Amsterdam trip - day one

Jul. 22nd, 2017 10:58 pm
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
We had an early start, but not horrifically so. It was my first time travelling on the Eurostar, and it was lovely, with comfy seats and tasty food, but even more pleasant was the Thalys train from Brussels to Amsterdam. On arrival at the station we picked up an iamsterdam card which gets us travel and free/reduced entry into lots of museums and such, then took the tram to our hotel. The room is perhaps a little on the small side, but pleasant, and the bed is comfortable, which is the important thing.

We deliberately didn’t plan anything but unpacking and decompressing for this afternoon, which was the right call, as after all that travelling we were both feeling rather in need of a nap. We woke up around dinner time, and then went out for sushi (possibly an odd choice, but our first meal on our first holiday together in Prague was also sushi, so it seemed auspicious). It certainly wasn’t a bad choice - the sashimi was beautifully presented and very fresh, and the rice texture was spot on. My high point was either the scallop sashimi with tobiko, or the raw beef, avocado and cucumber roll, which was subtle and gorgeous.

After dinner [personal profile] obandsoller was feeling quite tired, so we came back to the hotel, and although my intention was to drop him off and then go for a stroll around the nearby Oosterpark, I ended up getting eaten by the inertia monster until it got dark, so that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Amsterdam trip - day zero

Jul. 22nd, 2017 10:55 pm
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
I decided that since we’d be leaving quite early on Saturday morning and had guests for dinner on Friday that it would be sensible to take an extra day off work so I didn’t have to pack in a frantic hurry. Obviously I then proceeded to plan an unnecessarily ambitious meal and fill the day from start to finish with Events, so had to pack in a rush on Thursday night instead… I got up fairly early and went for a run which finished at church. Somewhat to my surprise I found that the gates were locked, but I wasn’t foiled and managed to scale the wall and get in anyway (once past the wall the rest of the break-in was facilitated by the clever trick of having keys). I dropped off the cheques I needed signatures on, and spent a while trying to get the ancient (running Vista!) laptop working, as I’m hoping to get the people who count the collection to enter the figures directly into a spreadsheet rather than writing them down, to save me some data entry. I didn’t quite manage to get it working, but I did get a bit of organ practice inbetween interminably slow reboots…

I took the bus rather than running home, and picked up a last couple of missing ingredients, then began prepping the beetroot three ways (boiled and diced, roasted with balsamic vinegar, and finely sliced then deep fried, then baked) for the starter, and the venison meatballs for the main course. Naturally that took a little longer than expected, and I was a few minutes late out the door to head to [personal profile] charlie’s for lunch. They’d gotten out of hospital a couple of days ago, and were still a little fragile, but seemed massively happier than the last couple of times I’ve seen them, which was very pleasing to see.

I then had another session with the physio I saw a couple of weeks ago. After the first session I was absolutely amazed by how much difference he made to my back - I’d had a couple of days completely tension-free for the first time in months, and even after it started to creep back in, it was definitely less intrusive than it has been. This time he suggested trying acupuncture, which I’m quite sceptical of, but given his previous results I figured I’d give it a go. I’m still feeling kind of sceptical afterwards, but I’ll give it another couple of days to see how it feels then, and probably ask him to stick with the kinds of treatment he did from my first session in future.

Then home again, and more cooking until Stephani (winodw) and her newish partner Matthew arrived. I started with a failure, as she asked for a repeat of a cocktail I’d made her once before, but although we had all the relevant booze we were lacking apple juice. Oops. Still, we managed to find them something to drink, and I was pretty pleased with how the food came out. The new fella was quiet but charming, and they were adorkably coupley, which brought back fond memories of what Ramesh & I were like when we first got back together.

07/21/17 PHD comic: 'Weekend Plans'

Jul. 21st, 2017 04:23 pm
[syndicated profile] phd_comics_feed
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Weekend Plans" - originally published 7/21/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

[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] phd_comics_feed
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The Mysteries of SPACE" - originally published 7/19/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

emperor: (Default)
[personal profile] emperor
Fans of the coffee stall on the Cambridge market (link to my previous post on opening hours) may be interested to know that he doesn't seem to be open on Thursdays any more - AFAICT he's now Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat.

Not entirely co-incidentally, my coffee supplies are now rather low :(
[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.

 

 

 

 

 


Lovely team!

