weekend free-for-all – August 3-4, 2019

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.)

Book recommendation of the week: The Floating Feldmans, by Elyssa Friedland. The matriarch of a squabbling family turns 70 and decides to take the whole family (kids, spouses, and grandkids) on a cruise. Things do not go according to plan.

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

{ 1,347 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Deviant*

    Whoever recommended You Need A Budget website – wow, thank you. I love it!

    Its really helped me save a little bit, and I like that you’re not meant to budget stuff till the money’s actually there. That’s hard, but makes me look at my spending for sure. I know I spend too much on groceries.

    I do find that the app is not so great though, and you really need the online version to do more than the basics.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      The app is great for recording stuff as you go, but yes it isn’t much use for organising so you do need a desktop version.

      I really think it changes how you think about money!

    2. Purt’s Peas*

      I love YNAB! It’s the only app/method I’ve found that I can actually keep to and that makes me less anxious about money.

    3. Ingrid*

      I love love love YNAB. My husband and I have used it for about two years now and it’s really helped us save money and be more responsible with our budget.

    4. Snuck*

      They seem to have started using Facebook to invite everyone… maybe you (hopefully) just caught up?

      I know a Tupperware consultant that as soon as anyone announces anything (wedding, baby, birthday) somehow immediately blasts the persons entire friends list with a party invite even if the person hasn’t agreed yet… becomes very awkward then to back out of it.

  2. Angela Martin*

    I just got a FB invite to one of those MLM sex toy parties disguised as a bachelorette night for a friend. I have no problem with sex toys, I own plenty, but I order them from the internet in private like god intended. And this is a very lovely friend- I WANT to celebrate her! But WHY THIS. (And we are not so close that I would really be comfortable throwing her a shower, or I absolutely would.)

    Should I just go to this?! I hate not to be supportive, but… is it going to be beyond weird? Also- her Mom will be at this party. (Whyyyyy?!)

    (I cannot lament on Twitter like I usually would since her fiancé follows me there, so praise be for this space.)

    1. C*

      I went to one of these parties many years ago when online shopping was not yet the norm, and even though I’m a very private person, I have to say, it really wasn’t that bad. While it’s not necessarily how I would like to spend future Friday nights, it was all very lighthearted and relaxed. There was no intense pressure to buy anything, and there were plenty of very vanilla items available for sale alongside the kinkier stuff. That said, if it makes you uncomfortable, arrive early or late, enjoy the informal socializing that surrounds the event, and skip the sales pitch.

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        That was how I found the one I attended, super chill and relaxed with a lot of giggling. I was predisposed to loath the product too as a lot of it was jelly and/or unsafe for use.

      2. Ada*

        Same. It was surprisingly low key and not awkward. None of the products appealed to me, and I didn’t feel pressured at all. If it were me, I’d go, enjoy my friends’ company, and laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

      3. CoveredInBees*

        Uuuuugh, MLMs are a no for me. Always. Also, I have a weird quirk in that I have a very vivid visual response to both violent and sexual stuff. It is horrible. If I was at such a party I’d end up with visuals in my head that I soooooo do not want.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I think I would have to go but treat it as a massive gag gift. The sorts of things I might find sexy at a party like this are not things that I would want to tell anyone but my husband about, you know?

    3. Morning reader*

      I would be inclined, whether attending the party or not, to caution her to never use any of these “sex toys” without a condom or other barrier, and send her some links to better sex toy shops. Those jelly things are awful and no one should put them anywhere near sensitive parts.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        Sex toy reviewer/blogger here, seconding this. (And condoms only do so much as well because the oils from jelly’s plastic softeners can destroy a condom. Ew.)

    4. CoffeeforLife*

      I agree that there were lots of giggling and 20 year old me found it educational and eye-opening. We each bought the bride to be something/contributed to her wish list but your own personal purchase was private. I haven’t been to one in 20 years though, fwiw.

    5. Caterpie*

      Ugh. That’s a tough one because supporting people in MLMs (by buying products) just prolongs their time in those structures, and the products are lower quality/more expensive than similar items from other brands. Can you pretend to be oblivious as to how the party works and bring a gift so you don’t feel obligated to buy from the MLM catalog? Maybe a gift card to a lingerie or sex shop would help stay on theme without forcing you to pick a specific item for her in front of her mom!

    6. Stitch*

      Mlms are the worst. Is friend in an mlm or did someone rope her into this? The first is a trickier situation.

    7. Texan In Exile*

      Someone I wanted to be friends with invited me to lunch once and I was so excited. Turns out she wanted to recruit me for an MLM. Even then, I was angry about it, but after listening to the podcast “The Dream” (I think someone here recommended it), I am even more ticked off. MLMs are pure evil. They exploit vulnerable people and they make rich people richer.

      I don’t care about the sex toys (but yeah – her MOM is going to be there?) but I would want to refuse just because MLM.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I had one of those recently! 4 of us at a party hit it off like a house on fire, which is rare in middle age. (The host of the party knew two others, but no one knew anyone else. It was a housewarming and I was just a random neighbor.) We arranged a lunch to keep it going. One woman REALLY wanted to host even though any of us could have.

        It turned out to be a surprise Mary Kay party. I was so mad! We all drove / transited at least an hour to get there. She didn’t even give us the promised lunch until after the whole thing was over at 2p, and it was a pasta salad. Whenever we started chatting, she steered us back to the makeup. Then we got stuck driving back an hour and a half in rush hour. Never spoke to her again.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh, that happened to me once when I lived in California. A relative contacted me that she would be in the area and wanted to meet up. I was working, so we agreed to meet on my lunch hour. She spent the entire time extolling the virtues of melaleuca oil. We barely talked about anything else. I was so disappointed, but I didn’t know what to do.

        Now, I would just interrupt her and say, “Hey, Candice, I’m not really interested in the details of that. I wanted to see how you were doing and catch up on family stuff.”

    8. Beatrice*

      I went to one of those a few years ago. I am pretty reserved and didn’t expect to enjoy myself, but went to support another friend who was actually in the wedding and too scared of the bridezilla to opt out of the party. I bought a few vanilla ancillary items, the sale was private, everything was pretty low-key and designed to not be awkward.

    9. Sally Forth*

      A friend went to one of these for her cousin and their moms AND their gramma were there. She said her gramma was a hoot & kept telling her friends she had been to a f-erWare party! That said, it could be awkward.

      1. Annie*

        I’ve been to one of these and they are suuuuuper vanilla. You probably won’t have much fun, because boring, but it won’t be all that awkward. It’s a lot of like flavored lubes and body oils and giggling at the fact vibrators exist.

    10. Person from the Resume*

      This sounds awful. A bachelorette party that is actually a MLM sakes event??? I’m kind of sad for the bride to be. I’d hate it. It’s not a party; it’s a salesperson. If the bride finds the idea of sex toys titillating and risqué, well, that’s just sad; although, I wouldn’t want to discuss my preferences in that department with my mom.

      I would probably go, though, if I felt like I liked the bride to be as you describe. It’s a celebration. And I probably wouldn’t buy anything because as you said you can buy exactly what you want in the internet and it’s not overpriced like MLM schemes tend to be.

  3. Financial Disaster*

    We are massively in debt. We’ve gotten behind on minimum payments twice this year and have finally caught back up on everything and should be able to start paying slightly more than the minimums this month. Still, it will be extremely difficult to get this debt paid down (mostly credit card and really high rates because of being behind). The last few years have been sketchy for work as well (related to industry and economy slow downs). We’re working right now, and if there was consistent work for five years, I think we can get it paid off, but if projects get cancelled again and work slows down again, it will be impossible.

    How do you decide when it’s time to declare bankruptcy or try for a consumer proposal? I mean, if there’s another work slow down or other expensive catastrophe, we probably won’t have a choice – there’s nothing left to cover another period out of work, so we’d just stop paying the debt and the creditors would probably take action. However, if the work keeps up, is it worth the slog for another five years to try to pay it all off? That would put us in our early 50s when we were done.

    For clarity, there are no savings or retirement savings – we used those all up over the last few years of economic uncertainty. We have children, the first of whom will start college in a couple years. Our property is mortgaged AND there’s a line of credit AND we aren’t getting the mortgage paid down either so we would not qualify for a consolidation loan. If we get out of this on our own, the only way we are going to be able to do it is if the work keeps up, we stick to a fairly strict budget, and no other disasters happen.

    1. Angela Martin*

      Go talk to a bankruptcy attorney. Many will do a free/low-cost consultation, and it is SO HELPFUL to have a professional lay out the options and what those look like long-term. Bankruptcy can be a true blessing.

      I filed bankruptcy when I ended up $14k upside down on a car loan (lol @ 24.99% interest, but I was desperate and clueless and had no idea what I was doing) and had CC and massive medical debt. There is no shame in admitting you need help to get a re-start. I’m not super proud of it, but it wasn’t the death sentence people make it out to be.

    2. Asenath*

      Yes, definitely get expert advice. Many places have not-for-profit credit counselors who aren’t selling a re-financing service and can give you unbiased advice on bankruptcy as well as budgeting. It can be very difficult to accept that you’ve declared bankruptcy – but sometimes that’s the only option, and it’s an option that’s available for a reason, to give people who really need it a chance to re-start.

      1. Anonomoose*

        I’d second getting expert advice around this. The people who sold you the debt are experts, you should absolutely have someone on your side who is too.

        I think it’s important to remember that this debt was designed, specifically, to trap people like you who couldn’t quite pay. The bankers who came up with the product you were sold wanted you to be barely able to keep up. If it’s at all possible, they’d rather you never paid off the principle. They don’t make the big bucks off people who pay it off early.

        Every now and then they get people’s ability to repay wrong, of course. And, then, well, the government picks up the pieces, they get bailed out, and they hire smart people to come within a hair of doing it all again.

        So, treat bankruptcy like any other business transaction, because they do. If it makes financial sense to do it, then do. Don’t let moral arguments about paying back what you owe convince you to keep doing it, because morality didn’t enter into this at any point for the other side.

        /Lefty rant over

        1. Financial Disaster*

          Thank you for this perspective. Large chunks of the debt were DEFINITELY a trap, and I KNEW it was a trap but I thought I had it under control. And maybe if our industry hadn’t had a huge downturn, we would have mostly crawled out of debt by now, but I suspect a more realistic assessment would be that we’d still be in debt trap, just not as deeply.

    3. YetAnotherUsername*

      You should aim to have a 6-month cushion BEFORE you start to overpay on debt. Right now you have a tiny bit of extra cash, which you are planning on using to overpay your debts. But if you do that, next time you have an issue you won’t have any money to spare. Take that little bit extra you have right now and put it in savings. Paying off debt early is a good goal, but it’s more important to have emergency money set aside. Once you have 6 months of bills saved up, then it’s time to start overpaying on debt. Until then concentrate on not getting into any more debt and building up a 6 month emergency fund.

      1. Kittens Kittens Kittens*

        This advice only applies if you don’t have problem debt. If you’re missing minimum payments it is not the time to save.

        I can’t advise as I’m in the UK so the advice would be different but I will say it can get better and to hang in there.

        1. YetAnotherUsername*

          Yes obviously Make your minimum payments. But she specifically said that she had extra money this month to overpay above the minimum payment. This is the exact situation in which you should start building up an emergency fund. So that when the next problem arises, you have that emergency money to make the minimum payments.

          1. Overeducated*

            Six months of expenses could take a really long time to save up if you’re on a tight budget though (talking in the years, not months, for a lot of people). So that may be an impractical bar in this particular situation.

          2. Kittens Kittens Kittens*

            Look, no, the advice when you’re in debt is not to save. I’ll post a link in a reply.

              1. spiralingsnails*

                But we’re not talking about general savings, we’re talking specifically about an emergency fund – which is especially important for income-smoothing when you have irregular income. Example: your minimum payment is $1,000. In month #1 you have $1,050 and in month #2 you have $950. If you pay more than the minimum in month #1 then you will have to short or skip a payment in month #2. But if you paid only the minimum in month #1 and saved the extra $50, you would have been able to make the regular payment in month #2.

                1. Financial Disaster*

                  I’m building a little bit of emergency savings into our budget, but mostly, funds have to go on the debt (emergency slash oops forgot about X irregular expense). If the interest rates were in single digits, then I’d consider putting more into savings as we go along, but it’s almost all double digits and several are 20%+ so we have to start knocking down the principal and I just can’t get over the math of saving money at maybe 2% while paying 28% on debt (yes, there is one chunk at 28% it’s horrible). I also have a couple of specific things that I’ve started setting money aside for where I don’t know what the expense will be but I’m pretty sure there will be something (e.g. vehicle repairs because our vehicles are 10+ years old, and in exciting news for us we actually just paid a significant repair bill using ACTUAL MONEY not credit! (not that we had a choice)).

      2. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

        Dave Ramsey recommends a “starter” emergency fund of $1000 before aggressively attacking your debt. After debt is paid off, then build a 6 month cushion. $1000 isn’t enough to cover everything, but it will cover a lot of little things, giving you some peace of mind and avoiding additional debt in the short term. You can find his advice for free online (website, youtube), or you can get the book “The Total Money Makeover”.

          1. Retired and Happy Now*

            Second this. Check out Michelle Singletary’s advice. She writes a weekly column for the Washington Post geared to working people.

        1. Ginger ale for all*

          I try to follow Dave Ramsey as well and he often advises to get over time, a side job, sell some things, etc. I have a part time job that really helps me add to my retirement savings. So I completely recommend looking around for a way to get a part time job, he mentions pizza delivery as a good option.

    4. LibbyG*

      A relative of mine just declared bankruptcy and they’re so relieved. They were where you are now – just barely keeping up with no wiggle room at all. Definitely look into it. People can seek bankruptcy protection before they fall off the cliff. Best of luck finding a path you feel good about!

    5. Venus*

      I really like Gail vaz Oxlade (there’s a website where she posts everything and answers piles of questions). Somewhere on there she has talked about declaring bankruptcy. But yes, good professional advice is critical (find someone who is competent, even if it might cost you a bit of money, but also see if there are reputable public groups / charities in your area)

      1. Venus*

        I can’t quickly find a good link, but I would suggest searching her site for more info. Now that I think about it, she talks about negotiating lower rates with the credit companies and asking them to forgive some interest (they benefit more if you get some of their debt forgiven than if you declare bankruptcy) and if you own your home and have other assets then it affects your choices. You can negotiate with anyone to whom you owe money, except maybe student loans.

        Note that 95% of the people who ask her for help had the ability to make good decisions but didn’t, so she can seem a bit critical, but when she responds to people who have disabilities or unemployment then she’s much more sympathetic.

      2. Venus*

        And OP (Financial Disaster): if you are Canadian then GvO gives advice specific to Canadians so that might be another value-added for reading her advice.

    6. Madge*

      I’m tired, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to communicate this well. Go ahead and start the process now and talk to a bankruptcy attorney. It seems like you might feel on some level that you need to be in really bad shape to declare bankruptcy. And that maybe you haven’t clearly defined that point for yourself so It’s always ‘worse than now’. And this is your debt. My guess is nobody handed it to you and ran off. So it’s understandable and good that you want to accept responsibility for it and work to pay it off. But, we have bankruptcy laws for people like you who have ended up with an unreasonable amount of debt. We have this structure so people don’t have to suffer forever for their mistakes. Good contracts have exit clauses and this is yours. Our society is in part to blame when people get in deep financial trouble and so it has a tool to help fix that. Lenders encourage a strong sense of responsibility for paying off debts so they’ll get paid and make a profit. They do this in their own self-interest. And it is ok for you to act in your self-intetest. It is ok for you to stop before reaching rock bottom. It is ok for you to try and minimize your kids’ sacrifices for this debt. It is ok for you to end this debt early enough to provide for your retirement. I believe all these things will end up being better and cheaper for society in the long run, no matter what your creditors might say. If it helps, bankruptcy isn’t a magic ticket; there will be financial consequences for years. So go ahead and do this. Good luck!

      1. LibbyG*

        Exactly. The idea behind bankruptcy law us that creditors bear some of the responsibility for making sure loans are reasonable. They’re supposed to bear some of the risk. You’ve probably paid the principal on your credit cards several times over, at this point.

    7. Ethyl*

      I agree with the advice to talk to an expert! My good friends declared bankruptcy maybe 15 years ago, and today they own a home and a car and are reasonably comfortable, budget-wise, so it absolutely is something you can come back from.

      You said you have a mortgage and line of credit on your home — another resource I would recommend is searching for foreclosure prevention in your town. The place we took our first-time home buyer class offers foreclosure prevention counseling to certain qualified homeowners, and also offers a foreclosure prevention workshop periodically.

    8. Aquawoman*

      I think at least talking to a bankruptcy attorney would help. Do your research on the attorney/firm, because there are “bankruptcy mills” which do a bare minimum and sometimes not even that. I worked for the bankruptcy courts 20+ years ago so this may be outdated but there was an effort at the time by many credit card issuers to make their debt not be discharged by the bankruptcy, using some case law that was meant to apply to people who intentionally went on a spending spree before filing. So research or ask about that.

    9. Katefish*

      I’m a bankruptcy attorney (on the creditor side), and all I could think while reading this was, “Take the BK (bankruptcy)!” You need breathing room to live, and, if you’re eligible for a Ch. 13 or Ch. 11, to pay off a percentage. A few states allow you to modify your home loan in bankruptcy also–talk to a local attorney.
      Heads up I agree with the comment below about there being many low quality bankruptcy attorneys out there, unfortunately. Two ways around this problem: 1) If you know anyone who works for a smaller bank or creditor’s counsel firm, ask if they know any good debtor’s attorneys. I’ve walked people over to competent friends on “the other side.” 2) Along those lines, go to court on a bankruptcy calendar–it’ll be a public courtroom–and you’ll be able to see who the judge respects, and, for states with multiple hearings, who you might like.
      Another tip: Don’t file Ch. 7 if you have major assets with lots of equity. That doesn’t sound like your case, but just throwing that out there because the trustee can sell your assets.
      (Obligatory disclaimer that I can’t give legal advice if I’m not licensed in your state.) :)

      1. fposte*

        I think “consumer proposal” suggests that FD might be in Canada–that’s the only place I’ve heard that term–so I suspect that informed responses on that will be limited to Canadians. It also looks from a quick view that the person to talk to in Canada may not be a lawyer but a Licensed Insolvency Trustee.

        If so, FD, I’d say give one a call; it won’t commit you to anything, and it will make some possibilities clearer to you, which is likely to relieve stress right there.

        1. Sue*

          “Consumer proposal” sounds similar to US chapter 13. Chapter 11 is for business bankruptcy while 13 is for individuals. It is a repayment schedule, accepted by creditors that stops all collection actions, like lawsuits garnishments and foreclosures. It may or may not be a complete repayment, often it’s partial with the balance forgiven. It affects credit but not as harshly as a liquidation bankruptcy, (Chapter 7 in US).
          My main advice is to address your spending/budgeting as much as possible before you decide how to proceed. When a bankruptcy is caused by an overwhelming event (usually medical in the US), bankruptcy gives a fresh start and can be a huge relief.
          Unfortunately, if it is based on spending/budgeting/income issues that are likely to repeat, it is much less helpful. I can’t speak to Canada, but in the US, one is restricted to file again for 8 years after a Chapter 7. If the issues crop up again, it leaves no out for that time period and I’ve seen people get right back into the same problems very quickly with no way to stop the collection actions.
          Speak to a reputable professional to know your options. Any savings you have may be needed to pay the costs and fees if you decide to file. It’s a tough decision because it does stay on your credit for many years but if you have no other options, it’s there for you. Good luck.

    10. Mindovermoneychick*

      Definitely talk to a bankruptcy lawyer, but I will also come back to this space tomorrow and give you more info and some good books to check out that will help give you the basics so you will have a better foundation for talking to someone. Not near my my reference materials right now.

    11. Infrequent Commentor*

      In addition to talking to the bankruptcy lawyer, see what a non-profit credit counseling agency can say. They can consolidate and renegotiate your debt with lower interest rates. If most of your debt is credit cards, a renegotiation to lower rates would save you thousands and completely change the payoff timetable. They will likely also know reputable bankruptcy lawyers.

      Don’t feel embarassed about pursuimg bankruptcy. You need to do this now. It will help make a better future for your kids.

    12. Moocowcat*

      How do you decide it’s time to declare bankruptcy or try for a consumer proposal?
      Step one: budget the heck out of your situation. Track your spending. Try to negotiate with creditors. If you’ve done this already, proceed to step two.
      Step Two: Talk to three different insolvancy trustees and go from there. The initial consult is free, and they’re experts on helping you decide which option is best for your situation. If the consumer proposal is rejected by creditors (which I’ve never seen happen) then bankruptcy is the default.
      (Canadian person in the financial debt management field here.)

    13. Sally Forth*

      My son has just been through this. His case was complicated because his debt was Canadian and they had just moved to the US for his wife’s job. Theoretically, he could have walked and not had a US credit hit. He accepted responsibility and didn’t want to do that. He had no student loans and no mortgage. Other than clothes & a $1500 car, they had no assets.

      He phoned a bankruptcy trustee in Canada and started the process. The paperwork took him about 8 hours. He needed to pull together a lot of receipts and tax slips. The trustee decided that because he had steady income he could avoid bankruptcy. As soon as the trustee filed the paperwork, the interest was halted.

      That was 6 weeks ago. They are waiting for a response from the bank (his debt was credit card and a LOC) but it looks like he will be paying $300 US for the next 5 years. He currently has two jobs to dig them out of this.

    14. Dan*

      Others have given you good advice on the decision to file BK in and of itself. I’m going to chime in on something else:

      “I mean, if there’s another work slow down or other expensive catastrophe, we probably won’t have a choice – there’s nothing left to cover another period out of work, so we’d just stop paying the debt and the creditors would probably take action. ”

      In a couple of different places, you’ve referred to macro economic considerations. While ten years ago, the overall economy really did suck, the last few years have been quite prosperous for many people. It’s entirely possible that we’ll see a down turn in the overall economy in the forseeable future. If that is likely to impact you, then I’d start planning now.

      The reality is, you describe a situation where you’re hanging on by a thread, and if *anything* disrupts it, you’re toast. I’d make your BK plans now based on the expectation something will disrupt the delicate balance. If you try to continue hanging on by a thread, you’ll stress yourself doing so now, just to deal with the reckoning later. If you throw in the towel now, you can get it over with and get a fresh start.

    15. Aphrodite*

      I strongly encourage you to contact NFCC (https://www.nfcc.org/), a nonprofit financial counseling organization that really, really works. They will advise and help you out so much and have no self-interest in your choices. They alone focus on you and your needs. Best advice ever!

    16. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with everyone saying to look into bankruptcy. Do it now. Don’t wait until you’ve stopped paying your debt and collectors are breathing down your neck.

      My husband and I did it 15+ years ago and I have to say, it was absolutely the best thing we ever did for ourselves financially. It allowed us to breathe and not have a black cloud of debt and stress hanging over us all the time. It allowed us to have money for food and housing. We were able to get a car loan within a year or so after that. Yes, the rate was very high, but it helped us to start rebuilding our credit. Today we’re fairly comfortable, have a house, a car and a truck, and we don’t have to worry that we can’t pay our bills.

      Also, please don’t feel bad about possibly having to file bankruptcy. It happens. You’re human. The reason I say this is so many people I know who have filed waited much, much longer than they should have because they felt a sense of guilt at “screwing the creditors.” For one person, it got to the point where they almost lost their house. My in-laws waited until probably about a year after they started using their credit cards for groceries, then advancing money off one to pay another. Don’t let it get to that point. You deserve to start over.

    17. Financial Disaster*

      Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful replies. As some of you guessed, we are in Canada.

      I actually had a good talk with my husband today. We took a good hard look at what it would take to get this paid off on our own. Barring misfortune, we think we could do it (hard but not impossible) in 5 or 6 years. However, I’m going to get in touch with a bankruptcy trustee because there are some specifics to our situation that we simply don’t know how a bankruptcy or consumer proposal would affect them. We’ve been assuming worst case scenario where the consequence of bankruptcy is more than we are prepared to take right now, but maybe we are wrong about what would happen.

      What I really don’t want to have happen is that we slog away for two or three years, don’t get make any progress or come up against a disaster and then end up having to go bankrupt anyway.

      1. foolofgrace*

        I’ve been thru both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 and the benefits outweighed the detractions but you will find your ability to get credit impacted. My Chapter 13 is finally off my credit report but I still have to have a secured credit card. And keep in mind that to retain an attorney they will most likely require a couple hundred dollars as a retainer, although the attorney’s total fee to you can usually be rolled into the bankruptcy.

      2. Venus*

        If there was an easy solution to finances then it wouldn’t affect such a huge number of people. There are so many subtleties (mortgages, retirement, etc) so an expert would give good advice specific to you. And yes, the fact that a job loss could force you into bankruptcy a few years from now… I can see a lot of benefit to exploring that option now.

        I wish you the best of luck, and my thoughts are with you.

    18. Little Tin Goddess*

      Also remember as harsh as it seems, your kids can take loans out for their college education (if they need to go to college), you can’t finance your retirement.

      1. Financial Disaster*

        If we pay this off on our own, we’d be right in the middle of it when our oldest goes to university. He already knows that he’s going to have to rely on student loans and scholarships, but it weighs heavily on me that we wouldn’t be able to help him AT ALL. Nearest post secondary that has the kinds of programs he is interested in is 250 km (150 miles) away, so he couldn’t even live at home for free.

        1. LibbyG*

          You might be able to help with his loan payments later, especially if much of your current debt is no longer around your neck.

    19. Kiwiii*

      I saw below that you have multiple things with double digit interest. Is there anyway for you to refinance and/or consolidate some of it? That was that only way I’ve started making any progress on my student loans — I had a couple $10kish ones that all had 8-12% interest. Refinancing to 6% has made a world of difference.

  4. Marzipan*

    Update on my double-donor IVF cycle: I’m getting positive pregnancy tests! (Now 10dp5dt but I started to see a faint positive at 4dp5dt.) I’m still very cautious (I’ve had previous losses), and also kind of gobsmacked that it seems like it might possibly maybe work?

