weekend open thread – December 12-13, 2020

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: The Family Man, by Elinor Lipman. This is the fourth Elinor Lipman book I’ve recommended this year, because I love her — when you want something light and sparkling but still smartly written, she’s perfect. In this one, a lonely lawyer reconnects with his formerly estranged step-daughter, who has been hired by a PR firm to pose as the girlfriend of a famous actor. It’s funny and sweet and just the right amount of zany.

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

{ 1,082 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder: Comments on the weekend threads should ask questions and/or seek to discuss ideas. Recommendations or an update on things you received advice about in the past are also fine. But please, no posts that are just venting or blog-style “here’s an update on my life.” Comments that violate this rule will be removed. Thank you!

    Full weekend rules are here:
    https://www.askamanager.org/weekend-open-thread-rules

  2. Skeeder Jones*

    Reading some of the update entries that originated in a multi-issue posts, I ran into a bunch of stories that I really wish were being updated.
    Like:
    Employer wants us to help with loan fraud or the guy that wants to be called “Lord”. What are some of your “wishlist updates”?

    1. Chaordic One*

      Several years ago someone wrote in about to say they worked at a neglected branch office in an out-of-the way location. It wasn’t a terrible workplace, but it didn’t have anything very positive going on there either. They had turned in their resignation and then, during the course of a single month, everyone who worked in the office also turned in their resignation. I often wonder how the management reacted and if they attempted to hire new employees to keep the office going or if they shut it down.

      I also wonder about the manager who wrote in because her best employee quit when the manager wouldn’t allow the employee to attend her own college graduation. I hope the manager reached out to the employee, apologized to her and offered her the job back.

      But I guess we’ll never know.

      1. LQ*

        Oh the couldn’t attend her graduation one still breaks my heart a little. I really hope that employee found the site and all the people who supported them. There are a few where I hope the person who was being written about found this site.

        I also really want an update about the dog. Because that’s to this day my favorite letter and update. (on the entire opposite side of the others mentioned here)

      2. Skeeder Jones*

        YES! I think about that all the time. I wish we could hear from the employee and hear how she is conquering the world now. We can imagine that though.

    2. Maggie*

      Haha would definitely love to see a “Lord” update…Although that letter felt a bit like a troll. Entertaining though!

    3. Cookie Monster*

      There was a post much earlier in the year or maybe last year from an assistant to the head of HR. Two of her co-workers had a crush on the HR guy and constantly tried to schedule meetings through his assistant. When the assistant wouldn’t schedule them so as to know waste his time, the co-workers got really nasty, bad-mouthing her to everyone and saying “she’s not the keeper of his zipper.” The advice was that the assistant was going to have to tell the HR guy everything since, you know, he was the head of HR and needed to know it was going on.

      I would LOVE to know what happened. Hopefully it’s more interesting than “COVID happened and we’re all working from home so there’s no problem anymore.”

  3. Hanukkmas celebrations*

    For those in culturally blended families, how do you celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas? How do you balance the relative importance of each holiday? Do the kids just get all the gifts?

    1. Analyst Editor*

      We aren’t particularly observant of either tradition, but we do do both Hanukkah and Christmas. We don’t do gifts on Hanukkah, not as a special big thing, just if we have something cool we want to give them, like books. We do the candles, I plan to watch teh Lamb Chop Hanukkah special with them, and that’s that.

      We do presents at Christmas, and we’ve told about the nativity story but not the significance of it religiously.
      We also led each grandparent lead the way in how they celebrate, since we spend a chunk of the holidays with one or the other set of in-laws.

    2. Blended*

      I don’t have kids, but I can say one thing that is difficult with my partner is getting him to GAF about Hannukah. My family is deceased and so we always do Christmas with his family. Its always really exhausting and while Hannukah is not by any means one of the most important Jewish holidays, I do enjoy it and he barely pays attention or participates. I think when blending for both families ensure your partner feels their traditions are being included too, and really ask them.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That makes me sad and a bit angry on your behalf. Does he do the same with other holidays? I’m sure he’s a lovely person but that he can’t light a candle to support you is crappy, I’m sorry. I say this as someone who finds intimate Christmas celebrations really uncomfortable but still participates if my partner wants to see his family.

        1. Emma*

          Yeah, that seems a bit unfair to you. As the non jewish spouse I’ve really tried to make a point of embracing Hanukkah for my fiancé (no kids yet). I make latkes, get him a small gift for the first and last days, and put out the candles. On the Christmas front, we do a tree (blue and gold with a mix of ornaments) and listen to Christmas music on Dec 1. We both have advent calendars (he likes the candy). We decorate the house (wreath, lights, garlands, stockings – I have a pretty Hanukkah stocking for him and a chrismukkah one for me, both purchased on Etsy) And we spend Christmas with my family (but skip the church). Neither of us is particularly religious so this works for us so far.

    3. Elf*

      Atheist/Jewish Atheist blended family here. My whole family are atheists, so I grew up celebrating Christmas with no religion and minimal mythology. We did Santa when I was a kid, but as a deliberately open secret (“Santa is a pretend thing that does xyz, it is fun to pretend, look at these presents from Santa”)

      Before we got married, when he first realized that I would want my kids to celebrate Christmas because it was my childhood tradition, my husband was pretty upset because of the difficulty of maintaining minority culture in the face of the dominant culture, so we made some compromises. We agreed that we would do both, but Christmas and its decorations would be only at my parents’ house and wouldn’t come in to our house, there would be nothing supernatural including Santa, and we would do Hanukkah at home.

      Now that we have two kids, some of that is true. Up until this year the line about decorations/Christmas stuff in the house was held (we have a tree right now because Covid makes it impossible to go to my parents’ house, and he said if we were decorating for Christmas we had to actually decorate for Hanukkah too). The Santa like is getting a touch blurred (and I would like it a touch moreso): our kids have always been clear that Santa isn’t real, but I would like more of the “but it’s fun to pretend anyway” from my childhood and I think he’s ok with that. The thing that doesn’t happen so much is the actually celebrating Hanukkah. It is my position that he needs to do the organizing and preparation for his holiday involving his relatives for which he has the cultural context, and he never does. I usually end up doing a little something anyway because I don’t want it to pass entirely unnoticed, but I think this will be the first year we light candles more than once. I put more energy into Pesach and Rosh Hashanah since those are more important.

      1. Not playing your game anymore*

        I was raised agnostic, and I feel like I always knew Santa was make-believe. I mean I’m sure I didn’t question in my early preschool days, but I remember quite clearly asking Mom why Gary (an honorary cousin) was pretending to be Santa, cause I recognized his cowboy boots, when I was 4 or so. This started a life time of playing along with the Santa myth and being a part of the game of gifting anonymously.

        1. allathian*

          Reminds me of when I was about the same age and we were celebrating Christmas with my maternal grandparents. One of my uncles dressed up as Santa with one of those horrid 70s plastic Santa masks. But he didn’t disguise his voice and I screamed the place down. I wouldn’t stop until he took off his mask. That killed any belief in Santa I might’ve had before then… It’s actually one of my first coherent memories. The following summer when I was five, my grandpa died. Sometime after the funeral I asked in my fairly devout grandma’s hearing what the difference was between believing in Santa and believing in Jesus… Kids at that age aren’t very diplomatic! But I still don’t know the answer to that one…

          1. tangerineRose*

            I’m Christian and grew up knowing that Santa was pretend (or basically kind of based on a guy called St. Nicholas). I liked knowing.

            If you’re still interested in why people believe in Jesus, you might check out a book called “Evidence that demands a verdict”.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Not trying to push my ideas on you; just if you’re interested, that might be a good book to read.

        2. Pennyworth*

          I think lots of children play along. I was about the same age when I found out my parents were the purveyors of our Santa gifts – in our family our Santa gift was left on the end of our beds for us to find on Christmas morning and one Christmas Eve I woke up during the night and there it was but my parents hadn’t gone to bed. So I knew it was them, but I never said anything, not even to my brother and sister. I enjoyed thinking I was the only one who knew the truth.

      2. All the hedgehogs*

        Your line about “he needs to do the organizing for Hanukkah” because it’s his traditions is so true. I am a child of Christian mother/Jewish father. My dad would always be so pissed that we were doing (secular) Christmas things, but made no effort for (secular) Jewish things. He was just angry that someone else wasn’t recreating his childhood experiences.

      3. Clisby*

        My husband was raised Catholic, but he and his siblings were never told that Santa Claus was real. I asked him what he thought when he heard people talk about Santa, or heard classmates talk about Santa. He shrugged, and said, that’s just something some people told little kids.

    4. Ali G*

      I grew up with a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. Both grandparents were also local. We lit Hanukkah candles every night, but only got gifts a couple of nights, and they were mostly smaller things. We also got a tree and celebrated on Xmas day with family.
      As everyone has grown up, our family time tends to happen over Xmas since that is when everyone is typically off work. We were never very religious, so mass or services weren’t a consideration.
      I am married to a Catholic myself and this year we have a tree (although it’s more winter themed than Xmas), stockings, and a Menorah.

    5. SummerBreeze*

      I grew up with secular Christmas, my husband grew up with catholic Christmas and Hanukkah. So we do both – including a mix of decorations, lighting the candles and giving small gifts every night.], plus Christmas Day. In non COVID times his family usually hosts a casual Hanukkah dinner; we host Christmas in our house.

      It’s cultural for us, not religious (though still meaningful) and it works out fine. We try not to throw gifts at the kids especially since their birthdays flank the winter holidays so they get a lot of gifts in that 4-month period.

    6. OyHiOh*

      I’m Jewish by conversion so the entirety of my extended family is Christian, and the same on my late husband’s side as well. Within our little family, we only ever have observed Hanukkah, but then there’s the grandparents and aunts/uncles and holidays get messy and complicated.

      So, first thing I did as soon as my oldest was able to notice that different parts of the family did different things, was to teach him, and his sisters later, that all of the winter holidays and festivals are about searching for light. “It’s the coldest, darkest part of the year, and we’re all searching for light and hope.” That’s not a perfect explanation but it worked well enough when he was three and four and he’s been able to grow up and add nuance to that as he learns more.

      Second, I did not and never have given extended family a hard time if they sent “Christmas” gifts instead of Hanukkah. If a box arrived after Hanukkah was over, we opened it then and there, enjoyed our gifts and conveyed enthusiastic thank you’s to the sender. What kid doesn’t love a surprise box of gifts in the mail?!

      Since I grew up in a Christian family, and with a church music director for a father, one of my most dearly beloved traditions was the midnight service on Christmas Eve/Christmas morning. Mom and my siblings and I would usually listen to the BBC broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols sung at King’s College, Cambridge, then we would go to the midnight service at the church, then home and drink eggnog before bed. My kids and I still listen to the Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast every year. It’s about hope and light and persistence and it is unspeakably festival even if it’s not my own faith.

      As far as the Hanukkah part of winter festivities, we light candles and sing every night. There’s a steady supply of chocolate gelt and dreidels for weeks on end. I do not give a lot of gifts. The kids get books one night, they get art supplies another, new clothes and/or shoes, and some kind of family experience (state parks passes, museum passes, things like that) on a fourth.

      I don’t really try to balance relative importance, I don’t think? I’m a convert; I know perfectly well that my children may choose other paths as adults and that’s okay. “Your children are of you, but they are not you” to misquote a famous poet.

    7. Black Horse*

      Our household is quite agnostic/atheist although we were raised in Christian and Jewish households respectively. We’ve embraced the celebratory and tradition aspects of both holidays, but none of the religious. Currently there is a menorah and an advent calendar sitting side-by-side on our hearth; both will get used tonight.
      When the kids were younger they received gifts for each night of Hanukkah, but generally we would make use of hubby’s relative’s gifts, plus maybe a bag of gelt or a some socks (“two pair!”) so it wasn’t too overwhelming for all of us and the kids got something every night after we lit the candles. I’ll admit for a few years when they were young it was stupidly hard to come up with gifts for Hanukkah, and stockings, and from Santa, and from us. We learned to go as minimal as possible for each, and lean on gifts of clothing and practical things (fluffy socks are nicely bulky in a stocking, and everyone loves a new mechanical pencil with refills) and have Santa just bring one big gift for all of them (one year was a play teepee they could all use, that sort of thing). Meanwhile, we decorate for Christmas (spouse particularly loves getting a tree, and was thrilled last year when he finally got his own stocking), and he will read “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve. Food plays a big role, tbh–a major highlight of the season is Latke Night (generally the first night of Hanukkah, sports and other kid activities permitting). We do get a tree, and it’s a “thing”: photos, lots of discussion about which tree to get with the teasing understanding that ultimately we’re going to get the tree Mom wants regardless, hot chocolate is a must at some point, ideally with a candy cane. Decorating the tree involves lots of ornaments the kids have made, or that I made when I was a kid, and discussion and memories of how each came to be with us, that sort of thing.
      We just sort of celebrate both holidays, and over the years have settled on things we and the kids enjoy and that aren’t too overwhelming for any of us. Since neither my husband nor I are religious, we feel no pressure to do anything the “right” way (is there such a thing?)–we embrace the rituals and the traditions we’ve made together and let the rest just roll on.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s similar to my approach, as someone who was atheist from a very early age, raised by mostly non-observant Catholics, with a non-observant Jewish dad in the background. I love Christmas trees and twinkly lights, and spend time year-round collecting and making ornaments, in my peculiar secular way. My best friend for a long while growing up is quite catholic and I would occasionally accompany her family to midnight mass – it’s a nice vibe in small doses, for me. My boyfriend is atheist as well and we listen to a fair amount of Christmas music in December because we’re the sort of weirdos who like it. The new Chilly Gonzales album is very good & currently in heavy rotation. We listen to the Nutcracker a fair amount too, and will usually watch at least one production every year. I used to go to the Wainwright family Christmas show every year, too, which was really fun & festive – Rufus, Martha, their mom Kate McGarrigle, and various guests. There are few things I enjoy as much as a good restaurant with a fireplace done up for the holidays, heaps of greenery, wearing a huge fuzzy coat & scarf over something dressier than usual.

        My block and building tend to be pretty lit up, which helps with missing all the rest this year. A lot of people have lights in their windows, on their fire escape railings, etc. My super’s husband once had to defend himself and his lobby decor from hands thrown by an incredibly domineering (and heavy-drinking) florist who used to live on the 2nd floor, and who thought the fake reindeer that appeared one year was intolerably tacky. It was beyond nutty at the time but everyone laughs about it now!

    8. Artemesia*

      I know a mixed family where they focus on doing good works for hanukkah i.e. bringing light into the world — so they have some sort of projects — gathering food for food banks, gifts for giving trees, collecting pet food and pet toys for no kill shelters (there are a lot of smaller private shelters) — and they do the candles and gelt and festive meals etc but de-emphasize lots of presents.

      And then they do the annual big gift thing for their Christmas celebration.

  4. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Gift recommendation thread

    If you’re looking for ideas for gifts, ask for them here (describe who you’re shopping for/what kind of gift/etc.) or offer ideas for others! (Continued from last weekend.)

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Ah, from Sarah Cooper. She’s got some funny stuff on her website. I bought one of her books for a Christmas grab bag at work a couple years ago and the person who got it loved it. It got passed around the whole floor that day.

      2. Artemesia*

        Love this. In my profession there are about 3 things that someone SOMEONE will always bring up in the discussion section of presentations at conferences or in meetings. And always as if only they in their depth of profundity could ever had had this insight. (oh and they are really banal). ‘Will this scale’ was not one of ours, but they are in that league of performative blibble.

    1. BethDH*

      In my family, stockings are the present “from Santa” but the adults get them too — the adult kids and the parents all buy a few little things for each other’s stockings (side note that this is how kids usually find out that Santa is people so we don’t have to hide it).
      I’m feeling stuck for ideas this year. Typically we go for things that are “neat small thing that you wouldn’t get yourself” which in practice means small luxuries (under $10) or innovative gadgets.
      I’m buying for a range of ages/interests so all suggestions are welcome!

      1. Ranon*

        My family (even the grownups) like adhesive bandages with funny characters on them. For the grownups single use super glue is one of those “always wish you had it, somehow never do” things.

      2. WellRed*

        We do this too, a mix of fun and practical. Tide sticks, fun office supplies, single use face masks (beauty products not protection), batteries. In fact if anyone has some other suggestions I’d love to hear them. Oh I’m doing mini mag lights from s reader suggestion last week.

        1. LQ*

          I’ve done sort of …professional/personal emergency kits. On top of what you’ve listed I go with fabric tape, sewing kit, nail kit, earplugs, good hand lotion (everyone in my family and friends loves and swears by the Neutrogena hand cream), multiplug/key adapter (lightning to USB to USB C is the one people are needing these days) and of course power brick.

        2. another scientist*

          In that same vein: hand warmers, small power bank to have backup charge for a phone, additional phone charger, a fun spice shaker (roasted paprika is very versatile), specialty condiments like liquid smoke or hot sauce, head lamp

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Slice mini box cutter – magnetic (mine lives on my fridge), retractable, ceramic, ambidextrous. Keeps my scissors and kitchen knives from being dulled on opening packages – also safer. Ten bucks on Amazon.

        Also, RAK multi-tool pen – its a ballpoint pen with a level, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, ruler, bottle opener, touchscreen stylus and a little LED penlight. $18 for a pack of two.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          (I have taken my multi tool pen through domestic airport security without any issues a couple of times, so they are handy for travelers too, in normal days.)

      4. CJM*

        My children are in their 30s and still love stockings stuffed with candy and fun little items. I try to include a new toothbrush and a few small containers of tissues. But my favorite little extras come from World Market: bags of spicy dry rice they can cook up, Pez containers, small jars of fruit preserves, and lots of imported chocolates. (They especially love Kinder products — especially Happy Hippo cream biscuits if you can find them.) I look forward to shopping there every Easter and Christmas. This year my shopping has all been online with store pickup in the parking lot. And I can usually find a decent coupon (10 to 20% off everything).

        This year I’m also including a silicone mini scoop and spreader recommended here that I bought for myself and love. Thanks, AAM community!

        I also try to include a few tangerines, walnuts in the shell, and chocolate coins. Those are favorite stocking stuffers from my own childhood.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Hah! My household goes to World Market once a year, it’s sort of our holiday tradition, and we load up on goodies for each others’ stockings – yesterday was the day! I saw the Kinder happy hippos and remembered your comment, and the boys got a box each :)

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              My husband got the hazelnut ones, and my brother the chocolate ones, though I generally encourage them to trade halfsies on stuff like that so they can both try both flavors as they have similar tastes :)

              1. CJM*

                I’m not sure I’ve tried them yet! They’re hard to find around here, so I give them all to the kids, who are so excited for them. But I do love hazelnut AND chocolate, and it’s past time to see how they taste. Good idea to trade halfsies!

          1. CJM*

            Oh, that’s wonderful to hear! I imagine my kids will still crave these stockings and their surprises when they’re 50 and I’m nearly 80. I hope it’s still as much fun to do for them then as it has been for the past three decades.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              We do it with no kids in sight, haha – we’re 36-40, I keep labeled boxes in my office for the last two weeks before Christmas and everyone just chucks little knick-knacks and whatnots galore into everyone else’s boxes. :) In my house, we celebrate it as Trismas, which is when you get together with chosen family at a time that is convenient for everyone. You eat Chinese food, watch Die Hard, drink optional whiskey cocktails and open the Trismas Boxes of Nonsense along with any other presents, which may come from each other or from the Trismas Yeti or from Sasha the Christmas Tiger. (Sasha in particular is definitely worth a google, if you haven’t encountered her else-web – I didn’t make her up, I just borrowed her.)

        2. LouAnn*

          Pez! We got those in our stockings for years and I forgot about them. Thanks for the reminder. For gadgets: how about a cootie stick for pushing elevator buttons and opening doors. The 2020 gift. Also small lint rollers to keep in the car, for pet owners.

      5. Coco*

        I like giving fun versions of practical items. Fun pens, highlighters, pencils with interesting designs (cute animals, food, whatever the recipient is into). Interesting tape dispensers – like in the shape of a hedgehog or record player.

      6. Artemesia*

        We love stockings and everyone stocks everyone elses (that was the transition from santa in our family too — Santa did them — then we all did them.

        I got one of those pen’s that has a measure stick on the side, screw driver tips to attach, a level etc for my SIL, son and husband this year. I got my SIL one of those lights you can clamp on a baseball hat while walking in the dark. I got a couple of people lights you can put on the spokes of your bike to make them more visible at night. There are special corks for re-corking champagne bottles that are very cool; they really work — they grasp the bottle in such a way that they really seal and don’t get popped out like ordinary stoppers. Hits in the past have been cute bag clips — like little cow heads that moo that you use to clip shut bags of chips or other kitchen items you don’t want to have get stale and kitchen items like mini whisks, a colorful spoonula, wooden spoons especially the squared kind useful for stirring without damaging non stick cookware. joke bandaids (bacon strips for example). And of course small edibles and condiments. We have a Spice House near us and they make a huge number of different rubs and seasoning that make really great stocking stuffers. And TJ has lots of small lovely treats — we usually get things like chocolate bars with chilis or fruits in them.

        1. PhyllisB*

          So glad to see other people do adult stockings!! I spend a fortune filling stockings every year (yes, I know they should be kicking in too, but…) For the last three years I’ve been threatening to stop doing them for the adults, but they put up such an outcry that I gave in. They get such pleasure out of them, and it’s only once year.

      7. pancakes*

        I’m late to this, but I think it’s as good a year as any to give everyone reasonably close to you a nice wood nail brush. They last for ages and are so good to have, especially for people who cook often and/or garden or work outdoors. Fendrihan has nice ones, and there are lots on Etsy.

    2. Llellayena*

      Ok I’ve got a stumper here: 12yo girl who like to disassemble her dolls (to the point of removing limbs and pulling out the hair) and reassemble them. She’s been trying to find the tool that puts doll hair on (unsuccessfully and I don’t really want to try to find that). She also recently expressed interest in becoming a nurse. Books are out because she doesn’t read much (dyslexia). What kinds of interests that translate to gifts should I be focusing on?

      1. CatCat*

        I’m not clear if taking apart and reassembling dolls is the particular interest, or whether she has a broader interest and dolls are what she has immediately available.

        If the latter, Lego is phenomenal. The kid can take apart and reassemble in any way the kid wants (my kid used to follow the instructions the first time, then disassemble and mix with other Legos to come up with novel creations). Given the interest in nursing, maybe a Lego hospital if there is one. A set that includes mini figures (tiny Lego dolls) could also be good because you can take them apart and put them together in new ways.

        1. Llellayena*

          Nope, it’s the disassembly she seems to like and lego’s are not her thing. I wish, that would be easy.

      2. Jaid*

        There are videos on YouTube of people who remake dolls from like Bratz to elves or some such. The results are remarkable and I’d certainly recommend watching them.

        Also, Amazon does sell “rerooting tool for doll hair”, doll hair, sculpting material, etc.

      3. Queer Earthling*

        I’m a doll customizer, so this isn’t super weird to me. If you do change your mind on a rerooting tool, The Doll Planet on Etsy sells them, as well as gorgeous doll hair. (It’s not really dangerous, it’s basically the blunt end of a needle in a handle, and you can secure the hair with glue inside the doll head.) You could also get her sewing supplies and help her find youtube videos on making doll wigs (there are zillions), so she can easily swap doll hair instead of having to reroot the hair? If she’s interested in repainting dolls, some watercolor pencils & chalk pastels will go a long way, as will a spray sealant like Testor’s Dullcote, which you can get at any hobby or craft store and is commonly used with model-making. (SUPERVISE HER and make sure she only uses a spray sealant in a well-ventilated area, though. Like, say, outside.)

        1. Scarlet Magnolias*

          I’d love to find a good website with doll wigs, I own a bunch of vintage Vogue Ginny dolls and some of them need new hair. Also always looking for the plastic furniture for a Marx-a-Mansion

          1. Queer Earthling*

            Look for sites that cater to ball-jointed dolls, which are hard resin and thus always use doll wigs! Denver Doll Emporium is a good place if you’re in the US with a pretty decent variety, just make sure you measure the doll’s head (circumference) to try to get a decent fit.

      4. All the cats 4 me*

        My perspective on this is that if I were that child it would be more about curiosity in taking things apart to figure out how they work, than a nursing/caring interest. You know the child, but maybe she is taking apart dolls because they are the object she has access to?

        As a child I was always trying to understand how things worked and learn new things and was often given craft kits as gifts, which was awesome as it fed my need to learn and try new things. That was back in the dark ages (60’s and 70’s) when girls (such as me) weren’t often encouraged to learn traditionally male skills, but if I’d been encouraged to try robot building (if that had existed then) for example, I would have been in heaven!.

        Just to say, to me the disassembly/reassembly speaks of curiosity and there are lots of ways to nurture curiosity, so maybe thinking a little wider might be well received.

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          In this vein, I have a suggestion. When our son was younger, he loved to figure out how stuff worked. I got him a bunch of mechanical stuff (think adding machine, old telephone, vcr, etc.) from the thrift store that he could take apart, then “Frankenstein” together. Now, this was way back when, when those things were actually in use, so relevant in his life at the time. He loved being able to do what he wanted with these things and it was great that each was only a few dollars. Best Christmas gifts we ever got him.

        2. Might be Spam*

          I used to take things apart and put them back together when I was a child. One time I took an electric clock apart and cleaned it. When I put it back together it ran super fast and depending on which way you turned the plug it could the time could go forward and backward. So I learned how to tell time backwards.

      5. Chaordic One*

        I wonder if she might like one of those human anatomy models or kits where you can take out all of the bodily organs and put them back?

        OTOH, the tool for inserting doll hair sounds like a good present if that’s what she’s asking for. Thanks for telling us where to get one, how to use it, and for all the related info, Queer Earthling. (Many years ago, when living in southern California I saw a job listing for a well-known toy company that was looking for a designer with these skills.)

      6. AGD*

        I had similar impulses! It took a while, but I ended up channelling them into clothing refashion – taking apart old thrift shop clothes and upcycling them (sewing, knitting, embroidery, anything) scratched the same itch. A possibility for the future?

      7. Artemesia*

        I saw a book that is a pop up sort of anatomy thing where the kid can learn about the muscles skeleton organs etc that might be pretty interesting since she is interested in being a nurse.

        You might also think about graphic novels for tweens and find one with a nurse theme. These are basically comic books and often kids with reading issues are attracted to something that unfolds entirely in pictures — it helps make books more accessible and less off putting for kids with perceptual and processing issues.

        There is also a microscope attachment thing you can use with a laptop or notebook — it is sort of egg shaped and lets a kid easily look at skin, hair, bugs etc and greatly enlarges things — or you might look at a real microscope set of fair quality so she could begin to explore biology. She will be taking chemistry and biology etc if she retains an interest in nursing and this is a start.

    3. fposte*

      I’m thinking about giving a couple of people Audible subscriptions. Does anybody know 1) if it will tell you if that email already has a subscription; 2) if it works for a US person to give to a UK resident? I suspect that Amazon UK won’t let me buy directly.

    4. Tuesday*

      Hello, people who are more socially skilled than me: I have neighbors who bring over fruit from their backyard when I’m home for Christmas (which isn’t often). I’m not sure what to do in response. Last time I just thanked them enthusiastically (it really was good). Am I a jerk for not reciprocating? Would you feel bad if you were my neighbor? I’ve tried to think of something I could do in return, but I feel like if I buy anything, I’m sort of making this a bigger deal – like after that we’ll be Neighbors Who Exchange Gifts, and we’ll have to keep that up, whereas their bag of fruit seems more casual and not something I’ll expect year after year. I’ve tried to think of something else I could do, like making something, but I feel like people often get overloaded with sweets this time of year, and they seem like very healthy types, so I don’t know if they’d appreciate that anyway. If I made fruit preserves or something, that would be perfect – only I don’t know how to make fruit preserves. What do you think?

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It almost certainly depends on the person, but if I were your neighbor I would not expect you to reciprocate at all. I’d be doing it because my fruit trees had more than I could possibly make use of and thought you’d enjoy some.

      2. Black Horse*

        You’re not a jerk at all! I’ve been the person doing the fruit bringing, and honestly there’s no need to reciprocate. They’re not gifting, per se, they’re being neighborly and now is when the persimmons (or oranges, or pomegranates) are ripe and they have way too many to eat. You can reciprocate, if you choose to, by being willing to bring in their mail and feed their fish while they’re on vacation, or being willing to grab packages off their porch before the thieves get them, or by watching their 10 year old for an hour while they run the 3 year old to the doctor because he stuffed a rock up his nose, or something to that effect. You’re 100% fine just expressing your appreciation for the bounty and enjoying your fruit!

