weekend free-for-all – April 30-May 1, 2016

This 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 no work and no school. 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: Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr. You’ve probably figured out by now that I like dark and funny books about family dysfunction, and this memoir sits at the top of the heap of all of them.

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

{ 905 comments… read them below }

  1. Al Lo*

    I just got back from a week at Disneyland for work (sometimes, I really love my job), and on the last day, we tacked on a day at Universal Hollywood, because, duh, Harry Potter. I couldn’t believe how amazing the lines and crowds were! I didn’t see a longer wait for Forbidden Journey than 30 minutes all day — and at one point, we got on in 15 minutes! It was almost going too fast — you need just enough time in that line to take in all of the details in the castle, and we almost didn’t get it. I’d expected it to be way busier, but it was wonderfully slow.

    I’d gone to Wizarding World in Florida about 3 months after it opened, and we waited almost 3 hours for Forbidden Journey, and didn’t really go into any of the stores, since they were so crowded. This time, we spent time in every store, wandered that part of the park for quite a while, and ate at the Three Broomsticks, and it was busy, but totally manageable.

      1. Al Lo*

        I did! It was delicious! I also got pumpkin juice, which was surprisingly tasty, but not as good as the butterbeer. And we got fizzing whizbees at Honeyduke’s.

        My bank statement right now has transactions labelled as Honeyduke’s and Three Broomsticks, and it makes me so happy to see those. Just those names — they’re not attached to any sort of Universal Studios name or brand or anything in the transaction record. I think that’s brilliant.

        1. danr*

          Just imagine aliens or way in the future archaeologists trying to makes sense of all this….

          1. Al Lo*

            The differences in conversations between those of us who speak Potter and those who have no clue were pretty amusing. In discussing the ride, one of my group sent a text about the “spiders and goblins”, and I shot back right away with, “dementors. There are no goblins in this ride.”

            Even just throwing around conversations about wand woods, store names, and snacks, there was a very clear divide.

            1. SAHM*

              This makes me smile. I grew up in the Harry Potter era, and when the last movie came out my friends and I had to finally admit we were adults. (I had graduated college, was working, had a baby, got married, and bought a townhome before last HP came out, but I hadn’t said goodbye to childhood until that point.)

              1. Vicki*

                Meh. I was over 30 when I read the first book (as recommended to me by a friend who was also over 30).

                There is no such thing as “too adult” for Harry.

                1. Al Lo*

                  Nope. I was leading a tour with a group of junior high students, and the excitement between (some of) the kids and (some of) the chaperones was absolutely equal. It had nothing to do with age.

              2. Maya Elena*

                So did I! I aged as Harry did, and was approximately the same age as he with every new book. I’m afraid today’s kids go through it too young, and thus don’t get the full benefit of those books, since they don’t mature with the subject matter….

                But as an adult, you also see them differently. They’re still good, but some of the magic is gone.

                1. Honeybee*

                  I was the same age as Harry in the first book – I was 11 in 1997 when it was released. But the last book was released 10 years later in mid-2007, when I was 21, but Harry was still just 18. Her three years between the fourth and fifth books and then two years between 5 and 6 and 6 and 7 threw off the steady progression.

                  But I agree with you – the style of the books is even different. The first two speak directly to children in the pre-teen age, and then the middle books have grown up a lot in language, and by the time you get to books 6 and 7 the style, language, and themes are just completely different.

              3. Mephyle*

                I was in my mid-forties when my friend told me about this fabulous book about a boy that finds out he is a wizard and… well you know the rest. I was glad that I was one of the ‘first adopters’ and was already a fan before it became the giant thing that it turned into.

          2. Belle diVedremo*

            Heard a radio drama “from the future” in which the archaeologists were trying to make sense of the city named “Pound Laundry” (eg, Washing -ton)…

      2. Ultraviolet*

        Reed’s makes a butterscotch beer that pretty closely approximated my idea of butterbeer. (One thing I didn’t like about it though is that the packaging is really transparently riffing on Harry Potter. I’m not an expert but I would guess it’s actually on shaky legal ground. Just FYI)

        1. Al Lo*

          I’ve had that, too. It’s also good, but more distinctly butterscotch than the parks’ version. The foam on top at the parks is also my favorite part.

    1. Al Lo*

      I actually spent way led at the park than I thought I might. I’m a book purist, and in my opinion, the movies are only supplemental material for the books and should never be viewed as stand alone works. Most of my Potter merch is from artists and Etsy sellers and so on, and tend to be more book based than movie based, so I was less tempted by the stores than I thought I’d be.

      1. anonanonanon*

        Same. When I went, I expected to want to buy everything, but I ended up only buying a house scarf and some postcards to send to people.

        1. Jessica (tc)*

          It makes me sad that I can’t buy house scarves and other merch from the movies, because they changed my house colors. :(

          1. anonanonanon*

            A fellow Ravenclaw? I bought the scarf anyway because I really wanted one and at the time I couldn’t find any online with the book house colors that I liked (or could afford).

            1. Jessica (tc)*

              Yes, and I really want a house scarf, too! The local university’s colors are Gryffindor’s, and I’m so jealous about that. Although I really do like blue and silver together more as a personal preference, I read the books first and am fond of the original that Rowling created. I’m still looking for a good scarf, because the ones I’ve found on artisan sites (like Etsy) often have really yarn coloring for the “bronze.”

    2. SL #2*

      I went to one of the private openings for Harry Potter– it’s so good. I’ve never been to the Florida one, but the Hollywood one is just so detailed in every way, and I’m long past my HP fandom days.

  2. LawCat*

    I’m looking for opinions of the new Fitbit Alta vs. the old Fitbit Flex. They both have nice slim designs, which I value. The Alta is $130 and has more features. The Flex is on sale for $80 and seems kind of “tried and true.” Is the Alta *that* much better than the Flex to be worth $50 more?

    I am contemplating getting one.

    1. Audiophile*

      I had a Fitbit Flex and while I liked it, it was annoying to have to take the tracker out. I broke at least one band, but Fitbit was quick to replace it for me. I much preferred the Charge HR, which I just had to plug into a wall. I don’t know much about the Alta, so I can’t really give an opinion on it.

      I have the Blaze now and I really like that.

      There’s rumors that there’s a new Flex coming in 2016, as the company filed trademarks for that and another Charge.

    2. Ang*

      I got the Flex because of the slim design & the price tag. I like the thin band, but I’m finding that I wish I could see the step count on my wrist instead of having to check my phone app all the time. Plus, my battery has never held a full 5-day charge. It’s more like 2 days. That may just be due to a buggy unit, though; I’m going to contact support about a replacement.

      One thing I like about the Flex is that because it’s so light and thin, it never bothers me to wear it all day and sleep with it on.

        1. super anon*

          my flex holds a charge for 5 days, and i can occasionally get 6 or 7 out of it. I don’t use the silent alarm feature because it can’t wake me up, and I rarely check my steps on the unit itself so that probably helps extend the life.

      1. Momiitz*

        If it won’t hold a charge please contact them. My second on would not stay charged for more than a day. It was defective and they replaced it. Fitbit is very easy to work with. My replacement stays charged for about 6-7 days.

        1. Alston*

          Contact them if anything’s wrong with it, or even if you lose it. I lost one and they sent me a brand new one.

          Also I HATED the Flex. I wouldn’t wear it—it’s tricky to put on, the band always wants to fall off, it’s hard to get the tracker in and out. Never again. I hardly ever wore it until I got a Flex. Now it just lives on my wrist.

          The Alta looks really nice (at least in some of the fancy bands) but it doesn’t do the heart rate tracker (which the HR Charge does), but other than that they’re the same in function. I like that it’s also a watch, and that it has my step and stair count right there on my wrist. I’d say the Alta is SUPER worth the extra money. Also I think everything on their site is on sale right now for Mother’s Day.

        2. Schnapps*

          This. They replaced my charge because the strap came off the fitbit part even though it was past warranty, and then sent me a replacement for that because they sent me one with a faulty battery.

          Note: they initially refused to replace my charge because they needed to enforce their return policy the same every time, until I pointed out that they had just replaced my husband’s which had a similar problem and was the same age, and they had replaced my kid’s godparents’ trackers free even though those were out of warranty as well.. They agreed with me then and sent me a replacement (which had a faulty battery – this is a known problem). When I contacted them about the faulty replacement, they said they wouldn’t replace it because the original was out of warranty – until I pointed out that they sent me a faulty replacement with a known issue. They then reviewed the case and sent me a replacement.

          Honestly, if we didn’t have the fitbit scale, I would have walked away and gotten some sort of Android tracker instead. I wasn’t impressed with their customer service with either of those.

    3. Sandra dee*

      I had the fitbit one, and loved it, but after several years, I felt it was time for an upgrade and I wanted to be able to see the time etc. I actually pre-order the Alta and have had it since mid-March. I love that I can see my steps, the time, text, call and calendar notifications ( I don’t have to look at my phone during meetings) and you can turn them off or on with the app. It will also remind you to move every hour, if you have not recorded 250 steps in the past hour. It does not have a heart rate monitor and does not count flights of stairs like the One. The more features you have turned on, the shorter the battery life. And it also tracks sleep cycles if you wear it to bed. You don’t have to take it apart to charge it, and changing the bands is easy. When I hit my goal weight I am getting the pretty stainless steel bangle to dress it up. I will recommend using a small band or hair tie as insurance that the band does not come undone because it just snaps into the holes in the band. That is my only criticism of the design.

    4. Tmarie*

      I bought the Alta about a month ago. I love it. It looks nicer than the Flex, which I had 3 bands break on. I’ve been charging it only when I shower and haven’t had it run out of power or the battery icon get low. After just a year, my Flex was only holding a charge for 36-48 hours, which was annoying.

      I LOVE the reminder to get my 250 steps in every working hour during the week, which is how I set it up. At 10 minutes before the hour, if I’ve been too sedentary, that little buzz tells me to get moving.

      There are other features regarding message alerts that I don’t bother with, overall I love the Alta!

  3. Caledonia*

    (formerly Carrie in Scotland – changed my name on here for a bit more anonymity)

    I binge-watched Line of Duty this week, a British crime drama that’s been likened to The Wire – lots of dodgy police, anti-corruption investigations, going undercover, lots of tangled webs and links. Highly recommend watching, if that’s your sort of thing. You can find it on UK Netflix or through other means.

    1. Cristina in England*

      I noticed that popping up on my Netflix. I liked Martin Compston in The Wee Man but I haven’t watched Line of Duty.

      1. Caledonia*

        Do, do!! Martin Compston does not have his Scottish accent though. You’d never know he was Scottish – his London accent is spot on.

        1. Cristina in England*

          What?! Wow. I always wished David Tennant had gotten to keep his accent in Doctor Who, but maybe that is the American in me speaking!

            1. Cristina in England*

              I will admit, DT’s accent is the main reason I watched the DW Extra thing on BBC 3 during those seasons (have they stopped doing that? I haven’t seen it on the iplayer in years). I was very happy that Steven Moffat (another Paisley boy!) let so many Scottish actors keep their accents after he took over. I mean, it would have been totally wrong not to let Peter Capaldi use his!

                1. Cristina in England*

                  I hadn’t thought about it enough to Google it before, but now that I have, Wikipedia says they moved it to the BBC YouTube channel and “home media” only. Thank you Wikipedia!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      An English Facebook friend was posting stuff from this. She said it was brilliant and I should see it. Now that I have two recommendations, I need to “find” it. :)

  4. Kay*

    Does anyone have ideas/opinions on how valid birth order psychology is?

    I am the oldest of three, and the only girl. My husband is the middle of three boys. He insists that many of the problems in his family and in his own life are a direct result of being the middle child – lack of agency & initiative, crippling self-doubt, a desire to please everyone, a general desire not to make a fuss, and just overall not-great coping skills.

    I don’t see any of those qualities in my own younger brother, the middle child, though my husband insists that’s because my brother is the oldest boy. I tend to think that a lot of the really genuinely terrible family dynamics that have influenced my husband are a result of his family – not of a broader repeated pattern. But maybe my family is the exception.

    My husband gets genuinely furious with me when I try to say that my family’s not like that, and that he can’t blame every problem on being the middle child. It’s a very emotional and deeply held belief for him. I admit to being utterly baffled by this, but perhaps that’s my “typical oldest child” coming out.

    1. Al Lo*

      I’ve always said that a middle child who is the only or oldest of their gender has it way easier than a middle child who is the youngest of their gender. I’m the oldest, with a sister, and then a brother, and my sister’s personality has definitely been influenced by her birth order. I mean, she’s a great adult, but she did get kind of a raw deal as a kid. I had a pretty strong personality, so she was in that shadow. My brother was a bit of a brat, so she tried to avoid causing trouble. I got new things, because I was the oldest; my brother got newer things, because he was the only boy; she got more hand-me-downs.

      I think that middle kids who have the benefit of being the eldest of their gender at least skip some of that hand-me-down/following in a sibling’s shadow stuff. Not all of it, but it seems to be alleviated a bit.

      This is all totally anecdotal from watching my family and my friends’ families, but I think it makes a difference — but in my sister’s case, it seems to make less of a difference now that we’re adults. My brother, on the other hand, is still the youngest and still acts like a youngest child.

      1. Al Lo*

        I’ll also say that her experience as a middle child was so strong that it made both she and I vow to never have an odd number of children, so that we could avoid having a middle child.

        We had a pretty functional family, and our parents are great, but even with good family dynamics, the middle child aspect was tough on her.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wonder if his family dynamics are less painful for him to think about if he can see them as just standard-issue birth order stuff rather than specific to his particular family dynamics? In other words, “well, I was the middle child” might feel a lot less hurtful than having to delve into “my parents did X and Y.” Ultimately, though, I think the more important thing is that he moves past “this is because I’m the middle child” and into “here’s what I’m going to do to work through my crippling self-doubt, a desire to please everyone, etc.”

      1. Kay*

        I think that’s absolutely true. It’s really tough because his parents are loving and lovely people but there are some things that are just…weird black holes.

      2. Sunflower*

        Adding onto this, this might be the way his parents/siblings pushed it onto him as well. I am the middle and I am definitely the one who is the most disconnected from my family. My family generally believes(or at least says) I act the way I do because I’m a middle child and not because it happens to be who I am.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I agree–it’s probably best to move the attention off of the cause and start focusing on actions, therapy, etc.

        If he’s using that “blame it on birth order!” thing to justify why HE isn’t doing something to make his life better and happier, it’s probably more effective to not get bogged down in arguing about that.

      4. neverjaunty*

        And, also, it may be easier for him to avoid doing the hard work of changing these things if he can tell himself ‘this is birth order so it’s just who I am.’

      5. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I agree. I read an article somewhere (wish I could remember where!) that showed that birth order plays some role in some family dynamics. But those dynamics are completely different outside of the family situation. For example, people always say the oldest child is more ambitious and a leader. And that may be true when they are dealing with their siblings, but if you look at them in a professional context, that’s not necessarily the case.

    3. Typical First-Born*

      I would look at whether his siblings have “typical” traits that align with birth order, because if they don’t, it’s a pretty decent rebuttal against his perspective. That being said, part of being an adult is examining what influences have served us well and dealing with ones that have a less positive legacy.

    4. alice*

      I do believe in birth order psychology, but not because of any factual evidence, just my own observations. I am the oldest (female) child, and I have on other younger sibling (a boy). I tend to be a bit of a workaholic, and I’m a type A personality which fits with being the oldest. My brother is the total opposite of a workaholic (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing!), but I definitely think it’s because I kind of had to carve the way first. For example, I was able to help him get his first job pretty easily because I had four years of job searching experience over him.

      That said, there’s certainly a limit to this. Obviously my situation is different from yours and your husband’s. I would never use birth order as an excuse for negative behavior – if I’m having control issues with someone, for example, I don’t just write it off as something I can’t change because I’m the oldest.

      1. Anxa*

        I have a similar birth order situation as you but we are a bit different. I think birth order affects your family relationship dynamics more than core personality. But then of course your family dynamics will affect your personality.

        I’m not at all Type A, but I was always more cautious, a bit more of a saver, and always feel the need to create harmony around me. I think a lot of that has to do with being older (if only a little bit) and being the one to ‘go first.’ But a lot of other people who are first borns will be more natural leaders or trail blazers since they went first.

    5. danr*

      Birth order does have an effect, but it’s not written in stone and is different for different families. Also, birth spacing has a large effect on sibling dynamics.

    6. YaH*

      Instead of getting furious with you for doubting his claim, perhaps he should see a therapist to help him overcome these perceived issues.

      I think that birth order psychology has a significant confirmation bias, and blaming birth order for psychological troubles is ridiculous.

      1. Kay*

        He is. I’d love for his therapist to work on actual coping strategies with him, but that is not my call!

        I strongly agree about the confirmation bias, which is partly why I wanted to see how other people felt about it. My family is not perfect but I really feel like none of my siblings or I benefited or were harmed by birth order.

        1. YaH*

          Oh, how frustrating! What on earth is his current goal for therapy, I wonder? Therapy is great for trying to understand one’s self and all of the things that helped shape who you are, but I am such a proponent of solution-focused therapy. It’s like being able to trace back the events that led you to breaking your arm- you can be more careful in the future, but it doesn’t do a thing about actually healing your broken arm.

        2. neverjaunty*

          It isn’t, but it is your call that it’s shitty of him to get furious with you because you point out he’s making untrue generalizations about your family.

      2. Lindsay J*

        This is pretty much exactly what I came here to say.

        And honestly, it doesn’t matter what the “reason” for his psychological troubles is – whether it’s being a middle child or his family dynamics as a whole or whatever – he needs to take the steps and make the effort to overcome his issues.

    7. The Other Dawn*

      I just recently attended a seminar and one of the speakers discussed birth order in relation to business relationships. He said that most middle child characteristics are similar to what you mention; however, there are exceptions. It depends how big of a gap there is from the middle to the next oldest. If it’s 4 years or more, then it’s less likely that those characteristics will be present. The child might behave more like the youngest or an only child. Other characteristics of a middle child are good mediation skills and sensitivity to others feelings.

    8. Cristina in England*

      Someone here last week (Dynamic Beige?) recommended Running on Empty by Dr. Jonice Webb, and I bought it myself. It is about emotional neglect. It is for people who were not emotionally abused but were left wanting in the emotional attention or emotional skills department. It covers a range of parent types including well-meaning parents, bereaved parents, high achieving parents, workaholic parents, narcissistic parents, authoritarian parents, permissive parents, and some others. I really recommend it. Maybe he is right that his problems come from his family, but he doesn’t want to demonise his parents at all. The book takes care not to do that.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Yes, that was me! I was thinking about that book as I read this. Your husband, Kay, may have been just a tad overlooked because he had an older sibling and studies show that parents tend to put more resources into the oldest sibling (on average). Then, when the younger one comes along, they are also more focused on the youngest because they need that which leaves the middle kind of left to their own devices.

        I do agree with some bits of birth order psychology, I bought that book back in the 90’s(?) when I was trying to figure out my *fabulous* family (cough). I am the oldest and my younger same-sex sibling hated it because I paved the way. I hated it because she got away with murder. I’ve noticed that with many women, they have a special kind of attachment to the youngest child. This is my personal theory but it’s like the youngest is the “end” of their fertile years or something, so they always see that child as the baby/special. I also agree with what they said in the book about the more age between children, the more like only children they behave. I think that if there is something traumatic that happens, that can also create a gap like age does.

        Someone else I know told me that the oldest has the roughest because they are the experiment. The parents are new, they don’t know what they’re doing so they are more protective (or controlling) on the first-born and they have higher expectations. By the time they get to younger children, they aren’t as scared of screwing it up, they’ve had the success of the older one, so they’re more lenient. I’ve known people who were the youngest of 6 or 7 and they admitted they got away with everything because their parents were just too tired to really be on them.

        1. Jessica (tc)*

          I have it on order, too, and I couldn’t remember who recommended it. I checked out the author’s site and decided I really need to read this book, too. Thanks for recommending it!

        2. SAHM*

          The first kid is like the first pancake, they tend to be burnt on the outside and gooey in the middle! -quote from my eldest sister regarding her sons/advice to not stress parenting with mine. I always find it humorous because the implication is you throw away the first pancake but of course we’d never “throw away” our kids.

    9. Jen*

      Ha, I blame most of my husbands issues on the fact he is an only child (he can be selfish, has trouble socializing, doesn’t play nicely with others :-)).

      But to your question, why not ignore *how* he developed these traits but rather, how to work past them? Whether it’s because he’s a natural born people pleaser or a middle child, he has to deal with it! (Fwiw my mom and sister are both middles and are stereotypical people pleasers!!)

    10. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Just because stereotypes are right more often than not doesn’t mean they’re universally applicable. That applies to birth order as much as race, nationality, or religion. It’s good that it’s useful for some people, but I think even when it applies, it’s too simple of a view. It ignores that people can change, and that we like to oversimplify the motivations of others, which have a lot more complexity and nuance than we usually care to think about.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oops, big error there: my intention was to say “Just because a stereotype is right more often than not”, meaning in one person’s experience, like the husband’s in this case (although I suspect the exception or overwhelming exception fallacy is at work here). Huge difference.

    11. katamia*

      I’m an only child and do have a lot of stereotypical only child tendencies, but the fact that I’m an only child isn’t the only reason for those tendencies either. The enforced socialization and compromising that seem to go along with having a sibling would have mitigated some of those tendencies, sure, but I can come up with 5 or 6 other reasons without thinking very hard, and if I really tried I’m sure I could get to at least 50.

    12. Anonymous Educator*

      Birth order effect is real, but it’s only one factor in many of how you turn out and/or are traumatized by your family. You can’t make direct correlations/causations of “you were this # sibling so you must be this way.”

      Also, I’ve found the more you believe in something, the more of an effect it has on you. For example, most people believe they’re born with a certain handedness (right-handed, left-handed, ambidextrous) and don’t ever bother trying to change that themselves (deciding to change yourself is totally different psychologically than someone forcing you to change—for example, in cultures that frown heavily on left-handedness and force young children to be right-handed).

      If you believe in birth order effect being inescapable, it will be inescapable… for you.

    13. Stopping By*

      People have discussed here the usefulness of psychological maps, pro and con, but I suggest a look at the enneagram. If you get into it, it teaches you that a lot of what you take to be ‘you’ are actually just habits and a particular way of seeing the world. Some people see the world in terms of fear, for example. Folks with crippling doubt and anxiety might be type 6, a fear type. Also, if you get into understanding the map, you can find your way out of your self-limiters. enneagraminstitute.com for one.

    14. Anansi*

      As a middle child I would say that it can play a significant role in shaping someone, but as you said, it probably also has a lot to do with the family as a whole. I struggle with many of the textbook middle child issues, but for me it was less about birth order and more about family dysfunction. One of my parents has textbook narcissistic personality disorder and engaged in a lot of emotional abuse and gaslighting, and I ended up bearing the brunt of that (not sure whether it was because I was the middle child/youngest girl or just bad luck). I struggle with many of the issues your husband is dealing with: Self doubt, desire to please/not cause problems, etc. I spent my childhood feeling like the loser kid everyone bullies, but the bullies were my own family. It really does mess you up. But I would caveat all of this by saying that I think middle child syndrome can be a huge factor – in dysfunctional families. I don’t think your husband would be having the same issues if there weren’t bigger family problems in play.

    15. Is it spring yet?*

      “lack of agency & initiative, crippling self-doubt, a desire to please everyone, a general desire not to make a fuss, and just overall not-great coping skills.’

      This is not the middle children I know.

      1. TL -*

        Yeah, it definitely doesn’t describe either me or my middle brother (who is the 3rd of 4th but the middle of 3 boys.)

      2. Observer*

        I’m sure it isn’t. Birth order may be more or less significant, but I think it’s fairly absurd to paint such a level of dysfunction as the “typical” result of a non-abusive and reasonably functional family environment.

    16. Sunflower*

      I think birth order is definitely a thing but there are so many little things that can influence it (Genders, age gaps, if step children are present, etc) that it’s definitely not a hard science. In addition to that, there are just so many other things that influence how you end up.