    (Sending lots of love to all those who are struggling with infertility or have struggled in the past, and apologies for any difficult feelings this post may cause.)

      1. Marzipan*

        Thank you! And yep, they’re progressing nicely. (Although, they also did that with miscarriage #2, so I know that’s not really definitive.)

    1. NoLongerYoung*

      Fingers crossed too… been following your story and hoping for a very good outcome.

    2. CoveredInBees*

      Send you lots of healthy baby thoughts. I’ve been through both infertility and losses and it is SO HARD.

    3. Marzipan*

      Thanks everyone! I am (for no real reason) super paranoid today that it can’t possibly last, and all the moral support really helps!

  5. Jemima Bond*

    Morning all! I’m on my way to the Birmingham NEC (a large exhibition centre in the middle of Britain) for the Festival of Quilts! There will be lots of quilts on display, the competition is quite prestigious, plus many stalls and stands with fabric and other sewing supplies for sale. I’m very excited! Any other quilters on here today?

    1. Marzipan*

      Ooh, that sounds fun!

      I used to make baby quilts for friends, and occasionally larger quilts as wedding presents, but I was always more into the patchwork aspect than the quilting, and I did have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it generally. (Like, while I was making one I hated each individual stage of the process, but then somehow when it was done I’d find myself making another one!)

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Oh yes me too, I love the piecing but I’d send the odd larger one I do to be long-armed if it weren’t so dear. The last larger one I did (with the charmingly named “fifty four forty or fight” block) I sort of tied using a doll needle – backstitches with perle cotton spaced apart and travelling between layers (hence the long needle).

        1. Asenath*

          Most of what I did was pieced, quilted in small blocks and then the blocks joined to make the finished object, but I made a tied quilt for one of my sisters. She loved it and still has it. It was held together with knots at intervals – in embroidery floss, if I remember correctly.

    2. Asenath*

      I used to quilt, but kind of got out of the habit over the years – I did a few quilts, and some smaller projects like cushion covers. I love the look, but I was never that good at it – good enough that my first quilt is still in use on my bed after decades of hard wear! I went on a short trip a month or so and visited a fabulous craft shop with magnificent quilts on display – beautifully done, but alas far out of my budget. If I were in Birmingham, I’d be at that festival.

    3. SpellingBee*

      Envious, party of one! I’d go to that in a flash. I started quilting about 4 years ago, when I took a class at a fabric store near where I worked. I knew how to sew already, but hadn’t in years. I was immediately hooked and have been quilting ever since. I’ve stuck to lap-sized quilts so far, although at some point I may do a larger one for myself. It satisfies the artistic side of me, and I also like the puzzle aspect of putting all the pieces together. I’d like to learn free motion quilting; I have a sewing machine now that will do it, but the couple of tries I’ve made at it (on scrap bits) have shown me that it’s a skill that won’t be picked up quickly. Maybe I need to take a class, or maybe I just need to practice.

      1. Llellayena*

        Practice, lots of practice. However, if you have access to a machine with stitch regulation the process is easier. At that point you’re learning the motions/shapes without worrying about stitch length. Also, I’m finding that using a long arm is easier (there are places you can rent time on one) because it’s like drawing while moving the pencil instead of drawing by moving the paper (which is how free motion on a domestic machine works).

    4. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I love quilting and that sounds like so much fun!! I’ve been to several big quilt shows and they always make me feel like a kindergarten quilter! I hope you are lucky and will find that the vendors have great deals on fabric.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      *raises hand* Though I’m on the other side of the ocean, so shan’t be attending this show.

      Over the fall I did a patchwork landscape quilt for my daughter, which came out really well. Right now I’m doing patchwork wildflowers in a Celtic knot for my mom’s new twin bed, which is fiddly and convincing me that I want to go back to the landscapes.

    6. SigneL*

      My MIL lives in the middle of Iowa – Amish country. She’s a good quilter, but the Amish women are GREAT!

      1. ThatGirl*

        My mom lives in Indiana Amish/Mennonite country. If you ever get to a relief sale the quilts for the quilt auction are pretty amazing.

    7. Emma*

      I’m not a quilter, but my mother is and the quilts she’s made for me bring me so much joy. Enjoy your show!

    8. Llellayena*

      Oh yeah! I so wish I could go with you but there’s a bit of water in my way…darn ocean. I’m working on a quilt now that is a fan block on a 60deg diamond instead of a square. And this month I’m finally entering a quilt into a juried show! It’s just the local county fair but I’m excited!

    9. Sally Forth*

      I am not a quilter but many of my friends are quilters and fabric dyers. I feel the pull!

    10. A Frayed Knot*

      Wow. Who would have thought there would be so many quilters here?!? I’ve made everything from mug rugs to king sized quilts and love making them all! I send anything bigger than lap size to the long arm quilter; I hope to get a long arm for my retirement fun (in about five years). I’m working on some Christmas projects now. Hope you had fun at the show!

  6. Rideless*

    Re: my comment on July 20 (https://www.askamanager.org/2019/07/weekend-free-for-all-july-20-21-2019.html#comment-2571295):

    We had a great new (used) car picked out, expecting to get our reimbursement check August 5, as we calculated based on what the insurance company told us was the average time it would take for the check to get to the bank. We got a call from them on Thursday that they had just received the check (it should have been in the mail to us already). We called and asked what was going on and they said the soonest we could expect to get our check was August 16th (which, of course, is a Friday and our mail usually isn’t delivered until late afternoon). In an act of desperation, we applied for a loan and were denied because the totaled car is still on our credit report. Thankfully, the dealer is an awesome person and agreed to hold the car for us, but now we’re facing another two weeks without a car, and it’s almost time for fall classes to start.

    Between this and some other issues, I am out of spoons. I want to keep fighting the bank and insurance company, but I am so tired and I can’t see us getting anything out of it. Our check is in the mail, and as far as they’re concerned, they’ve done everything they’re legally required to do. I called our state insurance board, and they said I would have to file a complaint online and they’ll get to it when they get to it (super not helpful).

    I’m just so done with this.

    1. OhBehave*

      Is this runaround typical? We always pay cash for cars so don’t have financing to mess with. Our daughter totaled her car and we had a check in 3 days with State Farm.

    2. Little Tin Goddess*

      Unfortunatley, the insurance company will only cover the cost of the rental for the number of days indicated in the policy. They will not pay anymore as it’s not the contract you and the insurance company agreed to. You by paying premiums, them by accepting your payments. Sounds like your policy only had a 7 day rental reimbursement period. Next time get a 30 day rental reimbursement.

      1. Observer*

        Good advice, but not all that helpful right now. And, no one needs to be scolded about how stupid they were when disaster strikes. When ALL you have to say is how stupid they were, that’s what it sounds like.

    3. Observer*

      I can see why you are just tired of fighting.

      I think I would consider filing the complaint and then forgetting about it. Assuming that the online process is not crazy, you can at least get this issue on the record. This way even if your particular issue is not dealt with directly, it helps create a record which combined with other cases can be used to force the insurance company to change their behavior.

    4. Old Millenial*

      I feel you!

      My experience with my car crash was much the same (liberty mutual). I was rear ended in the snow and found at fault. The rental company, cause of course the other driver was in a rental, also tried to trick me into giving out my CC number several times until I called the number and left them the riot act.

      My advice is to wait until you feel better to write the complaint and not beat yourself up if you never feel up to it. It’s ok to decide the emotional cost of fighting is not worth it.

      Also ignore all the unsolicited advice from people who are like: you can’t be at fault cause x! Just sue! And yada yada. It’s exhausting and its ok to have strong feelings about it.

      If you can manage to not put expenses on a cc then I highly recommend. 6 years later I am still paying for that rental car and other wreck expenses.

      Take care of you!

    5. greenthumb*

      I’m so sorry. This would not be normal in my state. If you have the energy now or later, is there a consumer advocate you could contact? Either someone with local government or perhaps with your local TV station? Also, by chance could your agent’s office give you an escalation number to whatever would be the executive consumer-relations team at the corporate office? (We got unexpected news from our agent, and I will be forever grateful that one of the office staff got me that number and encouraged me to call. My hands were literally shaking when I made the call, but with the help of bullet points and a written reminder of “keep breathing” I got through it. Within 3 days, the situation was fixed.)

      It is shameful that these funds have been judged to be due to you, but that your ally, the insurance firm, thinks it’s fine that they will take another two weeks to get to you.

  7. V*

    On the work-related open thread post, when it says “please don’t re-post a question you’ve asked me recently as it might be in my queue to answer”, how recently is recently? If it’s been a month, am I good to assume it won’t be answered and I can post it on the open thread? Six months?

    1. Enough*

      Six months for sure but you can always email Alison and ask her if your question is in the que.

    2. OhBehave*

      I would say three months. I can’t imagine the volume of letters she gets. Some issues just can’t wait!

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ideally, I’d ask that you wait 3-4 weeks. Even better, email me and I can tell you if it’s in my “about to definitely answer” queue or not.

      In general, my response time really varies — sometimes it’s really fast (within a couple of days) and sometimes it can take months, since my backlog is large and I don’t answer in order, and a lot of things never get answered at all just because the volume makes that impossible. But you can always email me and check on it.

      1. V*

        OK, thanks! I assumed that emailing you to ask was the worst possible option, since you presumably have such a large volume of questions you can’t answer – if every one of the askers came back and hassled you about it, you’d soon drown in email!

  8. coffee cup*

    I’m very glad this thread is open as I could do with some advice or reassurance. Yesterday morning I discovered the glands in my throat are very swollen. I’ve never had this before and it just happened yesterday. Naturally I looked it up online and seems it could be stress (been very stressed at work this week, so maybe!) or a virus. I’m a little worried about something like glandular fever, which I know can knock you flat for weeks. I’m very tired (slept early last night and late this morning, and still feel like I could have a nap!) but I don’t feel unwell as such. The swellings are tender, but not super painful at the moment. There are no doctor appointments till September, hence why I’m asking here and not a medical professional, ha. I know it’s probably just something to do with how anxious I’ve been feeling and my body being more susceptible to whatever this is, but as I’ve not had it before I wouldn’t mind hearing from anyone who has. I’m thinking… rest, painkillers, and wait it out?

    1. YetAnotherUsername*

      Can you look for a different doctor? Having your main doctor be one you need to wait a month to see doesn’t seem very sustainable long term. My doc always keeps a few appointments every day for emergencies. It’s not like you can schedule getting sick a month in advance!

      1. coffee cup*

        Yeah, I don’t have a main one, it’s just the first available appointment for *any* is September. It’s annoying!

    2. YetAnotherUsername*

      To answer your actual question: if it’s a virus or stress, then rest and plenty of fluids is probably the best treatment. The NHS website and the Mayo clinic website I have found to be he best medical websites for advice.

    3. WS*

      It’s really common for your glands to swell up when you are fighting an infection, and of course being very run down and stressed make it more likely you’ll catch something. The glands in your throat are the most visible and obvious, but you may also get swelling/pain in your armpits, upper abdomen and groin. Rest and fluids are what you need, but you can take OTC painkillers if needed. I also find a heatpack very helpful – I have immune issues and whenever I catch anything my glands swell up ridiculously!

      If it is glandular fever (which is probably isn’t!), you’re likely to get a lot sicker and really exhausted, but again, the best cure is rest early on. If you do go to the doctor, let them know about the glands because if you do have glandular fever, you shouldn’t take certain antibiotics.

      1. Parenthetically*

        This — my glands swell with pretty much every viral upper respiratory infection I get from the mildest to the worst. Rest, tons of fluids, saltwater gargling, tylenol. And rest. And no booze, and nutritious food. And lots of rest.

    4. Kuododi*

      I don’t remember where you are located geographically. In my experiences here in the SE USA, most medical practices of any size would have one or more NP (nurse practitioner) available to provide additional support with clinic availability for situations such as what you describe. There’s also the option of utilizing a local urgent care clinic. Either option would assist you to be evaluated promptly (The longest I’ve ever waited for a NP appointment was right at a week) and they would be able to facilitate outside referrals should that prove to be a necessity. This really sounds like something calling for a prompt medical evaluation. Best wishes.

      1. Rebecca*

        I agree :) I had to look up glandular fever, since what coffee cup is describing sounds like how mono started when I got it way back in the dark ages! Medical eval for sure, a simple blood test will show what it is, then lots of rest, fluids, etc.

        1. coffee cup*

          Ah, is that what mono is? I never knew when I was younger and it was mentioned on US TV shows!

      2. MaxiesMommy*

        Agree. See someone. If not the NP in your doctor’s office, then a readi-care “doc in the box”.

      3. Parenthetically*

        We have clinics in grocery stores and pharmacies now, even! Walk-ins welcome, no appointments needed.

      4. coffee cup*

        Not sure we have this option. I’ve never been offered it, anyway! I’ll probably see how it goes and maybe see if I can get an urgent appointment if I feel it needs it.

    5. Policy wonk*

      A few of the pharmacies near me have walk-in clinics. You might want to try one of those. Not knowing what it is will only increase the stress.

      1. coffee cup*

        We don’t have those. I have seen a pharmacist for a couple of things in the past, but on both occasions they were totally wrong with what they thought it was, so I’m reluctant!

    6. Stitch*

      It is almost certainly a virus. Rest and fluids and keep an eye on it.

      My tonsils would swell at the drop of a hat for a few years after I had mono. I even saw a specialist and he sort of shrugged. Tonsillectomy is a surprisingly rough surgery (I know two people who experienced life threatening complications from it) so it wasn’t worth it for me.

    7. Weegie*

      If you’re in the UK (which I think you are), you can try asking your GP practice if they have any telephone appointments available – those are usually available at shorter notice.

      Another online resource for you is nhsinform.scot, which has a series of self-help guides you can use. They’re not brilliant, but maybe better than nothing!

    8. Wishing You Well*

      I’d phone an advice nurse, if you have access to one. Also, some health care places can receive photos of your swollen neck to advise you.
      Best of luck. I hope it’s minor and temporary.

    9. CoveredInBees*

      Swollen glands can be a lot of things, so yeah, rest, painkillers, and loads of fluids (water, tea, soup, watery fruits, whatever).

    10. Bagpuss*

      Do try to get checked out, but meanwhile rest. It may well be that you are fighting off something. My glands pop up whenever I am a bit run down or whenever I get any sort of infection.
      As you say, they tend to be tender but not painful.

    11. Observer*

      You’re GP (internist, family practitioner, PA, Nurse practitioner) doesn’t have a single open slot for illness till September? That’s ridiculous.

      You really do need a new doctor.

      1. coffee cup*

        My region is currently experiencing a shortage of GPs and problems with appointments. I think it would be the same no matter which practice I was with. It’s what happens when you have a government intent on squeezing the life out of the system (and severely limiting recruitment from other countries)!

  9. Charlotte*

    Hope this isn’t considered work-related (since it’s just an amusing Tweet).

    A few weeks ago there was a Twitter thread asking ‘what was the worst career advice you’ve ever received’ and one of most-retweeted replies was ‘an internship at the White House would look great on your resume’. I didn’t understand why it was so funny until I realised it was from Monica Lewinsky.

    Good to know she can laugh about it now…

    1. Marion Q*

      Wow, that’s a good thing. I think I read an interview with her a couple years ago where she said she’d always been struggling with jokes and that she couldn’t take even a benign joke, to the point that her parents had to role play situations with her. Which makes the tweet even better!

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Oh man, that is hilarious and yet a complete punch to the gut. I do admire her ability to get through all that as well as she has. She has dealt with an enormous amount of hostility and threats.

    3. Cows go moo*

      I admire Lewinsky tremendously for enduring years of shaming and bullying yet coming out of it all with grace and dignity. All of us have made idiotic mistakes in our 20s. The only difference was that hers involved a high profile figure (who really should have known better) which resulted in…well, you know the rest. I respect her work in speaking out against public shaming as well as her empathy for people going through something similar. She deserves much credit.

      1. YetAnotherUsername*

        She is amazing. I heard she runs an anti bullying charity now. It’s really awful what happened to her. She didn’t do anything wrong (he’s the one who promised to stay faithful). Yet she lost her entire career and couldn’t get a job for decades after.
        It’s so amazing how she has dealt with that and to get to the stage she can joke about it – wow I’m in awe.

        1. Dan*

          “She didn’t do anything wrong ”

          While IMHO Monica got more than the short end of the stick, I can’t agree with your statement. If one messes around sexually with a person s/he knows to be married, where I grew up, there’s some moral culpability there. It also shows bad judgement.

          But Americans are funny. We care way too much about other peoples’ sex lives for reasons I don’t fully understand.

          Side note: This all went down when I was in college. CNN had studios near my campus, and there was a legal talk show they would film that would use students as “extras”. I think I appeared on the show three or four times. It was *always* about Monica. The producer would call me up, and ask “hey can you come on the show tomorrow.” I’d be like, “sure, what’s the topic?” She’d say, “What do you think it is, duh?” And I’d respond with “not this again.”

          But apparently the American public showed great interest in who the POTUS was sleeping with, and as such, CNN wanted to talk about it.

          1. Booksalot*

            On the one hand, sure, she definitely knew he was married.

            On the other hand, he was literally the leader of the free world, and he held her entire career and professional reputation in the palm of his hand. Ignoring the power dynamics is foolhardy.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Well of course it was bad judgment (and stupid), but there was a huge power differential there, so I’m more inclined to look unfavorably on the boss in the situation than the younger intern. Even if she had the biggest crush imaginable, it was on him not to abuse his position, which he absolutely did.

            You’re right about Americans, though. I guess it’s the Puritan ethic. Also, she’s a shining example of how you can rise above great professional and/or personal embarrassment.

            1. Observer*

              You know, it’s quite possible to say “She messed up”, which she did, while ALSO saying “He’s a creep and a jerk, and clearly used his power during and after his affair in disgusting ways.”

          3. Cows go moo*

            I’m with Dan – it’s wrong to hook up with someone you know is married. She knew, I’m sure, it was wrong. Yet the consequences she suffered were disproportionally harsh.

        2. Observer*

          She didn’t do anything wrong

          Nonsense. You have an affair with a man you know is married, YES, YOU DID SOMETHING WRONG.

          Can we stop feeding the toxic idea that a victim has to be pure as the driven snow for us to have sympathy for them? It’s the exact kind of thinking that leads to women who have been attacked, molested and taken advantage of, being dismissed because they were too flirtatious, wore the wrong thing, gut drunk, etc.

          The reality is that she DID do something wrong. Nevertheless, I do have a lot of sympathy for her because ultimately she suffered WAAAAAAY more than was in any way, shape or form reasonable while the guy who REALLY messed up is still worshiped.

          1. YetAnotherUsername*

            I don’t believe victims have to be pure or any such bs, and I think it’s kind of strange that you jumped to that conclusion.

            She didn’t break any laws or any promises. He is the one who stood in front of all his friends ans family (and God if he is religious) and promised not to have sex with anyone except his wife. She made no such promise.

            I appreciate that it’s not very classy to sleep with a married man, but I genuinely believe that the responsibility for staying faithful in a marriage lies with the spouses alone. Not with anyone else. That doesn’t in any way mean I have to believe that “victims must be pure”. That’s a very strange link to draw.

            1. Observer*

              She knew he was married – engaging in an affair with someone you know is married is like buying goods that you know are stolen. Sure, you didn’t steal the goods, but you still are culpable.

              It’s not a strange link at all – it’s the premise of a lot of the discussion around the whole case (and a lot of other cases.) I cannot tell you how many times I heard some version of “she’s a tramp” as somehow excusing him and blaming her.

      2. Washed Out Data Analyst*

        I was 7 years old when the incident happened. I was too young to know what actually happened, but I remember hearing her name EVERYWHERE and overhearing adults saying is what a “bad woman” she was. I never heard anyone call Bill Clinton bad. I assumed she kidnapped children or something until I grew up and learned the story.

      3. Lissa*

        Yes! I think she really came in for the worst of public shaming because of when it happened – right when 24 hour news cycles were a thing but before social media was present enough to basically knock a current story out of the cycle within a few weeks. She was headline news and fodder for late night hosts for YEARS. Yes public shaming today with the internet is more widespread, but it’s like it’s broad rather than deep – but Lewinsky was pretty much it and took ALL the heat, as opposed to it being spread among many people.

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      Monica Lewinsky is absolutely an idol of mine. I’m not sure I would have survived what she went through back in the 90s. It was so vitriolic, sexist, and just horrible. Even now she’s still the punchline to jokes, but she’s really pushing her cyber-bullying initiative. If you haven’t seen it, her TED talk is amazing. I normally listen to TED when I’m doing chores, but I actually sat down to listen to it because it was so powerful.

    5. Ethyl*

      I totally love her and just finished listening to an episode of the podcast You’re Wrong About about that whole situation and she really seems like such a decent person who got caught up in a sexy, charismatic person the way lots of us do when we are in our 20s.

      1. blackcat*

        I have met Bill Clinton exactly once in person and he’s so insanely charismatic. He’s like a human magnet. You just… feel better about yourself while standing next to him. It’s basically a real-life super power. I totally understand how someone her age ended up in that situation.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          LOL I remember when everyone thought Clinton was sooooo hawt. Nah.

          I’d be in more trouble as a young intern if it were Barack Obama (!!!!!), but one of the reasons I love him is that he is not like that. I can’t imagine him ever doing what Clinton did. That would shock me to my core, and at this point, after three years of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I’m basically unshockable.

          God, I would love to meet the Obamas. I can talk to anyone, but they’re on the shortlist of people who would render me speechless.

          Them: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Elizabeth.”
          Me: “BbBbbbbBbbbBBbB . . .”

          1. Observer*

            I think that Obama’s personal decency is one of his strongest political assets. Even people do STRONGLY disliked his policies were glad to know that he probably wasn’t going to be in the news cycle for shenanigans. It also helped hide the hypocrisy of a lot of so called feminists who somehow could not bring themselves to condemn Clinton and who piled all the blame on Lewinsky, some to point of absurdity that is just jaw dropping.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Yup. I have a friend who went to school with Chelsea and occasionally went to the Clintons’ house and her recollections are all about how absolutely terrifyingly brilliant both Bill and Hillary were, and how magnetic Bill’s personality was — that he had this huge, enveloping energy that drew everyone in.

          1. Lobsterp0t*

            That’s one reason it’s especially terrifying to me that he was close pals or whatever with Jeffrey Epstein. Charisma plus buddying up with a serial trafficker. Eurgh. Like obviously it’s horrific but (to me) expected that other people are in that camp but they’re pretty universally reviled. Whereas Clinton is a genuinely politically and internationally respected world leader.

    6. Parenthetically*

      Golly I love Monica. Listen to her TED talk! She is a grade-A badass and smart and hilarious to boot.

    7. WoodswomanWrites*

      There is an excellent TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky from 2015 that’s worth watching. The summary from TED:

      “Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop,” says Monica Lewinsky. In 1998, she says, “I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” Today, the kind of online public shaming she went through has become constant — and can turn deadly. In a brave talk, she takes a hard look at our online culture of humiliation, and asks for a different way.

      1. Dan*

        I’ve never seen the TED talk, but she’s right about the public shaming as a blood sport needing to stop. It’s even worse IMHO when that extends to the real world where we try to get people fired from their real life jobs.

        It wasn’t until I graduated college when FB really took off, and it never really appealed to me. I can only imagine what it’s like to be a kid/teen/young-adult where the slightest online misstep can really screw up your reputation forever.

    8. MOAS*

      I read that too and honestly I hate what happened to her.

      I was in 6th or 7 th grade at that time, and I really could not understand why people were so angry at Monica. To me, it was something between Bill & Hillary and honestly I always had that opinion that sex was a private matter between the people involved.

      Cut to 20+ years later and I had this convo with a friend about that tweet, and they mentioned that Bill had several sexual harrassment cases pending and he had lied under oath about it. Whatever it is, I still believe that it’s awful what happened to her.

      Oh, so fun story that will make anyone scream in anger–I had known about JFK and Marilyn Monroe at the time (i used to watch a lot of VH1/MTV/E news history storeis and learned about this kinda stuff), and I asked my teacher why Monica was getting so much heat while Marilyn had had a full affair (again, my understanding at the time)–he said “its’ cz marilyn didn’t look like Monica.” ARGH!!!!!!

    9. Lissa*

      I love her. One of my favourite tweets of hers is when people were tweeting about comments they get about their names, so like “I’m Christine” “Christina?” stuff, or allusions to famous people. hers was “I’m Monica.” “Like from Friends?” “Yes. Yes, exactly.”

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I don’t have much but I avoid sleeves that hit in the middle of the bicep or anything puffy.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My shoulders are pretty broad but my arms are okay-ish.
      I look at the garment when I try it on, shoulder seams (the seams that go around the under arm area) must be right out at the end of my shoulders or else the item is just not going to hang right on me. (Picture a loosely constructed sweater vs a jacket.)
      It’s an optical illusion, if the shoulder seams around the underarms are correctly placed and that top seam running from the neck to the shoulder falls directly on top of the shoulder, usually the garment hangs nicer and looks right.

      As far as upper arms, I don’t have too much experience with problems. However, I have noticed that some manufacturers just cut that sleeve too narrow and it makes for too tight a fit on the upper arms.

    3. jDC*

      Nothing capped sleeved, those make me look like a linebacker. I’m a fan of 3/4 sleeve tops. I’ll do flat out tanks, or ts with sleeves that basically almost hit my elbow but no in between.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        NOBODY looks good in cap sleeves. And they’re ubiquitous in women’s clothing. Hence, the reason I buy my t-shirts in the men’s department (way cooler ones there, too).

        I love 3/4 sleeves because I have very narrow wrists that look great in bracelets. :)

        1. jDC*

          Ah thank you for agreeing. I don’t have big arms per say but they aren’t twigs and I think it makes me look fat. I hate how women’s ts have these short sleeves. Also I have sensitive skin and them rubbing against my arm pits is annoying and often causes rashes. No good. Also why I don’t wear a lot of Ts.

        2. NMFTG*

          IMO cap sleeves are great for hourglass silouettes.

          To OP: halterneck tops and and wide boatnecks (think Meghan M wide) are often very nice with broad shoulders.

