weekend open thread – October 30-31, 2021

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 Days of Afrekete, by Asali Solomon. A woman throws a dinner party while awaiting her husband’s arrest on corruption charges and contemplating their marriage, her past, and whether she wants the life she’s found herself in.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,335 comments… read them below }

  1. Pass The Gravy*

    My parents divorced when I was very young, and tradition became that I would spend Thanksgiving with my dad and his extended family, and Christmas with my mom and her extended family (though still having Christmas day dinner with my dad). I kept this tradition all through college, and for years after, even when I reached a point that I was old enough I could decide for myself. I mainly enjoyed Thanksgiving for being able to spend time with my half-brother and half-sister, I didn’t really care about my extended family (they’re the kind of family that I only see that 1 holiday and just make awkward small talk). But now, my siblings are older and they have not attended Thanksgiving for the past couple years, because they have moved out of state.

    On my mom’s side the family, I am much closer with my extended family, especially my cousins. In 2019, I went to Thanksgiving with my mom’s family for the first time because my dad and stepmom went on a cruise. I had so much fun with my mom‘s family. It was the first time it occurred to me that I could change what I’ve done for years because I would prefer to see them rather than my dad’s family. In 2020, there were no Thanksgiving celebrations other than zoom calls. This year both sides of the family will have in-person celebrations (everyone is vaccinated). I am thinking of telling my dad that I would rather spend thanksgiving with my mom’s family from now on.

    Even though I am 30 years old and I’m allowed to make my own decisions, I think he will take this kind of hard. Especially if my siblings aren’t coming around either. During the lockdowns, I was the closest child (living only an hour away from my dad and stepmom while my brother is out of state and my sister is out of the country). Because he knew I was furloughed with nothing to do, he made a big deal about me coming down to visit as often as possible; I think he was lonely and I was the only kid he could see in-person. So I am not sure how he will take me not wanting to do Thanksgiving with his family anymore. How can I break it to him gently, and push back if he tries to persuade me to change my mind? I don’t think he’ll be angry or mean about it, but he’ll be sad. It’s nothing personal, I just have way more fun with my mom’s family than my dad‘s; given a choice I would rather spend a holiday where I have more fun. I’m not saying I’ll never go back to Thanksgiving at my dad’s, especially if my siblings start coming back, but I do see this as a more permanent change.

    1. A Genuine Scientician*

      Can you make it a point to spend a little more time with your dad, just not at a specific holiday? Particularly if it’s sometime between mid November and the end of December? That could go a long way towards getting him to see that you’re not rejecting *him*, but preferring to spend the holiday with a family you feel closer with.

      1. Washi*

        I agree. I’m not sure if there’s a way around your dad being hurt by this, so I would just make it clear that you still want to spend time together, just not at this particular holiday. And then I think the hurt will lessen when he sees you follow through and make plans with him.

        I also wouldn’t make too much of a point of never ever doing it again (even if that’s the plan.) I think “I want to try something different for a little while” is still accurate and accomplishes the same goal as “I will never celebrate Thanksgiving with your family again.”

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is the best advice–if you’re still an hour away, make sure to spend some regular weekends visiting. (I often preferred those for not having to do a bunch of holiday rituals, so we could go do stuff together other than cook, eat, and lie around digesting.)

        Will add to present it as “This year I’m going to Vermont” rather than “forever after I’m going to Vermont.”

      3. Mannequin*

        It sounds like she’s already doing a lot of in in-person visits with dad, how about distant bro & sis picking up some of that slack? They may be out of state/country, but that doesn’t stop them from scheduling regular phone & video calls to keep in touch.

        I’m frankly giving tons of side eye to the notion that Pass The Gravy should be doing even MORE emotional labor here.

    2. Kiwiapple*

      Why can’t you do Thanksgiving with both parts of the family, just on different weekends? I am going to guess that you wouldn’t be able to do it on the same weekend, depending on the distance between where you are, where your mom lives and where your dad lives?
      Do you plan to visit at another time to see your dad?

      1. Pass The Gravy*

        Both sides of the family do the big Thanksgiving celebration on the same day, and their hours apart from each other in location so I can’t just go from one to the other in one day.

          1. lasslisa*

            I’m pretty sure the OP doesn’t schedule the dad’s extended family’s Thanksgiving celebration, and asking folks to move to a time when they don’t have time off work would be a heavy lift. Plus, if you don’t really care about seeing those people, it’s a lot of work to try to get them to move their celebration if you don’t even want the result much.

            I would say celebrating on Thanksgiving proper with the mom’s family and having a special dinner some other time with the dad only (and not the extended family) is a good way to look at it, though.

      2. Rose*

        This was going to be my suggestion as well! My family is mostly in healthcare, so we’ve done Christmas on the Sunday before Dec 25 and day-late-thanksgiving since I was a baby. It makes the holidays sooo much lower stress.

        Since you’re not invested in seeing your dads extended family, I would put it in terms of what’s important about your moms (not what his thanksgiving lacks), and suggest a date and time when you could host a thanksgiving for just you guys, or when you could bring food to his house. Something like:

        I really loved spending thanksgiving with Cousin Greg and Aunt Ying last year, and it made me bummed about how little I get to see them. I’m going to go to thanksgiving at Moms house again this year. Can I host you and Step Mom for our own thanksgiving on (whatever date is good for you)?/or/Can I visit for our own thanksgiving. Would (date) work for you and strep mom? I’ll bring the Turkey and greenbeans!

        If hes sad or has questions I’d just emphasize it’s not about caring more about your mom than him. That I can totally understand being hurtful, but a grown man should be able to accept that you’re not as close to his extended family as your moms. It might hurt his feelings a little but a reasonable person is not going to be deeply insulted or hurt by that.

        1. Mannequin*

          “a grown man should be able to accept that you’re not as close to his extended family as your moms”

          This is the meat of it for me.

          Dad can feel however he wants but the emotional labor is all his to do here, not Pass The Gravy’s.

          1. Tussy*

            I completely hate this use of “emotional labour”. For one, emotional labour has been co-opted from a very useful term that describes jobs like customer service, retail and hospitality where you have to manage customer’s emotions and hide your own, which highlights how draining and tiring these pretty jobs can be.

            If we are going to have a colloquial use of it, using it to describe the management of other people’s emotions that are directly caused by our own actions is just callous to me. It’s not self-care to just do something you know will hurt someone (no matter how much right you believe you have to do it) and not care about how you make others feel. It’s useful when people are foisting their emotional problems ONTO you, it’s not a get out of being a considerate person card.

            I think OP needs to grow up and realise you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t do something you know will make someone sad and just nope out of the consequences and have it not be a selfish act, no matter how low the stakes. You can’t ask for empathy about your feelings and your capacity for emotional labour while actively doing something that you know will hurt someone.

            OP can totally do whatever. But they either hurt their dad and deal with it or they find a way to make it up for them.

            1. Tabby*

              Except… her dad is a grown ass man who ought to manage his own emotions around his daughter making a completely reasonable choice. And she should not have to do any kind of labor around it at all, period. Pouting because someone decides to do something is childish, and parents need to suck it up if their adult kids make other plans.

              So yes, I’d call it emotional labor if she has to soothe this grown man’s feelings at all. Nope, nope, nope, definitely a problem — for him.

    3. allathian*

      Maybe lead with how you’ve spent a lot more time with your dad during your furlough?

      At least he won’t be completely lonely during Thanksgiving, he’ll have the rest of his extended family there. Can you make a point of visiting him the following weekend? If he feels sad because you don’t enjoy spending time with his extended family, that honestly isn’t your problem, especially if you make sure he understands that you do enjoy spending time with him.

    4. Pennyworth*

      Could you switch to doing alternate Thanksgivings with your Dad, same thing with Christmas? That way he would be spending one holiday a year with you.

    5. Maxie's Mommy*

      I wouldn’t say “from now on”. Just say that this year you’re at your cousin’s, you guys had fun catching up, etc. Maybe make plans to see Dad around New Years.

      1. fposte*

        I agree with this. And remember that your father doesn’t have to agree with you, Pass the Gravy–it’s up to you where you go. You don’t need to push back if he tries to get you to change your mind; you say “I understand how you feel, but I’ll see you for New Year’s” and do what you choose.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Adding- you can point out that Dad is the key person in this group and you will always want to see Dad and make time to spend with Dad. Emphasize that it’s not about HIM.

          I get that mom’s family is more fun. But I also know that connections are more important as we age. My best thought is to find ways to stay connected to his family. By the time I was 34 I lost my last parent. Oddly, what happened next was that these family connections that were not much more than a thread suddenly became stronger. Time shifts stuff around. It’s good to know people’s names/faces and even the sound of their voice.

          I am not sure how this would play out for you IRL. I used Christmas cards, but not everyone does that. Funerals are also a biggie, where we’d talk to each other, but not everyone does that either. I keep their contact information up to date. Perhaps connect on social media with a certain few. Do something to sort of be passively active in the background. In years to come, it will be easier to start a conversation if you want.

          BUT. If these people are toxic, unpleasant to you, then just ignore me.

    6. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Why does it have to be a permanent change? And why does it have to be one or the other? My parents went south in the winter so we got together with them in early November and had a combined Thanksgiving+Christmas+my winter birthday (ooh, the desserts to cover all three!). Then for the real dates, we were free to go to my husband’s family. Just because a date is on the calendar doesn’t mean you have to obey it.

      1. Pass The Gravy*

        The extended family both sides of my family only gather on the one Thursday Thanksgiving date. It’s not the kind of thing that I could just pick a different day to see them. I could pick a different day to see my dad, but it would not be the same big extended family gathering that he likes.

        1. Mannequin*

          “I could pick a different day to see my dad, but it would not be the same big extended family gathering that he likes.”

          And this is not your problem to solve. Dad is a grown man with adult children, certainly he knows how to manage his feelings by now?

    7. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

      I’ve had to go no-contact with one of my parents and am usually all about setting boundaries with relatives… but I think this is kind of a crappy thing to do. This event is important to your dad and not going will likely deeply hurt him by your own account. I don’t really think wanting to have more fun somewhere else is a good enough reason to not go. You have an obligation to the people in your life (the ones that deserve it anyway), which doesn’t go away when you get older.

      1. Pass The Gravy*

        Why can my siblings choose not to go to Thanksgiving but I can’t? in the long run, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Several of my cousins who are married choose to spend some thanksgivings with their spouse’s family rather than ours. Things change, and I think it’s not an issue that I want to change things up a bit. I do think my dad will be a little put out mostly because none of his kids will be at Thanksgiving (my dad always pays for their airfare whenever my siblings want to fly home, so it’s not an issue of money, it’s their choice).

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          I mean, of course you can make the same choice they did. It will just have consequences (e.g. hurting your dad’s feelings). They get the benefit of the buffer of space: your dad might not be as affected by it because he can explain to himself as them avoiding the hassle of travel rather than them explicitly choosing a different celebration over his. Same thing with the cousins: they aren’t rejecting your dad and his family because they don’t like them; they are negotiating the shared family dynamics within their marriages.

          That’s not to say that those reasons are any better than yours! Just that they likely feel different to your father. In your case, you’re not avoiding travel or figuring out a time split between various wings of the family… you just don’t like his family as much. That’s a perfectly legitimate reason to choose to do something different, but it obviously doesn’t feel good to be on the other side.

          1. Pass The Gravy*

            I certainly don’t plan on telling him that I don’t want to spend time with his extended family because I don’t like them. This year at least, I’m going to probably phrase it as wanting to spend time with my mom‘s mom, who was stuck in an assisted living center unable to get visitors during lockdowns. And I do think he’ll understand that. It’s if I continue doing my mom’s thanksgiving that might start to become questionable. And it’s certainly like I never see him. I just spent two weekends in a row at his house earlier in October. Are usually go spend a weekend with him and my stepmom at least once a month.

            You seem really hung up on this obligation thing. When I was younger, there was a custody arrangement in place that I spent every other weekend with my dad, stepmom, and half siblings. I kept that up all through high school, and didn’t break it until I went away to college. When I came back from college for the summer, I simply stayed at my mom’s house and visited with him in the family every now and then, rather than resuming The every other weekend I have done all through my childhood. He never made a fuss about that. So while I think he will be slightly bummed about they not doing Thanksgiving every year, it’s not going to blow a big hole in our relationship because I am dropping the ball on some important daughter duty like you seem to be describing.

            I am going to take to heart what others have said and not have a conversation be ‘I am never coming to Thanksgiving with your family ever again‘, but simply ‘I am going elsewhere for Thanksgiving this one year‘ and seeing how that goes.

            1. traffic_spiral*

              “You seem really hung up on this obligation thing.”

              Well… part of having close friends and family is that you *do* have obligations to them. You put in effort for them, respect the things you know are important to them, and generally take their feelings into account – even when it’s mildly annoying or inconvenient. It obviously should be a reciprocal thing, but it most definitely is a thing. If you want to have people that you’re close to, you have to make efforts to show them that they’re valued and cared for.

              You’re doing something that you know will hurt your dad’s feelings, and you don’t really have a good reason for it. I’d say you’re better off acknowledging that, and finding a way to mitigate or make up for it, rather than looking for justification for it.

              1. Pass The Gravy*

                No good reason? It’s not a good reason to enjoy myself at the holidays with family I care about? If I decided I never wanted to do Thanksgiving with my father because I’m going to fly to the Bahamas every year, yes that would be mean of me to do that. But I am seeing my mother‘s family, do I not have obligations to see them as well, especially my grandmother who I haven’t seen in over two years because she is in an assisted living center with strict lockdown conditions? Why do my siblings not have obligations to accept the free airfare from my father and come to the Thanksgiving celebration? I feel like a lot of burden is being placed on me because I am the only child nearby.

                1. Empress Ki*

                  I feel for you Pass The Gravy. Forget the guilt tripping and enjoy your grand-mother company, especially if you haven’t seen her for 2 years.
                  You are an adult and you get to spend your time with who you want. Spending one weekend a month with a parent is a lot for an adult. I hope you enjoy these weekends and don’t go out of a feeling an obligation.

                2. Victoria Nonprofit*

                  I agree with you here! You don’t need a “good reason” to make your own choices.

                3. Rainy*

                  You don’t need a reason at all other than “this is what I want to do”. :)

                  I will say that a lot of times I think there’s a desire to have some big FeelingsTalk with the person when it’s a situation like this, but that’s almost never the right way to approach this stuff, and the desire is usually just to get all the messy stuff over with and not have to deal with it again, which is absolutely never what actually happens.

                  My in-laws are a nightmare, and when I told my husband that they just absolutely can’t be in my house ever again, after he and I had had the multiple conversations about how no, I don’t have to put up with his mother’s shit (both figurative and, unfortunately, literal), especially in my own damn house, and that his parents absolutely cannot be trusted around our pets, he wanted to have a big Conversation with them about how they aren’t welcome here, which I refused to do. The best way to handle situations like this is always to take it one event at a time and see what happens. It’s not satisfying because it feels up in the air, but it’s better than a protracted series of–in our case at least–guilt trips and his mother wailing at him about how much I’ve changed him.

                4. Mary Ann*

                  I think it is the word fun. It just sounds kind of frivolous, like mom’s side tells better jokes.
                  Wanting to see your grandmother is totally a good reason to go.

                5. traffic_spiral*

                  You know, you don’t have to twist yourself into pretzels trying to re-frame every mildly selfish or self-indulgent thing you do as a bold act of self-care. This feels like the equivalent of ordering expensive delivery pizza 3 nights in a row and acting like it’s an offering to your inner goddess and a bold blow against Hustle and Diet Culture, as opposed to just a kinda bad choice, so you make a mental note to eat healthier and save money the next day.

                  There’s lots of people here that will give you a parade of validation and shower you with a bunch of nihilism repackaged as Live Laugh Love slogans. Personally, I’m gonna advise you to stop the “It’s Not Faiiiir”-ing, and either go to your Dad’s or acknowledge that it’ll hurt his feelings when you ditch, and find a way to make it up to him. Basically choose to take responsibility for your actions rather than trying to justify them.

                  Peace out.

                6. Mannequin*

                  You are an adult. If you wanted to fly to the Bahamas every Thanksgiving & Christmas for the rest of your life, you’d STILL be justified because it’s your life and you are allowed to live it in a manner that makes you happy.
                  Other people’s feelings about it are 100% theirs to manage, period.

            2. Victoria Nonprofit*

              While I agree with traffic_spiral that one does have obligations to the people they choose to have relationships with, I’m not hung up on anything. I think I’m just saying that you can’t have it both ways: deciding to permanently reject his family in favor of your mother’s is going to make him feel badly. You can decide to do that — healthy adults don’t make all their choices based on how they will make other people feel — but you can’t avoid the consequences of that decision.

              1. Blue Eagle*

                I’ll jump in here to disagree with traffic_spiral. If the dinner was at your Dad’s house, then perhaps there might be some type of obligation to help host. But if it is not at your Dad’s, then how is it an obligation for you to be there at that dinner? Have dinner where you will enjoy it the most and be with your Dad on the next weekend or the prior weekend. Don’t feel like you have to take on more just because you are local.

                1. Mannequin*

                  Wait what?
                  “ If the dinner was at your Dad’s house, then perhaps there might be some type of obligation to help host””

                  PTG is an adult in their 30s who does not live with their parents, why on earth would there be ANY obligation for her to ‘help host’?

                2. allathian*

                  Ran out of nesting. It’s a fact that single kids, particularly single daughters, are often expected to pitch in and help host a large gathering at their parents’ houses… But the LW said elsewhere that’s not the case here.

      2. justanon*

        But they are NOT responsible for (nor obligated t0) managing their father’s feelings and emotions. They owe their father nothing. What about their siblings obligations to their father? The siblings, by your rules, have not met their obligations. What you’re talking about is emotional manipulation of children (adult or otherwise). The father, one assumes, is a grown adult who should be able to manage their disappointment.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Dang, that’s harsh. They owe their father nothing?

          Surely we all owe each other kindness and generosity (barring abuse, bigotry, etc.). And I’d argue that we owe our families some special consideration, unless we actively choose to reject them.

          Of course Pass the Gravy can do what she likes. But it will have the likely consequence of hurting her father. If that’s something she’s comfortable with, go for it. But taking a self-righteous stance that her father is responsible for his own emotions ignores the reality that people have effects on each other. Sheesh.

          1. Lotus*

            I don’t think the OP changing thanksgiving plans is unkind though. It’s very normal! Not every action that results in negative feelings is inherently unkind. Sometimes, people will not like the very normal decisions other people make. If we needed unanimous approval for everything we did, we couldn’t do anything.

            Yes, disappointing her dad is a trade off here. But there are solutions – she could spend the rest of the weekend with her dad, or the following weekend. It’s not all or nothing.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              Changing Thanksgiving plans one time isn’t unkind. Deciding to never spend a holiday with her father IS unkind.

              1. Lotus*

                Eh, I don’t agree, but to each their own.

                Also, there are other holidays besides thanksgiving and Christmas.

              2. Rainy*

                That’s absolutely not what they said they were going to do though, is it? They just want to spend t-day with people they see less often. Apparently they spend a weekend a month with their dad! That is…a lot. Like, so much.

                1. Lotus*

                  Yeah. I think the key part is they see their dad pretty regularly, but not their other side of the family. OP isn’t shunning their dad.

                1. Mannequin*

                  I should clarify…

                  1. PTG did not say they wanted to “never spend a holiday with her father” so this is a huge exaggeration. Unless you think that Thanksgiving is the only holiday that exists?

                  2. There is nothing inherently unkind about a choice to never spend a holiday with one’s parents. It’s simply a CHOICE, and one that people are allowed to make if it works better for their own lives, regardless of the actual reason for doing so.

        2. LDN Layabout*

          But OP wants to break it to him gently. There’s nothing gentle about telling her dad that she doesn’t want to spend time with him for the majority of the two major family holidays in the year.

          He can and should manage his disappointment, but OP can’t expect it to be smooth sailing for their relationship.

        3. Courageous cat*

          I think you forgot we’re not talking about an SO or a friend here. Saying we owe our parents nothing because they’re grown adults and can handle their emotions is… a lot. Family is different, for many people.

          1. Pass The Gravy*

            It’s interesting you say that because that is something I’m going through with my father right now, that is a separate issue from this Thanksgiving thing. I bent over backwards to visit my dad and family two weekends in a row (once for a family wedding, and once because my brother was in town for a visit), canceling plans I already had on both weekends because these were both last minute family gatherings. And now they’re trying to get me to do it for a third weekend in early November. I have decided I need to put up a little more boundaries with them, I think my dad thinks of me as being right around the corner and then I can just drop everything and come over. But I can’t keep changing things around in my life to visit at a moment’s notice. Again, it’s separate from my thoughts on Thanksgiving, but I am having to come to the realization that I can’t keep pleasing my father just because I am the closest kid in terms of proximity.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              I understand that you see this as a separate issue, but the frustration actually helps explain a lot about how you see the issue and why you’re getting some of the responses you’re getting.

              Just as a reader, before seeing this, your initial post/comments came off as fairly callous regarding your dad’s feelings and just wanting a wholesale permanent switch. With this context, it’s a matter of needing better boundaries so time with them is enjoyable vs. you feeling that you’re put upon.

              1. Pass The Gravy*

                I can understand why talking about a permanent switch sounded harsh, rereading my original post. I have decided that I don’t want to phrase it to my father as never wanting to do Thanksgiving at his house again, even if that’s what I’m leaning towards. The boundary issue is a recent thing only happening in the last year with the lockdown. I haven’t had fun at my father’s Thanksgiving in many years, not since I was a little kid. Where we have Thanksgiving, it’s a beautiful property to run around as a child, with a barn full of cats to explore, and a shoreline to walk beside. It’s really beautiful. As I got older though, with less running around to do and mainly just talking with my family, it was much less fun. And anytime I do try to wander off by myself to enjoy the property, there’s always some relative hanging over my shoulder asking when I come inside to sit and chat, which is just the awkward small talk. My thoughts on Thanksgiving have been happening for years, where the boundary issue is a more recent development. I likely would’ve had Thanksgiving at my mothers family last year, if not for the lockdowns not letting any family gatherings happen.

              2. Mannequin*

                I’m going to jump in to say that I did not find anything “callous” about PTG’s post or comments. It seems pretty reasonable to me that a 30 year old should be able to spend their holidays where & with whom they choose.
                Nobody is obligated to visit parents and/or family at holidays literally EVER and it baffles me that so many pretend act like it is more reasonable for an 30 yr old ADULT to live their life to soothe another adult’s feelings than it is for the other adult to accept that *all* their adult children have their own lives and deal with their feelings about it like a grown up.

                1. Tali*

                  You have a very outlier understanding of family relationships. These aren’t strangers or coworkers borrowing trouble; it’s a child who doesn’t want to visit their parents for the holidays. It’s not weird for that to matter to people.

            2. Sleet Feet*

              Regarding the boundaries. I have close family members I love deay who are like this. Real “plans never work out anyway do why bother?” Types.

              What I have found works is: be firm about plans I’ve made and not cancelling them. Things like – I o sorry I am missing cousin Vinny. I already have plans today. Next time please give me a couple of weeks notice if he is coming to town so I can be sure and free up my schedule.

              I will make some exceptions, such as if my plans are Netflix and chill and Vinny is in town with his new baby. Decide what you are willing to compromise on.

              Then hold firmmy family guilt trips a little but I don’t.let it bother me. After all their lack of planning is not my emergency whether they think it should be or not.

      3. Bumblebeee*

        It’s…interesting, to say the least, that you mention setting boundaries with relatives – because what you describe is exactly what unhealthy boundaries look like.

        We all get to decide our own values and comfort zones. PTG isn’t asking how to sever ties with her father forever because he’s not as fun as her cousins. They simply want to change how they spend their thanksgiving based on their own priorities – and that’s okay! Spending thanksgiving with your father may be of utmost importance to you, but that doesn’t mean it should be that way for everyone else.

        You speak of obligations – what about the obligations of a parent to respect their son or daughter’s decisions on how they spend their holidays? Yes, dad may feel hurt. His sadness would be understandable. But if this was me, those feelings would be mine to deal with; not my kid’s. Having healthy boundaries includes not taking on responsibility for other people’s emotions.

        1. Tabby*

          This, Bumblebeee. Parents are obligated to respect an adult child’s changing life, even if they don’t like it. PTG doesn’t HAVE TO continue childhood, court-ordered visitation schedules now she’s nearly 30. She has the right to choose wwhere and when she wants to visit, and if visiting her extended family on his side is pretty much a chore to be gotten over, especially as she’s not close to them, it’s time to stop doing it. It’s okay to acknowledge that there really isn’t a relationship there, snd to stop pretending there is.

    8. Sandi*

      I’m in a similar situation, and in the end I offered to meet up with him individually on the same weekend so that we could have a nice time chatting with the two of us. In my case it helps that I don’t see him very often, so we could make it into more of a special occasion and I often take him out to a restaurant to have it mean more (and it also helps me avoid his partner).

      I wouldn’t tell your father that this is a permanent change planned, just explain what you want to do this year, and then next year lead with “When do you want to meet up for our Thanksgiving meal, Friday or Saturday?”

    9. Anon for privacy*

      Inform your dad that you won’t be there for Thanksgiving this year, but will do X and Y with him at other times because you want to see him. Don’t bring up where you are going or why. If he asks, tell him where you will be breezily and change the subject. He doesn’t have to understand, nor approve. You’re an adult! You get to do what you want.
      Someone who was in exactly your situation and who did this finally and should have done it years earlier.

      1. Pass The Gravy*

        I definitely can’t not tell him where I’m going. It’s very obvious that I spend Thanksgiving at either one of two places, with him and his extended family or with my mother and her extended family (unless I’m on vacation or something like that, which I think it’s only happened once in my entire life to be away on Thanksgiving weekend). My friends and I sometimes do a Friendsgiving, but never on Thanksgiving weekend, just sometime in November.

        1. Anon for privacy*

          Sure, but you also don’t have to preemptively volunteer the information. I won’t lie, nor keep secrets, from my analogous parent, but not volunteering information was fantastically freeing. You don’t need to manage his emotions! He is an adult. Certainly he is allowed to feel what he is feeling, and it is everything right and normal for you to want to help him feel better. But you are 30 and are entitled to make plans how you want to. Maybe my situation is different than yours, so perhaps the advice is too harsh–if so, please only take what is useful to you!

          1. Mannequin*

            “ You don’t need to manage his emotions! He is an adult. Certainly he is allowed to feel what he is feeling, and it is everything right and normal for you to want to help him feel better. But you are 30 and are entitled to make plans how you want to.”

            This is it in a nutshell, and there is nothing harsh about it.

    10. CJM*

      Can you switch off years between the two sides? And/or pick a different day to enjoy a special meal with your dad this year? At the very least, I wouldn’t make a big announcement that you’ll no longer spend Thanksgiving with your dad and his family. That may or may not be what you decide in a few years, and it may hurt feelings to say it out loud.

      I spent decades pleasing my mother and my in-laws on holidays by traveling to them instead of staying home sometimes. On both sides, expectations to show up on The Day Itself felt ridiculous. Now that my mother and my in-laws have passed away, and I’m finally free of their pressure, I discovered that one of my daughters is like that too! But I’m done and will travel and participate for only half the holidays. I’d rather stay home EVERY holiday and celebrate with others on different days when the pressure’s off. But I haven’t said that out loud. I’m trying to meet my loved ones halfway, and that feels like a good solution.

    11. Mary Ann*

      I know that this will be unpopular but I think you will regret not going to your father’s for dinner. You are certainly old enough to do what you want but skipping your dad’s for fun with your mother’s family would be heart breaking.

      1. Pass The Gravy*

        I want to spend time with my mom‘s family. It’s not like I’m skipping a family Thanksgiving entirely to go partying with my friends; I simply have different family I wish to celebrate with, family I have more fun with. I saw some of my dad‘s extended family at a wedding recently, and was reminded that I’m not terribly close with them. Why is it so bad to want to spend time with family that I am closer to? And my siblings have missed the last two or three thanksgivings we’ve had with that extended family, why is it a big deal that I make a similar choice?

        1. Time’s Thief*

          There’s your excuse- you saw dad’s family members recently but not mom’s so you’re taking this chance to do so. Treat it like a one-off because that’s what it could well be. Next year your mom could be away on vacation or your siblings could decide to come back for thanksgiving or some other life bit could change plans. So just focus on this thanksgiving and how it’s a chance to see whoever who you haven’t seen since whenever.

        2. Blue Eagle*

          One thing you haven’t mentioned is if the dinner is at your Dad’s house. If it is, then deciding what to do is a bit more complicated. If it is not, then to me there is no reason not to go to your Mom’s family on Thanksgiving Day and have a meal with your Dad on a different day.
          Maybe talk to your Dad about this by making it about your feelings that your siblings are not there and it makes you feel bad that you can’t celebrate with them rather than that you don’t have any fun with the rest of his extended family.
          But please ignore all of those naysayers that say you have to spend the actual day with your Dad’s family. You are an adult and get to choose where you eat Thanksgiving dinner.

          1. Pass The Gravy*

            In both cases, the extended family Thanksgiving celebration is held at a relative’s house, not at either of the homes of my parents.

            1. Blue Eagle*

              What about telling your Dad that because of all of the people there you don’t get to spend as much time with him as you’d like and you’d rather get together with him on Friday or Saturday and Sunday and just have a meal with just him (or with him and his wife if he is still married). That is what I would do – – and have done (but with my married parents when the celebration was at a relative’s house and I preferred not to go.)

        3. Nancy*

          Tell him you plan to spend Thanksgiving with mom this year because you just saw everyone at the wedding and haven’t seen her family in a while (if this is the case). Spend the next day with him, or next weekend, or whatever.

          I know several people who switch off each year: one year Thanksgiving is with mom and Christmas is with dad, the next year Thanksgiving is with dad and Christmas is with mom. You could consider this going forward.

          I don’t think it will be a huge deal. Yes, there will be some disappointment, but patents know their adult kids have other things going on and everything doesn’t always stay the same forever.

    12. Dwight Schrute*

      Oh this is tough. I honestly don’t think I could do it. I would hate to see my dad upset by not having any of his kids there on a holiday we traditionally celebrated together. I think the best option if you’re set on doing it is to make sure you still spend time with him outside of it, and maybe do a special dinner you arrange on a different date?

    13. JSPA*

      “Dad, I love how much closer to you I feel, having visited regularly during lockdown, and I’m wishing I could have a bit more of that with Mom and [add one or two close relatives on that side]. I know holidays are not the best for that sort of one-on-one connection, but it’s all I’ve got, so I’m going to do Thanksgiving with them this year.”

      Break the pattern this year–that’s all that’s on your plate for now. You don’t have to lower the boom on all future years. Life is funny / people move around. And for that matter, you may find that “one in three” actually does work for you with Dad’s side, and two-in-three is ideal with Mom’s.

      At some point, “feeling connected to more extended family, even superficially” can take on more value, especially as the list of “people I’ve known for decades” drops.

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      You know how that one year, your dad and stepmom went for a cruise at Thanksgiving? And everyone adapted their plans and it was fine? That can happen again.

      I can see circumstances where you would start alternating years, if that day (rather than seeing you in general) turns out to be big for your dad. And those where it would be mom, mom, mom, trip to Italy, dad, mom, trip to new partner’s, you host….

      1. Person from the Resume*

        This is an excellent point. If the holiday with you and his extended family was THAT important he wouldn’t have taken the cruise then.

        He may be sad, but this points to you making it a bigger deal than perhaps he does.

    15. TeacherLife*

      Maybe you could reach out to your siblings and plan a weekend in November when you can all visit your dad together? It could be an additional Thanksgiving meal or just family time together. That way you are still making time for the people who are important to you. As a parent of adult children, I know I am thrilled any time I get to have them all together under one roof. Your dad wouldn’t be alone on Thanksgiving since he can still celebrate with extended family, but you can give him an additional special occasion that will mean more to all of you.

    16. Purt’s Peas*

      You can absolutely change how you do Thanksgiving. Your dad might feel sad about it, and that sucks! So I’d consider if there’s anything you want to offer in terms of spending time with him—eg a later Thanksgiving dinner with him and your stepmom, an apple picking outing that you’ll make a tradition, etc.

      I agree with the commenters saying, this year, make it just about this year. Experiment with giving your dad a heads up as if he’ll take it well: give him consideration by spending celebratory time with him not on Thanksgiving, but don’t tiptoe up to it.

      A couple other thoughts—try to address the underlying feeling rather than the overlying persuasion if your dad does try to push back. “I wanted a holiday change, Thanksgiving at Grammy’s house isn’t my fave, but I love you and I want to spend time with you. Can we start a fall tradition of X that we can do on years when I go to Thanksgiving at Mom’s?”

      Also try to make sure you’re not seeing major disappointment/sadness where there’s not. Of course it’ll be a bit of a bummer, your dad loves you and wants to see you! But he went on a cruise instead of the holiday before, he can handle a change, and plans changing around a bit is a super normal part of being an adult in a family.If he actually does have more intense feelings about it that’s ok and you can talk about it, but going in on that level will make the conversation a lot more difficult.

    17. WellRed*

      I’m really shocked at some of these responses. Kids of divorce often bounce around the holidays. Same when people grow up, get married and have kids. Things change. I’m only surprised OP has never changed it up. Suggesting she’s going to cause permanent damage is unfair.

      1. Generic Name*

        Same. I’m seeing a lot of “but faaaaamily” and “you have obligations” type posts. I’m guessing it’s a difference in culture. Even though I gave birth to my son and have been the primary parent for his whole life, if he decides never to see me again once he turns 18, that will be his choice. Yes, I would be devastated if he decided that, but he doesn’t HAVE to see me.

      2. Pass The Gravy*

        Thank you, I have been getting frustrated with some of these comments who make this sound like I am trying to cut all ties with my dad. If I truly thought this would be the destruction of our relationship, I wouldn’t go through with it. I know he will be bummed, but it won’t be the end of the world. The people making it sound like I am crushing all his hopes and dreams are taking it overboard.

        1. tiddlywink*

          to ‘pass the gravy’: some of my most lovely thanksgiving day celebrations were when i chose to do them alone. and i started doing that when i was several years younger than you are now. my point is, you can choose Yourself for the holiday, so you Don’t owe your father – or anyone – an explanation when you are not available to see them. i hope your thanksgiving and christmas both are incredible for the choice you make! cheers!

          1. Hey y’all*


            You are entitled to enjoy your holiday. Full stop.

            My parents divorced many many years ago. I spent a lot of holidays unhappy because I was too focused on making sure everyone else was ok. Instead of doing what I would enjoy.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Yes. I go on vacation on Thanksgiving weekends, by myself, as in my husband stays home with the pets and I go literally by myself. Nobody is harmed by this course of action.

        2. pony tailed wonder*

          I think introducing flexibility in your holiday plans is good. If you think your dad will be upset, ask him if he wants to have a guy’s day out when your favorite sports team is in town, etc.

          I have spent many holidays with my parents trying to make up for a brother would cut them off for years and it was stressful. I used up many vacation days from work and they were still upset over my brother, it did not solve the problem. I am trying to take care of me now instead of having other people’s feelings rule me and there is a lot less stress involved for me.

        3. Dina*

          Not sure why you bothered asking, tbh. You seem to have decided and just wanted people to validate your decision. It’s rather rude to ask for advice then criticise people for offering it, just because you didn’t actually want it.

          You get to do what you want. Other people don’t have to think you are doing the right thing. Both these things are true.

          1. Pass The Gravy*

            I wasn’t asking for advice on whether to go through with this or not, I was asking for advice on how to gently explain this to my father. I appreciate the people who have actually helped me with that, such as helping me realize that this doesn’t need to be a definitive thing, rather I can take it on a year-by-year basis. Those comments are helpful, the comments saying that I am a selfish person for making this decision have not been useful and are not what I requested.

            1. Sandi*

              I feel like there are some strong reactions based on other’s personal experience, and not on your situation. Some people are reading what they want to see and being critical of you for no good reason, like this one.

