Tag Archives: difficult conversations

smeagol with a party hat holding a rabbit


I started this blog in the middle of an email thread with my lady friends about deciding where to eat brunch. (Answer: Wave) I had flirted with blogging before, starting a semi-professional blog (completely made obsolete by the awesome Short of the Week) and a food blog (Pretty recipes! Sometimes read by 20 people a day!)

I had recently had a few Difficult Conversations that had gone better than expected and reminded me that “Hey, speaking up with words works sometimes!” I had learned how to set and communicate boundaries the very hard way, and I had sort of learned how to have feelings (vs. Thoughts about what my feelings might or should be) and maybe my Years of Therapy could pay off for others? Also, I wanted to write something that was weird, blunt, and vulnerable and where I could use swears if I wanted  write how I talk in real life without a filter or worrying about what people think. I’m an avid reader of advice columns for story material, so why not see if I could muck about in people’s stories?

I had no idea that it would become a Thing, with*:

African Violets

Darth Vader Boyfriends

Party Smeagol

The Art of No (an ongoing series and recurring theme)

The Golden Retriever/Kwisatz Haderach of Love

Jedi Hugs


Ill-Fitting Pants


Marie Claire’s Rich!

The Jerkbrain

…and this awesome community of commenters and guest posters who make me laugh and push me to keep writing and to do better.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sending your stories. Over the last year this place was a constant source of creative joy, support, and humor for me. You guys were an anchor during a shit**year.

I Jedi hug you all.


*That list should catch new readers up on most of the in-jokes, yes?

**Literally – on December 30 a pigeon pooped into my open hand as if to say “A parting gift from 2011, sucker!” I cannot make these things up.

Omar scared all the other Christmas ornaments away.

My small Christmas tree, with the Omar Little finger puppet of holiday ambivalence.

It’s Chrismukkah (insert your “We’re halfway out of the dark” holiday of choice here), the time of year where some of us take a few days off, eat and drink things with people we love, light sparkly lights, maybe exchange gifts. If this is a relaxing, special time of year for you that you love, I hope you enjoy it.

For some of us this time of year is one long slow-motion anxiety attack.  I must have “arrived” as an advice columnist in some way, as the letters about family holiday worry, financial stress, grief for dying relatives, the fear of facing abusers over Roast Beast started coming over a month ago. There are too many of them (and some of them cut too close to home) for me to answer in the way they deserve.

Here are some things I know, mostly on the subject of “don’t should all over yourself.”

1. Travel: You don’t have to go home (if you can’t afford it, if you dread it, if people will be mean to you). Perhaps you will “ruin” someone’s holiday if you don’t go. Perhaps you will “ruin” your own holiday if you do. If you choose to go, it gives you a little bit of armor for you to choose to enjoy what there is to be enjoyed and let the rest go. If you go because you “have to,” you’re sunk.

2. Presents: If you can afford to give presents and you want to give them, presents are delightful! If you can’t, don’t put yourself in a bad financial situation because you think you are “have to” give them. At this point some commenter is going to tell us about the awesome inexpensive Blah blah homemade blah blah crafty! blah blah thing they made, to which I say “Great! Please go share that on one of the 8 million sites about cool crafty stuff that is not here.” For some people making crafty stuff is fun and relaxing and exciting. For someone with limited resources (be it time, emotional energy, or money), the prospect of bedazzling a bunch of whatchamajiggits is filled with pressure and dread.

For the record, if someone gives you a present and you don’t have anything for them (because you can’t or because you didn’t know that y’all were gift-exchange-type-people), the correct answer is “Thank you! I love it!” and not a 15 minute Socially Awkward Penguin dance where you apologize for not having anything for them. Send them a nice thank you note. If they are the kind of person who keeps score and gets offended, this experience will teach them not to get you anything next time. Every kiss does NOT begin a diamond pendant shaped like buttocks.

3. Manners & boundaries.  Some families think that “We’re close, we don’t need to have manners! We can just say whatever pops into our heads! I’m not criticizing you, I’m just being honest! We don’t stand on formality around here! Wait, why are you crying?  God, why do you always have to be so sensitive?” The Venn Diagram of these families and those of the letter writers filling up my inbox are a series of concentric circles. Manners count. Kindness counts.

Simone at The Hairpin says the rest. I owe her some kind of nog or amateur craft project for knocking so many letters off of my to-answer list with one blow.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m a high school student, and I had a friend who turned into a stalker. My family, and the school counselor have really helped me through a lot of it. However, I need some help explaining to my friends at school, and the friends of the stalker, of how I absolutely will not be interacting with her, without having to go into all the painful and elaborate details of what happened. The assumption of my casual friends is usually that we had an argument, and now I’m being childish by refusing to speak to her. (Again, high school students, this seems to be a common assumption.) So some of my friends are trying to force me to interact with her. “Just be civil, hold a conversation, just be nice to her, etc.” The school counselor recommends I stay away from her, for my personal safety, and I agree with her.

I’m not worried about my best friends, who understand the issue, but the people who I’m not very well connected with. I don’t want to write a two-page thesis just to get them to understand the problem. I also feel that it’s a violation of my privacy to have to try to explain the issue to anybody who feels like knowing, and letting people know that the way to push my buttons is to bring up the subject. As well as I know that the stalker has been telling people false information, and that anything I tell these friends will likely wind up reaching her.

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