[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Hello Captain Awkward,

I have an ongoing issue that I hope you can help me with, perhaps in the form of a script. I have been married for 24 years. Our marriage is far from perfect but we have worked out some of the major kinks. So here is the issue.

My husband is an introvert, I am an extreme extrovert. We are both ok with that. He doesn’t mind if I socialize and I do not care if he takes a pass on 99% of the invitations sent our way. He is fine with family events and hanging with a few close friends. All good. The problem is the rest of the world. We get invited to a lot of events that the majority of the guests are couples. Neighborhood parties, extended family stuff, work events etc. Again, my husband hates, I really enjoy. People are ok if I attend one or two events solo, but begin to get awkward and insulted beyond that. There are just so many “Husband is sick” “Husband is working on a project” excuses I can make before it becomes obvious that he is just not going to be showing up.

I have no idea what the right approach is to this is. Do I just say to everyone ” Hey husband hates parties and hanging out and makes it a misery for me til we finally just leave early”. I have started to just not attend things myself which makes me sad and resentful.

Any thoughts on how to make this less awkward?

Thanks!

Somebody at the party will probably always ask you that question because curiosity is human and they think enquiring after a person’s spouse is a routine & polite thing to do. You can’t change their behavior, but you can try to approach your replies with more “IDGAF” and see if they get better at taking cues from you.

The biggest recommendation I have is: DON’T LIE ANYMORE. You may think you need to tell white lies to spare the host’s feelings, but that’s part of why you feel resentful about the whole thing. You don’t actually owe the hosts any explanations, and being forced to lie is uncomfortable, so, let it go and tell the truth. He’s not sick, he’s not at work, he’s just not here.

Scripts, which nearly all come with “+ [a subject change]!” after them:

  • Oh, he’s at home.”
  • “He’s doing something else today.” 
  • “He’s not a party person, but I am!” 
  • “Oh, I like to come by myself, and he likes the quiet time at home. Everyone wins this way!” 
  • “We have a mixed Introvert-Extrovert marriage, so, you’re stuck with me for the rest of time.” 
  • “Oh, I can almost never never drag him out of the house for parties! He really loves his solo time, and I love being here with all of you.”

You say people are getting insulted, like, they might feel like your husband doesn’t really like them. That’s awkward, but at the end of the day, so what? It’s not your job to be his neighborhood friendliness ambassador. He’s not hurting anybody.

Your marriage is just fine, and their opinion of it doesn’t matter, so the worst thing I can come up with is that if they are obsessed with even numbers and couples, some people might stop inviting you to things. That would sting, but it’s not something you can actually control. Or, they might awkwardly ask, wait, doesn’t he like us? And you can say “I don’t know, he’s certainly never mentioned anything about that to me. After 24 years I do know that even when it’s his very best friends or family, big gatherings aren’t his cup of tea. It’s not personal, and it’s never gonna change! Good news, though, you’re never getting rid of me, ’cause I love it here.”

I’m gonna end with a compromise suggestion specifically for neighborhood gatherings, specifically for things that are walking distance and don’t require dressing up. Once a month or so, could your husband wander over and say a 10-minute hello to the hosts as a favor to you? Would it, like, crush his fragile spirit to drop in and say “Hey, bud, looks like a great gathering! My wife’s been looking forward to it all week! You know I’m not a party person but I wanted to stop by and say hello for a minute.” Then, he can leave whenever he wants to and you can stay all you want.

He certainly doesn’t have to do this (invitations are not commands, the neighbors are not owed 2 guests just because they invited 2 guests), but one thing I see is you doing a bunch of emotional labor around this and him doing zero. I used to think I hated “small talk” and only wanted to connect over deep truths but it turns out SMALL TALK IS AWESOME IT GREASES THE WHEELS OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT AND ANYONE CAN DO IT FOR A FEW MINUTES, YOU WON’T DIE OF A BRIEF EXCHANGE ABOUT LAWN CARE OR THE WEATHER INSTEAD OF YOUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS.(See also: IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT BORED/BORING AS LONG AS YOU ARE KIND).

Your social life and relationships with the neighbors are important to you, so if him going for a few minutes would make you feel less awkward and smooth your way, I think that’s an okay thing to ask him to try out this summer.

 


“Actually, it’s a tabard.”

Jul. 20th, 2017 06:01 pm
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Y’all.

Y’all.

I am howling at this story of Jenny Slate’s terrible blind date.

HOWLING.

Like, lmk when you get to the phrase “[metal clanking noises]” if you’re not ded of laughing by then.

It’s very funny and well told, because she is funny and a good storyteller (and because it doesn’t end with her being called ‘Milady’ in a murder basement for the rest of her short life), but it’s also a deeply cautionary tale about how women are socialized to be nice at all costs and how some dudes have not heard “LOL, Nope!!!!” coming from the woman-shaped hole in the nearest wall as their date flees the scene nearly enough in this life.

 

 


[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

I would like some advice on how to deal with this. Let’s start in the beginning. It was the beginning of the school year (8th), when a boy asked for my number. (We will call him Earl) I gave it to Earl only to wait for practically half the school year until I get a text from him. Of course, I could have talked to him in the single class we share. But I was extremely awkward and did not know how I could initiate a conversation with him. Our text conversation was very awkward. After several other conversations, Earl suddenly asked for a selfie of myself. Right after that, he sent a (unwanted) photo of himself, which made me feel like I had to send him a photo in return.

Several weeks later, I saw Earl in the hallway and was about to greet him when I saw him walk towards another girl and hug her. I assumed that she was either a family member (many students’ relatives attend our school) or a close friend. I later found out they were actually dating, that Earl was actually a player, and showed off the pictures he acquired from multiple other girls to other boys. He also asked for a few of my friends’ numbers, even when I was in the same room! I was devastated and felt like it was my fault it happened. Earl even sat with my friends and I during lunch and asked for their names (Just thought I would add that). That was a month ago. We have not talked in that time. Two days ago, he began texting me again. Once again, Earl requested a photo of myself. This time I declined. Immediately after I said no, he just (and I quote) said “K, gn”. I would like to cut ties with him completely. I’m not sure if this is a bad enough problem for you to share some advice, but I would be grateful if you could help.

Sincerely,
Troubled Teen

Dear Troubled,

I am so sorry this is happening to you. It is gross and scary and NOT YOUR FAULT. I’m glad you wrote to me, though, because you are not alone and we need to figure out how to stop this kind of stuff and how to make that process safe for kids like you.

To be clear, I don’t think you were talking about clothed selfies of the human face in your letter, is it okay if I proceed with that assumption? If I’m wrong, well, I’d love to be wrong. It would be the best wrong I’ve been all year.

You have met a predatory and manipulative jerk. You didn’t do anything wrong. “Earl” did everything he did on purpose. He does the exact same thing to lots of girls and his way of operating makes y’all feel like it was your fault and that you’re the only ones it’s happening to. The photos he sends you are deliberate – They make you feel obligated, even if you say “Ew, no” it still gives him a thrill and a feeling of power to cross your boundaries like that and get away with it. The photos y’all send him are his “insurance” that you’ll be too ashamed to tell anyone or that, if you do, you’ll be in trouble yourself for also sending a picture.

It’s time to talk about informed consent, which means, roughly, that before you take any course of action you should know clearly what you’re getting into so you can make the best possible decision for yourself based on all available information. Informed consent, not coincidentally, is what Earl denied you by sending you a photo of Earl Jr. without asking first if you wanted to see it.

There are probably going to be commenters who tell you to drop what you’re doing and “Call the police right now!” Involving the police might be the right thing to do and it might extremely not be the right thing to do, depending on where you live and what the laws are like there. It also depends on what was in the photo that you sent vs. the one that he sent. There are some places where, even if you and Earl were girlfriend and boyfriend passionately and consensually sharing these images, you could both be convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and end up with very scary sex offender convictions. I wish I were kidding about that, but here’s a link to an article by a lawyer about these laws where I live, Illinois, USA.

What Earl is doing seems to me like a clear pattern of predatory behavior designed to trick girls into sending him compromising photos and it needs stopped, for sure, but it’s risky for you when the laws can be so badly designed. Adults are completely terrified of teen sexuality and without knowing where you live and what the laws are like and what the general “Oh well, boys will be boys, what can you do?” attitudes are like, I can’t make a clean “Oh yes, def. call the police on this pooplord!” recommendation as much as I’d like to. More like, if you want to call the police do it with the help of a lawyer who can expertly guide you and protect you in the process.

There are probably going to be commenters who insist that you tell your parents what happened immediately. Some parents will be understanding and supportive and take action to protect you but also listen to and respect what you want to do. Some will absolutely flip their lids and take action (like bringing in law enforcement without fully considering what that means for you) (or freaking out that you sent a photo, too, and punishing you) that might not be what’s actually best for you. I 100% hope that you can tell your parents, but I grew up in the kind of house where my mom would be so ashamed of and angry at me for complying that it would probably not be worth it to tell her because the “What were you thinking?” “How could you be so stupid?” cloud of judgment would be worse punishment for me than anything that might happen to Earl or the prospect of 1 blurry photo of my teenaged nubbins out in the world. You are the expert on your own parents, so, trust your instincts here.

