Dear Captain Awkward,
My wedding is in a month. There is new parental drama that makes me wish we were eloping. How do I still enjoy my wedding?
Fiancée and I are introverts and did not want a huge wedding. My parents do not understand why we would not want 300 guests (despite numerous attempts to explain). We compromised and invited almost everyone they wanted. We will have 100 guests (a lot!).
A few days ago, amidst a calm discussion about wedding logistics, my dad got unexpectedly angry and bitter and said (I quote) “You have made a lot of choices about this wedding that your mom and I would not have made and you just have to live with the fact that you can’t make everyone happy.” He said it in a way that clearly indicated he was bitter and resentful and unhappy. It was out of the blue and really upsetting, very much the “you are a child and I am not going to engage with or respect you” tone of voice. I am about to be 30.
I tried to engage in calm, thoughtful conversation (through tears) about his concerns, but to no avail. He does not communicate about feelings, apologize or have discussions about his behavior. My mom did not get why I was upset (???), but when I talked to her later she did commiserate that he does not apologize for things. I assume he is still upset about invitations, which pisses me off because we invited all of his family (except for some adult children, which caused other drama, long story). I may never know.
My primary concern is how to still enjoy my wedding next month. My mom is confident he will behave and be gracious, and she is probably right, but this outburst was unexpected so I am worried (A++ at anxiety). I also know that any conversation with my dad about this will a) not go anywhere, and b) make it take longer for things to cool down, making day-of wedding drama more likely. But I am both a strong communicator and a strong woman and it is hard to feel like letting it go is letting him win. Wedding planning has been a large source of stress for me (we had a variety of other family/friend invitation drama despite our best attempts), and this is just the icing on the cake. Right now I feel like I am going to burst into tears from one unkind word at the wedding.
I talked about this with my therapist and we are working on practicing being okay with people I care about being upset at/angry with me. I care about my parents very much, but my dad has been the largest source of wedding-related stress, and telling him that will only make things worse. I have a good Team Me in my fiancée and close friends, but it is hard to know what to do so that I can enjoy my wedding while also feeling angry.
Maybe I Should Have Eloped
Your dad gave you an (unintentional) gift with his words. I’ll explain later, when we talk about feelings. For now, you’re 30 days out from your wedding, so, let’s make lists and check things off them.
A. Choose a date, reserve a venue, invite people. DONE! You have compromised all you can and invited all you can invite. This is the final guest list, for better or worse. From this day forward I give you absolute permission to concentrate on the people who will be attending and more specifically the people you are excited to see that day, and let everyone else fade cheerfully into the general fog of well-wishers.
If your parents are continually passing on news of the “Well, I talked to so-and-so, and they are still upset about not being invited” variety, it’s okay to say “We are not changing the guest list. It’s done. If so-and-so is really that upset, tell them to take it up directly with me… after the wedding.” There is an 90% chance that So-and-so doesn’t give a shit about your wedding and your parents are using their name to chew on the drama of it all again.
B. Make sure people have places to sit and pee and stuff to eat and drink. DONE! You’re 30 days out, you have doubtless locked almost all of this stuff down. Your obligation to your guests is fulfilled. Your job from here on out is to show up and get married. C. A ceremony of some sort with legal documents. I’m also assuming this is being handled. Great job!
You’ve done the hardest part! This event is situated on the space-time continuum and people are coming to it.
D. With the help of your fiancée, make a list of anything & everything logistical that it’s essential to discuss with either of your parents between now and the wedding. Is there something the parents are bringing? Is there transportation stuff/clothing stuff/hotel stuff that needs nailed down? Put it on the list! Is there something that isn’t really important and can be deleted from the list or solved without consulting them? Great! Cross it off the list.
E. Now, use the list and generate a cheerful, joint, “We can’t wait to see you! Here are all the last-minute details in one place!” email to your folks. From now until the wedding day, there is nothing to negotiate or deeply discuss, there is only implementation of decisions long past made: “Are you still good to pick up the cake? It will be ready at 10am that day. Let me know, thank you!” or “Don’t worry about that, it’s all handled! Just come and enjoy yourself.”
F. One of the benefits of marriage that people tend to undersell: You now have a built-in buffer and teammate and stressful-relative-switch-hitter, for life! Your dad is stressing you out right now, so, maybe your fiancée can take point. “Hello, how are you? Nice to hear your voice! Letter Writer is driving/asleep/I just pried the phone out of their hands and made them take the rest of night off from wedding crap, but I’m here! What’s up?” You can do the same with her most stressful relative. If the person is calling to be pleasant, everything will be pleasant. If the person is calling to shower disappointment on you, they can be disappointed about how they didn’t get to do that.
G. Do you have a wedding party person or gregarious friend who can be Dad-buffer at the wedding? This is not an uncommon or unusual request! Even nice families where everyone likes each other stress each other out around big life events. The designated person makes pleasant party small talk with your dad – “Your child looks great! I’m so happy for both of them! What a great party this is! What is it that you do, sir? Wow, that sounds interesting, how did you get into that?” – and you get a little breathing room and permission to relax between now and then. Your dad will most likely pull it together and behave himself on that day, so this is just a security blanket, but if for some reason he doesn’t your buffer will handle it and you’ll never even know.
Parent logistics stuff, solved! We’re almost there! Let’s talk about enjoying yourself.