          2. Mannequin*

            You are really off base here. Many people writing into places for advice are looking for scripts on how to go about doing things they already know they need/want to do.

        4. Batgirl*

          I think for some people, cutting out a big occasion would be cutting one of the few ties they had. You have other meaningful points of connection with your dad, so I don’t think that’s a danger for you.

      3. 30ish*

        Yes, this. I am in a similar boat as OP and had to work hard to let go of the guilt over being at my mom‘s for the big holidays. The way I look at it, once you are an adult, relationships with parents are more up to you and it has to work for both sides. Parents cannot just enforce certain expectations on their kids unilaterally. It is totally fair for OP to do what lines up with their preferences.

    18. Fellow Traveller*

      Maybe taking a few years off from spending Thanksgiving with your dad will give you the energy to resume the tradition. Or at least help you renew your sense of obligation without resentment or dread? And then make the decision on a yearly basis of where you want to spend your holiday? Then there might be a year where you feel like that specific year it is important to you to spend Thanksgiving with him.

    19. Person from the Resume*

      This is hard.

      You see your dad regularly already. So the issue is you won’t see him on a big holiday where he won’t be able to show you off to extended family. And I don’t mean he’s parading you around but it could be the final straw that makes it obvious that you’re just closer with your mom’s extended family than his.

      You need to do you. I’d give him advance notice. Don’t tell him it’s forever. This year you’re making this choice. It’s not like you never see him. You see him a lot. He’ll be sad, but it’s up to him to managed it.

      Your half siblings already made their choice to skip it. It was just easier for them to skip it and blame living far away rather than as a choice they made to not return for the holiday. Your choice looks like choosing the other side of the family. And that has an element of hurt but you’re allowed to choose your own happiness instead of keeping your dad from no pain. It’s clear that you’re not abandoning your father as you see him lots.

      I also can’t help but thinking that in the future if you partner with someone with a family that this is something you might have to do anyway. Or maybe not; I never married so I see my parents on all holidays whenever we celebrate. Sometimes it’s not on the actual holiday because my brother coordinates multiple celebrations with my parents and his in-laws.

      Make your choice for you. Be kind telling your dad. But stick to your guns. You deserve to pick the happy choice for yourself.

    20. Generic Name*

      This is so hard, and you are a kind person to consider your dad’s feelings. Captain Awkward has great scripts for setting and enforcing boundaries with your dad. When setting boundaries, the goal isn’t for everyone to feel happy and great about the boundary and to agree with you. The goal is to communicate what you’ve decided. They get to feel however they feel and their reaction is theirs alone. You don’t need his buy in on your choice.

      My son’s dad and I divorced years ago, and I know full well that after he turns 18 he can choose to spend his holidays however he wishes. While I hope he spends some of his time with me, I know that’s not guaranteed.

    21. Lotus*

      One possibility is, you can spend thanksgiving with your mom, but make concrete plans with your dad the weekend after Thanksgiving? That way he still has plans with you to look forward to.

      Personally, if I were in your position, I would also factor in how many other people were coming to his thanksgiving. If he would otherwise be spending Thanksgiving alone, I don’t think I would have the heart to skip it. But it may be okay if he will still have other people over.

      I totally understand not being crazy about all your extended relatives, but if you’re going to see your mom’s family anyway at Christmas it may not be a huge sacrifice to do Thanksgiving with your dad (though if you had made that decision you wouldn’t be asking this question.)

      1. the cat's ass*

        The holidays are HARD. I like the “Let’s do something Thxgiving weekend” as an alternative the best. When i was married to Mr. A we alternated holidays between his fam and mine, frequently complicated by my work as a nurse. That got me out of a LOT of different holiday scenarios, but with alternatives that mostly worked for everybody. You sound like youre working hard to keep everyone happy, including yourself. I hope it goes well!

    22. Swift*

      I went through something similar with my dad, although it was just a change for a year. My dad felt like it Said Something about how I felt about him, even though it was just about circumstances that year. It’s hard, but this is a really normal thing to figure out! I’m in my late 30s and I’m still figuring it out. Traditions change, and they don’t have to be the same every year.

      I think telling your dad that this is an experiment for this year is probably the best way to be more gentle about it. One thing you could try is to plan to call him on Thanksgiving before the parties, or to step away from your mom’s party to call him and say hi to everyone. I’ve done this when I’ve been out of the country for the holidays and it was a big hit.

      Good luck!

      1. KittyCardigans*

        I second the call/text on Thanksgiving—it will only take a minute on your end but might help your dad with the transition from seeing you every Thankgiving to probably not seeing you most Thanksgivings. We stopped going to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving a few years ago and now I host it myself, but I still try to send a short-but-sweet message wishing her a happy holiday and reminding her I love her, and I think it has helped when she’s feeling melancholy that none of the kids came home again.

    23. Rainy*

      You don’t have to tell him “from now on I’ll be spending t-day with mom”. You can just say “hey, this year I’m going to mom’s, but I’ll visit you on X day”.

    24. SofiaDeo*

      I wouldn’t even bring up the point you are going to your mom’s. Simply say you have made other plans this year for Thanksgiving. Change the subject if he presses for details. Leave it at that.

    25. Not So NewReader*

      At some point can you and your sibs coordinate and all appear together at TG at your dad’s?
      I was thinking once every few years? Perhaps that would be better for you and something for dad to look forward to?

    26. Anony*

      I get this so much. I have one side of the family that I’m much closer with than the other, and we always did Thanksgiving with the “less fun” side. My siblings and I never really enjoyed Thanksgiving. One year we did it with the other side due to a weird fluke, and I’ll admit it was hard to go back after having a taste of how fun it could be! I will say it’s hardest when you are 20s/30s and single, and I stuck it out and went most years then. Now that I’m married I sort of get a pass to do things differently. Not fair but that’s how it’s been. I also have been dealing with this on Christmas with my in laws (near me) vs my family (far away).

      My opinion: unless you are going to switch to a “fair” system (ie alternate years), I think the kindest way to deal with it is one year at a time. Just say that this year you are doing the holidays at X’s house because you haven’t Cousin Frank or whoever in a while but without making it a forever thing. Lean into the pandemic – I bet you really haven’t seen some people! Your dad will be sad but it’s not like you’re leaving him to eat dinner totally alone, he’ll be with family. But I would avoid big pronouncements. And who knows what might happen in the future anyway – I have found with family getting older, illnesses, and other factors things can change. In my case now that I’ve had a taste of NOT flying in December and spending Christmas at home, I’m honestly tempted never to do it again, but I don’t need to hurt my parents preemptively for no real reason.

    27. Bibliovore*

      I have read through all of the comments.
      Not a therapist but if you can avail yourself of the help of one that might be helpful.
      One- I see a person who has been extremely supportive of the their parents. (throughout childhood and young adulthood adhering to the schedule of holiday visits)

      There is nothing wrong with spending the holidays with people whose company you enjoy.

      The first thanksgiving that we did go to see family was post 911. It was as if a spell had been broken.
      Relieved of that obligation we created new traditions for ourselves.

    28. Hearts & Minds*

      You never know, he might be feeling the same sense of obligation of making a space for you at Thanksgiving because it’s been the tradition. Maybe he and your stepmom would love to do a cruise or something else special together every year, but he goes to the relative’s house because you’ll be there and he doesn’t want to not show up for your tradition. Maybe your stepmom doesn’t have any fun there either and would be relieved/happy to do a couple’s thing or go to a different relative’s house. Kids grow up and make their own traditions, you have just as much right to do that as your siblings.

      Maybe every 5 years or so your siblings can come home for Thanksgiving and those can be the times you spend with your dad’s family.

      Also, you have the right not to have to “make up the time.” “Since I’m not spending Thanksgiving day, I’ll come over next weekend” or whatever. Live your life for YOU. He’s living his life, with your stepmom. You’re all still family, and the Venn diagram of when you all come together is good, AND you get to decide how big your circle in that diagram is at any one time.

    29. allathian*

      It sounds like you’re single. Do your siblings have spouses/kids? I think that for many single people it’s a lot harder to set boundaries with their parents. Some never consider their kids to be adults until it’s forced upon them, often by the kids getting married and/or having kids of their own, and then some of them get jealous when one set of in-laws gets to see the family more often than the other…

      Don’t mention to your dad that you prefer spending time with your mom’s extended family, that will only hurt his feelings. But if you lead with having spent many weekends with him and some with his extended family recently, and wanting to see your mom’s extended family now, he may not like it, but you aren’t responsible for his feelings about this. You won’t ever be comfortable making decisions that work for you until you can accept that people can feel sad about your decisions and you aren’t responsible for other people’s feelings.

    30. Batgirl*

      Its pretty normal to outgrow branches of your extended family, and I’d hardly say you are rejecting your Dad’s family when one of your complaints is that you don’t get to see your own siblings! I would probably take a look at your calendar over a typical year, figure out how many extended dad-family gatherings you tend to be attending (like weddings etc) and compare that to the number you’d ideally go to. Then I’d consider what dates your siblings are likely to be visiting your father, or vice versa. Then I’d plot my ideal calendar. When you speak to your dad keep in mind that you never engineered this set up, and neither did your dad. It’s a relative’s party and it wasn’t designed with you in mind. It’s perfectly ok to say it doesn’t suit you any more and that you want to be more efficient with your time and how/when you see people. See him in ways that are genuine and purposeful for you.

    31. Lady Danbury*

      As someone who is fortunate to have a fairly close family on both sides (less close with my dad in recent years bc issues), I urge you to ignore those who are trying to guilt you into making choices that are suboptimal for you, especially since that choice is still to spend time with family. I wholeheartedly reject the notion that children owe parents obligations. Children are the only party in the parent/child relationship that had 0 choice in entering into that relationship and therefore the obligation falls on the parents’ side. Acting out of obligation isn’t the same as having a relationship based on love and respect, including self love and respect for self.

      Not spending Thanksgiving with your dad doesn’t mean he’s a bad dad, especially since he will be spending it with extended family (as opposed to you leaving him alone). If you were in a relationship, you and your partner would have to figure out how to navigate holidays, which means that established traditions would probably change for both of you. Why should doing what’s best for you as an individual be any different for doing what’s best for you as a person? This is the perfect time to establish new traditions such as an intimate dinner with your dad in late November or early December. Is there a particular activity that he enjoys that you could integrate into this time together?

    32. Texan in exile*

      My library has stopped inspecting returned books for damage. The new librarian said that the entire point of library books is to be used and if the library pays to replace damaged books instead of the borrower, it’s cheaper than having librarians carefully inspecting every book ( and delaying returning books to the shelves).

  2. Not A Manager*

    I stopped coloring my hair during the past few years, and mostly I like it. But the hair color seemed to also condition my hair and make it more manageable, with fewer flyaways. Is there any product that coats your hair like a hair color, but is colorless?

    1. GermanGirl*

      Hm, yeah shampoo/conditioner with silicone. I know lots of shampoo brands nowadays advertise that they’re without silicone, but for some hair types a silicone coating is a good thing.

    2. SmoothLikeButter*

      You could try colorless henna. You leave it on a short time to condition your hair. I also wonder if there is anything similar to that for traditional hair dye?

      1. I take tea*

        Seconding henna. I love henna. It makes my hair thicker and very shiny, and I like using natural products.

    3. Picket line or bread line*

      Look into the Curly Girl Method. Even if your hair isn’t curly, it can help you understand what you need to nourish your hair and nurse it back to health.

      1. Rose*

        I have curly hair and I tried this for months during the pandemic. My hair never stopped looking gross. I can’t imagine someone without curly hair having success with it, and I’d only try it as a last resort. Just my $.02.

        1. Generic Name*

          Same. I actually discovered that I felt blah and down on the days I didn’t wash my hair because I just put my dirty hair in a ponytail or bun and I just felt gross (even if my hair objectively wasn’t). The curly girl method works on dry, often curly hair that is harmed by over washing.

        2. Batgirl*

          I have wavy hair and the curly girl method didn’t clean my hair well enough. I found a half way method very useful though; low poo shampoos and silicone free conditioner meant my hair wasn’t sealed off from nourishing treatments ( Though I use silicone occasionally for the extra sheen). However most colour products have super silicone conditioner to lock in the color, so I’m guessing silicone is the very thing that OP is missing.

    4. Reba*

      A “repairing” mask or deep conditioner would help, though not as long lasting as a gloss that can be applied by a stylist. The Olaplex product is pretty much as good as the hype (sorry, wallet) and I also really like the Joico K-Pak Reconstructor.

    5. Well...*

      My hair gets much more oily when the highlights grow out, so I use dry shampoo when I’m feeling my natural darker color. Once I start highlighting again, the bleach or whatever dries it out and I like the texture a lot more.

      IDK if this is the same problem you have, but if so I recommend Living Proof dry shampoo. I’d avoid the stuff you pour out into your hands and then rub on your head. It’s basically baby powder, but more expensive.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Yes, Living Proof Dry Shampoo! I’ve tried alllll the dry shampoos and this is by far the best.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      The John Frida Frizz Ease range is a lifesaver for me (really, really frizzy black hair), although I have managed to find a few times a stock of the conditioner that’s included in the hair colour packs and that seems to be what does the trick.

    7. Generic Name*

      I’d ask your hairdresser if there are any products they’d recommend. I hate to say it, but salon quality products do have a noticeable difference, at least for my hair (but I still buy Pantene because I can’t afford the salon prices….)

      1. Eastcoastanon*

        Oh be careful about silicone if you use high heat styling appliances. The heat can melt the silicone; when the melted silicone cools, it *permanently* coats the hair shaft. The melted silicone makes hair feel weird, like doll hair. Then if you add more silicone and melt it with a flat iron or curling wand again…

        Found out the hard way… I always check for silicone in the ingredients now.

        1. Generic Name*

          Ohhh! Good to know! I just blow dry my hair these days. I’m not coordinated enough for curlers or flat irons, sadly.

    8. Rose*

      What does your hair routine look like now? What products are you using? There are tons of great products for flyaways and manageability that I’d prob try before the annoyance of a gloss, which will be chemically differently than dye anyways.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Hair can reflect the health of the body. If the body is dehydrated or lacking in oils then hair can really misbehave.
      So you can use a two-pronged approach, of topical and internal treatments. Daily hydration is something we easily forget as the weather cools. You don’t need a ton of healthy oils in your diet, just some and you should see a difference in terms of having less and less problems.

      I did find a product at the health food store for hair in a pump bottle. It is basically oils. I’d spray it on my brush then brush my hair. I use it mostly in the dead of winter when everything is so dry.
      I also changed over to using an organic body wash on my hair. I have a lot less problems keeping it in place. I used to have problems with static-y, dry hair, that looked more like a corn broom than hair. Doing these two things has helped my hair to look more consistent day after day.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      There are hair color ‘glosses’ that closely match your own color, but add depth and shine.
      Also you could try color enhancing shampoos.

      There are leave in clear hair serums specifically for frizzies and flyaways, formulated for various hair types (curly, dry, body, etc.) I discovered a lot of these at Marshals/TJMaxx where the investment is low (like $5) to buy.

    11. Yup*

      Something I heard about recently that can do this is Keratin Treatment at a salon, but you have to make sure whatever brand they use doesn’t have formaldehyde. It’s also very expensive, but can last for up to 6 months. I’m still looking into it myself so can’t say personally how well it works.

      1. Channy*

        I’ve been getting keratin treatments for a couple of years. I let my natural colour grow out from the start of the pandemic and now that it’s all natural, I’m finding I don’t like the affect of the treatment. My hair gets oily really fast and has no body. I’ve had my stylist put in a gloss – hair dye without the dye – and it made the texture similar to when I was colouring it regularly and added back that shine. My hair isn’t damaged, just gets dull and limp.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        There are a couple of different, similar treatments. The Brazilian Blowout has formaldehyde, or at least it used to. I get the Coppola Keratin Complex treatment, which coats your hair but doesn’t restructure it. (And if you can get it done at a cosmetology school, it’s pretty inexpensive!)

    12. ThisIshRightHere*

      I use clear hair color. Not kidding! Jazzing or Color Brilliance or a similar brand of rinse-out semi-permanent color should have a “clear” color. It has all the moisturizing/sealing/conditioning properties without pigment or bleach. Try it!

  3. GermanGirl*

    The cat says: What? I know you can sit on a stool. I just didn’t feel like it today.

    Your cats are so cute, Alison.

        1. Myrin*

          Am I seeing correctly that the sheep’s name is “Sheen”? If so, that’s doubly wonderful! :D

            1. Myrin*

              My goodness, I misread the caption! I could’ve sworn it said “olive and sheen”. I maintain that it would be a lovely name, though!

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          All purchases in a cat’s house START out for the human…

          (Glares at William Catner hogging my Star Wars blanket)

  4. Not A Library*

    Bit of a random question. When I was in high school, I loaned a paperback book to a friend. They gave it back to me with the book bent in half so badly that the spine had broken, definitely not the state of the book that I loaned to them. When I ask them about it, they didn’t really think it was a big deal. When I ask them about any kind of reimbursement, they thought that was odd since I had loaned it to them without any conditions about the book’s return. Since then, when I loan books or really any item to someone, I always specify that if they damage the item to an unrecognizable state, I will ask them to pay it back. Some have thought it was odd that I would state this so clearly upfront, because they said they would most definitely pay for it if they damaged the item, but when I explain my reasoning, everyone seems to understand.

    Recently I borrowed a book from a friend, and while in my possession, it got wet. Not soak to a point of being illegible; however the dust jacket was very clearly wet, and the pages had turned wavy from the moisture. I showed it to my friend, apologized, and said I would Buy her a new copy of the book. She said I didn’t have to do that. When I said that that’s how I do all of my books, she understood that but said she doesn’t put as much stock in getting items replaced as I do. It made me wonder if my condition is too over the top. If I loan an item to someone, I do like to know that it’s going to be returned in pretty much the same condition as I loaned it. I’m not talking about small things like dog earring pages; I mean drastic things like water damage, broken spine, bite marks from pets or babies. Am I being too harsh of conditions of items I loan?

    1. Not A Manager*

      For things that count to me as “not very expensive,” I don’t lend them out unless I’m willing to have them get broken or not ever returned. People are horrible about returning books, no matter what they say. I’m surprised you got your paperback returned in any condition at all.

      For more expensive things, I only lend them to people I think are responsible, and only if I’m willing to accept normal wear and tear. These are people who I do trust to repair or replace something that they actually broke, so I don’t specify it upfront.

      If someone returned a book to me with a broken spine, I think I’d just not lend them stuff in the future. But I think you’re completely correct to offer to replace anything that you damage, including a book.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Hence the old joke that only your friends steal your books. And yes, especially for inexpensive paperbacks. Back in the day, many people thought of those as disposable: books you would leave on the park bench where you happened to finish them, so that someone else could pick it up and enjoy it. Or put another way, more like a magazine then an item to be retained permanently. I am not advocating this, but it was a thing. Nowadays ebooks have replaced that market segment.

        1. Be the Change*

          And Little Free Libraries, which are things of joy. :-) I still leave paperbacks on airport seats and benches (or did before covid).

          1. Edwina*

            We like to travel to Paris and discovered a rental vacation apartment that we really liked. The first time we went there we read a number of books–we’re avid readers, but books are heavy!–so we left them there for future visitors.
            The next year we went back and rented the same apartment. We were delighted to see there seemed to be a good library of books!
            On closer look, we discovered they were ours.

        2. GoryDetails*

          Heh! I’m an active BookCrosser, and I leave books on park benches and other places often (though during COVID I’ve mostly limited that to explicitly-designated book-swap shelves such as Little Free Libraries). But I do prefer to give books away rather than lending them. While I’m happy to acquire books in almost any condition – I get battered ex-library paperbacks that require lots of tape to hold together, for example – I do NOT like it if someone abuses a book of mine, yea even unto dog-earing the pages {cringe}. And I take excellent care of books lent me by others – indeed, all my books tend to leave my hands in as good (or better) condition than when I got them.

          If a friend returned a book with broken spine, etc., I don’t think I’d ask for a replacement but would definitely mention that I wasn’t happy about it – and in future I wouldn’t lend that person any books. (If it was a good friend I might gift them some books, but that’d be it.)

          1. Nope*

            Ha, I didn’t realize that Little Free Libraries were supposed to be for swapping books. I read on Nextdoor about someone who had a bunch of books stolen from the one she had in front of her house, so I snuck over there one night and filled it up with a bunch of my own books.

            1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

              Yeah the general presumption is you will not take ALL of them, but they are for swapping books.

              I was trying to describe the difference to a friend of mine who read a news headline about all the books being stolen out of a Little Free Library. She didn’t understand how that was different from its usual function, and therefor how it counted as stealing.

              I went all in describing how the first people to show up whenever books are offered for free or cheap (like at the Friends of the Library sales) will not be readers or even teachers or parents, but people who run online used book stores (like on eBay or whatever), and they will snatch up all the popular or recognition-likely titles, which is not in the spirit of the offering usually.

      2. Blarg*

        I just either give books away or don’t. I don’t lend them out. I only keep books that have real meaning/value to me — signed, a special gift, whatever. Otherwise, to me, I love that I can share a book I loved with others. And to me, books are meant to be read. Which sometimes means the spine is broken or a page is torn or something is spilled on it. So a damaged book means a well loved, well read book.

        I also tend to move fairly far distances fairly often, so over the years I’ve become a lot less sentimental — if I forgot I had a thing since the last move, I almost certainly don’t need it.

        1. WellRed*

          Yes! I have special books and then I have all the rest to read and pass on. I’d certainly offer to replace a book I damaged, especially a hardcover.

        2. Public Sector Manager*

          Exactly. All my special books I keep and never lend out, even if it’s a 30 year old paperback. Those I’m not attached to, I’m happy to send them out the door, never to return.

        3. Rose*

          I feel this way too! Unless a book was important enough to me or good enough that I’d want to reread it, I don’t keep it. I keep things like short story anthologies or comedy that I might pick up between novels for fun. I’ve also moved five times in six years (yay grad school) and books are heavy. NaL might never feel the way we do, which they probably can’t really help.

      3. Lady Danbury*

        This. My parents taught me not to lend anything (including money) that I can’t afford (financially or emotionally) to give as a gift. Damage is a foreseeable consequence of lending bc sh*t happens, as you learned. If something is so precious to you that you’d be upset about its loss/damage, just don’t lend it out. And for everything else, lend it and forget it. As any librarian can tell you, the only person’s behavior you can control is yourself.

        1. Mannequin*

          That is exactly my philosophy. If it would bother me to never see it again, whatever it is, I simply won’t lend it out.

    2. GermanGirl*

      I don’t think you’re being too harsh. I also expect to get my items returned in more or less the same condition as I gave them out. And if there’s substantial damage, I expect to be offered a replacement (or at least a real apology). And I’ll do the same when I borrow stuff and it gets damaged: Apologize and offer to replace.

      That said, if I think I can fix it or its still useable, I’ll often tell the person that I’ll do that and they don’t need to worry about paying for it.
      In my mind, books and most other things are meant to be used and may wear their damages as a badge of honour, as long as they’re not falling apart.

      I don’t tell people up front that I expect them to pay for damages. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be clear about your expectations, but it does give of a weird “I don’t trust you with my stuff” vibe.

      And if someone would return an item to me in broken condition and not apologize/offer to replace, then I’d just stop lending stuff to them.

    3. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      No, they are your possessions and you do not have to lend them to anyone just because they want to borrow them. My approach to lending books is to consider I have given them away, and not expect them back. If a book was precious to me, I would not lend it. I buy a lot of books, especially from garage sales and library sales, and am happy to pass them on or leave them at work for others to take.
      I do keep a record of books I have loaned out, which was helpful once when a friend’s husband filed some art books I had lent her in with her own extensive collection. Easily retrieved!

      A friendship is more valuable than a damaged book, overall. It might just be a bit of information that you personally don’t lend any other things you really value to them, if you see they have a pretty casual approach to returning or looking after your possessions.

    4. PollyQ*

      It’s a harder line than many people will take, although on the flip side, I think it’s just good etiquette that if someone damages borrowed property they should do what you do, and replace it without asking, so the lender shouldn’t have to specify the condition up front. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make it an explicit condition, so that people know your expectations.

      (All that said, I hope none of Alison’s gracious readers are dog-earing other people’s books. Not cool.)

    5. Pennyworth*

      You can put whatever conditions you like on the borrowers. I have a friend who can read a brand new book and it will still look pristine. I can’t do that, although I treat books well, they definitely look as though they have been read, so I would never borrow a book from her. If someone damaged one of my books I would not lend them another one. As for wanting it replaced or paid for, it would probably depend on whether it was one I really wanted to have. I would like to think they would offer to replace on they damaged, but some people are terribly disrespectful of books. I have seen the spine of a new paperback deliberately broken so the pages would lie flat, the page corners folded over instead of using a bookmark, horrible things.

    6. allathian*

      No, I don’t think you’re being too harsh. I only lend my books to people I see in person pretty regularly, in practice it’s my family and close friends. Before the pandemic, when I went to the office almost every day, I’d sometimes lend or borrow books from some coworkers, the kind of people who’d talk about the books they were reading during our coffee breaks.

      For me, books, especially paperbacks, are consumables. I don’t really mind if there’s some wear and tear on a book, as long as it’s not just a bunch of loose pages. When I borrow books, I’m more careful with other people’s books than my own, and if there’s significant damage, like a torn cover, I’ll offer to replace the book. This has only happened once, and the person said not to bother, and just fixed the paperback cover with some sticky tape.

    7. Stitch*

      Totally normal. I lent a copy of a book to a friend and her dig chewed thr cover slightly (book was still readable. She just gave me a new copy if thr book when she returned it. That’s pretty normal.

    8. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I seldom loan books out. Years ago, I loaned a special autographed book to a co-worker, and she died before she could return it. This was pre-internet, and I had no idea who any of her relatives were (she had no immediate family) or how to contact them after a decent interval. It made me be a little hoardy about my books.

    9. Myrin*

      You aren’t being too harsh at all! I feel basically the same way you do and would especially do so if I’d had experienced what you did with your high school friend. However, your friend who doesn’t put that much stock in how loaned items come back to her isn’t wrong – maybe she just doesn’t care much for books but would react differently with, IDK, a kitchen utensil or a vase, maybe she’s like that with everything; it’s a different kind of preference and that’s okay.
      (Not saying you don’t see it that way! But I absolutely have met people who had higher standards in a Thing than I do and didn’t accept that no, I really, truly mean it, please stop badgering me about it! Again, it doesn’t seem like you are that way but for anyone else reading, that might be enlightening.)

    10. I need cheesecake*

      I think your position on all this is fine but the way you’re expressing it seems a little intense.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        That’s kinda where I come down, I think. The expectation is reasonable, but if you loaned me something and prefaced it with a lecture about how if it didn’t come back in the exact same condition you would expect me to pay you for it, I’d probably go “You know what, I appreciate the offer, but it sounds like it’ll just be easier all around if I (get it from the library/order my own copy/whatever) and then neither of us has to worry about it!”

        1. Not A Library*

          It’s not a long lecture. It’s handing over the book and stating ‘ I hope you enjoy it; my one rule with loaning books is that I would ask you to replace it if it got horribly damaged in your care‘. Most people respond with ‘ of course I would get you a new copy if I destroyed this the book accidentally‘; it’s only been a few that ask why and then I explain what happened in high school.

          And since I’ve been doing this, no person has declined to borrow book from me, and only one seriously damaged my book and replaced it with no issue (her cat chewed on the cover).

          1. CTT*

            I think you need to stop thinking of that high school incident every time you loan something out. Your friend in high school was a jerk for reacting that way, but teenagers can be jerks and not fully aware of social niceties. Most adults know that if they destroy something they borrowed, they should offer to replace it – that’s what everyone here is saying and it sounds like that’s the reaction you’re getting when you explain it to your friends. There are always outliers, but I really think your odds of the same situation from high school happening again are rare.

            1. matcha123*

              I think you are being too generous. Teens aren’t stupid, they know they would be angry if someone damaged their new shoes or spilled something on their clothing.
              Not damaging others’ property is something kids are taught in preschool.

              1. KittyCardigans*

                I don’t think teens are stupid, but I think that teens can easily have different understandings of what equals “damaged’ rather than “reasonable wear and tear” for a book.

                1. matcha123*

                  Slightly bent pages is understandable, but a broken/bent spine? In any American school returning a book like that to the school would automatically incur a fee.
                  Even elementary school kids know that. Turning textbooks back in in good condition was hounded into us. The same with library books. Treating your friend’s book worse than you’d treat a textbook or library book is serious disrespect. Not a lapse in judgement…

                2. Mannequin*

                  Matcha123 I don’t know where/when you went to school, but no school I ever went to in the 70s/80s ever “hounded it into us” to keep books in good condition or charged any kind of fine* for things like dog eared pages, broken spines, a random scribble or whatever. At most, if it happened to be a year we got new textbooks, the teacher might start the year with a short warning not to mess up the books and that was about it.

                  So your experience isn’t universal.

                  *serious damage or loss that required replacement of a book might have been an exception, but I never lost or damaged a schoolbook so I don’t really know.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            And that’s fine, you’re entitled to make conditions on your stuff if you want to and I’m glad it’s working for you. You asked how people thought about it, and my opinion is, in the situation you describe, I’d tell you thanks but no thanks, because you’ve made it a more high-maintenance interaction than I’m interested in by making a big deal about your rule about what is to me obvious common sense.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, to me it would suggest that maybe a replacement wouldn’t be enough–that there was a sentimental attachment to this specific article that would make me worried about using it.

            2. twocents*

              This is where I come down too. Even a one-sentencer about the conditions for returning the item would make me feel like either (1) they think I’m a child who needs to be advised how to care for items and it’s condescending, or (2) they’re VERY high maintenance about things, and there is a strong risk that we will fundamentally disagree on what counts as normal wear-and-tear.

              Either way, this is clearly at risk of being a high point of friction, so I might as well go buy my own or whatever.

              1. Calliope*

                Yeah, I can’t think of when this has happened to me before, but I know it has and when someone lends me something with a condition like that, I back out immediately. Of course I’d replace it if I destroyed it but the fact that they’re already worrying about it makes me worry the item is too high stakes for me to want to worry about.

          3. Malarkey01*

            I think, to me, saying that to me as an adult would come off as a bit much. Entirely in your right to say and a reasonable expectation, however to me it would make it seem as a quirk that would mark you as very “particular”.

            I also wouldn’t expect my friends to replace a book if it happened to get damaged. Again, completely fine for you to do it, but again to me and my friends we’d pass off something of that cost as a please don’t worry about it and would probably find a way to buy the other lunch or give a. We book.

            It’s cool to do whatever you want but if you want to know if it’s reading as too much to others I’d say yes, especially since someone you actually know commented about it to you.

          4. Not So NewReader*

            ‘I hope you enjoy it; my one rule with loaning books is that I would ask you to replace it if it got horribly damaged in your care‘.

            This is the rub right here. You are assuming that a broken spine is “horrible”. I think at least 1/3 of my books have broken spines. I get books to read, they may or may not be pristine. I don’t place a high value on condition as long as it’s intact.

            If people do not tell me upfront their expectations about their books, I’d really have very little clue. I have had friends who would fall apart over a dog-eared page. My solution there is don’t borrow books from them.

            For my own collection, I do not loan out books that I refer to. BUT, I will hunt down a used copy of the book and give it to someone. I loan out what I am willing to never see again.

            I don’t think you are over the top. You just care about your books. I do think that the right thing to do is to explain to people that a broken spine is specifically a concern of yours before they take the book. Don’t assume people know this. And yes, you will continue to meet people who think a broken spine is nbd.

            1. lasslisa*

              This is where I am, too. I have one friend who reads her books very carefully, never cracked open more than a couple of inches, so she doesn’t “break the spine”. I always thought of that as her personal peccadillo and an unnecessary obstacle to actually reading the book comfortably. I figure books are meant to be opened, I will lay mine flat to read them, they get a crease along the spine sometimes and look used instead of looking new but I would never consider “doesn’t look new anymore” as “damage” (though I know some other people do so I would hopefully remember to ask). Same if it has a little ding on the corner of a hardcover, something that annoys my husband. To me it’s still the same book and it reads just the same (not like water damage or pages pulled out or chew marks).

              So, rather than making a point about “damage” I would probably just explicitly say you don’t like when books have their spines creased, and ask the person to take care not to open it too widely. Someone who shares your preferences will immediately understand and say they already read everything like that, and someone who doesn’t will be totally confused and probably not want to borrow the book, which is the best outcome.

            2. Mannequin*

              ‘I hope you enjoy it; my one rule with loaning books is that I would ask you to replace it if it got horribly damaged in your care‘.

              This is the rub right here. You are assuming that a broken spine is “horrible”. I think at least 1/3 of my books have broken spines. I get books to read, they may or may not be pristine. I don’t place a high value on condition as long as it’s intact.”

              Exactly this. To me, a cracked spine is normal wear & tear that happens while reading. If someone hadn’t told me years ago specifically not to do it to a book they loaned me, I would never in a million years have dreamed that anyone considered it “terrible damage”.

              1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                Cracked and broken are not the same thing. I’m not sure which one OP meant, but to me “broken” is “basically in two pieces, just barely held together by the paper of the spine”–as in, all the glue has been broken through in one spot.

                Cracked spines are something that can be avoided, but would be extreme to harp on someone about for a book you leant them. Reading to avoid cracking/creasing a spine is not the norm, so you can’t expect it of everyone.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah. I think “If there’s obvious damage then of course you offer to replace the item” is the social norm, and spelling it out preemptively to people who planned to do that is usually off-putting, suggesting you think poorly of them. I think your spine-snapping friend was the weird outlier, not the norm to form all future lending around.

    11. They’re just things*

      Stating that you expect damaged possessions to be fixed or replaced up-front is kind of a wild thing to do because that’s already the social norm (whether or not people adhere to it, I think everyone understands that it’s polite to take care of others’ things and expect to make amends if you don’t). So when you tell people that you are expecting them to follow social norms it kind of sounds like you’re assuming they won’t, which I imagine is a bit rough to be on the receiving end of. It would be like if I invited someone to supper and said “but DON’T steal the spoons!!”

      But remember that different people have different ideas of damage! My sister keeps every book in her collection looking like new. Mine are dog-eared and broken-spined. We just use them differently. Yes ideally we would all calibrate our usage to that of the person who owns the item, but in reality if you’re someone whose books are all busted to hell and back, as mine are, a bent or broken spine might not even register to you as “damage” – it might just feel to you like “how books look.”

      Anyway, if something is precious to you, don’t lend it. Always assume anything that leaves your possession is never coming back to you, and if you can’t handle that, keep it with you. I think in general it’s good to be clear about your expectations but in this case I think your expectations are a bit off.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yes, I think you’re over-generalizing from this one high school friend who played dumb about social conventions around not wrecking other people’s stuff. Most people will not intentionally damage your things, and if an accident happens they’ll offer to pay. Stating that up front is very intense, I would instead just say “Take care of it please, that’s my only copy!” and not mention money.

        1. Not A Library*

          You make an excellent point, that I’m focusing too much on what happened years ago when it’s only happened once cents, and that person did not make a big deal about replacing it. I’m going to keep that in mind next time I learned a book out.

          1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            Honestly though, it feels like all the responses here are split into two camps, consisting of:

            “I just don’t expect books back when I lend them” and

            “OBVIOUSLY that’s the social norm, to expect books back in good condition and to be replaced if broken.”

            So it really seems to me like neither one is the social norm, there are different expectations, and it’s fine to say, “Just FYI, I expect this back in okay condition.” You might be considered to be weird, but that’s honestly fine. Everyone is weird in different ways, and establishing your expectations is a fair way to show it.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I think that high school age is the highest point where books can come back damaged. As we age we get a little more careful- at least most of us. I def did not expect my high school friends to know not to bend a book back or dog ear pages.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        I think this is the critical piece. This is more about how people care for books differently.

