Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

It’s been two years since my diagnosis with a very aggressive form of breast cancer, and eighteen months since my double mastectomy. The type of cancer (IBC) ruled out immediate reconstruction with implants (which I would have declined anyway, because not for me).

It used to be that women with IBC didn’t get reconstruction, because TBH we usually didn’t live all that long. Nowadays after a waiting period of two years or so one can have a DIEP flap where skin, fat and blood vessels are taken from the stomach and grafted onto one’s chest.

I’ve completed treatment, there’s currently no sign of cancer, and I’m doing well. I’m trying to move forward and get on with my life as much as possible.

But here’s my problem: medical folk keep pestering me to get reconstruction and don’t seem to understand that I DON’T WANT IT.

I’ve made a list of the pros and cons and–while it’s fine for others, it’s not fine for me, right now, under these particular circumstances.
I’m a smart person with a supportive partner, friends and family. Yes, the things surgeons can do are amazing. I know all about my options. If I want more information I know how to get it.

But..the continual unasked-for conversations from presumedly well-meaning medical providers are irritating at best and at worst can send me into a days-long depressive spiral.

Because I was trained to be a people-pleaser and discount my own ideas and opinions, and when I hear, “Have you considered reconstruction? We can do amazing things and by the way, you basically get a free tummy tuck..”

..my brain translates it into, “You are not okay the way you are, and your choice is not a valid one and your appearance is not acceptable. You are BROKEN. Let us fix you.”

What none of my medical providers seem to understand is that I want to maximize my physical activities and minimize my time spent in hospitals to the greatest extent possible, and for the most part I don’t give a rat’s behind whether I meet society’s expectations of how a female should look.

I’ve always been large-breasted and very self-conscious about it, and at the same time considered myself a bit of a “tomboy”.

It turns out I’m more at home in my body without breasts, have less back and neck pain, don’t miss bras or boob sweat, and enjoy wearing button-down shirts I buy from the men’s department.

My sex life is just fine.

I identify with others in the “flattie” community far more than anyone else in Breast Cancer Land.

But when doctors start pushing reconstruction, I feel as if my choice to remain flat is being questioned, and it affects my mental health when my efforts to explain and/or justify my choice seemingly fall on deaf ears.

Is there a script to politely shut this down? I’d be grateful for any suggestions.

Her/She pronouns, and just sign me “Flat and (Mostly) Happy”

Dear Flat and Mostly Happy,

I think your medical providers need a letter (email, fax, whatever works) spelling out what you told me. Something like:

“Dear Doctor,

Thank you for your excellent care so far.

There is some information I would like you to put in my chart & medical records in a way that it is clear to all the providers & staff I work with at your practice: I am not interested in discussing breast reconstructive surgery at this time. If that ever changes, I will bring it up. 

I know you and your staff are just trying to make sure I know my options. I’m very happy to be cancer-free, I’m happily adjusting to my new body, but I’m feeling pressured and distressed by these discussions and the prospect of more surgery in a way I’m sure you don’t intend. I’d appreciate it it can just become a non-issue during our visits, and if that changes, I will be sure to let you know.

Thanks for all you do.”

If you know of articles that might explain this well and help the doctor or clinical staff do better with other patients, include links or mentions of those resources. Then send it to every one of your current providers where this has been a problem before your next visit.

It’s not a 100% foolproof solution, but it will make you feel like you are more in control and you can remind yourself that hey, you told them how to take care of you as clearly and politely as you could. If someone brings it up (maybe they haven’t seen it, maybe they forgot), here are some scripts:

  • I’ve said many times that I’m not interested. Can I ask why you are trying so hard to sell me on this when you know that I don’t want it?

I suspect (but do not know for sure) that the answer has to do with insurance & money, like, there is a limited window where insurance will pay for reconstruction so they are trying to make sure that you get in inside the window and worried that you’ll regret it later. People had to fight hard to get insurance companies to pay for any reconstruction and the benefit is probably a “use it or lose it” deal.

That’s an understandable reason, if that is the reason, so, make them spell it out for you, and then give your informed consent to skip that part, like, “Okay, I appreciate it – I know you are trying to make sure I am financially taken care of as well as medically, thanks for helping me make an informed choice. I choose to opt out of reconstructive surgery at this time. If I change my mind down the road and it becomes an insurance or financial issue, I’ll cross that bridge then. In the meantime, can we agree to put this to bed? It really stresses me out to talk about it in a way I’m sure you don’t intend. Thank you.

See also:

  • I’m not interested in talking about reconstructive surgery. I’ll let you know if that changes.
  • I put something in writing about this – did it not make it into my chart?” Ask the person the best way to make sure that this information is visible to anyone who treats you.

Repeat this stuff like a broken record. If the person won’t stop, you have permission to stop being polite. You probably won’t stop being polite because you are a polite person but knowing that you’ve communicated your needs very directly and clearly can sometimes be helpful, like, “I’m 100% sure I’m not the one making this weird right now.

I hope this gets easier for you, Letter Writer. Readers, do you have any tactics that have worked to set boundaries with medical professionals?


It is now time for the summer Captain Awkward Dot Com pledge drive, where I shake the tip jar in the general direction of all of you kind readers. If you like what I do here and are able to support the work, please visit my Patreon page or make a donation via PayPal or Cash.me. Thanks to your support, we’ve made the blog ad-free. My next goal is to take a sabbatical from teaching in 2018 and work on a CaptainAwkward book and other writing projects. Every little bit counts, and I’m grateful for it.

 

 

 

 


Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Eclipse" - originally published 8/21/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

...it just hit #121 on the Amazon sales rankings this morning. I am hoping it will crack two figures at some point on its initial sales arc, but since they change hourly, that's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it proposition.

Amazon sales rankings are a snare and a delusion and clickbait, which I suppose means they're working fine for Amazon, but they are the only real-time feedback an author can have, which is a new thing in the world. One used to have to wait up to a year and a half for the first royalty report for data on how one's baby book was doing had done out there in the world.

Speaking of "Fox", I meant to post this quote from a reader who had never read any of the Penric & Desdemona tales, and kindly agreed to test drive it: "Did it stand alone? Absolutely."

I've already spotted some reviews from old readers insisting, wrongly, it must be otherwise, which makes it much like other series work I've done. The most frustrating lately was for Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, with scads of old readers putting off new ones by claiming they had to read umpty-ump other books first, and the few new ones who slipped through the net, and read the book in front of them just as it was, saying it was fine.

(The latter, sadly small, group may actually have had a better and clearer read due to not having to fight through a forest of settled preconceptions first.)

So I think it might be better to take advice only from new readers, on this point.

Ta, L.




posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on August, 20
All right, can anyone positively identify this mystery plant? It came up as a volunteer on the north side of my house, and seems to be self-seeding, because it keeps coming back each year. It blooms like this from the first week of August till frost. Bumblebees love it. Minnesota.






Pleased but puzzled, L.

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on August, 20

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

My best friend, Anna, who I’ve known for many years and love very much, is currently irritating the heck out of me and I don’t know what to do.

She hasn’t had the greatest dating history, and through the years I’ve always been there for her to give advice, be supportive or just be a shoulder to cry on.