H. Make sure that on your wedding day you and your fiancée have some time that’s just by yourselves, for yourselves, with no one looking at you. The great Offbeat Bride team has some pieces about how to implement this:
2) “Avoid wedding day memory loss: How to slow down and actually remember your wedding.” If you’re only finding that site 30 days before the big day, I’m sorry! It helped me so much.
What I’d add to Offbeat Bride’s lists for introverts:
3) Give your eyes breaks. Our ceremony was probably 10 minutes long? Turns out that is much too long to look deeply into into someone’s eyes, even the eyes of your favorite person. Just know that going in.
4) Talk to your photographer. I don’t know if you have photography anxiety, but I do. Our photographer knew and he was great at gently and quickly getting the stuff he knew we’d want someday. He made it fun and low key and gave me breaks and I didn’t feel surveilled or pinned down by a lens the whole time. Your photographer wants to know the bare bones of awkward stuff like “Spouse’s parents are divorced, so, we’ll definitely take some with both parents but make sure we get some with Just Mom and Just Dad.” A pro will take all this in and make it go smoothly. Also, you do not have to pose for pictures with every single person who came to your wedding. Have mercy on yourselves and all these people, let them get to the buffet and the having fun part.
5) Let your officiant officiate. We…okay…I…wanted to go no-cameras (except for our pro) during the ceremony itself. If I’d told people that ahead of time I’d have heard a whole bunch of jibber-jabber about it but having the officiant spring it on people right before the ceremony meant nobody could grumble at us where we had to listen to it.
Okay. Now is the time in this list/pep talk where we address what your dad said:
“You have made a lot of choices about this wedding that your mom and I would not have made and you just have to live with the fact that you can’t make everyone happy.”
He meant it as a “neg.” He meant “you’re gonna have to live with my/our disappointment.” He meant it to get you to apologize for something or give in on some point of negotiation (or to stop insisting on making yourself happy).
But the words say: “you just have to live with the fact that you can’t make everyone happy.” And these are true words. These words are a gift. They can be a shield, or they can be ammunition. As in, the next time he’s a pill about something wedding-related you can remind yourself, that hey, you can’t make everyone happy, and some people might be disappointed no matter what you do, so stop trying to win their approval (INCLUDING YOU, DAD). He probably will never apologize or get it and things might stay a little strained for a while. But you have a secret weapon when things get tense, and that weapon is “Hey, Dad, thanks for the suggestion, I’ll think about it!” (You will think about it, and quietly not take the suggestion).
He’ll grumble, and you’ll say, “Dad, I know that’s not what you want to hear, but like someone very wise once said, I have to stop trying so hard to make everyone happy.” He’ll grumble more – he didn’t meant that you should stop trying to make HIM happy – but you can smile and keep saying “Thanks Dad! Those were really wise words, you helped me a lot. As long as fiancée and I are a team, we don’t have to make everyone happy,” and eventually he’ll STFU. Weaponized filial piety as judo, where you use your opponent’s strength and aggression against him.
It’s not the job of your wedding to make everyone happy or to express your exact social class markers and culture and perfect taste with just enough individual touches to feel really authentic and just enough tradition that it will still be recognizable to the olds as a wedding. It’s not your wedding’s job to spackle over the awkward patches in your family, to make up for lost time, to bring you all closer together, to make the unsayable sayable, to provide reconciliation and catharsis. It’s not your wedding’s job to be your happiest day of your life or to live up to some fantasy. It’s one day, hopefully a happy one, in a hopefully long and happy life.
OK STORY TIME in the style of bitchesgottaeat.
I hated wedding planning. I resented every second of it. I had no dream or fantasy wedding from childhood. I was also in pain all the time, and had weekly physical therapy for an injured knee and shoulder injury that made it hard to put on a bra by myself or reliably wipe my butt for months. My future mother-in-law was in and out of the hospital for a persistent MRSA-like infection. Would she even be able to come? I was working four little jobs that almost but not quite made a whole job pay-wise but made 1.5 jobs time-wise, now with extra commuting! Our wedding was exactly one month before Election Day, 2016. My dentist: “You’re grinding your teeth.” No shit?
I hated all the gender expectations around it, like, why are people asking me what our “theme” would be? Is it because I’m the lady? Why do I have to know this shit? (Me: “WTF is theme.” Commander Logic: “You don’t have to have a theme.” Me: “THANK YOU” Note: We did sort of end up with one? Lyrics here.)
I knew I was the one stressing MYSELF out, like, nobody was making me do this, if you’re planning a party about love you have good problems, we had survived some very hard things together especially in 2014 and really did want to celebrate with our friends and families, so why was I making it so much harder on myself than it had to be? Because my brain has a hateful shitlord lodged inside it that second-guesses literally everything is the answer to that question.
I had many conversations with my mom where she was disappointed in or unable to understand my choices (to not spend a zillion dollars that I don’t have, to not add starving myself to my already full to-do list). In one phone call she told me people in our family might not want to come if it wasn’t going to be “enough like a wedding.” She started apologizing to family in front of us when told them we’d set a date and a place – “Well, it’s going to be very rustic!” – and tried to talk us into her throwing a second fancy party where they live in case family didn’t want to make the trip here. (Note: My family is not actually fancy, this was all projection.) She was also hurt and disappointed that I was having a civil ceremony instead of faking and lying my way through a Catholic wedding and wondered aloud, on Mother’s Day, if she was a bad parent because somehow all of her kids had rejected God, or did we do it on purpose to hurt her feelings. (My suggestion that my younger brother who runs his own church called Warriors 4 Christ and sells Christian-themed camping and fishing gear loved God enough for all of us was not received well).
