updates: I insulted my boss’s daughter, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. I accidentally insulted my boss’s daughter (first update here)

Professionally, I have little to update. I left that job and the workforce to raise my children. I am no longer a Christian, and strongly disavow my previous actions while recognizing that I still bear responsibility for them. I will never allow my daughters to be treated the way I was.

2. I received an email warning me not to take the job I was just offered

I asked about two things: your thoughts on a slew of negative reviews of a CEO on Glassdoor and an anonymous email warning me not to take the job I was just offered. I took your advice and called the hiring manager (who also conducted the interview) and told him about the email – he sounded surprised and informed the CEO who called me personally. I spoke with the CEO and brought up my concerns with the abundance of negative reviews on Glassdoor and the anonymous email. He explained they recently laid off their sizeable outsourced sales team, and the company was retaliating against him. That explained the negative reviews, but not the email. For that, he said he couldn’t imagine who would send that, but apologized and hoped I would give him a chance to prove that the person sending it was wrong, and that the company was a good place to work. The CEO upped the offer by $10k and included a $5k signing bonus to show how serious he was, and I was really excited about working with the hiring manager, so I decided to accept the offer.

My second month, the head of HR was fired in a tumultuous meeting, and IT found out she was sending a lot of anonymous emails from her computer to potential, current, and former employees trying to get people worked up against the CEO.

My third month, the head of customer success, our graphic designer, and our senior sales rep all left the company. I took over customer success and discovered we had basically no relationship with most of our customers who were waiting for us to reach out and teach them how to use our software and several were threatening to revoke their credit card payments.

My fourth month the CEO cancelled the contract with our sales development rep agency, so I took over sending cold emails (which he wrote).

After two months of completely rebuilding the communication strategy, marketing automation, customer success outreach, and sales cadences, my manager told me he put in his two weeks notice and recommended I take over his role.

On my manager’s last day, at the transition meeting the CEO announced that the company was almost out of money and even if we closed every deal in our sales pipeline, it wouldn’t be enough money to cover our monthly operational costs, so he and the board decided to close the company. So instead of a going away party, we had an out of business party and I walked out of the office that day for the last time with a month’s severance.

That was on a Friday, by Monday I had a job offer from one of my (former) company’s vendors that included a nice salary bump. I was only at that company for six months, but I feel like I got six years’ worth of experience. If the company didn’t close, I probably would have started looking to move on soon – in the end, the Glassdoor reviews were right about the state of the company but for the wrong reasons. That job was my first in tech, though, and it directly lead to meeting some of the smartest, most talented people I know – many of whom are now close friends!

So I guess bottom line, if you see a bunch of negative reviews of a company or CEO on Glassdoor and somebody is motivated enough to send an anonymous email warning you not to take the job, taken together those are probably more likely signs of a troubled organization than a healthy org with the odd bad apple.

3. Using “they” pronouns in a recommendation letter without confusing people (#4 at the link)

I am the high school counselor wrote the letter to you regarding the student who let me know they were non-binary and had selected the he/they pronouns. The new name was generally associated with a female and I needed to write a recommendation letter for college. Most of the advice I got from your readers echoed yours and suggested I ask the student. One of your readers who identified as non-binary was very helpful and indicated what I thought, that they did not think that it was OK to ask if they wanted to change it back to reflect the born gender. I had to write the letter and send it at about the same time I wrote to you because- deadlines -and I have a LOT of letters to write. Calling home was iffy because we were distance learning at that time and the student is really hard to reach, he generally will not answer emails and has other issues that make calling a sketchy proposition depending on his mood. I did not mention this in my original letter but the task was a bit harder because when I write letters I do ask the students for input (community service, awards, clubs, honors, noteworthy things, etc.) and this student’s big thing was involvement in Girl Scouts of America. Yes, he was still involved in high school to include mentorships with younger GS.

So what I ended up doing was a change in my first sentence that went something like this:

I have known Melody “Susan” Jones (he/they) since his freshman year as his school counselor.

I did it that way for a few reasons. The name change is not a legal name change so I do have to continue to use the legal name that matches the student application but I can refer to the person as “Susan” and use the preferred pronouns and the reader will know who I am talking about. I am not writing a letter about why they are non-binary, but rather about student who happens to identify as non-binary and why I believe they are a good candidate for a recommendation committees consideration.

4. Can I tell interviewers my weakness is that I burn myself out?

Thanks so much for answering my question about talking about weaknesses and burnout in interview , and thank you to all the people that commented. It really helped me reflect and realise how problematic the pattern was, and that I was minimising its impact on myself and others. Many commenters astutely recognised this was more of a life problem than just about working habits and interview answers as I had been looking at it in terms of.

As for my update, things got a lot worse, then a lot better. Though I thought I was trying seriously to address this pattern, I ended up having such a bad ‘bust’ period that I ended up hospitalised for 2 months. It was my lowest ever point, but also the start of things turning around. When I was in hospital I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and suddenly it was like the missing piece of the puzzle had been found and my lifelong patterns that had damaged my work and personal life made more sense. I realised that my issue wasn’t just work stress, and my working habits were both caused by but also perpetuating the disorder. I started on medication which has gone a long way towards reducing the extreme swings, but also I recognise I need to change my behaviour and really take this problem seriously. It also helped in that what was previously a bad personal trait became recognised as a disability, so I have a certain amount of protection in terms of reasonable accommodations, which for me meant being redeployed to a different role that was less conducive to overwork, and where my absences would be less disruptive than in my previous role. I am now more stable and doing better at work than I have ever been, I just wish I’d realised this all and got on top of it years ago!

{ 228 comments… read them below }

    1. Catherine Tilney*

      Yes, glad to see that she saw the way she was raised could be harmful and broke that cycle. Good for you, OP #1

    2. row row row your boat*

      I agree. Thank you for writing in OP1 – what a pleasant surprise to get this second update.

    3. meyer lemon*

      It sounds like this person came a really long way in quite a short amount of time. It must be incredibly hard to come to terms with raised in what sounds like an extreme and punishing environment and to break away from trying to justify or excuse it. I hope this letter writer has been able to find some peace and healing along the way.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Yeah. I have known a few people who broke away from environments like that and it’s … extremely hard and the effects can be long-lasting, even after you leave. I hope everything is okay for LW, as it sounds like maybe something things happened along the way.

        1. anonymath*

          Me too. So many virtual internet hugs to the OP. Examining and deconstructing/reconstructing one’s family and community stories is hard work. “Losing your faith” and/or finding new faith is often traumatic (not always!). OP, you’re not alone.

      2. Reba*

        Yeah, I definitely don’t think this is a “little” update! Even if there’s not much to say on the job front.

        It’s so hard and so brave to break the cycle like this. I hope the OP has good support on her journey and is enjoying her family.

      3. Pickled Limes*

        I feel such admiration of OP1. I’ve done the “unravel from a religion and the harm it’s embedded in your brain” thing, and it’s so hard and painful. She’s doing a good thing for herself and her family, and it’s probably still hard a lot of the time. That’s such an admirable thing to do. OP1, we see you and we’re rooting for you.

        1. Losingmyreligion*

          I’ve done this too. Deconstructing is hard but worth it. The thing I’ve been finding is that there seem to be layers and layers to undo. I’ve been out of religion for 7 years and am still finding significant ways religion has damaged my thinking, self identify and world view. I’ve recently started reading support books around deconstructing from religion again as only now do I feel ready – before this I’ve just wanted to have ‘left’ and be done with it. If you’ve been in even a moderately high control environment I’ve found the book ‘terror, love and brainwashing’ particularly helpful to know what’s happen in my brain, even if the examples given are a bit more extreme than I’ve lived through. It’s been eye opening. There are various books on purity culture and the evidence emerging in the real damage it does to people.

      4. Snailing*

        My mother was raised religiously and though she was never as religious as her family, she still did some “unwinding” as well and is now non-religious and very liberal and feminist. She always says that having two daughters really helped her in this journey because she started thinking about how the world would treat us if we were raised in that environment – it sounds like something similar could have happened with OP. She had daughters of her own and quickly realized what that mindset would do to them.

        (I’m in no way saying you can’t raise daughters healthily in and among religion, just that my grandparents’ style of religion was closer to what it sounds like OP’s religious experience was in terms of shaming womanhood, sexuality, etc.)

    4. Unkempt Flatware*

      Holy Moly! This is the one I was waiting for! OP #1, there is a whole world open for you and your daughters. Good luck moving forward. I hope you found peace leaving your faith. That is not easy to do.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I re-read the original letter recently and wondered what had happened to OP#1. I admire the strength of anyone who was raised in an abusive situation (whether religious or not) and manages to break the cycle. I’m glad that her daughters won’t have the same experiences that she did.

