Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Bus Crushes, Door-Non-Openers, and "Scumbag" Siblings

I have a crush on a guy who rides my bus! I see him some morning and some evenings and I really think he's handsome. What can I do? Can I ask him out? I'm moving soon and will be taking a different bus route, or probably the train, so there's that. The thing that's really stopping me, more than the fact that I don't think anyone wants to be asked out on the bus, is that I'm not sure if he's out of my league. As in, I maybe gained a few pounds in the last year and none of my hot-lady clothes fit right so I feel kind of frumpy on the bus, and not at all empowered to strike up conversations with Dudes. OK, so there are two questions: Is it OK to hit on people on the bus? And is there an objective level of hotness one should be at before even making such an attempt?

Question 1: Yes! Of course! Who wouldn’t want to get hit on on a bus? Or ever? Even if you weren’t into it at all you would for sure humblebrag to all your friends about it right after. “Oh, it was sooo awkward, this guy was so into me, it was awful. He must have thought I was absolutely the single most beautiful girl on the planet. Like, he would have ripped off his own face and fed it to me if I said I was feeling even the littlest, tiniest bit hungry. No, I know.” So do it! Worst case Ontario, well, he kills you. BUT HE WON’T. Realistic worst case Ontario he politely says no and you’re like, “OMG whhhhyy didn’t I try to squeeze into some of my hot-lady clothes!?” He won’t say no, though (unless he does, which will be because he's married or something). It’s flattering! Plus, people love dates! They go on dates all the time. Also, I’m charmed by you already! Stay charming.

Question 2: There is no objective level of hotness at all ever in anything. I like girls with shaved heads! And huge teeth! It doesn't even make sense, you like what you like!

I am a pretty great lady — smart, pretty, funny, etc. I have been meeting new guys from dating sites and everything goes great for a little bit, but there is a problem that keeps coming up. I was born with a lot of medical abnormalities and I don't know how to approach the subject with a new man.

I am completely normal from the outside, but I have scars on my stomach from a Mitrofanoff procedure, which means I urinate from my belly button. Because of the surgery, I always have a band-aid over my belly button. I have a heart condition, which doesn't really affect my life, but I take medicine for it. Two years ago, I had a cyst removed from my brain which was the most scary thing ever because on top of seeing double for three months, I also got meningitis from the surgery. I was also born without a gallbladder, which means that sometimes I get sick after eating greasy food.

So here are my questions: When is the right time to bring these issues up? In particular, I'm worried about how to address the whole "urinating out of my belly button" thing. I feel like maybe I should tell a new guy about the Mitrofanoff before clothes come off, because he might wonder about the scars and band-aid, but I have no idea how to approach it and I don't want to scare them off. How can I explain these things to a new guy?

OK, so my advice for your problem is that it isn’t really a problem at all. What you have, actually, is a really good early warning detection system for jerk guys (ARGEWDSFJG). Just tell people about all your medical stuff; their reaction reflects more about their character than it does your state of "normalcy." Maybe don’t bring it up on the first date, it is big news, but bring it up organically in the same way you get to know anything about a person. Do you have any brothers or sisters? What sort of movies do you like? When you pee, does it come out of the normal place or somewhere new and fun?

Some guys might be alarmed by all of your medical abnormalities and start looking for the nearest exit. However, there is a name for guys like this: assholes. If you tell some guy that you were born without a gallbladder and he runs away then that guy is a full-on asshole. You’re lucky you got to find out so early! Some guys are good at hiding it. My advice would be to unapologetically be yourself, and if the guys you meet have a problem with that, then you don’t need any of that noise in the first place. Actually, that would be my advice to any girl anywhere, at any time. You just happen to have a really good vetting process to tell you how decent a guy is in the first few days of knowing him.

My brother is 25 years old and he is a great person. He has charm, for real, and in a good way. Like, people WANT him around — they request his presence. I'm talking his friends, family, MY friends, etc. I'm pointing this out because it's very different from my life where I have my small circle of awesome friends and we barely see each other because there's just no time. But in my brother's case, it's like his friends seriously wouldn't know what to do without him. They probably wouldn't even be friends with each other anymore if my brother weren't around. My brother has a number of talents, particularly when it comes to music, and he has a really warm personality that obviously people are drawn to. Frankly, he shines and you feel special when you're part of his world where things are exciting and people jam together and you never stop laughing. I love my brother immensely. But here's the deal:

My brother is a scumbag. He's on his second DUI — the second one cost him five days in jail and two years of probation. He just got caught driving on a suspended license and will most likely go back to jail for however long they decide — his probation was scheduled to end in SEPTEMBER.  He skips work — he's an intern right now for my dad's company — and not only is it bad to call off work because it just IS, but every time my brother does it, it's like a slap in the face to my dad. If he doesn't skip out on work, he goes in late and leaves early. When asked what he does all day, he says Sudoku puzzles.... and OK, so people joke that they have boring and meaningless jobs, but I think he's serious. He doesn't have a girlfriend and he hasn't had a serious one in well over two years — there was this one girl coming around for a while, but it was just a fling. Obviously he's horrible with money, since he barely makes any so he's been asking to borrow from my dad. Well, my dad cut him off so he moved onto me next. I let him borrow $40 a month ago and I still have yet to see it again. Also, alcohol is prevalent in his day-to-day life, and he doesn't have an off-switch.  Like, he drinks to the point of physically not being able to move  – not to the point of, "If I drink any more, I'm not going to be able to move!"

As far as I know, my brother's friends don't talk to him about this kind of thing and really, none of them are shining examples of motivation and ambition anyway. Whenever me and my dad try to talk to him, he shuts down almost immediately. The defenses go up and he becomes impossible to reason with. This behavior has been going on ever since he moved back home from college and it's been really bad over the last two years. We're worried. It's getting to the point that shrugging it off and assuring ourselves that "he'll learn" is not enough — he's NOT learning. He's not getting better and nothing is changing. I tend to think that his inability to deal with emotional issues stems from our mom dying when he was seven and I was nine. I was sent to group therapy throughout elementary and middle school and learned to deal with my issues. My brother was not given the same treatment and honestly, I'm not sure he's ever talked about it with anyone. I am adding this in because it feels like lying to leave it out, since this event was traumatizing for my family. But I don't know — I go back and forth between feeling deeply concerned and completely melodramatic.

Here's what I would like to know, if you could help:

1.  How should I approach my brother on any of the above topics to get him to talk to me?  I want him to feel fulfilled in his life and currently, I don't think he is. He's obviously not happy with his job, but he needs to DO something about it! Is there any way I can help motivate him? I speak from experience that it is possible to change things around when your life has zero direction — I could help him.

2.  Should I just stop drinking in front of him all together?  I think it's clear that alcohol is an issue here, but he does not think so. In fact, if I bring it up to him, he uses my drinking as leverage saying that what he does is no different than what I do. Well, I don't drink and drive for one, and I guess he doesn't pay attention to the sheer volume of alcohol he consumes on a regular basis, compared to what I drink. Maybe it would be easier for me to just stop?

3.  I need an impartial opinion because my brain is filled with episodes of Intervention and I can't tell if this is just a case of quarter-life crisis/identity freak-out (like, fuck — I don't want to act like an adult yet) or if is this a real problem that my family and I have to deal with. Am I overreacting because this is my own brother or am I pulling the wool over my eyes because this is my own brother?

Any advice you can offer is much appreciated.

Oh poor stranger girl. You can’t change anyone. No one. You are wasting so much time and energy psychoanalyzing and developing strategies and watching shows about how to fix your brother, and it’s all a complete waste. You can’t fix anyone. Not to mention that the conditions under which a person can be called “broken,” where they would need “fixing," are extremely unclear. Here’s what you can do, though: You can develop new strategies and new ways of thinking that will make you happier about your relationship with your brother and give you more comfort in your day-to-day life. Also, if we can eliminate some of the more judgmental aspects of how you think about your brother, you might be better positioned to help him with what sounds like some very real alcoholism.

I’d like to focus on something interesting that is between the lines of this letter. You have a small circle of friends that you “barely see” because there’s “just no time." Your brother has people who love him so dearly they would fall apart without him, request his presence all the time, adore spending time with him, etc. Have you heard of “medium chill”? One of the (perhaps surprising) findings of this awesome essay is that “social connections are at the heart of wellbeing.” This has been empirically demonstrated so many times in the social sciences that it has become a truism: The single most reliable indicator of whether or not a person is happy is the volume, depth, quality, and reliability of their personal relationships. What I’m dancing around is that your brother is probably a lot happier than you on a daily basis. He is intimately woven into a rich social fabric, and the cognitive benefit of that is immeasurable (no matter what you may think of his level of ambition). Human beings are so, so bad at predicting which life choices or decisions will make them happy. This is sort of what the medium chill thing is all about, I think (and also what your brother seems to have figured out on his own). Getting a more upwardly mobile job to which he can devote 60 hours of his week will likely make your brother a lot less happy, even if you think it’s in his best interest.

So any happiness or disutility you get from thinking that your brother is a “scumbag” is possibly unfounded. If he has a network of people who love and value him, he is much better off than most of us. Even if you’re correct that his choices are ultimately harmful to him, it isn’t appropriate for you to be deciding what is best for him in the first place. His rock bottom is waiting for him if his lifestyle is harmful. He will have to face his own tough realities, it isn’t on you to point it out. That said, there are some instances where his actions directly compromise your happiness, and those we have to address.

I know people like your brother, who are absolutely enchanting to be around. Often times, after they leave, you get a strange and murky sense that you’ve been taken advantage of (which of course disappears the moment you’re back in their company). These people can be amazing to have in your life, but often need to be kept at a certain distance with clearly defined boundaries. This is very difficult when one of these people is a sibling, and you’re compelled (maybe even duty-bound?) to be around them a lot. I would still definitely advise you to create clear boundaries. Don’t lend him money. I know you feel responsible for him, it’s all over your letter that you think his happiness and success is your job, but if he is compelled by circumstance he will manage on his own. The ability to make other people like you is extremely marketable. If you keep bailing him out, though, he won’t have to take care of himself, so of course he won’t. You might be right that his slacker work ethic takes advantage of your father. I think you should advise your father to fire him if his performance doesn’t add any benefit to the company. Handouts and free rides are no way to help someone like your brother.

OK, the drinking. Hoo boy. This, to me, is a completely separate issue from most of the character traits you think make your brother a "scumbag." In fact, if you can really recognize the value of his personality, and see how someone like him has a few things really figured out with respect to contentedness and wellbeing, you'll have more credibility when you talk to him about his drinking. I'm no doctor, but to me that shit is just bonkers. I think you need to say so immediately. There is absolutely no excuse for the drunk driving, you’re right to be disappointed in him and definitely give him a piece of your mind. Like, give up the keys, dude. Even if he can break that weird, dangerous, awful, and illegal habit, getting blackout drunk until you can't physically move at every party will take an enormous toll on his health. Try explaining some stuff to him about epigenetics, maybe? How the choices that you make in your lifestyle directly influence the genetic fitness of your children? As in, by manipulating the diet of a hamster, they can (with pretty startling pinpoint accuracy) change the spots on the coat of its offspring. A hamster this fat will have babies with spots here, and then they are right. And it only goes back, like, two generations. Your height is determined mostly by your grandfather's diet, or so they say. Alcohol has an enormous influence on your epigenetic fitness, as big as smoking and diet/exercise, so tell him that his future babies will be soccer pros if he just takes better care of himself? Because he is destroying his genes. Good lord, what am I even talking about?? I'm telling you this because it really helps keep me motivated to eat well and exercise, maybe it will help him too. Here's a great paper about it, but it's super heady. Umm... good luck!

So the lending money, the easy job, and the drinking (and driving) are three areas where your brother’s actions directly confound your ability to be happy, and you should address them as directly as possible without sounding judgmental. Use a lot of “I” statements. Rather than “you are a total piece of shit," say “it frustrates me when I lend you money and you don’t pay me back, so I’m not going to do that any more." These statements will keep the focus off your opinions about his lifestyle and keep the discussion where it belongs: how his actions directly affect you, and what needs to change for you to be more satisfied with your relationship. This last point gets to what I’m trying to say with this whole answer: Focus more on yourself, and what makes you happy, and your brother will take care of himself. It sounds like he has developed some really effective strategies for keeping himself happy, even though you may judge those strategies as somehow invalid. If you address the three ways he directly brings you unhappiness, all that’s left to do is stop taking so much personal responsibility for his success or failure and worry about yourself. Spend more time with your friends. Work less. In fact, don’t focus on others in general. Taking on the burden of other people’s problems, even your own brother's, is a guaranteed route to the misery bin. You’re like that lady at the beginning of the romantic comedy who needs to learn from some handsome carpenter guy to stop planning her life and start living it. Is that what happens? I don’t actually know. But you get what I’m saying!

This is an etiquette question — I have a lovely fella who’s terrific fun to be around and generous with his feelings. There is one thing — he never opens a single door for me, always charges ahead first, and when we leave a restaurant — instead of waiting for me to gather my things and put on my coat — charges outside to chomp at the bit or check his phone. A few times I have asked: “Where’s the fire?” to no avail. In all other ways he’s not inconsiderate.

I really noticed this was a problem when I realized my dad (who’s 70) always opens doors for everyone, stands up when a lady is taking off her coat and then finds a spot for it, makes sure everyone is comfy (male or female), and is generally very courteous and aware of people around him. I guess I’ve grown up with this as an expectation.

So my question is this: How do I gradually encourage more of the latter behavior in my fella without telling him he’s inconsiderate, or that his upbringing might have been a little, er, lacking? Is there a kind way to do it? Without charging ahead too much myself — what if we have kids? I wouldn’t want them to act like this either! Many thanks.

Ohhh you SNEAKY SNAKE, you, this is NOT an etiquette question! This is a how-can-I-change-my-man-because-there-are-things-about-him-I-don’t-like question! The only real advice my dad ever gave me about women was this: “when a man sees a woman he likes, he thinks ‘I want her!!’ and when a woman sees a man she likes, she thinks ‘y’know, I could really make something out of that.’” I have no clue if that’s right, but it seems to be what you’re after. So let’s come up with some strategies here. First, decide how important this is to you. Is it super, super important? Dealbreaker? It will be very useful to you in the future if you can accurately value this characteristic in someone you think of as a partner. You’ve already thought about how it will impact your future children, which I think is a good indicator of how important it is to you (very).

Armed with this knowledge, tell him about it. Be totally non-confrontational and non-judgmental when you bring it up, which will be harder than you think. It’s like a lie detector test. You can only fool it if you actually believe what you’re saying. All this stuff about his upbringing being “lacking”? Get rid of that in your thinking itself. That pejorative language isn’t gonna help anything. I’m a huge, huge believer in opening doors, taking off coats, being generally chivalrous, etc. But as the comments on this very website taught me, some girls hate that. Hate it. So your fella might be a perfect match for one of those girls. The idea is to eliminate the idea that his upbringing was “lacking," and consider it only “different." Then tell him what works for how you see the world, since you should be the only girl he’s interested in pleasing.