If you do decide to tell your parents, maybe do it in a note? Sample text or script you could adapt:

“Mom, Dad (or Mom & Mom/Dad & Dad), I need to tell you something really uncomfortable that happened and I am scared that you’ll be ashamed of me or mad at me.

A boy at school that I liked asked for my number and we’ve been texting. He sent me a naked picture of himself and asked me to send one in return. I’m embarrassed to say this but I did. After I sent it I realized that he doesn’t really like me and that he does this to lots of girls. I want him to stop doing this to all of us and I don’t know what to do.

I have been scared to tell anyone about this because I sent a photo, too. Since it happened I learned that there are laws about this that could get me in just as much trouble as the boy. Before we do anything can we talk to a lawyer who knows about this stuff to make sure I won’t get in trouble for coming forward?”

One common piece of advice is that you tell a trusted adult – a family member, a teacher, or maybe a school counselor what happened. Someone who can stop Earl and get him out of this pattern. I think this is 99.9% a very, very good idea with some reservations. Teachers and school counselors and anyone at your school are probably “mandated reporters.” That means that if they know or suspect abuse of some kind is happening, they must call law enforcement. This is to protect kids, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t ever tell them scary stuff, but it means that if you say “If I tell you something, do you promise to keep it between us?” sometimes they legally can’t make you that promise. They could lose their jobs, or be charged as an accessory or sued for covering up the problem.

This is why a lot of people use hypothetical situations to have these conversations, like the classic “I’m asking for a friend” scenario. For you it might mean saying “If I thought a boy at school was sending nude pictures to girls and trying to get them to send them back so he can show his friends, what should I do?” The obvious question on the teacher’s mind is “Which boy” (or, tbh, “It’s Earl, right?“) or “Did this happen to you?” but if you give everybody a fig leaf of plausible deniability at first you might get an idea of the teacher’s approach before you tell more details. “Can you tell me what the process of reporting that looks like? Have you ever had to deal with something like this before? What happened? What would happen to the boy? Would the girls get in trouble, too?” Figure out how informed, how aggressive, how sexist* this person is before you pour your heart out.

I’m sorry that so much of what I wrote is hypothetical and not a clear recommended course of action. It’s hard to be a kid and to not have much control over your situation, and it’s hard to live in a culture that is so inconsistent in how we treat victims of this kind of behavior. It’s hard to have such a clear right answer – “Stop this dude before he rapes someone!” – and to have so little trust in the processes or systems that exist to protect you. But I think there are a couple of things you 100% can control and that will make you feel safer:

Talk to a trained counselor outside of your school & the mandated reporting umbrella. For example, here is a link to the crisis resources available at Scarleteen, including a message board for staff & peer support, a texting service, and anonymous online chats. You’ll find people will believe you, who won’t judge you, who won’t think you’re weird, who are aware of how depressingly common what you went through is. You can get a real-time sounding board while you figure out what to do. Telling more comforting strangers (like you told us) can make it easier for you tell other people. (P.S. Scarleteen is a national treasure and they run that place on love and a shoestring. If you’re a grownup reading this and looking to fund some good, here’s a donation link).

Take screen shots of everything he sent you and that you sent him, including the pictures and email them to yourself or save them somewhere so you have documentation of what happened.

Block his number, forever and always. Preemptively block him on all conceivable social media platforms. Congratulations, Earl is now dead to you. Blank his pathetic ass in the halls of academia.

Beware of his gross friends who looked at the photos without saying “Whoa, not cool, man.” Those boys do not get your phone number in this lifetime.

If he gets in some trouble, good. You didn’t “get him in trouble” or “ruin his life.” If he’s harassing the girls in his class this way, he needs to deal with some consequences, and now, while he’s still a kid, is the right time for some serious intervention. If he threatens you, harms you, retaliates against you, makes you feel targeted and unsafe, damn the torpedoes and tell an adult.

Learn the rules about sexual harassment in your school. Does your school have a policy about this? What does it say? Is it good enough? Down the road, maybe through student government or the school newspaper, you could help shape a better policy that would protect kids like you from pervs like Earl? (Part of me is like AUGGGGHHHH YOU ARE 14 YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO RESEARCH THIS, and part of me is like FUTURE AMAZON WARRIOR IN TRAINING!!!!!)

giphy (23).gif

Image: Robin Wright as Antiope, riding a horse like the mf general she is.

Ahem.

Tell other girls. “Hey, have you ever had anything weird happened with Earl, where he sends you pictures and tries to get you to send him one, too?” You’ll be able to tell from how they react, and you can say “Yeah, that happened to me, too. It’s not your fault!” Spreading the word about him is powerful. Reminding yourself and each other that you’re not alone and that it’s not your fault is powerful. Maybe the other girls could all go with you to tell a teacher or a school counselor as a group.

Warn other girls. When you see Earl single someone out, you can warn her – “I know Earl seems cool, but chances are he WILL send you a dick pic and try to get you to send him a photo so he can show it to all his friends.

Be a safe landing place for other girls. Say you warn a girl, but she’s under the Earl-spell so she blows you off at first, but then it happens to her and she’s clearly embarrassed. Be kind to her. You know how she feels. Don’t blame or judge or “I told you so!” her. Don’t ever look at the photos if they get forwarded around, or make fun of her for it. Just say, “Yeah, you were kind of a jerk to me before, but I probably would have done the same thing before I knew what he was really like. It’s not your fault,” and add her to your powerful girl-army.

I wish I could build you a world without Notes From A Boner, where I never had to use the words “The next time you get some random screen peen…” but, there will be a next time and it will always kind of ruin your day a little because WHY ARE DUDES?

However, one tiny benefit of this upsetting situation it’s that your NOPE! meter will work much better from now on and it probably won’t ruin your week. The next intrusive wang you see will get a “Weird, why would you send me that?” and the cold release of the block button. Or, (true story) when you’re older and trying to sell a bike on Craigslist and some dude sends you a pathetic and revolting photo from realname@whereireallywork.com,” you’ll forward the email to humanresources@wherehereallyworks.com with a note saying “I got this from one of your employees today, you might want to check to see if he’s been hacked? Surely no one from your excellent company would send something like this to a stranger. I hope you can get to the bottom of this embarrassing incident, good luck!” Instead of wondering if it’s your fault somehow, Future You will let these losers reap the whirlwind of your contempt and indifference.

Sending so much love your way, Troubled Teen. We believe you. It’s not your fault.

*”Aw, boys will be boys, amirite?” = ABORT & possibly tell someone in authority “I tried to talk to [Teacher] about a sexual harassment situation and he said ‘boys will be boys’ and would not take it seriously at all.

 

 

 

 

 


The Big Idea: Nat Segaloff

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:34 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

When biographer and historian Nat Segaloff sat down to interview science fiction Grand Master Harlan Ellison for his new book A Lit Fuse, he knew that he was in for a challenge. What surprised him about the process was how much it wasn’t just about Ellison, but also about him.

NAT SEGALOFF:

How do you write something new about someone everybody thinks they already know? A writer who is famous for putting so much of his life into his stories that his fans feel that even his most bizarre work is autobiographical? That was the unspoken challenge in late 2013 when I agreed to write Harlan Ellison’s biography, an adventure that is just now seeing daylight with the publican of A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.

I wrote the book because Harlan wouldn’t. He came close in 2008 when he announced he would write Working Without a Net for “a major publisher,” but he never did. Maybe he figured he’d said enough in his 1700 short stories, essays, and articles he’s published over the last 60 years. It wasn’t as if he was afraid of the truth; he always said he never lies about himself because that way nobody can hold anything against him. That was my challenge.

When we shook hands and I became his biographer, I also became the only person he ever gave permission to quote from his work and take a tour of his life. What I really wanted to do, though, was to explore his mind. What I didn’t expect was that, as I examined his creative process, I would also bare my own.

When you sit down with someone for a conversation, it’s fun; when you sit down with someone for an interview, it’s serious. Harlan has been interviewed countless times and he has always been in control. This time, I was. I had to get him to say stuff that was new, and I had to go beyond where others had stopped.

A Harlan Ellison interview is a performance. He will be quotable, precise, vague, and outrageous. He takes no prisoners. He will run and fetch a comic book, figurine, photograph, or book to illustrate a point, all of which breaks the mood. My job was to get him to sit still and not be “Harlan Ellison” but simply Harlan.

Harlan is one of the few speculative fiction writers (along with Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and a handful of others) who became public figures. Part of this stemmed from the quality of his work but much of it was created by his being, as I kept finding in the clippings, ““fractious,” “famously litigious,” and “argumentative.” Indeed, most of the stories I found during my research could be divided into two categories: “What a wild man Harlan is” and “I alone escaped to tell thee.”