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          #1 was the letter that got me into AAM. I’m glad for her that she’s found the time and motivation for reflection and is moving in a different direction now.

    5. Kate*

      Kudos to LW 1 for recognizing the harm her upbringing caused and changing how she approaches parenting her own daughters; I hope she is able to access a support network or therapy for unpacking the trauma she was put through. I’m so sorry she had to go through that.

    6. Velawciraptor*

      Want to join in on the lovefest for OP1 here. Good for you on breaking a destructive cycle and for protecting your own daughters! Well done!

    7. MassMatt*

      I missed the first update, where LW said she had herself been called a whore frequently by her family and even teachers! I was gobsmacked. And it was sad to see that prior threads had to be closed due to so many hateful comments. I’d hoped we (the commentariat) were better than that. But this combined elements of sex and religion, 2 of the 3 hottest button topics, so maybe it shouldn’t have been so surprising.

    8. ecnaseener*

      Yes, very happy for you OP1 :) May you continue to grow into a better, happier version of yourself!

    9. SnarkyMonkey*

      Her “religious experience” was a significant corruption of Christianity. I hope she finds peace and ultimately finds what true Christianity looks like.

      1. Idril Celebrindal*

        Please don’t do this. #notruechristian is really damaging because the structures of Christianity are deeply harmful in a lot of ways, and to reduce it to individual behavior and then deny that the people who behave badly are even Christians makes it really hard to see the damage it’s doing. When the leadership, the majority of the people in the pews, and almost all the literature supports the structures that get the religion to this point, the answer is to work to heal the religion, not to tell the victims that they are mistaken about who harmed them.

        I say this as someone who came out of one of those churches that was supposedly “one of the good ones” that still perpetuates really harmful stuff. But because those still within it are deeply committed to the #notruechristian narrative, they won’t hear a word I’m saying to them about what they are doing to people.

        I agree that this isn’t what Christianity *should* be, but to deny that this is what Christianity as it exists in the world *is* makes it impossible to work for something better.

        1. generic employee*

          Well and beautifully said. I was about to say what you have but your version is much more gracious than my angry one would have been. I applaud you.

        1. Anymouse*

          I don’t want this to turn into a pile up or get side tracked but I want to say this.

          My experiences with church and Christianity were nothing like OP 1’s but it was still damaging to me to the point that experiences I had as an early teenager effected my self worth and self esteem in different ways and it still causes me a lot of pain.

          I was going through a lot of pain and struggling with a lot of things (undiagnosed ADHD, undiagnosed PTSD, Undiagnosed autism) and at church I heard a lot of things like “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” and “if you truly believe God answers your prayers” and ” give your burdens over to God”. And….none of that helped or changed anything. And that coupled with other things that weren’t said directly to me but in sermons and things..I internalized a lot. I ended up feeling like I must be fundamentally bad.

          It hurts to even write this out and I’m in my late 40s.

          But also I saw how Christians in various denominations, everyday people and leadership treated others. This was the 80s so I saw how gay people were treated. I saw how certain sins were forgivable by certain people and not by others.

          Bottom line Christians are people and fallible and the way a lot of Christians act isn’t the way they should but they are still Christians.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        I am a Christian, in one of the “good” congregations, and… this doesn’t help. Don’t do this. There are better ways and places to express your faith.

    10. Artemesia*

      Also interesting response from boss in original update; he realized that his own framing of his daughter’s growing up was pretty creepy. Growth all around.

    11. Snow Village*

      Seriously, that letter (and its first update) always stuck with me for how it was. I am so, so glad OP has been able to move on and really appreciate this second follow-up.

    12. c-*

      OP-1, as a queer Catholic who was very hurt by your comments about female sexuality, other Christian faiths, and your using an homophobic dogwhistle to take a potshot at innocent people, thank you for disavowing those actions. I know how hard it is to question your faith, church, and family; to realise you weren’t treated right and break the cycle. I wish you peace and healing and a loving family who treats you right and makes you feel safe and happy. And I commend your protecting your children from what you went through, I think you must be a good mother. I hope you’ll keep on growing and learning as you have done so far.

  1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    I was not expecting that update from OP 1

    I remember the original letter and your response. I thought you responded in a very level-headed way given how overwhelming internet comments sections can be. I hope you are doing well. Your daughters sound lucky to have you.

    1. beans*

      OP1 had some pretty rough things to say, which are somewhat understandable given her upbringing but still deeply inappropriate. But she handled some pretty brutal comments with a lot of grace. I’m glad to see she’s grown.

      1. Boof*

        I think all her responses showed an impressive capacity to reexamine beliefs in light of new information. I think that’s why it sounds like OP1 has made a lot of fundamental changes that sound incredibly positive.

    2. June*

      How sad to be raised with words like W, “dating is immoral” (her words) and Gay (people who are not doing anything to you) hate. So disturbing.

  2. Allypopx*

    Whoa, I never expected this update from OP #1. Congratulations! I hope you and your family are doing well with your new outlook.

    (Note: I’m not congratulating for not being a Christian full stop, but because the brand of Christianity OP was exposed to and practicing was particularly harmful. I hope we can exercise that distinction in the comments. I’m not personally religious but I don’t want to insult anyone who is.)

    1. The Original K.*

      Yeah, in her update she said she didn’t realize the word “whore” was harmful because she heard it constantly, it was screamed at her by basically everyone she knew for her whole life (she said her teachers screamed it at her regularly) and … that is not and never has been my experience with Christianity at all, for which I am thankful.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, her families Christianity is far from the mainstream. It makes me sad that she lost any connection to her faith over this, but it’s SO understandable (I’m a non-believer personally, but get that religion is a BIG part of people’s lives. This must be SUCH a change for her)

          1. Temperance*

            Don’t be sad on her behalf. She’s free now.

            People raised like this don’t get the chance to develop actual faith and figure out our own beliefs. It’s not sad to move on from toxicity, and there’s typically not something good in it. It’s hate fueled by a fear of hell.

      1. Chipster*

        My children do local theater and there are a lot of Christians who also participate. These are folks that live in rural communities who do not allow tv’s in their homes, so theater is their go-to entertainment.
        I’ve always been shocked at how often and how easily these parents throw the word ‘whore’ around. Like, backstage with kids as young as 7 in hearing distance. And sometimes even calling their own daughters whores (never their sons though!).
        Anyway, I realize this is a small subset of Christians but so very shocking to me to hear this language tossed about so freely!

        1. pancakes*

          You should seriously reconsider having your kids spend time with such dreadful people. No matter how often you talk to them about the behavior and mindsets about women they’re seeing and experiencing, you’re signaling that it should be endured for some reason.

          1. Chipster*

            Oh these people do not get close to my kids! I’m always backstage and shut it down immediately and emphatically. I’m friendly with the board of this theater group and they’ve changed their backstage policies because of parents like this. And my kids KNOW this is not normal or to be tolerated. I am a loud feminist and have always talked to my children about politics, gender equality, and DEI (age appropriately).
            These people have nothing to do with the organization. Their kids are participants and a lot of them of aging out of children’s theater.
            My own children are passionate about theater and I’m not taking that away from them because of these dreadful people. But, I’m highly involved and able to keep my eye on the situation.

            1. pancakes*

              Removed — the commenter isn’t soliciting advice on her parenting. One comment pointing something out is fine; a whole thread telling her she’s wrong is not, and makes people less inclined to comment here. I’m removing that thread. – Alison

              1. Onelia*

                I think you are being a little harsh on Chipster here. They can only shut down what they are hearing in the time they are exposed to the comments. If the kids or parents saying these things are exposed to that kind of language and behaviour in the 98% of their week outside of the theatre, it is going to continue to happen in the theatre as well. Shutting it down emphatically when it does is the right behaviour, as is reporting it, and anything higher than that is the organization’s job.

                I also think Chipster meant that these people are not part of the formal organization. The organization as a whole does not share or perpetuate these beliefs, but some of the participants do.

                As for your last statement, I’m just utterly confused. Would you rather Chipster’s kids not participate in the theatre program? Like, “hey kids, I know acting is your passion but we’re going to stop now because of some of the parents are hateful/uneducated jerks?” Who wins in that case? Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve found pursuing any passion or career means you are likely to have contact with hateful and misogynistic people. The key skill is to be able to identify it, not let it impact you, and act responsibly. If they have a parent who is clear on their beliefs and actively calls out bad behaviour, they will learn that they can (and should) do the same.