I really buy the idea that conflicts between couples usually come from speaking different languages of love. Some people buy little gifts to show someone that they love them. Some people work to organize their partner’s day, to make their life easier and show that they love them. Some people express their love physically, some people use actual spoken language, etc. The problem arises if I’m saying “I love you” and you’re just hearing that talk is cheap (because your love language involves actions and gifts), or I’m buying you little gifts to say that I love you and you’re just thinking “thanks but you can’t buy me off, why don’t you ever just say you love me!” So in your case, let him know that you understand that he loves you, but these little gestures are a message you can easily receive and would like to hear more often. If he really is someone who is generous with his feelings, I can’t imagine that he would turn down such a reasonable request. Not to mention that it will be twice as effective now, because you will know every time he opens a door for you that it isn’t his natural way of being but he loves you and is trying to tell you so. Yay for love!

If he won’t do it, or can’t do it, even after you’ve made clear to him how important it is to you and that this is an important way for him to express his love to you, then… uh oh. RED FLAG. He now speaks your language and he just isn’t saying it! What a jerk! Remember that you need to learn his language too, though. Two way street!

Great! OK, let’s all eat something tasty straight from the jar with a spoon while we read the comments! I piiiiiccckkk… NUTELLA! Everyone on here is like, twice as smart as me I’m sure they will have way better advice for you.

Previously: Best Exes.

A Dude is one of several rotating dudes who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Dude?

293 Comments / Post A Comment


I really hope LW#1 is the girl on my bus I totally have a crush on but it is my morning bus (I make the walk in the afternoons) and I'd be too terrified to ever hit on a lady in a bus, let alone in the mornings when we are all probably going to stupid work and cranky.


@leon.saintjean most of the time on the morning bus, i'm trying to remember if i put my pants on correctly, so the flirtations of a lady might make my head explode


@leon.saintjean i have a trolley crush. today we were both 10 minutes later than usual and on the same trolley anyway. FATE!


@itsureiswindy Mine was a Metro crush: he looked like a brown-eyed Aidan Quinn. The best part was that, when I crossed paths with him, it meant I was not on schedule to cross paths with the really very mean Gertrude Stein doppelganger.


@itsureiswindy Work that! I once had a metro-crush, and after kind of looking at each other for a few months, dude finally said, "hey, wanna get some coffee?" Didn't work out long-term, but he was a nice guy, and I'm glad we hung out.

Nave Espacial

@leon.saintjean (and everyone else!) You should totally strike up a convo! I for one always enjoyed getting to know the people I ride public transport with, even with just a little chit chat. I'm in a long term relationship and if someone on my public transport asked me out, I would be incredibly flattered! Actually, I wish this would happen to me. Can we ride the bus together, please?

However, if she is the type with headphones in, dark sunglasses on, I might leave her alone. Those are my signals when I really don't want any strangers talking to me.


@leon.saintjean Come on, do it!!! It can be fun.


I have better advice: marshmallow fluff. Beats the shit out of nutella, sorry!

elysian fields

@iceberg you are so completely and utterly wrong. Please step outside and engage with me in a duel to the death.


@elysian fields I will join you. Together we will leave his or her corpse to wrack and ruin under the pitiless sun.

elysian fields

@melis better: smear it with that wretched marshmallow gunk and leave it for the crows to devour (sorry, is that too gross? I have strong feelings here).


Even the crows would disdain to pick the bones of a body covered in Fluff.

sceps yarx

@iceberg Is anyone else here obsessed with apricot jam? Just me?


@sceps yarx Trader Jizzoes used to make the most delightful apricot/orange jam. I've tried to find it for the past year and haven't had any luck :-(

Sorry For Partying

@teenie They also used to make these little ginger chips that were delicious (though extremely sugary), that have disappeared. They should do what Lush does, and continue to sell discontinued items online.


@sceps yarx YES ME YES


@iceberg I will be your second in this terribly unfair duel. Fluff!!


What about the apple butter we all* made last week?

*not including me, because I am lazy and intimidated by foods you have to jar.


@sceps yarx YES!


@teenie I made a whole lot of apricot jam last year because I bought a whole lot of apricots from a farm. If you came to the SF Pinup, I would bring you some.


@thebestjasmine if THAT isn't a reason to revisit SF (a city I <3!!!) then I don't know what is!


@iceberg I have a solution: knead marshmallow taffy with a blob of nutella mixed in. I used to do this with peanut butter and it was awesome, so I imagine nutella would be the same.

squid v. whale

@sceps yard yet another good time to insert a song from The Mountain Goats: Jam Eater Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdcrpimoBig


@iceberg Agree! I recently had the privilege to attend a festival devoted to marshmallow fluff and it was excellent. Fluff in beer? Surprising drinkable.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@teenie derailing this convo to say: Trader Jizzoes sounds like one of those porn parodies, and now I have mental images of people in Hawaiian shirts sweeping a bunch of reasonably priced natural prepared foods off of a shelf and going at it. And then someone rings one of those damn bells.


Marshmallows are ghost poop. Just sayin'.


Say it with diamonds! Every time!


People who capitalize the word "Dad" when they're not addressing their actual father scare the living bejesus out of me.

Edith Zimmerman

@melis Oops, I missed that. My bad. Fixed!


@Edith Zimmerman Oh, I didn't mean it as an editorial critique! I assumed it was left in to capture the letter-writer's tone.


@melis: Oh God - it's always something, isn't it?


@ejcsanfran It's always something.


@melis. Much worse: referring to their father or mother as Dad and Mom (you can HEAR the capitalization) as if those were their names. "I'm using the recipe Dad gave me." Uh, I'm not your sibling, it's not my dad, stop that!

Edith Zimmerman

@melis Ohhh I know what you mean, but I think a lot of times people do it just because they forget / don't care about silly* capitalization rules.



@meaux Much, much worse: when they do what you said, but instead of Dad and Mom it's Daddy and Mommy.


@meaux On the flipside, my sister and I used to purposely piss each other off by referring to our parents as "my mom" and "my dad" when we talked to each other. Invariably, the other would screech, "She's MY mom TOO!" and slam a door. Ah, sisterhood!

Lily Rowan

@datalass Daddy and Mother.


@melis my grandmother is 85. She talks about "My Mummy" and "My Daddy". It is really weird. It is also weird when my father asks "have you seen Mom?" and he means MY mom, HIS wife


@Lily Rowan: Mumsy and Pop Pops.

fondue with cheddar

@gangey Now that we're adults, my brother often says "my dad" when he's talking to me, but not on purpose. I always point it out and we laugh about it.

He doesn't say "my mom", but I think it's because he works with our dad and is used to saying "my dad" many times a day when he talks to his employees.


@datalass Only my friend Niamh can pull this off, cos she has a cute Irish accent. (I know she lurks the Hairpin so hiiiiii Niamh!)

oh, disaster

@meaux Haaaaaate that. It's like I have my own parents and they're not yours, thanks.


@Bittersweet Pater and That Bitch.

Hot mayonnaise

@Mariajoseh: So, should he say, "Have you seen my wife?" to you?


@Hot mayonnaise how about "have you seen your mom?"


@jen325 I work with my brother-in-law and I slipped up and called him "Daddy" at work one day. He has three little kids, and I was staying with him and my sister, so I was used to referring to them as "Mommy" and "Daddy" to the kids. It was a bit embarrasssing.


@gangey @jen325 funny, my sister and I refer to our parents as "your mother" and "your father" when they're being particularly trying, as in "your mother just called me, she's on some crazy sh*t today"


@melis My sister has done this for our entire lives, even when we were kids and all lived together! "My mom" this and "my dad" that, directly to me.


@Crashy My sister and I totally do the "your mother" thing when she's being crazy. Crazy in a good way, mostly, but yeah.


@gangey My college roommate did this! I would hear her on the phone, "Did you talk to my mom today?" and I'd say, "Hey, who were you just talking to?" and it would always be her sister! It drove me nuts. Nuts.


In high school, I always referred to my mom as "Mom." Granted, she was always one of those moms who all my friends loved...not because she like, let us drink excessively, but because she was so genuinely nice to and caring about my friends. I had numerous friends say they liked I called her "Mom" when referencing her to them because they felt close to her, as well. Not saying it wouldn't be annoying in certain situations...just that when I've been a culprit in that situation, certain times it has been well received.


LW3: your thoughts on how to get your brother to stop drinking are pretty classic "family of an alcoholic" type things. I would maybe recommend that you get thy self to an AlAnon meeting? I've attended some, and although it was short-lived, it helped give me the ground rules of living with/loving an alcoholic. These ground rules are pretty important, and deal with how to create your boundaries. It also helps you realize that your fancy attempts to keep him from drinking are going to exhaust you and make you miserable. And they won't help him. Not at all.


@teenie - AlAnon for sure. I also disagree with the "You can't change people" comment. He is An Alcoholic.

I don't always agree with 12 Step programs, but I know a lot of people who have been saved by AA and/or NA. Not always on the first attempt, but eventually, some (though not ALL the time) it eventually works on someone.

Interventions also sometimes work - not right away, but I know with some people, the interventions mattered. It might have been 5 years until they got sober/clean, but they are a factor. Just don't stage one yourself - AlAnon will help you find someone to facilitate it properly.

He will freak, and he will be mad at you, and think you're an asshole/square/etc. Accepting the temporary hatred of people you love is part of being a good person towards addicts. It is fucking awful and painful.

Hopefully he will recover. He needs to stop drinking, altogether for at least a few years, then MAYBE MAYBE MAYBE he can resume at one point in the future. He also needs to end - at least short term - all of his current friendships. All of this sucks ass, and honestly, he probably won't acknowledge he has a problem for a while, and even after he does, it will be several attempts to kick before he can.

tl;dr : he is an alcoholic. he needs treatment. you can try to help, but it will fuck up your relationship. do it anyway.


@teenie I actually didn't even read A Dude's answer to LW3 and ran straight down here to type the words AL ANON, if someone else hadn't. I'll do it again because teenie should have a full Greek Chorus of support:


You can't do a damn thing to make your brother deal with his drinking and get it together. But you can do something to help yourself not engage in the DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA that whirls around your brother like a DRAMATIC WHIRLWIND.

Also, his friends also sound like people who don't have it together because he seeks out people who will rationalize and justify his DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA.

A person with 2 DUIs and a suspended license has a dependency issue and you can't do anything about that.

Take care of yourself and your needs. And take your dad to Al Anon with you if he will go.

Also, never lend your brother money again.

H.E. Ladypants

@AnthroK8 I did the exact same thing! Glad three people beat me here.


@AnthroK8 @leon.saintjean @H.E. Ladypants
Yes, all of this. I remember the mental/emotional acrobatics I did to try to get my dad to stop drinking - it all started when I was 6 and didn't realize he was an alcoholic (obvi) but wondered why he stopped talking to me, and started falling asleep on the couch all the time. I took these behaviors (be more entertaining! tell him you love him more! don't leave him alone! worry lots about what you've done to make him this way!) all the way to adulthood, and over the last decade have put (most of) them to rest.

This guy has lots of friends because they all validate their lifestyle to each other, it has nothing to do with him being especially awesome. Addicts hang together in very tight groups to keep the "status quo" of their addiction going. As long as Marty and George and Flo are all doing it, then it's still ok.

I would caution the LW to stay away from the Intervention show, because it probably hits too close to home right now and is pretty scary, but Al Anon will be tops.


Swinging by to join the pro-AA chorus. This letter had so many addict-behavior flags, and I've seen AA and NA really help people work through and get to the base of their issues. DUIs, work slacking, etc. are all symptoms of the disease.

And teenie, <3.


@teenie ums, so if my like friend or whatever is in the exact same boat with an alcoholic troublemaking brother, does she go to the al anon or does he go? what if they're in different states but she's still worried about him? she's concerned :(


@cc - AlAnon is the sister group to AA, for helping Alcoholics. That isn't to say that alcoholics don't go to AlAnon or families of alcoholics don't go to AA sometimes - the advice offered is very similar in both. But I would suggest that the sibling go to AlAnon. I think it would be best if she went alone at first. If she feels like bringing him too, great! But most alcoholics would be pretty freaked out about that if they haven't "come out" as an addict yet. The important thing is to make yourself strong. <3


@teenie I'm glad so many people find Al Anon useful, but(perhaps because each group is autonomous?) it was absolutely no help to me. I went with a friend to two local meetings in our very Catholic country, and it was all very mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.. lots of people seemingly blaming themselves for things their fathers or mothers or children or friends did, which was not what I was expecting. People talked about things their alcoholic had done, but there was no advice or help, just horrible stories. Please tell me they're not all like this! Oh and LW#3 - the twelve steps are kind of christian god centric, so if that's not your thing there are often secular versions in bigger cities?


@cc Your friend goes to Al-Anon (al-anon is the name of the groups for family and friends of alcoholics).


@sonambula wow, I've never had that experience, and have attended AlAnon at 3 different locales (from london to sleepy country town). And the religious aspect was never a big deal at the ones I went to. I'm a buddhist, so I would probably feel rankled if it were overtly judeo/christian. Maybe you just had a weird experience?


@sonambula - the horrible stories are all about acceptance. You really do have to do a ridiculous amount of work on yourself to help someone else, and with both the addict and the enablers, even just observers, acceptance is always key.

On the religion side...yeah, I'm a super heavy duty atheist. This bugs me about 12 step programs, but you can just substitute buddha/bhaal/science in your head whenever anyone mentions god - because deist or not, you probably do believe in higher powers, be they an invisible man in the sky or the gravitational constant. And the point of groups is to not judge, among other things, so your religion or lack thereof shouldn't be judged in a good group.

That also ties into the self-shaming. Reminding yourself publicly of your flaws helps you come to help the addict not from a "I'm better than you, listen to me" place, but from a "I'm fucked up in my own ways and working on it, join me in a voyage of self awareness and improvement" place.


@teenie When things like this happen, I just like to BLAME IRELAND. The meetings were held in a community centre in the hands of a religious order, so I felt a bit silly for not expecting it. It all worked out in the end though, AA or not, so I'm not scarred for life or anything.


@leon.saintjean crap..tried to edit, deleted instead. Basically just said - I am most definitely fucked up in my own ways, but I suppose I expected some sort of help or advice instead of the sad story+silence format? It may have clicked for me if I'd committed to the full six meetings they wanted me to attend, but I felt sort of like I was being indoctrinated. It was just not for me.

H.E. Ladypants

@sonambula It may have just been the meeting you were going to, it may just have be that Al-Anon wasn't for you. For me Al-Anon was really helpful just because it was the only place I had to go where there were people who understood what I was going through and had similar stories to tell. It was sad because it all sucked but it was also happy because there were people who were doing well and so it felt more like "sometimes things blow, sometimes things get better, everybody gets hugs."