      I am a middle child and I’m definitely the outcast of my family. My sister, the oldest, has pretty much always done things agreeable with my parents. My little sister kind of rebelled in high school and has her head on pretty straight. Then there’s me. I kind of only figured out a few years ago that I don’t have to do everything my parents want me to do and I can think for myself. My mother can not seem to fathom why I would want to do things like travel alone or move to another city. I started doing a lot of research on middle children and found they are the most likely to be disconnected from their family and do the things I desire. This felt like a huge awakening to me and like my differences were finally being justified. I harped a lot on traits of middle children because it made me feeling validated. This could be what your husband is doing since his feelings may have felt invalidated by his family.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ohhh, validation super good point. OP, it might be more important to validate his concerns than it is to validate where the concerns stem from.

        I am thinking that debating the cause of the concerns only lengthens the time for the healing and the reweaving to start. In the end, no matter what the cause, he still has to rebuild some parts of himself in a new stronger way. I think it’s important to get to the healing part of the treatment. The longer he spends dwelling on the cause the longer it is going to take for him to rebuild that part of himself.

    17. Lily Evans*

      While I think there are definitely noticeable patterns with birth order and personality, there’s also likely an overlap between people who have a a lack of agency etc. and people who look to blame their situation in life on literally anything that’s outside of their power to change. When I was having mental health trouble there were so many superfluous reasons I gave myself for not getting help, like “I’m a Pisces, of course I’m indecisive!” or “I have a hard time meeting people because I’m an introvert!” basically any label I could stick on myself I blamed for why my life was terrible. It was fate. It was the environment I was in. I was born that way. Really, it was just my anxiety and depression were too overwhelming for me to claim agency over my own life. Therapy helped a lot. But taking that step was a decision I had to make for myself.

    18. Jessica (tc)*

      I enjoy reading about it, but it definitely doesn’t apply in my family. My sister and I are switched (I am younger, but act like the oldest and vice versa), and I’ve seen that quite a few times with friends and family. It seems like someone has the traits of a certain birth order, for example, but they are in the wrong order for those traits. (An older child having the middle child traits, etc.) That said, my husband’s family totally acts exactly like their birth order says they should (with an oldest, middle, and youngest)!

    19. DaBlonde*

      I am a middle child and here are some of the things that I attribute to my birth order.
      I’m not a planner, I am very willing to let someone else make all of the dinner, travel and vacation plans and just tell me when and where to show up.
      I have lousy boundaries about personal items, for example after I lost all of my own earrings I started wearing my sister’s and losing hers too.
      I am also very hard to trick or catch unawares, but that may be because I come from a very physical family that loved practical jokes.
      These are all things that I am aware of and have worked on as I’ve matured, I am sure there are others, but none of them are insurmountable.
      Birth order can give a person some quirks, but I think family dynamics has more of an effect than birth order.

    20. fposte*

      I can’t remember where I read this, but one look at birth order factor found that it did tend to have effects within the family but not outside of it.

      I think the stories we tell ourselves are hugely important to us. It is kind of interesting that your husband is so locked into his that he can’t even allow somebody else to have a different one, but I also feel like your response is somewhat harsh–why does it matter to you what he feels shaped him? Is it less about the narrative he tells than the fact that you’d like him to try to change some behaviors and he’s using this as a reason to claim he can’t?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. The truth will bubble to the surface eventually. But if you keep debating it, the debate itself can be a barrier to healing.

        Yes, of course, he gets furious, if you say your family is not like that. That actually makes sense. You might want to stop saying this. You know that your family is not like that and you may be the only person who needs to know it. No one wants to realize their family is a bunch of jerks, people only realize it out of necessity. Please let him go at his pace on this stuff. He married you, because he saw a chance at a better life. Hang on to this thought. Focus on how the two of you can have a better life together. Tell him above all else, you want the both of you to have new experiences and enjoy life, because having new experiences and enjoying life is a huge part of healing.

    21. Panda Bandit*

      You’re right; your husband’s problems are a result of his particular family’s dynamics. Your self-esteem reflects the way people treat you as you grow up. Coping skills are usually taught to children by their parents. It sounds like he’s from one of those families where most of the care and attention went to the oldest and youngest children and he was left to figure out many things on his own. He tried to build himself up as best as he could, but kids don’t have the knowledge that adults do so there are missing pieces. Eventually he will have to face all of this in therapy and make the decision to move forward and construct those missing pieces.

    22. Intp*

      I think that there are patterns in personality traits but the thing is, most middle children grow up to be functional adults. They might tend to be people pleasers but that’s just one difficulty, not a life ruiner, much like the negative traits associated with other birth orders. My personal experience has not been that middle children are universally and uniquely miserable. So, I think your husband is right about birth order having some effect but totally wrong about it being the reason for his problems.

    23. Mando Diao*

      I’m in favor of abandoning the time-suck of this particular debate altogether. Don’t argue over the nit-picky stuff when the real issue is that, whatever the cause of his perceived problems, no one else is going to fix them, so he’s the one who needs to do it. It’s not about what’s fair, or if the issues exist because of something someone else did. In the interest of not wasting your life, you need to fix it yourself.

      1. Sara smile*

        I was going to reply something similar to mando diao. I would abandon the cycle of this constant discussion, specifically since he reacts so poorly to your feedback and you noted he isn’t working on this issue well in therapy. He is getting something out of forcing you to engage in discussion, then getting mad to prove his point right. It is unhealthy for you both and he makes him need this narrative that his birth order is causing his problems rather than focusing on getting help. Going forward, any time he brings up the issue tell him that sounds like something he needs to discuss with his therapist and then change the subject. Rinse and repeat.

        He will get really angry at first – why aren’t you being supportive, etc. It will feel terrible for you when he gets mad but at this point what is another 1000 discussions going to do with him ending up furious at you that you have a different viewpoint that birth order is a bit of a nonissue. He needs to focus on him and what he will do next. Maybe his parents are jerks and there is some real work and decision making to do. But none of that will happen if he is superficially focused on the birth order discussion, which will continue unless you force a cut off of the discussion. Note that even if you force the discussion to end, he may never face the real issues in therapy still, but he won’t ever even consider it if he can keep coming to you for all his venting about it.

    24. Meemzi*

      Definitely not a legitimate thing.

      Though family dynamics and roles certainly influence personality, there’s no real birth order effect.

    25. Honeybee*

      There’s some truth to the birth order psychology, but it’s not as set in stone or deterministic as a lot of people think it is. Psychology Today has an interesting article about some research research on birth order psychology (will link in a follow-up comment). Basically, it seems that the actual birth order itself doesn’t matter so much as a child’s perceived role in the family. So if your husband always felt like the neglected middle child, he’s going to get a lot of the traits of the neglected middle child. But it’s not because he was born second – it’s because he perceived being born second as linked to a host of traits. In a sense, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      It’s funny – I’m the oldest and I have a brother and a sister behind me, and we fall quite neatly into the stereotypical birth order roles. But that’s because we were treated that way by our parents and inhabited those perceived niches as children (and as adults), so it grew from that.

    26. Future EdTech*

      I don’t put much validity to it since I’m the youngest of three by 5 years but fit more into the middle child role and developed those traits your husband has. I see it more of the behavior of the parents than birth order. I would have be stabbed and check if I’m bleeding at least twice before I went to my parents for help. Even then I’ll be saying “I’m fine. It’s only a flesh wound.”

      Yes, hyperbole, but you get the point that my siblings had problems I felt were more severe than mine since they were visually frantic over.

    27. blackcat*

      I think people are expected to fit until certain roles in their families, and those roles can have a big impact on how they grow up. Those roles can be influenced by birth order, but birth order is certainly not a be all and end all.

      My (older) brother and I are basically the complete opposite of the two kid stereotype. My brother was coddled and still lives at home. I was left to my own devices a lot, and I’ve been financially independent and living on the opposite side of the country for almost 10 years. Both of us have issues that are easily attributable to these sort of extreme differences in expectation. Who our parents expected us to be mattered A LOT. The birth order… not so much. Though I do believe by brother’s learned helplessness was exacerbated by having a little sister who could take care of/do more things.

    28. Tomato Frog*

      I’ve enjoyed concocting theories about the effects of birth order since I was a kid, but hearing someone take it as seriously as your husband does makes me want to stop. I can always find evidence for any generalization I want to make and I tend to think it’s all confirmation bias. It’s a lot like reading horoscopes.

      Personally, I’m a middle child and easily the best-adjusted of my sisters. The Malcolm in the Middle kids sort of give an extreme parody version of how we turned out, with the eldest being the angriest and having the hardest time getting her act together and the youngest marching to her own drummer, while I excelled in school and never gave my parents a moment’s heartache. The Simpsons are not a bad parallel, either. (But my older sister would NOT be happy to be compared to Francis + Reese + Bart. She’s actually very smart.)

      I find myself mildly offended and very surprised when I hear people say “I have these problems because I’m a middle child.” I mean, maybe that’s a factor, but it’s because you’re a middle child in YOUR family, with all the many many many variables that entails, so leave middle children as a whole out of it, okay?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I kind of want to stop also. “I am an X therefore, I stuck with having this trait/habit/whatever.” Ugh. In many cases we are as stuck as we allow ourselves to think we are.

    29. Observer*

      Middle child of the same gender of both siblings on either side. I can’t think of any issue or personality trait that I could attribute to birth order. I think that Alison has an excellent point. And, it might help to frame it that way when talking about issues. As full blown adults, the WHY is really important If and ONLY IF it helps you to figure out how to deal with it.

    30. Fawnling*

      I am a middle child of 3 girls I experience the same emotional responses that your husband does. My family doesn’t see the stark difference in treatment between me and my older and younger sister. Over the weekend my aunt said that I was emotionally starved as a child because my sisters were so needy.

    31. Big Tom*

      I know I’m late to the game on this one and the question has likely been adequately answered, but for whatever it’s worth when I studied psychology of personality in college, the segment on birth order effects boiled down to this:

      Birth order effects are real, but are really only relevant within families, not between families.

      Essentially, if you have three siblings you can probably make some fairly accurate predictions about which will be the dominant one versus the more people pleasing one versus the more artistic, rebellious one, etc. However, as soon as you take those three kids and compare them to all other kids in their demographics, those traits flatten out. So for example, the youngest child in a given family is likely to be more creative and rebellious than their other siblings, but not necessarily more creative or rebellious than other kids their in their peer group.

  5. sigh*

    I’m so tired of people assuming that because I wear dresses and makeup and am stereotypically feminine I’m a ditzy, shallow, high maintenance woman who only likes yoga and shopping and organic food and romcoms and would only really like sports and video games and comics and sci-fi to impress guys or steal the geeky guys away from geeky women.

    This type of judgment is bad enough from men, but it’s so so so depressing when it comes from other women. I’m at the point where I’m just really disappointed in a lot of geek culture because the female populated areas (male populated areas are a different beast entirely) claim to be so inclusive, but they can be really judgmental in their own right. It’s depressing because when it comes down to it, I’m just way more comfortable wearing a dress than jeans, and I’m really tired of being in groups that preach female empowerment, but then choose to look down on women who are stereotypically feminine in appearance. My choice to wear dresses or makeup doesn’t lessen my love for things like sci-fi or sports or comic book movies.

    1. Camellia*

      I hear you. I have naturally curly blond hair, big boobs, and was a National Merit Scholar complete with scholarship, yet the best the career counselors could come up with for me was ‘secretary. Granted, this was the late seventies, but still. And you would think my daughter, who inherited the family characteristics, would have it better but no, not much. We have to keep fighting in the hopes that my granddaughter, who is just now four, will not face the same things, but honestly, my hope is kind of waning.

      1. Hellanon*

        I had a student years ago – ambitious, smart, and really beautiful – and she said she got that from her own family, as in, “Why spend the money on college? You’re so pretty, just get married!” as if that was an ambition in itself.

      2. sigh*

        Yeah. I had this trouble in school growing up. There was a lot comments like, “why are you reading all the time? You should go be a cheerleader or be doing fun teenage girl things like dating!”, which wasn’t what I was interested in. I was lucky enough to have family and friends who were cool with letting me do my own thing and not pressuring me, but it’s all the outside expectations that really wore me down, especially the comments by people who assumed I stupid just because I had big breasts and wore dresses.

        I also find this same problem with dating. That because I’m stereotypically feminine, there’s this assumption that I’m soft and sweet and crave marriage and a family and nothing else.

        1. Lily Evans*

          Your second paragraph reminds me of the coworker I talked about on another open thread who really wanted to set me up with her son because I seem so “sweet” (which she must have gathered from the fact that I’m polite and wear pretty clothes?), when in reality the idea of me sweetly pandering to a man is laughable. Literally. Everyone who actually knows me who’s heard that story has had a good laugh at the thought of it.

      3. Observer*

        As a child of the 70s, I will say don’t give up. Sure, it’s NOWHERE where it should be, but MUCH better than it was.

    2. nep*

      Why does it matter to you what people think?
      Be you. Do what makes you comfortable and content in this short life. The End.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        “Be you. Do what makes you comfortable and content in this short life” is good advice, but I feel like the subtext here is that it should be easy to constantly shrug off rejection and subtle insults, and I very strongly disagree with that.

        1. nep*

          I’m not asking this to put up an argument — I want to understand; I’m interested. What is to be done about rejection and subtle insults in such a case?

        2. nep*

          P.S. I don’t mean to suggest it’s always easy. Are you strongly disagreeing it’s easy, or disagreeing such things should be dismissed?

          1. Cristina in England*

            I know I am not the person you’re asking, but I think that a statement like that is dismissive to the person receiving it. I imagine that sigh just wants a place to vent or to commiserate with people who have had similar problems, and if she wanted specific advice, she would ask for it.
            It isn’t the same situation as the workplace, where you have to find ways to cope/ignore people because you all have jobs to do. It’s an interest-based group, and interacting with people who share your interests is kind of the whole point. Although I’m sure it was well-intentioned, saying that she should not care what other people think is pretty much just dismissing her feelings.

            1. nep*

              Interesting for me to hear this; thanks for the feedback. I had no sense of dismissing her feelings.This is simply something that really baffles me sometimes; I think we tend to give waaaay too much weight / credibility to shallow people’s thoughts about us. Throughout my life I’ve always been inspired and heartened by people who are absolutely unabashedly themselves — warts and all, quirks and all. I’d like to be one of those people 100 percent of the time. My message to the OP is, I hope you’ll get closer to being that because it seems like a hell of a great way to live.

              1. Girasol*

                Seems like there’s a place for both views. If a stranger comes up on the street and says “why isn’t a pretty little thing like you married?” then it’s good advice to ignore their opinion and not get wound up over it. But if family discourages one from college because such good looks ought to land a husband, or if bosses or coworkers automatically chuckle at well considered contributions coming from the mouth of someone pretty, then it’s not the same situation.

                1. Honeybee*

                  Not to mention the more insidious things that come from this – if managers pass you over for a promotion because your ideas are perceived as sillier, or if you don’t get hired in technical positions because you’re perceived as “too girly” to “fit into the culture,” or if you get rejected from a gaming guild because of stereotypes about women’s skill level in the games. People’s opinions and reactions have real every day impact.

                2. Observer*

                  Or if you don’t get hired or get passed over because “she’s going to leave when she gets married anyway…”

                  Psst, women who are treated right in the workplace are FAR less likely to leave when they get married or even when they have children, than women who are treated with the assumption that they are going to leave anyway do why bother?

              2. Kyrielle*

                What those shallow people think of us affects how they act around us and treat us. If there’s one or two in a group of 500, ignoring them is a viable strategy. If there’s one or two of them per five people, it’s pretty hard. If you’re lucky to find 5 people who *don’t* do it in a group of 500, it’s impossible.

                The thing is, if you want to hang out and discuss science fiction, and the people you are _trying to discuss it with_ are ignoring and dismissing you because you’re too feminine to be interested in that, they’re actively interfering with your right to take part.

                If that’s a tiny minority, you can (but aren’t obligated to!) ignore them and carry on. If it’s too much of the group, you get sidelined and ignored. It’s not like you can force them to interact with you the way you want, and it destroys the fun. Should you give up what you want to do because not enough people will let you do it? Uh….

                That’s ignoring also that it can be incredibly uncomfortable to be shut down even if you know you can drift one group over and take part. Being excluded hurts; how much it hurts depends in part on the person dealing with it and their emotional reaction; telling them to just push through then does dismiss those feelings a bit, whether intended or not.

                Also, ignoring them and letting them continue on that way means the bias and exclusion stays in place for the next person similar enough to you. Sometimes, pushing back (either in that context, or in the broader context of discussing it as we are here!) is a viable way to try to change the culture so that you, or at least others like you who come along later, may have a better opportunity to participate and enjoy. NO ONE has an obligation to do this if they don’t want to, IMO, but it is a valid and even valuable activity.

          2. Ultraviolet*

            I was strongly disagreeing that it’s easy–the combination of “Why does it matter?” and “The End” made me think you were saying it’s easy. Glad to hear you weren’t!

            “What is to be done about it” is a really hard question and I haven’t figured it out. But I want to emphasize that what I am seeing as the problem here is how people treat you and how that impacts your ability to participate fully in your hobby (etc), not just what people are thinking.

            [I might come back to this later but gotta run]

      2. sigh*

        Well, I’m not going to stop wearing dresses or makeup or doing things I like, but I guess my point was that I find it’s hard to fit into certain groups with similar interests without feeling the need to change. I’m at that point in my life where I wouldn’t change just to please other people, but it is upsetting when people judge you superficially or think you’re “not a true fan” because of the way you look.

        1. Lily Evans*

          You will find your people! Take it from another nerdy girl who loves dresses and make-up and has friends who are the same, we’re out there! (And, tbh, I totally used to judge other women this way… even though I also love make-up and dresses? I just assumed I “wasn’t like other girls” because I liked Harry Potter and lipstick. Thanks for that internalized misogyny, society).

          I also thrive on proving people wrong, though. There’s few things I love more than when someone assumes I can’t do something or won’t know something and I completely prove them wrong.

          1. Cristina in England*

            “(And, tbh, I totally used to judge other women this way… even though I also love make-up and dresses? I just assumed I “wasn’t like other girls” because I liked Harry Potter and lipstick. Thanks for that internalized misogyny, society).”

            Yes! Thank you so much for putting that into words for me.

          2. TL -*

            “I’m/She’s not like other girls” is one of the worst phrases in English.
            Though combatting it by asking, “Oh? What are other girls like?” and then staring at them unamusedly is a fun thing to do.

        2. nep*

          I’m really interested in this subject — as in, what is that nature of that ‘upset’ over people thinking wrongly about us based on appearances? I think most of us experience it.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        Why does it matter to you what people think?
        Be you. Do what makes you comfortable and content in this short life. The End.

        I think you’re missing the point. I didn’t read sigh’s post and think “sigh wants people to like her and isn’t secure in herself.” I read it as “I’m super comfortable with who I am, but I’m annoyed that other people are trying to fit me in a box.”

        I guess it doesn’t matter if no one wants to offer you a job or agree to your salary negotiations or say yes to a date you asked for… it never matters what other people think. Yes, of course you should be secure in your own person, but when other people are crappy to you, it makes your life harder / more annoying.

        1. nep*

          That depends.
          I’m not saying it’s an ideal situation or that any of this is simple. I just think we give (often shallow) people too much power over us. This is my point.

          1. Lily Evans*

            It’s not only “shallow” people who judge others, though. I’m pretty sure it’s human nature to make some form of judgement about everyone you meet. It’s impossible not to. But it’s incredibly frustrating when people don’t move past that initial first judgement, or assume that you as a whole are the sum of your visible parts, putting you in a stereotypical role without making any attempt to actually get to know you. I think it’s reasonable to be upset to be turned away from people who share your interests just because you have a different style than the “norm” for their social group.

        2. nep*

          (I didn’t get from sigh’s post that someone’s discriminating against her in the workplace. And as far as the dating question, seems like it would be a good screening device.)

          1. sigh*

            It happens all the time in the work environment. I work in a pretty diverse industry, so it’s not like it’s all male or female dominated, but there are definitely both men and women who treat me like I’m an idiot because I wear dresses and make up. I have no problem proving them wrong at work, but the annoyance and disappointment is different in a friendship or social environment with people you feel like you’re on even footing with at the start.

            1. Lily Evans*

              And it’s so much easier (usually) to prove people wrong at work since there are usually really obvious results of your success. Proving yourself to potential friends when you have no idea what they’re looking for, when they seem to be judging you based on some arbitrary, invisible rubric of their own invention, is much harder. And way more personal.

          2. Honeybee*

            Even if it is a good ‘screening’ device, it’s still incredibly demoralizing and depressing when people constantly place you in a box based on the way you look and dress. Especially when it’s based upon gendered stereotypes.

            1. nep*

              This is what I’m trying to understand — why we give others’ incorrect thoughts enough power to demoralise and depress. Those are two quite debilitating states.
              Of course, as commenters have noted, it’s a different situation when it turns into detrimental treatment in the workplace. These are two different things.

              1. Lily Evans*

                Because it’s human nature to want other people to like us. Would it honestly not hurt your feelings if you kept being rejected by peers who share a common interest because you dress differently than them? If you’ve risen to some sort of zen state where nothing anyone thinks of you can ever hurt your feelings fine, but is this really such a hard concept to understand?

                1. nep*

                  I’m not excluding myself here or judging others who are affected — I’m simply interested in the *why* here. We are strange, strange self-centred creatures.

                2. nep*

                  (And I really do think it’s of our nature to rise above a desperate need for people to like us. Some will like us, some won’t.)

                3. Cristina in England*

                  nep, it is not strange in the slightest. We are social animals. This is how we evolved. Social dynamics are incredibly important, not only to our species but to other primates. Being bothered by social exclusion is literally the most natural thing one could do.

                4. nep*

                  Christina in England — Points well taken. Appreciate the input. I don’t suggest we do not need social contact/interaction. Just that a need to be liked by everyone, or tendency to be bothered when we’re not, can be destructive or at least quite counterproductive.
                  I get that this is not precisely what everyone is referring to throughout this discussion, which by now has touched on a lot of different things.

              2. Swoop*

                Because the problem isn’t just others’ incorrect thoughts – not the OP but had similar issues I’m a pro at ignoring it – it’s the actions they take based on those incorrect thoughts. When people look at you and assume you don’t/won’t/can’t/do/will/can do something because of the way you look then you lose out on chances to take part and opportunities to do something new without ever knowing they existed as well as by being deliberately excluded to your face. And this is a problem in every facet of life, not just work.

                1. nep*

                  OK — this example goes beyond worrying what people think of us. I get that. I was referring to worrying what people think, which many of us do and it’s counterproductive.

              3. Observer*

                It’s not that people are giving others’ thoughts power. It’s that those people’s thoughts lead to behavior that is problematic.

                If someone thinks I’m an idiot they DO treat me differently than if they don’t. Sometimes I can ignore that, but sometimes it has practical ramifications.

    3. Myrin*

      Do you by any chance know Albinwonderland? She has pink hair and a pink room and wears frilly dresses and the best makeup and hairstyles and looks just all around gorgeous. She makes videos about gaming, feminism, and beauty and just seems like a genuinely lovely person. She’s under that name on both tumblr and YouTube, if you’re interested.

      1. Emily*

        Thanks for this recommendation! I’m not the OP, but I went to look at her YouTube channel and am loving her hair and her words.

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      but it’s so so so depressing when it comes from other women

      I don’t know how old you are, sigh, but I have found women to be so much more judgemental than men, especially when they are younger. When you get older, that tends to fall away as we get more life experience. Some people never get over being competitive and putting others down or “in their place” but that’s all about *them*.

      The only thing you can do is just keep on being yourself. Stereotypes may exist for a reason, but it’s people like you who force others to confront their biases. If they can’t deal, that’s their problem. It’s cold comfort in the sense that there isn’t any magic formula for making people not pre-judge but it’s better than twisting yourself into some weird unhappy pretzel so you don’t have to correct other people’s misconceptions.

      1. Lily Evans*

        I also think there’s an unfortunate narrative in society where women are supposed to see each other as competition. It’s possible that some women are judging you for being feminine because they wrongly assume that you’re judging them for not wearing make-up and dressing more casually. This is another thing past me has been guilty of, but it was grounded in past “mean girl” experiences in high school. Those assumptions can be hard to unlearn, so maybe give them the benefit of the doubt? At least for one or two hang outs? Hopefully, they’ll take the time to get to know you and realize that you’re not going to try to make-over montage them or make fun of them, but if they don’t then I’d count it as their loss.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I remember my mother had to have a cleaner house than her sisters. And this went on for decades. I can remember scurrying around picking things up because my aunt was coming up the sidewalk. The competition did not end until their deaths.

