weekend free-for-all – April 11-12, 2015

Olive on blanketsThis comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly non-work only; if you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Book Recommendation of the Week: Last week I recommended one book told through letters; this week I’m recommending another, but with a very different type of story. E: A Novel by Matt Beaumont. It’s a highly amusing novel about the work life at a dysfunctional ad agency, told entirely through emails. It’s dark, funny, and vicious.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,141 comments… read them below }

  1. Carrie in Scotland*

    In a strange quirk of coincidence, 84 Charing Cross Road (last week’s book recommendation) was on display at the shop I volunteer in on Saturday’s – so I bought it and promptly gobbled it up. I love it, and the copy I have also has the book she wrong based on Charing Cross where she is doing publicity for it.

    1. Lillie Lane*

      Speaking of novels written as letters, has anyone else read “Daddy-Long-Legs”? I loved that book as a kid.

      1. Jaune Desprez*

        That was a very fun book. Jean Webster also wrote “Dear Enemy,” which is not quite as good but still worth picking up. She wrote some others as well, but I think those two were considered her best.

        If you liked Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books for children (A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, etc.), have you tried any of her books for adults?

        1. Lillie Lane*

          I’ll check those out! There is something so sweet and charming about those Edwardian era novels.

        2. Merry and Bright*

          My answer to this would be “not yet”. By coincidence, I downloaded some to my Kindle the other day when they were on special offer. I also loved the children’s books she wrote. My parents still have these for me in their loft – pending the day I can afford a flat with more storage space (but that is another story altogether!)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yes! I might even have it–I have to check. I have an entire bookcase full of children’s/young adult books and some of the shelves are a couple of rows deep. I’m in trouble if I ever move, heh heh.

              1. Chocolate Teapot*

                I picked up The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett years ago at a second hand booksale. It was published by Persephone Books who re-published out of print classics.

                For novels written as letters, I bought a new Penguin translation of Dangerous Liasions. It always surprises me how the plot manages to advance when the characters spend all of their time writing!

                1. Jaune Desprez*

                  Sarah Caudwell’s Thus Was Adonis Murdered is a fun, witty epistolary novel.

                  I guess Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is sorta-kinda epistolary (written as a multiple-POV series of reminiscences rather than letters). I love that book so much that it would probably go in my desert island top 10!

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              I loved Edward Eager when I was a kid! I recently re-read a bunch of his stuff before sending it off to my niece. It holds up surprisingly well.

          1. Merry and Bright*

            I loved E Nesbit as a child (well, still do!). I grew up in the same part of London where some of the children live so at the time I thought seeing the place in print was pretty cool! Probably one of the reasons my local library stocked so many copies. These days I have them on my e-reader.

            My mum had a cousin who moved to the States in the 1970s and I am always fascinated to learn from her which writers have travelled well across the Atlantic. Separate from that though, I liked reading children’s stories by American authors too. My favourite were the “Katy” books by Susan Coolidge. I found these when they were televised in the 70s by the BBC, then read the books. I thought Katy was great because she seemed a bit more human and rounded than some children’s book”heroines”.(Probably why I think Jo March rocks – and she is a book person too!)

          2. Jaune Desprez*

            I adored The Twenty-One Balloons! When I was a little older, I started reading Jules Verne and found that same love of invention and adventure in his books.

            1. Kara Zor-El*

              I also adored the Twenty-One Balloons! I rediscovered the book a few years ago and happily reread it. I wanted my own theme house/restaurant so badly!

              I also loved E Nesbit and Edward Eager. Think I will need to reread the Half Magic books soon…

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Noooooo…… :\

            I have mostly the stuff I read as a child (though I donated all my Trixie Beldens to a library sale). Some of it was my mum’s, like the Nancy Drews, Thornton W. Wilder, Bobbsey Twins, and some old teen books like Polly French (I had one and found two more at the flea market). I have The Little House books, my picture books, books I read as a kid/teen and found later (thank you, Internet), and a ton of stuff I read as an adult like Gary Paulsen and various Newbery books. Through a friend, I bought almost the entire set of Maida books, which are very much like The Secret Garden in the beginning (more info: http://www.ethomsen.com/maida/).

            I had a twelfth-grade reading level in second grade, so I ended up reading a lot of stuff from the adult section. And I was a horror fan from a very young age–I have a second bookcase in the back room also that is overflowing with horror and some sci-fi (I’m just getting into that). All my Stephen Kings and Harry Potters are in the hallway. I have books all over the house. Way too many–I ended up donating eight boxes to the library sale a couple of years ago and there are more in the garage that need to go.

            1. Merry and Bright*

              The piece about Stephen King and Harry Potter makes me think of one of my favourite non-fiction books: Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. ;}

              1. fposte*

                Oh, I hadn’t heard of that, and I’ve liked Susan Hill for a long, long time. Thanks for the recommendation!

            2. Connie-Lynne*

              Trixie Belden was _so cool_. I got some Trixie Belden novels in a stack of books given to me by … somebody. I could never find any others.

              I recently did finally find the first book in the _Tom Corbett, Space Cadet_ novels I got from my dad (via my grandparents). That same shipment included a bunch of _Rick Brant Science Adventures_. Does anyone else remember those? Basically they were the same kind of series as Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, but with a focus on science fiction. The Tom Corbett novels were what you’d expect; the Rick Brant stuff was kind of a cross between Jonny Quest and Indiana Jones.

              Both series were sexist as all get out, but they were so much fun to read as a kid!

      3. Vicki*

        Also speaking of novels written as… correspondence, one of my all-time favorites from decades ago is “Up The Down Staircase”, by Bel Kaufman.

    2. Melissa*

      I started reading E. today. When you break out into the snorty giggles on the bus, people will STARE at you.

  2. Hey Anonny Anonny*

    Tired of spouse’s depression, anxiety and “issues”. Can’t afford the spousal support of we divorce. Ashley Madison, yea or nay?

        1. Expendable Redshirt*

          Ack! No! Ashley Madison actions would be a violation of your marital vows. And increases the chance of that unaffordable divorce.

          First step is to eat some ice-cream. You need to recharge and invest in some self care.

          +1 For personal or couples therapy.

            1. Expendable Redshirt*

              Getting hitched involves the expectation of monogamy. Unless otherwise stated.

              True, not everyone says fancy words. I Was trying convey that Ashley Madison goes against the spirit and the letter of traditional marriage.

        2. Hey Anonny Anonny*

          Did couples’ therapy, spouse is OK with every couple of months or less and has no interest in changing, but won’t accept (as Dan Savage says, a monogamish msrriage). Also, spouse is on total disability, thus can’t work and the spousal support.

          In a no-fault divorce state, so getting caught wouldn’t change the cost to me.

          I’m just fed up and frustrated.

          1. Florida*

            Go to therapy again. If your spouse won’t go with you – go alone. I have a hard time believing that spouse is 100% the problem. Nearly all relationship problems involve two people.

            If you think the only answer is divorce, then get divorced – but don’t have an affair. To me, an affair is a cop out. If the marriage is truly unsalvageable, then at least get a divorce. Just because an affair won’t change the cost of the divorce, does not mean that it’s OK.

            1. Billy Oblivion*

              > I have a hard time believing that spouse is 100% the problem

              In the same way that Alison recently wrote about employees who don’t get along, and how it’s a mistake to assume that both parties are at fault, it is also a mistake to assume that this kind of problem is the fault of both partners in the marriage. Indeed, the nature of the issue is such that it could easily rest 100% on the partner who says “no”.

              1. Colette*

                Mental illness is not a choice. How you deal with it is. So if your spouse chooses to pretend their illness is not happening, that’s their choice. If you decide to cheat instead of making hard decisions or having tough conversations, that’s your choice. If you do that, the state of your marriage is not 100% your partner’s fault.

                Similarly, if I have a terrible boss, I can quit that job. However, I’m not justified to see business secrets to competitors.

                1. Florida*

                  Yes. This is what I meant when I said that I have a hard time believing it is 100% the other person’s fault. Thank you for saying it better than I did.

          2. fposte*

            Have you talked to a lawyer in your state or are you assuming on the spousal support? If you did find yourself a girlfriend and your wife found out, what would happen? (And have you priced having a girlfriend while married? It’s not cheap either.)

            I think the Ashley Madison opening was kind of offputting, but underlying it is a problem I have sympathy for.

          3. TL -*

            I say go for Ashley Madison but be careful and safe and don’t put your spouse for at any unnecessary risk (basically, use physical protection for anything penetrative.)

            In the meantime, save up for the divorce and work towards separating.

            1. Nashira*

              Uh no safer sex involves using barriers for all forms of contact, and even then it’s not a magical panacea. Choosing to cheat and have sex is putting your partner at risk for diseases that can have long term consequences, especially because they have not consented to the exposure and may not realize that they are ill. That’s not acceptable.

              1. TL -*

                It sounds like it’s a fairly complicated situation and if divorce isn’t an option, maybe finding some safer release – yes, there’s no such thing as truly safe sex – will help them work towards a better relationship while also getting their ducks in a row for an eventual separation.

          4. ® ® ® ® ® ® ®*

            The way you phrase the problem, it indeed sounds like you have a choice between a faithful but relatively sexless marriage, and a faithless marriage where you try to get some on the side.

            For the sake of completeness, have you considered that sex toys are remarkably sophisticated these days, and porn is ubiquitous and unbelievably cheap?

            But if you’re going to cheat, I believe that Dan Savage and others have written about how to do it “ethically” (probably not really the correct word, but the idea is: “minimize the hurt to others”). I hope you look into it.

            1. TL -*

              I don’t think sex toys are going to help if the difference is one wants it more than one a month and the other wants it 3-6 times a year.

            2. Kat*

              Porn sucks. It isnt meant to be a replacement for an active sex life.

              Anonny, you are an adult. Make your own choice. Just be prepared for the consequences should you get caught. Dont blame your spouse for forcing you to turn to cheating. That is 100% on you. Honor your marriage vows and keep your integrity or cheat and lose self respect and the respect of others once you are found out.

              I wish you the best.

            3. Alston*

              I agree with the above. It sounds like you already read Dan Savage. Why not write him, or at least read some of what he’s written on the subject.
              Also, would divorcing leave you living in your car or just stunt your lifestyle? Might be better to be miserable because you are broke but getting laid, than being miserably trapped in the marriage AND sexless.

          5. vvondervvoman*

            Ok. So I’m a sex educator and my marriage is open. While I’ve never cheated/been cheated on, I have a strong bias against cheater that I’m disclosing because while I’m going to try to not let my personal judgements seep in, it just might.

            Others have asked, but really, what are your goals? Aside from the sex-less part, is everything generally ok? Or has other stuff contributed to the sex issue? It sounds like if money were no object, you would leave your spouse in a heartbeat. Have you told them this? They may be under the impression that you’re unhappy, but not -this- unhappy. Also, keep in mind how old you are. In your 50’s-60’s? Yea, maybe you can keep this up until one of you dies. But 20’s-40’s? You’re talking 20-60 years of this arrangement, so that’s not something to jump into.

            If it were possible, would you even want to be intimate more frequently with your spouse? I’m not sure what the couple’s therapy included, but did it explicitly cover how to be sexual with different desire levels? For instance, would you be comfortable going solo while spouse watched/something else sexy? Or maybe a throwback to high school and have sessions that include just first-third base? Once you look outside of penetration as the only way to be sexual, you may realize there’s more room for compromise than you believe is possible now. If it helps, this is not just for marriages with “problems.” It’s a trick I use all the time in my own relationships! Sometimes you’re just tired but you want to be close and intimate in a sexual way. That doesn’t have to mean PIV!

            Another thing you haven’t addressed, but may not be relevant. Does your spouse’s disability have an impact on their ability to get in the mood? Or meds that may be affecting libido? Is there a chance they could talk to their doctor and see if some adjustments could be made? This is literally the #1 reason for sexual dysfunction and it’s usually the easiest to fix.

            As others have mentioned, if you do go ahead with this, almost any other option is better than Ashley Madison. Ick.

            1. Nashira*

              This is advice I would like to co-sign all over the place. Disability on my end meant that my husband and I had to expand our definition of good sex, and I picked up the knack of “reactive arousal” – we play, he gets aroused, I become aroused because he is. Then I got off Cymbalta and suddenly had a libido again (and blood that clotted in less than ten minutes).

              If both partners want to work on rebuilding a physically intimate relationship, sometimes it’s possible. But you have to go into it with good faith, empathy, and understanding. Otherwise, breaking up can be a kindness to you both.

          6. bridget*

            From a purely practical perspective as an FYI, “no fault divorce” does *not* mean that infidelity or other wrongdoing won’t be taken into consideration with regard to spousal support awards. It means that you don’t have to show that something bad happened to actually get the divorce–it used to be that divorce was only allowed if you could show that your spouse cheated, was abusive, abandoned you, etc. Under no fault divorce laws, you can get a divorce for any reason or no reason. But when making the divorce decree, judges in those states can and do take wrongdoing into account when ordering support payments.

            As to your actual question, I say nay to Ashley Madison. It sounds like the terms of your marriage don’t include being monogamish, so if you want to change those terms, you need to get out of the marriage, because until you do that, you have commitments to your spouse. If that is expensive, I say pony up.

    1. Billy Oblivion*

      Probably not really to your point, but I’d stay away from Ashley Madison. I grew curious about it a few years ago[1] and signed up for it for free with a throw-away account. It may have changed, but at the time you’d buy points to allow you to chat with other members. I was suspicious of how many “hello” kinds of emails I got from women – even without my having posted a picture. I strongly suspect that there are people (or maybe just bots) on there that try to make the place seem “friendly” and thus encourage you to buy lots and lots of points so you can chat.

      Another surprise came when I attempted to cancel: I was told that although I’d canceled, my data (including any photos) would stay on the site for up to (I think it was) 2 weeks. OR I could pay around $100 for their special “instant” cancel/clean-sweep that wiped everything immediately. Pretty sleazy – in case it’s not obvious, they were trying to make money off of people who were nervous that their spouse might find their data on the system.

      I don’t know this for a fact but I hear that Tindr is still a popular thing, esp if you’re young and pretty. FetLife if you’re older and kinkier. Grindr if you’re gay (and male, I think). One of these days I might peek at Tindr, but I’ve so far lacked the motivation. These things tend to require some time and effort to register etc (which I think is by design; I don’t think they want to encourage throw-away accounts)(I could be wrong) and I haven’t found the time or motivation.

      [1] I know what you’re thinking *grin* but I work in social / mobile software development. And I told my wife about the “experiment” before I started.

      1. Christy*

        Incidentally, I totally agree that Ashley Madison is likely the wrong choice if you want to cheat. There are much better online options. (And Grindr is for men only.)

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If you’re serious? Big fat “nay”. First, that’s never a good solution, and second, you think you’ll make your inevitable divorce any easier and get more sympathy if you sign up for AM? Go get some couple’s therapy.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I wrote a fairly lengthy and highly judgmental reply that somehow didn’t post. Probably for the best – it may have been the universe’s way to stop being a jerk.

      But I’m repeat this part of it: You’ve obviously only written a few sentences here, but it sounds like you don’t really care about your spouse’s health/happiness/etc. If that’s true, then I don’t think there’s any reason not to have an affair/find someone to have casual sex with. If that’s not true – if you love your spouse, are worried about their health, and just didn’t take the time to express that here – then you know the answer. Take care of your spouse in their time of need; be loving; figure out how to move forward together or separately with grace and generosity.

      1. Expendable Redshirt*

        The last sentence was quite nice.

        It’s nice to fantasize about an escape from your problems OP. Being fed up and frustrated makes casual sex/an affair seem like a great idea! It would likely even make you feel good temporarily.
        But it will not solve your problems. You and your wife both deserve to live healthy, happy lives. Either invest in the relationship, or decide on a respectful seperation. Having an affair(s) will only hurt your wife and result in you living in a spirit degrading situation.

      2. Jean*

        +1 re nice final sentence.
        Lots of wise counsel here from multiple commenters! OP, I hope their collective advice helps you to avoid an affair. Neither you or your current (or soon-to-be ex) spouse will benefit if you add more drama & distress to an already unhappy situation.

    4. Clever Name*

      You’re asking strangers on the Internet for permission to cheat; sounds like you’ve already made up your mind. However, if you are balking at paying alimony, what happens when your spouse catches you cheating and then files for divorce? I’m sure the judge will be totally sympathetic to your argument of “I got tired of my spouse because of their issues, so I went looking elsewhere because I didn’t want to pay spousal support”

    5. AMD*

      The Marriage Bed is a great religious sex and marriage website with thoughtful, intelligent forum posters with whole boards on dealing with sexual refusal in marriage. I’d recommend checking it out, reading some posts and posting yourself if you are comfortable.

    6. Grey*

      Nay. Wait until you’re divorced. Then you’ll at least have some dignity left for your next relationship. You don’t want to be known as someone who’ll cheat if things get rough.

      When I look back at my time with the ex, I can always say “at least I stayed faithful”. My current girlfriend finds that admirable.

      1. Dan*

        Yeah, I went with “save myself some dignity” too. I want future partners to know that I won’t treat them like shit when the going gets tough.

        I got the short end of the stick. It would have been much easier for both of us if my ex could have looked me in the eye and said “this isn’t working out. I want to move on.”

        1. Bea W*

          Totally this. When I find out someone has cheated on their SO (married or not), I lose respect and trust in them. It’s not unreasonable to think if they’ve done it before with someone else they supposedly loved, what’s to stop them from doing it again with me. I do respect someone who say approached their SO to talk frankly about having an open arrangement or that it is not working out, and when that can’t be worked out they do the right thing and end the relationship.

          One is honest and shows thought for the partner. The other is dishonest and selfish and ends up hurting people in ways honesty doesn’t.

    7. Nay, naturally*

      Wow. Did you think when you agreed to get married that your marriage was guaranteed to be depression, anxiety and issue-free? The point of a marriage is “in sickness and in health”, even if you don’t say those exact words. Unless, of course, both sides decide to end it.

      What if the shoe were on the other foot? Would you want to be dropped if you had depression or anxiety? Having those issues is not what makes you a bad person. Your spouse having issues like those does not justify cheating.

      You need to actually face your marriage issues, not look for a distraction. There are some low-cost therapy options. There’s always the option of sitting your spouse down and letting her know you’re unhappy. Maybe together, you can agree on mutually beneficial solutions, instead of going behind her back.

      1. not my best self*

        I absolutely would end a relationship if my partner became depressed or developed some other significant mental health issue. I know (from experience) that I cannot be a good, supportive, respectful partner to someone who needs that extra care and patience. For this reason, I deliberately date only mentally healthy, stable people and would break up if my partner developed some mental health issue that affected our dynamics in any substantial way because I Did Not Sign Up for that.

        This doesn’t mean that I think people with those issues are bad people who don’t deserve to be loved. I just know I am not equipped to deal with their issues constructively and it would be better for the both of us to separate. Maybe Anonny is dealing with something similar. I don’t think it’s fair to tell them that their unhappiness is not a “good enough” reason for a divorce.

        1. Nay, naturally*

          I want to be clear that I don’t have an issue with divorce in general. As I said in my post, he does have the option of sitting her down and letting her know he’s unhappy. Then they can come up with a solution, and if divorce is the answer, so be it. What I have an issue with is cheating. I could never endorse deception in any relationship. The OP asked for a vote, and that’s mine.

        2. Dan*

          I’d qualify your first statement with “and doesn’t properly treat it.” We sign up to support another person, not be their parent or caretaker.

          The minute you become caretaker, that’s the minute your needs stop getting met. I can’t function in that environment either.

          Mental health issues don’t give one spouse the right to make a huge mess and tell the other to clean it up without taking responsibility for their role in it.

          1. fposte*

            Right, that’s what I’m thinking. A good friend of mine almost broke up with her husband over this for physical problems, because he wouldn’t go for treatment and wanted her to do all the support instead. (He finally regrouped and they stayed together.)

            I think there are two conflicting general impulses here. One is that people shouldn’t have to stay married if they don’t want to stay married. I don’t think you’re required to stay married until *both* sides decide to end it, and I think that most Americans don’t either, hence the popularity of no-fault divorce.

            But it’s hard to reconcile that with the feeling that it’s really bad to leave somebody who’s ill. That flickers around a little–there are ways to de facto separate that can be perceived as okay (a spouse with Alzheimer’s going into a care home, say). But if you look, for instance, at the statistics about “well spouses,” as they’re called, who take care of their sick partners, it’s generally a significant psychological and physical burden that comes at a health cost. So we’ve got a situation where it’s okay to leave if your partner bores you but not if you want to avoid shortening your life by several years, and that’s weird.

            Obviously, for most people it doesn’t get that far, and many of us with various illnessness are capable of being contributing and supportive partners. But I don’t think we have any cohesive cultural view on marriage and obligation.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              This. Some couples just stay together through it all. I don’t think there is any one reason why- I think when couples chose to stay together there are numerous things going on. One of the elements is a feeling of “I want to stay and help this person.” I know this is one of the things that pushed me along when my husband was sick and dying. And he handled things in a manner that encouraged me to keep going, keep hanging in there. (Okay, he was heroic.)

              I am not seeing any of this stuff in OP’s situation. Granted, his spouse is not terminal but you cannot help a person that is not willing to be helped. Matter of fact, all the money and people in the world are not going to be able to help such an individual. Additionally, a person with ANY type of illness who refuses to get treated will tend to cause more discomfort to those closest to them. It could be discomfort in terms of money/energy/isolation/etc. The effects of these discomforts are cumulative and can cause injury to others. It may not be physical injury, but it is still injury. I have seen people push their loved ones away when they knew they were going down the wrong road. It could be that OP’s spouse wants him to leave. That is extreme, of course. But, OP, you won’t know until you try to find out. Does your spouse want your marriage to work? That is the bottom line.

              Yeah, you can go ahead and decide to have that affair in spite of all the cautions you read here. All you have done is add another layer of complexity to an already complex situation. So, yes, your situation could get worse than it is now.

              If you want to be free to go live your life then do that. I believe in facing things head on. Find out what you have to work with here. You will get some surprises. You will find out that somethings are not as bleak as you thought and somethings will not be as easy as you thought. This is how this goes, usually. Do it anyway because it is the fairest thing to do for yourself and your spouse.

          2. not my best self*

            Yes, yes. I tried to qualify it later by saying the problem had to be serious enough to affect our dynamics. I do not do well in the caretaker role. I have a HUGE impulse to be a Fixer in these situations. In my first relationship, my partner became deeply depressed, I tried to fix everything by forcing him into therapy, pressuring him to take meds, giving him all kinds of “helpful” suggestions, etc, he became (rightfully) resentful, I felt unappreciated, and it became this horrible co-dependent spiral that ended up with us actively disliking each other at the end. It was much better for both of us when we parted. I do not want to inflict my “helpfulness” on someone like that again.

            If it’s some kind of low level anxiety or something that comes up only once in a while or my partner is getting treatment on their own and does not rely heavily on me for support, then I’m fine. It’s when I’m in the caretaker role that I can’t deal with it.

          3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            I understand your overall point, but I strenuously disagree with your assertion that once you become a caretaker your needs stop being met. That might happen but surely isn’t guaranteed to.

            1. TL -*

              I think if you’re a full time, long-term caretaker, you’re most likely not really in a relationship of equals anymore and for most people that means that their needs of being in an adult relationship of equals, however that works out to be – isn’t getting met. There are probably exceptions, of course, though.

              Obviously, everyone’s going to have short-term times where one partner needs more and the other needs less, but those times tend to even out over the course of most relationships.

          4. BritCred*

            Agreed with again. My husband refused to deal with a libedo issue until it was a health related one in other ways and he suddenly wanted to be able to have kids. If he’d dealt with it earlier and been open to the discussion and the honesty then it would have gone a different way completely. As it was we grew apart so much that it was beyond saving and we’d both changed too much.

            I tried getting that contact from others and it didn’t solve things because the issues in the marriage ran deeper than that even though I focused on that issue out of ease of blame. I will say that by the time I did we had agreed to being in an open relationship so it wasn’t exactly betrayal in my case.

            I got to the point of being suicidal before I stopped trying to distract myself and realized that no matter the financial consequences the marriage had to end and I had to move on. I spent a year or more unwinding a lot and I’m still trying to unwind the physical and mental health issues ignoring it, and searching out sex elsewhere, caused in my case.

            Guilt is a huge factor – or was for me – when someones health issues are at the core of the obvious first line faults in a relationship. That worked against me far too long.

            1. Dan*

              I hear you on the suicidal aspects. I paid to get out of my marriage too, and never once regretted it. I had the guilt thing too, but finally accepted that if spouse wouldn’t help themself, I’d go down with her, and that’s not fair to me. “Til death do us part” doesn’t refer to suicide, I don’t think.

        3. FYI*

          So…curious, if your partner developed aggressive cancer, you’d leave them because You Didn’t Sign On or That? Or is it just mental health issues that would trigger you to walk away?

