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There is a tiny bit of September left, so who wants some search terms?

If you’re new here, this is a recurring feature where I treat the search strings people typed in right before they found this place as questions and answer them. No context! All assumptions! 

1 “Dating profile example ‘looking for my soulmate’.”

“How to answer ‘what are you looking for in a relationship'” is a perennial search term here, which fascinates me both algorithmically (every time I answer it, I make it more prominent, right?) and culturally. We inhabit and ingest so many stories about what love is supposed to look like, but so seldom are invited to think through what we actually want it to look like. People imagine that there’s one right answer or set of answers that communicates “I am good and worthy of love, not too needy and not too closed off ,and I want just enough so that you’ll like me enough to go out again but not so much that it will freak you out, here is my Elevator Pitch for why you should be with me, no worries if not, though.” It’s just like with job interviews where you’re supposed to be able to reframe your weaknesses as all the ways you would actually die for the company’s bottom line. If there are such answers for relationships and dating, I don’t know them. (I used to know them for job stuff but then somebody asked me in an interview “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and we both saw the panicked “NOT HERE, I WANT TO LIVE!” flashing out of my eyes in the resulting silence, rendering me unemployable)

Back to dating, I think that if you’re looking to find a lifelong partnership, it’s okay to say that! If you’re looking for more casual stuff, say that. Pretending you want one when you really want something else because you think it’s what you’re supposed to say is going to disappoint everyone. 

“Soulmate” seems like a lot of pressure out of the gate for me, but that’s just me! Perhaps your Immortal Beloved is out there.  

2 “I’m 40 and my dad hates my boyfriend.”

You’re 40 and you can date who you want!

I think if a close, trusted friend or family member usually likes the people you bring around and then suddenly has strong misgivings about one specific person, it’s probably worth asking them why at least once. “He’s not nice to you.” “He’s not nice to me/the waiter/anybody except you.” “You seem down and less happy when he’s around.” “He tried to recruit me into a pyramid scheme.” 

Absent good reasons, remember, not everybody has to like everybody else in order to behave with a basic amount of politeness. Speaking of…

3. “What should I do when my parents are insulted by my husband?” 

The passive voice is doing a lot of work here. Is your husband routinely insulting your parents? That’s probably a “Be cool, husband! Apologize and quit insulting my parents!” conversation. Is your husband being polite and kind, but your parents are manufacturing grievances with him? That’s a “Parents, you don’t have to adore [Husband] but if you want us to do stuff together as a family then please figure out a way to get along!” conversation.

Either way, the question you typed in here is a question you can ask your parents and your husband when conflict comes up. “What, if anything, do you want me to do about this?”  You may or may not be willing to do whatever it is, but definitely ask people to spell it out before you volunteer for anything! 

4. “My bf’s family babys him and controls him.”

Generally, when someone you love is dealing with a controlling person, the most helpful thing is to be the opposite of that. Meaning, if your boyfriend complains about his family, before you jump in and give advice, ask him if he wants advice or just a listening ear. Instead of telling him what he should do about a situation with them, ask him what he wants to do. Controlling people convince their targets that they can’t do the simplest things on their own, and a good antidote is to honor the person’s strength and agency as much as possible. 

Your boyfriend might benefit from finding a therapist to work this out, “my relationship with my family of origin is messing with my day-to-day and I need to get a better handle on how to have a functional adult relationship with them” is classic material for therapy. Whether he gets a therapist or not, you’re not going to be able to fix his family relationships on his behalf, so figure out what your own boundaries are for spending time with his family and spending your time processing the behavior of his family so that those things aren’t ruling your life. If you ever feel like you and his family are having proxy battle based on “But I just want what’s best for him,” it’s probably a good time to ask yourself, wait, what’s best for me right now, do I want to fight about _____, and try to leave them to it. 

5.  “Confronting the women who won’t leave my husband alone.” 

Loretta Lynn* is the queen of “He may be trash but he’s MY trash” songs.

While that song is a karaoke favorite of mine,  I’m also like, dump him, Loretta, that lady did not make your dude up and move in with her! Come on! Want better for yourself! 