          And I remember thinking that I was not like other girls, I did not have the pretty clothes, fancy make up, etc. I was POSITIVE that these put-together young women were totally judging me. In reality it was my mother’s judgey behaviors that lead me to believe all women are judgey. I had to deliberately remove the connection between stylish women and judgey-ness. It was a false connection. But I will say that in school the girls with the nicer clothes did not hang out with me and my friends. So it was a hard connection to break.

          OTH. Time is kind. Not directly related but as a parallel story, a friend of mine is THE very personality type I would avoided in school. He did life in the fast lane- booze, drugs, sex, skipping school, anything you can think of he did it. One day we said to each other, “You are the very person I would have avoided in school.” And we laughed. We are in our mid 50s now and we both have changed. He got out of the drugs etc and I learned not to be so uptight, etc. Time has been very kind, indeed.
          I often wonder how much of our struggles are part of what we perceive as necessary for survival. And then in later years realize that those struggles are not necessary.

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          I also think there’s an unfortunate narrative in society where women are supposed to see each other as competition.

          You know, I’m not so certain that it’s a narrative but more of a biological impulse(?) or something. I don’t think anyone does it intentionally, exactly, but unlike men, women have a much narrower window of opportunity to get it all done — the schooling, the career, the marriage, the children. I mean, whether we all want to admit it or not, both men and women chase after the same things — youth, beauty, achievement, financial/social advantage. But, that “whole package” is in short supply and consequently fought over in whatever way. Women are often raised on the fairy tale of the prince in whatever form (Cinderella? Twilight?) and the idea of that one perfect love. As you get older, you see that chasing after the “bad boy” or BMOC that everyone else is swooning over may not be the best person for you.

          At some point when I was in school, they showed us a video of the story of the 8-cow wife. It was a story of an ugly girl whose father was trying to negotiate her dowry to the one man who had asked after her. All the other women would brag about how much their husbands had paid for them, but they would laugh at the ugly girl, saying that no one would offer one cow for her. This particular man was supposedly the richest and handsomest in all the islands (it took place in some tropical place like Hawaii or Tahiti). Everyone was astonished when he offered 8 cows for the ugly girl. Even her father said that was too much and he would gladly take fewer cows, but the man insisted on 8 cows. It was the most anyone had ever paid for a wife. Of course, after the marriage some time went by and when they went to visit the newlyweds, a beautiful woman greeted them at the door, no one recognised her… because they only remembered her when she was ugly. If you Google “eight cow wife” you’ll find some version of that story. Oh holy hell in a hatbox, it’s some sort of Mormon story called Johnny Lingo.

          Anyway, the point is that there are always going to be some people who feel the need to brag about something in order to feel superior to other people. There are always going to be some people who must “win” in order to feel better than other people. Mainly because they never mature out of that need to compete with others to “prove” their worth.

          1. Honeybee*

            I don’t think it’s a biological impulse; I think it’s a societal expectation/imperative. Women are taught that our worth is in physical things – our beauty and our youth. We’re taught that once we’re over 40 we don’t have much worth left, and current societal structures make it difficult for women to balance the sundry parts of our lives. So that’s what creates the scramble of getting things done. Not biology, but the way our world is structured. (For an example, think about how different life might be if women’s desirability was based upon their intelligence, and if women who wanted to bear children were universally given paid time to do so early in their lives and were able to easily re-enter the workforce afterwards.)

            Men do not chase after youth and beauty in quite the same way women do.

            Also, I think the point of that story was supposed to be that other men were too shallow to see the beauty in the ugly girl, but I think the point of the story is kind of ruined by the fact that the “ugly girl” turned out to be a pretty girl in disguise. Why couldn’t she just be ugly, but wickedly funny and really smart and made the family a boatload of money?

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              Societal, maybe that’s the word I was searching for. I just meant that for the longest time, getting married was the best a woman could hope for — and if she was able to marry the “right” man it would be so much the better for her. That expectation has shifted somewhat from the parents’/community at large onto the shoulders of the young women.

              Men do not chase after youth and beauty in quite the same way women do.

              No, but when we’re all young, that is generally what is pined over — the whole dating the head cheerleader or captain of the sportsball team cliché. I was with a group of people I had gone to elementary school with and as we were looking over class photos, it did not escape my notice that the boys who were remembered/talked about the most were the most popular ones, who were also usually the best looking. One woman even said that she remembered ThisGuy and thought he was so good looking but that she also remembered that he held the same opinion of himself. But at the time, that didn’t really stop her from wanting him to be her boyfriend.

              Yeah, watching that Johnny Lingo movie again, I think the point was supposed to be that you can live down to other people’s treatment or expectations of you. Even watching that as a kid, it was pretty obvious the girl was pretty, she was just being treated really badly by everyone around her and down on herself. It’s hard to have good self esteem when you never (or rarely) receive any positive feedback about yourself. I mean, you’re right, in a perfect world such a story would be based on other things than looks as you say. But we don’t live in that perfect world yet and probably won’t for a long time.

            2. anonanonanon*

              I’d actually say it begins closer to 30 than 40. There’s this whole idea that once women are 30, no one wants to date them and if they’re not married with kids or in a long term relationship, something is “wrong” with them. Men are often called at the peak of their success when they’re in their 30s, while women are viewed as on the downwards slope.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Popular media does not help with this–especially when Hollywood says that a 30-year-old woman is TOO OLD to play the love interest of a 50+ man. :P And when’s the last time you saw it the other way around?!

              2. Panda Bandit*

                It’s all stupid and so is the peak of success idea. When you’ve reached the peak you have nowhere else to go but downhill.

        3. Jen RO*

          “It’s possible that some women are judging you for being feminine because they wrongly assume that you’re judging them for not wearing make-up and dressing more casually.”
          I think this is a very good point. I try very hard not to judge anyone, but I always feel frumpy and ugly when faced with a very well put-together woman. I am sure some of that jealousy is sometimes apparent… even when it has nothing to do with the other woman and everything to do with me.

          1. nep*

            ‘…and everything to do with me.’ That is quite often the case — we often project and it was us all along.

          2. Lindsay J*

            Ugh, this. Usually I don’t think much about appearance – I’m happy with what I am.

            But last year I was sitting having dinner with some friends, and I felt like I was a completely different species than one of their girlfriends. She was petite, perfect hair, immaculately put together, and so charming, and next to her I just felt like an oaf. It felt like the difference between an Arabian horse and a Clydsdale.

            And she was perfectly sweet and absolutely none of it was her fault. And I know nobody was sitting at the table and thinking “Oh, look how much better looking Kristie is.” It was completely all in my head.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              OMG your horse analogy is the best! This happens to me sometimes because I’m tall–I always feel like everyone else is more dainty and pretty and I’m just this huge beast. Even when I’m dressed nicely and my hair is perfect. Clydesdale! Or a Belgian draft horse!

              1. Not So NewReader*

                And yet Clydesdales or Belgains are so beautiful, in a class of their own. I may or may not stop and look at other horses, but these guys I do like to stop and look at them.

      2. sigh*

        Late 20s. I think I was just lucky in finding great friends in college, so I didn’t have to deal with it for awhile. Now that most of my friends have moved away or are busy with kids and partners, I’ve been looking for more friends and it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.

    5. Mike C.*

      Though this a particularly toxic example, I’ve find a great deal of nerd subcultures to be particularly judgemental against those who don’t follow the cultural line.

      1. Lily Evans*

        And, in my experience, the venn diagram between those judgmental nerds and nerds who complain that everyone outside of their subculture is mean and would never possibly like them is a circle. It’s an awful hypocritical self-fulfilling prophecy.

        1. fposte*

          Yup. I also think that there’s the attachment to an outsider identity in nerd culture (even when people claim pretty mainstream tastes, like Harry Potter or Dr. Who, I see them claim them as “weird”), so the whole “not like other girls” thing Lily Evans talks about runs deep. Somebody who looks–what should we call it, traditional/mainstream?–can get received as if she was a traitor or a poseur.

          1. Lily Evans*

            Ugh. Yes the whole “fake” geek girls/fans dialogue drives me nuts. I totally agree with sigh that it’s exhausting to have to “prove” you’re a true fan in different groups of people. Yes, I know plenty of obscure trivia about my interests and could dissect them for hours, but can’t just liking something be enough? It’s so nice when you meet someone and say “I love xyz!” and they say “me too!” and then you have a nice conversation about your shared interest instead of turning it into some sort of pointless pissing contest.

            Why do fans always have to prove themselves? (This is a particular sore point of mine. I once made a stupid joke on tumblr and had literally thousands of people reblog it to tell me how dumb I am and how the HP universe doesn’t work that way. It was terrible.)

            1. anonanonanon*

              Tumblr is particularly toxic and reverts to over-serious hivemind mentality. I’ve seen one too many examples like yours where someone makes a joke and people take it so seriously and try to one-up everyone else with a thesis length meta about fandom and canon. It sucks the fun out of it sometimes.

              1. Lily Evans*

                It is so fun-sucking. The post I made was a joke about the wizard legal system and included the words “wizard court tv” so not only did I get the thesis length “you’re so wrong” explanations (plus a ton of people literally copying and pasting from the hp wiki) there were also people who condescendingly pointed out that wizards don’t have tv. I don’t try to be funny on tumblr when I’m over tired any more.

                1. anonanonanon*

                  I honestly find that big fandoms are the worst at this. I had to step back from mcu and marvel fandoms because they were ruining what I loved and tumblr fandom has very specific fanon headcanon where, if you don’t abide by it for a particular fandom, you’re the enemy or you’re not inclusive/accepting/whatever.

                  It’s sort of turned into this place where you have to like the popular headcanons or you have to always be serious and show you know every tiny detail of a book/show/movie/comic or you’re not a real fan.

                2. Lily Evans*

                  Big fandoms really are the worst. I have such a great group of mutuals that sometimes I forget how awful other fans can be outside of my little corner of the HP fandom. That awful herd mentality around fanon and headcanons has definitely driven me out of certain fandoms (mainly sherlock and supernatural, back when I was into those) and has kept me from getting involved at all in other fandoms.

                3. anonanonanon*

                  I was in the early days of Sherlock and SPN and I bolted quick when things turned nasty. It also ruined my interest and enjoyment of those shows (though tbf, SPN did that all on its own once it started pandering to fans and getting weird in the 4th or 5th season). As far as HP, I was lucky enough to know the drama going on back in the day, but avoided it and stayed with my small group of LJ friends.

                  The larger and more popular (or mainstream) a fandom gets, the more vicious the fans get, and then it becomes a contest of who loved the fandom from its beginnings and who has the best headcanon and who has the most popular fanon. In the case of mcu….the fanon headcanon is almost 100% different than characterization in the movies so sometimes I wonder if we’re watching the same movies.

                4. Lily Evans*

                  I totally agree with Supernatural ruining itself. I watched well past the point that it started going downhill (sunk-cost fallacy, you know?) but eventually gave up on it. My dad still watches it, so I’ll catch the occasional newer episode with him and my general reaction is WTF is even happening anymore.

                  And the whole “I liked this first, so I’m a better fan than you” mentality is one of the reasons I’m SO glad that I had no idea internet fandoms existed back during my unfortunate Twilight phase, because I was totally THAT fan. I also totally agree with the fanon thing. I’m totally cool with people sharing headcanons for fun, but it ticks me right off when people latch onto them and insist they’re the only correct way to portray those characters… with no real canonical evidence.

                5. anonanonanon*

                  Yes! There’s a big trend across most fandoms right now to headcanon canonically straight cisgender characters as trans or poly or non-binary, which is great because everyone should be able to transform a character they way they identify most with, but those headcanons become so popular that if you don’t headcanon or write characters those ways, a lot of people view you as preaching against those identities it or not inclusive and queer friendly. Fandom is supposed to let you explore canon based and non-canon based possibilities, so demanding everyone go with the popular headcanon kind of defeats the point.

                  Fandom likes to call itself a safe space for everyone, but it can be such a hivemind that it’s only a safe space if you agree with the popular opinions. But I generally feel this way about most subcultures.

        2. Mando Diao*

          I’ve noticed this too. People who are still resentful over how they were treated in high school….they have a way of wanting to recreate that social hierarchy as adults, but with them at the top.

    6. Mazzy*

      I felt similarly when I was younger. Pretty apparently = like staying out all night and doing recreational drugs to some people. I can’t tell you how many people were surprised I wasn’t into those things. I guess they those are the things people are really into if they have the privilege to indulge?

    7. Lady Bug*

      That is frustrating. I am a total sports, rock and horror movie chic and usually wear jeans, but some days I wear dresses too. And i loooooooooove shoes. High heels, every boot (seriously I have 11 pairs of boots), sexy sandals etc. Stereotypes are ridiculous. Just own who you are and be proud to break the mold. Believe me, all you need to do is to shut down the boys club once by showing you have way more knowledge of sports, comic books etc., they’ll forget about the dress. I have no solution for other women judging, we are just terrible to each other.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        All we can do is “be the change..”

        I have often thought that women do more to hold back other women than we ever think about. Some of it is blatant, but I think most of it is subtle.

      2. Lily Evans*

        There’s nothing I like better than showing up a man when he thinks he knows more than me. Like one time, I was at a bar with a friend and two of her guy friends and when I mentioned that I like whisk(e)y one of the guys got this little “oh that’s cute” smirk and asked me what type of whisk(e)y I like. The way his face changed when I started describing my bourbon and single malt scotch collections in depth was priceless. When I asked him what he liked to drink he got flustered and just mumbled “Jameson” and it was great.

    8. Mando Diao*

      I’m sorry you’re feeling disillusioned about something that you used to enjoy wholeheartedly. I can relate – I’m a musician, and it took me a long time to realize that music communities reward men for treating women badly, and that I was a fool for believing the notion that artists are always good, soulful, righteous people.

      I hope you can find a way to continue to participate in the things that make you happy.

    9. Tomato Frog*

      I’ve always taken some delight in not being what people expect. I know the underlying factors that form those expectations are oppressive, and I’m not trying to dismiss how much it can weigh on you over time — but I sort of think of it as being a superhero with a secret identity. Having a secret identity sucks (especially when it is imposed on you and not by your own choice!) but ever now and then you get this amazing moment where someone tries to shoot you without realizing who you are, and finds out that you’re bullet proof. And the look on their faces is priceless.

      Also, I’ve been near plenty of nerdy circles where lookin’ good and dressin’ good are not a barrier to entry, so I’m inclined to think you need to keep looking for your people. Much as it sucks to be always looking. They are definitely out there.

    10. Hypnotist Collector*

      Well, I’m an extremely intelligent and experienced woman, and I have been firmly committed to both yoga and organic foods, for all the right reasons, for almost 25 years. So while you complain about feeling insulted by other women, that’s exactly what you’re doing. I grant you that current yoga culture isn’t serious, and most people don’t understand much about organic foods (I wrote a book on what organic means and why it matters, and spent many years working in the industry) but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

      1. anonanonanon*

        I didn’t get the sense from OP’s post that they were insulting people who like those things, just that they didn’t like they were automatically thought of as someone who liked those things because of the way they looked.

      2. nep*

        (Yes — I wondered about that description…It’s rather just buying into more stereotypical thinking.)

      3. sigh*

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply those things were stupid. I like most of them (except I can’t afford organic food, so that’s crossed off), but it’s just that I’m annoyed that people look at me and automatically assume it’s what I like based on my appearance. There’s an stereotype that only a certain type of woman likes yoga and shopping et al and while those things aren’t bad things, a lot of people look at them at women who like them as shallow.

        It’s annoying to have someone go, “oh, you probably like yoga” just because my appearance is stereotypically feminine. Sorry if I offended. I was upset and didn’t phrase it correctly.

    11. Lily Evans*

      I can’t believe that it took me so many replies to think of this, but maybe you could find a meet up in your area for specifically nerdy girls/women. Maybe if men are taken out of the equation completely it would be better? There also might be “girly” nerd groups out there. I found one meet up group specifically for femme LGBT+ women, which is pretty cool since that’s another group that’s supposed to be accepting of everyone but sometimes freezes out women who are more traditionally feminine.

    12. neverjaunty*

      Women who preach female empowerment but look down on traditionally ‘feminine’ things are sexists, full stop.

    1. Audiophile*

      We’re taking my mom out for lunch at a local restaurant. It was sort of her idea. We’ve agreed to split it, since it’s pretty expensive anytime we go out as a family. (There’s six of us.)

      I will admit to be baffled by what to get my mom on a regular basis, since she usually doesn’t tell you what she wants.

      A few years ago, I just got her a nice arrangement from a local flower shop. She seemed to love her flowers.

    2. anonanonanon*

      I’m taking my mum out for a nice dinner the Saturday before (her idea, since crowds and prices are crazy on Mother’s Day). My mum isn’t the type to want gifts and doesn’t really like receiving them – something I share – so I take her out to a new brunch/lunch/dinner place each year. I try to change up the type of food since she lives in a small town and I live in the city, so she looks forward to seeing what cuisine I’m going to choose. This year we’re going to a great Ethiopian restaurant.

    3. Cruciatus*

      I buy stuff she wants or has talked about needing or replacing. She needs a tool to put safety eyes on things she’s crocheting so I’m getting that, freezer labels from mileskimball dot com, and a replacement casserole dish to replace the one her friend accidentally broke when she borrowed it (from Corning Ware’s Spice of Life collection from the ’70s or so). None of these things are exactly “special” but they are what she will need/use and appreciate.

    4. The Sugar Plum Fairy*

      My mom hates when I spend a lot of money on gifts for her and she loves simple things. She likes flowers for her yard, so I make up a unique arrangement of annuals every year. She loves to see what kinds of combinations I come up with, and she puts it on display on her porch. I try to include different types of plants that she hasn’t had before. I have fun putting it together for her. :)

    5. Aurora Leigh*

      I’m poor and fairly fresh out of college, so I’m driving 3 hours to see her for the weekend and bringing her favorite Ghiradelli chocolate with blueberry filling.

    6. Stopping By*

      For my mom’s birthday once, all the kids showed up to her house with tools and energy and tackled a number of fixit, spring cleaning type projects. It was much appreciated and we should really do it again.

    7. SAHM*

      Getting my mom a laptop as her computer broke and she needs a replacement. It’s kinda my area since I’m the only one with a tech husband, one of my brothers is tech too, but he just graduated from college and started new job so he’s still building up his finances. I think another brother is fixing her retaining wall and the third is buying her a smart phone. She’s been clinging to her little flip phone for far too long because she says the kids at school will probably steal a nicer one (she’s a teacher) but I think Big Brother put his foot down and is just going to buy her a phone. No idea what the sisters are getting her, probably girly stuff. I’m not good at girly stuff, lol.

    8. Me2*

      Just came on to say that all of your mothers are very lucky ladies! Something I always appreciate (I am a mom but my mom has passed away), is a flower basket. They’re so beautiful this time of year and they last all summer. My son and husband always get me two (one from each of them) rather than cut flowers which only last a week. But really what most moms really want is to just get to spend time with you. My son lives about two hours away by plane, sometimes we have a dinner date where we each have our dinner ready and eat together via Skype.

    9. NN*

      I’m taking my mum to a ‘sketch & scones’ class, where we’ll get a beginners’ life drawing class together with Devonshire tea and scones. I tend to try to do experience type gifts for my mum nowadays and although neither of us have any artistic skill, I think it’ll be fun!

      1. Bibliovore*

        The moms in my life are getting Betsy Lerner’s The Bridge Ladies for Mothers Day. Its a memoir of Betsy and her mother and her mother’s best friends.

    10. Mela*

      A few months ago, my MIL came to visit halfway around the world and we took her all around and took time off work etc. It was her first trip out of the US and over all a really big deal. I just finished a photobook of the whole trip and just submitted it in time for the Mother’s Day deadline. It took at least 8 hours designing it because I’m a perfectionist and my eyes may be still bleeding a little bit, but I know she’s going to love it. Feeling kind of guilty because my own mom is getting something relatively lame in comparison (but she will love it).

    11. SL #2*

      I’m on a hunt for a pair of green gemstone earrings… funny thing about my mom: she hates expensive jewelry. Something about how she loses jewelry constantly so what’s the point in expensive stuff, blah, blah, blah. So she wants a pair of cheap green gemstone earrings… which are a lot harder to find than you’d expect. I went to Nordstrom Rack today and there was nothing.

    12. Rye-Ann*

      What I WISH I could give my mom is a new immune system. She’s basically been sick (on and off, but it seems like mostly on) all winter and it hasn’t stopped even though it’s technically* spring. She also just learned that she has had bronchitis for a few weeks. She does work with small children, so a couple colds are inevitable but it’s just getting ridiculous! :(

      Unfortunately I don’t think there’s much I can do to make that better, so I am probably going to get her some chocolate, and if she’s up for it maybe we can go out to eat (or get take-out maybe?).

      *It did snow here earlier this week, so I’m not 100% sure it’s appropriate to call this “spring.” But it’s also May, so no one would know I was referring to recent times if I just said winter. XD

    13. Lindsay J*

      I can’t see my mom because I live too far away, but I’m planning on sending her flowers, and probably taking a nice picture of me and my boyfriend to send to her as well.

    14. Rebecca in Dallas*

      My mom just got to see Hamilton on Broadway (so jealous!) so I got her the Hamilton: The Revolution book (about the making of the stage production). I might get her something else, too, but haven’t decided what. We are going to a nice brunch on Mothers’ Day as well.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        And UGH Mothers’ Day with my MIL is already fraught with drama. I have no idea what we’re getting her, that’s my husband’s problem.

  6. The Other Dawn*

    Any tomato growing tips? I started seeds for cherry tomatoes and have a ton of little seedlings. I have to transplant to little pots now and find a sunny window, which should be fun with 11 cats :) I want to dig a garden for them. When should I transplant to the garden? And any tips for having a tomato garden?

    I also started daisies and purple coneflowers from seeds, which are starting to germinate. Those are going around the yard. I have a very old house and want some flowers that look like they’ve been there for years.

    1. Kay*

      Mostly following because this is my first year growing from seed and I am utterly lost. I’d love to have people with actual know-how weigh in!

    2. danr*

      Find out when the last frost usually comes and wait a bit. Frost will kill the tomato plants instantly. A trick that my father used to prevent weeds and save water was to put down landscape cloth over the tilled soil, cut holes in it and then plant. He also made round cages about five feet high to hold the tomatoes off the ground. You can buy similar ones from the Gardeners Supply Company (link in reply). They’re in Vermont, but don’t have stores. You may find similar cages locally. Also, don’t use a high nitrogen fertilizer, or you’ll have a lot of leaves and not many tomatoes.
      Good luck and have fun.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          LOOVE GS. I don’t know if they still do, but they used to have tent sales. The bargains were terrific. Get a $20 item for $2. We used to go up and do our Christmas shopping.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Agreed about the frost. Up here in Canadia, the big planting weekend is May 24th, which also happens to be a long weekend.

        When we had a garden, we used to make little cardboard collars for the young tomato plants for something called a cutworm. I don’t know if they worked, but I never saw one of these cutworm things. Supposedly, the cutworm comes along the ground and gnaws through the tomato plant stem like a beaver. Essentially the collars were cereal boxes that we made into a circle about 2″ wide. They were also handy for watering because you could fill up the cardboard if you were patient. By the time the plant is old enough, the stem is too large/thick for these cutworms.

        Also, the thing with cherry tomatoes is that you will never get all of the fruit. Be prepared to have cherry tomatoes again next year from the dropped seeds!

        1. Mephyle*

          We had cutworms! Did we ever have them. We killed so many cutworms.

          You can tell you have them when you find your seedlings in the morning bitten off at ground level. If you do have cutworms, you have to dig around the seedlings to find the cutworms and kill them. They hang out at a very shallow depth, just under the soil surface. If you don’t find and eliminate them, the collars just pen the worm in with the seedlings.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            When we would plant the tomatoes, which we bought at the garden centre, the collar would have to be buried about an inch down into the ground. So it was dig, collar around, plant, firm in place, water. I’ve never seen one of these cutworms, so I guess it worked!