          1. Nashira*

            We all know mental illnesses aren’t real illnesses, right? More like moral failings.

            BRB punching a wall. CrazyNash has a reeeeeal hard time with people who act like “mentally stable” folks are quantifiably better than people like me.

          2. TL -*

            I grew up with a very mentally unstable parent that I had to do a lot of caretaking for. I could not do that again, ever – been there, done that, it’s not for me. It has literally nothing to do with the other person and a whole lot to do with my own issues and limitations.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I read where most abuse of folks with illness happens in private homes not in NPO living arrangements. And this is how it starts. The caregiver is not up for the task and, oddly, still remains in the situation. Both the caregiver and the care recipient end up worse off.
              I know I can’t do it anymore. And it’s not that I don’t care. I do care very much. But I cannot be anyone’s primary caregiver. I have nothing left inside of me. It will restore itself, but it will take time.

              1. Anon369*

                It’s not really “oddly”, though, right? Maybe caring for your parents is optional at some level, but if they’re married, there’s tremendous pressure to uphold your vows. If it’s a child, leaving is abandonment. And trust me when I say that unless you’re pretty wealthy (well above the average dual-income salary level) with a lot of resources, or out of cash in total, it is very difficult to get enough support for ill people and their caregivers.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I see your point. I was a bit too brief. You can still hold up your marriage vows while a spouse is in a nursing home or respite or even under the care of in-home help.

                  Most recently, a friend was helping his friend. This man’s wife was very sick and would not allow hospice in to help. Well, the man was starting to get sick himself from the 24 hour days. It took two people to convince the man to call for help. People will go beyond their physical limits sometimes to take care of the person they love. In reality, the level of care needed requires a crew of people.

          3. not my best self*

            It depends. The type of care that I know how to provide (happy-go-lucky encouragement, doing every little thing for someone to the point that it’s condescending, giving unsolicited advice) tends to be highly counter-productive for people with depression. I know they CAN’T just get out of bed and exercise and feel better!!!! like I want them to, so I start doing everything for them because I! want! to! help! and that isn’t productive, either, but I don’t know what else to do. Maybe I would be better suited to caring for someone with a physical illness. I’m not sure, I haven’t been in that situation yet.

        4. Dynamic Beige*

          “I deliberately date only mentally healthy, stable people”

          OK, I’m genuinely curious… how do you know the people you are dating fall into these parameters? Do you have a list of warning signs or red flags that you look out for? Are you super in touch with yourself where you check your expectations constantly to make sure you’re not dismissing or making allowances for bad behaviour? I mean, usually it takes about 6 months, give or take, for the social masks to fall away and you see who the person really is not who you want them to be, whether that’s due to comfort or the hormones starting to wear off or you can no longer sweep it under the rug to get along or whatever YMMV. So either you have a really good system that other people might profit from or a lot of really short relationships (or both).

          I would also suggest that while it may be possible to determine mental fitness right now, there’s no guarantee it will always be so. There’s no way to know for sure who is going to come down with dementia or Alzheimers, any more than there’s certainty who will develop cancer, get MS or break their hip. I hope as you grow older your patience also develops as well, as one day you may find yourself in a situation you never bargained on through no fault of anyone and need those mental reserves to deal with it.

          1. Samantha*

            +1. You never know what the future holds! I don’t have a history of mental illness or emotional issues, but within the first two years of my marriage, a set of really tragic and unexpected events led to me being in a really dark emotional place. Thank God my husband didn’t say, “I didn’t sign up for this – I’m out.” If you don’t take “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” seriously, don’t get married.

            1. TL -*

              Would you advocate Annony’s spouse filing for divorce if she found out about the cheating or is that something that also falls under for better or for worse?

              Some people can’t deal with others being ill. Some people can. Others can deal in varying shades – you should ideally talk about this before you get hitched. Marriage is not a “you sign up for what you get” deal – things happen, at best being unhappy in a relationship for the rest of your life, at worst being abused and facing a severe shortening of one’s life – and it’s no shame to end a marriage if it’s not how you want to spend the rest of your life.

              1. Samantha*

                So what would that conversation look like? “I love you, but I ‘can’t deal’ with illness so if you become depressed or get cancer I’m out of here”? The point of making those marriage vows is that you don’t know what the future holds but you’re committing to each other for the long haul anyway.

                1. TL -*

                  Yeah, pretty much the conversation would look like that – I mean, hopefully kinder in phrasing but essentially, you let people know if you’re not capable of sticking around for something before committing. They can then decide if they want to take a chance on you or not. Some people will and some people won’t, but they’re making an informed choice.

                  Also, just because this comparison is bothering me, being seriously depressed is more akin to developing a long-term, uncurable disease or disability than cancer. Cancer is usually treatable/responsive or not; it is much rarer for it to persist as a long-term daily condition that significantly affects quality of life. Generally, cancer has an endpoint of some sort, whereas mental illness may be a daily management/caretaker situation for an undefined piece of time.

          2. not my best self*

            I worded that initial statement poorly. They don’t have to be 100%. My current partner is severely phobic of driving, and I’ve had to accept that he will probably never get a driver’s license. But that doesn’t really affect me because he takes the bus or walks. I can deal with that.

            After rooming with someone in college who at first seemed completely normal but later revealed a penchant for slashing his wrists, banging his head against walls, and threatening to kill himself at the slightest provocation (and then later claiming to have no memory of the incident), I’ve gotten some experience at figuring out which behaviors I can’t cope with and screening for them.

            I know things can change. If I decided to stick with someone through the long haul (like, we have kids together) and they developed an issue, I’d get therapy for myself to develop that patience and those mental reserves and try to learn how to be a better caretaker. But right now I’m young and would much rather just avoid it completely, if I can.

            But anyway. My point was that some people are not suited to be caretakers, and I do not agree with the people shaming the OP for not trying harder to work things out with his wife. It sounds like he’s already been through therapy with her and he’s decided that he’s reached his limit. That should be respected.

        5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Uh, wow. I guess it’s good that you know your limits, but it sounds really sad to me. I mean, that basically means you can’t have intimate relationships at all. Because everyone who is “mentally stable” is CURRENTLY mentally stable; the future is unpredictable. Same.goes for physical ailments or disabilities.

          I hope you disclose this limitation to partners: “Btw, if you end up depressed I’ll leave you.”

          1. TL -*

            I don’t think that’s what not my best self is saying. They’re saying they can’t stay in a relationship where their role is primary caretaker for another person’s mental health. I think that’s fair – and I’m in the same boat with them. It’s not sad and it’s not limiting of relationships – plenty of people never have major mental illnesses/disorders or have only a one-time incidence that they treat and never see a recurrence of, just like plenty of people never have a major physical ailment or only have one that is curable/highly treatable.

            Just like some people can’t be with the super messy or super neat or can’t stand those who yell when they’re mad or a spender vs saver mentality – it’s another area to evaluate for compatibility, and it’s better that you know that before getting into a relationship than find out when your SO needs you the most and you can’t be there.

    8. Dan*

      Are you certain you have to pay up?

      Spousal support really sucks when incomes are imbalanced. I’m not sure how they figure I can cough up a third of my income.

      As a dude who plans not to have kids, there’s not a lot of incentive to get married. If I do, there is going to be a prenup that says as long as we remain childless, there will not be spousal support under any circumstance.

      1. fposte*

        Those often don’t hold up if contested, though. The court will generally look at them pretty carefully in the event of divorce rather than just accepting them wholesale. Might want to stick with just living with people if that’s the concern.

        1. Kat*

          Some states have common law marriages, which is when a couple lives together for a specified amount of time. Then, you can be ordered to pay spousal support.

          It depends on which state and how they define it. So living together but not marrying doesnt always protect you.

          1. fposte*

            Only a few do, though, and it’s not something that accidentally happens to you while you’re living together–you have to consciously “hold yourself out” as husband and wife and call yourself married.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I’m not a lawyer and I have no idea what the laws are around spousal support, so I can’t pretend to have any knowledge.

        However, it just makes so many sense to me. My husband and I don’t have kids, but our incomes and life choices are highly dependent on each other, in ways that would have lasting effects if we divorced. He went to business school while I supported us; his income tripled. I absolutely “deserve” some of that. I was able to accept a role with 50% travel that increased by salary by nearly 50% because he held down the fort at home; he deserves some of that. He’s studying for the CFA, so I’ve done all the cooking for the past 6 months. We moved to Minnesota because my family is here; that affected both of our salaries. I don’t know what wold be fair – it’s obviously complicated – but it’s not nothing.

    9. Bea W*

      I had to google “Ashley Madison”.

      Good God no! Please find a way to deal with it head on. If you do not want to take the divorce option, find some way to make it work that doesn’t involve betraying your spouse and being dishonest, and worse yet choosing that route because you don’t want to pay spousal support. That’s a really horrible thing to do to anyone, let alone someone who presumably still care about. It could very well end in divorce all the same, when your wife finds out and decides she wants a divorce. Lose-lose.

    1. Jaune Desprez*

      I loved this too! The Moby Dick texts were my favorite, but they were all good. It’s a great book to leave lying around for friends to enjoy.

  3. Merely*

    What jobs did you idolize as a child and why? Firefighter? Garbageman? Ballerina? Astronaut?
    I really wanted to be an archaeologist so I could discover King Tut’s tomb.It did not occur to me that its previous excavation would be an obstacle to my “discovering” it.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      I wanted to work in a library. Just because they were full of books. I thought I could sit and read all day!

      1. Adam*

        I worked in the big graduate library when I was a student in college. At the beginning of the quarter everything was “Books. Cool!” At the end of the quarter everything was “Oh, God…Books…”

        1. Chartreuse*

          Yes, I worked in a library once and it was so hard! Not the actual work, which was very easy, and sometimes boring. It was so hard to have to just put book after enticing book onto the shelves without pausing and opening them to read!

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            I worked in a library too, in college. It was the library in the business school. So, yes, the work was pretty easy, but there was no desire to open the books and read them while shelving. LOL.

          2. Panda Bandit*

            I volunteered at a library. Every time I shelved a cart full of books I’d find at least a dozen that I wanted to read.

            1. Stephanie*

              I volunteered at my city’s library warehouse where all the donations (and Borders (RIP) inventory) was stored. I was always finding weird things in there that I kept reading.

        2. Merry and Bright*

          Sounds like the summer I sold ice creams! Perhaps there was a silver lining about my early library ambitions after all. Besides, I didn’t realise back then that reading-on-the-job wasn’t part of the deal!

    2. Joanna Reichert*

      I wanted to:

      * Be a reporter/photographer for National Geographic
      * Be a veterinarian
      * Own a horse farm / animal rescue
      * Live in a treehouse with my kitties

      Hmmm, I’d better get on that . . .

    3. Gene*

      I wanted to be a chemist. Ended up not going to college but my career involves and requires lots of chemistry and ChemE knowledge. I’m content.

        1. Writer*

          Journalism was one of the many fields I’ve been in. I enjoyed it, but I worked for a small town newspaper where the pay was dismal and there was no upward mobility. It is a fun job in many ways, but also very stressful in others. News is 24/7, which means the hours are often unpredictable and long. That makes it hard to plan life sometimes.

        2. nep*

          Enjoyed it immensely. Was always very much in my element. Past tense because I’m no longer working in that field. I reckon once a journalist always a journalist (I see in my daily life how I still use a lot of the skills/habits); but it’s not how I make a living today, except for the odd freelance project now and again.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      I wanted to be David Attenborough or Jane Goodall. Failing that, a vet, preferably in a zoo or safari park. I still kinda want to be all of those things. If only someone had told 16 year old me that you can be a vet who does genetics research – that I didn’t have to give up the dream of the former to do the latter!

    5. Dynamic Beige*

      It’s not so much idolise as I guess I thought it was really cool. When I was 5 (?) someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and without even thinking about it, I said that I wanted to be a stewardess. I do not think I had ever thought about that before. We had flown on a plane to take my baby sister to see her grandma for the first time and when you’re 4 and on a plane for the first time ever — it’s totally amazeballs.

      But then my mother had to go and get her two cents in, because I was never allowed to have stuff just for me and she told me that I didn’t want to be a stewardess, I wanted to be an airline pilot… because (wait for it) she would get to fly anywhere she wanted to for free (because after all, what’s the point of having children that are self determined and pick things they would like to do based on their own talents and what would make them happy when you as a parent could — and should — profit from them?). She then launched into a big long story to the person who had asked me the question about how she knew this was true based on a distant relation working at the airport… while I sat there and tried to figure out what the bloody hell a pilot was. I knew that a stewardess was a pretty lady who came around and gave you food ON A PLANE. I knew I could do that, and be ON A PLANE all the time? She was so lucky. But this “pilot” thing, hadn’t a clue. They hadn’t taken me to meet the pilots or see the cockpit or anything like that. The whole “my daughter the future airline pilot” thing was something mother would bring up every now and then… until it turned out I needed glasses and then it just went away. I never really had any “I want to be a ballerina” type dreams or ambitions until I got to high school and saw that having a college education and a career was a way to get out. Up until then, mother would pick my future career for me as it suited her. Such fun. Of course, I know now that being a stewardess/flight attendant is not totally amazeballs and that is kind of sad… but aren’t all the jobs we thought were so awesome when we were kids just not what we expected they would be?

      1. fposte*

        Though now you’re reminding me that after I read Coffee, Tea, or Me? as a preteen I briefly wanted to be a stewardess as well.

        I was quite startled as an adult to find out the book was all made up. It makes sense when you think about it, but I was ten or so and wasn’t thinking about it. It was just cool grownup stuff.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I read two of the Vicki Barr books (these vintage career stories about a stewardess who solved mysteries). They were my mum’s. When I grew up, I found a bunch more of them. I don’t want to be a flight attendant, but I still enjoy the stories.

          1. fposte*

            Coffee, Tea, or Me? was more salacious–lots about flirting, creepers, sex, and the occasional bit of crime. I was a shocked young thing when I found out that stewardesses had sex!

      2. Jill of All Trades*

        I sympathize with you; my mother was the exact same way, right through into my adulthood.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          When you grow up like that, you don’t really realise that it’s “wrong” because it’s your normal and what you’re used to. I knew she wasn’t “right” but it’s not like you can come home one day and announce you’re leaving because you’ve found a better parent. Mother died of cancer when I was in college but it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve been really looking at my childhood from a place of “Oh, so all the adult problems I’ve got now, I was sort of trained into them? Right, how did that work exactly…” rather than just thinking that I’m a screw up/it’s all my fault. I mean, it is my fault for continuing the behaviour once I’ve examined it/lapsing into old bad comfortable patterns, but if you don’t know why you’re doing something, it’s kind of not surprising you keep doing it.

          So if you or anyone else out there reads my anecdote and feels a sickening twinge of “me too”, I would like to recommend a couple of books I’ve read recently, Mothers Who Can’t Love (by the same author as Toxic Parents) and If You Had Controlling Parents (which IMO was better from a “so that’s why…” standpoint). It’s always a wonderful feeling to know you’re not crazy and this happens to other people/you’re not alone in this. There is such immense societal pressure on “respecting your parents/mothers are saints” that it’s hard to speak up when you have experienced something much different from that. And the guilt! But, in the end you have to do what’s right for you and if that means keeping a distance from one or both parents/family so they don’t eat you alive, then that’s what you have to do.

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            Yes! I’ve kept a huge distance for about 8 years now and it’s made a huge difference in my life. But there are some who guilt me because they had a healthy, loving relationship with their now-deceased parent and they cannot fathom how I could refuse to be around my living mother. I just ask them to be grateful for the parents they had, because they never had to make that choice.

            And for anyone out there who is in that position currently, it is a choice. You do not have to have toxic people in your life, regardless of degree of relation. It’s not a choice without consequences, but consider the consequences of continuing to be around a toxic, controlling parent(s).

            1. Chartreuse*

              I’m really sorry to hear about that. I kind of feel a need to come to the defense of people who don’t understand your decision to place physical distance between you and your parent. It’s not necessarily that they are all of them coming at it from a place of having a warm, healthy relationship with their own parent. Some have problem parents, but are in a place where the boundary between them and the toxicity does not have to be a physical one, if that makes sense. They have boundaries, but it is more of a “letting stuff go in one ear and out the other” kind of deal, rather than “I can’t even be around them and hear the kind of stuff they say” kind of deal. I do understand that not everyone is able to do that (or able to do that at a given point in time), so physical distance may be necessary in some cases. I just wanted to point out that not everyone who is surprised at you never being around your parent is coming at it with zero understanding of how terrible some parents’ attitudes can be.

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                Also, they may have problem parents, but are in denial over it/still believing that they can make it work/don’t understand what the problem is/have been thoroughly conditioned that it’s all their fault/”doesn’t everyone have problems with their parents?” There are a *lot* of cultural messages out there that we believe or throw about like “your parents only want what is best for you”, “they’re only hard on you because they want you to be the best you can be”… I’m sure there are dozens of others anyone can think of that they’ve heard — and that’s not even touching on religious teachings. It may take someone seeing their parent(s) do something to their own children to make them realise the parents are never going to change and do something about it.

                1. Chartreuse*

                  Yeah, people are complicated! I’m complicated, you’re complicated, our parents are complicated and our relationship with them is even more complicated! :) “Good parents” are never perfectly good, and “bad parents” are rarely completely bad either. I think some of the messages you are mentioning are actually good to have in the culture, we just have to have the wisdom to interpret them in a nuanced way and then apply them appropriately in our particular situation.

                  “Your parents only want what is best for you” for example might be better interpreted as “*Good* parents only want what is best for you, but even good parents lapse into selfishness from time to time, and even when they are not selfish but are truly wanting what is best for you, wanting it and knowing what it is are two different things.”

                  The latter interpretation would then be applied to my situation by thinking carefully about whether on the whole my parents are selfish or unselfish in their attitude towards their children, to decide whether to to put them in the category “good” or not. If they aren’t in the category “good” to begin with, then, yeah, the message doesn’t really apply to them.

                  The reason the message is still a really good thing to have in the culture is because of the influence it has on parental behavior by setting up the expectation that they are *supposed* to have their children’s best interest at heart. It’s always a good idea to set expectations high; even if people don’t always meet the standard, they’ll be better than they would be if the expectation were quite low and they weren’t meeting it!

      3. Merry and Bright*

        Whatever their intentions, and with apologies in advance to any AAM readers whom I may be about to offend – parents, teachers and careers advisers do not always know best. But when we are young we often don’t have the wisdom and life experience to know this. Last year, my god-daughter was experiencing opposition because she really, really wants to be a marine biologist. From all the projects and volunteering she has done, this does not surprise me at all. But, the advice was on the lines of: competitive field, few openings so be practical. However, the sister of my oldest school friend is a marine biologist. My friend and I were able to put the two of them together. It has caused a little “tension” on the lines that I am getting Jane’s hopes up but nobody knows for absolute certain which path will lead where. The thing is, it is your life.

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          I would say that she’s getting a better reality check by getting to hear directly from someone in the industry about the career path and challenges. Outsiders who have done no research would have no idea of how broad or narrow that career path may be, nor would they know how hard it is to get into. Good on you for helping her find out what it’s really like.

        2. Tenn*

          Junior year — more than two decades ago, when magazine journalism was thriving — I was selected by my university to be one of two candidates from the university to participate in the competitive national internship program run through the American Society of Magazine Editors. We then were asked to list the top five publications where we’d like to work for the summer. My university’s advisers across the board pushed and pushed for me to select publications no college student would select by choice instead of the national names that were big at the time, because they reasoned, then I’d be more likely to get one of my choices. But that made no sense to me — this was an internship, and I could take a chance and get one of my top five choices (if I wasn’t good enough I’d be assigned to a magazine that wasn’t a top choice anyway), or I could completely eliminate all possibility of getting one of those top five choices by not even trying to get a publication I really wanted. When I was assigned to a Time Inc. publication for the summer the adviser’s jaw dropped to the floor and he asked me to repeat that again.

      4. Bea W*

        Ugh. I sympathize! My mother was the same but for different reasons which I’m not entirely clear on – in any case it amounted to the same thing, mom telling me want I really wanted to do instead of accepting what I said I wanted to do.

      5. Noelle*

        Your mom reminds me of mine :( Except she didn’t really think *any* career for a woman was worthwhile, and she homeschooled me so I was stuck with her all day every day. I wanted to be a marine biologist, because I loved swimming and dolphins and sharks. But my mom kept telling me how terrible I was at math and science so eventually I started believing it. It wasn’t until after college that I realized I actually was pretty good at math, and I even like it.

    6. RFM*

      I wanted to be a psychiatrist! By the time I was sixteen I realised that would mean six years in med school and then six years of specialising in psychiatry, and I had such a horrid time at high school that twelve more years of schooling were unimaginable. (Of course I’m ending up spending almost ten years in university anyway, but ah well.)

    7. C Average*

      Either an entomologist or a writer.

      When I learned that entomologists have to kill the insects in order to study them, that was a deal-breaker. So, I’ve settled for being a writer.

      (I also fantasized about being a diplomat like my cousin, but he is BRILLIANT and I pretty much always knew I didn’t have the chops to do what he does.)

      1. hermit crab*

        My brother had exactly the same entomology awakening! Now he is a software engineer … I guess that’s about dealing with a different kind of bug. :)

      2. Tau*

        I had that entomology awakening too! I think my career hopes went mathematician -> astronomer -> entomologist -> botanist -> mathematician (and now I’m belatedly switching tracks to software development, natch). This may say more about my family than it does about me.

      3. Ento nerd*

        Ha, I’m an entomologist! But I wasn’t particularly interested in bugs as a kid. A few weeks ago some people mentioned that they always got “forest ranger” on the career tests in school (so did I). Never wanted to be a forest ranger as a kid but now I think I’d actually enjoy it.

    8. Sara*

      I also wanted to be an archaeologist for a very long time, and for a similar reason! (Got my kicks by studying abroad in Egypt in college.) Other dream jobs included journalist (high school newspaper sucked the fun out of that one), geneticist (high school chemistry put the kibosh on that), diplomat, and lawyer. I actually never, ever wanted to be a teacher as a youth…that’s what I am now, haha. I still aspire to combine that with my international interests, perhaps by working for a non-profit or going back into Peace Corps on the staff side, but for now I’m quite content in the classroom.

    9. Alston*

      There were many

      horse girl (I didn’t want to deal with cows so I couldn’t be a cow girl)

      archeologist
      artist
      documentary filmmaker
      and my favorite –car designer. My parents are birdwatchers. I wanted to make them a car that looked like a duck, with feet instead of wheels.

    10. Alistair*

      Yeah, totally astronaut here. I recently found a biography report I wrote about Neil Armstrong in like fourth grade or thereabouts. Loved the space shuttle (had two Lego shuttles), even went to Space Camp one year.

      Now? I help other companies turn big rocks into little rocks efficiently, and am quite happy to keep the Earth beneath my feet.

    11. CheeryO*

      I thought that ballerina astronaut was a viable career option in first grade… I was obsessed with space to the point where I borrowed every space book from the library over the course of a couple years – even the boring reference books. Dunno where I got the ballerina part, though, seeing as how I never took a single dance class.

      I wanted to be a teacher when I got older. I’m glad I didn’t pursue that, because I don’t have the patience or communication skills to be a good teacher!

    12. Mephyle*

      Another 5-year-old archeologist here. I’m not unsatisfied with where I ended up, but I do feel a bit of regret that when it was time to choose a university program, I never thought of investigating what it would take to become an archeologist. Somehow in my mind, that possibility was left behind as a childhood dream, and it didn’t occur to me that it could have been a real option.

    13. danr*

      Paleontologist… then I found out that it involved a lot of math. I still read all I can and am very pleased that the Brontosaurus is back.

      1. Mints*

        Omg! I loved dinosaurs as a kid, and Brontosaurus was my favorite. I was super excited when I saw that, too.

        Paleontologist was an idea for awhile, because, yeah dinosaurs.

    14. Anonsie*

      Haha, that reminds me of how I wanted to get into medical research so I could work on the Human Genome Project. It was finished long before I was out of school and now when I tell people that was my inspiration they always get this look on their face like they’re not sure if I know it’s over and wondering if they should tell me.

    15. Felicia*

      I wanted to be an author. I still think about it sometimes. I do get to write most of teh time in my job which has fulfilled much of my desire I just didn’t know that many careers back then. I still do a lot of creative writing and hope to turn it into a book someday.

    16. Julia*

      I wanted to be a clothing designer; or an executive secretary or something like that. ( think Joan in Mad Men) this was the 50’s. Then I wanted to be a journalist, working for Mademoiselle or Glamour magazine. When I went to college, I started as a journalism major, then switched to business, often being the only woman in my class. I’ve spent The past forty years in retail, and I’ve been able to combine my love of fashion, writing, and business analysis in one career. So you never know where you’ll end up or how you’ll get there.