Balderdash. What I discovered was a man who takes his craft seriously and fiercely defends others who labor in the field of words. An attack on them was an attack on him, and an attack on him was not to be deflected but returned in kind. “I don’t mind if you think I’m stupid,” he told one antagonist, “it’s just that I resent it when you talk to me as if I’m stupid.”

Even though I had final cut, I ran whole sections past him to get his reaction. He never flinched. In fact, he challenged me to go deeper. It was almost as if – and don’t take this the wrong way – I was Clarice Starling and he was Hannibal Lecter — the more I asked of Harlan, the more I had to give of myself. Both of us put our blood in the book even though I am the author.

—-

A Lit Fuse: Amazon|NESFA Press

 


Getting Lucky With College Costs

Jul. 19th, 2017 07:02 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

The bill for Athena’s fall semester at Miami University arrived a couple of days ago, and we paid it, and I have some various thoughts about that I want to share.

When I went to college, 30 years ago now, I couldn’t pay for it. I did what the majority of people did then and do now — I cobbled together various sorts of funding from multiple sources. A scholarship here, a Pell grant there, a work study job and loans — and still it wasn’t quite enough when one of my funding sources fumbled the ball pretty badly and I had to ask my grandfather for help (which to be clear, he was happy to provide, with the only provision being that I would write him a letter a month, a request very much in my wheelhouse). I graduated with a fair amount of student debt, rather more than the average amount back in 1991, which was around $8,200. I think I was around 30 when we paid it off.

I don’t regret my college debt — I’m of the opinion that my education was worth what I paid for it and then some — but at the time I didn’t really like having the anxiety of wondering how it was all going to be paid for, and my education being contingent on outside financial forces, over which I had no control. I was lucky I was able to find ways to cover it all. I was also lucky that I got a good job right out of college (in 1991, during a recession), and was always financially solvent afterward. That college debt never became a drag or a worry, as it easily could have been, and which it did become for a number of my friends.

I don’t think scrambling for money or paying down college debt added anything beneficial to my life, however. As much as certain people might make a fetish of having to struggle in one way or another for one’s education, and that struggle having a value in itself, I’m not especially convinced that the current American manner of “struggle” — pricing college education at excessive rates and then requiring students and family to take on significant amounts of debt, effectively transferring decades of capital from the poor, working and middle classes to banks and their (generally wealthy) shareholders — is really such a great way to do that, especially since wages in general have stagnated over the last 40 years, the same period of time in which college tuition costs have skyrocketed, consistently above the rate of inflation. Worrying about college funding and paying off college debt isn’t character-building in any real sense. It’s opportunity cost, time wasted that might be productively spent doing something else educationally or financially beneficial.

So: I don’t regret my college debt, but I don’t think it was something that added value, either, to my education or my life. All things being equal, I suspect I would have been better off not having to worry whether I had enough funding for college any particular quarter, or being able to take the monthly post-collegiate debt payment and use it for something else, including investment. Not just me, of course; I don’t think anyone, students or parents (or colleges, for that matter), benefits from the current patchwork method of college funding, or the decade-long (or longer) hangover of college debt service.

We always assumed Athena would go to college; very early on we began saving and investing with the specific goal of funding her education. Along the way we caught the break of my writing career taking off, which meant the account intended for her education plumped out substantially. By the time it was the moment for Athena to decide where to go to college, we were in the fortunate position of being able to pay for it — all of it — wherever it was she decided to go. So, to go back to the initial paragraph, when that first Miami University bill came up, we were able to cut that check and send it off. No muss, no fuss. We’ll be able to do the same for the other college bills over the next four years.

Which is great for us! And not bad for Athena, who will end her college experience debt-free in a world where the average US student with college debt in 2016 was in the hole for $37,000, with that number only likely to go up from here. But let’s also look at everything that had to happen in order for us to get to that point: We saved early, which was smart of us, but we also had the wherewithal to save, which meant we got lucky that Krissy and I both had work, that in her case her gig included health insurance for all of us and that in my case I was in constant demand as a freelance writer, which, I assure you, is not always the case. We got lucky that the books took off as they did; the odds on that were not great. We were lucky that no one of us got seriously or chronically ill, or that other family crises depleted savings. Athena is an only child; that’s not necessarily lucky, but it definitely was a factor when it came to paying for college. We only have to do this once.

All of which is to say that Athena will be getting out of college debt-free partly because we planned early but mostly because of factors that we had only some control over, and over which she had almost none. She didn’t choose her parents or her circumstances; she got what she got. And in this case, she got lucky.

That’s fine for her. But it’s not a very useful strategy for paying for college. “Get lucky picking your parents” should not be the determining factor for whether you leave college debt-free, leave with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, or can’t afford to go to college at all. Every single one of those circumstances can have a substantial effect on how the rest of one’s economic life will go — and how the economic life of how one’s children will go. There’s a reason why in the United States, home of the “American Dream,” it’s actually pretty difficult to move up the social ladder. Yes, I did it, but I also don’t pretend I didn’t get lucky — a lot — or that my path is easily repeatable. Take it from someone who is living the American Dream: It stays only a dream for most of those dreaming of it.

I’m proud that we can pay for our daughter’s college education. I’m also well aware how many things had to break our way to be at this point, which just as easily could have gone another way. It would be better to live in a world where luck, one way or another, is not a salient, determinative factor for whether one can afford college, or whether one can graduate from college without debt. In fact, that world does exist; just not here in the US. College tuition in most developed countries is substantially less than it is here, including being basically free in places like Germany and France. We could do that here, for state schools at least, if we decided we wanted to.

But we don’t. I know we have our reasons. I just don’t think those reasons are very good.


[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

I did not grow up in a house that did conflict- I joke (but not really) that I wish my parents had fought in front of their children. Because there was never an emphasis on healthy conflict, all conflict equals bad conflict. While I feel that I can talk to my dad about issues, the real problem is my mom.

When my mom calls (every day/every other day), I go through a nerve wracking thought process. If I don’t pick up the phone (because I had a long day, because I don’t want to talk to her or anyone), she’ll become more and more anxious and escalate communication attempts. I find myself yelling to the phone, ““What do you need!?!” as it rings and before picking up. If I do pick up the phone, immediately she’ll ask, “What’re you doing?” in a tone that implies I’m doing something bad. When she calls, it’s rarely about anything time sensitive or an emergency- it’s mostly just to chat.

If she calls when I’m in traffic, and I pick up the phone and say I can’t talk, I’m dealing with driving, her tone is disappointed. However, sometimes driving is the best time to call her, because I can say that I’m home now so I have to go.

For example: I had a very busy day at work. My mom texts me a general “How’s your day going?” type of text. Nothing time sensitive, not an emergency. I see the text and ignore it because I’m in meetings all day and don’t have the brain space to deal with it right then. That evening, I go to a bookclub that my mom and I are a part of. She sees me, and immediately has a wide eyed expression, and exclaims, “Didn’t you see my text? Why didn’t you answer???” Then I have to reassure her that I was busy all day, and besides, I would see her that night.

Recently her most passive aggressive text: She posted in the family text chain, “Any recommendations for a Pandora running station?” at 5:00pm on a Sunday evening. No one responded that night, and the next morning, she posted, “Thanks fam!”

I feel that I’m good about getting back to her- I usually respond to a text within a couple of hours, and never more than 24 hours.

I’ve seen her and my dad every weekend for the past month (which is way too much in my books, but it included some family event things). When I’m at their house with my brother and sister, I find myself constantly making sure that she doesn’t feel neglected or teased. If she feels that we are not bonding as a family as she’d prefer, she lashes out and becomes mopey and angry.

I’d like to not go full nuclear and destroy the relationship, but I’m tired. I’m tired of constantly checking my phone, because if I miss a call I’m going to hear about her anxiety and how much she freaked out. If I miss a text and don’t respond for a couple of hours, I’ll get a “You ok??????” type of text and escalating from there.

What I really need: a way to tell my mom that her constant need for contact and communication is too much. Basically my mom has no chill and low boundaries, plus a heaping dose of mother anxiety. Help me!

My shoulders are going up around my ears reading this! Also, you and about 20 other people have sent me a version of this letter recently so I’m glad for the chance to summarize a method that many people can apply. Here are your steps:

First, recalibrate “normal.” 

In a perfect world, how much you would visit your parents? “Not every g.d. weekend!” sounds like your starting point, but quantify it even more than that. One “family dinner” or weekend activity per month? Choose what works for you and what you can reasonably sustain, and then commit to that and follow through. When you go, strive to enjoy yourself as much as you can. Turn down additional plans or invitations if you wish and when you do, do not give explanations beyond “I can’t make it this weekend, have fun.” Your plans could in fact be “I will be busy reading silently alone in my house with my phone turned off” or “Swiping right” or “Climbing rocks in the middle of nowhere” or “Reorganizing where I keep my collection of antique spyglasses.” Express all of the details of that as “Sorry, I have other plans this weekend, but enjoy yourselves!”

