weekend free-for-all – April 18-19, 2015

Olive smallThis 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:: Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing. Journalist Ted Conover worked undercover as a prison guard at Sing Sing for a year and wrote about daily life for both guards and prisoners. Totally fascinating, and disturbing. If your favorite psychological experiment is the Stanford Prison Experiment (as it is mine), you will like this book.

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

{ 892 comments… read them below }

  1. Charity*

    For those of you who donate to charity, how did you choose which organization to donate to? How do you vet them to make sure they aren’t overly inefficient or shady like the Susan Komen foundation?

    The background is I’m thinking of releasing seeing free software/games that I’ve developed, and instead of having a donate button to me, I was thinking I could encourage people who liked the program to click a button and donate to a charity. But I’m having trouble choosing one.

    Any thoughts/suggestions?

    1. the gold digger*

      We pick one or two issues – for the past few years, it has been hunger and homelessness – and find good local organizations dedicated to that. With local groups, I know enough people in the nonprofit community that I can ask around and get good information.

      1. Bea W*

        This is similar to what I do. I have a couple issues I pick, and I prefer local organizations because it is easy to ask around or even talk to volunteers and I feel like the donations would have the most impact to the community.

      2. Sara*

        Same. I tend to keep my donations local, and often I’ll donate to charities that have been highlighted by people I know. Last year, I donated to a women’s shelter where one of my coworkers used to work and to a food bank that has a partnership with my school. This year, I’ll probably give to a particular social services agency that an acquaintance of mine from college is heavily involved in fundraising for.

    2. Coffee, Please*

      You can check an organization and search to find orgd that match interests at Charity Navigator.
      Personally I donate to organizations I volunteer with, nonprofits my friends lead or serve at, as well as a few that are tackling important issues to me. I always check out their tax filings before I set up recurring donations .

    3. thisisit*

      I think it depends on what you value in a charity. What do you want them to do and how? What are some dealbreakers (ie, $$ on advertising, merchandise, salary; level of transparency; political involvement; etc)?

      You can check out Guidestar, Charity Navigator, etc, to get some ratings.

      A lot of people like to donate locally because they can see the impact of the org more easily.

    4. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I donate to the local food bank (Capitol Area Food Bank), Not For Sale, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Edesia monthly. I usually do a cursory Google search, and I also check out the website to ensure it’s not affiliated with any religion or basing it’s mission and values on any religious ideals.

      I might occasionally look them up specifically on Charity Navigator or a similar site, but their criteria for what makes a good and bad charity isn’t generally stuff that aligns to my values, so it’s usually just to confirm that they’re a “real” organization and have a 501(c) status.

      I highly recommend Edesia, by the way. They’re a charity that provides emergency nutrition to people in disaster, war-torn or emergency areas. They sell the products, but charitable giving subsidizes those prices to allow them to get the food to more places.

      I’ll probably do more work to look at how charities function internally and what results they’re getting when I’m rich and starting to give major gifts, but until then, I’ve been satisfied with my cursory research.

    5. Amber Rose*

      I donate to anything without an advertising budget. Or at least, doesn’t take their advertising budget from donations. If they have big, fancy ads on TV I’m distrustful right off.

      Personally I basically just donate to the MS Society of Canada for all the miracle work they’ve done for my dad.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        I am with you on advertising, Amber Rose. Quite a few years ago I made a donation to one of the large UK cancer charities. I forgot to tick the box for no junk mail and for a few years I got so much advertsing and reminder letters (pre-internet) telling me that I had not donated lately that I got fed up. They had spent most of my money on ads and stuff rather than research and treatment. I give still but anonymously. But some charities spent millions of pounds a year (no hyperbole) on management consultants so WTF. Some charities are much less corporate than others. I now donate to my local breast cancer treatment unit and my local foodbank each month. I also help raise money for a children’s reading project. I also donate to major disaster projects and the BBC’s Childen in Need charity. Also I will give ad hoc to street collections if I like the cause.

        1. Observer*

          Just because a charity sends you a LOT of mailings does not mean that they are spending a large proportion of their donations on advertising.

          Also, although I understand the visceral reaction against advertising, it places organizations in a real catch 22. Many of the same people who complain about advertising won’t give to organizations that don’t advertise. It’s not a conscious thing – in fact they often don’t realize that this is what is happening.

    6. Florida*

      Do NOT NOT NOT depend on the watchdog websites that rate an organization by overhead ratio. The overhead ratio is a total red herring. Here’s why… let’s say you have an organization that is trying to end polio, so they give out free polio shots. Org 1 gives out 2000 polio shots at $10 a piece ($20,000) plus they have $5,000 in overhead expenses, so their total budget is $25,000 and their overhead ratio is 20% ($5,000/$25,000). Org 2 also gives out 2000 polio shots, but they were able to get the shots from a different supplier for $5 a piece ($10,000). They have the same $5,000 in overhead. So the overhead ratio for Org 2 is 33% ($5000/$15,000).

      If you depended only on one of those charity watchdog organizations, you would think Org 1 is better, but
      actually Org 2 is better (based only on this information). If someone has very high overhead, ask them why. They might have a very legitimate reason.

      Also, the overhead ratio is not hat people think it is. When the American Cancer Society (or any nonprofit) sends you a solicitation letter, they count part of that expense as program expense (not fundraising expense) because the letter included information about how to do a self-exam for breast cancer, so it’s education (a program expense). This is perfectly legal. They are doing nothing wrong. But most people think it’s all fundraising expense. In other words, the overhead ratio that they tell you is probably not describing what you think it is.

      Be sure the organization does what you think it does. There are many national health organizations that do good work, but many are not helping people who currently have the disease. They are doing research that will help people in the future who have the disease, or maybe even prevent the disease entirely. I’m not saying research is bad, not at all, but if you want to help people who currently have the disease, your best bet is an organization that provides direct services, not a research organization. But if you are more of a long-term person, go for the research organization. Obviously we need both – research and direct service – but I see people all the time who want to help people in the short-term and do it by donating to a long-term type of organization.

      There are several things to consider. Some people prefer to give to local organizations. Others prefer to give to large national or international organizations. If your software will be distributed nationally or internationally, I would pick a few large well-known organizations. If I’m in Florida and you ask me to donate to the Oklahoma Symphony, I’m probably not going to. I’m sure it’s a great symphony, but I’ll probably never hear them play.

      You can look at an organizations tax forms (called Form 990) on http://www.guidestar.org. The larger the organization, the more difficult it is to interpret. Many large organizations have the main organization, several chapters (which may or may not be separate entities), a PAC, maybe a separate foundation where the fundraising and marketing is housed. The finances are useful, but as I mentioned previously, it’s not the whole story.

      For national organizations, I think the best research is google. You will be able to find any news articles about any scandals. Be sure to read articles from both sides of the story and make a decision. You can find articles and opinion pieces that say Susan G. Komen is great and ones that say it’s terrible. Read both sides before you come to a conclusion. This is twice as important if the organization is a controversial one (I’m thinking of something like Planned Parenthood). For your purposes, it’s probably better to pick a mainstream cause that pretty much anyone would think is important.

      For local organizations, as gold digger mentioned, I talk to other people, then I talk to the charity. It’s a lot like finding a new doctor. If you ask enough people, you will find someone with a good recommendation.

      Maybe you should pick something that is related to your software or to the target audience of the software.

      1. BRR*

        You did a fantastic job explaining it. Also people shouldn’t judge so harshly on salaries. People are only willing to work out of the goodness of their heart so much, for good talent you often need to pay more money.

        1. Florida*

          Thank you. Agree about the salaries. It’s not just salaries, though. It’s marketing, staff training, technology, and all of the other things that make companies great. If you as a donor are not willing to pay for these things, don’t be surprised when your nonprofit fails at their mission.

          1. Observer*

            Yes. Also “transparency” costs money. So does regulatory compliance. These are all considered “overhead.” So what is an organization supposed to do?

            Also, it’s just not practical to try to run an organization on “poverty” salaries and volunteers. I know the standard line about paying people based on the market and value to the organization. But, when the people you need by and large can’t afford to take minimum wage jobs, etc. that’s part of the market. You don’t have to be “greedy” to want to be able to pay of your (often HUGE) student loans, have a family and life decently without worrying each month how you are going to make to the end of the month.

            Same for equipment, etc. If you want people to take umpteen calls a day, then you need a decent phone system, especially if you don’t want to pay for the “overhead” of someone who does little other than answering calls. If you want people to process umpteen service requests a day quickly and correctly, or you want your service providers to keep extensive case notes but you don’t want them to spend a lot of time on the note taking, they need to have decent computers attached to a decent system. 5 year old computers using an Access database cobbled together by one of your social workers who happens to be “good with computers” and is maintained by virtual spit and duct tape over sneaker net, just won’t let you do the job. Especially since any effective director is going to need to see regular reports, and most non-profits are also required by to submit all sorts of detailed reports that required lots of data.

          2. Jessica*

            100% agree. I worked for a nonprofit and a board member tried to convince our ED that my job (fundraising, grant writing, and administrative tasks) should be a volunteer position, to cut down on overhead. He insisted that no one would ever donate to the organization if they knew any of that money would go to my salary. It was frustrating and humiliating to be at the conference table during that conversation.

        1. Chartreuse*

          Just watched it. It’s very interesting. I need to think about it to decide if I entirely agree with all of it, but I do think he makes some excellent points. Thanks for the link!

        2. Formica Dinette*

          I’m so glad you linked to that! I’ve heard part of it on the radio, liked what I heard, and keep meaning to listen to the rest.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is good information, thanks!

        I tend to donate goods–I put food out for the Stamp Out Hunger thing, and when the tornado hit Joplin, I bought a huge bag of things like personal care items, a pillow, etc. and gave it to a friend whose church was helping out at the disaster site and where the shelters were. I like direct help. We do have opportunities to donate at work as well, and we have pancake/biscuit and gravy breakfasts often where the minimum is $5 and all of it goes to a local charity.

      3. Barbara in Swampeast*

        As someone who helps local nonprofits with their computer problems, I get twitchy when “overhead” is mentioned. Everything that does not directly deliver whatever the aim of the organization is, is labeled “overhead” even though the organization could not do what it does without computers or other technology! So many good organizations don’t have the technology and tech support they need to be truly efficient because it is labeled “overhead.”

      4. Chartreuse*

        I agree that overhead ratio by itself isn’t everything; you also want to look at other things, such as number of clients served, quality of the service, etc. But the ratio is not as unimportant a number as your example would imply. The example just sort of assumes the total budget shrinks if the expense of the services shrinks. Whereas, what seems more likely to me is that Org 2 having saved money on the cost of the shots is going to have extra funds they then have to decide what to do with. Are they going to buy and give away twice as many shots? Are they going to give certain lucky staff member(s) huge bonus(es)? If they do the former, their ratio would appear the same as Org 1’s (but they will have served more clients). But if they do the latter, their ratio will look (deservedly) much worse than Org 1’s.

        1. Observer*

          What typically happens in a well run organization when something like that comes up is that the money is put towards a larger project that needs to be done but no one knew how to fund. There are a lot of good reasons why an organization won’t just significantly jack up the number of service units they provide. And on the other hand, more often than not, this is the only or most cost effective way to get some important things done.

          If the budget here is is not tied to this particular project, then odds are that this budget WILL shrink, because (aside from the issue of big projects), most organizations will just shift the money into another area as often as not. But the overhead is going to stay the same. It might shrink a bit, but quite likely not by much because some of the “overhead” is actually tied to the particular program, which is not being shrunk, even though the budget is. And, if the budget IS tied to the particular project it could be the the funder of the project will require them to turn the money back. (yes, this really happens.)

          1. Chartreuse*

            Going towards some other project that benefits clients is a great way to handle the excess, and while then yes, the overhead ratio for the polio shots project would be the worse, but the org’s overall ratio wouldn’t suffer, I wouldn’t think. And isn’t the example about an org’s overall overhead ratio, not just overhead ratio for one particular project? Since it’s offered with reference to evaluations on watchdog sites (I was under the impression those were usually looking at org as a whole, not just a particular program).

            Now that’s really interesting about excess being handed back if it’s earmarked funds. That is something I hadn’t thought about and would make @Florida’s original example make more sense. Thanks!

            1. Florida*

              Just so you know, yes, the watchdog sites refer to the overhead ratio and everything else they measure for the overall organization budget. That’s what I was referring to in my example.

              But Observer’s reference to specific project is because if a funder is funding Project X, they are most interested in the money you spent on Project X. If you said you were going to spend money on Project X, but that didn’t quite work out, then you might have to refund the money. Usually people don’t break down the overhead ratio for a specific project, unless a funder requires it. And even then it is very nebulous. I could estimate that 5% of our utility bill because we have to air-condition the classroom that we are using for this program, but really we would have to air-condition the classroom anyway because it’s shares the A/C with a room when use for something else.

              It’s almost like if you have a family of 5 people, and you have to determine how much of the household budget each person uses. If you dropped it to four people, your food bill would go down, but the mortgage stays the same. The utility bill would go down, but not by 20%. That’s what it’s like to try to separate the budget by different programs – it’s just a guess.

        2. Florida*

          If Org 1 and Org 2 have the same budget, as you suggest, then Org 2 would have 40% of their budget to spend on something. You suggest they could serve twice as many people or give one staff member a big bonus. What if they decided to invest that 40% back into fundraising? Then their overhead ratio would be worse than Org 1, but in the future they would be able to serve more people than Org 1. Is that a bad choice? The rating groups would say yes. What if they decided to spread the 40% out in salaries, not to one individual, but to several individuals, thereby increasing employee satisfaction and reducing turnover. Turnover in nonprofits is a HUGE expense that is not reported on 990s, therefore not considered by ratings groups, but it has been studied extensively. But if Org 2 did that, they would lower their ratings with the watchdog organizations, even though they might be doing what is more cost effective for the organization in the long-run.

          Also, to go back to your example that if we give a huge bonus to one person, it would lower their ratio, as it should. Actually, it might not lower their ratio. It might improve their ratio. If that one individual was a scientist or doctor (assuming we are using the polio example), it would improve their ratio. Even if that one individual was the president, they might count a large portion of his salary toward programs, not overhead. That’s fair if he is managing the programs, overseeing the programs, etc. So even though it probably isn’t fair for one person to get that large a bonus, it might actually benefit the organization in terms of ratings.

          Because people have become fixated on the overhead ratio, charities have become more creative in their accounting. More than 40% of large charities report no fundraising costs. Seriously, you have an organization that is raising 8-9 figure budgets and they don’t spend any money to do that? It just happens by magic? According to their 990, it does.

          You hear people say all the time that nonprofits need to run more like businesses, but when a nonprofit tries to run more like a business (investing in staff, infrastructure, marketing), they are punished.

          1. Chartreuse*

            Thanks for the additional information, @Florida! This is all really interesting and like other commenters have said, I’m really glad you are posting these comments.

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I generally donate to non-profits that have touched me personally, like our dog rescue and the school I went to growing up (private, gives a ton of scholarships). When I go wider, it’s usually a health charity to which I have some kind of connection, like the cancer center in my hometown that a family friend built and where a cousin was treated. I recently gave to Malaria No More– a friend works on their efforts in West Africa. I tend not to give to anything with ribbons or recognizable pins, because I know they get a lot of support on a regular basis, and sometimes they’re just way too big.

      Even if strangers “buy” your software, I don’t think they’d object too much if they gave to a local charity that’s close to your heart– unless they fundamentally object to its mission, but that’s their prerogative and they just don’t get the goods.

      1. Ella*

        This is more or less how my dad works. His brother died from complications of diabetes, one of his nephews survived childhood cancer, and his daughter (my sister) has Down syndrome. So he donates to the American Diabetic Association, St Jude’s Hospital (where my cousin was treated), and a local charity that provides support for individuals with Down syndrome and their family members and who helped my family out a lot immediately after my sister was born. I’m sure he donates to others as well (he’s that sort of person), but those are the ones I know about and that are in his will.

    8. fposte*

      I don’t know if I have a huge logical justification for my donation habits. I’ve been donating to the US Fund for Unicef and Doctors without Borders for years; they both score well on Charity Navigator et al., and they’re also easily available for donations through work, which is how I give to them. I also usually give to a couple of universities and to local Habitat (a friend’s been on the board) and/or the regional food bank. So I guess it’s globally through work auto-contribute and locally through my independent initiative.

      If you don’t have a strong commitment to any single agency or cause for this, I might go for something that does pretty basic and broadly beneficial work, like disaster or hunger relief, since presumably your users will be coming from all over; another possibility is to make it somewhat thematic by choosing an organization devoted to literacy or education in some way.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Oh, I like Doctors without Borders, too! They’re a great choice for something like this.

    9. Stephanie*

      I usually donate time, so I’ll pick charities that are doing projects or work that sounds of interest to me.

    10. JB (not in Houston)*

      I don’t know that my system is very effective or a wise use of your resources, but here’s what I do for ones I can’t bring myself to choose among to the exclusion of others. I donate monthly to a local food bank and a local homeless organization. Other than that, when I get a solicitation, I do a check to see if they seem legit. If so, they go in the back of a folder of solicitations. When it’s time to make my monthly donations, I take one or two from the front of the folder and donate to them. That way everyone gets a turn.

    11. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Interesting, I meant to ask people about charitable donations in this Open Thread myself! See, last year we gave less than the year before, and I realized that, of course, we needed a plan (and possibly a spreadsheet) to better coordinate our charitable giving! Ours is based on what is important to us, so we paid for a membership at the National Zoo, and will be donating to NPR, our local PBS station, animal rescue groups, organizations that help those who are hungry and/or homeless, especially at-risk (runaway and/or LGBT) teens, and most friends who participate in fundraisers.

      The “plan” I implemented is an automatic monthly funds transfer to a new savings account I’ve entitled “Charitable giving fund”, and every org. and fundraiser that we want to support will probably get $100-$500 this year. The main drawback is that I have to ration the donations throughout the year, which makes it harder to plan. Maybe next year I’ll try to build up the cash so we can have all of it at the beginning of the year, then ration it out throughout the year.

      Am I overplanning again, or does anyone else try to do something similar?

      1. Florida*

        It’s better to plan. If you don’t plan, you end up giving money to whichever organization sends you a letter or email. You might give more to something you are only half interested in, but skip one that you really care about. So I applaud you for planning.

      2. it happens*

        Plan – yes yes yes. You’ve already created your charitable giving budget – and most of the organizations you want to give to. One great benefit of a plan, you can say no to anything not in the plan without the slightest twinge of guilt – you know you’re giving to charity already. One part of my plan, a little set-aside to take care of the charities that I wouldn’t normally support, but my friends are doing walks/bikes/whatever for and ask for sponsorship.

      3. Graciosa*

        I save the appeals I get throughout the year and make my donation decisions in December. I use many of the resources others have mentioned to evaluate the charities, and think about what’s important to me. This helps me make thoughtful decisions about my real priorities rather than responding to every request that comes along during the year.

        Doing it in December has other benefits – I know I’m really embracing the spirit of giving in that season.

    12. it happens*

      That’s a wonderful idea. It really depends on what’s important to you. As others have asked, is there a cause that’s important to you (or in some way tangentially linked to your games?) Or are you interested in the most effective charities? You’ve already gotten very good advice on evaluating charities, I will put one more site out there, givewell.org, that evaluates programs to identify those that are the most cost-effective in serving the global poor. Not surprisingly, giving $1 to malaria control in Africa saves more lives than $1 to a disease charity in the US (not to say that the US charity doesn’t do good work or adds value.) You can also check out where the Gates Foundation is making grants to follow the smart money.
      Personally, most of my charitable giving is to my library and local food bank, both of which serve anyone who shows up.
      Good luck with your philanthropy – and don’t forget to post links to the charity’s twitter feed and facebook and encourage givers to do the same – good for the charity and good for your game;)

      1. Florida*

        Of all the charity watchdog websites, givewell is the best one. They actually focus on impact, not just finances. (Charity Navigator has said they will start focusing on impact, but they haven’t figured it out yet.)

        In 1997, Physicians for Human Rights had $1.3 million in revenue. They spent 58% on programs. They would have failed all of the major charity watchdog guidelines. That same year, they won the Nobel Peace Prize. Focus on impact, as that is what really matters.

        Charity Navigator reviews only 5000 of the 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in America. So if an organization is not rated, do not hold it against the charity. In fact, even if they are rated, do not hold it against them. Harvard University has a 3-star rating (our of 4 stars). But I don’t know anyone that considers Harvard to be a second-tier university. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (if you like classical music, you know how good these people are) has a two-star rating. I won’t bore you with a bunch of other ratings. My point is that the rating has nothing to do with the quality of work they are doing.

        Charity Watch is another watchdog website. For them, in-kind donations have no value (even though the IRS and GAAP require the charity to report that as income). So an organization, like a food bank, that receives a lot of their income in the form of in-kind donations, is going to look worse. If the organization spends $5 to bring in $1,000 worth of food, most people think that’s pretty good. Charity Watch says they spent $5 and have nothing show for it.

        I’m sorry I keep posting long comments about this. I have spent a lot of time researching,thinking and discussing this topic.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Don’t apologize, I’ve found your posts on charity analysis really, really helpful!

        2. fposte*

          Please don’t be sorry. It’s really valuable information, much of which I hadn’t encountered before.

          1. Florida*

            Thank you. I get very excited about this topic because I think that philanthropy is one of the few ways we can really determine the direction we want society to go. I think it is as important as voting.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              Probably more important, because a new organization with fresh ideas actually has a chance to make a difference, unlike with political candidates (can you tell I’ve lost all faith in the electoral process?).

              1. Florida*

                I agree that in many cases it is more powerful than voting. In my area, we have a very rich and generous person who has chosen several elementary schools that are in lower income areas and told those kids that he will pay for any of them to go to college. There are no limits – it’s not like it’s only the top ten kids. He commits to pay for the education of any kid from those elementary schools who eventually gets into college – any college. He has changed the neighborhood and the schools in a way that politicians never could. It’s pretty neat.

        3. Steve G*

          Thank you for this comment, tip about GiveWell.

          Personally, I give to NEAVS (The NE Anti-Vivessection Society), PETA, ASPCA, the Animal Defense Fund (fight animal rights lawsuits), and a few farms for abandoned animals. I see all doing ALOT of work so I never questioned whether they were worth it or not. Kudos to all of them, really……..

        4. thisisit*

          I love your posts! I think it is so important that people not just take a rating or some simple determination of an org’s worth as gospel. My grad school advisor was a founding member of PHR. :)

          And really, it extends to other areas too. I used to just take the “fair trade” or “eco/sustainable” thing at face value, until I saw the factories/plantations. You definitely have to do more research into things.

