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Hi Captain –
I have a question about keeping yourself sane while trying to get out of a bad situation.
I’m trying to leave my job. Everyone I work with is too. I’m at a very small startup, and the main person in charge is both incredibly demanding and extremely volatile, which makes it virtually impossible to succeed. For a variety of reasons,* I can’t just quit, but I am actively looking and trying as hard as I can to get out.
The problem is that, for me at least, job searching is stressful too, and I’m much better at it when I’m in a good place mentally. Unfortunately, our head honcho makes this really difficult. It’s not just a matter of ignoring or deflecting manipulative or unkind comments; it’s that they’re in touch constantly, with all of us, making it hard to even get the time or space for reflection. They don’t have a lot of family and have devoted the last few years to making the company work, which means that they constantly want engagement and validation (even if they’re berating us), and they won’t stop trying to engage until we cave and give them the answer they’re looking for.
For example: they’ll ask, on a weekend, if a previously-undiscussed deliverable can be done by Monday. If I say it can’t, they’ll ask why we’re not working on the weekend when everyone else is working “like mad.” They’ll then keep messaging me asking what it is that they haven’t explained properly about the opportunities before me, and what they can do differently so that I understand it, and then ask if I’m receiving the messages. If I don’t answer, I’ll receive a talk on Monday asking what it is that can be done to make sure a situation like that, in which we’re unreachable, doesn’t happen in the future. (This is often followed by “I’m tired of arguing with you and want to make this work, but I don’t know what else I can do.”)
So my options boil down to either a) completely acquiesce to all requests, regardless of their merit or any other factors, or b) have a pointless, hour-long conversation that consists mostly of being reprimanded. I should also note that they also want to hang out socially with all of us a lot, and pout if we won’t, which, as you can imagine, also affects the workplace dynamic.
I will be much, much better off if I can stay in this position until I find another one or am in a better financial position to leave. In the meantime, though, I’m so stressed and busy that it’s hard for me to do anything, including look for other jobs. Do you have suggestions for scripts I can use on *myself* here in order to keep myself going? My therapist says just to remind myself constantly that I won’t be here forever and that I am leaving as soon as I can, but the more frustrated I am, the less likely that seems. And I feel like this is a situation that a lot of people get into – cutting toxic people out of your life is necessary, but it’s so complicated.
Working on Freedom (she/her)
*You can include these reasons if you want, but I left them out for brevity. I’m including them here to indicate that I really have thought about leaving, and really have decided that the best option for the moment is to stay until I get another job. Those reasons are:
– I have < 1 month of rent in my savings account, and am reluctant to borrow from my parents
– My job history has quite a few short stints, mostly due to coincidence and/or bad luck (yearlong grant programs, getting laid off, leaving a part-time job in order to take this one, and, yes, one where I was a bad fit)
– I’m in a weird specialized field where the work I’m doing is actually hugely beneficial to my ability to get a job in the future
Dear Working on Freedom,
I like a project management challenge.
Let’s trust your reasons that you need to stay in this job at least a little while longer. Let’s say that in an ideal world you’d like to leave this job for another job and not just to get away.
Step 1: In my experience, things don’t become real until you attach dates to them. Buy a cheap, fun calendar that you keep at home and designate only for job finding stuff.* Pick a date in the future and circle it. That is your quitting date, and every week you will do something to work toward leaving this job by that date. It will help with your therapist’s task of reminding yourself that this is only temporary.
Step 2: Keep going to therapy.
Step 3: It’s January 9 today. Pick a weekend in January and mentally clear your calendar. Don’t make any arduous social commitments, stock your fridge with food you like, and mentally block out the time for yourself. Write it in your special calendar: “Career Planning Weekend.”
Step 4: Consider signing up for a Google Voice or Skype other alternate phone number, or even picking up a cheap burner phone to use as your work phone. Work gets ONE way to contact you, your friends & family & others get your real number, and it’s easier for you to log out or block or turn off Work’s method when you need time to think.
Step 5: On that Friday, after you’ve left work for the day, go home, eat a food, take a shower, change into comfy clothes, and then send a version of the following email to your bosses & the rest of your team, using a friendly, upbeat tone:
“Hey team, I’m going to be unplugged and out of reach this weekend, so don’t panic if you don’t hear back from me. Looking forward to digging back into [specific work problem] with y’all on Monday.“
As soon as you hit “send,” log out of that email account, log out of work chat programs, slack channels, log out of all your social media stuff and messenger apps that anyone you work with (even the cool people) could *possibly* see, and turn off your cell phone and put it in a drawer. Become unreachable by any of them until Monday morning when you are back at work.
You didn’t say that you worked for an organ donation flight & surgical team, so, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there are probably no actual life-or-death emergencies in what you do.
You need space to think and to plan your next move. They will never give it to you. Your bosses are vampires who will suck you dry and tell you it’s your fault for not having more blood when you die on them. I honestly do not think they will fire you over this. This is my theory: Most reasonable people respect other reasonable people and tend to think that if we go along and work hard and do our best to accommodate others, we will get the same treatment and respect in return. Unreasonable people do not respect people who always say yes to them – the opposite is true. When I had toxic employers in management consulting who expected me to always say yes and I finally said no after much worry and anxiety on my part and much pushback on theirs, not only did they not fire me, they promoted me! It is okay to set limits with toxic and intrusive people and stick to them. In fact, setting hard limits is the only thing that those people actually understand or respect.
Bottom line: You’ve got to get some space from the constant contact from your bosses in order to hear yourself think. These people are terrible managers, full stop, and since they reprimand you already no matter what you do you might as well take care of yourself! Like case of the lawyer from a few weeks ago, if their whole business grinds to a halt because you personally are unreachable for 2 (weekend!) days, a) they have a shit business b) that they manage badly and also c) you are extremely valuable to their business and they can’t afford to fire you right now! The first time you pull away will be the hardest time. You’ve already survived all the bullshit they’ve thrown at you to date, you can survive a little more.
Step 6: Over the First But Not Last Weekend of Freedom, take out that calendar, take out a journal, and start to imagine the life you want.
Step 6A: First order of business: Schedule four sacred hours/week for Future
Career Stuff and four sacred hours/week for Fun. You can break those hours up into little daily things or big chunks of things, but you need that time. It’s not optional.
Step 6B: Working backward from your “Quit Date”, fill in that calendar with weekly tasks for yourself. I’m spitballing some tasks I think that could be relevant – you adapt this list so it fits your field and your aspirations. For starters:
Step 6C: Review your self-care routines and schedule time for that, too.
The fun stuff is important. You’re not an employee or a worker, you are a person. If your projected quit date is several months or even a year in the future, it’s tempting to say “I can hold off on all that good stuff – I just have to get through until I can quit this job!” but [Dear Sugar] Sweet pea, your life is happening right now. [/Dear Sugar]
Step 6D: Cross things off and give yourself gold stars as you go. Whether you can leave by your chosen quit date or not, creating a visible record of “The Year I Tried My Best To Advance In My Career And Be Happier” is motivating and potentially psychologically healing, yes?
Step 7: Plug in more intentionally, and unplug more regularly.
The culture of your company is that people work on the weekends, so it’s easy for me to say “stop working any weekends, ever!” (even though that is my recommendation) and much harder for you to do it. I don’t expect you to singlehandedly change corporate culture or your jerk bosses’ jerk expectations in one go and I don’t want it to be a sticking point in doing the rest of the stuff..
I think a few practices can make things start to work slightly better for you:
7a. If you are expected to be in contact over the weekends, schedule that time in your calendar. Log in from 2 pm to 4 pm Saturday and then log the fuck back out. No “just one more email” and no being perpetually on-call! If there is forced/expected socializing, block that out as work, too.
7b. Get out of the habit of checking work email or phone messages when you first wake up. Do whatever you can to prolong that until later in the day.
7c. Start keeping a log of all the time that you actually work. Checking emails on the weekends is work. Being expected to have mandatory work fun with your bosses is work. Every text message or needy contact from them is work. Watching your hourly rate plummet when you divide your salary by all the time you are expected to put in will be highly motivating in your leaving.
7d. Figure out the absolute minimum of work social stuff you want to attend and commit to doing it. When you go, hang with your coworkers, do your best to have actual fun and a positive attitude. The rest of the time, have “other plans” that you do not justify or explain. “Can’t tonight, other plans! Have fun, see you tomorrow.”
7e. Create a Weekend of Complete Freedom From Your Thirsty Corporate Overlords once every month. Grab it you grabbed that first January weekend: Treat it as a normal thing to want a weekend of no work and present it as a fait accompli that you do not have to ask for or apologize for. Turn your phone & other ways of contacting you entirely off. When you come back from that weekend, be in the office early, dressed impeccably, and looking eager, rested, and ready. When the inevitable pushback comes, here are your scripts:
Reasoning: There is this gross FastCompany-ish capitalist gospel that literally everything you do in your life should benefit your career, so, if you enjoy running or meditation or making sock puppets or some other non-moneymaking activity, you can justify it by how it eventually improves your value to your corporation or personal brand or whatever. It’s extremely likely that your bosses buy into this, so, use it! “I read that top performers need periodic vision quests and I want to be a top performer, hence, I climbed a mountain this weekend to meditate about improving our bottom line.“
You’ll get the most friction the first couple times. View it as an extinction burst that will recede over time, if you are consistent and boring about enforcing the boundary. Your bosses & coworkers will catch on to the fact that you aren’t on call every once in a while and that the world doesn’t end when you do.
Step 8: Go get a new job and get the hell out!
Good luck getting out! This is not the only company that will ever hire you! You can do it!
Who else is in the “I Must Get A New Job This Year” club? Maybe the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com are a good place to track progress and check in and commiserate?
*Commander Logic made me do this for my wedding and she was right to.
Both my partner and I consider ourselves progressive, feminist individuals. In most things, we are great about ensuring the we are contributing equally. The problem arises when it comes to the domestic sphere. I come from an exceedingly handy, DIY family — I have been repairing toilets since I was 10. My partner (and his family) can't tell a wrench from a hammer. Same goes for cooking.
As a feminist, this rankles me. I don't want to be responsible for the majority of the domestic chores. At the same time, I don't think it is very feminist to force someone to do something they hate. I can tell it frustrates him, too, because he wants us to be equal.