She did not body-police me…much…but she about bit through her tongue to not do it and would always mention conspicuously how she wanted to lose about x more pounds before she bought something to wear. Me: “Mmmhmm.” About a year beforehand I brought a $40 wedding dress on clearance (literally the first thing I saw online that met the criteria of “might fit” and “don’t hate”) that I ended up wearing on my actual wedding day (yay!) but I would have paid 10x that even if I didn’t wear it because it allowed to say, truthfully, “Aw, thanks for the offer to go wedding dress shopping, that’s so sweet, but I already have my dress!” for a calendar year.
My mom came out for a nice shower that my friends threw in the summer. It was so sweet of her to come. She helped me pick out my wedding ring. She gave me a generous gift. She also did the maddening thing she does where she walks very very fast until she’s far ahead of me and then stops and impatiently glares at me until I catch up. My knee had been healing but I re-aggravated it trying to keep up with her the whole weekend. Mr. Awkward put a stop to that when he came out with us on the last day. When she’d walk ahead, he’d stop walking and wait for her to do the glare thing. “Where are you going? Jennifer’s the only one who knows the way, so, you’re going to have to walk with us if you want to get there.” And he’d stand until she had to walk back to where we were and before we’d start off again. And you know, it turns out she can modulate her walking speed after a couple rounds of that? Who knew?
Like you, I had a lot of anxiety about would my mom freak my shit out and make me cry on the day itself. One hint of “Wait, is that what you’re wearing?” (and it wouldn’t have to be in words, it could be a look or a sniff or a sigh) and we would have deeply tested the waterproofness of that expensive mascara. One thing that helped, I guess, is that I saw her at breakfast but I didn’t see her at all during the girly-getting-ready part of the day. I had invited her to stop by our hotel room but she never came. It infuriated my wedding party ladies that she didn’t but I think it was a gift that she didn’t, the gift of breathing room.
A week before the wedding Mr. Awkward asked when we were going to have people throw rice. I was like, throw what? And he was like, you know, when you leave, and people throw rice. And I was like, um, are we doing that? And he was like, well, in my family, we make little bags of rice, and then we throw it when the couple leaves the venue, and that thing where it supposedly hurts birds is not real, so, I’d like it to be rice and not glitter or bubbles or whatever. And I was like, okay, I understand that people do that, but again I ask you, what? And he was like RICE, WHEN THE PEOPLE THROW THE RICE. FOR THE LUCK. And I was like OKAY, WHAT FUCKING RICE? WHERE IS THIS RICE COMING FROM? I SEE NO RICE IN MY BUDGET, THE ONE I LOOK AT EVERY DAY. WHO WILL BE CREATING THESE CHARMING LITTLE BAGS? and he was like My mom and sisters can do it and I’m like okay, did you ask them, and he’s like well, it’s a little late for that now, and I’m like okay, so…
…and he’s like DO YOU EVEN WANT TO GET MARRIED? BECAUSE YOU SHIT ON EVERY SINGLE TRADITION. IF NOTHING ABOUT THIS IS ENJOYABLE FOR YOU WHY ARE WE EVEN DOING THIS? and I was like WELL I DO WANT TO BE MARRIED TO YOU BUT THE REST OF THAT IS A VERY GOOD QUESTION and he was like OH MY GOD, CAN YOU JUST LIKE TRY TO HAVE FUN AND ENJOY THE STUPID LITTLE TRADITIONS BECAUSE THEY MAKE OTHER PEOPLE HAPPY AND IT’S PART OF WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE A WEDDING and I was like I AM HAVING A LOT OF ANXIETY RIGHT NOW, SO, NO, PROBABLY NOT? AND WHY IS THIS THE FIRST TIME I’M HEARING ABOUT YOUR DEEP NEED TO BE PELTED WITH GRAIN?
He stormed off and called his mom for their weekly chat.
I googled “Is rice a grain or a seed?” and “Can you die of decision fatigue”
When he came out of the bedroom after the phone call he apologized for yelling at me and for introducing changes to the wedding plan past the statute of wedding planning limitations and we both said a bunch of mushy stuff that I don’t remember and fell asleep in front of the TV.
And then a week later, we had a party where we got married at it. Everyone who came had a chair and enough to eat and drink. Our dirtbag friend taught all the 10-year-old girls to throw a real punch in case Trump won the election and they had to fight Nazis someday. My mom was pleasant and kind and after the ceremony she told me she loved what we’d done and went to go tell our officiant. She said that she could tell Mr. Awkward and I were two of a kind and she loved the way we always had each other’s backs and looked out for each other. My dad went to Extrovert Mustache Dad heaven, where it’s surprising that the collected guests did not carry him around on their shoulders singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow” by the end of it. When I see my friends now their first question is “How’s your dad? Tell him I said hi! Is he visiting soon? Can we visit him in Massachusetts?”