    13. Charity*

      Thanks everyone for your input! A lot of really helpful resources, and suggestions for donations as well. The main reason I asked is because there really isn’t a cause that’s personal to me, so it was hard for me to even get started thinking about what area of nonprofits I’m interested in donating to. The only thought I had was that a charity with a wider reach than local ones would appeal more to the general public if that’s who I’m trying to appeal to for donations. It sounds like a charity that works broadly on issues like education, hunger, or disaster relief might be what I’m looking for.

    14. Tanya*

      Would it possible for them to just donate to a charity of their choice? Different people care about different causes. So while you might choose a charity that works with homelessness, for example, someone else would maybe rather their money go to an organization that works with animals. Same with choosing a local org or a national one. Most of my donations go to local orgs because I like to see the effect of it. However, local isn’t the same place for everyone. If it’s not possible to let the user choose, I would consider going with an organization that has a large effect across multiple areas. Something like United Way, where at least that covers 3 of the top 5 categories of causes (Education, Income, and Health) (Animals and the Environment being the other 2).

      Either way, the suggestions of looking at GuideStar, Charity Navigator, etc are all good ones. Reputable nonprofits should have of their financial data on their website, as well as their annual reports, board member list, etc. Transparency is key. If an org isn’t transparent about all of that, it’s definitely a red flag.

    15. fposte*

      Oh, I forgot! I almost always donate to Donors Choose, usually during the Tomato Nation challenge or reminder. That might be a way of allowing people to direct their donation locally, if they prefer, while still going through a single entity.

      1. Spiky Plant*

        I can see the appeal of Donor’s Choose, but in practice the times I’ve gone to their website to donate, I wasn’t able to find any projects I wanted to fund. It seems like 90% of them were “Help this classroom buy 100 tablets.” I love tablets, don’t get me wrong, but at a time when we keep hearing about teachers buying basic classroom supplies out of pocket and being dramatically underpaid for their level of required education, I feel like tablets are the biggest issue in education right now.

        It feels to me, a bit, like one of those charities that tries to be happy and fluffy, and as a result gets a lot of money and doesn’t do a ton of good with it (other than kids having greater tablet access).

    16. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      We give to seven organizations.

      Two are organizations we have personally benefitted from – we were on the receiving end of their services and now that we’re in a position to give, we want to make sure that the organizations can keep providing the support we recieved.

      Two are organizations I’ve worked for and believe in. I know them and out, which means I know the ways in which they are successful and the ways in which they are wasteful or ineffective. I also believe deeply in and care about the people running them.

      Two are organizations whose missions we believe in. We knew what kind of work we wanted to support and did a little research to find out who does that work in our community. I don’t really care about the stuff that lots of people care about (overhead, % spent on programming, etc.) – I’ve spent my career in the nonprofit sector and know that the pursuit of those metrics is dangerous for organizations. That being said, this was our first year giving to both of these orgs and I’m frankly not that impressed we’ll be reconsidering next year.

      The last is our place of worship.

    17. ThatLibTech*

      Right now I’m donating to those closest to work, as I work in an end of town that struggles with unemployment, drug abuse, crime, etc., and there are a lot of amazing people in this area doing a lot of grassroots work in working with the community, and are always looking for donations (money and items), volunteers, etc. So that’s pretty specific I guess to my situation, but I tend more towards organizations and charities that generally don’t receive a lot of press, I know of them through my own work or by others, and are run by smaller groups of people in local areas.

    18. Blue_eyes*

      Everyone else has already given great advice on how to vet a charity. I would add, you probably want to pick a charity/cause that is not controversial, since this will be seen by (hopefully) lots of people who don’t know you (and who you don’t know). Charities that work with homelessness, hunger, education tend to be causes most people can get behind. Some charities like PETA or Autism Speaks have quite a bit of controversy around them and I would think are less likely to get donations from the general public who will be using your software/games.

    19. Artemesia*

      We give large amounts to a handful of usually local charities and then I research them. For example we have given to the local homeless shelter in both cities we have lived in and are able to view their budgets and know that they do good work in delivering goods and services. The local food banks, same.

      We never give to the ‘cancer research’ or similar national organizations. The government has spent 100s of billions of cancer research; the failure to ‘find a cure’ is not due to lack of funds. But many of the charities that raise money for this and similar causes are vehicles for sinecures for those who run them and in some cases founded them. I don’t find it money well spent. There was a ‘save the children’ type charity in Nashville that primarily functioned to provide 6 figure incomes to the founder, his wife, his daughters and sons and DILs and SILs. Almost nothing went to ‘the children.’ There are lots of charities like this. So we only give where we KNOW there is a lot of service provided.

      We also give to cultural organizations we support e.g. education programs of local museums and also to the local opera. Again, many of the larger cultural organizations have access to money from big donors so we tend to single out those where our donations might actually matter e.g. the Chicago OPera Theater rather than the Lyric.

      But never the national organizations that raise money for various causes as there is little evidence that these organizations do much good except for those who found them or work for them. The Susan Komen scandal was a lesson on where your money goes when you give to these type organizations; I am not making personal sacrifices to give so that grifters can fly first class.

      1. TL -*

        Woah, there’s plenty of good reasons to donate to cancer research – it’s grossly underfunded by the government currently and the money spent previously has lead to huge improvements in treatment and outcomes for many cancers.

        It’s fine not to donate, but cancer research can be a cause well worth supporting. That being said, I am not super impressed by the most well known of these organizations.

      2. Nashira*

        The failure to “find a cure” can absolutely be due to lack of funds, especially if it’s a particularly rare cancer that only affects a few people. While the US government has spent billions to fund cancer treatment research, cancer is many many different diseases. Even “breast cancer”, which is treated as a monolithic entity, comes in many varieties with different underlying causes. There is no singular cure, and deriding the value of cancer research simply reveals that you don’t actually understand anything about what’s going on. That’s like saying that too much money has been spent on childhood disease research, because we haven’t cured them all yet.

        1. Observer*


          I remember when cancer was an almost certain death sentence. Today, it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Some cancers still have an insanely high mortality rate, but for many others, early detection has really started to make a difference.

          1. TL -*

            Early detection is its own kettle of fish, but advances in treatment/detection/understanding of cancer have certainly helped many common cancers.

            1. Observer*

              Sure, it is. But the point I was making is that in the past ignorance really WAS bliss, because you couldn’t do anything anyway. But today, of you get a diagnosis, there is actually something you can do other than get on the worry train.

    20. Sunday*

      Is there a place that supports or supports platforms for open source software & games that needs donations to keep providing them?

    21. EduNerd*

      I’m not sure this is helpful in the context of your situation, but here’s what I do.

      – I don’t currently have any recurring monthly donations of funds. I want to get that started, but I am trying to build myself a bit more of a safety net first and haven’t done enough research.
      – I do donate a fairly large amount every year to a scholarship fund for an extracurricular program I did in HS (not through my school) that had a huge impact on my life.
      – I make sure to use the app “Charity Miles” on my smartphone when I’m walking or running decently far in order to donate to organizations that are important to me at no cost. They have tons of organizations to choose from and you can choose a new one each time if you’re indecisive ;)
      – I clip a lot of coupons to help pay for my groceries. Whenever I see a coupon deal that allows me to get something free (that’s a useful donation item), I always buy it and donate it to the food bank. For example, today I got some bar soap 3-packs free at CVS. And for any coupons that I have and don’t use/that expire, I mail them to military families overseas (they can use expired coupons for up to 6 months past the expiration date).

      It’s not a lot, but I like to think that it helps someone out there a little.

    22. Student*

      I suggest you consider Child’s Play as an option, since you’re a video game developer. It’s something that your user base will connect with – and you have to seriously consider what your user base will want to donate to if you want this to be successful. It’s a charity founded by the Penny Arcade guys, and it primarily goes to providing entertainment stuff for children’s hospitals. Giving kids with horrible diseases a book, or a PlayStation, or whatnot. They are extremely transparent about funds.

      I’ve only ever donated as an individual, so I don’t know how it’d work for someone in your situation with a cash flow. However, for individual donors, you get to pick items directly off of a participating children’s hospital Amazon wish list, so you know exactly what the hospital is getting and that it goes directly there. The only real overhead for your donations is the shipping charge.

      If you are looking for other charity suggestions, look at the Humble Bundle charity options. Or maybe just try to get your games into Humble Bundle. They’ve been reasonably successful at this same idea.

    23. ECH*

      One of my favorites is Honor Flight, which gives World War II veterans free day trips to Washington, D.C. to see their memorial. We have a local chapter that I like to support but I believe it is a national organization. I also am a major donor to our local United Way, and designate for a particular organization in our community that I think does a good job.

  2. Yoshi*

    New kitten??
    Also, we’re having beautiful weather in my neck of the woods! I’m sitting in the sun and absorbing some much needed vitamin D! Hope everyone is having an equally fabulous Saturday!

    1. Trixie*

      Amazing sales at Home Depot today, stocked up on herbs/veggies/flowers and may go back for ferns. Want to make a proper welcome for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

      1. The Bookworm*

        I don’t know what part of the country you are in, but Spanish Lavender grows well in Texas and the bees love it.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      The name of the image file is “Olive-small”, so I’m assuming it’s a throwback-Caturday pic.

    3. blackcat*

      I’ve been doing the same! Though my cat is old…

      Also, I got a lesson about vitamin D. During the long, hard, winter, I decided to try taking a vitamin D supplement, thinking “What’s the worst that could happen?” Apparently, the answer is being deathly allergic to something in the supplement, and ending up with a rather huge ambulance/ER bill. Whoops. For now, I am still waiting on seeing a specialist (because WTF was in that pill?!) and getting all the vitamin D I can naturally!

      1. Shell*

        Ouch. I hope you kept the label on that bottle of vitamin D so the specialist can figure out which of the excipients you were allergic to!

        1. danr*

          Or, it might have stuff that’s not on the label. There is no testing for OTC supplements unless they submit it to testing orgs them selves.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Exactly–something that people with food allergies often have to find out the hard way!

            1. blackcat*

              Which I had done… I take another supplement from the same company (iron) under a doctor’s direction without issue. I thought I was safe with fancy, preservative free stuff. Nope. Good news is that it is a type that certifies its ingredients, so hopefully I will get an answer soon.

      2. Marcela*

        If you like mushrooms, I watched a BBC documentary the other day where it was said that you can get them to produce vitamin D by just putting them directly under sunlight for about one hour. They can do the same thing as us, produce vitamin D using something on/under the skin, and that vitamin does not disappear afterwards when you put them in the fridge.

    4. steve g*

      I concur, I’ve been outside half of the day.

      I’m completely scandalized by my tenants with kids who’ve been home with the windows closed and all blinds drawn all day!

      1. Samantha*

        I’m currently nursing a few bruised ribs so that’s me today. Blinds drawn so I can’t see what I’m missing.

    5. Tau*

      Your neck of the woods may be my neck of the woods, because I’ve rarely seen the weather this gorgeous! I took the opportunity to cycle ~50 miles with a friend today, I am pretty much dead right now and tomorrow is going to be so, so painful but it was absolutely worth it. Sun! Warmth! Pretty landscapes! Lovely cycle paths!

      1. Artemesia*

        We are in that lovely time of the year where it is sunny and pleasant but there is a chilly tang in the air — I hate hot weather — I love these moments in fall and spring when it is gorgeous and I can walk by the lake or in the parks etc and not feel weighted down by heat and humidity but also not be cold.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Mine wasn’t too bad. It rained this morning, but I went out later and looked for pants and spring/summer shirts. I found no pants, one shirt (I actually found two but Target charges WAY too much for some of their stuff), and some earrings at the department store remainder place. All the shirts there were either ugly or had those goddamn cap sleeves, which I despise. The forecast for the next ten days in London is sunny for a few days and then cold and rainy! So I guess I’ll pack basically what I wore in autumn and leave room to hit up Primark. I do plan to go there for scarves. £3 GBP/$6 USD beats Target’s $15 any day.

      Tonight I have to write a blog post and tomorrow I am cleaning the hell out of the house. I paid the pet sitter half up front like we did last time (he gave me a discount, woo hoo!) and the yard guy got the lawn mowed. I can’t spend any more money or I won’t have any when I get there!

        1. fposte*

          Huh. I’d have thought that Walmart was likely to eat them alive. I’ll be interested to see how they position themselves.

          1. Merry and Bright*

            I read the other day that the first stores are likely to be in New York state and New Jersey. Apparently they are renting space from Sears.

      1. Short and Stout*

        The weather has been so nice here in the South East UK that yesterday I began to worry about getting sunburned :)

      2. Merry and Bright*

        Typical weather. At least there are loads of museums and The British Library for wet days.

        Have a great trip :)

    7. Mints*

      I think I get spoiled living where the weather is generally nice, because I complained all day yesterday about how hot it was and when I went outside it was so bright I felt like a vampire. (I’m exaggerating just a little)

  3. Trixie*

    Car question. When I switch from heater to a/c, I think the vents get stuck because the air flow won’t’ alternate properly when I direct it towards me or towards my feet. Once they’re on defrost/windshield, it seems like they easily get stuck there. I thought if I left them on heat first, then tried switching direction I’d have better luck before switching to a/c. Anyone else experience this?

    1. Amber Rose*

      Had that problem in my Chrysler a lot. It tended to work better at higher speeds… for some reason.

      I say mess around with it until you find a solution. Cars can be so quirky.

    2. Anon333*

      Had an issue similar to this in a nissan we had. there was a little pin broken inside the dial you had to turn to select which vent you wanted.

    3. Gene*

      Could be a vacuum leak in the air motors (if your car has them), could be fixed with a little lubrication, could be a stretched cable, could be warped air doors, could be corrosion.

      Once it’s diagnosed, the fix will probably be easy.

    4. Trixie*

      The vents aren’t as fussy when its cold enough to use the heater, as in today so I was able to adjust. Each time I use the heater, I just need to remember to switch the flow direction back to the front. I will ask about this next time the car goes in.

  4. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

    Anyone have a home elliptical machine they like or would recommend? Or done any shopping for one lately?

    1. it happens*

      For New Year’s I got the Best Fitness E1 elliptical trainer. My sister had done the research two years ago – it’s the smallest one on the market – only 48″ x 30″ footprint. It works very well for me. It was $1,149, free shipping from Amazon, and took two hours to put together, by myself.

    2. Sparrow*

      We got a Nordic Track from Sears. We tested it out in the store to decide what model we wanted. They delivered and assembled it. I don’t remember if that cost extra, but it was worth it.

      It has some pre-programmed workouts that I use, but my husband prefers to just control things himself.

      We also paid for the service plan. I think it’s for three years and they come out and do an inspection to make sure everything is working.

  5. The Cosmic Avenger*

    We got a new (to us) kitty today! He’s nine years old, and he’s very sweet. And vocal. But he’s getting used to it.

    I’m OK with moderation if I get to post a kitty pic: http://imgur.com/a9jgDYP

        1. EvaR*

          If you breed another cat with a siamese, you will usually get a black cat. My current cats have a siamese ancestor, and most of their relatives are pure black.

        2. HR Generalist*

          I can’t see the photo but we have Orientals. They’re like the cousins of Siamese- same face/body type but they come in so many different colours. We have two, a long hair and a shorthair. On Instagram they’re “Puccini.and.roku”

          1. Sunday*

            When I saw “Puccini.and ro..” my brain filled in Rossini.
            Maybe that’s because I had a coloratura cat at one point… :)

            Your two sure are cute.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, I have an orange tabby mix that clearly has some sort of Siamese or similar breed in him. He is so so so chatty. It honestly drives me a little crazy sometimes (like, say, at 4 in the morning). But he is also the sweetest cat I’ve ever had.

        1. GOG11*

          2 of my 3 orange tabbies are very chatty. The third, my youngest, chirps all the time, but never makes a sound other than that.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Oh, how cute!

            I know my guy has some sort of oriental in him by his face shape, but I guess it’s a double whammy if marmies are generally very chatty.

          2. Windchime*

            I have a kitty that is Siamese-colored but is in reality a mutt from the shelter. He chirps all the time. Very little meowing; lots of chirping.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Both your cats are beautiful! This pic here is priceless. Yes, VOA, definitely.

    1. Sparrow*

      He’s so handsome! My big tabby boy is quite a chatterbox. Not my favorite when he wakes me up in the morning, but I love when he answers when I talk to him.

    2. the gold digger*

      Thank you for posting your photo! I love looking at cat photos. My husband is out of town and I have been sending him photos of our cats all day because he needs something cute to look at. Cat photos make the day better.

    3. Mints*

      I’m not super interested in cat breeds. Both of mine are mutts from the Humane Society and I say one of them is Siamesey because of his shapes and whining. I’d call your cat black and Siamesey too :)
      The whining is sometimes annoying but it’s super cute when you call his name and he comes running and meowing for petting from the other room.

  6. fposte*

    iOS games–I’m trawling for recommendations of a specific sort. I absolutely loved Monument Valley–that’s exactly my kind of thing, quietly weird and interesting and rewarding to look at, and it made perfect sense to me when I found it that the developer was a big fan of Windosill and Tiny Wings, both of which I also liked a lot. So I’m looking for recommendations for games that similarly create a non-cartoony, non-garish interesting world and aren’t filled with loud audio, either. It doesn’t have to be quite as Zen as Windosill, but overall I’m more interested in flow and experience than zapping things or racking up points (there are no points at all in Monument Valley or Windosill). Any recommendations? Any secret information about new levels coming in Monument Valley? I do have all the VectorPark apps and am looking at the other ustwo apps.

    1. Buu*

      Hmm off the top of my head:
      The Room – Puzzle game set all in one room where you’re trying to open a mysterious puzzle box
      Mountain – Not really a game in a typical sense but something to poke around with
      80 Days – Interactive text fiction you have to help Fogg travel around the world in 80 days picking his route and what you buy etc.
      Sword and Sorcery Ep – it’s a little bit hipster but has a cool female main character, does have a strong use of music so I’m not sure if it’s quite what you’re looking for.

    2. Alistair*

      I’ve got a few recommendations. The Room and it’s sequel, The Room 2 are first person perspective puzzles. Generally, you have an object (or several) that you puzzle through opening, moving things onscreen in a variety of ways. Gorgeous, smart but not super hard, and very atmospheric and creepy. No jump scares that I recall, but some very weird and creepy scares. I don’t think the scares are very triggery, but I’m also very bad at recognizing such things.

      Waking Mars is a brainy slow moving puzzler, where you play an astronaut on Mars who discovers this entire biosystem under Mars, which you go about waking up and investigating. Well voiced, very pretty, and very forgiving. Not something you can just pick up, play, and put back down. I had to go out of town for work, left the Ipad at home, and completely lost my mental track of where I was and what I was doing.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Room and Room 2 are both amazing. If you like puzzle games, give one of them a try.

        Having now looked at Monument Valley, I agree that you might like Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. There is also one called Edge where you navigate a cube through various 3D environments, it does require you to really have some skills to balance the cube for certain of the puzzles, which I found hard.

    3. fposte*

      I’m looking through all these recommendations on the app store, and they’re looking really interesting–thanks for the ideas!

    4. littlemoose*

      Not exactly what you mentioned here, but one I think you would like: Red Herring. It’s a word/puzzle game with three levels of difficulty and free daily puzzles, plus very reasonably priced puzzle packs. Good for quick distractions.

      1. fposte*

        Well guessed–I already have Red Herring :-). I think I may have gotten it from a recommendation here, in fact. Maybe it was yours.

    5. Myrin*

      Oooh, Monument Valley! I don’t have it myself since my phone is super old, but a youtuber I follow made two “Let’s play” kind-of videos of it and I loved it! Also, she played four (?) new levels three months ago but I don’t know how “new” these really are and you probably know of them already but anyway, throwing that out there.

    6. Mints*

      This game is a lot more simple, no interesting worlds, but it’s a challenging puzzle game with a nice aesthetic: Triples (AntsApps). It’s based on the card game Set. You try to get a set of three cards that are all the same or all different in each category (shapes colors number and fill). It does get easier as your play more.

  7. Shell*

    I’ve been measuring my blood pressure and heart rate semi-regularly, and I’m happy to say that my ambient heart rate has been dropping! Yay!

    Although I bet my results will be even better if I remember to hydrate myself more. I just barely remember to drink about 1500 mL of fluid (not water, fluid) every day, and that’s with a tracking app that reminds me. :\ I just tend to ignore the reminders.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Are there benefits to a lower heart rate?

      I only ask because I don’t know what mine is. Every attempt to measure it causes it to spike.

      1. Shell*

        It’s a rough measure to heart health. Of course various things affect heart rate so it’s not be-all and end-all, but if your heart is stronger, it will generally beat less frequently because it can move the same volume of blood with less work–i.e. the stroke volume would increase. Regular exercise strengthens the heart and over time will tend to lead to lower heart rates.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Dehydration will do a whole, long list of things, including blood pressure problems and heart rate problems. Not all fluids hydrate the body, matter of fact some fluids deplete the body of water, such as coffee.
      My boss had a good idea, no fun drinks until the water quota for the day has been filled. That makes a lot of sense to me.

    3. Elizabeth West*


      My blood pressure went way down with regular exercise. When I went to the doctor about my knee the other day, they measured it at 101/something.

      The water is important–I get a headache if I don’t drink enough, and I read somewhere your brain needs it.

    4. catsAreCool*

      I have a couple of those water containers people take in cars – I keep one in the fridge with filtered water, chilling and one at my desk so that I can take sips of water every so often. It’s a lot easier to remember when the water’s right there.

    5. Jen RO*

      I recently found out I had hypertension… I’m still getting tested, so I don’t have the ‘why’, but at least the pills seem to be working, because my blood pressure’s gone down. (Not that I ever felt any symptoms, except for that one time which prompted me to see a doctor…) I usually forget to drink enough water… so thanks for tge the reminder!

      1. fposte*

        That’s hypertension, though–it usually doesn’t have any symptoms at all (US med circles dub it the “silent killer”), so you were lucky that you had one that sent you to a doctor. Glad the pills seem to be helping!

  8. Amber Rose*

    So the advice I got last week was spot on. There is a different sword training class that costs just a little more monthly but no start up fee, and is twice a week. They have one free class I’ll be checking out next week.

    In other news, I bought a new dress corset in teal for my steam punk costume and I look FABULOUS. Plus my back doesn’t hurt for a change.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Mostly very, very geeky. :D
        The comic expo is running this weekend so I took the chance to pick up some new gear. Next year I hope to be part of the sword fighting demo.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I missed this last week–what kind of sword training are you doing? I’ve wanted to do it for a long time but I don’t know where to start.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Ah, last week I was asking about what a good class looks like, since we have a kenjitsu place that looked neat. But it was a $350 start up fee and only had classes twice a month. Kind of a rip off in hindsight.