          2. Nye*

            Aha! You’ve just solved my garden mystery! The sunflower seedlings were being cut down at soil height but not eaten – drove me nuts because I couldn’t figure out what was doing it. (We have rabbits but I figured they would nibble the leaves instead of just dropping the whole plant.)

            Time to put some collars on all the plants, sounds like. Thank you, Mephyle!

            1. Mephyle*

              Cutworms can only bite through the stem of the plant when it’s very small and tender. Once it gets beyond the two-leaf seedling stage (or a little beyond, depending on the plant), it’s too tough for them. They go after the seedlings that have just emerged.

    3. LisaLee*

      Make sure to trim any leaves that drag on the ground, because this can contribute to some tomato diseases. I’ve also found that leaving a little extra space between the plants helps them stay healthier, but I have no idea if that’s actually valid or just coincidence.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is valid. The idea is that crawling insects and molds use the branches touching the ground as highways to attack the plant. Granted they can go up the stem, but why give them more ways of access?

        Good air circulation and good light are the first pest controls to use.

        Another good pest control is even watering. Don’t let them sit in a swamp of water but don’t let them get desert dry either. If you get a lot of cracked tomatoes it is because of uneven watering. If you get a torrential down pour, there’s not a lot you can do except avoid watering until the soil is actually dried out to the depth of about 1 inch.

    4. Tris Prior*

      Wait until there’s no chance of frost before you put them in the ground. I don’t put line in until around Memorial Day even though our last frost date is supposedly May 15.

      When you plant them, plant them as deeply as you can. Like, so deep that most of the stem is underground. The plant will make more roots from its stem, which will strengthen it.

      Definitely cage or stake them as once they get big enough they cannot support themselves.

      Not sure how invested you are in this, but I find my seedlings do way better under a grow light than in a window. They need strong light close to them. If they are in a window, even in full sun, they will reach for the light and get spindly. If that happens, planting them deeply does help, but the grow light does result in stronger plants, in my experience.

    5. Soil Sally*

      A few thoughts from tomato experience:
      1. Warmer soil temperatures are best and you are going to have better results when your nighttime temperatures are over 50 degrees consistently.
      2. Harden off your seedlings before transplanting outside. I have a sheltered area under a tree I take my seedlings to every day, gradually increasing the time outside and the sun levels every day for a week or so before transplanting.
      3. As others have mentioned: cutworm collars. I use chopped up toilet paper tubes. Classy, but efficient. Cutworms eat at the base of plants, so a tube a half inch under the soil and just above the top of toil will prevent problems.
      4. Mulch! Crumbled dried leaves from healthy trees works great. I like to splurge and buy a bag of cocoa hulls because I love the smell and the look.
      5. Water in the mornings. If you have a mister setting on your hose nozzle, use that to gently and deeply water your seedlings. If you are watering by can, consider filling the can the previous day to let the chlorine in municipal water dissipate. If you have drip irrigation, please come by and set something up for me!
      6. While your plants are growing, inspect the leaves and stems for worms/caterpillars. The tomato hornworm can do a lot of damage unchecked.
      7. Depending upon what tomato variety you planted, you will likely need a support of some kind. I use sturdy tomato cages. Read about your tomato variety and put your supports up while the plants are young so you are not disturbing the root systems later.
      8. Tomatoes love sun. Plant accordingly. My neighbor insisted on planting his tomatoes near his house’s foundation in heavy, boggy soil, in an area that got maybe 2 hours of sun a day. They never had a chance. Which is probably for the best, because our houses were built in the 40’s and there is probably significant soil levels of lead for a few feet around.
      9. Tomatoes are fun to grow and it soooo worth it to have vine ripe tomatoes from your own garden!!

      1. Natalie*

        Cocoa hulls are lovely and smell great, but PSA – avoid if you have outside pets (dogs or cats). They have a high level of theobromine.

    6. SAHM*

      I’ve never actually had any issues with growing tomatoes, except when you grow too many and are trying to figure out who you can give them away too. I had too many tomatoes last year, so this year I only planted 4 only to discover a week later that I have a couple two inch volunteer tomato plants growing up amid the basil. Oh well. I tend to get a lot of volunteers though, my spaghetti squash last year was a volunteer, I thought it was a pumpkin for the longest time, and I had a pumpkin that grew along the edge of my lawn so that I had to move the vines to mow. I got a basketball sized pumpkin out of that one though! This year it’s just a few tomatoes, some random sunflowers, and a green bean that’s growing up the side of my compost bin.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I have a giant potato plant growing up the side of my compost bin right now!

    7. Katie the Fed*

      I just picked up some tomato plants yesterday and I’m dreaming of them now. I LOVE tomatoes. I can eat a half pound of cherry tomatoes a day in the summer.

      I probably didn’t prep the soil enough this year in my new house, but I’m going to do my best. My tips – throw a handful of Espoma organic fertilizer in when you plant, and a tablespoon of Epsom salts. Same with peppers. Bury the tomato plants pretty deep so they get a nice strong root system, and support them (I’m building cages today).

      What kinds are you planting? I’m planning on 1 Sun Gold, 2 Sun Sugar, 2 SuperSweet 100s, 2 Purple Cherokees, 1 black krim, and a few other heirloom varieties I picked up yesterday. Did I mention I love tomatoes?

      1. the gold digger*

        You have just named all the tomatoes I get! I like the heirloom brands and I love the SuperSweets and the SunGolds. I stand in the garden in August and eat them straight from the vine.

        Tomatoes are the basis for my entire gardening strategy. I grow tomatoes, basil, arugula, and fancy lettuce. That’s it. I grow things that taste better when grown at home or are too expensive to buy at the store.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I’m doing mostly tomatoes, but going to put in a few zucchinis, a few varieties of peppers, and one eggplant. With the chili peppers I want to smoke and grind them as use them for cooking and gifts. And my husband loves bell peppers even though I detest them.

          Next year I want to build some raised beds so I can maximize yields and start earlier. Plus one bed devoted to asparagus.

          I don’t grow cruciferous veggies anymore – I did brussels sprouts one year and they were an epic disaster with all the bugs. I didn’t have the patience or inclination to pick bugs off. I prefer lower maintenance gardening.

          Did I mention I love tomatoes?

    8. The Other Dawn*

      Thanks for all the tips! I’m on the road and will read it all later, but any thoughts on raised beds? Would that make life easier? This is the first time I’m doing a garden and I’m feeling nervous and a little overwhelmed.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Am not sure how high you want to raise them. But most raised beds mean more watering as they dry out quicker.

        I would have to do raised beds here because I have crappy soil and possible pollution. I am dragging my heels on this one. I have gotten as far as considering locust wood for the walls.

        If you do raised beds consider narrow strips wide enough to get your lawn mower in between. This will save you a ton of weeding.
        I think that soaker hoses waste less water than over head watering. There are advantages or disadvantages to each. But with more places having problems with water you may want to consider a plan where you will eventually add rain barrels or something to get the most use of the available water.

    9. The Other Dawn*

      Thanks again, everyone! I’ll check out the resources mentioned here. I plan to dig the garden next week during my vacation. I’m in CT, so I’m thinking it’s still too early to plant the seedling and should wait a few more weeks. I’m a but nervous about this whole gardening thing, because I can sometimes get pretty lazy with anything having to do with landscaping, plants, etc.–weeds just grow and grow until I finally get around to taking care of them, which then requires a ton of work and I get fed up.

  7. Amber Rose*

    I’m a booth bunny this weekend haha. Running the club booth at the Comic Expo in between wandering. So no steampunk gear this year sadly. Just my samurai outfit. And the Clow Cards I spent too much money on. >_>

    I’ll be narrating our club demo tomorrow, wish me luck!

    1. Al Lo*

      Have fun! I’m missing Comic Expo this year, which I’m really sad about, but I’m loving all the pics on Facebook!

  8. anonanonanon*

    Anyone have recommendations for growing herbs in an apartment without a porch/roof/balcony? I technically have flowerboxes outside my window, but I’m in a street level apartment and all my flowers or herbs have been picked or stolen whenever I’ve put them there, so I want to try growing within my apartment.

    I have a nice window that gets sunlight, but what do people recommend as the best herbs or what type of pots or jars to use. Any tips would be helpful!

    1. alex*

      Living in apartments, I’ve done mint, parsley, and rosemary indoors pretty well. Others that supposedly work are sage and thyme. So basically the S&G song. I think you want a south-facing window if possible. Good luck!

    2. Thinking out loud*

      Basil works if you get enough sun. It is no fun to grow from seed, so I’d buy a start or two.

    3. Natalie*

      It’s super easy, don’t overthink it. Any kind of pot with a hole in the bottom will work (put a plate under it) and just get regular potting soil. (You might want to repot periodically so keep some soil around.) I’ve grown chives, basil, oregano, thyme, mint, lettuce and other microgreens. Didn’t have much luck with parsley, it always seemed to turn yellow and die over time. Go figure.

    4. BRR*

      I got my husband a 3 pot hydro planter from modern sprout and it’s great. It’s self watering. The basil in it is kicking butt.

    5. Sara smile*

      Growing herbs is a passion of mine. Yay!

      Besides basil, most herbs aren’t worth the hassle of growing from seed. For example thyme is extremely slow growing from seed and will take you two years to have a decent plant that you can actually take regular cuttings from. I would start with actual plants just because it is easiest and you can start using them immediately. The exception to this is basil which grows very quickly from seed.

      Pot set up – rocks in the bottom of the pot. About two inches worth. I then throw in charcoal pieces here – you can get this is pet stores for aquarium filtration systems. The charcoal helps prevent fungus if you ever overwater. Pot size is important especially given the size of your plants. Most people tend to pick pots that are two small. IKEA has some good pots (kardemumma), and you want the ones that are a little bigger than your outstretched hand.

      Dirt – most dirt is too compact, which impacts the roots. You want to aim for 1/3 potting mix, 1/3 compost, 1/3 perlite. Also you will be eating your herbs so I would recommend getting organic potting mix and compost.

      Food – you should regularly feed your herbs. Every two months or so. Again get an organic herb food that is specifically geared towards herbs I.e. Plants that will be eaten.

      Water- do not overwater! You only want to water when you dig your finger in the dirt and it feels dry about an inch down. For the most part (and if you right sized pot) you should be watering every 5-7 days. You will want to water deeply (I.e. The water hits all the way to your rocks) and then you re water only once your plant has literally used up most of the water in the pot. Watering deeply promotes deep root growth and a healthier plant. Drying out the plant will prevent root rot, which will also be prevented because you won’t have compacted soil. You can also get a black fungus fly if you overwater. They have very annoying and hard to get rid of.

      Pruning!!- pruning your plant is super important to get a full, dense plant rather than a sparse, leggy one. If you prune correctly, it means you can really use your herbs all the time without ruining your plants. For example, I get about 6-8 cups of basil leaves out of one pot every WEEK because I have pruned.

      The gist of pruning is this – you wait until your basil plant has 4 sets of leaves. Once it starts sprouting its 5th and 6th set, you cut off the plant above, the 4th set. The plant will then fork at the 4th set of leaves, so where there was just your one branch, you now have two branches. You wait until it sprouts 3 sets of leaves on each of its two branches. As it sprouts it’s 4th set of leaves on its two sets of branches, you cut off above the 3rd set of leaves. It will then fork. Now you have 4 branches off of the one original plant, thus you have a much fuller plant.

      One more thing about pruning, whenever one of your herb plants starts to flower, you need to cut off the flowering bit. Flowering is the last stage of the plants life cycle, if allowed to flower, the plant diverts its resources to the flower, then once it’s done, the plant basically shuts down and dies. If you dead-head the flower, you trick the plant and it just carries on. Basil again in particular flowers easily so pick those off!

      Ok I think that’s it for now. Sorry so long. I love my herbs and spend a lot of time on them. I also grow lavender, sunflowers and catnip (less well) if you have questions on any of those too.

      1. anonanonanon*

        Wow, this was super helpful. I’m copying and pasting it into a google doc to keep as a reference. THANKS!

  9. alex*

    Does anyone know the best way to attach stuff to a plaster wall? (I think it’s called a plaster wall…) I live in NYC in a two-family home built in the 1920s and painted several times by friendors of the owner. When I attempt to hammer frame-hangers or anything else (like door latches) to the walls, they crack, splinter, and just get mutilated. And I still can’t get the nail/screw in, so I can’t cover up the damage with the thing I was planning to hang. So I’ve been taping up photos and cards over the damage, but now it’s looking like an asinine dorm-room, and we’re in our 30s.

    Sorry my architectural speak is so terrible; this is hard to describe when you are a literature teacher, and my partner is as dim as I am about this stuff and has created some wall damage, too.

    Any knowledge on how to fix the damage– and avoid it– but still hang stuff??

    1. Jack the treacle eater*

      The damage to the wall, you should be able to buy fillers (e.g. Polyfilla etc. in the UK) which can be easily spread into the cracks and papered and painted over.

      Proper picture nails should go in without damaging the plaster, but might not with old plaster in poor condition. There are various hanging methods designed to be damage free, check your local DIY or hardware store.

      For more serious fixings you may need to drill and fit plugs (plastic things you push into the drill hole and screw into – the screw expands them and pushes the plug against the side of the hole to provide grip)

      I don’t quite understand why you’re trying to nail door latches to the wall…

      1. Jen*

        The plugs are called “wall anchors” if you need to ask for them :-). And yes, they are the right too for the job. Insert anchor THEN insert screw or nail. They are a b*tch to take out so measure carefully!!

          1. Too much cheese*

            Actually I think mollies may be a bit different. A molly bolt goes through wall board and has wings that spread out on the other side. This would not work for plaster.

            1. Natalie*

              Molly was originally the wing-bolts (it was a brand name) but I think the term has migrated to the plastic anchors as well. I always heard it used for them.

      2. dragonzflame*

        I think in the US they call Polyfilla ‘spackle’. In NZ it’s Spakfilla – just a brand name – and it is one of my favourite homeowner things. It’s very satisfying to fill holes. It is also satisfying to make them…. ;-)

    2. the gold digger*

      I always put a piece of Scotch tape over the place I wanted to put a nail to keep the plaster from cracking, but I have also become very handy at replastering and touching up paint. :)

      It’s been a long time since I have done any messing with the walls, but I remember there are special screws – first you put a plastic holder in – for plaster. If you have an old-timey hardware store staffed with people who actually know this stuff, they will be able to show you the right way.

      1. Jessica (tc)*

        We used painter’s tape when we were inserting picture nails into a plaster wall. It worked well to keep the cracking and dust down.

    3. GH in SoCAl*

      If your walls have moldings, you can get special hooks that hang off the molding and then use picture wire to run from there to your framed art. They’re called molding hooks and my mother has pretty brass ones that she’s had since the 50’s. The ones they make today are less attractive but they work.

      The trick about putting scotch tape on the spot you’re going to put in a nail is a good one, too. (And use high-quality picture nails.)

      1. Jessica (tc)*

        Yes! Check for picture rails, which use these systems as well. A lot of older homes with plaster walls have (or had) picture rails for this reason.

    4. Not Karen*

      I don’t know anything about fixing damage, but I like Command products for hanging things. Not just for renters. :)

      1. Lydia*

        These are great, they have ones that hold up to 12lbs, I use the hooks and picture hanging strips (like Velcro) for everything!

      2. V dubs*

        My old apartment was plaster walls, and the landlord wouldn’t allow command hooks because he had experienced them bringing down more of the wall. It is in the lease not to use it.

        1. Natalie*

          I can’t think how a command hook would take down any wall, much less more than a nail. It makes no sense based on how they work. I wonder if someone was less than honest about what they had used to hang things.

          They can damage paint, especially if the apartment gets really hot. The paint underneath the command hook will bubble.

        2. TootsNYC*

          If they’re not removed properly they can bring down a little bit more than intended. but if the whole wall is coming down, there’s something wrong with the wall.

    5. paramilitarykeet*

      I lived in an old building with iffy plaster and used 1″ masonry nails (round) with the tape trick that the gold digger mentioned. These are thick, tough nails intended for bricks. They will leave a large nail hole behind, but that is fairly easy to plug and fill. I am not sure that this is officially sanctioned by DIY experts, but it worked for me. I was able to hang some fairly heavy artwork.

      1. paramilitarykeet*

        I was able to use a regular hammer and elbow grease, but you are right–when I lived in Sweden, one apartment had concrete walls and they let me borrow the massive electric hammer /drill / from the university lab. It was like a huge laser gun. Hammer and masonry nail wasn’t going to cut it.

  10. Jack the treacle eater*

    Lannister & Stark = Lancaster and York (Wars of the Roses)
    Robert Baratheon = Edward IV
    Eddard Stark = Richard, Duke of York
    Cersei Baratheon = Margaret of Anjou
    Jeoffrey Baratheon = Richard II
    Red Wedding = Douglas murdered by James II, Campbells murdered by McDonalds (not the burger chain!)
    Varys = Walsingham
    Night’s Watch = Knights Templar
    Unsullied = Mameluks


    1. JaneB*

      I quit reading game of thrones part way through Volume 2 cos it seemed like he just wanted to write a brutal and gory version of medieval Europe without actually doing the research needed to write good historical fiction (and because most of his hordes of characters are cardboard and boring to me) – not watched the series but definitely agree there are many parallels!

      1. Honeybee*

        yes Yes YES

        Also because he desperately needed a good editor, and nobody was providing that service. He started making up inconsequential secondary characters and giving them names that were very similar to main characters, splitting the story line up into dozens of tiny little threads, and describing battles in very great detail. It’s all so dense that it’s very difficult to skip what you don’t need to read in order to understand the plot. And yes, ironically as he got more characters they became a lot less interesting.

        1. JaneB*

          Why do so many authors start ignoring their editors a few books in? (Cough JK Rowling cough)

          1. going anon to be safe*

            In my experience, if an author makes a lot of money for the company they’re generally given free reign to do whatever they want. My colleagues and I always joke that GRRM would be a nightmare author to have as an editor (and tbh the people I know who’ve worked on his stuff really, really dislike him for a lot of reasons).

            Editors don’t really have much say sometimes, especially for big name authors. A lot of them are absolute jerks to work with.

      2. Amadeo*

        Oh gosh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one that got lost after the third book. I only enjoyed the first book, but by the end of that one I was so confused. I only finished A Feast for Crows because I was captive with it in a car for 12 hours. Dance with Dragons is sitting on my nightstand with a bookmark in it where I left it like two or three years ago.

        Nearly all of the characters I thought were important were dead by then or had lost their minds or some other stupid disaster and the only clear direction I could ever glean from the whole thing was that ‘winter is coming’ and that was IT. I like a good story, but I like to get a general sense of what we’re building toward too. Reading A Song of Ice and Fire feels like the literary equivalent of bumping into a bunch of walls and corners in a badly thought out maze.

  11. LiteralGirl*

    On Wednesday I tore my gastrocnemius muscle while running for the bus. I’m thankful for: my amazing husband who met me at the bus stop with ice packs, urgent care (which took a few hours but only cost a $15 copayment), and my coworker (who brought me lunch and water. I made it to my scheduled interview the next day on crutches.
    I must say this, though: forced inactivity sucks! I’ve done as much as I can of the housework and now have to listen to activity going on in the rest of the house.
    Things could be worse, though, so I should count my lucky stars, huh?

    1. Camellia*

      Ouch! My husband did that a couple of years ago, on his right leg, which sucked because he could not then drive. Took a surprising long time to heal but then he is a slow healer; hopefully you will do much better!

    2. Christy*

      Make sure you give yourself enough time to be upset. Because yeah, it could be way worse, but it still sucks. (This is coming from me having to reassure people that my luggage getting stolen isn’t a huge deal when it isn’t, really, but it still definitely sucks. So basically, I support your right to be upset.)

    3. Mimmy*

      I had to look it up – oooooh that sounds painful!! Wishing you a speedy recovery! Glad you were able to make it to your interview.

    4. fposte*

      Ouch! I did that. I heard it happen–it was like the sound of tearing velvet. And I had to go on a business trip in two days :-(.

      It did heal pretty quickly, though, so I hope yours does too.

  12. Audiophile*

    Yesterday, I finished the second part of my allergy testing. I was told I have a dust allergy. This all started last month when I went to a local ENT practice, because I noticed a significant reduction in hearing. That turned out to be ear wax, but the doctor said he believes I have mild acid reflux and then ordered allergy testing since I’d never been tested. I expected they’d find an allergy to bugs like mosquitoes, since I have reactions to any kind of bite or sting by an insect, but that came back negative.

    They recommended I order a case for my mattress and pillows. And get an air purifier.

    Has anyone noticed an improvement in their allergies?

    I’d consider mine pretty mild. Sometimes my eyes will water, rarely in the house, mostly at work or other environments.

    1. anonanonanon*

      I ordered an allergy case for my mattress and pillows after I was diagnosed with a dust allergy and it definitely helped! I used to have a lot of trouble falling asleep or sneezing in bed and that went away quickly. I haven’t tried an air purifier yet.

      The only other thing I recommend is to step up dusting/sweeping/vacuuming because dust accumulates so quickly and in the weirdest places, and that wrecks havoc on my allergies (even though dusting and sweeping usually makes my allergies worse because all the dust gets scattered).

      1. Audiophile*

        I tend to sneeze a lot after dusting too. This is of course because the dust particles have been spread around.

        I’ll definitely try the mattress case, need to order a new mattress and pillows first.

        1. anonanonanon*

          Also, I forgot to mention this earlier, but Febreeze has an allergen reducer spray that’s worked wonders for my couch, curtains, and bedsheets.

    2. danr*

      Get a vacuum with a HEPA filter. It will remove much of the dust. Just make sure you empty the canister into a plastic garbage bag or the dust will just re-spread.

        1. Natalie*

          IIRC that is a good brand for dust allergies. The bagless kind are often worse due to the dust cloud you get when emptying it

          1. Audiophile*

            I’ve seen the Dyson and Shark commercials, but I always wondered if you could really empty it so easily as they claimed in the commercials.

            I’ll have to look and see what model we have and if Miele sells a HEPA filter for that model.

            I was in Kohl’s but couldn’t find any decent covers for a mattress or pillows. There’s no point in doing anything until I purchase a new mattress and pillows anyway.

            1. Natalie*

              In my experience, no. There’s always a dust cloud when you open the canister.

              I have a Dyson I got *very* cheap years ago, but if I had paid full price I would have been pretty disappointed.

    3. Cordelia Longfellow*

      I’ve got dust allergies (along with a whole host of other environmental allergies). Mattress and pillow covers really help, and I’ve got a couple of HEPA filters in my flat. My allergies are bad enough that I’ve had to hire a housecleaner to clean while I’m not at home. But with milder symptoms, a vacuum with a HEPA filter should be enough to reduce/prevent reactions.

      1. Audiophile*

        I’d say my allergies are pretty bad at work, I think worse than at home. The office gets a major cleaning once a year. There’s no escaping it there.

        We have dehumidifiers around the house. My mom has asthma, so she’s pretty diligent on having us “kids” clean the house. I have old carpeting in my bedroom, which I’m sure contributes to my allergies and the house is generally damp, because it’s so close to a man made lake.

        I just vacuumed tonight, as I was noticing dust starting to creep up. We have quite a few animals – 2 dogs, a cat, a guinea pig.

    4. Dot Warner*

      If you don’t already, wash your sheets on hot water. This kills dust mites, which is one of the bigger causes of dust allergies.

    5. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      Depending on the age of your house (apartments might be trickier), you might consider duct cleaning. I called up our plumber/hvac for a recommendation. In our 1926 bungalow with gigantic floor grates, it has reduced the amount of dust in the house significantly. I can actually see a difference in the number of dust motes in shafts of sunlight, and we used to have to dust a lot — twice a week. May not be worth it in newer houses. I also have a Miele canister vac and it is really tight (no blowback of dust into the house) even without a HEPA filter. You can tell because the dust bag chamber is really clean when you change the bag. They do have that reputation, too.

      1. Audiophile*

        I believe the house was built in 1920, but it was built by the original owner who had no real knowledge of what he was doing. It’s a brick house, not properly insulated, the plumbing is backwards, etc. I can only imagine what duct cleaning would cost and I know my mother doesn’t have the money for it (she’s retired). Thanks for the recommendation though. I’ll try easier stuff first and see if I notice a difference.