      1. Jean*

        Elizabeth, I’m still burning a (metaphorical) candle of hope that you’ll find your marriage-and-family happiness, even if it comes in an unexpected shape or at an unexpected time. Just wanted to let you know that you’ve got a friend in cyberspace.
        :-)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Thanks. *hug*
          *sigh*
          Always I have to take somebody else’s messed-up, rebounding dregs. Do. not. want. I expect the goddamn fairy tale and if I don’t get it, I’m done.

          1. C Average*

            Fair enough, and I do really, really hope you get it.

            But before you toss out ALL the dregs in the same bucket, can I share the story of how C Average got together with Summa Cum Laude, aka my husband?

            Rewind about seven years. I’m making crappy but adequate money at my dream company, and having a lot of fun doing it. I’m working a lot of hours, running a lot of road races, and basically enjoying life. I know I want to find the right guy and get married someday, and while I’m leaning toward no kids, I’m not opposed to considering them if I wound up with someone who really wanted them. Life feels a little temporary, but pretty good.

            I date occasionally, but none of the guys I’m into seem particularly commitment-oriented and things tend to fizzle out every time. It makes me feel a bit B-list about myself romantically speaking, but I have lots else going on and don’t dwell much on it. I’m trying not to dream too big, you know?

            At a gathering for my running club, I wind up chatting with a guy I’ve met a few other times. I can’t honestly say he’s made a strong impression. He’s tall and skinny and fast, like most of the other guys in the club. He’s a few years older than me. Bald. Very type A, big overachiever. An engineer. Jewish. He’s divorced with two kids. And they’re not cute kids. They’re sullen, silent little girls who look like they need to spend some time in therapy. If Not My Type had a picture beside it in the dictionary, it would be this guy. But he’s funny and intelligent and enjoyable to make small talk with, so we make some small talk, and I pretty much forget about the whole thing.

            A few weeks later I get an email from him that says something like this: “Hey, C. I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you with what’s going to sound like a funny question. Can we go out to dinner and just hang out? This isn’t a date or anything like that. I just always enjoy talking to you. I like your sense of humor and I think we’d be great friends, and I could use some great friends right now. Think about it and let me know.”

            I think about it and decide, heck, why not? A not-a-date dinner with a smart, funny, nice guy who isn’t trying to score with me or anything sounds rather nice.

            So we go out to dinner and mostly talk about our dating misadventures and failures. It’s an enjoyable evening, over too soon. At some point it comes out in conversation that we both enjoy poetry and classic literature–a surprising revelation, coming from an engineer.

            We wind up in an ongoing email back-and-forth that includes a lot of talk of our favorite poets and writers. We have similar taste. There are more dinners. There are flimsy excuses to hang out. Then a big storm hits our area and, since he lives on a big hill, he invites me over to go sledding. Picturesque, disgustingly cute hijinks ensue. Aaaaand we become a couple.

            It was so crazy we gave no thought at all to our long-term prospects. We took for granted that it would end. We just hoped it would end in a way that let us remain friends. We talked about his failed marriage and my unsuitability for commitment. He was a neurotic mess and I was kind of a dingbat. But we read each other Homer aloud and went on road trips and sat in his hot tub looking at the stars. I got to know the two sullen little girls and found ways to make them laugh. I met his ex-wife and understood why things had ended and why he was still a good prospect, even if he was a bit of a fixer-upper. (Hell, so was I.)

            We actually broke up for a while. The kid thing seemed like a bridge too far. But I missed him. He was and is the best person I’ve ever met: generous, kind, brilliant, funny, hard-working, possessed of fierce integrity. And somehow he was my kindred spirit, too. I couldn’t fathom settling for someone else. I went back to him, tail between my legs, and asked for a do-over.

            Less than a year later, I married him. I married him and his two sometimes rotten children and his sometimes drama-creating ex-wife and his sprawling, chaotic house and his neurotic tendencies and his emotional baggage. I brought him love and joy; he brought me a measure of stability and security I never would have achieved on my own.

            We sometimes sit in the hot tub together and wonder whether the Ivy League-educated Jewish astrophysicist he was supposed to end up with is enjoying her life with the shaggy-haired snowboard instructor with a liberal arts degree that I was supposed to end up with. We hope they’re happy.

            It’s not a fairy tale or anything, but we have a really wonderful life together. Our fourth wedding anniversary is next week. I’m not gonna lie: the early years were hard, with lots of adjustment on everyone’s part. But the past two years, as we’ve found our groove, neither of us has ever been happier. I’m so glad I took a chance on a guy with some baggage and some history, and I’m so glad he took a chance on me. I think everyone is better for us being together: him, me, his kids, even his ex. It is a net good for the universe that we are together. It would be a net loss to the universe if we’d missed out on this relationship in pursuit of some unattainable ideal.

            Everybody’s gotta have standards and deal-breakers; I totally get that. But think carefully about what they are, and what you could be missing.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              You can’t miss anything when there is nothing to miss. And when I say nothing, I am not joking or exaggerating. I mean NOTHING. The antennae are widely focused and picking up only static.

              It’s a big empty desert and I’m in the middle of it.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think C Average was responding to the earlier comment that “I expect the goddamn fairy tale and if I don’t get it, I’m done.” Given that there aren’t actually any fairy tales — particularly at the start of relationships, when you can’t possibly know the person well enough for something like that to be real* — that sounds sort of like closing yourself off to relationships, even though it also sounds like you want one. (I imagine that was more of a throwaway comment than one meant seriously, but I think that’s the context for this.)

                * I say that as someone with a strong bias toward believing that early-stage infatuation has very little connection with long-term suitability.

                Relatedly: You might need to move :)

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  It basically was (throwaway).

                  Believe me, I would kill to move–but I just don’t see how. I do not have the money to do that. Also, I have no idea where to go. Nothing is any different anywhere else I’ve ever lived, and I can’t afford to go anywhere good.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I’m not sure–I’ve never lived anyplace ever where I had this much trouble meeting people. I think it’s a combination of both. Not close enough to any large cities, and even though this area has over 160,000 people (counting outlying burbs), there isn’t anything to speak of. I have tried everything I can think of. That just astonishes me. I literally have not met one single person I would want to date who is not taken, and all the single ones are either way too old or way too young, or I haven’t met one I’m even remotely attracted to. You would think there would be just ONE PERSON.

                  I don’t really fit in here, either; it’s very churchy / camouflage / Walmart / sports fan / huntin’ and fishin’. I seriously do not think there is anyone here or I would have met him already.

              2. Merry and Bright*

                Not going to send over a pile of glib words. Just been there :)

                (Single for a while but adjusted to it).

    17. Grey*

      I didn’t dream big. When I was a little kid, I seriously wanted to be a garbage truck driver. I just thought about cool it would be to drive that big truck around the neighborhood. The dream died the day I saw the driver get out and swap places with the guy on the back.

    18. Ann Furthermore*

      I also thought being an archaeologist would be really cool. This was due to 2 things: seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, and traveling to Egypt with my parents when I was about 10. We were living in the Middle East, and it was our first big trip. I remember seeing the Pyramids and just being amazed.

      All throughout high school I was the math poster child and had a terrible time with it. And what did I end up doing? Getting an accounting degree! And now I’m an IT nerd that implements/supports Oracle Financials. Go figure! My mom is convinced that it was because of gender stereotyping by my elementary school teachers (only boys are supposed to be good at math and science, etc), and I think she might have been right. She’s a pretty smart cookie.

      1. Bea W*

        There was open stereotyping/bias when I was in school. I loved math and science. I would give my dad a piece of paper and a pencil and beg him to write me out hard* math problems to solve. When I got into high school I had turned off thinking about a career in those things and was struggling to figure out what I wanted to study in college. Nothing else was really that appealing. This is despite the “liberated” grandmother and some early support and encouragement at home (except from mom), but it wasn’t enough to override all that time I spent in school being subtly or not-so-subtly discouraged from excelling in those areas.

        *Hard for a second grader

    19. katamia*

      I wanted to be Xena, a Power Ranger, or an archaeologist. (I…did not have a great grip on reality as a child, lol.) I’m still really interested in history and archaeology, but I took an archaeology course as a teenager at summer camp and realized I didn’t want to be out there digging and everything. I’m happy just to read about it.

      1. Bea W*

        I really wanted to be super hero and have super powers that involved flying, being super strong, and having other magic powers, like being able to turn invisible and move things with my mind or granting people wishes and being able to transport people magically great distances.

    20. Panda Bandit*

      Lawyer. I changed my mind after finding about all the extra years of school involved. I liked school but there’s a point when it’s just too much.

      1. Bea W*

        I remember when I was really young my mother telling me that in order to be (whatever unacceptable profession I had chosen – it was probably astronaut, or a doctor, or some kind of scientist) I would have to go to school for a really long time, and wouldn’t that be awful. :-/

        I had totally intended to get a grad degree when I was in college, but once I started working and found a career path I liked and was able to progress in, no thanks! I like learning, but the classroom is just not enjoyable for me.

    21. matcha123*

      I wanted to be: a tornado chaser, study earthquakes and volcanoes…and dig up dinosaur bones and ancient sites. Really anything exciting that would allow me to be outside. I was in elementary school when Jurassic Park came out and I wrote to the Smithsonian about raptors and they kindly replied and sent me some information about them. I think Twister and a bunch of Discovery channel stuff about earthquakes and tornadoes also came out at that time, too.

      Until then, I pictured “work” as a place people go to hate everything about life.

    22. Bea W*

      My mother had a similar fantasy about being an archeologist.

      I really wanted to be an astronaut and go to the moon. It was the early-mid 70s. My mother had told me what jobs girls could do though, and astronaut wasn’t one of them. One day my grandmother (my mother’s mother) asked what I wanted to be. I gave her some unconvincing answer about being a mommy, and she called me out on it. I confessed to grandma I really wanted to be an astronaut but I couldn’t do that because I was a girl. Grandma set me straight, but fast forward 2 years later in school when we were told to make a hat (out of paper and things) that represented what we wanted to be when we grew up and we would have to get in front of the class in groups to talk about it. I was really torn, trying to figure out how I could make a space helmet and then being afraid that I would be laughed at because not everyone was as enlightened as my grandmother. I chickened out last minute and quickly made a nurse’s cap, because that was an acceptable profession for a girl (along with teacher and mother – none of the girls in the class ventured outside of those 3 choices).

      I also wanted to be the first woman president, but mostly I wanted to be an astronaut. Then Challenger happened, and there was a decision to no longer send civilians into space. Since I didn’t want to go into the military, that put an end to that. I did go to Space Camp 2 years after that. It may have been mid-80s but it still wasn’t socially acceptable where I was from as a girl to be interested in or good at science and math. Even when I made summer day camp selections, there were times I (or my sister and I) would be the only girls in that session. There was one summer we both chose a session on space and planets, and sure enough we were the only two girls in the group. :-( Even I was shocked by that. Not even one other girl! Not one!

      1. Kara Zor-El*

        I wanted to go to Space Camp so badly as a child! How cool that you got to have that experience even if your astronaut dreams didn’t pan out. I hope that civilian space travel will be available in my lifetime.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, I got to go to VoTech summer camp as a 7th grader (usually it was reserved for 8th grade and higher) and I was the only girl in two of my four selections – Engines (I serviced a weedwacker engine) and Business (We came up with something to market, designed a business plan, came up with a competitive price point, and made a powerpoint detailing all the information and research.) Of my other two selections – Flower Arranging was predominantly female, and cooking was fairly evenly mixed if I remember correctly. This would have been around 1998.

    23. Stephanie*

      Classical musician. I played the cello and thought it would be so cool and glamorous to be a symphony player (or some famous soloist). And then I realized a lot of the Yo-Yo Mas of the world started playing at age 3 (I started at age 10) and just did cello and that music school was a long, expensive slog. Also, I hate practicing scales.

      1. Noelle*

        Me too! I went to college for piano performance and for a while it was great, But I actually didn’t start playing piano until I was 15, so my lack of technical background caught up with me pretty quickly. I also decided I didn’t want to have to play piano 10 hours a day for the rest of my life, and hey, it kind of sucks being critiqued constantly on your emotional interpretation of that Mozart sonata. I’m much happier playing for fun now.

    24. Stephanie*

      Oh, Olympic gymnast. I was 10 during the ’96 Olympics and was enthralled by the American team. So I went to a trial class, where I realized quickly I was way too heavy and tall to do gymnastics. Also, I didn’t like the sensation from doing a cartwheel.

    25. anonymous daisy*

      I wanted to be a psychologist just like Bob Newhart on the Bob Newhart Show but then I found out how long and expensive it would be to be one and changed course. Now I belong in a book club and I get that Bob Newhart experience for almost free :)

    26. V. Meadowsweet*

      Either a ballerina or a show jumper, as far as I remember. I’m neither, but have taken up both ballet and horseback riding again :)

  4. The Other Dawn*

    Lately I’ve been trying to find new things to try; the post-op diet can get a little routine sometimes.

    Now that I’m back on track, I want to stay there. I find that I struggle at work mostly. It just seems like such a long day at my desk and I keep wanting to eat all my snacks by 10:00 am. Not because I’m hungry, but because I want something to break up the monotony of work and drinking water all day long. One thing I’ve found that helps me through the workday is to add in a couple cups of flavored tea throughout the day. It gives me something to do (walking to the cafeteria to get the hot water) and I get to enjoy something other than plain old water. There are virtually no calories, no sugar, and very little caffeine. Also, it makes me feel like I’m having a treat.

    I’ve been trying different teas in search of one that just does it for me; that’s the only way I can explain it. I’m finding that many flavored teas smell great while brewing, but they just don’t taste the way they smell. And that’s disappointing, especially in the case of the chocolate mint tea I bought. It smelled so good, but I could only taste the mint.

    Anyone have any suggestions?

    Also, today I made the perfect poached eggs! You can click my name and see it on my blog if you want. They came out great. Mine usually look pretty raggedy, but I decided to add a little vinegar and that helped keep the whites more contained.

    1. Lalaith*

      My very favorite tea (I actually don’t usually like tea at all) is Good Earth Sweet and Spicy. I think they’ve changed their formula recently, because it has a bit more of a fake-cinnamon taste than I remember, but I still love it. It tastes exactly like it smells, and it’s quite sweet on its own without needing to add anything.

      1. C Average*

        +1. If you asked me what “cozy” smells like, I’d say, “Good Earth tea.”

        Tazo Passion and Wild Sweet Orange tea tastes and smells really good, too.

        1. CheeryO*

          +1 for Passion. I haven’t tried any of the other flavors yet since I’ve been enjoying Passion so much.

      2. Blue_eyes*

        Oh, yes. I’m pretty sure that’s the kind one of my college roommates used to make. I was never a big tea drinker up until then, but I really liked that stuff. I like Trader Joe’s chai and Bigelow Plantation Mint (except that I accidentally bought a box of Bigelow black mint tea, which stinks because I like to drink mint tea when I don’t want caffeine).

    2. hermit crab*

      A lot of tea brands have a sampler box with an assortment of different kinds — maybe you need to do a taste test! My current go-to flavor is lemon ginger.

    3. fposte*

      Have you looked at Adagio or other places like that? The Ingenuitea tea steeper Adagio makes is a brilliant thing. But also the ordering of several different kinds of tea to try, steep, savor, and consider makes for a very pleasant small activity, and you might find it useful as a ritual that makes tea breaks more break-y. (Plus the teas are often pretty amazing.)

    4. LisaLee*

      I really like Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla Red Tea. It’s caffiene-free, which is a plus for me, but it’s strongly flavored and I LOVE the rooibos/vanilla mix (Seattle’s Best Coffee used to do a Vanilla Red Tea Latte and I swear I drank hundreds of those things while they were out, and this tea matches that latte but minus the dairy and sugar). Rooibos is one of those love it or hate it things it seems, but at $3 a box this is a great way to try it.

      I’m also fond of Harney and Sons which are a bit more expensive, but very tasty (especially their cinnamon ones).

        1. LisaLee*

          Ooh, I haven’t. It looks good though, maybe I’ll buy it when I’m out of Celestial Seasonings. I don’t seem to get tired of this flavor combination!

      1. Alston*

        You should try Matte Latte from the Republic of Tra. Hands down favorite tea on earth. Its this dark coffeey/chocolatey/smokey smelling tea that is just everything. I drink it iced but its also amazing hot. And it tastes just like it smells.

      2. Sara*

        I love rooibos! But I still drink it the Namibian/South African way, with tons of sugar and milk…some habits are hard to break. I’ll have to try the one you mentioned, since my current stash is running low.

      3. Short and Stout*

        I was going to suggest rooibos too; I also love honeybush tea, which is also from a bark.

    5. NBF*

      I love mint flavoured green tea. Stash brand has “mojito mint” and “moroccan mint” varieties, both of which are equally good.

    6. Sara*

      I swear by Celestial Seasonings’ Lemon Zinger (which, in spite of name, is heavy on the hibiscus). It smells and tastes amazing.

      1. hermit crab*

        Lemon Zinger takes me straight back to the department computer lab my classmates and I took over as our “office” in college. There was a hot water machine and a never-ending supply of Lemon Zinger tea bags. Sometimes now I drink it just to feel nostalgic.

    7. Blue_eyes*

      Do you have any nice coffee house type places near you that sell loose-leaf tea? You could get small amounts of a few flavors and get a tea infuser (there are some really cute novelty ones on places like modcloth) and do some taste tests. It’s more expensive than tea bags, but it could be a nice way to treat yourself and keep going with your tea habit.

      1. themmases*

        I really recommend this method if there is anywhere around that you like. People at these shops are so knowledgeable and helpful, and have even helped me select the right infuser.

    8. V. Meadowsweet*

      Stash’s ‘White Christmas’ – white tea, ginger, and peppermint – is one of my all-time favourites

    9. Jean*

      Bigelow’s decaf Earl Gray, with milk and decaf Constant Comment, without anything else (it tastes sweet enough–I think it’s the cinnamon).
      Lipton’s decaf, with milk.
      Some of the Celestial Seasonings teas make a flavorful iced tea. Peppermint is refreshing but I find a little bit of mint goes a long way with me.
      I’ve never looked for a decaf Lapsang Souchong. That used to be my favorite flavor, until I had to give up caffeine.
      Thanks for asking this question. You’re inspiring me to step up my own eat-fewer-high-calorie-snacks behavior.

    10. The Other Dawn*

      Thanks, all! I’m going to the local grocery store armed with your suggestions, although I realize some of these won’t be available there. But that’s what the internet if for. :)

      I blogged about my tea woes today. Here’s the link. Sounds a lot like what I wrote here since I wrote one right after the other. http://itjustdawned.blogspot.com/2015/04/tea-time.html#.VSpvytzF_mc

      I don’t know of any tea places around here, although I’m new to this part of the state so I’m sure if I look around I’ll find a hidden gem.

    11. matcha123*

      I recently received TWG Tea from the mother of a student I tutor. It’s from Singapore and is available in few places in the US and Canada. I was given their “red” tea, which does turn red and has a lovely smell and taste. It even comes in these retro teabags that make me feel bad about tossing them. But, I would recommend that as a change!

    12. Sunflower*

      Lipton green tea with acai dragon fruit and melon. I like it because it has a fruit flavor but it’s not sweet in anyway. Sometimes I drink it alone or with a splash of lemon juice.

    13. accounting princess*

      I LOVE David’s Tea “Read My Lips” chocolate peppermint tea, and also their birthday cake tea. If you live near one, you can buy very small bags to sample each flavor.

    14. Mz. Puppie*

      I’d put a packet of Splenda in that tea, that that should help bring out the sweeter chocolate flavor.

    15. The Other Dawn*

      I went to the store and ended up with Celestial Seasonings fruit tea sampler pack and Peppermint. I also got Republic of Tea Vanilla Almond. I almost didn’t buy that one, but the store where I got it is going out of business and it was 20% off. Wish me luck!

      I want to try some of the others mentioned, but I’ll have to look around since my store didn’t have them.

    16. Not So NewReader*

      Ginger tea. Especially in cool or cold weather. It’s nice to have in the house because most people will like it if they like herbal teas.
      Blueberry Tea. It helps to knock back some minor aches and pains.
      Seconding the Lemon Zinger- that is good stuff.
      My current kick is Stash Ginger Peach. Yep. It’s peachy.

    17. themmases*

      I really love St Dalfour Earl Grey. At my grocery store it’s in the organic aisle rather than with the rest of the tea. It’s a little more peppery and botanical tasting than citrusy and in my opinion it definitely comes through.

      I also recommend using a pomodoro timer or other method of scheduling breaks. Those have helped me cut down on snacking so much I even found myself drinking less coffee and tea. If I push through to my next break before eating I just find I often was bored and not hungry, or not hungry enough to use my break on getting food.

  5. Adam*

    Apartment AND roommate hunting while on a budget. One of life’s great lessons of acceptance. Wish me luck…

    1. Stephanie*

      Good luck! It can be frustrating. I think my breaking point during one search was when an agent showed me a basement apartment. Entryway was in the alley and it was your standard small, cramped, dark basement unit. I almost burst out laughing when the agent was like “And this patio under the stairs would be all yours!”

      I politely thanked her for her time, walked back to my car, and let out this exasperated laugh of frustration.

      1. Adam*

        In college I had a friend who once lived in like a 6×6 room that had crushed roach stains on the wall. My best friend and I went to visit her and she was trying to pull off the tough “This ain’t no big deal” persona. My best friend and I looked at each other and right away asked if she wanted to come live with us in a house with a bunch of our friends. The one room left wasn’t much bigger than her current one, but was like the Hyatt by comparison. She actually took some convincing but finally relented when I went “Dude, we’re not letting you stay here.” She never said it after she moved in, but I think it ended up being her favorite place to live during college.

        1. Stephanie*

          I had a friend who lived in a similarly bad place, but was completely oblivious to how terrible it was. It was a basement unit in a not-great neighborhood that only had one tiny window. And the ceilings were maybe 6’5″. And I’m pretty sure there was a drug stash house across the street.

          So a friend and I are over there and she’s gushing about how great the place is. We leave and are just silent for a block or so.

          Me: “So…Persephone’s apartment?”
          Friend: “That was the worst f*cking apartment I’ve ever seen in this city.

          1. fposte*

            A friend of mine lived in an apartment in Philadelphia that was the third floor-ish of a chopped up house. The landlord started doing work that left a 5’x5′ gap in the stair landing that you had to shimmy around to avoid plunging down to the basement; as far as I know he never closed it up. Then it turned out that the gas was rigged up so that the whole house’s gas bill went to her; when she refused to pay it, they cut off her gas (I don’t know how suddenly they figured out that it was just her unit if they couldn’t understand that for bills). The water heater was electric, she had a microwave, and the heat rose to the top floor pretty well, so she just shrugged and kept living there.

            The actual apartment wasn’t gross in itself, so I guess maybe that’s a little better?

      2. INTP*

        I hit my breaking point on roommates when I posted a craigslist add explicitly stating that I have respiratory issues and cannot live with a smoker of any kind, including an outdoor smoker, and the vast majority of replies I got included “One of us smokes but she smokes outside so it should be okay.” If you don’t understand why that’s not okay I really can’t trust you to fully understand what’s involved in living with a person with allergies so I couldn’t live with you even if the outdoor smoker WEREN’T a dealbreaker. (3rd hand smoke is enough to cause asthma in children, problems in people that already have asthma or allergies, etc.) After that experience tbh I feel like I can really only live with other people if I already know them well enough to trust that they understand the allergy situation, so I’ve been living in tiny apartments alone.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          WHY do people think they get to decide what’s ok for other people health-wise? Once I was talking to a woman that owns an allergy-friendly bakery about her ingredients and asked if her stuff had corn in it. She promised it did not, was all corn free. Then I asked if she was sure there wasn’t any corn starch in her powdered sugar, she said there was (at the time there weren’t many brands that used tapioca starch instead so I figured there would be), but it was such a small amount it wouldn’t be a problem for me. There may have been some very rude things said in my head toward her. Oh, I’m not going to disclose there’s this ingredient you are allergic to, even when you specifically ask, because I’ve decided it’s ok.

          I’m with you on the roommates thing, to. It took me a year to get my family members to understand that I cannot come to their house right after they vacuumed or dusted, so please they couldn’t invite me over and then start cleaning.

          1. INTP*

            Ugh. It’s so much worse because it was an allergy-friendly place! I basically don’t trust most restaurants whatsoever when it comes to telling me about their ingredients, people don’t know or care about little things like some flour in a sauce making it not gluten free or fish sauce = not vegetarian. But if they clearly cater to certain restrictions I expect them to be knowledgeable about those restrictions or at least knowledgeable enough to ask questions when they aren’t positive. It’s frightening that someone can market to people with allergies and then lie like that about ingredients. I wouldn’t trust that she isn’t giving celiacs foods that have been rolled out on a floured surface, etc.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              According to the FDA, “natural flavorings” can mean MILK. Just because there is an approved label on the food item does not mean the ingredients are accurate.