However, lately there has been this girl she likes, and no matter how many times I encourage Anna she just wont tell her that she likes her. Instead its constant discussion about a text she sent, what picture she liked on instagram, how she tweets, so on and so forth. When she doesn’t answer a text from Anna I get a hundred texts from her freaking out about how she must be wrong and she doesn’t like her anymore and that she’ll never find anyone.

It. Drives. Me. Batty. And I feel like a terrible friend for feeling that way. From what I’ve observed theres like a 90% chance that this girl likes Anna back. But she just wont tell her that she likes her. Instead she comes to me.

My own dating history has proven to me that its better to be rejected and move on then to obsess over things. However I realize that not everyone feels that way.

If I hear about this girl’s social media usage one more time, I’m probably gonna explode. If she knew that I felt like this, Anna would feel incredibly guilty and bottle everything up, which I don’t want her to do. I just want the conversation to have a little bit of change. Theres only so many times you can comfort a friend for not having a text responded to before you don’t know what to say anymore.

Help!

Want To Be A Good Friend

Dear Want To Be A Good Friend:

I want you to take the weekend and give yourself permission to ignore all texts from Anna about The Amazing Crush Girl. Respond to anything that is not about that, ignore the rest. Mute her if you need to.

Then, I want you to tell Anna, one time, as gently as you can:

Anna, I think you should tell ________ how you feel about her and I hope she feels the same way. If she doesn’t, she’s really missing out! But the way you are constantly monitoring her social media feeds is kinda creepy, or, at least unhealthy for you, and the way you keep texting me every detail of her posts – sometimes hundreds of texts – is not okay. Please stop sharing these details with me, I don’t like it.

Anna’s not going to be happy with you when you say this. She’ll tell you you’re being a bad friend, why don’t you want to listen to her, you’re selfish, etc. etc. etc. There will be some kind of blow-up or argument because Anna is fixated right now and it’s like you are trying to take her favorite toy away.

HOLD FAST.

Don’t argue with her if she characterizes you as selfish, uncaring, etc. It’s a ‘neg’ designed to get you to prove how caring you are by doing what she wants you to do.

Don’t try to correct the record or convince her or engage more deeply.

Your script, to whatever she says, is some version of “Okay! But are you hearing me? I don’t want to talk about Crush Girl anymore. I need you to stop texting me and filling me in on her social media activity. Can you agree to that?

Then end the conversation pretty quickly.

The next thing she’s going to do is test your boundaries. Your job from now in is to ignore all texts about Crush Girl. Only respond to other topics, and reach out about other topics when you want to talk to her. If you gotta mute her for a while, then do it.

When you do hang out, make it very boring to talk about Crush Girl. “Hmmm….interesting…hopefully you can tell her how you feel soon. So, how ’bout those current events?

She won’t like it, but if you keep not engaging, she will probably get it. And, I know you don’t want her to beat herself up or trigger a shame-spiral or make her feel guilty, but her behavior is not healthy or normal right now and a little bit of “what the hell am I doing?” introspection or perspective from a good friend is not the worst thing in the world?

On a related note:

Hi Captain Awkward,

Long time reader, first time writer!

I am in a polyamorous relationship with “Niles.”

Niles is also dating “Daphne.” Daphne is very sweet, but she spends a lot of time brooding about her ex and other woes. She often just disappears on Niles because her feelings about whatever is going on in her life are so intense. Their relationship currently appears to me to be on this rinse and repeat cycle of romance and withdrawal. I see Niles consistently bend and modify his behavior and needs to accommodate her and most of what he passes on to me about what they talk about is: her, her life, her needs, her feelings, and her ex.

Up until now, I have felt pretty supportive of Niles exploring things with Daphne. And to be honest I think Daphne is a really good person but…I just feel really done with hearing about this behavior cycle, I’m done with the mood shifts that go along with it, and I’m tired of watching Niles just shrink himself to fit into Daphne’s life. Niles sincerely believes that she is worthy of a relationship, and if he just stays the course, he will eventually succeed in showing her how to have a supportive and reciprocal relationship. Like okay, maybe he’s right and sees something I don’t but I dunno ….?? Seems like she’s one of those people who is an amazing person but has trouble with relationships.

Up until this point, I have been more than willing to lend an ear and advice to Niles about how all of this is going with Daphne. We’ve had a lot of deep talks about his feels and what to do and how to relate to her and all that. And now I’ve sort of arrived at this point where I feel like the training wheels have got to come off. It’s been six months of the same stuff with Daphne. He says she’s gotten better but it all smells the same to me. I am worried that I will become the outlet for stuff the two of them need to be hashing out if I haven’t already. Sometimes I worry that my emotional support of him in that dynamic might be making up for what he isn’t getting with her and that seems unfair to me.

Now that I’ve sorta reached my limit, I literally I don’t know what to say anymore to him when he says to me things like, “Oh we stayed up way past when I needed to sleep talking on the phone and I am tired and the conversation felt kinda awkward but it was sooo worth it” or “I haven’t heard from her in days but she needs space now and I’m proud of her for finally communicating her needs” or “omg she is so amazing and being with her is so perfectly wonderful… I feel so alive, I simply cannot imagine my life without her” or “she’s not romantic these days.” Obviously I’m hamming it up but only SLIGHTLY. Actually barely.

To me, that wide variety of statements seems…not good?

He and I have talked openly about how things with them are kinda weird sometimes. But he also knowingly marches on and is very intensely committed on doing so because…love.

So them’s the breaks. I respect his choices but I also want to maintain my sanity in all of this because I feel as though I’ve been looped in to everything. I want to quietly withdraw any emotional life support I have been providing for this relationship with Daphne. I love Niles and I don’t think this is really doing much for him even if he can’t see it. He knows what I think and he has acknowledged the validity of what I’m observing but…love. So pushing my opinions on him louder and with more intensity isn’t going to do anything other than create tension between us.

And truth be told, if the roles were reversed, barring actual danger to me that I couldn’t foresee, I probably wouldn’t want Niles coming at me all the time about how much my relationship with Daphne leaves to be desired…even if he was technically correct, I probably wouldn’t be able to really hear it because…love. I don’t think Niles is in any actual danger nor do I think I am.

But, despite the fact that I’m not in danger, things don’t feel neutral-to-beneficial for everyone involved anymore. To me, it feels as though their thing is draining emotional energy more than it’s contributing to it. Niles doesn’t seem to mind the one-sided nature of their relationship too much; so maybe I should stop caring about that? I care for Niles deeply so it’s really hard to not care.

Maybe the thing I should focus on is that lending emotional support for/having to interact with his relationship with Daphne feels draining to me (and to me, writing to an advice column for help counts as “expending emotional energy on the Daphne thing.”).

I wish someone could look into a crystal ball and tell me when things will change for the better. Till then, I need to figure out how to radiate “bland acceptance of the situation without endorsement.” I don’t want to get painted as that partner who “can’t polyamory” but at the same time I’m just totally over the Daphne thing. I also need to figure out reasonable boundaries and ways to cope with the awkwardness in solo interactions with Niles about Daphne, with Daphne by herself, and the three of us.

How do??