    6. Observer*

      Also, for the reflux, read Dropping Acid by Jamie A. Koufman, Jordan Stern, and Marc Michel Bauer

    1. (different) Rebecca*

      I love that “Oh, I’ve got to groom for 3 seconds!” pause. SO adorable.

      1. danr*

        Oops… I thought it was Eve, but then used they name on the video. I’ll trust my memory next time.

      2. LeRainDrop*

        My cat Roni just loved Eve’s video! She was watching intently, tilting her head, and then crawling around my laptop to try to find Eve.

    2. SAHM*

      Love Eve! She’s so adorable! My cat Abby does this, Gibbs is more “KILL KILL KILL- hear noise dash under couch!” Type. Silly kitten, he’s a cuddle boy though!

  13. CherylBlossom*

    Just came out the other side of 6 months of tons of overtime for a really intense project (working until 9-10 every night, and weekends). Project is over – now not quite sure what to do with myself! Ideas for what to fill my extra time with? I feel like I’m learning how to be a regular human being again. :)

    1. Camellia*

      Well, first off, REST! Lots and lots of rest. Then the things you used to do will start coming back to you. Maybe book some salon appointments for hair, or manicure/pedicure, whatever you haven’t really had the time to do to take care of yourself. Rediscover an exercise class. Or your favorite books or tv shows.

      1. CherylBlossom*

        Thank you :) it’s so hard to just be at a normal pace again. I keep thinking – “I should be doing something!!”

        I was thinking about signing up for an exercise class so I’ll definitely look into that :)

    2. Maya Elena*

      I’d recommend either a dance or marital arts class.

      Martial arts vary, and some are more cult-ish than others, some more hands-on than others, some more expensive than others. I like something where you really get to fight or grapple (jujitsu, judo) – it is a really good workout and an even better stress reliever (and, if you’re looking to meet someone, it’s mostly men :D). People are generally very open to teaching you, very excited to have you join, and very supportive in general.

      Dancing is also great, especially if you are a girl. Being a girl means you don’t have the responsibility of leading in most settings, so you can do most of your learning in real time, dancing in a social setting with more the more experienced (this particularly applies to stuff like salsa or swing). But if you need to drag a recalcitrant date along, contra- or square dancing is excellent – no prior knowledge required.

  14. The Sugar Plum Fairy*

    Normally, I’m not one for crash diets but I’m desperate here. I’m getting married in less than a month and need to drop 5-10 lbs. Any ideas for doing this in a reasonable way?

    1. Jen*

      My SIL had great luck cutting carbs. She lost over 60lbs in a year and IIRC the first few weeks were 10-15lbs.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Am chuckling I dropped the carbs and lost three sizes in two weeks. I only lost 4 pounds though.

        1. Callie*

          Carbs make you hold on to water, so it’s entirely possible that cutting carbs made you less bloated which would translate into a smaller size but not actually very much weight loss.

    2. Cristina in England*

      A healthy weight loss rate is something like 1/2 pound to a pound a week. You’re better off focusing on being really well rested and well hydrated so that your skin looks great, and also make sure everything you wear is something you love and is the right size. Getting that right will make you look like a million dollars.

      1. nep*

        +1 sleep and hydration (in addition to countless other benefits both will help weight loss too)
        I always feel leaner when I spend a good period of time not eating anything throughout the evening after dinner. Nice decaf teas help when there’s a craving for a snack.
        All the best to you.

      2. neverjaunty*

        So much this. You’re not going to get to the altar and have your husband say “damn, did you not lose 5 pounds? the wedding’s off” (or if he DOES, well, you’re better off).

    3. h.cowl*

      So, I got married 6 months ago or so, and let me tell you those last 4 weeks were some of the most stressful of my life. I know this not what you asked but are you sure you want to add that stress in too? Is there any chance you can alter your dress/suit to fit you, rather than try to drop weight last minute? Congratulations on your marriage and may you be happy together for many years.

    4. (different) Rebecca*

      Avoid alcohol, carbonated things, watch salt intake, and anything that makes you feel bloated.

      1. AnotherTeacher*

        It sounds like 5-10 pounds could be the difference between feeling fine and feeling really good in your wedding outfit. I’m also assuming you’re already at a healthy weight, because it’s an overall small target loss. With those two assumptions in mind…

        -Cutting the above works. If cutting carbs too much is not feasible, try to consume them earlier in the day.
        -Fill up on more vegetables, which will cause some initial bloat but help with weight loss if you are not adding calories in dressing, sauces, etc. Closer to the date, return to your regular veg intake to avoid potential bloat.
        -If you increase exercise, I recommend yoga, which will help with posture, thus making you look slimmer. It will also help with stress reduction and muscle tone. Too much cardio may make you hungrier.

    5. The Sugar Plum Fairy*

      And this is probably a really stupid question, but what about exercise? I’m already active several times a week but its pretty low impact stuff (i.e. walking, light weight training, etc.). Any ideas other than running for picking up the pace and possibly slimming down in the process?

      1. Christy*

        Weight loss is like 80% diet. More strenuous exercise helps, definitely, and it also makes you feel like a badass. Oh, and it helps with the pre-wedding stress. But it’s not the golden ticket.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        Add in abdominal/core exercises- strengthening the core also helps with posture and “sucking in”.

    6. Momiitz*

      I have been dropping weight and waist size by taking a spin class and cardio barre class. Eat well with lots of veggies some fruit and drink lots of water. Cut out soda completely. Cut out any bored eating.

      I did a lot of bored eating and now I go for a walk on my work breaks instead of sitting in the break room in eating from the vending machine .

    7. CherylBlossom*

      So, I love this book called “Slim Calm Sexy Diet” – this isn’t a diet, but more of a healthy eating plan. There’s a 3-day “detox” (I hate that term, it’s more of a kickstart to eating healthy). Depending on your body type and exercise levels, you could loose some weight on this. I did this book about 2 years ago and still go back to it when I want to slim down a bit. My favorite part is that it’s built to reduce stress! It’s written by Keri Glassman a nutritionist. http://www.amazon.com/Slim-Calm-Sexy-Diet-Strategies-ebook/dp/B007K7Z6Q4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1402179764&sr=8-2&keywords=keri+glassman

      I hate cheesy fad diets, and have never been on one. I was leery about this, but after reading the book and following the plan, I think it’s a really holistic way about looking at nutrition.

    8. Christy*

      There’s not a reasonable way to lose 10 lbs in a month.

      Major empathy–I lost weight to fit in my dress and it was stressful. I had a backup in case, but I really wanted to wear the goal dress. At wedding time, I would have preferred to be about five pounds slimmer, but I got the dress on, and it still looked good.

      So thought 1–can you get your dress on? Because if you can, your radiant smile will totally outshine any excess weight. I didn’t totally believe it until I got my pics back but dude, you totally don’t see the weight I wanted to lose. Even I don’t see it.

      Thought 2–have you been dieting already? If you haven’t, starting something like Weight Watchers will probably get you those five pounds off. Starting a diet is usually a nice jump start to weight loss.

      Thought 3–really, I would not do a crash diet right before the wedding. They’re right that it’s stressful. Food helps with it–hangry is not a good way to be that month.

      Thought 4–exercise definitely makes the stress better. I’d up your exercise just for the endorphins.

      Thought 5–if you MUST cut the weight, do a sensible diet until a week before the wedding, then do a cleanse or fast or something until the rehearsal dinner. Once that hits, don’t eat everything in sight, but eat a real meal.

      And congratulations on your wedding! Just think, in a month you’ll be done with wedding stress!

      1. Callie*

        No, no cleanses or fasts. That will just leave her tired and cranky from low blood sugar. “Cleanses” are completely unnecessary and are terrible for the body.

    9. CherylBlossom*

      I posted a comment already but I think it might be in moderation because I included a link (or I deleted instead of posting…)

      There’s this amazing book called “slim calm sexy diet” by Keri Glassman. It’s not so much a diet as a healthy eating plan. The best thing is that it’s designed to help eliminate stress (which might help out this month leading up to your wedding!).

      I did it three years ago and felt so much more healthy – it’s more about being slim that dropping weight. I highly recommend it even though it sounds kinda cheesy. Best nutrition book I’ve purchased. Still reference the recipes on a weekly basis!

    10. GiantPanda*

      It sounds just barely doable if you can cut 1000 kcal per day from your diet. This would mean cutting all portions in half (including drinks – replace those by water or other calorie-free liquids). Exercise / Wedding stress might help a bit. But I wouldn’t call that reasonable, more like a dangerously unhealthy unsustainable way of losing weight.

    11. Sunflower*

      My friends’s do the Isagenix 30 days cleanse every January. They are taller ladies (5’8-5’11) and athletically built. They drop between 15-30 lbs in a month on it. I think you do protein shakes as 2 meals/day then salad or something similar for lunch. Definitely will gain back the weight once you finish but it works! And they aren’t totally miserable during that time.

      A less intense version of this may be just cutting all carbs and sticking with proteins and veggies. Protein shakes as meal replacements in general should help.

    12. Mephyle*

      Controlling carbs sets up a positive feedback (ha!) loop, because the less carbs you eat, the less you crave them.
      Fill up with leafy green things. Eat a protein-rich, breakfast with little or no carbs. Don’t drink calories. Eat as much fresh food and as little processed food as possible.
      These are all strategies that will help whatever diet or plan you choose.

    13. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Is this an ‘oh no I can’t fit into my dress’ need for a diet or an ‘I’d like to be thinner for pictures’ diet? If it’s the first one, get yourself to a seamstress pronto and get the dress altered while you have time. Life is too short for this type of panic. If it’s the latter, then I’d really recommend you let it go and focus on enjoying your day. It really won’t make a difference in the long run. That said… Most diets can be summed up as “eat more vegetables” so do that. Don’t buy into the whole idea of drinking copious glasses of water but drink an extra glass each day and replace one calorie beverage with water. Get plenty of sleep. At a meal, dish up a serving of everything, keeping in mind half your plate should be veg and a quarter each of starch and protein, then eat and pause before deciding on seconds. Only have dessert if it is absolutely worth it. Offer yourself an opportunity to eat every 3 hours while you’re awake and consider the kitchen closed in the meantime. Each time you eat make sure to include protein, fat and carbohydrates. Snacks are like a mini meal. Add a few more strength-building exercises and do just enough cardio for stress relief. And designate a trusted friend to be the Handler of all Problems on your wedding day. I hope you have a great day and a wonderful marriage!

    14. Mando Diao*

      I lost about 5 lbs without trying when I cut sugar from my coffee. Now I drink it with creamer only. I was sick of sweet, rich foods after the holidays and started skipping the sugar. If you can handle the change in taste, is that a shift you could make?

    15. Callie*

      A crash diet will just make you tired and you’re going to look and feel terrible–and stress will make you gain weight. You are better off getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of water, and eating fewer carbs (not eliminating them entirely). Dropping 10 lbs in a month is not healthy.

    16. CMT*

      You just need to count your calories and eat less than you expend. You’ll need a fairly decent deficit to drop 2 pounds/week.

  15. Jen*

    We are having friends over for brunch. There will be a total of 3 kids (3,6,8) and 4 adults. My big plan to make quiche was squashed when our friends kindly offered to bring one :-).

    What else can/should I make/buy? There are no specific dietary restrictions other than guests generally don’t eat bacon or a ton of sweets (i.e. French toast slathered in syrup and powered sugar would be something they’d avoid); he’s an endocrinologist so they tend to avoid the super unhealthy. I was thinking some water, Juice, coffee, maybe on-the-healthier-side muffins (zucchini, raisen,??), fruit salad, bread (challah?) as potential options? Bagels (probably not)?

    something more lunch-y like a sandwich spread?

        1. Cristina in England*

          Sorry, I wasn’t thinking of only strawberries and quiche. Ok, so you have an egg thing already, what about adding a fruit salad, a vegetable dish, fancy whole wheat sourdough toast (or bagels) with cream cheese and smoked salmon, and carrot muffins? The kids will probably eat at least the muffins and fruit, and the adults have two proteins to choose from along with some fresh produce and also something starchy.

            1. Jen*

              The kids will eat it all :-). We have a 3 y/o that eats literally everything, including mussels, olives, and fish. Their kids have very diverse palates too (and actually *dont* eat mac and cheese, soda, and one DOES NOT LIKE ICE CREAM).

              1. Cristina in England*

                My 3yo is picky but she will eat an entire pack of raspberries if allowed to. I wonder what they don’t like about ice cream?? Instead of a birthday cake this year I decided to have ice cream sodas. Best birthday meal in a long time!

    1. Momiitz*

      Hash browns are always a good stand by. Muffins are good too. Yogurt and granola maybe. You can’t go wrong with biscuits either.

    2. anonanonanon*

      Whenever I’m invited to a brunch at someone’s home, I always make chocolate babka and bring along some raspberries or strawberries to go with it. Traditional chocolate babka isn’t that heavy with chocolate, so it’s a nice subtle bit of chocolate with the bread. In my experience, both adults and kids love it. If I remember correctly, Whole Foods sometimes has them and a good Polish or Jewish – or any Eastern European – deli should have some.

      A nice array of fruit and cheese would probably be good, too!

    3. Engineer Girl*

      How about other proteins like hard boiled eggs, cheese, etc. A Caprese salad goes well with eggs. Waffles with smashed fruit and/or yogurt?

    4. Lily Evans*

      I always love a good breakfast bread. Zucchini, banana, blueberry, I’m sure there are plenty of healthy recipes on the internet for those! Or maybe a yogurt bar: vanilla yogurt with different types of fruit and granola as toppings instead of just fruit salad. You could probably also do that with a big batch of oatmeal.

    5. Mando Diao*

      This brunch joint near me does a great flatbread breakfast “pizza.” The crust is seasoned like an everything bagel, and it’s topped with creamy cheese and lox.

    6. SAHM*

      My two boys survive off of Mac and cheese, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets. The older one eats PBJ, and all the fruits and veggies. The younger one eats steak, chicken, any kind of beef and only strawberries or Apple slices. They’re both stubborn and will refuse to eat for several meals if it’s not what they want. BUT you can never go wrong with baked goods in general and brunch is perfect for muffins and all other baked goodies.

    7. ginger ale for all*

      I once gave my boyfriends kids those tiny babybel cheeses with the red wax casing and they had a blast with playing with the red wax cases after they ate the cheese. They pretended that they were wearing red lipstick. So if you can stand a lot of silliness, those might be worth thinking about.

  16. Cristina in England*

    Ok posting this in the main thread this time instead of as a reply!

    Any advice for what to say when I am invited to a thing with my husband, but he doesn’t want to go and I will go myself? Our neighbors work in the same building as he does and I keep running into them in front of my house, so they have invited us over next weekend. He will probably be working this time (on a thing for a different job, not in the same building as the neighbors) and so genuinely can’t make it, but he just hates that kind of get together. It is a special kind of hell for him and I don’t care that he isn’t going, I just want to know what to say. This will come up more and more as I am getting to know my neighbors more, but I don’t always want to say he is working because it will make him sound like a workaholic, what are some alternatives?

    1. Cristina in England*

      I am ok with this level of vagueness but one neighbor in particular has a habit of asking a bit more specifically. If I say he is working she will ask what he is working on, which p may just be because they kind of almost work together, but how do I handle it if she is more probing? I tend to panic a bit when asked a direct question I am not supposed to answer honestly.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        How about “He didn’t say! I’ll let him know you were curious.” Or “I’m not sure! What have you been working on lately?” Or “I don’t actually know! I’m so glad I could make it though.”

        1. Cristina in England*

          I like this. I can definitely say “I’m not sure” convincingly! The people pleaser in me treats every question like it’s really important and as if I have to give an honest answer, which is a habit I would REALLY like to break.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            My husband is a mechanical engineer. Anytime someone asks what he’s working on, my go-to response is, “Something way over my head!” Because even though he talks a lot about his work, it’s all Greek to me!

            If he’s not actually working and just doesn’t want to go, you could use the same response. Or if he has family in town, you could always say he had “a family thing he couldn’t get out of.” Just make sure you mention to him whatever you said so that in case the neighbors ask him about it later, he’s not caught off guard!

      2. katamia*

        Before the gathering, could your husband be the one who says “Oh, Cristina in England will be coming, but I can’t make it”? That way he’ll be the one dealing with at least some of the probing to take the heat off of you.

        Also, there might be less probing if he joins in at least some of the gatherings. Not the ones that are specifically hell for him, but are there other situations where you and the neighbors could get together that would let them get to know him a bit? If they’re always seeing you and almost never seeing him, then they might be curious or think that something weird is going on. (Not to say that something weird actually is going on, but people tend to speculate and then jump to really weird conclusions.)

      3. TootsNYC*

        It’s so rude to probe.
        And if you anticipate that this sort of situation is coming up again, it’s maybe a good idea to not reward her by giving her information.

        Maybe “Why do you ask?” in a curious tone.

        Or the vague answer that never, ever changes, ever. “It’s something he’s had planned.” That covers laundry, chores, writing, work, etc.

        And if she say, “Oh, what is it?” you say, “It’s something he’s had planned.” And smile.

        If there will be an ongoing friendly relationship, then maybe, “This isn’t his sort of thing, so he never/seldom comes to stuff like this,” and then smile. That’ll set them up for accurate expectations.

    2. TheLazyB*

      My DH is the same. I tend to just say ‘oh he isn’t very sociable’ with a big smile. Is that an option? People don’t tend to ask any further because really, what can you say to that?!

      1. Myrin*

        That’s honestly my favourite answer, because it’s honest and leaves no real way for the other person to refute it lest they sound like a giant meanie. I also, despite actually being a very straightforward person, sometimes find it hard to be that direct when it comes to myself, but I would say this about my partner no problem.

        As for the probing, I’m not joking when I say I’ve had the most succes with this thing that was popular on the internet some time (years?) ago where I think a character of The Walking Dead (again, ?) answered a question of “But what do you have to do?” with “Things. Stuff.”. For once, it mirrors the kind of flabbergasted-ness I always feel when people don’t just politely accept my excuse and it will also expose the rudeness in the other person’s probing because with that answer, it’s so very clear that you don’t want to talk about it and they’ve just behaved noisily. But that’s obviously just me and might not be comfortable for someone else.

      2. Cristina in England*

        I like this, I think I will use this approach with my own friends (who haven’t met him but this is a good way to explain why they may never!)

        1. Cristina in England*

          I should explain that we moved fairly recently so he hasn’t met any of the friends I’ve made here

      3. NN*

        I’m going to use this too! My husband is really antisocial and wold rather poke his eye out with a fork than have to go to things with neighbours or acquaintances, and I hate having to say that he’s working (even though he often is) because then next time they’ll ask after him again. Hopefully I can say this and they’ll accept its just not his thing.

      4. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

        My wife is the same way. I just say that she is an extreme introvert, which is true. Most people understand that. I may add that she has been really busy at work and needs some quiet/down/alone time, which is often also true.

      5. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I like this! I’m the unsociable one in my marriage. I’m actually not sure what my husband tells people, I’ll have to ask him! He’s not one to beat around the bush so I’m sure it’s something similar to this.

    3. Not Karen*

      I’m all for honesty if it’s the kind of event he doesn’t like and not the people. If he does want to hang out with these people just not in certain environments, offer alternatives, e.g. “I’d love to, but my husband is not a fan of garden parties. Let’s try and get together for a movie night sometime.”

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I’m not good with small talk, never have been. But I find if I have an activity to do, it’s easier because there’s an obvious topic of conversation. So if these people want to get together, can they make it a night playing board games or Cards Against Humanity or something like that? DH might be more willing to go out (occasionally) if it involves something he enjoys doing.

      2. Cristina in England*

        I like that, and if I can think of something he would like, I will suggest it! It’s mostly just that he likes to see people one on one. Seeing another couple as a couple is not his thing.

    4. Mando Diao*

      I agree with other commenters that perhaps your husband should be the one to call them and say he won’t be attending. After all, he’s the one declining his invitation. As you get to know your neighbors more, you can eventually say something like, “He really means no offense, but this is very much not his thing. I’d like to continue spending time with you though.” Every social group has that one person whose partner isn’t into group outings or game nights, and it never reflects badly on them.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Seriously. But it does reflect badly on them if the dynamic is clearly “Wifey is the one responsible for Social Management because she’s the woman.”

    5. Maya Elena*

      I like people’s other suggestions (“he’s working, can’t make it!”). If pressed for additional details, why not feign ignorance? Especially if he has a profession that is reasonably arcane and difficult for most people. “Oh you know those scientists… I could probably ask him and re-tell it to you, but it’s all a bit over my head!”
      Or you could laugh it off – “it’s a big secret… maybe he’s planning my birthday, who knows!”

    6. Katie the Fed*

      I think it’s totally fine to say that he’s an extreme introvert who prefers small gatherings or that he’s not that social. It’s the truth and nothing wrong with it.

  17. h.cowl*

    Has anyone been to Amsterdam? I’m meeting my husband there after a business trip for him, in about a month, and I’d love to know any suggestions folks have for where to stay, where to eat, what to go see. And where to go running, if you’re into that (I am, he’s not). We are pretty laid-back travelers and like to have no more than one or two big things scheduled per day.

    1. Caledonia*

      I have been but it was back in 2008. My friend and her boyfriend literally just went (last week) and they enjoyed the rijksmuseum (museum of Netherlands). Fascinating but very big, so either spend a day there or pick and choose. It’s mainly art. Otherwise there is the Anne Frank Museum.

      Also, watch out for the cyclists! Pedestrians are very much 3rd, after cyclist and drivers.

      What else? I took a boat trip which was fun and there is an English language bookshop (Waterstones) on Kalverstraat.

      Everyone is really nice and will switch to English when they realise you don’t speak Dutch.

    2. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

      My favorite meal was breakfast at Broodje Bert. Inexpensive and such good cheese!

      The line for the Anne Frank house was 3+ hours long in July and was absolutely worth it. If I were only going to do one thing, that would be it.

      For art, my favorite was the Rembrandt house – not only art, but artifacts and you learn about the process as well.

      The Amsterdam Museum is really well curated.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        h.cowl, first thing I suggest is that you decide whether you want to go to the Anne Frank House, and if you do, go RIGHT NOW and buy tickets online. You do not have to wait on line if you have prepurchased tickets for a specific time slot! They’re sold out for many of the time slots for four weeks from now already, but a few seem to be left. We enjoyed it, but we were VERY glad that we didn’t have to wait on line!

        I don’t want this comment to get stuck in moderation, so just Google “anne frank house tickets”.

      2. Searching*

        I absolutely second the Amsterdam Museum – gives a great view into the history of Amsterdam. And when you go there, you’ll be really close to the Begijnhof, which is very much worth a quick visit.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      OK, now that I got out how to prepurchase tickets to the Anne Frank House, some of our other favorite things about Amsterdam were the cheese tasting at Reypenaer cheese, and the Dutch/Indonesian rijsttafel at Tempo Doeloe. We also took the Lovers Canal Cruise, which is a good way to take in a good portion of the city before walking around on your own.

      We stayed at the Tulip of Amsterdam B&B, which was very nice, is not too far from the train station to walk, and is right down the street from Nieuwmarkt, an open air market.

      We also really, really enjoyed Belgian waffles from a few different places, and our meals at het Stuivertje and Cafe de Reiger, and I got a really, really fresh herring from a street cart, if you like that kind of thing.

    4. LCL*

      When we toured the Anne Frank house, we toured the Heineken brewery immediately after. It was a good choice.

    5. Searching*

      How long will you be there? Will you have a chance to explore outside of the city? So much to see in the Netherlands!

    6. Libervermis*

      There’s also a gorgeous garden outside of Amsterdam called Keukenhof that I’d highly recommend. So many flowers!

      I loved the city tram as the way to get from place to place within Amsterdam. Cheese, definitely. Rent bikes. And be careful to walk and bike on the appropriate paths – many places have separate side-by-side paths for pedestrians and bikers, and you will be very quickly informed if you’re on the wrong one.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I was going to suggest this too. I haven’t been there, but a friend of mine has been travelling around the world with her family for the last year, and they made it to the Netherlands and went to the Keukenhof Gardens. She posted some pictures and a blog entry about it. It looks absolutely stunning, and I’d love to go there.