          1. Patty Mayonnaise*

            I’m an hourglass and agree – cap sleeves aren’t always my style but they do look nice on me.

      1. Ethyl*

        Cap sleeves are the worst! Why were they such A Thing for so long?! Thanks, fashion designers, for making my arms look even fatter AND even longer!

        When I worked at a bridal shop, I tried so hard to convince this woman who felt self conscious about her upper arms to avoid the cap sleeves, but she was dead set on them. This was 20 years ago and it haunts me to this day.

    4. Kimmybear*

      I hate long sleeves and feel like short sleeves look odd on me so I always go with 3/4 sleeves or sleeveless. Seems counter intuitive but I feel like they both draw attention away from my upper arm

    5. Traffic_Spiral*

      Find brands that fit and don’t stray from them. They’re usually a little pricier, but once you find the right brand you can buy used in thrift/consignment shops or on ebay.

    6. Nicki Name*

      If shoulder pads even come back into fashion: Back in the shoulder pad era, I used to find that getting something with shoulder pads and then removing the pads (usually a simple operation, they’d be very loosely attached) resulted in an excellent fit.

      In the meantime: men’s T-shirts when I want a T-shirt.

      1. Earthwalker*

        Yeah, men’s T shirts and also turtlenecks work well for a broad shouldered women. Ladies western wear is sometimes a good fit for broad shoulders with a narrow waist. Sometimes I wear men’s polos and dressy shirts when I can’t find anything in the ladies section that fits. They don’t look much different in style from ladies wear but there are people who make a fuss over noticing that the buttons are on the wrong side.

    7. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Swimmer here –

      For normal clothing I make sure to never wear a ruffle at the top of a shoulder (they don’t need to look any larger!) ad yeah, avoid the cap sleeves.

      Also – I cannot, not even with a swimsuit, wear a spaghetti strap anything because I also have Frontage and its just not a look. So I look for dresses, if sleeveless, that have wide straps or a v-neck to give balance to the rest of my top half.

      Finally – I love a 3/4 sleeve but its got to be a TRUE 3/4 – anything a little longer too close to my wrist and it looks like I shrank it in the wash. A light bell shape to the sleeve is helpful, but nothing too flappy otherwise its like wearing bellbottoms on top, which just calls attention to the size of the ham attached to the side of my body.

    8. AnonForThis*

      I have broad shoulders and thicker upper arms. I’ve found wearing shirts that are looser across my shoulders make me look larger than I am. I’ve found v-neck/bateau necklines paired with tailored sleeves that stop just above or below the elbow can be helpful. Also wearing sleeveless flowy tops (tunics) with open front cardigans can be flattering.

    9. Forrest Gumption*

      I don’t recommend cap sleeves obviously, but short sleeves on a well-tailored shirt can do wonders to minimize wide shoulders and thick upper arms. Particularly T-shirts that are tapered slightly at the waist and flare slightly at the bottom, and are a little bit longer than normal.

    10. Sally Forth*

      V necks draw the eye away from the shoulder seam. I love the feel of raglan sleeves and you’d think they would provide coverage, but they are not my friend.

    11. AVP*

      This thread explains SO MUCH about why I’ve always instinctively hated cap sleeves and love 3/4 length.

      1. TechWorker*

        I have maybe slightly-wider-than-normal shoulders, though no particular feelings about my upper arms – but I also hate cap sleeves and tbh don’t think they look good on anyone! Just don’t understand them…

    12. Stephanie*

      Nthing everyone about the no cap sleeves. I don’t do spaghetti (or even thin) straps, halter tops, or strapless.

    13. OhBehave*

      I like camisoles and cardigans in warm weather. I love the lightweight cards at Old Navy. great colors too.
      I hate my arms too.

    14. moql*

      I find raglan style yokes far more comfortable than regular T-shirt cut. ( they’re the baseball t style of attaching the arms). I’ve given up on anything that is fitted through the bodice with sleeves because it will almost always have uncomfortable armholes because my shoulders will drag things up. To get things to fit properly I almost exclusively wear sleeveless things in size small with cardigans in size medium.

      I’m not self conscious though; I love my shoulders! I like how good they look in spaghetti straps with a strong horizontal neckline to reinforce how strong I am.

  10. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    Ugh, it has not been a good week for me, mental health wise. Most of it is job hunt related but I also have this kind of cycle where I’ll be doing OK for a while, then some minor thing will trigger an overwhelming spiral of truly horrible thoughts. I mean horrible in the sense of self hatred and calling myself all manner of nasty names, etc.

    A few months ago I started tapering off my antidepressant because I realized it was just making me feel blunted and unmotivated. Despite being on them for over a year (and having been on them on and off for decades) I always have this pattern of spiralling extreme negativity so I don’t think that going off them is the reason for my current mental state. I’m going to try some alternative remedies and try to clean up my house a little bit, which will hopefully help.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      Sending you warm and peaceful thoughts and hope you feel better soon.
      Depression is the pits.

    2. Sally Forth*

      So sorry. I have gone through the internal name-calling myself. Mine always come at bedtime or when I am driving alone. Maybe it’s because then I can hear myself think.

      Does activity like housework or hiking help? Is there any way you can stop the cycle cold?

    3. Wishing You Well*

      Job hunting is very stressful.
      Please call your prescribing doctor before changing your meds. Depression itself can make you “blunted and unmotivated”. Maybe you need a different dose, maybe you need a different med or a combo. Meds and med changes can take weeks to become effective. Everyone’s body chemistry is unique, which makes this tough to get right.
      I really feel for you and would love to hear you’re doing better. I hope you snag a new job soon. Stay hopeful. I believe your current low state is temporary. Sending good thoughts.

    4. NewNameTemporarily4This*

      Hug, and I had to work with the doctor and try a different kind of anti-depressant before I found one that worked. (part of mine is anxiety, I discovered).

      I am also doing CBT (my health plan is actually picking up the tab except for my co pay)… that’s been helpful as for me, stopping the negative talk to myself was key to at least easing up the depression. I’m still climbing out of the pit, but between the adjustment and the slow-but-sure counseling – and my journaling – I have hope that I can incrementally make progress.

      I tried to stop the meds by tapering down, but when I quit cleaning or doing dishes, and quit bathing regularly without having to “think” about when I last had a bath and forcing self to bathe to leave the house… I realized I was not ready to end all medication. My brain chemistry is just not going to cooperate on sheer strength of will. YMMV.

      If I were diabetic (my sister is), I would use insulin if the doctor prescribed it. In my case, my body’s issue is the brain chemistry. I am doing all the lifestyle things I can to support it, but… I need to keep that balance chemically, too. But I did find that the antidepressants are not all alike, and so switching was helpful to me. (the one I’m on worked a bit faster than some of the others I tried, so I was able to see the improvement relatively quickly). For me, blunted and unmotivated is part of my depression, but the side effects of weight gain and not ever getting to feeling remotely happy, despite a thorough trial after reaching the maximum dose, were the key to switching until I found the right one. I had good guidance, though, and a caring PCP who referred me to a psychiatrist for the med changes.

      Sending encouraging thoughts.

  11. Shirazer*

    Ever wondered about having minor cosmetic treatments? (Don’t worry, I”m not selling any!) I had some done a couple weeks ago (fillers, Botox)… Happy to answer questions (from a user perspective).

      1. Shirazer*

        No, but I am very curious about that too! If someone has experience with it, I’d love to hear!

      1. Shirazer*

        No, but the cheek fillers helped to hide some of what I need in the undereye area. They did talk about them but I didn’t get them.
        My face was a little sore the next day. Not bad.

      2. Shirazer*

        I didn’t get undereye fillers but the cheek fillers helped to hide some of what I need in the undereye area. They did talk about them but I didn’t get them. My face was a little sore the next day but not bad.

    1. Stitch*

      I do wonder a lot about seeing if I can have something done about my forehead wrinkle. I am only in my early 30s! Creams help a little.

      1. Linnie*

        I’d recommend you try argireline first – it’s a topical ingredient that acts to inhibit muscle movement to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. I’ve used the serum from The Ordinary for four months now and the deep lines in my forehead have reduced considerably. It took about two months to start seeing noticeable effects there – my laugh lines were reduced after about three weeks though.

    2. Beatrice*

      What did you have done? Can you describe what the procedure was like? How do you feel about your results? How long is the treatment supposed to last? Did you experience any swelling or redness or other temporary post-procedure effects, and how long did those last? How much did it cost? Would you do it again?

      1. Shirazer*

        Botox in the forehead and around the eyes. Cheek fillers and fillers along the lines in my chin. Perked everything up without looking fake. I had a couple minor bruises after. At the time, it just felt like tiny needles. Afterwards it felt a little more sore for a day, but not terrible. I am not unhappy with the results. Any more than what I had done would look plastic I think, and I want to avoid that. It’s supposed to last 3-6 months but for some people they say the fillers can last longer.
        I don’t think I would do it again. It was something of a lark. Cost was a little over $3000.

    3. Booksalot*

      I’m interested in Botox and cannot figure out how to find a good place.

      The best reviewed local place is a medspa, but I’ve been told those are bad and you should see an actual doctor. The only actual MD I know that does Botox is a periodontist, and that sounds shady AF.

      I joined RealSelf, but the closest good option seems to be in Major City which is two hours away. Ideas?

      1. Shirazer*

        I went to a dermatology clinic that has several offices, but I think not each of them does everything. Ask your dermatologist???

    4. MOAS*

      I’m interested in under eye fillers and reshaping my upper lip.

      Did you go to a surgeon or dermatologist?
      Do they really make you look 10-12 years younger?
      Do they take your whole medical history and refuse you for it?
      Does it hurt?
      How long is down time? is there bruising etc?

      1. Shiraze*

        I went to a dermatologist. I do not look 10 years younger…. everything just looks perkier.
        They just asked about my general health. It feels like being poked with tiny needles… since that’s what it is. Not horrible.
        No down time. I went to work the next day. One light bruise, one darker bruise. Healed fine… not even that noticeable.

  12. Kuododi*

    Well, the latest update on the ongoing cancer drama. The lung biopsy is back from pathology. Officially, it was a non- smoking lung cancer. Happy to report that the tumor was such a low-grade, “baby” cancer it barely qualified for the title. The margins were as clear as a bell and they got the entire thing in the surgery. At this point, the only thing I have to do is keep up with routine monitoring. (Dumb thing is prone to reoccur.). Next on the list is the lumpectomy to get final staging on the breast cancer. Afterwards, I am looking at least at a course of radiation. I started Letrozole a couple of weeks ago as a treatment adjunct. (I keep trying to get rid of medications not add to the list.). Grrr! More information as it becomes available. Best wishes to all.

    1. WS*

      That’s fantastic news on the lung! So great that you monitored closely and caught it early.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Wow, they got the entire thing in your lung. That is great. Inch by inch, right?
      May you continue to have your load lightened here.

      1. Kuododi*

        “Breathe they say!!!” Giggle-snort. Not sure if that was an intentional or accidental bit of whimsy. Either way….it worked out well. Blessings!!!

    3. Policy wonk*

      Great that you caught it early! Keep on whatever meds/appointment schedules they recommend to catch any hint of recurrence early as well. Sending positive vibes and good wishes.

    4. fposte*

      I’m sorry it wasn’t just an x-ray shadow, but I’m so glad that it’s gone! Good luck to you on the BC treatment. I hope you can find the occasional moment not to be a patient, too–sometimes that can feel all-consuming.

      And best wishes from all to you for low staging and smooth treatment.

    5. Alpha Bravo*

      Thank you for keeping us updated. Very good news on the surgery – they got it all! Yay! Wishing you well in all ways.

    6. NoLongerYoung*

      Yippee on the clean margins and path forward. And keeping warm thoughts for the BC treatment, and radiation. One step at a time… know I am thinking of you in this corner of the internet.

    7. Quandong*

      Kuododi, I’m so glad the lung tumour was low-grade, your margins were clear, and you just need routine monitoring of your lungs in future.

      I hope you’re getting as much good rest as possible (especially given that you’ve started Letrazole). Sending many good wishes as you prepare for your breast surgery and finding out the treatment plan for that.

      Thank you for keeping us updated.

    8. Southern Metalsmith*

      Good news! So glad to hear it. For what it’s worth, I have an aunt who had lung cancer, breast cancer, and bladder cancer all at the same time about 10 years ago. In the years since the cancers were treated and she was told she was cancer free, she’s had no recurrences. So I hope your trajectory is similar!

  13. Marion Q*

    Book recommendations, please! I just finished le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and now I’m looking for nonfiction about espionage. Preferably books with longue durée approach, like books that focus on the history of a particular institution or development of espionage. I’m not looking for an individual’s memoirs/biography, but any recs about the Cambridge Five are welcome.

    1. EmilyG*

      It’s mainly about one guy, so it may be too much like a biography for you, but I thought “The Spy and the Traitor” was an amazing read in this vein. The escape story is riveting.

    2. Long Island Spy Ring*

      George Washington’s Secret Six was very good. It’s about the spy ring that operated on Long Island during the Revolutionary War.

    3. SpellingBee*

      Not strictly what you asked for, but Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre is excellent – the story of a WW II espionage operation carried out by Britain. I found it fascinating.

      1. London Calling*

        Have you seen the film of that? made in 1956 as The Man Who Never Was, based on a book by Ewen Montagu, whose idea it was.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        Oh yes. Definitely a favorite. It’s a wonderful book and you can download it online. (I don’t think it’s in print anymore, so this shouldn’t hurt the author.)

        1. Forrest Rhodes*

          +1 here; great reading. Clifford Stoll has such a droll way of telling the story—and to think the whole thing started with a search for a, was it fifty-cent? discrepancy on a phone bill! Think I also recall seeing a public TV documentary about it.

    4. GoryDetails*

      I’m not a huge espionage fan, but I really enjoyed Leo Marks’ Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War 1941–1945; it is a memoir, but Marks includes a lot of information about espionage and cryptography practices during WWII, with details on code-making and breaking – really riveting book. (For extra book-related points: Marks was the son of one of the owners of Marks & Co., the bookshop made famous in Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road.)

      1. fposte*

        And I believe there’s another spy connection there–spies Lona and Morris Cohen, known then as Peter and Helen Kroger, were antiquarian booksellers and friends of the Doels. Maybe that’s what got Leo interested :-).

        1. GoryDetails*

          Re the Cohens/Krogers: very cool! I did not know that… In Marks’ book, Leo describes how he got interested in cryptography after noticing the penciled-in codes in the secondhand books in the bookstore, and was delighted to find that they had “secret” meanings!

          1. fposte*

            Apparently Mrs. Doel at one party was impressed with Helen Kroger’s slinky garb and said “Helen, you look just like a Russian spy!” And a few months later, the news broke.

    5. London Calling*

      The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, by Sinclair McKay, about the codebreaking centre in Britian during world war 2. People working there included Alan Turing and it was the birthplace of computing in Britain. It covers not just the war but the setting up of Bletchley and its legacy.

      1. Avasarala*

        It’s also a series on Netflix, though the first episode was a bit too gruesome for me (serial rape & murder)

    6. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      It’s not what you’re asking for, but I have to tell you about my favorite spy, Juan Pujol. I enjoyed both books I read about him, ‘Agent Garbo’ and ‘Operation Garbo’. To learn about him is also to learn about the spy ring with 27 agents that he was running for the Germans in Britain, but since all 27 agents were entirely imaginary I don’t know if they count. If that doesn’t interest you, how about the fact that he started spying for the Germans (and feeding them bad information) well before he got hired by the British? The British only hired him because he’d been doing so well on his own account. How about the Iron Cross he was given by the Germans, personally approved by Hitler, none of whom ever realized he was feeding them bad info? Or the absolutely magnificent messages he sent to the Germans after D-Day, first patting himself on the back for warning them about it, then throwing a temper tantrum and questioning the meaning of life when he learned they hadn’t got the message?

      1. Marion Q*

        Wow, what a life! I’m always fascinated with this kind of person, so thanks for the tip!

    7. Kt*

      The Woman Who Smashed Codes was actually really good — encompassed both world wars, the development of US intelligence, and the work of catching rum runners etc during Prohibition. A little different than the usual espionage book!

    8. CTT*

      A Spy Among Friends by Ben MacIntyre is about Kim Philby AND has an afterward from John le Carre, so it is extremely up your alley. Also on the le Carre tip, it’s not solely about spies, but his memoir “The Pigeon Tunnel” is also excellent. (As is all le Carre, I LOVE HIM.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Seconded, I just read A Spy Among Friends recently and thought it was really good.

        1. EmilyG*

          This is by the same author as the one I recommended upthread and I can’t wait to read it!

      2. Marion Q*

        le Carre is simply amazing, isn’t he? I’m kicking myself over why I waited so long to read him. He was always on my radar, and beside I love the movie version of The Constant Gardener, but I kept choosing other books instead. Now the only thing stopping me from buying all his books at once is the fact that I’d be hella broke if I do.

    9. Rufus*

      I read A Man Called Intrepid. It is a bit dense and takes a little while to get into but it’s very good, I really enjoyed it.

    10. Forensic13*

      I know you don’t want “biography” biographies, but The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone is a great combo of a look into espionage by way of cryptology and a story of a very unusual woman from the first half of the 20th century.

    11. Marion Q*

      Thanks everyone for the recs! I’ve added them to my TBR list; now I just need to decide which one to read first.

    12. KaladinSB*

      It’s not espionage per se, but Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton goes into covert operations during WWII and is quite enjoyable for the audacity covered in it.

  14. Perpetua*

    Book recommendations for first-time parents?

    We’re both only children, in our early/mid-thirties, expecting our first kid in February. Although some of our friends have kids, we have limited contact with them so basically everything about caring for a baby will be new to us. :) Now, we fully plan to make use of whatever sources we have and definitely don’t think that these things can be just learned from books (and we know that each kid is different), but also, hopefully there are some books that are helpful? What has been helpful to you in this situation?

    I’ve read several lists of recommendations, but the reviews are always mixed, making it difficult to choose 2-3 books that might be of most use. So I hope the AAM braintrust has some tried and tested recommendations! :)

    1. YetAnotherUsername*

      One thing to remember is that all the evidence shows that specific styles of parenting don’t make a huge amount of difference long term. Attachment parenting versus CIO, breastfeeding versus formula, organic baby led weaning versus store bought. None of it makes a huge amount of difference long term. The main thing is to provide for baby’s basic needs and give them lots and lots of love. Then they will be fine.

      So with that in mind just pick a book that suits your style of working. For example I like routines and schedule and I LOVED the contented little baby book, which worked perfectly with my eldest. Other people swear by the fourth trimester or the happiest baby on the block, methods that would absolutely not work for me! Another one I found Good was the what to expect series.

      Pick something that suits you!

      1. legalchef*

        I loved Emily Oster’s pregnancy book (expecting better), and she just came out with a parenting book (Cribsheet).

        Also, the wonder weeks app was pretty good.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I found Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, Ann Keppler, Janelle Durham, April Bolding) much, much more informative and reassuring than What to Expect.

    3. Anona*

      I have an almost 1-year-old. I liked Emily Oster’s expecting better. Most of my kid caring advice has come from Reddit, specifically the babybumps sub. There are subreddits within it by the month you’re due. The larger baby bumps group was ok for pregnancy (I got a lot of info there, but it contains a broad tapestry of humanity, so not everything is helpful), but the monthly sub has been key. We share about milestones and things that we’ve learned from pediatricians/our own experience. The month subreddits typically are closed (you have to message for an invite), but that’s honestly been the most helpful. My pediatrician shares some stuff, but realistically our appointments aren’t that long. The monthly group we would send messages at all hours at the beginning.

      Lucie’s list online also has a newsletter by due date, and they send reminder emails according to your kid’s age. For example, they recently sent one with recommendations for types of shoes when your kid starts walking, since that’s something that will happen for my kid soon ish, something that totally wasn’t on my radar. Lucie’s list does a great job of explaining things and breaking down the typ

      Good luck! It’s a wild ride. We had zero experience too, but you pick it up as you go, and before long your confidence gets there. There’s no perfect way to raise a kid- you’re always making your best guess with the info available.

    4. German Girl*

      Someone recommended cribsheet a couple of weeks ago. Sounds really great but I’ve not gotten around to buying it.

      I’ve started to read “How Children Develop” by Siegler, DeLoache and Eisenberg, and it’s fascinating to read about how my little one might understand the world, but doesn’t have a lot of practical day to day advice.

      The nurses at the hospital taught me how to change diapers and a few different nursing positions. My midwife and our parents answered most of our questions after we went home, and the internet (including AAM open threads) took care of the rest.

      Oh, and I got myself a book on excercise post partum. Your pelvic floor will be unusable for a day or two but as soon as you can feel something, it’s very good to start with pelvic floor exercises as early as possible and you might also want to do something to stabilize your midsection after a few weeks. But the pelvic floor stuff is the important part, because it will save you so much trouble later in life to get it back in shape right away.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If you (OP) have trouble nursing, I recommend a lactation consultant. My impression from when I was pregnant with the first was that it would consist of telling me nonstop how breastfeeding is good, so I didn’t ask for help even though she was often hard to nurse. Then a friend of mine had twins and the lactation consultants were really helpful with subtle adjustments (“hold your elbow here, not here”) that made nursing a lot easier, with no guilt tripping. So with the second child, when it suddenly got rough to nurse him a few months in I asked a consultant available through my doctor, and they had zero lectures and much practical advice. (We wound up buying a bunch of vibrating star teethers and carrying them everywhere.)

        1. Kimmybear*

          Second the Lactation consultant recommendation but also important to find the right one. Had an awful one through my insurance who basically told me nonsense. When I found the right one, she was a miracle worker.

        2. Stitch*

          Highly secconding a good LC. The ones at the hospital were useless. The one who came to my apartment was a godsend. She fixed everything in less than a week and two visits, then also helped with bottle refusal when I needed to go back to work.

          1. Swordspoint*

            And if you’re having any problems breastfeeding, talk to a good lactation consultant RIGHT AWAY. After my emergency c-section, we were having problems and each nurse on shift at the hospital told us something a little different. My nipples ended up cracked and bleeding, and I had to stop BF for a couple of weeks (pumped milk which my husband fed to our baby with finger tubing). I felt like such a failure and my hormones were so out of whack, at one point I was curled up in a corner of the room crying and wondering if I should give her up for adoption because she was only two weeks old and I was ALREADY FAILING HER. It was awful.
            We had a wonderful woman make 2-3 home visits and she saved us.

    5. Anona*

      I typed a long reply, but here are mine! Expecting better by Emily Oster.
      I have an 11 month old, and the baby bumps group on Reddit was helpful for pregnancy information (though it’s a rich tapestry of humanity, so you do have to sift through stuff). But there are sub groups within babybumps by due date that are typically private (you have to message to join), and that has honestly been my source for most things. Someone will share about something they learned about our stage of kid, and then I’ll go a-googlein’. It’s given me a ton to ask our pediatrician about. Pediatrician is helpful, but the appointments are so short. I’ve still called the ped a ton to ask questions, but my bump group has been sooo key.
      Lucie’s list also has an online newsletter by due date. The emails from that site have been great. They often prompt me to start thinking about things, like recently they sent one about the different types of shoes available for babies starting to walk (and what to watch out for), since we that’s around where my kid is.
      There’s no perfect way to parent. Parenting is just about making the best call you can at the time, and adjusting as new information comes in. It’s a wild ride, but lots of fun too!
      Good luck!!

    6. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      I’ve been giving, loaning, or recommending copies of Baby Wisdom by Deborah Jackson to expectant parents since I was 15 (a very long time ago). It’s about how different communities around the world handle pregnancy and the first year of baby-hood. It’s a fun and interesting read with some good ideas for practical application, but it’s biggest help lies in really underlining the fact that as long as you love your kid and are reasonably consistent, you’ll not go far wrong.
      My sister-in-law swears by The First Six Weeks if you want something a little more hands on.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m a science person who finds infant and child development fascinating, but gets really annoyed at stuff that doesn’t have footnotes. (In which you would discover that a given effect is very small and swamped by other variables under any real-life condition, or it’s all drawn from one study of 17 premature infants.) So for the science inclined:

      Magic Trees of the Mind by Marianne Diamond and Janet Hopson. From 1999 (when my oldest was a toddler) but still really good. Discusses actual brain development: I found it hugely helpful to be able to look at my frustrated 2 year old and understand that her brain was overconnected compared to 6 months earlier and she couldn’t sustain focus and that was hugely frustrating for her. I think that this is where I learned that it’s not that rats with toys become geniuses but that rats in blank boxes become dumb. As YetAnother intimates, lots of parenting stuff will work just fine–it’s the extremes of bad that do damage, not the dozens of ways to do normal.

      I also liked Alison Gopnik’s The Scientist in the Crib, and she has other books as well. She’s a researcher in philosophy and infant development at Berkeley, so an interesting overlap. (I think she’s the one who had momspeak, and people who insist they don’t do that stuff, then turn to their infant and adopt a simple sentence structure and high-pitched voice to explain that NooOOoooo Daddy doesn’t do that, does he sweetie pie?)

      What to Expect has its frustrations, but my husband did read “when half your baby turns blue” within hours of her exhibiting this (alarming yet not dangerous) effect, so ask your pediatrician for a general “what to expect at age X.”

      Oh, and writing down the diapers seems weird, up until your newborn is doing something maybe concerning (gas? constipation?) and you are trying to remember when the last dirty diaper was and it’s all a blur.

      1. Observer*

        I agree with most of what you say. But I have to say that a lot of the advice to record everything your kid does (every diaper etc.) is really not just weird but bad advice. Sure, there are times when it’s a good idea or even necessary. But when it’s not it can become a real problem.

        Most of the time the EXACT timing or the EXACT amount etc. is not really important and you wind up obsessing over this stuff, as well as taking up time and energy that’s in short supply.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          For the diapers, the question is usually “has she had a bm in the last 24 hours?” Or “when was her last wet diaper” if dehydration is the concern. And it’s usually advised that you write it down for the first few blurry weeks, not 2 years.