        But I was at our comic expo and some guys had a booth for theirs and it’s a much better deal. They teach Kage Ryo, which is long sword, and Iaido, which is staff art.

        The best place to start is Google and then just go places and see if you like them.

        1. Finny*

          Do you mind if I ask what dojo? The husband and I are both in Calgary, though we couldn’t afford the expo this year, and we’re looking to get back into martial arts. The husband in particular is interested in staff work, though I am more fond of dual sticks.

  9. V.V.*

    Speaking of books, I just checked out Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook from the library, when I spied it yesterday, (couldn’t resist.) Any other wacky cookbooks out there?

    1. Florida*

      There is a children’s cookbook called Cooking With Pooh. It’s a Winnie the Pooh book. I don’t know if it’s a wacky cookbook or not. I just think the title is a little unfortunate.

    2. Gene*

      “To Serve Man, a cookbook for people” by Karl Wurf.

      Texas Chili starts with, “Meat of 1 reasonably well-muscled Cowboy, ground coarsely”.

        1. V.V.*

          Almanzo’s Buckwheat pancakes! Made them once like 24 years ago at Grandma’s house. Though they were yum, I decided then and there I never wanted to invest that much effort into making a dish ever again.

    3. Sunday*

      This is more cooking than I’ll do, but it’s fun (and I’m a fan of the stories)
      The Nero Wolfe Cookbook
      by Rex Stout
      A one-of-its-kind, high-cuisine cookbook that reproduces authentic recipes for many of the fine dishes mentioned in Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries. Spiced with quotes from memorable Nero Wolfe whodunits and photos that recall New York in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s.

      NB: text from Goodreads

    4. Kali*

      I doubt it’s commercially available, but one of my brothers got me the “Cooking with OJ” cookbook from an antique store for Christmas one year. The chapters include “Investigation and Arrest (Breakfast and Brunch), “Closing Arguments (Desserts),” and The Appeal (Late Night Snacks and Early Morning Wake-ups).”

      My favorite recipe:

      The Bronco Chaser, from Pre-trial Motions (cocktails). “The perfect way to get you going quickly with this no-stops combo of OJ, 7-up and plenty of fizz. Even better if you can get some across-the-border tequila.”

    5. Lizabeth*

      White Trash cookbook. I actually bought it and was surprised beyond the pack of peanuts in the bottle of Coke. Did make some of the recipes but it wasn’t a cookbook that I kept when I narrowed down the cookbooks.

      The other type I love to look at is the self- published types by the women’s clubs and church groups.

      Or the booklets from the 50’s are a hoot.

    6. Lizabeth*

      And this just hit me: Brian Jacques Redwall series has a cookbook that I haven’t looked at BUT I’ve always drooled through the books when they talk about the food.

  10. steve g*

    We’re going to Blondie / Morrisey at Madison Square Garden in June!

    Blondie is the first record I remember (even though it was five years old by the time I got to it) and has been one of my favorite groups of my life. She came up in my youtube and I thought “let me see if she still does shows” and I saw the nyc one…and even though it was midnight I got three other people mobilized and good tickets bought within 15 min!

      1. Steve G*

        Super excited to go with my sister too. She is a concert fanatic but we’ve only been to a few concerts together, I ALWAYS reject her invitations because our tastes are so different. We did Moby in 1999 and Tori Amos in 1997ish and Marilyn Manson/Lunachicks in 1996. That was it. So being able to jam out with her for the first time since college? Priceless!

  11. Computer Guy Eli*

    I’m not sure what my last post was, but for those of you that remember what I was going through, everything’s perfect. Dad makes 2k a month on disability, I make 1400 a month working security, and we’re just playing catch-up on bills. This leads me to my question.

    If anyone I know asks me, I’ll say I came home from college to help my parents out when dad lost his job. That’s partially true. The whole story is, I was overwhelmed with college and this resulted in me jumping at the opportunity to get out in any way possible. I -was- going towards a degree in computer science, and I technically have a years worth of credits for it. I’m eyeing up going back to school, but I’m trying to better gauge my strengths. I suck at math, I suck at the hard sciences, and I excel at learning concepts. I was captain of my debate team, star student in all of my government classes, and I think you can tell where I’m going with this.

    [B] TL;DR, I’m planning on going back to college for law after washing out the first time, because I like every aspect of a law degree more than computer science.[/B]

    My question is, how should I go about this? I make 750$ every two weeks, I have free room and board where I am, I have a 2500$ loan for my computer, a 10,000$ loan for my car, 1800$ remaining in student loans, and I just got told by my shift supervisor (Third in command of the plant) that the higher-ups had their eyes on me for a utility position(22$ an hour with a very real chance to move into operations and make 100,000$ a year) This leads me to a few possible options I can take.

    1. Apply for FAFSA, kill all my bills, and head to college this fall.
    2.Apply for FAFSA, Kill all my bills, and head to college this spring with some money in my pocket.
    3.Kill all my bills, save a years worth of pay, potentially move into the plant for Utility, Apply for FAFSA next year, and head to college next fall.
    4.Kill all my bills, take as many classes I can online this coming semester, save up some money and head off to campus this spring/next fall.
    5. Scrap the idea and forfeit myself to a life of financial stability, but fulfilling work.

    I’m counting on you guys to kick the “Honeymoon phase” of this out of my head, so give me your thoughts!

      1. Computer Guy Eli*

        Use the money I’m making from my current job to make it so I have nothing I need to pay when I start college.

        (My bad, I could’ve made that clearer)

        1. Treena Kravm*

          This is the best/smartest part of your plan. I’ve had interns who skip class to pick up an extra shift because they have credit cards, rent, a car payment, and an assortment of other financial obligations. It impacts students a LOT and anything you can do to reduce that aspect is your best bet.

    1. Treena Kravm*

      I’m going to ignore the law school aspect of this, because I’m sure others will chime in and explain the risks of that.

      But going back to school in general? Good idea. Even if the utility and operations jobs works out perfectly, there’s no harm in having some education as well. Even if you make good money and go with the operations career, you’ll probably want to move out of it at some point if it’s not fulfilling (I’m assuming that line was a typo, but correct me if I’m wrong!). And then if it doesn’t work out, you’re ahead of the game in terms of preparing for another career.

      So I’m liking 4, but also 1 or 2. But this is strongly dependent on how much debt you would acquire to finish your degree and how much you could do online before having to move back to campus. Also, apply for FAFSA right now no matter what–the earlier the better and applying doesn’t lock you in to going to school.

      1. Computer Guy Eli*

        *Not fulfilling* Yes, nice catch.

        My problem is, the closest campus from where I’m at is a five hour drive away, so I’m pretty sure that if I went to college I’d be throwing away my potential career here.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          How much time can you spend doing classes online? Maybe 2-3? When do you think the utilities/operation jobs may work out? I would try to work towards both simultaneously and as time goes by, one will become more promising/exciting to you.

          Is an online degree something you’d be interested in? Or do you want to be on a campus with other people? I know an online degree + living in a rural area can sort of leave you with not much of a social life.

          1. Computer Guy Eli*

            I have a schedule of seven days of 12 hour shifts, and seven days off. During my shifts I’m basically a secretary at a very slow motel. I could spend eight of my twelve hours each shift studying, and no one would mind, including my boss. I have my application for Utility in now and from the way my current boss is talking, I’m going to be in plant within a couple of months.

            My biggest concern with the online degree is that it will be seen as a lesser achievement when/if I move on to applying for law school. If I were to go with online schooling, it would only be for as long as I need to get my finances in a position where I could at least get through college. I want to go on campus, but I don’t want money to be a problem when I’m in such a privileged position now.

            1. law grad*

              Why not get your first year done online? Fact is, many general ed courses are so large that you are not missing much by not taking them in person. Or do you have a local community college for these general ed classes? Law schools will look at your entire academic history, but are more likely to care about your degree-granting institution. You can take online courses while still at home and working, and you can always transfer later. Just make sure you take courses that will transfer!

            2. Pennalynn Lott*

              I’ve recently gone back to school and half my classes are lecture / on-campus, and the other half are online. All from the same, fully accredited, well-respected “brick-and-mortar” school. You could fairly easily knock out your first two years taking only online courses from a regular college or university (not an “online-only” school). Your transcript will look exactly the same as if you’d attended class in person.

              1. Blue_eyes*

                I think this is a good plan. You could take one or two years online, then transfer to a university (or you may not even have to transfer if you’re online courses are part of the university system) and finish your degree there. Your degree will be from the university and law schools won’t know that you started online. It seems like another year or two being able to live at home and keep working would mean a lot of extra income for you, and probably help you stay out of debt.

    2. Yoshi*

      Well, you should submit your Fafsa anyways- its free and it takes a total of about 3o minutes of your time (i actually just submitted mine this morning). As far as school goes, do you have a local community college you can go to and finish off your GE credits? Or are those all completed? Completing one year of college level computer science coursework is a great start, could you turn it into a minor?

      Also, as a general note, undergraduate pre law degrees don’t get you anywhere, I’d suggest you consider other undergraduate degrees that might be more useful across the board. Maybe management/business if you’re interested in operations? Law schools don’t look for any specific major, if you do decide to continue on to law school. But even then, I’d highly suggest you do a ton of research- law school isn’t the golden ticket it used to be, and law graduates are having an increasingly difficult time finding work, and are often doing it with six figures of student loan debt. I’m just saying- make sure its for you, and you’re in it for the long haul.

      1. Computer Guy Eli*

        The thing is, I almost completely botched my first year of college. I got all low C’s because I had never had to study before then and I gave up pretty soon into my second semester. I don’t really want that on my record, so I was planning on starting over, the right way.

        I honestly don’t want to be the “Super rich lawyer guy”, I’m thinking law because everything about the legal system intrigues me, and I feel that since I’m actually interested in the study and not the degree, which was my last mistake, (Kind of like how I wanted a computer science degree but I hated math and science) I feel like I could succeed this time. I can cross the bridge of employment when I get there, eight years is too far in the future for my crystal ball!

        1. Treena Kravm*

          Unfortunately, you’re stuck with those grades. If you transfer schools, your new school will evaluate them and give you credit. But if you were to apply to grad/law school, they require you to submit all transcripts from all schools attended. You could just not submit them, but then you’re susceptible to fraud and they can yank your degree/kick you out the program etc.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              In my experience, those grades are not the voice of doom forever. You’ll always have to submit all your transcripts when you apply to law school or grad school, but you’ll also have to submit your subsequent transcripts that show you doing better at something else. An admissions department will see a false start and a ton of improvement. Not to fret.

              What you can’t do is pretend it never happened, which is what Treena was saying. That way lies destruction.

              1. law grad*

                Yeah, I forgot to add that I had a similar start. Even though they averaged all of my undergraduate grades, there was clear progression from my first year. You are given opportunities to explain things on your application. But be aware, you must be completely honest. Failure to disclose anything relevant will be reported to your state’s bar examiner, who may decide to not admit you.

            2. fposte*

              It’s not the end of the world, though; different programs have different strengths and emphases, and you’re not the only person to have needed a redirect post-freshman year. You don’t need to be a whole different person and eradicate the Eli of freshman year, who was a decent guy struggling to learn important stuff in a short amount of time. I don’t know about law school per se, but there are definitely graduate programs who will be more interested in a narrative about you maturing, coming back, and excelling in your remaining years than they’ll be worried about what freshman grades do to your GPA.

              I think poli sci is an interesting major that might lead you in various non-law ways, too, which you don’t have to decide right now.

              1. Computer Guy Eli*

                The problem is, everything I’m interested in is seemingly saturated. PolSci has an unemployment rate of 11%. I’m terrible at chemistry and math, (Or they’re at least so painful for me to learn that I don’t want to pursue a career where I do them) so that basically blocks me off from any lucrative degree.

                1. law grad*

                  My advice to you: Because you are, essentially, starting over, do not commit to anything yet (meaning, do not declare a major yet). Go for the most variety you can get in your first year or so (making sure it counts towards most degree programs!) and see what grabs you and/or what you do well in. Keep an open mind, as you might become aware of a field of study and career path you never knew existed. If you’re too focused on a specific goal, you may miss fantastic opportunities.

                2. Pennalynn Lott*

                  Let me throw in a plug for accounting! It’s what I’m going back to school for. There are so many specialties in accounting, like forensic accounting, that are very similar to what I imagine some aspects of law are like. And I haven’t yet heard of a glut of accountants driving down wages and job opportunities. Every business in the world needs them, and needs different variations of them. (Accounting isn’t just doing taxes). And the math involved is pretty much just advanced arithmetic. No geometry, no calculus, no matrices, no Gauss-Jordan elimination, no logarithms, no asymptotes, or any of the other crazy stuff I’ve had to learn this semester in my required math class.

                3. LAI*

                  I just want to point out that averages like this don’t mean anything. Just because Pol Sci majors have an unemployment rate of 11% doesn’t mean that YOU would have an 11% chance of being unemployed. Your particular chances will depend on what you do both in and outside the classroom to be prepared for the job market. A Pol Sci major who gets good grades and has a couple of internships with strong references probably has a much lower chance of being unemployed than a Pol Sci major who earns mediocre grades and has no work experience, right?

                4. AshleyH*

                  I’m a poli sco degree holder, a mediocre college student (I think I graduated with a 2.8- I went to a big state school and preferred parties to the library), and I’ve been gainfully employed since two days after I graduated. I work in HR. My husband is also a poli sci graduate and is also employed (in retail store operations at a corporate level). Poli sci doesn’t necessarily mean unemployed, it just means people love to try to get you involved in political debates :)

            3. Elsajeni*

              Hey, C’s aren’t failures! They’re mediocre grades, sure, but they’re not failures. You got credit for those classes, and you learned the material. And an early semester or year of mediocre grades is hardly a catastrophe — if you recover and do better in future semesters, your GPA will recover pretty quickly, and, maybe more importantly, you’ll have
              1) a great narrative about how you struggled starting out but worked hard and pulled through, and
              2) some practice recovering from failure, which I’m guessing, since you mentioned that college was the first time you really had to study, that you haven’t really had to do so far.

              I dropped out of college after my second year, and ended up taking most of a year off and then transferring to another school. My situation wasn’t exactly the same as yours, but I had similar issues with having to study and work hard for my grades for the first time, and ended up failing about half my classes in order to do well in the rest. (This is totally worse than pulling off middling grades in all your classes, so you’re a step ahead of me already.) What worked really well for me was staying close to home, going back part-time at first and starting with low-stakes, easy courses (but ones that counted towards my degree requirements! I had a list of all the courses I needed to take, from day 1, because I knew I was already looking at a 5th year and I didn’t want to waste time taking courses that wouldn’t get me out with a degree), and developing study skills as I worked my way back up to carrying a full course load of stuff that was actually challenging for me. I know the close-to-home and part-time parts of that might not be achievable, depending on where you live and whether you need to be full-time to get financial aid, but if nothing else, I really recommend that you sit down with your degree plan, sort things by how easy you think they’ll be for you, and make a plan to start with the easier stuff and keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.

              1. Stephanie*

                If I remember correctly, you started at my alma mater and yeah…I struggled when I got there, too. I went from being one of the smartest kids at my high school to being pretty middling there. I worked hard in high school, but I kind of underestimated how much extra work I’d need to do to get an A there.

                1. Elsajeni*

                  Yep! I am a member of a proud fraternity of Those Who Couldn’t Hack It At [owl mascot]. (And honestly, my lack of study skills was a big contributing factor, but the biggest thing was that “tiny, enclosed campus” just wasn’t the right fit for me — I transferred to a huge state school and it was like a miracle. I could walk across campus or go to the library and not see anyone who was in all my classes and wanted to have an anxious conversation about the paper I was trying to take a break from!)

                2. Stephanie*

                  @ElsaJeni Ha, that’s why I sometimes went to Commuter School Across the Freeway’s library to study. It helped not to be in the one campus library where everyone else was anxious about the problem set, too. I also went to the business school library sometimes, but they started cracking down on non-MBA students using it (it was so empty, new, and shiny!).

                  In a weird way, it’s sort of conforming hearing you struggled. Not the flunking out part, that probably was a blow even if the school was a poor fit. It just sometimes felt like everyone was acting like they were pulling 4.0s with ease there.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                When I transferred my credits the grades did not transfer, just the credits. It was like having a fresh start.

            4. Pennalynn Lott*

              I flopped on a couple of my classes the first time around. So I just retook them. Yes, it still shows that 27 years ago I got a “C” in Principles of Accounting, but that is negated/neutralized by the “A” I got in the same course last semester. At least now I have proven that I can (and have) mastered the material.

        2. law grad*

          Exactly what Treena said. Even if you start over, you will have to report everything; failure to do so is fraud. Of course, if you start over and do well, you will theoretically have more *good* grades, and the impact of your low grades will be less. Law schools will, essentially, average all of your undergraduate grades together to come up with one GPA (at least that’s what they did when I applied).

          Don’t be fooled by the image of lawyers. Your utility ops possibility might actually pay more. A very small percentage of law school grads make it into the big firms with six-figure salaries. They come from elite law schools or the very top 1-2% of good schools. Most lawyers fall squarely in the mid to upper five figures. The work may or may not be fulfilling. Make sure you research law schools and the reality of a career in law.

          But by all means, however, go back to school! You may still want to go into law, or you may find another profession that fits your abilities. Having a degree will not hurt, especially if you can figure out a way to get some good, practical work experience.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yes, exactly. And while I’m not encouraging you to go for science and math classes, I will say that both of those classes became less painful for me when I figured out (1) I don’t learn the way that they teach me, and (2) how to teach it to myself. Then I actually liked the classes.

            As for career options, I have two suggestions. One, do something like Start With Why (you don’t have to pay for the course, you might could get the course from the library). It doesn’t tell you something specific like ‘be an accountant,’ but it talks about what makes good leaders, that kind of thing. It might help you recognize qualities in yourself you didn’t know you had.
            Second, if you really don’t know where to start, why not try reading something like the Occupational Outlook Handbook? It’s available on the website of the bureau of labor statistics. I mention it only because it has a very long list of occupations. You might learn about jobs you didn’t know were out there. It also talks about things like education required, job outlook, median salary, etc. I don’t know how accurate the statistics are, but it’s somewhere to start. Personally, I think it’s interesting to look at all the different kinds of jobs out there, but that’s just me.

            1. Computer Guy Eli*

              Whenever this topic pops up, Programming is something that always pops into my head because every career I can think of boils down to this; I want a career where I can prove my mastery of the topic by showing progress faster/better than my peers. I would love to be a programmer so I could be empirically faster than my coworkers, but that math would kill me.

              I think I’ll look into that handbook, it sounds helpful!

              1. catsAreCool*

                I do software development, and I don’t deal with math much, but there was a fair bit of math in college.

              2. Treena Kravm*

                I don’t want to speak for my husband, but the beginning of his career story sounds so much like yours!

                He was a music major in college and the highest math he took was Pre-Calculus. He graduated and ended up in retail for 3 years. He knew he had to do something different, so he saved every penny, and then decided on his path/goals. He lived off his savings while he focused–he taught himself programming and got into an open-source community, where he learned a lot from others. He did a lot of free/cheap work and low-wage, basic coding contracts. He built a portfolio of websites he created and after 2 years got a FT junior developer role at a start-up (not in a tech hub at all!). After the start-up went belly up, he found his current job as a developer and was promoted to the lead senior developer after 3 years. He now is the person teaching newbies at the open source meet-ups and has spoken quite a few times at conferences. He says he uses a few math concepts over and over, but nothing advanced.

                He works very long hours and still struggles with things that don’t come easily to him, but he pushes through it because he genuinely enjoys it. He says it’s fun to figure out how to build something a certain way. If that’s at all how you feel, I would strongly encourage you to pursue computer science, but maybe not via college. I just asked him to confirm (to make sure I wasn’t steering you in the wrong direction!) and he said he absolutely would have gotten mostly C’s in a college level computer science program. Some people are just not meant for school, but can absolutely do the job.

                One note about programming: you’ll probably never be a true master of say, a programming language. Things move way too quickly for that to be likely. But you could be a master of figuring out how to integrate the new stuff or a tiny niche field. Just wanted to put that out there.

              3. Schmitt*

                Look into a “computer information systems” degree. I had to take exactly one math class – statistics – which was cool and awesome and I hate math.

                It’s important to understand math concepts but you don’t need the really hard math for a wide swath of programming jobs.

              4. Clever Name*

                Look into computer science as a major. My husband as a degree in computer engineering, which is very math heavy, but he’s a programmer, and he works alongside people who majored in computer science.

              5. Nashira*

                I am doing a computer information systems degree, which is pretty heavy on the programming and pretty light on the math. I haven’t needed more than basic algebra for any of the programming yet, and don’t really expect to need it in the future, not for the sorts of job I am looking for. My parents both worked as software engineers for decades and neither of them used the boatloads of calculus that their 1970s comp sci degrees made them take, either.

                Weirdly, if I could find a comp sci degree that fit with my needs (local-to-me evening classes with an online component for many of them), I would love to be doing that instead. I loves me some math.

              6. NacSacJack*

                Hi Eli – From what you describe, you like learning and describing concepts as well as programming. I would suggest getting a major in Communications with a minor in computer science or computer information systems. That said, I’m not sure you want to take a full time position if you intend to quit within the year. How about taking a two-three year gap time, pay off your bills, get some job experience within yourself, stabilize, and then go back to school. I shot myself in the foot when I talked about going back to school full time in the fall when I took a full time job in the summer to cover someone’s maternity leave. Turns out they expected me to take the job perm while she came back to another position.

        3. law grad*

          Based on your second paragraph, I am not sure you would find working as a lawyer fulfilling. In many firms, it’s very much a focus on billing and productivity and getting more business, without a lot of time for research, analysis, and contemplation. You need to dig into what intrigues you. You are just starting out, you have time.

          Depending on your specific interest, as law is very general (I deal with employment, civil rights, contracts, and public agency stuff for the most part, for example), you might consider policy work, which does not require a law degree, or you might be able to find fulfilling work as a lawyer in certain non-profit organizations. But the pay might not be good. Depending on your interests, there are potentially many rewarding career paths that do not require an additional three years of school and six-figures of tuition.

          Go back to college. Keep an open mind. Pay attention to those things that grab your attention. Also pay attention to those things that you do well, but do not necessarily grab your attention. My experience is that the study of things in school is often very different than the application of them in real life. But pay attention to where you are strong or seem to have an aptitude, because you will enjoy your work more if you are not struggling constantly.