Is there some way you have found balance in your relationships? Or are there any tips for encouraging yourself or partners to help out around the house (or in the kitchen)? -Liz N
This is a great question, and certainly a lot of do have thoughts on feminism and household chores. So I took this question to the Homies, and here's their well-rounded advice that overwhelmingly broke down into three categories:
My best advice is to help your partner feel competent in all areas of the house. When my partner does something that I don't know how to do, he talks me through it and will encourage me to participate. Sometimes those feelings of hating a chore comes from the fear of not doing it correctly.
Often doing the things you dread end up making you feel the best when they are done. -Meredith
Balance. Have him do certain chores like the floors, vacuuming and laundry. This is how it is in our house. I do all the cooking and meal planning, plus all domestic fixes and anything to do with finances. -Shannon
Use your best qualities. My husband and I seem to take on the "standard" roles, but help each other out… I do the laundry but he puts his own away as I do mine and the kids… He does do some cleaning though, like his one chore is the dishes and handling the trash/recycling sorting. We take what we both like to do and the dislikes we divide up.
Sometimes I get so caught up in me assuming the "typical wifey" cooking and cleaning, but… I just encouraged my husband to give cooking and baking a try, helped him along the way, and now he can make some things better than I can. -Kristin
Balance and comprise… Our skills balance each other out and we teach each other as we go. I've taught him to peel a potato. He's taught me how to use the different heads on a vacuum. Win win. -Jessica
We pick the things we each haaaate and the other partner does those things. Like I would live out of a laundry basket all the time, so hubs folds the clothes. But he would let the shower scum gain sentience, so I clean the bathroom. -Kate
Does he want to help? Then figure out a way to teach him that doesn't make the task daunting and overwhelming… Plus you can always divvy the work up as "I cook, you clean. You want to swap it up, you get to learn how to cook." And if he helps cook, you both clean. -Teresa
This is what I did with my ex: I resented being the one to do all the domestic work. His mess threshold was far higher than mine. So I paid for a housekeeper. And reaped all the benefits.
Outside help we pay for. With all the available outside options in food delivery, cleaning service, and handyman, it makes it no longer that I am doing it all. And he helps pay for it, so it's still not a burden on me. Thumbtack, Munchery, maid service, etc. -Heather
Take a couple cooking classes together so you can both learn new things and then maybe that will help you and your partner. Make it fun and new for both of you. -Miranda
I hate to be part of the Instant Pot cult, but seriously that one gadget finally got my partner to take an interest in cooking. When he figured out he could just press button and have a meal done in 10 min, it opened doors for him! LOL.
But in all seriousness, I think it just takes the right motivation. Case in point, I taught myself basic car maintenance and repairs because I wanted a pretty European car that is notoriously expensive to have repaired. When I drove a GM, I had no interest in it whatsoever. -Emily
If your partner doesn't like chores, split all chores and household expenses down the middle, and they alone can pay someone to do the stuff they don't want to do. -Cynthia
I've had to somewhat let go of ideas about "women historically have done this, so if I'm the only one doing this it is anti-progressive or anti-feminist" — you have to do what works for you as partners, almost take the gender/roles out of it. I am the better cook and I enjoy it, so I do most of that. He does more of the dishes, and takes care of the kitty litter, and does a fair amount of the shopping.
…But I totally get you, it can rankle at times just because it is a in-your-daily-life reminder of the privilege men have and the way ideas about roles have been shaped by our society, our parents, etc. I think about this a lot when doing stuff I just sort of picked up over time that he has no idea about. Like. "how did you not pick this up?" but then it's like, "well, you weren't in the kitchen with your mom and no one ever bothered to make you learn this and you didn't think it was your job to have to learn it so you didn't ask either."
I was in the kitchen, watching, partly because I understood, even when young, it was part of my role and I would have to know how to do this stuff. But this is all the same reason I wasn't out watching my uncle change a tire. So it's two sides of the same coin and we've all been screwed by it in various ways. I wish I was more DIY/handy/mechanically self sufficient! -Emily
I do my best to see all chores as height and skill issues. Meaning I can't trim the outdoor tree branches or get things off high shelves because at 5' tall — I just don't reach. And he does the cooking because when he cooks the food is actually edible. The truth is that he's a LOT better at *most* of the daily household things than I am, so I'm always running behind in terms of feeling like we're pulling our weight equally. I do my best to even things up by wrapping all holiday presents, making sure he gets places on time and dressed in actual clothes, and dealing with sick cats, but he's the true domestic champion in our house. -Tamra
Yeah, we're kind of the same way. My husband ends up doing most of the domestic chores while I do the technical ones, but we do share. I am fully capable of doing laundry and dishes, and I do those as needed, especially when my husband is stuck working late. I don't feel like any less of a feminist doing those chores. They need to be done, and I'm the one who's available to do them. We both do what needs to be done according to our skills and time demands. It's really only anti-feminist if a woman is forced into domestic chores and banned from the technical ones because she's a woman. You can still be feminist and do all the domestic chores if that's where your abilities happen to be. -Theresa
How do YOU find a balance between feminism and household chores with your partner?
+ 2 more! Join the discussion
But what about STIs?
Always remember The Lesson of the McNuggets as we go into our New Years celebrations/new year of our lives…
It was last year, I was late for a holiday party, and found myself without my designated potluck item.
I had all my excuses lined up. We've all been there. There never seems to be enough time, money or energy to be the Fantasy Holiday Version of Ourselves. Unstained red party dresses, holiday gatherings with tables full of festive offerings, wonderfully wrapped presents that perfectly embody our feelings for whomever is lucky enough to receive them.
I was in the cusp of a spiral when I saw it. A McDonalds. Fuck it.
"50 Chicken McNuggets, please." "15?" "No 50. And throw in some fries." I mean, when in Rome.
The guy gave me bag after bag of more Chicken McNuggets than I'd ever seen. And? A smorgasbord of every dipping sauce they offer. Like EVERY DIPPING SAUCE.
Not knowing how they'd go over, I walked into the party with my bags of McDonalds a bit deflated.
And EVERYONE WENT NUTS.
It was the hit of the party. So much so that, for this year's installment of that same holiday party, there were requests to bring 'em back.
All this to say…
For so long, I'd defined The Fantasy Holiday Version of Myself as something I could never be — some unholy Martha Stewart/Ina Garten/Gwyneth Paltrow blend — that every year I ended up feeling that if I could just strive harder or be a bit better I'd achieve it.
Maybe this is the holiday season I embrace being Real over being Perfect.
Was there a holiday moment this year where you realized that it's okay to be real instead of perfect?
So I’m dicking around online this morning, and a friend shared some theories about a show she’s been watching (with spoilers amply warned for) and an invitation for friends who are also watching to discuss. Other people who watch the show weigh in and are happily trading theories and easter eggs and everything is fine until…
THE CONTENT-FREE INTERRUPTER(S)
A janky homemade Kool-Aid Man bursts through a wall.
“I haven’t gotten around to watching that yet.”
“I watched the first episode but didn’t like it.”
“It really doesn’t seem like my thing.”
“I never really got the appeal.”
Let me translate all of those for you:
I’ve written before about how tedious I find Geeky Dominance Displays where “I am a fan of X, do you also like X?” gets answered with an automatic”No, X sucks, let me tell you the reasons!” or “Cool, let me download everything I know about X into you and truly test your knowledge to see if you are a Real Fan!” Those conversations can suck but at least everyone is, like, engaged?
Nobody having a fun discussion of a thing they are intensely watching was waiting for you (not YOU-you since y’all are pretty great Internet Discussers, but, General Internet You) to weigh in just to tell us that you don’t know anything about it. It’s okay if you haven’t watched whatever it is – there’s no pop quiz! There are also no extra points awarded for class participation.
If someone in an online discussion asks you specifically if you’ve seen something or like something (you’ll know when, because they’ll use your name), then of course answer truthfully. And as a default, if you want to talk about something you haven’t seen or suspect isn’t your thing…
…I don’t know…
…start with a question…?
Such as: “I haven’t watched it/I suspect it’s not my jam, but what did you like about it?”
It is also okay to scroll on by casual conversations your friends about things you don’t like or care or know anything about! Your silence can be its own beautiful communication of your lack of interest! Find (or start) a separate discussion of the things you care about!
Maybe it’s also my 53-day-and-counting USA election hangover, but we’ve also got to kill the “I didn’t bother to read the article you linked but I am going to argue extensively about what I suspect is in it + unrelated matters I have opinions about” comment. If you care enough to type, care enough to read. If you didn’t care enough to read, maybe you don’t care enough to type. See how easy that is? It’s okay if you don’t have time to read everything your friends post. It’s okay! No need to weigh in on something you haven’t read and don’t know about. Tell your friends and family and let’s make this beautiful Internet 10,000 times less tedious.
Captain Awkward & Family
P.S. Awkward Spouse would like to send out a special message to people who review online recipes like this:
This recipe is terrible! I substituted every ingredient with a different ingredient, cooked it for a different length of time using a different method, and followed not a single instruction. It didn’t turn out at all! One star!
Sherlock slamming the door on Anderson with the text “Yes, thank you for your input.”
P.P.S. Awkward Cat also says Happy New Year, or, what she would say if she cared about years or internet comments, or anything at all.
A tiny black-and-white cat with huge eyes.
After spending 25 hours on research and testing 18 different cups from nine different manufacturers, we found that the MeLuna Classic is the best cup for first-time users. It’s the cup that comes in the biggest variety of sizes to accommodate people of different heights, athletic backgrounds, or vaginal birth histories. The MeLuna is also available in a firmer version and with different handles. Its design can be folded the most ways, yet it popped open easily, so it was the easiest to insert, remove, and clean.
[Trigger warnings: sexual assault, racist police violence, anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-Semitism, child sexual abuse]
Valerie Aurora teaches the Ally Skills Workshop, which teaches people with more power and privilege how to stand up in small, everyday ways for people with less. She also trains people to the lead the Ally Skills Workshop. She is a long-time Captain Awkward reader and recommends the blog in every workshop she teaches.