Two important things:

a) Once you say no thanks, follow through on the “no thanks.” You are re-teaching your mom and yourself that “I can’t make it” is not the beginning of a negotiation. Every “Okay, FINE, I’ll stop by for a little” when you already said you didn’t want to restarts the clock on how long this whole recalibration thing will take.

b) Watch/lock down/be aware of your social media postings on a weekend you said you couldn’t make it. If your mom and your siblings monitor your feeds, posting “A day of glorious nothing!” and one of those photos of your feet and the horizon when you said you couldn’t come to this week’s family barbecue will invite discussion and drama. Give your folks less information while you re-negotiate these boundaries.

Second, create a ritual. 

You are already in the same book club. Awesome!

In addition, institute a once-a-week phone call with your mom at roughly the same time and day every week where you catch up for a little bit. Script: “Mom, my schedule’s kind of all over the place right now, I want to make sure I set aside time for you. Can we make a plan to talk for a little while on Sunday mornings?” At the appointed time, call her, chat for 15 minutes or so, ask her lots of questions about her week, make it as pleasant as possible, say your goodbyes and I love yous, and then give yourself permission to disengage until next week’s call.

Throughout the week, redirect all communications to that weekly call. “Got your text – let’s talk about it on Sunday!” “Can’t talk now, but I’ll catch up Sunday!

Why this works:

A) Avoiding her just makes her chase you more. If you want to keep a relationship, do it on your terms.

B) If you consistently follow through, by calling when you say you will, it gives her an anchor to know she won’t lose touch with you. Over time it can help her be less anxious.

C) If you control the schedule and initiate the weekly call, it can remove some of your anxiety. You can start giving yourself permission to disengage the rest of the week because you know when you’ll fully engage.

For people with a contentious relationship with a parent, if you do the weekly (or monthly – the interval doesn’t matter as much as consistency does) phone call (or Skype), make sure you have some down time or something really pleasant to do afterward.

Declare independence from your phone. 

Don’t pick up the phone when she calls. Let it go to voicemail. If you don’t already, pay for one of those services that transcribes your voice mails to text so you can quickly glance at the content. You can always reply “Got your msg, let’s talk about it Sunday! Love you!

If you think it would help to set expectations in advance, you could try saying “Mom, I’m going to be turning my phone off when I’m at work so I can concentrate better during the day. I wanted to let you know so you wouldn’t be worried if I don’t get back to you right away.

Or, “Mom, I have been trying to have less screen time lately and do more reading/exercising/relaxing/meditating in the evenings, so I’m going on a cell phone diet for a little while. Don’t worry, we’ll still talk on Sundays!

Then, actually turn your phone off for some of those chunks of time. As much as you’re training her not to ping you there constantly, there’s an aspect of training yourself to let yourself be untethered.

Also, no more phone when you’re driving! When you’re driving, put your phone in a backpack or purse and put it in the back seat. Or if you’re using it for GPS, mute all notifications. Anything else is actually dangerous!

Prepare for a short-term escalation.

She will not like the new system, at first. She will escalate attempts to contact you. Non-emergency things will become emergencies. “But what if I need to get a hold of you in an emergency and your phone is off?” “Can’t a mother talk to her child?” She will try to slide the times around, or test whether you’re really turning off your phone.

If she’s feeling lonely or anxious (or in an actual emergency )she could call your dad, your siblings, a friend, her priest or minister, a therapist. It doesn’t have to be you, so, HOLD FAST. Stick to what you said you’d do, be active and reliable about the weekly phone calls, commit to and enjoy your planned visits, and leave your phone off or on silent when you need a break. If you are consistent, she will adapt.

Also, that night she asked for Pandora running station recommendations and nobody replied to her? She was passive-aggressively annoyed, but note: your siblings did not respond to her immediately and also THE WORLD DID NOT END.

Prepare for her to deputize others. 

When she can’t raise you, get ready for texts from your siblings. “Hey, text Ma back, she’s texting me looking for you!” They know her, so hopefully they can be allies and y’all can present a united front. I bet they don’t like this behavior either, so, ask how they deal with it.

Prepare to feel guilty and weird. 

HOLD FAST. You love your mom, you’re making an effort to communicate regularly with your mom, you’re not doing anything wrong! This is hard. You’re doing the right thing.

When you do respond to a text barrage, respond *once.*

Your texts from her might look like:

“Hello daughter!”

“Are you coming to the pot luck on Saturday?”

“I saw some fabric you might like for curtains – what are the measurements for your windows again?”

“Hello? Are you there?”

“Your dad asked me to ask you if he should pick up that wine you like for Saturday”

“Hello, should I be worried?”

“Are you hiding from me?”

“You’re probably watching the Thronegames or whatever, sorry to bother you, ha ha”

“Did you see the weather? You’re going to want to wear a sweater if you’re going out today!”

“Okay, text me back, I’m starting to get worried”

“Wow, ignoring your Mom much? Thanks alot LOL”

Your text back at the end of this can be:

Hello lovely mother! Got your texts. Won’t be there Saturday, so don’t worry about wine. Let’s talk about fabric & measurements Sunday – thanks so much for thinking of me. Love you.”

Break the apology cycle and be very boring.

Do not address the “I’m worried” comments, at all. You’re fine, and her worry is not actually your problem. Make all “We used to talk more?” or “Whyyyyy don’t you ever want to talk to your mother anymore” or “It’s just that I worry about you” conversations super-boring for her to have. Keep it short and neutral, like “I’m here now, what did you want to talk about?” or “We’ll talk Sunday!

Don’t apologize for not being tethered to your phone 24-7. You didn’t do anything wrong.

In fact, start keeping track of the number of times you say “I’m sorry!” to her about stuff that isn’t actually wrong or hurtful. When you do call on Sunday (or whatever day you mutually nail down), is the first half of the conversation an Apology Dance? Take note of it for now and over time do what you can to stop feeding it.

By way of example, my job(s) mean fielding an overwhelming amount of email spread across about 7 different accounts & systems. I realized a while back that every single reply I wrote started with a paragraph worth of “Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you sooner.” I decided to stop doing that so much – I replaced “Sorry …” with some version of “Hi, so nice to hear from you” or “Hello, thanks for your email” and skipped directly to answering the question or giving the person the information they wanted in the first place. I don’t know if the recipients like it better but I feel better not doing 20 little shame dances every time I try to climb Email Mountain.

Give it time. 

Give her some time to adjust and give yourself time to adjust.

Eventually things won’t have to be so stilted and locked down and adversarial, we hope. You’ll enjoy your interactions more when you have more control and agency in how you communicate. Think of this as a temporary resetting period – hard, but necessary.

It will most likely get better if you stay consistent. 

I’m descended from people who used to email me to ask if I got their voicemail and leave a voicemail to ask if I got their email. I once had to fax something to my dad’s former office that involved a full three days of communications. “Are you sending it now?” “No, tomorrow, when I’m at work.” “Well I’m checking the machine now and nothing’s here.” “Dude, I know.”

Every call home started with them saying some version of “Wow, we hadn’t heard from you for so long we thought you were dead!” (said in a joking tone, but still) or “It’s about time you called!” and then once I said “Um, phones work both ways and I haven’t heard from you in a while, either!” and interestingly enough, now we don’t do that anymore.

They also, when learning to text message, used to sometimes spell “come” in a horrible way,  like “We’re downstrs r u cumming down?”

IT GETS BETTER. :-p ❤

And if it doesn’t get better, at least you have some boundaries for yourself in how and when you respond.

P.S. I want to push back on the idea that your Mom doesn’t “do” conflict. She does do conflict – by constantly poking you and responding passive-aggressively when you don’t immediately answer or give her the attention/answer she wants – she’s just the only one who is currently allowed express negative emotions or “do” conflict, and you’re expected to quietly eat it and give her what she wants. Setting and enforcing some boundaries here isn’t you creating conflict, it’s you putting guardrails around the conflict that’s already happening.

 

 

 

 

 


The Big Idea: Cassandra Khaw

Jul. 19th, 2017 12:37 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Identity issues can sometimes be a bear, as the protagonist of Bearly a Lady finds out — in no small part because author Cassandra Khaw experienced something similar in her real life.

CASSANDRA KHAW:

The first time I came out as bisexual to a partner, it was a mess. What was a passably tolerable relationship became a wasteland of conspiratorial winks, elbow nudges, and endless attempts to convince me to have a threesome with someone, anyone, just pick an attractive person of the same gender.

Thing is, I don’t blame him.

Bisexual representation in media is a fraught topic. More often than not, bisexual people are characterized as wild, promiscuous individuals with thrilling sex lives, perpetually ready to jump into bed with whomever they find attractive. (Not necessarily untrue or even wrong, but that’s a conversation for another space.) Consequently, we end up with people like my ex, who begin quivering with lascivious curiosity the moment they so much as hear the hum of that first syllable.