@H.E. Ladypants I'm really glad it was a help to you. I don't mean to knock Al Anon - it works for A LOT of people, just reading this thread or talking to people in real life is evidence of that. It just wasn't for me. Hugs for everyone!


@sonambula If you found your way to cope, that is all that matters. I would have hated for you to stick around and deal if it didn't.


@sonambula Usually if the first meeting you try doesn't click, the standard advice is to try at least 3-4 different meetings / groups in your area, because they've all got their own personalities. I.e. when I was a NYC-er I could not STAND the UES meetings but the Brooklyn ones were amazing!


@teenie and others - A parent is a recovering alcoholic-- has been sober, to my knowledge, for around 10 years. But I've never been to Al-Anon. Does Al-Anon provide support for people whose alcoholic friends/family members have been sober for a while?


@Norma YES! the theory of it all is that loved ones of alcoholics develop maladaptive behaviors in response to the problem, and they then have to find their own way to health as well. Even if a parent is sober, the adult child will almost always need some sort of support and guidance to work through their own issues. It was really helpful for me, and as I mentioned, I didn't go to it that much. More than anything, it helped me establish the ground rules and help me understand the context of my own problems, and I took the rest to my therapist.


@teenie First of all, thank you to teenie and everyone else here who has provided amazing advice! I feel compelled to take advantage of the hive mind: My mother is the daughter of a lifelong alcoholic and the sister and mother of addicts (my aunt and my brother) and, as my therapist says, is the "classic child of an alcoholic". My dad and I have BEGGED her to go to therapy and/or Al-Anon to no avail (she claims it would be too upsetting to have to discuss her experiences which, holy hell, Mom). Does anyone have any advice on how to help the friends and family of addicts get help for themselves?


@antarcticastartshere : wellll, for starters, the AlAnon theory is that people can only help themselves. You can give them information, and tell them you think it would help them, but ultimately they have to make that choice. The best thing you can do to help them is to offer them the information and advice, and support if they want to attend, but you can't do much more than that. in a way, the family members of addicts need these rules just as much as the addict does.


@leon.saintjean YES! At one point I sat my mom down and told her she was an alcoholic, that she was hurting herself and her family and that I was here to help with whatever she needed. She wasn't ready to deal with it (which will very likely happen to LW's brother) but when she was, she called me and asked me to help her. She's been sober for over a decade now so YAY! You can't change someone but they may think of you when they're ready. Lay your groundwork and protect yourself (I moved out) but be there when they need you. Good luck.

I'm Not Rufus

A Dude is wrong, he is actually smarter than us.


@I'm Not Rufus This time. I'LL GET YOU NEXT TIME, A DUDE!!!


The brother letter is a bit weird to me- she has this big thing about lovely he is and how great he is and then calls him a 'scumbag'? Obviously drink driving is beyond scummy, but none of the rest of it is all that bad. Who doesn't owe someone $40? Just ask him for it. Who hasn't had a (couple of year) relationship dry patch? And if he really is slacking at work (and I'm not sure how you'd know that), isn't that your dad's problem to sort it? Seems like the LW is a bit jealous because she thinks she has to take care of everyone and the brother seems to have it easy. Relax! Not your job to look after him!
(Reading that through it sounds a little bit callous. I just mean, she doesn't seem to have perspective on which bits are really problems)

Lily Rowan

@questingbeast Yeah, I thought the Dude did a nice job of focusing on the parts she should focus on.

But also, that seems like a totally classic family dynamic, especially with an addict around (which I am an expert on thanks to watching lots of Intervention). He can only keep doing what he's doing as long as everyone else in the family makes it possible. If they stop, he'll stop. Or not, but at least they won't be trying to take care of him.


@Lily Rowan but the "or not"! how do you get past the or not? i don't know if i could, and maybe for some people the risk he won't be OK isn't worth the benefit of not having to take care of him.


@blahstudent the "or not" is guaranteed if the family continues to support the addictive behavior (which families - almost across the board - do). So the only hope is really to allow the person to hit the bottom and make their own choices. Truly.

(ETA: unless you're willing to kidnap the addict, tie them up in a locked dungeon, and guarantee that they won't indulge in their addiction which - I'm pretty sure - is illegal)


@questingbeast The borther girl broke my heart. I don't think she's jealous, but I think she probably resents that she spent her whole life looking out for her baby brother post-parent-death. Which, let's be real, has got to be rough.

Of course, she's not responsible for him and she's got to learn to love while letting go... but I feel for her.

Can you tell I'm the big sister of an alocholic?


@questingbeast In part because he is probably both lovely and a scumbag. Because people often are scummy and lovely. Or do scummy and lovely things. It's not a one-option situation here. Everyone is like this sometimes.

And one thing addiction does is make a person unpredictable. Or, predictable but unreliable. Am I going to get scummy underhanded brother? Or nice lovely brother? Answer: You are going to get the brother that is engaging is whatever behavior allows him to drink.

If borrowing and not returning 40 bucks does that, you get that brother. If being warm and engaging does that, you get that brother.

He's not an alcohol automaton. But that is part of the equation.

But yes, the advice to Tend Your Own Knitting is the best advice there is. Because that is the advice that lets a person dismiss themselves from the unpredictability and go do more productive things.

@BenisAGirl- I feel for you and her, too. It massively sucks.


@questingbeast I also have a scumbag brother that seems charming till you realize what a total jerkface he is. He won't be argued with, won't be told he's wrong. He thinks drinking and driving should be legalized because if people know the risks and still choose to be on the road with potentially drunk drivers, that's their problem. He one shoplifted from a CVS just because he thought it was cool. He is mean to our mom despite the fact that she and my dad are the best and put up with a lot of shit from all three of us. He drinks a LOT--two alcohol-related arrests before his 21st birthday.

BUT he is funny and charming--we still tell jokes he told as a kid. It just that because of that, he thinks he can get away with anything.


@blahstudent You get past it by realizing that fixing their problems is the addict's job, not yours. You can lend him money, give him a place to sleep, tell him that everyone else is the problem not him...and all that is going to do is make it comfortable for them to continue abusing. Part of getting better involves taking responsibility for their own lives and problems. They're less likely to do that while there are family members willing to support them and enable their habit. It seems counterintuitive, but cutting off support to an addict is often the kindest thing you can do for them.


i don't necessarily agree with A Dude's position on how brother's social networks mean he is happy. some people are worshipped, and having worshippers isn't the same thing as having meaningful friendshippers.


@blahstudent Agreed! If she's the only one who seems to give a rat's ass about the fact that this man sort of a mess, then his friends are not good friends and merely find him to be entertaining. Alternatively, they are enablers who are also too scared to say anything or interrupt the status quo.


@blahstudent I absolutely 100% agree. I've worked in the Mental Health fields (not as a practitioner, as support staff) and the new science tends to support that it's quality not quantity.

That is, social connection is one of the top things that makes you happy and protects you against mental health issues and a bunch of other stuff. If you have one friend you can tell anything to and get support, that is a win! If you have 100 friends who will hang out with you as long as you are being hilarious, but get weirded out real quick when you take the mask off, then for the purpose of social connections you effectively have no friends.

dracula's ghost

Totally smart A Dude. I thought his advice to Brother Girl was TOTALLY GOOD.

As for Wants More Chivalry Lady, can't you just tell him: "whenever we go somewhere I want you to open the door for me and hang my coat up for me and generally be a bit more Don Draper if you know what I mean (without all the smoking and violent-bathroom-fingering)." If he says "WTF???" then maybe it's not meant to be. There are definitely dudes out there who like doing this stuff. I thought A Dude's advice to figure out HOW IMPORTANT it is was really good.

My mother calls it "picking your battles" and I have found it super helpful to ponder. Is this a battle worth picking? Not all battles are (see: Iraq War)

Lily Rowan

Ooh, that medium chill thing! I might need to link to it in my online dating profile.



I really like this dude's humility. But yes, chivalry lady, it is 2011. I would much rather be with someone who didn't open a door than someone who INSISTS on opening a door. The rushing out of places just makes me think he isn't all that observant of his environment, which is sort of value neutral.

fondue with cheddar

@Gnatalby I don't like hardcore chivalry either. For me, the ideal place is somewhere in between. I appreciate when someone opens a door for me or helps me with my coat, but I am able to do those things myself and I don't like when a guy insists on doing it for me. It's thoughtful to do nice things for other people, no matter what kind of genitalia one has. LW4's guy just sounds generally disrespectful.


@jen325 Right. One of the things I love about my sweetie is that he is general thoughtful and helpful. The only times he ever opens doors for me are when my arms are full, but he does that every time I need it.

For me, LW4s issue would be less about chivalry, more about not paying attention or seeming interested in my experience. Does he do it with other things? I might also say something like 'when you leave right after we're done, it makes me feel rushed and that makes me enjoy our outing less'. YES, I know 'when you... I...' sentences, but they work! And they work partly because they make you think about WHY that thing upsets you. I mean, in this case, is it because you want to be less rushed and feel more like an important part of his experience (ie, so that he doesn't leave a restaurant without you), or do you want to feel more taken care of? If it's the latter, I kind of feel like insisting someone open doors for you is as rude as insisting on opening them for someone who doesn't want you to. Either way, though, first step is always figuring out what needs to change before this isn't an issue for you, and why.



Haha, yes I am past the days of insisting on opening my own doors (although I still think people should be willing to walk through doors I hold open-- it's a litmus test I've developed. Is this because you're considerate/polite, or is it because I'm female?).


I don't think LW2 is just being paranoid. I hear my friends of both genders gripe about not wanting to get into anything big with someone who has serious medical issues.

I've often wondered the same thing myself, except with mental illness. Obviously you don't lead with it, but you can't keep it a secret for long either!


@Cherryblossomgirl I mean, I would have to think about it myself, but from my nice high seat up here, I think if you're really into an actual specific person, and not just discussing an abstract hypothetical person, then you're going to be a lot more willing to deal with anything (whether that's kids, cats when you're a dog person, crazy family, or anything else you've vowed never to get involved with).

Besides, it's really just an illusion of safety to date someone who's healthy. They could be diagnosed with stage IV cancer at 30, god forbid, and you're already in. Life is risky and unpredictable!


@Sarah Solomon So true re: your last sentence, yet a lot of people see dating like health insurance. No pre-existing conditions!

fondue with cheddar

@Cherryblossomgirl The older you get, the more that kind of thinking goes out the window.


@Cherryblossomgirl Hm. I might be a bad person, but I am MORE aware of that kind of thing as I get older.


all that stuff about how people communicate their love in different ways and it needs to mesh is so, so true. Question though, if you want love to be expressed in X way, but there is an explicit realization that your partner is better able to express it in Y way (e.g. the verbal v.s. presents and gestures example), could that be enough? Or would it always be like, well, sure he does THAT and I know that's how he expresses it but I need THIS and I'm not getting it and so I'll still doubt if he really means it?

I think I'm the kind of person who needs a high level of meshing between how I expect love to be expressed and how it actually gets expressed. But I also think that other people are probably different in regard to that?

Just wonderin.


@redheadedandcrazy There is a book about this! It's called the 5 Love Languages and it is cheesy as hell, so maybe don't purchase it, but look for it at the library. If I remember correctly, the thing is for both partners to learn each other's preferences and then make an effort to express love in that way. Which is a lot of work if that's not the way you default to expressing love, but that is kind of the point. You make a conscious effort to make your partner feel good.


@katerrific nooooo it isn't cheesy as hell! ok maybe a little, but still, I learned so much about myself and definitely how to understand my needs and how to communicate them better (instead of my usual seething-inside-passive-aggressive-bullshittery). I also learned how to meet my partners needs a lot better, too. It has really helped our relationship :)


@redheadedandcrazy @ katerrific, i, too, read said book in and attempt to figure out why my great (now ex-) bf and i weren't meshing. one school of though is - if he/she really loved me, he'd make the effort to do what he knows i want and the other is - why can't he/she just appreciate the way i love him/her?! either way, some people are just incompatible and that's the cold, hard truth.


@redheadedandcrazy I've been trumpeting this book for years, and yes, it definitely helps when you're communicating with someone who speaks a different language. It also helps you understand yourself and why you get so pissed when he leaves crumbs all over the place and gets toothpaste in the bed, for example. It's written by a Christian author and there is some evangelical aspect to it, but I think anyone can take some good wisdom away, regardless of your beliefs. But agree, once you and he discuss your languages and the differences and if he still can't seem to make any compromises, then it's probably not meant to be.


@all thanks for the book rec! I love reading about this kind of stuff ... I wonder if I could get it on my kobo! That would be awesome.


@redheadedandcrazy Yeah, I haven't read the book, but have read stuff about it, and it made me really understand why my ex and I had some of the fights that we did, where he would say things like he doesn't replace the lightbulbs for anybody else, and would think that that showed me something. And to him it did! But to me his lack of coming out and saying how he felt was really difficult to deal with.


@thebestjasmine Ugh, yes. In my case, I could tell that certain behaviours of my ex were huge for him, really him making a significant effort for me where I pretty much doubt he would make that effort for another girl. Because he did care about me. But it STILL wasn't enough for me because I needed something completely different and didn't know how to get that across to him.

Anyway, so yeah, not meant to be, incompatible, etc. But I would really like to read the book so I can have a more concrete sense of the whole thing.


@redheadedandcrazy And it's frustrating when they're putting massive effort in and you're like... if you could put WAY LESS effort into a different area, that would be helpful. Please stop showing me how much you are trying to do something I don't even want you to do. You are dating ME.

It's not like that, it's genuine effort, which makes it all the more frustrating when it's not working for you.


@Craftastrophies OR doing the things they think express love, but also doing things that actively contradict expression of love by your standards! and by your standards, I mean my standards.

then you're just S.O.L.!


@Stevie Toothpaste in the BED?!

Nave Espacial

@redheadedandcrazy et al: out of true laziness of not wanting to have to obtain a book, I did a little googling and found the online assessment: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/ yes, yes it's weird that they divide it into "wives" and "husbands" but if you can look past that it was a lot of fun and also really insightful. I never, ever would have said that my main "language" was physical touch, but as I took the quiz I realized that it was true! Insightful not only for my partner, but for myself.

I just emailed the link to my partner and am looking forward to comparing notes!


I was a little miffed when I didnt see my letter...but then in answer 1 he said Ontario, instead of scenario and i fell back in love!!!

LW#1...dudes LOVE when you ask them out...totally just do it!! I am with a Dude on this one!...only way he is saying no is if you a) ride up on a rascal, munchin a big mac, or b) he is married/involved


@ThundaCunt Yes, ask him out! DO IT! I had a similar Ontario when I finally asked out a dude from the bus that I saw and said hi to every day, and though it turned out he had a girlfriend (hiss!) it's better than spending every morning just wondering what could happen...