      3. Girasol*

        I give my neighbor garden veggies usually because I have too many anyway. If she’ll accept me shoving the extras off on her, I certainly don’t need anything in return. She gave me a very lovely Christmas cactus anyway, saying that she said she didn’t need it, and it is much appreciated.

      4. RagingADHD*

        We give fruit to the neighbors and don’t expect gifts in return. We are literally trying to keep it from going to waste, or attracting wasps.

        The appropriate reciprocation would be general neighborly favors as needed – if they need someone to take in a package when they’re out of town, that kind of thing.

        If you just want to do something, cookies or baked goods are great. And they can always put them in the freezer if they don’t want to eat them.

        1. Artemesia*

          The occasional loaf of banana or nut bread would be nice, but I like the idea of being the helpful neighbor who waters the plants when they travel etc.

      5. Pennyworth*

        Do you bake? Some cookies would be good. And don’t worry about making fruit preserves – if they have surplus fruit they probably also have surplus fruit preserves.

      6. Quiet Liberal*

        We give gallons of raspberries from our patch to neighbors all summer long. Our patch is very prolific and produces way more than we can eat/freeze, so we are happy to share. We never expect reciprocation, just happy to spread the deliciousness! Your neighbors most likely feel the same way.

      7. Not So NewReader*

        You don’t have to give them anything. They are giving you stuff they could not sell/use. The next step would have been to put it in the compost. If you eat it then you have made them happy.

      8. Tuesday*

        Thanks so much for the input, everyone! I feel much more at ease about this. I plan to look for ways to be neighborly in the coming year!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        How about a beanie with built-in Bluetooth speakers? I just ordered this for my brother from Amazon – the style I chose was only $17.

    5. Parenthetically*

      My brother is a political nerd, so I bought him whiskey tumblers with quotes from founders printed on them in their own handwriting. From Uncommon Goods, which is my go-to for “crap, what on Earth am I going to get for ______!?!”

      1. Artemesia*

        love Uncommon Goods. Just got my husband some lowball glasses with the map of Chicago etched into them for his birthday. Lots of nice kind of unique stuff.

    6. lapgiraffe*

      Has anyone had an experience with StoryWorth or anything similar? Have long wanted to do a story telling project with my grandmother but I don’t live nearby and then with a year like this one I definitely never got home to see her. My aunt helps a lot with her emails and such but she’s also pretty tech savvy herself, and her memory is still quite sharp so it seems like the time to jump.

      1. BJS*

        Do it! We did it with my maternal grandmother last year (my only remaining grandparent) and that book is a treasure.

        1. lapgiraffe*

          Did the recipient not care for it? And therefore didn’t follow through? Or was the product/service itself subpar?

          1. Anon for this*

            Recipient was interested but then could not keep up. Then it felt overwhelming or too much to catch up on, and fizzled out. So the recipient matters a lot.

      2. K*

        I gifted StoryWorth to both my parents a couple of Christmases ago and would definitely recommend it! My dad ended up choosing his own story topics, finding the suggested ones a bit repetitive. My mom wanted more control over the layout/design (frustrated she couldn’t adjust how the stories fit onto the page, how the photos appeared within the text, etc.). [I expect if your recipient isn’t as particular about this, it’s a non-issue.]

        The books themselves are of good quality. My dad took his with to visit his family and they were impressed enough to email me about it.

  5. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    Meeting my foster son went great! It was a huge relief: we connected well; I got to feed him and change a nappy, and play with him for an hour. So things are in a fair train.

    Today I was wondering if the commentariat could help point me to non-US specific resources for caring for natural hair. I am in Western Europe and white, no experience with his hair type at all. He is only 7mos now. The current foster mom uses a bit of coconut oil and he sleeps with his head bare. Anything I can add to this?

        1. Femme d'Afrique*

          Oh, ok, I just wanted to be sure since “natural hair” just means hair that hasn’t been chemically treated, and I wouldn’t expect any 7 month old to have anything but natural hair, lol!

          Since he’s still so young, coconut oil works fine (remember to oil his scalp too; you won’t need too much. Olive oil works too). Don’t wash it too often because our hair tends to get dry and washing it strips it of moisture. Also, get a wide-toothed comb and only comb his hair when it it wet.

          You won’t need too many “special” things to take care of his hair at this age.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Pediatricians don’t recommend bathing infants more than once a week due to their skin being sensitive to dryness. Coconut or olive oil or petroleum jelly are good for cradle cap if he has that. Gentle and infrequent hair care is the way to go for a baby.

      1. Observer*

        Coconut and Olive oils are better than petroleum jelly. The oils van be absorbed by the skin in a way that the petroleum jelly can’t.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Congratulations!!

      Is the concern with finding products? Or just techniques to care for his hair? myafrobaby (dot) com is a good place to start! It’s pretty simple when they’re babies — some good hair oil and sulfate-free shampoo are really all you need.

  6. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I want to learn to use a sewing machine! I don’t want to make my own stuff — I just want to be able to hem things. (I’m short so I take a lot of clothes to the tailor to be shortened. I’ve even had sweatpants shortened. I thought it would be cool to be able to do it myself.)

    I bought a sewing machine (the Brother CS6000i, which I read was good for beginners) and I’ve been watching YouTube videos … but it’s intimidating and I haven’t taken the machine out of the box yet.

    So: learning to use a sewing machine for basic hemming — how hard is this likely to be to master? Should I be able to get it in a couple of hours, or is it going to be a few weeks of frustration while I figure it out? I feel like it’s going to be harder because I’m teaching myself from videos with no one in-person to explain things.

    P.S. I’m still crocheting (just finished a blanket for my mom).

    1. Lena Clare*

      No, you’ll be fine in a few hours! The main thing for me was learning to thread the machine, then it was fairly easy.
      It’s a bit like learning to drive: it’s about coordination, and once I got the hang of it I could go faster.
      Get a few pieces of fabric you’re not using to practice on.
      Ironing the hem up helps it stay put when you’re sewing; if it’s not ironable or you can’t be bothered, pinning the hem up with the pins vertically then sewing over it and removing the pins afterwards is a way to do it too.
      I haven’t sewn or knitted in ages, these threads (ha!) make me want to get back into it.
      Happy sewing!

      PS did you have a picture of the blanket for your mom you crocheted?

      1. Lena Clare*

        If you also have a look. at the current hem and how lightly it’s stitched, you’ll get an idea of how tight or not to set the tension on the needle – some fabrics are very soft (I’m thinking of those sweatpants you mentioned)!

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Practice this too on a variety of scrap fabric types! I only practiced on flat thin cotton at first but it’s very different from sewing Jersey knit or terry cloth or even thicker fabric.

          You can get a packet of assorted needles too, since you would use a dedicated needle for each of Jersey/stretch vs denim vs cotton/non-stretch/woven.

          Also, since you have a Brother, if you buy supplies they have to be for Brother (not necessarily branded, just must include the brand on the list of brands the supplies work for). Learned the hard way that Singer bobbins do not work for Brother machines.

      2. Millicent*

        +1
        I have owned a sewing machine for about 20 years; I’ve used it maybe 5 times and 2 of those times were firing quarantine. I knew nothing about machines before I got one and I know almost nothing now, but I was able to produce a dog vest and a face mask (for myself, not the dog).

        I agree the hardest part is threading the machine. When I was trying to set it up during quarantine, it didn’t even occur to me to look for videos!! I just followed the instructions in the manual and it all worked out ok.

        Ironing is your friend – do not skip this step even if, like me, you think it will be no problem to just quickly sew a short seam. BAD THINGS CAN STILL HAPPEN IN A SHORT SEAM.

        I don’t understand tension and the different stitches at all, unfortunately, so do practice on different fabrics. I have ended up with loose thread on my material and no idea how it happened.

        Just start slow if you’re intimidated. Today you will wind a bobbin. If it goes well, maybe you’ll thread the machine. And if that goes well, take a stitch. Look, now you’re sewing!!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I just want to see you in the dog vest you made for yourself. (Ah intention misreading… I can’t resist sometimes.)

      3. StrikingFalcon*

        I agree, threading the needle is the hardest part. And it’s not super hard, you just have to learn your machine.

        When I took home economics in school, we started with just a piece of paper with lines printed on it (straight lines, a square, and a spiral). Without any thread, we practiced following the lines, so that the needle punched holes in the paper. It was a good place to start, because you got a feel for the machine without having to worry about the thread. The big thing is to not pull or push the paper/fabric – the machine moves it, you are just steering.

        After that, you learn to thread the machine, and then you try running some lines on scrap fabric. Make sure you keep the loose ends of the thread out of the way (leave them long) so they don’t get pulled in by the machine. From there, the machine does most of the work!

        Hemming is a good project to start with, as it’s fairly easy and very useful!

          1. HBJ*

            The feed dogs (the teeth that move up and down) will move the fabric along. (There are circumstances where you may need to help it along, but generally as a beginner with simple fabrics, you won’t). Another tip, get a walking or even-feed foot. That thing is worth it’s weight in gold. The feed dogs are only underneath the fabric, but an even-feed foot has dogs on the presser foot, so both the bottom and top layer of the fabric are being pulled through instead of just the bottom. It really helps keep things even.

      4. Nicki Name*

        Thirding (fourthing, fifthing) that the threading is the hardest part. Definitely practice on some scraps first, but the machine is built to try to sew in a straight line. You’ll just need a little practice to coordinate your hands and your pedal foot to get the cloth feeding in smoothly.

      5. Anonly*

        This is good advice overall, but I don’t recommend sewing over the pins! If the needle hits the pin just so, you can bend or break the needle, it’s happened to me a few times (very memorably once to a friend). It can also dull/blunt the needle, too. Just sew up to the pin, advance the needle until it is in the fabric, and pull the pin before you sew over.

    2. higheredrefugee*

      I know in these COVID times, this is less appealing, but my home ec teacher in middle school recommended buying/thrifting skirts of different fabrics to get a sense of how different fabrics react and get a sense of tension without the fiddliness of relatively small leg holes. I’m a little concerned with why/how I remember this 30 years later but don’t remember my breakfast, but whatcha gonna do?

      1. BJS*

        Isn’t it funny the things that stick? 2020 is a blur, but I can 100% tell you about every crazy night from college. Like the time my dorm neighbor got drunk on Halloween and ended up with a stick in his eye. We called him Stick in the Eye Josh for the rest of the year.

    3. Might Be Spam*

      For hemming, you might like using binder clips instead of straight pins. (Less stabby.) Test stitch on the same kind of fabric that you are hemming so that you can be sure the thread tension is ok. If it tangles make sure that it’s threaded right. Every time I think my machine is broken, it’s really just that I didn’t thread it right.
      When I first learned to sew, I practiced on paper without any thread, to get a feel for how the machine worked.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        they make nice little plastic clips for sewing. Easy to use, easy to swipe away as you come up to that bit when sewing along the line. I now use these little clips for everything.

    4. Lemonwhirl*

      I am not crafty at all and have the manual dexterity of the average 5 year old, but I borrowed a sewing machine from a friend and tried to learn how to make masks (which I would guess is a higher complexity level than hemming). The first machine didn’t work for me because it was fiddly, from the 70s and didn’t have a great user interface. So my friend took it back and lent me a very old and lovely hand-cranked Singer.

      This machine and I get on great and I’ve been able to make straightforward facemasks and am working up to more complicated ones. I made my first facemask in about 15 minutes and could solidly make them within a few hours. So yeah, hemming in a few hours sounds doable.

      My advice is try, try, try, even if you think you’re doing it wrong. Sewing is absolutely learnable on your own. But….if you have anyone in your life who sews, being able to send them photos of what’s going wrong will definitely help. You will probably need less tech support than I did, but being able to send a photo to my friend and have her say “Oh yeah, that happens all the time to me too, to troubleshoot do X” was absolutely invaluable to my sticking with it. Also, my friend has been an amazing cheerleader and that’s also helped me learn.

    5. Washi*

      For woven fabrics, you’ll be fine hemming in a few hours! As Lena Clare says, practice on some scraps first and use your iron.

      If I had to pick a first “project” for hemming, it would be a woven cotton (like khaki or denim, for example) where all you want to do is fold the existing hem under once more, then stitch it in place. Then move on to a hem where you actually need to cut some fabric off. And save knitted/stretchy fabrics for last, though luckily if you are just hemming the bottoms of loose pants, those stitches don’t take as much strain and are less likely to pop, even if you didn’t get it quite right.

      In addition to hemming, “topstitching” would also be a good keyword to look up for tips, since that refers to the visible seams, like most hems.

    6. WS*

      Very fast! The sewing bit is not complicated at all – it’s a bit more complicated getting everything set up (and if you can find someone with the same machine in a video that really helps) but once you’ve done that, the actual sewing part is very straightforward.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        The trickiest part I found with getting started, was making sure the thread bobbins were the right way around, or you end up with a lump of knotted thread! However it gets easier with time.

        The Great British Sewing Bee published several books, with patterns from the series and tips and advice on how to get started.

          1. The teapots are on fire*

            It’s a reality show from the producers of the Great British Baking Show with all the associated drama, but I love it.

    7. Asenath*

      A few hours should be plenty of time. I don’t know that machine, but some can be a bit fiddly to thread, especially the bobbin. Even that doesn’t take long to figure out. I mostly taught myself, but I did have some lessons in home ec, where I was taught to sew patterns (no thread) on paper and then sew on scraps with thread to get used to ‘driving’ the machine. The most tedious thing about hemming is getting the right length and getting the hem even, not sewing it on the machine.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        I like drawing a line on an index card or scrap of cardboard for my hem measurement. You can fold the fabric right over the card and iron it where it needs to be. Then go back and fold under the top part and iron that down. Then everything is all tidy and will be easy to sew down.

    8. A.N. O'Nyme*

      I’m learning to sew as well (though I do intend to make things) and my first project was to try and patch a hole in some shorts. As long as you’re not like me and manage not to sew the legs of your pants shut (which I may or may not have done twice fixing aforementioned shorts) I think you’ll get the hang of it quickly. My problem wasn’t so much figuring out the sewing machine itself as it was figuring out how to move the bunched-up fabric around.

    9. Elf*

      I’m pretty comfortable with a sewing machine (no expert, I don’t do it enough, but I’ve made a fair few projects no trouble) but I was always taught to hand-stitch a hem. You can do it much more invisibly by hand (and it’s much easier to rip it out/not damage the fabric) so even if you want to move on to hemming with the machine, I recommend hemming by hand first, so you can make sure you are getting even hems of the right length. If you google “hem stitch by hand” you’ll find some good videos.

      1. Firefly*

        I’m 100% on hand-stitching hems for dress pants. But honestly, I’m really good at sewing garments, and I still always take my things – even pants I make myself – to a seamstress for the hem. My main reason is just to get the real, accurate measurement of exactly where I want the hem to fall with the shoes I plan to wear with the pants. Like, usually the back of the leg needs to be pinned slightly longer than the front if you’re wearing heels. My aunt used to do this for me, and then I’d hem myself, but my mom’s not good at it and my husband doesn’t get what I’m asking at all. So if I’m going in for a measurement, I might as well spring for the $10 to have them hemmed professionally.

      2. Wishing You Well*

        Another vote for hand-hemming. Along with that, I’ve used hem tape (actually ribbon) to manage thick fabrics and tapering hems. I’ve had a sewing machine for years but to machine-hem correctly requires the garment to be folded weird and I never wrapped my head around it.
        I’ll confess I once STAPLED a pants hem when I was working at an all-consuming FT job. I did put the more obvious side of the staple inside the pants. Still, an older woman noticed, said “Oh, my God!” and I thought she was going to faint! I scurried home after work and hand-hemmed!

        1. Doctor is In*

          Fine knits can be tricky with a machine if you don’t have experience with stretchy fabric. You can use a stretch stitch. Make sure you use the right needle for knits. I have the exact same machine; have been sewing for over 50 years though. Hemming 2 pair of pants today! Helps to iron the seams before you sew.

        2. anonlurkerappa*

          You can totally do hems by hand, it just takes a bit longer. I prefer to do it by machine just because its faster and I like using a sewing machine tho.

          If you want some guidance on hand sewing (or just watch some cozy background video of someone doing a lot of hand sewing) Bernadette Banner on youtube has this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5tC06IXOKc .

          Also, agree that getting a new sewing machine going is something that is usually one the scale of hours, not days or weeks. It is easier when you have someone in person helping, but my 2 cents would be to just carefully follow the manual. Threading the needle and bobbin are the tricky bits.

          And yes! you are just steering the fabric mostly

        3. NoLongerYoung*

          So – mom designed and drafted her own patterns and I used to win fair ribbons for sewing. However, I find different fabrics do use different hem treatments. So you may still want the machine for some of them.

          Look at how the original hem was put in.
          My expensive ones, they look hand-stitched.
          Even then, finishing the raw edge is before you turn up and press it, usually requires a machine. Stitching on the lace (for some) that you use to edge that raw edge- easy on the machine. Zig zagging the raw edge to prevent future raveling – great idea for the rest.
          Some wovens – like jeans – often are turned up a couple times and stitched all the way through (watch videos -there’s tricks to getting over the seam bumps.)
          But some of the knits – they used a machine. (Your machine may have a stretch stitch that helps with this… check the manual and the videos…).

          and – wash/ dry as you intend to, get the shrinkage – before you cut or hem.
          I don’t have anyone to help, so I use my favorite pair (of like fabric/weight/ shoe height intent) as the way to judge what length I want. If I were you, I’d leave a little extra (deeper hems are not a problem – trying to learn to face a pair you cut too short – difficult enough to make them a donation for a newcomer).
          I use the cut off piece, as my trial run… press, hem, stitch, make sure the tension is right.

          And, I am careful – even then, I carefully pin, press gently up, and then try on (standing on a chair in front of the mirror) with the intended shoes…before I stitch. (I hate ripping out….I am way too good at it due to practice… it was the first thing I was trusted to do!).

          Keep asking questions. This is the one thing I have helped teach others to do…. I don’t do hems for co-workers or friends but I’m happy to empower them to learn to do them themselves.

        4. The teapots are on fire*

          Well, yes, I often hem by hand, BUT I finish the raw edge of the fabric by machine so it won’t fray. I use a serger now but I used to use a zigzag stitch. And it doesn’t take that long to learn the machine blind hem. I often use that, especially on pants since the hem is so far away from everybody’s face. I mean, sure, if I’m hemming fancy wool slacks (that I don’t own in California) or a taffeta ballgown, I’ll hand hem. But my SO’s khakis? Machine blind hem all the way. Even though I genuinely LIKE hand sewing.

        5. L6orac6*

          Keep the machine and do the hems by the sewing machine, I hate doing hems by hand, especially on pants, I invariably put my foot through them and have to hem them again. I’ve had my Bernina sewing machine for over 30 years, it’s still working well, had a chip replaced in the presser foot, good as new!

        6. Not So NewReader*

          I have been sewing for over 50 years. I still do hems by hand. It feels quicker to me. Someone upthread mentioned their hems never rip out and they are right. I have never put my toe through hand-stitching and ripped out a hem. There are other instances where my hand stitches held up better than machine stitching.

          But don’t get rid of the machine. I wish I had learned better how to put zippers in. My elderly friend wanted a new zipper in her jacket. I took it somewhere to get a price. $65!!! Not worth it.

        7. Engineer Gal*

          Take it back. I sew and have since I was a child-and I still take my pants to a tailor. The pinning up and ironing are the really hard part and a machine doesn’t help with that at all. Plus for dress pants and skirts a blind hem done by hand looks better anyway. And jeans are a PITA with a home machine -the thick fabric is too much and you break needles etc

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Thank you, all! I have decided to return it. I was already feeling unenthused about learning to use it, and it seems like the consensus is that I have should be hand-sewing these hems anyway.

            Also, my 16-year-niece has told me I can mail things to her to hem and she will hem them for a small fee, so I may start doing that just for the amusement value of saying that I’m sending my mending out.

        8. Thankful for AAM*

          I had no idea you could hem with a machine, the stitches will show. Thats why ppl do them by hand, so you can pick up just a tiny piece of the fabric on the inside.

          1. Anonymous Hugger*

            There’s a machine blind hem–you fold the hem in place and then flip it back, stitch along the hem allowance and then every few stitches a little zig zag stitch takes a bite of your folded back hem. Flatten it out and press after and you have a pretty discreet hem. Not 100% invisible on most fabrics, but just fine for anyone who’s not inappropriately close to your clothing. Fine on pants and I can get an invisible hem this way on thicker fabrics.

      3. CJM*

        I came here to recommend hemming by hand too. I’ve made dozens of garments over the years starting when I was about 14. (It was the only way to get pretty clothes in my childhood home, and then it became fun and creative.) But I’ve always hemmed by hand. I like the finished look and find the process more relaxing than using my machine. Last week, for example, I finally hemmed my new living-room curtains. I had planned to use the hem stitch on my sewing machine. But I like hand hemming, and to me it’s not worth brushing up on how the hem stitch works on my machine. So I spent about three hours over two evenings hand stitching the hems of four curtain panels. I had the TV on part of the time, and that too is a rare treat. It was all very relaxing — almost meditative. Now it’s a good memory of two evenings well spent.

        I think as long as you measure carefully and iron your turned-up hem before you sew (and try on the pants one last time with shoes on to triple-check the pinned-up, finished length before you commit with needle and thread), you’re good either way. But I totally recommend hemming by hand!

      4. OyHiOh*

        Add me to the “hand stitch your hems” chorus. I prefer to blind stitch hems, so the threads don’t show on the outside of the fabric at all.

    10. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      For me, the fiddliest bit about hemming is that there’s actually so many ways to do it and sometimes which way you do matters. A standard fold-over hem on jeans, for example, will look really weird and be obviously home-done, because jeans are hemmed differently from the factory. Dress slacks look nicer with a blind style of hem. Things like that.

      Also, depending on how structured the thing you’re hemming is, shortening from the bottom might not “work” – a shaped leg that you cut six inches off the bottom might be the right length, but the knee and even the crotch might still not be in the right place.

      These are probably tips for when you’re a little more advanced than hemming like, cotton pajama pants and the like, but still things to be aware of as you go.

      And if you do want to start sewing garments, pj pants are a great place to start – you don’t even actually need a pattern if you have a pair you like already, you can just basically trace the ones you have.

      1. Lili*

        Agreed. Hand hemming dress pants is the way to go. I’ve found a great hack for Jean’s- you cut off the original hem and sew it back on, a bit above the original stitching. You cant even tell! Only problem is, none of my machines can handle the thickness of denim and they weren’t cheap. So in the end, I just pay a tailor. Hemming isnt worth the time. Also, dont measure your hem yourself and do some research before hemming flaired pants, there’s a specific way to cut the hem for a tapered shape.

      2. Washi*

        I agree with all this, but these details only now catch my eye because I’ve been doing more sewing. I wonder if it’s not as obvious if you don’t sew or maybe I was just oblivious?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I think it’s something you just don’t consider if you don’t have a need to consider it :)

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          On the length- I used to know a guy with a 26” inseam, and he always had to have pants shortened. He used to just grab the longest ones, until his tailor was like “Look, please at least get as close to the right length as you can, because if your pants are ten inches too long, the problem is not just in your hems, unless you really need to be smuggling watermelons.” The light dawned, and he started buying closer to 28-29-30” instead of the 36”.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      When I learned to sew they had me practice with sewing tissue paper and NO thread.
      This let me get a feel of the machine, not much different than feeling the gas pedal on a car. You want to know how much to push the pedal down to make the machine go at a certain rate.
      They had me do circles and squares, just to get some reference points built up. You learn how to keep your fingers back, too.
      Then I moved to using scrap cloth and actual thread.
      They had me practice starting seams and ending seams.

      Just my opinion, but I thought learning to crochet was much harder.’
      Putting in time to make sure you have work space and good lighting is worth the effort.

      If you have a JoAnn’s near you, you can sign up for their mailing list. I use their coupons a lot as some of the stuff can get a little spendy. Using the coupon I was able to get foam to make 2 dog beds for $7 each. I used some pretty sheets I no longer needed as fabric for the beds and I had thread on-hand. I have also picked up curtains and drapes on a deal and customized them to fit my windows. My bedroom curtains are made from a thermal drape that I picked up at a tag sale. The drape was brand new. I cut it in half to make it fit the windows and hemmed it. Thermal drapes for 50 cents each. I used the coupons at JoAnn’s to reduce the cost of the special rods I wanted. I can’t believe how much warmer the room is…

      1. NoLongerYoung*

        Great tips. I reconfigured a huge set of thermal (custom) living room drapes from a thrift store, and was able to get those HUGE (headers had very close hooks) curtains to be 4 sets instead of 3… for my sunroom. Drapes – $60. (3 @$20). Original cost was over a thousand. Just the fabric alone was enormous cost. (I got a very classic small check that worked great, neutrals… getting those windows covered and warmer was a bigger goal than matching the couch, neutrals worked).
        I look also at the thrift store for very good woolens (I found a size 24 ralph lauren a line midi-skirt – in a gorgeous tweed, for $6. That’s about 4 yards of fabric… ).
        I wound up using a “side sleeper” pillow (it has a custom divot in the middle) and putting a pillow case with buttons to keep the end closed, for current dog (bed #4 – she has one in every room). I ran out of time. Just another idea.

        I have also successfully hemmed 16 IKEA drapes. (old house had a lot of windows, sheers plus the outer curtains). Saves a bundle and gives you so much flexibility to know how to sew.

    12. Tea and Sympathy*

      I also sew things by machine, but just find it easier to do a hem by hand. I think it looks better, too. Once you’ve done a couple it’s easy, and something you can do while sitting in front of the tv.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m a terrible sewer surrounded by good ones… but I learned 2 things the hard way that afterwards people said that’s “obvious”. Grr no nothing is obvious about new tech.
      First, thread deteriorates with age and can break in the machine. So that inherited box of sewing supplies? Use the 30yo thread for hand sewing.
      Second, top thread and bobbin thread should be the same strength. So beginners like you & me? We should make a bobbin from the same spool were using for this project. There’s ways to mix & match by adjusting tension, but it’s a higher level skill.
      Also? Pin fabric perpendicular to the sewing line with the heads in the direction of your free hand means you can pull them out as you go–but if you miss some the machine will usually slip right over it.
      My home ec class project was an over the head cook’s apron. All straight lines, few seams, and useful even if it’s not perfect.
      Goes great with crocheted dish cloths. :)

    14. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I have been seeing since I was a wee lass, which means for multiple decades. I agree with other posters that in general hand-hemming looks and hangs better. Also: buy decent quality thread (doesn’t have to be the priciest), check the size/type of needle (info on that should be in the instruction manual or you can look online); know that jeans may be too thick at the seam to run thru your machine (there’s a great tutorial online about how to shorten jeans without removing the bottom jean-specific hem.

      1. CJM*

        Yes! Gutermann thread changed my life. I will pay extra for it every time. (And if there are other top-quality thread brands for everyday sewing projects, I’d love to hear suggestions.)

        1. Otter Dance*

          Aurifil (pricey) or Connecting Threads’ Essential line.
          50-weight is the gold standard for all but the heaviest or most delicate fabrics. The higher the number, the thinner the thread is.

          1. CJM*

            Thank you! I will definitely check those out.

            It’s such a pleasure to work with better-quality thread. It feels nicer in my hands and works better in my sewing machines.

    15. BJS*

      Elise Joy has a sewing e-course that I’ve heard is good for beginners. Also, Modern Girls Guide to Sewing.

    16. Not A Manager*

      I bought a very simple machine at the beginning of All Of This to make masks for health care workers. It took me literally a week to figure out how to set the thing up including winding the bobbin and threading the needle. I watched a bunch of videos and a few times had my husband help me figure out how to align things (I am bad at rotating objects in my mind).

      It was very frustrating because as a child I learned to use a sewing machine and an older relative showed me how to set it up. It still took a few tries to get it, but I feel like the whole set-up thing would have been a billion times easier if someone had been able to guide me through it.

      The other thing that gave me trouble at the beginning was thread tension. My machine’s instructions have a diagram of how the stitches look when the top thread tension is wrong, the bottom thread tension is wrong, and when the tension is correct. I did not look at that diagram and so my first week of masks the stitches were entirely wrong because I thought they were supposed to look that way.

      So my own personal advice is, plan to be patient. If you think you’re going to unbox this today and be hemming your clothes tomorrow, you are going to be frustrated. If you think that it will take you a few days to learn the set-up and another few days of practice, you’re more likely to stick with it.

      Because you don’t know what you don’t know (or at least I didn’t), I also recommend watching some starter videos from beginning to end. I have zero patience for watching videos, so I tend to only watch the part I need help with (“winding the bobbin”) and then skip the rest. But if you watch the whole thing, they will tell you things like “don’t push or pull the fabric” that you never thought to ask.