    7. Jem*

      I was in Amsterdam last month and stayed in the Hotel Piet Hein. Lovely hotel and the location is perfect. It’s right next to Vondelpark which I’d imagine would be great for running. It’s a great city to just wander around. Enjoy :)

    8. Mephyle*

      Piggy-backing on this to ask: In early July we will change flights in Amsterdam, with a layover from 8:35 am to 2:30 pm. Is it possible to consider visiting anything outside the airport given this schedule?

      1. Ismis*

        Double check online but from memory, it only takes about half an hour by train to get into the city from Schipol. That’s enough time to take a quick run into the city and have a walk around. The sex museum is very close to Centraal station, and you probably have enough time for a quick cycle/canal tour, if you time it right.

        I imagine security is crazy tight these days, trying to get into the airport, and I’m a bit of a worrier, so leave plenty of time to get back :)

    9. Maya Elena*

      I went there some years ago, and had an awesome tour. It was free and in English, lasted three hours, and you give your tour guide a tip at the end.

      I’ve been on this tour in another city as well, and they’re detailed and engaging.

      As I remember it, you can find out where the tour meets, and then just join the big group that assembles there.
      Here is their website to find out more: (http://www.neweuropetours.eu/).

    10. Lou*

      Love Amsterdam! Definitely go to the Anne Frank Museum. As you might expect, it’s a sobering experience. (My Father was born in Haarlem {about 1/2 hour away} during the war.) I started crying about 1/4 of the way through it. My sister and I then sat outside in a small park for awhile.
      Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum are both fantastic. Go on a canal boat tour- sunset was beautiful.
      Leidseplein has great cafes and restaurants surrounding it.
      If you’re into shopping, check out Albert Cuyp street market.

    11. Honeybee*

      I studied abroad in Amsterdam for four months, but it was back in 2007.

      When you are there make sure that you rent a bicycle. Bicycle is the main means of transportation around Amsterdam; it’s the best way to get around and it feels amazing. There are tons of places around the city to lock your bike up (just make sure you lock it properly – lock the front wheel to the frame and then lock the frame to the bike parking structure. Otherwise you run the risk of getting your front wheel stolen).

      Other people have already recommended places I would – the Anne Frank Huis, Rijksmuseum/Van Gogh Museum/Museumplein (Museum Square), Heineken Experience, the Jewish History Museum. I would also highly recommend visiting the Vondelpark (it’s pretty close to Museumplein), Dam Square (which has the Nieuwe Kerk [New Church], the National Monument, and the Royal Palace – and sometimes during the spring there’s a street fair in there!), the Begijnhof (a group of private homes grouped around a beautiful courtyard that used to house nuns), the Rembrandt House (home of the famous artist Rembrandt), and the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam’s museum about the tropics).

      There’s also of course de Wallen, Amsterdam’s red-light district, which has the famous sex workers in the window but also has some of the oldest churches in the city including the Oude Kerk, which is over 800 years old. Nearby there is the Nieuwmarkt with de Waag, which used to be a fortification as part of the old walls of Amsterdam (hence de Wallen – “the Walls.” De Wallen is the neighborhood that would’ve fallen inside of the old city walls.) Definitely take your bikes out to the Keukenhof and ride among the tulips; the season should be just about over by the time you go.

      And honestly, I would just spend a lot of time riding your bicycle around, getting a feel for things and looking at the beautiful canals and architecture of the city. It’ll be nice and warm but not too hot when you go. Drink delicious Dutch beer! And have some Dutch chocolate. It tastes a little different than what you’d expect – not as sweet, but still tasty.

      The food is delicious in the Jordaan, in my opinion. My favorite Dutch treat were poffertjes – little air-puff pancakes served with butter and powdered sugar. Yum. You can also eat bread with butter and hagelslag, which are sprinkles (that’s breakfast). Another Dutch delicacy is pannenkoeken, which are pancakes – but they eat them for dinner. They are flatter and less starchy than American pancakes and you spread jams or savory toppings on them, roll them up and eat. And stop by a Dutch grocery and pick up some stroopwafels! They’re waffle-shaped think cookies with a honey/caramel kind of sauce in between. I love them. You might also like to try bitterballen – they’re basically meat fried with a lot of…stuff that you then dip in mustard; most of my friends liked it but I didn’t. But I did love French fries with mayonnaise – I know it sounds gross, but the mayonnaise doesn’t taste the same; it’s flavored differently. Oh and of course eat some cheese!

      Because Amsterdam’s a pretty multicultural place there are tons of places to get Middle Eastern food in the city, too – lots of little shawrma shops and carts. That’s the first place I ever had Turkish pizza.

      If you have time you are also only an hour away from Den Haag/The Hague, the Netherlands’ seat of government! Really beautiful city. You get to see the International Court of Justice and also other important international landmarks, as well as Noordeinde Palace (which is where the king and queen of the Netherlands work). You’re also only 2 hours by train from Antwerp, a city in Belgium, which is also beautiful and where you can get Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate and Belgian beer. (Yes, I ate my way through my study abroad.)

      1. Paquita*

        My parents went on a group trip to Amsterdam many years ago. My dad was trying to take a picture and did not realize it was one of the “famous sex workers in the window”. They were on a cruise down the canal and he had no idea, he was just shooting the scenery.

    12. Jen RO*

      If you like cats, go to the Cat Boat! It’s a floating cat sanctuary. It is a very short visit, but I loved it.

      Other than this, the Anne Frank house and the river cruises that others have already mentioned, I just enjoyed walking around the canals. I stayed in two places – one hotel I can’t remember, except it was outside the center, but cheap, and a boat hotel in the port. It’s called the Amstel Botel and it’s an interesting experience, although I wouldn’t recommend it for longer stays (I was only there for a night). I had no problem with seasickness, but the rooms are small and you had to take a ferry to get back to the train station and the rest of the city.

      One thing I wish I’d known is that all that water makes the weather colder than expected! I might be going back soon and I will definitely pack more warmer clothes. Then again, I am a naturally cold person, so this may not apply to everyone :)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Public transport in the Netherlands is very good. In fact, I have stayed in Utrecht and then taken the train into Amsterdam before. (Connections every 5 minutes and a journey time of 25 minutes) The Rijksmuseum is fantastic, but the queues can be offputting, even when it’s for the pre-booked tickets!

      2. Lindsay J*

        OMG I have never heard of the Cat Boat before, but my boyfriend and I are planning on going to Amsterdam sometime this year (he’s been a bunch of times, I’ve never been) and that is now definitely on my list.

  18. Caledonia*

    So here’s something I’ve been pondering for a while: the ages of Trump and Clinton. They’re not young. Is there a reason why American Presidents/potential candidates are more on the older side? It’s just strange as in the UK, our last Prime Ministers have been Cameron (43), Brown (56), Blair (43), Major (47) and Thatcher (53), going back to 1979. In roughly the same timeframe, US Presidents have been Obama (47), Bush (54), Clinton (46), Bush Sr (64) and Reagan (69).

    1. katamia*

      Well, you have to be at least 35 to run for president, so everyone younger is out. :P But running for president takes a lot of resources–experience/qualifications, money, connections–that you have to build up over the course of many years. Your average 35-year-old is just not going to have enough of those resources to make a serious run for president.

      I don’t really think Obama’s that old, though. Our youngest president was Teddy Roosevelt (42) and our youngest elected president was JFK (43). There’s really not that big of a difference between that and Clinton’s and Obama’s 46 and 47 to me.

      1. Caledonia*

        Ah, I’d forgotten the 35 rule! Tsk. No Obama isn’t old, it’s just more about Trump, Clinton and Sanders that got me thinking.

    2. Christy*

      I would bet it’s because the uk has a parliamentary system and we have a presidential system. We have some younger Congresspeople. I mean, Ted Cruz is young, as is Marco Rubio. They were/are both serious presidential candidates. Otoh, Bernie Sanders is like 74, but it’s like a last hurrah for him, I think. Or, at least, I think it started that way.

    3. Ultraviolet*

      Your list actually has more PM-president pairs who are very close in age than presidents who are much older than PMs! Are you sure it’s true that presidents and presidential candidates tend to be older than PMs?

      1. Caledonia*

        It isn’t that far av age for UK PM is 53. 43 days, US is 54.11 mos. But like I mentioned in my second comment, it’s more Trump, Clinton and Sanders that made me think. Our last UK election was between Cameron (46) Clegg (48) and Miliband (45).

      2. Cristina in England*

        I will agree that there are definitely elderly presidential candidates (remember Bob Dole?), and without falling into a wikipedia rabbit hole to back this up, I feel like elderly candidates are normal. Regarding presidents, I am mid-30s and the Carter/Reagan/Bush Snr. years really ingrained in me the idea that presidents are old.

        1. Aurora Leigh*

          I distinctly remember the 1996 election. My kindergarten class did a mock election where we circled the picture of the president to vote for. I was not a politically savvy 5 yr old. I circled Clinton. Discussing this with my slightly dismayed father, I explained that he had white hair and presidents should have white hair.

          1. Sparkly Librarian*

            When I was 4, I was tickled by the idea of a person named Bush, so I claimed him for my candidate. My perplexed parents were unable to convince me that Dukakis was a much better funny name.

    4. Aurora Leigh*

      I was a college student when Ron Paul last ran for president. I, and a lot of my classmates from all walks of life, really admired him. Most of that had nothing to do with his advanced age, of course! But I wonder if in challenging times (the economy, ISIS, classicism, racism, and all that good stuff) we subconsciously look for someone with experience and age to fix it. Not exactly like a parent, but . . .kind of?

      1. Random Citizen*

        I ended up voting for a younger candidate this year, but definitely agree with the appeal of an older candidate, and not even so much the age, per say, as just looking for someone with experience and mature judgement. When we’re talking about the leader of the free world and the weight and impact of the president’s decisions, sometimes with very little time to decide (think terror attacks, etc.), I think it makes sense that a lot of people gravitate towards someone who’s had practice making those type of judgement calls.

      2. Caledonia*

        @aurora leigh – ‘Not exactly like a parent, but . . .kind of?’

        Like an adultier adult? :)

    5. Engineer Girl*

      I know you’re not from the US, but much of this is due to the Constitution, which is the defining document for the US.
      There are specific lower age limits for House of Representatives, Senators, and Presidents.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Do you think that the age minimum for various elected offices in the US leads to older presidents and presidential candidates? I do not, but I would be curious to hear a different take. (FWIW, I am American)

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I think it has some influence, but it is minimal. Americans get nervous about giving power to someone untried. They prefer slow change, and older presidents tend to move more slowly.
          US citizens also have an odd habit of electing a president of one party and the legislative branch of another party. They actually do this to create gridlock and slow things down. Gridlock does force more consensus building! There are times when this is out of sync, as presidents have 4 year terms and senators have 6 year terms. The most recent time this happened was during the Obama administration when there was a Democratic legislative branch (Nancy Pelosi speaker). At 2 years after the presidential election the voters voted in senators from the opposing party and there was a shift of power.
          One important thing to remember is that there are 3 branches of government, all holding equal power. So the president is only 1/3 of the power structure.

          1. Cristina in England*

            Yeah, until recently, when earmarks on bills were eliminated (“pork”), both parties were forced to work together! Gridlock since then has become brinksmanship.

            The slow nature of American politics is definitely enshrined in the Constitution. The fact that each state has 2 senators was a concession to small New England states, and the fact that Representatives are population-based is a concession to larger states. Also agreed that the president has so much less power than candidates believe.

            I have always been impressed by the swiftness of UK lawmaking compared to the US!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          When Kennedy was elected it was a big deal because he was so young.

          I think the job itself draws an older person. You need some work experience of some sort. You need money, lots and lots of money. And you need friends, almost as badly as you need money. Oh and did I mention you need money? (sigh)

          I don’t want to name names but as in an example we had a young person elected in our state. Immediately I heard this person was part of the machine. That conclusion was based on the person’s age. This person could not have actually gotten a nomination based on merit.

    6. Mando Diao*

      We expect our presidents to have already built up a strong political background. It’s viewed as the culmination of a lifetime in politics. Plus, there are set term lengths for Congresspeople. Senators serve for 6 years; one reelection and you’re suddenly taken 12 years away from your initial entry.

  19. bassclefchick*

    A friend of mine has started to promote Thrive. I’m not really sure what it is. A diet supplement? Protein shake? What IS it? Does anyone know? I guess the company is Le Vel? Seriously, even looking at the website I couldn’t tell what in the world it is. Is this another MLM scam? Any insights greatly appreciated!

    1. Rob Lowe can't read*

      I think that both protein shakes and energy products (shakes? gels? IDK?) are among their products, but I’m not 100% sure. I also have an acquaintance who shills for Thrive on Facebook, but I’m honestly not certain what it is based on her numerous posts about it. (But, you know, it “totally changed” her workouts/life/etc. I know that much!) I’m pretty sure it’s an MLM.

      1. bassclefchick*

        Thanks! I don’t feel so bad for not understanding it if it isn’t clear to others, either.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Ugh. I have a facebook friend that constantly posts about it. I had to unfollow her because I got so sick of seeing it.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It’s annoying as hell. There’s some kind of patch that people wear that supposedly gives them energy. Totally an MLM. I only know this because my cousin and his wife started pushing it last year and even her daughter told her to quit it. There might be other products, but cousin and wife kept promoting the patch.

      1. bassclefchick*

        Thanks! I saw the patch thing, and I REALLY didn’t understand that part. Thanks for the help!

    3. Athena C*

      If it’s what I’m thinking it is, it’s an online grocery store. It specialises in pantry goods more than produce, but it’s really good organic stuff at a very good price.

    4. Cruciatus*

      I appreciate you asking this question because it’s starting to pop up on my feed through a friend of mine. So far it’s things like “this changed my life!” but I can barely find anything about it online. Not because I’m interested, but because I want to know what crap is being peddled now. Last week she was tagged in some sort of conference call with other people that you could phone into or something to learn more. She hasn’t yet started actually selling anything on FB but I imagine that is coming soon. A year or two ago I had someone else on my thread selling something but it was always a secret! She’d post pics of herself and her husband looking good with a post about feeling better and healthier than ever and to PM her for more information. You’d think I would like that you had to PM her for more info (and keeping it off FB a little bit), but it drove me crazy that she wasn’t coming right out and saying what it was (it wasn’t Thrive, it was something like Shakeology or whatever it’s called).

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        >You’d think I would like that you had to PM her for more info (and keeping it off FB a little bit), but it drove me crazy that she wasn’t coming right out and saying what it was (it wasn’t Thrive, it was something like Shakeology or whatever it’s called).

        And that is so very much on purpose. Pretend like you have this hugeeee secret, and force people to contact you. Especially online, people’s curiosity usually gets the best of them.

        1. Cruciatus*

          Oh, of course! I rationally know this and I don’t even want what she was selling, but there was still a part of me like “but what is it!?” Eventually I was able to piece it together with phrases she was using. And then I could completely ignore it. Fortunately she seems to have stopped posting about it. Hopefully forever.

      2. Cruciatus*

        Oof, since I wrote this, my friend actually has posted about some Thrive for Kids thing that you can get more information about from her. Adults are one thing but not thrilled to hear there is a kid’s version as well…

    5. Trixie*

      Kind of feels like a scam to me because of their team approach to sales. Find five people to try , then they find five, etc. I think it does encourage a healthy eating plan but my thing is if you’re feeling better more than likely it’s because your’e eating better and moving more. I see a Zumba instructor / ACE personal trainer push this stuff hard on her FB and instragram. (Disappointing because instructors/trainers are clearly not to endorse anything unless they’re also a licensed dietician.)

  20. Colette*

    Foot update.

    I had the surgery on Monday and am at home with my foot up for two weeks. This is not as much fun as it sounds.

    People have been great – I came home to find a shower chair, wheelchair, and walker, and a friend also brought over a recliner.

    Luckily, I’ve been sleeping a lot, but I suspect next week is going to be really boring.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Other than Netflix, does your library system have ebooks? You can usually read them on your computer instead of a tablet or phone, if you prefer, depending on the format, and that could give you something to read that you can “check out” from home. This might also be a good time to try a free trial of services like Hulu or…whatever apps or channels interest you and offer a free trial. A lot of Roku channels seem to do that.

      I’m glad the surgery went well! \o/

      1. Colette*

        Yes, my library does ebooks. I haven’t been up to reading for long – right now I’m mostly playing video games – but I suspect next week I’ll be more interested in reading. I’m not used to sitting around without doing anything for so long.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Ah. Maybe you can get Juggling for the Complete Klutz. That’s what my friend and used to I teach ourselves many years ago, and you could practice sitting up and leaning forward in the right chair, even if you can’t stand.

          Or have a friend or relative bring in some stuff you’ve had in the house for ages and have been meaning to sort through. Making piles on a table is fairly active considering you have to stay off of your feet.

          1. Colette*

            Unfortunately at this point, my foot needs to be higher than my heart, so a lot of sitting activities are out – I pretty much need to be lying down. In a week or two, things like that will be good, though.

      2. Aurora Leigh*

        Depending on your library, they might be able to homebound/outreach delivery to you. It’s not just for seniors!

    2. fposte*

      Oh, I was wondering how you were doing. I’m glad you’re on the other side of the surgery, and I hope the foot-up-high period goes swiftly.

  21. Felix*

    What sites/apps do you go to for your news updates?

    I’m one of those classic people that don’t like reading the news (too sad, too stressful) but I’m at a point in my career where I need to be more informed on a daily basis. Any good sites for getting the highlights? I’m hoping for some without the horrible comments sections that I do purposely try to avoid.

    1. katamia*

      Honestly, at this point in time I get most of my domestic news from Facebook and other social networking sites. I have a lot of news-aware friends who post interesting, well-thought-out articles. I also go to Slate because I read Prudie over there, and they tend to have some interesting articles. Slate’s comment section almost never works and you have to click on something separate to see more than the first few lines of the top comment (which is usually a joke anyway).

      For international news, I like the BBC’s website (usually no comments) and, if I have time, Al-Jazeera’s website.

      Are there specific topics you want to be more informed about, or is it just getting a general sense of what’s going on in the world?

        1. Mazzy*

          Al Jazeera is definitely slanted though, I wouldn’t consider them a neutral news source.

          1. Mazzy*

            That being said, I read my town’s two newspapers because both put such a slant on so many stories that it is almost a joke.

          2. katamia*

            Every news source is slanted because everyone has biases, though. I don’t think there is such thing as a neutral news source anymore, if there ever was. They also give coverage to a lot of worldwide events that don’t get talked about much or at all in US news sources or even in the BBC.

            1. Mazzy*

              Well, yes, news sources are biased, but Al Jazeera brings it to a whole new level, as do TYT. Fortunately, their bias issues are easily googlable, it is definitely a thing. I’ve literally watched them make stuff up and put words in people’s mouths (of course, only people they don’t like) that did not come out of them. I don’t want to start a thread on this but I definitely feel the need to say “no” to Al Jazeera as a proper news source.

              1. katamia*

                I didn’t mention TYT (who I don’t follow), and I’m not sure whether the “them” you’re referring as having made things up to is Al Jazeera or TYT. I use it mostly as a starting point to find out about things that aren’t heavily covered in the US and British media, and while I don’t read every article every day, what I’ve read has generally been accurate. It shouldn’t be OP’s only news source, but no one should rely on just one news source anyway. It’s not like I’m trying to say it’s the One True News Source. It’s just one of the multiple places I go for news.

              2. Treena*

                I guess I’m really curious about these biases. Of course when it comes to Israel and the issues in the Middle East they’re going to be biased–I would give any intelligent person side eye for thinking they’re not. But in general, Americans are inundated with “pro-America” messages that it’s fine by me if they’re exposed to something a little different. Also, I don’t know anyone who reads AJ for Middle East coverage…it’s all about the foreign reporting on US domestic issues.

                Also, why the hate on TYT? They’re really open about being biased and progressive leaning…they don’t claim to be a news source at all! And they’re super critical of Democrats so I don’t really see an issue.

                1. Electron whisperer*

                  The other interesting one is ‘Russia Today’, mostly because it is guaranteed to dish any available dirt on western/Nato shenanigans, it is completely unreliable about anything Russian or touching on Russian interests, of course.

                  When Russian today, Al Jaz and the BBC all agree something happened, it probably did, and what happened probably lies somewhere inside the sphere defined by the three views.
                  Now if we could find equivalent publications for China and the US (Hard in the latter case because the internal politics is so annoyingly fractious, maybe the International Herald Tribune?).

                  Regards, Dan.

      1. Felix*

        Oh thank you! I’d say definitely more general sense of what’s going on in the world, with a focus on Canada and the US.

    2. Nicole*

      I follow CNN breaking news on Twitter and a few local news sites. I only check Twitter once a day or sometimes less, so sometimes I will see news based on what someone shared on Facebook. I don’t like keeping up too much since most of it is negative, but I don’t want to be completely out of the loop either.

    3. nep*

      BBC News is my home page — a nice update on world news. I like The Guardian, and I’ll regularly look at the NY Times as well.
      I don’t know your schedule, but C-SPAN’s a.m. programme Washington Journal (on TV, radio, or online) is a great way to hear some of the daily news. The hosts go through some of the headlines. (But it’s a call-in show so you’re certainly getting some commentary.)

      1. salad fingers*

        Absolutely. If you’re able to have NPR, BBC radio, etc in the background while doing stuff (cooking and cleaning for me) you’re likely to get a good overview.

      2. Cass*

        I started working for an NPR affiliate 2 years ago and discovered it as a news source, love it! Added it to my rotation.

    4. Aurora Leigh*

      I like the AP news app a lot. It’s fairly unbiased and straight to the point, and there’s no comment section. It’s really good for national news, and I love the 10 Things to Know for Today lists. For local news, I’m in a small town so it’s the radio station’s website and the newspaper’s website. Even though I’m in my 20s, I’m just not into social media. But I love following the news :)

    5. Lore*

      I subscribe to a newsletter called The Daily Skimm that’s a great free rundown of the top stories delivered to your inbox at 7 am weekdays. They do deeper background features on their site that you can click through and read and also link to other news sites but if you read only the newsletter you still get a good overview.

      1. SL #2*

        I enjoy TheSkimm and I get it in my work inbox because I’m more likely to read it there, but the longer I’m subscribed it, the more the tone and style of the writing annoys me.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      I get my news from a combination of sources:
      Google News, Twitter, Facebook, NPR.

      I’m surprised I’m the only one (so far) to mention Google News.

    7. danr*

      I like Google news for a quick overview. You have a choice of news sources for each story. I stay away from single source news since I find that it is generally biased and skips too much. I don’t get my news from Facebook since it’s too easy for the fake stuff to come first.

    8. Sunflower*

      I subscribe to the Skimm which is a great way to get updated on daily news in about 3 minutes. Beyond that, I just tailor my twitter account to accounts that tweet about stuff I need to know/interests me.

    9. Random Citizen*

      Twitter is my favorite for getting the highlights! I’ve been following politics pretty closely this year, so I have a list of various news anchors/reporters/stations pop in every couple hours to scroll through, but the same idea would work with any news source you want to cover. With a variety of sources, you can get a pretty good idea of what’s happening, scan the tweets for a summary, and click through to the article if you want to read more. Bonus points for finding reporters with a good sense of humor who occasionally brighten your day with a well-timed joke. :)

    10. Jillociraptor*

      Daily Beast does a daily top 10 that hits the key stories I’m likely to hear around the metaphorical water coolers. And both FiveThirtyEight and BCC have news podcasts (FiveThirtyEight is an hour while BBC has a 10-minute one) that do quick recaps of the electoral and world news (respectively).

      Like others, though, I use Facebook a lot for this. I have lots of friends in various interesting professions so I get a good wide swath of news related to foreign affairs, tech, education, racial justice, entertainment…

    11. AliceBD*

      I have the NPR app on my phone and a short commute. Every hour on the hour they do a 5 min recap of the major news stories, and I listen to it on the way to work. It’s basically just the headlines but it gives you enough info to know what people are talking about at work, and if there’s something I want more detail on I can look it up later. It takes up most of my commute after I get through the tricky intersection.

    12. Electron whisperer*

      “The Economist”, a weekly, but it is excellent.
      These days I tend to the view that if I need news more up to date then that, it is only because I was in it….

      Regards, Dan.