    2. Merry and Bright*

      Been, there done that so all my fingers are crossed for you. I hope this doesn’t say bad things about me but the day I could afford not to have a flat mate made me sing inside.

  6. Ann Furthermore*

    Booked a Hawaii vacation for October a few days ago for my hubby, me, and our 2 daughters. I was able to use frequent flyer miles for all 4 plane tickets. This is when all the work travel is a benefit!!

    It’s our 10th anniversary this year, and we thought about going to the UK. But we want to have 2 weeks to see/do everything on our list. That would mean leaving our 6 year old with my 73 year old mother in law for 2 weeks, which is a long time. She’s a handful and hard to keep up with. So we’ll do our UK vacation when she’s a little older.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Oahu, as of now. I found a really nice vacation condo rental right on the beach. I would be content to lie on the beach all day every day sipping margaritas and reading books, but my husband is not really a beach person. I find this to be weird and unnatural, but that’s another story. We have compromised by agreeing to have a beach day, followed by an activity day, and alternating all week. We’re staying at a place on the western side of Oahu, which seems to be less crowded and developed. So, we can see the Pearl Harbor memorial, which my hubby the history buff will be really into, and some other stuff too.

        1. JPixel*

          My husband and I spent part of our honeymoon on Oahu and loved it. He’s not much of a beach person, so we did exactly what you are planning – alternating relaxing days with more cultural days. Pearl Harbor was really interesting and moving. I highly recommend the contemporary art museum, which I believe is now called Spalding House. It has some beautiful gardens in addition to the art, and it feels very remote and peaceful. It’s a little hard to find but we took some scenic drives in the area, which made it all the more fun. You will have a great trip!

        2. Gene*

          Get up to the North Shore one day. Last time there we stayed right on Waikiki, so didn’t need a car (and parking was ~$30/day), so we did a one-day rent. If you pay attention in the water, you’ll likely see sea turtles; while swimming at Waikiki beach there was one swimming around among the thousands of people and I think that one kid and I were the only ones who noticed.

          Have fun!

    1. Artemesia*

      We did 8 days on the big island last year when I had a speech at the University. We spent 4 days on the Kona Coast and 4 days on the Volcano — great time. We particularly enjoyed the very odd Hawaiian cuisine. Loco Moco anyone? And half a dozen kinds of Spam on display at any supermarket (I had no idea there were varieties of Spam.)

    2. Olive K*

      ah, have a wonderful trip! we did that for my 40th – with miles too! My girls were 6 and 4 and we had such an amazing time. We went to Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Well, it just seemed like we were meant to go. When I got onto the United website to check out flights, I found that there were FOUR seats available, on the flights there and back (and non-stop flights, no less), on the days we wanted to travel, at the super-saver points rate. I was shocked! I’ve checked for points travel many times, and those super-saver rates were never available. I’d actually started thinking those were some sort of frequent flyer urban legend.

        At the regular rate, I would have only had enough for my husband, me, and 6 year old. I felt bad that my stepdaughter (who will be 18 by October) wouldn’t get to go, but she’s going on a school trip to the Galapagos Islands this summer, so I figured she’d be OK with not going. But now she can!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Oooo! I always wanted to go to Hawaii. Coworker just got back from a week there. It was her dream trip. She said it was everything she ever wanted it to be! :D

    4. Newsie*

      You will LOVE Hawaii. I basically started searching for a job in Honolulu the day I landed there.

      1. Windchime*

        I’ve been to Maui three times now, and every time I go, I start trying to figure out how I could just stay and never come home. I think that the reality of living on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific is what finally snaps me out of it, but honestly–there is something magical about that place.

    5. C Average*

      Congratulations–this sounds fantastic. Everyone I’ve known who’s been there has had a wonderful time and couldn’t wait to go back. (I’ve never been, alas. Someday!)

  7. themmases*

    Does anyone have recommendations for knit/crochet projects they like to do in the spring and summer? And any other tips e.g. favorite place to buy supplies?

    I have been itching to make something all winter because I’m an epidemiology grad student and my whole life right now is screen time. But I put it off because I lacked funds and holiday gifts/books were more important. Now it’s spring and my fingers still itch! But everything I’ve saved on Ravelry is definitely for winter.

    I use and like KnitPicks for yarn but I’m wondering if there are any other good resources out there that I’ve missed. It’s much appreciated!

    1. LisaLee*

      LittleKnits is a good place to check out for yarn and stuff. Their regular selection isn’t amazing, but they do AWESOME closeouts on luxury/nicer yarns (like 60-75% off stuff like Cascade). The only downside is you have to snatch up anything you like pretty quick during these deals, since everything is limited quantities.

    2. Alston*

      How about a stuffed animal? There’s an awesome whale pattern, and another for an anatomically correct heart that are awesome.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Yes! Search on ravelry for “amigurumi” + whatever animal you want to make. You can also find patterns for goofy things like a stuffed eggplant or other random stuff. I also like making baby items like booties or hats in warmer weather since they’re small and use cotton or acrylic yarn. You could also make something like leg warmers, or a shrug, or shawl that work for in-between weather.

        1. Nashira*

          Hansi Singh’s amigurumi patterns are amazeballs and such a pleasure to knit. Her book is well worth it.

    3. CheeryO*

      I usually cast on for a sweater in the summer so that there’s a small chance it’ll be done by fall/winter. Otherwise, stuffed animals are great – my favorite is the “huggable hedgehog” on Ravelry. It’s a fairly quick project, and a fun one since it involves that furry yarn, eyes and a nose, and felting. I’ve made four of them, and they all have their own personality.

      Another option (which is too selfless for me) would be to get a few Christmas gifts out of the way early, if you knit gifts.

    4. Nashira*

      In addition to amigurumi, I like working on lace shawls or sweaters in sock or lace weight yarn. I know fine yarns aren’t for everyone, but they don’t tend to make you as hot as heavier ones due to the difference in thermal mass. Plus lace is fun.

    5. ModernHypatia*

      I’m working on a double knit blanket – the squares come out to about 5x4ish inches when they’re done, so they don’t make my lap warm in the summer or anything like that.

      (I’m using the KnitPicks Palette for the yarn, and have done some of my own chart designs and usesd others from dishcloths. Dishcloths might also be fun for you – there are some great patterns, and cotton yarn is cool to knit.)

    6. themmases*

      Thanks everyone! I’ve only dipped my toe into making toys so that sounds like a really fun one to try. I’ve also been toying with the idea of starting an afghan now so it would be ready in the winter– especially if it is a patchwork one so I don’t actually have to sit under it…

      1. Windchime*

        I’m starting one right now that is called Hue Shift afghan. The pattern calls for Knit Picks yarn, but I am using Cascade Pacific in different colors instead. It’s a fun one; it’s done in squares that are about 5″ square, but you pick up and knit to connect them so there’s not a bunch of tedious seaming.

        1. themmases*

          Oooh, I have looked at that one before! I’m glad to know it’s a fun one, I will definitely consider it now.

  8. Calacademic*

    How many of you feel comfortable with the metric system (or at least parts of it)? Is there a generational difference?

    Me — I’m good with distances. I can look at some and guess 5mm, 10mm, 1 meter (granted, that one’s easy). Kilometers are a little harder and I’m so-so with temperature and not at all good at estimating weight. I’m at the very, very tail end of my 20s.

    1. Stephanie*

      Very comfortable, mostly because all my science classes were taught in it.

      I remember my study partner for a structures class was an exchange student from abroad. Our professor liked assigning problems in both metric and English units. My partner would get frustrated like “Wtf is a foot? A yard? A pound? There is no logic to these units!”

    2. Student*

      I’m comfortable with metric because I use it all the time. I use temperatures, sub-kilometer distances, masses, volumes, density, time in UTC, regularly at work, though, so I’m comfortable with all of those. I’m a scientist.

      Parts of metric I fail at still:
      Kilometers. I can never remember whether they are ~2x a mile or ~0.5x a mile in the moment. I always have to look it up. (Answer is 1 mile = 1.6 km, for the record).
      Car units, like km/hr speeds or km/L of gas, are just impractical to use in the US. So I never use them and get familiar with them.
      Pressure. All my gas pressure gauges are set to measure in torr. I have that conversion memorized, 1 bar = 750 torr, but I never work in the metric pressure units.
      Cooking units. I cannot relate a cup or tablespoon to a metric unit of any kind in my head. I’ve never done the cooking-by-weights that is common in Europe.

      I’m 30, since you’re scanning for generational issues.

      1. Calacademic*

        Re pressure: I use a Torr ~ mbar. I have no idea what the equivalent to a psi is in metric, never come across it…

        Also, English volumetric measurements are the worst ever. Liters baby, liters… :)

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I just looked that up and it’s apparently kilopascals (learn something new every day) I’m going to have to look at my tires next time I go somewhere to see if there is a kPa rating on them, I’ve never really thought about it, always done this kind of thing in PSI.

      2. danr*

        Certain parts of metric are easy. Speed and distance… Once the speedometers became dual, it was easy. 50 mph = 80 kph. Temperature. 98 F = 37 C or thereabouts. Freezing is easy as is boiling. (and google is great). Medicine dosages for liquids are mostly in ml, so I just remember how much it is. The thing I find hard are centimeters. I just can’t think of rainfall in centimeters.

        For the generational reference I’m 65. :)=

    3. RFM*

      I’m in Europe and I have the opposite problem. Reading about miles, gallons and feet is very confusing – I keep having to calculate that 1 feet is about 30 centimeters so “hundreds of feet” isn’t as long as my instincts say it is. And do you actually have liquids sold by the gallon? How do you put that in a shopping bag?

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          We have 4l bags of milk (which is almost like a gallon) — but there are 3 bags O_o So do the math on that? Nope.

        2. Merry and Bright*

          Plus there are 8 pints in a gallon! The biggest milk cartons in supermarkets are usually 6 litres (the daily pint of milk being switched to a litre in the UK was a Big Story that still rumbles on!). When the UK was less metric it was mainly petrol that was sold by the gallon. But, yes, milk comes in jug-style cartons with handles though some shops also sell the older style cartons for smaller amounts.

          1. Merry and Bright*

            Also, for the red tape around selling fruit and veg by the pound in the UK, google the Metric Martyrs.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Milk and sometimes juice are sold in gallon containers (with handles as Calacademic mentioned). Most soda is sold in 2 liter bottles though.

        1. RFM*

          Oh, that’s interesting. Most soda and juices are sold in 1.5l bottles, 1l if you’re unlucky.

        1. RFM*

          That’s what I do, but admittedly when I’m listening to an audio book and someone says something I don’t always calculate, just – well, guess.

      2. Jen RO*

        Also in Europe, and I have gotten used to miles and feet, but pounds and stones (are those UK only? do Americans use stones for weight too?) are so confusing. I also managed to remember my height and weight in imperial, so I can use myself as a comparison.

        On that note, I subscribe to a weight loss/gain subreddit and it’s so frustrating sometimes that I can’t really appreciate the effort of the people posting there! 300 pounds just means nothing to me, and I can’t be bothered googling everything…

        1. Jen RO*

          Oh, and gallons basically means nothing, and Fahrenheit is very foggy. I just know that 90F is very hot and 70-80C is just right.

    4. Artemesia*

      I am fair with distances but not temperatures. I know what it means for the outdoor temp to be 70 or 85 or 30 or -12 F — all of which happen routinely where I live — but have no ‘feeling’ for Celcius. I try to memorize a few temperature points before I travel to foreign climes, but it doesn’t seem to stick.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        We switched over to the metric system in Canada when I was in grade 4, that’s almost 4 decades ago. It’s kind of weird because it’s like I’ve assimilated the bits that are the most useful or something. I’m OK with lengths but I can still get inches/feet. Temperatures, if it’s under 10C or 25C or over, I get it. But when it’s 72F, for some reason I don’t think it’s 21C (between 55F and 80F is my Fahrenheit zone). Cooking? Still do cups/teaspoons, but understand how much is a liter probably because of cars.

        1. HR Generalist*

          Canadian in my early 20s. Everyone’s a little confused here. We do pounds for weight (kilograms are totally foreign to me), feet and inches for height (although it’s in centimetres on your driver’s license and I always have in my head that the average person is 1.5 m), Celcius for temperature (although I have family in Texas so I have no problem converting to Farenheit), kilometres/metres for distance (I have no idea how far a mile is).

          I understand litres thanks to pop (soda) bottles but in recipes I use cups/tsp/tbsp, although I can easily convert mL to cups without even thinking.

          To be honest – I couldn’t even tell you which is metric and which is imperial, I only know we use pieces of both. The main confusion (I think) is in metres/centimetres vs. feet/inches. Although everyone here is familiar with how large 30 cm or 1 m is, we always use feet/inches for height. For tools and machinery it’s always in inches. I can use mine interchangeably because I know what 1″ and 6″ looks like, but we often have arguments about perceived height (including high heels) as one of us will be doing it in inches and the other in centimetres.

      2. NBF*

        The temperatures that I know off the top of my head are:
        -40=-40
        32=0
        50=10
        16=61
        Anything else and I am lost

    5. NBF*

      I grew up in Canada, but live in the USA, so I’ve been forced to learn the way you guys do it which in my opinion makes absolutely no sense. Water freezes at 32? 1760 yards in a mile? 16 ounces in a pound? Who came up with these numbers??

      Luckily, I’m in a medical/scientific field, so at work we use centimetres, grams and celsius. I’ve mostly figured out miles when I’m driving but I just nod and smile when people tell me its going to be 70 degrees tomorrow.

      1. Anx*

        Celsius is great for water, but in my opinion Fahrenheit makes a lot of sense for people, at least as we relate to the atmosphere..

        In C, water freezes at 0 and boils at 100.

        In F, people ‘freeze’ at 0 and ‘boil’ at 100.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          Yes. I just read an article about this recently. If I can find it I’ll post it in a reply. Fahrenheit is much more useful for people in terms of telling the weather and understanding how a temperature will *feel*. Celsius is great for science.

        2. HR Generalist*

          People boil at 100 F?! This brings a whole new meaning to my summers spent in Texas (as a Northern Ontario, Canadian)..

      2. Calacademic*

        The apocryphal story I heard about Farenheit is that the zero point was a particular mixture of salt + water + ammonium chloride (i.e. brine). Why did he choose this? Maybe it was the coldest liquid he could get his hands on? And that Mrs. Farenheit must have had a fever the day he took her temperature…

        1. Anx*

          I think I remember something about setting zero to the coldest temperature he could get his lab to that day.

      3. Felicia*

        That must be hard! Especially because in Canada we’re not taught how to convert (it seems like in some parts of the US they are?). But really we would have no use in the imperial system. I too find the imperial system illogical, and isn’t the US the only country in the world that uses it? I feel like since every other county in the world uses metric, conversion couldn’t be that terrible .

    6. Sara*

      I’m not very skilled at estimating measurements (weight, distance, time, temperature, etc.) in either metric or US customary units. I am actually very good at math and comfortable doing calculations in metric and US units, but estimation has never been a strength of mine. I’m 28 and I learned metric when I moved outside the US to teach for a couple of years; I honestly can’t remember learning much about it in school.

    7. The IT Manager*

      I’m in the US, over 40, and not good at metric. I also bad with non-metric too though. I’m not a visual person (I’m textual) so any thing beyond a foot will be badly estimated anyway. Also bad with weights. I liked in Europe for a bit so I can translate normal air temps okay.

    8. Billy Oblivion*

      Units are units. I don’t mind converting between differnt systems. What bugs me is the expense of having to buy and store a set of tools specific to each system (ie, metric hex wrenches).

      I’m male, 56yo, BS via my university’s engineering college.

      1. Calacademic*

        Conversion isn’t so much the problem — I was more thinking about comfort/estimation in metric. Like, would it be more palatable for the US to switch to metric now than it was 40 years ago? While there will always be some pain in the conversion, if more people are familiar with metric units maybe this is something that could be readdressed.

        Agree about hating two sets of hex wrenches — and is this bolt metric or English? Cuz you’ll strip it if you get it wrong (nooooo, I’ve never done that #sarcasm)

        1. Felicia*

          I think that once metric has been in place long enough, you don’t need to teach conversion (especially since the US is the last non metric hold out). But I’m 25, and Canada has not taught conversion in my lifetime because it’s not necessary.

    9. Claire (Scotland)*

      I’m 39, and I only really understand metric. I’m in the UK, obviously. Miles I can do, but other distances, weights and temperatures etc. in Imperial are a mystery.

      My mum still doesn’t really get metric measurements at all.

    10. CheeryO*

      I’m pretty comfortable with metric after 6 years of engineering school. The only thing that drives me nuts is that my field can’t decide which system to use – I deal with flow rates quite a bit, and I still don’t have a good handle on the difference in scale between a cubic foot per second and a gallon per minute.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am picture a gallon milk jug. I bet it’s smaller than a cubic foot. (No milk jugs handy to measure.)

    11. TL -*

      I’m very comfortable with metric in the lab but in “real” life, it takes me a while to convert. (Especially temperature. Temperature is hard because I know what set points are in C, but don’t have a good feel for the range in between.)

      1. Dan*

        Temp is easy. Double the celcius and add 30. Great estimate for the range of temps that humans normally function at.

        If you know your set points, then one degree Celsius = 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

    12. the gold digger*

      I’m OK with it because I lived in Chile for two years and lived it. It took me a while to get used to kilometers, though – I kept trying to convert kilometers to miles in my head so I could calculate how long a bus trip would take.

      Another Peace Corps volunteer laughed when I told him what I was doing and said, “Just pretend the kilometers are miles and then calculate the time. A 50 km trip will take you an hour.”

      Which at first I did not believe but then I realized he was right. (And in Paraguay, it was more like, “Calculate how many meters there are and divide by 50 to get the hours.” Or at least it seemed like that – an overnight bus trip on a bus that had no a/c even though I had specifically paid more for a ticket on a line that claimed to have a/c, on which the drunken, toothless guy next to me kept falling asleep on my shoulder, and someone threw up in the seat behind me and the driver refused to do anything about it, saying that he was not the one who had thrown up so why should he clean it up?)

    13. V. Meadowsweet*

      I mostly cook in imperial, but if it’s in metric I’m good…except for the temperature. I’ve a sense of what 15C and 60F feel like, but I can’t tell you what either is in the other measurement. No idea for my height and weight in metric, but I’m fine measuring non-human things that way. And I’ll drive 5 miles at 80km/h.
      So kind of an all-over-the-place mess :)

    14. Felicia*

      100% comfortable because I’m Canadian and it was all I was ever taught. I’m 25. Even my parents are 100% comfortable with the metric system and they’re in their 50s, because it was that long ago. I think you’ll find any non Americans entirely comfortable with it :) The system that Americans use (imperial it’s called?) I know nothing about and it’s fairly meaningless to me. Especially with both distances and temperature I have no idea what you’re talking about if you’re saying miles, or farenheit.

      1. cardiganed librarian*

        I wonder if it’s because I’m a bit older than you (but only a bit!) or because my parents are older than yours, but I wouldn’t say that I’m 100% comfortable with it and I’m also Canadian. How tall am I? 5’1. I can say I’m around 155 cm because that’s what my driver’s license says, but ask anyone and they’ll tell you in feet and inches. Similarly, I know my weight in pounds, only roughly in kg, and I bet most people will tell you their weightloss goals in pounds. It’s still a bit jarring to me to see British and Australian people online actually use metric measurements for human height and weight.

    15. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t math, so nope. We were taught the metric system in middle school–I don’t know how well it stuck for anyone else, but me? Gone a week later. I know some rough approximations of Celsius temps, simply because I looked at the online converters so much. What’s that thing–Zero’s freezing; ten is not; twenty’s nice and thirty’s hot? Is that right?

      It took me forever to learn 24-hour time too–I forced myself to learn it so I could read train schedules before my holiday. I changed all the digital clocks on my computers, my phones, and in my car.

        1. Felicia*

          One thing i sort of know for US temperatures is that you think of them like grades – but then you have to have a grading system on 100%. So 80 is great, 65 is acceptable, under 50 you fail, and over 100 shouldn’t be possible . That’s what my mom said when we would go to Florida when i was a kid and I kept asking her what the weather meant

      1. cardiganed librarian*

        I have studied French for years, lived in Quebec for a while where they often use the 24-hour clock, and still, when I went to France, I found myself in a laundromat with a load of wet laundry and a cleaning lady mopping round my feet after closing time because I misread the closing time on the sign. My brain will never really work that way, I fear.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, we were taught it in elementry or middle school, and it really didn’t stick at all for me.

        I can’t do temps at all.

        Distances I am okay with because I ran track so I know what 100, 200, 400, and 800 meters are, and that 1600 meters is 4 times around the track and that’s about a mile. And I know because most rulers have both that a centimeter is a little less than 1/2 inch.

        Volume I can only do liters, and that’s because I know soda comes in a 2 liter bottle.

        24 hour time came easy to me because I learned it at work. I much prefer it to 12 hour time honestly.

    16. Steve G*

      I lived in Czech Rep for 3 years and the only part I really picked up on was temperature and ML but only in terms of ordering wine/beer………temperature was easy because you’d see it everyday and I started tying it to the weather……….10-12 degrees was April or October weather in NY…so like 50-55 F, it was usually in the mid 20s C during summer days, a heat wave was high 20s/low 30s (80s in F)

    17. RFWL*

      I’ve gotten better at it, although I still have a tough time with length. I like to use guideposts – like a 10K running race in the US is roughly 6 miles, a kilo is about 2 lbs and a half kilo is a lb – and work up and down from the rough guidepost to at least give me a clue. Same thing with temperatures. I’m an American working in the UK and I work for a company where I DO need to know dimensions and volumes in metric. I freaked out when taking the timed online math proficiency test pre-interview for the test because I had to find the volume of something in square meters when given centimeters. I don’t have to do it every day, but it definitely threw me!

    18. Dan*

      I learned metric as an engineer, so I got the basics. I travel abroad a lot now, so knowing metric is mandatory.

      When the tour guide says, “we will travel 500 km today” sometimes it’s fun to yell out “what the hell is a km? How many miles is that?” Just to see the looks on people’s faces.

    19. Merry and Bright*

      I am in my 40s and started school during the switchover from the old imperial system to the metric system. The result was that I learnt a bit of both and I am not fully conversant in either. Through work though, it has come about that I tend to measure in metric units but think in the old system. If I visit Europe (or rather Continental Europe, being in the UK), I have to think hard about distances and so on.

      Although the UK is much more metric now, for a long time there was a lot of resistance. Weather forecasts were given in Fahrenheit and Celsius (or Centigrade back then). If someone told us the temperature in C, we would do a quick bit of arithmetic to convert it back to F! Even now I understand the weather much better in F.

      Some years back I visited New York with my sister and it was great! I could visit another country and still know how far I was travelling and how fast, and I knew how warm it was!

      When I have been to other European countries though, there are some differences. For example, they will often sell drinks in centilitres whereas litres and millilitres are more usual here (though CLs do appear more now on imported drinks).

      1. Bea W*

        I found I very quickly picked up celcius temperature while staying in Russia when I was in high school. When I went back to Europe oh…20+ years later, I wasn’t so quick, but then I was not watching weather forecasts everyday or necessarily in a language I could understand so I didn’t have much experience relating the numbers to how it felt. By the end of that week in Russia though I felt very comfortable with temps in C, and could translate to my classmates pretty accurately what that meant in F. I think now in my 40s my brain is a bit slower to adapt.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        But UK still uses miles, and what the heck is a stone? 14 pounds? How am I supposed to weigh myself and do that math!?! (Disclaimer: I never weigh myself LOL)

        1. Merry and Bright*

          Yes, we still use miles. Although the UK is largely metric now it is still a mixture (hence my slightly muddled post, but I knew what I meant anyway)

          Yep, a stone is 14 pounds. I’m the opposite though so I have to do a quick sum if I read a person’s weight in pounds.

          Beer is still sold in pints (a hard fought battle). And milk can be sold in pints if the litre equivalent is listed first.

          I get confused and I live here :)

          1. Lindsay J*

            I think I’m going to start using stone to decribe my weight. 11 stone just sounds nicer to me. :)

    20. matcha123*

      I’m crap at it. Living abroad means I hear temps in Celsius, but it like, “Ugh. Is 16C warm or is it still cool? I know that 21C is kinda warm…I think…and 30C is really hot. One cm? uh..about yay long? Maybe??”

      In on of my high school science classes, our teacher was telling us that one day the US will switch to metric and we’d better learn it (the same stuff my mom heard when she was in school in the ’60s, it seems). And a kid in my class said, “The only people that use the metric system are doctors and drug dealers.”

      It’s true if you think about it. Drugs are always talked about in grams and kilograms.