A grown man who actually wants to be left alone is capable of saying, “Leave me alone, I don’t want this!”  so why isn’t your husband dealing with whatever this is? Text messages do not have to be answered in the order received, or, at all. His social media accounts also come with a block button.“Ma’am, what a flattering offer, but I am both married and not interested, so let’s keep it friendly and professional from here on out, thank you.” 

There is no sassy zinger from you that’s gonna get this done the way him saying “I don’t want this, please leave me be” to whoever’s bothering him would. 

6. “Should I wait for proposal before I move to be with him?” 

Why wait when you could discuss it? 

Mr. Awkward and I  moved to a different apartment  *within the same city* a few months ago for mundane “lease ending” reasons, and I’m trying to imagine undertaking that logistical shitshow and having the other party on the lease being like “Huh, I’m not sure if I’m ready for such a big step, I haven’t really thought about it” and no, I cannot, not without laughing the hysterical hyena laugh that is also mostly crying.

Moving sucks! Uprooting your life for love is a big, expensive deal! My counsel is, make sure that you and your beloved have shared hopes, assumptions, and plans about the future before you do it. “I want to move and be with you, but I want it to be because we’ve decided to get married” is a reasonable condition to set from the start. 

7. “i start fuxking up text when triwd” 

Who doesn’t, friend. Who doesn’t. I type faster than I think sometimes and I skip words all the time. 😦

8. “Will awkwardness subside between me and my crush when we get together?” 

Maybe? The question of “I like you, do you like me?” will hopefully be answered, but the “I want _____, do you also want ____?” conversations don’t magically melt away when you’re dating someone, you just fill in the blanks with different stuff, like, what’s for dinner.

Cautionary Tale: If you’ve ever read Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, you’ll know that Harrison Ford was a taciturn, remote, mostly stoned, extremely boring dude before they started having sex and that didn’t change after they started having sex. Is your crush someone who is easy to talk to, in general, about regular stuff? If so, that would help a lot! 

9. “How to make your boyfriend realize that you are irreplaceable.” 

There’s only one of you, so you are by definition unique and irreplaceable. But there are a lot of people on this planet who might be a good match for your boyfriend, the same way there are multiple possible happy matches for you. If he’s not choosing you of his own accord, that’s not something you can change by pouring yourself into what you imagine the perfect vessel to be or making an airtight case about it. My advice is worry less about being the perfect partner and worry more about making sure you are getting your own needs met, including the need to know that you are special and valued, including the need to be with somebody who doesn’t leave you guessing about that. 

10. “I invited my friend somewhere and now she’s inviting extra people its annoying.” 

One script could be “Oh, you probably didn’t realize, but when I invited you to _____, I intended it to be just me and you. If you want a big group thing next time when you’re initiating plans, go ahead and plan something, but please don’t assume it’s a ‘the more, the merrier’ deal when I’m making the arrangements.” 

This probably won’t solve the issue of the current plan, since if she’s already invited people she may be reluctant to get in touch with all of them again and disinvite them, so you may want to build in some grace for this instance in exchange for clearer boundaries in the future. 

Speaking personally, I greatly appreciate friends who ask before including additional people in plans. Like, maybe I *will* sit next to a good friend at brunch while [they and their latest datefriend eye-grope each other][their parents are visiting from out-of-town and decided to tag along][they invited all their coworkers to come, too], but I’ll be a lot happier about it if it’s not a surprise and if it is an actual informed choice on my part. 

11. “Captain Awkward housecleaning” 

I am not a champion housecleaner, but here are some resources I like: 

Obviously, the things I need help with aren’t what everyone needs help with, so only use what works for you! I am not a cleaning researcher; no comprehensive guide to every possible cleaning issue is forthcoming.

In terms of interpersonal relationships and cleaning, I generally think that you should try as much as possible to share housing with people who have similar needs and approaches to cleaning as you, since there’s no magic way to turn a messy person into a neat person or make a neat person ignore mess. I also think that assumptions are bad, assumptions based on gender are worse, and spelling out who will clean what when in as boring and straightforward a way as possible is the best antidote to those assumptions (and best chance at household harmony). 

12. “Polyamory that involve a sibling relationship dating the same person morally ok.” 

This was an actual question in the past, was this what you were looking for? 