    17. Female-type Person*

      Practice with no thread on cardstock or printer paper to get a feel for the controls and to not feel like it is going to run away with you. Then you can practice on scrap fabric. You will be competent in no time. If your underside is funky and loopy, your problem is the thread path. If your top is funky, your problem is the bobbin. The key to decent looking sewing is IRONING. You should spend almost as much time ironing as sewing.

    18. RagingADHD*

      Kids can learn to operate a sewing machine (with supervision) by age 7. You’ll be fine.

      Just keep your foot well away from the pedal or turn it off while you’re threading, changing the bobbin, or setting the presser foot.

      The worst that can happen to you is a finger prick. The worst that is likely to happen to the machine is that it gets linty and needs cleaning, or you snap a needle and put in a new one.

      Just go slow and practice on cheap cloth until you get the hang of it, you’ll be fine.

    19. old biddy*

      Get a thread snipper, seam picker and tailor’s ruler – I got mine in a set from the dollar store but you can order from Amazon or go to your favorite fabric store.
      I was a newbie 6 months ago when I started sewing masks. I’ve since progressed to making clothes for myself. Watch some videos on how to thread the machine, set up the bobbins, etc on your machine – for me that’s the most non-intuitive part. Be sure to use the same thread on your bobbin as the main thread, get good thread, and check your settings on a scrap piece of fabric before beginning. If you make a mistake, just pick it out with the seam picker and start over.

    20. anon-a-lom-a-ding-dong*

      Not hard at all. My middle school taught classrooms of sixth-graders to learn how to sew- that’s how I learned! It will definitely be harder to learn from youtube, where you don’t have someone watching you/guiding your hands, but it’s definitely doable. The hardest part is starting! The machine you got is very good for beginners, and will serve you well.

      People are mentioning how hard it is to thread the machine (and they’re right- if you mess up threading the machine, nothing will work), but the machine you bought has guide arrows to help you thread it (there’s separate arrows for if you need to thread a bobbin), which will help a lot.

      Start by practicing sewing in straight lines- literally draw some sharpie lines on some scrap fabric, and try it until you can do it confidently. Once we learned how to do that, my teacher would draw different designs (curves, right angles, zig zags, etc) and have us practice following them before progressing to actually making things. This is also be a good way to learn about how the different settings/stitches/tension works, which can vary from machine to machine, and helps a lot if you’re doing things with different types of fabrics.

    21. The teapots are on fire*

      Maybe consider a Sewing with Nancy beginner book (she wrote one for kids and that might be just fine for you right now except you don’t have a “big person” to help you) and video or a short subscription to MimiG’s SewIt Academy. MimiG starts with taking the machine out of the box, which is exactly where you are with this sewing stuff. And then you can quit before you get to let’s make a jacket.

      Two important tips: Thread the machine with the presser foot up (you can lower the presser foot at the end to thread the needle). This makes sure the thread can get in between the discs of the tension mechanism, because the tension discs open up when the foot is up. Many mysterious stitching problems result from the thread not being between the tension discs and you should always check this before you go monkeying around with the tension settings. Tension settings are almost never really the stitching problem.

      Second: Change your needle after every 8 hours of sewing or whenever you hear a funny punching sound with each stitch. They don’t last forever and bad needles mess up your stitch and lead to … again … mysterious stitching problems.

    22. HBJ*

      It won’t take long at all. Now to get consistently even, smooth, ready-to-wear (the term for clothes you buy at the store) results, that will take a little longer and practice to master.

      My best tips – when in doubt, use more pins. You can never go wrong with adding more pins. Pin perpendicular to the seam, and they will he easier to remove.

      Also, break out the iron. Pressing is so important when sewing. Press the hem before sewing and that will help as well to get smooth, crisp results.

    23. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

      Alison, unless it’s jeans (or napkins, tablecloths, other housewares), I hem things by hand. You will get a better look to the finished product. It’s possible to use a sewing machine to do a comparable stitch, but I find it to be a PITA and I’ve been sewing (by hand and with machines) for over 50 years.

    24. Otter Dance*

      I recommend The Vogue Sewing Book. Ignore the advanced stuff, but it’s great for beginners or for reminding those who haven’t sewn X type project in a long time. (Should be available from the library or second hand – it’s been around for decades in various editions.) Look up “blind hems”; you’ll be glad you did.

      If your machine has a speed selector, set it to very slow. Better to do 30 stitches per minute correctly than 300 you have to rip out. You can speed up as you gain experience and confidence.

      Do not push, but especially do not pull, the fabric. You can throw the machine’s timing off, and have real problems with stitch formation. Professional repair, totally preventable.

      Use the right needle for the fabric, and don’t hesitate to replace them. Hitting pins => new needle, even if it doesn’t look damaged.

    25. Hem tip*

      If you are short you will probably be cutting quite a few cms off each leg before hemming. I’d recommend doing a practice hem on each of the cut-off pieces first. And if you’re not happy, unpick them (or just cut the ‘hem’ off) and do it again. It’s better to practice on the same material you’re going to sew, and you can feel more confident doing it on the garment after you’ve done it well a couple of times on the cut-offs.

  7. Lena Clare*

    Hank looks so much like my Albert! Link in replies :)
    That’s a really beautiful portrait of him.

        1. Lena Clare*

          I know, right? That second picture was taken when he wandered in from the rain, basically looking like a tree!

  8. Anónima*

    I could do with some advice. It’s about a palliative parent in another country, travelling during a pandemic, and PCR testing. If you don’t want to read about that skip right on over :) I’ll put the question in the replies.

    1. Anónima*

      My parent is palliative in another European country (I’m in the UK). I need to isolate for 2 weeks after being with them, so the soonest I can go out to see them is on new year’s day which is a holiday here (and I think in most places?).
      My parent’s words were “I’d love to see you but I may not be alive then”, which is a whole other level of stress to this shitty year.
      Anway, I need a clear PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival in the foreign country. I’ve had to get a home testing kit because there are no appointments available face to face for that service.
      The lab for this kit (which I only found out after I’d received it) is in northern Ireland, so not mainland UK. I’m pretty annoyed at that as it wasn’t made obvious when I bought this test.
      My question is when on earth do I send this test back and get the results in time to fly, with there being a bank holiday? Will I have to courier it back on the Wednesday morning for delivery Thursday morning and hope the result’s back within 24 hours, which will be on the bank holiday?
      Has anyone had to do a home Covid test for travelling recently?
      I’m not even thinking about my parent – I keep crying whenever I do. The whole visit is going to be horrible.
      I feel so stressed out by this, it’s kind of making me ill, but the main thing I’m worried about is getting the test back in time.

      1. WS*

        Do you need the test before you get on the plane, or can you have it done in the destination country (72 hours after arrival?) ? If you can have it done in the destination country, go to the website of their health service to find out where the testing is. I have family in the UK and the testing there is particularly ramshackle and difficult, and easier pretty much everywhere else.

          1. acmx*

            I literally just did my test. The company I used is operating over the holidays. Check whether or not yours does. The company I used has the timeline for the testing on their site.
            My test (in the US) came with a prepaid UPS next day air shipping label. Did yours not come with a shipping label?

      2. PX*

        I’m a bit confused by your scenario. Like WS said, do you need the clear PCR test before flying out or on arrival? Also did you mean to say you need to isolate for 2 weeks before leaving or on arrival after you see them?

        Typically what I’ve seen is you need to have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of flying out. And then another negative test on arrival (where you may have to quarantine until you get the test results).

        For leaving the UK there are services giving 24-48hr results, you just have to pay for them (last I checked prices were in the region of £100+). Boots have a service, and quite a few clinics/pharmacies have them. I just searched for “PCR test Boots” and found lots of results and I know people who have taken them and gotten their results within 24 hours.

        For whichever country you are going to: you need to figure out what the testing requirement there is. The UK Foreign Travel Advice website is actually pretty good here. Just look for whichever country it is you need to go to, and the requirements are pretty well laid out, along with links to the relevant government webpages which will explain exactly what the requirements are. Just type in “UK travel advice CountryName” and the first link will usually be the relevant gov.uk page that you need. The testing requirements in country would probably be handled locally.

        (Im confused as to whether you are trying to use your home kit that you ordered in the UK in another country??)

        1. Anónima*

          I’m in England and the lab I need to return the kit to is in northern Ireland.
          I need a negative covid-19 result within 72 hours before my arrival time in Spain, taken prior to that, and actually before I get on the flight so it’s slightly less that 72 hours really.
          So I arrive at 7pm in Spain on new years day, I need to take my test from 7pm Tuesday, then get it couriered to northern Ireland so that they can send me the test results before I get on the plane at 3pm! That whole Friday is a holiday though, which is why I’m worried about getting it in time.
          I have tried booking in Boots; there are no appointments because of the holidays, hence I had to buy a home kit.
          I think I will contact the lab directly and ask them about time frames!

          1. Maria*

            I work for a lab that does PCR testing (in the US). Unfortunately, this does vary by lab, since different assays take different amounts of time to run. I think our current one takes around 8 hours from being put on the instrument to resulting, but there’s always the possibility of run failures, which could stretch the testing out.

            Your plan to call the lab is exactly what I would recommend. Ask them what their current turnaround time is and if they anticipate being fully staffed around the holidays. (We are staffed normally over the holidays because we work in healthcare and also it’s a pandemic so not many people are gathering anyway.) Also, it might be worth checking if the time that the sample arrives at the lab matters at all. (if a bunch of samples arrive at 8am, it might take several hours to get them all processed and into testing. If your sample arrives in a slower period, it might get into testing more quickly.)

            Finally, make sure you understand how you get results. Is there an online portal you need to sign up for in advance? Knowing how to get your results quickly can make a difference, too.

            I’m sorry about your parent. Sending best wishes for their comfort.

  9. Firebird*

    My son and his roommate consider themselves “chosen brother and sister” but he doesn’t want to tell his actual sister. I really like his roommate and she has been very good for him since he has no family nearby (they live halfway across the country from our family.) There is no chance that it will become a romantic attachment.
    I would like to somehow recognize their bond and buy her a gift for Christmas. How can I do that without making my daughter feel left out? Especially since she is recently divorced. I’m not trying to become the roommate’s mother, but want to be kind. Should I just get a small token gift?

    1. It’s all good*

      Why does the sister have to know? I do think it is good for your son that you support his chosen sister.

    2. Charlie*

      unless you’re getting her a gift that specifically says ‘you’re a replacement for my actual daughter’, why is this even an issue? Are you not planning to get your daughter anything for Christmas?

      1. RagingADHD*

        Exactly.

        You’re making something wierd/complicated that doesn’t need to be. Your son has a best friend, and you want to include her in the gifting.

        They can call it “chosen sister” or whatever but functionally as far as the rest of the family is concerned, you didn’t adopt a new child, and she’s not your daughter in law.

        They’re best friends, and that’s nice.

        1. Artemesia*

          Not just a best friend but a housemate — so including her in gift giving seems not at all odd. I think it is rude for him to make a big deal of calling her his sister if it will bother his actual sister. Just not necessary to make a public show in the family of this. (what they say to each other is of course none of our business).

    3. Washi*

      I’m a little confused. Your comment seems to imply that “sister” is a relationship status and that your son and his roommate are now….exclusive?

      If your son considers the rommate family, then it is kind to welcome her and give a gift if you feel moved. I don’t see what this has to do with your daughter at all.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As someone with both chosen and biological siblings, my relationship with the one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. My mom sent my chosen brother (who lives with me and my husband and is basically brother to both of us, which could be weird if we thought about it too much so we don’t) a gift this year – it’ll say “to Mike from Sharon and Rod” because while my mom is the type who welcomes “mom” from anybody, my dad isn’t, plus his chosen family relationship is with me, not them. But I don’t think my bio siblings would even know, nor care if they did know, that my mom (gasp) gave someone else a gift. (And if they did for some reason get weird about it, my mom would rightly point out that we’re all adults and she didn’t raise them to get weird about other people getting presents.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        In fact, I get my chosen brother significantly more gifts than my bio siblings, mostly due to proximity – they both live in another state and I don’t generally travel at Christmas even in normal times, so anything I get them has to be shipped – and I don’t think they’ve ever batted an eyelash at that either, at least not to me or my parents. (Dad gossips, I’d have heard about it :-P )

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Over thinking? He can have more than one sister, by nature or by choice. It does not mean the original sis is somehow less than.
      I think a small well chosen gift is just fine. It’s not the cost, it’s the thought that goes into the gift.
      Meanwhile, you can pick out a lovely “daughter” card with a sweet sentiment for your daughter along with her gift(s).
      On the other side of the story, does your daughter have a good friend who has been very supportive of her? Perhaps make cookies or something for her friend?

    6. Chaordic One*

      I’m not sure why your daughter would feel left out if you bought son’s roommate a Christmas present? You are still going to buy your daughter Christmas presents, as well, aren’t you? You’re not giving the roommate something you intended for your daughter or giving the roommate presents while not giving anything to your daughter? A token present for your son’s roommate is very much in the Christmas tradition and spirit and certainly doesn’t diminish the love you have for your daughter. I can’t imagine that your daughter would feel left out because you bought a present for your son’s roommate.

    7. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      You are overthinking this. This woman is your son’s good friend and roommate. If you want to get her a gift, feel free. She’s not your daughter, and she doesn’t displace your daughter as your son’s sibling. I wouldn’t get her a t-shirt or coffee mug that says “#1 Daughter” but short of that, there shouldn’t be an issue here.

    8. Not A Manager*

      Not really addressing your question, but is there a reason your son cannot mention to his sister that his roommate is “chosen family”? I can *sort of* understand why it might hurt her feelings to hear that the roommate is a sister, but “family” encompasses a lot and at least keeps his bio sister in the loop so there are not weird family secrets going on.

      1. Firebird*

        My side of the family is extremely toxic and I’m the scapegoat. My son sees the way I am treated by my sisters and I think that is why he doesn’t want to say anything. Also, my daughter just got divorced and is going through a lot right now and he is trying to not make things harder for her.

        Everybody is probably right about me overthinking this. I’m trying to not perpetuate my family disfunction but tend to overdo it.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, you’re overthinking this.

          None of what you describe is really relevant, if you get right down to it. Getting someone a gift for any reason doesn’t need to say ANYTHING about your relationship with you daughter – or even about your son’s relationship with his bio sister.

          If you got this young woman a gift INSTEAD of your daughter, that would be a big deal. But that’s not on the radar. What’s going on here is simply a rather unusual sibling addition. Most additions happen differently (birth or childhood adoption by the parents), but everyone understands that the new addition is not a *replacement* for the existing siblings. Same thing here.

    9. Qwerty*

      It’s very common for parents to do nice things for their children’s roommates, so I think you can let go of a lot of the nervousness that you are feeling. This is a completely normal thing to do, so get whatever type of gift that you want to give (perhaps with help from your son on what the roommate likes/wants)

      Some tips:
      – Make the gift/explanation less about “their bond”. You like the roommate and want to give her a gift, that’s all the reason there needs to be.
      – Do NOT hide the fact that you giving the roommate a gift. You don’t have to advertise it or bring it up, but if you are actively trying to hide something, that will have a negative impact on your daughter. Being sneaky or lying about something will breed distrust and can make a normal thing seem negative
      – If it comes up, just be nonchalant and casual about. Avoid trying to justify it – you risk overexplaining. A simple “I thought it would be nice to give Jane a Christmas gift this year” is all that’s needed. If it’s seen as no big deal to you, your daughter will probably see it the same way.

  10. aarti*

    Looking for (audio)book recommendations:

    I recently finished listening to Bill Bryon’s “At Home” and “One Day in Summer”, both of which I loved. Things I loved about them:
    -Lots of history about normal people and things (clothes, food, buildings, day to day life)
    -Interesting tangents, unique author voice
    -Some humour

    I’m looking for similar authors/books to listen to while cleaning at home. Podcasts are also fine, though ones I can download to put on my mp3 player are preferred since I don’t want to carry my phone from room to room. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance

    1. Natalie*

      I read it as a paper book so I’m not sure what the audiobook is like, but Ruth Goodman’s How To Be A Victorian sounds like it might be up your alley.

      1. Mrs. Smith*

        I freaking love Ruth Goodman and will watch anything she is in. Now I’m off to find this to read over the school break!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If you’re interested in Greek mythology, Stephen Fry’s “Mythos” – narrated in audiobook by the man himself – is a really fun conversational discussion of the topic. I’m not generally one for audiobooks, but this one was basically like Stephen Fry was following me around just explaining it to me while I did whatever I was doing, and I loved it.

    3. CTT*

      Any of Sarah Vowell’s books! Assassination Vacation (about the Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley assassinations and traveling to sites related to them) and The Wordy Shipmates (about the Puritans) are my favorites. And the audiobooks have a good supporting cast (Jon Stewart as Garfield is especially good).

    4. AnotherTeacher*

      This might be obvious, but Bryson has several other books that are in a similar vein. The Road to Little Dribbling and The Mother Tongue are particularly good and close to those others. So is A Short History of Nearly Everything.

      I read Mother Tongue and Short History as paper books, so not sure about audio, but I listened to Little Dribbling back to back with At Home, and they definitely have a similar feel sound-wise.

    5. LQ*

      Have you tried any of Mary Roach’s work? I think it may be the right combination of things and her audiobooks are excellently done!

    6. NeonFireworks*

      Simon Winchester and Simon Garfield are both (British men named Simon, and) writers who cover a lot of interesting everyday things with infectious curiosity.

      A few others!

      Gretchen McCulloch (Internet language + a ton of enthusiasm)
      Henry Petroski (history of minor gadgets)
      Witold Rybczynski (pop architecture)
      Don Norman (psychology of practical objects)
      Alison Lurie (social meaning of clothing, children’s literature)

    7. AY*

      Bill Bryson is my favorite author! If you haven’t yet read his new book “The Body,” I would highly recommend it. Tony Horwitz has written some books that remind me a bit of Bryson’s books but with less outright humor. “A Voyage Long and Strange” would be a good listen. It’s about all the Europeans who came to the New World before the Mayflower. Horwitz travels to many of the historical sites and talks to the experts who work there.

    8. Cruciatus*

      Well, this doesn’t fit every category, but one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard is Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. Wow. Even if you don’t follow him on The Daily Show it’s worth listening to (my mom doesn’t follow him but found it just as interesting as I did). He narrates it himself, has great (and horrifying) stories of growing up in South Africa. There’s humor, sadness, shock. I think this definitely fits the humor aspect, and interesting voice part.

      1. Bluebell*

        I thoroughly second that nomination. I read the book and loved it, then my friend was listening to the audio version while I was staying with her. the way he does different voices and the various African accents is fantastic.

    9. GoryDetails*

      I’ll second Bryson, Mary Roach, and Sarah Vowell. And if you like goofy travel memoirs, check out Tony James Slater; he’s written several books about his checkered career working odd jobs (sometimes VERY odd jobs) to support his urge to travel, and they’re available on audio.

    10. Sue*

      I read it but book club friends said the audiobook of David Sedaris’ new book, The Best of Me was great. I’m currently on #11 of the 12 Poldark series and they are very entertaining and addictive. Also listening to The Cold Millions and after a slowish start, I’m enjoying it.

    11. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      You might like a new book out from the makers of the 99% Invisible podcast: The 99% Invisible City. It’s a field guide to “the city,” pulling in histories of mundane things like traffic lights and standardized railroad time. Pretty sure there’s an audiobook read by Roman Mars himself.

  11. Wendy*

    How do you deal with having to appear happy/be a ‘good sport’ for other people when you feel absolutely down about yourself? Like congratulating a colleague on (fairly) getting a promotion you wanted, or a friend getting engaged when you’ve just gone through a breakup, or someone being gifted something extravagant from their well-off relative while you’re struggling with finances?

    In all these situations, none of what’s happening to you is any fault of theirs, and you know that life’s not fair, some people are just dealt better hands, and some things just comes down to luck and chance. And yes, you acknowledge that worse things have happened to better people and you /should/ be grateful for all you have. But none of that makes will make things hurt any less in the moment.

    1. Asenath*

      I just try to get through the moment as gracefully as I can and put off thinking about my reaction until I can do so privately.

      1. Anona*

        This. Getting through it and leaving as soon as possible. When I struggled with infertility I ultimately decided I couldn’t attend baby showers anymore. If I sent a gift, I would send the most boring, non baby related thing I could find on the registry, like batteries or a thermometer. The toll was just too high to be around them.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I try to think about how I would feel/act under normal circumstances. I want to get back to being normal me anyway, so this is kind of an excuse to step away from my current upset if even only for a moment.

      I think people understand if our level of enthusiasm is not the same as usual. The other thing I have learned is that we do not HAVE to be all things to all people. Others will come along and congratulate them warmly. It’s okay to let others do that.

    3. LibbyG*

      I don’t think “making it hurt less in the moment” can be your goal, because that’s out of your control.

      One can only be gracious in the moment, like Asenath says, and then maybe silently congratulate oneself for doing well by others.

    4. Anon for this*

      I think there’s a problem with making other people’s news or lives about you. Someone else getting engaged has no bearing on your ability to do so, for example. I guess it’s envy at its root? So reframing this impulse or way of thinking may help.

      1. Anona*

        Eh. Sometimes you just have the feelings. Suppressing them doesn’t make them go away.
        When I was struggling with infertility I logically knew that people who had babies weren’t doing this to me/it’s not like there are a limited supply of babies in this world and they were taking mine. But it made me miserable to be around them. So I stopped.
        I wasn’t nasty to anyone, but I could not take it. Crying alone in my car after a baby shower was the last straw. After that, I didn’t attend them anymore.

      2. R342*

        But when you’re horrendously lonely and a million miles away from being able to find anyone yourself (see: covid) someone getting engaged can feel like the world kicking you when you’re down “see this person found someone who they love and who loves them, what’s wrong with me that I can’t”. It can be about envy, sure, but sometimes it’s not.

    5. fposte*

      I congratulate myself on my ability to do the right thing under stressful circumstances, and then privately tend to the wound. Seriously, one reason why there are common scripts for congratulations is to take the burden of creativity off of people who can’t muster it. Say the bland expected and then take the rest of it home.

    6. Generic Name*

      First I want to say that your feelings are totally valid. I would work on being gracious/congratulatory/whatever in the moment and then process your feelings of jealousy later. Therapy, talking to a caring friend or relative, or journaling about it are all things that have worked for me.

    7. Female-type Person*

      This is very hard. I think it can be instructive at times if there are roots to the feelings that are not obvious, like watching others be successful or financially comfortable when you are struggling in those same areas. I have a generation older cousin. I got a wedding announcement from her as she was remarrying in her 60s after having been widowed. I had . . . an extreme emotional response to this news that startled me with its force. Ultimately, it led to reflection and confronting my own fear about dating after a divorce. And ultimately, my own eventual happy remarriage.

    8. RagingADHD*

      You smile, say, “How great! Congratulations!” And go about your business.

      If you’re actively hurt and upset, just don’t hang around. Have something you need to go do (even if it’s just the bathroom) and use that time to process your feelings.

      I’m not being snarky here, just genuinely curious – did you never have occasion to deal with things like this as a kid growing up? Most people encounter plenty of situations where they feel jealous or left out, long before they are old enough to think about jobs, promotions, or breakups.

      It’s the same set of skills that allowed you to attend someone else’s birthday party without snatching their presents. Today is their “birthday”, so to speak, not yours.

      You had a “birthday” earlier, and you will have another one later. It’s just not yours today.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Note: I’m not talking about whether or not you have the feelings. Everyone has these feelings sometimes, that’s the point.

        I’m talking about the skills to manage those feelings for yourself, without injecting them into someone else’s happy moment.

      2. Catherine*

        Hmm, I think part of what makes this difficult for the OP, and where the “birthday” analogy falls apart, is that one can’t count on “having another one later” when it comes to things like jobs, relationships, children, etc. Part of the emotional difficulty is the knowledge that it just may never come to you.

        1. RagingADHD*

          But something good will.

          If you’re in a mental state that you don’t believe you have anything in life to look forward to, ever again, then you need to get to a doctor ASAP, bevause that is a symptom of major depression and you need treatment.

    9. Mella*

      It’s just roleplay. Respond the way you would want to hear if you were on the receiving end, and remember that fake graciousness looks no different to the recipient than true graciousness. It’s an obligatory performance, not an obligatory feeling.

    10. Anonosaurus*

      I think it helps to distinguish feelings from behaviour. You feel whatever you feel. However happy you are for someone else it can be difficult to overcome the feeling of “why not me”. But your feelings are not your actions. In difficult circumstances, best bet is to rely on social convention and say what’s expected. You say “well done I’m so happy for you”. And then you go home, feel your feelings, and work through them. I write as someone who has swallowed their envy many times. It’s not fun. But it’s also my feeling to manage and I don’t want it to affect my relationship with my friends.

    11. The Rat-Catcher*

      I think it’s about accepting that it’s okay for these emotions to exist together. Your colleague worked hard and deserved a promotion, and also you worked hard and it sucks that you didn’t get it. So you can say “I’m happy for you” even if you’re not unreservedly happy.

    12. Colette*

      Other people will get stuff you want (promotions, relationships). But they also get things you don’t want (physical and mental illnesses, abuse) – and you’re more likely to hear about the happy stuff.

      There are multiple paths to living a happy, fulfilled life. It’s ok to regret the ones you don’t get. But there are other paths that are good, too.

      So you congratulate them – their successes are not about your feelings – and you deal with your feelings however you can. Self-care, therapy, time …

    13. Observer*

      I think it’s worth breaking into to parts..

      1. How you ACT in the moment. In cases like this, you need to be gracious. Both because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s the best thing for you. Doing things that create a perception of you as “difficult” (or whatever negative description) is not going to make your life better and will almost certainly make it worse.

      2. How you FEEL about the situation. As soon as you get away from the actual situation (eg when you get home from work) give yourself some time to feel your feelings. You’re having a hard time! It’s ok to recognize it. This is not the time to tell yourself how much worse it could be. Yes, at some point it is good to recognize the good things in your life. (There is some good research on the benefit things like gratitude journals and similar items.) But give yourself time. After all, if you fell down the stairs and only got bruised, you would surely be grateful that it’s not worse. But you’re still in pain. Same here.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        “In cases like this, you need to be gracious.”

        Yes, that’s important. A former friend of mine had a lot of issues and it got to where I couldn’t talk about anything good going on in my life, because she said it made her feel bad. She actually told me she didn’t want me to tell her when something good happened to me. She was a lifelong friend and that hurt. Eventually I let her go as a friend. Not just because of this, though. It was a long time coming.

        I also had a former team member (direct report) who, when it was announced by my boss that I got a promotion from AVP to VP, came into my office and went on about how the previous manager promised her an AVP title, how she’s worked hard all these years, he didn’t come through for her, etc. It definitely didn’t feel good, and I had no idea about any of the prior history so there wasn’t much I could say in the moment. I was blindsided. She came back about a half hour later and apologized.

    1. Helvetica*

      “Off Menu” by James Acaster and Ed Gamble – I’ve recommended this a bunch on these threads but it really is my favourite. They are British comedians who have on other UK-based, but not exclusively, comedians and other notable people, with the premise that they are in a magical restaurant where they choose their favourite starter, main course, side dish, dessert and drink. There are no rules but each choice is accompanied by a story from the guest and hilarious interludes by James and Ed. It’s funny, it’s thoughtful, and it is a delight.

      1. fposte*

        I love Off Menu! I think it was through that that I found Sarah Keyworth and Catherine Bohart’s sadly limited You’ll Do, talking to couples (including Ed Gamble and his partner) about their relationships. Catherine and Sarah are so charming that I’d listen to them talk to anybody about anything.

    2. Anne*

      This is very niche but my favorite podcast is The Faroe Islands Podcast. I lived there for a year several years ago and it is so nice to keep up and learn more about the place. He has a very nice voice, interesting interviews and goes to different towns and islands. He is American but have been doing it for about ten years now, visiting maybe once a year and stacks the material over the course of a year or more. Usually around 30-40 minutes and with a frequency that I am able to keep up (I don’t listen to podcasts that often.)

          1. fposte*

            What did you do? Do you think a short-term visit would be worth it or do you have to be there for a while to see the best side? I will also alert you that there are a few Faroe jokes in Ari Eldjarn’s standup special on Netflix.

            1. Anne*

              I worked at the pharmacy – it is the only pharmacy I have ever seen with four stories! (Though only one floor for customers.)