        People treat books differently. I’m with you. I take care of books and don’t dog ear them or crack the spine by laying them absolutely flat. Other folks do and consider that normal use. So your HS friend treated your book normal for her and was surprised you thought she damaged it.

        I think it is a bit odd that you specify “you damage, you replace it” for everything you loan out because that seems to be a normal social contract. I understand you doing it for books after what happened in HS. I might word it as more of a personal quirk. “Please don’t damage this book; I keep my books in good shape.”

        1. They’re just things*

          Or just only lend to people who are on the same wavelength as you are about how to take care of objects. I don’t borrow my sister’s books because I worry I would damage them and upset her. I am particular about my pens and don’t lend them out to people except those I know to be responsible pen-returners and non-cap-chewers. If it matters to you that your things stay as they are, only place them in the custody of people who care for their own things the same way you do.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I had one friend who would lend on to others books I had lent her. I definitely stopped loaning her books.

    12. matcha123*

      I don’t think you are being harsh.
      I worked in high school and a portion of my earnings went to buying anime and manga. I allowed a friend to borrow some of my videos (that cost $30 for one), and she returned them to me with the covers bent and didn’t give af.

      If it’s something meaningful to you, then you get to set the terms. Obviously those people have different feelings towards their things. I am very particular about who I loan things to. And I ask them to take good care of the items. Regardless of whether the item was given to you or bought for a million dollars, it’s your thing and the person who borrows it should endeavor to return it in the condition it was lent.

    13. Sutemi*

      I think have to be more explicit about your assumptions when loaning things out because people have different ideas about what wear and tear is acceptable.

      For example, you state that dog earring pages is OK but a broken spine on a paperback is not. Neither matter much to me, but if I was forced to guess I would think that dog earring pages would have been less welcome.

      1. MissCoco*

        I agree that dog-eared pages are a better-known faux pas. I do dog-ear my own books, but I make a particular point to not do that for lent books (either from a friend or library). It’s never really occurred to me to try hard to avoid breaking the spine of a paperback, since it happens so often just during normal reading, especially with longer books.
        But I’m also wondering if this was a case of an extremely broken spine (like a sheaf of pages falling out type of break), and Not a Library doesn’t mind the usual creasing of a spine

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I don’t think it’s possible to avoid creasing the spine of a paperback that’s longer than about 200 pages. I don’t dog-ear my own books or anyone else’s, but I often skip using bookmarks with my own books, and just lay them face down on the table. I’m very strict about using bookmarks when I read someone else’s book, though, to avoid damaging the spine.

    14. Moth*

      I understand where you’re coming from. When I was in high school, I loaned a series of books that I really enjoyed to a friend of mine. We went to different schools, but were close one summer. After that summer we drifted apart and I just never got those books back. It made me reconsider being so generous with loaning things that I cared about. For a while, I decided not to loan books at all because of that incident.

      However, I later tried to adopt the mindset that you’ll often hear in advice columns regarding loaning money — don’t loan anyone something that you can’t afford to just give away and assume once you’ve loaned it that you’ll never get it back, so that you can be pleasantly surprised when you do and it doesn’t weigh on the relationship. I approach book loaning the same way now. I’m in a financial position where I could replace a book if I need to, so if I loan one, I try to just accept I may not ever see it back or it may come back in worse condition than I lent it. If that happens, I often won’t loan to that person again, but will just consider it a lesson learned. But if it’s a book that’s important to me or that I don’t want to go through the hassle of replacing, I just won’t loan it. And if I couldn’t afford to replace a book, I wouldn’t loan it either. It’s up to you how you approach things, but I’ve found that taking a more relaxed mindset has been helpful for me.

    15. RagingADHD*

      I am not a pristine reader and I only keep books that I intend to read many times, so all my books are battered anyway from being slung in a handbag, dropped, left in the bathroom, etc. It would take a pretty extreme level of damage, like a missing cover or ripped out pages, for me to consider that the book was ruined by lending it out. If it were ruined in that sense, I would expect that my friend would explain/apologize and offer to replace it.

      So in principle I agree that ruining a book (or other item) should warrant a replacement. But I have a very different definition of “ruin”.

      I think if you intend your books to stay pristine, you should not lend them out at all, because your expectations are much higher than what I consider normal wear and tear. You should gift them or just recommend them for your friend to get their own.

      1. Rose*

        I was just wondering if this was an ADHD thing haha. I do think my ADHD is part of why I feel the need to ALWAYS have a book with me, and nothing like a little torrential downpour or mud splatter is going to stop me from taking my book out.

        1. RagingADHD*

          IDK if it’s an ADHD thing or not. It fits the stereotype, but there’s so much variability.

          ADHD traits are just normal traits intensified to the point that they become a problem. Anything that isn’t interfering with a major life function, I’m leery of calling “an ADHD thing”

        2. allathian*

          When I lived in an apartment with a bath, I could spend hours just soaking there and reading. Many of my favorite paperbacks from that era have been dipped in the bath, some more than once, and at least one was completely submerged. All of them were perfectly readable once they’d dried out, just with wrinkled pages. That said, I never read a book in the bath that I’d borrowed from anyone else, not even from my parents who lived in the same apartment building and whose bookshelf I was allowed to treat pretty much as my own.

    16. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      All my books are hidden away in my bedroom because I can’t stand lending them (they become like a part of me!) and not getting them back. If I’m talking literature with people and they’re interested in a book I’ve read, I’ll get them a copy as a present. I’ve actually ordered several copies of certain books, knowing that I’ll be talking excitedly about them to the point my friends will want to read them too.
      My BFF doesn’t have the same attitude and will happily pass on books to me (we have very much the same taste). Since I got weird about it, saying “but I won’t want to give it back” and she’s pretty broke, she now gives me books she’s already read as a birthday present, that way I feel no obligation to give them back.
      For your friend who didn’t care about the state of the book you’d accidentally damaged, I’d simply have bought a new copy to give to her without even mentioning what happened beforehand. If she started going all “but I can’t accept that, please don’t go to such lengths” you could then say, “well, it’s a great book, now that I’ve given it to you, you can now lend it to someone else.”

      1. Mannequin*

        “ For your friend who didn’t care about the state of the book you’d accidentally damaged, I’d simply have bought a new copy to give to her without even mentioning what happened beforehand. ”

        Why would you do this if your friend had already explicitly told you it didn’t matter to them that the book had some damage? Are you unable to accept their words at face value?

        If I was like ‘hey NBD I truly don’t even care that [thing you borrowed] has some damage’ and that person bought me a new one anyway, I’d be both confused and annoyed that they had wasted their money doing something I has specifically asked them NOT to.

    17. Wishing You Well*

      You’re not being too harsh.
      I don’t lend things because they might come back damaged or not come back at all. I’ll GIVE things to people or tell them I don’t lend things out. There’s actually a law that states you’re required to return a borrowed item in the same condition it was when it was lent to you. People can sue in small claims court (or higher) for damages or replacement. Probably no one bothers suing over a book but they do sue over higher dollar items.
      I recommend you stop loaning books. They don’t seem to get much respect from borrowers.

    18. CatPerson*

      I no longer lend books at all. Several instances where I never got the book back stopped that; I had to repurchase books that I already owned. In two cases the borrower lost the book! In others I just couldn’t get it back. Even with people I know and see often, my policy is no lending to anyone, no exceptions. And I am also picky about the condition of my books, and I know that many others don’t understand that. This is what libraries are for.

    19. Well...*

      I think you’re allowed to have different standards from your friends. If you loan something, you are welcome to request it be returned in a condition you prefer. Just because some people don’t care doesn’t mean you don’t have to care.

      I’m a destroyer of books so I typically won’t take books people try to loan me. I know they’ll come back too battered.

    20. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t think so. I’ve stopped lending things after people damaged books and didn’t replace them. Same with movies. Bosswife at OldExjob wanted to watch a couple of my Harry Potter films. I let her because I knew she wouldn’t lose them. But I loaned a Miyazaki film to a coworker at an old job and she never returned it. In fact, she went out of her way to avoid me! I don’t know if she lost it or just plain stole it. Bosswife returned them promptly and in good condition. With streaming, no one really asks anymore, so my rare horror movies are safe, haha. If they really want to watch something, I just invite them over and make popcorn.

      These days, I have to know someone really well before I’ll let them borrow my stuff. I’ve been burned too many times. If I borrow a book, I try to be careful of it. I like to read while eating, but I never do that with friends’ books. And I stopped doing it with library books after I squirted cherry juice on one and had to replace it. Oof!

    21. Rose*

      Was the book physically in two pieces? Or it did that spin split thing but was still whole?

      Assuming it was in one piece and not molting pages, there are many people out there who see that kind of damage to books as a normal sign of use/being loved and see it as neutral if not positive. But there is obviously nothing at all wrong with not being one of those people!

      That being said, I do think the statement you tell friends before you loan something is awkward/odd, and probably not communicating what you want it to. It’s more adversarial than I’d expect from a friend, and I think it’s pretty much assumed that if you ruin something you borrow you’ll replace it, so it’s a little insulting to imply they wouldn’t. I also wouldn’t call a book with a split spine “unrecognizable” (unless it was in two pieces/pages were falling out). That’s extreme. So I think the message is a little awkward and also potentially not getting across what you any it to.

      I think you have two options. One, just don’t loan your stuff! It’s yours and you don’t have to. Two, if anyone wants to borrow a book, say something like “I like to keep my books looking new, so I don’t earmark pages and I make sure I don’t split the spine or get them wet. Are you pretty careful with your books?”

      If it’s causing you a lot of grief, I’d just default to saying no. If you feel weird you can always say you promised it to someone else next(IMO a white lie). I don’t think your friend is a better or kinder person than you or anything; she probably genuinely cares less about her books’ condition. I would never WANT a second copy of a book I had already read over a little water damage. I think most adults wouldn’t ask to be paid for a ruined paper back, but it’s your prerogative, and it was presumptuous of your friend if they did something like fold the book in half to read it. They should have paid for it if it was truly ruined. But id let it go if you’re holding onto it as anything more than a borrowing etiquette question.

    22. marvin the paranoid android*

      I think your strategy is a good one: just be up-front about what your conditions are before you loan it. Alternately, if you know you will be upset if a particular item gets damaged, it’s okay to decide you just don’t want to take the risk of loaning it out.

    23. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t think you’re too harsh, but I do think the chain of events here that started the whole thing is a mostly different circumstance than the rest. Namely: some people genuinely do not think of bending books and breaking the spine as “damaging” them. They read all books this way. It’s considered a natural part of reading a book, the same way, say soles of shoes will eventually wear out. I am not of that school of thought, but I think that was the disconnect between you and the friend in the original incident. It’s not unreasonable to lay things out to prevent future miscommunication, but I do think this particular divide on what constitutes “damaging” a borrowed item is probably unique to books. What I mean is, if you lend something other than a book, there is probably a more universal definition of whether they’ve busted your stuff or not. So if you’re lending not book things, I can see why some might find it unnecessary to say it up front because they’re thinking “of course I’m not going to damage your stuff” and there’s much less likely to be disagreement on whether something is in fact damaged when it’s not a book.

    24. Quinalla*

      Not the same, but similar where I lent someone something (a card from a collectible card game) and they never gave it back and never even apologized let alone offered to replace it. I didn’t ask for them to do so, but I never lent him anything again and never offered to pick up the check, etc. If he has even just casually apologized it would have been fine, but he didn’t bother to do that.

      With books, I know some people who take great care with books, some that take care but also dog-ear, write in, etc. and others who bend the spine, etc. without a care. And yeah, I only give books away personally, I don’t lend them. If it is a book I care about, I don’t let anyone else have it (except maybe a house guest who needs a book to read, but I even have a shelf of books in the guest room for this purpose LOL).

    25. tamarack and fireweed*

      I would also apologize and offer replacement if I damage a book – even in relatively minor ways like a ripped page or some water damage on the cover. If someone did this to a book of mine, I would pretty much never require it though.

      Paperbacks for me fall into the category of consumables. Only very few I want to keep around after reading anyway. If it’s a more valuable book, or one I have a deep connection to, I would point it out and say, with a smile, “please be careful with this one – I got it from my teacher in 5th grade and want it back without damage”. If it would be hard to replace and I would be sad to see it damaged or lost, I wouldn’t lend it out. In general, I expect borrowers to use the borrowed item, so the risk of damage is always there to the same degree use by random people would potentially damage it. Anything I lend out (or use) might break or get lost. For example, if someone borrows a shovel and it comes back with a big scratch, no problem – it’s a *shovel*. It is used for shoveling. Dirt and rocks.

      So … I’m careful with stuff I borrow and will be contrite and do the right thing if I damage something. But I also know that it’s in the nature of things to get damaged in use and it should never be a big deal if they are.

    26. CalypsoSummer*

      If you damaged her book and you feel badly about it (which I think is entirely appropriate), replace it. Not necessarily for her sake, since she doesn’t think it’s a big thing, but for your sake. You’d worry about it, and I hate to think of something like that preying on your mind.

      By the way, if I loaned a book to someone and s/he dog-eared the pages, I’d be PIZZED. You DO NOT do that to a book that someone else owns!

      If it was in good condition when it went out, it needs to be in that good a condition when it comes back. No dog-ears, no bite marks, no oops-accidentally-dropped-it-in-the-bathtub, no broken spines, NO WRITING IN IT, no torn covers, no torn pages.

      And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don’t loan out my books.

      1. Mannequin*

        I would be seriously annoyed if someone forced upon me a second copy of a book I already owned simply to soothe their personal feelings of guilt/shame over causing “damage” that I 150% DGAF about. They’ve gotten rid of their figurative burden of guilt by giving me a literal burden of a book I now have to expend the energy to figure out how to get rid of.
        Absolutely don’t do this.

    27. Nope*

      I learned a wonderful life lesson from a friend who’s an archaeologist. One day I was meeting him in his office and he invited me to look at some of the artifacts on his shelves. I told him I was worried I might drop one. He looked me in the eyes and said something I’ll never forget: “It’s just stuff.” He taught me friends matter, not stuff.

      Now, when someone asks me if they can borrow something, like a book, I give it to them. That way I never have to worry about what condition it ends up in.

    28. Jean*

      Your things are your things and you’re allowed to set whatever conditions you like. If someone doesn’t think your conditions are fair, they are free to not borrow your stuff.

  5. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I already have so many updates for winter update season, and I’m very excited! Please keep them coming — the more, the better. No update is too small or too uneventful. We want them all!

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Hi Alison, I originally missed the post calling for updates, but I’d love to know what ended up happening with this letter! It seemed like such a black and white situation, but I remember it triggering such heated debate in the comments at the time from people who’ve been on different sides of similar stories. It was so fascinating and I’ve always wondered which lens turned out to be the closest to accurate in this case!


    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I want to underscore that bit about no update is too uneventful–often life is calm and low-drama! That’s good! That’s nice to have represented in updates!

      Every work situation doesn’t lead to spelling out your resignation in cod, and that is a good thing.

    3. Kay*

      Yay! I hope there is one from the OP whose friend gave them a fake reference (ie said a terrible employee was great to get rid of her) and the one from the OP whose employee was “disrespectful” when she asked to be paid what she was owed after a payroll error. Thanks for all you do Alison.

  6. WoodswomanWrites*

    I’ve been reading nonfiction for years, and recently read the first fiction in ages. I loved it, and now I want to read more. I’m looking for well-written, nonviolent novels with interesting characters and lightweight content. Recommendations are welcome.

    1. Weegie*

      Try Alison Lurie’s novels. They’re not recent, but most are worth reading. The content is thoughtful but not hard going, and the characters (especially in the earlier novels) are interesting. Also Anne Tyler, in a similar vein.

    2. Maxie's Mommy*

      If you have a favorite author, look for them on Ebay. Ebay will search for any request and let you know when they find it. Also, some booksellers will do that. I have a game with myself in which I don’t pay more than $5 for a book. When I’ve read it I decide whether to keep it or to put it in my little neighborhood library. Someone likes my taste because my books are gone within a few days!

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m in the opposite situation as you (huge fiction reader starting to enjoy nonfiction). I could recommend for hours! In the interest of not delaying my morning coffee too much, I’ll go with the most recent one I can recall.

      I really enjoyed Richard Osman’s “The Thursday Murder Club” as a lightweight read. I love mysteries but wasn’t in the mood for a dark thriller, and this tale of quirky pensioners solving a crime in their retirement community hit all the spots. I would describe it as nonviolent, too.

      1. Still*

        Seconding this one, it’s a beautiful cosy little mystery and it’s hilarious. It also has very short chapters (around 5-6 pages), which makes it very quick and easy to read. I can’t wait to get my paws on the sequel!

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Ohh yes, me too! I saw the hardback at the bookshop, but will wait for a digital copy at the library. It’s the perfect stuff to read when I’m the only one awake in the house at silly hours and don’t really want to get out of bed. Ebooks in the dark, and a local library with a fairly well made reading app, have helped me carve out so much me-time I didn’t know I could get through the pandemic.

      2. Isobel*

        I liked the Thursday Murder Club very much. I’d also recommend The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths, which has a similar vibe of older people investigating a crime – reasonably light, interesting characters, not too violent.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We need a comprehensive list compilation. Or maybe we could start a hashtag sort of thing so we could find them in a websearch of this site.
      What types of fiction are you enjoying? Genre(s)? What’s your comfort level with romances, and do you draw a line at movie rating PG-13 or no?
      I’ll throw in a few favorites.
      “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”
      “To say Nothing of the Dog” (gotta love science fiction that sends you to project gutenberg for a Victorian memoir)
      “Princess Academy” (yes it’s YA, yes it’s worth it)
      “Some Place to be Flying”

      1. Stitch*

        The one thing I’ll note about “To Say Nothing of the Dog” is that Connie Willis’s other books can be somewhat of a surprise of you read that first. Doomsday Book is quite grim.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Good point, I forgot to mention that this time. My favorites are the novela fire watch, and the follow-up “To Say Nothing of the Dog”. “Doomsday Book” is a tragedy, and I’ve been afraid to read further. Willis’s range is phenomenal.

      2. Saltedchocolatechip*

        Literally was thinking of To Say Nothing of the Dog as I scrolled to your comment! Also a fan of the Princess Academy books, and The Goose Girl books.

        Light contemporary romance: Jennifer Crusie (Bet Me, Welcome to Temptation, Faking It), Nora Roberts (Bride Quartet and Inn Boonsboro trilogy), Meg Cabot’s adult books, Jill Mansell (quirky British chick lit), Jenny Colgan (sometimes a little sad but bookshops and bakeries in Scotland and Cornwall!), The Royal We and The Heir Affair (British royalty fanfic that is super addictive).

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Since you mentioned two of my favourite Nora Roberts series, do you have any similar recommendations? I don’t mind her newer stuff but I still crave that light, easy stuff she’s mostly moved around from.

      3. KuklaRed*

        Definitely YES on “Some Place to be Flying” – anything by Charles de Lint is a must read for me.

        I would also recommend “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern, and her second book, “The Starless Sea”. Both excellent. “The Night Circus” has made it to my list of top 5 books I have ever read.

    5. CorgisAndCats*

      Do you enjoy magical realism? If so, I love pretty much anything by Sarah Addison Allen. All of her books are such comfort reads and have happy endings, and they all also have an element of magic, not in a witchy way but more certain plants make people feel a certain way, books suddenly appear to a character when they need them, an apple tree that has personality, non spooky ghosts, etc. Garden Spells is probably my favorite and it is the author’s first book I think but I have really enjoyed pretty much all of her books so I don’t think you can go wrong.

      1. anon75*

        Yes,Sarah Addison Allen Is great. I also like Elizabeth Berg, Amanda Eyre Ward, Jojo Moyes,& Jodi Picoult.

      2. anon7557*

        Yes,Sarah Addison Allen Is great. I also like Elizabeth Berg, Amanda Eyre Ward, Jojo Moyes,& Jodi Picoult.

      3. CorgisAndCats*

        I also am a fan of the Ladybug farm series. It’s another cozy read, not challenging at all but sometimes you need that as a reader. The series is about three women in their late 50s who are looking for a change after raising kids, death of spouse, retirement, etc. They decide to buy a farm together in Virginia and the books are just about them renovating, gardening, starting new businesses, meeting the townspeople, and dealing with their adult children. It’s a series of around 4 or 5 books I think? The author is Donna Ball and the first in the series is called A Year on Ladybug Farm.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin. About vying for curbside parking spots in New York City, in Trillin’s inimitable prose.

      Seasonal–Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis. This is my go-to warm blanket of coziness to reread each December.

    7. ObserverCN*

      I highly recommend the “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy by Kevin Kwan. It’s hilarious, and the first book is much more biting and satirical than the movie version.
      His follow-up, “Sex and Vanity,” was OK, but I didn’t like it as much.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I recommend Alison Lurie, a Jane Austen for the late 20th century. Well written, check, nonviolent, check, novels with interesting characters, check, and lightweight content, also check! Characters from previous novels crop up as minor figures in later ones, providing fascinating “codas”.

    9. pieforbreakfast*

      “Good-bye, Vitamin” by Rachel Khong- serious topic (alzheimers) but funny
      “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple, especially humorous if you live in the PNW
      Anything by Christopher Moore, I especially liked “Lamb…” and ” Dirty Job”. Absurdist fiction.

    10. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m appreciating the recommendations. As an addition, I’m not a fan of science fiction/fantasy.

    11. marvin the paranoid android*

      A couple of charismatic faves that I think would appeal to a lot of people:
      -The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (or really anything by Natasha Pulley). Historical fiction with a twist, great characters, fantastic writing, sweet story. Features a clockwork octopus named Katsu.
      -Sourdough by Robin Sloan: Strange, funny, delightful read about the underground world of sourdough baking.

  7. Loves libraries*

    How close are you to your siblings? If not close, do you think that’s a personality/values thing or due to the way your childhood went? What do you think makes siblings more likely to stay friends and what can parents do or avoid to help their children maintain a good relationship?
    Second baby currently brewing so am quite some time from any issues but thinking ahead. I am quite close to my sister’s now but my oldest sister always resented me when we were growing up and I’m not sure if the way we were parented contributed to this

    1. allathian*

      I’m quite close with my sister. We live in the same city, text or call weekly, and meet monthly, at least when there’s no pandemic.

      That said, we’re quite different personalities. She’s even more introverted than I am, but when we were kids, I was shy and she wasn’t, so more than once, she became close friends with a girl, and then introduce me to the girl’s older sister. Sometimes that worked out so we became friends as well, sometimes it didn’t. When we were teens, both of us frankly admitted that if we hadn’t been siblings, we would’ve barely tolerated each other.

      My sister’s 2.5 years younger than I am, but because she was so much more outgoing, she was always the dominant personality. She was also allowed to do a lot of things at a younger relative age than I was. Sometimes we did something together for the first time, like when our parents dropped us off at a local mall to go shopping, and told us to come home on our own. I was 14 and my sister was 11. I was almost always at home, so I never had a curfew. I don’t ever remember being told that if I go to a friend’s house after school, I’ll call my parents at work and tell them where I am, I just took it for granted that it was the expected thing to do and did it. My sister had a curfew. Obviously if the age difference is greater than a year or two, you can’t really hold the older sibling back. Some of my earliest memories are from carrying diapers to my mom when my sister was a newborn. So if you involve the older sibling in the baby’s care to the extent that they’re able, that’s probably going to lessen the resentment.

      I mostly remember us fighting a lot when we were kids, and that’s definitely a contributing factor in that I never wanted more than one kid. We also always lived in small apartments, and I shared a room with my sister until I moved out at 19. More privacy would probably have guaranteed a more harmonious relationship, but for us it was normal to live like that, and I never resented it at the time. If I’d met my husband and started a family when we were younger, I would probably have been more willing to deal with sibling arguments, but I was 33 when I met him and 37 when my son was born, and felt that I was too old for that.

      With siblings, there are no guarantees. Even if their parents do their best to ensure a close relationship, that doesn’t necessarily happen. That said, if you treat your children equitably and take their personalities into account when raising them, that’s probably a good way to avoid fostering resentment. Equitably isn’t necessarily identically, I imagine a pretty impossible ideal anyway, just from the fact that everything’s new with your first, and you’re never going to be able to give the same full attention to subsequent children, because the older siblings will still be there and need you.

    2. English Rose*

      Hmm, sibling relationships don’t always run smoothly. I’m a middle child and don’t see much of my older siblings. But with my younger two siblings – we see a fair bit of each other and extended family and we get on OK, one more than the other. But there are sometimes some weird dynamics where we slip back into childhood patterns of behaviour – bickering and so forth and the next youngest tells endless pointless stories of when we were children. It’s a bit like being teenagers again.
      I’m not sure of the influence parenting has. I suspect that as we grow older, parents modelling adult friendships with their children rather than childhood parental relationships helps siblings do the same. In my family that didn’t really happen, parent/child dependency type relationships lasted our whole lives.
      Great that you’re thinking ahead to this!

    3. Myrin*

      I am very close to my sister. If we didn’t both reject the notion that siblings can be friends – this is an “us” thing; we always say that “you’re my sister, not my friend!!” but if others feel differently, that’s obviously just as valid – she would be my absolute best friend. We live together and share basically everything with the other. However, that didn’t use to be the case at all.

      I’m five years older and I was an absolute nightmare to her for much of our childhood. I was so incredibly jealous for many years after she was born and I’m ashamed to admit that I have a downright evil/sadistic streak in me which I’m thankfully able to keep a VERY tight rein on nowadays but which I unleashed really relentlessly on her when we were little, to the point where I’d make up things out of whole cloth to get her in trouble or literally break or damage furniture and tell my mum it was my sister.

      I’m very glad she remembers only very little of it (she does know that it happened, though) and I thankfully mellowed out as I got older. We had a neutral relationship for much of our teenagehoods but became really close when… I wanna say when she started working at 19? Thinking about it now, I’m wondering if part of it is that I have only very limited patience for children in general and at that time finally started seeing her as her own person? I don’t know.

      I don’t think our parents could’ve done a lot about our relationship, honestly; most of the problem seems to have been in my personality, I’m afraid, and the only thing I could do was work on myself which is something I did on my own. It certainly helped that we’re actually pretty similar – we have two big differences in our personalities but other than that, and especially when it comes to our (ethical/moral/social) values and our dumb sense of humour, we’re almost eeriely identical and are known among others to be able to basically read the other’s mind which certainly helps a lot.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        I think it’s wonderful how clear-eyed and honest you can be now, about how you were before, and in owning your own issues around your sister, the relationship you shared before and so on. I’d bet that this honest, straightforward willingness to be accountable and to strive to be better (which all of us could definitely do, me especially!) is one reason you are so close now.

        Awesome that you now essentially have a sister who is a soul mate of sorts too, you deserve it, everyone does, to have someone 100% team-you.

        1. Myrin*

          Thank you very much! I’m certainly no a paragon of virtue but I always try to be the very best version of myself I can be.
          And it’s funny that you mention soulmates; we’re German and the German word for “soulmates” translates to “soul relatives” so, yeah. It’s true.

      2. Washi*

        Wow, same! Except I am barely two years older than my brother. I pushed him down the stairs once, and once tried (unsuccessfully) to get a bee to sting him. I actually never framed my brother for anything but I also was really mean to him as a child and while I do have memories of playing together sometimes, I also remember genuinely wishing he had never been born and telling him this.

        In my case, my brother was apparently an extremely clingy and colicky baby who consumed more of my mother’s attention than a typical newborn, and while I have no memory of this time, I think my little brain just couldn’t handle it. He was then a sweet and sensitive child, and I always felt like he was my parents’ favorite. We only started getting along when he became an obnoxious middle schooler and I finally stopped feeling like “the bad one.” Now we are not super emotionally close, but we keep in touch and see each other regularly, and I know if I ever needed anything, he would absolutely show up to help.

        Similarly, I’m not sure what my parents could have done differently in the short term. My mom was coping the best she could and a lot of it was just the situation + my personality. But in the long term, we were both raised with similar values, happen to now have compatible personalities, and so we are able to be friends now.

    4. Joie De Vivre*

      Not close to my siblings. Each of my parents had a favorite child, and my mom had a scapegoat (dad’s favorite).

      As adults, I get along with the older sister I couldn’t stand as a child. But we aren’t close.

      I don’t get along with the sister I was close to while growing up. She had issues managing her emotions- and because she was our mom’s favorite, she learned how to use her emotions to manipulate our mom (and others) to get her way. As adults we are pretty much no contact. It is wonderful. I had no idea how much turmoil she brought into my life until it was gone. Don’t miss her at all.

      1. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

        I had a similar upbringing. Parents played favorites between my brother and me – I was dad’s favorite, he was mom’s. We had a pretty difficult upbringing for a multitude of reasons and have strained relationships with our parents… but the two of us very close. Even when I lived abroad with a 9 hour time difference we made sure to call each other weekly. I moved back and chose to live in my current city largely because of him.

        I think sibling relationships are complex and impossible to predict. Similar upbringing but differing personalities and life events lead to differing results.

      2. Rose*

        This sounds sooo much like my moms family. Each parent choosing a favorite is a huge wedge. And the child who no one chose , the others consider difficult. It seems like she can be but they also constantly reference things that happened 30 years ago. It’s not great. My mom raised my brother and I to be super close after all that.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Not at ALL – it’s entirely a personality thing, nothing that I can think of to do with our parents. My brother’s wife (who I can’t stand) didn’t help matters (and in fact is largely why my brother and sister are no-contact), but none of us were close even as kids, even though we were all just under two years apart (so 3.5 years between oldest and youngest). I don’t talk to either of them more than once or twice a year – not out of animosity but we just don’t have anything pressing to talk about.

    6. Asenath*

      I’m very close to one, was not close at all to others. I think it’s a combination of personality and also the fact that one I’m not so close to has a lot on her plate, and has done so for years. We didn’t always get along during our childhood (especially me and the one closest in age), but that was handled well by our parents, and I don’t think has much if any effect on how we get along as adults. So I’d say you can’t entirely predict friendship as adults – the siblings might just be born with very different personalities. However, if the parents deal well with any of the nearly inevitable quarrels and jealousies that arise during childhood, and teach the children to get along politely if not very closely, there’s no reason to assume that their childhood disagreements will ruin their adult relationships.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      Proximity plays a big part. Relationships require maintenance. How much depends on how deep the relationship is. This is why we soon lose touch with work friends after we leave the job. I have two friends that I consider lifelong, regardless of immediate contact. I can check in a couple times a year and nothing has changed. But less strong friendships? If I should happen to meet my old college friends, honestly we don’t have much to talk about beyond the usual catching up stuff, and these are people I lived cheek by jowl with for years. Siblings are a bit different, blood being thicker, &c. They default to that lifelong status, unless there is some good reason not to. I don’t live near any of them, but we try to meet occasionally. I went to my aunt’s funeral last summer and shared a hotel room with my brother. It was fine. If I lived near any of them, it would be a different dynamic.

    8. Pass The Gravy*

      I would say try not to pick favorites, and try to treat your children the same as much as possible. I am very close to my half siblings, and any resentment I feel is mostly directed towards my stepmother who I feel spoiled my sister, and is continuing to do so now. It’s something I’ve also heard from my friends, that they have a strained relationship with their sibling because the sibling was always treated as the special golden child, and they were not given the same treatment. So trying to keep things on an equal ground for all kids is pretty important in my book.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        That good advice until it’s not. My mom was so determined to not play favorites that if my older sister didn’t like a particular type of music, I wasn’t allowed to listen to it. Hand-me-downs are bad enough in clothes and toys, but in taste?

        1. allathian*

          She did in fact play favorites by allowing your sister’s likes and dislikes to determine what you were allowed to do. This is not okay.

    9. ecnaseener*

      My older sister and I are close. A lot of it comes from the older sibling – mine adored me from the beginning and was never jealous of the attention like older siblings often are with new babies. * I’m sure my parents played a role in making sure she didn’t feel neglected, but I think it was also just her personality – she’s always wanted to be a teacher, she’s a nurturing type.

      * Side note: Not that it’s the end of the world if the older one doesn’t love the new baby right away. My cousin asked his parents when they were going to take the baby back to the hospital, and they ended up being close :)

      1. Rose*

        Greta to hear as my niece (age 5) is currently trying to figure out how to recycle the new baby. Like… in a large blue bun.

      2. Myrin*

        Ha, I did the same thing your cousin did with my sister! I knew logically that she was here to stay but I would still ask sometimes whether we were going to return her just to be sure.
        Also, her birthday is one week before mine (she was actually due on my birthday but thankfully arrived earlier!) and I remember very petulantly telling everyone “That will change some day!!”. Spoiler: It hasn’t.

    10. Nature or nurture*

      My two siblings and I are very different people. One is deeply religious, one is very Libertarian. I’m an atheist and very liberal.

      We all live within 15 minutes of each other. We get together often, text all the time and totally live each others company. Our parents are/were narcissists while the three of us genuinely care about each other and our families.

      I don’t know how we managed to get here but we did.

      I have two sons, 16 months apart. When raising them I always made sure to not pit them against each other and to value them equally. Hubs and I just love it when we are together with them (one just finished undergrad and one is in grad school). Listening them talk to each other is just so satisfying- they have a great relationship with each other as adults and it just is very satisfying when they get into an intense conversation with each other. They sound like they’re confiding in each other, lowering their voices. We honestly don’t strain to hear, we just smile.

      But it isn’t like we raised them perfectly or anything – really just luck of the draw. I have friends that I consider to be great parents and their kids aren’t close with each other.

      So you do what you can to foster good sibling relationships and hope it works out.

    11. fueled by coffee*

      I’m relatively close with my siblings (we all live literally across the country from each other, but we text and talk on the phone often, and in non-pandemic times will gather with the family for holidays if we’re able to get the time off/aren’t going to a partner’s family).

      Honestly I think there are too many factors that go into sibling relationships to be able to control this as a parent – we’re all human people with opinions and personalities. So I wouldn’t stress too much about this.

      But you asked for advice, so, some things that my parents did that I think were good parenting moves (speaking as the oldest child in a set of relatively close-in-age siblings):
      1. Not forcing “sibling bonding” or whatever. Having to spend dedicated time with my siblings was always kind of annoying because I was developmentally more mature. We would do family activities occasionally, but my parents were always fine with me, like, hiding out in my room with a book instead of playing games with my siblings. Now that we’re all adults we’re perfectly fine hanging out, but I used to hate doing “little kid stuff” when I felt like a Big Kid.

      2. My parents were also respectful of my having my own friends/activities/social life. I was expected to support my siblings at their big events (school plays, major sports events, etc.), obviously, but they didn’t make me go to every little league game. They also never let my siblings tag along when I was hanging out with my friends if I didn’t want them there – this was really crucial, especially in the preteen years when my siblings felt like (annoying) little kids. And during the period when I was the teen who was expected to watch my siblings while my parents were out, they never gave me a hard time about calling a sitter if I had other plans.

      3. They were aware that kids at different ages need different rules/privileges. This wasn’t always perfect (my sister got a cell phone way earlier than I did because of changing technology), but having things like different bedtimes based on age or different levels of responsibility around chores really helped me feel like my parents understood the life stages I was going through.

      1. Le Sigh*

        This sounds a bit like me and my sibs. Geographically far apart and while we definitely have things in common, we’re all pretty different as well. I think some of it is sheer luck — they’re just good people at their core and we all put in the effort to be there for each other, and understand and respect each other. There are things we do that annoy the other, but I also think it helps if you can be mindful of not falling into older/younger/middle child dynamics and treat each other each as independent adults.

        I think our parents played a role in that. They didn’t play favorites and they treated us relatively equally — but by equal, I don’t mean exactly the same. They were responsive to our individual personalities, ages, and needs, they didn’t force anything, and they didn’t play favorites. It made it a lot easier to be friends as we got older, since there wasn’t competition or feeling like the unfavored/overlooked sibling.

      2. Lady Danbury*

        My parents were very similar. Another thing they did that made a huge difference (imo) was also ensuring that each kid had regular one on one (or one on two) time with them, apart from the other siblings. When I was young it was reading or playing games with just my mom/dad and me. As an adolescent, every Tuesday my mom and I would cook a different recipe from some random Asian cookbook together.