But we are getting better at it. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has one of my favorite bisexual characters of all times: Darryl Whitefeather, a middle-aged divorcee who comes out mid-season and proceeds to have a stunningly healthy relationship with his new boyfriend. (That show has its problems, but I will forever love the writers for making sure the queer couple is the happy one.) And genre writing is even further ahead in that department. Take Kai Ashante Wilson’s work, for example, which remarks on polyamorous queer relationships without even the barest breath of hesitation. After all, in a world of dragons and technical-minded gods, what is there to fear about a man who loves a man and also a woman?

I’m digressing.

With Bearly a Lady, I’m hoping to build on that canon. Zelda McCartney is a complicated character, for all that she might sometimes appear like an airhead. She’s been out for a long time; this isn’t a self-discovery story. Instead, the book, which goes into some dark places between the lines, interrogates the idea of expectations, labels, and toxic relationships.

And that is because she is a werebear in a human world, a woman endlessly bombarded by external forces, all looking to chip at her self-esteem for the sake of a quick buck or someone else’s emotional fulfillment. It’s no surprise that Zelda has only half an idea as to which box she belongs. Honestly, a lot of people don’t figure that out. Especially those raised outside of liberal communities.

I’d know. For the longest time, that was me.

(Except for the werebear part.)

So, that’s one of the Big Ideas behind Bearly a Lady. I wanted my main character to be full of internal conflict, certain in her identity but uncertain of the words that one might use to define oneself. A mess of paradoxes and imperfections glued together by bad sitcoms and ice-cream. I’m hoping that, one day, Bearly a Lady might be part of some bisexual teenager’s library, another piece in the puzzle as they figure out who they are. Maybe, Zelda will be an example of who they hope not to be. Maybe, they’ll see a bit of themselves in her. Who knows? That’s not up to me.

Bearly a Lady might be a queer paranormal rom-com with werebears, vampires, and billionaire fairies galore, but it’s also a look into the life of a queer woman who doesn’t always get it straight.

—-

Bearly a Lady: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Read an excerpt online. Visit the authors site. Follow her on Twitter.


Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Jul. 18th, 2017 07:15 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

It’s not just an old proverb. It’s literally happening across the street from where I live.

And yes, I like it that I write about high-tech futures from a place where it’s not at all unusual to see a Mennonite woman bundling hay using a tractor that’s probably as old as I am, and that the hay will probably go to feed the horses that pull the Amish buggies around here. Welcome to rural Ohio, y’all. We have juxtapositions.


#996: “The Palette Wife”

Jul. 18th, 2017 02:52 pm
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

An anniversary is coming up, but I am so frustrated with my husband! When I met him, I looked a certain way (i.e. hair length, weight, etc.).

I used to be a fitness instructor and went to the gym in my spare time, all the while juggling multiple jobs and trying to go to school. So, I was always toned out and at a happy place with my weight. I then got a full time job that still requires me to work out, but not as often as I used to.

Anyway, due to the heat, my new job, I wanted a change to my hair. I did not want to change my hair if my husband would not have liked it. So, I asked him and confirmed close to a million times as he kept saying, “Yes. Do it. I can’t wait to see how it will turn out.” and I did. Chopped it all off and it was a drastic change that took me a long time to get used to. In between that time, my husband kept asking me to do different colors and styles of my hair. So I did with no hesitation (okay, maybe sometimes, but I still agreed and went with the flow). He loved every single look I did and the one he had the brightest reaction to was dying my hair back to my original color. Other events in between all of this, he would bring up my previous hair style and how attractive I was with it. The insecurities crept in and crawled under my skin. But he stopped bringing it up when I came home with my original hair color.

Anyway, now, he brought it up again, mentioned how I used to be, how I used to look, the past this, the past that. So now, I feel almost guilty for ever beginning to change my hair style the way I did. Now, it’s going to take months, maybe even years to get it back to how it used to be. So now, the insecurities really dug under my skin and are clawing, scratching hard inside. During me trying to get my look back to how it used to be, I feel like it won’t amount up to what he wants–the original “me” until then and it worries me that when I do get it back, he’s going to keep addressing what I used to look like during this time, or that time, or that he wants me to go back to my current look. If that makes sense Am I over thinking this? Am I wrong for being hurt and feeling the way I do? I have been at a loss for words with talking to him about this situation and whenever I would try, it would be me jumping to conclusions rather than trying to calmly address the situation and find a happy medium for both of us.

Trying to remember my breathing,
The Palette Wife

Dear Palette Wife,

First, some reading: You Don’t Have To Be Pretty.

Next, I think it’s time to say something like this to your husband:

Husband, it was really fun for a while to experiment with my hair and get your input on all of it, but these conversations about ‘going back to how I looked when we first met’ are really stressing me out and hurting my feelings. We’re hopefully going to be married forever, and I’m going to look lots of different ways (as are you, by the way!) over the years, so it’s time to change the way we talk about this. I’m the boss of my hair and how it looks, so, I might cut it, I might grow it out, I might change the color again, who knows? I need to take this back as something I do for myself by myself rather than something we decide together. I’ll let whatever it is be a surprise for you, and the only input I’m looking for from now on is ‘Hey, wow, you look great!'”

The only good answer, and I mean the ONLY good answer when your spouse says something like that to you is some version of “Of course, babe, it’s your head & your body! I always think you look great! I’m sorry if I was stressing you out before.

NO adding “…but I just think you look better with x kind of hair” on the end of that. None. Zero. He could feel that way inside his head, but you don’t say that to someone who just told you that it hurts their feelings.

I would accept this as an alternative answer (no transcript but the lyrics show up on screen):

More than acceptable:

If we’re time-traveling here why not go all the way to Everybody’s Prom, 1991? (Why did people think this was a cool song for 17-year-olds to dance to?) A marginally passing effort:

The first 2/3 of this poem by W.B. Yeats would also suffice:

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;”

Compare that to the poem that men who think that they own their wives’ appearances seem to be writing:

What’s this “old and grey and full of sleep” b.s.?
When you are in your 80s
You’d goddamn better be well-preserved.
Wait, I meant to say “Time does not pass for us, my love”
Or something else romantic. I wrote it down somewhere.

When I say “I miss how you looked when we first met”
I guess I’m just trying to say I miss being that young with you,
and it makes me think about being old. That’s depressing!
Like, yeah, I theoretically want us to grow old together –
– But that doesn’t mean actually growing OLD-old –
Does it?

Wait…does it?

It also gratifies my ego to know that you’ll change your hair, for me.
Don’t you want me to be happy?
Don’t worry, babe, I know I can count on you
To always look terrific, to be the perfect accessory.
I know you’ll always do whatever is necessary
To save my eyes and my boner from the fate of
having to look at some wizened crone.

For now, let’s stick to constant exercise and tone
And running all your hair decisions by me first.
We’ll save the plastic surgery for later, for when we really need it.

Aw, babe, don’t cry, you’ll ruin your makeup!
Stress isn’t good for the skin!
I like you so much and we get along so well,
I really don’t want to replace you with a younger version,
with the next best thing.

It’s okay that you want to feel a certain way in your body, it’s okay that you want your husband to admire how you look, it’s okay to have complex feelings about aging and changing bodies and attraction. It’s okay to renegotiate how you talk about certain topics, okay to say “Hey, you probably don’t mean it this way, but that thing you’re doing is making me feel bad, so, can you not?

Guess what? It’s actually extremely okay to not like someone’s haircut all that much and also to keep that information firmly to yourself, forever. Not every opinion you have needs shared! Amazing, right? (For those of you who watch The Good Place, remember the parable of Chidi and The Red Boots).

Over time, you enforce the boundary with “Hey, we agreed – you’re not my Hair Critic, you are my Hair Cheerleader!” and/or “Hey, let’s agree to be really gentle about how we talk about appearances. I always love your face and your body, and I gotta know that you love mine as-is, that’s the only way this can work.

It’s also okay to invest in some wigs if the idea of “Hey, surprise, look at me in my new secret identity!” turns you both on sometimes. There are ways to be fun and playful about this without making work and anxiety and awkward growing-out-stages of haircuts for you! (This is a suggestion for far in the future when you feel much better about all of this and your husband has shown with time and actions that he respects your autonomy, NOT something to pull out next week like your job is to please him).

It’s 100% not okay for your husband to seek some former version of you literally at the expense of the present-tense woman in front of him today, so, remind him not to.

Above all, fall in love with the person you see in the mirror and don’t let anyone give her any crap. ❤

 

 


The Big Idea: Michael F. Haspil

Jul. 18th, 2017 02:18 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Getting older often gives you a perspective that younger people don’t have. But what happens when you’re immortal? What is your perspective then? It’s a question Michael F. Haspil has considered for his debut novel, Graveyard Shift.

MICHAEL F. HASPIL:

As human beings, we tell ourselves fictions to make it easier to cooperate one with one another.