@whatsherface @ThundaCunt You guys using Ontario as a substitute for scenario is weirding me out because I thought the "he kills you" part was a reference to the guy who beheaded someone on the Greyhound (but that was in Manitoba, A Dude!)


@phlox Worst case Ontario is a Rickyism from Trailer Park Boys.


@hollyrancher Ah, I have never seen Trailer Park Boys. Does that make me a bad Canadian?


@phlox I thought the same thing. So many reasons not to take the bus in Manitoba.


@phlox i have also, never seen Trailer Park Boys...but that Ontario shit just had me cracking up!! im simple, what can i say!


@phlox It means that you owe it to yourself to fix that. Seriously. Worship at the altar of Julian.

The Lady of Shalott

@Xaxa One of my friends was on the bus one time in Winnipeg and she was wearing a skirt and it was super crowded because it was rush hour, and she felt something wet on her leg and she thought it was the broken A/C, because it was a hot day...



@The Lady of Shalott Blahhh! One of my friends was taking a bus in rural Manitoba and the bus driver gave her a screen play about a bus driver who kills lone female passengers on rural bus routes! It was about 5 pages long and full of mistakes.
Luckily my bad experiences have mostly been limited to being stranded on broken busses, mosquito invasions, etc.
They don't exactly send the good busses/drivers on the Winnipeg to Thompson route.

The Lady of Shalott

@Xaxa Jesus. I think I would literally rather stand on the side of a Manitoba road in the winter and wait for some thoughtful farmer or someone to rescue me, than be on a bus with A BUS DRIVER WHO GAVE ME A SCREENPLAY ABOUT A BUS DRIVER WHO KILLS GIRLS ON RURAL BUS ROUTES OH MY GAHHHH


@The Lady of Shalott It's pretty crazy. She photodocumented the screenplay but never reported him. The worst part is, she was getting off in Ponton (if you have never been to Ponton, consider yourself lucky, but it is just a gas station/restuarant at a cross roads) and continuing on to Snow Lake. Normally you have to wait over an hour in Ponton for the Snow Lake Van to come, but luckily she had someone meeting her.


@Xaxa Write what you know.


@cheeseandcrackers I was just watching the episode where Julian gets drunk on Swish and is dancing with the dog and then Bubbles puts him in that leather jacket and MC Hammer pants. I was laughing so hard I might have fallen off the couch. That is all!


@phlox Sorry, but it does. Easily fixable, though!


@phlox I'm not Canadian, but I think so. My boyfriend recently said these exact words: "The best part about meeting Canadians is that you can just ask them if they like Trailer Park Boys and then you have something to talk about." It was after meeting some Canadians on vacation. We talked about Trailer Park Boys. Go! Watch! ASAT!


@xx-xx-xx I just worked a Trailer Park Boys show! I sell concessions for the local theater, and hot damn was that crowd thirsty.


@xx-xx-xx As another Non-Canadian who LOVES TBP, I concur. My love of Bubbles is one of the best gifts my Canadian ex-boyfriend ever gave me.


@ThundaCunt: I made the weirdest noise when I read, "ride up on a rascal." It scared the dog.


@Xaxa I just had to look up Ponton, Manitoba and geez... I thought I had it bad when I took a bus from Swan River (42 hours to Toronto!). At least I wasn't going to/from Ponton! [Note: Google maps cannot calculate directions between Ponton and Toronto]

I've actually never seen TPB (bad Canadian over here too) but the Dude's Ontario comment had me silent-laughing (squeaking) at my desk.


I have peanut butter and a fork. Is that cool? Can I stay?

Also, and I'm sure I'm extremely late to the party on this, but THANK YOU for introducing me to the concept of the medium chill. I've been struggling to name this feeling I...feel...about things. Me no make words good.


Also, Courtesy Girl- one way to encourage your beau to be courteous is to make sure you, also, are courteous. I am sure you are. But just saying. Model the behavior you want.

And then tell him what you want.

And if he doesn't do it, then find a guy who does.

ALSO ALSO, A DUDE- you are a very good A Dude an I liked this column and your other ones. But it is a very, very bad assumption to make that people like being hit on and humblebrag about it when it happens. They by no means universally do.

It is pretty important to keep in mind that this is the case. Not because a dude/lady on this site would ever do anything other than smile and move along if a person blows them off on the bus. But just so every time a person takes the chance to say "hi" and see what happens, they are aware that, in fact, it can be disruptive, scary, or triggering to a person who receives that kind of attention. Not that you shouldn't give it a shot if the signs look good. But:

1) Be honest with yourself about how the signs look.

2) Be aware that "pleased" is not a default response to Bus Guys/Gals. It is one of a range of plausible and valid responses.

Ham Snadwich

@AnthroK8 If you do get blown off on public transportation, I've learned it's very important to loudly say "OH SO YOU'RE TOO GOOD TO TALK TO ME. ALRIGHT THEN". Feel free to spice it up with some profanity or questioning of your target's sexuality.


@AnthroK8 YES, I agree with all of this. It is not humblebragging to be upset about getting hit on. Many women really don't like this, especially in a public place, it can feel very violating and creepy, depending on how you do it. This is not to say that it will always be like that, Dudes, but just know that it's always a possibility. And Dudes who have female friends complain about this, don't assume that they're humblebragging, because often that is not the case.


@AnthroK8 Amazing!!!!


@AnthroK8 I cannot think of any place where I am likely to be that I would be LESS receptive to being hit on, than on public transport. I am invariably in 'make no eye contact' mode, I'm cranky (work, long commute), I'm trapped on this vehicle with you for the immediate future which can be threatening, and worst of all, if you make it awkward, I have to see you every day. I am still avoiding the lady on the bus who loomed over me and asked me about my knitting. I can't imagine how much worse it would be if she wanted in my pants (maybe she did?).

That's not to say don't go for it - I haven't always been this cranky and defensive on PT. But just be ready to be polite and back off if signs aren't promising.


@AnthroK8 I'm not super receptive to contact with strangers on the bus (I have been punched in the head by one before). But I think there is a good way to approach someone on a bus. Make eye contact and smile. It can lead to a conversation if someone is receptive. But if you can't catch someone's eye to smile at them or they don't smile back, they're not receptive. (Like you said, read the signs!)


If you wipe your monitor, you will get traces of the bizarre jealousy of LW#3.

I suspect that LW#3 has a host - hell, a storage locker, of personal problems of their own, but chooses instead to obsess about the life choices of the brother. And seethes with resentment every day as a result.



Respectfully, I think you are completely wrong. I think the letter writer has an addict for a brother, and she is trying to figure out why the public doesn't see her brother the same way she does. This is pretty much Living With An Addict 101, and her concerns are valid, understandable, and deserve our sympathy and support, not our scorn. There was no reason whatsoever for the Dude to start making her question her own life choices when she wrote in about how to help her brother stop killing himself.


@karion I agree with Diana here, and I didn't know how to say it as well as she did. I'm sure the LW has a host of problems as well, but they're likely not the eyesore of addiction that is her brother's life right now. She sounds confused and frustrated, not jealous.


@Diana: you know, I reread it and understand where you are coming from, too. I was struck by things like I want him to feel fulfilled in his life and currently, I don't think he is. It hit the wrong nerve of mine and I tuned out the rest of the letter.

I don't think I'm wrong, but I think you are more likely right, if that makes any sense.


@karion She might very well be jealousy/envy. "Why does he get away with this, when it's wrong? Why do people not see that he has a problem, and support me for trying to fix it? Why does he get to generate a storm of drama and be validated?"

[[why is his addiction successfully running my life on some level?]]

The thing about codependence is... enablers replicate the chaotic drama outside their addicted-person relationships, because that is often the only way they know to get the kind of support/attention/whatever their addicted loved one gets.

Being friends with a person who should be in Al Anon can be A MASSIVE PAIN sometimes, because of the crazy they generate, even with no substance abuse there to generate it.

Friends of In Need of Al Anon-ers (such as my one friend, I am just saying, whose god-sister was just such a person in need) may have to end up establishing SERIOUS BOUNDARIES because otherwise... agh. My one friend would tell you it is a pain in the ass. With the 4am calls three nights a week about boyfriend drama that isn't really drama, and the always having emergencies of money and time, but never having the time to help you out in an emergency. And... and...

[[clearly I have feelings about this]]

Being held accountable for that business is no fun for a Drama Addict, and they often have to go through some embarrassing self assessment to move through things.

But it's also heartbreaking, and while in the moment it is FUCKING CRAZYMAKING, in general, I have so, so much empathy for people who have to learn to relive relationships and repair ones they have damaged with this CRAZINESS. I just won't put up with it much any more. Because CRAZY.

Also, that NO TIME FOR FRIENDS THING? Yeah... her friends probably know perfectly well she's always rushing from one damn life crisis to the next, and know she will always prioritize her brother's emergency/ her emergency/ cleaning up her kitchen after negelecting herself because of someone's emergency.

They're all "yeah. She needs to get some help there... But I can't be the help she thinks she wants."

It's enough to make you cry.


God, I gotta get off The Hairpin and grade papers or I will go to Teacher Hell.


@AnthroK8. This is how promising students like Kristen Stewart get let down by their teachers. Now I see how it works.


I like this dude cause he is wrongity-wrong about stuff but he has some verve and swing about it. But yeah, no, leaving doors to swing in people's faces and leaving restaurants without waiting for your companion (!) is not a chivalry issue, it is a were you raised by wolves issue. The part about the letter-writer's old dad and his gender-based habits is a total red herring and a dude fell for it. And I have never even had a wolf, male or female, just walk out of a restaurant while I was still putting on my coat, they know better than that.

sceps yarx

@queenofbithynia I was raised by wolves (and by wolves I mean socially clueless parents with asperger's syndrome)and I found happiness with a fellow raised-by-wolveser (he was a classic early 90s latch-key kid). Anything either of us know about normal human interaction we had to figure out for ourselves, and it doesn't come naturally. Since we both get where the other person is coming from, actually an area of compatibility between us.


@sceps yarx I think that's actually a great way to distinguish between politeness and chivalry -- if you can work it out for yourself with mostly logic and empathy plus observation, it's probably politeness; if it's gendered and makes no sense without being drilled into you as a child, it's probably chivalry.

Sorry, I should know better than to ascribe decent behavior to one's upbringing (after all, I hate my upbringers!), it is one step up from talking about good breeding. I just wanted to mention wolves, I guess.

H.E. Ladypants

@queenofbithynia Yeah. Asking for door-opening and coat-taking and chair-pulling is a gender thing that can't really be demanded anymore (and even annoys some ladies like me) but you are right that the larger question is one of politeness. Dollars to donuts if he waited for her even when she's a bit slower and if the first person to the door were the one to open it (regardless of whether it is the lady or the dude) she would have zero issues.

Of course, I also think these things are pretty easily fixed. All it should take is, "I'd really appreciate it if you'd wait for me when we leave a restaurant." It's such a tiny request that I can't see any partner or beau worth their salt saying "no" to it.

Mimi Killjoy

@queenofbithynia Yeah, that's totally gender neutral and has nothing to do with chivalry. People who are imposing sexism onto this woman's letter (query) are bringing their own issue to the table on this one. This behavior would be infuriating and unacceptable regardless of whether it was perpetrated by a woman or a man- repeatedly. The fact that it is her significant other, the very person who should think the sun rises and sets on her- is a red flag.
Some people think manners aren't important. Those people are wrong. The writer of the letter just needs to communicate her feelings. I don't know if the guy is clueless- situational awareness- or if he was raised without manners. I think it is a sign of something more. I think it shows she's not the center of his attention. If she's not the center of his attention/top priority now, it will only get worse in time.


I had a friend just like your brother, LW3--right down to the charisma and the friends and the alcohol/drugs. He's dead.


@atipofthehat - Yeah. The more I stew on it, wondering why this "Ask A..." is making me unable to focus at work, I realize, this is the first time I've ever been Really. Fucking. Pissed. at the comments of a dude/lady/etc.

While I agree that one person's happy and full life is not always another, I think it's complete fucking horseshit to say that because he has friends who he enjoys and he loves that he is happier than she, or to even pretend like that fucking matters. And the medium chill / pop psychology is beyond idiotic.

Brother has an addiction which Will Kill Him. The very idea that he is "better off than most of us" is fucking lunacy. If that circle of people who "value and love him" do not give a fuck that he is a COMPLETELY OBVIOUS ALCOHOLIC then they either (a)do not actually love/value him, but love/value THE FACT THAT HE ENTERTAINS THEM, which is completely different, or (b)they are not emotionally/intellectually mature.

This does not make him lucky. Frankly, it makes things way fucking more difficult, as he has a circle of fierce enablers who are going to agree with him that his sister is being a total buzzkill.

And you know what? The brother IS a scumbag, right now. He is acting like a scumbag. Yes, it is because of the disease, but that doesn't make it less true. Saying that he is not and harshly judging the sister who obviously cares deeply for him is ridiculous. ARGH.


@leon.saintjean i 100% agree. i spent all of class beginning to type out comments, and then deleting them when i realized i didn't know what the professor was talking about because i wasn't paying attention, and then reading to see if any new commenters had said what i was thinking. (which you did!)

i was also disappointed by his response to the writer with medical issues--i think she deserved something more thorough than what gordon crisp's mom told him about his smelliness on freaks and geeks.


@leon.saintjean THIS. Those people who find him entertaining now will suddenly disappear if things get scary.


@atipofthehat That's really rough. I'm sorry.
@leon.saintjean - Agreed, agreed, agreed. Having been the "scumbag," I can attest to being helped into recovery by the tough love of a person who would not give up on me, no matter how hard I tried to push him away. It was enraging at the time... but like I said, I was being a scumbag. Alcoholism kills. I would be dead if not for him. He sat up all night long to hold my head to the side as I puked in a passed out/blacked out state so I wouldn't choke to death on my own vomit. Twice. Two different times.

Not sure where I'm going with this other than to say that there's a fine line between enabling and truly helping, and sometimes you have to step over it.

Bah. What an emotional, incoherent response. Oh well, I mean it.


@leon.saintjean To be fair, there's a pretty high chance the brother will kill other people instead of/before himself. (& I'd say he will kill, not his addiction will, because he's not addicted to fucking driving. I would say more than one DUI makes you an attempted murderer (my threshold is more than one because I guess it's possible you could genuinely not know when sober what kinds of awful things you'd feel like doing once you got drunk. But after the first time, you know what your drunk self likes to do and you are responsible for hiding your keys from that creep.)


@leon.saintjean Yeah I thought he was pretty harsh on LW3. I'm related to someone like this exactly, like down-to-the-detail exactly. And it's a situation that's kind of hard to explain, but it's more like this person can project this Amazing Human Being persona that everyone falls in love with and it's only after awhile that you can start to piece together that they've just figured out how to manipulate everyone around them. Who knows if it's even meant maliciously? But all the same I've had a lot of family members burned time and time again because after another DUI or stolen credit card or "Oh I was actually fired two months ago" he always appears penitent and will promise to fix it, pay you back, whatever. It never happens. And it's head-against-the-wall frustrating to watch someone you care about with so much potential continue with shady behavior.