    8. Madge*

      My baby is 16 years old so all my recommendations are also old, but still good, I think. And you can always look for more current related titles. I loved books by Dr T Berry Brazelton for the first years. Very gentle, caring advice. Ellyn Satter’s “Child of Mine” goes in-depth for child feeding at various ages and stages. Her “Secrets of Feeing A Healthy Family” gives the crib notes version with recipes and cycle menu instructions. Nothing like having a kid to find out all your food hang-ups. Ellyn Satter’s methods help keep them from getting in your way of raising a competent eater. “How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk” is a classic that never goes stale. Same with the ages and stages books(Titles start with “Your X Year Old”): slim little volumes of developmental info and advice for each year.

      1. Patty Mayonnaise*

        My husband read a lot of T Berry Brazelton’s work for his child development masters, and loves him! He also came to his graduation.

    9. Ranon*

      You need one basic reference book so you have an alternative to 2am web searches- Baby 411 is good (and has an extensive poop section which is…more useful than you would think) as is the AAP’s book for the first five years. Just something that can tell you what’s normal and what’s not before you call the nurse line anyways. Not a book, but an infant care class might be reassuring if that’s available to you.

      Luckily development doesn’t all happen right away, so once you get over the diaper/feeding hump you have some time. A baby sleep book is something most people find helpful, but even the basic reference books cover enough to start.
      Once you meet your baby you’ll have a bit of a better idea of what sort of sleep philosophy might work for them. After that, it’s really the toddler years that get you- How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen is fabulous, many people also like Happiest Toddler on the Block.

      Remember, humans are pretty variable and even the most expert author has only met a tiny sample, so if the book doesn’t sound like your baby, put it down and find another, goodness knows there are plenty to choose from.

    10. Book Lover*

      For what it’s worth, as a single mother with no experience with babies and very little help (no friends with kids and time, no family with time to help out) – I brought my baby home with no clue what to do and it all sort of works out. You change them when dirty, feed them when hungry (or a bit before) and spend a lot of time trying to get them to sleep. It’ll be fine. If reading a book helps you feel more prepared that’s fine, of course. One of my friends took some pre baby classes – baby cpr, basics, that sort of thing, and that helped her feel more confident.

      1. Retired and Happy Now*

        OP, try not to overthink the parenting stuff. As long as you take care of baby’s needs and provide love, it will be fine.
        When we adopted a seven-weeek old girl, she did come with a small box of clothing, some “instructions” on her feeding and sleeping schedule , as well as a brief summary of her time in foster care. The agency had cautioned us not to prepare a nursery or layette for the placement since (a) the age range of a potential placement was broad and (b) there could be a long delay or ultimate dissapointment during a nursery or baby clothes would be like salt in a wound. So, with barely 4 days notice, we painted a room and got together the bare minumum stuff needed, like a crib and car seat. We bought gear if the need for it came up and a couple of small showers given for us got us started on clothes. She thrived on formula and has been pretty healthy. I didn’t rely on books but lucked into a pediatric practice that had expeienced doctors who had seen it all and gave great advice over the years.
        I was nervous for the first few days but we settled quickly into a routine where she was happy and contented. My spouse and I were raised by reasonable and loving parents so we could trust our guts when it came to raising our girl.. She’s grown into a wonderful woman. And oh, last night she told me that my third grandchild (this one a surprise!) is coming soon.

    11. Stitch*

      I highly recommend both of Emily Oster’s books, Expecting Better and Crib Sheets. She crunches the studies on various pregnancy and parenting stuff and will really help you de-stress.

    12. Llellayena*

      I don’t know if something like this still exists, but when I was young, my parents had a book that listed common (and not so common) children’s sicknesses, searchable by symptom or name of sickness. The internet is probably the alternate resource for that now, but it’s useful for when the kid is coughing and you don’t know why.

    13. Tomato Anonymato*

      My list has been:

      Janet Lansbury blog (RIE)
      The Happiest Baby on the Block
      What to Expect the First Year
      The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
      Be Prepared by Gary Greenberg (too funny)
      Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel
      bonus – Experimenting with Babies: 50 Amazing Science Projects You Can Perform on Your Kid by Shaun Gallagher

      And, if you have dogs at home, really helpful website/webinar (Dogs and Storks) by Family Paws website to prepare them. I think they have something about cats too. [They have toddler advice too inc stickers “Sit on the ground, not on the hound” which still makes me laugh so much.]

      You might want to consider post-partum doula to teach you more about baby care and give you some rest after the birth.

      It seems like there is so many decisions and approaches, pacifier or not, co-sleeping or not, cloth diapers or not, which baby carrier and about zillion more. There is lots of advice out there, but you will figure out what works best for YOUR family!
      P.S. Unrequested advice: Keep things unopened until you are sure you will need them, inc baby shower presents without a receipt – return them to store if not. And, I personally would recommend finding a family with older kids willing to pass on baby stuff (just check with a local preschool).

      1. Parenthetically*

        +1000 to Janet Lansbury stuff and RIE. So helpful in the infant stages and the principles continue to be incredibly helpful now that we have a delightful toddler!

      2. Stitch*

        I will note that I felt like everything useful I “Happiest Baby” could be summarized on a one page flyer. That book was really repetitive.

    14. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      My chief recommendation would be to remember that the baby can’t read.

      Which is to say that many people find a book helpful, but if you read Contented Baby and your baby is more of a Whispered Baby, life is going to be hard (and vice versa). Some babies like to be held to sleep; some like space to sleep; and you don’t know which you have without a little trial and error. It can vary between children in a family so definitely innate and not a product of environment! If you read widely, you might find the book that most closely matches your baby.

      I liked the “What To Expect” books because they’re written by medical experts rather than lifestyle coaches. LOTS of science and not too much philosophy. The Wonder Weeks app is a bit more “woo” but again offering some reassuring data (“this is a sleepless week because of spleen growth – it’s not just you”).

      Most of all I would recommend finding an online forum for parents due around the same time (e.g. Bounty or Babycenter, or Facebook groups). There will always be someone else awake to sob with you at 3am when you’re wondering what the heck you let yourself in for, someone to say “we had that and eating dark chocolate helped me”, someone to recommend a brand of diapers or strollers, fellow first-timers and old hands, and so on.

      My “birth group” saved me many a time. I’ve met up with dozens of them in real life, and we hang out online regularly. You don’t have to be best buddies with everyone (anyone) but you may just click with someone who’s equally keen on cloth diapers/unschooling/sleep training/ whatever.

    15. KR*

      My friend with a recent addition is on a large car seat safety Facebook page and says it’s been super helpful. They’ll tell you everything you need to know to get your kid in the car seat correctly. Of course they can be intense as Facebook new parents can be but nonetheless helpful.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Many hospitals and fire stations also have folks who are trained in helping you get your car seats properly and safely installed. I’ve never tried to do myself, but I hear they can be fiddly.

    16. em*

      My favorite practical advice type book is “Love and Logic for Early Childhood” – lots of ideas for structuring your overall approach to parenting/discipline with scripts and examples. I found “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen” really outdated and disliked the way it was written. If you know it’s bad to hit and scream, you don’t need to read that one lol.

      Great books that are more philosophical: Gifts of Imperfect Parenting (Brene Brown), All Joy and No Fun (sounds bleak but it’s a really fascinating and reassuring study of how parenting and childhood have changed over time), Brain Rules for Baby (pop science about what actually matters most to brain development)

      1. Kuododi*

        Oooh! You stole my thunder. I was scrolling through to recommend the Love and Logic series. I’ve used their material repeatedly when facilitating parenting groups. I’ve also used it for education material when conducting family therapy. I’ve found it to be well written material, doesn’t leave one feeling as if a PhD in clinical psychology is needed to access the data.

      2. Observer*

        I think you are missing the point on “How to talk”. Plenty of parents know that it’s not ok to hit or scream but they simply don’t see an alternative, or they find themselves doing that without seeing how that came to be. That’s primarily what they are addressing.

    17. Acornia*

      Read a variety, take what works for your family and your baby, leave the rest. Don’t believe anyone who says you have to control your baby and impose a strict schedule. Don’t believe anyone who says that you have to let the baby dictate everything. You are a new family, and everyone has to accommodate each other. This might mean you have to adapt and not schedule a hike during baby’s usual nap time, and it might also mean that baby has to cry a little to sleep. You don’t have to be a martyr OR a dictator! Just love your baby and make room for them in your life. Don’t feel like you have to choose a named parenting style and follow it to the letter. Find a sweet spot that works for you.
      And don’t get caught up in what your baby “should” be doing. I work with a lot of new parents, and I’ve seen questions like “My app says that my baby should be sleeping 786 minutes per day, and my baby averages 712. How can I get his to sleep more?” or “The Blah Blah Blah Parenting App says my LO should be doing XYZ by this age, but the Yadda Yadda Yadda Parenting App says he has another two weeks before that milestone. Should I be worried? What if my baby is delayed?”
      My answer is *always* ditch the damn app. Is your baby happy, growing, healthy? Are you doing regular well baby checks? If the answer to both of those is yes, then all is well and the apps are just driving you crazy.
      And that unwanted advice? Smile, thank them, and then privately try or reject it. Same for advice you ask for. Smile, thank them, and then try it if you want or ignore it if you want.
      And that includes all the advice I just gave you.

      1. Dee-Nice*

        Acornia’s is the best advice. Do what works for you. I read 20 books on baby sleep. My baby had colic and reflux and never slept. I was not, in fact, insane or doing anything wrong. The books just didn’t apply.

        I also agree on the not tracking feeds/sleep if it makes you nuts. I breastfed. My baby ate constantly. The inside of my head was like the shack in A Beautiful Mind. Second baby, no tracking, just going with the flow. Much better.

        Enjoy your baby! Here’s hoping you get a sleeper. :)

      2. Observer*

        If you ARE going to track and app can be better than trying to do it on paper.

        But, really? Fundamentally I agree with “ditch the app”. Because most of these apps are based on two really bad premises. 1. All babies do the same things that same way and at the same time (which would be a joke if it weren’t so dangerous). 2. EXACT measurements and amounts are universally important, which is nonsense.

    18. AnonForThis*

      These are all good recommendations. One piece of advice I have is that every child is different. What may work for some may not work for others. It’s really about getting to know your little one and trial and error. I read a ton of books while pregnant with my first and when my son was born it all went out the window. Between sleep deprivation and getting familiar with his preferences and rhythms it really boiled down listening to his cues and making sure he had a clean diaper, a fresh bottle when he was hungry and a comfy place to sleep. If the baby gets sick, the doctor will be able to fill in the rest. You’ll figure it out! :)

    19. Lilysparrow*

      I really liked The Baby Whisperer, because it’s very practical about the fact that EVERY loving parenting approach will work great on about 25 percent of babies. And if the approach you try suits both you & your baby’s temperament, you’re going to think it’s magic. If you pick one that doesn’t suit your baby, you’re going to struggle. So you may have to try several different things. That’s not a sign of failure, and don’t let it become a source of guilt (you’ll be shocked how easy it is to feel guilty as a parent.)

      We also liked Happiest Baby on the Block. And there was something I read about on a website – don’t know if it’s a book or what, called Wonder Weeks. That was really helpful to understand what type of brain development was going on at different times, and how it affects sleep, hunger, and fussiness.

      Later on, when they’re 6-8 months old, (when they can wave “bye-bye”) we really enjoyed doing baby sign language. It was amazing to be able to know what she was thinking, and reduced her frustration at not being able to express her needs.

      There was one other resource I can’t recall the name of. It was a series of videos about interpreting baby’s cries. It was for newborn to about 3 months. The basic idea was that the major needs at that stage – hunger, sleep, or discomfort – cause the baby’s mouth to take on certain shapes. That makes their cry have a certain sound. It’s subtle, but you can really learn to recognize it if you listen.

      I think it was “Naa Naa” for hunger, because they have their tongue positioned to suck. “Ooooww” was sleepy, because they are starting to yawn. And “Eeeee” was discomfort/diaper change. I may be misremembering part of the details, but that’s the basic idea. It was helpful!

      Best of luck to you!

    20. Spero*

      AAP first 5 years book for 3 am disease freakouts plus a lot of practical advice. I liked wonder weeks for the reminders of growth spurts but wasn’t 100% on some of their theories. Pathways does a weekly email with development reminders including a lot of practical simple games to play with baby.
      I got a bunch from the library, read right at the end of my leave, and promptly forgot most of what they said! However, if you plan to do baby led weaning instead of purees definitely read the book!

    21. Observer*

      There are very few pieces of parenting advice that really hold up widely under scrutiny.

      One is that neither authoritarian not permissive parenting is optimal (neither will DEFINITELY “ruin” you r kid, but neither is likely to get best results.) The most likely overall style is authoritative parenting.

      BUT that doesn’t really apply much for the first 6 moths – a year. Till then you make all the decisions based of what your kids shows they need – not necessarily wants, by the way. Most infants do NOT want to be diapered, but we diaper them anyway. etc.

      Some other things to keep in mind:
      There is a VERY broad range of normal (so please don’t try comparing you kid to the neighbor / friend cousin etc.)

      Your child is not you, even if they turn out to be very similar. So, you need to keep yourself from automatically making assumptions and decisions based on what YOU would have wanted / needed. It can be a useful guide, for sure, but it’s not iron clad.

      On a similar note, children are individuals, which is one of the reasons why most rules don’t work consistently. Different kids have different needs and interests and you’ll do best taking that into account.

      Don’t underestimate your child. On the other hand “you can do anything you want” is often a rather toxic thing to tell a child because it’s often just not true and sets a kid of for impossible goals.

      Last but not least, balance and nuance is extremely useful in dealing with children.

  15. Makeup setting spray*

    I have combination skin and by the end of the day my foundation is half gone. Anyone have any setting spray recommendations? I’m not into the wet/dewey look but since I’m in my 40’s matte prob is aging so something in between would be nice.
    Don’t know if it is relevant but I use Dior backstage or Fenty Pro filter foundation.
    Thank you

    1. Makeup Addict*

      I like the Urban Decay All Nighter setting spray – I’m in my 40s with combination skin and often wear a full face of makeup, and it’s the one I’ve found makes it last best. It doesn’t look dewy or matte, just like skin.

      You don’t nention a primer, but if you aren’t using one I’d really recommend that too for longevity. I use a cheap Rimmel one most days for work, and the Urban Decay Optical Illusion one when I want to step it up.

      Primer plus foundation plus setting spray means my makeup doesn’t budge even on the hottest days.

      1. OP for this thread*

        Hi. Thanks for the reply. I do use a primer. Sorry, I should have added my whole routine.

        La roche posay Anthelios 50 mineral sunscreen
        Ultra repair hyaluronic primer
        Coty airspun powder

        Maybe I’m not waiting long enough between the sunscreen and primer or primer and foundation?

      2. LadyDisdain*

        Ben Nye. It’s what broadway performers and Disney park princesses use. and it’s less than half the price of Urban Decay.

        1. Makeup Addict*

          Ben Nye stuff breaks me out really badly, so I would strongly recommend patch testing!

    2. L.S. Cooper*

      The best setting spray I’ve used is the Ben Nye Final Seal. It’s theatrical makeup, so it will LAAAAST. Like, 12+ hours of wear and I’m still scrubbing off foundation.
      It’s also really cost effective. For $20 off Amazon, you get slightly more product that most of the expensive makeup brands, but I get mine from a local costume shop for $10 for a bottle.
      (If you do get it, a word of warning, do NOT get it into your eyes. It has a bit of menthol in it, and it will huuurt. It will also make your face slightly sticky after spraying, but a bit of powder or just waiting a few minutes will fix that up.)

    3. MOAS*

      I’m in my 30s w dry skin

      So far I love:

      Kay von D lock it
      Makeup forever
      Too faced
      Huda-but only if ur ok w fragrance. I love the smell but not everyone may.

  16. Hello gorgeous!*

    My kid does not seem to want to look at, discuss, or pick colleges. Not sure how much I should do, or if I should make the arrangements to view those colleges i see as a good choice. I’m trying to keep it to types (small tech school, large state university, school in city, school in small town, school close to home, school far away). Most I can get out of kid is that they would prefer north to south. Kid says friends aren’t looking, but they could all be legacy admissions or have apprenticeships lined up (so no peer pressure/peer learning there). Add in my anxiety that I’m making the wrong decisions or missing opportunities. I just wih kid would show some preference, and maybe arrange a campus tour by themselves.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      How important is it for kid to go to college right now?

      It might be beneficial for the. To take a year off studying and get a job instead. Some kids need that buffer year. I didn’t go straight to uni, I took a year out to earn some money (necessary as I was from a low-income working-class family), and I really wish I’d taken longer. I felt that I was pushed into uni before I was ready and I still resent it ten years later.

      College isn’t going anywhere. If it’s not essential now, maybe talk to kid and suggest a year or two off with ground rules i.e., job and volunteering. Get so,etching on the CV first so that kid has a better idea of what they want to do later.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Excellent advice. Broaden the conversation as to what is next. I’m not a parent but I am someone’s kid. It would have been helpful for me to hear from my parents what they thought I was good at or where I had shown long term interest. And to use those things as stepping stones to find out what is next.

        Going the opposite way, if kiddo has a favorite aunt or uncle maybe they can get kiddo talking about picking a starting point to launch life-after-school.

        It also would have been good to hear that I could flex. I could pick something to start my adult life with and then shift over to something else if my first choice did not pan out. It can feel like these choices are set in stone and that is not reality.

        I remember the pressure to pick something was enormous. It cannot possibly be better now. Your kid might actually get something out of listening to you talk about your experiences. People do love stories and if you tell your story you are not requiring the kiddo to talk. Talking is HARD. You can throw in stories of what you have seen other people do, too. Heck,you could share stories that you read here on AAM.

        In my own life, it was the men who really struggled with what to do. In most cases, these men should have gone to a tech school or learned a trade such as plumbing or carpentry. That was their natural gift. Each of these men grew into adults who had extraordinary ability to work with their hands and to design things. With the women it was not so obvious for me, but I still could see it happening. Some people just prefer doing work with their hands or prefer a creative line of work. And that can be tough to figure out in the early stages. This is why I suggested pointing out long term interests. Continued interest in a particular arena can be a clue.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep. I flunked out of college three times because people kept shoving me into going. When I finally decided I was ready and knew what I wanted to do, I finished my first (yes) bachelor degree magna cum laude, then did two masters degrees at the same time, and now I’m two classes and a paper shy of my second bachelor degree. (I used to think I hated school. I didn’t hate school. I just needed to get there at my own pace. The second bachelor degree is because I need it for a specific career certification in the field I’ve been working in for fifteen years, but at this point I just enjoy being in college classes and learning things.)

        College will still be there later, and not going to college now is not going to be harmful to your kid, where pushing them into it can in fact cause problems down the road.

      3. Traffic_Spiral*

        Sounds good. Basically he has to pick something: job, volunteer, college, whatever – and be working towards it.

        1. Hello gorgeous!*

          Kid has shown no interest in getting job, shows no interest in doing anything other than internet, reruns of the office and video games. Kid did not line up job for summer, spent it in dark room with computer. Had kid meet with counselor to rule out depression. I’m not/don’t want to force kid into anything, I’d be fine if kid has some preference for taking a break/not going to college/going to college/trade school/apprenticeship/get job, but kid just seems to want to have no responsibilities at all, and my worries are that I haven’t prepared kid to be/transition to being/ an adult. I don’t expect kid to have a destination picked out, I just want kid to have a general direction and move towards it.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            How busy was he in high school? If he had an awful lot going on, he probably wants some time to decompress and just do nothing.

          2. Person from the Resume*

            Why are you defaulting to college (in your question)?

            “I don’t want to pick a college” is pretty clear and a set up for flunking our and feeling like a failure. Just tell your child that living at home and not working is not an option and enforce it. He has to get a job when he graduates high school no matter what. If he isn’t in college full time, then he needs to pay at least some – most – of his bills. A high school graduate, not college student, adult should be starting to figure out how to support himself because that’s the rest of his life. If he realized that he want a career that requires more education or training, he’s so much more likely to graduate.

            Frankly the idea that your child is that unmotivated and you’re looking at out of state schools (north preferred over south) is kind of crazy. If your kid doesn’t have an degree that narrows down the school in mind, you should be looking at community college or the cheapest, closest public school.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Yes to community college! It’s a great way to get into the swing of college life and earn some credits taking the core requirements while he narrows down a major. Or it can help him decide that college just isn’t what he wants to do. And it’s much cheaper than going to a college or university.

            2. Observer*

              I really agree with this. Except that I would not even be looking at schools at all. Unless and until HE has an idea of what he wants to do, you need to stop with schools. There is no way to find the “right” school, because it doesn’t exist under the current circumstances.

          3. NoLongerYoung*

            It sounds like “picking a college” is not the real problem. It sounds like your worries might be well-founded (sorry) and there is something underlying here. That’s where the push needs to happen. There can be no option to not adult. (That’s called enabling).

            If kid was interested in something, you could help with that. If kid is interested in nothing, you do owe it to him to figure out why life is a dark hole with no future, and deal with that, not pressure to go to college.

            Your response here is super helpful as to the underlying nature of the problem… and where I think the focus needs to be. Sending reassuring thoughts. This sounds like the crux of the problem.

            1. Observer*

              Exactly right.

              Help him figure out why he is not interested in ANYTHING and in the meantime, you need to stop enabling him to do nothing.

          4. Another Anonymous*

            It should be clear that not-adulting is not an option. So kid can be pursuing something of their choosing or something of your choosing (college.) Until kid presents alternatives, take the lead. Visiting campuses may ignite interest or enough disdain to motivate kid to present alternatives.

            Btw, I work in data at a large public university. At this school, for students fresh out of high school, success is highest when students are fully immersed (full-time course load (12+ hours), living on campus.) If finances allow, I’d highly recommend making that happen.

            Also, sounds like kid could use some friends who are more forward thinking. If kid ends up going the college route, fraternities and sororities offer a lot in this regard. When I was in school, even the party-centric sororities had a minimum 3.0 GPA requirement.

            Btw I’m defaulting to college because kid isn’t presenting alternatives. If kid had reasonable plans, I wouldn’t force college. If kid had unreasonable plans, I might try and force college for a trial year. Alternatively, kid could move out, make money, and be as unreasonable as they wish! Good luck!

          5. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

            With no interest in a major, there’s no point in pushing college. This is a greatly oversimplified scenario, but I think you should present kid with an invoice that includes cost for internet, phone, TV, and rent, and tell him (assuming “him”) he needs to be prepared to start paying it in 30 days. Then be prepared to cut off internet, phone, and TV at your house at that time, with a moveout date to follow. I wouldn’t give the option of applying to school as a way out because then kid might just apply to avoid the cutoff, then just not follow up. (If kid is still in high school, then the rent/moveout part doesn’t apply yet). Again, I know it won’t be that simple, but the basic idea is kid needs to take responsibility, and experience real consequences if he doesn’t. You should not be resigned to indefinitely bear the expense of kid’s poor life choices. Maybe you didn’t previously prepare kid to transition to being an adult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start doing it now.

      4. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I really wish all people would take a year (or two or five) off before going to college. So many kids haven’t a clue what they want to do career-wise after graduation and they either drop out or change their majors several times. Had I gone to college right out of high school, I for sure would have picked the wrong major.

    2. Admit One*

      I can’t tell from your post whether you’ve had a conversation with Kid about whether they really want to go to college or not.

      If you have, and they’re enthusiastic about the concept but just aren’t doing anything about it, it’s time for a sit-down conversation. This is when you let them know that they need to be responsible for taking the lead on this, that you are happy to support and advise as necessary but that this is their life, their future and you can’t do it for them. And then you step back and let them figure it out. (If they are used to you doing these things for them, and you are used to being in control of these things, this will be hard. It’s really important though!)

      If you haven’t had that initial “do you WANT to go to college?” convo yet, that’s your starting point. Ask them, listen without arguing or judging, and you’ll find out what’s really going on. If they aren’t interested or want to do something else – that’s fine. College isn’t the right path for everyone. What DO they want to do next?

    3. un-pleased*

      I am a professor who myself took 2 “hiatuses” from college. Once I was ready to get it done, I got it done. I have two-college-aged kids who haven’t gone to college. One had a kid, both have been working, and both are thinking about going to college now.

      It will be fine if kid doesn’t go immediately. Some of the best students I have are ones who took time to travel, work, or do other things (including the military). The expectation that college follows high school immediately does not serve all students well. Sometimes kids flame out when they don’t know what to do with themselves in college, and that really becomes a problem that can have longer-term effects on their self-esteem, confidence, and achievement than just waiting and going when they are ready.

      And don’t forget vocational options like plumber or electrician. Encourage your kid to spend time just imaging different life trajectories, including different types of campus environments as you have been, and don’t pressure them.

      Ask them to think about what their ideal adult lifestyle, family configuration, etc., would be, and then work backward from there to think about a few trajectories that might get them there. Framing it not explicitly about college, but about living their best life, might be more effective. And don’t be surprised if they don’t have any great ideas and need more time.

    4. YvonneHartman*

      My daughter was the same as yours. I ended up choosing the 7 schools to which she applied, arranging campus visits, etc. I think the whole process was too overwhelming and intimidating for her and she was just paralyzed. However, she wanted to go to school and had a major picked out. I normally let my kids work things out themselves, but this seemed like too big a hurdle for her to manage so I stepped in. She was accepted to all the schools, and after her scholarship offers came in we narrowed it down to 2 final choices. She made the final choice. She is now a junior and has been very happy and successful. Also, she has done all her summer job research, applications, etc. all by herself so I think I did the right thing stepping in this one time.

      1. Madge*

        This posted after I started writing my reply and I like it. Very compassionate and understanding. College selection can be very overwhelming, so if that’s what you think is going on, Hello gorgeous, then this is a good approach.

      2. Reba*

        Yes, the field is vast and it feels like the decision is so, so weighty… Given the pressure, I can totally understand your kid’s just tuning it out or avoiding it. (FWIW I think the college decision IS consequential, but it is not everything, and it’s worth remembering and reminding your kid that it’s not like choosing the rest of your life right there! I went to a college that was not totally perfect and I am all good!)