                Maybe the kids from the other households will also realize that their parent’s behaviour isn’t ok or the norm, and they’ll question their rights and behaviours as well. We can learn from others around us.

            2. AY*

              Just wanted to chime in to say that I think it’s likely super helpful for your children to see you standing up for your values in public!

              I strongly disagree with the other commenter.

      2. Artemesia*

        I had grandparents whom I sure would have screamed that at my mother if she every tried to date in high school. When she was an adult and an RN and began to date, their church prayed over her sluttish ways. My parents were both inexperienced when they married and both the furthest possible thing from sluttish. This kind of ugliness directed particularly at young women was and is pretty common in fundamentalists churches and many of my cousins really suffered from this kind of upbringing which I luckily mostly escaped.

    2. CoveredInBees*

      It doesn’t surprise me that she no longer identifies as Christian at all considering how restrictive/conservative her upbringing sounds.

      I have a few friends who were raised in Haredi (aka Ultra Orthodox Jewish) communities and were never comfortable in less conservative Jewish settings. This was a combination of needing a full break from the upbringing as well as these communities feeling Jewish-but-not-really in comparison.

    3. HB*

      I’m a nonbeliever and I had similar thoughts (I have plenty of Christian coworkers who find their religion a great source of strength, it’s just not for me!). The shortness of the update makes me a little sad because it sounds like the OP went through something rough to get to where she is. I hope you and your family are doing well OP and that life shows you the kindness and joy you and your daughters deserve.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Usually when you leave a community that’s comfortable with calling little girls “whores” several times a day- you don’t get to stay in contact with anyone in that community. It’s how they keep people in.

        1. OhNo*

          That’s what I was thinking, and it makes me terribly sad to think of LW1 going through that. I hope they know that there is support from outside the community now – even if it’s just from this comment section.

    4. Chickaletta*

      Agreed. It’s a little sad that she left Christianity altogether because she knew nothing other than that toxic brand. I left the conservative/evangelical branch of Christianity after college but never threw it out altogether (although those people would say I have).

      LW’s responses are so…unemotional… that it does seem a little concerning to me. Like her emotions are shut off, which I don’t blame given how she was raised, but holy therapy.

      LW – I hope you are well and have found peace/will find peace, where you are.

      1. Former Manager*

        I don’t know there’s enough there for us to say she knew nothing other than evangelical Christianity. I don’t want to project my past on the OP either, but my experiences with evangelical Christianity made any version of Christianity unacceptable for me, though I knew there were kinder and healthier sects.

        Anyway, dittoing your well wishes for OP1 – religious trauma is truly awful.

          1. PeanutButter*

            I was also raised Pentecostal, and full-on went to a non-denominational religious college for my first bachelor’s because I wanted to figure out the One True Christianity.

            I was very, very well-versed in all the flavors when I left it, and I find comments about how sad it is that I’ve “lost” something grating and frankly offensive. From my perspective they’re saying it’s too bad I lost the ability to deceive myself.

            1. OhNo*

              I used to feel the same way when people said they feel sorry for me for not having religion. But over the years, I’ve learned more about how religion is often seen as one of the few external sources of support and resilience for people. I’m choosing to read some of the comments in this thread more as “sorry you lost that external support structure” or “sorry you (presumably) lost family and friends who chose the harmful parts of that faith over you” rather than “sorry you lost your religion”.

              I dunno if that perspective helps at all (it doesn’t for everyone!), but it might be a useful way to re-frame that type of comment in your head if it starts getting to you.

          2. Dragon_Dreamer*

            I was raised Catholic, and had several relatives who were Fundamentalist Catholic. (Those who deny Vatican II was valid.) I’ve never been particularly religious, so right after Confirmation, I gave up Lent for Lent. I’ve been agnostic ever since.

      2. Lunar Caustic*

        While many people who exit religion have complicated feelings about it and/or experience grief, others find the experience liberating and positive. Let’s not be in the habit of assuming that leaving is or should be sad–what matters is how the person who leaves feels about it. There should be space for grief, but there should be space for joy as well.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, I think in some cases it’s easier to cut off ties completely – once you learn just how much ‘Christianity’ failed you, it probably does not feel safe going near any version of the brand. And people can find solace and joy in many different things, and religion may be one of these but definitely not the only one.

        2. Violette*

          I don’t find it sad at all that she left organized religion. I was raised in a super-strict, woman-hating version of Southern Baptist. My exit from all religion was a step-down process: that specific Southern Baptist version to a wider Southern Baptist version to “bible” churches to United Methodist to a Unity Church (not affiliated with Unitarian Universalist) to atheist.

          The last two churches I was a member of (United Methodist and Unity) were suuuuper progressive and liberal, which matches my view of the world. So breaking completely from “faith” wasn’t even a pushback against harmful practices/beliefs. It just didn’t make sense to ascribe a whole bunch of things to the supernatural when the natural answered any and all of my questions, even the ones I hadn’t thought of yet.

          And I don’t think it (religious belief) ever made sense to me, but I had trouble formulating that thought because my brain was so steeped in religion that I didn’t have the language for it.

          My life is wider, happier, deeper, more content, and more joyful than it ever was when I was a Believer.

      3. Roci*

        Can we not do this? If being religious or non-religious is a morally neutral decision that we respect either way, then choosing to convert or leave a religion is not a sad choice. Just as changing from one sect to another instead of leaving the religion should not make an atheist sad.

        OP’s religious beliefs were clearly a source of abuse and toxicity for them, and they have determined that leaving the religion was the right choice for them.

        1. English, not American*

          I don’t think morality has anything to do with whether something’s sad or not. It is sad to have been abused by something/one that should be supportive and therefore be unable to experience a supportive version. As a lifelong atheist I can still see the appeal of religious communities, especially in a country where the atheists are bigger believers than the theists where I live.

          1. Roci*

            The comment I was responding to specifically said that it was sad that OP left Christianity “altogether” rather than a different sect. This suggests that it is not sad, aka better, to choose a different sect than to leave Christianity for another/no religion. I disagree with this, one is not better than the other except what OP has determined for themself. It’s part of a lot of #notrueChristian happening on this and the original thread.

            1. English, not American*

              I know, hence my saying it’s sad to be unable to experience a supportive version thanks to having experienced an abusive one, i.e. a supportive religious community as opposed to their previous abusive religious community.

              1. generic employee*

                We don’t know that LW#1 is “unable” to or even desires to experience a “supportive” version of Christianity, and furthermore we should not be speculating on that. We should congratulate LW#1 on doing something difficult and leave it at that.

                How would you feel if someone said how sad it is that you are an atheist because you’re incapable of having a religious community? (This is, word for word, a common comment on atheism in the US. Not just “don’t have” a religious community but are *incaapable* of one.)

              2. Roci*

                It is sad to experience abuse, but it is not sad to choose to leave a religion.
                Your viewpoint inherently places “believing in a religion” above “not believing in a religion”. An atheist may counter your point saying that it is better to leave a religion entirely than to cling to its toxic rules just for the sake of community, since OP could belong to many supportive communities that have nothing to do with religion.

                So let’s not pit theism against atheism and just respect the decision that OP made.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I was raised a Christian and I’m now an atheist, never regretted it, and managed to instil decency honesty integrity generosity and a sense of equity into my children. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving Christianity altogether.

        I’m not sure that OP1’s brevity means anything at all. She’s writing in to a work advice blog and is no longer working so she doesn’t have much to say. She just told us enough for us to know that she has moved on and grown up and matured an incredible amount and for that I think she should be commended

        So, OP1 I think you are very brave to write in knowing how the comments have torn you apart previously, thank you so much for doing so and I wish you all the best in raising your children without calling them whores!

  3. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

    wow i am sort of surprised yet not surprised at OP1. i’m glad that her daughters will be treated so much better and not shamed and called horrible names.

  4. MicroManagered*

    LW1: It sounds like you had a tough road to travel in coming to terms with how you were raised. I hope things are going well for you and your children.

  5. Dark Macadamia*

    Really happy for you, LW1! The type of attitude that was normalized for you growing up is so difficult to learn your way out of. You sound like a great mom.

  6. Mental Lentil*

    Well, I was planning to go on a roller coaster ride later, but after reading the update to #2, I don’t think I need to! That was just something!

    I’m glad things worked out for you, LW#2. That was a heck of a ride!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah, I started off thinking “Ah, the old anonymous letter comes from someone you wouldn’t listen to if you knew it was them” and then things just kept falling off.
      OP, glad you managed to turn that dumpster fire into a positive experience-builder–that’s not easy.