But the basic point, that you can't change people, rings true here. It doesn't matter if you drag him to therapy or if Al Anon has been court-appointed, even if he does go it doesn't mean he's really going to cooperate. I wish I had some more helpful advice for you girl.

Artressa Vandelay

@jenergy: well I'm glad you accepted help. You may have just inspired me to have a long overdue chat one of my own brothers with similar issues. An ex of mine died during a bender not too long ago and I am so afraid of my brother meeting a similar fate someday.


I loved him. He was the most amazing person I ever met. And I had to break up with him because of the alchohol and the drugs.
I am grieved every day that the world is without his light.


@leon.saintjean yup. irresponsible advice at best, seriously damaging at worst. LW3, if you're reading, it's not you. you are fine. you are not jealous, or crazy, or petty, or lacking a "rich social fabric." you are, however, taking on too much responsibility for someone who doesn't want to change.

and that's the thing, Dude. people can change. they just have to want and be ready to do so.

tin can phone

@leon.saintjean I completely agree with you, that part of the advice really upset me. Saying that the (very clearly a raging) alcoholic brother somehow has his shit together because people like him? Uh-uh, if they were his friends they wouldn't turn a blind eye to how in trouble he is.


Dearest Courtesy Girl,

It's a red flag. Run.

Because, seriously, love my boyfriend and all, but it just drives me insane that he never asks me if I'm thirsty when he gets up for a drink and has a habit of checking his phone for fifteen minutes when we're at dinner together, and et cetera, forever. I even said something about it when we had been dating for six months or so and he god really offended. Like, "Oh, I don't ask you if you're thirsty so that means I don't DO THINGS FOR YOU?!" And the thing is, it isn't just doors not being opened or questions not being asked, it gets all over the relationship. Like the way he doesn't bother to tell me if he's going out after work and the way he doesn't introduce me to acquaintances.

And this sort of paints my boyfriend to be a bad guy, and he's not, but this thing is really important to me and not at all important to him and it tends to be a constant argument, occasionally one that feels like it could end the relationship. So just please don't be like me and, instead, kick this guy to the curb for someone that is actually considerate.

sceps yarx

@elizabeast It seems like the real measure of discourtesy is not that he didn't check in with you about the drink, but that he got hella defensive and rude when you brought it up, instead of making an effort to adapt to you.

My husband is a total space cadet and raised by wolves (see above comment) but having to be reminded to be courteous isn't the same thing as being selfish. Some guys (and ladies) are really sweet, kind people who simply lack social skills. If your dude is one of those, he'll do his best to learn if you bring it up in a non-confrontational way. But it is still hard to learn new behaviors, even if you do want to show someone you care.


@elizabeast Seriously. This totally reminded me of my ex and a time we were at the bank together. I fell down while crossing the drive up lanes and scraped myself up pretty good. I had a crowd of 4-5 bystanders seeing if I was OK and helping me up, and my ex had no idea because he was walking 15 ft. ahead of me. He was always doing that. Walking way ahead of me. I'm not even a slow walker at all, my short legs just couldn't keep up with him. The door opening, coat helping stuff I can live without, whatever. But please don't make me run to keep up with you, especially if we're not in a hurry.
Because when you fall-down-go-boom in front of a bunch of strangers and are in a moderate amount of pain and near tears, who do you want to help you up and comfort you? A stranger, or your boyfriend?

UGH, I'm sorry. I just sort of re-lived that whole thing in my head and I'm sort of angry all over again.


@elizabeast I agree with @sceps yarx with the red flag being his defensiveness, not his failure to offer you a drink, etc. Mr Bebe is usually super polite, but he does leave places and waits for me outside which drives me NUTS (especially on vacation or somewhere unfamiliar). But, I am able to tell him when it pisses me off, and he (mostly) has gotten better about it, and there are no huge arguments or defensiveness.

Well, OK, one huge argument but it was more like me yelling and him apologizing and then both of us getting drunk until we were happy again, but I don't know if that counts?


@elizabeast WHAT AN ASSHOLE. I had an ex who did the same exact thing. So, so glad he's gone.


@Rosebudddd (that was meant to be for leona)


@elizabeast The phone thing was an issue with my main squeeze and I for a while, but I straight up told him that when he stopped talking to me to dick around on his iphone mid-conversation I felt unimportant/ignored. Now he refrains from it and if he absolutely must respond to a message he explains that it is important (ie: for a project, needs to check on a family member, etc).

Nave Espacial

@leona oh sweetie. :( at least he's your ex now?


@leona The same thing happened to me. My ex- was half a block away, whilst my future husband was the person who scraped me off the road and showed me that there was something better out there. :)


I'm so excited that A Dude mentioned Love Languages.

raised amongst catalogs

@smidge Mine's quality time (and I'm getting ZERO from my manfriend and feeling like a very sad sack indeed). What's yours?


@vanillawaif words of affirmation--and I too wound up with someone who has a different love language, so there's been a lot of "so do you think i'm pretty or what??"

raised amongst catalogs

@smidge Totally! I like the words of affirmation too. Didn't Mark Twain say he could live for two months on a good compliment? I think my main issue right now (not that you asked) is that in the initial stages of the relationship, he was speaking all kinds of love languages (you know, because of the blissed out brain chemical thing that happens). Now, five years in, my rational side understands why I'm not getting the same onslaught of quality time but my emotional side is spazzing. I think it's as fun for him as it is for me. ;)


@vanillawaif Aww--thanks for sharing :-)


@vanillawaif We ALWAYS ask.

I feel like maybe I should read this. Have been feeling a disconnect lately, internally. I think maybe I'm Acts of Service (which sounds... gross) but needed a lot of the other ones initially, especially words of affection, because am damaged and they were basically emotional spackle. Or maybe it's just because that's the one I haven't been getting lately?

Forget pinner meetups. We should have pinner group therapy.

raised amongst catalogs

@Craftastrophies Thank you. "We ALWAYS ask" should be the motto of The Hairpin. Seriously, the comments section is totally group therapy for me. If nothing else, the book would give you some insight into what makes you tick and why other people make no sense sometimes (or why they make total sense, if they happen to share your preferred love language).


@vanillawaif i would like someone to design a Hairpin coat of arms with "we always ask" on a curly scroll at the bottom

Nave Espacial

@Craftastrophies There is a website! http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/

I'm physical touch! ...which totally makes me feel like a creeper when I say it out loud (type it on screen?).

raised amongst catalogs

@Nave Espacial It turns out that I am more needy than I thought: I am almost tied three ways for Quality Time, Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch. God, I must be exhausting.

Nave Espacial

@vanillawaif Quality time was a close second for me--sounds like we are similar beings!

Interesting tidbit from the website...apparently we are all usually more attracted to people who speak a dif love lang than we do. FIGURES.


@smidge I would 100% buy that on a poster or something. Not a tshirt, because I am not down with the general populace. But if you're in my house, then the phrase applies.

I'm basically tied with everything but gifts (I got a 0). But the way I answered is giving me thinky thoughts - you know, what I picked over what.

Also, 'husband' was weirding me out.


LW1: Yes! Ask him out! Or at least initiate conversation! How adorable will that story be in several years when you tell your kids that you met on a bus?!


LW #3: Your brother sounds almost exactly like my brother. Super charming and musically talented with tons of friends...and totally irresponsible. My brother is also a diagnosed alcoholic, and it sounds like yours is too. About a year ago, we got my brother into rehab (he was actually surprisingly receptive to the idea), and he cleaned up his act quite a bit: was able to hold down a good job, stopped drinking for a time, became more dependable, etc. Unfortunately, these days it's not all butterflies and sunshine--he's drinking socially again, he never finished college, and he's thinking about quitting his job. I still believe the rehab was helpful, though, and that he's further along on his journey than he would have been without it. I'd suggestion chatting with your family about considering an intervention. Sounds like your brother needs some help.

The Lady of Shalott

I really really like this Dude and all, but I have to say that I loathe it when people approach me on the bus. I don't care if they think I am pretty and they want to ask me out--I find it kind of creepy. Probably because the only times anyone has ever spoken to me on a bus out of the blue, they have been really creepy. But I am totally willing to believe that maybe the scenario is different for ladies who approach dudes!

The Lady of Shalott

@The Lady of Shalott But I get a lot of guff for this because my parents legit DID meet on a bus. My mom fell asleep on my dad's shoulder, and when she woke up he asked her to go to a movie with him. And she fell asleep at the movie, too. Somehow he was charmed and married her.


@The Lady of Shalott Yeah, only crazies talk to me on the bus.

Lily Rowan

So one time I was sitting in the aisle seat on a subway, reading, and the guy next to me said, "Excuse me?" so I figured he had to get off, so I just got up, still reading. And then he didn't get off the train! And then I realized maybe he was trying to talk to me in a non-creepy way. Ah well.


@The Lady of Shalott I mean, a lot of people who try to talk to you on public transit are creepy. But I think it's less about "a stranger is trying to talk to me on public transit" and more about how they approach it. How they respond to the rejection/obvious dismissal gives you a better read on the Creep-o-meter, I think.

Guy who stares at you for twenty minutes, not caring that whenever you look up from your book and accidentally make eye contact you quickly look to your book again, and still approaches you, and ignores the fact that you're giving one word answers while not looking up from your book or smiling or maybe even saying the words, "no thank you" in response to a date request, instead taking that as a challenge to badger you into a date? Creepy.

Guy who, after brief eye contact with a shared smile, approaches you, gives you a compliment that is not about your body, asks you out for a coffee and offers his number instead of asking for yours, and if rejected simply smiles and says, "Have a great day," before leaving you alone? Not so creepy.

But I think the kind of guys who would be more likely to do the latter are worried to attempt it, because they fear (perhaps legitimately) that they are going to be reacted to as if they were the former. This sucks for dudes, but it is not the fault of ladies -- dudes should be more willing to call out douche behavior and lessen it to a point where it's not the norm for bus-asking-out situations.

And I mean, some people are never going to want to be approached like that in public, which is fine. But you can't fault someone for trying, and being polite if rebuffed. One doesn't have the right to not be approached ever in public, just like one doesn't have the right to continue an interaction past the point where it's become clear it's unwelcome (which should be no more than 30 seconds into it, really).

I think it's also maybe regional.

I say all of this as a frigid east coast bitch who has totally been followed all the way around a grocery store, then out to the parking lot, by a guy who Did Not Get It. He gave me a business card for some rando lawyer with his name and number scrawled on the back, and I had to walk around the block a million times until he was out of sight because I lived across the street from the grocery store. Yuck. But! I went on a date with a guy I met in the grocery store checkout line before, because was just a decent-seeming guy who gave me his number, no pressure, after we chatted a bit.


@The Lady of Shalott I really think it is different when ladies approach dudes. We generally don't feel like we're constantly being inspected or on display whenever we're in public. I don't see anything inappropriate about a polite "Hi, I see you every day. My name is..." Although, first thing in the morning, it would be very difficult for me to give an intelligible response.


Yeah, I also disagree with the dude about everyone thinking that being hit on is the best thing ever. Telling someone you're not interested can be awkward... occasionally a particularly charming fellow will be mean if you say no. That aside, I do think she should ask this dude out... especially because there's no harm done with her switching buses soon. A guy I rode the bus with once wrote a missed connections type thing for me in our alt. weekly and I was not into him at all (according to an online profile I dug up on him, his ideal mate was Jessica Alba and he had a strong preference for "exotic looking women") but I assume he did it right before moving / switching buses because I only had to awkwardly encounter him a couple times before never seeing him again. While I've never dated someone I met on the bus, I also have positive being-asked-out-while-on-the-bus stories, so, anything is possible!


@mustelid: A compliment not about your body? But if some guy tells you he likes your shoes or "what cute earrings!", you'll just assume he's gay. Which he is - I myself have more than once blurted out, "Ohmygodthoseshoesarefierce!" to random ladies I have seen.


@mustelid Your comment perfectly articulates what I was trying to think of to say, especially "But I think the kind of guys who would be more likely to do the latter are worried to attempt it, because they fear (perhaps legitimately) that they are going to be reacted to as if they were the former." I used to work in a book store and sometimes guys would try to talk to me and my first reaction was to feel creeped out, like, "Who the hell hits on girls who are just trying to work?" until I realized that it wasn't their fault that the place I was (which happened to be my job) was the only place that guy would have a chance to talk to me. After that, I judged them based on whether their behavior (before and after the ask-out) was indeed creepy (and, believe me, there was plenty of that scenario -- oh, big book stores, man).

And, Bus Lady, did you say you're changing routes soon? If so, definitely try! If it goes well, fabulous; if not, well, you don't have to see him anymore anyway. It would be sad to think that you missed out on something awesome (says the girl who never had the balls to approach anyone ever).


"Do you have any brothers or sisters? What sort of movies do you like? When you pee, does it come out of the normal place or somewhere new and fun?"

Agh, I love this! As someone who LOVES to discuss weird and crazy bodily things with anybody who will participate, I would totally not freak out over a peeing belly button. I would have a harder time not asking all sorts of questions and coming on too strong to LW2. Human bodies: the weirdest?

H.E. Ladypants

@figwiggin Exactly! I think there are many of us in the "bodies are cool" camp. I've had several drunken evenings that have involved sharing of scars and tales of medical traumas. I think if I met someone who peed out of their belly-button I'd want them to be my new best friend, no questions asked.

fondue with cheddar

@H.E. Ladypants Me too! I was born polydactyl (6 fingers on one hand), so I love that some people have physical abnormalities. They make us unique. :)

And there's actually something sexy about a vulva that never comes into contact with pee. Her partner never has to wonder if she's clean.

Katie Boyer@twitter

@figwiggin I don't mean this to in any way belittle the difficult aspects of the LW's body issues, but...if I could pee out my belly button, I would do that at pretty much every party I went to EVER. Like, "Hey guys, come out front and see what I can do!" Also, Port-O-Potties and nasty public bathrooms would be so much easier.


Door opening is such a minor thing ... I don't think it's a major behavior she's trying to change. Lady, if you want your dude to slow down and open doors for you, just ask him. It's not a big deal. It'd be like if he asked you to stop chewing with your mouth open. It's not a big deal!


@heb Even further - it's not a chivalry thing. It's just a polite thing to do. Anyone can do it! For anyone else! Open a door! IT'S SO EASY! IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL!


@heb Oh, god, but I can't ask my partner to stop chewing with his mouth open because he has a deviated septum and if he has a cold that would mean he can't breathe. I love him anyway but sometimes I wonder about our future together. Separate dining rooms?