        4. Anon for this*

          Don’t let a bad start discourage you. I nearly flunked out my first quarter of college (bad choice of major, and a horrible advisor that let me take a full slate of hard math and science courses all at once – I ended up in a A. Dean’s office and her eyes almost bugged out when she saw my schedule.) I switched majors, and started a trajectory that led me to graduate school at Yale, then the University of Chicago, and a bunch of fellowships/awards including a Fulbright. Don’t despair! There is a lot of good advice in this thread about what to do next. Early C’s are nothing to stress too much about, so don’t!

    3. Stephanie*

      Law’s saturated. Don’t do it. If you do want to do anything relating to law, go talk to practicing lawyers and have them give you an accurate picture of the legal market.

      I’m not sure what you mean by an undergrad degree in law, either. It is something along the lines of criminal justice? Usually you major in something else at the undergrad level and then go to law school.

      1. Reluctant Lawyer*

        100% agree with Stephanie. Do NOT go to law school. The market is absolutely saturated. The only thing worse than being unemployed is having six figures in law school debt and being unemployed.

        As for undergrad major, you can pursue anything prior to law school – I’ve seen everything from chemistry to psychology. But, please, do not go to law school. I cannot stress this enough.

        1. danr*

          Law has something that other professions don’t have… the chance to be independent. Pass the Bar and start your own practice. It’s hard, but it can be done.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I think you’re understating it, though. It can be done if you’re good at marketing, and good at running a business, and you have the time to do both those things plus do the lawyer parts, and especially if you have sources of referrals. It’s not very practical for a lot of people, though.

            1. Stephanie*

              That, plus based on what a couple of close friends told me, they left law school having little idea on how to actually practice law. Both did attend very elite law schools that probably had a more scholarly approach to learning law. They both said the last year was useless and that they didn’t pick up on the actual practice of law until their first jobs (one at a big firm, the other at an insurance company).

              1. Computer Guy Eli*

                I’ll have to do more looking into it. It seems to me I’m running out of career paths that interest me that would warrant going to college over. “Greek Era Historian” or “Medieval Armor Expert” would interest me, but wouldn’t pay off the debt.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  If you can get a scholarship to law school–and one not contingent on keeping your GPA at a certain level–I would still go for it. But otherwise, it’s a risky investment.

                  But going to college can open your eyes to career paths you didn’t know existed or didn’t know you’d like, so if you can do that without drowning in debt, college is not a bad proposition. Plus, *if* you aren’t buried in debt when you leave school, you’ll probably wind up making more money over your lifetime with a college degree than you would without–unless you have a good, well-paying job that doesn’t need one.

                2. themmases*

                  If you’re not sure what viable career you want, why not wait a while and decide before going back to school? It sounds like you have a stable career path ahead of you that doesn’t require you to go back to school right away, so I’d recommend you just not pressure yourself to choose. Speaking from experience (my own, but also seeing the paths my partner and friends have taken), nothing will clarify what you want to do with your career like actually working. At a minimum, it will help you figure out what you *don’t* want to do or what just isn’t feasible.

                  You might never have to get a degree in your field if you don’t want to, or you might reach a point where you “need” one but it’s really just checking a box. You might reach a point that you’re not interested in advancing any farther in your field, but with more experience and a higher-level view of what’s available, it’s a lot clearer what to do next. It would be a shame if you reached that point and had spent money, effort, and time out of work on a mismatched degree for which there wasn’t really any urgency.

                  If you want to dip your toe in, lots of schools now offer some classes online to all students. You don’t need to be admitted to an online-specific program to take them, and in my experience they don’t look any different on your record. Both my community college and my grad school do this.

                  Lastly, there are ways to work in tech without necessarily being a developer. My partner sounds like he has really similar hobbies to you, majored in history, and wanted to go to law school or library school (both genuinely horrible choices, job-wise, right now, and I’m glad he didn’t go). He landed an entry-level tech support job at a growing software company, built up a ton of knowledge of the product and a great reputation, moved into management, and now is moving over and getting paid to be trained as a database administrator– his now-dream job that he didn’t even know existed before he started down this path.

                3. Sara*

                  I think that what @themmases is saying is good advice – I have a very favorable outlook towards college, but it sounds like you might want to start off slow, maybe with a couple of online-based gen ed classes to see what piques your interest. I picked my undergraduate major (international studies) because it interested me, but as I went through my 4 years I discovered that a lot of the career options available (or rather, the career options that the career center presented to people in my major) either didn’t interest me (law) or were so vague as to be almost meaningless (“work for a non-profit”). With grad school, I did a better job of planning – instead of jumping into a degree that seemed intriguing at the time, I spent some time working and actually doing non-school things, and so when I finally figured out what career I wanted to have, I could say for sure that I needed to go back to school for it, and that while I was in school I wanted to do X and Y to put myself in a strong position to get a job after graduation.

                  I’d say take at least a semester to get yourself back into the swing of things, take a reasonable class load, and keep an open mind. If you stumble onto something that interests you in one of your classes, investigate it further in terms of what kind of courses you might expect to take later on, what career options and prospects are like, etc. As I said, I think you should go back to school (and it sounds like you think you should, too, based on what you’ve posted here), but I caution you against rushing into it.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                That’s pretty much true. Some law schools have some more practical aspects to them (and elite law schools have a reputation for teaching theory classes that are only helpful if you’re going to teach law), but it really is something you have to learn by doing. Law school teaches you the basics of law, how to learn the law you don’t know, and how to apply what you’ve learned from one case to another. But how to do “being a lawyer” is something that is very difficult to learn in law school.

                1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

                  If I had a skill where I could make very good money and then spend all my spare time studying and doing things I love, I would consider that a very good life.

          2. Pennalynn Lott*

            Accounting offers that, too. My plan is to get my CPA and the go hustle for clients among local small businesses. I will not be working for an accounting firm or be a full-time staff accountant.

    4. danr*

      What do you mean by “law degree”? Lawyer? Paralegal? Law librarian? All of them are different paths.

        1. danr*

          Law Grad above has good suggestions. And don’t listen to the naysayers. By the time you’ll be applying things will be different. You’ll probably be on the up side of the pendulum.

    5. TeapotCounsel*

      #3 or #5 is my vote.
      Do not undersestimate how soul-crushing and freedom-denying debt is. Debt makes you a slave to others, having to take jobs and work hours you wouldn’t otherwise do just so you can pay somebody else. I can say this with authority because I made the terrible mistake of getting into too much debt. Currently I live on 1/3 of my six figure salary and spend the other 2/3 on debt. It sucks. It’s like a prison sentence. If I had no debt, I would have all kinds of additional freedom.
      Also, the operations job at Utility sounds promising. Pursue that. You can always pick up a law degree in a few years, if you really want that.

    6. Traveler*

      Do #3 or #5. If you have a real chance making $22/hr and don’t hate your current career, don’t go back to school. Especially do not go back to school if you have to borrow money and don’t have a very firm plan as far as what you want to do. You may only end up making $22/hr (or less) after you have your BA/BS and then have large loans with interest hanging over your head for some time to come. I would wait and see what pans out with work before rushing back to school. Take a year, make sure its what you want, nail down what you want to do – be sure that taking out the loans makes financial sense for what you’ll be making when you get out, save up some money – preferably the amount you need to pay for school, and then go back.

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        Yes, I’m 6 years out from undergrad, 3 from my social work master’s. Don’t take on debt that’s not going to pay off for you. I hit the job market when things sucked for new grads. When I was looking at schools, people were hiring seniors from my undergrad well before graduation with sweet deals lined up and by the time I was graduating, most of my class was scrambling to put something together. We were hit with the student loan debt in a way that was crushing and somewhat unexpected because we thought our earning power would be higher.

        I know where I live they’re eliminating one of the top law schools through a merger and the other top law school slashed their admissions a significant percent a few years ago because the market is overly saturated in every way. Here would not necessarily be the place to get a law degree in the next few years.

    7. LCL*

      Utility work has been very very good to me. I had to get an AA degree to get hired, but I would have skipped it if I could have got in without it. The one big negative of utility work is shift work. The big problem with shift work is you can’t count on being able to get schedule accommodations to take classes. I had a fantasy of becoming a lawyer specializing in labor law, but it was impossible with the shift work.

      If you have always been fascinated with infrastructure, how all the systems that allow modern society to function work, and you have a door into the utility, grab it! You will make enough money to buy whatever books you want, and be able to afford going to cons, and music lessons & etc.

    8. Artemesia*

      Law skill requires a BA first does it not? And I know a lot of people with law degrees and no jobs and huge loans to pay off. There is a huge surplus of lawyers so unless you have an inside track with a particular practitioner who wants to hire you, you may find it rough going with a law degree. The plum jobs and clerkships go to those from the top law schools or who are at the very top of the class in flagship state schools — mostly the former. Given your situation I’d look into one of the local night law school options and work during the day, attend law school at night and work hard to network locally as frequently government law jobs or local practices do draw from local grads with connections.

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Somehow we’ve ended up with a massive work conversation in the middle of the no-work open thread! Not anyone’s fault, but it makes me realize that I probably need to direct school talk over to the Friday thread too in the instructions for future weekend threads!

    10. salad fingers*

      Sounds like this conversation needs to continue on a Friday thread, but I hope it’s okay to say, “Hi, fellow former high school debater!” What kind of debate? Policy? Lincoln Douglas? Public Forum? Something specific to Montana (that’s where you live, right?)?

    11. Sunday*

      It’s great to hear that things have turned around for you and your family, that’s terrific news.

      Team Kill-the-debt has my support. Beyond that, in thinking about school I’m all for it. If memory serves, there’s a state university there with an online component. Depending on how it’s organized, you might find online courses mesh with your current work schedule. Depending too on price, I’d look at one the first semester, and see how that goes. If it goes well, you could try more the next. Clearing debt and having some money in the bank while gaining practical work skills sounds like solid preparation for college and making course choices. I’m also one for allowing room to discover something that really engages you rather than focusing on only one thing in school. Also, “classics” has also been a good undergraduate background for law school, in addition to English and poli sci. Organizational management has some of what you describe as interesting, too. You’re obviously bright, so it’s a question of figuring out what fits rather than whether you “can” do it.

      How would you describe what interests you? I see that you’ve named Greek mythology and medieval armor listed as areas of some mastery, and that you excelled at debate team and government classes. If you described what it is about these things that engages you, what would you say? Going on what you’ve said here (this thread and others), I’ll hypothesize to give examples: Narrative/story. Process. Tools. Personally, I see a lot of overlap in those three, which tells you something about how I think. Where do those things overlap, and inform each other? For me, that opens my thinking past individual job titles or subject areas. Follows is some amplification of what I mean by narrative, process, and tools for this purpose. If it’s of no interest, skip it.

      Narrative: what happened to get to the end of the story/current state. How did this get shaped and work (or not) itself out thus far? Where might it go from here? Mythology: stories of how things worked (and didn’t), how the world is ordered and the ways in which individual personalities shape it. Stories: how organizations were created and how they have evolved and why; how cultural and governmental systems developed, were influenced, and the places they have succeeded or not so much, the ways in which they move forward. Eg, I find it fascinating that one piece of the woman’s rights movement in the 1800s was the recognition of the role of women and the balance of responsibilities in local native (or Amerindian) culture. As the Euroamerican learned more about their native neighbors they did the human thing of drawing on the pieces of that culture that appealed to them to buttress their own lives. That supported a significant portion of the voting rights work, which has had a significant role in the evolution of contemporary society in the US.

      Process: these are the kinds of things that go into the narratives, the ways in which choices are made, the context in which they are made, and where the process serves or doesn’t serve the goal/s. What are the cultural and physical tools that are used, how and why are the related choices made and what are the ramifications? What does and doesn’t work, and what does and doesn’t give the result you want (not necessarily the same as what works)? Eg, the telephone surveys that predicted Dewey over Truman: telephones were not ubiquitous, so the criteria for telephone ownership should have been included in the decision to use telephones as a political poll tool.

      Tools: What are the tools available and how are they used? This can be physical tools, like utility lines and equipment, and intellectual tools like understanding how electricity works, availability of fossil fuels, governmental systems eg the electoral college in our US democracy; software and hardware.

      Keep asking good questions. You’ve got a lot of us pulling for you.

  12. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I have a strange question about online reviews. I am usually very quick to offer my opinion, positive and negative, in person, but… say it, forget it, post it, regret it, I guess. Anyway. I recently stayed in an AirBnB during a business trip– my first. The apartment was very pleasant and clean and beautifully appointed, with most amenities… but the shower didn’t work. When I first arrived, there was a note saying the detachable shower head doesn’t detach, please don’t touch, etc., but when I went to take a shower, the shower head was wrapped with tape and while it technically worked, the angle was terrible and I basically had to stand flat against the wall to catch any water. A good hot shower was impossible.

    Here’s the thing, though– I didn’t say anything about the shower while I was there. Is it fair to mention it in my review? Part of me feels like it’s not fair that I didn’t give her the chance to rectify it while I was there, but part of me is saying… it’s AirBnB. Not a hotel with a maintenance staff that can come in at any time. This should have been fixed before I got there, especially since it appears that she uses this apartment ONLY as an AirBnB.

    Sigh. I’m a wimp.

    1. Computer Guy Eli*

      Everyone’s anonymous on the internet. This is a service issue she should’ve fixed before she started taking money for you staying there. It’s the same with video games, bugs on launch are inexcusable because you were the one that decided when to start taking money for it.

    2. BRR*

      Normally I believe that you should mention it to put it in a review but in this case they knew the shower was broken. I think it’s fair game to point it out.

      1. Bea W*

        Totally fair. It is easy and inexpensive to replace a shower head. There isn’t much excuse for the tape, even if she is doesn’t live there. She knew about it, and could have either dealt with it herself, or called someone to fix it. A working shower is kind of important to people!

    3. Treena Kravm*

      I’d never thought of it this way until recently. I reviewed a restaurant 3/5 stars primarily because I loved the concept (game meats) but the item I got had very little of the game meat (to the point where I couldn’t taste it at all). I also mentioned that service was slow despite there not being a lot of customers. The owner replied back and said it wasn’t fair to not say anything while we were there and that if we had he would have rectified the situation and offered us a free meal the next time we come in. At first I felt bad, but I’m not sure I should.

      I’ve complained in person exactly three times in my life. Once, there was a produce sticker in my tomato-based dish, another time there was a screw in my husband’s dish, and another time I ordered quail and it was raw in the center. Each time it was clear this is not acceptable/the norm, and it was a clear error. But in the situation above, slow service without being busy and dishes that didn’t include a lot of meat seemed a matter of course. In my opinion, people reading reviews want to know what to expect. So no, a review telling them about screws in the food won’t help, because it was an anomaly. But if it seemed totally normal to serve a dish with barely any meat in it, I would want to know ahead of time. In general, you shouldn’t have to complain to get decent product/service.

      As for AirBnB, you really should have complained in person, mostly because you had crappy showers the whole time! But you’re also an AirBnB newbie, so there’s a little slack in that. But really, you can call and complain about anything and they should fix it. Once, a hot tub’s jets weren’t working, and hours later a pool guy came to fix it. You’re paying for the amenity, plus it’s in their interest to have it fixed/working.

      As for what to say now? You can certainly say in your review the showerhead is broken and there was a note telling you not to detach it. That doesn’t sound like something she is going to fix, hence the note. You can give it 3-4 stars and describe a crappy problem within the text of the review. That’s the compromise I’ve used at times.

      1. Nicole*

        “In general, you shouldn’t have to complain to get decent product/service.” I like this, because it’s so spot on. I hope that’s what you told the manager when he tried to make you feel guilty for not complaining in person.

          1. Treena Kravm*

            It was more damage control. I didn’t even think to look if I was allowed to reply, but I wouldn’t have either way. It looked like he had just bought the business and revamped it, so he was struggling a lot with negative critique. Actually, now that I think about it, I probably should have written him back and let him know that letting his 9-year old relative (I assume) be the waitress’ shadow and “helping” was probably what slowed her down. I just don’t think it’s my business to tell someone how to run their restaurant. If they want to let 9 and 6 year olds hang out at the bar and ask customers if they need anything else (what am I going to say? yes, please, more beer?), then they’ll figure out sooner or later why that’s a terrible idea.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Wow. Yep, someone will explain it to him–health code, labor board– someone will explain it to him.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I agree, but I can kind of see the other side. You are publicly complaining, and so now it isn’t just you who thinks less of the place. And you never gave the manager a chance to fix it before broadcasting it to the world.

          I guess I’m biased though because I do some appellate work in my legal career, and the rule there is that you generally can’t complain to the appeals court about something if you didn’t bring it up in the trial court to give them a chance to fix it.

          I do think you should mention it in a review if something went wrong, but give the manager a chance to fix it so that you can say that, too. If everyone did this, then if there were a pattern of bad service some place, then people would see that.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I should say though that this situation is different–the person already knew there was a problem.

          2. Treena Kravm*

            Well, I guess I just don’t think of a review on Yelp quite as dramatically as a court case. I’m just leaving some feedback about my experience, which was overall good, so I left 3 stars. In terms of the service, I didn’t notice until we left how long it took. We weren’t in a rush, but we spent a solid 2 hours in there. As for the food, I praised everything else we ate. But the problem dish was a ravioli, so there was literally nothing that he could have done to put more meat into the ravioli (this was definitely a frozen ravioli type of place).

            1. fposte*

              And I think it can go the other way, too–if you’d mentioned the slow service and other issues at the restaurant, he could have responded that you were a complainy customer who moaned while she was at the restaurant, too.

              Honestly, while I see the point of the owner that says “Hey, why didn’t you say something at the time,” I think you’re right that that’s not a universal, and that sometimes what owners mean isn’t “Why didn’t you give us a chance to to correct it” but “Why didn’t you say something privately where nobody else could hear rather than publicly, because now we look bad.”

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Court cases aren’t usually dramatic, but that’s not what I meant anyway. I just meant that sometimes it doesn’t seem fair to complain about something without giving anyone a chance to fix it, especially when it’s a complaint that’s going out where the whole world can see it, but maybe it’s just my background. I thought I made it pretty clear that the reason I mentioned court cases was to explain that it might make me biased and not to say that Yelp reviews have the same level of seriousness. And in your case, they couldn’t have fixed the ravioli, but they could have comped it, and then you could have said that in your review. Obviously whether to complain is a judgment call, and if you’ll notice, I actually agreed with you, but I added that I could see the other side.

    4. Yoshi*

      Fair game! If there was a note, the owner knows that its an issue. Also-changing a shower head is fairly inexpensive and something that can be easily done by the average homeowner.

    5. thisisit*

      everyone’s not anonymous on AirBnb though. yeah, you should have mentioned it before, but I think it’s fair to mention it in the review. you can soften it if you’d like by saying “X, Y, Z was great! Blah Blah Blah… the only downside was the shower head was broken and I couldn’t get a good shower, but hopefully that will be fixed soon.”

      Or something to that effect. Hosts have the option of responding to your review too, so you give her the opening to say she’s getting it fixed ASAP.

      You can also send hosts private messages, and you can also send AirBnB private messages too. But I would just put it in the review in nice terms, like an FYI.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s what I was thinking, if I do include it. The stay was great except for that one thing.

    6. salad fingers*

      I would probably call and complain to the host, and decide how to write a review based on how she received my complaint. Do air bnb hosts have any ability to partially refund or give credit or anything? That, or more likely just an honest recognition that a broken shower in this situation is really bad, and an indication that it has been fixed would be enough. I probably would decide not to include it in the review, or mention the issue but also how it was handled well after the fact.

    7. EvaR*

      I would post it exactly the way you did here. Mention that she did a great job with everything else and that you didn’t really discuss it further with her. A shower is kind of a basic amenity.

    8. Traveler*

      Just be careful. I don’t know how ubiquitous it is but there have been a rash of lawsuits making the news for business owners suing commenters for bad reviews because it “negatively impacted their business”. I don’t think any of them were successful yet (I could be wrong?). I’d look into that before reviewing, and probably say something to the host first before you post your review to see what they say/do in response to it.

    9. Sara*

      I think it’s fair to point it out. You paid for the rental with the expectation that you’d be able to shower (presumably in a shower that worked reasonably well). You weren’t able to do that. That reflects badly on the owner and is the kind of thing that future renters would want to know about.

    10. themmases*

      I think it is fair because, as a few other people point out, the owner put a note in the shower rather than fixing it. They clearly did know there was a problem, didn’t fix it before you got there, and it sounds like they didn’t communicate directly with you either. How hard would it be for them to say, “We found out about this problem too last-minute to fix before your arrival, and we think we’ve got it working but please let us know if it’s really bothering you”?

      I’ll also just add that people can read your review for themselves and decide whether this would be a problem for them. I read a *lot* of hotel reviews before a trip to London last year, and it was really eye-opening to how different people’s standards are and ways of dealing when they’re not happy. People would post pictures of showers attached to their negative review where I couldn’t even see the problem! I would see other reviews complaining about the amenities at the very reasonably-priced– even cheap, in London!– place I stayed literally across the street from the British Museum. But I’m so glad those people wrote out their reviews, so I could see for myself that only people with different priorities than mine were rating this place less than 4 stars. I think it’s normal to use the numeric rating as a rough guide to a place and then read the reviews to see whether there is a pattern of problems that would bother you personally. From there, people who need their morning shower to function can opt out and people who can’t believe you didn’t just call the landlord (which I wouldn’t have wanted to either) can decide to ignore you.

  13. Bekx*

    I arrived late last week with a story about getting my ass kicked in martial arts by a bully. Here’s the update for anyone who helped me.

    I spoke with my sensei and told him that the guy was out of line. He disagreed. I told him I was creeped out by the guy, he’s condescending to me, and he acts inappropriate around the younger girls. To that, he said that the guy had a hard life. His mom abandoned him, dad came at him with a knife and he’s socially inept. Sensei is working with him to improve his social skills and whatever.

    I didn’t like that answer. My hand is still pretty sore and I can’t put my entire weight on it still. The black eye is gone and the general arm bruising has gone down but I don’t think I should be this beat up a week later. I got my higher belt, but frankly I’m really considering ending my contract after that talk. I don’t feel supported and while I can definitely agree the guy is socially inept, it feels like a cop out.

    Thanks to everyone who responded and told me to go talk to my sensei. It’s a shame I don’t feel satisfied with the answer but it’s good I know what to expect.

    1. fposte*

      Boo, but I’m glad you spoke up. (Since when does “The guy has had a hard life” make it okay to hurt people? And I’m kind of curious to know how hard a life buys you how much “get out of responsibility free” card–if his dad had come at him with a gun, could he have punched you in the crotch?)

      I think it’s at least worth exploring the possibility of other dojos. I’d like to think you have access to one that is going to consider your avoiding unnecessary injury a priority.