              I would say at least four days, in case it is really bad weather all of the days. Although if you rent a car to get around and always have a coat with you, it should be fine. The weather changes so quickly that when I looked out of the windows ten minutes before I was leaving the house and it was raining, I was just “eh, will probably be over when I get out”. And it usually was. Even if you don’t rent a car, the town busses are free and have quite a range outside Tórshavn. You can have a nice vacation just seeing the landscapes that way. If you have one sunny day, use it to visit Mykines and hike through the puffin colony to the light house. Though nowadays you have to pay for hiked tours all over the islands, to limit tourists littering.
              Only tourists use umbrellas – it is much too windy.

              I had never heard of him before – thanks for telling!

              1. Anne*

                But for visiting the Faroe Islands anytime soon, well..:
                “EP 326: Tourism in the Time of Corona
                This week, we talk to the head of Visit Faroe Islands about remote tourism, and what it feels like to promote tourism while simultaneously telling tourists to stay away.
                Then we’ll watch a new hotel being built and dream of the day when visitors will get to stay there. 
                To take a live, remote tour of the Faroe Islands, go to the Remote Tourism site and enjoy the show.”

                1. fposte*

                  Thank you so much for the pointers. I’ve already regretfully struck Antarctica off the list as I have concerns about tourist travel there, so I can cope if that’s how it goes with the Faroes, too. We’ll see what happens in a few years.

                2. Anne*

                  #fposte: You are welcome :) I hope you will get to visit someday – both Antarctica (I didn’t even know tourists visiting was an option!) and the Faroe Islands!

                  I am laughing my way through Ari Eldjarn‘s show now, thank you so much!

    3. CoffeeforLife*

      This is an oldie, but Stuff You Should Know has a huge catalog. I like their conversational format of explaining obscure, historical, mundane, esoteric, or commonplace topics. Each episode is about 45 minutes and in 2018ish they introduced Short Stuff episodes that are 15 min.

    4. Valancy Snaith*

      I love Gastropod, which is two women discussing the history and social aspects of different types of food–the episode on Chinese restaurants was amazing. Large back catalogue, too. I’ve recently gotten into The Worst Bestsellers, which is women discussing popular books and questioning how they got popular (and occasionally doing really great books and YA stuff, too, which is super fun). Switched On Pop is fabulous–a musicologist and songwriter go over current pop music and discuss its musicality, its connections to older music, and its production. If you like history at all, Hardcore History is the best thing going–right now he’s doing Supernova in the East, about World War Two in Japan/the Pacific theatre. For comedy, you cannot beat My Dad Wrote A Porno–listen to it from the beginning, cry laughing.

      1. Beans are green*

        OMG, I listened to My Dad Wrote A Porno on a cross country drive and I had to pull off the highway to a gas station because I was laughing so hard, it wasn’t safe to drive!

        1. SwitchingGenres*

          My Dad Wrote a Porno is outstanding. I re-listened to the entire thing earlier this year and I recommend it to anyone who won’t absolutely balk at the name.

    5. Anona*

      By the Book- two women who live by self help books in 2 week spurts. Forever 35- a self care podcast about serums, but also about the lives of the women who run it. Pod Save America – deep dives into current US politics, very liberal, lots of cursing, a bit bro-y. This is Uncomfortable, a podcast with stories about how money shapes different people’s lives. We Wonder, a christian/advent contemplative style podcast, with short contemplations, designed for kids. Gee thanks, Just Bought it- a shopping podcast where guests bring product recommendations.

    6. Firefly*

      Happier by Gretchen Ruben and Elizabeth Craft – chatty and fun
      Code Switch an NPR podcast about race – so interesting and well-done
      Before Breakfast/New Corner Office by Laura Vanderkam – short and work-focused, help me get my brain into “work mode”

    7. Dwight Schrute*

      Stuff You Should Know and Movie Crush! end of the World with Josh Clark is also good! I’ve heard good things about ephemeral and 99% invisible as well!

    8. bassclefchick*

      Literally! with Rob Lowe. He’s fun and has pretty interesting guests.
      Conan O’Brien needs a friend.
      The Crown has an official podcast, but it only covers seasons 3 & 4 for some reason.
      The Soundtrack Show. LOVE this one! Talks about movie music and the first couple of episodes give you a basic music theory lesson. Don’t worry, he makes it accessible and really explains it well. Wish I had had HIM as my theory professor back in the day!
      Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs!!!) The Way I Heard It. Each one is 15 minutes or less and he tells a story about someone, but doesn’t tell you who it is until the end. If you liked listening to Paul Harvey with your Grandma, you’ll like this one!

    9. CatCat*

      Saga Thing. Two professors review Icelandic sagas and then rate them in various categories including body count, best bloodshed, best nicknames, and notable witticisms.

      You do not be familiar with nor have read the Icelandic sagas to enjoy this podcast. They give story overviews and overviews of the history of Iceland and the sagas.

      It is both educational and HILARIOUS!

    10. Lemonwhirl*

      You’re Wrong About – The hosts look back at a news story or trend from the past (Tonya Harding, the Satanic Panic) and talk about what actually happened vs how it was reported and what it says about society. They are thoughtful and funny and it’s both entertaining and informative.

      Why Are Dads – One of the hosts from You’re Wrong About and another guy (who is also thoughtful and funny) watch movies and then discuss them through the lens of father/child relationships. Sometimes, it’s film criticism but sometimes, it’s more like therapy. It’s really lovely and amazing although I find it’s better when I’ve actually seen the movie.

      Maintenance Phase – the other host from You’re Wrong About and the woman who writes under Your Fat Friend basically do You’re Wrong About but about the diet industrial complex. They’ve one done one short season so far but it’s excellent.

      1. Atlantian*

        Cannot recommend the growing YWA universe of podcasts enough! Mike and Sarah are a breath of fresh air, especially in 2020. I would have to agree, though, that Why Are Dads is better if you’ve seen the movie for that episode, but it’s still good if you haven’t.

    11. TX Lizard*

      For short fiction (mostly scifi and some fantasy, all kinds of subgenres within those) I love Clarkesword Magazine’s podcast and EscapePod. They are both full of 30-60 minutes stories by a mix of heavy-hitter, very well known authors and up & coming authors. Also, both have hundreds of back episodes, so you’ll never run out!

    12. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Speaking of favorite podcasts, does anyone have any favorites about personal finance? I’m like for it to be informative but also have a high entertainment factor. I like both advice style and rotating expert style. I’m familiar with Dave Ramsey – that’s only okay in my opinion (repetitive). Bonus points if it’s geared towards women but not essential.

      1. Patty Mayonnaise*

        This is Uncomfortable is a great finance podcast and geared somewhat towards women. It’s more personal stories that deal with money than financial advice, but the episodes are thought-provoking and short (around 20 minutes) which is a big plus for me.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m enjoying “David Tennant Does A Podcast With…” They’re laid-back, free form chats. Might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it’s almost as good as having company.

    14. Sylvan*

      Educational ish: Ridiculous History, Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know (and other SYSK podcasts already mentioned here), Ologies, and In Defense of Plants. The last two are mainly interviews with people who study niche subjects and they’re fascinating.

      True crime: Bunga Bunga, Criminalia, The Gateway, Scam Goddess, Fraudsters, The Dream, Conviction, and Heaven’s Gate.

      The intersection of true crime and history. History that appeals to a true crime listener?: Noble Blood, Bad Gays, early Behind the Bastards. BtB has been focusing on US politics this year and the host is understandably burned out. Try 2019 and earlier for a wider scope and a more enjoyable listen.

      Guided meditation: The Daily Shine.

      Sleep (by host’s intent or by being accidentally good for sleeping): Sleep With Me, Myths and Legends, In Defense of Plants.

      1. Sylvan*

        I forgot one! Oh No, Ross and Carrie. It’s a long-running podcast. The hosts investigate alternative medicine, new religious movements, cults, psychics, and more by trying them first-hand. The hosts are pretty relaxed, friendly, and open-minded.

    15. AY*

      I have really been enjoying “Home Cooking” for pandemic listening. Samin Nosrat (author of Salt Fat Acid Heat) and Hrishikesh Hirway discuss what they’re cooking at home and answer questions from listeners about what to do with odd ingredients. I also like “Wine for Normal People,” which covers a variety of topics in wine but does so very accessibly. For legal podcasts, I like both “Amicus,” the Supreme Court podcast with Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and “All the President’s Lawyers” from KCRW. I think “Amicus” has been too Trump-centric in the past few years, and I hope it returns to its Supreme Court focus starting in January. On the other hand, if you’re interested in the Trump administration’s relationship with the courts, “All the President’s Lawyers” is both informative and entertaining.

    16. Voluptuousfire*

      I’d recommend Mob Queens. It’s about Anna Genovese, the wife of the mob boss, Vito Genovese. It’s a 12 part series which is super fascinating.

      Also recommend You Must Remember This. It’s a podcast debunking the book Hollywood Babylon. It’s about 100+ episodes and fascinating.

    17. Beans are green*

      Many of my faves are listed. Someone here recommended finding the production company of a podcast you like and see what other shows they produce, as they often share an approach. I enjoy almost all NPR’s podcasts and will give a shout out to Pop Culture Happy Hour.

      For romance readers, I recommend FATED MATES. It could use a heavier editing hand and I wish Jen would challenge Sarah more, but every episode makes me think about the genre and the publishing world in new ways.

    18. Deborah*

      I listen to probably 40+ podcasts so it’s hard to pick. What I really like that don’t see listed already might include:

      In Machines We Trust from the MIT Technology Review. They are talking this season about facial recognition software and it is super good.

      All The President’s Lawyers from KCRW. I have learned so much about how the law works. I don’t know if they will continue past January, but it’s a treasure trove if you want to learn why it’s never RICO, how defamation works and so on.

      The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week from Popular Science. It’s three surprising things from history and science every week. The hosts are always fascinated with their topics and it’s always engaging and fun, even when the topics are weird or gross.

    19. Miss Dove*

      The Omnibus Project with Ken Jennings (from Jeopardy) and John Roderick (from the group The Long Winters). Really fabulous podcast about everything and anything.

      No Such Thing as a Fish is one I just discovered. It seems to be made by the people who make the British panel show QI. Another podcast of random facts.

      In the same vein of “learn interesting things”, Futility Closet.

      In the history field: Stuff You Missed in History Class and Dressed: A History of Fashion

      For fiction, I like Great Detectives of Old Time Radio.

      1. Pippa K*

        Seconding No Such Thing as a Fish, and if you like that, you might also enjoy The Allusionist, which is about language – etymologies, usage, etc.

    20. Jay*

      Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Not about religion per se – a “holy text” in their definition is a text that is generative. The hosts are charming, their relationship is delightful, and the discussion is really interesting. I started about six months ago and listen in spurts, so I’m now at the beginning of “Order of the Phoenix” (they have an episode for each chapter).

      Rachel Maddow did a podcast series about Spiro Agnew called “Bagman” that was absolutely riveting. Excellent reporting, well-told story.

      EPSN 30 for 30 podcasts are very well-done. They cover a variety of subjects. I’ve listened to the series about Donald Sterling, erstwhile owner of the LA Clippers, everything they’ve done about baseball, and a very disturbing series about women’s gymnastics called “Heavy Medals.”

    21. Bluebell*

      My current faves:
      Make My Day with Josh Gondelman- a delightful 30 minute game show where his guest is the only contestant and they answer questions to cheer him up. My favorite so far is Jill Twiss giving nonsense names to animals. And at the end they give pep talks. And the prize is a donation to the cause of their choice.
      It’s been a minute with Sam Sanders – news, mostly, with a “who said that ” quiz
      How Did this Get Made – super funny podcast on bad movies. I wish the episodes were shorter, though.
      The Guilty Feminist- with Deborah Frances White – used to be from live shows, but they are still producing in quarantine.
      Trying to get into 99% invisible- a design podcast.

  12. Roommate Update*

    Removed — you cannot be rude to people who offer help to you here. Also, please see the rule at top (this would be confusing to anyone without some context / reads as “here’s an update on my life” without a desire for advice).

    And to the person who tried to moderate this — please do not attempt to moderate yourself if you think someone is breaking the rules. Instead, please flag it for me (per the instructions in the commenting rules and I will take a look).

    – Alison

    1. Sunflower*

      How did he let himself into your apartment if he doesn’t have a key? I believe that would be breaking and entering which is most definitely a crime that you do not have to tolerate.

  13. Asenath*

    I just try to get through the moment as gracefully as I can and put off thinking about my reaction until I can do so privately.

  14. Michaela*

    How do you know when to let go of an older disabled pet?

    I have a golden retriever in a wheelchair, who my vet says might have degenerative myelopathy. I’m not getting the DNA test since his age (14) and other health issues don’t make him a candidate for surgery, so knowing is not going to change anything. He’s not in pain, his mind is still there, loves his food, and seems content most of the time. He’s basically a 70 pound infant in terms of care. If it wasn’t for Covid, I think he might have passed away already, since he was getting unhappy before I started WFH in March – I’ve been told return to office will be in February and he’s my greatest worry about that.

    I feel guilty about how life would be easier if it didn’t have to look after him. When he’s out in his wheelchair is when he is unhappiest, and I sometimes get some negative attention. When he looks up and smiles at me, and is happily chowing away on pizza, I can’t imagine the alternative.

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      I am so sorry you are going through this. As a pet owner, knowing when “it’s time” is the hardest part. In the past I’ve waited until it was clear that they were no longer enjoying a good quality of life. As long as they were eating, eliminating, and relatively pain free, I just did whatever was needed to help them along- including carrying dogs outside, giving injections to cats, dogs, and horses, and preparing special meals (for all kinds of creatures). Virtual hugs to you, and virtual skritches to your Good Boy. (I know he’s a good boy…they ALL are!)

    2. sswj*

      If I read that right he is UNhappy in his wheels? If that’s the case then I think it would be kind to him to give him a couple of days of extra special pizza, wheel-less outdoor time, and whatever else he loves best, and then let him go.

      In my mind it’s about quality of days vs quantity of days. Are the bad times starting to outweigh the happiness? He’s had 14 good years, that’s a great long life for a Golden. He knows he’s loved and that’s the most important thing. Letting him go on a GOOD day (no fear, no pain) and bathed in your love is hard as hell on you but not at all on him.

      Better a day, a week, even months too soon than an hour too late.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It’s hard. My last dog was part shepherd part collie. No matter how I sliced it, I set me up to lose. If I let him live then I was self-indulgent. If I brought him to the vets I was playing God. I really did not let myself up for air.

      So I told him that I knew he loved me. I knew he was hanging on for me. (We got so bonded to each other after my husband passed.) And I told him it was okay to go if he wanted. He really seemed to understand what I was saying. That morning had been a baaad morning for him. After I said this, he laid down and slipped into a coma type state.
      A friend came to help me take the long ride. He would not have lasted the day anyway.

      I think by February things will have become apparent for you. They tend to sense when it is time to move on, not only for themselves but from our perspective too. They tend to know that we need to move on.

      I really tortured myself over this decision and I didn’t need to. It fell together in a sensible way. His eating tapered off, he asked less and less to go out so I was watching a slow fade. Like you are saying here, he never indicated too much discomfort but he did get clingy. Until he stopped getting clingy- I noticed a shift. He started sleeping in a different room at night, when he always slept on the bed with me. More of that fading out stuff. Sometimes you can detect a discernable winding down.

    4. Anona*

      My dog with suspected degenerative myelopathy (and a wheelchair) was my favorite, most wonderful dog.
      It was the hardest decision, but we had her euthanized when she would get frustrated about regular things, like getting on her bed. We all cried (including the vet) because she was still so sweet and perky. I actually had a vet service come to our house to do it, which I 100% recommend. I googled in home euthenasia and found one.
      My sweet girl was in a wheelchair, but she was starting to get some problems, like impacted anal glands (basically a little dot on her bum so I had to get her glands expressed) that were just going to continue. She was probably 60lbs and the care was getting hard for me. She’d been incontinent for months, and it was hard for me to lift her down the stairs.
      I was scheduled to go on a 2 week out of country trip, and I did it before that because I knew she would be so distressed when I was gone.
      From what you’ve described, I’d do it before you stop working from home. It’s so hard. I’m really sorry. Even now, I still think we made the right decision, but it’s heartbreaking when I think about it.

    5. WellRed*

      If he’s not in pain and is eating you are probably good. I think when it’s time, you’ll see signs from him.

    6. pancakes*

      When our dog was in his final years, our vet gave us an approach that was really helpful: Rate his discomfort every day, on a scale of 1 to 5. This will give you a sense of whether he seems to be having more bad days than good.

    7. ShinyPenny*

      So much sympathy.
      I’ve been in your shoes with a number of beloved animal family members.
      The thing I personally learned, is that my health must also be a priority. I learned this, of course, the hard way. I did various difficult things for months at the end of each of their lives, that really harmed myself in fairly long-term ways. But the dog or cat was still fairly happy, and had really happy moments every day, like you describe. So I just kept going, adding a few more critical life-support tasks every week, because I could DO it. I felt I had to, because I COULD. But I was not recognizing the ways my health was being damaged, which is a legitimate and critical part of the equation.

      Now, the questions I ask myself are things like:
      Is there a reasonable hope of improvement? (I will still go all out for temporary crisis care!) Or is the best thing you can hope for, realistically, just a pain free death after additional weeks of increasing decline?
      And then: What is your… (“preference” sounds so wrong) “tolerance” for last-moment options? I’ve never just had a beloved animal not wake up one morning. Instead, there’s always been a middle-of-the-night crisis requiring finding an available emergency facility, and difficult transportation problems, and dealing with strangers (however kind) and unfamiliar places and delays– all while my beloved pet is in pain and afraid (and I am weeping). Because the moment a chronically bad situation becomes an intolerable emergency is always 2 am on a Sunday night in the rain or snow… So you can opt to risk that– or you can schedule The Last Day, as heartbreaking as that is. And know it will be peaceful, and pain-free, in a familiar place with familiar people, and you can spend the last few days maximizing their joy and comfort. I finally realized this is the better option for me (though I am always still weeping).
      I hope you find the right path for you and your beloved friend.
      Sending peace and comfort to you both.

      1. SpellingBee*

        I too have been there a number of times, and it never gets any easier – you have all my sympathy. But ShinyPenny hit the nail right on the head. We had one crisis euthanasia many years ago and it was as awful as you might expect. Ever since then we’ve applied the daily rating test that pancakes mentioned (that our vet also recommended to us) when it became necessary, and when the bad days outnumbered the good, we knew what we had to do. Animals live in the moment, and when most of the moments are painful or unpleasant, that’s their reality. If you know it’s temporary that’s one thing, but if you know there’s no improvement possible that’s another.

        I also really like MinotJ’s framing of shifting the animal’s pain onto oneself. I can rationalize it and understand it, all they know is that they’re hurting.

        And don’t feel guilty about thinking that your life would be easier if you didn’t have to take care of him! You’re right, it would be, and there’s no shame in acknowledging that. It doesn’t mean you don’t do it happily and with a loving heart, it just means that your daily routine would be simpler.

        And now I’m crying! I need to go find a kitty and cuddle her. :)

    8. MinotJ*

      My sympathies; this is so hard. I had to put my elderly greyhound down a few years ago. I still don’t know what exactly was wrong with him because I chose not to put him through more painful testing, but his spine/legs stopped working right. I agonized over the decision. One thing that finally helped me to decide that it was time was “can I shift some of his pain onto me?” I knew that I’d be ruminating over whether I’d done it too early, and that would hurt me. But his pain would end. He was an innocent dog who didn’t understand what was going on – greyhounds are about as smart as hammers and I loved him for his lack of brains, but every time he hurt or couldn’t stand up, he looked at me like “what am I being punished for?”

      I used a vet who only does home-visit euthanasia and she was wonderful. She let me hold him and talk to him and sob over him as he died.

    9. Sarah*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this; it’s so hard. Echoing the previous advice that too early is better than too late.

      It’s been two years since I put my elderly Labrador to sleep. The situation was not identical; his disability was age-related urinary incontinence that could no longer be managed with medication. We had a belly band for him and kept him dry and clean, but it was challenging for us and him.

      When he stopped enjoying food and started exhibiting pain, and medication did not help, we had him put to sleep. It was devastating. Two years on, I still feel a mix of pride (for not letting him suffer too long) and guilt (for feeling some relief that the Dog Pee Days were behind us). But overall I am glad I made the decision I did, even though I miss that goofball every single day.

    10. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I’ve had to make this call a dozen times now in my life, and it’s always, always hard.

      My 18-year-old cat with renal failure, a probable cancer in his stomach, and general arthritic old age, developed a tooth abcess in March, and I… just decided not to treat it. Putting him under general anesthesia would be risky at his age, and healing would have taken some time at his age, and all it came down to what’s best for him? Putting him through a surgery and pain that he wouldn’t understand or letting him have a last couple of great days (crab! tuna! lots of snuggles!) and letting him go.

      It worked out okay. It was April, so Covid, and the vet had a setup at a picnic table outside, under a shady oak tree. He spent the last minutes of his life outside, listening to birds, and talking with me, and then he died in my arms. The best way to go, IMO.

      Do what’s best for him, as hard as that might be on you is my only advice. Virtual hugs. I know this is awful.

    11. Mella*

      In retrospect, I’ve always wished I’d done it sooner–every single time. Animals are masters at hiding pain, and they desperately want to please us. If there’s enough evidence to make my brain acknowledge that it might be time, then it’s time.

    12. Michaela*

      Thank you everyone for your kind words. You have given me a few perspectives to think about.

      He’s my first dog and had him through most of my adult life, including 2 state moves. It’s going to be tough either way.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have been watching patterns for 50 plus years. I believe that our pets carry us through chapters of our lives.

        A great example is a friend of mine who got a kitten right after her father died. That kitten/cat was with her until just weeks before she gave birth to her first child. The kitten’s life of about 20 years carried my friend from young teen who lost her dad to new mom with baby on the way.

        In thinking about these patterns I have seen, when The Dog Of My Life Passed, I decided to figuratively stand with hands wide open for the next chapter of my life. I got a new pup and he was a wild one and challenging. I kept telling myself that the Old Dog left because he knew it would all be okay. And it was. The pup settled down after a bit, but he still is pretty comical. I have had some major changes in my life for the better.

        I suggest that as you are winding down this chapter of your life with your buddy, that you tell yourself the next chapter of your life will have wonderful things also. Not the same, of course, but that does not mean you won’t thoroughly enjoy those things.

        1. ShinyPenny*

          Not So New Reader, after a lot of years and many dogs, I’ve also seen patterns like you describe. It somehow helps me embrace the heartbreak of grief. I have faith that there will be another, bringing something new.

      2. ShinyPenny*

        These are the hard moments in the long joy of loving our dogs.
        Losing my first dog was the hardest for me. (The others weren’t exactly easier, but I had learned more faith that things would be ok again.) I feel for you.
        I hope the stories people shared in this thread help you continue to choose the most loving path for you and your sweet dog. If people look at you funny, remember you are not alone. There are others like you out here, and we make the world better.
        Your dog sounds so fortunate to have the kind of human that every dog deserves.
        You can do this.

    13. Sled dog mama*

      We had to let our (2 months short of) 10 years old Alaskan Malamute girl go last February. She was diagnosed with a mammary carcinosarcoma in July 2018 so we had been facing down when her last day might be for a long time. The type she had is an aggressive cancer that doesn’t have any known effective treatment. We reached a point where we were struggling to get her to eat and although she was mostly her perky self she was clearly uncomfortable and we knew it was time. She was an amazing ambassador for her breed always happy and friendly. She even made a new friend of a police officer on the way into the vet’s office. I questioned if we were making the right decision right up until she was sedated, at that point you could tell her breathing was very labored and she had been hiding how bad she felt.
      You will make the right decision, trust your gut and your heart.

  15. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

    Has anyone here bought a car using Carvana? I’m curious about it. It seems too good to be true: the car is delivered to you, there’s no haggling, and the trade-in value that came back for my car was much higher than I would have guessed (though the prices for the cars they are selling are high, so perhaps those two things cancel out).

    On the flip side, I researched at least one car using the site that looked dubious. One 7-year-old car I saw had just 5,500 miles, and when I looked at the Carfax report, I saw that it had failed its emissions test five out of seven years. That would seem to indicate that the car was either heavily modified or is a lemon. There were a number of other cars with unusually low mileage and lots of changes in ownership.

    Not knowing anyone who has actually used Carvana, I’m not sure if those are red flags or just anomalies. Is this site something I should try when it comes time for me to seriously shop for a car?

    1. mreasy*

      I bought a car through Carvana in August and I loved it. I compared prices for the car I wanted with several local dealers, and found Carvana’s prices to be competitive. For my car (2018 fiat 500), they had a lot of inventory, I assume from rentals, as they were all white and had all the highest interior options, and all the cars were very low mileage with clean records & one owner. (Not sure about the pattern you’re seeing, which is odd!) I financed, which was also easy (BofA is a preferred partner and the rate they offered was better than my own bank), and after all the online paperwork, confirming down payment with my bank – all done in the comfort of my sofa! – I set a delivery date. They drove the thing to my home on a car carrier, I went for a short test drive, loved it, and we were done. The two annoying things: both the key fobs were out of batteries – though they overnighted me new batteries for them – and the car had no wiper fluid. Overall, I had a positive experience, which I admit I may feel particularly rosy about because I haven’t owned a car in nearly 20 years (live in NYC) and I’m quite happy about it!

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        Yes. That’s definitely giving me pause. It sounds like Carvana lets you have a pretty thorough test drive and trial period, but then if you don’t like the car and want to try another I imagine you have to start from zero. It sounds like it wouldn’t really replace having to go to a live dealership unless you’ve somehow already driven that model of car and you’re sure it’s what you want.

    2. KittyCardigans*

      I bought my car using Carvana last year. I’ve had no problems with my car (I test drove the model at real life dealerships, so I knew it was what I wanted) and the process was pretty easy financially. The car we got had been a lease, which seemed to be true with a lot of the ones we were looking at.

      The main thing that frustrated me about the process of actually GETTING the car is that they make it sound like it’s quick and easy—it really wasn’t that quick for me. First there was a mixup on Carvana’s end and they weren’t able to get the vehicle delivered to my area (I live in a decent-sized city that has one of the Carvana “vending machines,” so this surprised me), and then there was some other problem that I can’t fully remember, which resulted in them asking me to cancel and reschedule delivery. All the new delivery dates were a several weeks out. I ordered the car in mid-July, and Carvana was ONLY able to deliver it in late August, on a weekday, during the school day (I work at a school, so this is relevant). Because it was the first week of school and I couldn’t miss any of it to sit home waiting for a delivery driver, I ended up having to talk school security into letting me have the car delivered to campus. The delivery driver was super nice, and the paperwork was easy, but it was a stressful few weeks. The whole reason I was buying a car was that my previous one had gone kaput, and my area has limited walkability and pretty bad public transportation.

      My experience could’ve been a total fluke, but just be aware that that can happen.

      1. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

        Really useful to know. Thank you for sharing! Yes, it’s very possible or even likely that was a fluke, but that must have been really frustrating for you.

  16. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going? As usual, this thread is not limited to fiction writing.
    I am once again having that issue where I get really cool ideas for scenes and then am left wondering how in the world I’ll fit them into the story, if at all. Any advice on that?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Draft the scenes without forcing them into your current work, and let them sit for a few days. Or longer. If you don’t like what they’d do to your current work, put them aside for MUCH longer. They may turn out to be new chapters, sequels or prequels, or the germ of an entirely new book. They may have ‘just’ served to solidify an idea in something else.
      They might someday have enough companions to be your Silmarillion.

    2. OyHiOh*

      I have an IDEA

      AAM is my fifteen minutes of post breakfast fun before I start mapping out a big messy family and lots of point/counterpoint. Idea struck after I went to bed – almost got up to work it out then but decided that a really productive day today would be better than a couple hours of night time scribbling. Off I go!

    3. Laura H.*

      Little by little. Happily working so not as much time to write (read: stare at the mocking insertion point)

      Write them anyway. You may be able to use some of it later.

    4. DaisyAvalin*

      A friend and I keep tossing ideas at each other, for characters/situations within a fic-verse we share, and frankly, the pages I’m keeping of the notes from these convos are a: getting ridiculously long; and b: not actually helping me write the stories,b/c I keep getting more ideas!
      But I have been declared by Friend as Deputy Captain on this particular crackship, so we plow onwards!

    5. RagingADHD*

      Finished another first draft for work and the editor has it now.

      I really like the method I’ve been using this year for nonfiction, of doing rewrites from a transcript. I’ve been wanting to incorporate dictation into my fiction process, but was put off by the amount of editing a dictated draft needs.

      If I think of the dictation as source material for the first draft, rather than a draft on its own, that could get me over the hump.