Chivalry girl, I get you! Does anyone else get the sense that there are just some guys who reach adulthood somehow having completely missed the memo on the holding doors for ladies-type polite stuff? I honestly can think of a few perfectly kind, goodhearted guy friends who seem to always miss on this point, and I really don't think it is their faults. Like maybe mom or dad just never clued them in? Or they are just a little air-headed on these key points? Anyways, definitely worth addressing (you're asking him to hold a door, not give up smoking), and if he listens, then you are all the more assured he is a Nice Guy! And if not, well...there ya go.

Lily Rowan

@waitykaitie Unless you actually mean "holding doors for people-type polite stuff," do you really not know that a lot of people have actual feelings against it? Because they do.

Lily Rowan

@waitykaitie I didn't mean that to sound as snotty as it probably does. But this is a topic with legitimate sides, not just polite/impolite, if gender is involved.

H.E. Ladypants

@Lily Rowan One of my worst boyfriend experiences was dating a Southern Gentleman type. He had all of these gendered sort of codes of behavior. He took them as politeness. I took them as a rule set I was suddenly expected to follow without ever being briefed.

Eventually, I got sick of being told that for some bizarre reason I was not "allowed" to open the door for him and not being able to sit wherever I damn-well pleased in a restaurant and that was the end of that. (I am very polite but not in a gendered way and get confused when the rules change due to my sex.)

oh, disaster

@waitykaitie A roommate of mine in college (possibly one of the rudest people I ever met) would never hold the door for anyone. Not because she was taking a stance against door holding, but because it would never cross her mind to do so. I'm talking doors slamming in my face while leaving restaurants from her not bothering to care about a single person beyond herself. So while I agree that holding doors is not a chivalrous act- to me, it's just being polite, and extends to everyone, male, female, young, old, dating or not, just hold the damn door for the person behind you- it's more than ladies-type polite stuff.


@H.E. Ladypants this is why i get so uncomfortable about discussions of politeness and courtesy--a lot of what we perceive to be merely considerate is a secret set of rules that you actually have to be born into to understand. this is hard to imagine for people who were born in families that know about silverware and door holding and where the lady sits--to them it often seems to derive from first principles.

i don't know the rules, so i always hold the door if there is somebody within like 15 feet behind me when i go through it, and i only use a fork.


@Lily Rowan

My feminist friends and I (also a self-ID'd feminist) actually discuss this quite a bit. Is it un-feminist to expect the person you date to hold the door for you?

I am of the "no" camp, I actually consider having that expectation of your man (woman/significant other/whoever) to be a part of knowing what you want in a relationship and settling for nothing less, a feminist act in itself, I like to think. I definitely don't see it as coddling or an affront to my own independence.

Our dear LW herself references her dad being polite to all genders, so I didn't zero in on it as a completely gendered issue. But I can see how, in a broader context, one would dislike the historical gender implications associated with holding doors for women.

And, yes, should have replaced ladies with persons. (And my former women's and gender studies professor would scold me for even using the term ladies -- it's women, thanks!) Point taken, it was off hand.

Lily Rowan

@waitykaitie I'm curious -- do you also hold the door for the person you are dating? I have couple friends that, in a double-door situation, she waits at the second door for him to go around her and open it. To me, that's nuts, and we should hold the door for one another, as it makes sense to do so.

And I like the term ladies!!

dracula's ghost

@blahstudent I had a boyfriend in high school who would get legitimately MAD at me if I got out of the car by myself. He'd been trained by some crazy mom of his to always open the car door, blah blah. I found it so weird and stifling and infantilizing.

there is politeness and then there is bullshit gender etiquette that actually IS NOT POLITE but is totally controlling and condescending and obnoxious.

All people should hold doors for all other people.

If I were a dude and a girl informed me that in order to date her I needed to make sure to always run ahead and open doors for her I'd be like "PEACE I'M OUTTA HERE, get a time machine to the modern era sister"


@Lily Rowan

In your friend's situation, yes, of course I find that weird, along with these other various oppressive southern gentleman-type stories that are being referenced here. But I do use door holding (offering of a coat if it's cold out, offering to pay, etc) as a way to gauge a good date or not, especially early on. And I know for myself, it is something I like and appreciate when conducted in a reasonable manner.

(And of course door-holding is not the only way I take judgement of a date, you can have some poor etiquette skills and still be a good person, as was my original comment's point.)

Now I'm curious -- are you very very much bothered if your date tries to hold the door for you? Would you say something to him/her?

Re: ladies, I sort of like it too (in a hairpin laaaadiesss context, not a helpless victorian era ladies context) but I get a guilty conscience about it sometimes, thanks to said professor. She corrected me in front of the whole class!! It was 4 yrs ago and the memory still makes me cringe.

Lily Rowan

@waitykaitie Oh, no, I like having a door held, as appropriate, as much as the next lady. But I don't take it as a signal of Treating Me Well, or anything, just a base level of human politeness.

But the last dude I dated more than a couple of times was a total feminist, and it was actually really great. We each paid our own way, opened doors for each other, etc., which was actually kind of new to me in a dating context (or at least rare), and I liked it.

H.E. Ladypants

@dracula's ghost It has always amazed me a) how upset dudes who have been trained in gendered behaviors can get when you don't know/want to follow them and b) how awful and condescended following those behaviors makes me feel.

I think it really comes down to dictating how either party is allowed to interact with the world. It's the only reason I can come up with as to why it can arouse such startling emotions.

H.E. Ladypants

@waitykaitie I'm more than happy if my date offers to pay for me- so long as I'm allowed to get the next one. I feel not okay about expected to be treated on the basis of having lady-junk but I think treating someone is a nice thing to do!

That's my general line. If I can do something back (I can also offer a scarf if my partner/date is cold, say) then it's just nice which is great. If I'm not allowed to be considerate in return, though, I feel weird and put off by the action.

Also, for the record, I'm really into humans being nice to each other. I'm famous among my friends for being the exceptionally polite lady. I also recognize that everyone is different, though, and a lot of this stuff has to do with differences in background and experience and what have you as much as anything.

Mad Dog

@Lily Rowan The double door thing! That offends me more as a practical person than as a feminist.

My boyfriend is a perpetual, non-gender-specific door-holder. Sometimes we will actually stand around for several minutes as a stream of people exit while he holds open the door like it is his job. He also tried initially to do the double-door thing but I just started running for it and would stand there, holding it open and shouting, "NO. AFTER YOU!" I still sometimes have to do this. It looks ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as him getting both doors.

Lily Rowan

@NatashaMcG Ah ha ha! I have totally insisted on "After YOU!" The good guys think it's nice, not emasculating.

fondue with cheddar

@Lily Rowan I don't want guys to open doors for me, I just want people of any gender not to let doors slam in my face.


@waitykaitie I want my men to court me with jousts goddamit.


@jen325 I have gotten less militant about the holding doors etc thing as I get older. The helping me on with the coat is still weird, but only because it's more intimate. But the doors are trickier because it IS polite - I am an inveterate door holder and also often get stuck as people stream through. But I just realised that I will go out of the way to open doors for my (male) partner if I am placed to do so or he is holding things, etc, so I suddenly feel better about it.

I once yelled at someone I worked with. He Respected Women in a totally icky, objectifying way, if you know what I mean? A little bit Angel of the House, with added 'Empowerment' module. Anyway, I was at the start of a very long corridor, and he was at the end holding to door, so I had to hustle down while he stood there looking like a git. I was all 'and WHAT was the point of THAT?' I mean, it was more inconvenient for me than turning a door handle. I wasn't even carrying anything!

Poor kid.


LW3, you have to let him go! He can't become an adult if you and your Dad keep bailing him out!! Don't let him join the throngs of man children who don't know how to do anything on their own!


How is this Dude perceptive enough to realize that the reactions of women to acts of chivalry are varied and unpredictable but equally valid, but not perceptive enough to realize that the reactions of people to getting hit on in public places are the same? All people are not universally delighted to have their privacy invaded, especially on something like a routine bus which you may now render uncomfortable. Then again, I think the degree to which people are flattered is inextricably linked to their gender, and dudes may be more receptive to flattery from strangers because, for them, it is very rarely accompanied by threatening behavior.

Also, I believe the advice given to letter writer #3 is terrible and bordering on the juicebox-y. Sorry, but his drinking is a big DING DONG red light flashing. Just because addicts are thrilled to see fellow addicts to normalize their own behavior doesn't mean they share meaningful relationships with one another. His friends probably don't know what to do when he's not around, because their behavior isn't acceptable to other, non-addicts. The fact that her brother has been acting depressed and drinking heavily and getting multiple DUIs for over TWO YEARS - and this Dude (and some other commenters) think she is just jealous? Her entire story is a classic tale of family members struggling with addiction, and this Dude responded by telling her, "Hey, you're not such a hotshot yourself!" This guy has a serious alcoholic dependency, he routinely puts his own life and those of other innocent people at risk when he drives, he takes advantage of your father's patience and goodwill, and he takes advantage of you monetarily - if that's not a scumbag, I don't know what is. He is clearly sucking the life force out of you and your dad. The comments about you being jealous are ridiculous. You are not. You are confused about the discrepancy between your brother's public face and his private self. Everybody else sees this gregarious party animal, and you see the lethargic shell left behind after the party is over. You aren't jealous of shit, you're confused and exhausted and desperate to help him. You need to start going to Al-Anon meetings, and you need to ignore a lot of this Dude's mean-spirited and unhelpful advice.

Sorry, Dude, I don't mean to hate on you, and your responses to LW#2 and LW#4 were spot-on. But I think your advice to LW#3 is not only misguided, it's unnecessarily cruel.


@Diana Oh, well said (re: LW3). You've nailed it.


@Diana You're right on, Diana. But in A Dude's defense, a lot of people that don't have intimate experiences with addicts fail to see how it ALL lines up and is ALL related to the addiction. You cannot separate the addict from the addiction until they get real help. Like you say, ALL the scumbaggy stuff? Addiction addiction addiction. It's the addiction! The crappy friends who are cool with you killing yourself (either slowly via booze or very quickly via your car)? Addiction.

You're also getting at a deeper point related to LW3's concern about whether or not she's being melodramatic. The addict will convince us we're the crazy ones that are overreacting - especially in these "early" stages/years of the addiction. Some of our friends might think you're overreacting, too! Because your brother is such a nice guy and just parties a little too often! You're not overreacting. Talk to your dad and get thee to Al-Anon. And talk to your friends, too. You probably don't talk enough but I'm sure they love you.

I realize this is broken record for Diana's comment and some of those above and below, but when I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on with my father, I would have appreciated reading basically the same recommendation about 150 times to reinforce the fact that I wasn't the jealous/crazy/overreacting one.

tin can phone

@Diana AGREE AGREE AGREE all of the agreeing!!!!!! Saying that her life isn't so great either and she could learns something from her {selfish} brother was so cruel and unhelpful.

Mimi Killjoy

@Diana The advice is still bad. What does the letter writer care if the guy she's hitting on is flattered if she's rejected and has to see him on her daily bus route? Even if it is for a brief period of time (since she's moving)? All of this dude's advice is bad. It might be well-intentioned, but it's not very insightful and it misses the mark in every case. None of it seems helpful in any practical way.


A friend of mine, in response to a rant I was on about "I want a girl who is healthy/maintains herself" as secret code for "I want a girl who will remain thin and pretty forever until I leave her for a thin, prettier, younger woman" wrote me this:

"You know what would be so hot? Is if a fellow wrote in his profile something like: "I'd love to live a long and healthy life with a partner. But I know that what we actually do with our bodies and minds can't always fight familial health histories and genetic tendencies toward diseases and debilitating conditions. Together, I'd like us to do the best we can to stay healthy-- keep our blood pressure rates and cholesterol counts down, for example. But I want you to know that I believe in the marital vow 'in sickness and in health,' and that we'll stand by each other whether ill or well."

Rowr. "

And Girl With Health Issues, that is the guy I want you to find. The Major Issues With Health Issues people are probably just being honest that they can't handle the complexity, such as it is, of health issues. But they are also living in a society that tells them they are entitled to expect that kind of health in a partner forever and ever. Which... not gonna happen. And they are responsible for acknowledging that intersection of privilege and preference.

People are medically complicated all through their lives. Have they thought about how they will respond when their partner is diagnosed with MS or Parkinson's? Cancer? Really Difficult Diabetes?

Yeah. Sickness and Health. It's not in marriage vows as we know them in the US for no reason.


i had no idea so many people were weirded out about someone they dont know speaking to them in public, and hated if a MAN opens a door for them because they are WOMAN, hear me roar!!

smh. maybe its a southern, old-fashioned thing?? but this just boggles my mind...how do you meet new people if you constantly have the mean mugg on and reject anyone even trying to say hello to you? you have the option of turning said person down, with nothing more than a "no, thank you", but you would be OFFENDED if someone even asked!? jeesh! and the door thing, i mean really? i dont think its a gender issue, but if you actually go out of your way to NOT have a door opened for you by a man, you have deeper issues than chivalry!!

The Lady of Shalott

@ThundaCunt It's not that I'm offended by people speaking to me on the bus--I'm really not. If someone asks me for the time, or where the bus stops, or which route it takes, or whatever, that's one thing. But after living in a big city where I've been solely dependent on bus service to get around, the ratio of normal people to weirdo creeps talking to me on the bus is SEVERELY skewed. One of my friends was sitting on the bus when some dude sat down next to her, said hello, and the next words out of hsi mouth were "Nice tits." Or people who want to convert me to whatever. Or want to sell me something. Crazies rarely take no for an answer, and seriously--they approach people ALL THE TIME.

I don't really meet new people by befriending random bus strangers. I meet new people through the people I know and work with and meet in bars. I don't particularly want to meet new people on the bus--I just want to get to wherever I'm going with a minimum of hassle.



I would love to live in the world where the creeps who approach me on the bus can be deflected with a polite, "No, thank you." I don't meet people on the sidewalk, I meet them through friends and family or in situations where I am clearly available to talk to strangers (parties, bars, social events). Maybe it's different in your region, but where I live, the Venn diagram of "men who approach me in public" and "men who are going to ask me to suck their dick behind the Walgreens" is a perfect overlap. I have been burned too many times to appreciate any kind of attention in these settings now. Sorry, I'm looking out for my safety and well-being at this point. Blame the assholes who think it's okay to sexually harass complete strangers, I think we can all agree they are ruining everything for the rest of us.


@ThundaCunt What I actually hate is when I try to hold the door open for a man, and he does the thing where he holds the door open over my head (I'm short) and makes me go in first. Like, I as a woman am NOT ALLOWED to do this, it is actually an expression of POWER rather than a courteous thing that one person does for another person. This is not a thing that happened one time; it was every single day at my last job (with a lot of military, old-fashioned guys).

Also, if "no, thank you" had been the end of my last stranger-hitting-on-me encounter, that would have been great. Because I would have missed the "I bet you're bad in bed, bitch!" and I really could have done without that.


@ThundaCunt If that is so, I would like to take this opportunity to offer training in taking offense to the entire American South. I have often thought about literacy volunteering but there is clearly a much greater deficiency in this area and frankly it shocks and frightens me. Taking offense is not difficult once you know how and it opens up new vistas of possibility the likes of which you cannot now imagine.

lessons in hating strangers can be had for a small additional fee.