        I remember that my parents got a bunch of those guides/rankings books, and we looked them over and came up with a short list together. My parents respected my agency but definitely did a lot to help me (e.g. making a chart to track deadlines, driving me to campus visits).

        I applied to 6, I think, and visited them all. It was a lot! I read about kids applying to 20+ colleges now which seems totally bananas to me.

      3. Earthwalker*

        This. When a kid has been in American public school for their entire life, and been told where to go and what to do, and doesn’t understand the working world beyond maybe “do you want fries with that?” they don’t have much background for taking the initiative on college. High school has a handful of courses offered in a given year and most are mandatory anyway. College has hundreds. What a difference! And then there’s a major and minor. If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, how do you choose? If you get it wrong is your life ruined? So many questions, and if you ask you know you’ll look stupid. So yes, so obvious in retrospect for adults, but so overwhelming for lots of kids. I like your idea of coordinating a campus visit to help a child begin to get a feel for what it’s all about.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      How old are they? It’s not unusual to start looking in spring of or summer after junior year.

      Assuming that they are 16-ish, I think it’s okay to do the visits you suggest (big campus, small) and hope they spark some ideas.

      Much sympathy. It’s hard to know when you should push and when stand back and let them figure it out.

    6. Madge*

      It sounds like you’re hoping that if you push now your son will at some point be ready and carry forward, make a decision or accept yours, and successfully apply himself to his education. Unfortunately, a more likely scenario is that he’ll go off to the college of your choice and flunk out. College is hard and there are so many more temptations. And he’ll be an adult. Colleges really respect that boundary these days. He needs to be committed to the plan and the best way for that to happen is if it’s his plan. I think it’s time for you to really talk about what he wants to do. Let him do the work. If it doesn’t get done then that’s a choice he is making and he can experience the consequences of those choices. Better to let him fall now when the only damage is a skinned knee and you’re there to help him up.

    7. Book Lover*

      Maybe see what the deadlines are for a local community college and let it drop for a while? A year working or taking some college classes and working wouldn’t do any harm.

      1. Nicki Name*

        This is just what I was going to suggest! I started off with community college myself. English 101 etc. are pretty much the same at any kind of college. Then, when they’ve decided what they want to do with their life, if it’s something that requires a college degree, they can pick a school that’s good for that particular major. And if it’s a highly selective school, it’ll probably be much easier to get in as a transfer student.

    8. Stephanie*

      My kids are 17 and 20 (daughter is entering her senior year in college and son is entering freshman year in college), and I did have to push both of them a little to start the process. I think it’s really overwhelming for some kids. There’s so much emphasis on the importance of picking the right college that it can be paralyzing to even start. I think it’s a good idea to talk to your kid about college in general–is your kid ambivalent about college? Would a gap year of some kind be a good idea (with an agreement about what that looks like: volunteering, or travel, or working, what ever you think is the best use of that time)?
      I did find that once my husband and I got the process started and actually visited campuses, both kids were more enthusiastic about it.
      Good luck!

    9. Gloucesterina*

      How accustomed is your child to taking the lead on major projects/life decisions? This could be really new territory for them, and it’s difficult for me as an adult!

      1. Gloucesterina*

        Depending on your kid, having an “escape plan” or plan B could lower the bar to entry–like, deciding after X number of semesters, I will re-evaluate and decide if this particular college is right for me and if I’d want to transfer or change course entirely.

    10. Acornia*

      I am in the same boat with my youngest. She wants to go, and in fact is planning to go, but she won’t even consider looking at any other school than where her sisters went. I would like her to explore options and choose something because she knows she wants to go there, not just because it’s what her sisters did.

    11. big X*

      Might just be scary and overwhelming. I did all my college stuff myself but was like this once I graduated and had to get a job – the whole process was very scary and new and I didn’t know what to do or what to expect…so I did about two years worth of research abroad plus a Fulbright before looking for a job. Now I am like this for going back to grad school, ha. So I sympathize with the kid.

      Sometimes it’s just Scary and other times it’s flat-out Not Ready. I would narrow it down before going through the effort of doing the college stuff for them. Do they even want to go to college? (Because don’t waste your money if they will just drop out). What major do they want? What do they want to do in the future? It helps the anxiety (personally) to have some framework and goal before going into something.

    12. anna*

      Similar to some of the other replies, but I didn’t want to go to college when I finished high school; I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and was terrified of being on my own. My parents pushed me into going, handholding me through every application step, and I had a mental breakdown a year or so in and came home. I then spent about 2-3 years working, saving money, and figuring out what I was good at and what I was interested in. When I decided it was time to go back I did all the application stuff on my own and am now on track to graduate next year with great grades.

      Which isn’t to say your kid isn’t ready for college, but if they’re not, that’s okay. Some kids need more time (and some kids never go and still end up fine.)

    13. The New Wanderer*

      It can be tough both for kids who want to go to college but don’t always know how to answer the questions adults ask about it (me), and for kids who don’t want to go to college but don’t know what else they want to do (my brother). If they hear other people’s stories, that might help them narrow down what they want, but they might also just not know yet and that’s reasonable. Gap years are common in other parts of the world, they really should be a thing in the US too.

      FWIW I was very academically inclined and never considered not going to college, but I had the worst time talking to the guidance counselor about it. She would not accept that I didn’t care if it was a big or small school, in-state or out, rural or urban setting, north, south, either coast, or whatever. Honestly, I just wanted to go to the best STEM-heavy school I could get into and that was literally it for deciding where to apply. Guidance counselor called my parents and told them I wasn’t interested in college because I wouldn’t talk about it in her terms.

      My brother didn’t care at all so my mom did all the field work and got him accepted to University 1, where he withdrew before failing out. Next year University 2, where guess what, he withdrew before failing out. Then there was the stint at community college where he just didn’t go to the classes. Finally he got his act together after some shorter term retail jobs just to pay bills and has held his current job, where he is the resident expert, for almost 20 years. He’s extremely well suited for it but there’s no way as a teenager he would have been able to say yeah, that’s the career/vocational path I want.

      Maybe as others have recommended, it should be more of an open conversation where college is one option but other options are laid out and the decision to be made is, if not college then what? And the what is not a lifetime commitment but just a next step.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        What an awful high school counselor!?! The college experience and culture is more important than the degree/area of focus. You sounded sensible; your guidance counselor? Not so much.

        18 year old me “knew” I wanted to be an aerospace engineer so that narrowed my selection down a lot. Of course I changed my mind after the first year. I changed to computer science and that worked out perfectly for my career. 18 year old was at least right that I wanted a career in engineering or sciences and I did pick a science and technology focused university so there were options.

    14. Scandinavian in Scandinavia*

      I’m grateful that in my day, one or more gap years was expected of you. I took one, but should have taken two or three in order to mature and gain lige experience and purpose. Starting college too early had a bad effect on motivation, the quantity and quality og my work, learning, and grades.
      Good luck!

    15. ...*

      My mom pretty much applied to colleges for me because I was short sighted and unmotivated. I think you’re fine if you arrange visits.

    16. Observer*

      Back off. If Kid wants to go to college, they need to be involved in the process. If they don’t want to go to college, then you can’t make them go, and even if you could it would not be a good idea.

    17. KoiFeeder*

      The bottom line is that if your child doesn’t want to go to college, then they shouldn’t go. I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone in my graduating class that didn’t want to go- most of my peer group that just went because they felt obligated to dropped out with student loans hanging over them. College is expensive, and it’s not for everyone!

      Secondarily, it might be good to get into the reasons why kid isn’t interested in college. If kid doesn’t want to, kid doesn’t want to and that’s their prerogative. If kid doesn’t want to because the teacher told them that they’re too dumb to go to college, that’s a whole other bed of worms.

    18. Late Commenter*

      I would phrase this in terms of basic logistics. What happens when Kid graduates from high school? Can they live with you full-time (as opposed to during college breaks). If so, for how long? Will they need to help with bills? And what other rules will there be? Because this is about how they’re going to provide for themselves, ultimately. That’s a basic reality that most of us face. I think it’s more akin to, “You need to bathe regularly,” than “enabling,” which sounds more abstract and psychological. It’s a basic reality of life that we need income or the kind of support that comes with being a college student (food, housing, stipends, etc). Obviously, I don’t know the details of your financial situation – kid could be set for life – but even then, there are good reasons to work / go to college.

      Also, Kid’s friends could be looking for colleges and not being honest and open about it. That can happen. It might be worth pointing that out.

      Everyone else has good advice too.

  17. Foreign Octopus*

    Book thread!

    What is everyone reading this week?

    I’ve finished book seven in The Expanse series, and it’s always nice to revisit the crew of the Rocinante. I’m about to start reading The Ape Who Guards the Balanve (8 or 9) in the Amelia Peabody series, high is perfect for an August weekend.

    1. vanillacookies*

      I’ve been meaning to start reading the Expanse! But I’m in the middle of The Three Body Problem at the moment.

    2. Teapot Translator*

      I’m reading the last book of the Parasol Protectorate series, Timeless. I’m not a big fan, but the local library has the whole series through OverDrive. Apparently this makes me a completist. I’m not one usually.

      1. Book Lover*

        I enjoyed the first one and then got progressively more discouraged. I think there was a relatively early one where there was an accusation of adultery against the main character and I didn’t find it fun at all.

      2. GoryDetails*

        Re the Parasol Protectorate series: I really enjoyed those, especially whenever Lord Akeldama, Biffy, and/or Professor Lyall were involved. (The first few books were adapted as mangas, which I found VERY entertaining!)

    3. annakarina1*

      I’m about to start The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste for my book club this month. It’s a horror novel, and from the first few pages, seems to be starting out well enough.

    4. Jen RO*

      I’m reading Naomi Nobik’s Uprooted, after someone recommended it to me on last week’s open thread. I’m not hating it, but not loving it either. A bit too YA for my taste and a bit too long (I’m about 60% in and I’m starting to read interest).

      1. Book Lover*

        The end is delightful. Read it to the end and then try Spinning Silver. But I loved uprooted and wouldn’t read most of the middle again, so I get it.

      2. Stitch*

        She reminds me heavily of Robin McKinley. I like the first couple books on her Temeraire series but it got a little slow after book 2 or so.

        Minor spoilers for Uprooted. For a second I thought she was going to go in a more interesting direction (with a female love interest) but then didn’t and ugh, really, another old man/young woman pairing?

        1. Jen RO*

          Ugh. I just got to that point in the book and I… just… what. She is 17 and he is a hundred something! Ughhh. So unnecessary.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      I just finished Becoming by Michelle Obama. I loved it. The bits where she talks about championing girls’ education made me well up on the train three times. And she makes the Queen sound like such a badass too!

      Now I’m into The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, which I’ve wanted to read for ages. Only a few pages in but so far so good!

    6. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      I am loving/ furious with Invisible Woman: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but I keep having to cool off and take comic relief breaks with Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Oh I know. I am so angry after reading that book (and listening to every interview I can find with the writer) that I am ready to start The Revolution.

    7. WellRed*

      I just picked up a stack of books at the library, 4 mysteries, a memoir and a book on food/ diet. I’m on vacation!!! Beach. Books!

    8. Traffic_Spiral*

      Snowing in Bali – nonfiction about the drug trade there. Really interesting and fun.

    9. GoryDetails*

      I always have several books in progress; at the moment, the ones I’m enjoying most include:

      The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, in which an ordinary-seeming small town abuts a realm of faerie, with often-disturbing consequences; some intriguing riffs on Being Very, Very Careful What You Wish For (or, in this case, what you make deals with the fey for). The main characters are a brother and sister who’ve spent time in the fey realm, sometimes in fascinated awe over a beautiful horned prince sleeping in an unbreakable crystal coffin and sometimes hunting the more malevolent creatures who live in that realm. (Both siblings have a serious crush on the sleeping prince, making it interesting when he wakes up…)

      Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi, a science-fiction novel with some gritty-realistic aspects (major class divides, grinding poverty and lack of decent medical care for the lower tiers while the wealthy can do just about anything) that segue into a feisty heroine going to great risk to achieve her personal goal of becoming engineer on a starship. Lovely characters, including the starship in question, and some nice subplots dealing with polyamorous relationships.

    10. Pam*

      Biggest recommend is This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Epistolary stories are my jam.

      I also got the newest! Penric & Desdemona story, The Orphans of Raspay.

      I’m rereading the Suds in Your Eye series by Mary Lasswell. Cute, funny books from the 1940s/50s. Three little old ladies drink beer, enjoy life, and help others.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I really want to try my hand at writing an epistolary novel. Dracula is one of my favorites, also Les Liasons Dangereuse.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Coincidentally I am currently reading Dracula. It’s part of my “how did I go so long without reading this?” list… so far I am ambivalent despite having a fondness for the 19th c and it’s writers. I’m alternating with listening to ‘Ready Player One’ with my daughter.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Fun fact: Dracula has not been out of print since it was published in May 1897.

            For a Victorian novel, it’s pretty action-packed!

      2. Jen Erik*

        I love them also: I think I was converted young by Daddy-Long-Legs. Have you read Freedom and Necessity?
        Thanks for the recommendation, I’ve ordered a copy.

    11. Jaid*

      The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. It’s a Chinese low-fantasy gay romantic novel set in the Qin/Hang Dynasty, with ghosts and monsters. It’s only available in English online, though at Exiled Rebels Scanlations.

      It’s verrry popular, expanding into a manhua (comic book/manga), an animated series, a radio drama, and a live-action TV series, not to mention lots of music based on it. Um, the gayness was toned down,because China has issues with homosexuality FYI.

      It’s really fun, though, especially with the main character being clueless about how the other guy feels about him. To be fair…the MC had been dead for thirteen years so…. ;-)

    12. Elizabeth West*

      I just started reading Chuck Wendig’s enormous new book, Wanderers. It’s getting rave reviews, but I’m a fan of his and would have bought it anyway.

      After a comet flies over, random people suddenly all start walking in one direction like zombies and can’t be stopped or they will literally explode like that bitten girl in Cloverfield. So far, it’s like a cross between Stephen King’s Under the Dome and Night of the Living Dead. I am DYING to see what the hell happens!

      1. Jen RO*

        This sounds really interesting! I haven’t heard of the author, but I think we have similar tastes, so I ordered a Kindle sample.

    13. HannahS*

      I put Sisters of the Winter Wood on hold at the library, and I can’t wait. It’s a fantasy novel set in a Jewish community on the border between Ukraine and Moldova. I read a sample, and it’s so unapologetically in a Jewish setting. There’s a lot of Yiddish (and Hebrew, and Ukranian). There are references to ideas and practices and customs of early 20th century Chassidic Jews that are just sort of there and not meticulously explained. I’ve never seen any of that in a book that wasn’t, like, “Jewish Folktales for Children,” intended for a solely Jewish audience. So yeah, I’m excited!

    14. Damien*

      I’m reading the second book in the Duncton series, called Duncton Quest (the series is fictional and follows the story of a system of moles in the English countryside). One review described the books as Watership Down meets Lord of the Rings, which is pretty much spot on. It’s a bit heavy on religious themes – the moles worship and believe in the power of a special stone near to their home, which is integral to the plot – but the characters are well-written, the twists and turns of the plot can be a real surprise, and there’s little in the way of Main Character Immunity when it comes to falling in battle during fight scenes. The fight scenes themselves are something else, too.

    15. Merci Dee*

      I just finished re-reading It this week.

      Considering how much I love Stephen King’s works, I was surprised to realize 2 years ago that I hadn’t read that particular book yet. So I decided to download and dive in the first week of August 2017.

      No big deal …. in theory.

      Except that was the week my air conditioner decided to die, and it took a whole week to go through the home warranty company to get it diagnosed and fixed. Let me tell you, friends and neighbors, going a week without air conditioning …. in Alabama …. during August …. absolutely sucks (we had a rain system over the state every day that week so the temps never got above the high 80s, but the air was extra damp and sticky because of the afternoon rain storms). I packed my daughter off to spend some time at my parents’ place so she wouldn’t be home all day long in the heat, so I was coming home to no one but the cat every evening.

      As soon as I got home, I would open my side door since it had a screen door as well, I’d open some windows in the bathroom and the bedrooms, and then would turn on the attic fan. I’d set up my folding camp chair in front of the breeze from the screen door, and spend the evening reading It. And getting freaked out every once in a while by a noise that would come from somewhere else in the house where windows were open and any manner of interdimensional spider masquerading as a clown could slither in and try to kill me. Needless to say, I had to walk a few patrols around the house every night to set my paranoia to rest. All because of a book I was reading.

      It. Was. Awesome.

      So I now associate It with hot evenings in August, a strong breeze from the attic fan, and a slight sense that something is taking advantage of all the fan noise to slip closer undetected. Isn’t that pretty much what we all want from our horror novels?

      P.S. I remember seeing the It miniseries on TV in 1990, when I was 13 and should have been able to handle it with no problems. But to this day, in my 42nd year, I refuse to stand or walk on storm drains because of creepy Tim Curry. That reaction was only reinforced with Bill Skarsgard’s interpretation in 2017.

      Don’t get me wrong, now. I loved Tim Curry’s campy portrayal, it was great. But Bill Skarsgard just inspired a whole new level of horror and creepiness with that role. It’s almost unsettling how well he brought to life a non-human killing machine with absolutely zero concept of humanity’s softer qualities.

      Can’t wait for Part 2 in a few weeks!!!

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        All I can think of is Joey putting The Shining (and then Little Women) in the freezer when it got too scary in Friends.

        1. Merci Dee*

          I also loved The Shining. Was definitely a moody, atmospheric story that kept getting grimmer and grimmer as fall progressed to winter. I keep meaning to get Doctor Sleep for the follow-up, but keep picking up something else to read instead.

    16. Forensic13*

      I’m trying to make my curricula for my fall classes (college writing) so I’ve been reading a lot of random things, including a manners book from 1855 with the most ridiculous illustrations. But my favorite re-reads for that purpose have been How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (short story collection) and Maus by Art Spiegelman (graphic novels.)

  18. Anonadog*

    You know how telemarketers and phone scammers spoof a local number on the caller ID when they call you, to up the odds you’ll pick up? I recently moved to a new state and a new area code, and not 5 days later I started getting junk calls “locally.” I didn’t change my number so … how did they know??

    1. Not So NewReader*

      My friend who recently lost her husband, had a phone call from someone who spoofed her own phone number. The caller id showed her phone number. She said, “Oh, look, Hubby called me. I didn’t know they had phones in heaven!”

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          It probably wasn’t done deliberately, phone spammers use computer programs to dial thousands of numbers in sequence while spoofing a fake origin number for call ID. I get calls like that too.

          1. Blue Eagle*

            Just last week we started getting phone calls from our own phone number with my hubby’s name as who is calling. Do they really think I’m going to pick up a call from myself?

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, really.

          Fortunately, my friend decided not to let it bother her too much and she found a way to make herself chuckle. My friend is admirable like that.

    2. Rebecca*

      I am curious as to how they would know, too, without accessing the location info on your phone, which in itself is troubling.

      I am at BEC stage with scammers! I have a Comcast VOIP phone#, and exactly 3 people have it. The caller ID log on my phone shows that nearly every town in PA has called me, and now, I’m getting calls that say “CallerID273” or “CallerID561”, 187, 313, 529, and on and on. Very few voice mails, but the ones that show up are robocallers about Microsoft Windows something expired, or credit card interest rates. My favorites are when they start out “Don’t hang up!”. **CLICK** that’s the best way to make me hang up the phone.

      The worst ones are the spoofed numbers from here in town. It’s a very small town, so chances are, if they spoof a local number, you’ll either know of that person’s family or maybe even know them. I picked up a call on Mom’s landline, was going out the door, but thought I should answer in case someone was calling to ask about her, and it was a robocaller and I couldn’t even yell at them. Grrr!!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Oh so true. I got a call from one of my new neighbors and it took me a while wondering why a woman was calling me from single guy’s house.

      2. Observer*

        They don’t need to use the location on your phone. There are all sorts of address databases that also have cell phone numbers. So they basically pull all the cell phone numbers in Zip Code 12345 or 12345-1233 and spoof an area code that works in that zip code. They don’t even bother to look at the area code of the phone most of the time.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Twice a year I’m spammed by a recruitment agency with sketchy practices. The first year they spoofed numbers from Costa Rica and California, and this year from New York and Sao Paulo. I never answered because I know no one from those countries and they’re known to be super cheap.

    4. LizB*

      There’s a great episode of the podcast Reply All on this (title is #135 Robocall: Bang Bang). I don’t remember what the exact answer was, but it has something to do with location data on your phone, things you’re searching/places you’re checking in, and the robocall “industry” being fully out of control right now.

      1. Shiny Swampert*

        I was also going to say this. It’s funny that I also don’t remember the answer but would still recommend the episode – I suppose the journey is the point, not the destination :)

        1. LizB*

          Right? The message I came away with was, 1) I’m not crazy, there really have been an uptick in robocalls lately, and 2) if an unknown number shares any digits with your own number, it’s probably a robocall. (It helps that I no longer live in my phone’s area code, so nobody around there has a legit reason to call me except people whose numbers I already have saved.)

      2. Observer*

        That’s a pretty good podcast, but it turns out that the location data is not the main thing they use, at least not directly.

        Nevertheless, if you have a smartphone, look at all the apps you have. Get rid of any that don’t give you real function and have a solid privacy policy. And reduce the permissions you give to any app. Most apps that request location data REALLY do NOT need it. Turn that off. There is no good reason to give scammers additional ways to track you and scam you.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      The carpet cleaning robo call recently came up as “US Govt FEMA”. I answered the phone, true (I find it ringing and ringing more annoying) but who is going to believe your carpet cleaning service legit when it claims to come from FEMA?

    6. Melody Pond*

      Not a direct answer to your question, but I wanted to say – I found an app that has pretty much stopped all my robocalls! I heard about it after reading an article in NPR about robocalls, because they mentioned this app/company.

      The app is called YouMail – they have paid versions that do more fancy things, but the free version will block robocalls. The app works by taking over as your voicemail service – they have a massive database of spoofed numbers, and when one of them tries to call you, if the app already knows it’s a spoofed number, it sends it straight to your voicemail. But not just your regular voicemail – the app works by getting your number removed from the robocall company’s lists. Because YouMail takes over your voicemail, it doesn’t send them to your regular voicemail – that happens all the time, and when they get your regular voicemail, they’ll still keep you on their list. With YouMail, the robocall gets that automated three-tone message that says “this number is no longer in service” – so not only do they block the calls, but they get your number gradually removed from the lists of robocall companies.

      Heads up, though – setup for the app was a bit complicated. I had to call a couple of numbers, and then the app had to call ME a couple of times, but then they’d call me and tell me NOT to pick up (so they could go to my voicemail?). It was a process. But in retrospect, totally worth it.

      Also, the app will greet callers in your contact list by name. When my husband calls and gets my voicemail, he hears a message that starts with, “Hello Mr. Pond”. It asks the caller to speak clearly, because the app will transcribe the voicemail as best it can. And it totally knows when a new number is legitimate – I’ve never had an issue with missing a call from a doctor, the vet, etc., – numbers that are NOT already in my contacts list.

      I promise, this post wasn’t sponsored. :) I’m just really thrilled with the results I’ve gotten.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        As an app that implies cell phone… anything for land lines? We still have one because it’s our Internet service.

        1. Managing to get by*

          If you need the landline for internet, you don’t have to have a phone set plugged into it.
          I had a landline because it came bundled with my internet and cable and when I called to have it removed the other two services would cost MORE than the bundle (thanks a lot Comcast). I use my cell phone for all calls and only got spam calls on my landline so just unplugged the phone.
          About a year ago I was finally able to get ride of the landline and get a reduction to the overall cost of my monthly service. I still don’t understand how Comcast’s pricing works…

  19. Tree & Sidewalk*

    I posted, a few years ago I think, about my weird tree problem where an old tree that technically belongs to the city was pushing up my sidewalk and the tree is not in great shape and the neighbor doesn’t want to fix his adjoining sidewalk, ugh ugh ugh. My sidewalk has gotten a lot worse, so I had the arborist back out yesterday and he think it’s time for the tree to go. It is an old tree and not a type (maple) that would be planted here anymore because it gets too big and can’t thrive with its roots covered so much. The amount of root grinding required to fix my sidewalk is probably too much for the tree to survive.

    At this point, I am coming to terms with losing it, and want to get started growing a new tree, but I also live in a shade-parched NE city and am really sad, because it makes the front of my house feel more quiet and private, and my cats love watching birds and squirrels in it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If it’s a city tree, can they remove it for you?

      I lost a big tree here, too. When the tree people say it’s time for it to go, then it probably is time.
      I hope you can get something else planted somehow.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      If you haven’t checked with your city already, you might see if they will remove the existing tree and replant with another. I came home one day to find that the city took down the tree in front of my house (it is on the patch between the sidewalk and street). It was buckling the sidewalk and posed a threat to the utility lines. My city has a tree planting program, so requested a new one and it was planted the following spring. They also repaired my sidewalk but I did have to submit a request myself.

    3. fposte*

      I lost a beautiful old maple and I’m still sad. And the guidelines about planting in the city right of way have changed, so I can’t replant another one there. Do you have recommendations about what new trees could be planted there? Maybe you can at least look forward to that.

      I remember your post because it seemed to illuminate how weirdly individual municipalities are on what’s a city problem and what’s a homeowner problem. It sounds like this did unfairly end up all on you, which is a bummer.

      1. Tree & Sidewalk*

        You’ve put your finger on it; my city it just really weird about the responsibilities. The arborist thinks its lean is bad enough that the city may remove it promptly if I call them. (I’d previously tried to avoid involving the city because I thought they might cut it down when it was salvageable, or tell me to wait 5 years for service.) I’d rather they do it for free, at this point. If they won’t deal with it, they still have to give him approval for removing it, so getting them to come look at it is the first step either way.

        The city does give away street trees but the wait is 2 years, I think. I’d rather buy one myself because it turns out they’re pretty cheap if you buy them small. And among the many things I’ve been learning about trees lately is that it’s easier to transplant them into a small city tree pit and have them recover and start flourishing if they’re smaller. If a small cheap tree is *recommended*, I don’t see any reason to wait for the city to give me one. I found a list once before of what trees are suitable where; just need to find it again and read more carefully.