Signed,
Straight Outta Fucks to Give

Dear Straight Outta Fucks:

What would happen if you said something like this to Niles, the next time your time together becomes completely overrun with Daphne-talk:

  • Hey Niles, let me interrupt you – I’ve sort of reached my limit for talking about Daphne and the ups and downs y’all are having right now. But I’m glad to see you! Let’s talk about something else!” 
  • Niles, you’re probably not doing this on purpose, but it feels like all our time together is spent talking about your relationship with Daphne. I’m starting to get pretty uncomfortable with it, and I’d like you to find a different sounding board for your ups and downs with her.
  • The time for talking about Daphne and her feelings is on your dates with Daphne. Right now you’re on a date with me. I’m going to go get a glass of water, do you need anything?
  • Niles, I don’t really care about Daphne or her exes or her feelings about the world. I’ve been trying to be supportive and a good listener, but when does it end?
  • “Niles, this sounds like a conversation to have with Daphne. I’m not really interested in knowing more.” 
  • Hey Niles, sounds like this thing with Daphne is really occupying your thoughts. Maybe we should reschedule our date for another time when we can focus on the two of us?
  • Huh, what do you think you’ll do about that?”

Would the world end?

Is Niles so fragile that he cannot hear the word “no” about this topic?

Would he use your “no” to accuse you of not really caring about him, like, how dare you not be interested in something so important to him?

Would he accuse you of being jealous of Daphne?

Is it worth finding out to never have to hear about her again?

There’s something in here about emotional labor and fairness and balance and time. To me, he is sucking up all the time he spends with you asking you to do emotional labor and listen to him and comfort him and counsel him about another girl he’s in love with. Is that cool with you? I know you’re worried about appearing jealous, but if we changed “jawing about Daphne” to “Reading the 1972 Encyclopedia Brittanica aloud” it would still be uncool of Niles to do if you indicated you aren’t interested. Obviously when we partner with someone, we all agree to a certain amount of “if it interests you a lot I guess it can interest me at least a little bit” but maintaining that deal requires good faith and self-awareness on both sides. Where is it inscribed that Thou Shalt Let Thy Partners Monologue Forever About Shit That Bores You Without Interruption? (Hint: I don’t think that is written anywhere). And, say you were jealous of how much energy he spends on Daphne and how much he expects you to give a shit about her. Where is it written that you can never feel jealous, or pissed off, or annoyed when someone takes you for granted?

He could tell a friend, or a therapist, or a diary, or howl it at the moon. It doesn’t have to be you, at the expense of your own enjoyment of your relationship.

So, here are my suggestions:

  • Who else are you dating outside of the Niles/Daphne sphere? Throw some love and time and energy into that person or people and give yourself some breathing room from Niles. And, go hang out with friends and family. Nurture all of your relationships, not just Niles. He sounds kinda annoying right now and maybe some space will help him work it all out.
  • Speak directly to Niles and tell you that you were once happy to hear about Daphne but you think it’s crossed a line and now you’d like him to stop.
  • Make it very boring for him to talk about Daphne with you. Him: :Big dramatic Daphne tale.: You:Huh. Interesting. I got new dish towels, did you notice them? They really tie the room together.” Do not let him endlessly process this with you.
  • Treat Daphne with a normal amount of polite friendliness but maybe keep it at arms length? It’s not her fault that you know all of her business, and I think what you have here is a Niles problem vs. a Daphne problem, but if you’re not close now maybe you’re not meant to be.
  • Do the three of you need to hang out right now? I’d be a hard pass about that, like, “Have fun, you two, I’m busy!” You asked when things might get better, and I don’t know, but they kinda suck right now, so believe the suck until you see something different.

I would want to know if I were stretching someone’s listening capacity to its limit, wouldn’t you? Not everyone wants that information – “Anna” and “Niles” probably don’t right now because they don’t want anything that will break the spell of the crushes they are involved in –  but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be said. Directness is kindness here.

Moderator note: Please spell out the whole word – polyamorous, polyamory – vs. the abbreviation”poly” here in the future. For more context, read this. It’s been brewing for a while and it’ s time to make it official CaptainAwkward.com comment policy moving forward. We’re not changing old threads, and we’re also not debating the change in comments, so if you disagree with the change or have feelings about it you can process it in the forums or your own webspace. Thank you!

 

 

 

 


Posted by JenniferP

Hi Captain,

I have a friend (I’ll call him “Dave”) whom I haven’t seen in person in years, but am still in touch with on social media. Several months ago, he messaged me to tell me that he liked me and would like to go on a date sometime. I didn’t know him very well at the time, but I liked him enough to at least give him a chance. Though the date never happened, we did message each other regularly for a while.

I’m very involved in local theater (we met doing a show together, actually–I’ve stuck with theater since then and he hasn’t), and he mentioned at one point that he’d like to see me in a play sometime. I had just been cast in a show at the community theater in the town where we both live, so I gave him the details for that.

Well, it eventually became apparent that Dave is not a guy I’m interested in dating. I don’t think he’s a bad person; I’m just not attracted to him. At all. When I told him this, he put on the whole “but I just want to be friends, can’t we just talk and hang out as FRIENDS?” act. He then continued to keep sending flirty messages while denying that he was flirting. (“Can’t I tell my friend she’s pretty?” “Can’t I let my friend know when I’m thinking about her?”) I stopped responding to his messages and blocked him from viewing everything I post.

Now the aforementioned community theater play I’m in is just a few weeks away from opening, and I’m very worried that he’s going to show up. (I am very annoyed at my past self for telling him I was in it!) Anyone can buy a ticket, so I can’t exactly tell him he can’t come. At this theater, the actors always do a little meet-and-greet with the audience after the show, so if he does come I’m going to have to interact with him. My anxiety about this is sort of ruining what would otherwise be a really fun and exciting thing. What do I do? Help me, Captain!

Sincerely,

Exit, Pursued by Creepy Dude (She, her)

Dear Exit,

This sucks and I’m sorry, but (good news!) you don’t have to interact with him if he shows up and you don’t have to suffer in silence or in secret.

Talk to the theater and to your friends at the theater. “I had an acquaintance who had a crush on me. He got a little stalker-y and wouldn’t take no for an answer, I’m afraid he’s gonna come to the show. He might not come, but it would make me feel more comfortable if we could put some safety measures in place just in case.” Ask the theater what they’ve done about situations like this in the past. Ask the box office to let you know if “Dave” buys a ticket in advance. You’ll still be freaked out and upset that day if you know he’s coming, but you’ll know what’s coming and you can tell the stage manager that you’ll be nope-ing right out of the post-show meet & greet that night.

If he shows up spontaneously, you can still handle it especially if you have the stage manager & fellow cast & crew to help you. Decide on a code word. You can say the code word if you spot him, and they can enthusiastically meet & greet him – all cheerful and friendly –  without raising a fuss while you slip out the side door.

Dave, if you’re out there reading this, nobody wants you to go to that show and everybody sees through your wisp of plausible deniability for your pushy behavior. SHE DOESN’T LIKE YOU.

Letter Writer, I’m wishing you a good show, free of having to see this dude.

This is a good callback to the discussion about persistence from earlier this week. If someone is saying no to you, and you keep pushing, it’s not just a “missed connection.” It can start to become a fear/safety issue very quickly. Is Dave dangerous? I don’t know for sure, but he’s demonstrated that he doesn’t take “no” for an answer, so he’s made danger part of the Letter Writer’s calculus and ruined what should be a fun thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


TFS on TNT!