    6. RagingADHD*

      For advice on random scenes, just write them out and worry about fitting them in later!

      Sometimes pre-writing is just character development for you to know them better, it may not belong in the book at all.

      Sometimes it’s a scene that actually belongs to different characters in a different story.

      And sometimes the plot takes a twist you weren’t aware of before, and you need those scenes after all.

      Never squelch your subconscious when it’s creating! It will dry up if you do.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Almost done with the worldbuilding I was doing; I think I’ll compile it into its own volume just in case I decide to write a prequel, or if any readers want to get it on its own.

      I submitted a story to a last-minute anthology but it didn’t make it in. I did get some good feedback, though. It wasn’t cheesy enough for what they wanted (no really, lol), so hopefully I can find it a home somewhere else, or maybe I’ll save it for another collection. The editor liked the ending, though, and I was unsure about it since I cranked it out so fast, so yay.

      Rejection is surprisingly not such a big deal anymore. I’m so used to it. I get rejected for every job I apply to, by everyone I’ve ever dated, and for everything I write. I’m used to being and getting nothing. I think if I actually sold something I’d freak the F out!

  17. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    As usual, this thread is not limited to video games or “real games” (whatever that term means – we don’t gatekeep here). Also feel free to ask for recommendations or for help tracking down a vaguely-remembered childhood favourite.
    I’m still continuing with Sherlock Holmes vs Arsène Lupin, hoping to get it finished soon.

    1. CatCat*

      We tried a new game called “Patchwork,” which was a lot of fun! It’s for 2 players, easy to learn, and quick.

      It’s a strategic quilting game, lol.

    2. WellRed*

      I’m not playing anything (not a game fan at all) , but my brother had a practically new CSI board game, which I kept so mom, aunt and I might play it over Christmas. We all like the tv show.

    3. HannahS*

      We’re enjoying Caper. It’s a good two person card-based game, based on the idea that you’re competing to have the best heist and steal art and treasures from major places in Europe.

    4. LQ*

      I’m going to try a recommendation request again though it’s a repeat from last week… I loved an iOS called GODUS. It’s a world exploring, building kind of game that had a fantastic feature where you sculped the world. I understand that there are blocky versions of this game, but I’m looking for one that has that incredibly smooth look rather than the super blocky look. Building up and down the land was entirely my favorite part of the game and so the blocky versions don’t appeal to me at all. The motion of like clearing away and building up the “land” so maybe it’s not a world game but something else entirely. I’m open to options!

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I looked it up quickly to confirm it was what I think it is, it seems to be a god game (makes sense, given the title). Maybe you could have a look at a game called Black and White, which is by the same designer (Peter Molyneux). Reus might also be a good one.

      2. fposte*

        I *loved* Godus. I still have it on my tablet. I’ll be interested to see answers, too. For me a huge part of the appeal was that the world was really lovely (Homeworld, anyway—Weyworld excited me less), so I enjoyed spending time there.

        1. LQ*

          100% agree about Homeworld! It was so visually lovely and I really did love the interactions. I’ve re-downloaded and started again a few times, but I would really like to see a new version or the next generation of this game. Glad there is someone else who liked this style.

    5. TextHead*

      I am playing Crash Bandicoot 4 and Control on console.

      A Kickstarter card game I supported called The North: Provenance just arrived yesterday so I’m hoping to play that soon!

    6. Jackalope*

      Our game night is temporarily cancelled, which I was super sad about, so I decided to play games by myself. I played Freecell (with an actual deck of cards, not on the computer!), and a solitary version of Pandemic. I haven’t been able to get anyone to play Pandemic with me this year, because they all felt it hits too close to home. I *totally* understand that, but for me it was more a chance to symbolically destroy the Pandemic and work some of my emotions out that way. (I found particular glee in destroying the yellow pandemic, which is drawn to look somewhat like the coronavirus.) I had NO issues with tweaking the rules to make it as likely as possible that I would win. (Spoiler alert: I did!)

      On a related note, does anyone have any ideas about games (board games, dice games, or card games) that I could get to play by myself? None of the other humans in my household are that into any of these things (the cats are fans of dice games, but… I don’t find them the best co-players), and especially if we’re going to have some time away from our regular game night, I would like to have the option of being able to play something by myself to scratch that itch.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I haven’t played it myself (it’s on my wishlist however) but if you don’t mind horror you could try Arkham Horror: The Card Game. It’s based on the Lovecraft mythos and can be played alone or with multiple people. Alternatively, you could have a look at those detective games where you get the case file and have to solve the murder. One that is popular in my part of the world is called Crimibox, but I don’t know about any in the US.

      2. CatCat*

        These are lengthy games, but you can drop off and resume them at your leisure:
        * Grimslingers. A dark fantasy old west adventure.
        * Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. You solve mysteries using a story/casebook, a map, and newspapers.

  18. Bobina*

    Gardening thread! Who’s doing what?

    Who is doing anything? I spent a lot of this week on the hunt for soil (not compost) and realised my unwillingness to drive is kind of a hindrance because delivery costs a lot more than the actual thing! I was looking for soil because I will be planting some grasses and hostas (I finally know what hosta’s are now after seeing people here mention them for ages!) and I want to put them in containers they will be in for a longer period of time and so ideally you need a soil based medium rather than just compost.

    Planted more of the bulbs last week, still have some to go (getting very late now) and realised that as a novice gardener who is doing everything in containers because I only have a patio – 50 bulbs is a lot more than you think! Had to raid the neighbourhood group chat/freecycle group to get more plastic pots after I ran out of the few large ones I had. I did however find a website that sells lots of beautiful larger colourful clay/terracotta/stone pots and am now trying to restrain myself from spending lots of money on them because my plants are all babies right now and dont need massive pots (yet!).

    I also bought some seeds and attempted sowing half a packet of heuchera which said they could be sown year round but apparently they are very finnicky so they may or may not germinate. Apparently special seed compost is also a thing that exists, but I couldnt be bothered buying that so just going to see what happens. I was reminded I am an extremely impatient person because I now keep checking everyday waiting to see if they are alive when apparently it can take up to 60 days (!) for germination.

    And in conclusion, my tomato plants are still going (!) although they are definitely starting to get a bit sad so either need some plant food or to just accept they’ve had a good life and this is the end. Final tomato count is about 5 for the year I think *sad trombone*.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m hoping to do some herbs inside, not sure when is good to start them or if I have a good place. The room where I can keep them safest from critters gets a bit of sun in the morning, then indirect light after about 11. Would I need a grow light to make that work?

      I’ve also recently discovered purple shamrocks (the leaves are a gorgeous dark purple, with lavender flowers) and I desperately want to try those this spring, probably in a pot. The internet tells me that when the frost comes I can bring them into my garage to go dormant and then put them back out again in the spring to wake back up.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        Ooh, I had a pot of oxalis that I lugged in and out for years! Until a few years ago when I forgot to bring it in…well, that happens! I loved the deep purple and lavender. This year I started a bay tree, which is now about 8″ tall and is living on my kitchen counter. It has enough leaves that I was able to pick a couple for making chicken soup. It tasted much better than the dried bay leaves from the store, so I hope I can keep it going. It’s not winter hardy in my zone so it will need to stay potted and spend its winters indoors.

      2. Natalie*

        If you’re starting from seed I think you’d need more light than that, but an already started plant might work. The specific herb will matter here too.

        If you’re really into the idea, those Aerogrow things are pretty amazing. Just be aware that the light is STRONG and will be on for many hours.

      3. CJM*

        Oh, I LOVE shamrocks! I’ve had several of both kinds (green and purple) for years now, and every March I buy a few more. They’re the only plant I collect.

        During the winter I put them on top of my tall china cabinet with a grow light, and they do pretty well there. (I’d keep them on a table if not for my cats, who decimate them.)

        A few of them aren’t super happy indoors and fade out by spring. But I don’t toss them; instead I wait until late May (after the frosts end where I live) and set them all outside on the edge of my pond. It’s partly sunny there, and every single one of them goes bananas. Their lovely flowers prove they’re thriving. By early fall they’re so lush and happy that I hesitate to bring them indoors and spoil their fun. But I always do, and we start the cycle again.

        1. Venus*

          They look like bulbs, so I think that they can easily go dormant over the winter and they do well in the spring. In other words I think this is a feature of the plant, not a problem, and you’re doing it right. It’s also okay to put them under grow lights and enjoy them all year, but in my experience that isn’t necessary.

    2. Filosofickle*

      I GREW SOMETHING FROM A SEED! Little parsley leaves have emerged! These are in an outdoor container. I have only minimal success with houseplants and haven’t tried gardening before. Herbs seemed like the most useful and simple thing to try.

      Also have a new indoor basil plant that I’m having a hard time giving the right amount of water to — advice says soak it, but when I tried more-water-less-often i lost stems to rot from over-watering. (Or I think that’s what happened.) So back to lighter watering more frequently and going on instinct the best I can. When it wilts a little, it gets water.

      Plants are hard. I’d love to grow dahlias but that feels above my skill level.

      1. Reba*

        Growing from seed is so cool, isn’t it?

        Re: watering, you may have the plant in a pot that’s too large for its size, or the soil may not be draining quickly enough. In those cases, when you soak it as is generally correct, the pot will be left holding too much water for the size of the plant/roots, i.e. more water than the plant can use. I feel like directions for watering don’t usually account for the plant/pot size/soil type relationship!

        Since basil is pretty magical in its ability to bounce back from dryness, I think your plan to watch it for signs to water is just right.

        1. Filosofickle*

          It is!
          Sounds like basil can tolerate some dryness, that’s good to know. It’s in the pot it came in (with holes) and it doesn’t seem to trap water but who knows. I have a good track record for keeping things alive but not necessarily thriving.

      2. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

        I thought my raspberry bushes were bonkers when they put out new blossoms in November… and they probably were, since they are still struggling to ripen most of the berries. (NC, zone 7b).

        Now, one of my blackberry bushes has joined in on the madness – just last week it pushed out a dozen or so flowers after doing absolutely nothing all season. I was disappointed to get no berries since it was supposed to be a primocane-fruiting variety (Prime Ark Freedom), but I did some research and there are some reports that that variety behaves like a regular floricane-fruiting berry when summer temperatures get hot (which, uh, they did). So now I’m just keeping an amused eye on them as they develop.

        Of course, it was 70 degrees this weekend and the coming week will have highs in the 60s so… I mean… maybe the plants know something I don’t?

    3. CTT*

      I am hoping to get to the nursery this week to buy some pots and soil. I was cutting back my pothos and decided to try propagating the cuttings, and they’re ready for potting! I’m planning on giving one to my mom, and then I’m going to ask a few people at work if they would like one (I feel like giving a plant, while not quite like getting a pet as a gift, involves enough responsibility for the recipient that I don’t want to spring it on them if they don’t any it).

    4. Natalie*

      Has anyone kept fittonia inside? I really like how it looks and I can keep it alive for some months, but we’re always fighting a hydration battle. We have a humidifier in our HVAC system, so our indoor air is not overly dry, yet it still struggles. I’m not sure if I should try a humidity tray or just go all out to a terrarium.

      1. Bobina*

        Oooh. Those are really pretty plants.

        One thing I saw recently (when looking up growing seeds actually) was just to place plants in a clear plastic bag if you want to control/increase the humidity a bit more. Could try that for a bit and see if it helps? Alternatively when looking them up a local website said misting regularly or putting them in a bathroom/kitchen which would typically get a bit more steamy if thats an option?

    5. Roy G. Biv*

      I just planted 30 giant crocus bulbs last week when my Northern state had an unseasonably warm day. I hope to have lots of purple crocuses poking up through the last of the snow in a few months.

  19. SadFace*

    I am feeling sad about aging. I’m almost 36. How can I still feel beautiful when I don’t look 21 anymore? This is the first time in my life I’ve noticed that I have really aged. I am engaged but not married yet, and I feel heartbroken that I will look like an old bride. Any advice on how to feel better about my looks, please lay them on me.

    1. mreasy*

      Hi! I’m 40 and got married at 36. You will be a gorgeous bride! Nobody is expecting you to be a girl of 21, your family and friends just want to see YOU feeling lovely and having a magical day.

      It may be a bit cliche, but the things that make me feel and look my best are: sleeping 8+ hours a night, drinking TONS of water (honestly the best thing you can do for your skin), the best skincare I can afford (I’m at Kiehls level, not Drunk Elephant level – but I also recently started Curology which is super affordable and hello prescription strength retinoids!!), exercise, and eating a lot of veggies, since beta carotene and other phytonutrients make your skin glow. I also have a ton of mental health issues and don’t feel good a lot of the time! But at least my skin usually looks good lol. Have I considered Botox for the number 11 on my forehead? Sure, let’s be realistic. But I only think of it once in awhile.

      I also recommend as much therapy as you can afford! That should probably be the number one recommendation honestly, and is a safe bet for everyone. Good luck – I hope you’re able to work through these feelings and I hope that when you’re able to have your wedding safely, it’s a phenomenal experience.

      1. Workerbee*

        While true, that is the kind of perspective you typically get after you’ve passed through it, though. We’re inundated with a lot of crap about being ‘less than’ that’s geared toward aging that is also hard to kick free of unless you consciously do it or have been guided to do so from a young age.

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t know, it sounds like SadFace is already experiencing some of that, looking back on 21 from their current age. Obviously nobody gets younger, so really there’s no time like the present to work on cultivating a different attitude towards aging.

          1. Workerbee*

            Ah, very true.

            I often think, if getting older/aging were really so horrible, nobody would do it! There are always compensations even if we can’t see or understand them until we get there.

        2. Zooey*

          The thing that helped me with this is remembering how I felt about myself at different periods of my life. Like when I was 21, a lot of the time I was dissatisfied with my appearance. Now I’m 40 I look back at photos of that time and realise that was insecurity and I looked great. And then I imagine how 60 year old me will think looking at my age 40 photos. It helps me value what I have now.

          As I’ve gotten older I’ve spent more time and attention on caring for myself and my appearance- that helps a lot.

          I was a 36 year old bride and as I’d been engaged in my 20s (but that relationship didn’t work out) I did get some similar twinges of not being a young bride. But then by the time I had chosen a wedding look that I loved that passed. I was so happy on my wedding day I looked radiant. One thing that was worth it for me though was paying for a good professional photographer. We had some photos from a friend as well who is a good hobbyist and one thing it made me realise is that when you get a professional you’re paying for them to do the work of filtering out all the unflattering photos! The quality from our friend was good but he didn’t have the eye for things like ‘the bride’s head is at a funny angle’ whereas in the professional photos we look good in every shot. My only regret from my wedding day is not paying for a full rather than half day package- it seemed like too extravagant but it would have been worth it!

        1. Maggie*

          I’ve been having some similar thoughts and I found it helpful. It helps with perspective. Am I sad about some aspects of aging? Yep. Is aging much much better than the alternative? Hell yeah!

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      At 51, I agree with Mr easy that sleep, water, and good skincare make a difference! I follow the same skin regimen as my late grandmother, who always looked much younger than her real age. Wash your face morning and night with Ivory soap. In the morning, use witch hazel for toner, then a moisturizer with sunscreen. At night, Ivory, witch hazel, and ponds cold cream. She also swore by counting her blessings several times a day. It kept her from frowning, which is where those lines come from.

    3. DistantAudacity*

      You’ll be great :-)

      The thing to realize is that your beauty routine may need an update, if you have one. For reference, I’m 48.

      My experience – YMMV, everyone is different, obvs, aka Things No-one Told Me About:
      Things start getting drier:
      – I suddenly got the point about hair masks!
      – Also what those heavier body lotions were about
      – Different face creams
      – A lot has happened on the foundation front – what worked before does not give me a boost now
      – I get a nice little oomf from those brightening sheet face masks (favourite is from Soap and Glory)
      – Make-up application tweaks

    4. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      The absolute best skin care choices are wearing at least spf 30 sunscreen everyday and using a retinol at night. After that, vitamin C is 3rd in line.

      Hydration, good diet, not smoking (very important), moisturizer, and minimizing alcohol will all help your skin also.

      But I am sure you look lovely and this angst is unnecessary. Do you look at your friends and think they look old? No? They aren’t doing it to you either.

      And if it’s really about the wedding, good makeup artist and good photographer are all you need.

    5. Workerbee*

      This may not be what you’re looking for—

      My advice would be along the lines of taking a sincere, unvarnished look at all the damaging societal and cultural messages about aging. When I did, I came to realize that it comes down to making people feel that they need to spend $$ on products and efforts to be considered worthy. And that made me angry. How dare they?

      Once you start seeing that beauty is treated as a commodity and that someone is making money off your emotions, you start to see that there really is no one-time-only “in your prime,” or real rules for living your life as the best you at age X, or that you aren’t beautiful at the age you are. It’s just simply not true.

      It’s hard to get that out of your head! It starts on us as children. And we’re surrounded not only by strangers eager to keep us down but friends and family who are also victims of the same indoctrination (I don’t use these words lightly). Maliciously intended or not, the effect is the same.

      So I wish I could magically grant you peace all at once, but please know you’re not alone in this, and that all along, your beauty has been shining through and will continue. The trick is to believe it.

      And congratulations on your engagement!

      1. another scientist*

        I was thinking something similar. It sounds like you personally corelate youth with beauty, which is probably in line with whatever culture you are exposed to. The human brain loooves familiarity; what were used to seeing looks good to us (once dubbed the Heidi Klum effect).
        You could try to pay more attention to whether the tv channels you watch/magazines you read tend to show you a very narrow sliver of what women look like and from there seek out more variation in your visual diet. It will shift your perspective.

    6. Holly the spa pro*

      Hi, im 35 so i def feel your pain. I swear these fine lines didnt develop at all, i just woke up one day and here they were.

      Everyone here had good advice but i totally second hydration and a good skin care regimen (good doesnt necessarily mean expensive but that definition will be different for all). If you are new to the skin care world, seeing an esthetician is a great start. Having someone look at your skin and make recommendations can be less intimidating than trial and error since everyone’s skin needs are different. I like using my monthly facial to do treatments i cant do myself at home (my personal fav is dermaplaning) and then have a good skin care routine i use in between

      I found that after 30 i really needed to adjust some make up techniques and that helped me look younger. If you wear makeup and find you are getting lots of creasing around the eyes or fine lines, i highly recommend a good primer. If you are getting crepe-y eyelids or a little drooping with the hoods, steer towards mattes over shimmers.

      Also keep in mind that no one will scrutinize your looks or notice these changes as much as you will. I know thats not a huge comfort but worth mentioning.

    7. nep*

      Sounds like blah blah blah, but inner peace and really being good with all aspects of oneself, warts and all, is what’s going to make you glow. No matter what our ages, we’ll never look as young as we looked 15 years ago. I hear you–I used to get attention for being physically attractive; I’m now invisible (at best). But I truly find that all goes better, and people seem to react more positively to me (which might be just my attitude projecting) when I’m feeling good in my skin and at peace with myself.
      What helps both physically (brighter eyes, smoother skin) and just feeling better all around: Ample sleep (huge), lots of water, regular exercise, argan oil for my face/neck.

      1. mreasy*

        Oh man, I was exhausted and unhealthy and pale and bloated and sweaty in my 20s (at least looking at pics now) – I feel I look much better now! I don’t think it’s a given that everyone looked “better” when they were younger. Many people benefit from a little age, losing baby fat on the face…a look of a little more wisdom is attractive on most.

    8. bunniferous*

      Hi, 62 year old here.

      What you are experiencing is a stage to go through. However from my perspective it is just a stage. Occasionally I miss my lost youth but I like how I look just fine at my age and you will too. Youth has its perks but I feel I did not come into my own till I hit my 40s.

      1. nep*

        I’ve got my struggles, but I wouldn’t go back to being in my 20s and 30s right now. I did a lot of really stupid things (not that I do zero stupid things now), and I’m a lot more at peace and far less easily flustered/fazed.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      How do you feel about you? Are you proud of yourself? Do you feel that you have tried your best given your givens at most things? Do you think your life still holds opportunities?

      What is the old saying- women hit their prime at 40, men hit their prime at 18?

      Aging isn’t all about face and hair. It’s about self-care, eating whole foods, hydration, rest and even a half-baked attempt at exercise will give you some benefit. What are you doing to grow your mind, grow your skills, develop new interests?

      It’s interesting to me that we worry about our looks at our weddings and then the wheels fall off. A wedding is a moment, a marriage is a life time. Why so much focus on a moment when what really matters is what we do over our life span.

      Honestly, if you don’t like how you look on your wedding day then take less pictures. I don’t photograph well. A relative took pictures for me. One roll of film got lost. The other roll I got developed and I NEVER look at the pictures. Never. A wedding is a moment it’s not the sum total of life. How we look does not matter. How we treat our spouses and how they treat us over the long haul IS what actually matters.

      For the most part, brides tend to drag in second opinions, this can look like dress advice, help with hair and make up, etc. Some go as far as reviewing proper etiquette so they can feel socially graceful.

      Last: Decide to feel pretty. Lead with your heart and your love for your other half and your family. If you are thinking about how much you love these people and how much they mean to you, then our sense of connectedness can stabilize and it is easier to see the beauty in our own selves.

      1. nep*

        Wow. This is so spot on and beautiful. Thanks, Not So NewReader. I’m going to copy and paste this one and keep it handy.

    10. HannahS*

      Throwing some thoughts out there: Beauty is subjective and it changes as we change; beauty looks different on different people and that’s how it should be; all brides are beautiful because they’re happy. Being 21 is great (…or so I hear; I didn’t enjoy it much) but so is being 36. Do you like who you are as a person? I bet your fiance(e) does! Do you like where you are in life? Would you have wanted to meet your partner at 21? Were you ready to get married then? I wasn’t. If I’d met my husband at 21, I wouldn’t have recognized that we would be great partners to each other (or…in plainer words, I would’ve thought that he partied too much and he would’ve thought I was very small-c conservative and we wouldn’t have been interested in dating each other). Maybe you were raised to believe that the ideal age to get married was 21. But it’s not. You are right on track in your own life. 36 is a wonderful age to get married. So is 40! So is 90. Love is beautiful, always, at any age.

      1. HannahS*

        Also, like, it’s ok to feel sad that you didn’t get married earlier. I feel that. I get looking at people who are younger and feeling envious that they get to have that thing that you wanted when you were that age. Mourning that reality is healthy and normal and fine and can coexist with being really gloriously happy that you now have that thing.

      2. Jackalope*

        Yeah, I met my now-husband in our late 30s and we got married at 40. Given what I know of his past, as well as having lived through my life, we wouldn’t have worked out well together when we were younger, because we were going very different directions that ended up growing closer to the same path as we got older. When we got married I definitely didn’t look the way I would have at 20, but I found options that worked for me (and I will say that I felt a lot more freedom to buck tradition and go with what I liked than I would have at 21; for example, I look awful in white, but having been raised to be very religious, I would have been afraid at a younger age to go with something else for fear that people thought it meant I wasn’t a virgin. At 40 I just shrugged, figured people would think whatever they wanted to, and got a dress that was mostly a different color [although it had some white on it as an accent]. Neither of us cared about flowers that much so I felt free not get any except for bouquets, since I kind of liked those. And so on).

        And seconding what Hannah says above about being happy you’re getting married now and also sad that you didn’t get to marry when you were younger. It’s okay to have mixed feelings about having had to wait! As I said above, I don’t think my husband and I would have clicked had we met in our 20s, and I’m happy we met when we did. At the same time, a couple who are among my best friends met when she was 18 and he was 20, got married a few years later, and have been together 20 happy years now. Assuming we all live to be around the same age, they will always have had almost 20 years more of life together than my husband and I will have. That does make me sad sometimes, since I’m so fond of him and wish we could have more time together.

        1. AY*

          I am 34, got married (over facetime) earlier this year, and will have some sort of reception or party in 2021. I remember being so sad at weddings in my early 20s because I wasn’t even approaching a serious relationship at that time. But I wasn’t ready, and my husband certainly wouldn’t have been ready if we had met back then! I’m so grateful that we found each other at the right time.

      3. Generic Name*

        I have a similar sense of sadness about not marrying my husband earlier. Mostly because I wish I had more time with him (and less time with my first husband), but that’s not how my life worked out.

    11. Reba*

      I definitely think that getting ready for a wedding brings up lots of *stuff* — how we feel about ourselves, our path in life, our “value.” Like any big step, it’s a great moment to reflect. It sounds like, for you, it is bringing up some sense of regret or self-punishing thoughts, and I hope you can spend some time doing pleasurable physical activity and thinking self-loving thoughts about your body and face.

      Wrinkles and sun damage are signs of the life experiences you have had, bringing you to now!

      I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious, because while I accept my white hairs, I do not yet accept my wrinkles and use a retinol cream to fight them :)

      You WILL be a beautiful bride. By definition, all brides are beautiful! When you are loved and filled with joy, not much else matters.

      In thinking about how you want to look for the wedding, I’d consider if you have any signature elements to your look or features you like, and think about celebrating those rather than hiding the perceived flaws. For example, for me I love bright lipstick, so my look was just that, mascara and a clean/powdered face.

      I think a nice and sustainable skincare routine is the way to go. Other women i know who put themselves through more intense processes (Accurate, chemical peels) leading up to weddings or other big events have ended up feeling like that wasn’t worth it.

      1. Reba*

        Agree with what a lot of comments are suggesting: 36-year-old, grown-ass-woman beauty is quite different from bouncy 21-year-old beauty! And that’s good.

        I wonder if it would be therapeutic for you to look at some pictures and videos of mature beauty, or just like, beauty blogs by 30s and older women?

      2. Reba*

        Want to add, i agree with a lot of the comments here and want to pull out an emerging theme — 36-year-old, aka grown-ass woman beauty is different from bouncy 21-year-old beauty. And that’s a good thing!

        I wonder if it would be therapeutic to try to get some images of beautiful diverse mature women on your internet feed/in front of your eyeballs and expand your sense of beauty, ideally making more to for yourself that definition.

    12. can relate*

      I was engaged at 23, we split up, and I got married at 31 and I did not look like 8 years before so I know what you mean. The thing I always think is how my friends don’t even seem to age to me – a lot of them I’ve known for many years, and I still see them as they were in high school and can imagine others may feel that way about you! If you’re happy on your wedding day that’s all people will see.

    13. NRG*

      I got married at 42. I’m now in my 50s, and at some point you just have to accept your age. Meanwhile, wear sunscreen even if you are relatively dark skinned, and take care of your joints.

    14. Wishing You Well*

      There’s no such thing as an old bride. This state of joy knows no age. The most effective beauty treatment for a woman or man is self-confidence; it makes you glow. You can look younger without spending any money, though: The most youthful look is a smile. Seriously. Next, make sure you’re standing up straight. Too many people are hunched over these days. Doing these 2 things will make you FEEL better as well as look better.
      Every bride is beautiful.
      Mazel Tov!

    15. Generic Name*

      I got married when I was 21. I was a size 2. My husband at the time was similarly young and handsome. I divorced that guy (turns out 21 is pretty damn young to be getting married), and I recently married the love of my life. I’m now 41 and like 20 lbs heavier. I absolutely love my wedding photos. Do I look like a model or even “young”? Absolutely not. But I love my photos because I can see how deeply in love we are.

      I think your eye has become calibrated to the media-created image of what brides are supposed to look like. I’m sure you know that not only are the girls in the magazines professionally made up and photoshopped, but sometimes they are actual girls. As in underage minors. I remember in high school one of the girls in my school appeared in a Brides Magazine ad wearing a wedding dress. She was 14.

      I suggest you put down the bridal mags and look at wedding photography sites on the internet. Offbeat Bride is a great place to start. They show brides of all ages and shapes and sizes. The photos are absolutely gorgeous and honestly, I think every bride looks awesome.

    16. Not A Manager*

      You will never be a beautiful 21 year old again. I’m sorry but this is true. But you can be a beautiful 36 year old, and later in life a beautiful whatever-age-you are.

      People age. Just as the activities and life experiences that are appropriate for people in their 20s are different from those for people in their 60s, a handsome face and a healthy body look different also. When you think of “a thriving human life,” you don’t pin that to one age (I hope!). You know that everything has its time. But in our society, when people think about beauty, they tend to think that there is only one beautiful female and she looks about 16 years old.

      Look at images of men and women that you find beautiful at all different stages of life, and think about why the 65 year old woman looks beautiful to you. My guess is that it will partly be because of physical attributes, but also partly because of her facial expression and how she carries herself, and if you know her personally then she might look beautiful to you because you like or love her.

      I think that if you aspire to be a beautiful 36 year old bride, instead of some imaginary 21 year old, you will find a way in.