Many of us are grappling with how to use our skills and influence to resist the upcoming Trump administration and the hatred and violence that it inspires. As Captain Awkward readers, we’ve been practicing setting boundaries, standing up for our values, and making it awkward for the right person. We are uniquely prepared for a crucial part of the next few months or years: changing the minds of people who support the Trump administration, and standing up to the abusers they are empowering. This post teaches scripts and techniques to do these two tasks, along with the theory behind them. It’s for people living in the U.S., but it may be useful to people living elsewhere as well.
First, some terminology: an ally is someone who uses unearned advantages that society has given to them (a.k.a. privileges) to reduce inequality, with the goal of eventually ending privilege altogether. Targets are people who suffer from oppression – systemic, pervasive discrimination present throughout society that benefits people with more privilege, and harms those with less.
The first question to ask yourself is, how likely is it that you can act as an ally? Here are some things that might give you more privilege in the U.S.: being white, male, cisgender, straight, a natural-born U.S. citizen, a white Protestant (or can pass as one), abled, rich, middle or upper class, university-educated, securely employed, or in a position of power. If you have any of these characteristics, they gives you more power to stand up for targets and work to end oppression (and your own privilege).
Most people have some privileges but not all of them. That means that in some situations, you can act as an ally, and in other situations, you can’t because you are the target of oppression. For example, a Jewish man can act as an ally when someone is being sexist, but will be a target when someone is being anti-Semitic. It can get more complicated: a white Jewish person often can’t use white privilege to be an ally against white supremacy since that system often also includes anti-Semitism.
If you have relatively few opportunities to act as an ally, you can always encourage like-minded people with more privilege to learn ally skills. Either way, remember: you are far less likely to be attacked when you speak up for another group than when members of that group speak up for themselves. For example, a Black person in the U.S. speaking up about racism is far more likely to get racial slurs and death threats than a white person speaking up about racism (who may even get praise and gratitude for doing so).
So let’s get into a concrete example about a conversation likely to come up at Thanksgiving if you have Trump supporters in your family:
You’re a cis man visiting your family for Thanksgiving. Before dinner, you’re helping chop onions in the kitchen with several of your family members, including your loudest, meanest uncle, Uncle Joe.
Uncle Joe: “All those women are lying about Trump grabbing them. Besides, even if he did it, boys will be boys, you know. No use trying to stop them.”
You: [Stops cutting the onions and puts knife down.] [Calmly] “I believe women have the right to not be sexually assaulted. I believe that Trump assaulted those women. If you want to condone sexual assault, you can do it without me.”
You leave the onions half-chopped and walk out of the kitchen, leaving Uncle Joe to deal with the discomfort he created. In the living room, you see your younger cousin Fred, who overheard the conversation. Growing up, he was a sensitive kid who loved playing with you.
You: “It’s really hard when family members act like sexual assault is no big deal.”
Fred: [Looks troubled] “Well, my friends say that sometimes women lie about it for the attention.”
You: [Looking Fred in the eye, speaking kindly] “Hey, I used to think that too: that people who were complaining about being hurt were just whiners who wanted attention, or maybe money. Then a friend of mine told me that when her high school coach pinned her against the wall and put his hand in her shorts, she didn’t tell anyone because she didn’t think anyone would believe her. And then she told me that half her friends have a similar story. I felt so bad for her. I realized that most sexual assault victims never say anything at all because talking about it ruins their lives. Now I assume women are telling the truth about sexual assault until I have a good reason to think otherwise.”
Fred: [Looks a little shocked and taken aback]
You: “Hey, I didn’t mean to lay that on you all at once. But if it’s hard for you to hear that, imagine how hard it was for my friend to actually have that happen to her for real. And on top of that, she couldn’t tell anyone about it. It really sucks.”
Fred: “Huh, I never really thought of it that way. But don’t women lie about rape sometimes?”
You: “Yes, rarely. The thing I realized is, plenty of people believe all women are lying. My job is to be one of the few people supporting them. That’s how we find out the truth.”
Fred: “Wow, I didn’t think of that.”
You: “Yeah, I didn’t think about any of that either until my friend told me about her coach. I’m so grateful my friend trusted me enough to tell me that. I want to support people like her because I want to end sexual assault.” [Long pause] “Hey, so what do you think of the Steelers this season?”
Conversations like this follow a broad pattern. We’ll summarize that pattern, then go into more details about it, and end with some more scripts and examples.
All of these guidelines are intended to help you: spend your time and energy in an effective way, build psychological safety so the potential ally feels comfortable asking questions and expressing doubt, serve as a role model by consistently acting warm and compassionate while also sticking to your values, continue the discussion only as long as the potential ally is still making progress, and end in a way that makes them feel safe coming back to talk to you again.
Here are a few example scripts for each part of the conversation. Let’s start with the example comments that you would be responding to:
Setting a firm boundary and enforcing it:
Gentle statement about shared values and the topic at hand:
Express compassion or understanding:
Make yourself vulnerable and sharing your own mistakes:
Share a personal story about when you changed your mind or had an “aha!” moment:
Help them have compassion for the target:
Restate your values and connect them to the topic:
Reassure them that you still feel warmly towards them, and change the subject:
Now it’s your turn, commenters: What are some the ways you developed the skills necessary to follow these scripts? How did you learn to feel compassion for someone who shared your values but believed something horrible because they’d been lied to all their life? How did you learn to recognize your sources of power and influence? How do you stay calm when someone doesn’t mean to be cruel, but says something awful anyway?
Thank you to Mary Gardiner, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Leigh Honeywell, and Kendra Albert, who all contributed to the Ally Skills Workshop and this article. This post is licensed Creative Commons Sharealike-Attribution 4.0 – please reuse and modify with attribution to Valerie Aurora and the above co-authors.
My experiments in baby ginger continue… it turns out pickling isn’t all it’s good for.
Ever since Rachel’s ruined me for ginger beer forever, I’ve been trying to recreate it at home, since I don’t exactly make it to Seattle very often (and the shipping… well, it burns more than the ginger). In my experimentation I’ve discovered that not all ginger is created equal. The same recipe using ginger from different stores will taste different, and nothing I tried really tasted exactly right.
Until I used the baby ginger.
The flavor is strong and spicy, but fresher, without the same sinus-singing burn that more mature ginger tends to have.
Granted, it is still pretty dang spicy (just how I like it), but you can easily adjust the quantities of sugar, lime juice, and other ingredients to mellow out the burn if you choose.
I used the brilliant method outlined in Ashley’s book, Date Night In, which calls for you to blend the ginger with sugar and water (no peeling necessary), and then strain out the solids. I run it through the blender again to eek out every last bit of ginger flavor.
The ginger beer concentrate is incredibly versatile, and while it serves as the base for these fancy mules, you can also mix it with plain club soda for a hot and refreshing homemade ginger beer. I like to make a big batch of the concentrate and freeze it in ice cube trays so I can easily make a ginger soda anytime I please.
Funny story: I love ginger beer (that’s nothing new), and I know if a restaurant has a Moscow Mule on their menu that I can usually just get a plain ginger beer. Well, one night I tried to be clever and order “a Moscow Mule please, hold the mule”. The waiter gave me a strange look because, well, I basically just ordered a straight up vodka. Oops.
(Side thought: Who decided to call it a mule anyway? There’s nothing ass-inine about ginger beer. Maybe because it has a bit of a kick? Who knows.)
I call these “Fancy Mules” because they have an extra splash of Domaine de Canton, a French ginger liqueur that makes these mules extra special. I guess you could call them French Mules if you’d like (despite the fact that the Moscow part is still there). But the variations are really endless… Kentucky Mules made with bourbon, Gin Gin Mules with gin, Mexican Mules with tequila, Mezcal Mules with (duh) mezcal… I mean really, ginger beer with just about any liquor is going to be good. Especially this homemade ginger stuff.
© Love & Olive Oil
Let me start by saying: this is not real pho. Real pho is a lengthy process that involves gently simmering beef bones, various cuts of meat, charred onions and other aromatics for hours to produce a clear and yet richly flavored and lightly spiced broth. If you’ve never had real pho, I highly recommend seeking out the nearest Vietnamese restaurant and diving into a bowl as soon as possible.
Dare I say it is more satisfying than chicken soup? Those spices are everything. Remember that the next time you get a cold.
Unfortunately, life is such that we don’t always (or, er, ever?) have six extra hours to spend simmering beef bones to make our own broth from scratch. So, we have to cheat a little bit.
Faux pho, if you will.
Say it: foe fuh.
Here we’ve used pre-made beef stock, which we then simmer with some of the same spices you find in traditional pho such as star anise, cinnamon, and cloves. A beautiful tender piece of beef, sliced every so thinly, is added at the very end and cooks in a matter of seconds. It’s all served over a bed of rice noodles and piled high with bean sprouts, Thai basil, onion and jalapeno (as you dare) and accompanied by a small dish of hoisin and sriracha for added flavor (I usually swirl my chopsticks in the sauces and then dive in for a perfect bite of noodle and beef and all the fixings).
© Love & Olive Oil
My relationship to marijuana has been a journey. There was a time, years ago, when I was “straight-edge,” but now I firmly consider myself a member of the #StonerFemme contingent. Weed helps me on a near-daily basis with my anxiety and depression, my chronic joint pain, and – yes! – my libido.
I get a lot of questions about this whenever I mention it on Twitter, largely from people who are confused because they haven’t experienced this effect from marijuana. I can’t really explain it; I’m sure it depends on your body chemistry, your method of consumption, and what type of weed you’ve got. As for me, I find that sativa-dominant hybrids work best if I’m trying to amp up my libido, but really, almost every strain I’ve tried has made me feel this way. (The first Leafly review for my favorite sexytimes strain just says “Yo I was vibrating and shit,” so apparently I’m not alone.)
Hopefully I don’t have to tell you that intoxicants can complicate consent. If you need a refresher on that, read the first four paragraphs of this article I wrote. But with that caveat, I want to tell you today about the seven (!) key ways that marijuana helps raise my libido and my enjoyment of sex and masturbation…
Arousal. Oftentimes, when I go several days without masturbating, it’s because it just feels like too much work. My sex drive is more responsive than spontaneous, so if I want to jerk off, I have to spend some time warming myself up and getting turned on: watching porn, reading erotica, and/or gently touching myself in places that aren’t my genitals until that area is ready to be touched. That process is lovely when I’m in the mood for it, but sometimes it just feels like an extra barrier to entry that isn’t worth the hassle. So I skip masturbation entirely.