      1. INTP*

        Haha. I lived abroad at one point and never really knew the temperature. However, I was on a tropical island so every single day, I knew it was going to be warm to hot. I knew that over 30 was miserably hot and under 30 was less miserably hot, and that was enough to choose my clothes for the day, LOL.

    21. Bea W*

      Comfortable enough, but then my job involves collecting data from around the world, and everyone else is on the metric system. I think weight is the easiest for me, but then I see a lot of height/weight data. Temperatures I’m iffy on, particularly above 20C. I’m in my 40s. We were not taught the metric system in school more than a quick glossing over. I am good with numbers and math so I think that is why I can be comfortable with it, since it does involve thinking in terms of numeric conversions.

      I work with people who grew up not in the US, and after being here for a long time and being so used to lbs and in, they say they even have trouble knowing what their height and weight would be in cm and kg.

    22. Elsajeni*

      I’m decently comfortable with metric measurements for weight and volume — weights I can only handle by roughly converting them into pounds (1 kilo = 2.2 pounds, most of the time I’m willing to settle for the rough estimate of 1 kilo = 2 pounds), and volume I just have a sense of from regular use (from medication dosing cups I know that 15 ml = 1 tablespoon, from water bottles I know that 500 ml = a little more than a pint, from soda bottles I know about how big 1 liter or 2 liters is, etc.). I have a little bit of a sense for Celsius temperatures, but only at the upper end of the outdoor-temperatures range — 20-25 is nice, 30-35 is hot — I know if it’s 8 C it’s chilly, but I have no real sense of how chilly.

      For length/area type measurements, I’m totally hopeless — but, as someone else said, I’m kind of hopeless with imperial length/area measurements as well, at least once you get above a yard or two. (I worked in a fabric store for a couple of years, which developed my small-scale sense of length — if you ask me for a length less than a yard, I can show you about how big with my hands — but did nothing for my ability to conceptualize bigger distances, and of course none of that had any impact on my sense of metric lengths. I know a yard is about 90 centimeters, so I can work from there to come up with conversions, but it’ll be slow and I still won’t have a great sense of how big we’re talking about when I’m done.)

  9. Gingerbread*

    Has anyone ever sold their house and bought another house during the process? My fiancé and I will be putting our house up for sale in a couple of weeks, but we want to buy another house before escrow closes. We’d like to use some of the money we receive from the sale of our house to put as a down payment on the new house. Is this difficult to do?

    1. Gingerbread*

      I should add, we want to be able to move into the new house before we have to move out of our current house. Both of our parents live hours away and staying at a hotel would be pricey and inconvenient with two dogs.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you’re buying the new place before you sell the old, you can’t use the money you expect to get from the sale of the old place toward the new; you can only use what you have on hand on the day of the purchase. Moreover, you may not be able to get approved for a mortgage on the new place without first selling the old one; even when they know you’re going to sell it, they consider that first mortgage as part of your debt ratio … and if their formula says that you can’t afford to carry both mortgages, they won’t approve you.

      If you talk to your lender or a mortgage broker about this, they’ll walk you through all your options. Sometimes you have to time the closings for the same day. Other times you can get a home equity line of credit on the place you’re selling, use that toward the new place, and then pay it off at closing on the second.

      (This all assumes you’re in the U.S.)

      1. The IT Manager*

        I bought a new house while the old was on the market, but I already had the down payment for the new one in savings (and I must have been approved for carrying two mortgages too). If you can’t do that contingency is a common way to go, but it means you could lose out on houses you like if your house is taking longer to sell.

        1. Girasol*

          Me too. You have to qualify for two mortgages and be prepared to pay them both monthly for as long as it takes. You also need to go back to the old place and keep it maintained or get someone to do it. (Don’t skip that part. A mown lawn helps sell the place, and after seeing a friend’s place with a burst water pipe that ran unnoticed for weeks, I learned how important watching over the old place can be!) That said, it’s not that bad. We closed on our dream house before someone else could snap it up. The extra payments and work on the old place for the next few months was worth it.

    3. Artemesia*

      We made our purchase of our second house contingent on the sale of our first house and then closed a day after the closing on the first house. In slow markets or with contractors with a big inventory that is often possible. No way I was going to be out there on two mortgages. You can’t spend the money till you have it and you don’t have it until the closing on your house. You can however arrange the moving date with the buyers. We actually let our seller live in our place for two months after we closed and he paid rent. We wanted to travel those two months and so it essentially dropped the sale price to us by the $5000 he paid for rent. He needed the money from the closing to close on his next place but it wasn’t going to be ready for him and it worked okay for us as we were renting having moved to a new city.

      1. catsAreCool*

        “We made our purchase of our second house contingent on the sale of our first house and then closed a day after the closing on the first house.” This is what I did too. It was several years ago, but the real estate agent thought this was pretty normal.

    4. Graciosa*

      It used to be possible to get something called a bridge loan to cover this type of situation. I don’t know if that’s still the case, but you might want to ask your banker or mortgage lender.

    5. Clever Name*

      We did this, but we borrowed the money for the down payment from my parents. My parents had to write a letter stating it was a gift (it really wasn’t, as we paid them back a month later, but it was to prove they wouldn’t cause a foreclosure) AND we had to qualify for the new loan on the assumption that we would be carrying both mortgages, so I wouldn’t recommend going this route unless you are very financially secure. We did it this way because the market is so crazy in our area. Houses were selling within days of being listed, so we wanted to be able to move fast and make an offer with no contingencies.

      1. Underwriter*

        Just FYI, if you had an FHA loan, keep that bit about how you didn’t realize use gift funds to yourself. There’s a reason the lender asks for an official gift funds letter and why it has all the required information on it, and–if this was for an FHA loan–you just admitted that you defrauded the federal government. And it’s why mortgage underwriters want documentation on everything–because so many people lie. “I’m not going to be honest about it, but lend me hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Oh, ok.

  10. Moonpie*

    I’m looking for a new perfume. I haven’t worn one for a long time but I’d like to find a signature scent. I like soft better than spicy, warm but not musky, nothing overly floral, I don’t want to smell like a fruit basket, and I don’t like scents that go on strong before they mellow out. I don’t mind it being a little pricey if necessary. Any suggestions?

    1. Sweetheart of the Rodeo*

      I go for florals so I don’t have a recommendation for you, but if you don’t know about it, SurrendertoChance.com is a great place to buy small samples to try. I’ve been able to discover and enjoy magnificent perfumes that I could never afford a full bottle of via sample vials. And for perfume blogs with reviews, I love Bois de Jasmin, Perfume Posse, and Now Smell This. There’s an amazing world of independent/artisan perfumes these days – very fun. And even some very good commercial/mainstream scents.

    2. fposte*

      The Perfumed Court is another place where you can try small vials.

      You used to be able to buy them on eBay, but there was a lot of fraud going on and they shut it down. This unfortunately means that I will probably never know the identify of one scent I really loved, which turned out not to be what it was labeled.

    3. Calla*

      have you looked at something like BPAL? My personal favorite is Marie (violet with a hint of rose), but since you said you don’t like overly floral… maybe something from the Steamworks collection, or something like O, Mag Mell, or Intrigue? best part is, you can order “imps” which are small samples for just a little bit before buying the full one :) you can also search by scents/notes OR the kinda vibe you’re wanting (“aquatic,” “electric,” “old west,” “cemetery” lol).

      1. Newsie*

        Seconding BPAL. I love them. Also love CB: I Hate Perfume, but that’s really for investment/finding a decanted sample and then buying a huge amount.

    4. Clever Name*

      I like Bill Blass perfume. Michael Kors is nice. I really like Coco Mademoiselle. It’s like a lighter and more youthful version of Chanel No 5 and less spicy

    5. AnnieNonymous*

      Try Max Mangiera Replica’s Beach Walk. The whole Replica line is really cool (the idea is about replicating moments and places, even though the name makes it sound like a designer knockoff). The coconutty softness is cut really well by a salt water accord.

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      My favorite scent is vanilla, and a couple years ago I ran across Dior Addict. I love it. Another nice vanilla fragrance is Casmir by Chopard, but it’s hard to find. I don’t think they sell it in stores in the US anymore, but you can still get it online.

      1. Neruda*

        I love vanilla too. I only wear Leu de Issey by Issey Miyake. I fell in love with and have no plans to change :-)

      1. Windchime*

        I like “Falling in Love” by Philosophy. I also like really vanilla-type scents; can’t stand the musky ones (they smell like bug spray to me).

      2. Moonpie*

        I will have to ask next time I’m at Sephora! Wish there was one closer to me. And thanks for the reminder about philosophy. I wore Amazing Grace for awhile and liked it but it wasn’t quite my forever scent. I’d like to try their other stuff though. I dearly loved Lancome’s Miracle So Magic but I only ever had a sample bottle and I don’t think they make that version anymore.

    7. Miss Kitty Fantastico*

      I wear Tocca’s Colette. It’s not too pricey and it’s very soft, especially after a couple hours of wear. I’m pretty sensitive to strong florals and love love love Colette. I was looking for a “scent” and brought home tons of samples from Sephora and finally found this!

  11. work ptsd*

    From Alison: I appreciate this post, but I’m going to ask you to leave it on the work-related open thread next Friday. Thank you!

  12. RFM*

    I’ve started a four-to-five days a week exercise regimen a couple weeks ago and I’m happy to say it’s going well! However, I don’t have more than one t-shirts and two blouses/sweaters in the size I’m currently in and I’m not sure whether or not to buy more clothes now, or wait a couple of weeks and see if I can get them in a smaller size. On the one hand, I feel limited by my lack of clothing and I feel uncomfortable going to events in the same clothing or in inappropriate clothing. On the other hand, there’s just three events to go to this month.

    What do you guys think?

      1. RFM*

        Not many second hand stores/charity shops nearby and they usually sell trinkets and furniture and books and stuff, but I’ll make a couple calls, see if any carry clothing. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie*

      I’d buy for the size you are now. You don’t know how your body will change as you progress in your workout.

    2. Artemesia*

      With events I’d plan to buy an outfit or two and keep it in the back of the closet later or donate it. If you can find one at a consignment or thrift shop great — otherwise go to a cheap place like H&M and get separates that will tide you over. If you go very basic and perhaps dress it up with an over piece that is not fitted and hence might be used when you are thinner, all the better.

      I just tried on the outfit I wore to my daughter’s wedding 10 years ago as I have a suitable event for it. I knew I had packed on a few pounds but yowza! couldn’t even button the jacket. I don’t feel THAT much bigger but this jacket doesn’t lie (not even going to the skirt) So I will be joining you at the gym.

      1. fposte*

        Heh. I’m still working off the post-surgery weight, and the worst to test are jackets and pants. They announce so early in the donning process that it’s not going to happen.

        1. Artemesia*

          My husband is busy losing weight — he did the big weight loss 25 years ago and has kept trim ever since — until recently a bit has crept back on. So I am gaining and he is losing and I fear I will pass him in weight if I don’t get a grip. I keep reading these articles about how a little extra weight as you age is actually healthy but I think it is time to end this wishful thinking. I don’t mind being big — I am still in the ‘normal BMI’ range — but there is no denying I have crossed the line. Now — how to trim back about 10 pounds without any suffering whatsoever and I have a sweet tooth.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            The sweet tooth thing is bad, but my weakness is crackers. I LOVE THEM. I’ve been trying to cut that back and eat stuff like Rye-Krisp instead of saltines. And less of it.

            Now that it’s warm, I can walk outside a lot more, which I find much preferable to going to the gym. The track is around and above the basketball court and the noise drives me crazy. Also, assuming my knee gets better soon and I can actually walk, I’ll drop several pounds in London quickly because I’ll be hoofing it everywhere.

    3. RFM*

      Some extra info – over the past five months, I’ve gained 55 pounds from new meds. I’m quitting the meds (though they were the first ones that worked, which sucks) and exercising to get back to my normal body.

    4. INTP*

      In that situation I’m a fan of buying a couple of go-to cheap items that fit well at my current size (say, from Old Navy – I personally despise thrift stores and secondhand shops but ymmv). It gives you something to feel confident in – it’s motivating to enjoy your new body with confidence – but you aren’t wasting a ton of money. You can also look for items that will still work if they’re a little looser, like a t-shirt that works fitted or baggy or a dress that you can belt.

      1. Artemesia*

        My daughter has done really well at the local thrift store even found things she could wear for dress or at work and she dressed her toddler very well from there. She has bought lots of things that look new and some that still have tags on them. Before that in another city she used a consignment shop with nice things to buy special items. Got a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress she wore often for a fraction of its original cost which she could never have afforded. I am a hopeless shopper and have never tried it myself. I order several lands ends turtles for winter and banana republic fitted cotton Ts for summer to pair with my jeans or cords and call it a day.

        1. INTP*

          I think some people have great luck in secondhand stores. I like shopping but I need petite sizes in pants, skirts, and dresses, which I rarely find in secondhand stores, and I am just not into clothes enough to buy a bunch of used items and have them hemmed and altered when I could just buy petites at Old Navy for the same price. (Because cheap clothing is now constructed so cheaply, only the pricier brands are really worth buying at secondhand stores.)

    5. the gold digger*

      I feel uncomfortable going to events in the same clothing

      Do you think anyone will really notice? I have been wearing the same clothes to work every week for months now. If anyone has noticed, they haven’t said anything. And even if they did say something, I would not care. I have decided that I am not going to spend money on clothes this year. (Except underwear.)(And pantyhose.)

      1. RFWL*

        I figure if the guys at work can do it with their little uniform of blue shirt and black trousers and no one notices, then damnit I can do it too with my little uniform of black trousers, button up and cardigan or whatever. Guys don’t notice much and unless you have some snarky women in your office, most others won’t either.

        That being said, it can be confidence building to have a new outfit and feel comfortable and proud wearing it. What about buying one or two new things each month as you lose the weight (like a dress and pants)? Or set a budget and get what you desperately need within that amount that can also work with what you currently have, so that over time your wardrobe overall becomes smaller.

      2. RFM*

        Well, I organise two of these events and the same people are going to be there, including a woman who often compliments my clothing/hair. I worry that they’ll think I don’t think enough about how I present myself or something.

        1. Artemesia*

          Get a basic black base and then use a different fancy overtop, scarf or jewelry to vary it. Focus on your hair — being well put together and well groomed really does work.

          1. HR Generalist*

            +1
            In this case I’d buy a black wrap or sheath dress (try Old Navy, J Crew, somewhere for less than $100). Wear it on its own once, then add cardigan, scarf, statement necklace, tights, boots, etc. to change it up each following time.

      3. INTP*

        I would notice but I really don’t care. I’d only think it’s odd if someone regularly wore the same outfits multiple times per week – and even then, I wouldn’t care per se, just notice that it was a little different and figure they probably have valid reasons for not buying new clothes.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Is there someone that will loan you something for the events?

      I lost a lot of weight and I just bought every other size. I would pick out clothes that would look okay if they were a little loose. My thought here would be to buy a couple things in your current size that would either look okay a little loose, or could be easily taken in. Some of my “bigger” clothes got relegated to “house clothes”. For a while, I had some nice clothes to wear at home.

      People have mentioned thrift stores, I might have missed it- but also consider consignment stores. You can buy and sell your stuff.

      1. RFM*

        I’ll ask my best friend (who is larger than me) if she has anything in my size, or just a bit too loose. Thank you for the idea!

  13. Gene*

    This should be A Thing. I have a local Korean grocery that makes incredible kimchi and a craft distillery that makes great vodka. While gettng ready to pour out the kimchi juice after finishing off the Napa, I said to myself, “Self, this could tasty.”

    Better than a Bloody Mary and definitely more healthful.

    I’m going to the distillery today, they’ve released a honey vodka I want to taste.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      It already is a thing in some places. Kimchi cocktails are quite good, and it’s basically the same idea as a Bloody Caesar, which even already contains hot sauce.

      If you blend the kimchi liquid with a little ice to thicken it up it makes a nice summer drink. Goes well with pickled onions.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I make my own kimchi and there’s always juice leftover in the jar. My boyfriend mixes it with all kinds of deliciousness (mostly tequila).

    3. The Office Admin*

      Honey vodka?
      Tell me more. Good? Good alone? Possible mixers?
      I prefer wine at home, but have a hard time getting wine at sports bars, so I tend to just freeze and blurt out: “Vodka soda lime” but…I don’t like vodka as much as I like wine.

      1. Gene*

        Tasty! I bought a bottle. Not overly sweet like the honey-flavored whiskeys I’ve tried. It’s vodka with honey flavor, not vodka-flavored honey.

        I haven’t figured out what to do with it, other than sipping. Don’t want to overpower the flavor.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      I finally tried kimchi a few months ago when I went to a Korean restaurant in LA. It was not for me, but at least I can now say I’ve tried it.

  14. littlemoose*

    Any recommendations for a comfortable dress heel, around 3″? My dress pants are all of a length to accommodate shoes that height, and I don’t really know that I would feel as professional in flats (this is just me personally, I’ve seen other ladies pull it off but for some reason I don’t think I can). I bought a pair of Rockports from Zappos recently that the reviews said were comfortable, but I wore them for two solid weeks on a business trip and I think those people are liars. I almost always wear flats and casual clothes at my regular office, so I realize the problem may just be that I’m unaccustomed to heels in general. But if anyone has suggestions, they would be welcome. I’m just looking for a basic black closed-toe heel.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have a cute pair of blue suede heels from Easy Spirit, of all places. Pretty comfortable, though I have foot issues that make wearing heels for any length of time close to impossible. Try Easy Spirit or Aerosoles.

    2. OfficePrincess*

      I have/had a pair of Naturalizer pumps that I wore into the ground over the course of 5 years. It doesn’t look like that exact style is still available, but they have some other options that would probably be just as comfortable.

    3. C Average*

      If you have narrow feet, try Cole Haans. I cannot personally attest to their wonderfulness (I have wide feet), but when my company owned Cole Haan, all my teacher friends used to ask me to use my discount to help them buy Cole Haans because they considered them the best comfortable but attractive all-day shoe.

      1. Marcela*

        My husband loves his Cole Haan. He actually bought 4 pairs of the exact same shoes, afraid they were going to discontinue them. And they are not cheap.

    4. Blue_eyes*

      I have a pair of Sofft brand black pumps that are pretty comfortable. I am not a heels wearer generally, but I can wear these for a while before they hurt, and someone used to wearing heels would probably find them rather comfortable.

    5. Awful Waffle*

      Dolce Vita and Ivanka Trump are good brands to try. I believe you can buy both brands at Nordstrom (Yay for free shipping and returns too!).

      1. HR Generalist*

        I wear the Karmen as well, I just got a new pair of Karmen and my first pair of Janine on sale for $20 each this Easter! Payless all the way.

    6. Jaune Desprez*

      You might also look for a shoe with a slightly platformed sole, which would allow you to wear a lower heel height and still get a 3-inch lift.

    7. ilovemintchocolate*

      I sold shoes for a few years, up until last year, and I completely echo the Cole Haan suggestion. That brand is, hands down, the best combination of comfortable, fashion-forward, and professional. The following styles embody each of those three qualities:

      1. http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/cole-haan-air-tali-wedge/3611212?origin=category-personalizedsort&contextualcategoryid=0&fashionColor=Blazer+Blue+Patent&resultback=1451
      These are only 1 1/2 inches in height, and the open toe/patent combination may not be appropriate for your office. However, as a casual shoe, these are some of the most comfortable things you can put on your feet. I wish I could accurately describe how amazing they are, seriously (sorry for sounding like a paid ad).

      2. http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/cole-haan-bethany-leather-pump-women/4053488?origin=category-personalizedsort&contextualcategoryid=0&fashionColor=&resultback=1303
      This is a 3 1/2 inch heel (and it’s on sale!)

      3. http://www1.macys.com/shop/product/cole-haan-juiliana-75-pumps?ID=1898543&CategoryID=56243#fn=sp%3D1%26spc%3D52%26ruleId%3D%26slotId%3D32
      Here’s a 3 inch heel in a classic silhouette.

      Good luck!!

    8. the gold digger*

      I really like Ferragamos. I get mine on eBay – I am not paying $500 for a pair of Italian leather shoes, but I want Italian leather shoes. Their sizes run pretty true and they are quite comfortable for heels.

      1. Julia*

        Ferragamos are wonderful and I’ve had some for ten years. Not worn daily, and kept on shoe trees, cream shoe polish and heels/tips as needed. Worth the money.

    9. Bea W*

      Does it have to be 3″? If you are unaccustomed to heals, that’s quite a leap. What about trying a slightly lower heal?

      I can’t imagine 3″ being comfortable for long periods of time under any circumstances, and like you I wear flats mostly. If you are not used to wearing heals or you have feet that are just cranky in heels for long periods, it doesn’t matter what the reviewers say about comfort, you will be uncomfortable, because your feet are going “WTH???!!!” Also make sure you have the correct size. I’ve actually known people who thought they had the right size and width for their feet, and then were measured at a store to find out they needed to go a size bigger, and doing that magically solved the discomfort issues. We may not be growing anymore, but foot structure and width can change as we age and as our bodies change.

      1. Marcela*

        +1 about correct size. When I moved to the US I checked the tables to convert between the european sizing system (which name is misleading because it’s the same system we use in Chile) and the US size. A couple of years later, I realized all my American shoes were really uncomfortable and painful. I’ve moved an entire number up, problem solved. I’m very annoyed because all that money spent in shoes I can’t wear, though.

  15. Cruciatus*

    I’m disappointed in Fitbit! They recently changed how active minutes work and now you have to move for 10 minutes before they will register the minutes. I’ve always gotten my minutes in dribs and drabs throughout the day, especially on work days. Now I leave work with 0 minutes and it’s very discouraging! I know I’m still doing good for my body, but I’d really like the Fitbit to register that, as it once did. I think all effort should matter! For whatever reasons, not everyone can move for 10 minutes at a time. I complained on Facebook and whoever is in charge of that sent me to the features community. If anyone else is interested in making their opinion known on this, you can google “Fitbit Feature Requests” and it should be the first site: Fitbit community. I’m not sure if it’s the best way to complain, but people have already made the complaints and you can vote up the item and comment. There were 2 that I saw that are gaining votes against the change. I really hope they rethink this!

      1. Cruciatus*

        Below is directly from their website. Sounds like they want to be in line with the CDC guidelines. If you want to read more just type “Fitbit CDC” and it comes up (“What are active minutes?”)
        “All Fitbit trackers calculate active minutes using metabolic equivalents (METs). METs help measure the energy expenditure used by various activities, and they do so in a comparable way among persons of different weights; therefore, METs are widely used as indicators for exercise intensity. For example, a MET of 1 indicates a body at rest. Fitbit trackers estimate your MET value in any given minute by calculating the intensity of your activity.

        You earn active minutes for activities at or above 3 METs. To stay in line with the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) “10 minutes at a time is fine” concept, minutes are only awarded after 10 minutes of continuous moderate-to-intense activity.”

    1. OfficePrincess*

      Everything makes sense now! I noticed I hadn’t been registering active minutes as much lately. I’m working back from a knee injury so everything I do is in small bursts. Here I was beating myself up thinking I need to move more and it was FitBit changing the rules on me. Not cool, guys.

      1. GH in SoCAl*

        I noticed that it retroactively changed all my records — I suddenly had MORE active minutes on some days (because they lowered the bar for what counts as active), fewer on others. I don;t like it either and I think it would be great if they made it a feature to allow the user to choose “old style” or “CDC style” metrics. I will chime in on the site Cruciatus mentioned.

    2. INTP*

      Yeah, they should allow a break of 1-2 minutes within the 10 minutes IMO. If I’m out for a walk and I have to stop for a streetlight every few blocks, then I can take an hour walk and have no active minutes to show for it.

      I think the intention was good, I just find that there are bits and pieces of non-active minutes here and there in all my activity where I’m not walking fast enough or had to stop for a light or took a water break mid-workout. 8 minutes out of 10 as active or something should count.

    1. C Average*

      I laughed my head off at the email one. Thank you! (Game of Thrones is a complete source of bewilderment and boredom to me, so I skipped that one. The husband loves it. I just don’t get it.)

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      The email one is hilarious, as is the conference call. I’ve watched them both several times.

    3. Windchime*

      The Seth Meyers skit was hilarious! Thanks for sharing that. I’ve watched it a couple of times and it just makes me giggle.

  16. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Women’s health issues ahead! Gentlemen (and ladies, for that matter) of the squeamish variety, you’ve been warned.

    I found out a few days ago that the source of my constant mild discomfort (not pain, thank goodness) is a pretty sizeable fibroid. It’s not big enough or causing enough issues to warrant removal at this stage (the pain from the procedures would be much worse than my current symptoms), but I’m curious if anyone has managed to remedy fibroid pain and discomfort without getting them removed. I’ve heard exercise is a big help, and I know I need to do more of that, but anything else?