    2. MissGirl*

      Is it bad I’m glad she took the job so we got the update and now know for sure? :)

  7. Sara*

    LW#1 – I am happy to hear you’ve recognized and grown from past behaviors. The only way we can move is forward, and take those lessons with you. Good luck!

    LW#2 – What an insane rollercoaster. I cannot imagine living through it, but hey, at least you got the experience and a good story!

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Right? I had popcorn ready for the update from OP1, but actually needed it for #2.


  8. Allypopx*

    Congratulations OP 4! I also struggle with a tendency to burnout due to mental illness and I know the steps you’ve described taking are a lot of work. I hope things continue to go well for you.

    1. a Manager*

      Hi Allypopx and LW 4, I am a manager and I suspect that one of my employees is burning out, but not sure of the cause why. How would you recommend I broach the topic without being insensitive to their situation?
      It’s important to note that their work performance isn’t bad, but their personal interactions with staff are terrible and they don’t seem to handle mistakes made by others in a gracious manner.

      1. HQB*

        If their interactions with staff are terrible and they don’t handle mistakes by others graciously, then (part of) their work performance is bad. Interacting with coworkers is not separate from work; it is part of work. So I would broach that – tell them they are not being professional, it is a serious performance problem, they have to stop. If they are overwhelmed and insist they can’t/wont, that’s the perfect opening to suggest contacting the EAP.

      2. Allypopx*

        Not sure if you’ll be checking in at this point, but address the performance issues. “You have seemed exceptionally short tempered with your coworkers…[describe incidents]…what’s going on?”

        Particularly point out if this is a change. “This seems out of character from what I’ve come to expect from you and I’m concerned something bigger is going on”

        Sometimes it’s hard to recognize burnout when you’re in the middle of it, so if they don’t bring it up proactively you could mention it. Approach it from the stance of “I want to help you and understand what’s going on but this can’t continue”.

      3. Lenora Rose*

        Whether this is a sign of burnout depends on several factors, but the first and foremost; were they good previously and now are bitter and ungracious?

  9. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Wow OP2!!! I did not remember reading your original letter, but that is one heck of an update.

    Glad you landed well after that debacle.

    Maybe I’m too cynical (or read too much AAM), but I think that upping the salary offer and adding a signing bonus after you asked about the email & reviews would also count as a red flag.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yeah, if a job pays under market value it’s easy to run away, but if it’s paying well *above* market value there may be a reason for that as well.

      The update was quite the ride. I’m reading along, like, “OK.. ok.. OH NO.”

      I’m glad you at least had a soft landing someplace else, and at least now you get some war stories.

    2. Sherm*

      I agree, especially since salary apparently *wasn’t* one of OP2’s concerns. It just seems like a way to deflect. Why not give a tour of the company? Or provide authentic testimonials?

      I’ll definitely be very wary if I ever get an anonymous warning! It only matter so much who planted the red flags. What matters more is that red flags are there.

      1. Sparrow*

        An anonymous warning absent any other red flags I might write off, but that plus the Glassdoor reviews? I would definitely assume something not-great was going on there. It sounds like that situation worked out in the best possible way for OP – they got a lot of new experiences under their belt, they weren’t stuck there for ages, and they leveraged it into positive professional and personal moves. Good for them!

    3. Smithy*

      I had one interview with a place that had some really scathing Glassdoor reviews. During a second or third interview, I asked about them – didn’t get called back for another interview, but didn’t think much of it.

      A few years later, someone in my network who listed me as a reference applied for a role with the same place. She was offered the role but ultimately turned it down. I ended up getting another call from the place saying they were deeply concerned for her safety because she had gone AWOL on them, and that while obviously they had pulled the offer – they were now trying to assess whether to call the police for a wellness check.

      I called my friend back and she was entirely baffled because she had informed them that she wasn’t going to accept the offer. Ultimately it just felt like a very strange smear and immediately brought back to mind all of those terrible Glassdoor reviews I’d seen before.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        The company called you (a reference) about your friend’s mental health because she turned down a job offer with them!?


          1. Smithy*

            They never said mental health, but there was a very paternalistic tone that felt like either there was some severe mental health/domestic violence issues at play or she was wildly unprofessional. It was a really gross experience.

      2. TreeHillGrass*

        How bizarre that gives me chills- probably an overreaction but what a crazy thing for a company to do. Imagine working there *shudders*

        1. Smithy*

          It was so uncomfortable and largely gave me a vibe that they were trying to just speak negatively about her.

          I’m sure there are places with bad Glassdoor reviews where it’s more a case of a place having a lot of bureaucracy, not having a lot of mobility, etc. But for a high number of very detailed Glassdoor complaints….I’m inclined to take them a lot more serious after that.

        2. ObiterDicta*

          LW1 Different but similar lives. Your way forward will not always be easy but it will be worthwhile

    4. BRR*

      As someone who has also read too much AAM, I’m really curious how I would react to someone upping a salary offer like this. When I got to the end of the first paragraph, I took it as a sign of good faith. Obviously wrong (understatement).

      Also this was one of the wildest updates I can remember

      1. serenity*

        There was a lot wrong here but to be fair, I’m not sure the CEO was acting in bad faith.

        It sounds like a case of a company very badly mismanaged, and which paid for that dearly. But what the OP presents doesn’t seem to indicate the CEO was out to manipulate or trick the OP. And for what it’s worth, it looks like there were some other bad actors involved. That HR Director was tremendously awful.

        1. BRR*

          I guess it is good faith. I was thinking that the CEO saying “we’re not awful, he’s money because we are really interested in you for this role” was in bad faith because the reviews and email were accurate but the CEO could genuinely believe it was a great place to work.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, the CEO sounds sincere and it sounds like OP felt the CEO was sincere.

          I almost wonder if the CEO was too trusting and other people down the line were not worthy of such trust. Some how the CEO just did not have the right mix of people and they were definitely not a cohesive unit.
          It seems that he pumped money into the problems which we don’t always see, but sometimes money is only a tiny part of the answer.

        3. Smithy*

          Situations like that often remind me that people can be acting in good faith and have the best of intentions, but if they aren’t overseeing or leading over effective and functional systems – it doesn’t matter.

          Believing that the CEO was entirely bamboozled by those more junior seems a stretch in the same way that believing that the CEO had entirely nefarious intentions. More than likely, I think the truth is more in the middle where the CEO and other senior management put together systems and/or a structure that simply wasn’t designed for success. Those systems can be technical or apply to who was hired to lead teams. And then with people trying to function/survive with a struggling system – it often brings out different negative coping strategies.

          Not that this does or does not apply to the CEO as a person, but I think it’s a common response to think of people as operating in good faith, when they’re ultimately responsible for a failing or toxic structure/team.

        4. rachel in nyc*

          yeah, I heard someone say about start-ups once (true about all companies) that you need founders who want to do each of the things- the finance/business person, the tech person, the sales person, whatever. That way everything gets done and no one gets upset over power struggles.

          It sorta sounds like that place was full of power struggles.

      2. Funfetti*

        Same! I thought it was a great sign of investment of the company willing to ensure the employee wanted to join and their own faith in them. Guess that was naive take?

      3. Your Local Password Resetter*

        I read it as a good faith attempt to compensate for the perceived risks OP would be taking.

        But in hindsight, it’s not the best response to throw money at people to try and convince them you’re trustworthy. It does kind of look like you’re bribing people to ignore the problem, which is obviously not good management and another sign that the company might have problems.

    5. AnOH*

      Agreed! The original letter reminds me of a company I interviewed with that also had scathing Glassdoor reviews about the CEO. I almost considered it because it paid well until I noticed a few reviews that highlighted that the above market pay was essentially so people would ignore the CEO’s verbal abuse.

    6. allathian*

      Yes, indeed. But at least the CEO did the right thing and shut down the company while there was still enough cash to pay severance rather than run it to the ground and leave the employees with salary owed.

  10. Jennifer*

    Wow, OP2. Sorry you had that experience. The red flags were all there. I do think that one or two bad reviews from a large company aren’t that big of a deal, but that plus the email was troubling.

  11. Elle Woods*

    Kudos to OP1 for recognizing the harmfulness of their actions and not shirking their responsibility for them. That shows tremendous personal growth which will serve her–and, by extension, her children–well in the long run.

  12. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP1, I’m sending a hug to you and think you’re a great mom. It takes a strong person to break away from the teachings they had from the cradle, even when they disagree with those teachings – they’re so ingrained by adulthood, aren’t they? Thank you for deciding that your daughters will not hear abusive rhetoric at home, and thank you for updating us!

  13. NotRealAnonForThis*

    Holy crap, Update #2!

