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Dear Captain Awkward, So, if I tell you that when I was in high school, a teacher of mine called off class for a session of “yoga in the dark where no one can see what the teacher is doing” that left me very upset, I probably don’t need to give you more details, right? And I see a therapist now (not just for that, but the therapist feels that part is important), but I am not serenely at peace with the past here, and I do really, really badly with yoga. I have problems with rage and tears just from being told to “focus on my breathing.” So I avoid going to yoga. (I also don’t do well with meditation, Alexander Technique, etc. — basically, being pressured to “relax” makes me panic.)

My problem is that many people, in both my personal and professional life, very strongly believe in the universal healing powers of yoga. They refuse to believe that I could find it anything other than relaxing and empowering. I try to explain that having someone dictate how I ought to move and breathe does not make me feel relaxed or empowered, but multiple staff retreats at multiple offices have left me in the superfun position of explaining that I really can’t do yoga, and being pushed about it until I cry, because they refuse to believe that anyone could have a good reason not to like yoga. I say I’ve had bad experiences, and they insist that this will be different, and I say, no, really kind of traumatic experiences, and they say, “But yoga helps traumatized people!” And there I’m back with the tears and rage. One year I tried to do it; I had to run out of the room and apparently the teacher said that some people aren’t brave enough to get in touch with their bodies. When my coworker told me that I think I literally bared my teeth like a dog and snarled. This does not make me look like a competent professional. And it makes me feel like shit. They’re my coworkers, my job has nothing to do with yoga, and I guess I don’t think I should have to bare my soul and expose my vulnerabilities because somebody else thinks their favorite form of exercise would make me a better worker/person.

I’ve just started a new job in a high-stress workplace. My boss is very excited about a yoga-focused health-and-centeredness retreat. I’m still in my probation period. How do I not look unstable, or like a bad team player? Please don’t tell me I just haven’t found the right yoga instructor yet. I hear that a lot. And, thank you.

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Season’s felicitations, Awkward Army! Elodie Under Glass here with two letters about accommodating your loved ones during stressful celebrations. Goodness, could this be a TIMELY POST? Here’s Letter #1.

 

 

Dear Captain,

 

I have a weird situation going with my dad. There’s a lot of history here so I’ll try to be brief.

 

When I left for university, mom took that as her chance to quit the soul sucking job she hated and move her and dad to the other side of the country for a job she loved. Five years later, a couple months after I graduated,  she went to sleep and never woke up. It’s been three years since then.

 

I’ve spent every holiday and Christmas with my dad since, including one where he joined us at my in-laws place, because I don’t want him to be alone. But he’s got it in his head that I should be adjusting my life to accommodate for him more. The first time he bitched the entire time about our apartment not having a guest room or an elevator to the top floor where we lived. He’s got MS and walking is hard, stairs are worse, and a lumpy couch is a crappy bed even if you’re healthy, so I sympathized. But he complained every other time too even though I warned him that nothing changed.

 

We recently bought our first house, and he came to see it. Because we’re kind of poor, it’s a real fixer – upper with three floors and no railings. I warned him and he said it was fine… but then complained constantly about how we keep getting these places with all these stairs. I spent the whole visit basically carrying him up and down between floors.

 

I work in construction so I’m not allowed to take time off. The two weeks I get over Christmas are the only rest I get for the year. This year, I really want to spend it just me, husband and cat. But when I suggested I wanted a quiet Christmas he just assumed he was part of that. How do I tell him I don’t want him here all the time, that it’s not quiet and restful for me when he’s here, without hurting him? I already feel super guilty for thinking of him as a burden.

 

Sincerely, 
A Terrible Daughter

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Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m woman in my late 30s who uses a power wheelchair due to a medical condition that causes severe physical fatigue.

Often, strangers – retail staff, waitstaff, members of the general public – assume that because I use a power wheelchair, I have an intellectual disability. I don’t. I have a university degree and I read widely.

How should I respond to people:

– talking loudly to me;
– talking to me in a sing-song voice;
– being condescending/patronizing;
– calling me love/sweetie;
– telling me that I remind them of their 12 year old daughter with Down syndrome;
– praising me for putting rubbish in a rubbish bin as though I’ve won a gold medal at the Olympics;
– telling me that you eat cupcakes?

Signed,

Smart Crip Girl

Dear Smarty,

Ugh. Even if you had intellectual disabilities, the behaviors you describe would be creepy and condescending.

For people who talk loudly, try:

“Why are you talking so loud? It’s weird.”

“Holy shit, that’s loud.”

“You’re talking really loud.”

For people who use the sing-song voice:

“Why are you using that sing-song voice? It’s weird.”

“Did you mean to sing me your answer like a little song? Because that just totally happened.”

For people who call you love/sweetie:

“My name is ______ for people who know me, and ma’am for people who don’t. Let’s go with ma’am for now.”

For people who tell you you remind them of their 12-year-old daughter with Downs syndrome:

“Cool, is she also into (a thing you’re into)?”

I realize they are doing it to insult you and don’t mean it nicely, which is such an extra layer of gross that I highly suggest that you turn it around on them.

For people who praise you for doing basic stuff like throwing trash away and also for people who are generally condescending:

“Wow, that’s pretty condescending.”

For people who tell you about how they eat cupcakes:

“There are cupcakes?” (If you like cupcakes)

What you’re going for:

  • Tone: Flat, on a scale between coolly reasonable and Fuck You.
  • Response: Short.
  • Apologies & explanations given: Zero.
  • Fucks given: Zero.

To keep in your back pocket:

  • “Wow.”
  • “Did you really just say that?”
  • “Awkward.”
  • “Fuck you.” Especially if they ask you how your junk works. Which is a thing that happens.