    17. Stephanie*

      I’m sure you’re lovely! But yeah, I’m around your age (34) and can get realizing you look a little older. I went gray early (like started getting grays in high school) and it was just like a couple of distinctive streaks, but now it’s veering into straight up salt and pepper territory.

      I’d say obviously your soon-to-be spouse thinks you’re lovely. But I’d maybe step back and look at a lot of the messages around aging and beauty. Not sure if you’re in the US, but if you are, a lot of marketing and media is aimed to glorify a certain type of Eurocentric youth. Especially for women, we’re socialized to assume that our currency is youth and beauty. I think maybe acknowledging that you’re being primed that This One Magic Cream will make you feel youthful again may be driving some of this. Also, all the other things commenters have suggested like drinking enough water, sleeping well, etc help.

    18. Jean (just Jean)*

      Mazel Tov! There’s no expiration date for the happiness of marrying someone you love who loves you.
      I have little to add to the wisdom already contributed here. I’ll just underline the part about being at peace with yourself and your path through life. A person at mid-life (and 36 is just the very tippy tip of mid-life, which runs for almost 30 years, through mid-60s) has begun to reckon with and accept herself and her path as they are, not as they wish they were. In practical terms, mid-life confidence means believing that we are able to handle whatever comes along without falling apart completely or permanently. We may not be as slender or glowing, or a graduate of Harvard Law School, or the director of an amazingly effective nonprofit organization, but we can suss out and avoid a bad-for-me friend/coworker/significant other, we can comfort ourself or someone else through illness or bereavement, and we can wear our neat, clean, well-accessorized, thrifted outfit into any situation without feeling less than someone who purchased everything yesterday at Ye Olde Expensive Department Store. We face life with a smile and wear our physical signs of aging as signs of character.

      P.S. it’s okay to edit some of those signs of aging without feeling like you’ve “sold out.” Makeup and hair color are not for me but they look good on other people. Someone above posted about having white hair and fighting her wrinkles. There’s a mid-point between doing nothing and doing everything like one of the long-ago Hollywood movie stars.

    19. RagingADHD*

      Feelings, thoughts, and body are all interconnected. When one is out of whack it screws up the others, but the good news is that you can improve one by addressing the others.

      Body: get some fresh air, exercise, good nutrition, water, and sleep. Tend the animal. This will improve your mood and your thoughts about yourself.

      Mind: Challenge your thoughts and what inputs you’re consuming. I’m going to posit a string of questions to do this. I know a lot of question marks can read as aggressive, but that’s not my intent. I’m not interrogating, I’m suggesting avenues for you to explore for yourself.

      Do you actually think the value of human lives, particularly women, is based on looking 21? Do you think every other woman you know or admire stopped being beautiful when she became fully mature and aware of herself? Do you have friends your age who are beautiful?

      How old were you when your mom was 36? Did you think she was beautiful? Did she?

      Why do you suppose society upholds immaturity and inexperience as “beauty?” Whose interests does that serve?

      What does it even mean to be an “old bride”? Do you believe you should have gotten married on a particular schedule and now you’re “late?” If you wanted to get married earlier, why didn’t that happen?

      Is it possible your feelings about the way you look/your age might be proxies for your feelings about those reasons or circumstances? If so, what happens if you address those feelings directly?

      Do you spend a lot of time consuming media that emphasizes immaturity as beauty? What positive do you believe that adds to your life?

      Do you feel beautiful and valued by your fiance? Is there a way they could affirm or reassure your attractiveness to them?

      Whose voice do you hear in your head telling you that you look old, or that you aren’t beautiful because of your age? It might be a childhood/family influence, or media you consumed, etc. Do you actually respect that person’s opinion? Do you want them to control the way you feel about yourself? Do you think they were speaking the objective truth? Are they a positive influence?

      A happy bride is a beautiful bride. Are you happy about your relationship, the wedding planning, getting married in general? Are any of these a source of stress? Is it possible this stress is making you feel down on yourself?

      Changing our ingrained assumptions and self-criticism is a long process. It’s extremely worth it. If you engage in it, I’m sure you will find more questions on your own.

      I wish you the best for your marriage & happiness.

    20. Double A*

      I’m 37. I got married at almost 34. I look back at pictures when I was younger and the ones where I think I look great I’m wearing make up, hair looks good, the lighting is good etc. Pictures of me camping or whatever I don’t look great, though I don’t really care because that’s not the point. Thing is, the same is still true. I clean up just as good as I used to, and I still look just as blah on my state of nature as always. So really, what’s changed? Nothing really. I’m 30 lbs heavier than I was in my 20s but I don’t actually think my body looked better or worse, just a bit different. I’m much stronger all over now which I like a lot.

      I guess I’m lucky that I grew up in northern California where women aging naturally is the norm. So gray hairs, no plastic surgery, etc. So I’m not bothered by gray hairs or extra flab or wrinkles.

      As a woman you can spend your whole life wishing for a different body/face/hair/whatever unless you decide not to. Societal conditioning is tough but it’s also BS so treat it as such.

    21. Michaela*

      I’m your age, started getting fine lines around 27, started on Lancôme Genifique serum as a sample when the stuff I was using as a teenager was discontinued. The fine lines went away and didn’t come back. I’ve heard good things about other serums too, so give it a shot.

      I was an unpopular, unattractive teenager, where my main gift was intelligence. It held me in good stead, since I’ve never put much stock in my appearance anyway, other facets of me were always more defining. Suggest to explore what defines you in ways other than your appearance.

      And considering my expensive skin care suggestion, vanity still holds some sway with me, just nowhere near the level of heartbroken.

    22. SadFace*

      Omg thank you so much to everyone for taking the time to write me such amazing, beautiful, poignant things. I have happy tears in my eyes and am going to really take a look at retinol LOL. Thank you for the pieces that really related and examined that “ucky feeling” with wisdom. I am grateful.

    23. NaoNao*

      Youthful beauty isn’t the only beauty. It is hard for women who were/are conventionally beautiful at a younger age to accept aging and it grates on me when people are like “you’re young still!” okay, but that invalidates your very real feelings. I was just “pretty” on my best days at 21 and when I see my 21 year old face in my passport photo now, 20 years later, I think “wow, I would KILL for that face!”

      …and I was unhappy with it then. Don’t wish away your happiness now. When you’re older, you’ll long for your 30-something face!

      My advice is to pick an area that matters to you and spend money, time and effort there. Is it hair, makeup, skin, body, etc? I don’t suggest chasing “youthfulness” as that’s a slippery slope but within reasonable bounds, perhaps consider dialing up the skin care, getting an absurdly expensive hair cut, revamping the wardrobe, etc. I’m not as fresh as a daisy pretty now but I have the money and experience to project gravitas and mature beauty with my professional hair cut and color, my eyelashes I treat with expensive serum, and my $$$ flattering and comfortable wardrobe.

      1. RagingADHD*

        That’s a good point about it being harder on women who were conventionally pretty.

        I was a homely kid and although I look back now and think I was beautiful in my 20s, I was awkward and kind of a mess. I certainly didn’t feel beautiful until my 30s. So it was a bit easer to view it as a thing separate from my identity.

    24. Observer*

      You don’t look like you are 21, but that is NOT the same as you don’t look good.

      The single most important tip to look really good is to not try to look like you are 21. If you want to look bad (and older than you are) keep trying to dress like you are 21. If you want to look good, focus on where you are now, and dress for that.

      The second most important tip is to focus on what is comfortable, appropriate and flattering to YOU. For instance, it doesn’t matter if black is THE color of the season – if black makes you look like a ghost, don’t wear it.

      More fundamentally, and in a sense, the precursor to implementing these tips is reframing the whole situation. Youth and physical beauty are totally not synonymous. And beauty is really not only about physical looks anyway. This is one of the reasons why so many people look so much prettier or so much less pretty in their photographs than when you see them. The other things – the way you feel about yourself and your life, your character and personality, the way you carry yourself etc. – all make an ENORMOUS difference in how you actually appear to people. And none of those really have a positive correlation with age.

  20. Elf*

    Inspired by something that happened in last week’s open thread: what are some experiences you’ve had where you felt really unseen in your identity?

    For example, situations as a woman (or black/gay/etc person) where you thought “They would never have said that to a man (person from the majority identity)” or where you were describing such an experience to others and were met with skepticism that the experience was real/as described/actually indicative of societal or personal bias.

    Bonus points if the situation you are describing involves well-meaning people that you like.

    1. Femme d'Afrique*

      Well, I’m not sure if this counts, but when I went to college in the US I had several professors who would routinely correct my written and spoken English. Thing is, I’m from a former British colony so I was used to writing UK English (colour, realise etc). I made the corrections because I figured, “this is an American institution so I’ll adapt.” No big deal.

      Until my first biology class: the professor routinely corrected my pronunciation: I’d say “INtesTINES” she’d correct me: “inTESTins.” That’s when I noticed that she didn’t correct this other student, an American who’d grown up in England. Apparently THAT student’s accent and pronunciation were “charming.” I also discovered that her usage of UK English on her papers was acceptable in a way that mine wasn’t.

      I guess being an African meant that my spelling was wrong, perhaps because English isn’t my mother tongue? (Never mind that I’d been reading and writing English since I was 3.) It was… interesting.

      1. 2QS*

        This is very much a thing! Rosina Lippi Green writes about it a lot – southern British accents have a ton of prestige, and get respect especially when they are used by white people. Anyone else (especially racialized people or others from groups without the upper hand in terms of social power) are frequently treated like they’re doing language wrong or are supposedly unintelligible, regardless of their accent.

        1. Femme d'Afrique*

          I’m not surprised to learn that this is a thing! My race and place of origin were definitely a factor. I kept being told I “didn’t sound African” (??). And that’s when people weren’t asking 1. Where I learnt English and 2. asking me to say something “in African.” It was quite an experience.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Something similar used to happen to a Senegalese classmate of mine in our high school French class. Our teacher would always try to correct his pronunciation (never the white students), and he would shut her down with a, “French is my native language. You learned it in college in the U.S. YOU’RE pronouncing it wrong – don’t correct me.” They would argue for a good 10 minutes or so, she’d turn beat red every time, but would eventually cave and move the class along.

        It was epic watching him handle that mess.

        1. Observer*

          Was this teach competent at all? I mean, arguing with a student for 10 minutes is not a good look to start with, but I could see it. Doing it repeatedly? That’s bad. Repeatedly trying to insist that a native language speaker is mispronouncing their native language? Utterly ridiculous – ESPECIALLY when you’ve only learnt the language as an adult!

          This teacher’s racism is something that should have been a major red flag for the school administration. But since it is possible to play this as not being about racism (yeah, I know, not likely!) I could see a school administration preferring to hide their heads in the sand, especially if they were racist themselves. The sheer incompetence of the behavior, though, and the amount of wasted class time is blatant enough that it’s hard to see how you ignore it.

    2. Helvetica*

      My “favourite” such interaction was a couple of years ago. I was then working on security/defence policy issues and attended my grandboss’s (who was a man) meeting with another Very Important man who was also a Vice Admiral. There were 10 people in the meeting and I was attending as an expert. I was also the only woman, in the room, and I was under 30. Before we started, the Vice Admiral’s adjutant came up to me and started asking a lot of practical questions about the agenda, logistics, etc, which I had nothing to do with. So I just gave him a puzzled look, pointed to another man in a similar role to his and said “Oh, he’s the one you should ask.” And I loved the look on his face when my grandboss introduced me as The Expert and pointed to me junior male colleague as the one who will be taking notes.
      I think others might give the adjutant benefit of the doubt but he very clearly asked me because I was the only young woman and what else could I be than a secretary/note taker? Similar things happened a lot when dealing with the military or generally in defence which is very male-heavy and I just learned to hold my own.

    3. Bella*

      I’ve described how shitty/, uncomfortable it’s been getting randomly hit on throughout my life, typically by older guys probably 20 years older than me, sometimes married, where it started out as friendly acquaintance thing (small talk outside the apartment or when we were volunteering together weekly at a nonprofit– and then a creepy “you’re beautiful” comment later and there it goes).
      He basically thinks that men encounter this too, since he’s been hit on by colleagues before, for example, and it’s not as creepy as I think it is. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like it’s way more common/creepy with women, just because of the “you could be raped” part.

    4. Black Horse Dancing*

      I twitch every time someone finds out I’m gay and states ” I’d never guess! You don’t look like a lesbian!” Like, seriously? And many times these are people I like/ co workers I get along with. Also, when I try to describe the damage religion has done to me and others like me. I usually just get an uh huh/ or “It wasn’t that bad”.

    5. Bobina*

      Ugh. I remember having a long conversation complaining about sexism and unwanted men hitting on me to a good male friend of mine years ago, and he tried to go all rules lawyer-y/dissmissive/victim blamey on me and I was just so frustrated and disappointed. I know he’s gotten a lot better over time (and with marriage) but sometimes conversations like those really stick with you regardless how good of a person someone is otherwise.

    6. needtobeanonforthis*

      It happens to me often and it is very frustrating. I wrote and then rewrote a number of replies, but they all ended up being long and complicated.
      So I’ll try to stick with something short.
      I’m mixed race, I have a black mother. I was telling an Asian American acquaintance about racial harassment that my mom has faced throughout her life and this acquaintance responds, “But she has a masters.” As if having a degree would somehow protect you from racial discrimination.
      This same person desperately wants a kid. I was raised by a single parent and I have a lot of experience with children myself, and I told her that being a single parent is hard work. Her response, “You don’t have kids, you don’t know.” I mean, I was raised by a single parent! I got to see things play out every day of my life!

      At work, I’ve had to deal with a coworker picking apart my work and implying that my writing sounded off because I wasn’t American. (Spoiler alert…I am American!) This coworker even asked me about my racial background at work in front of our team. I related this and other incidents to the acquaintance above and was told that my work quality must be poor and what I experienced definitely wasn’t harassment. I’d detailed on a number of occasions how I’d been able to back up the quality of my work with facts and that the other coworker was being nit-picky, yet according to the acquaintance, I was in the wrong for not getting along better.

      I’ve had so many of these kinds of things happen that I just give up talking about my experiences with most people. I know that not all of my friends are like that, but when the response to your truthful statement is basically, “I wasn’t there, but that didn’t happen,” it wears you down. Being asked for minute details in order to prove that I’m not looking for attention also gets frustrating.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        And you’re associating with that acquaintance because…? She’s being willfully obtuse and gaslighting you about your lived experiences. Leave that problematic woman behind in 2021.

        1. needtobeanonforthis*

          I did take that step earlier this year. I have known this person for over a decade, and I’ve spent a decade carefully explaining that graduating from a good university doesn’t guarantee anyone a good job or respectful colleagues. A decade explaining that things are harder when you don’t have extended family you can turn to for help when times get tough. And it’s all gone in one ear and out the other.

          The city I grew up in prides itself on being very liberal and progressive, yet my mom was met with a lot of, “That doesn’t happen here” when she would point out instances of racial discrimination. I became so accustomed to well-meaning people talking down to and over me and my family that with this person it was just more of the same. Meeting people who didn’t automatically jump to invalidate me has been a real eye-opener.

    7. Flower necklace*

      I once got told I’m Japanese. I’m not. Neither are/were my parents (one has passed). I’m actually mixed race. My father was Japanese-American, but only one of his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Japan. For various reasons, I look Japanese. However, I wasn’t close with my grandparents growing up. We lived far away from them, and it wasn’t easy to stay in touch in the days before the internet. My dad didn’t have close ties to his Japanese heritage, either, because his mother was eager to assimilate into American culture (I suspect due to trauma from WWII).

      Despite explaining all of this to a group of otherwise lovely people, I was still told that this makes me Japanese.

    8. lazy intellectual*

      Pretty much any time I’m talking to a white man – even a supposedly “liberal” man. Actually a lot of “woke” white liberals in general. They get A LOT wrong when trying to speak on behalf of minorities.

      SomethingI’ve found really frustrating lately (mostly from what I read on Twitter) is that a lot of white liberals seem to dismiss the experiences of first generation Americans (Americans with immigrant parents who grew up in the US.) They conflate their experiences with that of the immigrants themselves who grew up in their home countries. While it is definitely important to understand immigrants themselves, I’ve had liberal ignore/dismiss me when I’ve pointed out ways my views might differ from someone who grew up in Asian vs the US.

      1. lazy intellectual*

        Sorry, clarification. People whose parents grew up in another country, but they were brought up in the US.

      2. Observer*

        Oh, heavens yes! It really IS different growing up as a first generation Us resident vs coming to the US as an adult, and different yet again for the grandkids. Some of it is, of course, just the difference between the times. But yes, there are a lot of differences between being an immigrant and being the child of an immigrant.

    9. TechWorker*

      A minor example but one I remember: I was getting a lift back from a work event (like, where we working, not a social) with two male colleagues very much senior to me. They were rambling about a bunch of different topics and somehow got onto the topic of different ways people sleep. One them came out with ‘of course women can’t sleep on their front because, well you know…’

      I am a (large busted) woman who often sleeps on my front so Um, you happen to be misinformed, but absolutely no way I was going to speak up because who wants to be in *that* conversation with a colleague?

    10. Elf*

      I’ve had the “you would never in a million years say that to a man” ones (a coworker once told me I “might as well dye my hair blonde and move to LA” in a conversation where I brought up the relationship between the KKK and the origin of antiterrorism laws in the US, and a different coworker told me (by butting in to a conversation he wasn’t even a part of) that “with all due respect” I would grow out of being liberal) but the ones that really bother me are the anti-atheist ones.

      I’ve been told to my face on multiple occasions that atheists don’t actually exist (including by a Rabbi). I’ve been in innumerable situations where people act like overt Christianity in theoretically public spaces is fixed by adding a menorah or equivalent tokenism when 1) tokenism is not great and 2) atheists will literally never even get a token. Laws banning atheists from public office are still on the books in some states even though they are unenforceable under the constitution, and prior to this past election (don’t know if it changed) there was literally one atheist in the federal congress + all 50 state legislatures combined (that’s totally beyond the scope of my original ask, but I’m on a bit of a tear, sorry).

      The think that inspired me to start this thread was this set of comments from last week https://www.askamanager.org/2020/12/weekend-open-thread-december-5-6-2020.html#comment-3209416

      Like, I think that Alison and the other commenters had a valid point about the LW’s tone, but I really think that if, for example, a Jewish person said “My kid is asking about other religions, how do I explain transubstantiation/Joseph Smith and the golden plates/etc. without it sounding ridiculous” I don’t think the reaction would have been at all similar.

      There are a lot of people who treat the existence of atheists as offensive, and I won’t hijack the thread with my text-based analysis about why I think Carvell Wallace is one of them (unless people are deeply interested in the subject)but a lot of basic statements of atheism, such as “there is no god” are taken as offensive in ways that equivalent statements asserting the existence of a god are not.

      1. Observer*

        but I really think that if, for example, a Jewish person said “My kid is asking about other religions, how do I explain transubstantiation/Joseph Smith and the golden plates/etc. without it sounding ridiculous” I don’t think the reaction would have been at all similar.

        Actually, as an Orthodox Jew, I think I would have reacted more harshly to a Jew asking that question with that tone.

      2. Dream Jobbed*

        “prior to this past election (don’t know if it changed) there was literally one atheist in the federal congress + all 50 state legislatures combined”

        Well, that were out about it anyway. I suspect that a whole lot of people don’t really believe in a higher power (due to their behavior), but use religion to get what they want.

        I had family tell me I had less rights in America because I wasn’t a Christian (at least since age 12.) Alrighty. Not quite sure what rights I give up, but I have less of them.

    11. CJM*

      I can think of a few stories, but this one is from last week.

      My mom’s financial guy asked me a few basic questions as he prepared a form for me to sign as we process her estate. He knows I’m female and married to a man, and I told him my employment status is “retired.” That’s about all he knows about me.

      So what did he fill in, all on his own with no input from me, as my source of income in retirement?

      “spouse”

      I’m offended. Would he have assumed that of my husband? I doubt it.

      I worked hard to earn a degree and establish a good career. I’m financially independent, married or not. And this is 2020, not 1950.

      He told me after I blanked out “spouse” and signed the form that the field had to have a value, so we’d probably have to redo it. (The field said “optional,” so I think that’s baloney.) I don’t feel bad if his sexist assumption cost him extra work.

    12. ..Kat..*

      I am a female with a definitely female name. Every time that I have donated to a charity (either with a check or a credit card that only has my name on it (because the account is only in my name)), the thank you letter/tax receipt comes either to my husband only (his name is obviously male) or to my husband and me. I make no mention of my husband when donating. Charities seem to be going out of their way to diminish me or eliminate me entirely.

      1. Dream Jobbed*

        They shouldn’t do this for a lot of reasons, general grossness of still living in the 50’s being the main one. But if you and your spouse file separately (and it is none of their business how you file your taxes), they may literally be costing you money on your tax return.

        A nice note to the head of the organization that basically says the next time they pull this sexist crap will be the last time you donate, should end the problem.

  21. Trippychick*

    My boyfriend does not like to hold hands, hug, kiss, etc. outside of bed. We have a great sex life, and after we have sex we hug and snuggle throughout the rest of the night. But as soon as we’re out of bed in the morning, he doesn’t like to touch. He will give me a hug if I ask for one, but we’ve never snuggled on the couch while watching a movie or held hands.

    We’ve talked about this; he says he’s always been like this and it has nothing to do with me personally. Other girlfriends apparently haven’t been bothered by the lack of touching. I’ve gotten used to it and am ok as long as I get my “fix” during the night. We’ve been dating for 2 years and are in our 40s, so this isn’t something I’m expecting will change and I respect his boundaries. But sometimes I just really want to snuggle while watching a movie! And every movie shows physical touch as the signifier for “falling in love,” so sometimes I feel like I’m missing out, although logically I know I’m “missing” out on what society tells me a relationship looks like. For both of us, our first love language would be time but my second would be physical touch.

    Anyone been on either side of this? Can a hugger and a non-hugger happily co-exist?

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I’m not a hugger and I’m a woman. This is going to sound pat but have you considered getting a snuggly older cat or dog? Maybe you just need the touch.

    2. Workerbee*

      If physical touch is what you want and need, and it comes down to you feeling like you’re getting your fix only during the aftermath of “great sex,” then I wouldn’t say it was just a societally-driven desire. It’s real, and it matters. And you’re the one doing all the compromising over it and “getting used to it.” Has he made any efforts beyond those triggered by post-coital brain freeze or you having to actually ask for a hug?

      I’d also be irate at the old “My other girlfriends never thought it was an issue!” trope. (“That’s great! Why aren’t you with them?” was always my response.) But that’s me.

      What answer comes to mind when you ask yourself: Can I live with this as status quo for the rest of my life, every single day?

      1. Jackalope*

        This is important. I’ve heard of couples who make it work on opposite sides of the touch divide, but if you’re the only one who’s compromising on your needs, that’s not going to work long-term. And depending on how strongly he feels about it, it’s possible it could be something he doesn’t have the ability to compromise on; we all have those things. But it’s not going to work out well if you’re doing all the giving here.

      2. violet04*

        I agree. You’ve talked about it and his behavior hasn’t changed. You need to determine if this is something you can live with long term or if it is a deal breaker. My concern is that if you continue to to compromise this will lead to resentment from your side. I believe that a partner needs to make an effort to “speak” the other person’s love language.

    3. Bonny*

      My husband is a hugger and I am not. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an ongoing source of tension for our 20 year marriage. He frequently makes snide comments about how people touch when they love each other. After years of putting up with touches I don’t want plus years of small children touching me, I’m touched out and I don’t really care how he feels anymore. I’d think very carefully about if you can live with this. It seems like a small issue but it can be big.

    4. MissCoco*

      My partner is a bit similar. We cuddle every night, but in general he’s not very touchy during the day, and he finds touch actively uncomfortable at times, particularly after eating (so watching TV after dinner = no touching).

      I have guinea pigs and several extremely squishy pillows which are at the mercy of snugs (don’t worry, the pigs are adequately compensated for their work with veggies), also a weighted blanket.

      We’ve also found that a compromise that works is a stack of pillows against him which I lean on. It still pings my “human contact” button, without doing that for him (probably because it reduces/dulls the actual sensation of human contact).

      Can he articulate what he doesn’t like about touch? That was also very helpful for us – knowing when it’s an “I don’t need/want touch, but it’s fine” vs “Touch feels actively unpleasant at these times/in these ways”.

      He also figured out some ways he could give me physical contact that are comfortable for him (kisses on the head, squeezing my hand or putting an arm around my shoulders while walking, etc), and tries to do them. Especially with work from home, he does them throughout the day, and that makes me a lot less touch-starved.

    5. SummerBreeze*

      My husbands love language is touch. As someone with two little kids who seem to be glued to me, you can imagine that I personally get plenty of touch and don’t feel the need for more. But something as little as scratching his back when I walk by him makes him feel loved. (my love language is words, and he’s had to compromise in that respect too, so we e both had to adjust our communications skills to hit each other’s sweet spots.)

      So basically; if this is important to you, it should be important to him. I imagine relatively minor effort from him would pay off dividends. The question then remains whether he’s willing to put forth even a minor effort!

    6. matcha123*

      I’m not a hugger and I’m female. But! When I know the guy better, I feel more comfortable with touch.
      My default is to just not touch other people. Especially not in public.
      Honestly, I think you should tell him that you like physical touch and ask if he minds you touching more at home. I’d start somewhere safe.
      I can’t tell if when you say he doesn’t want to touch in the morning if that means he actively pulls away or if he doesn’t initiate. If he doesn’t initiate, then I think you should. Perhaps tell him what your ideal would look like and then set aside a day where you actively do the touching so he can visualise and see what it’s like?

    7. Filosofickle*

      Is he willing to do ANY? Like, once a week a little snuggling during a movie? Occasionally holding your hand? I’d have a hard time with the “never” aspect of it. It would be really important to me that he came partway.

      I was never a hugger outside my immediate family of origin. (With whom I’m pretty touchy.) I’ve never liked to hug people much, even friends! And I was a lot like your partner in relationships — sex + cuddling but that’s it. Never PDA. But with my current partner of 4 years we touch and snuggle CONSTANTLY and I absolutely love it! Much to my surprise. We are everything I would have rolled my eyes at in the past. If this relationship ended, I don’t think I could ever go back to an low-touch relationship.

      1. Filosofickle*

        One more thought: You mention wanting to respect his boundaries. Please know that asking for a little more touch to meet your needs is not disrespecting his boundaries. Boundaries can be negotiated, within reason.

    8. tab*

      I’m a big time hugger, and I love holding hands. My husband wasn’t. I told him that I need affection to live. He is now a hugger and hand holder. We’ve been married 35 years. I couldn’t be married to someone who didn’t want to show me affection.

    9. Anon for this*

      I’ve been on the same side as you… my partner isn’t completely anti-touch but he went through a period of struggling with severe depression where he didn’t want to be touched and didn’t hug or touch me either. That was tough and we’re still not back to ‘normal’ – but he’s working on it.

      (That is to say, everyone’s different but if my partner with depression and body dysmorphia can make the effort because he knows it matters, people who don’t hug because it’s not their preference absolutely can too).

    10. The New Wanderer*

      I think it comes down to how important it is to you, as the person who needs something their partner isn’t willing or able to give. I’ve been married to a non-hugger for over a decade. I myself am probably closer to a non-hugger in general and get touched out pretty easily (small kids, past super-affectionate boyfriends) though I always liked some snuggling, but I was surprised how much it (initially) bothered me that he wouldn’t even hold hands or initiate a hug himself. We talked about it early on, it’s just a him-thing and he wasn’t willing to change. We do kiss good morning daily and we usually cuddle in bed for a few minutes to say goodnight, and I decided it wasn’t a dealbreaker.

      He is able to show some physical affection to our kids on a regular basis which is reassuring since I was worried he would seem cold and distant to them. And I hug them when I (or they) need it, plus we have cats to snuggle.

      So, definitely not something to take lightly. If I felt like I needed more daily affection, I wouldn’t have lasted. And I do think it’s caused us to have a much less intimate relationship (emotionally) because we don’t have that connection. But on the other hand, I heavily value the fact that I have more space for myself and that’s not something I had with previous, more affectionate relationships.

    11. AcademiaNut*

      It really comes down to what whether *you* are okay with this. If you’re not, it’s a perfectly fine reason to break up – it doesn’t matter what society thinks.

      One thing I would consider – what happens if your sex life cools off? This can happen – physical or mental difficulties, stress, exhaustion, getting older on both sides. If you’re not having sex regularly for some reason, will he be willing to still provide cuddling, or will you be going without physical affection completely.

    12. Anonymous Hugger*

      I was not able to live with this and I married into it twice. I dated a hugger after my second divorce and realized what I had been missing and I am engaged to a cuddly hugger now. It means too much to me to compromise. You may be different, but for me it’s essential.