It was, in the end, not “just party, ugh, what’s the big deal?” as I’d said to myself for the better part of a year. It was overwhelmingly beautiful and cool to have all these different people from our lives in one place at the same time. It was overwhelming and cool to have our friends and family help us and come through for us in all these small and big ways. It was a very big deal. It didn’t hit me how big until it was actually happening, and then it went by so fast.
And now it’s over, and Mr. Awkward and I are like “Thank you for helping me lock it down before I had to learn about Tinder” and “We never have to plan one of those again, HIGH FIVE (never leave me).”
- Wedding planning CAN SUCK SO BAD. Especially if it’s not in your wheelhouse and you don’t have “eh, let’s just throw money at this problem” money.
- Eloping is still an option. You probably won’t do it because you’ve already spent so much money. But you can! As commenters suggested, maybe have a relaxed secret courthouse jam next week, or some other private ceremony?
- Weird family stuff won’t get magically fixed but people can surprise you.
- Small weddings are great, big weddings are great. I know the size of yours is freaking you out, but the benefit of having a lot of people around is that any one person doesn’t stand out that much. Also, wedding guests are extremely self-amusing.
- If you hang in I basically promise you something lovely and enjoyable will happen on that day.
Come back in a month for your official IT’S OVER high-five.
I have this idea to make something as a unique art project. It is either the craziest, dumbest, most impractical thing ever … or it’s a crazy, dumb, impractical thing that will be awesome.
I will need exactly one million people, from anywhere in the world, to make it happen. I wonder if that’s possible.
Feel free to speculate, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The Disabled People Destroy SF Kickstarter*, to produce a disability themed special issue of Uncanny magazine, is up and running here and well on its way to meeting the initial funding goal (about 80% funded with 29 days to go).
And the first of their personal essays on disability and SF is up here, a good piece on Mental Health/neurodiversity** getting in the way of growing up to be the SF protagonist you dreamed of, that the genre allows you to be, so sitting down and setting to work to change the genre to allow for protagonists with MH/neurodiversity. I'm so glad the first piece talks about MH/neurodiversity and invisible disability, as they're the most invisible/most often cured of SFnal disabilities.
* If you aren't familiar with the 'x' People Destroy series, it has already done POC Destroy SF and Queers Destroy SF to significant success. I was initially a little disconcerted it's swapped magazines for the disability issue, from Lightspeed to Uncanny, but the editors of Uncanny have a disabled child and they've assembled a solid team of disabled editors for the special issue, so my worries seem unfounded.
** The author talks about a bipolar diagnosis, but then settles on neurodiversity as their preferred community label. It's a view I have some sympathy with, though it can confuse people about non-MH related neurodiversity.
Dear Captain Awkward,
What do you do if your significant other thinks that you will go no where with your dream?
My boyfriend is a well known, local photographer. He does mainly fashion photo-shoots and is honestly, very talented at what he does.
I’m newly, discovering modeling. I had tried it before when I was younger; but, it didn’t workout since I had acne. I didn’t get my face cleared until I was almost 30 (ancient in modeling years). But I enjoy my hobby. I have discovered this new passion of mine. Walking on the runway feels great and I get a lot of compliments on my walk! People want to book me for shows, work with me in photos and I even try their new designs! Its very exciting.
I even came up with a concept for a photo-shoot. I made a head-piece, found a makeup artist, made sure to communicate how I want the lighting and am going to see my idea come into fruition. I would have never believed, I could bring that many people together to make an image. But, I can!
It all sounds great… but, my boyfriend doesn’t believe I’ll go anywhere. He’s made so many comments about the photos we’ve done together. He’s literally told me, “You’re not Naomi Campbell,” and he’s even tried to hide a photo-shoot he was doing with a couple of models from California… saying, “You would only be jealous of their careers.” And then invited me to hold the lights.
I have no idea what to do. I told him, I’m not jealous of anyone, but the fact that he got nervous about telling me was odd. I honestly, thought it was because he was going to flirt with them; not because “You’ll be jealous of their careers.”
I’m not sure where he would get a comment like that in the first place? And I’m tired of him trying to put me down with his harsh criticism. He told me, he would say things like that, because he works in a an industry where its normal for people to say those things… However, he’s had a TON of other photo-shoots and has never told anyone else these things? I guess, I don’t understand.
I know, he doesn’t believe I will walk in New York Fashion Week. He’s reminded me that I’m 5’7″, on a daily basis, saying he’s just giving me a “Realistic perspective.” But I never asked him. I also, didn’t even have that as a goal… I just, honestly like what I’m doing. Its inspired me to create things, to try new adventures and meet new people.
My heart is kind of broken because he’s the one person, I thought, would believe in me. Or at least, be proud of me…. instead, all I get is “You’re not Naomi Campbell.”
I told him he could no longer take my photos. We can no longer work together. And I have no time to doubt myself. I work a full-time day job. I have shows booked until November and I want to plan more things! There should be no time wasted on being self-conscious.
We have talked about this issue a lot over the last few days and we worked out some resolutions we are both happy with; along with boundaries of not working together anymore…
But there is still this pain, knowing that he doesn’t believe I can do this. I tell myself, I never needed anyone before, why would I still want his approval?
What should I do?