      1. Bekx*

        Yeah I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes when sensei was telling me all of this. (also…WHY was he telling me this? Seems sorta personal!).

        For now I’m going to see how things go. I’m moving in the next year, so I won’t be signing another year long contract. I’ll see how things progress.

        Sensei did thank me for coming to him with my concerns and was really glad I did that. For what that’s worth.

        1. anonymous daisy*

          I was in a martial arts class where someone who I had repeated bad encounters with at work (to the point of calling the police). He saw me, stayed for the rest of the class and then I never saw him again in class. I would have dropped out but he solved the problem for me. If you do drop out, tell your sensei why. They need to know the consequences of their non-actions.

      2. the gold digger*

        Since when does “The guy has had a hard life” make it okay to hurt people? And I’m kind of curious to know how hard a life buys you how much “get out of responsibility free” card–if his dad had come at him with a gun, could he have punched you in the crotch?

        Exactly what I was thinking. People suffer. They have crummy childhoods and they do not deserve it. It does not get them a free pass to treat other people badly.

    2. Stephanie*

      Ugh, I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’ve started taking some martial arts classes and accidents happen, but that level of injury is crazy. The dojo should be teaching you guys how to spar without that level of injury as well as humility (as in, they should tell you to stop once you’ve gotten the correct hold or whatever).

      I’d start looking around. It doesn’t sound like the owner will take your complaints seriously until he loses your enrollment fee.

    3. Florida*

      I’m glad to hear you spoke to the sensei. I agree that his response was a cop out. I agree with fposte that I’d explore other dojos. You could do some of both. For example, if you currently go twice a week, start going once a week to your current dojo and once a week to a different dojo.

      I hope your hand starts to feel better soon.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s good that the owner has a heart and wants to help this guy.
      But it is not fair to the people PAYING to go there to MAKE them help out, also. Now, how has this guy learned something from his interaction with you? I do not see any learning going on there.
      Customers did not sign on to help this guy, they signed on to learn a skill.
      I understand people what to use their business to help others and that is wonderful. But you do not do that at the expense of your customer. And you should not do at the expense of your employees, either.

      Sadly, I do not see how this is therapeutic for this man. Does the owner have a degree in social work or a mental health field type of degree? Probably not. He lacks the quals to do rehabing, which is what he is trying to do here. The saddest part here is that this business owner might actually be doing more harm than good for this man.

      None of this is yours to solve, of course. But do understand that trained, degreed people would have to be careful here. Helping a person with problems like this requires skills. The owner is probably not trained, nor degreed so he needs to exercise more care for both his friend and his customers. This situation kind of ticks me off because it is so unfair to you and unfair to this man. You are aware of the unfairness, but the man is not. Yes, leave. Move on. I would not stay there, either. I am sorry this happened to you, but I am glad that people were able to chime in to let you know this whole thing is not right.

      1. Florida*

        Ooooh. You make some good points that I hadn’t thought of. The sensei is not qualified (to our knowledge) to be a therapist to this guy. Plus Bekx is paying to learn martial arts, not to help Mr. Bully overcome his hard life. Very well put.

        Good luck with it, Bekx.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        I was thinking about this and yes, it is nice that the owner wants to help this guy. But, if he wants to do that, beyond whether or not he’s got the training to do that, then Owner needs to be within 10′ of this guy at all times as much as possible to observe and correct Guy’s behaviour. If Guy knows or suspects he’s a pet project of Owner, he might assume that that means he’s untouchable or has more leeway to do as he wishes, because Owner is all soft for him. If Guy is socially awkward, he’s not going to learn how to fix that if he’s not being called out on it by someone he respects — and he’s already shown how much respect he’s got for women.

        Also Bekx, if you have any rapport with any of the younger female students, I would suggest that you have a quick word with them before you go. Not in a “this guy is a whole lot of trouble” way (because beyond being really rough with you, there is no evidence that he’s a total psycho — yet) but in a “If you feel threatened or are threatened by anyone here, report it to sensei. Trust your intuition. This is supposed to be a place of respect and learning and if you feel you are constantly being disrespected or that you’re afraid for your physical safety — tell sensei. If sensei won’t do anything or dismisses your concerns, tell your parents you want to switch dojos and why.” Because one of the hardest parts of transitioning between child and adult can be getting rid of the “do as you’re told, I’m the adult here” thing — just the other day there was a discussion here about sexual harassment of teens at their first job and how they just take it because they don’t know any better or what to do about it. I can see some of the younger students might find Guy creepy but he’s an adult, they’re just kids, what can they do about it? And just default to the standard denying it’s happening, trying to avoid him wherever possible, thinking it’s just happening to them, that no one will believe them if they say anything.

    5. Bea W*

      That answer would have been totally unacceptable to me. Having a “hard life” does not make his behavior acceptable, and the guy sure as heck is not going to learn to behave differently if sensei makes excuses for it and doesn’t call him on it. Not cool! I don’t blame you for wanting to end your contract.

    6. Soupspoon McGee*

      This bullying behavior, and the failure to acknowledge and stop it, goes against the code of any martial art I can think of . As I understand it, most martial arts studios are affiliated with larger organizations. Is there a governing body you could contact to report this?

      I used to kickbox (Muay Thai), and that kind of behavior was unacceptable, period. One of my friends had been sparring, practicing for his blackbelt, and ended up with a spiral fracture on his leg because a much bigger but less skilled guy was trying to show off. The owner clamped down, fast, and really limited who and how that big guy could spar with–while also managing to mentor him. No excuses.

    7. Observer*

      The guy acts inappropriate around the younger girls, and all the Sensie had to say was “poor boy, I’m working on his social skills”?!?!?

      I think you that finding another place is a great idea. And let them know why you are not renewing your contract.

  14. Ghost Pepper*

    Anyone ever have an intense crush on a coworker? How did you get over it?

    I know Alison has discussed this before. I’m interested in stories and resolution!

    1. Natalie*

      Also probably not helpful, but mine ended when my ex and I finally pulled the plug on our dead relationship.

    2. Computer Guy Eli*

      I had a good crush on one of the janitors that I saw daily here at the office. I got to know her well enough that I understood every reason why I wouldn’t want to date her.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, that’s what I would recommend–figure out what their flaws are and focus on them. Picture how annoying they would be in someone you didn’t like, and tell yourself that’s how annoying those flaws would be if you would around them all the time. Or severely cut down on any contact with them to the extent you can. Or both.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          I know I am replying late but I wanted to thank JB and Computer Guy Eli for this suggestion. I tried to think of flaws of my on-off crush and it suddenly dawned on me (can’t believe it’s taken me so long) that there are a couple of things that have happened that are similar to things that happened with my ex. And I don’t want to go down THAT road again. So I think I may have dodged a bullet there.

    3. Cautionary tail*

      29 years ago I had a crush on a coworker and we just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. I still have a crush on her. :)

      1. law grad*

        Are you my husband? We just celebrated 25 years of marriage, and met almost 29 years ago.

        In any event, congrats!

      2. Kimmy Gibbler*

        I too had a crush on a coworker (back in college, which was 25 years ago) and we’ve now been married for 22+ years. :)

    4. Shell*

      As a fun crush that makes me smile? Nothing, I just ride it out. But I have a good poker face.

      Anything deeper than that? I repeat to myself all the horror stories I’ve heard about dating in the workplace and that I value a paycheque and financial security a lot more than a would-be theoretical relationship. And if I was really, really convinced that this person was it, that I cannot find someone else better suited via any other method of meeting people, I’d find another job first.

    5. No name person*

      I came to the realization that some of his habits which I discussed with him and found interesting would bug the living daylights out of me if this person was my significant other.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I try to tell my wife about my social interactions with any coworkers that I find myself even a little infatuated with, to keep myself from having something to hide. But my “crushes” tend to be people I’m very good friends with first. If you find yourself developing crushes on people you hardly know, it’s probably just an idealized fantasy, and examining that might help.

    7. nona*

      When you work with people long enough, you learn all of their annoying little habits. And you find out if they’re always late or inconsiderate or gossipy or something.

      Working with someone I had a crush on in college killed it.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, at Exjob, and I forced myself to get over it. It wasn’t difficult–I did get to know him a little and he was nice, but kind of a yokel. I don’t want a yokel. The moment that did it was when he was telling a story about his girlfriend in the lunchroom, and how they were watching a movie that made her cry and he said, “I looked over and she’s cryin. I said, ‘F*ck’s wrong with you?'” DONE.

      There’s a guy at work I think is cute, but I don’t really want to take a dip in the company pool. Besides, I doubt he’d be interested in me anyway. For now, I’ll just enjoy the view. :)

    9. Elsajeni*

      Last time, it was my manager at a retail job, and I did a combination of “get to know him better and discover all the things that would drive you crazy if you actually dated” and “what the hell, just enjoy the fantasy”. Then he decided to grow a beard and that pretty much took care of it.

    10. matcha123*

      I just let it run its course. Be nice to them, enjoy the time at work together, but put a rein on anything that would cross a line.

    11. Sara*

      It wasn’t that intense, but focusing on his (many, many) flaws put that idea out of my head pretty quickly. I could brush off idiotic comments or overlook displays of irresponsibility because as a coworker, his behavior had a limited impact on me; if he’d been my boyfriend…well, he wouldn’t have been for long, not if he kept acting like that, anyway. He also grew a beard (fine), but then refused to commit to maintaining it (gross).

      Also, one of our more annoying coworkers was very interested in being our matchmaker. She was single after having been divorced twice and engaged two additional times (neither of which worked out). Fine, her life and all, but it occurred to me that she may not have been a great judge of character, and if someone who wasn’t a great judge of character thought that this guy and I were perfect for each other, then we probably weren’t.

      Apparently after I left that job he got involved in an insane cheating/secret rebound relationship/general backstabbing situation involving three other coworkers, started getting sloppy drunk on a regular basis when employees would go to happy hour together, and eventually got fired for repeated no-call no-shows. I dodged the biggest bullet EVER.

    12. themmases*

      I tell my partner. Having it be a secret just gives me one more reason to think about it.

      I actively look for and dwell on their flaws (easier if you don’t have to work really closely with someone), or try to imagine how behaviors of theirs that are fine as a coworker would be unpleasant if I lived with them.

      The last couple of people I’ve had crushes on have been definitely senior to me, and I remind myself how gross and conflicting I would find that if it actually worked out– like a former student dating her former professor.

      I seek out other sources of validation of my work besides their approval. A little approval can be really intoxicating, especially if it’s of something challenging or under-appreciated that you do. It’s definitely been at the heart of some of my crushes on colleagues. So I stop getting their opinion on my work unless I can’t move forward without it. I focus on other forms of feedback or seek out more feedback or collaboration from someone else.

    13. Regina Phalange*

      I got over it over time. It just sort of happened. Also the coworker started dating someone in addition to being kind of a jerk to me. All helpful!

  15. Ella*

    Does JB check the weekend free-for-alls? She (and other commenters) recommended I get a saline solution (and other things, but that was the most do-able) to squirt into my nose after I mentioned in a non-free-for-all thread a few weeks ago about having both asthma and allergies. I’m trying the saline thing, and I gotta say, I breathe much better, and like not having to deal with neti-potting. Thanks to whoever threw out suggestions to me on that issue!

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been checking the threads to see if you’ve updated (and to see if you were still alive!). I’m so glad you are trying the saline spray. I think somebody else mentioned them and I seconded them. Side note: they are great on airplanes if you tend to get dried out in the air like I do. I have some at work, in my purse, and at my bedside.

      I was thinking about you the other day and wondering if you’d tried it. I kept thinking to myself, “you can’t get people to try things they don’t want to, even if you think it would be helpful, so don’t bring it up, but boy I hope she tries it.”

      1. fposte*

        I haven’t heard anybody this excited about something you put up your nose since the ’80s.

      2. Ella*

        Yay! Yeah I actually got some at my next trip to the grocery, but I hardly ever manage to get to open threads before they have 300+ comments on them. I just remember you voicing the most concern about me. Thanks again. :)

  16. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    Hey all! Question: what goods or services around job hunting or career development do you *wish* were out there, but aren’t? Or perhaps someone is doing it, but they’re doing it badly or in a totally scammy way? What is the biggest hole in this market that isn’t being filled in a helpful way to you?

  17. Natalie*

    Ha ha, it’s 11 pm where I am right now. No wonder the Europeans are never around when these are posted during the U.S. day.

    My cousin and I are in France for a bit (another week from today) seeing Paris and visiting a friend in Blois. The weather is perfect, my feet are killing me of course, and I’m not broke like last time I was here. I can afford to pay €17 to change a train ticket! My French accent has improved slightly! I know at least a dozen more French words than I thought! Hurray!

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Well, the morning posts are up around 6 am UK time and Friday Open Thread/2nd post around 4 pm.

      The Weekend Open Thread is up around 7/8 pm I think?

      Glad you’re enjoying Paris! I have great memories of my trips there :)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yay! Sounds fun. One of these days I’ll make it across the Channel, LOL.

      LOL we have the same thing in my chat room (real time). I only get to talk to the Europeans in the morning.

      1. Jen RO*

        I did it the other way around (I was staying in Paris and took the Eurostar to London) and it was great. Very expensive, considering I paid 200 EUR for basically half a day in London, but it was an adventure! And I got to meet some online friends!

  18. thisisit*

    I have a friend who is over her head in debt (it’s a terribly sad story), and I’m wondering if she might benefit from credit counseling? I know there are a lot of predatory “counselors” out there, so does anyone have a suggestion for a good one? She’s local to the DMV if that helps. And what can and can’t they do for her?

    1. Rebecca*

      Does she have an EAP where she works? They would be able to recommend a reputable firm and other resources. One thing – you have to be ready to stop spending money, live frugally, and be very committed to putting this behind you. It’s not something that can be done easily.

      1. thisisit*

        no, she works as a contractor/independently, so not really any access to those kinds of services. the budgeting side of things i think she’s got under control but i think she needs an advocate to support her with making a plan to pay off the debt, maybe get some debt relief, or whatever else they can do for her.

        1. De Minimis*

          Look for the consumer credit counselling agencies that are affiliated with United Way.

          The debt management plans can really be helpful. I’ve considered using their services myself. What happens is they work with your creditors and can often get them to lower their interest rates. You pay the agency one payment a month which they apply to your debt. I think the average person can get their debt paid off in something like 3-4 years. I believe it does show on your credit that you are paying through a debt management plan, so that should be considered.

          It’s a great tool for people who have a lot of debt and are just not making any headway even if they are being frugal and managing to pay everything on time. But you’re right to be wary of the ones that aren’t legit…

          1. thisisit*

            yes, this is what she needs. will suggest she check out the United Way. she’s in that place where it all seems overwhelming, and since i did my own debt pay-off journey a few years ago (though wasn’t nearly as bad as she is), i offered to look around for resources (i’m not in the location she is). thanks!

    2. fposte*

      No specific recommendations, but here’s some info:

      Consumer Reports says: People who are deep in debt should first talk with each creditor to see if it has a plan for hardship cases that might allow them to reduce their payments. If collection agencies are calling, try to negotiate a reduction in principal, which is what a debt-resolution company promises to do. If you’re successful, you may have to pay taxes on the total that was forgiven. If you can’t handle negotiating with creditors on your own, find a nonprofit credit counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, at nfcc.org, or by calling 800-388-2227.

      The FTC has some guidelines about using a credit counselor at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0153-choosing-credit-counselor

    3. fposte*

      Just alerting you that I have a comment in moderation with links from Consumer Reports and the FTC.

    4. BRR*

      I know there is The National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA). You can check both of their websites for info.

    5. Miki*

      Look at local colleges/universities: we have a program called Money Mentors and they pair you up with someone who works with you one on one (after you fill out the online questionnaire) Here is the link to one : http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/moneymentors/ and it has very useful articles on all financial matters. Also this is a Money Smart week, and they have another batch of workshops throughout my state (IL) http://www.moneysmartweek.org this website also has plenty of resources for her to use (until she gets a mentor/counselor) Good Luck!

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      To avoid moderation, I’ll say that if you Google “Credit Counseling Services”, you can get a list of them approved by the Justice Department, and there’s a National Foundation for Credit Counseling whose members are all nonprofits.

      I’d also recommend that you recommend to her Michelle Singletary’s personal finance columns and chats on the Washington Post website. She’s got a lot of good advice on that very subject.

    7. anonymous daisy*

      She can go to her local public library and look into books by Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, or other authors in that section and see if any of their programs and outlooks suit her needs. It is quick and easy way to evaluate all the systems.

      1. TeapotCounsel*

        Another vote for Dave Ramsey. Very effective program, worth doing/reading. His Total Money Makeover is very good and changed how I (mis)handled money. The only issue with Ramsey, for me, was that he’s pretty religious and proselytizes somewhat in his program. But, I can overlook that, because it’s not at all relevant to his money/debt management methods, and his money/debt management methods are spot-on.

        1. De Minimis*

          I like Orman way more. Don’t like Ramsey’s ideology or politics, and I don’t care about the psychological benefit of paying off the smallest debts first…if you aren’t attacking the highest interest debt first, you’re going to pay more in the long run.

          1. fposte*

            I’ll also add with Ramsey that he’s good with debt, but he’s *terrible* about investing. So if you do follow Ramsey, switch gurus once you start putting your money away.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Orman is wrong about a some stuff in terms of investments and estate planning, but she’s a good place to start for money management.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            I think it’s something that different from person to person. Psychological benefit aside, I found paying off the smallest debts first worked for me on my student loans.

          3. Audiophile*

            I think the smallest debt recommendation (I’ve seen this before) is really to get the feeling of having accomplished something. So while I agree that interest is certainly a burden, I think if you have a large balance and a high interest rate, you’ll feel less accomplished if you’re attacking that first and paying minimums on really small balances.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I have come to the conclusion that there are two approaches to money. There is the approach you use when things are going okay and you are making ends meet.
              And there is a different approach when you are facing a crisis.

              Generally, folks who are using this step-stone process of paying off the smaller debt first, are folks who are in trouble. It’s more of an emergency bail out plan rather than a way of life plan. I tend to think of this method as a crisis intervention method. Personally, I like it. I like the idea that people can start to feel relief quickly. But it’s not the thing for everyone.

          4. Artemesia*

            It is like weight loss — success keeps you going. Most people quit programs — this helps get them moving.

          5. Observer*

            Except that for a lot of people the psychological effect is really important to making the plan work. This is especially true if someone is at a point where everything seems overwhelming.

            Even if the larger debt has higher interest, paying off the smaller items frees up more money for larger payments, so, if you continue to be very disciplined and spend the same amount of money on debt eduction, you don’t always pay as much of a premium. But, the most important thing is that a plan is sustainable and what makes a plan sustainable is not just the numbers.

    8. thisisit*

      thanks, everyone, this is super helpful. I’ll pass on all the links and suggestions. Where I am, people can avail themselves of a counselor or advocate (oftentimes free) to help them with this sort of thing. I’m trying to find something similar for my friend in the US.

      I think the whole situation (beyond the debt) has also caused a lot of trauma, and I think the debt bit is so overwhelming, it’s paralyzing, hence why I’m trying to find her someone who can advise her and go to bat for her where necessary.

      Also, I love Suze Orman – I took a lot of her advice for my own get-out-of-debt journey. Ramsay seems to really motivate people too, but I didn’t like the pay off small debts first bit either.

      1. TeapotCounsel*

        Reconsider the anti-small debt strategy. In a numbers sense, it’s not that big a difference, but psychologically it is huge.

        1. thisisit*

          I’ll leave that up to my friend and whatever she works out with the counselor. I’m debt-free today (yay!), though I did knock out the bigger ones first, because my psychological boost comes from efficiency.

    9. Artemesia*

      I find Dave Ramsey’s religious proseletyzing and his political views appalling but his financial advice is really good for people in your friend’s situation. There are classes which are probably a good idea for someone who is in this big a mess –but there are also books with the steps laid out like ‘Financial Peace’.

      What he preaches is common sense but it is not all that common alas. And he has very specific strategic advice for digging oneself out of debt and moving forward.

      If there is one of his classes near you (churches sometimes run them) giving her the gift of attending would be a great thing if she is interested. He also has a radio call in program where he advises individuals on air.

    10. CRC anon*

      If she belongs to a local credit union or bank they often offer these services to member for free.

  19. Stephanie*

    Ticket booked to head to San Francisco next month! Unfortunately, due to my work schedule…I’m going for literally 48 hours. Any time I would take off would be unpaid and I’d have to find coverage out of a pool of like two people (and I already asked someone to cover for me a couple of weeks ago and don’t want to annoy her again).

    But excited! I also will be prepared this time to pack pants (unlike last time when I learned how chilly SF is).

    1. LAMM*

      I made the same mistake when I went out there a few years ago… I had to pick up a SF hoodie at a drugstore out there.

      1. Stephanie*

        I getting really annoying about buying leggings. That became the focus of that afternoon. I also remember my friend being like “I have a roof deck on my building! Come look at the view!” I made about 5 minutes with that wind before I asked to go back in.

        1. LAI*

          I live outside of SF and I own about 20 pairs of black leggings. I can’t remember the last time I wore a skirt or dress without leggings.

    2. Audiophile*


      It sucks that you have to make your trip so short. I’ve been there. A few years ago, I went to FL for about 3 days. Left NY on a Thursday evening after work, arrived in FL on Friday morning, and left FL on Sunday midday. It was not relaxing at all. I enjoyed it, but it was stressful. And I was exhausted the rest of the week, because I worked that Monday I came back.

      Where are you working now?

      1. Stephanie*

        Underemployed, unfortunately (well, it’s money). I’m at one of the shippers (the brown one). It’s not too bad for underemployment since I have set hours, sane bosses and coworkers, no one cares if I show up at 5:02 instead of 5, and there’s a possibility of it turning into full-time more relevant employment (waiting to hear back about a full-time role there). I work swing shift, which is why I’m flying out early morning.

        1. Audiophile*

          I’m underemployed too. I’m always job hunting. I remember you posting about looking for jobs and interviewing when you were unemployed.

          I sometimes do 2nd shift at my job but I’m desperately trying to get it back to 1st shift completely.

          How early are you flying out?

            1. Audiophile*

              Ouch that’s an early flight!

              My end times vary too, but I’ve gotten scheduled to work until midnight a few times and then got stuck because someone was late. Not fun, since I had to be back at 7:30 am the next day.

              I don’t really love 2nd shift since for a while there was a high likelihood that the 3rd shift person would call out or be late.

    3. Windchime*

      Oh man, yes, SF is chilly. In fact, as I was eating in restaurants and walking around, it was difficult for me to remember that I wasn’t in Seattle because everyone was wearing the exact same clothes–basically, everyone looked like they shopped at REI, just like in Seattle (lots of North Face and wool).