Weed, amazingly, helps me circumvent the arousal process. If I smoke up, I’ll reliably get turned on within about 10 minutes, without having to actually do anything to make that happen. My genitals start to feel all warm and engorged like they do when I’ve been engaging in foreplay for several minutes – except I haven’t. It’s brilliant.
I remember one time, I smoked some weed at my then-boyfriend’s house just before leaving to head back home. On the walk home, I felt my own wetness start to drip down my leg. That’s a level of lubrication I usually only reach after, say, an hour of teasing and edging and fucking with someone I find colossally attractive. And weed made it happen without any effort or work at all. Strange and lovely!
Sensitivity. There is science to back this up: weed increases our capacity to feel physical sensations. Whether it’s a partner’s fingertips trailing along your spine, someone’s soft lips pressed against yours, or a vibrator nestled against your clit, sensory information tends to feel amplified when you’re high.
I wouldn’t say that weed makes my orgasms come more quickly or easily – I’m still a tough nut to crack, even when I’m stoned – but the lead-up to orgasm does feel better than it normally would. It’s as if I’ve never felt those exact sensations before, and my body and brain are experiencing them anew. It’s pretty magical.
Worth noting: this increased sensitivity isn’t always a good thing. When I had anal sex for the first time, my fuckpal – a seasoned stoner – advised me not to smoke beforehand, because anal penetration is already an intense sensation and weed could make it so I’d feel every bump and vein. I’m glad I listened to him. But for less overwhelming sex acts, that boost in receptiveness can be positively delicious.
Tactility. So, yes, weed makes me more physically sensitive, and it also makes me more excited about the whole notion of touching people. Or touching myself, as the case may be.
I once smoked weed with a beloved fuckbuddy while at a party, and when it hit me, I became obsessed with his arm hair. We were standing close together and I kept brushing my arm against his, sloooowly, to feel his comforting hairiness slide against my porcelain smoothness. It felt shockingly intimate and sexy, despite the fact that we were fully dressed and not even looking at each other – he was absorbed in conversation with someone else and I was pretending to listen to that conversation, too. But my attention was reduced to just those few inches of skin on skin, and how fucking delightful he felt against me.
This obsession with tactile information also means that oral sex on weed is a damn good time. You know what they say about “the munchies”…! When I’m high, I’m equally thrilled if there’s a Reese’s cup in my mouth or a dick in there, and for roughly equivalent reasons.
Visualizations. I wrote about this a bit when I had my first stoned orgasm. Weed isn’t a full-on psychedelic, in the sense that you’re probably not going to have a spiritual breakthrough or an LSD-esque “trip” on it, but it can create some visual and sensory hallucinations sometimes.
For example: once, Bex was sexting with their long-distance Sir while high, and when the topic of a blowjob was broached, Bex says they could actually feel their Sir’s cock in their mouth. I’ve had similar experiences when I’ve combined weed with fantasies, sexting, or porn: I become very suggestible, such that the mention of, say, a fist in my vagina can create the sensory illusion that there actually is a fist fucking me. When I try to sexually fantasize while sober, my mind often wanders and I can’t focus enough to get a vivid fantasy going; weed makes that process a lot easier and more fun.
Disinhibition. Much like alcohol, marijuana can loosen your inhibitions so you don’t feel as self-conscious. For an anxious person like me, this is a godsend. Anxiety triggers my sexual brakes, making it hard for me to get turned on and relax into the moment. Weed lifts the oppressive weight of anxiety off my shoulders, so I can be in the moment and quit worrying about shit that doesn’t matter.
While this effect is, like I said, similar to the disinhibition alcohol can facilitate, weed is physiologically a far better pre-sex choice than alcohol. Due to how booze affects the blood vessels, being drunk stunts our sexual sensitivity, our capacity for orgasm, and our ability to maintain an erection (penile or clitoral). They don’t call it “whiskey dick” for nothin’!
Joy. Gala Darling has written that regular exercise creates “a constant undercurrent of joy” in her life; I feel similarly about marijuana. It melts my stress and transports me to a place of childlike delight, where I can see the present moment for what it is: an opportunity for happiness, growth, and play.
There is certainly a time and a place for sex that is emotionally intense, focused, and serious. But that type of sex is a rare craving for me; what I want, far more often, is the goofy, giggly, relaxed kind of sex. I firmly believe that sex is grown-up playtime. I’m happiest in my sex life when I remember that and take it to heart. Weed makes that even easier to do.
When I’m depressed, or recovering from some kind of heartbreak, I often find it difficult to get turned on, because my sexual thoughts and fantasies just make me sad instead. Weed helps with that: it puts me into a happy-go-lucky brainspace where even people who’ve hurt my feelings can’t really bother me. So I can fantasize about them to my heart’s content.
Ecstatic pain. This one is weird, and I don’t have a scientific explanation for it, just firsthand experience to draw from: marijuana sometimes makes me experience pain as pleasure.
I first noticed this years ago when, stoned at a party, a friend and I began doing sun salutations. I noticed immediately that the stretching of my muscles – usually an intense, slightly uncomfortable feeling for me – felt almost orgasmic. I moaned aloud as I moved through the poses, pushing my body farther than I normally would, because the more I pushed, the better it felt.
It took me a few years to figure out how best to use this effect to my advantage: kink! I looove getting spanked, slapped, bitten, and scratched when I’m stoned. It all feels so fucking good. When I’m in that headspace and someone really skilled is spanking me just right, sometimes it even seems like I could get off from that alone. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still holdin’ out hope!
How do you find marijuana interacts with your libido, sensitivity, and enjoyment of sex? Got any tips, tricks, or favorite strains to share?
In society, how you look is seen as very important — it can make or break you on getting a job, and it's how the average person creates their first impression of you. Which means that often tattooed individuals are harshly judged. Those that are tattooed parents especially get a mix of reactions…Some are positive, but those reactions that are negative can be extreme. Stereotypically, people that are tattooed can be seen as people that may take part in drugs, gangs, or generally not living a culturally acceptable "positive" lifestyle. Sure, in recent years, tattoos have become more common, but they can still carry a negative connotation. I also have several tattoos, and was once asked if I did drugs. When I asked why this person asked me that, they said "because you have tattoos."
In my years as a photographer, I have seen some amazing artwork adorned on amazing people… and the majority of them parents. They have shown love, live a positive lifestyle, and are some of the most interesting people I have ever met. This got me thinking… "I want to show the world this love!"
The people in my "Tattooed Parents in Everyday Society" collection are parents who have been judged by those that do not know them. Many of these parents own small businesses, are tattoo artists themselves, are a part of a military family, and raise amazing kiddos. They just also have all this amazing art on their bodies…
In a world where constant judging of other people goes on, those with body art and kiddos should not be put into a category of negativity. Our artwork should be admired and us as parents should be supported because in the end we are all the same!
This excellent guide is full of gentle, direct scripts pulled from real situations.
Hello, Cap and friends! I have a couple of questions about boundary-setting with people who don’t believe in boundaries.
The Awkward team’s advice and scripts on setting boundaries have been so wonderfully helpful in my life, but what (if anything) can you say to people who believe that setting boundaries in a family is controlling?
For an example, there are wonderful scripts you linked from the SPLC center, on how to set boundaries with family members being bigoted:
>”Your ‘jokes’ are putting unnecessary distance between us; I worry they’ll end up doing irreparable harm. I want to make sure those ‘jokes’ don’t damage our relationship.” “You know that respect and tolerance are important values in my life, and, while I understand that you have a right to say what you want, I’m asking you to show a little more respect for me by not telling these ‘jokes’ when I’m around.” “I don’t want this rift to get worse, and I want us to have a good relationship. What should we do?””
In my family (parents + siblings, I’m 30), the responses are simply, “There wouldn’t be a problem if you just laughed” and “You’re trying to control what I do by saying that. It’s manipulative to say that I’m disrespecting you if I keep saying [awful insults about minority groups, or about me personally].” I mean, in a way they are kind of right? I am literally attempting to control discourse to a degree, but somehow that feels like they are missing the forest for the trees in a way I can’t articulate. Especially since they get offended if you don’t laugh at their ‘jokes!’
Is there any way to rationally respond to people that think that attempting to set boundaries (or tears at being insulted) is “childish and manipulative”? They see that as a truly deeply harmful thing, and it would be really wonderful if it was possible to get them to understand the idea of **mutual** respect.
Thank you so very much for ANY ideas.
– A Weary Woman
Dear Weary Woman,
Here are your 4 new best friends:
Them: [Bigoted remark]
You: Wow. [+ maybe one of the SPLC scripts to unpack it]
Them: “It’s manipulative if you say my bigoted remarks are not okay!”
You: “Okay.” + CHILLY AWKWARD SILENCE
Them: “There would be no problem if you just laughed.”
You: “No.” + CHILLY AWKWARD SILENCE
Them: “Your problem is that you have no sense of humor.”
You: “Okay.” + CHILLY AWKWARD SILENCE
Be a broken record. Let them be offended. Let them think you’re being manipulative. Don’t engage in detail or give them reasons. If they won’t stop or escalate, say “Welp, good to see you, time to go!” & get out of there. You don’t owe them continued access to your attention. Leave the conversation and try again another day.
Whatever you do, don’t smooth it over. Let it get super awkward. Be the party pooper at the bigot party. Get a reputation for being uptight and humorless and no fun.
People have a right to their opinions, speech, and votes. You have a right to think those opinions are crap and to think less of people when they spout them. Bigots think that “everyone” thinks as they do and that their views are “simple common sense.” What bigots are looking for when they say bigoted stuff to people who (as far as they know) share their race/class/orientation/disability status/etc. is solidarity and reassurance. Deny them this reassurance and solidarity. Deny them evidence that “everyone” thinks that way. That is your power here, and it’s a pretty big one, given the way your family throws a tantrum whenever you try to use it. You’re already doing the right stuff, now it’s just about holding the line and letting be as awkward as they are making it.