Half of me, thinks that we can still be together despite this. Because I am quite old, it’s too late to walk the New York runways. I wouldn’t even qualify for them at my height. He has a point…
But there is that other part of me, that still wants to continue. That never wants to place a ceiling on my passion… And that part, is extremely hurt, the love of my life wants to give me a “reality check.”
Thanks in Advance,
The Independent Model
Dear Independent Model,
If you want to talk “reality checks” I checked with Reality and it said “Hey, you’re already a model!”
You’re already a model. You are creating photo shoots. You are walking runways. You are being booked for work. You are already doing it. You have a gorgeous attitude about the work and the adventure of meeting new people and making beautiful images. You have me kind of dying to see your photos because you sound so positive and cool and I want to see the face of the person who makes me feel this excited reading about her work! Just from your letter I can tell that you are stunning and striking and that people want to be around you.
Your boyfriend is right about what people sometimes say about and to models in the fashion industry. In a student film I made long ago there is a scene where two women pick apart the appearance of a third (the scene starts around 5:40). The actresses who play the stylists both worked as models a lot and their dialogue was improvised 100% out of things people have said to them in real life. They were expected to stand there and not react because “professionalism.” It’s shitty and hurtful and objectifying, and just because it happens in real life doesn’t mean you have to internalize and live it like it’s the truest thing about you. And it doesn’t mean that your boyfriend has to contribute to it, to participate in it. Is this how he talks to all the models he knows? Or does he save it all for you, the woman he supposedly loves? Either way, misogyny and cruelty are not a good look, dude.
It’s okay to not collaborate with your romantic parter even if you are in the same field. It’s actually smart to put boundaries around that sometimes. I need my husband and I to to love each other even if we never make another movie or write another word, or even if we make stuff that’s terrible. If the relationship only goes well when the work goes well, then there’s a fear that if the work goes badly it will make the relationship go badly. So, it’s okay to decide not to cross the streams of work and also smart for you to seek out other photographers. That’s not even the problem here.
The problem is that I think his comments about you being jealous of other people’s careers are him projecting all over the place. He’s jealous of other photographers and their careers. He’s jealous of you, for launching into the space he thought was his alone, the space where he has authority and gets to pretend he’s a gatekeeper of some sort, the space where he thought his giant lens gave him power to decide what’s beautiful enough. He’s jealous of you for blowing the doors off the illusion that he’s some sort of tastemaker. He’s jealous of you for not accepting what he thought were the rules of your industry. He’s jealous of you because you’ve already surpassed his expectations and he can tell that you are about to surpass him. He’s jealous of you because you’re not jealous when he works with other models, and it would be cool if that made you sort of jealous, because it would make him feel powerful. He’s jealous of you for being braver than he is, and instead of sitting with that discomfort and deciding, whoa, my girlfriend is AWESOME, he’s chosen the path of “Well, don’t get your hopes up, babe.”
Go ahead and get your hopes up, lovely Letter Writer. Get your hopes up about creating new work and expressing yourself and enjoying what you do for as long as you want to do it. And get your hopes all the way up about finding a partner who will celebrate you and believe in you. Your boyfriend is not that guy. He is a small man with a limited vision and a smaller heart. You, on the other hand, are a g.d. Valkyrie. It’s never going to work, I’m sorry. You’ll never be able to make yourself small enough to fit into the box he thinks is marked “girlfriend.” You’ve already outgrown it, and him.
Break up. Be sad for a while. Keep going with your dream. Keep doing your work. The world holds all the “reality checks” and rejection and doubt and failure any of us will ever need. We don’t actually need any of that from people who say they love us.
Edited to Add Because I Like Visual Aids:
This is the incomparable Stanley Tucci playing Paul Child, Julia Child’s husband in the movie Julie & Julia. He’s looking at his wife, who found her passion quite late in life. He’s wearing a giant heart on his jacket and toasting her at a Valentine’s Day celebration. Look at how he looks at her:
THAT’S how we look at the people we love when they shine at doing the thing they love. Like we might explode from how proud and excited we are. Imagine this guy saying “I don’t know, television’s a really hard field, and you’re no Grace Kelly.” Imagine the world where he said that and where Julia let that stop her. Who wants to live in that shitty world? Not me. Not you. Not ever.
Dear Captain Awkward,
Recently, my husband and I have been talking about taking a step to be more open in our relationship. We had made attempts to do this before, but we sort of jumped in without enough discussion and then had to pull back because if something hadn’t been explicitly outlined for him as being okay, his default was that it was and he would be willing to soldier forward regardless. It was a little more of a “better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” kind of a situation and I kiboshed that because I need boundaries to feel secure. Anyway, we have been talking and talking and talking and someone sparked his interest and so we talked about baby-stepping our way back into this situation with much clearer boundaries and I felt totally okay with it – until recently.
So this woman, I will call her Pandora, came over to our house for dinner and things were fine until she and my husband started to have some weird and ambiguous conversation about an appointment she had the next morning bright and early. This goes on for a while, so finally I was like “Hey! I’m in the room and I feel like you’re having a conversation around me and it is making me uncomfortable! What are you talking about?”, at which point, Pandora goes “Oh well I have a lot of drama going on in my life right now and it is just best that I keep some things vaulted.” Which like, okay, but then also don’t vaguely drama dump in front of me in my living room.