        My sister was very much the extrovert, while I was an introvert, so having time with our parents where I wasn’t “competing” with her was important. They would also specifically ask me questions when the whole family was together and not just allow the more dominant personalities to dominate the conversations.

      3. Quinalla*

        I think this is all great advice and what I try to do with my own kids and something my parents succeeded at well. I do think you can set up siblings relationships for success, but then it is up to them from there. My parents were very careful not to show favoritism either which is important. I think you have favorites whatever you try, but you should try to make it so your kids don’t know who it is.

    12. Chauncy Gardener*

      Not close at all, directly due to our mother having NPD and always pitting us against each other. It’s a shame and I miss what could have been, but it’s better for me to be NC with all of them, I’m sad to say.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Same here.
        Mom has NPD. My siblings and I are merely veterans of something that was not a bonding experience – at all. It’s best for all of us to have very low or no contact. Yes, it’s very sad.
        The best thing you can do for your kids is to provide a safe, loving and stable home. I don’t know what else to advise.

        1. Camolita*

          My siblings and I are merely veterans of something that was not a bonding experience – at all.
          I’ve often struggled to try to find a way to explain my family relationships, but, sadly, this describes it well. Sorry for what you experienced, as well.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        And to give more constructive advice, I think I would caution against labeling your children i.e. “the smart one” “the bad one” “the good one” etc. Just be as fair as possible to them all in ways that matter to their particular personalities, not necessarily treating them identically.

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      I am not close to my sibling. We just didn’t mesh personally.

      As children, I do think there was some sorting us into The Two Roles, which I would try to avoid. My own kids are farther apart in age, and so it was easier to do “You can both be really good at math; not a contest here.”

      My husband is a dozen years younger than his siblings, who are a year apart in age, and I think he’s closer to each of them than they are to each other–and that comes down to personality mesh, where his is between theirs. What I notice now is that the adult relationships have a whole lot to do with whether the people involved value this relationship and work to maintain it.

      Once my sib and I were adults, what I’d emphasize is that no amount of strategizing on my mom’s account was going to make us suddenly realize we wanted to be closer, and I wish we had skipped a whole lot of “Let me tell you all your sister’s problems” conversations. (I definitely felt cast as the boring, reliable relative whose life is fine (and thus uninteresting) and whose job was to fix everyone else’s more fascinating problems.)

    14. Sloanicote*

      I don’t think sibling closeness is something parents can really control, beyond treating both children fairly, modeling respect within families, and not raising as*holes. My sister and I have been more or less close at different times in our lives but were never really as close as I feel with my closest friends. In some ways we are almost too similar but also just have very different lives. However, if she ever needs a kidney, I’m there, and I expect we might be closer in another stage of life than we are now (she has young children and doesn’t live close).

    15. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I’m not close with my brother. It’s because of the age difference more than anything else: we’re 4 years apart (I’m older). 4 years doesn’t sound like a big age difference but it is. I was in 9th grade (high school) and he was in 5th (elementary school. He got dragged around to all my extracurriculars and games. I didn’t go to any of his. When I was learning to drive, he was selling boy scout popcorn. When he was in high school, I was in college. When he was learning to drive, I was applying to grad school. Funniest thing about our age difference is that many of Brother’s friends, and their parents, didn’t even know he had a sister until I showed up for his high school graduation and our parents hosted a party. We do get along and we’re friendly. We have some mutual interests and similar personalities. We’re just not the type to text or hang out because of the age difference. We’ve always been in different places in our lives. Metaphorically and literally. But at the same time, we show up for each other. If I ever needed his help or he ever needed mine, we’re there for each other. There’s comfort in knowing that we have a safety plan in each other, even if we only talk 3 or 4 times a year.

      There was never any resentment between us, not anymore (there was plenty when we were growing up, because of the age difference). We just grew out of it.

      I think it’s one of those things where as parents, you can’t force your hand too much. You can certainly have hopes and try to nudge them in certain ways. But children will do what children do. It’s been my experience (mainly through observing friends’ relationships) that parents who force children to live out their (the parents’) expectations and wants usually end up causing the resentment and those children aren’t close to any family remembers.

      1. Imtheone*

        And yet my two children (son and daughter) who are in their early thirties, and are four years apart, are very close. They live in different cities, but talk on the phone each week. My son asked my daughter to be the “best person” at his wedding.

        We tried to give each one what they needed growing up. They each got a lot of attention as individuals. We emphasized being kind to each other and taught and modeled understanding other people.

        My son, the oldest, was always very social and wanted someone to interact with, even a very little sister. My daughter loved getting his attention and was willing to play his favorite games. So we were also lucky in how their personalities and needs meshed.

      2. allathian*

        Lots of people have close relationships with their siblings in spite of a fairly large age difference. My husband’s 6 years older than his sister. They didn’t have a lot in common as kids because of the age difference, but they’re fairly close as adults.

    16. fposte*

      I am stunned to find myself having a good relationship with my oldest sibling now that I’m in my 50s. I will say a lot of it is due to their having a life crisis and doing serious therapy work that made them a better human being, or at least better at interacting.

      My parents reacted to having been over-pushed in their sibling relationships by having a non-intervention policy. That was a mistake, because that meant physical violence and the littlest getting genuinely hurt to the point of ER visits. I think it’s hard to find a happy medium there, though, because there’s no way to be perfectly fair to every kid, and you can’t spend your days policing their every interaction; I’d say maybe house rules that mean behavior that wouldn’t fly with schoolmates doesn’t fly with sibs either would be a good start; as with school, you won’t catch all of it, but there’s house rules about acceptable treatment. But also give each on their own with parents and an individual parent.

      I know a lot of sibling groups where everybody has a different belief about who the favorite was, and that’s probably the best you’ll get.

      1. Imtheone*

        My mother somehow made each of the three of us, my brother, my sister, and me, think that we were the favorite child.

        1. Wombats and Tequila*

          Yes, some years ago, child rearing books always said that parents should leave siblings to resolve their own conflicts, which is idiotic when you consider that one will be physically larger and more verbally sophisticated. My brother would half the time be my angel and hero and the other half of the time weaponize my cousin to join him in verbal.and physical abuse. He grew up to be an amazing person, so I blame my parents for just standing by and wringing their hands when he was in sadistic mode. At the same time, my mother had a lit of anger and was very disrespectful to my father,, and would complain about him to us.

          Do not be a weak parent. Show some leadership.

          Model how you want your kids to be in your own marriage. If you are disrespectful, if you accept disrespect from your partner, if your partner is lazy, inconsiderate, addicted to something, or basically taking advantage of you and won’t change, or makes empty promises that never come to fruition just to shut you up, then no amount of counseling will fix that and you are not doing your kids any favors by staying in a miserable union for their sake.

    17. AGD*

      Very close to all of them, but I’m not actually sure how that has come about, because we’re all wildly different and some of the age gaps are pretty large. Both parents are also close to their respective siblings and to each other’s siblings, so that was normal. They assured us all the time that this was what was going to happen to us when we grew up (in that they saw it as inevitable), and one parent talked about it utterly breaking their heart that there were sibling rifts in the previous generation on that side, so that might have helped. The flip side is that our parents didn’t handle childhood fighting between us well, though: they were absurdly laissez-faire about it and just shrugged and said we’d grow out of it, even when it got really bad.

    18. ObserverCN*

      I’m closer to my sister than my brother, just because we live closer to each other and we’re closer in age.
      I got to visit my brother last month, and that was a great bonding experience.
      I’m more religious and conservative than my siblings (I’m moderate and they’re liberal), but we still get along, since we have our parents to talk about :)

      1. ObserverCN*

        Also, I’m grateful that our mom encouraged us to each be our own person. We all even went to different high schools because we had different interests – I think that helped a lot.

    19. twocents*

      I haven’t spoken to my brother in three years, his choice.* We weren’t especially close growing up, but we were friends and we had grown closer after I graduated high school. In the last five years, though, my brother had grown increasingly angry and volatile, and had really had a “the world should be this way, and if you aren’t in exact alignment with me, I will respond with ANGER.” Like, I remember one time talking about a story I had read, and was telling my dad about one of the characters and my brother got so mad about this character and my interpretation of it — even though he had literally never heard of the character or book before — that we had to completely pivot and change topics.

      That said, he is also one of the most charming and personable people I know (or was, given that it’s been three years). He once was in line at a grocery store, and by the time he was collecting his bags, the cashier was inviting him to come celebrate her wedding that weekend. Like that kind of charming.

      It really saddens me how angry he’s gotten and the fact that he’s completely cut off not just me, but actually the entire family. It’s stupid, but I had a vision that we could be close like my mom and her siblings are, even just having that regular touch base.

      To answer Loves Libraries question, I’ve had a couple years to come to terms with the fact that I may literally never speak or see my brother again, and in that time, I’ve come to the conclusion that: as a parent or part of the family, you can do the best you can to be a loving, stable source, but after a certain point, their choices are their own. I know my mom agonized a lot over “where did I go wrong?” but we’re in our 30s. He owns his choices, and even if they are painful to us and, tbh, I worry about how hurtful they are to him to just constantly be angry, he’s still a grown adult and can make the choices he wants to make. I don’t think it came down to how our childhood went, but rather, the choices and rabbit hole spirals he went down as he got older. He started surrounding himself with people who had legit beefs with family (e.g. one of his friends came home from school one day and discovered his parents had moved and he was homeless) and started dating someone with a large, fractured, high drama family and I don’t know if he felt compelled to try to fit in or what. I also know that he started getting obsessed with, almost, “I am the hero of the story” kind of perspective, where all the problems in the world were something that solely he could fix. Like you know that scene in the Incredibles where Mr. Incredible talks about wishing people would quit needing help for five minutes? Like that kind of exasperation but without the power of Mr. Incredible and with significantly more anger behind it.

      I’ve got no real advice other than to know that you can do the best that you can do, and s— can still go sideways all the same. And it may go sideways well after they’re grown and you’re left wondering “wth just happened?”

      *To preempt any curiosity, he cut off the entire family when he started “borrowing” increasingly large sums of money from my parents, and I guess decided that he didn’t want to see any of us, lest he feel guilt about the fact that he borrowed the money with no intent to ever repay.

      1. Ice Bear*

        Your brother sounds similar to my sibling (although I am the one who decided to go no contact after decades of dealing with their anger at the entire world, including me). Those traits you describe sound very much like grandiose narcissism, which I think my sibling suffers from. They too are very charming and seem to make friends with strangers quickly, but they don’t have any deep relationships other than their significant other because once you get close enough they push you away.

        1. Feelings... nothing more than feelings*

          Yup, it definitely sounds like some kind of personality disorder.

      2. anon for this*

        I dated a guy like this. It was an exhilarating, passionate relationship; then it was a long intense friendship; then it was a huge amount of one-sided anger over some arbitrary selection of little things in my behavior, different every week; and then it was nothing.

    20. CNY*

      I’m extremely close to my siblings (oldest of 3), and I think this is directly related to the fact that our abusive parents went through a horrible traumatic divorce when I was in my teens, and we all bonded together as a result of the experience.

      My advice would be to encourage your kids to love and support each other — and to NOT compete for your attention. Too many families end up with a scarcity mindset around parental love, and so the siblings grow up focusing on the parents and seeing each other as competition, especially if they’re close in age. I would do what you can to combat that scarcity mindset and encourage them to see themselves as interdependent with each other (and with you). This could mean finding small ways for them to exercise agency and contribute to the group as loving family members from an early age in a way that fosters a communal dynamic rather than “powerless child that totally depends on the parent”, if that makes sense.

      1. banoffee pie*

        I’m really good friends with my brother. I’m not sure you can ‘ensure’ it from the start because some people just have different personalities/interests, but the best thing you can do is not set them up as rivals from the start. Don’t make them compete for your affection. So don’t say ‘X is better at this’ or ‘why can’t you be more like X?’ I know it sounds obvious but I’ve heard parents do it, even in public, and I’m thinking NOooo don’t say that! Do you want them to hate each other??

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            Yes! I have heard otherwise very intelligent people comment in public and in front of their children how one isn’t very smart or one isn’t very coordinated etc. Yikes people! Please stop this!

      2. Rose*

        Yup, hate to say it but if the many reasons I’m close with my brother, trauma bonding is top of the list. :-/

    21. RagingADHD*

      My brother and fought like cats and dogs as small children but started getting along much better as teens. I felt some resentment when he got to do things first, or when I felt he was getting all the attention. He got very frustrated when he felt I was getting away with stuff. A certain amount of that is inevitable with birth order, I think. My parents worked hard to try and be fair and consistent, so any real differences were pretty minor. Now we get along great and truly value each other’s support.

      However, we don’t talk frequently in normal life just because we both lose track of time and don’t realize how long it’s been. Sometimes we go months without talking. I also had to block him on social media because the political situations of the last administration brought our the worst of our argumentative natures. We can talk about stuff reasonably in person, but online it goes real bad real fast. So in that respect, we might not look “close” to some people.

      The definition of “close” can change as people grow up.

      I would say that (besides being fair and considerate to their individual needs) it’s important to let them find things they both enjoy and let them exclude you if they want. A big turning point in our friendship was when were both learning French in school. We could tell each other jokes or make sassy comments about our parents without them understanding us. It was harmless, but kind of thrilling to have a “secret” language.

      That’s when our relationship really started becoming independent of our parents, and even now that Mom is gone and Dad is elderly, we know that we always have each other’s backs.

      Geez, now I gotta go call my brother and tell him about these ninjas chopping onions in my room.

    22. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      First rule: never compare them. My brother hated that I was always top of the class while he struggled, I hated that my parents always told me to keep my room as clean as my brother did, that it wasn’t normal for him to be neat and my room in a state of total mayhem. We both hated being compared. Even when I was being praised for my good marks (which I didn’t have to work for, so no real credit was due) I felt bad for my brother who did work hard with less than brilliant results. Once I accused my mother of preferring my brother, and she didn’t deny it, she said nothing, just stared me down.

      My kids are not particularly close, I don’t think they’re much in contact with each other apart from during our all-the-family phone calls, but they get on well enough and I’m pretty sure either one would help the other out if necessary. They manage to find each other birthday presents they really appreciate so I reckon they know each other well enough to get it right.
      One day, each of my kids came to me to complain that it wasn’t fair because the other had more of something (the same thing, I don’t even remember what). I remember telling them that if they each felt that the other had it better, that meant I was being an equally rotten mother to both of them, and it actually wasn’t possible to be fairer than that!
      Good luck with the birth and all the rest!

    23. Well...*

      I’m close with my sister now but we’ve had a rocky relationship. It was extremely rocky when we were kids, and it caused me a lot of pain and angst tbh that I would have preferred to live without.

      The obvious things to avoid that we had to deal with are too much upheaval and ignoring/neglecting the problems between us. I don’t blame my parents, as we were all struggling through a divorce and they had to be single parents + work full time, so they just didn’t have time to sit us down and resolve our fights. They clearly wanted the fighting between us to stop but they made no effort to address the root causes or address the fights outside the moments they were happening. There was also never attempt to establish any kind of fair rules /reasonable boundaries to avoid fights in the future, it was more just gesturing at us Being More Peaceful please.

      Another thing I’d say is that my sister and I were just very different children growing up, and honestly we might have benefited from not having the pressure to Get Along. Pushing your kids to be close can stress them out, especially since they aren’t even the same age, and so maybe allow them to organically develop their own relationship and not push it to fit something you want. If they don’t have compatible personalities, forcing them to be close is just going to cause more problems, make them feel guilty (as children!) for not being “better” at getting along with each other, etc etc.

      1. Well...*

        whoa re-reading that makes it seem like I’d prefer not to have had a sister, which isn’t true at all! I just wish I could have lived without the rockiness, and if I do have kids I will try to make a life for them where they don’t struggle with the same issues.

    24. Ice Bear*

      Despite wishing we were close, I have a strained relationship with both of my siblings, and even though my mom favors both of them over me, that’s not the reason for the lack of connection.

      One has mental issues, lives with my parents, and doesn’t operate as an adult, so our conversations stay light and mostly include the exchange of links to amusing things we see online. Whenever we delve into any deeper topics they tend to act very immaturely and I cannot figure out if it’s the mental issues or the influence of my mother that has made them this way. They just can’t (won’t?) see things from anyone else’s perspective, so in an effort to keep in touch I just don’t expect any kind of emotional support from them (or any of my immediate family, actually).

      I recently went no contact with the other sibling after realizing how tense I’d get whenever they texted or called me. They have resented me for decades and have treated me as if I owe them everything. They are a decade younger than me, so I thought as they got older we’d have a more balanced relationship, but no. I was expected to be kind, generous, forgiving, etc. while they were emotionally abusive and dismissive. They couldn’t care less about anyone’s lives because they are a narcissist, which my mother enables. Both my mother and the other sibling complain about the narc to me (most notably pointing out how everyone has to walk on eggshells around them) while continuing to put up with their behavior. I decided I can love them, but not like them or want them in my life; things are now more peaceful as a result.

      It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and accept it. I kept thinking that maybe if I did this, or maybe I said that, my family would care about me as a person, but nothing ever changed. Therapy has taught me we can only control ourselves and I am not responsible for their crappy attitudes & treatment.

      All of this makes me incredibly sad, not to mention envious, when I hear about people with healthy relationships with their family. I wonder what it’s like to have a family who genuinely wants to hear about your life and is respectful of you as a person with feelings (mine seems to think only they have those).

      In any case, I focus on my loving spouse and a few close friends who provide the type of care & concern my family were unable (unwilling?) to provide.

    25. matcha123*

      Parentification played a huge role in our relationship. My role constantly shifted from “older sibling” to “someone who is supposed to act like a parent” to “someone we should all make fun of.”
      When a second child is born, parents see their first as more mature than they previously did (obviously a five year old is going to be more mature than an infant) and they create stricter rules for the oldest.
      Don’t make the oldest give up their toys, their freedom, their money for the youngest because “youngest.” Personality plays into it, but ignoring things because it’s “easier” for you as a parent isn’t fair to either kid. Don’t assume that the oldest is always in the wrong. Kids are smart. If they know that tears will having rushing to their aid, they will deploy them bay any means necessary to keep your anger off of them.

      1. Ice Bear*

        Oh boy, this is triggering some unpleasant memories for me. I was expected to be the parental figure too and now get disrespected by my family.

        As the oldest I was always automatically in the wrong. Doesn’t matter what happened, I “should know better”. I was gaslighted to think every disagreement was my fault. I have issues with confrontation and sticking up for myself to this day. It’s taken decades, and therapy, to realize all this. I just thought I was doing everything wrong all the time. Thanks, mom!

        1. Might Be Spam*

          This is triggering me too. In addition, my parents made me responsible for my siblings behavior, and of course I had no authority and no experience. (I now realize that this allowed my mom to avoid any anger that might have been aimed at her.) A therapist suggested that my siblings don’t know whether to treat me like a parent or a sister. They see me as a safe outlet/target for their rage and dysfunction. We’re in our 60s now and the pattern continues. My safest option is to avoid them whenever possible.

          1. matcha123*

            I feel this. We are in a better place now. But for a long time I was being made to feel bad for not being able to do stuff that as a teen, I had no way of doing.

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          This! As I said above, my mom had NPD and I was the oldest, so by default I had to take care of my younger sibs, until they turned on me, that is. Yech. So NC with all was the way to go since no one else besides me was in therapy

        3. matcha123*

          Same here. At work I get pinned as a lot younger than I am probably because I alternate between overly cautious so as not to arouse anyone’s anger and overly independent. I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of bullying relationships with “friends” and coworkers and have a hard time sticking up for myself.
          And being a “mature” and “responsible” kid doesn’t make you a good friend choice, apparently. “Boring friend,” but that’s because I was thinking about all the ways we could get hurt and how much a hospital stay would cost, but I digress.

    26. Seal*

      I’m somewhat close to my younger brother and his family, although we don’t really have many common interests beyond politics. We get together when I’m in town and spend the holidays together and occasionally help each other out with projects and the like. Our mother is at the point that we need to move her into senior housing in the next few years so we’re starting to plan for that together.

      My youngest brother is a different story. He’s a bit younger than we are and growing up was always a handful. By the time he was in junior high he got suspended so often he spent more time in detention than attending classes. Our parents got him into counseling well before such things were commonly done and he was diagnosed with ADHD. That helped some, but he still barely graduated from HS and wound up with substance abuse issues. He lived at home well into his 20s, sporadically attended college on our parents’ dime, partied hard and often, and dated a string of women, all of whom ultimately dumped him due to his abusive behavior brought on by alcoholism. By his late 20s he finally got sober and landed a job as a web designer where he excelled. We were all very happy that he had turned his life around; for the first time in his life he seemed to be happy, calm, and content.

      But then he started dating a woman who was also a youngest child with control issues. She insisted on his undivided attention, got mad when he wanted time to himself, and made it clear that spending time with his family was a chore for her. At her bidding, he gave up the career he loved to go into her family’s business, which he hates and doesn’t suit his talents. Worse, she got in his head and got him to believe that our parents – who almost bankrupted themselves to save their son – never loved him and intentionally tried to prevent him from succeeding. After they got married and had a kid, his now-wife kept coming up with flimsy excuses for not attending his family’s events. As a result, my parents rarely got to see their grandchild. Finally, after years of barely staying in touch, a year ago my brother decided he was done with our family and told my mother he never wanted to see her again. Although she’s heartbroken, my other brother and I are quietly relieved. At least he’s finally being honest with us.

    27. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’m the eldest of two girls, there’s only 2 years separating us, we had a pretty normal upbringing, and we live about 8 miles apart.

      We rarely talk. In the past it was due to a colossal falling out. We’re both very stubborn, rather headstrong and hold grudges. She said some things about my weight (she got the slim genetics, I got the opposite), and about my disabilities being self inflicted (due to the weight) and…yeah it wasn’t good.

      A decade past that and we’re at the ‘of course I’ll help you in an emergency you’re my sister!’ level but we’ll never be friends. We’re just too different. She’s the ‘had an easy time at school, able-bodied, no mental problems, had kids, makes friends easily, does sports’ type and I’m the ‘disabled, childfree, uber geek, more mental issues than a fictional character, has few friends, was bullied through school’ type. Aside from blood we don’t have much in common.

      Here’s the thing – my parents have never had the intention that me and my sister will be friends. And that took a lot of pressure off. Just be polite to each other we were taught – if you become friends then great, if you can only tolerate each other in small doses that’s also fine.

    28. A Genuine Scientician*

      There’s a lot to sibling dynamics you can’t control. People aren’t blank slates, and some personalities simply don’t mesh well. I like the saying that most parents believe very strongly in the power of nurture, right up until the birth of the second child.

      I was pretty close with my brother (he died a few years back). But honestly I probably wouldn’t have been his friend if we weren’t related.

      The main things I recommend are mostly a list of things not to do:

      – Don’t set them up as competitors. The phrase “Why can’t you be more like…” should basically never be uttered.

      – Don’t make their social lives dependent on each other. They can have their own friends who aren’t communal friends. Don’t ask if one can tag along on the other’s things.

      – Don’t require them to go to all of each other’s games and events; *occasional* is fine, but not as standing expectation that The Whole Family is going to go to every soccer game/dance competition/whatever.

      – Don’t routinely expect the older one to be responsible for the younger one. They’re still a kid, and get to act like one.

      – Don’t expect that the younger one will be happy to wear all the hand me downs of the older one. Absolutely fine when they’re infant/toddler, but likely by preschool and definitely by elementary school they’re going to have some of their own tastes and interests.

      – Avoid defaulting to one of them getting their say (whether that’s oldest, youngest, the one who complains if they don’t get their way, etc.). Be deliberate in rotating fairly.

      On things to actively do:

      – Spend some time with each kid 1-on-1. You’ll see different aspects in your kids when you interact with them alone, and in their interests, than in the common denominator of family. It will also serve to make sure each of them get some individualized attention, which can mean a lot if they feel another kid is getting more attention/time (because they need more supervision, because they have a chronic illness, because they’re in a rough patch with bullies, because they have more in common with you, whatever).

      – Require civility. For reasons I don’t fully understand, a lot of people seem to think that manners are required for outsiders, not for family. I disagree; consideration for other people is, if anything, even more important for long term bonds than it is for strangers. You can’t make them like each other — and actually, I suspect that if you try that often backfires — but you can enforce speaking and acting appropriately, such as under the golden rule.

      – Teach the difference between equity and equality. There are a lot of resources about that currently available; it applies within families too.

      – If possible, try to tie privileges to developmental milestones rather than ages. That will give you a lot of the flexibility you need to deal with the actual real-world differences between your kids. Maybe Sam is ready to ride their bike 3 blocks to the swing set at the age of 7, while Alex needs to be walked there until the age of 8. It’s going to rankle Alex if you said that Sam could do it once they turned 7. It’s going to be different if you said they needed to demonstrate that they would stop at every stop sign and look both ways before crossing a street for at least 2 months before you let them.

    29. Frankie Bergstein also loves libraries*

      My sister and I aren’t close. We’re just too different, too opposite in many ways. I am the type who overdelivers in relationships, often falling into the cycle of one-sided relationships and resentment (I’m working on that). She’s the opposite – a little bit selfish and lazy (I find this inspiring – I’ll share why momentarily), who gets into relationships with people who are really willing to cater to her.

      To avoid us having a dynamic where our relationship is mostly me constantly doing things for her, I keep it somewhat distant and light — as though we’re acquaintances or professional contacts — we meet every few months (I do 100% of the asking, logistics, etc.). It works. I genuinely enjoy her company and talking with her. She’s whip smart, beautiful, fun, very clear on who she is and what she wants, unapologetic, and because she makes sure things work for her, she doesn’t fall into resentment like I do.

      She lives life very differently from me, and that’s something I really appreciate about her. She enjoys these outings as well. We have similar tastes in food, music, drink, politics, and literature, so we sometimes share recommendations with one another. It’s not the type of close sibling relationship that would be the centerpiece of a movie, but it’s healthy and mutually enjoyable.

      As background, we had a really difficult upbringing – lots of abuse, straight-up cruelty, neglect, parentification (in my case — I was more like a 3rd parent to her than a sibling), lack of support, lack of medical care in her case – so the fact that we’re both employed, doing a decent job of adulting, in healthy-ish relationships, and in contact with each other and our parent is actually really amazing.

    30. Maggie*

      We’re a medium level of closeness but we’re two sisters two years apart so it was easy. We’re really different now but still close though we live far apart. We make a point to visit and we text. The main thing that’s driving us apart is unfortunately my sister married a rude, downright disrespectful and mean man that makes sexual comments. The last time I was around him I realized that I choose not to spend time with him or stay in his home. It’s quite difficult. I expect my sister will eventually divorce when his behavior becomes intolerable to her. There’s nothing a parent can do in this situation really. We are waiting it out.

    31. Rara Avis*

      I consider myself close to my brother (3 years younger.). I found him hard to deal with when he was 12-14, but when we reconnected as adults at college (my senior year/ his first) we were able to rebuild a strong relationship. I hear that it can be harder with same-sex siblings, who can be competitive. We were very different, but my parents mostly didn’t compare us.

    32. Rose*

      My brother was my best man, we don’t talk about super deep stuff all the time, but I do feel very close to him. My mom was always really good at forcing us to do tasks together. I’m the youngest and if I needed homework help, that was my brothers job. She gave us big two person chores to do together, or dinner to cook. We didn’t have our own TVs in our room and screen time was very limited ; if we wanted to watch something we had to choose something together. We went on family vacations together and we were never allowed to invite friends to family stuff. It was hang out together or be alone. We spent as much time fighting as being friends growing up but by the time we were in college it was totally harmonious.

      We also have the same opinions about lots of stuff and personalities that are just opposite enough. We were different genders and had totally different interests (him: drugs, partying, me: school, sports, science fair), so we never felt in direct competition, although I do remember feeling we competed for attention a lot.

      I will say we also super bonded over some shared trauma in our teens where he was my protector. It’s the main reason we’re SO close, so… it’s not always great parenting. Sometimes it’s crap parenting. Sometimes it’s crap circumstances.

    33. Marion Ravenwood*

      Caveating this by saying I have a very big age gap with me and my sisters: they were 12 and 8 when I was born.

      For me it kind of went in fits and starts. When I was very small (say around four), I was kind of treated as an novelty by my eldest sister and her friends in particular. Then when she went off to university and my middle sister was at the age where a younger sister was just annoying rather than cute, the two of us became quite distant (though I was still regularly in touch with my eldest sister through letters etc). It was only really once I left to go to university myself (after middle sister had moved out of the family home) that the three of us became closer to each other. So I think it is just that thing of not really having spent an awful lot of time together when I was young – we had to get to know each other as adults before we could have a meaningful relationship. For people with a smaller age gap, it may be very different however.

      That said, I’m very close with them both now – in part oddly helped by the pandemic and things like regular family video calls etc – and I’m very glad of it, but it’s taken over 30 years and some fairly rocky life stuff to get us there.

    34. Older sister*

      I completely agree with not having favorites. I can see where this becomes a problem with family members, whereas my parents were much more balanced.

      My younger sister is much younger so I didn’t know her well as a child. My brother is just like my father and has never managed his emotions well, so I get along with him at group events but he can be difficult. When we became adults my sister reached out to me occasionally, for coffees when she was nearby, and we aren’t very close but I can easily talk with her about family issues and I really appreciate it. My connection to each is based on who they are as individuals, and my parents have helped this by being neutral and supportive. I am most thankful for my mother, as my brother has sometimes complained about how my sister and I don’t do things the way that he wants and my mother nicely and quickly points out that he has behaved the same way as my sister and I in the past, so he can’t complain. I suspect the family dynamic would be worse without my mother, because she’s honest with my brother and he will listen to her.

    35. fhqwhgads*

      Not close. Never were. Mostly a personality thing. But also it’s not a rift or anything. We don’t live near each other. We don’t see each other. We don’t share many interests. Same as any other person I’m not close to, really.
      I also think there may be a bad premise in your starting point. You said “stay friends” but that assumes they ever were. The patterns I’ve seen are:
      Raging sibling rivalry as kids/teens, become friendly as adults
      Close as kids, drift as adults
      Close as kids, huge rift as adults
      Close their entire lives
      Indifferent to each other their entire lives

      You can’t force it one way or another. They’re individuals. Sure there are things you could do to cause resentment between them, but there’s not a lot you can do to ensure there is none, or that they even like each other.

    36. Deanna Troi*

      Oh boy, I have thoughts about this. I am six years older than my sister. Sadly, my mother thought she was doing a great job of raising us, was quite proud of herself, and is extremely disappointed now that we are in our 40s that we don’t like each other at all. Part of it is that out mother’s parents’ pitted her and her siblings with each other, and she tried hard not to do that with us. Her disappointment stems from the fact that she actively thought about what to do to make us get along, instead of just letting things happen. However, I don’t think there is much that she could have done to encourage us to have a closer relationship – we are two very different people, have nothing in common, and don’t approach life from the same perspective (fortunately, however, we have similar political views.

      There are some things our mother could have done differently, but I don’t know if they would have made a difference in our relationship. These are all from my perspective, and I’m sure my sister would have her own list, from being the younger one. But these are things that I think were mistakes:

      *Someone above mentioned treating them the same. I disagree. Different children need different things. You should treat them fairly, but that is different than treating them the same. We never had any discipline or supervision. We were expected to get to school on time, do our homework, take care of ourselves generally. We had no curfews and were allowed to stay out all night if we wanted to. Our mother asked us if we wanted to be on birth control pills when we were 15. We did have family meals every night together and spend other time together as a family. But, my mother was very much of the opinion that if you treat children as though they are responsible and have good judgement, they will do so. This worked really well for me, and I was a straight A student, worked a job after school, never partied, and was pretty innocent until college. My sister, on the other hand, skipped school all the time, smoked cigarettes and weed, refused to do any chores, stayed out all night, and generally was completely irresponsible. As an adult, she blamed my mom for this, saying that she felt she wasn’t loved because we had no rules, so she assumed that our mom didn’t care about us. Our mom refused to change her system of how she dealt with us because it worked so well with me. My sister said that by the time our mom realized she had to change strategies, it was too late.

      *Someone else mentioned not pigeon-holing your kids with different strengths. My mom always referred to me as the smart bookworm and my sister as creative, artistic, and athletic. She always said she was proud with us in different ways. This never bothered me, not being creative, artistic, or athletic (although my husband disputes this and says I’m more artistic than I am willing to admit, and he thinks maybe I don’t want to disagree with my mom’s assessment), but my sister has said that she always felt like she shouldn’t even bother to try to do well academically because her role was already determined. As Falling Dipthong said above, there is no reason why we couldn’t both be good at math. I think our mom was trying to remove direct competition like she felt with her siblings, but it backfired.

      *I recommend not sending them to the same summer camp. We were sent to the same camp one summer, and I shone there, while my sister struggled. Other kids were mean to her, and I ignored her. I feel a tremendous amount of guilt over that and know that I was shitty. As Myrin said above, I was mean to her sometimes, and I’m sure she remembers that. I have apologized to her, but you can’t ever really remove that. Each kid should feel like they have their own activities. I really resented that I couldn’t just relax and enjoy camp because she was there.

      *Don’t make the older one baby-sit the younger one, unless it is and emergency and you have no other choice. And don’t make the older one and their friends include the younger one. I have a great amount of resentment over both of these things.

      *As a parent, try not to identify with the kid who is in the same birth order with you. My mother had an older sister, and I know that when we had conflict, she was more sympathetic to my sister, because my sister was in second place like she was, and she flashed back to how hurt she was by her older sister. I took the brunt of that resentment.

      *Don’t tell the older one that mutual squabbles are their fault because they are “older and should have known better.” I realize that being six years older, I should have been more mature, but the results of this were that my sister could do mean, sneaky things to me, and stand there with a smug smile on her face while my mother yelled at me.

      Wow, I didn’t mean to write so much. That was actually kind of cathartic. Good luck with your kids!

    37. Not So NewReader*

      Only child here. I have some observations from a family that I watched closely for years because of my connection to that family. (I mean decades of observations.)

      This was a case of parents not realizing how subtly corrosive their comments were to the sibs relationships with each other. I know what I saw in the kids’ adulthood period, I can only imagine what the childhood was like.

      “Little bro has not come to visit us for a loong time!” [He was here two days ago.]
      “Sis’ hubby is a X and therefore Y is a problem.” [Ethnic prejudice on their part. Up to us to figure out how to solve this “problem”.]
      “I wish Sis’ hubby would not come here.” [Everyone tenses up.]
      “Older bro’s wife is a gold digger and after our money.” [Wife doesn’t even want to be around these people, never mind take their money.]
      “Sis hasn’t called in ages.” [She called yesterday.]
      “Older bro has not mowed the lawn yet and he needs to do it right away.” [Older bro works 12-14 hours per day.]

      I think only one of the three sibs understood that this was either out-and-out lying and manipulation OR it was damage from the aging process that caused confusion. However, the two other sibs decided what the parents said was gospel and conducted their relationships with each other accordingly. They met each other with a long list of the other one’s failures, repeating the stories that the parents had told each of them.

      Small remarks in passing add up as the years go on.

      In this case the parents could have:

      Not be so ridged in their thinking- let go of prejudices first and foremost. But also flex with the times. If something wasn’t done the way it was done years ago this would involve days and days of discussion. “Well, they should still do it the old way!” This got exhausting and taxed all the relationships. [In my own life, my parents were 40 years older than me. They raised me with thinking similar to the 1920s but we were in the 1960s. I had to work through some things to be able to function the my own young adult world. Be able to flex and change your thinking, always.]

      Make money secondary, people first. Not everyone is out to rip people off. I think the parents in this story would be disappointed to hear that. Everyone and everything was suspicious all the time. This also caused fighting as “Why is Little bro getting in my biz about x?” [Because he’s trying to help you????] Later, when Little Bro no longer helps, “Why doesn’t Little Bro help me?”. omg.
      Speaking of which, knowing that money causes so many issues for so many people, teach little kids about money. Start them young.