If they care about your good opinion, they’ll stop saying that stuff around you. If they don’t, they won’t, and as a result, you’ll drift away from them and spend less time with them. If that happens, it’s a choice they are making. I guarantee that your folks can and do control themselves in countless other social situations, they just thought they could take their metaphorical hoods off around you and relax. Teach them that they can’t relax and that they need to behave themselves all the time.
Maybe because you spoke up a moment of self-awareness will come to them, and they will have a change of heart, but I think we should all keep our expectations about that very, very low right now and not get too invested in redemption narratives. Whenever I set a boundary here in moderation & dealing with (thankfully rare) trolling, I get pushback along the lines of “Well, with that attitude how do you expect to convert someone like me to your way of thinking?” The answer to that is: I don’t know, I’m not necessarily doing to convince you. I’m doing it for myself and for the other people who hang out here, so that we can feel safe and have the discussions we need to have. When you push back against someone’s bigoted remarks, this Thanksgiving (for one looming example) or at any other time, you’re not necessarily doing it to change that person’s heart or mind right in that minute. You’re doing it for yourself, so you can live with yourself and know that you did your best. And you’re doing it for the other people in your family, especially kids who are watching, to say, hey, I am a safe, kind person who doesn’t put up with this crap and you can be one, too.
True story: In undergrad, a professor invited Antonin Scalia (that Scalia) to our class to talk about hate crimes legislation and civil rights legislation in general. He made essentially the argument that many bigots make about this stuff – “Well, you can’t legislate people’s hearts, so why bother?” This was in 1993/1994 and I don’t have my notes anymore, so it’s not quite a direct quote that you can attribute, but he definitely said something along the lines of “If someone murders you because you’re gay or black, why can’t we just punish it like murder? Murder is already wrong enough, why do we have to saddle it with this extra burden of figuring out intent?”
What he was ignoring is the way that oppression is about systems, not personal intent. Hate crimes are terrorism, meant to send a message to people in the targeted group that the same thing will happen to them. It’s not just violence against one person, it’s a threat and should be treated as one. While it would be nice if every hate group had a change of heart, what we can control is making it harder for them to do violence to people.
You can’t legislate people’s hearts, but you can hack away the culture that normalizes their behavior one plate of mashed potatoes and awkward conversation at a time. The world needs you to be awkward and make it weird.
I just wanted to squeeze in a little quickie right now, and let you know that the eggplant emoji — you know, the one we ALL use because Japan hasn't gifted us with a dick emoji (yet) — is now a real life vibrator. In real life!
I think this cat's expression says it all. And I think I just found EVERYONE'S Secret Santa gifts. Because…
Whew. Thanks for letting me share this with you. Was it good for you?
Are you freaking out? I’m freaking out.
Yes. I am freaking out.
I can’t fucking take it. I hate the news outlets for covering it like this. It’s meant to maximize our suffering. If trump wins I very seriously may commit suicide due to lack of faith in humanity.
Don’t commit suicide. We will get through this together.
Drop the arrogant tone, kid.
Go fuck yourself.
I’m watching the votes roll in and I cannot stop crying. I’m so fucking nervous right now.
Go ahead and cry. This is worthy of your tears.
Fuck Gary Johnson. Fuck Gary Johnson. FUCK GARY JOHNSON!!!
Ralph Nader did this to us in 2000. History repeats. Such is life.
Coke, I’m watching the numbers come in and I’m freaking out. Help.
I cannot help you. We must accept this new reality with strong minds and calm hearts.
I’m so scared.
That’s okay. Just know, the republic will survive.
I feel like we’re all going to die in a nuclear holocaust now.
This will not result in your death, though unless you resist, it may result in your enslavement.
I am numb but almost in tears. What is happening?
A neo-fascist with a personality disorder conned his way into being the leader of the free world. It happens. Don’t worry. We will all be around to watch his downfall.
Do you have any words of comfort for us in this time of great fuckery?
Yes. In this time of great fuckery, know that you are on the right side of history, and though we may face difficult times ahead, it will only provide wings for the better angels of our nature.
Coke. I’m crying. I’m shattered. I’m in Australia, watching in horror and I can’t even begin to process what you guys are feeling. I’m so sorry.
It’s okay. We got this. The man will fuck up in such a way that he will not see the end of his first term as President.
what are we going to fucking do
Coke, I don’t want to live in this America. Trump almost President? I would rather die. It feels like the only option right now.
It is still our America. This is a grotesque fluke. The system will correct itself.
How the fuck is this happening?
America is filled with a small-minded, hateful, and willfully ignorant population of uneducated rural white voters. Trump got them to show up to the polls. Don’t worry. This will not happen again.
How do we Impeach a sitting president nowadays, by your estimation?
It will be quite easy with a con man like Trump. He is imminently impeachable.
What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? Please, give me something tangible that I can work toward to help this horrible country. Please.
Stay engaged and fight. Resist. Do not back down. Never give up.
What the actual fuck?! How, why, I don’t even know what to say right now.
Breathe easy. We will survive this.
This is all just a stress dream, right? I’m going to wake up and Clinton will be in the White House.
No. This is reality. Accept it.
Coke, please? I’m scared of Trump. I’m angry and sad and empty. I was so proud to be an American -so proud to be a Michigander. Where do we go from here? How do we make this okay?
Your state fucked the whole country tonight. It’s not okay, but it is what happened. Now it’s time to pick up the pieces and move on.
Never has “embrace the fucking change” made more visceral sense. What just happened?
History fucked us, as history is wont to do. We have no choice but to embrace it, for now.
Jesus fucking Christ. What happens next? What. Happened.
Tomorrow happens next. It will be okay. This is a shock, but the future is rich with possibility.
I just don’t fucking understand.
Don’t try to understand. Try to accept, and then gird your loins for battle.
I’m sure I’m not alone in asking this, now what? Earlier today when I was living in delirious denial, I was sure we’d elect our first woman president and turn the senate blue. I was wrong. I feel like the end of the world is here. Stock market crash, divided country, and someone truly unqualified, unstable, racist, misogynist, is going to take the highest office in the land in 70+ days. I imagine that Pence the terrifying evangelical will be the defacto president. Coke, I’m lost. Please give me something.
This is not the end of anything. It is the beginning of our call to action. We are on the right side of history, but nobody said this shit would be easy.
I will gladly join the resistance to take down the clown. Also any advice on what actions to take/how to best counteract Trump’s hate would be much appreciated in this dark despondent time.
Depending on how things pan out, I will have more information in the coming days with regard to joining the resistance. I’m not joking about this.
Were you serious about applications? I’m fucking horrified right now. I feel so numb. But something within me has changed tonight and I want to do something, anything. Much love from a longtime reader.
Yes. It’s too early to tell what it will become, but I am deadly serious about starting a movement. We can do this.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about a new hormonal contraception study for men that was halted early due to adverse events. Two of the side effects/adverse events that led to early termination were acne and mood disorders leading many to wonder, what gives?
Can’t men hack hormones or are researchers biased and letting men get off easy?
A phase 2 trial of a combination of an injectable testosterone and norethisterone (a progestin and a hormone similar to what is in many birth control pills) for men. The goal was to see if the drug suppressed sperm, prevented pregnancy, was safe, and if the men who used it found the side effect profile acceptable. There was no placebo arm as placebo arms in contraception studies are unethical for obvious reasons.
320 men enrolled and 266 completed enough of the study to produce data on how well the product worked. The good news is that the drug combination was very successful and almost 96% of men has suppressed sperm. There were 4 pregnancies for a pregnancy rate of 1.57/100 users. The Pearl Index was calculated as 2.18 pregnancies per 100 person years (basically 100 people use the method and 2.18 get pregnant over that year). The Pearl Index is 1.5-2 for the birth control pill. Other good news is that more than 75% of men said they were satisfied with the method and would use it again.
The Bad News
The study was halted early as one of two independent safety panels took issue with the high rate of side effects. This wasn’t the researchers saying, “Oh these poor men.” This was an independent review board. The adverse events that raised concerns were: acne (45%), increased libido (38%), “emotional disorder” (16.9%), injection site pain (23.1%) and myalgias (or muscle pain, 16.3%). One man committed suicide, which somehow the researchers said wasn’t related to the drug because his family said he was stressed at work, and one attempted suicide.
Comparing Like With Like
You can’t compare the findings of a phase 2 trial with the echo chamber of personal experience that is the Internet. You have to compare study with study, not a study with an op-ed column. These side effect rate is pretty high with this new study of men when compared with contraception studies for women. For example and perspective, a study comparing the birth control patch with the pill found a serious adverse event rate of 2%. The pill reduces acne for 70% of women and in studies with the Mirena IUD the rate of acne is 6.8%.
That recently reported study on depression with the birth control pill? It has some good points, but also lots of issues – the most glaring being no control group (i.e. no copper IUD users). But let’s say for argument’s sake the study is accurate depression wise, which would mean the birth control pill accounted for one additional case of depression per 200 adolescent users. In the male contraception study 2.8% of users developed depression, so much higher. However, for the most accurate comparison we need prospective studies of women using birth control pills and those have not clearly demonstrated a link between depression and the pill. That doesn’t discount personal experiences, might there be a subset of women prone to depression with hormones? Might it be multifactorial so several events must be in place for the pill to trigger depression? Sure, but we don’t have those answers yet.
As an aside, anyone telling women not to use the pill because it’s possible that an additional 0.5% of adolescents could develop depression I assume you are also telling women these same women that they should certainly not get pregnant as 15% of women develop post partum depression.
Four significant issues with the study
Based on the above I think scientifically it was reasonable to stop the study. Was it to spare men possible excessive side effects, a possible increased risk of suicide, and ill-defined emotional issues at one study site? Sure, that’s ethics. It doesn’t mean the study was a failure, it means the side effect/adverse event profile was higher than expected and not distributed evenly among study centers and a group of reviewers wondered, ‘What’s up with this, perhaps we should figure it out?” It is curious to me that the delay in return to normal fertility wasn’t part of what prompted the independent review board to suggest, although likely they didn’t have that information at the time of the safety review.
The biggest head scratcher for me is what was up with this one site? I also think if there are these early concerns about possible depression further studies should be formally screening men for depression. Maybe it is was drug and maybe men with depression were more likely to self-select for the study. I think grading the severity of acne might also be important.