Anyway, she left and then my husband goes “You want to know what that was about?” and I said “yes!” because of course I do when baited with juicy morsels of gossip. Well it turns out that Pandora has been fooling around with this one particular couple when they do MDMA and now has started hooking up with the dude half of the couple without the woman’s knowledge. In fact, the appointment she kept referring to was a six am visit from this dude, who was going to hook up her secretly on his way to work.
For context, this info was dropped on me at close to 2 in the morning and I had work the next day, so I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I spent the whole next day thinking about it and it seriously made me annoyed and upset. Like do I think her morning secret hookup dude takes a large share of the blame for stepping outside his primary relationship as he is the committed person? Yes. But it genuinely bothers me that she was intimate with this woman, knew exactly what the woman’s boundaries were and what the boundaries within the primary relationship were, and then decided to go there anyway. To me, sex isn’t just something that happens, it’s something that you choose to make happen and they chose against the wishes of the other person involved which is sketchy as fuck. That to me shows a huge sign of disrespect and I told my husband that it really made me upset and uncomfortable to bring this person into our lives in an intimate way. My reasoning was that if she is so willing to do this to someone she has had sex with, I don’t see what would stop her from doing the same to me, a casual acquaintance.
At this point, he says that they have had multiple boundary talks and she has assured him this won’t be an issue to which I think my exact response was COME ON, MAN! Also, during this conversation, he insisted on trying to contextualize her decision in her other relationship by saying things like “We have no idea what that other primary relationship is like!” and then he also bomb-dropped that this couple is very close friends with some other very good friends of mine, so I can’t talk to them about this because they could probably figure out who I was talking about via context clues, and he said that I can’t tell Pandora I know because she made him promise not to tell anyone and it would implode his friendship with her if she found out she broke his promise as she would be really embarrassed. I again told him that if she is sneaking around with this dude, whatever the current status of the other primary relationship is, they know it is not kosher and that it actually really bothers me that this early in the game she told him to keep secrets from me which, I think, are important contextually. Also, I seriously can’t help but wonder about not only the emotional healthiness of this situation, but the physical health as well. Like I can’t really imagine a situation where she’s like “Yeah, the guy I am also seeing is sneaking around behind his partner’s back and is kind of a cheating scumbag, but he’s really fucking diligent with condoms!”?
Anyway, I told him I am not comfortable with him taking things any further with her in light of these things and he responded by saying that he feels like she has explained things to him to his satisfaction and that because he has self-control and he is a good judge of character that he thinks that should be satisfactory in in this situation. If I have concerns about this situation, instead of unfairly shutting it down and taking this away from him, I should trust him, or, I am still feeling uncertain, I can have a conversation with her directly about boundaries, however I would have to do so without mentioning I know about her cheating scenario.
This whole situation bums me the fuck out because I feel like Pandora soiled all of it with her bad relationship mojo. I mean I am not against him seeing someone else – that’s totally fine with someone who is honest and above board with all sexual partners! -I am against this particular boundary breaking person and he keeps harping on the fact that they have an emotional connection and I am taking this away from him even though things haven’t gotten fully physical between them yet.
So I guess my question is – what the fuck do I do here? At the end of our last conversation, I agreed that we would put a pin in things on that front right now, but like, with the way things are now, I cannot imagine what scenario would ever make me feel comfortable enough to pull the pin out. (Maybe if she broke things off with the downlow dude and stopped pulling sketchy shit?) I mean how can I possibly trust this person? I feel seriously backed into a corner here.
Sick Of Dealing With Pandora’s Box
Dear Sick of Dealing,
You feel backed into a corner because you have been backed into a corner.
You confronted the weird behavior at that awful-sounding dinner party, you trusted your (excellent) instincts and gathered your thoughts and then told your husband “Hey, Pandora is telling you who she is, which is someone who does not honor agreements around sex. I am not cool with that!” You have not been vague or unclear or unreasonable. You have been a rock star of boundaries and keen observations about the likelihood of emotional fallout and poor condom diligence.
Is there a version of ethical fun cool open relationships that allows for you to say this?
“Look, I deeply dislike Pandora and from what I’ve seen she is a shitty friend, lover, and dinner guest. I wouldn’t trust her to water my plants when I’m out of town or drop a letter in the mail on her way to the bus stop. My strong preference is that she is nowhere near our lives from this moment onward. But clearly you want to fuck this person real bad, so please go get it out of your system with a minimum of fuss, a maximum of safer sex precautions, and zero amount of making me sit through dinner with her ever again or pretending that this is okay with me.
(I imagine you wearing something kind of awesome and dark and voluminous and sweeping dramatically out of the room after delivering this speech. Your eye makeup – if you wear eye makeup – has never looked more perfect than at this moment.)
I like your script better: “COME ON, MAN!”
“BE SERIOUS, BRO.”
Pandora’s “Oh, my private dramatic secret jokes are definitely not designed to make you feel like a weird date-crasher in your own house, teehee, why would you think that?” game at dinner at your place was a classic Mean Girl power move. She cast her and your husband as a sexy team with sexy secrets and you as the one prying into “the vault.” Fun!
Unfortunately for you, your husband the one who is like “Yeah, but her boundaries are good enough for
my emotional connection with her my deep desire to have sex with someone I know is probably terrible (but also have you still be cool about this.)” He knew exactly what she was doing with this other couple before that awkward dinner and he still tried to make Pandora happen in your life. He also told you her secret (good, not great, but better than lying more) but now expects you (?) to keep that secret (?) so Pandora won’t be mad at him for telling it(?) and for you (?) to also somehow confront her (?) about her poor boundaries in a way that will make the situation all cool so he can sleep with her?
