moods, quirks, likes, dislikes, what they ate today, who they talk to, where they go, reading their horoscope, etc. Stop fixating on them. Use the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear to distract yourself, if necessary, or just say to yourself , “We broke up, it’s not my business, la la la” when you find yourself getting obsessed.
  • Step up your professional game at work. Pay attention to the “little things,” like tidying your workspace, paying attention to dress & grooming, making sure you’re on time every day, being reliable & correct in your communications, keeping your boss updated on your projects, keeping small talk with coworkers very light and not revealing of personal life. I don’t think there is shame in crying it work – it’s a natural human response to stress and anger, and we shouldn’t be as dismissive of it as we are as a culture – but if you’re someone who is trying to keep an intra-office breakup private, try to do your crying in private. Put your best foot forward, even if you don’t feel like it right now. If you look to others like you have your shit together, it can sometimes help you keep your shit together.
  • Polish that resume. Look for another job, or an assignment in another department. I know, it’s not fair that you should have to leave your job, but it might be the simplest way to cut the cord of awkwardness. Join a networking organization for your profession if there is one. Make some new connections. Take a class and boost your skills in something. Maybe you feel like you can’t or don’t want to leave your job right now, but reminding yourself that you have options can’t hurt. Anything that reminds you of your own value is gonna feel good right now.
  • If there is stalking or harassing behavior of ANY kind, document & report it if you can. Whatever happened happened, but you don’t deserve to be terrorized or retaliated against professionally.
  • Give it time. Like the pain of all breakups, this too shall pass.

4How to break up your daughters gay relationship.”

Try these search terms instead:

“How do I show my daughter I love her and accept her?”

“How do I stop being a homophobic asshole?”

 Okay, speaking of affairs:

5 “What do you say to a married man’s wife who you have an affair with when she confronts you?”

Start with “I’m really, really sorry” and DO NOT try to justify or explain. The aggrieved spouse has probably saved up some things to say, so, just listen while they speak their piece. You don’t have to answer questions – “You should ask your spouse about that” is a good script if you start getting an interrogation, and if at some point you gotta end the conversation say, “I’m so sorry” again and refer the person back to their spouse, like, “I’m so sorry, I hear you, I know I hurt you. I don’t have answers for you, you should talk to (spouse) directly about this.

There’s nothing GOOD you can say, so, focus on not making it worse.

6 “Husband doesn’t believe his mother hates me.”

What if you said, “You don’t have to believe me, but when we’re around your mom and (this specific behavior) happens, I do need you to (defend me/shut it down/back me up/leave with me).

Focus not on the emotion (she hates you) but on the behaviors (the specific things she does that hurt your feelings or annoys you), and give him an idea of how he can best support you when those specific behaviors arrive. Choose your battles, and do what you can to minimize time with her. Annual Reminder: Nobody HAS to go home for the holidays.

7 “What to say in a Xmas card to a sister you did not talk with in five years.”

“Merry Christmas! I hope you’re doing well. Here’s [email/phone/the best way to contact me], can we catch up sometime in the new year?”

Take the pressure off to come up with something eloquent. This moment is literally what greeting cards are for – short, non-emotionally-charged communications. Give her a way to contact you and then leave it in her court. She’ll call/write or she won’t.

8 “Boyfriend does no chores and never wants to spend his free time with me.”

You could dump the boyfriend and get a cat. It wouldn’t do any chores, but least the cat would be cute and hang out with you sometimes.

male-model-cat-1

9 “Happy birthday to a friend you had a misunderstanding and now friends again.”

Say/Text/Facebook Wall: “Happy birthday!

Do you really want to rehash the misunderstanding? In someone’s birthday greeting? No. You don’t. Bake them a normal cake, not a shame-cake, and be glad that you mended fences about whatever it is.

10 “Boss upset I quit and I feel guilty.”

Your boss will get over it. Or they won’t, but you won’t work there anymore, so you don’t have to care.

11 “How to start the baby conversation with partner.”

“Partner, I’m thinking a lot about having a baby, and I’m pretty sure I want to start that process soon, with you. What do you think about that?”

Or, “I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want to have kids, so I wanted to see how you feel about that.”

Full disclosure, here’s how this conversation goes in my house:

We hang out with Commander Logic’s freaking adorable smart amazing children, aka, The Gateway Babies.

Spouse: “Someday, you know, my/our kids will….”

Me:

Repeat for a few weeks.

Me: “You keep mentioning these kids that will be doing stuff someday. Are these real kids or hypothetical kids?”

Spouse:

Me: “So, hypothetical. Ok.”

Spouse: (lots of stuff about parenthood and money and anxiety)

Me: (corresponding anxiety-brain-vomit)

Me: “If you really want kids, I’ll have your kids! I’ll have kids with you.”

Spouse: “That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.”

Me: “It’s what I got. I can be happy either way.”

Both of Us:

Me: “Talk again in six months?”

Spouse: “Sure. Good talk, everyone.”

12 “What does it mean when a guy tells you ‘I cant ask you to wait for me’?”

It means, “don’t wait for me.” You have been or are about to be broken up with.

13 “A guy likes and comments on everything on Facebook stalker.”

You can: Set your posts using privacy filters so he can’t even see them.

You can: Unfriend his annoying ass.

You can: Block him so he can’t even know you exist on Facebook.

When/if…okay probably when…he contacts you through other channels to ask “Are you okay?” or “Did I do something wrong?” here’s your script:

“I wasn’t enjoying our online interactions so I stopped them.”

Monitoring a person’s every online breath is stifling and creepy. You don’t have to tutor him as to why.

14After party with my former students sex stories.

twitchy

No.

15 “My toddler seems lonely but I hate playdates and playgroups.”

From what I understand from my friends who are parents of young kids, EVERYONE HATES PLAYDATES. The other parents hate it as much as you do. They are going through the motions because they want their kids to have friends and be socialized. They are something you suck up and do until you find some other parents that you a) can stand to be around while the kids are very small and drop-off/self-play isn’t possible b) can trust with your kids as they get older so you can take turns dropping off the kids and getting a few hours to yourself.

Do you have a co-parent? Can they take some of the play-date and play-group pressure off? Like, if you both hate that, can you take turns sucking it up for the sake of the kid?

Can you find more structured stuff – craft things, a local children’s museum, story time at the library, swim/dance classes – that allow your kid to interact while you check out and read your phone in the bleachers?

You’re a good parent because you’re noticing your child’s loneliness. You’ll do the right thing. And this won’t be forever.