        None of this solves the real problem, which is that I’ve received a citation for my bad, broken up sidewalk! Which I would have replaced several years ago, only my neighbor refuses to replace his and the concrete contractors I’ve talked to won’t do mine without doing his because it would leave his a worse tripping hazard than before. I told him I got a citation (by text; he moved away and rents his place out) and he still doesn’t seem to care. It feels unneighborly but I think I may have to anonymously report him myself to get this dealt with. I’m sure whoever complained to the city about mine was not paying attention to how two of the sidewalk squares that are a problem cross the invisible line separating our connected townhouses.

    4. gsa*

      It’s probably too late and not necessarily your responsibility…

      That said, there is an oak tree toward the rear of our property that we pay to have pruned every couple of years. It has doubled in diameter over the last 17 years.

      Will the City prune it at your request to extend its life?

      Good luck.

  20. Morning reader*

    I would like to ask for recommendations to better understand “trans” and other gender identities. I hope there are some good basic resources that could help. I don’t (to my knowledge) know any trans people but I see it mentioned quite often online and I feel quite ignorant about it.
    For background, I have been a feminist since the early days of Ms. magazine. My understanding of gender is that it shouldn’t matter what gender you are… you should have the equal treatment under the law, the same economic opportunities, etc. (I realize this is not the reality but to me it would be the ideal.) I also realize that gender is a key component of people’s identity and that it is (most often) based on biology. The part I don’t really understand, is absent a biological situation e.g. intersexed or misgendered at birth, what makes someone want to switch genders? I see people identify themselves as non-binary or gender fluid and I just don’t have any idea what that means, other than they feel a certain way. But to me, feeling one way or another is not a function of gender. A man can be maternal, a woman can be a trash-talking jock, anyone of any gender should be able to do or feel anything in the range of human behavior and emotion without feeling that they are the wrong gender…. this is the way I understand the world. I often feel fairly androgynous myself and when I was a kid, I longed to be a boy… but I don’t think physically, I just wanted to be able to do things that boys could do. Grow up to be a baseball player or an astronaut or a cowboy. (All things that women could not do when I was a child.)
    So… I don’t want to be bigoted or make some horrible faux pas. I need to improve my knowledge on this stuff.

    The other aspect is that I am having trouble following the pronoun situation. I understand that individuals may have specific preferences for their own pronouns. But in general reading, I don’t know how I’m supposed to interpret some uses. Example, someone writes in… “my partner and I are blah blah blah, and they did blah blah.” Does this mean the partner is trans or non binary? Does it mean there is more than one partner? Or does it mean that the writer is trying to obscure the genders of the people in the story? I don’t understand this… it makes me stop and re-read for clarity and then wonder about the genders and numbers of people involved, and that makes me pay more attention to the gendering, not less. So if the intent is to obscure, it’s backfiring. If the intent is to indicate the partner is trans or non-binary, it’s also not working because (due to my lack of understanding) I’m not sure that is what is meant.

    Can anyone help me out on this? Is there a good primer on gender issues out there? (I could google but I’m reluctant to slog through the likely false hits and worse.) So I come here hoping for expert direction. Thanks!

    1. FD*

      As a cis-gender person coming from the perspective of “I don’t know much about this and don’t want to accidentally be a massive jerk,” I’ve found Contrapoints on YouTube really helpful. She is a trans woman and has done a lot of videos about gender, pronouns, and being transgender. (I believe some of her earlier content is pre-transition as well, but I personally haven’t watched that far back.)

      Some of the videos she’s done that I found particularly helpful:
      – “What is Gender?” (pretty much what it says on the tin)
      – “TERFs” (discussing why feminists that exclude trans women are wrong)
      – “Pronouns” (discussing what pronouns even are, why they matter to people, how they intersect with gender)
      – “Gender Critical” (discussing criticism that argues that trans women are reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes)

      I am sure there are lots of other great resources out there too!

      In regard to the pronouns, yeah, in spoken and written English there’s some ambiguity but there always has been. In the sentence you’ve written above, I would tend to interpret it as a singular partner who uses they/them pronouns due to the fact that “partner” is singular and the context suggests a specific person is being referenced.

      However, they is often used as a generalizing or iterating pronoun. For example, in the statement, “The teacher talked to each of the tardy students and told them that they needed to be on time.” In this case, the teacher is speaking to one student at a time, however the ‘they’ allows us to generalize and accept that the speaking is happening repeatedly. So it’s not particularly unusual.

      It’s also true that it’s not all that unusual for people to simply use singular they in conversation. For instance (example from another site) it isn’t that rare to hear something like, “My friend, Colleen, is moving?” “Oh, where are they moving to?” (Even if Colleen is known to use female pronouns.)

      So there is some ambiguity, but generally if someone has a partner, they’ll refer to the partner by gendered pronouns enough times to pick up what pronouns are proper to use, even if it’s ambiguous the first time they (see what I did there?) say it.

      1. Grand Mouse*

        This is probably too late, but jsyk contrapoints can be controversial to other trans people (I am nb). So check out mulitple sources

    2. Sara*

      Don’t have any specific research recommendations for you but I wanted to applaud you for wanting to understand. For gender, I have several friends who are trans and one friend who is non-binary. From what I’ve seen and heard from them, it really is a ‘feeling’, as you described. All had the medical/biological definitions of one gender but it never felt right; they saw themselves as the other. From my female-to-male friends, they hated to look in the mirror and see breasts, something clearly identifiable as female, when they knew in their hearts they are male. They all told me how they cried to remove the bandages after surgery to see a flat masculine chest they’ve always pictured.

      As someone who is CIS, I know I will never truly understand how they feel. It’s way more than waking up in the morning and trying to decide if you want to wear a dress or wear pants.

      1. The Kerosene Kid*

        I’m a trans guy who has socially transitioned (thank you, loving and supportive family and friends!) and this is very similar to my experience. It was always just a “feeling” I had, even before I knew I was different. My sister wanted the My Little Pony castle; I begged for He-Man’s Castle Grayskull. I sobbed on the rare occasion I was forced to wear a dress. Puberty threw me into a deep depression that was only lessened somewhat by sneaking out in my dad’s clothes. When I went off to college and my first roommate took me to get a short haircut and buy men’s cologne, I was on top of the world…and so on and so forth. I have done considerable work in gender studies in academia, and I desperately wish I could use objective and/or academic language to better explain my experience, but I find myself coming back to those nebulous “feelings”. I too celebrate all genders and gender expressions, even as I don’t understand all of them. I just knew from the get-go that I was Not A Girl. I cannot, it should be noted, speak for all trans people and DEFINITELY not for any non-binary or agender or intersex people. This is just my experience. I appreciate you following this line of inquiry, because it shows a genuine willingness to learn, and I wish EVERYONE had that quality. (Willing to answer any questions, btw, but please know I gently hurt my wrist in a move so I’m slowly hunting and pecking rn!)

        1. Poptart*

          Actually I find the “feelings” idea helpful! I think so often trans people use examples of “how I knew I was the other gender” that rely on stereotypes that trip up feminists and other people who think everything should be for everyone. Like your examples of MLP vs. He-Man, short haircut vs. long, men’s cologne vs. perfume. Second wave feminists and people who are learning (like myself) can get tripped up and think, “Wait, can’t girls like He-Man? Are you saying having short hair makes you a man?” etc. when actually what (I think) you’re saying is those outer things are some aspects that helped you FEEL like a man, reaffirming the feelings you already had. Anyone can pick and choose these gender-marked traits but when you feel like your gender was assigned wrong, I can definitely see why someone would pick more strongly from the box that makes them feel good.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Seconding that I would really appreciate a good explanation of gender fluid. Like Morning, I have found the explanations to be along the lines of dividing actions along a strict gender binary, iteration 137 of “girls can’t do math.”

    4. Penguin*

      Scarleteen.com is a pretty solid starting point. They cover all sorts of sex ed stuff, including gender. Also take a look at Glaad.org/transgender for more on how to help, be a good ally, etc. as well as learning.
      For a current scientific understanding of the complexities of the biological sex/gender spectrum (spoiler, it’s not actually a binary, despite what we learned in grade school) see: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/beyond-xx-and-xy-the-extraordinary-complexity-of-sex-determination/
      (There’s a delightful diagram!)

    5. LizB*

      So the thing that’s been most helpful to me is to separate out three different things which, to me as a cis* person, seem roughly the same:

      – sex, which is all the physical, biological stuff (chromosomes, hormones, genitalia)
      – gender identity, which is an internal, mental state
      – gender presentation, which is the things you wear and do

      For me, my sex, gender identity, and gender presentation can all be comfortably categorized as “woman.” I use she/her/hers pronouns, and any other pronouns feel weird to me, like they’re not representing who I am accurately. So for me, it’s natural to think of all three things as one and the same.

      But! For a number of people, these are not the same thing. For most trans people, the sex that they were assigned at birth (when the doctor looked at their body and said “Congrats, it’s a __!”) doesn’t fit with their gender identity; the body they have and the way they’re told to present to the world because of that body feel fundamentally wrong to them. For non-binary, gender fluid, agender, etc. people, their gender identity doesn’t fit into Option A or Option B, girl or boy; it might be something in between, it might shift day to day, and they may want to change something about their body or their gender presentation to better reflect their internal feelings.

      I think the hardest part to comprehend as a cis person is gender identity, because it is fundamentally intangible and impossible to really describe without resorting to gender stereotypes. Someone can say, “I know I am a woman,” and if we don’t just believe them, how are they supposed to describe what that feels like? It’s just… what they feel like. I also know that in earlier waves of feminist thought, the idea of an innate sense of gender identity was not a thing; the only things considered were sex and gender presentation, and any kind of internal identity was thought to come from societal stereotypes and imposed roles. So I know it’s hard to wrap your head around separating out identity from those factors, since those factors absolutely exist! But our understanding of what gender is has evolved, especially as more and more brave trans people have come forward to share their experiences.

      Maybe a useful thought experiment would be: if you woke up tomorrow magically with a different set of chromosomes and hormones and genitals, would you think to yourself, well, I guess I’m a man now! Or would something feel off to you? Do you think you’d still have an innate sense of yourself as a woman? And if that situation sounds weird and distressing… what if that had been happening every day since you gained consciousness?

      Kudos to you for coming in to this conversation looking to learn and be respectful, and I hope the responses you get are helpful!

      *terminology note: cis just means “not trans.” Those terms actually come from chemistry, and mean “on this side” and “on the other side”.

      1. Grace*

        I know my strongest moment of ‘I’m definitely a woman’ (or girl, at the time) as a cis female was when an art teacher told the girl drawing me that I had a “more masculine jaw” than what she had drawn. The sheer this-is-not-okay-ness of being described as ‘masculine’, the discomfort at knowing that a part of me apparently made people look at me and think That looks male. It was so uncomfortable, and really influenced how I saw myself after that. Oh, and did I mention that I was eleven years old?

        But the point is, that moment really is proof positive that I’m 100% cisgender. The idea of someone thinking I look masculine – not that I presented as masculine, which is all about choices you make on clothes and hair, but that my body looked inherently masculine – was such an uncomfortable concept that I still have problems with body confidence relating to that particular feature.

        I’m pretty damn feminine, skirts and nail polish and make-up and waist-length hair, but when I’ve related that story to women that have a more androgynous or butch presentation, they’ve agreed with me that it would make a preteen girl incredibly uncomfortable. A woman who wants to present in a more masculine way – short hair, no make-up, no skirts, preferring mens-fit clothes – is still reasonably likely to be uncomfortable if she’s told that she looks like a man, because she isn’t a man and doesn’t want to be seen as one.

        And that’s gender identity. You don’t know it until you see it.

        And if you’re someone who’s thinking But I wouldn’t mind being seen as a man/woman, I wouldn’t care that much, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal – look up a few things about ‘cis-by-default’. It’s the idea that some people have a strong sense of gender identity, and some people have a weak sense of gender identity. I have a strong gender identity, as evidenced by my reaction to someone contradicting my internal sense of self – so does a trans person with strong dysphoria. Other people have a weak gender identity. You’re fine being a woman because that’s what everyone sees you as and that’s what you live as, but you would have been equally as fine being seen as and treated as a man for the rest of your life. ‘By default’ in this case is ‘you don’t have a strong sense of what gender you should be, so you go along with what the doctors decided your sex is, because that’s the default’.

        1. LizB*

          Thanks for adding this aspect! I also have a strong sense of gender identity, so I often forget to bring this piece into it.

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          Gender identity, however, is but one component of overall identity, how we see ourselves. I’m a cisgender male, and if someone tells me that I have some aspect about me that looks feminine, it both does and does not bother me. The level on which it bothers me is that someone else is trying to impose their ideas on my identity.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        I had trouble empathizing because a common trans narrative is bothersomely similar to my CIS experience … AFAB doesn’t like dresses or make up or playing with dolls and likes sports and science and science fiction and other stereotypically male interest. Despite being one of the few women in my college computer science classes and in the military (greater percentage of women than in my computer science classes, though), I never questioned my gender. I never really felt like a woman or super feminine either, but I certainly never felt like a man.

        My friend has point out that since I am CIS there is no conflict between the gender I was assigned at birth and my gender identity. Since there’s no conflict there, my brain is silent about it. I chafe at stupid stereotypes at what girls and boys like and are good at and look like, but that’s because I identify as a woman who has a preference for “boy interest.” But trans people have that conflict between their internal gender identity and their assigned gender st birth and that conflict can be very loud in their heads.

        I’ll also say the narratives we hear most often in the present could also from a particularly extreme experience of gender dysmorphia. A college friend transitioned many years after college. We’re not close, but she’s said she happier and much more comfortable and herself as a woman, but she didn’t experience strong “I’m not a boy” feelings. Who knows? Maybe part of it is because while I was defying gender stereotypes studying comp sci and geeking out over science fiction, she had the same interests. And because she was presenting as male at the time, she was NOT defying stereotypes and seemed to fit.

        I think as a CIS person, I can’t really understand. But I do know on the rare occasions I’m misgendered, I am kind of amused but 100% know that this person got it wrong. I am a woman albeit one with a really short, really queer haircut.

        1. Grand Mouse*

          Btw there is no need to capitalize cis, it just means the opposite of trans (and used in other contexts like chemistry)

    6. Nicki Name*

      Another good one is The Genderbread Person (genderbread.org).

      On behalf of my trans and enby friends, thank you for trying to improve your understanding.

    7. Bye Academia*

      Other people have given you some great preliminary info an resources. I just wanted to add something in response to this:

      “The part I don’t really understand, is absent a biological situation e.g. intersexed or misgendered at birth, what makes someone want to switch genders?”

      A lot of recent research has shown that biology is more complicated than chromosomes and physical characteristics. For example, studies on the brains of transgender people shows that they look more like the gender they identify with than the gender that was assigned to them. So a trans woman’s brain will look more like a female brain on a brain scan despite her chromosomes being XY. The reasons for this aren’t totally understood yet. But maybe this can help you understand where it’s coming from. Gender identity is often backed physiologically even if it’s not the way we were all taught in biology courses, and is separate from gender presentation and activities. A trans woman can do “what boys do” like be a baseball player or astronaut or cowboy, and still be a woman. Just like you!

      1. Ethyl*

        To piggyback off this — it would be really useful for Morning Reader to try to stop using terms like “switch gender,” “sex change operation,” and the like. A trans woman who has not had surgery or undergone hormone treatment is still a woman, period. Any medical interventions aren’t helping her “switch” genders, they are helping her body to line up with what her mind knows to be true.

        1. curly sue*

          The term I’ve heard more recently is “gender confirmation surgery,” which seems to fit the bill there.

      2. LizB*

        To add to this excellent point, science shows that chromosomes, physical characteristics, and hormones really do exist along a spectrum rather than in two distinct options. I’ll link a really excellent twitter thread in a reply, it’ll appear once it comes through moderation.

        The upshot is, if you gather a bunch of data on any of what we’d think of as biological determinants of sex, you’ll end up with a bimodal distribution — like a bell curve but with two peaks instead of one. Historically, we’ve grouped everyone who mostly measures like one of the peaks of the curve as Female and everyone who measures like the other as Male, and then just kind of pretended that instead of a continuous curve there were two separate boxes without any overlap or edge cases, everyone has to be one or the other. Turns out, that model kinda works for making some broad generalizations… but it doesn’t describe the whole situation, and as we’ve gotten better with analyzing data and doing science we can understand sex in a much more accurate way by acknowledging the reality of how factors are distributed.

          1. The Kerosene Kid*

            LizB, I have only recently delurked here, but I’m really diggin’ your style.

            1. LizB*

              Why thank you! What a nice thing to say, that kind of made my day. :) I’m an on-and-off commenter, mostly active on the weekends — I read all the work-week posts, just usually someone’s akready said what I wanted to say better than I planned to.

    8. Ange*

      There’s the gender Wiki https://gender.wikia.org/wiki/Gender_Wiki for a general overview.

      Re: your point about switching genders, I think you’re missing the point. The gender you’re assigned at birth is not necessarily the gender that you are, since your assigned gender at birth is based (primarily) on what genitals you have. (I’m trans non-binary, but assigned female at birth.) Think of it as being similar to sexuality: people tend to assume heterosexuality, but if you are in fact lesbian or gay or queer or bi and you come out, you’re not switching your sexuality, you’re just making other people aware of it. Your sexuality hasn’t necessarily changed, just people’s awareness of it. [Obviously this analogy isn’t perfect, and some people do switch their gender/sexuality.] There’s no one “correct” way to be trans/non-binary, it’s very individual: many trans/non-binary people use gendered pronouns/don’t physically transition.

    9. Melody Pond*

      Lots of people have commented with helpful ideas and links/resources, and they’ve been way more eloquent than I could be. I just wanted to ask you to examine one particular thing you said, and I want to challenge your assumption:

      My understanding of gender is that it shouldn’t matter what gender you are… you should have the equal treatment under the law, the same economic opportunities, etc. (I realize this is not the reality but to me it would be the ideal.) I also realize that gender is a key component of people’s identity and that it is (most often) based on biology.

      I think the bolded piece could be why you’re having trouble understanding how others talk about gender. I believe the people you’re trying to better understand, would generally disagree with you on that point – gender is unequivocally not based on biology. Not even on a “most often” basis.

      Have you taken statistics by any chance? Or have you ever heard the phrase “correlation does not imply causation”? We could say, perhaps, that this is true:
      – Some majority percentage (exact number unknown) of people in the United States may happen to have a gender identity that is aligned with their biological sex organs they were born with.

      But that does NOT mean we can conclude:
      – A person’s gender identity is usually based on, or caused by, their biological sex.

      The latter statement does not automatically follow from the former. And I think that may be a big part of the disconnect between your thinking and the thinking of those people you’re seeking to better understand. Gender identity is absolutely NOT based on (caused by) biology, not even most of the time.

      1. Poptart*

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on some research into the brain (as Bye Academia also shared above), it seems there is some link or correlation between gender identity and biology, as in the biological makeup of the human body. But as you say it doesn’t necessarily align with biological sex and organs.

        I think the definition of “biology” is important to define here because gender identity is not just “made up” by someone like favorite color, right? I worry that people could misunderstand and take gender identity less seriously, or get confused as more studies on gender and the brain come out.

    10. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      [NB: I’m not trans, so if this doesn’t match what you’re hearing from trans people, assume they’re correct, not me.]

      With regard to pronouns: I suspect part of what you’re finding difficult is that people are using singular they for more than one reason: one person might be trying to obscure gender, a second might be using it because the person they’re referring to is nonbinary , and a third might be using it to say “this applies to people of any gender” or “this includes people of more than one gender.”

      “They” seldom if ever means “binary trans person” because trans women are women, trans men are men, and they mostly use the same she/her or he/him pronouns as cis women and men do.

      If you’re interacting with someone and it matters, you can ask “is this someone whose pronoun is ‘they,’ or are you talking about more than one person?” Other times, there might be some ambiguity, the same way that “you” in English means “the person or people I’m talking to or about,” and to be more specific you need to add details–you’d say something like “Are you free for lunch on Tuesday? I’d like a chance to sit down and talk, just the two of us” or your friend might say “lunch sounds good, is this just me or can I bring Jane and Fergus?”

      If you’re not sure, follow the other person’s lead: if Lucinda says “my partner…they” you can ask “what’s their name?” or “so, did they do the laundry?” If at some point Lucinda or their partner want to clarify, they can.

      If I want to refer to more than one partner, yes I’ll say “they,” but I’ll also say “my partners” [plural noun] or use their names. But that’s a choice to make clear that I have more than one partner; if I was trying to obscure that, I’d probably just mention one name or say something like “my girlfriend” and let the other person assume we were monogamous.

    11. Mindovermoneychick*

      Check out the book “what you can change and what you can’t.” By Martin Seilgman. He’s a prominent psychologist but this is one of his more obscure books. Anyway he talks about the way different aspects of ourselves encode neurologically in the brain and how that makes it amenable or not to change. Trans stuff is firmly in the “no change” zone. But was really interesting to me was his explanations gave me a framework for understanding how that would feel and why it would be so fundamental.

      Disclaimer he’s a cis het guy who wrote this in the 90s. Seems like he was ahead of his time but I’d be curious if any trans people have read it and if it holds up to current thinking.

    12. Bullfrog*

      With respect to the use of ‘partner’ – these days it generally is along the same lines as spouse or significant other. Its a gender neutral term for a romantic relationship with a certain level of commitment.

      My (male) partner and I have been together for going on 11 years and are not married. Boyfriend/girlfriend seems no longer appropriate. As a bisexual women, I prefer it because I feel like it de-emphasizes the significance of my partner’s gender. Other folks use it because ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ can come with a lot of baggage and stereotypes. Using partner says more ‘We get to define what our relationship and are roles in this relationship are.’ It also makes space in the general cultural conversation for folks who have non-traditional relationships in some way, whether that’s because their SO is trans or they are polyamorous.

      So the intent is more to de-emphasize the significance of gender in any given conversation. If husband or wife is specified, I think we often start to build an image of the husband/wife based on stereotypes. I would say the intent isn’t usually to indicate that the partner is trans or non-binary, but its a more inclusive term that fits more kinds of relationships better, including ones where the partner may be trans or non-binary.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        You beat me to this; as a woman who is not trans or non-binary, it’s really the only thing I can speak to. Partner or significant other (SO for short) just describes a person you’re in a relationship with, however that relationship looks. And yes, it is far more inclusive.

        Some adults feel silly saying boyfriend or girlfriend. It feels very high-school.

    13. AnonGQ*

      I would describe myself as gender queer, and I think that I have a good understanding of what that means but I wouldn’t say that everyone who identifies with the same words would feel the same as me (different cultures may view the term differently).

      Non-binary is typically (at least in my part of the world) someone who appears androgynous, so either no/minimal gendered aspects to their clothing and bodies, or lots of both, or somewhere along the spectrum. My non-binary friends don’t view themselves as the gender they were born with, and they don’t have a unique connection to the other gender (someone born female has short hair and wears something to cover their breasts yet doesn’t want to add male body genitalia).

      I don’t mind the gender-specific parts of my body (I don’t really like them, so if I could wish them away then I would, but I don’t care enough to have surgery or anything else), so I’m not non-binary. Yet I have a lot of problems with how society feels that I should act based on my gender (the tom-boy little girl is a good stereotype of this, because a lot of society has a problem when that little girl grows into an adult and hasn’t yet conformed to gendered expectations). I have friends who are non-binary and am surrounded by a community that is supportive of whatever way I wish to express myself, so I am lucky to feel mostly comfortable with myself. I know that at work there are gender biases, so I actively work to have my gender not highlighted: I ask to remove ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’ on all documents, and my performance evaluation is written as ‘they’ in part because I know studies have shown that gender affects how others perceive my performance and in part because I want to make a more general point about how that bias applies to everyone so this is a systemic problem. I worked in Europe, in a somewhat conservative country, and I found that I was quite frustrated and unhappy with how I was treated, based on my gender. My gender ‘queerness’ was really obvious to me, based on that circumstance. I do not mind my body, but I hate and fight against stereotypes and expectations.

    14. Morning reader*

      Thank you all for the excellent replies. I am going to spend some time today looking at these links. In the meantime, Carolyn Hax’s first letter today is a great example of the pronoun confusion I mentioned.

    15. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

      I had many of the same questions and really appreciate the honest, thoughtful responses.
      Thanks also to Alison for drawing together this crowd.

  21. Lazy Cat*

    Warning for pregnancy problems/reference to child death.

    My husband and I are in the early stages of deciding if we want to have a kid, and part of that needs to be asking my mom about her medical history. She and my dad suffered a late term miscarriage, a stillbirth, and a child who died after a few days. She was on bed rest for months with me.

    All that is to say that the medical history is not optional, and might impact our decision one way or the other – but we never talk about this. (I know because she told me once, bare bones, when I was a teenager.)

    I have *no* idea how to phrase this email (we live across the country, and I don’t want to put her on the spot, or forget the details). Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    1. Anona*

      Before you do that, I’d ask your obgyn to make sure that’s really relevant. If it is, proceed. Ours had a genetic counselor, and there was some history they cared about, some that they didn’t. It sounds like you already know at least the basics. Your doctor can advise what else they need to know, if anything.

      1. valentine*

        I would let her be, and not ask relatives, lest she feel hunted. If she wanted to tell you about it, she would.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      You could ask general questions and this would allow her to chose whether or not to discuss her own experiences.
      “Mom, we are considering having a child, but we’re not sure yet. So I got to wondering how do women in our family do with having babies? In general, what things come up over and over in our family?”

      She may or may not talk about what happened to her. She might decide to tell you about her mother or her sis or her aunt. Sometimes these general conversations open the door and more detailed conversation comes in a while.

      1. Observer*

        That’s a totally not useful question. Obviously you don’t want to push for stuff that Mom has a hard time talking about, but this is so general that you’re far more likely to get utterly irrelevant information.

        Anona has a really good point – check with the doctor about what is really relevant and ask about that.