18 Aug 2017 01:02 pm[syndicated profile] nkjemisin_feed

Posted by nkjemisin

So, for the handful of you who don’t follow me on social media, I had a little surprise to share the other night! There’s not much I can say about this, for now. I jokingly answered a few questions on the night of the announcement, but the truth is that I don’t really know enough […]

Posted by Ampersand

  1. Woman Gives Up Teaching To Create Optical Illusions With Makeup, And It’s Messing With Our Minds | Bored Panda
  2. Here’s What Really Happened In Charlottesville
  3. Mama Cass didn’t die of choking on a ham sandwich; she died as a result of dieting.
  4. Trump’s Sensitivity to Being Laughed at Should Alarm Everyone – Rewire
    Grace sent this link to me, saying that it reminded her of our conversation about toxic masculinity.
  5. Medicare-for-All Isn’t the Solution for Universal Health Care | The Nation
    Progressives have to start sweating the details of universal health coverage.
  6. Everything About Disney and ABC’s ‘Pink Slime’ Settlement Should Scare the Hell Out of You
    “veggie libel” laws aren’t as sexy as discussing protesters on campus, but they’re much more dangerous to free speech.
  7. Maryland City May Let Noncitizens Vote, a Proposal With Precedent – The New York Times
  8. Voter Suppression in the Mirror and Looking Forward
    A review of some of the voter suppression measures conservatives are pushing.
  9. What Trump gets wrong about Confederate statues, in one chart – Vox
    “Washington was a slave owner, yes, but the meaning of a Washington statue is not necessarily pro-slavery or pro-white supremacy — whereas that’s exactly the point of the vast majority of Confederate memorials in the United States.”
  10. Debate over civil rights center at UNC focuses on advocacy and academic freedom
    Republicans in North Carolina’s congress are shutting down a civil rights center at a law school. Academic freedom, everybody!
  11. Officials say immigration agents showed up at labor dispute proceedings. California wants them out – LA Times
  12. Students say Christian college turned a blind eye to serial rapists – ThinkProgress
  13. The Lost Cause Rides Again
    Ta-Nahisi Coates on HBO’s announced “Confederate” TV series. I’m withholding judgement to small degree – maybe the show itself will be so brilliant as to answer all of Coates’ concerns and change everyone’s minds – but I’m extremely skeptical that it will be that good.
  14. An anti-immigrant group mistook empty bus seats for women wearing burqas – The Washington Post
  15. Doxing isn’t about privacy—it’s about abuse | The Daily Dot
    An interesting and, I think, useful way of redefining how we thing about doxing. “Doxing isn’t about exposure. Instead, it’s a form of weaponized attention. “
  16. Why Trump Invokes ‘Common Sense’ – The Atlantic
    “…for centuries, populist movements in particular have invoked common sense as a justification for policy goals and as an antidote to expert opinion.”
  17. What Jeff Sessions Will Never Understand About Affirmative Action
  18. Affirmative Action and the Myth of Reverse Racism – The Atlantic
  19. “I lied to my wife about liking john mayer; my life now revolves around his music and I’m looking for clarity.”
  20. In ‘Death Wish,’ Jews Gain From White Fascist Fantasies – The Forward
    I don’t agree with everything Noah writes here, but I did find it interesting.
  21. Octopus and squid evolution is officially weirder than we could have ever imagined – ScienceAlert
    “… scientists have discovered that octopuses, along with some squid and cuttlefish species, routinely edit their RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequences to adapt to their environment.”
  22. South Carolina town bans saggy pants: Can they do that? – CSMonitor.com
    I hope they get sued and lose badly. And really, are we supposed to think it’s just a big coincidence that it’s a Black fashion they go after?
  23. Could A Bus With Sleep Pods Replace Airplanes? | WBEZ
    Well, maybe for short flights.
  24. Is Jesse Singal a Bigot? | www.splicetoday.com
    An older controversy, about an academic who wrote an article that was widely criticized, and then widely defended.
  25. Sizeism Is Harming Too Many of Us: Fat Shaming Must Stop | Psychology Today
    Focuses on how anti-fat prejudice harms fat patients in the medical system.
  26. Dear Men of The Breakfast Club: Trans Women Aren’t a Joke, Ploy, or Sexual Predators | Allure
    Article by Janet Mock responding to a morning radio show.
  27. In the key 2018 battlegrounds, Trump’s support is as high as ever – Vox
    If this holds up, Trump could win re-election in 2020 while losing the popular vote by an even larger margin.
  28. …Or he could postpone the election, and if he does a lot of Republicans say they’d support him. Poll: Half of GOPers Open to Postponing of 2020 Elections
  29. “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” Is Bad Science | Thing of Things
    I found the end point especially interesting, because I hadn’t considered that before, but the whole thing is good.
  30. Psychologists surveyed hundreds of alt-right supporters. The results are unsettling. – Vox
  31. Cartoon below is by Irma Kniivila.

We live in a remarkable world. Does anyone else notice...?

Anyway.

Out of the box.




Some assembly required. Delayed by a hunt for a socket wrench that fit, which at length proved to be the handle that holds the other socket wrenches.




Together! Am I an engineer's daughter or what.




The front plate.




United with its siblings.




Ta, L.

Later, by request at @16, a larger group shot:



If anyone wants more data:

http://www.sfadb.com/Lois_McMaster_Bu...

Foreground needs cropped, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. It'll do for a snapshot.

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on August, 20

Posted by katepreach

EDIT: On level five, come up in lifts 2 and 3

Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX near Waterloo station, 17th August, 12pm onwards.  Please note slight change of location, same as last month – Green Bar rather than Blue, e.g. same thing as the previous location but the opposite side.  Also please note we are starting an hour later than normal.

Bad book swap!  Please bring any book you think is bad, for any reason (too purple, too few vampires, etc.) and swap it for someone else’s bad book.  Or just come and chat with us.  🙂

The venue sell food in a cafe (standard sandwiches etc.), but they also don’t mind people bringing food in from outside. There are several other local places where you can buy stuff as well. The excellent food market outside has loads of different food options, which can fit most food requirements, or you can also bring a packed lunch.
Meet on the fourth floor, outside the Green Bar (go up in lift 1, sadly not as musical as lift 7).

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

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

The venue is accessible via a lift, and has accessible toilets. Waterloo tube station has step free access on the Jubilee line but not on the Northern line.

The London Awkward group has a Facebook page, which is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/549571375087294/. There is also a thread in the new forums for saying hello.

My email is Kate DOT Towner AT Gmail DOT com

(September meetup will be the 16th.)


Wow, my Hugo trophy is having a Grand Tour. Although I don't suppose it gets to see much from inside a cardboard box.

When it arrives, I'll post a picture.

Location Date Local Time Activity
Philadelphia, PA, United States 08/16/2017 12:43 P.M. Import Scan
08/16/2017 7:51 A.M. Arrival Scan
Roissy Charles de Gaulle, France 08/16/2017 5:40 A.M. Departure Scan
Koeln, Germany 08/16/2017 4:29 A.M. Departure Scan
Roissy Charles de Gaulle, France 08/16/2017 4:22 A.M. Arrival Scan
Koeln, Germany 08/16/2017 12:59 A.M. Arrival Scan
Malmo Sturup, Sweden 08/15/2017 11:43 P.M. Departure Scan
08/15/2017 10:29 P.M. Arrival Scan
Vantaa, Finland 08/15/2017 9:56 P.M. Departure Scan
Helsinki, Finland 08/15/2017 9:16 P.M. Departure Scan
08/15/2017 7:16 P.M. Export Scan
08/15/2017 6:21 P.M. Your package is at the clearing agency awaiting final release. / Your package was released by the clearing agency.
08/15/2017 6:13 P.M. Your package is at the clearing agency awaiting final release.
Finland 08/15/2017 1:06 A.M. (ET) Order Processed: Ready for UPS


My nephew flies internationally for UPS. It's amusing to imagine him transporting it for me, although he more commonly flies trans-Pacific.

