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Count Rugen from The Princess Bride looking saturnine.

We are men of action, and lies like “It just happened!” do not become us.

Dear Team Awwkard,

Ok so here it is: I’m back at university after having to take time out due to depression and a very bad reaction to meds last year. I have a feeling that the depression was in a large part due to the relationship I was in at the time where my partner had Major Depression and Other Issues which meant I spent a lot of time trying to manage his crises, get him to seek help etc and deal with the emotional abuse that he threw at me when he had an ‘episode’. That relationship ended in February and I am much happier now, breaking up with him was a bit like stopping banging my head against a wall. I made the decision that since this is my last year of university and I am going to be thinking about jobs/a career/relocating that a serious relationship isn’t something I am looking for, because I want my decisions to be focused on what I want.  My family have been wonderful and supportive throughout everything and I am happy to be back at university although I still worry about things like work habits and slipping back into how I was behaving this time last year.

Over the summer I got a job at a pub to try to pay off my overdraft and met J. J, who has a girlfriend, worked in the kitchen and as most of the staff who worked at the pub tended to socialise after work together, we became friends, then good friends. He has just started university and I went to visit him during his freshers week because we enjoy going out together and he is fun to hang out with. Well the first night he explained that him and his girlfriend had decided that they were allowed to sleep with other people that they thought might be good relationship material. Their relationship is iffy, something I see as a combination of going off to university, the two year itch and probably other factors as well although we don’t tend to discuss it very often. Long story short, we wound up getting drunk that night and having sex. Very good sex. That happened again the next night and the morning after too.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

Due to a current organizing position I hold I have been asked to deliver brief presentations to each of the Greek chapters on my campus discussing the importance of women’s reproductive health issues in the upcoming election and subsequently registering people to vote while perhaps even sneaking in tidbits about safe sex and healthy relationships. I have no reservations talking to the sororities because I figure they have more reason to be receptive to the message. I am, however, quite nervous to present to the fraternities. Standing alone in front of a room of fraternity guys is scary in and of itself. Trying to convince them to care about women’s reproductive health issues seems tricky, as does talking about consent to a group that is particularly sensitive/defensive about consent issues. How can I give my presentation in a compelling and convincing manner?

Some things I have thought of:

1.  The men and women’s sexual health on campus depend on one another. The men’s health is compromised if the women don’t have access to STD screenings/contraceptives etc and vice versa. And these dudes definitely aren’t looking to become dads anytime soon so like, SUPPORT BIRTH CONTROL HEY!

2.     The “these are your girlfriends, your friends, sisters & mothers” ploy. But that comes off to me as “PROTECT YOUR WOMEN” and that is a weird message that I don’t want to deliver.

3.     It’s just the right thing to do…

Any script ideas or talking points you can think of?

Sincerely,

Fraternizing with the Male Vote

Dear Fraternizing:

What a cool project. I understand why it feels daunting. But it is cool and important.

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Ahoy, Captain! Maybe this is a pleasant problem to have, but it’s a puzzling one.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with a woman I find very attractive, trying to figure out whether I want to ask her out or not. We have a lot of interests in common, and do plenty of things together, but have different interests too. (I like this for a couple of reasons – the fact that she’s not into knitting means that my knitting group will always give me space from her, for example, and on the other hand she’s introduced me to a fun new sport I never would have tried otherwise.) I find her fascinating and really easy to spend time with – she’s just a very friendly person. I really, really want to make out with her, and from the way she’s acted towards me, I think she’d be pretty open to the idea of taking this from friendship to dating.

I’ve been holding back from that step, though, mainly because I feel I need to know people a bit better than I know her before I go there. (I’ve never been attracted to someone this quickly before – it’s both exciting and a bit weird.) It was actually a comment on a recent CA post that made me wonder if I should reconsider it altogether. I can’t find the comment, but it said something along the lines of “People who won’t respect your boundaries will tell you through their actions – they’ll touch you without asking, they won’t notice when they’re interrupting or dominating the conversation, and they’ll tell you inappropriately personal things.” That pretty much describes my friendship with her so far.