  20. Sunflower*

    Does anyone have mixed feelings about commitment and wanting kids?

    I’m 26, a lot of my friends are looking to get engaged and have kids soon. I’m…not. It would be awesome if I met someone I got along with enough to want to be with them but I don’t see marriage in my near future. So kids would be in my far future at this point. I always figured one day I’d want kids but I’m just not getting there at all. What’s holding me back is that I love having no commitments- probably the same thing holding me back from a relationship. I love going to the bar with my friends every weekend and being able to make decisions without consulting anyone. I know eventually I’ll want to settle down with someone but kids brings on a whole nother commitment that right now I can’t imagine wanting.

    But when I think about my future, I see a husband, kids and being a family. I can’t picture a life without these things. i keep waiting for this feeling of ‘yes that’s what I want’ to hit but it’s just not happening. Anyone have feelings like this?

    1. thisisit*

      that was me all through my 20s. i’m 37 now, married my partner last year, and we’re thinking about kids now. i’m still ambivalent – if it happens, great, if not, great. but until i met him, i hadn’t even thought about marriage (and certainly not kids).
      so i guess it happens when it happens, but maybe mostly when you find the person you want it to happen with.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I feel the same way. It’s very odd, because I always thought I’d want kids, but at 36, I’m still on the fence and leaning towards no. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost four years, he is my partner, we’ll get married at some point. But the older I get, the less I want kids. I think I’ve been waiting for my biological clock to start ticking, but it never has. I definitely had doggy fever, so I adopted a dog. No baby fever to speak of.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I’m extremely dedicated to never having kids, but one thing that I think might ease your mixed emotions is to know that you’re never really out of options. You could fall in love tomorrow, be married in a month and ready to start a family right away (it happens!). You might also never find someone you really want to be with for the rest of your life, but decide you want to adopt or foster or artificially inseminate. Those are all options, and no matter where you are in life, you’ll always have options. So don’t get discouraged! You have plenty of time to explore the world the way you want to explore it.

    3. nep*

      It would be a shame to let concerns about any of this negatively affect your NOW.
      Second Kimberlee, Esq’s comments.

    4. GOG11*

      I have no desire to have children and I doubt I ever will. A huge part of it is that I simply am not fond of children, and the other part is that all the work that goes into child rearing – including not having nearly as much ownership over your time, money, etc. – just doesn’t seem worth it. I am 25 and I do have a house/mortgage, a steady, live-in boyfriend, and 3 kitties (which have to be fed twice a day, lest they, when they finally do get to eat, inhale it all and then hurl all over the carpet…), but it doesn’t feel at all like the independence I give up for those things is too much.

      I think it’s perfectly okay to guard your independence and only give it up for something that feels worth it to you.

      1. Sara*

        ” all the work that goes into child rearing – including not having nearly as much ownership over your time, money, etc. – just doesn’t seem worth it.”

        Yeah, this is how I feel, too. I know that tons of people DO feel it’s worth it – good for them! – but I really like the way my life is now (or at least the trajectory it’s on), and I don’t see adding kids to the equation as something that’s going to increase my happiness.

    5. nona*

      Yeah, I have mixed feelings about it. I always wanted to adopt. Now it turns out that I might not be able to have biological children, and if I did, I would risk passing a chronic illness on to them. I thought I would be fine with that, but I’m surprisingly upset about it.

      Not enough to change my plans, which are years away anyway, but enough to wonder what’s going on with me. I’m not as sure about what I want as I thought I was.

      I think maybe a lot of people are ambivalent and confused about this, but because it’s such a big, life-changing thing, we think we should know what we want. Maybe that’s it?

    6. Stephanie*

      Yup, not just you. I can imagine all that in the abstract, but I’m not wedded to the idea. I’d need the right person.

    7. Tiffany*

      My family seems to want me to do the relationship and kids thing way more than I want to. I was originally going to relocate to another city after graduation next month, so I could put off their comments by saying “what’s the point if I’m leaving in just a few months.” Two days after I decided to stay where I’m at, my mom started those conversations again. I’m 27, so I guess I get it. I’m happy though, I figure that’s what matters. I honestly don’t know if I want to be in a long-term commitment with someone. The thought is mildly terrifying to me. I’ve never had someone in my life that I like well enough to picture that.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I really hate when family puts on pressure like that. My dad did that to me several years ago–he kept saying, “I want grandchildren!” He finally stopped nagging me when I reminded him that he has three!

        Tell your mum, “I’m not ready now; believe me, I’ll let you know when I am.”

        1. Tiffany*

          I think my mom has accepted the fact that me and kids aren’t going to happen and if she wants more than the 2 she has, she needs to talk to my brother. So at least that statement finally worked for me, lol.

          I think for me it’s just an awkward conversation to have with her. We don’t have that sort of mother-daughter relationship where we talk about everything. So anytime she tries, it’s just weird. I’ve gotten pretty good at changing the subject though.

      2. Sunflower*

        The closest I’ve come to a relationship was a couple years ago. It was a summer fling, we had a ton of fun and got along great. At the end of the summer it hit me that we were going to have to make a decision about what we were. To say I freaked out would be an understatement. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out if he just wasn’t the right guy for me or if it was the fear of commitment that stopped me. I think it was a little bit of both.

        I think what freaks me out is that I still haven’t accepted that I’m at an age where getting married and having kids is normal. Around me, early twenties is young to be married. It’s a weird feeling that couple years ago, it was weird to be married or having kids but 2 years later, everyone is getting the itch to do just that?

      3. EduNerd*

        “I’ve never had someone in my life that I like well enough to picture that.”

        I couldn’t have said this better myself. My family hasn’t started to pressure me yet, but I don’t know if I’ll ever find someone I like enough for it. Which sounds really sad and lonely, except that I think I do want 1 or 2 kids, so who knows how that all will work out.

        I try to just let it play out by thinking about all the things I could’ve never predicted – I never would’ve predicted what college I went to during my freshman year of HS, for example. In elementary school, I would’ve never predicted that the sport I hated then would be my main extracurricular and my biggest passion in HS. I can only assume that finding a partner/having kids will be similarly unpredictable.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I felt that way in my twenties–I knew I wanted to get married eventually, but back then, I just wanted to have adventures. :) It started to change when I hit my thirties and I began looking in earnest. Now, there is NO ambiguity–I want it and I want it NAOW!

      My advice is just enjoy the time you are having now for what it is. You’re not in any hurry, and at your age, it isn’t necessary.

    9. Steve G*

      These comments are very interesting, and now I am happy there is a weekend free-for-all. We argue about work things during the week, and this is a reminder that you all are real people, not just “handles” (did I use that word right?) on some blog.

      I am 34, my SO is 41, and we are both gay males, and plan to adopt. My clock has been ticking since my sister had my niece when I was 26, and I started watching her on weekends when my sister worked. I loved the 3-4 year old phase when she was learning to talk and be independent (but still had puffy cheeks and the baby voice). I have been having a few heating arguments w/ my SO that we need to prioritize this (which is mostly my fault).

      The media is lying to us that everyone is young forever!!! There are so many articles on the net that you can look great and be in perfect health and live great until 90. Well, it doesn’t work out that way for most people. I feel pressure to do this while I’m still young. I don’t want a 40 year difference between me and my child.

      As per your question, I have mixed feelings because I am an obsessive nurturer, so have been waiting for thinks to calm down so I can focus on a kid, but have always had a million things going on – work, exercise classes, housework, etc. etc. like all of us, and I’ve been waiting for a perfect time to have a kid. It ain’t going to happen I’m realizing. I need to just do it and adapt afterwards, I guess. That, and hire a nanny!

    10. Kyrielle*

      For many years, I did not want kids because I didn’t want to give up that freedom, take on that responsibility.

      For a variety of reasons, I then decided I was ready and did want kids, and my husband (who had been accepting of my not wanting them, but likes kids and kind of wanted them some day) was certainly willing to go along also. So my boys were born when I was 34 and 36. I have less energy now than I did when I was younger, but more patience and wisdom, I think. I could have done it then – but I don’t know, if I had, whether I would have been happy with the choice. I’m happy now. Whether this was the best choice, it was *a* good choice for me. And I’m far from the oldest woman to become a mother – I wasn’t even old enough for age to factor in the “is this a high risk pregnancy” equation either time.

      What I’m trying to say is, you can’t see what would happen if and then pick from the alternatives. (I wish we could, sometimes!) But you’ve got a lot of time ahead of you for things to shift (either way – maybe you decide you really don’t ever want kids after all, maybe you settle down and have several!), and that’s ignoring other options such as adoption, fostering, etc.

      You can only choose what’s right for you to the best of your ability, you can’t do it with perfect knowledge. If you don’t like what you’re choosing for reasons other than a vague “what if”, then maybe reevaluate, but if you’re happy and comfortable and it’s just your friends settling down that is pushing on you…I would say be yourself, and don’t worry about it.

      (DO be aware that when your friends have kids, if you don’t, you will see less of them, most likely. Kids are draining. This isn’t true with every parent, but with most, and moreso if the childless friend doesn’t want to at least occasionally hear about the kids. But how central kids become to life, and how much energy they use, depends on the parent and the kid individually – I’m just noting a trend.)

    11. Ruffingit*

      I never wanted children. All through my 20s people kept telling me I’d change my mind. Now, on the cusp of 40, people no longer say that. My husband and I love our freedom. We love being able to go and do things on the spur of the moment and plan travel without worrying about what to do with the kids. Because I’m sorry, but having kids along is not really a vacation. I’ve gone on some “vacations” with friends and their children. I’d rather stick a fork through my eye and remove my brain with it than do that again because it is not relaxing and restful.

      There’s nothing wrong with not wanting children. Or marriage. Or both. My feeling is that if you are unsure, don’t have children. You can change your mind about having them, but you can’t change your mind once they’re here. When in doubt, do nothing. You’ll eventually come to a decision you feel good about.

      1. Jen RO*

        Aw. You just ruined my happiness a bit. Boyfriend and I are going on vacation with his friends + their daughter. Last time we did that she was 4 and she was the best birth control ever – after spending 3 hours in a car with her crying, we got out, looked at each other, and said “NEVER!”. She is now 7 or 8 and we have our own rented car… so I hope this will not be painful!
        (Truth be told, vacation no. 1 was gorgeous and the crying kid didn’t ruin it much… so I hope we get lucky with vacation no. 2 as well.)

        1. Ruffingit*

          Some of my disdain for vacations with kids comes from their behavior, but a good portion of it is just logistics as well. With kids, you have to make sure they eat, they’ve packed all their stuff, they’ve showered. You have to consider what types of activities they might like. With adults, everyone takes care of themselves and if you don’t eat until dinner because you’re out exploring or whatever, it’s OK.

          1. Jen RO*

            Haha, I am worse than kids when eating is concerned! I get very, very grumpy if not fed. These friends in particular have been good at planning things that the daughter and the adults could all enjoy, so I hope this vacation goes well too.

    12. AnnieNonymous*

      You don’t have to be desperately tracking the seconds on your biological clock to be aware of the fact that, regardless of where your feelings fall, eventually certain options are taken away from you.

    13. Jen RO*

      I always thought I’d get married and have kids, because that’s what everyone *did*… even though at age 12 I tried to get my best friend to promise to raise my future kids until they were at least 3. I just always assumed that the “biological clock” will start ticking – I’m 31 and it hasn’t.

      It might sound stupid, but what gave me peace of mine was /r/childfree. I honestly had no idea there were so many people who didn’t want kids, who didn’t have kids, and who led perfectly happy and fulfilling lives! My only worry is old age, but I am hoping that the support system for the elderly will improve in the next 30 or so years. (I’m not in the US and the situation is pretty horrible, the average pensioner lives in poverty if they don’t have family support.)

    14. matcha123*

      No, I’ve never felt that way. When I picture my future, I picture myself as single and without children.
      I know that marriage and kids = happy life is something that our culture promotes and I know that a lot of women, especially, feel like they want that. It’s just something I’ve never felt for myself, so I can’t really sympathize with you there.

      You should ask yourself what having these things means to you. Having a husband means that you and him have to work on a lot of give and take. Having a kid means navigating differing views on child-rearing, schooling, and other things. It’s definitely not a walk in the park. Personally, I feel like major decisions like these are not things to take lightly. And if you want them “because everyone else does/I always thought…/etc,” for me, that’s just not good enough of an answer.

      I also have been taking care of others for over half of my life. Another reason why I don’t want to add more responsibilities to my plate and why I value the little freedom I have.
      To wrap up, who cares if other people are having kids or getting married?

    15. Blue_eyes*

      It actually sounds like you’re in a really good place right now. You’re young and single, and you like having no commitments. I would just live your life the way you want to, until you decide you want something else. Also, while living your life, you may meet someone who you like enough to commit to. If it’s the right person, it probably won’t feel like you are giving up your commitment-free life, because you will gain so much more by having them in your life. You have time, enjoy where you’re at right now.

      (FWIW, my sister-in-law is about your age, broke up with a long term boyfriend a while back, and is freaking out about how she’ll be alone forever. She’s even started planning to have kids on her own at 30(!) if she hasn’t found the right guy by then. Don’t stress yourself out about this!)

    16. Sara*

      I did in my mid-20s for sure. I was single when I graduated from college (in part because I didn’t want to limit myself to where I lived or what I did right out of the gate), but a good number of my close friends from high school and college weren’t. One of my roommates got married three months after we graduated; I stood up in her wedding, made appropriate comments about how wonderful it all was, and then promptly hightailed it into the Peace Corps. While I was there, everyone back home got married. (Seriously. I missed, like, 7 weddings. Also, the aforementioned roommate’s divorce.) On some level, perhaps this normalized relationships for me a little, but I think it was mostly meeting my current boyfriend (going on 3 years) that made me change from “Relationship? Meh.” to “Yes, I’ll take one of those, please.”

      Now we’re going through the phase of Peace Corps and grad school weddings, and good for those people, but it’s not making me want to rush down the aisle any time soon. (If anything, it’s confirmed for me that I’d prefer a quick civil ceremony followed by a round of beers to some huge affair where I have to pick out centerpieces and pose for hours of photos.) And both my Facebook feed and the lunchtime conversations at work are dominated by people’s babies and toddlers, and I’m like…no. I’ve long been fairly certain that I didn’t want kids, but since I was single for so much of my mid-20s, I didn’t see a compelling reason to make a firm decision on that matter. If seeing my friends get married convinced me that relationships were okay, seeing them reproduce has definitely swayed me the other way. All that’s to say that you may very well get that sudden moment where you realize “This is what I want!” (whatever it is that you want), but it also could be a slower journey where you just take in everything around you and eventually you get to one decision or another.

    17. Kat M*

      Funny, I am turning 26 and am married-nearly two years-and I did not ever think I would get married as young as I did. Howeer, I have noticed that people equate getting married with being ready to buy a house and have children, and to me, it is not like that at all. We enjoy living in the city and being able to travel. Even if you end up with one of these things, you don’t have to do it all at once. You do it as you want to and are ready to.

      My second piece is-the only reason I did get married in my twenties is that I met a person who completely knocked my socks off in every way. It wasn’t even in an I want to be married sense, but in the, I can’t imagine my life without you sense. Essentially, it just happened. I certainly wasn’t planning for it. But I wanted to be with him more than I wanted anything else in life and he wanted the same with me. I think that’s how it has to happen. As for kids, I feel the same way. I do want them some day, but I feel like I should want them more than life by the time that I have them.

      I hope that this makes sense!

  21. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    Is there a place online where I can find people who rent their houses for parties? I’m looking for a venue for my big November birthday, and I’d prefer it to be a private home for a variety of reasons (privacy, ability to buy and bring my own booze and food among them). There’d probably be 50-80 people. Any ideas where to look? AirBnb tends to specify that you’re not allowed to have parties (I’m totally willing to pay a cleaning fee/arrange for professional cleaning the next day). Thanks!

    1. VintageLydia USA*

      I grew up in a resort city so this option isn’t available everywhere, but beach cottages, mountain cabins or other similar vacation rentals are perfect for this sort of thing. I went to a wedding with at least that many people (and what’s a wedding if not a big party?)

    2. Calla*

      have you looked at VRBO? I know people use that to rent places for weddings, so at least some of them must allow parties :)

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Thank you for this suggestion! There’s one that I’d love to take but it’s like $1200 a night… but I guess like Biz Markie lived there? Anyway, enjoying the fantasy of holding my party there. :)

    3. Sparrow*

      Some apartment complexes may have a club house or “party house” that you could rent out. It’s been years, but a friends of my parents did that for an anniversary party. I don’t think they lived at the apartment complex either. Again, it’s been a while so maybe policies have changed.

      In the town where some of my in-laws live, there is a community building that can be rented. My nieces and nephews had their graduation parties there and they brought their own food. I’m not sure about alcohol restrictions for something like that.

      Or maybe check with local event planning companies to see if they have info on any venues for something like this.

  22. Audiophile*

    A little work related – I spent the entire day in a “mandatory” training session. UGH. I desperately tried to get out of it (because they’ve neglected to pay OT as they’re supposed to), but got scheduled to work.

    I made it through the day and now have two consecutive days off. I’m going to try to get some writing done, which I haven’t done in a while.

  23. Tiffany*

    Recommendations for restaurants in Chicago? Giordano’s is in the plans, but other than that, I could use some suggestions. I like to get ideas from locals instead of something like trip advisor…

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’m not a local, but I’ve visited in-laws there a lot. I recommend Frontera Grill for dinner, then XOCO around the corner for dessert one night, Portillo’s (for both hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches) at least a few times, and try Pizzeria Due and compare it with Giordano’s.

    2. the gold digger*

      Eataly is super fun with several options. It’s this giant gourmet Italian grocery store with embedded restaurants and a Nutella bar. And an espresso bar. And a bakery. The food is fab – I go there every time I go to Chicago. It is a few blocks west of Michigan Ave on Ohio, I think.

      There is a Spanish restaurant east of there – Emilio’s Tapas. Have eaten there several times as well and it is delicious.

    3. Calla*

      I’m not a local (only been once in my life!), but my department just had a bunch of people go to Chicago for an event and I had to book restaurants for client dinners. Brass Monkey looked pretty cool to me online, and received RAVE reviews from everyone who went.

      The one time I did go myself I really liked The Chicago Diner, which is a vegetarian place.

      1. Tiffany*

        I love The Chicago Diner! I was in Chicago last summer for a week, but I did a really bad job of checking out different places. I did go to that diner though and it was wonderful. This time around my mom is going with me, and she would not like it though. I might have to go there when she’s taking a nap or something.

    4. Kai*

      Pequod’s, if you’re into the Chicago pizza concept! I prefer them over Giordano’s, personally. If you’re a beer nerd, try Hopleaf in Andersonville.

      1. salad fingers*

        Cosigning both – good suggestions! Also visiting either of these will take you a little bit out of the loop, which is really nice if you want to start to get a sense of what Chicago neighborhoods are like.

      1. Tiffany*

        I tend to stick to either American, Italian, or Mexican…just my preference. I’m super picky. I live in Texas though, and in a college town, where we have an abundance of authentic Mexican options that are wonderful. So it’s hard to find a Mexican restaurant elsewhere that is good enough, so I don’t even try most of the time.

        My mom sent me a bunch of screen shots the other day of places she found on Trip Advisor…Mike Ditka’s restaurant (I think it’s out of my price range, but she’s decided we’ll eat at one nice place while we are there)…Donut Valut, Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe, Honky Tonk BBQ, The Pasta Bowl.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oh, if you like Mexican, definitely try a Rick Bayless restaurant (Frontera Grill, Topolobompo, or XOCO).

        2. salad fingers*

          Agree about Rick Bayless, and want to add that if you decide to go to Honky Tonk, which is a great idea, consider checking out Punch House/Dusek’s/Thalia Hall for an after dinner drink and maybe a show if you enjoy that sort of thing. Punch House has a super tranquil fish tank behind the bar and tasty punch and a really surprisingly diverse crowd. You might even find a wild salad fingers there :-)

    5. Nicole*

      If you’re into deep dish pizza I really feel like Lou Malnatis blows Gino’s East and Giordanos out of the water. Getting them to make it with butter crust is just icing on the cake!

      I’ll also second the Portillos recommendation assuming you’ll truly be in the city but if you happen to be out in the western burbs there’s a place called The Beef Shack that trumps Portillos beef. They have two locations.

      Finally, if you like BBQ, I highly recommend a place called Smoque (in the city but not downtown). Note – they’re not open on Mondays.

      Enjoy your trip!

      1. Tiffany*

        I’m actually not into Deep Dish Pizza usually, but when I was there last summer there was a Girodano’s around the corner from my hostel and a bunch of people had recommended it, so I went and loved it. I’m definitely open to trying other places though!

      2. Tomato Frog*

        I was going to say Smoque barbecue.

        Also, Chicago has a disproportionate number of good taco places, though names escape me. Yelp can probably guide you.

    6. S*

      I’ve visited before (not a local) but oh man, Elly’s Pancake House… A+. And there’s a great place I loved in Wicker Park that had a killer skillet dish, but I can’t remember the name right now!

    7. Random Reader*

      I would say Big &Littles for tacos and Bad Apple for amazing beer and burgers. Big Star has pretty decent tacos but a great outdoor seating area and atmosphere- lots of hipsters and great for people watching. Cheesies is great for fatteningly amazing grilled cheese (they usually have Groupons for this. They also might have a Groupon for Big & Littles, I’m not sure).

    8. themmases*

      I love this question! I’ve lived in Chicago since 2009.

      When you’re downtown, Sayat Nova (Armenian food), Local Root (bakery/new American), and Emilio’s Tapas are all great places to go right off Michigan Ave. For lunch, I highly recommend going to Naf Naf which is an excellent pita place. There are also several great Italian places in that neighborhood including Coco Pazzo Cafe, Tre Soldi, and Bar Toma.

      You can get great thin crust pizza in Chicago too! We don’t just eat deep dish all the time, that would be nuts. I like Pizzeria Aroma but there is tons of good thin crust pizza here. Even a lot of the famous for deep dish places make it and IMO it is every bit as authentic, if not more so, since people who actually live here eat that more.

      I live in Lakeview/Boystown which is well worth coming up to. We have Chicago Diner, which is famous and great, but actually we have tons of good diners and fancier breakfast places. I recommend Nookie’s (which is a BYOB diner if you want to order a carafe of orange juice and make mimosas… I have), Wishbone (Southern, with locations in West Loop and Lakeview), and Rice n’ Bread (Formerly Hamburger King). Rice n’ Bread is special. It was a Japanese-American diner that has since been bought by Koreans and has a blend of the old and new menu. I basically live for the soup. There are also several locations of Ann Sather’s, which is a Swedish breakfast place with heavenly cinnamon rolls you can get on the side with anything. Do not go to Clarke’s.