Best (or at least most writerly) tale he told me: the week J.K. Rowling's last Harry Potter book was released, UPS had to lay on extra flights to get all the books to the bookstores.

Now, there's a benchmark for success...

Ta, L.

Thur. afternoon update -- It has been out joyriding around Minneapolis in a brown truck since 9:30 this morning. Surely not much longer now...?

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on August, 20

Posted by Ampersand

This cartoon appears today at The Nib.

If you like these cartoons, please support them at Patreon. Even a $1 pledge means a lot to me.

Transcript of Cartoon

Panel 1 shows a white man wearing a collared shirt and a necktie pouring gasoline out of a can.
MAN: Wow, this popular conservative columnist and law professor says protestors should be run down! Retweet!

Panel 2 shows the same man striking a match. He has a disturbingly large grin.
MAN: GOP legislators in North Carolina, Florida and Tennesee want to protect drivers who “accidentally” run down protestors? About time!

Panel 3 shows the same man, lit by a huge fire behind him, shrugging.
MAN: Someone plowed their car into left-wing protestors? How awful! How does someone even come up with a sick idea like that?

Posted by Ampersand

(This cartoon was first published on The Nib.)

Mandolin has been after me for ages to do a cartoon where the year 2000, pro-Nader Barry would be confronted by a Barry from the future. So this one’s for Mandolin. :-)

This is one of my few cartoons that comes from a place of “this is funny,” rather than a place of “I’m angry about this issue!” But there is a real underlying issue here, which is how Republicans have gotten so much worse in my lifetime. Reagan seemed so awful, and the first Bush seemed similarly awful. But then Bush Jr seemed unimaginably bad – until Trump came along and showed us how much worse Republicans can get. The kicker panel is my attempt to think of where this trend might be heading.

The art for this was interesting to draw – first of all, because it felt so odd to be drawing myself over and over and over again. And also, as a character design challenge – I had to do three (four, counting the kicker panel) designs, all of which are easily distinguishable from each other for readers, but all of whom nonetheless could be the same person.

My appearance isn’t 100% accurate, because I prioritized character design over accuracy. In particular, I don’t think I really looked like that in 2000; that’s more what I looked like in 1990. But from a character design standpoint, using that look was irresistible to me.

Transcript of Cartoon:

Panel 1
CAPTION: The Year 2000

The scene shows a park or college campus scene. A woman stands in front of a table, listening with an expression of skepticism; the table has a big sign that says “NADER” hanging off the front. Behind the table, talking to the woman, is BARRY2000, who is clean-shaven and has big messy hair. Behind Barry2000, BARRY2008 appears, transported to the scene by a glowing purple ring in the air. Barry2008 is yelling in a panic at Barry2000. Barry2008 is wearing a vest over a t-shirt, has his hair tied in a ponytail, and has a van dyke beard and mustache.

BARRY2000: Nader is our only choice that isn’t a vote for evil!
BARRY2008: Barry, stop!

Panel 2
A close shot shows Barry2000 and Barry2008. Barry2000 is puzzled, Barry2008 is still intense and panicked.

BARRY2000: Who are you?
BARRY2008: I’m you! I’m Barry from 2008. I’m using a time machine to stop you from making an awful mistake!

Panel 3
Close shot of Barry2008, who is waving his arms and still looks panicked.

BARRY2008: George W. Bush is much worse than you think he’ll be! There was a terrorist attack, and we invaded Iraq, and it’s all awful!

Panel 4
Barry 2008 continues to talk at Barry2000. Behind Barry2008 BARRY2016 appears in a glowing ring of time travel, tapping Barry2008 on the shoulder. Barry2016 is wearing a striped polo shirt, has his hair in a ponytail, and his beard is trimmed short.

BARRY2008: I literally can’t imagine a worse Pres-
BARRY2016: Excuse me, I’m Barry from 2016.

Tiny “kicker” panel at the bottom.
BARRY2024, an older, balding Barry in a v-neck shirt, has appeared and is talking to Barry2016, who looks very happy.

BARRY2024: Hi, I’m Barry from 2024. We’re ruled by giant alien roaches.
BARRY2016: So it gets better!

Posted by Ampersand

Check out this essay by Mandolin!

“Unlocking the Garret” by Rachel Swirsky

Excerpt:

It’s in the stereotype. The artist of tempestuous temperament who drinks to excess as he stumbles, lean and tuberculotic, up the winding steps to his garret. Van Gogh cut off his ear. Plath put her head in the oven. The artist is passionate; the artist is mercurial; the artist is mad.

Sometimes stereotypes do hold a shard of truth.

I don’t know why there’s a connection between creativity and madness. One could provoke the other; both could be caused by another factor. It could be inherent. It could be cultural. Whatever the why, there’s a high frequency of mental illness among artists.

Despite this, we rarely talk about how mental illness affects the work. Taboos about discussing personal experiences with mental illness remain, promoted by shame and ignorance. In this toxic fog, the stereotype of the mad artist looms large, discouraging some from even seeking treatment because they believe creativity can only persist in the garret.

I have bipolar disorder—the second type, the one that lacks extremely high mood. I’ve been in treatment for ten years or so, and I’m lucky in that medications work for me. They don’t work for everybody, and for some people, they come with unbearable side effects. Still, disability remains something I have to navigate daily, and it probably always will be.

Read the rest here.

Posted by Richard Jeffrey Newman

Today is Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Consolation. Last year at this time, I was on a family vacation in Europe, sitting in our host’s dining room in Sweden, early in the morning while everyone else was still asleep, and writing the fourth in a series of letters to Jonathan Penton about racism and antisemitism. That letter took Shabbat Nachamu as its starting point. The letters as a whole, as a single meditation I called “The Lines That Antisemitism and Racism Draw,” were inspired by the racism and antisemitism of Donald Tump’s campaign, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Jonathan’s request that I write something that would balance out an egregiously privileged and racist statement made by a Jewish academic who’d submitted a piece to Jonathan’s publication, Unlikely Stories, which was doing a special issue called Black Art Matters. Even though I wrote the letter a year ago—by the Jewish calendar, exactly a year ago today—the issues it raises are still relevant, so I am republishing it below. I hope, after reading it, you will consider reading the rest of the letters as well, which you can find in their original format on Unlikely Stories. Or, if that journal’s white text on black background is hard for you to read, you can find the letters here, in a more traditional format.