Am I parsing this correctly? And there was something something about him “being a good judge of character?” Except he brought the “Heyyyyyyyy, I make agreements with people about sex and then break them when it suits me!” lady to your house? And he thinks there is a way forward here?
If you veto Pandora I predict they will either be secretly fucking before the clock strikes August or he will heroically not fuck her while reminding you of his enormous, heroic (so heroic) sacrifice weekly for the rest of 2017. Fun!
I guess my questions are:
- What’s appealing about trying an open relationship again, right now, with this guy, for you?
That was gonna be a list but actually that’s my whole question. What’s in this whole situation for you? Pandora is clearly looking out for Pandora, so who is looking out for your heart and your comfort level and your health and your right to have informed consent? Who is treating your feelings and (excellent, fully-functioning) instincts with importance and care? Right now it kinda sounds like “Mostly just you” and that sounds…well…the word “lonely” comes to mind.
I'm a reader in Kansas with two teenage daughters, 16 and 18. My girls recently met a boy where they work and both took an interest in him. The 18-year-old was devastated that he was more interested in her younger sister. I spoke to the 16-year-old about it, which is when I found out this boy is going to be a sophomore in college. The fact that he's interested in a 16-year-old is a red flag. I asked the 16-year-old to keep her distance. She agreed, but I saw a shirtless photo he sent her. I don't know what other photos he's sent and I don't know what she's sent him, but I immediately removed all photo apps from her phone. The girls have had public fights about this boy. They've made peace with each other, but now my 18-year-old wants to date him. I can't control the actions of an 18-year-old but (1) it seem likely this guy is a complete creep and (2) isn't her relationship with her sister more important?
Knowing A Numbskull Stalks Adorable Sisters
1. I'm not ready to pronounce this guy a creep—at least not for the age difference. It sounds like he met your daughters someplace they're all working this summer, which is a lot less icky than some college boy creeping on high-school girls via Instagram. And you say this boy is going to be a sophomore in college, KANSAS, but don't give his age. There are 30-year-old college sophomores, of course, but if this boy went straight to college from high school, that would make him 19 years old. If your 16-year-old is closing in on 17, this guy could be "older" by two years and change. While I can understand why you wouldn't want your younger daughter dating college boys, I think you are overreacting to the age difference—and it's a moot issue, as he's no longer pursuing your younger daughter.
1.5. You know what is creepy? Pursuing a pair of sisters. The possibility of conflict was so predictable, it was likely a motivating factor for him. Getting off on drama and public fights isn't a crime, but it is a red flag.
2. You ordered your 16-year-old to stop seeing this guy and deleted apps from her phone. (It's cute you think your daughter isn't tech-savvy enough to re-download and hide all the same apps.) You should warn your daughter about the risks of sexting—it may be legal for her to have sex (16 is the age of consent in Kansas), but she could face child porn charges for sending photos and this boy could wind up on a sex-offender registry for receiving them. (Laws meant to protect young people from being exploited are routinely used to punish them.) But don't attempt to micromanage your daughters' love lives. Parental disapproval has a way of driving teenagers into each other's arms, KANSAS. If you don't want your daughters having a fuck-you-mom threesome with this guy before the summer is over, you'll let them work through this on their own—but go ahead and stitch "boys come and go but sisters are forever" on a couple of pillows and put them on their beds.
I'm a straight guy married to a wonderful woman. She has a daughter. This girl's bio dad is a checked-out deadbeat, so I have played "dad" since I met her mom five years ago. The girl who used to be a gangly, awkward 11-year-old is now 16, and there's no other way to put this: She is hot. I'm not supposed to notice, I know, and I have ZERO interest in being creepy with her, and she has ZERO interest in me. But she has always liked to cuddle with me and still does. I believe safe closeness from a dad figure helps girls make good choices when it comes to boys. (If not for me, she might seek attention from douchebag teenage boys trying to take advantage.) I want to continue to play this role for her. But when she comes in wearing tiny shorts and puts her legs over my lap, I get rock hard. I'm not trying to be creepy, but I'm a guy and she's a perfect female specimen. I can't say, "We can't be as physically close as we used to be," because that itself would be creepy and it would make her sad.
Insert Dad Acronym Here Obviously
Sometimes children grow up and get hot, and bonus adults in their lives—typically (and thankfully) not their bio or lifelong parents—can't help but notice. The onus is on the adult in that situation to suppress that shit. Not awareness of a young person's objective hotness, which cannot be suppressed, but all evidence of said awareness. Which means setting boundaries and, if necessary, keeping your distance. No, you shouldn't go to your stepdaughter and say, "You got hot, and I get boners when you put your legs on my lap, so stop." But you should put an end to the cuddling. When she plops down on the couch, go take a walk or a shower or a shit. Better she has a sad over the end of snuggle time than she notices your boners and feels unsafe around you.
She's most likely plopping down on you out of habit, IDAHO, not out of a need for affection from a trusted male. I promise you, she's not going to start blowing bad boys in back alleys if she can't get close enough to give you a boner anymore. (Also, if you don't want to come across as a creep, don't describe your stepdaughter—or any other woman—as a "perfect female specimen." Ick.)