Sometimes, the fiction is noble. We are all equal and entitled to certain inalienable rights. This story only extends to imaginary lines drawn on a representative map, a different sort of fiction. After all, “We” doesn’t apply to “Them”.

Many times, the fiction is merely useful. This color of light means “go” and another color means “stop”. All drivers must drive on this side of the street. Pieces of paper have value and you can use them to barter for goods. When people stop trusting in those fictions, life becomes hazardous and disagreeable.

All too often, the fiction becomes a source of human polarization. The entertainment we criticize, others adore. The sports tribes we deride are idols to others even though we select them more often due to geography than anything else. Their ties are red, ours our blue, so they are immoral. We don’t understand the methods they use to heal; therefore, they are wicked. They have a different melanin content than we do; their lives aren’t worth as much as ours are. Our god is greater than theirs; therefore, they are evil.

It’s all about tribalism and defining the Other. We tell ourselves stories and then believe them to such an extent we can justify any action.

Viewed from the point of view of hypothetical immortals, or beings so long-lived that for all purposes they may as well be, the numbers of those who belong to their tribe shrink over time, until almost everyone they meet is the Other. Of what concern is any subject when humans change their minds or stop caring about them in a week, a month, a century?

Combine that idea with how many atrocities immortals might witness, as they become more and more detached from those fictions we humans tell ourselves. How many died because they followed the wrong leader? How many burned at the stake because of paranoia? How many mass graves? How many genocides? The immortals would tell themselves a new fiction. Humans don’t matter. They all die, some sooner than others.

The trolley problem is an ethical thought exercise. An observer stands near a switch as a runaway trolley bears down the tracks. On the tracks ahead of the trolley, several people are trapped, unable to move and will die when the trolley reaches them. The observer can pull the switch and divert the trolley to another set of tracks. However, an individual standing nearby will die when the trolley diverts. The problem lies in the observer’s choice of whether to kill one person to save many or do nothing and allow many to die.

As the immortals pass down through the centuries, the trolley problem breaks. Viewed on their timescale, what does it matter if everyone on the tracks dies? Their lives are so short, they are as good as dead anyway. Why should immortals trouble themselves with the lives of beings that end in a relative eye blink? Why should human morals matter? Or human laws? It’s not that immortals are more or less ethical than humans. It’s that over their eternal lives they tell themselves different stories. New fictions, humans aren’t equipped to understand.

Taken from the human point of view, these immortals inevitably become the Other. By comparison, our short lives would not afford us a window of understanding. Their decisions and justifications would be alien to us. What do fruit flies comprehend of human machinations?

If we knew of them at all, we would fear them. We would hate them. We would hunt them.

In my novel, Graveyard Shift, some of my heroes are so long-lived they may as well be immortal and so they share part of the problems I’ve described. Added to their condition, they often make the difficult choices of committing a lesser evil to prevent a greater one. It is a slippery slope. How many times can one justify collateral damage in the name of the greater good before one becomes a new source of evil?

In many other stories, my heroes — a vigilante, a vampire, a shapeshifter, a mummy — would be the villains. As Nietzsche warns, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” But when beings survive for millennia, becoming a monster, may be inevitable.

My characters aren’t nice people. On a good day, they are indifferent to the plight of the everyman. Often throughout the story, they do unpleasant things and they rationalize what they’ve done by convincing themselves it was a necessary evil to prevent something much worse. Most of the time, that’s true.

This was a bit of a struggle for me. How could I convey the apathy of immortals and still portray them as sympathetic heroes?

It ultimately came down to their motivations. The need for atonement drives many of my characters. They view their immortality and their continued service to humankind as a sort of penance for sins committed past and present.

It wouldn’t take much to flip the script and turn them into the true monsters other perceive them to be. This is what Matheson’s Richard Neville discovers at the conclusion of I Am Legend. Often, determining who is and who isn’t a monster, is solely based on the point of view and the fictions we tell ourselves.

—-

Graveyard Shift: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Slainte, Captain!

I have a weird family question that I couldn’t find an answer to, so I turn to you.

I’m 30 years old, raised by my mom and my stepdad. Hopefully brief context: my stepdad and I have never got along. There were many instances of emotional abuse – he’s the kind of guy who would excitedly volunteer to tell me when I was in trouble because he delighted in bringing me bad news, and was jealous enough of my relationship with my mom that he would come up with chores for me to do whenever he caught me sitting and talking or reading with her. There were also a few occasions of drunky physical abuse; I got slapped and thrown around a fair bit. He’s still incredibly rude to me a lot of the time, which is why we don’t really talk. They live in another state and that’s the way I like it.

By contrast, my relationship with my mother is… good, but problematic. She is the strongest, classiest, most brilliant and brave woman I’ve ever known, and I practically worship her, but I also know that I can’t be around her and retain my adulthood at all. She loves me ferociously but spent most of my childhood pushing me away. “Love me from afar!” was her favorite line. We can talk for years about books, movies, history, science, ideas… but I cannot tell her things that matter to me, because she will either ridicule them or simply tell me, “Oh, honey, you know I don’t care about that.” Yes, she actually says exactly that.

So! Here’s my issue:

Every time I talk to them on the phone (usually about twice a month for an hour or more – my mom and I LOVE to talk) one or the other of them will say something like, “Do you think we were good parents?” I never know how to answer that question. I don’t think they were great parents, but at this point, there’s nothing they can do about that, and they’re not likely to agree with a lot of my criticisms anyway. Answering that question honestly would ultimately involve me DEFENDING my memories of neglect and abuse. I’m happy with my life now; I have a family I love and I am finally discovering the person I want to be. Why make both them and me feel like crap when it doesn’t really matter now?

But it keeps coming up. They won’t stop asking, and I hate comforting them about it when I can’t feel genuine doing it. How can I make this question go away without opening up a whole can of emotional nonsense when my life is finally getting better?

Thank you for your time!
Loving From Afar (she/her pronouns)

Dear Loving From Afar (WUT? Ugh, your MOM),

A lot of people who were emotionally abused as kids walk in your same shoes. How to reconcile the demogorgons of our childhoods with the mellower, grayer, almost fragile-seeming fellow adults in front of us now?

This question that your parents keep asking you is deeply strange. If they are concerned about how they treated you and they wanted to have an actual honest conversation about it, your stepdad could say (for example): “I’m in the ‘make amends’ step of recovery and I’d like to apologize for [specific things] I did back when I was drinking.” They could tell you specifically what they want to talk about and why instead of making you play some weird guessing game. They could include, I dunno, an actual apology? None of this is an apology. Their question is a trap, so, good job for knowing that it’s a trap.

Possible answers:

  • “You’ve been asking this question a lot. Is there something specific from the past that you want to talk about?” 
  • “You’ve asked this a lot. What’s prompting this?”
  • “Wow, what a question. What’s really on your mind?” 
  • “Wow, what a question. Is there something specific that’s bothering you?” 
  • “I could have done with 100% less being slapped around by [Stepdad] – is that what you want to talk about?”
  • “If I said ‘not really’ what would you say?” 
  • “Wait, are you asking me to reassure you about your parenting? I have no idea how to do that.”
  • This feels like a trap.
  • “I don’t know how to answer that, but I’m a pretty happy adult.” 
  • Do they make comment cards for family relationships now? Let’s talk about something else.”
  • What an awkward question. Why on earth would you ask me that?
  • No, but we can’t change the past. Why do you want to talk about this now?
  • “Do you think you were good parents?” 
  • “Wow. What brought this on?” 
  • “I don’t know how to answer that.” 
  • Edited to add:Oh, Mom, you know I’m not interested in talking about any of that.” 

If a lot of the scripts above look like answering a question with a question, yes, correct! Think of this as “If you’re going to bring this up, then you’re going to be the ones to do the work of explaining why.” Your parents are almost certain to pass on answering your counter-question or give a “no reason” non-answer, which gives you an opening to ignore the question entirely, like, “Ok, I have no idea how to answer that, but if you think of something specific you want to talk about let me know.” Return awkwardness to sender!

This is such a fucked up question from fucked-up people that there’s no right answer. But (good news?), that means there’s also no wrong way to answer. Answering honestly and giving them an opportunity to have an honest conversation doesn’t mean you have now agreed to discuss or defend or rehash anything. Alternately, saying “If I say ‘sure,’ will you stop asking me?” doesn’t undo all the true things that happened.

My thinking is, no matter how you answer you’re gonna feel weird and bad for a little afterward while because these people are experts at making you feel weird and bad, so you might as well be genuine and honor the life and the self you’ve created. Maybe your script is: “Not really, but I like our relationship how it is now.”