    13. neverjaunty*

      Quartz, because ultimately I’m a shallow person who likes animated GIFs. ;)

    14. Felix*

      Thank you everyone for these fantasist. Suggestions!! I’m gonna start checking them out this week. :)

      1. Felix*

        Whoops I thought I successfully avoided submitting this comment full of typos… Oh phone keyboards.

    15. Felix*

      Thank you everyone for these fantastic suggestions!! I’m gonna start checking them out this week. :)

  22. The Cosmic Avenger*

    So we spent a couple of hours today looking at the Subaru Outback Premium edition, and now we’re going to dinner at a local craft sandwich place…that always has 4 craft beers on tap, and sells growlers. So I’m bringing a couple of empties in case they have something I like. They will bring you a sampler board with small glasses of the beers on tap, so even if I haven’t tried it before, I can see if I like it. :-9

    Oh, and we watched Ant Man last night in preparation for seeing Captain America: Civil War next weekend! Can’t wait! The minion and I are totally geeking out about it. :D

    1. Colette*

      Is it wrong that one of my questions for the surgeon when I see him on Thursday is “so … Can I sit up long enough to go to a movie?”

          1. Graciosa*

            Or see if you can find a theater with recliners – there seem to be so many more of them these days, and it may give you more options to find a position in which you will be comfortable.

            I would also be shameless about bringing in small pillows or anything else I thought I might need to make myself comfortable – it’s a much better option than missing Captain America: Civil War!

            Some of our theaters are running all day marathons of all the previous CA and Avengers movies – I actually debated whether to take the day off, but can’t –

            Good luck with both the surgery and the film viewing.

            1. Colette*

              If the surgeon says I’m ok to sit up, I’m there. Someone lent me a wheelchair that apparently allows me to have my foot raised, so that’s a possibility.

    2. SL #2*

      I am. SO. EXCITED. FOR. CIVIL. WAR. I have a Thursday night advance screening ticket and I’m also bringing a box of tissues with me and possibly re-doing my Winter Soldier costume from Halloween.

  23. Car buying/old car preserving advice*

    Mechanic, financial advisors, car buffs–please chime in! I have a 2003 Buick Rendezvous with 145,000 miles on it. By this fall, it will need new tires, a oil leak fix, and new tire rods–about $2000 worth of fixes. Do I hang on to it and drive it for all it’s worth? Or trade it in for a newer/used car? I’m looking at used Toyota Rav4s or Honda CRVs. I wouldn’t want to pay more than $20,000 total, and I would want to do a 3 year loan, putting me at about $500/mo if I can do a $5000 down payment by later this year. My husband recently paid off his car, and I haven’t had car payments in many years, so it’s hard to add that on top of our other living expenses–being lower middle-class in a very expensive (and rising in costs!) area (Portland, OR metro). I have about a 30min commute each way to work, so I need a reliable vehicle. What would you do? Older and wiser people, I would love your advice!

    1. Not Karen*

      I don’t know anything about cars, but I like the rule of thumb of keeping a car until it costs more in a year to fix/maintain than what the car is worth.

    2. Colette*

      There are multiple ways to think about this. I’ve heard that cars need major repairs roughly every five years, and if they’re generally in good shape and you do those repairs, you can get another five years. In my experience, that’s about right. The problem is that with an older car, you don’t know when you’re done – so you can fix something major and have something else go wrong immediately.

      Why do a three year loan? if you did a longer term, would you have the discipline to save extra and make lump sum payments to bring down the term? I mean, I agree that it’s a good practice to pay it off as soon as possible, but only if you can still buy groceries.

      1. OP*

        I will ask my mechanic if these fixes would give me another five years–if so, it would be worth hanging onto…thanks for your advice!

      2. Sunflower*

        All of this plus consider about costs in the insurance realm- my mom works in insurance and usually around 10 years, she encourages people to think about dropping their collision coverage. Based on what your car is worth and what your deductible is, it might be worth it to drop it and put that towards a new car.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I know $2000 seems like a lot, especially since you don’t know how much longer the car will last, but the way I think of it is that that’s 4 months car payments. If you can afford to set aside $500 a month for car payments, start doing it now, and pay for any repairs out of that. That’s $6000 a year. IMO, if you spend most or all of your car payment on repairs, that’s when it’s time to trade up. But $2-3K is not that bad if that expense keeps the car safe and reliable the rest of the year.

      And I advise you look for a reliable used car, that will mean you can pay it off quickly and start saving sooner. I mentioned earlier that we were looking at Outbacks today, that’s because we have one car that’s ten years old and one that’s 13, but they both have less than 100K miles on them (although not by much). We’ve been putting aside our former car payment ($350/mo) for long enough that we could buy an Outback Premium for cash…but we’re going to try to hold off for a while longer, since both current cars are running OK.

      1. OP*

        I like the idea of making cars last, don’t know if Buicks have as good a reputation as Outbacks do. We’ll see, ugh, hard decision…

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I half qualify- I am older but with cars not so much wiser. I was looking at my car online – it’s a 99 Taurus. I ended up in car sites reading reviews for similar cars as mine. Oddly, I felt a little more informed. People were talking about their luck with their own 99 Taurus. Some people posted, “do not buy this crap” etc. The comments that were helpful were the comments that talked about what types of repairs I should expect in the future, X routinely breaks or Y fails.

      Then I did the same for a car that I had tentatively picked out for purchase. Going into car sales sites, I looked at people’s reviews and comments about this particular car. It was kind of helpful to acclimate myself to all the various considerations.

      I hate car shopping. I hate cars. They break all the time it seems. They are merely a necessity in my mind, kind of like kleenex or paper towels. I am saying this so you realize I just like to keep the vehicle I have. But my thought echos what others have said, does it have to be a $20k car? I picked up the Taurus as an emergency replacement vehicle. I paid $4k. It was a government vehicle so it was very low mileage. I have kept it way longer than I expected. I think it knows I am shopping because it has been running very well for me recently. The car I was looking at is $8k, I won’t need a loan. My insurance will only go up $30 per year. It gets about the same mileage as my current vehicle. So my costs are staying relatively level/consistent.

      If you are thinking that by paying a bit more you will save on repair bills, that can be a gamble. I would advocate for looking at your repair shop. Compare repair shops in your area. I changed repairs shops and my car repair expense dropped by 75%. Yeah, huge drop. And they have saved me so much money. On a previous vehicle the black box for the 4WD went a second time. The service manager looked up on my records when they had put in the black box. I was three days before the warranty expired. I got it replaced under warranty saving me $500 and they have done this other times, too. This is why I have stayed with them for 20 years. The person’place who repairs your vehicle is as important as which vehicle you chose.

      1. OP*

        Thanks for all the input! I only say $20,000 because that is the going rate for used Toyota/Honda small SUVs that my mechanic said you really can’t go wrong buying…just hard to shell out that much money, but if the car will last a good 20 years…

    5. Soil Sally*

      Not a mechanic, but wanted to chime in. If you do not mind driving your car and you think that the two thousand will keeping it rolling for a year, that is a bargain versus the cost of a new car. The Buick made me pause though. I only know one person who had a Buick. His car ended up unexpectedly catching fire in the middle of Interstate 5 in California, so no great Buick brand loyalty stories from him.

      If you want to buy another car, I recommend a Toyota based on my experience. My Toyota Corolla turned 20 years old last December and has over 250 thousand miles. The engine is still going strong. I had a transmission replacement at 90 thousand miles because I drove like an idiot, but mechanically the car is still going strong.

      If you are thinking about buying, I recommend looking at rental companies. A friend told me that many get steep discounts on their fleet purchases by agreeing to sell the cars before they hit high miles. The manufacturers put this in the contract so that people renting the cars always have good memories of the brand.

      1. OP*

        Toyota is the best from what I hear. The Buick was a hand-me-down from my grandpa. It has run well so far, but it’s gettitng up there in miles…I appreciate the idea of talking to rental companies, I will look into that!

      2. Cass*

        Eek, I have a personal anecdote on buying a previous rental car. It ended up being more hassle, seems people drove it terribly and abused the thing. Something to keep in mind.

      3. ginger ale for all*

        I had a Camry that was a former rental that I drove for 21 years. My best car advice is to talk to your mechanic. I rarely had to take my car in for repairs but I would always speak to my mechanic about my cars future and what I needed to do. The 21 years credit went to both the mechanic and Toyota.

    6. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I don’t think tires are considered part of the car for this calculation. They do have a lot to do with the wear on the car but they wear on their own schedule and you can control the cost by switching brands. Also think about how you’ve treated the car. Have you maintained it well? Washed it well? Including the undercarriage if you live in a place that salts roads. And the repairs listed don’t sound very major or worrying; especially if they’re the first this year. Really, it’s the next repair (cost and timing) that will really test the decision. I agree, car repairs tend to come in bunches. You could be able to get many years out of the car. I like the idea of starting to save your car payment now to get used to the expense.

  24. Lisbon Bound*

    My SO and I are going to Lisbon for four days! Tacking it on to a work trip elsewhere. We have booked an apartment, and set up a photoshoot tour (something we try to do whenever we visit a new city – I highly recommend it as I like it much better than regular portraits or vacation selfies!) Have anyone been to Lisbon and have recommendations for restaurants, day trips, or off the beaten path activities?

    1. Emily*

      Yes! Day trip to Sintra. It’s a short train ride away. There are a handful of castles there with extensive grounds for some nice hikes (pack a picnic) and fairy tale views.

    2. Princess Buttercup*

      We had a day in Lisbon a couple of years ago and did a private tour through Tours by Locals (toursbylocals dot com, I think). Guide was a woman named Alex who was incredible (degree in history, very knowledgeable about the city). Last time I looked (a few months ago), she is still listed on the site, with lots of good reviews.

      We did a customized private tour that combined walking/driving around the city and learning about its history with the food of the area, for about 4-5 hours, but she also has some “set” itineraries.

      This was a 10 day trip that also included Bordeaux and London, but we still talk about that day in Lisbon as being the highlight of the trip.

    3. Nye*

      If you like port, the Solar do Vinho do Porto – huge selection of interesting ports, many of which are available by the glass. It’s a lovely basement tasting room, very neat place for a drink. (And a bit of an adventure if you don’t speak Portuguese, but well worth it.)

      Seconding Sintra, which is full of lovely historical sites like an old Moorish castle and a newer fairytale-looking place. Also, Belem has a spectacular cathedral with a nautical theme (rope carvings, etc), and a famous pastry shop to buy Pasteis de Belem, which are delicious little custard tart-type sweets.

      Finally, an hour away by train is Cascais, which is a really lovely seaside area. Lots of tourists, but also lots of great sea forts and gorgeous architecture, a great garden park, etc. A bit further out of Cascais is a popular windsurfing beach, which is very fun to watch.

      Finally, drink all the good cheap Portuguese wine you can! There are a lot of delicious wines that aren’t commonly exported (at least to the US). And check out a market if you can (there’s one in Cascais on the weekend, can’t recall the day), for amazing produce and delicious local cheeses.

  25. Bekx*

    Does anyone have bed sheet recommendations? I know Alison posted her favorites a year or so ago, but I can’t find that post anymore.

    Secondly…..I just bought a condo and it closes mid-May. Holy closing costs. Holy extra costs I didn’t realize. This is my first house, and I’m doing it by myself and I just was so surprised at how much more buying a house is than just the sticker price. This isn’t the fault of my realtor or the bank, I just….was woefully naive.

    I’m trying to save every penny now just so I can afford things like sheets and a vacuum cleaner. I’ve been living with my parents after college (in which I had a furnished apartment, so I didn’t need as much there, either). It’s the little things that are adding up.

    1. Colette*

      The little things are so expensive when you have nothing. With bed sheets in general, you want a reasonable thread count. I blelieve Alison recommended bamboo – I bought some for my mom for Christmas and she liked them, but they’re pricier than cotton. And sheets wear out, so it’s not like you’ll be stuck with them forever if you buy ones you don’t like.

    2. Cristina in England*

      This may not be the kind of rec you were after, but I really like my Ikea sheets. Not the cheapest ones they sell, I don’t like those. I’ve had them for a while and they’re nice and soft and have held up well.

      1. Bekx*

        Damn, I just was at Ikea a few weeks ago. It’s a few hours away….I’ll have to remember this for next trip.

        1. Cristina in England*

          I don’t know where you live, but in the UK you can buy most things online from Ikea’s website (including sheets). There is a delivery charge though. I have also bought Ikea stuff that they don’t sell on ikea.co.uk from Amazon sellers (who clearly live near an Ikea). Most recent example was a utensil holder to replace the one we used to have.

    3. periwinkle*

      Luckily I did a lot of research (first-time buyer, last year) so I knew about closing costs and other miscellaneous costs for the actual purchase. It’s all those other costs that are the real surprise! Those appliances and fixtures? Yours now. If the faucet is dripping you need your own tools and some YouTube videos to sort it out.

      IKEA is your friend for an inexpensive start. I wouldn’t buy their sofas or bedframes but for stuff like tables it’s fine. They’ve also got a ton of housewares and textiles. Even though we can afford pricier stuff these days, we still use a lot of IKEA items such as utensils, pots & pans, storage, kitchen textiles (so many dish towels…) and a down comforter. Their sheets are perfectly acceptable but you can likely find nicer stuff for less at sites like Overstock and Zulily (I’ve bought bedding from both). It’s okay to buy “good enough” things for now, you can always upgrade later when your budget has recovered from the home buying costs.

      1. Bekx*

        I went to Ikea a few weeks ago (it’s a few hours away) and ended up getting all my dishes, flatware, glasses, wine glasses….all for about 100 bucks! It was definitely awesome and I can’t wait to go back!

        I did a lot of research too, I just didn’t expect it to be that high. A lot of things happened, like I could no longer get the first time home buyer loan because my condo doesn’t have enough in reserves (my banker thinks that’s on purpose…). It was just I found the house I wanted for slightly higher than I originally thought…but dang. I’m just ready to stop being poor!

      2. Sunflower*

        Also check out Homegoods. Some of their stuff is a lot cheaper(and nicer) than Target and those types.

    4. Noah*

      I bought some bedsheets at Walmart late last year when I moved and was furnishing my guest room. Better Homes & Garden brand, 100% Egyptian cotton. They were the highest thread count Walmart had. The set plus extra pillow cases was only $45. I ended up using them on my own bed because they are so nice, smooth and soft.

    5. Pumpkin scone*

      No bedsheet recommendations but I hear you on unexpected costs beyond the sticker price. We now factor 15% beyond sticker for closing, furniture, lawn equipment, etc. When I mention this expense to first-time buyers, their eyes bug out.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, my real estate agent seemed a bit surprised that my husband and I, who were otherwise totally naive first time home buyers, had included 5k for new furniture and another 5k of “other” in our housing budget. The total number ended up the same, but the breakdown was a bit different (we now have an Ethan Allen couch set. I LOVE our couches, and we intend to keep them for 15+ years. But they did not come cheap!)

        Maybe it’s different for people moving from one house to a similarly sized house or people moving to a smaller place, but our current house is 1.5x the size of our past apartment… the apartment that had cheap furniture from Craigslist.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Closing costs. They are supposed to be doing full disclosure. But somehow full disclosure happens too late and it’s still not FULL. They make such a big deal out of it and there are still hidden costs.

      I have a dog who sleeps on my bed so I am not interested in spending a lot of money. If you have town-wide tag sales in your area you might want to check them for some of the stuff you need. I picked up a comforter for $5. Nice colors, good condition. The dog is very happy with it.
      My friend and I went last year. His advice was to do the sales that were not in the main areas where most of the sales were clustered. Boy, was he right. People go to the busy spots and the tag sales on side streets get a lot less foot traffic and you have more to chose from. We looked ridiculous filling that pick up like we did, but who cares. We got some great deals.

      1. Lindsay J*

        This is what I do. Whatever is high thread count egyptian cotton from TJ Maxx, Ross, or Marshalls.

    7. Swoop*

      I really like cotton jersey sheets. They’re very stretchy, so they fit more varieties of mattress than one would think, and they sometimes come in fun patterns (mine have dragons :) ). They are a little bit warmer than your standard sheet, but not as warm as flannel or anything.

      1. Finny*

        Sheets with dragons? I must find these–the husband and I are both huge Dragon fans.

    8. future homeowner*

      I took a first-time homebuyer’s class offered by my city…I had no idea that I needed more money than just a downpayment (and then mortgage payments). It was an eye opener.

      Maybe I’ll be able to buy a home in a few years…this market is ridiculous though.

    9. TootsNYC*

      remember that you can totally do without the little things. Lots of them.

      also, you can spread the word around to whatever groups you’re in that you’d take hand-me-downs; you might be surprised.

  26. Anonymous Educator*

    This week, someone showed me The Day of Gluttony videos on YouTube, and I find them fascinating (two people go to 24 places to eat/drink within 24 hours). I wish they spent a little more time at each place (they edit it down to about 15 minutes), but a lot of those restaurants look good.

    1. Hellanon*

      My roommate in college did that kind of thing but I always suspected it was an eating disorder.

  27. New girl*

    Start moving into my apartment today and already had to return my beautiful couch I just bought because I can’t get it into my apartment. Spent about an hour trying. I’m so stressed out and just want to cry. I can’t wait for this move to be over.

    1. Is it spring yet?*

      I have my son’s couch because it wouldn’t fit. He’s moving and may take it back so I’ll have to buy one.

    2. mander*

      Ugh, we had a heck of a time finding a sofa that was small enough to fit in our house. Everything was gigantic!

      I’m sorry yours didn’t fit. How stressful and disappointing. :-(

    3. Alston*

      Depending upon how much you love your couch you can actually pay an upholsterer to take it apart and reassemble it inside. Happens a fair amount in old areas of the country with tiny stair cases.

      1. New girl*

        We ended up returning it. They had a smaller sofa set that we can get in the same fabric as the original so I will be going tomorrow to get details on that. I wanted to have the couch when I moved in but it is what is.

    4. NDQ*

      I’m reading your post as I pack up my house to move into an apartment. You are experiencing one of my current fears. I am buying new furniture and getting stuff into the upstairs unit is going to be tricky. I am looking for sectionals for that reason.

      I hope the rest of your move and getting settled goes better!


      1. New girl*

        Today was perfect! I was so stressed after yesterday so I was kinda of nervous going into today. We have decided on a sectional that can come in piece by piece. I didn’t want to take any risks.

  28. Mallory Janis Ian*

    Y’all, I have a problem that I am trying to think my way through and do the right thing.

    So, there is a women’s festival coming up that is a four hour drive from here. It’s a week of camping in cabins like at summer camp with bunk beds.

    My women’s group has decided to carpool there, and we decided to open the invitation to all the women in our church, not just the ones in our small group. A couple of trans women are interested in going, and I invited them to the planning session for it. One of the other women in the group said that I should contact the festival and confirm whether trans women would be welcomed, rather than show up and find out that way.

    I sent a Facebook private message to a local woman who is on the planning board for the festival, and she said that some women would mind and some women wouldn’t, but the official festival decision is that only cis women are welcome. I didn’t think it would be that way because some of the women in my group who have been attending it since the 1970s said that it would be good for us straight women to experience being in the minority for once, as most of the women there tend to be lesbians. So I guess I thought if LGB is welcome then T is, too.

    Now I need to tell that terrible thing to the two women who I, in my apparent ignorance and naivete, put in a position to be excluded. I don’t even want to go myself now, but I’m the one who rallied everyone into going.

    I will speak privately to the one woman at church tomorrow and I guess just tell her what happened and see what she wants to do. I don’t even know what to say. I won’t go if she doesn’t want to go and I will go if she wants to risk going anyway, and I will leave with her if it comes to that.

    The other woman doesn’t go to our church but she is in my network because she was on a panel discussion of transgender issues at our church one time. I guess I’ll see what insights I gain from my talk with the woman I do know and then let that inform my talk with her.


    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I actually do want to go because I think it will be fun, but I think it would be shitty of me too invite someone, and then tell them, “Sorry, you’re excluded,” and then prance off to have fun without them.

      1. Today's anon*

        I would also make sure to tell the organizers that you are not attending because of their exclusionary policies.

        1. katamia*

          Yeah, I think it’s really important to say this. It’s too late for them to change it for this year, I’m sure, but if they get enough feedback to that effect, then it could maybe help things change down the road.

    2. Cristina in England*

      Are you or is anyone else you know in a position to lobby the festival board to change their mind?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Some of the women in my group know the one woman I contacted who is on the board. She plays with a local band and has been around here for a long time. Maybe if some of the women who have been going to the festival for years and who know her spoke with her?

        1. Alston*

          Or maybe even speaking to more than just her (there are others planning this festival as well, right?)

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yeah, I’ll talk to the women in my group and get them to help me push back with the festival board.

    3. LisaLee*

      Unfortunately, this sort of attitude tends to be common at some of the older women’s festivals. It sucks. I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much; I think this is something that isn’t talked about a lot outside of lesbian circles.

      In the future, can you find another festival to go to? There are tons of new women’s festivals springing up now, and a lot of “alternative” crafting or wilderness retreats also have a feminist/spiritual bent. If you’re in Michigan (I say that because this sounds like MichFest) I might have a few ideas for you.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Thanks for the encouragement; I am kicking myself somewhat and the festival somewhat (alternating between the two). I’m in Arkansas, and the festival is in Missouri.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Well, I’m in Arkansas, so you can imagine my horror at what my state is likely to do next. All of you who live in liberal places and think that all of the South is crazy conservative, we’re not! We’re just outnumbered by the ones who are, and we think that they are a bunch of crazy assholes, too.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              For example, there is one guy in my town who had two confederate flags, each the size of a twin flat sheet, sticking out from the holes in the back of his pickup truck. He drives around with these giant confederate flags unfurled in the breeze behind him. What an asshat! Not to mention that if you drive through my neighborhood right now, you’ll probably see the confederate serving as a curtain in half a dozen windows. I put out a Bernie sign and half expected someone to kick it over, but they haven’t.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                There are people like that here too. I don’t know if this was real or fake, but not long ago, someone published a picture online of a house with a Confederate flag and a NOOSE hanging in front of it. It said the picture was in my city. Real or fake, it would not surprise me one bit.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Oh, when I spoke with the one trans woman, “Patty”, today, she mentioned MichFest! She said that they historically have excluded trans women, but that they have said that this is the last year that that rule will stand. She said that their board had said that they will cease to have the festival in the future if the membership can’t agree that it will be open to trans women.

    4. LizB*

      Ugh, that’s really unfortunate. I don’t think you put them in a position to be excluded, though — the festival board did that when they decided to, well, exclude them.

      I think that trying to appeal to the festival board would be a good start. And if I were in your position, I would consider not going, and letting the organizers know why — and maybe seeing if anyone else from my women’s group would join me. I know this kind of exclusion happens a lot, but it’s really pretty awful, and for me it would be worth pushing back.

    5. Owly*

      This was an exact plot point in season 2 of Transparent! Maura ended up getting pretty much run out of the fest when they found out she was trans so it is probably good you checked first. I think it is a pretty nonsensical old-school attitude but some feminists feel that way.

      Maybe you guys could plan to do something else that weekend where everyone is included? Like a beach house or camping or something? Have your own mini-women’s festival?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I was wondering whether I should even have asked, and it felt a little gross to be to be asking behind their backs. But the alternative would be to show up and risk a possible hurtful scene. And I had really hoped that the answer was, “Sure, no problem.”

        1. YaH*

          Oh, how ugly of them. (The festival.) I just don’t understand how they can justify excluding women based on a circumstance totally out of their control. I mean, are they going to ask everyone to show their genitals before letting them in the gate? Or make everyone submit to a DNA test beforehand?

          While you did the right thing by making sure you didn’t put your friends in a situation that could be dangerous or uncomfortable, how are they going to reasonably exclude some women while claiming to be a safe space for all women?

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I could check out cabin rentals fur a group our size if everyone is into that. It sounds like I need to talk with the other women in my group and come up with a response to the festival board and if necessary an alternate activity.

    6. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Should I push back with the festival board before I say anything to the two women? I’m torn between “maybe I can fix it before they have to know” and “they deserve to know” vs. “don’t they get enough of this shit without having to know of every single instance?” Our planning meeting is a week from today and the festival is May 13, so we have only a short time to lobby them.