    And after reading the Update 1 original letter, and the Update 1 previous update, I’ll congratulate the updater on breaking this cycle.

  14. Aggretsuko*

    #2 sounds like “when there’s smoke, there’s fire.” If someone cares enough to write an anonymous email warning people not to take jobs there…and it’s from HR and she does it a lot….HOLY SHIT.

    I’m glad the OP came out all right in the end with another job offer within a few days!

  15. quill*

    1) Good on you for breaking an unhealthy cycle!

    2) My jaw is ON THE FLOOR and wow. wow. Glad you’re out of there, it sounds like a velociraptor pit.

    4) Congratulations on the new treatment plan.

  16. Czhorat*

    Wow. When I saw Letter1 start with “little to update” professionally I was worried. It looks as if she’s really learned some lessons and came out of this as a better person.

    Not much to add, but I’m glad to the cycle of abuse broken.

  17. Youngin*

    The about face from OP in number one is….interesting. I am happy that she disavows her former self but there is something about the “I will never allow my daughters to be treated that way” that makes me feel like something happened :(

    1. nonbinary writer*

      LW1 mentioned in her follow up that she was called a wh*re constantly in her own household growing up, so perhaps she’s done some unpacking of how traumatic and damaging that kind of abuse can be. That kinda stuff can take decades to truly come to terms with.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        And I’d bet OP being called Whore is simply the verbal manifestation of the abuse. There was likely a lot more going on, IME. I just hope she keeps growing as trauma often results in a stagnation where growth is stunted. More counseling, likely for many years, will help keep you moving forward.

    2. anonymath*

      Me too. The recent discussions the SBC has been having come to mind. A lot of reckoning.

    3. Mobius 1*

      Also that was a really short and blunt answer she gave. Definitely a lot still to be processed.

      1. pancakes*

        It does cover a lot of ground, though. It’s thoughtful of letter writers to give updates and I don’t think it’s quite fair to expect them to expound on their inner lives when they do, even if their circumstances change dramatically.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agreed, thank you. Letter writers do not owe us updates at all, and they certainly don’t owe us intimate details of their emotional and spiritual evolutions.

    4. Pickled Limes*

      I was in a support group for a while with people who were leaving their childhood religion, and one really common part of people’s stories was deciding to have kids and then taking stock of the way kids are treated in the church. The introspection that comes when you start thinking about what kind of parent you want to be can be a starting point for so many life changes. I’ve heard so many people say a variation of “if it was just me, I could have shoved down my disagreements and stayed as I was, but I couldn’t put a child at risk that way.”

      1. The Original K.*

        I’ve heard this about people who were abused as kids – that when they became parents, they realized that they didn’t have it in them to hurt their kids, that they didn’t WANT to hurt their kids, and that realization caused them to recognize how messed up it was that people who were supposed to love them had hurt them. I can think of a documentary I saw about sexual abuse survivors who were kind of confused about the abuse they suffered but had “wait, someone did what to me? when I was how old?” realizations when they had their own children – like, imagining someone doing to their children what was done to them was a tipping point.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        To be honest, this is my beef with my mom and the thing I think she does owe us an apology for. If she wanted to be in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship, that is her choice. But subjecting my siblings and I to it? No. No one is doing that to my kids. I’m not perfect, but try very hard to remember that the little things one does and says can make a big impact on a kid. I was also very selective when choosing to have kids with a partner. My spouse is a wonderful father and has a great relationship with our children. I can never imagine him messing with their minds or saying cruel things to them, like my father did. (My father is dead, thankfully, and never met my kids. They have four loving grandparents and didn’t need him.)

    5. Observer*

      there is something about the “I will never allow my daughters to be treated that way” that makes me feel like something happened :(

      Well, the OP mentions that she had repeatedly had epithets like this screamed at her during her teen years. And that is wasn’t “so bad” because it did keep her from getting into trouble. I suspect that what “happened’ is that she discovered that that kind of abusive behavior did NOT “protect” her or someone she cared for.

      1. English, not American*

        I just assumed that after becoming a parent herself she couldn’t imagine screaming hateful abuse at the tiny, innocent child she loved so much.

  18. nonbinary writer*

    LW 4, just want to send some love and support as a fellow bipolar-haver. It can be a nightmare of a disorder to manage and it definitely can have a progressive element to it if gone untreated, so I’m so happy that you’re getting the treatment you need. Stability is such a gift!

    1. Julia*

      Also a fellow bipolar-haver. When I read the update I said “YES!” aloud because I remember relating hardcore to the original letter and thinking to myself “bipolar!” But I didn’t comment that, because of course there was too little info to be Internet Armchair Diagnosis Lady.

      I’m glad you have an explanation. But I am sorry about this condition. It sucks. It sucks a lot for me. I’m going through law firm recruiting right now, and I have a fantastic GPA but I also have a dark secret: I am not consistent. I want to be able to tell these firms “Beware! I have periodic low points!” but that will just never fly, so I’m gonna have to surprise them with it when it happens. It’s just a bummer.

    2. Jovigirl*

      Stability really is a gift. Some people have no idea the extent some of us have to go to be ‘normal’!

  19. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – I am very glad that you were able to recognize and break out of a cycle of abuse – because that’s what you experienced, whether it was personal or religious. Good for you for taking responsibility for your actions as well.

    OP#2 – that was surreal!! On the plus side, congratulations on getting so much professional growth in so short a time!

    OP#3 – sounds like you found a way to balance things that respected your student.

    OP#4 – knowing is half the battle, right? All the best with your treatment program and your new role.

  20. Quickbeam*

    OP #3, thanks for your efforts at addressing what can be confusing and challenging in your service to the student. I appreciate anyone who makes a sincere effort and if you haven’t been told you do valuable work recently, let me say it now.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Agreed OP3 – you took what you knew of this particular student and his circumstances and preferences and chose a respectful way to write the letter. Not every commenter in the original thread would have been on board with how you handled it, but there was also disagreement among different commenters so there wasn’t necessarily one right answer. You were thoughtful in your approach and supportive of the student!

  21. Jovigirl*

    OP4: I am also bipolar and was in your shoes for years. I would work 100x harder than other people at work to make up for my emotional instability and outbursts at work that I couldn’t control. I made my work invaluable to the company so they wouldn’t fire me. After a particularly stressful time at work I also ended up hospitalized. I was diagnosed as bipolar and it made perfect sense. I lost my job and ultimately ended up on permanent disability because even though I’m better with medication I was unable to find a balance to stop the ups and downs enough to handle the stress of work. I highly recommend cognitive behavioral therapy. It has taught me great coping skills through a technique called mindfulness. From my personal experience I would advise you to refrain from ever letting your employer or coworkers know your bipolar diagnosis unless you absolutely have to. Tell them it is a mental health issue if you need accommodations but not particularly bipolar. Unfortunately it is still very misunderstood by the public and considered taboo. I lost my job after revealing my diagnosis and so have many others. They purposely created a hostile work environment that forced me to quit. Best of luck to you.

    1. nonbinary writer*

      I sadly agree on not disclosing bipolar. I’ve found there’s a much more intense stigma about it than depression or anxiety, which are much more socially accepted. A lot of people just really don’t understand bipolar and treat people who struggle with it as inherently unsafe, which is really just so not true.

    2. Bipolar polar bear*

      I am diagnosed bipolar and have been in treatment for a little less than a decade. In the start it was bumpy with a bunch of side effects and ups and downs. After a couple of years after being diagnosed I found the balance between meds, exercise and routine adjustments to keep me stable for long periods. I have a lot of job security, perk of working for the government in Brazil. Bipolar is tough, but can be managed. Working- in the right place with a few accommodations- actually helps me give my life rhythm. What I learned about bipolar is that the meds help but I need a lot of routines, plenty of sleep and I need to be listening to my mind and body at all times.

  22. lunchtime caller*

    This is such an interesting gathering of updates because I feel like it really hammers home how much of our work life is part of our real life–issues with one bleed into the other and sometimes we think there’s just a little problem but it’s really just the tip of an iceberg of being unhappy with something much bigger. Very glad to hear things are going well for all the letter writers here!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I so agree. I have often thought that we know more about our cohorts home life than many other people. We are fairly transparent to each other and it’s not that hard to see when things are derailing.

  23. Ms. Yvonne*

    LW2 – I was on the edge of my seat. Really good read, sounds exhausting, glad you’re out (well, didn’t have much choice on that) and in a better job.

  24. LaLa762*

    Wow LW 1! You’ve been through a lot of change! I’m sure that was exhausting. I really applaud you for your growth and your dedication to your daughters. I hope you are also taking care of yourself.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Sometimes courage looks more like tears and hurt/pain. But it is courage that pushes us through those tears and pain and we come to a conclusion.
      OP, hang on to the thought that you are indeed a very strong person.