As for the 20 men who dropped out because of side effects? That’s A) not why the study was stopped and B) women drop out of contraception studies all the time too and it doesn’t mean they are wimps. Here’s a quote from a prospective study looking at the pill and depo provera and side effects and depression, “We observed that experiencing adverse symptoms may lead to method discontinuation.”
The dose of hormones was effective and that’s great, but the Press and many people have forgotten this for catchy and misleading headlines. Ending studies early for safety happens. The conclusion isn’t men can’t handle hormones it means better screening may be needed before and during the next study for both depression and anxiety and maybe more uniform training among study centers.
The study doesn’t say men are wimping out, our low vasectomy rate does
Forget the study. We already have plenty of data on how women bear the burden of contraception when a similar option is available to both in the coupleship. Only 5% of American men have had a vasectomy yet 15% of American women have had a tubal ligation. Almost weekly I discuss contraception with a woman who is having issues with multiple methods. She and her partner have finished childbearing and yet she can’t get him to make an appointment to discuss vasectomy. She just rolls her eyes. She’d given up asking. She assumed the not insignificant risk of pregnancy usually more than once and yet she cannot get her partner to assume the insignificant risk of a vasectomy. What exactly does that say? Yeah, I know this is not all men but it’s a lot. And this, quite frankly, is bullshit. The numbers should be reversed.
While vasectomy only applies to those finished childbearing it is about as adverse event free as contraception can be and yet we still can’t get all eligible men to have one. This is what makes me depressed about male hormonal contraception, because it is unlikely that there will ever be a contraceptive as easy and as safe as vasectomy.
We need more research into reversible male contraceptives and hopefully what was learned from this study will be helpful, however, looking at vasectomy rates I’m pretty pessimistic about the majority of men choosing it as an option. Here’s hoping I’m proven wrong.
The third and final Presidential debate focused very quickly on abortion. Clinton defended choice and Trump, not one to be bothered with facts, countered with this doozy of line:
“I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s okay, and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me. Because based on what she’s saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”
First of all, we don’t rip anything in OB/GYN. In surgery we use sharp dissection and blunt dissection, but we don’t rip. Some women do tear during a vaginal delivery, but that’s not a doctor ripping the baby out. Even with a forceps delivery I wouldn’t call it ripping. We also don’t rip tissues during c-sections. Perhaps we can forgive Donald Trump for not knowing this as it is hard to believe that a man who bragged that he doesn’t change diapers and said he wouldn’t have had a baby if his wife had wanted him to actually physically participate in its care would have attended the birth of his own children. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart as there is, after all, lots of blood coming out the “wherever.”
Trump’s statement, as incorrect as it may be, supports the fallacy of the due-date abortion. It is a common anti-choice narrative that women come in at 39 weeks and have some kind of abortion for fun or out of boredom and that we doctors are only too happy to comply. I’m sure some people think there are Groupons. The more graphic the description of the procedure the better as it helps to distract from the facts.
Talking about abortion from a medical perspective is challenging when you are not a health care provider. Even someone familiar with the laws can get confused. For example, Mrs. Clinton made an error speaking about late-term abortion when she said it was a health of the mother issue. Typically it is not (it’s almost always fetal anomalies). However, this error on Clinton’s part only underscores how important it is for politicians to not practice medicine.
To put it in perspective 1.3% of abortions happen at or after 21 weeks and 80% are for birth defects. Put another way 1% of abortions are after 21 weeks and are for birth defects and 0.3% of abortions are after 21 weeks and are not for birth defects (some of these will be health of the mother and a very few will be for other indications). Let’s take it situation by situation.
This could range from Down syndrome to anomalies incompatible with life. The generally accepted limit of viability is 24 weeks so before that gestational age abortions can happen for any reason. After 18 or so weeks the options are an induction of labor or a dilation or an evacuation (or D and E), which is a surgery. With induction it can take a few days as labor can be hard to trigger so early. If all goes well the cervix dilates and the fetus delivers. Sometimes indictions fail because you can’t always get such a premature uterus to contract. With a D and E the cervix is dilated, with the help of medication, instruments or both, and the fetus is removed. The fetus is essentially taken apart with a D and E to fit through the dilated cervix (the cervix is dilated less with a D and E than for an induction). This is no secret to the women having the procedure. This is also no ripping, there is simply surgical technique. Women know they were pregnant before the procedure and that they were not after and trust me they don’t think their doctor waved a magic wand or had a time turner.
After 24 weeks birth defects that lead to abortion are very severe and typically considered incompatible with life. These procedures are either a traditional induction, just like labor, or something that requires instrumentation. Because of the nonsensical partial birth abortion law women who wish to have a dilation and extraction (a modified technique for more advanced procedures) need to have fetal cardiac activity stopped with an injection into the uterus. Either way it’s a 2 or 3 day or even 4 process to get the cervix to dilate enough. The further along in the pregnancy, the more likely the procedure will be an induction of labor, but a skilled practitoner can do a dilation and extraction at 32 or 34 weeks. I’ve never heard of a dilation and extraction for any other reason than severe birth defects and often it is for a woman who has had two or three c-sections for whom inducing labor might pose other health hazards, like uterine rupture. Are we to force women to have c-sections for a pregnancy that is not compatible with life?
Why do some women end up with these procedures later on in their pregnancy? Sometimes it can take weeks or even longer to fully understand what is going on with the fetus. Some patients might think they can make it to term and then at 34 weeks cave and ask to be delivered because they just can’t bear one more person asking them about their baby. Do they just smile and walk away or say, “Well, actually, my baby has no brain and will die at birth?” Some women go to term and others can’t. To judge these women for requesting an early delivery is cruel on so many levels. I wrote more about it here if you are interested. Regardless, terminations for birth defects isn’t ripping “the baby out of the womb in the ninth month.” At 38 or 39 weeks it’s always an induction and is simply called a delivery.
Health of the Mother
This definitely happens between 20 and 24 weeks. The most likely scenario is ruptured membranes and an infection in the uterus. The treatment of this is delivery or the infection will spread and kill the mother, however, someone with lupus or renal disease or heart disease (for example) could have a deterioration of their health and with their providers make the decision to have a termination. After 25 weeks this would simply be a c-section or an induction of labor and the baby would go to the neonatal intensive care unit. Between 24-25 weeks there could be some leeway as conditions that are serious enough to require delivery at 24 weeks often also have devastating effects on the fetus. For example, the fetus could be so severely growth restricted making viability at 24 weeks unlikely and a woman with a severe heart condition may not elect to risk her health with a c-section for a likely non viable pregnancy and choose a termination. These are difficult and nuanced decisions and everyone is simply working together to make the best decision for the pregnant person. I don’t know where Mrs. Clinton got this “bad news at the end” of the pregnancy being about maternal health. I have only ever heard of one very late abortion for maternal health and that was for the rape of a minor by her brother and that was still not at term.
So no one is performing health of the mother abortions at 38 or 39 weeks we just do deliveries. It’s called obstetrics.
Some of the 0.3% of abortions after 21 weeks will be for personal reasons. Often these are called elective abortions, but I don’t like that term. Usually this happens when it took too long to find a clinic and raise the money. These abortions happen before 24 weeks. There is no ninth month action here either.
There are no ninth month abortions. Really. A ninth month abortion is a unicorn and so it’s ridiculous to even discuss it. Terminations after 24 weeks are for severe fetal anomalies.
If it’s a unicorn, why not legislate it? Introducing a gestational age limit is introducing the thin edge of the wedge. Once you say abortion is illegal at say 37 weeks then you have agreed the subject is up for negotiation and more legislation.
If someone were truly interested in reducing abortion they wouldn’t start with the 1.3%, more reductions can be made in the first trimester where most terminations are due to unplanned pregnancies. These abortions could be reduced dramatically with access to free and accessible long-acting reversible contraception. To dismiss these abortions and focus on the later procedures means it is not about reducing abortion at all, so it can only be about punishment and control.
There is no such thing as a ninth month abortion – I’m a doctor who trained in late term abortions #debate2016
— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) October 20, 2016
***Comments are now closed due to an increasing number of abusive remarks***
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Heads up: Spoilers for Mr. Robot in the above video.
Leslie Jones wants the world to know she’s got the world’s most notorious hacker on her side. The recent Saturday Night Live premiere included a Mr. Robot parody in which Jones recruits Elliot Alderson (expertly spoofed by Pete Davidson) to help her hunt down her hacker. Mr. Robot and Darlene also make small appearances.
If you weren’t already aware, the video references Jones’ real life experience getting hacked. After being targeted for online abuse which consisted of posting Jones’ private photos, information, and other horrific types of sexism and racism, the Ghostbusters star spoke to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who promised to do more in combatting this kind of behavior. Homeland Security is also currently investigating the case.
While most of the jokes in the video play off Mr. Robot‘s seriousness by building the contrast between Elliot’s sad, technological prowess and Jones’ energetic, outdated sensibility (her password is “password”), there’s something very powerful about Leslie Jones making comedy out of something as awful as her harassment. How amazing is that? Not only does she unapologetically bring up her role in Ghostbusters in a clever “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” to remind us she won’t let the haters get her down, she’s using that terrible experience as fuel for new content.
What did you think about the spoof?
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Dear Captain Awkward,
I am so scared. I keep messing things up financially. I just don’t know how to do it. How to DO MONEY. But it’s a paradox, because I am earning a decent amount.
It’s a paradox about which I feel rather ashamed, because I am aware of my privilege. I come from a middle-class family of financial flailers–always earning a comfortably middle-class salary, yet always lurching, always in debt, always bouncing checks, always living paycheck to paycheck, always STRESSED AS FUCK about money, yet never really changing (or seeming to know how to change) spending habits, or debt, or livingsituation, or whatever the fuck it is you do to live with lower financial stress. I am just like my parents in this regard.
I am so scared. I am always living paycheck to paycheck, and even that isn’t enough. To illustrate what I mean, I often have to stop eating for 3 days before paychecks, I tend to bounce checks once every month or two, and I’ve had to postpone my student loan payments 3 times in 4 months. It is not so easy to just move, either–my rent is pretty decent for the location, especially considering that now I don’t have a car (a crash last summer, another financial fuckeroo), it is important to live near my workplace.