    1. Headachey*

      Jaymee Marty, an accomplished master’s marathoner, wrote extensively and frankly about her struggles with fibroids on her blog (runawayfastjaymee.blogspot.com). She has several posts covering all the treatments she tried, and her struggles with anemia due to hemorrhaging each month. She ultimately had two ablations in order to resume training and racing.

      My own mother and several aunts had endometriosis and fibroids bad enough to warrant hysterectomies, but it sounds like you’re nowhere near that level of severity – hoping you never are!

      Good luck!

    2. Tau*

      I’m currently dealing with a fibroid, but am having enough side effects that removal seems to be the best option (among others: it’s the reason I’ve been moderately to severely anemic since November) so can’t help all that much.

      What I have heard from doctors is that there is medication that makes them shrink, but you shouldn’t take that for longer than three months at a time, and that they really don’t go away on their own (and have a tendency to come back after they’ve been removed, to boot). I hadn’t heard about exercise helping, but I suppose it’s not much of an option for me since anemia has really done a number on my physical fitness.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Ugh, I’m so sorry! Living with this kind of discomfort sucks, but I know I’m lucky (at this point, anyway). You don’t have to answer this question, but which type of removal are you opting for?

        The shrinking medication… Is that the temporary menopause thing my doctor mentioned? He said we would opt for that if I decide to try to get pregnant, and it just sounds risky to me. I’m past peak fertility and still ambivalent about children, so that’s an option I probably won’t exercise.

        1. Tau*

          From my understanding, the procedure they’re suggesting is hysteroscopic resection – which sounds as if it has a relatively low chance of complications and short recovery time, since no actual incisions are made. I might end up going private and apparently the hospital in my hometown has some very good equipment for this!

          Re: shrinking medication, my doctor mentioned two options: one the temporary menopause (which he did not recommend for me) and another that he said you should only take for a maximum of three months without a break because after that it starts damaging your liver (eek!) His suggestion is taking the latter for the three months before the removal in order to shrink the fibroid as far as possible beforehand.

          Good luck with everything! I hope you find a treatment option you’re happy with – the constant discomfort you mention sounds quite unpleasant.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Hmm, I don’t know. My gallbladder surgeon told me he checked all my innards and the only thing he found was a small uterine fibroid but it was nothing to worry about. I wonder, however, if it had anything to do with making cramps worse? Like if you didn’t have one, would they hurt as much? I had one last month at the very end that made me wonder if I were going to have kittens. It felt exactly like I’ve heard my mum friends describe labor pains!

    4. matcha123*

      I’d been told by doctors to take aspirin or other painkillers a week before I think my . would start. I ignored that for a long time, and about five years ago the pain got bad enough that I started following their advice.
      I found that when I upped my exercise, the pain wasn’t as long or severe, but even with exercise and medicine it was probably worse than the average person.

      I actually had surgery last year. While the pain had lessened, the fibroids got larger and I had a large bump in my stomach that got larger certain times of the month.
      So, exercise can lessen the pain, but continue to get the size checked!

    5. Wait for the change*

      How far are you from menopause? I was told I could do the ablation, or just wait. Reduced estrogen after menopause apparently makes them shrink, or at least not grow. So I waited. Took a little longer than I had hoped, but it’s fine now.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m 36– with my family history, I’m about 10-15 years pre-menopause. Watchful waiting for the time being, see if this sucker decides to grow or stay put.

    6. Risa*

      I had a fibroid and had to have surgery.

      Mine was outside my uterus. I did not experience the bleeding symptoms, so when I had pain/discomfort I attributed them to things like bad gas and bladder infections. I finally went to the doctor when I was double over in pain and couldn’t walk. My fibroid had grown to 4 lbs. (or about the size of a fetus at 7 months). It was impinging on my internal organs, spine and was approaching my heart. I had no choice but to have surgery. The choice was whether to go on Lupron to shrink the fibroid to a more manageable size or go straight to surgery. I opted to go straight to surgery. It was the second largest my doctor had seen in his 30+ year career. I was 30 years old at the time.

      I was not able to have laparoscopic surgery. I ended up with an incision similar to that of a C-Section. Recovery time and impact was similar to that of a C-Section. I was out of work for 8 weeks. I believe the laparoscopic surgery would have a shorter recovery time.

      While I’m not really answering your question, my point is don’t wait too long to address surgically if you need to. It can have a significant impact on your recovery time and the type of surgery you can have to remedy the problem. I wish I had gone to the doctor much earlier rather than making excuses for my pain and discomfort.

  17. C Average*

    I’ve decided to sign up to volunteer for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

    I was a big Hillary supporter during the 2008 election after seeing her speak locally. She came across as very intelligent and prepared with regard to local, national, and world issues–the Q&A from the audience was all over the map, and she gave really thorough, interesting responses. I tend to agree with her on most political issues. And–I’ll admit it–I’m just plain excited about the idea of a plausible female presidential candidate!

    I’ve always wanted to volunteer for a political campaign in some capacity, but I’ve always been way too busy. I did a bit of work for Obama’s second campaign, but didn’t really have the bandwidth to do much.

    I love politics. Always have. My parents have always been political–they were super liberal when I was little but have drifted right as they’ve gotten older–and my birthday often fell on election day, which somehow made it all seem even more interesting. I remember my mom bringing cupcakes with little American flags stuck in them to my first-grade class the day Reagan got elected to his first term, and Obama won his first presidential election on my 35th birthday. Best birthday ever! I got to dance in the streets and drink champagne with a bunch of strangers in northeast Portland.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      Awesome! I’m a big fan of hers too.

      I volunteered at our municipal elections last time around – I was the party’s rep on site at one of the polling stations, making sure everything was going as it should and feeding back info on turnout numbers to HQ. It was really fun, and our (OMGSOAWESOME) mayor won re-election. I decided I’d volunteer for the next one, on the actual campaign as well as on the day, but it ended up clashing with my PMP studies, so I didn’t. I’m thinking about it for the next federal election later this year, even though our local MP is from the party I support and is almost 100% guaranteed to win his seat again (he has one of the biggest majorities in the country and is an outstanding representative). I think it would still be really interesting though, and maybe they can find a way for me to help with a more closely contested seat too.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Awesome! Campaigning is such a blast. Have you ever worked on a local campaign? A whole different kind of fun.

      1. the gold digger*

        Working on a campaign might be fun, but I do not recommend being married to a candidate. :)

        (Although Primo tells me that at least he is giving me material for my blog, which he wants me to rename, “The Politician’s Wife.” I have refused, informing him that I do not derive my identity from him.)

    3. Florida*

      Another one who loves politics. That’s one thing that’s fun about Florida. All of the politicians make multiple visits here because we are the largest swing state (plus they want to go to Disney World!). It will be very exciting this year down here because we have Jeb and Rubio both from Florida. I’m not voting for either of them, but everyone is going to be fighting like crazy for the Florida vote. (For the record, I think the electoral system sucks. Popular vote makes more sense.)

      I, too, am a fan of Hilary. I can’t think of any presidential candidate we’ve ever had who is more qualified. I’m speaking purely of qualifications, not ideology. Most candidates have 4-8 years in Congress or as a 1-2 terms as governor of their state. That’s their government experience before they become president! She has been First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State. How many candidates have that on their resume?

      1. BRR*

        When I lived in Ohio I felt like my vote was so important. I’ve since moved to another state and no longer feel democracy works haha.

        And I agree about the electoral system. Aren’t we above the rationale of it?

    4. S*

      I work in politics! My new job is taking a step back from it because burn-out is indeed a thing, but I still love keeping up with the news and I also plan on volunteering on the Clinton campaign, just to keep myself involved somehow.

    5. mm-or*

      I’ll be volunteering for Hillary. I voted for her in the primary the last time and was so disappointed that she didn’t win. I later volunteered for Obama but my heart remained with Hillary.

  18. Madeye*

    Has anyone learned to play the piano as an adult? How hard/easy was it to pick up?I have never played an instrument, but would love to learn.

    1. Headachey*

      Yes! When I shared a house in my twenties, a housemate bought a piano and I decided to learn. I’d played the violin in school so could read music – treble clef, at least. I bought some beginning piano books and practiced a lot. My housemate would help me out if I got stuck, but mostly I learned on my own. By the time I moved out, I could play the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata.

      I’d say with a lot of practice and a bit of innate musicality, it’s definitely possible to learn as an adult. Having easy & regular access to a piano helps, too, so you can practice whenever the mood takes you.

      Oh, I’ll also recommend Noah Adams’ book Piano Lessons, in which he decides to learn to play the piano at 52.

    2. nep*

      While I did have a few piano lessons at age 20 or so, I can’t really address that particularly. But I’ve learned and continue to learn other instruments. Other readers more expert in music could contribute more here, but I’d say that regardless of age and experience, what counts is how much time and commitment one gives to the process. And practice, practice, practice. No substitute for motivation and practice.

    3. Billy Oblivion*

      I tried taking piano lessons a few years ago[1], and it pains me to admit it, but I had difficulty finding the time to practice, compounded by a lack of discipline in forcing myself to practice during what little time I could find. I ended up giving up.

      But that’s just me. I was like 52yo, with a wife and two kids at home, and a full-time job, and not a lot of privacy (and I despise headphones / earbuds). I have it on good authority that yes, it is indeed possible for adults to learn. It’s really going to depend on you and what you put into it.

      I’d definitely say: go for it. I mean, at least try.

      [1] my background is guitar and I know enough theory that I can noodle on a keyboard and I can do stuff on my home music rig, but I was hoping to learn to “play piano” in the conventional sense.

      1. Madeye*

        I would buy a keyboard if I started to take lessons, how different is it from practicing on a piano?
        I have literally never played an instrument, would be starting from zero.

        1. Florida*

          Be sure you buy a keyboard that is the same size as a real piano. On some keyboards, the keys are smaller and they don’t have all of the keys. Get a full size one.

          The feel of a keyboard is a little different than a keyboard, but I don’t think it matters that much. Sure, if you were planning to become a concert pianist, you would need to practice on a real piano. But for a fun hobby, I don’t think it matters.

          1. Calacademic*

            Also, a keyboard often has an electronic plug, so you can buy a nice pair of headphones and only you will have to hear you practice. I agree with Florida that you need to get a full size piano/keyboard. If you want to spend extra money, you can get ones that are calibrated to have the right key weight. But those can be almost or more pricey than a plain-jane acoustic piano. Spend some time shopping on Craigslist to see what used models you can pick up.

            Can you read music? That’s the place to start. Try to find pieces of music that you recognize, so you can use your ears to help teach you. Church music is especially great for this because a lot of it is written for beginning musicians but it will still be a tune you recognize (and not twinkle twinkle little star).

            1. EmilyG*

              I got a brand new Yamaha digital piano with weighted keys a few years ago, delivered and set up, for $1200. I think they can definitely be cheaper than acoustic ones! You probably don’t want to spend money on an acoustic piano that is in bad shape, needs repairs, regular tuning, etc.

        2. Billy Oblivion*

          If I were you, I’d buy a relatively cheap electronic keyboard with full-sized keys and a minimum 5 octave range (61 keys). It won’t have the same “feel” as a real piano, but given your circumstances, I think that will be okay to start. If you really find yourself warming to it, then you may want to invest in a real piano or something with more of a piano-like action. (I’ve discussed this with many piano players and keyboardists over the years, and the general consensus is that starting with a non-piano action isn’t going to ruin you for life)(although if you’re filthy rich, feel free to go out and buy a Bosendorfer).

          If you don’t want to always be using headphones, make sure the keyboard has a built-in amplifier and speaker. Or else be ready to buy a small amplifier to plug it into.

          If possible, try to test out the keyboard before you buy it. You may need to bring a pair of headphones to the store to hear it well over any retail store background noises. The point is: make sure you like the way it sounds. The piano is a surprisingly subtle instrument and it’s taken several decades for electronic pianos to reach their current level of fidelity. But there is no single “piano sound”. But the point is that you’re going to be hearing this sound A LOT. So make sure you like it. Onboard effects like reverb can often improve the sound quite a lot.

          You may or may not care if the keyboard supports MIDI, which is beyond the scope of this post, but if you think you might be interested in hooking your keyboard up to a computer or iPad or iPhone to record your keystrokes, or to control one of the many inexpensive iOS synthesizer apps, you’ll want to have MIDI out.

          I know they catch a lot of grief, but Guitar Center is a fairly good place to go to listen to a variety of keyboards. The trick is to hit them at a time when they aren’t packed with teen shredders in the guitar section. Music gear has become quite commoditized, so (while you should definitely do some pricing research), GC’s in-store and website costs tend to be very much in line with what you’d find on Amazon or at Sam Ash or Musician’s Friend or Sweetwater, etc. it pains me to say this, but avoid your local “piano store” that specializes in high school band instruments and selling pianos that look like furniture – these are the people who will try to smooth talk you into dropping a couple of thousand dollars.

          I hope this helps!

          1. Madeye*

            It does, thank you! I think buying one of these to practice with for now should work, I mostly want to learn for fun so I don’t want to buy anything too expensive, since I don’t even know if I will be any good at it at all!

            1. ® ® ® ® ® ® ®*

              For the record – you may wish to start with something like one of these:

              http://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-YPT-240-Premium-Keyboard-Headphones/dp/B00F07YC4S/

              http://www.amazon.com/Casio-CTK2400-PPK-Portable-Headphones/dp/B00JZEW4XS/

              Which (as I post this) are $130, and they both appear to have built-in speakers.

              Also, when I say “start”, I mean: go listen to them at the store and see if you like they way they sound and feel. You may (or may not) decide to move up a bit on price to find a sound that you truly like. It is admittedly something of a tightrope walk in that you don’t want to cheap-out and buy something that turns you off to the concept of learning to play – but you also don’t want to spend megabucks on something awesome when you might decide after 4 weeks of lessons that this is simply not working out for you.

              Having said that, I bought my daughter one of these:

              http://www.amazon.com/Casio-PX5S-88-Key-Privia-Digital/dp/B00BISVO0I/

              for her to practice on while she’s at college and it’s mostly been money wasted because it’s one of the most sophisticated pieces of electronic equipment in the family and it will do unbelievable things – but she never uses anything but the basic Piano voice.

              (In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out how to sneak one of these into the house. It’s probably going to involve a trip to that jewelry store that has the little pale blue boxes).

        3. nep*

          If you want to take piano lessons, I say go for it — without feeding thoughts about why you ‘shouldn’t’ or about any downside or handicap. It’s all about the process and the learning, right? That experience in itself is so enriching. Very worthwhile, seems to me. In my view learning an instrument, like reading, enriches one’s life in a lot of wonderful and perhaps unexpected ways.

    4. Liane*

      I am so glad you asked this. Several years ago, I promised myself & my choir director that once my kids graduate high school I am going to take keyboard/piano lessons from her–and that will be in just over a year. She doesn’t seem to think I will have any trouble picking it up.

      I have always wanted to learn to play organ, but never had a chance to take lessons. I can read treble clef from choir & woodwinds. I can also read–a little & very slowly bass clef–since I used to play the larger handbells. (Alas, now bells larger than middle C cause me wrist problems.)

    5. EmilyG*

      Oooh, a question I can address! I took up piano a few years ago in my mid-30s, when I moved out of NYC and finally had room (and time and money). I take lessons because I want to learn proper fingering and form. I played violin as a kid so I already knew how to read music (treble clef anyway) and probably manage to practice about 20 minutes per day on average. Which is to say that I usually practice half an hour at a time, sometimes more, and then not at all while traveling, on holidays, etc. I got a full size digital piano with weighted keys and don’t notice much of a difference when I switch to a real piano during my lesson; I can use headphones but I usually don’t anymore except when practicing really tedious things like scales or the same measure over and over. The neighbors in my apt. building say they can’t hear it so I don’t use the headphones anymore when practicing my pieces. I’ve gotten as far as learning a Mozart sonata and the easiest Beethoven sonata so far, but I don’t think I’m naturally particularly musical and my teacher wants me to learn things the right way, methodically, so I go pretty slowly. Check out the Piano Forums > Adult Beginners group if you want to find *lots* of fellow travelers. (I only lurk there.) It’s fun, do it!

      1. EmilyG*

        Also, a book recommendation: “Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible” in which the 50-something author vows to learn the Chopin Ballade #1 in a single year.

        1. Madeye*

          Thank you! Just the inspiration I need. I suspect I’m not particularly musical but I would like to at least try to learn, since I really want to. Also, I have the time to learn right now.

  19. Ali*

    Fashionistas of AAM, help me be prettier!

    Without getting too much into work stuff, I want to say that working at home for almost five years has left me schlubby, and I’m tired of it. I wear pretty plain clothes most of the time, like jeans/capris and t-shirts/hoodies (weather dependent, though jeans for right now), and my makeup routine itself leaves a bit to be desired. I generally only wear foundation and blush and don’t make a whole lot more effort than that before going anywhere. But now that I’m trying to gain more confidence and be healthier, I want to use it as a time to come out of my fashion shell.

    I know there are a few things that definitely won’t work for me. I don’t have the body type for a pencil skirt or shorts, for example, so I don’t really want to go out and buy them. However, I know I could have a better makeup routine and wear stuff even just out to dinner that isn’t so blah and basic. Not saying I want to dress like I’m going to a 5-star restaurant all the time, especially since my area is mostly made up of chains and fast food/pizza places, but I would just like to feel better when I go out and not like I’m still sitting around the house working.

    So, where can I start? I’ve been in NYC all week, and it’s been a great place to start stocking up on skirts, dresses and some patterned flats. I’m also considering trying to branch out where I shop because I spend a lot of money at Old Navy, and they can have nice things, but they are mostly casual, so that’s how I got around to owning so many jeans and t-shirts in the first place.

    I have not really been into fashion before, but I’m making friends with a girl who enjoys getting herself put together and talks about how much fun she has, and she’s encouraging me to join her. Hearing about how much fun she has and the fact that she’s not making it sound like something that *must* be done is making me think oh I’ll give this a try too!

    1. fposte*

      I think you’ll get lots of response on this one! On clothing, I would say that casual/formal is often less important than getting a proper fit (in other words, getting things altered) and being put together–which is usually going to involve that “third piece,” as commenter MaryMary says, or careful choice of accessories such as belts, shoes, and jewelry. So, assuming they fit, an Old Navy t-shirt over Old Navy pants turn into something else when you throw on a light casual jacket altered to fit you well, an inexpensive statement-type necklace, and some well-polished shoes you really like.

      I also really like the way you’re thinking about experimenting as fun. It’s kind of wild as an adult when you realize you could actually dress any way you want, and that the way you dress currently isn’t a requirement.

      1. LAMM*

        This is the rule of thumb I picked up working in clothing stores. 3 items (top + bottom + layering piece) plus an accessory or two.

        They layering piece doesn’t even have to be a cardigan or a jacket. In the summer my go to outfit is a pair of jeans (I don’t wear shorts), a fitted (solid color, often neutral) tank, and then a more interesting tank on top of that… patterns, more colorful, etc. Then I throw on a statement piece (necklace, bracelet, ring, etc) to top it off. I’m a fan of one BIG piece, but the jewelry can be simple too.

        I keep it less expensive by making sure my main wardrobe in very basic… lots of black, white, gray, neutrals. Then I change up my ‘outer top’ to match the season. That way I’m only adding a few new pieces each time.

    2. thisisit*

      you could try a personal shopper? often times they are free in department stores.

      as for makeup – i actually went to the mall one and day walked around the makeup counters until i found someone whose makeup i liked, and then asked her for a makeover and suggestions.

      1. Ali*

        Personal shoppers aren’t much of a “thing” where I live. We have department stores, but I’m in a smaller city (less than 100K population). They don’t really offer that service.

    3. StarHopper*

      I have found some great dresses and skirts over the years are places like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. Basic cardigans I get at Target or Old Navy. And I would add scarves to the list of accessories that dress up a tee thirt and jeans. But pants, man. They are the devil. And I have plain given up on shorts. If anyone knows of a decent place to get pants and jeans for women with actual hips and thighs, I would like to know. Preferably that don’t cost more than $60. I am not plus size, but I cannot wear all this slim fit stuff that’s out there.

    4. Jillociraptor*

      I’m excited to read the responses on this because I’ve been on the same journey the last couple of months! Here are a couple of things I’ve enjoyed doing.

      First, my hair salon just added make up lessons to their service. I got an hour long consultation where the stylist helped me figure out what colors look best on me, and how to build a basic look for casual, work, and evening/fancy/fun. It was about $40, and they weren’t pushy at all about getting me to buy their products. It was SUPER fun. I know a lot of people who have taught themselves make up with YouTube videos and stuff like that, but it just wasn’t the way I learn best.

      Second, I did some reading on capsule wardrobes. This series from Putting Me Together (http://www.puttingmetogether.com/p/wardrobe-from-scratch-series.html) was the one that made the most sense to me but there are TONS of these guides everywhere if this one isn’t right for you. It guides you through picking a color palette and picking out which items to buy to create a mix and match wardrobe. I chose a palette I already had a lot of clothes in, and just used their guides to figure out what was missing. I ended up spending maybe $200 (including lots at Old Navy, as a fellow enthusiast!) and it totally remade my wardrobe.

      Finally, I found this app called Stylebook, where you take pictures of your clothes and arrange them into outfits. Now, when I wake up, I can just page through some of the outfits I’ve put together (Cher Horowitz style) and pick something fun.

      For me the biggest block was that I just had no idea what I was doing. I picked make up, clothes, everything just based on how much I liked each individual product/item. I just needed someone to literally tell me what to do, and once they did, I’m in a much better place! And I’m starting to get the idea myself. I can definitely imagine being able to expand all these skills myself, but for now I’m really glad to be able to delegate this to someone/someapp else :)

      1. Mimmy*

        What you describe is EXACTLY what I need!! Where’s that salon….I’m moving there! :P j/k.

        While we were dating, my now-husband gifted me with a one-hour make-up lesson. It was very helpful, but they tried to push a couple hundred dollars worth of make-up products on me. We were able to avoid buying anything…oh man how embarrassing! Plus, I lost the personalized color guide the woman gave me…oops.

        I’ll definitely check out the sites you mentioned. I’m just really clueless about what colors look good on me, and, generally how clothes are supposed to look and what goes together well. I’m slowly learning bit by bit. I just never bothered to read fashion magazines when I was younger–I wasn’t interested, and the print was too small anyway.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          Yes – check out that site. They do walk you through how to pick out what colors are best for you and how to pull those into a palette. It’s really helpful and helped get me out of my black and gray rut!

    5. JPixel*

      I hit up Marshall’s and TJ Maxx for cute tops. I dont have much patience for digging through the racks and trying on pants (ugh to pants shopping in general) but I usually have good luck finding shirts.

      Also, a fun scarf or necklace can dress up a simple outfit such as a plain top and jeans. I’m not usually a fan of forever 21 or H&M for clothes but I’ve done well with accessories there for cheap!

      I also feel more dressed up by throwing on a casual blazer.

      Lastly, a $10 manicure always makes me feel more put-together.

    6. Blue_eyes*

      This is kind of goofy – but try watching some episodes of “What Not to Wear” (They used be on Netflix, but don’t seem to be anymore. If you are in the US and have cable there are re-runs on TLC a lot I think). What’s great about the show is that they take average people and help them find a style that works for them, and their body. You can find things that fit and look flattering no matter who you are. They may also give you some ideas of ways to pair items that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

      1. Jen RO*

        And ‘How Do I Look”!

        I love those shows and I really did start dressing a little better after watching them for a few years!

    7. Olive K*

      any interest in StitchFix? I know it’s been mentioned on here before, but it’s a great way to get introduced to things you might not have tried on your own. I got a box yesterday and they really sent me some great stuff. As in a dip-died kimono, asymmetrical zip sweatshirt and graphic print dress. Each piece is definitely in my comfort zone, but more polished than my usual versions of things.

      In general they are hit or miss for me, but I usually get at least one piece per shipemnt that I love, and slowly am elevating my look (if left to my own devices, I drift into jeans/t-shirt/sweater/boots all winter and dress/sweater/flip flops all summer).

      1. Ali*

        I am worried StitchFix might not have my size in stuff. They do go up to XL, but I’m afraid some of it won’t fit me! (I’m plus sized and obviously trying to change that, but I’m kind of in between sizes.)

        1. Delyssia*

          Have you heard of/looked at Gwynnie Bee? They’re like Netflix for clothes: you pay a monthly fee, for which you can have up to a certain number of articles of clothing at home at a time. Shipping is free both ways, and if you like a given item, you can opt to buy it at a discount and just keep it. They offer sizes 10 & up.

          I’ve done this for a while now, and I like the variety and being able to try out stuff that pushes my limits a bit. There have been a number of items that I liked the look of, but I was pretty well convinced they wouldn’t actually suit me, but then I’ve LOVED them when I got them.