    13. Trippychick*

      Thank you to everyone who is commenting! It’s giving me a lot of different perspectives to consider.

    14. Ciscononymous*

      My best friend was in this exact situation for four years. She couldn’t live with it and broke it off. She is now married to someone whose needs better complement her own and they couldn’t be happier. I’m not saying it’s not doable, but I know she wasn’t happy.

    15. Double A*

      Is he actually averse to affection or does he just not intitiate it, but is okay with it if you initiate it?

      If it’s the former, that is tough. If it’s the latter, how would you feel if you always had to initiate, but that once you do he’s willing? Would you be able to let go of the desire for him to initiate contact knowing that it’s not in his nature to do that? I personally think that’s a liveable compromise (and I live with a somewhat similar compromise with my own husband), but might not work for everyone.

    16. RagingADHD*

      I’ve been on the sideline of this, where my dad is very affectionate and my mom was uncomfortable being touched a lot.

      Their marriage was functional compared to many people I know, because they respected each other and worked pretty well as a team most of the time. Functional, but not happy.

      Neither of them felt deeply loved or understood. There was a lot of tension.

      There was more to it than the touch thing, but that ran deep and turned out to be connected to a bunch of other really important things. They both spent decades being unhappy and making the best of it.

      If I were on either side of this equation, I would consider this a fundamental incompatability that I couldn’t live with long term.

  22. CoffeeforLife*

    Temporary Housing Necessities

    A few months ago I posed this question but out plans were pushed back until next week (yay). My partner, two dogs, and I will be driving cross country and then staying in a furnished rental for 4-6 months (paid for by work). It’s a nice condo in a fun part of Southern California. This will become a regular travel schedule for us and we’ll soon know what we need, but I don’t want to buy a ton of duplicates because I didn’t plan right.

    What essentials should we bring that might not be obvious? We have a truck bed plus camper shell. This is our shortlist…which is laughable.

    Dog stuff
    Fancy coffee maker
    Instant pot
    my studio necessities (I’m a silversmith)

    Thank you brilliant minds!

      1. Fellow Traveller*

        yes this! I’ve lived in a lot of temporary housing and the knives are usually dangerously bad.
        And a cutting board. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to use one of those glass cutting boards – also dangerous!

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Bring one nonstick pan that’s good – the ones in rentals are usually super old, not nonstick anymore, and have scary large flakes of coating peeling off.

    2. Michelle*

      We lived in temporary housing once. The one item I missed the most was a pair of scissors.
      Some other items to think about:
      -a minor emergency kit (band-aids, medications, etc.)
      -a small sewing kit
      -foods that you can’t live without, but which may not exist in your new geographical location
      -spices, seasonings, and other ingredients which are expensive to replace and you don’t want double of in two different locations
      -a mental list of simple dinner ideas and recipes that you can make in your (likely) limited kitchen. This helps you know what ingredients to bring and what to shop for when you arrive in your location
      -nail clippers, Q-tips, hair products, heating pad, or other health/beauty items you might not use daily, but which may get forgotten
      -clothes for possibly changing seasons or climates while you are away
      -entertainment options (digital TV subscriptions and log-in information, board games, deck of cards, portable speaker, crafts, journal and pens, etc.)
      -comfort items (cozy blanket, favourite pillow, scented candles with matches)
      -a laundry bag or basket (didn’t use one much at home, because we had a washer and dryer, but if you have to haul your clothes to a laundry area, you will need one)
      -if you are picky about the size of your bath towels, you will likely want to bring bath sheets. Our temporary housing provided laundry service, but they provided bath towels, not bath sheets.
      -copies of important papers, vet records for your pets, passwords for accounts, account numbers for utilities back home, primary physician contacts, etc.
      -passports and ID even if you don’t plan on leaving the country or traveling
      -storage containers for leftovers (plastic wrap or bags, Tupperware, foil, etc.)
      -flashlight and batteries for power outages (and depending upon what area, you might want to have more emergency supplies than that…earthquake, fires, blackouts, etc.) Also battery back-up for charging devices and/or a solar charger.
      -arrange to get a library card when you arrive if you read a lot or want to borrow movies
      -if you will be there over a holiday or other event, you may want to bring decorations or birthday candles or wine glasses or whatever makes things special
      -sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, and sun hats
      -a good can opener
      -extension cord with surge protector for plugging in your computer or other electronics
      I’m sure I could come up with more if I thought about it longer, but this should get you started thinking.
      Good luck!

        1. Michelle*

          I thought of another one–a cup for your toothbrushes if you don’t use an electric one. Also, be sure to put your toothbrushes away on housekeeping day. The cleaners just move an item, spray, and wipe, with your items all sitting out on the counter. Organizing trays for the bathroom drawer can help keep your items contained and more sanitary.

          I mentioned entertainment options above, but forgot to specifically mention things like a Roku box or Apple TV or whatever you might need to facilitate usage of TV services. Our temporary housing had a TV in the living area, but we like to watch TV in our bedroom some evenings, so you may want a small extra screen that can sit on a dresser if needed.

          Consider items you may need to take advantage of activities in your new area. If you see trips to the beach in your future, think about what you will need as far as coolers or beach bags, etc. go. If you hike, have your hiking boots, day pack, and walking stick handy. If you enjoy letterboxing, grab your supplies. You get the idea.

          An umbrella or two, especially during the winter months.

        2. Michelle*

          Okay, stop me if this is getting too out of hand! My minor super power is list-making and my brain keeps coming up with items from our personal experience.

          -small kitchen gadgets that you use often (lemon squeezer, lemon zester, pizza cutter, corkscrew, kitchen shears, garlic press, a decent grater, especially if you use a microplane or similar for grating Parmesan)
          -I remember our kitchen bakeware/pans were extremely limited, like maybe one small baking sheet, and one small casserole dish, which limited what/how much we could cook. If there is a list of items that are included in your temporary housing, you can decide if you need to bring a pizza pan, or a 9×13 baking dish or whatever, else you might need, if those are things you use often.
          -If you are bringing your good knives, also bring along a knife-friendly cutting board.
          -tweezers (for splinters) and thermometer in your first aid kit (especially during Covid)
          -over the door hooks for towels. I seem to recall limited towel racks??? It has been awhile.
          -extra hangars if you have a lot of hanging clothes

        3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          With the excellent library card suggestion, some libraries have free or reduced price passes to local attractions (museums, parks, etc). Even if it’s during the pandemic, park and garden passes are nice.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            If you have any museum, park, garden, etc. memberships in your home area, see if they offer reciprocal admission in your stay-for-six-months area. If yes, bring your membership card and/or account ID & password.

            Bring all the parts needed to use and recharge your specialized electronics (outlet plugs, wires, batteries for hearing aids).

            Take the contact data of your pharmacy and medical, dental, mental health, and veterinary care providers. If you or your dogs take a lot of medicine take a list of meds and doses and identify a pharmacy and/or providers in your temporary home area. Hopefully you will be fine with only an occasional tele-visit with your home area providers, or they will be able to refer you to say, a local dentist if you need hands-on care while away.

            Confirm that your homeowners/rental insurance covers everything you want covered, whether you bring it along or leave it at home.

        4. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          With the excellent library card suggestion, some libraries have free or reduced price passes to local attractions (museums, parks, etc). Even if it’s during the pandemic, park and garden passes are nice.

    3. MissGirl*

      Yes, to the instant pot. I did this for three months and lived off my crockpot since there was no oven. I would bring the things that are personal to YOU and can’t be bought. Are you particular about bedding or towels? I was glad to have my own pillow. Bring hobby stuff. I brought my outdoor gear like bike, sleeping bags, tent. I cook a lot on Sundays and freeze my food so I ended up buying a lot of Tupperware. I should’ve brought my own.

      One piece I want to give (which is tempered by COVID) is explore the area as much as you can and experience it fully. I did a work stint in Burbank, CA, and by the time I left, local coworkers were asking me where to go. I hit every hiking trail, state park, beach, and museum I could. One Saturday I hiked in Malibu, kneed-boarded on the beach, then stopped at both Getty museums on the way home. I slept really good that night. Another guy moved there the same day I did only permanently. In two months he hadn’t left Pasadena except for one jaunt to Disney.

      Living somewhere for six months is such an awesome blessing. You get to experience a new world but still have a tether to home. I’d love to do it again.

    4. TX Lizard*

      A fire extinguisher! If rentals have them they are often expired. On that same note, find out if the place has a carbon monoxide detector. If not, they make ones that plug into an outlet so you can skip ceiling install.
      Also consider a fire/water proof lockbox for important documents (both in your rental and your own home). It can be harder to replace documents when you are away from your permanent residence.
      Also, if you are picky about your pillow bring that!

    5. Natalie*

      In the kitchen realm, any spices, seasonings, or condiments that you can’t live without. Having to buy new of 10 things you usually just have around your kitchen adds up.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I must day I’m tickled that AAM has a reader whose profession means they might really design teapots!

    7. Not A Manager*

      I’m sure other people will give you good advice about what to pack. As someone who (used to) travel a lot to medium-term rentals, I’m going to suggest that you DO consider buying at least some duplicates if you can afford them.

      If this is going to be a regular travel schedule, you will be continually frustrated having to remember everything on your list from last time, plus remember whatever you missed last time that you wish you’d brought, plus remembering everything that you missed last time and so you bought a duplicate. Plus remembering everything that you brought IN to the furnished rental that you now need to take OUT when you leave.

      To the extent that you can afford it (and if you’re going back and forth you can do this over time), buy less-expensive duplicates of your key items and keep them all in one box or location between trips. For me, this means power cords, a few inexpensive knives (most knives are pretty sharp when they’re new, it’s just that furnished rentals don’t sharpen the knives or replace them), a non-stick pan, a cutting board, electric kettle, coffee set (I always do pour-overs because I like them), measuring cups/spoons, hot water bottle, meat thermometer, etc. Mostly small things.

      Items I don’t duplicate but do take with me are pillows, fancy bread pan, and my favorite cast-iron enamel pot. If there’s room my husband usually packs a few small lights – the lighting in furnished rentals is atrocious.

    8. Stephanie*

      I was in an extended stay hotel for a summer for an internship in grad school. It had a kitchen, but it was tiny and not super well stocked. My suggestions:
      -Drying rack (we had hall laundry and I had clothes that needed to be air dried)
      -Decent knives — maybe not a whole set, but at least a paring knife, chef’s knife, and a bread knife. I found the rental knives were ER visit level dull
      -One or two good nonstick pans — the rental pans were all old with the nonstick coating peeling off
      -Instapot or pressure cooker — I used my Instapot A LOT because the kitchen situation wasn’t great
      -This depends on space, but I brought a grinder and pour over for coffee since they were relatively compact and could be put anywhere
      -Good pillows/cushions for the couch. Our extended stay furniture was horribly uncomfortable.

    9. *daha**

      –>If this regular travel schedule means returning to the same Southern California area again and again, consider renting a storage unit there for whatever you end up buying there, or bring with you on the first trip and don’t need to haul back again. We’re talking $50-100 per month, so it might not make sense for you.
      –>Sit in each room of the home you’re in now and think about all the things you do in there, and the maintenance that room needs, and make sure you’re covered for the new place.
      –>Bedroom – sleeping, dressing, audio, video, wakeup, makeup, sexual paraphernalia, light where you need it
      –>Living/Office more light, surge protectors, chargers, cables, mousepad and wrist rest, sound isolation, headset, blankets for napping on couch, office chair if not just any will do
      –>Dogs – make sure microchip info is up to date, beds, chew toys, harnesses and leashes, meds, find a vet in advance who will agree to see them if necessary, cool dog hats and sunglasses so they fit in with the locals
      –Vacuum cleaner supplied? Trash cans? Toilet plunger and brush? Can opener?
      Good luck!

  23. Valancy Snaith*

    Thanks to Google surveys, I have almost $30 in Google Play credits to spend. I’m not much of a one for movies, I’m all set for music and books, so now I’m wondering if there are any paid apps that people absolutely love? I want to spend the credit before it expires, and I’m pretty flexible.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      Do you like podcasts? I loved the podcast addict app when I had an android. I think I also used a google play store credit towards my Calm app subscription

      1. Belle*

        +1 for Our Groceries. My husband and I use it to keep a running list of things we need. And kids can also add to it (if you want them to)

    2. CatCat*

      I really like the NY Times Cooking app. I just love browsing and reading about recipes in the app. It’s free to download the app itself, but then you need a subscription, which I believe you can buy in the app, for unfettered access.

      If you like game apps, Monument Valley is a paid game. It’s one of the best app games I’ve ever played with beautiful graphics and an unrushed story and game play.

    3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      AdGuard. Works pretty well to block ads and trackers without needing to root your phone.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      oooo thanks! I play a game that I refuse to spend money on, but I’m happy to spend free money on. This qualifies.

    5. Deborah*

      If you want a recipe app, Recipe Keeper is good and has a small fee. I did a lot of research before choosing it and I’ve been happy with it for quite a while.

    6. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Two I’ve paid money for, even though the basic versions are free:
      – Night Shift (paid version unlocks the darkest view).
      – Attention Notes.

  24. Anonforthis*

    My brother’s girlfriend, Janet, will be joining us for Christmas this year. We know they’re serious but don’t know how serious or if they’ve talked future plans. As part of our Christmas festivities, the grandparents give all the grandchildren cash (in addition to usual non-cash gifts like clothes). We all get the same amount of cash, $200, and its handed out in sealed envelopes after all the gifts are opened. This is the first time, however, that one of the grandkids is bringing someone for Christmas without an engagement ring and my grandmother doesn’t know what to do. Should she give Janet the same cash gift as everyone else? A smaller amount? (For context: Janet is getting the “regular” gifts too. Brother and Janet, both mid/late 20s, have been together 2.5 years and I think she is fantastic. Married/engaged grandkids get a slightly larger sum because it’s a joint gift to be shared with 2 people.)

    I told my grandmother to give her the same amount to keep it fair. What would you do?

    1. Anona*

      A gift is nice and welcoming, but I wouldn’t do cash.
      It sounds like she’s already getting the regular gifts. I wouldn’t expect to get cash as a partner coming for the first time. If your grandma feels weird about it, I’d do $50 or something, but if it’s basically each couple or singleton gets 1 envelope, if her partner is getting an envelope, it’s fine! I’d just address it to both of them and not overthink it.

    2. WellRed*

      I would be weirded out and extremely uncomfortable to be handed an envelope of cash by someone I’ve never met before. (This illustrates why sometimes it’s best to taper off big gifts when the kids become adults). If you don’t allow flash your cash around, will the girlfriend even know?

      1. Anima*

        Uh, I have a huge “adopted” family from my fiance’s side, and getting cash from them would weird me out. But I graciously accept a jumper/candle set/pralines/book etc.! (I try to give back, too.) So, I recommend your grandma giving the usual gifts plus maybe a small extra like pralines. When they put a ring on it, adding to the sum in the envelope would be a nice recognition of their new, official status. I feel giving monetary gifts to both is fine then. (I am engaged now and a cash gift for both of us would just go towards our shared bank account, so that would be fine.)
        Saying that, weird social norms here I feel. But that’s how it is.

      2. another scientist*

        I was once in Janet’s shoes and they gave me cash (not sure if maybe a smaller amount than the kids). It made me so uncomfortable!

    3. Rare Commenter*

      I am almost a Janet (we’ve talked about future plans a bit), and I would be supremely uncomfortable with the cash gift (especially seeing your comment about her having never met them). If we weren’t close, I wouldn’t even want a bunch of presents – just the generic candle type gifts at most! His grandpa sent me a birthday card and that was thoughtful enough for me. (Granted, I am very aware that I am not an “official” family member and don’t want to overstep my girlfriend boundaries with anyone – can you detect either that or the opposite viewpoint from Janet? Which would make her feel welcome & comfortable?

    4. Reba*

      A similar thing happens in my family of origin. It’s a bit weird but also ok! (I have an eccentric relative who used to always palm us $20 when we were struggling students, but in this absurd ostentatious way.) I think serious partners have been given smaller amounts in their envelopes. Any amount is fine. It’s all gravy! If the new partner recipient feels snubbed I think that is more revealing of them.

    5. Dinoweeds*

      I would be SUPREMELY uncomfortable if my boyfriend’s grandmother whom I’ve never met gave me $200. Just sayin’.

    6. Grim*

      Too bad he hasn’t introduced her prior to the big Christmas bash, she’s most likely to feel left out while everyone else celebrating together. It’s such a special family holiday that I would feel a bit uncomfortable going.

      No cash, maybe a nice scarf or other would be appropriate for his gf.

    7. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      If I were Janet I would not accept £200 cash even if we were pretty serious. Other small gifts, sure, but if it’s the first time I’m meeting the family I’d just be happy to be invited.

    8. lapgiraffe*

      No to the cash for Janet. Having a small gift for her is kind but that’s all I’d do. My family used to do the same thing and we went through this with several different girlfriends from my cousins and uncles, even the worst of these girlfriends never expected a cash gift/the same gift from family members they had never met.

    9. Not A Manager*

      No money for Janet. Give her a “regular” gift and give the brother the slightly larger “engaged person” gift without commenting on their possible marriage plans.

    10. RagingADHD*

      Getting an envelope of cash from an older lady you’ve never laid eyes on before?

      Super wierd and awkward. Don’t.

      Also, if they aren’t definitely committed as life partners, that creates pressure and assumptions.

      Just have something under the tree, and include her in all the conversation & activities.

      Lots of girlfriends/boyfriends meet the family at the holidays. They aren’t instant grandkids. You don’t have to pretend they are in order to be “fair.”

    11. Deborah*

      I’ve been in this situation and had the awful feeling of being completely excluded from the gift giving. (In retrospect, my ex boyfriend was not very nice in taking me somewhere where they excluded me when we’d been together for years, but that’s another story). With that experience, I would say that as long as she’s not excluded entirely, if she’s a reasonable person, she’ll be fine. Given the amount of time they’ve been together, if they live together I would say that it would be wise to treat them as though they were engaged, for whatever family purposes, because in our times, a lot of couples do think of living with a long time partner as basically that level of commitment. I’ve heard people who live together longer than five years start referring to each other as husband or wife, no doubt because boyfriend/girlfriend starts sounding inadequate.

      On the subject of cash…if you give separate envelopes to each person and leave her out that’s going to be super uncomfortable. If you give each couple an envelope that has more in it than the single grand kids get, then it is much less fraught whether you include her for purposes of figuring the amount.

    12. Aurora Leigh*

      The first Christmas my now husband and I were together (seriously dating but not engaged/living together), my grandma treated him exactly the same as her grandkids ($25 Christmas check). She had met him several times though. It was so kind and welcoming, especially since his own grandparents had already passed away.

      My own parents gave him a package of socks. They spent roughly $100 on my gift for comparison. It bothered me much more than it bothered him, but it was definitely indicative of their feelings toward him. His parents treated me the same as their own kids that year.

      That said if the cash envelopes are only handed to the grandkids, not spouses, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving him the single person amount. But if bringing someone for Christmas is typically only for very serious engaged level relationships and he’s aware of that, I would give the larger dollar amount. Maybe she’s getting a ring this year!

    13. Patty Mayonnaise*

      My grandparents did this so I asked my husband what he thought. He remembered my grandfather giving him a lower amount (maybe $25) and then upping the amount to the grandson-in-law level when we got engaged. But, the in-laws never got as much as the grandkids, and the amounts were closer (grandkids got $100, in-laws get $50) which I think was a good idea because it didn’t break the bank to include a boyfriend or girlfriend and at the same time it didn’t feel like there was this big gulf between what grandkids and in-laws got. However, my husband came to Christmas when we were 22 or 23, and it sounds like your brother might be older? Relationships in your 30s are different and more serious than the 20s and I think that should be taken into consideration.

    14. The Other Dawn*

      If I were the girlfriend and hadn’t met my boyfriend’s extended family before, I absolutely wouldn’t be expecting anything–cash or gifts. And even if I had, I still wouldn’t be expecting anything.

      I guess the gifts are fine so she’s not completely excluded, but Janet will likely feel uncomfortable since she’s probably not expecting it, which means she likely isn’t bringing them gifts, making it even more awkward.

  25. Mr. Jingles*

    Here is something I wondered about since it happened a few years ago. I was helping out at one of my clubs because somebody had gotten sick and couldn’t help preparing and helping during an open-door event of our club. Since it was on such short notice I wasn’t included in the pre-ordering of a lunch which had been made the day before for all volunteers we found out that the person I’d jumped in for was sick and couldn’t attend.
    So when the lunch came I took what the other person had ordered and ate it. It was exotic and tasty.
    Another person saw me taking it and hurried to tell me I mustn’t eat this persons food since it was a special lunch they’d ordered to accommodate religious demands of them and because I wasn’t part of that religion it was disrespectful to eat it. (She actually used the term ‚blasphemy‘)
    I asked if it was more respectful for the absent persons religion to throw it away and still ate it since there was no way to get something else besides cake and sweets which were meant for the event and I didn’t see a reason to work all day as a volunteer and go hungry while everyone else is fed. That person seemed way over the top and overcompensating to me. Food is food and as long as somebody doesn’t have restrictions themselves I see no need to let perfectly good food go to waste.
    But ever since I wonder, is this a ‚Thing‘? I’m an agnostic. Is it really ‚blasphemy‘ for religious people if somebody like me ate your lunch if you couldn’t or wouldn’t have it? Even if somebody saw it this way, is it reasonable to expect people to throw away your special food and go hungry just because it’s made following religious demands? I’m not talking about food intended especially for any religious celebrations, also I’m not saying I’d want to take food ordered to meet special needs if the person needing it is there and, well, needs it. I’m talking about a regular lunch here, just that it’s halal or kosher or whatever else religious restricted food is out there, which is left over for whatever reason and would otherwise just be thrown away. I’m especially interested in the point of view of religious people here if you feel comfortable sharing your point of view with me of course.

    1. Llama face!*

      Caveat: I’m not someone from a belief system where a special diet is followed.
      I’d say a simple example shows how ridiculous your club member was being:
      What would you eat if you went to one of the countries where the majority population had religious/cultural food restrictions or requirements?
      Would this person assume you had to pack enough food for your entire trip?
      (Obviously it would be different if it was food meant for a religious ceremony but there is no reason not to enjoy food meant just for regular eating)

      1. pancakes*

        And strange! Has this person never eaten a meal with or merely prepared by someone from a culture other than their own? Never seen anyone else do so, either? There is a particularly famous halal cart in my city known for having long lines of office workers & tourists waiting to buy their delicious food. The idea that there’s something untoward about people who don’t eat halal every day eating there is bizarre to me.

        1. RagingADHD*

          No, obviously this person has absolutely no clue about different religions at all.

          Classic example of someone looking to take offense on behalf of someone else, when they have no clue what they’re talking about.

    2. Annie Moose*

      I suppose it would depend on the religion, although I haven’t heard of any with a belief like this so it’s likely just someone going too far in trying to “respect” the other person’s religion! I’ve worked with a number of Jews, Hindus, and Muslims who’ve had dietary requirements and have never heard any mention that someone not of their religion couldn’t eat the same food.

      If you’re concerned about it then it’d probably be best to talk directly to the volunteer who was sick, explain the situation and ask if they would prefer for you to handle it differently in the future? But I likely would’ve done the same as you (eat their meal so it doesn’t go to waste and you have something to eat).

      1. Observer*

        If you’re concerned about it then it’d probably be best to talk directly to the volunteer who was sick, explain the situation and ask if they would prefer for you to handle it differently in the future?

        Please do not do that. This woman was being very, very strange. If someone asked me a question like this, it would make me extremely uncomfortable.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If that were true, then half of the packaged food in your cupboard would be “blasphemous” since it’s certified kosher.

    4. Valancy Snaith*

      I’ve worked with several people who keep kosher or halal, and on multiple occasions we’ve received more “special” meals than required. The only comment we ever had from any of them was “does anyone want the extra halal meal?”

    5. Pharmgirl*

      You didn’t do anything wrong. As long as any special accommodation food first serves this who request or need it, any extras should be offered our like anything else to avoid waste.

      That lady was being ridiculous – would she really prefer you go hungry and the food go to waste? I’m guessing most religions would prefer minimizing food waste over preventing someone from eating their food!

    6. Rosie M. Banks*

      I’m religious (Episcopalian, raised Catholic). Neither of these denominations has tons of rules about food, but Catholics are supposed to fast and/or abstain from meat a few days of the year. If I ordered a vegetarian meal on a Friday in Lent, I would be respecting Catholic rules on the subject, but it wouldn’t make my chickpea salad a “religious meal” that was somehow off-limits to everyone else. If I wasn’t there to eat my pre-ordered meal, I would hope that someone else would take it. Why should it go to waste? Also, there are plenty of restaurants that serve kosher or halal food, but welcome non-Jewish and non-Muslim customers. I think the person who criticized you didn’t know what she was talking about.

      1. Wisco Disco*

        I’m Catholic and went to a lunch function on a Friday during Lent. I selected the meat-free option and explained why to someone who asked. “Oh, you guys still do that?” was her response. I thought that was hilarious!

    7. Jaid*

      I would have asked that person if they were offering their own meal as recompense. Otherwise, you weren’t going to starve.

      Fun fact, the principle of Pikuach Nefesh for Judaism is to preserve life. It’s what lets Jews eat non-kosher food in situations where there’s no kosher food to be found. Keep that in mind…no Jew would want you to go hungry.

      1. Chaordic One*

        Your post reminded me of the story of a group of Jews who ended up at an event where most of the people were gentiles and they somehow ended up sharing a non-kosher meal with them. The gist of the story was (and I’m obviously paraphrasing here) one of the members of the group asked why they were doing so and wasn’t it committing an offense against God (to be eating the non-Kosher meal with the gentiles). The leader of the group replied with something along the lines of that it would be a greater offense to refuse the hospitality of the gentiles. And I suppose they were really hungry, too.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      It’s people like this woman that drive people away from churches. I can’t think of any religion that says people should go hungry.
      What a unthinking thing to say, really. So what does she suggest you do? Throw it out? Go hungry?
      So much for the social rule of not doing or saying things that make others feel awkward.

      At most her remark deserves, “Oh. Interesting. We will have to check with Jan when she comes back to see what we should have done.” Then watch her slither away to where she came from.

    9. Laura H.*

      It was not blasphemy- that’s a rather serious thing that shouldn’t be thrown around.

      It wasn’t even rude of you to eat it since it was verified the intended recipient wasn’t there (and that you were their replacement). That other volunteer was out of line.

      I would have asked the volunteer who I covered for (or the coordinator) if it was indeed bad form at the very least.

      But there was no reason for you to go hungry.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      As long as they’re not pointing out another attendee who shares the same requirements and did not receive their special order, enjoy it.
      Waste not want not.

    11. Not A Manager*

      It sounds like this woman was confusing “food that comports with my religious demands” with “sacred food.” All the examples I can think of would be almost blasphemous to mention in a light-hearted context, but think of any sacred food that is consumed as part of a religious ritual, and yes, if for some reason it had been ordered for this person’s private religious consumption then it would be blasphemous for you to eat it. In my opinion.

      “Food that comports with my religious demands” is just food. Anyone can eat it.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Right. Non Roman Catholics should not be taking communion for instance, but they can eat all the kosher or halal food the want, as long as they aren’t bogarting the latkes. (My Jewish grandma served her Catholic grandchildren kosher meals; NO ONE gets to say my grandma was wrong lol)

      2. Observer*

        Right. And, to be honest, can you think of any scenario where such foods would have been ordered for a volunteer working an event? It’s a pretty ridiculous idea. Which is why I think that the best idea was to do exactly Mr. Jingles did – eat the food and not bring it up again.

    12. RagingADHD*

      Good heavens, no. Your acquaintancs is an ignoramus.

      Does she think Gentiles aren’t allowed to eat in a Kosher deli? Or that people who keep Halal never invite guests over?

      It’s just an ordinary meal.

      Now, if you were talking about a religious rite actually being performed in a sacred space (like Communion in church) then you should not participate if you don’t believe the same. But that’s an entirely different situation, and hardly open to confusion.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I took communion during an Anglican service at St. Paul’s Cathedral—they said it was open to anyone. Fun fact, it turns out if I were still a practicing Catholic, that would have been a big fat no-no. Anglicans share communion with other denominations; Catholics aren’t supposed to get it elsewhere.