  25. June*

    I’m so glad you saw the extreme damage to people that hard core fundamentalism of any religion brings. The fact that you were raised with the W word as a common part of everyday language is abysmal. I’m sure you will delete it from your household vocabulary. Let alone work where its use is shocking. Best wishes to you. Any branch of “religion” whose basis is to judge and condemn law abiding people who are different from them, is a fraud. You’ve shown tremendous growth.

    1. Amazed*

      Can we please seriously not use one person’s experience to malign others with this broad a brush? Thank you.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I don’t see that they are maligning anyone except hard-core, judgmental, xenophobic fundamentalists? Certainly June is not tarring all Christianity let alone all religion with the same brush, I really don’t see what there is to be offended about, unless you’re a hard-core, judgmental, xenophobic fundamentalist?

      2. Lunar Caustic*

        If you pay attention to the qualifiers in June’s comment, you will see that their brush is actually perfectly adapted to their subject matter.

  26. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    Congratulations OP 4 – I hope your treatment plan continues to work well for you.

  27. Boof*

    OP2 – sounds like you were right it was an unstable company, but from what you describe it wasn’t toxic or damaging for you, and really allowed for some rapid growth for you and ended up being a good stepping stone? It sounds like you don’t regret taking the job, so alls well that ends well I guess! But yeah, major red flag for someone looking for a calm, stable long term job XD

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I really admire how OP seems collected and solid though this whole roller coaster of events.

    2. CantMakeThisStuffUp*

      Definitely 20 years of experience in a nanosecond! I’m wondering if it seemed horrible at the time. It sounds like LW just rolled with the punches and made lemonade from some pretty weird lemons. LW has the experience and demeanor to make a truly awesome career.

    3. Eukomos*

      It sounds super stressful at the very least! It did get her connections for a better job though, so hopefully a relaxing vacation or two is all that’s needed to recover.

  28. missleslieknope*

    LW #4 – As someone who was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder after being misdiagnosed with unipolar depression for a decade, I congratulate you in your success with your treatment. I’m also so happy that your workplace was (seemingly) accommodating to you because that can make a HUGE difference in maintaining stability.

  29. Echoes*

    LW 4 – Same story here. The average time from symptoms emerging to diagnosis for bipolar disorder is around seven years… I had long cycles of going from rocking it to crashing and burning, again and again, over years, and it was eventually recognised as bipolar. I had that moment of everything clicking into place too. Meds have helped; learning to recognise things that are likely to send me off kilter and how to manage my life to cultivate stability has helped even more, as has figuring out how to keep an eye on what’s going on and recognise when I’m starting to go high (or low) and react early.

    There’s a course run by Bipolar UK which I think has an open-access online component, though it’s been a few years since I did it (in person) so that may be worth checking out. It’s all designed around building skills to manage the illness.

    I ended up switching fields to something with more consistency and that was lower-pressure. Over time I’ve moved up to more demanding roles as I’ve built the resilience and skills to manage them. Things still feel precarious sometimes, but nothing like as bad.

    My workplaces have been really supportive. I have ended up telling people about my diagnosis and about approaches I can take (and work can take) which help me maintain stability. Mind (the mental health charity) have a template for a Wellness Action Plan which is designed to help with these discussions, which also might be worth looking at, just to get ideas.

    I hope you get awesome opportunities coming your way and that you’re able to build a more stable life!

  30. Daisy-dog*

    LW2 – I also worked for a place that came across as shady before I started. I was very ready to leave my previous role, so I took the plunge anyway. It was also a wild ride. The company is still open, but I know it was iffy there a few months after I left. I wouldn’t trade the experience though. Good luck to you!

  31. JennyPooh*

    OP1, hugs and best wishes as you continue deconstructing. I know from personal experience that it is not always the easiest path, but ultimately so worth it. Your daughters are lucky to have you as their mom.

    1. Blarg*

      Thank you for using present tense. So many comments refer to OP as having broken a cycle, etc. She’s breaking it. It isn’t done. It’s likely a lifelong process of self reflection, awareness, making conscious choices, seeking feedback. I wish her and her daughters and other supportive loved ones strength and healing. I hope OP is able to forgive herself in moments when she should and to continue to grow and change and teach her daughters to question and assert themselves and be powerful.

  32. Kay*

    OP #1, you are amazing. You probably know this already, but I think sometimes it helps to hear things like this anyway: what happened to you was not okay. It was not okay for anyone to EVER call you a whore. None of that was your fault. Your daughters are very lucky to have you.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The anger/hatred behind the words can be soul crushing. OP, I hope you continue on to find more parts of yourself and experience the joy of that regeneration/discovery.

  33. Boadicea*

    LW1: When Alison said earlier this week on Twitter there would be an update, I was hoping this would be it. Thank you if there’s much less hate in your life now. I’m queer and also left Christianity, albeit definitely not a similar version of it to your upbringing.

    LW3: Incidentally, I use a different name than my birth/legal name, but not for gender reasons (although my gender is “meh”). I don’t know your student’s application circumstances so may not apply here, but I regularly push back on the idea that you have to use your legal name in applications. I have never applied to a job under my legal name, and I only even tell them my legal name when it comes to the offer/security check stage. My field is pretty small, so employers will generally have at least heard of me before I apply. Not only do I not want to be called my legal name, but it’d be silly to lose any familiarity by presenting as a complete randomer. This actually isn’t, legally or in any other sense, a problem at all! The hiring manager’s/HR’s response tends to be “oh okay”. Sometimes surprises (and I think delights) even people who themselves use alternative names.

    LW4: Are you secretly me? I think you might be! (: I’ll have to read that whole thread to steal the advice intended for you.

    1. Heather*

      With college applications the legal name on the application and the name used on other supporting materials (letter of recommendation, school transcript*, SAT/ACT scores**, financial aid forms***) all have to match, so it usually is important to clearly note legal and preferred names in a letter of recommendation (presuming the student intends to disclose a preferred name). Signed – A Professional School Counselor

      *Transcripts at public schools in the US are generally required to display the legal name.
      **Students have to show photo ID for SAT or ACT so it’s almost impossible to take the test under a preferred name.
      ***The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is cross referenced against tax filings.

      1. Boadicea*

        Hm, I actually did grad school at a public school in the US, but no other part of my life/education. I’m pretty sure I applied under my preferred name as usual… I should go back and see what’s on my transcript and degree certificates :) though my boss did insist on putting Susan “Flossie” Teacake on both his website and the big board of everyone’s names outside his office – which has never happened any other time in my life. Should say, I live in Europe so culture may be different.

    2. Shad*

      Sadly, especially for things like college, the legal name might be deemed necessary to keep everything together. I know when my sibling lived on campus (they’re still in school, but off campus now), they couldn’t even receive mail through the campus post office unless it was addressed to the legal first and last name, which has *never* been the name sibling used.
      It’s definitely not the way it should be, but unfortunately in many cases, it’s still the way it is, and the person writing a reference is probably not in a position to push back (unless they have an independent route to push back when it couldn’t be taken as reflecting on the applicant they’re boosting).

    3. Gloucesterina*

      Thanks for the info Heather and Shad! Also, it didn’t sound like the student had bandwidth or expressed desire to be actively involved in this particular slice of the application process, so it seems like it would be overstepping to work from any assumption about the student’s practice around use or non-use of the legal name is (and how they’d approach things in this particular scenario).

      I think the LW did the best with the information that she did have, including respecting what she knew of the student’s communication (or perhaps more accurately, non-communication) preferences around this and other topics.

      1. Gloucesterina*

        Errg, I meant to say “assumption about the student’s practice around use or non-use of the legal name in applications” (meaning applications that they personally fill out, rather than the kind of institutional documentation at hand here.)

  34. Sparkles McFadden*

    OP#2 – Thank you for the amazing update. It sounds like a real learning experience! I cannot help but wonder if/how you’re going to put this 6 month Journey to the Center of Chaos on your resume.

  35. OliveJuice90*

    LW1- As a queer Christian with a queer, non-binary partner who is also a Christian, sometimes it irrationally hurts my heart to hear of people leaving Christianity wholesale due to religious trauma. (My partner was horribly abused by an extreme branch of Christian fundamentalism/evangelicalism) , but honestly, I am just grateful to know that you no longer have those beliefs and will not be raising your children to hate people like me. It sounds like you have come a long way and deserve to be proud of yourself. Sending you love!