      2. Sara*

        Glad to hear a review of StitchFix. I’ve been thinking of signing up for a service like that in a couple months. Like the OP, I tend to stay very firmly entrenched in my clothing comfort zone and I feel like a selection service like that might be the push I need to start looking at new things.

      3. CAA*

        I signed up with them last month and just got the shipping notice for my first box yesterday. I’m looking forward to seeing what they send me.

      4. LAI*

        StitchFix sent me some great pieces. I ended up not scheduling regular shipments because some of the items are a bit more expensive than I usually like to spend, but it’s nice to do occasionally for inspiration and to get some nice things that I wouldn’t think to buy for myself (also, I don’t live near any malls so shopping is hard!)

        I used Pinterest to give the StitchFix folks some ideas of my style preferences. Pinterest is great just for browsing and getting an idea of what you like.

    8. Yoshi*

      Try reading fashion blogs? I really like cap hill style (and I’ve heard it recommended on AAM many times), but if that’s not your style, just keep an eye out. Extra Petite is great as well, and its good inspiration even if you the petite clothing/tips doesn’t work for you.

      My other recommendation would be to put some time into doing your hair. For me, even styling my hair a little bit (drying it atleast halfway, using some product) goes a long way to making me feel a lot more put together.

    9. Mints*

      Oh, it is fun! A couple general things: make up and hair get easier over time. At first it’ll take forever and then you’ll feel like an expert at your basic routine, and will be able to experiment more. Also it’s been my experience that hair is easiest when it’s pretty long or pretty short, for every day styling.

      Cheap accessories all the way. Claire’s and Target have great jewelry, it’s just a little shopping effort.

      Also Tumblr has great fashion blogs, but they tend to the fashion forward side. I like the What Not To Wear suggestion a lot for real life examples.

    10. Cristina in England*

      I’ve done something similar recently. I used to do t-shirts and jeans all the time, but jeans (and pants/trousers in general) are just not right for my body type. I now wear jersey dresses almost all of the time. They feel like wearing a tshirt and are so much more flattering to the thighs. I live in a cold climate so I can get away with dresses, boots, and leggings for almost the entire year. I have a couple of black cardigans with pockets for my phone, and that’s pretty much my uniform. In the summer I wear jersey dresses with cotton spandex exercise shorts underneath, and flat sandals.

      Generally, I’ve found the following advice to be useful: If you’re bottom-heavy, wear bigger, brighter, looser, wider tops, and something plain and fitted (but not tight) on the bottom. I used to think that I should wear big a-line skirts with patterns on them, but for a hippy person like me, that just makes me look unbalanced. The central premise of dressing to flatter your figure is to achieve balance. Google ‘ Trinny and Susannah body shape’ if you want to check out more about different body shapes.

      1. Clever Name*

        I assume the shorts are to avoid chafing. I’ve discovered that wearing men’s boxer briefs prevents chafing and prickly heat.

    11. matcha123*

      I think that extrapetite has a lot of great fashionable, work-friendly outfits on her site. I read it a lot, and while I doubt I can ever dress as well as she can, it does give me some ideas.
      I had the same issue as you a number of years ago, and still do. My first suggestion would be to do a lot of window shopping and see what type of style you would be comfortable with. Then, look through the clothes you have to see if pairing them with something else would “bring them up” a bit. Then, I would look for plain tops and bottoms in blacks, greys or other colors.

      I recommend Zara. There’s no Zara in my home state, and it’s only somewhat available throughout the US, but if you’ll be in NYC for a while, they probably have a store there. They have great sales here in Japan, and I’d bet the same in the US. As an example, I’ve got a jacket that was originally priced for about $90 for about $19!
      Uniqlo, which has a store in SoHo, I think, is also great for basics like cardigans.

      Get undershirts! I wish I’d know about this in middle and high school, but undershirts are great for everything and not hot at all! I’ve always had problems with button-up shirts showing my bra and other things, but with an undershirt, no worries. Uniqlo has warm ones called HeatTech for the winter and cooling ones called SaraFine for the summer. I have a ton of them.

      Finally, don’t be shy about trying on clothes. I used to get nervous about trying things on and not buying them for various reasons. But, it’s OK. Try on the shirt, the pants, etc. Take a picture with your cell phone and see what works for you! Buy things in sale so you don’t feel bad if you end up not liking it :)

    12. Sunflower*

      Determine your body type and find a celeb with a similar one. Check out what they wear- focus more on the fit, not the actual item.
      I think accessories are good spot to start if you want to dress up your current wardrobe. You’d be shocked at how much putting on a statement necklace with a plan tee and jeans will dress your outfit up. J.Crew has beautiful- yet expensive- pieces. Since you’re in NYC, Necessary Clothing and Forever 21(I personally like the one on 34th st.) has some cheap jewelry that you can start with- at least if you end up not liking it, you didn’t shell out a ton for the stuff. They have cheap, trendy clothing as well. Some of the stuff is clearly only meant for modelesque body types but they have stuff for everyone!

      I think a lot of finding your style is trial and error. I love flowy, free people type clothes and it took me a while to realize that stuff really doesn’t work for my body. It’s way more important to find what looks good on you than buy what’s trendy.

    13. Clever Name*

      I think the two most important things you can do to up your fashion game is to wear clothing that fits impeccably (you’ll have to be a picky shopper and get things tailored) and pay attention to your shoes. Don’t wear tennis shoes anywhere but the gym. Even the most fashion forward outfit magically transforms to dowdy when worn with bright white sneakers. Even switching to a tennis shoe-like shoe like sketchers or converse is a step up.

      If you’re wearing tees with graphics on them, start buying solid color tees. Accessorize with a necklace. Delicate pendant necklaces are “in” now, as opposed to huge statement necklaces that were all the rage a few years ago. If you’re wearing solid color tees, look for tops with a bit of embellishment. There are some lovely printed blouses out there now too.

      For casual wear, straight leg styles of jeans are trendier than bootcuts. Skinny jeans are still in, as far as I can tell. I made a similar transformation, and it helped me to take baby steps. I didn’t go from jeans and tee shirts to skinny jeans and flows tops overnight.

      I also only buy clothing that I love. I have too see myself in the fitting room and think, “I love it!” It saves on returns and avoids the too much clothing but nothing to wear phenomenon.

    14. themmases*

      So I’m late but I hope this helps– I deliberately overhauled my wardrobe about a year ago, and have been really happy with the results. The first thing that helped me was following a couple of style blogs and generally looking wherever I could for inspiration. I’m even signed up for a few stores’ email lists that I rarely buy from, I just get the emails so I can look at the pictures. I really like the blog Already Pretty which has a great archive, and as a bonus she has tons of collaborators and posts links frequently, so if her advice doesn’t work for you you shouldn’t have a problem finding someone else you like through that blog. For a while I just followed these blogs, trying out any advice I could act on for free, saving outfit pictures I liked, and thinking about how I wanted to look.

      I’m a grad student and I like mixing colors/prints and don’t care about experimenting with silhouette. So almost all my outfits are: boots, pointed flats, or Oxfords; skinny or straight pants; some combination of v-neck t-shirt, v-neck pullover, sleeveless button-down, cardigan; fun scarf. Sometimes a blazer. I get a lot of variety out of this actually.

      Around the next season change I pulled *everything* out of my closet and didn’t put it back in unless it fit me well, was in good condition, and looked right in a couple of different outfits I wanted to wear soon. I was also losing weight, so I saved stuff that was nice but too small and got rid of everything that was nice but too big. I made a shopping list of stuff I wanted to upgrade and new stuff I wanted to make my chosen look work.

      From there I just started actually clicking the links in my email from time to time. It was quick and easy because I knew what I wanted, and I ended up not even needing everything on my list. Most things in my closet go with most other things and I have fun getting dressed because I only have to mix and match colors. Also it saves me money. There’s no urgency to replace stuff that wears out because I have other versions that work. And if I want to try a trendy color or something I get it in a scarf or t-shirt for really cheap, and only invest in a sweater or blouse in that color if I find myself wishing I could wear the t-shirt all the time.

      For hair and makeup, I believe you really only need a couple of go-to techniques that look great on you. Many style bloggers will make or link to tutorials for slightly fancier versions of, say, classic hair buns. Once you find a version that works, do it as much as you want without guilt!

  20. Gene*

    I’ve dropped about half the weight I regained after relaxing too much on carb intake. Another couple of months and I’ll be back to where I was.

    BTW, have you guys seen a recent photo of Penn Jillette? Wow! We now weigh about the same, but he looks great and I still look fat; amazing what a foot of height will do…

      1. Gene*

        I essentially went zero carbs for a couple of weeks, now being careful about them. An occasional small serving of ice cream of I’m in the mood, but mostly fresh vegetables and fruits. And today, some vodka (see above). No pasta, that’s my kryptonite.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yep. I did this and it so worked. Three sizes in two weeks. Check it out- I only lost 4 pounds. Yep. Three sizes, four pounds. It was so worth it. When I was 17 I wore a size 24. In those days, everyone was skinny. I felt conspicuous. It took me all the way up to age 34 to get those last sizes off. And they fell off. I was checking the floor around me to see where it went.

              The only disappoint I had was that I wanted to be a size 8 and weigh less than 150 pounds. I don’t know- I felt I should be 115. I like the number. However, I did not want to go below a size 8 so I had to let go of the number thing.

            2. Gene*

              And variations of this recipe is what I usually eat for lunch almost every day when I’m finished with the zero carb.

              http://twolumps.net/d/20120208.html

              I’ve stopped with the bacon wrap, if I want bacon in them, I’ll cook some up and mix in with everything else. And the stuffing bit is usually skipped too, though the batch I made today is stuffed with olives stuffed with jalapeno and garlic.

  21. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    So, a few weeks ago I asked for ideas of things to do in California when hubby and I head over later this year — thank you so much to everyone who responded, we have a ton of ideas now!

    Today I’m wondering if y’all can explain your strange and magical ways to me in the form of sales tax and tipping.

    Tax is included in the price in everything here. Price on label = price I pay at counter. But I get the impression that lots of stuff in the US has the before-tax price? Is everyone just exceptionally good at maths, or is there a trick to quickly working out how much I’m actually going to pay?

    And tipping. We don’t tip in NZ (apart from occasionally a loose-change jar at the counter) so I’m a complete newbie. Do I tip on pre-tax or post-tax? What do I tip for not-good-but-not-terrible, average, good, great service? I know I tip at dine-in restaurants, but should I be tipping anywhere else and are the rates the same?

    I’m aware that I’m probably well overthinking this, sorry. But I really don’t want to be that tourist who commits a bunch of faux pas.

    1. BRR*

      Prices you see the vast majority of the time are pre-tax. So that $0.99 bottle of water will be ~$1.07 (I just realized I have no idea what tax is). I tend to just pay it. Also with hotels there are often other taxes beyond sales tax.

      Tipping, you’re going to get a wide variety of opinions. I think for dine-in restaurants 15%-20% post tax depending on the service. Sometimes a little more if the server was spectacular. You should search for tips for cab drivers, tour guides, bell hops, and bartenders. Possibly more but I’m sleepy at the moment.

      Enjoy your trip!

      1. Blue_eyes*

        I’ve always read that you tip on restaurant service on the pre-tax amount. But now I can’t think of exactly where I heard that.

        1. BRR*

          As TL said it usually doesn’t make a huge difference. I try to round up because it’s not that much but when a server looks at it percentage wise it can make their day and they have to put up with a lot.

      2. Kat*

        That would be around 7% tax on that bottle of water. Maybe 8%.

        If I know what the local tax rate is, I do some quick and dirty estimations. 3.00 will be 3.21 (7 cents per dollar or at 8% it’ll be 3.24….8 cents per dollar.)

        Our local tax rate is 7% but a nearby town is 8.5% (round UP when it has a .5 so you arent guessing under).

        There are tax calculators online and probably even an app.
        For tips I double the tax amount, then add another dollar or two. It depends on the service.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Hope you have a fun trip!

      Taxes: The pricetag is pre-tax, and tax varies by product and locale. I live in California, and there is both sales tax and sometimes other taxes and fees included (there’s a bottle tax for example, if you buy anything in plastic bottles). I don’t even try to estimate, I just round up. Not helpful, sorry!

      Tips are way easier. You tip on the pre-tax amount, and 15% is basically the bare minimum that’s appropriate. 20% is typical for good service. I usually take the pre-tax amount, move the decimal one place left, and then double the amount (aka find 10% and double it), then round it up or down to the closest dollar amount based on quality of service. Other than dine-in restaurants, some counter restaurants, especially coffee shops, have a tip jar, and for those, it’s nice but definitely not expected that you’ll tip. Also any food delivery–the delivery person should get a tip, and ideally cash so they’ll actually get the money.

      1. Calacademic*

        I do exactly what Jillociraptor does — unless I decide to get lazy and just do the calculation on my phone. Tips are pre-tax.

        Are you worrying about tax because you’re not a US citizen (obviously) and thus shouldn’t have to pay it? I don’t think that will fly at all (and I’m not sure if it is true or not). Most cashiers are minimum wage employees and won’t have the authority to deal with a request to forgo paying tax.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          I read it as MJ worrying about not having enough money for a purchase because they hadn’t thought about the extra cost of the tax.

            1. danr*

              Don’t give the cashier money until you see the cost rung up. You never know when there might be discounts. Also, everything is not taxed. Around here (nj) fresh food in a store and clothing is not taxed. Gasoline is not separately taxed in NJ, but may be elsewhere. Only Oregon and New Jersey don’t allow self service gasoline pumps. Everywhere else has self service. Full service costs more unless you’re handicapped.

            2. mm-or*

              Depends on where you are in the US. I live in Portland, Oregon and we don’t have sales tax. If you hand the cashier a $20 bill for a $19.99 purchase you will get a penny back. But we are one of only about five states without a sales tax.

    3. fposte*

      Sales tax varies, because it’s not set nationally–it’s set by state and even municipality. So it varies from 9.25% in Chicago to 0% in five states. It should be itemized separately on all receipts. Tip on pre-tax.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Tax: No, you just wait until it’s rung up to know what it’s actually going to cost. It varies by a lot from state to state and city to city (both in what is taxed and how much that tax is).

      Tipping:

      At restaurants, tip on the pre-tax total. Tip on the full amount – if you got any discounts, tip as though you hadn’t had any discounts. 20% is pretty standard; your tip should range from 15-20% (or more, if you feel like it, but you’re not obligated). You should tip every time, unless a server was really, truly terrible (e.g. rude, racist, etc.)

      There are lots of other places tourists will end up tipping, so rather than write it all out I’ll give you this link (scroll down to the bottom for a super useful table): http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/04/everything-dont-know-tipping.html

      That link leaves out housekeepers at hotels. Please tip your housekeepers! They earn very low wages and do hard work that is mostly invisible, so even though they do more for the average hotel tenant than a valet does, they rarely receive as many tips. It’s also racial and gendered: the valets are likely white men, while the cleaners are likely women of color.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Agree about the housekeepers. I always leave $5-10 per night that we stayed for the housekeepers. Ever since I read Nickel and Dimed I always think about how hard hotel cleaners have it.

        1. The IT Manager*

          You do need to do it every night/day because the cleaner on your last day may not be the one who did the rest of your stay.

          1. Blue_eyes*

            That’s a good point. I usually just leave it at the end of my trip, but you’re totally right. Hmm. Wonder if it gets you better service during your stay too, sort of like tipping your bartender after the first drink…

    5. INTP*

      Sales tax varies by municipality so I don’t even bother trying to figure out how much I’m going to have to pay in total, exactly. If I’m shopping with cash I figure about 10% extra but it’s very rarely that high. Sometimes foods are taxed and sometimes not, and usually drinks that come in bottles or cans have an extra tax on them (which you can earn back by taking them to a recycling center but that’s a huge hassle compared to just recycling them).

      For tipping, adequate but not great service = 15%, exceptional service is 25%, and anything in between can be tipped accordingly. However, I tip more than that if I order a really cheap meal (like if I have a grilled cheese and water, I might tip closer to 33%, because it’s not the server’s fault I didn’t have a burger and beer – I would not tip less than $1 for table service). The tip jars on counters at Starbucks etc are entirely optional. Also, in CA servers are making minimum wage so you don’t have to worry that they’re making $2.50/hour aside from your tips like in some states – however, we still tip like the rest of the country.

        1. fposte*

          And in six more states, apparently: Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I’m single and eat a good bit of less than $20.00 meals. I still tip at least $4 and usually $5 because wait staffing is hard work.

      1. Risa*

        Not in California – the local sale taxes in most of the big cities/major metro areas are now all approaching 10% as standard. My hometown of 47K people near San Francisco is 9%.

        You can find the tax rated for the county/municipality that you are visiting in CA here:
        http://www.boe.ca.gov/cgi-bin/rates.cgi

    6. thisisit*

      to be honest, you can tip on post-tax if you’d like, but most people don’t. i do, if only because i figure it’s only a buck or two difference, and they could probably use it more.
      i say this only because the post-tax amount is usually what shows in the biggest print and is the amount on the credit card slip (where you’ll write the tip amount in the next line, and then write the total amount below). so if you are in a hurry, you can glance at the most prominent number and add 20% and feel good about being generous. :)

      if the service is not suiting you, do speak up prior to the end of the meal. it’ll make you feel better about the tip you have to leave (because ideally the service will improve).

      also, leaving tips in cash is nice, even if you are paying by credit card. if you do that, then you just write the total in the total line as the same amount as the bill, and leave the cash on the table (ie, don’t put a zero in the tip line).

      and if it didn’t come up in the prior thread – the US doesn’t do chip-and-pin, so all your transactions paid by credit card will print a slip that requires a signature (they’ll take the card away, run it through the machine, and then bring it back with the slip, in the case of a restaurant; at the till in the case of a shop). some places forego the signature if the amount is below a certain threshold.

      hotel tipping in the US is like everywhere else – tip the bellhop, valet, and housekeeper (the latter in an envelope with “housekeeper” written on it, or directly to him/her).

      1. fposte*

        For the housekeeper, it’s also fine just to leave the cash in the room in a fairly obvious location that doesn’t look like you dropped it and forgot it.

        1. thisisit*

          I’ve done that, and it wasn’t taken. In some hotels, they won’t take anything that isn’t specifically addressed to them. Of course, when you are checking out, it’s a bit more obvious. So my comment really only applies if you are leaving a tip every night.

    7. danr*

      For tipping, find out what the sales tax is and multiply to get to around 20 percent. Our sales tax is 7 percent, so our usual tip is 21 percent. Extra good service gets a few (or more) dollars more. Since the usual minimum wage for restaurant workers is way below the usual minimum, the tip is supposed to bring the worker up to at least minimum. While the restaurant is supposed to make up the difference, it can be a losing proposition for the worker.

    8. Billy Oblivion*

      My understanding is that adding tax at purchase is a kind of ‘sales technique’ that has simply become standard practice. $19.99 sounds cheaper than $21.64.

      (and $19.99 also sounds cheaper than $20.00 – and American gasoline tends to cost something like 2 dollars and 47.9 cents, instead of $2.48)

      (and at some stores, the prices will end with .95 or .96 or .97 or .98 or .99, which can be used as a memory aid for sales people in determining whether or not the item is new, or being closed out, etc).

      Just so you know: the question of “how to tip properly” drives everyone mad.

      There are indeed tricks you can use. For instance, sales tax tends to be something like 8-9%. Which is almost 10%. So if something costs (as above) $19.99, you can shift the decimal place 1 position to the left (ie, $19.99 -> $1.99) to get 10% = $1.99, and then $19.99 + $1.99 = $21.98

      So we can compare that with the actual total price: if the sales tax is 8.25% (which it actually is, here in Austin) the total would be $19.99 * 1.0825 = $21.64. So $21.98 is a bit high, but it’s close.

      For tipping, there’s a similar trick: double the sales tax. (note: your check will tend to show the meal cost and the tax amount as separate items). If sales tax is 8-9% of the meal price, then doubling the sales tax will be 16-18%. Which you can adjust upward or downward a bit as you see fit. For example

      Meal cost: $42.56
      Tax: $3.51 (8.25% tax rate)
      Tip ‘trick’ = Tax * 2 = $3.51 * 2 = $7.02 (16.5%)
      15% Tip: $6.38
      20% Tip: $8.51

      You could also figure it out using the tax trick above, ie: meal costs $42.56, 10% of that is $4.25, 10% * 2 = 20%, so $4.25 * 2 = $8.50

      There’s actually an even easier way to figure this stuff by computing eigenvalues over a vector space, but the AAM software won’t let me embed LaTeX into comments, so I can’t show it to you. Sorry.

      1. Bea W*

        (and $19.99 also sounds cheaper than $20.00 – and American gasoline tends to cost something like 2 dollars and 47.9 cents, instead of $2.48)

        I don’t think I have seen it lately, but I remember gas prices always ending in 9/10 of a penny. The price would be $3.59 and 9/10 per gallon instead of $3.60.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          They have been doing that for so long that if they just said 3.70, it would feel cheaper to me. That 9/10 of a cent feels sleazy.

    9. LAMM*

      According to Wikipedia… California has a 7.5% sales tax state-wide. However, some cities (doesn’t say which ones) may charge a higher sales tax rate… causing the sales tax rate to go up to 10%. You will pay sales tax on prepared food, but not on groceries such as “Unprepared food, bakery items, hot beverages,” etc.

      So I would assume 10% as a rule of thumb. Plus it’s easier to calculate.

    10. Bea W*

      Yes, most prices you see in the US are before tax. It’s not that we’re all math whizzes, we’re just used to things costing more than the price tag. Some fast food restaurants will actually post the full price including tax on their menus, and it will say that in small print somewhere, but yes mostly the price you see is not what you will pay at the register.

      To complicate things, taxes vary by state and even by locality, and there are different types of taxes you will encounter – local hotel tax or tourism tax (or both!), sales tax, restaurant tax, etc. Those taxes may not apply to everything you buy. For instance, where I live food you buy at a store and clothing are generally not taxed. Food you buy from a restaurant is taxed. You may also run into the bottle deposit, which is fixed amount of money you pay per bottled/canned beverage. This might be on soda only, or include bottled juice and water.

      There are websites out there I think that tell you what the taxes are for where you are going. I know I have looked them up on occasion, because while I’m used to tax, every state is different in what they tax and at what rate they tax it.

    11. Sunflower*

      Google says – The California (CA) state sales tax rate is currently 6.5%. However, California adds a mandatory local rate of 1% that increases the total state sales and use tax base to 7.5%. Depending on local municipalities, the total tax rate can be as high at 10.0%. State and local taxes can reach 9.25% in many cities.

      Sales tax varies from state to state. In PA, we don’t pay tax on necessities(most clothing, grocery food) but we do pay on prepared food or clothing like bathing suits and evening gowns. In DE, there’s no tax. Don’t fret about not knowing the tax. I don’t even think about it. When you bring things to the cashier, they’ll ring you up and the total price(with tax) will show. Don’t freak out if you don’t have that amount in hand ready to go. I don’t know anyone who calculates tax beforehand and it’s fine if you takes you a couple seconds to go in your bag and get more money.

      Tax will be on the check at the restaurant. 15% is the BARE MIN. I give that if they were bad(BTW if your service was really terrible, talk to the manager. They get very concerned when you tip badly and if you tip badly, they usually will want to talk to you to see why since they worry you had a terrible meal) usually give 18% if they were okay and 20% if they were really good. Also no one really worries about exact amounts in restaurants. Everywhere I worked as a server, we never dealt with loose change and things were always rounded up or down. So if the bill was $21.25 and you gave me $30, I’d give you $9 in change, not $8.75 so you should expect that in sit-down restaurants.

      You should also tip cab drivers- usually a couple dollars is fine. If you have a bellman bring your bags to your hotel room, tip them also

      Other places you can but don’t have to tip- coffee shops, quick service sandwich type shops where you order at a counter and they might bring your food to you but it’s not a full service meal.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, for me cab drivers are 20%–are you going short enough journeys that that ends up being the same as a couple of dollars?

        I think I tipped a valet $24 instead of $5 the other day. I thought I had five singles and then later I had fewer twenties than I thought, so I think I gave him four singles and a twenty. Oh, well; he was a really nice guy.

    12. beachlover*

      California sales tax differs from City/county to city/county. Where I live it is 8.5%, in Los Angeles county I believe it may be closer to 10%. All prices are pre tax. a hint on tipping at restaurants- They will list the tax as a separate line on the receipt. if you take the tax and double it that will be pretty close to the amount you need to tax, and you tip on the pre-tax amount.

    13. Artemesia*

      In the US waiters in many places are paid a fraction of minimum wage; tipping is how they get paid and you should never tip less than 15% and generally more like 18 or so (unless the service is truly disastrous.)

      For hotels mentally add another $30 or so to the bill — there are often as many as 3 different local taxes added on. It is pretty upsetting to Europeans too where the price you are quoted is what you pay.