Monday, August 15

Dear Jonathan,

We arrived in Stockholm four days ago. This is the first chance I’ve had to write. We’re here to celebrate my wife’s cousin’s 40th birthday, and, in addition to us and the other relatives who’ve come from New York, family and friends have gathered from Tehran, Toronto, and Milan. Our days, as I’m sure you can imagine, have been busy, filled with reunions and first meetings, the reliving of old memories, the making of new ones, obligatory sightseeing, and lots and lots of eating and drinking. The birthday party itself was the night before last, a Madonna-themed affair that kept us dancing—sometimes to music I hadn’t danced to since the 1980s—until the very, very early hours of the morning.

I’m sitting now in the empty dining room of the house where we’re staying. Our hosts—the birthday girl and her husband—and their three young children are still sleeping, as are the more than two basketball team’s worth of siblings, cousins, and in-laws who’ve also been staying here. I wish I were still sleeping as well, but, as I told you in an earlier letter, once I’m up, I’m up, and so part of me is actually glad to have this time alone. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wrote to you before we left Scotland, and there is more I’d like to say.

A quick glance at my calendar while my laptop was booting up reminded me that this weekend was Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Consolation. Shabbat Nachamu always falls on the sabbath immediately following Tisha B’Av, the ninth of Av, the fast day on which Jews mourn the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem, by the Babylonians and Romans respectively. Each of those conquering nations sent the Jews into exile, and so Tisha B’Av also memorializes the dissolution of the Jewish nation, which makes it easy to understand why the rabbis scheduled Shabbat Nachamu when they did. The day takes its name from the first words of the week’s haftorah, Nachamu, nachamu, ami:

Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and declare to her that her term of service is over, that her iniquity is expiated; for she has received at the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40: 1–2)

Jerusalem, God seems to be saying here, the Jewish nation, has suffered enough, the implication being that God is finally ready to bring the pain and loss of exile to an end. As the facts of Jewish history demonstrate, however, God did not keep this promise. Indeed, over the centuries, Tisha B’av’s significance has been expanded to include disasters that befell the Jewish people exile long after the Roman conquest in 70 CE. None of these occurred precisely on the ninth of Av, but they all occurred during that month:

  • The beginning of the First Crusade, which resulted in the deaths of 10,000 Jews and the destruction of Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland.
  • The expulsion of the Jews from England
  • The expulsion of the Jews from France
  • The expulsion of the Jews from Spain
  • The Nazi Party’s formal approval of “The Final Solution”
  • The beginning of the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp

The full list contains about a dozen such calamities, but I have focused on these six since they are all unambiguously rooted in the idea that Jewish existence is somehow existentially threatening to the non-Jewish communities in which we live. For the medieval church, this threat was religious in nature. The Jews refused to accept Jesus as the messiah and son of God, putting us in league with Satan by definition. For the Nazis, the threat was racial, embedded in their belief that the different “races” of human beings were pitted against each other in a Darwinian struggle for survival and ultimate domination.

The “racial” characteristics that made the Jews so dangerous to the Nazis, however, were essentially the same as the spiritual and other deficiencies that, according to the Church, marked us as perhaps the most loyal of Satan’s followers. Indeed, while the specifics of antisemitic expression have been different in different times and places, Jew-hatred retains a remarkably consistent internal logic wherever you find it. Whether you’re in Poland or Venezuela, Singapore or Egypt, Indonesia or the United States, antisemites will tell you that to be Jewish is to be some combination of greedy, conniving, sexually rapacious, financially corrupt, congenitally dishonest and/or biologically deficient. What’s more, they will say, we are always, always, hell-bent on destroying everything that’s pure and good in the world, whether pure and good is defined as the Church, the ideal of the Aryan nation, or the prosperity everyone would be enjoying if only the Jews did not control the world’s financial networks.

I have written elsewhere [the links to which are now dead] about the all-too-often violent antisemitism that has been a regular feature of my life since I was in third grade. In recent years, this antisemitism has most often been expressed in the context of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinians. I’m not talking about criticisms of Israel or of Zionism that cross the line into antisemitism, which I think happens both more and less frequently than the people on each side of that issue are willing to admit. Rather, I am talking about people who have used the suffering of the Palestinians to dismiss concerns about antisemitism in general, or who have insisted that, because I am Jewish, my primary, unquestioning, unconditional loyalty must be to the State of Israel—that, to use the framing I talked about in my last letter, I see myself as a “Jewish American,” not an “American Jew.”

Like the person who said to me, when I criticized Israel’s use of torture in interrogating Palestinian prisoners, “I know you don’t really mean that. You might say it in public because it’s the right thing to say, but you Jews always stick together, right? Especially when it comes to your ‘homeland,’” and he raised his fingers to put scare quotes around the word. When I pointed out that I was American, not Israeli, he looked at me incredulously. “But you are Jewish, aren’t you? I don’t understand.”

Or the acquaintance who agreed that “of course antisemitism is a problem” when I expressed concern about an antisemitic incident in upstate New York, but who went on to say, “But Jews aren’t really in danger here, are they? What’s really a shame is how the Jewish people, who have suffered so much, are causing the Palestinians that same kind of suffering.”

Or the impeccably progressive relative who, one year at Thanksgiving dinner, was incredulous that I would ask her to condemn former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. “You do know,” she said, “that there are Palestinians dying right now at the hands of the Israelis.” Then she went on, “The Holocaust happened more than fifty years ago. Shouldn’t we be worrying about things that are happening right now?”

Then there are the people who say outright that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root cause of contemporary antisemitism, like the friend who insisted that you really couldn’t blame the European protesters who chanted Jews to the gas chambers! during a march against the most recent Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2014. “The Palestinians,” she said, “are suffering more than you can imagine.”

As if all Jews everywhere, by definition, endorse and/or materially support, and are therefore morally and materially accountable for, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, and as if, even if that were true, the Final Solution is the appropriate form for that accountability to take.

Or as if antisemitism did not have the history I alluded to above, long predating not just the Israeli occupation, but also the Zionist movement of the 19th century.

Or as if, were the miraculous to happen, were there to be tomorrow a real and true and mutually fulfilling peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, all the people in the world who hate Jews would suddenly wake up and say, “Well, that’s a relief! Hating them was such a burden. I’m glad we can finally stop.”

I don’t want to pretend that writing about antisemitism like this is less complex than it actually is. It feels inhumanly callous to set aside in what I wrote above the moral imperative to at least bear witness to what the Palestinians are suffering; and even as I finish the sentence I’ve just written, it seems an unforgivable omission not to remind people that the very beginning of Hamas’ charter frames its resistance, its call for Israel’s destruction, not as a struggle against Israel and Israelis, or even Zionists, but against the Jews, and to ask how Israel is, how Jews in general are, supposed to respond to that. I’m not trying to create a false equivalence here, as if Israel is not an occupier and the Palestinians are not the ones being occupied, or as if the support with which many Jews around the world respond to Israel’s occupation is not deeply problematic. I just want to acknowledge what focusing on my own experience of antisemitism in the United States inevitably leaves out of the conversation.

Thirty years ago, just after I started a new job as the Hillel director at a private college on Long Island, I took part in a racial awareness workshop, the purpose of which was to bring all campus constituencies together to confront racism on campus. As participants, our goal was to identify areas of campus life where issues of race needed to be addressed, and, in committees we would form when the workshop was over, to devise a plan of action to address with them.