I just don’t know where to start. Whenever I google stuff about getting financial advice online for free, it’s always some advice that comes in the form of happy go lucky blank slates. Like, these super-duper positive people writing how-to’s as though they are teaching the teenage children of rich and stable folks how to save their allowance. Fuck that shit! I don’t want advice that is starting from some elusive, unrealistic (at least for me, but probably for most) baseline of financial stability and emotional okayness.
I want some advice that respects my baseline of terrible credit, shitty habits, major upcoming expenses, MAJOR student loan debt, major shame and self-loathing, and total overwhelm and fear.
I feel so fucked. I am scared.
I know that here, Captain, you tend to respond to stories. However, I also know that you love advice blogs in general, that you’re an aficionado of the genre. Therefore my question is a request for help in finding some other advice blogs: do you know of any places on the internet I can go to find the kind of help, the kind of realistic, open, detailed, respectful advice I’m looking for?
And frankly if you have thoughts on my situation, I will definitely take your advice, too.
Thanks a lot,
I hear you that you feel scared—and that you feel especially ashamed because you recognize your relative good fortune to date. Would it help to know that you are not alone, that you are now among the majority in the US? Living paycheck to paycheck—or well behind one—is common, including in folks who’ve had sound opportunity. So kudos to you for actively seeking to set straight what so far feels to you like an impossible situation.
As you’ve found, the advice common in financial guides does not apply to everyone, or at least not to everyone’s starting point. Many such resources assume a near-magical combination of higher-income, plus a naturally frugal bent, plus a supportive family, plus a state of emotional zen, plus a cognitive capacity to navigate institutions ranging from banks to universities, plus plus plus. Not everyone has all of these. Folks with barriers such as stress, grief, cognitive limitations, a difficult family history, an experience of abuse, or a disability are often left to their own devices and, like you, feel embarrassment and shame that they aren’t “succeeding.”
Many mainstream resources don’t help. In fact, they exacerbate the issue by making it difficult for folks to come out of their financial closets. I know it didn’t help me one iota when all the advice seemed to scream, “Be an entirely different person! Become an extrovert! Don’t have Asperger’s or depression! Have more physical stamina!” Ack. Our financial path must—at its most basic level—honor who we are at our heart, not to mention at our physical capacity.
You’re smart, articulate, and educated but, as you’ve discovered, these qualities alone do not lead to financial success. But other ones do.
As a volunteer, I serve some of my region’s lowest-income people. Interestingly, some had extremely high income (think executive directors and an NHL player) before needing help to secure and then live on $510 per month. As is usually the case, their financial flailing was not about a lack of drive, commitment, hard work, or intelligence. These folks’ careers relied on these characteristics. So what else is at play?
You seem to be painfully aware that you have sufficient income and status, and that there is some self-sabotage going on. This means that while you feel like a failure you’re actually already two steps ahead of the game!
I propose five strategies to help you fulfill your dream of financial well-being:
1. Prepare. Interestingly, preparing for financial recovery involves no file folders, specialized software, or fee-based advisers. Getting ready will involve just the simple step of writing down five free things you can do when you start to feel overwhelmed. What soothes you? A bubble bath? A run? Knitting? Texting with a dear friend? Meditation? A pitch black room? The Pogues on maximum volume? Post your list to at least five key places: your bathroom mirror, your car dashboard, the top of your shoe, your wrist, wherever you will see this prompt to self-soothe rather than spend. When the judgement or panic begins to arise, implement one of your personal self-soothing options. (And if you spend instead? No big deal, because you’re going to put in place the next steps too.)
2. Connect. The primary difference I see in people who transition from struggling to stable is emotional back-up. Many of us rely on spending to alleviate intolerable levels of loneliness, isolation, fear, anger, guilt, and more. Ironically, when we then spiral into shame about our spending, we often spend even more to cope! For this reason, I recommend your second step be putting support in place. For a sociable introvert or a person with a wild schedule, an online forum such as that offered by the Simple Living Network might be the best bet. For a person who thrives in live groups, the twelve-step program Debtors Anonymous can be a boon. If you have access to affordable one-on-one therapy, I encourage you to take that opportunity, too.
Even when these resources use financial floundering as a focus or anchor topic, much more will happen. This is because for most of us, money is attached to loss, hope, grief, attachment, and shame. When we focus on our finances, our money issues begin to resolve but so do layers of psychological struggle. When we act on one, we are inherently acting on both. So in healing financially, it is critical to have support not just to spend more judiciously, but to live through the emotional layers that arise when we shift the very way we’re interacting with our world. Your support person or group provides practical support while simultaneously (and more importantly) caring for your heart—walking you through your shame and out the other side while you implement change.
3. Envision. Take up to an hour to consider your personal goals. What are your dreams? When you see yourself in twenty years, what is your life full of? What does that look like, smell like, sound like, taste like? Pull related photos out of magazines, jot down key words, or chat about it into your phone or video camera. The sky’s the limit. Record everything you truly desire materially or environmentally. Silence? A turntable? An English country garden? The opportunity to raise a child?
4. Assess. Does your current lifestyle match this vision? If your heart tells you that in the future you want a peaceful cottage to write in, does spending $4 on ice cream today align with that? Don’t judge or kick yourself. Just notice. Watch yourself as though you are a scientist—a neutral third party curious about the patterns.
5. Record. On any given day, write down every penny that comes in to your life and every penny that goes out. This includes the dollar to the busker and the auto-debit for the internet bill. This activity can seem intimidating, because we anticipate seeing evidence of unmitigated disaster: pen hitting paper minute by minute, volumes of scrawled notes. It needn’t be overwhelming, though, and in fact can be strangely soothing. When we record in a notebook every penny as it goes out or in, we begin to see the power we have—the choice we get to make from moment to moment. We give ourselves a glimpse of our healthy decision-making capacity. Record nothing from before this moment, and nothing from beyond now. Just this moment’s transaction. As you record, accept your feelings. (Rely on your list for self-soothing.) Don’t try to modify your spending; no one else need see the information. Just record. Do this in as many moments, on as many days, as you feel up to it. Your consciousness will take it from there.
Once we have these five elements or practices in place, we naturally take steps to increase our income—asking for a raise, babysitting for a neighbour, snagging that grant—and decreasing our expenses—applying for a halt in student loan interest, canceling the gym membership we never use, inviting friends to a potluck in place of our usual Friday night restaurant outing. We do these one at a time, as our support team helps us to.
When we’ve connected more deeply with ourselves—and recognized our right to honor our truest self—we begin spending on that which aligns with our own deepest values, and declining to spend on that which others told us we should want: marriage, a magazine subscription, the university degree. Of course, the actual details of what we spend or save on are unique to each person, which is why our financial journey is often one of achieving physical, psychological, and relational freedom as well.
When we align our finances with who we really are at heart—ditching other people’s priorities in favor of honoring our own values and dreams—the perplexing paradoxes resolve. In the end, it seems that near-magic is involved after all, but it’s you who creates it.
Joon Madriga was marginalized by a severe yet undiagnosed brain-based disability, which left her on the streets. She subsequently found her way to help herself, then thousands of others. Her recently released book, Rising: Strategies for the Broke, the At-Risk, and Those Who Love Them, is available on Amazon.com. She blogs at financialtipsforthebroke.com and welcomes your questions and struggles there.
Moderator Note: Readers, feel free to recommend other resources & techniques in the comments. I’d prefer to see recommendations in the form of “X site/forum/tool worked really well for me, here’s how and why” over “You should try X.”
We shot our new Rose Armor Gown and revisited the Princess Celestia Gown with Saffels Photography and model Kelly Eden! You can view the BTS here! – https://youtu.be/bVEMIgirRbs
A special thanks to Creature of Habit for helping on set <3
- Rose Armor Gown -
We used a dusty rose chiffon that parts in the front to reveal silver 3D lace. The underlying fabric is a pale peach wedding satin. Metal filigree decorates the top of the dress and under-bust. We created matching filigree shoulder caps glittering with gems. Swags of chain drape over the sides of the arm and back.
- Princess Celestia Gown -
This gown was made for The Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball ( www.labyrinthmasquerade.com ). I wanted to create a human version of Princess Celestia (My Little Pony : Friendship is Magic). Not only did I want to make a human version but also something decadent that she would wear to a masquerade. Celestia has a sun theme, I incorporated a star burst to the center of her tapestry panel. I added white LED lights to the wings for an ethereal glow. Fluffy layers of tulle and pearl organza make the high collar and puff sleeves.
The announcement of a new Star Trek TV show has Trekkers around the world, including me, buzzing with excitement. CBS and showrunner Bryan Fuller have revealed some key details about Star Trek: Discovery, promising “new crews, new villains, new heroes, and new worlds.” We know that the new show will take place in the Prime timeline, approximately a decade before Kirk’s original 5 year mission. What we don’t yet know is what the main plotlines will be. As a lifelong Star Trek fan, a conservation biologist and a citizen afraid of the future, I hope that Star Trek: Discovery will feature an environmental conservation plotline.
Star Trek is at its best when it focuses on important real-world problems through the lens of science fiction. In the original series, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” showed how preposterous and harmful racism can be at the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “Homefront” in Deep Space Nine showed that moral compromises made in the name of security can be more damaging to a peaceful society than the actual danger from the enemy. And for all its flaws, Star Trek: Enterprise did a great job portraying the stigma that AIDS sufferers face via Vulcan Pa’nar syndrome.
But in hundreds of hours of airtime, Star Trek has barely covered topics related to environmental conservation at all. Spock referred to killing what was believed to be the last surviving Horta as “a crime against science” in “Devil in the Dark”; The Voyage Home focused on Kirk and company going back in time to retrieve now-extinct humpback whales; and in The Next Generation’s “New Ground,” Worf’s son Alexander learns about how rhinos went extinct on Earth and tries to rescue an endangered Corvan gilvo from a shipboard fire. That’s about it.
Environmental conservation is one of the most important issues facing the world today. According to the WWF, wildlife populations have dropped more than 50% in the last few decades. Research shows that human activities are causing species to go extinct at more than 1,000 times their natural rate. Things are so bad that scientists say human actions have created a whole new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, and have caused the Earth’s sixth-ever mass extinction event.