      And here’s the one that hurts. Don’t avoid having fun with your kids. It seems so obvious but in my example here it was not obvious to the parents. Life is not all about work and how hard a person works and how much more work that person owes us. A family that does not have fun times to look back on has a much harder time, bridging the failures/bad times that come up. Laugh and often. Let your kids see you sincerely happy about things.

    38. HA2HA2*

      Not close. We keep in touch, sometimes, but that’s about it.

      My brother and I are six years apart, I’m older, so I guess it was far enough apart that we never really did fun things together. Maybe we were both competitive as kids, for no reason? We certainly don’t dislike each other and I’d happily help him out if he needed anything, but we don’t really interact much.

    39. Loves libraries*

      Thank you to everyone who has commented. I really appreciate all your thoughts and experiences and that you took the time to write them out. Lots of points really resonated with me and I’ll try to keep them in mind as the years go by!

    40. Lady Danbury*

      Super close with 2, not as close with 1. We’re all still close enough that as adults we’ve taken vacations together, see each other on a regular basis (pandemic permitting) and mostly enjoy each others presence. I have much less 1 on 1 interaction with the third sibling, primarily due to his personality, although there’s also a larger age gap between us than with my other siblings.

      Imo, the biggest thing you can do to foster that relationship is treat them fairly and equitably (not necessarily equally, as different children require different things). Don’t play your kids against each other, blame one kid for another kid not being able to get/do something (“we can’t afford a family vacation bc Sue’s braces were too expensive”), or tell one kid that s/he should be more like another kid. Many of the same principles for being a good manager and building a strong team at work apply to building a strong family team. Of course it’s not realistic to expect zero conflict but overall kids should feel like you’re all on the same team.

      With that said, there’s only so much that you can do and you can’t control your children’s individual personalities/preferences. Despite your best efforts they may not end up being friends in adulthood and you shouldn’t take that as an indictment on your parenting.

    41. RussianInTexas*

      I am not super close to my 4 siblings. They are all half siblings, two by my mom, and two by my dad. I am the oldest.
      I grew up with 2 sisters, even shared the bedroom. I moved to the US twenty years ago, and we just drifted away pretty permanently. They are both in the WhatsApp family chat, and post photos on social media, but that is the extend of the contact. We don’t communicate on our own. They live in the same city now and see each other fairly often.
      I have two siblings in the same city I live in. I am closer to my youngest sister, she is whole 19 years younger than me. We text occasionally, sometimes hangout. I am not at all close to my brother. I only see him when I go see my dad and stepmom (he lives with them). I don’t think I’ve talked to him outside of family gatherings in over a decade. He has a lifelong disability, and my parents, especially stepmom, coddles him to the point he is impossible to deal with. I don’t like him very much. He put my dad through hell with two DWIs, and is extremely passive and expectent of people to care of his every whim.
      I don’t think there was anything in my upbringing to make me not close with my sisters, we just aren’t. And withy siblings in the US: I didn’t really get to know them until I was 20, so it is not upbringing dependent.

    42. The Other Dawn*

      I’m the youngest of five siblings (four girls and one boy–he was the oldest) and the age gap ranges from 12 to 18 years. I this large gap has helped me get along with all of them; however, I do feel as though I don’t know them as well as I would have had we grown up together with the standard age gap of a couple years. So, we’re close but not as close as we could be. It has also caused me to treat them more like aunts/uncle, meaning I tend not to just totally be myself like I would with my friends or husband. Whereas I would drop multiple f-bombs around them, I’m usually more reserved around my siblings, kind of like I would be around people I don’t know well or maybe my parents. I guess it’s like a “respect your elders” type of thing. Also, because of the age gap I really didn’t grow up with them or my cousins, which has made me feel more like an only child.

    43. Feelings... nothing more than feelings*

      I’m super close with my siblings, although a couple lean to the right politically (no anti-vaxxers thankfully), while the rest are staunch lefties. Six of us were born within a seven year period, so we spent a lot of time together when we were very young. Plus we all bonded over having parents that left us pretty much alone, including a mother who spent most of the day drinking and sleeping. Despite us all turning out okay and being close, I would not recommend you do the same thing!

    44. Jean*

      It’s pretty normal for siblings to fight/not get along as kids but be close as adults. As long as you’re parenting them fairly/equitably and not doing the scapegoat/golden child thing, there isn’t much else you can really do to influence how that shakes out.

  8. Copper penny*

    How do you deal with casual racism? I’m an white American living in Australia. I’ve called someone out on antisemitism before and they called me a sensitive American. I want to make sure I’m approaching this correctly. The handyman for our units often uses the phrase Asian safety shoes meaning socks and thongs. This often comes up when my toddler is barefoot outside and he is doing work. Is there a gentle way to call him on this? I don’t want my daughter to grow up with this kind of talk.

    1. Copper penny*

      To add the first time he said this I was genuinely confused. I asked what he meant by Asian safety shoes, he said it refered to socks and thongs and I asked why. So that tactic won’t work here. A lot of my neighbours are from India and I often have an Indian Australian 3 year old outside with me when he makes these comments.

    2. Picket line or bread line*

      Australia is super racist. You find out pretty quick who to avoid. Unfortunately “tradies” are some of the worst offenders. Calling it out is always important, but there will always be people who you literally just have to avoid speaking at all costs. I’d say something along the lines of “Hey Mate, [that phrase] is pretty racist and I’d prefer you never said it near me or my kid me ever again. I’m not here for a debate. My house, my rules.” If you are a woman, I’d only say something if you feel safe to do so. Safety always comes first. Also, talk to your kid! They are going to hear A LOT of racist stuff from adult and other kids, especially about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Get them familiar with Aboriginal culture and respect ASAP. Racism is built into every system, so gotta equip them young! Note: I am white, grown up in Australia my whole life. There are plenty of local Bla(c)k activists with much more to say on lived experience of racism in this country. Highly recommend the book “Growing up Aborginal in Australia”.

      1. Copper penny*

        Thank you,

        I feel pretty safe with this person, but he is the one who does all the repairs on our unit so I also don’t want to upset him. But that is a pretty straight forward thing to say and I am probably overthinking it so I’ll give that phrase a go.

        I’ll check out that book. My daughter is 1 years old so we are currently surrounding her with books about many cultures. And interacting with people from different cultures as we can.

        Australia is so racist, but oh my goodness, they think they are so much better than the Americans. I’ve been told before that something would be a problem in the USA, but not Australia since it’s “different here”

        1. AGD*

          I live in Canada, and see a lot of this. Slavery was an American thing, right? (Factually incorrect. We had it too.) Americans are horrible to their Black folks, right? (So are we.) We never had a Wild West that terrorized the Indigenous population, right? (It doesn’t matter what you call it – we terrorized the Indigenous population too, and are still doing it. The residential school system was absolutely ghastly, and came to an end no earlier than 1996.) We had gay marriage a decade earlier, right? (But guess who has the police-brutality stories to tell, along with the BIPOC.) We’re way better than the U.S. at multiculturalism, right? We’re awesome? (There’s a long way to go.)

          It’s improving, but only a little bit at a time.

          1. Lotus*

            NGL, the hypocrisy of Canadians and other non-American Western countries (like Australia and New Zealand) gets to me. White people in these countries really think there is less racism in their countries than the US. They probably think this due to the fact that these countries have better social welfare programs than the US, which they do, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t racism.

            A lot of these people also tend to come off unknowingly classist as well. I’ve heard numerous comments about how “fat Americans eat trash processed food”, usually referring to poor Americans who live in food deserts.

            Yes, the US has issues, but it’s not fair to blame the most vulnerable people for them.

        2. banoffee pie*

          Yeah I’ve found that attitude in mainland europe, that the people there *can’t be* as racist as Americans or Brits. Or if they are, it doesn’t matter for some reason. I heard some shocking stuff in Belgium and Germany and when I said anything, the person just said ‘oh, our immigrants don’t mind, they’re not as sensitive as your (UK) immigrants. *facepalm*. I felt like saying, maybe we should ask them instead of talking on their behalf?? The same people said to me ‘you’re from a poor country’ (Ireland) to my face!!

          1. Copper penny*

            Right? I really don’t know how to handle it when I need to tell someone that yes, that is unacceptable anywhere. Not just in America.

          2. Been There*

            Belgium is incredibly racist, but most people here have a problem accepting that fact.
            And yes, they will look down on Americans and point to them as being racist, but not us *eyeroll*

            1. A.N. O'Nyme*

              With the last elections I literally predicted Vlaams Belang would gain a lot of votes. Election results came in and “omg Vlaams Belang got so many votes who could’ve seen that coming”.
              Me. I saw that coming. I literally said they would get a lot of votes a week ago.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I’m over here like, yeah, mate, if you’re racist at all, you’re NOT better than us.

        4. tangerineRose*

          I’ve been under the impression that most countries think they’re better than America. And also that a lot of people think of all Americans as being basically the same. I don’t appreciate it, but whatever.

          1. banoffee pie*

            oh no, I don’t think you’re all the same or that I’m better. Not all europeans think this :)

      2. Sloanicote*

        I was astonished when I visited Australia that jovial white people would cheerfully tell me the most racist things I’ve ever heard *in my life* about aboriginal people. Just like, strangers, while sitting next to me on the bus and chatting, it would come up. I was literally dumbfounded. I had always believed America was an extremely racist county and we were among the worst offenders, but now I realize ours is more subtle and less casual-seeming.

    3. I heart Paul Buchman*

      Race relations are a very sensitive topic here. Few Australians identify themselves as rascist, regardless of the evidence against them. (Looking at you Pauline).
      I do think though that you can push back if you do it lightly. If your goal is that he doesn’t say it in front of you (as opposed to at all, which might be unattainable) I’d go with: ‘best not say that – I don’t want you to get into trouble!’ if he asks why ‘well that’s one of those phrases that aren’t used any more’. Chances are good that he doesn’t realise it is offensive so this might slow him down in your company.

      1. Copper penny*

        That is a good one as well thank you! I’m surrounded by good people here who actively engage in talking about racism and combating it, but when I need to engage with someone outside the circle so far it does not go well. So thank you! I’ve been called an oversensitive American so I’m glad to hear Australians chiming in.

        1. D'Euly*

          I have a similar situation with a different country, and I’ve just embraced the label of ‘oversensitive American.’ “Yeah, I am really sensitive to things like that,” earnestly.

        2. Sloanicote*

          My sense of (not all of course, but it seems common) Australians is they have a bit of a rougher sense of humor that can feel a bit rude to those who aren’t used to it, and especially the first time they get to know someone there’s a lot of teasing and joshing, that isn’t meant hostilely. As someone else says below, they may be expecting you to dish it right back at them; the American habit of being hurt and withdrawing if someone sort of teases you aggressively may well seem “oversensitive” to them. Not that this addresses the rest of it.

        3. I heart Paul Buchman*

          This is such a sensitive topic and I don’t want to offend. I feel like Australians have long been the butt of jokes about being ignorant or being a cultural backwater. Our portrayal in American films is pretty one-note for example, and (some) Brits persist with unfunny jokes about the colonies. We have the same systemic racial issues as every neo-colonial society.

          We also have a very different approach to language than Americans. We are a less direct society, despite our colourful language. We don’t normally correct others directly. This is considered rude. Earnestly explaining that someone is acting incorrectly won’t come across well. Better to counter with a joke of some kind of) or turn it on yourself (you are sensitive, not he is racist is the only way to go). Cutting him off bluntly will make things awkward because that is not how we do things. Your could try a murmured ‘now, now’ or ‘nope, I know you are fishing but I’m not biting’ with a wink or a chuckle. (Implying that you know he is trying to wind you up by intentionally saying something you don’t like). These might need more cultural in knowledge than you have right now. Find a sympathetic Australian to practice with.

          1. Copper penny*

            I’m not normally direct, especially with Australiana. The last time I did it, it was a business who had unnecessarily recreated world war Two scenes. And even that makes it sound better than what it was. I don’t normally take a direct approach, but in that case I complained to the manger.

            I appreciate your feedback. I think from all the comments a gentle comment, “you know I don’t think we should use phrases like that anymore” and following up with a joke would be best. This isn’t a complete stranger, but someone I interact with very regularly.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Race relations are a very sensitive topic here. Few Australians identify themselves as racist, regardless of the evidence against them.

        I just want to point out that this is no different from America.

        1. Generic Name*

          Racists pretty much never think they’re racist. My go-to rejoinder when someone says something racist is, “I’m not racist; I just say things that racist people say.”

    4. Caroline Bowman*

      Wait… so they responded to your saying something was anti-Semitic with xenophobia??

      I can’t!!

      You are obviously a thoughtful (sensitive even! Good!) person and want to instil good values in your child. I’d be direct but pleasant – he probably seriously means absolutely no harm by it, just mindlessly uses the phrase – and just ask if he could hold off on the footwear talk please, but that you’ll watch / get the toddler shod as needed and thanks for the heads-up around safety.

      1. Copper penny*

        Yeah, their response was even worse then that really. They basically told me there are no Jewish people here so it is ok. Which is categorically wrong on both accounts. I was stunned.

    5. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Straight up: this is going to be extra hard for you because not only are there pockets of entrenched racism in Australia, but even in the shallows of that cesspit is a strong anti-American sentiment. (In case you’re wondering, it’s largely rooted in tall poppy syndrome and resentment for how our government follows the US around like a puppy. Also, for many coastal-living Australians, their only knowledge of actual American people has been when a visiting warship docks, which is… not pleasant for the locals.)

      So. The kind of bloke who makes this comment is likely going to write you off as a sensitive American princess when you call it out. I’m sorry! But for some Australians in particular, being told what they’re allowed to say, do or think, by an American in particular, can hit a very particular nerve. And I cringe to write it, but that’s the honest lay of the land.

      If it helps at all, I’ve found that a lot of tradies, older ones in particular, will make one-liner wise cracks to try to make you laugh and ingratiate themselves to you. Oftentimes they’ll be racist/sexist/whateverist because that’s what they’re surrounded with and that’s all they know. He’s probably continuing the safety shoes “joke” thinking that now you get it you’ll think he’s funny and you’ll get along. And he might even be an ok bloke really, just ignorant.

      My advice would be to follow the general advice Alison gives here about approaching it in the workplace: just tell him to stop doing the thing, and then immediately change the topic and be otherwise cheery in your interaction with him to show it’s not personal.

      As an Australian in a non-work context dealing with a rough tradie, for me that might be saying: “Oh stop being a racist c***, I don’t want to hear that s*** in my house! C’mon, you gonna fix this tap or are we here to f*** spiders? You need me to clear some stuff out of your way?”. But adapt to suit your style, obviously.

      1. fposte*

        Tangentially: he’s a Kiwi, but comedian Guy Montgomery has a great bit about the spiders phrase in his recent standup. I will put the bandcamp link in followup.

          1. fposte*

            The spider bit starts at 7:40; there is an sustained moment after that that seems likely to be a mime that doesn’t really translate to audio.

      2. Copper penny*

        I’ve definitely encountered that antiamerican segment before. There is another segment that treats us like we are all on a reality show.

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with making jokes to integrate himself with us. Thank you for such an insightful comment.

        I think from all the comments a gentle comment, “you know I don’t think we should use phrases like that anymore” and following up with a joke would be best.

        This isn’t a complete stranger, but someone I interact with very regularly.

        Haha I can definitely see your suggestion working with some tradies, but not quite the approach for me or this guy. But I like the layout of your response. Address it then divert immediately.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          Eeeesh, I’m sorry!

          Joking back will be key. So if you think you may get nervous and blank in the moment try to have a few ready that you can reach for.

          Some ideas if you want them…
          To shut it down: “Yeah nah, can we John Farnham that one and make it the truly last Last Time?”
          To change the subject: “Now, what do you call THIS love?!” followed up with “yeah, but it’s what you do with it!” (it’s a Castle reference, you can point to what he’s working on)
          Or if that feels like it’s trying too hard, make a crack (no pun intended) about having to get used to thongs meaning something entirely different here. Or make fun of how the r is silent here and getting used to pronouncing shower “showah”.

          My non-city friends all have the gift of the gab, and if you can get into the swing of the dry banter with them it’s actually a lot of fun.

          1. Copper penny*

            Some great ideas. I love the idea of the castle pun. Bonus that I’ve actually seen the movie. I like the thong idea. My default joke that he also makes is what my baby is going to be laying the bricks today.

            I’m going to google John Farnham and last time as well.

    6. All who wander*

      It’s worth looking at Captain Awkward archives. She’s super good at dealing with defensive comments. I’m in the US and had decided to call out racism especially with one guy who called himself a wetback because … he’s from Canada. I was totally unprepared for his vicious clap back. Which is totally a thing because you’re basically calling someone a racist and nobody believes they are racist and will fight hard to not be clumped together with racists. He said that because he’s an immigrant and gets to poke fun at himself. I said that term is a slur to those from Mexico and not ok with me. He doubled down & made a huge scene when I had tried to talk with him quietly. (Another tactic- trying to make you look bad publicly). Captain Awkward has some good scripts and preparation for any inevitable backlash.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Seconding the Cpt Awkward site. There’s a lot of casual racism and xenophobia here in the UK and between her site and AAM I’ve got better at speaking back against it.

      2. I heart Paul Buchman*

        I’m not sure. Captain awkward’s style is very American sounding to my ears. Her methods are unlikely to come across well in this context. We aren’t as direct and there are also class issues at play that are different here. We wouldn’t expect deference from a tradesman so aren’t in a position to dictate language for example. I’m often flabbergasted by her scripts because they sound very rude to me. Americans say ‘it’s not rude, it’s direct’ but here direct is rude!

        1. Copper penny*

          I agree. I haven’t looked at Captain Awkward for this stuff because her perspective is of an American talking to Americans.

    7. Chaordic One*

      There’s a certain person in my life who will purposely say racist/sexist/homophobic things because he thinks he being funny and “ironic”. If we happen to be discussing any particular issue or matter, one of his stock comments is to say, “Well, let’s blame the (insert ethnic/minority groups here).” When a hate crime has been committed, he’ll say, “Leave the DIRTY (insert ethnic/minority groups here) alone!”

      I reflexively clap back and say something like, “Oh, that’s not true,” “Let’s NOT blame the (insert ethnic minority groups here) and look at the big picture,” or I might default and just say, “Shame on you.” I haven’t had much luck on shutting them down, but I do feel like I need to say something.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Here in the US I have had success with saying to friends, “uh. That’s not cool.”

      Do remember that the only thing you have taught people is not to say these things around YOU. As soon as you go back to life, they still talk to others in this manner.

      I do think you might find inroads with the approach of, “You may not be racist, but that remark IS.” This is not ideal, but it does allow you to say something. People don’t want to be condemned across the board, that’s natural. Here the goal is to just get them to start thinking about what they are saying and what those words actually mean. Sadly, in some instances this alone can be a big step forward.

    9. WS*

      So there’s two extra things going on here – first, you’re American, so everyone is going to assume you’re over-sensitive and can’t take a joke. But also, you do have an advantage, which is that you have a small child with you! That gives you leave to say, “Hey, don’t say that that kind of rubbish around my kid, thanks.” Soften with a smile and a change of topic or an offer of food/drink.

      I live in a very rural part of Australia and my partner, who has Italian heritage and an Italian surname, gets racist treatment, even though her family has been here longer than mine (Scottish-Irish background). So you can imagine the things people say about Aboriginal people and the small number of Filipinos here. But people do pay attention to a quick shut down and topic change – even if they don’t apologise, they will remember you are “sensitive” and cut it out around you.

      1. Copper penny*

        Thanks, I do like the blame it on the child approach, and that’s a direct approach without being overly direct. I like the food and drink idea. I’ve got Halloween candy to spare!

        I’m so sorry your partner and others deal with that. I hate that attitude, which I’ve seen in the USA as well. I grew up in a fairly rural area. It was eye opening moving to a big city. Luckily we are in a big city here and don’t encounter it nearly as often.

  9. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going? As usual, this is not limited to fiction writing, any writing goes?
    I’m still super busy (hence my absence last week) but at least I’ve gotten some writing done for a light-hearted project I keep specifically for busy times.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Why baseball beat out cricket as the national pastime: I am comfortable with my explanation, but am working out how to put it in writing coherently and concisely.

        1. Pippa K*

          Ah yes, the storied Baseball-Cricket War of 1901. Pour one out for the gallant dead. (One cup of tea, obvs.)

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Serious response: the baseball/cricket question was decided long before 1901, but in the 1850s American cricket was a thing, with more clubs in more cities competing across greater distances than baseball. Hence the question. It seem ridiculous now, but there was a day when it was legitimate.

            1. Isobel*

              In Little Women cricket gets a mention! Jo and Laurie “chatted about cricket when he brought the cat home”.
              Sounds as if baseball took over in popularity after the Civil War?

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Baseball had already surpassed cricket by the Civil War, but cricket didn’t disappear right away. It was a long, slow decline. Philadelphia was producing top-tier cricketers into the early 20th century.

    2. Sloanicote*

      Anyone doing Nanowrimo starting Monday? I’m making a modified goal this year that gives credit for editing hours; in the past I’ve done the traditional 50K in 30 days.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I thought about it, but I decided not to. I really need to focus on job hunting and I’d like to get some real work done on my conlang in preparation for writing Book 3.

        I still haven’t decided whether to just have translations for what’s in the book or a whole lexicon that can stand alone outside it. I feel a bit extra for having it at all, especially since I haven’t a clue what I’m doing, haha.

      2. Rage*

        Slanicote – ME! This is my….OMG NINTH YEAR. Third as ML for my region (Wichita, KS). I’m Rage74 on the site if you want to Buddy me. :)

        This year is going to be interesting: NaNo + ML + grad school

        I have a sneaking suspicion one of my characters is going to write some papers LOL

      3. SparklingBlue*

        I’m doing a Kinda-Wrimo challenge again–basically NaNo with the rules bent

        My rules for the challenge:

        –I don’t specifically have to write a novel. I can write anything I want, so long as it all adds up to at least 50,000 words (or something close to it) in 30 days

        –I am not limited to a 50,000 word goal. My goal is to write as much (or as little) as I can through November. I will still respect the start time of November 1, and goal of November 30.

        –I can write multiple items per day, if I wish.

        –I can write leading up to the challenge, and I can still continue even after the challenge ends, but only what is written during November counts for the challenge.

        –I will still track how many total words I end up writing during the duration of the challenge (never mind I am not limited to a specific word count like the real challenge)

    3. Cendol*

      It’s going great! I’m averaging a new short story every two weeks. I’ve gone from having just one story ready for submission to six. And a growing pile of rejections, but oh well! Just happy to be here, lol.

  10. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week? As usual this is not limited to video games so feel free to talk about any kind of game you want including phone games. Also feel free to ask for recommendations or help identifying a vaguely remembered game.
    Not much gaming for me these past few weeks as I have been busy (hence my absence last week), but I’m curious to hear what everyone else has been playing.

    1. Meh*

      I played Hunt A Killer – Murder at a Dive Bar last night.

      I’m not sure how I feel about the game. We solved the obvious puzzles, coded messages and combination lock but I’m not sure if we did all the things and were going to look it over again today before we open the answer envelope. Maybe I’m more used to a linear game: you have to solve X to move onto Y.

      Last week I asked for recommendations on these types of puzzles/mystery games and this was my first I’ve played. Are they all like this? Not a structure or clear path to solving? Can anyone recommend ones they enjoy?

      1. ecnaseener*

        I think last week I considered recommending the Exit games but you had specifically asked for murder mysteries so I didn’t send the comment. (Unless that was someone else, in which case I missed your post.)

        Exit games (the brand is Thames & Kosmos) are styled as “escape the room” rather than murder mystery, but they’re a ton of fun and they might be closer to what you’re looking for. It has a deck of riddle cards and a deck of answer cards. (And hint cards.) There are other pieces, like pictures of the room and various cardboard objects, but everything you need to solve is going to be on a riddle card, so you’re not going to be left wondering whether you did everything you were supposed to do. It will tell you when you’ve won the game as part of the answer to the last riddle.

        That said, it’s not SUPER linear. You do have to solve X to move onto Y, but you won’t know what Y is until you solve X. There will be times when you have several “active” riddle cards and can’t figure out how to solve any of them – maybe for some of them you’re waiting for clues that will be revealed in the answer to another riddle, but at least one of your cards must be solvable and you can’t figure out which one.

        The games come in varying difficulty levels, so if that sounds like it might be good but a little too complex, start with one of the easier rated ones.

        1. Meh*

          Thanks! I’ll put it on my list. I didn’t need it to be murder only, mostly just problem solving/ story based. My biggest problem with the Dive Bar game is I don’t know if we’re done. There’s no progress indicator if that makes sense. Just here’s a bunch of papers, good luck!

    2. Deschain*

      I’ve been playing House of Ashes. I’ve played all their games (Until Dawn, Man of Medan, etc.) and they are so much fun. Today I’m trying to get different character outcomes. Also, they now have decent options if you have difficulty with the game controls or speed of QTEs (I do). They’re getting really good about incorporating new features.

    3. LDN Layabout*

      After a break, I pushed through the Stormblood patches of FFXIV and am in Shadowbringers, although I don’t expect to finish before Endwalker releases this month.

      I have been warned of the emotional pain to come…

    4. twocents*

      Playing Atelier Firis still, hoping to wrap it up this weekend. No D&D this weekend, so debating if I want to bust out a puzzle or something for a more tangible thing and to give my eyes a break from the screen.

      1. twocents*

        Also, I’ve been poking around Pikmin Bloom a bit, the new walking encouragement app from Niantic in a similar vein to Pokemon Go. I never got into PoGo, but I’m liking the chill vibes of seeing flowers crop up while I walk around and to finally play a Pikmin game where I don’t accidentally kill half the little guys, lol.

    5. Generic Name*

      My husband and I are going to our local gaming/coffee shop to play Magic and hang out. I don’t want to join a competitive game, just me and him. We’ll see how it goes. We’ve been in once before and it was a positive experience. He was focused on my teenage son, mostly, so we’ll see if anyone does the gatekeeping thing where they grill me with questions to make me prove my nerdiness/geekiness.

      1. The Dude Abides*

        With Magic, other people might ask what format(s) you play.

        For the formats I play, I make sure to have multiple decks when I go to my local shop, as I am always willing to lend most out in order to get games in.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Gone back to Mass Effect and fallen hard for Kaiden (that voice).

      Also been playing the new update on Stellaris which is NOT an easy strategy game to get into (tutorials? None) but once into it is a really deep, humorous in parts, space strategy that can eat up days. I play it solo as my preferred galactic conquest scenario doesn’t work against human players. I can out manuveur a CPU but not a person :)

    7. Jackalope*

      Mentioned this last week but I’m still making my way through Fire Emblem Three Houses. I still find Dimitri a bit of a monster right now and am disliking him a lot. But I hear he gets better. Tonight I’m going to play some sort of Halloween RPG with some of my husband’s friends; don’t remember which one but I think it will be a fun time.

      1. twocents*

        Blue Lions was my favorite house, and Dimitri’s character arc is a pretty big contribution to that. I think you’ll find the payoff rewarding.

      2. Smol Book Wizard*

        aaaah, best wishes! I am glad I’m not the only one who didn’t immediately love Dimitri… he seems to be very popular among the fandom and while I admit he might improve over time, I can’t really explain his popularity yet. Then again, I went Black Eagles and did a completely chaotic poorly managed heartfelt run so I don’t know if I’m the normal player. :D

        1. Jackalope*

          Yeah, after this I’m going to go back and do a Crimson Flower run to cleanse my palate before moving on to something else. I knew from the moment I started playing that Edelgard would be my favorite lord and Dimitri would probably be lowest on the list, but didn’t expect to have this negative of a reaction to him. But I’ll keep going to the end so I can see what I think.

    8. Nynaeve*

      I’ve been playing Heaven’s Vault (archaeologist and robot try to solve a mystery by finding artifacts and piecing together an ancient language) and Lost in Random (girl travels through dice-themed city to find her sister who was kidnapped by the queen).

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      First in-person gaming session since well before pandemic. We’ve all been vaccinated a while, and the DM had a break at work to make it possible. My first inperson D&D 5.0… i had to laugh at how hard it was to find things on paper.

    10. SparklingBlue*

      I am counting down the days to Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl–I had great fun with the original Diamond, and am looking forward to the remake, as well as Pokemon Legends: Arceus in January.

    11. LimeRoos*

      Forever late to this party. But I’m getting my island prepped for the Animal Crossing update on Friday, Diablo 2 is going really well and still so much fun, and w/ the N64 games coming to Switch Online, I’m already on stage 6 Castle for Yoshi’s Story. That game holds up so well! And it’s adorable.

  11. Picket line or bread line*

    My partner’s boss, who earns about 300K/year, just asked him and a few others to help him move a couple of things tomorrow (Sunday).

    Thanks to my reading here, my immediate response was “NO WAY! A good manager would NEVER ask you to help him move. That’s crossing a boundary. Tell him something has come up and you can’t make it tomorrow.”

    I’m not sure I’ve convinced him. Academia has a weird way of making people cross professional boundaries. Thank you Alison for your advice, for saving me and my partner’s back (literally and metaphorically!).

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I never worked in academia, but this reminded me of when my old boss sent an all-company email to recruit 4 volunteers in our middle-of-nowhere warehouse to move a pool table into his chic river-view apartment (upper floor, very small lift). A few did it, because they were very nice people, and the boss had a way of inserting personal favours in our working hours as if it was completely normal (wish I’d been an AAM reader back then!).

      These people were watched like hawks and barely allowed to take breaks from packing boxes, but all of a sudden, being out for a day was totally fine. I also bet that, while they were on minimum wage, a professional mover was not.

    2. Not A Library*

      Though my initial gut reaction is ‘ definitely no!‘, I guess it really depends on how friendly they are. My mom was very close with her boss, so close that as a teenager a house/cat-sat for her boss for over a month. I was paid for it, but it happened because of their close friendship. Her boss even said that she would usually ask her niece to check on her cat for just a long weekend, but she didn’t trust her niece with such a long period of time while she said I was more reliable. Meanwhile, I have a boss who is moving right now and the only help I’ve given him was to give him a couple of free cardboard boxes I had lying around my house. I would definitely be surprised if he asked me to help him move, and would politely decline.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This work/friend mix can be fine with people who have a warm camaraderie and good read on how difficult it would be to do a given task.

    3. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      Def a ‘sorry, not available this weekend!” but I did start to chuckle when I learned it was academia. As long as he’s n0t a grad student saying no is fine…if he’s a grad student (or maybe even a post doc) all bets are off (which is terrible).

      1. fposte*

        To be fair, this was years ago, but my professor uncle apparently had grad students cleaning his house. One of them ended up a senator and presidential candidate, at which point I presume he stopped vacuuming for my uncle.

        1. WS*

          I cleaned for my professor as a grad student! She paid me, at least, though not as much as a professional cleaner would have cost.

      2. Picket line or bread line*

        He’s a post doc. He politely declined.
        Academia is The Worst. The amount of drinking stories alone are enough to put one off. FYI: For those who don’t know academics and students often often go to conferences and get absolutely blind drunk.

        1. coffee is my friend*

          Yeah the drinking was something… thankfully my discipline, while into drinking, was more about chilling with a beer around a fire as opposed to drunken parties
          Thankfully even though my workload is nuts my chair and Dean do believe in work/life separation (though I’m not at a university)

      1. banoffee pie*

        Yeah I don’t understand this asking people to help you move thing. Maybe if they offered I would accept, I dunno. Even then, though, I wouldn’t want somebody to get injured. I would just hire movers. Especially if I earned 300k!! (i wish lol)

    4. All the Words*

      There are these things called movers, which, for a reasonable fee, will come and move one’s stuff for them. I don’t see anything in your post to suggest this option isn’t available to this employer.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Imagine the field day we would have if the boss wrote in it with the question about his employees not wanting to help move this stuff.

    5. Moth*

      When I was a grad student the PI of the lab I worked in asked one of the techs to come in to the lab the day after Christmas to help move some things. The tech, being a good person and wanting a few extra hours of work showed up and was dumbfounded when the PI said to clock in and then follow him to his house and help him move all of his stuff out to his new apartment (while his wife and son were out of town and didn’t know). Not knowing how to extract himself from the situation, the tech just did it, but came into the lab the next week feeling very uncomfortable about what had happened. All that to say, at least the manager in your situation was up front from the start about what he wanted. Good for you for reminding your partner of healthy boundaries!

      1. fposte*

        Whoa, actually getting the school to pay for it? That’s moved it from obnoxious to illegal. Then throw in the secret flit and yikes.

    6. Wishing You Well*

      Please don’t help move the guy!
      Twice I helped move friends – never again! One said,”It’ll take an hour.” 12 hours later, I’m exhausted and we still weren’t done. Her stuff wasn’t even boxed and the move wasn’t safe: walking over obstacles while carrying heavy objects and having her kids sit on boxes in the back of a van so the load wouldn’t shift. A different friend also wanted help moving. She had done NOTHING to prepare. We were emptying her drawers and shelves and had to handle and pack her birth control devices and cremated remains of a parent. Never again.
      And if you’re hurt while moving your boss’s stuff? No worker’s comp!
      Please don’t!

    7. Imtheone*

      Google moving help, and small companies that do short term moves will pop up. You vpcan hire them to move things around your house.

    8. MissDisplaced*

      This would be a very hard NO
      Someone making a six figure salary can very well afford professional movers.

      The only exception here would be if they were asking for moving help as a charity/volunteer situation to help others in the community.

    9. mdv*

      Once upon a time, I asked a student who worked for me if they knew anyone who would be willing to help move a stack of boxes from a hoarded house to a new house … where I provided the moving vehicle, we made ONE trip, and it took exactly the amount of time I asked them for, and I bought cases of beer and a lot of pizza for them afterward.

      Looking back, I realize that I should not have asked, but I wonder if it was different because I was
      – upfront about the actual job and conditions?
      – there was compensation of a sort?

  12. Green Snickers*

    Any ideas on what types of Souvenirs can be turned into Christmas ornaments? Christmas ornaments are my goto souvenir from everywhere I visit but some places don’t have them as available as others. Right now I am in Dubai and haven’t seen one so I’m hoping I can just buy some other souvenir item, throw a hook on it and throw it on my tree. Obviously keychains could work but any others?

    1. Picket line or bread line*

      Ceramics are great, like a small tile or disk. Or a small stuffed animal? Or a small handicraft, something beaded, embroidered or woven? Nearly every culture has a traditional art form using at least one of these. For Dubai, it looks like they have some great traditional embroidery. Maybe you could find a small purse or bag made of some cool fabric? I’m sure there’s a mini Burj Khalifa tower somewhere in the city?

    2. Maxie's Mommy*

      Tiny stuffed animals? I have some camels from Egypt on my tree. My friend went to France so often that now she has a separate small tree with Paris landmarks and the like.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yes! Last year my sister gave me some Christmas-themed jewelry that is god-awful ugly as jewelry (and I don’t wear different jewelry anyway), but looks very nice as a Christmas ornament.

    3. Pass The Gravy*

      I have used keychains as ornaments, simply using the circle of the keychain to slip onto a tree branch. Works fine without having to put an additional hook on it.

    4. My Brain Is Exploding*

      We do this all the time! Most of ours are keychains. A small flag, necklaces (we’ve bought some made from local beads, etc.), often you can buy lapel souvenir pins which are easy to affix to a ribbon (and then tie the ribbon to the tree), sometimes even tiny food containers. For Dubai: tiny perfume bottle, a teacup bought at a souk, a tiny weaving.

    5. Fellow Traveller*

      One time I was in Taiwan and I saw some really charming sugar packets at a coffee shop so I brought them home. Eventually I used modge podge and glue and mounted one on a small thin piece of wood and then attached a magnet on the back. I’ve also used modge podge to make Christmas ornaments by sticking magazine clippings on a piece of wood, then drilling a small hole for string.
      Maybe if you see a map of a flyer or a piece of fabric that you like you could do something similar? Or sand or some such?