    1. Empress Ki*

      As a non-binary and queer, i am genuinely curious how can someone be a Christian and non-binary/queer at the same time.
      I totally rejected my Christian background as it is clear than the Bible condamn us (it’s not the only reason I reject the Bible but it’s one of the reasons) and recognises only 2 genders.
      I felt I had to choose between being a Christian or being who I am.

      1. Rebecca1*

        1. Many branches of Christianity do not take the Bible literally.

        2. The Bible does include stories and rules about people who would not be considered part of the gender binary in modern-day terms. They tend to have a lower socioreligious status, but their existence is certainly acknowledged. (Deuteronomy 23 and Acts 8 are examples.)

        I’m not a Christian but I like reading about archaeology.

      2. OliveJuice90*

        So without writing a novel haha- we belong to an open and affirming church that fully supports the LGBTQ community. Many theologians do not agree that the Bible condemns us or recognizes only two genders- I realize that if that’s how you interpret the Bible then you are correct- I am not a true Christian. By many Christians standards I am not welcome or not a true Christian. I also don’t believe in hell or in proselytizing at all. But leaders like the Rev. Naomi Washington Leapheart give me amazing hope. You are perfect and valid just the way you are! It sounds like you have also suffered due to your religious background- you did not deserve that and I hope things are better for you today!

        1. c-*

          Just chiming in to say that, from my branch of Christianity’s perspective, if you’re a) baptised and b) consider yourself a follower of Christ, you’re a Christian, end of story. Just in case anyone needed their Christianity validated ♡

      3. Mockingdragon*

        I saw a post going around about exactly this on facebook recently. The gist being that there are lots of things the bible discusses as binary because it’s poetic and easy to understand. Examples: God created day and night, but no one would say that sunset and sunrise aren’t godly somehow. God created the land and the sea, but marshlands and swamps exist. God created male and female, but nonbinary people are here. I’m not religious but it was a really lovely post.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        As an atheist who was christened age 6m, I can assure you that OP is not necessarily in a bad place after leaving Christianity ;-)

        1. Boadicea*

          100%. My church was a pretty normal one as they go, but only one time ever I remember one of the deacons (around the time of same-sex marriage legalization in my country) saying from the pulpit that “gay marriage” was an evil. I really doubt the majority of parishioners agreed, and I was already a non-believer teen forced to come along by parents, but that was the absolute end of it for me. Of course he’d be perfectly nice to my face, not knowing I was a massive lesbian facing all kinds of bullying having just come out in high school, plus family awfulness.

      5. c-*

        Many people feel that their identity as Christians and as LGBT+ are at odds, and many need to leave due to religious abuse. Myself, I’m Catholic, and I just remember the innumerable things my Church has been wrong about in the past, all the harm it’s caused, all the diversity in points of view and political action that has always been a part of it, and think:
        1- The Church is wrong about queer people (among many other things, big surprise, bishops and popes getting things wrong). There’s a long standing Catholic tradition of telling the Church it’s wrong about stuff which I feel called to uphold.
        2- I’m here, I’m queer, I’m living proof that queerness is godly (each human being being a reflection of the Lord) and if a two-bit bigoted bishop wants to try and question God’s wisdom and love in his Creation… well, I hope he’s got a nice rosary handy when he finally reckons with that sin, ’cause that blasphemy sure ain’t going to pray itself away.
        3- Personally, I’d rather stay in the Church and try and change it for the better, than leave it to its own devices.
        4- I also take a, shall we say, perverse delight in challenging their bigotry and holier-than-thouness merely by virtue of existing as my proud queer self in holy spaces. ;)

    2. Rebecca1*

      We don’t technically know she left because of the trauma. She could have left for other reasons, or converted to a new religion that inspired her, and then the distance made the trauma clearer to her.

        1. Rebecca1*

          Oh I know, I just meant she could have left for another reason as well and then realized the trauma later when she had some distance for it. I know someone in that category, which is what made me think of it.

  36. May*

    I really hope LW 1 has also learned and plans to teach her children not to say terrible things about queer folks too.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Yes! Not just not to say the terrible things about them and also to not have the terrible opinions about them.

      1. June*

        Yes. Absolutely. Law abiding people are free to live as they think fit. And free from harassment of those who think they know “better” or think they are better. Free from being called horrible names and discrimination. Hideous descriptive epithets like the W word and all the others should never become normalized.

  37. 100 percent that BEC*

    LW1, I’d love to know more about how you got to this place. Regardless, it’s wonderful to hear you won’t be repeating history with your own children.

  38. Delta Delta*

    #2 – This might be an AAM update record for All The Things. Hopefully the new company is normal.

  39. Miss Muffet*

    I am so happy for #4, but I realized as I read it that this person probably is not in the US (due to the spelling of some of the words) — because I thought, 2 months in the hospital here for a mental health issue would completely bankrupt someone (even if they were lucky enough to have insurance) and that made me very sad. I’m glad this person got the help and care they needed. I wish it were more available in the US.

    1. Empress Ki*

      What happened when someone is sectionned in the US then ? Do they still have to pay for their treatment?

        1. Wants Green Things*

          First, they have to be “lucky” enough to get a bed, which… HA. And then yes, they are still responsible for paying.

            1. Liz*

              How does that work with safeguarding, though? I mean, if someone is unwell enough to be a threat to themselves or others, don’t hospitals have a duty of care to the patient and the community?

              I work in mental healthcare and if someone is that acutely unwell, then we are legally obliged to provide some sort of care and intervention to keep that person safe, and protect others. I was under the impression that, even in the US, emergency healthcare has to be provided regardless of payment. I would have thought a section would be the mental health equivalent of emergency treatment.

              1. Boof*

                I’m not in mental health, but I am in medicine in the USA; yes emergency care first, payment later. That being said getting emergency care doesn’t mean folks don’t have to pay for it later, just that the hospital won’t refuse to provide care until payment is given or guaranteed. Usually people get bills after the fact and work out a payment plan. Also, the bar for mental health inpatient stay is pretty low, once not acutely suicidal or imminent risk they are usually discharged. my impression is the linkup with hospital stay to after care services are pretty poor, especially right now with covid struggles and a surge in mental health needs. Yeah I think it’s bad.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It’s even hard to get out-patient treatment paid for on many insurance plans.

  40. 3DogNight*

    I remember this letter! I am so glad to hear this update! Congratulations!
    Allypopx, congratulations to you, too. Recognizing and changing this is so difficult. Actually, the recognition is the hardest part, because you just can’t see it when you’re in it.

  41. LadyHouseOfLove*

    Congratulations to OP#1 for moving on from that. I know some progressive Christians were sad that she moved from her religion completely, but I disagree.

    As a progressive Christian, I am completely understanding that for some people, leaving a more fundamentalist branch for a more current one is not enough. For some people, they need to heal from being in it entirely and that’s ok.

  42. Lana Kane*

    LW#1 – as someone who left Christianity after being raised in a toxic version of it, I wanted to say this internet stranger is proud of you for your insights, self-awareness, and courage. I’m very familiar with how hard that decision and ensuing process is.

    As LadyHouseOfLove said above, sometimes in order to heal you have to remove yourself entirely. Fundamentalism is very hard to move on from. Some people find that they are eventually ready to find the kind of Christian community they want to have. Others, like me, came to the decision that the experience was too painful to potentially repeat – plus I just didn’t have the drive to rejoin. Religion doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, so what some progressive Christians find comfort in, is insurmountable for others. People will lead the lives they want to lead.

  43. LW4*

    Thanks so much everyone for the supportive comments, and glad some people can relate!

    In answer to the query above, I’m in the UK. I was in hospital that long as they were trying to get a clear sense of what exactly what was going on, and trying to find the right meds and get me stabilised on them. I hope I’ll never have to stay that long again, if at all, as they know that stuff better now.

    1. Well done!*

      I’n really proud of you for the work you’ve done to re-stabilise your career, LW4 – and I hope you are taking stock and giving yourself credit for how far you’ve come, even if you would have rather known sooner. I relate as someone whose job ended after I was hospitalised involuntarily (in Australia), after 10 or so years of not knowing what was going on and seeking out mental health care continually. Horrific to think that hospital admissions for bipolar in the US are at the individual’s cost, but then again, so much is. It’s given me something to think about – I thought that involuntary hospitalisation was a horrible outcome, but then again not being able to be hospitalised if needed or being left with a devastating bill may be far worse.

    2. Echoes*

      I’ve only been back in once after my first hospital admission, and that was only for a few days, so it can definitely work out that way!