@ThundaCunt I am a frozen bitch from the North and have plenty of friends, thank you. I do not need someone who has no idea what my daily commute is like telling me what should and shouldn't make me uncomfortable. And I don't have any particular personal history (EXCEPT THAT ONE TIME THAT SCARY GUY FOLLOWED ME OH MY GOD) to make approaches from strangers especially uncomfortable.

Take a shot, and feel okay about it, because it's probably fine. But don't dare assume that everyone, even in your own cultural settings, isn't handling major, major anxiety at being approached.

And the whole chivalry thing... it's a legitimate thing. I don't especially love having men I barely know perform chivalry for me. I don't have to love it. I have perfectly lovely relationships with the men in my life, and we get along fine, and I still don't like it.

I also don't really have an opinion on women who do like it. Or even on cultural settings where it is Still The Done Thing. I know there are perfectly fine ways to interpret this. I am pretty sure many women who don't like having doors opened for them do, too.

And if they do Have Issues, maybe they're Issues With A Reason?

You don't have the only read on how to negotiate this stuff. It's fine for people to feel differently about it.

dracula's ghost

@AnthroK8 yeah...when a man talks to me on the bus, my hackles immediately go up and I get a sick feeling in my stomach. "Oh boy, here we go again, me being humiliated in public by some crazy shit-heel." That is how I feel every single time a dude on a bus speaks to me for any reason aside from "what time is it" or something. I honestly can't think of a time when such a man turned out to be ANYTHING BUT A CREEP. And yeah, this has the effect of making you cold-shoulder dudes who might not be creeps. BUT, the number of times a dude talking to you on a bus turns out to be a creep is SO HIGH that you really can't blame a girl for doing the math and deciding "any man who speaks to me on a bus = creep." Because seriously, it's going to be the case almost every time. I think because non-creep dudes ARE AWARE OF THIS and thus aren't going to put themselves into that category.

People meet people at parties, at school, at yoga class, at all kinds of vaguely-vetted situations where the potential-meeting-of-a-dude is mutually agreed-upon by all parties beforehand. This is not the case on a bus.


@ThundaCunt The problem with bus-talkers is that for most people who live in big cities, the bus is our only means of commuting to our jobs. So, if you have an uncomfortable interaction with someone on your commute, then you have to see them every freaking morning, and there is no easy way to avoid them without changing your whole schedule. It's safer just to keep everything to polite nods.

Also, the only people who have EVER approached me on the street are either trying to sell me something or are total creeps. Or both. Hence, the "mean mugg," or as I like to call, it, Bitch Face.


@dracula's ghost I am sure there are Pinners here who read the INSANELY LONG COMMENTED "Schroedinger's Rapist" column over at Shapely Prose? Because, yes, how you react? Makes so much sense.

I've lived abroad, and I've worked in various different culturally different communities. And I know that courtesy and kindness and social contact making happen in different ways. And in some places a kneejerk reaction to an approach by someone is my own issue. And in some places people make friends in ways that are extremely baffling to me but make sense to everyone else.

But I also know I am a pretty good judge of my own cultural circumstances. And in my cultural circumstances, women are expected to like it when men pay them attention, and not all women like it and are told the problem is theirs. I do not like this.


@ThundaCunt: Way to stereotype! I'm going to take a wild guess and say that you don't live in a city, because you seem to have no idea of how to operate in one. People in cities know to give other people space and some semblance of privacy, because those things are in short supply and necessary to keep the peace. This includes not bothering them on public transit, doubly so during the morning commute. Sorry to violate your unearned sense of superiority, but we have reasons for the things we do, regardless of whether they offend your delicate sensibilities or not.


@ThundaCunt whoaaa!...clearly i dont live in a big city and all of your arguements are completely valid..i didnt mean to offend ANYONE! -__- i had no idea the ratio of assface to normal on a bus was so ridiculous...and i think i took it to mean 'in public, in general' MY B!! i would like to hope that awesome looking, amazing guy, with non-crazy eyes, would at least get a smile as opposed to "HELL NO!" if he approached any of you ladies? yes? awesome! but given the circumstrances and the fact that i have never rode the bus/subway/train in a even remotely big city, i had no clue!!! MY APOLOGIES!!!


@ThundaCunt For me, it's all about who's attempting the pick up, and the bar is much higher for random public transportation pick-ups than for other contexts (like, a bar). So if the guy is really hot, then score! If not, then it's "oh my goodness a creepy guy just hit on me on the bus I have to take a different way home to avoid him from now on.". When the same guy might have gotten a favorable response had he approached me in a different setting.


@ThundaCunt It's okay. I think it's easy to get touchy about this, because the number of Nice Guys (tm) who think they are entitled to a positive response from women is shockingly high. As someone said above, ruining it for the rest of us.

It sucks, and what's worse, you have to look out for yourself because you can't be sure other people will help you out.

So, you know. Bad experiences.


@Diana: "Hey, baby, you don't like Walgreens? That's OK - there's a CVS right on the next block..."

I'm sorry - I'm a horrible person.


@themegnapkin The problem is, hot guys can be predators too. I mean I'm generally in favor of protecting oneself vs. straight paranoia, but I just generally don't know how to react other than awkwardly when strangers talk to me. Like the other day, in the thrift store, when a random dude told me "you are adorable, no matter what you wear" while I was trying on scarves in a mirror? He probably meant well, but still--awkward.


@ThundaCunt I think the main indicator of the number of creeps on public transport is the number of "gropings" reported per year. Particularly in Japan. (I'm not trying to be offensive, or racist - i lived in Japan for a bit and it's true) When you're living in a huge city (like Tokyo for example), and the number of people on a bus/train is rather large, you're already involuntarily in pretty squeezy close contact with a whole bunch of strangers, which is quite uncomfortable to start off with. If a guy then takes advantage of the fact that you're bunched up close to him involuntarily to a) ask you out, b) COP A FEEL!!!! (both of which have happened to me in both Tokyo, Japan, and Melbourne, Australia), that's incredibly creepy. From my experience, if the public transport is a little bit emptier, and you're not forced to then finish the journey crushed into this guy's chest/bumping into their outstretched arm everytime the train wobbles as you desperately strain to move away, I think it would be ok. As long as the boy approached the issue with respect and DEFINITELY without any body-related compliments.


@ThundaCunt In defense of the public-transit-asking-outing, as I was a proponent of it further up the page, it MOST DEFINITELY depends on how you tackle the situation. I live in a big city with lots of creepos on the buses and where the general rule is to avoid eye contact with other passengers at all costs.

However, maybe when you see the same person every day and realize you have the same routine you can offer them a smile or other gesture of recognition. Eventually you might get to saying hi. Further down the road you might progress to small talk. Then maybe full-bus-ride-length conversations. After a couple of months maybe you ask if they want to hang out not-on-a-bus...

Then he tells you he has a girlfriend but somehow it hasn't come up in the three months you've actually been having full out conversations and you think "WHAT THE HELL?" and sometimes take a different bus route. But really, you're proud of yourself for making a bold move and are pretty sure you can do anything now. ...Or something like that.


@figwiggin Totally agree, it's not a great measure, but it's my gut reaction. I used to have a sliding scale for the guys I dated - the hotter they were, the crazier they could be. Even the craziest guy I dated was not really crazy, he was just on drugs and I was too naive to figure it out. He was really hot, though, and I came out of it with a few funny stories.


@themegnapkin This is the truth. The hottest guys I have ever dated have also been without fail the most unstable and dysfunctional. I am more suspicious of extremely attractive guys than just about anyone else.

Mad Dog

Is there such a thing as an anti-humblebrag? Where you tell your friends, loudly and explicitly, about something that makes you embarrassed/horrified/uncomfortable? Because that is how I usually feel about my bus encounters. For example: the older-than-my-father gentlemen who sat next to me, reeking of booze and weed, and said "Hey honey, want to get off at my stop and split a coffee? No? WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?"

Not all people love being approached on the bus. BUT I still think LW#1 should do it, provided she and BusBoy have established some eye contact/smiling/weather commentary.


Dude didn't actually answer #2, he just gave her some generic empowerment stuff about her medical issues don't matter. But she still needs to mention them to dudes she is dating, and the question was *when* to have that discussion. Which he utterly disregarded as an issue.

But also, if a dude decides not to continue dating her post-discussion, why's he gotta be an asshole? What if a guy likes his chili dogs, and is looking for a lady to eat greasy food with? Directly before this letter, Dude is talking about how nothing is objectively sexy and we're all allowed to like what we like. Then he immediately does a 180 and says everyone who won't date this lady is an asshole. WTF.


In regards to someone who wants to eat chili dogs with a girlfriend--er, wants their girlfriend to eat a chili dog while they are eating a chili dog--is that their highest priority of the relationship? I can think of probably no time when "sometimes no greasy food eating for me" would be a dealbreaker.
Her medical conditions don't make her lifestyle incompatible with other lifestyles. Therefore, if she was dumped after the big reveal, it's because her condition weirded the other person out. Ergo, asshole.


@Inkcrafter I think the belly button thing is the part most likely to be a problem. And I don't thing being surprised and initially made uncomfortable by the thought of unusual bodily functions automatically makes someone an awful person. If they leap away in disgust, then yes, they suck, and LW2 is well shot of them.

But when you're getting intimate with someone, you script the way you're likely to interact with their body, and when it turns out to be different to how you expect that may take some adjusting to. As some people have pointed out, there may be benefits! Lady-parts far removed from the business of waste disposal is pretty cool. If the guy is nice, and cares about you, he'll re-evaluate and find an upside.

Apart from her worries with regard to dating, this doesn't sound like it's a massive problem for LW2--it's just the way her body works. So one tactic that might help could be to de-medicalise it a bit. For example, is there any way LW2 might be able to hide the band-aid under something like a sticker, or a flat nipple-pasty type thing? People decorate their belly buttons with rhinestones and piercings and all sorts of stuff, so it's not culturally weird. It could actually look pretty cute, and make an easy segue into The Talk.

ETA: I'm not suggesting that LW2 should indefinitely change the way she treats herself/her body just to make life easier for any dudes she wants to bring home--but it sounded like she might want some tactics for bringing it up, and that's what I'm aiming for here.


@glitterary I'm not sure a nipple-pasty on the belly button is the way to go. It's an unusual condition, to be sure (I'd never heard of it before this post) and yes, some guys are going to be juiceboxes about it. I do agree that it's a blessing in disguise to be able to filter out the dickwads, but also, sometimes you don't want to filter the bad guys out right away because it takes awhile for a good one to come around. So LW2, I feel you, and I think the right time to bring it up probably depends on the person you're with, but maybe right as clothes are coming off? I don't see any need to preface it, unless you think the person would be so shocked that they would forget about their sexytime desires and need to halt the process to discuss. In which case, the day before you plan to get naked with him?

I also agree that no pee near the lady parts is a major selling point. No need for rhinestones!


Especially if she's JUST peeing out of it. I mean, I have dated people for a pretty long time without ever discovering for sure where their peehole is. I'm never even asked to be involved with peeing. It just doesn't affect me or my part of the relationship.


@Inkcrafter That's a great point. Who really knows out of which hole any of us pees?

Mimi Killjoy

@joeks I would not discuss an issue like that until things got serious. Obviously, before things got physical, but not until things were serious. I just wouldn't get physical unless things were serious. So, things would have to follow this sequence: get serious, tell him, proceed. That sort of thing requires a level of trust and familiarity. The hard thing is, during the interim, you're sweating it out like you have something to hide, always anticipating a problem, fearing exposure. It's quite a burden. There's a desire to get it out in the open- why invest time and get your emotions invested in someone who won't be able to deal with your issues? If there was only a way to tell... But the only way to know is to tell them, but you can't tell them too soon because telling them too soon is overwhelming them. Gah! It's like a snake that eats itself. A catch 22? I guess you just have to roll the dice. Take a risk. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Artressa Vandelay

I went out with a dude I met on the subway once. He asked me out after we saw each other a few times during the morning commute. Sure, he ended up being a phycho stalker that said he loved me after a couple weeks, but I don't blame it on the subway meet up scenario. In fact, I am hoping to work up the courage to ask out a dude I see walking near my office some mornings.


LW1 reminds me of this thing I read recently, in regards to feeling lonely, about how everywhere there's "a forest of little hands reaching out", hands signifying friendship. Common ground is that everyone has familiar strangers they know, and I bet we all feel a level of curiosity and compassion for them. It is totally cool to reach out and touch them right on the life.


This might be a little off-topic, but does anybody agree that there needs to be an alternative to AA for younger people. I know there is 'youth' AA and all that, but I've had friends in their twenties who are alcoholics and just hated the atmosphere of AA because they found it so hard to relate to.


@momentisaflower I think it depends on where you go. An AA meeting in a suburban environment? probably lots of middle-agers. AA in a college town? probably just on target.

Eliza Wharton

@momentisaflower @teenie It depends on where you go. There are people getting sober in their 20s who are not in the "young people" meetings (in cities, definitely). More than anything, if someone wants to get sober the best piece of advice is to try to identify and not compare. Those older folks in AA were once young alcoholics too.

fondue with cheddar

@momentisaflower I don't know how young of a group you're talking about, but my boyfriend joined Alateen when he was in high school, and it was great for him.


ok I think the answer to the first question is dumb because as other people have said NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO BE PICKED UP ON THE BUS and also there is a multitude of reasons why someone would turn down a date other than already being involved. I think this advice of "go for it, it can't end badly" is supposed to be all "yay self-esteem" but could end up in the LW's feelings getting hurt if the guy says no which is totally acceptable and ok for him to do!

Also the scumbag brother. Been there! My brother sucks. I was just talking with a coworker about him today. My advice would be send your brother to rehab/therapy or just throw him out on his own because the current coddling will not solve anything.


LW3, as some other people have said, sounds like she has an Alcoholic with a capital A brother. And basically everything else she said about him is inextricable from that. It reminds me of when my mom was at the height of her craziness, and she talked to a therapist and he explained to her that all of her problems had one answer: She's an alcoholic. Good because it simplifies things and gives it a name. Bad because you have to honestly decide whether or not you want to live, and if you do, your whole life must change. And every day for eternity is going to be a battle.

Al-Anon for LW3, conversations with her dad and qualified professional about how to proceed regarding the brother. AA and/or an intervention is probably the answer! Will he accept it? Who knows!

I am wishing positive energy towards that family. Intervention may make you feel melodramatic, but addiction is no joke, and it is literally life or death.


Oh, LW3, from one sister to another I am so sorry. The good news is, you’re facing the worst of it right now. The bad news is, as you have obviously already perceived, it’s far from over.