    3. Morning reader*

      Is this something your own doctor says you need to know? A friend of mine who is a doctor told me that for most things, family medical history is not a huge deal in determining risk and that it’s importance is often inflated in the minds of non medical people. So I would check on that to start. An option would be to have your doctor contact her doctor, or get a written statement from your doctor you could forward to her. It doesn’t have to be specific to childbirth. Just “my gyn would like to have more detail on my family medical history and it would be helpful if you could share more detail.” You could mention cancer risks, ask what all your dead relatives died of and at what age, ask about age of menarche and menopause (if she has been through that yet.)
      I would be very careful about saying it is part of your decision process, even if it is, especially if she is emotionally invested in you having her grandkids. She put all that effort into having you. If you tell her that her fertility difficulties are why you decided not to have kids… as a potential grandmother myself, I can speculate that that could cause some sadness. (I hope my daughter will have kids some day, but I also hope that if she doesn’t, she gives full credit to global warming, not my medical history.)

      1. Lazy Cat*

        I would never in a million years tell her if that was part of the decision – and global warming would be most of it!

    4. Kittens Kittens Kittens*

      I’m sorry, I don’t understand why that’s essential. I don’t have biological parents in my life to ask and I don’t get it.

      1. Sara*

        Depending on what they might be worried about, it would be important to know from biological parents if there are potential genetic issues that could be passed down to the baby or would complicate getting a pregnancy to full-term.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          The thing to remember is that there is a good chance the OP’s mom won’t have any useful information. Even now, a lot of the time the doctors don’t know why a couple has trouble conceiving, and early term miscarriages are really common. And 30 years ago or so, they knew a lot less. And even if you know what the reason is, it’s not necessarily something that is going to change their plans – ie, something that can be preemptively treated, or something that’s serious enough to change their minds about trying (or go immediately to IVF with genetic screening of embryos).

          What I’d recommend is first talking to an obstetrician about what medical history would be useful, then if they still need to talk, be straight forward – “We’re planning to have kids, and I remember that you had difficulty with pregnancy. Did you ever find out why?” (Oh, and as the partner’s family for the history as well – fertility issues can come from the father too!).

          In general, having a detailed medical history is not as vital as people think. Most of the information is about a higher than normal risk of things that are very common (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes) and doctors are watching for anyways. It is important for rare genetic conditions with strong inheritance – if you’ve got Huntingdon’s disease in you genetic tree, you’d want to know that when deciding whether to have kids at all – but these are, by definition, rare.

          1. Enough*

            My 2 sisters and I all have different experience with periods and pregnancy and childbirth. As in regular at 4 weeks, regular at 6 weeks, irregular. 2 of us got pregnant easily, 1 needed some minor medical assist. 1 had painful Braxtin-Hicks for 1 month and a half, 1 had minor contractions (felt like the baby was doing pushups). 2 had miscarriages. Various levels of “morning” sickness. One sister couldn’t even smell food without wanting to throw up and was on intravenous meds at least once (had 6 children). I had stomach pains for 2 of 3 pregnancies with the first being the worst but similar to something I had in college and was tested for an ulcer. Deliveries for all sisters and each pregnancy were different. From 24 hours to 2 1/2 hours. No cesareans thankfully but forceps for 1 of mine. So even your own history with a pregnancy might have no relevance to the next.
            And a just heard of one family that as not had a baby delivered that would be considered normally for at least 3 generations. And this includes the women who married into the family.

      2. Lazy Cat*

        At least partially because I am prone to getting very worried about medical things (and stew about them rather than actually ask the doctor – I’m finally getting that anxiety under control), and need to be able to tell myself that I’ve asked my doctor all the important questions about anything that might go wrong.

        It’s the knowing-but-not-knowing that gets to me. I spent 10+ years completely believing that I would never be able to have kids because of it.

        1. Observer*

          But the solution to that is not to ask your mother for information because odds are that you are not going to get anything useful anyway.

          You need to get some solid information from your doctor. And you need to get your anxiety under control. Seriously, because no matter what your mother winds up telling you, you will still have lots and lots of unknows, things you can’t plan for and things that are scary and that you need to ask the doctor about rather than stewing. And it gets worse once you get pregnant and have kids.

    5. Book Lover*

      Huh. I kind of agree with the above – talk to your doctor first. It doesn’t sound like a typical history for a coagulation disorder or a chromosomal translocation. You could get a referral to a genetic counselor also.

    6. Acornia*

      Just a “hey, gathering up some medical history and have a few questions…” can work. Maybe even make a list of 3-5 questions and add this to it.
      Uncle Bobby had diabetes, do you know if it was a childhood thing or a later in life thing?
      What kind of cancer did Grandma Lucy have again?
      I know you had some pregnancy losses, did they ever find a reason for that?
      Do you know of any food or medicine allergies in the family?
      Anything else I should know?

    7. Lazy Cat*

      I should have mentioned in the original post that my OBGYN did recommend getting more medical history – but I think going back to see if there’s *specific* information I should be asking about is a good idea.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        I am not an expert, but I have had to learn a lot when dealing with my own infertility (despite being a 3rd generation surprise baby) and pregnancy losses. As people have mentioned, reproductive technology has changed a lot over the past 30 years. The late term miscarriage and still birth could come from a number of things that are handled better today, such as cervical incompetence or pre-eclampsia. A lot of things that cause perinatal death are genetic and can be screened for with your partner pre-conception or for non-hereditary issues are screened for during blood tests and ultrasounds in your second trimester.

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        Did your OBGYN talk to you about genetic testing? I’m not a doctor but I would think that testing both you and your partner would be more helpful and reassuring then getting your mom’s medical history (though I think you should talk to your mom as well).

    8. Observer*

      One thing to keep in mind is that the kind of thing you describe is at least as likely to be due to non-genetic factors as genetic factors.

      Your mother’s history sounds like my mother and aunt – and it turns out that none of it has been at all relevant to the next generation. And I’ve learned that we’re totally not uncommon.

    9. Lilysparrow*

      I think, as part of your internal process, it would be good to consider how to proceed if your mom:

      a) refuses to discuss it,

      b) doesn’t know anything, and no longer has access to her medical records from before your birth, and/or

      c) tells you inaccurate or unreliable information, due to her own emotional baggage or lack of understanding.

      I have played a detective game for all sorts of medical issues in my family, but unfortunately the effects of rampant, untreated anxiety, depression, and possibly some more serious mental illnesses means that it’s like pulling teeth to get anything, and what I have gotten is probably 80 – 90 percent unreliable.

      I hope you get what you need to have peace of mind about your decisions. Even if that winds up being a big dose of, “Aw screw it, we might as well do what we want.”

  22. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I love our new home, but apparently our move is having a negative impact on my health! Yesterday, after experiencing vision problems for a few weeks, I finally went to the eye doctor. I was pissed because I assumed I needed a new contact lens prescription and I just got a new one in April. Turns out my contacts are probably fine… and that my eyes are so inflamed by allergies that my vision is suffering. So it’s drops and glasses for a week. I didn’t even know it was possible for allergies to do this, but apparently my corneas are swollen and more misshapen than usual. The doc thinks it will clear up with some medication adjustments, but it’s all due to a new environment and a more active, outdoor lifestyle.

    This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it stinks. I never wear my glasses except right before bed, so there’s a lot to get used to. I didn’t get new lenses with my new prescription because they’re a fortune (I am very nearsighted and have pretty bad corneal astigmatism), so I keep squinting, which is terrible.

    At least I don’t have to drive. Ugh.

      1. Katefish*

        Also, while they’re a massive hassle, allergy shots can help if your doctor thinks that’s warranted….

    1. Wishing You Well*

      Sorry you’re dealing with this!
      Odd thought: has your new home been deep-cleaned? Is it harboring allergens? Are there new plants and trees around the place that you might be allergic to?
      Hope it clears up soon!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Oh, it’s the city, not the apartment, that’s a definite. We moved from a medium-sized southern city with a car culture to Washington, DC. When I lived here 20 years ago, I developed seasonal allergies. It’s just all flooding back, especially since I now walk outside much, much more than I used to, and the greenery is much more varied.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If it’s forced air, get the ducts cleaned anyway–that can have a significant reduction in exposure inside. My sister”s asthma sent her to the ER two or three times in a year… an ER nurse suggested duct cleaning and she went back to a level controllable with her inhaler. The HVAC guy said it looked like every pet in the home”s history was represented, and layers of pollen.

          1. Anono-me*

            Deep cleaning the ductwork, carpet, curtains and replacing some landscaping helped me with allergies that seemed to worsen after a move.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m having posting problems… can’t think of a phrase that might have sent it to moderation though so I’ll add a tl;dr here — ducts are worth cleaning if you have them because they can increase your exposure otherwise.

        3. Ann*

          Random comment, but as someone living in the greater DC area, end of July and early August are the worst time for my seasonal allergies. Go figure!

  23. Beach Bum*

    I’m traveling to a foreign country with a large group of friends for two full weeks. The country we’re going to is known for being a cash-based society, that it’s less common to find businesses (other than big chain places) that accept cards, and ATMs that accept American cards are even harder to find. Despite sharing all this with the group, one friend is only bringing $250 in foreign cash for a two week trip where all the rest of us are taking between $750 and $1,000. This friend says she’ll take out more cash from ATMs when we get there but I doubt it will be as easy as she thinks. One travel blog I read, the writer ran out of cash on the last day and couldn’t find an ATM so had to rely on her friends for help, I’m worried about that happening to my friend but much sooner on this long trip.

    1. Public Librarian*

      I have a friend who I travel with who is just like this.? I know that it is enabling but I accept it as a quirk and always bring a couple hundred extra to loan to her . She always sends me a check when she gets home.

      1. Dan*

        OP’s friend is assuming that she can get cash at an ATM upon arrival, which on average is reasonable. Does your friend not have an ATM card, or do you travel to off-the-beaten-path places?

        1. Public Librarian*

          We have traveled places not accessible to ATMs but assumes she will have access. I enjoy her company and accept this is a quirk. This happens even when we are local.

    2. Stitch*

      I understand their perspective, though a thousand is a LOT of cash. Carrying that much cash would make me very nervous.

      1. Dan*

        I’d only carry that much cash if I’m heading deep into rural parts of a 3rd world country where ATMs would be hours away, and I knew I wouldn’t have access to an ATM for a couple of weeks.

    3. Weegie*

      Travellers cheques are still A Thing – assuming the place you’re visiting has a bank or two, or hotels that will cash them, maybe your friend could be persuaded to take them?

      1. TechWorker*

        Or if the problem is that atms exist but don’t take US cards you can also get preloaded currency cards (modern equivalent of travellers cheque) – idk where you’re going so may not apply! But is in general another option.

    4. Dan*

      I don’t know what country you are going to or how you are getting there, so without that information, it’s hard to give you good advice.

      That said… I’ve been to 30 countries on 6 continents, and your friend’s plan sounds fine to me. “ATM when I get there” is always my plan and it pretty much works without fail. My Debit/ATM card has a “VISA” logo on it, and it works in any ATM in the world with a VISA logo on the ATM.

      There are countries where the ATMs are harder to find, but that’s different than “non existent.” International airports are all but guaranteed to have ATMs on premises. If you’re entering at a land crossing, then it may be harder to find an ATM.

      So… 99 times out of a 100, your friend’s plan is fine. However, if this is the 1/100 time, then your friend’s plan is not so fine. What country are you going to, and how are you getting there? That matters.

    5. misspiggy*

      Your friend needs to understand that ATMs in cash based places frequently don’t work. And that carrying cash shouldn’t be a problem if you stay in secure hotels, understand the dynamics of where you are, and avoid/are very careful on public transport.

    6. big X*

      Without any more information of the country & it’s prices (i.e., avg cost of transport or a meal) or if the accommodations are prepaid & this is just spending money or how much the blog writer you referenced brought with her & what she did so we can accurately say 250 is too little or what you all are even doing (backpacking? beach trip? travelling through the country?), there is not much to go on or to say you are right or wrong about the amount you are bringing. Some people can make it on more and some on less, anywhere.

      I’d voice your concern to this other friend, including that an ATM isn’t going to be readily accessible (however, I agree with Dan – not sure where you are going, but if there is a bank, a working ATM will surely be around) & based on your research and that the average traveler to this country brings 750-1000.

    7. Observer*

      Is she planning to get cash when you guys get to County or when she runs out? Because if it’s the former, she’s right. International air ports tend to have ATMs that take international cards, even if these machine are not comon elsewhere.

    8. Poptart*

      Not sure where you’re going, but I live in Japan which is well-known for being a cash society. Many larger stores take credit cards nowadays but smaller restaurants, shrines, etc. will definitely be cash and $250 is not enough for 2 weeks. Recently 7-11 ATMs allow you to withdraw money from foreign banks but I’m not sure how it works, what banks are compatible, or where else she can do this, especially if you’re going somewhere rural, or Okinawa where there aren’t any 7-11s. Travelers cheques are one possibility but I’m not sure how you’d cash it at a bank without an account, especially when you’re traveling it can be tough to get to a local bank between M-F 9am-3pm (some are open till 5). Debit cards are not as common and if you don’t have Visa (or maybe MasterCard) don’t bother, I would not expect to be able to use American Express or similar in most places.

      I regularly carry $300 in cash and it’s perfectly safe, and I will use it because it’s so much more convenient than a credit card. If you are going to major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, if it’s a place where you could easily spend over $100 then often they take credit. If you’re going anywhere outside of major cities, or to the local fun spots you’ll want to go to as tourists, they likely won’t take credit cards and workarounds will be cumbersome. I would highly recommend your friend take more cash and leave the credit card for emergencies.

  24. Advice for bed buying please*

    It is true. We need a new bed. The ten year old latex mattress is shot. Prior to that we had a water bed that I loved and the husband tolerated for over twenty years. He has fallen in in love with the sleep number bed (or the sleep number sales person) I find them noisy and uncomfortable, I am the princess and the pea in this scenario. I have chronic joint pain. He has back issues.
    Recommendations?Warnings? Been all over the internet and it seems that many review sites are in the pockets of the mattress companies. Ready to spend a lot but not 10,000 dollars.

    1. FD*

      My parents had a sleep number bed for years, one of the air-powered ones and I was not impressed. (Because I had younger siblings, if they were out of town, I usually slept in their bed until they got home.) It always seemed to sag in the middle, and I don’t think my dad ever liked it.

      They seem much happier with their new innerspring matters + a massive memory foam pad over top of it.

    2. My Brain Is Exploding*

      We have a tuft and needle. Delivered to the door, and you can try it for 100 days. If you don’t like it they will give a full refund and pick it up. Friends have a Leesa that they love and another had a Purple she likes (all online).

    3. jDC*

      Oh heck yes to sleep number. We can’t wait to get one. My husband would sleep on the dang concrete I’m pretty sure and I need a magical cloud from heaven. We are so opposites that the sleep number will be heaven. An ex had one so I slept on it for about a year already. Also since husband is a snorer I can’t wait to have a button to tide him a bit to stop it. (And yes just had a sleep study done and is fine).

    4. Madge*

      Is it the sleep number beds that have mold issues? That’s what I’m remembering. Check it out. We couldn’t decide and got the firmest mattress that IKEA carries that came rolled-up. We’re very happy with it.

    5. Policy wonk*

      I have a sleep number bed and love it. Only makes noise when adjusting and that is rare. Spouse likes a soft mattress, I like firm, so for us it’s a necessity. We had our first one for 16 years (bought before they wrre called sleep number!) And replaced it a year ago with a new one. No problems with either one.

    6. MMB*

      I have a bad back and hips along with arthritis. We spent a year looking for something that would work. We finally settled on a Beautyrest Grantbury Plush with an adjustable base and a 3″ memory foam topper for extra hip cushioning.

    7. Seven of Nine*

      I have an Alexander Signature Hybrid by Nest Bedding and love it. (Shout out to their Easy Breather pillow, too – totally worth the $$!) Nest is online but has showrooms and a 100-day satisfaction guarantee.

      For review sites, I relied on Sleep Like the Dead (great 1-10 ratings, info on specific sleep issues, etc — helped me determine I didn’t want memory foam) and Mattress Clarity (videos of them sitting on the mattresses helped me choose between hybrid options).

      If you do buy online (way less mark up!), look at how their return policies work. If you’re responsible to get rid of the mattress yourself, that’s not as good as the places that will recycle or donate it for you.

    8. fposte*

      The mattress industry is kind of a racket (I’ve heard recommendations for the Adam Ruins Everything on the topic). Then throw in that mattresses can be a very personal taste based on sleep habit and physical variables. Memory foam sucks for me and I love latex, for instance, so most of the bed-in-a-box stuff is no good for me.

      A few possibilities to consider aside from just brand recommendations: you could get two XL twin beds, which together make a king, and each of you get the mattress that suits; you could get something fairly generic as a mattress and get different toppers for each of you; you could go to a mattress factory and have them tailor his side for him and your side for you.

      If you haven’t tried a mattress factory, I’d recommend at least trying them for a shopping experience to get a better idea of your mattress comfort needs; make at least half a day of it, bring books or devices, bring your own pillow, plan to hang out on each surface for 15-20 minutes. Beds from them would be cheaper than department stores but likely quite a bit more than the bed-in-the-box mattresses; I’m still pretty pleased with mine despite the price, though.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        The twin Kings is what my parents ended up doing, due to different aches/pains/chronic body problems. So dad can have what he needs for his back and thrash around and get up at 3.30 am to start his day while mom has her mattress for her hips and can wake up at a more humane hour of 7 or so.

        Both are hard core memory foam and super comfortable, and I’m pretty sure they may have got them at Costco.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is a great idea, and the trend now is platform beds that don’t need a box spring.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Mom&Dad had dual twins because of a 1929 staircase. The unexpected side benefit came when Dad got so sick. Mom was able to separate the beds to make sure he could sleep as long as possible and the home health aid could reach him easily.

    9. Wishing You Well*

      Separate beds and even separate bedrooms can save a relationship and your health. Or 2 different twin beds in the same room. Heck, some older relatives sleep in their recliners in the living room, so whatever works!

      1. Advice for bed buying please*

        thank you so much. And the winner may be a hybrid. Coils and foam. And separate bedrooms! We shall see. Meanwhile, am totally enjoying the mattress underground site as it seems they do not have a bias.

    10. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I ended up being really happy sleeping on a futon, of all things. This was supposed to be a temporary “better than sleeping on an air mattress” plan while moving, but I’m now seriously considering sticking with it long term even when I have my act together enough that I could go buy a new mattress for my “real” bedroom set. I bought a cheap wooden futon frame (the metal frame ones are terrible and will break if enough people sit on them regularly) as a guest bed situation about a decade ago and it’s been much better than I expected.

    11. foolofgrace*

      I love my Tempur-Pedic. You can’t adjust the firmness (just raising or lowering the head / foot portions of the mattress) but the composition of the mattress makes it very very comfortable. Try one out in the stores.

  25. Rebecca*

    Mom update and other stuff, can’t believe it’s August already!

    The big over the elbow heavy cast came off on Thursday, replaced by a much smaller and lighter fiberglass cast. Of course, there was drama there. Both Mom and I told the ortho doctor’s office that they cannot call and leave voice mail messages the day before an appointment, changing the time! And they did. I arranged transportation for Mom because I can’t take off a half day of work every time she has an appointment, and found out Thursday evening they left a voice mail on the house phone Wednesday around 3 PM that they moved the appointment up an hour for the next afternoon. Of course, she was late, and I called them on Friday and wasn’t nice. I told them look, when you have elderly patients that can’t drive, with one child as the only relative to help, and transportation arrangements have to be made to get said patient from one county to another for an appointment, you cannot just leave a message! This is the 3rd time they’ve done this, one was a 6 HOUR MOVEUP!! I am endlessly frustrated with these people. I asked them to put my cell number in their system for Mom’s house phone# so hopefully this will end.

    Mom is still unhappy with the food at the facility, so I’m going on a grocery run this AM to get things for her. PT is going to start in earnest this coming week so hopefully she can get up and walk, go to the bathroom by herself eventually, etc. so she can come home. I’m hopeful but being realistic that she may always need some sort of supervision. I’m keeping track of her finances, bills, mail, etc., have my own stuff herded, and working on my church’s books (I’m their treasurer) and now may become the parish treasurer for a while, but I said I’m going to need some help. Honestly at least it gives me something else to think about. And when I visit, I stay for 30 minutes or so, listen to her complain, nod my head, ask her where she wants to be moved to, “I guess I’ll stay here” and then I leave. It’s all I can do.

    And if Mom does come home – we will need to make some changes. Her bed is insanely high – I am 6 inches taller than her, and when I sit on it, my feet are nowhere near the floor. She admitted needing to use both arms to pull herself into it! I think I’m going to take the mattress and box springs off, get rid of the bed frame, and just sit it on the floor until we figure out what to do. I need to measure the bed at the home, she seems to do well with it, so maybe if I can get her stuff at the same height, that would work. Luckily the bathroom is adjacent to her bedroom, so at least if she can get up and go by herself, that will be a bonus. The meds for her bladder are helping some, but she still urinates frequently, like 3x per night or more, depending. Then we have the steps to the basement where the deep freeze, washer and dryer reside. I’ll have to keep doing what I’m doing, and if she’s up on the first floor with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, TV, that’s where she’ll have to be.

    I got up a little early today, already dressed, had breakfast, 2nd load of laundry in, going to town for grocery run shortly. I realized today would have been my 34th wedding anniversary. It’s so hard to believe. The only thing I’m sad about is the years of wasted time. I had no business getting married at 22 years old, that’s for sure. At least now, when I think back, there’s just a vague notion of unpleasantness and some fuzzy memories, mostly of my pets, things like that, and I feel like, eh, here we are now. None of us knows what the future will bring, but I can tell you all with certainty that it will NOT be anything like the past in my case.

    My neighbor suggested a walk today, we’ll go on hard surface roads rather than hike, it’s murky and threatening to thunderstorm later, so I’m going to drop off Mom’s stuff, visit for a few minutes, and go outside for the afternoon, or at least until it rains! Looking forward to that so much.

    1. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Ooh Rebecca, I would be curious!! I get that they are probably trying to fill holes in their schedule, but they should only do that if they can confirm with the patient! Please let your referring doctor know this (and maybe even your local aging office) and DEFINITELY tell the Ortho doc about it. Sometimes the front office does things the doc doesn’t know about or condone. Anyway, sounds like a bit less drama from Mom, and I hope you get out for quite a while today! As always, take care of yourself!

        1. Rebecca*

          A specialist’s office that has no common sense!! We are 25 miles away, transportation concerns, etc. I am not happy about this at all.

          1. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

            As I learned at OldJob in healthcare, you have to be really assertive about getting your cell number listed as the main contact number in the medical records system. Maybe even “forget” that she has a landline and get your cell as the only number. Best wishes.

          2. Observer*

            Agree with getting your cell number as the main contact number. It helps to deal with the obtuseness.

    2. fposte*

      You are getting so much done, and I’m glad that you’re focusing on making yourself a future as well.

      A bed thought, though–a mattress too low is also a risk factor for the elderly, because it’s hard for them to get up safely and their fall risk is elevated as a result. Is there any way just to shorten the legs on her bed or swap her mattress and box springs over to a reasonable height metal bed frame? You can get those on Amazon for like $35.

      1. Rebecca*

        I’m thinking about a short metal bed frame. And I’m going to measure the bed at the personal care home to see exactly how high it is, because Mom seems to like that height. As far as another mattress, no. She cannot make a decision, I can’t choose it for her, so we have to work with what we have. There is locally owned furniture store chain that has a satellite location nearby, and I’m going there for a metal bed frame if necessary.

        1. fposte*

          No, no, I was totally not sending you into the maw of mattress buying! I meant just move the existing stuff over to the new, relatively inexpensive metal frame.

          1. fposte*

            Sorry, I freaked out slightly there, because I was so horrified that you had thought I was trying to make you go mattress shopping.

          2. Rebecca*

            Oh fposte, I totally misread that!! And it sent my brain into “I’d rather stab myself with a rusty fork than go shopping for ANYTHING with my mother” mode :) :) Mom might have to get used to the fact that the heavy hard wood bed frame might no longer be an option.

    3. Perstephanie*

      Or could you get a low-rise box spring? I have one, and it saves me about 4 inches of height.

      I’ve been reading your updates with a sense of urgency, as my mother is nearing the same kinds of issues, with a similar personality. Can I just add that you are my absolute hero?

      1. Rebecca*

        That is so kind of you to say, I don’t feel heroic in the least, every day any more is a race to get to work, juggle phone calls, try to feed myself in a healthy manner, get some exercise, do things for Mom, take care of the house, her bills, my bills, church bills, AND try to find some time to socialize, it’s been difficult. The lower box spring might be an option, too, much easier than disassembling an entire hard wood bed frame. I have a truck to haul it, too.

        1. Perstephanie*

          …and that is exactly what a hero looks like. It doesn’t look like Iron Man stopping a train (or whatever it is Iron Man does, heh). It looks like someone saying “Nooooo, I can’t do it, it’s too hard,” and then doing it anyway.

    4. NoLongerYoung*

      Sending the weekly hug.
      One, I completely got rid of the box spring and just have the mattress (which is pretty thick) on the wooden bed frame. I measured, then went to big box store lumber yard and then bought 2 big sheets of good (non-warping) plywood. Had each one rip cut to fit lengthwise (YMMV) side by side, on top of the slats. (It took four cuts, one lengthwise each sheet, one to shorten each sheet). So basically, I got rid of the box spring (put it in a mattress storage bag, sealed shut, for future donation… this was one of those brutally expensive beds). That’s good scrap lumber. Fits nicely in the truck.

      Beauty of doing that? Was cost of plywood. They are suppose to do 2 cuts, then like $.10 a cut – the kid cut both for free. And perfectly straight, I didn’t have to get out the saw horses and fire up the saw. (Yes I could have, but like you, I’m weary). I think I got the highest grade possible in my budget and still only about $10 more than a metal bed frame. Let me keep the wooden bed (I like it) but not need a ladder to get in it.