    6. usernames anonymous*

      If you’re staying at a hotel I’d check with the concierge. I’ve been able to find christmas ornaments even in Saudi Arabia so they’ll be somewhere in Dubai which has a large expat community though you might be a couple of weeks too early. If you google Christmas stores in Dubai it should come up with options in Mall of the Emirates – looks like there are a couple of popup Christmas stores opening. Also try mid/high end furniture/interior design stores – they usually have them. And I vaguely remember Burj Khalifa building having large wooden balls with pictures of the building painted on them that can be used as ornaments.

    7. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I second ceramics! I was in Morocco and bought a little ceramic coaster from a Fez pottery. Turned it into a Christmas ornament by drilling a small hole in it and threading wire.

      Paper also works. Many hotels, restaurants, and stores I’ve been to while traveling have business cards (or business card-like promotional items, like coupons). These can easily be turned into ornaments.

      The third “type” I’ve turned into an ornament is an enamel lapel pin (like a Hard Rock Cafe souvenir pin or a Disney Trading Pin). You can get creative with how you arrange them — one I turned into an ornament, others I’ve pushed into ornament balls for a mini-collection.

    8. Reba*

      If you are able to go to the museums/houses in Al Shindagha (Dubai Creek), I think you should be able to find some little handicraft item that will work! I could also see doing something cute with one of the teeny coffee cups (finjian, fenyal) that are inexpensive.

    9. fposte*

      I don’t know if it’s still true (or if it was even just a legend then), but I was told in the 1980s that the reason you’d see such strange bulky decorative items sold as Christmas ornaments was that they were subject to less restrictive tariffs than other decor items, so exporters would slap a hook on everything they could no matter how inappropriate. If they can, so can you.

    10. A Genuine Scientician*

      One of my favorite Christmas ornaments is one I made from a carved wooden bead (it’s an adorable little owl). I’m not a jewelry person at all, but Christmas ornaments, absolutely.

    11. Filosofickle*

      Several of mine are metal bookmarks. Often museums have those. I have lots of modified pendants and keychains.

    12. Exif*

      Thimbles. I bought a beautiful carved pewter thimble at Yellowstone. Easy to drill a hole in the top center and push a knotted gold thread up through the bottom.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you see a small bell, go for it. There is a tradition in my husband’s family to hang at least one bell on every Christmas tree. I think it’s a Wonderful Life reference.

  13. Cookies For Breakfast*

    Let’s talk NaNoWriMo. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and never feel I have enough of a “real” project to actually try. Do others here feel like that too? Has someone felt it and overcome it?

    I have a not-even-half-formed idea for an office-based novel, and have always wanted to explore writing a collection of connected short stories. Pre-pandemic, I used to give writing daily my best shot, even though life and work always came in the way. At some point in between lockdowns, words and ideas just stopped coming, so all I’m left with is reading other people’s words and thinking “wow, how do they do THAT?”. I barely feel able to write anymore, and after two years of losing my sense of self, losing loved ones and realising I’m a terrible fit for the path I’ve taken at work, there’s nothing I want more than creating again.

    In practical terms, there’s always a point in the year when I tell myself I’ll get organised and work on a solid project outline, so that I can spend November trying to put as many words on pages as I can. And then…October rolls round and I feel nowhere near prepared. I always have less than I’d hoped and it never feels promising enough to keep exploring. 1 November rolls round and I don’t write a thing, because I don’t have enough of a direction to keep me focused. It can’t be just me, so how does everyone else tell the inner critic to shut the hell up, just give it a go, and accept a month of bad unusable writing could still be better than no words at all?

    1. Copper penny*

      Have you heard of zero drafting? That is what helped me after years of trying to writing and never feeling like it was good enough.

      It’s not your first draft, it doesn’t need to be that tidy. It is just writing out the story until it’s finished then you go back and write the first draft. It’s really helped me eliminate the need to write perfectly. I’m sure you can google a better explanation.

      I did half of a zero draft, and realised a lot about where I wanted the story to go and how things fit together. I’m not sure if I’m on my second zero draft or my first draft, but I’ve started over. I’ll consider nanowrimo a success if I’m still working on this story. I normally give up after a week because I don’t feel good enough.

      1. Generic Name*

        I love this idea! I do a lot of technical writing for work, and I’m constantly reminding myself to just put literally anything on the screen. It can be utter crap, but that’s okay, because I’ll go back and fix it later.

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          I know what you mean about the technical writing because I do a lot of that too. And yet, nothing I write in my personal time ever seems as fixable as those how-to guides about the inner workings of a piece of software. I can keep testing and testing the software until it makes sense, and immediately see on screen whether what I’m doing is logical or not. With fiction projects, it feels more like constantly stabbing in the dark.

          I lose steam with most of my drafts, including “zero” ones, because in order to continue, I have to feel that at least one thing in the middle of all the crap is salvageable, and I’m very good at hating anything I’ve written if I let it sit for just a few days.

    2. Golden*

      I’m in your boat! Always wanted to try, but my ideas are always so underbaked. I’ve been thinking of creating a fantasy world one could play a tabletop RPG in and writing 50k words about that. I suppose that’s not really a novel though.

      On another note, does anyone know of a good discord channel for NaNoWriMo? Especially if it’s beginner friendly?

    3. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I’ve done NaNo a few times (years ago when I was in college). The key piece of advice I always share is this: No one is reading what you write. Not even NaNo! Back in the day when I was doing it, the only thing NaNo “saw” was your daily word count – you just reported how many words you wrote that day to the website. That’s it!

      And just write. Don’t worry about planning or direction or focus or plot. Just write what comes out of you. Only once did I actually have something resembling a real novel when NaNo finished. The other years? The end result was a chaotic assembly of things that kept me interested enough to keep going to reach the word limit. No one’s going to ever read it to say “this is worthy of NaNo. You can keep writing.” They just want the word limit.

      Also on advice for shutting up the inner critic — my old creative writing professor used to tell us that we needed a physical representation of shutting up the critic. He had us buy a cheapo Barbie and sit her on our desk. Any time our inner critic started, or the inner editor, we were to pull off her head and put her head in a drawer. Surprisingly a very effective way of shutting up the inner critic. (Don’t worry, his advice also said to put Barbie’s head back on when we were done writing for the day.) Maybe you could give it a try?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        You don’t even have to sign up to do it. Just use it as an impetus to start something. Personally, I cheat and use it as a way to finish something. I’m ever the NaNoWriMo rebel, haha.

        I love the Barbie thing. That’s fantastic.

      2. Cookies For Breakfast*

        “A chaotic assembly of things that kept me interested enough”

        That sounds a lot like how I write :D

        And yes, like both you and Elizabeth West suggested, this isn’t at all about the official NaNo tracking or getting in front of readers. I don’t plan to sign up, just try and get as many words out of my head and on a page. Part of me is reluctant to do that without a good idea for a plot to progress towards, which right now is what I think would keep me interested enough.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I went in with zero prep and zero experience writing outside of school and made it to 50k my first year! Also keep in mind that even if you don’t “win” the challenge, writing ANYTHING is impressive and better than not writing at all. The best thing I can say is just count… everything. If you spend some of NaNo doing outlines or jotting down ideas and phrases, count those words. If you aren’t happy with a scene and decide to rewrite it, keep the first version and count the words for both. Write backstory that wouldn’t be included in the published version. Write exploratory scenes that don’t further the plot. Write internal monologues. Etc. If you go in with some decent structure and planning you can use brain dumps on the days when you’re stuck, and if you go in with nothing, well, hopefully the brain dumps will get you somewhere.

    5. twocents*

      For me, I’m a total pantser, so I have a character and a very rough idea of what the problem is that they’ll be facing and I go from there.

      For word count, I use the word sprints. The NaNoWordSprints twitter can be useful for “try to write 200 words in 10 minutes, GO!” and then you kind of have to shut off and just focus on getting the story out on paper. Once you have words, you can edit them later (they call them the “Now What?” months starting in January, iirc), so don’t worry about how good they are or not.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        I never heard of the word sprints and will definitely look them up. Thank you!

        I relate to your approach a lot, and so I think I’m a pantser who would really really rather prefer to be a plotter, because once I have my rough ideas I haven’t quite yet figured out how to “go from there”. I crave structure I can’t seem to give myself, both on the page, and when it comes to making the time to write. That’s why I get so frustrated with myself all the time.

        1. twocents*

          I can relate! I wish I was able to do the super structured outline of how everyone relates to everyone and the sequence of events and blah blah, but I find that, even if I try to do that, then as I write, I’m not moving from my carefully planned Point A to Point B, but rather, the character now wants to go over here and do this thing.

          So I’ve just learned to lean into it.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Done it (thanks AO3 community) several times and here’s how I write:

      Little scenes, dialogues, ideas for a brilliant moment, they all get written down. Once I’ve got a few thousand words I start working out tying them together.

      Later I might work out a plot. Most of my work on AO3 has no overarching plot at all – the few pieces that do had it put in at a very late stage.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        “Little scenes, dialogues, ideas for a brilliant moment, they all get written down. Once I’ve got a few thousand words I start working out tying them together.”

        Thats the kind of thing I used to think I had it in me to achieve, and so I love to hear it can and does happen. It’s so great to hear it works for you! Keep it up, wishing you lots of writing that fulfils you :)

    7. Workerbee*

      One year I devoted to writing short stories/vignettes; it was a lot of fun, and you can reach 50K that way.

      Another year, I had to sit on myself to keep from editing my novel as I went along. I also recognized that I had perhaps only 10% of usable material by the time I was done, but I was just as proud as if there’d been more, because that was 10% I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

      And another year I wrote a completely unexpected part of a novel that I hadn’t intended to flesh out at all!

      The point is, at this stage, any words are good words. The trick is to get them out of your head and onto your screen or paper.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Oooh, I love writing vignettes! That’s one thing I want to make a more regular practice again. And I can totally relate to what you said about editing as you go. I do that all the time and I know that is sometimes the very thing thay holds me back from finishing short story drafts.

    8. RagingADHD*

      I mentioned last week or so that my discovery with doing NaNoWriMo was that the method doesn’t work for me. I accomplished wordcount, but it nearly made me abandon my novel because it was such a mess it put me over a year behind and made me hate it.

      I’m a plotter, I use a modified version of the Snowflake Method. I pre-write character sketches, setting, whatever cimes to mind until I have a good sense of the books’s core.

      Then I create my outline and then write out of order, whatever bits are “juicy” that day. Sometimes that means following a character arc, sometimes a subplot or a theme. The outline then lets me hang those scenes in the right place.

      If you want to reignite the writing habit with NaNo, I encourage you to invest the time. But don’t feel constrained to do it a particular way. The end goal is to free you up, not make you miserable.

      The wordcount for NaNo averages out to something like 1,600 words a day, or a couple of hours. So use the month to dedicate those 2 hours a day and spend them on your writing – doesn’t have to be spent writing from opening line to “the end.” You could just write character profiles, snippets of dialogue, descriptions, whatever. You could spend the time outlining and making notes.

      Just get stuck in, and see what happens.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Thank you! I love this comment because it hits on the key thing I keep trying to do and failing at. I have many character and setting sketches for my novel project and had tons of fun writing them, but I’m really, really struggling with the plot outline. If I had that, then your approach is exactly what I’d go for. That’s ultimately what’s making me miserable, I think. Writing lots out of order and never knowing whether I’ll be able to use anything I’ve done, because the joints that hold plot points together still feel out of reach. But you’re right, reigniting the writing habit is what I’m after this year and if that means more sketching, I’ll take it.

        1. RagingADHD*

          The great thing about an outline is that it, too, does not have to be perfect or set in stone – just serviceable enough to get you going. Start with a template if you need to, or an archetypical plot. I like starting with the Lester Dent pulp formula. You’ll change it up as you go.

          The thing about a novel (or a good novel, anyway) is that in order for it to be substantive and satisfying it has to be bigger than the reader’s brain can hold all at once.

          So unless you are an Amadeus-style freak of nature, it has to be bigger than the author’s brain, too. That means you can’t have everything completely planned out before you start. You have to plan enough to get moving and then create as you go.

          Fot those of us who don’t create linearly, we need more structure.

    9. marvin the paranoid android*

      Not to be an armchair psychologist, but it sounds to me like your idea of what method will work best for you is at odds with how you are actually able to work. I only say this because I often do the same thing myself: I’ll set up a bunch of constraints and assume there is no way I can possibly work without them, and then when all the stars fail to align perfectly, it’s a great excuse to never get started.

      The only method that I’ve hit on that actually makes me write regularly is to clear up time in my schedule for writing. Once I actually get started, it’s fairly self-perpetuating because I like it. I’m just bad at starting things. Hopefully you find a similar method that works for you!

      I also highly recommend George Saunders’s A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. His advice for writing is very much about the revising process and takes a lot of the power out of the original idea and initial draft, so I find it soothing.

  14. Tired Of Being The Target*

    Thanks to the good advice last week, there was a minimum of drama when I didn’t want to be in a “happy family” group portrait. I basically texted that I don’t want my picture taken, Mom will like it anyway, and thanks for understanding.
    It was kind of funny in a way. I got three responses at the same time. The first one was the toxic response that I expected. The next two were “thanks for letting us know” which was the response I hoped for. Usually I get mobbed by toxicity but this time, the first person actually backed down after seeing the neutral responses. She used the excuse of dealing with a lot of Covid patients, which is odd because she is in sales and has nothing to do with patient care.
    Maybe going Grey Rock and very low contact for four years is starting to have an effect.

    1. WellRed*

      I laughed out loud at the Covid patients which is odd because she is in sales. Never met her but I suspect this sums her up in general.

  15. Maxie's Mommy*

    A few years back, pre–Covid, my neighbor took her grade schoolers to the school Halloween carnival. Their older brother Wally went too, to help with the carnival. A block from the house Wally realizes he forgot his money, and tells his mom that he will grab his money from his dresser and have Dad take him to the school. Wally is at the house now and realizes he didn’t have anywhere to put his house key either, so he’s locked out. He decides to go up the trellis outside his window and get in that way. BUT–the next door neighbor, who had sent her kid to the carnival, sees a man in a dark outfit scaling the trellis, and calls the cops. Wally has his money and house key now, and seeing that his dad fell asleep in front of the TV, opts to walk to school. BUT—the cops are in the front yard, and throw Wally in the grass thinking he’s a burglar. Wally says he lives there, he doesn’t have a driver’s license but can show some ID. The cops still want to speak to an adult, so Wally takes them in the den and tries to wake Dad up. When he can’t, one officer turns off the TV. Wally’s dad yells in his sleep “DARN IT, WALLY, I WAS WATCHING THAT!!” The officers start laughing, realizing that this definitely Wally’s house. They offer to drive Wally to the carnival. Later that evening after a replay of the night’s events, mom says “well, it was nice you got a ride”. Wally’s dad comes in the kitchen and says “Ride? Ride?? I’d have given you a ride!”

      1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

        Indeed. Poor kid gets thrown on the lawn in front of his own house, and the cops aren’t known for asking questions before roughing up folks.

      1. banoffee pie*

        yeah sounds like a good episode of a sitcom. I would have been a bit scared if I’d been Wally tbh. Once at uni a whole crowd gathered to watch a guy climb up a building and in the window. I guess we all assumed it was his flat, and he’d just lost his key, because he was so brazen about it. But sometimes I wonder if he was just a really audacious burglar!

    1. the cat's ass*

      My favorite H ween story involves my mom and our paperboy, who had a rancorous relationship (paper frequently missing or damaged). She carved and decorated an amazing pumpkin, and placed it on the roof of our sun room. H ween night, she heard weird noises outside the house, and caught the paperboy shinnying up to sun room drainpipe with the aim of trashing the pumpkin. She was in a housecoat with her long white hair down, and she went outside and frightened him so badly he fell of the side of the house and broke his arm! She ended up driving him to the local ER.

    2. Chaordic One*

      It keep imagining it as an episode of “Leave it Beaver,” only with Wally getting to be the main character in the episode, instead of Beaver.

  16. The Prettiest Curse*

    A few weeks ago, my puppy chewed the box of our DVD set of The Wire season 2 to pieces (he’s fine and the actual discs were fine too, but the box was destroyed.) This made me wonder, have any of your pets ever critiqued your taste in culture by doing something similar?

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      My cat made her opinions known through the way she sat on humans watching TV in the evenings. Sometimes she faced the screen, other times she turned her back to it and preferred to stare at whoever she’d claimed as her spot. Never a big fan of football (soccer?) matches, which was too bad, because I watched them often!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        My Elder Statesdog Gone Beyond did the same thing. She really liked period movies and historical docos, we joked that she liked dudes in big mustaches, and turned her face toward the corner for trashy murder tv or my housemate’s Godzilla movies.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I’ve never owned a dog who cared about what’s TV until this one, though he primarily cares about sounds instead of what’s on the screen.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            If someone turned on MASH, she’d come running from anywhere in the house to lay in the living room, even if she’d been sound asleep elsewhere. It cracked me up.

    2. KR*

      My cat threw up on a poster I had that was signed by Dhani Harrison, George Harrison’s son. It’s just on the white part on the top and bottom of the poster and not the graphic, so I could cut that part off if I wanted to display it. And it’s my fault for not keeping it in a more safe place. But it’s interesting she chose that surface to throw up on.

      1. Sloanicote*

        Off topic but my cat seems to preferentially throw up on “new” things, almost like she’s marking them – it’s quite irritating. I’ve long noticed that she doesn’t want to throw up on easy-to-clean surfaces like the tile floor; she will *always* choose to stand on something softer. If there is one stray sock on a linoleum floor, she’ll throw up just on that. Drives me batty.

    3. The Dogman*

      My cat took a very smelly toilet break into a bag of books to be taken to a charity shop.

      She hit the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and nothing else!

      I agree with her literary critique, Robert Jordan was a terrible author and the WoT is a fantastically awful and poorly written book… the TV show will suck really badly too I am sure.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      I had a cat who would very nonchalantly pretend he was rubbing against a person’s shins and then without warning, drop a poop on their shoes if said individual was wearing anything other than sneakers. Bare feet or socks were also fine, but he had it in for all dress shoes, boots, or sandals.

    5. Missb*

      Yes, my pup didn’t seem to like my copy of Peggy Stewart at School. It was a very old book that my beloved grandma gave me.

      We give our pup cardboard boxes to tear apart. The book was on top of the entryway table and he apparently decided it was cardboard-like.

      I put my autographed books by former President Obama and Mrs. Obama out of reach, because I don’t want to learn if pup is not of the same political affiliation.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        We have had many variations on:
        Cat: I’ll just knock this noun off the edge and see if gravity is still in effect… yup.
        Dog: Ahoy, an item on the floor! I’ll bet it’s a new chew toy.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Back when we had a cat and dog, our cat worked out that the dog really loved his toys. (This stemmed from his being rescued from a bad situation – he probably didn’t have any toys for the first 5-6 years of his life.) So the cat would sit on his toys and just stare him down when he came over to get one. He was too nice to make her move, and it was pretty hilarious seeing a 90-pound dog being trolled by a small cat.

    6. Animal worker*

      My cockatoo apparently thinks I watch too much TV because if there’s a remote control within reach she’ll chew all the buttons off it. Actually, there’s hardly a corner of my house that hasn’t been customized by one of my parrots. Shoes, plastic container lids, anything wood, paper or cardboard, you name it. I try to keep stuff away from them but they always seems to find new chew toys I haven’t thought of yet. And the cockatoo also loves climbing up and chewing up my cat trees too. A daily adventure. My cat, on the other hand, has been really great about not damaging things. Go figure.

    7. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Not over my taste in culture, but definitely over my taste in men. Had an ex boyfriend who my (usually sweet and affectionate) cat would turn feral around. Death stares, peed on his things, sulked with me after he’d stayed over, etc. She was a smart cat though, and she was 100% right about him from day one. She’s lovely with everyone else, and she’s all over my husband.

    8. Chauncy Gardener*

      Our late dog LOVED Cesar Milan. Would watch his shows with intent interest and would look very indignant during the episodes where the owners of vicious small dogs just couldn’t seem to do the right thing!

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Small orange cat has destroyed multiple falling sand sculptures. The first time we joked that it was because she had liked the shipping box so much. But… we’re on about sculpture five, and the fifth box is still sitting in the corner of the dining room, months later, where small orange cat often hops inside and happily sits.

      As a puppy, one dog had an affinity for the $80 charging cable and would eat it while ignoring the $5 extension cord into which it was plugged.

    10. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      My first puppy chewed up a book on training your dog. Which was a library book so I had to return the dog chewed up dog training book to the library. (And pay for the replacement.)

      1. Animal worker*

        Love this! Hoping that you got a great reaction from the library on the irony of the situation as well.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Hmm, I’m wondering if the puppy somehow intuited the contents of the book. And I bet the library staff found that amusing!

    11. Can’t Sit Still*

      My cat chewed through the covers of several Marion Zimmer Bradley books and then peed on them. In retrospect, her critique was 100% correct. (Everyone told me I was mistaken about what I was seeing in her books, but I was not.)

      TW: MZB sexually assaulted children, including her own daughter. The assaults on her daughter continued into adulthood. This is reflected in virtually all of her books, but is particularly egregious in The Mists of Avalon, where she justifies incest as a good way for kids to learn about sex.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        The cats in this comment thread seem to have some issues with sci-fi authors, rightly so in this case.

    12. Exif*

      One of our cats turned out to be litterbox avoidant from day one. We had put her in a room by herself for the initial quarantine, and she pissed all over my beanbag chair. It was given to me by my parents, authentic, bought in the early seventies. I had such great memories of playing on it as a small child, and the new ones are garbage. It was irreplaceable and I’m still not over it 15 years later.

    13. Chaordic One*

      My late dog, Thor, a terrier, had an absolute hatred of the mail carriers and of the mail. At the time, we lived in a house where the mail was pushed through a slot in the front door of the house. It was supposed to go into a box that built into the backside of the door, but often the mail would overshoot the box and land on the floor of a glassed-in front porch in front of the living room.

      When the mail was delivered, after barking furiously at the poor postal carriers, Thor, would run into the front porch and grab any mail that overshot the mailbox from the floor and shake it vicisously. I can’t tell you how many letters, cards, bills and magazines had teeth marks on them. Most of the time, it wasn’t a big deal, but I did have a set of prints that I had ordered from company that was similar to Posters.com that were mailed in a flat envelope that I really couldn’t display because of the teeth marks.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Thankfully, our new puppy hasn’t got into chewing the mail yet, because I grab it the second it comes through the door. And the very first dog that I co-owned with my husband was called Thor! (He was a large dog, though.)

        1. Paddy O'Furniture*

          It must be a comfort knowing that if a mail carrier ever decided to rob your house Thor would defend it.

    14. Might Be Spam*

      My free range house rabbit hated my begonia plant. Whenever he got a chance, he would pull off the leaves and eventually killed the plant. The pot full of dirt and dead leaves became the perfect place for him to lounge around. Other than the begonia, he never bothered anything. Not even wires or wood furniture.
      I would love to get another rabbit, but I rent now and any new rabbit would probably be more of a chewer.

    15. Pam*

      One of ours destroyed a brand new microwave box that was near his crate. (Cardboard and styrofoam bits everywhere. Yes, he was in the crate) We thought “good- he saved us having to unpack it, until we picked it up and found he had also chewed through the cord.

    16. RagingADHD*

      Not a pet, wildlife.

      My husband once had a pigeon fly in the window of his apartment and poop all over a painting he was working on. Editorial commentary, he called it.

  17. Liz*

    Following the letter from the Halloween devotee this week, I’m curious: what are peoples’ plans for Halloween?

    Growing up in the UK, it was never a big deal here. In fact, I remember when I was 10 we got a special assembly about how Trick or Treating was antisocial and dangerous (and they kind of had a point because there was no culture of it, and the one time I tried we were just out alone at night, knocking on random doors and nobody understood why). Even now, we don’t have much going on save for a few carved pumpkins and the odd house that puts up some fake cobwebs and a plastic skeleton. We do get kids trick or treating in organised groups now, with parental supervision, and the general understanding is they only go to houses with decorations up or a pumpkin outside. Halloween always looks like a big deal in the States but I’d sometimes wondered if that was just movies making everything look grander and more extravagant, like they do with Christmas.

    So do people really go all out decorating houses and such? I’d love to hear about people’s experiences.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      It’s definitely more prevalent now than when I was a kid, and we also had the whole ‘don’t don’t it’ speiel as well!
      My mum was dead against it. She said it was wrong to knock on people’s doors and say to them what was effectively “give me something nice or I’ll be mean to you” which was coercive! So I’ve never been trick-or-treating.
      We did used to bob apples and have dress-up parties when we were little though.

      I guess it’s had an impact because I don’t celebrate it now – well I do, but in a quiet, pagan way. I don’t answer the door to trick-or-treaters, who STILL will knock, annoyingly, even though I don’t have deccies or lights up!
      Also I am kind of gothy looking, so dressing up like a witch – not a big deal XD
      I think the commercialisation of it is American, do you?

    2. Undine*

      Yes, it’s a big deal here. Nowadays some neighborhoods are magnet neighborhoods, where people know there’s lots of candy, so those neighborhoods get lots of kids. Hundreds. In non Covid times people a block away would close off their small block, have a fog machine, with spooky sounds playing. There are decorations all over. One house usually has gravestones with the names of famous people who died over the year.

      This year I feel like I’m seeing more skeletons (life size, either whole or partial, like someone emerging from the ground, one house has skeletons climbing up it. Also various animal skeletons, tiny dragons, bats, a saber tooth tiger the size of a small dog) and spiders, but fewer witches. Spiders are enormous with a body the size of a large dog. Someone up the street has a witch with an enormous cauldron with green bubble wrap to simulate the boiling potion and an enormous fake centipede climbing out. There are also skeletons twelve feet high (where do you store that in the off season?)

      There is another trend, where people put up tiny little elf houses, and I saw one that is at least autumn themed, with a pumpkin stand.

      1. Liz*

        Oh wow, this sounds amazing!! I’d love to see that. When I was a kid I watched the movie Hocus Pocus and was enthralled by all the decor and the themed party shown going on in the neighbourhood, but I always figured it was because the film was set in Salem and they had depicted the residents were just strangely obsessed. Then I started hearing all the excited Halloween talk from American friends online and realised that people do this in real life. It must be so fun figuring out how to do this kind of thing, rigging up the effects! There must be some very creative people.

    3. Maxie's Mommy*

      I have decorated out front, but it’s more pumpkins/cute and not scary. I give out candy, and beers and wine coolers for the adults, and mini waters for the kids. I put out a few patio chairs with cushions for folks to sit in–you can see most of the street from our driveway. Parents seem to really appreciate the drinks and the chairs–it’s an elderly neighborhood, with toddlers coming to Nana’s to trick or treat. I bring in all my animals. And if I dress up, it’s just cat ears.

      1. Liz*

        That’s very sweet. My dad is in his 70s now but really enjoys halloween. He’s a very shy man but loves kids – he’d rather make funny faces and coo at a toddler than make smalltalk with a strange adult – and his area was typically older folk but is gradually seeing an influx of families with young kids. Every year he buys two big tubs of chocolates, pops a pumpkin on the garden wall, and spends a few hours sat in the hall going back and forth to the front door.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s a big deal in suburbs, less so in the semi-rural area I moved to recently –difference is sidewalks.
      As a child it was just after daylight savings time changed so the world was suddenly dark. Being allowed out without a parent anyway was thrilling.
      One of the loveliest things I’ve seen people give out in addition to candy was in the days before cheap cell phones. A friend lived on the edge of a low-income neighborhood, and she gave kids Polaroid pictures of themselves in their costume for their family. Adult family members who were escorting kids were invited into the pictures. (Everyone got candy too.)

        1. fposte*

          Honestly, there’d be a fun element to it even now! It’s an actual object that the kid gets to carry.

    5. Virginia Plain*

      Same here in the UK. Growing up there was very little trick-or-treating; the occasional small next door neighbour dressed as a witch and accompanied by mum, who would receive a biscuit or something as we didn’t get sweets in for it. We had a turnip lantern a few times (pumpkins not being so widely available here then) and my October birthday party was Halloween themed a couple of times.
      In the last twenty years or so since I graduated/left my parents’ home and moved south/got a job I’ve never bought sweets or had anyone knock at the door – admittedly I’ve always lived in a flat. One sees small groups of kids accompanied by a parents but I think they only go to houses of people they know, I don’t think many kids are allowed to knock on strangers’ doors. Sometimes adults have halloween parties but I think the biggest difference is, a halloween costume here is always specifically halloween/scary themed. So witch, cat, ghost etc or of late maybe zombie, or a villain like Freddy Krueger or Darth Vader or something. You’d never dress as, like, the Pope or a fried egg.
      I did go to a party a few years running that my friend held where you brought your own pumpkin and she provided food and drinks and we had a pumpkin carving party which was fun, including the pumpkintinis. She is Canadian though and I think their customs are much closer to US ones!

      1. Virginia Plain*

        I meant to say, I’ve never heard of anyone wearing a costume to work here (I will never get over the AAM letter about the woman who dressed as a Disney princess and demanded sweets from the board meeting) but one thing I do expect though is halloween sweets to appear in our office on Monday; one of my colleagues always brings in some excess when he feels that his kids have been given far too much sugar than is good for them, such as after Christmas or Easter. So I’ll probably be shovelling in bat-shaped Haribo next week!

      2. Liz*

        I’ve never known anyone knock on my door either, but we’ve never put a pumpkin out so they probably wouldn’t as that seems to be the code.

        I have been to a couple of Halloween parties. I spent a few years in my 20s hanging out with a goth crowd, and they did push the boat out for halloween, but it was really just a big booze up with music and decor. Even with the house being kitted out, though, I think we only got like… 2 lots of kids, and they were totally unexpected because I remember my friend running round the house trying to find sweets to give them.

        1. banoffee pie*

          I counted 50 (groups, that is, so more kids than that even) at my door one year. We had the porch light on though, that’s as good as having a pumpkin round here. It means come on ahead :)

          1. Windchime*

            Yeah, same here. Porch light on means come and knock and get some candy; porch light off means “no candy here”. My light will be off tonight; I’m not in the mood to open the door 100 times.

      3. Sloanicote*

        I do recall turnip lanterns, and treacle (northern UK here) – but it was a bit conflated with the bonfires for Guy Faulks’. I don’t think we ever had trick or treaters.

        1. Anon for this*

          Oh gosh yes, turnip lanterns! Those were a thing in Scotland too, I remember my dad having to carve them for us because he was the only one strong enough!

      4. banoffee pie*

        It’s always been a big deal here (Northern Ireland) and we’re part of the UK (at time of writing, ahem lol). We never do anything for Guy’s Fawke’s day here (5th Nov), unlike England. It bugs me when people say ‘Halloween’ is an American holiday; people have been going trick or treating here as long as my mum can remember and I’m sure way before. There are a few people who think it’s demanding sweets/candy ‘with menaces’ but it really isn’t unless you are going out of your way to be aggressive. It’s just a bit of fun, some of the kids are about 2 or 3, I actually got a baby in arms one year at my door! Once I saw someone throw a water bomb into someone’s house and yeah that wasn’t cool, but the vast majority of people are fine. Just best to take the really wee ones out early because there can be some wrecking later at night, fireworkes being thrown etc. Recently people’s parents come with them, when I was a kid that wasn’t done past the age of about 6, we just went ourselves and risked it lol. I remember getting so much stuff it filled a huge bag. My housing estate was huge and my friends and I went to every house that wanted us. Everyone was so generous. Fancy costumes weren’t as popular I was a witch every year, except once when I branched out to be a cowgirl! Good times. Crap, I’m getting nostalgic lol

        1. Liz*

          That sounds lovely! I never knew Halloween was a thing in NI. My apologies for lumping you in with my statement – I’m beginning to think it’s just England that have been left out all these years. Waiting for input from our Welsh neighbours!

          1. banoffee pie*

            No need to apologise. The ‘part of the UK at the time of writing’ comment wasn’t aimed at you, just at the whole culture here and the fact there’s some ‘dispute’ about it lol. I just realised it looked sarcastic, sorry :)

            I need to research whether the Welsh celebrate Halloween, I’m starting to think they do!

    6. Loopy*

      I’m in the US in suburbs and can also confirm it’s a Big Deal. People decorate and love sitting outside to pass out candy. I’m a bit of a Halloween grinch just because my husband always works to cover for folks with kids and it stresses my old dog out. He doesn’t understand why he has to be inside while I’m outside (the door bell ringing every five minutes would probably give him a heart attack) plus children are yelling and doing the high pitched child shriek so he’s always alarmed.

      That being said because I enjoyed it as a kid I always get candy out of guilt. I used to put out a bowl and refill it but noticed parents wouldn’t let their kids take candy from an unattended bowl even in a very safe area. I now begrudgingly sit out with the bowl for a little while at least.

      1. Liz*

        You sound like a very good sport, I’m sure the kids appreciate it. My dad’s cats get a little nervous with people coming and going (they don’t like strangers) so I always plug in a Feliway.

      2. Ruth A*

        Oh, interesting about the unattended bowl. I live in an apartment complex that has a few families with kids, but they don’t seem to go trick-or-treating here – I feel lucky if I get more than two or three groups of one to three kids. The year I gave out the most candy was the year I had dental surgery on Halloween and hung my plastic cauldron with candy in it from the doorknob with a sign saying, “Happy Halloween! Take one!” I expect that adults who were going past on their way to or from Halloween activities took some of the candy too. (Which was fine with me!) I was thinking about doing the same thing again this year because of Covid.

    7. Asenath*

      It’s become a big deal over the years. When I was a child, it was strictly trick-or-treating for young children. No one decorated their houses, only young children dressed up, and most people gave them candy, with one person I remember not giving candy to teenagers who weren’t in costume, or made only a token effort at a costume. He had a point – by our teen years, most of use had given up the costumes or trick -or-treating, and went out only if our parents insisted we escort pre-school aged relatives around. School aged children went around in groups of their friends. Nowadays, many people decorate their houses (although it varies by area; I just came back from a visit to a city in another province, and there was MUCH more house decorating than I was used to, starting much earlier in October). Some workers (stores, offices etc) decorate and wear costumes, some adults do so to give out candy or attend parties. Some university students (although a small minority) were dressed up to attend classes on Friday, as I saw when I went on campus. Oddly enough, trick-or-treating is nearly non-existent for me. It’s been decades since I lived anywhere that children went door to door, as we did, in any numbers. In my former neighbourhood, people would bring their children in by car, visit maybe one house (presumably Granny’s or Auntie’s) and leave. I’d maybe see a single group doing the rounds in the old ways, that is, if I was home at all. So I haven’t bought candy for trick or treating in years, and also don’t decorate or dress up.

      1. the cat's ass*

        This was my experience too. Sometime over the last few decades, many adults have also joined in. In my early years here, i’d put out a pumpkin and got candy but i live pretty far off the beaten track with no trick or treaters. We’d head down to that neighborhood with the amazing decorations and hang out while the kids made their rounds.

        One of my more harrowing Hweens was the one we refer to as drunk Hween when the dad of the fam we went trick or treating with accompanying our little kids got so drunk we had to half carry him home.

    8. Admiral Thrown Rocks the Blue*

      Yep, it’s a big deal in the US. It’s just fun. I have quite a few decorations, home and work. My roommate is carving the pumpkin today. We’re going with a cat face with bat wings.

    9. Ms Darcy*

      I don’t usually decorate for Halloween, but one of my neighbors has 5! 12 foot skeletons in their yard! I love seeing them and always slow down when I drive by. At night they have colored lights shining on them. When I realized that one skeleton has a light-up rib cage, I was overjoyed!

      1. Not a cat*

        We have a neighbor who does a huge zombie graveyard every year. I love it! We dress the pets up and take photos. This year the dog is a “Treat Inspector.” last year she was a slice of pizza and the year before she was a spider. My niece (who lives w/ me) is Wiccan, so I try to be respectful of her practice, while still having fun.