  44. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW1: You are as courageous as you are caring, and your daughter is very fortunate to have you for a mother! Congratulations on freeing yourself from the shackles of a toxic background – it couldn’t have been easy, but clearly it’s been worth it. All the best to you and your child!

  45. Former Believer*

    LW1: Keep going, you can do it. From someone who’s been there, it’s possible. And things are so much better on the other side. Thank you for your update!

  46. Erin*

    Shout to OP1 & OP4 for taking the time & energy (that can be scary at times!!) to grow and change to fulfill the needs of your life. That is hardly a simple task, and I giving you both major probs for diving deep and figuring things out to create change. Well done!!

  47. PX*

    OP2: just. Wow. What a ride! So glad you seem to have come out of it okay and with some new skills and experience that might be useful someday (although hopefully not for a while!)

  48. liquidus*


    *clicks through original letter and update*

    Wow, that was a more satisfying trilogy than the Star Wars sequels.

  49. Tara*

    I looked at the previous update from OP1, and saw this:

    “Note: A while after this post published, I removed a line from the letter-writer’s update about “sexual deviancy” that seems to refer to LGBTQ people and others. You may see reference to it in the comment section so I wanted to provide that context.”

    I appreciate that OP has moved away from her faith, but I’m disappointed that her posts weren’t removed from the site, rather than just that individual line. I don’t think AAM should be giving a platform to someone with that kind of hatred in them. Giving this person a continued voice on a popular site, when we have no clue whether they are still homophobic, isn’t something I can support.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As someone who was briefly Evangelical Christian, and a practicing Christian for 20 years overall (I escaped into the Orthodox church, which I found more tolerant and accepting)… It is something that they drill into you the moment you enter the fundamentalist evangelical community. I certainly had it drilled into me, and for a while, bought into it. (Was easy when I’d met a total of exactly two out LGBTQ people in the first 30+ years of my life; a couple that were my college roommates for a few months in my first year of college.) And I was an adult in my early 20s, who had just graduated from college, when I was converted to evangelical Christianity. I cannot imagine growing up immersed in this from the day you were born, and hearing this from every authority figure in your life, including your parents. I’d be willing to bet that this is part of OP’s legacy that they left behind. I know that, when I lost my faith, “finally, no more of this ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ BS when it comes to the LGBTQ community” was such a weight off my shoulders. I was happy to read OP’s last update, just as I was happy when Josh Harris left the faith and the community. I’ve been following Josh on social media, and seeing unbelievable personal growth. I wish OP the same. They have already made the first and most difficult step, they can do it.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Hit send and then realized that my roommates weren’t even out. Everyone just knew. But they never talked to anyone about it. It was Russia in the mid-80s. I was 17 and they 18 or 19.

    2. Allypopx*

      Strongly disagree. Alison takes a strong stance that the LW needs to check herself and the thoughts and behaviors aren’t okay. People who agree or share the worldview that LW did in her first two submissions should see themselves represented and also see all the backlash. Pretending these people or situations don’t exist helps no one.

    3. Boof*

      I don’t know how taking down the post would help anyone. I think LW made a remarkable journey in just a few short letters and as someone who is far removed from LW situation, I found it remarkably informative both at how she was raised, how it expressed itself, and how much she seems to have changed with relatively little prompting other than “hey that’s not normal and not ok!”.

    4. Hard disagree*

      The about-face this letter writer made, thoughtfully and without hostility or defensiveness, is fore me a much-needed ray of hope for the future and the possibility of a better world. I hope I am similarly secure enough to listen, reasses things I assume to be true, admit my wrongs if/when I find them, and do better–but honestly, I don’t know that I am that secure. This update makes me want to try, and it gives me strength to keep fighting the good fight instead of giving up in despair.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      OK so OP 1 is not perfect, and her imperfection is a serious flaw to you. It is to me too actually, but I disagree with your last statement. If you think Alison should only publish questions from people who have been proven to be wholly free of homophobia, good luck with that. How do we determine whether someone meets your high bar? Should Alison ask you to draw up a questionnaire to help weed the homophobes out? While we’re at it, we could also eliminate the sexists and the racists? What about people who don’t recycle, or who microwave fish at work? This is exactly what we call cancel culture and it’s wrong.

      When you try to help people (which clearly Alison is doing), one very important thing is to meet them where they are. For example, you’re a dietician, they come to you because they’re obese and want to lose enough weight because it gives them back pain, so you help them do that. No matter that you’re on a complex diet to manage your gut bacteria and do two hours of body-building every day to stay perfectly trim, you help the person achieve what they need to achieve.

      Alison explained to OP why what she said was wrong (it wasn’t just that she was being critical of her boss as a parent, which is all that she saw wrong at first) and pointed her to a way to apologise. OP explained why she didn’t think using the word “whore” was wrong, and that opened the can of worms about her upbringing. She reacted very well to the harsh criticism she was served, thought hard about a lot of stuff, and ended up rejecting the lifestyle that had made her what she was. She’s come a very long way! She’s still not perfect, just like me and you.

      So there was one homophobic statement in one of the messages. I didn’t see the statement, Alison had already removed it when I got here. But the three messages still made sense. it’s not like it was an important part of the narrative, it had nothing to do with the original problem about calling someone a whore. Given that everyone was reacting to that one statement rather than seeing the bigger picture, I think Alison did the right thing in removing it.

      Alison has published letters from clearly misogynistic people too. Each time she has gently, patiently, but firmly explained why they cannot fire a woman just because she hid the fact that she was pregnant before being hired, or why they are not entitled to participate in women-only sessions on smashing through the glass ceiling (to cite two examples I can recall off the top of my head). I’m sure it’s much more helpful to the person writing in than being cancelled (as well as making for very satisfying reading).

  50. Lyra Silvertongue*

    The cultural attitudes that can come with following a particularly exclusive branch of religion don’t necessarily fall away when you stop following the religion. Congrats to LW1 for getting out of a bad environment – I hope that you can reflect on some of those beliefs and how they effect people outside of your own circle (i.e. not just you or your daughters). Personally I feel kind of weird about somebody who made it clear that they consider people like me to be sexual deviants being given another platform here but there you go.

    1. June*

      My grown kid is gay and I felt strange about it as well. But leaving behind toxic religious ideology is a start.

    2. c-*

      I say this as a queer person: it hurt, to read OP1’s letters. I wish she had said whether she deconstructed her homophobia (I hope that’s what she meant about disavowing her past actions).
      But. If shaming and silencing people out of existence worked, the straights would have succeeded in wiping us off the map many centuries ago. Her bigotry was openly challenged. Having her letters published and reading through the advice and comments helped her grow, to her benefit and society’s as a whole, and they might help others in similar situations.
      I hope that the OP’ll keep growing now that she’s presumably further from the abusive environment which caused these attitudes. I think that to challenge nefarious worldviews we need to engage with the people who hold them as people, and sure, some of them just want to hate and kill and those people shouldn’t be given more power and reach to hurt others, but those are the big fishes. The OP here is not Tucker Carlson, and just as engaging in good faith with a bad faith actor will only burn you out, engaging in good faith with a good faith bigoted person may result in positive outcomes, if the person wants to change. We cannot wait for the perfect teachable people to turn up, as we just have us imperfect people trying to reach out to more imperfect people as best we can. Hope that helps.

  51. RagingADHD*

    I must say, I’m a bit surprised that a student who doesn’t reply to emails, and is “sketchy” to reach by phone based on their mood, would be considered a good mentor or receive a positive recommendation for an internship.

    Responsiveness, consistency and reliable communication are usually basic expectations. How are they going to pursue the internship, much less perform well at it, if they choose to be unreachable, or are so moody that their own reference is hesitant to contact them?

    1. PoppySeeds*

      Not an internship but a college application recommendation letter. Re-read the original and update.

  52. Another Professor*

    #1 – As an academic theologian, I have to admit that I was flummoxed by the comment in the first update by the OP that said “Jesus is not all there is to Christianity.” There’s the problem right there. I am glad the OP has moved out of what sounded like a really oppressive (and not loving) version of Christianity and seems to be in a much better place.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As a former 20-year Christian, who was well-read on the doctrine, attended talks and retreats, taught Sunday school etc etc., this jumped out at me as well and I was as baffled as you were! Thankfully, OP has left all that in the rear view mirror.

  53. Saradactyl*

    LP1, Congratulations! I’m so glad that you were able to assess your upbringing and treatment and leave belief in those attitudes far behind! I too am an unbeliever, and while I was not raised in an overtly hateful and abusive religion, the attitudes towards women and queer people (like I grew up to be) were one of the things I found distressing and terrible about christianity in general and the fundamentalist versions in particular… I wish you all the best in this world!

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