Your brother will get worse. His friends will eventually tire of his shit and cut off contact, not dramatically but slowly. The really hardcore ones, maybe the ones who first indulged him or turned him on to booze/drugs/whatever, will end up dead or in prison. At most he will have one or two enablers left, but they will be in no position to help themselves, let alone him. At the moment, as the rule-abiding, nagging sister, you know you’re in the least likely position to get him to listen to any advice you have. But you can already sense now that you and your father will be the ones left to pick up the pieces, and you’re right.

I don’t begrudge the Dude his advice, although it is stupidly breezy and unhelpful. There is no way to know what it is like to have a family member teetering on the edge until you’ve lived through it. While I certainly wouldn’t want to trade places with my parents now—now that they’re acknowledging and dealing with the reality of a seriously addicted adult child—but it is fucking tough to be the sibling. You have that special bond and insider knowledge of your brother’s mounting problems before anyone else in your family can see them. It’s like standing on top of a tall building seeing two cars coming around opposite corners in the same lane. They may not ever hit, so who are you to make a fuss now? Just because you can see them doesn’t mean you can predict the future. Trust me, it actually gets a little easier when everyone finally just acknowledges it. Some of your guilt will finally lift.

But as you probably already know, your brother is an alcoholic. He’s just a high-functioning one for now. And the lack of direction that you describe—that the dude mocks you for, because you’re so uptight and all— is probably at the root of a lot of his problems. I hope that one day, when my brother can stop abusing, that I can be there for that part, the purpose-building part. But in the mean time, take it from me, you can’t do much.


can we talk about the role played by gender in the art of the pickup? and appearance. because any old rando talks to me in public, I'm going to get stressed and then really, really aggressive. if he's well-groomed and attractive, I still won't be interested, but I won't be stressed. it'll just be funny/possibly annoying.

however, on the flipside, can I just say how awesome it is to be a lady? because I can* totally do the talking to/asking out/hitting on other girls and never ever ever have a problem. of course you get all fluttery and awkward and whatever before slipping her your number and a cute one-liner, but they were always super pleased. this does, of course, involve being able to read people.

*I can no longer do this because my lady would probably get really pissed at me for picking up girls who aren't her.


@Lucia Martinez unfortunately, attractiveness definitely does play a role in how I perceive getting picked up on the street (although like a dude said, attractiveness is subjective so I think people should try not to let their perception of how attractive or not they are influence whether or not they can pick someone up)

my concern is always more along the "but what if they have a girlfriend!" line, because I've totally had semi-flirtatious/friendly conversations with cute random strangers and been like okay now what's the next step! And then I wuss out.

it's also a double edged sword because I think guys should take more initiative to ask girls out, yet my response when it actually happens is usually negative (like when this guy walking along the sidewalk suddenly veered towards me with a creepy smile on his face, in a way that made me feel like he was trying to trap me into the bushes and my response was "SERIOUSLY? Stop." with a look of disgust on my face, although that's not a very good example because ... seriously? ugh stop.)

anyways, yeah it's nice that as a girl I could probably ask out any random person and they would be flattered and probably respond positively. I'm too shy to do it though?? I need to work on this.


@Lucia Martinez Yes, THIS. I have been thinking this when reading other comments about 'if anyone approached me on public transport I'd shut them down', because I think the context is key. I have been in the position of skeezy guys thinking they can talk to me on public transport, but the situation the letter writer is talking about is Not That.
If a nice lady wearing adorably slightly too-tight hot lady clothes approached you, surely you would not feel threatened?
Anyway, for what it's worth, I would slip him a piece of paper with my number on, probably, because I am a wimp.

Chloe Herrman@facebook

My boyfriend also has the tendency to leave the restaurant quickly as I'm collecting my purse and jacket. Or he'll be ready to leave and I want to finish my drink. I decided long ago not to take offense to this and just take my sweet time. It may bug me that he wants to leave quickly, but then again it probably bugs him that I am not as urgent about leaving. And if either one of us ends up getting cranky about it, I just chuckle to myself because it turns out to be one of those silly, almost endearing parts of our relationship.


I had a starbucks crush and i was quite sure he didn't know i existed. i always saw him as i had to leave...i caught a glimpse of him one day and since then waited around starbucks until the last possible minute before i had to go to work to see if i could glimpse him again-and i usually did, like thirty seconds before i had to leave. yesterday!!! i had time to sit down and have a cigarette with him (oh, the natural social opportunities afforded us smokers) and we've been together since.


@withsharpclaws Ever since...yesterday?

Donovan Gentry@twitter

I am a dude who always opens doors for his girlfriend to compensate for the fact that I walk too fast and therefore always reach the door first. Is this okay?

(Also, I really will open the door for anyone following within a couple steps of me.)

Donovan Gentry@twitter

@Donovan Gentry@twitter Also it just occurred to me that while I will hold the door open for women and let them enter first, I will usually only hold the door open long enough for another dude to grab it, then enter myself. I think I'm subconsciously trying not to step on other-dude's machismo. I don't want some dude thinking that I think he can't hold the door open himself, and therefore disrespect him.

Etiquette is hard.


@Donovan Gentry@twitter i think it's okay!


Oh LW2, I hear you sister. My chronic illness defined my 20's to the point where I didn't date at all. In part because, well, I was sick. But also because how do you tell new cute guy that sometimes you get super duper embarrassingly ill and try to never be more than 20 feet from a toilet even though you look perfectly healthy? And how will I explain the physical reminders that are there? Not to mention the pill bottles to rival most 90 year-olds? I didn't even have the faintest of clues. So, I didn't explain it and resigned myself to a long and fulfilling spinsterhood.

After literal years of treatment and therapy of both the physical and mental kind I wrapped my head around both being sick and maybe even dating and set myself some rules that have mostly paid off.

1. Never on the first date. Obvious, right? But sometimes it helps to remind yourself of that so that you know it's off the table.
2. Set no specific timeline. It's my news to share and I will share it in my own damn time. If it feels like something to bring up on date two, fine. If not, whatever, date three or four would do.
3. Don't wait forever. Sure, no specific timeline, but before we're planning our nuptials is a good plan.
4. Keep it light, be informative, don't give more than he can take. I give the bare bones with a little detail and some humor. Answer all the questions that a dude might have and be done with it for then. I will fill in the gaps for him over time if he doesn't bolt.
5. He might bolt. It's happened. I hate that it's happened, but it has. And, in the long run, thank goodness it has. I don't want that guy, because however good he seemed, if he can't handle this, he can't be with me.

Write your own rules. Play the game that works for you. That's the best I can offer. It sucks when an otherwise great guy hits the hills, but the thing is that he is an otherwise great guy and you deserve the one with no exceptions. The one that can't get over the bandaid and the gallbladder and whatever else is the one that can't actually see the awesome lady in front of him. I know, for a fact, that there is a guy who will love the entirety of you without any caveats. Your only job is to keep being your awesome self.


@foureyedgirl This is the advice that I wish the Dude had given. So useful. I really like the no specific timeline bit. Every interaction is different, it's so hard to find a Right Time, and saying 'third date is the timeframe' is just more pressure.

And I do feel like there is a space for people who know they are not up for that kind of relationship, without them necessarily being arseholes. I have a couple of chronically ill friends, and sometimes it is hard to be their partners. I think recusing yourself rather than being the person who leaves someone while they can't get out of bed is just respectful. Bad luck, they miss out on sharing their life with someone awesome. As you say, people deserve no exceptions.


@Craftastrophies Oh yes, it is good to open the door for a simple, "you know, I just don't think I can do this." But there is also this: I once dumped a guy when he said, after being asked if he thought our obviously not working relationship was working, "I was waiting for you to get better." Oof. No, dude.

Luckily I have stumbled (via the internet) upon a very nice twoeyedboy who sticks with me neither in spite of nor because of my illness, because he loves the whole of me. It took until my mid-30's but that's how I know it can all pan out.


@foureyedgirl Whhhhaaa.

Some people. Jeez.


OMG, I was already eating Nutella out of the jar! Can you see me? Also, this my favorite A Dude ever.

Two-Headed Girl

LW1: I'm dating my old bus crush! We met due to entirely different circumstances, but still. Anyways, as a rule, coming from a lady who lives in a big city, I would *not* like to be asked out on a bus, even by someone I saw every day and who seemed relatively normal. Too many creeps. Last week I got followed halfway home by a homeless dude, and I live in a pretty safe area. Maybe post a missed connection on Craigslist or something?

LW2: I have a chronic condition that's not as serious as yours, but still bad enough that it affects my day-to-day life. My rule for bringing it up is to wait until after the first few dates, but before you start going home together (in any regular way.) And also not to frame it as a "I have something major to tell you", because yes, it's very important, but going about it like that also has a habit of making sound way scarier than it actually is, even to people who would normally be completely rational about it.


Etiquette girl: just tell your boyfriend what you want. Don't frame it in Freudian terms (you're lashing out against your mother blah blah), just be like, "You know, I'd feel a lot more appreciated if you'd open a door or pull out a chair for me from time to time." And then, once you're in the situation, remind him. See a door? Ask, "Can you get that for me?" And, you know, quid pro quo, Clarice (do you mind if I call you Clarice?). Do nice things for him too.
I know that's what Dude basically said, but I thought his approach was sort of wishy-washy. Just tell him what you want. You don't have to explain the whys or the wherefores, just be like: THIS, PLEASE.


@dragoness I have to second that. It is another employment of valuable "I" statements. More people need to use them. They teach them to kids in preschool. Maybe everyone needs refresher lessons through-out life.


LW#2 made me stop in my tracks - she sounds really similar to a guy I went on a few dates with a few years ago (the same surgery, and similar other medical issues). I found out when I initiated some first- or second- date action so I think I may have pressed him to talk about it before he was ready. I was a little shocked but I liked the guy and it's certainly a better revelation than "I've got the syph and refuse to go to the doctor." and then we had sex.

Sure, it's a complication but there are all sorts of things in life and relationships that are complicated. The percentage of people for whom it's going to be a deal breaker are very slim (and probably compose a good portion of the not-ready-for-serious-business and the not-going-to-stick-with population). I was 24 when I dated this guy and it was a little bit of a shock since it was a new experience for me.

I guess my suggestion is that it's probably something to bring up around when clothes are going to be coming off. Not just because that's when a guy will see the scars and band-aid, but also because that's when you're reaching a heightened level of closeness in general. Maybe not right before sexing, but when it becomes clear things might be headed in a more intimate direction. And especially if you're young, people may take it weirdly, but there's a difference between "um... ok..." awkward and guys really feeling put back by it.

[Things didn't work out between me and that guy, btw, but only because we were dating casually and both happened to start dating our future spouses at the same time. At least, that's what facebook tells me.]


@arrr starr Yeah, that makes sense. I'd probably suggest a good time to initiate the conversation is snuggle time--at the making-out stage, but before sex, and preferably in a setting where it's clear that sex isn't on the table *that night*. Just getting-to-know-you snuggles.


Re: asking out strangers - how about dudes you meet in class? I know bus crushes are harder 'cause there's not really much to talk about besides "hey, we ride the bus together, how about that" but...let's just say you are taking a class with the World's Handsomest Dude but he never talks and the way things work out you're never able to grab a seat next to him and so you are always stuck on the other side of the room, awkwardly trying to make eye contact and then getting real embarrassed and staring at your notebook? What is the un-creepiest, least possibly embarrassing way to conduct some kind of classroom asking-out-ing in a situation like that? Like, I mean, just hypothetically speaking.


@flannery let me tell you how this panned out for me! I had a crush on a guy that lived on the same floor as a friend of mine AND was in my major. And I totally pined for an entire semester, and then finally I just got up the nerve and went and sat down next to him and was like, hey I know x who knows you, we should be friends!

nothing really happened that year BUT the next year he came and sat down next to me in a class! Success!

It never progressed past class buddies. But I recommend just going for it, because the feeling of euphoria leaving that review session was incredible! Yeah girl! I did it! I'm awesome! Big huge smile!

Ask to borrow a pen :P or ask what the date is. Ask if he's studied at all for x. Not creepy!


LW#1, just gotta read body language etc as to whether a person is open to being bothered. Just sitting there? Ask away! Reading a book? That's a "no solicitations" sign, right there.

Nave Espacial

@Danzig! Totally agree. Nothing drives me more crazy than when I am wearing headphones and sunglasses and burying my face in a book and people still try to strike up a convo with me. NO THANKS!


Nooooooooooo, A Dude, you are so wrong with regards to LW3. Come on, 'she's just jealous because he's got more friends than her?' No way. He may be totally surrounded by "friends" - my boyfriend's brother's friends-list on FBook is something in the area of 300 - because he's super-charming and puts up a front of being a great father, a great sibling, a great son. He's not. It's all surface. If this guy's friends know that he drinks himself to the point of immobility, then hey! They're not friends! They're just people with the same drug/booze seeking behavior he's got, and they don't give a fuck about him.

LW3, I am really sorry, but your brother is an addict and you have to set some strong boundaries with him. I read your letter and I was like "Wow, this sounds like [my boyfriend's brother], wow, that does too, wow, that does too!" He has a long history of substance abuse and DUI's... one of the last ones involved him getting pulled over drunk with his infant in the backseat [he & the mother are no longer involved in the child's life]. He is effectively a sociopath - he has no empathy for the rest of us and his only interest in the family is what we can do for him monetarily.

I totally understand that you love your brother but right now you need to stop drinking with him, make it clear that he has a problem, stop giving him money, stop giving him a place to live, and get yourself to regular Al-Anon meetings. Your dad needs to stop giving him a job to flake out on, stop giving him money, stop giving him a place to live, make it clear that he has a problem, and get himself to regular Al-Anon meetings. There's no making an addict better. There's only making it clear that you'll help them get help WHEN they decide they want help.

Stop letting your brother make your life harder.


A little off-topic, but related, to LW3... My dad has been a smoker since before I was born (I'm 24). He hides it from the family, but my mom knows (obviously) and she and I talked about it when I found out at age 11. He has literally been trying to quit since then.
I know it's hard to quit smoking, but I'm full of resentment and rage that he hasn't quit yet. My grandpa (his dad) quit his pipe-smoking years ago. My grandad (who quit before I was born) died two years ago, FROM LUNG CANCER. This somehow makes it feel like a slap in the face (not just to my mom, but to the rest of our family). I have never talked to him about it, an am a lot closer with my mom. But I really really want him to quit. He is in his mid-fifties and is starting to have othe health problems (nothing too serious; high cholesterol, etc). I just want him to be alive and healthy. Is there a good way to approach this situation?


"worst case ontario" is maybe my favourite eggcorn

tin can phone

To lady #1: Yes! As long as you aren't scary and intimidating and gross about hitting on people on the bus, it's totally fine! One time, I was feeling kind of frumpy sitting on the bus and when I got off, a younger kind of hipstery dude got off too. He tapped me on the shoulder and said "Excuse me, I just wanted to tell you that you are absolutely stunning." and then walked away. It remains to this day one of my top-5, all time best compliments.


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