 

 


[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

For nearly two years I have been rolling around in the same low-level but wearing problems like a pig in my own muck, and it’s got to the point where I think I’m the problem – in two ways. One, I keep having the same problems over and over, and not managing to change, so it’s got to be at least partly me. Two, in the specific instances at the moment, being unhappy is making me act like an asshole. I feel like the villain in my own life – every time I read a book with an antagonist, I think ‘Yeah, I have that fault’. Basically, I feel stuck in my own head and trapped by circumstances and I simply don’t know what to do or how to make a decision about it.

I am in a relationship with a very decent, lovely man, Rob, who is the father of my 18-month-old daughter, Lila. Lila was unplanned – Rob and I had been together just 10 months, lived in different towns and he knew he didn’t want kids (I was undecided). He changed his mind immediately she was born and is a devoted dad now. He does so much: cooking, cleaning, his share of the childcare, gardening, making things for the house. He moved in with me two weeks before Lila was born. The house is mine but since we’ve been living together we’ve got a joint account and split everything. Rob is also supportive of me wanting to change career and of my pursuing my childhood ambition to write.

Rob wasn’t my usual type and some of the things that attracted me to him were (I see in hindsight) things that weren’t like my ex (e.g. not criticising the way I ate or sang). I’d recently become more healthy and fit than I’d been for a long time and felt really good. Our relationship was based a lot around food, sex and big physical challenges in those early days.

Since having Lila, a lot of that has changed. Rob always had a lower sex drive than me and I was not always as understanding of that as I should have been (instead feeling rejected). Since I got pregnant our sex life has disappeared. In the last year we’ve had sex maybe once. He has many (undoubtedly true) reasons for this – to start with, he was shocked by becoming a father and thinking his life was over; then he was exhausted from having a newborn and dealing with my depression; now he thinks we need to spend more time together so he feels a connection, and feels I would rather spend time on my phone than with him (this is sometimes true – I feel like we don’t have that much in common or interesting to talk about, and get frustrated with our conversations – if I’m 100 per cent honest, I don’t feel intellectually challenged by him). But I’ve felt very rejected and ‘I still find you attractive’ is not convincing when not backed up with any actions (even hugging is rare, and the only kissing is a peck goodbye in the morning).

We do things together as a family at weekends, but not really the same outdoorsy things we used to. But we take Lila out a lot together – to the woods, to model steam train exhibitions, to farms, camping, to see grandparents or friends. And we host games nights at our house or have friends for dinners. We only rarely do things just us though.

We argued a lot after Lila was born – not immediately, but it started after several months. It goes in phases – we can get along OK, doing the routines, but if certain topics get brought up, arguments flare into volcanic force with breathtaking speed. Some of the resentments run deep on both sides and we don’t seem able to address them. And the worst thing is, neither of us seems to have any self-control once the floodgates are down, and we argue in front of Lila (who is now 20 months).

Rob actually proposed just under a year ago. I feel awful because although I didn’t pressure him, he knew I wanted my mum (who’s terminally ill) to be at my wedding. Immediately he proposed, it felt wrong to me, in a visceral way. I said yes – we were on vacation and had been happily making our 5 year plans the night before, it was romantic and I was cowardly. But then I think subconsciously I started pushing at the pressure points of the relationship after that. We starting arguing more and I started distancing myself more.

Rob isn’t perfect and he’s said some pretty mean things to me in arguments – that I’m pathetic, useless, to just ‘take pills’ for my depression (despite my stated personal preference for counselling and two doctors’ opinions to the same effect), saying when asked why he’s with me that he loves ‘the old me’ and knows I can be kind and lovely etc. (he means emotionally/mentally, not physically – I’m the one who can’t come to terms with my post-partum look, although his lack of desire for me doesn’t help).

Where I’m unhappy, I am acting out and am often unfair. Sometimes I am so childish in my emotions and reactions (although Rob can be too, and he loses his temper easily). I’m also selfish and feel I’m using him. When I’m depressed, I get lethargic and he ends up doing more than his fair share of chores. I feel really torn. On one side, staying together would be the optimum outcome for Lila (assuming we can have a healthy relationship), and for us too, even if just in terms of sharing her growing up and not having to split time to see her. Also, Rob wouldn’t be able to buy a house on his own, finances would be tighter for us both (probably also not helping Lila down the line), I may have to go back to work full time (I’m currently part time) and we don’t want Lila in childcare 5 days a week. So if it can work, I want it to. And I don’t know if it is just my attitude getting in the way, that I need to commit more. But small things seem to take so much effort. I don’t know if that’s because I’m depressed, or if my depression has partly stemmed from the situation. I’ve also started stupidly romancing in my head about someone I barely know but who showed a flicker of interest in me. Rob is a great guy – loyal, kind, generous.

On the other side, something doesn’t feel right. I don’t want to go without sex. Sometimes I’m so frustrated that I want an affair – although I wouldn’t actually do it, I hate that the thought even pops into my head. I don’t feel we have enough intellectual common interests or ground. We don’t ever agree on even films to watch. We do have some interests in common, but I worry I’d be bored sitting on a sofa with him in 20 years’ time. But I have a history of ‘grass is always greener’-ing, and maybe I’m just jinxng the relationship all by myself? I don’t want Lila to grow up seeing an unhealthy relationship. And without him, my life will be a lot harder and any career change (I really hate my job) or creative/social time would be much less likely. There’s no guarantee I’d find a more fulfilling relationship so maybe I should try and make the best of things. But then I feel bad for using him. One of my pragmatic practical friends said we should just keep going for now until Lila is a bit older, but that has its issues too.

These counter arguments have been rolling in my head over and over for more than a year now and I’m exhausted and no nearer to knowing what’s best.

Rob says he wants to make it work, but I secretly feel maybe it’s just because he wants to see Lila all the time and because of the house situation that he’s trying. We never seem to change, however often we mean to.

Sorry this has gone on and on and waffled. But any clarity would be welcomed.

Sincerely,

The villain in my own life

Dear “Villain,”

In your words:

Something doesn’t feel right

Immediately he proposed, it felt wrong to me, in a visceral way….I was cowardly. But then I think subconsciously I started pushing at the pressure points of the relationship after that. We starting arguing more and I started distancing myself more.”

Going out on a limb here, but I don’t think you want to marry this Rob fella.

Not to make your mom happy and because you can’t imagine your wedding photos without her.

Not because he asked and because you like him a lot and he tries hard and is a great dad.

Not because of affordable housing for him or career stuff for you or coparenting your kid.

I…just…You don’t want to marry him. You’re not compatible. You feel awful and guilty and trapped so you’re taking it out on him and distancing yourself and pushing on the weak points of the relationship instead of trying to shore them up. You’re calling yourself names – a villain in this story – when really you just sound incredibly unhappy and lonely.

Would it be a relief to admit that you don’t want to be married to him, out loud, at least to yourself? What would it cost you to take planning a wedding and the prospect of getting married off the table for the time being?

Maybe it will cost too much, emotionally and literally. Maybe he’s all “Marriage or NOTHING” and he’ll be super hurt about how he tried to ‘do the right thing’ and you cruelly rejected him. Or maybe he’ll be relieved because it’s stressing him the hell out, too, and things would be much better if you had the “Hey, let’s do our best to make this all work, I love you and I’m not breaking up with you, but I think the idea of marriage is raising my anxiety levels, so, let’s take the pressure all the way off ourselves right now when everything else is so hard?” conversation.

It’s risky to open that can of worms, to start asking questions like “What does happiness look like to you?” and “What does ‘happy enough’ look like to you?” and “Are we close, or getting there?”

It’s also risky to stay stuck. And risky to marry someone because you think you should want to. As risky as it is for him to marry a lady who is doing the emotional equivalent of chewing her own leg off to avoid marrying him.

If you truly want to make things work with Rob, if you want to stay with him and be in love with only each other while you coparent your kid, then you both need cheesy stuff like “date nights” and the odd weekend away from kids together where you focus on each other and on making each other feel good be that climbing rocks or hiking or doing giant jigsaw puzzles by the fire or rubbing each other’s feet at night. It means that sometimes you put down your phone and give him all your attention and sometimes you zone out and read your phone and he understands that you need those little breaks and it’s not a competition. (If thinking “I love you, but shhhhhh, I’m trying to read The Internet” at one’s partner sometimes is wrong then nobody in my house is right). It means making the effort to find a movie you both want to watch or saying “Fuck it, we’re going to take turns picking the movie. I’ll be a good sport about your picks if you’ll be a good sport about mine” because doing something together is the most important thing. It means deciding to stop distancing yourself and looking for ways to connect. 

Note: I don’t think you want to do any of this and I’m not saying you should do this. I don’t think you and Rob would be together at all if you didn’t have Lila. But this is what really committing to be together would look like.

I do recommend that you go to couples’ therapy and hashing out some of this stuff with a neutral party who can guide you through your “I want to start having sex again but I don’t know where to start and also I need a lot more physical affection in the day-to-day in order to feel connected to you” talk and his “Hey, I need you to talk to your doctors about treating your depression more aggressively. I’m really sorry about what I said before about medications. If you don’t want to take meds, that’s up to you, but what other therapies are there that can help you function better? I know you’re drowning but I’m drowning a little too, and I need you at full Yeah strength, or at least to know that you’re trying your hardest to get there” talk. A good couples’ counselor can help you articulate that scary stuff and help you both decide together if the relationship is worth salvaging and how to end it gently if it’s not.