Sometimes if you do this, you will get the dubious joy of having people apologize at length, explain and overexplain what they meant, and if you’re really lucky, have a complete shamesplanation spiral in front of you. I suggest waiting it out and then coolly making your point as if none of that matters. “Sure. Can you bring me a grande iced two-pump soy vanilla latte please? Thanks.” You don’t have to engage with their shame or comfort them for their fuck-up, that’s their own work to do.

I’m sure the commenters will be happy to join us for today’s performance of Snappy Comeback Theater.

A Pi Pie: A pie with the pi symbol baked into the crust on top.

Fantastic Pi Pie photo by Paul Adam Smith on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. P.S. The Letter Writer is allowed to eat this if s/he wants to.

As of 11/29/2012, comments on this entry are closed.

Hi Captain!

I’ve had type 1 diabetes for nearly my whole life (18 years), and I’ve graduated college and moved away from home. As I’m very open about having T1D, I’m often asked about what diabetes is, what the difference is between type 1 and 2 (PSA: they are not the same at all, T1D is autoimmune, Type 2 is much more common and is not), and whether or not I can eat that.

As I have recently moved away from all my usual support, I’ve been dealing with some major Diabetes Burnout. I’ve found a few things that help me cope, but am always open for suggestions (yes I’m looking into therapy and support groups). But my real issue lies in how to deal with the very well-intentioned people who ask invasive questions (normally I enjoy answering them and educating people about diabetes), make assumptions about what I can and cannot eat (anything I please, thankyouverymuch!), compare me to their 80 year old grandpa with type 2/their friend’s college roommate who had it (which OBVIOUSLY means they know everything there is to know about T1D), or freak out if I’m having an issue. At this point in my life, I don’t feel up to patiently explaining things the way I usually do, and the way people freak out if something happens makes it hard/impossible to tell people I’m having an issue and need a minute/a snack/to wear my glasses /pee every 20 minutes/etc, which, in turn, fuels the burnout.

Any advice on how to get people to not freak out and stop attempting to be so very helpful without me first asking for help? I really don’t want to be rude to them, they just don’t know much about T1D, as it is very rare and the treatments have radically changed in the last 15 years.

Thanks!

I’m so sorry that I didn’t get around to this before the U.S.A.’s National Day of Eating, and I apologize if you had to do another round of Yes-I-Can-So-Have-Some-Pie with Auntie Helpful last week.

I think the world would be a better place if we stuck to one acceptable way of commenting on what is on a fellow adult’s plate. That way is “That looks delicious” + some variation of “Where did you get it/how did you make it/does it taste as good as it looks/smells/Is it like this other thing that is also delicious?

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The Phantom of the Opera behind Christine.

I JUST want to HELP you to reach your FULL POTENTIAL.

Dear Captain,

I am having a hard time finding my words, or finding words that will get through.  Here’s the situation:

I am a thirty-something female who has, after several years of struggle, come to terms with her complete lack of sexuality.  I have dated men, and I have dated a woman, and all in all the response that makes me happiest is “please keep your pants feelings to yourself, I want none of that nonsense”.  I am also in a position where even if I did have pants feelings, this is the Wrong Time to be looking for a Special Person.  Long story short, I’m currently considered disabled due to the sheer amount of terrible-horrible things going on inside my head and Team Me is all about therapy and learning to be able to take care of ordinary tasks like “paying the rent” and “not loathing myself”.

Team Me is great!  It includes wicked-awesome roommates, a handful of bio-familiy, some choice-family, and a helping of friends as well.  They’ve got the right blend of accepting that I have Serious Problems, helping out with things beyond me right now, and administering ass-kickings when I get into self-pity.

The word problem I am having is this One Guy.  This One Guy, in his words, “really, really likes” me.  He has pants feelings and he wants to date me.  I have told him no, I am not in a dating place and I am not in any way interested in sex; I have no pants feelings for anyone and actually find the whole sex thing to be painful, awkward, gross, and oh yes painful.
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Dear Captain Awkward:

OK, here’s a bit of an awkward situation for you: Very elderly folks, at the symphony or the opera, with one of those oxygen tanks that gives a very audible puff of air every three seconds, and makes a noise like a clockwork sniff.

I’ve been at many performances when one of these was in the audience, and it is incredibly annoying and very hard to ignore. I was at a concert just a few days ago, not even sitting near the offender, and yet I could hear it loud and clear, especially during quiet moments in the music, and it really did keep me from enjoying an otherwise flawless and moving performance.

What’s more, all the people who were sitting near the elderly man (in this case) were making faces and shifting uncomfortably like someone had farted, for most of the first half. Only some of them moved for the second half, and Mr. Oxygen Tank continued right on sniffing for the entire show.

My instinct is to report distracting noises like this to the ushers and/or management, but at this concert, as with the other concerts, I was 1) comped, and 2) busy during the intermission with work-related socializing. I also assumed someone sitting near the guy, given how uncomfortable they looked and how egregious the noise was, would have said something.

But also, I felt a little bad for him. Unlike people who talk or unwrap candies during concerts, this is something that is presumably unavoidable and medically necessary, and also, for the theater, an accessibility issue.

It must suck to get old and not be able to do so many things that you once enjoyed, and I feel like a bit of an asshole for snarling at an old guy for carrying his life-giving oxygen with him. Does he even realize how annoying the sound is, or has it become invisible to him? Or does it ruin his enjoyment too?

The Oregon Arts Commission has a discussion of this, and they don’t really seem to have a solution, but think theaters should come up with one.

What are your thoughts?

Your question made me play these two YouTube videos at the same time to gain a greater understanding of the problem.

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