An environmental conservation plotline on Star Trek: Discovery could help raise awareness of these real-world problems. Such a plotline might take several forms. We know that before the relative paradise of the Discovery/TOS era, things got ugly for the people of Earth. Crises such as the Bell Riots, the Eugenics Wars, and the post-atomic horror have been somewhat well explored. Others, such as the World War III era eco-terrorism movement led by the dictator Colonel Green, have been barely mentioned. A Discovery-era extremist environmental movement influenced by Colonel Green could be an interesting plot point. After all, the Terra Prime movement on Enterprise was one of the best parts of that show.
A society with interstellar commerce must face ecological problems with introduced or invasive species. In the real world, ecosystems are being devastated by the introduction of non-native species. These species often have no predators in the new ecosystem, or outcompete native species for food. One way that invasive species are spread in the real world is through cargo vessels moving from port to port. How much worse must this problem be when you’re dealing with ships moving between hundreds of worlds? We learned from The Phantom Menace that plot points based on trade policy aren’t always the most fascinating thing to watch. However, introduced Tribbles eating all the grain in a silo was a key component of one of the most beloved Star Trek episodes of all time. And speaking of invasive species, what ever happened to Sluggo, the invertebrate who Ensign Sato took from one planet and released on an ecologically similar planet in “Fight or Flight”?
From The Voyage Home, we know that Earth’s oceans in the days of Star Trek: Discovery don’t have humpback whales anymore, but we know little else. Maybe we could explore what’s happening in the oceans through the eyes of the fish-faced Antedeans, introduced to us in TNG‘s “Manhunt,” or through the Xindi Aquatics from Enterprise, or through a new amphibious species entirely. Did humanity ever solve the overfishing crisis from causing major disruptions to global food security? Did ocean acidification ever disrupt ocean food webs by making it impossible for shelled organisms to create their shells? Did we ever try mining the deep sea? What did these things do to our oceans, and the many animal species which call them home? If we solved these problems, how did we solve them?
There are lots of other ways to incorporate environmental conservation into Star Trek: Discovery. A look at how “modern” science helped Earth’s environment to recover from the post-atomic horror could be interesting, and could be perhaps mentioned in the context of helping another species to move on from a similar problem. Could the genetic engineering technology used to create augments like Khan be used for de-extinction, or to make threatened species more resilient to environmental change? In the modern world, zoos have captive breeding programs for endangered species; might a spaceship or offworld colony be a 23rd century equivalent? Does “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” refer to biodiversity as well? How did Alexander’s Corvan gilvos become endangered in the first place? The list goes on and on, and I’m sure writers far more creative than I could suggest even better ways to shine a light on these problems through the Star Trek universe.
An environmental plotline on Star Trek: Discovery won’t save the world, but it could help to bring attention to some real-world conservation issues. And the way things are going, if our world’s threatened species are to live long and prosper, environmental issues need all the attention they can get.
David Shiffman is a marine conservation biologist and science writer. You can follow him on Twitter @WhySharksMatter.
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"Pay attention also to the people who Will. Not. Fucking. Let. It. Go., the ones who keep trying to override your choice, the ones who hint that they will spike your drink “as a joke,” the ones who call attention to it in a way that feels belittling or coercive. Avoid them, where possible, and if they’re in your social circle, keep an eye on them. Don’t leave your friends, especially drunk friends, alone with them. Don’t leave your drink unattended with them, or drink unidentified things they hand you. Someone who meets your “no thanks!” with half an hour of manipulation and second-guessing is communicating that they are bad at consent. "
I’m a 20-year-old college student and I don’t drink, nor will I likely ever drink in the future. My father is an alcoholic, and every family member on his side has some form of substance abuse problem. I know that having a drink now and again will not necessarily hurt me or lead to a drinking problem of my own, but I’ve decided to just abstain completely anyways.
Most of my peers/classmates, however, like to drink and will often talk at length about it. I’ve been asked multiple times about my beer preference or some other alcohol-related question, to which I simply reply I don’t drink. For some reason, most people can’t seem to accept this and will ask me why not, or even try to convince me how great drinking is if I say it’s because I’m not interested. I don’t have a problem with other people drinking or listening to stories about it, but I don’t know how to explain my “disinterest” to other people.
I really don’t want to be a huge bummer in front of other people and say outright, “I don’t drink because my dad is an alcoholic,” but I don’t know how to get people to stop asking questions. “I don’t drink for personal reasons,” also feels like either a bummer or might lead to people asking what those reasons are.
So, Captain is there any way I can sidestep these questions without having to divulge my personal circumstances or bringing down the mood of the group?
Thanks for any help,
Sober in South Florida (she/her)
Dear Sober in South Florida,
For close, trusted friends, consider telling the unvarnished truth at a time when you’re one-on-one with them in a calm, quiet place and not at a party or immediately heading to one: “The [party last week] [where the topic came up in a big, awkward way] wasn’t the time to talk about this, but I wanted to tell you: I don’t drink because of some serious addiction problems in my family. I’m fine if other people drink, but sometimes it’s exhausting when people try really hard to sell me on how great it is or pry into my reasons. I know for sure that it’s not for me.”
You don’t owe anyone your whole family history, but you don’t owe your family a shield of never talking about it, either, and maybe it would be helpful for people close to you to know a little bit about your reasons. If they know, they can stop pressuring you about it right now, forever. They can have your back when others do pressure you. You can ask them directly to do this, like, “Not everyone has to know about my family, but now that you do, can you help me out sometimes? Remembering that I don’t drink and not making me re-negotiate that every time we are out and about would help, a lot. When others don’t get it, helping me change the subject (i.e. ‘Dude, she told you she doesn’t drink. New topic!’) would also help and make me feel less alone about this.”
You never know: They might have their own complicated families. You are not alone.
Now, repeat after me: “Reasonable people who are cool to hang out with will accept what I say at face value. The people I generally want in my life will not pressure me, demand elaborate reasons, or make it their mission to sell me on the wonders of booze once I’ve said I’m not into it.”
Also, repeat after me: ‘The mood of the group’ is not my job.
Culture being what it is, there is no one way you can communicate that you don’t drink that will magically stop people from having feelings (or occasional annoying reactions) to that fact. However, if your perfectly reasonable life choice ‘brings down the mood of the group‘ then that’s on the group. The stuff you’re already saying, like:
…is just fine. You’re not being mysterious or unclear or judgmental or a jerk.
You could try throwing in a subject change and see if it changes the vibe. Does the other person take your cue?
When you encounter someone who just won’t let it go, remind yourself: It is NOT COOL to pressure you or interrogate you or make you feel weird or somehow “less than” because you don’t drink. You are the sole boss of what goes into your body! You told them, straight up, how things are. You don’t have to continually negotiate. In fact, it’s better not to, because negotiating & giving reasons to unreasonable people communicates that things are up for negotiation.
Random Party Person: “What’s your favorite beer? IPA? Stout? Porter?”
You: “I don’t have one. I don’t drink.”
Random Party Person: “You don’t drink. At all.”
You: “That’s what I said. So, what’s your favorite kind of beer?”
Random Party Person: “But how will you know until you try it?”
You: “I guess I’ll miss out! I hear that [Subject Change] is happening soon, what do you know about that?”
Random Party Person: “But you have to try [drink]. [Drink] will change your mind.”
You: It really won’t. So, what are your thoughts on [Subject Change]?
Random Party Person: “But my favorite drink that I love drinking is so awesome! Are you sure?”
You: “Positive. So, howabout that [Subject Change]?”
Random Party Person: “So, do you think we’re all alcoholic reprobates? Are you silently judging all of us?”
You: “Yes, absolutely. So, [Subject Change] is [Subject Change-y]. What’s your plan for [Subject Change]?”
Random Party Person: “But how can you have fun at parties in college and not drink?”
You: (Choose your own adventure, depending on your energy level and how invested you are in talking to this person after they continually ignore your wishes and talk over you)
When you have these conversations, pay attention to the people who say “Oh, I didn’t realize. That’s cool!” and the ones who embrace the subject changes you throw out. They are communicating an important thing to you and that thing is “I can hang with who you really are. I won’t pressure you.” In other words, they are giving signals that they are good at consent.
Pay attention to the ones who shame-spiral in front of you about their own drinking habits or who admit that they don’t really like it but feel like they have to because “it’s college!” You don’t have to intervene or becoming a sounding board for or fix their issues, but sometimes saying, “It’s college, exactly, so we can do what we want,” is a good thing to hear. They’ll mark you down somewhere as a safe, cool person who won’t pressure them.
Pay attention also to the people who Will. Not. Fucking. Let. It. Go., the ones who keep trying to override your choice, the ones who hint that they will spike your drink “as a joke,” the ones who call attention to it in a way that feels belittling or coercive. Avoid them, where possible, and if they’re in your social circle, keep an eye on them. Don’t leave your friends, especially drunk friends, alone with them. Don’t leave your drink unattended with them, or drink unidentified things they hand you. Someone who meets your “no thanks!” with half an hour of manipulation and second-guessing is communicating that they are bad at consent.
You have great reasons for never drinking and there is nothing particularly strange about making choices about what you want to consume. When people want to push and question your choices, remember: They are the ones making it awkward and weird by not taking ‘no’ for an answer. College drinking culture *is* really pervasive, but the more you hold your ground the more other people around you who don’t want to drink or don’t love drinking are going to feel safe to push back against people who pressure them.
P.S. If you are a college student who is friends with someone who doesn’t drink:
The other day I was pinning Indian food recipes and ran across a few for potato kofta curry. Kofta is basically a type of Indian meatball made with lamb or beef. Since we eat meatless meals most nights, I was more interested in the veggie recipes. Potato koftas are made with riced potatoes, onions and spices. Most of the recipes I read went through the painstaking instructions of how to make these potato balls… I read through them and realized, "They are just making tater tots!"
I've been known to scoff at home made tater tots in all shapes and sizes so I decided that I'd make my own version of potato kofta for our lunches this week… "kof-tot curry."Warning: Don't serve my potato kofta curry to any Indian food purists… they will laugh you out of the kitchen. Do make it if you want a quick and hearty meat free meal that makes excellent leftovers. It's probably the most glamorous way I've ever eaten tater tots…
At this point I put them in mason jars in the fridge for lunches in the week but you can also heat it back up and serve it. More time marinating with the rest of the curry makes it more delicious.