Jul. 20th, 2017 09:34 am
wildeabandon: Champage bottle and flutes (champagne)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
Today is my last day at work before my holiday, and rather unexpectedly my team just came in and gave me an early birthday present (and sang at me). They got me a very goth card, a bread & cakes recipe book, and theatre tokens. Considering that I'm a temp and I've only been here for three months, I'm awfully pleased and surprised that they bothered at all, but especially that they seem to have got the measure of me quite so spot on. Lovely team :)
[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.

 

 

 

 

 


Recruiting soup kitchen volunteers

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:56 pm
wildeabandon: A London skyline (London)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
My church runs a soup kitchen every Tuesday evening to support the homeless and those in food poverty in the area. We're looking for volunteers to oversee the project about once every six weeks. The church is about 5 minutes walk from Finsbury Park station, so easy to get to from anywhere on the Victoria or Piccadilly lines. More details are here if you're at all interested, and if not but you know people who might be then I'd appreciate you pointing them there or here.

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax

Jul. 18th, 2017 05:15 pm
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Dancing in the sand)
[personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait
I've often wondered why my shoes seem to wear out more quickly than other people's, given that I don't wear them often and I don't walk very far. Only Tom said I walked more than other people so I went to find the statistics to prove him wrong and it turns out, he's right. So, I generally walk about 15000 steps a day, according to a few varieties of pedometer I've tried (10000 on sedentary days, 20000 on busy days) and according to the NHS an average person walks 3000-4000 steps a day. So no wonder my shoes wear out quicker!

I do feel like more walking would benefit me, though, I don't tend to do very well on 'moderate' exercise, I get sleepy and lethargic and sad.

Speaking of, I am seeing a response to the folic acid. I'm getting fewer pins and needles in my legs, and they're generally more comfortable. I'm still very tired a lot, though, and I still feel worse if I eat less meat.

Other stuff:
Reading: I just finished Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond, edited by John Joseph Adams, which is delightful and if you like Oz related stuff, worth reading
Watching: nothing yesterday, but I've been listening to LeVar Burton Reads, which is a podcast of short stories with an introduction and a few words at the end.
Playing: On the Underground, Colin and I drew! Child favourites at the moment are Hey! That's My Fish and Coup. I really like Coup, can take or leave the penguins.
Eating: orzo with a tomato, mushroom and mozzarella sauce for the adults and lamb chops for the carnivores.

#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. ❤

 

 


Catch up

Jul. 18th, 2017 01:42 pm
lnr: (Default)
[personal profile] lnr
Done since Jun 14th:
  • Test rode an Onderwater tandem, which has the child stoker seat at front - Matthew loved it
  • Second parents evening for Matthew's school, nice to see teachers again and get more idea of school plans
  • Rainbow Sponsored Trike Ride - I ended up riding Matthew's bike as a balance bike since he didn't want to join in
  • Blood tests: my calcium, parathyroid hormone and vitamin D levels are all normal, but keep taking the vitamin D for now
  • We did HBA1C as well, which is average blood sugar levels, also fine - I'm at slight risk due to Type 2 diabetes in family and current weight)
  • Picnic lunch and playdate with Kirsten/Andre/Judith/Colin and Lammas Land - lots of fun
  • Shelford Feast - Matthew enjoyed all the stalls and mini steam train and bouncy castles, I helped out on the Rainbow stall
  • Eye Test for Matthew this morning: doing great, patching is helping his eyes work well together, ordered new lenses for his current glasses, next appointment in October half term
  • Work appointed one interim head, who only stayed 2 days, and are now appointing again
  • The "implementation" phase of Organisational Change is officially complete and we all now in theory have new jobs - but almost no management so not much actual change at the moment
  • Total resignations now at 4 (Patrick, James, Stephen, Andrew) with possibility of more to come

Plus assorted bike rides, visits to the park, dyeing hair purple again and so on - and lots of lego :)

Coming up in the near future:
  • Collect Matthew's school uniform (I see the school's admin at Pre-School and she's kindly said she'll bring it along for me)
  • Early start tomorrow for Rainbow Leavers Trip to Wandlebury
  • Rainbow end of term staff party tomorrow evening: as part of the committee I'm involved in helping host it
  • Rainbow leaving party on Friday morning - last day of pre-school!
  • A week in the lake district starting on Saturday
  • Test riding a Circe Helios tandem when we get back
  • Folk Festival on Sunday 30th - possibly with Matthew, possibly without
  • New Interim Head of IT Group starts (phased in) on 1st August (Hi Julian)
  • A week in Devon with family from 4th August - staying at Wortham Manor

In between the two weeks away Matthew will have a week at Hania's - and then when we get back he's got three weeks of holiday club before granny and grandad come to visit the first week in September, and then school starts on the 11th.