On the third day of the workshop, in response to something someone said that I don’t remember, in an exercise where white people were just supposed to listen to what the people of color in the room had to say, one of the African American men in the group raised his voice in anger. “We need to organize just like Minister Farrakhan says, and don’t talk to me about his antisemitism! Not when he is working so damned hard to improve the lives of Black people.” I looked around the room in the few seconds of silence that followed, waiting—especially since we’d spent so much time talking about white people’s responsibility for speaking out against other white people’s racism—waiting for someone who wasn’t Jewish to call out that more than obvious swipe at the Jews in the room. Not one person spoke up, not even from among the workshop facilitators, whom I would have expected to know better. The moment passed and we moved on, and not only was it as if nothing problematic had been said, but also as if the Jews who were present had not actually been there at all.

Sadly, this experience of watching the non-Jews around me back away, or prevaricate, or stand in silence when antisemitism rears its head is an all too familiar one. Here are a few from much earlier in my life: the teachers who stood by while my elementary school classmates threw pennies at me for being “a cheap Jew;” the neighborhood adults who could have intervened but didn’t with the kids who almost daily threw rocks at me while calling me “heeb” and “kike;” and the leadership of the town where I grew up, which failed for more than a decade to sufficiently erase from the wall of the public library antisemitic graffiti written about me when I was fifteen. The words—Newman is a penny Jew—were still legible when I was in my early thirties and I brought my wife, then my fiancée, to meet my mother, who was still living in the neighborhood at the time.

To say I felt at best unwelcome in the place where I lived would be an understatement, as it would be hard to understate just how thoroughly that feeling dovetailed with what I’d been learning about Jewish history and how unwelcome the Jews have been in almost every place we have lived, except for the Land of Israel. Notice that I wrote the Land of Israel, not the State. I want in what I say next to distinguish between the idea of a Jewish homeland and the political reality that Israel currently is. The distinction is important, because while it’s been a long time since I thought of the State of Israel as a homeland I would want to claim, I’d be lying if I said the idea of such a place, where I would be unconditionally welcomed, valued, and safe as a Jew, does not still resonate with me. Not to feel this way, it seems to me, even just a little bit, is to deny a reality of Jewish history, which is that wherever antisemitism has been allowed to run its intellectual, cultural, socioeconomic, and political course, the end result has been an attempt to eliminate—either by killing them or kicking them out—the Jews who call that place home.

The first person in my life who wasn’t Jewish to acknowledge this feeling as an irreducible part of what it means to be Jewish in an antisemitic world was June Jordan, the African American writer I told you about in my first letter. She did this in an essay she wrote some time in the 1980s. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of her books with me here in Sweden—and a quick internet search hasn’t helped—so I can’t provide you with a direct quote or accurate citation. Still, I believe that this is an accurate paraphrase of what she wrote: I accept that, on an emotional level, the safety Israel represents for Jews is a non-negotiable necessity.

No one who wasn’t Jewish had ever said that to me before.

I need to write those words again: No one who wasn’t Jewish had ever said that to me before.

And again, No one who wasn’t Jewish had ever said that to me before.

Perhaps more to the point, though, all too few people who aren’t Jewish have said that to me, or anything even resembling that, since.

Well, my hosts’ youngest child has made his way here into the dining room, and he wants to play. The other kids won’t be far behind. There’s more to say. I will write again.

Till then,

Richard


As I said, I hope you will consider reading the rest of the letters as well, which you can find in their original format on Unlikely Stories. Or, if that journal’s white text on black background is hard for you to read, you can find the letters here, in a more traditional format.

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

I am a man and I have a problem: I’m a creep.

I’m 30 years old, and I haven’t had a whole lot of romantic experience. I’ve been shy my whole life and dealing with anxiety and depression since my teen years, so I haven’t put myself out there as much as I could have, and haven’t had the self-confidence to be a good prospect in the past.  My social skills have been getting better, and I’m getting treatment for my mental health issues.  I think I’m capable of dating now, and I’ve met a few interesting women to connect with in the last year or so.  These days, I even manage to gather up my courage and ask them out/confess my feelings.  However, I never to seem to get a straight “yes” or a “no”, and I end up responding in a bad way.  Some examples:

I met a friend-of-a-friend a few times before, and we had flirted with each other, so I was feeling confident about our connection.  Our group went to a party a while back, and I ended up asking to kiss her when we alone at one point.  She said “I don’t know” and it looked like she was nervous and didn’t know what to do.  I backed off physically, but I pressed the point: mostly questions in the “why not?” vein.  We parted without incident, but met back up at the end of the party (the group was riding back together).   For some reason, I tried to flirt some more, and I just ended up creeping her out.  I’ve had enough self-awareness to keep my distance ever since, though the damage has already been done.

Another scenario: I saw a woman on a regular basis at an activity.  I liked her, and told her so one day.  Confronted with the news, she became very awkward and didn’t give a clear verbal response (“oh…uh…”).  We ended up having a good conversation (about
everything else), but my declaration was left hanging.  Before I saw her again, I e-mailed her to ask to talk again—I had been flogging myself for not knowing what to say.  Her response was a clear “no”, and it was obvious that my e-mail had been unwelcome.  I was glad to get the straight-up answer, but I had to push her boundaries to get it.

There have also been a couple of recent instances where I’ve asked a woman out and didn’t take her “I can’t make it” as an “I don’t want to”, and have ended up pestering them again.

It’s clear that I’m establishing a disturbing pattern: I get interested in a woman; I make a move; she gives a non-committal response; I don’t take it as the brush-off it is and end up making unwelcome contact (i.e. asking for a date again, “but why?”, continuing to flirt beyond its welcome).  I know intellectually that getting a non-answer in these situations means “no”.  It’s also clear in retrospect that I should’ve just backed off in these cases, but I seem to panic in the moment and not act on that knowledge.  Through some combination of wishful thinking, inexperience and brain weasels, I’m pushing women’s boundaries and acting like a creep.

Any thoughts, Cap’n?  I feel so guilty about these instances, and I’ve reaped the personal consequences—burnt bridges and cold shoulders—but I’m still not getting it right.  How do I remember to bow out gracefully in such a moment?

– Don’t Wanna Be A Creep

giphy (24)

Image description: A giant panda sits in a pink rocking chair. It covers its face and slumps down in a convincing imitations of human shame.

Hey Friend, I see you and I used to be you. No, really. Lest we forget, I once left a multi-page letter on someone’s pillow in the bedroom where they sleep.

Media portrayals of romantic pursuit reward persistence. This is doing you (and many, many, many other people) a grave disservice.

You’re not doing anything wrong by asking people on dates, asking them to kiss them, or telling them you like them. There are exceptions – I think teachers hitting on their students is always pretty creepy, for instance, and your cute barista smiles that way at everyone because she is trapped at work and capitalism demands her emotional labor – but feeling attracted to someone and asking them about it isn’t creepy. Also, you are asking, not doing that “making a move” thing in movies where men grab women and mash their faces together that is romantic in fantasy and consensually in established “grabbing” relationships but not actually in real life. So, you haven’t crossed all the way over into creepy. It’s not too late!

So let’s work on your follow-up. Next time you feel that spark of interest in somebody, keep doing what you’re doing and ask. You’re not naturally smooth, so don’t try to become smooth at this. Just be yourself and be direct.

You:I’d really love to kiss you/take you on a date/get to know you better.”

Nice lady:Hrm…I don’t know about that.”  

You:Ok! I hope you don’t mind me asking. If you ever change your mind, let me know.