There’s a lot of physical affection in our friendship, which I love, but it did start with her touching me without permission – I just didn’t care, because I liked it. When something’s bothering her, she does tend to steamroll over other people in conversation until she’s exhausted her need to vent. And we hadn’t gotten to know each other for very long before she hinted to me that she’d been abused and lost most of her friends over it, though she only recently told me all the details. But although I was sympathetic, even at the time I thought it was a big leap to even drop me hints about this stuff when we hadn’t known each other long.

Captain, I don’t know what to do here. I really feel for her over what she’s been through recently, having survived the same kind of abuse and subsequent loss of support network myself. I want to do what I can to support her through that, and it’s clear she still has a lot of feelings to work through. But I do worry about some of these things, especially the way it’s almost impossible to get in a word in with her when she’s upset about something. It seems like the sort of thing that should be a red flag, or at least a warning to be careful while I continue to support her. And yet, I really like her! She’s very attractive to me in all sorts of ways, I love being around her, and she gives me warm fuzzy feelings in a variety of body parts. I just worry that my happy feelings are drowning out warnings I should be listening to. Or maybe that I’m just a bit desperate – I’m a lesbian and it’s really hard to find queer girls I can talk to in my area.

How do I tell whether to ask her out or not when my logic-brain says to be cautious but the rest of me just wants her?

I’m going to answer a question with a question and then let the commenters have at it.

Is there some reason that you cannot casually date this woman?

As in, be friendly, enjoy what there is to be enjoyed (ahem), but don’t try to lock her down as the Love of Your Life?

You’re smart to pick up on some of the red-flaggy behavior that’s not what you want in a partner, and you’re smart to not let the pants-feelings cloud your judgment, and you’re generally smart to be cautious, but I think the script you’re looking for is:

Would it be okay if we made out sometime?

And when she’s dominating the conversation, the script is:

“Hey, I’m sorry you’re sad. Is it my turn to talk yet or is this more of a monologue situation?”

I know you’re trying to be a good citizen of Feelingstown, but you can’t control everything that will happen and everything that everyone will feel. Definitely not all pantsfeelings need to be acted on, but you’ll never be this young again and obviously you both want to. Sometimes that’s a good enough reason.

Okay. Enough of being the devil on your shoulder. If your gut really says to not get involved with this woman for some reason – she just reads like Trouble to you – then listen to it, and put a stop to the flirty-touching stuff. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting someone, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting someone who you don’t necessarily end up with in any kind of serious or permanent way.

Shameless Plug Alert: Our friends at King Is A Fink have a new webseries out. Watch the trailer here. The After Ellen reviewer called it “one of the most heartbreakingly authentic stories about LGBTQ youth I’ve ever seen. It is The Misfits meets Skins meets modern-day Dickens, if Dickens had grown up gay and gotten his hands on a video camera.” It’s up our collective alley, I think.

 Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m a 25-year-old male with a girlfriend of a little over two years. We’ve had our ups and downs over time, but for my recent memory, which probably means the last year, things have been going well. We have a lot of fun together, usually on our own as most of our friends have moved away as they get real people jobs. She is supportive, caring, funny, we have good communication in most areas (caveat upcoming!) and is someone I can see myself being with for a long, long time. The only negatives with our relationship before last week were 1) we have issues that have prevented us from having sex for our entire relationship, 2) she can become obnoxious when she drinks, and she drinks semi-frequently, and 3) she has a far shorter attention and tolerance span than I do. That hasn’t been much of an issue historically, but lately I have been reading up on feminist stories and consuming a lot more information, and it’s just not something we can share in doing because she isn’t that interested in it while I am bordering on obsessive.

     These three problems have seen little flare-ups throughout our relationship where they become more than just a thought regarding our future and become actual issues, but we’ve worked through them at the time and they never really resolve, just slide back to low heat. I have been focused on her for our two years and building a relationship with her.  I’ve never had a problem liking someone else or thinking about another woman in any romantic way. She’s been my only long-term girlfriend, and occasionally I’ll feel like I missed out because of my lack of past meaningful relationships, but that’s been more of an esoteric thought, less “I wish I had gotten to date _______.”