I think I know why I'm exhausted :)


Busy, busy, busy

Jul. 18th, 2017 11:17 am
wildeabandon: sushi (sushi)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
It's all gone a bit hectic. Definitely in a fun way, but at some point I should probably schedule some quiet nights in...

I mentioned last month ago that I was trying climbing again, and since then I've been going most weeks. So far I'm making fairly measurable progress in terms of each time getting up a route, or at least further up a route, that I got stuck on the previous week. I was particularly pleased because one of those routes hadn't been graded the first time I tried it, and when I came back to it the following week it turned out to be three grades higher than anything I'd successfully climbed before (I still didn't quite make it to the top, but I got past the move I was stuck on, and I'm fairly confident that I'm going to make it to the top tomorrow).

I've been swimming a bit as well, both on my own and with [personal profile] sfred. The funny thing about swimming compared to most other forms of exercise that I do is that whilst I'm doing it it feels as though I'm going fairly gently and not working very hard, and then I get out of the pool and all my muscles go "gosh, that was bracing!". I think it's a combination of the water softening the impact of the motion, and feeling as though the only reason ones breathing is constricted is because of being underwater half the time, rather than from the exertion, and as Fred pointed out, not noticing that you're sweating, because it gets washed straight off.

I had my first singing lesson in ages last week, to get in a bit of improvement before choir starts in September. I'd forgotten how physical singing is when you're doing it right - I think my core muscles were getting more of a workout then than from the climbing!

I've also been enjoying various dinners. Last month I went to Morito with [personal profile] borusa and a couple of weeks ago I went with my sister to the Barbary to celebrate her birthday. They both do Middle Eastern/North African small plates on barstools overlooking the kitchen. Both were very good, and in both cases the aubergine thing was the high point of the meal. On that comparison Morito comes out on top, because their deep fried aubergine with date molasses and goat's curd was so delicious that I ordered a second plate of it instead of pudding. The crisp batter/melty soft aubergine texture contrast was heavenly, and the curd was light and fluffy but with a warm richness just made to be cut through by the sweet/sharp molasses.

Last weekend had more delicious food. On the Friday [personal profile] hjdoom was in town, so I had the fun challenge of finding somewhere good for a coeliac vegan to eat. We went for Itadaki Zen, the vegan Japanese place near Kings Cross, which is always fantastic. We had a mixture of small dishes to start, with lots of crunchy textures and umamish seasonings and sauces, then six pieces of sushi, all exquisite. My main was decent, but Oliver's tempura really won the day. I was especially excited by the vine leaf and the seaweed. On Saturday Ramesh & I went out for a very (very!) belated celebration of our anniversary to St Moritz. We ate all the cheese. And then we ate all the chocolate as well, because why not. I didn't think the fondue was quite as good as the late lamented L'art du fromage, but it was still basically giant pile of cheese, so hard to complain too much. On Sunday I'd invited Beryl, one of the St John's grandames, over for lunch, and then delegated the cooking to [personal profile] robert_jones, who did us proud with a lovely summery pea and basil soup, roast lamb that was just perfectly tender, and strawberries in balsamic syrup.

Tonight I'm dining with [personal profile] borusa again at Rok, and planning a dinner on Friday, when I've got the day off work so can pull the stops out a little bit. Then next week Ramesh & I are off to Amsterdam, where cultural and culinary delights various await us.

Worldcon excitingness

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:22 am
ceb: (Default)
[personal profile] ceb
Worldcon has a programme! See here: http://www.worldcon.fi/programme/schedule/

Also, Worldcon has an at-con volunteer sign-up page! See here: https://urly.fi/Nos
If you're happy to help me set up the Exhibits hall on Tuesday then please say you've been assigned an area and pick "Exhibits MIMO" and I will be eternally grateful :-)
[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. ❤

 


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