    10. Dwight Schrute*

      I love handing out candy! This year my plan is to sit in the front yard and have my dogs in an expen next to me dressed up.

    11. Missb*

      I don’t think I can properly describe how all-out people go in our neighborhood but I will try.

      I live in a nice neighborhood- folks live here mostly because it has an amazing school. The school district boundaries are the neighborhood boundaries so it’s just a bit of an exclusive community. The housing stock isn’t very affordable.

      The first year here, we took our two kids around the block to trick or treat. They got a ton of candy- people were just dumping their bowls into their bags. We were a bit surprised but ok, generous.

      The next year, both kids were in school and we were less oblivious to the neighborhood traditions. It turns out there is only *one* street in this neighborhood that people trick or treat on.

      And omg it’s a trip. Some of the houses seem to be competing for most impressive. (And alll the houses themselves are pretty much the nicest houses in the neighborhood). I would usually have a drink in hand by the second house. One house hired a bartender to make the signature drink and had a spooky butler standing at the entry hall with a tray of the drinks. The kids would go inside and downstairs to get the candy and we’d be upstairs enjoying our drinks.

      Some folks put out multiple troughs- literal troughs- of candy. One lady set up her huge dining room table with assorted big bowls of candy. My kids would take like one piece and she would say “no, go all the way around the table and take some of each! Take more!”

      One house set up a big bounce house for the kids. For the adults there was an open garage (with kitchen) full of refreshments and food, plus a huge TV outside with hay bales set up to sit on and watch whatever sport game was on at the time. Every single house had something- someone making elephant ears, someone getting a life size coffin to display a bunch of beer for adults, just over the top.

      One house is owned by the owner of a local grocery chain and he hands out “god sized” candy bars- think pound sized Hershey cars. He hires a bouncer for the top of the driveway. The kids queue up and get a hand stamp then walk down to the house to retrieve their large candy.

      The funniest one for me was the poor sap that had just moved in and had *no idea*. He was standing outside while his wife ran to get more candy, and he was hilariously asking for candy donations from the trick or treaters. He was well stocked after that year.

      We still buy a bag of candy each year, but we’ve had maybe 4 trick or treaters in 20 years. We don’t live on the trick or treat street. I’m sure all my neighbors do the same, just in case.

      1. Jen in Oregon*

        That. Is. WILD!!! And I love it.

        I live in one of those neighborhoods that gets lots of trick-or-treaters–some folks get up to 400! My house is on a corner and sits up a small hill and there are 21 steps between the curb and my front door. This has resulted in a significant drop of kids that we get compared to the folks that live in houses more level to the street–we get maybe 100. It’s a bit of a bummer, but also not! The kids that make the trek up the steps get well rewarded for it.

      2. Liz*

        Wow! This sounds amazing! I’m always gobsmacked by these kind of displays. They sound absolutely phenomenal but I have no idea where people find the time and energy. I can barely get the motivation to hang up the outside Christmas lights!

    12. Dear liza dear liza*

      It really depends on your neighborhood! If you have lots of little kids, it can get intense. We’ve always lived in places slightly more rural and with older residents; we usually get a handful of trick or treaters, at most.

    13. Anon for this*

      Growing up in Scotland (in a village in the 80s), it was celebrated in a way it wasn’t in the rest of the UK. It was a children’s thing really, we’d dress up and have Hallowe’en parties at school and play games like ducking for apples (big bowl of water with apples floating in it, you had to stick your head in and get an apple out using your teeth – surprisingly difficult). Guising was also a big thing, kids would dress up in costume and go from house to house but instead of trick or treating we’d go into the house and play an instrument / sing a song / recite a poem etc and then be given treats as a reward for doing something. As far as I understand it this was a traditional thing that had been happening for decades, and then in the 90s the US concept of Hallowe’en and trick or treating started to be more prevalent and is now dominant. Also now with safety concerns you wouldn’t just send your kids out to go round and into all the neighbours houses the way we did when we were little!

      1. Liz*

        This is really interesting. Between this and the comment from NI, I wonder if England was the outlier here and everyone else has been enjoying Halloween for years!

        1. Anon for this*

          I haven’t thought about childhood Halloweens in years and I’m loving this thread and all the memories that are popping up so I googled wondering if it was a celtic thing – apparently Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man have always celebrated based on the old festival of Samhain.

      2. Weegie*

        That was my childhood experience too (fellow Scot), in the 70s. It was really fun, and all the neighbours expected the children in the neighborhood to come in and perform their songs or poems or whatever. The tradition seemed to start disappearing sometime in the late 80s/90s and I was really sad to see it go. In the early 2000s I started to see gangs of teenagers, not even bothering to dress up, going around knocking on strangers’ doors. It was really intimidating, but thankfully the police seemed to knock that on the head within a couple of years and Halloween parties took over.

        1. Anon for this*

          I’ve been trying to remember what we called it when the gangs of teenagers went round and your comment has just made it pop into my head – gobble guising! Now I just need to remember what the other game we always played alongside bobbing for apples was…

      3. Nancy in Scotland*

        That’s very much also my experience of growing up in Scotland in the 80s. I think it was my favourite celebration of the year! One year a group of us acted out the witches scene from Macbeth for our guising act. Nowadays, my children love trick or treating, and are adament that telling a joke is Not Done. Times change!

        1. Nancy in Scotland*

          Actually, having just come back from trick or treating, I can confirm that telling a joke or a story IS still a thing, at least in my little neighbourhood. I’m really pleased!!

      4. Nancy in Scotland*

        Yes, that’s how it was for me too, growing up in Scotland in the 80s. Halloween was my favourite celebration of the year! One year a group of us did the witches scene from Macbeth for our guising act! We put a lot of work into it. Nowadays my children are adament that nobody even tells a joke when they go trick or treating. Times change!

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      We usually get between zero and a handful of trick or treaters, and I have purchased a bag of candy just in case. Decorating is common and becoming more elaborate–probably less than half of houses, but the only thing really notable is if your entire yard is inflatable sculptures, rather than just one. (Also: was traveling in early October and believe this is pretty widespread now.)

      This year my plan to get mini pumpkins or gourds and draw faces and put one on each fence post (as I normally do) was foiled by wet weather apparently decimating squash crops.

    15. fposte*

      It’s individually variable here, with some stronger tendencies in some neighborhoods than others. I generally just give out candy and that’s fine. It’s a big year when I get over a dozen kids, but somebody not far from me gets hundreds. Also, sometimes parents bring kids to neighborhoods with better trick-or-treating, which I actually don’t have a problem with–let the kids have a good night!

      I’m deciding what to do this year, since some people really want a socially distanced Halloween; I’m not too worried about it myself, but I don’t want people who are worried to curtail their trick-or-treating, either. I had an idea about tying little loot bags to strings that would run through an eye and dangle overhead, and when they rang my bell I’d open the door, tell them to get ready, and cut the string at my end. I thought that would be fun for them (and me) as well as assuaging parental concerns, but I’m not sure if I can put that together workably (or am willing to take the time). If anybody has a thought as to how to do it, let me know!

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Last year I made a spider web out of sticks and string, with battery powered lights, and put it in the yard by the front door. I used clothespins to attach mini candy bars to the strings.

        I think we might not get many tonight since it’s a Sunday and has been raining all day.

    16. Generic Name*

      American here. Halloween was a big deal when I was a kid, and still is. At some point towards the end of my childhood “trunk or treat” and indoor trick or treating at local malls and red centers became a thing. People talk about the “dangers” of trick or treating, but every place I’ve lived (even when I was in a sort of sketchy neighborhood) it was a very social evening with kids running around and adults supervising. We’ll hand out candy and my teenage son is going to his friend’s house to dress as a scarecrow and try to scare the little kids. Lol

      1. Liz*

        I think in our case the “dangerous” statement was due to the lack of supervision and disturbance to unsuspecting neighbours. At this time, there was really nothing in place, and we were mostly just seeing older kids wandering around unsupervised, knocking on random doors.

        The one and only time I went trick or treating, I was 14 and we were just a group of 4 who went out because my one friend wanted desperately to have Halloween like it was in the movies. We were literally the only people out, 4 teenagers knocking on random doors. People were confused, disproving, and angry. We got a very stern lecture from a 90 something year old man who had struggled to the door thinking it was an emergency. We eventually found the one house that was doing Halloween and they invited us in. We ended up just sat in this house with adult strangers for an hour. Nobody knew where we were, and they could have been anybody. It was just all in all a rather uncomfortable experience.

        I’m kind of envious of the Halloween experience that seems to happen in America. It sounds really lovely to have grown up with.

        1. Generic Name*

          Honestly it’s pretty damn awesome. You are given handfuls of free candy. Every kid’s dream. The costume part is fun too. It’s a holiday that doesn’t rely on families getting along or even existing. It’s not commercial in the way other holidays are. Sure, you can buy stuff, but the best costumes are often thrifted or home made. Just an all around good time

    17. Exif*

      We go out for dinner and carefully keep the house completely dark. DH is a teacher and we can’t allow kids to know where he lives.

      Where we live is right on the border between city and suburb, so a ton of kids pile into minivans and inundate the neighborhoods. Frankly, even if we were willing to give out candy, it would be a major budget entry for us. Our neighbors get 200+ kids each year.

    18. Clisby*

      Southern US here. We plan to do what we’ve done for the past 4-5 years – turn off our lights, retreat to the home office at the back of the house, and ignore Halloween. I was willing to participate when my kids wanted to go trick-or-treating, but they’re past that now and I’m way over it. I’ve never really liked Halloween. (No objection to other people observing it, but really, nothing about it appeals to me.)

      Kids do trick-or-treat in my neighborhood, but over the years not many come down our street. Protocol here is that if porch lights are turned off, it’s a no go, so stay away.

    19. small town*

      I’m in midAtlantic America. Kids are grown but when out first son was little, I made costumes. My husband, who is 6’6″ was the Jolly Green Giant and my son was Sprout. I must say that DH really rocked the green tights! We also were robin hood characters another year. I was Maid Marian, older son Little John, younger son Robin Hood, and husband was Friar Tuck. The street behind us is the one where everyone decorates and folks come from all over to trick or treat. I usually buy bags of candy and donate them to the effort. It is a great show!

    20. RagingADHD*

      We have a lot of folks in the neighborhood who go all out with inflatables, figurines, gravestones, light shows, you name it.

      We don’t do all that, but we set up a table in the carport with a little mood lighting, some black tablecloths, a playlist, etc. We keep a crockpot of hot cider for the grownups as well as candy for the kids.

      This year we decorated our car in a Harry Potter theme for our church’s Trunk or Treat, so we’ll repurpose that stuff for the carport tomorrow.

      One year I made a croquembouche in the shape of the Hogwarts sorting hat, with different colored cream inside to show the “houses”. The older kids and adults liked that a lot. (We also had candy).

      Last year we rigged up a big PVC pipe for a chute on the front porch steps, so we could torpedo the candy to the kids from a safe distance. We prettied it up with some tulle and fairy lights.

      For us, it’s more about chatting with the neighbors and seeing the costumes, so we don’t stay inside and wait for a knock.

    21. My Brain Is Exploding*

      We lived on a US-occupied RAF base for three years. Just gonna say…they opened the base up to the local community on Halloween and we had TONS of British kids trick-or-treating!

    22. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Not planning on much of anything. Our son is all grown up so no trick or treating with him. My cousins husband and I haunted my grandmothers yard for a few years, but the toters (trick or treaters) were few and far between, and we kinda made the few around there wary of coming for a treat.
      In the 20 odd years, my wife and I havent had the first toter.None… zero… I remember our first year here. We had the yard decorated, strobe lights going, and a bowl ol’ bowl of candy that had to be seen to be believed. The sun fell, the shy darkened, and I waited…5:00, 6:00,… by 9, I was standing at the front door, wearing an expression of mournful woe on my face as it pressed against the cold glass as I realized “they ain’t comin…” And thats my sad little Halloween story.

    23. MissDisplaced*

      Ah Halloween.
      It used to be for the kids. In the 70s when I was a kid, yes dressing up and trick or treating was a highlight of the autumn season.
      Nowadays it seems getting dressed up is also for adults, and Halloween is a big party and bar weekend, often extending for several days, not just All Hallows Eve.
      But that seems to be the case with everything in the US now. It’s like this “extended childhood” of partying that lasts well past the age of 18 and college into one’s late 20’s. It pervades all aspects of society from college sports to tailgating, to bachelorette parties, to many other things. I find it kind of weird, but I guess Americans love a good shindig.

      1. RagingADHD*

        The rise of pop culture conventions and cosplay are also enmeshed with the popularity of adult Halloween.

        Arts & crafts + your favorite fiction + playing dressup. What’s not to like?

        It’s no sillier than sports fanatics putting on jerseys and getting drunk watching a big match, which seems like a socially-accepted “adult” activity. Nobody accuses tailgating season ticket holders of extended childhood.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          But it all kind of IS childlike though isn’t it? Grown adults tailgating is nothing more than an extended party, often to relive their glorious college years by supporting their “school.” Same thing with the hype around the Super Bowl and all the massive parties associated with it. It’s grown-ass adults behaving like 10 year olds (only with lots of alcohol).

          Americans love any excuse to party I guess.

          What I find weird is that these things have now become SO HYPED and drag out for multiple days (or even weeks) beyond the initial one day event or holiday, it almost makes it feel rather juvenile.

          It’s like that here in the United States for nearly EVERYTHING now. Independence Day lasts practically the whole week of the 4th now with fireworks shows and cookouts. Halloween and Christmas hype lasts ALL MONTH. Super Bowl is hyped for a good month ahead of the game day and has become a national holiday almost as big as New Year’s. Etc. Sure, it’s fun to let loose a day, but it’s all become too much. And the main reason is it’s all been commodified for the money–and that becomes kind of sickening and as such I’ve lost a lot of my enjoyment of these things over the years because of it.

          Probably I’ll have the unpopular opinion on this though, because it’s so ingrained in American culture.

          1. RagingADHD*

            I think there’s a difference between disliking commercialism & advertising fatigue (which I’m right there with you) and considering hobbies or play to be “childish.”

            Humans need to play and celebrate in order to build community and be emotionally & mentally resilient. That’s not an American thing, it’s a human thing. It’s primal.

            What do you do for enjoyment? How do you celebrate with your family, friends, or community?

          2. Mannequin*

            I’m 54 and I still play with (collect) dolls.

            Does that make me any less adult than people who spend their money on wine, fancy dinners, designer clothing, fine jewelry, golf clubs, expensive cars, backpacking, or whatever it is that other adults do? Because I think the idea that being an adult means that I have to give up things I truly love & enjoy in favor of socially approved activities I have zero interest in or find incredibly boring to be extremely juvenile in itself.

      2. Pool Lounger*

        Halloween was for adults too, or at least teens, for a long time. Pre-trick or treating people used to play fortune telling games and try to figure out who their marriage partners were going to be. Halloween has been celebrated in many different ways over the centuries.

      3. Mannequin*

        I was a kid in the 70s too and I’m laughing at this because even then there were totally adults who loved dressing up and having Halloween parties. When i was in elementary school, my mom used to come on whatever day the school was doing their Halloween celebrations- dressed like a witch, face painted green, and a big picnic basket full of ‘poison’ apples, so she could go into every classroom and cacklingly offer one to the teacher. She would have been in her 40s-50s at this time, and no one on earth would have ever accused my depression era parents of being irresponsible or having “extended childhoods” (quite the opposite as my dad lied about his age to join the navy in WWII & my mom was married w/an infant at 16!)

    24. Lady Danbury*

      I live in Bermuda, which is a British territory but culturally a mix of the Caribbean, US and UK. Halloween is a big deal here, far closer to the US than the UK. I’m an elder millennial and grew up trick or treating in multiple neighborhoods (my dad drove us around), having a costume contest at school, etc. Now schools tend to do character day (dress as a book character) to give it a more educational aspect but it’s definitely based in Halloween. I’m not doing anything this year bc of covid but my nephews are still dressing up and trick or treating with family members within their bubble. There have also been various drive through activities planned and I’m sure other private celebrations. We don’t decorate as much here (though some do) but normally lots of parties and costumes even for adults.

    25. Colette*

      Say it’s more of a big deal now – however, when I was a kid, it would usually snow before Halloween, and now I live somewhere it seldom snows before Halloween. You’re less likely to go all out decorating if you’ll have to live with the decorations until spring!

      Before COVID, I ran a haunted house for the local community association. Some years I decorate, some years I don’t. This year I haven’t, but I may pull out my giant inflatable dragon tonight, and someone needs to carve the pumpkin.

      1. Liz*

        I do love the idea of the haunted houses! They sound so fun! I gather many of them are actual, full size houses with real life actors. That would be amazing!

        (I first heard about the concept in an AAM post that was “my office is next to a haunted house” and I was so confused!)

        1. Colette*

          The one I do is in the community centre – we put up fake walls and decorate, and have teenagers working. It’s aimed at kids, so it’s scary but not terrifying. Lots of fun!

        2. Mannequin*

          When I was growing up in the 70s/80s, my brother & I used to do “haunted houses” in our parents driveway starting in grade school & lasting til past graduation from HS. We made everything or got it from thrift stores & yard sales.

          At first they were pretty simple with just scenes/figures set up for people to walk by but as we got older hey became larger & much more elaborate including making reusable theatrical type flats for walls, & routing it through our garage & part of our backyard, and getting school friends to help out.

        3. Fran Fine*

          Growing up, the haunted houses we used to visit were people’s actual houses that they decked out in insane, creepy decorations and the homeowners were the monsters. No actors were involved. It was really cool and we had some very creative neighbors.

    26. marvin the paranoid android*

      I think it probably depends on location. In my hometown, there are a lot of old neighbourhoods full of heritage homes, and people love to decorate those. Trick-or-treating is huge and there are some wealthy neighbourhoods known for giving out things like children’s books and full-size candy bars. You could probably set a Hallowe’en movie there without having to add much set decoration. I’ve also lived in a tiny little rural town where all the homes are far apart and there are no street lights, and there wasn’t much going on there. In my current neighbourhood, there is one house with a highly elaborate pirate theme complete with music and what appears to be a bar. I should walk by there again tonight to see what’s going on.

      One of my best Hallowe’en experiences was in a medieval town in Italy where they celebrated by opening up all the restaurants for people to wander between. There was also a long parade of musicians weaving around the crooked little streets and Hallowe’en carolers (?)

    27. Lora*

      I live in MA, and the Halloween party thing is a big deal here. People mostly visit with family for the winter holidays, but Halloween is a time to party with your friends. My street is quiet as most of the small children are now too old for trick or treat, and most of the residents (including me) are too busy/tired to do much more than put pumpkins and maybe some chrysanthemums and a Home Depot decoration on the stoop, but when I first moved here we regularly got a lot of trick or treaters and most people put up orange or purple lights, giant spiders, scarecrows with pumpkin heads, etc. Somewhere in the attic I have a bunch of little miniature haunted houses that light up which I used to put out on the mantel, though now I’m more, “eh, another thing to dust and keep the cats off, forget it” and I gave my big spiders to a friend who is super into decorating. She does her whole yard and house up, hosts parties with special drinks in punchbowls with dry ice and charcuterie plates made to look like flayed bodies (olives for eyeballs, the works). A retro movie theater up the road has been doing an October horror movie special, and Rocky Horror Picture Show has a lot of fun all this month, lots of people dressing up for that.

      Past costumes for me have included: witch, cowgirl, mermaid, Poison Ivy, ballerina, bluebird, and one very overworked year I went in my fluffy pajamas and slippers with mud mask on my face and told everyone my costume was “well-rested”.

  18. Expiring Cat Memes*

    COVID brain rot: anyone else feeling it?

    I’m don’t mean long COVID symptoms – I’m talking about the long term cumulative effects that come from being deprived of the kind of stimulation we get from regular face-to-face socialisation, travel, new experiences, thinking on our feet, incidental exercise, interacting with more varied environments and people, that kind of thing.

    Now that life is slowly becoming more “normal” in Australia, my brain just doesn’t seem to work like it used to. My memory is shot. I forget basic words and how to string a sentence together. I’m slow to process new information. I’m clumsy. Disorganised. Slow to react. Indecisive. Bad with directions. I have difficulty mustering motivation to do things I love. And I’m so damn tired all the time.

    I’ve always been extremely introverted, a bit of a hermit, and I’ve gone for long stretches of working alone from home before it was cool. So between that and everyone else being in the same situation, for a long time I didn’t notice anything new or unusual. But it’s becoming obvious to me now that some of my neural pathways in that area have been impacted by more prolonged isolation and routine than is healthy for me, and that it’s going to take my deliberate effort to re-establish them.

    Has anyone else felt the same, and did your brain go back to normal once you started “living” more?

    1. JustForThis*

      This exactly. I feel much more “sluggish” in my thinking, less able to focus and really scatterbrained. I’ve gone shopping four times in the last several months without my wallet (never happened before!), for example, and things like that just keep happening. I just try to expose myself to more stimulating, surprising situations again, as far as possible, and keep my fingers crossed that my previous brain functions will eventually come back.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I seem to be socially inept, not understanding what’s going on. For example my partner told me that last night we were to meet up with our daughter for a drink, then we’d go for dinner at a restaurant. I didn’t realise that our daughter wasn’t coming to the restaurant and was running late but thinking, well I’ll catch up at the restaurant instead. oops no! Also our lodger had told us she’d be going out but would eat with us as usual first, and I totally zapped the second part, so we went out to eat and she was waiting at home to eat with us… So the entire evening was a mess, all because I only remembered half of what everyone told me.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yes to all of this.
      I haven’t started living because I’m stuck here still. Hopefully, the situation will end soon because I really can’t stand the idea of spending another winter in this place.

    4. Girasol*

      Yes indeed. I’ve had cabin fever for so long. I start my day thinking, “If it weren’t for covid, today I’d be doing…” just so I can remember what normal life is.

    5. Blomma*

      I have had brain fog since I was a small child due to chronic illnesses so it’s not something that’s going to go away by getting back to normal (whatever that will look like!). What I’ve found though is that self-compassion is key to coping with it. Adequate sleep and doing creative things also can help. I will also set simple ‘challenges’ for myself where I only watch new-to-me TV shows and movies for a month (instead of rewatching) so I have to engage my brain.

      And this definitely isn’t directed at the OP, but sort of generally to people who are experiencing this temporarily: in the future when things are a bit more normal, please remember how frustrating and discouraging it was to live ‘in the fog’ and keep some compassion for those of us living there all the time. That’s something I haven’t seen discussed in any of the articles I’ve read about this topic.

      1. Liz*

        Aye, seconding this. My brain fog is worse now for sure, but has always been present, moreso with certain tasks and settings. I’ve had some therapy to tackle it, but it’s mostly been about learning to do things despite the brain fog, and finding shortcuts so I don’t get too hung up on it.

        Food is a big one for me – I need set meals, and I need to know what I’m having and when, and I need to be able to put my hands on the ingredients quickly and easily. If I don’t have that in place, I just don’t eat. This earned some frustration from a friend who kept insisting “just go in the kitchen and make something!” and was pretty appalled that I would use instant shakes as a substitute when I didn’t have the spoons to make a sandwich. She’s now suffering terribly from brain fog as a result of physical health issues, and while I’m more than happy to help out there is a little part of me that really just hopes she can extend some sympathy to me now she knows what it’s like.

    6. WS*

      All of this is true for me and I haven’t worked a single day from home – it’s been full-time in person in healthcare from the very start. I think people are underestimating how horrible stressful this has all been, even for people that didn’t have to be out and about working with the public. Take it slowly and steadily.

    7. Liz*

      Oh my word, yes! I can’t believe I missed this comment.

      My cognitive function is in the toilet. I’ve always struggled with executive dysfunction but it seems to be getting worse. I lose a thread of thought after a second, keep wandering from room to room with no idea what I’m even looking for. Packing a bag takes forever because I put something in it and forget and end looking for it twice, or I remove something I already packed without realising I’m doing it and end up abandoning it somewhere. At work, I’ll open the wrong program and sit staring at it in vague autopilot before realising that this isn’t what I wanted to do and that’s why I can’t find what I’m looking for. It’s like I’ll have a thought, lose the thread almost instantaneously, but not notice because my body is still mindlessly going through some sort of motion tangentally to the thing I meant to do. It’s maddening.

      To make things worse, I’ve lost my biggest coping strategy for my mental health. I used to be very into fitness, but six months ago I asked out a guy at my gym and got ghosted and then ultimately knocked back. It sounds dumb but I had a crush on him for years and the thought of going back now makes me cry because all my fitness hobbies remind me of him. I’ve lost all enthusiasm and I need to get active again to manage my mood.

      I’ve made an appointment with my doctor to talk about my tanking mental health, but the brain fog is the hardest part.

    8. Mimmy*

      Oh absolutely! I’ve always considered myself to have a bit of brain fog, but a few years ago, I was starting to come out of my shell and attend conferences and even went back to school (fully online but had hoped to attend campus events). Now I almost can’t even imagine going back to that level of stimulation. It’s going to feel weird just having in-person programming again at my job for the first time since March, 2020.

      I’m not super-outgoing so I didn’t mind being home all the time and Zoom has helped keep me connected and even meet new people. However, I do think the pandemic has impacted my function. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t get too overwhelmed when things start happening again.

      1. Eastcoastanon*

        I’m glad to hear it isn’t just me. I’m looking at another winter of covid jail, impacted sleep, no doubt a few more pounds, and the guilt…

        I feel guilty because so many people are so worse off than I am… How dare I complain? And the vicious cycle (or is it circle?) continues.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          Oh god yes – the guilt. It feels so indulgent to ask about it or acknowledge it. It’s such a low priority, first world problem given the scale of the issue. I’ve been wanting to ask the question for weeks but haven’t been game.

        2. Mannequin*

          There is no such thing as “must be suffering this much before you are allowed to complain”- the fact that someone else is hurting too/worse doesn’t reduce one iota of your own pain, or negate the fact you need care/self care too.

    9. ten four*

      Constant tiredness and holes in the memory are also symptomatic of depression. It might be worth considering treatment for that, depending on how things are otherwise.

      I feel the same way and just started an SSRI, for what it’s worth. It’s only been a few weeks so far so jury’s out on how it will go but I feel better for trying.

  19. Cookies For Breakfast*

    I’m in the UK and never came across trick-or-treating kids, possibly because I’ve lived in a huge estate block for many years. This is the first year in a new house, and while we haven’t decorated, we’ve been told by the next door neighbour (who has a child but also hasn’t put anything up) that kids may go around knocking. So we’ll buy a big box of chocolates we won’t mind eating ourselves if need be, and see what happens.

    In my home country (non-English speaking), Halloween was never a thing growing up. Kids would learn about it in school but not really celebrate it (this period is better known as one for remembering the dead, since 1 November is a public holiday). I’ve been away for years but doubt that has changed much.

  20. Lcsa99*

    Happy almost Halloween to those who celebrate! I’d love to hear about costumes! What are you (or your kids) dressing up as this year? Or what might be more fun, what was your favorite costume ever, and what was your dumbest?

    I have two favorites: a few years ago we did Take On Me and it came out better than I had hoped. Unfortunately it was so warm that year I kept sweating off the makeup! The other favorite was when a group of us dressed as the characters from the game Clue, killed in one of the rooms by one of the weapons (yes I know Mr. Body is supposed to be the victim. This was more fun.) The dumbest was in HS. I was working for Pizza Hut after school at the time so I just wore my work uniform and borrowed one of the delivery bags.

    So tell us about your costumes!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I went with some friends this year to take their munchkins to the Zoo Boo for outdoor trick-or-treating, and I wore dark jeans, a black top, a knee-length red cardigan, tied a gold rope around my waist and wore my Sorcerer Mickey ears from Disneyworld. (I thought about carrying a broom too, but all I had was a modern one and I didn’t know if the zoo was allowing big props for adults, so I didn’t bother.)

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      I dropped the ball this year on a costume for myself, but my dogs will be a bee and a pumpkin. Previously, my boyfriend and I dressed as Kim Possible and Ron Stopable featuring one of my rats as Rufus.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      My favorite was the Paper Bag Princess as a teacher. I made the dress out of a giant bag for leaves/yard waste and couldn’t sit down all day but it was cute!

      My dumbest was in high school when a friend had a last minute party and both of us reused her family’s California Raisin costumes from like … more than a decade before. It was not a recognizable current reference so we literally just looked like giant turds. We went trick or treating and at one house a guy our age opened the door and was just like “….whoa.” Warmest I’ve ever been on Halloween, though!

      1. Bluebell*

        I dressed my daughter as a lawn bag one year. Fashioned a bag into a dress, and used fake leaves for a garland on her head.

    4. GoryDetails*

      Love your costume ideas – especially Take On Me!

      When I was a kid, my favorite was my version of a ghost outfit – a banshee, I called it – with the usual white draperies but with a black-mesh cloth over the face, so I could see out but that would look as if the hood was empty in dim light.

      As a grownup, my favorite was – well, I guess it was another variation of a banshee! I had a long green-velveteen medieval-style dress (did lots of cosplay back in the day), added a long red wig, put very realistic skull-makeup on one half of my face, and wore the ensemble to work. I’d positioned the skull-half so it didn’t show when I was at my desk in my cubicle, so when anyone went by I could look up and turn my head for the reveal. I had people coming over from other groups just to see… Yeah, that was a fun workplace. [Software development, FWIW, for electronic control and diagnostic modules for the big truck-engines.]

    5. wingmaster*

      I’ll be wearing my Minecraft Creeper costume this year.

      My favorite costume would have to be for a company I once worked at. The first year, I was the brand hangtag (I worked at an apparel company), and I won first place! The second year, I was the logo/mascot for the company and tied for 1st.

      My dumbest was probably my baguette costume. It didn’t even look like a piece of bread when I made it..haha

    6. Chaordic One*

      This isn’t about myself, but about one of my best friends. He’s sort of like if Diane Chambers on Cheers were a gay man, smart and clever, but a bit too obscure in his cultural references. In the town where we grew up, the unwritten rule that everyone seemed to know was that kids stopped trick or treating after the 8th grade. The last year that he trick or treated dressed up as Dr. Who as portrayed by Tom Baker with the hat and long scarf. And no one knew who he was supposed to be. And he was heart-broken. Most people thought he was the Little Tramp as portrayed by Charlie Chaplin.

      As if that weren’t bad enough, some years later, as a young adult, he went to a “Dead Celebrity” Halloween theme party dressed as Klaus Nomi. (Google “Klaus Nomi” if you haven’t heard of him.) And again, no one knew who he was supposed to be. And again he was heart-broken. Most people thought he was either Peewee Herman or the emcee from Cabaret as portrayed by Joel Grey. The prize for best costume was won by a headless Jayne Mansfield lookalike with the runner up being an anorexic Karen Carpenter portrayed by a man suffering from AIDS. I know, the party was in horribly bad taste and horribly morbid.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I recognize the pain of the unrecognized costume. Long story short, as a child I won a prize as “The Little Drummer Boy” complete with Christmas song references.
        But I had entered as ‘The Spirit of ’76” , costumed to my best Willard painting imitation including a 3-cornered hat.
        It was the year for that, but I guess between July 4 and Halloween everyone else forgot.
        “A rompa pom pom” phooey!

        1. Mannequin*

          One year I dressed as Myrtle Corbin, the Four Legged Woman (Google her)- NOBODY knew who TF I was supposed to be.

      2. Mannequin*

        Your friend sounds AWESOME and like he just doesn’t hang out with the right crowd, not that his cultural references are too obscure. My brother & I both would have recognized a Dr Who costume in 8th grade (circa 79/80) and I’m certain that most of the people I associate with have at least heard of Klaus Nomi and would recognize someone dressed as him- and none of us are Diane Chambers types (more like a lot of older people from the punk/goth/underground music scenes.)

    7. Rara Avis*

      My daughter is Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Months of planning and making. Very sad that none of her school friends recognized her. Guess not many 8th graders have seen the movie

      1. Rara Avis*

        Oh, and the drama teacher was Elliott from ET, complete with her son’s bike and ET in the milk crate.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        8th grade me would totally gotten it. My friend group was obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. In the 1990s.

    8. RagingADHD*

      My eldest is going as The Mandalorian and used her 3-D printer to make her armor.

      Youngest is going as Meg March from Little Women, and I still have sewing to do.

      That skirt is 5 yards around. Whew!

      I don’t usually dress up, but I might throw on an extra Hogwarts robe.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Back when I used public transit and was active in a historic re-enactment group, I made a full circle cloak. I made the mistake of calculating the circumference. 10+yards. I switched from hand-hemming to machine.

    9. Lady Glittersparkles*

      Five years ago I impulsively bought an expensive black cloak at a Renaissance Faire (expensive to me that is – it was over $100!). The guilt set in quickly and I decided it would make it worth it by wearing it on Halloween every year, and I have. Most years I’m a witch, but I’ve also been a grim reaper and a vampire in it. It is really a high quality cloak and keeps me warm so there’s that.

    10. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Not me, but my son… the last few years that he dressed up, we had a blast coming up with his costume. He would get most of his ideas from video games that he plays so few years ago, he dressed up as a plague doctor from Terraria. The next year, we re-worked my old SCA armor to fit him and he went as a kinda generic knight,but with the fresh paint on the shield and polish on metal bits, he looked dang good and got alot of compliments. But the big one… the pièce de résistance, was the last year he dressed up as the “Heavy” from Team Fortress 2, complete with a mock up of the Heavys mini-gun named Sasha (I think) and the cosmetic pompadour hair his character has in the game. Unfortunately, no matter what we did,the mini-gun prop was waaaaay to heavy to carry for very long. But dang it it all looked so good. The best part was we got to have some bonding time while working on it, teaching him how to use a bandsaw, drills, belt sanders, and all manner of power tools and such. We still have that heavy as heck mock up, and I’ll probably keep it forever just for the memories.

    11. Pool Lounger*

      Favorite costume was when my partner and I went as Greg and Wirt from Over the Garden Wall. Red and Cheddar Goblin from Mandy was another favorite. This year no big parties so no costumes, just spooky t-shirts.

    12. Fran Fine*

      This year, I had two costumes. On Friday, my team at work had a virtual Halloween party where I dressed as a Victorian gothic doll (complete with creepy mask). I did a full on photo shoot in my apartment, which has been completely transformed into a Victorian era English manor (this took a month of decorating), and I used one of my doll photos on a Zoom call the next day (I have virtual classes every other Saturday). Well, I scared the crap out of some of my classmates, so I think the costume was effective, lol.

      My second costume was a dark, twisted version of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland complete with a really creepy mask. Again, I did a full on photo shoot in my apartment and creeped people out, lol.

      I love Halloween, lol.

  21. Richard Hershberger*

    Life ruining art: I watched The IT Crowd years ago, and remembered it as light absurdist humor of the sort that the British do well. This week I pulled it up again, seeking non-challenging entertainment. I didn’t get through two episodes. I bounced off it hard. Roy is not a charmingly awkward nerd. He is a “nice guy” incel on the edge of going on a shooting spree. And Denholm is not a Michael Scott-type boss, clueless but doing his best. He is abusive, and explicitly intentionally so. I couldn’t watch it.

    1. The Dogman*

      I think that is a case of the rose coloured spces there…

      It was always Roy being a creepy incel and the bosses being insane and abusive on purpose.

      If you want a silly show perhaps “The Detectives” with Japser Carrot and Robert Powell would be more to your tastes?