My sexual “morals” are based in informed consent, not religious codes, and my views haven’t really changed in that people who think it’s a good idea to date siblings at the same time are not only knowingly signing up for a certain amount of jokes and side-eye but also playing with a higher degree of difficulty and Giving No Fucks than I personally possess. If this seems like a good idea to you, and everybody involved enthusiastically and knowingly signs up for it, then you probably don’t need my permission anyway. 

13. “While drunk insulted group of people how to apologize.” 

For best results, be sober, be specific, and be responsible.

“I’m so sorry I said __________ last night when I was drunk.” 

That’s the apology sorted. The lesson is, next time you see these people, drink less (or not at all), and don’t repeat the incident. 

14. “Gay male seek bi male roommate who must be ok with male penis exposed in kc mo” 

Missouri, I swear, I’ve been getting this one in the search terms EVERY MONTH for like A YEAR will no one look at this guy’s LONELY DONG have MERCY 

Friend, are you sure that your sexual fantasies and your daily routine need to be mixed in this way? What if the potential roommate is okay with nudity but never pays bills or washes any dishes? Exhibitionist fun-times can probably be arranged with willing gents without a 24-7 commitment to “Surprise!….Again!! It’s my genitalia!”

A meme: Jessica Jones with Kilgrave standing way too close, she's thinking "Me Watching Labyrinth" and he's "David Bowie's Bulging Penis"
A formative film for many, to be sure, but there are limits!

Speaking from experience,  I once had a roommate who aggressively walked around naked all the time, bathed and went to the toilet with the door open, and repeatedly tried to show me/my dinner guests naked pictures of herself and it was so, so tedious. “Bisexual” and “Wants to see your neverminds at all hours” are not the same. Honestly, I wish she had put that shit in her roommate ad from the start, it would have saved me a lot of “Can you move? You’re blocking the TV. Also, put on underpants or throw a towel down if you’re going to sit on my couch.” 

So, good job being specific about what you’re looking for, I guess, and good luck with all that! 


Before we go, this isn’t a search term, this is me marveling at this Ask A Manager question from yesterday. Sometimes in this job I think, “I have seen it all, the most dramatical drama, there can be nothing new under the sun,” and then there is a coworker who prayed for a dude to die, told him about this out loud, and is now miffed at being left off his wedding invitation list and is getting the rest of the team riled up. “Ted,” Alison advises “clearing the air” with “Sally,” and sure! This is a good time to be like, “Remember when you told me that you prayed for me to die? I thought that was really weird and a good sign that we should keep work at work!”  But in your shoes I would not meet with her alone under any circumstances. You want open doors and witnesses, lots of witnesses, for whatever bananas thing this person does and says next, and you probably want a new job as soon as you can find one. Congratulations on your wedding, though! 

*Sadly, Loretta Lynn passed away quietly in her sleep sometime before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or so I choose to believe. RIP to a Great One. 

Hey Captain,

I (he/him) have had a rocky relationship with my family for a while now, due to being queer in a family of Trump supporters (among other things), but always made sure to come visit my parents for a week for Christmas. It’s the only time I spend in their house, and I do it with plenty of safeties in place and reasons to escape the house if I need time to myself. For better or worse it’s tradition, all the kids come home for Christmas, and Christmas at my parents’ is lovely enough that I was willing to wade through the bullshit for it.

This changed last year, when I was unwilling to make a mid-pandemic flight (to Florida! Yikes!). That turned out to be the right call, because flights and Florida aside, they just randomly invited people outside their pod over on Christmas Day, and generally flagrantly ignored masking mandates and other safety precautions. They were “understanding” about my reluctance, for their definition of understanding, but it involved a lot of back and fourth and asserting boundaries.

And now I have to rehash the that conversation, because parents and brother are staunch anti-vaxxers, and, concerns about just generally traveling during the delta-variant aside, they are completely unvaccinated for Covid. 

Captain, my mom has talked to me on multiple occasions about how the vaccine is becoming a “lifestyle” and I should think hard and “do my research” before getting it. She talked my 87 year old Nana out of getting vaccinated. I’ve managed to keep my boundaries pretty well up until this point, changing the subject or blatantly shutting down vaccine conversation whenever it comes up. But now I’m going to have to tell her that no, I’m not traveling down to Florida, yes, the virus is still a concern even though my brother got it and he’s fine, and yes, it is because you’re unvaccinated. I’m dreading it.