      We have many great places to get banh mi! There are several in my neighborhood but if you want to explore, definitely go to the neighborhood around the Argyle Red Line stop. My favorite in that area is Ba Le Bakery.

      If you want to try a brew pub, you could go to Goose Island but you could also go to Revolution Brewing or to Dry Hop. Dry Hop opened recently in my neighborhood and, with a couple of exceptions, they make all their beers only once– when it’s gone, it’s gone. But they sell growlers you can take away if you really like something. Hopleaf, Fountainhead, and Sheffield’s are all great places to try a bunch of different beers. There are a million places for fancy cocktails if you go out at night but off the top of my head I like Motel Bar, Barrelhouse Flat, and Watershed.

      Have fun!

      1. salad fingers*

        Ooh, yes, Watershed is another one I recommend to guests coming in from out of town. I feel like either Watershed or Pop’s for Champagne is going to appeal to most groups, so if you end up hating the cocktails in dad’s Wisconsin basement vibe, you can just hop upstairs to Pop’s. Also, it’s sort of like an off menu hidden bonus spot, and very different from most Gold Coast bars, very accessible, etc.

    9. Jackie*

      Devon Seafood Grill is excellent. Their signature cheddar peppercorn biscuits with whipped butter and maple syrup with a dash of sea salt that are served while you are waiting for your meal are perfect for the taste buds.

    10. Lizabeth*

      How about any of the places that Diners, Drive- ins and Dives have visited? We hit a couple when my nephew got married – the bacon candy will forever be tasted on my tongue….

  24. GOG11*

    My boyfriend is starting a new job in a more senior level role next Monday and we are going to go shopping to get some new clothes for him as the ones he has now all fit pretty poorly. Any recommendations for tall, lean/thin men’s clothing, especially button-down shirts and slacks? He’s 6’5″ and it’s been really difficult for him to find clothes in the past which has been pretty frustrating. I’d really like to help make this trip successful for him, both so he can have some great new professional clothes and so it can be a celebration of his new job rather than a terrible chore.

    1. BRR*

      I am 6’3 but not lean, I have had good luck with Jcrew’s tall line for button downs with them being long enough in the arms and torso (my height is largely in my torso) but I’ve only bought them online, not sure about their availability in stores. Besides that I’ve only found great fitting shirts at large department stores but it’s a gamble if they have my large neck size and large sleeve size.

    2. hermit crab*

      My SO is 6’4″ and almost exclusively buys shirts from Lands End. It’s not super hip, but their “tall” size for shirts fits him great.

    3. Spring has Sprung!*

      My husband’s not that tall, but he’s had a hard time finding shirts that are both tall *and* slim available here in the States – there’s the underlying assumption that all tall guys are big. We’ve spend a lot of money at the tailors getting the sides and arm-width taken in, but it’s made such a difference in how he feels and looks in his shirts.

    4. Alice*

      Just posting a little comment, because my boyfriend is also tall and lean, and I’d love to be able to buy him some shirts that actually fit him. (Luckily he can go to his engineering job in jeans and a tshirt).
      So i’m just seeing what other’s suggest!

      1. GOG11*

        There’s a Reddit thread that you can google for (“Tall skinny guys of reddit” should bring it up) that has quite a few suggestions. Many of the options aren’t available where we are, but maybe some of them would work for you and your boyfriend. BF and I are going this Saturday and I’ll try to remember to report back what we find.

  25. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Oh, and everyone wish me luck tomorrow….I’ve got to get up at 5am for the minion’s sporting event, and we probably won’t get home until at least 12 hours later. O.O

    1. GOG11*

      If I ever have children (though I doubt I ever will), I hope they dislike organized sports specifically because I don’t want to drive to and from and sit through sportsing events. Kudos to you for being so supportive!!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I asked for and received as a present a camp chair with a sun shade for these particular (outdoor) sporting events, and it’s supposed to be pretty nice here tomorrow. Thanks!

        At least I usually top 10K steps for the day when we do one of these!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The daughter is a better person than me, also. I just can’t see me, as a kid, spending 9 hours at any competition.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        You know it, Liz! One problem — Starbucks doesn’t open until 6am on Sundays. D:

        Luckily, I have a Contigo. \o/

  26. Cath in Canada*

    My husband just left to go on a camping trip with some buddies from work. I can’t go because I have an all-day conference tomorrow. What a shame! I’ll just have to hang out in a quiet house all night, eating* and watching** whatever I want, and sleeping diagonally across the bed without earplugs in for once. I don’t know how I shall cope.

    *omelette for dinner, baby! He’s mystified, so it’s become my go-to dinner when he’s away. With a baked potato. Yum!
    **probably the NHL playoffs, but muted so I can have a This American Life marathon at the same time, followed by the next couple of episodes of the BBC’s Bleak House, which I’m finally getting around to watching.

    1. TeapotCounsel*

      Does he have a CPAP? If not, look into that. Not only will it benefit your sleep, but his, too. Sleep apnea has, long term, a serious health detriment.

    2. the gold digger*

      My husband is out of town. We were supposed to have friends over for dinner last night and I had to cancel. (He had to make an emergency trip to his mom and dad’s.) My friends asked if I wanted to get together anyhow so I wouldn’t be lonely.

      “They don’t understand you at all, do they?” my husband asked.

    3. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      “Sleeping diagonally across the bed” oh yessssssss. I live in two places — my family is about 2.5 hours away (kid in school), but when I took my current job I got an apartment in the city. For three years I have steadfastly kept to my side of the bed even though I could hog it for the 5 days out of 7 that I sleep alone, just because I’m afraid to get into the habit. Otherwise I would sleep diagonally all the time.

  27. hermit crab*

    My best friend sent me a jar of mustard in the mail for my birthday. That is why he is my best friend.

    1. the gold digger*

      That is a great gift! Some friends brought us a jar of bacon grease as a hostess gift once. (Another time, they brought a trunkful of the Good Kitty Litty from Fleet Farm, which is nowhere near where we live but right by them.)

  28. Persephone Mulberry*

    Orphan Black is back tonight!!! DH and I just started watching it within the last couple months when we realized it was on Amazon Prime, and I’m completely obsessed now.

    1. Nicole*

      I just saw some Pop vinyl Orphan Black characters at the mall today and wondered what the heck that was. And then I see your post! So I looked it up on IMDB and it sounds interesting. So thank you for mentioning it as I’m going to start watching!

    2. Nina*

      Season 2 was a letdown, so I’m hoping they get back to basics and have the clones interacting again. And no more new plots!

      1. Jen RO*

        I I saw the episode, and wow Tatiana Maslany playing a clone playing another clone and interacting with herself playing a clone playing another clone!

  29. nona*

    I got new art supplies! Okay, they’ll come in the mail next week. They’re for quilling.

    What kinds of crafts or art do you all do?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Ooh, I have a friend who does that!

      I used to do counted cross stitch, but I sort of stopped. I need to finish this one thing I’ve been working on intermittently for nigh on twenty years now….I’m also learning to knit. Last night, I hung out with a friend who knits and she helped me. For the first time, I did some rows on the washcloth I’ve been using as a newbie project and didn’t have to rip the whole thing out!

      My back room is full of miniatures too, which I also haven’t worked on. Dang it, there are not enough hours in the day.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I love counted cross stitch, too. I have a gorgeous Christmas tree skirt kit stashed away that I will probably never do because I can’t bear the thought of actually using it (we have cats, ’nuff said). And I’ve been eyeballing the embroidery section every time I go into Joann’s or Michael’s lately for something that’s a little smaller and more approachable.

        I would love to learn how to knit or crochet – I like the idea of having something to do with my hands while I’m watching TV.

            1. Colette*

              Knitting uses two needles – you move the wool back and forth between them. Crochet has one hook, and you use it to pull the wool through the last loop you’ve made.

              Arm knitting is relatively easy, if you want to try it without too much effort. (There is one step I found tricky, but after that it’s not bad.)

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve been learning to crochet. So far, I’ve done several coaster-sized squares just to practice the stitches, and now I’ve graduated to a simple pattern called the “fabulous facecloth” :-) My mom used to always try to teach me to knit and crochet when I was a kid, but I never stayed interested long enough to learn more than a simple chain. Now, lo these many years later, I’m dying to learn!

    2. Oh Anon*

      I crochet on the road and when home, I paint. I also do photography, mostly flowers/landscape. I would love to make jewelry, but haven’t started due to storage constraints & lack of work space.

    3. LAI*

      I used to do counted cross stitch but I’ve fallen out of the habit lately. My house is full of half-finished cross stitches. Lately, I’ve been really into knitting. It’s pretty easy to just sit and knit while watching tv, and I’m having fun teaching myself new stitches via youtube.

    4. Emily*

      I haven’t done much recently, but I like to draw (pencil on paper, mostly), make “friendship bracelets” out of embroidery floss (it’s a good mindless activity), and make felt softies (like little plushy-type animals and things).

      One crafty thing that I like doing is making handmade thank-you cards for people. It’s fun for me and hopefully nice for them, since I put a lot of effort into making the cards look pretty (and obviously try to say nice things in the actual writing part of the card, too).

    5. Blue_eyes*

      Fun! I’ve never tried quilling. I knit, crochet, and sew. In fact, I spent all day yesterday with my sewing machine (took a kind of ugly shirt I got at a clothing swap and made it much less frumpy/more stylish). Today I’m going to try dying fabric for the first time to continue the improvement of yesterday’s shirt. I’ve also been teaching art to a 5th grade home school student this year so I’ve gotten to do a lot of drawing, painting, printmaking, etc. with him. I never seem to make time to make art like that on my own, but I love doing it and love the results.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Any tips/tricks/tutorials for starting quilting? I’ve been sewing for a few years now and I want to start quilting but just can’t seem to get myself to start. Something about cutting the pieces precisely and sewing them together just right seems intimidating.

          1. Blue_eyes*

            Thanks! I’ve done some small stuff like place mats and napkins and some larger things like curtains, but quilting just seems scarier somehow.

          2. Blue_eyes*

            Just read your blog post – I can’t believe you did all that in 5 hours! I spent at least 3.5 hours yesterday just making some changes to one blouse (fairly significant changes and a bunch of hemming, but still).

            1. Colette*

              Well, when I first started, something like that would have taken weeks. I’ve gotten faster over time.

              I don’t make clothing (except for kids or Halloween) – it’s too exact for me. I like things that are more flexible. And really, most of quilting is just sewing straight lines.

    6. Windchime*

      I do knitting, crocheting and quilting. I kind of go in phases; right now, I’m in a knitting phase. I’ll get tired of that at some point, and then I’ll go back to quilting I imagine. The last time I made a quilt, I ended up with 4 stitches due to a rotary cutter accident so I’m still a little gun-shy over that.

      If anyone doesn’t know what a rotary cutter is, imagine a small pizza cutter where the blade is a circular razor blade. It cuts through many layers of fabric as well as fingers.

  30. Stephanie*

    Also, I’ll have to check out that book! Sounds interesting. My (female) boss used to work as a prison guard at our state’s maximum security facilities and we’ve had some interesting chats about it. She said she preferred working with the male prisoners to the female prisoners, actually.

      1. Stephanie*

        She said the female prisoners tended to be more manipulative. Also, there were more things like gossiping and cliques that were a lot harder to deal with from a CO perspective. The men just got in fights.

        That being said, she said the majority of the prisoners were compliant and just wanted to serve their time. She said what did help was not getting on a power trip with the prisoners. Most people knew just being there was punishment without her turning into some sadistic guard on top of it.

        1. Clever Name*

          Heh, the men versus the women makes me think of my son’s 2nd grade class. (Well, the boys actually seem to get along)

    1. Merry and Bright*

      Last year I was on the admin team for a prisoner rehab programme in London prisons in the UK. Some of the prison officers said the long-term prisoners on in the men’s prisons were keener on education and training than the women. The main reason apparently was it was somehow easier to get them to overcome peer pressure in the long term.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’ll have to check out this book, too. I read another memoir not too long ago, “Running the Books”, about a young man’s experience as a prison librarian. He was not, himself, ever a prisoner. He responded to a job ad during a time when he was wrestling with his faith (I think he had suspended his lifelong plan to become a rabbi) and just sort of fell into it.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        The interesting parts were the letters he would intercept between prisoners (they used the library books to hide “kites” in), and those that he chose not tho intercept. He wound up in a position of shaky loyalties between his professional obligations and boundaries and the sympathy he felt for some of the inmates.

  31. ThursdaysGeek*

    I was commenting on a friend’s FB a few days ago: he had mentioned possibly teaching English in Japan, and I made some comments about his language skills (he’s learned several languages). In the conversation, I had forgotten completely that he is half Chinese. I worked with a guy for nearly a year once before realizing he was Asian. And I’m wondering if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Do I completely ignore ethnicity because I am part of the majority? I’m Caucasian in a very white area. Do people who are minorities in a society always remember, and forgetting race is part of the privilege of being the majority?

    1. Clever Name*

      I’m pretty sure forgetting about race is a privilege of being in the racial majority. I’ve done the same thing….

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I remember the first time I was aware that I was the only white person in the room. I was among friends, so it wasn’t a bad thing, but it was a “first” thing for me.

        1. blackcat*

          I took a survey of african american literature in college, and I was the only white person in the class. It was definitely a first, and overall, I’m grateful for the experience.

          1. blackcat*

            (my moniker is in honor of my very black cat, who was sitting next to me the first time I commented)

        2. Stephanie*

          That reminds me of when a white friend went to a mostly black wedding: “Huh, there was all this music I had never heard like ‘The Wobble’ and the bride and groom jumped the broom. I sort of get what you mean when you talk about being outside the majority.”

    2. Tara*

      I constantly forget that I’m a quarter Chinese. But to be fair, I look almost entirely white and my Chinese grandfather died before I was born. But in general, I would say that yes people who are minorities are pretty much always aware of it, especially when it’s a ‘visible’ minority.

    3. Jen RO*

      Coming from a country that is 99% white*, I don’t even understand how you could forget someone is Asian. Do you mean you forgot he is second-generation American (and assumed he is 100% culturally American)? Or do you mean you stopped seeing the Asian features on his face? If it’s the second one, it’s so fascinating.

      *Just for some context, which I think is hard to understand for some Americans: I saw two black guys in a bar on Saturday night… and another black guy like a month before that? I saw an Asian woman yesterday, and another probably 2 weeks ago…

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Jen, when race is not a personal bias to someone (not necessarily good or bad, just something they are very aware of), then it’s easy for them to start thinking of people they get to know as just certain individuals. Not as Tootie-who-is-Asian, or Natalie-who-is-Black, or Blair-who-is-Indian, or Jo-who-is-Hispanic. You just think of them as Tootie, Natalie, Blair and Jo.

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          +1 for “Facts of Life” references.

          Jen, I’m a white American who doesn’t notice facial features or skin tone in an ethnic category way (if that makes sense). I see their features, but it all registers in my brain as “nice eyes”, “gorgeous smile”, “crooked nose”, “super tall”, etc. None of the physical features will cause anything to register as “she’s Asian” or “he’s Samoan”. As I said below, I don’t particularly understand it or the implications, but I hope this helps make sense of it for you.

          1. Jen RO*

            This is super interesting, thank you for explaining!

            One reason why I would love to visit the US is that you can actually meet someone who is Asian or Samoan and it being just a normal thing – I meet a lot of people online who come from different backgrounds and countries, but very rarely in real life.

        2. Jill of All Trades*

          Oh yeah, building on what Jazzy Red said, I actually do this at the beginning of knowing someone. They’re Natalie and Tootie at the beginning, and as time goes on more of their personality traits build on to who they are in my mind, but I skip the Natalie-who-is-Black part. Looks like YMMV depending on who you ask.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yeah, I stopped seeing the Asian features on his face. I was thinking “black hair, he should fit in pretty well if he does go,” and nothing about his Chinese dad that I see every week and have known for 30 years. (Although Chinese is not Japanese, and they don’t look the same!)

        And for my former co-worker, it wasn’t until he said something about where he was born that I noticed the Asian features on his face.

        Here in the northwest part of the US, we do a lot of mixing. We’re still a lot white, but nothing like east coast where there are still groups that are mostly all Italian, Irish, or from another country several generations back.

    4. thisisit*

      not having to think about race or skin color all the time is a part of white privilege, but i think it’s more accurate to say that not having to think about how race *affects your life* is a part of white privilege.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I agree. I think not being conscious of your own race and how it affects interactions is white/majority privilege. Not being conscious of others’ races doesn’t strike me as majority privilege. It’s thinking of someone as my friend, full stop versus my friend the half Japanese.

    5. Sunshine Brite*

      It’s not necessarily good/bad but definitely an example of privilege. I’m mulitracial and strangely have a ton of multiracial friends and most secretly hate how people pigeonhole them automatically because they “forgot” or they “just don’t see color.” It’s pretty invalidating to lived experiences sometimes.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I think it’s weird to “forget” about race or “not see color”. I have wonderful friends and several of us belong to a minority of some sort, and yes, they are absolutely individuals– but I could never forget or ignore their ethnic makeups, because that’s part of who they are. It’s not all we talk about, though my friends and I tend to have very candid conversations about race because we like to talk about such things, and I certainly don’t have friends who I see as only, say, “my Chinese friend” or “my Venezuelan friend”, but race, background and ethnicity are all part of them. Just like being Jewish is part of me. To be frank, the times I’ve heard people say things like, “I don’t notice your race/religion/ethnicity” have always been after someone has said something kinda racist because they “forgot” they were at a table or outing with someone of color.

      2. Mints*

        Yeah, the short answer is it’s a privilege to not notice, but the long answer is that there’s a lot of subtlety.
        Some people would prefer to never talk about it, especially if they’re like fourth generation and culturally just American, which I think is the case with the South in general. But if someone still identifies as Chinese-American or Argentinian or Chicano etc etc, it feels like erasing an important part of self when people are “color blind.”

        Generally, people of color vary a lot in how much they want to discuss race and who to discuss it with. There aren’t any hard rules about this

      3. Observer*

        most secretly hate how people pigeonhole them automatically because they “forgot” or they “just don’t see color.”
        I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean. I get that you have when people pigeonhole you. And I also get that you don’t like when people ignore real issues because “they don’t see color.” And I think it’s fairly obvious why these things are galling. But, they don’t tend to go together in my experience. Even when they do, the two are not linked – other, perhaps, than by the denial of reality that both require.

        1. Sunshine Brite*

          I was trying to be more concise and clearly left a lot on the table, but there are so many that just assume a person’s experience in my area without inquiring before speaking Spanish to me (I unfortunately do not know the language) or other subtle things that I could avoid with blonde hair/blue eyes in my area. Made to feel “exotic” at times. The denial of reality is so prevalent in my area. So much “not in my neighborhood” code speak trying to ignore the growing diversity throughout the state.

    6. matcha123*

      I’m multiracial and one thing that really stood out to me after moving to Japan is how important race is in America.

      With regards to your friend, he’s mixed! Are you saying you worked with a different guy, who was Asian, and you didn’t realize? Or are you saying you worked with a guy who is half-white and half-Asian and didn’t realize he was “Asian?”
      If you’re talking about a multiracial person, you didn’t ignore anything. If he’s half-white and half-Asian, it’s not strange at all.

      In my case, I remember my friends’ ethnicities, races and/or nationalities because I believe it’s important to them. If my friend, who was adopted from Korea and raised by a white family opens up about this part of herself to me, it’d be rude of me to make a quip about China, because China and Korea are totally different countries.

      I will just add that as a multiracial person who is half-white, I prefer to be identified as “mixed” or “multiracial” and not as a monoracial member of one of the minority groups I’m mixed with. I find it very frustrating that people will always identify multiracial people as monoracial. There’s a lot of history that’s too much to go into here, but suffice it to say many people do not fit neatly into monoracial categories.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I don’t know if the co-worker is mixed or not. He said he was born in Hong Kong, and before he said that, I hadn’t noticed any Asian facial features. After he said that, they were obvious. Maybe I’m just really unobservant.

        I agree with you about putting people in a monoracial box when they are multiracial. But as we mix more and more, perhaps the categories will be broadened.

    7. Jill of All Trades*

      I do that as well. I grew up in the American South and it’s weird to me how someone’s race never registers with me unless it’s specifically brought up in conversation. I see people for who they are, instead of what they look like. One of my classmates in grad school was raised in New Orleans so he has a southern accent and the same pop culture references as me. To me he’s Carl who eats more than any human should be able to and hikes alot and is funny as hell. At the end of our 18 month program we were all in China and someone asked how he was doing with remembering Chinese, and it suddenly clicked that his parents are from China, and holy cow, Carl’s Chinese. It never occurred to me. I still don’t think of him as Chinese – he’s my funny, super smart friend with an enviable metabolism. Have I been taking something away from him by not remembering his ethnicity when we’re talking? Does he remember or consider my ethnicity when we’re talking, or am I just Jill who once launched a car “Dukes of Hazzard” style (and, ahem, landed it perfectly I’d like to add)?
      I don’t know why, and I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, or a sign of privilege, or a lack of awareness, or some weird result of growing up in an area with very difficult race relations past/present. It also never occurs to me that someone is white. So I’m curious about this myself now.

      1. Nan*

        If you literally mean that you don’t recognize what race people are and could not tell a friend whether a different friend was white or black if asked, that’s very, very odd. Do you think you have a facial recognition disorder or something like that?

        But for other people (not you) who like to claim that they are “color blind” about race (eye roll), I always want to yell at them, “That’s not even the right goal! The goal is to understand what people’s experiences have been in the culture we live in and race is usually a significant part of that.”

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          If I had any needlepoint skills, I would take that statement and put it on a sampler.

        2. thisisit*

          yeah as a person of color, if someone said to me that they don’t see me as person of ethnicity X, i’d be annoyed. it’s not that that ethnicity is a huge part of my identity, but it absolutely colors the way i am perceived, and *i* am aware of that.

          that being said, it’s also important not to “tokenize” anyone either. it’s like, i’m your funny, smart person who is of ethnicity X. but, not your “X friend”.

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            I’m genuinely curious about this, so I hope you don’t mind follow up questions. If you gathered 4 groups of people together (family, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers) and had them describe you based on whatever is available to them, would you hope that your ethnicity would be on the lists (except maybe family)? If my list described you accurately and positively, but made no mention of your ethnicity or how I perceive your ethnicity, would that change your perception of me? As a stranger I would note if you seem confident, appear happy, wear bright colors, have great hair or a beautiful bone structure, but it would not include ethnicity X. As a friend or acquaintance the list would be fleshed out with personality traits and favorite memories, but still no ethnicity.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I won’t speak for thisisit, but I think the issue is that when most people say things like “I don’t see color,” they mean “I’m above race and it’s not a factor in how I interact with people,” which flies in the face of everything we know about implicit bias and how people are impacted by structural racism. It can feel dismissive of or oblivious to the very real ramifications of race in people’s lives … and there’s a reason that you pretty much only ever hear it said by white people.