Good news: Maybe there’s a version of “maybe pretty darn happy?” where y’all sell your current house and buy a duplex or a two-flat and Mommy lives upstairs and Daddy lives downstairs* and you aren’t a couple anymore but you’re great friends to each other and great parents to Lila. If you want to see your friends or go on a date or lose yourself over a weekend to write, you can do it when she’s with her dad, and he can do the same when she’s with you. You can have togetherness and stability and space and free time where you watch only the movies you like. You can make an awesome family that doesn’t necessarily look like other families, and you can write the rules yourselves. Down the road, maybe you’ll each meet someone who makes marriage sound delightful and relaxing and like an easy “Fuck yes!” decision and then Lila will have more adults who love her in her picture and she’ll hate it like all kids hate change on some level but as long as she’s loved and safe she’ll be just fine.

Also good news: If Lila spent some time in childcare while y’all figured out your career stuff and living arrangements, that would be normal, too. She’d come to love her carers and teachers, she’d be psyched to see Mama and/or Papa at the end of the day, the routine there would become an anchor while things changed at home. She wouldn’t feel deprived as long as she’s loved and safe. Great parents use day care all the time and everyone is just fine.

Even more good news: If you and Rob broke up now, 99% of what Lila remembers will be whatever happens after you broke up. She might have some more separation anxiety than usual and temporarily regress a little (with sleep, with the potty, etc.) but it will be a fog when she’s older and whatever your new arrangement ended up looking like it would become her normal. The older she is when and if you do do it, the more disruptive the disruption and the more she’ll remember.

There is so much in your letter, so many interlocking decisions here and everything seems to be on hold until you figure out the relationship. Here are some other thoughts that are coming up for me about self-care:

  • Do you have a social outlet that is just yours? Old friends? Family? A group of new moms near you who get together for low-key stuff with kids? Put some love & time into your social and emotional life.
  • It sounds to me like Rob is asking (badly) for you to treat your depression more aggressively. While badly (not goodly) expressed, does he have a point? You say you’re not feeling great right now, so what non-medication stuff could you do? Something like Mood Gym? Go back to therapy? Get a physical exam and check for other causes of lethargy (those old culprits iron & Vitamin D deficiency)? Your “old self” might not come back, but if you’re consistently feeling low there might be a way to mitigate that.
  • You want to change careers and maybe become a writer. Are you writing now? I think maybe you are not writing now. What if you tried the good old Julia Cameron “The Artist’s Way” method and cranked out 3 pages of whatever comes to mind longhand (or 750 digital words) every morning? If 3 pages is too much, what about 1 page? What about setting a timer for 15 minutes a day and whatever comes out comes out? 10? 5? Or, if that’s even too much, what about using the voice recorder app on your phone? Could taking some baby steps around the act of writing help you get back some joy and agency, without immediately thinking “MY CAREER” (career….career….career…) or the pressure of crafting something that you can sell?
  • Can you disengage emotionally from your part-time job? Remind yourself each day “This isn’t forever, but right now it’s paying some bills and it’s the Devil I know. I need to do & care the minimum amount to preserve options for myself and take care of my kid. I can handle that, for now.

You don’t have to stay stuck forever. You don’t have to marry someone you don’t want to marry just ’cause you said you would and now you’re scared not to. You can be a great parent who is not married to your kid’s father. You can work together to find a housing and parenting solution that keeps everyone close and safe and involved without having to build a romance and sexual relationship on top of it, too. You can work on treating your depression and feeling more at home in your life. You can even solve your job/career stuff eventually.

When I broke up with an ex of 5 years, a good and wise friend said “I know you loved _______, but for a long time you’ve been in that ‘should I stay or should I go?‘ place, and every time I talked to you The Problem of _______ was hanging over your life and coloring all your decisions. I know you’re sad, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing who you’ll be without The Problem of ________.

I was sad when it ended, but there was also this relief, this flooding giddy sense of relief. It was so much easier to be kind to each other once we stopped trying so hard to make it work.

So, what happens if you say “I am not going to marry Rob” out loud to yourself or write it down in a notebook tonight? What else falls into place once you’ve made that decision? What do you grieve for? What becomes newly possible?

 

*With a written lease so he lives legally where he lives and a written agreement between you about how you handle finances and custody. Maybe his rent is $1 and he puts $XXXX into a joint account “for Lila” every month, whatever, but if you go this route, write it allllll down. ❤

 


July London meetup

Jul. 17th, 2017 11:10 pm
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by katepreach

Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX near Waterloo station, 22nd July, 12 non onwards.  Please note slight change of location, same as last month – Green Bar rather than Blue, e.g. same thing as the previous location but the opposite side. Also please note we are starting an hour later than usual.

Colouring in! Please bring any copyright free images to colour, plus pens, pencils etc. 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 Green Bar (go up in lift 1, sadly not as musical as lift 7).

Here is the accessibility map of the Royal Festival Hall: PDF map

I have shoulder length brown hair and glasses, and I will bring my plush Cthuhlu, which looks like this: 

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 forums for saying hello.

My email is Kate DOT Towner AT Gmail DOT com

(August meetup will be the 19th.)

P.S. for anyone who will be at Nine Worlds, we also have an additional meetup on the Friday morning https://sites.grenadine.co/sites/nineworlds/en/2017/schedule/1167/Captain+Awkward+Meet-Up


hrj: (LHMP)
[personal profile] hrj
 I'm going back to my more usual pattern of covering thick books one chapter at a time! Velasco will take care of almost two months worth of entries, which will give me some breathing space during my summer travels.
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[personal profile] kareina
We got home from our time working on Gustaf's landscaping project on Wednesday evening, which gave us Thursday to recover. David and I sat down with the internet and looked at some options for a replacement computer (which, if I get one, probably means I won't go to the states to visit my sisters in October due to the costs involved), but rather than ordering one straight away, I instead went to my office and brought home my work computer (which is what I am using at the moment). We have a thing in our Dropbox folder that I can use to log into our server and thus access the files from my computer which are backed up there, so it has been working well enough for now. After the Medieval days at Hägnan event I will figure out what I want to do--if we should just fix the old one (he thinks a new hard drive would solve the issues, but it would still be an old computer with a new hard drive, and I don't actually have disks for the operating system, only the programs), or if I will buy a new one, or what.

Friday we drove down to Skellefteå for their Medieval Days event. This is the first time they have done this--they have a lovely site on a small island in the river, accessible via a foot bridge, and I think it will make a great annual event. I would have loved to have participated the full week, but I was also glad to have the time to work on projects for the house (working at Gustaf's counts as working at our place, since he put in so many hours on our landscaping first, so it is a good trade). It was kinda rainy on Friday, and I spent most of the day working on a nålbindning project while sitting in the pavilion of a cute Norwegian merchant (from whom I purchased some fur that looks good with the grey/black diamond twill wool I bought last year at Visby). Caroline had to work on Saturday, and the others were ready to head home earlier than I had expected. I considered just staying--one of the autocrats tried to convince me that even though I hadn't registered for the event I was very welcome--they have room in the crash space tent, and plenty of vegetarian food available. I considered it, but decided it was wiser to head home and accomplish stuff.

Since heading home we have:

* started painting the south side of the house (it has needed it for quite some time)
* did the hand-smoothing of the dirt on the terrace (which we will probably cover over with some sort of concrete or stone tiles, depending on what we find at a reasonable price) to make a nice outdoor entertainment area that doesn't need to be mowed (it would be bothersome to carry a mower down the steps to the terrace anyway)
* built a base for the support frame for the earth cellar roof (out of some birch trees that he cut down over near the shed on the bottom half of the property as they were in the way of the road that his bother put in)
* cleaned out the container
* bought some shelf support brackets (which he has welded into place inside the container)
* started power-sanding the wooden floor of the container (in hopes of getting the smell of old spilled oil out of it)
* done some baking for Hägnan

Now it is Monday and David has returned to work. I have started packing for the event, and will return to that momentarily. Tomorrow we go set up, and then we spend the rest of the week alternating between educating the public about the middle ages during the day, and enjoying an SCA event in the evening.

Thunderbolts and Lightning

Jul. 17th, 2017 01:42 am
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

So, this thunderstorm showed up today, and for about an hour there was nonstop thunder and lightning, so much so that I thought I might go out and see if I could capture some lightning in slow motion.

How did that turn out? Well:

I was pretty pleased with myself, I have to say. And then I came back inside before I got zapped.


New Books and ARCs, 7/14/17

Jul. 14th, 2017 07:15 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Here’s a very fine Bastille Day selection of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi compound in the last week or so. What’s ringing your bell here? Tell us in the comments!


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