      Sales tax is state and local. Figuring 10% is probably close most places. The rare state doesn’t have it. For example Oregon doesn’t. But most do.

  22. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    On an entirely unrelated note, I’m trying to quit drinking coca-cola. It’s a terrible, terrible habit and it needs to stop.

    Is cold turkey the best approach or is my body likely to FREAK at the lack of caffeine/sugar?

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I went cold turkey a few years ago and frankly didn’t find it that hard. Now that I’ve broken the habit I have it at restaurants and movie theaters and don’t find that it makes it more difficult for me to avoid it.

      I love La Croix sparkling water now. They have a ton of amazing flavors, with no sweeteners or additives. My favorite is peach pear.

      1. Sara*

        Agreed. Quitting cold turkey wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I do still drink coffee, though, so the caffeine and sugar is still a part of my day. (And I do get a headache if I skip the coffee.)

    2. OfficePrincess*

      If you’ve been drinking a lot, you will probably feel a little crummy for a few days from the lack of caffeine if you go cold turkey. If you are also a coffee drinker, that would probably make up for it. If not, you could try swapping your coke for tea for a while.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Drink mochas. I was so damn miserable when I gave up cola. Mocha, half coffee half hot chocolate, helped ease the sudden loss of sugar and caffeine in my diet.

    4. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I (obviously) kicked a terrible Diet Coke habit twice now. I didn’t go cold turkey because it was too hard for me, not physically, but mentally. I started substituting tea instead of Diet Coke first once a day, then twice, etc., until I wasn’t drinking pop at all. I picked up a lot of flavoured carbonated water instead, which satisfied my need for fizz and flavour. Or you can get unflavoured carbonated water and toss in lime or lemon slices, or another flavouring.

      It was much easier for me to do in the winter because I generally wanted warmer stuff anyway, so it wasn’t hard to drink tons of tea instead. I do go through an awful lot of herbal tea, but it’s not sugary. If you rely on pop for the caffeine kick, you’ll probably have a hard time going cold turkey and have a better chance of “relapsing.” Be prepared to be sleepier in stranger patterns (especially, for me, in the afternoon) and try to get a little additional exercise to what you usually do.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        I think swapping the Coke for tea and/or sparkling water is the way to go. Keeping up some of the caffeine intake plus the ritual and feel of drinking a carbonated beverage should make it easier.

      2. Sunflower*

        This is exactly what I did. I didn’t do it on purpose and I still do drink soda but not nearly as much. I used to drink 5 cans a day. Then I fazed it out to one at lunch and one at dinner. Then just one at lunch. Now I drink it for lunch maybe once a week. I usually do have one or two over the weekends though!

    5. Nan*

      Will someone spell out for me why I should quit drinking Diet Coke? I have 1-2 a day. Is that bad? If so, why? I know people say you shouldn’t drink too much soda but I’ve never quite understood why.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        For me, I just wanted to stop eating and drinking as much non-natural stuff as possible. I was trying to transition to whole foods, that I prepared myself. Diet Coke is obviously not that. Mineral water is pretty close.

      2. A few reasons*

        I’ve heard it damages your tooth enamel, stains your teeth, eats away at your stomach lining, the diet drinks actually make you gain weight, are addictive, can make you jittery, and are carcinogenic. It’s also an expensive habit. If you want to read actual research, though, try running a search & see what comes up.

        I started by cutting back and then just eventually stopped altogether. Club soda and iced teas are good, especially with summer coming.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          Anecdata ahead: My mom used to go through around 4 two-liter bottles of diet caffeine-free coke each week. She also used to have terrible stomach problems fairly frequently. Since she quit drinking soda her stomach problems have entirely disappeared. (Full disclosure: she also made other dietary changes at the same time that included reducing meat, carb, and dairy intake. So those changes almost certainly get some credit in her improved GI health). I’ve also read about some possible links between diet sodas and Multiple Sclerosis (which my mom has), so I’m very happy she gave it up.

      3. fposte*

        Links with bad health outcomes aren’t strong, but there are some; there’s some association with type 2 diabetes and hip fractures, for instance, but it’s not incontrovertible. There’s stronger evidence that it makes people likelier to be overweight–not just that overweight people try diet soda, but it enhances the chance of eating more. There’s also a link to soda consumption and tooth decay, but I’m not clear if that includes diet sodas–I’m finding a mention that it’s acidic in a way that can cause tooth decay over time, but it’s hard to find backup.

        Also, water’s a lot cheaper.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          A friend who had a horrid kidney stone told me her doctor said colas cause them. So that’s another good reason not to drink it.

          I hardly ever drink soda anymore, but when I do I try to drink something without the HFCS in it, at least. And no diet. I don’t like it anyway. :P

      4. Ann Furthermore*

        I really think that diet soda is just The Evil Thing of the moment. For awhile it was coffee, every few years it’s eggs — don’t eat the yolks, only the whites, no wait, eat the whole egg — then it was carbs, and now it’s gluten. And diet soda.

        I normally drink 2 a day — one with lunch, one with dinner. The rest of the time I drink water. I remember years ago everyone was up in arms about saccharine, and how it caused cancer in laboratory rats — when they consumed the equivalent of something like 10 cases of soda a day.

        So, when I hear all these things about how evil diet soda is, I just have a hard time believing it.

        1. fposte*

          Right–it’s one of those things where greater periodic consumption may result in a higher chance of [Bad Things]. But it’s not a humongously higher chance, and most of those Bad Things we have a reasonable chance of encountering anyway. Stuff that has a 100% chance of a fatal end gets figured out pretty quickly. Now we’re just messing around in the margins, and moving around more during the day would probably matter more than any particular kind of foodstuff.

      5. Treena Kravm*

        People tend to drink the diet sodas because they’re sugar-free, but as others have mentioned, it’s been demonstrated that the calorie-free sweeteners they use cause increased cravings for sugary foods. So in general, people drinking diet soda consume more sugar than if they just had the sugary soda in the first place.

        And in general, I don’t like the idea of drinking things that will literally eat away at my flesh if exposed for too long. Freaks me out!

      6. INTP*

        There have been a couple of studies to find a correlation between diet soda consumption and decreased kidney function over the long-term. The effects start to show up when you have 2+ servings a day (which is one 16oz bottle that they sell as single servings).

        From personal experience – my recurrent UTIs went away when I cut way back. I only drink them on vacation sometimes now and they make me feel a little icky, my stomach feels off. I’m inclined to believe anything that makes me feel gross after I haven’t had it in awhile is not great for me – that I was probably experiencing the same things while drinking it regularly but just more used to them. I also thought they were part of the changes in my “vacation diet” that led me to have diarrhea on vacation, but it seems that might have been 100% gluten-related.

      7. Sunflower*

        For me, I have very soft teeth and the acid in soda was killing my teeth. I had switched from reg. soda to diet and my dentist kept telling me the acid kills your teeth more than sugar. I think 1-2/day is fine. Once I went down to only drinking 1 a day, my teeth got WAY better.

        When I’ve read the health studies about people who drink soda, they seem kind of silly. Most of the people were very sedentary and made terrible health choices anyway. I felt like most of the people were types who think ‘Since I’m drinking diet coke instead of regular, I can a Big Mac everyday’. From what I’ve seen, the health affects are minimal. I used to drink it a ton and I have never had any health problems.

      8. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, to everything people have said here. Annnd… I started having panic attacks. So I am in the bread aisle, just an average day and doing my ho-hum shopping and all of the sudden I cannot move. I am totally locked up. I cannot process what is going on around me, my brain is running so fast, I cannot move my body at that speed. The fear causes me to break out in a sweat. I have to cling to the grocery cart.

        This happened several times and I started to become afraid of stores. Then I got afraid of parking lots and it kept going. Fun times. Not.
        I quit using all fake sugars. All of them- sweet and lo, equal, etc. It cut the panic attacks by 75%. Not only were there less of them but they were less intense.

        So my husband thought I was nuts. NOOOO- fake sugar doesn’t do that–nooo. Then one day it happened. We were at a mall. In the middle of the mall he says to me, “I can’t move. I can’t sort what I see around me.”
        I steered him to the nearest bench. We sat there for quite a while. I said, “This is your fake sugar.” Noooo, he insisted. I said you had fake sugar yesterday. Noooo. I had him do breathing exercises until he felt he could walk out to the car.
        It was not too long after that he had another attack. I pointed out again that it was the fake sugar. “How is this possible? I never had this before!”

        We had both been using fake sugar for over a decade. It took that long for us to see the damage it was causing. Apparently, there are chemicals in diet sodas that alter your brain. I never expected this type of result- where I could not process the world around me. I cannot tell you how many times it happened while I was driving. Not too sure why I did not wreck the car.

        I can honestly say, if I did not give up the coke and the other fake sugars, I would probably be on full disability today. Instead I have not had a panic attack in about 15 years. Once ia great while, I get some symptoms of starting to panic, I do my breathing exercises and it goes away- poof- gone. The memories of the fear are still quite clear in my mind- hence, no coke for me.
        Granted, YMMV. But it’s these types of things that are causing concern and this is what people are finding.

      9. Trixie*

        In addition to the other reasons listed, I really grew to dislike the bloated feeling from the carbonation. Plus the more I drink, i was still thirsty. Next, the caffeine. It’s next to impossible to find caffeine -free diet soda when you’re out in and about. Or they’ll have 7-up but not in diet. Caffeine is my new enemy because that plus whatever salt I have goes right to my eyes the next day. BAGS. For me, soda tends to lead to acid reflux. Lastly, I think I read that making soda consumes an insane amount of water. Given the recent news about CA’s drought, that was the last straw for me.

    6. Persephone Mulberry*

      Yes, yes, and yes: yes you should go cold turkey, yes it will suck HARD, and yes it will be worth it. My reason for going cold turkey is that it’s too easy to backslide if it’s not a black and white decision. “One a day for this week and then no more” pretty easily becomes “well this week is looking pretty stressful so I’d better push back my cutoff to next week” or “It’s midnight so it’s practically tomorrow anyway,” and so on.

    7. V. Meadowsweet*

      Probably cold turkey. Is there another caffeinated beverage you drink you could up a little to offset any cravings?
      A friend’s recently had success that way – he quit pop cold turkey and has replaced it with tea and water.

    8. Polaris*

      You might have more severe withdrawal symptoms if you currently drink a lot of soda and quit cold turkey, but the withdrawal period for caffeine is relatively brief. When I quit, the headaches and fatigue lasted only a day or two. For reference, I had a double-shot of espresso plus 12 – 24 oz of soda/day habit. According to this study (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00213-004-2000-x), 2-9 days is the typical duration of withdrawal symptoms.

    9. INTP*

      My addiction was diet coke, so the sugar could make a difference here. However, I gave it up not cold turkey but fairly drastically (from 4+ per day to 1, when I moved out of the country where soda is not as cheap and coca light is much grosser than diet coke). I had no negative side effects. My recurrent UTIs did go away, though. I don’t seem to develop a caffeine addiction very easily, though – I can go without my morning tea or mate and I of course don’t get the boost of the caffeine but I don’t get headaches or drowsiness or anything. I only drink it on vacation now and I still can’t stomach more than one 16oz bottle per day, even that makes me feel a little icky.

    10. Kat*

      Dump some milk into a clear container of coke. Wait an hour then go look at it.

      That’ll probably make you stop cold turkey. The headaches from lack of caffeine can be dealt with.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      You can get caffeine and sugar from other sources unless you have deliberately carved them out of your diet entirely. This leaves the bubbles. I think that they are an addiction all by themselves. I changed to flavored sparkling waters as others are saying here. Finally, I got bored with those and gave them up, also.

      You can try this: Decide to go for a month or two without the Coke. Then try one. I did this a couple times and I was appalled by how CRAPPY I felt after drinking it. To this day, I would LOVE a Coke. It’s not worth feeling crappy for three days or LONGER! Yes, three days or longer from ONE coke. I suppose if I knew for an absolute fact I had one more day on this earth- I would probably go buy a coke and down it. Okay, a 2 liter bottle. Otherwise, no how, no way do I want this stuff.

  23. Amber Rose*

    Update from last week: So we went to watch some martial arts classes and see if anything seemed interesting. There’s a kenjitsu class that looks fun: samurai style sword fighting. It’s $70 a month, with a start-up fee of $350 (for the outfit and wooden sword). Not sure if the cost is reasonable but it sounds reasonable to me. My only concern is my crippling anxiety. I almost threw up from fear just walking in the door. Theoretically I should gain confidence from this though.

    It’s 2 classes a month with an emphasis on home practice. The other class is ninjutsu and runs more often, but… the teacher and the students are super intense. Like, scary intense. Talking about killing people with credit cards and military style yelling. I had no idea ninjas were such a serious bunch. :O

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I’m not a martial artist myself, but growing up my brother did Taekwondo for a decade, so I’ve sat in on my fair share of classes. I’ve also gone through phases of shopping around for martial arts classes. Unfortunately, there’s no decent classes close enough to where I currently live. :(

      Honestly, I don’t think 2 classes a month is enough. You really should go several times a week to build up a decent level of comfort and skill. I think especially if you are trying to overcome some anxiety with it, it would be better to go to a few back to back classes to build your confidence. It will take A LOT longer to feel comfortable if you go once every two weeks. Most martial arts places (the good ones anyway) have a monthly fee and daily drop in classes, so you can go to as many as you would like. Of course, they’re more expensive than $70/month. Almost all of these places also let you come in for a trial lesson. It might be worth showing up in some comfortable cloths and giving one of these places a try before committing.

  24. Tau*

    Tonight, I dreamed that I had a job interview at the place I’m most interested in and realised halfway through that I’d forgotten to get dressed that morning and was still wearing my Snoopy pyjamas. Rarely have I been so glad to wake up and find out something was a dream…

    1. danr*

      Just be glad you hadn’t gone to the interview right out of the shower… I had a few of those nightmares when job hunting.

  25. catsAreCool*

    I adopted a kitty a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still not sure what to name him. He’s a tuxedo cat, mostly black with some white on his chest. He’s very sweet and affectionate, and he’s trying to be friends with my other 2 cats (the younger of the other 2 cats is fairly receptive).

    I call him “Dude” a lot, but I want to find a real name for him.

    I keep thinking of something like “Tux” or something that reflects what a sweet, elegant gentleman of a cat he is.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    1. catsAreCool*

      My kitty’s personality reminds me a little of Ben Wyatt on Parks & Rec and of Pierce Brosnin, especially as Remington Steele. Sweet, elegant, polite, gentle.

      He’s also a little bossy (but cutely so). Occasionally he emits some smells that make me wonder if there are any famous skunks I should name him after besides Flower (on Bambi) and Pepe Le Pew :)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because of the tuxedo, I think you should go with something old and formal sounding: Leopold (could be Leo for short). Winston. Alfred. Dr. Phineous Wrigglesworth-Spence III. Etc.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I like the formal idea. I’ve thought about Leonard (in honor of Nimoy and the guy from the Big Bang Theory).

    3. Maxwell Edison*

      I always say that if I get another cat I’ll just name it “Nimrod” because that’s what I’m always calling my cats anyway.

      1. Cruciatus*

        Just wanted to interject that my Hungarian coworker and his wife named their new baby Nimrod. The baby will be brought up in the U.S. so…hopefully kids just get used to it! Or maybe he’ll be Nim or Rod. But when he told everyone, I don’t think he was expecting the surprise on our faces; “but it means mighty hunter!”

      2. catsAreCool*

        When I’ve adopted a kitten, at some point, I’ve always wanted to call the kitten Ricochet because the kitty was bouncing off the walls. This time I adopted an adult cat, after spending some time with him at the kitty adoption place. This was so much easier! He’s sweet, gentle, playful, but doesn’t bounce off the walls or walk right underfoot (much).

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      I once heard somewhere that cats like names with an eee sound, but one of my current kitties responds to a shortened version of her name that doesn’t have that sound in it, so I dunno.

      How about something like Benedict? You could call him Benny for short.

      I think you just need to Google fancy cat names or just baby names and see if something appeals to you.

        1. EmilyG*

          My parents took me to see Victor Borge live for my tenth birthday. It was great! That tells you a lot about, well, all of us.

          I like Allison’s suggestion of Leopold; I like names that are too old-fashioned and formal for humans, used on cats.

    5. V. Meadowsweet*

      Mamoru!
      (Mamoru Chiba is the ‘real’ name of Tuxedo Mask, from Sailor Moon :) )

      1. Alistair*

        Hey, that’s taken! But for an easygoing tuxedo, I’ll let it slide (I have a tuxedo, and she’s a sweet, friendly, terribly annoying loudmouth. Still love her anyway.).

  26. Awful Waffle*

    A special shout-out to C Average – I took your advice about Prana’s shorts. I ordered some and in love with them! Thanks again for your help. :)

    1. C Average*

      Fantastic! Glad I could help.

      As long as we’re doing shout-outs, I can’t remember who recommended drying my curly hair with an old T-shirt, combing it with a wide-tooth comb, and using shea products, but I’m doing all three and my curls have never been happier or better behaved.

      This community is a wealth of wisdom on all sorts of subjects.

        1. C Average*

          Instead of using a towel to rub your hair dry, you just use a T-shirt to sort of pat it dry. It helps curls hold their shape better. I’m not sure why it works, but it definitely works!

          1. The Office Admin*

            My curly hair tricks are using a regular conditioner(the one you’re supposed to wash out, not the leave in kind, haha) after getting out of the shower on the lower half of the hair and blow drying HALF dry with a diffuser on cool and using hair gel to make the curl stay curl instead of fluff.
            Also, whisper sweet nothings to it. Name it. Tell it on humidity filled days: “I understand, some days, life is really tough. It’s ok, we’re in this together”
            Mostly just conditioner though. As much as you can fit in your hand, smother your hair with it.

          2. StarHopper*

            I use a tee shirt to dry my curls, too! The terry cloth in a regular towel is too rough for curls and makes them frizz. Have you tried co-washing yet?

      1. Julie*

        Squish to condish is my new secret curly trick. Lots of conditioner, lots of upside down hair in the shower and out but my curls are so beautiful! They survived 4 out of 5 storm days this week in perfect condition. Day 5 involved hail and tornado warnings so I can’t blame my hair for frizzing at the ends.

      2. Merry and Bright*

        You are right there – only one reason it is so addictive!

        I have thick hair with a wave that needs “careful management”. For a few years I have used a microfibre towel on it. One little thing has improved my life no end.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Can I just shout out to C Average generally?

      I love your posts on AAM. I actually mentioned you in a meeting last week. We’re talking about our social media and where we want to go and I half quoted you about something with “I have a friend who does social media for a large brand…um, well, Internet Friend, well……. acquaintance, I mean she’s not a friend, she’s an internet acquaintance…”

      Which, is funny. Even funnier would have been if someone said, what’s her name, and I said C Average. Sounds like a DJ name. She also spins on Saturday nights.

      1. C Average*

        Coming from YOU . . . wow. I blushed so hard when I read this. Thank you! I love your posts, too. You’re such a voice of wisdom, experience, and common sense. And you’re funny.

        Years ago I declared myself an Internet Extrovert (yes, that’s a thing–a thing I made up, but still a thing) and I’ve gotten used to having friends and acquaintances from the internet. If you or any of the other fabulous members of the AAM community ever find yourselves in oh-so-hip Portland, Oregon, we can meet for coffee and be real-life acquaintances. Stephanie can verify that I am not a serial killer. (And I can verify that she’s not, either.)

        I like the DJ angle. Hadn’t thought of that, but it would be a good DJ name . . .

      2. fposte*

        Seconding this really hard. You’ve said the kind thing I wish I’d managed to say so many times.

    3. Jader*

      While we are on the subject of shout outs to C Average…. did you recently write an article for xoJane? If not, someone did write an article for them and she has a crazy number of similarities to you. If it was you, I was so excited to see someone I recognized from elsewhere on the internet, and the article was excellent.

      1. C Average*

        I did! That was me. I am working on a few other pieces for them. I was a Sassy reader back in the day (yep, I’m that old) and it’s pretty fun to have a few pieces on Jane’s site. My next piece is about the reasons the word “mansplaining” needs to be retired. Must. Not. Read. The. Comments!

        1. Jader*

          Yay! I look forward to reading it. You are so brave, I never even comment over there, nevermind write for them, because some of the people are so vicious.

          1. C Average*

            I’m trying to take courage in the knowledge that some of the truly excellent writers on that site get eviscerated in the comments for completely petty reasons. They’ve apparently learned to take it with a grain of salt, and I will, as well!

            My eventual goal is to write for Slate, and the commentariat there is a whole ‘nother level. When I get there, I really will have to force myself not to look.

  27. Cooking for Newbies*

    So, I’m moving out on my own for the very first time, and I’m armed only with the family recipe for spaghetti, the ability to cook some eggs, and of course, that college staple: instant noodles.

    How does someone completely clueless get started planning their meals without getting overwhelmed? Is there such thing as a newbie’s grocery list? I look around on cooking websites, and I just get overwhelmed by how many different ingredients I have to buy just for one meal.

    I just want maybe 3-4 meals I can cook regularly to switch things up, but without having to buy an entire spice rack or spend hours preparing food just to get it done.

    1. Calacademic*

      We got a couple of Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meal cookbooks — they’ll call for lots of ingredients, but they’re still somewhat limited because you should be able to cook them in close to 30 minutes. I think there are lots of different options to go (some healthier than others) depending on your needs:

      Boxed meals (aka hamburger helper, pasta sides, and the ol’ mac’n’cheese). Not especially healthy/fresh, but definitely quick.
      Doin’ it from scratch. Find a good cookbook and follow along. Find a good blog and follow along. Be prepared to spend more money to get takeout when it goes horribly wrong.

      Would it be possible for you to go shopping every day or every other day? When my husband learned to cook, there was a grocery store literally across the street from us: we would go there every single day and just get what we needed for that day. Now that we have a kid (and cooking experience) we go twice a week.

      1. Cooking for Newbies*

        My current work has a lot of heavy hours, so at least 80% of my desire for simple ingredients and quick cooking is because I just don’t have the time to get fancy or shop frequently.

        Ideally, I’d be able to shop once per week for what I need, and spend 30-50 minutes each night preparing lunch for the next day along with dinner. I’m willing to give up variety in exchange due convenience, as long as I’m not literally eating the same thing every day.

        I guess part of my question is also asking for recommendations on which simple meals people like to make regularly. I like any combination of chicken, beef, potatoes, eggs, and noodles, and lettuce/broccoli are my go to veggies.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I recommend a slow cooker/crackpot. There’s lots of recipes online. It tends toward stews and juicy meats and they’re usually easy with limited ingredients. Also you make it one day and have lots of left-overs which can be frozen for weeks later when you need something fast.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ooooh, I love this question!

      Why not think about 2 or 3 things you really like to eat and start by learning how to make those, either by having someone in your family show you (if it’s something you eat with them) or just by watching videos online? You can video versions of lots of recipes, and that might be easier than just using the recipe alone.

      Other easy stuff: salads, stir-fry, most crock pot recipes…

      This looks like a pretty good list too:
      http://listverse.com/2007/09/11/top-10-basic-cooking-tricks/

      1. Cooking for Newbies*

        That list of awesome! Omelettes, chicken, mashed potatoes… That’s a good start for me!

        I hear a lot of good things about slow cookers too, especially for making meals for the entire week ahead of time, so I’ll definitely look into that as well.

        1. Tau*

          The main warning I have re: slow-cookers is that they don’t really do pasta or dairy. Since those are very much my staple and I’m not too keen on stews and chunks-of-meat which are the kind of things that slow cookers excel at, mine just gathers dust.

          Another suggestion: you can (at least in the UK) often get recipe “packets” – I’ve used them for enchiladas and fajitas. They come with step-by-step instructions and generally contain a bunch of the non-fresh ingredients, especially spices, with a list of what else you’ll have to buy to make the meal. I view them as a handy intermediate step between cooking from scratch and getting takeaway, especially because it means not having to buy a spice rack or have to figure out how to season something to taste.

    3. BRR*

      First, don’t be afraid to alter a recipe (when cooking, baking is more difficult). If you look at the comment section of a recipe, it’s nothing but people saying how the altered it.

      Some staples at least in my kitchen are olive oil, salt, pepper, rice, and onions.

      1. Cooking for Newbies*

        I’ll definitely keep that in mind, but it’s hard for someone like me who just doesn’t have a good grasp on what tastes similar and which substitutions would be good.

        1. TL -*

          You can drop things out easier than a add in – I’m picky and do that a lot. So it simplifies your grocery list.

          Also the only way you’ll find it what you like is to try, so don’t be afraid to substitute because it sounds good. No one has to know about the night you ate matza, horseradish and cheese sandwiches.

        2. fposte*

          Building on what TL says–especially if you’re living in a place that has hot summers or heat generally, “cooking” can mean “assembling,” too. It still counts if you don’t heat anything.