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Dear Captain:

My parents get along pretty well with my father-in-law, let’s call him Peter. He is a widower so they usually invite each other to visit, my husband and I included. We usually have lunch, some bottles of wine and everyone has fun. Last time my parents visited Peter my mother stumbled across an old newspaper. It had a eulogy for my mother-in-law (let’s call her Nora). She was a great woman, a social worker and activist. Unfortunately, she passed away before I met my husband.

After my mom read it, Peter came back with some printed documents and handed them to my parents. They were some poems written by Nora, that he found after her death. My mom started immediately to read them and after finishing the first page said if I wanted to read them too.

Peter and Nora had had problems during their marriage. By the time of her death, they barely speak to each other, and were practically divorced. For that reason I think Peter probably didn’t know what Nora wanted to do with her writings.

So I said “Thanks, but I don’t want to, it makes me feel uncomfortable.” And everyone asked why. So I said “well, because I don’t really know if Nora wanted them to be public. Maybe is personal stuff, and it feels wrong.”

Awkward silence ensued and then they replied the following:
Mom: “It’s no big deal sweetie, I’m sure Nora wouldn’t mind”.
Peter: “Well, it doesn’t matter much because she’s dead”
Dad: “But the only reason people write poems is to be published, isn’t’ it?”

They insisted, but I kept firm and refused to read anything. But as my parents read them and I didn’t, I was the one that ended up feeling out of place. (In case you wonder, my husband was taking a nap and missed the conversation.)

I’m super defensive about my privacy and the idea of being exposed terrifies me. My mom and I used to have big arguments about this topic. Some of the things she did include: Throw away T-shirts claiming that they made me look fat. Open bank slips with my name on it. Go to my University and asked my teachers about my grades. She finally stopped doing these things long time ago, but I still feel threatened when she starts asking me personal stuff or comments on photos or personal things I have around in my house.

And I also used to write a lot during my twenties. I have at least a dozen handwritten notebooks, with tons of personal stuff: poetry, therapy tasks, ideas, cooking recipes, drawings, rants about people, etc. I really would hate if someone reads them but I don’t have the courage to toss them.

So, I honestly don’t know if I did the right thing or if I just got defensive and missed a chance to get to know Nora better. Would you please give me your advice and opinions? And also, what can I do with my notebooks? Any ideas?

Thanks a lot.

Privacy Champion.
(she/her pronouns)

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Dear Captain Awkward,

First, background: I am currently near the end of year two of a fantastic and wonderful relationship with my boyfriend “Jeff”, and we are both 21. I am a junior in college, working towards finishing my pre-med requirements and studying for my MCAT in May. He is taking a year off from his community college in order to try being a working man, and he loves his new job that he got last September.

We’ve wanted to move in together for a while now, practically after the seventh month of dating, but we both agreed that we were going to wait until he was financially secure before signing a lease. Jeff was a temp at his job, but they recently hired him on completely a month ago, so we’ve been looking for apartments. We finally signed the lease on a lovely little place that’s so close to my school. We’re both very happy about our great place and we’re moving in next fall. Money is no problem for me, thankfully I have a hefty scholarship.

I started getting worried about how we would divide up the chores when we lived together, and tried to think about any annoying habits that I have that I should warn him about. Most of it was completely mundane (who’s in charge of dishes, I have a billion shampoo bottles that clutter up the tub that I would be willing to trim down to one or two if it bothers him, etc.), but then we got to one of mine that I breezed over, assuming it wouldn’t be a big deal. Occasionally, when I’m in the mood I like to watch porn and masturbate by myself. I consider it sort of like my alone relaxation time. I would never roll over in bed with him, smile sweetly, and say “Honey, could you please leave? I want to get off and you’re kind of ruining it.” I just wait until he went off to play video games, or I do it while he is sleeping. I’ve done it at least twice while he was over at my apartment (he practically lives here over the weekend), and I just never thought enough of it to mention it before. I consider masturbation and sex to be two completely different things.

While I casually mentioned this, Jeff was floored. He was very hurt that I would do something like that, and was upset that he wasn’t fulfilling my sexual needs completely. I tried to tell him that he was amazing in bed (which he is) and that it wasn’t like that, and he tried to see it from my point of view. However, he admitted that there was no way he could understand where I was coming from. He says that whenever he masturbates, he always wishes that I was there and that if I was around when he wanted sex, he’d come to me first to see if I was up for it. I almost wish that I hadn’t told him, except for the fact that we both really value honesty in our relationship, even hard truths. I asked him if he wanted me to not do it, and he said that he wouldn’t want to control me like that. He just is hurt that I have those feelings in the first place.

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