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        True, but my sense is that the show’s intent was charmingly awkward nerd and humorously clueless boss. Back when I first watched the show I was willing to take the intent at face value. Can’t now.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          FWIW, that was not my take on the intent at the time I watched it. I did think it was a very funny show, but not for the reasons you thought you’d recalled. Although I think it took me closer to 6 episodes to get into it.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Thinking about it more, the shift for me is that I now understand the modern conception of the “nice guy” with all his awfulness. I was startled the first time I encountered the modern sense. I am old enough that I associate wearing a fedora with Frank Sinatra, and while Sinatra had his share of issues, the modern associations of fedora-wearing were not among them. Until, oh, let’s say ten years ago or so, I understood “nice guy” to be a guy who was nice. This wasn’t necessarily a ringing endorsement. It could often be found in the formula “He’s a nice guy, but…” But the phrase didn’t evoke the visceral response it does today. Once I figured out the modern sense, yup: I totally see it. Hence my response to Roy: not a socially awkward guy trying his best, but a “nice guy” with all the creepiness that implies.

        1. The Dogman*

          That’s interesting, I always saw Roy as a creepy “try-hard” which was what we called “nice guys” in my teenage years (90’s), I suppose it would be jarring if I had seen him as a sympathetic character.

          I think Moss was the sympathetic character, as he is just so baffled by social relationships.

          The show was more focused on “zany/mad-cap” than character development anyway, which is why they were all characatures turned up to 17.

          1. banoffee pie*

            Roy was a bit creepy, yeah, but I thought it was intentionally written like that? And the boss was awful and a sex pest, I think he was meant to be. What annoyed me about the show was that Jen was the only woman and didn’t seem to know anything about computers even though she was the boss. I get the joke that the company was so incompetent that they gave her the job without checking or whatever, but it still annoyed me cos some people still think women ‘can’t do’ computers. And it seemed to be playing into that a bit, I thought. I liked the weird guy who lived down in the next room, I forget his name. He was played by Noel Fielding I think?

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Richmond! And yes, he was played by Noel Fielding.

              I feel the same way about this show now and there was some transphobic stuff that makes me cringe. But I still adore Moss. He’s my favorite character. Matt Berry was great as the horny boss, even though the character is disgusting. I love him on What We Do in the Shadows.

        2. Mannequin*

          Weird, even as a kid growing up in the 70s I always though Sinatra and the Rat Pack were nothing but a bunch of womanizing drunken creeps.

          Also, for women, “he’s a nice guy, but…” has ALWAYS been a red flag. That’s where the whole thing COMES from.

    2. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

      I haven’t watched the IT crowd, but I know what you mean. There are a lot of shows that did not age well. I had a similar reaction to Fez when recently rewatching that 70s show. I take it as a good sign that our society is progressing… even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I hold a minority opinion that Hawkeye Pierce was a horrible person. I imagine a revisionist version where Majors Burns and Houlihan are the competent and professional, not to say sober, ones, chasing after Pierce and Trapper John cleaning up the messes they leave. This version would require a fairly heavily modified Burns and Houlihan, but the others? Not really.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, totally true, especially if you’re talking the movie or early seasons of the series. Early Hawkeye would have tortured later Hawkeye for fun.

          1. Name Goes Here*

            Yes, MASH changes from start to end. As 1) BJ (yikes) comes on the show, 2) Henry leaves / Potter comes on, and to a lesser degree, 3) Frank leaves, the show shifts away from glamorizing more problematic behaviours. Not that it goes away altogether, but Hawkeye is not quite the womanizer, nor as successful, by the end; and the show tries to spotlight some of its lesser-known female characters, like Nurse Kellye.

            (There’s an episode which involves blackface, though, and that one is definitely unwatchable.)

            1. fposte*

              I also remember an interview with a writer who worked on MASH and Eight Is Enough, and she said that the Eight Is Enough writer’s room was very polite, whereas MASH got raucous, in that “woo-hoo, looking up our colleague’s skirt” way that now seems pretty gross.

        2. Not A Manager*

          I was just having this conversation with friends the other weekend. In the movie, Hawkeye and Trapper are misogynistic bullies, IIRC. I didn’t even think some of those scenes were funny when I saw the movie in the 70’s.

        3. Chaordic One*

          I’m somewhat inclined to agree with you. In the movie and in the original concept of the TV show it was supposed to be much more of an ensemble type of show and after a while the Hawkeye Pierce character came to be the dominant character and Alan Alda became the star of the show, which changed its dynamics and led to Wayne Rogers leaving. I like your take on the revisionist version.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      TBH I can’t take “The Office” largely because of Michael Scott, whom I see as an unqualified, sexual harassing failing-up type who epitomizes the lack of meritocracy in the vast majority of offices I’ve ever worked in. The pushback I’ve gotten with my opinion is “oh, but he has a heart of gold!” and I’m like, oooh, don’t care, it just really presses my buttons.

      I think I read somewhere that Steve Carrell has resisted participating in any revival of the character due to somewhat similar reasons. Michael Scott’s just a really unpleasant dude when you get below the clueless “hilarity” and really think about it.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I won’t say you are wrong, but I think the common response is because for all his failings, he is trying to be a good boss. He just isn’t clued in to what that would be. This casts his awfulness in a different light, at least for some people. FWIW I watched the show, but don’t feel any urge to rewatch it.

        1. overeducated*

          I think this is exactly the tension and problem of the US office, which I do like. In the beginning following the UK version, Michael is supposed to be awful. But I guess the writers and actors found it hard to shape a long running show around an awful main character without trying to humanize him and make him sympathetic. I don’t think you are ever supposed to consider him a good boss, he never really learns, but in later seasons I found the lack of consequences for his actions hard to take. Perhaps the levels of the company above him being such a mess was the most realistic explanation.

      2. Sloanicote*

        This is a US/UK divide I think. I have heard that the British are turned off by the earnest/heartwarming element that the US needs to engage with their main character; overseas this come off as over-the-top and syrupy, while here a character that has no redeeming values is a bit nihilist for our taste, at least in a light comedy. The British version of the office is more like The IT Crowd. You might have conflated the US version in your memory. But also I do find myself cringing watching shows that aren’t *that* old, so perhaps culture is just evolving very quickly these days.

      3. The Dogman*

        I am with you on this, I could never stand the UK office as it is too accurate and therefore infuriating not funny.

        I had bosses like David Brent/Michael Scott and they are revolting humans and the main reason I cannot work in offices. I don’t want to end up angry enough to lose my temper.

        I was once written up (attempted anyway) for not wanting to go to the pub with co-workers I was polite to but didn’t like. His name was Keith. I loathed Keith.

        1. banoffee pie*

          I can’t watch either Office, UK or US, without hiding my face behind a cushion with embarrassment. From what little I’ve seen, they seem like totally different shows to me anyway. But equally embarrassing!

      4. Name Goes Here*

        Whoo boy yes, 100% this about the Office. I watched maybe 3/4 of a season, a couple of episodes in Season 1 and Season 2 but not the whole thing for either of them, and just couldn’t stomach any of it because Scott’s behaviour is so cluelessly harmful and held up for laughs instead of castigated. I genuinely don’t get how so many people, who otherwise champion appropriate professional/personal interactions, love this show and find it (unproblematically) funny.

        And yes, I also watched the US version of the Office, w/ Steve Carrell.

    4. Laura Petrie*

      My husband is rewatching the US version of The Office at the moment. I absolutely hate it, most of the characters are awful, but Michael is the worst. I get that one is supposed to cringe at his behaviour, but he is just awful.

      I can’t bring myself to watch IT Crowd, or anything written by GL again. His views are abhorrent and it has definitely affected how I view his work.

      If you haven’t seen it, Detectorists is charming as well as funny.

    5. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I know what you mean. It’s not my usual taste in entertainment, but I was in the mood for lighthearted junk so I watched The Intern (movie) and was HORRIFIED.

      All I could think of was how badly it glamourised toxic workplace culture á la creepy stalker rom-com plot lines. If it were real life, Alison would have enough material from that movie for a year… My coworker says I should always keep a hanky in my pocket because women “cry a lot”… I had to hide my erection after an impromptu butt massage from the office masseuse … My boss showed up at my Tai Chi lesson with work questions after I quit… etc

      The worst part? The movie was only made in 2015.

    6. Stitch*

      I’ve been watching Mythic Quest and while the show is mostly okay, yeah, you can’t and shouldn’t behave at work like that.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I have been having this about whether to rewatch How I Met Your Mother. I think the show was often excellent at small bits of observational humor–I often return to the opening skit about a 90s discussion of whether bread predates beer (passionate debate involving the entire bar) vs aughts (one person looks up the answer on their cell phone, reports answer in bland tone). But Barney was problematic back when I watched and I don’t think the intervening years will have made the misogyny better.

    8. fposte*

      Then there’s the infamous trans themed episode, the backlash to which apparently turned the series creator into an extremist transphobe.

    9. AGD*

      When I was in high school I absolutely loved a comic strip called User Friendly, about a bunch of super-awkward geek dudes working at an ISP. I’m a woman, but I was a super-awkward geek myself and most of my friends at the time were guys, so that checks out. Anyway, I was going through boxes at my parents’ house a couple of years ago and found two User Friendly volumes from about twenty years ago and was absolutely delighted…and then I reread them. Clever, sure, but absolutely drenched in disregard for women, to the point that I pretty much completely lost interest. I’ve heard this referred to as a piece of entertainment “having been visited by the Suck Fairy”.

      But it speaks to how much more awareness there is now. I wouldn’t even have been able to define ‘misogyny’ in high school, much less spot it or attempt to articulate an objection. I’m a far better human being than I was, and encouragingly, the young adults I work with now are way less clueless than I was twenty years ago.

      Wil Wheaton (who was also really into User Friendly back in the day) recently wrote a blog post about annotating a memoir he wrote in 2004 to indicate the very large number of places where he’d become more evolved in his thinking about mistreatment and social inequality. Likewise, I watched a panel of three vintage-tech guys from YouTube who attended a conference together recently. Amid all this talk of Commodores and rare sound cards from the ’90s, I didn’t think the subject of gender was going to arise at all, but in the middle, one of them was talking about negative/troll comments on YouTube and then paused and spontaneously pointed out that however bad it is, it’s nothing compared with what female YouTubers have to put up with in terms of sexual harassment and negativity. I was really impressed by that.

      1. banoffee pie*

        A lot of shows even up until quite recently (and even now) have annoyed me because of misogyny/racism etc. I got used to being told I was wrong/stupid and just watch them (but I didn’t bother lol). I’m so happy some people are starting to agree now. I think people were afraid of ‘not being able to laugh at anything’ but there’s tonnes of stuff to laugh at besides that, plus a lot of those jokes just weren’t that funny as well as being offensive. It isn’t that funny to the target or the punchline person/group of people.

    10. Choggy*

      I like some episodes of the IT Crowd better than others. Always loved Moss’ scenes, the one with the fire extinguisher is a classic.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My favorite Moss moment is in the Fredo episode, when they’re trying to explain to Jen what a Fredo is:

        Roy: Fredo, you know in the movie [The Godfather]? He was a bit of a pimp.
        Moss: No! He took the Ring to Mordor!

        The first time I saw that, I laughed so hard I had to pause it for five minutes solid.

      2. Double A*

        “I’m just going to put this over here with the rest of the fire” is my go-to line when there’s a work crisis I don’t want to deal with.

        Also when Roy, Moss, and Richmond are at Jen’s house trying to “act normal…more normal!” That scene will never not make me laugh.

    11. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’m with you. I first watched it *just* as I started working in IT and thought it was funny.

      Nowadays? No. It falls under the Office (both versions) of things I cannot watch. Cringe comedy doesn’t work for me.

      I’ve gone back to Yes Minister.

        1. Clisby*

          Sir Humphrey Appleby:
          I foresee all sorts of of unforeseen problems.

          Jim Hacker:
          Such as?

          Sir Humphrey Appleby:
          If I could foresee them, they wouldn’t be unforeseen.

      1. allathian*

        Yes Minister is hilarious! Cringe comedy doesn’t really work for me, either, at least not the IT Crowd or The Office(s) kind of cringe comedy. I’m quite fond of Keeping Up Appearances, though. It can be cringey at times, but it’s not the same.

      2. The Dogman*

        “I’ve gone back to Yes Minister.”

        That is an excellent choice.

        I worked in the FCO and my father got pretty high up in the heirarchy there… it works exactly the way Yes Minister and Yes Primie Minister suggest, but with less funny jokes, and yet I find it hilarious.

        The decription of what the various papers are into/aligned with was and is true and genius!

    12. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      I have learned not to re-watch shows or movies that I loved as a kid because it ruins the memory. I remembered I loved the show “The Night Stalker”, so I watched it on Netflix a few years ago. My kid brain had not processed how cheesy it was, so my memory was ruined. I still think the premise of the show was good, just the execution was cheesy. I also loved “The Six Million Dollar Man”, but now I know better than to re-watch it. The only show from my childhood that (mostly) holds up is Star Trek. I think that is primarily due to good storytelling, even if the effects are not great.

      1. fposte*

        Kolchak? I loved Kolchak. It was so out of the mold for that Quinn-Martin saturated era. Sounds like I should leave it in memory, though.

        I did a pandemic rewatch of Hill Street Blues along with a friend who I’d met online in a show discussion. That was an interesting rewatch alongside the events of 2020; it seemed more like a documentary supporting the defund the police movement.

        1. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

          Yes, I guess the show was called “Kolchak; The Night Stalker”. The pilot movie is actually not bad (about vampires). I think the movie was intended to be a one-off (The Night Stalker was referring to the vampire), but it did well enough that they made it into a series.
          I was in college during Hill Street Blues, and I watched it religiously. I think it was the one of the first primetime dramas that was serialized with a continuous story. Ironically, I hate serialized shows now and won’t watch them. I don’t mind a story arc that goes for a couple of episodes (like NCIS), but I don’t like having to watch every show to know what’s going on.

        2. Elizabeth West*


          I watched it on Netflix a few years ago and thought it held up pretty well. Yes, it was cheesy, but it was still fun. Darren McGavin was awesome. I used to have to watch that one on the black-and-white portable in my parents’ bedroom; my mom thought if she relegated me to the shittiest TV in the house, I wouldn’t want to see it. But her attempts to stamp out my budding love for horror fiction were not successful, ahahaha.

          Emergency! is another one that’s still pretty watchable, although there was some ’70s Lothario stuff surrounding Paramedic John Gage. The paramedic program was very new at the time so they had technical advisors to make sure people saw it as accurately as possible. The two lead actors, Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe, actually took the training. I know a firefighter who said the fire and rescue scenes are very accurate also. Netflix ran it a few years back and I binged the whole thing.

          1. Clisby*

            I loved Kolchak too, back in the 1970s. It might well seem cheesy now – lots of older movies/TV series seem cheesy to me these days. I also liked Tales of the Unexpected.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I MUST KNOW: How did Johnny Cage get down from the power lines? As a kid, I didn’t get to see the second half of a two-part episode. As an adult, I don’t have Netflix.

          3. Mannequin*

            I’m absolutely certain that seeing the witch’s beautiful long green hair in the episode The Trevi Collection as a young child was one of the things that implanted a deep desire for unnaturally colored hair into me. I never and I mean NEVER forgot it.

            Also the mannequin scene, very creepy!

            1. Mannequin*

              Hahaha, I just found the episode, she’s wearing a blue wig, not green, lol! Still, made an impression on me, lol.

              I remember seeing Christmas Story for the first time and being excited because IT’S KOLCHAK!!!

    13. Chaordic One*

      Some things just don’t age well, and what you thought funny or entertaining the first time, doesn’t hold up on a second viewing or several years later.

    14. not that Leia*

      I felt that way about parts of the west wing, which I have lived in the past. I’d rewatched it a couple of times years ago, and didn’t blink but watching it recently was somewhat off putting….I mean, CJ is still all kinds of awesome, but all the Josh
      /women dynamics made me cringe.

    15. Henrietta*

      This is why I can’t watch The Office (either US or UK) it’s just so horribly awful I’m NOPE, NOPE, NOPE. That’s not entertainment to me.

  22. Dwight Schrute*

    I need help finding an AAM link I was reading! I accidentally closed out of the article and now I can’t find it again. It was about the person who had been fired after saving the bird at a Boy Scout camp. I’m hoping one of y’all can help me locate it again!

    1. CJM*

      I think I found it using this search. I’m not spelling it out so it isn’t moderated.
      site:[this site name] ‘Boy Scout camp” bird

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Did you search for it within the search feature here or on Google? I tried google and it didn’t come up :/

        1. usernames anonymous*

          you can find it using CJM’s advice with the search this site option on the top right hand of the ask a manager website. column dated 20 Feb 2018

    2. Virginia Plain*

      I think my link is in moderation but just to add; the apparently paywalled article came up fine for me; maybe one can read a certain number of articles free before it kicks in.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yes, Washington Post has 10 clicks per month free. They often make health and safety related coverage free. Certain email extensions can get free or discounted subscriptions, and there is a discount for Amazon Prime.

    3. Reba*

      The post title begins with “coworker gave my presentation without my okay”

      I found it by searching “Boy Scout Camp” in the search box on the sidebar!

    4. Dwight Schrute*

      Thanks all! I should mention the search bar on the site hasn’t been working for me lately so I couldn’t use that route

      1. PollyQ*

        You can get the same functionality by going to google and using: site:askamanager.org boy scout camp.

  23. Homsar*

    I am looking for advice! I’m interested in learning how to lift heavy weights and get stronger. I need to find a class or a personal trainer to help me learn how to do this and also how to get more comfortable in a gym setting.

    Maybe it’s just covid but I have no idea how to really do this, and no idea how to find a good personal trainer. Do I call gyms? Walk into them?

    My biggest concern is that it’ll be a nasty experience—I’m overweight and not interested in losing weight, just gaining muscle and strength, but I’m a cis woman; I’ve never been strong; and I find weight loss goals to be actively demotivating. I already work out (including active recovery and yoga) every day so I’m familiar with what motivates me.

    Any advice on how to find a weightlifting teacher?

    1. lapgiraffe*

      Most gyms used to have a way to try the place out before committing, and with that you could do a short training session for free or heavily discounted. The good ones I’ve been to have asked me questions about myself and my goals and placed me with someone who would be a good fit, as some trainers have different specialities and/or schedules.

      There’s also a woman on Instagram I’ve followed for years because she is no nonsense, science based, not gimmicky wellness garbage kind of health and workout type. Many people go to her for weight loss but her whole philosophy is to empower women, particularly in this case larger WOC but the advice is good for any and every kind of body, to learn how to incorporate weightlifting specifically, to ditch the scale as a way to measure progress, and to help teach newbies how to start from the beginning. She also recommends a book I can’t remember anymore but it’s about women’s guide to weightlifting, and she does Wednesday Q&As which I tune into religiously. She’s @ bgg2wl on Instagram.

    2. Doctor is In*

      Try asking for recommendations at a local gym or fitness center. And if you don’t click first trainer, try someone else! Remember that all their clients are not that fit or they wouldn’t be looking for a trainer. Good luck!

    3. Angstrom*

      You might look for —and ask for — weightlifting, powerlifting, or strength training as opposed to “fitness” or “toning”.

    4. ObserverCN*

      If you have an Orange Theory near you, I highly recommend it. Their workouts combine cardio and weightlifting, and the coaches are really helpful.

      1. Lady Glittersparkles*

        I’m sure this varies by location, but I tried Orange Theory 3 times and each time I got injured. The pace was just so fast, with no attention to teaching and maintaining proper form which is so important.

    5. The Dogman*

      Look for a weight lifting gym and ask there about training or groups.

      Most proper gyms won’t care what sex/gender you are, just if you want to lift.

      You may get called “Bro”, this will not be meant as an insult, just means they are comfy with your presence (happened to a good female friend of recently at our gym, she said she liked it cos she knew she was accepted), most of the heavy lifter types are just happy someone new is interested.

      They are also mostly pretty friendly and keen to pass on knowledge, so the chances are if you go to a lifting gym there will be someone they can recommend who can get you started safely.

    6. Decidedly Me*

      No real advice about finding one (I see one through my partner’s work – so didn’t do anything on my end), but I will tell you that he was fully supportive of my “get stronger” over “lose weight” goals. Getting stronger can naturally help the other, while focusing just on losing weight usually doesn’t help with strength as much.

    7. DistantAudacity*

      if you want to read up on your own, the site Stronglifts . com has a lot of good information in their guide section to understand how the exercises work etc. look into stronglift 5×5. It focuses on barbell work, but they also have additional exercises.

      In addition, the book Starting Strength (similar focus) is a good resource.

    8. Nessun*

      I’m aan overweight cis woman and I’ve been doing weightlifting for 7 or 8 years. I started by going to the gym (if you want to lift heavy its the best way to do it). I got a trainer and stayed with her, and had access to all the heavy equipment plus lighter stuff for auxiliary muscle work. To choose a trainer, I met with a few people as part of the intro-to-the-gym – they allowed me a session with a trainer for free to see if we’d gel. I didnt like one, he was too forceful, and one was a little too hyped, but I found a good for who would support my goals (if I don’t want to talk about weight loss and want to focus on strength training, that’s my prerogative!) And I was up front about what I wanted: there are some exercises I hate, and there’s always several ways to work and muscle group so there’s no excuse not to adapt a training plan to best suit the client. Be confident in what you want, ask lots of questions, and expect value for money. Good luck with your journey, don’t let anyone judge you.

    9. Girasol*

      There are a ton of lifting guides and youtubes that you can watch at home to give yourself a head start so that you don’t feel like a raw n00b when you’re ready to go find a trainer. Or if you think you’d like dumbbells or kettlebells, they’re reasonably cheap, so you could learn online and start lifting at home if you’re concerned that people will be judgy. Weight lifting is really satisfying when strength, rather than weight loss, is your objective. It makes you feel so strong and healthy.

    10. Aly_b*

      My big advice is to follow Casey Johnston of “Ask a Swole Woman” and check out some of her columns. She’s got a couple that have some info on this, and very much meets the “get stronger, not thinner” mentality. She’s got a newsletter right now; there’s also a discord for subscribers that I’m in that is very supportive.

      You can totally call gyms or walk in and ask. When I went in to find someone for my partner, I asked the front desk guy who he recommended for the specific stuff I was interested in, and asked him why he was recommending that person.

      The other keywords I would recommend for you are training powerlifting lifts or olympic lifts. Those should key the person you’re talking to into thinking “barbell, technique” rather than cardio and situps. You may want to seek out a powerlifting gym; that to me would be the right place to really avoid this particular kind of bad experience pretty for sure.

      Good luck and welcome! I’m excited for you to get strong!

    11. PollyQ*

      I’ve had nothing but good experiences with personal trainers that I found through gyms, even though I’ve also been an overweight woman. If you say up front what your goals are, they should 100% be supportive of that, and if they aren’t, drop them like a hot potato and ask for someone else.

    12. TPS reporter*

      I’ve had success with local independent gyms. Also read up on their reviews on Yelp or Google and check out their social media. Do they feature clients of different genders and shapes?

      The biggest thing is to just go in there not worrying about what you look like or haven’t done. It’s going to be awkward and difficult at first but once you hit your stride it’s so fun and you’ll be addicted.

    13. BBQHonk*

      A few questions. Are you interested in weightlifting, powerlifting, or just general strength training because these are all different things. Weightlifting (i.e Oly lifting) is composed of two specific lifts: the snatch and the clean & jerk. These are highly technical exercises and you need a coach to teach you to do them safely and properly. If this is your goal, look for gyms that specialize in Oly weightlifting (CrossFit boxes are a good place to start but can be hit or miss).

      Powerlifting is composed of the big lifts we typically thing of as pumping iron: bench press, back squat, and deadlift. You don’t absolutely need a coach for these, but a coach can help you learn the movements and help motivate you. Look for powerlifting gyms in your area.

      If it’s just general strength training like curls and dumbbell work, you don’t need a coach at all. Just look online for some routines and watch some videos.

      You’re going to be intimidated at first walking into a gym with free weights. Just remember that everyone started somewhere just like you not knowing a thing. The vast majority of experienced lifters are happy and eager to help newbies out.

      One other site I strongly recommend is Stronger by Science by Greg Nuckols. He takes a very scientific approach to strength training (no bro-science) and has free beginner programs to get you starter. HTH!

    14. Lady Danbury*

      Shockingly, (pre-covid) I was a regular at a crossfit* gym that was great for this kind of thing. Obvs not all crossfit gyms are like this, so it’s a process of trial and error (just like it would be with any gym/trainer). Before you go to any gym/trainer, check out their social media. Is it focused on weight loss or on overall fitness, meeting goals, getting stronger, etc? Are a variety of body types represented as “afters” or featured posts? Do they skip before and afters in terms of physical appearance altogether? Do they have a diverse clientele in terms of age, fitness, body type, etc?

      Most cross-fit/strength gyms will offer a beginner series of classes (many require it). This is a great way to try out the gym and get a sense of what classes are like and if they mesh with your own preferences.

      *They ended their crossfit affiliation after the crossfit founder’s racist comments last summer.

    15. StrengthAspirations*

      I’m interested in hearing advice on this too. I’ve been following Kimberly Joy Fitness on YouTube and like her emphasis on form. Rhoda Sommer on IT is pretty good too. I do feel like the home workouts are convenient so I do them and stick with it, but will probably need someone to go to for further progress.

    16. Generalist*

      If you are a FB user, check out a group called “Fit Fatties.” It’s an awesome resource with thousands and thousands of members from all over the globe. People in the group are great about recommending coaches and fitness professionals who don’t talk weight loss.

  24. Spooky Doodle*

    Can anyone recommend a service that would print out and send you stickers of mailing addresses for sending out cards? I’ve broken my wrist, and don’t know how long I’ll be in a cast and unable to write. I’m concerned about it getting in the way of sending out holiday cards, which I’m very excited to do because I have the most adorable photos of my pugs dressed as baked potatoes that I want to send out for silly Thanksgiving cards. I know you can by sticker sheets and print them out yourself on a computer, but the last time I had to do that for work, it was a huge headache. I’d rather just be able to type up the addresses and send them to a service that will print them for me. Any suggestions?

    1. CTT*

      I googled “return address labels” and got a ton of results for customizable ones. You’ll probably have to get a few hundred of them, but they aren’t pricey (or I can give your name/address to my college alumni council, they keep sending them out as a freebie!)

      1. fposte*

        I think the challenge here is that Spooky wants to print out the To: addresses, so every one would need to be different.

    2. Laura Petrie*

      If you decide to go down the diy route (I appreciate this is unlikely), using the label wizard within Word makes it pretty easy. You do need your addresses in an excel file to mail merge though.

    3. Jen, from the library*

      I’m 95% sure that the “big” companies that do printed holiday cards will do labels too. Not sure if we are allowed to name names, but, uh you know, the one rhyming with butterfly, etc.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, many of the custom card printing places will do the whole thing and mail them for you, too! Minted, postable, Paper culture, etc. Papersource does it for $1.60 for both addresses, so it could add up depending on how big your mailing list is. But it looks like Minted is offering addressing for free!

    4. Sunshine*

      The fancier card places give an option to pay extra for this.
      But the Avery website is really user friendly. You can save your templates/projects and just update every year. If you are already typing the addresses it’s very easy. If you want I can go into more detail.

      1. Spooky Doodle*

        Avery was the site I used at work that I found to be a huge headache trying to figure it out. I ran into an issue with getting the sizing correct of the paper and font, having to do multiple trial runs to ensure that the addresses were being printed properly on the labels, not being cut off or way off to one side. That’s why I was hoping to find a service that I could just send addresses to and it would do it for me, because figuring out the formatting was what I found to be a huge pain.

    5. it happens*

      I see a lot of the responses are for return address labels, I think you want them for the Mailing To addresses. I would ask around your friend group to see if anyone has a laser printer with the sheet feeder option. Don’t know when you tried it work, but it is very easy with the single sheet feeder; just experiment the first time with a piece of paper to make sure you put it in right side up.

      The Avery clear labels are great. You can type the addresses in word using their template and then bring it to friend’s house to print.

      There are also some services that do all the printing work for you – you type your messages and they print and mail the whole lot. You never touch the actual cards or envelopes.

    6. The Dogman*

      “I have the most adorable photos of my pugs dressed as baked potatoes”

      I want to see these pics!

      A friend has a sausage dog who wore a hotdog with ketchup and mustard outfit for halloween last year…

      Sorry no suggestions on the printable labels thing.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      Shutterfly lets you get addressed envelopes for an additional fee, and they can even match your cards depending on which design you choose. I’ve never done it but I’ve always been happy with my photo cards I made through them. They usually have pretty good coupons/promos going (it’s one of those companies where they basically always have a “sale” so you feel like you’re getting a deal when really paying “full price” would be a scam)

  25. Sudden time gift*

    How do you structure larger chunks of free time in your personal life?

    I am being given the gift of time soon and, since I have a small child, I am wildly out of practice. I’m a little worried that I will just restlessly flit from one thing to another and be unsatisfied at the end of each chunk. I certainly plan to let myself veg and spend time doing nothing useful, but I want that to be a conscious choice. I have no dearth of ideas of what to do, which is not unusual for me, but I both don’t want to put myself under pressure nor have decision paralysis because I have too many choices! So I’m looking for ideas and experiences that might give me something to drift back to when I feel unmoored. Thank you!

    1. Spooky Doodle*

      I don’t know how long this chunk of free time is, if you’re talking about a couple hours or a couple of days, but don’t try to stress yourself out with over planning. Often when I know I’m gonna have an afternoon free, I might plan on doing one thing and then end up doing something else entirely. I may think I’m going to work on a puzzle while listening to podcasts, but it turns out I’m more in the mood to have a movie marathon and Cross stitch. So perhaps you could set yourself up with some options, and see what you feel like in the moment. As for things that take long periods of time, my go to‘s are doing puzzles, playing video games, watching movies, reading a book. That’s all stuff I find very relaxing while not leaving the house.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I have a running list of things I would like to do, and I categorize it by type – is this a house project, a crafts project, list of shows I’d like to watch. When I have free time, I ask myself what I’m in the mood for, something active, creative, just want to sit and watch Netflix, etc. Then I look at the list and pick something. For me, the key is to know what kind of activity I’m in the mood for at that point in time.

    3. Victoria, Please*

      Laura Vanderkam’s stuff might be helpful for you. She writes and thinks a lot about making the most of time, and has children.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I would suggest lists, and starting with some quick things that you can knock off–you just haven’t yet. Don’t start with the biggest thing.

      Give yourself permission to quit. Frame it as “this week I’m going to try decoupage” rather than “this week I start my dedicated decoupage project, which only a lack of time has prevented me tackling.” (While this isn’t universal, I think the pandemic realization “So apparently it wasn’t just lack of a block of free time that kept me from doing X” was freeing.)

      A counterintuitive thing–try some things you’re eh about. Sometimes that’s how you trip over things you really quite like, by getting out of the narrow range of known favorites.

    5. Fellow Traveller*

      I am seasonally employed and I find I have to make lists and have plans for my unemployed time or I end up feeling very blah about it. So i make a list – places I want to go (museums, hikes, sights), household tasks (sort kids clothes, fix that light socket, install curtains, gather tax material, purchases, errands), friends I need to call or make a coffee/ lunch/ walking date with, etc. Then at the beginning of the week, I slot things in. I pick 3 or 4 “must do” things to get done a week and then schedule the fun stuff. And I have a routine to my days: drop kids off, take the baby to a park or hang out somewhere outside or go on an adventure until lunch, home for lunch, work on the to do list until dinner.
      I also always have a book or two available, so when I find myself aimlessly wandering the house, I will sit down and read and it feels like I’m doing something. Going outside for a walk when I feel aimless works too.

    6. fposte*

      I’m recently retired, and I’ve very much enjoyed flitting from one thing to another, so one possibility would be to see this as freedom to play without commitments. I’ve worked from a list of possibilities, and there are some more project-y things on there, so generally I balance three things: project progression, one-off entertainments (they don’t have to be new, but even just finding a new park to walk in can be fun), and the extra admin I always meant to get to (calling repair people, making medical appointments, etc.). I generally balance these by the week, so doing any one of these on a day is enough to make me feel like I’m using my time in its most beneficial way for me.

    7. J.B.*

      I have been getting stuck in a mindset lately that I should be doing something productive at all times. It’s not good for me and semi-structuring my time to first-then works better. Especially when my first thing is downtime (reading a book) then I will turn to dealing with some emails and scheduling. And I scheduled a massage.

    8. Lynn*

      I find that it helps to decide ahead of time one thing I’m going to do to be productive, and I do that thing FIRST. That jump starts me out of “aimless” mode and I don’t have to have the rest of the time so scheduled (and yet I still wind up doing things I was happy I chose).

  26. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

    Need doggy advice
    We adopted our very sweet 3 year old pup this spring. Her nails were a bit long when we got her and she has black nails so it’s a bit hard to tell where her quicks are. Has anyone managed to get overgrown dog nails back to a good length? If so, did you do it with your vet? A patient groomer? (We can’t do her nails…trust me on that). Any advice would be helpful!

    We do need to work on this because her nails are prone to splitting and the constant clicking of her nails on the floors bugs my husband.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      Yep! I taught my dog to use a scratch board. We made one using wood and sand paper but you can buy them too. First taught her to dig for treats hidden under a dish towel- click and reward any time she used her paws on the towel, and then transitioned to the board. She loves nail time now and it keeps them a nice length.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      When we adopted Best Good Dog he was 7 years old and in rough shape. We had the vet do his nails the first time, and now he gets his pedicures at the groomer. They use a filing tool that looks kind of like a Dremel.

    3. FisherCat*

      If doing her nails yourself is something you would like, even though its not possible right now, look into Cooperative Care principles and get a dremel. The dremel makes it much harder to hit the quick and some dogs find it less distressing, the cooperative care work is to get it to be less of a Big Event when you need to handle or groom.

      1. Pippa K*

        Not familiar with Cooperative Care but seconding the dremel suggestion. Works great on all of our dogs, both those trained to it as puppies and the big guy who has black nails and also really hated the regular clipper.

    4. Meh*

      We get them done at the vet and they’ll do a deeper filing while the dog is under anesthesia (like for a dental or other surgery, not just for the nails). The service at a vet or groomer should be under $20. Regular walks on pavement also help to keep them filed down naturally.

    5. Dog and cat fosterer*

      Long dog quicks can definitely be shortened. This is best done by taking a small amount off every week, until they get to a good length. If you can’t do them yourself, then I would ask local pet stores if they have a groomer, as here they did nail trims for $10 pre-covid. If you could set up a standing appointment every week for a couple months then that should hopefully get them to a good length.

    6. The Dogman*

      I have had luck using a nail file/emery board on dark nails.

      The quick will withdraw if you file them or do very small snips every couple of days, so within a month or so you can get them under control.

      Is she a small/lightweight dog? If she has some bulk to her try to do 20 mins a day on concrete or so and that can naturally shorten them, but lightweight ones don’t have the mass to grind down the nails.

      Good luck, all the best.

      The clicking is something he will prob have to get used to no matter the nail length just cos of how paws are designed.

    7. Elle Woods*

      One of our dogs has black nails and it is really hard to tell where his quicks are. We take him & his brother to the vet regularly to get their nails trimmed. Based on what the vet tech told us, regular, more frequent nail trims is the key. We used to go every 6-8 weeks; now we go no more than four between trims. (I’m right there with you on not doing one dog’s nails. Did that once, won’t make that mistake again.)

    8. Ice Bear*

      I have my dog’s nails cut regularly by a groomer, so they’ve never grown out, but even so they still click on the floor. So just a warning – depending on the dog that might happen even if their nails are as short as possible. Since the noise bugs your husband, perhaps laying some throw rugs down would help minimize it.

  27. Dwight Schrute*

    Guilty pleasure light reads? I’ve discovered I really enjoy paranormal cozy mysteries- think books written by Amanda M Lee. What are your go to reads that are fun but aren’t “classy” or “high brow” reads?

    1. Laura Petrie*

      I adore Marian Keyes. Not as light as some other authors in the romance genre as she writes about some hard hitting issues, but her books are great. I have a couple I read over and over again.

      I also love really trashy thrillers

      1. CJM*

        I adore Marian Keyes too! I just finished The Break and loved the balance of lightness and wisdom. I find that in all of her books. I think Angels is my favorite.

        1. banoffee pie