              (I’m not directing that at you; I just want to explain how I think it usually comes across to people.)

            2. Observer*

              In addition to what Allison said, I think it’s also an issue of understanding background and its potential impacts on a person’s experiences past and present. “His parents are Chinese immigrants” is at least as important as “he’s from new Orleans” in describing who he is, and for much the same reasons. In addition to the cultural issues, if he looks Chinese that affects him in the here and now, in terms of his experiences, and his parentage almost certainly affected things like his schooling and even health care.

              1. Jill of All Trades*

                Ok, but he’s welcome to tell me about any of his experiences, which I think would be better than trying to make presumptions based on how I perceive any of his experiences. Why would it be ok for me to make assumptions about his schooling or health care when he can just tell me if he wants. For instance, the conversation in China where I realized he’s Chinese opened up a fascinating conversation about how his parents and grandparents emigrated, how he was raised, and how his relationship with them is now. Like I said below, I don’t do this on purpose, but I do know I prefer that what I know about him came from him and not some other persons experience.

                1. Observer*

                  Ok, but he’s welcome to tell me about any of his experiences, which I think would be better than trying to make presumptions based on how I perceive any of his experiences. Why would it be ok for me to make assumptions about his schooling or health care when he can just tell me if he wants.
                  This, I think, is privilege speaking. Somehow, it’s ok for you to make assumptions about a person because he is from a particular city in the US, but when it comes to his ethnic roots he has to tell you all about it. Why is that?

                  but I do know I prefer that what I know about him came from him and not some other persons experience.

                  If this were true about EVERYTHING you think about a person and the assumptions you make, that would still raise some issues. But, considering that it’s clearly not the case, it presents a potentially huge issue.

                  Let’s take a hypothetical Josh Smith, who is a tall, fit young black man from the Bronx. When you meet him, there are a lot of assumptions you should NOT make. Don’t make assumptions about his family structure; educational level; competency; taste in sports, art, music and culture; his political and social leanings, etc. In fact, you should not even assume that he has been stopped by the police for a “stop and frisk” situation. Nevertheless, does it really make sense to ignore this background when dealing with relevant issues? Should he really have to get into his experiences coming of age as a young black male in the heart and at the height of “stop and frisk” for you to consider the real possibility that some typical “dog whistles” would irk him while a lot of white people would never even notice that they had been used, or that he may be likely to approach dealing with the police from a different angle than you do?

        3. Marcela*

          I don’t really get that. I’d love if people can see me the way Jill of All Trades sees her friends. My race is not a significant part of who I am. It’s just the color of my skin or the shape of my bones. I don’t care if people notice or not, because it doesn’t define me (there is no reason to think I share life experiences or even culture with people with the same physical characteristics). My culture could be an important part of my life, because that’s what I know and experience, but I want to be known as me, Marcela, not as a person of my culture. I don’t even like many aspects of my culture and refuse to be tagged with them.

        4. Jill of All Trades*

          I don’t think it’s a facial recognition problem and it was certainly never a goal, nor do I consider it an achievement or something to brag about. It’s just how my brain does or does not register physical characteristics. I notice and remember what their eyes and smile are like, whether they wear glasses or have long hair, etc. and I can definitely recognize them in the future (and, perhaps weirdly, I can also often look at a childhood photo of them with a bunch of similar children and pick out which child is my now-adult friend; facial features often don’t change that much over time). If asked, I probably could come up with a race for some people I’ve met in person even though it never consciously registered.

          So, throwing this out to anyone, is it better if I’m a blank slate and you are free to tell me how you identify, or would it be preferable if I consciously recognize and register your ethnicity as I look at your features, where you’re still free to tell me how you identify? It’s a genuine question; I don’t know if I can do anything about how I recognize features but I’m open to trying.

        5. ThursdaysGeek*

          I can recognize my friends, but I have often said that if I were a victim of a mugging, I’d probably be able to tell the police if the mugger was male or female, and white or not-white. Now, I’m not even sure of the second. I know I won’t notice their hair color, height, clothing, facial hair, glasses, or any of those other useful identification markers. I would know my mother anywhere, but I would not be able to describe her so that someone could draw a picture of her. I’m not trying to be color-blind, and I can describe someone (and see super obvious racial features) when I am looking at a person.

    8. LAI*

      As a fourth-generation Asian American, I always notice what race or ethnicity a person is. I don’t really understand how you could not. When you see someone, you notice if they are tall or short, or blond or dark-haired, if they have crooked teeth and you notice what race or ethnicity they are. I do think that once you get to know someone and have learned a lot more about them as an individual, their race or ethnicity becomes just once piece of knowledge you have about them, probably not the most important piece and therefore not something you think about all the time. But I wouldn’t call this forgetting.

      From talking to people who are in the majority, I think the biggest difference is just how often you have to think about race. For example, I am almost always conscious of how many other Asian people are in a group. I am often the only one and I am perfectly comfortable with that, but I’m still aware of it. It’s not usually something that I deliberately think about or have concerns about, but if you later asked me how many Asian people were in that meeting or were at that party, I’d be able to tell you.

    9. catsAreCool*

      In his “I have a dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

      Sounds to me that’s what C Average is doing – paying more attention to who her friend is than where his ancestors came from.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s completely missing the point (not Dr. King’s point– the point several of us are making here). Recognizing race and ethnic background is not about judgement but about understanding a person’s experience. It can be very simple. Let me put it this way: a (former) friend of mine, who claims “not to see race”, once asked me why on earth I would take a tour of Jewish sites in the city we were visiting, because that was separating myself and we were all one people, so calling attention to being Jewish or seeking out something related to Jewish heritage was wrong. He wanted to ignore that I was different, and as a result, he came off looking like an asshole.

        I have also been involved in very uncomfortable conversations where a couple of my Black girlfriends were complaining that a White guy we knew was fetishizing them (he asked out every Black woman in our group, even though they looked nothing alike and had very little in common, personality-wise), and a White girlfriend of ours was baffled. “But that’s his type! What’s wrong with that?” The fact that she couldn’t see it from the perspective of someone being sought out because of stereotypes was disheartening and sad.

        Like I said, my friends and I talk about this stuff a lot. Sometimes I wonder what people think when they pass by our tables in restaurants.

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          Both of those people are putting their assumptions and experiences on you instead of being open to you and your experiences. That’s different. So are the asshats that wave not “seeing the world through that lens” as an attempt to cover a slur or as some badge of honor. I probably would have been surprised to find out that you’re Jewish, but I’d have asked if I could come along so I could learn more with you. I can’t really understand what it’s like to be Jewish or fetishized, but I can listen to your experience and grow in what understanding I do have.

  32. A Dispatcher*

    Oh my god Newjack! That brings back such memories of undergrad (poli sci and criminology). Agree with Alison that I would highly recommend this book.

  33. Sourire*

    Online dating…

    So I work a job with long, weird hours including overnights and weekends/holidays and I’ve been finding it hard to meet men outside of work. I really would prefer not to date someone I work with (even tangentially – we work with a lot of outside agencies), and haven’t had much luck finding anyone offline – so I recently started a match.com profile. Granted, It’s only been a few days, but I’m a little disappointed. I looked at a lot of online guides/tips for how to make a good profile and one of the best (imo) takeaways was to give the other person something to respond to or ask about in your profile so you can not only avoid the generic mass response, but also as a way of giving the other person a sort of easy open in case they like you but aren’t quite sure what to say. So far, nothing but generic responses that mention absolutely nothing about the sender themselves, nor my profile, and especially no hits on my question bait. :/

    What are everyone else’s experiences with online dating. Did it just take a while to get to the good ones? Is there something you said or did in your profile or in your searching activities that you think worked? How long did you find it was appropriate to chat before setting up a real date?

    Also, Alison if you’re reading – I remember a bit ago you put up bits of an old dating advice column you used to have. I would LOVE to see those reposted on here as I’m sure many others would. For nostalgia value and fun, but also because we so value your advice professionally that I’m sure there are many gems in the personal advice as well.

    1. BRR*

      It took me a while and I met so many horrible, terrible people. Technically it took me years, two cities, and multiple sites to get any relationship out of it (and it’s now my husband). I think most people end up being disappointed at first, my advice is just to be patient and don’t have high expectations.

    2. Bekx*

      I have had pretty meh luck online dating. I’ve mostly done the free sites (pof, okcupid) but I also did match. Maybe it’s my area but I’ve had a hell of a time trying to find someone who meets my standards (they aren’t crazy! I swear!). A lot of the people I saw on match I saw on okcupid as well, and it might be worth it to open up the free accounts too just because sometimes some sites are more popular than others in your area.

      I haven’t really had many dates. People seem to fade pretty quickly when I tried, or they were so offensive to me that I blocked them.

    3. Steve G*

      I usually would be too shy to discuss but since I got personal above, here it is.

      I’ve used match extensively pre-2010, but I understand it has even more features for filtering, blocking, tracking people. Everyone I met was a nice, normal, goodlooking, settled person, no bad experiences, some mediocre ones, but that was it. I actually met better looking and smart and more motivated people on match because the people I met in person at bars? Nice, but um….functioning alcoholics at best….no thanks

      My only advice – from experience – would be to be overly positive, like in a job interview. Yeah, it isn’t the real you, but to many of the real good catches, they won’t see your overt positivism as overly positive, they will just see it as a normal, nice person. Keep any trace of issues, hangups, or even specifics such as favorite band/movie out of your profile. It has to be like a dating resume. Attract as many as you can, reject later if you don’t click…….but don’t make your self-description so restrictive that people don’t respond from the get-go.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        This is good advice. The worst are the profiles like “don’t bother contacting me if you’re a vapid, selfish, golddigger woman who uses men and then spits them out, and doesn’t recognize a nice guy when you see one.”

        Um. Issues much?

        1. Blue_eyes*

          Also, does anyone actually identify as a “vapid, selfish, golddigger”? “Oh darn, that’s me, I’d better not contact this guy…”

          1. Sourire*

            You know, I’m not so sure there aren’t those who do. Perhaps not quite in those words, but I did some searching through women’s profiles to see what my “competition” was like, and ran across quite a few who very explicitly wanted to be treated like a queen, spoiled, etc.

            1. Blue_eyes*

              Interesting. Maybe my ex-boyfriend found one of them (he always wanted to do everything for me and called me “perfect” which drove me nuts). It takes all types, I suppose.

        2. Windchime*

          Issues for sure. And there is the flip side of that coin, a guy who wants someone 10 years (minimum) younger than himself, and who is “equally comfortable in jeans or a little black dress.”

          I don’t own a little black dress, and I’m sure as hell not going to force myself into a pair of nylons for you. Finally, if you find someone 10 years or more younger than you, be aware that she is going to be thinking how similar you are to her Dad when she views your profile.

        3. Steve G*

          I know! It was so like job interviewing…..trim off all of the negative stuff and save it for after you get the job:-)

      2. Treena Kravm*

        Yes, this! But feel free to play with it a little bit. I initially attracted my husband by listing a particular music thing in my preferences, and on our second date he realized I *actually* listened to it. But since then, I’ve been attracting a lot of music-is-my-life types (which there’s nothing wrong with, I only have the energy for one though-my husband!). So to filter them out, I tried saying, “I don’t like music” in my profile. The serious musicians get turned off and have been ignoring me, while everyone else thinks it’s really funny. So even though it’s not particularly positive, this one works for me.

    4. LAI*

      I had a pretty good experience with match. I think I was on there for about a month before I met up with anyone in person. The first person I met was nice and everything, but no chemistry. The second one worked out, and we ended up dating for over a year. Still didn’t work out in the long run but I definitely felt like it was a success story.

      The only thing I’ll say is that it was a much bigger time commitment than I expected! Reading and responding to all those messages, reading the other profiles – I was spending an a hour or two a day. I did update my profile a few times, and always seemed to get a new rush of messages right after updating, if that helps. But yeah, most of the initial messages were terrible and I just had to be patient and wait for the good ones.

    5. Dynamic Beige*

      was to give the other person something to respond to or ask about in your profile so you can not only avoid the generic mass response

      *giggles* You cannot avoid the generic mass copy/paste response. You could have no photo and “this is my personal ad” as your only copy and someone, somewhere is going to e-mail you “Sup? UR soooo cute! U lik teh seks?” You can say whatever you don’t want, no matter how reasonable, but that won’t stop someone from thinking it doesn’t apply to them. You will be using the delete key a lot.

      You may want to find a friend (or an online site if you wish to retain anonymity) to review your profile to see if there’s any language that might not be what you intended, just for an outside perspective. When a friend of mine did it years ago, she used the word “adventurous” meaning that she likes to try new kinds of foods, just get in the car and go somewhere she’s never been… but she wound up getting a lot of guys just looking to hook up. She removed that word, those type of responses went down substantially. You may want to consider that instead of waiting for them, you message the guys you are interested in as it would put some degree of control of the process in your hands. But, you may not be comfortable with that. A lot of men complain that women have “so much choice” and they never get messaged, or responses, after sending out hundreds of e-mails — so there’s that.

      As for when is the right time, there isn’t any rule of thumb. But it’s better to meet for coffee sooner than later to avoid building up expectations too high on either side. After some messaging, the phone call might stop it cold and meeting up wouldn’t be necessary. You’ll just have to trust your gut and be safe.

      1. Valar M.*

        “But it’s better to meet for coffee sooner than later to avoid building up expectations too high on either side.”

        This is a really good tip. Not just the sooner than later part, but the coffee part. If you don’t like the person or red flags come up, getting coffee and getting out is a lot easier than getting dinner or a movie and getting out. I only made this mistake a couple of times before using coffee as my go-to.

        1. Satsuma*

          Agreed. If you’ve exchanged a few messages and are interested, then just meet. Coffee is good. I met my partner in a British pub. Same principle.

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          Yes, the ability to bail quickly is a good thing. It’s easy to say “it was nice to meet you” and get the hell out, rather than having to go through the whole “OK, we’re supposed to be at the restaurant for 7, so you call me between 7:15 and 7:30 and if it’s going well, I’ll let it go to voice mail but if it’s not, I’ll pick up and we’ll pretend there’s been an emergency so I can leave” with a friend. Because the other person could walk in the door and be shorter/older/heavier than they have advertised themselves to be and you really don’t want to be there any more. If coffee is going well, easy enough to suggest dinner, a movie, drinks, walk through the park, [insert activity here] if you have the time and don’t want the date to end just yet. Meeting for drinks, well, there’s alcohol involved and for some people, that’s no big deal but for others, it gets them into trouble they don’t want to be in.

          And if you don’t drink coffee, most chains like Starbucks have tea, hot chocolate, cider (in season), juices and pastries, there are other alternatives. It’s also cheap compared to a full dinner. If he insists on paying, a few bucks for coffee isn’t so bad. Only a total maroon would be “I bought you coffee, now you owe me [this sex act]” If Starbucks really isn’t your thing, do some research for an independent coffee place/bakery and make the suggestion as an alternative. Just don’t pick somewhere that’s close to your home/where everyone knows your name because it’s easy or convenient. No matter how long you text/message/talk on the phone, this person is a stranger and unknown quantity. Most people you meet online aren’t stalkers, but no one walks around with a t-shirt on that tells you exactly who they are and what they’re capable of.

          1. Valar M.*

            “It’s also cheap compared to a full dinner. If he insists on paying, a few bucks for coffee isn’t so bad.”

            Yes! And, pay your own way unless he insists. Its just better for everyone around. The guy doesn’t feel like he’s an ATM on all these dates he goes on, and you don’t have to feel guilty or like you owe the other person.

          2. Sourire*

            Awesome advice from both of your posts, thanks! :)

            And I had to LOL at your giggles over my avoid the general response comment. I worded it badly I suppose. I of course knew going in I would get plenty, but thought giving an opener would help with it somewhat at least. So far, not so much.

            It’s like the job interviews are like dating thing we come across on this site so often, but in reverse. I feel like one of those companies who puts very specific instructions in their application materials and am now getting insight into who can follow directions/who has real interest versus generic resume (or in this case dating email) spammers.

        3. Sunflower*

          Yes this is the *most* important part of online dating IMO. My roommate was talking to a guy a while back. Chatted for a month or two before they met. She came back from the date and was in love. When she went to make plans again, he said he really liked her but he just didn’t feel the chemistry. She was heartbroken.

    6. Gene*

      The last site I used probably doesn’t exist any more.

      Back in 96 after my first wife died, I signed up on AOL Netgirl and met a few women. I married one of them in 97 and she’s sitting here kibitzing.

      Humor is your friend. The first message to my wife was after she had posted, “I just turned 40, what now?” I saw she is two days younger than me and I replied, “I’m two days ahead of you, it’s all downhill from here.” She was near San Diego, I near Seattle. The first photo of me I sent her (snail mail, those 64k modems choked on anything more than text) was of me in lycra, standing next to my bike, halfway through the Seattle To Portland ride with the caption, “See, I’m not hiding anything.” She moved up here about 6 months later.

        1. Gene*

          I met some nice women, a couple of nut jobs, and one stalkerish. Early meeting is great advice.

          Back then, meeting a mate online was cutting edge; now it’s almost expected that a couple met online.

    7. Valar M.*

      I did a lot of online dating. I had some pretty crazy encounters and also met my husband that way. I’ve found that luck/experience can be very skewed. The women I knew all found a lot of crazy people. Some just weird or awkward and others that were to the point of being frightening. The men I’ve known that have tried it have had so-so experiences in that the women they met were all perfectly normal but just often not for them.

      Online dating is different than other dating in that it’s quick turnover. You chat, you go out on one date, they don’t fit, you try again. There were times when I was “dating” 3-4 people at a time because in reality all you’re doing is meeting people at first. The dating part comes after a few meets. A lot of them turn out to be duds. Sometimes they fib in their profile. Sometimes they are very good in email or on the phone but are completely different in person. Sometimes it will quickly become apparent that they think online dating is a personal little black book. Sometimes they’re perfectly nice people but there is just zero chemistry. You have to kiss a lot of frogs and be patient.

      As far as tips: Be as transparent as possible. Don’t get invested too soon.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I had a tough time deciding what a realistic search radius was. I had nice midway date with a guy who was four hours away, and I think we liked each other enough that we would have at least tried a few more dates if we had lived in the same town, but you have to have a hell of a rush at first sight to inspire an eight-hour round trip.

        1. fposte*

          Sorry, should have clarified that I, like Elizabeth, live a ways away from any major conurbations.

    8. nona*

      My experience was on OkC. It was bad. I also saw a lot of girls I went to high school with (but not guys), strangely. I don’t know how to go about talking to someone who saw my weeaboo phase!

      I’d like to try another site, but I don’t know of any that are as LGBT-friendly/safe as OkC. I know Match has some filtering options – can you at least hide your profile from straight people?

    9. Natalie*

      Are you messaging people you’re interested in, or just waiting for people to message you?

      And as someone else said, you can’t prevent those generic messages. Think of them like spam – you don’t get mad or frustrated that you receive it, you just delete and forget about it.

    10. Satsuma*

      I signed up for a site. At first, I chatted with some people, but never met up with anyone. I’d actually never been on a data at that point, and I think I wasn’t actually ready for a relationship.

      Then a few years later I logged back in. Exchanged messages with 2 or 3 people, and met up with just one. We clicked instantly, moved in together soon after and 7 years later are planning to start a family.

      I don’t know if being really picky helped, or was just dumb luck. One thing I will say, is that we didn’t meet through a general website like OKCupid. It was through the dating site of a national newspaper (the UK Guardian) . This may have been an important factor in our success, as it obviously pre-selected for someone who shared my world view on a lot of important issues.

    11. Katie the Fed*

      OK! So, I met my husband on Match and we’re very happy :)

      I was fairly new to it but he’d been on before.

      Here’s my advice. I did a lot of reading about online dating, and I learned a couple things. There are underloved populations of the online dating world. For my case, I learned that a lot of women want tall guys and assume most guys lie within a couple inches anyway, so most women don’t give much attention to guys 5’8 and under. Seriously. Also, most men in general get far fewer responses than women.

      So, me being someone who doesn’t care at all about height (and being a bit vertically challenged myself), I set my search parameters for 5’8″ and under. I figured these were guys who probably didn’t have a lot of women initiating contact. I did some keyword searches on travel stuff too. And then I made first contact (I know, damn the rules!).

      My now-husband sent me the most hilarious, nerdy, detailed reply imaginable to my message. And he’d clearly read my profile and asked me some great questions. And that was that. We met for brunch a week later and were engaged within the year. I like to think if he was two inches taller (he’s 5’7″ I might have never found him).

      So, that was my strategy. There are underloved segments of the online dating community – if you target those you might find your odds are better.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I think a lot of your success also comes from being realistic and knowing what you want. As in, do you want a good partner for yourself or the stereotypical Big Man On Campus that is held up as the societal ideal of what you’re supposed to/told to want? I have heard very short women say that they want a tall man so their kids aren’t short. OK, but is someone 6’5″ really going to be the best partner for you based on height alone? There can be a “laundry list” mentality that happens, if they aren’t A, B, C (all the way through to S) physical characteristics, then I don’t want them — so they dismiss someone for not matching up to the fantasy person in their head. With so many profiles, there becomes the belief that there’s limitless supply and all you have to do is keep trying and Perfect will show up. Meanwhile, they’re passing up people who could be fine partners for them, but it could be argued that such a person isn’t really ready for a genuine relationship anyway.

      2. Valar M.*

        Haha. Yes. As a tall woman I had hangups about men being shorter than me. My insecurity, not theirs. When my friends who were like 5’1 insisted they needed a guy who was 6’3+ I just wanted to be like okay…now it’s not just about you having someone taller than you, now you’re being greedy! Get out of my wading pool!

        Obviously, I realized I was being petty. But there are awesome guys that are shorter than me. Good looking, funny, intelligent fantastic guys. If I didn’t have my hangup or had been 5’1 I would have grabbed them up!

      3. Sourire*

        Oooh I like this! What do you think some of the other underloved categories might be? I’m tall myself (5’10”) so I’ve actually never really bothered to screen for height since a lot of men I meet are indeed my height or shorter. I’d be seriously limiting my options there.

        And LOL Valar M. My sister is muuuuch shorter than me and has always dated men 6’+, whereas I rarely if ever have. I always joke with her that she and “her kind” (in a joking way of course) need to stop stealing our men ;)