Your “creep” self-label is probably 99% you being really hard on yourself, but I sense a little resentment or confusion on your part about not getting “clearer” answers. This is actually pretty simple to handle going forward. Treat anything that is not “Yes!!!!!” like “No.” Can’t make it = no. Let me think about it = no. I don’t know = no. Not now = no. You don’t need to push for a clearer answer or settle the question or codify the rejection. Did she say “Yes, I’d love to!?” No? Then drop it. Stop auditing her answers for the yes.

Rejection doesn’t mean you have to hide your face in shame forever or get all weird and Firthy about it, though! Go back to being polite and friendly and never mention it again until or unless she does. You can show that you are safe and trustworthy by being safe and trustworthy. If she flirts with you, it’s okay to flirt back, but don’t renew the request for a date or a kiss. Let her come to you with that. If she doesn’t, that’s your answer.

If it gets too uncomfortable for you to be in limbo with someone, it’s okay for you to pull back on the interaction. Just because you were comfortable with it once upon a time doesn’t mean you have to be comfortable with it when your feelings are hurt.

Women don’t forget when dudes ask them out. We don’t need reminders. If a lady really is on the fence about the whole thing and her “hrmmm…interesting” reaction was a genuine “I don’t know,” she is perfectly capable of coming and finding you later and asking “Is that offer still good?”  I once suddenly needed to check my mail in another part of campus at two in the morning so I could keep walking in tandem with the gentleman I was walking home from a party with so we could mutually and consensually maneuver ourselves onto the Couch of Let’s Put On Some Portishead Now That I Have My Very Important Postal Material That Could Not Wait For Daylight. A woman who genuinely wants to look at your etchings will find a way to ask you about them.

You say you are shy and you don’t have a lot of confidence. This is how you build/practice/get confidence: You say your piece, you let the other person make a decision, and you trust that once in a while someone will decide you are worth risking an awkward conversation for. Until that happens, you trust in yourself, in your own worth and good and valiant heart, and pour your love and your time into your friendships, your family, your work, your education, your hobbies, and your community. Live to date again another day.

Another suggestion? Make your date requests more specific. You say you aren’t getting clear yes or no answers, so, make your requests for dates or whatever easier to say a clear yes or no to. “Would you like to be my date to this comedy show on Thursday?” vs. “Can I take you out sometime?”

If the person says “No thanks” that’s your answer!

If someone says no to Thursday, specifically, but yes to the idea, you are cleared to ask again, one time. If it gets super-hard to make plans and it feels like there is never the right time, 1) Stop:I’d still really love to get together, why don’t you call me when your schedule opens up and we’ll figure something out?2) Drop (the subject) and 3) Roll your attention somewhere else.

Maybe someday I’ll stop gushing about Mr. Awkward but today is not that day. He asked me out on Ok Cupid. I said “Yes, but I am sick and busy, can we try this in a couple of weeks?” He said “Sure” and (this is key) then he left me alone. He assumed he was never going to hear from me again and moved on with his life. In a couple of weeks, I got in touch with him and asked him on a date. What if I had never written to him? We might never have met. What if he had written to me repeatedly to get me to go out with him? We also might never have met. Read on for a cautionary tale.

Pickup Artists and other dregs at the bottom of the dating pool talk about something called the “shit test” – where women say no to an early request to test to see if the guy will persist, and they encourage you to push back on this early no. One of my early dating tests that I didn’t realize was a test at the time is the “Hey will this stranger take no for an answer because I kind a need to know” test. I once mentioned to a dude from an online dating site that I would call him over the weekend to confirm plans for a date. Some actual big deal life stuff came up and I forgot to call him. At precisely 9:00 am Monday morning I got a text that said “You didn’t call. 😦” and I had a strangely visceral “Nope!!!!” reaction to reading it, like, ugh, this is already too much work. I was like “Oops, I had some family stuff, sorry” and He was like “My time is very valuable, I don’t like reserving time in my schedule for flakes” and I was like “I hear that, okay, sorry again, let’s skip getting ice cream after all, good luck out there” and then

he

kept

texting

me

all

week

until

I

blocked

his

number

I get from the interactions that he’d been really looking forward to the date and that I hurt his feelings by being less interested. It was probably never gonna happen after that initial 😦 but it was definitely not gonna happen after “Why did you say you’d go out with me if you didn’t intend to follow through?” He was cute and smart and we liked the same geeky stuff but he put my shoulders up around my ears and once they went up they weren’t coming down.

Don’t be Sad Emoji Guy. Persistence is overrated. Pushy people get my back up and if you’re a shy guy who is not very experienced at dating your best dating pool is going to be your fellow shy people who are not so experienced at dating and they are not necessarily going to enjoy feeling hunted by you.

Additionally:

  • Stop asking for women’s phone numbers or emails when you meet them in bars or group settings. “I’d love to chat with you more, can I give you my info?” Hand them a card (or literally a scrap of paper with your name and a way to contact you on it, please do not overthink this)Remove the anxiety of “when do I call/should I call/how do I call/what do I say when I call” from your life completely right now. Change up the idea of pursuit in romance. Whenever I give this advice some dude points out “But he won’t get any calls that way” and it’s like “Maybe not! But if someone does call you’ll know she really wanted to, and in the meantime you made the world suck less by not pressuring women for contact info.” If she loses it, so what. If she doesn’t like your font, so what. The whole point is to stop worrying about it once you give her your info instead of pressuring her for hers. If she met you and she really liked you, chances are she’ll tuck it in a safe place.
  • Don’t be Social Media Hover Guy. Let’s be clear, I would always, always Google potential dates and get an idea of their general online vibe and how well it matched up with what they’d told me, and I think everyone should do this (It’s one way to figure out early on if someone is a Nazi, for instance!) And we’re only human, and photos of our crushes are fascinating. However, when you are trying to connect with someone, don’t monitor their feeds and mention everything they’ve ever done back to them, don’t become the person that “likes” every single thing they say (Really you “like” when I wished my Mom a happy birthday 2 months ago?), DON’T click “like” on all their old pictures. It’s about as subtle as skywriting, and it just feels, as you said, creepy to know someone is monitoring you to that extent.
  • Watch for reciprocity. If you are sending 5 emails or texts for every 1 of hers, and yours are like Tolstoy wrote them where she is more Dorothy Parker, ease off a bit.
  • Read more books by women and take in art by women. If you already read books by women, great? Keep doing that. Ashley C. Ford just had a great Twitter thread on books by black women people are reading & excited to read if you need to refresh your list. Watch movies by women. Listen to music made by women. You want to love women and be with women? Recognize the ways that the world is out of balance for us and look for stories and creative works that address that.
  • Be politically active about things that are important to women. In the spring it was reported that women are making 86% of the phone calls to resist the current administration’s policies. Do you want to be with women, sleep with women, love women? Have you noticed we’re kinda busy right now? Love us by doing your part so that we can survive and thrive and have some free time to think about dating a nice fellow like you. I will stop adding this advice to dating threads when I see that number move to 50%.

You can’t logick someone into loving you. There is no series of perfectly executed steps that get you there. You’ve reached this moment of self-awareness about what you’re doing and it doesn’t feel good but growth never does.

This is all very fixable and I wish you luck in fixing it.

Captain Awkward

 

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