      One of the things that we had help with when I was working to have husband stay at home…. the palliative team/ social worker (this was not through hospice) was an OT who came and gave advice. There’s a sort of handrail thing that goes on the bed frame or between box spring (add-on item)… sorry I don’t remember how it works, but it was available through amazon. It gives them a grab bar to use and steady themselves with… And was very reasonable.

      IF you can get a decent primary care doctor who will refer you for help 0r a social worker, ask for an OT referral/ help evaluating the house for home going. There’s lots of little things.

      A couple other lessons learned – shower bench & hand held sprayer / shower combo (we got one that went onto the end of the existing shower head area, no need to re-plumb or open wall). Grab bars (into the studs if possible) near toilet and shower. Seat riser for toilet. Look around the nursing home/ assisted living and look at the bathrooms. Those may well be accommodations you should think about making if you are certain she is coming home. Hubby ripped the towel bar out of the wall and fell, grabbing it (because he refused to put up a grab bar). So if she has a definite coming home date, line up the items and make a plan to have it done without waiting for her critical input.

      Also, in our area, we have a non-emergency fire department number to call for fall assistance. When hubby got stuck in the bathtub (too weak to get out, wouldn’t listen to me and take a shower), I had to call them to come lift him out. A posted set of numbers on the frig (and quietly, behind that, a copy of the DNR if you have gotten one)… is a lifesaver at 2 am when there’s someone on the bathroom floor. It was not a trip to the ER worthy, but scary.

      Preparation and a plan for the things you can get ready for is really, really helpful.

      Oh, I’m so sorry. But you are doing REALLY well here. You are strong, stronger than you know. And we all just put one foot ahead of the other. Hug.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Very small recent discovery over here: they make shower benches with sliding seats! They sit with two of the four bench feet in the tub and two outside of it. You can then sit on the seat outside of the tub and be slid into the tub rather than stepping in. This is a major improvement over the previous shower chair we had, which just gave a place to sit down after the person was already gotten into the tub. If you don’t already own a shower chair and will be using it with a tub (rather than a walk-in shower), I recommend one of these.

        Our latest coveted assistive aide is a sit-to-stand, but the one that seemed to work well at the hospital was $3,000, so not something to purchase lightly. (Hospital, you say? Yes, it has been a week. I’ll be posting about it soon.)

        1. Rebecca*

          I saw your post below, so sorry! We have a tub seat, but not a swing out one. Mom can sit down on it and put her legs in the tub, and there’s a bar to hold on to, raised toilet seat, etc. all left over from when Dad had a hip replacement. If Mom can come home, at least some of the things are in place.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Oh I’m so sorry.
      I read ahead before posting so I see you’re looking at low frames. I’ll second that over the floor, extrapolating from my 1920s-born mother. She saw lack of bed as a sign of being poor or low class and bound to spontaneously generate bedbugs. (I briefly did this when I first moved back home. She magicked a bed out of the apparently empty attic.)
      Another idea for getting the right height — search for a local mattress maker. I inherited an antique bed that can take a full matress but needs an outdated size box, and found a local company that makes mattresses. I live close to several chain stores they sell to, so they gave me free delivery if I’d wait until they were already coming my way. It was much much less than I’d expected, and exactly to my size specs.
      As long as the mattress is the same and the box spring has the same fabric would she ever know?

    6. misspiggy*

      Re getting up in the night to go to the toilet, during my bladder investigations I was told that a lot of that issue with elderly people is that their nervous systems aren’t keeping them asleep enough to shut down bladder signals. And it’s apparently better for the bladder, under normal circumstances, not to respond every time to signals that you need to go.

      So once any actual urinary issues are sorted, it could be a case of getting deep enough sleep. I believe melatonin is increasingly used with elderly people, as that helps to counteract the higher cortisol found at night in that population. We’ve used melatonin for a number of years very successfully with no side effects – it may be worth looking into.

  26. Teapot Translator*

    Bike saga update.
    Went back out early this morning.
    Got to the bike path, started, promptly skidded on I don’t know what and fell. I scratched my leg. :( Picked myself off, did not cry or spiral into anxiety and continued with the practice. I went further than I’ve gone before. My starts are getting better. I’m still lowkey terrified when I come across somebody that I’ll go straight at them, but I’m not letting it stop me.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      That’s awesome! It sounds like you are gaining confidence and your persistence and practice is paying off.

      1. valentine*

        Is there anywhere else you can practice, like an empty parking lot? I’m thinking level ground is your friend.

    2. Courageous cat*

      Keep in mind, if no one has ever mentioned this before, that you go where you look. If you come across someone, don’t look at them, keep looking straight ahead.

      1. Reba*

        This is a great tip, one that took me a while to really grasp! Another one that I found hard to assimilate is that it is easier/less scary when you go faster.

        Anyhow, way to go, Teapot Translator!

        I also learned to ride as an adult. In San Francisco. I frequently got “trapped” on hills, losing steam and freaking out while my partner merrily pedaled on ahead. Now bike riding is relaxing and I really get a lot of satisfaction out of getting someplace on my own power.

      2. Booksalot*

        You’d be really surprised how generally useful this particular tip is! It’s the same way I taught new servers to hold a tray of drinks steady.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Sadly, we have to repeatedly go past others in order to finally understand that we will probably not hit them. I remember going through this with learning to drive. If I saw a car within a half mile of me it was all I could do to keep myself from hitting the brake pedal. I was very much aware of how ridiculous and annoying that feeling was and yet, the feeling kept happening. I finally wore myself out by successfully passing other cars many times.

      Perhaps you can take an object such as a tree or a bench and pretend it’s a person on a bike or walking their dog or whatever, and practice passing the object.

    4. Dr. Anonymous*

      Wow! There’s a special pride that comes with getting back in after a fall. You’re doing a fabulous job!

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Good for you!
      May I ask where you found a teacher? I know someone who didn’t learn in grade school.

    6. big X*

      I have been following your posts and have been toying with biking to work (about 4 to 9 miles, depending on if I want to get off and bus the rest of the way!) Went to the folks place to grab my mom’s old bike (they still have MY old one, the pack rats…obviously too small for me now!) and even though I learned when I was a little girl, it’s been decades since I’ve been on a bike – if it’s any reassurance, you really never forget once you learn! The terror, however, you do get to re-experience.

      Keep riding & you are so amazing for this! You don’t know how many people’s stubborn pride won’t let them learn to swim, ride a bike, drive a car or learn anything else that they feel is “””embarrassing””” for people to find out an adult doesn’t know.

    7. Anono-me*

      I’ve been following your story.

      I think it must take a great deal of guts, and dare I say gumption, to learn how to ride a bike as an adult. The ground is farther away, our knowledge of our own skeletal musculature system is much greater.

      One thing that you said the other day, stuck with me. You expressed that switching to a three wheeled bike for a while would seem like a setback. I would like to point out that for many people who learn to ride a bike as a child the steps went as follows:
      1. Pedal free four wheeled scooter.
      2. Three-wheeled tricycle or big wheel.
      3. Riding a small bicycle with training wheels.
      4. Riding a small bicycle with a parent ‘holding on’* to the back.
      5. Riding a two wheel bike independently.

      These steps typically took several years . Steps 1 through 4 gave me practice steering, and steps 2 through 4 give me practice steering and pedaling at the same time, then steps 3 and 4 gave me practice with balancing steering and pedaling at the same time. You’re just straight-up jumping to step five and trying to do all these things at once in a few weeks.

      So my point is that the biggest problem with you learning to ride a bicycle as an adult might be an overly optimistic timeline.

  27. Teapot Translator*

    Exercise thread!
    Tomorrow, I’m going back to my swimming class. I had to miss last week’s due to illness. I’ll do some machines after.
    The trainer told me that to improve cardio, one has to do cardio exercise twice per week so that’s my short term goal.

    1. Ethyl*

      Spouse and I are going back to the gym next week finally! I had oral surgery last month and got out of the habit for a while but my insomnia is becoming insistent that I go back to lifting. My goal is to improve my bench press technique and increase my squat weight. When the new gym facilities are finished in the fall, (spouse works at the local university so we get to use their gym facilities for free), they will have deadlift platforms so I can get back to that as well!

    2. Mimblewimble*

      I’m slowly getting back into running after a leg injury. I did a mile today without any pain, so yay! And my sister placed first for women in a 5K!

    3. NoLongerYoung*

      Second week in a row for getting to my (4x a month) Pilates class. Today was not cardio (this one is more stretching, last week was cardio)… but I did try my first side plank. I think I need to get online and look up some you-tube videos of what some of these things are, because I spend about 1/2 the time trying to figure out the direction and position of legs, arms, and then get around to muscle tightening. Forget doing the breathing appropriately (yet). But progress!! I am showing up and trying every week. WOO hoo. I could do some of the stretching at home and spend my class credits on the cardio one.

      I do want to go to the gym during the week – I have both a free one at work (right downstairs) which closes before I get out of there most nights (it closes at 7, I’m usually not out of there that early when I do drive to the office). But I also have a really inexpensive, grandfathered 24 fitness membership I haven’t used in years (need to end it, or use it… the friend I went with 3x a week moved). So I have options… I was just trying to ease into it with the Pilates!

    4. The Other Dawn*

      My home gym (AKA “she-shed” UGH….) is almost done and my new weight lifting equipment is coming on Tuesday. I can’t wait to get out there and start using it next weekend!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Yes, that sounds much better to me! Everyone I know exclaims, “Oh! You have a she shed?!” I know 99% of the time they’re saying that because of the funny GEICO commercial–it IS funny–but for whatever reason, I just don’t like that phrase. Same as “man cave.”

          1. NoLongerYoung*

            You know I’d love to see pictures when it is done? Because between the speakers, the equipment, the painting – it all sounds wonderful!

            1. The Other Dawn*

              I’m hoping to be completely done in the next couple weeks. Once the equipment comes Tuesday, I’ll need to hang the mirrors, paint the trim and then put the rest of the stuff in. The biggest thing will be a mini split AC/heat unit, which my husband will install. I will post some pics in the next couple weeks if interested. :)

          1. The Other Dawn*

            My sister wants to have a sign made for the door; however, I have no idea what I would call it. I’m a crazy cat lady; a banker; and love Def Leppard, 80s hair bands and more modern heavy metal. Maybe there’s a name in there somewhere?

    5. Trixie*

      I’m making more consistent progress with evening walks. A good 40-50 minutes with favorite podcasts and more hills/inclines. Next steps: I purchased (finally) some kettlebells and will start using those shortly. At 45lbs, I’ll stay in the driveway and walk lengths back/forth. Also setting up a generous yoga space in my living room which is mostly empty. (Purged for anticipated move.)

  28. LuJessMin*

    Hate to all spammers – got a text at midnight that my credit card was being used in North Las Vegas to buy $67 in wings. Grrrr…

    1. Ethyl*

      That’s so annoying but part of me is cracking up at using a stolen identity to buy just like, an outrageous amount of wings in Vegas.

      1. Dan*

        Stolen identity is not the same as a stolen credit card number. The former is a very big deal, and most of the time, the later is just a nuisance.

          1. Dan*

            It’s not pedantry. “Stolen identify” is when someone starts opening up new accounts in your name, and can be very difficult to stop and to clean up after. These guys are *not* doing this for a bunch of chicken wings.

            Credit card fraud? That’s small potatos. Somebody got a hold of your credit card number and make some purchases. You call your bank, you tell them what’s up, they remove the charges, and you get a new credit card number.

            1. Lujessmin*

              Yeah, talk to me when you’re awakened at midnight by one of these texts, call the card company to get things straightened out, try to go back to sleep but then start worrying about your bank account, so you get up to check it and you can’t get in. Back to bed about 2 to get up at 7 to get ready for work.

            2. big X*

              Dan, it’s pedantic in the sense that the distinction really doesn’t matter in this case. OP1 is lamenting the inconvenience of it all, they don’t even express any concern that said card is compromised; OP2 finds it laughable that you are committing this very serious crime just to buy chicken wings.

              1. Dan*

                Credit card fraud may be a serious thing, but in reality, fraud over small amounts doesn’t get prosecuted. This guy isn’t getting prosecuted over chicken wings unless he’s done a heck of a lot more and this is just one of many that he gets caught doing.

                My ex was the attempted victim of a “check over payment” scam. She had a dead car she was trying to sell, and listed it on Craigslist for like $750. The scammer sent her a check for $3k and said, deposit the check, send me the difference. We know how that goes.

                Well, the minute the check arrived, I thought it looked a little funny, and I figured out who the real owner of the checking account was and called her. She said not to worry about, it happens all the time with her account. I then asked if we should call the cops. She said no, the FBI wasn’t interested in anything less than $3k, so those scammers will continue doing what they do.

                Point being, dude is going to happily enjoy his chicken wings with very little, if any risk to his criminal record over a single event.

                1. LuJessMin*

                  Well, no, he didn’t enjoy his wings because the transaction was declined (according to the credit card company). But, yeah, he won’t get into any trouble over it.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I would think a criminal would run one test of the card to see if it will be noticed–if not, that’s the kind of identity they’ll use to start new accounts. Because they have more time to funnel out funds before getting cut off.

    2. Dr Dimple Pooper*

      Went through this 3 years ago. Someone in Kronos racked up thousands on a ski vacation, pulled out $3K cash and had a expensive meal before our bank called us.

      US Bank issued new cards and sent us forms to complete stating that we did not create these charges.

      Interestingly, US Bank just sent us a notice last week stating that they made a mistake in charging us fees and interest during the dispute over these charges and will get them back on the next billing cycle. We always check our bills carefully and never noticed any fees or interest. Wonder if this was part of a Class Action lawsuit?

      1. tangerineRose*

        A few years ago, after someone in another country racked up a few thousand on my credit card, and I didn’t hear a peep from the bank about it (the bank did take care of the charges when I complained), I found out I could set warnings on my credit card so I get notified whenever any charge is made.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        “Wonder if this was part of a Class Action lawsuit?”

        It’s possible, but usually there will be a letter/email telling you it’s part of a Class Action suit. More likely, the bank was made aware of an error in their processing systems, handling of the claim, or something else. That happened recently at a bank I work for in regards to a certain account they offer. They found the error themselves, corrected it going forward, calculated how much they owed to affected customers, notified them and then credited their accounts.

    3. Crystal Smith*

      Someone once used my credit card number to buy $300+ worth of hair plugs, somehow. I was amused because that charge went through, but when I called capital one it turns out someone had tried earlier that day and been declined for suspicious activity…for $40 at Buy Buy Baby. I’m a 29 year old woman, you’d think hair plugs would be more of a red flag than baby stuff..

    4. OperaArt*

      Someone tried to use my card number earlier this year but I caught it immediately because I have the account set up to notify me whenever anything over $1 is changed. Slightly annoying, but good peace of mind.

    5. Perstephanie*

      Someone used my card to buy $3 of beer in Arkansas. It’s like … *really*? that’s the *best* you could think of?

      1. Dan*

        I know it sounds funny. But a lot of times these credit card numbers are sold in bulk online, and the small charges are “test runs” to see if the card number is active or not.

        1. Card User*

          When my credit card was turned down for a $20 gas purchase one night, I contacted my bank. Turns out that someone had tried to use my card for a Domino’s pizza in the UK so the bank turned it off without notifying me. I use only one card and had to go on a business trip the next day; I made do with my debit card, but it was right before payday so I had to watch my spending. I gave the bank heck for not telling me.
          Almost simultaneously I learned on a craft-related site, that a popular retailer for supplies had been hacked months before but it was just coming to light. The retail site was hacked because they used a legacy system easy to break into and their IT had actually bragged about never updating in tech circles. I had made a purchase from the site three months earlier so they had my card number. I was lucky because I used a credit card and my bank had caught the fraud. There were a lot of people who did not have banks that caught it. Worse yet, were the many. many people who used debit cards and had their bank accounts emptied. The retailer only acknowledged an unspecified problem in a note burried on their website, never made any effort to provide restitution, and went blithely on their way selling yarn. I will never do business with them again.

        2. Marion Ravenwood*

          Yeah, when I bought my previous laptop I bought a pair of socks just beforehand, and got a call from the bank to check both of them were me because of the ‘small transaction then big one’. Apparently mobile phone credit is often the preferred option for the ‘test run’, in the UK at least.

    6. Dan*

      Several years ago (like 20) I didn’t use a credit card and just used my ATM/Debit card. Somebody got a hold of that and wiped out my bank account, to the tune of like $800. Back in those days, I didn’t have a ton of money, so declined charges would happen “every now and then”, usually right before my paycheck would auto-deposit. Except this time, my card was declining for three straight days so I actually bothered to look.

      Somebody bought $800 worth of stuff from like World of Warcraft or something like that. I had to call the merchant, and I told him that my bank account was overdrawn with charges from his company that I didn’t authorize. He starts out with, “let me tell you what we do…” and I was like um, dude, I’d know if I spent $800 and what I spent it on, I don’t need a pitch.

    7. Texan In Exile*

      When they stole my credit card number, they used to it cut a $6,000 swath through eastern New Mexico and west Texas, buying computers and then charging the balance at Rosie’s Topless Cantina in Amarillo.

      AmEx kept calling me, but I was out of the country for work. When I finally checked my voicemail and called AmEx back, I told them I could prove it wasn’t me by showing them my passport but also that I didn’t need to pay to see naked women – I could see them for free in the locker room at the gym.

  29. Overeducated*

    Another book thread: any recommendations for physically small to medium books that are good to read on public transit, but more memorable than genre romance and mystery paperbacks? I tend to gravitate toward thick hardcover library books and I just have too much in my work bag for a 500 page tome, so I’m wasting an extra 30-40 minutes a day on my phone that could be precious reading time. I like but am not limited to sci fi (e.g. NK Jemisin, Ann Leckie, David Mitchell).

    1. Dr. KMnO4*

      Jack McDevitt is a sci-fi author that I really like. His paperback books are on the smaller side I think, and none of his books are exceedingly long.

    2. Marthooh*

      For bus reading, I use the Libby app to download library books to my iPad. You can also download to a Kindle and (I think?) other readers. If your library system has a good collection of ebooks, this is a great way to take advantage of it.

      1. Stitch*

        A Dance With Dragons was the breaking point for me (I was in grad school and it plus laptop and textbooks was too much on the train). I have a classic kindle and am a big fan, particularly for the ebook lending program.

    3. Llellayena*

      Orson Scott Card, Robert J Sawyer, and Octavia Butler all have standard sized (or smaller) sci-fi paperbacks available. And if you’re ever traveling somewhere where you want similar protection as a sock with pennies in it, Dune in paperback version is quite useful!

    4. Nicki Name*

      Ursula K. Le Guin and Dave Duncan are two of my favorite authors who never allowed their books to get bloated. I recommend Le Guin in particular since you mention Jemisin and Leckie.

    5. Mephyle*

      Used bookstores. The old-style small paperback format used to be more common than big trade format books, and novels used to be shorter, on average. So that’s a place to look for them. If you can find one that has really old books, they might even have some of the old Golden Age sci-fi authors of the 50’s, 60’s, etc.
      Looking at my bookshelf, here are some that I have in small format paperback:
      •John Scalzi, particularly his Old Man’s War series.
      •Marion Zimmer Bradley
      •Terry Pratchett
      •Douglas Adams
      •Connie Willis (her earlier ones)
      •Hugh Howey (maybe cheating a bit – the format is larger than small paperback but smaller than trade paperback)
      •John Wyndham

      1. Blue Horizon*

        CJ Cherryh has published a lot in the small/medium paperback format. Try the Foreigner series for sci fi or the Fortress series for fantasy. Her books run to the introspective and political and can be slow moving at times, but if you enjoy her writing and storytelling style you probably won’t mind. ‘Fortress In the Eye Of Time’ would be a good starting point.

    6. smoke tree*

      One of my favourite books is a short one–The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It manages to be well-written and a story that really stays with you, despite its many completely outrageous elements. The premise is that a group of wealthy Greek students at a prestigious liberal arts college murder one of their classmates (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s probably on the book cover). The book starts by revealing the murder and then the leadup and consequences unravel from there. I’ve never read anything quite like it.

  30. Lucette Kensack*

    Is it reasonable for me to not want my in-laws to visit for Christmas?

    My husband and I alternate the winter holidays with our parents — Thanksgiving with his parents and Christmas with mine, then switch the next year and so on. In the past few years his parents have started coming to stay with us over Christmas during the years we spend Christmas with my family (who live in the same city as my husband and I).

    In theory this is great — we get to see everyone, yay! But it means that we never really get to so Christmas with my family. When my in-laws are here it becomes all about them — not because they are difficult, just because of logistics. They stay with us, and my sister stays with my parents, and so we become two separate units rather than one.

    It also means that I have to work hard to get time with just my mother and sister, which is important to all three of us and which is hard to come by at other times throughout the year (my sister lives halfway across the continent from the city where my parents and I live).

    I also feel a little guilty about imposing my in-laws on my sister, who has never forgiven my mother-in-law for some crappy treatment of me before we were married.

    I feel like a Grinch for wanting to say no to their request to come again this year. What do you think?

    1. Sara*

      I think it’s totally reasonable! Have you talked with your husband about asking them to stay over? Is he inviting them or are they inviting themselves? I’d explain to him that you want Christmas special with your family like you do with his family on the alternate years and his family coming over takes away that specialness.

      1. valentine*

        You can have whatever you want. Say no, that you’re rolling it back to before they started doing this. And look for the source of the Grinch feeling because they’re the ones not being reasonable.

      2. Dan*

        Yeah, I think the course of action really depends on what hubby wants/thinks/feels. If he wants his parents to visit, then the conversation just got a lot more complicated.

        By and large, I hate large gatherings — they’re work to host, and it’s hard to get quality time with anybody.

      3. Lucette Kensack*

        They invite themselves, but my husband is easygoing and is happy to roll with whatever. If I decided I didn’t want them to come he would accommodate that.

    2. Overeducated*

      Could you try to schedule their visit after Christmas if work schedules allow (like a long New Year’s weekend visit)?

      1. Blue Eagle*

        No, you are not being a Grinch. If you went to their house for Thanksgiving and spent time with them away from your family, then they should respect you so that you can spend Christmas with your family. Also, who is doing all the work when they come – you or your spouse? Having them come right at Christmas means you have no down time for yourself.
        Overeducated’s idea about having them come a week or two later sounds great to me.

    3. Sue*

      Yes, it’s reasonable. Can you say that’s it’s just too much and suggest an alternative time? Maybe New Year’s, Easter or July 4, whatever is a better time. You’re talking about every other year when you’ve just spent Thanksgiving at their place. With all that goes on with the holidays, eminently reasonable to say no to house guests without going into all the personal reasons that it’s these particular guests you aren’t keen about.

    4. Wishing You Well*

      Say no. You’re not a Grinch. Your in-laws are now seeing you every Christmas. How clever. Start asserting yourself now. Tell them you can’t do it this year and you’ll see them at (whatever works for you).

    5. Aphrodite*

      On the years you spend Christmas with his parents they get the choice of you coming to them or their coming to you. On the years you spend with your parents they get the same choice. No in-laws allowed to intrude when it’s not their year.

    6. Anono-me*

      Do your in laws understand that you are alternating holidays between his side and your side? Or do your inlaws think that they are taking turns traveling for Christmas with you and hubby?

      You are not being unreasonable with wanting a similar amount of holiday time with family from your side during Christmas on ‘their’ year. But please consider the above potential misunderstanding and that since your side lives in town and your in laws live far way; the in laws may be thinking they get 10 days a year with their child and you, whereas your family can have 355 .

      I agree with everyone else that you need to start addressing this with a conversation with your husband. You may also want to focus more on your desire to have time with your long distance sister. Maybe his folks stay home when it isn’t ‘their’ year. Maybe you go see them every third year and he does more things with his parents when they visit, maybe you, your husband and your parents go visit your sister this Christmas, maybe your husband has a much better idea.

    7. Observer*

      You’re not being unreasonable, and you can certainly start setting some limits.

      However, I do think you also need to rethink ONE piece of this. If you’ve made your peace with your in-laws, you really don’t need to accommodate your sister’s feelings on the matter. If they had mistreated HER, that would be a different issue. But she doesn’t get to have input or (legitimately) cause drama over your decision about their treatment of you.

  31. Emma*

    So I realize this might be a stupid question, but… what do you like to do on the weekends? Background: for the past six months, I have been on project that meant I worked pretty much every weekend. I barely had time to squeeze in some chores and then pass out in front of the TV, completely exhausted. That project concluded on Wednesday (yay!) but all of a sudden this morning I’m like, what do people do with so much free time? Normally I would schedule a little getaway to a local national park/hike with my husband, but he’s working this weekend so it’s just me. I don’t want to spend my days bingeing Netflix. What makes you happy these days?

    1. Dr. KMnO4*

      I knit, or read, or sew, or paint miniatures. Of late I have been doing quite a lot of knitting because I’ve found some projects that drew me in. Generally I need something to keep my hands busy.

    2. Ethyl*

      I know when I was working projects like that, stuff like haircuts and doctor’s appointments and car maintenance really fell behind. Maybe go get a haircut and get your oil changed?

      1. Emma*

        Great point! My lovely husband does car maintenance but I’m definitely due for a haircut. Maybe I’ll also get a facial or something.

    3. BRR*

      Baking. Weekends are the only time when I feel like I have enough time and I can store stuff for later. So much stuff freezes well.

    4. DCO*

      Sometimes I meet up with friends, but not every weekend. I’d go out for a walk if the weather allows it. I also read during the weekends and since I play an instrument, weekends are also the time when I practice it the most :-)

    5. GoryDetails*

      I’m fond of geocaching – using a GPS device to find specially-hidden containers, some large enough to contain fun objects, some so tiny there’s just room for a slip of paper to sign to indicate you found it. There are caches hidden all over the place, and I’ve been led to little parks in my own town that I had no idea were there, even though I’ve lived in the area for decades! There are urban caches and rural ones, some that involve lots of hiking and others that you can literally “park and grab”. The easy, nearby ones make for a nice break in the day, while others inspire me to road trips. If you’re interested, check out the geocaching.com site. (Basic membership is free; there’s a premium membership option that does the usual fewer-ads/bonus-features thing.)