        But the OP didn’t do anything wrong. They’re fine; the other person is very misinformed.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I think that may have been a miscommunication- generally in the Church of England you should only take communion if you have been confirmed, but everyone is welcome to go up – if you aren’t confirmed then you don’t put your hands out for the communion wafer, and will be given a blessing instead.
          I am less familiar with Roman Catholic rules but recall that when I went to a wedding in a Catholic church it was similar- the priest invited the non-catholics to go up and receive a blessing when he gave communion.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Oh, I see. I know you can’t take communion in the Catholic Church if you aren’t Catholic, but they didn’t specify. They just said come on up and get communion if you want.
            Maybe I messed up, but nobody quizzed me, I participated respectfully, and in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think God would be upset about it.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Well, sure – each denomination will say what their rules are.

          But I presume you wouldn’t partake as a form of mockery, or because you wanted a snack, or something that had nothing to do with the purpose. That would be disrespectful.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            You’re correct; that’s not why. They said ANYONE was welcome to participate, no matter what. I was walking around in the cathedral when they announced the service, and I wanted to see what it was like. They had a little pamphlet with responses and I participated just to see if I might be interested. It was nice, but I realized I really didn’t want to be churchy anymore.

            (Disclaimer: I was confirmed in the Catholic Church)

    13. Anima*

      The what. That would mean all the halal food shops in my town would only be allowed to cater to people eating halal because of religion. What.
      The most famous eatery in my town for students is halal. It’s unfathomable good for cheap – attracting all kinds of people. So… What’s wrong with this Lady?

    14. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Another vote for that person was WAYYYY out there. You ate food which otherwise would have been wasted. I would side eye and reconsider if I wanted to have anything to do with that person in future.

    15. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Grabbing a handful of communion wafers and munching them like cheez-its would be blasphemous. Getting a sandwich from the kosher deli is not.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        As a kid, I liked the taste of communion wafers and this comment made me laugh out loud because that thought crossed my mind more than once. :’D

        1. RagingADHD*

          You can buy them if you want! Or there are recipes to make them.

          They don’t “count” until they are consecrated. Before the consecration, they’re just unsalted crackers.

    16. Observer*

      Huh? Your co-volunteer sounds a bit off the wall to me. I can’t speak to other religions, but the idea that it would be blasphemous or even just disrespectful to eat a standard kosher meal is just ridiculous.

      I could be wrong, but I suspect that much the same is true of other religions. Of course, if we were talking about something consecrated (eg the wine from a Catholic mass), that would be different. But I simply cannot imagine a scenario where that would have applied to your situation.

      1. Mr Jingles*

        Thanks for all the answers. I was really busy and could only read all of them today. Thank you for calming my conscience. I don’t believe but I’m sensitive of issues religious people face. I’ve often had very harrassing discussions with atheists who couldn’t accept I’m neither believing nor not believing in god or anything supernatural. Somehow true agnosticism seems to be a hard concept to grasp for some people.
        I’ve seen cruel harrassment of religious people just because they where religious and I’m sensitive to that since my Granny was a very religious person and I loved her dearly. While I felt that the idea of the woman was silly I was also afraid to be insensitive or dismissive. And I really don’t like to talk to people about religion face to face. While I’m not shy with any other topic a talk about religion really makes me uncomfortable. That is why I couldn’t just ask a friend, it would have been a very awkward conversation for both of us.

  26. Cat anon*

    Any suggestions for how to get an older cat interested in playing with something?

    I have a 13 year old cat who basically sleeps all day and then wants to hang out with me when it’s time to go to bed.

    If I get her a toy, she plays with it once and then is not interested. It’s winter here so the birds (cat tv!) are gone.

    I figure she must be bored but can’t think what to do about it beyond petting her during my breaks.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      Try a toy with food! My cat loves the lick mats with wet food spread out on them. Occupies his mind and satisfies his desire to play. I bet you could even do some dog food puzzles with cat treats!

    2. CatCat*

      I was surprised one of my cats liked this, but TV shows for cats on YouTube. Check out the Cat TV videos on YouTube by Paul Dinning. It’s basically just high quality videos of birds (with occasional squirrels).

      I put it on in the background on our television sometimes.

    3. codex*

      I know where you’re coming from! My older kitty liked one (one!) obscure Halloween toy*. He would occasionally humour me with a few swipes at a fleece wand toy if I flung it directly upon his person. All other toys were beneath him, lol.

      Said toy had ribbons, a woolly skull that contained the most apathetic jingly bell I’ve ever heard, and a fringe of glitter spider’s web. A few times a year, I would find him sitting on the skull, idly gnawing at a ribbon. He didn’t so much play as nested atop it like a floofy mama bird. The ribbons became stiff with kitty drool, and it was a sad day when he hurled his lunch on Mr. Spidey Skull after eight years of muffled bliss.

    4. pancakes*

      There are lots of great bird cams on YouTube, if that’s what she likes to watch. Cornell Ornithology Lab has a channel (Cornell Lab Bird Cams), and lots of individual people have nice cam set-ups in their yards, like Canadian Bird Nerd and NatureTec. There’s also a guy named Paul Dinning whose channel has lots of long, high quality bird videos. We often have these on in the background during the day.

    5. Julianna*

      She may not be bored at all, but one thing you might try is a puzzle feeder—an easy way to check if she’s interested is to hide some treats in boxes or bags and see if she likes trying to find them. If so, catamazing makes some nice cardboard puzzle feeders—my cats love them, they’re definitely the most popular toy.

    6. SpellingBee*

      I bought a Da Bird cat toy for mine a few months ago, and they are WILD for the thing. Granted, they’re younger than yours, but they’d do much the same thing of playing with a new toy for a short time then losing interest. I keep Da Bird in da closet (heh), and as soon as they hear me open that door they come running. One will even try to pester me into getting it out by head-butting my legs, then running toward the closet when I look at her. They’re not terribly expensive and might be worth a try.

      1. violet04*

        My cats love Da Bird. That would be my top pick for a cat toy.

        I also use Sheer Fun For Cats. It’s a sheer piece of fabric with crinkly edges. They love when I pull a piece of string or toy underneath it. Or they like to hide underneath and use it as an invisibility cloak.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        My 12 year old kitty who doesn’t play much very much enjoys the catnip banana, but only if I pretend I’m not aware that she’s playing with it. I have 5 them of all over the house.

    7. Cat anon*

      Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll try the puzzle feeder first. She definitely likes the kitty treats!

      I did try a laser pointer and she figured it out immediately. Instead of chasing the light, she’d head butt my hand! I didn’t know there were cats who could resist a laser pointer.

      1. WS*

        My cat was the same – he was excited for about two seconds then looked back to see I was holding it, and headbutted my hand. He ignored the dot forever after.

      2. Jackalope*

        The automated lasers are a bit better since they come from a separate location and move on their own. Maybe one of those?

      3. Black Horse Dancing*

        One problem with laser pointers is it can seriously depress your cat. They know they should have caught something and get frustrated/depressed when they have no prey after they have ‘killed’/caught the dot. Many people use a catnip toy so the cat has a successful kill.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yeah, I always have something like a feather wand to bring out after a few minutes of laser pointer play so I can give them a tactile “hunt” experience.

  27. Casey*

    Reading thread! What are you reading? What do you think you’ll pick up next? Need a recommendation?

    I’m listening to the audiobook of Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis, and this might be the book that gets me back into sci-fi. I used to read a lot of it as a kid, but it always somehow felt like I was reading from the authors that hate women, and that turned me off it. But Axiom’s End is reminding me why I liked it in the first place!
    (Sidenote and maybe a mild spoiler: I’m currently in the middle of finals and allllll I want in life is for an alien to make me a nest of sleeping bags in a dark cabinet and take care of me.)

    1. Holly the spa pro*

      I love Linsay Ellis’ youtube channel and i definitely want to get the book but i hate hardcovers so ill be waiting for it to come out in paperback. If you want to dive in to more sci-fi i recommend The Three Body Problem trilogy if you havent read it. When Lindsay Ellis announced Axiom’s End she called it akin to “an American three body problem for girls.”

      1. HamlindigoBlue*

        Bookdepository-com has paperbacks of new releases available. You have to wait a bit longer for them to arrive since most of them ship from the UK. I just bought the paperback version of Ready Player Two from them. It took not quite two weeks to arrive.

      2. FUISA*

        I got the book as an ebook from my local library. There was a wait but I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if the Three Body Problem would necessarily be a good follow up though I thought it lacked a lot of the emotional context that made Axioms End work.

    2. Teapot Translator*

      If you want to get back into sci-fi, I can recommend Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. I’m pretty sure I heard of both of these books in one of these weekend threads.
      At the moment, I’m reading nothing because I’m just tired all the time. But I am building up a nice pile of books to read over the holidays.

    3. CatCat*

      A few days ago, I finished a novel called “Lily of the Nile” about Cleopatra’s daughter when she is taken to Rome. I thought it was okay, entertaining enough though some characters were cartoonish. Not sure I’ll bother with the other books in the series.

      I just started “Dead Acre” on Audible, which is a supernatural hunter type story set in the old west. I’m not far into it, but I’m getting a kick out of the narrator being the same guy who voiced Arthur Morgan in the old west video game “Red Dead Redemption 2.”

    4. Workerbee*

      I will always recommend “The Mote in God’s Eye” and “The Gripping Hand” as awesome sci-fi novels that are so enjoyable!

    5. TextHead*

      I’m rereading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline before starting the sequel. If you’ve only seen the movie, the book is completely different and a lot of fun.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The sequel is taking some flack on writing forums. I’d be interested to hear your take on a future Saturday.

    6. Never Nicky*

      I’m reading Melmoth by Sarah Perry. It’s very interesting to compare this with the Gothic novels I studied at uni, which included Melmotte the Wanderer.

      It’s fairly emotional too so I’m only reading a little each day.

    7. Jackalope*

      I just started reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. About a fifth of the way through and really enjoying it so far.

    8. 2QS*

      If you’re interested, the Mary Sue is an awesome feminist site that looks at sci fi and fantasy. Tor dot com is also generally decent about critically analyzing gender and the history of sci fi (though a few of the commentators sometimes get unhappy about it). Both are full of recommendations – I have more than I know what to do with now!

    9. Mella*

      My resolution for 2021 will be to read through the Hugo Award winners, so feel free to copy that if you’re trying to work your way back into sci-fi.

    10. GoryDetails*

      Several in progress as usual, including:

      A STUDY IN SHERLOCK, an anthology themed on the Holmes canon, with contributions from authors who don’t usually write Sherlockian-style mysteries; turns out to be a really good collection, with many intriguing variations on the theme. Some stories are direct reinventions of Doyle stories, others use the style and tone but not the setting or characters, a few are even set in modern times and don’t directly reference Holmes at all, yet still fit the brief.

      HELL FOR THE HOLIDAYS by D. M. Guay is from the comedy/cosmic-horror “Demon Mart” series, and is set during a snowbound holiday party at the home of hapless slacker protagonist Lloyd – who has to juggle the usual family drama with the possibility of a demonic invasion.

      And on audiobook, SLEEPING GIANTS by Sylvain Neuvel, about the discovery of ancient, immense metallic body parts that were apparently deposited deep underground by some precursor race – possibly alien; it’s unfolding in the form of official reports by several lead characters, and is already showing tension between the eager scientist, the curious military pilot, and the creepily-officious government folk who clearly have an agenda that is not being revealed to the protagonists.

      Oh, and a re-read of HOGFATHER by Terry Pratchett, a seasonal romp through the Discworld – as someone hires an assassin to take out the Hogfather (Discworld version of Santa, riding a sleigh pulled by giant boars, leaving gifts, and expecting tasty meat pies at each stop), resulting in Death having to stand in. (“HO. HO. HO.”) Might sound grisly to the uninitiated, but as the Discworld Death is among the most decent character in the series, his efforts to be a good Hogfather are both hilarious and often very, very touching. [His treatment of the Little Match Girl gets me every time…]

    11. Jackalop*

      Sci-fi specific, not misogynistic: I love Elizabeth Moon. Her Vatta series is great, although I recommend reading in order. I also really liked the stand-alone book of hers, Remnant Population. (Her fantasy series The Deed of Paksennarion and its sequel series Paladin’s Legacy are also beloved.) Lois McMaster Bujold has a lot of sci-fi, in particular the Vorkosigan series. I lost interest after awhile but I know many people love the whole thing. (Again, since I’m more of a fantasy reader, I will also push her Curse of Chalion series.) And not too long ago I read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and found it (despite the title) to be a very cozy read.

      These might be harder to find, but AC Crispin years ago had a series called Starbridge that I loved. The first five books were wonderful, the next two were meh, and then I think they stopped. If you can find the first book and try it, you might like it.

      All of these books have good strong roles for women (in most of them, as the main character), and respect for women.

  28. Holiday gift inequities*

    Do you ever have holiday gift inequities with your family? How do you get over it?

    I’m trying to find a way to make this not sound petty but maybe it is petty.

    Spouse (‘Adam’) and I exchange holiday gifts with his side of the family. His siblings are married with kids and all of the siblings’ household incomes are all about the same.

    It bothers Adam that he and I spend a lot more money on gifts for this siblings (leaving the nieces and nephews out of the equation – the kids get more). Example we may spend $100 on each adult ($200 per couple). We receive maybe $60 worth of gifts as a couple from each siblings’ family.

    I do maybe 65% of the shopping for his family. I don’t mind- gift finding is kinda my minor super power. The money difference part of it doesn’t bother me. I think it is the somewhat the thoughtlessness of the gifts we receive that bothers me? Some of his siblings are closer to each other and Adam feels a bit left out, a bit like his siblings don’t understand him. So they rarely give us things that make us feel like ‘wow you understand me/ you remembered and listened when we talked about something I’m excited about’. And I feel bad for Adam which leaves me with a bit of a meh feeling.

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      Have you suggested a gift list/buying guide? Most people aren’t terribly thoughtful/good at remembering and panic buy. This can help both sides by easing the burden of mental energy at buying thoughtful gifts that resonate with the giftee.

      1. Annie Moose*

        I’m terrible at gift giving and wishlists are my savior! Sometimes I don’t even get things from them, but they still serve as inspiration or a guide to what people are into these days. My oldest sister, for example—maybe this sounds bad, but I don’t know what her interests are anymore, it’s been ten years since we lived in the same house! So a wishlist is a lot of help.

    2. WellRed*

      You kind of answered your own confusion here. You don’t mind gift shopping because you are good at. Not everyone is and some people are really hard to buy for. Second, Adam isn’t even shopping for his own sins, you’re doing it for him. Could be that left to his own devices, this gift exchange would feel more equitable. Also, as adults, maybe you can all agree to stopping the exchange or setting some parameters (restaurant gift cards).

      1. WellRed*

        By sins, I mean sibs. Although shopping for our sins might be appropriate punishment this time of year.

    3. OP for this thread*

      Having written this out I realized it wasn’t about the money or the gifts.

      It is more like the other siblings have connections with each other that Adam does not. The siblings don’t give each other gift lists because they don’t need to. Brother X will tell sister Y the story of how X was in a store , saw whatever gift X gave Y, thought of Y and how it reminded him of a childhood adventure X and Y shared. And Adam doesn’t get any stories or explanations like that. And that hurts him. He tries to find ways to connect but feels rebuffed.

      I guess the problem is seldom what you think it is.

      How do you try to overcome the feelings of being left out as an adult?

      May be the right question to ask.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        Has Adam spoken with his sibs and voiced his hurt feelings? If he’s tried and now done with attempting to connect, I’d advise to make and foster connections with people who are interested! Friends, extended family, etc. It may hurt to not be close to siblings but that is just one type of relationship in a world rich with possibilities.

      2. Blue Eagle*

        I can definitely relate to two things: (1) inequality of money spent on gifts and (2) feeling of being left out. The only way I was to resolve it for myself was to (1) reduce what I spent on others to what they spent on me the prior year and (2) give generic and not spend mental energy trying to come up with a gift that would be most appreciated.
        Here is the basic problem. There is no way to cure the issue of feeling left out or lack of connection. The only thing you can do is to “shake it off” (as my Dad used to say – which never really works) and spend physical and mental energy on something you enjoy. Sorry there is not a more uplifting answer.

      3. Sunflower*

        It’s hard to know without more information but taking a guess based on what you’ve provided. I’m assuming from your post that you don’t have kids and your brother’s siblings all have kids. That’s going to create some deeper connections regardless. It’s also possible they are spending more time together (kids outings, parties, etc) which is going to also deepen their connection. Adam is the outlier here so if he wants to make connections, he’s going to have to put himself in the situation. That might mean heading out for an outing with the kids or doing activities he’s not particularly fond of to spend time with them.

        It sounds like Adam might be dealing with some deeper rooted issues here from further back. I’ve always felt like a bit of black sheep in my family and it’s difficult when you feel like the world pushes on you that family is everything when it’s really not! My family are good, not awful people- that doesn’t mean I want to spend my most treasured time with them or I need to pretend they are my closest relationships when they’re not. It’s only a natural part of growing up. I think Adam needs to decide where he falls on here.

        I’ll also say for all this, I might be the most on the outs, but I also have the most quirks which makes it easy for people to buy me ‘thoughtful’ gifts. For example, I love faux fur and growing up, I loved Tweety bird. So I get a lot of stuff that could literally have taken 30 seconds to order off Amazon but can be framed as thoughtful. It’s possible that could be at play here as well.

        1. another scientist*

          Yep! Even adult siblings can build a deeper connection. I have seen it many times especially for siblings with larger age difference, so they didn’t connect as much in their childhood.
          It takes spending time together, and it may take more effort from Adam, if he is more flexible than the parents with kids (that’s pure speculation).

        2. TechWorker*

          Also if the kids vs no kids assumption is right then the fact everyone has about the same household income is kinda irrelevant.. it makes sense that the folks with kids are going to have more expenses (year round as well as at Christmas!) and thus might have less disposable income to spend on gifts for siblings.

      4. Mella*

        Gently, has Adam even tried to develop closer relationships with his siblings? Because from our perspective, you’re the one doing all the heavy lifting here.

      5. TL -*

        So… I would be pretty offended if my brothers’ partners bought my gift instead of my brother (and I’m pretty sure I would be able to tell, even if we didn’t do our usual “what do you want for Xmas?” talk.) Because the primary relationship is with my siblings, they’re the strongest bond, and they’re where the effort should come from.

        So my question is, how much of the social/relationship management do you do, and how much effort does Adam actually put in himself, without you? It sounds like you don’t differentiate between him and you two as a social unit, at least in this case. While that’s fine a lot of the time, for me, it’s not an appropriate approach for maintaining a sibling relationship – I would read it as my brother actively not wanting to put in the effort to have a relationship with me.

    4. Gift giving angst*

      First of all, I think what you are feeling is valid. I think that there’s often a lot of angst and complicated feelings that come out of gift exchanges which is so tough because getting/giving gifts is suppose to be fun!

      So you raise two points that seem to bother you and ‘Adam’. One is the amount you spend on the gifts and the other is the thoughtfulness around the gifts. Probably if there was more thoughtfulness around the gifts, the monetary amount would be less of an issue. I am not sure you can really resolve the thoughtfulness aspect, but you could address the monetary amount part. It seems like Adam’s siblings feel that less expensive gifts are sufficient for the adults. I know that as I have gotten older, I feel like I need less gifts/things and so maybe they are looking at it from a perspective of “here’s something to show I love/remembered you to open at Christmas” with more of a focus on the kids? So rather than continuing to spend a couple of hundred of dollars on the adults, you now know they won’t spend as much so can you adjust your spending to match theirs? That at least takes the monetary difference out of the equation.

      On the thoughtfulness aspect -some people are amazing gift givers (it sounds like you are one of these people) and others are not. And it sounds like you do more of the gift buying than Adam does. If Adam were buying the gifts, would the gifts be as thoughtful as the ones you buy, or would it be closer to the kind of gifts that his siblings buy? Our SIL is an amazing gift giver and while we try to buy them thoughtful gifts, I can probably say with much confidence that we are never quite as successful as she is. I’m not sure if she has ever felt the same way you do, but I think it’s possible.

      Now that we are older, the majority of the adults no longer exchange gifts at Christmas. Several years ago we had conversations with my Dad and stepmom, and our siblings and agreed the gift we would give each other would be to free ourselves from the stress of buying so many gifts. We focus the gift giving on the kids. However, getting gifts is really important to my mother, so we still exchange gifts with her. That all came out of several conversations we had with our family which weren’t always easy. My mom for example was a bit upset when we suggested no longer exchanging gifts which is why we continue to do so with her. And my husband’s parents could be a whole other post about feeling bad about gift giving and remembering birthdays. So I don’t know the dynamics of Adam’s family, your ages, etc and whether any conversations about expectations around gifts would be helpful but I’ll say that in our case those conversations were successful in resolving many (although not all) feelings around gift-giving around the holidays.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      You say the money part of it doesn’t bother you, but I think you wouldn’t have mentioned it unless it did? Or at least it bothers your husband which bothers you.

      In case you already don’t know, it is absolutely unfair to expect people to spend a couple hundred on your presents. Unless you are all millionaires for whom the money absolutely makes no difference. That is a lot of money. It also sounds like you might be the childless couple of the bunch? Kids are expensive, so even if you have comparable incomes, they will have far less spending money.

      When I was growing up, the childless couple in my extended family used to do cool things with my grandparents like vacationing together in Hawaii. There was always a faint sense of, “they love us enough to do this with us,” with the implication that my nuclear family…didn’t. We couldn’t afford it! One income and four kids doesn’t leave a ton left over, not to mention the price difference between 6 plane tickets and 2. We vacationed in the local state parks.

      It is unfair to measure people’s love by the dollars they spend on you, especially when they may have less dollars to spend.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      My setting had some parallels. We received gifts that were almost useless and showed lack of awareness. But there were no kids involved in my story.

      I had written another answer and deleted it.
      This isn’t about the gifts. It’s about the exclusion.
      It took me a very, very long time. But there is a reason why this exclusion is happening. My husband actually unplugged from his family long before he met me. And there were reasons why he unplugged. What appeared to be exclusion was actually family dynamic. They all were struggling with their relationships with each other. It just APPEARED that some were having good relationships with each other. It appeared that they seem to know about each others lives. No, it was all superficial stuff and it took decades for me to see it.

      Trust your husband to know his family. I mean really know them, like how they are when the doors are closed and no one is watching. Ask what he would like to do differently. My husband wanted to go see my father. This made sense. My father made my husband feel good about himself.

      I have a tear in my heart writing this. But in the end my husband’s reaction of unplugging was the correct answer. I feel bad that I did not catch on sooner. I feel bad that I kept saying, let’s do something with your family. I have to wonder if I made the gap bigger by “forcing” the issue. At that time I thought I was being a good spouse, I thought I was being inclusive and helping my husband. Now I am no longer sure.

      My best advice is to have a heart-to-heart with your hubby. Ask him what he would like to do about the holidays, ask him if he’d like the two of you to do something different. And really listen to what he says.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      When the disparity between the gifts I gave my brother and his family (2-3 thoughtful well-considered gifts per person) and the gifts they gave me (a $8 plastic kitchen tchotchke that they KNEW I would love … because they got the idea from me posting a picture of the one I had already on Facebook … from all five of them … as a joint birthday/Christmas gift) started to bug me, I stopped putting in the effort and now they get Harry and David gift baskets at Christmas time.

      I also do not use my gifting superpowers on my husband’s behalf – if he wants to get his family a gift, he does, and if he doesn’t, that’s not my problem. If his family has an issue with it, they can take it up with husband. (It does help that the only one he’s still in contact with is his twin who genuinely doesn’t care, but even when his mom was still alive I didn’t get involved in his family gifting.)

    8. Wishing You Well*

      Consider scaling back your gift efforts for Adam’s family. Also, consider broaching the idea of ‘no gifts among the adults’ to Adam’s sibs. Some people might actually be relieved that someone else asked to quit. It’s best to bring this up well before the holidays, if possible, but it’s worth floating the idea.
      Spouse and I eventually stopped buying for our long distance siblings. At some point, we all gave up and no one’s sorry we did. They don’t really know us; we don’t really know them anymore. Most are busy with their own kids and grandkids. I’ve never heard a whisper about restarting a sibling gift exchange.
      Best of Luck

      1. Clisby*

        In my family and my husband’s, we haven’t given to siblings in YEARS. Maybe 20 years ago in my family, we went to the drawing names method for both siblings and their children. All the siblings drew the name of one sibling to give a gift to, and all of the younger generation drew names so the younger kids got only one gift from one cousin. It was so much easier, plus who wants all those presents if everyone’s giving to everyone else? Eventually, we all just quit giving presents. My parents were totally on board with this – they kept telling us they didn’t want any more stuff, they’d just like photos of the grandchildren, so we moved to that. Heck, my husband and I just give each other token presents at Christmas. We’re far more likely to go out after Christmas and buy some large thing we both want.

    9. Disco Janet*

      I can relate. Last Christmas, my in-laws gifted my husband and I with coffee cups (we don’t drink coffee), a shower curtain liner (???), and some random house decor items with the clearance tags still attached. My sister-in-law received much more personal gifts. We have kids, and this applies to them too – my sister-in-law’s kids will get presents suited to their interests, and my kids get…whatever their cousins got. Even though they have very different interests. It especially bothers me because my in laws KNOW what my kid’s interests are, and we’ve offered suggestions…they just don’t really care enough to put any effort in.

      I know why this is – it’s because my mother-in-law is closer to her daughter. But that’s because her daughter is comfortable with letting her mother call all the shots in her adult life. We used to also get nice personal gifts, but it stopped when we started setting firmer boundaries (eg, we’re looking forward to showing you our new home once the sale goes through, but no, we aren’t bringing you along for the final showing to tell us whether or not you approve of the purchase.) Oh, and she started realizing how much we differ politically. So now she’s not as interested in having a close relationship with us.

      I don’t know if you can relate to any of that – sorry if you can’t and the background was unhelpful! But honestly, I’ve just had to learn to care less. I’ve stopped investing energy and thought into their gifts so it won’t hurt when they do the same. In fact, I leave it totally up to my husband now, which generally results in him buying gift cards. For several years we convinced ourselves that if we just kept trying, we would be able to make some headway and that they would see we care, our efforts would start to make a difference (not just talking about Christmas here), etc. And it was just a recipe for hurt feelings. Don’t invest more thoughtfulness and care than you’re going to get when it’s going to make you feel like crap and never change.

    10. Esmeralda*

      Does Adam interact much with his siblings during the year, or is Christmas the main time he sees/communicates with them?

      I get my sisters special little presents all year long, and they send me things as well, but we text a lot and are close. I love my brothers like crazy, but it’s not the same, and we don’t keep in touch the same way. It’s been ages since I’ve sent them a little “thinking of you” gift, now that I think about it!

      Maybe Adam and his siblings just aren’t close or don’t work at keeping close? So they don’t know him well enough to get super thoughtful gifts.

  29. green*

    Any tried and true holiday cheesecake bar recipes? I’m finding recipes like gingerbread or chocolate peppermint cheesecake but they have no reviews or comments to know if they are really any good.

    1. Hi there*

      I have made Smitten Kitchen’s bourbon pumpkin cheesecake as a regular cheesecake in the oven and slightly modified in my instant pot. The taste and texture are great, and I trust Smitten Kitchen to get the proportions right on bars. If you look up the recipe details you’ll find it. (I am skipping a link so my comment won’t require moderation.)

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I made caramel apple cheesecake a few months ago and they were amazing! There are multiple online versions for bars and I don’t recall the one I used (usually I look at several similar recipes and merge them), but they’re all very much alike in terms of ingredients and timing.

      Two modifications – I used ready made caramel sauce, and I cut the recipe in half to fit into a ready made graham cracker pie crust rather than a 9×13 baking pan. 10/10 will make again.

  30. Teapot Translator*

    I’m looking for recommendations for books that are from countries other than the usual (US, Canada, UK). They can be translations or be originally written in English.
    Thanks to this weekend thread I’ve discovered books that I’ve really enjoyed, so I’m hoping the commentariat will help me discover new authors from other countries.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        I dislike horror. And I haven’t felt the urge to read true-crime stuff as of yet.
        But mainly horror. And zombies. And cannibals. I just can’t.

    1. DistantAudacity*

      Books by Elena Ferrante seem to be very popular (I haven’t read them myself), they recently got picked up into a TV series.

      Also, those Barcelona detective books are lovely – The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

      Swedish – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

    2. Max Kitty*

      The Traveling Cat Chronicles, by Hiro Arikawa (Japan)
      An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten (Sweden)

    3. Jaid*

      Jules Verne (sci-fi), Georges Simenon (mystery), Robert van Gulik (mystery), Janwillem van de Wetering (mystery), Murasaki Shibibuku (first novelist, Japanese slice of life in Heinan era Japan “Tale of Genji”)

    4. pancakes*

      The website / publication Popula is English language but features writers from all over the world. It’s non-fiction, though.