     I was unemployed for most of this year with a brief temp job in the middle, but I’m currently working somewhere new and loving it. One of my coworkers caught my eye within the past two weeks, and I’ve been crushing hard on her. We brushed arms once or twice and it felt exhilarating, and I’m exceedingly attracted to her. This is the first time in my relationship with my partner I’ve actually liked another girl, and I really like this other girl. I don’t know her too well, although she’s friendly and funny and been fun to talk to. I think I’m mostly physically attracted to her, because that attraction’s strong. For the past week, I’ve felt like shit about this. I feel like an asshole, especially knowing I can’t say 100% I wouldn’t cheat on my girlfriend. I like to think I wouldn’t, but I can’t say I wouldn’t, and that makes me feel as worthless (I think, never cheated) as if I had done something.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I need a second opinion. I’m at my wits end as to how to address something that has become a large problem with my boyfriend. My friends are no, help; I’ve gotten lucky, landed a good, caring boy, how could I have problems, lalalala-I-can’t-hear-you. I’m glad they approve of him, since I mostly trust their judgement, but… help?

Lately, I have been feeling really neglected by my boyfriend. (By lately, I mean since he stood me up a month ago; I went out with friends instead and it was fine…but he still stood me up.) This meant that if we talked, I initiated the conversation. If I went to his house, or he to mine, I planned it. Once we got there, if we watched tv/made food/fooled around, it was because I suggested it. If we were fooling around, I undressed him, and he had to be directed to return the favor. If we went out, I invited him somewhere, and he begrudgingly joined. 

This is not an exhaustive list, just things I pointed out specifically to him as “Hey, look, I’ve been putting in all the effort. Your turn to contribute” I sat him down, told him that I was feeling neglected and why. He agreed that he’s been shitty, and to try and change that. My solution was that for the next little while, it would be his turn. I was not going to initiate contact or plan anything; if he wants to see or talk to me, he’ll do so, if not, it won’t happen. That way, when we’re together, I can know that it’s because he wants to be there, not because I was pestering him.

But that’s not really working. He’ll invite me over, and then not know what to do. He’ll text me, and the conversation stops because things like “how’s your day/how are you/what’s up?” don’t occur to him. He claims that he knows I’m upset with him, which makes him think that I don’t want to talk to him, so he doesn’t initiate contact.

semaphore

We’ll figure this shit out.

Hi Captain & Team Awkward,

I’ve been enjoying the site for a while now and have been able to take quite a few pointers from y’all, so thanks!
 
I guess the shortest way to ask my question is this: What are the green flags in any (budding) relationship? 
 
Best wishes –
Looking Forward to More Awesomeness 

Dear Looking Forward,

Sweet Machine on deck. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about good relationships instead of the icy jaws of loneliness! Instead, you’re writing from the skylight car of the Awesome Train and want to make sure you’re going the right direction. High fives all around!

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Flower. Photo by JenniferP.
Dear Incoming Letter Writers,

Please stop describing yourselves as late bloomers and apologizing for your lack of experience with love, dating, and sex.

We all bloom when we bloom.

Sometimes early relationships give us dating training wheels and help us figure out what we want from a romantic partner in a healthy way. Sometimes, as our recent Week of Stalking showed us, early relationships SCAR US FOR LIFE.

Inexperienced partners can have a great relationship

Experienced partners can have a great relationship.

Inexperienced partners can have great relationship with a more experienced partner and vice versa.

Some people will never have/don’t want/don’t prioritize romantic partnership and it will not get in the way of having an awesome life. I would not describe them as people who have not yet “bloomed.” Bad metaphor, no biscuit!

I know that popular movies & Young Adult novels teach you all that you must have been part of at least one smoldering love triangle by the time you leave high school/fight for your life in a post-apocalyptic dystopia/meet the vampire of your dreams. No.

Be kind. Be awesome. Be yourself. Bloom when & how you bloom.