      1. misspiggy*

        Worth a try, but if they did change you’d have to be fairly sure it was a genuine change of heart, rather than a grudging shift that led to unwelcoming behaviour.

      2. Yetanotherjennifer*

        I think you need to tell them now. They’re making plans with the assumption that they can go. Waiting to see if you can change the festival is is just a rationalization for delaying a difficult conversation. Not that I blame you at all for wanting to. It sucks to have to tell someone they’re not invited to a party. This isn’t even your party, but because you’re the one who checked, you’re the one who gets to deliver the message. Also, if they’re a well-organized festival, they’re not going to change their policy so close to the event. That would cause too many logistical problems and open people up to discrimination and potentially difficult situations. And if you think about it, how comfortable would your friends be as potentially the only trans women at a festival that was pressured to include them?

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          You’re right. And if it were me, I wouldn’t want all kinds of chatter and kerfuffle about my inclusion going on behind the scenes; I would want to know.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I’ll have to go early to church today, like before the religious education part, instead of just showing up for the service. That way I’ll be able to talk to the one woman before the people traffic picks up. And then I’ll contact the other woman via Facebook private message? That is the only contact I really have with her; I friended her on Facebook when she sent a request to join our women’s circle private group.

    7. Mando Diao*

      Ugh, that’s so lousy. Trans exclusion/gender essentialism was actually an issue with second wave feminism, and it’s one of the main ideological differences between the second and third wave. There’s a term for it: TERF, for trans excluding radical feminist. It’s a relic from the days when there was a need for women to make the point that gender is a learned social construct and otherwise irrelevant (as an argument for equal pay and such). Of course, now we understand that while gender roles are socially informed, gender identity is innate.

      Perhaps you could do some more involved research and bring some of this up with the festival board? You mention that the festival has been around since the ’70s, so I can see how the second-wave attitudes are coming into play here.

    8. neverjaunty*

      Crap in a hat. Is this STILL going on?

      Yes, push back against the festival, but if they won’t budge, don’t go.

    9. Mallory Janis Ian*

      So, I went early to church today so that I could catch “Patty”, the one woman who I know personally, and talk to her privately. When I got there, though, everybody was there and in chaos preparing for the Beltane/Maypole ritual and cookout. I saw Patty, but she was so busy directing everyone’s activities and assisting them.

      So I spoke first with the one straight woman, “Sharon” from the women’s wisdom circle who had first recommended that I confirm with the festival whether trans women were welcome. I told her of the festival’s official stance, and I didn’t much care for her response. She said, “Oh, well, Patty will understand; she is aware that stuff like this happens.” Well, just because shit like this happens and the people it happens to are aware of it, doesn’t make it okay!

      So I spoke to one of the other veteran members of the women’s wisdom circle, Maggie, who I trust to do the right thing and to help me. She has been going to the festival for years and years, and she had no idea that it excluded trans women.

      She said that she had just spent last weekend with the festival board member who I had contacted, and that she would go through her to help our group lobby the festival about their policy. Her partner, Cass, also has long-standing and deep relationships with the lesbian community who run the festival, and they both said they would team up to lobby the festival board on our behalf. So that part is out of my hands and with women who are more connected and have better standing than I to speak personally with the festival board.

    10. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Part 2, to break up the wall of text:

      Then while I was in the kitchen helping get ready for the ice cream station at the Beltane ritual, Patty approached me and said, “I hear you need to talk to me about something?” So I just told her about what was going on, pretty much the same way I told y’all about it. She was full of such grace and poise about it. She said that she understands, and she doesn’t agree with their decision. I told her that I don’t either, and that Maggie is going to appeal to the festival board. I said, “I don’t know how you feel about just going anyway”, and she said, “Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it after we hear what the board says to Maggie’s appeal.”

      I asked her what we should say to the other trans woman, “Dana”, who wants to come (her Facebook event response is tentative). Well, it turns out that Patty knows Dana personally, and she advised me to not say anything to Dana until Maggie and Cass report back on the festival’s response. She said that she would then contact Dana.

      So I will follow up later this week with all the awesome women from my circle who are helping with this, and see what the status is. If Patty and Dana can’t go, I won’t go either. I can’t speak to what the other women in the group will do.

    11. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Part 3, for further wall-of-text breaking:

      And lastly, the one woman, Linda, whose initial response had me giving her the side-eye, came up to me while we were all sitting around eating a vegan hot dog after the Maypole dance and said that she appreciated me for taking action to appeal to the board. Her heart was in the right place, I guess, but she just didn’t have any intention of doing anything about it? She was genuinely glad that I did, though. Hmmm . . .

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Linda / Sharon. I got my fake names all mixed up. I was trying to use whatever names were popular in the generation of the women’s age group so that the name, while fake, would still convey something about them. So no Tiffanys or Bambis or such, just plain names for women their age.

  29. Aurora Leigh*

    Gardening advice! It’s a theme this weekend, isn’t it?

    I live in an apartment but I have about a 3′ x 3′ area by my back steps of broken concrete and weeds. I’d like do some kind of container gardening there. It’s mostly shaded, although it gets some early morning sun. Recommendations for plants? I’m borderline zone 5/6. Cat friendly plants a plus!

    1. SAHM*

      You can definitely buy catnip at your local homedepot. I had to disuade my hubby from buying some. lol. Mint is a great container plant because it spreads like a weed and takes over the area. I have a “pink lemonade blueberry” that I picked up at Costco because PINK? BLUEBERRIES?! And it’s in a container(mostly because I’m not certain where I want to plant it), my lemon tree was happy in its container for the 5 years I lived in a townhome. It’s NOT happy now that it’s in actual dirt though, lol. Mostly decide, do you want to grow herbs for your kitchen, or drinks, do you want to invest in a lemon tree or rose bush because you hope one day to have a place to plant them? Do you want to try planting some veggies? I actually read about a man who literally grew pumpkins in buckets. It started as a joke and he ended up (a few years later) with some hundred off buckets that produced awesome pumpkins and veggies. Certainly cuts down on weeding!

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Oooh, blueberries! I forgot you grow them in containers. I think I’ve seen strawberries that way too, come to think of it.

        Mint is good too! I’m not much of a cook (yet, anyway) but I know mint is good in lemonade.

        I am hoping to one day (in 5-10 years) have a place to plant things actually in the ground, so I like the idea of investing in the future in a small way.

    2. paramilitarykeet*

      Drat. I was going to give specific advice, as I’ve done lots of container gardening, but I looked at the zone map and I’m borderline zone 8/9. Way too hot for you! I’ve done trees in pots, with other shade-loving plants grouped in pots underneath. In my zone, with a garden space that was small and fenced, with a large tree in the center, finding plants that can take heat and not get much light was the challenge. I was able to (accidentally) create a microclimate with all of the potted plants that was a good 10 degrees cooler in summer, and I was able to (again, accidentally) grow plants outside that normally grow in greenhouses and could never otherwise survive in my zone. Just bring them inside or cover them in winter!

      My first step in getting started was to take a day and sit in the new space with a good book. I’d start early, then watch where the light falls in the space as the day progresses. Go to a good local nursery and ask about shade vs. part-sun vs full sun, based on your observations. Ask what would be able to tolerate being in a container. The thing about container gardens is that if a plant is not thriving in one location, You can move it around until you figure out where it will fit/ what will work in the space. And, yes, there will be some deaths. But, you can also fiddle with the soil chemistry and grow plants that would normally never grow in your zone. I have a camelia that is in a very large pot that I’ve had for 8 years. With a bit of sulfur, it has survived–though its bloom cycle has slowly migrated to later and later in the year as our winters have become warmer.

      Anyway, have fun! Make a nice place to sit, and don’t be afraid to hang art or old mirrors if there is a fenced wall to open up the space/ make it unusual. It’s small, but it could be a great retreat for you, to sit on the back steps with your beautiful plants and some fairy lights, with a cocktail after a long day at work.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration!

        I hadn’t given any thought to designing the space. I like your first step! I really wasn’t sure where to start. Nursery plants might be out of my budget, but I’ll do some research.

        Do you have any favorite books, blogs or other resources for container gardening?

        1. paramilitarykeet*

          There are various publications from the editors of Fine Gardening that I’ve looked at over the years–they are large-ish magazines with inspirational pictures that tend to be a bit formal for my taste but show you what is possible. The basic idea is “thriller, filler, spiller.” So a showy, flowering plant/one with variegated leaves, something more plain to coordinate/ fill out the pot, and one plant to spill over the side of the pot to create visual interest. Like curating small groups of objects, odd numbers of things grouped together seem to work best, whether it is placing plants in one container or in groups of single plantings in pots. I’ve not read many books or blogs on the subject but rather relied on conversations with the workers at some very great local nurseries–and also by walking around in my city and noting what plants looked they they were doing well and noting the conditions under which they were grown.

          Re. nursery and budget: you don’t have to spend a lot to get small versions of plants that will grow large under your care. I recommend these places over Big Box stores ( until you know what you are doing) because the people at the local places are usually very passionate about plants and will likely help you, even if you are buying small plants in the $2.00 range or a bag of potting soil. I’ve spent many an afternoon just wandering through a couple of outdoor garden stores/ nurseries in my town, looking at the plants, without buying, noting their conditions and how fit they look. I do this in the neighborhoods I walk through, too. I’d recommend anything local blog or resource-wise, as they will know what grows in your area best. The rest is a very, very fun design “problem.” Have fun!

          1. paramilitarykeet*

            And be sure to scrouge flea markets or Craig’s List for unusual containers, and don’t be afraid to hang things on the fence, if you have one. You can design an area around one weird container, and it will look amazing. Take your time and remember that you can take your pots with you and plant things when you eventually have a piece of earth to call your own. We just planted a loquat tree that did time in a large plastic pot for several years ( I got married last year and moved to suburbia and lost my beautiful urban container garden–but gained beautiful DH) and it felt so beautiful to plant something that will very likely outlive me. And, like in the small space, I spent almost a year studying the light on different sides of the yard and thinking about what the shade of the tree would do to the interior light of the house. In this case I took so long because planting is just so permanent! Sitting and thinking and dreaming are a good first step–that and a local almanac of what to plant and when.

          2. SAHM*

            Lol! I just bought a Fine Gardening magazine last week! I enjoyed it, but, like you, a bit too formal for my taste. I prefer open spaces with less bushy plants, more roses, fruit trees, bulbs, with space for veggies during the spring/summer. No veggies this year though, I’ve run out of energy on my smaller projects, I’ve had to cut the bigger projects entirely until baby girl arrives in late June/early July. Last year I had soooo many crookneck squash, spaghetti squash, cantaloupe, tomatoes, watermelon and corn! This year just tomatoes, I tried, I bought seeds and pulled out my little containers that I start my seedlings in and…. ran out of energy. Eventually I’ll put everything back and start again next year.

    3. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I absolutely scored last year and found great pots and liners clearanced out at Joann Fabrics of all places. I can’t remember when, late in the season for sure, but the prices are worth keeping an eye out.

  30. LisaLee*

    Has anybody tried the micro-saving app Acorn? I’m sort of intrigued by the idea of it (basically, every time you make a purchase it rounds up to the next dollar and socks the change away in an investment account) and I like the sort of “mindless saving” idea for things like vacations, but I’m hesitant about handing my financial info over to an app.

    Any thoughts, or similar products people have used? I would like to find something that lets me save small amounts for things like vacations/larger splurge purchases with minimal effort from me.

    1. PersistentCat*

      I’m trying it now! I’ve only had it for a month, but it seems very do-able. I set up a very small reoccuring deposit, and the rest is for round ups. So far I’ve gain a whole dollar, so in that way, it was a pretty quick return.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      I use Digit, which I have loved. I’ve saved several hundred dollars over the last year. It has some crazy algorithm that can figure out when you have extra money in your account that isn’t going to have to go toward other expenses and moves small amounts of money (usually around $2-5) into a savings account every couple of days. It also sends me a text each morning with my checking balance, which has been really helpful for tracking.

      Most of these apps use bank-standard encryption so it’s good to be wary but they take your security really seriously.

    3. BBBizAnalyst*

      I’ve been using Digit. I like it so far!

      I ended up closing my traditional savings account as they were tacking on a $12 monthly maintenance fee (really? what are you doing maintenance on if money is being autoswept to the account??). I haven’t tried Acorn so can’t comment on it.

    4. LC*

      I don’t use Acorn, but my bank has an option for students where they transfer a dollar from your checking to a savings account every time you make a purchase on your debit card. That savings account has like 3% interest or something higher than the typical savings account.

      It’s obviously not the same as giving your info to an app, since it’s through my bank–but I also use Venmo and personally don’t mind that my information is out there, as long as the app has a decent enough reputation. I’ve yet to spend any money in the account about five years after opening it, and there’s more than $2,000 in it, which isn’t too shabby.

    5. Lindsay J*

      I’ve been using it for like 2 weeks or so. I think I’ve saved like $14 so far. A lot of that is because I chose to have even dollar purchases (so transactions ending in $.00) contribute a $1.

      However, if I were choosing again I would probably go with Digit because Acorn has a $1 a month fee, while I don’t think Digit has any fees. Also, with Digit it is a savings account, while Acorn is an investment account. You can choose how conservative or aggressive you want your investment strategy to be, but you risk losing money no matter what. I think I’m currently down like $.15 or something like that.

    6. Kate*

      You might check with your bank. I know a few years ago, there was something called “keep the change” advertised with Bank of America, so each purchase was rounded up to the next while dollar, with the difference being automatically routed to your savings account. Your bank may have something similar.

  31. pumpkin scone*

    Mr Scone and I are very routine based; I buy groceries each Sunday, and through the week we compile a list on the fridge. If it’s not on the list, I don’t (generally) buy it. But one difference between us: when I see we’re running low on a staple, I’ll add it to the list. So I’ll add butter when I open the last stick, or peanut butter when the bottom of the jar comes into view. But Mr. Scone doesn’t add things to the list until he throws out the last of something, and when I buy a replacement pre-emptively, he complains about pantry clutter. Which I ignore- JUSTIFIABLY, because today I tried to throw together a meal with staples I assumed we had and lo and behold, we don’t! They are on the list for tomorrow’s shopping but I didn’t realize we didn’t have the items at all. The struggle is real, folks.

    1. alice*

      I hear you! It’s probably because my family doesn’t *need* the stuff we’re about to run out of (maybe that’s the case with Mr. Scone?). No one else uses milk in their tea, so it’s no biggie if we run out which oddly enough is all the time. Gah.

      1. Artemesia*

        For the milk– buy one of those 16 inch plastic bottles of milk with the screw on top and hide it in the very back of the refrigerator behind the spare bottle or range juice and the cooking oil or whatever, so when you need it, you have it. Or freeze milk in a freezer tray and have the cubes in the freezer to add to the tea. You’ll have to then microwave it back hot but still, you have your milk.

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      He or She who make the problem deals with the problem. If he knowingly waited until the the last bit is gone before adding it to the list and then that thing isn’t available for cooking, he suddenly becomes responsible for the meal that was going to be made with that thing. He can either make something else, or call and make a dinner reservation.

      1. Pumpkin scone*

        Heh. He is visiting a friend this weekend so I just had to get creative- and vent here. :)

      2. TootsNYC*

        I would agree w/ this policy! Or, he can go out to the store and buy it right then and there. Maybe he should come home from his trip? ;)

    3. Artemesia*

      I am with you totally. I always buy the back up of a staple when I BEGIN the new jar of mayonaise or peanut butter or whatever. And I try to buy back ups for things like spices when I see we are getting low. Not everything needs to be backed up in the pantry but the staples you need to throw together things at the last minute do. I now live in an urban high rise and there is a small mini market in the building next door. It isn’t like a 7/11 where you can buy just beer, beef jerky, cheetohs and packaged sweet rolls — it is like a mini grocery with baking powder, tomatoes, eggs, cheeses, lots of frozen foods, and all the beer brands in the world. Whenever I suddenly need canned artichokes or corn muffin mix or maple syrup I can just run and grab it mid recipe — but when we had to get in the car and drive to a store,, I really liked having a well stocked pantry. If you do most of the cooking then it is your call; if you split the cooking, it is still your call.

    4. Emmy*

      For us it’s “all in how you was raised” (as a favourite book puts it) (on whether or not you keep pigs in the kitchen or just chickens), my family has always lived “out” of town so my mother would shop every two weeks. His family always lived “in” town and would shop at least every few days if not every day. Thirty years later, still drives me mad. He will say, “Wow. I like how relaxed it is when we have menus and things all planned out.” yet doesn’t always get the idea that “Yes, so we need INGREDIENTS in the house” and that if you make a three-egg omelet for breakfast then you don’t have the six eggs needed for the dinner quiche. I want a stuffed to overflowing pantry and he wants “enough.” We just switched to getting paid once a month and he about passes out when he sees “15 cans tomato sauce” on the grocery list. (As if they’ll go bad if we don’t use them all by the start of next month or something.) I’ll let you know if we get it all sorted out in the next 30 years.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        My husband gets grumpy with the way I buy canned stuff. He wants me to buy everything at Costco, because it’s cheaper. He’s right, it is. But he needs to watch his salt intake, and Costco doesn’t sell low or no sodium versions of canned goods. Plus you can only get larger cans. I like buying tomato sauce in 8 oz cans, because all of my recipes use tomato sauce in 1 cup increments. So if I make something that needs 1 cup of tomato sauce, if I use a larger can I either have to toss the rest, or put it into a plastic container and put it in the fridge, where it of course it gets shoved to the back, and sits there until it becomes a nasty looking science project.

        He has backed off on that because when he was diagnosed with diabetes, he came to the store with me one day to seek out healthier snacks and look at other options for stuff he likes to eat. He read a few labels and saw how much sodium is in almost everything, and then finally understood why I make such an effort to buy lower or no sodium stuff whenever I can.

    5. Too much cheese*

      You reminded me of a time in my marriage when husband was very controlling. I came home from doing the week’s shopping, and he was emptying the bags and generally inspecting my choices. He pulled out two blocks of cheese (on special) and said to me, “Isn’t this a bit extravagant?’ I just stood there and stared at him. How is a block of cheese extravagant? Did he think I was going to carve gnomes from it for table decorations? It was a sort of turning point moment for me…

        1. Too much cheese*

          We had a relationship to that point where my decisions were always being questioned, and I was allowing it. The ridiculousness of extravagant cheese helped me see the pattern and to begin the long journey of establishing better boundaries. He still says ridiculous things, but in my head I think, oh yeah, it’s a cheese moment, and then I can consciously decide whether I need to push back or just roll my eyes.

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      I have the same sort of issue with my husband. I always buy 2 of everything. I think it’s a weird thing I got from my mother. She grew up during the Depression, and her family was dirt poor (just like everyone else). So when you had the opportunity to get something, you got as much as you could. Fast forward 40 years, when my dad got a job in Saudi Arabia, and we moved there. You truly never knew what you’d find at the grocery store. So when you found something you hadn’t seen in awhile (Cheerios, your favorite brand of peanut butter, limes, whatever) you’d buy up everything the store had.

      So now, I think the remnants of those 2 things make me want to buy 2 of everything at the grocery store. It drives my husband nuts, because there’s always extras of everything in the pantry. So I’ve been making a concerted effort to break this habit. Then a few weeks ago, I purposely did not buy soy sauce on my weekly grocery trip because I was sure I already had some. Then went to get it a few days later, and there was none. I just can’t win.

    7. Rebecca in Dallas*

      This drives me batty! I don’t really keep a list, but if I use the last of something (especially a pantry staple), I make sure my husband knows. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of making something (let’s say, rice with cilantro and lime, because this just happened) and I get everything all prepped, go to the fridge to get the lime juice bottle… and it’s gone. “Honey, did you use the last of the lime juice?” “Yes.” Well, thanks for telling me. Generally I tell him that he needs to run to the corner store and get some more!

  32. nep*

    Can’t recall whether this has been covered in past open threads — if so, let me know.
    Has anyone had any luck getting rid of skunks around their house? The other night (and this happens occasionally) the odor woke us out of a sound sleep and just hung on for the longest time, making it tough to get back to sleep. Neighbour thinks it’s (or they’re) under her porch; she’s tried a bunch of products and built a barrier to where the critters appear to be hanging out. Apparently to no avail. Anyone had any luck with companies that will come out and trap them?

    1. SAHM*

      Do you have a animal control in your town/city? I’ve always lived in places where if we have an issue with a specific animal we’d call the city’s animal control and they would eventually come out and catch the critter.

      1. nep*

        Thanks. We’ve got a local animal control, but they don’t deal w skunks — last time we checked anyway. Worth a call again though. I’m also going to see what private companies charge.

        1. Pumpkin scone*

          Yeah, our animal control won’t touch wildlife, and our wildlife folks will only step in if a person gets bit by a skunk. Traps are the way to go (get ready to release possums and squirrels who wander in!). Also make sure neighbors aren’t leaving catfood outside, as that will keep attracting skunks.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I was going to say that about the cat food. I have to be vigilant because I have an outdoor cat. The possums are pretty innocuous, but I don’t want skunks in my yard.

    2. Aurora Leigh*

      No advice for getting rid of them, but advice for coping. Think of the smell of brewing coffee when you smell a skunk. Focus on remembering that smell, and you’ll smell coffee instead of skunk. Weird but it works for my family!

    3. it happens*

      My mother had a skunk under her shed. Called a company that left a trap/carrier and then came back and brought it to the state forest. It cost $200 – $300 and had a month or two ‘warranty.’ And neighbor will want to get the skunk out before it becomes a family of skunks…

    4. New girl*

      No advice, just funny story. Neighbor was trying to catch a wood chuck under his deck so he set up a live trap. Went away for a weekend and forgot to disable the live trap. I’m out walking my dogs minding my own business when my dachshund takes off. He’s run full steam ahead towards the live trap that happens to have caught a skunk. So of course, he got sprayed. Ugh, it was the worst. Gave him about 10 baths. The smell got caught into our AC so for months afterwards, it smelled terribly when we started it up.

    5. Too much cheese*

      We got rid of armadillos by rolling mothballs into their hole under our bushes. I wonder if that would work…

      1. nep*

        I have heard of mothballs as skunk repellent. (Apparently one has to check whether allowed in that particular municipality, because of ingredients.) Neighbour has tried those. So far no luck.

    6. Soil Sally*

      Skunks eat termites and other creatures I do not want around my house, so I am fine with them in general. But I know the smell! We had the screen fall off our crawlspace under the kitchen and a skunk got in. It got scared with all the kitchen stomping and let loose. The smell lasted for DAYS. We could TASTE it. Eye watering. And the smell got on our clothes that were in the dryer at the time, so we stank and did not even know it the next day because we were so thankful to be out of the house.

      The key with skunks is they are nocturnal. I sat outside at night and waited for skunk to toddle away to search for food, then verified there were no other skunks (adults or babies) and put the new screen back on. Problem solved. The best barrier is a physical one–stay away from chemicals. I just did a search and found some good information on humansociety.org.

      1. Artemesia*

        And if your clothes smell slightly of skunk, your co-workers are going to be rolling their eyes when you ‘splain’ that it really IS a skunk under the house.

  33. SAHM*

    Rocking Chairs. Gliders. Swivel Rockers that also recline. Ottomans are $$. Gah!
    I’m two months from due date today and I’ve been researching rocking chairs like mad for the last couple weeks. Originally I thought I would just get one from the local baby store, but the sticker price on the one I like is 700$+tax+delivery fee. Hubs is ok with the price because we’re getting a crib and changing table/dresser combo from my sis, so this is literally the only piece of furniture we need, but I would have liked to get two rocking chairs. One for the downstairs and one for baby girl’s bedroom. So I’m shopping and Wayfair has some really decent prices on rocking chairs, I can get two for 500$ w/free shipping, and the same rockers on Amazon are 20$ more and double the price. I like the idea of a “double rocker” because that one I can snuggle with my boys while I nurse baby and read them stories. Both boys are super excited about the baby, my eldest loves babies and smaller kids in general and my youngest is very possessive over “his” baby.

    So anyone have advice on rocking chairs? My last rocking chair I got from Babies RUs and it literally broke all the time. By the time I had #2 it wouldn’t rock, I would crawl under it, fix the issue it would rock for like 10 min then break again :-/ So I’m really looking for a NICE one that won’t break down on me and will handle two boys excitement over new baby.