On the plus side, I have a lovely adoptive family, all vaccinated, who live much closer, who’re having me over for Christmas in a celebration I know is going to be an absolute blast. But, again, that means I have to tell my mom that I am seeing people for Christmas, just not my actual factual parents.

Can you give me some good scripts for this conversation?


Vaccines Save Lives

Dear Vaccines Save Lives,

The script you’re looking for is something like “Mom, Dad, I’m going to celebrate Christmas close to home again this year, and until everybody’s vaccinated I’m not doing any indoor visits or holiday travel.” “Close to home” covers a lot of ground, and you don’t have to tell them what your actual plans are, but if you do, ‘“They’re vaccinated and good about masks and other safety precautions, so I feel comfortable going there” is true, right? 

Your mom will undoubtedly tell you her usual Bad Science talking points and you can say, “Mom, I don’t think you have good information here, and I really hope you’ll change your mind and protect yourself and the people around you so that we can spend time together. Anyway, I’m planning to stick close to home for Christmas this year, I’m just letting you know so that you can plan.” 

You told them that you weren’t spending Christmas together last year and the world didn’t end when you said the word “no,” so you know that you can do it again. It won’t feel good, and it’s unlikely to change any minds. But your family all made choices that severely limit your choices. If they get angry at you for staying away, please don’t wave away how angry you are that they could have taken – and could still take! – steps to make it safer to gather and refuse. This isn’t a case of you letting them down. 

I wish I could help make it easier for you (make your mom understand, make everybody’s choices not hurt so bad), but I can’t. The same exact people who inspire “my family sucks, and yet I fear disappointing them at holiday time if I don’t drag myself across state lines and report for duty” letters every year are still at it, with even higher stakes. (Vaccination means you are unlikely to catch a deadly case of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization, but “mild” COVID-19 is still a big deal. You’re not silly to want to minimize your risks here! )

You can’t fight the sea of misinformation and selfishness your family is mired in all by your lonesome, but you can set your own risk tolerance and take steps to protect your own life (well-being, sanity, peace, enjoyment), one holiday at a time. If you didn’t love them, it would be easier, but you do, so here we are. I know, I thought this year would be better, too, but it isn’t. 

P.S. It’s September, there’s no law that says that you have to tell your parents right now and turn this into a four-month argument/dread-fest. Once you’ve made the decision about what you’re actually doing, nobody can make you go to Florida, so break the news when it works for you. Also remember, you’re not asking for permission about a thing you might decide, you’re informing people of a decision you’ve already made. No vaccine? No visits. No vaccine, no visits.  

P.P.S. Anti-vaxxers, if past mentions of the vaccine on this blog are an indication, you’re going to want to send me long, weird, rambling emails. Can we save everyone time if I tell you to fuck off now? Appreciate it! 


I have a question about a shy guy I like. I am a shy woman but confident in pursuing him.

I have slowly gotten to know him and asked him out a couple times vaguely for coffee or a friend hang out. At first he seemed scared and panicked and lied and said he is seeing someone. We have good conversations but whenever I mention a hang out he casually mentions his girlfriend would be jealous.

I know he doesn’t have one because of how nervous he has been around me, his friend tried to help me, and his social media he is never with a girl romantically.

What do you make of this? Is he just scared or not interested? He said he likes talking to me so that is a good sign at least.

Thank you!


“Scared,” “panicked,” and “my jealous girlfriend, who is definitely a real human girlfriend, you wouldn’t know her, she lives in Canada” do not add up to “Heck yes, let’s date!”

Someone can be both “shy/nervous about dating in general” and “not interested in dating you” at the same time, and addressing one doesn’t “cure” the other.

The Legend Of The Man Who Would Love You Back If Only He Weren’t So Scared is like Bigfoot: elusive, mythical, and addictive. People spend their whole lives hunting, but they only ever catch what decides to be caught. By which I mean, if this guy changes his mind at some point, it won’t be because you persistently and confidently found a way round his “fears,” it will be because he decided on his own and sought you out.

If you both like chatting with each other, great! Enjoy that for its own sake. But definitely stop the invitations/casual mentions of further hangouts and other “pursuing.” Stop haunting his social media feeds, stop auditing his life for reasons to override his reluctance, and stop making ‘overcoming reluctance’ a romantic goal, both with him, and in general. The right person for you will match your enthusiasm levels and you won’t have to work this hard at any of it.