My college-student daughter lives in an apartment over our garage. She has a boyfriend, age 19. After many loud "discussions," he is allowed to sleep over. My daughter got an IUD without informing me, so I assume they're sexually active. Two days ago, I crept into the apartment to check on something and found bondage items on her bed—a set of formidable leather restraints. I'm worried she's being pressured to do things someone her age wouldn't be interested in. We agreed not to go into the apartment when she wasn't present, and I know there will be a loud "discussion" if I tell her what I saw. The mental image of my bound daughter distresses me and I worry for her safety. What do I do?
Offspring Has Incriminating Objects
You stay the fuck out of your offspring's apartment when she isn't home, OHIO, per your agreement. And you keep these things in mind: Just as there are young queer people out there, there are young kinky people out there too. Your adult daughter might be one of them. For all you know, the restraints were her idea and her boyfriend is the one getting tied up. And a scary-to-mom set of restraints is a lot safer than nylon clothesline or cheap handcuffs. Leather restraints distribute pressure evenly, making them less likely to pinch a nerve or cut off circulation. Like your adult daughter getting herself an IUD, formidable bondage gear is a good sign that she takes her safety seriously. (And how did you find out about the IUD she got without informing you? Did you wander up her vagina one day to "check on something"?)
Finally, OHIO, it's perfectly understandable that you don't like the mental image of your adult daughter tied to the bed in her apartment (her apartment, not the apartment), but I'm guessing you don't like the mental image of your adult daughter with a dick in her mouth, either. Just as you don't torment yourself by picturing the blowjobs your adult daughter is almost certainly giving her boyfriend, don't torment yourself by picturing whatever else she might be doing with, to, or for him.
On the Lovecast, bespoke porn and sexy stamps: savagelovecast.com.
Her essay on the task, and the metaphor, of "blind reading," does a great job explaining why the phrase "blind reading" is unhelpful
Here's a taste: ( click to read )
I’ve been struggling a lot to keep writing, to keep creating, to find the inspiration and the focus I need to do my job. A lot of it is related to my Depression, but there comes a point when the difference between being a professional and a hobbyist is actually doing the work, even — especially — when it’s hard.
So this weekend, Anne and I took the kids up to Santa Barbara to celebrate our birthdays (which are all in the next two weeks), and to get a change of scenery for a couple of days. It was a gorgeous trip, emotionally and spiritually, and while it didn’t give me the magic bullet to suddenly break through the struggle I’ve been having, I made a ton of progress, because I read a book that I took with me. Here’s my review that I posted to my Goodreads thingy:
It’s a quick read that you can finish in one sitting, but the ideas and advice it contains will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. Some of Austin’s suggestions will validate what you’re already doing, some will challenge you to fundamentally change a creative practice, others will inspire you to grab a notebook and get to work immediately.
Because it’s such a small and accessible book, you’ll want to go back to it from time to time. Just like Stephen King’s On Writing, as you change and grow as an artist, it reveals new ideas and inspirations to you that you may have missed on a previous read.
This is a fantastic addition to your library, and a wonderful gift for any creative person in your life.
I’ve been profoundly inspired by Austin’s book, because he reaffirmed things I’ve already been doing as an artist, but mostly because he gave me permission to think about the entire creative process differently.
For a long time, I have felt like a travel writer who never leaves the house, and Steal Like An Artist helped me find the door so I can get back on the road.
I know people have been anticipating what I will answer for reader question 1,000. Thanks for the emailed suggestions and the hype, it’s awesome that people are excited! Milestones are cool!
It’s also way too much pressure and I’ve started answering people privately the past week or so because it’s like “Well, this is a great question, but is it QUESTION NUMBER ONE THOUSAND?” “Shouldn’t QUESTION ONE THOUSAND sort of sum up everything I think about conflict and awkwardness?” (Answer: No, that’s a book. A book that I am trying to figure out the shape of. A book that will happen.)
So, here is question #1000. It’s a placeholder. I choked. I’m sorry. What I’ve got is that writer’s block trick of “okay if you don’t know how to write the next thing, try writing a next thing and figure out where it all fits later.”
I’ve got some It Came From The Search Terms to knock out this week and then we’ll be back sometime with #1001, which will be a normal question with normal significance and normal amount of (pretty damn interesting!) interestingness.
From Fia, your host:
Hi Captain Awkward!Just wanted to notify you about a meetup in Munich that we planned for Thursday the 27th of July at 6:30 pm.We are going to meet at the same place like last time. The PotAsia Ost. It is in Berg an Laim, Baumkirchnerstr. 21. More details and map here: https://www.potasia.de.To quote forum member Mercy for directions: “From Tram 19, Haltestelle Baumkirchnerstr. From the corner of Kreillerstr. and Baumkirchnerstr., walk past the Aumüller bakery and it’s about halfway down the block, across the street from the Maibaum.From U2 Josephsburg, take the exit for Kreillerstr, turn left, and walk a long block to Baumkirchnerstr. From there the directions are the same.”I will bring my Pusheenicorn so people will be able to identify the table.If somebody needs to get in touch, there’s the “Munich?” thread onthe forums or you can contact me by email on email@example.com.Thanks so much and have a nice day!