Hi Captain,

When my partner was barely legal he got married to a girl who was very religious. They decided at the time of their marriage to never have children. They grew up, and inevitably who they were at 18 was not who they were at 27, and she decided she wanted children. That, and the other issues in their marriage brought up cracks (such as my partner’s atheism) and they eventually divorced when they were 32.

When I met my partner, he was 33 and I was 26. He was very clear he didn’t want children and I was very clear at 26, I wasn’t marking any decisions. Life and relationships change, and. I’m now 30 and five months pregnant and we are going to start telling people.

The issue is my partner’s Ex and their mutual couple friends. Their friends have always been welcoming, but I’ve always felt like I was the outside. I’m 8-10 years younger than all of the women, I’m a WOC, an atheist, and the women have all known each other since childhood from growing up at the same church. When my partner was divorced, it took a few years for the friendships to recalibrate and for awhile, Ex was being chosen over him and that very much hurt his feelings.

Ex has desperately wanted children once she got divorced but due to her religion didn’t start trying until after she got remarried. She’s now 39, and from the last Facebook update, she and her husband are trying their second attempt of IVF and are fundraising for it.

I want to tell the world we are having a baby, but I don’t want to be unkind. My partner and Ex don’t talk much unless it was about dog sitting a dog they owned together(she’s been gone for three years now) however it’s obvious that she would find out.

My partner doesn’t want to message her to let her know, because he doesn’t think that’s the kindest way to let her know. She has to deal with the knowledge directly, no matter how much time she takes to respond/if she responds.

I think it would be cruel to just do the pregnancy/birth announcement on Facebook and never reach out. But I think me reaching out would make it a lot worse. Ex and I don’t like each other (removing our mutual connection), we’re very different people and disagree on basically every topic. We’re civil because we’re adults, but I don’t like people who realize that they are completely dependent on others to survive, and make no effort to become useful (how do you become an adult and never learn to cook and just expect other people to cook for you?!) and she doesn’t like me because I’m straightforward, blunt and don’t let people claim outrageous facts without giving me a source.

How do I let someone my partner loved very much know that I’m pregnant, which was something she wants more than anything in the world?

P.S. My pronouns are she/her/hers.

Hello and congratulations, you must be very excited!

I don’t think you’re wrong about your partner’s ex’s potential reaction or the likelihood of ripples of social…weirdness… in a group where everybody has known her forever and you already feel like you don’t quite fit in. I’m just not sure that any of it is preventable or fixable by you, and I don’t think you should center the feelings of someone you clearly dislike in how you convey your happy life choices! If the news is going to land like you think it will, trust that there was no perfect alternate delivery method that would make her not feel those things, and half-hearted attempts to assume and manage her feelings from someone she doesn’t like are only going to read as patronizing and make it even worse. Disengage!

That said, there is some stuff you can control:

How and when you tell the people you are most excited to tell. Gather your cheerleaders and support system around you, and don’t center the reaction of somebody you strongly dislike in how you tell your good news. You’re going to be a parent! That’s amazing. I’m happy for you, and I want you to prioritize telling the people who are going to be happy for you.

Who can see what on social media. You don’t like your partner’s ex-wife and she doesn’t like you, and maybe one kindness here is to set everyone free from the need to modulate or perform their feelings or pretend that you’re friends/”friends.” Give yourself the gift of not seeing whatever she says online, and give yourself the gift of not worrying about how she’s reacting to whatever you say online.

Just, generally, pregnancy tends to “inspire” lots of weird, overly-familiar opinions and advice from people, and you’re going to have enough to contend with from people you actually like/coworkers from 7 jobs ago/people you are related to. Unfriend! Unfollow! Block! Otherwise engage your filters and disengage from this lady’s day-to-day.

Your own expectations about what you need from your partner right now. Your partner is the one with baggage here,  ergo, he’s the one who might want to message his ex and the friends who come from that time in his life with some version of, “[Letter Writer] and I are expecting, we’re going to start telling people, and I didn’t want you to hear it from anyone else.”Yes, I’m very happy.” “I know I said ‘never,’ but I’ve changed my mind about lots of things from that time in my life.”

If he doesn’t want to do that, I’m sure he has his reasons, and he can deliver or not deliver the news however he wants, but that doesn’t mean managing his friends’ feelings about his life choices falls to you!

To that end, I think it’s reasonable to say, “Babe, I’d feel better if you were the one who spread the word to your old church crowd, ideally before we all hang out again”  as well as “FYI, I’m blocking your Ex on Facebook and really limiting who can see pregnancy updates online. I think the mix of my pregnancy news and her recent fundraising and medical stuff is gonna get weird and I don’t need that stress.”  Make it about what you need, not about what you imagine that she needs. She needs her life to have turned out differently; “I need it to not be weird at brunch” is an easier sell.

If your partner wants to maintain some kind of civil relationship with his ex for the sake of harmony in his other friendships, that is his decision, and it’s his task to figure out how to do it. If he wants you to hang out with these people, then smoothing your way with those friends so you don’t have to deal with racist micro-aggressions or refighting ancient battles is also his job, with respect to you. If he wants you to pretend to get along with his ex so he won’t have to experience any ripples from his own “Oh hey, remember when I swore I’d never procreate? About that….” decisions, remind him that you are busy 3-D printing a human inside yourself, and that’s going to take up all the energy you’d normally spend on faking it. ❤

P.S. Generally,  I’d encourage you to temper “Wait, how can somebody not even know how to cook??? [or other “adulting” task]? judgments with “There’s probably a story here that I don’t know, good thing it’s not my problem to figure out!” and move on. Not everybody is taught these skills at home, the expectations about who is just supposed to know vs. who never has to really learn are so heavily gendered, and, not gonna lie, it also reeks of a complaint that your ex had about when they were together that you’ve adopted as your own grievance, even though I presume you’ve never had to serve as her personal Meals-on-Wheels. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 10 years of doing this job it’s that the fewer assumptions about what “everybody” already knows or “should” know I make, the better.

And yet, I’m glad you included this literal “BEC” detail in your letter,  because it’s telling about how much you don’t like this lady that’s totally separate from pregnancy. Whenever you feel yourself getting sucked into  managing your partner’s relationship with his ex-wife, use this to remind yourself: You and this lady don’t like each other, you never have, and you never will. You’re not having a baby at her, you’re not the cause of her woes, and supporting and comforting her is a job for the people who like her (not you!).

I hope that the next four months go easy and quick.

Hello everyone!

Pandemic rules in England now allow us to meet up without restriction, although outdoors is recommended and we still need to be sensible. So, here we go:

18th September, 2pm, Hyde Park.

Please bring your own:

  1. Picnic blanket or similar
  2. Any folding chairs etc. you may want to use
  3. Food and drink for yourself
  4. Masks unless you’re exempt
  5. Crafting things if you want
  6. Umbrella, waterproofs etc. if needed

Please email me at the below to say you’re coming.

No RSVPs via any other method accepted – e.g. no text messages, no comments here, no facebook likes, etc. Please make sure you email me.

Please make sure you also update me if you RSVP yes but later can’t come.

I will email the confirmed people with a map link to show the exact location in the park, and I will have my plush Chthulu which looks like this:

Other things to bear in mind:

  1. Please make sure you follow social distancing rules. This particularly includes respecting people’s personal space and their choices about distancing.
  2. We have all had a terrible time for the last year. Sharing your struggles is okay and is part of what the group is for, but we need to be careful not to overwhelm each other or have the conversation be entirely negative. Where I usually draw the line here is that personal struggles are fine to talk about but political rants are discouraged, but I may have to move this line on the day when I see how things go. Don’t worry, I will tell you!
  3. Probably lots of us have forgotten how to be around people (most likely me as well), so here is permission to walk away if you need space. Also a reminder that we will all react differently, so be careful to give others space if they need.

The park has public toilets available, but last time the queues were extremely long. The fee is 20p by contactless payment. They are claimed to be fully accessible but I didn’t manage to find full confirmation sorry.

I will cancel this meetup if government guidance changes or if the weather is truly prohibitive, so keep an eye on this space.

kate DOT towner AT gmail DOT com

P.S. If you can think of a good place for us to meet when the weather gets worse, please let me know!



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